In memoriam prof. dr. G.J.M. Bartelink
In memoriam prof. dr. G.J.M. Bartelink

In Memoriam Professor G.J.M. Bartelink

On 18 January, the Faculty of Arts received the sad news that Professor Gerard Bartelink, Radboud University Emeritus Professor, passed away last week, together with his wife Els.

After studying classical languages at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, Gerard Bartelink (born in Rijssen, 1924) began his career as a classical languages teacher at the Carmel Lyceum in Oldenzaal, where he enjoyed teaching for six years. Yet he was also drawn to research, especially into the Greek and Latin texts of the early Christians. He received his doctorate in 1952 from Professor J.G.A. Ros S.J. (Lexicological-semantic study on the language of the Apostolic Fathers), eventually succeeding Christine Mohrmann as professor at Nijmegen University in 1973. His broad teaching field included 'Ancient Christian Greek and Latin, Vulgar and Medieval Latin', the areas for which Professor Christine Mohrmann and her predecessor Professor Jos. Schrijnen had always championed. Their academic approach included the concept of a separate early Christian group language within Greek and Latin and a strong focus on philological research, especially at the word level. As a result of their efforts, this type of research on Ancient Christian Greek and Latin was known worldwide as the 'École de Nimègue'. That name is still in use today, partly due to the large and numerous contributions Gerard Bartelink made to it.

All the subfields of his teaching specialisation were equally dear to him, but his research mainly concentrated on Ancient Christian Greek. Bartelink became world-famous for his 1994 bilingual edition of the 4th century Greek Leven van Antonius by Athanasius of Alexandria in the prestigious Sources Chrétiennes series. He had worked on that project for many years. The text concerned one of the most popular texts of all antiquity, and the number of manuscripts to be consulted could hardly be counted. With great patience and perseverance, Bartelink mapped out the endless material and finally produced a thorough edition that will long remain as the standard text.

Even before that, Bartelink had become known and famous for many scholarly publications. Besides countless articles, contributions to books and surveys, such as the voluminous Dictionary of Antiquity (three volumes, 1976-1986) and reviews, he published, among other things, studies in book form on the language and style of Ambrosius (1979), and on the Christian concepts of 'electio' and 'concensus' up to the 7th century (1972). For the already mentioned Sources Chrétiennes, he produced a bilingual edition of Callinicos' Leven van Hypatios as early as 1971. Furthermore, his name is inextricably linked to various publications still relevant to a broader audience, such as the Prisma Greek-Dutch dictionary, a mythological dictionary, and a survey of Latin quotations and sayings.

Bartelink also took credit as a translator of Greek and Latin Christian texts. Among other works, he published The Life of Saint Benedict by Gregory the Great, both in German and Dutch (1980), and a text and translation of the Life of Plechelmus (2005), the saint from his old hometown of Oldenzaal, and the region with which Bartelink felt a lifelong connection. Together with one of his former students, he published a Dutch edition of his beloved Leven van Antonius as recently as 2013, more than 20 years after his retirement in 1989. Other translations also come from the particularly productive period after his retirement, such as the voluminous Book of Miracles by the 11th/12th-century author Caesarius of Heisterbach (2003-2004) and, still in 2022, a voluminous and influential work Over de bouwkunst by the 15th-century humanist Leon Battista Alberti.

Into his final months, Gerard Bartelink provided a popular and widely read column in the magazine Amphora, published by the Friends of the Gymnasium. Only in December 2023, in a final contribution on 'stylistic brevity', did he indicate that he would conclude his series of contributions because of his advanced age. He did so simply and modestly, without putting himself in the foreground, with a softly tuned word of thanks to his readers: 'Sweet is the memory of past efforts. Dear reader, farewell.' These were not his own words. Even here, he preferred to offer a translated Latin quote.

Simplicity and modesty always graced Gerard Bartelink as a university lecturer. Never flaunting his authority, never engaging in high-pitched polemics with debaters, his attention was always focused on the valuable texts he was privileged to study and on the people he was privileged to teach, his students. Former students of the study of Greek and Latin Language and Culture remember Gerard Bartelink as an engaging and enthusiastic teacher who liked to delve into all kinds of major and minor issues and not rest until everything had been duly clarified. At the same time, he left room for others to pursue their own interests; he did not impose his value judgements but offered them as an opportunity. And never did he feel too big to impart basic knowledge where necessary, again and again. For many years, he taught an elementary course in Vulgar Latin for students of French and Spanish. And his interests extended beyond the boundaries of his profession. He enjoyed playing the organ and piano and was always interested in Twente history, which he also wrote about himself.

Gerard Bartelink was a figurehead of the study of Greek and Latin in Nijmegen and a pinnacle of the power of classical studies. These studies accompanied him throughout his life and kept him vital until an exceptionally old age. A few weeks before his unexpected death, he announced in a letter that he was no longer able to write. However, fortunately, he added, he had still been given the strength to read for several hours a day and that new books remained as welcome as ever.

Professor Gerard Bartelink was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau in 2004 for his many activities before and after his retirement. In addition, and this would undoubtedly be more important to him, he lives on in the hearts and minds of the countless students and colleagues who had the privilege of working with him. Many will remember his scholarship, kindness and great modesty with gratitude and affection.

- Vincent Hunink
- Roald Dijkstra

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