A Brill Calendar: January 30
The World of Gomarius
Few biographies embody the world in which its protagonist lived and worked better than the one of Franciscus Gomarus.
At his birth in Bruges, Flanders, on January 30 1563, the Low Countries still acknowledged without resistance the sovereignty of the Habsburg dynasty, then ruled by the King of Spain, Philip II. When Gomarus died, January 11, 1641 in Groningen at almost 78 years of age, the map of European States had been redrawn irreversibly. After a relentless and eventually successful struggle, coinciding near enough with Gomarus’s life & times, a juvenile mercantile Republic of Seven Provinces, preaching unity and mutual assistance, had established itself proudly on the threshold of universal recognition as a sovereign European Power.
It is seldom – if ever – that strife and academic controversy within Christian denominations are as inextricably interwoven with the emergence of a new State and worldly affairs. This was certainly true of the north-western Europe where the theologian Gomarus operated. Theologically trained at Oxford, Cambridge and Heidelberg, Gomarus established himself in Holland as a Leyden Professor in 1594; after dispersal of the Calvinist Reformed Community he served in Frankfurt am Main, where his presence and influence had ceased to be palatable to magistrates of that imperial city.
Gomarus must have been nonplussed nine years later, when a well-known staunch opponent of his rigid & harsh tenets, the Hollander Jacobus Arminius, joined the Faculty as well. In the secular and political world of the Republic, Gomarus’s religious rigid doctrine ultimately prevailed at the great European Synod of Dort (1618 – ’19). This Synod legitimised state-repression of Arminian views & beliefs; although Gomarus had reluctantly come to abandon his Chair at the lenient academic world of Leyden University, soon after Arminius’s tragic and unexpected death in October 1609 .