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History of the Catholic Church from the Renaissance to the French Revolution by Rev. James MacCaffrey

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Lic. Theol. (Maynooth), Ph.D. (Freiburg i. B.)
Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth

Nihil Obstat:
Thomas O'Donnell, C.M.
Censor Theol. Deput.

Imprimi Potest:
Archiep. Dublinen.,
Hiberniae Primas.

Dublini, 16 Decembris, 1914.


The fifteenth century may be regarded as a period of transition from
the ideals of the Middle Ages to those of modern times. The world was
fast becoming more secular in its tendencies, and, as a necessary
result, theories and principles that had met till then with almost
universal acceptance in literature, in art, in education, and in
government, were challenged by many as untenable.

Scholasticism, which had monopolised the attention of both schools and
scholars since the days of St. Anselm and Abelard, was called upon to
defend its claims against the advocates of classical culture; the
theocratico-imperial conception of Christian society as expounded by
the canonists and lawyers of an earlier period was forced into the
background by the appearance of nationalism and individualism, which
by this time had become factors to be reckoned with by the
ecclesiastical and civil rulers; the Feudal System, which had received
a mortal blow by the intermingling of the classes and the masses in
the era of the Crusades, was threatened, from above, by the movement
towards centralisation and absolutism, and from below, by the growing
discontent of the peasantry and artisans, who had begun to realise,
but as yet only in a vague way, their own strength. In every
department the battle for supremacy was being waged between the old
and the new, and the printing-press was at hand to enable the patrons
of both to mould the thoughts and opinions of the Christian world.

It was, therefore, an age of unrest and of great intellectual
activity, and at all such times the claims of the Church as the
guardian and expounder of Divine Revelation are sure to be questioned.
Not that the Church has need to fear inquiry, or that the claims of
faith and reason are incompatible, but because some daring spirits are
always to be reckoned with, who, by mistaking hypotheses for facts,
succeed in convincing themselves and their followers that those in
authority are unprogressive, and as such, to be despised.

This was particularly true of some of the Humanists. At first sight,
indeed, it is difficult to understand why the revival of classical
learning should lead to the danger of the rejection of Christian
Revelation, seeing that the appreciation of the great literary
products of Greece and Rome, and that, even in the days of the
Renaissance, the Popes and the bishops were reckoned amongst the most
generous patrons of the classical movement. Yet the violence of
extreme partisans on both sides rendered a conflict almost

On the one hand, many of the classical enthusiasts, not content with
winning for their favourite studies a most important place on the
programmes of the schools, were determined to force on the Christian
body the ideals, the culture, and the outlook on the world, which
found their best expression in the masterpieces of pagan literature;
while, on the other, not a few of the champions of Scholastic
Philosophy seemed to have convinced themselves that Scholasticism and
Christianity were identified so closely that rejection or criticism of
the former must imply disloyalty to the latter. The Humanists mocked
at the Scholastics and dubbed them obscurantists on account of their
barbarous Latinity, their uncritical methods, and their pointless
wranglings; the Scholastics retorted by denouncing their opponents as
pagans, or, at least, heretics. In this way the claims of religion
were drawn into the arena, and, as neither the extreme Scholastics nor
the extreme Humanists had learned to distinguish between dogmas and
systems, between what was essential and what was tentative, there was
grave danger that religion would suffer in the eyes of educated men on
account of the crude methods of those who claimed to be its authorised

Undoubtedly, at such a period of unrest, the Church could hardly
expect to escape attack. Never since the days when she was called upon
to defend her position against the combined forces of the Pagan world
had she been confronted with such a serious crisis, and seldom, if
ever, was she so badly prepared to withstand the onslaughts of her
enemies. The residence at Avignon, the Great Western Schism, and the
conciliar theories to which the Schism gave rise, had weakened the
power of the Papacy at the very time when the bonds of religious unity
were being strained almost to the snapping point by the growth of
national jealousy. Partly owing to the general downward tendency of
the age, but mainly on account of the interference of the secular
authorities with ecclesiastical appointments, the gravest abuses had
manifested themselves in nearly every department of clerical life, and
the cry for reform rose unbidden to the lips of thousands who
entertained no thought of revolution. But the distinction between the
divine and the human element in the Church was not appreciated by all,
with the result that a great body of Christians, disgusted with the
unworthiness of some of their pastors, were quite ready to rise in
revolt whenever a leader should appear to sound the trumpet-call of

Nor had they long to wait till a man arose, in Germany, to marshal the
forces of discontent and to lead them against the Church of Rome.
Though in his personal conduct Luther fell far short of what people
might reasonably look for in a self-constituted reformer, yet in many
respects he had exceptional qualifications for the part that he was
called upon to play. Endowed with great physical strength, gifted with
a marvellous memory and a complete mastery of the German language, as
inspiring in the pulpit or on the platform as he was with his pen,
regardless of nice limitations or even of truth when he wished to
strike down an opponent or to arouse the enthusiasm of a mob, equally
at home with princes in the drawing-room as with peasants in a tavern
--Luther was an ideal demagogue to head a semi-religious, semi-social
revolt. He had a keen appreciation of the tendencies of the age, and
of the thoughts that were coursing through men's minds, and he had
sufficient powers of organisation to know how to direct the different
forces at work into the same channel. Though fundamentally the issue
raised by him was a religious one, yet it is remarkable what a small
part religion played in deciding the result of the struggle. The
world-wide jealousy of the House of Habsburg, the danger of a Turkish
invasion, the long-drawn-out struggle between France and the Empire
for supremacy in Europe and for the provinces on the left bank of the
Rhine, and the selfish policy of the German princes, contributed much
more to his success than the question of justification or the
principle of private judgment. Without doubt, in Germany, in
Switzerland, in England, in the Netherlands, and in the Scandinavian
countries, the Reformation was much more a political than a religious

The fundamental principle of the new religion was the principle of
private judgment, and yet such a principle found no place in the
issues raised by Luther in the beginning. It was only when he was
confronted with the decrees of previous councils, with the tradition
of the Church as contained in the writings of the Fathers, and with
the authoritative pronouncements of the Holy See, all of which were in
direct contradiction to his theories, that he felt himself obliged,
reluctantly, to abandon the principle of authority in favour of the
principle of private judgment. In truth it was the only possible way
in which he could hope to defend his novelties, and besides, it had
the additional advantage of catering for the rising spirit of
individualism, which was so characteristic of the age.

His second great innovation, so far as the divine constitution of the
Church was concerned, and the one which secured ultimately whatever
degree of success his revolution attained, was the theory of royal
supremacy, or the recognition of the temporal ruler as the source of
spiritual jurisdiction. But even this was more or less of an after-
thought. Keen student of contemporary politics that Luther was, he
perceived two great influences at work, one, patronised by the
sovereigns in favour of absolute rule, the other, supported by the
masses in favour of unrestricted liberty. He realised from the
beginning that it was only by combining his religious programme with
one or other of these two movements that he could have any hope of
success. At first, impressed by the strength of the popular party as
manifested in the net-work of secret societies then spread throughout
Germany, and by the revolutionary attitude of the landless nobles, who
were prepared to lead the peasants, he determined to raise the cry of
civil and religious liberty, and to rouse the masses against the
princes and kings, as well as against their bishops and the Pope. But
soon the success of the German princes in the Peasants' War made it
clear to him that an alliance between the religious and the social
revolution was fraught with dangerous consequences; and, at once, he
went to the other extreme.

The gradual weakening of the Feudal System, which acted as a check
upon the authority of the rulers, and the awakening of the national
consciousness, prepared the way for the policy of centralisation.
France, which consisted formerly of a collection of almost independent
provinces, was welded together into one united kingdom; a similar
change took place in Spain after the union of Castile and Aragon and
the fall of the Moorish power at Granada. In England the disappearance
of the nobles in the Wars of the Roses led to the establishment of the
Tudor domination. As a result of this centralisation the Kings of
France, Spain, and England, and the sovereign princes of Germany
received a great increase of power, and resolved to make themselves
absolute masters in their own dominions.

Having abandoned the unfortunate peasants who had been led to
slaughter by his writings, Luther determined to make it clear that his
religious policy was in complete harmony with the political absolutism
aimed at by the temporal rulers. With this object in view he put
forward the principle of royal supremacy, according to which the king
or prince was to be recognised as the head of the church in his own
territories, and the source of all spiritual jurisdiction. By doing so
he achieved two very important results. He had at hand in the
machinery of civil government the nucleus of a new ecclesiastical
organisation, the shaping of which had been his greatest worry; and,
besides, he won for his new movement the sympathy and active support
of the civil rulers, to whom the thought of becoming complete masters
of ecclesiastical patronage and of the wealth of the Church opened up
the most rosy prospects. In Germany, in England, and in the northern
countries of Europe, it was the principle of royal supremacy that
turned the scales eventually in favour of the new religion, while, at
the same time, it led to the establishment of absolutism both in
theory and practice. From the recognition of the sovereign as supreme
master both in Church and State the theory of the divine rights of
kings as understood in modern times followed as a necessary corollary.
There was no longer any possibility of suggesting limitations or of
countenancing rebellion. The king, in his own territories, had
succeeded to all the rights and privileges which, according to the
divine constitution of the Church, belonged to the Pope.

Such a development in the Protestant countries could not fail to
produce its effects even on Catholic rulers who had remained loyal to
the Church. They began to aim at combining, as far as possible, the
Protestant theory of ecclesiastical government with obedience to the
Pope, by taking into their own hands the administration of
ecclesiastical affairs, by making the bishops and clergy state-
officials, and by leaving to the Pope only a primacy of honour. This
policy, known under the different names of Gallicanism in France, and
of Febronianism and Josephism in the Empire, led of necessity to
conflicts between Rome and the Catholic sovereigns of Europe,
conflicts in which, unfortunately, many of the bishops, influenced by
mistaken notions of loyalty and patriotism, took the side of their own
sovereigns. As a result, absolute rule was established throughout
Europe; the rights of the people to any voice in government were
trampled upon, and the rules became more despotic than the old Roman
Emperors had been even in their two-fold capacity of civil ruler and
high priest.

Meanwhile, the principle of private judgment had produced its logical
effects. Many of Luther's followers, even in his own lifetime, had
been induced to reject doctrines accepted by their master, but, after
his death, when the influence of Tradition and of authority had become
weaker, Lutheranism was reduced to a dogmatic chaos. By the
application of the principle of private judgment, certain leaders
began to call in question, not merely individual doctrines, but even
the very foundations of Christianity, and, in a short time, Atheism
and Naturalism were recognised as the hall-mark of education and good

The civil rulers even in Catholic countries took no very active steps
to curb the activity of the anti-Christian writers and philosophers,
partly because they themselves were not unaffected by the spirit of
irreligion, and partly also because they were not sorry to see popular
resentment diverted from their own excesses by being directed against
the Church. But, in a short time, they realised, when it was too late,
that the overthrow of religious authority carries with it as a rule
the overthrow of civil authority also, and that the attempt to combine
the two principles of private judgment and of royal supremacy must
lead of necessity to revolution.

* * * * *

I wish to express my sincere thanks to the many friends who have
assisted me, and particularly to the Very Rev. Thomas O'Donnell, C.M.,
President, All Hallows College. My special thanks are due also to the
Rev. Patrick O'Neill (Limerick), who relieved me of much anxiety by
undertaking the difficult task of compiling the Index.

James MacCaffrey.

St. Patrick's College, Maynooth,
Feast of the Immaculate Conception.


From the Renaissance to the
French Revolution



(a) The Renaissance.

Baudrillart, /The Catholic Church, The Renaissance, and
Protestantism (Tr.)/, 1908 (chap. i.-iii.). Guirard, /L'Eglise et
les Origines de la Renaissance/, 1902. Burckhardt, /Die Cultur der
Renaissance in Italien/, 11 auf., 1913 (Eng. Trans. by Middlemore,
1878). A Baumgartner, S.J., /Geschichte der Weltiteratur/, vol.
iv., 1900. /The Cambridge Modern History/, vol. i. (/The
Renaissance/, 1902). Stone, /The Reformation and Renaissance/,
1904. Janssen, /Geschichte des deutschen Volkes/, 1887 (Eng.
Trans. by Mitchell and Christie, London, 1896 sqq.). Pastor,
/Geschichte der Papste im Zeitalter der Renaissance/, Freiburg,
1886 sqq. (Eng. Trans. by Antrobus, London, 1891 sqq.). Muntz, /La
Renaissance en Italie et en France a l'epoque de Charles VIII./,
1885. Gasquet, /The Eve of the Reformation/. Mourret, /La
Renaissance et la Reforme/, 1912.

The great intellectual revival, that followed upon the successful
issue of the struggle for freedom waged by Gregory VII. and his
successors, reached the zenith of its glory in the thirteenth century.
Scholasticism, as expounded by men like Alexander of Hales, Albert the
Great, Roger Bacon, St. Bonaventure, and St. Thomas, and illustrated
by a wealth of material drawn alike from the Scriptures, the writings
of the Fathers, the wisdom of Pagan philosophers, and the conclusions
of natural science, was alone deemed worthy of serious attention.
Classical studies either were neglected entirely even in the centres
of learning, or were followed merely for the assistance they might
render in the solution of the philosophical and theological problems,
that engaged men's minds in an age when Christian faith reigned

The Catholic Church, indeed, had never been hostile to classical
studies, nor unmindful of their value, as a means of developing the
powers of the human mind, and of securing both breadth of view and
beauty of expression. Some few teachers here and there, alarmed by the
danger of corrupting Christian youth by bringing it into contact with
Pagan ideals, raised their voices in protest, but the majority of the
early Fathers disregarded these warnings as harmful and unnecessary.
Origen, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St.
Basil, and St. Jerome, while not ignoring the dangers of such studies,
recommended them warmly to their students, and in the spirit of these
great leaders the Catholic Church strove always to combine classical
culture and Christian education.

With the fall of the Empire, consequent upon its invasion by the
barbarian hordes, classical studies were banished to some extent to
the Western Isles, Ireland and Britain, from which they were
transplanted to the Continent principally during the Carlovingian
revival.[1] In the cathedral, collegiate, and monastic schools the
classics were still cultivated, though beyond doubt compilations were
used more frequently than were the original works; and even in the
darkest days of the dark ages some prominent ecclesiastics could be
found well versed at least in the language and literature of Rome. It
looked, too, for a time, as if the intellectual revival of the twelfth
century were to be turned towards the classics; but the example of men
like John of Salisbury was not followed generally, and the movement
developed rapidly in the direction of philosophy. As a consequence,
the study of Latin was neglected or relegated to a secondary place in
the schools, while Greek scholarship disappeared practically from
Western Europe. The Scholastics, more anxious about the logical
sequence of their arguments than about the beauties of literary
expression, invented for themselves a new dialect, which, however
forcible in itself, must have sounded barbarous to any one acquainted
with the productions of the golden age of Roman literature or even
with the writings of the early Fathers of the Latin Church. Nor was it
the language merely that was neglected. The monuments and memorials of
an earlier civilisation were disregarded, and even in Rome itself, the
City of the Popes, the vandalism of the ignorant wrought dreadful

So complete a turning away from forces that had played such a part in
the civilisation of the world was certain to provoke a reaction.
Scholasticism could not hold the field for ever to the exclusion of
other branches of study, especially, since in the less competent hands
of its later expounders it had degenerated into an empty formalism.
The successors of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure had little of their
originality, their almost universal knowledge, and their powers of
exposition, and, as a result, students grew tired of the endless
wranglings of the schools, and turned their attention to other
intellectual pursuits.

Besides, men's ideas of politics, of social order, and of religion
were changing rapidly, and, in a word, the whole outlook of the world
was undergoing a speedy transformation. In the Middle Ages religion
held the dominant position and was the guiding principle in morals, in
education, in literature, and in art; but as the faith of many began
to grow cold, and as the rights of Church and State began to be
distinguished, secularist tendencies soon made themselves felt.
Philosophy and theology were no longer to occupy the entire
intellectual field, and other subjects for investigation must be
found. In these circumstances what was more natural than that some
should advocate a return to the classics and all that the classics
enshrined? Again, the example set by the tyrants who had grasped the
reins of power in the Italian States, by men like Agnello of Pisa, the
Viscontis and Francesco Sforza of Milan, Ferrante of Naples, and the
de' Medici of Florence, was calculated to lower the moral standard of
the period, and to promote an abandonment of Christian principles of
truth, and justice, and purity of life. Everywhere men became more
addicted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, of vain glory, and
material comfort; and could ill brook the dominant ideas of the Middle
Ages concerning the supernatural end of man, self-denial, humility,
patience, and contempt for the things that minister only to man's
temporal happiness. With views of this kind in the air it was not
difficult to persuade them to turn to the great literary masterpieces
of Pagan Rome, where they were likely to find principles and ideals
more in harmony with their tastes than those set before them by the
Catholic Church.

The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, then, mark a
period of transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. They saw a
sharp struggle being waged between two ideals in politics, in
education, in literature, in religion, and in morality. In this great
upheaval that was characterised by a demand for unrestricted liberty
of investigation, a return to the study of nature and of the natural
sciences, the rise and development of national literatures, and the
appearance of a new school of art, the Humanist movement or the
revival of the study of the classics, the /literae humaniores/, played
the fundamental part. In more senses than one it may be called the Age
of the Renaissance.

Nor was it a matter of chance that this revival of interest in
classical studies should have made itself felt first in Italy, where
the downfall of the Empire, and the subsequent development of petty
states seem to have exercised a magical influence upon the
intellectual development of the people. The Italians were the direct
heirs to the glory of ancient Rome. Even in the days of their
degradation, when the capital deserted by the Popes was fast going to
ruin, and when foreigners and native tyrants were struggling for the
possession of their fairest territories, the memory of the imperial
authority of their country, and the crumbling monuments that bore
witness to it still standing in their midst, served to turn their
patriotic ardour towards the great literary treasures bequeathed to
them by Pagan Rome. Greek literature, too, was not forgotten, though
in the thirteenth century few western scholars possessed any
acquaintance with the language. Many causes, however, combined to
prepare the way for a revival of Greek. The commercial cities of Italy
were in close touch with the Eastern Empire, especially since the
Crusades; ambassadors, sent by the Emperors to seek the assistance of
the Pope and of the Western rulers in the struggle against the Turks,
were passing from court to court; the negotiations for a reunion of
the Churches, which had been going on since the days of the first
Council of Lyons, rendered a knowledge of Greek and of the writings of
the Greek Fathers necessary for some of the leading ecclesiastics of
the West; while, finally, the fall of Constantinople in 1453 forced
many Greek scholars to seek a refuge in Italy or France, and provided
the agents sent by the Popes and Italian rulers with a splendid
opportunity of securing priceless treasures for the Western libraries.

Though Dante (1265-1321) is sometimes regarded as the earliest of the
Humanist school[2] on account of his professed admiration for some of
the Pagan masters and of the blending in his /Divina Comedia/ of the
beauties of Roman literature with the teaching of the Fathers and
Scholastics, still, the spirit that inspired him was the spirit of
Christianity, and his outlook on life was frankly the outlook of the
Middle Ages. To Petrarch (1304-74) rather belongs the honour of having
been the most prominent, if not the very first writer, whose works
were influenced largely by Humanist ideals. Born in Arezzo in 1304, he
accompanied his father to Avignon when the latter was exiled from
Florence. His friends wished him to study law; but, his poetic
tendencies proving too strong for him, he abandoned his professional
pursuits to devote his energies to literature. The patronage and help
afforded him willingly by the Avignonese Popes[3] and other
ecclesiastics provided him with the means of pursuing his favourite
studies, and helped him considerably in his searches for manuscripts
of the classics. Though only a cleric in minor orders, he was
appointed Canon of Lombez (1335), papal ambassador to Naples (1343),
prothonotary apostolic (1346), and archdeacon of Parma (1348). These
positions secured to him a competent income, and, at the same time,
brought him into touch with libraries and influential men.

The ruin of Italy and Rome, caused in great measure by the absence of
the Popes during their residence at Avignon, roused all the patriotic
instincts of Petrarch, and urged him to strive with all his might for
the restoration of the ancient glory of his country. Hence in his
politics he was strongly nationalist, and hence, too, he threw the
whole weight of his influence on the side of Cola di Rienzi, when in
1347 the latter proclaimed from the Capitol the establishment of the
Roman Republic. Nor did he hesitate to attack the Popes, to whom he
was indebted so deeply, for their neglect of Rome and the Papal
States, as well as for the evils which he thought had fallen upon
Italy owing to the withdrawal of the Popes to Avignon. He himself
strove to awaken in the minds of his countrymen memories of the past
by forming collections of old Roman coins, by restoring or protecting
wherever possible the Pagan monuments, and by searching after and
copying manuscripts of the classical writers. In poetry, Virgil was
his favourite guide. As a rule he wrote in Italian, but his writings
were saturated with the spirit of the early Pagan authors; while in
his pursuit of glory and his love for natural, sensible beauty, he
manifested tendencies opposed directly to the self-restraint,
symbolism, and purity of the Middle Ages. His longest poem is
/Africa/, devoted to a rehearsal of the glories of ancient Rome and
breathing a spirit of patriotism and zeal for a long lost culture, but
it is rather for his love songs, the /canzoni/, that he is best

Petrarch, though a Humanist,[4] was no enemy of the Christian
religion, nor did he imagine for a moment that the study of the Pagan
classics could prove dangerous in the least degree to revealed
religion. It is true that his private life did not always correspond
to Christian principles of morality, and it is equally true that at
times his patriotism led him to speak harshly of the rule of the Popes
in Italy and Rome; but he never wavered in his religious convictions,
and never recognised that Pagan literature and ideals should be judged
by other than current Christian standards.

The example of Petrarch was not followed, however, by several of the
later Humanists. His friend and disciple, Boccaccio (1313-75),
imitated his master in his love for the classics and in his zeal for
classical culture, and excelled him by acquiring, what Petrarch had
failed utterly to acquire, a good knowledge of Greek. Like Petrarch,
he was assisted largely by the Popes, and took service at the papal
court. But his views of life and morality were coloured by Paganism
rather than by Christianity. Many of his minor poems are steeped in
indecency and immorality, and reflect only too clearly the tendency to
treachery and deceit so characteristic of the Italian rulers of his
day; while the /Decameron/, his greatest work, is more like the
production of a Pagan writer than of one acquainted with Christian
ethics and ideals. He delighted in lampooning the clergy, particularly
the monks, charging them with ignorance, immorality, and hypocrisy.
Such a line of conduct was not likely to recommend the apostles of the
new learning to the admirers of Scholasticism, nor to create and
foster a friendly alliance between the two camps. Yet, personally,
Boccaccio was not an enemy of Christianity, and never aimed, as did
some of the later Humanists, at reviving Paganism under the guise of
promoting literature. He was unshaken in his acceptance of the
Christian revelation, and, as the years advanced, he began to realise
the evil of his ways and the dangerous character of his writings.
Strange to say, it was to a body of the monks, whom he delighted in
attacking, that he bequeathed the valuable library which he had
brought together with such labour.

Had the Humanists contented themselves with advocating merely a return
to classical studies, and had the Scholastics recognised that
philosophy was not the only path to culture, it might have been
possible to avoid a conflict. But, unfortunately for religion, there
were extremists on both sides. On the one hand, some of the later
Humanists, influenced largely by the low moral tone of the age, aimed
at nothing less than the revival of Paganism, pure and simple; while,
on the other, not a few of the Scholastics insisted strongly that
Pagan literature, however perfect, should have no place in Christian
education. Between these two conflicting parties stood a large body of
educated men, both lay and cleric, who could see no irreconcilable
opposition between Christianity and the study of the classics, and who
aimed at establishing harmony by assigning to the classics the place
in education willingly accorded to them by many of the Fathers of the

But the influence of this latter body could not effect a
reconciliation. A large section of the Humanists openly vindicated for
themselves freedom from the intellectual and moral restraints imposed
by Christianity. Laurentius Valla[5] (1405-57) in his work, /De
Voluptate/, championed free indulgence in all kinds of sensual
pleasures, attacked virginity as a crime against the human race, and
ridiculed the idea of continence and self-denial, while in his own
life he showed himself a faithful disciple of the Epicurianism that he
propounded in his writings. His denunciations, too, of the Popes as
the usurping tyrants of Rome in his work on the Constantine Donation
were likely to do serious injury to the head of the Church in his
spiritual as well as in his temporal capacity. But bad as were the
compositions of Valla, they were harmless when compared with the books
and pamphlets of Beccadelli, the Panormite, who devoted himself almost
exclusively to what was indecent and repulsive. Poggio Bracciolini in
his work, /Facetiae/, and Filelfo, though not equally bad, belong to
the same category. In the hands of these men the Renaissance had
become, to a great extent, a glorification of Pagan immorality. Their
books were condemned by many of the religious orders, but without
avail. They were read and enjoyed by thousands, in whom the wholesale
corruption prevalent in Florence, Siena, and Venice, had deadened all
sense of morality.

A large number of the later Renaissance school were Christians only in
name. If the great body of them were judged by the heathen figures and
phraseology with which their works abound, they could hardly be
acquitted of Pagan tendencies; but in case of many of them these
excesses are to be attributed to pedantry rather than to defection
from the faith. In case of others, however, although they were wary in
their expressions lest they might forfeit their positions, Christian
teaching seems to have lost its hold upon their minds and hearts.
Carlo Marsuppini, Chancellor of Florence, Gemistos Plethon, the well-
known exponent of Platonic philosophy, Marsilio Ficino, Rinaldo degli
Albizzi, and the members of the Roman Academy (1460), under the
leadership of Pomponius Laetus, were openly Pagan in their lives and
writings. Had the men in authority in Italy been less depraved such
teaching and example would have been suppressed with firmness; or had
the vast body of the people been less sound in their attachment to
Christianity, Neo-Paganism would have arisen triumphant from the
religious chaos.[6]

But not all of the Humanists belonged to the school of Valla,
Beccadelli, Poggio, and Marsuppini. The Camaldolese monk, Ambrogio
Traversari, his pupil Giannozzo Manetti (1431-59), a layman thoroughly
devoted to the Church, and the first of the Humanists to turn his
attention to the Oriental languages, Lionardo Bruni, so long Apostolic
Secretary at the papal court and afterwards Chancellor of Florence,
Maffeo Vegio (1407-58), the Roman archaeologist, who in his work on
education endeavoured to combine classical culture with Christian
revelation, Vittorino da Feltre, a model in his life and methods for
Christian teachers, Pico della Mirandola, Sadoleto, and Bida, were all
prominent in the classical revival, but at the same time thoroughly
loyal to the Church. They were the moderate men between the Pagan
Humanists and the extreme Scholastics. Their aim was to promote
learning and education, and to widen the field of knowledge by the
introduction of the ancient literary masterpieces, not at the expense
of an abandonment of Christianity, but under the auspices and in
support of the Catholic Church. Following in the footsteps of Origen,
St. Gregory, St. Basil, and St. Augustine, they knew how to admire the
beauties of Pagan literature without accepting its spirit or ideals,
and hence they have been called the Christian Humanists.

The revival of Greek in Italy, where Greek literature was practically
unknown, is due in great measure to the arrival of Greek scholars, who
were induced to come by promises of a salary and position, or who
travelled thither on political or ecclesiastical missions. Of these
the principal were Manuel Chruysoloras engaged at work in Florence
from 1396, Cardinal Bessarion (1403?-72) who came westward for the
Council of Florence and ended his days in Venice to which he
bequeathed his library, Gemistos Plethon (1355-1450) the principal
agent in the establishment of the Platonic academy at Florence, George
of Trebizond, Theodore Gaza, Lascaris, Andronicus Callistus, and
others who fled from Greece to escape the domination of the Turks.
With the help of these men and their pupils a knowledge of Greek and
of Greek literature was diffused through Italy, and in a short time
throughout the Continent. Everywhere collections of Greek manuscripts
began to be formed; agents were sent to the East to buy them wherever
they could be discovered, and copyists and translators were busy at
work in all the leading centres of Italy. The fall of Constantinople
in 1453 tended to help the Greek revival in the West by the dispersion
of both scholars and manuscripts through Italy, France, and Germany.

Humanism owes its rapid development in Italy not indeed to the
universities, for the universities, committed entirely to the
Scholastic principles of education, were generally hostile, but rather
to the exertions of wandering teachers and to the generous support of
powerful patrons. In Rome it was the Popes who provided funds for the
support of Humanist scholars, for the collection and copying of
manuscripts, and for the erection of libraries where the great
literary treasures of Greece and Rome might be available for the
general public; in Florence it was the de' Medici, notably Cosmo
(1429-64) and Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92), by whose exertions
Florence became the greatest centre of literary activity in Europe; in
Milan it was the Viscontis and the Sforzas; in Urbino Duke Federigo
and his friends; and in Ferrara and Mantua the families of d'Este and
Gonzaga. Academies took the place of universities. Of these the
academy of Florence, supported by the de' Medici and patronised by the
leading Greek and Italian scholars, was by far the most influential
and most widely known. The academy of Rome, founded (1460) by
Pomponius Laetus, was frankly Pagan in its tone and as such was
suppressed by Paul II. It was revived, however, and patronised by
Sixtus IV., Julius II., and Leo X. Similar institutions were to be
found in most of the Italian States, notably at Venice and Naples. In
nearly all these cities valuable manuscript libraries were being
amassed, and were placed generously at the disposal of scholars.

Another important aid to the popularisation of the works of the Greek
and Latin writers was the invention of printing and its introduction
into Italy. The first printing press in Italy was established at the
Benedictine monastery of Subiaco, whence it was transferred to Rome.
From this press were issued editions of the Latin classics, such as
the works of Lactantius, Caesar, Livy, Aulus Gellius, Virgil, Lucan,
Cicero, and Ovid. Aldo Manuzio, himself an enthusiastic student of
Greek literature, settled at Venice in 1490, and established a
printing press with the intention of bringing out editions of the
principal Greek authors. His house was the great centre for Greek
scholars from all parts of Italy, and from the Aldine Press were
issued cheap and accurate editions of the Greek classics. Later on
when Florence and Milan were disturbed by the invasion of Charles
VIII. of France (1483-98), and when Naples was captured by the
Spaniards the Humanist movement found a generous patron in Leo X., a
scion of de' Medici family. From the press founded by Leo X. many
classical texts were issued till the pillaging of the city by the
imperial troops in 1527 dealt a death blow to the revival in Italy.

That there was no opposition between the study of the classics and the
teaching of Christianity is evidenced by the friendly attitude adopted
by the Papacy towards the Humanist movement. The Avignon Popes,
Benedict XII. (1334-42) and Clement VI. (1342-52), heaped honours and
emoluments upon Petrarch and provided him with the means of acquiring
manuscripts and of meeting scholars likely to assist him. A similar
attitude towards the movement was adopted by Urban V. (1362-70). The
leading classical scholars such as Coluccio, Salutati, Francesco
Bruni, Lionardo d'Aretino, etc., were employed at the Papal court, and
the apostolic college of secretaries became one of the greatest
centres for the propagation of Humanism. The troubles that fell upon
the Church during the Great Western Schism diverted the attention of
the rival Popes from literary pursuits; but as soon as peace had been
restored by the Council of Constance Martin V. (1417-31) assembled
around him in Rome many of the ablest classical scholars, and vied
with his cardinals in his protection of the Humanist movement. Eugene
IV. (1431-47) was, if anything, more favourable, but yet his
sympathies did not blind him to the dangerous tendencies of the
revival as manifested in the books of men like Beccadelli.[7]

With the election of Nicholas V. (1447-55)[8] the triumph of Humanism
at Rome seemed secure. The new Pope was himself one of the party. As a
tutor in Florence he had been brought into contact with the great
literary men of the time and had become an ardent student of the
classics, nor did his enthusiasm lose any of its ardour when he
ascended the Papal throne. His aim was to make Rome the intellectual
as well as the religious capital of the world, and with this object in
view he invited to his court the most distinguished scholars of the
age, and bestowed upon not a few of them, such as Albergati,
Capranica, and Caesarini the rank of cardinal. That he fully
recognised the advantages which religion might derive from the revival
of letters, and that he aimed at employing the services of the
Humanists in defence of Christianity is evident from the works to
which he directed the attention of scholars. The texts of the
Scripture, the translations of the Greek Fathers, and the preparation
of critical studies on the Lives of the Saints were amongst the works
recommended to his literary friends. At the same time he did not
proclaim war upon the less orthodox of the Humanist school. Men like
Valla, Poggio, Filelfo, and Marsuppini were treated with friendliness
and even with favour. Whether such a line of conduct was dictated by
prudence and by the hope of winning over these scholars to a better
understanding, or whether his anxiety for the success of his own
literary schemes blinded him to the serious excesses of such leaders
it is difficult to say; but, at any rate, it serves to show the great
liberty enjoyed by literary men at this period even in the very city
of the Popes.

As a means of ensuring to Rome the most prominent place in the
revival, agents were dispatched to Greece, Turkey, Germany, France,
and even to Sweden and Norway, to hunt for manuscripts. No expense was
spared to secure everything that could be purchased or to have copies
made where purchase was impossible. In order to preserve these
treasures and make them available for scholars the Vatican Library was
undertaken by orders of the Pope. Though long before this time the
library of the Popes was of considerable importance, yet on account of
the immense number of volumes produced by Nicholas V. he is generally
regarded as the founder of the Vatican Library. The number of volumes
which it contained at the time of his death is variously estimated at
from one to nine thousand. The works of the Fathers of the Church, and
the Scholastics and Canonists were well represented.[9]

After the death of Nicholas V. the Pagan side of the Humanist movement
became more and more apparent. Pius II. (1458-64), who, as Aeneas
Sylvius, was well known as a clever writer of the Humanist school,
seems as Pope to have been decidedly suspicious of his former friends.
His own private library was filled with Christian authors, and care
was taken to show favour only to those classical scholars whose
writings were above reproach. Yet the cares of his office and the
promotion of the crusade on which he had set his heart prevented him
from taking the necessary steps for the purification of his court,
and, as a result, many of the members of the College of Abbreviators
were allowed to remain in office though they were really Pagan at
heart. Paul II. could not tolerate such a state of affairs. He
promptly abolished the College of Abbreviators, suppressed the Roman
Academy, and arrested its two prominent leaders, Pomponius Laetus and

If Paul II. erred on the side of severity some of his successors went
to the other extreme of laxity. The period of the political Popes,
from Sixtus IV. to Julius II. (1471-1513), was marked by a serious
decline in the religious spirit, nor can it be said that the policy of
the Popes was calculated to check the downward tendency. Their
attention was occupied too much by the politics of the petty Italian
States to permit them to fulfil the duties of their high office; and,
as a consequence, the interests of religion were neglected. Sixtus IV.
adopted the friendly attitude of Nicholas V. towards the Renaissance.
The College of Abbreviators was restored, the Roman Academy was
recognised, and Platina was appointed librarian. The manuscripts in
the Vatican Library were increased, more ample accommodation was
provided, and every facility was given to scholars to consult the
papal collection. Hence it is that Sixtus IV. is regarded generally as
the second founder of the Vatican Library.

The revolutions and wars, caused by the invasion of Italy by the
French and the Spaniards during the closing years of the fifteenth
century and the early portion of the sixteenth, dealt a serious blow
to Humanism in Florence, Milan, Venice, and other Italian centres. But
the misfortunes of those cities served to strengthen the movement at
Rome. Julius II. (1503-13) proved himself a generous patron of
literature and in a special manner of art. Men like Giuliano da
Sangello, Sansovino, Bramante, Michael Angelo, and Raphael were
invited to Rome and induced to devote their genius to the service of
religion and the glory of the Papacy. On the death of Julius II. in
1513 the complete triumph of the Humanist movement in Rome was assured
by the election of Giovanni de' Medici who took the name of Leo X.
(1513-21).[10] As the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, to whom Florence
owes its literary renown, and as the pupil of the celebrated
Humanists, Poliziano and Marsilio Ficino, he was committed almost of
necessity to the Humanist movement. Scholars and artists flocked to
Rome from all sides to greet the new Pope and to assure themselves of
his favour and protection. Under the new regime literary merit was the
principal qualification sought for in candidates aspiring to the
highest ecclesiastical honours. The Roman University was reorganised;
the search for manuscripts was renewed with vigour; a new college for
the promotion of Greek studies in Rome was founded, and the services
of Lascaris and Musuro were secured; and artists like Raphael and
Bramante received every encouragement. Humanism was at last triumphant
in Rome, but, unfortunately, its triumph was secured at the expense of
religion. Nor was Humanism destined to enjoy the fruits of the victory
for a lengthened period. The outbreak of the Reformation and the
capture of Rome by the soldiers of Charles V. turned the attention of
the Popes to more pressing concerns.

The Renaissance movement in Germany is due largely to the influence of
Italian scholars and to the teaching of the Brothers of the Common
Life in their school at Deventer.[11] The close political relations
existing between the German States and the cities of Northern Italy,
the mission of Petrarch to the court of Charles IV., the intermingling
of German and Italian scholars at the councils of Constance, Florence,
and Basle, and the exertions of Aeneas Sylvius, afterwards Pius II.,
during his term of office as Chancellor of Frederick III., helped
largely to promote the study of the classics in Germany, especially
when the invention and development of the art of printing had solved
the difficulty of procuring manuscripts. As in Italy, Humanism owes
much of its success to the generosity of powerful patrons such as the
Emperor Maximilian I., Frederick Elector of Saxony and his kinsman,
Duke George, Joachim I. of Brandenburg, and Philip of the Palatinate,
Bishop John von Dalberg of Worms, and Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz;
and as in Italy the academies were the most powerful means of
disseminating classical culture, so also in Germany learned societies
like the /Rhenana/, founded by Bishop Dalberg, and the /Danubiana/ in
Vienna, were most successful in promoting the literary propaganda.

But, unlike the Italian, the German revival was assisted largely by
the universities. Basle, Erfurt, Heidelburg, and Leipzig showed
unmistakably their sympathy towards the movement, and in a short time
the programmes of university studies in nearly all the leading centres
were modified in accordance with the new ideas of education.
Scholasticism was obliged to make way for the classics and natural
science. Cologne, alone in Germany, refused to abandon its old system,
and, though not unfriendly to the classics, as is evident by the
presence of Ortwin Gratius on its list of professors, still it showed
itself highly distrustful of the tendencies of some of the Humanist
leaders. Yet German Humanism had little, if anything, in common with
the flagrant irreligion and immorality of the Italian school. With one
or two exceptions German Humanists never assailed revealed religion as
such, but attacked instead the prevailing educational system, which
they held to be responsible for the widespread ignorance and general
decline of the religious spirit. Many of the leading German scholars
were exemplary in their moral character and in their loyalty to the
Church, and few, even of those who were regarded as hostile, showed
any sympathy with Luther once they understood that he aimed at revolt
rather than reform.

Some of the greatest of the German Humanists differed from their
Italian contemporaries also in the fact that they turned the
intellectual revival into scientific channels, and made the study of
the classics subservient to mathematical and astronomical research.
Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1400-64), George Peurbach of Vienna (d.
1461), John Muller of Konigsberg (1436-76), better known by his Latin
name Regiomontanus, and the great churchman and astronomer Copernicus
(1473-1543) belonged to this section, which prepared the way for
modern scientific developments. With these men religion and science
went hand in hand.

On the purely literary side the most famous of the German Humanists
were Conrad Celtes (1459-1508) the most active of the promoters of the
classical revival beyond the Alps and one of the earliest of the
German poets; Pirkeimer (1470-1528), who hoped for great things from
the Lutheran movement at first, but having realised its real nature
remained loyal to the Church; Mutianus Rufus (1471-1526), a canon of
Gotha and at the same time a well-known free-thinker; Grotus Rubeanus
(1480-1504), who at first favoured Luther; Jakob Wimpheling (1450-
1528), and Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), the learned historian and
abbot of Sponheim; Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523), and Johann Reuchlin

Of these the most important from the point of view of ecclesiastical
history are von Hutten[12] and Reuchlin. The former was born in the
year 1488 and was sent for his education to the monastery of Fulda,
from which he fled with very little mental equipment except a lasting
hatred and distrust for all monks and ecclesiastics. As a wandering
student he visited the leading centres of learning in Germany and
Northern Italy, where he was particularly remarkable for his dissolute
life, his ungovernable temper, and his biting sarcasm. Taking
advantage of the rising spirit of unfriendliness between the Teuton
and the Latin countries, he posed as a patriot burning with love for
Germany and the Germans, and despising the French, the Italians, and
in particular the Pope. Against the monks and theologians he directed
his bitterest satires, to the delight of many, who did not foresee the
dangers of such attacks at a time when the German nation generally was
growing less friendly to the Papacy.

A dispute, which broke out about the destruction or suppression of
Jewish books, afforded him a splendid opportunity of venting his
spleen against the Church. A converted Jew of Cologne named
Pfefferkorn advocated the suppression of all Jewish religious books
except the Old Testament, as the best means of converting his former
co-religionists. The Emperor, Maximilian, was not unwilling to listen
to such advice supported as it was by the universities of Cologne,
Mainz, and Erfut. Reuchlin, a professor of Heidelberg and himself a
well-known Hebrew scholar, opposed such a policy as bad in itself and
as injurious to the proper understanding of the Old Testament. A warm
controversy thereupon ensued. The Dominicans of Cologne espoused the
cause of Pfefferkorn, while the Humanists, scenting in the attack upon
Jewish literature an onslaught directed against the entire literary
revival, supported the contentions of Reuchlin. It was a war between
two opposing schools--the Theologians and the Humanists; and,
unfortunately for the Theologians, they had selected their ground
badly, and were but poorly equipped for a battle in which victory was
to be decided by popular opinion.

Reuchlin was summoned to appear before the Inquisitor to answer for
the views put forward in his /Augenspeigel/ (1511), and was condemned.
He appealed to Rome, and the Bishop of Speier was ordered to
investigate the case. The result was the acquittal of Reuchlin (1514),
but his adversaries, having objected to the mode of trial, the case
was transferred once more to the Roman courts. Meanwhile the
controversy was carried on in Germany with great bitterness. Reuchlin
published a volume of sympathetic letters[13] received by him from the
leading scholars of Germany, and Erasmus issued a new edition (1515)
of his /Praise of Folly (Encomium Moriae)/ in which he ridiculed
especially the monks and theologians.

But the book which was most damaging to the opponents of Humanism was
beyond doubt the /Epistolae virorum obscurorum/. It was a work
consisting of two volumes, the first brought out by Grotus Rubeanus in
1514, and the second mostly from the pen of Urich von Hutten (1517).
Like Reuchlin's work it purported to be a collection of letters
addressed by the theologians to Ortwin Gratius, the champion of
Cologne university and, indeed, of the whole Scholastic party. It was
full of bitterness and vulgarity, but, as a humorous caricature of the
theologians, their arguments and modes of expression, it was
calculated to make them ridiculous especially in the eyes of the
university students. Against an attack of this kind serious arguments
were unavailing, and, unfortunately, there was no apologist of
theology capable of producing a reply couched in a strain similar to
that of the /Epistolae/. Gratius himself did undertake the task in his
/Lamentationes obscurorum virorum/, but without success, and
undoubtedly in the eyes of the general public the victory rested with
the Humanists. The whole controversy was extremely unfortunate,
because it helped to blind many to the real issues at stake when the
Lutheran movement began. By it the Theologians and Humanists were
divided into two hostile camps, with the result that the latter were
inclined to support Luther against their own former opponents and in
vindication of the liberal policy which they had advocated; while the
Theologian, having been discredited as narrow-minded obscurantists in
the eyes of a large body of university men, were handicapped seriously
in a struggle with Luther even though their struggle was for
fundamental religious principles.[14]

The most remarkable of the men, who, though not Germans, were closely
identified with German Humanists, was Desiderius Erasmus (1466-
1535).[15] He was born at Rotterdam, was sent to school with the
Brothers of the Common Life at Deventer, entered a monastery of the
Canons Regular attracted by its library rather than by its rule, and
left it after two years to become secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai.
He studied classics at the University of Paris, and after his
ordination as priest by the Bishop of Utrecht he became a tutor to an
English nobleman. Later on he paid a visit to England, where he
received a warm welcome from scholars like Fisher, Bishop of
Rochester, Colet, Dean of St. Paul's, and Sir Thomas More, and where
he was honoured by an appointment as Professor of Greek in Oxford. But
the fever of travel was upon him. He returned to Paris, made a brief
stay at Louvain, and started out to visit the leading literary centres
of Italy, notably Bologna, Venice, and Rome, in the latter of which he
was well received by Julius II.

On the accession of Henry VIII. he returned to England and lectured
for some time at Cambridge. Later on he removed to Basle and settled
down to the work of preparing editions of the New Testament and of the
Fathers. The triumph of the Reformation party in Basle drove him for a
time to seek a refuge in Freiburg, but he returned to die at Basle in

In his wanderings Erasmus was brought into contact with the leading
scholars of France, England, Germany, and Italy, and was thoroughly
acquainted with the lights and shadows of the Renaissance movement. In
his knowledge of Greek he was surpassed by few of his contemporaries,
and in the purity and ease of his Latin style he stood without a
serious rival. Like many others of the Humanist school he delighted in
attacking the ignorance of the monks and Scholastics, and in
denouncing the abuses of the age, though, as was the case with most of
the literary reformers of the time, his own life as an ecclesiastic
was far from exemplary.

Yet Erasmus himself was never an enemy of Christianity, nor did he
desire the overthrow of ecclesiastical authority. He did, indeed,
advocate reform, and in his advocacy of reform he may have been
carried too far at times, but in his heart Erasmus had little sympathy
with doctrinal changes. Ignorance he believed to be at the root of the
decline of religion, and hence he would have welcomed a complete
change in the educational system of the Church. Instead of
Scholasticism he advocated study of the Scriptures and of the early
Fathers, and in order to prepare the way for such a policy he devoted
himself at Basle to the task of preparing an edition of the New
Testament and of the Greek Fathers. He was on terms of the closest
intimacy with the leading Humanists of Germany, and shared all their
contempt for scholastic theologians and much of their distrust of the
Pope and the Roman Curia. Hence the sympathy and encouragement of
Erasmus were not wanting to Luther during the early days of his revolt
and before the true object of the movement was rightly understood; but
once Erasmus realised that union with Luther meant separation from the
Church he became more reserved in his approval, and finally took the
field against him. In his work, /De Libero Arbitrio/, he opposed the
teaching of Luther on free will, and before his death he received a
benefice from Paul III. which he accepted, and an offer of a
cardinal's hat which he declined. His life as an ecclesiastic was
certainly not edifying, and his hatred of ignorance, antiquated
educational methods, and abuses may have led him into excesses, but
his theology was still the theology of the Middle Ages rather than
that of the German Reformers.

In France the earliest of the Humanists were Nicholas of Clemanges and
Gerson, both rectors of Paris University, and both well-known
theologians. They were specially active in putting an end to the Great
Western Schism, but in doing so they laid down certain principles that
led almost inevitably to Gallicanism. The influence of these two men
did not, however, change the policy of Paris University. For years
France lagged behind in the classical movement, and it was only in the
early portion of the sixteenth century that French Humanism made
itself felt.

The movement gained ground by the exertions of individuals and of
literary societies, by the results of the activity of the printing
press, and the protection of influential patrons at the Court of
Francis I. (1515-47). Paris University became more friendly to the
classics, and eminent scholars like Lascaris and Aleandro were invited
to lecture on Greek. The College of St. Barbe became a great classical
stronghold within the university, and the movement began to develop so
rapidly as to excite the jealousy and suspicions of the theologians.
This unfortunate division was rendered more acute by the foundation of
the College de France in 1529. It was handed over entirely to the
Humanistic party in spite of the opposition of the more conservative
school, and served as a centre for all kinds of literary,
philological, and antiquarian researches.

The most eminent of the French Humanists were Budaeus (1467-1540),
regarded in his own time as but slightly inferior to Erasmus, Germanus
Brixius (Germain de Brie), Canon of Notre Dame and translator of
portion of the works of St. John Chrysostom, Stephen Poncher, Bishop
of Paris and advocate of the Humanist party at the Court of Francis
I., the Dominican, William Petit, Robert (1503-59) and Henri (1528-98)
Estienne (Stephanus) to whom we are indebted for the two monumental
works, /Thesaurus Linguae Latinae/ and /Linguae Graecae/, Scaliger
(1540-1609) the well-known authority on chronology and epigraphy, and
the philologist and classicist Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614).

In France there was a sharp rivalry from the beginning between the
Scholastics and the Humanists. The university was divided into
separate camps. The college of St. Barbe was opposed by the Montaigue
College, the rector of which was the leader of the Scholastic party.
The Humanists regarded the Theologians as antiquated, while the
Theologians looked upon their opponents as supporters of the
Reformation movement. In case of a few of these, as for example
Lefevre d'Etaples,[16] Gerard Roussel, and others, these suspicions
were fully justified; but in case of many others their faith was
sound, and however much they may have wavered in life they preferred
to die at peace with the Church. To this latter section belongs
Marguerite of Valois,[17] sister of Francis I. She was a patroness of
the Humanists and Reformers in Paris and was opposed undoubtedly to
many Catholic practices; but it is not so clear that she wished for a
religious revolution, and at any rate it is certain that she died a
Catholic. This rivalry between the Theologians and Humanists and the
misunderstandings to which it gave rise are largely responsible for
the rapid development of Calvinism amongst certain classes of French

The classical movement in England is due largely to Italian
influences, though the visit of the Greek Emperor Manuel in 1400, and
the subsequent visits of Greek envoys and scholars must have
contributed not a little to awaken an interest among English students
in Greek studies. Individual Englishmen began to turn towards the
great centres of Italian Humanism, and to return to their own country
imbued with something of the literary zeal of their Italian masters.
Of these the two who, more than others, contributed to give Greek and
Latin a good standing in the schools of the country were William
Selling and William Hadley, both Benedictine monks of Canterbury. They
studied at Bologna, Padua and Rome, and were brought into contact with
Politian and other distinguished Humanists. Selling was recognised as
an accomplished Greek scholar, and on his return he set himself to
remodel the course of studies at Canterbury so as to ensure for the
classics their proper place. The influence of Canterbury and of Prior
Selling helped very much to spread the classical revival in England.

Selling's most remarkable pupil was Thomas Linacre (1460-1524), who
went to Oxford after having completed his early education at
Canterbury, and was chosen Fellow of All Soul's College. Later on he
accompanied his old master to Italy, where he had an opportunity of
mastering the intricacies of Latin style from Politian, the tutor of
the children of Lorenzo de' Medici, and of Greek from Demetrius
Chalcondylas. He turned his attention to medicine and received a
degree both at Padua and Oxford. His position at the courts of Henry
VII. and Henry VIII. gave him an opportunity of enlisting the
sympathies of the leading ecclesiastical and lay scholars of his day
in favour of the literary revival. In his later years he was ordained
priest and held some important ecclesiastical offices. Other
distinguished scholars and patrons of the revival in England were
Grocyn, a companion of Linacre at Oxford and in Italy and afterwards
lecturer on Greek at Exeter College, Oxford; John Colet (1467-1519),
Dean of St. Paul's, the friend of Budaeus, Erasmus, Linacre, and
Grocyn, and founder of St. Paul's School; William Lilly, appointed by
Dean Colet as first master in this school; Fisher (1459-1535) Bishop
of Rochester; and Sir Thomas More (1480-1535).

The Humanist movement in England, unlike the corresponding movement in
Italy, was in no sense hostile to religion or to the Catholic Church.
Many of its leaders desired reform, but not a single one of the
prominent scholars of the period showed any sympathy with Luther's
revolt. The very founders of the revival in England, Selling, Hadley,
Linacre and Grocyn, were ecclesiastics whose faith was beyond
suspicion; Colet died as he had lived, thoroughly devoted to the
Church; while Fisher and Sir Thomas More sealed their loyalty to the
ancient faith with their blood.[18]

The revival in Spain owes much to the patronage of Queen Isabella and
the exertions of Cardinal Ximenez (1436-1517). The leading
universities, Seville, Alcala, and Salamanca, were not unfriendly, and
the whole educational system was remodelled in favour of the classics.
Cardinal Ximenez devoted himself to the preparation of the Polyglot
edition of the Bible, the New Testament portion of which was printed
so early as 1514, and the whole work was published in 1522. The
leading Humanist scholars were Lebrixa, or as he is called in Latin
Lebrissensis, Nunez, and Ludovico Vives (1492-1540), the latter of
whom was deemed by his contemporaries not unworthy of being compared
with Erasmus and Budaeus.

The Humanist movement and the general revival of literary, scientific,
philological and historical studies to which it gave birth were not in
themselves anti-religious, nor did they find in the Catholic Church a
determined opponent. Such studies, on the contrary, might have
contributed much to promote a more enlightened understanding of
theology, and more especially of the Scriptures, a fact which was
understood thoroughly by the ablest ecclesiastics of the time. In
Italy, Germany, France, and England, bishops and abbots vied with
secular princes in their patronage of scholars, while the influence of
the Popes, notably Nicholas V., Sixtus IV., Julius II., and Leo X. was
entirely in favour of the Humanist party.

Yet, while all this is true, the Humanist movement did much,
undoubtedly, to prepare men's minds for the great religious revolt of
the sixteenth century. Springing into life as it did at a time when
the faith of the Middle Ages was on the wane, and when many educated
men were growing tired of the cold formalism and antiquated methods of
the Schoolmen, it tended to develop a spirit of restless inquiry that
could ill brook any restriction. The return to the classics recalled
memories of an earlier civilisation and culture opposed in many
particulars to the genius of Christianity, and the return of nature
tended to push into the background the supernatural idea upon which
the Christian religion is based. But the revival did more. The study
of the classics brought into prominence serious problems regarding the
authenticity, age, and value of certain writings and manuscripts, and
by so doing it created a spirit of criticism and of doubt for which
the Theologians of the day were but poorly prepared. In a word, it was
a period of transition and of intellectual unrest, when new ideals in
education were endeavouring to supplant the old ones, and when neither
the friends of the old nor of the new had distinguished clearly
between what was essential in Christianity and what was purely

In such a time it was to be expected that ardent Humanists, filled
with their new-born zeal for classical studies, should advance too
rapidly, and by confounding religion with the crude methods of some of
its defenders should jump to the conclusion that a reconciliation
between the revival and religion was impossible. Nor should it be a
matter of surprise that the Theologians, confident in the strength of
their own position and naturally suspicious of intellectual novelties,
were not inclined to look with favour on a movement which owed its
inspiration largely to Pagan sources. Moderate men, on the contrary,
whether Humanists or Scholastics, aimed at a complete reconciliation.
They realised that the great literary and scientific revival could do
much for the defence of religion, and that the Pagan classics must be
appraised according to Christian standards.

But this work of reconciliation was rendered very difficult by the
attitude of extremists on both sides. Many of the Italian Humanists,
as has been shown, were Christians only in name. In their writings and
in their lives they showed clearly that they were thoroughly imbued
with the spirit of Paganism. Such men merited severe condemnation, and
it is to be regretted that the Popes, particularly Sixtus IV. and Leo
X., did not adopt a firmer attitude towards this section of the
Italian school. But before judging too harshly the friendly relations
maintained by Sixtus IV. and Leo X. with the Italian Humanists, it is
well to remember that the age in which they lived was noted for its
general laxity and for the decline of a proper religious spirit, that
the Pagan tone and Pagan forms of expression used by these writers
were regarded as exhibitions of harmless pedantry rather than as clear
proofs of opposition to Christianity, that most of these writers were
always ready to explain away whatever might appear objectionable in
their works, and that, finally, mildness in the circumstances may have
been deemed the best policy. The attitude of the Popes at any rate
prevented an open conflict between the representatives of the two
schools in Italy until the outbreak of the Reformation and the
invasion of Rome put an end to the danger by destroying the Humanist

In Germany and France there were few traces of an anti-Christian
tendency amongst the supporters of the new learning. But in both
countries, more especially in the former, the supporters of the new
learning criticised severely the ignorance of the monks and
Theologians, and took little pains to conceal their contempt for the
Scholastic methods of education. They blamed the Popes for their
neglect of the true interests of the Church, and held them responsible
in a large measure for the general decline of religion. According to
them the study of theology must be reformed so as to give a more
prominent place to the Scriptures and the writings of the early
Fathers; the development of the internal spirit of religion as
distinct from mere external formalism was to be encouraged, and many
of the existing practices might be discarded as superstitious. Such
views tended naturally to excite the opposition of the Theologians and
to unsettle the religious convictions of educated men who watched the
struggle with indifference.

In this way the ground was prepared for a complete religious revolt.
Luther's movement was regarded by many as merely the logical sequence
of Humanism, but that the Humanists themselves were not willing to
accept this view is clear from the fact that once the early
misunderstandings had been removed, and once the real issues were
apparent, most of the Humanists in Germany and France remained true to
the Church. Instead of regarding Luther as a friend they looked upon
him as the worst enemy of their cause, and on the Reformation as the
death-knell of the Renaissance.

[1] Sandys, /History of Classical Scholarship/, 2nd edition, 1906.
Rogers, /L'Enseignement des lettres classiques d'Ausone a Alcuin/,
1905. Gougaud, /Les Chretientes Celtiques/, 1911, chap. viii. (An
excellent bibliography.) Esposito, /Greek in Ireland during the
Middle Ages/ (/Studies/, i., 4, 665-683).

[2] Monnier, /La Renaissance de Dante a Luther/, 1884.

[3] Guirard, /L'Eglise et la Renaissance/, chap. iii.

[4] Nolhac, /Petrarque et l'Humanisme/, 1892.

[5] Mancini, /Vita di Lorenzo Valla/, 1891.

[6] Pastor, /History of the Popes/, i., pp. 12-33.

[7] Pastor, op. cit., p. 24.

[8] Muntz, /Les arts a la cour des Popes pendant le XVe. et le XVIe.
siecle/, 1878-9.

[9] Muntz-Fabre, /La Bibliotheque du Vatican au XVe. siecle/, 1887.

[10] Pastor, op. cit., vol. vii. Conforti, /Leone X. ed il suo
secolo/, 1896. Roscoe, /Life and Pontificate of Leo X./, 1883.

[11] Delprat, /Die Bruderschaft des gemeinsamen Lebens/, 1840.

[12] Strauss, /Ulrich von Hutten/, 2 auf., 1871 (Eng. Trans., 1874).

[13] /Clarorum virorum Epistolae latinae graecae et hebraicae/, 1514.

[14] Janssen, /History of the German People/, iii., pp. 44-79.

[15] Capey, /Erasmus/, 1901.

[16] /Lefevre d'Etaples son influence sur les origines de la reforme
Franc./, 1900.

[17] Lalanne, /Memoires de Me. de Valois/, etc., 1858.

[18] On the Humanist movement in England, cf. Gasquet, /Eve of the
Reformation/, 1900, chap. ii. Seebohm, /Oxford Reformers/ (Colet,
Erasmus, More), 1867. Einstein, /The Italian Renaissance in
England/, 1902.

(b) Political and Social Condition of Europe.

See the works of Pastor, Janssen and Gasquet cited in section (a).
/The Cambridge Modern History/, vol. i (gives an excellent
bibliography). Hergenrother-Kirsch, /Handbuch der Allgemeinen
Kirchengeschichte/, Bd. 2 (pp. 996-1002). Ranke, /Deutsche
Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation/, 1844 (Eng. Trans. by
Austin, 1845-7). Idem., /Geschichte der Romanischen und
Germanischen Volker/ (1419-1514). Kaser, /Deutsche Geschichte zur
Zeit Maximilians I./ (1486-1519), 1912. Cherrier, /Histoire de
Charles VIII./, 1868. Prescott, /Ferdinand and Isabella/, 1887.
Busch-Todd, /England under the Tudors/, 1892-5. Hunt-Poole, /The
Political History of England/, vol. v., 1910 (chap. v.).

The struggle between the Papacy and the Empire, ending, as it did, in
the downfall of the House of Hohenstaufen, put an end to the old
conception of the universal monarchy presided over by the Emperor and
the Pope. A new tendency began to make itself felt in European
politics. Hitherto the feudal system, on which society was based, had
served as a barrier against the development of royal power or the
formation of united states. Under this system the king was sometimes
less powerful than some of his nominal subjects, and was entirely
dependent upon the good-will of the barons for the success of any
action he might take outside his own hereditary dominions. This was
the real weakness of the system, and so long as it remained the growth
of Nationalism was impossible.

Gradually, however, by the exertions of powerful sovereigns the power
of the barons was broken, the smaller states were swallowed up in the
larger ones, and the way was prepared for the rise of the nations of
Modern Europe. In France the policy of centralisation begun in the
thirteenth century, was carried to a successful conclusion in the days
of Louis XI. (1461-83). The English provinces, Aquitane, Burgundy, and
Brittany, were all united to form one state, knowing only one supreme
ruler. In Spain the old divisions disappeared almost completely with
the union of Castile and Aragon under Ferdinand (1479-1516) and
Isabella the Catholic (1474-1504), and with the complete destruction
of the Moorish power by the conquest of Granada (1492). In England the
slaughter of the nobility in the Wars of the Roses left the way ready
for the establishment of the Tudor dominion. As part of the same
movement towards unification Henry VIII. was declared to be King of
Ireland instead of Feudal Lord, and serious attempts were made to
include Scotland within his dominions. Inside the Empire similar
tendencies were at work, but with exactly opposite results. The
interregnum in the Empire and a succession of weak rulers left the
territorial princes free to imitate the rulers of Europe by
strengthening their own power at the expense of the lower nobility,
the cities, and the peasantry; but, having secured themselves, they
used their increased strength to arrest the progress of centralisation
and to prevent the development of a strong imperial power.

As a direct result of this centralisation tendency and of the increase
in royal authority that it involved, the rulers of Europe initiated a
campaign against all constitutional restrictions on the exercise of
their authority. The feudal system with all its faults was in some
senses wonderfully democratic. The sovereign was dependent upon the
decisions of the various representative assemblies; and though the
lower classes had little voice except in purely local affairs, yet the
rights and privileges of all classes were hedged round so securely by
written charters or immemorial usage that any infringement of them
might be attended with serious results. In England the Parliament, in
Spain the Cortes, in France the States General, and in Germany the
Diet, should have proved a strong barrier against absolute rule. But
the authority of such assemblies was soon weakened or destroyed. Under
the Tudors the English Parliament became a mere machine for
registering the wishes of the sovereign; the Cortes and States General
were rarely consulted in Spain and France; and, though the Diet
retained its position in the Empire, it was used rather to increase
the influence of the princes than to afford any guarantee of liberty
to the subject.

In bringing about such a complete revolution the rulers were assisted
largely by the introduction of the Roman Code of Justinian.[1]
According to the principles of the Roman Code the power of the
sovereign was unlimited, and against his wishes no traditional customs
or privileges could prevail. Such a system was detested especially by
the Germans, who clung with great pertinacity to their own national
laws and customs; but the princes, supported by the universities,
carried through the reform on which they had set their heart. They
succeeded in strengthening their own power and in trampling down the
rights guaranteed to their subjects by the old Germanic Code, while at
the same time they were untiring in their resistance to imperial
reforms, and were unwilling to do anything to increase the power of
the Emperor.

As a result of the development of arbitrary rule the lower classes had
great reason to complain of the increase of taxation and of the
difficulties of obtaining justice in the ordinary courts of law. They
were ready to listen to the advice of interested leaders, who urged
them to band together in defence of their rights against the
usurpation of land owners and kings. As a result nearly every country
in Europe found itself involved in a great struggle. The Peasants' War
in Hungary (1514), the revolt against Charles V. in Spain (1520), the
resistance of the Flemish Communes, led by Ghent, to the ordinances of
the Dukes of Burgundy, the discontent of the lower classes in France
with the excessive taxes levied by Louis XI., and the secret
associations which prepared the way for the great uprising of the
lower classes in Germany (1524), were clear indications that
oppression and discontent were not confined to any particular country
in Europe.

With all these political developments the interests of religion and of
the Church were closely connected. Even though it be admitted that in
themselves there is no real opposition between Nationalism and
Catholicism, yet in the circumstances of the time, when national
rivalry was acute, the dependence of the Holy See upon any particular
nation was certain to excite serious jealousy. From that time nations
began to regard the Pope as an ally or an enemy according to the side
he favoured instead of looking to him as a common father, and
consequently the danger of a conflict between national patriotism and
loyalty to the Head of the Church was rendered less improbable. This
feeling was increased by the residence of the Popes at Avignon, when
the Holy See was so completely associated with the interests of
France, and by the policy pursued by Sixtus IV. and his successors in
regard to the Italian States. Nowhere, however, was this opposition to
the Papacy manifested more clearly than in Germany. This was due
partly to the growing feeling of antipathy between the Teutonic and
the Latin races, partly to the tradition of the great struggle of the
thirteenth century in which the Emperors were worsted by the Popes,
and partly also to the discontent excited amongst all classes of the
German people, lay and cleric, by the taxations of the Curia. The
attitude of the three ecclesiastical electors in 1455, the complaints
of the clergy in 1479, and the list of /Gravamina/ presented to
Maximilian in 1510 were harbingers of the revolution that was to come.

Besides, the growth of absolutism in Europe was likely to prove
dangerous to the liberties of the Church. Rulers, who aimed at
securing for themselves unlimited authority, were not blind to the
importance of being able to control the ecclesiastical organisation,
and to attain this result their legal advisers quoted for them the
maxims of the old Roman Code, according to which the king was the
source of all spiritual as well as temporal power. Their predecessors
had usurped already a strong voice in the appointments to benefices,
but now civil rulers claimed as a right what those who had gone before
were glad to accept as a privilege. Hence they demanded that the Holy
See should hand over to them the nomination of bishops, that it should
modify the old laws regarding exemption of ecclesiastical property
from taxation, trial of clerics, and right of sanctuary, and that it
should submit its pronouncements for the royal /Exequator/ before they
could have the force of law in any particular state. The Pragmatic
Sanction of Bourges (1438) and the Concordat wrung from Leo X. by
Francis I. of France in 1516, the Concordat of Princes in 1447, and
the new demands formulated by the Diet of the Empire, the Statutes of
/Provisors/ and /Praemunire/ in England (1453), and the concessions
insisted upon by Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain (1482), were clear
proofs that absolutism was destined to prove fatal to the liberty of
the Church and the authority of the Holy See.

Finally, the universal discontent of the masses, and the great social
revolutions of the first quarter of the sixteenth century were likely
to prove dangerous to ecclesiastical authority. In all revolutions the
most extreme men are certain to assume control at least in the earlier
stages of the movement, and their wildest onslaughts on Church and
State are sure to receive the applause of the crowd. But there was
special danger that these popular outbreaks might be turned into anti-
religious channels at a time when so many of the bishops were secular
princes, and when the Church appeared to be so closely identified with
the very interests against which the peasants took up arms. In these
circumstances it was not difficult for designing men to push forward
their plans of a religious reform under guise of a campaign for
liberty and equality.[2]

[1] /Cambridge Modern History/, ii., p. 176. Janssen, op. cit., Eng.
Trans., ii., chap. ii.

[2] Janssen, op. cit. Eng. Trans., vols. i.-iii. Pastor, op. cit.,
Eng. Trans., vols. i.-iii.

(c) The Religious Condition of Europe.

Pastor, op. cit. Janssen, op. cit. Creighton, /History of the
Papacy from the Great Western Schism to the Sack of Rome/, 2nd
edition, 1897. Ranke, /Die Romische Papste im 16 und 17
jahrhunderten/ (xxxvii-xxxix), 1900 (Eng. Trans., 3 vols., 1866).
Haller, /Papsttum und Kirchenreform/, 1904. Mansi, /Sacrorum
Conciliorum Collectio/, 1900. Hefele, /Conciliengeschichte/ 2 auf.
1873-90 (Eng. Trans. in part, French Trans.). Imbart de la Tour,
/Les origines de la Reforme/, ii., 1909. Thomas, /Le Concordat de
1516/, 1910. Ullman, /Reformatoren vor der Reformation/, 1866
(Eng. Trans. by Menzies, 1855).

The withdrawal of the Popes from the capital of Christendom and the
unfortunate schism, for which their residence at Avignon is mainly
responsible, proved disastrous to the authority of the Holy See. The
Avignon Popes were Frenchmen themselves. Their cardinals and officials
belonged for the most part to the same favoured nation. They were
dependent upon the King of France for protection, and in return, their
revenues were at times placed at his disposal in order to ensure
victory for the French banners. Such a state of affairs was certain to
alienate the rulers and people of other nations, especially of Germany
and England, and to prepare the way for a possible conflict in the
days that were to come.

The Great Western Schism that followed upon the residence at Avignon
divided Christian Europe into hostile camps, and snapped the bond of
unity which was already strained to the utmost by political and
national rivalries. Sincere believers were scandalised at the
spectacle of two or three rival Popes, each claiming to be the
successor of St. Peter, and hurling at his opponents and their
supporters the severest censures of the Church. While the various
claimants to the Papacy were contending for supreme power in the
Church, they were obliged to make concession after concession to the
rulers who supported them and to permit them to interfere in religious
affairs, so that even when peace was restored and when Martin V. was
universally recognised as the lawful Pope, he found himself deprived
of many of the rights and prerogatives, for which his predecessors
from Gregory VII. to Boniface VIII. had struggled so bravely.

Nor was this all. In their efforts to bring about a reunion, and
despairing of arriving at this happy result by an agreement among the
contending Popes, many honest theologians put forward principles,
which, however suitable to the circumstances of the schism, were
utterly subversive of the monarchical constitution of the Church. They
maintained that in case of doubtful Popes the cardinals had the right
to summon a General Council to decide the issue, and that all
Christians were bound to submit to its decrees. In accordance with
these principles the Council of Constance was convoked, and, elated
with the success of this experiment, many of the more ardent spirits
seemed determined to replace, or at least, to limit the authority of
the Popes by the authority of General Councils summoned at regular
intervals. The Pope was to be no longer supreme spiritual ruler. His
position in the Church was to be rather the position of a
constitutional sovereign in a state, the General Council being for the
Pope what modern Parliaments are for the king.

Fortunately for the Popes such a theory was completely discredited by
the excesses of its supporters at the Council of Basle, but it served
to weaken the authority of the Holy See, and to put into the hands of
its opponents a weapon which they were not slow to wield whenever
their personal interests were affected. Henceforth appeals from the
Pope to a General Council, although prohibited, were by no means

Yet in spite of all these reverses, had the Church been blessed with a
succession of worthy Popes burning with zeal for religion, free to
devote themselves to a thorough reform, and capable of understanding
the altered political and social conditions of the world, the Papacy
might have been restored to its old position. But unfortunately the
Popes from Nicholas V. to Leo X. were not the men to repair the damage
that was done, or to ward off impending danger. The calamities that
threatened Europe from the advance of the Turks, and the necessity of
rousing its rulers to a sense of their responsibilities occupied a
large share of their attention; while the anxiety which they displayed
in the miserable squabbles of the Italian kingdoms, sometimes out of
disinterested regard for the temporal States of the Church, as in the
case of Julius II., more frequently from a desire of providing
territories for their unworthy relations, left them little time to
safeguard the general well-being of the Church. In case of some of
them, too, if one may judge them by their actions, the progress of
Humanism seemed to be nearer to their hearts than the progress of

In his personal life Nicholas V. (1447-55) was not unworthy of his
exalted position, but the necessity of repairing the damage that had
been done by the unruly assembly at Basle, which arrogated to itself
the authority of an independent General Council, the removal of the
last obstacle to the Turkish invasion of Europe in the fall of
Constantinople, and the importance of securing for Rome a pre-eminent
position in the great classical revival, engaged all his energies to
the exclusion of necessary reforms. Calixtus III. (1455-58) was too
old to do much, yet, notwithstanding his advancing years and the
indifference of the European rulers, he threw himself into the
struggle against the Turks, aiding and encouraging Hungary and Albania
in their resistance, and it is due largely to his efforts that the
victorious advance of Mahomet II. was checked by the overthrow of his
forces at Belgrade (1456). Pius II.[1] (1458-64), though in his youth
not the most exemplary of the Humanist school, devoted himself with
earnestness and zeal to the duties of his sacred office. He published
a Bull retracting all the attacks which he had made against the Papacy
in his capacity as secretary to the /Concilabulum/ at Basle. He set
himself to study the Scriptures and the early Fathers in place of the
Pagan classics, and he showed his approbation of the Christian
Humanists. But he was unable to undertake the work of reform. In view
of the danger that still threatened Europe he convoked an assembly of
the princes at Mantua to organise a crusade against the Turks, but
they turned a deaf ear to his appeals, and, at last weary of their
refusals and indifference, he determined to place himself at the head
of the Christian forces for the defence of Europe and Christianity. He
reached Ancona broken down in spirits and bodily health, and died
before anything effective could be done. Paul II. (1464-71), who
succeeded, made some efforts to purify the Roman Court. He suppressed
promptly the College of Abbreviators who were noted for their greed
for gold and their zeal for Paganism, and closed the Roman Academy. On
account of his severity in dealing with the half Christian Humanists
of the Curia he has been attacked with savage bitterness by Platina,
one of the dismissed officials, in his /Lives of the Popes/,[2] but
nobody is likely to be deceived by scurrilous libels, the motives of
which are only too apparent. The worst that can be said against Paul
II. is that he was too fond of appointing his relatives to high
positions in the Church; but in mitigation of that it is well to
remember that his reforms had raised up so many enemies against him in
Rome, and disaffection was so rife amongst even the highest officials
of his court, that he may have deemed it prudent to have relatives
around him on whom he could rely.

Sixtus IV. (1471-84) was the first of the political Popes, Leo X.
being the last. They are so called on account of the excessive
interest they displayed in Italian politics of the period, to the
neglect of the higher interests with which they were entrusted. Most
of them, with the exception of Alexander VI., were not positively
unworthy men, but they were too much concerned with secular pursuits
to undertake a reform of the gross abuses which flourished at the very
gates of their palace. The papal court was no worse and very little
better than the courts of contemporary rulers, and the greed for
money, which was the predominant weakness of the curial officials,
alienated the sympathy of all foreigners, both lay and cleric.

Julius II. (1503-13) did, indeed, undertake the difficult task of
restoring the States of the Church that had been parcelled out into
petty kingdoms by his predecessors, but his policy soon brought him
into conflict with Louis XII. of France. Louis demanded that a General
Council should be convoked, not so much out of zeal for reform as from
a desire to embarrass the Pope, and when Julius II. refused to comply
with his request the king induced some of the rebellious cardinals to
issue invitations for a council to meet at Pisa (Sept. 1511). Most of
the bishops who met at Pisa at the appointed time were from France.
The Emperor Maximilian held aloof, and the people of Pisa regarded the
conventicle with no friendly feelings. The sessions were transferred
from Pisa to Milan, and finally to Lyons. As a set off to this Julius
II. convoked a council to meet at Rome, the fifth Lateran Council (May
1512), for the threefold purpose of healing the French schism, of
proscribing certain doctrinal errors, and of undertaking the work of
reform. The earlier sessions were taken up almost entirely with the
schism, and before the work of reform was begun Julius II. passed

He was succeeded by the young and learned John de' Medici, son of
Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence, who took the name of Leo X.
(1513-21). Like his father, the new Pope was a generous patron of art
and literature, and bestowed upon his literary friends, some of whom
were exceedingly unworthy, the highest dignities in the Church.
Humanism was triumphant at the Papal Court, but, unfortunately,
religion was neglected. Though in his personal life Leo X. could not
be described as a deeply religious man, yet he was mindful of his vows
of celibacy, attentive to the recitation of the divine, office,
abstemious, and observant of the fasts of the Church. As a secular
ruler he would have stood incomparably higher than any of the
contemporary sovereigns of Europe, but he was out of place
considerably as the head of a great religious organisation.
Worldliness and indifference to the dangers that threatened the Church
are the most serious charges that can be made against him, but
especially in the circumstances of the time, when the Holy See should
have set itself to combat the vicious tendencies of society, these
faults were serious enough.

The defeat of the French forces at Novara (1513), and the loyalty of
the other rulers of Europe to the Holy See induced Louis XII. of
France to make peace with the new Pope, and to recognise the Lateran
Council. But on the accession of Francis I. (1515-47) a fresh
expedition into Italy was undertaken; the Swiss troops were overthrown
at Marignano (1515) and Leo X. was obliged to conclude a Concordat[3]
with the French King. By the terms of this agreement France agreed to
abandon the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, while the Pope bestowed
upon Francis I. and his successors the right of presentation to the
bishoprics and abbacies in his dominions. The work of reform, which
should have claimed special attention at the Lateran Council, was
never undertaken seriously. Some decrees were passed prohibiting
plurality of benefices, forbidding officials of the Curia to demand
more than the regulation fees, recommending preaching and religious
instruction of children, regulating the appointment to benefices,
etc., but these decrees, apart from the fact that they left the root
of the evils untouched, were never enforced. The close of the Lateran
Council synchronises with the opening of Luther's campaign in Germany,
for the success of which the Council's failure to respond to the
repeated demands for reform is to a great extent responsible.

In any scheme for the reform of the abuses that afflicted the Church
the reformation of the Papal Court itself should have occupied the
foremost place. At all times a large proportion of the cardinals and
higher officials were men of blameless lives, but, unfortunately, many
others were utterly unworthy of their position, and their conduct was
highly prejudicial to religion and to the position of the Holy See.
Much of the scandalous gossip retailed by Platina in his /Lives of the
Popes/, and by Burcard[4] and Infessura[5] in their /Diaries/ may be
attributed to personal disappointment and diseased imaginations, but
even when due allowance has been made for the frailty of human
testimony, enough remains to prove that the Papal Court in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was not calculated to inspire
strangers to Rome with confidence or respect. Such corrupt and greedy
officials reflected discredit on the Holy See, and afforded some
justification for the charges levelled against them of using religion
merely as a means of raising money.

The various taxations,[6] direct and indirect, levied by the Popes
during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries helped to give colour to
these accusations. It ought to be remembered, however, that the Popes
could not carry on the government of the Church, and support the large
body of officials whose services were absolutely necessary, without
requiring help from their subjects in all parts of the world. During
the residence of the Popes at Avignon additional expenses were
incurred owing to the necessity of providing residences for themselves
and their court, and, at the same time, the rebellions and disorders
in the Papal States put an end to any hope of deriving any revenue
from their own temporal dominions. On their return to Rome money was
required to repair the palaces that had gone into ruin, and to enable
the Popes to maintain their position as patrons of art and literature,
and as the leaders of Europe in its struggle against the forces of

For this last purpose, namely, to organise the Christian forces
against the Turks, the Popes claimed the right of levying a fixed tax
on all ecclesiastical property. The amount of this varied from one-
thirtieth to one-tenth of the annual revenue, and as a rule it was
raised only for some definite period of years. Even in the days when
the crusading fever was universal, such a tax excited a great deal of
opposition; but when Europe had grown weary of the struggle, and when
the Popes could do little owing to the failure of the temporal rulers
to respond to their appeals, this form of taxation was resented
bitterly, and the right of the Popes to raise taxes in this way off
ecclesiastical property was questioned by the ecclesiastics affected
as well as by the temporal rulers. England and France took measures to
protect themselves; but in Germany the absence of any strong central
authority, and the want of unity among the princes made it difficult
to offer any effective resistance to these demands. In 1354, 1372,
1459, 1487, and in 1500, the German bishops protested strongly against
the attempts of the Pope to levy taxes on ecclesiastical property.

But in addition to these extraordinary levies there were many
permanent sources of revenue for the support of the Papal Court. In
the first place from the time of Boniface IX. annats, which consisted
of a certain proportion of the first year's revenue, were to be paid
by all clerics on whom a minor benefice was conferred by the Holy See.
In case of the major benefices, bishoprics and abbacies, the /servitia
communia/ and the /servitia minuta/ took the place of annats. The
/servitia communia/ was a fixed sum the amount of which depended upon
the annual revenue of the See or abbey, and was divided between the
Pope and the cardinals of the Curia. The /servitia minuta/, amounting
to about 3 1/2 per cent. of the /servitia communia/, was given to the
lower officials, who prepared the letters of appointment. The revenues
of vacant Sees and the property of deceased bishops were also claimed
by the Holy See. From England the Pope received yearly the Peter's
Pence, and from all countries that acknowledged his feudal
jurisdiction he was entitled to a definite annual tribute.

Furthermore, the reservations[7] of benefices were another fruitful
source of revenue. The policy of reserving benefices to the Holy See
might be defended, on the ground that it was often necessary in order
to counterbalance the interference of secular rulers in regard to
ecclesiastical appointments, and that it afforded the Pope a
convenient means of rewarding officials whose services were required
for the government of the Church. But the right of the Pope to reserve
benefices was abused during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,
and gave rise to constant friction with the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities in different countries of Europe. Reservations, instead of
being the exception, became very general, and, as a result, the eyes
of all ambitious clerics were turned towards Rome from which they
hoped to receive promotion, whether their immediate superiors deemed
them worthy or unworthy. Such a state of affairs opened the way to the
most serious abuses, and not unfrequently to disedifying wrangles
between rival candidates, all of whom claimed to have received their
appointments from Roman officials.

Intimately connected with papal reservations were expectancies or
promises given to certain persons that they would be appointed to
certain benefices as soon as a vacancy would occur. Such promises of
appointment were unknown in the Church before the twelfth century, but
later on they became very general, and led to most serious abuses
during the residence of the Popes at Avignon and during the
disturbances caused by the Great Western Schism. Expectancies were
adopted as a means of raising money or of securing support. Various
attempts were made to put an end to such a disastrous practice, as for
example at the Councils of Constance and Basle, but it was reserved
for the Council of Trent to effect this much needed reform.

Again the custom of handing over benefices /in commendam/, that is of
giving some person the right of drawing the revenues of a vacant
benefice for a certain specified time, was highly prejudicial to the
best interests of religion. Such a practice, however justifiable in
case of benefices to which the care of souls was not attached, was
entirely indefensible when adopted in regard to bishopric, abbacies,
and minor benefices, where so much depended upon personal activity and
example. The person who held the benefice /in commendam/ did nothing
except to draw the revenue attached to his office, while the whole
work was committed to an underpaid vicar or representative, who was
obliged often to resort to all kinds of devices to secure sufficient
means of support. Again though plurality of benefices was prohibited
by several decrees, yet during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
nothing was more common than to find one individual holding, by virtue
of a papal dispensation, two, three, six, ten, and possibly more
benefices to most of which the care of souls was attached. Such a
state of affairs was regarded as an intolerable scandal by right
minded Christians, whether lay or cleric, and was condemned by decrees
of Popes and councils; but as exceptions were made in favour of
cardinals or princes, and as even outside these cases dispensations
were given frequently, the evils of plurality continued unabated.

Again, the frequent applications for and concessions of dispensations
in canonical irregularities by the Roman congregations were likely to
make a bad impression, and to arouse the suspicion that wholesome
regulations were being abandoned for the sake of the dispensation fees
paid to the officials. Similarly, too, complaints were made about the
dispensations given in the marriage impediments, and the abuses
alleged against preachers to whose charge the duty of preaching
indulgences was committed. Furthermore, the custom of accepting
appeals in the Roman Courts, even when the matters in dispute were of
the most trivial kind, was prejudicial to the local authorities, while
the undue prolongation of such suits left the Roman lawyers exposed to
the charge of making fees rather than justice the motive of their

The disturbances produced by the schism, and the interference of the
state in episcopal elections helped to secure the appointment of many
unworthy bishops. Even in the worst days of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries a large proportion of the bishops in the different
countries of Europe were excellent men, but a large percentage also,
especially in Germany, were thoroughly worldly. They were more anxious
about their position as secular princes or proprietors than about the
fulfilment of their sacred duties. Very often they were sprung from
the nobility, and were appointed on account of their family influence
without any regard to their qualifications, and, as a rule, the duties
of visitation, of holding synods, and even of residing in their
dioceses, were neglected. Besides, even when they were anxious to do
their best, the claims of the lay patrons and the papal reservation of
benefices made it difficult for them to exercise proper disciplinary
control over their clergy. In many cases, too, the cathedral chapters
were utterly demoralised, mainly owing to outside influence in the
appointment of the canons. The clergy as a body were very far from
being as bad as they have been painted by fanatical reformers or by
the followers of Luther. The collections of sermons that have come
down to us, the prayer books for the instruction of the faithful, the
catechisms, the compilations from the Holy Scriptures, the hymns,
theological works, and especially the compendiums prepared for the use
of those engaged in hearing confessions, give the lie to the charge of
wholesale neglect[8]; but, at the same time the want of sufficient
control, the interference of lay patrons in the appointments to
benefices, the absence of seminaries, and the failure of the
universities to give a proper ecclesiastical training, produced their
natural effect on a large body of the clergy. Grave charges of
ignorance, indifference, concubinage, and simony were not wholly
groundless, as the decrees of various councils sufficiently testify.

Many causes contributed to bring about a relaxation of discipline in
many of the religious orders. The uncanonical appointment of abbots,
the union of various abbacies in the hands of a single individual, the
custom of holding abbacies /in commendam/, and the wholesale exemption
from episcopal authority for which many of the religious orders
contended, are sufficient to account for this general relaxation. The
state of the various houses and provinces even belonging to the same
order depended largely on the character of the superiors, and hence it
is not fair to judge one country or one province, or even one house,
by what happened in other countries, provinces, or houses. Hence
arises the difficulty of arriving at any general conclusion about the
religious houses. It is safe, however, to say that with the exception
of the Carthusians all the older orders required reform. From the
beginning of the fifteenth century attempts were made to restore the
old discipline in the Benedictine communities and with considerable
success. The Carmelites were divided into two main branches, the
Calced and the Discalced; the Franciscans were divided into three main
bodies, the Conventuals, the Observants, and the Capuchins; the
Dominicans made various efforts to restore the ancient discipline
especially from about the beginning of the fifteenth century; while
many of the Augustinians who were determined on reform established new
congregations, as for example, the Discalced Augustinian Hermits, who
spread themselves over France, Spain, and Portugal. In addition,
various new congregations, amongst them the Oblates founded in 1433 by
St. Francisca Romana, and the Hermit Brothers in 1435 by St. Francis
of Paula, were established to meet the necessities of the age.[9]

Unfortunately the endless disputes between the religious and secular
clergy[10] at this period tended to distract the attention of both
from their spiritual work, and to give rise to considerable disorder
and discontent. On the one side, men like the Paris professor, John
Poilly and Richard Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh, were too extreme
and seemed inclined to leave to the religious orders no place in the
ministration of the Church, while on the other, some of the religious,
such as the Franciscan, John von Gorrel, wished to assert for
themselves complete independence of episcopal control. Various
attempts were made by Boniface VIII., Benedict XI., Alexander V., John
XXII., Calixtus III., Sixtus IV., and by the Councils of Constance and
Basle to settle these disputes, but without much permanent result. It
was only in the eleventh session of the Fifth Lateran Council (1516)
that Leo X. promulgated the decrees, which in substance hold good at
the present time, fixing the relation between the bishops and the
regular clergy.[11]

Many of the fanatical preachers anxious for reform were guilty of
undoubted exaggeration in the pictures which they painted of clerical
life at the time, as were also not a few of the Humanists, anxious to
cast ridicule on their opponents. But even when all due allowance has
been made for these exaggerations in such works as the /Onus
Ecclesiae/[12] of Bishop Berthold, the rhymed sermons of one of the
great Franciscan opponents of Luther, Thomas Murner (1475-1537), which
became popular in Germany under the titles of the /Narrenbeschworung/
and the /Schelmenzunft/, Faber's /Tractatus de Ruinae Ecclesiae
Planctu/, the /Encomium Moriae/ of Erasmus, the Dialogues of St.
German in England, the /Narrenschiff/ of Sebastian Brant, and the
petitions of the Spanish Cortes, enough remains to convince any
reasonable man that a reform of the clergy was an urgent necessity.

For many years the cry of reform of the Church in its head and members
had been heard in nearly every country of Europe. The justice of such
a demand was admitted universally, but the difficulties in the way
were so great that no Pope cared to risk a generous scheme of reform.
Most of the abuses of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries might be
traced back to the decline of the papal power during the Avignon exile
and the Great Western Schism. When peace was restored to the Church,
and when the Popes might have done something for the revival of
ecclesiastical discipline, the advocates of the conciliar theory
blocked the way by their extravagant attacks on the Papacy, and by
their attempts to destroy the supremacy of the Holy See under the
guise of reforming the Roman Curia. Besides, it was impossible to
carry through any effective measures for the removal of abuses without
attacking what were regarded as vested interests, and the holders of
these interests were determined not to yield without a struggle. The
cardinals wished to restrict the rights of the Pope; the bishops
wished to reform the cardinals and the Papal Court; the Paris doctors
wished to reform the bishops and the regular clergy; while the regular
clergy traced all the evils in the Church to the indifference and
neglect of the secular priests. Unfortunately there was no man endowed
with the foresight and the courage of Gregory VII. to put his finger
upon the real cause of the downfall, namely the slavery of the Church,
and to lead a campaign for the independence of the spiritual power,
particularly for the restoration of free canonical elections.

At the Council of Constance everybody recognised the necessity of
reform, but the jealousies of the various nations, the opposition of
the interests concerned, and the fear of provoking a new schism, made
it impossible to do more than to adopt temporary expedients, which, it
was hoped, might give some relief. Decrees concerning exemption from
episcopal authority, the union of benefices, simony, tithes, and the
duties of the clerical state were promulgated in the fourteenth
session, and the other questions, upon which the different nations
could not agree, were to be regulated by Concordats with the Holy See.
The Concordat with the German nation dealt with canonical election,
appeals to Rome, annats, indulgences, dispensations, and the
limitation of excommunication; the English Concordat insisted on the
right of England to be represented in the college of cardinals and
contained clauses dealing with indulgences and dispensations; the
Concordant with Castile regarded the number of cardinals, the
reservation and collation of benefices, annats, /commendams/, appeals,
and indulgences; by the Concordat with France it was arranged that
owing to the wars in which France was engaged the annats and other
taxes payable to the Holy See should be reduced considerably. Measures
such as these were utterly inadequate even had they been observed to
the letter, but in reality complaints were made frequently, especially
in Germany, that they were disregarded.

The Council which met in Siena (1524) was entirely unrepresentative,
and was dissolved without having accomplished anything. But great
hopes were expressed that the Council of Basle would formulate and
carry out a thorough scheme of reform. Unfortunately, however, these
hopes were doomed to disappointment. An extreme section, hostile to
the Papacy and determined to weaken its position, dominated the
Council, and made it impossible to do the work for which the assembly
had been convoked. Though the council held its first session in 1431,
nearly four years passed before any reform decrees were issued. They
dealt with concubinage, excommunication, the abuse of interdicts, and
the abolition of annats and other taxes payable to the Holy See. The
violence with which the Council assailed Eugene IV., and the fear of a
new schism alienated many who were anxious for reform, but who were
not willing to attack the essential prerogatives of the Pope. The
clergy of France met at Bourges in 1432, and with their consent the
Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges was published by the king in 1438.
According to this edict annats were retained, but were reduced to one-
fifth of the amount formerly paid, and most of the reformatory decrees
of Basle were adopted for use in France. Germany was desirous of
reform, but at the same time unwilling to break with the Holy See, and
hence the German nation remained neutral in the disputes between
Eugene IV. and the Council. Finally Germany returned to its
allegiance, and the Concordat of Vienna was signed in 1448, according
to which the right of the Pope to make appointments to benefices in
the Empire and the amount of the fees to be paid to the Curia were
regulated. This agreement was not regarded with favour in some parts
of Germany, and complaints were made frequently by the princes that
the terms of the agreement were not observed by the Roman officials.
England also took steps to protect itself by the Statutes of
/Provisors/ and /Praemunire/ (1453). These statutes rendered null and
void all collations, reservations or provisions of benefices made by
the Holy See in England, and forbade all appeals to the Roman tribunal
on questions which could be settled before English tribunals.

During the pontificate of Nicholas V., Calixtus III., and Pius II.,
very little was done for reform. The fear that if another General
Council were convoked the disgraceful scenes of Basle might be
repeated, and the dangers which threatened Europe from a Turkish
invasion, seem to have paralysed the Popes, and to have prevented them
from taking effective measures to abolish evident abuses. Paul II.
did, indeed, take action against the Pagan Humanists who barely
concealed their antipathy to Christianity even in the city of the
Popes, but he took no steps to remove the influences which had made
such a state of affairs possible. As a rule at each successive
conclave the cardinal electors pledged themselves that whichever of
them should be elected would undertake certain measures, some of which
might have redounded to the good of the universal Church, others of
them merely to the advantage of the sacred college itself; but these
election agreements were always quashed, and the evil was allowed to
increase without check. From the election of Sixtus IV. the tendency
was steadily downwards, till in the days of Alexander VI. the Papacy
reached its lowest point. At a time when even people indifferent to
religion were shocked by the state of affairs at the Roman Court, it
is no wonder that a zealous and holy ecclesiastic like the great
Dominican Savonarola[13] should have denounced these abuses in no
uncertain language, and should have warned Alexander VI. of the
terrible judgment in store for the Church unless some steps were taken
to avert the indignation of an offended Almighty. The threats and
warnings of Savonarola were, however, scoffed at as the unbridled
outbursts of a disappointed fanatic, and the cry for reform was put
aside as unworthy of attention.

Julius II. (1503-13) was personally above reproach, but the
circumstances of his time allowed him very little opportunity to
undertake a generous plan of reform. The recovery of the Papal States
that had been frittered away by his predecessors in providing
territories for their family connections, the wars in Italy, and the
schemes of Louis XII. forced the Pope to play the part of a soldier
rather than that of an ecclesiastic, and delayed the convocation of
the General Council to which right-minded Christians looked for some
relief. Louis XII., taking advantage of this general desire,
forestalled the Pope by inducing some of the cardinals to summon a
General Council to meet at Pisa (September 1511). The assembly met at
Pisa and adjourned to Lyons, but the feeling of loyalty to the Pope
was too strong for Louis XII., and the assembly at Lyons could count
on very little support outside France. Julius II. determined to summon
a General Council to meet in Rome for the reformation of the Church.
This, the Fifth Lateran Council, as it was called, was opened in May
1512, but the earlier sessions were devoted almost entirely to the
condemnation of the French schism, the decrees of the /Conciliabulum/
at Lyons, and the Pragmatic Sanction. Before the work of reform could
be taken in hand Julius XII. died (1513), and the young cardinal
deacon, John de' Medici, ascended the papal throne under the title of
Leo X.

From the new Pope, if one were to judge him by his antecedents, a
development of classical learning and art might be expected rather
than a renewal of religion. Personally Leo X. was not a wicked man. On
the contrary in his private life he was attentive to his religious
duties, but he was indifferent and inclined to let things shape their
own course. The Lateran Council did, indeed, undertake the restoration
of ecclesiastical discipline. It condemned abuses in connexion with
the bestowal of benefices, decreed the reformation of the Curia,
especially in regard to taxes, defined the position of the regulars in
regard to the bishops of the dioceses in which their houses were
situated, ordered the bishops to enforce their censorship over books
published within their jurisdiction, and approved of the Concordat
that had been arranged between Leo and Francis I. (1516).

Such reforms as these were so completely inadequate that they failed
to give satisfaction to the host of clerics and laymen who desired a
thorough reform. The news that the Council was dissolved in March 1517
without having grappled with the urgent reform of the Church in its
head and members, sent a thrill of dismay throughout the Christian
world, and secured for Luther the sympathy of many when a few months
later he opened his campaign at Wittenberg. It was thought at first
that he aimed merely at the removal of abuses, and in this work he
could have counted upon the active co-operation of some of the leading
German ecclesiastics, who showed themselves his strongest opponents
once they realised that he aimed not so much at reform as at the
destruction of the Church and of all religious authority.

[1] Weiss, /Aeneas Silvius als Papst Pius II./, 1897. Boulting,
/Aeneas Silvius, Orator, Man of Letters, Statesman, and Pope/,

[2] /Vitae Pontificum Romanorum/, etc., 1479.

[3] Thomas, /Le Concordat de 1516/, 1910.

[4] Burcadus, /Diarium Innocen. VIII. et Alex. VI./, Florence, 1884.

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