Clemanges (Clamengis or Clemangis), NICOLAS DE, one of the ablest writers of the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. He was born about 1360 in the village of Clemanges, in the province of Champagne, and educated in the College of Navarre at Paris. As early as 1381 he gave public lectures as Magister Artium. In 1386 he began, in the same institution, to study theology under Pierre d'Ailly, who exercised a great influence upon him, and always remained his friend. In 1391 he became bachelor of theology, and began to give theological lectures. Being possessed of rare talents, and thoroughly familiar with the works of the ancient writers, he was soon regarded as the most eloquent member of the University of Paris, which in 1393 elected him rector. Henceforth Clemanges took the most active part in the efforts of the University in behalf of a thorough reformation, which constitute so important a part of mediaeval Church history. Most of the letters addressed by the University to the popes and kings of this time emanated from his pen. In the same year in which he was elected rector (1393) he addressed, in the name of the University, an energetic memoir to Charles VI of France, in order to induce him to put an end to the schism in the Church. In 1394 he compiled a second memorial on the basis of the opinions of all the prominent members of the French clergy, which had been solicited by the Sorbonne. In accordance with these opinions, he proposed, in a letter to Clement VII, three measures for the reorganization of the Church: first, the abdication of both the popes; secondly, the election of arbiters; thirdly, the convocation of a general council. Another letter to the pope, much more severe in its language, was not sent off because Clement VII died (September, 1394). Charles VI, following the advice of the University, requested the cardinals of Avignon not to proceed to the election of a new pope until they had come to an understanding with the cardinals of Rome, and with Boniface IX; and Clemanges sent a letter of the same character to Avignon. But the cardinals of Avignon nevertheless hastened to elect Petrus de Luna, who assumed the name Benedict XIII. After being elected, Benedict secured recognition by Charles VI and the Paris University, but Clemanges was instructed to request him to do all that might be in his power to end the schism. To the same end he had to write to the king of Aragon. In his own name Clemanges sent to Benedict an eloquent epistle on the duties of the head of the Church, and recommended to him his friend Pierre d'Ailly as chief adviser. Benedict appreciated the learning of Clemanges, and prevailed upon him to accept the office of secret secretary of the pope. As the king of France and the Sorbonne, supported, in 1395, by the resolution of a national council, declared in favor of an abdication of both the popes, Clemanges, who was now a decided champion of the claims of Benedict, fell out with many of his former friends. In 1407 the French government withdrew its recognition of Benedict, whereupon the latter laid the ban upon king and country. Clemanges was charged with being the author of the bull of excommunication, but denied the charge, left his position at the papal court, and withdrew to Langres, where he had been appointed canon a short time before. His opponents persisted in calling him the author of the bull of excommunication; he was accused of high treason, and threatened with imprisonment. In order to escape this danger, he concealed himself in a Carthusian convent at Valprofonds, and subsequently in a convent of the same order at Fontaine-du-Bosc. In this retirement he devoted his attention to the Bible, which, as he states, had until then been neglected by him, and which now became his favorite study. Besides a number of letters to his friends D'Ailly, Gerson, and others, he wrote at Fontaine-du-Bosc several works full of reformatory ideas as regarded both the prevailing corruptions of his Church and some of the doctrines. The most important of these are De fructu eremi (on the value of retired life); De fructu rerum adversarum (on the spiritual profit to be derived from adversity); De novisfestivitatibus non instituendis (complaining of the excessive number of holidays, which promote dissipation instead of edification, and cause the Bible to be forgotten over the stories of saints). In all these works Clemanges recommended the Bible as the purest and richest source of Christian knowledge and Christian life. The decay of the Church he attributed to the neglect of the Bible; the councils, in his opinion, could claim regard for their decisions only if the members were really believers, and if they were more concerned for the salvation of souls than for secular interests. His views on general councils were fully set forth in a little work, entitled Disputatio de concilio generali, which consists of three letters, addressed, in 1415 or 1416, to a professor at the Paris University (printed apparently at Vienna in 1482). He not only places the authority of general councils over the authority of the popes, but the authority of the Bible over the authority of the councils. He doubts whether at all the former oecumenical councils the Holy Spirit really presided, as the Holy Spirit would not assist men pursuing secular aims. He denies that a council composed of such men represents the Church, and asserts that God alone knows who are his people and where the Holy Ghost dwells, and that there may be times when the Church can only be found in one single woman (in sola potest muliercula per gratian manere ecclesiam). Other works, in which he expressed himself even more freely, have been lost, and perhaps suppressed. Chiefly against the immoral life of the higher clergy he wrote, about 1411, his treatise De presulibus Simoniacis. He also urgently recommended to the secular authorities of his country the teaching of the Bible as the only safe remedy against the continual civil wars and disturbances, and he counseled duke Philip of Burgundy to convoke the General Estates for the restoration of law and justice. He also wrote, while at Fontaine-du-Bosc, several poetical pieces, which are distinguished for the brilliance of their Latinity.
Of the latter years of his life but little is known. The canonry at Langres he exchanged for one at Bayeux. Other ecclesiastical dignities which were offered to him he refused, as his conscience did not allow him to accept more benefices than one. In 1421 he defended at Chartres the liberties of the Gallican Church. In 1425 he again began to give theological lectures in the college at Navarre, and his connection with this school continued until his death. The year of his death is not known. Even his epitaph (which was destroyed in 1793) did not state it.
A work entitled De ruina Ecclesiae, or De corrupta Ecclesice statu, which, since Trithemius (Catal. Script. Eccles.), is usually classed among the writings of Clemanges, cannot be from him. Its language is more violent than Clemanges ever indulged in. It abounds in attacks upon Benedict XIII at a time when Clemanges was his secretary and eloquent champion. It was undoubtedly the work of some member of the Paris University. Equally certain is the spuriousness of the work Apostoli (i.e. litterae dimissoriae) et responsio per nationem gallicanam dominis cardinalibus, etc., which was written at Constance during the session of the council. Most of his works were published by Lydius (Leyden, 1613, 2 vols. 4to), but some of them still lie as unedited MSS. in libraries. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 2, 717 sq.; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, 2, 574 sq.; Neander, Ch. Hist. v. 53 sq.; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. 1, 422, and a monograph of Miintz, Nicolas Clemanges, sa vie et ses Merits (Strasb. 1846, 8vo); Gieseler, Ch. Hist. per. 3. div. 4, §,113; Hase, Christian History, p. 325, 344; Presbyterian Quarterly Review, March, 1857.