Dutch canon and author. Born c. 1378 in Kempen1 near Köln/Cologne, died 1471.
Thomas à Kempis is the most well-known representative of the late mediaeval Christian piety movement, the devotio moderna. Inspired by the Brothers of the Common Life, he became an Augustinian Canon Regular, and was later ordained a priest in 1413. For the better part of his life, Thomas worked as administrator and master of novices of the monastery of St. Agnietenberg near Zwolle.
The devotional work generally associated with his name, De imitatione Christi2 ("On the imitation of Christ"), plays out themes such as humility, repentance, and a pious contempt for worldly things. The undercurrent is anti-intellectualism: a life of pious devotion is to be preferred over scholastic achievement. The end purpose, according to De imitatione Christi, is the renunciation of free will, by submission to the will of God.3
Up to the 20th century, De imitatione Christi has been widely disseminated and much read, a true classic among devotionals, even outside Catholic circles. It has been extensively translated.
1 Hence the "à Kempis".
2 Traditionally. though there is no definite evidence that Thomas actually wrote it. De imitatione Christi was published anonymously some time in the 15th century.
3 See imitatio Christi.