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§ 26. Arnold of Brescia.


Otto (Bishop of Freising, or Freisingen, d. 1158): De Gestis Friderici I. (lib. II. 20).—Gunther (Ligurinus): De Gestis Friderici I., an epos written 1187 (lib. III. vers. 262 sqq.).—Gerhoh (provost of Reichersberg, d. 1169): De investigatione Antichristi, edited by Scheibelberger. Lincii, 1875.—John of Salisbury: Historia Pontificalis (written c. 1162, recently discovered), in Mon. Germ. Script., XX. c. 31, p. 537.—St. Bernard: Epist., Migne, 195, 196, 198.—Walter Map (archdeacon of Oxford, 1196): De Nugis Curialium, ed. Wright, pp. 41 and 43. The sources are all hostile to Arnold and the Arnoldists.

J. D. Köler: De Arnoldo Brixiensi dissert. Göttingen, 1742.—Guadagnini: Apologia di Arnaldo da Brescia. Pavia, 1790, 2 vols.—K. Beck: A. v. Brescia. Basel, 1824.—H. Francke: Arnold von Brescia und seine Zeit. Zürich, 1825 (eulogistic).—Bent: Essay sur a.d. Brescia. Genève, 1856.—Federico Odorici: Arnaldo da Brescia. 1861. Georges Guibal: Arnauld de Brescia et les Hohenstaufen ou la question du pouvoir temporel de la papauté du moyen age. Paris, 1868.—*Giesebrecht: Arnold von Brescia. München, 1873 (in the Reports of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences). Comp. his Gesch. der d. Kaiserzeit, IV. 314 sqq.—A. Di Giovanni De Castro: Arnaldo da Brescia e la revoluzione romana dell XII. secolo. Livorno, 1875.—A. Hausrath: Arnold von Brescia. Leipzig, 1891.—Deutsch, A. von Brescia, in Herzog, II. 117–122;—Gregorovius, IV. 479 sqq. The Lives of St. Bernard, especially Vacandard and Neander-Deutsch.


During the pontificates of Innocent II., Eugene III., and Adrian IV. occurred the interesting episode of Arnold of Brescia, an unsuccessful ecclesiastical and political agitator, who protested against the secularization of the Church, and tried to restore it to apostolic poverty and apostolic purity. These two ideas were closely connected in his mind. He proclaimed the principle that the Church and the clergy, as well as the monks, should be without any temporal possessions, like Christ and the Apostles, and live from the tithes and the voluntary offerings of the people. Their calling is purely spiritual. All the things of this earth belong to the laity and the civil government.

He practised what he taught, and begged his daily bread from house to house. He was a monk of severe ascetic piety, enthusiastic temper, popular eloquence, well versed in the Scriptures, restless, radical, and fearless.121121    Otto von Freising calls him "singularitatis amator, novitatis cupidus, " and ranks him with those characters who are apt to produce heresies and to make schismatic disturbances. St. Bernard denounces him as the author of a schisma pessimum, but bears testimony to his ascetic piety, yet with the cruel charge of satanic thirst for the blood of souls: "Homo est neque manducans neque bibens, solo cum diabolo esuriens et sitiens sanguinem animarum."own.122122    Von Freising: "Praeter haec [his views on Church property]de sacramento altaris, et baptismo parvulorum non sane dicitur sensisse." Some Baptists claim him for his supposed rejection of infant baptism. The attempts to bring him into contact with the Waldenses (who are of later date) have no foundation.

With this ecclesiastical scheme he combined a political one. He identified himself with the movement of the Romans to emancipate themselves from the papal authority, and to restore the ancient republic. By giving all earthly power to the laity, he secured the favor of the laity, but lost the influence of the clergy. It was the political complication which caused his ruin.

Arnold was a native of Brescia in Lombardy, and an ordained reader in the Church. He was a pupil of Abaelard, and called armor-bearer to this Goliath.123123    Freising: "Arnaldus iste et Italia, civitate Brixia oriundus, ejusdemque ecclesiae clericus ac tantum lector ordinatus, Petrum Abailardum olim praeceptorem habuerat." St. Bernard seems to place the acquaintance at a later period: "Execratus a Petro apostolo, adhaeserat Petro Abailardo."h him against St. Bernard, who became his bitter enemy. But with the exception of the common opposition to the hierarchy, they differed very widely. Abaelard was a philosopher, Arnold, a politician; Abaelard, a speculative thinker, Arnold, a practical preacher; Abaelard, a rationalist, Arnold, an enthusiast. The former undermined the traditional orthodoxy, the latter attacked the morals of the clergy and the temporal power of the Church. Arnold was far below Abaelard in intellectual endowment, but far more dangerous in the practical drift of his teaching, which tended to pauperize the Church and to revolutionize society. Baronius calls him "the father of political heresies."

In his ascetic zeal for the moral reform of the clergy, Arnold was in sympathy with the Hildebrandian party, but in his views of the temporal power of the pope, he went to the opposite extreme. Hildebrand aimed at the theocratic supremacy of the Church over the State; Arnold sought the welfare of the Church in her complete separation from the State and of the clerical office from secular entanglements. Pascal II., we may say, had prepared the way for this theory when he was willing to sacrifice the investiture to the emperor. The Hildebrandian reform had nearly passed away, and the old corruptions reappeared. The temporal power of the Church promoted the worldliness of the clergy. The author of the Historia Pontificalis says that Arnold’s doctrine agreed with the Gospel, but stood in crying contrast with the actual condition of things. St. Bernard, his opponent, was as much opposed as he to the splendor and luxury of bishops, the secular cares of the popes, and expressed a wish that he might see the day when "the Church, as in olden times, should cast her net for souls, and not for money."124124    Epist., 238 ad Eugen. III. All the monastic orders protested against the worldliness of the Church, and realized the principle of apostolic poverty within the wall of convents. But Arnold extended it to the secular clergy as well, and even went so far as to make poverty a condition of salvation for priests and monks.125125    Otto v. Freising, l.c.: "Dicebat, nec Clericos proprietatem, nec Episcopos regalia, nec monachos possessiones habentes aliqua ratione salvari posse. Cuncta haec Principis esse, ab ejusque beneficentia in usum tantum laicorum cedere opportere."

Arnold’s sermons gained great popular applause in Lombardy, and caused bitter disputes between the people and the bishop of Brescia. He was charged before the Lateran Synod of 1139 with inciting the laity against the clergy, was deposed as a schismatic (not as a heretic), commanded to be silent, and was expelled from Italy.

He went again to France and was entangled in the controversy of Abaelard with Bernard. Pope Innocent condemned both Abaelard and Arnold to silence and seclusion in a convent, 1140. Abaelard, weary of strife and life, submitted and retired to the convent of Cluny, where two years later he died in peace.126126    Tosti, in his Storia di Abelardo, Naples, 1851, says of Abaelard that he had the courage of thought, but not the courage of action (il coraggio del pensiero non quello dell’azione).f the clergy. He exposed especially the avarice of the bishops. He also charged St. Bernard with unholy ambition and envy against scholars. Bernard called him a man whose speech was honey, whose doctrine was poison. At his request the king expelled Arnold from France.

Arnold fled to Zürich and was kindly received and protected by the papal legate, Cardinal Guido, his former fellow-student in Paris.127127    This Guido was formerly identified with Guido of Castello who became Pope Coelestin II., Sept. 26, 1143, and ruled five months. But Giesebrecht and Gregorovius (IV. 455) distinguish the two. Francke exaggerates Arnold’s influence upon Swiss liberty while at Zürich. Milman makes him a forerunner of Zwingli, who opposed the hierarchy; but Zwingli knew little or nothing of Arnold, and had no idea of pauperizing the Church, or of a separation of Church and State.

After a few years of unknown exile, Arnold appeared in Rome as the leader of a political movement. Innocent II. had allowed him to return to Italy; Eugene III. had pardoned him on condition of his doing penance in the holy places of Rome. But after the flight of this pope to France, Arnold preached again the doctrine of apostolic poverty, called the popes and cardinals Pharisees and scribes, and their church a house of merchandise and den of robbers. He was protected by the Roman senate, and idolized by the people. The Romans had renounced the papal authority, expelled the pope, substituted a purely secular government after the ancient model, and invited Conrad III. to assume the rôle of Constantine I. or Justinian. They lost themselves in dreams of government. The tradition of the old Roman rule controlled the Middle Ages in various forms: it lived as a universal monarchy in the German Empire, as a universal theocracy in the papacy; as a short-lived republic in the Roman people. The modern Italians who oppose the temporal power of the pope are more sensible: they simply claim the natural right of the Italian people to govern themselves, and they confine the dominion of Rome to Italy.

Arnold stepped out of the ecclesiastical into the political sphere, and surrounded the new republic with the halo of religion. He preached in his monastic gown, on the ruins of the Capitol, to the patres conscripti, and advised them to rebuild the Capitol, and to restore the old order of senators and knights. His emaciated face gave him a ghost-like appearance and deepened the effect of his eloquence.

But the republican experiment failed. The people were at last forced into submission by the interdict of Pope Adrian IV. Arnold was banished from Rome, 1154, and soon afterwards hanged by order of Emperor Frederick I., who hated democracy and republicanism. His body was burnt and his ashes were thrown into the Tiber, 1155, lest his admirers should worship his bones.128128    According to a Brescian poem, Arnold refused to recant and made only the single request for time for prayer before dying. Gregorovius, IV. 545.

Arnold’s was a voice of protest against the secular aims of the papacy and the worldliness of the clergy which still has its hearers. "So obstinate is the ban of the Middle Ages under which Rome is still held," says Gregorovius, "that the soul of a heretic of the twelfth century has not yet found rest, but must still haunt Rome." The Catholic Bishop Hefele refused to class him among "real heretics."129129    Unter die eigentlichen Heretiker. Hefele denies the errors ascribed to Arnold by Otto of Freising. Kirchengesch. 407.

The Arnoldists continued for some time to defend the doctrines of their master, and were declared heretics by a council of Verona, 1184, after which they disappeared.

But the idea of apostolic poverty and the opposition to the temporal power of the papacy reappeared among the Spirituals of the Franciscan order. Arnold’s political scheme of restoring the Roman republic was revived two hundred years later by Cola di Rienzi (1347), but with no better success; for Rienzi was murdered, his body burnt, and the ashes were scattered to the winds (1354).



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