Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists".
He also held to the Catholic doctrine of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination.
For instance, Erasmus became an intimate friend of an Italian Humanist Publio Fausto Andrelini, poet and "professor of humanity" in Paris.
The chief centres of Erasmus's activity were Paris, Leuven (in the Duchy of Brabant, now in Belgium), England, and Basel; yet he never belonged firmly in any one of these places.
Information on his family and early life comes mainly from vague references in his writings. His father, Gerard, was a Catholic priest and curate in Gouda.
Although he was born out of wedlock, Erasmus was cared for by his parents until their early deaths from the plague in 1483.