I read that someone ascribes the Imitation of Christ to the Devotio Moderna movement. I'm quite incognizant about that, though. I fail to grasp what the Devotio Moderna entailed. So I would like to get what are some particular aspects of the Imitation of Christ that could be in accord with the Devotio Moderna (if there are any).


There's little information about the Devotio Moderna, in spite of its influence on several key figures of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. However, I managed to get a reference to a study published by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science.

Translating the "Results" and "Conclusion" sections of the description, we have some information arrayed below, slightly edited for readability:


The Imitation of Christ reaffirms themes which are dear to the Devotio, like humility, obedience, simplicity, devotion, piety, individual prayer and meditation, among others. Like the Devotio, it constantly emphasizes inner life, seeking to describe a life of disciplined devotion, centered in the meditation of following the life of the Christ.

Certain rites remained necessary in the Devotio Moderna like Mass and the Eucharist[sic]. There was a re-descovery of Sacred Scripture, of the Christ of the Gospels and of the writings of the Church Fathers, emphasizing a more intimist, less ritualist religion, but which did not exclude completely the priest on account of him being ordained to celebrate Mass and the only one who can consecrate the Body of Christ. In neither the Devotio Moderna movement nor the work The Imitation of Christ there is a contempt for the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, but also Matrimony and Penitence were valued.

The Saints are venerated both in the Devotio Moderna and in the Imitation and some are cited as models to be followed: St. Lawrence, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Agatha, not to mention the Apostles, etc., even though it is emphasized that Jesus Christ is the supreme model to be imitated in His perfection and piety...


The reformers of the 16th Century — both Catholic and Protestant — were heirs of the Devotio Moderna, particularly in relation to a more interior religion, more centered on the individual and in reading Sacred Scripture. The Imitation of Christ, faithful to the movement which originated it, gave more emphasis to interior life and the spreading of a popular piety where charity, faith and humility became more important than the formalism of rites, without belittling the cult of Saints and Sacraments.

The Catholic mystics and reformers appropriated that; meanwhile, as F. Lau affirms: "It was from the ideal of piety of The Imitation of Christ (...) that Luther later distanced himself (Lau, 1980).

Thus, we can affirm that the Devotio Moderna is, after a fashion, in the root of Modern Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant; but Luther and his followers distanced themselves from the piety put forth in the work The Imitation of Christ. At the same time, Catholic mystics and reformers, particularly in the 16th and 17th Centuries, knew, read and possibly let themselves be guided by that work. Therefore, The Imitation of Christ had influence only on the Catholic mystics and reformers.

The researchers quoted above mention that the Devotio focused on a more inward-facing, contemplative spirituality, which is well represented by The Imitation of Christ. At the same time, devotion for the Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist, Penance and Matrimony) and the Saints is emphasized by both. These themes are all present in The Imitation, as befits a work that was written by a member of that movement

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