Justus Lipsius, humanist in turbulent times
Justus Lipsius was a renowned humanist and an admirer of the Classical Antiquity. The Reformation formed the backdrop of both his life and work, which was largely inspired by stoicism. Since 1995 the headquarters of the Council of the European Union are located in Brussels, in a building that bears his name.
Joost Lips, who later became known under his Latin name Justus Lipsius, was born in 1547 in Overijse, near Brussels. At age 15 he entered the Jesuit Order as a novice in Cologne. Five years later, he was working in Rome as the secretary of Cardinal Granvelle; there he became thoroughly acquainted with Roman Antiquity.
After short stays in Leuven and Vienna, Justus Lipsius became a professor at the Lutheran University of Jena. Soon after however, he returned to Leuven, where he started to teach at the Catholic University. During that period, he also married the young widow Anna Vande Calstere.
Hounded by the constant threat of war in the Southern Netherlands, Justus Lipsius and his wife moved to Leiden, where he became a professor and later rector at the newly founded Calvinistic University.
In 1584 Justus Lipsius published his masterpiece 'De Constantia' in Latin. Clearly influenced by stoicism, he argued for more rationality and improved control of passion, in times when Western Europe was overwhelmed by political and religious disputes.
As he missed his native region, Justus Lipsius decided to return to Leuven in 1591, where he quickly held a position again at the Catholic University. Although his health rapidly deteriorated, he stayed active until the end and even published two historical treaties on the miracles of Our Lady of Halle (1604) and Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel (1605).
Justus Lipsius passed away in 1606 and was buried in the Church of the Recollects in Leuven. His extraordinary accomplishments as a philologist, historian of Classical Antiquity and neo-stoical philosopher brought him great fame across Europe at the time.
In his native region, streets and squares were named after Justus Lipsius, and monuments were built in his memory. Today, in the heart of the neighbourhood around Schuman in Brussels, the European heads of state and government regularly convene in a building that carries his name.