THE EVE OF THE REFORMATION.
By HENRY CHAULES LEA.
Union of spiritual and secular forces in the Reformation . 653
Medieval struggle of Church and State for supremacy. The victory of the spiritual power . 654
Failure of the Councils. Pretensions of the Popes in the fifteenth century . 655
Legates and nuncios. Control of patronage. Simony . 656
Complaints and resistance. Nomination of bishops. Venice . 657
Hungary. Spain. The Empire. 658
Pluralism. Extravagant wealth of the clergy. Examples . 659
Immunities of the clergy. Venetian claims . 660
Sixtus IV and Florence. Papal claim to shelter the laity . 661
Indulgences. Exemption from taxation of church property . 662
Progressive secularisation of the Holy See, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century . 663
Consequent danger to the Pope from Italian enemies . 664
Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X. Distrust of the Papacy . 665
The crusades starved in consequence. Extravagance of the Popes 666
Cost of collection of papal revenues. Farming of the revenues 667
Dispensations. Annates and tithes of ecclesiastical revenue . 668
Refusal to pay tithe in the fifteenth century. Venality of the Curia . 669
Sale of offices. Cost of business . 670
Corrupt administration of justice. Litigation concerning benefices. Sale of cardinalates . 671
The Papacy for sale. Corruption of Avignon and Rome . 672
Superstitious reverence for the external symbols of religion. Divorce of religion and morality . 673
Decline of morality among the clergy. Hans Böheim . 674
Cahiers of the Spanish Cortes. Anticlerical literature, c. 1500 675
The preaching of the Friars. Foulques de Neuilly, Thomas Connecte, &c 676
The Councils. Lateran Council, 1512-7 . 677
Its inadequate results. The Curia regarded as past reform . 678
The New Learning and the humanistic movement. Paganistic and heretical fancies . 679
More serious questionings. Heimburg, Rucherath, Wessel . 680
Laillier, Vitrier, Langlois, Lefèvre d'Etaples. Freedom of exegesis 681
Pirckheimer. Erasmus escapes condemnation. Forerunners of Luther. Staupitz . 682
The Narrenschiff of Brant . 683
Reuchlin and Pfefferkorn. Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum. Invention of printing . 684
Dissemination of translations of the Bible and of heretical literature. Censorship of the press . 685
Academies, societies, and secret associations. Germany predestined as the field of battle . 686
Teutonic independence. Ancient rancour against the Papacy. Subjection of the Church in Germany. Concordat, 1448 . 687
The Concordat violated. Opposition to papal exactions. Diether of Mainz and the question of annates, 1459- . 688
Nicholas of Cusa. Complaints at Coblenz in 1479 . 689
The grievances of 1510. Maximilian. Lack of single authority in Germany . 690
Abuses only to be removed by the Reformation . 691
Causes of the change of spirit . 692
CHAPTER XIX. THE EVE OF THE REFORMATION.
As the sixteenth century opened, Europe was standing unconscious on the brink of a crater destined to change profoundly by its eruption the course of modern civilisation. The Church had acquired so complete a control over the souls of men, its venerable antiquity and its majestic organisation so filled the imagination, the services it had rendered seemed to call for such reverential gratitude, and its acknowledged claim to interpret the will of God to man rendered obedience so plain a duty, that the continuance of its power appeared to be an unchanging law of the universe, destined to operate throughout the limitless future. To understand the combination of forces which rent the domination of the Church into fragments, we must investigate in detail its relations with society on the eve of the disruption, and consider how it was regarded by the men of that day, with their diverse grievances, more or less justifying revolt. We must here omit from consideration the benefits which the Church had conferred, and confine our attention to the antagonisms which it provoked and to the evils for which it was held responsible. The interests and the motives at work were numerous and complex, some of them dating back for centuries, others comparatively recent, but all of them growing in intensity with the development of political institutions and popular intelligence. There has been a natural tendency to regard the Reformation as solely a religious movement; but this is an error. In the curious theocracy which dominated the Middle Ages, secular and spiritual interests became so inextricably intermingled that it is impossible wholly to disentangle them; but the motives, both remote and proximate, which led to the Lutheran revolt were largely secular rather than spiritual. So far, indeed, as concerns our present purpose we may dismiss the religious changes incident to the Reformation with the remark that they were not the object sought but the means for attaining that object. The existing ecclesiastical system was the practical evolution of dogma, and the overthrow of dogma was the only way to obtain permanent relief from the intolerable abuses of that system.
In primitive society the kingly and the priestly functions are commonly united; the Church and the State are one. Development leads to specialisation; the functions are divided; and the struggle for supremacy, like that between the Brahman and Kshatriya castes, becomes inevitable. In medieval Europe this struggle was peculiarly intricate, for, in the conversion of the Barbarians, a strange religion was imposed by the conquered on the conquerors; and the history of the relations between Church and State thenceforth becomes a record of the efforts of the priestly class to acquire domination and of the military class to maintain its independence. The former gradually won. It had two enormous advantages, for it virtually monopolised education and culture, and, through its democratic organisation, absorbed an undue share of the vigour and energy of successive generations by means of the career which it alone offered to those of lowly birth but lofty ambition. When Charles the Great fostered the Church as a civilising agency he was careful to preserve his mastership; but the anarchy attending the dissolution of his empire enabled the Church to assert its pretensions, as formulated in the False Decretals, and, when the slow process of enlightenment again began in the eleventh century, it had a most advantageous base of operations. With the development of scholastic theology in the twelfth century, its claims on the obedience of the faithful were reduced to a system under which the priest became the arbiter of the eternal destiny of man, a power readily transmuted into control of his worldly fortunes by the use of excommunication and interdict. During this period, moreover, the hierarchical organisation was strengthened and the claims of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and as the supreme and irresponsible head of the Church became more firmly established through the extension of its jurisdiction, original and appellate. The first half of the thirteenth century saw the power of these agencies fully developed, when Raymond of Toulouse was humbled with fleshly arms, and John of England with spiritual weapons, and when the long rivalry of the papacy and Empire was virtually ended with the extinction of the House of Hohenstaufen. The expression of the supremacy thus won is to be found in the Gloss of Innocent IV on the Decretals and was proclaimed to the world by Boniface VIII in the bull Unam Sanctam.
This sovereignty was temporal as well as spiritual. The power of the Pope, as the earthly representative of God, was illimitable. The official theory, as expressed in the De Principum Regimine, which passes under the name of St Thomas Aquinas, declared the temporal jurisdiction of kings to be simply derived from the authority intrusted by Christ to St Peter and his successors ; whence it followed that the exercise of the royal authority was subject to papal control. As Matthew of Vendome had already sung-
Papa regit reges, dominos dominatur, acerbis Principibus stabili jure jubere jubet.
The arguments of Marsiglio of Padua, intended to restore the imperial system of a Church subordinate to the State, were of some assistance to Louis of Bavaria in his long struggle with the papacy; but at his death they virtually disappeared from view. The Councils of Constance and Basel were an effort on the part of the prelates and princes to limit the papal authority, and if they had succeeded they would have rendered the Church a constitutional monarchy in place of a despotism; but the disastrous failure at Basel greatly strengthened papal absolutism. The superiority of Councils over Popes, though it continued to be asserted by France in the Pragmatic Sanction of 1438, and from time to time by Germany, gradually sank into an academic question, and the Popes were finally able to treat it with contempt. In 1459, at the Congress of Mantua, Pius II, in his speech to the French envoys, took occasion to assert his irresponsible supremacy, which could not be limited by general councils and to which all princes were subject. In his extraordinary letter to Mohammad II, then in the full flush of his conquests, Pius tempted the Turk to embrace Christianity with the promise to appoint him Emperor of Greece and of the East, so that what he had won by force he might enjoy with justice. If the Pope could thus grant kingdoms, he could also take them away. George Podiebrad, King of Bohemia, committed the offence of insisting on the terms under which the Hussites had been reconciled to the Church by the Fathers of Basel; whereupon Pius II in 1464, and Paul II in 1465, summoned him to Rome to stand his trial for heresy; and the latter, without awaiting the expiration of the term assigned, declared him deprived of the royal power, released his subjects from their allegiance and made over his kingdom to Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, with the result of a long and devastating war. Julius II, in his strife with France, gave the finishing blow to the little kingdom of Navarre by excommunicating in 1511 those children of perdition Jean d'Albret and his wife Catherine, and empowering the first comer to seize their dominions-an act of piety for which the rapacious Ferdinand of Aragon had made all necessary preparations. In the bull of excommunication Julius formally asserted his plenary power, granted by God, over all nations and kingdoms; and this claim, amounting to a quasi-divinity, was sententiously expressed in one of the inscriptions at the consecration of Alexander VI in 1492-
Caesare magna fuit, nunc Roma est maxima. Sextus Regnat Alexander: ille vir, iste Deus.
While it is true that the extreme exercise of papal authority in making and unmaking Kings was exceptional, still the unlimited jurisdiction claimed by the Holy See was irksome in many ways to the sovereigns of Europe and, as time wore on and the secular authority became consolidated, it was endured with more and more impatience. There could be no hard and fast line of delimitation between the
Another fruitful source of complaint, on the part not only of the rulers but of the national Churches, was the gradual extension of the claim of the Holy See to control all patronage. Innocent III has the credit of first systematically asserting this claim and exploiting it for the benefit of his cardinals and other officials. The practice increased and, in 1319, Villani tells us that John XXII assumed to himself the control of all prebends in every collegiate church, from the sale of which he gathered immense sums. Finally the assertion was made that the Holy See owned all benefices and in the rules of the papal Chanceries appear the prices to be charged for them, whether with or without cure of souls, showing that the traffic had become an established source of revenue. Even the rights of lay patrons and founders were disregarded and in the provisions granted by the popes there was a special clause derogating their claims. Partly this patronage was used for direct profit, partly it was employed for the benefit of the cardinals and their retainers, on whom pluralities were heaped with unstinted hand, and the further refinement was introduced of granting to them pensions imposed on benefices and monastic foundations. Abbeys, also, were bestowed in commendam on titular abbots who collected the revenues through stewards, with little heed to the maintenance of the inmates or the performance of the offices. In the eager desire to anticipate these profits of simony, vacancies were not awaited, and rights of succession, under the name of expectatives, were given or sold in advance. The deplorable results of this spiritual commerce were early apparent and formed the subject of bitter
In this absorption of patronage the feature most provocative of friction with the sovereigns was the claim gradually advanced to nominate bishops; for these prelates were mostly temporal lords of no little influence, and in the political schemes of the papacy the character of its nominees might well create uneasiness in the State. Quarrels over the exercise of this power were of frequent occurrence. Venice, for instance, which was chronically in open or concealed hostility to Rome, was very sensitive as to the fidelity of its acquisitions on the mainland, where a bishop who was the agent of an enemy might be the source of infinite mischief. Thus, in 1485, there was a struggle over the vacant see of Padua, in which Venice triumphed by sequestrating other revenues of Cardinal Michiel, appointed by Innocent VIII. Again, in 1491, a contest arose over the patriarchate of Aquileia, the primatial see of Venetia, resulting in the exile of the celebrated humanist Ermolao Barbaro, on whom Innocent had bestowed it, and the see remained vacant until Alexander VI accepted Niccolo Donato, the Venetian nominee. In 1505 Julius II refused to confirm a bishop appointed by the Signoria to the see of Cremona, as he designed the place for his favourite nephew Galeotto della Rovere; he held out for two years and finally compromised for a money payment to the Cardinal. So, when the latter died in 1508, Venice filled his see of Vicenza with Jacopo Dandolo, while Julius gave it to another nephew, Sisto Gara della Rovere, and the
Spain was still less patient. Even under so weak a monarch as Henry IV Sixtus failed to secure for his worthless nephew, Cardinal Piero Riario, the archbishopric of Seville, which fell vacant in 1473 through the death of Alfonso de Fonseca. Although he had been regularly appointed the Spaniards refused to receive Riario, and the see was administered by Pero Gonzalez Mendoza, Bishop of Sigiienza, until 1482, when it was filled by Inigo Manrique. The stronger and abler Ferdinand of Aragon was even more recalcitrant. He adopted the most arbitrary measures to secure the archbishopric of Saragossa for his natural son Alfonso against Ausias Dezpuch, the nominee of Sixtus IV. Still more decisive was the struggle in Castile over the see of Cuenca, in 1482, to which Sixtus appointed a Genoese cousin. Ferdinand and Isabel demanded that Spanish bishoprics should be filled only with Spaniards of their selection, to which Sixtus replied that all benefices were in the gift of the Pope and that his power, derived from Christ, was unlimited. The sovereigns answered by calling home all their subjects resident at the papal Court and threatening to take steps for the convocation of a General Council. This brought Sixtus to terms; he sent a special nuncio to Spain, but they refused to receive him and stood on their dignity until Cardinal Mendoza, then Archbishop of Toledo, intervened, when, on Sixtus withdrawing his pretensions, they allowed themselves to be reconciled. Ferdinand and his successor Charles V displayed the same vigour in resisting the encroachments of the cardinals when they seized upon vacant abbacies which happened to belong to the patronage of the Crown. It marks the abasement to which the Holy Roman Empire had fallen when we hear that Sixtus confirmed to Frederick III and his son Maximilian a privilege granted by Eugenius IV
These cases have a double interest as illustrating the growing tension between the Holy See and secular potentates and the increasing disposition to meet its claims with scant measure of respect. It was constantly arrogating to itself enlarged prerogatives and the sovereigns were less and less inclined to submission. But, whether exercised by King or Pope, the distribution of ecclesiastical patronage had become simple jobbery, to reward dependents or to gain pecuniary or political advantage, without regard to the character of the incumbent or the sacred duties of the office. These evils were aggravated by habitual and extravagant pluralism, of which the Holy See set an example eagerly imitated by the sovereigns. Bishoprics and benefices were showered upon the Cardinals and their retainers, and upon the favourites of the Popes in all parts of Europe, whose revenues were drawn to Rome, to the impoverishment of each locality; while the functions for which the revenues had been granted remained for the most part unperformed, to the irritation of the populations. Rodrigo Borgia (subsequently Alexander VI), created Cardinal in his youth by his uncle Calixtus III, accumulated benefices to the aggregate of 70,000 ducats a year. Giuliano della Rovere (Julius II) likewise owed his cardinalate to his uncle Sixtus IV, who bestowed on him also the archbishopric of Avignon and the bishoprics of Bologna, Lausanne, Coutances, Viviers, Mende, Ostia, and Velletri, with the abbeys of Nonantola and Grottaferrata. Another Cardinal nephew of Sixtus was Piero Riario, who held a crowd of bishoprics yielding him 60,000 ducats a year, which he lavished in shameless excesses, dying deeply in debt. But this abuse was not confined to Rome. A notable example is that of Jean, son of Rene II, Duke of Lorraine. Born in 1498, he was in 1501 appointed coadjutor to his uncle Henri, Bishop of Metz, after whose death in 1505 Jean took possession in 1508, and held the see until 1529. He then resigned it in favour of his nephew Nicholas, aged four, but reserved the revenues and right of resumption in case of death or resignation. In 1517 he became also Bishop of Toul and in 1518 of Terouanne, besides obtaining the cardinalate. In 1521 he added the sees of Valence and Die, in 1523 that of Verdun. Then followed the three archbishoprics of Narbonne, Reims, and Lyons in 1524, 1533 and 1537. In 1536 he obtained the see of Alby, soon afterwards that of Macon, in 1541 that of Agen, and in 1542 that of Nantes. In addition he held the abbeys of Gorze, Fecamp, Cluny, Marmoutiers, St Ouen, St Jean de Laon, St Germer, St Medard of Soissons, and St Mansuy of Toul. The see of Verdun he resigned to his nephew Nicholas on the same terms as that of Metz and when the latter, in 1548, abdicated in order to marry
Marguerite d'Egmont, he resumed them both. The archbishopric of Reims he resigned in 1538 in favour of his nephew Charles, and Lyons he abandoned in 1539. In spite of the enormous revenues derived from these scandalous pluralities his extravagance kept him always poor and we can imagine the condition, spiritual and temporal, of the churches and abbeys thus consigned to the negligence of a worldly prelate whose life was spent in Courts. It was bad enough when these pluralists employed coadjutors to look after their numerous prelacies, but worse when they farmed them out to the highest bidder.
Another ecclesiastical abuse severely felt by all sovereigns who were jealous of their jurisdiction and earnest in enforcing justice was the exemption enjoyed by all ranks of the clergy from the authority of the secular tribunals. They were justiciable only by the spiritual Courts, which could pronounce no judgments of blood, and whose leniency towards clerical offenders virtually assured to them immunity from punishment-an immunity long maintained in English jurisprudence under the well-known name of Benefit of Clergy. So complete was the freedom of the priesthood from all responsibility to secular authority that the ingenuity of the doctors was taxed to find excuses for the banishment of Abiathar by Solomon. The evil of this consisted not only in the temptation to crime which it offered to those regularly bred to the Church and performing its functions, but it attracted to the lower orders of the clergy, which were not bound to celibacy or debarred from worldly pursuits, numberless criminals and vagabonds, who were thus enabled to set the officers of justice at defiance. The first defence of a thief or assassin when arrested was to claim that he belonged to the Church and to display his tonsure, and the episcopal officials were vigilant in the defence of these wretches, thus stimulating crime and grievously impeding the administration of justice. Frequent efforts were made by the secular authorities to remedy these evils; but the Church resolutely maintained its prerogatives, provoking quarrels which led to increased antagonism between the laity and the clergy. The Gravamina of the German Nation, adopted by the Diet of Nürnberg, in 1522, stated no more than the truth in asserting that this clerical immunity was responsible for countless cases of adultery, robbery, coining, arson, homicide, and false-witness committed by ecclesiastics; and there was peculiar significance in the declaration that, unless the clergy were subjected to the secular Courts, there was reason to fear an uprising of the people, for no justice was to be had against a clerical offender in the spiritual tribunals.
Venice was peculiarly sensitive as to this interference with social order, and it is well known how her insistence on her right to enforce the laws on all offenders led to the prolonged rupture between the Republic and Paul V in the early years of the seventeenth century. It was a special concession to her when, in 1474, Sixtus IV admitted
This was not the only manner in which the papacy interfered with secular justice, for, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the papal jurisdiction spread its aegis over the crimes of the laity as well as of the clergy. Since the early thirteenth century the papal Penitentiary had been accustomed to administer absolution, in the forum of conscience, to all applicants. In the fourteenth this came to be a source of profit to the Curia by reason of the graduated scale of fees demanded and the imposition of so-called pecuniary penance by which the sinner purchased pardon of his sins. When the Castilian Inquisition began its operation in 1481, the New Christians, as the Jewish converts were called, hurried in crowds to Rome where they had no difficulty in obtaining from the Penitentiary absolution for whatever heretical crimes they might have committed; and they then claimed that this exempted them from subsequent inquisitorial prosecution. Even those who had been condemned were able to procure for a consideration letters setting aside the sentence and rehabilitating them. It was no part of the policy of Ferdinand and
Isabel to allow impunity to be thus easily gained by the apostates or to forego the abundant confiscations flowing into the royal treasury, and therefore they refused to admit that such papal briefs were valid without the royal approval. Sixtus, on his part, was not content to lose the lucrative business arising from Spanish intolerance, and, in 1484, by the constitution Quoniam nonnutti he refuted the assertion that his briefs were valid only in the forum consdentiae and not in the forum conten-tiosum and ordered them to be received as absolute authority in all Courts, secular as well as ecclesiastical. This was asserting an appellate jurisdiction over all the criminal tribunals of Christendom, and, through the notorious venality of the Curia, where these letters of absolution could always be had for a price, it was a serious blow to the administration of justice everywhere. Not content with this, the power was delegated to the peripatetic vendors of indulgences, who thus carried impunity for crime to every man's door. The St Peter's indulgences, sold by Tetzel and his colleagues, were of this character and not only released the purchasers from all spiritual penalties but forbade all secular or criminal prosecution. These monstrous pretensions were reiterated by Paul III in 1549 and by Julius III in 1550. It was impossible for secular rulers tamely to submit to this sale of impunity for crime. In Spain the struggle against it continued with equal obstinacy on each side, and it was fortunate that the Reformation came to prevent the Holy See from rendering all justice, human and divine, a commodity to be sold in open market.
There was another of the so-called liberties of the Church which brought it into collision with temporal princes-the exemption from taxation of all ecclesiastical property, so vigorously proclaimed by Boniface VIII in the bull Clericis laicos. Although, under pressure from Philip the Fair, this declaration was annulled by the Council of Vienne, the principle remained unaffected. The piety of successive generations had brought so large a portion of the wealth of Europe•- estimated at fully one-third-into the hands of the Church, that the secular power was becoming more and more disinclined to exempt it from the burdens of the State. Under Paul II (1464-71) the endeavours of Venice and of Florence to subject such property to taxation were the cause of serious and prolonged difficulties with Rome. In fact, the relations between the papacy and the sovereigns of Europe were becoming more and more strained in every way, as the transformation took place from the feudal institutions of the Middle Ages to the monarchical absolutism of the modern era. The nationalities were becoming organised, save in Germany, with a consciousness of unity that they had never before possessed and with new aims and aspirations necessitating settled lines of policy. Less and less they felt themselves mere portions of the great Christian commonwealth under the supreme guidance of the Vicar of Christ, and less and less were they inclined to
The incompatibility between the papal pretensions and the royal prerogative was intensified not only by the development of the monarchies but by the increasing secularisation of the Holy See. It had long been weighted down by its territorial possessions which led it to subordinate its spiritual duties to its acquisitive ambition. When, about 1280, Nicholas III offered the cardinalate to the Blessed John of Parma, he refused it, saying that he could give good counsel if there was any one to listen to him; but that in Rome salvation of souls was of small account in comparison with wars and intrigues. So it had been and so it continued to be. The fatal necessity of defending the Patrimony of St Peter against the assaults of unscrupulous neighbours and the even more fatal eagerness to extend its boundaries governed the papal policy to the virtual exclusion of loftier aims. Even the transfer to Avignon did not serve to release the Holy See from these chains which bound it to the earth, as was seen in the atrocious war waged by Clement V to gain Ferrara, in the long contest of John XXII with the Visconti, and in the bloody subjugation of revolted communities by Cardinal Albornoz as legate of Urban V. The earlier half of the fifteenth century was occupied with the Great Schism and the struggle between the papacy and the General Councils; but, on the final and triumphant assertion of papal absolutism, the Popes became to all intents and purposes mere secular princes, to whom religion was purely an instrument for supplementing territorial weakness in the attainment of worldly ends. Religion was, in fact, a source of no little strength, increasing the value of the papacy as an ally and its power as an enemy. Among the transalpine nations, at least, there was still enough reverence felt for the Vicar of Christ to render open rupture undesirable. Then there remained the sentence of excommunication and interdict, a force in reserve always to be borne in mind by hostile States. There was also the supreme authority to bind and to loose, whereby a Pope could always release himself from inconvenient agreements and was absolved from observing any compacts, while, if the conscience of an ally chanced to be tender, it could be relieved in the same manner. Still more important was the inexhaustible source of revenue derived from the headship of the Church and the power of the keys-the levying of annates and tithes and the sale of dispensations, absolutions and indulgences. These were exploited in every way that ingenuity could suggest, draining Europe of its substance for the maintenance of papal armies and fleets and of a Court unrivalled in its sumptuous magnificence, until the
Holy See was everywhere regarded with detestation. It was this temporal sovereignty which rendered possible the existence of such a succession of pontiffs as disgraced the end of the fifteenth and commencement of the sixteenth century-such careers as those of Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia, such a catastrophe as the sack of Rome in 1527. Even before these evils had grown to such appalling magnitude, Dante had expressed the opinion of all thoughtful men in deploring the results which had followed the so-called Donation of Constantine. By the middle of the fifteenth century Lorenzo Valla, in his demonstration of the fraud, assumed that the corruption of the Church and the wars which desolated Italy were its direct consequence, and few more eloquent and powerful indictments of the papacy are to be found than the bold utterances in which he warned the Holy See that princes and peoples could not much longer endure its tyranny and wickedness. Remonstrances and warnings were in vain; the papacy became more and more secularised, and, as the pressure grew more inexorable, men asked themselves why, if the headship of St Peter were founded on Christ's injunction to feed His sheep, St Peter's successor employed that headship rather to shear and slaughter.
Papal history, in fact, as soon as the Holy See had vindicated its supremacy over general councils, becomes purely a political history of diplomatic intrigues, of alliances made and broken, of military enterprises. In following it no one would conclude, from internal evidence, that the papacy represented interests higher than those of any other petty Italian prince, or that it claimed to be the incarnation of a faith divinely revealed to ensure peace on earth and goodwill to man-save when, occasionally in a. papal letter, an unctuous expression is employed to shroud some peculiarly objectionable design. The result of this, even in the hands of a man like Pius II, not wholly without loftier impulses, is seen in his complaint, March 12, 1462, to the Milanese envoy. All the States of Italy, he said, were hostile, save Naples and Milan, in both of which the existing governments were precarious; his own subjects were always on the brink of revolt, and many of his Cardinals were on the side of France, which was threatening him with a Council and was ready to provoke a schism unless he would abandon Ferdinand of Naples for Rene of Anjou. France, moreover, dragged Spain and Burgundy with her, while Germany was equally unfriendly. The powerful Archbishop of Mainz was hostile and was supported by most of the princes, who were offended at the papal relations with the powerless Frederick III, and he, again, was at war with the King of Hungary, while the King of Bohemia was half a heretic. The position was no better under his successor, Paul II, who, at his death in 1471, left the Holy See without a friend in Italy; everywhere it was regarded with hatred and distrust. Under Sixtus IV there was no improvement; and, in 1490, Innocent VIII threatened to leave Italy and find a refuge elsewhere. He had not a
During the half-century preceding the Reformation there was constant shifting of scene; enemies were converted into allies and allies into enemies, but the spirit of the papacy remained the same, and, whatever might be the political combination of the moment, the Christian nations at large regarded it as a possible enemy, whose friendship was not to be trusted, for it was always fighting for its own hand-or rather, as the increasing nepotism of successive pontiffs ruled its policy, for the aggrandisement of worthless scions of the papal stock, such as Girolamo Riario or Franceschetto Cibo or Cesare Borgia. Julius II, it is true, was less addicted to nepotism, and made and broke treaties and waged war for the enlargement of the papal territories, producing on the awakening intelligence of Europe the impression which Erasmus condenses in such a way as to show how threatening was the spirit evoked by the secularisation of the Holy See. In the Encomium Mortae, written in 1510, he describes the spiritual and material weapons employed by the Popes, against those who, at the instigation of the devil, seek to nibble at the Patrimony of St Peter, fighting not only with bulls of excommunication but with fire and sword, to the shedding of much Christian blood, and believing themselves to be defending the Church against her enemies,-as if she could have any worse enemies than impious pontiffs. Leo X followed with a pale imitation of the policy of Alexander VI, his object being the advancement of the Medici family and the preservation of the papal dominions in the fierce strife between France and Spain. To him the papacy was a personal possession out of which the possessor was expected to make the most, religion being an entirely subordinate affair. His conception of his duties is condensed in the burst of exultation attributed to him on his election,-Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us !
Under the circumstances the Holy See could inspire neither respect nor confidence. Universal distrust was the rule between the States, and the papacy was merely a State whose pretensions to care for the general welfare of Christendom were recognised as diplomatic hypocrisy. When, in 1462, Pius II took the desperate step of resolving to lead in person the proposed Crusade, he explained that this was the only way to convince Europe of his sincerity. When he levied a tithe, he said, for the war with the infidel, appeal was made to a future Council; when he issued indulgences he was accused of greed; whatever was done was attributed to the desire to raise money, and no one trusted the papal word; like
Such had in fact been the papal practice, since in the thirteenth century Gregory IX had proclaimed that the home interests of the Holy See were more important than the defence of the Holy Land and that crusading money could be more advantageously expended in Italy than in Palestine. There was no scruple about applying to the needs of the moment money derived from any source whatever and, in spite of the large amounts raised under the pretext of crusades which never started, the extravagance of the papal Court and its military enterprises left it almost always poor. Popes and Cardinals rivalled each other in the sumptuous-ness of their buildings. Never were religious solemnities and public functions performed with such profuse magnificence, nor was greater liberality exercised in the encouragement of art and literature. Paul II had a sedia gestataria built for the Christmas ceremonies of 1466 which was an artistic wonder, costing, according to popular report, more than a palace. Yet this Pope so managed his finances that on his death, in 1471, he left behind him an enormous treasure in money and jewels and costly works of antique art; we hear of pearls inventoried at 300,000 ducats, the gold and jewels of two tiaras appraised at 300,000 more, and other precious stones and ornaments at 1,000,000. All this was wasted by Sixtus IV on his worthless kindred and on the wars in which he was involved for their benefit; and he left the treasury deeply in debt. His successor, Innocent VIII, was equally reckless and was always in straits for money, though his son, Franceschetto Cibö, could coolly lose in a single night 14,000 ducats to Cardinal Biario, and in another 8000 to
Cardinal Balue. The pontificate of Alexander VI was notorious for the splendour of its banquets and public solemnities, as well as for the enormous sums consumed in the ambitious enterprises of Cesare Borgia. Julius II lavished money without stint on his wars as well as on architecture and art; yet he left 200,000 ducats in the treasury besides jewels and regalia to a large amount. The careless magnificence of Leo X, his schemes for the aggrandisement of his family, and his patronage of art and letters, soon exhausted this reserve as well as all available sources of revenue; he was always in need of money and employed ruinous expedients to raise it; when he died he left nothing but debts, through which his nearest friends were ruined, and a treasury so empty that at his funeral the candles used were those which had already seen service at the obsequies of Cardinal Riario. When we consider that this lavish and unceasing expenditure, incurred to gratify the ambition and vanity of successive Vicars of Christ, was ultimately drawn from the toil of the peasantry of Europe, and that probably the larger part of the sums thus exacted disappeared in the handling before the residue reached Rome, we can understand the incessant complaints of the oppressed populations, and the hatred which was silently stored up to await the time of explosion. Thus, we may reasonably conclude that in its essence the Reformation was due more largely to financial than to religious considerations. The terrible indictment of the papacy which Ulrich von Hütten addressed to Leo X, December 1, 1517, contains not a word about faith or doctrine; the whole gravamen consists in the abuse of power-the spoliations, the exactions, the oppression, the sale of dispensations and pardons, the fraudulent devices whereby the wealth of Germany was cunningly transferred to Rome, and the stirring up of strife among Christians in order to defend or to extend the Patrimony of St Peter.
In every way the revenues thus enjoyed and squandered by the Curia were scandalous and oppressive. To begin with, the cost of their collection was enormous. The accounts of the papal agent for first-fruits in Hungary, for the year 1320, show that of 1913 florins collected only 732 reached the papal treasury. With a more thorough organisation in later periods the returns were better; but when the device was adopted of employing bankers to collect the proceeds of annates and indulgences, the share allotted to those who conducted the business and made advances, was ruinously large. In the contract for the fateful St Peter's indulgence with the Fuggers of Augsburg, their portion of the receipts was to be fifty per cent. Even worse was it when these revenues were farmed out, for the banker who depended for his profits on the extent of his sales or collections was not likely to be overnice in his methods, nor to exercise much restraint over his agents. Europe was overrun with pardon-sellers who had purchased letters empowering them to sell indulgences, whether of a general character or for some church or hospital; and for centuries their lies, their frauds, their exactions, and
Even more demoralising were the revenues derived from the sale of countless dispensations for marriage within the prohibited degrees, for the holding of pluralities, for the numerous kinds of "irregularities" and other breaches of the canon law; so that its prescriptions might almost seem to have been framed for the purpose of enabling the Holy See to profit by their violation. Not less destructive to morals were the absolutions, which amounted to a sale of pardons for sin of every description, as though the Decalogue had been enacted for this very purpose. There was also a thriving business done in the composition for unjust gains, whereby fraudulent traders, usurers, robbers, and other malefactors, on paying to the Church a portion of their illegal acquisitions, were released from the obligation of making restitution. In every way the power of the keys and the treasure of the merits of Christ were exploited, without any regard for moral consequences.
Deplorable as was this effacement of the standards of right and wrong, all these were at least voluntary payments which perhaps rather predisposed the thoughtless in favour of the Church who so benignantly exercised her powers to relieve the weakness of human nature. It was otherwise however with the traffic in benefices and expectatives which filled the parishes and chapters with unworthy incumbents, not only neglectful of their sacred duties but seeking to recoup themselves for their expenditure by exactions from their subjects. A standing grievance was the exaction of the annates, which, since their regulation by Boniface IX and the fruitless effort of the Council of Basel to abolish them, continued to be the source of bitter complaint. They consisted of a portion, usually computed at one-half, of the estimated revenue of a benefice, worth twenty-five florins or more, collected on every change of incumbents. Thus the archbishopric of Rouen was taxed at 12,000 florins and the little see of Grenoble at 300; the great abbacy of Saint Denis at 6000 and the little Saint Ciprian of Poitiers at 33, while all parish cures in France were rated uniformly at 24 ducats, equivalent to about 30 florins. As though these burdens were not enough, pensions on benefices and religious houses were lavishly granted to the favourites of Popes and Cardinals; for the Pope was master of all Church property and was limited in its distribution by nothing but his own discretion. Thus the people on whom these burdens ultimately fell were taught to hate the clergy as the clergy hated the Holy See. Of all its oppressions, however, that which excited the fiercest clerical antagonism was the power which it exercised of demanding a tithe of all ecclesiastical revenues whenever money was needed, under the pretext, generally, of carrying on the war with the infidel. As early as 1240, Gregory IX called for a twentieth to aid him in his struggle with Frederick II, and his Legate at the Council of Senlis forced the French Bishops to give their assent; but St Louis interposed
An even more potent, because more constant, source of antagonism was the venality of the Curia and its pitiless exactions from the multitudes who were obliged to have recourse to it. This had always been the case since the Holy See had succeeded in concentrating in itself the supreme jurisdiction, original and appellate, so that all questions concerning the spirituality could be brought before it. At the Council of St Baseul, in 992, Arnoul of Orleans unhesitatingly denounced Rome
The whole machinery was thus manifestly devised for the purpose of levying as large a tax as possible on the multitudes whose necessities brought them to the Curia, and its rapacity was proverbial. The hands through which every document passed were multiplied to an incredible degree and each one levied his share upon it. Besides, there were heavy charges which do not appear in the rules of the Chancery and which doubtless enured to the benefit of the papal Camera, so that the official tax-tables bear but a slender proportion to the actual cost of briefs to suitors. Thus certain briefs obtained for the city of Cologne, in 1393, of which the charge, according to the tables, was eleven and a half florins, cost when delivered 266, and, in 1423, some similar privileges for the abbey of St Albans were paid for at forty times the amount provided in the tables. Thus the army of officials constituting the Curia not only cost
The administration of justice was provocative of even greater detestation. The business flowing in from every part of Europe was necessarily enormous, and the effort seems to have been not to expedite, but to prolong it, and to render it as costly as possible to the pleader. We hear incidentally of a suit between the Teutonic Order and the clergy of Riga, concerning the somewhat trivial question whether the latter were privileged to wear the vestments of the Order, in the course of which, in 1430, the agent of the Order writes from Rome that he had already expended on it 14,000 ducats, and that 6000 more would be required to bring it to a conclusion. The sale of benefices and expec-tatives was in itself a most lucrative source of profit to the Roman Courts; for, in the magnitude and complexity of the business, mistakes, accidental or otherwise, were frequent, leading to conflicting claims which could be adjudicated only in Rome. The Gallican Church, assembled at the Council of Bourges, in 1438, declared that this was the cause of innumerable suits and contentions between the servants of God; that quarrels and hatreds were excited, the greed of pluralities was stimulated, the money of the kingdom was exhausted; pleaders, forced to have recourse to the Roman Courts, were reduced to poverty, and rightful claims were set aside in favour of those whose greater cunning or larger means enabled them to profit through the frauds rendered possible by the complexities of the papal graces. France protected herself by the Pragmatic Sanction, until its final abrogation, in 1516, by the Concordat between Francis I and Leo X excited intense dissatisfaction and was one of the causes which favoured the rapid spread of the Lutheran heresy there. Germany had not been so fortunate, and among the grievances presented, in 1510, to the Emperor Maximilian was enumerated the granting of expectatives without number, and often the same to several persons, as giving rise to daily law-suits; so that the money laid out in the purchase and that expended in the suit were alike lost, and it became a proverb that whoever obtained an expectative from Rome ought to lay aside with it one or two hundred gold pieces to be expended in rendering it effective. Another of the grievances was that cases, which ought to have been decided at home where there were good and upright judges, were carried without distinction to Rome. There was, in fact, no confidence felt in the notoriously venal Roman Courts, and their very name was an abomination in Germany.
The pressing necessities of the papacy had found another source of relief which did not bear so directly on the nations but was an expedient fatally degrading to the dignity and character of the Holy See. This was the sale of the highest office in the Church next to the papacy itself -the red hat of the cardinalate. The reputation of the Sacred College was already rapidly deteriorating through the nepotism of the Pontiffs,
Under such influences it is no wonder that Rome had become a centre of corruption whence infection was radiated throughout Christendom. In the middle of the fourteenth century Petrarch exhausts his rhetoric in describing the abominations of the papal city of Avignon, where everything was vile; and the return of the Curia to Rome transferred to that city the supremacy in wickedness. In 1499 the Venetian ambassador describes it as the sewer of the world, and Machiavelli asserts that through its example all devotion and all religion had perished in Italy. In 1490 it numbered 6000 public women-an enormous proportion for a population not exceeding 100,000. The story is well known, how Cardinal Borgia who, as Vice-Chancellor, openly sold pardons for crime, when reproved for this, replied, that God desires not the death of sinners but that they should pay and live. If the Diary of Infessura is suspect on account of his partizanship, that of Burchard is unimpeachable, and his placid recital of the events passing under his eyes presents to us a society too depraved to take shame at its own wickedness. The public marriage, he says, of the daughters of Innocent VIII and Alexander VI set the fashion for the clergy to have children, and they diligently followed it; for all, from the highest to the lowest, kept concubines, while the
In fact, one of the most urgent symptoms of the necessity of a new order of things was the complete divorce between religion and morality. There was abundant zeal in debating minute points of faith, but little in evoking from it an exemplary standard of life-as Pius II said of the Conventual Franciscans: they were generally excellent theologians but gave themselves little trouble about virtue. The sacerdotal system, developed by the dialectics of the Schoolmen, had constructed a routine of external observances through which salvation was to be gained not so much by abstinence from sin as by its pardon through the intervention of the priest, whose supernatural powers were in no way impaired by the scandals of his daily life. Except within the pale of the pagan Renaissance, never was there a livelier dread of future punishment, but this punishment was to be escaped, not by amendment but by confession, absolution, and indulgences. This frame of mind is exemplified by the condottiere Vitelozzo Vitelli who, when after a life steeped in crime, he was suddenly strangled by Cesare Borgia, in 1502, felt no more poignant regret than that he could not obtain absolution from the Pope-and that Pope was Alexander VI. Society was thoroughly corrupt-perhaps less so in the lower than in the higher classes-but no one can read the Lenten sermons of the preachers of the time, even with full allowance for rhetorical exaggeration, without recognising that the world has rarely seen a more debased standard of morality than that which prevailed in Italy in the closing years of the Middle Ages. Yet at the same time never were there greater outward manifestations of devotional
A priesthood trained in this formalism, which had practically replaced the ethical values of Christianity, secure that its supernatural attributes were unaffected by the most flagitious life, and selected by such methods as were practised by the Curia and imitated by the prelates,, could not be expected to rise above the standards of the community. Rather, indeed, were the influences, to which the clergy were exposed, adapted to depress them below the average. They were clothed with virtually irresponsible power over their subjects, they were free from the restraints of secular law, and they were condemned to celibacy in times when no man was expected to be continent. For three hundred years it had been the constant complaint that the people were contaminated by their pastors and the complaint continued. After the death of Calixtus III, in 1458, the Cardinals about to enter the Conclave were told in the address made to them by Domenico de' Domenichi, Bishop of Torcello, " The morals of the clergy are corrupt, they have become an offence to the laity, all discipline is lost. From day to day the respect for the Church diminishes; the power of her censures is almost gone." In 1519, Briconnet, Bishop of Meaux, in his diocesan synod, did not shrink from describing the Church as a stronghold of vice, a city of refuge from transgression, where one could live in safety, free from all fear of punishment. The antagonism towards the priesthood, thus aroused among the people, was indicated in the career of Hans Böheim, a wandering musician, who settled in Niklashausen, where he announced revelations from the Virgin. She instructed him to proclaim to her people that she could no longer endure the pride, the avarice, and the lust of the priesthood and that the world would be
Perhaps the most complete and instructive presentation which we have of the opinions and aspirations of the medieval populations is embodied in the ample series of the Spanish Cortes published by the Real Academia de la Historia. In the petitions or cahiers of these representative bodies we find an uninterrupted expression of hostility towards the Church, unrelieved by any recognition of services, whether as the guardian of religious truth or as the mediator between God and man. To the Castilian of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it was simply an engine of oppression, an instrument through which rapacious men could satisfy their greed and inflict misery on the people by its exactions and its constantly encroaching jurisdiction, enforced through unrestricted power of excommunication. Bitter were the reiterated complaints of the immunity which it afforded to criminals, and there was constant irritation at clerical exemption from public duties and burdens. In short, it seems to have been regarded as a public enemy, and the slight respect in which it was held is amply evidenced in the repeated complaints of the spoliation of churches which were robbed of their sacred vessels, apparently without compunction.
The popular literature of the period similarly reflects this mingled contempt and hatred for the priesthood. The Franciscan Thomas Murner, who subsequently was one of the most savage opponents of Luther, in the curious rhymed sermons which, in 1512, he preached in Frankfort-on-the-Main, and which, under the names of the Schelmen-zunft and the Narrenbeschweerung, had a wide popularity, is never tired of dwelling on the scandals of all classes of the clergy, from bishops to monks and nuns. All are worldly, rapacious, and sensual. When the lay lord has shorn the sheep, the priest comes and fairly disembowels it, the begging friar follows and gets what he can and then the pardoner. If a bishop is in want of money he sends around his fiscal among the parish priests to extort payment for the privilege of keeping their concubines. In the nunneries the sister who has the most children is made the abbess. If Christ were on earth to-day He would be betrayed,
This antagonism was fostered by the pulpit, which, until the invention of printing and the diffusion of education, was the only channel of access to the masses. Neglected by the bishops, involved in worldly cares and indulgence, and by the parish priests, too ignorant and too indolent to employ it, the duty of preaching fell, for the most part, to volunteers who, like Thomas Murner, were usually Mendicant Friars and consequently hostile to the secular clergy. Their influence on public opinion was great. With coarse and vigorous eloquence they attacked abuses of all kinds, whether in Church or State, and with an almost incredible hardihood they aroused the people to a sense of their wrongs. A favourite topic was the contrast between the misery of the lower classes and the luxury of the prelates-their hawks and hounds, their splendid retinues and the lavish adornment of their female companions. The licentiousness of the clergy was not spared-according to one of them the wealth of the Church only serves as a pair of bellows to kindle the fires of lust. The earliest of these bold demagogues of whom we have authentic details was Foulques de Neuilly, who, in the closing years of the twelfth century, 'traversed France, calling the people to repentance and listened to by immense crowds. He was especially severe on the vices of the clergy, and it is related of him that at Lisieux, to silence him, they threw him into prison and loaded him with chains; but his saintliness had won for him thaumaturgic power, and he walked forth unharmed. Thomas Connecte, a Carmelite of Britanny, was another wandering preacher who produced an immense impression wherever he went, and we are told that his invectives against the priesthood won him especial applause; but when, in 1432, he went to Rome to lash the vices
That a reform of the Church in its head and its members was necessary had long been generally conceded. For more than a century Europe had been clamouring for it. For this it had gathered its learning and piety at Constance, 1414-18; the Curia had skilfully eluded the demand and the assembly delegated the task to future Councils which, by the decree Frequeiis, it decreed should be convoked at regular intervals of seven years. In obedience to this decree a Council met at Pavia and Siena in 1423-4, where the effort was again made and again frustrated. When the term came around in 1431 and the Church, assembled at Basel, determined not to be balked again, the resolute energy of the reformers speedily caused a rupture with the papacy, and the Basilian canons, aimed at some of the more crying abuses, were stedfastly ignored. The responsibility thus devolved upon the papacy, which had rendered abortive the efforts of the Councils and, after its bitter experience at Basel, had successfully resisted the constantly recurring demands for the enforcement of the decree Frequens. To meet this responsibility successive Popes, from Martin V to Leo X, issued reformatory decrees, the promulgation and non-observance of which only served as an acknowledgment of the evil and of the impossibility of its correction.
At length, in 1511, the schismatic Council of Pisa, held by the disaffected Cardinals under the auspices of Louis XII, forced the hand of Julius II, and to checkmate it he issued a summons for a General Council to assemble in Rome, April 19, 1512, to resist the schism, to reform the morals of laity and clergy, to bring about peace between Christian princes and to prosecute the War with the Turk. ' Not much was to be hoped of a Council held in Rome under papal presidency; but Europe took the project seriously. The instructions of the Spanish delegates ordered them to labour especially for the reformation of the Curia; for the chief objection of the infidels to Christianity arose from the public and execrable wickedness of Rome, for which the Pope was accountable. It was apparently to forestall action that, in March, 1512, Julius appointed a commission of eight Cardinals to reform the Curia and its officials and, on March 30, he issued a bull reducing the heavy
While thus the primary cause of the Reformation is to be sought in
It was the New Learning and the humanistic movement which supplied the impulse necessary for this, and they found conditions singularly favourable for their work. The Church had triumphed so completely over her enemies that the engines of repression had been neglected and had grown rusty, while the Popes were so engrossed in their secular schemes and ambition that they had little thought to waste on the possible tendencies of the fashionable learning which they patronised. Thus there came an atmosphere of free thought, strangely at variance with the rigid dogmatism of the theologians, and even in theology there was a certain latitude of discussion permissible, for the Tridentine decrees had not yet formulated into articles of faith the results of the debates of the Schoolmen since the twelfth century. It is a remarkable proof of the prevailing laxity that Nicholas V commissioned Gianozzo Manetti to make a new translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek, thus showing that the Vulgate was regarded as insufficient and that it enjoyed no such authority as that attributed to it at Trent. In view of this laxity it is not surprising that in Italy the New Learning assumed various fantastic shapes of belief- the cult of the Genius of Rome by Pomponio Leto and his Academy, the Platonism of Marsiglio Ficino, the practical denial of immortality by Pomponazzi, and the modified Averrhoism of Agostino Nifo. So long as the profits of the Curia or the authority of the Pope remained undisputed there was little disposition to trouble the dreamers and speculators. Savonarola declares, with some rhetorical exaggeration, that culture had supplanted religion in the minds of those to whom the destinies of Christianity were confided, until they lost belief in God, celebrated feasts of the devil, and made a jest of the sacred mysteries. In the polite Court circles of Leo X, we are told, a man was scarce accounted as cultured and well-bred unless he cherished a certain amount of heretical opinion; and after Luther's doctrines had become rigidly defined Melanchthon is
In the intellectual ferment at work throughout Europe, it was, however, impossible that many devout Christians should not be led to question details in the theology on which the Schoolmen had erected the structure of sacerdotal supremacy. Gregor Heimburg was a layman who devoted his life to asserting the superiority of the secular power to the ecclesiastical, lending the aid of his learning and eloquence to the anti-papal side of all the controversies which raged from the time of the Council of Basel until he died in 1472, absolved at last from the excommunication which he had richly earned. In 1479 the errors of Pedro de Osma, a professor of Salamanca, were condemned by the Council of Alcalä; they consisted in denying the efficacy of indulgences, the divine origin and necessity of confession, and the infallibility and irresponsible autocracy of the papacy. The same year witnessed the trial at Mainz, by the Cologne inquisitor, of Johann Rucherath of Wesel, a professor in the University of Erfurt and one of the most distinguished theologians of Germany. Erfurt was noted for its humanism and for its adherence to the doctrine of the superiority of councils over popes, and Johann Rucherath had been uttering his heretical opinions for many years without opposition. He would probably have been allowed to continue in peace until the end but for the mortal quarrel between the Realists and the Nominalists and the desire of the Dominican Thomists to silence a Nominalist leader. He rejected the authority of tradition and of the Fathers; he carried predestination to a point which stripped the Church of its power over salvation and he even struck the word F'dioque from the Creed. He was of course condemned and forced to recant; but the contemporary reporter of the trial apparently considers that his only serious error was the one concerning the procession of the Holy Ghost, and he cites various men of learning who held that most of the condemned articles could be maintained. More fortunate was Johann Wessel of Groningen, a prominent theological teacher who entertained heretical notions as to confession, absolution, and purgatory, and denied that the Pope could grant indulgences, for God deals directly with man-doctrines as
To what extent humanism was responsible for these heresies it would not be easy now to determine, save in so far as it had stimulated the spirit of enquiry and destroyed the reverence for authority. These influences are plainly observable in the career of Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, the precursor of the Reformation in France, who commenced as a student of philosophy and, in 1492, visited Italy to sit at the feet of Marsiglio Ficino, Hermolao Barbaro, Pico della Mirandola, and Angelo Poliziano, but who, when he turned to the study of Scripture, expressed the pious wish that the profane classical writings should be burnt rather than be placed in the hands of youth. His Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, printed in 1512, was the first example of casting aside the scholastic exegesis for a treatment in which tradition was rejected and the freedom of individual judgment was exercised as a matter of right. This led him to a number of conclusions which Luther only reached
There were other humanists, less spiritual than Lefevre, who exercised enormous influence in breaking down reverence for tradition and authority and asserting the right of private judgment, without giving in their adhesion to the Reformation. They had a narrow and a perilous path to tread. Wilibald Pirckheimer was no Lutheran, but his name stood first on the list of those selected for excommunication by Eck when he returned from Rome as the bearer of the portentous bull Exsurge Domlne. More fortunate was the foremost humanist, Erasmus, whose unrivalled intellect rendered him a power to be courted by Popes and princes, though he was secretly held responsible as the primary cause of the revolt. In 1522 Adrian VI adjured him to come to the rescue of the bark of the Church, struggling in the tempest sent by God in consequence mainly of the sins of the clergy, and assured him that this was a province reserved to him by God. Yet, in 1527, Edward Lee, then English ambassador to Spain and subsequently Archbishop of York, drew up a list of twenty-one heresies extracted from the writings of Erasmus, ranging from Arianism to the repudiation of indulgences, the veneration of saints, pilgrimages, and relics. At this very moment, however, Erasmus, frightened at the violence of the reformers, was writing to Pirckheimer that he held the authority of the Church so high that at her bidding he would accept Arianism and Pelagianism, for the words of Christ were not of themselves sufficient for him.
Luther himself had in some sort a humanistic pedigree. The Franciscan Paul Scriptoris, professor at Tübingen, learned in Greek and mathematics, used confidentially to predict that a reformation was at hand in which the Church would be forced to reject the scholastic theology and return to the simplicity of primitive belief, but when he permitted these views to find expression in his sermons the chapter of his Order took steps to discipline him, and he fled, in 1502, to Italy where he died. He was the teacher of Johann von Staupitz, Conrad Pellican, and others subsequently prominent in the movement; Staupitz became the Vicar of Luther's Augustinian Order and was warmly esteemed by the Elector Frederick of Saxony; so that he was enabled to afford to Luther efficient protection during the earlier years of the revolt. He was a humanist, strongly imbued with the views of the German mystics of the fourteenth century, and all mysticism is, in
There was no product of humanistic literature, however, which so aided in paving the way for the Reformation as the Narrenschiff, or Ship of Fools, the work of a layman, Sebastian Brant, chancellor (city clerk) of Strassburg. Countless editions and numerous translations of this work, first printed at Basel in 1494, showed how exactly it responded to the popular tendencies, and how wide and lasting was its influence. One of the foremost preachers of the day, Geiler von Kaisersberg, used its several chapters or sections as texts for a series of sermons at Strassburg, in 1498, and the opinions of the poet lost none of their significance in the expositions of the preacher. The work forms a singularly instructive document for the intellectual and moral history of the period. Brant satirises all the follies and weaknesses of man; those of the clergy are of course included and, though no special attention is devoted to them, the manner in which they are handled shows how completely the priesthood had forfeited popular respect. But the important feature of the work is the deep moral earnestness which pervades its jest and satire; man is exhorted never to lose sight of his salvation and the future life is represented as the goal to which his efforts are to be directed. With all this, the Church is never referred to as the means through which the pardon of sin and the grace of God are to be attained; confession is alluded to in passing once or twice, but not the intercession of the Virgin and saints and there is no intimation that the offices of the Church are essential. The lesson is taught that man deals directly with God and is responsible to Him alone. Most significant is the remark that many a mass is celebrated which had better have been left unsung for God does not accept a sacrifice sinfully offered in sin. Wisdom is the one thing for which man should strive,-wisdom being obedience to God and a virtuous life, while the examples cited are almost exclusively drawn from classic paganism-Hercules, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato,
Penelope, Virgil-though the references to Scripture show adequate acquaintance with Holy Writ. As the embodiment of humanistic teaching through which Germany, unlike Italy, aspired to moral elevation as well as to classical training, the Narrenschijf holds the highest place alike for comprehensiveness and effectiveness.
It is not to be supposed that these influences were allowed to develop without protest or opposition. The battle between humanism and obscurantism had been fought out in Italy, in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the strife between Lorenzo Valla and the Mendicant Friars backed by the Inquisition. In Germany the struggle took place, in the second decade of the sixteenth century, over Reuchlin, on the occasion of his protesting against PfefFerkorn's measures for the destruction of objectionable Hebrew books. It arrayed the opposing forces in internecine conflict, and all the culture of Europe was ranged on the side of the scholar who was threatened with prosecution by the Inquisition. The New Learning recognised the danger to which it was exposed and its disciples found themselves unconsciously organising for self-defence and for attack. Religious dogma was not really involved; but the authority of the Schools was at stake, and the power to silence by persecution an adversary who could not be overcome in argument. The bitterness on both sides was intense and victory seemed to perch alternately on the opposing banners; but the quarrel virtually sank out of sight in the larger issues raised by the opening years of the Reformation. Technically the obscurantists triumphed, but it was a Pyrrhic victory; for the discussion had done its work and incidentally it had given occasion for blighting ridicule of the trivialities of the Schools and the stupid ignorance of the Schoolmen in the Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum, 1514, a production that largely contributed to the popular contempt in which the ancient system was beginning to be held.
The whole of this movement had been rendered possible by the invention of printing, which facilitated so enormously the diffusion of intelligence, which enabled public opinion to form and express itself and which, by bringing into communication minds of similar ways of thinking, afforded opportunity for combined action. When we are told that bibliographers enumerate thirteen German versions of the Bible anterior to Luther's and that repeated editions of these were called for, we can measure not only the religious earnestness of the people but the degree in which it was stimulated by the process which brought the Scriptures within reach of the multitude. Cochlaeus complains that when Luther's translation of the New Testament appeared, in 1522, every one sought it without distinction of age or station, and they speedily acquired such familiarity with it that they audaciously disputed with doctors of theology and regarded it as the fountain of all truth. Tradition and scholastic dogma had under such circumstances small chance of reverence. When therefore, on October 31, 1517, Luther's fateful theses were hung
Sed in domo Frobenii Sunt multi pravi haeretici is doubtless true of all the great printing offices. It was a standing grievance with the papalists that the printers eagerly printed and circulated everything on the Lutheran side, while the Catholics had difficulty in bringing their works before the public, and had to defray the cost themselves; but this is doubtless rather attributable to the fact that there was a steady demand for the one and not for the other.
It had not taken the Church long to recognise the potential dangers of the printing-press. In 1479, Sixtus IV empowered the University of Cologne to proceed with censures against the printers, purchasers, and readers of heretical books. In 1486, Berthold, Archbishop of Mainz, endeavoured to establish a crude censorship over translations into the vernacular. Alexander VI, in 1501, took a more comprehensive step, reciting that many books and tracts were printed containing various errors and perverted doctrines, wherefore in future no book was to be printed without preliminary examination and license, while all existing books were to be inspected and those not approved were to be surrendered. The fifth Lateran Council adopted, with but one dissenting voice, a decree laid before it by Leo X constituting the Bishop and Inquisitor of each diocese a board of censors of all books: printers disregarding their commands were visited with excommunication, suspension from business and a fine of a hundred ducats applicable to the fabric of St Peter's. In obedience to this, Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz, in 1517, appointed his vicar, Paul, Bishop of Ascalon, and Dr Jodocus Trutvetter as Inquisitors and Censors of the Press. These measures, which were the precursors of the Index, were in vain. When, in 1521, Charles V, in the Edict of Worms, ordered all Luther's books to be surrendered and burnt, Cochlaeus tells us that they were only the more eagerly sought for and brought better prices.
The dissemination of the Scriptures and the propagation of the anti-sacerdotal views of the humanists naturally led to questioning the conclusions of scholastic theology and to increased impatience of the papal autocracy, these being regarded as the source of the evils so generally and so grievously felt. The new teachings found a wide and receptive audience, fully prepared to carry them to their ultimate
The combination of all these factors rendered an explosion inevitable, and Germany was predestined to be its scene. The ground was better prepared for it there than elsewhere, by the deeper moral and religious earnestness of the people and by the tendencies of the academies and associations with which society was honeycombed. In obedience to these influences the humanistic movement had not been pagan and aesthetic as in Italy, but had addressed itself to the higher emotions and had sought to train the conscience of the individual to recognise his direct responsibility to God and to his fellows. But more potent than all this were the forces arising from the political system of Germany and its relations with the Holy See. The Teutonic spirit of independence had early found expression in the Sachsenspiegel and Sächsische Weichbild - the laws and customs of Northern Germany -
If Italy had suffered bitterly from the Tedeschi, Germany had no less reason to hate the papacy. The fatal curse of the so-called Holy Roman Empire hung over both lands. It gave the Emperor a valid right to the suzerainty of the peninsula; it gave the papacy a traditional claim to confirm at its discretion the election of an Emperor. Conflicting and incompatible pretensions rendered impossible a permanent truce between the representatives of Charlemagne and St Peter. Since the age of Gregory VII the consistent policy of Rome had been to cripple the Empire by fomenting internal dissension and rendering impossible the evolution of a strong and centralised government, such as elsewhere in Europe was gradually overcoming the centrifugal forces of feudalism. This policy had been successful and Germany had become a mere geographical expression - a congeries of sovereign princes, petty and great, owning allegiance to an Emperor whose dignity was scarce more than a primacy of honour and whose actual power was to be measured by that of his ancestral territories. The result of this was that Germany lay exposed defenceless to the rapacity and oppression of the Roman Curia. Its multitudinous sovereigns had vindicated their independence at the cost of depriving themselves of the strength to be derived from centralised union. Germany was the ordinary resource of a Pope in financial straits, through the exaction of a tithe, the raising of the annates, or the issue in unstinted volume of the treasure of the merits of Christ in the form of an unremitting stream of indulgences which sucked up as with a sponge the savings of the people. Nor could any steady opposition be offered to the absorption of the ecclesiastical patronage by the Curia, through which benefices were sold or bestowed on the cardinals or their creatures, and no limits could be set on appeals to the Holy See which enlarged its jurisdiction and impoverished pleaders by involving them in interminable and ruinous litigation in the venal Roman Courts.
It was in vain that in 1438 the Roman King Albert II endeavoured to emulate Charles VII of France by proclaiming a Pragmatic Sanction defining the limits of papal authority. He died the next year and was followed by the feeble Frederick III, during whose long reign of fifty-three years the imperial authority was reduced to a shadow. It was probably to procure a promise of papal coronation that, in 1448, he agreed to a Concordat under which the reservation of benefices to the Pope, as made by John XXII and Benedict XII, was assured; the election of bishops was subjected to papal confirmation with the privilege of substituting a better candidate by advice of the Sacred College; canonries and other benefices falling vacant during the six uneven
Advantageous as the Concordat was to Rome, the Curia could not be restrained to its observance and, in 1455, the three Spiritual Electors of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, united in complaint of its violation. With other bishops and princes of the Empire they bound themselves to resist a tithe demanded by Calixtus III and to send his pardoners back across the Alps with empty purses; they agitated for the enforcement of the canons of Constance and Basel and urged Frederick III to proclaim a Pragmatic Sanction. Various assemblies were held during the next two years to promote these objects and, in 1457, Dr Martin Meyer, Chancellor of the Archbishop of Mainz, in a letter to Aeneas Sylvius, bitterly complained of the papal exactions, whereby Germany was drained of its gold and that nation which, by its valour, had won the Roman Empire and had been the mistress of the world was reduced to want and servitude, to grief and squalor. Calixtus met the German complaints with a serene consciousness of the weakness of his adversaries. ' To the prelates he wrote threatening them with punishment, spiritual and temporal. To Frederick he admitted that mistakes might have been made in the pressure of business but there had been no intentional violation of the Concordat. It was true that the Holy See was supreme and was not to be fettered by the terms of any agreement; but still, out of liberality and love of peace and affection for the person of the Emperor, the compact should be observed. No one must dare to oppose the Roman Church; if Germany thought it had reason to complain it could appeal to him. The result corresponded to the expectations of Calixtus; the confederates suspected their leader, Archbishop Dietrich of Mainz, of desiring to sell them; and after some further agitation in 1458 the movement fell to pieces.
It was promptly followed by another of even more dangerous aspect. Dietrich of Mainz died, May 6, 1459, and was succeeded by Diether von Isenburg. Pius II, then Aeneas Sylvius, had negotiated the Concordat of 1448 which stipulated that annates should be moderate and be payable by instalments, yet he refused to confirm Diether except on condition that he would satisfy the demands of the Camera for his annates. Diether's envoys agreed, and the cost of the confirmation was fixed at 20,550 gulden, to be advanced on the spot by Roman bankers. These accordingly paid the shares of the Pope, the Cardinals, and the
Even more bitter was the conflict, lasting from 1457 to 1464, between Sigismund Duke of Tyrol and Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, as Bishop of Brixen, arising from his praiseworthy attempt to reform his clergy. In this struggle Sigismund had the support of both clergy and people and was able to disregard the interdicts freely launched upon the land, as well as to resist the Swiss whom Pius II induced to take up arms against him. He held out bravely, and the matter was finally settled by an agreement in which he asked for pardon and absolution, thus saving the honour of the Holy See.
If this was a drawn battle between the secular power and the Church, it did not lessen the effect of the triumphs which the Curia had won in the contests with the great Archbishops of Mainz. Unsuccessful resistance leads to fresh aggression and it is not to be supposed that Rome failed to make the most of her victories over the German Church. At the great assembly of the clergy at Coblenz, in 1479, there were countless complaints of the Holy See, chiefly directed against its violations of the Concordat, its unlawful taxation, the privileges granted to the Mendicant Orders, and the numerous exemptions. It was doubtless
If Germany was thus the predestined scene of the outbreak, it was also the land in which the chances of success were the greatest. The very political condition which baffled all attempts at self-protection likewise barred the way to the suppression of the movement. A single prince, like the Elector Frederick of Saxony, could protect it in its infancy. As the revolt made progress other princes could join it,
The progress of the Reformation, and still more so that of the Counter-Reformation, lie outside the limits of the present chapter; but it may be concluded by a few words suggesting why the abuses which, in the sixteenth century, could only be cured by rending the Church in twain, have to so large an extent disappeared since the Reformation, leading many enthusiasts to feel regret that the venerable ecclesiastical structure was not purified from within-that reform was not adopted in place of schism.
The abuses under which Christendom groaned were too inveterate, too firmly entrenched, and too profitable to be removed by any but the sternest and sharpest remedies. The task was too great even for papal omnipotence. The attempt of Adrian VI had broken down. In 1555, the future Cardinal Seripando, in announcing to the Bishop of Fiesole the death of Marcellus II, who, in his short pontificate of twenty-two days, had manifested a resolute determination to correct abuses, says that perhaps God, in thus bringing reform so near and then destroying all hope of it, has wished to show that it is not to be the work of human hands and is not to come in the way expected by us, but in some way that we have not been able to conjecture. In truth the slow operation was required of causes for the most part external. So long as the Roman Church held the monopoly of salvation it inevitably followed the practice of all monopolies in exacting all that the market would yield-in obtaining the maximum of power and wealth. When northern Europe had definitely seceded, and a large proportion of the rest of the Continent was trembling in the balance,-when what was lost could not be regained and a strenuous effort was required to save the remainder,-the Church at length recognised that she stood face to face with a permanent competitor, whose rivalry could only be met by her casting off the burdens that impeded her in the struggle. To this the Council of Trent contributed something, and the stern purpose of Pius V, followed at intervals by other pontiffs, still more. The permanent supremacy of Spain in Italy checked the aspirations of the Holy See towards enlarging its temporal dominions. The chief source of cause of advance, however, is the action of the secular princes who sustained the cause of the Church during a century of religious wars. The Reformation had emancipated their power as well as the