24. NATIONALISM and
CONCILIARISM
 

 Clerical Council

[adapted from Walker, 7]


[24.1] Wyclif And Huss; [24.2] The Reforming Councils; [24.3] The Italian Renaissance And Its Popes;
[24.4] The New National Powers; [24.5] Renaissance and other Influences North of the Alps

[24.1] WYCLIF and HUSS

 

 

[24.1] WYCLIF and HUSS
 

 

 

The English opposition to the encroachments of the Avignon papacy has already been noted . Other forces were also working in the island. Of these that of Thomas Bradwardine (?-1349) was one of the most potent in the intellectual realm. Bradwardine, who was long an eminent theologian in Oxford, and died archbishop of Canterbury, was a leader in the revival of the study of Augustine, which marked the decline of Scholasticism, and was to grow in influence till it profoundly affected the Reformation. He taught predestination in most positive form; like Augustine, he conceived religion as primarily a personal relationship of God and the soul, and emphasized grace in contrast to merit. There were now, therefore, other intellectual traditions besides those of later nominalistic Scholasticism in the Oxford of Wyclif’s student days.

WYCLIFFE reads from his Bible to JOHN of GAUNT  JOHN of GAUNT

John Wyclif (?-1384) was born in Hipswell in Yorkshire. Few details of his early life are known. He entered Balliol College, Oxford, of which he became ultimately for a short time “master.” In Oxford he rose to great scholarly distinction, lecturing to large classes, and esteemed the ablest theologian of its faculty. Philosophically he was a realist, in contrast to the prevailing nominalism of his age. He was deeply influenced by Augustine, and through Augustine by Platonic conceptions. Wyclif gradually became known outside of Oxford. In 1374 he was presented, by royal appointment, to the rectory of Lutterworth, and the same year was one of the King’s commissioners—probably theological adviser—to attempt in Bruges with the representatives of Pope Gregory XI an adjustment of the dispute regarding “provisors”. In how far these appointments were due to the powerful son of King Edward III, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, is uncertain, though he probably regarded Wyclif as likely to be useful in his designs on church property; but Wyclif’s opinions, if entertained in 1374, cannot then have been widely known. There is no evidence that the Pope yet looked on him with distrust, and recent investigation has shown that his reformatory work did not begin in 1366, as formerly supposed.

By 1376, however, it was the wealth of the church and clerical interference, especially that of the Popes, in political life, that aroused his opposition. He lectured that year in Oxford On Civil Lordship. Wyclif’s view of ecclesiastical office and privilege was curiously feudal.

God is the great overlord. He gives all positions, civil and spiritual, as fiefs, to be held on condition of faithful service. They are lordships, not property. God gives the use but not the ownership. If the user abuses his trust he forfeits his tenure.

Hence a bad ecclesiastic loses all claim to office, and the temporal possessions of unworthy clergy may well be taken from them by the civil rulers, to whom God has given the lordship of temporal things, as He has that of things spiritual to the church.

This doctrine, advanced in all simplicity and sincerity, was undoubtedly pleasing to John of Gaunt and his hungry crew of nobles who hoped for enrichment from church spoliation. It was no less satisfactory to many commoners, who had long been critical of the wealth, pretensions, and too often lack of character of the clergy. It was not displeasing to the mendicant orders, who had always, in theory at least, advocated “apostolic poverty.”

Wyclif’s teaching aroused the opposition of the high clergy, the property-holding orders, and of the papacy. In 1377 he was summoned to answer before the bishop of London, William Courtenay.

THE TRIAL of JOHN WYCLIFFE  - defended by JOHN of GAUNT

The protection of John of Gaunt and other nobles rendered the proceeding abortive. The same year Pope Gregory XI issued five bulls ordering Wyclif’s arrest and examination.[1] Yet Wyclif enjoyed the protection of a strong party at court and much popular favor, so that further proceedings against him by the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London were frustrated in 1378.

Wyclif was now rapidly developing his reformatory activities in a flood of treatises in Latin and English. The Scriptures, he taught, are the only law of the church. The church itself is not, as the common man imagined, centred in the Pope and the cardinals. It is the whole company of the elect. Its only certain head is Christ, since the Pope may not be one of the elect. Wyclif did not reject the papacy. The church may well have an earthly leader, if such a one is like Peter, and strives for the simple conditions of early Christianity. Such a Pope would be presumably one of the elect. But a Pope who grasps worldly power and is eager for taxes is presumptively non-elect, and therefore antichrist. With his deeper knowledge of the Bible, Wyclif now attacked the mendicant orders, which had supported him in his assertion of apostolic poverty, regarding them as without Scriptural warrant and the main pillars of the existing papacy. He was now fighting current churchly conditions all along the line.

Wyclif now proceeded to more constructive efforts. Convinced that the Bible is the law of God, Wyclif determined to give it to the people in the English tongue. Between 1382 and 1384 the Scriptures were translated from the Vulgate. What share Wyclif had in the actual work is impossible to say. It has been usually thought that the New Testament was from his pen, and the Old from that of Nicholas of Hereford. At all events, the New Testament translation was vivid, readable, and forceful, and did a service of fundamental importance for the English language—to say nothing of English piety.

WYCLIFFE reads from his Bible  LOLLARD ENGLISH BIBLE

The whole was revised about 1388, possibly by Wyclif’s disciple, John Purvey. Its circulation was large. In spite of severe repression in the next century, at least one hundred and fifty manuscripts survive.

 

  The Lollards

 

To bring the Gospel to the people Wyclif began sending out his “poor priests.” In apostolic poverty, barefoot, clad in long robes, and with staff in the hand, they wandered two by two, as had the early Waldensian or Franciscan preachers. Unlike the latter, they were bound by no permanent vows. Their success was great.

But events soon lamed the Lollard movement, as the following of Wyclif was popularly called. Convinced that the elect are a true priesthood, and that all episcopal claims are unscriptural, Wyclif saw in the priestly power of exclusive human agency in the miracle of transubstantiation a main buttress of what he deemed erroneous priestly claim. He therefore attacked this doctrine in 1381. His own view of Christ’s presence seems to have been essentially that later known as consubstantiation. [According to this doctrine the elements of bread and wine are not changed into the Body and Blood of Christ: rather, after the Consecration Christ is mysteriously present “with” the unchanged elements]. It was not his positive assertions, but his attack, however, that aroused resentment, for to oppose transubstantiation was to touch one of the most popularly cherished beliefs of the later Middle Ages. That attack cost Wyclif many followers and roused the churchly authorities to renewed action. This tide of opposition was strengthened by events in 1381, for which Wyclif was in no way responsible. The unrest of the lower orders, which had been growing since the dislocation of the labor market by the “black death “of 1348-1350, culminated in 1381 in a great peasant revolt, which was with difficulty put down. This bloody episode strengthened the party of conservatism. In 1382 the archbishop of Canterbury held a synod in London by which twenty-four Wyclifite opinions were condemned. Wyclif was no longer able to lecture in Oxford. His “poor priests” were arrested. He was too strong in popular and courtly support, however, to be attacked personally, and he died still possessed of his pastorate in Lutterworth on the last day of 1384.

No small element in Wyclif’s power was that he was thought to have no scholastic equal in contemporary England. Men hesitated to cross intellectual swords with him. Equally conspicuous were his intense patriotism and his deep piety. He voiced the popular resentment of foreign papal taxation and greed, and the popular longing for a simpler, more Biblical faith. It was his misfortune that he left no follower of conspicuous ability to carry on his work in England. Yet throughout the reign of Richard II (1377-1399) the Lollard movement continued to grow. With the accession of the usurping house of Lancaster in the person of Henry IV (1399-1413), the King, anxious to placate the church, was persuaded to secure the passage in 1401 of the statute De hæretico comburendo,[2] under which a number of Lollards were burned. Henry IV spared Lollards in high lay station. Not so his son, Henry V (1413-1422). Under him their most conspicuous leader, Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, a man of the sternest religious principles, whom tradition and dramatic license transformed into the figure of Falstaff, was condemned, driven into rebellion, and executed in 1417. With his death the political significance of Lollardy in England was at an end, though adherents continued in secret till the Reformation. Wyclif’s chief influence was to be in Bohemia rather than in the land of his birth.

 

  Bohemia, John Huss

 

Bohemia had undergone a remarkable intellectual and political development in the fourteenth century. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV (1346-1378) was also King of Bohemia, and did much for that land. In 1344 he secured the establishment of Prague as an archbishopric, releasing Bohemia from ecclesiastical dependence on Mainz. Four years later he procured the foundation of a university in Prague. In no country of Europe was the church more largely a landholder, or the clergy more worldly than in Bohemia. Charles IV was not unfriendly to moral reform. During and following his reign a series of preachers of power stirred Bohemia, attacking the secularization of the church. Such were Conrad of Waldhausen (?-1369), Milicz of Kremsier (?-1374), Matthias of Janov (?-1394), and Thomas of Stitny (1331-1401). These all opposed clerical corruption, emphasized the Scriptures as the rule of life, and sought a more frequent participation in the Lord’s Supper. Milicz and Matthias taught that antichrist was at hand, and was manifest in an unworthy clergy. These men had little direct influence on Huss, but they stirred Bohemia to a readiness to accept his teachings. Bohemia was torn, furthermore, by intense rivalry between the Germanic and the Slavonic (Czech) elements of the population. The latter was marked by a strong desire for racial supremacy and Bohemian autonomy.

Curiously, also, Bohemia, hitherto so little associated with England, was brought into connection with that country by the marriage of the Bohemian princess, Anna, to King Richard II, in 1383. Bohemian students were attracted to Oxford, and thence brought Wyclif’s doctrines and writings into their native land, especially to the University of Prague. The great propagator of Bohemian Wyclifism was to be John Huss, in whom, also, all Czech national aspirations were to have an ardent advocate. It was this combination of religious and patriotic zeal that gave Huss his remarkable power of leadership.

John Huss was born, of peasant parentage, in Husinecz, whence he derived his name by abbreviation, about the year 1373. His studies were completed in the University of Prague, where he became Bachelor of Theology in 1394, and Master of Arts two years later. In 1401 he was ordained to the priesthood, still maintaining a teaching connection with the university, of which he was “rector” in 1402. Meanwhile Huss had become intimately acquainted with Wyclif’s philosophical treatises, with the “realism” of which he sympathized. Wyclif’s religious works, known by Huss certainly from 1402, won his approbation, and henceforth Huss was, theologically, a disciple of Wyclif. More conservative than his master, he did not deny transubstantiation; but like him he held the church to consist of the predestinate only, of whom the true head is not the Pope, but Christ, and of which the law is the New Testament, and its life that of Christ-like poverty. Though the publication of Huss’s commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard has led to a higher estimate of his scholarly gifts than formerly prevailed, it is certain that in his sermons and treatises Huss usually reproduced not only the thoughts but the language of Wyclif.

In 1402 Huss became preacher at the Bethlehem chapel, in Prague, and soon gained immense popular following through his fiery sermons in the Bohemian language. Though Wyclifite views were condemned by the majority of the university in 1403, Huss’s preaching had, at first, the support of the archbishop, Zbynek (1403-1411); but his criticisms of the clergy gradually turned this favor into opposition, which was increased as Huss’s essential agreement with Wyclif constantly became more evident. New causes of dissent speedily arose. In the schism Bohemia had held to the Roman Pope, Gregory XII (1406-1415). As a step toward the healing of the breach King Wenzel of Bohemia now favored a policy of neutrality between the rival Popes. Huss and the Bohemian element in the university supported Wenzel. Archbishop Zbynek, the German clergy, and the German portion of the university clung to Gregory XII. Wenzel therefore, in 1409, arbitrarily changed the constitution of the university, giving the foreign majority one vote in its decisions and the Bohemians three, thus completely reversing the previous proportion. The immediate result was the secession of the foreign elements and the foundation, in 1409, of the University of Leipzig. This Bohemian nationalist victory, of doubtful permanent worth or right, Huss fully shared. Its immediate consequences were that he became the first “rector” of the newly regulated university, and enjoyed a high degree of courtly favor. His views were now spreading widely in Bohemia.

 

  Huss at Constance

 

Meanwhile the luckless Council of Pisa had run its course (1409). Zbynek now supported its Pope, Alexander V (1409-1410), to whom he complained of the spread of Wyclifite opinions in Bohemia, and by whom he was commissioned to root them out. Huss protested, and was excommunicated by Zbynek in 1410. The result was great popular tumult in Prague, where Huss was more than ever .a national hero. King Wenzel supported him. In 1412 Alexander V’s successor, Pope John XXIII (1410-1415), promised indulgence to all who should take part in a crusade against King Ladislaus of Naples. Huss opposed, holding that the Pope had no right to use physical force, that money payments effected no true forgiveness, and, unless of the predestinate, the indulgence could be of no value to a man. The result was an uproar. The Pope’s bull was burned by the populace. Huss, however, lost many strong supporters in the university and elsewhere, and was once more excommunicated, while Prague was placed under papal interdict. Wenzel now persuaded Huss, late in 1412, to go into exile from Prague. To this period of retirement is due the composition of his chief work—essentially a reproduction of Wyclif—the De Ecclesia (On the Church). In 1413 a synod in Rome formally condemned Wyclif’s writings.

The great Council of Constance was approaching, and the confusion in Bohemia was certain to demand its consideration. Huss was asked to present himself before it, and promised a “safe-conduct,” afterward received, by the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund. Huss, though he felt his life in grave peril, determined to go, partly believing it his duty to bear witness to what he deemed the truth, and partly convinced that he could bring the council to his way of thinking.

 

EMPEROR SIGISMUND  HUSS BURNED at the COUNCIL of CONSTANCE

Shortly after his arrival in Constance he was imprisoned. Sigismund disregarded his promised safe-conduct. His Bohemian enemies laid bitter charges against him. On May 4, 1415, the council condemned Wyclif, and ordered his long-buried body burned. Huss could hope for no favorable hearing. Yet, in the end, the struggle resolved itself into a contest of principles. The council maintained that every Christian was bound to submit to its decisions. Only by so holding could it hope to end the papal schism which was the scandal of Christendom. It insisted on Huss’s complete submission. The Bohemian reformer was of heroic mould. He would play no tricks with his conscience. Some of the accusations he declared false charges. Other positions he could not modify unless convinced of their error. He would not submit his conscience to the overruling judgment of the council. On July 6, 1415, he was condemned and burned, meeting his death with the most steadfast courage.

 

  Bohemia in Revolt

 

While Huss was a prisoner in Constance his followers in Prague began administering the cup to the laity in the Lord’s Supper—an action which Huss approved and which soon became the badge of the Hussite movement. The news of Huss’s death aroused the utmost resentment in Bohemia, to which fuel was added when the Council of Constance forbade the use of the cup by laymen, and caused Huss’s disciple, Jerome of Prague, to be burned in 1416. Bohemia was in revolution. Two parties speedily developed there—an aristocratic, having its principal seat in Prague, and known as the Utraquists (communion in both bread and wine), and a radical, democratic, called from its fortress, the Taborites.

The Utraquists would forbid only those practices which they deemed prohibited by the “law of God,” i. e., the Bible. They demanded free preaching of the Gospel, the cup for the laity, apostolic poverty, and strict clerical life. The Taborites repudiated all practices for which express warrant could not be found in the “law of God.” Fierce quarrel existed between these factions, but both united to resist repeated crusades directed against Bohemia. Under the leadership of the blind Taborite general, John Zizka, all attempts to crush the Hussites were bloodily defeated. Church property was largely confiscated. Nor were the opponents of the Hussites more successful after Zizka’s death in 1424. Under Prokop the Great the Hussites carried the war beyond the borders of Bohemia. Some compromise seemed unavoidable. The Council of Basel , after long negotiation, therefore, met the wishes of the Utraquists part way in 1433, granting the use of the cup, and in a measure the other demands outlined above. The Taborites resisted and were almost swept away by the Utraquists, in 1434, at the battle of Lipan, in which Prokop was killed. The triumphant Utraquists now came to an agreement with the Council of Basel, in 1436, and on these terms were nominally given place in the Roman communion. Yet, in 1462 Pope Pius II (1458-1464) declared this agreement void. The Utraquists, nevertheless, held their own, and the Bohemian Parliament, in 1485 and 1512, declared their full equality with the Catholics. At the Reformation a considerable portion welcomed the newer ideas; others then returned to the Roman Church.

The real representatives of Wyclifite principles were the Taborites rather than the Utraquists. Out of the general Hussite movement, with elements drawn from Taborites, Utraquists, and Waldenses, rather than exclusively from the Taborites there grew, from about 1453, the Unitas Eratrum, which absorbed much that was most vital in the Hussite movement, and became the spiritual ancestor of the later Moravians Wyclif and Huss have often been styled forerunners of the Reformation. The designation is true if regard is had to their protest against the corruption of the church, their exaltation of the Bible, and their contribution to the sum total of agitation that ultimately resulted in reform. When their doctrines are examined, however, they appear to belong rather to the Middle Ages. Their conception of the Gospel was that of a “law.” Their place for faith was no greater than in the Roman communion. Their thought of the church was a onesided development of Augustinianism. Their conception of the relation of the clergy to property is that common to the Waldenses and the founders of the great mendicant orders. Their religious earnestness commands deep admiration, but in spite of Luther’s recognition of many points of agreement with Huss, the Reformation owed little to their efforts.

[24.2] THE REFORMING COUNCILS

 

 

[24.2] THE REFORMING COUNCILS;
 

 

 

The papal schism was the scandal of Christendom, but its termination was not easy. The logic of mediæval development was that no power exists on earth to which the papacy is answerable. Yet good men everywhere felt that the schism must be ended, and that the church must be reformed “in head and members”—that is, in the papacy and clergy. The reforms desired were moral and administrative. Doctrinal modifications were as yet unwished by Christendom as a whole. A Wyclif might proclaim them in England, but he was generally esteemed a heretic. Foremost among those who set themselves seriously to the task of healing the schism were the teachers of the age, especially those of the University of Paris. Marsilius of Padua had there proclaimed the supremacy of a general council in his Defensor Pacis of 1324. The necessities of the situation rather than his arguments were rapidly leading to the same conclusion. It was presented first with clearness by a doctor of canon law, then in Paris, Conrad of Gelnhausen (1320?- 1390), who advised King Charles V of France (1364-1380), in written treatises of 1379 and 1380, to unite with other princes in calling a council, if necessary, without the consent of the rival Popes. Conrad went no further than to hold that such a council was justified by the necessities of an anomalous situation. Conrad’s proposal was reinforced, in such fashion as to rob him of the popular credit of its origination, by the treatise of another German scholar at the University of Paris, Heinrich of Langenstein (1340?-1397), set forth in 1381.

 

  Growth of the Conciliar Idea

 

The thought of a general council as the best means of healing the schism, thus launched, made speedy converts, not only in the University of Paris, but in the great school of canon law in Bologna, and even among the cardinals. To call a council presented many difficulties, however, and the leaders at Paris, Peter of Ailli (Pierre d’Ailli) (1350-1420) and John Gerson (Jean Charlier de Gerson) (1363-1429), famed for their mastery of nominalistic theology, and the latter eminent among Christian mystics, were slow to adopt the conciliar plan. Efforts were vainly made for years to induce the rival Popes to resign. France withdrew from the Avignon Pope, without recognizing the Roman, from 1398 to 1403, and again in 1408; but its example found slight following elsewhere. By 1408 d’Ailli and Gerson had come to see in a council the only hope, and were supported by Nicholas of Clémanges (1367-1437), a former teacher of the Parisian university who had been papal secretary in Avignon from 1397 to 1405, to whom one great source of evil in the church seemed the general neglect of the Scriptures.

 

  Councils of Pisa and Constance

 

The cardinals of both Popes were now convinced of the necessity of a council. Meeting together in Leghorn, in 1408, they now issued a call in their own names for such an assembly in Pisa, to gather on March 25, 1409. There it met with an attendance not only of cardinals, bishops, the heads of the great orders, and leading abbots, but also of doctors of theology and canon law, and the representatives of lay sovereigns. Neither Pope was present or acknowledged its rightfulness. Both were declared deposed. This was a practical assertion that the council was superior to the papacy.

  POPE URBAN VI  ANTIPOPE  CLEMENT VII (Avignon)

Its action, however, was too hasty, for instead of ascertaining, as d’Ailli advised, whether the person of the proposed new Pope would be generally acceptable, the cardinals now elected Peter Philarges, archbishop of Milan, who took the name Alexander V (1409-1410). The council then dissolved, leaving the question of reform to a future council.

 ANTIPOPE ALEXANDER V (Pisan)  PISA

In some respects the situation was worse than before the Council of Pisa met. Rome, Naples, and considerable sections of Germany clung to Gregory XII. Spain, Portugal, and Scotland supported Benedict XIII. England, France, and some portions of Germany acknowledged Alexander V. There were three Popes where before there had been two. Yet, though mismanaged, the Council of Pisa was a mark of progress. It had shown that the church was one, and it increased the hope that a better council could end the schism. This assembly had been called by the cardinals. For such invitation history had no precedent. A summons by the Emperor, if possible with the consent of one or more of the Popes, would be consonant with the practice of the early church. To that end those supporting the council idea now labored.

The new Holy Roman Emperor-elect, Sigismund (1410- 1437), was convinced of the necessity of a council. He recognized as Pope John XXIII (1410-1415), one of the least worthy of occupants of that office, who had been chosen successor to Alexander V in the Pisan line. Sigismund used John’s difficulties with King Ladislaus of Naples, to secure from him joint action by which Emperor-elect and Pope called a council to meet in Constance on November 1, 1414. There the most brilliant and largely attended gathering of the Middle Ages assembled. As in Pisa, it included not only cardinals and bishops, but doctors of theology and representatives of monarchs, though the lay delegates were without votes. Sigismund was present in person, and also John XXIII.

 

  Constance; the Schism Healed

 

John XXIII hoped to secure the endorsement of the council. To this end he had brought with him many Italian bishops. To neutralize their votes the council organized by “nations,” the English, German, and French, to which the Italians were forced to join as a fourth. Each “nation” had one vote, and one was assigned also to the cardinals. Despairing of the council’s approval, John XXIII attempted to disrupt its session by flight, in March, 1415. Under Gerson’s vigorous leadership the council, however, declared on April 6, 1415, that as

“representing the Catholic Church militant [it] has its power immediately from Christ, and every one, whatever his position or rank, even if it be the papal dignity itself, is bound to obey it in all those things which pertain to the faith, to the healing of the schism, and to the general reformation of the Church of God.”[3]

On May 29 the council declared John XXIII (Pisan) deposed. On July 4 Gregory XII resigned. The council had rid the church of two Popes by its successful assertion of its supreme authority over all in the church. It is easy to see why its leaders insisted on a full submission from Huss, whose trials and execution were contemporary with these events.

 

 COUNCIL of CONSTANCE  ANTIPOPE BENEDICT XIII

Benedict XIII proved more difficult. Sigismund himself, therefore, journeyed to Spain. Benedict he could not persuade to resign, and that obstinate pontiff asserted himself till death, in 1422 or 1423, as the only legitimate Pope. What Sigismund was unable to effect with Benedict he accomplished with the Spanish kingdoms. They and Scotland repudiated Benedict. The Spaniards joined the council as a fifth “nation,” and, on July 26, 1417, Benedict, or Peter de Luna, as he was once more called, was formally deposed. The careful action of the council, in contrast to the haste in Pisa, had made it certain that no considerable section of Christendom would support the former Popes.

One main purpose of the council had been moral and administrative reform. Here the jealousies of the several interests prevented achievement of real importance. The cardinals desired no changes that would materially lessen their revenue. Italy, on the whole, profited by the existing situation. England had relative self-government already in ecclesiastical affairs, thanks to its Kings. France was at war with England, and indisposed to unite with that land. So it went, with the result that the council finally referred the question of reforms to the next Pope “in conjunction with this holy council or with the deputies of the several nations”—that is, each nation was left to make the best bargain it could. The council enumerated a list of subjects for reform discussion, which relate almost entirely to questions of appointment, taxation, or administration.[4] As a reformatory instrument the Council of Constance was a bitter disappointment. Its one great achievement was that it ended the schism.

In November, 1417, the cardinals, with six representatives from each nation, elected a Roman cardinal, Otto Colonna, as Pope. He took the name Martin V (1417-1431). Roman Christendom had once more a single head. In April, 1418, the council ended, the new Pope promising to call another in five years, in compliance with the decree of the council.[5]

The Council of Constance was a most interesting ecclesiastical experiment. It secured the transformation of the papacy from an absolute into a constitutional monarchy. The Pope was to remain the executive of the church, but was to be regulated by a legislative body, meeting at frequent intervals and representing all interests in Christendom.

 

  The Council of Basel

 

It seemed that this great constitutional change had really been accomplished. Martin V called the new council to meet in Pavia in 1423. The plague prevented any considerable attendance. The Pope would gladly have had no more of councils. The Hussite wars distressed Europe, however \, and such pressure was brought to bear on him that in January, 1431, Martin V summoned a council to meet in Basel, and appointed Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini his legate to conduct it. Less than two months later Martin V was dead and Eugene IV (1431-1447) was Pope. The council opened in July, 1431, but in December Eugene ordered it adjourned, to meet in Bologna in 1433. The council refused, and re-enacted the declaration of Constance that it was superior to the Pope. Thus, almost from the first, bad feeling existed between the Council of Basel and the papacy. Mindful that jealousies between “nations” had frustrated the reform plans in Constance, the council rejected such groupings, and instead organized four large committees, on reform, doctrine, public peace, and general questions. It began its work with great vigor and promise of success. It made an apparent reconciliation with the moderate Hussites in 1433. Roman unity seemed restored. The Pope found little support and, before the close of 1433, formally recognized the council. Its future seemed assured.


The Council of Basel now proceeded to those administrative and moral reforms which had failed of achievement at Constance. It ordered

the holding of a synod in each diocese annually, and in each archbishopric every two years, in which abuses should be examined and corrected.

It provided for a general council every ten years.

It reasserted the ancient rights of canonical election against papal appointments.

It limited appeals to Rome.

It fixed the cardinals at twenty-four in number, and ordered that no nation should be represented by more than a third of the college.

It cut off the annates and the other more oppressive papal taxes entirely.

All this was good, but the spirit in which it was done was increasingly a vindictive attitude toward Pope Eugene. The taxes by which the papacy had heretofore been maintained were largely abolished, but no honorable support of the papacy was provided in their stead. This failure not only increased the anger of the papacy but caused division in the council itself. At this point a great opportunity presented itself, of which Eugene IV made full use, and regarding which the council so put itself in the wrong as to ruin its prospects.

 

  Efforts to Reunite Christendom

 

The Eastern empire was now hard pressed in its final struggles with the conquering Turks. In the hope of gaining help from the West the Emperor, John VIII (1425-1448), with the patriarch of Constantinople, Joseph II (1416-1439) and Bessarion (1395-1472), the gifted archbishop of Nicæa, were ready to enter into negotiation for the union of the Greek and Latin Churches. Both Pope and council were disposed to use this approach for their several advantage. The majority of the council would have the Greeks come to Avignon. The Pope offered an Italian city, which the Greeks naturally preferred. The council divided on the issue in 1437, the minority seceding, including Cesarini. The Pope now announced the transference of the council to Ferrara to meet the Greeks. Thither the minority went, and there in March, 1438, the Eastern Emperor, with many Oriental prelates, arrived. The Pope had practically won. An event so full of promise as the reunion of Christendom robbed the still continuing Council of Basel of much of its interest.

 

  Failure of the Council of Basel

 

The Council of Ferrara, which was transferred to Florence in 1439, witnessed protracted discussion between Greeks and Latins, in which as a final result the primacy of the Pope was accepted in vague terms, which seemed to preserve the rights of the Eastern patriarchs, the Greeks retained their peculiarities of worship and priestly marriage, while the disputed filioque clause of the creed was acknowledged by the Greeks, though with the understanding that they would not add it to the ancient symbol. Mark, the vigorous archbishop of Ephesus, refused agreement, but the Emperor and most of his ecclesiastical following approved, and the reunion of the two churches was joyfully proclaimed in July, 1439. An event so happy greatly increased the prestige of Pope Eugene IV.

 

 EMPEROR JOHN VIII, PALEOLOGUS (as one of the Magi)  THE SIEGE and FALL of CONSTANTNOPLE, 1453

The hollowness of the achievement was not at once apparent. Reunions with the Armenians, and with certain groups of Monophysites and Nestorians, were also announced in Florence or speedily after the council. The reconciliation of the Armenians in 1439 was the occasion of a famous papal bull defining the mediæval doctrine of the sacraments. Yet from the first the Oriental monks were opposed. On the Greeks’ return Mark of Ephesus became the hero of the hour. Bessarion, whom Eugene had made a cardinal, had to fly to Italy, where he was to have a distinguished career of literary and ecclesiastical service. No efficient military help came to the Greeks from the West, and the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 permanently frustrated those political hopes which had inspired the union efforts of 1439.

 

Meanwhile the majority in Basel proceeded to more radical action under the leadership of its only remaining cardinal, the able and excellent but dictatorial Louis d’Allemand (1380?- 1450). In 1439 it voted Eugene IV deposed, and chose as his successor a half-monastic layman, Duke Amadeus of Savoy, who took the name Felix V. By this time, however, the Council of Basel was fast losing its remaining influence. Eugene IV had won, and was succeeded in Rome by Nicholas V (1447- 1455). Felix V laid down his impossible papacy in 1449. The council put the best face on its defeat by choosing Nicholas V his successor, and ended its troubled career. Though the council idea still lived and was to be powerful in the Reformation age, the fiasco in Basel had really ruined the hope of transforming the papacy into a constitutional monarchy or of effecting needed reform through conciliar action.

 

  National Bargains

 

Yet if the council thus failed, individual nations profited by its quarrel with the papacy, notably France, where the monarchy was coming into new power through effective resistance to England under impulses initiated by Joan of Arc (1410? 1431). In 1438 King Charles VII (1422-1461), with the clergy and nobles, adopted the “pragmatic sanction” of Bourges, by which the greater part of the reforms attempted in Basel were enacted into law for France. France therefore secured relief from the most pressing papal taxes and interferences, and this freedom had not a little to do with the attitude of the land previous to the Reformation age.

Not so fortunate was Germany. There the nobles in the Reichstag in Mainz of 1439 adopted an “acceptation” much resembling the French “pragmatic sanction”; but the divisions and weakness of the country gave room to papal intrigue, so that its provisions were practically limited by the Concordat of Aschaffenburg of 1448. Certain privileges were granted to particular princes; but Germany, as a whole, remained under the weight of the papal taxation.

Throughout the period of the councils a new force was manifesting itself—that of nationality. The Council of Constance had voted by nations. It had authorized the nations to make terms with the papacy. Bohemia had dealt with its religious situation as a nation. France had asserted its national rights. Germany had tried to do so. With the failure of the councils to effect administrative reform, men began asking whether what they had sought might not be secured by national action. It was a feeling that was to increase till the Reformation, and greatly to influence the course of that struggle.


[24.3] THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE and its POPES

 

 

[24.3] THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE and its POPES
 

 

 

The most remarkable intellectual event contemporary with the story of the papacy in Avignon and the schism was the beginning of the Renaissance. That great alteration in mental outlook has been treated too often as without mediæval antecedents. It is coming to be recognized that the Middle Ages were not uncharacterized by individual initiative, that the control of the church was never such as to make other-worldliness wholly dominant, and that the literary monuments of Latin antiquity, at least, were widely known. The revival of Roman law had begun contemporaneously with the Crusades, and had attracted increasing attention to that normative feature of ancient thought, first in Italy and later in France and Germany.

Yet when all these elements are recognized, it remains true that the Renaissance involved an essentially new outlook on the world, in which emphasis was laid on

its present life, beauty, and satisfaction

—on man as man— rather than on a future heaven and hell,

and on man as an object of salvation or of loss.

The means by which this transformation was wrought was a reappreciation of the spirit of classical antiquity, especially as manifested in its great literary monuments.

 

    Scholars - Rise of the Renaissance

 

The Renaissance first found place in Italy. Its rise was favored by many influences, among which three, at least, were conspicuous. The two great dominating powers of the Middle Ages, the papacy and empire, were suddenly lamed, as far as Italy was concerned, by the collapse of the imperial power in the latter part of the thirteenth century and the removal of the papacy to Avignon early in the fourteenth. The commerce of Italy, fostered by the Crusades and continuing after their close, had led to a higher cultural development in the peninsula than elsewhere in Europe. The intense division of Italian politics gave to the cities a quality of life not elsewhere existent, rendering local recognition of talent easy, and tending to emphasize individualism.

The earliest Italian in whom the Renaissance spirit was a dominating force was Petrarch (1304-1374).

 

Brought up in Avignon, and in clerical orders, his real interest was in the revival of Latin literature, especially the writings of Cicero. A diligent student, and above all a man of letters, he was the friend of princes, and a figure of international influence. Scholasticism he despised. Aristotle he condemned. Though really religious in feeling, however lacking in practice, his point of view was very unlike the mediaeval. He had, moreover, that lack of profound seriousness, that egotistical vanity and that worship of form rather than of substance which were to be characteristic of much of Italian humanism; but he aroused men to a new interest in antiquity and a new world-outlook.

 

 PETRARCH  BOCACCIO

Petrarch’s friend and disciple was Boccaccio (1313-1375), now chiefly remembered for his Decameron, but greatly influential in his own age in promoting the study of Greek, in unlocking the mysteries of classical mythology, and in furthering humanistic studies in Florence and Naples.

Greek may never have died out in southern Italy, but its humanistic cultivation began when, in 1360, Boccaccio brought Leontius Pilatus to Florence. About 1397 Greek was taught, under the auspices of the government of the same city, by Manuel Chrysoloras (1355?-1415), who translated Homer and Plato. The Council of Ferrara and Florence (1438-1439) greatly fostered this desire to master the treasures of the East by bringing Greeks and Latins together. Bessarion thenceforth aided the work. To the influence of Gemistos Plethon (1355-1450), another Greek attendant on this reunion council, was due the founding of the Platonic Academy, about 1442, by Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1464), the real ruler of Florence. There the study of Plato was pursued ardently, later, under the leadership of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). Ficino, who became a priest, combined an earnest Christianity with his platonic enthusiasm. He believed a return to the Christian sources the chief need of the time—a feeling not shared by the majority of Italian humanists, but to be profoundly influential beyond the Alps, as propagated by his admirers, Jacques Le Favre in France and John Colet in England. Colet, in turn, transmitted it to Erasmus. Almost as influential was Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), whose zeal for Hebrew and knowledge of the Kabala were to influence Reuchlin.

 

 

 COSIMO DI MEDICI  MARSILIO FICINO  LORENZO VALLA

Historical criticism was developed by Lorenzo Valla (1405- 1457), who exposed the falsity of the Donation of Constantine about 1440, and denied the composition of the Apostles’ Creed by the Apostles. He criticised the rightfulness of monastic vows, and laid the foundation of New Testament studies, in 1444, by a comparison of the Vulgate with the Greek.

An examination of the dates just given will show that the Renaissance movement in Italy was in full development before the fall of Constantinople, in 1453. By the middle of the fifteenth century it was dominating the educated class in Italy. In general, its attitude toward the church was one of indifference. It revived widely a pagan point of view, and sought to reproduce the life of antiquity in its vices as well as its virtues. Few periods in the world’s history have been so boastfully corrupt as that of the Italian Renaissance.

   The Renaissance movement was given wings by a great invention, about 1440-1450—that of printing from movable type.

 

 GUTENBERG BIBLE  PRINTING PRESS

Whether Mainz or Strassburg, in Germany, or Haarlem in Holland was its birthplace is still a matter of learned dispute. The art spread with rapidity, and not only rendered the possession of the many the books which had heretofore been the property of the few, but, from the multiplication of copies, made the results of learning practically indestructible. More than thirty thousand publications were issued before 1500.

 

    Artists

 

No mention of the Renaissance could fail to note its services to art. Beginnings of better things had been made, indeed, in Italy before its influence was felt.

 

 

 CIMABUE  GIOTTO  MICHELANGELO

Cimabue (1240?-1302?), Giotto (1267?-1337), and Fra Angelico (1387-1455) belong to the pre-Renaissance epoch, remarkable as is their work. With Masaccio (1402-1429), Filippo Lippi (1406-1469), Botticelli (1444-1510), and Ghirlandajo (1449-1494), painting advanced through truer knowledge of perspective, greater anatomical accuracy, and more effective grouping to the full noonday of a Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), a Raphael Sanzio (1483- 1520), a Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), and their mighty associates.

Sculpture received a similar impulse in the work of Ghiberti (1378-1455), and Donatello (1386-1466); while architecture was transformed by Brunelleschi (1379-1446), Bramante (1444?-1514), and Michelangelo. Most of the work of these great artists, however classical in motive, was wrought in the service of the church.

 

    The Popes - Patrons of the Renaissance

 

The most conspicuous early seat of the Italian Renaissance was Florence, though it was influential in many cities. With the papacy of Nicholas V (1447-1455), it found, for the first time, a mighty patron in the head of the church, and Rome became its chief home. To him the foundation of the Vatican library was due. The next Pope, Alfonso Borgia, a Spaniard, who took the name Calixtus III (1455-1458), was no friend of humanism, and was earnestly though fruitlessly, intent on a crusade that should drive the Turks from the recently conquered Constantinople. In Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who ruled as Pius II (1458-1464), the papacy had a remarkable occupant. In early life a supporter of the conciliar movement, and active at the Council of Basel, he had won distinction as a humanistic writer of decidedly unclerical tone. Reconciled to Eugene IV, he became a cardinal, and ultimately Pope, now opposing all the conciliar views that he had once supported, and forbidding future appeals to a general council. His efforts to stir Europe against the Turks were unavailing. Yet, in spite of his changing and self-seeking attitude, he had the most worthy conception of the duties of the papal office of any Pope of the latter half of the fifteenth century. The succeeding Popes, till after the dawn of the Reformation, were patrons of letters and artists, great builders who adorned Rome and felt the full impulse of the Renaissance.

Meanwhile a change had come over the ideals and ambitions of the papacy. The stay in Avignon and the schism had rendered effective control in the States of the Church impossible. They were distracted by the contests of the people of Rome, and especially by the rivalries of the noble houses, notably those of the Colonna and the Orsini. Italy had gradually consolidated into five large states, Venice, Milan, Florence, Naples, or the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, as it was called, and the States of the Church, though many smaller territories remained outside these larger groups, and were objects of contest. The politics of Italy became a kaleidoscopic effort to extend the possessions of the larger powers, and to match one against the other, in which intrigue, murder, and duplicity were employed to an almost unexampled extent.

Into this game of Italian politics the papacy now fully plunged. Its desire was to consolidate and increase the States of the Church and maintain political independence. Its ambitions and its aims were like those of other Italian rulers. The papacy became secularized as at no other period in its history, save possibly the tenth century. Martin V (1417-1431), the Pope chosen at the Council of Constance, himself a Colonna, succeeded, in a measure, in restoring papal authority in Rome. His successor, Eugene IV (1431-1447), was not so fortunate, and spent a large part of his pontificate in Florence. Nicholas V (1447-1455), the humanist, effectively controlled Rome and strengthened the papal authority—a policy which was continued by Calixtus III (1455-1458), Pius II (1458-1464), and Paul II (1464-1471). With Sixtus IV (1471-1484) political ambition took almost complete control of the papacy. He warred with Florence, he sought to enrich and advance his relatives, he aimed to extend the States of the Church. A patron of learning, he built extensively. The Sistine Chapel preserves his name. All these endeavors required money, and he increased papal taxation and the financial abuses of the curia. He made into an article of faith the wide-spread belief that indulgences are available for souls in purgatory by a bull of 1476.[6]

 

    The Popes as Italian Princes

 

The next Pope, Innocent VIII (1484-1492), was of weak and pliant nature, notorious through the open manner in which he sought to advance the fortunes of his children, his extravagant expenditures, and his sale of offices. He even received a pension from Sultan Bayazid II for keeping the latter’s brother and rival, Jem, a prisoner. Innocent’s successor, Alexander VI (1492-1503), a nephew of Calixtus III, and a Spaniard (Rodrigo Borgia), obtained the papacy not without bribery, and was a man of unbridled immorality, though of considerable political insight. His great effort was to advance his bastard children, especially his daughter, Lucrezia Borgia, by advantageous marriages, and his unscrupulous and murderous son, Cesare Borgia, by aiding him to carve a principality out of the States of the Church. His reign saw the beginning of the collapse of Italian independence through the invasion of Charles VIII of France (1483-1498), in 1494, in an attempt to assert the French King’s claim to the throne of Naples. In 1499 Louis XII of France (1498-1515), conquered Milan, and in 1503 Ferdinand the Catholic, of Spain (1479-1516), secured Naples. Italy became the wretched battleground of French and Spanish rivalries.

Under such circumstances to increase the temporal power of the papacy was not easy; but the task was achieved by the most warlike of the Popes, Julius II (1503-1513), nephew of Sixtus IV. The Orsini and Colonna were reconciled, Cesare Borgia driven from Italy, the cities of Romagna freed from their Venetian conquerors, the various nations in Europe grouped in leagues, with the result that the French were, for the time, expelled from Italy. In this contest Louis XII secured a parody of a general council in Pisa, which Pope Julius answered by calling the Fifth Lateran Council in Rome. It met from 1512 to 1517, and though reforms were ordered it accomplished nothing of importance. Julius II was undoubtedly a ruler of great talents, who led his soldiers personally, and was animated by a desire to strengthen the temporal power of the papacy, rather than to enrich his relatives. As a patron of art and a builder he was among the most eminent of the Popes.

Julius II was succeeded by Giovanni de’ Medici, who took the name Leo X (1513-1521). With all the artistic and literary tastes of the great Florentine family of which he was a member, he combined a love of display and extravagant expenditure.

Far less warlike than Julius II, and free from the personal vices of some of his predecessors, he nevertheless made his prune interests the enlargement of the States of the Church, and the balancing of the various factions of Italy, domestic and foreign, for the political advantage of the papacy. He strove to advance his relatives. In 1516 he secured by a “concordat” with Francis I of France (1515-1547) the abolition of the “Pragmatic Sanction” (ante, p. 313) on terms which left to the King the nomination of all high French ecclesiastics and the right to tax the clergy, while the annates and other similar taxes went to the Pope. The next year a revolt began in Germany, the gravity of which Leo never really comprehended, which was to tear half of Europe from the Roman obedience.

 

    St. Catherine of Siena

 

Such Popes represented the Italian Renaissance, but they in no sense embodied the real spirit of a church which was to millions the source of comfort in this life and of hope for that to come. A revolution was inevitable. Nor did such a papacy represent the real religious life of Italy. The Renaissance affected only the educated and the upper classes. The people responded to appeals of preachers and the example of those they believed to be saints, though unfortunately seldom with lasting results save on individual lives.

 CATHERINA of SIENA and GREGORY IX  CATHERINA of SIENA and URBAN VI

Such a religious leader, when the Renaissance was young, was St. Catherine (1347-1380), the daughter of a dyer of Siena. A mystic, the recipient as she believed of divinely sent visions, she was a practical leader of affairs, a healer of family quarrels, a main cause in persuading the papacy to return from Avignon to Rome, a fearless denouncer of clerical evils, and an ambassador to whom Popes and cities listened with respect. Her correspondence involved counsel of almost as much political as religious value to many of the leaders of the age in church and state alike.

 

    Savonarola

 

Even more famous in the later period of the Renaissance was Girolamo Savonarola of Florence (1452-1498). A native of Ferrara, intended for the medical profession, a refusal of marriage turned his thoughts to a monastic life. In 1474 he became a Dominican in Bologna. Eight years later his work in Florence began. At first little successful as a preacher, he came to speak with immense popular effectiveness, that was heightened by the general conviction which he himself shared that he was a divinely inspired prophet. He was in no sense a Protestant.

SAVANAROLA BURNED in FLORENCE

His religious outlook was thoroughly mediaeval. The French invasion of 1494 led to a popular revolution against the Medici, and Savonarola now became the real ruler of Florence, which he sought to transform into a penitential city. A semi-monastic life was adopted by many of the inhabitants. At the carnival seasons of 1496 and 1497, masks, indecent books and pictures were burned. For the time being the life of Florence was radically changed. But Savonarola aroused enemies. The adherents of the deposed Medici hated him, and above all, Pope Alexander VI, whose evil character and misrule Savonarola denounced. The Pope excommunicated him and demanded his punishment. Friends sustained him for a while, but the fickle populace turned against him. In April, 1498, he was arrested, cruelly tortured, and on May 23 hanged and his body burned by the city government. Not the least of Alexander VI’s crimes was his persecution of this preacher of righteousness, though Savonarola’s death was due quite as much to Florentine reaction against him as to the hostility of the Pope.

[24.4] THE NEW NATIONAL POWERS

 

 

 [24.4] THE NEW NATIONAL POWERS
 

 

 

The half-century from 1450 to 1500 saw a remarkable growth in royal authority and national consciousness in the western kingdoms of Europe. France, which had seemed well-nigh ruined by the long wars with England, from 1339 to 1453, came out of them with the monarchy greatly strengthened, since these struggles had been immensely destructive to the feudal nobility. Louis XI (1461-1483), by intrigue, arms, and tyranny, with the aid of commoners, broke the power of the feudal nobility and secured for the crown an authority it had not hitherto possessed. His son, Charles VIII (1483-1498), was able to lead the now centralized state into a career of foreign conquest in Italy that was to open a new epoch in European politics and give rise to rivalries that were to determine the political background of the whole Reformation age. What these Kings had attempted in centralization at home, and in conquest abroad, was carried yet further by Louis XII (1498- 1515), and by the brilliant and ambitious Francis I (1515-1547). France was now a strong, centralized monarchy. Its church was largely under royal control, and to a considerable degree relieved of the worst papal abuses, thanks to the “Pragmatic Sanction” of 1438 ; and the custom which grew up with the strengthening of the monarchy in the fifteenth century that appeals could be taken from church courts to those of the King. The control of the monarchy over clerical appointments, clerical taxation, and clerical courts was increased by the “concordat” of 1516 (ante, p. 319), which gave to the Pope in turn desired taxes. By the dawn of the Reformation the church of France was, in many respects, a state church.

 

  England and a National Church

 

In England the Wars of the Roses, between Yorkists and Lancastrians, from 1455 to 1485, resulted in the destruction of the power of the high nobility to the advantage of the crown. Parliament survived. The King must rule in legal form; but the power of a Henry VII (1485-1509), the first of the house of Tudor, was greater than that of any English sovereign had been for a century, and was exercised with almost unlimited absolutism, though in parliamentary form, by his even abler son, Henry VIII (1509-1547). The English sovereigns had attained, even before the Reformation, a large degree of authority in ecclesiastical affairs, and, as in France, the church in England was largely national at the close of the fifteenth century.

 

  Nationalism in Spain

 

This nationalizing process was nowhere in so full development as in Spain, where it was taking on the character of a religious awakening, which was to make that land a pattern for the conception of reform, often, though not very correctly, called the Counter-Reformation—a conception that was to oppose the Teutonic ideal of revolution, and was ultimately able to hold the allegiance of half of Europe to a purified Roman Church. The rise of Spain was the political wonder of the latter part of the fifteenth century. Aside from the main currents of medieval European life, the history of the peninsula had been a long crusade to throw off the Mohammedan yoke, which had been imposed in 711. Nowhere in Europe were patriotism and Catholic orthodoxy so interwoven. The struggle had resulted, by the thirteenth century, in the restriction of the Moors to the kingdom of Granada, and in the formation of four Christian kingdoms, Castile, Aragon, Portugal, and Navarre. These states were weak, and the royal power limited by the feudal nobility. A radical change came when the prospective rulership of the larger part of the peninsula was united,

in 1469, by the marriage of Ferdinand, heir of Aragon (King, 1479-1516) with Isabella, heiress of Castile (Queen, 1474-1504). Under their joint sovereignty Spain took a new place in European life. The disorderly nobles were repressed. The royal authority was asserted. In 1492 Granada was conquered and Mohammedanism overcome. The same year witnessed the discovery of a new world by Columbus, under Spanish auspices, which speedily became a source of very considerable revenue to the royal treasury. The French invasions of Italy led to Spanish interference, which lodged Spain firmly in Naples by 1503, and soon rendered Spanish influence predominant throughout Italy. On Ferdinand’s death, in 1516, these great possessions passed to his grandson, already heir of Austria and the Netherlands, and to wear the imperial title as Charles V. Spain had suddenly become the first power in Europe.

 

  The Spanish Church

 

The joint sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, devoted themselves no less energetically to the control of the church than to the extension of their temporal authority. The “Spanish awakening” was in no sense unique. It did not differ in principle from much that had been attempted elsewhere in the later Middle Ages. No nation with a history like that of Spain could desire doctrinal change. It was intensely devoted to the system of which the papacy was the spiritual head. But it believed that papal aggressions in administrative affairs should be limited by royal authority, and that an educated, moral, and zealous clergy could, by the same power, be encouraged and maintained. It was by reason of the success with which these results were accomplished that the Spanish awakening became the model of the “Counter-Reformation.”

No more conscientious or religiously minded sovereign ever ruled than Isabella, and if Ferdinand was primarily a politician, he was quick to see the political advantages of a policy that would place the Spanish church in subjection to the crown. In 1482 the joint sovereigns forced Pope Sixtus IV to agree to a concordat placing nomination to the higher ecclesiastical posts in the royal control. The policy thus begun was speedily extended by the energetic sovereigns. Papal bulls now required royal approval for promulgation. Church courts were supervised. The clergy were taxed for the benefit of the state.

Ferdinand and Isabella now proceeded to fill the important stations in the Spanish church not only with men devoted to the royal interests, but of strenuous piety and disciplinary zeal. In this effort they had the aid of many men of ability, but chief among them stood Gonzalez (or Francisco) Ximenes de Cisneros (1436-1517), in whom the Spanish awakening had its typical representative.

Born of a family of the lower nobility, Ximenes went to Rome after studies in Alcalá and Salamanca. On his return, in 1465, after six years in the seat of the papacy, he showed great ability in church business and much talent as a preacher. About 1480 he was appointed vicar-general of the diocese by Mendoza, then bishop of Siguenza. In the full tide of success Ximenes now renounced all his honors and became a Franciscan monk of the strictest observance. Not content with these austerities, he adopted the hermit’s life. In 1492, however, on recommendation of Mendoza, now become archbishop of Toledo, Queen Isabella appointed Ximenes her confessor, and consulted him in affairs of state as well as questions of con-science. Queen and confessor worked in harmony, and under their vigorous action a thoroughgoing reform of discipline was undertaken in the disorderly monasteries of the land. Ximenes’s influence was but increased when, in 1495, on Isabella’s insistence, and against his own protests, he became Mendoza’s successor in the archbishopric of Toledo, not only the highest ecclesiastical post in Spain, but one with which the grand- chancellorship of Castile was united. Here he maintained his ascetic life. Supported by the Queen, he turned all the powers of his high office to rid Spain of unworthy clergy and monks. No opposition could thwart him, and more than a thousand monks are said to have left the peninsula rather than submit to his discipline. The moral character and zeal of the Spanish clergy were greatly improved.

Ximenes, though no great scholar, saw the need of an educated clergy. He had encountered Renaissance influences in Rome, and would turn them wholly to the service of the church. In 1498 he founded the University of Alcalá de Henares, to which he devoted a large part of his episcopal revenues, and where he gathered learned men, among them four professors of Greek and Hebrew. A quarter of a century later Alcalá counted seven thousand students. Though opposed to general reading of the Bible by the laity, Ximenes believed that the Scriptures should be the principal study of the clergy, on which he directed the labor from 1502 to 1517. The Old Testament was presented in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, with the Targum on the Pentateuch; the New Testament in Greek and Latin. The New Testament was in print by 1515. To Ximenes belongs the honor, therefore, of first printing the New Testament in Greek, though as papal permission for publication could not be obtained till 1520, the Greek Testament, issued in 1516, by Erasmus, was earlier on the market.

The less attractive side of Ximenes’s character is to be seen in his willingness to use force for the conversion of the Mohammedans. In affairs of state his firmness and wisdom were of vast service to Isabella, Ferdinand, and Charles V, till his death in 1517.

The intellectual impulse thus inaugurated by Ximenes led ultimately to a revival of the theology of Aquinas, begun by Francisco de Vittoria (?-1546) in Salamanca, and continued by Vittoria’s disciples, the great Roman theologians of the early struggle with Protestantism, Domingo de Soto (1494- 1560) and Melchior Cano (1525-1560).

Characteristic of the Spanish awakening was the reorganization of the inquisition. The Spanish temper viewed orthodoxy and patriotism as essentially one, and regarded the maintenance of their religions by Jews and Mohammedans, or relapse by such of those dissenters as had embraced Christianity, as perils to church and state alike. Accordingly, in 1480, Ferdinand and Isabella established the inquisition, entirely under royal authority, and with inquisitors appointed by the sovereign. It was this national character that was the distinguishing feature of the Spanish inquisition, and led to protests by Pope Sixtus IV, to which the sovereigns turned deaf ears. Supported by the crown, it speedily became a fearful instrument, under the leadership of Tomas Torquemada (1420-1498). Undoubtedly its value in breaking the independence of the nobles and replenishing the treasury by confiscation commended it to the sovereigns, but its chief claim to popular favor was its repression of heresy and dissent.

Spain had, therefore, at the close of the fifteenth century, the most independent national church of any nation in Europe, in which a moral and intellectual renewal—not destined to be permanent—was in more vigorous progress than elsewhere; yet a church intensely mediæval in doctrine and practice, and fiercely intolerant of all heresy.

 

  The Condition of Germany

 

In Germany the situation was very different. The empire lacked all real unity. The imperial crown, in theory elective, was worn by members of the Austrian house of Habsburg from 1438 to 1740, but the Emperors had power as possessors of their hereditary lands, rather than as holders of imperial authority. Under Frederick III (1440-1493) wars between the princes and cities and the disorder of the lower nobility, who lived too often by what was really highway robbery, kept the land in a turmoil which the Emperor was powerless to suppress. Matters were somewhat better under Maximilian I (1493- 1519), and an attempt was made to give stronger central authority to the empire by frequent meetings of the old feudal Reichstag, the establishment of an imperial supreme court (1495), and the division of the empire into districts for the better preservation of public peace (1512). Efforts were made to form an imperial army and collect imperial taxes. These reforms had little vitality. The decisions of the court could not be enforced nor the taxes collected. The Reichstag was, indeed, to play a great role in the Reformation days, but it was a clumsy parliament, meeting in three houses, one of the imperial electors, the second of lay and spiritual princes, and the third of delegates from the free imperial cities. The lower nobles and the common people had no share in it.

The imperial cities were an important element in German life, owning no superior but the feeble rule of the Emperor. They were industrious and wealthy, but they were far from democratic in their government, and were thoroughly self- seeking as far as the larger interests of Germany were concerned. Their commercial spirit led them to resist the exactions of clergy and princes alike.

In no country of Europe was the peasantry in a state of greater unrest, especially in southwestern Germany, where insurrections occurred in 1476, 1492, 1512, and 1513. The peasants were serfs—a condition that had passed away in England, and largely in France. Their state had been made rapidly worse by the substitution of the Roman law—a law made largely for slaves—for the old legal customs, and by the close of the fifteenth century they were profoundly disaffected.

Yet if German national life as a whole was thus disordered and dissatisfied, the larger territories of Germany were growing stronger, and developing a kind of semi-independent local national life in themselves. This was notably true of Austria, electoral and ducal Saxony, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Hesse. The power of their rulers was increasing, and they were beginning to exercise a local authority in churchly affairs, controlling the nomination of bishops and abbots, taxing the clergy, and limiting to some extent ecclesiastical jurisdiction. This local territorial churchmanship had not gone far, but that it existed was of the utmost importance in giving a framework which the Reformation was rapidly to develop when Roman obedience was rejected.

 

  Rivalries of France and The Habsburgs

 

The years preceding the Reformation witnessed two marriages by the Habsburg rulers of Austria of the utmost importance for the political background of the Reformation age. In 1477 the death of Charles the Bold, the ambitious duke of Burgundy, left the heirship of his Burgundian territories and the Netherlands to his daughter, Mary. Her marriage that year, with Maximilian I, to the dissatisfaction of Louis XI of France, who seized upper Burgundy, sowed the seeds of quarrel between the Kings of France and the Habsburg line which were largely to determine the politics of Europe till 1756. Philip, the son of Maximilian and Mary, in turn married Juana, heiress of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. So it came about that Philip and Juana’s son, Charles, became possessor of Austria, the Netherlands, and the wide-extended Spanish territories in Europe and the New World—a larger sovereignty than had been held by a single ruler since Charlemagne—to which the imperial title was added in 1519. Charles V became heir also to the rivalry between the Habsburg line to which he belonged and the Kings of France. That rivalry and the struggle for religious reform were to interplay throughout the Reformation age, constantly modifying each other.

[24.5] RENAISSANCE and OTHER INFLUENCES NORTH of the ALPS

 

 

[24.5] RENAISSANCE and OTHER INFLUENCES NORTH of the ALPS
 

 

 

Though the fifteenth century was a notable period of university foundation in Germany—no less than twelve coming into existence between 1409 and 1506—these new creations did not owe their existence to the Renaissance. They grew partly out of a strong desire for learning, but even more from the ambition of the larger territorial rulers to possess such schools in their own lands. An influence favorable to the ultimate triumph of humanism was the revival of the older realistic mediæval theology, and a tendency to go back of even the earlier schoolmen to Augustine, and to Neo-Platonic rather then Aristotelian conceptions. These revivals were strongly represented in the University of Paris by the last quarter of the fifteenth century, and spread thence to German universities with considerable following. They made for many the bridge to humanism, and they rendered possible that dominance of Augustinian conceptions which was to be characteristic of the Reformation age.

 

    Humanism in Germany

 

The Renaissance beyond the Alps was inaugurated by contact with Italian humanists at the Councils of Constance and Basel, but it did not become a powerful influence till near the close of the fifteenth century. Its conquests were earlier in Germany than in France, England, or Spain.


 

 

Nicholas of Cusa Agricola Conrad Celtes

Some considerable impulse was given by the learned mathematician and philosopher, Nicholas of Cues (1401-1464), who collected a notable library. He died a cardinal and bishop of Brixen. Many of its earlier representatives in Germany were little fitted, however, to commend it to the serious-minded. German students brought home from Italy the love of the classics, and also the loose living too often characteristic of the Italian Renaissance. Such were men like the vagabond poet, Peter Luder, who passed from university to university, a disreputable exponent of the new learning, from 1456 to 1474.

A very different teacher, who had studied in Italy, was Rudolf Agricola (1443-1485), who closed his life as professor in Heidelberg. A man of worth and influence, he did much to further classical education in the fitting schools. Through Agricola’s disciple, Alexander Hegius, who dominated the school in Deventer from 1482 to 1498, that foundation became a centre of classical instruction, of which Erasmus was to be the most famous pupil. By the close of the fifteenth century a great improvement in the teaching of Latin had taken place in the secondary schools of Germany.

Humanism found footing in the universities, not without severe struggle. Its earliest conquest was the University of 328

Vienna, where the semi-pagan Latin poet, Conrad Celtes (1459-1508), enjoyed the patronage of the humanistically inclined Emperor, Maximilian I. By the first decade of the sixteenth century, humanism was pressing into the Universities of Basel, Tubingen, Ingolstadt, Heidelberg, and Erfurt. It also found many patrons in the wealthy commercial cities, notably in Nuremberg, Strassburg, and Augsburg. So numerous were its sympathizers by the close of the fifteenth century that learned circles were being formed, like the Rhenish Literary Association, organized by Celtes in Mainz, in 1491, the members of which corresponded, circulated each other’s works, and afforded mutual assistance. By 1500 humanism was becoming a vital factor in Germany.

German humanism presented many types, but was, in general, far less pagan and more serious-minded than that of Italy. Many of its leaders were sincere chruchmen, anxious to reform and purify religious life. It is to be seen at its best in its two most famous representatives, Reuchlin and Erasmus.

 

    Reuchlin

 

Born in humble circumstances, in Pforzheim, in 1455, Johann Reuchlin early gained local reputation as a Latinist, and was sent as companion to the young son of the margrave of Baden to the University of Paris, about 1472. Here, in Paris, he began the study of Greek, instruction in which had been offered there since 1470. In 1477 he received the master’s degree in Basel, and there taught Greek. Even before his graduation he published a Latin dictionary (1475-1476).

 

REUCHLIN REUCHLIN, Augenspiegel PICO

He studied law in Orleans and Poitiers, and in later life was much employed in judicial positions; but his interests were always primarily scholarly. The service of the count of Wurttemberg took him to Florence and Rome in 1482—cities which he visited again in 1490 and 1498.

At Florence, even on his first visit, his acquaintance with Greek commanded admiration. There he met and was influenced by the scholars of the Platonic Academy, and from Pico della Mirandola  he acquired that strange interest in Kabalistic doctrines that added much to his fame in Germany. Reuchlin was regarded as the ablest Greek scholar of the closing years of the fifteenth century in Germany, and his influence in promotion of Greek studies was most fruitful. Reuchlin had the Renaissance desire to return to the sources, and this led him, first of non-Jewish scholars in Germany, to make a profound study of Hebrew that he might the better understand the Old Testament.

In his pamphlet Augenspiegel (eyeglasses) he argued against the burning of Jewish scholarly texts (especially the Talmud), opposing the cultural and intellectual anti-semitism of his day, and asserting the importance for Christian theology and history of understanding Jewish tradition.

The fruit of twenty years of this labor was the publication in 1506 of a Hebrew grammar and lexicon—De Rudimentis Hebraicis—which unlocked the treasures of that speech to Christian students. The bitter quarrel into which the peace-loving scholar was drawn by reason of these Hebrew studies, and with him all educated Germany, will be described in treating of the immediate antecedents of the Lutheran revolt. Reuchlin was no Protestant. He refused approval to the rising Reformation, which he witnessed till his death in 1522. But he did a service of immense importance to Biblical scholarship, and his intellectual heir was to be his grandnephew, that scholar among the reformers, Philip Melanchthon.

 

    Erasmus

 

Desiderius Erasmus was born out of wedlock in Rotterdam, or Gouda, probably in 1466. The school in Deventer awakened his love of letters. His poverty drove him into an Augustinian monastery in Steyn, but he had no taste for the monastic life, nor for that of the priesthood, to which he was ordained in 1492. By 1495 he was studying in Paris.

 

Desiderius Erasmus Bishop John Colet

The year 1499 saw him in England, where he made the helpful friendship of John Colet, who directed him toward the study of the Bible and the Fathers. A few years of studious labors, chiefly in France and the Netherlands, saw him once more in England, in 1505, then followed a three years’ sojourn in Italy. In 1509 he again returned to England, and now taught in the University of Cambridge, enjoying the friendship of many of the most distinguished men of the kingdom. The years 1515-1521 were spent for the most part in the service of Charles V in the Netherlands. From 1521 to his death in 1536 Basel, where he could have ample facilities for publication, was his principal home. He may thus be called a citizen of all Europe.

Erasmus was not an impeccable Latinist. His knowledge of Greek was rather superficial. He was, above all, a man of letters, who touched the issues of his time with consummate wit and brilliancy of expression; set forth daring criticism of clergy and civil rulers, and withal was moved by deep sincerity of purpose. Convinced that the church of his day was overlaid with superstition, corruption, and error, and that the monastic life was too often ignorant and unworthy, he had yet no wish to break with the church that he so freely criticised. He was too primarily intellectual to have sympathy with the Lutheran revolution, the excesses of which repelled him. He was too clear-sighted not to see the evils of the Roman Church. Hence neither side in the struggle that opened in the latter part of his life understood him, and his memory has been condemned by polemic writers, Protestant and Catholic. His own thought was that education, return to the sources of Christian truth, and flagellation of ignorance and immorality by merciless satire would bring the church to purity. To this end he labored. His Handbook of the Christian Soldier of 1502 was a simple, earnest presentation of an unecclesiastical Christianity, largely Stoic in character. His Praise of Folly of 1509 was a biting satire on the evils of his age in church and state. His Familiar Colloquies of 1518 were witty discussions in which fastings, pilgrimages, and similar external observances were the butts of his brilliant pen. His constructive work was of the highest importance. In 1516 came the first edition of his Greek Testament, the pioneer publication of the Greek text, for that of Ximenes was still inaccessible. This was followed by a series of the Fathers—Jerome, Origen, Basil, Cyril, Chrysostom, Irenaeus, Ambrose, and Augustine, not all wholly from his pen, but all from his impulse, which placed scholarly knowledge of early Christianity on a new plane, and profoundly aided a Reformation, the deeper religious springs of which Erasmus never understood. Erasmus rendered a service for the Christian classics, much like that of the Italian humanists for the pagan writers of Greece and Rome.

Yet Erasmus did something more than revive a knowledge of Christian sources. In a measure, he had a positive theology. To him Christianity was but the fullest expression through Christ, primarily in the Sermon on the Mount, of universal, essentially ethical religion, of which the philosophers of antiquity had also been bearers. He had little feeling for the sacramental or for the deeply personal elements in religion. A universal ethical theism, having its highest illustration in Christ, was his idea. His way of thinking was to have little influence on the Reformation as a whole, though much on Socinianism, and is that represented in a great deal of modern theology, of which he was thus the spiritual ancestor.

 

    The Service of Humanism - England and France

 

Though Germany was more largely influenced by the Renaissance at the beginning of the sixteenth century than any other land beyond the Alps, the same impulses were stirring elsewhere. The efforts of Ximenes in Spain have already been noted.

 

Cardinal Ximenes John Colet

In England John Colet (1467?-1519) was introducing educational reforms and lecturing on the epistles of Paul in Oxford and London. His influence in turning Erasmus to Biblical studies was considerable. He rejected all allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures, criticised clerical celibacy and auricular confession, and desired to better the education and morals of the clergy.

nothing has so disfigured the face of the church as the secular and worldly way of living on the part of the clergy...every corruption, all the ruin of the Church, all the scandals of the world, come from the covetousness of priests.  The depraved life of the clergy is a type of heresy.

Colet, Sermons Before the Convocation, 1512

As the sixteenth century dawned humanism was gaining constantly increasing following in England, and King Henry VIII (1509- 1547) was deemed its patron.

 

Jacques LeFevre Erasmus

The situation in France was similar. The chief representative of a churchly reformatory humanism was Jaques Le Fevre, of Etaples (Faber Stapulensis) (1455-1536), most of whose active years were spent in or near Paris. A modest, kindly little man, of mystical piety, he published a Latin translation and commentary on Paul’s epistles in 1512, which denied the justifying merits of good works and held salvation a free gift from God. He never perceived, however, any fundamental difference between himself and the Roman Church; but he gathered round himself a body of devoted pupils, destined to most unlike participation in the Reformation struggle, Guillaume Briçonnet, to be bishop of Meaux; Guillaume Bude, eminent in Greek and to be instrumental in founding the College de France; Louis de Berquin, to die a Protestant martyr; and Guillaume Farel to be the fiery reformer of French-speaking Switzerland.

 

    Publication of the Bible

 

To all these religious-minded humanists the path of reform seemed similar. Sound learning, the study and preaching of the Bible and the Fathers, and the correction of ignorance, immorality, and glaring administrative abuses would make the church what it should be. This solution did not meet the deep needs of the situation; but the humanists rendered an indispensable preparation for the Reformation. They led men to study Christian sources afresh. They discredited the later scholastic theology. They brought in new and more natural methods of exegesis. To a large degree they looked on life from another standpoint than the mediaeval. They represented a release of the mind, in some considerable measure, from mediæval traditionalism.

Partly as a result of the Renaissance emphasis on the sources, but even more in consequence of the invention of printing, the latter half of the fifteenth century witnessed a wide distribution of the Bible in the Vulgate and in translation. No less than ninety-two editions of the Vulgate were put forth before 1500. Eighteen editions of a German version were printed before 1521. The New Testament was printed in French in 1477; the whole Bible ten years later; 1478 saw the publication of a Spanish translation; 1471 the printing of two independent versions in Italian. In the Netherlands the Psalms were seven times published between 1480 and 1507. The Scriptures were printed in Bohemian in 1488. If England had no printed Bible before the Reformation, many manuscripts of Wyclif’s translation were in circulation.

Efforts were made to restrict the reading of the Bible by the laity, since its use seemed the source of mediaeval heresies; but there can be no doubt that familiarity with it much increased among the less educated priesthood and among laymen. Yet the real question of the influence of this Bible reading is the problem of Biblical interpretation. The Middle Ages never denied the final authority of the Bible. Augustine and Aquinas so regarded it. It was the Bible interpreted, however, by the Fathers, the teachers, and the councils of the church. Should that churchly right to interpret be denied, there remained only the right of private interpretation; but the voices from Bohemia and the mediæval sects which denied the interpreting authority of the church, found no general response as yet. The commanding word had yet to be spoken. The mere reading of the Bible involved no denial of mediaeval ideals. Only when those ideals were rejected could the interpreting authority which supported them be denied and the Bible become the support of the newer conceptions of salvation and of the church. The Bible was not so much the cause of Protestantism as was Protestantism a new interpretation of the Scriptures.

 

    Unrest in Germany

 

The closing years of the fifteenth century were, as has been seen, a period of religious betterment in Spain. No such corresponding revival of interest in religion is to be traced in France or England; but Germany was undergoing a real and pervasive religious quickening in the decades immediately preceding the Reformation. Its fundamental motive seems to have been fear. Much in the popular life of Germany tended to increase the sense of apprehension.

 

 Pope Innocent VIII  Malleus Maleficarum

The witchcraft delusion, though by no means new, was rapidly spreading. A bull of Pope Innocent VIII in 1484 declared Germany full of witches, and the German inquisitors, Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, published their painfully celebrated Malleus Maleficarum in 1489. It was a superstition that added terror to popular life, and was to be shared by the reformers no less than by their Roman opponents. The years from 1490 to 1503 were a period of famine in Germany. The Turkish peril was becoming threatening. The general social unrest has already been noted. All these elements contributed to the development of a sense of the reality and nearness of divine judgments, and the need of propitiating an angry God. Luther’s early religious experiences were congenial to the spirit of this pervasive religious movement.

 

    Contrasted Types of Religion

 

The religious spirit of Germany at the close of the fifteenth century found expression in pilgrimages. A few of the more wealthy journeyed to the Holy Land, more went to Rome, but the most popular foreign pilgrimage shrine was that of St. James at Compostella in Spain. German pilgrim shrines were thronged, and great collections of relics were made, notably by the Saxon Elector, Frederick the Wise (1486-1525), to be Luther’s protector, who placed them in the castle church, to the door of which Luther was to nail his famous Theses. The intercession of Mary was never more sought, and Mary’s mother, St. Anna, was but little less valued. Christ was popularly regarded as a strict judge, to be placated with satisfactions or absolutions.

Yet side by side with this external and work-trusting religious spirit, Germany had not a little of mystic piety, that saw the essence of religion in the relation of the individual soul to God; and a good deal of what has been called “non-ecclesiastical religion,” which showed itself not only in simple, serious lives, like that of Luther’s father, but in increasing attempts of lay princes to improve the quality of the clergy, of towns to regulate beggary, to control charitable foundations, which had been in exclusive ecclesiastical hands, and in various ways to vindicate for laymen, as such, a larger share in the religious life of the community. The active life was asserting its claims against the contemplative. Theology, as such, had largely  lost its hold on popular thought, discredited by nominalism, despised by humanism, and supplanted by mysticism.

It was no dead age to which Luther was to speak, but one seething with unrest, vexed with multitudinous unsolved problems and unfulfilled longings.


 

[1] Gee and Hardy, pp. 105-108.

[2] Gee and Hardy, pp. 108-110. *Ibid., pp. 133-135.

[3] Robinson, 1:511.

[4] Ibid., 1:513.

[5] Robinson, 1:512.

[6] Kidd, Documents Illustrative of the Continental Reformation, p. 3.

 

 

 


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