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James Sprenger's Biography

James Sprenger was born in Basel, 1436?8. He was admitted a novice in the Dominican house of this town in 1452. His extraordinary genius attracted immediate attention, and his rise to a responsible position was very rapid. According to Pierre Helyot, the Fransican (1680?1716), Histoire des Ordres Religieux, III (1715), ch. XXVI, in 1389 Conrad of Prussia abolished certain relaxations and abuses which had crept into the Teutonic Province of the Order of S. Dominic, and restored the Primitive and Strict Obedience. He was closely followed by Sprenger, whose zealous reform was so warmly approved that in 1468 the General Chapter ordered him to lecture on the sentences of Peter Lombard at the University of Cologne, to which he was thus officially attached. A few years later he proceeded Master of Theology, and was elected Prior and Regent of Studies of the Cologne Convent, one of the most famous and frequented Houses of the Order. On 30 June, 1480, he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University. His lecture?room was thronged, and in the following year, at the Chapter held in Rome, the Master General of the Order, Fra Salvo Cusetta, appointed him Inquisitor Extraordinary for the Provinces of Mainz, Treves, and Cologne. His activities were enormous, and demanded constant journeyings through the very extensive district to which he had been assigned. In 1488 he was elected Provincial of the whole German Province, an office of the first importance.

It is said that his piety and his learning impressed all who came in contact with him. In 1495 he was residing at Cologne, and here he received a letter from Alexander VI praising his enthusiasm and his energy. He died rather suddenly, in the odour of sanctitysome chronicles call him "Beatus" ? on 6 December, 1495, at Strasburg, where he is buried.

Among Sprenger's other writings, excepting the Malleus, are The Paradoxes of John of Westphalia Refuted, Mainz, 1479, a closely argued treatise; and The Institution and Approbation of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, which was first erected at Cologne on 8 September in the year 1475, Cologne, 1475. Sprenger may well be called the "Apostle of the Rosary". None more fervent than he in spreading this Dominican elevation. His zeal enrolled thousands, including the Emperor Frederick III, in the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, which was enriched with many indulgences by a Bull of Sixtus IV. It has been observed that the writings of Father James Sprenger on the Rosary are well approved by many learned men, Pontiffs, Saints and Theologians alike. There can be no doubt that Sprenger was a mystic of the highest order, a man of most saintly life.