The Age of the Reformation
by Preserved Smith
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines

Transcriber's note:

In the original book, its various chapters' subsections were denoted with the "section" symbol. In this e-text, that symbol has been replaced with the word "SECTION". Where two of these symbols were together, they have been replaced with the word "SECTIONS".

Footnotes have been moved to the end of the section they appear in, rather than to the end of the chapter containing that section.

The original book had many side-notes in its pages' left or right margin areas. Some of these sidenotes were at the beginning of a paragraph, some were placed elsewhere alongside a paragraph, in relation to what the sidenote referred to inside the paragraph. In this e-text, sidenotes that appeared at the beginning of a paragraph in the original book are placed to precede their reference paragraph. All other sidenotes have been enclosed in square brackets and placed into the paragraph near where they were in the original book.

Some of the dates in this book are accompanied by a small dagger or sword symbol, signifying the person's year of death. Since this symbol doesn't exist in the ASCII character set, I've substituted "d." for it.

Page numbers in this book are indicated by numbers enclosed in curly braces, e.g. {99}. They have been located where page breaks occurred in the original book. This has been done only in the book's main chapters (I-XIV), not its front matter. For its Bibliography and its Index, page numbers have been placed only at the start of each of those two sections.




New York Henry Holt and Company

American Historical Series General Editor Charles H. Haskins Professor of History in Harvard University

Copyright, 1920 by Henry Holt and Company



The excuse for writing another history of the Reformation is the need for putting that movement in its proper relations to the economic and intellectual revolutions of the sixteenth century. The labor of love necessary for the accomplishment of this task has employed most of my leisure for the last six years and has been my companion through vicissitudes of sorrow and of joy. A large part of the pleasure derived from the task has come from association with friends who have generously put their time and thought at my disposal. First of all, Professor Charles H. Haskins, of Harvard, having read the whole in manuscript and in proof with care, has thus given me the unstinted benefit of his deep learning, and of his ripe and sane judgment. Next to him the book owes most to my kind friend, the Rev. Professor William Walker Rockwell, of Union Seminary, who has added to the many other favors he has done me a careful revision of Chapters I to VIII, Chapter XIV, and a part of Chapter IX. Though unknown to me personally, the Rev. Dr. Peter Guilday, of the Catholic University of Washington, consented, with gracious, characteristic urbanity, to read Chapters VI and VIII and a part of Chapter I. I am grateful to Professor N. S. B. Gras, of the University of Minnesota, for reading that part of the book directly concerned with economics (Chapter XI and a part of Chapter X); and to Professor Frederick A. Saunders, of Harvard, for a like service in technical revision of the section on science in Chapter XII. While acknowledging with hearty thanks the priceless services of these eminent scholars, it is only fair to relieve them of all responsibility for any rash statements that may have escaped their scrutiny, as well as for any conclusions from which they might dissent.

For information about manuscripts and rare books in Europe my thanks are due to my kind friends: Mr. P. S. Allen, Librarian of Merton College, Oxford, the so successful editor of Erasmus's Epistles; and Professor Carrington Lancaster, of Johns Hopkins University. To several libraries I owe much for the use of books. My friend, Professor Robert S. Fletcher, Librarian of Amherst College, has often sent me volumes from that excellent store of books. My sister, Professor Winifred Smith, of Vassar College, has added to many loving services, this: that during my four years at Poughkeepsie, I was enabled to use the Vassar library. For her good offices, as well as for the kindness of the librarian, Miss Amy Reed, my thanks. My father, the Rev. Dr. Henry Preserved Smith, professor and librarian at Union Theological Seminary, has often sent me rare books from that library; nor can I mention this, the least of his favors, without adding that I owe to him much both of the inspiration to follow and of the means to pursue a scholar's career. My thanks are also due to the libraries of Columbia and Cornell for the use of books. But the work could not easily have been done at all without the facilities offered by the Harvard Library. When I came to Cambridge to enjoy the riches of this storehouse, I found the great university not less hospitable to the stranger within her gates than she is prolific in great sons. After I was already deep in debt to the librarian, Mr. W. C. Lane, and to many of the professors, a short period in the service of Harvard, as lecturer in history, has made me feel that I am no longer a stranger, but that I can count myself, in some sort, one of her citizens and foster sons, at least a dimidiatus alumnus.

This book owes more to my wife than even she perhaps quite realizes. Not only has it been her study, since our marriage, to give me freedom for my work, but her literary advice, founded on her own experience as writer and critic, has been of the highest value, and she has carefully read the proofs.


Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 16, 1920.



CHAPTER I. THE OLD AND THE NEW . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

1. The World. Economic changes in the later Middle Ages. Rise of the bourgeoisie. Nationalism. Individualism. Inventions. Printing. Exploration. Universities.

2. The Church. The papacy. The Councils of Constance and Basle. Savonarola.

3. Causes of the Reformation. Corruption of the church not a main cause. Condition of the church. Indulgences. Growth of a new type of lay piety. Clash of the new spirit with old ideals.

4. The Mystics. The German Theology. Tauler. The Imitation of Christ.

5. The Pre-reformers. Waldenses. Occam. Wyclif. Huss.

6. Nationalizing the churches. The Ecclesia Anglicana. The Gallican Church. German church. The Gravamina.

7. The Humanists. Valla. Pico della Mirandola. Lefevre d'Etaples. Colet. Reuchlin. Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum. Hutten. Erasmus.

CHAPTER II. GERMANY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

1. The Leader. Luther's early life. Justification by faith only. The Ninety-five Theses. The Leipzig Debate. Revolutionary Pamphlets of 1520.

2. The Revolution. Condition of Germany. Maximilian I. Charles V. The bull Exsurge Domine burned by Luther. Luther at Worms and in the Wartburg. Turmoil of the radicals. The Revolt of the Knights. Efforts at Reform at the Diets of Nuremberg 1522-4. The Peasants' Revolt: economic causes, propaganda, course of the war, suppression.

3. Formation of the Protestant Party. Defection of the radicals: the Anabaptists. Defection of the intellectuals: Erasmus. The Sacramentarian Schism: Zwingli. Growth of the Lutheran party among the upper and middle classes. Luther's ecclesiastical polity. Accession of many Free Cities, of Ernestine Saxony, Hesse, Prussia. Balance of Power. The Recess of Spires 1529; the Protest.

4. Growth of Protestantism until the death of Luther. Diet of Augsburg 1530: the Confession. Accessions to the Protestant cause. Religious negotiations. Luther's last years, death and character.

5. Religious War and Religious Peace. The Schmalkaldic War. The Interim. The Peace of Augsburg 1555. Catholic reaction and Protestant schisms.

6. Note on Scandinavia, Poland and Hungary.

CHAPTER III. SWITZERLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146

1. Zwingli. The Swiss Confederacy. Preparation for the Reformation. Zwingli's early life. Reformation at Zurich. Defeat of Cappel.

2. Calvin. Farel. Calvin's early life. The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Reformation at Geneva. Theocracy. The Libertines. Servetus. Character and influence of Calvin.

CHAPTER IV. FRANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182

1. Renaissance and Reformation. Condition of France. Francis I. War with Charles. The Christian Renaissance. Lutheranism. Defection of the humanists.

2. The Calvinist Party. Henry II. Expansion of France. Growth and persecution of Calvinism.

3. The Wars of Religion. Catharine de' Medicis. Massacre of Vassy. The Huguenot rebellion. Massacre of St. Bartholomew. The League. Henry IV. Edict of Nantes. Failure of Protestantism to conquer France.

CHAPTER V. THE NETHERLANDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234

1. The Lutheran Reform. The Burgundian State. Origins of the Reformation. Persecution. The Anabaptists.

2. The Calvinist Revolt. National feeling against Spain. Financial difficulties of Philip II. Egmont and William of Orange. The new bishoprics. The Compromise. The "Beggars." Alva's reign of terror. Requesens. Siege of Leyden. The Revolt of the North. Division of the Netherlands. Farnese. The Dutch Republic.

CHAPTER VI. ENGLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277

1. Henry VIII and the National Church. Character of Henry VIII. Foreign policy. Wolsey. Early Lutheranism. Tyndale's New Testament. Tracts. Anticlerical feeling. Divorce of Catharine of Aragon. The Submission of the Clergy. The Reformation Parliament 1520-30. Act in Restraint of Appeals. Act of Succession. Act of Supremacy. Cranmer. Execution of More. Thomas Cromwell. Dissolution of the monasteries. Union of England and Wales. Alliance with the Schmalkaldic League. Articles of Faith. The Pilgrimage of Grace. Catholic reaction. War. Bankruptcy.

2. The Reformation under Edward VI. Somerset Regent. Repeal of the treason and heresy laws. Rapid growth of Protestant opinion. The Book of Common Prayer. Social disorders. Conspiracy of Northumberland and Suffolk.

3. The Catholic reaction under Mary. Proclamation of Queen Jane. Accession and policy of Mary. Repeal of Reforming Acts. Revival of Treason Laws. The Protestant Martyrs.

4. The Elizabethan Settlement 1558-88. Policy of Elizabeth. Respective numbers of Catholics and Protestants. Conversion of the masses. The Thirty-nine Articles. The Church of England. Underhand war with Spain. Rebellion of the Northern Earls. Execution of Mary Stuart. The Armada. The Puritans.

5. Ireland.

CHAPTER VII. SCOTLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350

Backward condition of Scotland. Relations with England. Cardinal Beaton. John Knox. Battle of Pinkie. Knox in Scotland. The Common Band. Iconoclasm. Treaty of Edinburgh. The Religious Revolution. Confession of Faith. Queen Mary's crimes and deposition. Results of the Reformation.


1. Italy. The pagan Renaissance; the Christian Renaissance. Sporadic Lutheranism.

2. The Papacy 1521-90. The Sack of Rome. Reforms.

3. The Council of Trent. First Period (1545-7). Second Period (1551-2). Third Period (1562-3). Results.

4. The Company of Jesus. New monastic orders. Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises. Rapid growth and successes of the Jesuits. Their final failure.

5. The Inquisition and the Index. The medieval Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition. The Roman Inquisition. Censorship of the press. The Index of Prohibited Books.


1. Spain. Unification of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella. Charles V. Revolts of the Communes and of the Hermandad. Constitution of Spain. The Spanish empire. Philip II. The war with the Moriscos. The Armada.

2. Exploration. Columbus. Conquest of Mexico and of Peru. Circumnavigation of the globe. Portuguese exploration to the East. Brazil. Decadence of Portugal. Russia. The Turks.

CHAPTER X. SOCIAL CONDITIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 451

1. Population.

2. Wealth and Prices. Increase of wealth in modern times. Prices and wages in the Sixteenth Century. Value of money. Trend of prices.

3. Social Institutions. The monarchy, the Council of state, the Parliament. Public finance. Maintenance of Order. Sumptuary laws and "blue laws." The army. The navy.

4. Private life and manners. The nobility; the professions; the clergy. The city, the house, dress, food, drink. Sports. Manners. Morals. Position of Women. Health.


1. The Rise of the Power of Money. Rise of capitalism. Banking. Mining. Commerce. Manufacture. Agriculture.

2. The Rise of the Money Power. Ascendancy of the bourgeoisie over the nobility, clergy, and proletariat. Class wars. Regulation of Labor. Pauperism.


1. Biblical and classical scholarship. Greek and Hebrew Bibles. Translations. The classics. The vernaculars.

2. History. Humanistic history and church history.

3. Political theory. The state as power: Machiavelli. Constitutional liberty: Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Hotman, Mornay, Bodin, Buchanan. Radicals: the Utopia.

4. Science. Inductive method. Mathematics. Zooelogy. Anatomy. Physics. Geography. Astronomy; Copernicus. Reform of the calendar.

5. Philosophy. The Catholic and Protestant thinkers. Skeptics. Effect of the Copernican theory: Bruno.


1. Tolerance and Intolerance. Effect of the Renaissance and Reformation.

2. Witchcraft. Causes of the mania. Protests against it.

3. Education. Schools. Effect of the Reformation. Universities.

4. Art. The ideals expressed. Painting. Architecture. Music. Effect of the Reformation and Counter-reformation.

5. Reading. Number of books. Typical themes. Greatness of the Sixteenth Century.


1. The Religious and Political Interpretations. Burnet, Bossuet, Sleidan, Sarpi.

2. The Rationalist Critique. Montesquieu, Voltaire, Robertson, Hume, Gibbon, Goethe, Lessing.

3. The Liberal-Romantic Appreciation. Heine, Michelet, Froude, Hegel, Ranke, Buckle.

4. The Economic and Evolutionary Interpretations. Marx, Lamprecht, Berger, Weber, Nietzsche, Troeltsch, Santayana, Harnack, Beard, Janssen, Pastor, Acton.

5. Concluding Estimate.

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 751

INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 819






Though in some sense every age is one of transition and every generation sees the world remodelled, there sometimes comes a change so startling and profound that it seems like the beginning of a new season in the world's great year. The snows of winter melt for weeks, the cold winds blow and the cool rains fall, and we see no change until, almost within a few days, the leaves and blossoms put forth their verdure, and the spring has come.

Such a change in man's environment and habits as the world has rarely seen, took place in the generation that reached early manhood in the year 1500. [Sidenote: 1483-1546] In the span of a single life—for convenience let us take that of Luther for our measure—men discovered, not in metaphor but in sober fact, a new heaven and a new earth. In those days masses of men began to read many books, multiplied by the new art of printing. In those days immortal artists shot the world through with a matchless radiance of color and of meaning. In those days Vasco da Gama and Columbus and Magellan opened the watery ways to new lands beyond the seven seas. In those days Copernicus established the momentous truth that the earth was but a tiny planet spinning around a vastly greater sun. In those days was in large part accomplished the economic shift from medieval gild to modern production by capital and wages. In those days wealth was piled up in the coffers of the merchants, and a new power was {4} given to the life of the individual, of the nation, and of the third estate. In those days the monarchy of the Roman church was broken, and large portions of her dominions seceded to form new organizations, governed by other powers and animated by a different spirit.

[Sidenote: Antecedents of the Reformation]

Other generations have seen one revolution take place at a time, the sixteenth century saw three, the Rise of Capitalism, the end of the Renaissance, and the beginning of the Reformation. All three, interacting, modifying each other, conflicting as they sometimes did, were equally the consequences, in different fields, of antecedent changes in man's circumstances. All life is an adaptation to environment; and thus from every alteration in the conditions in which man lives, usually made by his discovery of new resources or of hitherto unknown natural laws, a change in his habits of life must flow. Every revolution is but an adjustment to a fresh situation, intellectual or material, or both.

[Sidenote: Economic]

Certainly, economic and psychological factors were alike operative in producing the three revolutions. The most general economic force was the change from "natural economy" to "money economy," i.e. from a society in which payments were made chiefly by exchange of goods, and by services, to one in which money was both the agent of exchange and standard of value. In the Middle Ages production had been largely co-operative; the land belonged to the village and was apportioned out to each husbandman to till, or to all in common for pasture. Manufacture and commerce were organized by the gild—a society of equals, with the same course of labor and the same reward for each, and with no distinction save that founded on seniority—apprentice, workman, master-workman. But {5} in the later Middle Ages, and more rapidly at their close, this system broke down under the necessity for larger capital in production and the possibility of supplying it by the increase of wealth and of banking technique that made possible investment, rapid turn-over of capital, and corporate partnership. The increase of wealth and the changed mode of its production has been in large part the cause of three developments which in their turn became causes of revolution: the rise of the bourgeoisie, of nationalism, and of individualism.

[Sidenote: The bourgeoisie]

Just as the nobles were wearing away in civil strife and were seeing their castles shot to pieces by cannon, just as the clergy were wasting in supine indolence and were riddled by the mockery of humanists, there arose a new class, eager and able to take the helm of civilization, the moneyed men of city and of trade. Nouveaux riches as they were, they had an appetite for pleasure and for ostentation unsurpassed by any, a love for the world and an impatience of the meek and lowly church, with her ideal of poverty and of chastity. In their luxurious and leisured homes they sheltered the arts that made life richer and the philosophy, or religion, that gave them a good conscience in the work they loved. Both Renaissance and Reformation were dwellers in the cities and in the marts of commerce.

[Sidenote: National states]

It was partly the rise of the third estate, but partly also cultural factors, such as the perfecting of the modern tongues, that made the national state one of the characteristic products of modern times. Commerce needs order and strong government; the men who paid the piper called the tune; police and professional soldiery made the state, once so racked by feudal wars, peaceful at home and dreaded abroad. If the consequence of this was an increase in royal power, the kings were among those who had greatness thrust upon them, rather than achieving it for themselves. {6} They were but the symbols of the new, proudly conscious nation, and the police commissioners of the large bankers and traders.

[Sidenote: Individualism]

The reaction of nascent capitalism on the individual was no less marked than on state and society, though it was not the only cause of the new sense of personal worth. Just as the problems of science and of art became most alluring, the man with sufficient leisure and resource to solve them was developed by economic forces. In the Middle Ages men had been less enterprising and less self-conscious. Their thought was not of themselves as individuals so much as of their membership in groups. The peoples were divided into well-marked estates, or classes; industry was co-operative; even the great art of the cathedrals was rather gild-craft than the expression of a single genius; even learning was the joint property of universities, not the private accumulation of the lone scholar. But with every expansion of the ego either through the acquisition of wealth or of learning or of pride in great exploits, came a rising self-consciousness and self-confidence, and this was the essence of the individualism so often noted as one of the contrasts between modern and medieval times. The child, the savage, and to a large extent the undisciplined mind in all periods of life and of history, is conscious only of object; the trained and leisured intellect discovers, literally by "reflection," the subjective. He is then no longer content to be anything less than himself, or to be lost in anything greater.

Just as men were beginning again to glory in their own powers came a series of discoveries that totally transformed the world they lived in. So vast a change is made in human thought and habit by some apparently trivial technical inventions that it sometimes {7} seems as if the race were like a child that had boarded a locomotive and half accidentally started it, but could neither guide nor stop it. Civilization was born with the great inventions of fire, tools, the domestication of [Sidenote: Inventions] animals, writing, and navigation, all of them, together with important astronomical discoveries, made prior to the beginnings of recorded history. On this capital mankind traded for some millenniums, for neither classic times nor the Dark Ages added much to the practical sciences. But, beginning with the thirteenth century, discovery followed discovery, each more important in its consequences than its last. One of the first steps was perhaps the recovery of lost ground by the restoration of the classics. Gothic art and the vernacular literatures testify to the intellectual activity of the time, but they did not create the new elements of life that were brought into being by the inventors.

What a difference in private life was made by the introduction of chimneys and glass windows, for glass, though known to antiquity, was not commonly applied to the openings that, as the etymology of the English word implies, let in the wind! By the fifteenth century the power of lenses to magnify and refract had been utilized, as mirrors, then as spectacles, to be followed two centuries later by telescopes and microscopes. Useful chemicals were now first applied to various manufacturing processes, such as the tinning of iron. The compass, with its weird power of pointing north, guided the mariner on uncharted seas. The obscure inventor of gunpowder revolutionized the art of war more than all the famous conquerors had done, and the polity of states more than any of the renowned legislators of antiquity. The equally obscure inventor of mechanical clocks—a great improvement on the {8} older sand-glasses, water-glasses, and candles—made possible a new precision and regularity of daily life, an untold economy of time and effort.

[Sidenote: Printing]

But all other inventions yield to that of printing, the glory of John Gutenberg of Mayence, one of those poor and in their own times obscure geniuses who carry out to fulfilment a great idea at much sacrifice to themselves. The demand for books had been on the increase for a long time, and every effort was made to reproduce them as rapidly and cheaply as possible by the hand of expert copyists, but the applications of this method produced slight result. The introduction of paper, in place of the older vellum or parchment, furnished one of the indispensable pre-requisites to the multiplication of cheap volumes. In the early fifteenth century, the art of the wood-cutter and engraver had advanced sufficiently to allow some books to be printed in this manner, i.e. from carved blocks. This was usually, or at first, done only with books in which a small amount of text went with a large amount of illustration. There are extant, for example, six editions of the Biblia Pauperum, stamped by this method. It was afterwards applied, chiefly in Holland, to a few other books for which there was a large demand, the Latin grammar of Donatus, for example, and a guide-book to Rome known as the Mirabilia Urbis Romae. But at best this method was extremely unsatisfactory; the blocks soon wore out, the text was blurred and difficult to read, the initial expense was large.

The essential feature of Gutenberg's invention was therefore not, as the name implies, printing, or impression, but typography, or the use of type. The printer first had a letter cut in hard metal, this was called the punch; with it he stamped a mould known as the {9} matrix in which he was able to found a large number of exactly identical types of metal, usually of lead.

These, set side by side in a case, for the first time made it possible satisfactorily to print at reasonable cost a large number of copies of the same text, and, when that was done, the types could be taken apart and used for another work.

The earliest surviving specimen of printing—not counting a few undated letters of indulgence—is a fragment on the last judgment completed at Mayence before 1447. In 1450 Gutenberg made a partnership with the rich goldsmith John Fust, and from their press issued, within the next five years, the famous Bible with 42 lines to a page, and a Donatus (Latin grammar) of 32 lines. The printer of the Bible with 36 lines to a page, that is the next oldest surviving monument, was apparently a helper of Gutenberg, who set up an independent press in 1454. Legible, clean-cut, comparatively cheap, these books demonstrated once for all the success of the new art, even though, for illuminated initials, they were still dependent on the hand of the scribe.

[Sidenote: Books and Reading]

In those days before patents the new invention spread with wonderful rapidity, reaching Italy in 1465, Paris in 1470, London in 1480, Stockholm in 1482, Constantinople in 1487, Lisbon in 1490, and Madrid in 1499. Only a few backward countries of Europe remained without a press. By the year 1500 the names of more than one thousand printers are known, and the titles of about 30,000 printed works. Assuming that the editions were small, averaging 300 copies, there would have been in Europe by 1500 about 9,000,000 books, as against the few score thousand manuscripts that lately had held all the precious lore of time. In a few years the price of books sank to one-eighth of what it had been before. "The gentle reader" had started on his career.

{10} The importance of printing cannot be over-estimated. There are few events like it in the history of the world. The whole gigantic swing of modern democracy and of the scientific spirit was released by it. The veil of the temple of religion and of knowledge was rent in twain, and the arcana of the priest and clerk exposed to the gaze of the people. The reading public became the supreme court before whom, from this time, all cases must be argued. The conflict of opinions and parties, of privilege and freedom, of science and obscurantism, was transferred from the secret chamber of a small, privileged, professional, and sacerdotal coterie to the arena of the reading public.

[Sidenote: Exploration]

It is amazing, but true, that within fifty years after this exploit, mankind should have achieved another like unto it in a widely different sphere. The horror of the sea was on the ancient world; a heart of oak and triple bronze was needed to venture on the ocean, and its annihilation was one of the blessings of the new earth promised by the Apocalypse. All through the centuries Europe remained sea-locked, until the bold Portuguese mariners venturing ever further and further south along the coast of Africa, finally doubled the Cape of Good Hope—a feat first performed by Bartholomew Diaz in 1486, though it was not until 1498 that Vasco da Gama reached India by this method.

Still unconquered lay the stormy and terrible Atlantic,

"Where, beyond the extreme sea-wall, and between the remote sea-gates, Waste water washes, and tall ships founder, and deep death waits."

But the ark of Europe found her dove—as the name Columbus signifies—to fly over the wild, western {11} waves, and bring her news of strange countries. The effect of these discoveries, enormously and increasingly important from the material standpoint, was first felt in the widening of the imagination. Camoens wrote the epic of Da Gama, More placed his Utopia in America, and Montaigne speculated on the curious customs of the redskins. Ariosto wrote of the wonders of the new world in his poem, and Luther occasionally alluded to them in his sermons.

[Sidenote: Universities]

If printing opened the broad road to popular education, other and more formal means to the same end were not neglected. One of the great innovations of the Middle Ages was the university. These permanent corporations, dedicated to the advancement of learning and the instruction of youth, first arose, early in the twelfth century, at Salerno, at Bologna and at Paris. As off-shoots of these, or in imitation of them, many similar institutions sprang up in every land of western Europe. The last half of the fifteenth century was especially rich in such foundations. In Germany, from 1450 to 1517, no less than nine new academies were started: Greifswald 1456, Freiburg in the Breisgau 1460, Basle 1460, Ingolstadt 1472, Treves 1473, Mayence 1477, Tuebingen 1477, Wittenberg 1502, and Frankfort on the Oder 1506. Though generally founded by papal charter, and maintaining a strong ecclesiastical flavor, these institutions were under the direction of the civil government.

In France three new universities opened their doors during the same period: Valence 1459, Nantes 1460, Bourges 1464. These were all placed under the general supervision of the local bishops. The great university of Paris was gradually changing its character. From the most cosmopolitan and international of bodies it was fast becoming strongly nationalist, and was the chief center of an Erastian Gallicanism. Its {12} tremendous weight cast against the Reformation was doubtless a chief reason for the failure of that movement in France.

Spain instituted seven new universities at this time: Barcelona 1450, Saragossa 1474, Palma 1483, Sigueenza 1489, Alcala 1499, Valencia 1500, and Seville 1504. Italy and England remained content with the academies they already had, but many of the smaller countries now started native universities. Thus Pressburg was founded in Hungary in 1465, Upsala in Sweden in 1477, Copenhagen in 1478, Glasgow in 1450, and Aberdeen in 1494. The number of students in each foundation fluctuated, but the total was steadily on the increase.

Naturally, the expansion of the higher education brought with it an increase in the number and excellence of the schools. Particularly notable is the work of the Brethren of the Common Life, who devoted themselves almost exclusively to teaching boys. Some of their schools, as Deventer, attained a reputation like that of Eton or Rugby today.

The spread of education was not only notable in itself, but had a more direct result in furnishing a shelter to new movements until they were strong enough to do without such support. It is significant that the Reformations of Wyclif, Huss, and Luther, all started in universities.

[Sidenote: Growth of intelligence]

As the tide rolls in, the waves impress one more than the flood beneath them. Behind, and far transcending, the particular causes of this and that development lies the operation of great biological laws, selecting a type for survival, transforming the mind and body of men slowly but surely. Whether due to the natural selection of circumstance, or to the inward urge of vital force, there seems to be no doubt that the average intellect, not of leading thinkers or of select groups, {13} but of the European races as a whole, has been steadily growing greater at every period during which it can be measured. Moreover, the monastic vow of chastity tended to sterilize and thus to eliminate the religiously-minded sort. Operating over a long period, and on both sexes, this cause of the growing secularization of the world, though it must not be exaggerated, cannot be overlooked.


Over against "the world," "the church." . . . As the Reformation was primarily a religious movement, some account of the church in the later Middle Ages must be given. How Christianity was immaculately conceived in the heart of the Galilean carpenter and born with words of beauty and power such as no other man ever spoke; how it inherited from him its background of Jewish monotheism and Hebrew Scripture; how it was enriched, or sophisticated, by Paul, who assimilated it to the current mysteries with their myth of a dying and rising god and of salvation by sacramental rite; how it decked itself in the white robes of Greek philosophy and with many a gewgaw of ceremony and custom snatched from the flamen's vestry; how it created a pantheon of saints to take the place of the old polytheism; how it became first the chaplain and then the heir of the Roman Empire, building its church on the immovable rock of the Eternal City, asserting like her a dominion without bounds of space or time; how it conquered and tamed the barbarians;—all this lies outside the scope of the present work to describe. But of its later fortunes some brief account must be given.

[Sidenote: Innocent III 1198-1216]

By the year 1200 the popes, having emerged triumphant from their long strife with the German emperors, successfully asserted their claim to the {14} suzerainty of all Western Europe. Innocent III took realms in fief and dictated to kings. The pope, asserting that the spiritual power was as much superior to the civil as the sun was brighter than the moon, acted as the vicegerent of God on earth. But this supremacy did not last long unquestioned. Just a century after Innocent III, Boniface VIII [Sidenote: Boniface VIII 1294-1303] was worsted in a quarrel with Philip IV of France, and his successor, Clement V, a Frenchman, by transferring the papal capital to Avignon, virtually made the supreme pontiffs subordinate to the French government and thus weakened their influence in the rest of Europe. This "Babylonian Captivity" [Sidenote: The Babylonian Captivity 1309-76] was followed by a greater misfortune to the pontificate, the Great Schism, [Sidenote: The Great Schism 1378-1417] for the effort to transfer the papacy back to Rome led to the election of two popes, who, with their successors, respectively ruled and mutually anathematized each other from the two rival cities. The difficulty of deciding which was the true successor of Peter was so great that not only were the kingdoms of Europe divided in their allegiance, but doctors of the church and canonized saints could be found among the supporters of either line. There can be no doubt that respect for the pontificate greatly suffered by the schism, which was in some respects a direct preparation for the greater division brought about by the Protestant secession.

[Sidenote: Councils—Pisa, 1409, Constance, 1414-18]

The attempt to end the schism at the Council of Pisa resulted only in the election of a third pope. The situation was finally dealt with by the Council of Constance which deposed two of the popes and secured the voluntary abdication of the third. The synod further strengthened the church by executing the heretics Huss and Jerome of Prague, and by passing decrees intended to put the government of the church in the hands of representative assemblies. It asserted that it {15} had power directly from Christ, that it was supreme in matters of faith, and in matters of discipline so far as they affected the schism, and that the pope could not dissolve it without its own consent. By the decree Frequens it provided for the regular summoning of councils at short intervals. Beyond this, other efforts to reform the morals of the clergy proved abortive, for after long discussion nothing of importance was done.

For the next century the policy of the popes was determined by the wish to assert their superiority over the councils. The Synod of Basle [Sidenote: Basle 1431-43] reiterated all the claims of Constance, and passed a number of laws intended to diminish the papal authority and to deprive the pontiff of much of his ill-gotten revenues—annates, fees for investiture, and some other taxes. It was successful for a time because protected by the governments of France and Germany, for, though dissolved by Pope Eugene IV in 1433, it refused to listen to his command and finally extorted from him a bull ratifying the conciliar claims to supremacy.

In the end, however, the popes triumphed. The bull Execrabilis [Sidenote: 1458] denounced as a damnable abuse the appeal to a future council, and the Pastor Aeternus [Sidenote: 1516] reasserted in sweeping terms the supremacy of the pope, repealing all decrees of Constance and Basle to the contrary, as well as other papal bulls.

[Sidenote: The secularization of the papacy]

At Rome the popes came to occupy the position of princes of one of the Italian states, and were elected, like the doges of Venice, by a small oligarchy. Within seventy years the families of Borgia, Piccolomini, Rovere, and Medici were each represented by more than one pontiff, and a majority of the others were nearly related by blood or marriage to one of these great stocks. The cardinals were appointed from the pontiff's sons or nephews, and the numerous other {16} offices in their patronage, save as they were sold, were distributed to personal or political friends.

Like other Italian princes the popes became, in the fifteenth century, distinguished patrons of arts and letters. The golden age of the humanists at Rome began under Nicholas V [Sidenote: Nicholas V 1447-55] who employed a number of them to make translations from Greek. It is characteristic of the complete secularization of the States of the Church that a number of the literati pensioned by him were skeptics and scoffers. Valla, who mocked the papacy, ridiculed the monastic orders, and attacked the Bible and Christian ethics, was given a prebend; Savonarola, the most earnest Christian of his age, was put to death.

[Sidenote: 1453]

The fall of Constantinople gave a certain European character to the policy of the pontiffs after that date, for the menace of the Turk seemed so imminent that the heads of Christendom did all that was possible to unite the nations in a crusade. This was the keynote of the statesmanship of Calixtus III [Sidenote: Calixtus III 1455-8] and of his successor, Pius II. [Sidenote: Pius II 1458-64] Before his elevation to the see of Peter this talented writer, known to literature as Aeneas Sylvius, had, at the Council of Basle, published a strong argument against the extreme papal claims, which he afterwards, as pope, retracted. His zeal against the Turk and against his old friends the humanists lent a moral tone to his pontificate, but his feeble attempts to reform abuses were futile.

[Sidenote: Paul II 1464-71]

The colorless reign of Paul II was followed by that of Sixtus IV, [Sidenote: Sixtus IV 1471-84] a man whose chief passion was the aggrandizement of his family. He carried nepotism to an extreme and by a policy of judicial murder very nearly exterminated his rivals, the Colonnas.

[Sidenote: Innocent VIII 1484-92]

The enormous bribes paid by Innocent VIII for his election were recouped by his sale of offices and spiritual graces, and by taking a tribute from the Sultan, {17} in return for which he refused to proclaim a crusade. The most important act of his pontificate was the publication of the bull against witchcraft.

[Sidenote: Alexander VI 1492-1503]

The name of Alexander VI has attained an evil eminence of infamy on account of his own crimes and vices and those of his children, Caesar Borgia and Lucretia. One proof that the public conscience of Italy, instead of being stupified by the orgy of wickedness at Rome was rather becoming aroused by it, is found in the appearance, just at this time, of a number of preachers of repentance. These men, usually friars, started "revivals" marked by the customary phenomena of sudden conversion, hysteria, and extreme austerity. The greatest of them all was the Dominican Jerome Savonarola [Sidenote: Savonarola] who, though of mediocre intellectual gifts, by the passionate fervor of his convictions, attained the position of a prophet at Florence. He began preaching here in 1482, and so stirred his audiences that many wept and some were petrified with horror. His credit was greatly raised by his prediction of the invasion of Charles VIII of France in 1494. He succeeded in driving out the Medici and in introducing a new constitution of a democratic nature, which he believed was directly sanctioned by God. He attacked the morals of the clergy and of the people and, besides renovating his own order, suppressed not only public immorality but all forms of frivolity. The people burned their cards, false hair, indecent pictures, and the like; many women left their husbands and entered the cloister; gamblers were tortured and blasphemers had their tongues pierced. A police was instituted with power of searching houses.

It was only the pope's fear of Charles VIII that prevented his dealing with this dangerous reformer, who now began to attack the vices of the curia. In 1495, however, the friar was summoned to Rome, and {18} refused to go; he was then forbidden to preach, and disobeyed. In Lent 1496 he proclaimed the duty of resisting the pope when in error. In November a new brief proposed changes in the constitution of his order which would bring him more directly under the power of Rome. Savonarola replied that he did not fear the excommunication of the sinful church, which, when launched against him May 12, 1497, only made him more defiant. Claiming to be commissioned directly from God, he appealed to the powers to summon a general council against the pope.

At this juncture one of his opponents, a Franciscan, Francis da Puglia, proposed to him the ordeal by fire, stating that though he expected to be burnt he was willing to take the risk for the sake of the faith. The challenge refused by Savonarola was taken up by his friend Fra Domenico da Peseta, and although forbidden by Alexander, the ordeal was sanctioned by the Signory and a day set. A dispute as to whether Domenico should be allowed to take the host or the crucifix into the flames prevented the experiment from taking place, and the mob, furious at the loss of its promised spectacle, refused further support to the discredited leader. For some years, members of his own order, who resented the severity of his reform, had cherished a grievance against him, and now they had their chance. Seized by the Signory, he was tortured and forced to confess that he was not a prophet, and on May 22, 1498, was condemned, with two companions, to be hung. After the speedy execution of the sentence, which the sufferers met calmly, their bodies were burnt. All effects of Savonarola's career, political, moral, and religious, shortly disappeared.

Alexander was followed by a Rovere who took the name of Julius II. [Sidenote: Julius II 1503-13] Notwithstanding his advanced age this pontiff proved one of the most vigorous and able {19} statesman of the time and devoted himself to the aggrandizement, by war and diplomacy, of the Papal States. He did not scruple to use his spiritual thunders against his political enemies, as when he excommunicated the Venetians. [Sidenote: 1509] He found himself at odds with both the Emperor Maximilian and Louis XII of France, who summoned a schismatic council at Pisa. [Sidenote: 1511] Supported by some of the cardinals this body revived the legislation of Constance and Basle, but fell into disrepute when, by a master stroke of policy, Julius convoked a council at Rome. [Sidenote: 1512-16] This synod, the Fifth Lateran, lasted for four years, and endeavored to deal with a crusade and with reform. All its efforts at reform proved abortive because they were either choked, while in course of discussion, by the Curia, or, when passed, were rendered ineffective by the dispensing power.

[Sidenote: Leo X 1513-21]

While the synod was still sitting Julius died and a new pope was chosen. This was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Medici Leo X. Having taken the tonsure at the age of seven, and received the red hat six years later, he donned the tiara at the early age of thirty-eight. His words, as reported by the Venetian ambassador at Rome, "Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us," exactly express his program. To make life one long carnival, to hunt game and to witness comedies and the antics of buffoons, to hear marvellous tales of the new world and voluptuous verses of the humanists and of the great Ariosto, to enjoy music and to consume the most delicate viands and the most delicious wines—this was what he lived for. Free and generous with money, he prodigally wasted the revenues of three pontificates. Spending no less than 6000 ducats a month on cards and gratuities, he was soon forced to borrow to the limit of his credit. Little recked he that Germany was being {20} reft from the church by a poor friar. His irresolute policy was incapable of pursuing any public end consistently, save that he employed the best Latinists of the time to give elegance to his state papers. His method of governing was the purely personal one, to pay his friends and flatterers at the expense of the common good. One of his most characteristic letters expresses his intention of rewarding with high office a certain gentleman who had given him a dinner of lampreys.


[Sidenote: Corruption of the church not a main cause of the Reformation]

In the eyes of the early Protestants the Reformation was a return to primitive Christianity and its principal cause was the corruption of the church. That there was great depravity in the church as elsewhere cannot be doubted, but there are several reasons for thinking that it could not have been an important cause for the loss of so many of her sons. In the first place there is no good ground for believing that the moral condition of the priesthood was worse in 1500 than it had been for a long time; indeed, there is good evidence to the contrary, that things were tending to improve, if not at Rome yet in many parts of Christendom. If objectionable practices of the priests had been a sufficient cause for the secession of whole nations, the Reformation would have come long before it actually did. Again, there is good reason to doubt that the mere abuse of an institution has ever led to its complete overthrow; as long as the institution is regarded as necessary, it is rather mended than ended. Thirdly, many of the acts that seem corrupt to us, gave little offence to contemporaries, for they were universal. If the church sold offices and justice, so did the civil governments. If the clergy lived impure lives, so did the laity. Probably the standard of the {21} church (save in special circumstances) was no worse than that of civil life, and in some respects it was rather more decent. Finally, there is some reason to suspect of exaggeration the charges preferred by the innovators. Like all reformers they made the most of their enemy's faults. Invective like theirs is common to every generation and to all spheres of life. It is true that the denunciation of the priesthood comes not only from Protestants and satirists, but from popes and councils and canonized saints, and that it bulks large in medieval literature. Nevertheless, it is both a priori probable and to some extent historically verifiable that the evil was more noisy, not more potent, than the good. But though the corruptions of the church were not a main cause of the Protestant secession, they furnished good excuses for attack; the Reformers were scandalized by the divergence of the practice and the pretensions of the official representatives of Christianity, and their attack was envenomed and the break made easier thereby. It is therefore necessary to say a few words about those abuses at which public opinion then took most offence.

[Sidenote: Abuses: Financial]

Many of these were connected with money. The common man's conscience was wounded by the smart in his purse. The wealth of the church was enormous, though exaggerated by those contemporaries who estimated it at one-third of the total real estate of Western Europe. In addition to revenues from her own land the church collected tithes and taxes, including "Peter's pence" in England, Scandinavia and Poland. The clergy paid dues to the curia, among them the servitia charged on the bishops and the annates levied on the income of the first year for each appointee to high ecclesiastical office, and the price for the archbishop's pall. The priests recouped themselves by charging high fees for their ministrations. At a time {22} when the Christian ideal was one of "apostolic poverty" the riches of the clergy were often felt as a scandal to the pious.

[Sidenote: Simony]

Though the normal method of appointment to civil office was sale, it was felt as a special abuse in the church and was branded by the name of simony. Leo X made no less than 500,000 ducats[1] annually from the sale of more than 2000 offices, most of which, being sinecures, eventually came to be regarded as annuities, with a salary amounting to about 10 per cent. of the purchase price.

Justice was also venal, in the church no less than in the state. Pardon was obtainable for all crimes for, as a papal vice-chamberlain phrased it, "The Lord wishes not the death of a sinner but that he should pay and live." Dispensations from the laws against marriage within the prohibited degrees were sold. Thus an ordinary man had to pay 16 grossi[2] for dispensation to marry a woman who stood in "spiritual relationship" [3] to him; a noble had to pay 20 grossi for the same privilege, and a prince or duke 30 grossi. First cousins might marry for the payment of 27 grossi; an uncle and niece for from three to four ducats, though this was later raised to as much as sixty ducats, at least for nobles. Marriage within the first degree of affinity (a deceased wife's mother or daughter by another husband) was at one time sold for about ten ducats; marriage within the second degree[4] was {23} permitted for from 300 to 600 grossi. Hardly necessary to add, as was done: "Note well, that dispensations or graces of this sort are not given to poor people." [5] Dispensations from vows and from the requirements of ecclesiastical law, as for example those relating to fasting, were also to be obtained at a price.

[Sidenote: Indulgences]

One of the richest sources of ecclesiastical revenue was the sale of indulgences, or the remission by the pope of the temporal penalties of sin, both penance in this life and the pains of purgatory. The practice of giving these pardons first arose as a means of assuring heaven to those warriors who fell fighting the infidel. In 1300 Boniface VIII granted a plenary indulgence to all who made the pilgrimage to the jubilee at Rome, and the golden harvest reaped on this occasion induced his successors to take the same means of imparting spiritual graces to the faithful at frequent intervals. In the fourteenth century the pardons were extended to all who contributed a sum of money to a pious purpose, whether they came to Rome or not, and, as the agents who were sent out to distribute these pardons were also given power to confess and absolve, the papal letters were naturally regarded as no less than tickets of admission to heaven. In the thirteenth century the theologians had discovered that there was at the disposal of the church and her head an abundant "treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints," which might be applied vicariously to anyone by the pope. In the fifteenth century the claimed power to free living men from purgatory was extended to the {24} dead, and this soon became one of the most profitable branches of the "holy trade."

The means of obtaining indulgences varied. Sometimes they were granted to those who made a pilgrimage or who would read a pious book. Sometimes they were used to raise money for some public work, a hospital or a bridge. But more and more they became an ordinary means for raising revenue for the curia. How thoroughly commercialized the business of selling grace and remission of the penalties of sin had become is shown by the fact that the agents of the pope were often bankers who organized the sales on purely business lines in return for a percentage of the net receipts plus the indirect profits accruing to those who handle large sums. Of the net receipts the financiers usually got about ten per cent.; an equal amount was given to the emperor or other civil ruler for permitting the pardoners to enter his territory, commissions were also paid to the local bishop and clergy, and of course the pedlars of the pardons received a proportion of the profits in order to stimulate their zeal. On the average from thirty to forty-five per cent. of the gross receipts were turned into the Roman treasury.

It is natural that public opinion should have come to regard indulgences with aversion. Their bad moral effect was too obvious to be disregarded, the compounding with sin for a payment destined to satisfy the greed of unscrupulous prelates. Their economic effects were also noticed, the draining of the country of money with which further to enrich a corrupt Italian city. Many rulers forbade their sale in their territories, because, as Duke George of Saxony, a good Catholic, expressed it, before Luther was heard of, "they cheated the simple layman of his soul." Hutten mocked at Pope Julius II for selling to others the heaven he could not win himself. Pius II [Sidenote 1458-64] was obliged {25} to confess: "If we send ambassadors to ask aid of the princes, they are mocked; if we impose a tithe on the clergy, appeal is made to a future council; if we publish an indulgence and invite contributions in return for spiritual favors, we are charged with greed. People think all is done merely for the sake of extorting money. No one trusts us. We have no more credit than a bankrupt merchant."

[Sidenote: Immorality of clergy]

Much is said in the literature of the latter Middle Ages about the immorality of the clergy. This class has always been severely judged because of its high pretensions. Moreover the vow of celibacy was too hard to keep for most men and for some women; that many priests, monks and nuns broke it cannot be doubted. And yet there was a sprinkling of saintly parsons like him of whom Chancer [Transcriber's note: Chaucer?] said

"Who Christes lore and his apostles twelve He taught, but first he folwed it himselve,"

and there were many others who kept up at least the appearance of decency. But here, as always, the bad attracted more attention than the good.

The most reliable data on the subject are found in the records of church visitations, both those undertaken by the Reformers and those occasionally attempted by the Catholic prelates of the earlier period. Everywhere it was proved that a large proportion of the clergy were both wofully ignorant and morally unworthy. Besides the priests who had concubines, there were many given to drink and some who kept taverns, gaming rooms and worse places. Plunged in gross ignorance and superstition, those blind leaders of the blind, who won great reputations as exorcists or as wizards, were unable to understand the Latin service, and sometimes to repeat even the Lord's prayer or creed in any language.


[Sidenote: Piety]

The Reformation, like most other revolutions, came not at the lowest ebb of abuse, but at a time when the tide had already begun to run, and to run strongly, in the direction of improvement. One can hardly find a sweeter, more spiritual religion anywhere than that set forth in Erasmus's Enchiridion, or in More's Utopia, or than that lived by Vitrier and Colet. Many men, who had not attained to this conception of the true beauty of the gospel, were yet thoroughly disgusted with things as they were and quite ready to substitute a new and purer conception and practice for the old, mechanical one.

Evidence for this is the popularity of the Bible and other devotional books. Before 1500 there were nearly a hundred editions of the Latin Vulgate, and a number of translations into German and French. There were also nearly a hundred editions, in Latin and various vernaculars, of The Imitation of Christ. There was so flourishing a crop of devotional handbooks that no others could compete with them in popularity. For those who could not read there were the Biblia Pauperum, picture-books with a minimum of text, and there were sermons by popular preachers. If some of these tracts and homilies were crude and superstitious, others were filled with a spirit of love and honesty. Whereas the passion for pilgrimages and relics seemed to increase, there were men of clear vision to denounce the attendant evils. A new feature was the foundation of lay brotherhoods, like that of the Common Life, with the purpose of cultivating a good character in the world, and of rendering social service. The number of these brotherhoods was great and their popularity general.

[Sidenote: Clash of new spirit with old institutions]

Had the forces already at work within the church been allowed to operate, probably much of the moral reform desired by the best Catholics would have been {27} accomplished quietly without the violent rending of Christian unity that actually took place. But the fact is, that such reforms never would or could have satisfied the spirit of the age. Men were not only shocked by the abuses in the church, but they had outgrown some of her ideals. Not all of her teaching, nor most of it, had become repugnant to them, for it has often been pointed out that the Reformers kept more of the doctrines of Catholicism than they threw away, but in certain respects they repudiated, not the abuse but the very principle on which the church acted. In four respects, particularly the ideals of the new age were incompatible with those of the Roman communion.

[Sidenote: Sacramental theory of the church]

The first of these was the sacramental theory of salvation and its corollary, the sacerdotal power. According to Catholic doctrine grace is imparted to the believer by means of certain rites: baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, holy orders, and matrimony. Baptism is the necessary prerequisite to the enjoyment of the others, for without it the unwashed soul, whether heathen or child of Christian parents, would go to eternal fire; but the "most excellent of the sacraments" is the eucharist, in which Christ is mysteriously sacrificed by the priest to the Father and his body and blood eaten and drunk by the worshippers. Without these rites there was no salvation, and they acted automatically (ex opere operato) on the soul of the faithful who put no active hindrance in their way. Save baptism, they could be administered only by priests, a special caste with "an indelible character" marking them off from the laity. Needless to remark the immense power that this doctrine gave the clergy in a believing age. They were made the arbiters of each man's eternal destiny, and their moral character had no more to do with their binding and loosing sentence than does the moral {28} character of a secular officer affect his official acts. Add to this that the priests were unbound by ties of family, that by confession they entered into everyone's private life, that they were not amenable to civil justice—and their position as a privileged order was secure. The growing self-assurance and enlightenment of a nascent individualism found this distinction intolerable.

[Sidenote: Other-worldliness]

Another element of medieval Catholicism to clash with the developing powers of the new age was its pessimistic and ascetic other-worldliness. The ideal of the church was monastic; all the pleasures of this world, all its pomps and learning and art were but snares to seduce men from salvation. Reason was called a barren tree but faith was held to blossom like the rose. Wealth was shunned as dangerous, marriage deprecated as a necessary evil. Fasting, scourging, celibacy, solitude, were cultivated as the surest roads to heaven. If a good layman might barely shoulder his way through the strait and narrow gate, the highest graces and heavenly rewards were vouchsafed to the faithful monk. All this grated harshly on the minds of the generations that began to find life glorious and happy, not evil but good.

[Sidenote: Worship of saints]

Third, the worship of the saints, which had once been a stepping-stone to higher things, was now widely regarded as a stumbling-block. Though far from a scientific conception of natural law, many men had become sufficiently monistic in their philosophy to see in the current hagiolatry a sort of polytheism. Erasmus freely drew the parallel between the saints and the heathen deities, and he and others scourged the grossly materialistic form which this worship often took. If we may believe him, fugitive nuns prayed for help in hiding their sin; merchants for a rich haul; gamblers for luck; and prostitutes for generous {29} patrons. Margaret of Navarre tells as an actual fact of a man who prayed for help in seducing his neighbor's wife, and similar instances of perverted piety are not wanting. The passion for the relics of the saints led to an enormous traffic in spurious articles. There appeared to be enough of the wood of the true cross, said Erasmus, to make a ship; there were exhibited five shin-bones of the ass on which Christ rode, whole bottles of the Virgin's milk, and several complete bits of skin saved from the circumcision of Jesus.

[Sidenote: Temporal power of the church]

Finally, patriots were no longer inclined to tolerate the claims of the popes to temporal power. The church had become, in fact, an international state, with its monarch, its representative legislative assemblies, its laws and its code. It was not a voluntary society, for if citizens were not born into it they were baptized into it before they could exercise any choice. It kept prisons and passed sentence (virtually if not nominally) of death; it treated with other governments as one power with another; it took principalities and kingdoms in fief. It was supported by involuntary contributions.[6]

The expanding world had burst the bands of the old church. It needed a new spiritual frame, and this frame was largely supplied by the Reformation. Prior to that revolution there had been several distinct efforts to transcend or to revolt from the limitations imposed by the Catholic faith; this was done by the mystics, by the pre-reformers, by the patriots and by the humanists.

[1] A ducat was worth intrinsically $2.25, or nine shillings, at a time when money had a much greater purchasing power than it now has.

[2] The grossus, English groat, German Groschen, was a coin which varied considerably in value. It may here be taken as intrinsically worth about 8 cents or four pence, at a time when money had many times the purchasing power that it now has.

[3] A spiritual relationship was established if a man and woman were sponsors to the same child at baptism.

[4] Presumably of affinity, i.e., a wife's sister, but there is nothing to show that this law did not also apply to consanguinity, and at one time the pope proposed that the natural son of Henry VIII, the Duke of Richmond, should marry his half sister, Mary.

[5] "Nota diligenter, quod huiusmodi gratiae et dispensationes non conceduntur pauperibus." Taxa cancellariae apostolicae, in E. Friedberg: Lerbuch des katholischen und evangelischen Kirchenrechts, 1903, pp. 389 ff.

[6] Maitland: Canon Law in the Church of England, p. 100.


One of the earliest efforts to transcend the economy of salvation offered by the church was made by a school of mystics in the fourteenth and fifteenth {30} century. In this, however, there was protest neither against dogma nor against the ideal of other-worldliness, for in these respects the mystics were extreme conservatives, more religious than the church herself. They were like soldiers who disregarded the orders of their superiors because they thought these orders interfered with their supreme duty of harassing the enemy. With the humanists and other deserters they had no part nor lot; they sought to make the church more spiritual, not more reasonable. They bowed to her plan for winning heaven at the expense of earthly joy and glory; they accepted her guidance without question; they rejoiced in her sacraments as aids to the life of holiness. But they sorrowed to see what they considered merely the means of grace substituted for the end sought; they were insensibly repelled by finding a mechanical instead of a personal scheme of salvation, an almost commercial debit and credit of good works instead of a life of spontaneous and devoted service. Feeling as few men have ever felt that the purpose and heart of religion is a union of the soul with God, they were shocked to see the interposition of mediators between him and his creature, to find that instead of hungering for him men were trying to make the best bargain they could for their own eternal happiness. While rejecting nothing in the church they tried to transfigure everything. Accepting priest and sacrament as aids to the divine life they declined to regard them as necessary intermediaries.

[Sidenote: Eckhart, 1260-1327]

The first of the great German mystics was Master Eckhart, a Dominican who lived at Erfurt, in Bohemia, at Paris, and at Cologne. The inquisitors of this last place summoned him before their court on the charge of heresy, but while his trial was pending he died. He was a Christian pantheist, teaching that God was the only true being, and that man was capable of reaching {31} the absolute. Of all the mystics he was the most speculative and philosophical. Both Henry Suso and John Tauler were his disciples. [Sidenote: Suso, 1300-66] Suso's ecstatic piety was of the ultra-medieval type, romantic, poetic, and bent on winning personal salvation by the old means of severe self-torture and the constant practice of good works. Tauler, a Dominican of Strassburg, belonged to a society known as The Friends of God. [Sidenote: Tauler c. 1300-61] Of all his contemporaries he in religion was the most social and practical. His life was that of an evangelist, preaching to laymen in their own vernacular the gospel of a pure life and direct communion with God through the Bible and prayer. Like many other popular preachers he placed great emphasis on conversion, the turning (Kehr) from a bad to a good life. Simple faith is held to be better than knowledge or than the usual works of ecclesiastical piety. Tauler esteemed the holiest man he had ever seen one who had never heard five sermons in his life. All honest labor is called God's service, spinning and shoe-making the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pure religion is to be "drowned in God," "intoxicated with God," "melted in the fire of his love." Transcending the common view of the average Christian that religion's one end was his own salvation, Tauler taught him that the love of God was greater than this. He tells of a woman ready to be damned for the glory of God—"and if such a person were dragged into the bottom of hell, there would be the kingdom of God and eternal bliss in hell."

One of the fine flowers of German mysticism is a book written anonymously—"spoken by the Almighty, Eternal God, through a wise, understanding, truly just man, his Friend, a priest of the Teutonic Order at Frankfort." The German Theology, [Sidenote: The German Theology] as it was named by Luther, teaches in its purest form entire abandonment to God, simple passivity in his hands, utter {32} self-denial and self-surrender, until, without the interposition of any external power, and equally without effort of her own, the soul shall find herself at one with the bridegroom. The immanence of God is taught; man's helpless and sinful condition is emphasized; and the reconciliation of the two is found only in the unconditional surrender of man's will to God. "Put off thine own will and there will be no hell."

Tauler's sermons, first published 1498, had an immense influence on Luther. They were later taken up by the Jesuit Canisius who sought by them to purify his church. [Sidenote: 1543] The German Theology was first published by Luther in 1516, with the statement that save the Bible and St. Augustine's works, he had never met with a book from which he had learned so much of the nature of "God, Christ, man, and all things." But other theologians, both Protestant and Catholic, did not agree with him. Calvin detected secret and deadly poison in the author's pantheism, and in 1621 the Catholic Church placed his work on the Index.

The Netherlands also produced a school of mystics, later in blooming than that of the Germans and greater in its direct influence. The earliest of them was John of Ruysbroeck, a man of visions and ecstasies. [Sidenote: Ruysbroeck, 1293-1381] He strove to make his life one long contemplation of the light and love of God. Two younger men, Gerard Groote and Florence Radewyn, socialized his gospel by founding the fellowship of the Brethren of the Common Life. [Sidenote: Groote, 1340-84] [Sidenote: Radewyn, 1350-1400] Though never an order sanctioned by the church, they taught celibacy and poverty, and devoted themselves to service of their fellows, chiefly in the capacity of teachers of boys.

The fifteenth century's rising tide of devotion brought forth the most influential of the products of all the mystics, the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. [Sidenote: Thomas a Kempis, c. 1380-1471] Written in a plaintive minor key of {33} resignation and pessimism, it sets forth with much artless eloquence the ideal of making one's personal life approach that of Christ. Humility, self-restraint, asceticism, patience, solitude, love of Jesus, prayer, and a diligent use of the sacramental grace of the eucharist are the means recommended to form the character of the perfect Christian. It was doubtless because all this was so perfect an expression of the medieval ideal that it found such wide and instant favor. There is no questioning of dogma, nor any speculation on the positions of the church; all this is postulated with child-like simplicity. Moreover, the ideal of the church for the salvation of the individual, and the means supposed to secure that end, are adopted by a Kempis. He tacitly assumes that the imitator of Christ will be a monk, poor and celibate. His whole endeavor was to stimulate an enthusiasm for privation and a taste for things spiritual, and it was because in his earnestness and single-mindedness he so largely succeeded that his book was eagerly seized by the hands of thousands who desired and needed such stimulation and help. The Dutch canon was not capable of rising to the heights of Tauler and the Frankfort priest, who saw in the love of God a good in itself transcending the happiness of one's own soul. He just wanted to be saved and tried to love God for that purpose with all his might. But this careful self-cultivation made his religion self-centered; it was, compared even with the professions of the Protestants and of the Jesuits, personal and unsocial.

Notwithstanding the profound differences between the Mystics and the Reformers, it is possible to see that at least in one respect the two movements were similar. It was exactly the same desire to get away from the mechanical and formal in the church's scheme of salvation, that animated both. Tauler and Luther {34} both deprecated good works and sought justification in faith only. Important as this is, it is possible to see why the mystics failed to produce a real revolt from the church, and it is certain that they were far more than the Reformers fundamentally, even typically Catholic. [Sidenote: Mysticism] It is true that mysticism is at heart always one, neither national nor confessional. But Catholicism offered so favorable a field for this development that mysticism may be considered as the efflorescence of Catholic piety par excellence. Hardly any other expression of godliness as an individual, vital thing, was possible in medieval Christendom. There is not a single idea in the fourteenth and fifteenth century mysticism which cannot be read far earlier in Augustine and Bernard, even in Aquinas and Scotus. It could never be anything but a sporadic phenomenon because it was so intensely individual. While it satisfied the spiritual needs of many, it could never amalgamate with other forces of the time, either social or intellectual. As a philosophy or a creed it led not so much to solipsism as to a complete abnegation of the reason. Moreover it was slightly morbid, liable to mistake giddiness of starved nerve and emotion for a moment of vision and of union with God. How much more truly than he knew did Ruysbroeck speak when he said that the soul, turned inward, could see the divine light, just as the eyeball, sufficiently pressed, could see the flashes of fire in the mind!


The men who, in later ages, claimed for their ancestors a Protestantism older than the Augsburg Confession, referred its origins not to the mystics nor to the humanists, but to bold leaders branded by the church as heretics. Though from the earliest age Christendom never lacked minds independent enough {35} to differ from authority and characters strong enough to attempt to cut away what they considered rotten in ecclesiastical doctrine and practice, the first heretics that can really be considered as harbingers of the Reformation were two sects dwelling in Southern France, the Albigenses and the Waldenses. [Sidenote: Albigenses] The former, first met with in the eleventh century, derived part of their doctrines from oriental Manichaeism, part from primitive gnosticism. The latter were the followers of Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyons who, about 1170, sold his goods and went among the poor preaching the gospel. [Sidenote: Waldenses] Though quite distinct in origin both sects owed their success with the people to their attacks on the corrupt lives of the clergy, to their use of the vernacular New Testament, to their repudiation of part of the sacramental system, and to their own earnest and ascetic morality. The story of their savage suppression, at the instigation of Pope Innocent III, [Sidenote: 1209-29] in the Albigensian crusade, is one of the darkest blots on the pages of history. A few remnants of them survived in the mountains of Savoy and Piedmont, harried from time to time by blood-thirsty pontiffs. In obedience to a summons of Innocent VIII King Charles VIII of France massacred many of them. [Sidenote: 1437]

The spiritual ancestors of Luther, however, were not so much the French heretics as two Englishmen, Occam and Wyclif. [Sidenote: Occam, d. c. 1349] William of Occam, a Franciscan who taught at Oxford, was the most powerful scholastic critic of the existing church. Untouched by the classic air breathed by the humanists, he said all that could be said against the church from her own medieval standpoint. He taught determinism; he maintained that the final seat of authority was the Scripture; he showed that such fundamental dogmas as the existence of God, the Trinity, and the Incarnation, cannot be deduced by logic from the given premises; he {36} proposed a modification of the doctrine of transubstantiation in the interests of reason, approaching closely in his ideas to the "consubstantiation" of Luther. Defining the church as the congregation of the faithful, he undermined her governmental powers. This, in fact, is just what he wished to do, for he went ahead of almost all his contemporaries in proposing that the judicial powers of the clergy be transferred to the civil government. Not only, in his opinion, should the civil ruler be totally independent of the pope, but even such matters as the regulation of marriage should be left to the common law.

[Sidenote: Wyclif, 1324-84]

A far stronger impression on his age was made by John Wyclif, the most significant of the Reformers before Luther. He, too, was an Oxford professor, a schoolman, and a patriot, but he was animated by a deeper religious feeling than was Occam. In 1361 he was master of Balliol College, where he lectured for many years on divinity. At the same time he held various benefices in turn, the last, the pastorate of Lutterworth in Leicestershire, from 1374 till his death. He became a reformer somewhat late in life owing to study of the Bible and of the bad condition of the English church. [Sidenote: 1374] At the peace congress at Bruges as a commissioner to negotiate with papal ambassadors for the relief of crying abuses, he became disillusioned in his hope for help from that quarter. He then turned to the civil government, urging it to regain the usurped authority of the church. This plan, set forth in voluminous writings, in lectures at Oxford and in popular sermons in London, soon brought him before the tribunal [Sidenote: 1377] of William Courtenay, Bishop of London, and, had he not been protected by the powerful prince, John of Lancaster, it might have gone hard with him. Five bulls launched against him by Gregory XI from Rome only confirmed him in his course, for he {37} appealed from them to Parliament. Tried at Lambeth he was forbidden to preach or teach, and he therefore retired for the rest of his life to Lutterworth. [Sidenote: 1378] He continued his literary labors, resulting in a vast host of pamphlets.

Examining his writings we are struck by the fact that his program was far more religious and practical than rational and speculative. Save transubstantiation, he scrupled at none of the mysteries of Catholicism. It is also noticeable that social reform left him cold. When the laborers rose under Wat Tyler, [Sidenote: 1381] Wyclif sided against them, as he also proposed that confiscated church property be given rather to the upper classes than to the poor. The real principles of Wyclif's reforms were but two: to abolish the temporal power of the church, and to purge her of immoral ministers. It was for this reason that he set up the authority of Scripture against that of tradition; it was for this that he doubted the efficacy of sacraments administered by priests living in mortal sin; it was for this that he denied the necessity of auricular confession; it was for this that he would have placed the temporal power over the spiritual. The bulk of his writings, in both Latin and English, is fierce, measureless abuse of the clergy, particularly of prelates and of the pope. The head of Christendom is called Antichrist over and over again; the bishops, priests and friars are said to have their lips full of lies and their hands of blood; to lead women astray; to live in idleness, luxury, simony and deceit; and to devour the English church. Marriage of the clergy is recommended. Indulgences are called a cursed robbery.

To combat the enemies of true piety Wyclif relied on two agencies. The first was the Bible, which, with the assistance of friends, he Englished from the {38} Vulgate. None of the later Reformers was more bent upon giving the Scriptures to the laity, and none attributed to it a higher degree of inspiration. As a second measure Wyclif trained "poor priests" to be wandering evangelists spreading abroad the message of salvation among the populace. For a time they attained considerable success, notwithstanding the fact that the severe persecution to which they were subjected caused all of Wyclif's personal followers to recant. [Sidenote: 1401] The passage of the act De Haeretico Comburendo was not, however, in vain, for in the fifteenth century a number of common men were found with sufficient resolution to die for their faith. It is probable that, as Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London wrote in 1523, the Lollards, as they were called, were the first to welcome Lutheranism into Britain.

But if the seed produced but a moderate harvest in England it brought forth a hundred-fold in Bohemia. Wyclif's writings, carried by Czech students from Oxford to Prague, were eagerly studied by some of the attendants at that university, the greatest of whom was John Huss. [Sidenote: Huss, 1369-1415] Having taken his bachelor's degree there in 1393, he had given instruction since 1398 and became the head of the university (Rector) for the year 1402. Almost the whole content of his lectures, as of his writings, was borrowed from Wyclif, from whom he copied not only his main ideas but long passages verbatim and without specific acknowledgment. Professors and students of his own race supported him, but the Germans at the university took offence and a long struggle ensued, culminating in the secession of the Germans in a body in 1409 to found a new university at Leipsic. The quarrel, having started over a philosophic question,—Wyclif and Huss being realists and the Germans nominalists,—took a more serious turn when it came to a definition of the church {39} and of the respective spheres of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Defining the church as the body of the predestinate, and starting a campaign against indulgences, Huss soon fell under the ban of his superiors. After burning the bulls of John XXIII Huss withdrew from Prague. Summoned to the Council of Constance, he went thither, under safe-conduct from the Emperor Sigismund, and was immediately cast into a noisome dungeon. [Sidenote: 1411, 1412]

[Sidenote: 1414]

The council proceeded to consider the opinions of Wyclif, condemning 260 of his errors and ordering his bones to be dug up and burnt, as was done twelve years later. Every effort was then made to get Huss to recant a list of propositions drawn up by the council and attributed to him. Some of these charges were absurd, as that he was accused of calling himself the fourth person of the Trinity. Other opinions, like the denial of transubstantiation, he declared, and doubtless with truth, that he had never held. Much was made of his saying that he hoped his soul would be with the soul of Wyclif after death, and the emperor was alarmed by his argument that neither priest nor king living in mortal sin had a right to exercise his office. He was therefore condemned to the stake.

His death was perfect. His last letters are full of calm resolution, love to his friends, and forgiveness to his enemies. Haled to the cathedral where the council sat on July 6, 1415, he was given one last chance to recant and save his life. Refusing, he was stripped of his vestments, and a paper crown with three demons painted on it put on his head with the words, "We commit thy soul to the devil"; he was then led to the public square and burnt alive. Sigismund, threatened by the council, made no effort to redeem his safe-conduct, and in September the reverend fathers passed a decree that no safe-conduct to a heretic, and {40} no pledge prejudicial to the Catholic faith, could be considered binding. Among the large concourse of divines not one voice was raised against this treacherous murder.

Huss's most prominent follower, Jerome of Prague, after recantation, returned to his former position and was burnt at Constance on May 30, 1416. A bull of 1418 ordered the similar punishment of all heretics who maintained the positions of Wyclif, Huss, or Jerome of Prague.

As early as September a loud remonstrance against the treatment of their master was voiced by the Bohemian Diet. The more radical party, known as Taborites, rejected transubstantiation, worship of the saints, prayers for the dead, indulgences, auricular confession, and oaths. They allowed women to preach, demanded the use of the vernacular in divine service and the giving of the cup to the laity. A crusade was started against them, but they knew how to defend themselves. The Council of Basle [Sidenote: 1431-6] was driven to negotiate with them and ended by a compromise allowing the cup to the laity and some other reforms. Subsequent efforts to reduce them proved futile. Under King Podiebrad the Ultraquists maintained their rights.

Some Hussites, however, continued as a separate body, calling themselves Bohemian Brethren. First met with in 1457 they continue to the present day as Moravians. They were subject to constant persecution. In 1505 the Catholic official James Lilienstayn drew up an interesting list of their errors. It seems that their cardinal tenet was the supremacy of Scripture, without gloss, tradition, or interpretation by the Fathers of the church. They rejected the primacy of the pope, and all ceremonies for which authority could not be found in the Bible, and they denied the efficacy of masses for the dead and the validity of indulgences.

{41} With much reason Wyclif and Huss have been called "Reformers before the Reformation." Luther himself, not knowing the Englishman, recognized his deep indebtedness to the Bohemian. All of their program, and more, he carried through. His doctrine of justification by faith only, with its radical transformation of the sacramental system, cannot be found in these his predecessors, and this was a difference of vast importance.


Inevitably, the growth of national sentiment spoken of above reacted on the religious institutions of Europe. Indeed, it was here that the conflict of the international, ecclesiastical state, and of the secular governments became keenest. Both kings and people wished to control their own spiritual affairs as well as their temporalities.

[Sidenote: The ecclesia Anglicana]

England traveled farthest on the road towards a national church. For three centuries she had been asserting the rights of her government to direct spiritual as well as temporal matters. The Statute of Mortmain [Sidenote: 1279] forbade the alienation of land from the jurisdiction of the civil power by appropriating it to religious persons. The withdrawing of land from the obligation to pay taxes and feudal dues was thus checked. The encroachment of the civil power, both in England and France, was bitterly felt by the popes. Boniface VIII endeavored to stem the flood by the bull Clericis laicos [Sidenote: 1296] forbidding the taxation of clergy by any secular government, and the bull Unam Sanctam [Sidenote: 1302] asserting the universal monarchy of the Roman pontiff in the strongest possible terms. But these exorbitant claims were without effect. The Statute of Provisors [Sidenote: 1351 and 1390] forbade the appointment to English benefices by the pope, and the Statute of Praemunire [Sidenote: 1353 and 1393] took away the right of {42} English subjects to appeal from the courts of their own country to Rome. The success of Wyclif's movement was largely due to his patriotism. Though the signs of strife with the pope were fewer in the fifteenth century, there is no doubt that the national feeling persisted.

[Sidenote: The Gallican Church]

France manifested a spirit of liberty hardly less fierce than that of England. It was the French King Philip the Fair who humiliated Boniface VIII so severely that he died of chagrin. During almost the whole of the fourteenth century the residence of a pope subservient to France at Avignon prevented any difficulties, but no sooner had the Council of Constance restored the head of the unified church to Rome than the old conflict again burst forth. [Sidenote: 1438] The extreme claims of the Gallican church were asserted in the law known as the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, by which the pope was left hardly any right of appointment, of jurisdiction, or of raising revenue in France. The supremacy of a council over the pope was explicitly asserted, as was the right of the civil magistrate to order ecclesiastical affairs in his dominions. When the pontiffs refused to recognize this almost schismatical position taken by France, the Pragmatic Sanction was further fortified by a law sentencing to death any person who should bring into the country a bull repugnant to it. Strenuous efforts of the papacy were directed to secure the repeal of this document, and in 1461 Pius II induced Louis XI to revoke it in return for political concessions in Naples. This action, opposed by the University and Parlement of Paris, proved so unpopular that two years later the Gallican liberties were reasserted in their full extent.

Harmony was established between the interests of the curia and of the French government by the compromise known as the Concordat of Bologna. [Sidenote: 1516] The {43} concessions to the king were so heavy that it was difficult for Leo X to get his cardinals to consent to them. Almost the whole power of appointment, of jurisdiction, and of taxation was put into the royal hands, some stipulations being made against the conferring of benefices on immoral priests and against the frivolous imposition of ecclesiastical punishments. What the pope gained was the abandonment of the assertion made at Bourges of the supremacy of a general council. The Concordat was greeted by a storm of protest in France. The Sorbonne refused to recognize it and appealed at once to a general council. The king, however, had the refractory members arrested and decreed the repeal of the Pragmatic Sanction in 1518.

In Italy and Germany the growth of a national state [Sidenote: Italy] was retarded by the fact that one was the seat of the pope, the other of the emperor, each of them claiming a universal authority. Moreover, these two powers were continually at odds. The long investiture strife, culminating in the triumph of Gregory VII at Canossa [Sidenote: 1077] and ending in the Concordat of Worms, [Sidenote: 1122] could not permanently settle the relations of the two. Whereas Aquinas and the Canon Law maintained the superiority of the pope, there were not lacking asserters of the imperial preeminence. William of Occam's argument to prove that the emperor might depose an heretical pope was taken up by Marsiglio of Padua, whose Defender of the Peace [Sidenote: c. 1324] ranks among the ablest of political pamphlets. In order to reduce the power of the pope, whom he called "the great dragon and old serpent," he advanced the civil government to a complete supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs. He stated that the only authority in matters of faith was the Bible, with the necessary interpretation given it by a general council composed of both clergy and laymen; that the emperor had the right to convoke and {44} direct this council and to punish all priests, prelates and the supreme pontiff; that the Canon Law had no validity; that no temporal punishment should be visited on heresy save by the state, and no spiritual punishment be valid without the consent of the state.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18     Next Part
Home - Random Browse