FLUE (FLUEHE), NIKOLAUS VON (DER), commonly known as "Brother Klaus": hermit; b. at Flüeli (Flühli, 12 m. s. of Lucerne), in the canton of Unterwalden, Mar. 21, 1417; d. in his hermit's cell at the Ranft, in the ravine of the Melchaa, below Flüeli, Mar. 21, 1487. He descended from a distinguished family, and at first devoted himself to the management of his inherited property. He also served his country well, both in the army and in civil life. In 1462 he appeared in Stans as representative of Obwalden (the western part of Unterwalden) in settling a dispute between the monastery of Engelberg and the church of Stans. He married in 1450, and was the father of five sons and five daughters when he resolved in 1467 to renounce his worldly life. He left his home and passed over the Jura Mountains until he came to the region of Liestal; but a vision and the counsel of a peasant induced him to return to Obwalden. At first he settled in the mountains near Melchthal, but later approached more closely to his home and settled in the Ranft, a desolate place in the mountains, about a quarter of an hour from the home of his family. The congregation of Sachseln built him a small cell and beside it a chapel. In 1482 Brother Klaus founded here partly from his own property a chaplaincy and sacristy. But he did not always remain in his isolation; he wandered about in the neighborhood, and undertook pilgrimages to Einsiedeln and Engelberg. He went about barefooted and bareheaded, his only garment a long gown of coarse gray wool. He renounced all comforts of life, sleeping on the floor of his cell and eating hardly any food. Owing to his severe fasts, people thought that he lived without other food than the sacramental elements and his wide-spread fame originated undoubtedly in this belief. Prominent visitors from afar came to his remote cell, among them Johann Geiler of Kaisersberg, the famous Strasburg preacher, in 1472; the Saxon nobleman Hans von Waldheim, councilor of Halle in 1474; and Albrecht von Bonstetten, dean of Einsiedeln, in 1478, who, in 1479, recorded his impressions in a book. People came in such crowds that the famous hermit had to ask the authorities of Obwalden for relief. They were attracted by the miraculous halo of the reputed saint, but also by his earnest admonitions and his striking utterances, which exhibit knowledge of life and intelligent observation.
The hermit obtained his greatest fame by his successful arbitration in the dissensions of the confederate states of Switzerland, which threatened to bring on a civil war. In 1477 five cities, Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn, and Freiburg formed a league to protect themselves against the tumultuous gatherings of rural communities. But Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Zug, the seats of these insurrectionary gatherings, protested against the admission of Lucerne into the new league because there had existed since 1332 an agreement between them and that canton that it should not enter a new league without their consent. They also protested against the admission of Solothurn and Freiburg to guard against a preponderance of the cities over the rural element. In the time from 1478 to 1481 the dissensions approached their climax. A last meeting was held in Dec., 1481, in Stans, and it was almost dissolved when Heini am Grund, preacher of Stans, rushed in with a message from Brother Klaus which restored peace among the dissenting parties. The noble deed of the hermit was greatly esteemed and honored all over the country. Six years afterward he was buried in Sachseln. In 1600 a chapel was built over his grave beside the church of Sachseln.
The veneration of the hermit increased after his death, and legends began to cluster around the history of his life. Bullinger expresses true admiration for him in his history of the Reformation, and Luther published in 1528 in union with Speratus a vision of Bruder Clausen in Schwytz. In 1590 the Roman Catholics of Switzerland asked the pope to canonize the hermit; but the proceedings instituted to this end in 1591 were not successful; they were reinstituted a second and a third time, also without success. In 1669 nothing more than a beatification could be obtained from Clement IX. In 1887 the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Nikolaus was solemnly celebrated.
(G. MEYER VON KNONAU.)