The correspondence of Marnix of Saint-Aldegonde : inexhaustible source of immense information
The correspondence as part of the total project
Professor Dr Aloïs Gerlo, first rector at the ‘Vrije Universiteit Brussel’, had been intrigued for a long time by the personality of Marnix and by the role he played in the history of the Low Countries. From his studies done on Erasmus and Lipsius Gerlo had learned that understanding thoroughly the personality of the giants of history (in all its dimensions) is best done by mapping out faithfully and by studying profoundly their correspondence. From this conviction, he initiated in 1982, in the context of the ‘Interuniversity Institute for Renaissance and Humanism’ (VUB-ULB), and with the support of the ‘Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Vlaanderen’, by which the importance of the enterprise had been correctly evaluated, the great project of the critical edition of Marnix’ correspondence, by publishing the inventory all the letters written by and addressed to Marnix. This inventory, as well as the international reactions to it, laid the foundation for the actual scientific edition of the letters themselves, provided with clear summaries and commentaries. So, after many years of researching, we were able to publish the following volumes:
-Gerlo, A. & De Smet, R., Marnixi Epistulae. De briefwisseling van Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde, een kritische uitgave, Pars I (1558-1576), Brussel, 1990; Pars II (1577-1578), Brussel, 1992; Pars III (1579-1581), Brussel, 1996; -De Smet, R., Marnixi Epistulae. De briefwisseling van Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde, een kritische uitgave, Pars IV (1582-1584), Brussel, 2006.
Recently, the fifth and last volume has been completed. Methodically, it follows the previous ones, but became nevertheless a special tome containing unique facets, as well from a historical, cultural-historical as human point of view. A few examples are enough to illustrate this: the siege and fall of Antwerp while Marnix was burgomaster, his disgrace in the Northern States, his brilliant talent as a decipherer of encrypted letters, his rehabilitation, the loss of his first and second wife, his contribution to the status of the Dutch language as a Bible translator, the role he played in building coalitions in Europe, his literary virtuosity, his interest in gardening, his last years.
The reader may follow almost day after day and quasi tangibly not only Marnix’ life and thoughts, but also the politico-economic evolution in the Low Countries and other parts of Europe.