Thomas à Kempis was a Renaissance Roman Catholic monk and author of Imitation of Christ.
Very little is known about Thomas a Kempis. Quotes attributed to him imply he led a very quiet life reading, reflecting, writing and going about his religious duties. He was born in Kempen in the states of Cleves in what is now Germany in 1380. At the age of 15 he was sent to school in Deventer, where he became a successful copyist. After a dozen years working as a copyist, Kempis took priestly orders and became subprior at the convent in Zwolle, in the Dutch principality of Utrecht.
Thomas then devoted himself to study, teaching and reflection. He identified with a school of mystics who were scattered along the Rhine from to the Netherlands called the Brethren of the Common Life.
In 1418, Kempis wrote and published The Imitation of Christ a devotional tract, which was a meditation on the life and teachings of Christ.
Kempis died in 1430 in Zwolle.
The Imitation of Christ
Imitation of Christ widely considered by Christian scholars as one of the greatest meditations on religious devotion in Christianity. While written during a period of religious upheaval in Europe both Protestants and Roman Catholics praised the book.
The book was written in Latin and published in 1418. By the late 15th century the book was widely read and translated across Europe. A manuscript from 1441 survives and there is a French translation from 1447.
The Imitation of Christ derives its title from the heading of the first of four books, De imitatione Christi et contemptu omnium vanitatum mundi. Written for monks the book is a manual of devotion intended to assist the soul with its pursuit of holiness and communion with God. The book advises readers to read the scriptures, and makes statements about the uses of adversity, provides advice for submission to authority, warnings against temptation and how to resist it, reflections about death and the final judgment, and also makes the argument that one should flee the vanities of the world.
It stresses the passive qualities of the monastic life and does not advocate active service in the world.