Hendrik Herp

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Hendrik Herp, known in Latin as Harphius Herp,[1] (died 22 February 1477) was a Flemish Franciscan of the Strict Observance, and a writer on mysticism.


Herp was born around 1400 either at Düren (Marcoduranus), at Erp near Düren, or at Erps-Kwerps near Leuven.[citation needed] He studied at the University of Leuven; however, only the last thirty years of his life are known in any detail. He appears as rector of the Brethren of the Common Life, first in 1445 at Delft in Holland, then at Gouda, "to the great good of his subjects". In 1450, on a pilgrimage to Rome, he took the habit of St. Francis, joining the Franciscan Observance (the Capuchin reform) at the Convent of Ara Cœli. On his return to the Low Countries he served in several posts for the Franciscan Observants of the Cologne Province, including as provincial of the Province of Cologne (1470–73), then guardian of the convent of Mechlin in present-day Belgium, where he died in 1477.[2]


Herp wrote his works between 1450 and 1475. An early work is called The Contemplative Eden.

This is succeeded by his major work, probably written in the 1460s, entitled Spieghel der volcomenheit (The Mirror of Perfection). As a whole and in the chief divisions of his doctrine, Herp shows several points of contact with his compatriot John of Ruysbroeck.[3]

Later reception[edit]

This work was widely read: the modern edition of the text uses 48 manuscripts and lists 66 edition in many languages, beginning with the first Dutch printing in 1475. Much of this diffusion was due to the Latin translation prepared by the Cologne Carthusian Peter Blomeveen, published in 1509 under the title Aureum directorum contemplativorum (The Golden Directory of Contemplatives).[4]

In 1538, the Cologne Carthusians, led by Dietrich Loher, also published an anthology of Herp’s writings under the title De mystica theologica (On Mystical Theology), with a dedication to George Skotborg, Bishop of Lund. This anthology comprises three parts: "Soliloquium divini Amoris", "Directorium Aureum contemplativorum", and "Paradisus contemplativorum". In other words, the Latin translation of The Mirror comprised book two. This edition was important for the later reception of Herp, since it was reprinted five times before 1611, and translated into French and Germany.[5]

However, Herp’s work was not always received positively – in 1559, the 1556 edition of De mystica theologica, dedicated to Ignatius Loyola by Loher, was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books for a number of theological errors (though not heresies). This was renewed in 1580 and 1583. Many still found the book useful, however. In 1586 a version corrected by the Dominican theologian Peter Paul Philippus (d. c.1648) was printed in Rome.[6] There is also an "Index Expurgatorius" (Paris, 1598), where can be found, as well as in the "Index of Sotomayor" (1640), the opinions to be corrected.[citation needed]

He was praised by Mabillon, Bona, and others. Of his works, only one was printed during his lifetime, Speculum aureum decem præceptorum Dei (Mainz, 1474); it is a collection of 213 sermons on the Commandments for the use of preachers and confessors. Another collection of 222 sermons (Sermones de tempore, de sanctis, etc.) was printed in 1484, etc. Both frequently quote the Doctors of the Middle Ages, especially Thomas Aquinas, Alexander of Hales, Bernard of Clairvaux, etc., and were often reprinted.[citation needed]


Some of the early modern mystics who knew and used Herp include Francisco de Osuna, Bernardino de Laredo, Angelus Silesius, Benet Canfield, Augustine Baker, the author of The Evangelical Pearl, Louis de Blois, Cardinal Berulle, Constantine Barbanson, and John of Saint-Samson.[7]

The Franciscan Chapter of Toledo in 1663 recommended his works as standard writings in mystic theology.

The Franciscan Martyrology of Arturus of Rouen gives him the title of Blessed.


  1. ^ Also Harp or Erp; Latin Hendricus de Herp, Henricus Herpius or Harpius, Harphius, Citharoedus.
  2. ^ Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p130.
  3. ^ Chapter Seven
  4. ^ Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p130.
  5. ^ Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p130.
  6. ^ Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p131.
  7. ^ Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p533.

Modern editions[edit]

  • Lucidius Verschueren, Hendrik Herp OFM Spieghel der Volcomenheit, 2 vols, (Antwerp: 1931) [Second volume contains the text of the work in Dutch and Latin on facing pages]
  • Rik Van Nieuwenhove, Late Medieval Mystics of the Low Countries, pp144-164 [English translation of the third part of Spieghel der Volcomenheit]
  • William Short, 'Hendrik Herp: The Mirror of Perfection, or Directory of Contemplatives ', in Michael Cusato and Jean Francoise Godet-Calogeras, eds, Vita Evangelica: Essays in Honour of Margaret Carney, OSF, Franciscan Studies 64, (2006), pp407-433. [English translation of the Spanish version of the third part of Spieghel der Volcomenheit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012).
  • Dirks, Histoire littéraire et bibliographique des Frères Mineurs del' Observance en Belgique et dans les Pays-Bas, (Antwerp, 1885)
  • Reusens in Bibliographie Nationale, IX (1886-7), 278-284;
  • Schlager, Beiträge zur Geschichte der kölnischen Franziskaner Ordensprovinz im M. A. , (Cologne, 1904), and Zum Leben des Franziskaners H. Harp in Der Katholik, (1905), II, 46-48.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.