(1466-1519 )


JOHN COLET (1466?–1519), Dean of St Paul’s. The son of Sir Henry Colet, who had been twice Lord Mayor of London, he studied probably at Magdalen College, Oxford, and later in Paris and Italy, where he learned Greek. He returned c.1497 to Oxford, where he delivered a series of lectures on St Paul’s Epistles, notable for their critical spirit and their plea for a return to the discipline of the primitive Church. From this time onwards he constantly inveighed against the worldliness of the higher clergy, pluralities, and non-residence, and, though he never challenged the traditional dogmas of the Church, he was frequently suspected of heresy.

    His opinions were very sympathetically received by his two famous friends, Erasmus (to whom he later paid an annuity) and Sir Thomas More. From 1504 till his death he was Dean of St Paul’s. On his father’s death he received a large fortune, part of which he spent, in the face of opposition, in refounding St Paul’s School, where 153 boys, without restriction of nationality, could gain the rudiments of education, be brought up in a sound Christian way, and learn Greek as well as Latin (first High Master of the School, William Lilly).

His Opus de Sacramentis Ecclesiae ed. as ‘A Treatise on the Sacraments of the Church’ (1867), Super Opera Dionysii as ‘Two Treatises on the Hierarchies of Dionysius’ (1869), Enarratio in Epistolam S. Pauli ad Romanos as ‘An Exposition on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans’ (1873), Enarratio in Primam Epistolam S. Pauli ad Corinthios as ‘An Exposition on St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians’ (1874), Opuscula Quaedam Theologica as ‘Letters to Radulphus on the Mosaic Account of the Creation, together with other Treatises’ (1876), all ed. for the first time with Eng. tr., introd., and notes by J. H. Lupton. Edn. and Eng. tr. of his marginal comm. to the first edn. of M. Ficino’s Epistolae (1495), letters and certain other material by S. Jayne (Oxford, 1963). Comm. on 1 Cor. also ed., with Eng. tr. and introd., by B. O’Kelly and C. A. L. Jarrott (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 21; Binghamton, NY, 1985). J. H. Lupton (ed. and tr.), The Lives of Jehan Vitrier … and John Colet … written … by Erasmus in a Letter to Justus Jonas (1883). Id., A Life of John Colet (1887); id., The Influence of Dean Colet upon the Reformation of the English Church (1893). J. A. R. Marriott, The Life of John Colet (1933); E. W. Hunt, Dean Colet and his Theology (1956); L. Miles, John Colet and the Platonic Tradition (La Salle, Ill., 1961; London, 1962); J. B. Gleason, John Colet [1989]. BRUO 1 (1957), pp. 462–4.



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