Historical Tales, Vol 5 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality, German
by Charles Morris
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"Day and night are the same to you, as you cannot see; but they are not the same to us."

"How!" he cried. "You cannot see! Well, set fire to a couple of villages."

The blind warrior was soon to have others to deal with than his Bohemian foes. Sigismund had sent forward another army, which, in September, 1421, invaded the country. It was driven out by the mere rumor of Ziska's approach, the soldiers flying in haste on the vague report of his coming. But in November the emperor himself came, leading a horde of eighty thousand Hungarians, Servians, and others, savage fellows, whose approach filled the moderate party of the Bohemians with terror. Ziska's men had such confidence in their blind chief as to be beyond terror. They were surrounded by the enemy, and enclosed in what seemed a trap. But under Ziska's orders they made a night attack on the foe, broke through their lines, and, to the emperor's discomfiture, were once more free.

On New Year's day, 1422, the two armies came face to face near Zollin. Ziska drew up his men in battle array and confidently awaited the attack of the enemy. But the inflexible attitude of his men, the terror of his name, or one of those inexplicable influences which sometimes affect armies, filled the Hungarians with a sudden panic, and they vanished from the front of the Bohemians without a blow. Once more the emperor and the army which he had led into the country with such high confidence of success were in shameful flight, and the terrible example which he had vowed to make of Bohemia was still unaccomplished.

The blind chief vigorously and relentlessly pursued, overtaking the fugitives on January 8 near Deutschbrod. Terrified at his approach, they sought to escape by crossing the stream at that place on the ice. The ice gave way, and numbers of them were drowned. Deutschbrod was burned and its inhabitants slaughtered in Ziska's cruel fashion.

This repulse put an end to invasions of Bohemia while Ziska lived. There were intestine disturbances which needed to be quelled, and then the army of the reformers was led beyond the boundaries of the country and assailed the imperial dominions, but the emperor held aloof. He had had enough of the blind terror of Bohemia, the indomitable Ziska and his iron-flailed peasants. New outbreaks disturbed Bohemia. Ambitious nobles aspired to the kingship, but their efforts were vain. The army of the iron flail quickly put an end to all such hopes.

In 1423 Ziska invaded Moravia and Austria, to keep his troops employed, and lost severely in doing so. In 1424 his enemies at home again made head against him, led an army into the field, and pursued him to Kuttenberg. Here he ordered his men to feign a retreat, then, while the foe were triumphantly advancing, he suddenly turned, had his battle-chariot driven furiously down the mountain-side upon their lines, and during the confusion thus caused ordered an attack in force. The enemy were repulsed, their artillery was captured, and Kuttenberg set in flames, as Ziska's signal of triumph.

Shortly afterwards, his enemies at home being thoroughly beaten, the indomitable blind chief marched upon Prague, the head-quarters of his foes, and threatened to burn this city to the ground. He might have done so, too, but for his own men, who broke into sedition at the threat.

Procop, Ziska's bravest captain, advised peace, to put an end to the disasters of civil war. His advice was everywhere re-echoed, the demand for peace seemed unanimous, Ziska alone opposing it. Mounting a cask, and facing his discontented followers, he exclaimed,—

"Fear internal more than external foes. It is easier for a few, when united, to conquer, than for many, when disunited. Snares are laid for you; you will be entrapped, but it will not be my fault."

Despite his harangue, however, peace was concluded between the contending factions, and a large monument raised in commemoration thereof, both parties heaping up stones. Ziska entered the city in solemn procession, and was met with respect and admiration by the citizens. Prince Coribut, the leader of the opposite party and the aspirant to the crown, came to meet him, embraced him, and called him father. The triumph of the blind chief over his internal foes was complete.

It seemed equally complete over his external foes. Sigismund, unable to conquer him by force of arms, now sought to mollify him by offers of peace, and entered into negotiations with the stern old warrior. But Ziska was not to be placated. He could not trust the man who had broken his plighted word and burned John Huss, and he remained immovable in his hostility to Germany. Planning a fresh attack on Moravia, he began his march thither. But now he met a conquering enemy against whose arms there was no defence. Death encountered him on the route, and carried him off October 12, 1424.

Thus ends the story of an extraordinary man, and the history of a series of remarkable events. Of all the peasant outbreaks, of which there were so many during the mediaeval period, the Bohemian was the only one—if we except the Swiss struggle for liberty—that attained measurable success. This was due in part to the fact that it was a religious instead of an industrial revolt, and thus did not divide the country into sharp ranks of rich and poor; and in greater part to the fact that it had an able leader, one of those men of genius who seem born for great occasions. John Ziska, the blind warrior, leading his army to victory after victory, stands alone in the gallery of history. There were none like him, before or after.

He is pictured as a short, broad-shouldered man, with a large, round, and bald head. His forehead was deeply furrowed, and he wore a long moustache of a fiery red hue. This, with his blind eye and his final complete blindness, yields a well-defined image of the man, that fanatical, remorseless, indomitable, and unconquerable avenger of the martyred Huss, the first successful opponent of the doctrines of the church of Rome whom history records.

The conclusion of the story of the Hussites may be briefly given. For years they held their own, under two leaders, known as Procop Holy and Procop the Little, defying the emperor, and at times invading the empire. The pope preached a crusade against them, but the army of invasion was defeated, and Silesia and Austria were invaded in reprisal by Procop Holy.

Seven years after the death of Ziska an army of invasion again entered Bohemia, so strong in numbers that it seemed as if that war-drenched land must fall before it. In its ranks were one hundred and thirty thousand men, led by Frederick of Brandenburg. Their purposes were seen in their actions. Every village reached was burned, till two hundred had been given to the flames. Horrible excesses were committed. On August 14, 1431, the two armies, the Hussite and the Imperialist, came face to face near Tauss. The disproportion in numbers was enormous, and it looked as if the small force of Bohemians would be swallowed up in the multitude of their foes. But barely was the Hussite banner seen in the distance when the old story was told over again, the Germans broke into sudden panic, and fled en masse from the field. The Bavarians were the first to fly, and all the rest speedily followed. Frederick of Brandenburg and his troops took refuge in a wood. The Cardinal Julian, who had preached a crusade against Bohemia, succeeded for a time in rallying the fugitives, but at the first onset of the Hussites they again took to flight, suffering themselves to be slaughtered without resistance. The munitions of war were abandoned to the foe, including one hundred and fifty cannon.

It was an extraordinary affair, but in truth the flight was less due to terror than to disinclination of the German soldiers to fight the Hussites, whose cause they deemed to be just and glorious, and the influence of whose opinions had spread far beyond the Bohemian border. Rome was losing its hold over the mind of northern Europe outside the limits of the land of Huss and Ziska.

Negotiations for peace followed. The Bohemians were invited to Basle, being granted a safe-conduct, and promised free exercise of their religion coming and going, while no words of ridicule or reproach were to be permitted. On January 9, 1433, three hundred Bohemians, mounted on horseback, entered Basle, accompanied by an immense multitude. It was a very different entrance from that of Huss to Constance, nearly twenty years before, and was to have a very different termination. Procop Holy headed the procession, accompanied by others of the Bohemian leaders. A signal triumph had come to the party of religious reform, after twenty years of struggle.

For fifty days the negotiations continued. Neither side would yield. In the end, the Bohemians, weary of the protracted and fruitless debate, took to their horses again, and set out homewards. This brought their enemies to terms. An embassy was hastily sent after them, and all their demands were conceded, though with certain reservations that might prove perilous in the future. They went home triumphant, having won freedom of religious worship according to their ideas of right and truth.

They had not long reached home when dissensions again broke out. The emperor took advantage of them, accepted the crown of Bohemia, entered Prague, and at once reinstated the Catholic religion. The fanatics flew to arms, but after a desperate struggle were annihilated. The Bohemian struggle was at an end. In the following year the emperor Sigismund died, having lived just long enough to win success in his long conflict. The martyrdom of Huss, the valor and zeal of Ziska, appeared to have been in vain. Yet they were not so, for the seeds they had sown bore fruit in the following century in a great sectarian revolt which affected all Christendom and permanently divided the Church.


The empire of Rome finally reached its end, not in the fifth century, as ordinarily considered, but in the fifteenth; not at Rome, but at Constantinople, where the Eastern empire survived the Western for a thousand years. At length, in 1453, the Turks captured Constantinople, set a broad foot upon the degenerate empire of the East, and crushed out the last feeble remnants of life left in the pygmy successor of the colossus of the past.

And now Europe, which had looked on with clasped hands while the Turks swept over the Bosphorus and captured Constantinople, suddenly awoke to the peril of its situation. A blow in time might have saved the Greek empire. The blow had not been struck, and now Europe had itself to save. Terror seized upon the nations which had let their petty intrigues stand in the way of that broad policy in which safety lay, for they could not forget past instances of Asiatic invasion. The frightful ravages wrought by the Huns and the Avars were far in the past, but no long time had elapsed since the coming of the Magyars and the Mongols, and now here was another of those hordes of murderous barbarians, hanging like a cloud of war on the eastern skirt of Europe, and threatening to rain death and ruin upon the land. The dread of the nations was not amiss. They had neglected to strengthen the eastern barrier to the Turkish avalanche. Now it threatened their very doors, and they must meet it at home.

The Turks were not long in making their purpose evident. Within two years after the fall of Constantinople they were on the march again, and had laid siege to Belgrade, the first obstacle in their pathway to universal conquest. The Turkish cannons were thundering at the doors of Europe. Belgrade fallen, Vienna would come next, and the march of the barbarians might only end at the sea.

And yet, despite their danger, the people of Germany remained supine. Hungary had valiantly defended itself against the Turks ten years before, without aid from the German empire. It looked now as if Belgrade might be left to its fate. The brave John Hunyades and his faithful Hungarians were the only bulwarks of Europe against the foe, for the people seemed incapable of seeing a danger a thousand miles away. The pope and his legate John Capistrano, general of the Capuchins, were the only aids to the valiant Hunyades in his vigorous defence. They preached a crusade, but with little success. Capistrano traversed Germany, eloquently calling the people to arms against the barbarians. The result was similar to that on previous occasions, the real offenders were neglected, the innocent suffered. The people, instead of arming against the Turks, turned against the Jews, and murdered them by thousands. Whatever happened in Europe,—a plague, an invasion, a famine, a financial strait,—that unhappy people were in some way held responsible, and mediaeval Europe seemed to think it could, at any time, check the frightful career of a comet or ward off pestilence by slaughtering a few thousands of Jews. It cannot be said that it worked well on this occasion; the Jews died, but the Turks surrounded Belgrade still.

Capistrano found no military ardor in Germany, in princes or people. The princes contented themselves with ordering prayers and ringing the Turkish bells, as they were called. The people were as supine as their princes. He did, however, succeed, by the aid of his earnest eloquence, in gathering a force of a few thousands of peasants, priests, scholars, and the like; a motley host who were chiefly armed with iron flails and pitchforks, but who followed him with an enthusiasm equal to his own. With this shadow of an army he joined Hunyades, and the combined force made its way in boats down the Danube into the heart of Hungary, and approached the frontier fortress which Mahomet II. was besieging with a host of one hundred and sixty thousand men, and which its defender, the brother-in-law of John Hunyades, had nearly given up for lost.

On came the flotilla,—the peasants with their flails and forks and Hunyades with his trained soldiers,—and attacked the Turkish fleet with such furious energy that it was defeated and dispersed, and the allied forces made their way into the beleaguered city. Capistrano and his followers were full of enthusiasm. He was a second Peter the Hermit, his peasant horde were crusaders, fierce against the infidels, disdaining death in God's cause; neither leader nor followers had a grain of military knowledge or experience, but they had, what is sometimes better, courage and enthusiasm.

John Hunyades had military experience, and looked with cold disfavor on the burning and blind zeal of his new recruits. He was willing that they should aid him in repelling the furious attacks of the Turks, but to his trained eyes an attack on the well-intrenched camp of the enemy would have been simple madness, and he sternly forbade any such suicidal course, even threatening death to whoever should attempt it.

In truth, his caution seemed reasonable. An immense host surrounded the city on the land side, and had done so on the water side, also, until the Christian flotilla had sunk, captured, and dispersed its boats. Far as the eye could see, the gorgeously-embellished tents of the Turkish army, with their gilded crescents glittering in the sun, filled the field of view. Cannon-mounted earthworks threatened the walls from every quarter. Squadrons of steel-clad horsemen swept the field. The crowding thousands of besiegers pressed the city day and night. Even defence seemed useless. Assault on such a host appeared madness to experienced eyes. Hunyades seemed wise in his stern disapproval of such an idea.

Yet military knowledge has its limitations, when it fails to take into account the power of enthusiasm. Blind zeal is a force whose possibilities a general does not always estimate. It is capable of performing miracles, as Hunyades was to learn. His orders, his threats of death, had no restraining effect on the minds of the crusaders. They had come to save Europe from the Turks, and they were not to be stayed by orders or threats. What though the enemy greatly outnumbered them, and had cannons and scimitars against their pikes and flails, had they not God on their side, and should God's army pause to consider numbers and cannon-balls? They were not to be restrained; attack they would, and attack they did.

The siege had made great progress. The reinforcement had come barely in time. The walls were crumbling under the incessant bombardment. Convinced that he had made a practicable breach, Mahomet, the sultan, ordered an assault in force. The Turks advanced, full of barbarian courage, climbed the crumbled walls, and broke, as they supposed, into the town, only to find new walls frowning before them. The vigorous garrison had built new defences behind the old ones, and the disheartened assailants learned that they had done their work in vain.

This repulse greatly discouraged the sultan. He was still more discouraged when the crusaders, irrepressible in their hot enthusiasm, broke from the city and made a fierce attack upon his works. Capistrano, seeing that they were not to be restrained, put himself at their head, and with a stick in one hand and a crucifix in the other, led them to the assault. It proved an irresistible one. The Turks could not sustain themselves against these flail-swinging peasants. One intrenchment after another fell into their hands, until three had been stormed and taken. Their success inspired Hunyades. Filled with a new respect for his peasant allies, and seeing that now or never was the time to strike, he came to their aid with his cavalry, and fell so suddenly and violently upon the Turkish rear that the invaders were put to rout.

Onward pushed the crusaders and their allies; backward went the Turks. The remaining intrenchments were stubbornly defended, but that storm of iron flails, those pikes and pitchforks, wielded by the zeal of enthusiasts, were not to be resisted, and in the end all that remained of the Turkish army broke into panic flight, the sultan himself being wounded, and more than twenty thousand of his men left dead upon the field.

It was a signal victory. Miraculous almost, when one considers the great disproportion of numbers. The works of the invaders, mounted with three hundred cannon, and their camp, which contained an immense booty, fell into the hands of the Christians, and the power of Mahomet II. was so crippled that years passed before he was in condition to attempt a second invasion of Europe.

The victors were not long to survive their signal triumph. The valiant Hunyades died shortly after the battle, from wounds received in the action or from fatal disease. Capistrano died in the same year (1456). Hunyades left two sons, and the King of Hungary repaid his services by oppressing both, and beheading one of these sons. But the king himself died during the next year, and Matthias Corvinus, the remaining son of Hunyades, was placed by the Hungarians on their throne. They had given their brave defender the only reward in their power.

If the victory of Hunyades and Capistrano—the nobleman and the monk—had been followed up by the princes of Europe, the Turks might have been driven from Constantinople, Europe saved from future peril at their hands, and the tide of subsequent history gained a cleaner and purer flow. But nothing was done; the princes were too deeply interested in their petty squabbles to entertain large views, and the Turks were suffered to hold the empire of the East, and quietly to recruit their forces for later assaults.


Late in the month of April, in the year 1521, an open wagon containing two persons was driven along one of the roads of Germany, the horse being kept at his best pace, while now and then one of the occupants looked back as if in apprehension. This was the man who held the reins. The other, a short but presentable person, with pale, drawn face, lit by keen eyes, seemed too deeply buried in thought to be heedful of surrounding affairs. When he did lift his eyes they were directed ahead, where the road was seen to enter the great Thuringian forest. Dressed in clerical garb, the peasants who passed probably regarded him as a monk on some errand of mercy. The truth was that he was a fugitive, fleeing for his life, for he was a man condemned, who might at any moment be waylaid and seized.

On entering the forest the wagon was driven on until a shaded and lonely dell was reached, seemingly a fitting place for deeds of violence. Suddenly from the forest glades rode forth four armed and masked men, who stopped the wagon, sternly bade the traveller to descend and mount a spare horse they had with them, and rode off with him, a seeming captive, through the thick woodland.

As if in fear of pursuit, the captors kept at a brisk pace, not drawing rein until the walls of a large and strong castle loomed up near the forest border. The gates flew open and the drawbridge fell at their demand, and the small cavalcade rode into the powerful stronghold, the entrance to which was immediately closed behind them. It was the castle of Wartburg, near Eisenach, Saxony, within whose strong walls the man thus mysteriously carried off was to remain hidden from the world for the greater part of the year that followed.

The monk-like captive was just then the most talked of man in Germany. His seemingly violent capture had been made by his friends, not by his foes, its purpose being to protect him from his enemies, who were many and threatening. Of this he was well aware, and welcomed the castle as a place of refuge. He was, in fact, the celebrated Martin Luther, who had just set in train a religious revolution of broad aspect in Germany, and though for the time under the protection of a safe-conduct from the emperor Charles V., had been deemed in imminent danger of falling into an ambush of his foes instead of one of his friends.

That he might not be recognised by those who should see him at Wartburg, his ecclesiastic robe was exchanged for the dress of a knight, he wore helmet and sword instead of cassock and cross and let his beard grow freely. Thus changed in appearance, he was known as Junker George (Chevalier George) to those in the castle, and amused himself at times by hunting with his knightly companions in the neighborhood. The greater part of his time, however, was occupied in a difficult literary task, that of translating the Bible into German. The work thus done by him was destined to prove as important in a linguistic as in a theological sense, since it fixed the status of the German language for the later period to the same extent as the English translation of the Bible in the time of James I. aided to fix that of English speech.

Leaving Luther, for the present, in his retreat at Wartburg Castle, we must go back in his history and tell the occasion of the events just narrated. No man, before or after his time, ever created so great a disturbance in German thought, and the career of this fugitive monk is one of great historical import.

A peasant by birth, the son of a slate-cutter named Hans Luther, he so distinguished himself as a scholar that his father proposed to make him a lawyer, but a dangerous illness, the death of a near friend, and the exhortations of an eloquent preacher, so wrought upon his mind that he resolved instead to become a monk, and after going through the necessary course of study and mental discipline was ordained priest in May, 1507. The next year he was appointed a professor in the university of Wittenberg. There he remained for the next ten years of his life, when an event occurred which was to turn the whole current of his career and give him a prominence in theological history which few other men have ever attained.

In 1517 Pope Leo X. authorized an unusually large issue of indulgences, a term which signifies a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, either in this life or the life to come; the condition being that the recipient shall have made a full confession of his sins and by his penitence and purpose of amendment fitted himself to receive the pardon of God, through the agency of the priest. He was also required to perform some service in the aid of charity or religion, such as the giving of alms.

At the time of the Crusades the popes had granted to all who took part in them remission from church penalties. At a later date the same indulgence was granted to penitents who aided the holy wars with money instead of in person. At a still later date remission from the penalties of sin might be obtained by pious work, such as building churches, etc. When the Turks threatened Europe, those who fought against them obtained indulgence. In the instance of the issue of indulgences by Leo X. the pious work required was the giving of alms in aid of the completion of the great cathedral of St. Peter's at Rome.

This purpose did not differ in character from others for which indulgences had previously been granted, and there is nothing to show that any disregard of the requisite conditions was authorized by the pope; but there is reason to believe that some of the agents for the disposal of these indulgences went much beyond the intention of the decree. This was especially the case in the instance of a Dominican monk named Tetzel, who is charged with openly asserting what few or no other Catholics appear to have ever claimed, that the indulgences not only released the purchasers from the necessity of penance, but absolved them from all the consequences of sin in this world or the next.

We shall not go into the details of the venalities charged against Tetzel, whose field of labor was in Saxony, but they seem to have been sufficient to cause a strong feeling of dissatisfaction, which at length found a voice in Martin Luther, who preached vigorously against Tetzel and his methods and wrote to the princes and bishops begging them to refuse this irreligious dealer in indulgences a passage through their dominions.

The near approach of Tetzel to Wittenberg roused Luther to more decided action. He now wrote out ninety-five propositions in which he set forth in the strongest language his reasons for opposing and his view of the pernicious effects of Tetzel's doctrine of indulgences. These he nailed to the door of the Castle church of Wittenberg. The effect produced by them was extraordinary. The news of the protest spread with the greatest rapidity and within a fortnight copies of it had been distributed throughout Germany. Within five or six weeks it was being read over a great part of Europe. On all sides it aroused a deep public interest and excitement and became the great sensation of the day.

We cannot go into the details of what followed. Luther's propositions were like a thunderbolt flung into the mind of Germany. Everywhere deep thought was aroused and a host of those who had been displeased with Tetzel's methods sustained him in his act. Other papers from his pen followed in which his revolt from the Church of Rome grew wider and deeper. His energetic assault aroused a number of opponents and an active controversy ensued; ending in Luther's being cited to appear before Cajetan, the pope's legate, at Augsburg. From this meeting no definite result came. After a heated argument Cajetan ended the controversy with the following words:

"I can dispute no longer with this beast; it has two wicked eyes and marvellous thoughts in its head."

Luther's view of the matter was much less complimentary. He said of the legate,—

"He knows no more about the Word than a donkey knows of harp-playing."

In the next year, 1519, a discussion took place at Leipzig, between Luther on the one hand, aided by his friends Melanchthon and Carlstadt, and a zealous and talented ecclesiastic, Dr. Eck, on the other. Eck was a vigorous debater,—in person, in voice, and in opinion,—but as Luther was not to be silenced by his argument, he ended by calling him "a gentile and publican," and wending his way to Borne, where he expressed his opinion of the new movement, demanded that the heretic should be made to feel the heavy hand of church discipline.

Back he came soon to Germany, bearing a bull from the pope, in which were extracts from Luther's writings stated to be heretical, and which must be publicly retracted within sixty days under threat of excommunication. This the ardent agent tried to distribute through Germany, but to his surprise he found that Germany was in no humor to receive it. Most of the magistrates forbade it to be made public. Where it was posted upon the walls of any town, the people immediately tore it down. In truth, Luther's heresy had with extraordinary rapidity become the heresy of Germany, and he found himself with a nation at his back, a nation that admired his courage and supported his opinions.

His most decisive step was taken on the 10th of December, 1520. On that day the faculty and students of the University of Wittenberg, convoked by him, met at the Elster gate of the town. Here a funeral pile was built up by the students, one of the magistrates set fire to it, and Luther, amid approving shouts from the multitude, flung into the flames the pope's bull, and with it the canonical law and the writings of Dr. Eck. In this act he decisively broke loose from and defied the Church of Rome, sustained in his radical step of revolt apparently by all Wittenberg, and by a large body of converts to his views throughout Germany.

The bold reformer found friends not only among the lowly, but among the powerful. The Elector of Saxony was on his side, and openly accused the pope of acting the unjust judge, by listening to one side and not the other, and of needlessly agitating the people by his bull. Ulrich von Hutten, a favorite popular leader, was one of the zealous proselytes of the new doctrines. Franz von Sickingen, a knight of celebrity, was another who offered Luther shelter, if necessary, in his castles.

And now came a turning-point in Luther's career, the most dangerous crisis he was to reach, and the one that needed the utmost courage and most inflexible resolution to pass it in safety. It was that which has become famous as the "Diet of Worms." Germany had gained a new emperor, Charles V., under whose sceptre the empire of Charlemagne was in great part restored, for his dominions included Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. This young monarch left Spain for Germany in 1521, and was no sooner there than he called a great diet, to meet at Worms, that the affairs of the empire might be regulated, and that in particular this religious controversy, which was troubling the public mind, should be settled.

Thither came the princes and potentates of the realm, thither great dignitaries of the church, among them the pope's legate, Cardinal Alexander, who was commissioned to demand that the emperor and the princes should call Luther to a strict account, and employ against him the temporal power. But to the cardinal's astonishment he found that the people of Germany had largely seceded from the papal authority. Everywhere he met with writings, songs, and pictures in which the holy father was treated with contempt and mockery. Even himself, as the pope's representative, was greeted with derision, and his life at times was endangered, despite the fact that he came in the suite of the emperor.

The diet assembled, the cardinal, as instructed, demanded that severe measures should be taken against the arch-heretic: the Elector of Saxony, on the contrary, insisted that Luther should be heard in his own defence; the emperor and the princes agreed with him, silencing the cardinal's declaration that the diet had no right or power to question the decision of the pope, and inviting Luther to appear before the imperial assembly at Worms, the emperor granting him a safe-conduct.

Possibly Charles thought that the insignificant monk would fear to come before that august body, and the matter thus die out. Luther's friends strongly advised him not to go. They had the experience of John Huss to offer as argument. But Luther was not the man to be stopped by dread of dignitaries or fear of penalties. He immediately set out from Wittenberg for Worms, saying to his protesting friends, "Though there were as many devils in the city as there are tiles on the roofs, still I would go."

His journey was an ovation. The people flocked by thousands to greet and applaud him. On his arrival at Worms two thousand people gathered and accompanied him to his lodgings. When, on the next day, April 18, 1521, the grand-marshal of the empire conducted him to the diet, he was obliged to lead him across gardens and through by-ways to avoid the throng that filled the streets of the town.

When entering the hall, he was clapped on the shoulder by a famous knight and general of the empire, Georg von Frundsberg, who said, "Monk, monk, thou art in a strait the like of which myself and many leaders, in the most desperate battles, have never known. But if thy thoughts are just, and thou art sure of thy cause, go on, in God's name; and be of good cheer; He will not forsake thee."

Luther was not an imposing figure as he stood before the proud assembly in the imperial hall. He had just recovered from a severe fever, and was pale and emaciated. And standing there, unsupported by a single friend, before that great assembly, his feelings were strongly excited. The emperor remarked to his neighbor, "This man would never succeed in making a heretic of me."

But though Luther's body was weak, his mind was strong. His air quickly became calm and dignified. He was commanded to retract the charges he had made against the church. In reply he acknowledged that the writings produced were his own, and declared that he was not ready to retract them, but said that "If they can convince me from the Holy Scriptures that I am in error, I am ready with my own hands to cast the whole of my writings into the flames."

The chancellor replied that what he demanded was retraction, not dispute. This Luther refused to give. The emperor insisted on a simple recantation, which Luther declared he could not make. For several days the hearing continued, ending at length in the threatening declaration of the emperor, that "he would no longer listen to Luther, but dismiss him at once from his presence, and treat him as he would a heretic."

There was danger in this, the greatest danger. The emperor's word had been given, it is true; but an emperor had broken his word with John Huss, and his successor might with Martin Luther. Charles was, indeed, importuned to do so, but replied that his imperial word was sacred, even if given to a heretic, and that Luther should have an extension of the safe-conduct for twenty-one days, during his return home.

Luther started home. It was a journey by no means free from danger. He had powerful and unscrupulous enemies. He might be seized and carried off by an ambush of his foes. How he was saved from peril of this sort we have described. It was his friend and protector, Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, who had placed the ambush of knights, his purpose being to put Luther in a place of safety where he could lie concealed until the feeling against him had subsided. Meanwhile, at Worms, when the period of the safe-conduct had expired, Luther was declared out of the ban of the empire, an outlaw whom no man was permitted to shelter, his works were condemned to be burned wherever found, and he was adjudged to be seized and held in durance subject to the will of the emperor.

What had become of the fugitive no one knew. The story spread that he had been murdered by his enemies. For ten months he remained in concealment and when he again appeared it was to combat a horde of fanatical enthusiasts who had carried his doctrines to excess and were stirring up all Germany by their wild opinions. The outbreak drew Luther back to Wittenberg, where for eight days he preached with great eloquence against the fanatics and finally succeeded in quelling the disturbance.

From that time forward Luther continued the guiding spirit of the Protestant revolt and was looked upon with high consideration by most of the princes of Germany, his doctrines spreading until, during his lifetime, they extended to Moravia, Bohemia, Denmark and Sweden. Then, in 1546, he died at Eisleben, near the castle in which he had dwelt during the most critical period of his life.


Solyman the Magnificent, Sultan of Turkey, had collected an army of dimensions as magnificent as his name, and was on his march to overwhelm Austria and perhaps subject all western Europe to his arms. A few years before he had swept Hungary with his hordes, taken and plundered its cities of Buda and Pesth, and made the whole region his own. Belgrade, which had been so valiantly defended against his predecessor, had fallen into his infidel hands. The gateways of western Europe were his; he had but to open them and march through; doubtless there had come to him glorious dreams of extending the empire of the crescent to the western seas. And yet the proud and powerful sultan was to be checked in his course by an obstacle seemingly as insignificant as if the sting of a hornet should stop the career of an elephant. The story is a remarkable one, and deserves to be better known.

Vast was the army which Solyman raised. He had been years in gathering men and equipments. Great work lay before him, and he needed great means for its accomplishment. It is said that three hundred thousand men marched under his banners. So large was the force, so great the quantity of its baggage and artillery, that its progress was necessarily a slow one, and sixty days elapsed during its march from Constantinople to Belgrade.

Here was time for Ferdinand of Austria to bring together forces for the defence of his dominions against the leviathan which was slowly moving upon them. He made efforts, but they were not of the energetic sort which the crisis demanded, and had the Turkish army been less unwieldly and more rapid, Vienna might have fallen almost undefended into Solyman's hands. Fortunately, large bodies move slowly, and the sultan met with an obstacle that gave the requisite time for preparation.

On to Belgrade swept the grand army, with its multitude of standards and all the pomp and glory of its vast array. The slowness with which it came was due solely to its size, not in any sense to lack of energy in the warlike sultan. An anecdote is extant which shows his manner of dealing with difficulties. He had sent forward an engineer with orders to build a bridge over the river Drave, to be constructed at a certain point, and be ready at a certain time. The engineer went, surveyed the rapid stream, and sent back answer to the sultan that it was impossible to construct a bridge at that point.

But Solyman's was one of those magnificent souls that do not recognize the impossible. He sent the messenger back to the engineer, in his hand a linen cord, on his lips this message:

"Your master, the sultan, commands you, without consideration of the difficulties, to complete the bridge over the Drave. If it be not ready for him on his arrival, he will have you strangled with this cord."

The bridge was built. Solyman had learned the art of overcoming the impossible. He was soon to have a lesson in the art of overcoming the difficult.

Belgrade was in due time reached. Here the sultan embarked his artillery and heavy baggage on the Danube, three thousand vessels being employed for that purpose. They were sent down the stream, under sufficient escort, towards the Austrian capital, while the main army, lightened of much of its load, prepared to march more expeditiously than heretofore through Hungary towards its goal.

Ferdinand of Austria, alarmed at the threatening approach of the Turks, had sent rich presents and proposals of peace to Solyman at Belgrade; but those had the sole effect of increasing his pride and making him more confidant of victory. He sent an insulting order to the ambassadors to follow his encampment and await his pleasure, and paid no further heed to their pacific mission.

The Save, an affluent of the Danube, was crossed, and the army lost sight of the great stream, and laid its course by a direct route through Sclavonia towards the borders of Styria, the outlying Austrian province in that direction. It was the shortest line of march available, the distance to be covered being about two hundred miles. On reaching the Styrian frontier, the Illyrian mountain chain needed to be crossed, and within it lay the obstacle with which Solyman had to contend.

The route of the army led through a mountain pass. In this pass was a petty and obscure town, Guntz by name, badly fortified, and garrisoned by a mere handful of men, eight hundred in all. Its principal means of defence lay in the presence of an indomitable commander, Nicholas Jurissitz, a man of iron nerve and fine military skill.

Ibrahim Pasha, who led the vanguard of the Turkish force, ordered the occupation of this mountain fortress, and learned with anger and mortification that Guntz had closed its gates and frowned defiance on his men. Word was sent back to Solyman, who probably laughed in his beard at the news. It was as if a fly had tried to stop an ox.

"Brush it away and push onward," was probably the tenor of his orders.

But Guntz was not to be brushed away. It stood there like an awkward fact, its guns commanding the pass through which the army must march, a ridiculous obstacle which had to be dealt with however time might press.

The sultan sent orders to his advance-guard to take the town and march on. Ibrahim Pasha pushed forward, assailed it, and found that he had not men enough for the work. The little town with its little garrison had the temper of a shrew, and held its own against him valiantly. A few more battalions were sent, but still the town held out. The sultan, enraged at this opposition, now despatched what he considered an overwhelming force, with orders to take the town without delay, and to punish the garrison as they deserved for their foolish obstinacy. But what was his surprise and fury to receive word that the pigmy still held out stubbornly against the leviathan, that all their efforts to take it were in vain, and that its guns commanded and swept the pass so that it was impossible to advance under its storm of death-dealing balls.

Thundering vengeance, Solyman now ordered his whole army to advance, sweep that insolent and annoying obstacle from the face of the earth, and then march on towards the real goal of their enterprise, the still distant city of Vienna, the capital and stronghold of the Christian dogs.

Upon Guntz burst the whole storm of the war, against Guntz it thundered, around Guntz it lightened; yet still Guntz stood, proud, insolent, defiant, like a rock in the midst of the sea, battered by the waves of war's tempest, yet rising still in unyielding strength, and dashing back the bloody spray which lashed its walls in vain.

Solyman's pride was roused. That town he must and would have. He might have marched past it and left it in the rear, though not without great loss and danger, for the pass was narrow and commanded by the guns of Guntz, and he would have had to run the gantlet of a hailstorm of iron balls. But he had no thought of passing it; his honor was involved. Guntz must be his and its insolent garrison punished, or how could Solyman the Magnificent ever hold up his head among monarchs and conquerors again?

On every side the town was assailed; cannon surrounded it and poured their balls upon its walls; they were planted on the hills in its rear; they were planted on lofty mounds of earth which overtopped its walls and roofs; from every direction they thundered threat; to every direction Guntz thundered back defiance.

An attempt was made to undermine the walls, but in vain; the commandant, Jurissitz, was far too vigilant to be reached by burrowing. Breach after breach was made in the walls, and as quickly repaired, or new walls built. Assault after assault was made and hurled back. Every effort was baffled by the skill, vigor, and alertness of the governor and the unyielding courage of his men, and still the days went by and still Guntz stood.

Solyman, indignant and alarmed, tried the effect of promises, bribes, and threats. Jurissitz and his garrison should be enriched if they yielded; they should die under torture if they persisted. These efforts proved as useless as cannon-balls. The indomitable Jurissitz resisted promises and threats as energetically as he had resisted shot and balls.

The days went on. For twenty-eight days that insignificant fortress and its handful of men defied the great Turkish army and held it back in that mountain-pass. In the end the sultan, with all his pride and all his force, was obliged to accept a feigned submission and leave Jurissitz and his men still in possession of the fortress they had held so long and so well.

They had held it long enough to save Austria, as it proved. While the sultan's cannon were vainly bombarding its walls, Europe was gathering around Vienna in defence. From every side troops hurried to the salvation of Austria from the Turks. Italy, the Netherlands, Bohemia. Poland, Germany, sent their quotas, till an army of one hundred and thirty thousand men were gathered around Vienna, thirty thousand of them being cavalry.

Solyman was appalled at the tidings brought him. It had become a question of arithmetic to his barbarian intellect. If Guntz, with less than a thousand men, could defy him for a month, what might not Vienna do with more than a hundred thousand? Winter was not far away. It was already September. He was separated from his flotilla of artillery. Was it safe to advance? He answered the question by suddenly striking camp and retreating with such haste that his marauding horsemen, who were out in large numbers, were left in ignorance of the movement, and were nearly all taken or cut to pieces.

Thus ingloriously ended one of the most pretentious invasions of Europe. For three years Solyman had industriously prepared, gathering the resources of his wide dominion to the task and fulminating infinite disaster to the infidels. Yet eight hundred men in a petty mountain town had brought this great enterprise to naught and sent back the mighty army of the grand Turk in inglorious retreat.

The story of Guntz has few parallels in history; the courage and ability of its commander were of the highest type of military worthiness; yet its story is almost unknown and the name of Jurissitz is not classed among those of the world's heroes. Such is fame.

There is another interesting story of the doings of Solyman and the gallant defence of a Christian town, which is worthy of telling as an appendix to that just given. The assault at Guntz took place in the year 1532. In 1566, when Solyman was much older, though perhaps not much wiser, we find him at his old work, engaged in besieging the small Hungarian town of Szigeth, west of Mohacs and north of the river Drave, a stronghold surrounded by the small stream Almas almost as by the waters of a lake. It was defended by a Croatian named Zrinyr and a garrison of twenty-five hundred men.

Around this town the Turkish army raged and thundered in its usual fashion. Within it the garrison defended themselves with all the spirit and energy they could muster. Step by step the Turks advanced. The outskirts of the town were destroyed by fire and the assailants were within its walls. The town being no longer tenable, Zrinyr took refuge, with what remained of the garrison, in the fortress, and still bade defiance to his foes.

Solyman, impatient at the delay caused by the obstinacy of the defender, tried with him the same tactics he had employed with Jurissitz many years before,—those of threats and promises. Tempting offers of wealth proving of no avail, the sultan threatened the bold commander with the murder of his son George, a prisoner in his hands. This proved equally unavailing, and the siege went on.

It went on, indeed, until Solyman was himself vanquished, and by an enemy he had not taken into account in his thirst for glory—the grim warrior Death. Temper killed him. In a fit of passion he suddenly died. But the siege went on. The vizier concealed his death and kept the batteries at work, perhaps deeming it best for his own fortunes to be able to preface the announcement of the sultan's death with a victory.

The castle walls had been already crumbling under the storm of balls. Soon they were in ruins. The place was no longer tenable. Yet Zrinyr was as far as ever from thoughts of surrender. He dressed himself in his most magnificent garments, filled his pockets with gold, "that they might find something on his corpse," and dashed on the Turks at the head of what soldiers were left. He died, but not unrevenged. Only after his death was the Turkish army told that their great sultan was no more and that they owed their victory to the shadow of the genius of Solyman the Magnificent.


Germany, in great part, under the leadership of Martin Luther, had broken loose from the Church of Rome, the ball which he had set rolling being kept in motion by other hands. The ideas of many of those who followed him were full of the spirit of fanaticism. The pendulum of religious thought, set in free swing, vibrated from the one extreme of authority to the opposite extreme of license, going as far beyond Luther as he had gone beyond Rome. There arose a sect to which was given the name of Anabaptists, from its rejection of infant baptism, a sect with a strange history, which it now falls to us to relate.

The new movement, indeed, was not confined to matters of religion. The idea of freedom from authority once set afloat, quickly went further than its advocates intended. If men were to have liberty of thought, why should they not have liberty of action? So argued the peasantry, and not without the best of reasons, for they were pitifully oppressed by the nobility, weighed down with feudal exactions to support the luxury of the higher classes, their crops destroyed by the horses and dogs of hunting-parties, their families ill-treated and insulted by the men-at-arms who were maintained at their expense, their flight from tyranny to the freedom of the cities prohibited by nobles and citizens alike, everywhere enslaved, everywhere despised, it is no wonder they joined with gladness in the revolutionary sentiment and made a vigorous demand for political liberty.

As a result of all this an insurrection broke out,—a double insurrection in fact,—here of the peasantry for their rights, there of the religious fanatics for their license. Suddenly all Germany was upturned by the greatest and most dangerous outbreak of the laboring classes it had ever known, a revolt which, had it been ably led, might have revolutionized society and founded a completely new order of things.

In 1522 the standard of revolt was first raised, its signal a golden shoe, with the motto, "Whoever will be free let him follow this ray of light." In 1524 a fresh insurrection broke out, and in the spring of the following year the whole country was aflame, the peasants of southern Germany being everywhere in arms and marching on the strongholds of their oppressors.

Their demands were by no means extreme. They asked for a board of arbitration, to consist of the Archduke Ferdinand, the Elector of Saxony, Luther, Melanchthon, and several preachers, to consider their proposed articles of reform in industrial and political concerns. These articles covered the following points. They asked the right to choose their own pastors, who were to preach the word of God from the Bible; the abolition of dues, except tithes to the clergy; the abolition of vassalage; the rights of hunting and fishing, and of cutting wood in the forests; reforms in rent, in the administration of justice, and in the methods of application of the laws; the restoration of communal property illegally seized; and several other matters of the same general character.

They asked in vain. The princes ridiculed the idea of a court in which Luther should sit side by side with the archduke. Luther refused to interfere. He admitted the oppression of the peasantry, severely attacked the princes and nobility for their conduct, but deprecated the excesses which the insurgents had already committed, and saw no safety from worse evils except in putting down the peasantry with a strong hand.

The rejection of the demands of the rebellious peasants was followed by a frightful reign of license, political in the south, religious in the north. Everywhere the people were in arms, destroying castles, burning monasteries, and forcing numbers of the nobles to join them, under pain of having their castles plundered and burned. The counts of Hohenlohe were made to enter their ranks, and were told, "Brother Albert and brother George, you are no longer lords but peasants, and we are the lords of Hohenlohe." Other nobles were similarly treated. Various Swabian nobles fled for safety, with their families and treasures, to the city and castle of Weinsberg. The castle was stormed and taken, and the nobles, seventy in number, were forced to run the gantlet between two lines of men armed with spears, who stabbed them as they passed. It was this deed that brought out a pamphlet from Luther, in which he called on all the citizens of the empire to put down "the furious peasantry, to strangle, to stab them, secretly and openly, as they can, as one would kill a mad dog."

There was need for something to be done if Germany was to be saved from a revolution. The numbers of the insurgents steadily increased. Many of the cities were in league with them, several of the princes entered in negotiation concerning their demands; in Thuringia the Anabaptists, under the lead of a fanatical preacher named Thomas Muenzer, were in full revolt; in Saxony, Hesse, and lower Germany the peasantry were in arms; there was much reason to fear that the insurgents and fanatics would join their forces and pour like a rushing torrent through the whole empire, destroying all before them. Of the many peasant revolts which the history of mediaevalism records this was the most threatening and dangerous, and called for the most strenuous exertions to save the institutions of Germany from a complete overthrow.

At the head of the main body of insurgents was a knight of notorious character, the famed Goetz von Berlichingen,—Goetz with the Iron Hand, as he is named,—a robber baron whose history had been one of feud and contest, and of the plunder alike of armed foes and unarmed travellers. Goethe has honored him by making him the hero of a drama, and the peasantry sought to honor him by making him the leader of their march of destruction. This worthy had lost his hand during youth, and replaced it with a hand of iron. He was bold, daring, and unscrupulous, but scarcely fitted for generalship, his knowledge of war being confined to the tactics of highway robbery. Nor can it be said that his leadership of the peasants was voluntary. He was as much their prisoner as their general, his service being an enforced one.

With the redoubtable Goetz at their head the insurgents poured onward, spreading terror before them, leaving ruin behind them. Castles and monasteries were destroyed, until throughout Thuringia, Franconia, Swabia, and along the Rhine as far as Lorraine the homes of lords and clergy were destroyed, and a universal scene of smoking ruins replaced the formerly stately architectural piles.

We cannot go further into the details of this notable outbreak. The revolt of the southern peasantry was at length brought to an end by an army collected by the Swabian league, and headed by George Truchsess of Waldburg. Had they marched against him in force he could not have withstood their onset. But they occupied themselves in sieges, disregarding the advice of their leaders, and permitted themselves to be attacked and beaten in detail. Seeing that all was at an end, Goetz von Berlichingen secretly fled from their ranks and took refuge in his castle. Many of the bodies of peasantry dispersed. Others made head against the troops and were beaten with great slaughter. All was at an end.

Truchsess held a terrible court of justice in the city of Wuerzburg, in which his jester Hans acted as executioner, and struck off the heads of numbers of the prisoners, the bloody work being attended with laughter and jests, which added doubly to its horror. All who acknowledged that they had read the Bible, or even that they knew how to read and write, were instantly beheaded. The priest of Schipf, a gouty old man who had vigorously opposed the peasants, had himself carried by four of his men to Truchsess to receive thanks for his services. Hans, fancying that he was one of the rebels, slipped up behind him, and in an instant his head was rolling on the floor.

"I seriously reproved my good Hans for his untoward jest," was the easy comment of Truchsess upon this circumstance.

Throughout Germany similar slaughter of the peasantry and wholesale executions took place. In many places the reprisal took the dimensions of a massacre, and it is said that by the end of the frightful struggle more than a hundred thousand of the peasants had been slain. As for its political results, the survivors were reduced to a deeper state of servitude than before. Thus ended a great struggle which had only needed an able leader to make it a success and to free the people from feudal bonds. It ended like all the peasant outbreaks, in defeat and renewed oppression. As for the robber chief Goetz, while he is said by several historians to have received a sentence of life imprisonment, Menzel states that he was retained in prison for two years only.

In Thuringia, as we have said, the revolt was a religious one, it being controlled by Thomas Muenzer, a fanatical Anabaptist. He pretended that he had the gift of receiving divine revelations, and claimed to be better able to reveal Christian truth than Luther. God had created the earth, he said, for believers, all government should be regulated by the Bible and revelation, and there was no need of princes, priests, or nobles. The distinction between rich and poor was unchristian, since in God's kingdom all should be alike. Nicholas Storch, one of Muenzer's preachers, surrounded himself with twelve apostles and seventy-two disciples, and claimed that an angel brought him divine messages.

Driven from Saxony by the influence of Luther, Muenzer went to Thuringia, and gained such control by his preaching and his doctrines over the people of the town of Muelhausen that all the wealthy people were driven away, their property confiscated, and the sole control of the place fell into his hands.

So great was the disturbance caused by his fanatical teachings and the exertions of his disciples that Luther again bestirred himself, and called on the princes for the suppression of Muenzer and his fanatical horde. A division of the army was sent into Thuringia, and came up with a large body of the Anabaptists near Frankenhausen, on May 15, 1525. Muenzer was in command of the peasants. The army officers, hoping to bring them to terms by lenient measures, offered to pardon them if they would give up their leaders and peacefully retire to their homes. This offer might have been effective but for Muenzer, who, foreseeing danger to himself, did his utmost to awaken the fanaticism of his followers.

It happened that a rainbow appeared in the heavens during the discussion. This, he declared, was a messenger sent to him from God. His ignorant audience believed him, and for the moment were stirred up to a mad enthusiasm which banished all thoughts of surrender. Rushing in their fury on the ambassadors of peace and pardon, they stabbed them to death, and then took shelter behind their intrenchments, where they prepared for a vigorous defence.

Their courage, however, did not long endure the vigorous assault made by the troops of the elector. In vain they looked for the host of angels which Muenzer had promised would come to their aid. Not the glimpse of an angel's wing appeared in the sky. Muenzer himself took to flight, and his infatuated followers, their blind courage vanished, fell an easy prey to the swords of the soldiers.

The greater part of the peasant horde were slain, while Muenzer, who had concealed himself from pursuit in the loft of a house in Frankenhausen, was quickly discovered, dragged forth, put to the rack, and beheaded, his death putting an end to that first phase of the Anabaptist outbreak.

After this event, several years passed during which the Anabaptists kept quiet, though their sect increased. Then came one of the most remarkable religious revolts which history records. Persecution in Germany had caused many of the new sectarians to emigrate to the Netherlands, where their preachings were effective, and many new members were gained. But the persecution instigated by Charles V. against heretics in the Netherlands fell heavily upon them and gave rise to a new emigration, great numbers of the Anabaptists now seeking the town of Muenster, the capital of Westphalia. The citizens of this town had expelled their bishop, and had in consequence been treated with great severity by Luther, in his effort to keep the cause of religious reform separate from politics. The new-comers were received with enthusiasm, and the people of Muenster quickly fell under the influence of two of their fanatical preachers, John Matthiesen, a baker, of Harlem, and John Bockhold, or Bockelson, a tailor, of Leyden.

Muenster soon became the seat of an extraordinary outburst of profligacy, fanaticism, and folly. The Anabaptists took possession of the town, drove out all its wealthy citizens, elected two of themselves—a clothier named Knipperdolling and one Krechting—as burgomasters, and started off in a remarkable career of self-government under Anabaptist auspices.

A community of property was the first measure inaugurated. Every person was required to deposit all his possessions, in gold, silver, and other articles of value, in a public treasury, which fell under the control of Bockelson, who soon made himself lord of the city. All the images, pictures, ornaments, and books of the churches, except their Bibles, were publicly burned. All persons were obliged to eat together at public tables, all made to work according to their strength and without regard to their former station, and a general condition of communism was established. Bockelson gave himself out as a prophet, and quickly gained such influence over the people that they were ready to support him in the utmost excesses of folly and profligacy.

One of the earliest steps taken was to authorize each man to possess several wives, the number of women who had sought Muenster being six times greater than the men. John Bockelson set the example by marrying three at once. His licentious example was quickly followed by others, and for a full year the town continued a scene of unbridled profligacy and mad license. One of John's partisans, claiming to have received a divine communication, saluted him as monarch of the whole globe, the "King of Righteousness," his title of royalty being "John of Leyden," and declared that heaven had chosen him to restore the throne of David. Twenty-eight apostles were selected and sent out, charged to preach the new gospel to the whole earth and to bring its inhabitants to acknowledge the divinely-commissioned king. Their success was not great, however. Wherever they came they were seized and immediately executed, the earth showing itself very unwilling to accept John of Leyden as its king.

In August, 1534, an army, led by Francis of Waldeck, the expelled bishop, who was supported by the landgrave of Hesse and several other princes, advanced and laid siege to the city, which the Anabaptists defended with furious zeal. In the first assault, which was made on August 30, the assailants were repulsed with severe loss. They then settled down to the slower but safer process of siege, considering it easier to starve out than to fight out their enthusiastic opponents.

One of the two leaders of the citizens, John Matthiesen, made a sortie against the troops with only thirty followers, filled with the idea that he was a second Gideon, and that God would come to his aid to defeat the oppressors of His chosen people. The aid expected did not come, and Matthiesen and his followers were all cut down. His death left John of Leyden supreme. He claimed absolute authority in the new "Zion," received daily fresh visions from heaven, which his followers implicitly believed and obeyed, and indulged in wild excesses which only the insane enthusiasm of his followers kept them from viewing with disgust. Among his mad freaks was that of running around the streets naked, shouting, "The King of Zion is come." His lieutenant Knipperdolling, not to be outdone in fanaticism, followed his example, shouting, "Every high place shall be brought low." Immediately the mob assailed the churches and pulled down all the steeples. Those who ventured to resist the monarch's decrees were summarily dealt with, the block and axe, with Knipperdolling as headsman, quickly disposing of all doubters and rebels.

Such was the doom of Elizabeth, one of the prophet's wives, who declared that she could not believe that God had condemned so many people to die of hunger while their king was living in abundance. John beheaded her with his own hands in the market-place, and then, in insane frenzy, danced around her body in company with his other wives. Her loss was speedily repaired. The angels were kept busy in picking out new wives for the inspired tailor, till in the end he had seventeen in all, one of whom, Divara by name, gained great influence by her spirit and beauty.

While all this was going on within the city, the army of besiegers lay encamped about it, waiting patiently till famine should subdue the stubborn courage of the citizens. Numbers of nobles flocked thither by way of pastime, in the absence of any other wars to engage their attention. Nor were the citizens without aid from a distance. Parties of their brethren from Holland and Friesland sought to relieve them, but in vain. All their attempts were repelled, and the siege grew straiter than ever.

The defence from within was stubborn, women and boys being enlisted in the service. The boys stood between the men and fired arrows effectively at the besiegers. The women poured lime and melted pitch upon their heads. So obstinate was the resistance that the city might have held out for years but for the pinch of famine. The effect of this was temporarily obviated by driving all the old men and the women who could be spared beyond the walls; but despite this the grim figure of starvation came daily nearer and nearer, and the day of surrender or death steadily approached.

A year at length went by, the famine growing in virulence with the passing of the days. Hundreds perished of starvation, yet still the people held out with a fanatical courage that defied assault, still their king kept up their courage by divine revelations, and still he contrived to keep himself sufficiently supplied with food amid his starving dupes.

At length the end came. Some of the despairing citizens betrayed the town by night to the enemy. On the night of June 25, 1535, two of them opened the gates to the bishop's army, and a sanguinary scene ensued. The betrayed citizens defended themselves desperately, and were not vanquished until great numbers of them had fallen and the work of famine had been largely completed by the sword. John of Leyden was made prisoner, together with his two chief men,—Knipperdolling, his executioner, and Krechting, his chancellor,—they being reserved for a slower and more painful fate.

For six months they were carried through Germany, enclosed in iron cages, and exhibited as monsters to the people. Then they were taken back to Muenster, where they were cruelly tortured, and at length put to death by piercing their hearts with red-hot daggers.

Their bodies were placed in iron cages, and suspended on the front of the church of St. Lambert, in the market-place of Muenster, while the Catholic worship was re-established in that city. The cages, and the instruments of torture, are still preserved, probably as salutary examples to fanatics, or as interesting mementos of Muenster's past history.

The Muenster madness was the end of trouble with the Anabaptists. They continued to exist, in a quieter fashion, some of them that fled from persecution in Germany and Holland finding themselves exposed to almost as severe a persecution in England. As a sect they have long since vanished, while the only trace of their influence is to be seen in those recent sects that hold the doctrine of adult baptism.

The history of mankind presents no parallel tale to that we have told. It was an instance of insanity placed in power, of lunacy ruling over ignorance and fanaticism; and the doings of John of Leyden in Muenster may be presented as an example alike of the mad extremes to which unquestioned power is apt to lead, and the vast capabilities of faith and trust which exist in uneducated man.


Wallenstein was in power, Wallenstein the mysterious, the ambitious, the victorious; soldier of fortune and arbiter of empires; reader of the stars and ally of the powers of darkness; poor by birth and rich by marriage and imperial favor; an extraordinary man, surrounded by mystery and silence, victorious through ability and audacity, rising from obscurity to be master of the emperor, and falling at length by the hand of assassination. In person he was tall and thin, in countenance sallow and lowering, his eyes small and piercing, his forehead high and commanding, his hair short and bristling, his expression dark and sinister. Fortune was his deity, ambition ruled him with the sway of a tyrant; he was born with the conquering instinct, and in the end handed over all Germany, bound and captive, to his imperial master, and retired to brood new conquests.

Albert von Wallenstein was Bohemian by birth, Prague being his native city. His parents were Lutherans, but they died, and he was educated as a Catholic. He travelled with an astrologer, and was taught cabalistic lore and the secrets of the stars, which he ever after believed to control his destiny. His fortune began in his marriage to an aged but very wealthy widow, who almost put an end to his career by administering to him a love-potion. He had already served in the army, fought against the Turks in Hungary, and with his wife's money raised a regiment for the wars in Bohemia. A second marriage with a rich countess added to his wealth; he purchased, at a fifth of their value, about sixty estates of the exiled Bohemian nobility, and paid for them in debased coin; the emperor, in recognition of his services, made him Duke of Friedland, in which alone there were nine towns and fifty-seven castles and villages; his wealth, through these marriages, purchases, and gifts, steadily increased till he became enormously rich, and the wealthiest man in Germany, next to the emperor.

This extraordinary man was born in an extraordinary time, a period admirably calculated for the exercise of his talents, and sadly suited to the suffering of mankind in consequence. It was the period of the frightful conflict known as the Thirty Years' War. A century had passed since the Diet of Worms, in which Protestantism first boldly lifted its head against Catholicism. During that period the new religious doctrines had gained a firm footing in Germany. Charles V. had done his utmost to put them down, and, discouraged by his failure, had abdicated the throne. In his retreat he is said to have amused his leisure in seeking to make two watches go precisely alike. The effort proved as vain as that to make two people think alike, and he exclaimed, "Not even two watches, with similar works, can I make to agree, and yet, fool that I was, I thought I should be able to control like the works of a watch different nations, living under diverse skies, in different climes, and speaking varied languages." Those who followed him were to meet with a similar result.

The second effort to put down Protestantism by arms began in 1618, and led to that frightful outbreak of human virulence, the Thirty Years' War, which made Germany a desert, but left religion as it found it. The emperor, Ferdinand II., a rigid Catholic, bitterly opposed to the spread of Protestantism, had ordered the demolition of two new churches built by the Bohemian Protestants. His order led to instant hostilities. Count Thurn, a fierce Bohemian nobleman, had the emperor's representatives, Slawata and Martinitz by name, flung out of the window of the council-chamber in Prague, a height of seventy or more feet, and their secretary Fabricius flung after them. It was a terrible fall, but they escaped, for a pile of litter and old papers lay below. Fabricius fell on Martinitz, and, polite to the last, begged his pardon for coming down upon him so rudely. This act of violence, which occurred on May 23, 1618, is looked upon as the true beginning of the dreadful war.

Matters moved rapidly. Bohemia was conquered by the imperial armies, its nobles exiled or executed, its religion suppressed. This victory gained, an effort was made to suppress Lutheranism in Upper Austria. It led to a revolt, and soon the whole country was in a flame of war. Tilly and Pappenheim, the imperial commanders, swept all before them, until they suddenly found themselves opposed by a man their equal in ability, Count Mansfeld, who had played an active part in the Bohemian wars.

A diminutive, deformed, sickly-looking man was Mansfeld, but he had the soul of a soldier in his small frame. No sooner was his standard raised than the Protestants flocked to it, and he quickly found himself at the head of twenty thousand men. But as the powerful princes failed to support him he was compelled to subsist his troops by pillage, an example which was followed by all the leaders during that dreadful contest.

And now began a frightful struggle, a game of war on the chess-board of a nation, in which the people were the helpless pawns and suffered alike from friends and foes. Neither side gained any decisive victory, but both sides plundered and ravaged, the savage soldiery, unrestrained and unrestrainable, committing cruel excesses wherever they came.

Such was the state of affairs which preceded the appearance of Wallenstein on the field of action. The soldiers led by Tilly were those of the Catholic League; Ferdinand, the emperor, had no troops of his own in the field; Wallenstein, discontented that the war should be going on without him, offered to raise an imperial army, paying the most of its expenses himself, but stipulating, in return, that he should have unlimited control. The emperor granted all his demands, and made him Duke of Friedland as a preliminary reward, Wallenstein agreeing to raise ten thousand men.

No sooner was his standard raised than crowds flocked to it, and an army of forty thousand soldiers of fortune were soon ready to follow him to plunder and victory. His fame as a soldier, and the free pillage which he promised, had proved irresistible inducements to war-loving adventurers of all nations and creeds. In a few months the army was raised and fully equipped, and in the autumn of 1625 took the field, growing as it marched.

Christian IV., the Lutheran king of Denmark, had joined in the war, and Tilly, jealous of Wallenstein, vigorously sought to overcome his new adversaries before his rival could reach the field of conflict. He succeeded, too, in great measure, reducing many of the Protestant towns and routing the army of the Danish king.

Meanwhile, Wallenstein came on, his army growing until sixty thousand men—a wild and undisciplined horde—followed his banners. Mansfeld, who had received reinforcements from England and Holland, opposed him, but was too weak to face him successfully in the field. He was defeated on the bridge of Dessau, and marched rapidly into Silesia, whither Wallenstein, much to his chagrin, was compelled to follow him.

From Silesia, Mansfeld marched into Hungary, still pursued by Wallenstein. Here he was badly received, because he had not brought the money expected by the king. His retreat cut off, and without the means of procuring supplies in that remote country, the valiant warrior found himself at the end of his resources. Return was impossible, for Wallenstein occupied the roads. In the end he was forced to sell his artillery and ammunition, disband his army, and proceed southward towards Venice, whence he hoped to reach England and procure a new supply of funds. But on arriving at the village of Urakowitz, in Bosnia, his strength, worn out by incessant struggles and fatigues, gave way, and the noble warrior, the last hope of Protestantism in Germany, as it seemed, breathed his last, a disheartened fugitive.

On feeling the approach of death, he had himself clothed in his military coat, and his sword buckled to his side. Thus equipped, and standing between two friends, who supported him upright, the brave Mansfeld breathed his last. His death left his cause almost without a supporter, for the same year his friend, Duke Christian of Brunswick, expired, and with them the Protestants lost their only able leaders; King Christian of Denmark, their principal successor, being greatly wanting in the requisites of military genius.

Ferdinand seemed triumphant and the cause of his opponents lost. All opposition, for the time, was at an end. Tilly, whose purposes were the complete restoration of Catholicism in Germany, held the provinces conquered by him with an iron hand. Wallenstein, who seemingly had in view the weakening of the power of the League and the raising of the emperor to absolutism, broke down all opposition before his irresistible march.

His army had gradually increased till it numbered one hundred thousand men,—a host which it cost him nothing to support, for it subsisted on the devastated country. He advanced through Silesia, driving all his enemies before him; marched into Holstein, in order to force the King of Denmark to leave Germany; invaded and devastated Jutland and Silesia; and added to his immense estate the duchy of Sagan and the whole of Mecklenburg, which latter was given him by the emperor in payment of his share of the expenses of the war. This raised him to the rank of prince. As for Denmark, he proposed to get rid of its king and have Ferdinand elected in his stead.

The career of this incomprehensible man had been strangely successful. Not a shadow of reverse had met him. What he really intended no one knew. As his enemies decreased he increased his forces. Was it the absolutism of the emperor or of himself that he sought? Several of the princes appealed to Ferdinand to relieve their dominions from the oppressive burden of war, but the emperor was weaker than his general, and dared not act against him. The whole of north Germany lay prostrate beneath the powerful warrior, and obeyed his slightest nod. He lived in a style of pomp and ostentation far beyond that of the emperor himself. His officers imitated him in extravagance. Even his soldiers lived in luxury. To support this lavish display many thousands of human beings languished in misery, starvation threatened whole provinces, and destitution everywhere prevailed.

From Mecklenburg, Wallenstein fixed his ambitious eyes on Pomerania, which territory he grew desirous of adding to his dominions. Here was an important commercial city, Stralsund, a member of the Hanseatic League, and one which enjoyed the privilege of self-government. It had contributed freely to the expenses of the imperial army, but Wallenstein, in furtherance of his designs upon Pomerania, now determined to place in it a garrison of his own troops.

This was an interference with their vested rights which roused the wrath of the citizens of Stralsund. They refused to receive the troops sent them: Wallenstein, incensed, determined to teach the insolent burghers a lesson, and bade General Arnim to march against and lay siege to the place, doubting not that it would be quickly at his mercy.

He was destined to a disappointment. Stralsund was to put the first check upon his uniformly successful career. The citizens defended their walls with obstinate courage. Troops, ammunition, and provisions were sent them from Denmark and Sweden, and they continued to oppose a successful resistance to every effort to reduce them.

This unlooked for perversity of the Stralsunders filled the soul of Wallenstein with rage. It seemed to him unexampled insolence that these merchants should dare defy his conquering troops. "Even if this Stralsund be linked by chains to the very heavens above," he declared, "still I swear it shall fall!"

He advanced in person against the city and assailed it with his whole army, bringing all the resources at his command to bear against its walls. But with heroic courage the citizens held their own. Weeks passed, while he continued to thunder upon it with shot and shell. The Stralsunders thundered back. His most furious assaults were met by them with a desperate valor which in time left his ranks twelve thousand men short. In the end, to his unutterable chagrin, he was forced to raise the siege and march away, leaving the valiant burghers lords of their homes.

The war now seemingly came to its conclusion. The King of Denmark asked for peace, which the emperor granted, and terms were signed at Luebeck on May 12, 1629. The contest was, for the time being, at an end, for there was no longer any one to oppose the emperor. For twelve years it had continued, its ravages turning rich provinces into deserts, and making beggars and fugitives of wealthy citizens. The opposition of the Protestants was at an end, and there were but two disturbing elements of the seemingly pacific situation.

One of these was the purpose which the Catholic party soon showed to suppress Protestantism and bring what they considered the heretical provinces again under the dominion of the pope. The other was the army of Wallenstein, whose intolerable tyranny over friends and foes alike had now passed the bounds of endurance. From all sides complaints reached the emperor's ears, charges of pillage, burnings, outrages, and shameful oppressions of every sort inflicted by the imperial troops upon the inhabitants of the land. So many were the complaints that it was impossible to disregard them. The whole body of princes—every one of whom cordially hated Wallenstein—joined in the outcry, and in the end Ferdinand, with some hesitation, yielded to their wishes, and bade the general to disband his forces.

Would he obey? That was next to be seen. The mighty chief was in a position to defy princes and emperor if he chose. The plundering bands who followed him were his own, not the emperor's soldiers; they knew but one master and were ready to obey his slightest word; had he given the order to advance upon Vienna and drive the emperor himself from his throne, there is no question but that they would have obeyed. As may be imagined, then, the response of Wallenstein was awaited in fear and anxiety. Should ambition counsel him to revolution, the very foundations of the empire might be shaken. What, then, was the delight of princes and people when word came that he had accepted the emperor's command without a word, and at once ordered the disbanding of his troops.

The stars were perhaps responsible for this. Astrology was his passion, and the planetary conjunctions seemed then to be in favor of submission. The man was superstitious, with all his clear-sighted ability, and permitted himself to be governed by influences which have long since lost their force upon men's minds.

"I do not complain against or reproach the emperor," he said to the imperial deputies; "the stars have already indicated to me that the spirit of the Elector of Bavaria holds sway in the imperial councils. But his majesty, in dismissing his troops, is rejecting the most precious jewel of his crown."

The event which we have described took place in September, 1630. Wallenstein, having paid off and dispersed his great army to the four winds, retired to his duchy of Friedland, and took up his residence at Gitschen, which had been much enlarged and beautified by his orders. Here he quietly waited and observed the progress of events.

He had much of interest to observe. The effort of Ferdinand and his advisers to drive Protestantism out of Germany had produced an effect which none of them anticipated. The war, which had seemed at an end, was quickly afoot again, with a new leader of the Protestant cause, new armies, and new fortunes. Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, had come to the rescue of his threatened fellow-believers, and before the army of Wallenstein had been dissolved the work of the peace-makers was set aside, and the horrors of war returned.

The dismissed general had now left Gitschen for Bohemia, where he dwelt upon his estates in a style of regal luxury, and in apparent disregard of the doings of emperors and kings. His palace in Prague was royal in its adornments, and while his enemies were congratulating themselves on having forced him into retirement, he had Italian artists at work painting on the walls of this palace his figure in the character of a conqueror, his triumphal car drawn by four milk-white steeds, while a star shone above his laurel-crowned head. Sixty pages, of noble birth, richly attired in blue and gold velvet, waited upon him, while some of his officers and chamberlains had served the emperor in the same rank. In his magnificent stables were three hundred horses of choice breeds, while the daily gathering of distinguished men in his halls was not surpassed by the assemblies of the emperor himself.

Yet in his demeanor there was nothing to show that he entertained a shadow of his former ambition. He affected the utmost ease and tranquillity of manner, and seemed as if fully content with his present state, and as if he cared no longer who fought the wars of the world.

But inwardly his ambition had in no sense declined. He beheld the progress of the Swedish conqueror with secret joy, and when he saw Tilly overthrown at Leipsic, and the fruits of twelve years of war wrested from the emperor at a single blow, his heart throbbed high with hope. His hour of revenge upon the emperor had come. Ferdinand must humiliate himself and come for aid to his dismissed general, for there was not another man in the kingdom capable of saving it from the triumphant foe.

He was right. The emperor's deputies came. He was requested, begged, to head again the imperial armies. He received the envoys coldly. Urgent persuasions were needed to induce him to raise an army of thirty thousand men. Even then he would not agree to take command of it. He would raise it and put it at the emperor's disposal.

He planted his standard; the men came; many of them his old followers. Plenty and plunder were promised, and thousands flocked to his tents. By March of 1632 the thirty thousand men were collected. Who should command them? There was but one, and this the emperor and Wallenstein alike knew. They would follow only the man to whose banner they had flocked.

The emperor begged him to take command. He consented, but only on conditions to which an emperor has rarely agreed. Wallenstein was to have exclusive control of the army, without interference of any kind, was to be given irresponsible control over all the provinces he might conquer, was to hold as security a portion of the Austrian patrimonial estates, and after the war might choose any of the hereditary estates of the empire for his seat of retirement. The emperor acceded, and Wallenstein, clothed with almost imperial power, marched to war. His subsequent fortunes the next narrative must declare.


Two armies faced each other in central Bavaria, two armies on which the fate of Germany depended, those of Gustavus Adolphus, the right hand of Protestantism, and of Wallenstein, the hope of Catholic imperialism. Gustavus was strongly intrenched in the vicinity of Nuremberg, with an army of but sixteen thousand men. Wallenstein faced him with an army of sixty thousand, yet dared not attack him in his strong position. He occupied himself in efforts to make his camp as impregnable as that of his foeman, and the two great opponents lay waiting face to face, while famine slowly decimated their ranks.

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