HISTORY of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH*
THE PULPIT AND POPULAR PIETY.
§ 72. Literature.
For §§73, 74.—The works of Erasmus, Colet, Tyndale, Geller of Strassburg and other sources quoted in the notes.—Lea: Hist. of Cler. Celibacy. Also Hist. of Span. Inq.—Histt. Of The Engl. Ch. by Capes and Gairdnertraill: Social Hist. of Engl., vol. II.—Seebohm: Oxf. Reformers.—Gasquet: The Old Engl. Bible and Other Essays, Lond., 2d ed., 1907. Also The Eve of the Reformation, pp. 245 sqq.—Cruel: Gesch. d. deutschen Predigt, im MA, pp. 431–663, Detmold, 1879.—Kolde: D. relig. Leben in Erfurt am Ausgange d. MA, 1898.—Landmann: D. Predigttum in Westphalen In d. letzten Zeiten d. MA, pp. 256.—Schön: art. Predigt in Herzog, XV. 642–656. Janssen-Pastor: Hist. of the Ger. People, vol. I.—Pastor: Gesch. d. Päpste, I. 31 sqq., III. 133 sqq.—Hefele-Hergenröther: Conciliengesch., vol. VIII.
For § 75.—Ullmann: Reformers before the Reformation, 2 vols., Hamb., 1841 sq., 2d ed., Gotha, 1866, Engl. trsl, 2 vols., Edinb., 1855; Also J. Wessel, ein Vorgänger Luthers, Hamb., 1834.—Gieseler, II., Part IV. 481–503. Copious excerpts from their writings.—Hergenröther-Kirsch, II., 1047–1049.—Janssen-Pastor: I. 745–747.—Harnack: Dogmengesch., III. 518, etc.—Loofs: Dogmengesch., 4th ed., 655–658.—For Goch: His De libertate christ., etc., ed. by Corn. Graphaeus, Antw., 1520–1523.—O. Clemen: Joh. Pupper von Goch, Leip., 1896 and artt. In Herzog, VI. 740–743, and In Wetzer-Welte, VI. 1678–1684.—For Wesel: his Adv. indulgentias in Walch’s Monumenta medii aevi Götting., 1757.—The proceedings of his trial, in Aeneas Sylvius: Commentarium de concilio Basileae and D’argentré: Col. Nov. judiciorum de erroribus novis, Paris, 1755, and Browne: Fasciculus, 2d ed., Lond., 1690.—Artt. in Herzog by Clemen, xxi, 127–131, and Wetzer-Welte, VI. 1786–1789.—For Wessel: 1st ed. of his works Farrago rerum theol., a collection of his tracts, appeared in the Netherlands about 1521, 2d ed., Wittenb., 1522, containing Luther’s letter, 3d and 4th edd., Basel, 1522, 1523. Complete ed. of his works containing Life, by A. Hardenberg (preacher in Bremen, d. 1574), Groningen, 1614.—Muurling: Commentatio historico-Theol. de Wesseli cum vita tum meritis, Trajecti ad Rhenum, 1831; also de Wesseli principiis ac virtutibus, Amsterd., 1840.—J. Friedrich, Rom. Cath.: J. Wessel, Regensb., 1862.—Artt. Wessel in Herzog, by Van Veen, xxi. 131–147, and Wetzer-Welte, XII. 1339–1343.—P. Hofstede de Groot: J. Wessel Ganzevoort, Groningen, 1871.
For § 76.—Nicolas of Lyra: Postillae sive Commentaria brevia in omnia biblia, Rome, 1541–1543, 5 vols., Introd.—Wyclif: De veritate scrip. Sac., ed. by Buddensieg, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1904.—Gerson: De sensu litterali scrip: sac., Du Pin’s ed., 1728, I. 1 sqq.—Erasmus: Introd. to Gr. Test., 1516.—L. Hain: Repertorium bibliographicum, 4 vols., Stuttg., 1826–1838. Ed. Reuss, d. 1891: D. Gesch. d. heil. Schriften N. T., 6th ed., Braunschweig, 1887, pp. 603 sqq.—F. W. Farrar: Hist. of Interpretation, Lond., 1886, pp. 254–303.—S. Berger: La Bible Française au moyen âge, Paris, 1884. Gasquet: The Old Engl. Bible, etc.; the Eve of the Reformation.—F. Falk: Bibelstudien, Bibelhandschriften und Bibeldrucken, Mainz, 1901: Die Bibel am Ausgange des MA, ihre Kenntnis und ihre Verbreitung, Col., 1905.—W. Walther: D. deutschen Bibelübersetzungen des MA, Braunschweig, 1889–1892.—A. Coppinger: Incunabula bibl. or the First Half Cent. of the Lat. Bible, 1450–1500, with 54 facsimiles, Lond., 1892.—The Histt. of the Engl. Bible, by Westcott, Eadie, Moulton, Kenyon, etc.—Janssen-Pastor: Gesch. des deutschen Volkes, I. 9 sqq.—Bezold: Gesch. der Reformation, pp. 109 sqq.—R. Schmid: Nic. of Lyra, In Herzog XII. 28–30.—Artt. Bibellesen und Bibelverbot and Bibelübersetzungen in Herzog II. 700 sqq., III. 24 sqq. Other works cited in the notes.
For § 77.—I. Sources: Savonarola’s Lat. and Ital. writings consist of sermons, tracts, letters and a few poems. The largest collection of MSS. and original edd. is preserved in the National Library of Florence. It contains 15 edd. of the Triumph of the Cross issued in the 15th and 16th centt. Epp. spirituales et asceticae, ed. Quétif, Paris, 1674. The sermons were collected by a friend, Lorenzo Vivoli, and published as they came fresh from the preacher’s lips. Best ed. Sermoni a Prediche, Prato, 1846. Also ed. by G. Baccini, Flor., 1889. A selection, ed. by Villari and Casanova: Scelta di prediche e scritti, G. Sav., Flor., 1898.—Germ. trsl. of 12 sermons and the poem de ruina mundi by H. Schottmüller: Berlin, 1901, pp. 132. A. Gherardi: Nuovi documenta e studii intorno a Savon., 1876, 2d ed., Flor., 1887.—The Triumph of the Cross, ed. in Lat. and Ital. by L. Ferretti, O. P., Milan, 1901. Engl. trsl. from this ed. by J. Procter, Lond., 1901, pp. 209.—Exposition of Ps. LI and part of Ps. XXXII, Lat. text with Engl. trsl. by E. H. Perowne, Lond., 1900, pp. 227.—Sav.’s Poetry, ed. by C. Guasti, Flor., 1862, pp. xxii, 1864.—Rudelbach, Perrens and Villari give specimens in the original.—E. C. Bayonne: Oeuvres spir. choisies de Sav., 3 vols., Paris, 1880.—Oldest biographies by P. Burlamacchi, d. 1519, founded on an older Latin Life, the work of an eye-witness, ed. by Mansi, 1761: G. F. Pico Della Mirandola (nephew of the celebrated scholar of that name), completed 1520, publ. 1530, ed. by Quétif, 2 vols., Paris, 1674. On these three works, see Villari, Life of Sav., pp. xxvii sqq.—Also J. Nardi (a contemporary): Le storie della cittá di Firenze, 1494–1531, Flor., 1584. Luca Landucci, a pious Florentine apothecary and an ardent admirer of Sav.: Diario Fiorentino, 1450–1516, Florence, 1883. A realistic picture of Florence and the preaching and death of Savonarola.
II. Modern Works.—For extended lit., see Potthast: Bibl. Hist. med., II. 1564 sqq.—Lives by Rudelbach, Hamb., 1835.—Meier, Berl., 1836.—K. Hase in Neue Propheten, Leip., 1851.—F. T. Perrens, 2 vols., Paris, 1853, 3d ed., 1859.—Madden, 2 vols., Lond., 1854.—Padre V. Marchese, Flor., 1855.—*Pasquale Villari: Life and Times of Savon., Flor., 1859–1861, 2d ed., 1887, 1st Engl. trsl. by L. Horner, 2d Engl. trsl. by Mrs. Villari, Lond., 2 vols., 1888, 1 vol. ed., 1899.—Ranke in Hist. biogr. Studien, Leip., 1877.—Bayonne: Paris, 1879.—E. Warren, Lond., 1881.—W. Clark, Prof. Trinity Col., Toronto, Chicago, 1891.—J. L. O’Neil, O. P.: Was Sav. really excommunicated? Bost, 1900; *H. Lucas, St. Louis, 1900.—G. McHardy, Edinb., 1901.—W. H. Crawford: Sav. the Prophet in Men of the Kingdom series.—*J. Schnitzer: Quellen und Forschungen zur Gesch. Savon., 3 vols., Munich, 1902–1904. Vol. II., Sav. und die Fruerprobe, pp. 175.—Also Savon. im Lichte der neuesten Lit. in Hist.-pol. Blätter, 1898–1900.—H. Riesch: Savon. U. S. Zeit, Leip., 1906.—Roscoe in Life of Lorenzo the Magnificent.—E. Comba: Storia della riforma in Italia, Flor., 1881.—P. Schaff, art. Savon. in Herzog II., 2d ed., XIII. 421–431, and Benrath in 3d ed., XVII. 502–513.—Creighton: vol. III.—Gregorovius: VII. 432 sqq.—*Pastor: 4th ed., III. 137–148, 150–162, 396–437: Zur Beurtheilung Sav., pp. 79, Freib. im Br., 1896. This brochure was in answer to sharp attacks upon Pastor’s treatment of Savonarola in the 1st ed. of his Hist., especially those of Luotto and Feretti.—P. Luotto: Il vero Savon. ed il Savon. di L. Pastor, Flor., 1897, p. 620. Luotto also wrote Dello studio di scrittura sacra secondo G. Savon. e Léon XIII., Turin, 1896.—Feretti: Per la causa di Fra G. Savon., Milan, 1897.—Mrs. Oliphant: Makers of Florence. Godkin: The Monastery of San Marco, Lond., 1901.—G. Biermann: Krit. Studie zur Gesch. des Fra G. Savon., Rostock, 1901.—Brie: Savon. und d. deutsche Lit., Breslau, 1903.—G. Bonet-Maury: Les Précurseurs de la Réforme et de la liberté de conscience ... du XIIe et XIIIe siècle, Paris, 1904, contains sketches of Waldo, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter the Venerable, St. Francis, Dante, Savonarola, etc.—Savonarola has been made the subject of romantic treatment by Lenau In his poem Savonarola, 1844, Geo. Eliot in Romola, and by Alfred Austin in his tragedy, Savonarola, Lond., 1881, with a long preface in which an irreverent, if not blasphemous, parallel is drawn between the Florentine preacher and Christ.
For § 78.—See citations In the Notes.
For § 79.—G. Uhlhorn: Die christl. Liebesthätigkeit im MA, Stuttg., 1884.—P. A Thiejm: Gesch. d. Wohlthätigkeitsanstalten in Belgien, etc., Freib., 1887.—L. Lallemand: Hist. de la charité, 3 vols., Paris, 1906. Vol. 3 covers the 10th-16th century.—T. Kolde: Art. Bruderschaften, in Herzog, III. 434–441.—A. Blaize: Des monts-de-piété et des banques de prêt sur gage, Paris, 1856.—H. Holzapfel: D. Anfänge d. montes pietatis 1462–1515, Munich, 1903.—Toulmin Smith: Engl. Gilds, Lond., 1870.—Thorold Rogers: Work and Wages, ch. XI. sqq.—W. Cunningham: Growth of Engl. Industry and Commerce, bk. II., ch. III. sqq.—Lecky: Hist. of Europ. Morals, II.—Stubbs: Const. Hist., ch. XXI.—W. von Heyd: Gesch. d. Levantenhandels im MA, 2 vols., Stuttg., 1879.—Artt. Aussatz and Zins u. Wucher In Wetzer-Welte, I. 1706 sqq., XII. 1963–1975.—Janssen-Pastor, I. 451 sqq.—Pastor: Gesch. d. Päpste., III.
For § 60.—The Sources are Thomas Aquinas, the papal bulls of indulgence and treatments by Wyclif, Huss, Wessel, John of Paltz, James of Jüterbock, etc. Much material is given by W. Köhler: Dokumente zum Ablassstreit, Tüb., 1902, and A. Schulte: D. Fugger in Rom, 2 vols., Leipz., 1904. Vol. II contains documents.—The authoritative Cath. work is Fr. Beringer: Die Ablässe, ihr Wesen u. Gebrauch, pp. 860 and 64, 13th ed., Paderb., 1906.—Also Nic. Paulus: J. Tetzel, der Ablassprediger, Mainz, 1899.—Best Prot. treatments, H. C. Lea: Hist. of Auric. Conf. and Indulgences in the Lat. Ch., 3 vols., Phil., 1896.—T. Brieger, art. Indulgenzen in Herzog, IX. 76–94, and Schaff-Herzog, V. 485 sqq. and D. Wesen d. Ablasses am Ausgange d. MA, a university address. Brieger has promised an extended treatment in book form.—Schaff: Ch. Hist., V., I. p. 729 sqq., VI. 146 sqq.
§ 73. The Clergy.
Both in respect of morals and education the clergy, during the period following the year 1450, showed improvement over the age of the Avignon captivity and the papal schism. Clerical practice in that former age was so lo that it was impossible for it to go lower and any appearance of true religion remain. One of the healthy signs of this latter period was that, in a spirit of genuine religious devotion, Savonarola in Italy and such men in Germany as Busch, Thomas Murner, Geiler of Strassburg, Sebastian Brant and the Benedictine abbot, Trithemius, held up to condemnation, or ridicule, priestly incompetency and worldliness. The pictures, which they joined Erasmus in drawing, were dark enough. Nevertheless, the clergy both of the higher and lower grades included in its ranks many men who truly sought the well-being of the people and set an example of purity of conduct.
The first cause of the low condition, for low it continued to be, was the impossible requirement of celibacy. The infraction of this rule weakened the whole moral fibre of the clerical order. A second cause is to be looked for in the seizure of the rich ecclesiastical endowments by the aristocracy as its peculiar prize and securing them for the sons of noble parentage without regard to their moral and intellectual fitness. To the evils arising from these two causes must be added the evils arising from the unblushing practice of pluralism. No help came from Rome. The episcopal residences of Toledo, Constance, Paris, Mainz, Cologne and Canterbury could not be expected to be models of domestic and religious order when the tales of Boccaccio were being paralleled in the lives of the supreme functionaries of Christendom at its centre.
The grave discussions of clerical manners, carried on at the Councils of Constance and Basel, revealed the disease without providing a cure. The proposition was even made by Cardinal Zabarella and Gerson, in case further attempts to check priestly concubinage failed, to concede to the clergy the privilege of marriage.1129 In the programme for a reformation of the Church, offered by Sigismund at Basel, the concession was included and Pius II., one of the attendants on that synod, declared the reasons for restoring the right of matrimony to priests to be stronger in that day than were the reasons in a former age for forbidding it. The need of a relaxation of the rigid rule found recognition in the decrees of Eugenius IV., 1441, and Alexander VI., 1496, releasing some of the military orders from the vow of chastity. Here and there, priests like Lallier of Paris at the close of the 15th century, dared to propose openly, as Wyclif had done a century before, its full abolition. But, for making the proposal, the Sorbonne denied to Lallier the doctorate.
In Spain, the efforts of synods and prelates to put a check upon clerical immorality accomplished little. Finally, the secular power intervened and repeated edicts were issued by Ferdinand and Isabella against priestly concubinage, 1480, 1491, 1502, 1503. So energetic was the attempt at enforcement that, in districts, clerics complained that the secular officials made forcible entrance into their houses and carried off their women companions.1130 In his History of the Spanish Inquisition, Dr. Lea devotes a special chapter to clerical solicitation at the confessional. Episcopal deliverances show that the priests were often illiterate and without even a knowledge of Latin. The prelates were given to worldliness and the practice of pluralism. The revenues of the see of Toledo were estimated at from 80,000 to 100,000 ducats, with patronage at the disposal of its incumbent amounting to a like sum. A single instance must suffice to show the extent to which pluralism in Spain was carried. Gonzalez de Mendoza, while yet a child, held the curacy of Hita, at twelve was archdeacon of Guadalajara, one of the richest benefices of Spain, and retained the bishopric of Seguenza during his successive administrations of the archbishoprics of Seville and Toledo. Gonzalez was a gallant knight and, in 1484, when he led the army which invaded Granada, he took with him his bastard son, Rodrigo, who was subsequently married in great state in the presence of Ferdinand and Isabella to Ferdinand’s niece. In 1476, when the archbishopric of Saragossa became vacant, king Juan II. applied to Sixtus IV. to appoint his son, Alfonzo, a child of six, to the place. Sixtus declined, but after a spirited controversy preserved the king’s good-will by appointing the boy perpetual administrator of the see.
In France, the bishop of Angers, in an official address to Charles VIII., 1484, declared that the religious orders had fallen below the level of the laity in their morals.1131 To give a case of extravagant pluralism, John, son of the duke of Lorraine, 1498–1550, was appointed bishop-coadjutor of Metz, 1501, entering into full possession seven years later, and, one after the other, he united with this preferment the bishoprics of Toul, 1517, and Térouanne, 1518, Valence and Die, 1521, Verdun, 1523, Alby, 1536, Macon soon after, Agen, 1541 and Nantes, 1542. To these were added the archbishoprics of Narbonne, 1524, Rheims, 1533, and Lyons, 1537. He also held at least nine abbeys, including Cluny. He resigned the sees of Verdun and Metz to a nephew, but resumed them in 1548 when this nephew married Marguerite d’Egmont.1132 In 1518, he received the red hat. During the 15th century one boy of 10 and another of 17 filled the bishopric of Geneva. A loyal Romanist, Soeur Jeanne de Jussie, writing after the beginning of the 16th century, testifies to the dissoluteness of the bishops and clergy of the Swiss city and charged them with living in adultery.1133
In Germany, although as a result of the labors of the Mystics the ecclesiastical condition was much better, the moral and intellectual unfitness was such that it calls forth severe criticism from Catholic as well as Protestant historians. The Catholic, Janssen, says that "the profligacy of the clergy at German cathedrals, as well as their rudeness and ignorance, was proverbial. The complaints which have come down to us from the 15th century of the bad morals of the German clergy are exceedingly numerous." Ficker, a Protestant, speaks of "the extraordinary immorality to which priests and monks yielded themselves." And Bezold, likewise a Protestant, says that "in the 15th century the worldliness of the clergy reached a height not possible to surpass."1134 The contemporary Jacob Wimpheling, set forth probably the true state of the case. He was severe upon the clergy and yet spoke of many excellent prelates, canons and vicars, known for their piety and good works. He knew of a German cleric who held at one time 20 livings, including 8 canonries. To the archbishopric of Mainz, Albrecht of Hohenzollern added the see of Halberstadt and the archbishopric of Magdeburg. For his promotion to the see of Mainz he paid 30,000 gulden, money he borrowed from the Fuggers.
The bishops were charged with affecting the latest fashions in dress and wearing the finest textures, keeping horses and huntings dogs, surrounding themselves with servants and pages, allowing their beards and hair to grow long, and going about in green- and red-colored shoes and shoes punctured with holes through which ribbons were drawn. They were often seen in coats of mail, and accoutred with helmets and swords, and the tournament often witnessed them entered in the lists.1135
The custom of reserving the higher offices of the Church for the aristocracy was widely sanctioned by law. As early as 1281 in Worms and 1294 in Osnabruck, no one could be dean who was not of noble lineage. The office of bishop and prebend stalls were limited to men of noble birth by Basel, 1474, Augsburg, 1475, Münster and Paderborn, 1480, and Osnabruck, 1517. The same rule prevailed in Mainz, Halberstadt, Meissen, Merseburg and other dioceses. At the beginning of the 16th century, it was the established custom in Germany that no one should be admitted to a cathedral chapter who could not show 16 ancestors who had joined in the tournament and, as early as 1474, the condition of admission to the chapter of Cologne was that the candidate should show 32 members of his family of noble birth. Of the 228 bishops who successively occupied the 32 German sees from 1400–1517, all but 13 were noblemen. The eight occupants of the see of Münster, 1424–1508, were all counts or dukes. So it was with 10 archbishops of Mainz, 1419–1514, the 7 bishops of Halberstadt, 1407–1513, and the 5 archbishops of Cologne, 1414–1515.1136 This custom of keeping the high places for men of noble birth was smartly condemned by Geiler of Strassburg and other contemporaries. Geiler declared that Germany was soaked with the folly that to the bishoprics, not the more pious and learned should be promoted but only those who, "as they say, belong to good families." It remained for the Protestant Reformation to reassert the democratic character of the ministry.
A high standard could not be expected of the lower ranks of the clergy where the incumbents of the high positions held them, not by reason of piety or intellectual attainments but as the prize of birth and favoritism. The wonder is, that there was any genuine devotion left among the lower priesthood. Its ranks were greatly overstocked. Every family with several sons expected to find a clerical position for one of them and often the member of the family, least fitted by physical qualifications to make his way in the world, was set apart for religion. Here again Geiler of Strassburg applied his lash of indignation, declaring that, as people set apart for St. Velten the chicken that had the pox and for St. Anthony the pig that was affected with disease, so they devoted the least likely of their children to the holy office.
The German village clergy of the period were as a rule not university bred. The chronicler, Felix Faber of Ulm, in 1490 declared that out of 1000 priests scarcely one had ever seen a university town and a baccalaureate or master was a rarity seldom met with. With a sigh, people of that age spoke of the well-equipped priest of, the good old times."
From the Alps to Scandinavia, concubinage was widely practised and in parts of Germany, such as Saxony, Bavaria, Austria and the Tirol, it was general. The region, where there was the least of it, was the country along the Rhine. In parts of Switzerland and other localities, parishes, as a measure of self-defence, forced their young pastors to take concubines. Two of the Swiss Reformers, Leo Jud and Bullinger, were sons of priests and Zwingli, a prominent priest, was given to incontinence before starting on his reformatory career. It was a common saying that the Turk of clerical sensualism within was harder to drive out than the Turk from the East.
How far the conscientious effort, made in Germany in the last years of the Middle Ages to reform the convents, was attended with success is a matter of doubt. John Busch labored most energetically in that direction for nearly fifty years in Westphalia, Thuringia and other parts. The things that he records seem almost past belief. Nunneries, here and there, were no better than brothels. In cases, they were habitually visited by noblemen. The experience is told of one nobleman who was travelling with his servant and stopped over night at a convent. After the evening meal, the nuns cleared the main room and, dressed in fine apparel, amused their visitor by exhibitions of dancing.1137 Thomas Murner went so far as to say that convents for women had all been turned into refuges for people of noble birth.1138 The dancing during the sessions of the Diet of Cologne, 1505, was opened by the archbishop and an abbess, and nuns from St. Ursula’s and St. Mary’s, the king Maximilian looking on. Preachers, like Geiler of Strassburg, cried out against the moral dangers which beset persons taking the monastic vow.1139 The cloistral life came to be known as "the compulsory vocation." As the time of the Reformation approached, there was no lessening of the outcry against the immorality of the clergy and convents, as appears from the writings of Ulrich von Hutten and Erasmus.
The practice of priestly concubinage, uncanonical though it was, bishops were quite ready to turn into a means of gain, levying a tax upon it. In the diocese of Bamberg, a toll of 5 gulden was exacted for every child born to a priest and, in a single year, the tax is said to have brought in the considerable sum of 1,500 gulden. In 1522, a similar tax of 4 gulden brought into the treasury of the bishop of Constance, 7,500 gulden. The same year, complaint was made to the pope by the Diet of Nürnberg of the reckless lawlessness of young priests in corrupting women and of the annual tax levied in most dioceses upon all the clergy without distinction whether they kept concubines or not.1140 It is not surprising, in view of these facts, that Luther called upon monks and nuns unable to avoid incontinence of thought, to come forth from the monasteries and marry. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that no plausible charge of incontinence was made against the Reformer.
If we turn to England, we are struck with the great dearth of contemporary religious literature, 1450–1517, as compared with Germany.1141 Few writings have come down to us from which to form a judgment of the condition of the clergy. Our deductions must be drawn in part from the testimonies of the English Humanists and Reformers and from the records of the visitations of monasteries and also their suppression under Henry VIII. In a document, drawn up at the request of Henry V. by the University of Oxford, 1414, setting forth the need of a reformation of the Church, one of the articles pronounced the "undisguised profligacy of the clergy to be the scandal of the Church."1142 In the middle of the century, 1455, Archbishop Bourchier’s Commission for Reforming the Clergy spoke of the marriage and concubinage of the secular clergy and the gross ignorance which, in quarters, marked them. In the latter part of the century, 1489, the investigation of the convents, undertaken by Archbishop Morton, uncovered an unsavory state of affairs. The old abbey of St. Albans, for example, had degenerated till it was little better than a house of prostitution for monks. In two priories under the abbey’s jurisdiction, the nuns had been turned out to give place to avowed courtesans. The Lollards demanded the privilege of wedlock for priests. When, in 1494, 30 of their number were arraigned by Robert Blacater, archbishop of Glasgow, one of the charges against them was their assertion that priests had wives in the primitive Church.1143 Writing at the very close of the 15th century, Colet exclaimed, "Oh, the abominable impiety of those miserable priests, of whom this age of ours contains a great multitude, who fear not to rush from the arms of some foul harlot into the temple of the Church, to the altar of Christ, to the mysteries of God."1144 The famous tract, the Beggars’ Petition, written on the eve of the British Reformation, accused the clergy of having no other serious occupation than the destruction of the peace of family life and the corruption of women.1145
As for the practice of plural livings, it was perhaps as much in vogue in England as in Germany. Dr. Sherbourne, Colet’s predecessor as dean of St. Paul’s, was a notable example of a pluralist, but in this respect was exceeded by Morton and Wolsey. As for the ignorance of the English clergy, it is sufficient to refer to the testimony of Bishop Hooper who, during his visitation in Gloucester, 1551, found 168 of 811 clergymen unable to repeat the Ten Commandments, 40 who could not tell where the Lord’s Prayer was to be found and 31 unable to give the author.1146
In Scotland, the state of the clergy in pre-Reformation times was probably as low as in any other part of Western Europe.1147 John IV.’s bastard son was appointed bishop of St. Andrews at 16 and the illegitimate sons of James V., 1513–1542, held the five abbeys of Holyrood, Kelso, St. Andrews, Melrose and Coldingham. Bishops lived openly in concubinage and married their daughters into the ranks of the nobility. In the marriage document, certifying the nuptials of Cardinal Beaton’s eldest daughter to the Earl of Crawford, 1546, the cardinal called her his child. On the night of his murder, he is said to have been with his favorite mistress, Marion Ogilvie.
Side by side with the decline of the monastic institutions, there prevailed among the monks of the 15th century a most exaggerated notion of the sanctifying influence of the monastic vow. According to Luther, the monks of his day recognized two grades of Christians, the perfect and the imperfect. To the former the monastics belonged. Their vow was regarded as a second baptism which cleared those who received it from all stain, restored them to the divine image and put them in a class with the angels. Luther was encouraged by his superiors to feel, after he had taken the vow, that he was as pure as a child. This second regeneration had been taught by St. Bernard and Thomas Aquinas. Thomas said that it may with reason be affirmed that any one "entering religion," that is, taking the monastic vow, thereby received remission of sins.1148
§ 74. Preaching.
The two leading preachers of Europe during the last 50 years of the Middle Ages were Jerome Savonarola of Florence and John Geiler of Strassburg. Early in the 15th century, Gerson was led by the ignorance of the clergy to recommend a reduction of preaching,1149 but in the period just before the Reformation there was a noticeable revival of the practice of preaching in Germany and a movement in that direction was felt in England. Erasmus, as a cosmopolitan scholar made an appeal for the function of the pulpit, which went to all portions of Western Europe.
In Germany, the importance of the sermon was emphasized by synodal decrees and homiletic manuals. Such synods were the synods of Eichstädt, 1463, Bamberg, 1491, Basel, 1503, Meissen, 1504. Surgant’s noted Handbook on the Art of Preaching praised the sermon as the instrument best adapted to lead the people to repentance and inflame Christian love and called it "the way of life, the ladder of virtue and the gate of paradise."1150 It was pronounced as much a sin to let a word from the pulpit fall unheeded as to spill a drop of the sacramental wine. In the penitential books and the devotional manuals of the time, stress was laid upon the duty of attending preaching, as upon the mass. Those who left church before the sermon began were pronounced deserving excommunication. Wolff’s penitential manual of 1478 made the neglect of the sermon a violation of the 4th commandment. The efficacy of sermons was vouched for in the following story. A good man met the devil carrying a bag full of boxes packed with salves. Holding up a black box, the devil said that he used it to put people to sleep during the preaching service. The preachers, he continued, greatly interfered with his work, and often by a single sermon snatched from him persons he had held in his power for 30 or 40 years.1151
By the end of the 15th century, all the German cities and most of the larger towns had regular preaching.1152 It was a common thing to endow pulpits, as in Mainz, 1465, Basel, 1469, Strassburg, 1478, Constance, Augsburg, Stuttgart and other cities. The popular preachers drew large audiences. So it was with Geiler of Strassburg, whose ministry lasted 30 years. 10,000 are said to have gathered to hear the sermons of the barefooted monk, Jacob Mene of Cologne, when he held forth at Frankfurt, the people standing in the windows and crowding up against the organ to hear him. It was Mene’s practice to preach a sermon from 7–8 in the morning, and again after the noon meal. On a certain Good Friday he prolonged his effort five hours, from 3–8 P. M. According to Luther, towns were glad to give itinerant monks 100 gulden for a series of Lenten discourses.
Other signs of the increased interest felt in sermons were the homiletic cyclopaedias of the time furnishing materials derived from the Bible, the Fathers, classic authors and from the realm of tale and story. To these must be added the plenaria, collections from the Gospels and Epistles with glosses and comments. The plenarium of Guillermus, professor in Paris, went through 75 editions before 1500. Collections of model sermons were also issued, some of which had an extensive circulation. The collection of John Nider, d. 1439, passed through 17 editions. His texts were invariably subjected to a threefold division. The collection of the Franciscan, John of Werden, who died at Cologne about 1450, passed through 25 editions. John Herolt’s volume of Sermons of a Disciple — Sermones discipuli — went through 41 editions before 1500 and is computed to have had a circulation of no less than 40,000 copies.1153 One of the most popular of the collections called Parati sermones—The Ready Man’s Sermons — appeared anonymously. Its title was taken from 1 Peter 4:6, "ready—paratus — to judge the quick and the dead" and Ps. 119:60, "I made haste [ready] and delayed not to observe thy commandments." In setting forth the words "Be not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is" the author says that such wisdom is taught by the animals. 1. By the lion who brushes out his paw-prints with his tail so that the hunter is thrown off the track. So we should with penance erase the marks of our sins that the devil may not find us out. 2. The serpent which closes both ears to the seducer, one ear with his tail and the other by holding it to the ground. Against the devil we should shut our ears by the two thoughts of death and eternity. 3. The ant from which we learn industry in making provision for the future. 4. A certain kind of fish which sucks itself fast to the rock in times of storm. So we should adhere closely to the rock, Christ Jesus, by thoughts of his passion and thus save ourselves from the surging of the waves of the world. Such materials show that the homiletic instinct was alert and the preachers anxious to catch the attention of the people and impart biblical truth.
The sermons of the German preachers of the 15th century were written now in Latin, now in German. The more famous of the Latin sermonizers were Gabriel Biel, preacher in Mainz and then professor in Tübingen, d. 1495, and Jacob Jüterbock, 1883–1465, Carthusian prior in Erfurt and professor in the university in that city.1154 Among the notable preachers who preached in German were John Herolt of Basel, already mentioned; the Franciscan John Gritsch whose sermons reached 26 editions before 1500; the Franciscan, John Meder of Basel whose Lenten discourses on the Prodigal Son of the year 1494 reached 36 editions and Ulrich Krafft, pastor in Ulm, 1500 to 1516, and author of the two volumes, The Spiritual Battle and Noah’s Ark.
More famous than all others was Geiler of Strassburg, usually called from his father’s birthplace, Geiler of Kaisersberg, born in Schaffhausen, 1445, died in Strassburg, 1510. He and his predecessor, Bertholdt of Regensburg, have the reputation of being the most powerful preachers of mediaeval Germany. For more than a quarter of a century he stood in the cathedral pulpit of Strassburg, the monarch of preachers in the North. After pursuing his university studies in Freiburg and Basel, Geiler was made professor at Freiburg, 1476. His pulpit efforts soon made him a marked man. In accepting the call as preacher in the cathedral at Strassburg, he entered into a contract to preach every Sunday and on all festival and fast days. He continued to fill the pulpit till within two months of his death and lies interred in the cathedral where he preached.1155
"The Trumpet of Strassburg," as Geiler was called, gained his fame as a preacher of moral and social reforms. He advocated no doctrinal changes. Called upon, 1500, to explain his public declaration that the city councillors were "all of the devil," he issued 21 articles demanding that games of chance be prohibited, drinking halls closed, the Sabbath and festival days observed, the hospitals properly cared for and monkish mendicancy regulated.
He was a preacher of the people and now amused, now stung them, by anecdotes, plays on words, descriptions, proverbs, sallies of wit, humor and sarcasm.1156 He attacked popular follies and fashions and struck at the priests "many of whom never said mass," and at the convents in which "neither religion nor virtue was found and the living was lax, lustful, dissolute and fall of all levity."1157 Mediaeval superstition he served up to his hearers in good doses. He was a firm believer in astrology, ghosts and witches.
Geiler’s style may seem rude to the polite age in which we live, but it reached the ear of his own time. The high as well as the low listened. Maximilian went to hear Geiler when he was in Strassburg. No one could be in doubt about the preacher’s meaning. In a series of 65 passion sermons, he elaborated a comparison between Christ and a ginger cake—the German Lebkuchen. Christ is composed of the bean meal of the deity, the old fruit meal of the body and the wheat meal of the soul. To these elements is added the honey of compassion. He was thrust into the oven of affliction and is divided by preachers into many parts and distributed among the people. In other sermons, he compared perfect Christians to sausages.
In seven most curious discourses on Der Hase im Pfeffer an idiomatic expression for That’s the Rub—based on Prov. 30:26, "The coney is a weak folk," he made 14 comparisons between the coney and the good Christian. The coney runs better up hill than down, as a good Christian should do. The coney has long ears as also a Christian should have, especially monastics, attending to what God has to say. The coney must be roasted; and so must also the Christian pass through the furnace of trial. The coney being a lank beast must be cooked in lard, so also must the Christian be surrounded with love and devotion lest he be scorched in the furnace. In 64 discourses, preached two years before his death, Geiler brought out the spiritual lessons to be derived from ants and in another series he elaborated the 25 sins of the tongue. In a course of 20 sermons to business men, he depicted the six market days and the devil as a pedler(sic) going about selling his wares. He preached 17 sermons on the lion in which the king of beasts was successively treated as the symbol of the good man, the worldly man, Christ and the devil; 12 of these sermons were devoted to the ferocious activities of the devil. A series on the Human Tree comprised no less than 163 discourses running from the beginning of Lent, 1495, to the close of Lent, 1496.
During the last two years of the 15th century, Geiler preached 111 homilies on Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools Narren-schiff — all drawn from the text Eccles. 1:15 as it reads in the Vulgate, "the fools are without number." Through Geiler’s intervention Brant had been brought to Strassburg from Basel, where he was professor. His famous work, which is a travesty upon the follies of his time, employed the figure of a ship for the transport of his fools because it was the largest engine of transportation the author knew of. Very humorously Brant placed himself in the moderator’s chair while all the other fools were gathered in front of him. He himself took the rôle of the Book-fool. Among other follies which are censured are the doings of the mendicants, the traffic in relics and indulgences and the multiplication of benefices in single hands.1158 Geiler’s homilies equal Brant’s poetry in humor. Both were true to life. No preacher of the Middle Ages held the popular ear so long as Geiler of Strassburg and no popular poet, not even Will Langland, more effectually wrote for the masses than Sebastian Brant.
In this period, the custom came to be quite general to preach from the nave of the church instead of from the choir railing. Preachers limited their discourses by hour-glasses, a custom later transplanted to New England.1159 Sermons were at times unduly extended. Gerhard Groote sometimes preached for three hours during Lent and John Gronde extended some of his discourses to six hours, mercifully, however, dividing them into two parts with a brief breathing-spell between, profitable as may well be surmised alike to the preacher and the hearers. Geiler, who at one time had been inclined to preach on without regard to time, limited his discourses to a single hour.
The criticisms which preachers passed upon the customs of the day show that human nature was pretty much the same then as it is now and that the "good old times" are not to be sought for in that age. All sorts of habits were held up to ridicule and scorn. Drunkenness and gluttony, the dance and the street comedy, the dress of women and the idle lounging of rich men’s sons, usury and going to church to make a parade were among the subjects dwelt upon. Again and again, Geiler of Strassburg returned to the lazy sons of the rich who spent their time in retailing scandals and doing worse, more silly in their dress than the women, fops who "thought themselves somebody because their fathers were rich." He also took special notice of women and their fripperies. He condemned their belts, sometimes made of silk and adorned with gold, costing as much as 40 or 50 gulden, their padded busts and their extensive wardrobes, enabling them to wear for a week at a time two different garments each day and a third one for a dancing party or the play. He launched out against their long hair, left to fall down over the back and crowned with ribbons or small caps such as the men wore. As examples of warning, Absalom and Holofernes were singled out, the former caught by his hair in the branches of the tree and Holofernes ensnared by the adornments of Judith. Geiler called upon the city authorities to come to the help of society and the preacher and legislate against such evils.1160
Another preacher, Hollen, condemned the long trails which women wore as "the devil’s wagon," for neither men nor angels but only the devil has a caudal appendage. As for dancing, especially the round dances, the devil was the head concertmaster at such entertainments and the higher the dancers jumped, the deeper their fall into hell and, the more firmly they held on to each other with their hands, the more closely did the devil tighten his hold upon them. Dancing was represented by the preachers as an occasion of much profligacy.
In ridiculing the preaching of his day, Erasmus held forth the preachers’ ignorance, their incongruous introductions, their use of stories from all departments without any discrimination, their old women’s tales and the frivolous topics they chose—aniles fabulae et questiones frivolse. A famous passage in which the great scholar disparages the preaching of the monks and friars begins with the words: —
All their preaching is mere stage-playing, and their delivery the very transports of ridicule and drollery. Good Lord! how mimical are these gestures! What heights and falls in their voice! What toning, what bawling, what singing, what squeaking, what grimaces, making of months, apes’ faces, and distorting of their countenance; and this art of oratory as a choice mystery, they convey down by tradition to one another.1161
Erasmus deserves credit for discerning the need of the times, and recommending the revival of the practice of preaching and the mission of preachers to the heathen nations. His views were set forth in the Ecclesiastes or Preacher, a work written during the Freiburg period and filling 275 pages,1162 each double the size of the pages of the hardcopy volume. The chief purpose of preaching he defined to be instruction. Every preacher is a herald of Christ, who was himself the great preacher. The office of preaching is superior in dignity to the office of kings. "Among the charisms of the Spirit, none is more noble and efficacious than preaching. To be a dispenser of the celestial philosophy and a messenger of the divine will is excelled by no office in the church." It is quite in accord with Erasmus’ high regard for the teaching function, that he magnifies the instructional element of the sermon. Writing to Sapidus, 1516, he said, "to be a schoolmaster is next to being a king."1163
Of the English pulpit, there is little to say. We hear of preaching at St. Paul’s Cross and at other places, but there is no evidence that preaching was usual. No volumes of English sermons issued from the printing-press. Colet is the only English preacher of the 15th century of historical importance. The churchly counsel given to priests to impart instruction to the people, issued by the Lambeth synod of 1281, stands almost solitary. In 1466, Archbishop Nevill of York did no more than to repeat this legislation.
In Scotland the history of the pulpit begins with Knox. Dr. Blaikie remarks that, for the three centuries before the Reformation, scarcely a trace of Christian preaching can be found in Scotland worthy the name. The country had no Wyclif, as it had no Anselm.1164 Hamilton and Wishart, Knox’s immediate forerunners, were laymen.
The Abbé Dr. Gasquet in a chapter on A Forgotten English Preacher in his Old Eng. Bible and other Essays gives extracts from the MS. sermon of Thomas Branton, Bishop of Rochester, 1372–1389. After saying that we know very little about mediaeval preaching in England, Dr. Gasquet, p. 54, remarks that it is perhaps just as well, as the sermons were probably dull and that "the modern sermon" has to be endured as a necessary evil. In his chapter on Teaching and Preaching, pp. 244–284, in his Eve of the Reformation, the same author returns to the subject, but the chapter itself gives the strongest evidence of the literary barrenness of the English Church in the closing years of the Middle Ages and the dearth of preaching and public instruction. By far the larger part of the chapter, pp. 254–280, is taken up with quotations from Sir Thomas More, the tract Dives and Pauper and other tracts, to show that the doctrine of the worship of images and saints was not taught in its crass form and with a statement of the usefulness of miracle-plays as a means of popular religious instruction. Dr. Gasquet lays stress upon the "simple instruction" given by the English priesthood in the Middle Ages as opposed to formal sermons which he confesses "were probably by no means so frequent as in these times." He makes the astounding assertion, p. 245, that religions instruction as a means of social and moral improvement was not one of the primary aims of the Reformation. The very opposite is proved by the efforts of Luther, Calvin and Knox to secure the establishment of schools in every hamlet and the catechisms which the two former prepared and the numerous catechisms prepared by their fellow Reformers. And what of their habit of constant preaching? Luther preached day after day. One of the first signs of the Reformation in Geneva was that St. Pierre and St. Gervaise were opened for preaching daily. Calvin incorporated into his ecclesiastical polity as one of the orders the ministry, the teaching body.
§ 75. Doctrinal Reformers.
A group of theologians appeared in Northwestern Germany who, on the one hand, were closely associated by locality and training with the Brothers of the Common Life and, on the other, anticipated the coming age by the doctrinal reforms which they proposed. On the latter account, John of Goch, John of Wesel and Wessel of Gansfort have been properly classed with Wyclif and Huss as Reformers before the Reformation.1165 Erasmus has no place at their side for, with his satire on ceremonies and church conditions, the question is always raised of his sincerity. Savonarola suggested no doctrinal changes. Among the new views emphasized by one or all of these three men were the final authority of the Scriptures, the fallibility of the pope, the sufficiency of divine grace for salvation irrespective of priestly mediation, and the distinction between the visible and the invisible Church. However, but for the Protestant Reformation, it is not probable their voices would have been heard beyond the century in which they lived.
John Pupper, 1400–1475, usually called John of Goch from his birthplace, a hamlet on the lower Rhine near Cleves, seems to have been trained in one of the schools of the Brothers of the Common Life, and then studied in Cologne and perhaps in Paris. He founded a house of Augustinians near Mecheln, remaining at its head till his death. His writings were not published till after the beginning of the Reformation. He anticipated that movement in asserting the supreme authority of the Bible. The Fathers are to be accepted only so far as they follow the canonical Scriptures. In contrast to the works of the philosophers and the Schoolmen, the Bible is a book of life; theirs, books of death.1166 He also called in question the merit of monastic vows and the validity of the distinction between the higher and lower morality upon which monasticism laid stress. What is included under the higher morality is within the reach of all Christians and not the property of monks only. He renounced the Catholic view of justification without stating with clearness the evangelical theory.1167
John Ruchrath von Wesel, d. 1481, attacked the hierarchy and indulgences and was charged on his trial with calling in question almost all the distinctive Roman Catholic tenets. He was born in Oberwesel on the Rhine between Mainz and Coblentz. He taught at the University of Erfurt and, in 1458, was chosen its vice-rector. Luther bore testimony to his influence when he said, "I remember how Master John Wesalia ruled the University of Erfurt by his writings through the study of which I also became a master."1168 Leaving Erfurt, he was successively professor in Basel and cathedral preacher in Mainz and Worms.
In 1479, Wesel was arraigned for heresy before the Inquisition at Mainz.1169 Among the charges were that the Scriptures are alone a trustworthy source of authority; the names of the predestinate are written in the book of life and cannot be erased by a priestly ban; indulgences do not profit; Christ is not pleased with festivals of fasting, pilgrimages or priestly celibacy; Christ’s body can be in the bread without any change of the bread’s substance: pope and councils are not to be obeyed if they are out of accord with the Scriptures; he whom God chooses will be saved irrespective of pope and priests, and all who have faith will enjoy as much blessedness as prelates. Wesel also made the distinction between the visible and the invisible Church and defined the Church as the aggregation of all the faithful who are bound together by love—collectio omnium fidelium caritate copulatorum. In his trial, he was accused of having had communication with the Hussites. In matters of historical criticism, he was also in advance of his age, casting doubt upon some of the statements of the Athanasian Creed, abandoning the application of the term Catholic to the Apostles’ Creed and pronouncing the addition of the filioque clause—and from the Son—unwarranted. The doctrines of indulgences and the fund of merit he pronounced unscriptural and pious frauds. The elect are saved wholly through the grace of God—sola Dei gratia salvantur electi.
At the request of Diether of Isenburg, archbishop of Mainz, the Universities of Cologne and Heidelberg sent delegates to the trial. The accused was already an old man, leaning on his staff, when he appeared before the tribunal. Lacking strength to stand by the heretical articles, he agreed to submit "to mother Church and the teachings of the doctors." A public recantation in the cathedral followed, and his books were burnt.1170 These punishments were not sufficient to expiate his offence and he was sentenced to imprisonment for life in the Augustinian convent of Mainz, where he died.
Among Wesel’s reported sayings, which must have seemed most blasphemous to the devout churchman of the time, are the following: "The consecrated oil is not better than the oil used for your cakes in the kitchen." "If you are hungry, eat. You may eat a good capon on Friday." "If Peter established fasting, it was in order that he might get more for his fish" on fast days. To certain monastics, he said, "Not religion" (that is, monastic vows) "but God’s grace saves," religio nullum salvat sed gratia Dei.
A still nearer approach to the views of the Reformers was made by Wessel Gansfort, commonly called John Wessel,1171 born in Groningen, 1420, died 1489. In his Preface to Wessel’s writings, 1522, Luther said, "If I had read Wessel earlier, my enemies might have said that Luther drew everything from Wessel, so well do our two minds agree." Wessel attended school at Zwolle, where he met Thomas à Kempis of the neighboring convent of Mt. St. Agnes. The story ran that when Thomas pointed him to the Virgin, Wessel replied, "Father, why did you not rather point me to Christ who calls the heavy-laden to himself?" He continued his studies in Cologne, where he took Greek and Hebrew, in Heidelberg and in Paris. He declined a call to Heidelberg. In 1470, we find him in Rome. The story went that, when Sixtus IV. invited him to follow the common custom of visitors to the Vatican and make a request, the German student replied that he would like to have a Hebrew or Greek manuscript of the Bible from the Vatican. The pope, laughing, said, "Why did you not ask for a bishopric, you fool?" Wessel’s reply was "Because I do not need it."
Wessel spent some time in Basel, where he met Reuchlin. In 1473, the bishop of Utrecht wrote that many were seeking his life and invited him back to Holland. His last years, from 1474 on, Wessel spent with the Brothers of the Common Life at Mt. St. Agnes, and in the nuns’ convent at Groningen. There, in the place of his birth, he lies buried. His last words were, "I know no one save Jesus, the Crucified."
Wessel enjoyed a reputation for great learning. He escaped arraignment at the hands of the Inquisition, but was violently attacked after his death in a tract on indulgences, by Jacob Hoeck, Dean of Naaldwyk. None of Wessel’s writings were published till after the outbreak of the Reformation. Although he did not reach the doctrine of justification by faith, he declared that pope and councils may err and he defined the Church to be the communion of the saints. The unity of the Church does not lie in the pope—unitas ecclesiae sub uno papa tantum accidentalis est, adeo ut non sit necessaria. He laid stress upon the faith of the believer in partaking of the eucharist or, rather, upon his hunger and thirst after the sacrament. But he did not deny the sacrifice of the mass or the validity of the communion under one kind. He gave up the judicial element in priestly absolution.1172 There is no such thing as works of supererogation, for each is under obligation to do all he can and to do less is to sin. The prerogative of the keys belongs to all believers. Plenary indulgences are a detestable invention of the papacy to fill its treasury.
In 1522, a Dutch lawyer, von Hoen, joining with other Netherlanders, sent Luther a copy of some of Wessel’s writings.1173 In the preface which the Reformer wrote for the Wittenberg edition, he said that, as Elijah of old, so he had felt himself to be the only one left of the prophets of God but he had found out that God had also had his prophets in secret like Wessel.
These three German theologians, Goch, Wesel and Wessel, were quietly searching after the marks of the true Church and the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone. Without knowing it, they were standing on the threshold of the Reformation.
§ 76. Girolamo Savonarola.
Ecce gladius Domini super terram cito et velociter.
In the closing decade of the 15th century the city of Florence seemed to be on the eve of becoming a model municipality, a pattern of Christian morals, a theocracy in which Christ was acknowledged as sovereign. In the movement looking towards this change, the chief actor was Jerome Savonarola, prior of the
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Dominican convent of St. Mark’s, the most imposing preacher of the Middle Ages and one of the most noteworthy preachers of righteousness since St. Paul. Against the dark moral background of his generation he appears as a broad sheet of northern light with its coruscations, mysterious and protentous, but also quickly disappearing. His message was the prophet’s cry, "Who shall abide the day of His coming and who shall stand when He appeareth?"
Savonarola, born in Ferrara Sept. 21, 1452, died in Florence May 23, 1498, was the third of seven children. Choosing his grandfather’s profession, he entered upon the study of medicine, from which he was turned away by a deepening impression of the corruption of society and disappointment at the refusal of a family of Strozzi, living at Ferrara, to give him their daughter in marriage. At the age of 23, he secretly left his father’s house and betook himself to Bologna, where he assumed the Dominican habit. Two days after his arrival in Bologna, he wrote thus to his father explaining the reason of his abrupt departure.
I could not endure any longer the wickedness of the blinded peoples of Italy. Virtue I saw despised everywhere and vices exalted and held in honor. With great warmth of heart, I made daily a short prayer to God that He might release me from this vale of tears. ’Make known to me the way,’ I cried, ’the way in which I should walk for I lift up my soul unto Thee,’ and God in His infinite mercy showed me the way, unworthy as I am of such distinguishing grace.1174
He begged his father to console his mother and referred him to a poem by his pen on the contempt of the world, which he had left among his papers. In this letter and several letters to his mother, which are extant, is shown the young monk’s warm affection for his parents and his brothers and sisters.
In the convent, the son studied Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and became familiar with the Scriptures, sections of which he committed to memory. Two copies of the Bible are extant in Florence, containing copious notes in Savonarola’s own handwriting, made on the margin, between the printed lines and on added leaves.1175 After his appointment as provincial, he emphasized the study of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek.
In 1481, he was sent to Florence, where he became an inmate of St. Mark’s. The convent had been rebuilt by Cosimo de Medici and its walls illuminated by the brush of Fra Angelico. At the time of Savonarola’s arrival, the city was at the height of its fame as a seat of culture and also as the place of lighthearted dissipation under the brilliant patronage of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The young monk’s first efforts in the pulpit in Florence were a failure. The congregation at San Lorenzo, where he preached during the Lenten season, fell to 25 persons. Fra Mariano da Gennazzano, an Augustinian, was the popular favorite. The Dominican won his first fame by his Lenten sermons of 1486, when he preached at Brescia on the Book of Revelation. He represented one of the 24 elders rising up and pronouncing judgments upon the city for its wickedness. In 1489, he was invited back to Florence by Lorenzo at the suggestion of Pico della Mirandola, who had listened to Savonarola’s eloquence at Reggio. During the remaining nine years of his life, the city on the Arno was filled with Savonarola’s personality. With Catherine of Siena, he shares the fame of being the most religious of the figures that have walked its streets. During the first part of this short period, he had conflict with Lorenzo and, during the second, with Alexander VI., all the while seeking by his startling warnings and his prophecies to bring about the regeneration of the city and make it a model of civic and social righteousness. From Aug. 1, 1490, when he appeared in the pulpit of St. Mark’s, the people thronged to hear him whether he preached there or in the cathedral. In 1491, he was made prior of his convent. To preaching he added writings in the department of philosophy and tracts on humility, prayer and the love of Jesus. He was of middle height, dark complexion, lustrous eyes dark gray in color, thick lips and aquiline nose. His features, which of themselves would have been called coarse, attracted attention by the serious contemplative expression which rested upon them, and the flash of his eye.
Savonarola’s sermons were like the flashes of lightning and the reverberations of thunder. It was his mission to lay the axe at the root of dissipation and profligacy rather than to depict the consolations of pardon and communion with God. He drew more upon the threatenings of the divine wrath than upon the refreshing springs of the divine compassion. Tender descriptions of the divine love and mercy were not wanting in his sermons, but the woes pronounced upon the sinfulness of his time exceeded the gentle appeals. He was describing his own method, when he said, "I am like the hail. Cover thyself lest it come down upon thee, and strike thee. And remember that I said unto thee, Cover thy head with a helmet, that is clothe thyself with virtue and no hail stone will touch thee."1176
In the time of his greatest popularity, the throngs waited hours at the doors of the cathedral for the preacher’s arrival and it has been estimated by Villari, that audiences of 10,000 or 12,000 hung on his discourses. Like fields of grain under the wind, the feelings of his audiences were swayed by the preacher’s voice. Now they burned with indignation: now they were softened to tears. "I was overcome by weeping and could not go on." So wrote the reporter while taking down a sermon, and Savonarola himself felt the terrible strain of his efforts and often sank back into his seat completely exhausted. His message was directed to the clergy, high and low, as well as to the people and the flashes of his indignation often fell upon the palace of Lorenzo. The clergy he arraigned for their greed of prebends and gold and their devotion to outer ceremonies rather than to the inner life of the soul. Florence he addressed in endearing terms as the object of his love. "My Florence," he was wont to exclaim. Geneva was no more the city of Calvin or Edinburgh of Knox than was Florence the city of Savonarola. Portraying the insincerity of the clergy, he said: —
In these days, prelates and preachers are chained to the earth by the love of earthly things. The care of souls is no longer their concern. They are content with the receipt of revenue. The preachers preach to please princes and to be praised by them. They have done worse. They have not only destroyed the Church of God. They have built up a new Church after their own pattern. Go to Rome and see! In the mansions of the great prelates there is no concern save for poetry and the oratorical art. Go thither and see! Thou shalt find them all with the books of the humanities in their hands and telling one another that they can guide mens’ souls by means of Virgil, Horace and Cicero ... The prelates of former days had fewer gold mitres and chalices and what few they possessed were broken up and given to relieve the needs of the poor. But our prelates, for the sake of obtaining chalices, will rob the poor of their sole means of support. Dost thou not know what I would tell thee! What doest thou, O Lord! Arise, and come to deliver thy Church from the hands of devils, from the hands of tyrants, from the hands of iniquitous prelates.1177
Dizzy flights of fancy abounded in Savonarola’s discourses and took the place of calm and logical exposition. On the evening before he preached his last sermon in Advent, 1492, Savonarola beheld in the middle of the sky a hand holding a sword with the inscription, Behold the sword of the Lord will descend suddenly and quickly upon the earth—Ecce gladius Domini super terram cito et velociter. Suddenly the sword was turned toward the earth, the sky was darkened, swords, arrows and flames rained down. The heavens quaked with thunder and the world became a prey to famine and death. The vision was ended by a command to the preacher to make these things known. Again and again, in after years did he refer to this prophetic vision.1178 Its memory was also preserved by a medal, representing on one side Savonarola and on the other a sword in the heavens held by a hand and pointing to a city beneath.
The inscription on the heavenly sword well represents the style of Savonarola’s preaching. It was impulsive, pictorial, eruptive, startling, not judicial and instructive. And yet it made a profound impression on men of different classes. Pico della Mirandola the elder has described its marvellous effect upon himself. On one occasion, when he announced as his text Gen. 6:17, "Behold I will bring the flood of waters upon the earth," Pico said he felt a cold shudder course through him, and his hair, as it were, stand on end. One is reminded of some of the impressions made by the sermons of Christmas Evans, the Welsh preacher, and the impression made by Whitefield’s oratory upon Lord Chesterfield and Franklin. But the imagery of the sermon, brilliant and weird as it was, is no sufficient explanation of the Florentine preacher’s power. The preacher himself was burning with religious passion. He felt deeply and he was a man of deep devotion. He had the eye of the mystic and saw beneath the external and ritual to the inner movements of spiritual power.
The biblical element was also a conspicuous feature of his preaching. Defective as Savonarola’s exegesis was, the biblical element was everywhere in control of his thought and descriptions. His famous discourses were upon the ark, Exodus, and the prophets Haggai, Ezekiel, Amos and Hosea, and John’s Revelation. He insisted upon the authority of Scripture. "I preach the regeneration of the Church," he said, "taking the Scriptures as my sole guide."1179
Another element which gave to Savonarola’s sermons their virility and power was the prophetic element. Savonarola was not merely the expounder of righteousness. He claimed to be a prophet revealing things which, to use his own words, "are beyond the scope of the knowledge which is natural to any creature." This element would have been a sign of weakness, if it had not been associated with a great personality, bent on noble ends. The severity of his warnings was often so fearful that the preacher himself shrank back from delivering them. On one occasion, he spent the entire night in vigils and prayer that he might be released from the duty of making known a message, but in vain. The sermon, he then went forth to preach, he called a terrific sermon.
Savonarola’s confidence in his divine appointment to be the herald of special communications from above found expression not only from the pulpit but was set forth more calmly in two works, the Manual of Revelations, 1495, and a Dialogue concerning Truth and Prophecy, 1497. The latter tract with a number of Savonarola’s sermons were placed on the Index. In the former, the author declared that for a long time he had by divine inspiration foretold future things but, bearing in mind the Saviour’s words, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs," he had practised reserve in such utterances. He expressed his conception of the office committed to him, when he said, "The Lord has put me here and has said to me, ’I have placed thee as a watchman in the centre of Italy ... that thou mayest hear my words and announce them,’ " Ezek. 3:17. If we are inclined to regard Savonarola as having made a mistake in claiming prophetic foresight, we easily condone the mistake on the ground of his impassioned fervor and the pure motives by which he was animated. To his prophecies he applied Christ’s own words, that no jot or tittle should fail till they were fulfilled.
None of his messages was more famous than the one he received on his visit to paradise, March, 1495. Before starting on his journey, a number of ladies offered to be his companions. Philosophy and Rhetoric he declined. Accepting the company of Faith, Simplicity, Prayer and Patience, he was met on his way by the devil in a monk’s garb.1180 Satan took occasion to present to him objections against the supernatural character of his predictions. Savonarola ought to have stopped with preaching virtue and denouncing vices and left prophecy alone. A prophet was always accredited by miracles. True prophets were holy men and the devil asked Savonarola whether he felt he had reached a high grade of saintliness. He then ventured to show that Savonarola’s prophecies had not always been fulfilled. By this time they had arrived at the gates of paradise where prudently Satan took his leave. The walls of paradise—so Savonarola described them—were of diamonds and other precious stones. Ten banners surmounted them inscribed with the prayers of Florence. Hierarchies and principalities appeared on every side. With the help of angels, the visitor mounted a ladder to the throne of the Virgin who gave him a crown and a precious stone and then, with Jesus in her arms, supplicated the Trinity for Savonarola and the Florentines. Her request was granted and the Florentines promised an era of prosperity preceded by a period of sorrows. In this new time, the city would be more powerful and rich than ever before.
The question arises whether Savonarola was a genuine prophet or whether he was self-deluded, mistaking for the heated imaginations of his own religious fervor, direct communications from God.1181 Alexander VI. made Savonarola’s "silly declaration of being a prophet" one of the charges against him.1182 In his Manual of Revelations, Savonarola advanced four considerations to prove that he was a true prophet—his own subjective certainty, the fulfilment of his predictions, their result in helping on the cause of moral reform in Florence and their acceptance by good people in the city. His prophecies, he said, could not have come from astrology for he rejected it, nor from a morbid imagination for this was inconsistent with his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, nor from Satan for Satan hated his sermons and does not know future events.
For us, the only valid test is historical fact. Were Savonarola’s prophecies fulfilled? The two prophecies, upon whose fulfilment stress is laid, were the political revolution in Florence, which occurred, and the coming of Charles VIII. from across the Alps. Savonarola saw in Charles a Cyrus whose advent would release Florence from her political bondage and introduce an era of civil freedom . He also predicted Charles’ subsequent retreat. Commines, who visited Savonarola in the convent of St. Mark’s after the trials which followed Charles’ advent in Italy had begun, went away impressed with the friar’s piety and candor, and declared that he predicted with certainty to him and to the king, "things which no one believed at the time and which have all been fulfilled since."1183 On the other hand, such solemn prognostications failed of fulfilment, as the extension of Florentine dominion even to the recovery of Pisa, made May 28, 1495, and the speedy conversion of the Turks and Moors, made May 3, 1495. The latter purported to be a revelation from the Virgin on his visit to paradise. Where a certain number of solemn, prophetic announcements remained unfulfilled, it is fair to suspect that the remainder were merely the predictions of a shrewd observer watching the progress of events. Many people trusted the friar as a prophet but, as conditions became more and more involved, they demanded with increasing insistence that he should substantiate his prophetic claim by a miracle. Even the predictions which came true in part, such as the coming of Charles VIII. across the Alps, received no fulfilment in the way of a permanent improvement of conditions, such as Savonarola expected. The statement of Prof. Bonet-Maury expresses the case well. Savonarola’s prophetic gift, so-called, was nothing more than political and religious intuition.1184 Some of his predictions were not in the line of what Christian prophecies might be expected to be, such as the rehumiliation of Pisa. The Florentines felt flattered by the high honor which the prophet paid to their city, and his predictions of her earthly dominion as well as heavenly glory. In his Manual of Revelations he exclaims, "Whereas Florence is placed in the midst of Italy, like the heart in the midst of the body, God has chosen to select her, that she may be the centre from which this prophetic announcement should be spread abroad throughout all Italy."
No scene in Savonarola’s career excels in moral grandeur and dramatic interest his appearance at the death-bed of Lorenzo the Magnificent, in 1492. History has few such scenes to offer. When it became apparent to the brilliant ruler of the Florentine state that his days were numbered, he felt unwilling to face the mysteries of death and the future without the absolution priestly prerogative pretends to be competent to confer. Savonarola and Lorenzo loved Florence with an equal love, though the one sought its glory through a career of righteousness and the other through a career of worldly dominion and glittering culture. The two leaders found no terms of agreement. Lorenzo had sought to win the preacher by personal attention and blandishments. He attended mass at St. Mark’s. Savonarola held himself back as from an elegant worldling and the enemy of the liberties of Florence. "You see," said Lorenzo, "a stranger has come into my house, yet he will not stoop to pay me a visit." "He does not ask for me; let him go or stay at his pleasure," replied the friar to those who told him that Lorenzo was in the convent garden.
Five influential citizens of Florence called and suggested to the friar that he modify his public utterances. Recognizing that they had come at Lorenzo’s instance, he bade them tell the prince to do penance for his sins, for the Lord is no respecter of persons and spares not the mighty of the earth. Lorenzo called upon Fra Mariano to publicly take Savonarola to task. This he did from the pulpit on Ascension Day, 1491. Lorenzo himself was present, but the preacher’s charges overshot the mark, and Savonarola was more popular than ever. The prior of St. Mark’s exclaimed, "Although I am a stranger in the city, and Lorenzo the first man in the state, yet shall I stay here and it is he who will go hence."
When the hour of death approached, Lorenzo was honest with himself. In vain did the physician, Lazzaro of Pavia, resort to the last medical measure, a potion of distilled gems. Farewell was said to Pico della Mirandola and other literary friends, and Lorenzo gave his final counsels to his son, Piero. The solemn rites of absolution and extreme unction were all that remained for man to receive from man. Lorenzo’s confessor was within reach but the prince looked to St. Mark’s. "I know of no honest friar save this one," he exclaimed. And so Savonarola was summoned to the bedside in the villa Careggi, two miles from the city. The dying man wanted to make confession of three misdeeds: the sack of Volterra, the robbery of Monte delle Fanciulle and the merciless reprisals after the Pazzi conspiracy. The spiritual messenger then proceeded to present three conditions on which his absolution depended. The first was a strong faith in God’s mercy. The dying man gave assent. The second was that he restore his ill-gotten wealth, or charge his sons to do it. To this assent was also given. The third demand required that he give back to Florence her liberties. To this Lorenzo gave no response and turned his face to the wall. The priest withdrew and, in a few hours, April 8, 1492, the ruler of Florence passed into the presence of the omnipotent Judge who judgeth not according to the appearance but according to the heart and whose mercy is everlasting.
The surmisal has been made that, if Savonarola had been less rigid, he might have exercised an incalculable influence for good upon the dying prince who was still susceptible of religious impressions.1185 But who can with probability conjecture the secrets of the divine purpose in such cases? Perhaps, Savonarola’s relentless demands awakened in Lorenzo a serious impression showing itself in a cry to God for absolution, while the extreme unction of the priest might have lulled the dying man’s conscience to sleep with a false sense of security. At any rate, the influence of the friar of St. Mark’s with the people increased.
During the years, beginning with 1494, Savonarola’s ascendancy was at its height and so cold a witness as Guicciardini reports his influence as extraordinary. These years included the invasion of Charles VIII., the banishment of the Medici from Florence and the establishment of a theocratic government in the city.
"He will come across the Alps against Italy like Cyrus," Savonarola had prophesied of the French king, Charles VIII. And, when the French army was approaching the confines of Florence, he exclaimed, "Behold, the sword has come upon you. The prophecies are fulfilled, the scourge begun! Behold these hosts are led of the Lord! O Florence, the time of singing and dancing is at an end. Now is the time to shed floods of tears for thy sins."
Florence listened eagerly. Piero de’ Medici went to the French camp and yielded to the king’s demand for 200,000 florins, and the cession of Pisa, Leghorn and Sarzana. But Savonarola thundered and pled from the pulpit against the Medicean house. The city decreed its banishment and sent commissioners to Charles, with Savonarola among them. In his address, which is preserved, the friar reminded his Majesty that he was an instrument sent by the Lord to relieve Italy of its woes and to reform the Church. Charles entered Florence but, moved by Savonarola’s intercession, reduced the tribute to 120,000 florins and restrained the depredations of the French soldiery. The king also seems to have listened to the friar’s stern words when he said to him, "Hearken unto the voice of God’s servant and pursue thy journey onward without delay."
When Charles, after sacking Rome and occupying Naples, returned to Northern Italy, Savonarola wrote him five letters threatening that, if he did not do for Florence the things about which he had spoken to him, God’s wrath would be poured out upon his head. These things were the recognition of the liberties of Florence and the return of Pisa to her dominion. In his letter of May 25, 1495, bidding Charles favor the city of Florence, he asserted, "God has chosen this city and determined to magnify her and raise her up and, whoso toucheth her, toucheth the apple of His eye." Certainly, from the standpoint of the welfare of Italy, the French invasion was not of Providential origin. Although the banners of his army were inscribed with the words Voluntas Dei — the Will of God—and Missus Dei — the legate of God—Charles was bent on territorial aggrandizement and not on breaking the bonds of civic despotism.
The time had now come to realize in Florence Savonarola’s ideal of government, a theocracy with Christ at its head. The expulsion of the Medici made possible a reorganization of the state and the new constitution, largely a matter of Savonarola’s creation, involved him inextricably in civic policies and the war of civic factions. However, it should not be forgotten that his municipal constitution secured the commendation of Guicciardini and other Italian political writers. It was a proof of the friar’s remarkable influence that, at his earnest advice, a law was passed which prevented retaliatory measures against the followers of the Medici. Landucci wrote in his diary that, but for Savonarola, the streets would have been bathed in blood. In his great sermons on Haggai, during the Advent season of 1494, and on the Psalms in 1495, Savonarola definitely embarked as a pilot on the political sea. "The Lord has driven my bark into the open ocean," he exclaimed from the pulpit. Remonstrating with God for imposing this duty upon him, he declared, ’I will preach, if so I must, but why need I meddle with the government of Florence.’ And the Lord said, ’If thou wouldst make Florence a holy city, thou must establish her on firm foundations and give her a government which cherishes righteousness.’ Thus the preacher was committed. He pronounced from the pulpit in favor of virtue as the foundation of a sound government and democracy as its form. "Among northern nations," he affirmed, where there is great strength and little intellect, and among southern nations where there is great intellect and little strength, the rule of a single despot may sometimes be the best of governments. But in Italy and, above all in Florence, where both strength and intellect abound,—where men have keen wits and restless spirits,—the government of the one can only result in tyranny."
In the scheme, which he proposed, he took for his model the great council of Venice, leaving out its head, the doge, who was elected for life. The great council of Florence was to consist of, at least, 1500 men, who had reached the age of 29, paid their taxes and belonged to the class called beneficiati, that is, those who held a civil office themselves or whose father, grandfather, or great-grandfather had held a civil office. A select council of 80 was to be chosen by it, its members to be at least forty years of age. In criminal cases, an appeal from a decision of the signory was allowed to the great council, which was to meet once a week and to be a voting rather than a deliberative body.
The place of the supreme doge or ruler, Savonarola gave to God himself. "God alone," he exclaimed from the pulpit, "God alone will be thy king, O Florence, as He was king of Israel under the old Covenant." "Thy new head shall be Jesus Christ,"—this was the ringing cry with which he closed his sermons on Haggai. Savonarola’s recent biographer, Villari, emphasizes "the masterly prudence and wisdom shown by him in all the fundamental laws he proposed for the new state." He had no seat in the council and yet he was the soul of the entire people.1186
In the last chapter of his career Savonarola was pitted against Alexander VI. as his contestant. The conflict began with the demand made by the pope July 25, 1495, that Savonarola proceed to Rome and answer charges. Then followed papal inhibitions of his preaching and the decree of excommunication, and the conflict closed with the appointment of a papal commission which condemned Savonarola to death as a heretic.
Alexander’s order, summoning the friar to Rome, was based on his announcement that his predictions of future events came by divine revelation.1187 At the same time, the pope expressed his great joy over the report that of all the workers in the Lord’s vineyard, Savonarola was the most zealous, and he promised to welcome him to the eternal city with love and fraternal affection. Savonarola declined the pontiff’s summons on the ground of ill-health and the dangers that would beset him on the way to Rome. His old rival in the pulpit, Fra Mariano de Gennazzano, and other enemies were in Rome intriguing against him, and the Medici were fast winning the pope’s favor.
Alexander’s first letter inhibiting him from preaching, Sept. 9, 1495, condemned Savonarola’s insane folly in mixing up with Italian political affairs and his announcement that he was a special messenger sent from God. In his reply Savonarola answered the charges and, at the invitation of the signory, continued to preach. In his third brief, Oct. 16, 1495, the pontiff forbade him to preach openly or in private. Pastor remarks, "It was as clear as the sun that Savonarola was guilty of rank disobedience to the papal authority."1188
For five months, the friar held himself aloof in his convent but, Feb. 17, 1496, at the call of the signory to preach the Lenten sermons, he again ascended the pulpit. He took the bold position that the pope might err. "The pope," he said, "may command me to do something that contravenes the law of Christian love or the Gospel. But, if he did so command, I would say to him, thou art no shepherd. Not the Roman Church, but thou errest." From that time on, he lifted his voice against the corruptions of the papal city as he had not done before. Preaching on Amos 4:1, Feb. 28, 1496, he exclaimed, "Who are the fat kine of Bashan on the mountains of Samaria? I say they are the courtesans of Italy and Rome. Or, are there none? A thousand are too few for Rome, 10,000, 12,000, 14,000 are too few for Rome. Prepare thyself, O Rome, for great will be thy punishments."1189
Finding threats would not stop Savonarola’s mouth, Alexander resorted to bribery, an art in which he was well skilled. Through a Dominican sent to Florence, he offered to the friar of St. Mark’s the red hat. But Alexander had mistaken his man and, in a sermon delivered August, 1496, Savonarola declared that neither mitres nor a cardinal’s hat would he have, but only the gift God confers on His saints—death, a crimson hat, a hat reddened with blood. Lucas, strangely enough, ascribes the offer of the red hat, not to vicious shrewdness but to the alleged good purpose of Alexander to show his appreciation of, an earnest but misguided man."
The carnival season of 1496 and the seasons of the next two years gave remarkable proofs of the hold Savonarola had on the popular mind. The carnival, which had been the scene of wild revelries, was turned into a semi-religious festival. The boys had been accustomed to carry their merriment to rude excesses, forcing their demands for money upon older persons, dancing around bonfires at night and pelting people and houses promiscuously with stones. For this "festival of the stones," which the signory had been unable to abolish Savonarola and his co-helpers substituted a religious celebration. It was called the reform of the boys. Savonarola had established boys’ brigades in different wards of the city and arranged tiers of seats for them against the walls of the cathedral. These "boys of Fra Girolamo," as Landucci calls them, marched up and down the streets singing hymns which Savonarola and Benivieni composed and taking their places at stands, erected for the purpose, received collections for the poor.
On the last day of the carnival of 1497, occurred the burning of the vanities, as it was called. The young men, who had been stirred to enthusiasm by Savonarola’s sermons, went through the city, knocking from door to door and asking the people to give up their trinkets, obscene books such as Ovid and Boccaccio, dice, games of chance, harps, mirrors, masks, cosmetics and portraits of beautiful women, and other objects of luxury. These were piled up in the public square in a pyramid, 60 feet high and 240 feet in circumference at the base. The morning of that day, throngs listened to the mass said by Savonarola. The young men went in procession through the streets and reaching the pile of vanities, they with others joined hands and danced around the pile and then set fire to it amid the singing of religious songs. The sound of bells and trumpets added to the effect of the strange spectacle. Men thought of the books and philters, burnt at Ephesus under the spell of Paul’s preaching. The scene was repeated the last year of Savonarola’s life,1498.
Savonarola has been charged with having no sympathy with the Renaissance and the charge it is not easy to set aside. As Burckhardt, the historian of that movement, says, he remained a monastic. In one writing, he sets forth the dangers of literature. Plato and Aristotle are in hell. And this was the judgment expressed in the city of the Platonic Academy! Virgil and Cicero he tolerated, but Catullus, Ovid and Terence he condemned to banishment.1190
At one time, under the spell of the prior’s preaching, all Florence seemed to be going to religion. Wives left their husbands and betook themselves to convents. Others married, taking the vow of nuptial abstinence and Savonarola even dreamed that the city might reach so perfect a condition that all marrying would cease. People took the communion daily and young men attended mass and received the eucharistic emblem. Fra Bartolomeo threw his studies of naked figures into the fire and for a time continued to think it sinful to use the hands in painting which ought to be folded continually in prayer. It was impossible that such a tension should continue. There was enthusiasm but not regeneration. A reaction was sure to come and the wonder is that Savonarola retained so much of the popular confidence, almost to the end of his life.
Alexander would have none of the Florentine reforms and was determined to silence Savonarola at any cost. Within the city, the air was full of rumors of plots to restore the Medici and some of the conspirators were executed. Enemies of the republic avowed their purpose to kill Savonarola and circulated sheets and poems ridiculing and threatening him. Insulting placards were posted up against the walls of his convent and, on one occasion, the pulpit of the cathedral was defiled with ordure and draped in an ass’ skin, while spikes were driven into the place where the preacher was accustomed to strike his hand. Landucci speaks of it as a "great scandal." Assassins even gathered in the cathedral and were only cowed by guards posted by the signory. The friar of St. Mark’s seemed not to be appalled. It was ominous, however, that the signory became divided in his support.
If possible, Savonarola became more intense in his arraignment of the evils of the Church. He exclaimed: "O prostrate Church, thou hast displayed thy foulness to the whole earth. Thou hast multiplied thy fornications in Italy, in France, in Spain and all other regions. Thou hast desecrated the sacraments with simony. Of old, priests called their bastards nephews, now they call them outright sons." Alexander could not mistake the reference nor tolerate such declamations. The integrity of the supreme seat of Christendom was at stake. A prophetic function superior to the papacy Eugenius III. might recognize, when it was administered in the admonitions of a St. Bernard, but the Florentine prophet had engaged in denunciation even to personal invective. The prophet was losing his balance. On May 12,1497, for "his failure to obey our Apostolic admonitions and commands" and as "one suspected of heresy" Alexander declared him excommunicate. All were forbidden to listen to the condemned man or have converse with him.1191
In a letter addressed a month later "to all Christians, the elect of God," Savonarola again affirmed his readiness to yield to the Church’s authority, but denied that he was bound to submit to the commands of his superiors when these were in conflict with charity and God’s law. "Henceforth," exclaimed the Puritan contemporary, Landucci, "we were deprived of the Word of God." The signory wrote to Alexander in support of Savonarola, affirming his purity of character and soundness of doctrine, and friends, like Pico della Mirandola the younger, issued defences of his conduct. The elder Pico della Mirandola and Politian, both of whom had died a year or two before, showed their reverence for Savonarola by assuming the Dominican garb on their death-beds.
At this time, Savonarola sent forth his Triumph of the Cross, in which were set forth the verity and reasonableness of the Catholic faith.1192 After proving from pure reason God’s existence and the soul’s immortality, the work proceeds to expound the Trinity, which is above man’s reason, and articles of the Apostles’ Creed, and to set forth the superior excellency of the lives of Christians, on which much stress is laid. It closes with a confutation of Mohammedanism and other false forms of religion.
Savonarola kept silence in the pulpit and refrained from the celebration of the sacrament until Christmas day of 1497, when he celebrated the mass at St. Mark’s three times. On the 11th of February, he stood again in the pulpit of the duomo. To a vast concourse he represented the priest as merely an instrument of the Almighty and, when God withdraws His presence, prelate and pope are but as "a broken iron tool." "And, if a prelate commands what is contrary to godly living and charity, he is not only not to be obeyed but deserves to be anathema." On another occasion, he said that not only may the pope be led into error by false reports but also by his own badness, as was the case with Boniface VIII. who was a wicked pope, beginning his pontificate like a fox and ending it like a dog.1193 Many, through reverence for the Church, kept away from Savonarola’s preaching from this time on. Among these was the faithful Landucci, who says, "whether justly or unjustly, I was among those who did not go. I believed in him, but did not wish to incur risk by going to hear him, for he was under sentence of excommunication." Savonarola’s enemies had made the words of Gregory the Great their war-cry, Sententia pastoris sive justa sive unjusta timenda est.—"The sentence of the shepherd is to be respected, whether it be just or unjust."1194 His denunciations of the corruption prevailing in the Church became more bold. The tonsure, he cried,
is the seat of all iniquity. It begins in Rome where the clergy make mock of Christ and the saints; yea, are worse than Turks and worse than Moors. They traffic in the sacraments. They sell benefices to the highest bidder. Have not the priests in Rome courtesans and grooms and horses and dogs? Have they not palaces full of tapestries and silks, of perfumes and lackeys? Seemeth it, that this is the Church of God?
Every Roman priest, he said, had his concubine. No longer do they speak of nephews but of their sons and daughters. Savonarola even sought to prove from the pulpit that the papal brief of excommunication proceeded from the devil, inasmuch as it was hostile to godly living.
It was becoming evident that the preacher was fighting a losing battle. His assaults against the morals of the clergy and the Vatican stirred up the powers in the Church against him; his political attitude, factions in Florence. His assertions, dealing more and more in exaggerations, were developing an expectant and at the same time a critical state of mind in the people which no religious teacher could permanently meet except through the immediate and startling intervention of God. He called heaven to witness that he was "ready to die for His God" and invited God to send him to the fires of hell, if his motives were not pure and his work inspired. On another occasion, he invoked the Lord to strike him dead on the spot, if he was not sincere. Landucci reports some of these wild protestations which he heard with his own ears.
One weapon still remained to the pope to bring Savonarola to terms,—the interdict. This he threatened to fulminate over Florence, unless the signory sent this "son of the evil one" to Rome or cast him into prison. In case the first course was pursued, Alexander promised to treat Savonarola as a father would treat a son, provided he repented, for he "desired not the death of a sinner but that he might turn from his way and live."1195 He urged the signory not to allow Savonarola to be as the fly in the milk, disturbing its relations with Rome or "to tolerate that pernicious worm fostered by their warmth."
Through epistolary communications and legates, the signory continued its attempts to remove Alexander’s objections and protect Savonarola. But, while all the members continued to express confidence in the friar’s purity of motive, the majority came to take the position that it was more expedient to silence the preacher than to incur the pope’s ban. At the public meeting, called by the signory March 9,1498, to decide the course of action to be taken, the considerations pressed were those of expediency. The pope, as the vicar of Christ, has his authority directly from God and ought to be obeyed. A second consideration was the financial straits of the municipality. A tenth was needed and this could only be ordered through the pope. Some proposed to leave the decision of the matter to Savonarola himself. He was the best man the world had seen for 200 years. Others boldly announced that Alexander’s letters were issued through the machinations of enemies of Florence and the censures they contained, being unjust, were not to be heeded.1196 On March 17,1498, the signory’s decision was communicated to Savonarola that he should thenceforth refrain from preaching and the next day he preached his last sermon.
In his last sermon, Savonarola acknowledged it as his duty to obey the mandate. A measure had been worked out in his mind which was the last open to a churchman. Already had he hinted from the pulpit at the convention of a general council as a last resort. The letters are still extant which he intended to send to the kings of Spain, England, France, Germany and Hungary, calling upon them to summon a council. In them, he solemnly declared that Alexander was no pope. For, aside from purchasing his office and from his daily sale of benefices, his manifest vices proved him to be no Christian. The letters seem never to have been received. Individuals, however, despatched preliminary communications to friends at the different courts to prepare the way for their appeal.1197 One, addressed to Charles VIII., was intercepted at Milan and sent to the pope. Alexander now had documentary proof of the Florentine’s rebellion against papal authority. But suddenly a wholly unexpected turn was given to the course of events.
Florence was startled by the rumor that resort was to be had to ordeal by fire to decide the genuineness of Savonarola’s claims.1198 The challenge came from a Franciscan, Francesco da Puglia, in a sermon at S. Croce in which he arraigned the Dominican friar as a heretic and false prophet. In case Savonarola was not burnt, it would be a clear sign that Florence was to follow him. The challenge was accepted by Fra Domenico da Pescia, a monk of St. Mark’s and close friend of Savonarola’s, a man of acknowledged purity of life. He took his friend’s place, holding that Savonarola should be reserved for higher things. Francesco da Puglia then withdrew and a Franciscan monk, Julian Rondinelli, reluctantly took his place. Savonarola himself disapproved the ordeal. It was an appeal to the miraculous. He had never performed a miracle nor felt the importance of one. His cause, he asserted, approved itself by the fruits of righteousness. But to the people, as the author of Romola has said, "the fiery trial seemed a short and easy argument" and Savonarola could not resist the popular feeling without forfeiting his popularity. The history of Florence could show more than one case of saintly men whose profession had been tested by fire. So it was, during the investiture controversy, with St. John Gualberti, in Settimo close by, and with the monk Peter in 1068, and so it was, a half century later, with another Peter who cleared himself of the charge of contemning the cross by walking unhurt over nine glowing ploughshares.1199
The ordeal was authorized by the signory and set for April 7. It was decided that, in case Fra Domenico perished, Savonarola should go into exile within three hours. The two parties, Domenico and Rondinelli, filed their statements with the signory. The Dominican’s included the following points. The Church stands in need of renovation. It will be chastened. Florence will be chastened. These chastisements will happen in our day. The sentence of excommunication against Savonarola is invalid. No one sins in ignoring it.1200
The ordeal aroused the enthusiasm of Savonarola’s friends. When he announced it in a sermon, many women exclaimed, "I, too, I, too." Other monks of St. Mark’s and hundreds of young men announced their readiness to pass through the flames out of regard for their spiritual guide.
Alexander VI. waited with intense interest for the last bulletins from Florence. His exact state of mind it is difficult to determine. He wrote disapproving of the ordeal and yet he could not but feel that it afforded an easy way of getting rid of the enemy to his authority. After the ordeal was over, he praised Francesco and the Franciscans in extravagant terms and declared the Franciscans could not have done anything more agreeable to him.1201
The coming trial was looked for with the most intense interest. There was scarcely any other topic of conversation in Florence or in Rome. Great preparations were made. Two pyres of thorns and other wood were built on the public square about 60 feet in length, 3 feet wide at the base and 3 or 4 feet high,1202 the wood soaked with pitch and oil. The distance between the pyres was two feet, just wide enough for a man to pass through. All entrances to the square were closed by a company of 300 men under Marcuccio Salviatis and two other companies of 500 each, stationed at different points. The people began to arrive the night before. The windows and roofs of the adjoining houses were crowded with the eager spectators.
The solemnity was set for eleven o’clock. The Dominicans made a solemn impression as they marched to the appointed place. Fra Domenico, in the van, was clothed in a fiery red velvet cope. Savonarola, clad in white and carrying a monstrance with the host, brought up the rear of the body of monks and these were followed by a great multitude of men, women and children, holding lighted tapers. When the hour arrived for the procession to start, Savonarola was preaching. He had again told the people that his work required no miracle and that he had ever sought to justify himself by the signs of righteousness and declared that, as on Mt. Carmel, miraculous intervention could only be expected in answer to prayer and humility.
Later mediaeval history has few spectacles to offer to the eye and the imagination equal in interest to the spectacle offered that day. There, stood the greatest preacher of his time and the most exalted moral figure since the days of John Huss and Gerson. And there, the ancient method of testing innocency was once more to be tried, a novel spectacle, indeed, to that cultured generation of Florentines. The glorious pageants of Medicean times had afforded no entertainment more attractive.
The crowds were waiting. The hour was past. There was a mysterious moving of monks in and out of the signory-palace. The whole story of what occurred was later told by Savonarola himself as well as by other eyewitnesses. The Franciscans refused to allow Fra Domenico to enter the burning pathway wearing his red cope or any of the other garments he had on, on the ground that they might be bewitched. So he was undressed to his skin and put on another suit. On the same ground, they also insisted that he keep at a distance from Savonarola. The impatience of the crowds increased. The Franciscans again passed into the signory-hall and had a long conference. They had discerned a wooden crucifix in Domenico’s hands and insisted upon its being put away for fear it might also have been bewitched. Savonarola substituted the host but the Franciscans insisted that the host should not be carried through the flames. The signory was appealed to but Savonarola refused to yield, declaring that the accidents might be burnt like a husk but that the essence of the sacred wafer would remain unconsumed. Suddenly a storm came up and rain fell but it as suddenly stopped. The delay continued. The crowds were growing unruly and threatening. Nightfall was at hand. The signory called the ordeal off.
Savonarola’s power was gone. The spell of his name had vanished. The spectacle was felt to be a farce. The popular menace grew more and more threatening and a guard scarcely prevented violence to Savonarola’s person, as the procession moved back to St. Mark’s.
There is much in favor of the view that on that day Savonarola’s political enemies, the Arrabbiati, were in collusion with the Franciscans and that the delay on the square, occasioned by interposing objections, was a trick to postpone the ordeal altogether.1203 It was said daggers were ready to put Savonarola out of the way. The populace, however, did not stop to consider such questions. Savonarola had not stood the test. And, it reasoned, if he was sincere and confident of his cause, why did he not enter the flaming pathway himself and brave its fiery perils. If he had not gone through unharmed, he at any rate, in dying, would have shown his moral heroism. It was Luther’s readiness to stand the test at Worms which brought him the confidence of the people. Had he shrunk in 1521 in the presence of Charles V., he would have lost the popular regard as Savonarola did in 1498 on the piazza of Florence. The judgment of modern times agrees with the popular judgment of the Florentines. Savonarola showed himself wanting in the qualities of the hero. Better for him to have died, than to have exposed himself to the charge of cowardice.
Florence felt mad anger at having been imposed upon. The next day St. Mark’s was stormed by the mob. The signory voted Savonarola’s immediate banishment. Landucci, who wept and continued to pray for him, says "that hell seemed to have opened its doors." Savonarola made an address, bidding farewell to his friends. Resistance of the mob was in vain. The convent was broken into and pillaged. Fra Domenico and the prior were bound and taken before the galfonier amidst insults and confined in separate apartments. A day or two later Fra Silvestro, whose visions had favored the ordeal, was also seized. "As for saying a word in Savonarola’s favor," wrote Landucci, "it was impossible. One would have been killed."
The pope, on receiving the official news of the occurrences in Florence, sent word congratulating the signory, gave the city plenary absolution and granted it the coveted tithes for three years. He also demanded that Savonarola be sent to Rome for trial, at the same time, however, authorizing the city to proceed to try the three friars, not neglecting, if necessary, the use of torture.1204 A commission was appointed to examine the prisoners. Torture was resorted to. Savonarola was bound to a rope drawn through a pulley and, with his hands behind his back, was lifted from the floor and then by a sudden jerk allowed to fall. On a single day, he was subjected to 14 turnings of the rope. There were two separate trials conducted by the municipality, April 17 and April 21–23. In the delirious condition, to which his pains reduced him, the unfortunate man made confessions which, later in his sane moments, he recalled as untrue.1205 He even denied that he was a prophet. The impression which this denial made upon such ardent admirers as Landucci, the apothecary, was distressing. Writing April 19,1498, he says:—
I was present at the reading of the proceedings against Savonarola, whom we all held to be a prophet. But he said he is no prophet and that his prophecies were not from God. When I heard that, I was seized with wonder and amazement. A deep pain took hold of my soul, when I saw such a splendid edifice fall to the ground, because it was built upon the sorry foundation of a falsehood. I looked for Florence to become a new Jerusalem whose laws and example of a good life—buona vita — would go out for the renovation of the Church, the conversion of infidels and the comfort of the good and I felt the contrary and took for medicine the words, "in thy will, O Lord, are all things placed"—in voluntate tua, Domine, omnia sunt posita. Diary, p. 173.
Alexander despatched a commission of his own to conduct the trial anew, Turriano, the Venetian general of the Dominicans and Francesco Romolino, the bishop of Ilerda, afterwards cardinal. Letters from Rome stated that the commission had instructions "to put Savonarola to death, even if he were another John the Baptist." Alexander was quite equal to such a statement. Soon after his arrival in Florence, Romolino announced that a bonfire was impending and that he carried the sentence with him ready, prepared in advance.
Fra Domenico bore himself most admirably and persisted in speaking naught but praise of his friend and ecclesiastical superior. Fra Silvestro, yielding to the agonies of the rack, charged his master with all sorts of guilt. Other monks of St. Mark’s wrote to Alexander, making charges against their prior as an impostor. So it often is with those who praise in times of prosperity. To save themselves, they deny and calumniate their benefactors. They received their reward, the papal absolution.
The exact charges, upon which Savonarola was condemned to death, are matter of some uncertainty and also matter of indifference, for they were partly trumped up for the occasion. Though no offender against the law of God, he had given offence enough to man. He was accused by the papal commissioners with being a heretic and schismatic. He was no heretic. The most that can be said is, that he was a rebel against the pope’s authority and went in the face of Pius II.’s bull Execrabilis, when he decided to appeal to a council.1206
The intervals between his torture, Savonarola spent in composing his Meditations upon the two penitential Psalms, the 32d and the 51st. Here we see the gloss of his warm religious nature. The great preacher approaches the throne of grace as a needy sinner and begs that he who asks for bread may not be turned away with a stone. He appeals to the cases of Zaccheus, Mary Magdalene, the woman of Canaan, Peter and the prodigal son. Deliver me, he cries, "as Thou hast delivered countless sinners from the grasp of death and the gates of hell and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness." Luther, who published the expositions with a notable preface,1523, declared them "a piece of evangelical teaching and Christian piety. For, in them Savonarola is seen entering in not as a Dominican monk, trusting in his vows, the rules of his order, his cowl and masses and good works but clad in the breastplate of righteousness and armed with the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, not as a member of the Order of Preachers but as an everyday Christian."1207
At their own request the three prisoners, after a separation of six weeks, were permitted to meet face to face the night before the appointed execution. The meeting occurred in the hall of the signory. When Savonarola returned to his cell, he fell asleep on the lap of Niccolini of the fraternity of the Battuti, a fraternity whose office it was to minister to prisoners. Niccolini reported that the sleep was as quiet as the sleep of a child. On awaking, the condemned man passed the remaining hours of the night in devotions. The next morning, the friends met again and partook together of the sacrament.
The sentence was death by hanging, after which the bodies were to be burnt that "the soul might be completely separated from the body." The execution took place on the public square where, two months before, the crowds had gathered to witness the ordeal by fire. Savonarola and his friends were led forth stripped of their robes, barefooted and with hands bound. Absolution was pronounced by the bishop of Verona under appointment from the pope. In pronouncing Savonarola’s deposition, the prelate said, "I separate thee from the Church militant and the Church triumphant"—separo te ab ecclesia militante et triumphante. "Not from the Church triumphant," replied Savonarola, "that is not thine to do"—militante, non triumphante: hoc enim tuum non est. In silence he witnessed the deaths of Fra Domenico and Fra Silvestro, whose last words were "Jesus, Jesus," and then ascended the platform of execution. There were still left bystanders to fling insults. The bodies were burnt and, that no particle might be left to be used as a relic, the ashes were thrown into the Arno.
Savonarola had been pronounced by Alexander’s commission "that iniquitous monster—omnipedium nequissimum — call him man or friar we cannot, a mass of the most abominable wickedness." The pious Landucci, in thinking of his death, recalled the crucifixion and, at the scene of the execution, again lamented the disappointment of his hopes for the renovation of the Church and the conversion of the infidel—la novazione della chiesa e la conversione degli infedeli.
Savonarola was one of the most noteworthy figures Italy has produced. The modern Christian world, Catholic and Protestant, joins him in close fellowship with the flaming religious luminaries of all countries and all centuries. He was a preacher of righteousness and a patriot. Among the religious personalities of Italy, he occupies a position of grandeur by himself, separate from her imposing popes, like Gregory VII. and Innocent III.; from Dante, Italy’s poet and the world’s; from St. Francis d’Assisi and from Thomas Aquinas. Italy had other preachers,—Anthony of Padua, Bernardino of Siena,—but their messages were local and ecclesiastical. With Arnold of Brescia, Savonarola had something in common. Both had a stirring message of reform. Both mixed up political ideals with their spiritual activity and both died by judicial sanction of the papal see.
Savonarola’s intellectual gifts and attainments were not extraordinary. He was great by reason of moral conviction, his eloquence, his disinterested love of his country, his whole-souled devotion to the cause of righteousness. As an administrator, he failed. He had none of the sagacity or tact of the statesman and it was his misfortune to have undertaken to create a new government, a task for which he was the least qualified of all men.1208 He was a preacher of righteousness and has a place in the "goodly fellowship of the prophets." He belonged to the order of Ezekiel and Isaiah, Nathan and John the Baptist,—the company in which the Protestant world also places John Knox.
Savonarola was a true Catholic. He did not deny a single dogma of the mediaeval Church. But he was more deeply rooted in the fundamental teachings of Christ than in ecclesiastical formulas. In the deliverance of his message, he rose above rituals and usages. He demanded regeneration of heart. His revolt against the authority of the pope, in appealing to a council, is a serious stumbling-block to Catholics who are inclined to a favorable judgment of the Friar of St. Mark’s. Julius II.’s bull Cum tanto divino,1505, pronounced every election to the papacy secured by simony invalid. If it was meant to be retroactive, then Alexander was not a true pope.1209
The favorable judgments of contemporaries were numerous. Guicciardini called him the saviour of his country—salvatore di patria — and said that "Never was there so much goodness and religion in Florence as in his day and, after his death, it was seen that every good thing that had been done was done at his suggestion and by his advocacy." Machiavelli thus expressed himself: "The people of Florence seemed to be neither illiterate nor rude, yet they were persuaded that God spake through Savonarola. I will not decide, whether it was so or not, for it is due to speak of so great a man with reverence."
The day after Savonarola’s death, women were seen praying at the spot where he suffered and for years flowers were strewn there. Pico della Mirandola closed his biography with an elaborate comparison between Savonarola and Christ. Both were sent from God. Both suffered in the cause of righteousness between two others. At the command of Julius II., Raphael,12 years after Savonarola’s death, placed the preacher among the saints in his Disputa. Philip Neri and Catherine de Ricci 1210 revered him, and Benedict XIV. seems to have regarded him worthy of canonization.1211
Within the Dominican order, the feeling toward its greatest preacher has undergone a great change. Respect for the papal decision led it, for a hundred years after Savonarola’s death, to make official effort to retire his name to oblivion. The Dominican general, Sisto Fabri of Lucca, in 1585, issued an order forbidding every Dominican monk and nun mentioning his name and commanded them to give up any article to their superiors which kept warm admiration for him or aroused it. In the latter half of the 19th century, as the 400th anniversary of his execution approached, Catholics, and especially Dominicans, in all parts of the world defended his memory and efforts were made to prepare the way for his canonization. In the attempt to remove all objections, elaborate arguments have been presented to prove that Alexander’s sentence of excommunication was in fact no excommunication at all.1212 The sound and judicious Catholic historians, Hefele-Knöpfler, do not hesitate to pronounce his death a judicial murder.1213
By the general consent of Protestants, Jerome Savonarola is numbered among the precursors of the Reformation,—the view taken by Ranke. He was not an advocate of its distinguishing tenet of justification by faith. The Roman church was for him the mother of all other churches and the pope its head. In his Triumph of the Cross, he distinctly asserts the seven sacraments as an appointment of Christ and that Christ is "wholly and essentially present in each of the eucharistic elements." Nevertheless, he was an innovator and his exaltation of divine grace accords with the teaching of the Reformation. Here all Protestants would have fellowship with him as when he said:1214 —
It is untrue that God’s grace is obtained by pre-existing works of merit as though works and deserts were the cause of predestination. On the contrary, these are the result of predestination. Tell me, Peter; tell me, O Magdalene, wherefore are ye in paradise? Confess that not by your own merits have ye obtained salvation, but by the goodness of God.
Passages abound in his Meditations like this one. "Not by their own deservings, O Lord, or by their own works have they been saved, lest any man should be able to boast, but because it seemed good in Thy sight." Speaking of Savonarola’s Exposition of the Psalms, Luther said that, although some clay still stuck to Savonarola’s theology, it is a pure and beautiful example of what is to be believed, trusted and hoped from God’s mercy and how we come to despair of works. And the whole-souled German Reformer exclaimed, "Christ canonizes Savonarola through us even though popes and papists burst to pieces over it."1215
The sculptor has given him a place at the feet of Luther and at the side of Wyclif and Huss in the monument of the Reformation at Worms. When Catholics, who heard that this was proposed, wrote to show the impropriety of including the Florentine Dominican in such company, Rietschel consulted Hase on the subject. The venerable Church historian replied, "It makes no difference whether they counted Savonarola a heretic or a saint, he was in either case a precursor of the Reformation and so Luther recognized him."1216
The visitor in Florence to-day finds two invisible personalities meeting him everywhere, Dante, whom the city banished, and Savonarola, whom it executed. The spirit of theexecutioner has vanished and the mention of Savonarola’s name strikes in all Florentines a tender chord of admiration and love. In 1882, the signory placed his statue in the Hall of the Five Hundred. There, a few yards from the place of his execution, he stands in his Dominican habit and cowl, with his left hand resting on a lion’s head and holding aloft in his right hand a crucifix, while his clear eye is turned upwards. Again, on May 22,1901, the city honored the friar by setting a circular bronze tablet with portrait on the spot where he suffered death. A great multitude attended the dedication and one of the wreaths of flowers bore the name of the Dominicans.
In Savonarola’s cell in St. Mark’s has been placed a medallion head of the friar, and still another on the cloistral wall over the spot where he was seized and made prisoner, and the visitor will often find there a fresh wreath of flowers, a proof of the undying memory of the Florentine preacher and patriot.
This was he,
Savonarola,—the star-look shooting from the cowl.
—Browning, Casa Guido Windows.
§ 77. The Study and Circulation of the Bible.
The only biblical commentary of the Middle Ages, conforming in any adequate sense to our modern ideas of exegesis, was produced by Nicolas of Lyra, who died 1340. The exegesis of the Schoolmen was a subversion of Scripture rather than an exposition. In their hands, it was made the slave of dogma. Of grammatical and textual criticism they had no conception and they lacked all equipment for the grammatical study of the original Hebrew and Greek. What commentaries were produced in the flourishing era of Scholasticism, were either collections of quotations from the Fathers, called Chains,—catenae, the most noted of which was the catena on the Gospels by Thomas Aquinas,—or, if original works, they teemed with endless suggestions of the fancy and were like continents of tropical vine-growths through which it is next to impossible to find a clear path to Jesus Christ and the meaning of human life. The bulky expositions of the Psalms, Job and other biblical books by such theologians as Rupert of Deutz, Bonaventura and Albertus Magnus, are to-day intellectual curiosities or, at best, manuals from which piety of the conventual type may be fed. They bring out every other meaning but the historical and plain sense intended by the biblical authors. Especially true is this of the Song of Songs, which the Schoolmen made a hunting-ground for descriptions of the Virgin Mary.1217 It is said, Thomas Aquinas was engaged on the exposition of this book when he died.
The traditional mediaeval formula of interpretation reduced Tychonius’ seven senses to four,—the literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical. The formula ran:—
Litteralis gesta docet; quid credas, allegoria,
Moralis quid agas; quo tendas anagogia.
Thomas Aquinas, fully in accord with this method, said that "the literal sense of Scripture is manifold, its spiritual sense, threefold, viz., allegorical, moral and anagogical."1218 The literal sense teaches the things which have happened, the allegorical what we are to believe, the moral what we are to do and the anagogical directs to things to be awaited. The last three senses correspond to faith, hope and charity. Hugo of Cher compared them to the four coverings of the tabernacle, the four winds, the four wings of the cherubim, the four rivers of paradise, the four legs of the Lord’s table. Here are specimens: Jerusalem, literally, is a city in Palestine; allegorically, it is the Church; morally, the faithful soul; anagogically, the heavenly Jerusalem. The Exodus from Egypt is, historically, a fact; allegorically, the redemption of Christ; morally, the soul’s conversion; anagogically, the departure for the heavenly land. In his earliest years, Dean Colet followed this method. From Savonarola we would expect it. The literal heaven, earth and light of Genesis 1:1,2, he expounded as meaning allegorically, Adam, Eve and the light of grace or the Hebrews, Gentiles and Jesus Christ; morally, the soul, body and active intelligence; anagogically, angels, men and the vision of God. In his later years, Colet, in answer to a letter from Erasmus, who insisted upon the fecundity of meanings of Scripture texts, abandoned his former position and declared that their fecundity consisted not in their giving birth to many senses but to one only and that the truest.1219 In his better moods, Erasmus laid stress upon the one historical, sense, applying to the interpretation of the Bible the rule that is applied to other books.
After the Reformation was well on its way, the old irrational method continued to be practised and Bishop Longland, in a sermon on Prov. 9:1,2, preached in 1525, explained the words "she hath furnished her table" to mean, that wisdom had set forth in her spiritual banquet the four courses of history, tropology, anagogy and allegory.1220 Three years later,1528, Tyndale, the translator of the English Bible, had this to say of the mediaeval system of exegesis and the new system which sought out the literal sense of Scripture: —
The papists divide the Scripture into four senses, the literal, tropological, allegorical and anagogical. The literal sense has become nothing at all, for the pope hath taken it clean away and hath made it his possession. He hath partly locked it up with the false and counterfeited keys of his traditions, ceremonies and feigned lies. Thou shalt understand that the Scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense, and this literal sense is the root and ground of all and the anchor that never faileth whereunto, if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way.1221
A decided step in the direction of the, new exegesis movement was made by Nicolas of Lyra in his Postillae, a brief commentary on the entire Bible.1222 This commentator, called by Wyclif the elaborate and skilful annotator of Scripture,—tamen copiosus et ingeniosus postillator Scripturae,1223 was born in Normandy, about 1270, and became professor in Paris where he remained till his death. He knew Greek and learned Hebrew from a rabbi and his knowledge of that tongue gave rise to the false rumor that he had a Jewish mother. Lyra made a new Latin translation, commented directly on the original text and ventured at times to prefer the comments of Jewish commentators to the comments of the Fathers. As he acknowledged in his Introduction, he was much influenced by the writings of Rabbi Raschi.
Lyra’s lasting merit lies in the stress he laid upon the literal sense which he insisted should alone be employed in establishing dogma. In practice, however, he allowed a secondary sense, the mystical or typical, but he declared that it had been put to such abuse as to have choked out—suffocare — the literal sense. The language of Scripture must be understood in its natural sense as we would expect our words to be understood.1224 His method aided in undermining the fanciful and pernicious exegetical system of the Schoolmen who knew neither Greek nor Hebrew and prepared the way for a new period of biblical exposition. He was used not only by Wyclif and Gerson,1225 but also by Luther, who acknowledged his services in insisting upon the literal sense.
Although Wyclif wrote no commentaries on books of Scripture, he gave expositions of the Lord’s Prayer and the Decalogue and of many texts, which are thoroughly practical and popular. In his treatise on the Truth of Scripture, he seems at times to pronounce the discovery of the literal sense the only object of a sound exegesis.1226 A generation later Gerson showed an inclination to lay stress upon the literal sense as fundamental but went no further than to say that it is to be accepted so far as it is found to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church.1227
Later in the 15th century, the free critical spirit which the Revival of Letters was begetting found pioneers in the realm of exegesis in Laurentius Valla and Erasmus, Colet, Wesel and Wessel. As has already been said, Valla not only called in question the genuineness of Constantine’s donation, but criticised Jerome’s Vulgate and Augustine. Erasmus went still farther when he left out of his Greek New Testament,1516, the spurious passage about the three witnesses, 1 John 5:7, though he restored it in the edition of 1522. He pointed out the discrepancy between a statement in Stephen’s speech and the account in Genesis and questioned the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostolic origin of 2d and 3rd John and the Johannine authorship of the Apocalypse.
In opposition to such views the Sorbonne, in 1526, declared it an error of faith to call in question the authorship of any of the books of the New Testament. Erasmus recommended for the student of the Scriptures a fair knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew and also that he be versed in other studies, especially the knowledge of natural objects such as the animals, trees, precious stones and geography of Scripture.1228
The nearest approach to the exegetical principles as well as doctrinal positions of the Reformers was made by the Frenchman, Lefèvre d’Etaples, whose translations of the New Testament and the Old Testament carry us into the period introduced by Luther. It remained for Luther and the other Reformers to give to the literal or historical sense its due weight, and especially from the sane grammatical exegesis of John Calvin is a new period in the exposition of the sacred writings to be dated.
The early printing-presses, from Lyons to Paris and from Venice and Nürnberg to Cologne and Lübeck, eagerly turned out editions of the entire Bible or parts of it, the vast majority of which, however, gave the Latin text. The first printed Latin Bible, which appeared at Mainz without date and in two volumes, belongs before 1455 and bears the name of the Gutenberg Bible from the printer or the Mazarin Bible from the copy which was found in the library of Cardinal Mazarin. Before 1520, no less than 199 printed editions of the entire volume appeared. Of these,156 were Latin,17 German,—3 of the German editions being in Low German,—11 Italian, 2 Bohemian and one Russian.1229 Spain produced two editions, a Limousin version at Valencia,1478, and the Complutensian Bible of Cardinal Ximenes,1514–1517. England was far behind and her first printed English New Testament did not appear till 1526, although Caxton had setup his printing-press at Westminster in 1477.
To the printed copies of the whole Scriptures must be added the parts which appeared in plenaria and psalteria,—copies of the Gospels and of the Psalms,1230 — and in the postillae which contained the Scripture text with annotations. From 1470–1520 no less than 103 postillae appeared from the press.1231
The number of copies of the Bible sent off in a single edition is a matter of conjecture as must also be the question whether copies were widely held by laymen.1232
The new path which Erasmus struck out in his edition of the New Testament was looked upon in some quarters as a dangerous path. Dorpius, one of the Louvain professors, in 1515, anticipated the appearance of the book by remonstrating with Erasmus for his bold project and pronounced the received Vulgate text free "from all mixture of falsehood and mistake." This, he alleged, was evident from its acceptance by the Church in all ages and the use the Fathers had made of it. Another member of the Louvain faculty, Latromus, employed his learning in a pamphlet which maintained that a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew was not necessary for the scholarly study of the Scriptures. In England, Erasmus’ New Testament was attacked on a number of grounds by Lee, archbishop of York; and Standish, bishop of St. Asaph, preached a furious sermon in St. Paul’s churchyard on Erasmus’ temerity in undertaking the issue of such a work. The University of Cologne was especially outraged by Erasmus’ attempt and Conrad of Hersbach wrote:1233 —
They have found a language called Greek, at which we must be careful to be on our guard. It is the mother of all heresies. In the hands of many persons I see a book, which they call the New Testament. It is a book full of thorns and poison. As for Hebrew my brethren, it is certain that those who learn it will sooner or later turn Jews.
But among the men who read Erasmus’ text was Martin Luther, and he was studying it to settle questions which started in his soul. About one of these he asked his friend Spalatin to consult Erasmus, namely the final meaning of the righteousness of the law, which he felt the great scholar had misinterpreted in his annotations on the Romans in the Novum instrumentum. He believed, if Erasmus would read Augustine’s works, he would change his mind. Luther preferred Augustine, as he said, with the knowledge of one tongue to Jerome with his knowledge of five.
Down to the very end of its history, the mediaeval Church gave no official encouragement to the circulation of the Bible among the laity. On the contrary, it uniformly set itself against it. In 1199 Innocent III., writing to the diocese of Metz where the Scriptures were being used by heretics, declared that as by the old law, the beast touching the holy mount was to be stoned to death, so simple and uneducated men were not to touch the Bible or venture to preach its doctrines.1234 The article of the Synod of Toulouse,1229, strictly forbidding the Old and New Testaments to the laity either in the original text or in the translation1235 was not recalled or modified by papal or synodal action. Neither after nor before the invention of printing was the Bible a free book. Gerson was quite in line with the utterances of the Church, when he stated, that it was easy to give many reasons why the Scriptures were not to be put into the vulgar tongues except the historical sections and the parts teaching morals.1236 In Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella represented the strict churchly view when, on the eve of the Reformation, they prohibited under severe penalties the translation of the Scriptures and the possession of copies. The positive enactment of the English archbishop, Arundel, at the beginning of the 15th century, forbidding the reading of Wyclif’s English version, was followed by the notorious pronouncement of Archbishop Bertholdt of Mainz against the circulation of the German Bible, at the close of the same century,1485. The position taken by Wyclif that the Scriptures, as the sole source of authority for creed and life, should be freely circulated found full response in the closing years of the Middle Ages only in the utterances of one scholar, Erasmus, but he was under suspicion and always ready to submit himself to the judgment of the Church hierarchic. If Wyclif said, "God’s law should be taught in that tongue that is more known, for this wit [wisdom] is God’s Word," Erasmus in his Paraclesis1237 uttered the equally bold words: —
I utterly dissent from those who are unwilling that the sacred Scriptures should be read by the unlearned translated into their own vulgar tongue, as though the strength of the Christian religion consisted in men’s ignorance of it. The counsels of kings are much better kept hidden but Christ wished his mysteries to be published as openly as possible. I wish that even the weakest woman should read the Gospel and the epistles of Paul. And I wish they were translated into all languages, so that they might be read and understood, not only by Scots and Irishmen but also by Turks and Saracens, I long that the husbandman should sing portions of them to himself as he follows the plow, that the weaver should hum them to the tune of his shuttle, that the traveller should beguile with their stories the tedium of his journey.
The utterances of Erasmus aside, the appeals made 1450–1520 for the circulation of the Scriptures among all classes are very sparse and, in spite of all pains, Catholic controversialists have been able to bring together only a few. And yet, the few that we have show that, at least in Germany and the Netherlands, there was a popular hunger for the Bible in the vernacular. Thus, the Preface to the German Bible, issued at Cologne,1480, called upon every Christian to read the Bible with devotion and honest purpose. Though the most learned may not exhaust its wisdom, nevertheless its teachings are clear and uncovered. The learned may read Jerome’s Vulgate but the unlearned and simple folk could and should use the Cologne edition which was in good German. The devotional manual, Die Himmelsthür,—Door of Heaven,—1513, declared that listening to sermons ought to stir up people to read diligently in the German Bible. In 1505, Jacob Wimpheling spoke of the common people reading both Testaments in their mother-tongue and made this the ground of an appeal to priests not to neglect to read the Word of God themselves.1238
Such testimonies are more than offset by warnings against the danger attending the popular use of Scriptures. Brant spoke strongly in this vein and so did Geiler of Strassburg, who asserted that putting the Scriptures into the hands of laymen was like putting a knife into the hands of children to cut bread. He added that it "was almost a wicked thing to print the sacred text in German."1239 Archbishop Bertholdt’s fulmination against German versions of the Bible and their circulation among the people no doubt expressed the general mind of the hierarchy in Germany and all Europe.1240 In this celebrated edict, the German primate pronounced the German language too barbarous a tongue to reproduce the high thoughts expressed by Greek and Latin writers, writing of the Christian religion. The Scriptures are not to be given to simple and unlearned men and, above all, are not to be put into the hands of women.1241 He spoke of the fools who were using the divine gift of printing to send forth things proscribed to the public and declared, that the printers of the sacred text were moved by the vain love of fame or by greed. In his zeal, the archbishop went so far as to forbid the translation of all works whatsoever, of Greek and Latin authorship, or their sale without the sanction of the doctors of the Universities of Mainz or Erfurt. The punishment for the violation of the edict was excommunication, confiscation of books and a fine of 100 gulden.
The decree was so effective that, after 1488, only four editions of the German Bible appeared until 1522, when Luther issued his New Testament, when the old German translations seemed to be suddenly laid aside.1242 In England, Arundel’s inhibition so fully expressed the mind of the nation that for a full century no attempt was made to translate the Bible into English and it was not till after 1530 that the first copy of the English Scriptures was published on English soil.1243 Sir Thomas More, it is true, writing on the threshold of the English Reformation, interpreted Arundel’s decree as directed against corrupt translations and sought to make it appear that it was on account of errors that Wyclif’s version had been condemned. He was striving to parry the charge that the Church had withheld the Bible from popular use, but, whatever the interpretation put upon his words may be (see this volume, p. 348), the fact remains that the English were slow in getting any printed version of their own and that the Catholic party issued none till the close of the 16th century.
Distinct witness is borne by Tyndale to the unwillingness of the old party to have the Bible in English, in these words: "Some of the papists say it is impossible to translate the Scriptures into English, some that it is not lawful for the layfolk to have it in the mother-tongue, some that it would make them all heretics."1244 After the new views were quite prevalent in England, the English Bible had a hard time in winning the right to be read. Tyndale’s version, for the printing of which he found no room in England, was at Wolsey’s instance proscribed by Henry VIII. and the famous burning of 1527 in St. Paul’s churchyard of all the copies Bishop Tonstall could lay his hands on will always rise up to rebuke those who try to make it appear that the circulation of the Word of God was intended by the Church authorities to be free. Tyndale declared that, "in burning the New Testament, the papists did none other thing than I looked for; no more shall they do if they burn me also." Any fears he may have had were realized in his execution at Vilvorde,1536.1245 No doubt, the priest represented a large class when he rebuked Tyndale for proposing to translate the Bible in the words, "We were better without God’s laws than the pope’s." The martyr Hume’s body was hung when an English Bible was found on his person. In 1543, the reading of the Scriptures was forbidden in England except to persons of quality. The Scotch joined the English authorities when the Synod of St. Andrews,1529, forbade the importation of Bibles into Scotland.
In France, according to the testimony of the famous printer Robert Stephens, who was born in 1503, the doctors of the Sorbonne, in the period when he was a young man, knew about the New Testament only from quotations from Jerome and the Decretals. He declared that he was more than 50 years old before he knew anything about the New Testament. Luther was a man before he saw a copy of the Latin Bible. In 1533, Geneva forbade its citizens to read the Bible in German or French and ordered all translations burnt.1246 The strict inquisition of books would have passed to all countries, if the hierarchy had had its way. In 1535, Francis I. closed the printing-presses and made it a capital offence in France to publish a religious book without authorization from the Sorbonne. The attitude of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, since the Reformation as well as during the Reformation, has been against the free circulation of the Bible. In the 19th century, one pope after another anathematized Bible societies. In Spain, Italy and South America, the punishments visited upon Bible colporteurs and the frequent burning of the Bible itself have been quite in the line of the decrees of Arundel and Bertholdt and the treatment of Bishop Tonstall. Nor will it be forgotten that, at the time Rome was made the capital of Italy in 1870, a papal law required that copies of the Bible found in the possession of visitors to the papal city be confiscated.
On the other hand, through the agency of the Reformers, the book was made known and offered freely to all classes. What use the Reformers hoped to make of printing for the dissemination of religion and intelligence is tersely and quaintly expressed by the martyrologist, Foxe, in these words:1247 —
Either the pope must abolish printing or he must seek a new world to reign over, for else, as the world stands, printing will abolish him. The pope and all the cardinals must understand this, that through the light of printing the world begins now to have eyes to see and heads to judge .... God hath opened the press to preach, whose voice the pope is never able to stop with all the puissance of the triple crown. By printing as by the gift of tongues and as by the singular organ of the Holy Ghost, the doctrine of the Gospel sounds to all nations and countries under heaven and what God reveals to one man, is dispersed to many and what is known to one nation is opened to all.
Note: – Both Janssen and Abbot Gasquet spend much pains in the attempt to show that the mediaeval Church was not opposed to the circulation of the Bible in popular versions or the Latin Vulgate. The proofs they bring forward must be regarded as strained and insufficient. They ignore entirely the vast mass of testimony on the other side, as, for example, the testimony involved in the popular reception given to the German and English Scriptures when they appeared from the hands of the Reformers and the mass of testimony given by the Reformers on the subject. Gasquet endeavors to break the force of the argument drawn from Arundel’s edict, but he has nothing to say of the demand Wyclif made for the popular dissemination of the Bible, a demand which implied that the Bible was withheld from the people. Dr. Barry who belongs to the same school, in the Cambr. Mod. Hist., I. 640, speaks of "the enormous extent the Bible was read in the 15th century" and that it was not "till we come within sight of the Lutheran troubles that preachers, like Geiler of Kaisersberg, hint their doubts on the expediency of unrestrained Bible-reading in the vernacular." What is to be said of such an exaggeration in view of the fact that the vast majority of Bibles were in Latin, a language which the people could not read, that Geiler died in 1510, seven years before Luther ceased to be a pious Augustinian monk, and that he did very much more than hint doubts! He expressed himself unreservedly against Bible-reading. Janssen-Pastor,—I. 23 sqq., 72 sqq., VII. 535 sqq.—have a place for stray testimonies between 1480–1520 in favor of the popular reading of the Scriptures, but, go far as I can see, do not refer to the warnings of Brant, Geiler and others against their use by laymen, and the only reference they make to Bertholdt’s notorious decree is to the clause in which the archbishop emphasizes the divine art of printing, divina quaedam ars imprimendi, I. 15.
§ 78. Popular Piety.
During the last century of the Middle Ages, the religious life of the laity was stimulated by some new devices, especially in Germany. There, the effort to instruct the laity in the matters of the Christian faith was far more vital and active than in any other part of Western Christendom.
The popular need found recognition in the illustrations, furnished in many editions of the early Bibles. The Cologne Bible of 1480, the Lübeck Bible of 1494 and the Venice Bible of Malermi,1497, are the best examples of this class of books. Fifteen of the 17 German Bibles, issued before the Reformation, were illustrated.
A more distinct recognition of this need was given in the so-called biblia pauperum,—Bibles for the poor,—first single sheets and then books, containing as many as 40 or 50 pictures of biblical scenes.1248 In the first instance, they seem to have been intended to aid priests in giving instruction. Side by side, they set scenes from the two Testaments, showing the prophetic types and their fulfilments. Thus the circumcisions of Abraham, Jacob and Christ are depicted in three separate pictures, the priest being represented in the very act of circumcising Christ. Explanations in Latin, German or French accompany the pictures.
An extract will give some idea of the kind of information furnished by this class of literature. When Adam was dying, he sent Seth into the garden to get medicine. The cherub gave him a branch from the tree of life. When Seth returned, he found his father dead and buried. He planted the branch and in 4000 years it grew to be the tree on which the Saviour was crucified.
The best executed of these biblical picture-books are those in Constance,1249 St. Florian, Austria and in the libraries of Munich and Vienna. The name, biblia pauperum, may have been derived from Bonaventura or the statement of Gregory the Great, that pictures are the people’s bible. In 1509, Lukas Kranach issued the passion in a series of pictures at Wittenberg.
A marked and most hopeful novelty in Germany were the numerous manuals of devotion and religious instruction which were issued soon after the invention of printing. This literature bears witness to the intelligent interest taken in religious training, although its primary purpose was not for the young but to furnish a guide-book for the confessional and to serve priest and layman in the hour of approaching death.1250 These books are, for the most part, in German, and probably had a wide circulation. They show common Christians what the laws of God are for daily life and what are the chief articles of the Church’s faith. Some of the titles give us an idea of the intent,—The Soul’s Guide, Der Seelenführer; Path to Heaven, Die Himmelstrasse; The Soul’s Comfort, Der Seelentrost; The Heart’s Counsellor, Der Herzmahner; The Devotional Bell, Das andächtige Zeitglöcklein; The Foot-Path to Eternal Bliss, Der Fusspfad zur ewigen Seligkeit; The Soul’s Vegetable Garden, Das Seelenwürzgärtlein; The Soul’s Vineyard, Der Weingarten der Seele; The Spiritual Chase, Die geistliche Jagd. Others were known by the general title of Beichtbüchlein—libri di penitentia — or penitential books.
A compendious statement of their intent is given in the title of the Seelenführer,1251 namely "The Soul’s Guide, a useful book for every Christian to practise a pious life and to reach a holy death." This literature deserves closer attention both because it represents territory hitherto largely neglected by students of the later Middle Ages and because it bears witness to the zeal among the German clergy to spread practical religion among the people. The Himmelwagen, the Heavenly Carriage, represents the horses as faith, love, repentance, patience, peace, humility and obedience. The Trinity is the driver, the carriage itself God’s mercy.
With variations, these little books explain the 10 Commandments, the 14 articles of the Creed—the number into which it was then divided—the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, mortal sins, the 5 senses, the works of mercy and other topics. The Soul’s Comfort, which appeared in 16 editions,1474–1523,1252 takes up the 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 8 Beatitudes, 6 works of mercy, the 7 spiritual gifts, 7 mortal sins and 7 cardinal virtues and "what God further thinks me worthy of knowing." Most useful as this little book was adapted to be, it sometimes states truth under strange forms, as when it tells of a man whose soul after death was found, not in his body but in his money-chest and of a girl who, while dancing on Friday, was violently struck by the devil but recovered on giving her promise to amend her ways.
The Path to Heaven contains 52 chapters. The first two set forth faith and hope, the joys of the elect and the pains of the lost and it closes with 4 chapters describing a holy death, the devil’s modes of tempting the dying and questions which are to be put to sick people. Dietrich Kolde’s Mirror of a Christian Man, one of the most popular of the manuals, in the first two of its 46 chapters, took up the Apostles’ Creed and, in the last, the marks of a good Christian man. The first edition appeared before 1476; the 23d at Delfft,1518.1253
Many of the manuals expressly set forth the value of the family religion and call upon parents to teach their children the Creed, the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, to have them pray morning and evening and to take them to church to hear the mass and preaching. The Soul’s Guide says, "The Christian home should be the first school for young children and their first church."
The Path to Heaven,1254 written by Stephen von Landskron or Lanzkranna, dean of Vienna, d. 1477, presents a very attractive picture of a Christian household. As a model for imitation, the head of a family is represented as going to church with his wife, children and servants every Sunday and listening to the preaching. On returning home, he reviews the subject of the sermon and hears them recite the Commandments, Lord’s Prayer and Creed and the 7 mortal sins. Then, after he has refreshed himself with a draught, Trinklein, they sing a song to God or Mary or to one of the saints. The Soul’s Comfort counsels parents to examine their households about the articles of faith and the precepts the children had learned at school and at church. The Table of a Christian Life1255 urges the parents to keep their children off the streets, send them to school, making a selection of their teachers and, above all, to live well themselves and "go before" their children in the practice of all the virtues.
Of the penitential books, designed distinctly as manuals of preparation for the confessional, the work of John Wolff is the most elaborate and noteworthy. This good man, who was chaplain at St. Peter’s, Frankfurt, wrote his book 1478.1256 He was deeply interested in the impartation of religious instruction. His tombstone, which was unearthed in 1895, calls him the "doctor of the 10 Commandments" and gives a representation of the 10 Commandments in 10 pictures, each Commandment being designated by a hand with one or more fingers uplifted. Such tables it was not an uncommon thing, in the last years of the Middle Ages, to hang on the walls of churches.
Wolff’s book, which is a guide for daily Christian living, sets forth at length the 10 Commandments and the acts and inward thoughts which are in violation of them, and puts into the mouth of the offender an appropriate confession. Thus, confessing to a violation of the 4th Commandment, the offender says, "I have done on Friday rough work, in farming, dunging the fields, splitting wood, spinning, sewing, buying and selling, dancing, striking people at the dance, playing games and doing other sinful things. I did not hear mass or preaching and was remiss in the service of Almighty God." Upon the exposition of the Decalogue follow lists of the five baser sins,—usury, killing, stealing, sodomy and keeping back wages,—the 6 sins against the Holy Ghost, the 7 works of mercy such as visiting the sick, clothing the naked and burying the dead, the sacraments, the Beatitudes, the 7 gifts of the Holy Ghost and an exposition of repentance. The work closes with a summary of the advantages to be derived from the frequent repetition of the 10 Commandments and mentions 13 excuses, given for not repeating them, such as that the words are hard to remember and the unwillingness to have them as a perpetual monitor.
These manuals, having in view the careful instruction of adults and children, indicate a new era in the history of religious training. No catechisms have come down to us from the ancient Church. The catechumens to whom Augustine and Cyril addressed their catechetical discourses were adults. In the 13th century, synods began to call for the preparation of summaries of religious knowledge for laymen. So a synod at Lambeth,1281, Prag,1355, and Lavaur, France,1368. The Synod of Tortosa,1429, ordered its prelates to secure the preparation of a brief compendium containing in concise paragraphs all that it was necessary for the people to know and that might be explained to them every Sunday during the year by their pastors. Gerson approached the catechetical method (see this volume, p. 216 sq.) and, after long years of activity made the statement that the reformation of the church must begin with children, a parvulis ecclesiae reparatio et ejus cultura incipienda.1257 In his Tripartite work he presents the Ten Commandments, confession and thoughts for the dying. The catechetical form of question and answer was not adopted till after the Lutheran Reformation was well on its way. The term, catechism, as a designation of such a manual was first used by Luther,1525, and the first book to bear the title was Andreas Althammer’s Catechism, which appeared in 1528. Luther’s two catechisms were issued one year later. The first Catholic book to bear the title was prepared by George Wicelius,1535.
In England, we have something similar to the German penitential books in the Prymers,1258 the first copy of which dates from 1410. They were circulated in Latin and English, and were intended for the instruction of the laity. They contained the calendar, the Hours of our Lady, the litany, the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, Ten Commandments, 7 Penitential Psalms, the 7 deadly sins, prayers and other matters. The book is referred to by Piers Plowman, and frequently in the 15th century, as one well known.1259 The Horn-book also deserves mention. This device for teaching the alphabet and the Lord’s Prayer consisted of a rectangular board with a handle, to be held like a modern hand-mirror. On one or both sides were cut or printed the letters of the alphabet and the Lord’s Prayer. Horn-books were probably not in general use till the close of the 16th century, but they date back to the middle of the 15th. They probably got their name from a piece of animal horn with which the face of the written matter was covered as a protection against grubby fingers.1260
A nearer approach to the catechetical idea was made by Colet in his rudiments of religious knowledge appended to his elementary grammar, and intended for use in St. Paul’s School. It contains the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, an exposition of the love due God and our fellowmen, 46 special "precepts of living," and two prayers, and is generally known as the Catecheyzon.1261
Religious instruction was also given through the series of pictures known as the Dance of Death, and through the miracle plays.1262 In the Dance of Death, a perpetual memento mori, death was represented in the figure of a skeleton appearing to persons in every avocation of life and of every class. None were too holy or too powerful to evade his intrusion and none too humble to be beyond his notice. Death wears now a serious, now a comic aspect, now politely leads his victim, now walks arm in arm with him, now drags him or beats him. An hour-glass is usually found somewhere in the pictures, grimly reminding the onlooker that the time of life is certain to run out. These pictures were painted on bridges, houses, church windows and convent walls. Among the oldest specimens are those in Minden,1383, at Paris in the churchyard of the Franciscans,1425, Dijon,1436, Basel,1441, Croyden, the Tower of London, Salisbury Cathedral,1460, Lübeck,1463.1263
In the fifteenth century, the religious drama was in its bloom in Germany and England.1264 The acting was now turned over to laymen and the public squares and streets were preferred for the performances. The people looked on from the houses as well as from the streets. In 1412, while the play of St. Dorothea was being acted in the market-place at Bautzen, the roof of one of the houses fell and 33 persons were killed. The introduction of buffoonery and farce had become a recognized feature and lightened the impression without impairing the religious usefulness of the plays. The devil was made a subject of perpetual jest and fun. The people found in them an element of instruction which, perhaps, the priest did not impart. The scenes enacted reached from the Creation and the fall of Lucifer to the Last Judgment and from Abel’s death and Isaac’s sacrifice to the crucifixion and resurrection.
Set forth by living actors, the miracle plays and moralities were to the Middle Ages what the Pilgrim’s Progress was to Puritans. They were performed from Rome to London, at the marriage and visits of princes and for the delectation of the people. We find them presented before Sigismund and prelates during the solemn discussions of the Council of Constance, as when the play of the Nativity and the Slaughter of the Innocents was acted at the Bishop of Salisbury’s lodgings,1417, and at St. Peter’s, as when the play of Susannah and the Elders was performed in honor of Leonora, daughter of Ferrante of Naples,1473. At a popular dramatization of the parable of the 10 Virgins in Eisenach,1324, the margrave, Friedrich, was so moved by the pleas of the 5 foolish maidens and the failure to secure the aid of Mary and the saints, that he cried out, "What is the Christian religion worth, if sinners cannot obtain mercy through the intercession of Mary?" The story went, that he became melancholy and died soon afterwards.
Of the four English cycles of miracle plays, York, Chester, Coventry and Towneley or Wakefield, the York cycle dates back to 1360 and contained from 48 to 57 plays. Chester and Coventry were the traditional centres of the religious drama. The stage or pageant, as it was called, was wheeled through the streets. The playing was often in the hands of the guilds, such as the barbers, tanners, plasterers, butchers, spicers, chandlers.1265 The paying of actors dates from the 14th century.
Chester cycles was Noah’s Flood, a subject popular everywhere in mediaeval Europe. After God’s announcement to the patriarch, his 3 sons and their wives offered to take hand in the building of the ark. Noah’s wife alone held out and scolded while the others worked. In spite of Noah’s well-known quality of patience, her husband exclaimed: —
Lord, these women be crabbed, aye
And none are meke, I dare well says.
Nothing daunted, however, the patriarch went on with his hammering and hewing and remarked: —
These bordes heare I pinne togither
To bear us saffe from the weither,
That we may rowe both heither and theither
And saffe be from the fludde.1266
The ark finished, each party brought his portion of animals and birds. But when they were housed, Noah’s help-meet again proved a disturbing element. Noah bade Shem go and fetch her.
Sem, sonne, loe! thy mother is wrawe (angry).
Shem told her they were about to set sail, but still she resisted entreaty and all hands were called to join together and "fetch her in."
One of the best of the English plays, Everyman, has for its subject the inevitableness of death and the judgment.1267 God sends Death to Everyman and, in his attempt to withstand his message, Everyman calls upon his friends Fellowship, Riches, Strength, Beauty and Good Works for help or, at least, to accompany him on his pilgrimage. This with one consent they refused to do. He then betook himself to Penance, and has explained to him the powers of the priesthood: —
God hath to priest more power given
Than to any angel that is in heaven.
With five words, he may consecrate
God’s body in flesh and blood to take
And handleth his Maker between his hands:
The priest bindeth and unbindeth all bands
Both in earth and in heaven,
He ministers all the sacraments seven.
Such plays were impressive sermons, a popular summer-school of moral and religious instruction, the mediaeval Chatauqua. They continued to be performed in England till the 16th century and even till the reign of James I., when the modern drama took their place. The last survival of the religious drama of the Middle Ages is the Passion Play given at Oberammergau in the highlands of Bavaria. In obedience to a vow, made during a severe epidemic in 1684, it has been acted every ten years since and more often in recent years. Since 1860, the performances have attracted throngs of spectators from foreign lands, a performance being set for 1910. Writers have described it as a most impressive sermon on the most momentous of scenes, as it is a solemn act of worship for the simple-hearted, pious Catholics of that remote mountain village.
Pilgrimages and the worship of relics were as popular in the 16th century as they had been in previous periods of the Middle Ages.1268 Guide-books for pilgrims were circulated in Germany and England and contained vocabularies as well as items of geography and other details.1269 Jerusalem continued to attract the feet of princes and prelates as well as persons of less exalted estate. Frederick the Wise of Saxony, Luther’s cautious but firm friend, was one of these pilgrims in the last days of the Middle Ages. William Wey of England, who in 1458 and 1462, went to the Holy Land, tells us how the pilgrims sang "O city dear Jerusalem," Urbs beata, as they landed at Joppa. Sir Richard Torkington and Sir Thomas Tappe, both ecclesiastics, made the journey the same year that Luther nailed up the Theses,1517. The journeys to Rome during the Jubilee Years of 1450,1500, drew vast throngs of people, eager to see the holy city and concerned to secure the religious benefits promised by the supreme pontiff. Local shrines also attracted constant streams of pilgrims.
Among the popular shrines in Germany were the holy blood at Stemberg from 1492, the image of Mary at Grimmenthal from 1499, as a cure for the French sickness, the head of St. Anna at Düren from 1500, this relic having been stolen from Mainz. The holy coat of Treves was brought to light in 1512. As in the flourishing days of the Crusades, so again, pilgrimage-epidemics broke out among the children of Germany, as in 1457 when large bands went to St. Michael’s in Normandy and in 1475 to Wilsnack, where, in spite of the exposure by Nicolas of Cusa, the blood was still reputed holy.1270 The most noted places of pilgrimage in Germany were Cologne with the bodies of the three Magi-kings and Aachen, where Mary’s undergarment, Jesus’ swaddling-cloth and the loin-cloth he wore on the cross and other priceless relics are kept. Some idea of the popularity of pilgrimages may be had from the numbers that are given, though it is possible they are exaggerated. In 1466, 130,000 attended the festival of the angels at Einsiedeln, Switzerland, and in 1496 the porter at the gate of Aachen counted 146,000.1271 In the 14 days, when the relics were displayed, 85,000 gulden were left in the money-boxes of St. Mary’s, Aachen.
Imposing religious processions were also popular, such as the procession at Erfurt,1483, in a time of drought. It lasted from 5 in the morning till noon, the ranks passing from church to church. Among those who took part were 948 children from the schools, the entire university-body comprising 2,141 persons, 812 secular priests, the monks of 5 convents and a company of 2,316 maidens with their hair hanging loosely down their backs and carrying tapers in their hands. German synods called attention to the abuses of the pilgrimage-habit and sought to check it.1272
English pilgrims, not satisfied with going to Rome, Jerusalem and the sacred places on their own island, also turned their footsteps to the tomb of St. James of Compostella, Spain. In 1456, Wey conducted 7 ship-loads of pilgrims to this Spanish locality. Among the popular English shrines were St. Edmund of Bury, St. Ethelred of Ely, the holy hood of Boxley, the holy blood of Hailes and, more popular than all, Thomas à Becket’s tomb at Canterbury and our Blessed Lady of Walsingham. So much frequented was the road to Walsingham that it was said, Providence set the milky way in the place it occupies in the heavens that it might shine directly upon it and direct the devout to the sacred spot. These two shrines were visited by unbroken processions of religious itinerants, including kings and queens as well as people less distinguished. Reference has already been made to Erasmus’ description, which he gives in his Colloquies. At Walsingham, he was shown the Virgin’s shrine rich with jewels and ornaments of silver and gold and lit up by burning candles. There, was the wicket at which the pilgrim had to stoop to pass but through which, with the Virgin’s aid, an armed knight on horseback had escaped from his pursuer. The Virgin’s congealed milk, the cool scholar has described with particular precision. Asking what good reason there was for believing it was genuine, the verger replied by pointing him to an authentic record hung high up on the wall. Walsingham was also fortunate enough to possess the middle joint of one of Peter’s fingers.
At Canterbury, Erasmus and Colet looked upon Becket’s skull covered with a silver case except at the spot where the fatal dagger pierced it and Colet, remarking that Thomas was good to the poor while on earth, queried whether now being in heaven he would not be glad to have the treasures, stored in his tomb, distributed in alms. When a chest was opened and the monk held up the rags with which the archbishop had blown his nose, Colet held them only a moment in his fingers and let them drop in disgust. It was said by Thomas à Kempis, that rarely are they sanctified who jaunt about much on pilgrimages—raro sanctificantur, qui multum peregrinantur.1273 One of the German penitential books exclaimed, "Alas! how seldom do people go on pilgrimages from right motives." Twenty-five years after the visits of Erasmus and Colet, the canons of Walsingham, convicted of forging relics, were dragged by the king’s order to Chelsea and burnt and the tomb of St. Thomas was rifled of its contents and broken up.
Saints continued to be in high favor. Every saint has his distinct office allotted to him, said Erasmus playfully. One is appealed to for the toothache, a second to grant easy delivery in childbirth, a third to lend aid on long journeys, a fourth to protect the farmer’s live stock. People prayed to St. Christopher every morning to be kept from death during the day, to St. Roche to be kept from contagion and to St. George and St. Barbara to be kept from falling into the hands of enemies. He suggested that these fabulous saints were more prayed to than Peter and Paul and perhaps than Christ himself.1274 Sir Thomas More, in his defence of the worship of saints, expressed his astonishment at the "madness of the heretics that barked against the custom of Christ’s Church."
The encouragement, given at Rome to the worship of relics, had a signal illustration in the distinguished reception accorded the head of St. Andrew by the Renaissance pope, Pius II. In Germany, princes joined with prelates in making collections of sacred bones and other objects in which miraculous virtue was supposed to reside and whose worship was often rewarded by the almost infinite grace of indulgence. In Germany, in the 15th century as in Chaucer’s day in England, the friars were the indefatigable purveyors of this sort of merchandise, from the bones of Balaam’s ass to the straw of the manger and feathers from St. Michael’s wings. The Nürnberger, Nicolas Muffel, regretted that, after the effort of 33 years, he had only been able to bring together 308 specimens. Unfortunately this did not keep him from the crime of theft and the penalty of the gallows.1275 In Vienna, were shown such rarities as a piece of the ark, drops of sweat from Gethsemane and some of the incense offered by the Wise Men from the East. Albrecht, archbishop of Mainz, helped to collect no less than 8,138 sacred fragments and 42 entire bodies of saints. This collection, which was deposited at Halle, contained the host—that is, Christ’s own body—which Christ offered while he was in the tomb, a statue of the Virgin with a full bottle of her milk hanging from her neck, several of the pots which had been used at Cana and a portion of the wine Jesus made, as well as some of the veritable manna which the Hebrews had picked up in the desert, and some of the earth from a field in Damascus from which God made Adam.
A most remarkable collection was made by no less a personage than Frederick the Wise of Saxony.1276 A rich description of its treasures has been preserved from the hand of Andreas Meinhard, then a new master of arts. On his way to Wittenberg,1507, he met a raw student about to enter the university, Reinhard by name. The elector had made good use of the opportunities his pilgrimages to Jerusalem furnished and succeeded in obtaining the very respectable number of 5,005 sacred pieces. The collection was displayed for over a year in the Schlosskirche, where Meinhard and his travelling companion looked at it with wondering eyes and undoubting confidence. Among the pieces were a thorn from the crown of thorns, a tunic belonging to John the Evangelist, milk from the Virgin’s breast, a piece of Mt. Calvary, a piece of the table on which the Last Supper was eaten, fragments of the stones on which Christ stood when he wept over Jerusalem and as he was about to ascend to heaven, the entire body of one of the Bethlehem Innocents, one of the fingers of St. Anna, "the most blessed of grandmothers,"—beatissimae aviae,—pieces of the rods of Aaron and Moses, a piece of Mary’s girdle and some of the straw from the Bethlehem manger. Good reason had Meinhard to remark that, if the grandfathers had been able to arise from the dead, they would have thought Rome itself transferred to Wittenberg. Each of these fragments was worth 100 days of indulgence to the worshipper. The credulity of Frederick, the collector, and the people betrays the atmosphere in which Luther was brought up and the struggle it must have cost him to attack the deep-seated beliefs of his generation.
The religious reverence paid to the Virgin could not well go beyond the stage it reached in the age of the greater Schoolmen nor could more flattering epithets be heaped upon her than were found in the works of Albertus Magnus and Bonaventura. Mary was more easily entreated than her Son. The Horticulus animae,—Garden of the Soul,—tells the story of a cleric, accustomed to say his Ave Marias devoutly every day, to whom the Lord appeared and said, that his mother was much gratified at the priest’s prayers and loved him much but that he should not forget also to direct prayers to himself. The book, Heavenly Wagon, called upon sinners to take refuge in her mantle, where full mercy and pardon would be found.1277 Erasmus remarked that Mary’s blind devotees, praying to her on all occasions, considered it manners to place the mother before the Son.1278 In 1456, Calixtus III. commended the use of the Ave Maria as a protection against the Turks. English Prymers contained the salutations,
Blessid art thou virgyn marie, that hast born the lord maker of the world: thou hast getyn hym that made thee, and thou dwellist virgyne withouten ende. Thankis to god.
Heil sterre of the see, hooli goddis modir, alwei maide, blesful gate of heuene.1279
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in its extreme form, exempting Mary from the beginning from all taint of original sin, was defined by the Council of Basel1280 but the decision has no oecumenical authority. Sixtus IV.,1477 and 1483, declared the definition of the dogma still an open question, the Holy See not having pronounced upon the subject. But the University of Paris,1497, in emphatic terms decided for the doctrine and bound its members to the tenet by an oath. Erasmus, comparing the subtlety of the Schoolmen with the writings of the Apostles, observed that, while the former hotly contended over the Immaculate Conception, the Apostles who knew Mary well never undertook to prove that she was immune from original sin.1281
To the worship of Mary was added the worship of Anna, Mary’s reputed mother. The names of Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim, were received from the Apocryphal Gospels of James and the Infancy. Jerome and Augustine had treated the information with suspicion as also the further information that the couple were married in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth, had angelic announcements of the birth of Mary and that, upon Joachim’s death, Anna married a second and a third time. The Crusaders brought relics of her with them to Western Europe and gradually her claim found recognition. Her cult spread rapidly. In Alexander VI. she found a distinguished devotee. Churches and hospitals were built to her memory. Trithemius wrote a volume in her praise and artists, like Albrecht Dürer, joined her with Mary on the canvas.1282 She was claimed as a patron saint by women in childbirth and by the copper miners. Luther himself was one of her ardent worshippers. Both Albrecht of Mainz and Frederick the Wise were fortunate enough to have in their collections of relics, each, one of the fingers of the saint.1283
If sacred poetry is any test of the devotion paid to a saint, then the Virgin Mary was far and away the chief personage to whom worshippers in the last centuries of the Middle Ages looked for help. The splendid collection issued by Blume and Dreves,—Analecta hymnica,—filling now nearly 8,000 pages, gives the material from which a judgment can be formed as to the relative amount of attention writers of hymns and sequences paid to the Godhead, to Mary and to the other saints. Number XLII., containing 336 hymns, gives 37 addressed to Christ,110 to Mary and 189 to other saints. Number XLVI. devotes 102 to Mary. These numbers are taken at random. Here are introductory verses from several of the thousands of hymns which were composed in praise of her virtues and the efficacy of her intercession:—
Regens regentem omnia 1284
Maria, nostra consolatrix.1285
Tu humani altrix gregis
In hora mortis ultima.1286
Anna also has a large place in the hymns of the later Middle Ages and the 16th century.1287 Here are the opening verses of two of them:
Dulcis Jesu matris pater
Joachim, et Anna mater
Justi, natu nobiles.1288
Gaude, mater Anna
Gaude, mater sancta
Cum sis Dei facta
In England, singing sacred songs seems to have been little cultivated before the 16th century. The singing of Psalms in the days of Anne Boleyn was a novelty and was greatly enjoyed at the court as it was later in Elizabeth’s reign, on the streets. The vast numbers of sacred pieces, written in Germany, France and the Lowlands, were intended for conventual devotions not for popular use.1290 Singing, however, was practised extensively in pilgrimages and processions and also in churches, and the Basel synod at its 21st session complained that the public services were interrupted by hymns in the vernacular. Germany took the lead in sacred popular music. From 1470–1520, nearly 100 hymns were printed from German presses, many of them with original tunes. Sometimes the hymns were in German from beginning to end, sometimes they were a mixture of Latin and German. As the Middle Ages drew to a close, religious song increased. The Reformation established congregational singing and begat the congregational hymnbook.1291
These adjuncts and elements of Christian worship and training were added to the usual service of the churches, the celebration of the mass, which was central, the confessional and preaching. The age was religious but doubt was growing. A writer of the 16th century says of England:1292
There are many who have various opinions concerning religion but all attend mass every day and say many pater nosters in public, the women carrying long rosaries in their hands and any who can read taking the Hours of our Lady with them and reciting them in church verse by verse in a low voice is the manner of the religious. They always hear mass in their parish church on Sunday and give liberal alms nor do they omit any form incumbent upon good Christians.
The age of a more intelligent piety was still to come, though it was to prove itself less submissive to human authority.
§ 79. Works of Charity.
Benevolence and philanthropy, which are of the very essence of the Christian religion, flourished in the later Middle Ages. In the endeavor to provoke his generation to good works, Luther asserted that "in the good old papal times everybody was merciful and kind. Then it snowed endowments and legacies and hospitals."1293 Institutions were established to care for the destitute and sick, colleges and bursaries were endowed and protection given to the dependent against the rapacity of unscrupulous money-lenders.
The modern notion of stamping out sickness by processes of sanitation scarcely occurred to the mediaeval municipalities. Although the population of Europe was not 1/10 of what it is to-day, disease was fearfully prevalent. No epidemics so fatal as the Black Death appeared in Europe but, even in England, the return of plagues was frequent, as in 1406,1439,1464,1477. The famine of 1438, called the Great Famine, was followed the next year by the Great Pestilence, called also the pestilence sans merci. In 1464, to follow the Chronicle of Croyland, thousands, "died like slaughtered sheep." The sweating sickness of 1485 reappeared in 1499 and 1504. In the first epidemic, 20,000 died in London and, in 1504, the mayor of the city succumbed. The disease took people suddenly and was marked by a chill, which was followed by a fiery redness of the skin and agonizing thirst that led the victims to drink immoderately. Drinking was succeeded by sweating from every pore.1294
Provision was made for the sick and needy through the monasteries, gilds and brotherhoods as well as by individual assistance and state collections. The care of the poor was in England regarded as one of the primary functions of the Church. Archbishop Stratford,1342, ordered that a portion of the tithe should be invariably set apart for their needs. The neglect of the poor was alleged as one of the crying omissions of the alien clergy.
Doles for the poor, a common form of charity in England, were often provided for on a large scale. During the 40 days the duke of Gaunt’s body was to remain unburied, 50 marks were to be distributed daily until the 40th day, when the amount was to be increased to 500 marks. Bishop Skirland wanted 200 given away between his death and his interment. A draper of York gave by will 100 beds with furniture to as many poor folk. A cloth-maker made a doubtful charity when he left a suit of his own make to 13 poor people, with the condition that they should sit around his coffin for 8 days. There were houses, says Thorold Rogers, where doles of bread and beer were given to all wayfarers, houses where the sick were treated, clothed and fed, particularly the lepers. One of the hospitals that survives is St. Crow at Winchester for old and indigent people.1295 The cook Ketel, a Brother of the Common Life, whose biography Thomas à Kempis wrote, said it would be better to sell all the books of the house at Deventer and give more to the poor.
Hospitals, in the earlier part of our period, were the special concern of the knights of the Teutonic Order and continued throughout the whole of it to engage the attention of the Beguines. It became the custom also for the Beguines to go as nurses to private houses as in Cologne, Frankfurt, Treves, Ulm and other German cities, receiving pay for their services.1296 The Beguinages in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp andother cities of Belgium and Holland date back to this period. The 15th century also witnessed the growth of municipal hospitals, a product of the civic spirit which had developed in North-Europe. Cities like Cologne, Lübeck and Augsburg had several hospitals. The Hotel de Dieu, Paris, did not come under municipal control till 1505. In cases, admission to hospitals was made by their founders conditional on ability to say the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Ave Maria, as for example to St. Anthony’s, Augsburg. In this case, the founder took care to provide for himself, requiring the inmates on entering to say 100 Pater nosters and 100 Ave Marias over his grave and every day to join in saying over it 15 of each.1297 Damian of Löwen and his wife, who endowed a hospital at Cologne,1450, stipulated that "the very poorest and sickest were to be taken care of whether they belonged to Cologne or were strangers."
Rome had more than one hospital endowment. The foundation of Cardinal John Colonna at the Lateran, made 1216, still remains. In his History of the Popes (III. 51), Pastor has given a list of the hospitals and other institutions of mercy in the different states of Italy and justly laid stress upon this evidence of the power of Christianity. The English gilds, organized, in the first instance, for economic and industrial purposes, also pledged relief to their own sick and indigent members. The gild of Corpus Christi at York provided 8 beds for poor people and paid a woman by the year 14 shillings and fourpence to keep them. The gild of St. Helena at Beverley cared constantly for 3 or 4 poor folk.1298
Leprosy decreased during the last years of the Middle Ages, but hospitals for the reception of lepers are still extensively found,—the lazarettos, so called after Lazarus, who was reputed to have been afflicted with the disease. Houses for this malady had been established in England by Lanfranc, Mathilda, queen of Henry I. at St. Giles, by King Stephen at Burton, Leicestershire and by others till the reign of John. St. Hugh of Lincoln, as well as St. Francis d’Assissidistinguished themselves by their solicitude for lepers. But the disease seems to have died out in England in the 14th century and it was hard to fill the beds endowed for this class of sufferers. In 1434, it was ordered that beds be kept for 2 lepers in the great Durham leper hospital "provided they could be found in these parts." Originally the hospital had beds for 60.1299 Late in the 16th century there were still lepers in Germany. Thomas Platter wrote, "When we came to Munich, it was so late that we could not enter the city, but had to remain in the leperhouse."1300
Begging was one of the curses of England and Germany as it continues to be of Southern Europe to-day. It was no disgrace to ask alms. The mendicant friars by their example consecrated a nuisance with the sacred authority of religion. Pilgrims and students also had the right of way as beggars. Sebastian Brant gave a list of the different ecclesiastical beggars who went about with sacks, into which they put with indiscriminate greed apples, plums, eggs, fish, chickens, meat, butter and cheese,—sacks which had no bottom.
Der Bettler Sack wird nimmer voll;
Wie man ihn füllt, so bleibt er hohl.
In Germany, towns gave franchises to beg.1301 The habit of mendicancy, which Brant ridiculed, Geiler of Strassburg called upon the municipality to regulate or forbid altogether. In England, mendicancy was a profession recognized in law.
With the decay of the monastic endowments and the legal maintenance of wages at a low rate, the destitution and vagrancy increased. The English statutes of laborers at the close of this period,1495 and 1504, ordered beggars, not able to work, to return to their own towns where they might follow the habit of begging without hindrance.1302
At a time when in Germany, the richest country of Europe, church buildings were multiplying with great rapidity, many churches in England, on account of the low economic conditions, were actually left to go to ruin or turned into sheepcotes and stables, a transmutation to which Sir Thomas More as well as others refers. The rapacity of the nobles and abbots in turning large areas into sheep-runs deprived laborers of employment and brought social distress upon large numbers. On the other hand, parliament passed frequent statutes of apparel, as in 1463 and 1482, restricting the farmer and laborer in his expenditure on dress. The different statutes of laborers, enacted during the 15th century, had the effect of depressing and impoverishing the classes dependent upon the daily toil of their hands.1303
In spite of the strict synodal rules, repeated again and again, usury was practised by Christians as well as by Jews. All the greater Schoolmen of the 13th century had discussed the subject of usury and pronounced it sin, on the ground of Luke 6:34, and other texts. They held that charges of interest offended against the law of love to our neighbor and the law of natural fairness, for money does not increase with use but rather is reduced in weight and value. It is a species of greed which is mortal sin.1304 It was so treated by mediaeval councils when practised by Christians and the contrary opinion was pronounced heretical by the oecumenical council of Vienne. Geiler of Strassburg expounded the official church view when he pronounced usury always wicked. It was wrong for a Christian to take back more than the original principal. And the substitution of a pig or some other gift in place of a money payment he also denounced.
The rates of the Jews were exorbitant. In Florence, they were 20% in 1430 and, in 1488, 32½%.1305 In Northern Europe they were much higher, from 431/3 to 80 or even 100%. Municipalities borrowed. Clerics, convents and churches mortgaged their sacred vessels. City after city in Germany and Switzerland expelled the Jews,—from Spires and Zürich,1435, to Geneva,1490, and Nürnberg, Ulm and Nördlingen,1498–1500. The careers of the great banking-houses in the second half of the fifteenth century show the extensive demand for loans by popes and prelates, as well as secular princes.
To afford relief to the needy, whose necessities forced them to borrow, a measure of real philanthropy was conceived in the last century of the Middle Ages, the montes pietatis, or charitable accumulations.1306 They were benevolent loaning funds. The idea found widespread acceptance in Italy, where the first institutions were founded at Perugia,1462, and Orvieto,1463. City councils aided such funds by contributions, as at Perugia, when it gave 3,000 gulden. But in this case, finding itself unable to furnish the full amount, it mulcted the Jews for 1,200 gulden, Pius II. giving his sanction to the constraint. In cases, bishops furnished the capital, as at Pistoja,1473, where Bishop Donato de’ Medici gave 3,000 gulden. At Lucca, a merchant, who had grown rich through commercial affiliation with the Jews, donated the princely capital of 40,000 gold gulden. At Gubbio, a law taxed all inheritances one per cent in favor of the local fund, and neglect to pay was punished with an additional tax of one per cent.
The popes showed a warm interest in the new benevolence by granting to particular funds their sanction and offering indulgences to contributors. From 1463 to 1515 we have records of 16 papal authorizations from such popes as Pius II., Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII., Alexander VI., Julius II. and Leo X. The sanction of Innocent VIII., given to the Mantua fund,1486, called upon the preachers to summon the people to support the fund, promised 10 years full indulgence to donors, and excommunicated all who opposed the project. Sixtus IV., in commending the fund for his native town of Savona,1479, pronounced its worthy object to be to aid not only the poor but also the rich who had pawned their goods. He offered a plenary indulgence on the collection of every 100 gulden. In 1490, the Savona fund had 22,000 gulden and the limit of loans was raised to 100 ducats.1307
The administration of these bureaus of relief was in the hands of directors, usually a mixed body of clergymen and laymen, and often appointed by municipal councils. The accounts were balanced each month. In Perugia, the rate, which was 12% in 1463, was reduced to 8% a year later. In Milan it was reduced from 10% to 5%, in 1488. Five per cent was the appointed rate fixed at Padua, Vicenza and Pisa, and 4% at Florence. The loans were made upon the basis of property put in pawn. The benevolent efficacy of these funds cannot be questioned and to them, in part, is due the reduction of interest from 40% to 4 and 10% in Italy, before the close of the 15th century.1308 They met, however, with much opposition and were condemned as contravening the traditional law against usury.
A foremost place in advancing the movement was taken by the Franciscans and in the Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre,1439–1494, it had its chief apostle. This popular orator canvassed all the greater towns of Northern Italy,—Mantua, Florence, Parma, Padua, Milan, Lucca, Verona, Brescia. Wherever he went, he was opposed from the pulpit and by doctors of the canon law. At Florence, so warmly was the controversy conducted in the pulpits that a public discussion was ordered at which Lorenzo de’ Medici, doctors of the law, clerics and many laymen were present, with the result that the archbishop forbade opposition to the mons on pain of excommunication. The Deuteronomic injunction, 24:12 sq., ordering that, if a man borrow a coat, it should be restored before sundown and the Lord’s words, Luke 6, were quoted by the opposition. But it was replied, that the object of loaning to the poor was not to enrich the fund or individuals but to do the borrower good. Savonarola gave the institution his advocacy.1309 The Fifth Lateran commended it and in this it was followed, 50 years later, by the Council of Trent.
The attempt to transplant the Italian institution in Germany was unsuccessful and was met by the establishment of banks by municipal councils, as at Frankfurt.1310 In England also, it gained no foothold. So strong was the feeling against lending out money at interest that, at Chancellor Morton’s importunity, parliament proceeded against it with severe measures, and a law of Henry VII.’s reign made all lending of money at interest a criminal offence and the bargain between borrower and lender null and void.
Notable expression was also given to the practice of benevolence by the religious brotherhoods of the age. These organizations developed with amazing rapidity and are not to be confounded with the gilds which were organizations of craftsmen, intended to promote the production of good work and also to protect the master-workers in their monopoly of trade. They were connected with the Church and were, in part, under the direction of the priesthood, although from some of them, as in Lübeck, priests were distinctly excluded. Like the gilds, their organization was based upon the principle of mutual aid1311 but they emphasized the principle of unselfish sympathy for those in distress. Luther once remarked, there was no chapel and no saint without a brotherhood. In fact, nothing was so sure to make a saint popular as to name a brotherhood after him. By 1450, there was not a mendicant convent in Germany which had not at least one fraternity connected with it. Cities often had a number of these organizations. Wittenberg had 21, Lübeck 70, Frankfurt 31, Hamburg 100. Every reputable citizen in German cities belonged to one or more.1312 Luther belonged to 3 at Erfurt, the brotherhoods of St. Augustine, St. Anna and St. Catherine.
The dead, who had belonged to them, had the distinct advantage of being prayed for. Their sick were cared for in hospitals, containing beds endowed by them. Sometimes they incorporated the principle of mutual benefit or assurance societies, and losses sustained by the living they made good. At Paderborn, in case a brother lost his horse, every member contributed one or two shillings or, if he lost his house, his fellow-members contributed three shillings each or a load of lumber.
As there were gilds of apprentices as well as of master-workmen, so there were brotherhoods of the poor and humble as well as of those in comfortable circumstances. Even the lepers had fraternities, and one of these clans had fief rights to a spring at Wiesbaden. So also had the beggars and cripples at Zülpich, founded 1454. The entrance fee in the last case was 8 shillings, from which there was a reduction of one-half for widows.1313
In the case of the Italian brotherhoods, it is often difficult to distinguish between a society organized for a benevolent purpose and a society for the cult of some saint. The gilds of Northern Italy, as a rule, laid emphasis upon religious duties such as attendance upon mass, confession of sins and refraining from swearing. The Roman societies had their patron saints,—the blacksmith and workers in gold, St. Eligius, the millers Paulinus of Nola, the barrel-makers St. James, the inn-keepers St. Blasius and St. Julian, the masons St. Gregory the Great, the barbers and physicians St. Cosmas and St. Damian, the painters St. Luke and the apothecaries St. Lawrence. The popes encouraged the confraternities and elevated some of them to the dignity of archfraternities, as St. Saviour in Rome, the first to win this distinction. Florence was also good soil for religious brotherhoods. At the beginning of the 16th century, there were no less than 73 within its bounds, some of them societies of children.1314
Society did not wait for the present age to apply the principle of Christian charity. The development of organizations and bureaus in the 15th century was not carried as far as it is to-day, and for the good reason that the same demand for it did not exist. The cities were small and it was possible to carry out the practice of individual relief with little fear of deception.
§ 80. The Sale of Indulgences.
Nowhere, except in the lives of the popes themselves, did the humiliation of the Western Church find more conspicuous exhibition than in the sale of indulgences. The forgiveness of sins was bought and sold for money, and this sacred privilege formed the occasion of the rupture of Western Christendom as, later, the Lord’s Supper became the occasion of the chief division between the Protestant churches.
Originally an indulgence was the remission of a part or all of the works of satisfaction demanded by the priest in the sacrament of penance. This is the definition given by Roman Catholic authorities to-day.1315 In the 13th century, it came to be regarded as a remission of the penalty of sin itself, both here and in purgatory. At a later stage, it was regarded, at least in wide circles, as a release from the guilt of sin as well as from its penalty. The fund of merits at the Church’s disposition—thesaurus meritorum — as defined by Clement VI., in 1343, is a treasury of spiritual assets, consisting of the infinite merits of Christ, the merits of Mary and the supererogatory merits of the saints, which the Church uses by virtue of the power of the keys. One drop of Christ’s blood, so it was argued, was sufficient for the salvation of the world, and yet Christ shed all his blood and Mary was without stain. From the vast surplus accumulation supplied by their merits, the Church had the right to draw in granting remission to sinners from the penalties resulting from the commission of sin. The very term "keys," it was said, implies a treasure which is looked away and to which the keys give access.1316 The authority to grant indulgences was shared by the pope and the bishops. The law of Innocent III., intended to check its abuse, restricted the time for which bishops might grant indulgence to 40 days, the so-called quarantines. By the decree of Pius X., issued Aug. 28,1903, cardinals, even though they are not priests, may issue indulgences in their titular churches for 200 days, archbishops for 100 and bishops for 50 days.
The application of indulgence to the realm of purgatory by Sixtus IV. was a natural development of the doctrine that the prayers and other suffrages of the living inure to the benefit of the souls in that sphere. As Thomas Aquinas clearly taught, such souls belong to the jurisdiction of the Church on earth. And, if indulgences may be granted to the living, certainly the benefit may be extended to the intermediate realm, over which the Church also has control.
Sixtus’ first bull granting indulgence for the dead was issued 1476 in favor of the church of Saintes. Here was offered to those who paid a certain sum—certam pecuniam — for the benefit of the building, the privilege of securing a relaxation of the sufferings of the purgatorial dead, parents for their children, friend for friend. The papal deliverance aroused criticism and in a second bull, issued the following year, the pontiff states that such relaxations were offered by virtue of the fulness of authority vested in the pope from above plenitudo potestatis — to draw upon the fund of merits..1317
To the abuse, to which this doctrine opened the door, was added the popular belief that letters of indulgence gave exemption both from the culpability and penalty of sin. The expression, "full remission of sins," plena or plenissima remissio peccatorum, is found again and again in papal bulls from the famous Portiuncula indulgence, granted by Honorius III. to the Franciscans, to the last hours of the undisputed sway of the pope in the West. It was the merit of the late Dr. Lea to have called attention to this almost overlooked element of the mediaeval indulgence. Catholic authorities of to-day, as Paulus and Beringer, without denying the use of the expression, a poena et culpa, assert that it was not the intent of any genuine papal message to grant forgiveness from the guilt of sin without contrition of heart.1318 The expression was in current use in tracts and in common talk.1319 John of Paltz, in his Coelifodina, an elaborate defence of indulgences written towards the close of the 15th century, affirmed that an indulgence is given by virtue of the power of the keys whereby guilt is remitted and penalty withdrawn. These keys open the fund of the Church to its sons.1320 Luther was only expressing the popular view when, writing to Albrecht of Mainz,1517, he complained that men accepted the letters of indulgence as giving them exemption from all penalty and guilt—homo per istas indulgentias liber sit ab omni poena et culpa. Not only on the Continent but also in England were such forms of indulgence circulated. For example, Leo X.’s indulgence for the hospital S. Spirito in Rome ran in its English translation, "Holy and great indulgence and pardon of plenary remission a culpa et poena."1321 The popular mind did not stop to make the fine distinction between guilt and its punishment and, if it had, it would have been quite satisfied to be made free from the sufferings entailed by sin. If by a papal indulgence a soul in purgatory could be immediately released and given access to heavenly felicity, the question of guilt was of no concern.
Long before the days of Tetzel, Wyclif and Huss had condemned the use of the formula, "from penalty and guilt," as did also John Wessel. In denouncing the bulls of indulgence for those joining in a crusade against Ladislaus, issued 1412, Huss copied Wyclif almost word for word.1322 Wyclif fiercely condemned the papal assumption in granting full indulgence for the crusade of Henry de Spenser. Priests, he asserted, have no authority to give absolution without proper works of satisfaction and all papal absolution is of no avail, where the offenders are not of good and worthy life. If the pope has power to absolve unconditionally, he should exercise his power to excuse the sins of all men. The English Reformer further declared that, to the Christian priest it was given, to do no more than announce the forgiveness of sins just as the old priests pronounced a man a leper or cured of leprosy, but it was not possible for him to effect a cure. He spoke of, the fond fantasy of spiritual treasure in heaven, that each pope is made dispenser of the treasure at his own will, a thing dreamed of without ground."1323 Such power would make the pope master of the saints and Christ himself. He condemned the idea that the pope could "clear men of pain and sin both in this world and the other, so that, when they die, they flee to heaven without pain. This is for blind men to lead blind men and both to fall into the lake." As for the pardoning of sin for money, that would imply that righteousness may be bought and sold. Wyclif gave it as a report, that Urban VI. had granted an indulgence for 2,000 years.1324
Indulgences found an assailant in Erasmus, howbeit a genial assailant. In his Praise of Folly, he spoke of the "cheat of pardons and indulgences." These lead the priests to compute the time of each soul’s residence in purgatory and to assign them a longer or shorter continuance according as the people purchase more or fewer of these salable exemptions. By this easy way of purchasing pardon any notorious highwayman, any plundering bandit or any bribe-taking judge may for a part of their unjust gains secure atonement for perjuries, lusts, bloodsheds, debaucheries and other gross impieties and, having paid off arrears, begin upon a new score. The popular idea was no doubt stated by Tyndale in answer to Sir Thomas More when he said, that "men might quench almost the terrible fire of hell for three halfpence."1325
It is fair to say that, while the last popes of the Middle Ages granted a great number of indulgences, the exact expression, "from guilt and penalty," does not occur in any of the extant papal copies1326 although some of their expressions seem fully to imply the exemption from guilt. Likewise, it must be said that they also contain the usual expressions for penitence as a condition of receiving the grace—"being truly penitent and confessing their sins"—vere poenitentibus et confessio.
Indulgences in the last century of the Middle Ages were given for all sorts of benevolent purposes, crusades against the Turks, the building of churches and hospitals, in connection with relics, for the rebuilding of a town desolated by fire, as Brüx, for bridges and for the repair of dikes, such an indulgence being asked by Charles V. The benefits were received by the payment of money and a portion of the receipts, from 33% to 50%, was expected to go to Rome. The territory chiefly, we may say almost exclusively, worked for such enterprises was confined to the Germanic peoples of the Continent from Switzerland and Austria to Norway and Sweden. England, France and Spain were hardly touched by the traffic. Cardinal Ximenes set forth the damage done to ecclesiastical discipline by the practice and, as a rule, it was under other pretexts that papal moneys were received from England.1327
In the transmission of the papal portions of the indulgence-moneys, the house of the Fuggers figures conspicuously. Sometimes it charged 5%, sometimes it appropriated amounts not reckoned strictly on the basis of a fixed per cent. The powerful banking-firm, also responding cheerfully to any request made to them, often secured the grant of indulgences in Rome. The custodianship of the chests, into which the indulgence-moneys were cast, was also a matter of much importance and here also the Fuggers figured prominently. Keys to such chests were often distributed to two or three parties, one of whom was apt to be the representative of the bankers.
Among the more famous indulgences for the building of German churches were those for the construction of a tower in Vienna,1514, for the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Constance, which had suffered great damage from fire,1511, the building of the Dominican church in Augsburg,1514, the restoration of the Cathedral of Treves,1515, and the building of St. Annaberg church,1517, in which Duke George of Saxony was much interested. One-half of the moneys received for these constructions went to Rome. In most of these cases, the Fuggers acted as agents to hold the keys of the chest and transmit the moneys to the papal exchequer. The sees of Constance, Chur, Augsburg and Strassburg were assigned as the territory in which indulgences might be sold for the cathedral in Constance. No less than four bulls of indulgence were issued in 1515 for the benefit of Treves, including one for those who visited the holy coat which was found 1512 and was to be exhibited every 7 years.1328
Among the noted hospitals to which indulgences were issued—that is, the right to secure funds by their sale—were hospitals in Nürnberg,1515, Strassburg,1518 and S. Spirito, Rome,1516.
Both of the churches in Wittenberg were granted indulgences and a special indulgence was issued for the reliquary-museum which the elector Frederick had collected. An indulgence of 100 days was attached to each of the 5,005 specimens and another 100 to each of the 8 passages between the cases that held them. With the 8,133 relics at Halle and the 42 entire bodies, millions and billions of days of indulgence were associated, a sort of anticipation of the geologic periods moderns demand. To be more accurate, these relics were good for pardons covering 39,245,120 years and 220 days and the still further period of 6,540,000 quarantines, each of 40 days.
In Rome, the residence of the supreme pontiffs, as we might well have expected, the offer of indulgences was the most copious, almost as copious as the drops on a rainy day. According to the Nürnberger relic-collector, Nicolas Muffel, every time the skulls of the Apostles were shown or the handkerchief of St. Veronica, the Romans who were present received a pardon of 7,000 days, other Italians 10,000 and foreigners 14,000. In fact, the grace of the ecclesiastical authorities was practically boundless. Not only did the living seek indulgences, but even the dying stipulated in their wills that a representative should go to Assisi or Rome or other places to secure for their souls the benefit of the indulgences offered there.
Prayers also had remarkable offers of grace attached to them. According to the penitential book, The Soul’s Joy, the worshipper offering its prayers to Mary received 11,000 years indulgence and some prayers, if offered, freed 15 souls from purgatory and as many earthly sinners from their sins. It professed to give one of Alexander Vl.’s decrees, according to which prayer made three times to St. Anna secured 1,000 years indulgence for mortal sins and 20,000 for venial. The Soul’s Garden claimed that one of Julius II.’s indulgences granted 80,000 years to those who would pray a prayer to the Virgin which the book gave. No wonder Siebert, a Roman Catholic writer, is forced to say that "the whole atmosphere of the later Middle Ages was soaked with the indulgence-passion."1329
An indulgence issued by Alexander VI., in 1502, was designed to secure aid for the knights of the Teutonic Order against the Russians. The latter was renewed by Julius II. and Cologne, Treves, Mainz, Bremen, Bamberg and other sees were assigned as the territory. Much money was collected, the papal treasury receiving one-third of the returns. The preaching continued till 1510 and Tetzel took a prominent part in the campaign.1330
It remains to speak of the most important of all of the indulgences, the indulgence for the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome. This interest was pushed by two notable popes, Julius II. and Leo X., and called forth the protest of Luther, which shook the power of the papacy to its foundations. It seems paradoxical that the chief monument of Christian architecture should have been built in part out of the proceeds of the scandalous traffic in absolutions.
On April 18,1506, soon after the laying of the cornerstone of St. Peter’s, Julius II. issued a bull promising indulgence to those who would contribute to its construction, fabrica, as it was called. Eighteen months later, Nov. 4,1507, he commissioned Jerome of Torniello, a Franciscan Observant, to oversee the preaching of the bull in the so-called 25 Cismontane provinces, which included Northern Italy, Austria, Bohemia and Poland. By a later decree Switzerland was added.1331 Germany was not included and probably for the reason that a number of indulgence bulls were already in force in most of its territory. A special rescript appointed Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, as chief overseer of the business in England. At Julius’ death, the matter was taken up by Leo X. and pushed.
The preaching of indulgences in Germany for the advantage of St. Peter’s began in the pontificate of Leo X. and is closely associated with the elevation of Albrecht of Hohenzollern to the sees of Mainz, Magdeburg and Halberstadt. Albrecht, a brother of Joachim, elector of Brandenburg, was chosen in 1513 to the archbishopric of Magdeburg and the bishopric of Halberstadt. The objections on the ground of his age and the combination of two sees—a thing, however, which was true of Albrecht’s predecessor—were set aside by Leo X., after listening to the arguments made by the German embassies.
In 1514, Albrecht was further honored by being elected archbishop of Mainz. The last incumbent, Uriel of Gemmingen, died the year before. The archdiocese had been unfortunate with its bishops. Berthold of Henneberg had died 1504 and James of Liebenstein in 1508. These frequent changes necessitated a heavy burden of taxation to enable the prelates to pay their tribute to the Holy See, which amounted to 10,000 ducats in each case, with sundry additions. By the persuasion of the elector Joachim and the Fuggers, Leo sanctioned Albrecht’s election to the see of Mainz. He was given episcopal consecration and thus the three sees were joined in the hands of a man who was only 24.
But Albrecht’s confirmation as archbishop was not secured without the payment of a high price. The price,10,000 ducats, was set by the authorities in Rome and did not originate with the German embassy, which had gone to prosecute the case. The proposition came from the Vatican itself and at the very moment the Lateran council was voting measures for the reform of the Church. It carried with it the promise of a papal indulgence for the archbishop’s territories. The elector Joachim expressed some scruples of conscience over the purchase, but it went through. Schulte exclaims that, if ever a benefice was sold for gold, this was true in the case of Albrecht.1332
The bull of indulgences was issued March 31,1516, and granted the young German prelate the right to dispose of pardons throughout the half part of Germany, the period being fixed at 8 years. The bull offered, "complete absolution—plenissimam indulgentiam — and remission of all sins," sins both of the living and the dead. A private paper, emanating from Leo and dated two weeks later, April 15, mentions the 10,000 ducats proposed by the Vatican as the price of Albrecht’s confirmation as having been already placed in Leo’s hands.1333 To enable him to pay the full amount of 30,000 ducats his ecclesiastical dignities had cost, Albrecht borrowed from the Fuggers and, to secure funds, he resorted to a two-years’ tax of two-fifths which he levied on the priests, the convents and other religious institutions of his dioceses. In 1517, "out of regard for his Holiness, the pope, and the salvation and comfort of his people," Joachim opened his domains to the indulgence-hawkers. It was his preaching in connection with this bull that won for Tetzel an undying notoriety. Oldecop, writing in 1516, of what he saw, said that people, in their eagerness to secure deliverance from the guilt and penalty of sin and to get their parents and friends out of purgatory, were putting money into the chest all day long.
The description of Tetzel’s sale of indulgences and Luther’s protest are a part of the history of the Reformation. It remains, however, yet to be said, as belonging to the mediaeval period, that the grace of indulgences was popularly believed to extend to sins, not yet committed. Such a belief seems to have been encouraged by the pardon-preachers, although there is no documentary proof that any papal authorities made such a promise. In writing to the archbishop of Mainz, Oct. 31,1517, Luther had declared that it was announced by the indulgence-hawkers that no sin was too great to be covered by the indulgence, nay, not even the sin of violating the Virgin, if such a thing had been possible. And late in life,1541, the Reformer stated that the pardoner "also sold sins to be committed."1334 The story ran that a Saxon knight went to Tetzel and offered him 10 thaler for a sin he had in mind to commit. Tetzel replied that he had full power from the pope to grant such an indulgence, but that it was worth 80 thaler. The knight paid the amount, but some time later waylaid Tetzel and took all his indulgence-moneys from him. To Tetzel’s complaints the robber replied, that thereafter he must not be so quick in giving indulgence from sins, not yet committed.1335
The traffic in ecclesiastical places and the forgiveness of sins constitutes the very last scene of mediaeval Church history. On the eve of the Reformation, we have the spectacle of the pope solemnly renewing the claim to have rule over both spheres, civil and ecclesiastical, and to hold in his hand the salvation of all mankind, yea, and actually supporting the extravagant luxuries of his worldly court with moneys drawn from the trade in sacred things. How deep-seated the pernicious principle had become was made manifest in the bull which Leo issued, Nov. 9,1518, a full year after the nailing of the Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, in which all were threatened with excommunication who failed to preach and believe that the pope has the right to grant indulgences.1336
* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.
1129 Lea: Cler. Celibacy, II. 25. Gerson: Dial. naturae et sophiae de castitate ecclesiasticorum. Du Pin’s ed., II. 617-636.
1130 Lea: Inq. of Spain, I. 15 sqq.
1131 For further testimonies, see Lea: Cler. Celibacy, II. 8 sqq.
1132 See Lea in Cambr. Mod. Hist., I. 660.
1133 Quoted by Lindsay: The Reformation, II. 90. Of the Italian convents, Savonarola declared that the nuns had become worse than harlots.
1134 Janssen, I. 681, 687, 708; Ficker, p. 27; Bezold, pp. 79, 83.
1135 See Hefele-Hergenröther: Conciliengesch., VIII., under Kleidung, and Butzbach: Satirae elegiacae quoted by Janssen, I. 685 sqq.
1136 Janssen, I. 689-696, gives a full list of these bishops.
1137 Janssen, I. 726. Bezold, p. 83, certainly goes far, when he makes the unmodified statement, that the convents were high schools of the most shameful immorality—Hochschulen der gräuelichsten Unsittlichkeit.
1138 Sind jetzt allgemein Edelleute Spital, Janssen, I. 724.
1139 Die jungen Mönchlein, he said, und Nönnlein die du machest, die werden Huren und Buben. The young monks and nuns will become harlots and rascals. I have not spoken of that custom of mediaeval lust, the jus primae noctis or droit de marquette as it was called, whereby the feudal lord had the privilege of spending the first night with all brides. Spiritual lords in Southern France, having domains, did not shrink, in cases, from demanding the same privilege. Lea: Celibacy, I. 441.
1140 Lea, II. 59.
1141 Gee and Hardy: in Documents, etc., gives only two ecclesiastical acts between 1402-1532.
1142 Wilkins: Concil., III. 360-365.
1143 Capes: Engl. Ch. in the 14th and 15th Centt., p. 259, says that many of the clergy were actually married.
1144 Seebohm, p. 76. For Hutton’s summary of the Norwich visitation, see Traill: Social Engl., II. 467 sqq. He concludes that "if the religious did little good, they did no harm." But see same volume, p. 565, for the charge against the priests of Gloucester.
1145 Froude puts the composition of this tract in 1528. The 16th complaint runs: "Who is she that will set her hands to work to get 3 pence a day and may have at least 20 pence a day to sleep an hour with a friar, a monk or a priest. Who is she that would labor for a groat a day and may have at least 12 pence a day to be a bawd to a priest, monk or friar?"
1146 See James Gairdner in Engl. Hist. Rev., Jan., 1905.
1147 Dr. Tulloch says in his Luther and other Leaders of the Reformation, "Nowhere else had the clergy reached such a pitch of flagrant and disgraceful iniquity and the Roman Catholic religion such an utter corruption of all that is good as in Scotland."
1148 Bernard in Migne, 182:889, Th. Aq. Summa, II. 2, q. 189. Denifle, Luther und Lutherthum, I. 208, makes the monstrous charge of deliberate lying and knavery against Luther for his treatment of monkish baptism. Kolde: Denifle’s Beschimpfung M. Luthers, Leipz., 1904, pp. 33-49, shows the justice of Luther’s representations. Their truth is not affected by the statement of Joseph Ries: Das geistiche Leben nach der Lehre d. hl. Bernard, p. 86, namely that Bernard and the Church held that outside the convents there may be some who are in the state of perfection while inside cloistral walls there maybe those who are in the imperfect state.
1149 Contra vanam curiositatem, Du Pin’s ed., 1728, I. 106 sqq.
1150 Manuale curatorum predicandi praebens modum, 1503, quoted by Janssen, I. 38.
1151 Wolff’s and the Augsburger Beichtbüchlein, ed. Falk, pp. 78, 87; Gute Vermaninge, ed. by Bahlmann, p. 78; Nicholas Rum of Rostock as quoted by Janssen, I. 39. Der Spiegel des Sünders about 1470. See Geffcken, p. 69. Seelentrost, 1483, etc.
1152 Cruel, pp. 647, 652, closes his treatment of the German pulpit in the M. A. with the observation that the old view, reducing the amount of preaching in Germany in the 15th century, must be abandoned. Cruel’s view is now generally accepted by Protestant writers.
1153 Jannsen, I:43.
1154 Ullman: Reformers, etc., I. 229 sqq., classes him with the Reformers before the Reformation, and chiefly on the basis of his tract, De septem ecclesiae statibus.
1155 Lives of Geiler by Abbé L. Dacheux, 1876, and Lindemann, 1877. For earlier biographies by Beatus Rhenanus, etc., see Lorenzi, I. 1. Geiler’s sermons have been issued by Dacheux:Die ältesten Schriften G.’s, Freib., 1882, and by Ph. de Lorenzi, 4 vols., Treves, 1881-1883, with a Life. See also Cruel, Deutsche Predigt, pp. 538-576; H. Hering: Lehrbuch der Homiletik, p. 81 sq., and Kawerau, in Herzog VI. 427-432, Janssen, I. 136 sqq.
1156 A remarkable specimen of his power to play on words is given in his use of the word Affe, monkey, which he applied to ten different classes of the devil’s dupes. See Cruel, p. 543. Bischof, bishop, he derived from Beiss-schaf —bite-sheep—because prelates bit the sheep instead of taking them to pasture.
1157 Kawerau, VI. 428.
1158 See Lorenzi, II. 1-321.
1159 Cruel, quoting Surgant, p. 635. Erasmus, Praise of Folly, p. 95, speaks of the preacher "spending his glass in telling pleasant stories.’
1160 See Cruel’s chapter on pulpit polemics, pp. 617-629 and Janssen, I. 440 sqq. A preacher in Ulm, John Capistran, about 1450, was put by the aldermen in the lock-up for his excessive vehemence in condemning the prevailing luxury in dress and other questionable social customs.
1161 Praise of Folly, 141 sqq.
1162 Basel, ed. 1540, pp. 643-917.
1163 Nichols: Erasmus’ Letters, II. 235.
1164 W. G. Blaikie: The Preachers of Scotland, p. 36.
1165 This group of men forms the subject of Ullmann’s notable work The Reformers before the Reformation published in 1841. He followed Flacius, Walch and others before him who had treated them as precursors of the Reformation. Hase: Kirchengesch., II. 551; Köstlin: Leben Luthers, I. 18; Funk, p. 382, and others still hold to this classification. Loofs: Dogmengesch., p. 658, takes another view and says "they were not Reformers before the Reformation, nevertheless they bear witness that, in the closing years of the Middle Ages, the preparation made for the Reformation was not, merely negative." Janssen, I. 745, treats them as followers of Huss.
1166 Goch’s words are Sola scriptura canonica fidem indubiam et irrefragabilem habet auctoritatem. The writer in Wetzer-Welte concedes Goch’s depreciation of the Schoolmen and of Thomas Aquinas in particular, whom at one point Goch calls a prince of error—princeps erroris.
1167 Ullmann, I. 91, 149 sqq., asserts that Goch stated the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Clemen and the writer in Wetzer-Welte modify this judgment. Walch, as quoted by Ullmann, p. 150, gives 9 points in which Goch anticipated the Reformation.
1168 Catholic writers like Funk, p. 390, Wetzer-Welte and Janssen, I. 746, speak of Wesel as one of the false teachers of the Middle Ages and find many of the doctrines of the Reformation in his writings.
1169 For detailed account of the trial, Ullman, I. 383-405.
1170 During his trial, Wesel acknowledged the following writing as his: 1, Super modo obligationis legum humanarum ad quemdam Nicolaum de Bohemia. 2, De potestate actes. 3, De jeuniis. 4, De indulgentiis.
1171 The name, "John" is disputed by Muurling and Wetzer-Welte and shown by Paulus to be a mistake. Gansfort, or Goesevort, was the name of the village from which the family came.
1172 See Ritschl: The Christian Doctr. of Justification and Reconciliation. Edinb. ed., p. 481 sq.
1173 In a letter accompanying the gift, Honius wrote that the words "This is my body" meant "This represents my body." For Luther’s reply, see Köstlin: Luthers Leben, I. 701. For the lat edd. of Wessel’s works, see Doedes, pp. 435, 442. Doedes in Studien u. Kritiken, for 1870, p. 409, asks, "Who in the latter half of the 15th cent. had so much genuine faith and evangelical knowledge as this man who was always the scholar of the Lord Jesus Christ and nothing else?"
1174 The translation is from Schottmüller, pp. 2, 3. This writer gives two of Savonarola’s letters to his mother.
1175 The one, the Vulgate printed in Basel, 1491, the other in Venice, 1492. See Luotto: Dello Studio, etc. This author draws a parallel between Leo XIII.’s commendation of the study of the Bible and Savonarola’s emphasis upon it as the seat of authority.
1176 Sermon, March 14, 1498. Schottmüller, p. 111. Roscoe: Life of Lorenzo, ch. VIII., says: "The divine word from the lips of Savonarola, descended not amongst his audience like the dews of heaven. It was the piercing hail, the sweeping whirlwind, the destroying sword."
1177 Villari, I. 183 sqq.
1178 So Nov. 1, 1494, etc. See Schottmüller, p. 28 sqq. The motto, cito et velociter, was repeated to Savonarola by the Virgin in his vision of heaven, 1495.
1179 Rudelbach, pp. 333-346, presents an elaborate statement of Savonarola’s attitude to the Bible, and quotes from one of his sermons on the Exodus thus: "The theologians of our time have soiled everything by their unseemly disputations as with pitch. They do not know a shred of the Bible, yea, they do not even know the names of its books."
1180 Lucas, pp. 55-61, gives a translation of the interview. Also Perrens, II. 167-177.
1181 Luotto asserts that the dilemma is presented of the genuineness of Savonarola’s predictions or downright imposture and he boldly supports the former view. Pastor, Villari, Lucas and others show that we are not narrowed down to this dilemma.
1182 In his first letter to Savonarola July 21, 1495. See the text in O’Neil, p. 10 sqq. Savonarola’s reply, p. 26 sqq.
1183 Villari I. 855 and Bonet-Maury, p. 232.
1184 This is the view of Lucas, pp. 69 sq., Pastor, Creighton, III. 248, who pronounces "the prophetic claims a delusion," and Villari. The last author says, I. 362 sqq., "Is it not possible that Savonarola was intoxicated by the feeling that the earlier predictions had been fulfilled, and, as the difficulty of maintaining his position in Florence in the last years of his life increased, he felt forced to appeal more and more to this endowment as though it were real?" Rudelbach gives a long chapter to Savonarola’s prophecies, pp. 281-333. Pastor discusses Savonarola’s alleged prophetic gift thoroughly in his Gesch. d. Päpste, III. 146 sqq., and in refutation of Luotto in his Zur Beurtheilung.
1185 So Pastor, III. 141. The account given of Lorenzo’s interview with Savonarola is based upon Burlamacchi and Mirandola. Politian, in a letter to Jacopo Antiquario, gave a different amount of the three demands and made no mention of Savonarola’s demand that Florence be restored her liberties. He also added that Savonarola left the room pronouncing upon the dying man a blessing. Politian’s version is accepted by Roscoe, ch. X., Creighton, III. 296-299 and Lucas, 83 sq. The version given above is accepted by Villari, 168 sqq., W. Clark, p. 116, and the rigid critic Hase, p. 20. Ranke did not see his way clear to deny its truth and Reumont, II. 443, who denied it in the 1st ed. of his Lorenzo de’ Medici, hesitates in the 2d ed. Pastor proceeds upon the basis of its truth but expresses doubt in a note.
1186 One of Savonarola’s propositions was to levy taxes on real property alone and, it seems, he was not averse to taxing Church property. Landucci, p. 119; Villari, I. 269, 298; II. 81.
1187 See the document in Lucas, p. 180, and O’Neil, p. 9 sq. The original in Rudelbach.
1188 Zur Beurtheilung, p. 66. Pastor is refuting Luotto’s position.
1189 The Italian text in Perrens, I. 471 sq. The sermons of this period were on Amos, Zachariah, Micah and Ruth. According to Burlamacchi, the sultan had some of them translated into Turkish. Villari, II. 87.
1190 Dio Kultur d. Renaissance, II. 200 sq.
1191 The bull is given by Villari, II. 189 sq.; Pastor, III. 411 sq.
1192 Published in 1497, both in Latin and Etruscan, the Etruscan translation being by Savonarola himself.
1193 Pastor: Beurtheilung, p. 71 sqq.; Villari, II. 252.
1194 See Schnitzer: Feuerprobe, p. 144.
1195 See Alexander’s letters in Perrens, I. 481-485; Pastor, III. 418 sq. O’Neil finds no room for them.
1196 See Schnitzer: Feuerprobe, p. 38 sqq.
1197 For the originals, see Perrens, I. 487-492. Excerpts are given by Villari, II. 292 sq. See also Hase, p. 59, Creighton, III. 237. Of the genuineness of the letters, Villari says there can be no doubt.
1198 Landucci’s account of the fuoco, p. 165 sqq., is most vivid. For Cerretani’s account, Schnitzer’s ed., 59-71.
1199 See Schnitzer: Feuerprobe, p. 49 sq.
1200 Schnitzer, p. 54.
1201 Schnitzer, p. 64 sq., who goes into the matter at length, and Villari, II. 306 sqq., agree in the opinion that Alexander fully sympathized with the ordeal. They also agree that the Arrabbiati were largely, if not wholly, responsible for the suggestion of the ordeal and making it a matter of public appointment. Pastor, III. 429, represents Alexander as wholly disapproving the ordeal.
1202 There is a difference among the contemporary writers about the figures. Landucci, p. 168, gives the length at 50 braccia, width 10 and height 4; Bartolomeo Cerretaui, Schnitzer ed. p. 62, the width as 1 braccio and the height 2.
1203 Schnitzer, p. 159 sq., who says the signory and the Franciscans joined "in packing the cards."
1204 Etiam per torturam. Alexander’s letter in Lucas, p. 372.
1205 The reports of Savonarola’s trial and confessions are of uncertain value, as they were garbled by the reporter Ser Ceccone. See Pastor, III. 432 sq. Landucci says that from 9 A. M. till nightfall the cries of Domenico and Sylvestro under the strain of torture could be heard in the city prison.
1206 See the miserable letters sent by the papal commission to Alexander, Lucas, pp. 434-436.
1207 Weimar ed. XII. 248. Twenty-three edd. of Savonarola’s exposition appeared within two years of the author’s death and, before half a century elapsed, it had been translated into Spanish, German, English and French. In Italy, it was used as a tract and put into the hands of prisoners condemned to death. It was embodied in the Salisbury Primer,1538, and in Henry VIII.’s Primer,1543.
1208 See the excellent remarks of Burckhardt: Renaiss., II. 200.
1209 Pastor, III. 436 says that Savonarola was always true to Catholic dogma in theory. His only departure was disobeying the pope and appealing to a council. Father Proctor, Pref. to Triumph of the Cross, p. xvii, calls Savonarola "Of Catholics the most Catholic."
1210 Cardinal Capecelatro in his Life of St. Ph. Neri. trsl. by Father Pope, I. 278, says, "Philip often read Savonarola’s writings especially the Triumph of the Cross, and used them in the instruction of his spiritual children." Quoted by Proctor, Preface, p. 6. For Catherine de Ricci, see her Life by F. M. Capes, Lond.,1908, pp. 48, 49, 53,270 sq. She was devoted in her cult of Savonarola and wrote a laud to him. This was the chief objection to her beatification in 1716, but the arguments for an unfavorable judgment of Savonarola were answered on that occasion.
1211 Villari, II. 417, following Schwab and other Catholic writers. The interpretation put upon Benedict’s words is denied by Pastor: Beurtheilung, p. 16 sq., and Lucas.
1212 Father O’Neil, a Dominican, in his work, Was Savonarola really excommunicated? takes this position and says, p. 132, "Alexander did not inflict any censure on Savonarola." The fact, however, is that in his letters to the signory, Alexander proceeded on the basis of his brief of excommunication. He stated distinctly the reasons for his being excommunicated and he called upon the priests of Florence to publicly announce his sentence of May 12,1497, upon pain of drawing ecclesiastical censure upon themselves. O’Neil replies that a papal decision, based upon a false charge, is invalid, p. 175 sqq.
1213 Rechtlos hingemordert, Kirchengesch., p. 503. Ranke’s statement that view making Savonarola a hero is a Dominican legend "worked out after the preacher’s death" has been rendered untenable by the latest research by the eminent Savonarola scholar, the Catholic Professor Schnitzer. See his Feuerprobe, p. 152.
1214 Sermon VIII. in Prato ed. quoted by Rudelbach. Bayonne wrote his work in 1879 to dispose of this charge and to prepare the way for Savonarola’s canonization.
1215 Canonizat eum Christus per nos, rumpanter etiam papae et papistae simul. Weimar ed. XII. 248.
1216 Kirchengesch., II. 566.
1217 So sober a writer as Reuss, p. 607, speaks of the commentaries on the Canticles, as being without number.
1218 Summa, I. 1 art. x.
1219 See Lupton, p. 104, and Seebohm, pp. 30, 124 sq., 445-447.
1220 Farrar, p. 295.
1221 The Obedience of a Christian Man, Parker Soc., p. 303 sq. The author of the Epp. obscurorum virorum speaks of having listened to a lecture on poetry, in which Ovid was explained naturaliter, literaliter, historialiter et spiritualiter. In his preface to the Pentateuch, p. 394, Tyndale said, "The Scripture hath but one simple, literal sense whose light the owls cannot abide."
1222 Lyra’s work was printed 8 times before 1500. The ed. printed at Rome,1471-1473, is in 5 vols.
1223 De veritate scr. sac., I. 275. Wyclif quotes Lyra, II. 100, etc.
1224 Prol. 2. Omnes presupponunt sensum Lit. tanquam fundamentum, unde sicut aedificium declinans a fundamento disponitur ad ruinam expositio mystica discrepans a sensu lit. reputanda est indecens et inepta. See Reuss, p. 610.
1225 Du Pin’s ed.,1728, I. 3, etc.
1226 Sensus lit. scripturae est utrobique verus, De ver., I. 73,122.
1227 Gerson, De sensu lit. scr. sac. Du Pin’s ed.,1728, I. 2 sq., says, sensus lit. semperest verus and sensus lit. judicandus est Prout ecclesia a Sp. S. inspirata determinat et non ad cujuslibet arbitrium.
1229 Falk, pp. 24, 91-97, gives a full list with the places of issue. Walther gives a list of 120 MSS. of the Bible in German translation. The Lenox Library in New York has a copy of the Mazarin Bible. The first book bearing date, place and name of printers was the Psalterium issued by Fust and Schöffer, Aug. 14,1457. See Copinger: Incunabula biblica or the First Half Century of the Latin Bible, Lond.,1892.
1230 Often only a brief selection of Psalms was given. Such collections were meant as manuals of devotion and perhaps also to be used In memorizing. See Falk, p. 28 sqq.
1231 Falk, p. 32. The word postilla comes from post illa verba sicut textus evangelii and its use goes back to the 13th century.
1232 Janssen, I. 23, 75 attempts to establish it as a fact that the copies struck off were numerous. He cites in confirmation the edition of the Latin Grammar of Cochlaeus,1511, which included 1,000 copies, and of a work of Bartholomew Arnoldi, 1517, 2,000 copies. Sebastian Brant declared that all lands were full of the Scriptures, and the Humanist, Celti, that the priests could find a copy in every inn if they chose to look. 6,000 copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were printed in a single edition. The Koberger firm of Nürnberg has the honor of having produced no less than 26 editions, 1476-1520. Its Vulgate was on sale in London as early as 1580.
1233 Hase: Ch. Hist., II. 2, p. 493. Faulkner: Erasmus, p. 127 sqq. Dorpius’ letter is given by Nichols, II. 168 sqq.
1234 Migne CCXIV:695 sq.
1235 Ne praemissos libros laici habeant in vulgari translatos arctissime inhibemus, Mansi, XXIII. 194.
1236 Prohibendam esse vulgarem translationem librorum sac, etc. Contra vanam curiositatem, Du Pin’s ed., I. 105.
1237 Basel ed., V. 117 sq.
1238 Falk, p. 18. Janssen, I. 72, is careful to tell that the peasant, Hans Werner, who could read, knew his Bible so well by heart that he was able to give the places where this text and that were found.
1239 Es ist fast ein bös Ding dass man die Bibel zu deutsch druckt. Quoted by Frietsche-Nestle in Herzog, II. 704.
1240 The text is given In Mirbt: Quellen zur Gesch. d. Papsttums, p. 173.
1241 Quis enim dabit idiotis et indoctis hominibus et femineo sexui, etc.
1242 Reuss, p. 534. The last four editions of the old German Bible were 1490, Augsburg, 1494, Lübeck, Augsburg, 1508, 1518.
1243 We might have expected some definite utterance in regard to Bible translations from Pecock, in his Repressor of Overmuch Blaming of the Clergy, 1450-1460. What he says is in the progress of his refutation of the Lollards’ position that all things necessary to be believed and done are to be found in the Scriptures. He adds, Rolls Series, I. 119, "And thou shalt not find expressly in Holy Scripture that the New and Old Testaments should be writ in English tongue to laymen or in Latin tongue to clergy."
1244 Pref. to the Pentateuch, Parker Soc. ed., Tyndale’s Doctr. Works, p. 392. Arundel did not adduce any errors in Wyclif’s version. Abbot Gasquet, in The Old Engl. Bible, p. 108, and Eve of the Reform., p. 209 sqq., attempts to show that the Bible was not a proscribed book in England before the Reformation. The testimonies he adduces, commending the Scriptures, are so painfully few as to seem to make his case a hopeless one. Dixon, Hist. of the Ch. of Engl., I. 451, speaks of Arundel’s "proclaiming the war of authority against English versions."
1245 Cochlaeus informed the English authorities of Tyndale’s presence in Wittenberg and his proposed issue of the English N. T., in order to prevent "the importation of the pernicious merchandise." Tonstall professed to have discovered no less than 2000 errors in Tyndale’s N. T. See Fulke’s Defence in Parker Soc. ed., p. 61. Tyndale, Pref. to the Pent., p. 373, says, that "the papists who had found all their Scripture before in their Duns or such like devilish doctrine, now spy out mistakes in my transl., even if it be only the dot of an i."
1246 See Baird: Hist. of the Huguenots, I. 57; Lindsay: The Reformation, II. 80.
1247 Book of Martyrs, V. 355.
1248 Ed. Reuss: D. deutschen Historienbibeln vor d. Erfindung d. Bücherdrucks,1855.—J. T. Berjeau: Biblia pauperum, Lond.,1859.—Laib u. Schwarz: D. Biblia pauperum n. d. original in d. Lyceumbibl. zu Constanz, Zürich,1867,—Th. Merzdorf: D. deutschen Historienbibeln nach 40 Hdschriften, Tüb., 1870, 2 vols.—R. Muther: D. ältesten deutschen Bilderbibeln, 1883.—Falk: D. Bibel an Ausgange d.MA, p. 77 sqq.—Biblia pauperum n. d. Wolfenbüttel Exemplare jetzt in d. Bibl. nationale, ed. P. Heintz, mit Einleitung über d. Entstehung d. biblia pauperum, by W. L. Schreiber, Strass., 1903.—Artt. Bilderbibel, in Herzog, III 214 and Historienbibel, in Herzog, VIII. 155 sqq. and Bib. pauperum, in Wetzer-Welte, II. 776 sq.—Reuss: Gesch. d. N. T., 524 sqq.
1249 The Constance copy in the Rosengarten museum contains many pictures, with explanatory notes on each page. I was particularly struck with the execution of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
1250 Bezold, p. 112, speaks of the number of these manuals as massenhaft and Dr. Barry, Cambr. Hist., I. 641, with rhetorical unprecision speaks of them as sold in all book-markets. See J. Geffcken: D. Bibelcatechismen d. 15 Jahrh., Leipz.,1855.—B. Hasak. D. christl. Glaube d. deutschen Volkes beim Schlusse d. MA, Regensb., 1868.—P. Bahlmann: Deutschland’s kathol. Katechismen his zum Ende d. 16 Jahrh., Münster, 1894.—F. Falk: D. deutschen Sterbebüchlein bis 1520, Col., 1890. Also Drei Beichtbüchlein nach den 10 Geboten, Münster, 1907. Also D. Druckkunst im Dienste d. Kirche bis 1520, Col., 1879.—F. W. Battenberg; Joh. Wolff, Beichtbüchlein, Giessen, 1907.—Janssen-Pastor, I. 82 sqq.—Achelis: Prak. Theol., II. 497 sqq.—Wiegand: D. Apost. Symbol in MA, p. 50 sqq
1251 Printed at Mainz, by Peter Schöffer,1498, 47 pp.
1252 See list of the editions in Bahlmann, p. 13 sq. The Cologne ed. of 1474 is in the London museum.
1253 Bahlmann, pp. 17-19. The first dated MS. copy is 1470.
1254 Bahlmann, p. 7, gives as the probable date of composition,1450. The 1st printed ed., Augsburg, 1484. See also Geffcken, pp. 107-119.
1255 Bahlmann gives it in full, pp. 63-74.
1256 See Falk: Drei Beichtbüchlein. The text of Wolff’s manual fills pp. 17-75. Falk also gives a penitential book, printed at Nürnberg, 1475, pp. 77-81, and a manual printed at Augsburg, 1504, pp. 82-96.
1257 Gerson’s opp., Du Pin’s ed., III. 280. Luther, in the same vein, said in 1516, Weimar ed., I. 450, 494, that, if there was to be a revival in the Church, it must start with the instruction of the children. A single book, corresponding to the manuals above described, has come down to us, from an earlier period, the composition of a monk of Weissenberg of the 9th century. See two Artt. on Catechisms in the Presb. Banner, Dec. 31, 1908, Jan. 7, 1909 by D. S. Schaff.
1258 Maskell: Monumenta ritualia, 2d ed., 1882, III., pp. ii-lxvii and a reprint of a Prymer, III 3-183. Dr. Edward Barton edited three Primers, dating from 1535, 1539, 1546, Oxf., 1834. See also Proctor’s Hist. of the Bk. of Com. Prayer, p. 14 sq. Proctor calls the Primer "the book authorized for 150 years before the Reformation by the Engl. Church, for the private devotion of the people." A. W. Tuer: Hist. of the Horn Book, 2 vols., Lond., 1896. Highly illust. and most beautiful vols.
1259 Maskell, III., pp. xxxv-xlix, says the word, Prymer, can be traced to the beginning of the 14th century.
1260 Horn-books, as Mr. Tuer says, were much used in England, Scotland and America, down to the close of the 18th century. So completely had they gone out of use, that even Mr. Gladstone declared he knew "nothing at all about them. Tuer, I., p. 8.
1261 Text in Lupton: Life of Colet, pp. 285-292.
1262 G. Peignot: Recherches sur les Danses des morts, Paris, 1826.—C. Douce: The Dance of Death, London, 1833.—Massmann: Literatur der Todtentänze, etc., Leipzig, 1841.—R. Fortoul: Les Danses des morts, Paris, 1844.—Smith: Holbein’s Dance of Death, London, 1849.—G. Kastner, Les Danses des morts, Paris, 1852.—W. Bäumker: Der Todtentanz, Frankfurt, 1881.—W. Combe: The Engl. Dance of Death, new ed., 2 vols., N. Y., 1903.—Valentin Dufour, Recherches sur la danse macabre, peinte en 1425, au cimetiere des innocents, Paris, 1873.—Wetzer-Welte: Todtentanz, XI., 1834-1841.
1263 William Dunbar, the Scotch poet, wrote with boisterous humor, The Dance of the Sevin Deidlie Synnis (1507?), perhaps as a picture of a revel held on Shrove Tuesday at the court. Each of the cardinal sins performed a dance. Ward-Waller: Cambr. Hist. of Lit., II. 289, etc.
1264 In addition to the Lit. given in vol. V.: 1, p. 869, see F. E. Schelling: Hist. of the Drama of Engl.,1558-1642, with a Résumé of the Earlier Drama from the Beginning, Boston, 1908.
1265 Pollock gives 48 York guilds with plays assigned to each, pp. xxxi-xxxiv. There are records of plays in more than 100 Engl. towns and villages, Pollock, p. xxiii.
1266 Text in Pollock, p. 8 sqq. It was common to represent Noah’s consort as a shrew. so Chaucer in the Miller’s Tale.
1267 The text in Pollock. It was revived in New York City in the Winter of 1902-1903 and played in three theatres, creating a momentary interest.
1268 See Erasmus: Praise of Folly, Enchiridion and Colloquies.—Gasquet: Eve of the Reformation, pp. 365-394.—G. Ficker: D. ausgehende Mittelalter, Leipzig, pp. 69-73.—H. Siebert, Rom. Cath.:Beiträge zur vorreformatorischen Heiligen-und Reliquienverehrung, Frei b. im Br., 1907.—Bezold, p. 105 sqq., Janssen-Pastor.
1269 Falk-Druckkunst, pp. 33-37; 44-70 etc. Siebert, p. 55 sq.—Wey: Itineraries, ed. by Roxburghe Club, 1857.
1270 We have the account of the latter by an eye-witness, the chronicler priest, Conrad Stolle of Erfurt. See Ficker, p. 69 sq.
1271 Bezold,105 sq., Janssen, I. 748. See an art., Relic worship in the Heart of Europe, in the Presb. Banner, Sept. 16, 1909, by D. S. Schaff on a visit to Einsiedeln, whither 160,000 pilgrims journeyed in 1908, and to Aachen when the "greater relics," which are displayed once in 7 years, were exposed July 9-21, 1909, and according to the Frankfurt press attracted 600,000 pilgrims.
1272 Janssen, I. 748-760, ascribes the popularity of pilgrimages in Gemany to the currendi libido, the travelling itch.
1273 Imit. of Christ, I. 1, ch. 23. See Siebert, p. 55.
1274 · Praise of Folly, pp. 85, 96, and Enchiridion, XII., P. 135.
1275 Bezold, p. 99; Siebert, p. 59.
1276 Die Universität Wittenberg nach der Beschreibung des Mag. Andreas Meinhard, ed. by J. Hausleiter, 2d ed., Leipz., 1903.
1277 Siebert, p. 39.
1278 Praise of Folly, p. 85.
1279 See Maskell, III. 63.
1280 Nunquam actualiter subjacuisse originali peccato, sed immunem semper fuisse ab omni originali et actuali culpa. Mansi, XXIX. 183.
1281 Praise of Folly, p. 126.
1282 Janssen, I. 248. See E. Schaumkell: Der Cultus der hl. Anna am Ausgange des MA, Freib., 1896. J. Trithemius: De laudibus S. Annae, Mainz, 1494.
1283 St. Anne’s day was fixed on July 26 by Gregory XIII.,1584. The Western Continent has a great church dedicated to St. Anne at Beau Pré on the St. Lawrence, near Quebec. It possesses one of its patron’s fingers. No other Catholic sanctuary of North America, perhaps, has such a reputation for miraculous cures as this Canadian church.
1284 Beautiful ruler of the king, Ruling him who rules all things. Blume and Dreves, XLII. 115.
1285 Hail, cell of Deity, Virgin of virgins, Maty, our comforter. XLV. 117.
1286 Mother of the most high King, Thou foster-mother of the flock, Advocate most mighty, In the dread hour of death. XLV. 118.
1287 Number XLII. of Blume and Dreves’ collection gives 10; Number XLIII. 9, Number XLIV. 8, Anna hymns.
1288 Father of the dear mother of Jesus, Joachim, and her mother Anna, Righteous and noble of birth. XLII. 154.
1289 Rejoice Anna mother, Rejoice holy mother, For thou art made grandmother of God. XLIII. 78.
1290 The Cambridge Role, a MS. in Cambridge, contains 12 carols. John of Dunstable founded a school of music early in the 15th century. Traill: Social Engl., II. 368 sq. Maskell, Mon.rit., III. 1 sqq., gives a number of English hymns printed In the Prymers of the first half of the 16th century.
1291 Bäumker gives 71 hymns with original melodies printed before 1520. On the subject of mediaeval hymns, see Mone: Lateinische Hymnen d. MA, 3 vols., Freib., 1855; Ph. Wackernagel: Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit, etc.,2 vols, Leipz.,1867. W. Bäumker: D. kathol. deutsche Kirchenlied in seinen Singweisen, 3 vols., Freib., 1886-1891 and Ein deutsches geistliches Liederbuch mit Melodieen aus d. 15ten Jahrh., etc., Leipz., 1895, Janssen, I. 288 sqq. Also artt. Kirchenlied and Kirchenmusik in Herzog, X.
1292 Italian Relation of Engl., Camden Soc. ed., p. 23.
1293 Quoted by Uhlhorn, p. 439. Janssen, II. 325 sq., takes too seriously Luther’s complaint that more liberality had been shown and care given to the needy under the old system than under the new, using it as a proof of the influence of Protestantism. Riezler, Gesch. Baierns, as quoted by Janssen, I. 679 says, "The Christian spirit of love to one’s neighbor was particularly active In the 15th century in works of benevolence and there Is scarcely another age so fruitful In them." So also Bezold, p. 94.
1294 See C. Creighton in Social England, II. 412, 475, 561.
1295 Rogers: Work and Wages, p. 417. Stubbs: Const. Hist., ch. XXI. Capes: Engl. Ch. Hist. in the 14th and 15th Cent., pp. 276 sq., 366 sq.
1296 Uhlhorn, p. 383 sq.
1297 Uhlhorn, p. 333. For the conditions of admission to hospitals and medical treatment, Allemand, III. 192 sqq. is to be consulted.
1298 In 1409 was founded an asylum for lunatics in Valencia, Lecky: Hist. of Europ. Morals, II. 94 sq. There were pest-houses In Oxford and Cambridge and Continental universities often had special hospitals of their own. Writing of the 16th century, Thomas Platter speaks of such a hospital at Breslau. The town paid 16 hellers for the care of each patient. These institutions were, however, far removed from our present methods of cleanliness. Of the Breslau hospital, Platter (Monroe’s Life, p. 103 sq.) says, "We had good attention, good beds, but there were many vermin there as big as ripe hemp-seed, so that I and others preferred to be on the floor rather than in the beds."
1299 Geo. Pernet: Leprosy in Quart. Rev., 1903, p. 384 sqq. C. Creighton, Soc. Engl., II. 413. This Hist., Vol. V., I., pp. 395, 825, 894. For the fearful prevalence of cutaneous diseases and crime in England in the 13th century and as a cure for those who sigh for the fictitious happy conditions of mediaeval society, see Jessopp, Coming of the Friars, p. 101 sqq.
1300 Monroe: Thos. Platter, p. 107.
1301 Uhlhorn, pp. 483, 456. Such a license was issued in Vienna,1442. Eberlin of Günzburg went so far as to say that in Germany, 14 out of every 15 people lived a life of idleness.
1302 Stubbs ch. XXI.; Social Engl., II. 548-550. Cunningham, p. 478 sq.; Rogers, pp. 416-419.
1303 See Traill: Soc. Engl., II. 388, 392-398. For the activity in churchbuilding in Germany, see Janssen, I. 180 sq.; Bezold, p. 90; Ficker, p. 65.
1304 Thos. Aquinas: Summa, II. 2, q. 78.
1305 Pastor: Gesch. d. Päpste, III. 83 sq. For Germany, see Janssen, I. 460 sqq.
1306 Other names given to them were montes Christi, monte della carità, mare di pietà. See Holzapfel, pp. 18, 20, for funds to provide for burial, montes mortuorum, made up from contributions, and funds to which mothers contributed at the birth of children, called montes dotis. Holzapfel gives the primary authorities on the benevolent loaning funds, pp. 3-14.
1307 Holzapfel, pp. 10-12, 44, 64, 70.
1308 Holzapfel, p. 134.
1309 Villari, I. 294 sqq.; Holzapfel, pp. 124, 135. According to Holzapfel, there were in Italy in 1896, 556 monti di pietà with 78,000,000 lire—$16,000,000—out in loans.
1310 Holzapfel, p. 102 sqq.; Janssen, I. 464, 489.
1311 The constitution of the Gild of St. Mary of Lynn contained the clauses, "If any sister or brother of this gild fall into poverty, they shall have help from every other brother and sister in a penny a day." The Gild of St. Catharine, London, had a similar stipulation. Smith: Engl. Gilds, p. 185.
1312 Degenhard Pfaffinger, counsellor to Frederick the Wise, belonged to 35. Kolde, 437; Uhlhorn, p. 423.
1313 Uhlhorn, p. 422.
1314 Pastor, IV. 30-38
1315 So Paulus; J. Tetzel, p. 88, and Beringer, p. 2, a member of the Society of Jesus, whose work on indulgences has the sanction of the Congregation of Indulgences of the College of Cardinals. Both writers insist that the indulgence does not confer forgiveness of guilt but only the remission of penalty after guilt is forgiven. See also on the general subject this Hist., V. 1, pp. 735-748, VI. 146 sqq.
1316 John of Paltz: Coelifodina in Köhler, p. 57. Nota in hoc quod dicit, claves, innuit thesauros quia omne carum clauditur et seratur potest tamen clavibus adiri.
1317 For the text of the bulls, see Lea III. 585 sqq. and Köhler, pp. 37-40. A bull ascribed to Calixtus III., 1457, also sanctions indulgences for the dead. It is accepted as genuine by Paulus. For Gabriel Biel’s acceptance of Sixtus’ assertion of power to grant indulgences to the dead, see Köhler, p. 40.
1318 Paulus, 97 sq., and Beringer, p. 11, either explain the expression to mean the penalty of guilt, as if it read a poena culpae delicta, or refer it to venial sins. See Vol. V. 1, p. 741. The Jubilee bull of Boniface VIII., 1300, was interpreted by a cardinal to include in its benefits guilt as well as penalty—duplex indulgentia culpae videlicet et poenae. Köhler, p. 18 sq., gives the text of the bull. John XXIII. confessed to have often absolved a culpa et poena.
1319 It was used by Piers Plowman (see Lea: Sacerd. Celibacy, I. 444), by Landucci, 1513, "l’indulgenza di colpa e pena, Badia’s ed., p. 341, by Oldecop, 1516, who listened to Tetzel (see his letter in Paulus, p. 39), etc. Oldecop said that those who cast their money into the chest and confessed their sins were " absolved from all their sins and from pain and guilt." For other cases and a general treatment of the subject, see Lea, III. 67-80
1320 . Köhler, p. 59.
1321 See Maskell: Monum. rit., etc., III. 372 sqq. These indulgences in England were printed on single sheets perhaps by Wynkyn de Worde. Such an English reprint announced an indulgence of 2560 days granted by Julius II. to all contributing to a crusade against the Saracens and other Christian enemies.
1322 Nürnb. ed., 1715, vol. I. 212-267; Defens. quor. artt. J. Wyclif and the Reply of the Prag. Theol. faculty, I. 139-146.
1323 De schis. pontif., Engl. Works, ed. by Arnold, III. 1262.
1324 Engl. Works, Arnold’s ed., I. 210, 354; De eccles., p. 561.
1325 See Gasquet, Eve of the Reformation, p. 384.
1326 James of Jüterbock in his Tract. de indulg. about 1451 says he did not recollect to have seen or read a single papal brief promising indulgence a poena et culpa. Köhler, p. 48.
1327 For the details which follow, the treatment by Schulte, in his work on the Fuggers, is the chief authority. This book contains a remarkable array of figures and facts based on studies among the sources.
1328 Treves also boasted of a nail of the cross, the half part of St. Peter’s staff and St Helena’s skull.
1329 Reliquienverehrung, pp. 33 sq., 60 sq.
1330 A full account in Paulus, Tetzel, pp. 6-23.
1331 In a pamphlet entitled Simia by Andrea Guarna da Salerno, Milan, 1517, as quoted by Klaczko, Rome and the Renaissance, p. 25, Bramante the architect was refused entrance to heaven by St. Peter for destroying the Apostle’s temple in Rome, whose very antiquity called the least devout to God. And when the heavenly porter charged him with a readiness to destroy the very world itself and ruin the pope, the architect confessed and declared that his failure was due to the fact that "Julius did not put his hand Into his pocket to build the new church but relied on indulgences and the confessional." Paris de Grassis called Bramante "the ruiner,"architectum Bramantem seu potius Ruinantem.
1332 See his account of the transaction, I. 115-121.
1333 Schulte, I. 125. Leo’s bull of March 31 is given by Köhler, pp. 83-93. Even the Rom. Cath., Paulus, Tetzel, p. 31, goes as far as to speak of "the miserable business which for both Leo and Albrecht was first of all a financial transaction."
1334 An offer of this sort is referred to by John of Paltz (see quotation in Paulus): Tetzel, p. 136, and Paulus’ attempt to explain it away.
1335 One of the savory pulpit anecdotes bearing on indulgences ran as follows: Certain pilgrims, on their journey, came to a tree on which 5 souls were hanging. On their return, they found 4 had vanished. The one left behind reported that his companions had been released by friends, but that he was without a single friend. So, for the unfortunate soul’s benefit, one of the pilgrims made a pilgrimage to Rome, and the soul at once took its flight to heaven. "So may a soul," the moral went on to say, "be released from purgatorial fire, if only 50 Pater nosters be said for it."
1336 The bull in Mirbt, p. 182.