Johannes Cassianus

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Johannes Cassianus

Johannes Cassianus (also: Johannes von Massilia ; * around 360 , province of Scythia Minor ( Dobrudscha ) ?; † around 435 in Massilia / Marseille ) was a Christian priest , monk (" desert father "), abbot and writer. His feast day according to the Roman Catholic order is July 23rd and according to the Orthodox order it is February 28/29.

It has not been proven that his birthplace is south of the mouth of the Danube , in the Roman province of Scythia Minor, today's Dobruja . He came from a wealthy family and enjoyed a comprehensive classical education, which also included knowledge of the Greek language, which, unlike in the 1st and 2nd centuries, was no longer a matter of course. Such an education with a focus on rhetoric served as preparation for a secular or ecclesiastical career. As a young man, however, Cassianus made a pilgrimage to Palestine , where he came into contact with Christian monasticism in a monastery in Bethlehem . From there he moved to Egypt for over ten years to learn about coinobism with the monks in the Egyptian desert . Around 400 he left Egypt because of theological disputes and became a student of Bishop John Chrysostom in Constantinople , who consecrated him as a deacon in 399 . Around 405, Johannes Cassianus went to Rome with a delegation that also included Palladios of Helenopolis to defend John Chrysostom to Pope Innocent I , who was involved in court and religious intrigue with Eudoxia , the wife of the emperor Arcadios . Around 415 he founded the men's monastery Saint Viktor (Abbaye Saint Victor de Marseille) and the women's monastery Saint Salvator (Abbaye Saint-Sauveur) near Marseille . After a long stay in southern Gaul, which was characterized by literary activity, he died there, venerated as a saint , around 435.

Work and effect

Around 420 Johannes Cassianus wrote De institutis coenobiorum et de octo principalibus vitiis ("On the principles of the coinobites and the eight main vices"). In this work he reported on Egyptian monastic life and expanded his eight - truck doctrine based on the teaching of Euagrios Pontikos . He postulated eight main vices: intemperance, unchastity, greed, anger, sadness, weariness, lust for fame, arrogance, which later find themselves as sins of capital. Around 426 to 428 Johannes Cassianus wrote the Collationes (Conlationes) patrum , the "Conversations with the Fathers", in which he gave his experiences with the monks in the Egyptian desert in the form of conversations. With the Collationes he made the wisdom of life and faith of the Egyptian monks (see, for example, Antonius the Great and Pachomios ) known in the west of the Roman Empire. In Book XIII. he criticized the grace teaching of St. Augustine (354-430), triggering to the Council of Orange lasting 529 Semipelagianismusstreit from where Augustine 428/429 with two writings, De praedestinatione sanctorum (Migne, Patrologia Latina 44, 959-992) and De dono perseverantiae (MPL 45, 993-1034) responded. In the 17th century the semipelagianism controversy experienced a resumption in the conflict between Bañezians and Molinists , and in the Jansenist dispute over the doctrine of grace of Cornelius Jansen it had an effect until the 18th century.

At the request of the later Pope Leo I , he wrote around 430 De incarnatione Christi contra Nestorium ("On the Incarnation of Christ, against Nestorius "), a text with which he opposed the Christology of Nestorianism condemned at the Council of Ephesus . The Bishop of Rome, theologically armed by Johannes Cassianus, was able to intervene in the christological disputes with his Tomus Leonis in 449.

After Martin von Tours (316 / 317–397) and Honoratus von Arles (2nd half of the 4th century - 430), Cassian was one of the first monastery founders in the west of the Roman Empire.

Through Johannes Cassianus, the prayer of rest , an early Christian form of meditation that was intensely practiced by the desert fathers, became known in the western church and spread mainly through the Benedictine order in the Latin church. Benedict of Nursia referred to Johannes Cassianus several times in his rule because he valued him as a spiritual teacher.

The doctrine of the fourfold sense of scripture goes back to Cassian, coll. 14,8 (CSEL 13, p. 404), which was of decisive importance for Catholic Bible exegesis up to modern times.


  • Michael Petschenig (Ed.): De institutis coenobiorum; De incarnatione contra Nestorium (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [CSEL] 17). Editio altera supplementis aucta curante Gottfried Kreuz . Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 2004, ISBN 978-3-7001-3287-5 .
  • Michael Petschenig (Ed.): Collationes XXIIII (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [CSEL] 13). Editio altera supplementis aucta curante Gottfried Kreuz . Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 2004, ISBN 978-3-7001-3286-8 .
  • Conversations with the fathers - Collationes Patrum , Part 1: Collationes I – X, translated and explained by Gabriele Ziegler (Sources of Spirituality, Vol. 5). Vier-Türme-Verlag, Münsterschwarzach 2011, ISBN 978-3-89680-705-2 .
  • Conversations with the fathers - Collationes Patrum , Part 2: Collationes XI – XVII, translated and explained by Gabriele Ziegler (Sources of Spirituality, Vol. 9). Vier-Türme-Verlag, Münsterschwarzach 2014, ISBN 978-3-89680-709-0
  • Conversations with the fathers - Collationes Patrum , Part 3: Collationes XVIII – XXIV, translated and explained by Gabriele Ziegler (Sources of Spirituality, Vol. 12). Vier-Türme-Verlag, Münsterschwarzach 2015, ISBN 978-3-89680-712-0
  • MS-B-176 - Gerardus de Zutphania. Bonaventure. Johannes de Schonhavia. Petrus de Alliaco. David de Augusta. Gerlacus Petri. Johannes Cassianus. Bernardus Claraevallensis et alia ( composite manuscript). Eastern Netherlands [15. 3rd quarter]. Digitized
  • Wisdom of the desert , selection and transmission by Alfons Kemmer. Benziger-Verlag, Einsiedeln / Cologne 1948.
  • Living together in the monastery , books I – IV. In: Frühes Mönchtum im Abendland , first volume: Lebensformen ; introduced, translated and explained by Karl Suso Frank . Artemis-Verlag, Zurich / Munich 1975, ISBN 3-7608-3641-0 , pp. 107-193.
  • Practice in prayer of rest . A Christian practice according to John Cassian ; transferred and introduced by Peter Dyckhoff . Kösel-Verlag, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-466-20362-7 .


Web links

Commons : John Cassian  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See page of St. Viktor's Abbey
  2. Cf. François Hildesheimer, "Jansenismus, Jansenisten, Jansenistenstreit", in: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche , Vol. 5, revised edition of the 3rd edition 2009, Col. 739–744; Leonhard Hell, François Hildesheimer, “Jansenius, Cornelius d. J. “, in: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, vol. 5. Herder, reviewed edition of the 3rd edition. Freiburg et al. 2009, col. 744–745.
  3. See Peter Walter, "Schriftsinne", in: Lexicon for Theology and Church. Vol. 9. Herder, revised edition of the 3rd edition Freiburg. et al. 2009, col. 268-269.