Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Jessenius a Jessen, Johannes

Born: 27 December 1566, Wroclaw
Died: 21 June 1621, Prague
  • Tomáš NejeschlebaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_560-1


Johannes Jessenius was a physician, anatomist, philosopher, and politician. He introduced the anatomical concepts of the late Renaissance to Central Europe and promoted Italian Renaissance philosophy, in particular, that of Francesco Piccolomini, Francesco Patrizi, and Girolamo Savonarola, in the Central-European region.


Medical Treatise Actual Source Philosophical Work Political Thinker Anatomical Concept 
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Alternate Name

Jan Jesenský


Jessenius studied at universities in Wittenberg, Leipzig, and Padua where he was tutored by the anatomist Girolamo Fabrici ab Aquapendente and the philosopher Francesco Piccolomini. He taught anatomy and surgery in Wittenberg starting in 1593. Jessenius hosted Tycho Brahe for 6 months in Wittenberg in 1599 and later played the role of moderator in the conflict between Brahe and his assistant Johannes Kepler. Jessenius moved to Rudolfine Prague in 1602 where he performed the first public dissection as early as 1600. He entered into the services of King Matthias of Habsburg in Vienna in 1608. He returned to Bohemia in 1617 and was elected rector of the University in Prague; as such, he undertook diplomatic missions in support of the Bohemian Estates revolting against the Habsburgs. Following the Battle of White Mountain, where the revolt was suppressed, Jessenius was arrested and eventually executed.

Philosophical Works

Apart from a number of medical treatises (Pick 1926), Jessenius was the author of several philosophical books. His Leipzig dissertation (Jessenius 1618) deals with the immortality of the soul in the Aristotelian and Thomistic manner (Sousedík 2009). In his Paduan philosophical dissertation, Jessenius follows the Aristotelianism of his teacher Francesco Piccolomini and made a distinction between metaphysics and natural philosophy and between their different subjects and methods.

After his return from Padua to Silesia and Saxony, Jessenius published the book entitled Zoroaster (Jessenius 1593) in Wittenberg which is an excerpt from Francesco Patrizi’s work Nova de universis philosophia. Jessenius does not mention, however, the actual source of his book and recommends this anti-Aristotelian work to the Saxonian Duke as consisting of Chaldean wisdoms of Zoroaster. In contrast with Patrizi’s work, Jessenius omitted Patrizi’s “Panaugia,” shortened the remaining text, and changed the order of the books of “Panarchia,” “Pancosmia,” and “Panpsychia.”

Jessenius published an edition of Girolamo Sanovarola’s Universae philosophiae epitome in 1596. In the dedication to the Saxonian Duke, he advocated a project derived from the works of his teacher Francesco Piccolomini involving establishing harmony between Plato and Aristotle with the help of Hermetic texts. Jessenius consequently attempted to fulfill this program of concord philosophy in the book On the Soul and the Body of the Universe (Jessenius 1605) combining Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy in an eclectic way (Nejeschleba 2014).

Jessenius was partially influenced by Tycho Brahe’s thought in the treatise On the Causes of Sympathy and Antipathy (Jessenius 1599) which was a disquisition defended in Wittenberg by his pupil Daniel Sennert. Despite Brahe’s Paracelsian influence, Jessenius explained the causes of sympathy and antipathy rather naturalistically with a reference to Italian Aristotelianism and by means of the similarities and dissimilarities of manifest qualities.

As a political thinker, Jessenius published a treatise entitled Pro vindiciis contra tyrannos in which he defended the people’s right to revolt against a tyrant (Jessenius 1620). The treatise paraphrases older works of “monarchomachs,” in particular Vindiciae contra tyrannos, and made Jessenius the “ideologist of the Bohemian revolt” (Sousedík 1995).



Primary Literature

  1. Jessenius, Johannes. 1591. De divina humanaque philosophia progymnasma peripateticum. Venice: Joachimus Bruniolus.Google Scholar
  2. Jessenius, Johannes. 1593. Zoroaster, Nova, brevis veraque de Universo Philosophia. Wittenberg: Crato.Google Scholar
  3. Jessenius, Johannes. 1599. De Sympathiae et Antipathiae Rerum Naturalium Caussis. Wittenberg: Wolfgang Meissner.Google Scholar
  4. Jessenius, Johannes. 1605. De anima et corpore universi, AKROASIS PERIPATETIKE. Prag: Heredes Daniel Adam Veleslavin.Google Scholar
  5. Jessenius, Johannes. 1618. De resurrectione mortuorum absolutissima Concio… Dissertatio. Quod Animae humanae immortalitatis sint, adnexa. Prag: Paulus Sessius.Google Scholar
  6. Jessenius, Johannes. 1620. Pro Vindiciis, contra tyrannos, oratio. Prag: Paulus Sessius (First edition Frankfurt a. M.: Bringer 1614).Google Scholar
  7. Savonarola, Girolamo. 1596. Universae Philosophiae Epitome. Ed. Johannes Jessenius. Wittenberg: Simon Gronenberg.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Barnes, Robin B. 2009. The Prisca Theologia and Lutheran Confessional Identity c. 1600. Johannes Jessenius and his Zoroaster. In Spätrenaissance-Philosophie in Deutschland 1570–1650, ed. Mulsow Martin, 43–56. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  2. Nejeschleba, Tomáš. 2014. Johannes Jessenius, between Plagiarism and an adequate understanding of Patrizi’s philosophy. In Francesco Patrizi. Philosopher of the Renaissance, ed. Blum Paul Richard and Nejeschleba Tomáš, 360–371. Olomouc: UP Olomouc.Google Scholar
  3. Pick, Friedel. 1926. Johannes Jessenius de Magna Jessen. Arzt und Rektor in Wittenberg und Prag hingerichtet am 21. Juni 1621. Ein Lebensbild aus der Zeit des Dreissigjährigen Krieges. Leipzig: Barth.Google Scholar
  4. Sousedík, Stanislav. 1995. Jan Jesenský as the ideologist of the Bohemian Estates’ revolt. Acta comeniana 11(XXXV): 13–24.Google Scholar
  5. Sousedík, Stanislav. 2009. Philosophie der frühen Neuzeit in den böhmischen Ländern. Stuttgart – Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-holzboog.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Renaissance Texts, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of ArtsPalacky University OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic