John of Falkenberg

John of Falkenberg

Ask a question about 'John of Falkenberg'
Start a new discussion about 'John of Falkenberg'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
John of Falkenberg or Johannes Falkenberg (born in Falkenberg
Falkenberg is a locality and the seat of Falkenberg Municipality, Halland County, Sweden, with 18,972 inhabitants in 2005.The town has a population of 19,000 and is located at the mouth of the river Ätran. The name consists of the Swedish words for falcon and mountain...

, Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

, Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, date unknown; died about 1418 in Italy — or, according to other accounts, in his native town) was a German Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 theologian and writer.

His prominence in medieval history is due partly to the share he took in the Western Schism
Western Schism
The Western Schism or Papal Schism was a split within the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. Two men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance . The simultaneous claims to the papal chair...

, but chiefly to his involving himself in the long-standing disputes between the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

 of Prussia
Prussia (region)
Prussia is a historical region in Central Europe extending from the south-eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to the Masurian Lake District. It is now divided between Poland, Russia, and Lithuania...

 on one side and the allied Kingdom of Poland
Poland during the Jagiellon dynasty
History of Poland during the Jagiellon dynasty is the period in the history of Poland that spans the late Middle Ages and early Modern Era. Beginning with the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila , the Jagiellon dynasty formed the Polish–Lithuanian union...

 and Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 on the other. He is known as one of the first thinkers to advocate genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 of other nation.


Little is known about his early life, save that he entered the Order of St. Dominic and spent his novitiate in the convent at Kammin. The fact that he was a master in Sacred Theology indicates that for a number of years he taught philosophy and theology in his order.

In opposition to many of his brethren and the general of his order, Bernard de Datis, who were firm adherents of the antipopes Alexander V
Antipope Alexander V
Alexander V was antipope during the Western Schism . He reigned from June 26, 1409, to his death in 1410 and is officially regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as an antipope....

 and John XXIII
Antipope John XXIII
Baldassarre Cossa was Pope John XXIII during the Western Schism. The Catholic Church regards him as an antipope.-Biography:...

, Falkenberg was an adherent of Pope Gregory XII
Pope Gregory XII
Pope Gregory XII , born Angelo Correr or Corraro, Pope from 1406 to 1415, succeeded Pope Innocent VII on 30 November 1406....

. He carried his opposition so far as to refuse publicly in the Council of Constance
Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Three-Popes Controversy, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.The Council also condemned and...

 to acknowledge Bernard as his superior.


In the conflict between the Teutonic Knights on the one side and Polish King Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...

 and Lithuanian Duke Vytautas on the other, Falkenberg supported the Knights, who waged a 100-year crusade against the pagan
Lithuanian mythology
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...

 Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At the time both sides submitted the dispute for mediation to the Council of Constance
Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Three-Popes Controversy, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.The Council also condemned and...

. He wrote a book opposing Polish scholar Paulus Vladimiri and arguing that the King of Poland and his adherents were idolators
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

 and unbelievers and that the opposition against them was noble and praiseworthy. In this violent work he justified tyrannicide
Tyrannicide literally means the killing of a tyrant, or one who has committed the act. Typically, the term is taken to mean the killing or assassination of tyrants for the common good. The term "tyrannicide" does not apply to tyrants killed in battle or killed by an enemy in an armed conflict...

, advocated by the Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 Jean Petit
Jean Petit (theologian)
Jean Petit was a French theologian and professor in the University of Paris...

. Falkenberg concluded that it was lawful to kill the King of Poland and his associates.

In his Liber de doctrina, Falkenberg argued that "the Emperor has the right to slay even peaceful infidels simply because they are pagans (...). The Poles deserve death for defending infidels, and should be exterminated even more than the infidels; they should be deprived of their sovereignty and reduced to slavery." Stanislaus F. Belch in his work Paulus Vladimiri and his Doctrine concerning International Law and Politics wrote that he was the first writer to formulate justification of genocide. Falkenberg also published Satira, further attacking the Poles and King Jogaila, who he called a "mad dog" unworthy to be king. In a later work Tres tractatuli Falkenberg attempted to refute Jean Gerson
Jean Gerson
Jean Charlier de Gerson , French scholar, educator, reformer, and poet, Chancellor of the University of Paris, a guiding light of the conciliar movement and one of the most prominent theologians at the Council of Constance, was born at the village of Gerson, in the bishopric of Reims in...

, Pierre d'Ailly
Pierre d'Ailly
Pierre d'Ailly was a French theologian, astrologer, and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church....

, and other doctors of the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, who had condemned the works of Jean Petit. In this work, moreover, he denied the bishops the right to declare his book or any part of it heretical
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, claiming that in matters of faith the pope and general councils alone are infallible.

By order of Nicolaus, Archbishop of Gnesen, Falkenberg was imprisoned. The Poles demanded to convict Falkenberg of heresy, but in vain. His works were condemned by the Council of Constance
Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Three-Popes Controversy, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.The Council also condemned and...

 as scandalously libelous, but not heretic. A similar verdict was given by the Dominican Order, assembled at Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

 from May to June 1417, which besides condemned the author to life imprisonment. On his return to Rome, Pope Martin V
Pope Martin V
Pope Martin V , born Odo Colonna, was Pope from 1417 to 1431. His election effectively ended the Western Schism .-Biography:...

took Falkenberg with him and kept him for several years in close confinement. Whether he eventually regained his liberty or died there is uncertain.