Quirinus Kuhlmann  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Quirinus Kuhlmann (February 25, 1651October 4, 1689) was a German Baroque poet and mystic. Born in Breslau (Wrocław) in Silesia to a Lutheran merchant, Quirinus Kuhlmann studied at the Magdalena-Gymnasium with the help of a scholarship, as his father had died when Kuhlmann was young.

As a boy, Kuhlmann suffered from a speech impediment and was often mocked for his condition. Some scholars believe that this may have been why he began to frequent Breslau’s libraries from an early age.

His early poetry included a book of epicedia, or funeral poems (1668), an epithalamium (wedding poem, 1668), and a eulogy that praised a literary society called Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft ("Fruit-bringing society", 1670). As Gerhart Hoffmeister writes, "the acclaim he received made him feel like a 'second Opitz' –perhaps an early sign that he was becoming overly self-confident or even delusional before a grave illness (typhoid fever?) struck him in 1669."

In 1669, Kuhlmann experienced a prophetic vision. He was enrolled at the University of Jena (1670-1) with the purpose of studying law, but he spent his time reading and writing mystical texts, and compiled an anthology of sonnets in Himmlische Liebes-Küsse (Heavenly Love-Kisses, 1671), which depict the union of a human soul with Jesus Christ. Kuhlmann seems to have suffered from depression, and he was reported to have covered his walls with reflecting "turkish papers" to brighten his room in order to be transformed into a mystic mood.

He received the imperial laurels (poeta laureates) in 1672 after receiving attention for his paraphrases of the Song of Songs and other mystical sources.

At his native Breslau, he further neglected his studies and read some nine hundred books, inspiring him to write his own comprehensive history of the world, called Lehrreicher Geschicht-Herold (Instructive History-Messenger, 1672).

At Leiden, where he was about to defend his law dissertation, he was converted to the mysticism of Jakob Böhme in 1673. Kuhlmann proclaimed himself a millenniarist, "son of the Son of God," and missionary to men of all faiths.

He unsuccessfully attempted, both in Western and Eastern Europe —including visits to London and the East to attempt an audience with Mehmed IV, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire — to find adherents to his ideals, which included religious union and utopianism, upon which he expounded in his De Monarchia Jesuelitica (1682). His poetry was written with the messianic goal of having Protestant powers and Ottomans join forces to destroy Catholic Europe, the House of Habsburg, and the Pope and establish the "Kingdom of Jesus." Kuhlmann traveled to Moscow in 1689 in order to convince the Russian czar to join this alliance, and established himself in the German colony in Moscow.

In Moscow Kuhlmann lived in the house of an adherent named Conrad Nordermann. Eventually, however, both men were denounced as theologically and politically dangerous, were arrested and tortured, and finally burned at the stake for heresy.


His mystical poems, which include the collection Der Kühlpsalter (1684–6), influenced poetry of the late Baroque, and also influenced the movements of Pietism and Empfindsamkeit / Sensibility (1750s-1770s). In 1962, Robert L. Beare wrote that "in recent years Quirinus Kuhlmann has been the subject of much interest, not merely because he is one of the most striking of German Baroque writers, but also because his life has unusual features not always associated with poets –seldom is a poet burned alive, no matter how critics may roast his work!"

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