[Nicolaus de Cusa (Cusanus), theologian and philosopher (1401-1464)]. Letter of indulgence of one hundred days, granted to support the construction and decoration of the Chapel of Saints Mary Magdalene and Elizabeth, built for the Dominican "Witte Nonnen" in Leiden.

Leiden, 15. IX. 1451.

Latin manuscript on vellum. 1 page, ca. 305 x 225 mm. Scribal bastarda in black ink. A red wax seal, largely preserved, attached with pins.


Very rare indulgence issued by Nicolaus of Cusa as Cardinal-Priest of S. Pietro in Vincoli. The great humanist philosopher and scholar served as papal legate to Germany from 1446 and in 1448 was appointed cardinal by Pope Nicholas V. During his "Great Legation" of 1450-52 he visited numerous churches in North-Western Europe; in Leiden he supported the newly-built chapel of the "White Nuns", inaugurated in 1450. The building was later demolished, and the remains were integrated in the present "Academiegebouw" of Leiden University.

With his Neo-Platonically charged and at once epistemologically advanced reflections, Cusanus is the arguably the most interesting philosopher of his age, a Janus-faced thinker on the threshold between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. His ingenious mathematical analogies offered ways to relate the scientific method of inquiry to theological knowledge. "In his philosophical writings he broke with the scholasticism which was still the orthodox system. He maintained that all human knowledge was conjecture, and that wisdom lay in recognizing our essential ignorance. To avoid the charge of scepticism [...] he took the view that God can be apprehended by intuition [...] This doctrine was taken up a century later by Giordano Bruno [...], and through Bruno his views came to influence Spinoza, Leibniz and Hegel [...] The view that he anticipated Copernicus is hardly justified [...], but the stimulus which he provided to cosmological thought lasted long after his death" (PMM).

While the document reads "die mercurii quintadecima mensis septembris anno ... 1451", the 15th of September 1451 was a Thursday rather than a Wednesday - a likely scribal error.

In excellent condition.

Cat. no.: 1 Catalogue: FOLIUM