Georgius Mancelius (1593-1654): Geistlicher, Sprachforscher und Gelehrter in Dorpat und Mitau

Janis Krēsliņš


The first half of the seventeenth Century was a period of great political, religious, cultural, and social upheaval and conflict in the Baltic area. During the first decades of the century, the greater part of the Baltic region was the stage for a prolonged militaryconflict. Due to this conflict, the political status of Livonia and Courland was in a constant State of flux. Many of the political, religious, cultural, and social tensions characteristic of this region during this time are reflected in the life and work of Georgius Mancelius (1593-1654).Georgius Mancelius was born in Grenzhof, on the border between Lutheran Courlandand Catholic Lithuania. He received his primary education at the Latin School in Mitau and attended secondary school at the Cathedral School in Riga. In 1612, he enrolled at Rostock University. Upon completion of his studies, he returned to Courlandand was called as pastor to Valle and Seiburg. In 1625, he transferred to Dorpatin Swedish Livonia, where he was, at first, pastor of the German congregation of St. John, but later assumed administrative duties in the Livonian Church hierarchy and a professorship in theology at the newly founded Swedish university. Mancelius did not, however, spend the remaining years of his life in Dorpat. In 1637, he returned to Mitau to become chaplain at the court of the Duchy of Courland.
Mancelius distinguished himself as an ecclesiastic, linguist, and scholar. He was a leading figure in the Livonian Church hierarchy and allied himself with that branch of the Church which readily cooperated with Governor-general Johan Skytte andSwedish authorities. An integral element in Skytte's policy was the creation of texts in the local languages for Church purposes. With his Vademecum, Mancelius announced comprehensive review of the existing norms in writing Latvian. His thematic dictionary was the very first work which enabled the study of Latvian as a foreign language.
With his Lang-gewünschte Lettische Postill Mancelius was the first not only to translate existing religious literature into Latvian, but also to write prose in Latvian. As professor of theology at the Swedish university at Dorpat Mancelius was a representative of the new generation of theologians who had a strong interest in Aristotelean philosophy. His teachers were pioneers in this Aristotelean renaissance and his own theological works show clear traces of this early seventeenth-century form of Lutheran theology.