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Theology has made great and rapid advances in receipt 
years. New lines of investigation have been opened up, 
fresh Hght has been cast upon many subjects of the deepest 
interest, and the historical method has been applied with 
important results. This has prepared the way for a Library 
of Theological Science, and has created the demand for it. 
It has also made it at once opportune and practicable now 
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which will furnish a record of Theological inquiry up to 

This Library is designed to cover the whole field of Chris- 
tian Theology. Each volume is to be complete in itself, 
while, at the same time, it will form part of a carefully 
planned whole. One of the Editors is to prepare a volume 
of Theological Encyclopaedia which will give the history 
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text will be made as readable and attractive as possible- 

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will be conducted in a catholic spirit, and in the interests 
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which are still at issue in the dififerent departments. 

The Authors will be scholars of recognized reputation in 
the several branches of study assigned to them. They will 
be associated with each other, and with the Editors in the 
eflort to provide a series of volumes which may adequately 
represent the present condition of investigation, and indi- 
cate the way for further progress. 


Theological Encyclopeedia. 

An Introduction to the Literature of 
the Old Testament. 

Canon and Text of the Old Testa- 
Old Testament History. 

Contemporary History of the Old 

Theology of the Old Testament. 

An Introduction to the Literature 
of the New Testament 

Canon and Text of the New Testa- 

The Life of Christ. 

By Charles A. Briggs, D.D., D.Litt., 
Prof, of Theological Encyclopedia and 
Symbolics, Union Theol. Seminary, N.Y. 

By S. R. Driver, D.D., D.Litt.. Regius 
Professor of Hebrew, and Canon of 
Christ Church, Oxford. {Revised and 
enlarged edition.') 

By Francis Crawford Burkitt, M.A., 
Lecturer in Cambridge University. 

By Henry Preserved Smith, D.D., 
Professor of Biblical History, Amherst 
College, Mass. (^Now ready.) 

By Francis Brown, D.D., LL.D., D.Litt., 
Professor of Hebrew, Union Theological 
Seminary, New York. 

By the late A. B. Davidson, D.D., LL.D., 
Professor of Hebrew, New College, 
Edinburgh. {Now ready,) 

By Rev. James Moffatt, B.D., Minister 
United Free Church, Dundonald, Scot- 

By Caspar RenI Gregory, D.D., LL D. 
Professor of New Testament Exegesis in 
the University of Leipzig. 

By William Sandav, D.D., LL.D., Lady 
Margaret, Professor of Divinity, and 
Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. 

^EPlje international 2;9eouigicai JtturarF 

A History of Christianity in the 
Apostolic Age. 

Contemporary History of the New 

Theology of the New Testament. 

Biblical Archaeology. 

The Ancient Catholic Church. 

The Early Latin Church. 

The Later Latin Church 

The Greek and Oriental Churches. 

The Reformation. I. In Germany. 

The Reformation. II. In Lands Be- 
yond Germany. 


History of Christian Doctrine, 

Christian Institutions. 

Philosophy of Religion. 

The History of Religions. 

The Doctrine of God. 

The Doctrine of Man. 
The Doctrine of Christ. 

The Christian Doctrine of Salvation. 

The Doctrine of the Christian Life. 

Christian Ethics. 

The Christian Pastor and the Work- 
ing Church. 

The Christian Preacher. 
Rabbinical Literature. 

By Arthur C McGiffert, D.D., Professor 

of Church History, Union Theological 

Seminary, New York. iNow ready^ 
By Frank C. Porter, D.D., Professor of 

Biblical Theology, Yale University, New 

Haven, Conn. 
By George B. Stevens, D.D., Professor 

of Systematic Theology , Yale University, 

New Haven^ Conn. {Now ready.) 
By G. Buchanan Gray, D.D,, Professor of 

Hebrew, Mansfield College, Oxford. 
By Robert Rainy, D.D., LL.D., Principal 

of the New College, Edinburgh. {Now 

By Charles Bigg, D.D., Regius Professor 

of Church History, University of Oxford. 
By E. W. Watson, M.A., Professor of 

Church History, Kings College, London. 
By W. F. Adeney, D.D., Principal of 

Independent College, Manchester. 
By T. M. Lindsay, D.D., Principal of the 

United Free College, Glasgow. {Now 

By T. M. Lindsay, D.D., Principal of the 

United Free College, Glasgow, {ingress.) 

By Charles A. Briggs, D.D., D.Litt., 
Prof, of Theological Encyclopedia and 
Symbolics, Union Theol. Seminary, N.Y. 

By G. P. Fisher, D.D., LL D., Professor 
of Ecclesiastical History, Yale University, 
New Haven, Conn. {Revised and en- 
larged edition.) 

By A. V. G. Allen, D.D., Professor of 
Ecclesiastical History, P. E. Divinity 
School, Cambridge, Mass. {Now ready ^ 

By Robert Flint, D.D., LL.D., sometime 
Professor of Divinity in the University of 

By George F. Moore, D.D., LL.D., 
Professor in Harvard University. 

By the late A, B. Bbuce, D.D. .sometime 
Professor of New Testament Exegesis, 
Free Church College, Glasgow. {Revised 
and enlarged edition.) 

By William N. Clarke. D.D., Professor 
of Systematic Theology, Hamilton The- 
ological Seminary. 

By William P. Paterson, D.D., Professor 
of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. 

By H. R. Mackintosh, Ph.D., Professor of 
Systematic Theology, New College, 

ByGEORGE B. Stevens, D.D., Professor of 
Systematic Theology, Yale University. 
{Now ready.) 

By William Adams Brown, D.D., Profes- 
sor of Systematic Theology, Union The- 
ological Seminary, New York. 

By Newman Smyth, D.D., Pastor of Con- 
gregational Church, New Haven. {Re- 
vised and enlarged edition . ) 

By Washington Gladden, D.D., Pastor 
of Congregational Church, Columbus, 
Ohio. {Now ready.) 

By Rev. W. T. Davison, D.D., sometime 
Professor of Biblical Literature, Rich- 
mond College. 

By S. ScHErHTKR^ M.A., President of the 
Jewish Theological Seminary, New York 

gbe 3nternattonaI ^beological Xibrav?. 



Professor of Theological Encyclopeedia and Symbolics, Union Theological 
Setninary, N'ezu York; 

The late STEWART D. F. SALMOND, D.D., 

Principal^ and Professor of Systematic Theology and Nev} Testament Exegesis^ 
United Free Church College^ Aberdeen. 


M.A., D.D. 

International Theological Library 












This History of the Eeformation has been written with 
the intention of describing a great religious movement 
amid its social environment. The times were heroic, and 
produced great men, with striking individualities not 
easily weighed in modern balances. The age is sufficiently 
remote to compel us to remember that while the morality 
of one century can be judged by another, the men who 
belong to it must be judged by the standard of their 
contemporaries, and not altogether by ours. The religious 
revival was set in a framework of political, intellectual, 
and economic changes, and cannot be disentangled from 
its surroundings without danger of mutilation. All these 
things add to the difficulty of description. 

My excuse, if excuse be needed, for venturing on the 
task is that the period is one to which I have devoted 
special attention for many years, and that I have read 
and re-read most of the original contemporary sources 
of information. While full use has been made of the 
labours of predecessors in the same field, no chapter in the 
volume, save that on the political condition of Europe, has 
been written without constant reference to contemporary 

A History of the Eeformation, it appears to me, must 
describe five distinct but related things — the social and 
religious conditions of the age out of which the great 


movement came ; the Lutheran Eeformation down to looo, 
when it received legal recognition ; the Eeformation in 
countries beyond Germany which did not submit to the 
guidance of Luther; the issue of certain portions of the 
religious life of the Middle Ages in Anabaptism, Socinian- 
ism, and Anti-Trinitarianism ; and, finally, the Counter- 

The second follows the first in natural succession ; bill 
the third was almost contemporary with the second. li 
the Eeformation won its way to legal recognition earliei 
in Germany than in any other land, its beginnings in 
France, England, and perhaps the Netherlands, had ap- 
peared before Luther had published his Theses. I have nol 
found it possible to describe all the five in chronological 

This volume describes the eve of the Eeformation anc 
the movement itself under the guidance of Luther. In a 
second volume I hope to deal with the Eeformation beyonc 
Germany, with Anabaptism, Socinianism, and kindrec 
matters which had their roots far back in the Middle 
Ages, and with the Counter-Eeformation. 

The first part of this volume deals with the intellectual 
social, and religious life of the age which gave birth to th( 
Eeformation. The intellectual life of the times has beei 
frequently described, and its economic conditions are begin 
ning to attract attention. But few have cared to investigat( 
.popular and family religious life in the decades before th( 
great revival. Yet for the history of the Eeformatioi 
movement nothing can be more important. When it ii 
studied, it can be seen that the evangelical revival wai 
not a unique phenomenon, entirely unconnected with thi 
immediate past. There was a continuity in the religiou 
life of the period. The same hymns were sung in publii 
and in private after the Eeformation which had been ii 


^"'ii use before Luther raised the standard of revolt. Many of 

'"o the prayers in the Eeformation liturgies came from the 

^i service-books of the mediaeval Chvirch. Much of the 

oil: family instruction in religious matters received by the 

•» Eeformers when they were children was in turn taught by 

OIK them to the succeeding generation. The great Eeformation 

had its roots in the simple evangelical piety which had 

a;:; never entirely disappeared in the mediaeval Church. 

li i Luther's teaching was recognised by thousands to be no 

<A startling novelty, but something which they had always 

Egs: at heart beHeved, though they might not have been able 

is, to formulate it. It is true that Luther and his fellow- 

iKE Eeformers taught their generation that Our Lord, Jesus 

iljoid Christ, filled the whole sphere of God, and that other 

mediatprs and intercessors were superfluous, and that 

BUI they also delivered it from the fear of a priestly caste ; 

Ini but men did not receive that teaching as entirely new ; 

uvoii they rather accepted it as something they had always 

imjui felt, though they had not been able to give their feelings 

ilijli due and complete expression. It is true that this simple 

piety had been set in a framework of superstition, and that 

jf-v' the Church had been generally looked upon as an institution 

),ti( within which priests exercised a secret science of redemption 

1^ through their power over the sacraments ; but the old 

jjj,. evangelical piety existed, and its traces can be found when 

^It sought for. 

J II, A portion of the chapter which describes the family 

[jjj and popular religious life immediately preceding the Ee- 

■jj, formation has already appeared in the London Quarterly 

^ Review for October 1903. 

[I, In describing the beginnings of the Lutheran Eeforma- 

■ J, tion, I have had to go over the same ground covered by my 

K- chapter on " Luther " contributed to the second volume of 

• the Cambridge Modern History, and have found it impossible 


not to repeat myself. This is specially the case with the 
account given of the theory and practice of Indulgences. 
It ought to l^e said, however, that in view of certain 
strictures on the earlier work by Eoman Catholic reviewers, 
I have gone over again the statements made about Indul- 
gences by the great mediaeval theologians of the thirteenth 
and fifteenth centuries, and have not been able to change 
the opinions previously expressed. 

My thanks are due to my colleague. Dr. Denney, and 
to another friend for the care they have taken in revising 
the proof-sheets, and for many valuable suggestions which 
have been given effect to. 


MarOi, 1908. 







VThb Papacy. 

§ 1. The Papacy — Its claim to universal Supremacy . . 
The religious background of the claim 

Its sanction from the needs of the practical religious 1; 

i 2. The Temporal Supremacy 

i 3. The Spiritual Supremacy 

Its interference with the secular authority . 

The financial exactions of the unreformed Papacy 







The Political Situation. 

§ 1. The small extent of Christendom 18 

§ 2. Consolidation, the ruling political principle of the Period . 19 

i 3. England and its consolidation under the Tudors -. . 20 

§ 4. France and the establishment of ce ntral authority . . 22 

I 5. Spain became wholly Christian 26 

S 6. Germany and Italy — not compact nationalities ... 30 

5 7. The five great powers of Italy 32 

5 8. Germany or the Empire — a multiplicity of sepa,rate princi- 
palities 35 

Attempts at a constitutional unity 38 

The election of Charles v. as Emperor .... 40 

The Renaissance. 

i 1. The transition from the Mediaeval to the Modern World . 42 

i 2. The Revival of Literature and Art 46 



§ 3. Its earlier relation to Christianity 

§ 4. The Brethren of the Common Lot 

§ 5. German Universities, Schools and Scholarship 

§ 6. The earlier German Humanists . 

§ 7. The Humanist Circles in the Cities 

§ 8, Humanism in the Universities . 

§ 9. Reuchlin 

§ 10. The Epistolse Obscurorum Virorum 
§ 11. Ulrich von Hutten 




Social Conditions. 

§ 1. Towns, Trade, and Artisan Life 79 

§ 2. Geographical Discoveries and the beginnings of a World 

Trade 84 

§ 3. Increase in Wealth and luxurious Living .... 86 

§ 4. The condition of the Peasantry 89 

§ 5. Earlier Social Kevolts 95 

§ 6. The Religious Socialism of Hans Bohm .... 99 

§ 7. The Bundschuh Revolts 103 

§ 8. The causes of the continuous Revolts 106 

Germany fuU of social discontent and class hatreds . . 112 


Family and Popular Religious Life in the Decades 
befoee the reformation. 

§ 1. The Devotion of Germany to the Roman Church . . 114 

§2. Preaching ■ .117 

§ 3. Church Festivals— Miracle Plays— The Feast of the Ass . 119 
§ 4. The Family Religious Life — its continuity throughout the 

period of the Reformation 121 

§ 5. A superstitious Religion based on fear .... 127 

Pilgrimages, Pilgrim Guide-books 127 

Confraternities of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anna . . 135 

Reformation of the Mendicant Orders 137 

§ 6. Non-Ecclesiastical Religion 139 

Ecclesiastical Reforms carried out by the secular authorities 140 
MedisBval Charity — Beggars, ecclesiastical and other — Lay- 
management of Charity ...... 141 

The Kalands and other religious confraternities . . . 144 
Translations of the Scriptures into German . . .147 
§7. The Brethren — Mediasval Nonconformists — The Praying 

Circles of the Mystics — Tlie Unitas Fratrum . .152 




Humanism and the Reformation. 

§ 1. Savonarola and the Christian Humanists of Italy 
§ 2. John Colet and the Christian Humanists of England 
Dislike to the Scholastic Theology . ■ . 
Colet and the Hierarchies of Dionysius 
§ 3. Erasmus— The " Christian Philosophy " 

His visit to England and how it marked him 

His writings which were meant to serve the Reformation 

The defects of the Humanist Reformation . 






Luther to the Beginning op the Controveebt about 

1. Why Luther was successful as the Leader in a Reformation 189 

2. Luther's Youth and Education 193 

At the University of Erfurt . . . . , . 196 

3. Luther in the Erfurt Convent 199 

4. Luther's Early Life at Wittenberg 205 

5. Luther's Early Lectures on Theology 208 

The Indulgence-seller and his reception in a German city . 213 


From the Beginning or the Inddlqbncb Controversy to 
THE Diet of Worms. 

1. The theory and practice of Indulgences in the sixteenth 

century *, 217 

The Penitentiaries and the early Satisfactions . . .218 
A thesaurus meritorum, the Sacrament of Penance, and the 

doctrine of Attrition 219 

Attrition, Confession, and Indulgence the mediaeval scheme of 

salvation for the indifferent Christian . . . . 223 

Did Indulgences remit guilt ? . ' 225 

Luther looked at Indulgences from their practical effect . 226 



§ 2. Luther's Theses against Indulgences 228 

Luther summoned to Borne 232 

The mission of Charles von Miltitz 234 

§ 3. The Leipzig Disputation . . . . . . .236 

§ 4. The three Treatises — The Liberty of a Ohristian Man, To the 
Nobility of the Germa/n, Nation, On the Babylonian Cap- 

ti/oity of the Church of Christ 239 

§ 5. The Bull Exv/rge Domine 247 

Luther bums the Papal Bull 250 

§ 6. Luther, the representative of Germany .... 252 

Luther and the Humanists 255 

The Elector Frederick of Saxony ^58 


The Diet op Wokms. 

S 1. The Roman Nuncio Aleander 261 

§ 2. The Emperor Charles v. . 264 

§ 3. In the City of Worms 267 

Was Luther to he summoned to Worms or was he not ? . 270 

Luther's journey to Worms 273 

§ 4. Luther in Worms 275 

g 5. The first appearance before the Diet 278 

§ 6. The second appearance before the Diet .... 284 

§ 7. The Conferences 293 

Luther's disappearance and the consternation produced . 295 

§ 8. The Ban and what was thought of it 297 

§ 9. Popular Literature — revolutionary literature — literature 

directly connected with the Lutheran movement . 300 

§ 10. The spread of Luther's teaching 305 

§ 11. Andrew Bodenstein of Carlstad^ 311 

The Wittenberg Ordinance 314 

§ 12. Luther back in Wittenberg ...... 316 


From the Diet op Worms to the Close op the 
Peasants' Wab. 

1. The continued spread of Lutheran teaching. 

The Nuncio Campeggio and his intrigues in Germany 
i 2. The beginnings of division in Germany 
i 3. The Peasants' War .....' 
i 4. Revolutionary Manifestoes— The Twelve Articles 
i 6. Luther and the Peasants' War 
i 6. Germany divided into two separate camps 




From the Diet op Speter, 1526, to the Religkius Peace 
OF Augsburg, 1555. 


i 1. The Diet of Speyer, 1526 .340 

Otto von Pack's foi^ery 344 

i 2. The Protest at Speyer 346 

i 3. Luther and Zwingli 347 

i 4. The Marburg Colloquy 352 

The Controversy about the Sacrament of the Supper . . 353 

i 5. The Emperor in Germany 359 

i 6. The Diet of Augsburg, 15.30 363 

i 7. The Augsburg Confession 384 

i 8. The Reformation to be crushed 368 

Luther at Coburg 369 

i 9. The Schmalkald League 373 

Two conflicting ideas of reformation — Charles v. and 

Luther 375 

Ducal Saxony and Electoral Brandenburg become Protestant 377 

i 10. The Bigamy of Philip of Hesse 380 

A General Council to be held at Trent .... 383 

i 11. Maurice of Saxony 384 

i 12. Luther's death 384 

Extent of reformed Germany 386 

i 13. The Religious War 389 

i 14. The Augsburg Interim 390 

Charles V. defeated — The Protestant Conference at Passau 393 

i 15. The Religious Peace of Augsburg 395 


The ORaANiSATiojf op the Lutheran Churches. 

Principles of organisation 400 

The Visitations .405 

Consistorial Courts — Superintendents — Synods . . . 412 
Democratic constitution for the Church of Hesse . . 415 


The Lutheran Reformation outside German v. 

S( Scandinavian lands 417 

'3't The Reformation in Denmark and Norway . . . 419 
Jj The Reformation in Sweden 421 



The Religious Principles inspiring the Reformation. 


§ 1. The Reformation did not take its rise from a criticism of 

• doctrines 426 

§ 2. The universal Priesthood of Believers 435 

§ 3. Justification by Faith 444 

§ 4. Holy Scripture . . 453 

§ 5. The Person of Christ 468 

§ 6. The Church 480 

Chronological Summary 489 

Indkz 615 




§ 1. Claim to Universal Supremacy. 

The long struggle between the Medifeval Church and the 
Mediaeval Empire, between the priest and the warrior,* 
ended, in the earlier half of the thirteenth century, in the 
overthrow of the Hohenstaufens, and left the Papacy sole 
inheritor of the claim of ancient Eome to be sovereign of 
the civilised world. 

Roma caput mundi regit orbis frena rotundi. 

' Sources : Apparatus super qidnque Ubris decretalium (Strassburg, 
1488) ; Burchard, Diarium (ed. by Thuasne, Paris, 1883-1885), in 3 vols. ; 
Brand, ifarrenschiff {ed. by Simrock, Berlin, 1872) ; Denzinger, Enchiridion 
Symbolorum et Definitionum, quce de rebus fidei et morum a conciliis 
cecvmenieit et summis pontijicibus, emanarunt (Wiirzburg, 1900), 9th ed. ; 
Erler, Der Liber CancellarUz Apostolicm vom Jdhre I4SO (Leipzig, 1888) ; 
Faber, TractcUus de Euine Ecclesie Planctu (Memmingen) ; Murner, 
Sehelmenzunft and Narrenbeschwiirung (Nos. 85, 119-124 of Nevdruclee 
deutschen Litteraturwerke) ; Mirbt, Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsltums 
(Freiburg 1. B. 1896) ; Tangl, Die pdpstlichen Xanzleiordnungen von 
1200-1500 (Innsbruck, 1894) ; and Das Taxwesen der pdpstlichen Kirche 
{Mitt, des Instituts fUr osterreichische Geschichlsforschung, xiii. 1892). 

Latee Books: "Janus," The Pope and the Council (London, 1869); 
Harnack, History of Dogma (London, 1899), vols. vi. vii. ; Thudichen, 
Papsttum v/nd Meformation (Leipzig, 1903) ; Haller, Papsttum und Kirchen- 
Beform (1903) ; Lea, Cambridge Modem History (Cambridge, 1902), 
vol. I. xix. 

' "In hao {sc. eoolesia) ejusque potestate duos esse gladios, spiritualem 
videlicet et temporalem, evangelicis dictis instruimur. . . . Ille sacerdotis, 
is manu regum et militum, sed ad nutum et paticnciam sacerdotis " ; Boni- 
face VIII. in the Bull, Unam Sanctam. 



Strong and masterful Popes had for centuries insisted 
on exercising powers which, they asserted, belonged to 
them as the successors of St. Peter and the representatiyes 
of Christ upon earth. Ecclesiastical jurists had translated 
their assertions into legal language, and had expressed 
them in principles borrowed from the old iniperisL law. 
Precedents, needed by the legal mind to unite the past with 
the present, had been found in a series of imaginary papal 
judgments extending over past centuries. The forged 
decretals of the pseudo-Isidor (used by Pope Nicholas i. in 
his letter of 866 A.D. to the bishops of Gaxil), of the group 
of canonists who supported the pretensions of Pope Gregory 
VII. (1073-1085), — Anselm of Lucca, Densdedit, Cardinal 
Bonzio, and Gregory of Pavia, — ^gave to the papal claims the 
semblance of the sanction of antiquity. The Decretum of 
Gratian, issued in 11 5 from Bologna, then the most famous 
Law School in Etirope, incorporated all these earlier 
forgeries and added new ones. It displaced the older 
collections of Canon Law and became the starting-point 
for succeeding canonists. Its mosaic of facts and false- 
hoods formed the basis for the theories of the imperial 
powers and of the universal jurisdiction of the Bishops of 

The picturesque religious background of this conception 
of the Church of Christ as a great temporal empire had 
been furnished by St. Augustine, although probably he 
would have been the fii-st to protest against the use made 
of his vision of the City of God. His unfinished master- 
piece, De Gimtate Dei, in which with a devout and glowing ' 
imagination he had contrasted the Civitas Terrena, or the 
sec:ular State founded on conquest and maintained by fraud 
and violence, with the Kingdom of God, which he identified 
with the visible ecclesiastical society, had filled the 
imagination of all Christians in the days immediately 
preceding the dissolution of the Eoman Empire of the 
West, and had contributed in a remarkable degree to the 

'A succinct account of these forgeries wiU be found in "Janus," Tht 
Pope and the Council (London, 1869), p. 94. ' ■• 


final overthrow of the last remains of a cultured paganism. 
It became the sketch outline which the jurists of the 
Eoman Curia gradually filled in with details by their 
strictly defined and legally expressed claim of the Eoman 
Pontiff to a universal jurisdiction. Its living but poetically 
indefinite ideas were transformed into clearly defined legal 
principles found ready-made in the all-embracing juris- 
prudence of the ancient empire, and were analysed and 
exhibited in definite claims to rule and to judge in every 
department of human activity. When poetic thoughts, 
which from their very nature stretch forward towards and 
melt in the infinite, are imprisoned within legal formulas 

■ and are changed into principles of practical jurisprudence, 

■ they lose all their distinctive character, and the creation 
which embodies them becomes very different from what 

; it was meant to be. The mischievous activity of the 
t Eoman canonists actually transformed the Civitas Dei of 
i! the glorious vision of St. Augustine into that Civitas 
I Terrena which he reprobated, and the ideal Kingdom of 
i God became a vulgar earthly monarchy, with all the 
K accompaniments of conquest, fraud, and violence which, 
[( according to the great theologian of the West, naturally 
belonged to such a society. But the glamour of the City 
[d of God long remained to dazzle the eyes of gifted and pious 
il men during the earlier Middle Ages, when they contem- 
c plated the visible ecclesiastical empire ruled by the Bishop 
IB of Eome. 

g The requirements of the practical religion of everyday - 

)(c life were also believed to be in the possession of this 
IE ecclesiastical monarchy to give and to withhold. For it 
p: was the almost universal belief of mediaeval piety that the 
i[g mediation of a priest was essential to salvation ; and the 
[ t priesthood was an integral part of this monarchy, and did 
^j not exist outside its boundaries. " No good Catholic 
[ ji Christian doubted that in spiritual things the clergy were 
j(i the divinely appointed superiors of the laity, that this 
power proceeded from the right of the priests to celebrate 
the sacraments, that the Pope was the real possessor of 


this power, and was far superior to all secular authority. ' * 
In the decades immediately preceding the Keformation, 
many an educated man might have doubts about this 
power of the clergy over the spiritual and eternal welfare 
of men and women ; but when it came to the point, almost 
no one could venture to say that there was nothing in it 
And so long as the feeling remained that there might be 
something in it, the anxieties, to say the least, which 
Christian men and women coidd not help having when they 
looked forward to an unknown future, made kings and 
peoples hesitate before they offered defiance to the Pope 
and the clergy. The spiritual powers which were believed 
to come from the exclusive possession of priesthood and 
sacraments went for much in increasing the authority of 
the papal empire and in binding it together in one com- 
pact whole. 

In the earlier Middle Ages the claims of the Papacy 
to universal supremacy had been urged and defended by 
ecclesiastical jurists alone ; but in the thirteenth century 
theology also began to state them from its own point of 
view. Thomas Aquinas set himself to prove that sub- 
mission to the Eoman Pontiff was necessary for every 
human being. He declared that, under the law of the New 
Testament, the king must be subject to the priest to the 
■ extent that, if kings proved to be heretics or schismatics, 
the Bishop of Eome was entitled to deprive them of aU 
kingly authority by releasing subjects from their ordinary 

The fu llest expression of this temporal and spiritual 
supremacy claimed by the Bishops of Eome is to be found 
in Pope Innocent iv.'s Oommtntary on the Dem-etak^ (1243- 
1254), and in the Bull, Unam Sandam, published by Pope 
Boniface vin. in 1302. But succeeding Bishops of Eoma 

' Harnack, History of Dogma, vi. 132 n. (Eng. trans.). 

" Compare his Opuscula contra errores Gracorumj De re-giminf privcipnm. 
(The first two books were written by Thoujas and the other two prsfeably bj 
Tolomeo (Ptolomoeus) of Lucca.) 

' Apparatus super quinque Uhris Decrclaiium. (Strassburg, 1488). 


in no way abated their pretensions to universal sovereignty. 
The same claims were made during the Exile at Avignon 
and in the days of the Great Schism. They were asserted 
by Pope Pius il. in his Bull, Execrahilis et pristinis (1459), 
and by Pope Leo x. on the very eve of the Eeformation, in 
his 'S>vM, Pastor JEternus (1516); while Pope Alexander vi. 
(Kodrigo Borgia), acting as the lord of the universe, made 
over the New World to Isabella of Castile and to Ferdinand 
of Aragon by legal deed of gift in his Bull, Inter ccetera 
divince (May 4th, 1493).^ 

The power claimed in these documents was a twofold 
supremacy, temporal and spiritual. 

§ 2. The Temporal Supremacy. 

The former, stated in its widest extent, was the right 
to depose kings, free their subjects from their allegiance, 
and bestow their territories on another. It could only be 

' Full quotations from the Bulls, Unam Sanctam and Inter ccetera divince, 
are to be found in Mirbt's Quellen zur Oeschichte des Papsttums (Leipzig, 
1895), jip. 88, 107. The Bulls, Execrahilis and Pastor ^termis, are in 
Denzinger, Enchiridion (Wurzburg, 1900), 9th ed. pp. 172, 174. 

The Deed of Gift of the American Continent to Isabella and Ferdinand is 
in the 6th section of the Bull, Inter ccetera divince. It is as follows : — 
" Motu proprio . . . de nostra mera liberalitate et ex certa scientia ao de 
apostolicse potestatis plenitudine omnes insulas et terras firmas inventas 
et inveniendas, detectas et detegendas versus Oecidentem et Meridiem 
fabrieando et construenJo unam lineam a Polo Artico scilicet Septentrione 
ad Polum Antarticum scilicet Meridiem, sive terrte firmse et insulae inventse 
et inveniendse sint versus Indiam aut versus aliam quaracumque partem, 
quae linea distet a quaUbet insularum, qusE vulgariter nuncupantur de 
los Azores y cabo vierde, centum leucis versus Oecidentem et Meridiem; 
ita quod omnes insulae et terrae iirmae, repertae et reperiendse, detectas et 
detegendae, a priefata linea versus Oecidentem et Meridiem per alium 
Eegem aut Principem Christianum non fuerint actualiter possessae usque ad 
diem nativitatis Domini Nostii Jesu Christi proximi praeteritum . . . 
auctoritate omnipotentis Dei nobis in Beato Petro concessa, ac vicariug Jesn 
Christi, qua fungimur in terris, cum omnibus illarnra doniiniis, civitatibus, 
castris, locis et villis, juribusque et jurisdictionibus ac pertinentiis univeris, 
vobis haetedibusque et suocessoribus vestris in perpetuum tenore priesf ntium 
donamu's. . . . Vosque et haercdes ac successorcs priefatos illanim dominos 
cum plena, libera et omnimoda potestate, auctoritate et jurisdictione facimus, 
oonstituimus et deputanius." 


enforced when the Pope found a stronger potentate willing 
to caiTy out his orders, and was naturally but rarely 
exercised. Two instances, however, occurred not long 
before the Eeformation. George Podiebrod, the King of 
Bohemia, offended the Bishop of Eome by insisting that 
the Eoman See should keep the bargain made with his 
Hussite subjects at the Council of Basel. He was summoned 
to Eome to be tried as a heretic by Pope Pius n. in 1464, 
and by Pope Paul ii. in 1465, and was declared by the 
latter to be deposed ; his subjects were released from their 
allegiance, and his kingdom was offered to Matthias Cor- 
vinus, the King of Hungary, who gladly accepted the offer, 
and a protracted and bloody war was the consequence. 
Later still, in 1511, Pope Julius ii. excommunicated the 
King of Navarre, and empowered any neighbouring king to 
seize his dominions — an offer readily accepted by Ferdinand 
of Aragon.^ 

It was generally, however, in more indirect ways that 
this claim to temporal supremacy, i.e. to direct the poUcy, 
and to be the final . arbiter in the actions of temporal 
'sovereigns, made itself felt. A great potentate, placed 
over the loosely formed kingdoms of the Middle Ages, 
hesitated to provoke a contest with an authority which 
was able to give religious sanction to the rebellion of 
powerful feudal nobles seeking a legitimate pretext for 
defying him, or which could deprive his subjects of the 
external consolations of religion by laying the whole or 
part of his dominions under an interdict. We are not to 
suppose that the exercise of this claim of temporal supre- 
macy was always an evil thing. Time after time the 
actions and interference of right-minded Popes proved that 
the temporal supremacy of the Bishop of Eome meant that 
moral considerations must have due weight attached to 
them in the international affairs of Europe ; and this fact, 

^ The exoomnninication, with its consequences, was used to thre:ten 
Queen Elizabeth by the Ambassador of Philip ii. in 1559 {Calendar of Letters 
and StaJe Papers relating to English affairs presened principally in the 
Archives of Simaiieas, i. 62, London, 1892). 


recognised and felt, accounted largely for much of the 
practical acquiescence in the papal claims. But from the 
time when the Papacy became, on its temporal side, an 
ItaUan power, and when its international policy had for 
its chief motive to increase the political prestige of the 
Bishop of Rome within the Italian peninsula, the moral 
standard of the papal court was hopelessly lowered, and 
it no longer had even the semblance of representing morality 
in the international affairs of Europe. The change may 
be roughly dated from the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV. 
(1471-1484), or from the birth of Luther (November 10th, 
1483). The possession of the Papacy gave this advantage 
to Sixtus over his contemporaries in Italy, that he " was 
relieved of all ordinary considerations of decency, con- 
sistency, or prudence, because his position as Pope saved 
him from serious disaster." The divine authority, assumed 
by the Popes as the representatives of Christ upon earth, 
meant for Sixtus and his immediate successors that they 
were above the requirements of common morality, and had 
the right for themselves or for their allies to break the 
most solemn treaties when it suited their shifting policy. 

§ 3. The Spiritual Supremacy. 

The ecclesiastical supremacy was gradually interpreted 
to mean that the Bishop of Eome was the one or universal 
bishop in whom all spiritual and ecclesiastical powers 
were summed up, and that all other members of the 
hierarchy were simply delegates selected by him for the 
purposes of administration. On this interpretation, the 
Bishop of Eome was the absolute monarch over a kingdom 
which was called spiritual,T)ut which was as thoroughly 
material as were those of France, Spain, or England. For, 
according to mediaeval ideas, men were spiritual if they had 
taken orders, or were under monastic vows ; fields, drains, 
and fences were spiritual things if they were Church pro- 
perty ; a house, a barn, or a byre was a spiritual thing, 
if it stood on land belonging to the Church. This papal 


kingdom, miscalled spiritual, lay scattered over Europe i 

diocesan lands, convent estates, and parish glebes — ^intei 

woven in the web of the ordinary kingdoms and prind 

\ palities of Europe. It was part of the Pope's claim t 

\ spiritual snpremacv that his subjects (the clergy) owed n 

If allegiance to the monarch within whose territories the; 

l resided ; that they lived outside the sphere of civil legis 

I lation and taxation ; and that they were under special Ian 

j imposed on them by their supreme spiritual mler, an 

paid teixes to him and to biyn alone. The claim to spiritns 

I supremacy therefore involved endless interference with th 

'rights of temporal sovereignty in every country in Europ( 

and things civil and things sacred were so inextricabl; 

mixed that it is quite impossible to speak of the Eeforma 

tion as a purely religious movement It was also a 

] endeavour to put an end to the exemption of the Churd 

and its possessions from all secular control, and to her con 

stant encroachment on secular territory. 

To show how this claim for_ spiritual supremacy tres 
passed continually on the domain of secular authority an 
created a spirit of unrest all over Europe, we have onl 
to look at its exercise in the matter-o Ljatrona f w'- tn hen f 
fices, to the way in which the common law of the Churc 
jinterfered with the sf^cial civil laws of European State 
and to the increasing burden of papal requisitions of monei 
In the case of bishops, the theory was that the dea 
and chapter elected, and that the bishop-elect had to b 
confirmed by the Pope. This procedure provided for tii 
selection locally of a suitable spiritual ruler, and also fc 
the supremacy of the head of the Church. The mediaevs 
\ bishops, however, were temporal lords of great influenc 
\m the civil aftairs of the kingdom or principality withi 
which their dioceses were placed, and it was naturally a 
dbject of interest to kings and princes to secure me 
who would be faithful to themselves. Hence the tendenc 
wias for the civil authorities to interfere more or less i 
ej^iscopal appointments. This frequently resulted in makin 
these elections a matter of conflict between the head c 


the Church in Rome and the head of the State in Frince, 
England, or Germany ; in which case the rights of the 
dean and chapter were commonly of small account. The 
contest was in the nature of things almost inevitable even 
when the civil and the ecclesiastical powers were actuated 
by the best motives, and when both sought to appoint 
men competent to discharge the duties of the position with 
ability. But the best motives were not always active. 
Diocesan rents were large, and the incomes of bishops made 
excellent provision for the favourite followers of kings and 
of Popes, and if the revenues of one see failed to express 
royal or papal favour adequately, the favourite could be 
appointed to several sees at once. Papal nepotism became 
a byword ; but it ought to be remembered that kingly 
nepotism also existed. Pope Sixtus v. insisted on appoint- -, v 
ing a retainer of his nephew, Cardinal Giuliano della Eovere, 
to the see of Modrus in Hungary, and after a contest of 
three years carried his point in 1483 ; and Matthias 
Corvinus, King of Hungary, gave the archbishopric of Gran 
to IppoUto d'Este, a youth under age, and after a two 
years' struggle compelled the Pope to confirm the appoint- 
ment in 1487. 

During the fourteenth century the Papacy endeavoured 
to obtain a more complete control over ecclesiastical ap- 
pointments by means of the system of Reservations which 
figures so largely in local ecclesiastical affairs to the dif- 
credit of the Papacy during the years before the Eeformatioi i. 
For at least a century earlier. Popes had been accustome i 
to declare on various pretexts that certain benefices were 
vacantes apud Sedem Apostolicam, which meant that the 
Bishop of Eome reserved the appointment for himself. 
Pope John xxii. (1316-1334), founding on such previous 
practice, laid down a series of rules stating what benefices 
were to be reserved for the papaLpatronage. The osten- 
sible reason for this legislation was to prevent the growing 
evil of pluralities ; but, as in all cases of papal lawmaking, 
these Constitutiones Johannince had the effect of binding 
ecclesiastically all patrons but the Popes themselves. For 


the Popes always maintained that they alone were superior 
to the laws which they made. They were siipra legem or 
legibiis ahsoluti, and their dispensations could always set 
aside their legislation when it suited their purpose. Under 

\ these constitutions of Pope John xxii., when sees were 
vacant owing to the invalidation of an election they were 

' reserved to the Pope. Thus we find that there was a 
disputed election to the see of Dunkeld in 1337, and after 
some years' litigation at Eome the election was quashed, 
and Eichard de PUmor was appointed bishop auctorifate 
apostolica. The see of Dunkeld was declared to be reserved 
to the Pope for the appointment of the two succeeding 
bishops at least.^ This system of Reservations was gradu- 
ally extended under the successors of Pope John xxii., and 
was applied to benefices of every kiud aU over Europe, until 
it would be difficult to say what piece of ecclesiastical pre- 
ferment escaped the papal net. There exists in the town 
library in Trier a MS. of the Bules of the Roman Chancery 
on which someone has sketched the head of a Pope, with 
the legend issuing from the mouth, Reservamus omnia, which 
somewhat roughly, represents the contents of the book. In 
the end, the assertion was made that the Holy See owned 
all benefices, and, in the universal secularisation of the 
Church which the half century before the Eeformation 
witnessed, the very Eules of the Eoman Chancery contained 
the lists of prices to be charged for various benefices, 
whether with or without cure of souls ; and in completing 
the bargain the purchaser could always procure a clause 
setting aside the civil rights of patrons. 

On the other hand, ecclesiastical preferments always 
implied the holders being liferented in lands and in 
monies, and the right to bestow these temporalities was 
protected by the laws of most European countries. Thus 
the ever-extending papal reservations of benefices led to 
continual conflicts between the laws of the Church — in this 
case latterly the Eules of the Eoman Chancery — and the 
laws of the European States. Temporal rulers sought to 
' Scottish Sistorical Jieview, i. 318-320. 


protect themselves and their subjects by statutes of Prm- 
munire and others of a like kind.^ or else made bargains 
I with the Popes, which took the form of Concordats, like 
Ithat of Bourges (1438) and that of Vienna (1448). 
VNeither statutes nor bargains were of much avail against 
the superior diplomacy of the Papacy, and the dread which 
its supposed possession of spiritual powers inspired in all 
classes of people. A Concordat was always represented 
by papal lawyers to be binding only so long as the good- 
will of the Pope maintained it ; and there was a deep-seated 
feeling throughout the peoples of Europe that the Church 
was, to use the language of the peasants of Germany, " the 
Pope's House," and that he had a right to deal freely with 
its property. Pious and patriotic men, like Gascoigne in 
England, deplored the evil effects of the papal reservations ; 
but they saw no remedy unless the Almighty changed the 
heart of the Holy Father ; and, after the failures of the 
Conciliar attempts at reform, a sullen hopelessness seemed 
to have taken possession of the minds of men, until Luther 
taught them that there was nothing in the indefinable 
power that the Pope and the clergy claimed to possess over 
the spiritual and eternal welfare of men and women. 

To Pope John xxii. (1316-1334) belongs the credit 
or discredit of creating for the Papacy a machinery for 
gathering in money for its support. His situation rendered 
this almost inevitable. On his accession he found himself 
with an empty treasury ; he had to incur debts in order 
to live ; he had to provide for a costly war with the 
Visconti; and he had to leave money to enable his suc- 
cessors to carry out his temporal policy. Few Popes lived 
so plainly ; his money-getting was not for personal luxury, 
but for the supposed requirements of the papal policy. He 
was the first Pope who systematically made the dispensa- 
tion of grace, temporal and eternal, a source of revenue. 
Hitherto the charges made by the papal Chancery had 

' The two English statutes of Prcemnnire are printed in Gee and Hardy, 
Documents illualrative of English Church History (London, 1896), [ip. 103, 


been, ostensibly at least, for actual work done — fees for 
clerking and registration, and so on. John made the fees 
proportionate to the grace dispensed, or to the power of 
the recipient to pay. He and his successors made the 
Tithes, the Annates, Procurations, Fees for the bestowment 
of the Pallium, the Medii Fructus, Subsidies, and Dispensa- 
tions, regular sources of revenue. 

The Tithe — a tenth of all ecclesiastical incomes for 
the service of the Papacy — had been levied occasionally 
for extraordinary purposes, such as crusades. It was 
still supposed to be levied for special purposes only, but 
necessary occasions became almost continuous, and the 
exactions were fiercely resented. When Alexander VL 
levied the Tithe in 1500, he was allowed to do so in Eng- 
land. The French clergy, however, refused to pay; they 
were excommunicated; the University of Paris declared 
the excommunication unlawful, and the Pope had to 

The Annates were an ancient charge. From the begin- 
ning of the twelfth century the incoming incumbent of a 
benefice had to pay over his first year's income for local 
uses, such as the repairs on ecclesiastical buildings, or as a 
solatium to the heirs of the deceased incumbent. From 
the beginning of the thirteenth century prelates and 
princes were sometimes permitted by the Popes to exact 
it of entrants into benefices. One of the earliest recorded 
instances was when the Archbishop of Canterbury was 
allowed to use the Annates of his province for a period 
of seven years from 1245, for the purpose of liquidating 
the debts on his cathedral church. Pope John xxii. began 
to appropriate them for the purposes of the Papacy. His 
predecessor Clement v. (1305-1314) had demanded all 
the Annates of England and Scotland for a period of three 
years from 1316. In 1316 John made a much wider 
demand, and in terms which showed that he was. prepared 
to regard the Annates as a permanent tax for the general 
purposes of the Papacy. It is difficult to trace the stages 
of the gradual universal enforcement of this tax ; but in 


the decades before the Eeformation it was commonly 
imposed, and averages had been struck as to its amount.' 
" They consisted of a portion, usually computed at one-half, 
of the estimated revenue of all benefices worth more than 
25 florins. Thus the archbishopric of Eouen was taxed 
at 12,000 florins, and the little see of Grenoble at 300 ; 
the great abbacy of St. Denis at 6000, and the little 
St. Ciprian Poictiers at 33; while all the parish cures 
in France were uniformly rated at 24 ducats, equivalent 
to about 30 florins." Archbishoprics were subject to a 
special tax as the price of the Pallium, and this was often 
very large. 

The Frocurationes were the charges, commuted to 
money payments, which bishops and archdeacons were 
authorised to make for their personal expenses while on 
their tours of visitation throughout their dioceses. The 
Popes began by demanding a share, and ended by often 
claiming the whole of these sums. 

Pope John XXII. was the first to require that the 
incomes of vacant benefices (medii frudus) should be paid 
over to the papal treasury during the vacancies. The 
earliest instance dates from 1331, when a demand was 
made for the income of the vacant archbishopric of Gran 
in Hungary ; and it soon became the custom to insist that 
the stipends of all vacant benefices should be paid into the 
papal treasury. 

Finally, the Popes declared it to be their right to 
require special subsidies from ecclesiastical provinces, and 
great pressure was put on the people to pay these so-calle(J 
free-will offerings. 

' Besides the sums which poured into the papal treasury 
from these regular sources of income, irregular sources 
afibrded still larger amounts of money. Countless^dis^- 
pensations were issued on payment of fees for all manner 
of BfSacKfes of canonical and moral law — dispensations for 
marriages within the prohibited degrees, for holding\ plural - 

' For information about the English annates and the valor ecclesiasticus, 
cf. Bird, Hamdhoolt to the Publie Records, pp. 100, 106. 


ities, for acquiring unjust gains in trade or otherwise. ' Th; 
demoralising traffic made the Eoman treasury the partne 
in all kinds of iniquitous actions, and Luther, in his addrei 
To the Nobility of the German Nation respecting the Eeforrrw 
tion of the Christian Estate, could fitly describe the Court ( 
the Eoman Curia as a place " where vows were annuUec 
where the monk gets leave to quit his Order, where pries! 
can enter the married life for money, where bastards ca 
become legitimate, and dishonour and shame may arriv 
at high honours; all evil repute and disgrace is knighte 
and ennobled." " There is," he adds, " a buying and 
selling, a changing, blustering and bargaining, cheating an 
lying, robbing and stealing, debauchery and villainy, an 
all kinds of contempt of God that Antichrist could nc 
reign worse." 

The vast sums of money obtained in these ways do m 
represent the whole of the funds which flowed from a 
parts of Europe into the papal treasury. The Eoma 
Curia was the highest court of appeal for the whole Churc 
of the West. In any case this involved a large amoui 
of law business, with the inevitable legal expenses; bi 
the Curia managed to attract to itself a large amoui 
of business which might have been easily settled in tl 
episcopal or metropolitan courts. This was done in pu 
suance of a double poUcy — an ecclesiastical and a financii 
one. The half century before the Eeformation saw tl 
overthrow of feudalism and the consolidation of king] 
absolutism, and something similar was to be seen in tl 
Papacy as well as among the principalities of Europ 
Just as the kingly absolutism triumphed when the hered 
tary feudal magnates lost their power, so papal absolutis 
could only become an accomplished fact when it cou 
trample upon an episcopate deprived of its ecclesiastic 
independence and inherent powers of ruHng and judgin 
The Episcopate was weakened in many ways, — by exemp 
ing abbacies from episcopal control, by encouraging tl 
mendicant monks to become the rivals of the parii 
clergy, and so on, — but the most potent method of d 


grading it was by encouraging people with ecclesiastical 
complaints to pass by the episcopal courts and to carry 
their cases directly to the Pope. Nationalities, men were 
Uold, had no place within the Catholic Church. Eome was 
the common fatherland, and the Pope the universal bishop 
and judge ordinary. His judgment, which was always 
final, could be had directly. In this way men were 
enticed to take their pleas straight to the Pope. No 
doubt this involved sending a messenger to Italy with a 
statement of the plea and a request for a hearing; but it 
did not necessarily involve that the trial should take place 
at Home. The central power could delegate its authority, 
and the trial could take place wherever the Pope might 
appoint. But the conception undoubtedly did increase 
largely the business of the courts actually held in Eome, 
and caused a flow of money to the imperial city. The 
Popes were also ready to lend monies to impoverished 
litigants, for which, of course, heavy interest was charged. 

The immense amount of business which was thus 
directed into the papal chancery from all parts of Europe 
required a horde of officials, whose salaries were provided 
partly from the incomes of reserved benefices all over 
Europe, and partly from the fees and bribes of the litigants. 
The papal law-courts were notoriously dilatory, rapacious, 
and venal. Every document had to pass through an in- 
credible number of hands, and pay a corresponding number 
of fees ; and the costs of suits, heavy enough according to 
the prescribed rule of the chancery, were increased im- 
mensely beyond the regular charges by others which did 
not appear on the official tables. Cases are on record 
where the hriefs obtained cost from twenty-four to forty- 
one times the amount of the legitimate official charges. 
The Roman Church had become a law-court, not of the 
most reputable kind, — an arena of rival litigants, a 
chancery of writers, notaries, and tax-gatherers, — where 
transactions about privileges, dispensations, buying of bene- 
fices, etc., were carried on, and where suitors went wandering 
with their petitions from the door of one office to another. 


During the balf century which preceded the Eefor- 
mation, things went from bad to worse. The fears aroused 
by the attempts at a reform through General Councils 
had died down, and the Curia had no desire to reform 
itself. The venality and rapacity increased when Popes 
began to seU offices in the papal court. Boniface ix. 
(1389—1404) was the first to raise money by selling these 
official posts to the highest bidders. "In 1483, when 
SixtuB IV. (1471—1484) desired to redeem his tiara and 
jewels, pledged for a loan of 100,000 ducats, he increased 
his secretaries from six to twenty-four, and required each to 
pay 2600 florins for the office. In 1503, to raise funds 
for Caesar Borgia, Alexander vi. (1492—1503) created 
eighty new offices, and sold them for 760 ducats apiece. 
Julius n. formed a ' college ' of one hundred and one 
scriveners of papal briefs, in return for which they paid 
him 74,000 ducats. Leo x. (1513-1521) appointed sixty 
chamberlains and a hundred and forty squires, with certain 
perquisites, for which the former paid him 90,000 ducats 
and the latter 112,000. Places thus paid for were 
personal property, transferable on sale. Burchard tells us 
that in 1483 he bought the mastership of ceremonies from 
his predecessor Patrizzi for 450 ducats, which covered all 
expenses; that in 1505 he vainly offered Julius ii. (1503- 
1513) 2000 ducats for a vacant scrivenership, and that 
soon after he bought the succession to an abbreviatorship 
for 2040."! When Adrian vi. (1522-1523) honestly 
tried to cleanse this Augean stable, he found himself con- 
fronted with the fact that he would have to turn men 
adrift who had spent their capital in buying the places 
which any reform must suppress. 

The papal exactions needed to support this luxurious 
Eoman Court, especially those taken from the clergy of 
Europe, were so obnoxious thab it was often hard to collect 
them, acd devices were used which in the end increased 
the burdens of those who were required to provide the 
money. The papal court made bargains with the temporal 
'■ H. C. Lea, Cambridge Modern History, i. 670. 


rulers to share the spoils if they permitted the collection.^ 
The Popes agreed that the kings or princes could seize the 
Tithes or Annates for a prescribed time provided the papal 
oflBcials had their anthority to collect them, as a rule, for 
Soman use. In the decades before the Eeformation it 
was the common practice to collect these dues by means 
of agents, often bankers, whose charges were enormous, 
amounting sometimes to fifty per cent The collection of 
such extraordinary sources of revenue as the Indulgences 
was marked by even woi-se abuses, such as the employ- 
ment of pardon-sellers, who overran Europe, and whose lies 
and extortions were the common theme of the denuncia- 
tions of the greatest preachere and patriots of the times. 

The unreformed Papacy of the closing decades of the 
fifteenth and of the first quarter of the sixteenth century 
was the open sore of Europe, and the object of execrations 
by almost aU contemporary writers. Its abuses found 
no defenders, and its partisans in attacking assailants 
contented themselves with insisting upon the necessity 
for the spuitual supremacy of the Bishops of Home. 

"Sant Peters schifflin ist im schnangk 
Ich sorge fast den untergangt, 
Die wallen schlagen allsit dran, 
Es wiirt vil sturm und plagen lian."' 

' J. HaUer, Papsttum und Kirdim-Reform (1903), i. 116, 117. 
'Sebastian Brand, Das Karrenschin, cap. ciiL L 63-66. Barolay paia- 
phiases these lines : 

"Snche counterfayte the kayes that Jesu dyd commyt 
TJnto Peter: brekynge his Shyppis takelynge, 
Snbvertynge the fayth, beleuynge theyr owne wyt 
Against our perfyte fayth in euery thyuge. 
So is OUT Shyp wUhmU gyde tuanden/nge. 
By tempest dryuen, and the mayne sayle of tome. 
Thai vithmit gyde the Shyp abovt is borne." 

— The Ship of Fools, translated by Alexander Barclay, ii. 225 (Edinbnrgh, 



§ 1. The small extent of Christendom. 

During the period of the Eeformation a small portion 
of the world belonged to Christendom, and of that only a 
part was affected, either really or nominally, by the move- 
ment. The Christians belonging to the Greek Church 
were entirely outside its influence. 

Christendom had shrunk greatly since the seventh 
century. The Saracens and their successors in Moslem 
sovereignty had overrun and conquered many lands which 
had formerly been inhabited by a Christian population 
and governed by Christian rulers. Palestine, Syria, Asia 
Minor, Egypt, and North Africa westwards to the Straits 
of Gibraltar, had once been Christian, and had been lost 
to Christendom during the seventh and eighth centuries. 
The Moslems had invaded Europe in the West, had con- 
quered the Spanish Peninsula, had passed the Pyrenees, 
and had invaded France. They were met and defeated in 
a three days' battle at Tours (732) by the Franks under 
Charles the Hammer, the grandfather of Charles the Great. 
After they had been thrust back beyond the Pyrenees, the 
Spanish Peninsula was the scene of a struggle between 
Moslem and Christian which lasted for more than seven 
hundred years, and Spain did not become wholly , Christian 
until the last decade of the fifteenth century. 

If the tide of Moslem conquest had been early checked 
in the West, in the East it had flowed steadily if slowly. 

1 Cambridge Modern History, i. iii, vii, viii, ix, xi, xii, xiv ; Lavisse, 
Hisloire de France dermis Us Origines jusqu' d. la Rivoliiiion, IV. i. ii. 



In 1338, Orchan, Sultan of the Ottoman Turks, seized on 
Gallipoli, the fortified town which guarded the eastern 
entrance to the Dardanelles, and the Moslems won a foot- 
ing on European soU. A few years later the troops of his 
son Murad I. had seized a portion of the Balkan peninsula, 
and had cut off Constantinople from the rest of Chris- 
tendom. A hundred years after, Constantinople (1453) 
had fallen, the Christian population had been slain or 
enslaved, the great church of the Holy Wisdom (St. Sophia) 
had been made a Mohammedan mosque, and the city had 
become the metropolis of the wide-spreading empire of the 
Ottoman Turks. Servia, Bosnia, Herzogo-sina (the Duchy, 
from Herzog, a Duke), Greece, the Peloponnesus, Eoumania, 
Wallachia, and Moldavia were incorporated in the Moslem 
Empire. Belgrade and the island of Khodes, the two 
bulwarks of Christendom, had fallen. Grermany was 
threatened by Turkish invasions, and for years the beUs 
tolled in hvmdreds of Grerman parishes calling the people to 
pray against the coming of the Turk. It was not imtil 
the heroic defence of Vienna, in 1529, that the victorious 
advance of the iloslem was stayed. Only the Adriatic 
separated Italy from the Ottoman Empire, and the great 
motmtain waU with the strip of Dalmatian coast which 
lies at its foot was the bulwark between civilisation and 

§ 2. Consolidation. 

In Western Europe, and within the limits affected 
directly or indirectly by the Reformation, the distinctive 
political characteristic of the times immediately preceding 
the movement was consolidation or coalescence. Feudalism, 
with its liberties and its lawlessness, was disappearing, and 
compact nations were being formed under monarchies 
which tended to become absolute. If the Scandinavian 
North be excluded, five nations included almost the whoh 
field of Western European life, and in all of them the prin- 
ciple of consolidation is to be seen at work. In three 
England, France, and Spain, there emerged great united 


kingdoms ; and if in two, Germany and Italy, there was 
no clustering of the people round one dynasty, the same 
principle of coalescence showed ilself in the formation- of 
permanent States which had all the appearance of modern 

It is important for our purpose to glance at each and 
show the principle at work. 

§ 3. Ungland 

By the time that the Duke of Eichmond had ascended 
the English throne and ruled with " politic governance " as 
Henry vii., the distinctively modem history of England 
had begun. Feudalism had perished on the field of the 
battle of Bosworth. The visitations of the Black Death, 
the gigantic agricultural labour strike under Wat Tyler and 
priest Ball, and the consequent transformation of peasant 
serfs into a free people working for wages, had created a 
new England ready for the changes which were to bridge 
the chasm between mediaeval and modem histoiy. The 
consolidation of the people was favoured by the English 
custom that the younger sons of the nobility ranked as 
commoners, and that the privileges as well as the estates 
went to the eldest sons. This kept the various classes of 
the population from becoming stereotyped into castes, as in 
Germany, France, and Spain, It tended to create an ever- 
increasing middle class, which was not confined to the 
towns, but permeated the country districts also. The 
younger sons of the nobility descended into this middle 
class, and the transformation of the serfs into a wage-earn- 
ing class enabled some of them to rise into it. England 
was the first land to become a compact nationality. 

The earlier portion of the reign of Henry vii. was not 
free from attempts which, if successful, would have thrown 
the country back into the old condition of disintegration. 
Although the king claimed to unite the rival lines of York 
and Lancaster, the Yorkists did not cease to raise difficulties 
at home which were eagerly fostered from abroad. Ireland 


was a Yorkist stronghold, and Margaret, the dowagei 
Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of Edward iv., exercised a 
sufficiently powerful influence in Flanders to make that 
land a centre of Yorkist intrigue. 

Lambert Simnel, a pretender who claimed to be either 
the son or the nephew of Edward IV. (his account of him- 
self varied), appeared in Ireland, and the whole island 
gathered round him. He invaded England, drew to his 
standard many of the old Yorkists, but was defeated at 
Stoke-on-Trent in 1487. This was really a formidable 
rebellion. The rising under Perkin Warbeck, a young 
Burgundian from Tournay, though supported by Margaret 
of Burgundy and James iv. of Scotland, was more easily 
suppressed. A popular revolt against severe taxation was 
subdued in 1497, and it may be said that Henry's home 
difficulties were all over by the year 1500. England 
entered the sixteenth century as a compact nation. 

The foreign policy of Henry vii. was alliance with 
Spain and a long-sighted attempt to secure Scotland by 
peaceful means. It had for consequences two marriages 
which had far-reaching results. The marriage of Henry s 
daughter Margaret with James iv. of Scotland led to the 
union of the two crowns three generations later ; and that 
between Katharine, the third daughter of Ferdinand and 
Isabella of Spain, and the son of Henry vii. came to be 
the occasion, if not the cause, of the revolt of England from 
Rome. Katharine was married to Arthur, Prince of Wales, 
in 1501 (November 14th). Prince Arthur died on January 
14th, 1502. After protracted negotiation, lengthened 
by the unwillingness of the Pope (Pius in.) to grant a 
dispensation, Katharine was contracted to Henry, and the 
marriage took place in the year of Prince Henry's accession 
to the crown. Katharine and Henry were crowned together 
at Westminster on June 28th, 1509. 

England had prospered during the reign of the first 
Tudor sovereign. The steady increase in wool-growing and 
wool-exporting is in itself testimony to the fact that the 
period of internal wars had ceased, for sheep speedily 


become extinct when bands of raiders disturb the country. 
The growth in the number of artisan capitalists shows that 
money had become the possession of all classes in the com- 
munity. The rise of the companies of merchant adven- 
turers proves that England was taking her share in the 
world-trade of the new era. English scholars like Grocyn 
and Linacre (tutor in Italy of Pope Leo x. and in England 
of the Prince of Wales) had imbibed the New Learning 
in Italy, and had been followed there by John Colet, who 
caught the spirit of the Eenaissance from the Italian 
Humanists and the fervour of a rehgious revival from 
Savonarola's work in Florence. The country had emerged 
from Medisevalism in almost everything when Henry viil, 
the hope of the English Humanists and reformers, ascended 
the throne in 1509. 

§ 4. France. 

If England entered on the sixteenth century as the 
most compact kingdom in Europe, in the sense that all 
classes of its society were welded together more firmly 
than anywhere else, it may be said of France at the same 
date that nowhere was the central authority of the sovereign 
more firmly established. Many things had worked for this 
state of matters. The Hundred Years' War with England 
did for France what the wars against the Moors had done 
for Spain. It had created a sense of nationality. It had 
also made necessary national armies and the raising of 
national taxes. During the weary period of anarchy under 
Charles Ti. every local and provincial institution of France 
had seemed to crumble or to display its inefficiency to help 
the nation in its sorest need. The one thing which was ' 
able to stand the storms and stress of the time was the 
kingly authority, and this in spite of the incapacity of the 
man who possessed it. The reign of Charles vii. had made 
it plain that England was not destined to remain in pos- 
session of French territory ; and the succeeding reigns had 
seen the central authority slowly acquiring irresistible 
strength. Charles vii. by his policy of yielding slightly to 


pressure and sitting still when he could — by his inactivity, 
perhaps masterly, — Louis xi. by his restless, unscrupulous 
craft, Anne of Beaujeu (his daughter) by her clear insight 
and prompt decision, had not only laid the foundations, but 
built up and consolidated the edifice of absolute monarchy 
in France. The kingly power had subdued the great nobles 
and feudatories ; it had to a large extent mastered the 
Church ; it had consolidated the towns and made them 
props to its power ; and it had made itself the direct lord 
of the peasants. 

The work of consolidation had been as rapid as it was 
complete. In 1464, three years after his succession, 
Louis XI. was confronted by a formidable association of the 
great feudatories of France, which called itself the League 
of Public Weal. Charles of Guyenne, the king's brother, 
the Count of Charolais (known as Charles the Bold of 
Burgundy), the Duke of Brittany, the two great families 
of the Armagnacs, the elder represented by the Count of 
Armagnac, and the younger by the Duke of Nemours, 
John of Anjou, Duke of Calabria, and the Duke of Bour- 
bon, were allied in arms against the king. Yet by 1465 
Normandy had been wrested from the Duke of Guyenne ; 
Guyeime itself had become the king's in 1472 ; the Duke 
of Nemours had been crushed and slain in 1476 ; the 
Count of Charolais, become Duke of Burgundy, had been 
overthrown, his power shattered, and himself slain by the 
Swiss peasant confederates, and almost all his French fiefs 
had been incorporated by 1480 ; and on the death of 
King Eene (1480) the provinces of Anjou and Provence 
had been annexed to the Crown of France. The great 
' feudatories were so thoroughly broken that their attempt 
to revolt during the earUer years of the reign of Charles viii. 
was easily frustrated by Anne of Beaujeu acting on behalf 
of the young king. 

The efforts to secure hold on the Church date back 
from the days of the Council of Basel, when Pope Eugenius 
was at hopeless issue with the majority of its members. 
In 1438 a deputation from the Council waited upon the 


king and laid before him the conciliar plans of reform. 
Charles vii. summoned an assembly of the French clergy to 
meet at Bourges. He was present himself with his princi- 
pal nobles ; and the meeting was also attended by members 
of the Council and by papal delegates. There the cele- 
brated Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges was formally pre- 
sented and agreed upon. 

- --This Pragmatic Sanction embodied most of the cherished 
conciliar plans of reform. It asserted the ecclesiastical 
I supremacy of Councils over Popes. It demanded a meet- 
\ ing of a Council every ten years. It declared that the 
> selection of the higher ecclesiastics was to be left to the 
Chapters and to the Convents. It denied the Pope's 
general claim to the reservation of benefices, and greatly 
, limited its use in special cases. It did away with the Pope's 
right to act as Ordinary, and insisted that no ecclesiastical 
cases should be appealed to Eome without first having 
I exhausted the lower courts of jurisdiction. It abolished 
j the Annates, with some exceptions in favour of the present 
Pope. It also made some attempts to provide the churches 
' with an educated ministry. All these declarations simply 
carried out the proposals of the Council of Basel ; but they 
had an important influence on the position of the French 
clergy towards the king. The Pragmatic Sanction, though 
issued by an assembly of the French clergy, was neverthe- 
less a royal ordinance, and thereby gave the king indefinite 
rights oveFihe^^hufch within France. The right to elect 
bishops and abbots was placed in the hands of Chapters 
, and Convents, but the king and nobles were expressly per- 
mitted to bring forward and recommend candidates, and 
this might easily be extended to enforcing the election of 
those recommended. Indefinite rights of patronage on 
the part of the king and of the nobles over benefices in 
France could not fail to be the result, and the French 
Church could scarcely avoid assuming the appearance 
i of a national Church controlled by the king as the head 
I of the State. The abolition of the Pragmatic Sanction- 
was always a bait which the French king could dangle 


before the eyes of the Pope, and the promise to maintain 
the Pragmatic Sanction was always a bribe to secure the 
support of the clergy and the Farlements of France. 

In 1516, Francis I. and Leo x. agreed on a Concordat, 
the practical effect of which was that the king received 
the right to nominate to almost all the higher vacant 
benefices in France, while the Popes received the Annates. 
The results were not beneficial to the Church. It left 
the clergy a prey to papal exactions, and it compelled 
them to seek for promotion through subserviency to the 
king and the court ; but it had the effect of ranging the 
mon^rch^ jon the jide of the Papacy when the Eeformation 

It can scarcely be said that France was a compact 
nation. The nobility were separated from the middle and 
lower classes by the fact that all younger sons retained the 
status and privileges of nobles. In ancient times they had 
paid no share of the taxes raised for war, on the ground 
that they rendered personal service, and the privilege of 
being fre^ from taxation was retained long after the ser- 
vices of a feudal militia had disappeared. The nobility in 
France became a caste, numerous, poor in many instances, 
and too proud to belittle themselves by entering any of the 
professions or engaging in commerce. 

Louis XI. had done his best to encourage trade, and 
had introduced the silkworm industry into France. But 
as the whole weight of taxation fell upon the rural 
districts, the middle classes took refuge in the towns, and 
the peasantry, between the dues they had to pay to their 
lords and~the taxation for the king, were in an oppressed 
condition. Their grievances were set forth in the petition 
they addressed, in the delusive hope of amelioration, to 
the States-General which assembled on the accession of 
Charles yiii. " During the past thirty-four years," they 
say, " troops have been ever passing through France and 
living on the poor people. When the poor man has 
managed, by the sale of the coat on his back, and after 
hard toil, to pay his taille, and hopes he may live out the 


year on the little he has left, then come fresh troops to 
his cottage, eating him up. In Normandy, multitudes have 
died of hunger. From want of cattle, men and women 
have to yoke themselves to the carts ; and others, fearing 
that if seen in the daytime they will be seized for not 
having paid their taille, are compelled to work at night. 
The king should have pity on his poor people, and relieve 
them from the said taiUes and charges." This was in 1483, 
before the Italian wars had further increased the burdens 
which the poorest class of the community had to pay. 

The New Learning had begun to filter into France at a 
comparatively early date. In 1458 an Italian of Greek 
descent had been appointed to teach Greek by the Uni- 
versity of Paris. But that University had been for long 
the centre of .mediaeval scholastic study, and it was not 
until the Italian campaigns of Charles viii., who was in 
Italy when the Eenaissance was at its height, that France 
may be said to have welcomed the Humanist movement. 
A Greek Press was established in Paris in 1507, a group 
of French Humanists entered upon the study of the authors 
of classical antiquity, and the new learning gradually dis- 
placed the old scholastic disciplines. French Humanists 
were perhaps the earliest to make a special study of Eoman 
Law, and to win distinction as eminent jurists. Francis, 
like Henry vm. of England, was welcomed on his accession 
as a Humanist king. Such was the condition of France 
in the beginning of the sixteenth century. 

§ 5. Spain. 

j Spain had for centuries been under Mohammedan 

/ domination. The Moslems had overrun almost the whole 
country, and throughout its most fertile provinces the 
Christian peasantry lived under masters of an alien faith. 
At the beginning of the tenth century the only independent 
Christian principalities were small states lying along the 
southern shore of the Bay of Biscay and the south-westerii 
slopes of the Pyrenees. The Gothic and Vandal chiefs slowly 


ecovered the northern districts, while the Moors retained 
he more fertile provinces of the south. The political 
ionditions of the country at the close of the fifteenth 
sentury inevitably reflected this gradual reconquest, which 
lad brought the Christian principalities into existence. 
.n 1474, when Isabella (she had been married in 1469 
;o Ferdinand, the heir to Aragon) succeeded her brother 
leury it. in the sovereignty of Castile, Spain was divided 
nto five separate principalities : Castile, with Leon, contain- 
ng 6 2 per cent. ; Aragon, with Valentia and Catalonia, 
iontaining 1 5 per cent. ; Portugal, containing 2 per cent. ; 
Jfavarre, containing 1 per cent. ; and Granada, the only 
'emaining Moslem State, containing 2 per cent, of the 
sntire surface of the country. 

Castile had grown by almost continuous conquest of 
ands from the Moslems, and these additions were acquired 
n many ways. If they had been made in what may be 
ermed a national war, the lands seized became the 
)roperty of the king, and could be retained by him or 
[ranted to his lords spiritual and temporal under varying 
londitions. In some cases these grants made the possessors 
ihnost independent princes. On the other hand, lands 
aight be wrested from the aliens by private adventurers, 
,nd in such cases they remained in possession of the con- 
[uerors, who formed mimicipalities which had the right of 
ihoosing and of changing their overlords, and really formed 
ndependent communities. Then there were, as was natural 
Q a period of continuous warfare, waste lands. These 
lecame the property of those who settled on them. Lastly, 
here were the dangerous frontier lands, which it was the 
loliey of king or great lord who owned them to people 
rith settlers, who could only be induced to undertake the 
lerilous occupation provided they received charters (fueros), 
rhich guaranteed their practical independence. In such a 
ondition of things the central authority could not be 
brong. It was further weakened by the fact that the 
reat feudatories claimed to have both civil administration 
od military rule over their lands, and assumed an almost 


regal state. Military religious orders abounded, and were 
possessed of great wealth. Their Grand Masters, in virtue 
of their office, were independent military commanders, and 
had great gifts, in the shape of rich commandries, to bestow 
on their followers. Their power overshadowed that of the 
sovereign. The great ecclesiastics, powerful feudal lords 
in virtue of their lands, claimed the rights of civil admini- 
stration and military rule like their lay compeers, and, 
being personally protected by the indefinable sanctity of 
the priestly character, were even more turbulent. Almost 
universal anarchy had prevailed during the reigns of the 
two weak kings who preceded Isabella on the throne of 
Castile, and the crown lands, the support and special pro- 
tection of the sovereign, had been alienated by lavish gifts 
to the great nobles. This was the situation which faced 
the young queen when she came into her inheritance. It 
was aggravated by a rebellion on behalf of Juanna, the 
illegitimate daughter of Henry iv. The rebellion was 
successfully crushed. The queen and her consort, who was 
not yet in possession of the throne of Aragon, then tried 
to give the land security. The previous anarchy had pro- 
duced its usual results. The country was infested with 
bands of brigands, and life was not safe outside the walls 
/ of the towns. Isabella instituted, or rather revived, the 
I Holy Brotherhood {Hermaiwiad), a force of cavalry raised 
I by the whole country (each group of one hundred houses 
! was bound to provide one horseman). It was an army of 
I mounted police. It had its own judges, who tried criminals 
on the scene of their crimes, and those convicted were 
punished by the troops according to the sentences pro- 
nounced. Its avowed objects were to put down all crimes 
of violence committed outside the cities, and to hunt 
criminals who had fled from the towns' justice. Its judges 
superseded the justiciary powers of the nobles, who pro- 
tested in vain. The Brotherhood did its work very effectively, 
and the towns and the common people rallied round the 
monarchy which had given them safety for limb and 


Tfie sovereigns next attacked the position of the 
nobles, whose mutual feuds rendered them a compara- 
tively easy foe to rulers who had proved their strength 
of government. The royal domains, which had been 
alienated during the previous reign, were restored to the 
sovereign, and many of the most abused privileges of the 
nobility were curtailed. 

One by one the Grand Masterships of the Crusading 
Orders were centred in the person of the Crown, the Pope 
acquiescing and granting investiture. The Church was 
stripped of some of its superfluous wealth, and the civil 
powers of the higher ecclesiastics were abolished or curtailed. 
In the end it may be said that the Spanish clergy were 
made almost as subservient to the sovereign as were those 
of France. 

The pacification and consolidation of Castile was fol- 
lowed by the conquest of Granada. The Holy Brother- 
hood served the purpose of a standing army, internal feuds 
among the Moors aided the Christians, and after a pro- 
tracted struggle (1481—1492) the city of Granada was 
taken, and the Moorish rule in the Peninsula ceased. AH ' 
Spain, save Portugal and Navarre (seized by Ferdinand in 
1512), was thus united under Ferdinand and Isabella, the 
Catholic Sovereigns as they came to be called, and thei 
civil unity increased the desire for religious uniformity. 
The Jews in Spain were numerous, wealthy, and influential. 
They had intermarried with many noble families, and 
almost controlled the finance of the country. It was 
resolved to compel them to become Christians, by force if 
necessary. In 1478 a Bull was obtained from Pope 
Sixtus IV. establishing the Inquisition in Spain, it being 
provided that the inquisitors were to be appointed by the 
sovereign. The Holy Office in this way became an instru- 
ment for establishing a civil despotism, as well as a means 
for repressing heresy. It did its work with a ruthless 
severity hitherto unexampled. Sixtus himself and some 
of his successors, moved by repeated complaints, endea- 
voured to restrain its savage energy ; but the Inquisition 


was too useful an instrument in the hands of a despotic 
sovereign, and the Popes were forced to allow its proceed- 
ings, and to refuse all appeals to Eome against its sen- 
tences. It was put in use against the Moorish subjects 
of the Catholic kings, notwithstanding ■ the terms of the 
capitulation of Granada, which provided for the exercise of 
civil and religious liberty. The result was that, in spite of 
fierce rebellions, all the Moors, save small groups of 
families under the special protection of the Crown, had 
become nominal Christians by 1502, although almost a 
century had to pass before- the Inquisition had rooted out 
the last traces of the Moslem faith in the Spanish Peninsula. 
The death of Isabella in 1504 roughly dates a formid- 
able rising against this process of repression and consolida- , 
tion. The severities of the Inquisition, the insistence of 
f Ferdinand to govern personally the lands of his deceased 
I wife, and many local causes led to widespread conspiracies 
I and revolts against his rule. The years between 1504 and 
{ 1522 were a period of revolutions and of lawlessness which 
was ended when Charles v., the grandson of Perdinand and 
: Isabella, overcame all resistance and inaugurated a reign of 
personal despotism which long distinguished the kingdom 
of Spain. Spanish troubles had something to do with pre- 
venting Charles from putting into execution in Germany, 
as he wished to do, the ban issued at Worms against 
Martin Luther. 

§ 6. Germany and Italy. 

Germany and Italy, in the beginning of the sixteenth 
century, had made almost no progress in becoming united 
and compact nations. The process of national consolida^ 
tion, which was a feature of the times, displayed itself in 
these lands in the creation of compact principalities rather 
than in a great and effective national movement under one 
sovereign power. It is a commonplace of history to say 
that the main reason for this was the presence within these 
two lands of the Pope and the Emperor, the twin powers 


of the earlier medJEeval ideal of a dual government, at once 
civil and ecclesiastical. MachiavelU expressed the common 
idea in his clear and strenuous fashion. He says that the 
Italians owe it to Eome that they are divided into factions 
and not united as were Spain and France. The Pope, he 
explains, who claimed temporal as well as spiritual juris- 
diction, though not strong enough to rule all Italy by 
himself, was powerful enough to prevent any other Italian 
dynasty from taking his place. Whenever he saw any 
Italian power growing strong enough to have a future 
before it, he invited the aid of some foreign potentate, thus 
making Italy a prey to continual invasions. The shadowy 
lordship of the Pope was sufficient, in the opinion of 
MachiavelU, to prevent any real lordship under a native 
dynasty within the Italian peninsula. In Germany there 
was a similar impotency. The German king was the ' 
Emperor, the mediaeval head of the Holy Eoman Empire, 
the " king of the Eomans." Some idea of what underlay 
the thought and its expression may be had when one reads 
across Albert Diirer's portrait of Maximilian, " Imperator 
Caesar Divus Maximihanus Pius Felix Augustus," just as if 
he had been Trajan or Constantine. The phrase carries 
us back to the times when the Teutonic tribes swept down 
on the Eoman possessions in Western Europe and took 
possession of them. They were barbarians with an un- 
alterable reverence for the wider civilisation of the great 
Empire which they had conquered. They crept into the 
shell of the great Empire and tried to assimilate its juris- 
prudence and its religion. Hence it came to pass, in the 
earlier Middle Ages, as Mr. Freeman says, " The two great 
powers in Western Europe were the Church and the 1 
Empire, and the centre of each, in imagination at least, 
was Eome. Both of these went on through the settlements ' 
of the German nations, and both in a manner drew new 
powers from the change of things. Men believed more 
than ever that Eome was the lawful and natural centre of 
the world. For it was held that there were of divine 
right two Vicars of God upon earth, the Eoman Emperor, 


His Vicar in temporal things, and the Eoman Bishop, His 
Vicar in spiritual things. This belief did not interfere 
with the existence either of separate commonwealths, 
principalities, or of national Churches. But it was held that 
the Eoman Emperor, who was the Lord of the World, was 
of right the head of all temporal States, and the Eoman 
Bishop, the Pope, was the head of all the Churches." This 
idea was a devout imagination, and was never actually and 
fully expressed in fact. No Eastern nation or Church ever 
agreed with it ; and the temporal lordship of the Emperors 
was never completely acknowledged even in the West. 
Still it ruled in men's minds with all the force of an ideal 
As the modern nations of Europe came gradually into 
being, the real headship of the Emperor became more and 
more shadowy. But both headships could prevent the 
national consoUdation of the countries, Germany and Italy, 
in which the possessors dwelt. All this is, as has been 
said, a commonplace of history, and, like all commonplaces, 
it contains a great deal of truth. Still it may be questioned 
whether the mediaeval idea was solely responsible for the 
disintegration of either Germany or Italy in the sixteenth 
century. A careful study of the conditions of things in 
both countries makes us see that many causes were at 
work besides the mediaeval idea— conditions geographical, 
social, and historical. Whatever the causes, the disinte- 
gration of these two lands was in marked contrast to the 
consolidation of the three other nations. 

§ 7. Italy. 

In the end of the fifteenth century, Italy contained a 
very great number of petty principalities and five States 
which might be called the great powers of Italy — Venice, 
Milan, and Plorence in the north, Naples in the south, 
and the States of the Church in the centre. Peace was 
kept by a delicate and highly artificial balance of powers. 
Venice was a commercial republic, ruled by an oligarchy 
of nobles. The city in the lagoons had been founded by 


rembling fugitives fleeinj before Attila's Ht^a, and was 
lore than a thousand years old. It had large territories 
a the mainland of Italy, and colonies extending down the 
ist coast of the Adriatic and among the Greek islands, 
b had the largest revenue of all the Italian States, but its 
xpenses were also much the heaviest. Milan came next 
1 wealth, with its yearly income of over 700,000 ducats. 
Lt the close of the century it was in the possession of the 
forza family, whose founder had been born a ploughman, 
nd had risen to be a formidable commander of mercenary 
Dldiers. It was claimed by Maximilian as a fief of the 
Impire, and by the Kings of France as a heritage of the 
)ukes of Orleans. The disputed heritage was one of 
he causes of the invasion of Italy by Charles viii. 
'lorenee, the most cultured city in Italy, was, like Venice, 
c ommercial republic ; but it was a dernqcratic republic, 
rherein one family, the Medici, had usurped almost de- 
potic power while preserving all the external marks of 
3publican rule. 

Naples was the portion of Italy where the feudal 
ystem. of the Middle Ages had lingered longest. The 
Id kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily) had, 
ince 1458, been divided, and Sicily had been politically 
eparated from the mainland. The island belonged to the 
ring of Aragon ; while the mainland had for its ruler 
tie illegitimate son of.Alphonso of Aragon, Ferdinand, 
r Ferrante, who proved a despotic and masterful ruler. 
le had crushed his semi-independent feudal barons, had 
rought the towns under his despotic rule, and was able 
3 hand over a compact kingdom to his son Alphonso in 

The feature, however, in the political condition of Italy 
rhich illustrated best the general tendency of the age 
awards coalescence, was the growth of the States of the 
Jhurch. The dominions which were directly under the 
smporal power of the Pope had been the most disorganised 
1 all Italy. The vassal barons had been turbulenfcly inde- 
endent, and the Popes had little power even within the 


city of Kome. The helplessness of the Popes to control 
their vassals perhaps reached its lowest stage in the days 
of Innocent vm. His successors Alexander tl (Eodrigo 
Borgia, 1492-1503), Julius ii. (Cardinal deUa Eovere, 
1503-1513), and Leo x. (Giovanni de Medici, 1513- 
1521), strove to create, and partly succeeded in formii^, a 
strong central dominion, the States of the Church. The 
troubled times of the French invasions, and the continual 
warfare among the more powerful States of Italy, furnished 
them with the occasion. They pursued their policy with a 
craft which brushed aside all moral obligations, and with 
a ruthlessness which hesitated at no amount of bloodshed. 
In their hands the Papacy appeared to be a merely tem- 
poral power, and was treated as such by contemporary 
politicians. It was one of the political States of Italy, and 
the Popes were distinguished from their contemporary 
Italian rulers only by the facts that their spiritual position 
enabled them to exercise a European influence which the 
others could not aspire to, and that their sacred character 
placed them above the obligations of ordinary morality in 
the matter of keeping solemn promises and maiatainii^ 
treaty obligations made binding by the most sacred oaths. 
In one sense their aim was patriotic. They were Italian 
princes whose aim was to create a strong Italian central 
power which might be able to maintain the independence 
of Italy against the foreigner; and in this they were 
partially successful, whatever judgment may require to be 
passed on the means taken to attain their end. But the 
actions of the Italian prince placed the spiritual Head of 
the Church outside all those influences, intellectual, artistic, 
and religious (the revival under Savonarola in Florence), 
which were working in Italy for the regeneration of 
European society. The Popes of the Kenaissance set the 
example, only too faithfully followed by almost every 
prince of the age, of believing that political far outweighed 
all moral and religious motives. 


§ 8. Germany. 

Germany, or the Empire, as it was called, included, 
the days of the Eeformation, the Low Countries in 
le north-west and most of what are now ' the Austro- 
ungarian lands in the east. It was in'arBtrairgetJondi- 
on. On the one hand a strong popular sentiment for 
lity had arisen in all the German-speaking portions, and 
1 the other the country was cut into sections and slices, 
id was more hopelessly divided than was Italy itself. 

Nominally the Empire was ruled over by one supreme 
ird, with a great feudal assembly, the Diet, under him. 

The Empire was elective, though for generations the 
ilers chosen had always been the heads of the House of 
^apsbuxg, and since 1356 the election had been in the 
inds of seven prmce-electors — three on the Elbe and 
lur on the TTEme. On the Elbe were the King of 
ohemia, the Elector of Saxony, and the Elector of 
randenburg ; on the Ehine, the Count Palatine of the 
hine and the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Koln. 

This Empire, nominally one, and full of the strongest 
intiments of unity, was hopelessly divided,' and — for this 
as the pecuHarity of the situation — all the elements 
taking for peaceful government, which in countries like 
ranee or England supported the central power, were on 
le side of disunion. 

A glance at the map of Germany in the times of the 
reformation shows an astonishing multiplicity of separate 
rincipalities, ecclesiastical and secular, all the more be- 
ildering that most of them appeared to be composed of 
itches lying separate from each other. Almost every 
iling prince had to cross some neighbour's land to visit 
le outlying portions of his dominions. It must also be 
jmembered that the divisions which can be represented 
a. a map but faintly express the real state of things. The 
jrritories of the imperial cities — the lands outside the 
alls ruled by the civic fathers — were for tlie most part 
)o small to figure on any map, and for the same reason 


the tiny principalities of the hordes of free nobles are al8( 
invisible. So we have to imagine all those little mediaeva 
republics and those infinitesimal kingdoms camped on th{ 
territories of the great princes, and taking from them evei 
the small amount of unity which 'the map shows. 

The greater feudal States, Electoral and Ducal Saxony 
Brandenburg, Bavaria, the Palatinate, Hesse, and manj 
others, had meetings of their own Estates, — Councils ol 
subservient nobles and lawyers, — their own Supreme Court! 
of Justice, from which there was no appeal, their own fiscal 
system, their own finance and • coinage, and largely con- 
trolled their clergy and their relations to powers outside 
Germany. Their princes, hampered as they were by the 
great Churchmen, thwarted continually by the town re- 
publics, defied by the free nobles, were nevertheless actual 
kings, and profited by the centraUsiug tendencies of the 
times. They alone in Germany represented settled central 
government, and attracted to themselves the smaller units 
lying outside and around them. 

Yet with aU these divisions, having their roots deej 
down in the past, there was pervading all classes ol 
society, from princes to peasants, the sentiment of a united 
Germany, and no lack of schemes to convert the feeliiif 
into fact. The earliest practical attempts began with the 
union of German Churchmen at Constance and the scheme 
for a National Church of Germany ; and the dream ol 
ecclesiastical unity brought in its train the aspiration aftei 
political oneness. 

The practical means proposed to create a Germai 
national unity over lands which stretched from the Straitf 
of Dover to the Vistula, and from the Baltic to the 
"Adriatic, were the proclamation of a universal Land'! 
Peace, forbidding all internecine war between Germans 
the establishment of a Supreme Court of Justice to decide 
quarrels within the Empire ; a common coinage, and a com- 
mon Customs Union. To bind all more firmly togethei 
there was needed a Common Council or governing body 
which, under the Emperor, should determine the Homf 


and Foreign Policy of the Empire. The only authorities 
which could create a governmental unity of this kind were 
the Emperor on the one hand and the great princes on the 
other, and the two needed to be one in mutual confidence r 
and in intention. But that is what never happened, and , 
all through the reign of Maximilian and in the early years' 
of Charles we find two different conceptions of what the 
central government ought to be— the one oligarchic and 
the other autocratic. The princes were resolved to keep 
their independence, and their plans for unity always im- 
plied a governing oligarchy with serious restraint placed 
on the power of the Emperor ; while the Emperors, who 
would never submit to be controlled by an oligarchy of 
German princes, and who found that they could not carry 
out their schemes for an autocratic unity, were at least able 
to wreck any other. 

The German princes have been accused of preferring 
the security and enlargement of their dynastic possessions 
to the unity of the Empire, but it can be replied that in 
doing so they only followed the example set them by their 
Emperors. Frederick m., Maximilian, and Charles v. in- 
variably neglected imperial interests when they clashed 
with the welfare of the family possessions of the House of 
Hapsburg. When Maximilian inherited the imperial Bur- 
gundian lands, a fief of the Empire, through his marriage 
with Mary, the heiress of Charles the Bold, he treated the 
inheritance as part of the family estates of his House. 
The Tyrol was absorbed by the House of Hapsburg when 
the Swabian League prevented Bavaria seizing it (1487). 
The same fate fell on the Duchy of Austria when Vienna 
was recovered, and on Hungary and Bohemia ; and when 
Charles v. got hold of WUrtemberg on the outlawry of 
Duke Ulrich, it, too, was detached from the Empire and 
absorbed into the family possessions of the Hapsburgs. / 
There was, in short, a persistent policy pursued by three/ 
successive Emperors, of despoiling the Empire in order tqf 
increase the family possessions of the House to which they 


' The last attempt to give a constitutional unity to the 
German Empire was made at the Diet of Worms (1521) 
—the Diet before which Luther appeared. There the 
Emperor, Charles v., agreed to accept a Beichsr^iment, 
vhich was in all essential points, though differing in some 
details, the same as his grandfather Maximilian had pro- 
posed to the Diet of 1495. The Central Council- was 
/composed of a President and four members appointed by 
[the Emperor, six Electors (the King of Bohemia being ex- 
cluded), who might sit in person or by deputies, and twelve 
members appointed by the rest of the Estates. The cities 
were not represented. This Reichsregiment was to govern 
all German lands, including Austria and the Netherlands, 
but excluding Bohemia. Switzerland, hitherto nominally 
within the Empire, formally withdrew and ceased to form 
part of Germany. The central government needed funds to 
carry on its work, and especially to provide an army to 
enforce its decisions ; and various schemes for raising the 
money required were discussed at its earlier meetings. It 
was resolved at last to raise the necessary funds by im- 
posing a tax of four per cent, on all imports and exports, 
and to establish custom-houses on all the frontiers. The 
practical effect of this was to lay the whole burden of 
taxation upon the mercantile classes, or, in other words, to 
make the cities, who were not represented in the Reichs- 
regiment, pay for the whole of the central '"g overnm ent, 
i This Beichsregiment was to be simply a board of advice, 
without any decisive control so long as the Emperor was in 
Germany. When he was absent from the country it had 
^ an independent power of government. But all important 
decisions had to be confirmed by the absent Emperor, who, 
for his part, promised to form no foreign leagues involving 
Germany without the consent of the Council. 

As soon as the Reichsregiment had settled its scheme 
of taxation, the cities on which it was proposed to lay the 
whole burden of providing the funds required very natur- 
ally objected. They met by representatives at Speyei 
(1523), and sent delegates to Spain, to Valladolid, where 


Charles happened to be, to protest against the scheme of 
taxation. They were supported by the great German 
capitalists. The Emperor received them graciously, and 
promised to take the government into his own hands. In 
this way the last attempt to give a governmental unity to 
Germany was destroyed by the joint action of the Emperor 
and of the cities. It is unquestionable that the Eeformation 
\ under Luther did seriously assist in the disintegration of 
^ Germany, but it must be remembered that a movement 
cannot become national where there is no nation, and that 
German nationality had been hopelessly destroyed just at 
the time when it was most needed to imify and moderate 
the great religious impulses which were throbbing in the 
hearts of its citizens. 

Maximilian had been elected King of the Eomans in 
1486, and had succeeded to the Empire on the death of 
his father, Frederick m, in 1493. His was a strongly 
fascinating personality — a man full of enthusiasms, never 
lacking in ideas, but singularly destitute of the patient 
practical power to make them workable. He may almost 
be called a type of that Germany over which he was called 
to rule. No man was fuller of the longing for German 
unity as an ideal ; no man did more to perpetuate the very 
real divisions of the land. 

He was the patron of German learning and of German 
art, and won the praises of the German Humanists : no 
ruler was more celebrated in contemporary song. He pro- 
tected and supported the German towns, encouraged their 
industries, and fostered their culture. In almost every- 
thing ideal he stood for German nationality and unity. 
He placed himself at the head of all those intellectual and 
artistic forces from which spread the thought of a imited 
Germany for the Germans. On the other hand, his one 
persistent practical policy, and the only one in which he 
was almost uniformly successful, was to unify and con- 
solidate the family possessions of the House of Hapsburg. 
In this policy he was the leader of those who broke up 
Germany into an aggregate of separate and independent 


principalities. The greater German princes followed his 
example, and did their best to transform themselves into 
the civilised rulers of modern States. 

^Maximilian died somewhat unexpectedly on January 
12th, 1519, and five months were spent in intrigues 
by the partisans of Francis of France and young Charles, 
King of Spain, the grandson of Maximilian. The French 
party believed that they had secured by bribery a majority 
of the Electors ; and when this was whispered about, the 
popular feeling in favour of Charles, on account of his 
German blood, soon began to manifest itself. It was 
naturally strongest in the Ehine provinces. Papal dele- 
gates could not get the Ehine skippers to hire boats to 
them for their journey, as it was believed that the Pope 
favoured the French king. The Imperial Cities accused 
Francis of fomenting internecine war in Germany, and 
displayed their hatred of his candidature. The very 
Landsknechten clamoured for the grandson of their 
"Father" Maximilian. The eyes of all Germany were 
^turned anxiously enough to the venerable town of 
iFrankfurt-on-the-Main, where, according to ancient usage, 
the Electors met to select the ruler of the Holy Eoman 
Empire. On the 28th of June (1519) the alarm bell 
of the town gave the signal, and the Electors assembled 
in their scarlet robes of State in the dim little chapel of 
St. Bartholomew, where the conclave was always held. 
The manifestation of popular feeling had done its work. 
Charles was unanimously chosen, and all Germany rejoiced, 
— the good burghers of Frankfurt declaring that if the 
Electors had chosen Francis they would have been " playing 
with death." 

It was a wave of national excitement, the desire for 
a German ruler, that had brought about the unanimous 
election ; and never were a people more mistaken and, in 
the end, disappointed. Charles was the heir of the House 
of Hapsburg, the grandson of Maximilian, his veins full 
of German blood. But he was no German. Maximilian 
was the last of the real German Hapsbui-gs. History 


scarcely shows another instance where the mother's blood 
has so completely changed the character of a race. Charles 
was his mother's son, and her Spanish characteristics 
showed themselves in him in greater strength as the years 
went on. When he abdicated, he retired to end his days 
in a Spanish convent. It was the Spaniard,, not the 
German, who faced Luther at Worms. 



§ 1. The. Transition from the Mcdiceval to ihe Modem 

The movement called the Eenaissance, in its widest extent, 
may be described as the transition, from the mediaeval to 
the modem world. All our present conceptions of life 
and thought find their roots within this period. 

It saw the beginnings of modem science and the 
application of true scientific methods to the investigation 
of nature. It witnessed the astronomical discoveries of 
Copernicus and Galileo, the foundation of anatomy under 

^ SoTTECES : Boccaccio, Lettere ediie e iriediU, tradotte et commentate am 
nuovi doeumenti da Corra7::i>ii (Florence, 1877) ; Francisei Petrarehee, 
SpistoltB familiares et TXtrue (Florence, 1859) ; Cusani, Opera (Basel, 1565) ; 
Bocking, Ulrici SuUeni Opera, 5 vols. (Leipzig, 1871) ; Supplement 
containing Epistolm Obscurorum Virorum, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1864, 1869) ; 
Gillert, Der BrU/mechsel des Konrad Mutianus (Halle, 1890) ; Renchlin, 
De Verba Mirifico (1552). 

Later Books : Jacob Bnrckliardt, The Civilisation of the Period of Oie 
Senaissance (Eng. trans., London, 1892) ; Geiger, Mumanismtis und 
Renaissance in Jtdlien und DeutschJand (Berlin, 1882) ; Michelet, ITistoin 
de Prance, toL vii.. Renaissance (Paris, 1855) ; Lavisse, Histoire de France, 
v. i. p. 287 ff. ; Symonds, Hie Renaissance in Italy (London, 1877) ; 
H. Hallam, Introduction to the lAteratnre qf Europe during the M/leenth, 
Sixteenth, arid SeveiiUenth Centuries, 6tli ed. (London, 1860) ; Kamp^ 
schnlte. Die Universitat Erfurt in ihrem Verhdltniss sa dem ffumarusmus 
UTid der Reformation, 2 vols. (Ti-ier, 1856, 1860) ; Eranse, Helius Eobanus 
Sessus, sein Leben und seine Werke, 2 vols. (Gotha, 1879) ; Geiger, Johann 
Reuchlin (Leipzig, 1871) ; Binder, Oharitas Pirkheimcr, Aebtissin ron 
St. Clara zu Niimberg (Freiburg i. B., 1893); Hofler, DenkvMrdigkeiten 
der CharUas Pirkhcinur (Quellensamml. z. frank. Gesch. iv., 1858) ; Roth, 
Willibald Pirkheimcr (Halle, 1874) ; Scott, Albert Surer, his Life and 
Works (London, 1869) ; Thausing, Durer's Briefe, Tageb&cher, Reime 
(Vienna, 1884) ; Cambridge Modem History, 1. xvi, xvii ; II. i. 



Vesgalius, and the discovery of the circulation of the blood 
by Harvey. 

It was the age of geographical explorations. The 
discoveries of the telescope, the mariner's compass, and 
gunpowder gave men mastery over previously unknown 
natural forces, and multiplied their powers, their daring, 
and their capacities for adventure. When these geogra- 
phical discoveries had made a world-trade a possible thing, 
there began that change from mediaeval to modern methods 
in trade and commerce which lasted from the close of 
the fourteenth to the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, when the modern commercial conditions were 
thoroughly established. The transition period was marked 
by the widening area of trade, which was no longer 
restricted to the Mediterranean, the Black and the North 
Seas, to the Baltic, and to the east coasts of Africa. The 
rigid groups of artisans and traders — the guild system of 
the Middle Ages — began to dissolve, and to leave freer 
space for individual and new corporate effort. Prices 
were gradually freed from official regulation, and became 
subject to the natural effects of bargaining. Adventure 
companies were started to share in the world-trade, and a 
beginning was made of dealing on commissions. All these 
changes belong to the period of transition between the 
mediaeval and the modern world. 

In the art of governing men the Eenaissance was the age 
of political concentration. In two realms — Germany and 
Italy — the mediaeval conceptions of Emperor and Pope, 
world-king and world-priest, were still strong enough to 
prevent the union of national forces under one political 
head ; but there, also, the principle of coalescence may be 
found in partial operation, — in Germany in the formation 
of great independent principalities, and in Italy in the 
growth of the States of the Church, — and its partial failure 
subjected both nationalities to foreign oppression. Every- 
where there was the attempt to assert the claims of the 
secular powers to emancipate themselves from clerical 
tutelage and ecclesiastical usurpation. While, underlying 


all, there was the beginiiiiig of the assertion of the 
supreme right of individual revolt against every custom, 
law, or theory which would subordinate the man to the 
caste or class. The Swiss peasantry began it when they 
made pikes by tying their scythes to their alpenstocks, 
and, standing shoulder to shoulder at Morgarten and 
Sempach, broke the fiercest charges of mediseval knight- 
hood. They proved that man for man the peasant was 
as good as the noble, and individual manhood asserted 
in this rude and bodily fashion soon began to express 
itself mentally and morally. 

In jurisprudence the Eenaissance may be described as 
the introduction of historical and scientific methods, the 
abandonment of legal fictions based upon collections of 
false decretals, the recovery of the true text of the Eoman 
code, and the substitution of civil for canon law as the 
basis of legislation and government. There was a 
complete break with the past. The substitution of civil 
law based upon the lawbooks of Justinian for the canon 
law founded upon the Decretum of Gratian, involved such 
a breach in continuity that it was the most momentous of 
all the changes of that period of transition. For law 
enters into every human relation, and a thorough change 
of legal principles must involve a revolution which is none 
the less real that it works almost silently. The codes of 
Justinian and of Theodosius completely reversed the 
teachings of the canonists, and the civilian lawyers learned 
to look upon the Church as only a department of the 

In literature there was the discovery of classical 
manuscripts, the introduction of the study of Greek, the 
perception of the beauties of language in the choice and 
arrangement of words under the guidance of classical 
models. The literary powers of modern languages were 
also discovered, — Italian, English, French, and German, — 
and with the discovery the national literatures of Europe 
came into being. 

In art a complete revolution was effected in architec- 


ture, painting, and sculpture by the recovery of ancient 
models and the study of the principles of their con- 

The manufacture of paper, the discovery of the arts 
of printing and engraving, multiplied the possession of the 
treasures of the intelligence and of artistic genius, and 
combined to make art and literature democratic. What 
was once confined to a favoured few became common pro- 
perty. New thoughts could act on men in masses, and 
began to move the multitude. The old mediaeval barriers 
were broken down, and men came to see that there was 
more in religion than the mediaeval Church had taught, 
more in social life than feudahsm had manifested, and 
that knowledge was a manifold unknown to their 

If the Eenaissance be the transition from the mediaeval 
to the modern world, — and it is scarcely possible to regard 
it otherwise, — then it is one of those great movements of 
the mind of mankind that almost defy exact description, 
and there is an elusiveness about it which confounds us 
when we attempt definition. " It was the emancipation of 
the reason," says Symonds, " in a race of men, intolerant 
of control, ready to criticise canons of conduct, enthusiastic 
of antique liberty, freshly awakened to the sense of beauty, 
and anxious above all things to secure for themselves free 
scope in spheres outside the region of authority. Men 
so vigorous and independent felt the joy of exploration. 
There was no problem they feared to face, no formula 
they were not eager to recast according to their new con- 
ceptions." ^ It was the blossoming and fructifying of the 
European intellectual life ; but perhaps it ought to be 
added that it contained a new conception of the universe 
in which religion consisted less in a feeling of dependence 
on God, and more in a faith on the possibilities lying in 

' Symonds, Eenaissance in Italy, Revival of Zel(ers (London, 1877), 
p. 13. 


§ 2. The Revival of Literature and Art. 

But the Eenaissance has generally a more limited 
meaniiig, and one defined by the most potent of the new 
forces which worked for the general intellectual regenera- 
tion. It means the revival of learning and of art conse- 
quent on the discovery and study of the literary and 
artistic masterpieces of antiquity. It is perhaps in this 
more limited sense that the movement more directly pre- 
pared the way for the Eeformation and what followed, and 
deserves more detailed examination. It was the discovery 
of a lost means of culture and the consequent awakening 
and diffusion of a literary, artistic, and critical spirit. 

A knowledge of ancient Latin literature had not 
entirely perished during the earlier Middle Ages. The 
Benedictine monasteries had preserved classical manuscripts 
— especially the monastery of Monte Cassino for the 
southern, and that of Fulda for the northern parts of 
Europe. These monasteries and their sister establishments 
were schools of learning as well as libraries, and we read 
of more than one where the study of some of the classical 
authors was part of the regular training. Virgil, Horace, 
Terence and Martial, Livy, Suetonius and Sallust, were 
known and studied. Greek literature had not survived to 
anything like the same extent, but it had never entirely 
disappeared from Southern Europe, and especially from 
Southern Italy. Ever since the days of the Eoman 
Eepublic in that part of the Italian peninsula once caUecl 
Magna Grsecia, Greek had been the language of many of 
the common people, as it is to this day, in districts of 
Calabria and of Sicily ; and the teachers and students of 
the mediaeval University of Salerno had never lost their 
taste for its study.^ But with all this, the fourteenth 
century, and notably the age of Petrarch, saw the begin- 

^ There is evidence that Thomas Aquinas was not dependent, as is com- 
monly supposed, for his acquaintance with Greek philosophy on translations 
into Latin of the Araliic translations of portions of Aristotle, but that he 
procured Latin Tersions made directly from the original Greek. 


nings of new zeal for the literature of the past, and was 
really the beginning of a new era. 

Italy was the first land to become free from the 
conditions of mediaeval life, and ready to enter On the new 
life which was awaiting Europe. There was an Italian 
language, the feeling of distinct nationality, a considerable 
advance in civilisation, an accumulation of wealth, and, 
during the age of the despots, a comparative freedom from 
constant changes in political conditions. 

Dante's great poem, interwea,ving as it does the imagery 
and mysticism of Giacchino di Fiore, the deepest spiritual 
and moral teaching of the mediaeval Church, and the 
insight and judgment on men and things of a great poet, 
was the first sign that Italy had wakened from the sleep 
of the Middle Ages. Petrarch came next, the passionate 
student of the lives, the thoughts, and emotions of the 
great masters of classical Latin literature. They were real 
men for him, his own Italian ancestors, and they as he 
had felt the need of Hellenic culture to solace their souls, 
and serve for the universal education of the human race. 
Boccaccio, the third leader in the awakening, preached the 
joy of living, the universal capacity for pleasure, and the 
sensuous beauty of the world. He too, like Petrarch, felt 
the need of Hellenic culture. For both there was an 
awakening to the beauty of literary form, and the con- 
viction that a study of the ancient classics would enable 
them to achieve it. Both valued the vision of a new 
conception of life derived from the perusal of the classics, 
freer, more enlarged and joyous, more rational than the 
Middle Ages had witnessed. Petrarch and Boccaccio 
yearned after the life thus disclosed, which gave unfettered 
scope to the play of the emotions, to the sense of beauty, 
and to the manifold activity of the human intelligence. 

Learned Greeks were induced to settle in Italy — men 
who were able to interpret the ancient Gj-eek poets and 
prose writers — Manuel Chrysoloras (at Florence, 1397— 
1400), George of Trebizond, Theodore Gaza (whose Greek 
Grammar Erasmus taught from while in England), Gemistos 


riethon, a distingmshed Platonist, under whom the Chris- 
tian Platonism received its impulse, and John Argyroponlos, 
who was the teacher of Beachlin. The men of the early 
Eenaissance were their pupila 

§ 3. Its earlier relation to Christianity. 

There was nothing hostile to Christianity or to the 
mediaeval Church in the earlier stages of this intellectual 
revival, and very little of the neo-paganism which it 
developed afterwards. Many of the instincts of medisBval 
piety remained, only the objects were changed. Petrarch 
revered the MS. of Homer, which he could not read, as an 
ancestor of his might have venerated the scapulary of a 
saint'- The men of the early Eenaissance made collections 
of MSS. and inscriptions, of cameos and of coins, and 
worshipped them as if they had been relics. The Medicean 
library was formed about 1450, the Vatican library in 
1453, and the age of passionate collection began. 

The age of scholarship succeeded, and Italian students 
began to interpret the ancient classical authors with a 
mysticism aU their own. They sought a means of recon- 
ciling Christian thought with ancient pagan philosophy, 
and, like Clement of Alexandria and Origen, discovered it 
in Platonism. Platonic academies were founded, and 
Cardinal Bessarion, Marsiglio Ficino, and Pico della Mir- 
andola became the Christian Platonists of Italy. Of cooise, 
in their enthusiasm they went too far. They appropriated 
the whole intellectual life of a pagan age, and adopted its 
ethical as well as its intellectual perceptions, its basts of 
sensuous pleasures, and its joy in sensuous living. Still 
their Tnain thought was to show that Hellenism as well 
as Judaism was a pathway to Christianity, and that the 
Sibyl as well as Da^id was a witness for Christ. 

The Papacy lent its patronage to the revival of litera- 

1 He embraced it, sighed orer it, and told it how he Innged to bear it 
speak: Fra:iss*Tti, Frajtdsd J'etnaxha, £pitU>lte famSiares et variae, iL 


ture and art, and put itself at the head of the movement 
of intellectual life. Pope Nicolas v. (1447—1455) was the 
first Bishop of Eome who fostered the Eenaissance, and he 
himself may be taken as representing the sincerity, the 
simplicity, and the lofty intellectual and artistic aims of 
its earliest period. Sprung from an obscure family belong- 
ing to Saranza, a small town near Spezzia, and cast on his 
own resources before he had fairly quitted boyhood, he had 
risen by his talents and his character to the highest position 
in the Church. He had been private tutor, secretary, 
librarian, and through all a genuine lover of books. They 
were the only personal luxury he indulged in, and perhaps 
no one in his days knew more about them. He was the 
confidential adviser of Lorenzo de Medici when he founded 
his great library in San Marco. He himself began the 
Vatican Library. He had agents who ransacked the 
monasteries of Europe, and he collected the literary relics 
which had escaped destruction in the sack of Constanti- 
nople. Before his death his library in the Vatican contained 
more than 5000 MSS. He gathered round him a band 
of illustrious artists and scholars. He filled Eome with 
skilled and artistic artisans, with decorators, jewellers, 
workers in painted glass and embroidery. The famous Leo 
Alberti was one of his architects, and Tra Angelico one 
of his artists. Laurentius Valla and Poggio Bracciolini, 
Cardinal Bessarion and George of Trebizond, were among 
his scholars. He directed and inspired their work. Valla's 
critical attacks on the Donation of Constantine, and on the 
tradition that the Twelve had dictated the Apostles' Creed, 
did not shake his confidence in the scholar. The principal 
Greek authors were translated into Latin by his orders. 
Europe saw theology, learning, and art lending each other 
mutual support under the leadership of the head of the 
Church. Perhaps Julius il. (1503—1513) conceived more 
definitely than even Nicolas had done that one duty of 
the head of the Church was to assume the leadership of 
the intellectual and artistic movement which was making 
wider the thought of Europe, — only his restless energy 


never permitted him leisure to give effect to his coi 
ception. " The instruction which Pope Julius ii. gav 
to Michelangelo to represent him as Moses can bear bi 
one interpretation : that Julius set himself the missio 
of leading forth Israel (the Church) from its state c 
degradation, and showing it — though he could not grar 
possession — the Promised Land at least from afar, tha 
blessed land which consists in the enjoyment of th 
highest intellectual benefits, and the training and con 
secration of all the faculties of man's mind to unio 
with God."i 

The classical revival in Italy soon exhausted itsel 
Its sensuous perceptions degenerated into sensuality, it 
instinct for the beauty of expression into elegant trifling 
and its enthusiasm for antiquity into neo-paganism. I 
failed almost from the first in real moral earnestness 
scarcely saw, and still less underatood, how to cure th 
deep-seated moral evils of the age. 

Italy had given birth to the Eenaissance, but it sooi 
spread to the more northern lands. Perhaps France firs 
felt the impulse, then Germany and England last of al] 
In dealing with the Eeformation, the movement in German; 
is the most important. 

The Germans, throughout the Middle Ages, had con 
tinuous and intimate relations with the southern peninsula 
and in the fifteenth century these were stronger than evei 
German merchants had their factories in Venice and Genoa 
young German nobles destined for a legal or diplomatii 
career studied law at Italian universities ; students o 
medicine completed their studies in the famous souther 
schools; and the German wandering student frequentl; 
crossed the Alps to pick up additional knowledge. Ther 
was such constant scholarly intercourse between German; 
and Italy, that the New Learning could not fail to sprea( 
among the men of the north. 

^ Professor Krauss, Cambridge Modem Ristory, ii. 6. 


§ 4. The Brethren of the Common Lot. 

Germany and the Low Countries had been singularly 
prepared for that revival of letters, art, and science which 
had come to Italy. One of the greatest gifts bestowed by 
the Mystics of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries on 
their native land had been an excellent system of school 
education. Gerard Groot, a disciple of the Flemish mystic 
Jail van Eysbroec^^ad, after long consultations with his 
Master, founded a. brotherhood called the Brethren of the 
Common Life} whose aim was to better the religious con- 
dition of their fellow-inen by th« multiplication of good 
books and by the careful training of the young. They 
were to support themselves by copying and selling manu- 
scripts. All the houses of the Brethren had a large 
room, where a number of scribes sat at tables, a reader 
repeated slowly the words of the main lipt, and books 
were multiplied as rapidly as was possible before the 
invention of printing. They filled their own libraries 
with the best books of Christian and pagan antiquity. 
They multiplied small tracts containing the mystical and 
practical theology of the Friends of God, and sent them 
into circulation among the people. One of the intimate 
followers of Groot, Florentius Eadewynsohn, proved to be 
a distinguished educationalist, and the schools of the Order 
soon became famous. The Brethren, to use the words 
of their founder, employed education for the purpose 
of " raising spiritual pillars in the Temple oi . the Lord." 
They insisted on a study of the Vulgate in their classes ; 
they placed German translations of Christian authors in i 
the hands of their pupils ; they took pains to give them 
a good knowledge of Latin, and read with them selections i 
from the best known ancient authors ; they even taught j 
a little Greek; and their scholars learned to sing the! 
simpler, more evangelical Latin hymns. 

The mother school was at Deventer, a town situated at 

' C. H. Delprot, Verhandeling over de Brosderschap van Gerard Qroott 
(AiDheim, 1856). 

! 1 


the south-west comer of the great episcopal territory o: 

Utrecht, now the Dutch province of Ober-T^ssel. It lies 

on the bank of that branch of the Ehine (the Y^el) whict 

flowing northwards glides past Zutphen, Deventer, Zwolle 

and loses itself in the Zuyder Zee at Kampen. A large 

number of the more distinguished leaders of the fifteentl 

century owed their early training to this great school a( 

Deventer. During the last decades of the fifteenth century 

the headmaster was Alexander Hegius (1433—1498), whc 

came to Deventer ia 1471 and remained there until his 

death.^ The school reached its height of fame under this 

renowned master, who gathered 2000 pupils around him, 

— among them Erasmus, Conrad Mutti (Mutianus Eufus), 

Hermann von Busch, Johann Murmellius, — and, rejecting 

\ the older methods of grammatical instruction, taught 

them to know the niceties of the Latin tongue by lejiding 

them directly to the study of the great writers of classical 

; antiquity. He was such an indefatigable student that he 

i kept himself awake during the night-watches, it is said, by 

holding in his hands the candle which lighted him, in order 

to be wakened by its fall should slimiber overtake him. 

The glory of Deventer perished with ■ this great teacher, 

\ who to the last maintained the ancient traditions of the 

\ school by his maxim, that learning without piety was rather 

I a curse than a blessing. 

j Other famous schools of the Brethren in the second 
' half of the fifteenth century were Schlettstadt,* in Elsass, 
some miles from the west bank of the Ehine, and about 
half-way between Strassburg and Basel ; Munster on the 
Ems, the Monasterium of the earlier Middle Ages ; Emme- 
rich, a town on the Ehine near the borders of Holland, and 
Altmarck, in the north-west. Schlettstadt, imder its master 
Ludwig Dringenberg, almost rivalled the fame of Davenler, 
and many of the members of the well-known Strassburg circle 
which gathered round Jacob Wimpheling, Sebastian Brand, 

^ H. Hartfelder, Der Zusfand der deutschen Huchschulen am Ende da 
MittdaUers. His'. Zeiischr. Ixiv. 50-107, 1S90. 

' StTUver, Die Schuie von Schlettstadt (Leipzig, ISSO). 


and the German Savonarola, John Geiler von Keysersberg, 
had been pupils in this school. Besides these more famous 
establishments, the schools of the Brethren spread all over 
Germany. The teachers M^ere commonly called the Roll- 
Brueder, and under this name they had a school in Magde- 
burg to which probably Luther was sent when he spent a 
year in that town. Their work was so pervading and their 
teaching so effectual, that we are informed by chroniclers, 
who had nothing to do with the Brethren, that in many 
German towns, girls could be heard singing the simpler 
Latin hymns, and that the children of artisans could 
converse in Latin. 

§ 5. German Universities, Schools, and Scholarship. 

The desire for education spread all over Germany in 
the fifteenth century. Princes and burghers vied with each 
other in erecting seats of learning. Within one hundred 
and fifty years no fewer than seventeeii new universities 
were founded. Prag, a Bohemian foundation, came into 
existence in 1348. Then followed four German founda- 
tions, Vienna, in 1365 or 1384; Heidelberg, in 1386 ; Koln, 
in 1388; and Erfurt, established by the townspeople, in 
1392. In the fifteenth century there were Leipzig, in 
1409 ; Eostock, on the shore of what was called the East 
Sea, almost opposite the south point of Sweden, in 1419 ; 
Cracow, a Polish foundation, in 1420-; Greif swald, in 1456 ; 
Freiburg and Trier, in 1457 ; Basel, in 1460 ; Ingolstadt, 
founded with the special intention of training students in 
obedience to the Pope, a task singularly well accomplished, 
in 1472; Tubingen and Mainz, in 1477; Wittenberg, in 
1502; and Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, in 1507. Marburg, the 
first Reformation University, was founded in 152^. 

The craving for education laid hold on the burgher 
class, and towns vied with each other in providing superior 
schools, with teachers paid out of the town's revenues. 
Some German towns had several such foundations. 
Breslau, " the student's paradise," had seven. Nor was 


the education of girls neglected. Frankfurt-on-the-Main 
founded a high school for girls early in the fifteenth 
century, and insisted that the teachers were to be learned 
ladies who were not nuns.^ Besides the classrooms, the 
towns usually provided hostels, where the boys got lodging 
and sometimes firewood (they were expected to obtain food 
by begging through the streets of the town), and frequently 
hospitals where the scholars could be tended in illness.^ 

These possibilities of education attracted boys from all 
parts of the country, and added a new class of vagrants to 
the tramps of all kinds who infested the roads during the 
later Middle Ages. The wandering scholar, with his yellow 
scarf, was a feature of the era, and frequently not a reput- 
able one. He was usually introduced as a character into 
the Fastnachtspiele, or rude popular carnival comedies, and 
was almost always a rogue and often a thief. Children 
of ten and twelve years of age left their villages, in charge 
oi an older student, to join some famous school But 
these older students were too often mere vagrants, with just 
learning enough to impose upon the simple peasantry, 
to whom they sold charms against toothache and other 
troubles. The young children entrusted to them by con- 
fiding parents were often treated with the greatest cruelty, 
employed by them to beg or steal food, and sent round to 
the public-houses with cans to beg for beer. The small 
unfortunates were the prisoners, the slaves, of their dis- 
reputable masters, and many of them died by the roadside. 
We need not wonder that Luther, with his memory full of 
these wandering students, in after days denounced the 
system by which men spent sometimes " twenty and even 
forty years " in a so-caUed student life, which was often 
one of the lowest vagrancy and debauchery, and in the end 
knew neither German nor Latin, " to say nothing," he adds 
with honest indignation, " of the shameful and vicious life 
by which our worthy youth have been so grievously cor- 

^ Kriegk, DetUsches Burgerihum im MiUdaUer, neue Folge (Frankfurt a. 
M. 1868), pp. 77 flf. 

2 ISoos, Thomas und Felia: Platter (Leipzig, 1878), pp. 20 ff. 


rupted." Two or three of the autobiographies of these 
wandering students have survived ; and two of them, those 
of Thomas Platter and of Johann Butzbach, belong tc 
Luther's time, and give a vivid picture of their lives.^ 

Germany had no lack of schools and universities, but it 
can scarcely be said that they did more than serve as a 
preparation for the entrance of the Eenaissance move- 
ment. During the fifteenth century all the Universities 
were under the influence of the Church, and Scholasticism 
prescribed the methods of study. Very httle of the New 
Learning was allowed to enter. It is true that if Koln and 
perhaps Ingolstadt be excepted, the Scholastic which was 
taught represented what were supposed to be the more 
advanced opinions — those of John Duns Scotus, WUHam 
of Occam, and Gabriel Biel, rather than the learning 
of Thomas Aquinas and other great defenders of papal 
traditions ; but it lent itself as thoroughly as did the older 
Scholastic to the discussion of all kinds of verbal and 
logical subtleties. Knowledge of every kind was discussed 
under formulae and phrases sanctioned by long scholastic 
use. It is impossible to describe the minute distinctions 
and the intricate reasoning based upon them without 
exceeding the space at our disposal It is enough to say 
that the prevailing course of study furnished an imposing 
framework without much solid content, and provided an 
intellectual gymnastic without much real knowledge. A 
survival can be seen in the Formal Logic still taught. 
The quantity of misspent ingenuity called forth to produce 
the figures and moods, and bestowed on discovering and 
arranging all possible moods under each figure and in 
providing aU. with mnemonic names, — Barbara, Celarent, 
Darii, Ferioque prioris, etc., — affords some insight into the 
scholastic methods in use in these universities of the 
fifteenth century. 

Then it must be remembered that the scholarship 

' H. Boos, Thomas vmd Felix Flatter (Leipzig, 1876) ; Becker, Chronica 
des fdh/renden Schulers oder Wa/nderlilchlein des JoJicmnes Butzbach (Katis- 
bon, 1869). 


took a quasi-ecclesiastical form. The universities were 
all monastic institutions, where the teachers were pro- 
fessional and the students amateur celibates. The scholars 
were gathered into hostels in which they lived with 
their teachers, and were taught to consider themselves 
very superior persons. The statutes of mediaeval Oxford 
declare that God created " clerks " with gifts of intelli- 
gence denied to mere lay persons ; that it behoved " clerks " 
to exhibit this difference by their outward appearance ; and 
that the university tailors, whose duty it was to make men 
extrinsecus what God had made them intririsecus, were to be 
reckoned as members of the University. Those mediaeval 
students sometimes assumed airs which roused the passions 
of the laity, and frequently led to tremendous riots. Thus 
in 1513 the townsfolk of Erfurt battered in the gates of 
the University with cannon, and after the flight of the 
professors and students destroyed almost all the archives 
and library. About the same time some citizens of Vienna 
having jeered at the sacred student dress, there ensued the 
" Latin war," which literally devastated the town. This pride 
of separation between "clerks" and laity culminated in the 
great annual procession, when the newly capped graduates, 
clothed in all the glory of new bachelors' and masters' gowns 
and hoods, marched through the principal streets of the 
university town, in the midst of the university dignitaries 
and frequently attended by the magistrates in their robes. 
Young Luther confessed that when he first saw the pro- 
cession at Erfurt he thought that no position on earth was 
more enviable than that of a newly capped graduate. 

Mediaeval ecclesiastical tradition brooded over aU de- 
partments of learning; and the philosophy and logic, or 
what were supposed to be the philosophy and logic, of 
Aristotle ruled that tradition. The reverence for the name 
of Aristotle almost took the form of a religious fervour. 
In a curious medifeval Life of Aristotle the ancient pagan 
thinker is declared to be a forerunner of Christ. All who 
refused to accept his guidance were heretics, and his 
formal scheme of thought was supposed to justify the 


refined sophisms of mediaeval dialectic. His system of 
thought was the fortified defence which preserved the 
old and protected it from the inroads of the New Learn- 
ing. Hence the hatred which almost all the German 
Humanists seem to have had for the name of Aristotle. 
The attitudes of the partisans of the old and of the new 
towards the ancient Greek thinker are represented in two 
pictures, each instinct with the feeling of the times. In 
one, in the church of the Dominicans in Pisa, Aristotle is 
represented standing on the right with Plato on the left of 
Thomas Aquinas, and rays streaming from their opened 
books make a halo round the head of the great mediaeval 
theologian and thinker. In the other, a woodcut published 
by Hans Holbein the younger in 1527, Aristotle with the 
mediaeval doctors is represented descending into the abodes 
of darkness, while Jesus Christ stands in the foreground 
and points out the true light to a crowd of people, among 
whom the artist has figured peasants with their flails. 

§ 6. The earlier German Humanists. 

When the beginnings of the New Learning made their 
appearance in Germany, they did not bring with them any 
widespread revival of culture. There was no outburst, as ' 
in Italy, of the artistic spirit, stamping itself upon such' 
arts as painting, sculpture, and architecture, which could 
appeal to the whole public intelligence. The men who 
first felt the stirrings of the new intellectual life were, for 
the most part, students who had been trained in the more 
famous schools of the Brethren of the Common Life, all 
of whom had a serious aim in life. The New Learning 
appealed to them not so much a means of self-culture as 
an instrument to reform education, to criticise antiquated 
methods of instructionTand, above all, to effect reforms in 
the Church and to purify the social life. One of the most 
conspicuous of such scholars was Cardinal Nicolas Cusanus ^ 

' Scharpff, Der Cardinal und Bischof Nicolaus von Cusa als Ee/onnator 
in Kirche, Eeich und Philosophie (Tiibiugen, 1871). 


(1401—1464). He was a man of singularly open mind, 
who, while he was saturated with the old learning, was able 
to appreciate the new. He had studied the classics in 
Italy. He was an expert mathematician and astronomer. 
Some have even asserted that he anticipated the discoveries 
of Galileo. The instruments with which he worked, 
roughly made by a village tinsmith, may still be seen 
preserved in the Brother-house which he founded at his 
birthplace. Cues, on the Mosel ; and there, too, the sheets, 
covered with his long calculations for the reform of the 
calendar, may still be studied. 

Another scholar, sent out by the same schools, was 
John Wessel of Gfoningen (1420-1489), who wandered in 
search of learning from Koln to Paris and from Paris to 
Italy. He finally settled down as n canon in the Brother- 
hood of Mount St. Agnes. There he gathered round him 
a band of young students, whom he encouraged to study 
Greek and Hebrew. He was a theologian who delighted 
to criticise the current opinions on theological doctrines. 
He denied that the fire of Purgatory could be material fire, 
and he theorised about indulgences in such a way as to be 
a forerunner of Luther.^ " If I had read his books before," 
said Luther, " my enemies might have thought that Luther 
had borrowed everything from Wessel, so great is the 
agreement between our spirits. I feel my joy -and my 
strength increase, I have no doubt that I have taught 
aright, when I find that one who wrote at a different time, 
in another clime, and with a different intention, agrees so 
entirely in my view and expresses it in almost the same 

Other like-minded scholars might be mentioned, 
Eudolph Agricola^ (1442-1485), Jacob Wimpheling' 
(1450-1528), and Sebastian Brand (1457-1521), who 

' Wessel's most important Theses on Indulgences are given in Ullmann, 
Reformers before the Beformation (Edinburgh, 1865), ii. F46 f. 

'Tresling, Vila et Merita Budolphi Agricolce {Gnoumg^n, 1830). 

' Wiskowatoff, Jacob Wimpkeling, sein Leben tmd seine Sehrften 
(Berlin, 1867). 


was town-clerk of Strassburg from 1500, and the author 
of the celebrated Ship of Fools, which was translated into 
many languages, and was used by his friend Geiler of 
Keysersberg as the text for one of his courses of popular 

AH these men, and others like-minded and similarly 
gifted, are commonly regarded as the precursors of the 
German Eenaissance, and are classed among the German 
Humanists. Yet it may be questioned whether they can be 
taken as the representatives of that kind of Humanism which 
gathered round Luther in his student days, and of which 
Ulrich von Hutten, the stormy petrel of the times of the 
Reformation, was a notable example. Its beginnings must 
be traced to other and less reputable pioneers. Numbers of 
young German students, with the talent for wandering and 
for supporting themselves by begging possessed by so many 
of them, had tramped down to Italy, where they contrived 
to exist precariously while they attended, with a genuine 
thirst for learning, the classes taught by Italian Humanists. 
There they became infected with the spirit of the Italian 
'Eenaissance, and learned also to despise the ordinary 
restraints of moral living. There they imbibed a contempt 
for the Church and for all kinds of theology, and acquired 
the genuine temperament of the later Italian Humanists, 
which could be irreligious without being anti-religious, 
simply because religion of any sort was something foreign 
to their nature. 

Such a man was Peter Luders (1415—1474). He 
began life as an ecclesiastic, wandered down into Italy, 
where he devoted himself to classical studies, and where he 
acquired the irreligious disposition and the disregard for 
ordinary moral living which disgraced a large part of the 
later Italian Humanists. While living at Padua (1444), 
where he acted as private tutor to some yoimg Germans 
from the Palatinate, he was invited by the Elector tt teach 
Latin in the University of Heidelberg. The older pro- 
fessors were jealous of him : they insisted on reading and 
revising his introductory lecture : they refused him the use 


of the library ; and in general made his life a burden. He 
struggled on till 1460. Then he spent many years in 
wandering from place to place, teaching the classics pri- 
vately to such scholars as he could find. He was not a 
man of reputable life, was greatly given to drink, a free 
liver in every way, and thoroughly irreligious, with a strong 
contempt for all theology. He seems to have contrived 
when sober to keep his heretical opinions to himself, but to 
have betrayed himself occasionally in his drinking bouts. 
When at Basel he was accused of denying the doctrine of 
Three Persons in the Godhead, and told his accusers that 
he would willingly confess to four if they would only let 
him alone. He ended his days as a teacher of medicine 
in Vienna. 

History has preserved the names of several of these 
wandering scholars who sowed the seeds of classical studies 
in Germany, and there were, doubtless, many who have 
been forgotten. Loose living, irreligious, their one gift a 
genuine desire to know and impart a knowledge of the 
ancient classical literature, careless how they fared pro- 
vided only they could study and teach Latin and Greek, 
they were the disreputable apostles of the New Learning, 
and in their careless way scattered it over the northern 

§ 7. The Humanist Circles in the Cities. 

The seed-beds of the German Eenaissance were at first 
not so much the Universities, as associations of intimates in 
some of the cities. Three were pre-eminent, — Strassburg, 
Augsburg, and Ntirnberg, — all wealthy imperial cities, 
having intimate relations with the imperial court on the 
one hand and with Italy on the other. 

The Humanist circle at Nurnberg was perhaps the 
most distinguished, and it stood in closer relations than 
any other with the coming Eeformation. Its best known 
member was Willibald Pirkheimer^ (1470-1528), whose 
training had been more'tEairoTa'youSg Florentine patrician 

'Eoth, Willibald Pirkheimcr {Kiaie, 1887). 


than of the son of a German burgher. His father, a 
wealthy Niirnberg merchant of great intellectual gifts and 
attainments, a skilled diplomatist, and a confidential friend 
of the Emperor Maximilian, superintended his son's educa- 
tion. He took the boy with him on the journeys which 
trade or the diplomatic business of his city compelled him 
to make, and initiated him into the mysteries of commerce 
and of German politics. The lad was also trained in the 
knightly accomplishments of horsemanship and the skilful 
use of weapons. He was sent, like many a young German 
patrician, to Padua and Pavia (1490—1497) to study juris- 
prudence and the science of diplomacy, and was advised 
not to neglect opportunities to acquire the New Learning. 
When he returned, in his twenty-seventh year, he was 
appointed one of the counsellors of the city, and was 
entrusted with an important share in the management of 
its business. In this capacity it was necessary for him to 
make many a journey to the Diet or to the imperial court, 
and he soon became a favourite with the Emperor Maxi- 
milian, who rejoiced in converse with a mind as versatile, 
as his own. No German so nearly approached the many- ' 
sided culture of the leading Italian Humanists as did this 
citizen of Niirnberg. On the other hand, he possessed a 
fund of earnestness which no Italian seems to have 
possessed. He was deeply anxious about reformation in 
Church and State, and after the Leipzig disputation had 
shown that Luther's quarrel with the Pope was no mere 
monkish dispute, but went to the roots of things, he was a 
sedate supporter of the Eeformation in its earlier stages. 
His sisters Charitas and Clara, both learned ladies, were 
nuns in the Convent of St. Clara at Niirnberg. The elder, 
who was the abbess of her convent, has left an interesting 
collection of letters, from which it seems probable that she 
had great influence over her brother, and prevented him 
from joining the Lutheran Church . after it had finally 
separated from the Eoman obedience. 

Pirkheimer gave the time which was not occupied wita 
.public affairs to learning and intercourse with scholars, \ 


His house was a palace filled with objects of art. His 
library, well stocked with MSS. and books, was open to 
every student who came with an introduction to its owner. 
At his banquets, which were famous, he delighted to 
assemble round his table the most distinguished men of the 
day. He was quite at home in Greek, and made transla- 
tions from the works of Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, and 
Lucian into Latin or German. The description which he 
gives, in his familiar letters to his sisters and intimate 
friends, of his life on his brother-in-law's country estate is 
like a picture of the habits of a Eoman patrician of the 
fifth century in GauL The morning was spent in study, 
in reading Plato or Cicero ; and in the afternoon, if the 
gout chanced to keep him indoors, he watched from his 
windows the country people in the fields, or the sportsman 
and the fisher at their occupations. He was fond of enter- 
taining visitors from the neighbourhood. Sometimes he 
gathered round him his upper servants or his tenants, with 
their wives and families. The evening was usually devoted 
to the study of history and archaeology, in both of which 
he was greatly interested. He was in the habit of sitting 
up late at night, and when the sky was clear he followed 
the motions of the planets with a telescope ; for, like many 
others in that age, he had faith in astrology, and believed 
that he could read future events and the destinies of 
nations in the courses of the wandering stars. 
^ In all those civic circles, poets and artists were found 
as members — Hans Holbein at Augsburg ; Albert Diirer, 
with Hans Sebaldus Beham, at Niirnberg. The contem- 
porary Itahan painters, when they ceased to select their 
subjects from Scripture or from the Lives of the Saints, 
turned instinctively to depict scenes from the ancient 
pagan mythology. The German artists strayed elsewhere. 
They turned for subjects to the common life of the people. 
But the change was gradual. The Virgin ceased to be the 
Queen of Heaven and became the purest type of homely 
human motherhood, and the attendant angels, sportive 
children plucking flowers, fondling animals, playing with 


fruit. In Lucas Cranach's " Eest on the Flight to Egypt " 
two cherubs have climbed a tree to rob a bird's nest, and 
the parent birds are screaming at them from the branches. 
In one of Albert Diirer's representations of the Holy 
Family, the Virgin and Child are seated in the middle of 
a farmyard, surrounded by all kinds of rural accessories. 
Then German art plunged boldly into the delineation of the 
ordinary commonplace life — knights and tournaments, mer- 
chant trains, street scenes, pictures of peasant life, and 
especially of peasant dances, university and school scenes, 
pictures of the camp and of troops on the march. The. 
coming revolution in religion was already proclaiming that 
all human life, even the most commonplace, could be 
sacred; and contemporary art discovered the picturesque 
in the ordinary Ufe of the people — in the castles of the 
nobles, in the markets of the cities, and in the villages of the 

§ 8. Humanism in the Universities. 

The New Learning made its way gradually into the 
Universities. Classical scholars were invited to lecture or 
settle as private teachers in university towns, and the 
students read Cicero and Virgil, Horace and Propertius, 
Livy and Sallust, Plautus and Terence. One of the earliest 
signs of the growing Humanist feeling appeared in changes 
in one of the favourite diversions of German students. In 
all the mediaeval Universities at carnival time the students 
got up and performed plays. The subjects were almost in- 
variably taken from the Scriptures or from the Apocrypha. 
Chaucer says of an Oxford student, that 

"Sometimes to shew his lightnesse and his mastereye 
He played Herod on a gallows high." 

At the end of the fifteenth century the subjects changed, 
and students' plays were either reproductions from Plautus 
or Terence, or original compositions representing the 
common life of the time. 

The legal recognition of Humanism within a University 


commonly showed itself in the institution of a lectureship 
of Poetry or Oratory — for the German Humanists were 
commonly known as the " Poets." Freiburg established a 
chair of Poetry in 1471, and Basel in 1474; in Tiibingen 
the stipend for an Orator was legally sanctioned in 1481, 
and Conrad Celtis was appointed to a chair of Poetry and 
Eloquence in 1492. 

Erfurt, however, was generally regarded as the special 
nursery of German university Humanism ever sincQ Peter 
Luders had taught there in 1460. From that date 
the University never lacked Humanist teachers, and a 
Humanist circle had gradually grown up among the sue-' 
cessive generations of students. The permanent chief of 
this circle was a German scholar, whose name was Conrad 
Mut (Mudt, Mutta, and Mutti are variations), who Latinised 
his name into Mutianus, and added Eufus because he was 
red-haired. This Mutianus Eufus was in many respects 
a typical German Humanist. He was born in 1472 at 
Homburg in Hesse, had studied at Deventer under Alexander 
Hegius, had attended the University of Erfurt, and had 

then gone to Italy to study law and the New Learning, 

He became a Doctor of Laws of Bologna, made friends 
among many of the distinguished Italian Humanists, and 
had gained many patrons among the cardinals in Rome. 
He finally settled in Gotha, where he had received a 
canonry in the Church. He did not win any distinction 
as an author, but has left behind him an interesting 
collection of letters. His great delight was to gather 
round him promising young students belonging to the 
University of Erfurt, to superintend their reading, and ta 
advise them in all literary matters. While in Italy he 
had become acquainted with Pico della Miraiidola, and had 
adopted the conception of combining Platonism and Christi- 
anity in an eclectic mysticism, which was to be the esoteric 
Christianity for thinkers and educated men, while the 
popular Christianity, with its superstitions, was needed for 
the common herd. Christianity, he taught, had its begin- 
nings long before the historical advent of our Lord. "The 


true Christ," he said, " was not a man, but the Wisdom of 
God ; He was the Son of God, and is equally imparted to 
the Jews, the Greeks, and the Germans." ^ " The true Christ 
is not a man, but spirit and soul, which do not manifest 
themselves in outward appearance, and are not to be touched 
or seized by the hands." ^ " The law of God," he said in 
another place, " which enlightens the soul, has two heads : 
to love God, and to love one's neighbour as one's self. This 
law makes us partakers of Heaven. It is a natural law ; 
not hewn in stone, as was the law of Moses ; not carved in 
bronze, as was that of the Eomans ; not written on parch- 
ment or paper, but implanted in our hearts by the highest 
Teacher." " Whoever has eaten in pious manner this memor- 
able and saving Eucharist, has done something divine. For 
the true Body of Christ is peace and concord, and there 
is no holier Host than neighbourly love." * He refused to 
believe in the miraculous, and held that the Scriptures were 
fuU of fables, meant, like those of ^sop, to teach moral 
truths. He asserted that he had devoted himself to " God, 
^lle~saints, and the study of all antiquity " ; and the result 
^was expressed in the following quotation from a letter to 
Urban (1505), one of his friends and pupils at Erfurt: 
"There is but one god and one goddess; but there are 
many forms and many names — Jupiter, Sol, Apollo, Moses, 
Christ, Luna, Ceres, Proserpina, Tellus, Mary. But do not 
spread it abroad ; we must keep sUence on these Eleusinian 
mysteries. In religious matters we must employ fables 
and enigmas as a veil. Thou who hast the grace of 
Jupiter, the best and greatest God, shouldst in secret despise 
the little gods. When I say Jupiter, I mean Christ and 
the true God. But enough of these things, which are too 
high for us." * Such a man looked with contempt on the 
Church of his age, and lashed it with his scorn. " I do 
not revere the coat or the beard of Christ ; I revere the 
true and living God, who has neioher beard nor coat." ^-Jn^ 
private he denounced the fasts of the Church, confession, 

1 Krause, Briefwechsd des Mviianus Rufus (Cassel, 1855), p. 32. 
" Ibid. p. 94. ' Ibid. p. 93. * Ibid. p. 28. » Ihid. p. 427. 



ajad masses for the dead, and called the begging friara 
" cowled monsters." He' says sarcastically of the Christi- 
anity of his times : " We mean by faith not the conformity 
of what we say with fact, but an opinion about divine 
things founded on credulity and a persuasion which seeks 
after profit. Such is its power that it is commonly 
believed that to us were given the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven. Whoever, therefore, despises our keys, shall feel 
our nails and our clubs {quisquis clams contemserit clavum 
et clavam sentiei). We have taken from the breast of 
Serapis a magical stamp to which Jesus of GaUlee has 
■ given authority. With that figure we put our foes to 
flight, we cozen money, we consecrate God, we shake hell, 
and we work miracles ; whether we be heavenly minded or 
earthly minded makes no matter, provided we sit happily 
at the banquet of Jupiter." ^ But he did not wish to 
revolt from the external authority of the Church of the 
day. " He is impious who wishes to know more than the 
Church. We bear on our forehead," he says, " the seal of 
the Cross, the standard of our King. Let us not be deserters ; 
let nothing base be found in our camp." ^ The authority 
which the Humanists revolted against was merely intellec- 
tual, as was the freedom they fought for. It did not 
' belong to their mission to proclaim a spiritual freedom or 
to free the common man from his slavish fear of the 
! mediaeval priesthood; and this made an impassable gulf 
between their aspirations and those of Luther and the 
real leaders of the Eeformation movement.* 

The Erfurt circle of Humanists had for members 
Heinrich Urban, to whom many of the letters of Mutianus 
were addressed, Petreius i^perbach, who won the title of 
" mocker of gods and men " (derisor deorum et hominum), 
Johann Jaeger of Dornheim (Crotus Eubeanus), George 
..( Burkhardt from Spalt (Spalatinus), Henry and Peter 
■^: Ebe^ach. Eoban of Hesse (Helius Eobanus Hessus), the 

' ' Krause, Briefwechsel des Mutianus Rufus (Cassel, 18?5), p. 79. 

^ Ibid. p. 175 : " Non sit vobiscum in oastris (nostris) uUa turpitudo." 
' Ibid. ; of. especially Letter to Urban, pp. 352, 353, and pp. 153, 190. 


most gifted of them all, and the hardest drinker, joined 
the circle in 1494. 

Similar university circles were formed elsewhere : at 
Basel, where Heinrich Loriti from Glarus (Glareanus), and 
afterwards Erasmus, were the attractions ; at Tubingen, 
where Heinrich Bebel, author of the Facetice, encouraged 
his younger friends to study history ; and even at Koln, 
where Hermann von Busch, a pupil of Deventer, and 
Ortuin Gratius, afterwards the butt of the authors of the 
Epistolce dbscuTorum virorum, were looked upon as leaders 
full of the New Learning. 

As in Italy Popes and cardinals patronised the leaders 
of the Eenaissance, so in Germany the Emperor and some 
princes gave their protection to Humanism. To German 
scholars, who were at the head of the new movement, 
Maximilian seemed to be an ideal ruler. His coffers no 
doubt were almost always empty, and he had not lucrative 
posts at his command to bestow upon them ; the position 
of court poet given to Conrad Celtes and afterwards to 
Ulrich von Hutten brought little except coronation in 
presence of the imperial court with a tastefully woven 
laurel crown ; ^ but the character of Maximilian attracted 
peasantry and scholars alike. His romanticism, his abiding 
youthfulness, his amazing intellectual versatility, his knight- 
errantry, and his sympathy fascinated them. Maximilian 
lives in the folk-song of Germany as no other ruler does. 
The scheme of education sung in the Weisshunig, and 
illustrated by Hsms' Burgmaier, entitled him to the name 
" the Htflnamst^mperor." 

§ 9. Beicchlin. 

The German Humanists, whether belonging to the 
learned societies of the cities or to the gi-oups in tlje Uni- 
versities, were too full of individuality to present the 

' Geiger in his Renaissance wnd Humanismus in Italien und Deutschland 
(Berlin, 1882, Oncken's Series) has given a picture of the insignia of the 
poet laureate on p. 457, and one of Conrad Celtes crowned on p. 459. 


appearance of a body of men leagued together under the 
impulse of a common aim. The Erfurt band of scholars 
was called " the Mutianic Host " ; but the partisans of the 
New Learning could scarcely be said to form a solid 
phalanx. Something served, however, to bring them all 
together. This was the persecution of Reuchlin. 

Johann Eeuchlin (1455-1522), like Erasmus after 
him, was very much a man by himself. He entered history 
at first dramatically enough. A jtarty of Italian Humanists 
had met in the house of John Argyropoulos in Eome in 
148.3. Among them was a young unknown German, who 
had newly arrived with letters of introduction to the host. 
He had come, he explained, to study Greek. Argyropoulos 
gave him a Thucydides and asked him to construe a page 
or two into Latin. Eeuchlin construed with such ease and 
elegance, that the company exclaimed that Greece had 
flown across the Alps to settle in Germany. The young 
German spent some years in Italy, enjoying the friendship 
of the foremost Italian scholars. He was an ardent 
student of the New Learning, and on his return was the 
first to iriake Greek thoroughly jiopular.in Germany. But 
he was a still more ardent student of Hebrew, and it may 
almost be said of him that he introduced that ancient 
language to the peoples of Europe. His De Iludimentu 
Hehraicis (1506), a grammar and dictionary in one, was 
the first book of its kind. His interest in the language 
was more than that of a student. He believed that 
Hebrew was not only the most ancient, but the holiest of 
languages. God had spoken in it. He had revealed Him- 
self to men not merely in the Hebrew writings of the Old 
Testament, but had also imparted, through angels and other 
divine messengers, a hidden wisdom which has been pre- 
sented in arjcient Hebrew writings outside of the Scriptures, 
— a wisdom known to Adam, to Noah, and to the Patri- 
archs. He expounded his strange mystical theosophy in 
a curious little book, De Verho Mirifico (1494), full of out- 
of-the-way learrjing, and finding sublime mysteries in the 
very jjoints of the Hebrew Scripture:-;. I'crhajis his cen 


tral thought is expressed in the sentence, " God is love ; 
man is hope; the bond between them is faith. . . . God 
and man may be so combined in an indescribable union 
that the human God and the divine man may be con- 
sidered as one being." ^ The book is a Symposium where 
Sidonius, Baruch, and Capnion (Eeuchlin) hold prolonged 
discourse with each other. 

Eeuchlin was fifty-four years of age when a controversy 
began which gradually divided the scholars of Germany 
into two camps, and banded the Humanists into one party 
fighting in defence of free inquiry. 

John Pfefferkorn (1469—1522), born a Jew and con- 
verted to Christianity (1505), animated with the zeal of 
a convert to bring the Jews wholesale to Christianity, 
and perhaps stimulated by the Dominicans of Koln 
(Cologne), with whom he was closely associated, conceived 
an idea that his former co-religionists might be induced to 
accept Christianity if all their pecuUar books, the Old 
Testament excepted, were confiscated. During the earlier 
Middle Ages the Jews had been continually persecuted, 
and their persecution had always been popular ; but the 
fifteenth century had been a period of comparative rest 
for them; they had bought the imperial protection, and 
their services as physicians had been gratefully recognised 
in Frankfurt and many other cities.^ Still the popular 
hatred against them as usurers remained, and manifested 
itself in every time of social upheaval. It was always 
easy to arouse the slumbering antipathy. 

Pfefferkorn had written four books against the Jews 
(Judenspiegel, Judenbeichte, Osterribuch, Jiidenfeind) in the 
years 1507—1509, in which he had suggested that the 
Jews should be forbidden to practise usury, that they 
should be compelled to listen to sermons, and that their 
Hebrew books should be confiscated. He actually got a 
mandate from the Emperor Maximilian, probably through 
some corrupt secretary, empowering him to seize upon all 

' De Verio Mirifico (ed. 1552), p. 71. 

' Eriegk, Deutsches Biirgerthvm iin MUlelallcr, jip. 1 ff., 38-53. 


such books. He began his work in the Ehineland, and 
had already confiscated the books of many Jews, when, in 
the summer of 1509, he came to Eeuchlin and requested 
his aid. The scholar not only refused, but pointed out 
some irregularities in the imperial mandate. The doubtful 
legality of the imperial order had also attracted the attention 
of Uriel, the Archbishop of Mainz, who forbade his clergy 
from rendering Pfefferkom any assistance. 

Upon this Pfefiferkorn and the Dominicans again applied 
to the Emperor, got a second mandate, then a third, which 
was the important one. It left the matter in the hands 
of the Archbishop of Mainz, who was to collect evidence 
on the subject of Jewish books. He was to ask the opinions 
of Eeuchlin, of Victor von Karben (1422—1515), who had 
been a Jew but was then a Christian priest, of James 
Hochstrat^en (1460—1527), a Dominican and Inquisitor 
to the diocese of Koln, a strong foe to Humanism, and of 
the Universities of Heidelberg, Erfurt, Koln, and Mainz. 
They were to write out their opinions and send them to 
Pfefferkom, who was to present them to the Emperor. 
Eeuchlin was accordingly asked by the Archbishop to 
advise the Emperor "whether it would be praiseworthy 
and beneficial to our holy religion to destroy such books 
as the Jews used, excepting only the books of the Ten 
Commandments of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalter 
of the Old Testament ? " Eeuchlin's answer was ready by 
November 1510. He went into the matter very thoroughly 
and impartially. He divided the books of the Jews into 
several classes, and gave his opinion on each. It was out 
of the question to destroy the Old Testament. The Talmud 
was a collection of expositions of the Jewish law at various 
periods ; no one could express an opinion about it unless 
he had read it through ; Eeuchlin had only been able to 
procure portions ; judging from these, it was likely that 
the book did contain many things contrary to Christianity, 
but that was the nature of the Jewish religion which was 
protected by law; it did contain iiiniiy good things, and 
ought not to be destroyed. The Ualwila was, according to 


Reuehlin, a very precious book, which assured us as no 
other did of the divinity of Christ, and ought to be care- 
fully preserved. The Jews ha'd various commentaries on 
the books of the Old Testament which were very useful 
to enable Christian scholars to understand them rightly, 
and they ought not to be destroyed. They had also ser- 
mons and ceremonial books belonging to their religion 
which had been guaranteed by imperial law. They had 
books on arts and sciences which ought to be destroyed 
only in so far as they taught such forbidden arts as magic. 
Lastly, there were books of poetry and fables, and some of 
them might contain insults to Christ, the Virgin, and the 
Apostles, and might deserve burning, but not without 
careful and competent examination. He added that the 
best way to deal with the Jews was not to burn their 
books, but to engage in reasonable, gentle, and kindly 

Eeuchlin's opinion stood alone : all the other authorities 
suggested the burning of Jewish books, and the University 
of Mainz would not exempt the Old Testament until it 
had been shown that it had not been tampered with by 
Jewish zealots. 

The temperate and scholarly answer of Eeuchlin was 
made a charge against him. The controversy which fol-' 
lowed, and which lasted for six weary years, was so managed 
by the Dominicans, that Eeuchlin, a Humanist and a lay- 
man, was made to appear as defying the theologians of the 
Church on a point of theology. Like all medifeval con- 
troversies, it was conducted with great bitterness and no 
lack of invective, frequently coarse enough. The Humanists 
saw, however, that it was the case of a scholar defending 
genuine scholarship against obscurantists, and, after a fruit- 
less endeavour to get Erasmus to lead them, they joined in 
a common attack. Artists also lent their aid. In one 
contemporary engraving, Eeuchlin is seated in a car decked 
with laurels, and is in the act of entering his native town 
of Pforzheim. The Kcln theologians march in chains before 
the ear ; PfefTerkorn Ues on the ground with an executioner 


ready to decapitate him ; citizens and their wives in gala 
costume await the hero, and the town's musicians salute 
him with triumphant melo'dy ; while one worthy hurgher 
manifests his sympathy by throwing a monk out of a 
window. The other side of the controversy is represented 
by a rough woodcut, in which Pfefferkorn is seen break- 
ing the chair of scholarship in which a double-tongued 
Eeuchlin is sitting.^ The most notable contribution to 
the dispute, however, was the publication of the famous 
Epistolm Ohscurorum Virorum, inseparably connected with 
the name of Ulrich von Hutten. 

§ 10. The "Epistolce Ohscurorum Virorum," 

While the controversy was raging (1514), Eeuchlin 
had collected a series of testimonies to his scholarship, and 
had published them under the title of Letters from Eminent 
Men? This suggested to some young Humanist the idea of 
a, collection of letters in which the obscurantists could be 
seen exposing themselves and their unutterable folly under 
the parodied title of Epistolce Ohscurorum Virorum. The 
book bears the same relation to the scholastic disputations 
of the later fifteenth century that Don Quixote does to the 
romances of mediaeval chivalry. It is a farrago of questions 
on grammar, etymology, graduation precedence, life in a 
country parsonage, and scholastic casuistry. Magister 
Henricus Schaffsmulius writes from Eome that he went 
one Friday morning to breakfast in the Campo dei Fiori, 

^ A chronicle and the details of the Reuohlin controversy are to be found 
in the second volume of the supplement to Booking's edition of the works of 
Ulrich von Hutten. Good accounts are to be found in Geiger's Renaissanc 
und Humanismus in Jtalien wnd Deittschland, pp. 510 ff. (Berlin, 1882, 
Onoken's Series) ; in Strauss' Ulrich von Hutten: His Life and Times, pp. 
100-140 (English translation by Mrs. Sturge, London, 1^74) ; and in 
Creigh ton's History of the Papacy from the Great Sqhism to the Sack of Home, 
vol. vi. pp. 37 ff. (London, 1897). 

^ The second edition is entitled Hlustrium Virorum Epistolce Hebraitoe, 
OrcecK, et Latinoe ad Jo. Beuchlinum ; the first edition was entitled 
Clarorum Virorum, etc. The letters are forty-three in number — the first 
being from Erasmus, "the most learned man of the age." 


ordered an egg, which on being opened contained a chicten. 
" Quick," said his companion, " swallow it, or the landlord 
will charge the chicken in the bill." He obeyed, forgetting 
that the day was Friday, on which no flesh could be eaten 
lawfully. In his perplexity he consulted one theologian, 
who told him to keep his mind at rest, for an embryo 
chicken within an egg was like the worms or maggots in 
fruit and cheese, which men can swallow without harm to 
their souls even in Lent. But another, equally learned, had 
informed him that maggots in cheese and worms in fruit 
were to be classed as fish, which everyone could eat 
lawfully on fast days, but that an embryo chicken was 
quite another thing — it was flesh. Would the learned 
Magister Ortuin, who knew everything, decide for him and 
relieve his burdened conscience ? The writers send to their 
dear Magister Ortuin short Latin poems of which they 
are modestly proud. They confess that their verses do 
not scan ; but that matters little. The writers of secular 
verse must be attentive to such things ; but their poems, 
which relate the lives and deeds of the saints, do not need 
such refinements. The writers confess that at times their 
lives are not what they ought to be ; but Solomon and 
Samson were not perfect ; and they have too much Christian 
humility to wish to excel such honoured Christian saints. 
The letters contain a good deal of gossip about the wicked- 
ness of the poets (Humanists). These evU men have been 
speaking very disrespectfully about the Holy Coat at Trier 
(Treves); they have said that the Blessed Eelics of the 
Three Kings at Koln are the bones of three Westphalian 
peasants. The correspondents exchange confidences about 
sermons they dislike. One preacher, who spoke with un- 
seemly earnestness, had delivered a plain sermon without 
any learned syllogisms or intricate theological reasoning ; 
he had spoken simply about Christ and His salvation, 
and the strange thing was that the people seemed to listen 
to him eagerly : such preaching ought to be forbidden. 
Allusions to Eeuchlin and his trial are scattered all through 
the letters, and the writers reveal artlessly their hopes and 


fears about the result. It is possible, one laments, that the 
rascal may get off after all : the writer hears that worthy 
Inquisitor Hochstratten's money is^ almost exhausted, and 
that he has scarcely enough left for the necessary bribery 
at Eome; it is to be hoped that he will get a further 
supply. It is quite impossible to translate the epistles 
and retain the original flavour of the language, — a mixture 
of ecclesiastical phrases, vernacular idioms and words, and 
the worst mediaeval Latin. Of course, the letters contain 
much that is very objectionable: they attack the character 
of men, and even of women ; but that was an ordinary 
feature of the Humanism of the times. They were un- 

^ doubtedly successful in covering the opponents of Eeuchlin 
with ridicule, more especially when some of the obscurantists 
failed to see the satire, and looked upon the letters as 

, genuine accounts of the views they sympathised with. 
Some of the mendicant friars in England welcomed a book 
against Eeuchlin, and a Dominican prior in Brabant bought 
several copies to send to his superiors. 

The authorship of these famous letters is not thoroughly 
known ; probably several Humanist pens were at work. It 
is generally admitted that they came from the Humanist 
circle at Erfurt, and that the man who planned the book 
and wrote most of the letters was John Jaeger of Dornheim 
(Crotus Eubeanus). They were long ascribed to TJlrich 
von Hutten; some of the letters may have come from 
his pen — one did certainly. These Epistolce Ohscurorum 
Virorum, when compared with the JEncomium Morice 
of Erasmus, show how immeasurably inferior the ordi- 
nary German Humanist was to the scholar of the Low 

' The best edition of the EpistolcE Ohscurorum Virorum is to be found in 
vol. i. of the Supplement to Booking's Ulrici Hutteni Opera, 5 vols., with 
2 vols, of Supplement (Leipzig, 1864, 1869). The iirst edition was published 
in 1515, and consisted of forty-one letters ; the second, in 1516, contained 
the same number ; in the third edition an appendix of seven additional 
letters was added. In 1517 a second part appeared containing sixty-two 
letters, and an appendix of eight letters was added to the second edition 
of the second part. 


§ 11. Ulrich von Hutten. 

TJlrich von Hutten,^ the stormy petrel of the Eeforma- 
tion period in Germany, was a member of one of the oldest 
families of the Franconian nojjles — a fierce, lawless, tur- 
bulent nobility. The old hot family blood coursed through 
his veins, and accounts for much in his adventurous career. 
He was the eldest son, but his frail body and sickly- dis- 
position marked him out in his father's eyes for a clerical 
life. He was sent at the age of eleven to the ancient 
monastery of Fulda, where his precocity in all kinds of 
intellectual work seemed to presage a distinguished position 
if he remained true to the calling to which his father had 
destined him. - The boy, however, soon found that he had 
no vocation for the Church, and that, while he was keenly 
interested in all manner of studies, he detested the scholastic 
theology. He appealed to his father, told him how he 
hated the thought of a clerical life, and asked him to be 
permitted to look forward to the career of a scholar and a 
man of letters. The old Franconian knight was as hard as 
men of his class usually were. He promised Ulrich that 
he could take as much time as he liked to educate himself, 
but that in the end he was to enter the Church. Upon 
this, Ulrich, an obstinate chip of an obstinate block, de- 
termined _ to make his escape from the monastery and 
follow his own life. How he managed it is unknown. 
He fell in with John Jaeger of Dornheim, and the two 
wandered, German student fashion, from University to 
University; they were at Koln together, then at Erfurt. 
The elder Hutten refused to assist his son in any way. 
How the young student maintained himself no one knows. 
He had wretched health ; he was at least twice robbed and 
half-murdered by ruffians as he tramped along the unsafe 
highways ; but his indomitable purpose to live the life of a 
literary man or to die sustained him. At last family friends 
patched up a half-heaited reconciliation between father and 

^Strauss, Ulrich von Hutten, 2 vols. (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1874), translated 
and slightly abridged by Mrs. George Sturge (London, 1874). 


son. They pointed out that the young man's abilities 
might find scope in a diplomatic career since the Church 
was so distasteful to him, and the father was induced to 
permit him to go to Italy, provided he applied himself to 
the study of law. XJlrich went gladly to the land^ of the 
New Learning, reached Pavia, struggled on to Bologna, found 
that he liked law no better than theology, and began to write. 
It is needless to follow his erratic career. He succeeded 
frequently in getting patrons ; but he was not the man to 
live comfortably in dependence ; he always remembered that 
he was a Franconian noble ; he had an irritable temper, — 
his wretched health furnishing a very adequate excuse. 

It is probable that his sojourn in Italy did as much 
for him as for Luther, though in a different, way. The 
Reformer turned with loathing from Italian, and especially 
ifrom Eoman wickedness. The Humanist meditated on the 
greatness of the imperial idea, now, he thought, the birth- 
Iright of his Germany, which was being robbed of it by the 
Papacy. Henceforward he was dominated by one per- 
sistent thought. 

He was a Humanist and a poet, but a ' man apart, 
marked out from among his fellows, destined to live in the 
memories of his nation when their names had been for- 
gotten. They might be better scholars, able to write a 
finer Latinity, and pen trifles more elegantly ; but he was 
a man with a purpose. His erratic and by no means pure 
life was ennobled by his sincere, if limited and unpractical, 
patriotism. He wrought, schemed, fought, flattered, and 
\apo8trophised to create a united Germany under a reformed 
Emperor. Whatever hindered this was to be attacked 
1 with what weapons of sarcasm, invective, and scorn were 
at his comma,nd ; and the one enemy was the Papacy of 
the close of the fifteenth century, and all that it implied. 
It ; was the Papacy that drained Germany of gold, that kept 
the Emperor in thraldom, that set one portion of the lan4 
against the other, that gave the separatist designs of ,the 
princes their promise of success. The Papacy was his 
Carthage, which must be destroyed'. 



Hutten was a master of invective, fearless, critically- 
destructive ; but he had small constructive faculty. It is 
not easy to discover what he meant by a reformation of 
the Empire — something loomed before him vague, grand, 
a renewal of an imagined past. Germany might be great, 
it is suggested in the Inspicientes (written ia 1520), if the 
Papacy were defied, if the princes were kept in their 
proper place of subordination, if a great imperial army 
were created and paid out of a common imperial fund, — an 
army where the officers were the knights, and the privates 
a peasant infantry (landsknechts). It is the passion for a 
German Imperial Unity which we find in all Hutten's 
writings, from the early Epistola ad Maximilianum Ccesarem 
Italice fictitia, the Vadiscus, or the Roman Triads, down to 
the Inspicientes — not the means whereby this is to be 
created. He was a born foeman, one who loved battle for 
battle's sake, who could never get enough of fighting, — a 
man with the blood of his Franconian ancestors coursing 
hotly through his veins. Like them, he loved freedom 
in all things — personal, intellectual, and religious. Like 
them, he scorned ease and luxury, and despised the 
burghers, with their love of comfort and wealth. He 
thought much more highly of the robber-knights than of 
the merchants they plundered. Germany, he believed, 
would come right if the merchants and the priests could 
be got rid of. The robbers were even German patriots 
who intercepted the introduction of foreign merchandise, 
and protected the German producers in securing the profits 
due to them for their labour. 

Hutten is usually classed as an ally of Luther's, and 
from the date of the Leipzig Disputation (1519), when 
Luther first attacked the Eoman Primacy, he was an 
ardent admirer of the Eeformer. But he had very little 
sympathy with the deeper religious side of the Eeforma- 
tion movement. He regarded Luther's protest against 
Indulgences in very much the same way as did Pope 
\ Leo X. It was a contemptible monkish dispute, and all 
sensible men, he thought, ought to delight to see monks 


devour one another. " I lately said to a friar, who was 
telling me about it," he writes, " ' Devour one another, that 
ye may be consumed one of another.' It is my desire that 
our enemies (the monks) ma.y live in as much discord as 
possible, and may be always quarrelling among themselves." 
He attached himself vehemently to Luther (and Hutten 
was always vehement) only when he found that the monk 
stood for freedom of conscience {The Liberty of a Christian 
Man) and for a united Germany against Eome (To the 
Christian Nobility of the German Nation respecting the 
Reformation of the Christian Estate). As we study his face 
in the engravings which have survived, mark his hollow 
cheeks, high cheek-bones, long nose, heavy moustache, 
shaven chin, whiskers straggling as if frayed by the helmet, 
and bold eyes, we can see the rude Franconian noble, who 
by some strange freak of fortune became a scholar, a 
Humanist, a patriot, and, in his own way, a reformer. 



§ 1. Towns and Trade. 

It has been already said that the times of the Eeraissance 
were a period of transition in the social as well as in 
'the intellectual condition of the peoples of Europe. The 
economic changes were so great, that no description of the 
environment of the Eeformation would be complete with- 
out some account of the social revolution which was slowly 
progressing. It must be remembered, however, that there 
is some danger in making the merely general .statements 

' SouHCES : Barack, Zimmerische Chronik, 4 vols. (2nd ed. , Freiburg i. B. 
1881-1882) ; Chroniken der deutschen Siadte, 29 vols, (in progress) ; Grimm, 
Weislkumer, 7 toIs. (Gottingen, 1840-1878) ; Haetzerlin, Liederhuch (Qued- 
linburg, 1840) ; Liliencron, Die Mstorischen Volkslieder der Deutschen vom 
dreizehnten bis zum sechzehnten Jahrhmidert (Leipzig, 1865-1869) ; Sebastian 
Brand's Narremschiff (Leipzig, 1854) ; Geiler von Keysersbery's Ausgewahlle 
Schriften (Trier, 1881); Hans Sachs, Faslnachspiele (Nendrucke deutschen 
Litteraturwerke, Nos. 26, 27, 31, 32, 39, 40, 42, 43, 51, 52, 60, 63, 64) ; 
Hans von Schweinichen, Lehen und Abenteuer des schlessischen Riiters, Hans 
V. Schweimchen (Breslau, 1820-1823) ; Vandam, Social Life in Luther's Time 
(Westminster, 1902); Trithemius, Annates Ilirsaugienses {St. GaDen, 1590). 

Later Books : Alwyn Sohulz, Deutsches Leten im 14ten und IBlen 
Jah/rhundert (Prague, 1892) ; Kriegk, Deutsches JBiirgerthum im Mittelcdter 
(Frankfurt, 1868, 1871) ; Freytag, Bilder aus der deiUschen Vergangcnheit, 
II. ii. (Leipzig, 1899 — translation by Mi's. Malcolm of an earlier edition, 
London, 1862); the series of Monographien zur deutschen Kulturgeschichte 
edited by Steinhausen (Leipzig, 1899-1905), are full of valuable information 
and illustrations ; Aloys Schulte, Die Fugger in Bom (Leipzig, 1904) ; 
Gothein, Politische und religiose Volksbewegungen ror der Reformation 
(Breslau, 1878) ; Cambridge Modern History, i. i. xv ; v. Bezold, Oeschichte 
der deutschen Reformation (Berlin, 1890) ; Gen^e, HaTis Safihs nnd seine Zeit 
(Leipzig, 1902) ; Janssen, Oeschichte des deutschen Volkts, seit dem Ausgamg 
des Mittelalters, i. (1897) ; Roth v. Schreckenstein, Das Patriziat in den 
deutschen Stadten (Freiburg i. B., no date). 



which alone are possible in this chapter. The economic 
forces at work were modified and changed in countries and 
in districts, and during decades, by local conditions. Any- 
general description is liable to be qualified by numerous 

Beneath the whole mediaeval system lay the idea that 
the land was the only economic basis of wealth. During 
the earlier Middle Ages this was largely true everywhere, 
and was specially so in Germany. Each little district pro- 
duced almost all that it needed for its own wants; and the 
economic value of the town consisted in its being a cor-, 
poration of artisans exchanging the fruits of their industries 
for the surplus of farm produce which the peasants brought 
to their market-place. But the increasing trade of the 
towns, developed at first along the greater rivers, the 
arteries of the countries, gradually produced another source 
of wealth ; and this commerce made great strides after the 
Crusades had opened the Eastern markets to European 
traders. Trade, commerce, and manufactures were the life 
of the towns, and were rapidly increasing their importance. 
In mediaeval times each town was an independent 
economic centre, and the regulation of industry and of 
tr^e was an exclusively municipal affair. This state of 
jjiatters had changed in some countries before the time 
of the Eeformation, and statesmen had begun to recognise 
the importance of a national trade, and to take steps to 
further it ; but in Germany, chiefly owing to its hopeless 
divisions, the old state of matters remained, and the 
municipalities continued to direct and control all com- 
mercial and industrial affairs. 

The towns had originally grown up under the protection 
of the Emperor, or of some great lord of the soil, or of an 
ecclesiastical prince or foundation, and the early officials 
were the representatives of these fostering powers. The 
descendants of this early official class became known as 
the " patricians " of the city, and they regarded all the 
official positions as the hereditary privileges of their class. 
The town population was thoroughly organised in associa- 


tions of workmen, commonly called " gilds," which at first con- 
cerned themselves simply with the regulation and improve- 
ment of the industry carried on, and with the education and 
recreations of the workers. But these " gilds " soon assumed 
a political character. The workmen belonging to them 
formed the fighting force needed for the independence and 
protection of the city. Each " gild " had its fighting 
organisation, its war banner, its armoury ; and its members 
were trained to the use of arms, and practised it in their 
hours of recreation. The " gilds " therefore began to claim 
some share in the government of the town, and in most 
German cities, in the decades before the Eeformation, the 
old aristocratic government of the " patricians " had given 
place to the more democratic rule of the "gilds." The 
chief offices connected with the " gilds " insensibly tended 
to become hereditary in a few leading families, and this 
created a second " patriciat," whose control was resented by 
the great mass of the workmen. Ntirnberg was one of 
the few great German cities where the old " patricians " 
continued to rule down to the times of the Eeformation. 

These " gilds " were for the most part full of business 
energy, which showed itself in the twofold way of making 
such regulations as they beUeved would insure good work- 
manship, and of securing facilities for the sale of their wares. 
All the workmen, it was believed, were interested in the 
production of good articles, and the bad workmanship of one 
artisan was regarded as bringing discredit upon all. Hence, 
as a rule, every article was tested in private before it 
was exposed for public sale, and various punishments were 
devised to check the production of inferior goods. Thus 
in Bremen every badly made pair of shoes was publicly 
destroyed at the pillory of the town. Such regulations 
belonged to the private administration of the towns, and 
diifered in different places. Indeed, the whole municipal 
government of the German cities presents an endless variety, 
due to the local history and other conditions affecting the 
individual towns. While the production was a matter for 
private regulation in each centre of industry, distribution 


iavolved the towns in something like a common policy. 
It demanded safe means of communication between one 
town and another, between the towns and the rural dis- 
tricts, and safe outlets to foreign lands. It needed roads, 
bridges, and security of travel. The towns banded them- 
selves together, and made alliances with powerful feudal 
nobles to secure these advantages. Such was the origin 
of the great Hanseatic League, which had its beginnings 
in Flanders, spread over North Germany, included the 
Scandinavian countries, and grew to be a European power.^ 
The less known leagues among the cities of South Germany 
did equally good service, and they commonly secured 
outlets to Venice, Florence, and Genoa, by aUiances with 
the peasantry in whose hands were the chief passes of the 
Alps. All this meant an opposition between the burghers 
and the nobles— an opposition which was continuous, which 
on occasion flamed out into great wars, and which com- 
pelled the cities to maintain civic armies, composed partly 
of their citizens and partly of hired troops. It was 
reckoned that Strassburg and Augsburg together could 
send a fighting force of 40,000 men into the field. 

The area of trade, though, according to modern ideas, 
restricted, was fairly extensive. It included all the coun- 
tries in modern Europe and the adjacent seas. The sea- 
trade was carried on in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, 
in the Baltic and North Seas, and down the western coasts 
of France and Spain. The North Sea was the great fishing 
ground, and large quantities of dried fish, necessary for the 
due keeping of Lent, were despatched in coasting vessels, 
and by the overland routes to the southern countries of 
Europe. Furs, skins, and corn came fi'om Eussia and the 
northern countries. Spain, some parts of Germany, and 
above all England, were the wool-exporting countries. The 
eastern counties of England, many towns in Germany and 
France, and especially the Low Countries, were the centres 
of the woollen manufactures. The north of France was 

' Daenell, Gcschichte der deulschen Hanse in der zweiten Salfte des I4 
Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1897). 


the great flax-growiDg country. In Italy, at Barcelona in 
Spain, and at Lyons in France, silk was produced and 
manufactured. The spices and dried fruits of the East, 
and its silks and costly brocades and feathers, came from 
the Levant to Venice, and were carried north through the 
great passes which pierce the range of the Alps. 

Civic statesmen did their best, by mutual bargains and 
the establishment of factories, to protect and extend trading 
facilities for their townsmen. The German merchant had 
his magnificent Fondaco dei TcdescM in Venice, his factories 
of the Hanseatic League in London, Bruges, Bergen, and 
even in far-off Novgorod ; and Englishmen had also their 
factories in foreign parts, within which they could buy and 
sell in peace. 

The perils of the German merchant, in spite of all 
civic leagues, were at home rather than abroad. His country 
swarmed with Free Nobles, each of whom looked upon 
himself as a sovereign power, with full right to do as he 
pleased within his own dominions, whether these were an 
extensive principality or a few hundred acres surrounding 
his castle. He could impose what tolls or customs dues 
he pleased on the merchants whose heavily-laden waggons 
entered his territories. He had customary rights which 
made bad roads and the lack of bridges advantages to the 
lord of the soil. If an axle or wheel broke, if a waggon 
upset in crossing a dangerous ford, the bales thrown on 
the path or stranded on the banks of the stream could be 
claimed by the proprietor of the land. Worse than all 
were the perils from the robber-knights — -men who insisted 
on their right to make private war even when that took 
the form of highway robbery, and who largely subsisted on 
the gains which came, as they said, from making their 
" horses bite off the purses of travellers." 

In spite of all these hindrances, a capitalist class 
gradually arose in Germany. Large profits, altogether 
apart from trade, could be made by managing, collecting, 
and forwarding the money coming from the universal 
system of Indulgences. It was in this way that the 


Fuggers of Augsburg first rose to wealth. Money soon 
bred money. During the greater part of the Middle Ages 
there was no such thing as lending out money on interest, 
save among the Italian merchants of North Italy or 
among the Jews. The Church had always prohibited 
what it called usury. But Churchmen were the first to 
practise the sin they had condemned. The members of 
ecclesiastical corporations began to make useful advances, 
charging an interest of from 7 to 12 per cent. — moderate 
enough for the times. Gradually the custom spread among 
the wealthy laity, who did not confine themselves to these 
reasonable profits, and we find Sebastian Brand inveiglung 
against the " Christian Jews," who had become worse 
.oppressors than the Israelite capitalists whom they copied. 
But the great alteration in social conditions, following 
change in the distribution of wealth, came when the age 
of geographical discovery had made a world commerce a 
possible thing. 

§ 2. Geograjphical Discoveries and the "beginning of a 
World Trade. 

The fifteenth century from its beginning had seen one 
geographical discovery after another. Perhaps we may. 
say that the sailors of Genoa had begun the new era 
by reaching the Azores and Madeira. Then Dom 
Henrique of Portugal, Governor of Ceuta, organised 
voyages of trade and discovery down the coast of Africa. 
Portuguese, Venetian, and Genoese captains commanded 
his vessels. From 1426, expedition after expedition was 
sent forth, and at his death in 1460 the coast of Africa 
as far as Guinea, had been explored. His work was 
carried on by his countrymen. The Guinea trade in 
slaves, gold, and ivory was established as early as 1480 ; 
the Congo was reached in 1484 ; and Portuguese ships, 
under Bartholomew Diaz, rounded the Cape of Good Hope 
in 1486. During these later years a new motive had 
prompted the voyages of exploration. The growth of the 


Turkish power in the east of Europe had destroyed the 
comuiercial colonies and factories on the Black Sea ; the 
fall of Constantinople had blocked the route along the 
valley of the Danube ; and Venice had a monopoly of the 
trade with Egypt and Syria, the only remaining channels 
by which the merchandise from the East reached Europe. 
The great commercial problem of the times was how to 
get some hold of the direct trade with the East. It was 
this that inspired Bristol skippers, familiar with Iceland, 
with the idea that by following old Norse traditions they 
might find a path by way of the North Atlantic; that 
sent Columbus across the Mid-Atlantic to discover the 
Bahamas and the continent of America ; and that drove 
the more fortunate Portuguese round the Cape of Good 
Hope. Young Vasco da Gama reached the goal first, 
when, after doubling the Cape, he sailed up the eastern 
coast of Africa, reached Mombasa, and then boldly crossed 
the Indian Ocean to Calicut, the Indian emporium for that 
rich trade which all the European nations were anxious to 
share. The possibilities of a world commerce led to the 
creation of trading companies ; for a larger capital was 
needed than individual merchants possessed, and the 
formation of these companies overshadowed, discredited, 
and finally destroyed the gild system of the mediaeval 
trading cities. Trade and industry became capitalised to 
a degree previously unknown. One great family of 
capitalists, the Welser, had factories in Eome, Milan, 
Genoa, and Lyons, and tapped the rich Eastern trade by 
their houses in Antwerp, Lisbon, and Madeira. They 
even tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a German colony 
on the new continent — in Venezuela. Another, the 
Fuggers of Augsburg, were interested in all kinds of 
trade, but especially in the mining industry. It is said 
that the mines of Thuringia, Carinthia, and the Tyrol 
within Germany, and those of Hungary and Spain outside 
it, were almost all in their hands. The capital of the 
family was estimated in 1546 at sixty-three millions of 
gulden. This increase of wealth does not seem to have 


been confined to a few favourites of fortune. It belonged 
to the mass of the members of the great trading companies. 
Von Bezold instances a "certain native of Augsburg" 
whose investment of 500 gulden in a merchant company 
brought him in seven years 24,500 gulden. Merchant 
princes confronted the princes of the State and those of 
the Church, and their presence and power dislocated the 
old social I'elations. The towns, the abodes of these rich 
merchants, acquired a new and powerful influence among 
the complex of national relations, until it is not too much 
to say, that if the political future of Germany was in the 
hands of the secular princes, its social condition came to 
be dominated by the burgher class. 

§ 3. Increase in Wealth and luxurious Living. 

Culture, which had long abandoned the cloisters, came 
to settle in the towns. We have already seen that they 
were the centres of German Humanism and of the New 
Learning. The artists of the German Eenaissance belonged 
to the towns, and their principal patrons were the wealthy 
burghers. The rich merchants displayed their civic 
patriotism in aiding to build great churches ; in erecting 
magnificent chambers of commerce, where merchandise 
could be stored, with halls for buying and selling, and 
rooms where the merchants of the town could consult 
about the interests of the civic trade; in building 
Artushofe or assembly rooms, where the patrician burghers 
had their public dances, dinners, and other kinds of 
social entertainments; in raising great towers for the 
honour of the town. They built magnificent private 
houses. ^neas Sylvius tells us that in Niirnberg he 
saw many burgher houses that befitted kings, and that 
the King of Scotland was not as nobly housed as a 
Niirnberg burgher of the second rank. They filled these 
dwellings with gold and silver plate, and with costly 
Venetian glass ; their furniture was adorned with delicate 
wood-carving; costly tapestries, paintings, and engravings 


decorated the walls ; and the reception-room or sfuhe was 
the place of greatest display. TJ;ie towns in which all 
this wealth was accumulated were neither populous nor 
powerful. They cannot be compared with the city 
republics of Italy, where the town ruled over a large 
territory : the lands belonging to the imperial cities 
of Germany were comparatively of small extent. Nor 
could they boast of the population of the great cities 
of the Netherlands. Niirnberg, it is said, had a population 
of a little over 20,000 in the middle of the fifteenth 
century. Strassburg, a somewhat smaller one. The 
population of Frankfurt-on-the-Main was about 10,000 
in 1440.^ The number of inhabitants had probably 
increased by one-half more in the decades immediately 
preceding the Eeformation. But all the great towns, 
with their elaborate fortifications, handsome buildings, and 
massive towers, had a very imposing appearance in the 
beginning of the sixteenth century. 

There was, however, another side to all this. There was 
very little personal " comfort " and very little personal 
refinement among the rich burghers and nobles of Germany 
— much less than among the corresponding classes in Italy, 
the Netherlands, and France. The towns were badly 
drained, if drained at all ; the streets were seldom paved, 
and mud and filth accumulated in almost indescribable 
ways ; the garbage was thrown out of the windows ; and 
troops of swine were the ordinary scavengers. The increase 
of wealth showed itself chiefly in all kinds of sensual living. 
Preachers, economists, and satirists denounce the luxury 
and immodesty of the dress both of men and women, the 
gluttony and the drinking habits of the rich burghers and 
of the nobility of Germany. We learn from Hans von 
Schweinichen that noblemen prided themselves on having 
men among their retainers who could drink all rivals 

' These figures have been taken from Dr. F. von Beznld (GeschicTite der 
deutschen Reformation, Berlin, 1890, p. 36). When the Chron. Episc. 
Hildesheim. says that during a visitation of the phigue 10,000 persons died 
in Niirnberg alone, the territory as well as the city must be included. 


beneath the table, and that noble personages seldom met 
without such a drinking contest.^ The- wealthy, learned, 
and artistic city of Niirnberg possessed a public waggon, 
which every night was led through the streets to pick up 
and convey to their homes drunken burghers found lying 
m the filth of the streets. The Chronicle of the Zimmer 
Family relates that at the castle of Count Andrew of Son- 
nenberg, at the conclusion of a carnival dance and after the 
usual " sleeping drink " had been served round, one of the 
company went to the kennels and carried to the ball-room 
buckets of scraps and slops gathered to feed the hounds, 
and that the lords and ladies amused themselves by flinging 
the contents at each other, " to the great detriment," the 
chronicler adds, " of their clothes and of the room." ^ A hke 
licence pervaded the relations between men and women, of 
which it will perhaps suffice to say that the public baths, 
where, be it noted, the bathing was often promiscuous, were 
such that they served Albert Diirer and other contemporary 
painters the purpose of a " life school " to make drawings 
of the nude.^ The conversation and behaviour of the nobles 
and wealthy burghers of Germany in the decades before the 
Reformation displayed a coarseness which would now be 
held to disgrace the lowest classes of the population in any 

The gradual capitalising of industry had been sapping 
the old " gild " organisation within the cities ; the extension 
of commerce, and especially the shifting of the centre of ex- 
ternal trade from Venice to Antwerp, in consequence of the 
discovery of the new route to the Eastern markets, and 

' Hems von Schweimchen, i. 185. 

" Zitnmerische Chronik, ii. 68, 69. 

' Ephruasi, Les Bains des Femmes d' Albert Diirer (Niirnberg, no date). 

* It has recently become a fashion among some Anglican and Roman 
Catholic writers to dwell on the " coai-seness " of Luther displayed in his 
writings. One is tempted to ask whether these writers have ever read the 
Ziminer Chronicle, if they know anything about the Fasinachtspiele in the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, of the BoUwagen, of Thomas Murner 
and Bebel, Humanists ; above all, if they have ever heard of the parable of 
the mote and the beam ? 


above all, the growth of the great merchant companies, 
whose world-trade required enormous capital, overshadowed 
the "gilds" and destroyed their influence. The rise and 
power of this capitalist order severed the poor from the 
rich, and created, in a sense unknown before, a proletariat 
class within the cities, which was liable to be swollen by 
the influx of discontented and ruined peasants from the 
country districts. The corruption of morals, which reached 
its height in the city life of the first quarter of the six- 
teenth century, intensified the growing hatred between 
the rich burgher and the poor workman. The ostentatious 
display of burgher wealth heightened the natural antipathy 
between merchant and noble. The universal hatred of the 
merchant class is a pronounced feature of the times. " They 
increase prices, make hunger, and slay the poor folk," was 
a common saying, Men like Ulrich von Hutten were 
prepared to justify the robber-knights because they attacked 
the merchants, who, he said, were ruining Germany. Yet 
the merchant class increased and flourished, and with them, 
the towns which they inhabited. 

§ 4. The Condition of the Peasantry. 

The condition of the peasantry in Germany has also to 
be described. The folk who practise husbandry usually 
form the most stable element in any community, but they 
could not avoid being touched by the economic movements 
of the time. The seeds of revolution had long been 
sown among the German peasantry, and peasant risings 
had taken place in different districts of south-central 
Europe from the middle of the fourteenth down to the 
opening years of the sixteenth centuries. It is difficult 
to describe accurately the state of these German 
peasants. The social condition of the nobles and the 
burghers has had many an historian, and their modes 
of life have left abundant traces in literature and archaeo- 
logy ; but peasant houses and implements soon perished, 
and the chronicles seldom refer to the world to which the 


" land-folk " belonged, save when some local peasant rising 
or the tragedy of the Peasants' War thrust them into 
history. Our main difficulty, however, does not arise so 
much from lack of descriptive material — for that can be 
found when diligently sought for — as from the varying, 
almost contradictory statements that are made. Some 
contemporary writers condescend to describe the peasant 
class. A large number of collections of Weisthiimer, the 
consuetudinary laws which regulated the life of the village 
communities, have been recovered and carefully edited;^ 
folk-songs preserve the old life and usages ; many of the 
Fastnachtspiele or rude carnival dramas deal with peasant 
scenes ; and Albert Diirer and other artists of the times 
have sketched over and over again the peasant, his house 
and cot-yard, his village and his daily life. We can, in 
part, reconstruct the old peasant life and its surroundings. 
Only it must be remembered that the life varied not only 
in different parts of Germany, but in the same districts and 
decades under different rural proprietors ; for the peasant 
was so dependent on his over-lord that the character of 
the proprietor counted for much in the condition of the 

The village artisan did not exist. The peasants lived by 
themselves apart from all other classes of the population. 
That is the universal statement. They carried the produce 
of their land and their live-stock to the nearest town, sold 
it in the market-place, and bought there what they needed 
for their life and work. 

They dwelt in villages fortified after a fashion ; for the 
group of houses was surrounded sometimes by a wall, but 
usually by a stout fence, made with strong stakes and 
interleaved branches. This was entered hf a gate that 
could be locked. Outside the fence, circling the whole was 

* The Most complete collection of the Weisthumer is in seven volumes. 
Volumes i.-iv. edited by J. Grimm, and volumes v.-vii. edited by R. 
Sohroeder, Gottingen, 1840-1842, 1866, 1869, 1878. Important extracts 
are given by Alwin Sohultz in his Beutsches Lehen im H und 15 Jahr- 
hundert, Vienna, 1892, pp. 145-178 (Grosse Ausgabe). 


a deep ditch crossed by a " falling door " or drawbridge. 
Within the fence among the houses there was usually a 
small church,, a public-house, a house or room (Spielhaus) 
where the village council met and where justice was dis- 
pensed. In front stood a strong wooden stake, to which 
criminals were tied for punishment, and near it always the 
stocks, sometimes a gallows, and more rarely the pole and 
wheel for the barbarous mediaeval punishment " breaking 
on the wheel." 

The houses were wooden frames filled in with sun- 
dried bricks, and were thatched with straw; the chimneys 
were of wood protected with clay. The cattle, fuel, fodder, 
and family were sheltered under the one large roof. The 
timber for building and repairs was got from the forest 
under regulations set down in the Weisthumer, and the 
peasants had leave to collect the fallen branches for fire- 
wood, the women gathering and carrying, and the men 
cutting and stacking under the eaves. All breaches of 
the forest laws were severely punished (in some of the 
Weisthumer the felling of a tree without leave was pun- 
ished by beheading) ; so was the moving of landmarks ; for 
wood and soil were precious. 

Most houses had a small fenced garden attached, in 
which were grown cabbages, greens, and lettuce ; small onions 
(ciboUe, Scotticd syboes), parsley, and peas ; poppies, garlic, 
and hemp ; apples, plums, and, in South Germany, grapes ; 
as well as other things whose mediaeval German names are 
not translatable by me. Wooden beehives were placed in 
the garden, and a pigeon-house usually stood in the yard. 

The scanty underclothing of the peasants was of wool 
and the outer dress of Hnen — the men's, girt with a belt 
from which hung a sword, for they always went armed. 
Their furniture consisted of a table, several three-legged 
stools, and one or two chests. Eude cooking utensils hung 
on the walls, and dried pork, fruits, and baskets of grain 
on the rafters. The drinking-cups were of coarse clay ; 
and we find regulations that the table-cloth or covering 
ought to be washed at least once a year ! Their ordinary 


food was " some poor bread, oatmeal porridge, and cooked 
vegetables ; and their drink, water and whey." The live- 
stock included horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and hens,' 

The villagers elected from among themselves four men, 
the Bauernmeister, who were the Fathers of the community. 
They were the arbiters in disputes, settled quarrels, 
and arranged for an equitable distribution of the various 
feudal assessments and services. They had no judicial or 
administrative powers ; these belonged to the over-lord, 
or a representative appointed by him. This official sat 
in the justice room, heard cases, issued sentences, and 
exercised all the mediaeval powers of "pit and gaUows." 
The whole list of mediaeval punishments, ludicrous and 
gruesome, were at his command. It was he who ordered 
the scolding wife to be carried round the church three 
times while her neighbours jeered ; who set the unfortunate 
charcoal-burner, who had transgressed some forest law, into 
the stocks, with his bare feet exposed to a slow fire till 
his soles were thoroughly burnt ; who beheaded men who 
cut down trees, and ordered murderers to be broken on the 
wheel. He saw that the rents, paid in kind, were duly 
gathered. He directed the forced services of ploughing, 
sowing, and harvesting the over-lord's fields, what wood 
was to be hewn for the castle, what ditches dug, and what 
roads repaired. He saw that the peasants drank no wine 

■' In the interesting collection of mediaeval songs, of date 1470 or 1471, 
Liedertuch der Clara Edtzlerin (Quedlinburg and Leipzig, 1840), No. 67 
(p. 259), entitled Von Mair Betzen, describes a peasant wedding, and tells 
us what each of the pair contributed to the "plenishing." The bridegroom, 
Betze or Bartholomew Mair, gave to his bride an acre (Jucharl) of land well 
sown with flax, eight bushels of oats, two sheep, a cock and fourteen hens, 
and a small sum of money ( fiinff pfunt pfenning) ; while Motze Nodung, the 
bride, brought to the common ptock two wooden beehives, a mare, a goat, 
a calf, a dnn cow, and a young pig. It is perhaps woith remarking that, 
according to the almost universal custom in mediaeval Germany, and in 
spite of ecclesiastical commands and threats, the actual man-iage ceremony 
consisted in the father of the bride demanding from the young people whether 
they took each other for man and wife, and in their promising themselves 
to each other before witnesses. It was not until the morning after tljc 
marriage had been consummated that the wedded pair went to church to get 
the priest's blessing on a marriage that Ijad taken p'acc. 


but what came from the proprietor's vineyards, and that 
they drank it in sufficient quantity ; that they ground their 
grain at the proprietor's mill, and fired their bread at the 
estate bakehouse. He exacted the two most valuable of 
the moveable goods of a dead peasant — the hated " death- 
tax." There was no end to his powers. Of course, accord- 
ing to the WeisthUmer, these powers were to be exercised 
in customary ways ; and in some parts of Germany the 
indefinite "forced services" had been commuted to twelve 
days' service in the year, and in others to the payment of 
a fixed rate in lieu of service. , 

This description of the peasant life has been taken 
entirely from the WeisthUmer, and, for reasons to be seen 
immediately, it perhaps represents rather a " golden past " 
than the actual state of matters at the beginning of the 
sixteenth century. It shows the peasants living in a state 
of rude plenty, but for the endless exactions of their lords 
and the continual robberies to which they were exposed from 
bands of sturdy rogues which swarmed through the country, 
and from companies of soldiers, who thought nothing of 
carrying off the peasant's cows, slaying his swine, maltreat- 
ing his womenkind, and even firing his house. 

The peasants had their diversions, not always too 
seemly. On the days of Church festivals, and they were 
numerous, the peasantry went to church and heard Mass 
in the morning, talked over the village business under the 
lime-trees, or in some open space near the village, and 
spent the afternoon in such amusements as they liked 
best — eating and drinking at the public-house, and dancing 
on the village green. In one of his least known poems, 
Hans Sachs describes the scene — the girls and the pipers 
waiting at the dancing-place, and the men and lads in the 
pubHc-house eating calf's head, tripe, liver, black puddings, 
and roast pork, and drinking whey and the sour country 
wine, until some sank under the benches ; and there was 
such a jostling, scratching, shoving, bawling, and singing, 
that not a word could be heard. Then three young men 
came to the dancing-place, his sweetheart had a garland 


ready for one of them, and the dancing began ; other 
couples joined, and at last sixteen pairs of feet were in 
motion. Kough jests, gestures, and caresses went round. 

"Nach dem der Messner von Hirschau, 
Der tanzet mit des Pfarrhaus Frau 
Von Budenheim, die hat er lieb, 
Viel Scherzens am Tanz mit ihr trieb." 

The men whirled their partners off their feet and spun 
them round and round, or seized them by the waist and 
tossed them as high as Ijhey could ; while they themselves 
leaped and threw out their feet in such reckless ways that 
Hans Sachs thought they would all fall down. 

The winter amusements gathered round the spinning 
house. For it was the custom in most German villages 
for the young women to resort to a large room in the mill, 
or to the village tavern, or to a neighbour's house, with 
their wool and flax, their distaffs and spindles, some of 
them old heirlooms and richly ornamented, to spin all 
evening. The lads came also to pick the fluff off the 
lasses' dresses, they said; to hold the small beaker of 
water into which they dipped their fingers as they span ; 
and to cheer the spinsters with songs and recitations. 
After work came the dancing. On festival evenings, and 
especially at carnival times, the lads treated their sweet- 
hearts to a late supper and a dance ; and escorted them 
home, carrying their distaffs and spindles.^ All the old 
German love folk-songs are full of allusions to this peasant 
courtship, and it is not too much to say that from the 
singing in the spinning house have come most of the 
oldest folk-songs. 

These descriptions apply to the German peasants of 
Central and South Germany. In the north and north-east, 
the agricultural population, which was for the most part 
of Slavonic descent, had been reduced by their con- 
querors to a serfdom which had no parallel in the more 
favoured districts. 

1 Barack, Zeitschrift fur deutsche Culturgesokickte, iv. (1859) 36 ff. 


§ 5. Earlier Social Bevolts. 

It was among the peasants of German descent that 
there had been risings, successful and unsuccessful, for 
more than a century. The train for revolution had been 
laid not where serfdom was at its worst, but where there 
was ease enough in life to allow men to think, and where 
freedom was nearest in sight. It may be well to refer to 
the earlier peasant revolts, before attempting to investigate 
the causes of that permanent unrest which was abundantly 
evident at the beginning of the sixteenth century. 

The first great successful peasant rebellion was the 
fight for freedom made by the people of the four forest 
cantons in Switzerland. The weapons with which they 
overthrew the chivalry of Europe, rude pikes made by 
tying their scythes to their alpenstocks, may still be seen 
in the historical museums of Basel and Constance. They 
proved that man for man the peasant was as good as the 
noble. The free peasant soldier had come into being. These 
free peasants did not really secede from the Empire till 
1499, and were formally connected with it till 1648. The 
Emperor was still their over-lord. But they were his free 
peasants, able to form leagues for their mutual defence 
and for the protection of their rights. Other cantons and 
some neighbouring cities joined them, and the Swiss Con- 
federacy, with its flag, a white cross on a red ground, and 
its motto, " Each for all and all for each," became a new 
nation in Europe. During the next century (1424—1471) 
the peasants of the Ehaetian Alps also won their freedom, 
and formed a confederacy similar to the Swiss, though 
separate from it. It was called the Graubund. 

The example of these peasant republics, strong in the 
protection which their mountains gave them, fired the 
imagination of the German peasantry of the south and the 
south-west of the Empire, and the leaders of lost popular 
causes found a refuge in the Alpine valleys while they 
meditated on fresh schemes to emancipate their followers. 
We have evidence of the popularity of the Swiss in the 


towns and country districts of Germany all through the 
fifteenth and into the sixteenth century.^ 

But while the social tumults and popular uprisings 
against authority, which are a feature of the close of the 
Middle Ages, are usually and rightly enough called peasant 
insurrections, the name tends to obscure their real char- 
acter. They were rather the revolts of the poor against 
the rich, of debtors against creditors, of men who had 
scanty legal rights or none at all against those who had 
the protection of the existing laws, and they were joined 
by the poor of the towns as well as by the peasantry 
of the country districts. The peasants generally began 
the revolt and the townsmen followed; but this was 
not always the case. Sometimes the mob of the cities 
rose first and the peasants joined afterwards. In many 
cases, too, the poorer nobles were in secret or open sym- 
pathy with the insurrectionary movement. On more than 
one occasion they led the insurgents and fought at their 
head. The union of poor nobles and peasants had made 
the Bohemian revolt successful. 

It must also be remembered that from the end of the 
fourteenth century on to the beginning of the sixteenth, 
however varied the cries and watchwords of the insurgents 
may be, one persistent note of detestation' of the priests 
{ih-Q pfaffen) is always heard; and, from the way in which 
Jews and priests are continually linked together' in one 
common denunciation, it may be inferred that the hatred 
arose more from the intolerable pressure of clerical ex- 
tortion than from any feehng of irrehgion. ' The tithes, 
great and small, and the means taken to exact them, were 
a galling burden. " The priests," says an English writer, 
" have their tenth part of all the corn, meadows, pasture, 
grass, wood, colts, lambs, geese, and chickens. Over and 
besides the tenth part of every servant's wages, wool, milk, 
honey, wax, cheese, and butter ; yea, and they look so 
narrowly after their profits that the poor wife must be 

' Droysen, Geschichte der preussiscTien Politik, ii. i. p. 309 ff. (5 vols., 
Berlin, 1865-1886) ; Boos, Thomas mid Felix PloJter (Leipsic, 1876), p. 21. 


countable to them for every tenth egg, or else' she getteth 
not her rights at Easter, and shall be taken as a heretic." 
As matter of fact, many of these tithes, extorted in the 
name of the Church, did not go into the pockets of the 
clergy at aU, but were seized by the feudal superior and 
went to increase his revenues. Popular feeling, however, 
seldom discriminates, and feudal and clerical dues were 
regarded as belonging to one system of intolerable oppres- 
sion. Besides, the rapacity of Churchmen went far beyond 
the exaction of the tithes. " I see," said a Spaniard, 
" that we can scarcely get anything from Christ's ministers 
but for money ; at baptism money, at bishoping money, 
at marriage money, for confession money — no, not extreme 
unction without money ! They will ring no bells without 
money, no burial in the church without money ; so that it 
seemeth that Paradise is shut up from them that have no 
money. The rich is buried in the church, the poor in the 
churchyard. The rich man may marry with his nearest 
kin, but the poor not so, albeit he be ready to die for love 
of her. The rich may eat flesh in Lent, but the poor may 
not, albeit fish perhaps be much dearer. The rich man 
may readily get large Indulgences, but the poor none, 
because he wanteth money to pay for them/' ^ 

In spite of this hatred of the priests, it will be found 
that almost every insurrectionary movement was im- 
pregnated by some sentiment of enthusiastic religion, with 
which was blended some confused dream that the kingdom 
of God might be set up on earth, if only the priests were 
driven out of the land. This religious element drew some 
of its strength from the Lollard movement in England and 
from the Taborite in Bohemia, but after 1476 it had a dis- 
tinctly German character. Its connection with what may 
almost be called the epidemic of pilgrimages, the strongly 
increased veneration for the Blessed Virgin, and the in- 
Jimctions laid upon the confederates in some of the 
revolutionary movements to repeat so many Pater Nosters 

' These quotations have been taken from Seebohm, The Era of the Pro- 
testant Revolution, pp. 57, 58 (London, 1875). 



and Ave Marias, seem to lead to the conclusion that much 
of that revival of an enthusiastic and superstitious religion 
which marked the last half of the fifteenth century may be 
regarded as an attempt to create a popular religion apart 
from priests and clergy of all kinds. 

One of the earliest of these popular uprisings occurred 
at Gotha in 1391, when the peasantry of the neighbour- 
hood and many of the burghers of the town rose against 
the exactions of the Jews, and demanded their expulsion. 
It was an insurrection of debtors against usurers, and was 
in the end put down by the majority of the citizens. From 
this date onwards to 1470 similar risings took place in 
many parts of Germany, prompted by the same or like 
causes — the exactions of Jews, priests, or nobles. The 
years 1431—1432 saw a great Hussite propaganda carried 
on all over Europe. Countries were flooded with Hussite 
proclamations, and traversed by Hussite emissaries. Paul 
Crawar was sent to Scotland, and others like him to Spain, 
to the Netherlands, and to East Prussia. They taught 
among other things that the Old Testament law about 
tithes had no place within the Christian Church, and that 
Christian tithes were originally free-will offerings, — a state- 
ment pecuUarly acceptable to the German peasantry. All 
Germany had learnt by this time how Bohemian peasants, 
trained and led by men belonging to -the lesser nobihty, 
had routed in two memorable campaigns the imperial 
armies led by the Emperor himself, and how they had 
begun even to invade Germany. The chroniclers speak of 
the anxiety of the governing classes, civic and rural, when 
they recognised the strength of the feelings excited by this 
propaganda. The Hussite doctrine of tithes appears here- 
after in most of the peasant programmes. 

A still more powerful impulse to revolts was given by 
the tragic fate of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Charles 
was the ideal feudal autocrat. He was looked up to and 
imitated by the feudal princes of Germany in the fifteenth 
as was Louis >:iv. by their descendants in the end of the 
seventeenth century. The common people regarded him as 


the typical feudal tyrant, and the hateful impression which 
his arrogance, his vindictiveness, and his oppression of the 
poor made upon them comes out in the folk-songs of the 
period : 

" Er schazt sich kiinig Alexander gleich ; 

Er wolt bezwingen alle Reich, 

Das wante Got in kurzer stund." 

He even came to be considered by them as one of the 
Antichrists who were to appear, and for years after his 
death at Nancy (1477) many believed that he was alive, 
expiating his sins on a prolonged pilgrimage. 

When this great potentate, who was believed to have 
boasted that there were three rulers — God in heaven, 
Lucifer in hell, and himself on earth — was defeated at 
Granson, routed at Morat, routed and slain at Nancy, and 
that by Swiss peasants, the exultation was immense, and it 
was believed that the peasantry might inherit the earth.^ 

§ 6. The religious Socialism of Hans Bbhm. 

During the last years of this memorable Burgundian 
war a strange movement arose in the very centre of 
Germany, within the district which may be roughly deiined 
as the triangle whose points were the towns of Aschaffen- 
burg, Wtirzburg, and Crailsheim, in the secluded valleys of 
the Spessart and the Taubergrund. A young man, Hans 
Bohm (Boheim, Bohaim), belonging to the very lowest 
class of society, below the peasant, who wandered from 
one country festival or church ale to another, and played 
on the small drum or on the dudelsack (rude bagpipes), or 

' Lilienoron, Die historischen Vollcslieder der Deutschen vom dreizehnten 
bis zum secheehnten Jahrhundert, ii. No. li*) (Leipzig, 1865-1869) ; cf. .also 
131, 132, 133, 136, 137, 138-147. KonradStoUe, pastor at Erfurt, collected 
all the information he could fiom "priests, clerical and lay students, mer- 
chants, hurghers, peasants, pilgrims, knights and other good people," and 
wove it all into a Thuringian Chrcniide which forms the 33rd volume of the 
Bibliothek des iiterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart. It reflects the opinions ot 
" the time almost as faithfully as the folk-songs do, and contains the above 
quoted saying of Charles ; cf. pp. 61 ff. 


sang soDgs for the dancers, was suddenly awakeneil to a 
sense of spiritual things by the discourse of a wandering 
Franciscan. He was utterly uneducated. He did not 
even know the Creed. He had visions of the Blessed 
Virgin, who appeared to him in the guise of a lady dressed 
in white, called him to be a preacher, and promised him 
further revelations, which he received from time to time. 
His home was the village of Helmstadt in the Tauber 
valley ; and the most sacred spot he knew was a chapel 
dedicated to the Virgin at the small village of Niklashausen 
on the Tauber. The chapel had been granted an indulg- 
ence, and was the scene of small pilgrimages. Hans Bohm 
appeared suddenly on the Sunday in Mid-Lent (March 
24th, 1476), solemnly burnt his rude drum and bagpipes 
before the crowd of people, and declared that he had 
hitherto ministered to the sins and vanities of the villagers, 
but that henceforth he was going to be a preacher of grace. 
He had been a lad of blameless life, and his character 
gave force to his words. He related his visions, and the 
people believed him. It was a period when an epidemic of 
pilgrimage was sweeping over Europe, and the pilgrims 
spread the news of the prophet far and wide. Crowds 
came to hear him from the neighbouring valleys. His 
fame spread to more distant parts, and chroniclers declare 
that on some days he preached to audiences of from twenty 
to thirty thousand persons. His pulpit was a barrel set on 
end, or the window of a farmhouse, or the branch of a tree. 
He assured his hearers that the holiest spot on earth, holier 
by far than Eome, was the chapel of Our Lady at Niklas- 
hausen, and that true religion consisted in doing honour 
to the Blessed Virgin. He denounced all priests in un- 
measured terms : they were worse than Jews ; they might 
be converted for a while, but as soon as they went back- 
among their fellows they were sure to become backsliders. 
He railed against the Emperor : he was a miscreant, who 
supported the whole vile crew of princes, over-lords, tax- 
gatherers, and other oppressors of the poor. He scoffed at 
the Pope. He denied the existence of Purgatory : good 


men went directly to heaven and bad men went to hell. 
The day was coming, he declared, when every prince, even 
the Emperor himself, must work for his day's wages like all 
poor people. He asserted that taxes of all kinds were evil, 
and should not be paid ; that fish, game, and meadow lands 
were common property ; that all men were brethren, and 
should share alike. When his sermon was finished the 
crowd of devotees knelt round the " holy youth," and he, 
blessing them, pardoned their sins in God's name. Then 
the crowd surged round him,, tearing at his clothes to get 
some scrap of cloth to take home and worship as a relic; 
and the Niklashausen chapel became rich with the offer- 
ings of the thousands of pilgrims. 

The authorities, lay and clerical, paid little attention 
to him at first. Some princes and some cities (Ntirnberg, 
for example) prohibited their subjects from going to Nik- 
lashausen ; but the prophet was left untouched. He 
came to believe that his words ought to be translated into 
actions. One Sunday he asked his followers to meet him 
on the next Sunday, bringing their swords and leaving their 
wives and children at home. The Bishop of Wiirzburg, 
hearing this, sent a troop of thirty-four horsemen, who 
seized the prophet, flung him on a horse, and carried him 
away to the bishop's fortress of Frauenberg near Wiirzburg. 
His followers had permitted his capture, and seemed dazed 
by it. In a day or two they recovered their courage, and, 
exhorted by an old peasant who had received a vision, and 
headed by four Franconian knights, they marched against 
Frauenberg and surrounded it. They expected its walls 
to fall Hke those of Jericho ; and when they were dis- 
appointed they Ungered for some days, and then gradually 
dispersed. Hans himself, after examination, was condemned 
to be burnt as a heretic. He died singing a folk-hymn in 
praise of the Blessed Virgin. 

His death did not end the faith of his followers. In 
spite of severe prohibitions, the pilgrimages went on and 
the gifts accumulated. A neighbouring knight sacked the 
chapel and carried away the treasure, which he was forced 


to share with his neighbours. Still the pilgrimages con- 
tinued, until at last the ecclesiastical authorities removed 
the priest and tore down the building, hoping thereby to 
destroy the movement. 

The memory of Hans Bohm lived among the common 
people, peasants and artisans ; for the lower classes of 
Wiirzburg and the neighbouring towns had been followers 
of the movement. A religious social movement, purely 
German, had come into being, and was not destined to die 
soon. The effects of Hans Bohm's teaching appear in 
almost all subsequent peasant and artisan revolts.^ Even 
Sebastian Brand takes the Niklashausen pilgrims as his 
type of those enthusiasts who are not contented with the 
revelations of the Old and New Testaments, but must seek 
a special prophet of their own : 

"Man weis doch aus der Schrift so viel, 
Aus altem und aus neuem Bunde, 
Es braucht nicht wieder neuer Kunde. 
Dennoch wallfahrten sie zur Klausen 
Des Sackpfeifers von Nicklashausen." ^ 

And the Niklashausen pilgrimage was preserved in the 
memories of the people by a lengthy folk-song which Lili- 
encron has printed in his collection.^ 

From this time onwards there was always some tinge 
of religious enthusiasm in the social revolts, where peasant 
and poor burghers stood shoulder to shoulder against the 
ruling powers in country and in town. 

The peasants within the lands of the Abbot of Kempten, 
north-east of the Lake of Constance, had for two genera- 
tions protested against the way in which the authorities 

^ The beat account of this movement is to be found in an article con- 
tributed to the Archiv des historiscken Vereins von Unierfranlcen und 
Aschaffeniurg, xiv. iii. 1, where Hans Bohm's sayings have been carefully 
collecteil. Pastor Konrad Stolle's Chronicle, published in the library of 
the Stuttgart Literary Society [Bihliothelc des llterarischen Vereins in 
Stuttgart, xxxiii.), is also valuable. A list of authorities may also be found 
in Ullmann's Beformers before the Reformation (Eng. trans.), i. 377 ff. 

^ Narrenschiff, c. xi. 1. 14-18. 

' Die historischen Volkslieder der Deufaclien vom IS bis 16 Jahrhv/ndcrt, 
ii. No. 148. 


were treating them (1420—1490). They rose in open 
revolt in 1491—1492. It was a purely agrarian rising 
to begin with, caused by demands made on them by their 
over-lord not sanctioned by the old customs expressed in 
the Weisthilmer ; but the lower classes of the town of 
Kempten made common cause with the insurgents. Yet 
there are distinct traces of impregnation with religious 
enthusiasm not unlike that which inspired the Hans Bohm 
movement. The rising was crushed, and the leaders who 
escaped took refuge in Switzerland. 

§ 7. Bundschuh Revolts. 

In the widespread social revolt which broke out in 
Elsass in 1493, the peasants were supported by the towns ; 
demands were made for the abolition of the imperial and 
the ecclesiastical courts of justice, for the reduction of 
ecclesiastical property, for the plundering of Jews who 
had been fattening upon usury, and for the curbing of the 
power of the priests. The Gerrnans had a proverb, " The 
j^-peor man must tie his shoes with string," and the " tied 
shoe " {Bundschuh), the poor man's shoe, became the emblem 
of this and subsequent social revolts, while their motto was, 
" Only what is just before God." This rebellion, which 
■.^-Was prematurely betrayed, did not lack prominent leaders. 
One of them was Hans Ulman, the burgomeister of 
Schlettstadt, who died on the scaffold affirming the justice 
of the demands which he and his companions had made, 
and predicting their future triumph. 

In 1501 the peasants of Kempten and the neighbour- 
ing districts again rose in rebellion, and were again joined 
by the poorer townspeople. In the year following, 1502, a 
revolt was planned having for its headquarters the village 
of Untergrombach, near Speyer ; it spread into Elsass, along 
the Neckar and down the Ehine. The Bundschuh banner 
was again unfurled. It was made of blue silk, with a 
white cross, the emblem of Switzerland, in the centre. It 
was adorned with a picture of the crucified Christ, a Bund- 



schuh on the one side, and a kneeling peasant on the other. 
The motto was again, " Only what is just before God." 
Every associate promised to repeat five times a day the 
Lord's Prayer and the Ave Maria. The patron saints were 
declared to be the Blessed Virgin and St. John. The 
movement was strongly anti-clerical. The leaders taught 
that there could be no deliverance from oppression until 
the priests were driven from the land, and until the pro- 
perty of the nobles and the priests was confiscated and 
their power broken. Tithes, feudal exactions of all kinds, 
and all social inequalities were denounced; water, forest 
and pasture lands were declared to be the common property 
of all. The leaders recognised the rule of the Emperor 
as over-lord, but denounced all intermediate jurisdictions. 
The plan was to raise the peasants and the townspeople 
throughout all Germany, and to call upon the Swiss to 
aid them in winning their deliverance from oppression. 
The revolt was put down with savage cruelty; most of 
the leaders were quartered. Many escaped to Switzerland, 
and lay hid among the Alpine valleys. 

One of these was Joss Fritz, who had been a soldier 
(landsknecht) — a man with many qualities of leadership. 
He had tenacity of purpose, great powers of organisation, 
and gifts of persuasion. He vowed to restore the Bundschuh 
League. He remained years in hiding in Switzerland, 
maturing his plans. Then he returned secretly to his 
own people. He seems to have secured an appointment 
as forester to a nobleman whose lands lay near the town of 
Freiburg in the Breisgau ; and there, in the small village 
of Lehen, he began to weave together again the broken 
threads of the Bundschuh League. He mingled with the 
poorer people in the taverns, at church ales, on the village 
greens on festival days. He spoke of the justice of 
God and the wickedness of the world. He expounded 
the old principles of the Bundschuh with some few varia- 
tions. Indiscriminate hatred of priests seems to have been 
abandoned. Most of the village priests were peasants, 
and suffered, like them, from overbearing superiors. The 


parish priest of Lehen became a strong supporter of the 
Bundschuh, and told his parishioners that all its ideas 
could be proved from the word of God. Joss Fritz won 
over to his side the " gilds " of beggars, strolling musicians, 
all kinds of vagrants who could be useful. They carried 
his messages, summoned the people to his meetings in 
quiet spaces in the woods, and were active assistants. At 
these meetings Joss Fritz and his lieutenant Jerome, a 
journeyman baker, expounded the Scriptures " under the 
guidance of the Holy Spirit simply," and proved all the 
demands of the Bundschuh from the word of God. 

When the country seemed almost ripe for the rising. 
Joss Fritz resolved to prepare the banner as secretly as 
possible. It was easy to get the blue silk and sew the 
white cross on its ground ; the difficulty was to find an 
artist sympathetic enough to paint the emblems, and cour- 
ageous enough to keep the secret. The banner was at last 
painted. The crucified Christ in the centre, a peasant 
kneeling in prayer on the one side and the Bundschuh on 
the other, the figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John, 
and the pictures of the Pope and the Emperor. The 
motto, " Lord, help the righteous," was added, and the 
banner with its striking symbolism was complete. The 
League had the old programme with some alterations : — 
no masters but God, the Pope, and the Emperor, no 
usury, all debts to be cancelled, and the clauses mentioned 
above. The leaders boasted that their league extended as 
far as the city of Koln (Cologne), and that the Swiss would 
march at their head. But the secret leaked out before the 
date planned for the general rising; and the revolt was 
mercilessly stamped out (151 2—1 5 1 3). Its leader escaped 
with the Bundschuh banner wound round his body under 
bis clothes. In four years he was back again at his work 
(151Y). In a very short time his agents, the "gild" of 
beggars, wandering minstrels, poor priests, pilgrims to local 
shrines, pardon-sellers, begging friars, and even lepers, had 
leagued the peasantry and the poorer artisans in the towns 
in one vast conspiracy which permeated the entire district 


between the Vosges and the Black Forest, including the 
whole of Baden and Elsass. The plot was again betrayed 
before the plans of the leaders were matured, and the 
partial risings were easily put down ; but when the 
authorities set themselves to make careful investigations, 
they were aghast at the extent of the movement. The 
peasants of the country districts and the populace of the 
towns had been bound together to avenge common wrongs. 
The means of secret communication had been furnished by 
country innkeepers, old landsknechts, pedlars, parish priests, 
as well as by the vagrants above mentioned ; and the names 
of some of the subordinate leaders — " long " John, " crooked" 
Peter, " old " Kuntz — show the classes from which they 
were drawn. It was discovered that the populace of Weisen- 
burg had come to an agreement with the people of Hagenau 
(both towns were in Elsass) to slay the civic councillors 
and judges and all the inhabitants of noble descent, to 
refuse payment of all imperial and ecclesiastical dues, and 
that the Swiss had promised to come to their assistance. 

One might almost say that between the years 1503 
and 1517 the social revolution was permanently established 
in the southern districts of the Empire, from Elsass in the 
west to Carinthia and the Steiermarck in the east. It is 
needless to describe the risings in detail. They were not 
purely peasant rebellions, for the townspeople were almost 
always involved ; but they all displayed that minghng of 
communist ideas and religious enthusiasm of which the 
JBundschuh banner had become the emblem, and which may 
be traced back to the movement under Hans Bohm as its 
German source, and perhaps to the earlier propaganda 
of the Hussite revolutionaries or Taborites. The later 
decades of the fifteenth and the earlier years of the six- 
teenth century were a time of permanent social unrest. 

§ 8. The Causes of the continuous Revolts. 

If we ask why it was that the peasants, whose lot, 
according to the information given in the Weisthilmer, 


eould not have been such a very hard one, were so ready 
to rise in rebellion during the last quarter of the fifteenth 
century, the answer seems to be that there must have 
been a growing change in their circumstances. Some 
chroniclers have described the condition of the peasants 
in the end of the fifteenth and in the beginning of the six- 
teenth century, and the"y always dwell upon their misery. 
John Bohm, who wrote in the beginning of the sixteenth 
century, says that " their lot was hard and pitiable," and 
calls them " slaves." ^ Sebastian Frank (1534)^ Sebastian 
Mimster (1546), H. Pantaleon^' (1570), 'aEH4talian who" 
wrote a description of Germany, all agree with Bohm. ; 
Frank adds that the peasants hate every kind of cleric, 
good or bad, and that their speech is full of gibes against 
priests and monks ; while Pantaleone! observes that many 
ekiUed workmen, artisans, artists, and men of learning 
have sprung from this despised peasant class. There must 
have been a great change for the worse in the condition of 
the poorer dwellers both in town and in country. 

So far as the townsmen are concerned, nothing need be 
added to what has already been said ; but the causes of 
the growing depression of the peasantry were more com- 
plicated. The universal testimony of contemporaries is 
that the gradual introduction of Eoman law brought the 
greatest change, by placing a means of universal oppression 
In the hands of the over-lords. There is no need to 
suppose that the lawyers who introduced the new juris- 
prudence meant to use it to degrade and oppress the 
peasant class. A slight study of the Weisthilmer shows 
how complicated and varied was this consuetudinary law 
which regulated the relations between peasant and over- 
lord. It was natural, when great estates grew to be 
principalities, whether lay or clerical, that the over-lords 
should seek for some principle of codification or reduction 
to uniformity. ■ It had been the custom for centuries to 
attempt to simplify the ruder and involved German codes 
by bringing them into harmony with the principles of 

' Omnium Oeniium Mores, in. xii. (first printed in 1576). 


Eoman law, and this idea had received a powerful impetus 
from the Eenaissance movement. But when the bewilder- 
ing multiplicity of customary usages which had governed the 
relations of cultivators to over-lords was simplified according 
to the ideas of Eoman law, the result was in the highest 
degree dangerous to the free peasantry of Germany. The 
conception of strict individual proprietorship tended to 
displace the indefinite conception of communal proprietor- 
ship, and the peasants could only appear in the gidse of 
tenants on long leases, or serfs who might have some per- 
sonal rights but no rights of property, or slaves who had 
no rights at all. The new jurisprudence began by attacking 
the common lands, pastures, and forests. The passion for 
the chase, which became the more engrossing as the right 
to wage private war grew more and more dangerous, led 
to the nobles insisting on the individual title to all forest 
lands, and to the publication of such forest laws as we find 
made in Wiirtemberg, where anyone found trespassing with 
gun or cross-bow was liable to lose one eye. The attempt 
to reduce a free peasantry in possession of communal pro- 
perty to tenants on long lease, then to serfs, and, lastly, to 
slaves, may be seen in the seventy years' struggle between 
the Abbots of Kempten and their peasants. These spiritual 
lords carried on the contest with every kind of force and 
chicanery they could command. They enlarged illegally 
the jurisdiction of their spiritual courts; they prevented 
the poor people who opposed them from coming to the 
Lord's Table; they actually falsified their title-deeds, in- 
serting provisions which were not originally contained in 

The case of the Kempten lands was, no doubt, an 
extreme one, though it could be matched by others. But 
the point to be noticed is the immense opportunities for 
oppression which were placed in the hands of the over- 
lords by the new jurisprudence, and the temptation to make 
use of them when their interests seemed to require it, or 
when their peasantry began to grow refractory or became 
too prosperous. The economic changes which were at 


work throughout the fifteenth century gave occasion for 
the use of the powers which the new jurisdiction had 
placed at the disposal of landlords. The economic revolu- 
tion from the first impoverished the nobles of Germany ; 
while, in its beginnings and until after the great rise in 
prices, it rather helped the peasantry. They had a better 
market for their produce, and they so profited by it that 
the burghers spoke of denying them the right of free 
markets, on the ground that they had begun to usurp the 
place of the merchants and were trafficking in gold by 
lending money on interest. The competition in luxurious 
dress and living, which the impoverished nobles carried 
on with the rich burghers, made the former still poorer 
and more reckless. We read of a noble lady in Swabia 
who, rather than be outshone at a tournament, sold a 
village and all her rights over it in order to buy a blue 
velvet dress. The nobles, becoming poorer and poorer, 
saw their own peasants making money to such an extent 
that they were, comparatively speaking, much better off 
than themselves, so that in Westphalia it was said that a 
peasant could get credit more easily than five nobles. 

Moreover, the peasants did not appear to be as sub- 
missive to their lords as they once had been. Nor was it 
to be wondered at. The creation of the landsknecMs had 
put new thoughts into their heads. The days of the old 
fighting chivalry were over, and the strength of armies was 
measured by the number and discipline of the infantry. 
The victories of the Swiss over Charles the Bold had made 
the peasant or artisan soldier a power. Kings and princes 
raised standing armies, recruited from the country districts 
or from among the wilder and more restless of the town 
population. The folk-songs are full of the doings of these 
plebeian soldiers. When the landshiecM visited his rela- 
tions in village or in town, swaggered about in his gorgeous 
parti-coloured clothes, his broad hat adorned with huge 
feathers, his great gauntlets and his weapons ; when he 
showed a gold chain or his ducats, or a jewel he had won 
as his share of the booty ; when his old neighbours saw his 


dress and gait imitated by the young burghers, — he became 
a centre of admiration, and his relations began to hold 
themselves high on his account. They acquired a new 
independence of character, a new impatience against aU 
that prevented them from rising in the world. It has 
scarcely been sufficiently noted how most of the leaders 
in the plebeian risings were disbanded landsknechts} 

The new jurisprudence was a very effectual instrument 
in the hands of an impoverished landlord class to ease the 
peasant of his superfluous wealth, and to keep him in his 
proper place. It was used almost universally, and the 
peasant rebellions were the natural consequences. But the 
more determined peasant revolts, which began with the 
Bundschuh League, arose at a time when life was hard for 
peasant and artisan alike. 

The last decade of the fifteenth century and the first 
of the sixteenth contained a number of years in which 
the harvest failed almost entirely over all or in parts 
of Germany. They began with 1490, and in that year 
contemporary writers, like Trithemius, declare that the lot 
of the poor was almost unbearable. The bad harvests 
of 1491 and 1492 made things worse. In 1493, the year 
which saw the foundation of the Bundschuh, the state of 
matters may be guessed from the fact that men came all 
the way from the Tyrol to the upper reaches of the Main, 
where the harvest was comparatively good, bought barley 

^ LandsJcnecM or lanzknecM (for the words are the same) is often trans- 
literated lance-knight in English State Papers of the sixteenth century. The 
English word, suggesting as it does cavalry armed with lances, is very mis- 
leading. The victories of the Swiss peasants, and their reputation as soldiers, ~ 
suggested to the Emperor Frederick, and especially to his son, the Emperor 
Maximilian, the formation of troops of infantry recruited from the peasantry 
and from the lower classes of townsmen. Troops of cavalry of a like origin 
were also formed, and they were called reiters or reisiger. These mercenaries 
frequently gained much money both from pay and from plunder and were 
regarded as heroes by the members of the classes from whom they had 
sprung. Liliencron's Die historischen Volkslieder vom ISlen bis ::um ISten 
Jahrhundert contains many folk-songs celebrating their prowess. The 
history of the gradual rise and growing importance of these peasant soldiera 
is given in Schultz, Deutsches Leben im 14ten mid ISten Jahrhundert pp. 
589 f. (Grosse Ausgabe), and in the authorities there quoted. 


there for five times its usual price, carried it on pack- 
horses by little frequented paths to their own country, and 
sold it at a profit. 

In 1499 the Swiss refused to submit to the imperial 
proposals for consolidating the Empire. Maximilian or 
his government in the Tyrol resolved to punish them, and 
the Swabian League were to be the executioners. The 
Swiss, highly incensed, had declared that if they were 
forced into war it would be a war of extermination. They 
were as bad as their word. An eye-witness saw whole 
villages in the wasted districts forsaken by the men, and 
the women gathered in troops, feeding on herbs and roots, 
and seeing with the apathy of despair their ranks diminish 
day by day.^ The Swiss war was worse than many bad 
harvests for the Hegau and other districts in South Ger- 

In 1500 the harvest failed over all Germany ; 1501 
and 1502 were years when the crops failed in a number of 
districts ; and in 1503 there was another universally bad 
harvest. These years of scarcity pressed most heavily on the 
peasant class. In some districts of Brandenburg, peasants 
were found in the woods dead of starvation, with the grass 
which they had been trying to eat still in their mouths. 
Cities like Augsburg and Strassburg bought grain, stored 
it in magazines, and kept the poor alive by periodical 
distributions. This cycle of famine years from 1490 to 
1503 was the period when the most determined and 
desperate social risings took place, and largely explains 

Our description of the social conditions existing during 
the period which ushered in the Reformation has been 
confined to Germany. The great religious movement took 
its origin in that land, and it is of the utmost importance 
to study the environment there. But the universal economic 

' Willibald Pirkheimer in his book on the Swiss war, chap. ii. (German 
ed., Basel, 1826). 

' Gothein, Politische und religiose Volksbewegimgen vor der Reformation 
(Brcelau, 1878), p. 78. 


changes were producing social disturbances everywhere, 
modified in appearance and character by the special con- 
ditions of the various countries of Europe. The popular 
risings in England, which began with the gigantic labour 
strike under Wat Tyler and priest Ball, and ended with 
the disturbances during the reign of Edward vi., were the 
counterpart of the social revolt in Germany. 

From all that has been said, it will be evident that on 
the eve of the Eeformation the condition of Europe, and 
of Germany in particular, was one of seething discontent 
and fuU of bitter class hatreds, — the trading companies and 
the great capitalists against the " gUds," the poorer classes 
against the wealthier, and the nobles against the towns. 
This state of things is abundantly reflected in the folk-songs 
of the period, which best reveal the intimate feelings of 
the people. Eor it was an age of song everywhere, and 
especially in Germany. Nobles and knights, burghers and 
peasants, landsknechts and Swiss soldiers, priests and clerks, 
lawyers and merchants — all expressed the feelings of their 
class when they sang ; and the folk-songs give us a wonder- 
ful picture of the class hatreds which were rending asunder 
the old conditions of mediaeval life, and preparing the way 
for a new world. 

This social ferment was increased by a sudden and 
mysterious rise in prices, affecting first the articles of 
foreign produce, to which the wealthier classes had become 
greatly addicted, and at last the ordinary necessaries of 
life. The cause, it is now believed, was not the debasing 
of the coinage, for that affected a narrow circle only ; nor 
was it the importation of precious metals from America, 
for that came later ; it was rather the increased output of 
the mines in Europe. Whatever the cause, the thing was 
to contemporaries an irritating mystery, and each class in 
society was disposed to blame the others for it. We have 
thus at the beginning of the sixteenth century a restless 
social condition in Germany, caused in great measure by 
economic causes which no one understood, but whose re- 
sults were painfully manifest in the crowds of sturdy 


beggars who thronged the roads — the refuse of all classes 
in society, from the broken noble and the disbanded mer- 
cenary soldier to the ruined peasant, the workman out of 
employment, the begging friar, and the " wandering student." 
It was into this mass of seething discontent that the spark 
of religious protest fell — the one thing needed to fire the 
train and kindle the social conflagration. This was the 
society to which Luther spoke, and its discontent was the 
sounding-board which made his words reverberate. 




§ 1. The Devotion of Germany to the Boman Church. 

The real roots of the spiritual life of Luther and of the 
other Eeformers ought to be sought for in the family and 
in the popular religious life of the times. It is the duty of 
the historian to discover, if possible, what religious instruc- 
tion was given by parents to children in the pious homes 
out of which most of the Eeformers came, and what 
religious influences confronted and surrounded pious lads 
after they had left the family circle. Few have cared to 

^ To Sources given to Chapter IV. add : Wackemagel, Das deutsche 
Kirchenlied von der alteslen Zeit Ms zum Anfang des 17 Jahrhivnderts 
(Leipzig, 1864-1877) vols. i. ii. ; " Rainerii Saohoni Snmma de Cathaiis et 
Leonistis " in the Magna Bibliotheca Pairum, vol. xiii. (Col. Agrip. 1618), of. 
"Comra. Crit. de Eainerii Sachoni Summa" {Gdttingen Osterprogramm o{ 
1834) ; Habler, Bos Wallfahrtbuch des Hermann von Vach, und die Pil- 
gerreisen der Beutschen Tiach Santiago de Composlella (Strassburg, 1899) ; 
Mirabilia Romce (reprint by Parthey, Berlin, 1869) ; Munzenberger, Frank- 
furter und Magdeburger Beichtbiichlein (Mainz, 1883) ; Hasak, Die letzte 
Base, etc. (Ratisbon, 1883) ; Hasak, Der christliche Qlaube des deutschen, 
Koikes beim Schluss des Mittelalters (Ratisbon, 1868) ; Hbfler, Denkvmrdig- 
keiten der Charitas Pirckheirmr {Quellensaminl. z. frank. Gesch. iv., 1858) ; 
Konrad Stolle, Tliuringische Chronik (in Bibliothek d. lit. Vereins (Stutt- 
gai'dt), xxxiii.). 

Later Books : v. Bezold, CfescMcJUe der deutschen Beformaiion (Berlin, 
1890) ; Janssen, OeschicMe des deutschen Volkes^seit dem Ausgang des Mitttl- 
alters (17th ed., 1897), vol. i. ; Briiek, Der religiose UnterricM fur Jugev4 
nnd Volk in Deutschland in der zweiten Ealfte des filnfzehnten Jahrhunderts ; 
Cruel, Oeschichte der deutschen Predigt im Mittclalter (Det^old, 1879) ; 
Dacheux, Jean Geiler de Keysersberg (Paris, 1876) ; "Walther, Die deulsche 
Bibelilbcrselzung des Mittelalters (Brunswick, 1889) ; Uhlhom, Die Christ- 
lich/i Liebesthatigkeil im Mittclalter (Stuttgart, 1887) ; Wilken, Oeschichie 
der geistlichen S2nele in Deutschland (Gtittingen, 1872). 



prosecute the difficult task ; and it is only within late 
years that the requisite material has been accumulated. 
It has to be sought for in autobiographies, diaries, and 
private letters ; in the books of popular devotion which 
the patience of ecclesiastical arcbfeologists is exhuming and 
reprinting ; in the references to the pious confraternities of 
the later Middle Ages, and more especially to the Kalands 
among the artisans, which appear in town chronicles, and 
whose constitutions are being slowly unearthed by local ' 
historical societies ; in the police regulations of towns and 
country districts which aim at curbing the power of the 
clergy, and in the edicts of princes attempting to enforce 
some of the recommendations of the Councils of Constance 
and Basel ; in the more popular hymns of the time, and in 
the sermons of the more fervent preachers; in the pilgrim 
songs and the pilgrim guide-books ; and in a variety of 
other sources not commonly studied by Church historians. 

On the surface no land seemed more devoted to the 
mediaeval Church and to the Pope, its head, than did 
Germany in the half century before the Eeformation. A 
cultivated Italian, Aleander, papal nuncio at the Diet of 
Worms, was astonished at the signs of disaffection he met 
with in 1520.1 jjg ]ja,(j visited Germany frequently, and 
he was intimately acquainted with many of the northern 
Humanists; and his opinion was that down to 1510 (the 
date of his last visit) he had never been among a people so 
devoted to the Bishop of Eome. No nation had exhibited 
such signs of delight at the ending of the Schism and the 
re-establishment of the " Peace of the Church." The 
Italian Humanists continually express their wonder at the 
strength of the religious susceptibilities of the Germans ; 
and the papal Curia looked upon German devotion as a 
never-failing source of Eoman revenue. The Germans dis- 
played an almost feverish anxiety to profit by all the 
ordinary and extraordinary means of grace. They built 
innumerable churches; their towns were full of conventual 

' Kalkoff, Die Depeschen des Nunlius Aleander, etc. (Halle a. S. 1897), 
pp. 26, 45-48, 


foundations ; they bought Indulgences, went on pilgrimages, 
visited shrines, reverenced relics in a way that no other 
nation did. The piety of the Germans was proverbial. 

The number of churches was enormous for the popula- 
tion. Almost every tiny village had its chapel, and every 
town of any size had several churches. Church building 
and decoration was a feature of the age. In the town of 
Dantzig 8 new churches had been founded or completed 
during the fifteenth century. The "holy" city of Koln 
(Cologne) at the close of the fifteenth century contained 
11 great churches, 19 parish churches, 22 monasteries, 12 
hospitals, and 76 convents; more than a thousand Masses 
were said at its altars every day. It was exceptionally 
rich in ecclesiastical buildings, no doubt ; but the smaller 
town of Brunswick had 15 churches, over 20 chapels, 5 
monasteries, 6 hospitals, and 12 Beguine-houses, and its 
great church, dedicated to St. Blasius, had 26 altars served 
by 60 ecclesiastics. So it was all over Germany. 

Besides the large numbers of monks and nuns who 
peopled the innumerable monasteries and convents, a large 
part of the population belonged to some semi-ecclesiastical 
association. Many were tertiaries of St. Francis; many 
were connected with the Beguines: Koln (Cologne) had 
106 Beguine-houses; Strassburg, over 60, and Basel, 
over 30. 

The churches and chapels, monasteries and religious 
houses, received all kinds of offerings from rich and poor 
alike. In those days of unexampled burgher prosperity 
and wealth, the town churches became " museums and 
treasure-houses." The windows were filled with painted 
glass ; weapons, armour, jewels, pictures, tapestries were 
stored in the treasuries or adorned the walls. Ancient 
inventories have been preserved of some of these ecclesias- 
tical accumulations of wealth. In the cathedral church in 
Bern, to take one example, the head of St. Vincentius, the 
patron, was adorned with a great quantity of gold, and with 
one jewel said to be priceless ; the treasury contained 
70 gold and 50 silver cups, 2 silver coffers, and 450 costly 


sacramental robes decked with jewels of great value. The 
luxury, the artistic fancy, and the wealth which could 
minister to both, all three were characteristic of the times, 
were lavished by the Germans on their churches. 

§ 2. Preaching. 

On the other hand, preaching took a place it had never 
previously held in the mediaeval Church. Some dis- 
tiaguished Churchmen did not hesitate to say that it was 
the most important duty the priest could perform — more 
important than saying Mass. It was recognised that when 
the people began to read the Bible and religious books in 
the vernacular, it became necessary for the priests to be 
able to instruct their congregations intelligently and sym- 
pathetically in sermons. Attempts were made to provide 
the preachers with material for their sermon-making. The 
earliest was the Bihlia Pauperum (the Bible for the 
Pauperes Ohristi, or the preaching monks), which collects 
on one page pictures of Bible histories fitted to explain 
each other, and adds short comments. Thus, on the twenty- 
fifth leaf there are three pictures — in the centre the Cruci- 
fixion ; on the left Abraham about to slay Isaac, with the 
lamb in the foreground ; and on the left the Brazen Serpent 
and the healing of the Plague. More scholarly preachers 
found a valuable commentary in the Postilla of the learned 
Franciscan Nicolas de Lyra (Lira or Lire, a village in 
Normandy), who was the first real exegetical scholar, and 
to whom Luther was in later days greatly indebted.^ 

Manuals of Pastoral Theology were also written and 
published for the benefit of the parish priests, — the most 
famous, under the quaint title, Dormi Secure (sleep in safety). 
It describes the more important portions of the service, and 
what makes a good sermon ; it gives the Lessons for the 
Sunday services, the chief articles of the Christian faith, 
and adds directions for pastoral work and the cure of souls. 

' No fewer than six editions of his Postilla were published between 1471 
and 1-508. 


It is somewhat difficult to describe briefly the character 
of the preaching. Some of it was very edifying and de- 
servedly popular. The sermons of John Herolt were 
printed, and attained a very wide circulation. No fewer 
than forty-one editions appeared. Much of the preaching 
was the exposition of themes taken from the Scholastic 
Theology treated in the most technical way. Many of the 
preachers seem to have profaned their office ra the search 
after popularity, and mingled very questionable stories and 
coarse jokes with their exhortations. The best known of 
the preachers who flourished at the close of the flfteenth 
century was John Geiler of Keysersberg (in Elsass near 
Colmar), the friend of Sebastian Brand, and a member of 
the Humanist circle of Strassburg. The position he flUed 
illustrates the eagerness of men of the time to encourage 
preaching. A burgher of Strassburg, Peter Schott, left a 
Bum of money to endow a preacher, who was to be a doctor 
of theology, one whc had not taken monk's vows, and who 
was to preach to the people in the vernacular ; a special 
pulpit was erected iu the Strassburg Minster for the preacher 
provided by this foundation, who was John Geiler. His 
sermons are full of exhortations to piety and correct living. 
He lashed the vices and superstitions of his time. He 
denounced relic worship, pilgrimages, buying indulgences, 
and the corruptions iu the monasteries and convents. He 
spoke against the luxurious living of Popes and prelates, 
and their trafficking ia the sale of benefices. He made 
sarcastic references to the papal decretals and to the 
quibblings of Scholastic Theology. He paints the luxuries 
and vices he denoimced so very clearly, that his writings 
are a 'valuable mine for the historian of popular morals. 
He was a stern preacher of morals, but his sermons con- 
taia very little of the gospel message. As we read 
them we can understand Luther's complaint, that while 
he had listened to many a sermon on the sins of the age, 
and to many a discourse expounding scholastic themes, he 
had never heard one which declared the love of God to 
man in the mission and work of Jesus Christ. 


§ 3. Church Festivals. 

The Church itself, recognising the fondness of the 
people for all kinds of scenic display, delighted to gratif} 
the prevailing taste by magnificent processions, by gorgeoua 
church ceremonial, by Passion and Miracle Plays. Such 
scenes are continually described in contemporary chronicles. 
The processions were arranged for Corpus Christi Day, 
for Christmas, for Harvest Thanksgivings, when the civic 
fathers requested the clergy to pray for rain, or when 
a great papal official visited the town. We hear of one 
at Erfurt which began at five o'clock iu the morning, 
and, with its visits to the stations of the Cross and the 
services at each, did not end till noon. The school chil- 
dren of the town, numbering 948, headed the procession, 
then came 312 priests, then the whole University, — in 
all, 2141 personSj^and the monks belonging to the five 
monasteries followed. The Holy Sacrament carried by the 
chief ecclesiastics, and preceded by a large number of 
gigantic candles, occupied the middle of the procession. 
The town council followed, then all the townsmen, then 
the women and maidens. The troop of maidens was 
2316 strong. They had garlands on their heads, and their 
hair flowed down over their shoulders ; they carried lighted 
candles in their hands, and they marched modestly looking 
to the ground. Two beautiful girls walked at their head 
with banners, followed by four with lanterns. In the 
centre was the fairest, clad in black and barefoot, carrying 
a large and splendid cross, and by her side one of the town 
councillors chosen for his good looks. Everything was 
arranged with a view to artistic effect.^ 

The Passion and Miracle Plays ^ were of great use in 
instructing the people in the contents of Scripture, being 
almost always composed of biblical scenes and histories. 

.' V. Bezold, Oesehiclite der dcnischen Reformation, p. 91 f. 

' Heinzel, Beschreibung des geistlichen Sehauspieh im deutschen Mittel- 
alter (Hamburg and Leipzig, 1898) ; JF. J. Mone, Schauspiele des Mittel- 
alters, 2 vols. (Karlsruhe, 1846). 


They were often very elaborate ; sometimes more than one 
hundred actors were needed to fill the parts ; and the plays 
were frequently so lengthy that they lasted for two or three 
days. The ecclesiastical managers felt that the continuous 
presentatioii of grave and lofty scenes and sentiments might 
weary their audiences, and they mixed them with lighter 
ones, which frequently degenerated into buffoonery and 
worse. The sacred and severe pathos of the Passion was 
interlarded with coarse jokes about the devil ; and the most 
solemn conceptions were profaned. These Mysteries were 
generally performed in the great churches, and the build- 
ings dedicated to sacred things witnessed scenes of the 
coarsest humour, to the detriment of aU religious feeling. 
The more serious Churchmen felt the profanation, and tried 
to prohibit the performance of plays interlarded with rude 
and indecent scenes within the chui'ches and churchyards. 
Their iaterf erence came too late ; the rough popular taste 
demanded what it had been accustomed to ; sacred histories 
and customs coming down from a primitive heathenism 
were mixed together, and the people lost the sense of 
sacredness which ought to attach itself to the former. The 
Feast of the Ass, to mention one, was supposed to com- 
memorate the FKght to Egypt. A beautiful girl, holding a 
child in her lap, was seated on an ass decked with splendid 
trappings of gold cloth, and was led in procession by the 
clergy through the principal streets of the town to the parish 
church. The gii'l on her ass was conducted into the church 
and placed near the high altar, and the Mass and other 
services were each concluded by the whole congregation 
braying. There is indeed an old MS. extant with a rubric 
which orders the priest to bray thrice on elevating the 
Host.^ At other seasons of popular licence, all the parts 
of the church service, even the most solemn, were parodied 
by the profane youth of the towns.* 

' Hampsen, Medii JEvi Kalendarium (London, 1841), i. 140 f. 

^ Tilliot, Mimoires pour servir a Vhistoire de la file des fous (Lau- 
sanne, 1761) ; cf. Floegel's Geschichte des Grotesk-Komischen {Std ed., Leipzig 
1886), pp. 199^242. 


All this, however, tells us little about the intimate 
religious life and feelings of the people, which is the 
important matter for the study of the roots of the great 
ecclesiastical revolt. 

When the evidence collected from the sources is sifted, 
it will be found that the religious life of the people at 
the close of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth 
centuries is full of discordant elements, and makes what 
must appear to us a very incongruous mosaic. If classifica- 
tion be permissible, which it scarcely is (for reUgious types 
always refuse to be kept distinct, and always tend to run 
into each other), one would be disposed to speak of the 
simple homely piety of the family circle — the religion 
taught at the mother's knee, the Kinderlehre, as Luther 
called it ; of a certain flamboyant religion which inspired 
the crowds ; of a calm anti-clerical religion which grew and 
spread silently throughout Germauy ; of the piety of the 
praying-circles, the descendants of the fourteenth century 

§ 4. The Family Eeligiotis lAfe. 

The biographies of some of the leaders of the Eeforma- 
tion, when they relate the childish reminiscences of the 
writers, bear unconscious witness to the kind of religion 
which was taught to the children in pious burgher and 
peasant families. We know that Luther learned the Creed, 
the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. He knew 
such simple evangelical hymns as " Ein kindelein so lobe- 
lich," ^ " Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist," and " Crist ist 
erstanden." Children were rocked to sleep while the mothers 

"Ach lieber Heere Jhesu Christ 
Sid Du ein Kind gewesen bist, 
So gib oucb disem Kindelin 
Din Qnod und ouch den Segen den. 
Ach Jhesu, Heere min, 
Behiit diz Kindelin. 

' The old Scottish version is, "To us is borne a barne of bliss," Chdi 
and Godlie Bdllates (Scot. Text Society, Edinburgh, 1897), pp. 51, 250. 


Nun sloff, nun. sloff, min Kindelin, 
Jhesus der sol din biilli sin, 
Der well, daz dir getroume wol 
Und werdest aller Tugent vol. 

Ach. Jhesus, Heere min, 

Behiit diz Kindelin." i 

These songs or hymns, common before the Eeformation 
were sung as frequently after the break .with Eome. The 
continuity in the private devotional life before and after 
the advent of the Eeformation is a thing to be noted. Few 
hymns were more popular during the last decade of the 
fifteenth century than the " In dulci Jubilo " in which Latin 
and German mingled. The first and last verses were : 

" In dulci jubilo, 
Nun singet und seid f roh I 
Unsers Herzens Wonne 
Leit in prsesepio, 
Und leuchtet als die Sonne 
Matris in greniio. 
Alpha es et O, 
Alpha es et I 

Ubi sunt gaudia? 
Nirgends mehr denn da, 
Da die Engel singen 
Nova cantica, 
Und die Schellen klingen 
In regis curia. 
Eya, war'n wir da, 
Eya, war'n wir da ! " 

^ This may be translated : 

" Oh Jesus, Master, meek and mild, 
Since Thou wast once a little child, 
Wilt Thou not give this baby mine 
Thy Grace and every blessing thine ! 
Oh Jesus, Master mild. 
Protect my little child. 

Now sleep, now sleep, my little child, 
He loves thee, Jesus, meek and mild : 
He'll never leave thee nor forsake, 
He'll make thee wise and good and great. 

Oh Jesus, Master mild. 

Protect my little child." 


This hymn continued to enjoy a wonderful popularity 
in the German Protestant churches and families until quite 
recently, and during the times of the Eeformation it spread 
far beyond Germany.^ In the fifteenth-century version it 
contained one verse in praise of the Virgin : 

" Mater et filia 
Du bist, Jungfraw Maria. 
Wir weren all verloren 
Per nostra crimina, 
So hat sy uns ervvorben 
Celorum gaiidia. 
Eya, war'n wir da, 
Eya, war'n wir da 1 " 

1 The old Scotch version was : 

" In dulci jubilo, 
Now let us sing with mirth and jo I 
Our hartis consolation 
Lies in preesepio ; 
And schynis as the Sonne 
Matris in greniio. 
Alpha as et 0, 
Alpha es et I 

Jesn parvule, 

1 thirst sair after Thee ; 
Comfort my hart and mind, 
Puer optime ! 

God of all grane so kind, 
Et Princeps Glorite, 
Trahe me post Te, 
Trahe me post Te I 

TJbi sunt gaudia 

In any place but there, 

Where that the angels sing 

Nova cantica, 

But and the bellis ring 

In Eegis curia ! 

God gif I were there, 

God gif I were there ! " 
—{Chide and Oodlie Ballates {Scot. Text Suciity, Eiliiiburgh, ,1897), pp. 53, 

There is a variety of English versions: "Let Jubil trumpets blow, 
and hearts in rapture flow" ; " In dulci jubilo, to the House of God we'll 
go"; "In dulci jubilo, sing and shout all below." Cf. Julian, Diclionaiij 
of Hymnology, p. 564. 


which was either omitted in the post-Eeformation versions, 
or there was substituted: 

"O Patris charitas, 
O Nati lenitas ! 
Wir weren all verloren 
Per nostra crimina, 
So hat Er uns erworben 
Coelorum gaudia. 
Eya, war'n wir da, 
Eya, war'n wir da."^ 

Nor was direct simple evangelical instruction lacking. 
Friedrich Mecum (known better by his Latinised name of 
Myconius), who was born in 1491, relates how his father, 
a substantial burgher belonging to Lichtenfels in Upper 
Franconia, instructed him in religion while he was a child. 
" My dear father," he says, " had taught me in my child- 
hood the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the 
Creed, and constrained me to pray always. For, said he, 
' Everything comes to us from God alone, and that gratis, 
free of cost, and He will lead us and rule us, if we 
only diligently pray to Him.' " We can trace this simple 
evangelical famUy religion away back through the Middle 
Ages. In the wonderfully interesting Chronicle of Brother 
Salimbene of the Franciscan Convent of Parma, which 
comes from the thirteenth century, we are told how many 
of the better-disposed burghers of the town came to the 
convent frequently to enjoy the religious conversation of 
Brother Hugh. On one occasion the conversation turned 
upon the mystical theology of Abbot Giaocchino di Fiore. 
The burghers professed to be greatly edified, but said that 
they hoped that on the next evening Brother Hugh would 
confine himself to telling them the simple luords of Jesus. 

The central thought in all evangelical religion is that 
the believer does not owe his position before God, and 
his assui-ance of salvation, to the good deeds which he 
really can do, but to the grace of God manifested in the 
mission . and the work of Christ ; and the more we turn 

' Waokernagel, Das deulsche Kirchenlied, etc., ii. 483 ff. 


from the thought of what we can do to the thought of 
what God has done for us, the stronger will be the con- 
viction that simple trust in God is that by which the 
pardoning grace of God is appropriated. This double con- 
ception — God's grace coming down upon us from above, 
and the believer's trust rising from beneath to meet and 
appropriate it — was never absent from the simplest religion 
of the Middle Ages. It did not find articulate expression 
in mediaeval theology, for, owing to its enforced connection 
with Aristotelian philosophy, that theology was largely 
artificial ; but the thought itself had a continuous and con- 
stant existence in the public consciousness of Christian men 
and women, and appeared in sermons, prayers, and hymns, 
and in the other ways in which the devotional life mani- 
fested itself. It is found in the sermons of the greatest, 
of mediaeval preachers, Bernard of Clairvaux, and in the 
teaching of the most persuasive of religious guides, Francis 
of AssisL The one, Bernard, in spite of his theological 
training, was able to rise above the thought of human 
merit recommending the sinner to God ; and the other, 
Francis, who had no theological training at all, insisted that 
he was fitted to lead a life of imitation simply because he 
had no personal merits whatsoever, and owed everything 
to the marvellous mercy and grace of God given freely to 
him in the work of Christ. The thought that all the good 
we can do comes from the wisdom and mercy of God, and 
that without these gifts of grace we are sinful and worth- 
less — the feeling that all pardon and all holy living are 
free gifts of God's grace, was the central thought round 
which in mediaeval, as in all times, the faith of simple and 
pious people twined itself. It found expression in the 
simpler mediaeval hymns, Latin and German. The utter 
need for sin-pardoning grace is expressed and taught in the 
prayer of the Canon of the Mass. It found its way, in 
spite of the theology, even into the official agenda of the 
Church, where the dying are told that they must repose 
their confidence upon Christ and His Passion as the sole 
ground of confidence in their salvation. If we take the 


fourth book of Thomas k Kempis' Imitatio Christi, it ia 
impossible to avoid seeing that his ideas about the sacra- 
ment of the Supper (in spite of the mistakes in them) kept 
aUve in his mind the thought of a free grace of God, and 
that he had a clear conception that God's grace was freely 
given, and not merited by what man can do. For the 
main thought with pious mediaeval Christians, however it 
might be overlaid with superstitious conceptions, was that 
they received in the sacrament a gift of overwhelming 
greatness. Many a modern Christian seems to think that 
the main idea is that in this sacrament one does something 
— ^makes a profession of Christianity. The old view went 
a long way towards keeping people right in spite of errors, 
while the modern view does a great deal towards leading 
them wrong in spite of truth. 

AU these things combine to show us how there was a 
simple evangelical faith among pious mediaeval Christians, 
and that their lives were fed upon the same divine trutha 
which lie at the basis of Eeformation theology. The 
truths were all there, as poetic thoughts, as earnest suppli- 
cation and confession,' in fervent preaching or in fireside 
teaching. When mediaeval Christians knelt in prayer, stood 
to sing their Eedeemer's praises, spoke as a dying man 
to dying men, or as a mother to the children about her 
knees, the words and thoughts that came were what Luther 
and Zwingli and Calvin wove into Eeformation creeds, 
and expanded into that experimental theology which was 
characteristic of the Eeformation. 

When the printing-press began in the last decades of 
the fifteenth century to provide little books to aid private 
and family devotion, it is not surprising, after what has 
been said, to find how full many of them were of simple 
evangelical piety. Some contained the Lord's Prayer, the 
Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and occasionally 
a translation or paraphrase of some of the Psalms, notably 
the 51st Psalm. Popular religious instructions and cate- 
chisms for family use were printed. The Catechism of 
Dietrich Koelde (written in 1470) says: "Man must place 


his faith and hope and love on God alone, and not in any 
creature ; he must trust in nothing but in the work of 
Jesus Christ." The Seelenwurzgartlein, a widely used book 
of devotion, instructs the penitent : " Thou must place all 
thy hope and trust on nothing else than on the work and 
death of Jesus Christ." The Geistliche Streit of UlriCh 
Krafft (1503) teaches the dying man to place all his trust 
on the " mercy and goodness of God, and not on his own 
good works." Quotations might be multiplied, all proving 
the existence of a simple evangelical piety, and showing 
that the home experience of Friedrich Mecum (Myconius) 
was shared in by thousands, and that there was a simple 
evangelical family religion in numberless German homes in 
the end of the fifteenth century. 

§ 5. ^ superstitious Beligion hosed on Fear. 

When sensitive, religiously disposed boys left pious 
homes, they could not fail to come in contact with a very 
different kind of religion. Many did not need to quit the 
family circle in order to meet it. Near Mansfeld, Luther's 
home, were noted pilgrimage places. Pilgrims, singly or 
in great bands, passed to make their devotions before the 
wooden cross at Kyffhauser, which was supposed to effect 
miraculous cures. The Bruno Quertfort Chapel and th^ 
old chapel at Welfesholz were pilgrimage places. Sick 
people were carried to spots near the cloister church at 
Wimmelberg, where they could best hear the sound of the 
cloister bells, which were believed to have a healing virtue. 

The latter half of the fifteenth century witnessed a 
great and widespreading religious revival, which prolonged 
itself into the earlier decades of the sixteenth, though the 
year 1475 may perhaps be taken as its high- water mark. 
Its most characteristic feature was the impulse to make 
pilgrimages to favoured shrines ; and these pilgrimages 
were always considered to be something in the nature of 
satisfactions made to God for sins. With some of the 
earlier phenomena we have nothing here to do. 


The impetus to pilgrimages given after the great 
Schism by the celebration in 1456 of the first JubUee 
" after healing the wounds of the Church " ; the relation 
of these pilgrimages to the doctrines of Indulgences which, 
formulated by the great Schoolmen of the thirteenth cen- 
tury, had changed the whole penitential system of the 
mediseval Church, must be passed over ; the curious socialist, 
anti-clerical, and yet deeply superstitious movement led by 
the cowherd and village piper, Hans Bohm, has been 
described. But one movement is so characteristic of the 
times, that it must be noticed. In the years 1455—1459 
all the chroniclers describe great gatherings of children from 
every part of Germany, from town and village, who, with 
crosses and banners, went on pilgrimage to St. Michael in 
Normandy. The chronicler of Liibeck compares the spread 
of the movement to the advance of the plague, and wonders 
whether the prompting arose from the inspiration of God 
or from the instigation of the devil. When a band of 
these child-pilgrims reached a town, carrying aloft crosses 
and banners blazoned with a rude image of St. Michael, 
singing their special pilgrim song,^ the town's children 
were impelled to join them. How this strange epidemic 
arose, and what put an end to it, seems altogether doubt- 
ful ; but the chronicles of almost every important town in 
Germany attest the facts, and the contemporary records 
of North France describe the bands of youthful pilgrims 
who traversed the country to go to St. Michael's Mount. 

During these last decades of the fifteenth century, a 
great fear seems to have brooded over Central Europe. 

' The song began : 

" Wijllent ir geren horen 
Von sant Michel's wvinn ; 
In Gargau ist er gsessen 
Drei mil im meresgrund. 

' heilger man, sant Michel, 
Wie hastu dass gesundt, 
Dass du so tief hast buwen 
Wol in des meres grand ? ' " 
— (Wackeniagel, Das deutsche Kirchenlied, etc. ii. 1008.) 


The countries were scourged by incessant visits of the 
plague ; new diseases, never before heard of, came to swell 
the terror of the people. The alarm of a Turkish invasion 
was always before their eyes. Bells tolled at midday in 
himdreds of German parishes, calling the parishioners 
together for prayer against the incoming of the Turks, and 
served to keep the dread always present to their minds. 
Mothers threatened their disobedient children by calling 
on the Turk to come and take them. It was fear that lay 
at the basis of this crude revival of religion which marks 
the closing decades of the fifteenth century. It gave rise 
■to an urgen,t restlessness. Prophecies of evil were easily 
believed in. Astrologers assumed a place and wielded 
a power which was as new as it was strange. The 
credulous people welcomed all kinds of revelations and 
proclamations of miraculous signs. At Wilsnack, a village 
in one of the divisions of Brandenburg (Priegnitz), it had 
been alleged since 1383 that a consecrated wafer secreted, 
the Blood of Christ. Suddenly, in 1475, people were 
seized with a desire to make a pilgrimage to this shrine. 
Swarms of child-pilgrims again filled the roads — boys and 
girls, from eight to eighteen years of age, bareheaded, clad 
only in their shirts, shouting, " Lord, have mercy upon 
us " — going to Wilsnack. Sometimes schoolmasters headed 
a crowd of pilgrims ; mothers deserted their younger 
children; country lads and maids left their work in the 
fields to join the processions. These pilgrims came mostly 
from Central Germany (1100 from Eisleben alone), but 
the contagion spread to Austria and Hungary, and great 
bands of youthful pilgrims appeared from these coimtries. 
They travelled without provisions, and depended on the 
charity of the peasants for food. Large numbers of these 
child-pUgrims did not know why they had joined the 
throng ; they had never heard of the Bleeding Host towards 
which they were journeying ; when asked why they had set 
out, they could only answer that they could not help it, 
that they saw the red cross at the head of their little 
band, and had to follow it. Many of them could not 


speak; all went weeping and groaning, shivering as if 
they had a fit of ague. An unnatural strength supported 
them. Little boys and girls, some of them not eight years 
old, from a small village near Bamberg, were said to have 
marched, on their first setting forth, all day and the first 
night the incredible distance of not less than eighty miles ! 
Some towns tried to put a stop to these pilgrimages. Erfurt 
shut its gates against the youthful companies. The pil- 
grimages ended as suddenly as they had begun.^ 

Succeeding years witnessed similar astonishing pilgrim- 
ages — in 1489, to the " black Mother of God " in Altotting ; 
in 1492, to the "Holy Blood" at Sternberg; in the same 
year, to the "pitiful Bone" at Dornach; in 1499, to the 
picture of the Blessed Virgin at G-rimmenthal ; in 1500, to 
the head of St. Anna at Diiren; and in 1519, to the 
" Beautiful Mary " at Kegensburg. 

Apart altogether from these sporadic movements, the 
last decades of the fifteenth century were pre-eminently a 
time of pilgrimages. German princes and wealthy mer- 
chants made pilgrimages to the Holy Land, visited the 
sacred places there, and returned with numerous rehcs, 
which they stored in favourite churches. Frederick the 
Wise, the Elector of Saxony, to be known afterwards as the 
protector of Luther, made such a pilgrimage, and placed the 
relics he had acquired in the Castle Church (the Church of 
All Saints) in Wittenberg. He became an assiduous col- 
lector of relics, and had commissioners on the Ehine, in the 
Netherlands, and at Venice, with orders to procure him 
any sacred novelties they met with for sale.^ He procured 
from the Pope an Indulgence for all who visited the col- 
lection and took part in the services of the church on All 
Saints' Day ; for it is one of the ironies of history that the 
church on whose door Luther nailed his theses against 
Indulgences was one of the sacred edifices on which an 
Indulgence had been bestowed, and that the day selected 

' Konrad StoUe, Thiiringische Chronik, pp. 128-131 (BiUiothek des 
literarischcn Vereins in Stuttgart, xxxiii. ). 

^ Kolde, Friedrich der Wclse und die Anfdnge der Be/ormati<m, p. 14. 


by Luther was the yearly anniversary, which drew crowds 
to benefit by it.^ 

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land was too costly and 
dangerous to be indulged in by many. The richer 
Germans made pilgrimages to Eome, and the great pilgrim- 
age place for the middle-class or poorer Germans was 
Compostella in Spain. Einsiedeln, in Switzerland, also 
attracted yearly swarms of pilgrims. 

Guide-books were written for the benefit of these pious 
travellers, and two of them, the most popular, have recently 
been reprinted. They are the Mirabilia Eomce for Eoman 
pilgrims, and the Walfart und Strasse zu Sant Jacob for 
travellers to Compostella. These little books had a wonder- 
ful popularity. The Mirabilia Eomm went through nine- 
teen Latin and at least twelve German editions before the 
year 1500 ; it was also translated into Italian and Dutch. 
It describes the various shrines at Kome where pilgrims 
may win special gifts of grace by visiting and worshipping 
at them. Who goes to the Lateran Church and worships 
there has " forgiveness of all sins, both guilt and penalty." 
There is " a lovely little chapel " (probably what is now 
called the Lateran Baptistry) near the Lateran, where the 
same privileges may be won. The pilgrim who goes with 
good intention to the High Altar of St. Peter's Church, 
" even if he has murdered his father or his mother," is freed 
from all sin, " guilt as well as penalty," provided he repents. 
The virtues of St. Croce seem to have been rated even 
higher. If a man leaves his house with the intention of 
going to the shrine, even if he die by the way, all his sins 
are forgiven him ; and if he visits the church he wins a 
thousand years' relief from Purgatory.^ 

Compostella in Spain was the people's pilgrimage place. 
Before the invention of printing we find traces of manu- 

' Lucas Cranaoh, Witteiiberger Heiligenthumsbuch vom Jdhre 1509, in 
Birth's Liebhaher-Bibliothek alter JUustratoren in Facsimilien-Rejiroduk- 
tian. No. vii. (Munich, 1896). 

' Mirabilia Romce, ed. by G. Parthey : the quotations are from an old 
Geiman translation. 


script guides to travellers, which were no doubt circulated 
among intending pilgrims, and afterwards the services of 
the printing-press were early called in to assist. In the 
Spanish archives at Simaneas there are two siagle sheets, 
one of which states the numerous Indulgences for the 
benefit of visitors at the shrtae of St. James, while the 
other enumerates the relics which are to be seen and tisited 
there. It mentions thirty-nine great felics — from the 
bones of St. James, which lay under the great altar of the 
cathedral, to those of St. Susanna, which were interred ia a 
church outside the walls of the town.^ These leaflets were 
sold to the pilgrims, and were carried back by them to 
Germany, where they stimulated the zeal and devotion of 
those who intended to make the pilgrimage. Our pilgrim's 
guide-book, the Walfart und Strasse zu Sant Jacob? deals 
almost exclusively with the road. The author was a 
certain Hermann Kiinig of Vach, who calls himself a 
Mergen-hnecM, or servant of the Virgin Mary. The well- 
known pilgrim song, " Of Satut James " ( Von Sant Jacob), 
told how those who reached the end of their journey got, 
through the intercession of St. James, forgiveness from the 
guilt and penalty (von Fein und Schuldt) of all their sins; 
it tells the pilgrims to provide themselves with two pairs 
of shoes, a water-bottle and spoon, a satchel and staff, 
a broad-brimmed hat and a cloak, both trimmed with 
leather in the places likeliest to be frayed, and both needed 
as a protection against wind and rain and snow.* It 

^ The title is Hm sunt reliquve qum habeniur in hoc sanclissima ecdesia 
Composlellana in qvM corjnis Beciii Jacohi Zebedei in integrum. 

" No. i. of Druckf und Holzschnitte des 15 tmd 16 Jahrhunderts (Strass- 
burg, 1899). 

* " Zway par suhuech der davff er wol, 

Ein scliitssel bei der flaschen ; 
Ein breitcn huet den sol er lian, 
Und an mantel sol er nit gan 
Myt leder wol besezet; 
Es sclinei oder regn oder welie der wiut, 
Dass in die lufft niclit nezet ; 
Sagkli und stab ist auch dar bey." 
— ( Waokeruagel, Das deutselie Kirchcnlied von der aeltcstcii Zcit Ms zu Anfwng 
dcs 17 JaJirhuiidcrls, ii, 1009.) 


charges them to take permits from their parish priests 
to dispense with confession, for they were going to 
foreign lands where they would not find priests who spoke 
German. It warns them that they might die far from 
home and find a grave on the pilgrimage route. Our 
guide-book omits all these things. It is written by a man 
who has made the pilgrimage on foot ; who had observed 
minutely all the turns of the road, and could warn fellow- 
pilgrims of the difficulties of the way. He gives the 
itinerary from town to town ; where to turn to the right 
and where to the left ; what conspicuous buildings mark 
the proper path ; where the traveller will find people who 
are generous to poor pilgrims, and where the inhabitants 
are uncharitable and food and drink must be paid for ; 
where hostels abound, and those parts of the road on 
which there are few, and where the pilgrims must buy 
their provisions beforehand and carry them in their 
satchels ; where sick pilgrims can find hospitals on the way, 
and what treatment they may expect there ; ^ at what 
hostels they must change their money into French and 
Spanish coin. In brief, the booklet is a mediaeval 
" Baedeker," compiled with German accuracy for the 

' The hospital at Romans is much praised : 

" Da selbst eyn gutter spital ist, 
Dar inne gybt maun brot und wyn 
Auch synt die bett hubsch und fyn." 

On the other hand, although the hospital at Montpelier was good enough, 
its superintendent was a sworn enemy to Germans, and the pilgrims of that 
nation suffered much at his hands. These hospitals occupy a good deal of 
space in the pilgrimage song, and the woes of the Germans are duly set 
forth. If the pilgrim asks politely for more bread : 

" Spitelmeister, lieber spitelnieister meyn. 
Die brot sein vil zu kleine"; 

or suggests that the beds are not very clean : 

" Spitelmeister, lieber spitelmeister meyn, 
Die bet sein nit gar reine," 

the superintendent and his daughter (der spitelmeister het eyn tochterlein 
es mocht recht vol eyn schelckin seyn) declared that they were not going to 
be troubled with " German dogs." — "Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirdienlied, 
etc., ii. 1009-1010. 


benefit of German pilgrims to the renowned shrine of St. 
James of Compostella. This little book went through 
several editions between 1495 and 1521, and is of itself a 
proof of the popularity of this pilgrimage place. In the 
last decades of the fifteenth century there arose a body of 
men and women who might be called professional pilgrims, 
and who were continually on the road between Germany 
and Spain. A pilgrimage was one of the earliest so-called 
" satisfactions " which might be done vicariously, and the 
Brethren of St. James {Jacobs-Brueder) made the pilgrimage 
regularly, either on behalf of themselves or of others. 

Many of these pilgrims were men and women of 
indifferent character,^ who had been sent on a pilgrimage 
as an ecclesiastical punishment for their sins. The 
Chronicles of the Zimmer Family^ gives several cases of 
criminals, who had committed murder or theft or other 
serious crimes between 1490 and 1520, who were sent to 
Santiago as a punishment. Even in the last decades of 
the fifteenth century, when the greater part of the pilgrims 
were devout in their way, it was known only too well 
that pilgi-images were not helpful to a moral life. Stern 
preachers of righteousness like Geiler of Keysersberg " and 
Berchtold of Eegensburg denounced pilgrimages, and said 
that they created more sins than they yielded pardons.* 
Parish priests continually forbade their women penitents, 
especially if they were immarried, from going on a 
pilgrimage. But these warnings and rebukes were in 
vain. The prevailing terror had possessed the people, 
and they journeyed from shrine to shrine seeking some 
relief for their stricken consciences. 

A marked characteristic of this revival which found 
such striking outcome in these pilgrimages was the 
thought that Jesus was to be looked upon as the Judge 
who was to come to punish the wicked. His saving and 
intercessory work was thrust into the background. Men 
forgot that He was the Saviour and the Intercessor ; and 

1 Zimmerische Chrcmik (Freiburg i. B. 1881-188-2), ii. 314. 
" Ibid. iii. 474-475 iv. ilOl. » Prediglen, i. 448. 


bis the human heart craves for someone to intercede for 
it, another intercessor had to be found. This gracious 
personality was discovered in the Virgin Mother, who was 
to be entreated to intercede with her Son on behalf of 
poor sinning human creatures. The last half of the 
fifteenth century saw a deep-seated and widely-spread crav- 
ing to cling to the protection of the Virgin Mother with 
& strength and intensity hitherto unknown in mediaeval 
religion. It witnessed the furthest advance that had yet 
been made towards what must be called Mariolatry. This 
devotion expressed itself, as rehgious emotion continually 
does, in hymns ; a very large proportion of the mediaeval 
hymns in praise of the Virgin were written in the second 
half of the fifteenth century — the period of this strange 
revival based upon fear. Dread of the Son as Judge gave 
rise to the devotion to the Mother as the intercessor. 
Little books for private and family devotion were printed, 
bearing such titles as the Pearl of the Pas'.ion and the Little 
Gospel, containing, with long comments, the words of our 
Lord on the cross to John and to Mary. She became the 
ideal woman, the ideal mother, the " Mother of God," the 
mater dolorosa, with her heart pierced by the sword, the 
eharer in the redemptive sufferings of her Son, retaining 
lier sensitive woman's heart, ready to listen to the appeals 
of a suffering, sorrowful humanity. We can see this 
devotion to the Virgin Mother impregnating the social 
revolts from Hans Bohm to Joss Fritz. The theology of 
the schools followed in the wake of the popular sentiment, 
and the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was more 
Btrictly defined and found its most strenuous supporters 
during the later decades of this fifteenth century. 

The thought of motherly intercession went further ; 
the Virgin herself had to be interceded with to induce 
her to plead with her Son for men sunk in sin, and her 
mother (St. Anna) became the object of a cult which may 
almost be said to be quite new. Hymns were written in 
her praise.^ Confraternities, modelled on the confraternities 

' Waokernagel, Das deulsche Kirchenlied, etc., ii. 564, 1016-1022. 


dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, were formed in order to 
bring the power of the prayers of numbers to bear upon< 
her. These confraternities spread all over Germany and 
beyond it.^ It is almost possible to trace the widening 
area of the cult from the chronicles of the period. The 
special cult of the Virgin seems to have begun, at least 
in its extravagant popular form, in North France, and to 
have spread from France through Germany and Spain ; 
but so far as it can be traced, this cult of St. Anna, " the 
Grandmother," had a German origin, and the devotion 
manifested itself most deeply on German soil. Even the 
Humanist poets sang her praises with enthusiasm, and such 
collectors of relics as Frederick of Saxony and the Cardinal 
Archbishop of Mainz rejoiced when they were able to add 
a thumb of St. Anna to their store. Luther himself tells 
us that " St. Anna was his idol " ; and Calvin speaks of 
his mother's devotion to the saint. Her name was graven 
on many a parish church bell, and every pull at the ropes 
and clang of the bell was supposed to be a prayer to 
her to intercede. The Virgin and St. Anna brought 
in their train other saints who were also believed to be 
the true intercessors. The three bells of the church in 
which Luther was baptized bore the following inscriptions 
carved deeply in the brass : — " God help us ; Mary have 
mercy. 1499." " Help us Anna, also St. Peter, St. Paul. 
1509." "Help us God, Mary, Anna, St. Peter, Paul, 
Arnold, Stephan, Simon. '1509." The popular religion 
always represented Jesus, Mecum (Myconius) tells us, as 
the stern Judge who would convict and punish all those 
who had not secured righteousness by the intercession of 
the saints or by their own good works. 

This revival of religion, crude as it was, and based on 
fear, had a distinct effect for good on a portion of the 
clergy, and led to a great reformation of morals among 
those who came under its influence. The papal Schism, 
which had lasted till 1449, had for one of its results the 

• Schwaumkell, Der CnUiis der heillgen Anna am Ausgange des 
Miitelalters (Freiburg, 1893). 


weakening of all ecclesiastical discipline, and its con- 
sequences were seen in the growing immorality which 
pervaded all classes of the clergy. So far as one can 
judge, the revival of religion described above had not 
very much effect on the secular clergy. Whether we 
take the evidence from the chronicles of the time or 
from visitations of the bishops, the morals of the parish 
priests were extremely low, and the private lives of the 
higher clergy in Germany notoriously corrupt. The , 
occupants of episcopal sees were for the most part the 
younger brothers of the great princes, and had been placed 
in the religious life for the sake of the ecclesiastical 
revenues. The author of the Chronicles of the Zimmer 
Family tells us that at the festive gatherings which 
accompanied the meetings of the Diet, the young nobles, 
lay and clerical, spent most of their time at dice and 
cards. As he passed through the halls, picking his way 
among groups of young nobles lying on the floor (for 
tables and chairs were rare in these days), he continually 
heard the young count call out to the young bishop, 
" Play up, parson ; it is your turn." The same writer 
describes the retinue of a great prelate, who was always 
accompanied to the Diet by a concubine dressed in man's 
clothes. Nor were the older Orders of monks, the Bene- 
dictines and their offshoots, greatly influenced by the 
revival. It was different, however, with those Orders of 
monks who came into close contact with the people, and 
caught from them the new fervour. The Dominicans, the 
great preaching Order, were permeated by reform. The 
Franciscans, who had degenerated sadly from their earlier 
lives of self-denial, partook of a new life. Convent after 
convent reformed itself, and the inmates began to lead 
again the lives their founder had contemplated. The fire 
of the revival, however, burnt brightest among the 
Augustinian Eremites, the Order which Luther joined, and 
they represented, as none of the others did, all the char- 
acteristics of the new movement. 

These Augustinian Eremites had a somewhat curious 


history. They had nothing in common with St. Augustine 
save the name, and the fact that a Pope had given them 
the rule of St. Augustine as a hasis for their monastic 
constitution. They had originally been hermits, living 
solitary lives in mountainous parts of Italy and of 
Germany. Many Popes had desired to bring them under 
conventual rule, and this was at last successfully done. 
They shared as no other Order had done in the revival 
of the second half of the fifteenth century, and exhibited 
in their lives all its rehgious characteristics. No Order 
of monks contained such devoted servants of the Virgin 
Mother. She was the patron along with St. Augustine. 
Her image stood in the chapter -house of every convent. 
The theologians of the Augustinian Eremites vied with 
those of the Franciscans in spreading the doctrine of the 
Immaculate Conception. They did much to spread the 
cult of the " Blessed Anna." They were devoted to the 
Papacy. One of their learned men, John of Palz, one of 
the two professors of theology in the Erfurt Convent when 
Luther entered it as a novice, was the most strenuous 
defender of the doctrine of Attrition and of the religious 
value of Indulgences. "With all this their lives were more 
self-denying than those of most monks. They cultivated 
theological learning, and few Universities in Germany were 
without an Augustinian Eremite who acted as professor of 
philosophy or of theology. They also paid great attention 
to the art of preaching, and every large monastery had a 
special preacher who attracted crowds of the laity to the 
convent chapeL Their monasteries were usually placed in 
large towns ; and their devout lives, their learning, and the 
popular gifts of their preachers, made them favourites with 
the townspeople. They were the most esteemed Order in 

These last decades of the fifteenth century were the 
days of the resuscitation of the mendicant Orders and the 
revival of their power over the people. The better 
disposed among the princes and among the wealthier 
burghers invariably selected their confessors from the 


monks of the mendicant Orders, and especially from the 
Augustinian Eremites. The chapels of the Franciscans 
and of the Eremites were thronged, and those of the parish 
clergy were deserted. The common people took for their 
religious guides men who shared the new revival, and 
who proved their sincerity by self-denying labours. It 
was in vain that the Eoman Curia published regulations 
insisting that every parishioner must confess to the priest 
of the parish at least once a year, and that it explained 
again and again that the personal character of the ministrant 
did not affect the efficacy of the sacraments administered 
by him. So long as poorly clad, emaciated, clean-living 
Franciscan or Eremite priests could be found to act as con- 
fessors, priests, or preachers, the people deserted the parish 
clergy, flocked to their confessionals, waited on their serv- 
ing the Mass, and thronged their chapels to listen to their 
sermons. These decades were the time of the last revival 
of the mendicant monks, who were the religious guides in 
this flamboyant popular religion which is so much in 
evidence during our period. 

§ 6. ^ non-Ecclesiastical Beligion. 

The third religious movement which belongs to the 
last decades of the flfteenth and the earlier decades of 
the sixteenth century was of a kind so different from, and 
even contrary to, what has just been described, that it is 
with some sm-prise that the student finds he must recognise 
its presence alongside of the other. It was the silent 
spread of a quiet, sincere, but non-ecclesiastical religion. 
Historians usually say nothing about this movement, and it 
is only a minute study of the town chronicles and of the 
records of provincial and municipal legislation that reveals 
its power and extent. It has always been recognised that 
Luther's father was a man of a deeply religious turn of 
mind, although he commonly despised the clergy, and 
thought that most monks were rogues or fools ; but what is 
not recognised is that in this he represented thousands of 


quiet and pious Germans in all classes of society. We find 
traces of the silent, widespreading movement in the 
ecclesiastical legislation of German princes, in the police 
regulations, and in the provisions for the support of the 
poor among the hurghers ; in the constitutions and practices 
of the confraternities among the lower classes, and especially 
among the artisans in the towns ; and in the numerous 
translations of the Vulgate into the vernacular. 

The reforms sketched by the Councils of Constance and 
of Basel had been utterly neglected by the Eoman Curia, 
and in consequence several German princes, while they felt 
the hopelessness of insisting on a general purification of the 
Church, resolved that these reforms should be carried out 
within their own dominions. As early as 1446, Duke 
WiUiam of Saxony had published decrees which interfered 
with the pretensions of the Church to be quite independent 
of the State. His regulations about the observance of the 
Sunday, his forbidding ecclesiastical courts to interfere with 
Saxon laymen, his stern refusal to allow any Saxon to 
appeal to a foreign jurisdiction, were all more or less 
instances of the interference of the secular power within 
what had been supposed to be the exclusive province of the 
ecclesiastical. He went much fui'ther, however. He 
enacted that it belonged to the secular power to see that 
parish priests and their superiors within his dominions 
lived lives befitting their vocation — a conception which was 
entirely at variance with the ecclesiastical pretensions of 
the Middle Ages. He also declared it to be within the 
province of the secular power to visit officially and to 
reform all the convents within his dominions. So far as 
proofs go, it is probable that these declarations about the 
rights of the civil authorities to exercise discipline over the 
parish priests and their superiors remained a dead letter. 
We hear of no such reformation being carried out. But 
the visitation of the Saxon monasteries was put in force 
in spite of the protests of the ecclesiastical powers. Andreas 
Proles would never have been able to carry out his proposals 
of reform in the convents of the Augustinian Eremites but 


foi the support he received from the secular princes against 
his ecclesiastical superiors in Eome. The Dukes Ernest 
and Albrecht carried out Duke William's conceptions about 
the relation of the civil to the ecclesiastical authorities in 
their ordinances of 1483, and the Elector Frederick the 
Wise was heir to this ecclesiastical policy of his family. 

The records of the Electorate of Brandenburg, investi- 
gated by Priebatsch and described by him in the Zeitschri/t 
fiir KircherigeschicMe} testify to the same ideas at work 
there. A pious prince like Frederick n. of Brandenburg 
removed unworthy Church dignitaries and reinstituted 
them, thus taking upon himself the oversight of the Church. 
Appeals to Eome were forbidden under penalties. Gradu- 
ally under Frederick and his successors there arose what 
was practically a national Church of Brandenburg, which 
was almost completely under the control of the civil power, 
and almost entirely separated from Eoman control. 

The towns also interfered in what had hitherto been 
believed to be within the exclusive domain of the ecclesi- 
astical authorities. They recognised the harm which the 
numerous Church festivals and saints' days were doing to 
the people, and passed regulations about their observance, 
all of them tending to lessen the number of the days on 
which men were compelled by ecclesiastical law to be idle. 
When Luther pleaded in his Address to the Nobility of the 
German Nation for the abolition of the ecclesiastical laws 
enforcing idleness on the numerous ecclesiastical holy days, 
he only suggested an extension and wider application of 
the police regulations which were in force within his native 
district of Mausfeld. 

This non-ecclesiastical feeling appears strongly in the 
change of view about Christian charity which marks the 
close of the fifteenth century. 

Nothing shows how the Church of the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries had instilled the mind of Jesus into 
the peoples of Europe like the zeal with which they tried 
to do their duty by the poor, the sick, and the helpless. 

1 xix. p. 397 if., XX. p. 159 ff., 329 ff., xxi. p. 43 ff. 


Institutions, founded by individuals or by corporations, for 
the purpose of housing the destitute abounded, and men 
and women willingly dedicated themselves to the service 
of the unfortunate. 

"The Beguins crowned witi flapping hats, 
O'er long-drawn bloodless faces blank, 
And gowns unwashed to wrap their lank 
Lean figures,"'- 

were sisters of mercy in every mediaeval town. Unfor- 
tunately the lessons of the Church included the thought 
that begging was a Christian virtue ; while the idea that 
because charity is taught by the law of Christ, its exercise 
must be everywhere superintended by ecclesiastics, was 
elevated to a definite principle of action, if not to something 
directly commanded by the law of God. The Eeformation 
protested against these two ideas, and the silent anticipa- 
tion of this protest is to be found in the non-ecclesiastical 
piety of the close of the fifteenth century. 

The practice of begging, its toleration and even encour- 
agement, was almost universal In some of the benevolent 
institutions the sick and the pensioners were provided from 
the endowment with all the necessaries of life, but it was 
generally thought becoming that they should beg them from 
the charitable. The very fact of begging seemed to raise 
those who shared in it to the level of members of a 
religious association. St. Francis, the " imitator of Christ," 
had taught his followers to beg, and this great example 
sanctified the practice. It is true that the begging friars 
were always the butt of the satirists of the close of the 
fifteenth century. They delighted to portray the mendi- 
cant monk, with his sack, into which he seemed able to 
stuff everything: honey and spice, nutmegs, pepper, and 
preserved ginger, cabbage and eggs, poultry, fish, and new 
clothes, milk, butter, and cheese ; cheese especially, and of 
all kinds — ewe's milk and goat's milk, hard cheese and 
soft cheese, large cheeses and small cheeses — were greedily 
' The Romance of the Rose, ii. p. 168 (Temple Classics edition). 


demanded by these "cheese hunters," as they were 
satirically called. On their heels tramped a host of semi- 
ecclesiastical beggars, all of them with professional names- — 
men who begged for a church that was building, or for an 
altar-cloth, or to hansel a young priest at his first Mass ; 
men who carried relics about for the charitable to kiss — 
some straw from the manger of Bethlehem, or a feather 
from the wing of the angel Gabriel ; the Brethren of St. 
James, who performed continual and vicarious pilgrimages 
to Compostella, and sometimes robbed and murdered on 
the road ; the Brethren of St. Anthony, who had the 
special privilege of wearing a cross and carrying a bell on 
their begging visits. These were all ecclesiastical beggars. 
The ordinary beggars did their best to obtain some share 
of the sanctity which surrounded the profession ; they 
carried with them the picture of some saint, or placed the 
cockle-shell, the badge of a pilgrim, in their hats, and 
secured a quasi-ecclesiastical standing.^ Luther expressed 
not merely his own opinion on this plague of beggars in 
his Address to the Nobility of the German Nation, but what 
had been thought and partially practised by quiet laymen 
for several decades. Some towns began to make regulations 
against promiscuous begging by able-bodied persons, pro- 
vided work for them, seized their children, and taught 
them trades — all of which sensible doings were against the 
spirit of the mediaeval Church. 

The non-ecclesiastical reUgious feeling, however, appears 
much more clearly when the history of the charitable 
foundations is examined. The invariable custom during 
the earUer Middle Ages was that charitable bequests were 
left to the management of the Church and the clergy. 
At the close of the fifteenth century the custom began 
to alter. The change from clerical to lay management 
was at first probably due mainly to the degeneracy of the 
clergy, and to the belief that the funds set apart for the 
poor were not properly administered. The evidences of 
this are to be found in numerous instances of the civic 
^ V. Bezold, ffeschichle der deutsclien RcformaMon^ pp. 95 f. 


authorities attempting, and successfully, to take the 
management of charitable foundations out of the hands 
of ecclesiastical authorities, and to vest them in lay 
management. But this cannot have been the case always. 
We should rather say that it began to dawn upon men 
that although charity was part of the law of Christ, this 
did not necessarily mean that all charities must be placed 
under the control of the clergy or other ecclesiastical 
administrators. Hence we find during the later years of 
the fifteenth century continual instances of bequests for 
the poor placed in the hands of the town councU or of 
boards of laymen. That this was done without any 
animus against the Church is proved by the fact that the 
same testator is found giving benefactions to foimdations 
which are under clerical and to others under lay manage- 
ment. Out of the funds thus accumulated the town councils 
began a system of caring for the poor of the city, which 
consisted in giving tokens which could be exchanged for so 
much bread or woollen cloth, or shoes, or wood for firing, at 
the shops of dealers who were engaged for the purpose. How 
far this new and previously unheard of lay management, in 
what had hitherto been the pecuUar possession of the clergy, 
had spread before the close of the fifteenth century, it is 
impossible to say. No archseologist has yet made an 
exhaustive study of the evidence lying buried in archives 
of the mediaeval towns of Germany ; but enough has been 
collected by Kriegk^ and others to show that it had 
become very extensive. The laity saw that they were 
quite able to perform this peculiarly Christian work apart 
from any clerical direction. 

Another interesting series of facts serves also to show 
the growth of a non-ecclesiastical religious sentiment. The 
later decades of the fifteenth century saw the rise of 
innumerable associations, some of them definitely religious, 

' Kriegk, Deutsehcs Biirgeiihum im Mittelalter. A''ach urkwndluihm 
Forschuncien vnd mit bisondcrer'Bezichung auf Frankfurt a. M., pp. ]61ff. 
(Frankfurt, 1868). Uhlliorn, Die christliche Liebesthatigkeit im Mittelalter, 
pp. 431 S. (Stuttgart, 1854). 


and all of them with a religious side, which are unlike 
what we meet with earlier. They did not aim to be, like 
the praying circles of the Mystics or of the Gottesfrewnde, 
ecclesiolcB in ecclesia, strictly non-clerical or even anti- 
clerical. They had no difficulty in placing themselves under 
the protection of the Church, in selecting the ordinary 
ecclesiastical buildings for their special services, and in 
employing priests to conduct their devotions ; but they were 
distinctively lay associations, and lived a religious life in 
their own way, without any regard to the conceptions of 
the higher Christian life which the Church was accustomed 
to present to its devout disciples. Some were associations 
for prayer ; others for the promotion of the " cult " of a 
special saint, like the confraternities dedicated to the 
Virgin Mother or the associations which spread the " cult " 
of the Blessed Ann a ; but by far the largest number were 
combinations of artisans, and resembled the workmen's 
" gilds " of the Koman Empire. 

Perhaps one of the best known of these associations 
formed for the purpose of encouraging prayer was the 
" Brotherhood of the Eleven Thousand Virgins," commonly 
known imder the quaint name of St. Ursula's Little Ship. 
The association was conceived by a Carthusian monk of 
Cologne, and it speedily became popular. Frederick the 
Wise was one of its patrons, his secretary, Dr. Pfeffinger, 
one of its sjipporters; it numbered its associates by the 
thousand; its praises were sung in a quaint old German 
hymn.^ No money dues were exacted from its members. 
The only duty exacted was to pray regularly, and to learn 
to better one's life through the power of prayer. This was 
one type of the pious brotherhoods of the fifteenth century. 

' Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirchenlied, ii. 768-769 ; it began : 

" Ein zeyt hort ioh mit gutter mer 
von einem scliyfflin sagen, 
Wie es mit tugendeii also gar 
kostliohen war beladen : 

Zu dem schyfflin gewan ioh ein hertz, 
Ich fand dar yn vil gilter gemertz 
in mancher hande gaden." 


It was the best known of its kind, and there were many 
others. But among the brotherhoods which bear testi- 
mony to the spread of a non-ecclesiastical piety none are 
more important than the confraternities which went by the 
names of Kalands or Kalandsgilden ia North Germany and 
Zechen in Austria. These associations were useful in a 
variety of ways. They were unions for the practice of 
religion ; for mutual aid in times of sickness ; for defence 
in attack ; and they also served the purpose of insurance 
societies and of burial clubs. It is with their religious 
side that we have here to do. It was part of the bond of 
association that all the brethren and sisters (for women 
were commonly admitted) should meet together at stated 
times for a common religious service. The brotherhood 
selected the church in which this was held, and so far 
as we can see the chapels of the Franciscans or of the 
Augustinian Eremites were generally chosen. Sometimes 
an altar was relegated to their exclusive use ; sometimes, 
if the church was a large one, a special chapel. The 
interesting thing to be noticed is that the rules and the 
modes of conducting the religious services of the associa- 
tion were entirely in the hands of the brotherhood itself, 
and that these laymen insisted on regulating them in 
their own way. Luther has a very interesting sermon, 
entitled Sermon upon the venerdbh Sacrament of the holy 
true Body of Christ and of the Brotherhoods, the latter 
half of which is devoted to a contrast between good 
brotherhoods and evil ones. Those brotherhoods are evil, 
says Luther, ia which the religion of the brethren is ex- 
pressed in hearing a Mass on one or two days of the year, 
while by guzzling and drinking continually at the meetings 
of the brotherhood, they contrive to serve the devil the 
greater part of their time. A true brotherhood spreads 
its table for its poorer members, it aids those who are sick 
or infirm, it provides marriage portions for worthy young 
members of the association. He ends with a comparison 
between the true brotherhood and the Church of Christ. 
Theodore Kolde remarks that a careful monograph on the 


brotherhoods of the end of the fifteenth century in the light 
of this sermon of Luther's would afford great information 
about the popular religion of the period. Unfortunately, 
no one has yet attempted the task, but German archaeo- 
logists are slowly preparing the way by printing, chiefly 
from MS. sources, accounts of the constitution and practices 
of many of these Kalands. 

From all this it may be seen that there was in these 
last decades of the fifteenth and in the earlier of the 
sixteenth centuries the growth of what may be called a 
non-ecclesiastical piety, which was quietly determined to 
bring within the sphere of the laity very much that had 
been supposed to belong exclusively to the clergy. The 
jus episcopale which Luther claimed for the civil authorities 
in his tract on the Liberty of the Christian Man, had, in 
part at least, been claimed and exercised in several of the 
German principalities and municipalities ; the practice of 
Christian charity and its management were being taken 
out of the hands of the clergy and entrusted to the laity 
and the brotherhoods were making it apparent that men 
could mark out their reHgious duties in a way deemed 
most suitable for themselves without asking any aid from 
the Church, further than to engage a priest whom they 
trusted to conduct divine service and say the Masses they 
had arranged for. 

The appearance of numerous translations of the Scrip- 
tures into the vernacular, unauthorised by the officials of 
the mediaeval Church, and jealously suspected by theni, 
appears to confirm the growth and spread of this non- 
ecclesiastical piety. The relation of the Church of the 
Middle Ages, earlier and later, to vernacular translations 
of the Vulgate is a complex question. The Scriptures were 
always declared to be the supreme source and authority 
for all questions of doctrines and morals, and in the earlier 
stages of the Eeformation controversy the supreme author- 
ity of the Holy Scriptures was not supposed to be one of 
the matters in dispute between the contending parties. 
This is evident when we remember that the Augsburg 


Confession, unlike the later confessions of the Keformed 
Churches, does not contain any article affirming the 
supreme authority of Scripture. That was not supposed 
to be a matter of debate. It was reserved for the Council 
of Trent, for the first time, to place traditiones dne Scripto 
on the same level of authority with the Scriptures of the 
Old and New Testaments. Hence, many of the small 
books, issued from convent presses for the instruction 
of the people duriag the decades preceding the Eefor- 
mation, frequently declare that the whole teaching of 
the Church is to be found within the books of the Holy 

It is, of course, undoubted that the mediaeval Church 
forbade over and over again the reading of the Scriptures 
in the Vulgate and especially in the vernacular, but 
it may be asserted that these prohibitions were almost 
always connected with attempts to suppress heretical or 
schismatic revolts.^ 

On the other hand, no official encouragement of the 
reading of the Scriptures in the vernacular by the people 
can be found during the whole of the Middle Ages, nor any 
official patronage of vernacular translations. The utmost 
that was done in the way of tolerating, it can scarcely be 
said of encouraging, a knowledge of the vernacular Scrip- 
tures was the issue of Psalters in the vernacular, of Service- 
Books, and, in the fifteenth century, of the Plenaria — 
little books which contained translations of some of the 
paragraphs of the Gospels and Epistles read in the Church 
service accompanied with legends and popular tales. 
Translations of the Scriptures were continually reprobated 

' The strongest prohibition of the vernacular Scriptures comes from the 
time of the Albigenses : ' ' Prohibemus etiam, ne libros veteris Testament! aut 
novi permittantur habere ; nisi forte psalterium, vel brevariam pro divinis 
officiis, aut horas B. Mariae aliquis ex devotione habere velit. Sed ne prse- 
missos libros habeant in vulgari translates, arctissime inhibemus" {Cmu:. 
of Toulouse of 1229, o. xiv.). The Coiistitutimies Thomce Arundel, for 
the mediseyal Church of England, declared: "Ordinamus ut nemo dein- 
ceps aliquem textum S. Scripturae auctoritate sua in linguam Anglicanam 
vel aliam transferat per viam libri, libelli aut traotatus" (Art. VII., 
1408 A.D.). 


by Popes and primates for various reasons.^ It is also 
unquestionable that a knowledge of the Scriptures in the 
vernacular, especially by uneducated men and women, 
was almost always deemed a sign of heretical tendency. 
" The third cause of heresy," says an Austrian inquisitor, 
writing about the end of the thirteenth century, " is that 
they translate the Old and New Testaments into the vulgar 
tongue ; and so they learn and teach. I have heard and 
seen a certain country clown who repeated the Book of 
Job word for word, and several who knew the New Testa- 
ment perfectly." ^ A survey of the evidence seems to lead 
to the conclusion that the rulers of the mediaeval Church 
regarded a knowledge of the vernacular Scriptures with 
grave suspicion, but that they did not go the length of 
condemning entirely their possession by persons esteemed 
trustworthy, whether clergy, monks, nuns, or distinguished 

Yet we have in the later Middle Ages, ever since 
Wiclif produced his English version, the gradual publica- 
tion of the Scriptures in the vernaculars of Europe. This 
was specially so in Germany ; and when the invention of 
printing had made the diffusion of literature easy, it is 
noteworthy that the earliest presses in Germany printed 
many more books for family and private devotion, many 
more Plenaria, and many more editions of the Bible than 
of the classics. Twenty -two editions of the Psalter 
in German appeared before 1509, and twenty-five of 
the Gospels and Epistles before 1518. No less than 
fourteen (some say seventeen) versions of the whole Bible 
were printed in High-German and three in Low-German 
during the last decades of the fifteenth and the earlier 
decades of the sixteenth century — all translations from the 

' Pope Innocent lll. reprobated the translation of the Scriptures into the 
vernacular, because ordinary laymen, and especially women, had not suffi- 
cient intelligence to understand them (Epistolce, ii. 141) ; and Berthold, 
Archbishop of Mainz, in his diocesan edict of I486, asserted that vernaculars 
were unable to express the profundity of the thoughts contained in the 
original languages of the Scriptures or in the Latin of the Vulgate. 

^ Magna BiUiolheca Patrum (Colonise Agrippinae, 1618), xiii. 299. 


Vulgate. The first was issued by John Metzel in Strass- 
burg in 1466. Then followed another Strassburg edition 
in 1470, two Augsburg editions in 1473, one in the Swiss 
dialect in 1474, two in Augsburg in 1477, one in Augs- 
burg in 1480, one in Niirnberg in 1483, one in Strassburg 
in 1485, and editions in Augsburg in 1487, 1490, 1507, 
and 1518. A careful comparison of these printed ver- 
nacular Bibles proves that the earlier editions were in- 
dependent productions ; but as edition succeeded edition 
the text became gradually assimilated until there came 
into existence a German Vulgate, which was used indis- 
criminately by those who adhered to the mediaeval Church 
and those who were dissenters from it. These German 
versions were largely, but by no means completely, dis- 
placed by Luther's translation. The Anabaptists, for ex- 
ample, retained this German Vulgate long after the 
publication of Luther's version, and these pre-Eeformation 
German Bibles were to be found in use almost two hundred 
years after the Eeformation.^ 

Whence sprang the demand for these vernacular ver- 
sions of the Holy Scriptures ? That the leaders of the 
mediaeval Church viewed their existence with, alariji is 
evident from the proclamation of the Primate of Germany, 
Berthold of Mainz, issued in 1486, ordering a censorship 
of books with special reference to vernacular translations 
of the Scriptures.^ On the other hand, there is no evi- 
dence that these versions were either wholly or in great 
part the work of enemies of the mediaeval Church. The 
mediaeval Brethren, as they called themselves (Waldenses, 
Picards, Wiclifites, Hussites, etc., were names given to 
them very indiscriminately by the ecclesiastical authorities), 
had translations of the Scriptures both in the Eomance 
and in the Teutonic languages as early as the close of the 
thirteenth century. The records of inquisitors and of 
councils prove it. But there is no evidence to connect 
any of these German versions, save, perhaps, one at Augs- 

* Walther, Die deutsche Bihelilbersetzung des Mittelalters {Bvaxisviick., 1889). 
' Gudenus, Oodex Diplomatic. Auecdola, iv. 469-475 (1758). 


burg, and that issued by the Koburgers in Niirnberg, with 
these earlier translations. The growing spread of educa- 
tion in the fifteenth century, and, above all, the growth of 
a non-ecclesiastical piety which claimed to examine and to 
judge for itself, demanded and received these numerous 
versions of the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue.^ 
The " common man " had the word of God in his hands, 
could read, meditate, and judge for himself. The effect of 
the presence of these vernacular Scriptures is apt to be 
exaggerated.^ The Humanist, Conrad Celtes, might threaten 
the priests that the Bible would soon be seen in every village 
tavern ; but we know that in these days of early printing 
a complete Bible must have been too expensive to be pur- 
chased by a poor man. Still he could get the Gospels or 
the Epistles, or the Psalter ; and there is evidence, apart 
from the number of editions, that the people were buying 
and were studying the Scriptures. Preachers were exhorted 
to give the meaning of the passages of Scripture read in 
Church to prevent the people being confused by the dif- 
ferent ways in which the text was translated in the Bibles 
in their possession. Stories were told of peasants, like 
■ Hans Werner, who worsted their parish priests in argu- 
ments drawn from Scripture. The ecclesiastical authorities 
were undoubtedly anxious, and their anxiety was shared by 
many who desired a reformation in life and manners, but 
dreaded any revolutionary movement. It was right that 
the children should be fed with the Bread of Life, but 
Mother Church ought to keep the bread-knife in her hands 
lest the children cut their fingers. Some .publishers of 
the translations inserted prefaces saying that the contents 
of the volumes should be understood in the way taught 
by the Church, as was done in the Book of the Gospels, 

' Walther, Die deutsche Bihelubersetzungen des MiUelalters (Brunswick, 

' Sebastian Brand, NmrenscMff, Preface, lines 1-4 : 

" Alle Land ist jetz vol! heilger Schrift, 
Und was der seelen Heil betrifft 
Bibel und hoilger Vater Lclir 
Und andrer frommon Biicher mehr." 


published at Basel in 1514. Bat in spite of all a ky 
religion had come into being, and laymen were beginning 
to think for themselves in matters where ecclesiastics had 
hitherto been considered the sole judges. 

§ 7. The "Brethren." 

There was another type of religious life and pious 
association which existed, and which seems in one form 
or other to have exercised a great influence among the 
better class of artisans, and more especially among the 
printers of Augsburg, Ntirnberg, and Strassburg. 

It is probable that this type of piety had at least three 

(a) We can trace as far back as the closing years of 
the thirteenth century, in many parts of Germany, the 
existence of nonconformists who, on the testimony of in- 
quisitors, lived pious lives, acted righteously towards their 
neighbours, and believed in all the articles of the Christian 
faith, but repudiated the Eoman Church and the clergy. 
Their persecutors gave them a high character. " The 
heretics are known by their walk and conversation: they 
live quietly and modestly ; they have no pride in dress ; 
their learned men are tailors and weavers ; they do not 
heap up riches, but are content with what is necessary; 
they live chastely ; they are temperate in eating and drink- 
ing ; they never go to taverns, nor to public dances, nor to 
any such vanities ; they refrain from all foul language, 
from backbiting, from thoughtless speech, from lying and 
from swearing." The list of objections which they had to 
usages of the mediaeval Church are those which would 
occur to any evangelical Protestant of this century. They 
professed a simple evangelical creed ; they ofifered a passive 
resistance to the hierarchical and priestly pretensions of 
the clergy ; they were careful to educate their children 
in schools which they supported ; they had vernacular 
translations of the Scriptures, and committed large portions 
to memory; they conducted their religious service in the 

THE "brethren" 153 

vernacular, and it was one of the accusations made against 
them that they alleged that the word of God was as pro- 
fitable when read in the vernacular as when studied in 
Latin. It is also interesting to know that they were 
accused of visiting the leper-houses to pray with the inmates, 
and that in some towns they had schools for the leper 
children.^ They called themselves the Brethren. The 
societies of the Brethren had never died out. During the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they were continually 
subject to local and somewhat spasmodic persecutions, 
when the ecclesiastical could secure the aid of the secular 
authorities to their schemes of repression, which was 
not always possible. They were strongly represented 
among the artisans in the great cities, and there are 
instances when the civic authorities gave them one of the 
churches of the towns for their services. The liability to 
intermittent persecution led to an organisation whereby the 
Brethren, who were for the time being living in peace, 
made arrangements to receive and support those who were 
able to escape from any district where the persecution 
raged. These societies were in correspondence with their 
brethren all over Europe, and were never so active as 
during the last decades of the fifteenth and the first 
quarter of the sixteenth century. 

(6) As early as the times of Meister Eckhart (d. 1327), 
of his disciples Tauler (d. 1361) and Suso (d 1>366), of 
the mysterious " Friend of God in the Oberland " and his 
associates (among them the Strassburg merchant Eulman 
Merswin (d. 1382)), and of the Brussels curate John 
Euysbroeck (d. 1381), the leaders of the mediaeval Mystics 
had been accustomed to gather their followers together 
into praying circles ; and the custom was perpetuated long 
after their departure. How these pious associations con- 
tinued to exist in the half century before the Eeformation, 
and what forms their organisation took, it seems impossible 
to say with any accuracy. The school system of the Brethren 

' Magna Bibliolheca Pairum (Colonise Agvippina, 1618), vol. xiii. pp. 


of the, Common Lot, which always had an intimate connection 
with the Gottesfreunde, in all probability served to spread 
the praying circles which had come down from the earlier 
Mystics. It seems to have been a custom among these 
Brethren of the Common Lot to invite their neighbours to 
meet in their schoolrooms or in a hall to listen to reli- 
gious discourses. There they read and expounded the New 
Testament in the vernacular. They also read extracts 
from books written to convey popular religious iustruction. 
They questioned their audience to find out how far their 
hearers understood their teaching, and endeavoured by 
question and answer to discover and solve religious diffi- 
culties. These schools and teachers had extended aU over 
Germany by the close of the fifteenth century, and their 
effect in quickening and keeping alive personal religion 
must have been great. 

(c) Then, altogether apart from the social and semi- 
political propaganda of the Hussites, there is evidence that 
fever since the circulation of the encyclic letter addressed 
by the Taborites in November 1431 to all Christians in 
all lands, and more especially since the foimdation of the 
Unitas Fratrum in 14^2, there had been constant com- 
munication between Bohemia and the scattered bodies 
of evangelical dissenters throughout Germany. Probably 
historians have credited the Hussites with more than 
their due influence over their German sympathisers. The 
latter had arrived at the conclusion that tithes ought to 
be looked upon as free-will offerings, that the cup should 
be given to the laity, etc., long before the movements under 
the leadership of Wiclif and of Huss. But the knowledge 
that they had sympathisers and brethren beyond their own 
land must have been a source of strength to the German 

Our knowledge of the times is still too obscure to 
warrant us in making very definite statements about 
the proportionate effect of these three religious sources 
of influence on the small communities of Brethren or 
evangelical dissenters from the mediaeval Church which 

THE "brethren" 155 

maintained a precarious existence at the close of the Middle 
Ages. There is one curious fact, however, which shows 
that there must have been an intimate connection between 
the Waldenses of Savoy and France, the Brethren of Ger- 
many, and the Unitas Fratrum of Bohemia. They all used 
the same catechism for the instruction of their children in 
divine things. So far as can be ascertained, this small 
catechism was first printed in 1498, and editions can be 
traced down to 1530. It exists in French, Italian, German, 
and Bohemian. The inspiration drawn from the earlier 
Mystics and Gottesfreunde is shown by the books circulated 
by the Brethren. They made great use of the newly dis- 
covered art of printing to spread abroad small mystical 
writings on personal religion, and translations of portions 
of the Holy Scriptm-es. They printed and circulated books 
which had been used in manuscript among the Mystics of 
the fourteenth century, such as the celebrated Masterhook, 
single sermons by Tauler, Prayers and Eules for holy living 
extracted from his writings, as well as short tracts taken 
from the later Mystics, like the Explanation of the Ten 
Commandments. It is also probable that some of the many 
translations of the whole or portions of the Bible which 
were in circulation in Germany before the days of Luther 
came from these praying circles. The celebrated firm of 
Ntirnberg printers, the Koburgers, who published &o many 
Bibles, were the German printers of the little catechism 
used by the Brethren ; and, as has been said, the Anabap- 
tists, who were the successors of these associations, did not 
use Luther's version, but a much older one which had come 
down to them from their ancestors. 

The members of these praying circles welcomed the 
Lutheran Eeformation when it came, but they can scarcely 
be said to have belonged to it. Luther has confessed how 
much he owed to one of their publications. Die deutsche 
Theologie ; and what helped him must have benefited others. 
The organisation of a Lutheran Church, based on civil 
divisions of the Empire, gave the signal for a thorough 
reorganisation of the members of these old associations 


who refused to have anything to do with a State Church. 
They formed the best side of the very mixed and very 
much misunderstood movement which later was called 
Anabaptism, and thus remained outside ^ the two great, 
divisions into which the Church of the Eeformation 
separated. This religious type existed and showed itself 
more especially among the artisans in the larger towns 
of Germany. 

It must not be supposed that these four classes of 
religious sentiment which have been found existing during 
the later decades of the fifteenth and the early decades 
of the sixteenth centuries can always be clearly distin- 
guished from each other. Eeligious types cannot be kept 
distinct, but continually blend with each other in the most 
unexpected way. Humanism and Anabaptism seem as far 
apart as they can possibly be ; yet some of the most 
noted Anabaptist leaders were distinguished members of 
the Erasmus circle at BaseL Humanism and delicate 
clinging to the simple faith of childhood blended in the 
exquisite character of Melanchthon. Luther, after his 
stern wrestle with self-righteousness in the convent at 
Erfurt, beheved that, had his parents been dead, he could 
have delivered their souls from purgatory by his visits to 
the shrines of the saints at Eome. The boy Mecum 
(Myconius) retained only so much of his father's teaching 
about the free Grace of God that he believed an Indulgence 
from Tetzel would benefit him if he could obtain it without 
paying for it. There is everywhere and at all times a 
blending of separate types of religious faith, until a notable 
crisis brings men suddenly face to face with the necessity 
of a choice. Such a crisis occurred during the period we 
call the Reformation, with the result that the leaders In 
that great religious revival found that the truest theology 
after all was what had expressed' itself in hymns and 
prayers, in revivalist sermons and in fireside teaching, and 
that they felt it to be their duty as theologians to give 
articulate dogmatic expression to what their fathers had 
been content to find inarticulately in the devotional rather 


than in the intellectual sphere of the mediaeval religious 

Such was the religious atmosphere into which Luther 
was born, and which he breathed from his earliest days. 
Every element seems to have shared in creating and shaping 
his religious history, and had similar effects doubtless on 
his most distinguished and sympathetic followers. 



§ 1. Savonarola} 

When the Italian Humanism seemed about to become a 
mere revival of ancient Paganism, with its accompaniments 
of a cynical sensualism on the one hand, and the bUndest 
trust in the occult sciences on the other, a great preacher 
arose in Florence who recalled men to Christianity and to 
Christian virtue. 

Girolamo Savonarola was an Italian, a countryman of 
Giaocchiuo di Piore, of Arnold of Brescia, of Francis of 
Assisi, of John of Parma, and, like them, he beheved him- 
self to be favoured with visions apocalyptic and other. He 
belonged to a land over which, all down through the Middle 
Ages, had swept popular rehgious revivals, sudden, con- 
suming, and transient a^ prairie fires. When a boy, he 

' SouEOES : Casanova and Guasti, Poesie di G. Savonarola (Florence, 
1862) ; Scella di Prediche e Scritti di Fra G. Savonarola, con nv-ovi Docu- 
menii intomo alia sua Vita, by Villari and Casanova (Florence, 1898) ; 
Bayonne, (Ewores Spirituelles cTwisies de Jerome Savonarola (Paris, 1879) ; 
The Workes of Sir TJiomas More . . . wHUen by him in the Englyshe tonge 
(London, 1557) ; Erasmus, Opera Omnia, ed. Le Clerc (Leyden, 1703-1706) ; 
Nichols, The Epistles of Erasmus from his earliest letters to his fifty-first 
year, arramged in order of time (London, 1901) ; Enchiridion Militis Chris- 
tiard (Cambridge, 1685) ; The whole Fa/mUia/r Colloquies of Erasmus 
(London, 1877) ; Sir Thomas More, Utopia (Temple Classics Series). 

Later Works : Villari, Girolamo Savonarola, 2 vols. (Florence, 1887- 
1888 ; Eng. trans., London, 1890) ; Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers: John, 
Colet, Erasmus, and Thomas More, etc. (London, 1887) ; Drummond, 
Erasmus, his life and character (London, 1873) ; Woltmann, Holhein and 
his Time (London, 1872) ; Froude, Life and Letters of Erasmus (London, 
1894); Amiel, Un litre pensevr d% 16 siecle: ikasme (Paris, 1889); 
Emmerton, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (New York, 1899). 



had quivered at seeing the pain in the world around him ; 
he had shuddered as he passed the great grim palaces of 
the Italian despots, where the banqueting hall was separated 
from the dungeon by a floor so thin that the groans of 
the prisoners mingled with the tinkle of the silver dishes 
and the wanton conversation of the guests. He had been 
destined by his family for the medical profession, and the 
lad was set to master the writings of Thomas Aquinas and 
the Arabian commentaries on Aristotle — the gateway in 
those days to a knowledge of the art of healing. The 
Summa of the great Schoolman entranced him, and in- 
sensibly drew him towards theology ; but outwardly he did 
not rebel against the lot in life marked out for him. A 
glimpse of a quiet resting-place in this world of pain and 
evil had come to him, but it vanished, swallowed up in the 
universal gloom, when Roberto Strozzi refused to permit 
him to marry his daughter Laodamia. There remained 
only rest on God, study of His word, and such slight 
solace as music and sonnet-writing could bring. His de- 
votion to Thomas Aquinas impelled him to seek within a 
Dominican convent that refuge which he passionately yearned 
for, from a corrupt world and a corrupt Church. There he 
remained buried for long years, reading and re-reading the 
Scriptures, poring over the Summa, drinking in the New 
Learning, almost unconsciously creating for himself a philo- 
sophy which blended the teachings of Aquinas with the 
Neo-Platonism of Marsiglio Ficino and of the Academy, 
and planning how he could best represent the doctrines of 
the Christian religion in harmony with the natural reason 
of man. 

When at last he became a great preacher, able to sway 
heart and conscience, it should not be forgotten that he 
was mediaeval to the core. His doctrinal teaching was 
based firmly on the theology of Thomas Aquinas. His 
intellectual conception of faith, his strong belief in the 
divine predestination and his way of expressing it, his 
view of Scripture as possessing manifold meanings, were 
all defined for him by the great Dominican Schoolmaa 


He held strongly the mediseval idea that the Church was 
an external political unity, ruled by the Bishop of Eome, 
to whom every human soul must be subject, and whom 
everyone must obey save only when commands were issued 
contrary to a plain statement of the evangelical law. He 
expounded the fulness of and the slight limitations to the 
authority of the Pope exactly as Thomas and the great 
Schoolmen of the thirteenth century had done, though in 
terms very different from the canonists of the Eoman 
Curia at the close of the Middle Ages. Even his apprecia- 
tion of the Neo-Platonist side of Humanism could be 
traced back to mediaeval authorities ; for at all times the 
writings of the pseudo-Dionysius had been a source of 
inspiration to the greater Schoolmen. 

His scholarship brought him into relation with the 
Humanist leaders ' in Florence, the earnest tone of his 
teaching and the saintliness of his character attracted 
them, his deep personal piety made them feel that he 
possessed something which they lacked ; while no N"eo- 
Platonist could be repelled by his claim to be the recipient 
of visions from on high. 

The celebrated Humanists of Florence became the 
disciples of the great preacher. Marsiglio Ficino himself, 
the head of the Florentine Academy, who kept one lamp 
burning before the bust of Plato and another before an 
image of the Virgin, was for a time completely under his 
spell. Young Giovaimi Pico della Mirandola's whole inner 
life was changed through his conversations with the Prior 
of San Marco. He reformed his earlier careless habits. 
He burnt five books of wanton love-songs which he had 
composed before his conversion.^ He prayed daily at fixed 
hours, and he wrote earnestly to his nephew on the im- 
portance of prayer for a godly life : 

" ' I stir thee not,' he says, ' to that prayer that standeth 
in many words, but to that prayer which in the secret 
chamber of the mind, in the privy-closet of the soul, with 

• The ll'orhs of Sir Thomas More, Knyght, sometyme Lorde Chancellour 
of England, Wnjtlcn by him in the Enghjsh tonge (London, 1557), p. 6 0. 


every affect speaketh to God ; which in the most lightsome 
darkness of contemplation not only presenteth the mind to 
the Father, but also uniteth it with Him by unspeakable 
ways which only they know who have assayed. Nor care I 
how long or how short thy prayer be ; but how effectual, 
how ardent, and rather interrupted and broken between with 
sighs, than drawn on length with a number of words. . . . 
Let no day pass but thou once at the leastwise present 
thyself to God in prayer. . . . What thou shalt in thy 
prayer ask of God, both the Holy Spirit which prayeth for 
U8 and also thine own necessity shall every hour put in thy 

He studied the writings of Thomas Aquinas, which con- 
tained the favourite theology of Savonarola, and spoke of 
the great Schoolman as a " pillar of truth." ^ He handed 
over the third part of his estates to his nephew, and lived 
plainly on what remained, that he might give largely in 
charity.* He made Savonarola his almoner, who on his 
behalf gave alms to destitute people and marriage portions 
to poor maidens.* He had frequent thoughts of entering 
the Dominican Order, and 

"On a time as he walked with his nephew, John Francis, 
in a garden at Ferrara, talking of the love of Christ, he 
broke out with these words : ' Nephew,' said he, ' this will I 
show thee; I warn thee keep it secret; the substance I have 
left after certain books of mine are finished, I intend to give 
out to poor folk, and, fencing myself with the crucifix, bare- 
foot, walking about the world, in every town and castle I 
pvurpose to preach Christ.' " ^ 

It is also recorded that he made a practice of scourging 
himself ; especially " on those days which represent unto us 
the Passion and Death that Christ suffered for our sake, 
he beat and scourged his own flesh in remembrance of that 
great benefit, and for cleansing his old offences."* But 
above all things he devoted himself to a diligent study of 

^ The Workes of Sir Thomas More, KnygM, somelyme Lorde Chance/ lour 
of England, Wrytlen by him in the Englysh tonge (London, 1657), p. 13 C. 
' Ibid. 5 A. * Ibid. 6 B. " Ibid. 6 0. 

» Ibid. 8 D. « Ibid. 6 D. 



the Holy Scriptures, and commended the practice to his 
nephew : 

" ' Thou mayest do nothing more pleasing to God, nothing 
more profitable to thyself, than if thine hand cease not day 
and night to turn and read the volumes of Holy Scripture. 
There lieth privily in them a certain heavenly strength, 
quick and effectual, wliich, with a marvellous power, trans- 
formeth and changeth the readers' mind into the love of 
God, if they be clean and lowly entreated.'"^ 

The great Platonist forsook Plato for St. Paul, whom he 
called the " glorious Apostle." ^ When he died he left his 
lands to one of the hospitals in Florence, and desired to be 
buried in the hood of the Dominican monks and within the 
Convent of San Marco. 

Another distinguished member of the Florentine 
Academy, Angelo PoUziano, was also one of Savonarola's 
converts. We find him exchanging confidences with Pico, 
both declaring that love and not knowledge is the faculty 
by which we learn to know God : 

" ' But now behold, my well-beloved Angelo,' writes Pico, 
' what madness holdeth us. Love God (while we be in this 
body) we rather may, than either know Him, or by speech 
utter Him. In loving Him also we more profit ourselves ; 
we labour less and serve Him more. And yet had we rather 
always by knowledge never find that thing we seek, than by 
love possess that thing which also without love were in vain 

Poliziano, like Pico, had at one time some thoughts of 
joining the Dominican Order. He too was buried at his 
own request in the cowl of the Dominican monk in the 
Convent of San Marco. 

Lorenzo de Medici, who during his life had mg,de many 
attempts to win the support of Savonarola, and had always 
been r^epulsed, could not die without entreating the great 
preacher to visit him on his deathbed and grant him 

^ The Workea of Sir Thomas More, Enyght, sometyine Lorde OTumeeilawt 
of England, Wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge (London, 1557), X3 P. 
s Ibid. 12 D. s Ibid. 7 D. 


Italian Humanism was for the moment won over to 
Christianity by the Prior of San Marco. Had the poets 
and the scholars, the politicians and the ecclesiastics, the 
State and the Church, not been so hopelessly corrupt, there 
might have been a great renovation of mankind, under the 
leadership of men who had no desire to break the political 
unity of the mediaeval Church. For it can scarcely be too 
strongly insisted that Savonarola was no Eeformation leader 
in the more limited sense of the phrase. The movement 
he headed has much more affinity with the crude revival 
of religion in Germany in the end of the fifteenth century, 
than with the Eeformation itself; and the aim of the re- 
organisation of the Tuscan congregation of the Dominicans 
under Savonarola has an almost exact parallel in the 
creation of the congregation of the Augustinian Eremites 
under Andreas Proles and Johann Staupitz. The whole 
Italian movement, as might be expected, was conducted by 
men of greater intelligence and refinement. It had there- 
fore less sympathy than the German with pilgrimages, 
relics, the niceties of ceremonial worship, and the cult of 
the vulgarly miraculous ; but it was not the less mediaeval 
on these accounts. It was the death rather than the life 
and lifework of Savonarola that was destined to have direct 
effect on the Eeformation soon to come beyond the Alps ; 
for his martyrdom was a crowning evidence of the im- 
possibility of reforming the Church of the Middle Ages 
apart from the shock of a great convulsion. " Luther 
himself," says Professor Villari, " could scarcely have been 
so successful in inaugurating his Eeform, had not the 
sacrifice of Savonarola given a final proof that it was 
hopeless to hope in the purification of Eome." ^ 

§ 2. John Golet. 

While Savonarola was at the height of his influence in 
Florence, there chanced to be in Italy a young Englishman, 

' Life ami Times of Girolamo Savonarola, p. 771 (Eng. trans., London, 


John Colet, son of a wealthy London merchant who had 
been several times Lord Mayor. He had gone there, we 
may presume, like his countrymen Grooyn and Linacre, to 
make himself acquainted with the New Learning at its 
fountainhead. There is no proof that he went to Florence 
or ever saw the great Italian preacher ; but no stranger 
could have visited Northern Italy in 1495 without hearing 
much of him and of his work. Colet's whole future life 
in England bears evidence that he did receive a new impulse 
while he was in Italy, and that of such a kind as could 
have come only from Savonarola. What Erasmus tells us 
of his sojourn there amply confirms this. Colet gave him- 
self up to the study of the Holy Scriptures ; he read care- 
fully those theologians of the ancient Church specially 
acceptable to the Neo-Platonist Christian Humanists; he 
studied the pseudo-Dionysius, Origen, and Jerome. What 
is more remarkable still in a foreign Humanist come to 
study in Italy, he read diligently such English classics as 
he could find in order to prepare himself for the work of 
preaching when he returned to England. The words of 
Erasmus imply that the impulse to do all this came to him 
when he was in Italy, and there was no one to impart it 
to him but the great Florentine. 

When Colet returned to England in 1496, he began to 
lecture at Oxford on the Epistles of St. Paul. His method 
of exposition, familiar enough after Calvin had introduced 
it into the Eeformed Church, was then absolutely new, and 
proves that he was an original and independent thinker. 
Hig aim was to find out the personal message which the 
writer (St. Paul) had sent to the Christians at Eome ; and 
this led him to seek for every trace which revealed the 
personality of the Apostle to the Gentiles. It was equally 
imperative to know what were the surroundings of the 
men to whom the Epistle was addressed, and Colet studied 
Suetonius to find some indications of the environment of 
the Eoman Christians. He had thus completely freed 
himself from the Scholastic habit of using the Scrijitures 
as a mere collection of isolated texts to be employed in 


proving doctrines or moral rules constructed or imposed by 
the Church, and it is therefore not surprising to find that 
he never lards his expositions with quotations from the 
Fathers. It is a still greater proof of his daring that he 
set aside the allegorising methods of the Schoolmen, — 
methods abundantly used by Savonarola, — and that he did 
so in spite of his devotion to the writings of the pseudo- 
Dionysius. He was the first to apply the critical methods 
of the New Learning to discover the exact meaning of the 
books of the Holy Scriptures. His treatment of the Scrip- 
tures shows that however he may have been influenced by 
Savonarola and by the Christian Humanists of Italy, he 
had advanced far beyond them, and had seen, what no 
mediaeval theologian had been able to perceive, that the 
Bible is a personal and not a dogmatic revelation. They 
were mediaeval : he belongs to the Eeformation circle of 
thinkers. Luther, Calvin, and Colet, whatever else separates 
them, have this one deeply important thought in common. 
Further, Colet discarded the mediaeval conception of a 
mechanical inspiration of the text of Scripture, in this also 
agreeing with Luther and Calvin. The inspiration of the 
Holy Scriptures was something mysterious to him. " The 
Spirit seemed to him by reason of its majesty to have a 
peculiar method of its own, singularly, absolutely free, 
blowing where it lists, making prophets of whom it will, 
yet so that the spirit of the prophets is subject to the 
prophets." ^ 

Colet saw clearly, and denounced the abounding evils 
which were ruining the Church of his day. The Convoca- 
tion of the English Church never listened to a bolder 

' Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers : John Colet, Erasmus, wnd Thomas 
More; teing a history of their felluw-work, 2nd ed. p. 125 (London, 1869). 
Mr. Seebohm seems to think that the Eeformers clung to the medieval 
conception of the inspiration of Scripture. Calvin held the same ideas as 
Colet, and expressed them in the same way. Cf. bis comments on Matt. 
xxvii; 9 : " Quomodo Ilieremise nomen obrepserit, me nescire fateor, nee 
anxie lahoro : certe. Hieremiffi nomen errore positum esse pro Zacharia, res 
ipsa ostendit" ; and his comment on.Acts vii. 16 : "quare bio loeus corri- 


sermon than that preached to them by the Dean of St. 
Paul's in 1512 — the same year that Luther addressed an 
assembly of clergy at Leitzkau. The two addresses should 
be compared. The same fundamental thought is contained 
in both — that every true reformation must begin with the 
individual man. Colet declared that reform must begin 
with the bishops, and that once begun it would spread to 
the clergy and thence to the laity ; " for the body follows 
the soul ; and as are the rulers in a State, such will the 
people be." He urged that what was wanted was the en- 
forcement of ecclesiastical laws which were already in 
existence. Ignorant and wicked men were admitted to 
holy orders, and there were laws prohibiting this. Simony 
was creeping "like a cancer through the minds of priests, 
so that most are not ashamed in these days to get for 
themselves great dignities by petitions and suits at court, 
rewards and promises " ; and yet strict laws against the 
evil were in existence. He proceeded to enumerate the 
other flagrant abuses — the non-residence of clergy, the 
worldly pursuits and indulgences of the clergy ; the scan- 
dals and vices of the ecclesiastical law-courts; the infre- 
qency of provincial councils to discuss and remedy existing 
evils ; the wasting of the patrimony of the Church on 
sumptuous buildings, on banquets, on enriching kinsfolk, or 
on keeping hounds. The Church had laws against all these 
abuses, but they were not enforced, and could not be until 
the bishops amended their ways. His scheme of reform 
was to put in operation the existing regulations of Canon 
Law. " The diseases which are now in the Church were 
the same in former ages, and there is no evil for which 
the holy fathers did not provide excellent remedies; there 
are no crimes in prohibition of which there are not laws 
in the body of Canon Law." Such was his definite idea 
of reform in this famous Convocation sermon. 

But he had wider views. He desired the diffusion of 
a sound Christian education, and did the best that could 
be done bygone man to promote it, by spending his private 
fortune in founding St. Paul's school, which he character- 


istically left in charge of a body of laymen. He longed to 
see a widespread preaching in the vernacular, and believed 
that the bishops should show an example in this clerical 
duty. It is probable that he wished the whole service to 
be in the vernacular, for it was made a charge against him 
that he taught his congregation to repeat the Lord's Prayer 
in English. Besides, he had clearly grasped the thought, 
too often forgotten by theologians of all schools, that the 
spiritual facts and forces which lie at the roots of the 
Christian life are one thing, and the intellectual conceptions 
which men make to explain these facts and forces are 
another, and a much less important thing ; that men are 
able to be Christians and to live the Christian life because 
of the former and not because of the latter. He saw that, 
while dogma has its place, it is at best the alliance of an 
immortal with a mortal, the union between that which is 
unchangeably divine and the fashions of human thought 
which change from one age to another. For this reason 
he thought little of the Scholastic Theology of his days, with 
its forty-three propositions about the nature of God and its 
forty-five about the nature of man before and after the 
Fall, each of which had to be assented to at the risk of a 
charge of heresy. " Why do you extol to me such a man 
as Aquinas ? If he had not been so very arrogant, indeed, 
he would not surely so rashly and proudly have taken 
upon himself to define all things. And unless his spirit 
had been somewhat worldly, he would not surely have 
corrupted the whole teaching of Christ by mixing it with 
his profane philosophy." The Scholastic Theology might 
have been scientific in the thirteenth century, but the 
"scientific" is the human and changing element in dogma, 
and the old theology had become clearly unscientific in the 
sixteenth. Therefore he was accustomed to advise young 
theological students to keep to the Bible and the Apostles' 
Creed, and let divines, if they liked, dispute about the rest ; 
and he taught Erasmus to look askance at Luther's recon- 
struction of the Augustinian theology. 

But no thinking man, however he may flout at philo- 


sophy and dogma, can do without either ; and Colet was 
no exception to the general rule. He has placed on record 
his detestation of Aquinas and his dislike of Augustine, 
and we may perhaps see in this a lack of sympathy with 
a prominent characteristic of the theology of Latin Chris- 
tianity from Tertullian to Aquiaas and Occam, to say 
nothing of developments since the Eeformation. The great 
men who built up the Western Church were almost all 
trained Eoman lawyers. Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, 
Gregory the Great (whose writings form the bridge between 
the Latin Fathers and the Schoolmen) were all men whose 
early training had been that of a Eoman lawyer, — a train- 
ing which moulded and shaped all their thinkiag, whether 
theological or ecclesiastical. They instinctively regarded 
all questions as a great Eoman lawyer would. They had 
the lawyer's craving for exact definitions. They had the 
lawyer's idea that the primary duty laid upon them was 
to enforce obedience to authority, whether that authority 
expressed itself in external institutions or in the precise 
definitions of the correct ways of thinking about spiritual 
truths. No branch of Western Christendom has been able 
to free itself from the spell cast upon it by these Eoman 
lawyers of the early centuries of the Christian Church. 

If the ideas of Christian Eoman lawyers, filtering 
slowly down through the centuries, had made the Bishops 
of Eome dream that they were the successors of Augustus, 
at once Emperor and Pontifex Maximus, master of the 
bodies and of the souls of mankind, they had also inspired 
the theologians of the Mediaeval Church with the concep- 
tion of an intellectual imperialism, where a system of 
Christian thought, expressed with legal precision, could 
bind into a comprehensive unity the active intelligence of 
mankind. Dogmas thus expressed can become the instru- 
ments of a tyranny much more penetrating than that of 
an institution, and so Colet found. In his revolt he turned 
from the Latins to the Greeks, and to that thinker who 
was furthest removed from the legal precision of statement 
which was characteristic of Western theology. 


It is probable that his intercourse with the Christian 
Humanists of Italy, and his introduction to Platonists and 
to Neo-Platonism, made him turn to the writings of the 
pseudo-Dionysius ; but it is certain that he believed at 
first that the author of these quaint mystical tracts was 
the Dionysius who was one of the converts of St. Paul at 
Athens, and that these writings embodied much of the teach- 
ing of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and took the reader back 
to the first generation of the Christian Church. After he 
had learned from Grocyn that the author of the Celestial 
and the Terrestrial Hierarchies could not have been the 
convert of St. Paul, and that the writings could not be 
earher than the sixth century, he still regarded them as 
evidence of the way in which a Christian philosopher could 
express the thoughts which were current in Christianity 
one thousand years before Colet's time. The writings 
could be used as a touchstone to test usages and opinions 
prevalent at the close of the Middle Ages, when men were 
still subject to the domination of the Scholastic Theology, 
and as justification for rejecting them. 

They taught him two things which he was very willing 
to learn : that the human mind, however it may be able 
to feel after God, can never comprehend Him, nor imprison 
His character and attributes in propositions^stereotyped 
aspects of thoughts — which can be fitted into syllogisms ; 
and that such things as hierarchy and sacraments are to 
be prized not because they are in themselves the active 
sources and centres of mysterious powers, but because they 
faintly symbolise the spiritual forces by which God works 
for the salvation of His people. Colet applied to the 
study of the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius a mind 
saturated with simple Christian truth gained from a study 
of the Holy Scriptures, and especially of the Epistles of 
St. Paul ; and the very luxuriance of imagination and 
bewildering confusion of symbolism in these writings, their 
elusiveness as opposed to the precision of Thomas Aquinas 
or of John Duns the Scot, enabled him the more easily to 
find in them the germs of his own more definite opinions. 


When one studies the abstracts of the Hierarchies'^ — which 
Colet wrote out from memory — with the actual text of the 
books themselves, it is scarcely surprising to find how much 
there is of Colet and how little of Dionysius.^ 

While it is impossible to say how far Colet, and the 
Christian Humanists who agreed with him, would have 
welcomed the principles of a Eeformation yet to come, it 
can be affirmed that he held the same views on two very 
important points. He did not believe in a priesthood in 
the mediaeval nor in the modern Eoman sense of the word, 
and his theory of the efficacy and meaning of the sacra- 
ments of the Christian Church was essentially Protestant. 

According to Colet, there was no such thing as a media- 
torial priesthood whose essential function it was to approach 
God on men's behalf and present their offerings to Him. 
The duty of the Christian priesthood was ministerial ; it 
was to declare the love and mercy of God to their fellow- 
men, and to strive for the purification, illumination, and 
salvation of mankind by constant preaching of the truth 
and diffusion of gospel light, even as Christ strove. He 
did not believe that priests had received from God the 
power of absolving from sins. " It must be heedfully 
remarked," he says, "lest bishops be presumptuous, that 
it is not the part of men to loose the bonds of sins ; nor 
does the power belong to them of loosing or bindiug any- 
thing," — the truth Luther set forth in his Theses against 

^ Colet's abstracts of the Celestial and of the Terrestrial Hierarchies have 
been published by the Rev. J. H. Lupton (London, 1869), from the MS. at 
St. Paul's School. Mr. Lupton has also published Colet's treatise On the 
Sacramenis of the Church (London, 1867). The best edition of the works of 
the pseudo-Dionysius is that of Balthasar Corderius, S.J., published at 
Venice in 1755. The actual writings of the pseudo-Dionysius are not 
extensive ; the editor has added translations, notes, scholia, commentaries, 
etc. , and his folio edition contains more than one thousand pages. 

" " The radical conception is most often due to Dionysius ; the passages 
represent the effervescence produced by the Dionysian conceptions in 
Colet's mind. . . . The fire was indeed very much Colet's. I find passages 
which burn in Colet's abstract, freeze in the original." — Seebohm, The 
Oxford Beformers, p. 76 (2nd ed., London, 1869). My knowledge Of Colet's 
sermons cornea from the extracts in Mr, Seebohm 's work. 


Colet is even more decided in his repudiation of 
the sacramental theories of the mediseval Church. The 
Eucharist is not a sacrifice, but a commemoration of the 
death of our Lord, and a symbol of the union and com- 
munion which believers have with Him, and with their 
fellow-men through Him. Baptism is a ceremony which 
symbolises the believer's change of heart and his vow of 
service to his Master, and signifies " the more excellent 
baptism of the inner man " ; and the duty of sponsors 
is to train children in the knowledge and fear of 

We are told that the Lollards delighted in Colet's 
preaching ; that they advised each other to go to hear 
him ; and that attendance at the Dean's sermons was 
actually made a charge against them. Colet was no Lol- 
lard himself ; indeed, he seems to have once sat among 
ecclesiastical judges who condemned Lollards to death ; ^ 
but the preacher who taught that tithes were voluntary 
offerings, who denounced the evil lives of the monks and 
the secular clergy ; who hated war, and did not scruple to 
say so ; whose sermons were full of simple Bible instruction, 
must have recalled many memories of the old Lollard 
doctrines. For LoUardy had never died out in England: 
it was active in Colet's days, leavening the country for the 
Eeformation which was to come. 

Nor should it be forgotten, in measuring the influence 
of Colet on the coming Eeformation, that Latimer was a 
friend of his, that William Tyndale was one of his favourite 
pupils, and that he persuaded Erasmus to turn from purely 
classical studies to edit the New Testament and the early 
Christian Fathers. 

' Of. Mr. Lupton's translation of the Ecclesiastical hierarchies, c. li. If 
it be permissible to adduce evidence from the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, 
the anti-saoerdotal views of the Oxford Reformers went much further. In 
Utopia confession was made to the head of the family aud not to the 
priests ; women could be priests ; divorce from bed and board was per- 
mitted. Cf. the Temple Classics edition, p. 116 (divorce), p. 148 (women- 
priests), p. 152 (confession). 

2 Seebohm, The Oxford Heformers, p. 221 (2nd ed. 1869). 


§ 3. Erasmus. 

Erasmus, as has often been said, was a " man by him- 
self " ; yet he may be regarded as representing one, and 
perhaps the most frequent, type of Christian Humanism. 
His character will always be matter of contrdversyT-and 
his motives may, without unfairness, be represented in an 
unfavourable light, — a "great scholar but a petty-minded 
man," is a verdict for which there is abundant evidence.' 
Such was the iinal judgment of his contemporaries, mainly 
because he refused to take a definite side in the age when 
the greatest controversy which has convulsed Western 
Europe since the downfall of the old Empire seemed to 
call on every man to range himself with one party or 
other. Our modern judgment must rest on a different 
basis. In calmer days, when the din of battle has 
almost died away, it is possible to recognise that to refuse 
to be a partisan rnay indicate greatness instead of littleness 
of soul, a keener vision, and a calmer courage. We cannot 
judge the man as hastily as his contemporaries did. Still 
there is evidence enough and to spare to back their verdict. 
Every biographer has admitted that it is hopeless to look 
for truth in his voluminous correspondence. His feelings, 
hopes, intentions, and actual circumstances are described to 
different correspondents at the same time in utterly dififerent 
ways. He was always writing for effect, and often for 
effect of a rather sordid kind. He seldom gave a definite 
opinion on any important question without attempting to 
qualify it va. such a manner that he might be able, if need 
arose, to deny that he had given it. No man knew better 
how to use " if " and " but " so as to shelter himself from all 
responsibiUty. He had the ingenuity of the cuttle-fish to 
conceal himself and his real opinions, and it was commonly 
used to protect his own skin. All this may be admitted ; 
it can scarcely be denied. 

Yet from his first visit to England (1498) down to his 
practical refusal of a Cardinal's Hat from Pope Adrian vi., 
on condition that he would reside at Eome and assist in 


fighting the Eeformation, Erasmus had his own conception 
of what a reformation of Christianity really meant, and 
what share in it it was possible for him to take. It must 
be admitted that he held to this idea and kept to the path 
he had marked out for himself with a tenacity of purpose 
which did him honour. It was by no means always 
that of personal safety, still less the road to personal 
aggrandisement. It led him in the end where he had 
never expected to stand. It made him a man despised 
by both sides in the -great controversy ; it left him abso- 
lutely alone, friendless, and without influence. He fre- 
quently used very contemptible means to ward off attempts 
to make him diverge to the right or left ; he abandoned 
many of his earher principles, or so modified them that 
they were no longer recognisable. But he was always true 
to his own idea of a reformation and of his life-work as a 

Erasmus was firmly convinced that Christianity was 
above all things something jgractical. It had to do with 
the ordinary life of mankind. It meant love, humility, 
purity, reverence, — every virtue which the Saviour had 
made manifest in His life on earth. This early " Christian 
philosophy " had been buried out of sight under a Scholastic 
Theology full of sophistical subtleties, and had been lost in 
the mingled Judaism and Paganism of the popular reUgious 
life, with its weary ceremonies and barbarous usages. A 
true reformation, he beUeved, was the moral renovation of 
mankind, and the one need of the age was to return to 1 
that earlier purer religion based on a real inward reverence 
for and imitation of Christ. The man of letters, like him- 
self, he conceived could play the part of a reformer, and 
that manfully, in two ways. He could try, by the use of 
wit and satire, to make contemptible the follies of the 
Schoolmen and the vulgar travesty of religion which was in 
vogue among the people. He could also bring before the 
eyes of all men that earlier and purer religion which was 
true Christianity. He could edit the New Testament, and 
enable men to read the very words which Jesus spoke and 


Paul preached, make them see the deeds of Jesus and hear 
the apostolic explanations of their meaning. He could 

" Only be teachable, and you have already made much 
way in this (the Christian) Philosophy. It supplies a spirit 
for a teacher, imparted to none more readily than to the 
simple-minded. Other philosophies, by the very difficulty 
of their precepts, are removed out of the range of most 
minds. No age, no sex, no condition of life is excluded from 
this. The sun itself is not more common and open to aU 
than the teaching of Christ. For I utterly dissent from 
those who are unwilling that the Sacred Scriptures should be 
read by the unlearned translated into their vulgar tongue, 
as though Christ had taught such subtleties that* they can 
scarcely be understood even by a few theologians, or as 
though the strength of the Christian religion consisted in 
men's ignorance of it. The mysteries of kings it may be 
safer to conceal, but Christ wished His mysteries to be 
published as openly as possible. I wish that even the 
weakest woman should read the Gospel — should read the 
Epistles of Paul. And I wish these were translated into all 
languages, so that they might be read and understood, not 
only by Scots and Irishmen, but also by Turks and Saracens. 
To make them understood is surely the first step. It may 
be that they might be ridiculed by many, but some would 
take them to heart. I long that the husbandman should 
sing portions of them to himself as he follows the plough, 
that the weaver should hum them to the tune of his shuttle, 
that the traveller should beguile with their stories the 
tedium of his journey."^ 

The scholar who became a reformer could further make 
plain, by editing and publishing the writings of the earlier 
Christian Fathers, what the oldest Christian Theology had 
been before the Schoolmen spoiled it. 

' The conception that a reformation of Christianity was 
mainly a renovation of morals, enabled the Christian 
"Humanist to keep true to the Eenaissance idea that the 
writers of classical antiquity were to be used to aid the 
work of ameliorating the lot of mankind. The Florentine 
circle spoke of the inspiration of Homer, of Plato, and of 
^ Erasmus, O^wra Omnia (Leydon, 1703-1706), v. 140. 


Cicero, and saw them labouring as our Lord had done to 
teach men how to live better lives. Pico and Eeuchlin 
had gone further afield, and had found illuminating anti- 
cipations of Christianity, in this sense and in others, among 
the Hebrews, the Egyptians, and perhaps the Brahmins. 
Erasmus was too clear-sighted to be drawn into any 
alliance with Oriental mysticism or cabalistic speculations ; 
but he insisted on the aid which would come from the 
Christian reformer making full use of the ethical teaching 
of the wise men of Greece and Eome in his attempt to 
produce a moral renovation in the lives of his fellows. 
Socrates and Cicero, each in his own day and within his 
own sphere, had striven for the same moral renovation 
that Christianity promised, and, in this sense at least, might 
be called Christians before Christ. So persuaded was 
Erasmus of their affinity with the true spirit of Chris- 
tianity, that he declared that Cicero had as much right to a 
high place in heaven as many a Christian saint, and that 
when he thought of the Athenian martyr he could scarcely 
refrain from saying, Sancte Socrates, Ora pro nobis. 
T ' It must be remembered also that Erasmus had a 
/genuine and noble horror of war, which was by no means 
the mere shrinking of a man whose nerves were always 
' quivering. He preached peace as boldly and in as dis- 
interested a fashion as did his friend John Colet. He 
could not bear the thought of a religious war. This must 
not be forgotten in any estimate of his conduct and of his 
relation to the Eeformation. No man, not even Luther, 
scattered the seeds of revolution with a more reckless hand, 
■ and yet a thorough and steadfast dislike to all movements 
which could be called revolutionary was one of the most 
abiding elements in his character. He hated what he 
icalled the "jtumult." He had an honest belief that all 
.public evils in State and Church must be endured until 
they dissolve away quietly under the influence of sarcasm 
and common sense, or until they are removed by the action 
of the responsible authorities. He was clear - sighted 
'enough to see that an open and avowed attack on the 


papal supremacy, or on any of the more cherished doctrines 
and usages of the mediaeval Church, must end in strife and 
in bloodshed, and he therefore honestly believed that no 
such attack ought to be made. 

When all these things are kept in view, it is possible 
to see what conception Erasmus had about his work as a 
reformer, with its possibilities and its limitations. He 
adhered to it tenaciously all his life. He held it in the 
days of his earlier comparative obscurity. He maintained 
it when he had been enthroned as the prince of the realm 
of learning. He clung to it in his discredited old age. 
No one can justify the means he sometimes took to prevent 
being drawn from the path he had marked out for himself ; 
but there is something to be said for the man who, through 
good report and evil, stuck resolutely to his view of what a 
reformation ought to be, and what were the fimctions of a 
man of letters who felt himseK called to be a reformer. 
Had Luther been gifted with that keen sense of prevision 
with which Erasmus was so fatally endowed, would he have 
stood forward to attack Indulgences in the way he did ? 
It is probable that it would have made no difference in his 
action ; but he did not think so himself. He said once, 
" No good work comes about by our own wisdom ; it 
begins in dire necessity. I was forced into mine ; but had 
I known then what I know now, ten wild horses would not 
have drawn me into it." The man who leads a great 
movement of reform may see the distant, but has seldom a 
clear vision of the nearer future. He is one who feels the 
slow pressure of an imperious spiritual power, who is con- 
tent with one step at a time, and who does not ask to see 
the whole path stretching out before him. 

Erasmus lost both his parents while he was a child, 
and never enjoyed the advantages of a home training. He 
was driven by deceit or by self-deception into a monastery 
when he was a lad. He escaped from the clutches of the 
monastic life when he was twenty years of age, broken in 
health, and having learned to know human nature on its 
bad side and to trade on that knowledge. He was one of 


the loneliest of mortals, and trusted in no one but himself. 
With one great exception, he had no friendship which left 
an enduring influence on his character. From childhood 
he taught himself in his own way ; when he grew to man- 
hood he planned and schemed for himself ; he steadfastly 
refused to be drawn into any kind of work which he did 
not like for its own sake ; he persistently shunned every 
entanglement which might have controlled his action or 
weighted him with any responsibility. He stands almost 
alone among the Humanists in this. All the others were 
officials, or professors, or private teachers, or jurists, or 
ecclesiastics. Erasmus was nothing, and would be nothing, 
but a simple man of letters. 

Holbein has painted him so often that his features 
are familiar. Every line of the clearly cut face suggests 
demure sarcasm — the thin lips closely pressed together, the 
half-closed eyelids, and the keen glance of the scarcely 
seen blue eyes. The head is intellectual, but there is 
nothing masculiue about the portrait — nothing suggesting 
the massiveness of the learned burgher Pirkheimer; or 
the jovial strength of the Humanist landsknecM Eobanus 
Hessus; or the lean wolf -like tenacity of Hutten, the 
descendant of robber-knights ; or the steadfast homely 
courage of Martia Luther. The dainty hands, which 
Holbein drew so often, and the general primness of his 
appearance, suggest a descent from a long line of maiden 
aunts. The keen intelligence was enclosed in a sickly 
body, whose frailty made continuous demands on the soul it 
imprisoned. It needed warm rooms with stoves that sent 
forth no smell, the best wines, an easy-going horse, and a 
deft servant ; and to procure all these comforts Erasmus 
wrote the sturdiest of begging letters and stooped to all 
kinds of flatteries. 

The visit which Erasmus paid to England in 1498 was 
the turning-point in his life. He found himself, for the 
first time, among men who were his equals in learning and 
his superiors in many things. " When I listen to my friend 
Colet," he says, "it seems to me like listening to Plato 


himself. Who does not marvel at the complete mastery 
of the sciences in Grocyn ? "What could be keener, iuore 
profound, and more searching than the judgment of Linsfe||f/ 
Has Nature ever made a more gentle, a sweeter, or a haMpal 
disposition than Thomas More's ? " He made the acqi|piiP' 
ance of men as full of the New Learning as he was hiiMelf, 
who hated the Scotist theology more bitterly than hffl(fi^ 
and who nevertheless believed in a pure, simple Chri^a 
philosophy, and were earnest Christians. They urgedj^^ 
to join them in their work, and we can trace in,ithe 
correspondence of Erasmus the growing influence of (SeteL 
The Dean of St. Paul's made Erasmus the deci(^dly 
Christian Humanist he became, and impressed on him ^^^ 
conception of a reformation which, leaving external th^ga^ 
very much as they were, undertook a renovation of mo: 
He never lost the impress of Colet's stamp. 

It would appear from one of Erasmus' letters that CI 
urged him to write commentaries on some portions of 
New Testament ; but Erasmus would only work in his 
way ; and it is probable that his thoughts were soon t 
to preparing an edition of the New Testament in Gn 
The task was long brooded over; and he had to perfect 
himself in his knowledge of the language. 

This determination to undertake no work for which he 
was not supremely fitted, together with his powers of 
application and acquisition, gave Erasmus the reputation 
of being a strong man. He was seen to be unlike any other 
Humanist, whether Italian or German. He had no desire 
merely to reproduce the antique, or to confine himself 
within the narrow circle in which the "Poets" of the 
Eenaissanoe worked. He put ancient culture to modern 
uses. Erasmus was no arm-chair student. He was one 
of the keenest observers of everything human — the Lucian 
or the Voltaire of the sixteenth century. From under his 
half-closed eyelids his quick glance seized and retained 
the salient characteristics of all sorts and conditions of men 
and women. He described theologians, jurists and philo- 
sophers, monks and parish priests, merchants and soldiers, 


husbands and wives, women good and bad, dancers and 
diners, pilgrims, pardon-sellers, and keepers of relics; the 
peasant in the field, the artisan in the workshop, and the 
vagrant on the highway. He had studied all, and could 
describe them with a few deft phrases, as incisive as 
Diirer's strokes, with an almost perfect style, and with easy 

This application of the New Learning to portray the 
common life, combined with his profound learning, made 
Erasmus the idol of the young German Humanists. They 
said that he was more than mortal, that his judgment was 
infallible, and that his work was perfect. They made 
pilgrimages to visit him. An interview was an event to 
be talked about for years ; a letter, a precious treasure to be 
beq[ueathed as an heirloom. Some men refused to render 
the universal homage accorded by scholars and statesmen, 
by princes lay and clerical. Luther scented Pelagian 
theology in his annotations; he scorned Erasmus' wilful 
playing with truth ; he said that the great Humanist was 
a mocker who poured ridicule upon everything, even on 
Christ and religion. There was some ground for the 
charge. His sarcasm was not confined to his Praise 
of Folly or to his Colloquies. It appears in almost every- 
thing that he wrote — even in his Paraphrases of the New 

That such a man should have felt himself called upon 
to be a reformer, that this Saul should have appeared 
among the prophets, is in itself testimony that he lived 
during a great religious crisis, and that the religious 
question was the most important one in his days. 

The principal literary works of Erasmus meant to 
serve the reformation he desired to see are : — two small 
books, ETwhiridion militis christiani (A Handbook of the 
Christian Soldier, or A Pocket Dagger for the Christian 
Soldier — it may be translated either way), first printed in 
1503, and Institutio Principis Christiani (1518); his 
Encomium Morice (Praise of Folly, 1511); his edition of 
the New Testament, or Novum Instrumentum (1516), with 


prefaces and paraphrases ; and perhaps many of the 
dialogues in his Golloguia (1519). 

Erasmus himself explains that in the Enchiridion he 
wrote to counteract the vulgar error of those who think 
that religion consists in ceremonies and in more than 
Jewish observances, while they neglect what really belongs 
to piety. The whole aim of the book is to assert the 
individual responsibility of man to God apart from any 
intermediate human agency. Erasmus ignores as com- 
pletely as Luther would have done the whole mediaeval 
thought of the mediatorial function of the Church and its 
priestly order. In this respect the book is essentially 
Protestant and thoroughly revolutionary. It asserts in so 
many words that much of the popular religion is pure 
paganism : 

" One worships a certain Eochus, and why ? because he 
fancies he will drive away the plague from his body. 
Another mumbles prayers to Barbara or George, lest he fall 
into the hands of his enemy. This man fasts to ApoUonia 
to prevent the toothache. That one gazes upon an image of 
the divine Job, that he may be free from the itch. ... In 
short, whatever our fears and our desires, we set so many 
gods over them, and these are different in different nations. 
. . . This is not far removed from the superstition of those 
who used to vow tithes to Hercules in order to get rich, or 
a cock to ^sculapius to recover from an illness, or who slew 
a bull to Neptune for a favourable voyage. The names are 
changed, but the object is the same." ^ 

In speaking of the monastic life, he says : 

" ' Love,' says Paul, ' is to edify your neighbour,' . . . and 
if this only were done, nothing could be more joyous or more 
easy thai; the life of the ' religious ' ; but now this life seems 

' Erasmus, Opera Omnia (Leyden, 1703-1706), v. 26. The sarcasm of 
Erasmus finds ample confirmation in Kerler's Die Fairoiiate der SeUigen 
(Ulm, 1905), where St. Eochus, with fifty-nine companion saints, is stated 
to be ready to hear the prayers of those who dread tlie plague ; St. ApoUonia, 
with eighteen others, talces special interest in all who are afflicted with 
toothache ; the holy Job, with thirteen companions, is ready to cure the 
itch ; and St. Barbara with St. George figur(^ as protectors against a violent 
death ;cf. pp. 266-273, 419-422, 218-219, 358-309, 


gloomy, full of Jewish superstitions, not in any way free 
from the vices of laymen and in some ways more corrupt. 
If Augustine, whom they boast of as the founder of their 
order, came to life again, he would not recognise them ; he 
would exclaim that he had never approved of this sort of 
life, but had organised a way of living according to the rule 
of the Apostles, not according to the superstition of the 

The more one studies the Praise of Folly, the more 
evident it becomes that Erasmus did not intend to write 
a satire on human weakness in general : the book is the 
most severe attack on the mediseval Church that had, up 
to that time, been made ; and it was meant to be so. The 
author wanders from his main theme occasionally, but 
always to return to the insane follies of the reUgious life 
sanctioned by the highest authorities of the mediaeval 
Church. Popes, bishops, theologians, monks, and the 
ordinary lay Christians, are all unmitigated fools in their 
ordinary religious life. The style is vivid, the author has 
seen what he describes, and he makes his readers see it 
also. He writes with a mixture of light mockery and 
bitter earnestness. He exposes the foolish questions of 
the theologians ; the vices and temporal ambitions of the 
Popes, bishops, and monks ; the stupid trust in festivals, 
pilgrimages, indulgences, and relics. The theologians, the 
author says, are rather dangerous people to attack, for they 
come down on one with their six hundred conclusions and 
command him to recant, and if he does not they declare 
him a heretic forthwith. The problems which interest 
them are : 

"Whether there was any instant of time in the divine 
generation? . . . Could God have taken the .form of a 
woman, a devil, an ass, a gourd, or a stone ? How the gourd 
could have preached, wrought miracles, hung on the cross ?"2 

He jeers at the Popes and higher ecclesiastics : 

"Those supreme Pontiffs who stand in the place of 
Christ, if they should try to imitate His life, that is. His 

1 Erasmus, Opera Omnia, v. 35^36. ' Ihid. iv. 465. 


poverty, His toil, His teaching, His cross, and His scorn of 
this world . . . what could be more dreadful ! . . . We 
ought not to forget that such a mass of scribes, copyists, 
notaries, advocates, secretaries, mule-drivers, grooms, money- 
changers, procurers, and gayer persons yet I might mention, 
did I not respect your ears, — that this whole swarm which 
now burdens — I beg your pardon, honours — the Koman See 
would be driven to starvation."^ 

As for the monks : 

" The greater part of them have such faith in their cere- 
monies and human traditions, that they think one heaven 
is not reward enough for such great doings. . . . One will 
show his belly stuffed with every kind of fish ; another will 
pour out a hundred bushels of psalms ; another will count 
up myriads of fasts, and make up for them all again by 
almost bursting himself at a single dinner. Another will 
bring forward such a heap of ceremonies that seven ships 
would hardly hold them ; another boast that for sixty years 
he has never touched a penny except with double gloves 
on his hands. . . . But Christ will interrupt their endless 
bragging, and will demand — 'Whence this new kind of 
Judaism ? ' 

" They do all things by rule, by a kind of sacred mathe- 
matics ; as, for instance, how many knots their shoes must 
be tied with, of what colour everything must be, what variety 
in their garb, of what material, how many straws' -breadth to 
their girdle, of what form and of how many bushels' capacity 
their cowl, how many fingers broad their hair, and how 
many hours they sleep. ..." * 

He ridicules men who go running about to Eome, Com- 
postella, or Jerusalem, wasting on long and dangerous 
journeys money which might be better spent in feeding 
the hungry and clothing the naked. He scoffs at those 
who buy Indulgences, who sweetly flatter themselves with 
counterfeit pardons, and who have measured off the duration 
of Purgatory without error, as if by a water-clock, into ages, 
years, months, and days, like the multiplication table.* Is 
it religion to believe that if any one pays a penny out of 

'■ Erasmus, Opera Omnia, iv. 481-484. * Jbid. iv. 471-474. 

• Ibid. iv. 446. 


what he has stolen, he can have the whole slough of his 
life cleaned out at once, and all his perjuries, lusts, drunken- 
nesses, all his quarrels, murders, cheats, treacheries, false- 
hoods, bought off in such a way that he may begin over 
again with a new circle of crimes ? The reverence for 
relics was perhaps never so cruelly satirised as in the 
Colloquy, Feregrinatio Religionis Ergo. 

It must be remembered that this bitter satire was 
written some years before Luther began the Reformation 
by an attack on Indulgences. It may seem surprising 
how much liberty the satirist aiUowed himself, and how 
much was permitted to him. But Erasmus knew very 
well how to protect himself. He was very careful to 
make no definite attack, and to make no mention of names. 
He was always ready to explain that he did not mean to 
attack the Papacy, but only bad Popes ; that he had the 
highest respect for the monastic life, and only satirised 
evil-minded monks ; or that he reverenced the saints, but 
thought that reverence ought to be shown by imitating 
them in their lives of piety. He could say all this with 
perfect truth. Indeed, it is likely that with all his scorn 
against the monks, Erasmus, in his heart, believed that a 
devout Capuchin or Franciscan monk lived the ideal Chris- 
tian life. He seems to say so in his Colloquy, Militis et 
Carthusiani. He wrote, moreover, before the dignitaries of 
the mediaeval Church had begun to take alarm. Liberal 
Churchmen who were the patrons of the New Learning had 
no objection to see the vices of the times and the Church 
life of the day satirised by one who wrote such exquisite 
latinity. In all his more serious work Erasmus was care- 
ful to shelter himself under the protection of great eccle- 

Erasmus was not the only scholar who had proposed 
to publish a correct edition of the Holy Scriptures. The 
great Spaniard, Cardinal Ximenes, had announced that he 
meant to bring out an edition of the Holy Scriptures in 
which the text of the Vulgate would appear in parallel 
columns along with the Hebrew and the Greek. The 


prospectus of this Complutensian Polyglot was issued as 
early as 1502 ; the work was finished in 1517, and was 
published in Spain in 1520 and in other lands in 1522. 
Erasmus was careful to dedicate the first edition of his 
Novum Instrumentum (1 5 1 6) to Pope Leo X., who graciously 
received it. He sent the second edition to the same Pope 
in 1519, accompanied by a letter in which he says: 

" I have striven with all my might to kindle men from 
those chilling argumentations in which they had been so 
long frozen up, to a zeal for theology which should be at once 
more pure and more serious. And that this labour has so 
far not been in vain I perceive from this, that certain persons 
are furious against me, who cannot value anything they are 
unable to teach and are ashamed to learn. But, trusting to 
Christ as my witness, whom my writings above all would 
guard, to the judgment of your Holiness, to my own sense 
of right and the approval of so many distinguished men, 
I have always disregarded tne yelpings of these people. 
Whatever little talent I have, it has been, once for all, dedi- 
cated to Christ : it shall serve His glory alone ; it shall serve 
the Eoman Church, the prince of that Church, but especially 
your Holiness, to whom I owe more than my whole duty." 

He dedicated the various parts of the Paraphrases of the 
New Testament to Cardinal Campeggio, to Cardinal Wolsey, 
to Henry viii., to Charles v., and to Francis I. of France. 
He deliberately placed himself under the protection of 
those princes, ecclesiastical and secular, who could not be 
suspected of having any revolutionary designs against the 
existing state of things in Church or in State. 

In all this he was followed for the time being by the 
most distinguished Christian Humanists in England, France, 
and Germany. They were full of the brightest hopes. A 
Humanist Pope sat on the throne of St. Peter, young 
Humanist kings ruled France and England, the Emperor 
Maximilian had long been the patron of German Humanism, 
and much was expected from his grandson Charles, the 
young King of Spain. Erasmus, the acknowledged prince 
of Christian learning, was enthusiastically supported by 
Colet and More in England, by Buddmus and Lef^vre ia 


France, by Joliaan Staupitz, CochbiBus, Thomas Murner, 
Jerome Emser, Conrad Mutianus, and George Spalatin in 
G-ermany. They all believed that the golden age was 
approaching, when the secular princes would forbid wars, 
and the ecclesiastical lay aside their rapacity, and when 
both would lead the peoples of Europe in a reforma- 
tion of morals and in a re-establishment of pure rehgion. 
Their hopes were high that all would be effected without 
the " tumult " which they all dreaded, and when the storm 
burst, many of them became bitter opponents cf Luther 
and his action. Luther found no deadlier enemies than 
Thomas Murner and Jerome Emser. Others, like George 
Spalatin, became his warmest supporters. Erasmus main- 
tained to the end his attitude of cautious neutrality. In 
a long letter to Marlianus, Bishop of Tuy in Spain, he 
says that he does not like Luther's writings, that he feared 
from the first that they would create a " tumult," but 
that he dare not altogether oppose the reformer, " because 
he feared that he might be fighting against God." The 
utmost that he could be brought to do after the strongest 
persuasions, was to attack Luther's Augustinian theology 
in his Be Libera Arbitrio, and to insinuate a defence of 
the principle of ecclesiastical authority in the interpreta- 
tion of Scripture, and a proof that Luther had laid too 
much stress on the element of " grace " in human actions. 
He turned away from the whole movement as far as he 
possibly could, protesting that for himself he would ever 
cling to the Eoman See. 

The last years of his life were spent in excessive literary 
work — in editing the earlier Christian Fathers ; he com- 
pleted his edition of Origen in 1536, the year of his 
death. He settled at Louvain, and found it too hotly 
theological for his comfort ; went to Basel ; wandered off 
to Freiburg; then went back to Basel to die. After his 
death he was compelled to take the side he had so long 
shrunk from. Pope Paul rv. classed him as a notorious 
heretic, and placed on the first papal " Lidex " " all his 
commentaries, notes, scholia, dialogues, letters, translations. 


books, and writings, even when they contain nothing against 
religion or about religion." 

"We look in vain for any indication that those Chris- 
tian Humanists perceived that they were actually living in 
a time of revolution, and were really standing on the edge 
of a crater which was about to change European history 
by its eruption. Sir Thomas More's instincts of religious 
life were all mediaeval. Colet had persuaded him to 
abandon his earlier impulse to enter a monastic order, but 
More wore a hair shirt next his skin till the day of his 
death. Yet in his sketch of an ideal commonwealth, he 
expanded St. Paul's thought of the equality of all men 
before Christ into the conception that no man was to be 
asked to work more than six hours a day, and showed that 
religious freedom could only flourish where there was 
nothing in the form of the mediaeval Church. The lovable 
and pious young Englishman never imagined that his 
academic dream would be translated into rude practical 
thoughts and ruder actions by leaders of peasant and 
artisan insurgents, and that his Utopia (1515), within ten 
years after its publication, and ten years before his own 
death (1535), would furnish texts for communist sermons, 
preached in obscure public-houses or to excited audiences 
on village greens. The satirical criticisms of the hier- 
archy, the monastic orders, and the popular religious 
life, which Erasmus flung broadcast so recklessly in his 
lighter and more serious writings, furnished the weapons 
for the leaders in that "tumult" which he had dreaded 
all his days ; and when he complained that few seemed to 
care for the picture of a truly pious life, given in his 
Enchiridion, he did not foresee that it would become a 
wonderfully popular book among those who renounced all 
connection with the See of Eome to which the author had 
promised a life-long obedience. The Christian Humanists, 
one and all, were strangely blind to the signs of the times 
in which they lived. 

No one can fail to appreciate the nobility of the pur- 
pose to work for a great moral renovation of mankind 


which the Christian Humanists ever kept before them, 
or refuse to see that they were always and everywhere 
preachers of righteousness. When we remember the cen- 
tury and a half of wars, so largely excited by ecclesiastical 
motives, which desolated Europe during the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries, few can withhold their sympathy 
from the Christian Humanist idea that the path of refor- 
mation lay through a great readjustment of the existing 
conditions of the religious life, rather than through eccle- 
siastical revolution to a thorough-going reconstruction ; 
although we may sadly recognise that the dynastic struggles 
of secular princes, the rapacity and religious impotence of 
Popes and ecclesiastical authorities, and the imperious 
pressure of social and industrial discontent, made the path 
of peace impossible. But what must fill us with surprise 
is that the Christian Humanists seemed to believe with a 
childlike innocence that the constituted authorities, secular 
and ecclesiastical, would lead the way in this peaceful reform, 
mainly because they were tinged with Humanist culture, 
and were the patrons of artists and men of learning. 
Humanism meant to Pope Leo x. and to the young Arch- 
bishop of Mainz additional sources of enjoyment, repre- 
sented by costly pictures, collections of MSS., and rare 
books, the gratification of their taste for jewels and cameos, 
to say nothing of less harmless indulgences, and the adula- 
tion of the circle of scholars whom they had attracted to 
their courts ; and it meant little more to the younger 
secular princes. 

It is also to be feared that the Christian Humanists 
had no real sense of what was needed for that renovation 
of morals, public and private, which they ardently desired 
to see. Pictures of a Christian life lived according to the 
principles of reason, sharp polemic against the hierarchy, 
and biting mockery of the stupidity of the popular religion, 
did not help the masses of the people. The multitude in 
those early decades of the sixteenth century were scourged 
by constant visitations of the plague and other new and 
strange diseases, and they lived in perpetual dread of a 


Turkish invasion. The fear of death and the judgment 
thereafter was always before their eyes. What they 
wanted was a sense of God's forgiveness for their sins, 
and they greedily seized on Indulgences, pilgrimages to holy 
places, and relic-worship to secure the pardon they longed 
for. The aristocratic and intellectual reform, contemplated 
by the Christian Humanists, scarcely appealed to them. 
Their longing for a certainty of salvation could not be 
satisfied with recommendations to virtuous living according 
to the rules of Neo-Platonic ethics. It is pathetic to 
listen to the appeals made to Erasmus for something more 
than he could ever give : 

" ' Oh ! Erasmus of Eotterdam, where art thou ? ' said 
Albert Diirer. ' See what the unjust tyranny of earthly 
power, the power of darkness, can do. Hear, thou knight 
of Christ ! Eide forth by the side of the Lord Christ ; de- 
fend the truth, gain the martyr's crown ! As it is, thou art 
but an old man. I have heard thee say that thou hast given 
thyself but a couple more years of active service ; spend 
them, I pray, to the profit of the gospel and the true Chris- 
tian faith, and believe me the gates of Hell, the See of Eome, 
as Christ has said, will not prevail against thee.' " ^ 

The Eeformation needed a man who had himself felt that 
commanding need of pardon which was sending his fellows 
travelling from shrine to shrine, who could tell them in 
plain homely words, which the common man could under- 
stand, how each one of them could win that pardon for 
himself, who could deliver them from the fear of the priest, 
and show them the way to the peace of God. The Eefor- 
mation needed Luther. 

^ Leitschuh, AlhrecU Durer's Tagehuch der Meise in die Niederlande 
(Leipzig, 1884), p. 84. 




§ 1. Why Luther was sxiccessful as tlie Leader in a 

Reformation had been attempted in various ways. Learned 
ecclesiastical Jurists had sought to bring it about in the 
fifteenth century by what was called Conciliar Beform. 

• SouKCES : Melanohthon, Historia de vita et actis Lufheri ("Witten- 
berg, 1545, in the Carpus Eeformatorwm, vi.); Hathcsius, Historien von 
, . Martini Lufheri, Anfang, Lere, Leben und Sterben (Prague, 1896); 
Myconius, Historia BeformcUionis 15T7-15Jfi (Leipzig, 1718) ; Katzeberger, 
Oeschiehte ilber LviJier und seine Zeit (Jena, 1850) ; Killian Leib, Annates 
von 1S0S-15Z3 (vols. vii. and ix. of v. Aretin'a Beitrage zur Geschichte und 
LUteratur, Munich, 1803-1806) ; Wrampelmeyer, Tagebuch ilbcr Dr. Martin 
Luther, gefilhrt von Dr. Conrad Oordatus, 15S7 (Halle, 1885) ; Caspar 
Cruciger, Tabulce chronologicoe actorum M. Lutheri (Wittenberg, 1553) ; 
Fbrstemann, Neues Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der evangelischen Kirehen- 
reformation (Hamburg, 1842) ; Kolde, Analecta Lutherana (Gotha, 1883) ; 
6. Loesohe, Analecta Lutherana et Melanchthoniana (Gotha, 1892) ; Loscher. 
Vollstdndige Beformatioms-Acta und Documenta (Leipzig, 1720-1729) ; 
Enders, Dr. Martin Luther's Briefwechsel, 6 vols. (Frankfurt, 1884-1893) ; 
De Wette, Dr. Martin Luther's Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, 5 vols. 
(Berlin, 1825-1828) ; J. Cochlseus (Rom. Cath.), Commentarius de actis et 
seriptis M. Lutheri . . . ab anno 1517 usque ad annum 1537 (St. Victor 
prope Moguntiam, 1549) ; V. L. Seckendorf, Commentarius . . . de 
Lutheranismo (Frankfurt, 1692) ; Constitutioiies Fratrum HeremUarum 
Sancti Augustini (Nurnberg, 1504) ; Cambridge Modem History, ii. iv. 
Latek Books : J. Kostlin, Martin Luther, sein Leben und seine 



The sincerity and ability of the leaders of the movement 
are unquestioned ; but they had failed ignominiously, and 
the Papacy with all its abuses had never been so powerful 
ecclesiastically as when its superior diplomacy had van- 
quished the endeavour to hold it in tutelage to a coimciL 

The Christian Humanists had made their attempt — 
preaching a moral renovation and the application of the 
existing laws of the Church to punish ecclesiastical wrong- 
doers. Colet eloquently assured the Anglican Convocation 
that the Church possessed laws which, if only enforced, 
contained provisions ample enough to curb and master the 
ills which all felt to be rampant. Erasmus had held up 
to scorn the debased religious life of the times, and had 
denounced its Judaism and Paganism. Both were men of 
scholarship and genius ; but they had never been able to 
move society to its depths, and awaken a new religious hfe, 
which was the one thing needful. 

History knows nothing of revivals of moral living 
apart from some new religious impulse. The motive 
power needed has always come through leaders who have 
had communion with the unseen. Humanism had supplied 
a superfluity of teachers; the times needed a prophet. 
They received one ; a man of the people ; bone of their 
bone, and flesh of their flesh ; one who had himself lived 
that popvdar religious life with all the thoroughness of a 
strong, earnest nature, who had sounded all its depths and 
tested its capacities, and gained in the end no relief for his 

Schriften,2-vo1a. (Berlin,1889); Th.Kolde, Martin Luther. JSiiie Biographie, 
2 vols. (Gotha, 1884, 1893) ; A. Hausrath, Luther's Leben, 2 vols. (Berlin, 
1904) ; Lindsay, Luther wad the German Reformation (Edinburgh, 1900) ; 
Kolde, Friedrich der Weise und die Anfange der Reformation mit archi- 
valischen Beilagen (Erlangen, 1881), and Die deutsche Augustiner-Con- 
gregation und Johwwn v. Staupitz (Gotha, 1879) ; A. Hausrath, M. Luther's 
Somfahrt nach eitiem gleichzeiligen Pilgerbuche (Berlin, 1894) ; Oergel, 
Vom jungen I/uftier (Erfurt, 1899) ; Jurgens, Luther von seiner Oeburt bis 
zum Ablassstreit, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1846-1847) ; Krumhaar, Die Orafschaft 
Mansfeld im Eeformatiouszeitalter (Eisleben, 1845) ; Buchwald, Zur 
Wittenberg Stadt- und Universitdtsgeschichte in der Reformalionszeit (Leipzig, 
1893) ; Kampsohulte, Die Universitdt Erfurt in ihrem Verhdltniss sm dem 
Sumanismus und der Reformation (Trier, 1856-1860). 


burdened conscience ; who had at last found his way into 
the presence of God, and who knew, by his own personal 
experience, tliat the living God was accessible to every 
Christian. He had won the freedom of a Christian man, i/ 
and had reached through faith a joy in living far deeper 
than that which Humanism boasted. He became a leader 
of men, because his joyous faith made him a hero by 
delivering him from all fear of Church or of clergy — the 
fear which had weighed down the consciences of men for 
generations. Men could see what faith was when they 
looked at Luther. 

It must never be forgotten that to his contemporaries 
Luther was the embodiment of personal piety. All spoke 
of his sensitiveness to religious impressions of all kinds in 
his early years. While he was inside the convent, whether 
before or after he had found deliverance for his troubles of 
soul, his fellows regarded him as a model of piety. In 
later days, when he stood forth as a Reformer, he became 
such a power in the hearts of men of all sorts and ranks, 
because he was seen to be a thoroughly pious man. Albert 
Diirer may be taken as a type. In the great painter's 
diary of the journey he made with his wife and her maid 
Susanna to the Netherlands (1520), — a mere summary of 
the places he visited and the persons he saw, of what he 
paid for food and lodging and travel, of the prices he got 
for his pictures, and what he paid for his purchases, 
literary and artistic, — he tells how he heard of Luther's 
condemnation at Worms, of the Reformer's disappearance, 
of his supposed murder by Popish emissaries (for so the 
report went through Germany), and the news compelled 
him to that pouring forth of prayers, of exclamations, of 
fervent appeals, and of bitter regrets, which fills three out 
of the whole forty-six pages. The Luther he almost 
worships is the " pious man," the " follower of the Lord 
and of the true Christian faith," the " man enlightened by 
the Holy Spirit," the man who had been done to death by 
the Pope and the priests of his day, as the Son of God had 
been murdered by the priests of Jerusalem. The one 


bhing which fills the great painter's mind is the personal 
religious life of the man Martin Luther.^ 

Another source of Luther's power was that he had 
been led step by step, and that his. countrymen could 
follow him deliberately without being startled by any too 
sudden changes. He was one of themselves; he took 
them into his confidence at every stage of his public 
career ; they knew him thoroughly. He had been a 
monk, and that was natural for a youth of his exemplary 
piety. He had lived a model monastic life; his com- 
panions and his superiors were unwearied in commending 
him. He had spoken openly what almost all good men 
had been feeling privately about Indulgences in plain 
language which all could understand; and he had 
gradually taught himself and his countrymen, who were 
following his career breathlessly, that the man who trusted 
in God did not need to fear the censures of Pope or of 
the clergy. He emancipated not merely the learned and 
cultivated classes, but the common people, from the fear 
of the Church ; and this was the one thing needful for 
a true reformation. So long as the people of Europe 
believed that the priesthood had some mysterious powers, 
no matter how vague or indefinite, over the spiritual and 
eternal welfare of men and women, freedom of conscience 
and a renovation of the public and private moral life was 
impossible. The spiritual world will always have its 
anxieties and terrors for every Christian soul, and the 
greatest achievement of Luther was that by teaching and, 
above all, by example, he showed the common man that 
he was in God's hands, and not dependent on the blessing 
or banning of a clerical caste. For Luther's doctrine of 
Justification by Faith, as he himself showed in his tract 
on the Liberty of a Christian Man (1520), was simply 
that there was nothing in the indefinite claim which th3 
mediaeval Church had always made. From the momeirfc 
the common people, simple men and women, knew and 

' Albrecht Dilrer's Tagebuch der Seise in die Niederlande, Edited by 
Dr. "pr. Leitscliuh (Leipzig, 1884), pp. 28-84. 

Luther's youth and education 193 

felt this, they were freed from the mysterious dread of 
Church and priesthood ; they could look the clergy fairly 
in the face, and could care little for their threats. It was , 
because Luther had freed himself from this dread, because 
the people, who knew him to be a deeply pious man, saw 
that he was free from it, and therefore that they need be 
in no concern about it, that he became the great reformer 
and the popular leader in an age which was compelled to 
revise its thoughts about spiritual things. 

Hence it is that we may say without exaggeration that 
the Eeformation was embodied in Martin Luther, that it 
lived in him as in no one else, and that its inner religious 
history may be best studied in the record of his spiritual 
experiences and in the growth of his religious convictions. 

§ 2. Luther's Youth and Education. 

Martin Luther was born in 1483 (Nov. 10th) at 
Eisleben, and spent his childhood in the small mining 
town of Mansfeld. His father, Hans Luther, had belonged 
to Mohra (]M[portown), a small peasant township lying in 
the north-eafst corner of the Thuringian Wald, and his 
mother, Margarethe Ziegler, had come from a burgher family 
in Eisenach. It was a custom among these Thuringian 
peasants that only one son, and that usually the youngest, 
inherited the family house and the croft. The others were 
sent out one by one, furnished with a small store of money 
from the family strong-box, to make their way in the 
world. Hans Luther had determined to become a miner 
in the Mansfeld district, where the policy of the Counts 
of Mansfeld, of building and letting out on hire small 
smelting furnaces, enabled thrifty and skilled workmen to 
rise in the world. The father soon made his way. He 
leased one and then three of these furnaces. He won the 
respect of his neighbours, for he became, in 1491, one of 
the four members of the village council, and we are told 
that the Counts of Mansfeld held him in esteem. 

In the earlier years, when Luther was a child, the 


family life was one of grinding poverty, and Luther often 
recalled the hard struggles of his parents. He had often 
seen his mother carrying the wood for the family fire from 
the forest on her poor shoulders. The child grew up 
among the hard, grimy, coarse surroundings of the German 
working-class hfe, protected from much that was evil by 
the wise severity of his parents. He imbibed its simple 
political and ecclesiastical ideas. He learned that the 
Emperor was God's ruler on earth, who would protect poor 
people against the Turk, and that the Church was the 
"Pope's House," in which the Bishop of Eome was the 
house-father. He was taught the Creed, the Ten Com- 
mandments, and the Lord's Prayer. He sang such simple 
evangelical hymns as "Ein Kindelein so lobelich," "Nun 
bitten wir den heiligen Geist," and " Crist ist erstanden." 
He was a dreamy, contemplative child; and the unseen 
world was never out of his thoughts. He knew that some 
of the miners practised sorcery in dark corners below the 
earth. He feared an old woman who lived near; she 
was a witch, and the priest himself was afraid of her. 
He was taught about Hell and Purgatory and the Judg- 
ment to come. He shivered whenever he looked at the 
stained-glass window in the parish church and saw the 
frowning face of Jesus, who, seated on a rainbow and with 
a flaming sword in His hand, was coming to judge him, 
he knew not when. He saw the crowds of pilgrims who 
streamed past Mansfeld, carrying their crucifixes high, and 
chanting their pilgrim songs, going to the Bruno Quertfort 
chapel or to the old church at Wimmelberg. He saw 
paralytics and maimed folk carried along the roads, going 
to embrace the wooden cross at Kyffhaiiser, and find a 
miraculous cure; and sick people on their way to the 
cloister church at Wimmelberg to be cured by the sound 
of the blessed bells. 

The boy Luther went to the village school in Mansfeld, 
and endured the cruelties of a merciless pedagogue. He 
was sent for a year, in 1497, to a school of the Brethren 
of the Common Lot in Magdeburg. Then he went to St. 


George's school in Eisenach, where he remained three 
years. He was a " poor scholar," which meant a boy who 
received his lodging and education free, was obliged to sing 
in the church choir, and was allowed to sing in the streets, 
begging for food. The whole town was under the spell 
of St. Elizabeth, the pious landgravine, who had given up 
family life and aU earthly comforts to earn a mediaeval 
saintship. It contained nine monasteries and nunneries, 
many of them dating back to the days of St. Elizabeth ; 
her good deeds were emblazoned on the windows of the 
church in which Luther sang as choir-boy ; he had long 
conversations with the monks who belonged to her founda- 
tions. The boy was being almost insensibly attracted to 
that revival of the mediaeval religious life which was the 
popular religious force of these days. He had glimpses of 
the old homely evangelical piety, this time accompanied by 
a refinement of manners Luther had hitherto been un- 
acquainted with, in the house of a lady who is identified by 
biographers with a certain Erau Cotta. The boy enjoyed 
it intensely, and his naturally sunny nature expanded under 
its influence. But it did not touch him religiously. He 
has recorded that it was with incredulous surprise that he 
heard his hostess say that there was nothing on earth more 
lovely than the love of husband and wife, when it is in the 
fear of the Lord. 

After three years' stay at Eisenach, Luther entered the 
University of Erfurt (1501), then the most famous in 
Germany. It had been founded in 1392 by the burghers 
of the town, who were intensely proud of their own Uni- 
versity, and especially of the fact that it had far surpassed 
other seats of learning which owed their origin to princes. 
The academic and burgher life were allied at Erfurt as they 
were in no other University town. The days of graduation 
were always town holidays, and at the graduation pro- 
cessions the officials of the city walked with the University 
authorities. Luther tells us that when he first saw the 
newly made graduates marching in their new graduation 
robes in the middle of the procession, he thought that 


they had attained to the summit of earthly felicity. The 
University of Erfurt was also strictly allied to the Church. 
Different Popes had enriched it with privileges ; the Primate 
of Germany, the Archbishop of Mainz, was its Chancellor ; 
many of its professors held ecclesiastical prebends, or were 
monks ; each faculty was under the protection of a tutelary 
saint ; the teachers had to swear to teach nothing opposed 
to the doctrines of the Eoman Church ; and special pains 
were taken to prevent the rise and spread of heresy. 

Its students were exposed to a greater variety of 
influences than those of any other seat of learning in 
Germany. Its theology represented the more modern type 
of scholastic, the Scotist ; its philosophy was the nominalist 
teaching of William of Occam, whose great disciple, Gabriel 
Biel (d. 1495), had been one of its most celebrated pro- 
fessors ; the system of biblical interpretation, first intro- 
duced by Nicholas de Lyra^ (d. 1340), had been long 
taught at Erfurt by a succession of .able masters ; Human- 
ism had won an early entrance, and in Luther's time the 
Erfurt circle of " Poets " was already famous. The strongly 
anti-clerical teaching of John of Wessel, who had lectured 
in Erfurt for fifteen years (1445-1460), had left its mark 
on the University, and was not forgotten. Hussite propa- 
gandists, Luther tells us, appeared from time to time, 
whispering among the students their strange, anti-clerical 
Christian socialism. While, as if by way of antidote, there 
came Papal Legates, whose magnificence bore witness to 
the might of the Eoman Church. 

Luther had been sent to Erfurt to learn Law, and the 
Faculty of Philosophy gave the preliminary training re- 

' Nicholas, born at Lyre, a Tillage in Normandy, was one of the earliest 
students of the Hebrew S.riptures ; he explained the accepted fourfold sense 
of Scripture in the following distich ; 

" Litera gesta docet, quid credas Allegoria, 
Moralis quid agas, quo tendas A'/iagogia." 

Luther used his commentaries when he became Professor of Theology at 
Wittenberg, and acknowledged the debt ; but it is too much to say : 
"Si Lyra non lyrasset, 
Lutherus uon saltassot." 


quired. The young student worked hard at the prescribed 
tasks. The Scholastic Philosophy, he said, left him little 
time for classical studies, and he attended none of the 
Humanist lectures. He found time, however, to read a 
good many Latin authors privately, and also to learn some- 
thing of Greek. Virgil and Plautus were his favourite 
authors ; Cicero also charmed him ; he read Livy, Terence, 
and Horace. He seems also to have read a volume of 
selections from Propertius, Persius, Lucretius, TibuUus, 
Silvius Itahcus, Statius, and Claudian. But he was never 
a member of the Humanist circle ; he was too much in 
earnest about religious questions, and of too practical a 
turn of mind. 

The scanty accounts of Luther's student days show 
that he was a hardworking, bright, sociable youth, and 
musical to the core. His companions called him "the 
Philosopher," " the Musician," and spoke of his lute-playing, 
of his singing, and of his ready power in debate. He 
took his various degrees in unusually short time. He 
was Bachelor in 1502, and Master in 1505. His father, 
proud of his son's success, had sent him the costly present of 
a Corpus Juris. He may have begun to attend the lectures 
in the Faculty of Law, when he suddenly plunged into the 
Erfurt Convent of the Augustinian Eremites. 

The action was so sudden and unexpected, that con- 
temporaries felt bound to give all manner of explanations, 
and these have been woven together into accounts which 
are legendary.^ Luther himself has told us that he entered 
the monastery because he doubted of himself; that in his 

' There is one persistent contemporary suggestion, that Luther was 
finally driven to take the step by the sudden death of a companion, for 
which a good deal may be said. Oergel has shown, from minute researches 
in the university archives, that a special friend of Luther's, Hieronymus 
Pontz of Windsheim, who was working along with him for his Magister's 
degi'ee, died suddenly of pleurisy before the end of the examination ; that 
a few weeks after Luther had taken liis degree, another promising student 
whom he knew died of the plague ; that the plague broke out again in 
Erfurt three months afterwards ; and that Luther entered the convent a 
few days after this second appearance of the [dague. — Cf. Georg Oergel, 
Fomya«g'e» iMtter (Erfurt, 1899), pp. 35-41. 


case the proverb was true, " Doubt makes a monk." He 
also said that his resolve was a suddpn one, because he 
knew that his decision would grieve his father and his 

What was the doubting ? We are tempted in these 
days to think of intellectual difficulties, and Luther's 
doubting is frequently attributed to the self-questioning 
which his contact with Humanism at Erfurt had engen- 
dered. But this idea, if not foreign to the age, was strange 
to Luther. His was a simple pious nature, practical rather 
than speculative, sensitive and imaginative. He could play 
with abstract questions ; but it was pictures that compelled 
him to action. He has left on record a series of pictures 
which were making deeper and more permanent impression 
on him as the years passed; they go far to reveal the 
history of his struggles, and to tell us what the doubts 
were which drove him into the convent. The picture on 
the window in Mansfeld church of Jesus sitting on a rain- 
bow, with frowning countenance and drawn sword in His 
hand, coming to judge the wicked ; the altar-piece at 
Magdeburg representing a great ship sailing heavenwards, 
no one within the ship but priests or monks, and in the 
sea laymen drowning, or saved by ropes thrown to them 
by the priests and monks who were safe on board ; the 
living picture of the prince of Anhalt, who to save his 
soul had become a friar, and carried the begging sack on 
his bent shoulders through the streets of Magdeburg; the 
history of St. Elizabeth blazoned on the windows of the 
church at Eisenach ; the young Carthusian at Eisenach, 
who the boy thought was the holiest man he had ever 
talked to, and who had so mortified his body that he had 
come to look like a very old man; the terrible deathbed 
scene of the Erfurt ecclesiastical dignitary, a man who 
held twenty-two benefices, and whom Luther had often 
seen riding in state in the great processions, who was 
known to be an evil-liver, and who when he came to die 
filled the room with his frantic cries. Luther doubted 
whether he could ever do what he believed had to be done 


by him to save his soul if he remained in the world. 
That was what compelled him to become a monk, and bury 
himself in the convent. The lurid fires of Hell and the 
pale shades of Purgatory, which are the permanent back- 
ground to Dante's Paradise, were present to Luther's mind 
from childhood. Could he escape the one and gain entrance 
to the other if he remained in the world ? He doubted it, 
and entered the convent. . 

§ 3. Luther in the Erfurt Convent. 

It was a convent of the Augustinian Eremites, perhaps 
the most highly esteemed of monastic orders by the common 
people of Germany during the earlier decades of the six- 
teenth century. They represented the very best type of 
that superstitious mediaeval revival which has been already 
described.^ It is a mistake to suppose that because they 
bore the name of Augustine, the evangelical theology of 
the great Western Father was known to them. Their 
leading theologians belonged to another and very different 
school The two teachers of theology in the Erfurt con- 
vent, when Luther entered in 1505, were John Genser of 
Paltz, and John Nathin of Neuenkirehen. The former was 
widely known from his writings in favour of the strictest 
form of papal .absolutism, of the doctrine of Attrition, and 
of the efficacy of papal Indulgences. It is not probable 
that Luther was one of his pupils ; for he retired broken 
in health and burdened with old age in 1507.* The latter, 
though unknown beyond the walls of the convent, was an 
able and severe master. He was an ardent admirer of 
Gabriel Biel, of Peter d'Ailly, and of William of Occam 
their common master. He thought little of any inde- 

^ Cf. above, pp. 127 ff. 

' In my chapter on Luther in the Cambridge Modern History, ii. p. 114, 
where notes were not permitted, I have said with too much abruptness that 
John of Paltz was "the teacher of Luther himself." Luther was certainly 
taught the theology of John of Paltz, and the latter was residing in the 
monastery during two years of Luther's stay there ; but it is more probable 
that Luther's actual instructor was Natliin. 


pendent study of the Holy Scriptures. " Brother Martin," 
he once said to Luther, " let the Bible alone ; read the old 
teachers ; they give you the whole marrow of the Bible : 
reading the Bible simply breeds unrest." ^ Afterwards he 
commanded Luther on his canonical obedience to refrain 
from Bible study.^ It was he who made Luther read and 
re-read the writings of Biel, d'Ailly, and Occam, until he 
had committed to memory long passages ; and who taught 
the Eeformer to consider Occam " his dear Master." 
Nathin was a determined opponent of the Eeformation 
until his death in 1529; but Luther always spoke of him 
with respect, and said that he was " a Christian man in 
spite of his monk's cowl." 

Luther had not come to the convent to study theo- 
logy ; he had entered it to save his souL These studies 
were part of the convent discipline; to engage in them, 
part of his vow of obedience. He worked hard at them, 
and pleased his superiors greatly ; worked because he was a 
submissive monk. They left a deeper impress on him than 
most of his biographers have cared to acknowledge. He 
had more of the Schoolman in him and less of the Humanist 
than any other of the men who stood in the first line of 
leaders in the Eeformation movement. Some of his later 
doctrines, and especially his theory of the Sacrament of the 
Supper, came to him from these convent studies in d'Ailly 
and Occam. But in his one great quest — how to save his 
soul, how to win the sense of God's pardon — they were 
more a hindrance than a help. His teachers might be 
Augustinian Eremites, but they had not the faintest 
knowledge of Augustinian experimental theology. They 
belonged to the most pelagianising school of mediaeval 
Scholastic ; and their last word always was that man must 
work out his own salvation. Luther tried to work it out 

' In the Tischreden (Preger, Leipzig, 1888), i. 27, the saying is attributed 
to BartholomsBUa Uaingen, who is erroneously called Luther's teacher in the 
Erfurt convent. Usingen did not enter the convent before 1512. He was 
a professor in the University of Erfurt, not in the convent. 

' N. Selneccer, Eisloria . . . D. M. Lutheri : ' ' Jussus est omissis 
Saoris Bibliis ex obedientia legere scholastica et sophistica scripts." 


in the most approved later mediteval fashion, by the 
strictest asceticism. He fasted and scourged himself ; he 
practised all the ordinary forms of maceration, and invented 
new ones ; but all to no purpose. For when an awakened 
soul, as he said long afterwards, seeks to find rest in work- 
righteousness, it stands on a foundation of loose sand which 
it feels running and travelling beneath it ; and it must go 
from one good work to another and to another, and so on 
without end. Luther was undergoing all unconsciously the 
experience of Augustine, and what tortured and terrified the 
great African was torturing him. He had learned that 
man's goodness is not to be measured by his neighbour's 
but by God's, and that man's sin is not to be weighed 
against the sins of his neighbours, but against the righteous- 
ness of God. His theological studies told him that God's 
pardon could be had through the Sacrament of Penance, 
and that the first part of that sacrament was sorrow for 
sin. But then came a difficulty. The older, and surely 
the better theology, explained that this godly sorrow {con- 
tritio) must be based on love to God. Had he this love ? 
God always appeared to him as an implacable Judge, 
inexorably threatening punishment for the breaking of a law 
which it seemed impossible to keep. He had to confess to 
himself that he sometimes almost hated this arbitrary Will 
which the nominalist Schoolmen called God. The more 
modern theology, that taught by the chief convent theo- 
logian, John of Paltz, asserted that the sorrow might be 
based on meaner motives (attritio), and that this attrition 
was changed into contrition in the Sacrament of Penance 
itself. So Luther wearied his superiors by his continual 
use of this sacrament. The slightest breach of the most 
trifling conventual regulation was looked on as a sin, and 
had to be confessed at once and absolution for it received, 
until the perplexed lad was ordered to cease confession 
until he had committed some sin worth confessing. His 
brethren believed him to be a miracle of piety. They 
boasted about him in their monkish fashion, and in all the 
monasteries around, and as far away as Grimma, the monks 


and nuns talked about the young saint in the Erfurt con- 
vent. Meanwhile the " young saint " himself lived a life 
of mental anguish, whispering to himself that he was 
"gallows-ripe." Writing in 1518, years after the conflict 
was over, Luther tells us that no pen could describe the 
mental anguish he endured.^ Gleams of comfort came to 
him, but they were transient. The Master of the Novices 
gave him salutary advice; an aged brother gave him 
momentary comfort. John Staupitz, the Vicar-General of 
the Congregation, during his visits to the convent was 
attracted by the traces of hidden conflicts and sincere 
endeavour of the young monk, with his high cheek-bones, 
emaciated frame, gleaming eyes, and looks of settled 
despair. He tried to find out his difficulties. He revoked 
Nathin's order that Luther should not read the Scriptures. 
He encouraged him to read the Bible; he gave him a 
Qlossa Ordinaria or conventual ecclesiastical commentary, 
where passages were explained by quotations from eminent 
Church Fathers, ajid difficulties were got over by much 
pious allegorising; above all, he urged him to become a 
good localis and textualis in the Bible, i.e. one who, when he 
met with difficulties, did not content himself with com- 
mentaries, but made collections of parallel passages for 
himself, and found explanations of one in the others. Still 
this brought at first little help. At last Staupitz saw the 
young man's real difficulty, and gave him real and lasting 
assistance. He showed Luther that he had been rightly 
enough contrasting man's sin and God's holiness, and 
measuring the depth of the one by the height of the other ; 
that he had been following the truest instincts of the 
deepest piety when he had set over-against each other the 
righteousness of God and the sin and helplessness of man ; 
but that he had gone wrong when he kept these two 

* Modem Romanists describe all ihis as the self-torturing of an hysterical 
youth. They are surely oblivious to the fact that the only great German 
mediaeval Mystic who has been canonised by the Romish Church, Henry 
Suso, went through a similar experience ; and that these very experiences 
were in both cases looked on by contemporaries as the fruits of a more than 
ordinary piety. 


thoughts in a permanent opposition. He then explained 
that, according to God's promise, the righteousness of God 
might become man's own possession in and through Christ 
Jesus. God had promised that man could have fellowship 
with Him; all fellowship is founded on personal trust; 
and trust, the personal trust of the believing man on a 
personal God who has promised, gives man that fellowship 
with God through which all things that belong to God can 
become his. Without this personal trust or faith, all 
divine things, the Incarnation and Passion of the Saviour, 
the Word and the Sacraments, however true as matters of 
fact, are outside man and cannot be truly possessed. But 
when man trusts God and His promises, and when the 
fellowship, which trust or faith always creates, is once 
established, then they can be truly possessed by the man 
who trusts. The just live by their faith. These thoughts, 
acted upon, helped Luther gradually to win his way to 
peace, and he told Staupitz long afterwards that it was 
he who had made him see the rays of light which dis- 
pelled the darkness of his soul.^ In the end, the vision of 
the true relation of the believing man to God came to him 
suddenly with all the force of a personal revelation, and the 
storm-tossed soul was at rest. The sudden enUghtenment, 
the personal revelation which was to change his whole life, 
came to him when he was reading the Epistle to the Romans 
in his cell It came to Paul when he was riding on the 
road to Damascus; to Augustine as he was lying under 
a fig-tree in the Milan garden; to Francis as he paced 
anxiously the flag-stones of the Portiuncula chapel on the 
plain beneath Assisi; to Suso as he sat at table in the 
morning. It spoke through different words : — to Paul, 
" Why persecutest thou Me ? " ; ^ to Augustine, " Put ye on 
the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the 
flesh " ; ^ to Francis, " Get you no gold, nor silver, nor 
brass in your purses, no wallet for your journey, neither 
two coats, nor shoes, nor staff";* to Suso, "My son, if 

' Resolutiones, Preface. ^ Acts viii. 4. 

» Eom. xiii. 14. * Matt. x. 9. 


thou wilt hear My words." ^ But though the words were 
different, the personal revelation, which mastered the men, 
was the same : That trust in the All-merciful God, who 
has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, creates companion- 
ship with God, and that all other things are nothing in 
comparison with this fellowship. It was this contact with 
the Unseen which fitted Luther for his task as the leader 
of men in an age which was longing for a revival of moral 
living inspired by a fresh religious impulse.^ 

It is not certain how long Luther's protracted struggle 
lasted. There are indications that it went on for two years, 
and that he did not attain to iaward peace until shortly 
before he was sent to Wittenberg in 1508. The intensity 
and sincerity of the conflict marked him for life. The 
conviction that he, weak and sinful as he was, nevertheless 
lived in personal fellowship with the God whose love he 
was experiencing, became the one fundamental fact of life 
on which he, a human personality, could take his stand as 
on a foundation of rock ; and standing on it, feeling his own 
strength, he could also be a source of strength to others. 
Everything else, however venerable and sacred it might 
once have seemed, might prove untrustworthy without 
hereafter disturbing Luther's religious life, provided only 
this one thing remained to him. For the moment, how- 
ever, nothing seemed questionable. The inward change 

^ Prov. ii. 1. 

' " If we review all the men and women of the "West since Augustine's 
time, whom, for the disposition which possessed them, history has designated 
as eminent Cliristians, we have always the same type ; we find marked con- 
viction of sin, complete renunciation of their own strength, and trust in 
grace, in the personal God who is apprehended as the Merciful Otk in the 
humility of Christ. The variations of this frame of mind are innumerable 
— but the fundamental type is the same. This frame of mind is taught in 
sermons and in instruction by truly pious Romanists and by Evangelicals ; 
in it youthful Christians are trained, and dogmatics are constructed in 
harmony with it. It has always produced so powerful an effect, even where 
it is only preached as the experience of others, that he who has come in con- 
tact with it can never forget it ; it accompanies him as a pillar of cloud by 
day and of fire by night ; he who imagines that he has long shaken it off, 
sees it rising up suddenly before him again." — Harnack's History of Dogma, 
V. 74 (Eng. trans., London, 1898). 


altered nothing external. He still believed that the 
Church was the " Pope's House " ; he accepted all its 
usages and institutions — its Masses and its relics, its in- 
dulgences and its pilgrimages, its hierarchy and its monastic 
life. He was still a monk and believed in his vocation. 

Luther's theological studies were continued. He 
devoted himself especially to Bernard, in whose sermons 
on the Song of Solomon he found the same thoughts of the 
relation of the believing soul to God which had given him 
comfort. He began to show himself a good man of busi- 
ness with an eye to the heart of things. Staupitz and his 
chiefs entrusted him with some delicate commissions on 
behaH of the Order, and made quiet preparations for his 
advancement. In 1508 he, with a few other monks, was 
sent from Erfurt to the smaller convent at Wittenberg, to 
assist the small University thera 

§ 4. Luther's early Life in Wittenberg. 

About the beginning of the century, Frederick the Wise, 
Elector of Saxony and head of the Ernestine branch of his 
family, had resolved to establish a University for his 
dominions. Frederick had maintained close relations with 
the Augustinian Eremites ever since he had made acquaint- 
ance with them when a schoolboy at Grimma, and the 
Vicar-General, John Staupitz, along with Dr. Pollich of 
MeHerstadt, were his chief advisers. It might almost be 
said that the new University was, from the beginning, an 
educational establishment belonging to the Order of monks 
which Luther had joined. Staupitz himself was one of the 
professors, and Dean of the Faculty of Theology ; another 
Augustinian Eremite was Dean of the Faculty of Arts ; the 
Patron Saints of the Order of the Blessed Virgin and St. 
Augustine were the Patron Saints of the University; 
St. Paul was the Patron Saint of the Faculty of Theology, 
and on the day of his conversion there was a special 
celebration of the Mass with a sermon, at which the Eector 
(Dr. Pollich) and the whole teaching staff were present. 


The University was poorly endowed. Electoral Saxony 
was not a rich principality ; some mining industry did exist 
in the south end, and Zwickau was the centre of a great 
weaving trade ; but the great proportion of the inhabitants, 
whether of villages or towns, subsisted on agriculture of a 
poor kind. There was not much money at the Electoral 
court. A sum got from the sale of Indulgences some years 
before, which Frederick had not allowed to leave the 
country, served to make a beginning. The prebends 
attached to the Church of All Saints (the Castle Church) 
supplied the salaries of some professors ; the others were 
Augustinian Eremites, who gave their services gratuitously. 

The town of Wittenberg was more like a large village 
than the capital of a principality. In 1513 it only con- 
tained 3000 inhabitants and 356 rateable houses. The 
houses were for the most part mean wooden dwellings, 
roughly plastered with clay. The town lay in the very 
centre of Germany, but it was far from any of the great 
trade routes ; the inhabitants had a good deal of Wendish 
blood in their veins, and were inclined to be sluggish and 
intemperate. The environs were not picturesque, and the 
surrounding country had a poor soil. Altogether it was 
scarcely the place for a University. Imperial privileges 
were obtained from the Emperor Maixinulian, and the 
University was opened on the 18th of October 1502. 

One or two eminent teachers had been induced to come 
to the new University. Staupitz collected promising young 
monks from many convents of his Order and enrolled them 
as students, and the University entered 416 names on its 
books during its first year. This success seems to have 
been somewhat a.rtificial, for the numbers gradually declined 
to 56 in the summer session of 1505. Staupitz, however, 
encouraged Frederick to persevere. 

It was in the interests of the young University that 
Luther and a band of brother monks were sent from Erfurt 
to the Wittenberg convent. There he was set to teach the 
Dialectic and Physics of Aristotle, — a hateful task, — but 
whether .to the monks in the convent or in the University 


it is impossible to say. All the while Staupitz urged him 
to study theology in order to teach it. it" was then that 
Luther began his systematic study of Augustine. He also 
began to preach: His first sermons were delivered in an 
old chapel, 30 feet long and 20 feet wide, built of wood 
plastered over with clay. He preached to the monks. 
Dr. Pollich, the Eector, went sometimes to hear him, and 
spoke to the Elector of the young monk with piercing eyes 
and strange fancies in his head. 

His work was interrupted by a command to go to Eome 
on business of his Order (autumn 1511). His selection 
was a great honour, and Luther felt it to be so ; but it 
may be questioned whether he did not think more of 
the fact that he would visit the Holy City as a devout 
pilgrim, and be able to avail himself of the spiritual 
privileges which he believed were to be found there. 
When he got to the end of his journey and first caught a 
glimpse of the city, he raised his hands in an ecstasy, ex- 
claiming, " I greet thee, thou Holy Eome, thrice holy from 
the blood of the martyrs." 

When his official work was done he set about seeing 
the Holy City with the devotion of a pilgrim. He visited 
all the famous shrines, especially those to which Indulg- 
ences were attached. He listened reverently . to all the 
accounts given, of the relics which were exhibited to 
the pilgrims, and believed in all the tales told him. He 
thought that if his parents had been dead he could have 
assured them against Purgatory by saying Masses in certain 
chapels. Only once, it is said, his soul showed revolt. He 
was slowly cUmbing on his knees the Scala Santa (really a 
mediaeval staircase), said to have been the stone steps 
leading up to Pilate's house in Jerusalem, once trodden by 
the feet of our Lord ; when half-way up the thought came 
into his mind, The Just shall live ly his faith ; he stood up- 
right and walked slowly down. He saw, as thousands 
of pious German pilgrims had done before his time, the j 
moral corruptions which disgraced the Holy City — infidel | 
priests who scoffed at the sacred mysteries they performed, 


and princes of the Church who lived in open sia. He saw 
and loathed the moral degradation, and the scenes imprinted 
themselves on his memory ; but his home and cloister 
training enabled him, for the time being, in spite of the 
loathing, to revel in the memorials of the old heroic 
martyrs, and to look on their relics as storehouses of divine 
grace. In later days it was the memories of the vices of 
the Eoman Court that helped him to harden his heart 
against the sentiment which surrounded the Holy City. 

When Luther returned to Wittenberg in the early 
summer of 1512, his Vicar-General sent him to Erfurt to 
complete his training for the doctorate ia theology. He 
graduated as Doctor of the Holy Scripture, took the 
Wittenberg Doctor's oath to defend the evangelical truth 
vigorously (viriliter), was made a member of the Witten- 
berg Senate, and three weeks later suceeeded Staupitz as 
Professor of Theology. 

Luther was still a genuine monk, with no doubt of his 
vocation. He became sub-prior of the Wittenberg convent 
in 1512, and' was made the District Vicar over the eleven 
convents in Meissen and Thuringia in 1515. But that side 
of his life may be passed over. It is his theological work 
as professor in Wittenberg University that is important for 
his career as a reformer. 

§ 5. Luther's early Lectures in Theology. 

From the beginning his lectures on theology differed 
from those ordinarily given, but not because he had any 
theological opinions at variance with those of his old 
teachers at Erfurt. No one attributed any sort of heretical 
views to the young Wittenberg professor. His mind was 
intensely practical, and he believed that theology might be 
made useful to guide men to find the grace of God and to 
tell them how, having acquired through trust a sense of 
fellowship with God, they could persevere in a life of 
joyous obedience to God and His commandments. The 
Scholastic theologians of Erfurt and elsewhere did not 

Luther's theological lectures 209 

look on theology as a practical discipline of this kind. 
Luther thought that theology ought to discuss such 
matters, and he knew that his main interest in theology 
lay on this practical side. Besides, as he has told us, 
he regarded himself as specially set apart to lecture on 
the Holy Scriptures. So, like John Colet, he began by 
expounding the Epistles of St. Paul and the Psalms. 

Luther never knew much Hebrew, and he used the 
Vulgate in his prelections. He had a huge widely printed 
volume on his desk, and wrote out the heads of his lectures 
between the printed lines. Some of the pages still survive 
in the Wolfenbiittel Library, and can be studied.^ 

He made some use of the commentaries of Nicholas de 
Lyra, but got most assistance from passages in Augustine, 
Bernard, and Gerson,^ which dealt with practical religion,' 

* The Wolfenbiittel Library contains the Psalter (Vulgate) used by 
Luther in lecturing on the Psalms. The book was printed at Wittenberg 
in 1613 by John Gronenberg, and contains Luther's notes writteii on the 
margin and between the printed lines. 

' Luther's indebtedness to Gerson (Jean Charlier, bom in 1363 at Gerson, 
a hamlet near Kethel in the Ardennes, believed by some to be the author of 
the De Imitatione Christi) has not been sufiBciently noticed. It may be 
partially estimated by Luther's own statement that most experimental 
divines, including Augustine, when dealing with the struggle of the 
awakened soul, lay most stress on that part of the conflict which comes 
from temptations of the flesh ; Gerson confines himself to those which 
are purely spiritual. Luther, during his soul-anguish in the convent, was 
a young monk who had lived a humanly stainless life, sans peur et satis 
reproche ; Augustine, a middlo-aged professor of rhetoric, had been living 
'or years in a state of sinful concubinage. 

' It is commonly said that Luther made use of the mystical passages 
found in Ihese and other authors ; but mystical is a very ambiguous word. 
It is continually used to express personal or individual piety in general ; or 
this personal religion as opposed to that religious life which is consciously 
lived within the fellowship of men called the Church, provided with the 
external means of grace. These are, however, very loose uses of the word. 
The fundamental problem, even in Christian Mysticism, appears to me to be 
how to bridge the gulf between the creature and the Creator, while the 
problem in Reformation theology is how to span the chasm between the 
sinful man and the righteous God. Hence in mysticism the tendency is 
always to regard sin as imperfection, while in the Reformation theology sin 
is always the power of evil and invariably includes the thought of guilt. 
Luther was no mystic in the sense of desiring to be lost in God : he wished 
to be saved through Christ. 



His lectures were experimental. He started with the fact 
of man's sin, the possibility of reaching a sense of pardon 
and of fellowship with God through trust in His promises. 
From the beginning we find in the germ what grew to be 
the main thoughts in the later Lutheran theology. Men 
are redeemed apart from any merits of their own ; God's 
grace is really His mercy revealed in the mission and work 
of Christ ; it has to do with the forgiveness of sins, and is 
the fulfilment of His promises ; man's faith is trust in the 
historical work of Christ and in the verity of God. These 
thoughts were for the most part all expressed in the formal 
language of the Scholastic Theology of the day. They grew 
in clearness, and took shape in a series of propositions 
which formed the common basis of his teaching : man wins 
pardon through the free grace of God : when man lays 
hold on God's promise of pardon he becomes a new 
creature ; this sense of pardon is the beginning of a 
new life of sanctification ; the life of faith is Christianity 
on its inward side ; the contrast between the law and the 
gospel is something fundamental : there is a real distinc- 
tion between the outward and visible Church and the ideal 
Church, which latter is to be described by its spiritual and 
moral relations to God after the manner of Augustine. 
All these thoughts simply pushed aside the ordinary 
theology as taught in the schools without staying to 
criticise it. 

In the years 1515 and 1516, which bear traces of 
a more thoroughgoing ' study of Augustine and of the 
German mediaeval Mystics, Luther began to find that 
he could not express the thoughts he desired to convey 
in the ordinary language of Scholastic Theology, and 
that its phrases suggested ideas other than those he 
wished to set forth. He tried to find another set of 
expressions. It is characteristic of Luther's conservatism, 
that in theological phraseology, as afterwards in eccle- 
siastical institutions and ceremonies, he preferred to retain 
what had been in use provided only he could put his 
own evangeUcal meaning into it in a not too arbitrary 


way.^ Having found that the Scholastic phraseology 
did not always suit his purpose, he turned to the popular 
mystical authors, and discovered there a rich store of 
phrq,ses in vfhich he could express his ideas of the im- 
perfection of man towards what is good. Along with 
this change in language, and related to it, we find evi- 
dence that Luther was beginning to think less highly 
of the monastic life with its external renunciations. The 
thought of predestination, meaning by that not an abstract 
metaphysical category, but the conception that the whole 
believer's life, and what it involved, depended in the 
last resort on God and not on man, came more and more 
into the foreground. Still there does not seem any 
disposition to criticise or to repudiate the current theology 
of the day. 

The earliest traces of conscious opposition appeared 
about the middle of 1516, and characteristically on the 
practical and not on the speculative side of theology. They 
began in a sermon on Indulgences, preached in July 1516. 
Once begun, the breach widened until Luther could contrast 
" our theology " ^ (the theology taught by Luther and his 
colleagues at Wittenberg) with what was taught elsewhere, 
and notably at Erfurt. The former represented Augustine 
and the Holy Scriptures, and the latter was founded on 
Aristotle. In September 1517 he raised the standard of 
theological revolt, and wrote directly against the " Scholastic 
Theology " ; he declared that it was Pelagian at heart, and 
buried out of sight the Augustinian doctrines of grace ; he 
lamented the fact that it neglected to teach the supreme 
value of faith and of inward righteousness ; that it en- 

' Of course, Luther's intense individuality appeared in his language from 
the first. Take as an example a note on Ps. Ixxxiv. 4 : "As the meadow 
is to the cow, the house to the man, the nest to the bird, the rock to the 
chamois, and the stream to the fish, so is the Holy Scripture to the believiu" 

' The expression is interesting, because it shows that Luther's influence 
had made at least two of his colleagues change their views. Nicholas 
Amsdorf and Andrew Bodenstein of Carlstadt had come to Wittenberg to 
teach Scholastic Theology, and Amsdorf had made a great name for himself 
as an exponent of the older type of that theology. 


couraged men to seek escape from what was due for sin by 
means of Indulgences, instead of exhorting them to practise 
the inward repentance which belongs to every genuine 
Christian life. 

It was at this interesting stage of his own religious 
development that Luther felt himself forced to oppose 
publicly the sale of Indulgences in Germany. 

By the year 1517, Luther had become a power in 
Wittenberg both as a preacher and as a teacher. He 
had become the preacher in the town church, from whose 
pulpit he delivered many sermons every week, taking in- 
finite pains to make himself understood by the "raw 
Saxons." He became a great preacher, and, like all great 
preachers, he denounced prevalent sins, and bewailed the 
low standard of morals set before the people by the higher 
ecclesiastical authorities ; he said that rehgion was not an 
easy thing ; that it did not consist in the decent perform- 
ance of external ceremonies ; that the sense of sin, the 
experience of the grace of God, and the fear of God and 
. the overcoming of that fear through the love of God, were 
aU contmuous experiences. 

His exegetical lectures seemed like a rediscovery of 
the Holy Scriptures. Grave burghers of Wittenberg 
matriculated as students in order to hear them. The 
fame of the lecturer spread, and students from all parts 
of Germany crowded to the small remote University, until 
the Elector became proud of his seat of learning and of 
the man who had made it prosper. 

Such a man could not keep silent when he saw what 
he believed to be a grave source of moral evil approaching 
the people whose souls God had given him in charge ; and 
this is how Luther came to be a Eeformer. 

Up to this time he had been an obedient monk, doing 
diligently the work given him, highly esteemed by his 
superiors, fulfilling the expectations of his Vicar-General, 
and recognised by all as a quiet and eminently pious man. 
He had a strong, simple character, with nothing of the 
quixotic about him. Of course be saw the degradation of 


much of the religious life of the times, and had attended 
at least one meeting where those present discussed plans of 
reformation. He had then (at Leitzkau in 1512) declared 
that every true reformation must begin with individual 
men, that it must reveal itself in a regenerate heart aflame 
with faith kindled by the preaching of a pure gospel. 

§ 6. The Indulgence-seller. 

What drew Luther from his retirement was an Indul- 
gence proclaimed by Pope Leo x., farmed by Albert of 
Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, and preached by 
John Tetzel, a Dominican monk, who had been commis- 
sioned by Albert to sell for him the Papal Letters, as the 
Indulgence tickets were called. It had been announced 
that the money raised by the sales would be used to build 
the Basilica of St. Peter to be a tomb worthy of the great 
Apostle, who rested, it was said, in a Eoman grave. 

The Indulgence-seller had usually a magnificent recep- 
tion when he entered a German town. Frederick Mecum 
(Myconius), who was an eye-witness, thus describes the en- 
trance of Tetzel into the town of Annaberg in Ducal Saxony : 

" When the Commissary or Indulgence-seller approached 
the town, the Bull (proclaiming the Indulgence) was carried 
before him on a cloth pf velvet and gold, and all the priests 
and monks, the town council, the schoolmasters and their 
scholars, and all the men and women went out to meet him 
with banners and candles and songs, forming a great pro- 
cession ; then all the bells ringing and all the organs playing, 
they accompanied him to the principal church ; a red cross 
was set up in the midst of the church, and the Pope's banner 
was displayed ; in short, one might think they were receiving 
God Himself." 

The Commissary then preached a sermon extolling the 
Indulgence, declaring that " the gate of heaven was open," 
and that the sales would begin. 

Many German princes had no great love for the 
Indulgence-sellers, and Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, 


had prohibited Tetzel from entering his territories. But 
the lands of Ernestine (Electoral) and Albertine (Ducal) 
Saxony were so mixed up that it was easy for the Com- 
missary to command the ' whole population of Electoral 
Saxony without actually crossing the frontier. The " Eed 
Cross " had been set up in Zerbst in Ducal Saxony a few 
miles to the west, and at Jiiterbogk in the territory of 
Magdeburg a few miles to the east of Wittenberg, and 
people had gone from the town to buy the Indulgence. 
Luther believed that the sales were injurious to the moral 
and religious life of his townsmen ; the reports of the 
sermons and addresses of the Indulgence-seller which 
reached him appeared to contain what he believed to be 
both lies and blasphemies. He secured a copy of the 
letter of recommendation given by the Archbishop to his 
Commissary, and his indignation grew stronger. Still it 
was only after much hesitation, after many of his friends 
had urged him to interfere, and in deep distress of mind, 
that he resolved to protest. "When he had determined to 
do something he went about the matter with a mixture of 
caution and courage which were characteristic of the man. 
The Church of All Saints (the Castle Church) in 
Wittenberg had always been intimately connected with 
the University ; its prebendaries were professors ; its doors 
were used as a board on which to publish important 
academic documents ; and notices of public academic " dis- 
putations," common enough at the time, had frequently 
appeared there. The day of the year which drew the 
largest concourse of townsmen and strangers to the church 
was All Saints' Day, the first of November. It was the 
anniversary of the consecration of the building, and was 
commemorated by a prolonged series of services. The Elector 
Frederick was a great collector of relics, and had stored 
his collection in the church.^ He had also procured an 

' An illustrated catalogue of Frederick's collection of relics was prepared 
by Lucas Cranaoh, and published under the title, Witienberger HeUig- 
thwmsbucli vom Jahre 1509. It has been reprinted by G. Hirth of Munich in 
his Lieihaber-BibliotTuk oiler Ulustraioren in FacsimileSeproduktion, No. vi. 

ltjther's protest 215 

Indulgence to benefit all who came to attend the anni- 
versary services and look at the relics. 

On All Saints' Day, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses 
to the door of the church. It was a strictly academic pro- 
ceeding. The Professor of Theology in Wittenberg, wishing 
to elucidate the truth, offered to discuss, either by speech 
or by writing, the matter of Indulgences.^ He put forth 
ninety-five propositions or heads of discussion which he 
proposed to maintain. Academic etiquette was strictly 
preserved; the subject, judged by the numberless books 
which had been written on it, and the variety of opinions 
expressed, was eminently suitable for debate ; the Theses 
were offered as subjects of debate ; and the author, accord- 
ing to the usage of the time in such cases, was not sup- 
posed to be definitely committed to the opinions expressed. 

The Theses, however, differed from most programmes 
of academic discussions in this, that everyone wanted to 
read them. A duplicate was made in German. Copies 
of the Latin original and the translation were sent to the 
University printing-house, and the presses could not throw 
them off fast enough to meet the demand which came from 
all parts of Germany. 

' "Amore pt studio elucidandse veritatis hsec snbsoripta disputabuntur 

Wittenbergse, praesidente R. P. Martino Luttber, artium et sacrae theologiae 

magistro eiusdemque ibidem lectore ordinario. Quare petit, ut qui non 

possunt verbis prsesentes iiobisoum disceptare, agant id literis absentes. In 

■ Bomine Domini nostri Hiesu Chriati. Amen." 



§ 1. The Theory and Practice of Indvlgeruxs in the 
Sixteenth Century. 

The practice of Indulgences pervaded the whole penitential 
system of the later mediaeval Chiu'ch, and had done so 
from the beginning of the thirteenth century. Its begin- 
nings go back a thousand years before Luther's time. 

In the ancient Church, lapse into serious sin involved 
separation from the Christian fellowship, and readmission to 
communion was only to be had by pubHc confession made in 
presence of the whole congregation, and by the manifestation 
of a true repentance in performing certain satisfactions,' I 

' SotTRCES : Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologice, Supplementum Tertwe 
Partis, Qusestiones xxv.-xxvii. ; Alexander of Hales, Summa Theologies, iv.; 
Bona Ventura, Opera Omnia; In Lihrum Quartum SenterUiarum, dist. xx. ; 
vol. V. 264 ff. (Moguntise, 1609) ; Denzinger, Enchiridvm Symholoram el 
Definitionum, quce de rebus fidei et morum a ameUiis cecumenicis et summis 
powtifidbus emanarunt, 9th ed. (Wiirzburg, 1900), p. 175 ; Kohler, Docii- 
menta zum Ablassstreit von 1517 (Tubingen, 1902). 

Later Books: F. Beringer (Soc. Jes.), Der Ablass, sein Wesen und 
Oebrauch, 12th ed. (Paderborn, 1898) ; Bouvier, Treatise on Indulgences 
(London, 1848) ; Lea, A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgence in 
the Latin Church, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, 1896) ; Brieger, Dtt£ Wesen des 
Ablasses am Ausgange des Mittelalters (Leipzig, 1897) ; Harnack, History 
of Dogma, vi. pp. 243-270; Gotz, "Studien zur Gesohichte des Buss- 
sacraments" in Zeitschrift filr Kirchengeschichte, xv. 821 ff., xvi. 641 ff. ; 
Schneider, Der Ablass (1881) ; Cambridge Modern History, II. iv. 

' The use of the word satisfaction to denote an outward sign of sorrow for 
sin which was supposed to be well-pleasing to God and to affoi-d reasonable 
ground for the congregation restoring a lapsed member, is very old — much 
older than the use of the woTd to denote the work of Christ. It is found as 
early as the time of Tertullian and Cyprian. 



such as the manumission of slaves, prolonged fasting 
extensive almsgiving, etc. These satisfactions were the 
open signs of heartfelt sorrow, and were regarded as at 
ouce well-pleasing to God and evidence to the Christian 
community that the penitent had true repentance, and 
might be received back again into their midst. The con- 
fession was made to the whole congregation ; the amount of 
satisfaction deemed necessary was estimated by the con- 
gregation, and readmission was also dependent on the will 
of the whole congregation. It often happened that these 
satisfactions were mitigated or exchanged for others. The 
penitent might fall sick, and the fasting which had been 
prescribed could not be insisted upon without danger of 
death ; in such a case the external sign of sorrow which 
had been demanded might be exchanged for another. Or 
it might happen that the community became convinced of 
the sincerity of the repentance without insisting that the 
whole of the prescribed satisfaction need be performed.^ 
These exchanges and mitigations of satisfactions were the 
small beginnings of the later syglejoi. of Indulgences. 

In course of time~the public confession of sins made 
to the whole congregation was exchanged for a private 
confession made to the priest, and instead of the public 
satisfaction imposed by the. whole congregation, it was left 
to the priest to enjoin a satisfaction or external sign of 

' TertuUian was no believer in any indulgence shown to penitent sinners, 
and his account of the way in wliich penitents appeared before the congrega- 
tion to ask for a remission or mitigation of the ecclesiastical sentence pro- 
nounced against them is doubtless a caricature, but it may be taken as a not 
unfair description of what must have frequently taken place: "You intro- 
duce into the Church the penitent adulterer for the purpose of melting the 
brotherhood by his supplications. You lead him into the midst, clad in 
sackcloth, covered with ashes, a compound of disgrace and horror. He 
prostrates himself before the widows, before the elders, suing for the tears 
of all ; he seizes the edges of their garments, he clasps their knees, he kisses 
the prints of their feet. Meanwhile you harangue the people and excite 
their pity for the sad lot of the penitent. Good pastor, blessed father that 
you are, you describe the coming back of your goat in recounting the 
parable of the lost sheep. And in case your ewe lamb may take another 
leap out of the fold . . . you fill all the rest of the flock with apprehension 
at the very moment of granting indulgence." — {De Pudicitia, 13.) 


sorrow which he believed was appropriate to the sin 
committed and confessed. The substitution of a private 
confession to the priest for a public confession made to the 
whole congregation, enlarged_the circle of sias^onfessfid. 
The secret sins of the heart whose presence could be elicited 
by the questions of the confessor were added to the open 
sins seen of men. The circle of satisfactions was also 
widened in a corresponding fashion. 

. When the imposition of satisfactions was left in the 
hands of the priest, it was felt necessary to provide some 
check_agaiMt_the arbitrariness which could not fail to 
result. So books were published containing Jis^_of_sins 
with the corresponding appropriate ,.saiis;5asefems which 
ought to be demanded from the penitents. If it be re- 
membered that some of the sins mentioned were very 
heinous (murders, incests, outrages of all kinds), it is not 
surprising that the appropriate satisfactions or penances, as 
they came to be called, were very severe in some cases, and 
extended over a course of years. From the seventh cen- 
tury there arose a practice of coramutiag. s atisfactions o r 
penances. A penance of several years' practice of fasting 
might be commuted into saying so many prayers or j)salms, 
into giving a definite amount of alms, or even into a money 
fine — and in this last case the analogy of the Wehrgeld 
of the Germanic tribal codes was frequently followed.^ 
These customary commutations were frequently inserted in 
the Penitentiaries or^books of discipline. This new custom 
commonly took the form that the penitent, who visited a 
certain church on a prescribed day and gave a contribution 
to its funds, had the penance, which had been imposed 
upon him by the priest in the ordinary course of discipline, 
shortened b/ one-seventh, one-third, one-half, as the case 
might be. This was in every case the commutation or 
relaxation of the penance or outward sign of sorrow which 

' In one book of discipline a man who has comniitted Certain sins is 
ordered either to go on pilgrimage for ten years, or to live on bread and 
water for two years, or to pay 12s. a year. Detailed information may be 
found in Schmitz, Die Busshucher tmd die Bwisdisziplin der Kirche. 


had been imposed according to the regulations of the 

J Church, laid down in the Penitentiaries (relaxatio de injunda 

pcenitentia). This was the real origin of Indulgences, and 

these earliest examples were invariably a relaxation of 

'.ecclesiastical penalties which had been imposed according 

to the regular custom in cases of discipline. It will be 

fieen that Luther expressly excluded this kind of Indulgence 

, from his dttack. He declared that what the Church had 

\ I a right to impose, it had a right to relax. It was at first 

■ ' believed that this right to relax or commute imposed 

penances was in the hands of the priests who had charge 

of the discipline of the members of the Church ; but the 

abuses of the system by the priests ended by placing the 

povf'er to grant Indulgences in the hands of the bishops, 

and they used the money procured in building many Of the 

great mediaeval cathedrals. Episcopal abuse of Indulgences 

led to their being reserved for the Popes. 

Three conceptions, all of which belong to the begin- 
ning of the thirteenth century, combined to effect a 
great change on this old and simple idea of Indulgences. 
These were — (1) the formulation of the thought of a 
treasury of merits (thesauriis meritorum) ; (2) the change 
of the institution into the Sacrament of Penance ; and j 
(3) the distinction between attrition and contrition in the 
thought of the kind of sorrow God demands from a real 

The conception of a storehouse of merits (thesaurus 
meritorum or indulgentiarum) was first formulated by 
Alexander of Hales ^ in the, thirteenth century, and his 
ideas were accepted, enlarged, and made more precise by 
succeeding theologians.^ Starting with the existing practice 
in the Church that some penances (such as pilgrimages) 
might be vicariously performed, and bringing together 
the several thoughts that the faithful are members of one 
body, that the good deeds of each of the members are 
the common property of all, and therefore that the more 

' Srnnma, iv. 23, 

^ Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologix, iii., Supplementum, Quaes, xxv. 1, 


sinful can benefit by the good deeds of their more saintly 
brethren, and" that the sacrifice of Christ was sufficient to 
wipe out the sins of all, theologians gradually formulated 
the doctrine that there was a common storehouse which 
contained the goadjieedsoj living men and women, of 
the saints in heaven and the inexhaustible merits of 
Christ, and that all these merits accumulated there had 
been placed under the charge pfjthe Pope, and could be 
dispensed by him to the faithful. The doctrine was not 
very precisely~defined by the beginning of the sixteenth 
century, but it was generally believed in, taught, and 
accepted. It went to increase the vague sense of super- 
natural, spiritual powers attached to the person of the 
Bishop of Eome. It had one important consequence on 
the doctrine of Indulgences. They might be the pay-| 
ment out of this treasury of an absolute equivalent for the' 
satisfaction due by the penitent for his sins ; they were' 
noi longer merely the substitution of one form of penancq 
for another, or the relaxation of a penance enjoined. 

The institution of Penance contained within it the four^ 
practices of Sorrow for the sins committed (contritio) ; the 
Confession of these sins to the priest ; Satisfaction, or the 
due manifestation of sorrow in the ways prescribed by 
the Church through the command of the confessor ; and the 
Pardon (alsolutio) pronounced by the priest in God's name. 
The pardon followed the satisfaction. But when the 
institution became the Sacrament of Penance, the order 
was changed : absolution followed confession and came 
before satisfaction, which it had formerly followed. Satis- 
factionlost jtsj)ld meaning. It was no longer the outward 
sign of sorrow aiid the liecessary precedent of pardon or 
absolution. According to the new theory, the absolution 
which immediately followed confession had the efifeot of 
removing the whole guilt of the sins confessed, and with 
the guilt the whole of the eternal punishment due. This 
cancelling of guilt and of eternal punishment did not, 
however, forthwith open the gates of heaven to the par- 
doned sinner. It was felt that the justice of God could 


not permit the baptized sinner to escape from all punish- 
ment whatever. Heiiice it \ragTiaimhat although eternal 
punishment had disappeared with the absolution, there 
remained temporal punishment due for the sins, and that 
heaven could not be entered until this temporal punish- 
ment had been endured.^ Temporal punishments might 
be of two kinds — those endured in this life, or those 
suffered in a place of punishment after death. The pen- 
' ance imposed by the priest, the satisfaction, now became 
I the temporal punishment due for sins committed. If the 
priest had imposed the due amount, and if the penitent 
■ was able to perform all that had been imposed, the sins 
were expiated. But if the priest had imposed less than 
the justice of God actually demanded, then these temporal 
pains had to be completed in Purgatory. This gave rise 
to great uncertaihty ; for who could feeFassured that the 
priest had calculated rightly, and had imposed satisfactions 
or temporal penalties which were of the precise amount 
demanded by the justice of God? Hence the pains of 
Purgatory threateneji every man. It was here that the 
new idea of Indulgences came in to aid the faithful by 
securing him against the pains of Purgatory, which were 
not included in the absolution obtained in the Sacrament 
of Penance. Indulgences in the sense of relaxations of 
imposed penances went into the background, and the 
really valuable Indul gence w as one which, because of the 
merits transferred from the storehouse of merits, was an 
equivalent in God's sight for the temporal punishments 
due for sins. Thus, in the opinion of Alexander of Hales, 
of Bona Ventura,^ and, above all, of Thomas Aquinas, the real 

• "Du spriohst 'So ich am letsten in todes not, 
Ain yeder priester mioh zu absolviren not ' : 
Von Schuld ist war, noeh nitt von pein, so du bist tod, 
Ja fiir ain stand in fegfeiir dort. 
Gabat du des Kaysers giite." 
— (Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirehenlied, etc. li. 1068.) 

" Bonaventura, In Librum Quartuin Sententiarum, Dist. xx. Qiusst. 5. 
Alexander of Hales, Swinma, iv. Quasst. 59 ; Thomas Aquiuas, Summa, iii., 
Suppl. Qusest. i. 2. 


value of Indulgences was that they procured the remission 
of penalties due after absolution, whether these penalties 
were penances imposed by the priest or not ; and when 
Ithe uncertainty of the imposed penalties is remembered, 
the most valuable of all Indulgences were those which had 
regard to the unimposed penalties ; the priest might make 
a mistake, but God did not blunder. 

While Indijlgenees- were always connected with satis- 
factions, and changed with the changes in the meaning of 
the latter term, they were not _the_ less iafluenced_bj_a^ 
distinction which came to be drawn between attrition and 
contrition, and by the application of the distinction,, to the 
theory of the Sacrament of Penance. During the earlier 
Middle Ages and down to the thirteenth century, it was 
always held that contrition^ (sotiow prompted by love) was 
the one thing taken into account by God in pardoning the 
sinner. The theologians of the thirteenth century, how- 
ever, began to draw a distinction between this, godly-sorrow 
and a certain amount of sorrow which might_arise_from_a 

variety of causes of a less worthy nature, and especially- 

from servile fear. This was called attrition; and it was 
held that this attrition, though of itself too . imperfect to 
win the pardon of God, might become perffifitedr-throtif?' 
the confession heard by the priest, and in the sacramental 
absolution pronounced by_him. Very naturally, though 
perhaps illogically, it was believed that an imperfect sorrow, 
though sufficient to procure absolution, and, tTierefore, the 
blotting out of eternal punishment, merited more te mporal _ 
punishment than if it had been sorrow of_ a ^godly sort. 
But it was these tempoial— penalties (including the pains 
of Purgatory) that Indulgences^ provided for. Hence, 
Indulgences appealed, more strongly to the indifferent 
Christian, who knew that he had sinned, and at the same 
time felt that his sorrow was not the effect of his Jove to 
God. He knew that his sins deserved some punishment. 
His conscience, however weak, told him that he could not 
sin with perfect impunity, and that something more was 
needed than his perfunctory confession to a priest. He 


felt that he must do something- — fast, or go on a pilgrimage, 
or purchase an Indulgence. It was at this point that the 
Church intervened to show him how his poor performance 
could be transformed by the power of the Church and its 
treasury of merits into something so great that the penal- 
ties of Purgatory could be actually evaded. His cheap 
jorrow, his careless confession, need not trouble him. 
j Hence, for the ordinary indifferent Christian, Attrition, 
'; Confession, and Indulgence became the three heads of the 
l' scheme of the Church for his salvation. The one thing 
"^that satisfied his conscience was the burdensome thing 
he had to do, and that was to procure an Indulgence 
— a matter made increasingly easy for him as time 
went on. 

It must not be supposed that this doctrine of Attrition, 
and its evident effect in deadening the conscience and in 
lowering the standard of moraUty, had the undivided sup- 
port of the theologians of the later Middle Ages, but it 
was the doctrine taught by most of the Scotist theologians, 
who took the lead in theological thinking during these 
times. It was set forth in its most extravagant form 
by such a representative man as John of Paltz in Erfurt ; 
it was preached by the pardon-sellers ; it was eagerly 
welcomed by indifferent Christians, who desired to escape 
the penalties of sin without abandoning its enjoyments ; 
it exalted the power of the priesthood ; and it was 
specially valuable in securing good sales of Indulgences, 
and therefore in increasing the papal revenues. It 
lay at the basis of the whole theory and practice of 
Indulgences, which confronted Luther when he issued his 

History shows us that gross abuses had always gathered 
round the practice of Indulgences, even in their earlier and 
simpler forms. The priests had abused the system, and 
the power of issuing Indulgences had been taken from 
them and confined to the bishops. The bishops, in turn, 
had abused the privilege, and the Popes had gradually 
assumed that the power to grant an Indulgence belonged 


to the Bishop of Eome exclusively, or to those to whom 
he might delegate it; and this assumption seemed both 
reasonable and salutary. The power was at first sparingly 
used. It is true that Pope Urban ii., in 1095, promised 
to the Crusaders an Indulgence such as had never before 
been heard of — a complete remission of all imposed 
canonical penances; but it was not until the thirteenth 
and fourteen centuries that Indulgences, now doubly danger- 
ous to the moral life from the new theories which had 
arisen, were lavished even more unsparingly than in the 
days when any bishop had power to grant them. From 
the beginning of the fourteenth century they were given to 
raise recruits for papal wars. They were lavished on the 
religious Orders, either for the benefit of the members or 
for the purpose of attracting strangers and their gifts to 
their churches. They were bestowed on cathedrals and 
other churches, or on individual altars in churches, and had 
the effect of endowments. They were joined to special 
collections of relics, to be earned by the faithful who 
visited the shrines. They were given to hospitals, and for 
the upkeep of bridges and of roads. Wherever they are 
met with in the later Middle Ages, and it would be diffi- 
cult to say where they are not to be found, they are seen 
to be associated with sordid money - getting, and, as 
Luther remarked in an early sermon on the subject, they 
were a very grievous instrument placed in the hand of 

The practice of granting Indulgences was universally 
prevalent and was universally accepted ; but it was not easy 
to give an explanation of the system, in the sense of show- 
ing that it was an essential element in Christian discipline. 
No mediaeval theologian attempted to do any such thing. 
Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas, the two great School- 
men who did more than any others to provide a theological 
basis for the system, tell us quite frankly that it is their 
business to accept the fact that Indulgences do exist as 
part of the penitentiary discipline of the Church, and, 
accepting it, they thought themselves bound to construct a 


reasonable theory.^ The practice altered, and new theories 
were needed to explain the variations. It is needless to 
say that these explanations did not always agree ; and 
that there were very great differences of opinion about 
what an Indulgence really effected for the man who 
bought it. 

Of aU these disputed questions the most important 
was : Did an Indulgence give remission for the guilt of sin, 
or only for certain penalties which followed the sinful 
deed ? This is a question about which modern Eomanists 
are extremely sensitive. 

The universal answer given by all defenders of Indul- 
gences who have written on the subject since the Council 
of Trent, is that guilt (culpa) and eternal punishment 
{pcencB eternce) are dealt with in the Sacrament of Penance, 
and that Indulgences relate only to temporal punishments, 
including under that designation the pains of Purgatory. 
This modern opinion is confirmed by the most eminent 
authorities of the mediaeval Church. It has been accepted 
in the description of the theory of Indulgences given 
above, since it has been said that the principal use of 
Indulgences was to secui-e against Purgatory. But these 
statements do not exhaust the question. Mediaeval theo- 
logy did not create Indulgences, it only followed and tried 
to justify the practices of the Pope and of the Eoman 
Curia, — a rather difficult task. The question still remains 
whether some of the Papal Bulls promulgating Indulgences 
did not promise the removal of guilt as well as security 
against temporal punishments. If these be examined, 
spurious Bulls being set aside, it will be found that many 
of them make no mention of the need of previous con- 
fession and of priestly absolution ; that one or two 
expressly make mention of a remission of guilt as well as 
of penalty; and that many (especially those which pro- 

' Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologice, iii., Supplem. Qusestio xxv. 1: 
"Ecolesia universalis non potest errare . . . eocle^ia universalis indulgentias 
approbat et faeit. Ergo indulgentije aliijuid valeut . . . quia impium esset 
dieere quod Ei;clesia aUquid vani iaceret." 



claim a Jubilee Indulgence) use language which inevitably 
led intelligent laymen like Dante to believe that the Popes 
did proclaim the remission of guilt as well as of penalty. 
Of course, it may be said that in those days the distinction 
between guilt {culpa) and penalty (poena) had not been very 
exactly defined, and that the phrase remission of sins was 
used to denote both remission of guilt and remission of 
penalty; still it is difficult to withstand the conclusion 
that, even in theory, Indulgences had been declared to be 
efficacious for the removal of the guilt of sin in the pre- 
sence of God. 

These questions of the theological meaning of an 
Indulgence, though necessary to understand the whole 
situation, had after all little to do with Luther's action. 
He approached the whole matter from the side of the 
practical effect of the proclamation of an Indulgence on 
the minds of common men who knew nothing of refined 
theological distinctions ; and the evidence that the common 
people did generally believe that an Indulgence did remove 
the guUt of siQ is overwhelming. Contemporary chroniclers 
are to be found who declare that Indulgences given to 
Crusaders remit the guilt as well as the punishment ; 
contemporary preachers assert that plenary Indulgences 
remit guUt, and justify their opinion by declaring that 
such Indulgences were supposed to contain within them 
the Sacrament of Penance. The popular guide-books 
written for pilgrims to Eome and Compostella spread the 
popular idea that Indulgences acquired by such pilgrimages 
do remit guilt as well as penalty. The popular belief was 
so thoroughly acknowledged, that even Councils had to 
throw the blame for it on the pardon-sellers, or, like the 
Council of Constance, impeached the Pope and compelled 
him to confess that he had granted Indulgences for the 
remission of guilt as well as of penalty. This widespread 
popular belief of itself justified Luther in calling attention 
to this side of the matter. 

Moreover, it is well to see what the theory of the 
most respected theologians actually meant when looked at 


practically. Since the formulation of the Sacrament of 
Penance, the theory had been that all guilt of sin and 
all eternal punishment were remitted in the priestly abso- 
lution which followed the confession of the penitent. The 
Sacrament of Penance had abolished guilt and Hell. But 
there remained the actual sins to be punished, because the 
justice of God demanded it, and this was done in the 
temporal pains of Purgatory. The " common man," if he 
thought at all about it, may be excused if he considered 
that guilt and Hell, taken away by the one hand, were 
restored by the other. There remained for him the sense 
that God's justice demanded some punishment for the sins 
he had committed ; and if this was not guilt according to 
theological definition, it was probably all that he could 
attain to. He was taught and beheved that punishment 
awaited him for these actual sins of his ; and a punishment 
which might last thousands of years in Purgatory was not 
very different from an eternal pimishment in his eyes. 
The Indulgence came to him filled as he was with these 
vague thoughts, and offered him a sure way of easing his 
conscience and avoiding the punishment he knew he 
deserved. He had only to pay the price of a Papal Ticket, 
perform the canonical good deed required, whatever it 
might be, and he was assured that his punishment was 
remitted, and God's justice satisfied. This may not involve 
the thought of the remission of guilt in the theological 
sense of the word, but it certainly misled the moral 
instincts of the "common man" about as much as if it 
did. It is not surprising that the common people made 
the theological mistake, if mistake it was, and saw in every 
plenary Indulgence the promise of the remission of guilt 
as well as of penalty,^ for with them remission of guilt 
and quieting of conscience were one and the same thing. 
It was this practical moral effect of Indulgences, and not 
the theological explanation of the theory, which stirred 
Luther to make his protest. 

' Cf. the hymn, "Der guldin Ablass," of the fifteenth century, in 
Waokemagel, ii. 283-284. 


§ 2. Luther's Theses} 

Luther's Theses are singularly unlike what might have 
been expected from a Professor of Theology. They lack 
theological definition, and contain many repetitions which 
might have been easily avoided. They are simply ninety- 
five sturdy strokes struck at a great ecclesiastical abuse 
which was seariug the consciences of many. They look 
like the utterances of a man who was in close touch with 
the people ; who had been greatly shocked at reports 
brought to him of what the pardon-sellers had said ; who 
had read a good many of the theological explanations of 
the practice of Indulgence, and had noted down a few 
things which he desired to contradict. They read as if 
they were meant for laymen, and were addressed to their 
common sense of spiritual things. They are plain and 
easily understood, and keep within the field of simple 
religion and plain moral truths. 

The Theses appealed irresistibly to all those who had 
been brought up in the simple evangelical faith which 
distinguished the quiet home life of so many German 
families, and who had not forsaken it. They also appealed 
to all who had begun to adopt that secular or non-ecclesi- 
astical piety which, we have seen, had been spreading 
quietly but rapidly throughout Germany at the close of 
the Middle Ages. These two forces, both religious, gathered 
round Luther. The effect of the Theses was almost imme- 

•* SoijKOES : Kohler, Luthers 95 Theses samt seinen BesoltUionen soteie 
den Gegenschriften von WimpitiA-Tei-M, EcTc, und Prierias und den ArUworUm 
I/aOiers (forcm/ (Leipzig, 1903); Emil Reich, Select Documents illustrating 
Medimval wnd Modem History (Loudon, 1905). 

Latek Books : J. E. Kapp, Sammlung einiger zum pdpstUchen Ailass, 
ilberhaupt . . . abcr zu der . . . zwischen Martin Luther und Johann Tetzel 
hicrvongefilhrten Slreitigkeit gehorigen Schriften, mit EinleUimgen und 
Anmerlcungen mrsehen (Leipzig, 1721), and Kleine Vachlcse liniger . . . 
zur Erlduterung der Refoi-mfitionsgenchichte niitdicher Urkunden (Four 
parts, Leipzig, 1727-1733) ; Bratke, Luthers 95 Theses und ihre dogmen- 
historischen yoraussetzungen {Gottingen, 1884); Dieckhoff, Der Ablassslreit 
dogmengeschichllich dargeslellt (Gotha, 1886) ; Grbne, Tetzel und Luther 
(Soest, 1860). 


diate : the desire to purchase Indulgences cooled, and the 
sales almost stopped. 

The Ninety-five Theses made six different assertions 
about Indulgences and their efficacy : 

i. An Indulgence is and can only be the remission of 
a merely ecclesiastical penalty ; the Church can remit what 
the Church has imposed ; it cannot remit what God has 

ii. An Indulgence can^jieyer remit guilt ; the Pope 
himself cannot do such a thing ; God has kept that in 
His own hand. 

iii. It cannot remit the divine punishment for sin; 
that also is in the hands of God alone. 

iv. It can have no efficacy__ for souls in Purgatory; 
penalties imposed by the Church can only refer to th6 
living ; death dissolves them ; what the Pope can do for 
soUIs in Purgatory is by prayer, not by jurisdiction or the 
power of the keys. 

V. The Christian who has true rej)entance has^lready 
received pardon from God altogether apart from an In- 
dulgence, and does not need one ; Christ demands this 
true repentance from every one. 

vi. The Treasury of Merits has never Jbeenjproperly 
defined, it is hard to say what it is, and it is not properly 
understood by the people ; it cannot be the merits of 
Christ and of His saints, because these act of themselves 
and quite apart from the intervention of the Pope ; it can 
mean nothing more than that the Pope, having the power of 
the keys, can remit ecclesiastical penalties imposed by the 
Church ; the true Treasure-house of merits is the Holy 
Gospel of the grace and glory of God. 

The Archbishop of Mainz, finding that the publication 
of the Theses interfered with the sale of the Indulgences, 
sent a copy to Rome. Pope Leo, thinking that the whole 
thing was a monkish quarrel, contented himself with asking 
the General of the Augustinian Eremites to keep his 
monks quiet. Tetzel, in conjunction with a friend, Conrad 
Wimpina, published a set of counter-theses. John Mayr 


of Eck, professor at Ingolstadt, by far the ablest opponent 
Luther ever had, wrote an answer to the Theses which he 
entitled Ohelisks;^ and Luther replied in a tract with the 
title Asterisks. At Eome, Silvester MazzoUni (1460— ?) 
of Prierio, a Dominican monk, papal censor for the Eoman 
Province and an Inquisitor, was profoundly dissatisfied with 
the Ninety-five TJieses, and proceeded to criticise them 
severely ia a Dialogue ahovi the Power of the Pope ; against 
the Presumpttunis Conclusions of Martin Luther. The book 
reached Germany by the middle of January 1518. The , 
Augustioian Eremites held their usual annual chapter at 
Heidelberg in April 1518, and Luther heard his Theses 
temperately discussed by his brother monks. He found 
the opposition to his views much stronger than he had 
expected; but the discussion was fair and honest, and 
Luther enjoyed it after the ominous silence kept by most 
of his friends, who had thought his action rash. When 
he returned from Heidelberg he began a general answer 
to his opponents. The book, Resolutiones, was probably the 
most carefully written of all Luther's writings. He thought 
long over it, weighed every statement carefully, and re- 
wrote portions several times. The preface, addressed to his 
Vicar-General, Staupitz, contains some interesting auto- 
biographical material; it was addressed to the Pope; it 
was a detailed defence of his Theses.^ 

The Ninety-five Tlieses had a circulation which was, for 
the Ume, unprecedented. They were known throughout 
Geifmany in a little over a fortnight ; they were read over 
Western Europe within four weeks "as if they had been 
circulated by angelic messengers," says Myconius enthusi- 
astically. Luther was staggered at the way they were 

' The Ohelishs of Eck were printed and circulated priratdy long before 
they were puhlished ; a copy was in Luther's hand on March 4th, 1518 ; 
it was answered by him on March •24th, and was published in the August 

' Kohler has collected together the Xinety-fire Theses, the Resolvivmes, 
and the attacks on the Theses by Winipiiia-Tetzil, Eck, and Prierias, and 
published them in one small book (Leipzig, 1903). It is a handbook of 
reference, and the text of tlie documents has been carefully examined. 

Luther's theses 231 

received ; he said that he had not meant to determine, 
but to debate. The controversy they awakened increased 
their popularity. In the Theses, and especially in the Be 
solutiones, Luther had practically discarded all the practices 
which the Pope and the Eoman Curia had introduced in 
the matter of Indulgences from the beginning of the 
thirteenth century, and all the ingenious explanations ' 
Scholastic theologians had brought forward to justify these 
practices. The readiest way to refute him was to assert 
the power of the Eoman Bishop ; and this was the line 
taken by his critics. Their arguments amount to this : 
the power to issue an Indulgence is simply a particular 
instance of the power of papal jurisdiction, and Indulgences 
are simply what the Pope proclaims them to be. Therefore, 
to attack Indulgences is to attack the power of the Pope, 
and that cannot be tolerated. The Eoman Church is 
virtually the Universal Church, and the Pope is practically 
the Eoman Church. Hence, as the representative of the 
Eoman Church, which in turn represents the Church 
Universal, the Pope, when he acts officially, cannot err. 
Official decisions are given in actions as well as in words, 
custom has the force of law. Therefore, whoever objects to 
such a long-established system as Indulgences is a heretic, 
and does not deserve to be heard.^ 

But the argument which appealed most powerfully to 
the Eoman Curia was the fact that the sales of the Papal 
Tickets had been declining since the publication of the 
Theses. Indulgences were the source of an enormous 
revenue, and anything which checked their sale would 
cause financial embarrassment. Pope Leo x. in his " enjoy- 
ment of the Papacy " lived lavishly. He had a huge 
income, much greater than that of any European monarch, 
but he lived beyond it. His income amounted to between 
four and five hundred thousand ducats ; but he had spent 
seven hundred thousand on his war about the Duchy of 
Urbino; the magnificent reception of his brother Julian 

• Tlie arguments were all founded on Thomas Aquinas, Summa, iii., 
Supplemenlum, Quaestio xxv. 1. 


and his bride in Eome (1514) had cost him fifty thousand 
ducats ; and he had spent over three hundred thousand on 
the marriage of his nephew Lorenzo (1518). Voices had 
been heard in Rome as well as in Germany protesting 
against this extravagance. The Pope was in desperate 
need of money. It is scarcely to be wondered that Luther 
was summoned to Eome (summons dated July 1518, and 
received by Luther on August 7 th) to answer for his attack 
on the Indulgence system. To have obeyed would have 
meant death. 

The peremptory summons could be construed as an affront 
to the University of Wittenberg, on whose boards the Ninety- 
five Theses had been posted. Luther wrote to his friend 
^Spalatin (George Burkhardt of Spalt, 1484—1545), who was 
chaplain and private secretary to the Ele ctor Frederick , 
suggesting that the prince ought to defend the rights^of^ his 
University. Spalatin wrote at once to the Elector and also 
to the Emperor Maximilian,, and the result was that the 
summons to Eome was cancelled, and it was arranged that 
the matter was to be left in the hands of the Papal JLggate 
in Germany, Thomas de Vio, Cardin al Cajetan j^ (1470— 
1553), and Luther was ordered to present himself before 
that official at Augsburg. The interview (October 1518) 
was not very satisfactory. The cardinal demanded that 
ILuther should recant his heresies without any argument. 
[When pressed to say what the heresies were, he named the 
statement in the 58th Thesis that the merits of Christ 
work effectually without the intervention of the Pope, and 
that in the Resolutiones which said that the sacraments are 
Inot efficacious apart from faith in the recipient. There 
[was some discussion'notwithstanding the Legate's declara- 
tion ; but in the end Luther was ordered to recant or 

^ Tbomas de Vio was born at Gffita, a town situated on a promontory 
about fifty miles north of Naples, and was called Cajetanus from his birth- 
place. His baptismal name was James, and he took that of Thomas in 
honour of Thomas Aquinns. He had entered the Dominican Order at the 
age of sixteen ; he was a leorned man, a Scholastio of the older Thomist 
type, and not without evangelical sympathies ; but he had the Dominican 
idea that ecclesiastical discipline nmst be maintained at all costs. 


depart. He wrote out an appeal from the Pope ill- 
informed to the Pope well-informed, also an appeal to a 
General Council, and returned to Wittenberg. 

When Luther had posted his Theses on the doors of the 
Church of All Saints, he had been a solitary monk with 
nothing but his manhood to back him ; but nine months 
had made a wonderful difference in the situation. He / 
now knew that he was a representative man, with sup- J 
porters to be numbered byThethousand. His colleagues 
at Wittenberg were with him ; his students demon- 
stratively loyal (they had been burning the Wimpina- 
Tetzel counter-theses) ; his theology was spreading among 
all the cloisters of his Order in Germany, and even in the 
Netherlands ; and the rapid circulation of his Theses had 
shown him that he had the ear of Germany. His first 
task, on his return to Wittenberg, was to prepare for the 
press an account of his interview with Cardinal Cajetan 
at Augsburg, and this was published under the title. Acta 

Luther was at pains to take the people of Germany 
into his confidence ; he published an account of every 
important interview he had; the people were able to follow 
him step by step, and he was never so far in advance that 
they were unable to see his footprints. The immediate 
effect of the Acta Augustana was an immense amount of 
public ^sympathy for Luther. The people, even the 
Humanists who hadT^cared little for the controversy, saw 
that an eminently pious man, an esteemed teacher who 
was making his obscure University famous, who had done 
nothing but propose a discussion on the notoriously in- 
tricate question of Indulgences, was peremptorily ordered 
to recant and remain silent. They could only infer that 
the Italians treated the Germans contemptuously, and 
wished sJBoply to drain the_couiitry of -money to be spent 
in the luxuries of the papal court. The Elector Frederick 
shared the conimon liipinion, and was, besides, keenly alive 
to anything which touched his University and its pro- 
sperity. There is no evidence to show that he had much 


sympathy with Luther's views. But the University of 
Wittenberg, the seat of learning he had founded, so long 
languishing^with a very precarious life and now flourish- 
ing, was the apple of his eye ; and he resolved to defend 
it, and to protect the teacher who had won renown 
for it. 

The political situation in Germany was too delicate, and 
the personal political influence of Frederick too great, for the 
Pope to act rashly in any matter in which that prince took 
a deep interest. The country was on the eve of an election 
of a King of the Eomans ; Maximilian was old, and an 
imperial election might occur at any time ; and Frederick 
was one of the most important factors in either case. So 
the Pope resolved to act cautiously. The condemnation of 
Luthef by the Cardinal-Legate was held over, and a special 
papal delegate^ was sent down to Germany to make inquiries. 
Every care was taken to select a man who would be likely to 
be acceptable to the Elector. Charles von Miltitz, a Saxon 
nobleman belonging to the Meisen district, a canon of 
Mainz, Trier, and Meissen, a papal chamberlain, an acquaint- 
of Spalatin's, the Elector's own agent at the Court of Eome, 
was sent to Germany. He took with him the " Golden 
Eose " as a token of the Pope's personal admiration for the 
Elector. He was furnished with numerous letters from 
His Holiness to the Elector, to some of the Saxon council- 
lors, to the magistrates of Wittenberg,-in aU of which 
Luther figured as a child of the Devil. The phrase was 
probably forgotten when Leo wrote to Luther some time 
afterwards and called him his dear son. 

When Miltitz got among German speaking people he 
found that the state of matters was undreamt of at the 
papal court. He was a German, and knew the Germans. 
He could see, what the Cardinal-Legate had never per- 
ceived, that he had to deal not with the stubbornness of a 
recalcitrant monk, but with the slow movement of a nation. 

When he visited his friends and relatr6ns~"in Sugsburg and 
Niirnberg, he found that three out of five were on Luther's 
side. He came to the wise resolution that he would see 


both Luther and Tetzel privately before producing his 
credeirtiais; Tetzel he could not see. The unhappy man 
wrote to Miltitz that he dared not stir from his convent, 
so greatly was he in danger from the violence of the people. 
Miltitz met Luther in the house of Spalatin ; he at once 
disowned the speeches of the pardon-sellers; he let it be 
seen that he did not think much of the Cardinal-Legate's 
methods of action ; he so prevailed on Luther that the 
latter promised to write a submissive letter to the Pope, 
to advise people to reverence the Eoman See, to say that 
Indulgences were useful in the remission of canonical pen- 
ances.", Luther did all this ; aud if the Eoman Curia had 
supported Miltitz there is no saying how far the reconcilia- 
tion would have gone. But the Eoman Curia did not 
support the papal chamberlain, and Miltitz had also to 
reckon with John Eck, who was burning to extinguish 
Luther in a public discussion. 

The months between his interview at Augsburg (October 
1518) and the Disputation with John Eck at Leipzig 
(June 1519) had been spent by Luther in hard and dis- 
quieting studies. His opponents had confronted him with 
the Pope's absolute supremacy in all ecclesiastical matters. 
This was one of Luther's oldest inherited beliefs. The 
Church had been for him " the Pope's House," in which 
the Pope was the house-father, to whom all obedience 
was due. It was hard for him to think otherwise. He 
had been re-examining his convictions about justifying faith 
and attempting to trace clearly their consequences, and 
whether they did lead to his declarations about the efficacy 
of Indulgences. He could come to no other conclusion. It 
became necessary to investigate the evidence for the papal 
claim to absolute authority. He began to study the 
Decretals, and foimd, to his amazement and indignation, 
that they were full of frauds ; and that the papal supre- 
macy had been forced on Germany on the strength of a 
collection of Decretals many of which were plainly for- 
geries. It is difficult to say whether the discovery brought 
more joy or more grief to Luther. Under the combined 


influences of historical study, of the opinions of the early- 
Church Fathers, and of the Holy Scriptures, one of his 
oldest landmarks was crumbling to pieces. His mind was 
in a whirl of doubt. He was half -exultant and half- 
terrified at the result of his studies ; and his corre- 
spondence reveals how his mood of mind changed from 
week to week. It was while he was thus " on the swither," 
tremulously on the balance, that John Eck challenged him 
to dispute at Leipzig on the primacy and supremacy of 
the Eoman Pontiff. The discussion might clear the air, 
might make himself see where he stood. He accepted the 
challenge almost feverishly. 

§ 3. The Leipzig Disputation} / 

Leipzig was an enemies' country, and his Wittenberg 
friends would not allow Luther to go there unaccompanied. 
The young Duke Barnim, who was Eector of the University 
of Wittenberg, accompanied Carlstadt and Luther, to give 
them the protection of his presence. Melanchthon, who 
had been a member of the teaching staff of Wittenberg 
since August 1518, Justus Jonas, and Nicholas Amsdorf 
went along with them. Two hundred Wittenberg students 
in helmets and halberts formed a guard, and walked beside 
the two country carts which carried their professors. An 
eye-witness of the scenes at Leipzig has left us sketches of 
what he saw : 

" In the inns where the Wittenberg students lodged, the 
landlord kept a man standing with a halbert near the table 
to keep the peace while the Leipzig and the Wittenberg 
students disputed with each other. L have seen the same 
myself in the house of Herbipolis, a bookseller, where I went 
to dine ... for there was at table a Master Baumgarten 
. . . who was so hotagainSt the Wittenbergers that the host 
had to restrain him with a halbert to make him keep the 
peace so long as the Wittenbergers were in the house and 
sat and ate at the table with him." 

^ Seidemaun, Du Zeipziger Disputation im John 1519 (Dresden, 


The University buildings at Leipzig did not contain 
any hall large enough for the audience, and Duke George 
lent the use of his great banqueting-room for the occasion. 
The discussions were preceded by a service in the church. 

" When we got to the church . . . they sang a Mass with 
twelve voices which had never been heard before. After 
Mass we went to the Castle, where we found a great guard 
of burghers in their armour with their best weapons and 
their banners ; they were ordered to be there twice a day, 
from seven to nine in the morning and from two to five in 
the afternoon, to keep the peace while the Disputation 

First, there was a Disputation between Carlstadt and 
Eck, and then, on the fourth of July, Eck and Luther faced 
each other — both sons of peasants, met to protect the old 
or cleave a way for the new. 

It was the first time that Luther had ever met a con- 
troversialist of European fame. John Eck came to Leipzig 
fresh from his triumphs at the great debates in Vienna 
and Bologna, and was and felt himself to be the hero of 
the occasion. 

" He had a huge square body, a full strong voice coming 
from his chest, fit for a tragic actor or a town crier, more 
harsh than distinct ; his mouth, eyes, and whole aspect gave 
one the idea of a butcher ■ or a soldier rather than of a 
theologian. He gave one the idea of a man striving to 
overcome his opponent rather than of one striving to win a 
victory for the truth. There was as much sophistry as good 
reasoning in his arguments ; he was continually misquoting 
his opponents' words or trying to give them a meaning they 
were not intended to convey." 

" Martin," says the same eye-witness, 

"is of middle height; his body is slender, emaciated by 
study and by cares ; one can count almost all the bones ; 
he stands in the prime of his age; his voice sounds clear 
and distinct . . . however hard his opponent pressed him 
he maintained his calmness and his good nature, though in 
debate he sometimes used bitter words. . . . He carried a 

1 Zeitschriftfiir die hisiorische Thcologie for 1872, p. 534. 


bunch of flowers in his hand, and when the discussion became 
hot he looked at it and smelt it." ^ 

Eck's intention was to force his opponent to make some 
declaration which would justify him in charging Luther with 
being a partisan of the mediaeval heretics, and especially of 
the Hussites. He continually led the debate away to the 
Waldensians, the followers of Wiclif, and the Bohemians. 
The audience swayed with a wave of excitement when 
Luther was gradually forced to admit that there might be 
some truth in some of the Hussite opinions : 

"One thing I must tell which I myself heard in the 
Disputation, and which took place in the presence of Duke 
George, who came often to the Disputation and listened 
most attentively ; once Dr. Martin spoke these words to Dr. 
Eck when hard pressed about John Huss: 'Dear Doctor, 
the Hussite opinions are not all wrong.' Thereupon said 
Duke George, so loudly that the whole audience heard, 
' God help us, the pestilence ! ' (Das wait, die Sucht), and he 
wagged his head and placed his arms akimbo. That I my- 
self heard and saw, for I sat almost between his feet and 
those of Duke Barnim of Pomerania, who was then the 
Eector of Wittenberg." ^ 

So far as the dialectic battle was concerned, Eck-had__ 
been victorious. He had done what he had meant to do. 
He had made Luther declare, himself. All that was now 
needed was a Papal JBull against Luther, and the world 
/would be rid of another pestilent heretic. He had done 
/what the more politic Miltitz had wished to avoid. He 
'had concentrated the attention of Germany on Luther, 
and had made him the central figure round which all the 
smouldering discontent could gather. As for Luther, he 
returned to Wittenberg full of melancholy forebodings. 
They did not prevent him preparing and publishing for 
the German people an account of the Disputation, which 

' Petri Mosellani, "Epistola de Disput. Lips." in Loscher's Beformations 
Acta et Doeumejita (Leipzig, 1720-1729), i. pp. 242 ff. 

' Zeitschri/t/iir die Tiistorische Theologie for 1872, p. 535. The diarist is 
M. Sebastian Froscher. 


was eagerly read. His arguments had been historical 
rather than theological. He tried to show that the ac- 
knowledgment of the supremacy of the Bishop of Eome 
was barejy four hundred years old in Western Europe, 
and that it did not exist in the East. The Greek Church, 
he said, was part of the Church of Christ, and it would 
have nothing to do with the Pope ; the great Councils of 
the Early Christian centuries knew nothing about papal 
supremacy. Athanasius, Basil, the Gregories, Cyprian him- 
self, had all taken Luther's own position, and were heretics, 
according to Eck. Luther's speeches at Leipzig laid the 
foundation of that modern historical criticism of institu- 
tions which has gone so far in our own days. 

In some respects the Leipzig Disputation was the 
most important point in the career of Luther. It made 
him see for the first time what b.y in his opposition to 
Indulgences. It made the people see it also. His attack 
was no criticism, as he had at first thought, of a mere ex- 
crescence on the mediaeval ecclesiastical system. He had 
struck at its- centre ; at its ideas of a priestly mediation 
which denied the right of every believer to immediate 
entrance into the very presence of God. It was after the 
Disputation at Leipzig that the younger German Humanists 
rallied round Luther to a man ; that the burghers saw that 
religion and opposition to priestly tyranny were not opposite 
things ; and that there was room for an honest attempt to 
create a-'Germany for the Germans independent of Eome. 
Luther found himself a new man after Leipzig, with a 
new freedom and wider sympathies. His depression fled. 
Sermons, pamphlets, letters from his tireless pen flooded 
the land, and were read eagerly by all classes of the 

§ 4. The Three Treatises} 

Three of these writings stand forth so pre-eminently \ 
that they deserve special notice : The Liberty of a Christian \ 
Man, To the Christian Nohility of the German Nation, and \ 

1 Wace and Buchheim, Lviher's Primary Works (London, 18961 


On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. These three 
books are commonly called in Germany the Three Great 
I Beformation Treatises, and the title befits them welL They 
I were all written during the year 1520, after three years 
Ispeilt in controversy, at a time when Luther felt that he 
had completely broken from Eome, and when he knew that 
he had nothing to expect from Eome but a sentence of 
excommunication. His teaching may have varied in details 
afterwards, but in all essential positions it remained what 
is to be found in these books. 

The tract on The Liberty of a Christian Man, " a very 
small book so far as the paper is concerned," said Luther, 
"but one containing the whole sum of the Christian life," 
had a somewhat pathetic history. MUtitz, hoping against 
hope that the Pope would not push things to extremities, 
had asked Luther to write out a short summary^^ his in- 
most beliefs and send it to His^ Holiness. Luther con- 
, sented, and this little vplume was the result. It has for 
preface Luther's letter to Pope Leo x., which concludes 
thus : "I, in my poverty, have no other present to make 
you, nor do you need to be enriched by anything but a 
spiritual gift." It was probably the last of the three 
published (Oct. 1520), but it contains the principles which 
underlie the other two. 

The booklet is a brief statement, free from all theo- 
logical subtleties, of the priesthood of aH believers which_i s 
a consequence of the fact of justification by fa ith^lb ne. Its 
note of warning to Eome, and its educational value for pious 
people in the sixteenth century, consisted in its showing 
I that the man who fears God and trusts in Him need not 
fear the priests nor the Church. The first part proves 
that every spiritual.. jlQgsgssion which a man has or can 
have must be traced back tq^ his faith ; if he has faith, he 
has all ; if he has not faith, he has nothing.^^ It is the ~ 
possession of faith which gives liberty to a Christian man ; 
God is with him, who can be against him ? 

" Here you wiU ask, ' If all who are in the Church are 
priests, by what character are those whom we now call 


priests to be distinguished from the laity ? ' I reply, By the 
use of those words priests, clergy, spiritual person, ecclesiastic, 
an injustice has been done, since they have been transferred 
from the remaining body of Christians to those few who are 
now, by a hurtful custom, called ecclesiastics. For the Holy 
Scripture makes no distinction between them, except that 
those who are now boastfully called Popes, Bishops, and 
Lords, it calls ministers, servants, and stewards, who are to 
serve the rest in the ministry of the "Word, for teaching the 
faith of Christ and the liberty of believers. For though it 
is true that we are all equally priests, yet cannot we, nor 
ought we if we could, all to minister and teach publicly." 

The second part shows that everything that -aiJhr-istian 
man does must come from his faith. It may be necessary 
to use all the ceremonies of divine service which past 
generations have found useful to promote the reUgious 
life ; perhaps to fast and practise mortifications of the 
flesh ; but if such things are to be really profitable, they 
must be kept in their proper place. They are good deeds 
not in the sense of making a man good, but as the signs of 
his faith ; they are to be practised with joy because they 
are done for the sake of the God who has united Himself 
with man through Jesus Christ. 

Nothing that Luther has written more clearly mani- 
fests that combination of revolutionary daring and wise 
conservatism which was characteristic of the man. There 
is no attempt to sweep away any ecclesiastical machinery, 
provided only it be kept in its proper place as a means 
to an end. But religious ceremonies are not an end in 
themselves ; and if through human corruption and neglect 
of the plain precepts of God's word they hinder instead 
of help the true growth of the soul, they ought to be 
swept away ; and the fact that the soul of man needs 
absolutely nothin^in the last resort but the word of Gbd 
dwelling in him, gives men courage and calmness in de- 
^^ manding their reformation. 

^j' Luther applied those principles to the reformation of 
y the Church in his book on the Babylonian Captivity of the 
Church (i^ept-Oct. 1520). He subjected the elaborate 


satcramental sj[stem of the Chiirch to a searching criticism, 
and concluded that there are only two, or perhaps three, 
scriptural sacraments — the Eucjiaristj Baptism , and Pen- 
ance. He denounced the doctrine of Transubstantiation 
as a " monstrous phantom " which the Church of ThelGfst 
twelve centuries knew nothing about, and said that any 
endeavour to define the precise manner of Christ's Presence 
in the sacrament is simply indecent curiosity. Perhaps the 
most important practical portion of the book deals with the 
topic of Christian marriage. In no sphere of human life 
has the Eoman Church done more harm by interfering with 
simple scriptural directions : 

"What shall we say of those impious human laws by 
which this divinely appointed manner of life has been en- 
tangled and tossed up and down ? Good God ! it is horrible 
to look upon the temerity of the tyrants of Eome, who thus, 
according to their caprices, at one time annul marriages and 
at another time enforce them. Is the human race given 
over to their caprice „ for nothing but to be mocked and 
abused in every way, that these men may do what they 
please with it for the sake of their own fatal gains ? . . . And 
what do they sell ? The shame of men and women, a mer- 
chandise worthy of these traffickers, who surpass all that 
is most sordid and most disgusting in their avarice and 

Luther points out that there is a clear scriptural law on the 
degrees withiu which marriage is unlawful, and says that no 
human regulations ought to forbid marriages outside these 
degrees or permit them within. He also comes to the 
conclusion that divorce a mensa et thoro is clearly per- 
mitted in Scripture ; though he says that personally he 
, hates divorce, and " prefers bigamy to it." 

The appeal To the Christian Nobility of the German 
Nation made the greatest immediate impression. It was 
written lq haste, but must have been long thought over. 
Luther began the introduction on June 23 rd (1520); the 
book was ready by the middle of August ; and by the 18th, 
four thousand copies were in circulation throughout Ger- 
many, and the presses could not print fast enough for the 


demand. It was a call to all Crermany to unite against 

"Tt ~was nobly comprehensive : it grasped the whole 
situation, and summed up with vigour and clearness all 
the German grievances which had hitherto been stated 
separately and weakly ; it brought forward every partial 
proposal of reform, however incomplete, and quickened it by 
setting it in its proper place in one combined scheme. All 
the parts were welded together by a simple and courageous 
faith, and made living by the moral earnestness which 
pervaded the whole. 

Luther struck directly at the imaginary mysterious 
semi-supernatural power supposed to belong to the Church 
and' tlie priesthood which had held Europe in awed submis- 
sion for so many centuries. Eeform had been impossible, 
the appeal said, because the walls behind which Eome lay 
entrenched had been left standing — walls of straw and 
paper, but in appearance formidable. These sham fortifica- 
tions are : the Spiritual Power which is believed to be 
superior to the temporal power of kings and princes, the 
conception that wo one can interpret Scripture hut the Pope, 
the idea that no one can summon a General Council hut 
the Bishop of Rome. These are the threefold lines of 
fortification behind which the Eoman Curia has entrenched 
itself, and the German people has long believed that they 
are impregnable. Luther sets to work to demolish them. 

The Eomanists assert that the Pope, bishops, priests, 
and monks belong to and constitute the spiriiuaL-estate, 
whUe princes, lords, artisans, and peasants are th&^iempomt, 
estate, which is subject to the spiritual. But this spiritual 
estate is a mere delusion. The real spiritual estate i& the 
whole body of believers in Jesus Christ, and they are 
spiritual because Jesiis has made all His followers priests 
to God and to His Christ. A cobbler belongs to the 
spiritual estate as truly as a bishop. The clergy are 
distinguished from the laity not by an indelible character 
imposed upon them in a divine mystery called ordination, 
but because they have been set apart to do a particular 


kind of work in the commonwealth. If a Pope, bishop, 
priest, or monk neglects to do the work he is there to do, 
he deserves to be punished as much as a careless mason 
or tailor, and is as accountable to the civil authorities. 
The spiritual priesthood jyf all believers, the gift of the faith 
which justifies, has shattered the first and most formidable 
of these papal fortifications. 

It is foolish to say that the Popic alone can interpret 
Scripture. If that were true, where is the need of Holy 
Scriptures at all ? 

" Let us burn them, and content ourselves with the 
unlearned gentlemen at Eome, in whom the Holy Ghost 
alone dwells, who, however, can dwell in pious souls only. 
If I had not read it, I could never have believed that the 
devil should have put forth such follies at Eome and find a 

The Holy Scripture is open to all, and can be interpreted 
by all true lielie vers who have the mind of Christ and 
approach the word of God humbly seeking enlightenment 

The third wall faUs with the other two. It is nonsense 
to say that the Pope alone can call a Council. We are 
plainly taught in Scripture that if our brother offends we 
are to tell it to the Chm-ch ; and if the Pope offends, and 
he often does, we can only obey Scripture by calling a 
Council. Every individual Clu-istian has a right to do 
his best to have it summoned ; the temporal powers are 
there to enforce his wishes; Emperors called General 
Councils in the earlier ages of the Church. 

The straw and paper walls having been thus cleared 
away, Luther proceeds to state his indictmenk There is 
in Rome one who calls himself the. Vicar of Christ, and 
who lives in a state of singular resemblance to our Lord 
and to St. Peter, His apostle. For this man wears a 
triple crown (a single one does not content him), and keeps 
up such a state that he needs a larger personal revenue 
than the Emperor. He has surrouuding him a number of 
men, called cardinals, whose only apparent use is that they 
serve to draw to themselves the revenues of the richest 


convents, endowments, and benefices in Europe, and spend 
the money thus obtained in keeping up the state of a great 
monarch in Kome. When it is impossible to seize the 
whole revenue of an ecclesiastical benefice, the Curia joins 
some ten or twenty together, and mulcts each in a good 
round sum for the benefit of the cardinal. Thus the 
priory of Wiirzburg gives one thousand gulden yearly, and 
Bamberg, Mainz, and Trier pay their quotas. The papal 
court is enormous, — three thousand papal secretaries, and 
hangers-on innumerable ; and all are waiting for German 
henefices, whose duties they never fulfil, as wolves wait 
for a flock of sheep. Germany pays more to the Curi^, 
than it gives to its own Emperor. Then-laal£_atthe way 
Eome robs the whole German land. Long ago the"" 
Emperor permitted the Tope to take the half of the first 
year's income from every benefice — the Annates — to provide 
for a war against the Turks. The money was never spent 
for the purpose destined ; yet it has been regularly paid 
for a hundred years, and the Pope demands it as a regular 
and legitimate tax, and uses it to pay posts and offices at 

" Whenever there is any pretence of fighting the Turk, 
they send out commissions for collecting money, and often 
proclaim Indulgences under the same pretext. . . . They 
think that we, Germans, will always remain such great 
fools, and that we will go on giving money to satisfy their 
unspeakable greed, though we see plainly that neither 
Annates nor Indulgence - money nor anything — not one 
farthing — goes against the Turks, but all goes into their 
bottomless sack, . . . and all this is done in the name of 
Christ and of St. Peter." 

The chicanery used to get possession of German benefices 
for officials of the Curia, the exactions on the bestowal of 
the pallium, the trafficking in exemptions and permissions 
to evade laws ecclesiastical and moral, are all trenchantly 
described. The most shameless are those connected with 
marriage. The Curial Court is described as a place 

"where vows are annulled; where a monk gets leave to 
quit his cloister; where priests can enter the married life 


for money ; where bastards can become legitimate, and 
dishonour and shame may arrive at high honours, and all 
evil repute and disgrace is knighted and ennobled ; where 
a marriage is suffered that is in a forbidden degree, or has 
some other defect. . . . There is a buying and selling, a 
changing, blustering, and bargaining, cheating and lying, 
robbing and stealing, debauchery and villainy, and all kinds 
of contempt of God, that Antichrist himself could not reign 

The plan _af ^reform sket£bed_ includea.=r— the __complete 
abolition of the power of the_Pqpe_ over the State ; the 
creationTof'a naSonal German Church, with an ecclesiastical 
Council of its own to be the _ final court of appeal. for 
Germany, and to represent the German Church as the 
Diet did the German State ; some internal religious 
reforms, such as the limitation of the number of pilgrimages, 
which were destroying morality and creating a distaste for 
honest work ; reductions in the mendicant orders and in 
the number of vagrants who thronged the roads, and were 
a scandal in the towns. 

"It is of much more importance to consider what is 
necessary for the salvation of the common people than what 
St. Francis, or St. Dominic, or St. Augustine, or any other 
man laid down, especially as things have not turned out as 
they expected." 

He proposes the inspection of all convents and nimneries, 
and permission given to those who are dissatisfied with 
their monastic lives to return to the world ; the limitation 
of ecclesiastical holy days, which are too often nothing but 
scenes of drunkenness, gluttony, and debauchery ; a married 
priesthood, and an end put to the degrading concubinage 
of the German priests. 

" We see how the priesthood is fallen, and how many a 
poor priest is encumbered with a woman and children, and 
burdened in his conscience, and no one does anything to 
help him, though he might very well be helped. . ; . I will 
not conceal my honest counsel, nor withhold comfort from 
that unhappy crowd who now live in trouble with wife and 
children, and remain in shame with a heavy conscience, 


hearing their wife called a priest's harlot, and their children 
bastards. ... I say that these two (who are minded in 
their hearts to live together in conjugal fidelity) are surely 
married before God." 

The appeal concludes with some solemn words addressed 
to the luxury and licensed immorality of the German 

None of Luther's writings produced such an instan- 
taneous effect as this. It was not the first programme 
urging common action in the interests of a united Germany, 
but it was the most complete, and was recognised to be so 
by all who were working for a Germany for the Germans. 

The three " Eeformation treatises " were the statement 
of Luther's case laid before the people of the Fatherland, 
and were a very effectual antidote to the Papal Bull 
excommunicating him, which was ready for publication in 

§ 5. The Papal Bull. 

The Bull, Exurge Domine^jiva,s scarcely worthy of the 
occasion. The Pope seeiSs'to have left its construction in 
the hands of Prierias, Cajetan, and Eck, and the contents 
seem to show that Eck had the largest share in framing ^ 
it. Much of it reads like an echo of Eck's statements at 
Leipzig a year before. It began pathetically : " Arise, 
Lord, plead Thine own cause ; remember how the foolish 
man reproacheth Thee daily ; the foxes are wasting Thy 
vineyard, which Thou hast given to Thy Vicar Peter ; the 
boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of 
the field doth devour it." St. Peter is invoked, and the 
Pope's distress at the news of Luther's misdeeds is described 
at length. The most disturbing thing is that the errors of 
the Greeks and of the Bohemians were being revived, and 
that in Germany, which had hitherto been so faithful to 
the Holy See. Then came forty-one propositions, said 
to be Luther's, which are condemned as "heretical or 
scandalous, or false or offensive to pious ears, or seducing 
to simple minds, and standing in the way of the Catholic 


faith." 1 All faithful peojle were ordered to bum Luther's 
books wherever they could findTlheniT" Luther~hiiirself ^had 
refused to come to Eome and submit to instruction; he 
had even appealed to a General Council, contrary to the 
decrees of Julius n. and Pius ii. ; he was therefore 
inhibited from preaching; he and all who followed him 
were ordered J;o__make public recantatiQa_jsdtbin ^sixty 
days ; if they did not, they were to be treated as heretics, 
wereiio be seized and imprisoned by the magistrates, and 
all towns or districts which sheltered them were to be 
placed under an interdict. 

Among the forty-one propositions condemned was one 
— that the burning of heretics was a sin against the Spirit 
of Christ — to which the Pope seemed to attach special 
significance, so often did he repeat it in letters to the 
Elector Frederick and other authorities in Germany. The 
others may be arranged in four classes — against Luther's 
opinions about Indulgences; his statements about Purgatory; 
his declarations that the efficacy of the sacraments depended 
upon the spiritual condition of those who received them ; 
that penance was an outward sign of sorrow, and that good 
_works (ecclesiastical and moral) were to be regarded as the 
signs of faith rather than as making men actually righteous ; 
his denial of the later curial assertions of the nature of the 

( papal monarchy over the Church. Luther's opinions on aU 
these points could be supported by abundant testimony 
from the earlier ages of the Church, and most of his 
criticisms were directed against theories which had not 
been introduced before the middle of the- thirteenth century. 
The Bull made no attempt to argue about the truth of the 
positions taken in its sentences. There was nothing done 
to show that Luther's opinions were wrong. The one 
dominant note running all through the papal deliverance 
was the simple assertion of the Pope's right to order any 

' discussion to cease at his command. 

This did not help to commend the Bull to the people 
of Germany; and was specially unsuited to an age of restless 
' Denzinger, Enchiridion, etc. p. 175. 


mental activity. The method adopted for publishing it 
in Germany was still less calculated to win respect for its 
decisions. The publication- was- entrusted to John Eck 
of Ingolstadt, who was universally recognised as Luther's 
personal enemy ; and the hitherto unheard of liberty was 
granted to him to insert at his pleasure the names of a 
certain number of persons, and to summon them to appear 
before the Eoman Curia. He showed how unfit he was 
for this responsible task by inserting the names of men 
who had criticised or satirised him — Adehnann, Pirkheimer, 
Carlstadt, and three others.^ 

Eck discovered that it was an easier matter to get 
permission from the Eoman Curia to frame a Bull against 
the man who had stopped the sale of Indulgences, and was 
drying up a great source of revenue, than to publish the 
Bull in Germany. It was thought at Kome that no man 
had more influence among the bishops and Universities, 
but the Curia soon learnt that it had made a mistake. 
The Universities stood upon their privileges, and would 
have nothing to do with John Eck. The bishops made 
all manner of technical objections. Many persons affected 
to beUeve that the Bull was not authentic ; and Luther 
himself did not disdain to take this line in his ' tract. 
Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist. Eck, who had 
come down to Germany inflated with vanity, found himself 
mocked and scorned. Pirkheimer dubbed him gehobelter 
Eck, Eck with the swelled head, and the epithet stuck. 
Nor was the publication any easier when the pretence 
of unauthenticity could be maintained no longer. The 
University of Wittenberg refused to publish the Bull, 

' In a pamphlet written by Eck in 1519, he had asserted that all the 
theologians in Germany were opposed to Luther save a few unlearned canons. 
This called forth, tow'ards the end of the year, Tlie Answer of an Unlearned 
Canon, which was generally ascribed to Bernard Adelmann, a canon of 
Augsburg, but which was really written by Oecolampadius. Pirkheimer 
had written a caustic attack on Eck in a satire, in which German coarseness 
was clothed in elegant latinity, entitled Eceius Dedolalus {ITie Comer 
planed off, Eck being the German for " corner"), published in Lateiniache 
LiUeralurdenkmdler des 15 und 16 Jahrhundertes (Berlin, 1891). Carlstadt 
had opposed Eck at Leipzig. 


on the ground that the Pope woiild not have permitted 
its issue had he known the true state of matters, and 
they blamed Eck for misinforming His Holiness : the 
Council of Electoral Saxony agreed with the Senate ; 
and their action was generally commended. Spalatin 
said that he had seen at least thirty letters from great 
princes and learned men of all districts in Germany, 
from Pomerania to Switzerland, and from the Breisgau 
to Bohemia, encouraging Luther to stand firm. Eck 
implored the bishops of the dioceses surrounding Witten- 
berg — Merseburg, Meissen, and Brandenburg — to publish 
the Bull. They were either unwilling or powerless. 
I Luther had been expecting a Bull against him ever 
since the Leipzig Disputation. His correspondence reveals 
that he met it undismayed. What harm could a papal 
Bull do to a man whose faith had given him fellowship 
with God ? What truth coul^ there be in a Bull which 
clearly contradicted the Holy Scriptures ? St. Paul has 
warned us against believing an angel from heaven if he 
uttered words different from the Scriptures, which are 
our strength and our consolation; why should we pin 
our faith to a Pope or a Council ? The Bull had done 
one thing for him, it had made him an excommunicated 
man, and therefore had freed him from his monastic 
vows. He could leave the convent when he liked, only 
he did not choose to do so. When he heard that his 
writings had been burnt as heretical by order of the Papal 
Legates, he resolved to retaliate. It was no sudden de- 
cision. Eleven months previously he had assured Spalatin 
(January 1520) that if Rome condemned and burnt his 
writings he would condemn and burn the papal Decretal 
Laws. On December 10 th (1520) he posted a notice invit- 
ing the Wittenberg students to witness the burning of the 
papal Constitutions and the books of Scholastic Theology at 
nine o'clock in the morning.^ A multitude of students, 

' A copy of Luther's notice has been preseiTed in the MS. " Annals " of 
Peter Schumann in the Zvrickau Satsschulbibliothek at Zwickau. It has 
been printed in Kolde's Analecla Lviherana (Gotlia, 1883), p. 26: "Quis 


burghers, and professors met in the open space outside the 
Elster Gate between the walls and the river Elbe. A great ' 
bonfire had been built. An oak tree planted long ago still 
marks the spot. One of the professors kindled the pile ; 
Luther laid the books of the Decretals on the glowing mass, 
and they caught the flames ; then amid solemn silence he 
placed a copy of the Bull on the fire, saying in Latin: As 
thou hast wasted with a,nxiety the Holy One of God, so may 
the eternal flames waste thee {Quia tu conturbasti Sanctum 
Domini, ideoque te conturhet ignis eiernus). He waited till 
the paper was consumed, and then with his friends and 
fellow-professors he went back to the town. Some hundreds 
of students remained standing round the fire. For a while 
they were sobered by the solemnity of the occasion and 
sang the Te Beum. Then a spirit of mischief seized them, 
and they began singing funeral dirges in honour of the 
burnt Decretals. They got a peasant's cart, fixed in it a 
pole on which they hung a six-foot-long baimer emblazoned 
with the Bull, piled the small cart with the books of Eck, 
Emser, and other Eomish controversialists, hauled it along 
the streets and out through the Elster Gate, and, throwing 
books and Bull on the glowing embers of the bonfire, they 
burnt them. Sobered again, they sang the Te Beum and 
finally dispersed. 

It is scarcely possible for us in the twentieth century 
to imagine the thrill that went through Germany, and 
indeed through all Europe, when the news sped that a poor 
monk had burnt the Pope's Bull. Papal Bulls had been 
burnt before Luther's days, but the burners had been for 
the most part powerful monarchs. This time it was done 
by a, monk, with nothing but his courageous faith to back 
him. It meant that the individual soul had discovered its 

quia veritatis Evangelicse studio teneatur. Adesto sub horam nonam, modo 
ad templum S. Crucis extra mcenia oppidi, ubi pro veteri et apostolico ritu 
impii pontificiarum constitutionum et scliolasticae theologiie libri croiiia- 
buntnr quandoquidem eo processit audatia inimicorum Evangelii, ut pifs ac 
evangelicos Luteri exusserit. Age pia et studiosa juventus ad hoc piuni ac 
religiosum spectaculum constituito. Fortassia euim nunc teinpus est quo 
revelari Antichristum opportuit." 


true value. If eras can be dated, modern history began on 
December 10th, 1520. 

§ 6. Luther the Sepresenfative of Germany. 

Hitherto we have followed Luther's personal career 
exclusively. It may be well to turn aside for a little to 
see how the sympathy of many classes of the people was 
gathering round him. 

The representatives of foreign States who were present 
at the Diet of Worms, of England, Spain, and Venice, all 
wrote home to their respective governments about the 
extraordinary popularity which Luther enjoyed among 
almost every class of his fellow-countrymen ; and, as we shall 
\ see, the despatches of Aleander, the papal nuncio at the 
Diet, are full of statements ajod" complaints wBTch confirm 
these reports. This popularity had been growing since 
1517, and there are traces that many thoughtful men had 
been attracted to Luther some years earlier. The accounts 
of Luther's interview with Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, 
and his attitude at the Leipzig Disputation, had given a 
great impulse to the veneration with which people regarded 
him ; but the veneration itself had been quietly growing, 
apart from any striking incidents in his career. The 
evidence for what follows has been collected chiefly from 
such private correspondence as has descended to us ; and 
most stress has been laid on letters which were not 
addressed to Luther, and which were never meant to be 
seen by him. Men wrote to each other about him, and de- 
scribed the impression he was making on themselves and 
on the immediate circle of their acquaintances. We learn 
from such letters not merely the fact of the esteem, but what 
were the characteristics in the man which called it forth.^ 

A large part of the evidence comes from the corre- 
spondence of educated men, who, if they were not all 

' Fr. V. Bezolrl haa some excellent pages on this subject in his Geschichte 
der deutschen Iteformation (Berlin, 1890), pp. 278 ff. I have used the 
material he has collected, and added to it from my own reaiiing. 


Humanists strictly so called, belonged to that increasing 
class on whom the New Learning had made a great 
impression, and had produced the characteristic habit of 
mind which belonged to its possessors. The attitude and 
work of Erasmus had prepared them to appreciate Luther. 
The monkish opponents of the great Humanist had been 
thoroughly in the right when they feared the effects of his 
revolutionary ways of . thinking, however they might be 
accompanied with appeals against all revolutionary action. 
He had exhibited his idea of what a hfe of personal religion 
ought to be in his Enchiridion ; he had exposed the mingled 
Judaism and paganism of a great part of the popular 
religion ; he had poured scorn on the trifling subtleties of 
scholastic theology, and had asked men to return to a 
simple " Christian Philosophy " ; above all, he had insisted 
that Christianity could only renew its youth by going back 
to the study of the Holy Scriptures, and especially of the 
New Testament ; and he had aided his contemporaries to 
make this return by his edition of the New Testament, and 
by his efforts to bring within their reach the writings of 
the earUer Church Fathers. His Humanist followers in 
Germany believed that they saw in Luther a man who 
was doing what their leader urged all men to do. They 
saw in Luther an Erasmus, who was going to the root of 
things. He was rejecting with increasing determination 
the bewildering sophistries of Scholasticism, and, what was 
more, he was showing how many of these had arisen by 
exalting the authority of the pagan Aristotle over that of 
St. Paul and St. Augustine. He had painfully studied 
these Schoolmen, and could speak with an authority on 
this matter ; for he was a learned theologian. The reports 
of his lectures, which were spreading throughout Germany, 
informed them that he based his teaching on a simple 
exposition of the Holy Scriptures in the Vulgate version, 
which was sanctioned by the mediaeval Church. He had 
revolted, and was increasingly in revolt, against those 
abuses in the ordinary religious life which were encouraged 
from sordid motives by the Eoman Curia, — abuses which 


Erasmus had pierced through and through with the light 
darts of his sarcasm ; and Luther knew, as Erasmus did 
not, what he was speaking about, for he had surrendered 
himself to that popular religion, and had sought in it 
desperately for a means of reconciliation with God without 
succeeding in his quest. They saw him insisting, with a 
strenuousness no Humanist had exhibited, on the Humanist 
demand that every man had a right to stand true to his 
own personal conscientious convictions. If some of them, 
like Erasmus, in spite of their scorn of monkery, still 
believed that the highest type of the rehgious life was a 
sincere self-sacrificing Franciscan monk, they saw their 
ideal in the Augustinian Eremite, whose life had never 
been stained by any monkish scandal, and who had been 
proclaimed by his brother monks to be a model of personal 
holiness. They were sure that when he pled heroically 
for the freedom of the religious life, his courage, which 
they could not emulate, rested on a depth and strength of 
personal piety which they sadly confessed they themselves 
did not possess. If they complained at times that Luther 
spoke too strongly against the Pope, they admitted that he 
was going to the root of things in his attack. All clear- 
sighted men perceived that the one obstacle to reform was the 
theory of the papal monarchy, which had been laboriously 
constructed by ItaUan canonists after the failure of Conciliar 
reform, — a theory which defied the old medieval ecclesias- 
tical tradition, and contradicted the solemn decisions of the 
great German Councils of Constance and Basel. Luther's 
attacks on the Papacy were not stronger than those of 
Gerson and d'Ailly, and his language was not more un- 
measured than that of their common master, William of 
Occam. There was nothing in these early days to prevent 
men who were genuinely attached to the mediaeval Church, 
its older theology and its ancient rites, from rallying round 
Luther. When the marches began to be redd, and the 
beginnings of a Protestant -Church confronted the mediaeval, 
the situation was changed. Many who had enthusiastically 
supported Luther left him. 


Conrad Mutianus, canon of Gotha, and the veteran 
leader of the Erfurt cu'cle of Humanists, wrote admiringly 
of the originality of Luther's sermons as early as 1515. 
He applauded the stand he took at Leipzig, and spoke 
of him as Martinum, Beo devotissimum doctorem. His 
followers were no longer contented with a study of the 
classical authors. Eobanus Hessus, crowned " poet-king " 
of Germ,any, abandoned his Horace for the Enchiridion of 
Erasmus and the Holy Scriptures. Justus Jonas (Jodocus 
Koch of Nordlingen) forsook classical Greek to busy 
himself with the Epistles to the Corinthians. The wicked 
satirist, Curicius Cordus, betook himself to the New Testa- 
ment. They did this out of admiration for Erasmus, " their 
father in Christ." But when Luther appeared, when they 
read his pamphlets circulating through Germany, when 
they followed, step by step, his career, they came under 
the influence of a new spell. The Erasmici, to use the 
phrases of the times, diminished, and the Martiniani in- 
creased in numbers. One of the old Erfurt circle, Johannes 
Crotus Eubeanus, was in Eome. His letters, passed round 
among his friends, made no small impression upon them. 
He told them that he was living in the centre of the 
plague-spot of Europe. He reviled the Curia as devoid of 
aU moral conscience. " The Pope and his carrion-crows " 
were sitting content, gorged on the miseries of the Church. 
When Crotus received from Germany copies of Luther's 
writings, he distributed them secretly to his Italian friends, 
and collected their opinions to transmit to Germany. They 
were all sympathetically impressed with what Luther said, 
but they pitied him as a man travelling along a very 
dangerous road ; no real reform was possible without the 
destruction of the whole curial system, and that was too 
powerful for any man to combat. Yet Luther was a 'hero; 
he was the Pater Fatrice of Germany ; his countrymen 
ought to erect a golden statue in his honour ; they wished 
him God-speed. When Crotus returned to Germany and 
got more in touch with Luther's work, he felt more drawn 
to the Eeformer, and wrote enthusiastically to his friends 


that Luther was the personal revelation of Christ in modern 
times. So we find these Humanists declaring that Luther 
was the St. Paul of the age, the modern Hercules, the 
Achilles of the sixteenth century. 

No Humanist circle gave Luther more enthusiastic 
support than that of Nlirnberg. The soil had been pre- 
pared by a few ardent admirers of Staupitz, at the head 
of whom was Wenceslas Link, prior of the Augustinian- 
Eremites in Niirnberg, and a celebrated preacher. They 
had learned from Staupitz that blending of the theology of 
Augustine with the later German mysticism which was 
characteristic of the man, and it prepared them to appre- 
ciate the deeper experimental teaching of Luther. Among 
these Niirnberg Humanists was Christopher Scheurl, a jurist, 
personally acquainted with Luther and with Eck. The 
shortlived friendship between the two antagonists had 
been brought about by Scheurl, whose correspondence with 
Luther began in 1516. Scheurl was convinced that 
Luther's cause was the " cause of God." He told Eck 
this. He wrote to him (February 18th, 1519) that all 
the most spiritually minded clergymen that he knew were 
devoted to Luther ; that " they flew to him in dense troops, 
like starlings " ; that their deepest sympathies were with 
him ; and that they confessed that their holiest desires 
were prompted by his writings. Albert Diirer expressed 
his admiration by painting Luther as St. John, the beloved 
disciple of the Lord. Caspar Niitzel, one of the most 
dignified officials of the town, thought it an honour to 
translate Luther's Ninety-five Theses into German. Lazarus 
Sprengel delighted to tell his friends how Luther's tracts 
and sermons were bringing back to a living Christianity 
numbers of his acquaintances who had bSen perplexed and 
driven from the faith by the trivialities common in ordinary 
sermons. Similar enthusiasm showed itself in Augsburg 
and other towns. After the Leipzig Disputation, the great 
printer of Basel, Frobenius, became an ardent admirer of 
Luther ; reprinted most of his writings, and despatched 
them to Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Italy, 


England, and Spain. He delighted to tell of the favour- 
able reception they met with in these foreign countries, — 
how they had been welcomed by Lef^vre in France, and 
how the Swiss Cardinal von Sitten had said that Luther 
deserved all honour, for he spoke the truth, which no 
special pleading of an Eck could overthrow. The distin- 
guished jurist Ulrich Zasius of Freiburg said that Luther 
was an " angel incarnate," and while he deprecated his strong 
language against the Pope, he called him the " Phosnix 
among Christian theologians," the " flower of the Christian 
world," and the " instrument of God." Zasius was a man 
whose whole religious sympathies belonged to the mediseval 
conception of the Church, yet he spoke of Luther in this way. 

It is perhaps difficult for us now to comprehend the 
state of mind which longed for the new and yet clung to 
the old, which made the two Niirnberg families, the Ebners 
and the Ntitzlers, season the ceremonies at their family 
gathering to celebrate their daughters taking the veil with 
speeches in praise of Luther and of his writings. Yet this 
was the dominant note in the vast majority of the sup- 
porters of Luther in these earlier years. 

Men who had no great admiration for Luther personally 
had no wish to see him crushed by the Eoman Curia by 
mere weight of authority. Even Duke George of Saxony, 
who had called Luther a pestilent fellow at the Leipzig 
Disputation, had been stirred into momentary admiration 
by the Address to the Christian Nohility of the German 
Nation, and had no gi-eat desire to publish the Bull within 
his dominions ; and his private secretary and chaplain, 
Jerome Emser, although a personal enemy who never lost 
an opportunity of controverting Luther, nevertheless hoped 
that he might be the instrument of effecting a reforma- 
tion in the Church. Jacob Wimpheling of Strassburg, a 
thoroughgoing medisevalist who had manifested no sym- 
pathy for Eeuchlin, and his friend Christopher of Utenheim, 
Bishop of Basel, hoped that the movement begim by Luther 
might lead to that reformation of the Church on mediaeval 
lines which they both earnestly desired. 


Perhaps no one represented better the attitude of the 
large majority of Luther's supporters, in the years between 
1517 and 1521, than did the Prince, who is rightly 
called Luther's protector, Frederick the Elector of Saxony. 
It is a great though common mistake to suppose that 
Frederick shared those opinions of Luther which afterwards 
grew to be the Lutheran theology. His brother John, and 
in a still higher degree his nephew John Frederick, were 
devoted Lutherans in the theological sense ; but there is 
no evidence to show that Frederick ever was^ 

Frederick never had any intimate personal relations 
with Luther. At Spalatin's request, he had paid the 
expenses of Luther's promotion to the degree of Doctor of 
the Holy Scriptures ; he had, of course, acquiescedrln his 
appointment to succeed Spalatin as Professor of Theology ; 
and he must have appreciated keenly the way in which 
Luther's work had gradually raised the small and declining 
University to the position it held in 1517. A few letters 
were exchanged between Luther and Frederick, but there 
is no evidence that they ever met in conversation ; nor is 
there any that Frederick had ever heard Luther preach. 
When he lay dying he asked Luther to come and see him ; 
but the Eeformer was far distant, trying to dissuade the 
peasants from rising in rebellion, and when he reached the 
palace his old protector had breathed his last. 

The Elector was a pious man according to mediaeval 
standards. He had received his earhest lasting religious 
impressions from intercourse with Augustinian Eremite 
monks when he was a boy at school at Grimma, and he 
maintained the closest relations with the Order all his 
life. He valued highly all the external aids to a religious 
life which the mediaeval Church had provided. He believed 
in the virtue of pilgrimages and relics. He had made a 
pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and had brought back a 
great many relics, which he had placed in the Church of 
All Saints in Wittenberg, and he had agents at Venice 
and other Mediterranean ports commissioned to seom-e 
other relies for his collection. He continued to purchase 


them as late as the year 1523. He believed in Indul- 
gences of the older type, — Indulgences which remitted in 
whole or in part ecclesiastically imposed satisfactions,— and 
he had procured two for use in Saxony. One served as 
an endowment for the upkeep of his bridge at Torgau, and 
he had once commissioned Tetzel to preach its virtues ; 
the other was to benefit pilgrims who visited and venerated 
his collection of relics on AU Saints' Day. But it is clear 
that he disliked Indulgences of the kind Luther had 
challenged, and had small belief in the good faith of the 
Koman Curia. He had prevented money collected for one 
plenary Indulgence leaving the country, and he had for- 
bidden Tetzel to preach the last Indulgence within his 
territories. His sympathies were all with Luther on this 
question. He was an esteemed patron of the pious society 
called St. Ursula's Schifflein. He went to Mass regularly, 
and his attendances became frequent when he was in a 
state of hesitation or perplexity. When he was at Kbln 
(November 1520), besieged by the papal nuncios to induce 
him to permit the publication of the Bull against Luther 
within his lands, Spalatin noted that he went to Mass 
three times in one day. His reverence for the Holy 
Scriptures must have created a bond of sympathy between 
Luther and himself. He talked with his private secretary 
about the incomparable majesty and power of the word 
of God, and contrasted its sublimities with the sophistries 
and trivialities of the theology of the day. He maintained 
firmly the traditional policy of his House to make the 
decisions of the Councils of Constance and of Basel effective 
within Electoral Saxony, in spite of protests from the Curia 
and the higher ecclesiastics, and was accustomed to consider 
himself responsible for the ecclesiastical as well as for 
the civil good government of his lands. Aleander had 
considered it a master-stroke of policy to procure the 
burning of Luther's books at Koln while the Elector was 
in the city. Frederick only regarded the deed as a petty 
insult to himself. He was a staunch upholder of the 
rights and liberties of the German nation, and remembered 


that by an old concordat, which every Emperor had sworn 
to maintain, every German had the right to appeal to a 
General Council, and could not be condemned without a 
fair trial; and this Bull had made Luther's appeal to a 
Council one of the reasons for his condemnation. So, in 
spite of the "golden rose" and other blandishments, in 
spite of threats that he might be included ia the ex- 
communication of his subject and that the privileges of his 
University might be taken away, he stood firm, and would 
not withdraw his protection from Luther. He was a pious 
German prince of the old-fashioned type, with no great 
love for Italians, and was not going to be browbeaten by 
papal nuncios. His attitude towards Luther represents 
very fairly that of the great mass of the German people 
on the eve of the Diet of Worma 



§ 1. The Roman Nuncio Aleander. 

■EoME had done its utmost to get rid of Luther by ecclesi- 
astical measures, and had failed. If he was to be over- 
thrown, if the new religious movement and the national 
uprising which enclosed it were to be stifled, this could 
only be done by the aid of the supreme secular authority. 
The Curia turned to the Emperor. 

Maximilian had died suddenly on the 12 th of January 
1519. After some months of intriguing, the papal di- 

^ SouKOES : Devische Reichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V., 3 vols, have 
been published (Gotha, 1893-1901) ; Balan, Monumenta Seformationis 
Ztttherance ex tabulis S. Sedis secretin 15B1-16$5 (Ratisbon, 1883-1884) ; 
Laemmer, Monumenta Vaticana historiam ecclesiasticam sceculi 16 illustrantia 
(Freiburg, 1861) ; Meletematum Bomajioruin Mantissa (Eegensburg, 1875) ; 
Brieger, Aleander und Luther 1621 : Die vervollstandigten Aleander-De- 
peschen nebst Untersuchungen ilier den Wormser Seichsiag (Gotha, 1894); 
Calendar of Spanish State Papers (London, 1886) ; Calendar of Venetian 
State Papers, vols, iii.-vi. (London, 1864-1884); Letters and Papers, Foreign 
and, Domestic, of the reign of Bem-y VIII., vols. iii.-xix. (London, 1860- 
1903) ; V. E. Loescher, VoUstdndige Reformations-Ada und Documenta, 
3 vols. (Leipzig, 1713-1722) ; Spalatin, Annates Seformationis (Leipzig, 
1768) ; Chronikon, 2nd vol. of Menoke's Scriptores rerum Oermamicarum 
proedpue Saxonicarum, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1728-1730) ; Historischer Nachlass 
und Briefe (Jena, 1851) ; also the sources mentioned under the iirst chapter 
of this part. 

Latbk Books : Hausrath, Aleander und Luther auf dem Edchstage zu 
Worms (Berlin, 1897) ; Kolde, Luther uvd der Reichstag zu Worms 1521 
(Halle, 1883) ; Friedrich, Der Reichstag zu Worms 1521 (Munich, 1871) ; 
Eanke, Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (Leipzig, 1881 ; 
Eng. trans., London, 1905) ; Armstrong, The Emperor Cha/rles V. (London, 
1902) ; V. Bezold, Geschichte der deutschen Reformation (Berlin, 1890) ; 
Creighton, A History of the Papacy, vol. vi. (London, 1897) ; Gebhardt, Die 
Oravamina der deuischen Nation (Breslau, 1895). 



plomacy being very tortuous, his grandson Charles, the 
young King of Spain, was unanimously chosen to be his 
feuccessor (June 28th, 1519). Troubles in Spain prevented 
him leaving that country at once to take possession of 
his new dignities. He was crowned at Aachen on the 23rd 
of October 1520, and opened his first German Diet on 
January 22nd, 1521, at Worms. 

The Pope had selected two envoys to wait on the 
young Emperor, the Protonotary Marino Caraccioli (1469- 
1530), who was charged with the ordinary diplomatic 
business, and -Jerome Aleander, the Director of the Vatican 
Library, who was appointed to secure the outla wry of 

The Eoman Curia had in Aleander one of the most 
clear-sighted, courageous, and indefatigable of diplomatists. 
He was an Italian, born of a burgher family in the little 
Venetian town of Motta (1480-1542), educated at Padua 
and Venice ; he had begun life as a Humanist, had lectured 
on Greek with distinction in Paris, and had been personally 
acquainted with many of the German Humanists, who could 
not forgive the " traitor " who had deserted their ranks to 
serve an obscurantist party. His graphic letters, full of 
minute details, throb with the hopes and fears of the papal 
diplomacy. The reader has his fingers on the pulse of 
those momentous months. The Legate was in a land where 
" every stone and every tree cried out, ' Luther.' " Land- 
lords refused him lodging. He had to shiver during these 
winter months in an attic' without a stove. The stench 
and dirt of the house were worse than the cold. When he 
appeared on the streets he saw scowling faces, hands 
suddenly carried to the hilts of swords, heard curses 
shrieked after him. He was struck on the breast by a 
Lutheran doorkeeper when he tried to get audience of the 
Elector of Saxony, and no one in the crowd interfered to 
protect him. He saw caricatures of himself hanging head 
downwards from a gibbet. He received the old deadly 
German feud-letters from Ulrich von Hutten, safe in the 
neighbouring castle of Ebernberg, about a day's ride 


distant.^ The imperial Councillors to whom he complained 
had neither the men nor the means to protect him. When 
he tried to publish answers to the attacks on the Papacy 
which the Lutheran presses poured forth, he could scarcely 
find a printer ; and when he did, syndicates bought up his 
pamphlets and destroyed them. As the weeks passed he 
came to understand that there was only one man on whom 
he could rely — the young Emperor, believed by all but 
himself to be a puppet in the hands of his Councillors, 
whom Pope Leo had called a "good child," but whom 
Aleander from his first interview at Antwerp had felt to 
be endowed with " a prudence far beyond his years," and to 
" have much more at the back of his head than he carried 
on his face." He also came to believe that the one man to 
be feared was the old Elector of Saxony, " that basilisk," 
that " German fox," that " marmot with the eyes of a dog, 
who glanced obliquely at his questioners." 

Aleander was a pure worldling, a man of indifferent 
morals, showing traces of cold-blooded cruelty (as when he 
slew five peasants for the loss of one of his dogs, or tried 
to get Erasmus poisoned). He believed that every man 
had his price, and that low and selfish motives were alone 
to be reckoned with. But he did the work of the Curia at 
Worms with a thoroughness which merited the rewards he 
obtained afterwards.^ He had spies everywhere — in the 
households of the Emperor and of the leading princes, and 
among the population of Worms. He had no hesitation in 
lying when he thought it useful for the " faith," as he 
frankly relates.^ The Curia had laid a difiicult task upon 
him. He was to see that Luther was put under the 
ban ,of the Empire at once and unheard. The Bull had 
condemned him ; the secular power had nothing to do but 
execute the sentence. Aleander had little difficulty in 
persuading the Emperor to this course within his hereditary 

' Kalkoff, Die DepescJien, etc. pp. 46, 60, 58, 69, etc. 
' He became Arclibishop of Brindisi and Orio, and then a Cardinal. 
' Brieger, Aleander und lAiiher 1621: Die vervoUstandigten Aleander- 
Depeschen, p. 53 (Gotha, 1884) ; rwn auierslitiose verax, Erasmus said. 


dominions. An edict was issued ordering Luther'e books 
to be burnt, and the Legate had the satisfaction of presidirg 
at several literary auto-da-fis in Antwerp and elsewhere. 
He was also successful with some of the ecclesiastical princes 
of Germany.^ But it was impossible to get this done at 
Worms. PaUing this, it was Aleander's business to see 
that Luther's case was kept separate from the question 
of German national grievances against the Papacy, and 
that, if it proved to be impossible to prevent Luther appear- 
ing before the Diet, he was to be summoned there simply 
for the purpose of making public recantation. With the 
assistance of the Emperor he was largely successfuL* 

§ 2. The Emperor Charles v. 

Aleander was not the real antagonist of Luther at 
Worms; he was not worthy of the name. The German 
Diet was the scene of a fight of faiths ; and the man of 
faith on the medieval side was the young Emperor. He 
represented the believing past as Luther represented the 
believing future.^ "What my forefathers established at 

' KalkofF, Die Depeschen des Nuniiiis Aleander, etc. pp. 19, 20, 23, 2i, 
265, 266. 

^ Brieger, Aleander und Zuther ISSl : Die vervollstandigten AUcmder- 
Depeschen (Gotha, 1884), Q^iellen und Forschungen zur GeschiclUe der He/or- 
mMion, i. ; Friedensburg, Eine ungedriickte Depesche Aleanders von seiner 
ersten Nuntiat-ur hei Karl V. , in Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen 
Archiven, i. (1897) ; Kalkoff, Die Depeschen des Nwntins Aleander vmn 
Wonnser Reichslage 1521 (Halle, 1897, 2nd ed.); Eolde, Luther und der 
Reichstag zu Worms 1621 (Halle, 1883) ; Hausrath, Aleander und Luther 
auf dem Meichslctge zu Worms (Berlin, 1897) ; Gebhardt, Die Gravamina 
der deutschen Nation ( Breslau, 1895, 2nd ed. ). 

' "Reserved as Charles was, the shock struck out the most outspoken 
confession of his faith that he ever uttered. Nowhere else is it possible to 
approach so closely to the workings of his spiritual nature, save in the con- 
iidential letters to his brother in the last troubled hours of rule, when he 
repeated that it was not in his conscience to rend the seamless mantle of 
the Church." — Armstrong, The Emperor Charles T., i. 71 (London, 1902). 
But we have another glimpse in the conversation with his sister Maria, in 
which he confesses that he had come to think better of the Lutherans, for 
he had learned to know that they taught nothing outside the Apostles' 
Creed. Cf. Kawerau, Johann Agricola von Eisleben, p. 100 (Berlin, 188] ). 


Constance and other Councils," he said, " it is my privilege 
to uphold. A single monk, led astray by private judgment, 
has set himself against the faith held by all Christians for 
a thousand years and more, and impudently concludes that 
all Christians up till now have erred. I have therefore 
resolved to stake upon this cause all my dominions, my 
friends, my body and my blood, my life and soul." ^ The 
crisis had not come suddenly on him. As early as May 
12th, 1520, Juan Manuel, his ambassador at Eome, had 
written to him asking him to pay some attention to " a 
certain Martin Luther, who belongs to the following of the 
Elector of Saxony," and whose preaching was causing some 
discontent at the Eoman Curia. Manuel thought that 
Luther might prove useful in a diplomatic dispute with 
the Curia.^ Charles had had time to think over the 
matter in his serious, reserved way ; and this was the 
decision he had come to. The declaration was all the more 
memorable when it is remembered that Charles owed his 
election to that rising feeling of nationality which supported 
Luther,* and that he had to make sure of German assistance 
in his coming struggle with Francis I. A certain grim 
reality lurked in the words, that he was ready to stake his 
dominions on the cause he adopted. There is much to be 
said for the opinion that " the Lutheran question made 
a man of the boy-ruler." * 

On the other hand, it is well to remember that the 
young Emperor did not take the side of the Pope nor com- 
mit himself to the Curial ideas of the absolute character 
of papal supremacy. He laid stress on the unity of the 
CathoHc (mediaeval) Church, on the continuity of its rites, 
and on the need of maintaining its authority ; but the seat 
of that authority was for him a General Council. The 
declaration in no way conflicts with the changes in imperial 

' Deutsche Meiehstagsakten, etc. ii. 595. 

* Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, 1S09-1B26, p. 305 (London, 1866). 

' For an account of the indirect causes which led to the election ol 
Charles, cf. t. Bezold, Oeschichte der deutschen Reformation, pp. 193 ff. 
(Berlin, 1890). 

* Armstrong, The Emperor Charles 7., p. 73 (London, 1902). 


policy which may be traced during the opening weeks of 
the Diet, nor with that future action which led to the Sack 
of Eome and to the Augsburg Interim (1548). It is 
possible that the young ruler had read and admired Luther's 
earlier writings, and that he had counted on him as an aid 
in bringing the Church to a better condition. It is more 
than probable that he already believed that it was his 
duty to free the Church from the abuses which aboxmded ;^ 
but Luther's fierce attack on the Pope disgusted him, and 
a reformation which came from the people threatened 
secular as well as ecclesiastical authority. He had made 
up his mind that Luther must be condemned, and told the 
German princes that he would not change one iota of his 
determination. But this did not prevent him making use 
of Luther to further his diplomatic dealings with the Pope 
and wi'ing concessions from the Curia. For one thing, the 
Pope had been interfering with the Inquisition in Spain, 

• Charles V. had for his confessor Jean Glapion, who figured largely in 
the preliminary scenes before Luther arrived at Worms. He had a remark- 
able conversation with Dr. Briick, the Elector of Saxony's Chancellor, in 
which he professed to .speak for the Emperor as well as for himself. Luther's 
earlier writings had given him great pleasure ; he believed him to be a 
" plant of renown," able to produce splendid fruit for the Church. But the 
book on the Babylonian Captivity had shocked him ; he did not believe it 
to be Luther's ; it was not in his usual style ; if Luther had written it, it 
must have been because he was momentarily indignant at the papal Bull, 
and as it was anonymous, it could easily be repudiated ; or if not repudiated, 
it might be explained, and its sentences shown to be capable of a Catholic 
interpretation. If this were done, and if Luther withdrew his violent writ- 
ings against the Pope, there was no reason why an amicable arrangement 
should not be come to. The Papal Bull could easily be got over, it could be 
withdrawn on the ground that Luther had never had a fair trial. It was a 
mistake to suppose that the Emperor was not keenly alive to the need for a 
reformation of the Church ; there were limits to his devotion to the Pope ; 
the Emperor believed that he would deserve the wrath of God if he did not 
try to amend the deplorable condition of the Church of Christ. Such was 
Glapion's statement. It is a question how far he was sincere, and how far 
he could speak for the Emperor. He was a friend and admirer of Erasmus ; 
but the Dutchman had said that no man could conceal his own viesvs so 
skilfully. The Elector heard that after this conversation Glapion had got 
from Aleander 400 copies of the Bull against Luther, and had distributed 
them among Franciscan monks. This made him doubt his sincerity, and 
he refused to grant him an audience. Cf. Meichstagsakten, ii. 477 if. 


trying to mitigate its severity ; and Charles, like his 
maternal grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon, believed that 
the Holy Office was a help in curbing the freedom-loving 
people of Spain, and had no wish to see his instrument of 
punishment made less effectual. For another, it was evident 
that Francis i. was about to invade Italy, and Charles 
wished the Pope to take his side. If the Pope gave way 
to him on both of these points, he was ready to carry out 
his wishes about Luther as far as that was possible.^ 

§ 3. In the City of Worms. 

The city of Worms was crowded with men of diverse 
opinions and of many different nationalities. The first 
Diet of the youthful Emperor (Charles was barely one and 
twenty), from whom men of all parties expected so much, 
had attracted much larger numbers than usually attended 
these assemblies. Weighty matters affecting all Germany 
were down on the agenda. There was the old constitutional 

' A study of dates throws light on these bargainings. In Oct. 1520, 
Charles issued an edict ordering the burning of Luther's books within his 
hereditary dominions. In the following weeks Aleander was pressing Charles 
to make the edict universal ; this was declared to be impossible, but (Not. 
28th) Charles wrote to the Elector of Saxony ordering him to produce 
Luther at Worms, and to hinder him from writing anything more against 
the Pope ; as it were in answer (Deo. 12th), the Pope intimated to Charles 
that he had withdrawn his briefs about the Inquisition in Spain. The 
Emperor reached 'Worms about the middle of December. On Jan. 3rd 
(1521) the Pope simplified matters for the Emperor by issuing a new Bull, 
Decet Somanum, containing the names of Luther and Hutten ; the Diet 
opened Jan. 28th ; Aleander made his three hours' speech against Luther on 
Feb. 13 ; Feb. 19th, the Estates resolved that Luther should appear before 
them, and not for the simple purpose of recantation — he was to be heard, and 
to receive a safe conduct ; March 6th, the imperial invitation and safe con- 
duct, beginning with the words, nobilis, devote, nobis dilecte ; Aleander pro- 
tested vehemently against this address ; the Emperor drafted a universal 
mandate ordering the burning of Luther's books ; this probably was not 
published ; it was withdrawn in favour of a mandate ordering all Luther's 
books to be delivered up to the magistrates ; this was published in Worms 
on March 27th, and caused rioting ; April 17th and 18th, Luther appeared 
before the Diet ; May 8th, Charles received the Pope's pledge to take his side 
against Francis ; Diet agreed to the ban against Luther on May 25th ; 
Charles dated the ban May 8th. 



question of monarchy or oligarchy bequeathed from the 
Diets of Maximilian ; curiosity to see whether the new 
ruler would place before the Estates a truly imperial 
policy, or whether, like his predecessors, he would sub- 
ordinate national to dynastic considerations; the deputies 
from the cities were eager to get some sure provisions made 
for ending the private wars which distm-bed trade; all 
classes were anxious to provide for an effective central 
government when the Emperor was absent from Germany ; 
local statesmen felt the need of putting an end to the 
constant disputes between the ecclesiastical and secular 
powers within Germany; but the hardest problem of all, 
and the one which every man was thinking, talking, dis- 
puting about, was : " To take notice of the books and 
descriptions made by Eriar Martin Luther against the 
Court of Eome." ^ Other exciting questions were stirring 
the crowds met at Worms besides those mentioned on the 
agenda of the Diet. Men were talking about the need 
of making an end of the papal exactions which were drain- 
ing Germany of money, and the air was full of rumours of 
what Sickiagen and the knights might attempt, and whether 
there was going to be another peas^t revolt. These 
questions were instinctively felt to hang together, and each 
had an importance because of the way in which it was 
connected with the religious and social problems of the 
day. Eor the people of Germany and for the foreign 
representatives who were gathered together at Worms, it is 
vmquestionable that the Lutheran movement, and how it 
was to be dealt with, was the supreme problem of the 
moment. All these various things combined to bring 
together at Worms a larger concourse of people than had 
been collected in any German town .since the meeting of 
the General Council at Constance in 1414. 

Worms was one of the oldest towns in Germany. Its 
people were turbulent, asserting their rights as the inhabit- 
ants of a free imperial city, and in constant feud with 

'■ Calendar of State Papers, Henry VIII. Letters and Papers, Foreign a/nd 
Domestic (London, 1867), lii. i. p. 445. 


their bishop. They had endured many an interdict, were 
fiercely anti-clerical,' and were to a man on Luther's side. 
The crowded streets were thronged with princes, their 
councillors and their retinues; with high ecclesiastical 
dignitaries and their attendant clergy; with nobles and 
their " riders " ; with landsknechts, artisans, and peasants. 
Spanish, French, and Italian merchants, on their way home- 
wards from the Frankfurt fair, could be seen discussing the 
last phase of the Lutheran question, and Spanish nobles 
and Spanish merchants more than once came to blows in 
the narrow thoroughfares. The foreign merchants, espe- 
cially the Spaniards, all appeared to take the Lutheran side ; 
not because they took much interest in doctrines, but because 
they felt bound to stand up for the man who had dared to 
say that no one should be burned for his opinions. These 
Spanish merchants made themselves very prominent. They 
joined in syndicates with the more fervent German partisans 
of Luther to buy up and destroy papal pamphlets ; they 
bought Luther's writings to carry home. Aleander curses 
these marrani} as he calls them, and relates that they 
are getting Luther's works translated into Spanish. It is 
probable that many of them had Moorish blood in them, 
and knew the horrors of the Inquisition. Aleander'a 
spies told him that caricatures of himself and other pro- 
minent papalists were hawked about, and that pictures of 
Luther with the Dove hovering over his head, Luther with 
his head crowned with a halo of rays, Luther and Hutten,* 
the one with a Bible and the other with a sword, were 
eagerly bought in the streets. These pictures were actually 
sold in the courts and rooms of the episcopal palace where 
the Emperor was lodged. On the steps of the churches, 
at the doors of public buildings, colporteurs offered to eager 

^ Kalkoff, Die Depeschen, etc. p. 106. 

' This was probably the frontispiece of a small book containing four of 
Hutten's tracts, and entitled Gesprcich Suchlin : Herr Vlrichu von Sutten. 
Feber das Erst : Feher das aiider : Vadiscus, oder die Ro-mische Dreifaltigkeit : 
Die Anschawenden ; with the motto, Odivi eeele.siam malignantium. It ia 
figured in v. Bezold's Geschichte der dcutschen Reformation, p. 307 (Berlin, 


buyers the tracts of Luther against the Pope, and the satu'es 
of Ulrich von Hutten in Latin and in German. On the 
streets and in open spaces like the Market, crowds of keen 
disputants argued about the teaching of Luther, and praised 
him in the most exaggerated ways. 

Inside the Electoral College opinion was divided. The 
Archbishop of Koln, the Elector of Brandenburg, and his 
brother the Archbishop of Mainz, were for Luther's con- 
demnation, whUe the Elector of Saxony had great influence 
over the Archbishop of Trier and the Count Palatine of the 
Ehine. The latter, says Aleander, scarcely opened his 
mouth during the year, but now " roared like ten bulls " on 
Luther's behalf. Aleander had his first opportunity of 
addressing the Diet on February 13th. He spoke for 
three hours, and made a strong impression. He dwelt on 
Luther's doctrinal errors, which he said were those of the 
Waldenses, of Wiclif, and of the Hussites. He said that 
Luther denied the Presence of Christ in the Holy Supper, 
and that he was a second Arius.^ During the days that 
followed the members of the Diet came to a common 
understanding. They presented a memorial in German 
(February 19 th) to the Emperor, in which they reminded 
him that no imperial edict could be published against 
Luther without their consent, and that to do so before 
Luther had a hearing would lead to bloodshed ; they pro- 
posed that Luther should be invited to come to Worms 
under a safe conduct, and in the presence of the Diet be 
asked whether he was the author of the books that were 
attributed to him, and whether he could clear himself of the 
accusation of denying fundamental articles of the faith ; 
that he should also be heard upon the papal claims, and the 
Diet would judge upon them ; and, finally, they prayed the 
Emperor to deliver Germany from the papal tyranny.* The 
Emperor agreed that Luther should be summoned under a 
safe conduct and interrogated about his books, and whether 
he had denied any fundamental doctrines. But he utterly 
refused to permit any discussion on the authority of tha 
' Beichstagsaklen, ii. pp. 495 ff. ' Ibid. 516 ff. 


Pope, and declared that he would himself communicate 
with His Holiness about the complaints of Germany.^ 

The documents in the Beichstagsakten reveal not only 
that there was a decided difference of opinion between the 
Emperor and the majority of the Estates about the way in 
which Luther ought to be treated, but that the policy of the 
Emperor and his advisers had changed between November 
1520 and February 1521. Aleander had found no 
diEQculty in persuading Charles and his Flemish councillors 
that, so far as the Emperor's hereditary dominions were 
concerned, the only thing that the civil power had to do 
was to issue an edict homologating the Papal Bull banning 
Luther and his adherents, and ordering his books to be 
burnt. This had been done in the Netherlands. They 
had made difficulties, however, about such summary action 
within the German Empire. Aleander was told that the 
Emperor could do nothing until after the coronation at 
Aachen (October 1520);^ and in November, much to the 
nuncio's disgust, the Emperor had written to the Elector of 
Saxony (November 28th, 1520) from Oppenheim asking 
i^im to bring Luther with him to the Diet.^ At that time 
Luther had no great wish to go to the Diet, unless it was 
clearly understood that he was summoned not for the 
pjirpose of merely making a recantation, but in order that 
he might defend his views with full liberty of speech. He 
was not going to recant, and he could say so as easily and 
clearly at Wittenberg as at Worms. The situation had 
changed at Worms. The Emperor had come over to the 
nuncio's side completely. He now saw no need for Luther's 
appearance. The Diet had nothing to do but to place 
Luther under the ban of the Empire, because he had been 
declared to be a heretic by the Eoman Pontiff. Aleander 
claimed all the credit for this change ; but it is more than 

^Beichstagsakten, ii. pp. 518 ff. 

^ Brieger, Aleander und Luther 1521 : Die venollstandigten Aleander- 
Dejieschen nebst Unlersuchungen liber den Wm-mser Reichstag (Gotha, 1884), 
p. 19. 

' Deutsche Beichstagsakten unter Kaiser Carl V. (Gotha, 1896), ii. 466 ; 
Brieger, Alcamder, etc. pp. 19, 20. 


probable that the explanation lies ia the shifting imperial 
and papal policy. In the end of 1520 the policy of the 
Eoman Curia was strongly anti-imperialist. The Emperor's 
ambassador at Eome, Don Manuel, had been warning his 
master of the papal intrigues against him, and suggesting 
that Charles might show some favour to a " certain Martin 
Luther " ; and this advice might easily have inspired ths 
letter of the 28th of November. At all events the papal 
policy had been changing, and showing signs of becoming 
less hostile to the Emperor. However the matter be 
accounted for, Aleander found that after the Emperor's pre- 
sence within Worms it was much more easy for him to press 
the papal view about Luther upon Charles and his advisers.^ 

On the other hand, the Germans in the Diet held 
stoutly to the opinion that no countryman of theirs should 
be placed xmder the ban of the Empire without being heard 
in his defence, and that they and not the Bishop of Eome 
were to be the judges in the matter. 

The two months before Luther's appearance saw open 
opposition between the Emperor and the Diet, and abundant 
secret intrigue — an edict proposed against Luther,^ which 
the Diet refused to accept ; * an edict proposed to order the 
burning of Luther's books, which the Diet also objected 
to ; * this edict revised and limited to the seizure of 
Luther's writings, which was also found fault with by the 
Diet; and, finally, the Emperor issuing this revised edict 
on his own authority and without the consent of the Diet.* 

1 Of. p. 267, note. 

2 The draft was dated Febraary 15th, and will be found in the Eeichs- 
tagsakten, ii. 507 ff. 

^ The answer of the Diet was dated February 19th, and is to be fourd in 
the Reichstagsaitcn, ii. 514 ff., and discussions thereanent, pp. 517, 518 f. 

* The second draft edict proposed to summon Luther to make recanta- 
tion only, and at the same time ordered his books to be burnt, which was 
equivalent to a condemnation, Mcichstagsakten, ii. 520. 

" The revised draft edict in its final form was dated March 10th, four 
days after the citation and safe conduct, and it is probable that it was finally 
issued by the Emperor for the purpose of frightening Luther, and preventing 
him obeying the citation and trusting to the safe conduct, Heiclistagsakten, 
ii. 529 [f, and notes. 

Luther's journey to worms 273 

The command to appear before the Diet on April 16th, 
1521, and the imperial safe conduct were entrusted to the 
imperial herald, Caspar Strum, who delivered them at 
Wittenberg on the 26 th of March.^ Luther calmly finished 
some literary work, and left for the Diet on April 2nd. 
He believed that he was going to his death. " My dear 
brother," he said to Melanchthon at parting, " if I do not 
come back, if my enemies put me to death, you will go on 
teaching and standing fast in the truth ; if you live, my 
death will matter little." The journey seemed to the 
indignant Papists like a royal progress ; crowds came to 
bless the man who had stood up for Germany against the 
Pope, and who was going to his death for his courage ; 
they pressed into the inns where he rested, and often 
found him solacing himself with music. His lute was 
always comforting to him in times of excitement. Justus 
Jonas, the famous German Humanist, who had turned 
theologian much to Erasmus' disgust, joined him at Erfurt. 
The nearer he came to Worms, the sharper became the 
disputes there. Friends and foes feared that his presence 
would prove oil thrown on the flames. The Emperor 
began to wish he had not sent the summons. Messengers 
were despatched secretly to Sickingen, and a pension 
promised to Hutten to see whether they could not prevent 
Luther's appearance.^ Might he not take refuge in the 
Ebernberg, scarcely a day's journey from Worms ? Was 
it not possible to arrange matters in a private con- 
ference with Glapion, the Emperor's confessor ? Bucer 
was sent to persuade him. The herald significantly 
called his attention to the imperial edict ordering 
magistrates to seize his writings. But nothing daunted 
Luther. He would not go to the Ebernberg; he could 
see Glapion at Worms, if .the confessor wished an inter- 

' Luther received three safe conducts, one from the Emperor in the 
citation, one from the Elector of Saxony, and one from Duke George of 
Saxony. Eeichstagsakten, ii. 626 ff. 

" Cf. Aleander's letter of April 5th, 1521. Brieger, Aleander v,nd 
Luther, etc. jip. 119 ff. 
1 8* 


view ; what he had to say would be said publicly at 

Luther had reached Oppenheim, a town on the Ehine 
about fifteen miles north from Worms, and about twenty 
east from the Ebernberg, on April 14th. There he for 
the last time rejected the iusidious temptations of his 
enemies and the distracted counsels of his friends, that 
he should turn aside and seek shelter with Francis von 
Sickingen. There he penned his famous letter to Spalatin, 
that he would come to Worms if there were as many 
devils as tiles on the house roofs to prevent him, and 
at the same time asked where he was to lodge.^ 

The question was important. The Eomanists had 
wished that Luther should be placed under the Emperor's 
charge as a prisoner of State, or else lodged in the Convent 
of the Augustinian Eremites, where he could be under 
ecclesiastical surveillance. But the Saxon nobles and their 
Elector had resolved to trust no one with the custody of , 
their countryman. The Elector Frederick and part of his 
suite had found accommodation at an inn called The Swan, 
and the rest of his following were in the House of the 
Knights of St. John. Both houses were full ; but it was 
arranged that Luther was to share the room of two Saxon 
gentlemen, v. Hirschfeld and v. Schott, in the latter 
buUding.^ Next morning, Justus Jonas, who had reached 
Worms before Luther, after consultation with Luther's 
friends, left the town early on Tuesday morning (April 
1 6th) to meet the Eeform^r, and tell him the arrangements 
made. With him went the two gentlemen with whom 
Luther was to lodge.* A large number of Saxon noble- 
men with their attendants accompanied them. When it 
was known that they had set out to meet Luther, a great 
crowd of people (nearly two thousand, says Secretary 
Vogler), some on horseback and some on foot, followed to 
welcome Luther, and did meet him about two and a half 
miles from the town.* 

^ Spalatin's Avnahs Eeformatimis (Cyprian's edition), p. 38. 

"^ Reichstagsaktcn, ii. 850. ' Ibid. p. 850. •■ Ibid. p. 853, note. 


§ 4. Luther in Worms. 

A little before eleven o'clock the watcher on the tower 
by the Mainz Gate blew his horn to announce that the 
procession was in sight, and soon afterwards Luther entered 
the town. The people of Worms were at their Morgenimhiss 
or Fruhmahl, but all rushed to the windows or out into the 
streets to see the arrival.^ Caspar Sturm, the herald, rode 
first, accompanied by his attendant, the square yellow 
banner, emblazoned with the black two-headed eagle, 
attached to his bridle arm. Then came the cart, — a 
genuine Saxon Rollwegelin, — Luther and three companions 
sitting in the straw which half filled it. The waggon had 
been provided by the good town of Wittenberg, which had 
also hired Christian Goldschmidt and his three horses at 
three gulden a day.^ Luther's companions were his sociiLS 
itinerarius, Brother Petzensteiner of ZSTiirnberg ; * his 
colleague Nicholas Amsdorf ; and a student of Wittenberg, 
a young Pomeranian noble, Peter Swaven, who had been 
one of the Wittenberg students who had accompanied 
Luther with halbert and helmet to the Leipzig Disputation 
(July 1519). Justus Jonas rode immediately behind the 
waggon, and then followed the crowd of nobles and people 
who had gone out to meet the Eeformer. 

Aleander in his attic room heard the shouts and the 
trampling in the streets, and sent out one of his people to 
find out the cause, guessing that it was occasioned by 
Luther's arrival. The messenger reported that the pro- 
cession had made its way through dense crowds of people, 
and that the waggon had stopped at the door of the House 
of the Knights of St. John. He also informed the nuncio 
that Luther had got out, saying, as he looked round with 
his piercing eyes, Detis erit pro me, and that a priest had 

' Heichstagsaklen, ii. 863. 

^ Lingke, LulJier's SeisegeschicMe, pp. 83 f. 

' Every monk when on a journey had to be accompanied by a brother 
of the Order. Petzensteiner left his convent and married (July 1522), 
Kolde, AnaUcla Lutherana, p. 38. For the entry into Worms, of, 
neichstagsaUen, ii. 850, 859 ; Balan, Monumenta, etc. p. 179. 


stepped forward, received him in his arms, then touched 
or kissed his robe thrice with as much reverence as if he 
were handling the relicb of a saint. " They will say next," 
says Aleander in his wrath, "that the scoundrel works 
miracles." ^ 

After travel-stains were removed, Luther dined with 
ten or twelve friends. The early afternoon brought crowds 
of visitors, some of whom had come great distances to see 
him. Then came long discussions about how he was to act 
on the morrow before the Diet. The Saxon councillors 
V. Feilitzsch and v. Thun were in the same house with 
him : the Saxon Chancellor, v. Briick, and Luther's friend 
Spalatin, were at The Swan, a few doors away. Jerome 
Schurf, the Professor of Law in Wittenberg, had been 
summoned to Worms by the Elector to act as Luther's 
legal adviser, and had reached the town some days before 
the Eefdrmer. 

How much Luther knew of the secret intrigues that 
had been going on at Worms about his affairs it is 
impossible to say. He ' probably was aware that the 
Estates had demanded that he should have a hearing, 
and should be confronted by impartial theologians, and 
that the complaints of the German nation against Eome 
should 'be taken up at the same time ; also that the 
Emperor had refused to allow any theological discussion, 
or that the grievances against Eome should be part of 
the proceedings. All that was public property. The 
imperial summons and safe conduct had not treated him 
as a condemned heretic.^ He had been addressed in it as 
Ehrsamer, lieber, andachtiger — terms which would not have 
been used to a heretic, and which were ostentatiously 
omitted from the safe conduct sent him by Duke George of 
Saxony.* He knew also that the Emperor had nevertheless 
published an edict ordering the civil authorities to seize his 

' Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 143 ; Zeitschrifl f. KirchmigescTiichte, iv. 326. 
" Reichstagsakten, ii. 669 ; Fovstemann, UrkundeTihuch, 68 f., TisckreiUn, 
iy. 349 ; Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 146. 
^ Eeiehslagsaklcii, ii. 514, 519 f., 526, 


books, and to prevent more from being printed, published, 
or sold, and that such an edict threw doubts upon the 
value of the safe conduct.''^ But he probably did not know 
that this edict was a third draft issued by the Emperor 
without consulting the Diet. Nor is it likely that he 
knew how Aleander had been working day and night to 
prevent his appearance at the Diet from being more than 
a mere formality, nor how far the nuncio had prevailed 
with the Emperor and with his councillors. His friends 
could tell him all this — though even they were not aware 
until next morning how resolved the Emperor was that 
Luther should not be permitted to make a speech.^ They 
knew enough, however, to be able to impress on Luther 
that he must restrain himself, and act in such a way as to 
force the hands of his opponents, and gain permission to 
speak at length in a second audience. The Estates wished 
to hear him if the Emperor and his entourage had resolved 
to prevent him from speaking. These consultations probably 
settled the tactics which Luther followed on his first appear- 
ance before the Diet.* 

Next morning (Wednesday, April 17th), Ulrich von 
Pappenheim, the marshal of ceremonies, came to Luther's 
room before ten o'clock, and, greeting him courteously and 
with all respect, informed him that he was to appear before 
the Emperor and the Diet that day at four o'clock, when 
he would be informed why he had been summoned.* 
Immediately after the marshal had left, there came an 
urgent summons from a Saxon noble, Hans von Minkwitz, 
who was dying in his lodgings, that Luther would come to 
hear his confession and administer the sacrament to him. 
Luther instantly went to soothe and comfort the dying 
man, notwithstanding his own troubles.^ We have no 

' EeichslagsaMen, ii. 573. 

' Ibid. p. 891, where it is said that the imperial entourage and the 
dependants of the Curia hated a public appearance of Luther worse than 
foreigners dislike " Einbeoker beer." 

' Cf. Luther's letters to Cranach (April 21st, 1521), and to the Elector 
Frederick, De Wette, Dr. Martin LutJiers Briefe, etc. i. 588, 599. 

* BeichstagsakUn, ii. 545. ' Ibid. p. 869. 


information how the hours between twelve and four were 
spent. It is almost certain that there must have been 
another consultation. Spalatin and Briick had discovered 
that the conduct of the audience was not to be in the 
hands of Glapion, the confessor of the Emperor, as they 
had up to that time supposed, but in those of John Eck, 
the Orator or Official of the Archbishop of Trier.^ This 
looked badly for Luther. Eck had been officiously busy 
in burniag Luther's books at Trier ; he lodged in the same 
house and in the room next to the papal nuncio.^ Aleander, 
indeed, boasts that Eck was entirely devoted to him, and 
that he had been able to draft the question which Eck 
put to Luther during the first audience.* 

§ 5. Jywthers first Appearance iefore the Diet of Worms.^ 

A Httle before four o'clock, the marshal and Caspar 
Sturm, the herald, came to Luther's lodging to escort 
him to the audience hall. They led the Eeformer into 
the street to conduct him to the Bishop's Palace, where 
the Emperor was living along with his younger brother 
Ferdinand, afterwards King of the Eomans and Emperor, 
and where the Diet met.^ The streets were thronged; 
faces looked down from every window ; men and women 
had crowded the roofs to catch a glimpse of Luther as 
he passed. It was difficult to force a way through the 
crowd, and, besides, Sturm, who was responsible for 
Luther's safety, feared that some Spaniard might deal the 

■* The terms Orator and Official have a great many meanings in Mediaeval 
ecclesiastical Latin. They probably mean here the president of the Arch- 
bishop's. Ecclesiastical Court. John Eck was a Doctor of Canon Law. 
Archbishop Parker'signed himself the Orator of Cecil {Caletidar of State 
Papers, Elizabeth, Foreign Series, 1669-1560, p. 84). 

^ Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 145. ' Ibid. p. 145. 

* This paragraph and the succeeding one are founded on the following 
sources : The ofiBcial report written by John Eck of Trier ; the Acta Wm-macuB, 
a narrative in the hand^vl•iting of Spalatin ; and the statements of fourteen 
persons, Germans, Italians, and a Spaniard, all present in the Diet on the 
17th and 18th of April 1521. 

" Eeichstagsakten, ii. 574. 


Eeformer a blow with a dagger in the crowd. So the 
three turned into the court of the Swan Hotel ; from it 
they got into the garden of the House of the Knights of 
St. John ; and, as most of the courts and gardens of the 
houses communicated with each other, they were able to 
get into the court of the Bishop's Palace without again 
appearing on the street.^ 

The court of the Palace was full of people eager to see 
Luther, most of them evidently friendly. It was here 
that old General Frundsberg, the most illustrious soldier in 
Germany, who was to be the conqueror in the famous fight 
at Pavia, clapped Luther kindly on the shoulder, and said 
words which have been variously reported. " My poor 
monk ! my little monk ! thou art on thy way to make a 
stand as I and many of my knights have never done in our 
toughest battles. If thou art sure of the justice of thy 
cause, then forward in the name of God, and be of good 
courage : God will not forsake thee." From out the crowd, 
" here and there and from every corner, came voices say- 
ing, ' Play the man ! Fear not death ; it can but slay the 
body : there is a life beyond.' " ^ They went up the stair 
and entered the audience hall, which was crammed. While 
the marshal and the herald forced a way for Luther, he 
passed an old acquaintance, the deputy from Augsburg. 
" Ah, Doctor Peutinger," said Luther, " are you here too ? "^ 
Then he was led to where he was to stand before the 
Emperor ; and these two lifelong opponents saw each other 
for the first time. " The fool entered smiling," says 
Aleander (perhaps the lingering of the smile with which 
he had just greeted Dr. Peutinger) : " he looked slowly 
round, and his face sobered." " When he faced the 
Emperor," Aleander goes on to say, " he could not hold 
his head still, but moved it up and down and from side 
to side." * All eyes were fixed on Luther, and many an 
account was written describing his appearance. " A man 
of middle height," says an imsigned Spanish paper pre- 

' Reichatagsakten, ii. 547. ° IWd. p. 549. 

* Ibid. p. 862. * Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 147. 


served in the British Museum, " with a strong face, a 
sturdy build of body, with eyes that scintillated and were 
never still. He was clad ia the robe of the Augustinian 
Order, but with a belt of hide, with a large tonsure, 
newly shaven, and a coronal of short thick hair."^ All 
noticed his gleaming eyes ; and it was remarked that when 
his glance fell on an Italian, the man moved uneasily in 
his seat, as if " the evil eye was upon him." Meanwhile, 
in the seconds before the silence was broken, Luther was 
making his observations. He noticed the swarthy Jewish- 
looking face of Aleander, with its gleam of hateful triimiph. 
" So the Jews must have looked at Christ," he thought.^ 
He saw the young Emperor, and near him the papal nuncios 
and the great ecclesiastics of the Empire. A wave of pity 
passed through him as he looked. " He seemed to me," 
he said, " like some poor lamb among swine and hounds." * 
There was a table or bench with some books upon it. When 
Luther's glance fell on them, he saw that they were his own 
writings, and could not help wondering how they had got 
there.* He did not know that Aleander had been collecting 
them for some weeks, and that, at command of the Emperor, 
he had handed them over to John Eck, the Official of Trier, 
for the purposes of the audience.^ Jerome Schurf made 
his way to Luther's side, and stood ready to assist in legal 

The past and the future faced each other — the young 
Emperor in his rich robes of State, with his pale, vacant- 
looking face, but " carrying more at the back of his head 
than his countenance showed," the descendant of long lines 
of kings, determined to maintain the beliefs, rites, and rules 
of that Mediaeval Church which his ancestors had upheld ; 
and the monk, with his wan face seamed with the traces 
of spiritual conflict and victory, in the poor dress of his 

' SeiclistagsaJcten, ii. 632. 

" De Wette, Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe. eto. i. 689. 

' Luther's Works (Erlangen edition), xxiv. 322. 

*Jhid. Ixiv. 369. 

" Brieger, Aleander, eto. p. 146. 


Order, a peasant's son, resolute to cleave a way for the new 
faith of evangelical freedom, the spiritual birthright of all 

The strained silence^ was broken by the Official of 
Trier, a man of lofty presence, saying, in a clear, ringing 
voice so that all could hear distinctly, first in Latin and 
then in German : 

" ' Martin Luther, His Imperial Majesty, Sacred and 
Victorious (sacra et invicta), on the advice of all the 
Estates of the Holy Eoman Empire, has ordered you to be 
summoned here to the throne of His Majesty, in order that 
you may recant and recall, according to the force, form, and 
meaning of the citation-mandate decreed against you by 
His Majesty and communicated legally to you, the books, 
both in Latin and in German, pubHshed by you and spread 
abroad, along with their contents : Wherefore I, in the name 
of His Imperial Majesty and of the Princes of the Empire, 
ask you : First, Do you confess that these books exhibited 
in ^our presence (I show him a bundle of books written 
in Latin and in German) and now named one by one, which 
have been circulated with your name on the title-page, are 
yours, and do you acknowledge them to be yours ? Secondly, 
Do you wish to retract and recall them and their contents, 
or do you mean to adhere to them and to reassert them ? '" * 

The books were not named ; so Jerome Schurf called 
out, " Let the titles be read." ^ Then the notary, Maximilian 
Siebenberger (called Transilvanus),* stepped forward and, 
taking up the books one by one, read their titles and 
briefly described their contents.^ Then Luther, having 
briefly and precisely repeated the two questions put to 
him, said : 

^ BeichslagsaTcten, ii. 633. ' Ibid. p. 588. 

'iJid. p. 547. <i6M?. p. 633. 

' The names of the hooks collected and placed on the tahle have been 
curiously preserved on a scrap of paper stored in the archives of the Vatican 
Library ; they were all editions published by Frobenius of Basel {Seichstags- 
akten, ii. 548 and note). It may be suffacient to say that among them 
(twenty-five or so) were the appeal To the Christian Nobility of the German 
Nation, the tract On the Liberty of a Christian Man, The Babylonian Cap- 
tivity of the Church of Christ, Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist, some 
commentaries, and some tracts on religious subjects "not contentious," says 
the official record. 


" ' To which I answer as shortly and correctly as I am 
able. I cannot deny that the books named are mine, and I 
will never deny any of them : ^ they are all my offspring ; 
and I have written some others which have not been named.^ 
But as to what follows, whether I shall reaffirm in the same 
terms all, or shall retract what I may have uttered beyond 
the authority of Scripture, — because the matter involves a 
question of faith and of the salvation of souls, and because it 
concerns the Word of God, which is the greatest thing in 
heaven and on earth, and which we all must reverence, — it 
would be dangerous and rash in me to make any unpre- 
meditated declaration, because in unpremeditated speech I 
might say something less than the fact and something more 
than the truth ; besides, I remember the saying of Christ 
when He declared, " Whosoever shall deny Me before men, 
him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven, 
and before His angels." For these reasons I beg, with 
all respect, that your Imperial Majesty give me time to 
deliberate, that I may answer the question without injury 
to the Word of God and without peril to my own soul.' " * 

Luther made his answer in a low voice — so low that 
the deputies from Strassburg, who were sitting not far 
from him, said that they could not hear him distinctly.* 
Many present inferred from the low voice that Luther's 
spirit was broken, and that he was beginning to be afraid. 
But from what followed it is evident that Luther's whole 
procedure on this first appearance before the Diet was in- 
tended to defeat the intrigues of Aleander, which had for 

^ This was probably an answer to the suggestion made by Glapion to 
Chancellor Briick, that if Luther would only deny the authorship of the 
Babylonian Captivity of the Church of Christ, which had been published 
anonymously, matters might be arranged. 

' The sentence, " Apd I have written some others which have not been 
named," was an aside spoken in a lower tone, but distinctly (Eeichstagsakteiv, 
ii. 589, 860). 

• BeicJistagsaJcten, ii. 548. In Eok's ofBcial report Luther's answer is 
given very briefly ; instead of Luther's words the OfBcial says : " As to the 
other part of the question, whether he wished to retract their contents and 
to sing another tune {palinodiam canere), he began to invent a chain of idle 
reasons (cawsas nectere) and to seek means of escape [diffugias gucerere) " ■ 
{Seichstagsakten, ii. 589). 

* Seichstagsakten, ii. 851, 863 : "Wir habent den Luther nit wol horen 
reden, dann er mit niederer stim geredet" (Kolde, Aiialecta, p. 30 n.). 


their aim to prevent the Eeformer addressing the Diet in 
a long speech ; and in this he succeeded, as Briick and 
Spalatin hoped he would. 

The Estates then proceeded to deliberate on Luther's 
request. Aleander says that the Emperor called his 
councillors about him ; that the Electors talked with each 
other ; and that the separate Estates deliberated separately.^ 
We are informed by the report of the Venetian ambassadors 
that there was some difficulty among some of them in 
acceding to Luther's request. But at length the Official 
of Trier again addressed Luther : 

" ' Martin, you were able to know from the imperial man- 
date why you were summoned here, and therefore you do 
not really require any time for further deliberation, nor is 
there any reason why it should be granted. Yet His Im- 
perial Majesty, moved by his natural clemency, grants you 
one day for deliberation, and you will appear here to- 
morrow at the same hour, — but on the understanding that 
you do not give your answer in writing, but by word of 
mouth.' "2 

The sitting, which, so far as Luther was concerned, had 
occupied about an hour, was then declared to be ended, 
and he was conducted back to his room by the herald. 
There he sat down and wrote to his friend Cuspinian in 
Vienna " from the midst of the tumult " : 

"This hour I have been before the Emperor and his 
brother, and have been asked whether I would recant my 
books. I have said that the books were really mine, and 

' Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 146. 

^ Heichstagsakten, ii. 549. Aleander, writing to Kome, says that the 
Official went on to say in the name of the Emperor that Luther ought to 
bear it in mind that he had written many things against the Pope and the 
Apostolic Chair, and had scattered recklessly many heretical statements 
which had caused great scandal, and which, if not speedily ended, would 
kindle such a great conflagration as neither Luther's recantation nor the 
imperial power could extinguish ; and that he exhorted Luther to be miudlul 
of this (Brieger, Aleander, p. 147). In Eck's official report these remarks are 
given as the opinions of those princes who did not wish that Luther's request 
should be granted ; but they must have been included in his speech, for 
Peutinger confirms the nuncio's report {Eeichstagsakien, ii. 689 f. , 860). 


have asked for some delay about recantation. They have 
given me no longer space and time than till to-morrow for 
deliberation. Christ helping me, I do not mean to recant 
one jot or tittle." ^ 

§ 6. Luther's Second Appearance hefore the Diet. 

The next day, Thursday, April 18 th, did not afford much 
time for deliberation. Luther was besieged by visitors. 
Familiar friends came to see him in the morning ; German 
nobles thronged his hostel at midday; Bucer rode over 
from the Ebernberg in the afternoon with congratulations 
on the way that the first audience had been got through, 
and bringing letters from Ulrich von Hutten. His friends 
were almost astonished at his cheerfulness. " He greeted 
me and others," said Dr. Peutinger, who was an early caller, 
" quite cheerfully — ' Dear Doctor,' he said, ' how is yom- 
wife and child ? ' I have never found or seen him other 
than the right good fellow he is." ^ George Vogler and 
others had " much pious conversation " with him, and 
wrote, praising his thorough heroism.^ The German nobles 
greeted Luther with a bluff heartiness — "Herr Doctor, 
How are you ? People say you are to be burnt ; that will 
never do ; that would ruin everything." * 

The marshal and the herald came for Luther a little 
after four o'clock, and led him by the same private devious 
ways to the Bishop's Palace. The crowds on the streets 
were even larger than on the day before. It was said 
that more than five thousand people, Germans and 
foreigners, were crushed together in the street before the 
Palace. The throng was so dense that some of the dele- 
gates, like Oelhafen from Niiruberg, could not get through 
it.* It was six o'clock before the Emperor, accompanied 

' De Wette, Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, i. 687. 

^ Reichslagsakten, ii. 862. ' IbM. p. 853. 

^ Heichstagsakten, ii. 549 n. ; Luther's Works (Erlangen edition), Ixiv. 869. 

° " I was on my way to the audience to hear (Luther's) speech, but the 
throng was so dense that I could not get through " (Sixtus Oelhafen to Hector 
Pomer, Heichstagsakten, ii. 854). 


by the Electors and princes, entered the hall. Luther and 
the herald had been kept waiting in the court of the Palace 
for more than an hour and a half, bruised by the dense 
moving crowd. In the hall the throng was so great that 
the princes had some difficulty in getting to their seats, 
and found themselves uncomfortably crowded when they 
reached them.^ Two notable men were absent. The papal 
nuncios refused to be present when a heretic was permitted 
to speak. Such proceedings were the merest tomfoolery 
(ribaldaria), Aleander said. When Luther reached the 
door, he had still to wait ; the princes were occupied in 
reaching their places, and it was not etiquette for him to 
appear until they were seated.^ The day was darkening, 
and the gloomy hall flamed with torches.^ Observers re- 
marked Luther's wonderful cheerful countenance as he 
made his way to his place.* 

The Emperor had intrusted the procedure to Aleander, 
to his confessor Glapion, and to John Eck, who had con- 
ducted the audience on the previous day.* The Official 
was again to have the conduct of matters in his hands. 
As soon as Luther was in his place, Eck " rushed into 
words " (prorupit in verha).^ He began by recapitulating 
what had taken place at the first audience ; and in saying 
that Luther had asked time for consideration, he insinuated 
that every Christian ought to be ready at all times to give 
a reason for the faith that is in him, much more a learned 
theologian like Luther. He declared that it was now time 
for Luther to answer plainly whether he adhered to the 
contents of the books he had acknowledged to be his, or 
whether he was prepared to recant them. He spoke first 
in Latin and then in German, and it was noticed that his 
speech in Latin was very bitter.^ 

Then Luther delivered his famous speech before the 
Diet. He had freed himself from the web of intrigue that 

> SeichstagsaUen, ii. 864. ' Waloh, xv. 2301. 

' Hid. p. 2233. * ReichstagsaHen, ii. 863. 

• Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 172. • Beiehstagsahten, ii. 549. 
' IMd. p. 550. 


Aleander had been at such pains to weave round him to 
compel him to silence, and stood forth a free German to 
plead his cause before the most illustrious audience the 
Fatherland could offer to any of its sons. 

Before him was the Emperor and his brother Ferdinand, 
Archduke of Austria, destined to be King of the Eomans 
and Emperor in days to come, and beside them, seated, all 
the Electors and the great Princes of the Empii-e, lay and 
ecclesiastical, among them four Cardinals. All round him 
standing, for there was no space for seats, the Counts, Free 
Nobles and Knights of the Empire, and the delegates of 
the great cities, were closely packed together.^ Ambas- 
sadors and the political agents of almost all the countries 
in Europe were there to swell the crowd — ready to report 
the issue of this momentous day. For all believed that 
whatever weighty business for Germany was discussed 
at this Diet, the question raised by Luther was one of 
European importance, and affected the countries which 
they represented. The rumour had gone about, founded 
mainly on the serene appearance of Luther, that the 
monk was about to recant ; ^ and most of the political 
agents earnestly hoped it might be true. That and that 
only would end, they believed, the symptoms of disquiet 
which the governments of every land were anxiously 

The diligence of Wrede has collected and printed in 
the Reichstagsakten^ several papers, all of which profess 
to give Luther's speech ; but they are mere summaries, 
some longer and some shorter, and give no indication of 
the power which thrilled the audience. Its effect must be 
sought for in the descriptions of the hearers. 

The specimens of his books which had been collected 
by Aleander were so representative that Luther could speak 
of all his writings. He divided them into three classes. 
He had written books for edification which he could truly 
say had been approved by all men, friends and foes alike, 

' Myoonius, Historia Kefm-mationis (Leipzig, 1718), p. 39. 

"^ Beichstagsajcten, ii, 578, '^ Jbid. pp. 550 ff,, 557 ff,, 591 ff, etc, 


and it was scarcely to be expected that he, the author, 
should be the only man to recant the contents of such 
writings as even the Papal Bull had commended. In a 
second class of writings he had attacked the papal tyranny 
which all Germany was groaning under ; to recant the 
contents of these books would be to make stronger and 
less endurable the monstrous evil he had protested against ; 
he therefore refused to recall such writings ; no loyal 
German could do so. He had also written against indi- 
vidual persons who had supported the Papacy ; it was pos- 
sible that he had written too strongly in some places and 
against some men ; he was only a man and not God, and 
was liable to make mistakes ; he remembered how Christ, 
who could not err, had acted when He was accused, and 
imitating Him, he was quite ready, if shown to be wrong, 
by evangelical or prophetic witnesses, to renounce his 
errors, and if he were convinced, he assured the Emperor 
and princes assembled that he would be the first to throw 
his books into the fire. He dwelt upon the power of the 
word of God which must prevail over everything, and 
showed that many calamities in times past had fallen upon 
nations who had neglected its teachings and warnings. 
He concluded as follows : 

" I do not say that there is any need for my teaching 
or warning the many princes before me, but the duty I owe 
to my Germany will not allow me to recant. With these 
words I commend myself to your most serene Majesty and to 
your principalities, and humbly beg that you will not permit 
my accusers to triumph over me causelessly. I have spoken 

Luther had spoken in Latin ; he was asked to repeat 
what he had said in German. The Hall ha,d been packed ; 
the torches gave forth warmth as well as light. Luther 
steamed with perspiration, and looked wan and overpowered; 
the heat was intense. Friends thought that the further 
effort would be too much for his strength. The Saxon 
councillor, Frederick von Thun, regardless of etiquette, 
called out loudly, " If you cannot do it you have done 


enough, Herr Doctor." ^ But Luther went on and finished 
his address in German. His last words were, "Here I 
stand (Hie lin Ich)." 

Aleander, the papal nuncio, who was not present, relates 
that while Luther was speaking of the books in which he 
had attacked the Papacy, and was proceeding " with great 
venom " to denounce the Pope,^ the Emperor ordered him 
to pass from that subject and to proceed with his other 
matters. The Emperor had certainly told the Estates that 
he would not allow the question of Luther's orthodoxy and 
complaiats against the Holy See to be discussed together; 
and that lends some support to Aleander's statement.^ But 
when it is seen that not one of the dozen deputies present 
who write accounts of the scene mentions the interruption ; 
when it is not found in the official report ; when it is 
remembered that Charles could not understand either 
German or Latin, the story of the interruption is a very 
unlikely one. Aleander was not remarkable for his veracity 
— "a man, to say the least, not bigotedly truthful (wo» 
superstitiose verax)," says Erasmus ; * and the nuncio on one 
occasion boasted to his masters in Eome that he coid.d He 
well when occasion required it.^ 

Several letters descriptive of the scene, written by men 
who were present in the Diet, reveal the intense interest 
taken by the great majority of the audience in the appear- 
ance and speech of Luther. His looks, his language, the 
attitude in which he stood, are all described. When artists 
portray the scene, either on canvas or in bronze, Luther 
is invariably represented standing upright, his shoulders 
squared, and his head thrown back. That was not how 
he stood before Charles and the Diet. He was a monk, 

' Luther's Works (Erlangen edition), Ixiv. 370. 

' Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 152. 

' Beichstagsakten, ii. 630. 

* Desiderii Erasmi RoUrodami Opera Omnia (Leyden, 1703), iii. 1095 : 
"Jam audio multia persuasum, ex meis soriptis exstitisse totam hano 
Eoclesise procellam : cojus veiissimi rumoris prseoipuus auotor fuit Hierony- 
mus Aleander, homo, ut nihil aliud dicam, non superstitiose verax." 

° Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 41. 


trained in the conventional habits of monl^ish humility. 
He stood with a stoop of the head and shoulders, with the 
knees slightly bent, and without gestures. The only trace of 
, bodily emotion was betrayed by bending and straightening his 
knees.i He addressed the Emperor and the Estates with 
all respect, — "Most serene Lord and Emperor, most illus- 
trious Princes, most clement Lords," — and apologised for 
any lack of etiquette on the ground that he was convent - 
bred and knew nothing of the ways of Courts ; but it was 
noticed by more than one observer that he did not address 
the spiritual princes present.^ Many a witness describes 
the charm of his cheerful, modest, but undaunted bearing.^ 
The Saxon official account says, " Luther spoke simply, 
quietly, modestly, yet not without Christian courage and 
fidelity — in such a way, too, that his enemies would have 
doubtless preferred a more abject spirit and speech " ; and 
it goes on to relate that his adversaries had confidently 
counted on a recantation, and that they were correspond- 
ingly disappointed.* Many expected that, as he had never 
before been in such presence, the strange audience would 
have disconcerted him ; but, to their surprise and delight, 
he spoke "confidently, reasonably, and prudently, as if 
he were in his own lecture-room."^ Luther himself was 
surprised that the unaccustomed surroundings affected him 
so little. " When it came to my turn," he says, " I just 
went on." * The beauty of his diction pleased his audience 
— "many fair and happy words," say Dr. Peutinger and 

When Luther had finished, the Official, mindful that it 
was his duty to extract from Luther a distinct recantation, 
addressed him in a threatening' manner {increpdbundo 
similis), and told him that his answer had not been to the 
point. The question was that Luther, in some of his books, 
denied decisions of Councils : Would he reaffirm or recant 
what he had said about these decisions ? the Emperor 

1 JteichstagmMen, ii. 860 n. " Ibid. p. 860. » Ibid. p. 853. 

■• Ibid. pp. 550, 551. " Myconius, Eistoria Beformationis, p. 39. 

• Waloh, XV. 233. ' Meichstagsakten, ii, 861. 
1 9* 


demanded a plaiu (non cornutum) answer. " If His Imperidl 
Majesty desires a plain answer," said Lnther, " I will give 
it to him, neque cornutum rieqv^ dentatum, and it is this : 
It is impossible for me to recant unless I am proved to be 
in the wrong by the testimony of Scripture or by evident 
reasoning; I cannot trust either the decisions of Councils 
or of Popes, for it is plain that they have not only erred, 
but have contradicted each other. My conscience is thirled 
to the word of God, and it is neither safe nor honest to act 
against one's conscience. God help me ! Amen ! " ^ 

When he had finished, the Emperor and the princes 
consulted together; then at a sign from Charles,^ the 
Official addressed Luther at some length. He told him 
that in his speech he had abused the clemency of the 
Emperor, and had added to his evil deeds by attacking the 
Pope and Papists (pajjisice) before the Diet. He briefly 
recapitulated Luther's speech, and said that he had not suffi- 
ciently distinguished between his books and his opinions ; 
there might be room for discussion had Luther brought 
forward anything new, but his errors were old — the errors 
of the Poor Men of Lyons, WicUf, of John and Jerome 
Huss (the learned Official gave Huss a brother unknown 
to history),^ which were decided upon at the Council of 
Constance, where the whole German nation had been 
gathered together; he again asked him to retract such 
opinions. To this Luther replied as before, that General 
Councils had erred, and that his conscience did not allow 
him to retract. By this time the torches had burnt to 
their sockets, and the hall was growing dark.* Wearied 
with the crowd and the heat, numbers were preparing to 
leave. The Official, making a last effort, called out loudly, 
" Martin, let your conscience alone ; recant your errors and 
you will be safe and sound ; you can never show that a 
Council has erred." Luther declared that Councils had 
erred, and that he could prove it.^ Upon this the Emperor 

' Reiclistagsakten, ii. 555. ^ Ibid. p. 591. ' Ihid. p. 861 n. 

* Cochlaeus, Commentarius, etc. p. 34. 

" licichstoffsakten, ii. 666-558, 581, 582, 591-594. 


made a sign to end the matter.^ The last words Luther 
was heard to say were, " God come to my help " {Got kmn 
mir zu. Mlf)? 

It is evident from almost all the reports that from the 
time that Luther had finished his great speech there was a 
good deal of confusion, and probably of conversation, among 
the audience. All that the greater portion of those present 
heard was an altercation between Luther and the Official, 
due, most of the Germans thought, to the overbearing 
conduct of Eck, and which the Italians and Spaniards 
attributed to the pertinacity of Luther.^ " Luther asserted 
that Councils had erred several times, and had given 
decisions against the law of God. The Official said No ; 
Luther said Yes, and that he could prove it. So the matter 
came to an end for that time."* But all understood that 
there was a good deal said about the Council of Constance, 

The Emperor left his throne to go to his private 
rooms; the Electors and the princes sought their hotels. 
A number of Spaniards, perceiving that Luther turned to 
leave the tribunal, broke out into hootings, and followed 
"the man of God with prolonged bowlings."^ Then the 
Germans, nobles and delegates from the towns, ringed him 

^ Aleander wrote that the Emperor said that he did not wish to hear 
more : et allora fii detio per Cesar, che lasiava et che non mleva piu udir, ex 
quo questui Tiegava li Concilii (Brieger, Aleander, etc. p. 153). 

^ Eeichstagsakten, ii. 862 (Dr. Peutinger to the Council of Augsburg). 
The famous ending : HU stehe ich, ich harm nicht anders thun, Goit helfe 
mir. Amen, which gives such a dramatic finish to the whole scene, is not 
to b'e found in the very earliest records. It first appeared in an account 
published in Wittenberg without date, but which is probably very early, 
and also In the 1546 edition of Luther's Works. Various versions are given 
of the last words Luther uttered — Gott helf mir. Amen, in the Acta Worm- 
aciee {Seichstagsakten, ii. 557), which are believed to have been corrected by 
Luther himself ; So helf mir Gott, denn kein widerspruch kan ich nicht thun. 
Amen, is given bySpalatin in his Annates (p. 41). Every description of the 
scene coming from contemporary sources shows that there was a great deal 
of confusion; it is most likely that in the excitement men carried awaj 
only a general impression and not an exact recollection of the last words »<; 
Luther. If it were not for Dr. Peutinger's very definite statement written 
almost immediately after the event, there seems to be no reason why the 
dramatic ending should not have been the real one. 

" Eeichstagsakten,, ii. 636. " Ibid. p. 862. » Ibid. p. 558. 


round to protect him, and as they passed from the hall 
they^aU at once, and Luther in the midst of them, thrust 
forward arms and raised hands high above their heads, in 
the way that a German knight was accustomed to do when 
he had unhorsed his antagonist in the tourney, or that a 
German landsknecht did when he had struck a victorious 
blow. The Spaniards rushed to the door shouting after 
Luther, " To the fire with him, to the fire ! " ^ The crowd 
on the street thought that Luther was being sent to prison, 
and thought of a rescue.^ Luther calmed them by saying 
that the company were escorting him home. Thus, with 
hands held high in stern challenge to Holy Eoman Empire 
and mediaeval Church, they accompanied Luther to his 

Friends had got there before him — Spalatin, ever 
faithful ; Oelhafen, who had not been able to reach his 
place in the Diet because of the throng. Luther, with 
beaming face, stretched out both his hands, exclaiming, 
" I am through, I am through ! " ^ In a few minutes 
Spalatin was called away. He soon returned. The old 
Elector had summoned him only to say, " How well, father. 
Dr. Luther spoke this day before the Emperor and the 
Estates ; but he is too bold for me." The sturdy old German 
prince wrote to his brother John, " From what I have 
heard this day, I will never believe that Luther is a heretic " ; 
and a few days later, "At this Diet, not only Annas and 
Caiaphas, but also PUate and Herod, have conspired against 
Luther." Frederick of Saxony was no Lutheran, like his 
brother John and his nephew John Frederick ; and he 
was the better able to express what most German princes 
were thinking about Luther and his appearance before the 

' ReichsiagsaMcn, ii. 636. Aleander says tliat Luther alone raised his 
hand and made this gesture ; ho was not present ; the Spaniard who 
recounts the incident as given above was a spectator of the scene. 

^ Lutlier's Worlcs (Erlangen edition), Ixiv. 370 ; "Wranipelmeyer, Tage- 
huch ilber Dr. Martin Lutlier, ge/iihrt von Dr. Conrad CordaUis, p. 477 ; 
et descendi de pretorio conduclus, do sprangen Ocsclhn lierfur, die saglen, 
" JFic, fart yhr ]ilin ge/augsii? Das must nhht scin." 

^ Reichslagsaklcn, ii. S53. 


Diet. Even Duke George was stirred to a momentary 
admiration ; and Duke Eric of Brunswick, who had taken 
the papal side, could not sit down to supper without sending 
Luther a can of Einbecker beer from his own table.-' As for 
the commonalty, there was a wild uproar in the streets of 
Worms that night — men cursing the Spaniards and Italians, 
and praising Luther, who had compelled the Emperor and 
the prelates to hear what he had to say, and who had 
voiced the complaints of the Fatherland against the Eoman 
Curia at the risk of his life. The voice of the people found 
utterance in a placard, which next morning was seen posted 
up on the street corners of the town, " Woe to the land 
whose king is a child." It was the beginning of the 
disillusion of Germany. The people had believed that 
they were securing a German Emperor when, in a fit of 
enthusiasm, they had called upon the Electors to choose 
the grandson of Maximilian. They were beginning to find 
that they had selected a Spaniard. 

§ 7. The Conferences. 

Next day (April 19th) the Emperor proposed that 
Luther should be placed imder the ban of the Empire. 
The Estates were not-satisfied, and insisted that something 
should be done to effect a compromdse. Luther had not 
been treated as they had proposed in their memorandum of 
the 19 th February. He had been peremptorily ordered to 
retract. The Emperor had permitted Aleander to regulate 
the order of procedure on the day previous (April 18th), 
and the result had not been satisfactory. Even the Elector 
of Brandenburg and his brother, the hesitating Archbishop 
of Mainz, did not wish matters to remain as they were. 
They knew the feelings of the German people, if they were 
ignorant of the Emperor's diplomatic dealings with the 
Pope. The Emperor gave Way, but told them that he would 
let them hear his own view of the matter. He produced 
a sheet of paper, and read a short statement prepared by 
' Selneoker, Sistoria . . . D. M. Lutheri (1575), p. 108. 


himself in the French tongue — the language with which 
Charles was most familiar. It was the memorable declara- 
tion of his own religious position, which has been referred 
to already.! Aleander reports that several of the princes 
became pale as death when they heard it.^ In later 
discussions the Emperor asserted with warmth that he 
would never change one iota of his declaration. 
\ Nevertheless, the Diet appointed a Commission (April 
22nd) to confer with Luther, and at its head was placed 
the Archbishop of Trier, who was perhaps the only one 
among the higher ecclesiastics of Germany whom Luther 
thoroughly trusted. They had several meetings with the 
Eeformer, the first being on the 24th of April All the 
members of the Commission were sincerely anxious to 
arrange a compromise ; but after the Emperor's declaration 
that was impossible, as Luther himself clearly saw. No set 
of resolutions, however skilfully framed, could reconcile the 
Emperor's belief that a General Council was infallible and 
Luther's phrase, " a conscience bound to the Holy Scrip- 
tures." No proposals to leave the final decision to the 
Emperor and the Pope, to the Emperor alone, to the 
Emperor and the Estates, to a future General Council (all 
of which were made), could patch up a compromise between 
two such contradictory standpoints. Compromise must 
fail in a fight of faiths, and that was the nature of the 
opposition between Charles v. and Luther throughout their 
lives. What divided them was no subordinate question 
about doctrine or ritual ; it was fundamental, amounting to 
an entirely different conception of the whole round of 
rehgion. The moral authority of the individual conscience 
confronted the legal authority of an ecclesiastical assembly. 
In after days the monk regretted that he had not spoken 
out more boldly before the Diet. Shortly before his death, 

^ Cf. p. 264-5. The complete text of the Emperor's declaration is to be 
found in the BeichstagsaTcten, ii. 594 ;' Forsteraann, Xeiies Urkundenbmch 
stir Oeschickte der evangelisclien Kirchen-Riformation (Hamburg, 1842), i. 75 ; 
Armstrong, The Emperor Charles V., i. 70 (London. 1902). 

^ Brieger, Aleander und Luther 1521, p. 154 (Gotha, 1884): Dove rrtoltx 
riinasero piiipallidi che sefosscro stati morti. 

Luther's disappearance 295 

the Emperor expressed his regret that he had not burned 
the obstinate heretic. When the Commission had failed, 
Luther asked leave to reveal his whole innermost thoughts 
to the Archbishop of Trier, under the seal of confession, 
and the two had a memorable private interview. Aleander 
fiercely attacked the Archbishop for refusing to disclose 
what passed between them ; but the prelate was a German 
bishop with a conscience, and not an unscrupulous 
dependant on a shameless Curia. No one knew what 
Luther's confession was. The Commission had to report 
that its efforts had proved useless. Luther was ordered to 
leave Worms and return to Wittenberg, without preaching 
on the journey ; his safe conduct was to expire in twenty- 
one days after the 26 th of April. At their expiry he was 
liable to be seized and put to death as a pestilent heretic. 
There remained only to draft and publish the. edict con- 
taining the ban. The days passed, and it did not appear. 

Suddenly the startling news reached Worms that 
Luther had disappeared, no one knew where. Aleander, as 
usual, had the most exact information, and gives the fullest 
account of the rumours which were flying about. Coch- 
laeus, who was at Frankfurt, sent him a man who had 
been at Eisenach, had seen Luther's uncle, and had been 
told by him about the capture. Five horsemen had dashed 
at the travelling waggon, had seized Luther, and had ridden 
off with him. Who the captors were or by whose authority 
they had acted, no one could tell, " Some blame me," says 
Aleander, " others the Archbishop of Mainz : would God it 
were true ! " Some thought that Sickingen had carried 
him off to protect him ; others, the Elector of Saxony ; 
others, the Count of Mansfeld. One persistent rumour 
declared that a personal enemy of the Elector of Saxony, 
one Hans Beheim, had been the captor ; and the Emperor 
rather believed it. On May 14th a letter reached Worms 
saying that Luther's body had been found in a silver-mine 
pierced with a dagger. The news flew over Germany and 
beyond it that Luther had been done to death by emissaries 
of the Eoman Curia ; and so persistent was the belief, that 


Aleander prepared to justify the deed by alleging that the 
Eeformer had broken the imperial safe conduct by preaching 
at Eisenach and by addressing a concourse of people at 
Frankfurt.^ Albert Diirer, in Ghent, noted down in his 
private diary that Luther, "the God-inspired man," had 
been slain by the Pope and his priests as our Lord had 
been put to death by the priests in Jerusalem. " God, 
if Luther is dead, who else can expound the Holy Gospel 
to us ! " * Friends wrote distracted letters to Wittenberg 
imploring Luther to teU them whether he was alive or 
imprisoned.^ The news created the greatest consternation 
and indignation ia Worms. The Emperor's decision had 
been little liked even by the princes most incensed against 
Luther. Aleander could not get even the Archbishop of 
Mainz to promise that he would publish it. When the 
Commission of the Diet had failed to effect a compromise, 
the doors of the Eathhaus and of other pubHe buildings 
in Worms had been placarded with an intimation that 
four hundred knights had sworn that they would not 
leave Luther unavenged, and the omiaous words JSundschuh, 
Bundschuh, Bwndsehuh had appeared on it. The Emperor 
had treated the matter lightly ; but the German Eomanist 
princes had been greatly alarmed.* They knew, if he did 
not, that the union of peasants with the lower nobility had 
been a possible soui-ce of danger to Germany for nearly a 
century; they remembered that it was this combination 
which had made the great Bohemian rising successfuL 
Months after the Diet had risen, Eomanist partisans in 
Germany sent anxious communications to the Pope about 

1 Brieger, Luther und Aleander ISSl (Gotha, 1884), pp. 208 £F. j Kalkoff, 
Die Depeschen, des Nwniius Aleander vom Wormser Beichstage 15S1 (Halle, 
1897), pp. 235 ff. 

^ Leitschuh, Alhrecht Diirer's Tagebuch der Beise in die Niederlande 
(Leipzig, 1884), pp. 82-84. 

' Kolde, Analecta Lutherana (Gotha, 1883), pp. 31, 32 : " Quare, mi 
doctissime Luthere, si me amas, si religuos, qui adhuc mecum curam tui 
habent, ETangeliique Dei, per te tanto labore, tanta oiira, tot sudoribus, tot 
periculis prsedicati fac sciainns, an vivas, an captus sis." 

* Brieger, Luther und Aleairdcr 15^1 (Gotha, 1884), p. 15S ; Kalkoff, Di» 
Dcpeachen des Nuntius Aleander (Halle, 1897), p. 182. 

THE BAN 297 

the dangers of a combination of the lesser nobility with the 
peasants.^ The condition of Worms had been bad enough 
before, and when the news of Luther's murder reached the 
town the excitement passed all bounds. The whole of the 
Imperial Court was in an uproar. When Aleander was 
in the royal apartments the highest nobles in Germany 
pressed round him, telling him that he would be murdered 
even if he were " clinging to the Emperor's bosom." Men 
crowded his room to give him information of conspiracies to 
slay both himself and the senior Legate CaracciolL* The 
excitement abated somewhat, but the wiser German princes 
recognised the abiding gravity of the situation, and how 
little the Emperor's decision had done to end the Lutheran 
movement. The true story of Luther's disappearance was 
not known until long afterwards. After the failure of the 
conferences, the Elector of Saxony summoned two of his 
councillors and his chaplain and private secretary, Spalatin, 
and asked them to see that Luther was safely hidden until 
the immediate danger was past. They were to do what 
they pleased and inform him of nothing. Many weeks 
passed before the Elector and his brother John knew that 
Luther was safe, living in their own castle on the Wart- 
burg. This was his " Patmos," where he doffed his monkish 
robes, let the hair grow over his tonsure, was clad as a 
knight, and went by the name of Junker Georg. His 
disappearance did not mean that he ceased to be a 
great leader of men ; but it dates the beginning of the 
national opposition to Eome. 

§ 8. The Ban. 

After long delay, the imperial mandate against Luther / 
was prepared. It was presented (May 25 th) to ah informal / 
meeting of some members of the Diet after the Elector of / 
Saxony and many of Luther's staunchest supporters had | 

' Of. Letter of Coohlseus to the Pope (June 19tli) in Brieger's Zeitschrift 
fiir Kirehengeschickte, xviii. p. 118. 

* Brieger, Luther vmd Aleander 16S1 (Gotha, 1884), p. 211. 


left Worms.^ Aleander, who had a large share in drafting 
it, brought two copies, one in Latin and the other in 
German, and presented them to Charles on a Sunday 
(May 26th) after service. The Emperor signed them 
before leaving the church. " Are you contented now ? " 
said Charles, with a smile to the Legate ; and Aleander 
overflowed with thanks. Few State documents, won by so 
much struggling and scheming, have proved so futile. The 
uproar in Germany at the report of Luther's death had 
warned the German princes to be chary of putting the 
edict into execution. 

The imperial edict against Luther threatened aU his 
sympathisers with extermination. It practically proclaimed 
an Albigensian war in Germany. Charles had handed it to 
Aleander with a smile. Aleander despatched the document 
to Eome with an exultation which could only find due' 
expression in a quotation from Ovid's Art of Love. Pope 
Leo celebrated the arrival of the news by comedies and 
musical entertainments. But calm observers, foreigners in 
Germany, saw little cause for congratulation and less for 
mirth. Henry vm. wrote to the Archbishop of Mainz 
congratulating him on the overthrow of the " rebel against 
Christ"; but Wolsey's agent at the Diet informed his 
master that he believed there were one hundred thousand 
Grermans who were stUl ready to lay down their lives in 
Luther's defence.* Velasco, who had struck down the 
Spanish rebels in the battle of Villalar, wrote to the 
Emperor that the victory was God's gratitude for his deal- 
ings with the heretic monk ; but Alfonso de Vald^s, the 
Emperor's secretary, said in a letter to a Spanish corre- 
spondent : 

"Here you have, as some imagine, the end of this 
tragedy ; but I am persuaded it is not the end, but the 

^ The Important clauses in the Edict of Worms are printed in Emil 
Reich's Select Documents illustrating Mediceval and Modem History (London, 
1905), p. 209. 

^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Seign of Henry VIII. , 
HI. i. p. cocxxxviii. Letter from Tunstal to Wolsey of date January 21st, 

THE BAN 299 

beginning of it. For I see that the minds of the Germans 
are greatly exasperated against the Eoman See, and they do 
not seem to attach great importance to the Emperor's edicts ; 
for since their publication, Luther's books are sold with 
impunity at every step and corner of the streets and market- 
places. Prom this you will easily guess what will happen 
when the Emperor leaves. This evil might have been cured 
with the greatest advantage to the Christian common- 
wealth, had not the Pope refused a General Council, had he 
preferred the public weal to his own private interests. But 
while he insists that Luther shall be condemned and burnt, I 
see the whole Christian commonwealth hurried to destruc- 
tion unless God Himself help us." 

Valdfes, like Gattinara and other councillors of Charles, 
was a follower of Erasmus. He lays the blame of all on 
the Pope. But what a disillusion this Diet of Worms 
ought to have been to the Erasmians ! The Humanist 
young sovereigns and the Humanist Pope, from whom so 
much had been expected, congratulating each other on 
Luther's condemnation to the stake ! 

The foreboding of Alfonso de Valdfes was amply justi- 
fied. Luther's books became more popular than ever, and 
the imperial edict did nothing to prevent their sale either 
within Germany or beyond it. Aleander was soon to learn 
this. He had retired to the Netherlands, and busied himself 
with auto-da-fis of the prohibited writings ; but he had to 
confess that they were powerless to prevent the spread of 
Luther's opinions, and he declared that the only remedy 
would be if the Emperor seized and burnt half a dozen 
Lutherans, and confiscated all their property.^ The edict 
had been published or repeated in lands outside Germany 
and in the family possessions of the House of Hapsburg, 
Henry Viii. ordered Luther's books to be burnt in England ; ^ 
the Estates of Scotland prohibited their introduction into 
the realm under the severest penalties in 1525.* But such 

1 Brieger, Aleander und Luther 162 1 (Gotha, 1884), p. 263 ; cf. pp. 249 ff. 
^ Letters a/nd Pa;pers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII. , 
iii. 449, 485. 

8 Aa. Pari. Scot. ii. 296. 


edicts were easily evaded, and the prohibited writings found 
their way into Spain, Italy, France, Flanders, and elsewhere, 
concealed in bales of merchandise. In Geimany there was 
no need for concealment; the imperial edict was not 
merely disregarded, but was openly scouted. The great 
Strassburg publisher, Gruniger, apologised to his customers, 
not for publishing Luther's books, but for sending forth 
a book against him ; and Cochlseus declared that printers 
gladly accepted any MS. against the Papacy, printed it 
gratis, and spent pains ia issuing it with taste, while every 
defender of the established order had to pay heavily to 
get his book printed, and sometimes could not secure a 
printer at any cost. 

§ 9. Popular Literature 

The Eeformation movement may almost be said to 
have created the German book trade. The earliest German 
printed books or rather booklets were few in number, and 
of no great importance — little books of private devotion, 
of popular mediciae, herbals, almanacs, travels, or public 
proclamations. Up to 1518 they barely exceeded fifty 
a year. But in the years 1518—1523 they increased 
enormously, and four-fifths of the iacrease were contro- 
versial writings prompted by the national antagonism to 
the Eoman Curia. This increase was at first due to Luther 
alone ;^ but from 1521 onwards he had disciples, fellow- 

* T. Eauke in tis Deutsche Qeschichte im Zeitdlter der Reformatum 
(2nd ed., Leipzig, 1882), ii. 56, and Dr. Burkhardt, archivist at Weimar, 
in the ZeUschrift fur die historische Theologie (Gotha) for 1862, p. 456 — 
both founding on the confessedly imperfect information to be found in 
Panzer's Annalen der dlteren deutschen LUteratur (1788-1802) — have made 
the following calculations : — the number of printed books issued in the 
German language, and within Germany, from 1480-1500, did not exceed 
forty a year ; the years 1500-1512 show about the same average ; in the 
year 1513 the number of books and booklets issued from German presses in 
the German language was 35 ; in 1514 it was 47 ; in 1515, 46 ; in 1516, 55 ; 
in 1517, 37 ; then Luther's printed appeals to the German people began to 
appear in the shape of sermons, tracts, controversial writings, etc., and the 
German publications of the year 1518 rose to 71, of which no less than 20 


workers, opponents, all using in a popular way the German 
language, the effective literary power of which had been 
discovered by the Eeformer.^ These writers spread the 
new ideas among the people, high and low, throughout 

There are few traces of combined action in the anti- 
Eomanist writings in the earlier stages of the controversy ; 
it needed literary opposition to give them a semblance of 
unity. Each writer looks at the general question from 
his own individual point of view. Luther is the hero with 
nearly all, and is spoken about in almost extravagant 
terms. He is the prophet of Germany, the Elias that was 
to come, the Angel of the Eevelation " flying through the 
mid-heaven with the everlasting Gospel in his hands," the 
national champion who was brought to Worms to be silenced, 
and yet was heard by Emperor, princes, and papal nuncios. 
Some of the authors were still inclined to make Erasmus 
their leader, and declared that they were fighting under 
the banner of that " Knight of Christ " ; others looked on 
Erasmus and Luther as fellow-workers, and one homely 
pamphlet compares Erasmus to the miller who grinds the 
flour, and Luther to the baker who bakes it into bread 
to feed the people. Perhaps the most striking feature of 

were from Luther's pen ; in 1519 the total number was 111, of which 50 
were Luther's; in 1520 the total was 208, of which 133 were Luther's; in 
1521 (when Luther was in the Wartburg), Luther published 20 separate 
booklets ; in 1622, 130 ; and in 1523 the total number was 498, of which 
180 were Luther's ; cf. "Weller, Bepertorium Typographicum (Nordlingen, 
1864-1874), for further information. From Luther's Letter to the Ntlrnberg 
Council (Enders, v. 244), it may be inferred that the first edition of each of 
his writings was usually sold out in seven or eight weeks. 

' It was Luther's appeal to 'the Christian NoWlUy of the German Nation 
which taught Ulrich Ton Huttrn the powers of the Gorman language ; 
Strauss, Ulrich von Hutten, His Life and Times (London, 1874), p. 241. 

' A number of the more important of these controversial writings have 
been reprinted under the title Flugschriflen aus der Beformationszeit in 
the very useful series NeudrucTce deutseher LitteraturwerJce, in the course of 
publication by Niemeyer of Halle ; cf. also Kuczynski, Thesaurus libel- 
lorum hisioriam Beformatorum illustraniium (Leipzig, 1870) ; 0. Schade, 
Salircn und Pasquillen aus der Beformationszeit, 3 vols. (Hanover, 1856- 


the times was the appearance of numberless anonymous 
pamphlets, purporting to be written by the unlearned for 
the imlearned. They are mostly in the form of dialogues, 
and the scene of the conversations recorded was often 
the village alehouse, where burghers, peasants, weavers, 
tailors, and shoemakers attack and vanquish in argument 
priests, monks, and even bishops. One striking feature of 
this new popular literature is the glorification of the 
German peasant. ~ He is always represented as an upright, 
simple-minded, reflective, and intelligent person, skilled ia 
Bible lore, and even in Church history, and knowing as 
much of Christian doctrine "as three priests and more." 
He may be compared with the idealised peasant of the 
pre-revolution literature in France, although he lacks the 
refinement, and knows nothing of high-flown moral senti- 
ment; but he is much Hker the Jak Upland or Piers 
Plowman of the days of the English Lollards. Jak Upland 
and Hans Mattock (Karstham), both hate the clergy and 
abominate the monks and the begging friars, but the 
German exhibits much more ferocity than the Englishman. 
The Lollard describes the fat friar of the earlier English 
days with his swollen dewlap wagging under bis chin 
" like a great goose-egg," and contrasts him with the pale, 
poverty-stricken peasant and his wife, going shoeless to 
work over ice-bound roads, their steps marked with the 
blood which oozed from the cut feet; the German pam- 
phleteer pours out an endless variety of savage nicknames 
— cheese-hunters, sausage-villains, begging-sacks, sournulk 
crocks, the devil's fat pigs, etc. etc. It is interesting 
to note that most of this coarse controversial literature, 
which appeared between 1518 and 1523, came from those 
regions in South Germany where the social revolution had 
found an almost permanent establishment from the year 
1503. It was the sign that the old spirit of communist 
and religious enthusiasm, which had shown itself spasmodi- 
cally since the movement under Hans Bohm, had never 
been extinguished, and it was a symptom that a peasants' 
war might not be far off. Very little was needed to 


kindle afresh the smouldering hatred of the peasant against 
the priests.^ When German patriots declaimed against the 
exactions of the Eoman Curia, the peasant thought of the 
great and lesser tithes, of the marriage, baptismal, and 
burial fees demanded from him by his own parish priest. 
When Keformers and popular preachers denounced the 
scandals and corruptions in the Church, the peasant applied 
them to some drunken, evil - living, careless priest whom 
he knew. It should be remembered that the character ? ■? c> p 
Karsthans was invenjie_d_ in 1520, not by a Lutheran • • • • 
sympathiser, but by ThOTna^^Mumer, one of Luther's most 
determined opponents,^ when he was still engaged in writing 
against the clerical disorders of the times. This virulent 
attack on priests and monks had other sources than the 
sympathy for Luther.^ It was the awakening of old 
memories, prompted partly by an underground ceaseless 
Hussite propaganda, and partly, no doubt, by the new ideas 
so universally prevalent. 

Some of this coarse popular literature had a more 
direct connection with the Lutheran movement. A 
booklet which appeared in 1521, entitled The New 
and the Old God, and which had an ~ immense circulation, 
may be taken as an example. Like many of its kind, 
it had an illustrated title-page, which was a graphic 
summary of its contents. There appeared as the repre- 
sentatives of the New God, the Pope, some Church 
Fathers, and beneath them, Cajetan, Silvester Prierias, 
Eck, and Faber ; over-against them were the Old God as 
the Trinity, the four Evangelists, St. Paul vsdth a sword, 
and behind him Luther. It attacked the ceremonies, the 
elaborate services, the obscure doctrines which had been 
thrust on the Church by bloody persecutions, and had 

■* Murner was in England in 1523 hoping for an audience from Henry 
VIII., in whose defence he had written against Luther. "The king desires 
out of pity that he should return to Germany, for he was one of the chief 
stays against the faction of Luther, and ordered Wolsey to pay him £100." 
Cf. Letter of Sir Thomas More to Wolsey : Letters and Papers, Foreign wnd 
Domestic, Henry VIII., iii, ii. 3270. 

' Compare chapter on Social Conditions, pp. 96 ff. 


changed Christianity into Judaism, and contrasted them 
with the unchanging Word of the Old God, with its simple 
story of salvation and its simple doctrines of faith, hope, 
and love. To the same class belong the writings of the 
voluminous controversialist, John Eberlin of Giinzburg, 
whom his opponents accused of seducing whole provinces, 
so effective were his appeals to the " common " man. He 
began by a pamphlet addressed to the young Emperor, and 
published, either immediately before or during the earlier 
sitting of the Diet of Worms in 1521, a daring appeal, in 
which Luther and Ulrich von Hutten are called the 
messengers of God to their generation. It was the first 
of a series of fifteen, all of which were in circulation before 
the beginning of November of the same year.^ They were 
called the "Confederates" {BuTidsgenossen). The contents 
of these and other pamphlets by Eberlin may be guessed 
from their titles — Of the forty days' fast iefore Easter and 
others which pitifully oppress Chi-istian folk. An exhorta- 
tion to all Christians that they take pity on Nuns. How 
very dangerous it is that priests have not wives (the frontis- 
piece represents the marriage of a priest by a bishop, in 
the background the marriage of two monks, and two 
musicians on a raised seat). Why there is no money in 
the couTitry. Against the false clergy, haref^ooted monies, 
and Franciscans, etc., etc He exposes as trenchantly as 
Luther did the systematic robbery of Germany to benefit 
the Eoman Curia-^300,000 gulden sent out of the country 
every year, and a million more given to the begging friars. 
He wrote fiercely against the monks who take to this life, 
because they were too lazy to work like honest people, and 
called them all sorts of nicknames — cloister swine, the 
Devil's landsknechts, etc., twenty-four thousand of them 
sponge on Germany and four hundred thousand on the 
rest of Europe. He tells of a parish priest who thought 
that he must really begin to read the Scriptures: his 

' Eberlin's most important pamphlets have been edited by Enders and 
published in Xicnieyei-'s Fhigei-hn/ten axis dcr HcfiirmaHfmszeit, and form 
Nos. xi. XV. and xviii. of the series (Halle, 1896, 19C0, 1S02). 


parishioners are reading it, the mothers to the children 
and the house-fathers to the household; they trouble 
him with questions taken from it, and he is often at 
his wit's end to answer; he asked a friend where he 
ought to begin, and was told that there was a good 
deal about priests and their duties in the Epistles to 
Timothy and Titus ; he read, and was horrified to find 
that bishops and priests ought to be " husbands of one 
wife," etc. Eberlin had been a Franciscan monk, and was 
true to the revolutionary traditions of his Order. He 
preached a social as well as an evangelical reformation. 
The Franciscan Order sent forth a good many Eeformers : 
men like Stephen Kampen, who had come to adopt views 
like those of Eberlin without any teaching but the leadings 
of his heart; or John Brissmann, a learned student of the 
Scholastic Theology, who like Luther had found that it did 
not satisfy the yearnings of his soul; or like Frederick 
Mecum (Myconius), whose whole spiritual development was 
very similar to that of Luther. Pamphlets Uke those of 
Eberhn, and preaching like that of Kampen, had doubtless 
some influence in causing popular risings against the priests 
that were not uncommon throughout Germany in 1521, 
after the Diet of Worms had ended its sittings — the Erfurt 
tumult, which lasted during the months of April, May, 
June, and July, may be instanced as an example. 

§ 1 0. The Spread of Luther's Teaching. 

It may be said that the very year in which the 
imperial edict against Luther was published (1521) gave 
evidence that a silent movement towards the adoption of 
the principles for which Luther was testifying had begun 
among monks of almost all the different Orders. The 
Augustinian Eremites, Luther's own Order, had been 
largely influenced by him. Whole communities, with 
the prior at their head, had declared for the Eeformation 
both in Germany and in the Low Countries. No other 
monastic Order was so decidedly upon the side of the 


Eeformer, but monks of all kinds joined in preaching and 
teaching the new doctrines. Martin Bucer had been a 
Dominican, Otto Braunfells a Carthusian, Ambrose Blauer a 
Benedictine. The case of Oecolampadius (John Hussgen (?) 
Hausschein) was peculiar. He had been a distinguished 
Humanist, had come under serious religious impressions, 
and had entered the Order of St. Bridget ; but he was not 
long there when he joined the ranks of the Eeformers, and 
was sheltered by Franz von Sickingen in his castle at 
Ebernberg.^ Urban Ehegius, John Eck's most trusted 
and most talented student at Ingolstadt, had become a 
Carmelite, and had quitted his monastery to preach the 
doctrines of Luther. John Bugenhagen belonged to the 
Order of the Praemonstratenses. He was a learned 
theologian. Luther's struggle agaiost Indulgences had 
displeased him. He got hold of The Babylonian Captivity 
of the Christian Church, and studied it for the purpose 
of refuting it. The study so changed him that he felt 
that "the whole world may be wrong, but Luther is 
right " ; he won over his prior and most of his companions, 
and became the Eeformer of Pomerania. 

Secular priests all over Germany declared for the new 
evangelical doctrines. The Bishop of Samlund in East 
Prussia boldly avowed himself to be on Luther's side, and 
was careful to have the Lutheran doctrines preached 
throughout his diocese ; and other bishops showed them- 
selves favourable to the new evangehcal faith. Many of 
the most influential parish priests did the like, and their 
congregations followed them. Sometimes the superior 
clergy forbade the use of the church, and the people 
followed their pastor while he preached to them in the 
fields. Sometimes (as in the case of Hermann Tast) the 
priest preached under the lime trees in the churchyard, and 

^ Oecolampadius is thought by Bbcking to have heen the author of the 
celebrated pamphlet, Neukarsthans (Summer, 1521), often attributed to 
Hutten. Sickingen is one of the speakers ; the author shows an ac- 
quaintance with Scripture and with theology which Hutten could scarcely 
command ; and the idea of ecclesiastical polity sketched seems to be biken 
from Marsilius of Padua. 


his parishioners came irmed to protect him. If priests 
were lacking to preach the Lutheran doctrines, laymen 
came forward. If they could not preach, they could sing 
hymns. Witness the poor weaver of Magdeburg, who took 
his stand near the statue of Kaiser Otto in the market- 
place, and sang two of Luther's hymns, "Aus tiefer Not schrei 
Ich zu dir," and " Es woll' uns Gott gnadig sein," while the 
people crowded round him on the morning of May 6 th, 
1524. The Biirgermeister coming from early Mass heard 
him, and ordered him to be imprisoned, but the crowd 
rescued him. Such was the beginning of the feeformation 
in Magdeburg.^ When men dared not, women took their 
place. Argula Grunbach, a student of the Scriptures and 
of Luther's writings, challenged the University of Ingol- 
stadt, under the eyes of the great Dr. Eck himself, to a 
public disputation upon the truth of Luther's position. 

Artists lent their aid to spread the new ideas, and 
many cartoons made the doctrines and the aims of the 
Eeformers plain to the common people. These pictures 
were sometimes used to illustrate the title-pages of the 
controversial literature, and were sometimes published as 
separate broadsides. In one, Christ is portrayed standing 
at the door oi a house, which represents His Church. He 
invites the people to enter by the door; and Popes, 
cardinals, and monks are shown climbing the walls to get 
entrance in a clandestine fashion.^ In another, entitled 
the Triumph of Truth, the common folk of a German town 
are represented singing songs of welcome to honour an 
approaching procession. Moses, the patriarchs, the prophets, 
and the apostles, carry on their shoulders the Ark of the Holy 
Scriptures. Hutten comes riding on his warhorse, and to 

' Htilsse, Die Mnfilhrung der Seformation in der Stadt Magdeburg 
(Magdeburg, 1883), p. 46. 

' The woodcut wa.? first used to illustrate Hans Sachs' poem, "Der gut 
Hirt und der boss Hiit, Johaunis am Zehenden Capitel " ; and is given in a 
facsimile reproduction of several of Hans Sachs' poems, sacred and secular, 
entitled Ha/ris Sachs m Oewande seiiier Zeit, Gotha, 1821. The poems were 
originally issued as Isrge broad-sheets illustrated with a single woodcut, and 
were meant to be fixed ou the walls of rooms. 


the tail of the horse is attached a chain which encloses a 
crowd of ecclesiastics — an archbishop with his mitre fallen 
off, the Pope with his tiara in the act of tumbling and his 
pontifical staff broken ; after them, cardinals, then monks 
figured with the heads of cats, pigs, calves, etc. Then comes 
a triumphal car drawn by the four living creatures, who 
represent the four evangelists, on one of which rides 
an angel. Carlstadt stands upright in the front of the 
car ;, Luther strides alongside. In the car, Jesus sits say- 
ing, / am the Way, and the Truth, arid the Life. Holy 
martyrs, follow singing songs of praise. German burghers 
are spreading their garments on the road, and boys and girls 
are strewing the path with flowers.^ Perhaps the most 
important work of this kind was the Passional Christi et 
Antichristi} Luther planned the book, Luke Cranach 
designed the pictures, and Melanchthon furnished the texts 
from Scripture and the quotations from Canon Law. It is 
a series of pairs of engravings representing the lives of our 
Lord and of the Pope, so arranged that wherever the book 
opened two contrasting pictures could be seen at the same 
time. The contrasts were such as these : — Jesus washing 
the disciples' feet; the Pope holding out his toe to be 
kissed : Jesus healing the wounded and the sick ; the Pope 
presiding at a tournament : Jesus bending under His Cross ; 
the Pope carried in state on men's shoulders : Jesus driving 
the money-changers out of the Temple; the Pope and his 
servants turning a church into a market for Indulgences, 
and sitting surrounded with strong boxes and piles of coin. 
It was a " good book for the laity," Luther said. 

One of the signs of the times was the enthusiasm 
displayed in the imperial cities for the cause of Luther. 
The way had been prepared. Burgher songs had for long 
described the ecclesiastical abuses, and had borne witness 

' Many of these Reformation cartoons are' to be found in G. Hii'th, 
Kulturgeschichtliches Bilderbuch aus drei Jahrliunderten, i. ii. (Munich, 
1896), and one or two in the illustrations in von Bezold, OeschicMe der 
devlsclun Seformaiion (Berlin, 1890). 

^ The Passional Christi et AntichrisU has been reproduced in facsimile 
by W. Schcrer (Berlin, 1885). 


to the widespread hatred of the clergy shared in by the 
townsfolk. Wolfgang Capito and Frederick Mecum 
(Myconius), both sons of burghers, inform us that their 
fathers taught them when they were boys that Indulgences 
were nothing but a speculation on the part of cunning 
priests to get their hands into the pockets of simple- 
minded laity. Keen observers of the trend of public 
feeling like Wimpheling and Pirkheimer had noticed with 
some alarm the gradual spread of the Hussite propaganda 
in the towns, and had made the fact one of their reasons 
for desiring and insisting on a reformation of the Church. 
The growing sympathy for the Hussite opinions in the 
cities is abundantly apparent. Some leading Kefofflners, 
Capito for instance, told their contemporaries that they had 
frequently listened to Hussite discourses when they were 
boys ; and the libraries of burghers not infrequently con- 
tained Hussite pamphlets. Men in ' the towns had been 
reading, thinking, and speaking in private to their familiar 
friends about the disorders in the life and doctrine of the 
Church of their days, and were eager to welcome the first 
symptoms of a genuine attempt at reform. 

The number of editions of the German Vulgate, rude 
as many of these versions were, shows what a Bible- 
reading people the German burghers had become, enables 
us to wonder less at the way in which the controversial 
writers assume that the laity knew as much of the 
Scriptures as the clergy, and lends credibility to con- 
temporary assertions that women and artisans knew their 
Bibles better than learned men at the Universities. 

These things make us understand how the towns- 
men were prepared to welcome Luther's simple scriptural 
teaching, how his writings found such a sale all over 
Germany, how they could say that he taught what all 
men had been thinking, and said out boldly what all men 
had been whispering in private. They explain how the 
burghers of Strassburg nailed Luther's Ninety-five Theses 
to the doors of every church and parsonage in the city in 
1518; how the citizens of Constance drove away with 


threats the imperial messenger who came to publish the 
Edict of Worms in their town ; how the people of Basel 
applauded their pastor when he carried a copy of the 
Scriptures instead of the Host in the procession on Corpus 
Christi Day; how the higher clergy of Strassburg could 
not expel the nephew and successor of the famed GeUer 
of Keysersberg although he was accused of being a follower 
of Luther; and how his friend Matthew Zell, when he 
was prohibited from preaching in the pulpit from which 
GeUer had thundered, was able to get carpenters to erect 
another in a corner of the great cathedral, from which he 
spoke to the people who crowded to hear him. When the 
clergy persuaded the authorities in many towns (Goslar, 
Danzig, Worms, etc.) to close the churches agains' the 
evangelical preachers, the townspeople listened to their 
sermons in the open air ; but generally from the first the 
civic authorities sided with the people in welcoming a 
powerful evangelical preacher. Matthew Zell and, after 
him, Martin Bucer became the Eeformers of Strassburg; 
Kettenbach and Eberlin, of Ulm ; Oecolampadius and 
Urbanus Ehegius, of Augsburg; Andrew Osiander, of 
Niirnberg ; John Brenz, of Hall, in Swabia ; Theobald 
Pellicanus (PeUicanus, i.e. of Yilligheim), of Nordlingen ; 
Matthew Alber, of Eeutlingen; John Lachmann, of 
Heilbron ; John Wanner, of Constance ; and so on. The 
gUds of Mastersingers welcomed the Eeformation. The 
greatest of the civic poets, Hans Sachs of Nlirnberg, was 
a diligent collector and reader of Luther's books. He 
published in 1523 his famous poem, "The Wittenberg 
Mghtingale" {Die Wittembergisch Nachtigall, Die man jetz 
horet uberall). The nightingale was Luther, and its song 
told that the moonlight with its pale deceptive gleams and 
its deep shadows was passing away, and the glorious sun 
was rising The author praises the utter simplicity of 
Luther's scriptural teaching, and contrasts it with the 
quirks and subtleties of Eomish doctrine. Even a peasant, 
he says, can understand and know that Luther's teaching 
is good and sound. In a later short poem he contrasts 


evangelical and Eomish preaching. The original edition was 
illustrated by a woodcut showing two preachers addressing 
their respective audiences. The one is saying, Thvs saith 
the Lord ; and the other, Thios saith the Pope. 

§ 11. Andrew Bodenstein of Garlstadt} 

Every great movement for reform bears within it the 
seeds of revolution, of the " tumult," as Erasmus called it, 
and Lather's was no exception to the. general rule. Every 
Eeformer who would carry through his reforming ideas 
successfully has to struggle against men and circumstances 
making for the " tumult," almost as strenuously as against 
the abuses he seeks to overcome. We have already seen 
how these germs of revolution abounded in Germany, and 
how the revolutionists naturally allied themselves with the 
Eeformer, and the cause he sought to promote. 

While Luther was hidden away in the Wartburg, the 
revolution seized on Wittenberg. At first his absence did 
not seem to make any difference. The number of students 
had increased until it was over a thousand, and the town 
itself surprised eye-witnesses who were acquainted with 
other University towns in Germany. The students went 
about unarmed; they mostly carried Bibles under their 
arms ; they saluted each other as " brothers at one in 
Christ." No rift had yet appeared among the band of 
leaders, although his disappointment ia not obtaining the 
Provostship of All Saints had begun to isolate Andrew 
Bodenstein of Garlstadt. Unanimity did not mean dulness ; 
Wittenberg was seething with intellectual life. Since its 
foundation the University had been distinguished for weekly 
Public Disputations in which students and professors took 
part. In the earlier years of its existence the theses dis- 
cussed had been suggested by the Scholastic Theology and 
Philosophy in vogue ; but since 1518 the new questions 
which were stirring Germany had been the subjects of 
debate, and this had given a life and eagerness to the 
' H. Barge, Andreas Bodenstein von JCarlstadC, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 19rJ6}. 


University exercises. When Justus Jonas came to "Witten- 
berg from Erfurt, he wrote enthusiastically to a friend 
about the " unbelievable wealth of spiritual iaterests in 
the little town of Wittenberg." None of the professors 
took a keener interest in these Public Discussions than 
Andrew Bodenstein of Carlstadt. He had been a very 
successful teacher ; had come under Luther's magnetic in- 
fluence ; and had accepted the main ideas of the new 
doctrines. He had not the fuU-blooded humanity of 
Luther, nor his sympathetic tact, nor his practical insight 
into how things would work. He lacked altogether 
Luther's solid basis of conservative feeliag, which made 
biTTi know by instinct that new ideas and new things could 
only flourish and grow if they were securely rooted in what 
was old. It was enough for Carlstadt that his own ideas, 
however hastUy evolved, were clear, and his aims beneficent, 
to make him eager to see them at once reduced to practice. 
He had the temperament of a revolutionary rather than that 
of a Eeformer. 

He was strongly impressed with the funda menta I_con- 
tradictions which he beHeved to exist between the new 
evangehcal doctrines preached by Luther and tlie_the6nes 
_snd practices of the mediaeval rehgious life and worship. 
This led him to attack earnestly and bitterly monastic 
vows, celibacy, a distinctive dress for the clergy, the idea 
of a propitiatory sacrifice in the Mass, and the presence 
and use of images and pictures in the churches. He intro- 
duced all these questions of practical interest into the 
University weekly Public Discussions ; he published theses 
upon them ; he printed two books — one on monastic vows 
and the other on the Mass — which had an extensive circula- 
tion both in German and in Latin (four editions were speedily 
exhausted). The prevailing idea in all these publications, 
perhaps implied rather than expressed, was that the new 
evangelical liberty could only be exercised when everything 
which suggested the ceremonies and usages of the medieval 
religious life was swept away. His strongest denunciations 
were reserved for the practice of celibacy ; he dwelt on the 


divine institution of marriage, its moral and spiritual neces- 
sity, and taught that the compulsory marriage of the clergy 
was better than the enforced celibacy of the mediaeval . 
Church. Zwilling, a yopng Augustinian Eremite, whose: 
preaching gifts had been praised by Luther, went eveni 
further than Carlstadt in his fiery denunciation of the; 
Mass as an idolatrous practice. 

The movement to put these exhortations in practice 
began first among the clergy. Two priests in parishes 
near Wittenberg married ; several monks left their cloisters 
and donned lay garments ; Melanchthon and several of his 
students, in semi-public fashion, communicated in both 
kinds in the parish church on Michaelmas Day (Sept. 29th), 
1521, and his example seems to have been followed by 
other companies. 

Zwilling's fiery denunciations of the idolatry of the 
Mass stirred the commonalty of the town. On Christmas 
Eve (Dec. 24—25), 1521, a turbulent crowd invaded the 
parish church and the Church of All Saints. In the 
former they broke the lamps, threatened the priests, and 
in mockery of the worship of praise they sang folk- 
songs, one of which began : " There was a maid who lost 
a shoe " — so the indignant clergy complained to the 

Next day, Christmas, Carlstadt, who was archdeacon, 
' conducted the service in All Saints' Church. He had 
doffed his clerical robes, and wore the ordinary dress of a 
layman. He preached and then dispensed the Lord's 
Supper in an " evangelical fashion." He read the usual 
service, but omitted everything which taught a propitiatory 
sacrifice ; he did not elevate the Host ; and he placed the 
Bread in the hands of every communicant, and gave the 
Cup into their hands, On the following Sundays and fes- 
tival days the Sacrament of the Supper was dispensed in 
the same manner, and we are told that " hie ptene urbs et 
cuncta civitas communicavit sub utraque specie." 

' Cf. Barge, Andreas Bodemtein von' Karlstadt, i. 357 ; the letter is 
printed in ii. 558-569. 


During the closing days of the year 1521, so full of 
excitement for the people of Wittenberg, three men, 
known in history as the Zwickau Prophets, came to the 
town (Dec. 27 th). Zwickau, lying about sixty-four miles 
south of Wittenberg, was the centre of the weaving trade 
of Saxony, and contained a large artisan population. We 
have seen that movements of a religious-communistic kind 
had from time to time appeared among the German 
artisans and peasants since 1476. Nicolaus Storch, a 
weaver in Zwickau, proclaimed that he had visions of the 
Angel Gabriel, who had revealed to him : " Thou shalt sit 
with me on my throne." He began to preach. Thomas 
Mtinzer, who had been appointed by the magistrates to 
be town preacher in St. Mary's, the principal church in 
Zwickau, praised his discourses, declaring that Storch ex- 
pounded the Scriptures better than any priest. Some 
writers have traced the origin of this Zwickau movement 
to Hussite teachings. Miinzer allied himself with the ex- 
treme Hussites after the movement had begun, and paid 
a visit to Bohemia, taking with him some of his intimates ; 
but our sources of information, which are scanty, do not 
warrant any decided opinion about the origin of the out- 
break in Zwickau. After some time _StQxch- and others 
were forced to leave the town. Three of them went to 
Wittenberg — Storch himself, the seer of heavenly visions, 
another weaver, and Marcus Thoma Stu-bner; who had once 
been a pupil of Melanchthon, and was therefore able to 
introduce his companions to the Wittenberg circle of Ee- 
formers. Their arrival and addresses increased the excite- 
ment both in the town and in the University. Melanchthon 
welcomed his old pupil, and was impressed by the presence 
of a certain spiritual power in Stubner and in his com- 
panions. Some of their doctrines, howeTer,"especially their 
rejection of infant baptism, repelled him, and he gradually 
withdrew from their companionship. 

Carlstadt took advantage of the strong excitement in 
Wittenberg to press on the townspeople and on the magis- 
trates his scheme of reformation; and on Jan. 24th, 1522, 


the authorities of the town of Wittenberg published their 
famous ordinance. 

This^ocument, the first of numerous civic and terri- 
^riaL- attempts to express the new evangelical ideas in 
legislatioiv-jdeee-r-ves careful study.^ It concerns itself 
almost exclusively with the reform of social life and of 
public worship. It enjoins the institution of a common 
chest~t6 be under the charge of two of the magistrates, 
two of the townsmen, and a public notary. Into this the 
revenues from ecclesiastical foundations were to be placed, 
the annual revenues of the guilds of workmen, and other 
specified monies. Definite salaries were to be paid to 
the priests, and support for tlie poor and for the monks 
was to be taken from this common fund. Begging, 
whether by ordinary beggars, monks, or poor students, was 
strictly prohibited. If the common chest was not able 
to afford suflficient for the support of the helpless and 
orphans, the townsfolk had to provide what was needed. 
No houses of ill-fame were allowed within the town. ' 
Churches were places for preaching ; the town contained 
enough for the population ; and the building of small 
chapels was prohibited. The service of the Mass was 
shortened, and made to express the evangelical meaning of^--^' 
the sacrament, and the elements were to be placed in the 
hands of the communicants. All this was made law within 
the town of Wittenberg ; and the reformation was to be 
enforced. Not content with these regulations, Carlstadt 
engaged in a crusade against the use of pictures and 
images in the churches (the regulations had permitted 
three altars in every church and one picture for each 
altar). Everything which recalled the older religious 
usages was to be done away with, and flesh was to be 
eaten on fast days. 

This excitement bred fanaticism. Voices were raised 

' The ordinance is printed in Eicliter's Die evangelischen Kirchen- 
ordnungen des seehszeJmten Jahrhtmderts (Weimar, 1846), ii. 484 ; and, with 
a more correct text, in Sehling's Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des 
leten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig), 1902, i. i, 697. 


declaring that, as all true Christians were taught by the 
Spirit of God, there was no need either for civil rulers or 
for carnal learning. It is believed by many that Carlstadt 
shared these fancies, and it has been said that in his desire 
to " simplify " himself, he dressed as a peasant and worked 
as a labourer (he had married) on his father-in-law's farm. 
It is more probable that he found himself unable to rule 
the storm his hasty measures had raised, and that he saw 
many things proposed with which he had no sympathy. 

§ 12. Luther hack in Wittenberg. 

Melanchthon felt himself helpless in presence of the 
" tumult," declared that no one save Luther himself could 
quell the excitement, and eagerly pressed his return. The 
revolutionary movement was extending beyond Wittenberg, 
in other towns in Electoral Saxony such as Grimma and 
Altenberg. Duke George of Saxony, the strenuous defender 
of the old faith, had been watching the proceedings ' from 
the beginning. As early as Nov. 21st, 1521, he had 
iwritten to John Duke of Saxony, the brother of the Elector, 
Iwaming him that, against ecclesiastical usage, the Sacrament 
jaf the Supper was being dispensed in both kinds in Witten- 
perg; he had informed him (Dec. 26 th) that priests were 
threatened while saying the Mass ; he had brought the 
" tumultuous deeds " ia Electoral Saxony before the Beichs- 
regiment in January, with the result that imperial mandates 
were sent to the Elector Frederick and to the Bishops of 
Meissen, Merseburg, and Naumburg, requiring them to take 
measures to end the disturbances. The Elector was seriously 
disquieted. His anxieties were increased by a letter from 
Duke George (Feb. 2nd, 1522), declaring that Carlstadt 
and Zwilling were the instigators of all the riotous proceed- 
ings. He had commissioned one of his councillors, Hugold 
of Einsiedel, to try to put matters right ; but the result had 
been small. It was probably in these circumstances that 
he wrote his Instruction to Oswald, a burgher of Eisenach, 
with the intention that the contents should be communicated 


to Luther in the Wartburg. The Instruction may have been 
the reason why Luther suddenly left the asylum where he 
had remained since his appearance at Worms by the com- 
mand and under the protection of his prince.^ 

If this Instruction did finally determine him, it was 
only one of many things urging Luther to leave his soli- 
tude. He cared little for the influence of the Zwickau 
Prophets,^ estimating them at their true value, but the 
weakness of Melanchthon, the destructive and dangerous 
impetuosity of Carlstadt, the spread of the tumult beyond 
Wittenberg, the determination of Duke George to make 
use of these outbursts to destroy the whole movement for 
reformation, and the interference of the Reiclisregiment 
with its mandates, made him feel that the decisive moment 
had come when he must be again among his own people. 

He started on his lonely journey, most of it through an 
enemy's country, going by Erfurt, Jena, Borna, and Leipzig. 
He was dressed as "Junker Georg," with beard on his 
chin and sword by his side. At Erfurt he had a good- 
humoured discussion -with a priest in the inn ; and Kessler, 
the Swiss student, tells how he met a stranger sitting in 
the parlour of the " Bear " at Jena with his hand on the 
hilt of his sword, and reading a small Hebrew Psalter. 
He got to Wittenberg on Friday, March 7 th ; spent that 
afternoon and the next day in discussing the situation with 
his friends Amsdorf, Melanchthon, and Jerome Schurf.* 

On Sunday he appeared in the pulpit, and for eight 
successive days he preached to the people, and the plague 
was stayed. Many things in the movement set agoing by 
Carlstadt met with his approval. He had come to believe 
in the marriage of the clergy ; he disapproved strongly of 

' This Instruction will be found in Enders, Dr. Martin Luthers Brief- 
wecksel, iii. 292-295. Its effect on Luther's return to Wittenberg is dis- 
cussed at length by von Bezold (Zeitschri/tfiir Kirchengeschichle, xx. 186 ff.), 
Kawerau (Lnther's Ruckkehr, etc., Halle, 1902), and by Barge [Andreas 
Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Leipzig, 1906, p. 432 ff.). 

' See his letters to Spalatin in Enders, Dr. Martin LutJvers Brief wechsel, 
iv. 271, 286. 

' Johann Kessler, Sahhata (edited by Egli and Schoch, St. Gall, 1902). 


private Masses; he had grave doubts on the subject of 
monastic vows ; but he disapproved of the violence, of the 
importance attached to outward details, and of the use of 
force to advance the Eeformation movement : 

" The Word created heaven and earth and all things ; 
the same Word wiU also create now, and not we poor sinners. 
Summa summarum, I will preach it, I will talk about it, I 
will write about it, but I will not use force or compulsion 
with anyone ; for faith must be of freewill and unconstrained 
and must be accepted without compulsion. To marry, to 
do away with images, to become monks or nuns, or for 
monks and nuns to leave their convents, to eat meat on 
Friday or not to eat it, and other like things — all these are 
open questions, and should not be forbidden by any man. 
If I employ force, what do I gain ? Changes in demeanour, 
outward shows, grimaces, shams, hypocrisies. But what 
becomes of the sincerity of the heart, of faith, of Christian 
love ? All is wanting where these are lacking ; and for the 
rest I would not give the stalk of a pear. What we want 
is the heart, and to win that we must preach the gospel. 
Then the word will drop into one heart to-day, and to-morrow 
into another, and so will work that each will forsake the 

He made no personal references; he blamed no in- 
dividuals ; and in the end he was master of the situation. 

When he had won back Wittenberg he made a tour of 
those places in Electoral Saxony where the Wittenberg 
example had been followed. He went to Zwickau, to 
Altenberg, and to Grimma — preaching to thousands of 
people, calming them, and bringing them back to a con- 
servative reformation. 



§ 1. The continued spread of Lutheran 'leaching. 

The imperial edict issued against Luther at the Diet of 
Worms could scarcely have been stronger than it was,^ and 
yet, like many another edict of Emperor and Diet, it 
was whoUy ineffective. It could only be enforced by the 
individual-Estates, who for the most part showed great 
reluctance to put it into operation. It was published in 
the territories of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, of the 
Elector of Brandenburg, of Duke George of Saxony, and of 
the Dukes of Bavaria ; but none of these princes, except 
the Archduke and Duke George, seemed to care much for 
the old religion. In most of the ecclesiastical States the 
' authorities were afraid of riots following the publication, 

^ The edict said : " In the first place, we command that all, particularly 
all princes, estates, and subjects, shall not, after the expiry of the above 
twenty days, which terminate on the 14th of the present month of May, 
offer to Luther either shelter, food, or drink, or help him in any way with 
words or deeds, secretly or openly. On the contrary, wherever you get 
possession of him, you shall at once put him in prison and send him to me, 
or, at anyrate, inform me thereof without any delay. For that holy work 
you shall be recompensed for your trouble and expenses. Likewise you 
ought, in virtue of the holy constitution and ban of our Empire, to deal in 
the following way with all the partisans, abettors, and patrons of Luther. 
You shall put them down, and confiscate their estates to your own profit, 
unless the said persons can prove that they have mended their ways and 
asked for papal absolution. Furthermore, we command, under the afore- 
said penalties, that nobody shall buy, sell, read, keep, copy, or print any 
of the writings of Martin Luther which have been condemned by our holy 
father the Pope, whether in Latin or in German, nor any other of h's wicked 



and did nothing. Thus, in Bremen, we are told that as 
la,te as December 1522 the people had never seen the 
edict. The^ities treated it as carelessly. The authorities 
in Nlirnberg, Ulm, Augsburg, and Strassburg posted it up 
publicly as an official document, and took no further 
trouble. In Strassburg the printers went on issuing 
Luther's books and tracts as fast as their printing-presses 
could produce them ; and at Constance the populace 
drove the imperial commissioners from the town when 
they came to pubHsh the edict. 

The action of the newly constituted Beichsregiment was 
asu indecisive. When the disturbances broke^out at Witten- 
berg, under Carlstadt and the Zwickau Prophets, Duke 
George, by playing on the fears of a spread of Hussitism, 
could get mandates issued to the Elector of Saxony and 
neighbouring bishops to inquire into and crush the dis- 
orders ; but after Luther's return and the restoration of 
tranquillity his pleadings were ineffectual. It was in vain 
that he insisted that Luther's presence in Wittenberg was^ 
an insult to the Empire. He was told that the Beichs- 
regiment was able to judge for itself what were insults, and 
that when they saw them they would punish. Archduke 
Ferdinand, the President, doubtless sympathised with Duke 
George, but he was powerless ; the Elector of Saxony had 
the greatest influence, and it was always exerted on the 
side of Luther. 
j In January 1522 a new Pope had been chosen, who 
took the title of Adrian vi. His election was a triumph 
for the party that confessed the urgent need of reforms, 
and thought that they ought to be effected by the 
hierarchy and from within the Church. Adrian was a 
pious man according to his lights, one who felt deeply the 
corruption which was degrading the Church. He believed 
that the revolt of Luther was a punishment sent by God 
fof the sins of the generation. He had been the tutor of 
Charles v., and ascended the papal throne with the deter- 
mination to reform corruptions, and to begin his reforms 
by attacking the source of all — the Koman Curia. But he 

THE DIET OF 1523 321 

was a Dominican monk, and had all the Dominican ideas 
! about the need of maintaining mediaeval theology intact, 
and about the strict maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline. 
He was as ignorant as his predecessor of the state of 
matters in Germany, and regarded Luther as another 
Mahomet, who was seducing men from the higher Chris- 
tian life by pandering to their fleshly appetites. 

The Beichsregiment met with the Diet at Nlirnberg in 
1522—1523, and to this Diet the Pope sent, as nuncio, 
Francesco Chieregati, Bishop of Terramo, in the kingdom 
of Naples. The nuncio was given lengthy instructions, 
which set forth the Pope's opinion of the corruptions in 
the Church and his intention to cure them, but which 
demanded the delivery of Luther into the hands of the 
Eoman Curia, and the punishment of priests, monks, and 
nuns who had broken their vows of celibacy.^ Chieregati 
was no sooner in Germany than he understood that it 
would be impossible for him to get the Pope's demand 
carried out, and he informed his master of the state of 
matters. When he met the Diet and presented the papal 
requests, he was practically answered that Germany had 
grievances against Eome, and that they would need to be 
set right ere the Curia could expect to get its behests 
fulfilled. They intimated that since the Pope had admitted 
the corruptions in the Church, it was scarcely to be 
expected that they should blame Luther for having pointed 
them out. They presented the nuncio with a list of one 
hundred German grievances against the Eoman Curia ; ^ 
and suggested that the most convenient way of settling 
them would be for the Pope to make over immediately, 
for the public use of Germany, the German annates^ and 
that a German Council should be held on German soil, and 
within one of the larger 'German cities. 

' The Pope's instructions to his nuncio will be found in Wrede, Deutsche 
Meichstagsakten unter Kaiser Karl V., iii. 393 ff. 

^ Compare Gebhardt, Die Oravamina der Deulschen Nation, 2nd ed. , 
Breslau, 1895. 

' The annates were the first year's stipend of an ecclesiastical benefice, 
usually reckoned at a fixed rate, 

322 THE peasants' WAR 

The practical result of this fencing ,at the Diet of 
1522, repeated in 1523, was that the progress of the 
Lutheran movement was not checked. How deeply the 
people of Germany had drunk in the teaching of Luther 
may be learnt from the letters of the nuncio to the Curia, 
and from those of the Archduke Ferdinand to the Emperor. 
Both use the same expression, that " among a thousand 
men scarcely one could be found untainted by Lutheran 

Adrian vi. died suddenly after a few months' reign, 
and the next Pope, Clement vii., a Medici and completely 
under the influence of the French king, belonged to the 
old unreforming party, whose only desire was to maintain 
all the corrupting privileges of the Eoman Curia. He 
selected and sent to Germany, as his nuncio, Lorenzo 
Campeggio, one of the ablest of Italian diplomatists, to 
negotiate with the Beichsregiment and the Diet which met 
at Speyer in 1524. 

Campeggio, like his predecessor, found that the German 
Nation was determinedly hostile to Eome. When he made 
his official entry into Augsburg, and raised his hands to 
give the usual benediction to the crowds of people, they 
received the blessing with -open derision. He was so im- 
pressed vith their attitude, that when he reached Niirn- 
berg he doffed his official robes and entered the town as 
quietly as possible ; indeed, he received a message from the 
authorities asking him " to avoid making the sign of the 
cross, or using the benedicti|On, seeing how matters then 
stood." The presence of the Legate seemed to increase the 
anti-papal zeal of the people. The Pope was openly spoken 
, of as Antichrist. Planitz, the energetic commissary of the 
Elector of Saxony, reckoned that nearly four thousand 
people in the city partook of the Sacrament of the Supper 
in both kinds, and informs us that among them were 
members of the Beichsregiment, and Isabella, Queen of 
Sweden, the sister of the Emperor. 

Yet the experienced Italian diplomatist thought that 
he could discern signs more favourable fco his master than 


the previous Diet had exhibited, The Reichsreqi ment. 
which had hitherto shielded the Lutheran movement, had 
los^t the confidence of man,y classes of people, and was 
tottering to its fall. It had showed itself unable to enforce 
the Lands-Peace. It was the princes who had defeated the 
rising of the Free Nobles under Franz von Sickingen ; it 
was the Swabian League, an association always devoted to 
the House of Austria, that had crushed the Franconian 
robber nobles ; and both princes and League were irritated 
at the attempts of the Beichsregiment, which had endeavoured 
to rob them of the fruits of their successes. The cities had 
been made to bear all the taxation needed to support the 
central government, and the system of monopolies arising 
from combinations among the great commercial houses had 
been threatened. The cities and the capitalists had made 
a secret agreement with the Emperor, and von Hannart 
had"~iieeH-^eTit by the Emperor from Spain to the Diet of 
1524 to work along with the towns for the overthrow of 
the central government. The Diet itself had passed a vote 
of no confidence in the government. In these troubled 
waters a crafty fisher might win some success. 

His success was more apparent than real. The Diet of 
152-4; did not absolutely refuse to enforce the Edict of 
Worms against Luther and his followers ; they promised 
to execute it " as well as they were able, and as far as was 
possible," and the cities had made it plain that the enforce- 
ment was impossible. They renewed their demand for a 
GpneMrl-Gasincil to meet in a suitable German town to 
settle the affairs of the Qhurch in Germany, and again 
declared that meanwhile nothing should be preached 
contrary to the Word of God and the Holy Gospel. They 
went further, and practically resolved that a National 
Council, to deliberate on the condition of the Church in 
Germany, should meet at Speyer in November and make 
an interim settlement of its ecclesiastical affairs, to last 
until the meeting of a General Council. It is true that, 
owing to the exertions of the nuncio and of von Hannart, 
the phrase National Synod was omitted, and the meeting 

324 THE peasants' war 

was to be one of the Estates of Germany at which the 
councillors and learned divines of the various princes were 
to formulate all the disputed points, and to consider anew 
the grievances of the German nation against-^he" Papicy ; 
but neither the nuncio nor von Hannart deceived them- 
selves as to the real meaning of the resolution. " It will 
be a National Council for Germany," said Hannart in his 
report. Nothing could be more alarming to the Pope. 
There was always a possibility of managing a General 
" Council; but a German National Synod, including a large 
number of lay representatives, meeting in a German town, 
foreshadowed an independent National German Church 
which would insist on separation from the Roman See. 
I The Pope wrote to Henry vin. of England asking him to 
i^arass the German merchants ; he induced the Emperor 
to forbid the proposed meeting of the German States; 
and, what was more important, he instfueted'"Eis nuncio 
to take steps secretly to form a league of German princes 
who were still favourable to maintaining the mediaeval 
Church with its doctrines, ceremonies, and usages. This 
inaugurated the religious divisions of Germany. 

§ 2. The beginnings of Division in Germany. 

~The Diet of Speyer (1524) may perhaps be taken as 
the beginning of the separation of "Germany into two 
opposite camps of Protestant and Eoman Catholic, although 
the real parting of the ways actually occurred after the 
Peasants' War. The overthrow, or at least __diserediting 

,' of the Beichsregiment, placed the management of everything, 
including^ the ~ settlement of the religious question, in the 

;, hands of the princes, none of whom, with the exception 
of the Elector of Saxony, cared much for the idea of 
nationality ; while some of them, however anxious they 
were, or once had been, for ecclesiastical reforms, were 
genuinely afraid of the " tumult " which they believed 
might lurk behind any conspicuous changes in religious 
usages. Duke George of Saxony, who was keenly alive to 


the corruptions in the Church, dreaded above all things the 
beginnings of a Hussite movement in Germany. He knew 
that an assiduous, penetrating, secret Hussite, or rather 
Taborite propaganda had been going on in Germany for 
long. As early as the Leipzig Disputation (1519), when 
John Eck had skilfully forced Luther into the avowal that 
he approved of some, things in the Hussite revolt, Duke 
George was seen to put his arms akimbo, to wag his long 
beard, and was heard to ejaculate, " God help us ! The 
plague ! " A fear of Hussite revolution displays itself in his 
correspondence, and very notably in his letters to Duke 
John of Saxony and to the Elector about the disturbances 
in Wittenberg. It was a triumph for the Eoman Curia 
when its partisans, from Eck" onwards, were able to fix the 
stigma of Hussitism on the Lutheran movement ; and the 
cal-eer of the Zwickau Prophets, notwithstanding their sup- 
pression by Luther, was, to many, an indication of what 
might lie behind the new preaching. When thfi- Peasants' 
War_camein 1525, many of the earlier sympathisers with 
Luther saw in it an indication of the dangers into which 
they fancied that Luther was leading Germany. It is also 
to be noticed that many of the Humanists now began to 
desert the Lutheran cause ; his Augustinian theology made 
them think that he was bent on creating a new Scholastic 
which seemed to them almost as bad as the old, which they 
^had been delighted to see him attack. 

The Eoman Curia was quick to take advantage of all 
these alarms. Its efforts were so successful, that it was 
soon able to create a Eoman Catholic Party among the 
South German princes, and to secure its steadfastness by pro- 
mising a few concessions, and by permitting the authorities 
to retain for the secular uses of their States about one-fifth 
of the ecclesiastical revenues in each State. The leading 
States in this Eoman Catholic federation were Austria and 
Bavaria, and so long as Duke George lived, DucSl~Saxony. 
in middle Germany. This naturally called forth a dis- 
tinctly Lutheran party, no longer national, which included 
the Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Mar- 

326 THE peasants' war 

graf of Brandenburg, his brother Albert, and jaany others. 
Albert was at the head^oF the Teutonic Order in East 
Prussia. He secidarised his semi-ecclesiastical principality, 
became the first Duke of Prussia, and his State from the 
beginning adopted the evangelical faith. 

It was not until the Peasants' War was over that this 
division was clearly manifested. The Eeformation had 
spread in simple natural fashion, without any attempt at 
concerted action, or any design to impose a new and 
uniform order of public worship, or to make changes ia 
ecclesiastical government. Luther himself was not without 
hopes that the great ecclesiastical priucipalities might 
become secular lordships, that the bishops would assume 
the lead in ecclesiastical reform, and that there would be , 
a great National Church in Germany, with little external 
change — enough only to permit the evangelical preaching 
and teaching. It is true that the Emperor had shown 
clearly his position by sending martyrs to the stake in the 
Netherlands, and that symptoms of division had begun to 
manifest themselves during 1524, as we have seen. Still 
these things did not prevent such an experienced statesman 
as the Elector of Saxony from confidently expecting a 
peaceful and, so far as Germany was concerned, a 
unanimous and hearty solution of the religious difficulties. 
The storm burst suddenly which was to shatter these 
optimistic expectations, and to change fundamentally the 
whole course of the Lutheran Eeformation. This was the 
Peasants' War. 

§ 3. The Peasants' War} 

From one point of view this insurrection was simply 
the last, the most extensive, and the most disastrous of 

' Sources : Baumann, Quellen zur OeschichU des Bauernkriegts in 
Oier-Schwa^en (Stuttgart, 1877) ; Die Zwolf Artikel der obersehvxibisehen 
.Bauem (Kempten, 1896) ; Akten zur Oeschichte dfs Smternkrieges aus Ober- 
Schwaben (Freiburg, 1881) ; Beger, Zur Oeschichte des: Bauerntrieges nach 
Urkunden zu Karlsruhe (in Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, vols, 
xxi.-xxii., Gbttingen, 1862) ; Ryhiner, Chrnnik des Bav/imkrieges {Basler 
Chroniken, vi., 1902); AValdau, MateriaUcti zur Geschichte des Bauem- 

THE peasants' WAR 327 

those revolts which, we have already seen, had been 
almost chronic in Germany during the later decades of the 
fifteenth and in the beginning of the sixteenth century. 
All the social and economic causes which produced them ' 
were increasingly active in 1524—1525. It is easy to 
show, as many Lutheran Church historians have done with 
elaborate care, that the Eeformation under Luther had 
nothing in common with the sudden and unexpected revolt,| 
— as easy as to prove that there was little in common: 
between the " Spiritual Poverty " of Francis of Assisi and ' 
the vulgar communism of the Brethren and Sisters of the | 
Free Spirit, between the doctrines of WicHf and the 
gigantic labour strike headed by Wat Tyler and Priest 
Ball, between the teaching of Huss and the extreme Taborite 
fanatics. But the fact remains that the voice of Luther 
awoke echoes whereof he never dreamt, and that its effects 
cannot be measured by some changes in doctrine, or by a 
reformation in ecclesiastical organisation. The times of 
the Eeformation were ripe for revolution, and the words 
of the bold preacher, coming when all men were restless 
and most men were oppressed,^appealing especially to those 
who felt the burden heavy and the yoke galling, were 
followed by far-resounding reverberations. Besides, Luther's 
message was democratic. It destroyed the aristocracy of 
the saints, it levelled the barriers between the layman and 
the priest, "it" taught the equality of all men before God, 
and the right of every man of faith to stand in God's 
presence whatever be his rank and condition of life. He 
had not confined himself to preaching a new theology. 
His message was eminently practical. In his Appeal to 

krieges (Chemnitz, 1791-1794) ; Vogt, Die Korrespondenz des Schwdbischm 
Bundes-Ecmptmanns, 16^4^15^7 (Augsburg, 1879-1883). 

Latek Books : Zimniermann, Allgemtine Qeschiehie des grossen Bauem- 
krieges, 3 vols. (Stuttgart, 1856) ; E. Belfort Bax, The Feasants' War in 
Oermany (London, 1899) ; Kautsky, Gommunism in Central Europe in the 
time of the Eeformatim, (London, 1897) ; Stern, Die Socialisten der Beforma- 
tionsseU (Berlin, 1883). Tlie literature on the Peasants' War is very 

' Compare above, p. 106.' 

328 THE peasants' war 

the NoUlity of the German Nation, Luther had voiced all 
the "grievances of Germany, had touched upon almost all 
the open sores of the time, and had foretold disasters not 
very far off. 

Nor must it be forgotten that no great leader ever 
flung about wild words in such a reckless way. Luther had 
the gift of strong smiting-phrases, of words which seemed 
to cleave-to- the' very heart of things, of images which lit 
up a subject with the vividness of a flash of lightning 
He launched tracts and pamphlets from the press about 
almost everything, — written~for the most part on the spur 
of the moment, and when the fire burned. His words fell 
into souls full of the fer-menting passions of the times. 
They drank in with eagerness the thoughts that_aU_men 
were equal before God, and that there are divine com- 
mands about the brotherhood of mankind of more 
importance than all human legislation. They refused to 
believe that such golden ideas belonged to the realm of 
spiritual life alone, or that the .only prescriptions which 
denied the rights of the common man were the desrees 
of the Eoman Curia. The successful revolts of the Swiss 
peasants, the wonderful victories of Zisca, the people's 
leader, in the near Bohemian lands, were illustrations, they 
thought, of how Luther's sledge-hammer words could be 
translated into corresponding deeds. 

Other teachings besides Luther's were listened to. 
Many of the Humanists, professed disciples of Plato, 
expounded to friends or in their class-rooms the-_com- 
munistic dreams of the Republic, and published Utopias 
like the brilliant sketch of the ideal commonwealtlTwhich 
came from the pen of Thomas More. These speculations 
" of the Chair " were listened to by the " wandering, 
students," and were retailed, with forcible illustrations, in 
a way undreamt of by their scholarly authors, to audiences 
of artisans and peasants who were more than ready to give 
them unexpected applications.'^ 

^ Lindsay, Luther and tlie German Reformation (Edinburgh, 1900), 169 ff. • 
Stern, Die Soaialisten der Seformationszeit, Berlin, 1883. 

THE peasants' WAR 329 

The influence of popular astrology must not be 
forgotten ; for the astrologisfs" were powerful among all 
classes of society, in the palaces of the princes, in the 
houses of the burghers, and at the peasant market 
gatherings and church ales. In these days they were 
busy pointing out heavenly portents, and foretelUng 
calamities and popular risings.^ 

The missionaries of the movement belonged to all sorts 
and conditions of men— poor priests sympathising with 
the grievances of their parishioners ; wandering monks 
who had deserted their convents, especially those belonging 
to the Franciscan Order; poor students on their way from 
University to University ; artisans, travelling in German 
fashion from one centre of their trade to another. They 
found their audiences on the village greens under the lime 
trees, or in the public-houses in the lower parts of the 
towns. They talked the rude language of the people, and 
garnished their discourse with many a scriptural quotation. 
They read to excited audiences small pamphlets and 
broadsides, printed in thick letters on coarse paper, which 
discussed the burning questions of the day. 

The revolt began unexpectedly, and without any pre- 
concerted preparation or formulation of demands, in June 
1524, when a thousand peasants belonging to the estate 
of Count Sigismund of Lupfen rose in rebellion against 
their lord at Stiihlingen, a few miles to the north-west of 
Schaifhausen, and put themselves under the leadership of 
Hans Miiller, an old landsknecht. Milller ledhis peasants, 
one of them carrying a flag blazoned with the imperial 
colours of red, black, and yellow, to the little town of 
Waldshut, about half-way between Schaffhausen and Basel. 
The people of ihe town fraternised with the peasants, and 
the formidable " Evangelical Brotherhood " was either 
formed then or the roots of it were planted. The news 
spread fast, east and west. The peasants of the districts 
round about the Lake of Constance — in the AUgau, the 

' Friedrich, Astrologie und Beformation, oder die Aslrologen als Prediyer 
der Reformaticm wnd Urheber des Bauernkrieges, Mlinchen, 1864. 

330 THE peasants' war 

Klettgau, the Hegau, and Villingen — rose in rebellion. 
The revolt spread northwards into Lower Swabia, and the 
peasants of Leiphen, led by Jacob Wehe, were joined by 
some of the troops of Truchsess, the genei'al of the Swabian 
League. The peasants of Salzburg, Styria, and the Tyrol 
rose. These three eastern risings had most staying power 
in them. The Salzburg peasants besieged the Cardinal 
Archbishop in his castle ; they were not reduced till the 
spring of 1526, and only after having extorted conces- 
sions from their over-lords. The Tyrolese peasants, under 
their wise leader, Michael Gaismeyer, shut up Archduke 
Ferdinand in Innsbruck, and in the end gained substantial 
concessions. The fising in Styria was a very strong one ; 
it lasted tiU 1526, and was eventually put down by bring- 
ing Bohemian troops into the country. From Swabia the 
flames of insurrection spread iato Franconia, where a por- 
tion of the insurgents were led by an escap^. criminal, the 
notorious Jaklein Eohrbach. It was this band which per- 
petrated the wanton massacre of Weinsberg, the one out- 
standing atrocity of the insurrection. The band and the 
deed were repudiated by the rest of the insurgents. Thomas 
Miinzer, who, banished from Zwickau and then from 
Alstedt, had settled in Miihlhausen, his heart aflame with 
the wrongs of the commonalty, preached insurrection to the 
peasants in Thiiringen. He issued fiery proclamations : 

" Arise ! Fight the battle of the Lord ! On ! On ! On I 
The wicked tremble when they hear of you. On ! On ! On ! 
Be pitiless although Esau gives you fair words (Gen. xxxiii.). 
Heed not the groans of the godless ; they will beg, weep, 
and entreat you for pity like children. Show them no 
mercy, as God commanded to Moses (Deut. vii.), and as He 
has revealed the same to us. Eouse up the towns and the 
villages ; above all, rouse the miners. ... On ! On ! On ! 
while the fire is burning let not the blood cool on your 
swords ! Smite pinke-pank on the anvil of Nimrod ! Over- 
turn their towers to the foundation; while one of th^m 
lives you will not be free from the fear of man. While 
they reign over you it is of no use to speak of the fear of 
God. On ! while it is day 1 God is with you." 


The words were meant to rouse the miners of Mansfeld. 
They failed in their original intention, but they sent bands 
of armed insurgents through Thiiringen and the Harz, and 
within fourteen days about forty convents and monasteries 
were destroyed, and the inmates (many of them poor 
women with no homes to return to) were sent adrift. 

The revolt spread like a conflagration; one province 
catching fire from another, until in the early spring 
months of 1525 almost all Germany was in uproar. The 
only districts which escaped were Bavaria in the south, 
Hesse, and the north and north-east provinces. The insur- 
gents were not peasants only. The poorer population of 
many of the towns fraternised with the insurgents, and com- 
pelled the civic authorities to admit them within their walls. 

§ 4. The Twelve Articles. 

Statements of grievances were published which, natur- 
ally, bore a strong resemblance to those issued in the 
earlier social uprisings. The countrymen complained of 
the continuous appropriation of the woodlands by the pro- 
prietors, and that they were not allowed to fish in the 
streams or to kill game in their fields. They denounced 
the proprietors' practice of compelling his peasants to do all 
manner of unstipulated service for him without payment 
— to repair his roads, to assist at his hunts, to draw his 
fish-ponds. They said that their crops were ruined by 
game which they were not allowed to kill, and by hunters 
in pursuit of game ; that the landlord led his streams 
across their meadow land, and deprived them of water for 
irrigation. They protested against arbitrary punishments, 
unknown to the old consuetudinary village law-courts 

They formulated their demands for justice in various 
series of articles, all of which had common features, but 
contained some striking differences. Some dwelt more on 
the grievances of the peasants, others voiced the demands 
of the working classes of the towns, others again contained 

332 THE peasants' war 

traces of the political aspirations of the more educated 
leaders of the movement Almost all protest that they 
ask for nothing contrary to the requirements of just 
authority, whether civil or ecclesi^tical, nor to the gospel 
of Christ. The peasants declared that each village com- 
munity should be at liberty to choose its own pastor, 
and to dismiss him if he proved to be unsatisfactory ; 
that while ther were wUling to pay the great tithes 
(i.e. a tenth of the produce of the crops), the lesser tithes 
(i.e. a tenth of the eggs, lambs, foals, etc.) should no 
longer be exacted ; that these great tithes should be 
reserved to pay the village priest's stipend, and that 
what remained over should go to support the poor ; that, 
since God had made all men free, serfdom should be 
abolished ; and that, while they were willin g to obey lawful 
authority, peasants ought not to be called on to submit 
to the arbitrary commands of then* lEtndlords. They 
insisted that they had a right to fish in the streams (not 
in fish-ponds), to kill game and wild birds, for these were 
public property. They demanded that the woodlands, 
meadows, and ploughlands which had once belonged to 
the village community, but which had been appropriated 
by the landlords, should be restored. They insisted that 
arbitrary services of every kind should be abolished, and 
that whatever services, beyond the old feudal dues, were 
demanded, should be paid for in wages. They called for 
the abolition of the usage whereby the landlord was per- 
mitted, in the name of death -duty, to seize on the most 
valuable chattel of the deceased tenant ; and for the crea- 
tion of impartial courts of justice in the country distiicts. 
They concluded by asking that all their demands should 
be tested by the word of God, and that if any of them 
should be found to be opposed to its teaching, it should be 

The townspeople asked that all class privileges should 
be abolished in civic and ecclesiastical appointments ; that 

>Cf. "The Twelve Peasant Articles" in Emil Beich, Select Documenta 
iiluiirating Mediwval and Modem History, p. 212. 


the administration of justice in the town's courts should 
be improved ; that the local taxation should be readjusted ; 
that all the inhabitants should be permitted to vote for 
the election of the councillors ; and that better provision 
should be made for the care of the poor. Sonle of the 
more ambitious manifestoes contained demands for a 
thorough reconstruction of the entire administration of the 
Empire, on a scheme which involved the overthrow of all 
feudal courts of justice, and contemplated a series of im- 
perial judicatories, rising from revived Communal Courts 
to a central Imperial Court of Appeal for the whole 
Empire. Some manifestoes demanded a unification of the 
coiuage, weights, and measures througliout the Empire ; a 
confiscation of ecclesiastical endowments for the purpose 
of lessening taxation, and for the redemption of feudal 
dues ; a uniform rate of taxes and customs duties ; re- 
straint to be placed on the operations of the great capital- 
ists ; the regulation of commerce and trade by law ; and 
the admission of representatives from all classes in the 
community into the public administration. In every case 
the Emperor was regarded as the Lord Paramount. There 
were also declarations of the sovereignty of the people, 
made in such a way as to suggest that the writings of 
MarsiKus of Padua had been studied by some of the leaders 
among the insurgents. The most_ famous of all these 
declarations was the Twelve Articles. The document 
was adopted by delegates from several of the insurrec- 
tionary bands, which met at Memmingen in Upper Swabia, 
to unite upon a common basis of action. If not actually 
drafted by Schappeler, a friend of Zwingli, the articles 
were probably inspired by him. These Twelve Articles 
gave something like unity to the movement ; althoiigh it 
must be remembered that documents bearing the title do 
not always agree. The main thought with the peasant 
was to secure a fair share of the iaxiTl, security of tenure, 
and diminution of feudal servitudes ; and the idea of the 
artisan was to obtain full civic privileges and an adequate 
representation of his class on the city council. 

334 THE peasants' war 

§ 5. The Suppression of the Revolt. 

During the earlier months of 1525 the rising carried 
everything before it. Many of the smaller towns made 
common cause with the peasants; indeed, it was feared 
that all the towns of Swabia might unite in supporting 
the movement. Prominent nobles were forced to join the 
" Evangelical Brotherhood " which had been formally con- ~ 
stituted at Memmingen (March 7 th). Princes, like the 
Cardinal Elector of Maiaz and the Bishop of Wiirzburg, 
had to come to terms with the iasurgents. Germany had 
been denuded of soldiers, drafted to take part in the 
Italian wars of Charles v. The ruling powers engaged 
the insurgents in negotiations simply for the purpose of 
gaining time, as was afterwards seen. But the rising bad 
no solidity in it, nor did it produce, save iu the Tyrol, any 
leader capable of effectually controlling his followers and 
of giving practical result to their efforts. The insurgents 
became demoralised after their first successes, and the 
whole movement had begun to show signs of dissolution 
before the priuces had recovered from their terror. Phihp 
of Hesse aided the Elector of Saxony (John, for Prederick 
had died during the insurrection) to crush Miinzer at 
Frankenhausen (May 15th, 1525), the town of Miihl- 
hausen was taken, and deprived of its privileges as an 
imperial city, and the revolt was crushed in North 

George Truchsess, the general of the Swabian League, 
his army strengthened by mercenaries returning to Ger- 
many after the battle of Pavia, mastered the bands in 
Swabia and in Franconia. The Elsass revolt was sup- 
pressed with great ferocity by Duke Anthony of Lorraine. 
None of the German princes showed any consideration or 
mercy to their revolting subjects save the old Elector 
Frederick and Philip of Hesse. The former, on his death- 
bed, besought his brother to deal leniently with the 
misguided people; PhiUp's peasantry had fewer matters 
to complain of than had those of any other province, 


the Landgrave discussed their grievances with them, and 
made concessions which effectually prevented any revolt. 
Everywhere else, save in the Tyrol, the revolt was crushed 
with merciless severity, and between 100,000 and 150,000 
of the insurgents perished on the field or elsewhere. The 
insurrection maintained itself in the Tyrol, in Salzburg, 
and in Styria until the spring of 1526; in all other dis- 
tricts of Germany the insui-gents were crushed before the ', 
close of 1525. No attempt was made to cure the ills- 
which led to the rising. The oppression of the peasantry 
was intensified. The last vestiges of local self-government 
were destroyed, and the unfortunate people were doomed 
for generations to exist in the lowest degradation. The 
year 1525 was one of the saddest in the annals of the 
German Fatherland. 

The Peasants' War had a profound, lasting, and disas- 
( trous effect on the Eeformation movement in Germany. It 
I affected Luther personally, and that in a way which could 
not fail to react upon the cause which he conspicuously 
led. It checked the spread of the Reformation throughout 
the whole of Germany. It threw the guidance of the 
movement into the hands of the evangelical princes, and 
destroyed the hope that it might give birth to aTreforored 
National German Church. 

§ 6. Luther and the Peasants' War. 

The effect of the rising upon Luther's own character 
and future conduct was too important for us to entirely 
pass over his personal relations to the peasants and their 
revolt. He was a peasant's son. " My father, my grand- 
father, my forebears, were all genuine peasants," he was 
accustomed to say. He had seen and pitied the oppression 
of the peasant class, and had denounced it. in. his own 
trenchant fashion. He had reproved the greed of the 
landlords, when he said that if the peasant's land produced 
as many coins as ears of corn, the profit would go to the 
landlord only. He had publicly expressed his approval of 

336 THE peasants' war 

many of the proposals in the Twelve Articles long before 
they had been formulated and adopted at Memmingen in 
March 1525, and had advocated a return to the old com- 
munal laws or usages of Germany. He formally declared his 
[ agreement with the substance of the Twelve Articles after 
1 they had become the " charter " of the revolt. But Luther, 
rightly or wrongly, held that no real good could come from 
(armed insurrection. He Felieved with all the tenacity of 
his nature, that while there might be two roads to reform, 
the way of peace, and the way of war, the pathway of 
peace was the only one which would lead to lasting benefit. 
After the - storm burst he risked his life over and over 
again in visits he paid to the disaffected districts, to warn 
the people of the dangers they were running. After 
Miinzer's attempt to rouse the miners of Mansfeld, and 
carry fire and sword into the district where his parents 
were living, Luther made one last attempt to bring the 
misguided people to a more reasonable course. He made a 
preaching tour through the disaffected districts. He went 
west from Eisleben to Stolberg (April 21st, 1525); thence 
to Nordhausen, where Miinzer's sympathisers rang the 
bells to drown his voice; south to Erfurt (April 28th); 
north again to the fertile valley of the Golden Aue 
and to Wallhausen (May 1st); south again to Weimar 
(May 3rd), where news reached him that his Elector 
was dying, and that he had expressed the wish to see 
'' him, — a message which reached him too late. " It was 
on this journey, or shortly after his return to Witten- 
\ berg (May 6th), that Luther wrote his vehement tract, 
' Against the murdering, thieving hordes of Peasants. He 
i wrote it while his mind was full of Miinzer's calls to 
\ slaughter, when the danger was at its height, with aU 
\ the sights and sounds of destruction and turmoil in eye 
and ear, while it still hung in the balance whether the 
insurgent bands might not carry all before them. In 
this terrible pamphlet Luther hounded on the princes to 
crush the rising. It is this pamphlet, all extenuating" 
circumstances being taken into account, which must 


ever remain an ineffaceable stain on his noble life and 

As for himself, the Peasants' War imprinted in him 
a deep distrust of all who had any connection with the 
rising. He had not forgotten Carlstadt's action at Witten- 
berg in 1521-1522, and when Carlstadt was found 
attempting to preach the insurrection in Pranconia and 
Swabia, Luther never forgave him. His deep-rooted and 
unquenchable suspicion of Zwingli may be traced back to 
his discovery that friends of the Zurich Eeformer had 
been at Memmingen, had aided the revolutionary delegates 
to draft the Twelve Articles, and had induced them to 
shelter themselves under the shield of a religious Eeforma- 
tion. What is perhaps more important, the Peasants' War 
gave to Luther a deep and abiding distrust of the " common 
man " which was altogether lacking in the earlier stages 
of his career, which made him prevent every effort to 
give anything like a democratic ecclesiastical organisation 
to the Evangelical Church, and which led him to bind his 
Eeformation in the chains of secular control to the extent 
of regarding the secular authority as possessing a quasi- 
episcopal function.^ It is probably true that he saved 
the Eeformation in Germany by cutting it loose from the 
revolutionary movement ; but the wrench left marks on 
his own character as well as on that of the movement he 
headed. Luther's enemies were quick to make capital out 
of his relations with the peasants, and Emser compared 
him to Pilate, who washed his hands after betraying Jesus 
to the Jews. 

' After speaking about the duties of the authorities, he proceeds : "In 
the case of an insurgent, every man is both judge and executioner. There- 
fore, whoever can should knock down, strangle, and stab such publicly or 
privately, and think nothing so venomous, pernicious, and devilish as an 
insurgent. . . . Such wonderful times are these, that a prince can merit 
heaven better with bloodshed than another with prayer." 

^ Luther dissuaded the Landgrave of Hesse from permanently adopting 
the democratic ecclesiastical constitution drafted by Francis Lambert for 
the Church of Hesse in 1526. The lejected constitution has been printed 
by Richter in his Die evangel ischcn Kirchenordnungen des scchssehnten 
Jahrhnudi- lis (Weimar, 1846), i. 56, 

338 THE peasants' war 

§ 7. Germany divided into two separate Camps. 

The insurrection, altogether apart from its personal 
effects on Luther, had a profound influence on the whole of 
the German Eeformation. Some princes who had hitherto 
favoured the Eomanist side were confirmed ia their opposi- 
tion ; others who had hesitated, definitely abandoned the 
cause of Eeform. Por both, it seemed that a social revolu- 
tion of a desperate kind lay behind the Protestant Ee-~ 
formation. Many an innocent preacher of the new faith 
perished in the disturbances — sought out and slain by the 
princes as an instigator of the rebellion. Duke Anthony 
of Lorraine, for example, in his suppression of the revolt 
in Elsass, made no concealment of his belief that evangelical 
preachers were the cause of the rising, and butchered them 
without mercy when he could discover them. The Curia 
found that the Peasants' War was an admirable text to preach 
from when they insisted that Luther was another Huss, and 
that the movement which he led was a revival of the 
ecclesiastical and social communism of the extre me Hussites 
(Taborites); that all who attacked the Chitrch of Eorie 
were engaged in attempting to destroy the bases of society. 
It was after the Peasants' War that_the^omaii. Catholic 
League of princes grew strong in numbers and in cohesion. 

The result of the war also showed that the ,Qnfi_aliIOBg_ 

political element in Germany was the jprinGedeeh The 

Meichsregiment, whicTi still preserved a precarious existence, 
had shown that it had no power to cope with the dis- 
turbances, and its attempts at mediation Ead been treated 
with cojitempt. From this year, 1525, t he political desti ny 
of the land was distinctly seen to be definitely shaping for 
territorial centralisation round the greater princes and 
nobles. It was inevitable that the conservative^ireligious 
Eeformation should follow the lines of political growth, 
with the result that there could not be a National 
Evangelical Church of Germany. It could only find, 
outcome in territorial Churches under the rule and pro- 
tection of those princes who from motives of religion 

THE peasants' WAR 339 

and conscience had adopted the principles which Luther 

The more radical religious movement broke up into 
fragments, and reappeared in the guise of the maligned 
and persecuted Anabaptists, — a name which embraced a 
very wide variety of religious opinions, — some of whom 
appropriated to themselves the aspirations of the social 
revolution which had been crushed by the princes. The 
conservative and Lutheran Eeformation found its main 
elements of strength in the middle classes of Germany; 
while the Anabaptists had their largest following among 
the artisans and working men of the towns. 

The terrors of the time separated Germany into two 
hostile camps — the one accepting and the other rejecting 
the ecclesiastical Eeformation, which ceased to be a national 
movement in any real sense of the word. 



§ 1. The Diet of Speyer, 1626} 

When Germany emerged from the social revolution in the 
end of 1525, it soon became apparent that the religious 
question remained unsettled, and was dividing the country 
into two parties whose differences had become visibly 
accentuated, and that both held as strongly as ever to 
their distinctive principles. Perhaps one of the reasons 
for the increased strain was the conduct of many of the 
Eomanist princes in suppressing the rebellion. The 
victories of the Swabian League in South Germany were 
everywhere followed by religious persecution. Men were 
condemned to confiscation of goods or to death, not for 
rebellion, for they had never taken part in the rising, but 
for their confessed attachment to Lutheran teaching. The 
Lutheran preache];s were special objects of attack. Aichili, 
who acted as a provost-marshal to the Swabian League, 
made himself conspicuous by plundering, mulettag, and 

' SouECEs (besides those given in earlier chapters) : Ifey, " Analecten zur 
Gesohichte des Keichstags zu Speier ira Jahr 1526 " (Zeitschrift fur Kirchen- 
(jeschichte, viii. ix. xii.) ; Friedeusburg, Beitrdge zum Bri'/wechsel zmschen 
Hertzog Gcorg von Sachsen v.nd Landgraf Philip von Hessen (Keuier Archiv 
fur Sachs. Oesch. vi.) ; Balan, Olementis VII. Epistoloe (vol. i. o( Monumenta 
ScDcnUxvi. Uistoriain illiidrantia, Innsbruck, 1885); Casanova, £ette;'C rft 
Carlo V. and Clements VII. 1637-1633 (Florence, 1893) ; Lanz, Oorrespondcnz 
des Kaisers Karl V. (Leipzig, 1846); Bradford, Cmrespondence of Charles V. 
(London, 1850). 

Later Books ; Sohomburgk, Die Pack'sehen Handel (Maiirenbreoher's 
Hist. Taschenbuch, Leipzig, 1882) ; Stoy, JErsle Bilndnisbestrebungen evangt- 
lischen Stdnde (Jena, 1888) ; Cambridge Modern History, ii. vi. 



putting them to death. It is said that he hung forty 
Lutheran pastors on the trees by. the roadside in one small 
district. The Eoman Catholic princes had banded them- 
selves together for mutual defence as early as July 1525. 
The more influential members of this league were Duke 
George of Saxony, the Electors of Brandenburg and Mainz, 
and Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolf enbiittel. Duke Henry 
was selected to inform the Emperor of what they had done, 
rand to secure his sympathy and support. He told Charles v. 
that the league had been formed " against the Lutherans in , 
case they should attempt by force or cunning to gain them i 
over to their unbeHef." ; 

On the other hand, the Protestant princes had a mutual 
imderstanding — it does not seem to have been a definite 
league — to defend one another against any attack upon 
their faith. The leaders were John of Saxony, PhiUp of 
Hesse, Dukes Otto, Ernest, and Francis of Brunswick- 
Liineberg, and the Counts of Mansfeld. Philip of Hesse 
was the soul of the union. They could count on the 
support of many of the imperial cities, some of them, such 
as Niimberg, being in districts where the country lying 
around was ruled by Romanist princes. 

The Diet, which met at Augsburg in 1525, was very 
thinly attended, and both parties waited for the Diet which 
was to be held at Speyer in the following year. 

There never had been any doubt about the position and 
opinions of the Emperor on the religious question. He 
had stated them emphatically at the Diet of Worms. He 
had been educated in the beliefs of mediseval Catholicism ; 
he valued the ceremonies and usages of the mediaeval 
worship ; he understood no other ecclesiastical polity ; he 
believed that the Bishop of Eome was the head of the 
Church on earth ; he had consistently persecuted Protestants 
in his hereditary dominions from the beginning ; he desired 
the execution of the Edict of Worms against Luther. If 
he had remained in Germany, all his personal and official 
influence would have been thrown into the scale against 
the evangelical faith. Troubles in Spain, and the prosecu- 

342 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

tion of the war against Francis of France had prevented 
his presence in Germany after his first brief visit. He 
had now conquered and taken Francis prisoner at the 
battle of Pavia. The terms of the Treaty of Madrid 
bound Francis to assist Charles in suppressing Lutheranism 
and other pernicious sects in Germany, and when it was 
signed the Emperor seemed free to crush the German 
Protestants. But his very success was against him; 
papal diplomacy wove another web aroimd him; he was 
still unable to visit the Fatherland, and the rehgious 
question had to be discussed at Speyer in his absence. 

When the Diet met, the national hostility to Eome 
showed no signs of abatement. The subject of German 
grievances against the Curia was again revived, and it was 
alleged that the chief causes of the Peasants' War were the 
merciless exactions of clerical landholders. Perhaps this 
opinion was justified by the fact that the condition of 
the peasantry on the lands of monasteries and of bishops 
J was natoriously worse than that of those under secular 

V proprietors ; and that, while the clerical landholders had 
done little to subdue the rebels, they had been merciless 
after the insurgents had been subdued. There was truth 
enough in the charge to make it a sufficient answer to the 
accusation that the social revolution had been the outcome 
of Luther's teaching. 

Ferdinand of Austria presided in his brother's absence, 
and, "^acting on the Emperor's iastructions, he demanded 
\ the enforcement of the Edict of^ Worms and a decree of 
1 the Diet to forbid all innovations in worship and in doc- 
trine. He promised that if these imperial demands were 
granted, the Emperor would induce the Pope to call a 
General Council for the definite settlement of the religious 
difficulties. But the Diet was not inclined to adopt the 
suggestions. The Emperor was at war~^with the Pope. 
Many of the clerical members felt themselves to be in a 
delicate position, and did not attend. The Lutheran sym- 
pathisers were in a majority, and the delegates from the 
cities insisted that it was impossible to enforce the Edict 

THE DIET OF 1526 343 

of Worms. The Committee of Princes ^ proposed to settle 
the religioui) question by a compromise which was almost 
wholly favourable to the Eeformation. They suggested 
that the marriage of priests, giving the cup to the laity, 
the use of German as well as Latin in the baptismal and 
communion services, should be recognised ; that all private 
Masses should be abolished ; that the number of ecclesi- 
astical holy days should be largely reduced ; and that in the 
exposition of Holy Writ the rule ought to be that scripture 
should be interpreted by scripture. After a good deal of 
tencing, the Diet finally resolved on a deliverance which 
provided that the word of God should be preached with- 
out disturbance, that indemnity should be granted for past 
offences against the Edict of Worms, and that, until the 
meeting of a General CoimcQ to be held in a German city, 
each State should so live as it hoped to answer for its con- 
duct to God and to the Emperor. 

The decision was a triumph for the territorial system 
as well as for the Eeformation, and foreshadowed the per- 
manent religious peace of Augsburg (1555). It is difficult 
to see how either Charles or Ferdinand could have accepted 
it. Their acquiescence was probably due to the fact that 
the Emperor was then at war with the Pope (the sack of 
Eome under the Constable Bourbon took place on May 
6th, 1527), and that the threat of a German ecclesiastical 
revolt was a good weapon to use against His Holiness. 
Ferdinand was negotiating for election to the crowns of 
Hungary and Bohemia, and dared not offend his German 
subjects. Both brothers looked on any concessions to the 
German Lutherans as temporary compromises to be with- 
drawn as soon as they were able to enforce their own 

The Protestant States and cities at once interpreted 
|this decision of the Diet to mean that they had the legal 
right to organise territorial Churches and to introduce such 

^''Tlie Diet was accustomed to appoint a Committee of Princes to put in 
shape their more important ordinances. The ordinance was called a 

344 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

changes into public worship as would bring it into harmony 
with their evangelical beliefs.^ The latent evangelical feel- 
ing at once manifested itself. Almost all North Germany, 
except Brandenburg, Ducal Saxony, and Brunswick- Wolfen- 
biittel, became Lutheran within three years. Still it has to 
be noticed that the legal recognition was accorded to the 
secular authorities, and that a ruling prince, who had no 
very settled religious convictions, might change the religion 
of his principality from political or selfish motives. It 
became evident in 1529 that political feeling or fear of the 
Emperor was much stronger than resolutions to support 
the evangelical Eeformation. 

Soon after the Diet, Philip of Hesse committed a 
political blunder which, in the opinion of many of his 
evangelical friends, involved disloyalty to the Fatherland, 
made them chary of associating themselves with him, and 
greatly weakened the Protestant party. For most of these 
North German princes, in spite of their clinging to the 
disruptive territorial principle, had a rugged conscientious 
patriotism which made them feel that no good German 
should seek the aid of France or make alliance with a 
Czech. Many of the Eoman Catholic princes, irritated at 
the spread and organisation of Lutheranism which followed 
the decision of the Diet of 1526, had been persecuting by 
confiscation of goods and by death their Lutheran subjects. 
The Landgrave had married the daughter of Duke George 
of Saxony, and he knew that his father-in-law was con- 
tinually uttering threats against the Elector of Saxony. 
Brooding over these things, Philip became gradually con- 
vinced that the Eomanist princes were planning a deadly 
assault on the Lutherans, and that first the Elector and 
then he himself would be attacked and their territories 
partitioned among the conquerors. He had no proof, but 
his suspicions were strong. Chance brought him in contact 
with Otto von Pack, the steward of the Chancery of Ducal 
Saxony, who,- on being questioned, admitted that the sus- 

^ A description of the changes in organisation and worship introduced 
after the decision of the Diet of 1526 is reserved for a separate chapter. 

THE DIET OF 1529 345 

picions of Philip were correct, and promised to procure a 
copy of the treaty. Pack was a scoundrel. No such 
^ treaty existed. He forged a document which he declared 
to be a copy of a genuine treaty, and got 4000 gulden for 
his pains. Philip took the forgery to the Elector of Saxony 
and to Luther, both of whom had no doubt of its genuine 
character. They both, however, refused to agree to PhiUp's 
plan of seeking assistance outside the Empire. The Land- 
grave believed the situation too dangerous to be faced 
passively. He tried to secure the assistance of Francis of 
France and of Zapolya, the determined opponent of the 
House of Austria in Bohemia. It was not until he had 
fully committed himself that the discovery was made that 
the document he had trusted in was nothing but a forgery. 
His hasty action in appealing to France and Bohemia to 
interfere in the domestic concerns of the Empire was 
rresented by his co-reUgionists. When the Diet met at 
Speyer, the Lutherans were divided and discredited. On 
1 the other hand, the Pope and the Emperor were no longer 
/ at war, and the clerical members flocked to the Diet in 
large numbers. 

At this memorable Diet of Speyer (1529), a compact 
Eoman Catholic majority faced a weak Lutheran minority. 
TEe_ Emperor, through his commissioners, declared at the 
outset that he abolished, "by his imperial and absolute 
authority (Machtvollkommenheit)," the clause in the ordinance 
of 1 5 2 6 on which the Lutherans had reUed when they founded 
their territorialjChurches ; it had been the cause, he said, " of 
much" ill counsel and misunderstanding." The majority of 
the Diet upheld the Emperor's decision, andTThe practical" 
effect of the ordinance which was voted was to rescind 
that of 1526. It declared that the German States which 
had accepted the Edict of Worms should continue to do 
so; which meant that there was to be no toleration for 
Lutherans in Eomanist districts. It said that in districts 
which had departed from the Edict no further, inaovations 
were to be made, save that no one was to.,b& prevented 
from hearing Mass ; that sects which denied the sacrament 

346 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

of the true Body and Blood of Christ (Zwinglians) should 
no more be tolerated than Anabaptists. What was most 
important, it declared that no ecclesiastical Jbodx_§llQllLd 
be deprived of its authority _ or revenues. It was this 
last clause which destroyed all possibility of creating 
Lutheran Churches ; for it meant that the mediaeval ecclesi-' 
astical rule was everywhere to be restored, and with it 
the right of bishops to deal with all preachers within their 

§ 2. The Protest} 

It was this ordinance which called forth the celebrated 
Protest, from which comes the name Protestant. The 
Protest was read in the Diet on the day (April 19th, 1529) 
when- all concessions to the Lutherans had been refused. 
Ferdinand and the other imperial commissioners wdiild^not 
permit its publication in the " recess," and the protesters 
had a legal instrument drafted and published, in which they 
embodied the Protest, with all the necessary documents 
annexed. The legal position taken was that the unanim- 
ous decision of one Diet (1526) could not be rescinded 
by a majority in a second Diet (1529). The Protesters 
declared that they meant to abide by the " recess " of 
1526; that the "recess" of 1529 was not to be held 
binding on them, because they were not consenting parties. 
When forced to make their choice between obedience to 
God and obedience to the Emperor, they were compelled 
to choose the former ; and they appealed, from the wrongs 
done to them at the Diet, to the Emperor, to the next free 
General Council of Holy Christendom, or to an ecclesi- 
astical congress of the German nation. The document 
was signed by the Elector John of Saxony, Margrave 
George of Brandenburg, Dukes Ernest and Francis of 
Brunswick-Liineburg, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, and Prince 
Wolfgang of Anhalt. The fourteen cities which adhered 
were Strassburg, Niirnberg, Ulm, Constance, Lindau, Mem- 

■' Ney, Geschichte des Heuhstages zu Speier in 15B9 (Hamburg, 1880) I 
Tittmann, Die Frotestation zu Sjieyer (Leipzig, 1829). 


mingen, Kempten, Nordlingen, Heilbronn, Eeutlingen, Isny, 
St. Gallen, Wissenberg, and Windsheim. Many of these 
cities were Zwinglian rather than Lutheran ; but all united 
^ in face of the common danger. 

The Protest at Speyer embodied the principle, not a 
new one, that a minority of German States, when they felt 
themselves oppressed by a majority, could entrench them- 
! selves behind the laws of the Empire ; and the idea is 
j seen at work onward to the Diet of 1555, when it was 
j definitely recognised. Such a minority, to maintain a suc- 
cessful defence, had to be united and able to protect itself 
by force if necessary. This was at once felt ; and three 
days after the Protest had been read in the Diet (April, 
22nd), Electoral Saxony, Hesse, and the cities of Strass- 
burg, Ulm, and Niirnberg had concluded a " secret and 
particular _treaty." They pledged themselves to mutual 
defenceTf attacked on account of God's word, whether the 
onslaught came from the Swabian League, from the Eeichs- 
regiment, or from the Emperor himself. Soon after the 
Diet, proposals were brought forward to make the compact 
effective and extensive, — one drafted by representatives 
of the cities and the other by the Elector of Saxony, — 
which provided very thoroughly for mutual support ; but 
neither took into account the differences which lay behind 
the Protest. These divergences were strong enough to 
wreck the union. 

The differences which separated the German Protestants 
were not wholly theological, although their doctrinal dis- 
putes were most in evidence. 

§ 3. Luther and Zwingli, 

A movement for reformation, which owed little or 
nothing to Wittenberg, had been making rapid progress in 
Switzerland, and two of the strongest cantons, Zurich and 
Bern, had revolted from the Eoman Church. Its leader, 
Huldreich Zwingli, was utterly unhke Luther in tempera- 
ment, training, and environment. 

348 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

He had never gone through the terrible spiritual con- 
flicts which had marked Luther for life, and had made him 
the man that he was. No de ep s ense.,ofjersonal sin had 
ever haunted him, to make his early manhooH~ar"burden to 
him. Long after he had become known as a Eeformer, he 
was able to combine a stro ng sense of mpraL responsibility 
with some laxity in priyateJife. Unlike both Luther and 
Calvin, he was not the_ty_pe„of _man to be leader in a 
deeply spiritual revival. ~ 

He had been subjected to the influences o£ Human ism 
from his childhood. His uncle, Bartholomew Zwingli, 
parish priest at Wildhaus, and the dean of Wesen, under 
whose charge the boy was placed, had a strong sympathy 
for the New Learning, and the boy imbibed it. His 
young intellect was fed on Homer and Pindar and Cicero ; 
and all his life he esteemed the great pagans of antiquity 
as highly as he did any Christian saint. If it can be said 
that he bent before the dominating influence of any one 
man, it was Erasmus and not Luther who compelled him 
to admiration. He had for a teacher Thomas Wyttenbach, 
who was half Eeforjner and half disciple of Erasmus ; and 
learned from him to study the Scriptures and the writings 
of such earlier Church Fathers as Origen, Jerome, and 
Chrysostom. Like many another Humanist north of the 
Alps, the mystical Christian Platonism of Pico della 
Mirandola had some influence on him. He had never 
studied the Scholastic Theology, and knew nothing of the 
spell it cast over men who had been trained in it. Of all 
the Reformers, Luther was the least removed from the 
mediaeval way of looking at religion, and Zwingli had 
wandered farthest from it. 

His earliest ecclesiastical surroundings were also different 
from Luther's. He had never been Jaaight_in childhood to 
consider the Church to be the Pope's House, in which the 
Bishop of Eome was entitled to the reverence and obedience 
due to the house-father. In his land the people had been 
long accustomed to manage their own ecclesiastical affairsT 
The greater portion of Switzerland had known but little 


either of the benefits or disadvantages of mediaeval episcopal 
rule. Church property paid its share of the communal 
taxes, and even the monasteries and convents were liable 
to civil inspection. If a stray tourist at the present day 
wanders into the church which is called the Cathedral 
in that survival of ancient mediaeval republics, San Marino, 
he will find that the seats of the " consuls " of the little 
republic occupy the place where he expects to find the 
bishop's chair. The civil power asserted its supremacy 
over the ecclesiastical in most things in these small 
mediaeval repubUcs. The Popes needed San Marino to 
be a thorn in the side of the Malatesta of Eimini, they 
hired most of their soldiers from the Swiss cantons, and 
therefore tolerated many things which they would not have 
permitted elsewhere. 

The social environment of the Swiss Keformer was very 
different from that of Luther. He was a free Swiss who 
had listened in childhood to tales of the heroic fights of 
Morgarten, Sempach, Morat, and Nancy, and had imbibed 
the hereditary hatred of the House of Hapsburg. He had 
no fear of the " common man," Luther's bugbear after 
the Peasants' War. Orderly democratic life was the air he 
breathed, and what reverence Luther had for the Emperor 
" who protected poor people against the Turk," and for the 
lords of the soil, Zwingli paid to the civic fathers elected 
by a popular vote. When the German Eeformer thought 
of ZwingU he was always muttering what Archbishop 
Parker said of John Knox — "God keep us from such 
visitations as ^nockes hath attempted in Scotland ; the 
people to be orderers of things ! " ^ 

Owing doubtless to this repubUcan training, Zwingli 
had none of that aloofness from political affairs which was 
a marked characteristic of Luther. He believed that his 
mission had as much to do with politics as with religion, 
and that religious reformation was to be worked out by 
political forces, whether in the more limited sphere of 

^ Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the reign of Mizabeth, 
1569-1660, p. 84. 

350 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

Switzerland or in larger Germany. He had never taken 
a step forward until he had carried along with him the 
civic authorities of Zurich. His advance had always heen 
calculated. Luther's Theses (November 1517) had been 
the volcanic outburst of a conscience troubled by the sight 
of a great rehgious scandal, and their author had no inten- 
tion of doing more than protesting against the one great 
evil ; he had no idea at the time where his protest was 
leading him. Zwingli's Theses (January 1523) were the 
carefully drafted programme of a Eeformation which he 
meant to accomplish by degrees, and through the assistance 
of the Council of Zurich. His mind was f ull of political 
combinations for the purpose of carrying out his plans of 
reformation. As early as 1524 he was in correspondence 
with Pirkheimer about the possibility of a league between 
Niirnberg and Ziu'ich — two powerful Protestant towns. 
This league did not take shape. But in 1527 a rehgious 
and pohtical league (das christliche Biirgerrecht) was con- 
cluded between Zurich and Constance, an imperial German 
town; St. Gallen joined in 1528; Biel, Mtihlhausen, and 
Basel in 1529; even Strassburg, afraid of the growing 
power of the House of Hapsburg, was included in 1530. 
The feverish political activity of Zwingli commended him 
to Philip of Hesse almost as strongly as it made him 
disliked, and even feared, by Ferdinand of Austria. The 
Elector of Saxony and Luther dreaded his influence over 
" the young man of Hesse." 

Melanchthon was the first to insist on the evil influences 
of Zwingli's activity for the peace of . the Empire. He 
persuaded himself that had the LutKerans stood alone at 
Speyer, the Eomanists would have been prepared to make 
concessions which would have made the Protest needless. 
He returned to Wittenberg full of misgivings. The Protest 
might lead to a defiance of the Emperor, and to a subversion 
of the Erdpire. Was'it r ight for_ "subjects to defend them 
selves by war against the civil power^which was ordained of 
God ? " My conscience," he wrote, " is disquieted because 
of this thing ; I am half dead with thinking about it." 


He found Luther only too sympathetic ; resolute to 
maintain that if thB 'prince coinmancled anything which 
was contrary to the word of God, it^was the duty of the 
subject to offer what passive resistance he was able, but 
that it was never right to oppose him actively by force 
of arms. Still less was it the duty of a Christian man to 
ally himself for such resistance with those who did not 
hold " the whole truth of God." Luther would therefore 
have nothing to do with an alliance offensive and defensive 
against the Emperor with cities who shared in what he 
believed to be the errors of ZwingU. 

This meant a great deal more than a break with the 
Swiss. The south German towns of Strassburg, Memmin- 
gen, Constance, Lindau, and others were more Zwinglian 
than Lutheran. It was not only that they were inclined 
to the more radical theology of the Swiss Eeformer ; they 
found that his method of organising a reformed Church, 
drafted for the needs of Zuiich, suited their municipal 
institutions better than the territorial organisations being 
adopted by the Lutheran Churches of North Germany. 
To Luther, whose views of the place of the " common man " 
in tie Church had been changed by the Peasants' War, 
this was of itself a danger which threatened the welfare 
of the infant Churches. It made ecclesiastical government 
too democratic ; and it did this in the very centres where 
the democracy was most dangerous. He could not forget 
that the mob of these German towns had taken part in 
the recently suppressed social revolution, that their working- 
class population was still the recruiting ground of the Ana- 
baptist sectaries, and that at Memmingen itself Zwinglian 
partisans had helped to organise the revolution, and to link 
it on to the religious awakening. Besides, the attraction 
which drew these German cities to the Swiss might lead 
to larger political consequences which seemed to threaten 
what unity remained to the German Empire. It might 
result in the detachment of towns from the German Father- 
land, and in the formation of new cantons cut adrift from 
Germany to increase the strength of the Swiss Confederation. 

352 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

§ 4. The Marburg Golloguy} 

All these thoughts were in the miiids of Luther and 
of his fellow theologians, and had their weight with the 
Elector of Saxony, when their refusal to join rendered the 
proposed defensive league impossible. No one was more 
disappointed than the Landgrave of Hesse, the ablest 
political leader whom the German Eeformation produced. 
He knew more about ZwiugK than his fello\v princes in 
N^orth Germany ; he had a keen interest in theological 
questions ; he sympathised to some extent with the special 
opinions of Zwingli ; and he had not the dread of demo- 
cracy which possessed Luther and his Elector. He believed, 
rightly as events showed, that differences or suspected dif- 
ferences ia theology were the strongest causes of separation ; 
he was correct in supposing that the Lutheran divines 
through ignorance magnified those points of difference ; and 
he hoped that if the Lutherans and the Swiss could be 
brought together, they would leam to know each other 
better. So he tried to arrange for a religious -cenferenee 
in his castle at Marburg. He had many a difficulty 
to overcome so fax as the Lutherans were concerned. 
Neither Luther nor Melanchthon desired to meet ZwinglL 
Melanchthon thought that if a conference was to be 
held, it would be much better to~meet-Oeeolampadius and 
perhaps some learned Eomanists. ZwingU, on the^other-, 
hand, was eager to meet Luther. He responded at once. 

• SoTJKCES : Schirrmacher, Briefe und Aden zu der GescJiichte des Seli- 
gionsgespraches zu Marburg, 15S9, und des Seichstages zu Augsburg, 1530 
(Gotha, 1876) ; Biicer, SistoriscJie Nachricht vcm dem Gesprach zu Marburg 
{Simler, Sammlung, 11. ii. 471 ff.); Rudolphi CoUini, "Summa CoUoquii 
Marpiirgensis," printed in Hospinian, Historia sacramentaria, ii 1236-1266, 
and in Zwinglii Opera, iv. 175-180 (Zurich, 1841) ; Brieger in ZeUschrift 
fiir Kirchcngeschichte, i. 62S ff. 

Later Books : Ebvard, Das Dog'ina vom Tieiligen Abendmahl wad seine 
Oesehichte, vol. ii. (Frankfurt a. M. 1846 ; the author has classified the 
accounts of the persons present at the conference, and given a comhined 
description of the discussion, pp. 308 n. and 314 ff.); Erichson, Das Marburger 
rieligio7isgesprach{StrasshuTg, 1880) ; Bess, Luther in Marburg, 1529 {Preuss. 
Jahrbiicher, civ. 418-431, Berlin, 1901). 


He came, without waiting for leave to be given by the 
Zurich Council, across a country full of enemies. The 
conference met from October 30th to November 5th, 1529. 
Luther was accompanied by Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, 
and Cruciger, Frederick Mecum from Gotha, Osiander from 
Nlirnberg, Brenz from Hall, Stephan Agricola from Augs- 
burg, and others. With Zwingli came Oecolampadius, 
Bucer, and Hedio from Strassburg, Eudolph Collin (who 
has left the fullest account of the discussion), two coun- 
cillors from Basel and from Zurich, and Jacob Sturm from 
Strassburg. After a preliminary conference between Zwingli 
and Melanchthon on the one hand, and Luther and Oecol- 
ampadius on the other, the real discussion took place in 
the great hall of the Castle. The tourist is still shown 
the exact spot where the table which separated the dis- 

_putants was placed. 

This Marburg Colloquy, as the conference was called, had 
important results for good, although it was unsuccessful in 
fulfilUng the expectations of the Landgrave. It showed a 

"real and substantial harmony between the two sets of 
theologians on all points save one. Fifteen theological 
articles {The Marburg Articles) stated the chief heads of 
the Christian faith, and fourteen were signed by Luther 
and by Zwingli. The one subject on which they could 
not come to an agreement was the relation of the Body 
of Christ to the elements Bread and Wine in the Sacra- 
ment of the Supper. It was scarcely to be expected that 
there could be harmony on a doctrinal matter on which 
there had been such a long and embittered controversy. 
~~ Both theologians found in the mediaeval doctrine of 
the Sacrament of the Supper what they believed to be an 
overwhelming error destructive to the spiritual life. It 
presupposed that a priest, in virtue of mysterious powers 
conferred in ordination, could give or withhold from the 
Christian people the benefits conveyed in the Sacrament. 
It asserted that the priest could change the elements Bread 
and Wine into the very Body and Blood of Christ, and 
that unless this change was made there was no presence 

354 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

of Christ in the sacrament, and no possibility of sacramental 
grace for the communicant. Luther attacked the problem 
as a mediaeval Christian, content, if he was able to purge 
the ordinance of this one fault, to leave aU else as he found 
it. ZwingU came as a Humanist, whose fundamental rule 
was to get beyond the mediaeval theology altogether, and 
attempt to discover how the earlier Church Fathers 
could aid him to solve the problem. This difference in 
mental attitude led them to approach the subject from 
separate sides ; and the mediaeval way of looking at the 
whole subject rendered difference of approach very easy. 
The mediaeval Church had divided the Sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper into two distinct parts — -the Mass and the 
Eucharist.^ The Mass was inseparably connected with the 
thought of the great Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross, 
and the Eucharist with the thought of the believer's com- 
munion with the Eisen Living Christ. ZwingU attacked 
the Eomanist doctrine of the Mass, and Luther sought to 
give an evangelical meaning to the mediaeval conception of 
the Eucharist. Hence the two Protestant antagonists were 
never exactly facing each other. 

Luther's convent studies in D'Ailly, Biel, and their 
common master, William of Occam, enabled him to show 
that there might be the presence of the Glorified Body of 
Christ, extended in space, in the elements Bread and Wine 
in a natural way, and without any priestly miracle : and 
that satisfied him; it enabled him to deny the priestly 
miracle and keep true in the most literal way to the words 
of the institution, " This is My Body." _ 

Zwingli, on the other hand, iasisted that the primary 
reference in the Lord's Supper was to the death of Christ, 
and that it was above all things a commemorative rite. 
He transformed the mediaeval Mass into an evangelical 
sacrament, by placing the idea of commemoration where 
the mediaeval theologian had put that of repetition, and 
held that the means of appropriation was faith and not 

^ In the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent the Sacrifice of the 
Mass is defined in the 22nd Session, and the Eucharist in the 13th Session. 


eating with the mouth. This he held to be a return to 
the laelief of the early centuries, before the conception of 
the saci-ament had been corrupted by pagan ideas. 

Like Luther, he served himself heir to the work of 
earlier theologians ; but he did not go to Occam, Biel, or 
D'Ailly, as the German Eeformer had done. Erasmus, who 
had no liking for the priestly miracle in the Mass, and 
cared little for a rigid literal interpretation of the words 
of the institution, had declared that the Sacrament of the 
Supper was the symbol of commemoration, of a covenant 
with God, and of the fellowship of all believers in Christ, 
and tl IS commended itself to Zwingli's conception of the 
social character of Christianity ; but he was too much a 
Christian theologian to be contented with such a vague 
idea of the rite. Many theologians of the later Middle 
Ages, when speculation was more free than it could be 
after the stricter definitions of the Council of Trent, 
had tried to purify and spiritualise the beliefs of the 
Church about the meaning of the central Christian rite. 
Foremost among them was John Wessel (c. 1420—1489), 
with his long and elaborate treatise. Be Sacramento Eucha- 
risticB. He had taught that the Lord's Supper is the rite 
in which the death of Christ is presented to and appro- 
priated by the believer; that it is above all things a 
commemoration of that death and a communion or par- 
ticipation in the benefits which followed ; that communion 
with the spiritual presence of Jesus is of far more im- 
portance than any corporeal contact with the Body of 
Christ; and that this communion is shared in through 
faith. These thoughts had been taken over by Christopher 
Honius, a divine of the Netherlands, who had enforced 
them by insisting that our Lord's discourse in the 6 th 
chapter of St. John's Gospel had reproved any materialistic 
conception of the Lord's Supper ; and that therefore the 
words of the institution must not be taken in their rigid 
literal meaning. He had been the first to suggest that 
the word is in "This is My Body" must mean signifies. 
Wessel and Honius were the predecesscrs of Zwingli, and 

356 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, isns 

he wove their thoughts into his doctrine of the Lard's 
Supper. It should be remembered that Luther had also 
been acquainted with the labours of Wessel and of Honius, 
and that so far from attracting they had repelled him, 
simply because he thought they failed to give the respect 
due to the literal meaning of the words of the institution. 

It must not be forgotten that Luther knew Zwingli 
only as in some way connected with Andrew Bodenstein 
of Carlstadt. Carlstadt had professed to accept the theory 
of Honius about the nature of the relation of the Presence 
of Christ to the elements of Bread and Wine — saying that 
the latter were signs, and nothing more, of the former. A 
controversy soon raged in Wittenberg to the scandal of 
German Protestantism. Luther insisted more and more on 
the necessity of the Presence in the elements of the Body 
of Christ " corporeally extended in space " ; while Carlstadt 
denied that Presence in any sense whatsoever. Luther 
insisted with all the strength of language at his command 
that the literal sense of the words of the institution must 
be preserved, and that the words " This is My Body " 
must refer to the Bread and to the Wine ; while Carlstadt , 
thought it was more likely that while using the words our 
Lord pointed to His own Body, or if not, that religious 
conviction compelled another interpretation than the one 
on which Luther insisted. 

The dust of all this controversy was in the eyes of: 
the theologians when they met at Marburg, and prevented , 
them carefully examining each other's doctrinal position. 
In all essential matters Luther and Zwingli were not so far 
apart as each supposed the other to be. Their respective 
theories, put very shortly, may be thus summed up. 

Zwingli, looking mainly at the mediaeval doctrine of 
the Mass, taught: (i) The Lord's Supper is not a repetitior, 
of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but a commemoratior. 
of that sacrifice once offered up ; and the elements are 
not a newly offered Christ, but the signs of the Body and 
Blood of the Christ who was once for all offered on Cal-1 
vary. (2) That forgiveness for sin is not won hj partaJcin 


in a newly oft'eied Chiist, but by heluving in a Christ once 
offered up. (3) That the benefits of the work of Christ 
are always appropriated by faith, and that the atonement 
is so appropriated iu the sacrament, whereby Christ be- 
comes our food ; but the food, being neither carnal nor 
corporeal, is not appropriated by the mouth, but by faith 
indwelling in the soul Therefore there is a Seal Presence 
j of Christ in the sacrament, but it is a spiritual Presence, 
I not a corporeal one. A real and living faith always 
i_j5Kolves the union of the believer with Christ, and there- 
fore the Eeal Presence of Christ ; and the Presence of 
Christ, which is in every act of faith, is in the sacrament 
to the faithful partaker. (4) That while the Lord's Supper 
primarily refers to the sacrifice of Christ, and while the 
elements. Bread and Wine, are the symbols of the crucified 
Body of Christ, the partaking of the elements is also a 
symbol and pledge of an ever-renewed living union with 
the Eisen Christ. (5) That as our Lord Himself has 
specially warned His followers against thinking of feeding 
on TTim in any corporeal or carnal manner (John vL), the 
words of the institution cannot be taken in a strictly literal 
fashion, and the phrase " This is My Body " means " This 
signifies My Body." The fourth position had been rather 
implicitly held than explicitly stated. 

Luther, looking mainly at the mediaeval doctrine of the 
Eucharist, taught: (1) That the primary use of the sacra- 
ment was to bring believing communicants into direct 
touch with the Living Eisen Christ. (2) That to this end 
there must be in the Bread and "Wine the local Presence 
of the Glorified Body of Christ, which he always conceived 
as " body extended in space " ; the communicants, coming 
into touch with this Body of Christ, have communion with 
Him, such as His disciples had on earth and as His saints 
now have in heaven. (3) That this local Presence of 
Christ does not presuppose any special priestly miracle, for, 
in virtue of its rMquity, the Glorified Body of Christ is 
everywhere naturally, and therefore is in the Bread and in 
the Wine ; this natural Presence becomes a sacramental 

358 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

Presence because of the promise of God attached to the re- 
verent and believing partaking of the sacrament. (4) That 
communion with the Living Kisen Christ implies the 
appropriation of the Death of Christ, and of the Atonement 
won by this death ; but this last thought of Luther's, 
which is Zwingli's first thought, lies implicitly in his 
teaching without being dwelt upon. 

The two theories, so far as doctrinal teaching goes, 
are supplementary to each other rather than antagonists. 
Each has a weak point. Luther's depends on a question- 
able mediaeval idea of ubiquity, and Zwingli's on a somewhat 
shallow exegests: — -Ifr' was unfortunate, but only natural, 
that when the two theological leaders were brought together 
at Marburg, instead of seeking the mutual points of agree- 
ment, each should attack the weak point in the other's 
theory. Luther began by chalking the words Hoc est 
Corpus Meum on the table before him, and by saying, " I 
take these words literally ; if anyone does not, I shall not 
■argue but contradict " ; and Zwingli spent aU his argumen- 
tative powers in disputing the doctrine of ubiquity. The 
long debate went circling round these two points and could 
never be got away from them. Zwingli maintained that 
the Body of Christ was at the Eight Hand of God, and 
could not be present, extended in space, in the elements, 
which were signs representing what was absent. Luther 
argued that the Body of Christ was in the elements, as, to 
use his own illustration, the sword is present in the sheath. 
As a soldier could present his sheathed sword and say, 
truly and literally. This is my sword, although nothing but 
the sheath was visible ; so, although nothing could be seen 
or felt but Bread and Wine, these elements in the Holy 
Supper could be literally and truly called the Body and 
Blood of Christ. 

The substantial harmony revealed in the fourteen 
articles which they all could sign showed that the Germans 
and the Swiss had one faith. But Luther insisted that 
their difference on the Sacrament of the Supper pre- 
vented them becoming one visible brotherhood, and the 


immediate purpose of the Landgrave of Hesse was not 

Undaunted by his defeat, Philip next attempted a less 
comprehensive union. If Luther and Zwingli could not be 
included within the one brotherhood, might not the German 
cities of the south and the Lutheran princes be brought 
together ? Another conference was arranged at Schwabach 
(October 1529), when a series of theological articles were 
to be presented for agreement. Luther prepared seventeen 
articles to be set before the conference. They were based 
on the Marburg Articles ; but as Luther had stated his 
own doctrine of the Holy Supper in its most uncompro- 
mising form, it is not to be wondered at that the delegates 
from the southern cities hesitated to sign. They said that 
bhe confession (for the articles took that form) was not in 
conformity with the doctrines preached among them, and 
that they would need to consult their fellow-citizens before 
committing them to it. Thus Philip's attempts to unite 
the Protestants of Germany failed a second time, and a 
divided Protestantism awaited the coming of the Emperor, 
who had resolved to solve the religious difficulty in person. 

§ 5. The Emperor in Germany. 

Charles v. was at the zenith of his power. The sickly 
looking youth of Worms had become a grave man of 
thirty, whose nine years of unbroken success had made him 
the most commanding figure in Europe. He had quelled 
the turbulent Spaniards ; he had crushed his brilliant rival 
of Prance at the battle of Pavia ; he had humbled the Pope, 
and had taught His Holiness in the Sack of Eome the 
danger of defying the Head of the Holy Eoman Empire ; 
and he had compelled the reluctant Pontiff to invest him 
with the imperial crown. He had added to and con- 
solidated the family possessions of the House of Hapsburg, 
and but lately his brother Ferdinand had won, in name at 
least, the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary. He was now 
determined to visit Germany, and by his personal presence 

360 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

and influence to end the religious difiBcultv which was 
distracting that portion of his vast dominions. He also 
meant to secure the succe^on to the Empire for his 
brother Ferdinand, bv procuring his election as King of the 

Charles came from Italy over the Brenner Pass in the 
spring time, and was magnificently received by the Tyrolese, 
eager to do all honour to the grandson of their beloved 
Kaiser Max. His letters to his brother, written on the 
stages of the joumev, reveal as folly as that reserved soul 
could unbosom itself, his plans for the pacification of 
Germany. He meant to use every persuasion possible, 
to make what compromises his conscience permitted (for 
Catholicism was a faith with Charles), to effect a peaceful 
settlement. But if these failed, he was determined to 
crush the Keformation by force. He never seems to have 
doubted that he would succeed. Xever a thought crossed 
his mind that he was about to encounter a ^%at spiritual 
force whose depth and intensity he was unable to measure, 
and which was slowly creating a new world unknown to 
himself and to his contemporaries. While at Innsbruck he 
invited the Elector of Saxony to visit him, and was some- 
what disappointed that the Lutheran prince did not 
accept ; but this foretaste of trouble did not give him any 

The summons to the Diet, commanding the Electors, 
princes, and all the Estates of the Empire to meet at 
Augsburg on the Sth of April 1530, had been issued when 
Charles was at Bologna. Xo threats marred the invitation. 
The Emperor announced that he meant to leave all past 
errors to the judgment of the Saviour : that he wished to 
give a charitable hearing to every man's opinions, thoughts, 
and ideas ; and that his only desire was to secure that all 
might live under the one Christ, in one Commonwealth, 
one Church, and one Unity.^ He left Innsbruck on the 
6th of June, and, travelling slowly, reached the bridge on 

^ ScluiTmacher. Brif/f und Aden :u dfr GesiAiehU des SfJiffioiofg- 
^radus :.. Mjrbi.rj und dis SeiehstJfffs m Aug^yrg, iAJC, pp. 38, 34. 


the Lech, a little distance from Augsburg, on the evening 
of the 15th. There he found the great princes of the 
Empire, who had been waiting his arrival from two o'clock 
in the afternoon. They alighted to do him reverence, and 
he graciously dismounted also, and greeted them with all 
courtesy. Charles had brought the papal nuncio. Cardinal 
Campeggio, in his train. Most of the Electors knelt to 
receive the cardinal's blessing ; but John of Saxony stood 
bolt upright, and refused the prolfered benediction. 

The procession — one of the most gorgeous Germany 
had ever seen — was marshalled for the ceremonial entry 
into the town. The retinues of the Electors were all in 
their appropriate colours and arms — Saxony, by ancient 
prescriptive right, leading the van. Then came' the 
Emperor alone, a baldachino carried over his head. He 
had wished the nuncio and his brother to ride beside him 
under the canopy ; but the Germans would not suffer it ; 
no Pope's representative was to be permitted to ride 
shoulder to shoulder with the head of the German Empire 
entering the most important of his imperial cities.^ 

Augsburg was then at the height of its prosperity. 
It was the great trading centre between Italy and the 
Levant and the towns of Northern Europe. It was the 
home of the Welsers and of the Fuggers, the great capitalists 
of the later mediaeval Europe. It boasted that its citizens 
were the equals of princes, and that its daughters, in that 
age of deeply rooted class distinctions, had married into 
princely houses. To this day the name of one of its streets 
— Philippine Welser Strasse — commemorates the wedding 
of an heiress of the Welsers with an archduke of Austria ; 
and the wall decorations of the old houses attest the 
ancient magnificence of the city.^ 

At the gates of the town, the clergy, singing Advenisti 

' There are several contemporary aocoiinta of thia meeting at the hridge 
of the Lech, and of the procession ; for one, see Sohirrmaoher, Briefe vmd 
Aden, etc. pp. 54-57. 

^ It was a somewhat doubtful honour for a city to be chosen as the meet- 
ing place of a Diet. The burghers of Augsburg hired 2000 landskneohts to 
protect them during the session (Schirrmaclier, Britfe imd Aden, p. 62). 

362 FROM SPETEB, 1526, TO ArGSBrKG, 1555 

d(-?id<Kihu'.?. met the procession. All. Emperor, cleigr, 
princes, and rheir retinues, entered the cathedral The 
Ti Ik.un was sung, and the Emperor received rhe benedic- 
tion. Then the prcvcession was re-formed, and accompanied 
Charles to Ms lodgings in the Bishcp's Palaee, 

There the Emperor made his first attempt on his 
Lutheran subjects. He invited the Elector of Saxonr. 
Geori:^ of Brandenb'jTir. Philip of Hesse, and Francis of 
Luneburg to acoC'icjianT him to his private apartments. 
He t<>ld them that he had been informed that thev had 
bromrht rbeir Lutbemn preaobeis with them to Augsburg, 
and that he would expect rhem to keep them silent during 
the sittings of the I>iet Thev refused. Then CSiarles 
asked them to prohibit controTersisl sermons. This request 
was also refused. In the end Charles reminded them that 
his demand was sTTiedv within the decision of 1526 ; that 
the Emperor was lord over the imperial ciries ; and he 
promised them that he would appoint the preachers himself, 
and that there would be no sernions — onlv the reading of 
Scriptore without comment. This was agreed to. He 
next asked Tbem to join him in the Corpus Christi proces- 
sion on the following dav. Thev refused — Philip of Hesse 
with arguments listened to bv Ferdinand with indignation, 
and bv Charles with indifference, probablT because he did 
not understand Grerman. The Emperor insisted. Then 
old GJeorge of Brandenburg stood forth, and told His 
Majesty that he could not, and would not obey. It was a 
short, rugged speech, though eminently respectful, and 
ended with these words, which flew over GJermany, kiudhng 
hearts as fire lights flax i " Before I would deny my God 
and His Evangel. I would rather kneel down here before 
your Majesty and have my head struck off,' — suid the 
old man hit the side of his neck with the edge of his hand. 
Charles did not need to know German to understand. 
" Xot head off, dear prince, not head off," he said kindly in 
bis Flemish-German (Xit Kop ab, locfr Fiv-^f. nit £^op ab\ 
Charles walked in procession thix)ugh the streets of Augs- 
burg on a blaziag hot day, stooping under a heavy purple 


mantle, with a superfluous candle sputtering in his hand; 
but the evangelical princes remained in their lodgings.^ 

§ 6. The Diet of Augsburg IBSO? 

The Diet was formally opened on June 20th (1530), 
and in the Proposition or Speoch from the Throne it was 
announced that the Assembly would be invited to discuss 
armament against the Turk, and that His Majesty was 
anxious, " by fair and gentle means," to end the religious 
differences which were distracting Germany. The Pro- 
testants were again invited to give the Emperor in writing 
their opinions and difficulties. It was resolved to take 
the religious question first. On June 24th the Lutherans 
were ready with their " statement of their grievances and 
opinions relating to the faith." Next day (June 25th) the 
Diet met in the hall of the Episcopal Palace, and what is 
known as the Augsburg Confession was read by the Saxon 
Chancellor, Dr. Christian Bayer, in such a clear resonant 
voice that it was heard not only by the audience within 
the chamber, but also by the crowd which thronged the 
court out.side.* When the reading was ended, Chancellor 
Briick handed the document and a duplicate in Latin to 
the Emperor. They were signed by the Elector of Saxony 
and his son John Frederick, by George, Margrave of 
Brandenburg, the Dukes Ernest and Francis of Liineburg, 
the Landgrave of Hesse, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, and 
the delegates of the cities of Niirnberg and Keutlingen. 
These princes knew the danger which threatened them in 
putting their names to the Confession. The theologians 
of Saxony besought their Elector to permit their names 

' Fbrstemann, Urlcundeniuch, etc. i. 268, 271 ; Schimnaolier, Brie/e und 
Aden, etc. \>. 69 and note. 

' SouiiOKs : Scliirrniachcr, Briffc und Aden ; FiJrBtemann, Urkwnden- 
buck zu der Oe.irMchl^ das Reichsljujn zu Augsburg, 2 vols. (Halle, 1833- 
1835) ; and Archivfllr die OescMMe ilr-r kirchl. Jieformalion (Halle, 1831). 

Later Books : Moritz Faoius, (Jcachichle des ICeichstags zu Augsburg 
(Leipzig, 1830). 

• Sohiirmaclier, Brie/e und Aden, etc. p. 90. 

364 PROM SPEYER, 1526, TO ArGSBURG, 1555 

to stand alone : but he answered calmly, /, too, wiU confess? 
my Christ. He was not a brilliant man like PhUip of 
Hessa He was unpretentious, peace-loving, and retiring 
by nature — John the Steadfast, his people called him. 
Recent historians have dwelt on the conciliatory attitude 
and judicial spirit manifested by the Emperor at this Diet, 
and they are justified iu doing so ; but the mailed hand 
sometimes showed itself. Charles refused to invest John 
with his Electoral dignities in the usual feudal fashion, 
and his entourage whispered that if the Elector was not 
amenable to the Emperor's arguments, he might find the 
electorate taken from him and bestowed on the kindred 
House of Ducal Saxony, wliieh iu the person of Duke 
Greorge so stoutly supported the old religion.^ While 
possessing that "laudable, if crabbed constitutionalism 
which was the hereditary quality of the Ernestine line of 
Saxony,'- he had a genuine afiection for the Emperor. 
Both recognised that this Diet of Augsburg had separated 
them irrevocably. " Unde, TJncle," said Charles to Elector 
John at their parting interview, " I did not expect this 
from yoiu" The Elector's eyes filled with tears : he could 
not speak ; he turned away in silence and left the city soon 

§ 7. The Augsburg Confession* 

The Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana) was 
what it claimed to be, a statement of " opinion and griev- 
ances," and does not pretend to be a full exposition of 
doctrinal tenets. The men who wrote it (Melanchthon 
was responsible for the phraseology") and presented it to 

^ The threat is recorded iu Anhiv fur ScJticeizerisehe Oeschichts %md 
Landeskunde, i. 27S. 

* Armstrong, TA« Emperor Charles Y., i. •Hi. 

' Fdrstemann, Ardiir, p. 206. 

' Sehaff, The Creeds of the £mngeiical Pi-e^eslani Christian Churches 
(London, 1S77\ p. 3; of. History of the Cretds of Christendom (London, 
1877\ pp. 220 ff. ; MilUer, Dif Bekentitnisschr^len der JUfonnierten Kirche 
(Leipzig, 1903), pp. 55-100; Tscbukert, Die A uy^urgische Koi^ession, 
(Leipzig, 1901). 


the Diet, claimed to belong to the ancient and visible 
Catholic Church, and to believe in all the articles of faith 
set forth by the Universal Church, and particularly in the 
Apostles' and Nicene Creech ; but they maintained that 
abuses had crept in which obscured the ancient doctrines. 
The Confession showed why they could not remain in con- 
nection with an unreformed Church. Their position is 
exactly defined in the opening sentence of the second part 
of the Confession. " Inasmuch as the Churches among us 
dissent in no articles of faith from the Holy Scriptm'es 
nor the Church Catholic, and only omit a few of certain 
abuses, which are novel, and have crept in with time partly 
and in part have been introduced by violence, and contrary 
to the purport of the canons, we beg that your Imperial 
Majesty would clemently hear both what ought to be 
changed, and what are the reasons why people ought not 
to be forced against their conscience to observe these abuses." 
The Confession is often represented as an attempt to 
minimise the differences between Lutherans and Eomanists 
and exaggerate those between Lutherans and Zwinglians, 
and there are some grounds for the statement. Melanchthon 
had come back from the Diet of Speyer (1529) convinced 
that if the Lutherans had separated themselves more 
thoroughly from the cities of South Germany there would 
have been more chance of a working compromise, and it 
is only natural to expect that the idea should colour his 
sketch of the Lutheran position at Augsburg. Yet in the 
main the assertion is wrong. The distinctively Protestant 
conception of the spiritual priesthood of all believers in- 
spires the whole document ; and this can never be brought 
into real harmony with the Eomauist position and claims. 
It is not diiBcult to state Eomanist and Protestant doc- 
trine in almost identical phrases, provided this one great 
dogmatic difference be for the moment set on one side. 
The conferences at Eegensburgin 1541 (April 27-May 22) 
proved as much. No one will believe that Calvin would be 
inclined to minimise the differences between Protestants and 
Eomanists, yet he voluntarily signed the Augsburg Con- 

366 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

fession, and did so, he says, in the sense in which the 
author (Melanchthon) understood it. This Augsburg Con- 
fession and Luther's Short Catechism are the symbolical 
books still in use in all Lutheran churches. 

TJTP. Augsburg Confession (Oonfessio Augustana) is 
divided into two parts, the first expressin^^he views^ held 
by those who signed it, and the„second stating the errora 
they protested against. The form and language aUka 
show that the authors had no intention of framing an 
exhaustive syllabus of theological opinions or of imposing 
its articles as a changeless system of dogmatic truth 
They simply meant to express what they united in be- 
lieving. Such phrases as our Churches teach, it is taught, 
such and such opinions are falsely attributed to us, make 
that plain. In the first part the authors show how much 
they hold in common with the mediaeval Church ; how they 
abide by the teaching of St. Augustine, the great theo- 
logian of the West; how they difi'er from more radical 
Protestants like the Zwinglians, and repudiate the teachings 
of the Anabaptists. The Lutheran doctrine of Justification 
by Faith is given very clearly and briefly in a section by 
itself, but it is continually referred to and shown to ba 
the basis of many portions of their common system of 
belief. In the second part they state what things compel 
them to dissent from the views and practices of the 
mediaeval Church — the enforced celibacy of the clergy, the 
sacrificial character of the Mass, the necessity of auriculai 
confession, monastic vows, and the confusion of spiritual 
and secular authority exhibited in the German episcopate. 

The origin of the document was this. When the 
Emperor's proclamation summoning the Diet reached 
Saxony, Chancellor Gregory Briick suggested that tho 
Saxon theologians should prepare a statement of theii 
opinions which might be presented to the Emperor ii 
called for.^ This was done. The theologians went to the 

^ Forstemann, Urhundenbuch, i. 39 : the worthy Chancellor thought that 
the document shonld be drafted "mit griindlicher bewertmg derselbigon am 
gottlioher schrifift." 


Schwabach Articles, and Melanehthon revised them, re- 
^stated them, and made them as inoffensive as he could. 
\ The document was meant to give the minimum for which 
I the Protestants contended, and Melanchthon's concilia- 
' tory spirit shows itself throughout. It embalms at the 
same time some of Luther's trenchant phrases : " Chris- 
tian perfection is this, to fear God sincerely ; and again, to 
conceive great faith, and to trust assuredly that God is 
pacified towards us for Christ's sake ; to ask, and certainly 
to look for, help from God in all our affairs according to 
our calling ; and outwardly to do good works diligently, 
and to attend to our vocation. In these things doth true 
perfection and the true worship of God consist : it doth not 
consist in being unmarried, in going about begging, nor in 
wearing dirty clothes." His indifference to forms of 
Church government and his readiness to conserve the old 
appears in the sentence : " Now our meaning is not to have 
rule taken from the bishops ; but this one thing only is 
requested at their hands, that they would suffer the gospel 
to be purely taught, and that they would relax a few 
observances, which cannot be observed without sin." 

When the Eomanist theologians presented their Con- 
futation of this Confession to the Emperor, it was again 
left to Melanehthon to draft an answer — the Apology of 
the Aiigshurg Confession. The Apology is about seven 
times longer than the Confession, and is a noble and 
learned document. The Emperor refused to receive it, 
and Melanehthon spent a long time over it before it was 
allowed to be seen. 

After taking counsel with the Eomanist princes {die 
Chur und Fursten so iepstisch gewesen)^ it was resolved to 
hand the Confession to a committee of Eomanist theo- 
logians whom the cardinal nuncio ^ undertook to bring to- 

' Schimnacher, Briefe und Aden, etc. p. 98. 

* Charles knew well that the nuncio would exert all hia influence to 
prevent a settlement. In anticipation of the Diet the Emperor had 
privately asked Melanehthon to give him a statement of the minimum of 
concessions which would content the Lutherans. Melanehthon seems to 
have answered (our source of information is not very definite) : the Eucharist 

368 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

gether, to examine and answer it. Among them were John 
Eck of Ingolstadt, Faber, and Cochlaeus. There was little 
hope of arriving at a compromise with such champions 
on the papal side ; and Charles was soon to discover that 
his strongest opponents in effecting a peaceful solution were 
the nuncio and his committee of theologians. Five times 
they produced a confutation, and five times the Emperor 
and the Diet returned their work, asking them to redraft it 
in milder and in less uncompromising terms.^ The sixth 
draft went far beyond the wishes of Charles, but the 
Emperor had to accept it and let it appear as the state- 
ment of his beliefs. It made reconciliation hopeless. 

§ 8. The Be/ormation to he crushed. 

The religious difficulty had not been removed by com- 
promise. There remained force — the other alternative 
foreshadowed by the Emperor. The time seemed to be 
opportune. Protestantism was divided, and had flaunted 
its differences in the Emperor's presence. Philip of Hesse 
had signed the Augsburg Confession with hesitation, not 
because he did not believe its statements, but because it 
seemed to shut the door on a complete union among all 
the parties who had joined in the Protest of 1529. The 
four cities of Strassburg, Constance, Lindau, and Mem- 
mingen had submitted a separate Confession (the Gonfesdo 
TetrapolitaTia) to the Emperor; and the Eomanist theo- 
logians had written a confutation of it also. Zwingli 
had sent a third. 

Luther was not among the theologians present at the 

in both kinds ; marriage of priests permitted ; the omission of the canon of 
the Mass ; concession of the Churcli lands already sequestrated ; and the 
decision of the other matters in dispute at a free General Council. Charles 
had sent the document to Rome ; it had been debated at a conolave of 
cardinals, who had decided that none of the demands could be granted. 

' One document says : " Es war aber zum ersten die confutation wol bey 
zweiliundert und achtzig blotter lang gewesen, aber die key. Maj. hat sia 
selbst also gereuttert und gerobt, das es nioht mehr denn zwblf bletter 
geblieben sind. Solohs soil Doctor Eck sehr verdrossen und wee gethan 
haben," — (Schirrmaoher, Sriefe und Aden, etc. p. Ii37.) 


Diet of Augsburg. Technically he was still an outlaw, for 
the ban of the Diet of Worms had n^ver been legally 
removed. The Elector had asked him to stay at his Castle 
of Coburg. There he remained, worried and anxious, chafiug 
like a caged eagle. He feared that Melanchthon's con- 
ciliatory spirit might make him barter away some in- 
dispensable parts of evangelical truth ; he feared the 
impetuosity of the Landgrave of Hesse and his known 
Zwinglian sympathies. His secretary wrote to Wittenberg 
that he was fretting himself ill ; he was longing to get 
back to Wittenberg, where he could at least teach, his 
students. It was then that Catharine got their friend 
Lucas Cranach to paint their little daughter Magdalena, 
just twelve months old, and sent it to her husband that he 
might have a small bit of home to cheer him. Luther 
hung the picture up where he could always see it from his 
chair, and he tells us that the sweet little face looking 
down upon him gave him courage during his dreary months 
of waiting. Posts brought him news from the Diet : that 
the Confession had been read to the Estates; that the 
Eomanists were preparing a Confutation ; that their reply 
was ready on A'ugust 3rd ; that Philip of Hesse had left 
the Diet abruptly on the 6 th, to raise troops to fight the 
Emperor, it was reported; that Melanchthon was being 
entangled in conferences, and was giving up everything. 
His strong ardent nature pours itself forth in his letters 
from Coburg (April 18th— Oct. 4th) — urging his friends to 
tell him how matters are going ; warning Melanchthon to 
stand firm ; taking comfort in the text, " Be ye angry, and 
sin not " ; comparing the Diet to the rooks and the rookery 
in the trees below his window.^ It was from Coburg that 
he wrote his charming letter to his small son.^ It was there 
that he penned the letter of encouragement to the tried 
and loyal Chancellor Briick : 

" I have lately seen two wonders : the first as I was 
looking out of my window and saw the stars in heaven and 
all that beautiful vault of God, and yet I saw no pillars on 

' De Wette, Luther'i BrUfe, etc. iv. 1-182. = Ibid. iv. 41. 

370 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

which the Master-Builder had fixed this vault; yet the 
heavens fell not, and the great vault stood fast. Now there 
are some who search for the pillars, and want to touch and 
to grasp them ; and when they cannot, they wonder and 
tremble as if the heaven must certainly fall, just because 
they cannot grasp its pillars. If they could only lay their 
hands on them, they think that the heaven would stand 

" The second wonder was : I saw great clouds rolling over 
us with such a ponderous weight that they seemed like a 
great ocean, and yet I saw no foundation on which they 
rested or were based, and no shore which bounded them ; 
yet they fell not, but frowned on us and flowed on. But 
when they had passed by, then there shone forth both their 
floor and our roof, which had kept them back — a rainbow ! 
A frail, thin floor and roof which soon melted into the 
clouds, and was more like a shadowy prism, such as we see 
through coloured glass, than a strong, firm foundation, 
and we might well distrust the feeble rampart which kept 
back that fearful weight of waters. Yet we found that this 
unsubstantial prism was able to bear up the weight of 
waters, and that it guarded us safely ! But there are some 
who look more to the thickness and massive weight of the 
waters and the clouds than at this thin, light, narrow bow 
of promise. They would like to feel the strength of that 
shadowy vanishing arch, and because they cannot do this, 
they are always fearing that the clouds will bring back the 
flood." 1 

The Protestants never seemed to be in a worse plight ; 
but, as Luther wrote, the threatened troubles passed away 
— for this time at least. 

Campeggio was keen to crush the Eeformation at once. 
His letters to the Curia insist that the policy of the strong 
arm is the only effectual way of dealing with the Lutheran 
princes. But Charles found that some of the South German 
princes who were eager that no compromise should be made 
with the Lutherans, were very unwilhng to coerce them by 
force of arms. They had no wish to see the Emperor all- 
powerful in Germany. The Romanist Dukes of Bavaria (the 
Wittelsbachs) were as strongly anti-Hapsburg as Philip of 

' De Wette, LuiJier's Briefe, etc. iv. 128. 


Hesse himself ; and Charles had no desire to stir the anti- 
Hapsburg feeling. Instead, conferences ^ were proposed to 
see whether some mutual understanding might not after all 
be reached ; and the Diet was careful to introduce laymen, 
in the hope that they would be less uncompromising than 
the Komanist theologians. The meetings ended without 
any definite result. The Protestant princes refused to 
make the needful concessions, and Charles found his plans 
thwarted on every side. Whereupon the Komanist majority 
of the Diet framed a "recess," which declared that the 
Protestants were to be allowed to exist unmolested until 
April 15 th, 1531; and were then to be put down by 
force. Meanwhile they were ordered to make no more 
innovations in worship or in doctrine ; they were to refrain 
' from molesting the Eomanists within their territories ; and 
; they were to aid the Emperor and the Eomanist princes in 
stamping out the partisans of Zwingli and the Anabaptists. 
This resolution gave rise to a second Protest, signed by the 
Lutheran princes and by the fourteen cities. 

Nothing had stirred the wrath of Charles so much as 
the determined stand taken by the cities. He conceived 
that he, the Emperor, was the supreme Lord within an 
imperial city ; and he employed persuasion and threats to 
make their delegates accept the " recess." Even Augsburg 

Having made their Protest, the Lutheran princes and 
the delegates from the protesting towns left the Diet, 
careless of what the Eomanist majority might further do. 
In their absence an important ordinance was passed. The 
Diet decided that the Edict of Worms was to be executed ; 
that the_ecclesiastical jurisdictioris were to be preserved, 

' The whole time of the members of the Diet was not spent in theo- 
logical discuseions. We read of banquets, where Lutherans and Romanists 
sat side by side ; of dances that went on far into the night ; of what may 
be called a garden party in a "fair meadow," where a wooden house wiis 
built for the accommodation of the ladies ; and of tournaments. At one of 
them, Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother, was thrown and liis hoi-se rolled 
over him ; and Melanchthon wrote to Luther that six men had been killed 
at one of these " gentle and joyous " passages of arms. 

372 FROM SPEYER, 1526, lO AUGSBURG, 1555 

and all Church property to be restored; and, what was 
most important, that the Trnperial Court of Appeals for al l^ 
disputed legal cases within the Empire (the Beichskammers-~ 
gericM) should be restored.- The last provision indicated 
a new way of fighting the extending Protestantism by 
harassing legal prosecutions, which, from the nature_oJ the 
court, were always to be decided against the dissenters from 
the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the mediaeval Empire.^ All 
instances of seizure of ecclesiastical benefices, all defiances 
of episcopal decisions, could be appealed against to this 
central court ; and as the legal principles on which it gave 
its decisions and the controlling authorities which it re- 
cognised were mediaeval, the Protestants could, never, hope 
for a decision in their favour. The Lutheran Church in 
Saxony, for example, with its pastors and schoolmasters, 
was supported by moneys taken from the old ecclesiastical 
foundations. According to this decision of the Diet, every 
case of such transfer of property could be appealed to this 
central court, which from its constitution was bound to 
decide against the transfer. If the Protestant princes 
disregarded the decisions of the central court, the Emperor 
was within his rights in treating them as men who had 
outraged the constitution of the Empire.^ 

Ghailesjnet.. at Augsburg the first great check in his 
hitherto successful career, but he was tenacious of purpose, 
aud never cared to hurry matters to an irrevocable con- 
clusion. He carefully studied the problem, and three ways 
of dealing with the religious difficulty shaped themselves 
in his mind at Augsburg — by compromise, by letting the 
Protestants alone for a period longer or shorter, and by 
a General Council which would be free. It would seem 

^ The Romanist majority had resolved to fight the Protestant minority, 
not in the battlefield, but in the law-courts— «tc7i</ecA<era somfera recAfeM, 
was the phrase. 

^ When the religious war did begin in 1545, Charles justified the use of 
force on the gi-ounds that the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse 
had violated the constitution of the Empire, had repudiated the decisUms of 
the Reichskammersgencht, and had protested against the decisions of the 


that at Augsburg he first seriously resolved that the condi- 
tion of Europe was such that the Pope must be compelled 
to sumnion__a_._Cfluxicil,_a_nd to allow it freedom of deljate 
and action. Charles tried all three plans in Germany 
during the fifteen years that followed. 

§ 9. The Schmalkald League.^ 

The Emperor published the decision of the Diet on the 
19th of November, and the Protestants had to arrange 
some common plan of facing the situation. They met, 
princes and delegates of cities, in the little upland town 
of Schmalkalden, lying on the south-west frontier of Elec- 
toral tsaxony, circled by low hills which were white with 
snow (December 22-31). They had to face at once 
harassing litigation, and, after the 15 th of April, tne tnreat 
'that ttiey Would be stamped out by force of arms. Were 
they stUl to m aintain their doc tm^.of passive resistance ? 
The queStion'was earnestly debated. Think of these earnest 
German princes and burghers, their lives and property at 
stake, debating this abstract question day after day, resolute 
to set their own consciences right before coming to any 
resolution to defend themselves ! The lawyers were all on 
the side of active defence. The terms of the bond were 
drafted. The Emperor's name was carefully omitted; and 
the causes which compelled them to take action were rather 
alluded to vaguely than stated with precision. The Elector 
of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Duke of Liineburg, 
the Prince of Anhalt, the two Counts of Mansfeld, and the 
delegates from Magdeburg and Bremen signed. Pious old 
George of Brandenburg was not convinced that it was 
lawful to resist the Emperor; the deputies of Niirnberg 
had grave doubts also. Many others who were present felt 
that they must have time to make up their minds. But the 
league was started, and was soon to assume huge proportions. 

' Soliinidt, Zur Geschichte des Schmalkaldisehen Bundes (Forsch. mi/r Deut- 
schen Geschichte, xxv.); Zangemeiater, Die SchmaXlcaldischen Artikel von 
15S7 (Heidelberg, 1883) ; Corpus Reformatorum, iii. 973 ff. 

374 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

The confederates had confessed the new doctrines, and 
had published their Confession. They now resolve d -iibat_ 
they would defend themselves if attacked by litigation or 
otherwise,,: There was no attempt to exclude the South 
German cities; and Charl es' expectations that theologi cal 
differences would prey eot Protestant union within G-e rmany 
were frustrated. Zwing F s heroic death at Cappe l (October 
11th, 1531) softened all Protestant__ hearts t owards his 
followers. The South., German citjes followed the, lead 
of Bucer, who_was_.__anxiQUSu_iQr_umon. Many of these 
tov7ns "now j"ippd. the Schmalkald League. Brunswick 
joined. Hamburg and Eostock In the iar north, Goslar 

^ndr-Gflttingen in the centre, joined. Al most all North 
Germany and— tbfi_ _more importan t imperi al towns in 
the South were united in one strong confederacy by this 
Schmalkald League. It became one of the European Powers. 

\ Denmark wished to join. Thomas Cromwell was anxious 
that England should join. The league was necessarily 
anti-Hapsburg, and the Emperor had to reckon with it. 
"~"Its power appe ared at the Diet- of "N'tirnberg in 1532. 
The dreaded day (April 15th, 1531) on which the Pro- 
testants were to be reduced by fire and sword passed quietly 
by. Charles was surrounded with difficulties which ^ made 
it impossible for him to carry out the threats he had 
publisihed on November 19th, 1530. Tbp. ;i'nri? s were 
menacing Vienna and the Duchy of Austria ; th e Pope 
was ready to, take advantage of any signs of imperial 
weakness ; France wasJtreconcilable ; England was hostile ; 
and the Bavar ian duk es were doing what they could to 
lessen jtheHapsburg power in Germany. 

When the Diet met^at^^Nurnberg in 1532, the Emperor 
knew that he was unable to__coerce^ the_ Luth^aas^ and 
retumedriar^his" earlier courteous way of treating them. 
They were more patriotic than the German EbmanisEsTor 
whom he had done so much. Luther declared ""roundly 
that the Turks must be met and driven back, and fcharfTCll 
Gerijians must support the Emperor in repelling the in- 
vasion. At the Diet a " recess " was proposed, in which the 


religious__irttGe_ was. Jlldefinitelj_exte ; the processes 
agaffist the Protestants in the Beichskammersgericht were to 
be quashed, and no State was to be proceeded against in 
matters arising out of religious, differences. The Eomanist 
members refused to accept it ; the " recess " was never pub- 
lished. But t he Protestant State a-declared that they would 
trust in the imperial word of honouTj and furnished the 
Emperor with troops for the defence of Vienna, and the 
invasion was repelled. __ 

The history of the struggle in Germany between the 
Diet of 1532 and the outbreak of war in 1546 is very 
intricate, and cannot be told as a simple contest between 
Reformation and anti-Eeformation. 

In the sixteenth century, almost all thoughtful and 
earnest-minded men desired a Eeformation of the Church. 
The Eoman Curia was the only opponent to all reforms of 
any kind. But two different ideas of what Eeformation 
I ought to be, divided the men who longed for reforms, 
ae one desired to see the benumbed and formalist 
mediaeval Church filled with a new religious life, while 
it retained its notable characteristics of a sacerdotal 
ministry and a visible external unity under a uniform 

.hierarchy culminating in the Papacy. The other wished 

to free the human spirit from the fetters of a merely \(X^ 
ecclesiastical authority, and to rebuild the Church on the 
principle of the spiritual priesthood of all believing men 

and women. In the' struggle in Germany the Emperor 

Charles may be taken as the embodiment of the first, as 
Luther represented the second. To the one it seemed 
essential to maintajn the external unity and authority of 
the Church according to the mediaeval ideal ; the other 
could content himself with seeing the Church of the 
Middle Ages broken up into territorial Churches, each of 
which heUoateaded was a portion of the one visible Catholic 
Church. Charles 'had no difficulty in accepting many 
changes in doctrine and usages, provided a genuine and 
lasting~conrpromise could be arrived at, which would retain 
all within the one ecclesiastical organisation. He con- 

376 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

sented once and again to suspend the struggle ; but he 
would never have made himself responsible for a permanent 
religious settlement which recognised the Lutheran Churches. 
He had no objection to a truce, but would never accept a 
lasting peace. If the Lutherans could not be brought back 
within the mediaeval Church by compromise, then he was 
prepared to go to all extremes to compel them to return. 
Of course, he was the ruler over many lands ; he was keen 
to extend and consolidate the family possessions of his 
House, — as keen as the most grasping of the petty territorial 
princes, — and he had to be an opportunist. But he never 
deviated in the main from his idea of how the religious 
difficulty should be solved. 

But all manner of political and personal motives were 
at work on both sides in Germany (as elsewhere). Philip 
of Hesse combined a strenuous acceptance of the principles 
of the Lutheran Eeformation with as thorough a hatred of 
the House of Hapsburg and of its supremacy in Germany. 
The Dukes of Bavaria, who were the strongest partisans of 
the Eomanist Church in Germany, were the hereditary 
enemies of the House of Austria. The religious pacifica- 
tion of the Fatherland was made impossible to Charles, ~ 
not merely by his insistence on maintaining the conceptions 
of the mediaeval Church, but also by open and secret 
reluctance to see the imperial authority increased, and 
by jealousies aroused by the territorial aggrandisement 
of the House of Hapsburg. The incompatibihty be- 
tween the aims of the Emperor and those of his 
indispensable ally, the Pope, added to the difiBculties of 
the situation. 

In 1534, Philip jjL. Hesse persuaded the Schmalkald 
League to espouse the cause oil the banished Duke of 
Wuf temberg. His territories had been Incorporated into 
the family possessions of the Hapsburgs, and the people 
groaned under the imperial administration. The Swabian 
League, which had been the, maiBstay„o.f Ihe-TEpeSaEst 
and Eomanist cause in South Germany, was persuaded to 
remain neutral by the Dukes of Bavaria, and Phihp had 


little difficulty in defeatingFerdinand, and driving the 

IniperiaTists out of tHe Duchy! UlricIT' was " restored, 
declared~"tn farrour "oF the Xutheran Eeformation, and 
Wiirtemberg was added to the list of Protestant States. 
By the terms of the Peace of Cadan (Jime 1534), 
Ferdinand publicly engaged to carry out Charles' private 
assurance that no Protestant was to be dragged before the 
Eeichskammersgericht for anything connected with religion.^ 
"""Another important consequence followed. The Swabian 
League was dissolved in 1536. This left the Schmalkald 
League of Protestant States and cities -the only formidable 
confederation in Germany. 

— The political union among the Protestants suggested a 
closer approximation. The South German pastors asked 
to meet Luther and discuss their theological differences. 
They met at Wittenberg, and after prolonged discussion it 
was found that all were agreed save on one small point — 

ithe presence, extended in space, of the Body of Christ in the 
elements in the Holy Supper. It was agreed that this 
might be left an open question ; and what was caUed 
the Wittenberg Concord was signed, which united all 
German Protestants (May and June 1536).^ 

Three years later (1539), Duke George of Saxony died, 
the most honest and disinterested of the Eomanist princes. 
His brother Henry, who succeeded him, with the joyful 
consent of his subjects, pronounced for the Evangelical 
faith. Nothing would content him but that Luther should 
come to Leipzig to preside clerically on so auspicious an 
occasion. Luther preached in the great hall of the Castle, 
where twenty years earlier he had confronted Eck, and 
had heard Duke George declare that his opinions were 

In the same year the new Elector of Brandenburg also 
came over to the Evangelical side amid the rejoicings of 
his people ; and the two great Eomanist States of North 

1 Winckelmann, " Die Vertrage von Kadan und Wion " (Zeitsdhrifl filr 
Kirehengeschichle, xi. 212 fF. ). 

' Of.' Kolde, Analecta., pp. 216 ff., 231 f., 262 f., 278 f., eta 

378 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

Germany, Electoral Brandenburg and Ducal Saxony, became 
Protestant] ' " "" ~ 

The " t ide flowed so strongly that the three clerical 

Electors, the Archbishops of Mainz^Kolnj_and^_Trier, and 
some of the bishops^ contemplated secularisIng~Tiieir 
principalities, ^in3~~becem-ing Pro testants. This alarmed 
Charles thoroughly. If the proposed secularisation took 
place, there would be a large Protestant majority in the 
Eleetoral^Gollege, and the next_Em-perQr_ would be a 
Protestant. ~~"^ - 

Charles had been anxiously watching the gradual 
decadence of the power of the Eomanist princes in 
Germany ; and reports convinced him that the advance 
of the Eeformation among the people was still more 
marked. The Eoman Catholic Church seemed to be in 
the agonies of dissolution even' in places where it had 
hitherto been strong. Breslau, once strongly Eomanist, 
was now almost fanatically Lutheran ; in Vienna, Bishop 
Faber wrote, the population was entirely Lutheran, save 
himself and the Archduke. The Eomanist Universities 
were almost devoid of students. In Bavaria, it was said 
that there were more monasteries than monks. Candidates 
for the priesthood had diminished in a very startling way: 
the nuncio Yergerio reported that he could find none in 
Bohemia except a few paupers who could not pay their 
ordination fees. 

The_;Eolicy_of_ thePope (Paul m., 1534-1549) had 
disgusted the German Eomanist prince^. He subordinated 
Tihe"welfare of the Church in their dominions to his anti- 
Hapsburg Italian schemes, and had actually allied himself 
with Prancis of France, who was intriguing with the Turks, 
in order to thwart the Emperor ! The action and speeches 
of Henry viii. had been watched and studied by the 
German TRomanist leaders. Could they not imitate Mm. 
in Germaiiy7"~aiid create a ^ Naitiraalist Church, true to 
mediaeval doctrine, hierarchy, and ritual, and yet inde- 
pendent of the Pope, who cared so little for them ? 

All these things made Charles and Ferdinand revise 


iheir policy. The Emperor began to consider seriously 
whetKer the way out of the religious difficulty might not 
be, either to grant a prolonged truce to the Lutherans 
(which might," Ttlongh he hopedTiot, becdme~permanent), 
or to work energetically for the creation of a German 
JsTational Church, which. By means of some working com- 
promise in^octrines and ceremonies, might be called into 
existence by a_ German National Council assembled in 
defiance of the Pope. 

It was with these thoughts in his mind that he sent 
his Chancellor Held into Germany to strengthen the 
Komanist cause there. His agent soon abandoned the 
larger ideas of his master, if he ever comprehended them, 
and contented himself with announcing publicly that the 
private promise given by Charles at Niirnberg, and 
conHfmed 5y Ferdinand at_ttie_Peace of^ Cadan, was 
wrtEdrawn. ' TEe- lawsuits brought against the Protestants 
in the Eeichskammer^ricEr'wei'e not to be quashed, but 
were to be prosecuted_to_ the bitter end. He also con- 
trived at Niirnberg (June 1538) to form a league of 
Romanist princes, ostensibly for defence, but reaEy to 
force_jthe Protestants to submit..to -fche-decisions of the 
BeichsJcammers^ericM- Z^TEese measures did not make for 
peace ; they almost produced a civil war,_which was only 
avoided by the direct interposition of the Emperor. 

Chancellor Held wasTecalled, and the E mperor sen t 
the__Archbishop of Lund to find out what terms the 
Protestants woui^-accept. These proved larger than the 
Emperor could grant, but the result of the intercourse 
was that the Protestants were granted a truce 'which was 
to~laat fo r ten yea rs. " 

The proposed secularisation of the ecclesiastical Elec- 
t orates made Charles see that he dared not wait_.for the 
conclusion of this truce. He set himself earnestly to 
discover wliethgr" compromises in doctrine and ceremonies 
were not possible. Conferences were held between Lutheran 
and Kbiilanist theologians and laymen, at Hagenau (June 
1540), at Worms (November 1540), and at Eegensburg 

380 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1565 

(Ratisbon, April 1541).^ The last was the most im- 
^jortant. The discussions showed that it was possible 
to state Eomanist and Lutheran doctrine in ambiguous 
propositions which could be accepted by the theologians of 
both Confessions ; but that there was a great gulf between 

them which the Evangelic^ would hevef~Te=eress Ihe 

spiritual priesthood of all bel ievers could ne ver be reconcile d 
with tb fi~RpficTaT^isRTnTf>nd nf tbg_JTLe fl i iTvyRTfiTfirg y! ^is 
was Charles' last utteiiipt at a compromise which would 
unite of thelr^ owir-free-"wiiribhe German Lutherans""with 
the_fierman Eomanists. He saw that the Lutherans^ would 
never return to the mediaeval Churck jinless compeHed 
by -foTceT^ndTF^was" impossible to use force unless the 
Schmalkald League was broken up _altQgether or seamed 
with divisions. ^ "' " 

\ § 1 0- ^Tke Bigamy of Philip of Hesse? 

The opportunity arrived. The triumphant Protestantism 
received its severest blow in the bigamy of Philip of Hesse, 
which involved the reputations of Bucer, Luther, and 
Melanchthon, as well as of the Landgrave. 

Philip had married when barely nineteen a daughter 
of Duke George of Saxony. Latterly, he declared that it 
was impossible to maiataiu conjugal relations with her; 
that continence was impossible for him ; that the condi- 
tion in which he found himself harassed his whole life, and 
prevented him coming to the Lord's Table. In a case like 
his, Pope Clement vrr. only a few years previously had 
permitted the husband to take a second wife, and why 
should not the Protestant divines permit him ? He 

* Spiegel, "Johanoes Timannns Amsterodanras und die Colloqiiien zu 
Worms und Eegensburg, 1540-1541" (Zeitschrift fur hist. Theologie, xlii. 
(1872) 36ff.) ; Moses, Die JReligionsverhandlungen in JB'agenau und Worms, 
1540-1S41 (Jena, 1889). 

" Heppe, " UrKundliohe Beitrage zur Geschiohte der Doppelehe des Land- 
grafen Philip v. Hessen " {Zeitschrift fur die historische Theologie, xxii. 
(1852) 263 flf.), cf. xxxviii. 445 H'. ; Sohultze, Luther und die Doppelehe des 
Landgrafffn v. Hessen (Paderborn (1869)). 


prepared a case for himself which he submitted to the 
theologians, and got a reply signed by Bueer, Melan.hthon, 
and Luther, which may be thus summarised : — 

According to the original commandment of God, marriage 
is between one man and one woman, and the twain shall 
become one flesh, and this original precept has been con- 
firmed by our Lord; but sin brought it about that first 
Lamech, then the heathen, and then Abraham, took more 
than one wife, and this was permitted by the law. We are 
now living under the gospel, which does not give prescribed 
rules for the regulation of the external life, and it has not 
expressly prohibited bigamy. The existing law of the land 
has gone back to the original requirement of God, and the 
plain duty of the pastorate is to insist on that original 
requirement of God, and to denounce bigamy in every way. 
Nevertheless the pastorate, in individual cases of the direst 
need, and to prevent worse, may sanction bigamy in a purely 
exceptional way ; such a bigamous marriage is a true 
marriage (the necessity being proved) in the sight of God 
and of conscience ; but it is not 4 true marriage with refer- 
ence to public law or custom. Therefore such a marriage 
ought to be kept secret, and the dispensation which is given 
for it ought to be kept under the seal of confession. If it 
be made known, the dispensation becomes eo ipso InvaHd, 
and the marriage becomes mere concubinage. 

Such was the strange and scandalous document to which 
Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer appended their names. 

Of course the thing _could not be kept secret, and 
the moral effect of the revelation was disastrous among 
friends and foes. The Evangelical princes were especially 
aggrieved; and it was proposeithat the Landgrave should 
be tried for bigamy and punished according to the laws of 
the_Empixe] When the matter was brought before the 
Emperor, he decided that no marriage had taken place, 
and the sole effect of the decision of the theologians was 
to deceive a poor maiden.-' 

' Luther's action is usually attributed to his desire not to offend a 
powerful Protestant leader. A careful study of the original documents 
in the case — correspondence and papers — does not confirm this view. To 
my mind, they show on Luther's part a somewhat sullen and crabbed con- 

.aag^ FROM SPEYEB, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

Philip, humiliated and sore, isolated from his friends, 
i was an instrument ready to the Emperor's hand in his plan 
I to weaken and, if possible, destroy the Schmalkald League. 
jThe opportunity soon arrived. The father of William 
Duke of Cleves Juliers and Berg had been elected by 
the Estates of Guelders to be their sovereign, in defiance 
of a treaty which had secured the succession to Charles. 
The father died, and the son succeeded almost imme- 
diately after the treaty had been signed. This created 
a powerful anti-Hapsburg State in close proximity to the 
Emperor's possessions in the Netherlands. William of 
Cleves had married his sister Sibylla to John Frederick, 
the Elector of Saxony, and naturally gravitated towards 
the Schmalkald League. In 1541 an arrangement was 
come to between the Emperor and Philip, according to 
which Philip guaranteed to prevent the Duke of Cleves 
from joining the League, or at least from being supported 
jby4i against the Emperor, and in return Philip was pro- 
mised indemnity for all past deeds, and advancement in 
{the Emperor's service. Young Maurice of Ducal Saxony, 
I who had succeeded his father in the Duchy (August 18 th, 
1541), and had married Philip's daughter, also joined in 
ithis bargain. The Emperor had thus divided the great 
jProtestant League ; for the Elector of Saxony refused to 
iiesert his brother-in-law. In 1543 the Emperor fell 
^pon the. unbefriended Duke, totally def^±ed- him, and 
look Guelders from him, while, the JSerman Protestants, 

soientious fidelity to a conviction which he always maintained. With all 
his reverence for the word of God, he could never avoid giving a very large 
authority to the traditions of the Church when they did not plainly contra- 
dict a positive and direct divine commandment. The Church had been 
accustomed to say that it possessed a dispensing power in matrimonial cases 
of extreme difficulty ; and, in spite of his denunciations of the dispensations 
granted by the Roman Curia, Luther never denied the power. On the 
contrary, he thought honestly that the Church did possess this power of 
dispensation even to the length of tampering with a fundamental law of 
Christian society, provided it did not contradict a positive scriptural 
commandment to the contrary. The crime of the Curia, in his eyes, was 
not issuing (Kspensations in necessary cases, but in giving them in cases 
without proved necessity, and/or money. 


hinderedby Philij)^_saw one of their most important allies 
overthrown. This gave rise to recriminations, which effectu- 
ally weakened the Protestant cause. 

In 15 44. Charle s concluded a peace with France (the 
Peace of Cr^py, NovemBeFTSth), and: was free to turn his 
attention to affairs in Germany. He forced the Pope in the 
sam6~SBaoa%h''''?o~gIvi~wayTCbeut a General Council, which 
was fixed to meet~iii March 1^45^ The EiSpetor meant 
this Council to_be_an_ instrument in his hands to subdue 
both tBB'Pfotestants and the Pope. He meant it to 
reform the Chur ch in the sense of freeing it from many of 
the corfiTptlons^yhich Jia,d found their way into it, and 
especially in diminishing the power of the Eoman Curia ; 
and in this he was supported by the Spanish bishops and 
by the greater part of Latin Christendom. But the Pape 
was the more skilful diplomatist, and out^genejaUed the 
Emperor. Tha_Council was summoned to meet at Trent, 
a purely Italian town, though nominally within Germany. 
It was arranged that aU its members must be present 
pgrsonally and notty_deputies, which meant that the 
Italian ^isBops^EadTa permanent majority ; and the choice 
of DonunTcans and Jesuits as the leadingtheologians^jnade^ 
-it^ain that no doctrmai concessions woSdlbe ^made-to the 
-iroteS^te! Froffi" the feBCTEeTProtestauts refused to be 
boun d in gflywa^ by its-deeisieHier and Gharlea- soon per- 
ceived that the instrument he had counted on had broken 
in His^hands. ' if-ecclesiasfical unity was to be maintained 
in Germany, it could only hejry t he u se of force. There is 
no doubt that the Emperor was loath to proceed to this 
last extremity; but his correspondence with his sister 
Mary and with his brother Ferdinand shows that he had 
come to regard it as a necessity by the middle of 1545. 

His first endeavour was to break up the Protestant 
League, which was once more united. He attempted again 
to detach Philip of Hesse, but without success. He was 
able, ho-ffifiifiivto induce the Elector of Brandenburg and 
the Margrave of Brandenburg- Culmbach and some others to 
remain neutral — the Elector by promising in any event 

384 FROM SPEYEB, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

that the religious settlement which had been effected in 
Brandenburg (1541) should remain unaltered; and, what 
served him best, he persuaded young Maurice of Ducal 
Saxony to become his active ally. 

§ 11. Maurice of Saxony. 

Maurice of Saxony was one of the most interesting, 
because one of the most perplexing personalities of his 
time, which was rich in interesting personalities. He was a 
Protestant from conviction, and never wavered from his 
faith ; yet in the conflict between the Eomanist Emperor 
and the Protestant princes he took the Emperor's side, and 
contributed more than any one else to the overthrow of his 
fellow Protestants. His bargain with Charles was that the 
Electorate should, Jje^transf erred from the Ernestine Saxon 
family to his own, the Albertrriej^ that he should get Magde- 
burg and Halberstadt, and that neither he nor his people 
should be subject to the decrees of the Council of Trent. 
r"Then, when he had despoiled the rival family of the 
I Electorate, he planned and carried through the successful 
revolt of the Protestant princes against the Emperor, and 
was mainly instrumental in securing the public recognition 
of Lutheranism in Germany and in gaining the permanent 
Religious Peace of 1555.^ 

_— — § 12. Luther's Death. 

It was in these months, while the alarms of war were 
threatening Germany, that Luther passed away. He had 

^ Ranke has an interestiijg study of the character of Maurice in his 
Deutsche Qeschichte im Zeitalter de/r Reformation, bk. ix. chap. vi. (vol. v. 
pp. 161 S. of the 6th ed., Leipzig, 1882) ; but perhaps the best is given in 
Maurenbrecher, Studien und Skizzen zur Oeschichte der Beformaiionszeii 
(Leipzig, 1874), pp. 135 if. A man's deep religious convictions can tolerate 
strange company in most ages, and .the fact that we find Romanist champions 
in France plunging into the deepest profligacy the one week and then under- 
going the agonies of repentance the next, or that Lutheran leaders combined 
occasional conjugal infidelities and diinking bouts with zeal for evangelical 
principles, demands deeper study in psychology than can find expression, in 
the fashion of some modern English historians, in a few cheap sneers. 

Luther's death 385 

been growing weaker year by year, and had never spared 
himself for the cause he had at heart. One last bit of 
work he thought he must do. The Counts of Mansfeld 
had quarrelled over some trifling things in the division 
of their property, and had consented to accept Luther's 
mediation. This obliged him to journey to Eisleben 
in bitterly cold weather (January 1546). "I would 
cheerfully lay down my bones in the grave if I could 
only reconcile my dear Lords," he said ; and that was 
what was required from him. He finished the arbitration 
to the satisfaction of both brothers, and received by way of 
fee endowments for village schools in the Mansfeld region. 
The deeds were aU signed by the I7th of February (1546), 
and Luther's work was done at Mansfeld — and for his 
generation. He became alarmingly ill that night, and died 
on the following morning, long before dawn. " Eeverend 
Father," said Justus Jonas, who was with him, " wilt thou 
stand by Christ and the doctrine thou hast preached ? " The 
dying man roused himself to say " Yes." It was his last word. 
Twenty minutes later he passed away with a deep sigh. 

Luther died in his sixty-third year — twenty-eight and 
a half years after he had, greatly daring, nailed his Theses 
to the door of All Saints' in Wittenberg, twenty-seven 
after he had discovered the meaning of his Theses during 
the memorable days when he faced Eck at Leipzig, and 
twenty-five after he had stood before the Emperor and 
Diet at Worms, while all Germany had hailed him as its 
champion against the Pope and the Spaniard. The years 
between 1519 and 1524 were, from an external point of 
view, the most glorious of Luther's life. He dominated 
and led his nation, and gave a unity to that distracted and 
divided country which it had never enjoyed until then. 
He spoke and felt like a prophet. " I have the gospel, 
not from men, but from heaven through our Lord Jesus 
Christ, so that I might have described myself and have 
glorified in being a minister and an evangelist." The 
position had come, to him in no sudden visionary way. 
He had been led into it step by step, forced forward slowly 


386 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

by a power stronger than his own ; and the knowledge 
had kept him humble before his God. During these years 
it seemed as if his dream — an expectation shared by his 
wise Elector, the most experienced statesman in Germany 
— of a Germany united under one National Church, 
separated from the bondage of Eome, repudiating her blas- 
phemies, rejectiug her traditions which had corrupted the 
religion of the ancient and purer days, and disowning her 
presumptuous encroachments on the domain of the civil 
power ordained of God, was about to come true. 

Then came the disillusionment of the Peasants' War, 
when the dragon's teeth were sown broadcast over Ger- 
many, and produced their crop of gloomy suspicions and 
black fears. After the iusurrection had spent itself, and 
in spite of the almost irretrievable damage which it, and 
the use made of it by papal diplomatists, did to the 
Eef ormation movement, Luther regained his serene courage, 
and recovered much of the ground which had been lost. 
But the crushiug blow had left its mark upon him. He 
had the same trust in God, but much more distrust of man, 
fearing the "tumidt," resolute to have nothing to do with 
anyone who had any connection, however slight, with those 
who had instigated the misguided peasants. He rallied 
the forces of the Eeformation, and brought them back to 
discipline by the faith they had iu hiniself as their leader. 
His personality dominated those kinglets of Germany, 
possessed with as strong a sense of their dignity and 
autocratic rights as any Tudor or Valois, and they sub- 
mitted to be led by him. Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Liine- 
burg, Anhalt, East Prussia, and Mansfeld, and some score 
of imperial cities, had followed him loyally from the first ; 
and as the years passed. Ducal Saxony and Wtirtemberg in 
the centre and south, and Brandenburg in the north, had 
declared themselves Protestant States. These larger princi- 
palities brought in their train all the smaller satellite States 
which clustered round them. It may be said that before 
Luther's death the much larger portion of the German 
Empire had been won for evangelical religion, — a tenikeirf^ 


to be roughly described as a great triangle, whose base was 
th e iihureb uf tins Dc dtie-Sea from the Netherlands on the 
west to the eastern limits of East Prussia, and whose apex 
was Switzerland. Part of this land was occupied by 
ecclesiasticaT^rincipalities which had remained Eoman 
Catholic, — the districts surrounding Koln on the west, and 
the territories of Paderborn, Fulda, and many others in the 
centre, — but, on the other hand, many stoutly Protestant 
cities, like Niirnberg, Constance, and Augsburg, were planted 
on territories which were outside these limits. The extent 

and power of t his Protesta nt Germany was sufficient to 
resist any^attempt on the part of the Emperor and the 
Cathohc princeiTo""overcome it by force of arms, provided 
only its rulers remained true to each other. 

Over thts wide extent of country Evangelical Churches 
had been established, and provisions had been made for the 
^^ducation of children and for the support of the poor in 
ordinances issued by the supreme secular authorities who ^ 
ruled over its multitudinous divisions. Iiia.^Mass, with v^ 
its supposed substitutionary sacrifice and a mediatorial 
prieitEoody had been abolished. The German tongue had 
displaced' medJseyal^Latia. in public worship, and the wor- 
shippers could take part in the services with full under- v'? 
standing of the solemn acts in which they were engaged. 
A German Bible lay on every pulpit, and the people had 
their copies in the pews. Translations of the Psalms and 
German evangelical hymns were sung, and sermons in -^ 
German were preached. Pains were taken to provide an( ^ i 
educated evangeli cal ministry who wouId~pfeach the gospel^ 
faithfully, and conscientiously fulfil all the duties connected 
with the "dure of souls." The ecclesiastical property of 
the mediaeval Church was largely used for evangelical ir ) 
purposes. There was no mechanical uniform ity in these 
new arrangements. Luther refused to act the part of an 
ecclesiastical autocrat : he advised when called upon to 
give" advice, 'Ee'never' commanded. No Wittenberg " use " 
was to confront the Eoman " use " and be the only mode 
of service and ecclesiastical organisation. 

388 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

The movement Luther had inaugurated had gone far 
beyond Germany before 1546. Every country in Europe 
had felt its pulsations. As early as 1519 (April), learned 
men in Paris had been almost feverishly studying his 
writings.^ They were eagerly read in England before 
1521.^ Aleander, writing from Worms to the Curia, 
complains that Spanish merchants were getting transla- 
tions of Luther's books made for circulation in Spain.' 
They were being studied with admiration in Italy even 
earlier. The Scottish Parliament was vainly endeavouring 
to prevent their entrance into that country by 1525.* 
The Lutheran Eeformation had been legally established in 
Denmark, Norway, and Sweden long before Luther passed 

Luther was the one great man of his generation, stand- 
ing head and shoulders above everyone else. This does 
not mean that he absorbed in his individual personality 
everything that the age produced for the furtherance of 
humanity. Many impulses for good existed in that 
sixteenth century which Luther never recognised ; for an 
age is always richer than any one man belonging to it. 
He stood outside the great artistic movement. He might 
have learned much from Erasmus on the one hand, and 
from the leaders of the Peasants' War on the other, which 
rema,ined hidden from him. He is greatest in the one 
sphere of religion only — in the greatest of all spheres. 
His conduct towards Zwingli and the strong language he 
used in speaking of opponents make our generation dis- 
cover a strain of intolerance we would fain not see in so 
great a man; but his contemporaries did not and could 
not pass the same judgment upon him. In such a divided 
Germany none but a man of the widest tolerance could 
have held together the Protestant forces as Luther did; 

^ Henninjard, Gorrespondance des Reformateurs dans Us pays de langiu 
fran(;aise (Geneva and Paris, 1866-1897), i. 47, 48. 

^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII., 
iii. 284. 

' Kalkoff, Die Depeschen des Nuntius Aleander (Halle, 1897), p. 106, 

* Acta of the Parliament of Scotland for 1525 and 1527. 


and we can see what he was when we remember the sad 
effects of the petty orthodoxies of the Amsdorfs and the 
Osianders who came after him. 

It is the fate of most authors of revolutions to be 
devoured by the movement which they have called into 
being. Luther occasioned the greatest revolution which 
Western Europe has ever seen, and he ruled it till 
his death. History shows no kinglier man than this 
Thuringian miner's son. 

§ 13. The Religious War} 

The war began soon after Luther's death. Tha Emperor 
brough t^ into Ger maTiY hia Spanish infa.nt^^ry^ the beginning 
of what was to be a curse to that, cnn ntrv for many genera- 
tions, and various manceuvrings and skirmishes took place, 
the most important of which was Maurice of Saxony's 
invasion of the Electorate. At last the Emperor met the 
Elector in battle at Miihlberg (April 24th, 1547), where 
John Frederick was completely defeated and taken prisoner. 
Wittenberg, stoutly defended by Sibylla, soon after sur- 
rendered. This was the end. Philip was induced to 
surrender on promise of favourable treatment, made by the 
Electors who had remained on the Emperor's side. Charles 
refused to be bound by the promise made in his name, and 
the Landgrave was also held captive. AUGermany, save 
Constance in the south and some of the Baltic lan3s^' 
lay prostr ate at the Em peror's„ feet. It remained to be 
seen what use„iie~wo»ld-fflark©.Qf^his victory. 

In'^due time he set himself to bring about what he 
conceived to_be_a reasonable compromise which would 
enable all Germany to remain within one National Church. 
HeTned at first to induce the separate parties to work 

' Maurenbrecher, Karl V. und die deutachen Protestanten 154S-1555 
(Diisseldorf, 1865) ; J#hn, GescAicMe des SchmalMldischen Krieges (Leipzig, 
1837) ; Le Mang, Die Varstellung des Schmalkaldischen Krieges in den 
Denkwiirdigkeiten Karls V. (Jena, 1890, 1899, 1900) ; Brandenburg, Miyritz 
von Sachsen (Leipzig, 1898). 

390 FROM SPEYEE, 1526, TO AtTGSBtTRG, 1556 

it out among themselves; and, when this was found to 
be hopeless, h e, like a sesoni_Jjistinian,-jeBel¥ed.---to--conji,, 
struct a creed_and to impose it by force upon all, especially 
upon'the Lutherans. To "Begin with, he had Jp_ defy the 
Pope and slight the General Council for which he had 
been mainly responsible. He formally demanded that 
the CouncilshoiM^tjmi_^to (it had been 

transferred to"Boiogna), and, when this was refused, he 
protested against its existence and, Uke.the-Gterffian Pro- 
testants he was coercing, declared ^ that he would not 
submit, to its- decrees. He next selected ^EBfee theo- 
logians, Mic hael Helding, JuUus v o n Pflug, and Agricola^^^a 
mediaevalist, an Erasmian, and a very conservative Lutheran 
— to construct what was called the Aicgsburg Interim. 

§ 14. The Augsburg Interim} 

This document taught the dogma of Trans ubstantiation^ 
the sgyfiJi.Sacraments, adoration of the Blesse d Virgin _a nd 
the .Saints, jetained^ most of the mediaeval ceremonies and 
usages, and declared the Pope to be the Head~of~the 
Church. This was to please the Eomanists. It appealed to 
-the Lutherans by adopting the (Joctrine of Justification by 

^ Faith in a modified form,_the marriage of priegjiaZSEithjOTiro* 

reservations, the use of the Cup by the laity in the HoIy~ 
SuppefTand by considerably modifying the doctrine o f the 
sacrificial character of the Mass. Of course all its pro- 
portions were ambi guous, and could be read in two ways. 
This was probably the intention of the framers ; if so, they 
_were highly successful. 

Nothing that Charles ever undertook proved such a 
di sma l failure as this patchwork creed made from snippets 
from two Confessions. However Hfeless creeds may become, 
they all — real ones — have grown out of the living Christian 

' Schmidt, " Agenda and Letters relating to the Interim" in Zeitschrift 
filr Mslorisch. Theologie, xxxviii. (1868) pp. 431 ff., 461 ff. ; Beutel, Uber den 
Ursprung des Augsburger Interim (Leipzifr, 1888) ; Meyer, Der Augsburger 
Reichstag nach einem fiirstlichen Tagehuch (Preus. Jahrb. 1898, pp. 206-242). 


experience of their framers, and have contained the very 
life-blood of their hearts as well as of their brains. It is 
a hopeless task to construct creeds as a tailor shapes and 
stitches coats. 

Charles, however, was proud of his creed, and_did_his 
best to enforce it The Diet of 1548 showed him his 
diflSculties." Tlie Interim was accepted and proclaimed as 
an edict by this Diet (May 1 5), but oidy after the Em- 
peror, very unwillingly, ' declared practically that it was 
meant for the Protestants alone. " The Emperor," said a 
member of the Diet, " is fighting for rehgion against the 
Pope, whom he acknowledges to be its head, and against 
the two parts of Christendom in Germany — the mass of 
the Protestants and the ecclesiastical princes." J!luia_f232ia_„- 
the beginning what was to be an instrument to, unite 
Gerroan^CEristendom was transformed into a " strait-waist- 
coat lor the Lutherans " ; and this did not make it more 
palatable for'ffiem. At first the strong measures taken by 
the Emperor compelled its nomrnaT acceptance by many of 
the Pro testant -g rinces.^ The cities which' seemed to be 
most refractoryhaJ~their Councils purged of their demo- 
cratic members, and their Lutheran preachers sent into 
banishment — Matthew Alber from Eeutlingen, Wolfgang 
Musculus from Augsburg, Brenz from Hall, Osiander from 
Ntirnberg, Schnepf from Tubingen. Bucer and Fagius had 
to flee from Strassburg and take refuge in England. The 
city of Constance was besieged and fell after a heroic 
defence; it was deprived of its privileges as an imperial 
city, and was added to the family possessions of the Houfee 
of Austria. Its pastor, Blarer, was sent into banishment. 
Four hundred Lutheran divines were driven from their 

If Charles, backed by his Spanish and Italian troops, 
could secure a nominal submission to his Interim, he could 
noLcoerce the people into accepting it. The churchiss^od 
empty in "AugiKrg,~inr Ulm, ~and"TB~~other cities. The 

' Maurice of Saxony was permitted to make some alterations on the 
Interim for his dominions, and his edition was called the Leipzig Interim. 

392 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

people met it by an almost universal passive resistance — if 
singing doggerel verses in moclterf of the Tnt^rim may be 
called passive. When the Emperor ordered Duke Christopher 
of Wlirtemberg to drive Brenz out of his refuge in his State, 
the Duke answered him that he could not banish his whole 
population. The popular feeling, as is usual in such cases, 
found vent in all manner of satirical songs, pamphlets, and 
even catechisms. As in the times before the Peasants' War, 
this coarse popular literature had an immense circulation. 
Much of it took the form of rude broadsides with a picture, 
. generally satirical, at the top, and the song, sometimes with 
the music score, printed below.^ Wandering preachers, 
whom no amount of police supervision could check, went 
inveighing against the Interim, distributing the rude litera- 
ture through the villages and among the democracy in the 
V~"~tDwns. Soon the creed and the edict which enforced it 

1 became practically a dead letter throughout the greater 

I part of Germany. 

\ The presence of „ the Emperor's^ Spanish troops on the 

soil of the FaEEierland irritated the |eeling8~of Germans, 
whether Eomanists or Protestants ; the insolence an^'SJc-" 
cesses of "fhese— soldiers "Htung the common people ; and 

. their e mployment to enforce the hatted Jwferjm_on__the 
Protestants was an a'Sditioiial ulsult:" The citizens of one 
rnipenai city were" told tba1rTf"they did not accept the 
Interim they must be taught theology by Spanish troops, 
and of another that they would yet learn to speak the 
language of Spain. While the popular _ odium against 
Charles was slowly growing in intensity, he contrived to 
increase it by aj3ro20s al tha t his son Philip-^hould_haye 
the imperi aj^rown after his brother Ferdinand. Charles' 
own election had been caused by a patriotic sentiment. 
The people thought that a German was better than a 
Frenchman, and they had found out too late that they had 
not got a German but a Spaniard. Ferdinand-had Jived 
in Germany long enough to know its wants, and his son 

' One of these broadsides is reproduced in von Bezold's Oeschichte der 
deutschen Reformation (Berlin, 1890), p. 806. 


Maximilian had shown that he possessed many qualities 
which appealed to the German character. The proposal 
to Bubstitute _ Philip , however natural from Charles' point 
of view, and consistent with his earlier idea that the House 
of Hapsburg should have one head, meant to the Germans 
to still further "hispani olate" Ger many. This unpopularity 
of Charles amrag_j,ll_ranljs_ and^lasses of Germans "greV 
rapidly between 1548 and 1552; and during the same 
years "Eis "forei gn prestige w a§_|aali,:ffianing. He remained 
in Germany, with the exception of a short visit to the 
jNe&erlands; but in spite of his presence jthe_anarchy 
grew worse and worse. The revolt which came migEE"" 
have arisKQ^much sobnet had the Protestants been able to 
overcome their hatred and suspicion of Maurice of Saxony, 
whose co-operation was almost essential. It is unnecessary 
to describe the intrigues which went on around the Emperor, 
careless though not unforewamed. 

Maurice had completed his arrangements with his 
German allies and with France early in 1552. The Em- 
peror had retired from Augsburg to Innsbruck. Maurice 
seized the Pass of Ehrenberg on the nights of May 18 th, 
1 9th, and pressed on to Innsbruck, hoping to " run the old 
fox to earth." Charles escapedby a few hours, and, accom- 
panied by his brother Ferdinand, fled over the Brenner Pass 
amid a storm of snow and rain. It was the road by which 
he had entered Germany in fair spring weather when he came 
in 1530, in the zenith of his power, to settle, as he had 
confidently expected, the religious difficulties in Germany. 
He reached Villach in Carinthia in safety, and there waited 
the issue of events. 

The German prince s gathered in great numbers at 
Fassau (Aug. 1552lJa— discuss the position and arrive at 
a settlement. _M§jiB£a_Eas_ostensibly Jhe_mafiter.-.otlhe 
situati on, for his troops and those of his wild ally Albert 
Alcibiades of Brandenburg- Culmbach were in the town, 
and many a prince felt "as if they had a hare in their 
breast." His demands for the public good were moderate 
and statesmanlike. He asked for the immediate release of 

5iI4^ FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

his ffiher-in-law the Landgrave of Hesse ; for a settlement 
of the religious question on a basis that would be permanent, 
at a meeting of German princes fairly representative of the 
two parties — no Council summoned and directed by the 
Pope would ever give fair-play to the Protestants, he said, 
nor could they expect to get it from the Diet where the 
I large number of ecclesiastical members gave an undue pre- 
I ponderance to the Eomanist side ; and for a settlement of 
•- some constitutional questions. The princes present, and 
Nith. them Ferdinand, King of the Eomans, were inclined to 
accept these demands. But when they were referred to 
Charles at Villach, he absolutely refused to permit the 
religious or the constitutionar~qTI^ton to be settled by 
any assembly^ but the JDiet of the^mpire. Nothing would 
move him from his opinion, neither the entreaties of his 
brother nor his own personal danger. He still counted on 
the divisions among the Protestants, and believed that he 
had only to support the " born Elector " of Saxony against 
the one of his own creation to deprive Maurice of his 
strength. It may be that Maurice had his own fears, it 
may be that he was glad to have the opportunity of show- 
ing that the " Spaniard " was the one enemy to a lasting 
peace in Germany. He contented himself with the acqui- 
escence of John Frederick in the permanent loss of the 
Electorate as arranged at the Peace of Wittenberg (1547). 
Charles was then free to come back to Augsburg, where 
he had the petty satisfaction of threatening the Lutheran 
preachers who had returned, and of again overthrowing 
the democratic government of the city. He then went to 
assume the command of the German army which was 
opposing the French. His failure to take the city of 
Metz was followed by his practical abandonment of the 
direction of the affairs of Germany, which were left in the 
hands of Ferdinand. The disorders of the time dela^^' 
the meeting of -the Diet until 1 555__(.opened Feb. 5th). 
'^he Elector and the "born Elector" of Saxony were both 
dead — John Frederick, worn out by misfortune and im- 
prisonment (March 3rd, 1554), and sympathised with by 


friends and foes alike ; and Maurice, only thirty-two years 
of age, killed in the moment of victory at Sievershausen 

(July 9th, 1553). 

It was in the summer of 1554 that the Emperor had 
handed over, in a carefully limited manner, the manage- 
ment of German affairs to his brother Ferdinand, the King 
of the Eomans. The terms of devolution of authority imply"" 
that this was done by Chadea. to aySi^LJ'^^ humi liatio n of 
being personally responsible for acquiescence^ m what^was 
to him a hateful necessity, and the confession of failure 
in" his 'management of Germany from ; r530. EverycTne 
recognised that peace was necessary at almost any price, 
but Ferdinand and the higher ecclesiastical princes shrunk 
from facing the inevitable. The King of the Eomans still 
cherished some vague hopes of a conrpromise which would 
preserve the unity of the mediaeval German Church, and 
the selfish ^oHcy of many of the Protestant princes en- 
couraged" him. Elector Joachim of Brandenburg wished 
the archbishopric of Magdeburg and the bishopric of 
Halberstadt for his son Sigismund, and declared that he 
would be content with the Interim] Christopher of 
Wiirtemberg cherished similar designs on ecclesiastical 
properties. Augustus of Saxony, Maurice's brother and 
successor, wished the bishopric of Meissen. All these 
designs could be more easily fulfilled if the external unity 
of the mediaeval Church remained unbroken. 

§ 15. Beligious Peace of Augsburg} 

The Diet had been summoned for Nov. 13th (1554), 
but when Ferdinand reached Augsburg about the end of 
the year, the Estates had not gathered. He was able 
to open the Diet formally on Feb. 5th (1555), but none 
of the Electors, and only two of the great ecclesiastical 
princes, the Cardinal Bishop of Augsburg and the Bishop 

1 Wolf, Der Augsburger Religionsfriede (Stuttgart, 1890) ; Brandi, Der 
Augsburger Religionsfriede (Munich, 1896) ; Druffel, Beitrdge zur Reichs- 
geschicUe, lSBS-1555 (Munich, 1896). 

396 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

of Eichstadt, were present in person. While the Diet 
dragged on aimlessly^ the Protestant prinp.ea gaFfiered tcT 
aT great Council of their own at Naumburg (March 3rd, 
1555) to concert a common policy. Among those present 
were the Eletitors of "Brandenburg and Saxony, the sons 
of John Frederick, the ill-fated "born Elector," and the 
Landgrave of Hesse — sixteen princes and a great number 
of magnates. After long debates, the assembly decided 
(March 13th) that they^wquld stand by the Augsburg 
Oonfessim_of^ 1 5 3 Oj_ jiiid that the mi nority would unite 
with the majority in carrying out one common policy. 
Even " fat old Interim," as Elector Joachim oflBrandenhufg 
had be en nicknamed, was compelled to submit; and the 
Protestants stood on a firm basis with a definite programme, 
and pledged to support each other. 

This memorable meeting at Naumburg forced the hands 

of tFe" members of the Diet. Every member7 saVB~ the 
Cardinal BTsFop' of Augsburg, desired a permeme7vt~ne^e- 
ment of the religious question, and their zeal appeared in 
the multiplicity of adjectives used "to expressTEe pre- 
dominant thought — "lestdndiger, beharrlicher, unhedingter, 

fur und fur ewig wahrender " was the phrase. The meet- 
ing at Naumburg showed them that this could nonie 
secured without the recognition of Lutheranism as a legal 
religion within the German Empire. 

When the Protestant-ilamands were formally placed 
before the Diet, they were found to include — security 

"under the Public Law of the Empire for all who professed 
the Augsburg Confession, and for all who in future might 
make the same profession ; liberty to hold legally all the 
ecclesiastical property which had been or might in the 
future be secularised ; coniplete toleration for all Lutherans 
who were resident in Eomanist States without correspond- 
ing toleration for Komanists in Lutheran States. These 
demands went much further than any which Luther him- 
self had formulated, and really applied to Eomanists some 
of the provisions of the "recess" of Speyer (1529) which, 
\ when applied to Lutherans, had called forth the Protest. 


They were vehemently ol^cted to by the Eomanist members 
of the Diet ; '^nd, asToth parties seemed- uawilliflg to yield 
anything to the other, there was some danger of the religious 

§ breaking out again. The mediation of Ferdinand for 
Elomanists and Frederick of Saxony for the Protestants 
ght a compromise after months of debate. It was agreed 
the L utbefanTetigion should be legalised within the 
E mpire, and that all Lutheran princes should ■ have full 
security for the praclTce~of—fcheif- faith-; - that thfe mediaeval 
episcopal juriiclietion should cease' within their lands; and 
that they were^ to retain all eoelesiaetieal possessions which 
had been secularised before the pass.ing of the Treaty of 
Passau_(1552). Future changes of faith were to be deter- 
jain ed by th e principle cujus regioyusrelA^. — The secular 
territorial ruler~might choose— b o twdon - the Eomanist or 
the Lutheran faith, and his decision was to bind all his 
subjects. If a subject professed another religion from his 
prince, he was to be allowed to emigrate without molesta- 
tion. These provisions were agreed upon by all, and 
embodied in the "recess." Two very important matters 
remained unsettled. The Eomanists demanded that any 
eccles iastical p rince who changed his faith should thereby 
f orfeit lan d" arnOtgrnrhmR — t.hp " ppp1psifl«tnpa-)- reservation." 
This was embodied in the " recess,' but tne~ rioLesLauLs 
declared that they would not be bound by it. Oa^ the 
other hand, the^fiotestants demanded^toleration for all 
Lutherans jiving wit hin jthe teiritories of Eomanist princes. 
This was not embodied in the " recess," ^though ^Ferdinand" 
promised that he wQu]d^ae£--it---carxied-jSut in practice.^ 
Such was the famous Peace of Augsburg. There was no 
reason why it should not have ' come"~years earlier and 
without the wild war-storm which preceded it, save the 
fact that, in an unfortunate fit of enthusiasm, the Germans 
had elected the young King of Spain to be their Emperor. 
They had chosen the grandson of the genial Maxmilian, 
believing him to be a real German, and they got a man 

' These two unsettled questions became active in the disputes which 
began the Thirty Years' War. 

398 FROM SPEYER, 1526, TO AUGSBURG, 1555 

whose attitude to religion "was half-way between the 
genial orthodoxy of his grandfather MaxmiUan and the 
gloomy fanaticism of his son Philip ii.," and whose " mind 
was always travelling away from the former and towards 
the latter position." ^ The longer he lived the more 
Spanish he became, and the less capable of understanding 
Germany, either on its secular or religious side. His 
whole public Hfe, so far as that country was concerned, 
was one disastrous failure. He succeeded only when he 
used his imperial position to increase and consolidate the 
territorial possessions of the House of Hapsburg ; for the 
charge of dismembering the Empire can be brought home to 
Charles as effectually as to the most selfish of the princes 
of Germany. 

TEie Eeligious Peace of Augsburg was contained in 

the decisions of Speyer in 1526, and it was repeated in 
every one of the truces which the Emperor made with his 
Lutheran subjects from 1530 to 1544.^ Had any one of 

^ these been made permanOT;b^he^_ religious war,, with its 

^ PoUard, Camtridge Modem History, ii. 144. 

' The Religious Peace of Augsburg had important diplomatic consequences 
beyond Gennany. The Lutheran form of faith was recognised to be a religio 
licita (to use the old Roman phrase) within the Holy Roman Empire, which, 
according to the legal ideas of the day, included all Western Christendom ; 
and Popes could no longer excommunicate Protestants simply because they 
were Protestants, without striking a serious blow at the constitution of 
the Empire. No one perceived this sooner than the sagacious young woman 
who became the first Protestant Queen of England. In the earlier and 
unsettled years of her reign, Elizabeth made full use of the protection that a 
profession of the Lutheran Creed gave to shield her from excommunication. 
She did so when the Count de Feria, the ambassador of Philip ii. , threatened 
her with the fate of the King of Navarre {Calendar of Letters and State 
Papers relating to English Affairs, preserved principally in the Archives of 
Simancas, i. 61, 62) ; she suppressed all opinions which might be supposed 
to conflict with the Lutheran Creed in the Thirty-eight Articles of 1563 ; 
she kept crosses and lights on the altar of her chapel in Lutheran fashion. 
When the Pope first drafted a Bull to excommunicate the English Queen, 
and submitted it to the Emperor, he was told that it would be an act of 
folly to publish a document which would invalidate the Emperor's own 
election ; and when Elizabeth was finally excommunicated in 1570, the 
charge against her was not being a Protestant, but sharing in "the impious 
mysteries of Calvin " — the Reformed or Calvinist Churches being outside 
the Peace of Augsburg. 


outcome in wild anarchy, in embittered religious antagon- 
isms, and its seed of internecine strife, to be reaped in 
the Thirty Years' War, would never have occurred. But 
Charles, whose mission, he fancied, was to preserve the 
unity " of the seamless robe of Christ," as he phrased it, 
could only make the attempt by drenching the fields of 
Germany with blood, and perpetuating and accentuating 
the religious antagonisms of the country which had chosen 
him for its Protector. 

This Eeligious Peace of Augsburg has been claimed, 
and rightly, as a victory for religious liberty. 

From one point of view the victory was not a great 
one. Tbft-.Qnly Confession tolera-tcd was the Augsburg. 
The SwissJReformation and its adherents were outside 
tHe~"scope of the religious peace. What grew to be the 
E eformed or Calyini^ic ,. Chuxcli was also outside. It 
was limited solely to_t ^ Luthera n, or, as it was called, 
the EvanggliQ§il_.cregd..-/ -Nor was there ..much gain to. 
the personal liberty of conscience. It may be said with 
truth that there was "less freedom of conscience under the 
Lutheran territorial system of Churches, and also under 
the Koman Catholic Church reorganised under the canons 
and decrees of Trent, than there was in the mediaeval 

The victory lay in this, that the first blow had been 
struck to free mankind from the fetters of Eomanist ab- 
solutism ; that the first faltering step had been taken on 
the road to religious liberty ; and the first is valuable not 
for what it is in itself, but for what it represents and for 
what comes after it. The Eeligious Peace of Augsburg 
did not concede much according to modern standards ; but 
it contained the potency and promise of the future. It is 
always the first step which counts. 



Two conceptions, the second being derived from the first, 
lay at the basis of everything which Luther said or did 
about the organisation of the Christian fellowship into 
, -i The priniaryand_j3aXiij^al__^doctriae, which was the 
i[ foundation of everything, was _the__S2iritual priest hood of all 
believers. This, he believed, implied that preaching, dis- 
"peiising the sacraments, ecclesiastical discipline , and so 
forth were not the exclusive possession of a special ca ste of 
men to whom they had been committed by (jrod, and who 
therefore were mediators between G-od and man. These 
divine duties belonged to the whole community as a Jellow- 
ship of believing men and women ; but as a division of 
labour was necessary, and as each individual Christian 
cannot undertake such duties without disorder ensuing, 
the community must seek out and set apart certain of its 
members to perform them in its name. 

' SoTTECBS : Richter, Die evangelischen Kirclumordnungen des sechszehrUen 
Jahrhunderts (Weimar, 1846) ; Sehling, Die evangelischen Kirchenordnuiigen 
des ISten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1902); Kins, "Das Stipendiumwesen in 
Wittenberg und Jena . . . im 16ten Jahrhundert" (Zeitschrift fiir historische 
Theologie, xxxv. (1865) pp. 96 ff.); G. Solimidt, "Eine Kirchenvisitation 
im Jahre 1525 " (ZeUschriftfur die hist. Theol. xxxv. 291 £f. ) ; Winter, " Die 
Kirehenvisitation von 1528 im Wittenberger Kreise" {Zeitsch. filr hist. 
Theol. xxxiii. (1863) 295 ff.); Muther, "Drei Urkunden zur Reformations- 
geschiohte" {Zeitschr. filr hist. Theol. xxx. (1860) 452 ff.); Albrccht, Der 
Kleine Catechismus filr die gemeine Pfarher und Prediger (facsimile reprint 
of edition of 1536 ; Halle a. S. 1905). 

Later Books: Kastner, Die Kinderfragen : Der erste deutsche Ki'Je- 
chismus (Leipzig, 1902) ; Burkliardt, Oeschichte der deiUschen Kirchen- und 
Schulrisitation im Zeilalter der Seformaticm (Leipzig, 1879) ; Berlit, Lutlixr^ 
Muriwr wid d«s Kirchenlied des 16ten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1899). 




The g econd conception was that secular government 
is an ordinance ordained of God, and that the special rule 
claimed by the Eoman Pontiif over things secular and 
sacred was a usurpation of the powers committed by God 
to the secular authority. This Luther understood to mean 
that the Christian magistra cy might well represent the 
Christian community of believers, and, in its name or 
associated with it, undertake the organisation and super- 
intendence of the Chuxck civic or territorial. 

In his earlier writings, penned before the outbreak of 
the Peasants' War, Luther dwells most on the thought of 
the community of believers, their rights and powers; in 
the later ones, when the fear of the common man had 
taken possession of him, the secular authority occupies his 
whole field of thought. But although, before the Peasants' 
War, Luther does not give such a fixed place to the secular 
magistracy as the one soiu'ce of authority or supervision 
over the Church, the conception was in his mind from the 

Among the various duti^_which belong to the com- 
pany of believers, Luther selected three as the most out- 
standing, — those connected with the pastorate, including [t j 
preaching, dispensing the sacraments, and so forth; the ^, 
service of Christian charity ; and the duty of seeing that 
the children belonging to _the community, and especially --'::- 
" poor, ISisefaBIe^ and deserted children," were properly 
educated and trained to become useful members of the 

In the few instances of attempts made before the 
Peasants' War to formulate those conceptions into regula- 
tions for communities organised according to evangelical 
principles, we find the.j2ommunity^nd the magistracy com- 
bining to.look afE^the public worship, the poor, and educa- 
tion. Illustrations may be seen in the Wittenberg ordinance 
of""l*522 (Carlstadt), and the ordinances of Leisnig (1523) 
and Magdeburg (1524).i All three are examples of the 

' Of. for the Wittenberg ordinance, Richter, Die evmigclischen Kirchen- 
ordnungen des sechszehnten Jahrhunderts (Weimar, 1846), ii. 484, and 


local authority within a small community endeavouring, 
at the prompting of preachers and peoplej_to expressji 
definite "regulations some of the demands of the new 
evangelical life. 

tutfier himself thought these earlier regulations prema- 
ture, and insisted that the Wittenberg ordinance should be 
cancelled. He knew that changes must come; but he 
hoped to see them make their way gradually, almost im- 
perceptibly, commending themselves to everyone without 
special enactment prescribed by external authority. Ha 
published suggestions for the dispensation of the Lord's 
Supper and of Baptism in the churches in Wittenberg as 
early as 1523 ; he collected and issued a small selection 
of evangelical hymns which might be srmg in Public 
Worship (1524); during the same year he addressed the 
burgomasters and councillors of all German towns on the 
erection and maintenance of Christian schools ; and he 
congratulated more than one mimicipality on provisions 
made for the care of the poor.^ Above all, he had, while 
in Wartburg, completed a translation of the Xew Testa- 
ment which, after revision by Melanchthon and other 
friends, was published in 1522 (Sept. 21st), and went 
through sixteen revised editions and more than fifty re- 
impressions before 15.34. The translation of the Old 
Testament was made by a band of scholars at Wittenberg, 
published in instalments, and finally in complete form in 

He always cherished the hope that the evangelical 
faith would spread quietly all over his dear Fatherland if 
only room were made for the preaching of the gospel 

Sehling, Die exangelischen Kirchenordnungen des 16ten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 
1902), I. i. 697 ; for Leisnig, Eicliter, i. 10. An account of the Uagde- 
burg ordinance is to be found in Funk, MiUheUungen axis der GeschichU 
des evangelisehen Kirchemcesens in Magdeiburg (Magdeburg, 1842), p. 210, 
and Richter, i. 17. 

' Luther's early suggestions about the dispensation of the sacrament! 
have been collected by SehUng, I. i. 2, 18. A portion of the hymn-book 
has been reproduced in facsimile in von Bezold's GeschichU der deutschen 
E^formalion, Berlin, 1S90, p. 5G6. 


This of itself, he thought, would in due time effect a 
peaceful transformation of the ecclesiastical life and wor- 
ship. The Diets of Niirnberg and Speyer had provided 
a field, always growing wider, for this quiet transformation. 
Luther was as indifferent to forms of Church government 
as John Wesley, and, like "Wesley, every step he took in 
providing for a separate organisation was forced upon him 
as a practical necessity. To the very last he cherished 
the hope that there might be no need for any great change 
in the external government of the Church. The Augsburg 
Confession itself (1530) concludes with the words: "Our 
meaning is not to have rule taken from the bishops ; 
but this one thing only is requested at their hands, that 
they would suffer the gospel to be purely taught, and 
that they would relax a few observances, which cannot be 
held without sin. But if they will remit none, let them 
look how they will give account to God for this, that by 
their obstinacy they afford cause of division and schism, 
which it were yet fit they should aid in avoiding." ^ It was 
not that he believed that the existence of the visible Catholic 
Church depended on what has been ambiguously called an 
apostolic succession of bishops, who, through gifts conferred 
in ordination, create priests, who in turn make Christians 
out of natural heathen by the sacraments. He did not 
believe that ordination needed a bishop to confer it ; he 
made his position clear upon this point as early as 1525, 
and ordination was practised without bishops from that 
date. But he had no desire to make changes for the sake 
of change. The Danish Church is at once episcopal and 
Lutheran to this day. 

It ought also to be remembered that Luther and all 
the Eeformers believed and held firmly the doctrine of a 
visible Catholic Church of Christ, and that the evangelical 
movement which they headed was the outcome of the 
centuries of saintly life within that visible Catholic-i 
Church. They never for a moment supposed that in 1 
withdrawing themselves from the authority of the Bishop 1 

^ Schaff, The Creeds of the Evangelical Protestant Churches, p. 72. I 


of Eome they were separating themselves from the visible 
Church. Nor did they imagine that in making provisioS7 
temporary or permanent, for preaching the word, the dis- 
pensation of the sacraments, the exercise of discipline, and 
so forth, they were founding a new Church, or severing 
themselves from that visible Church within which they had 
been baptized. They refused,^to concede the term Catholic 
to their opponents, and in the vaiioas confieiSnces whicE 
they had with them, the Eoman Catholics were always 
officially designated " the adherents of the old religion," 
while they were termed " the associates of the Augsburg 

Luther cherished the hope, as late as 1545, that there 
might not jaeed_to-be a perman ent change in the ex ternal 
form of the Church in Germany ; and this gives all the 
earlier schemes for the organisation of communities pro- 
fessing the evangelical faith somewhat of a makeshift and 
temporary appearance, which they in truth possessed. 

Th e Die t_of. Speyer of 1526 ga ve the evangelical 
princes and towns the right, they beHeyedj^to reorgaiiise 
public worship and^ecclesiastical organisation within their^ 
dominions, and this right wasT^argely taken _advantage 
of. Correspondents from all quarters asked Luther's 
advice and co-operation, and we can learn from his 
answers that he was anxious there should be_as much 
local freedom as possible, — that communities should try 
to ^nd out whaFsuited them best, and that the " use " of 
Wittenberg should not be held to regulate the custom of 
all other places. 

It was less difficult for the authorities in the towns to take 
over the charge of the ecclesiasticaT'arrangementsr" "They 
had during mediaeval times some experience in the matter; 
and cityjife was so compact that it was easy to regulate 
the ecclesiastical, portion. The prevailing type exhibfted in 
the number of " ordinances " which have come down to us, 
collected by Eichter and Sehling, is that a sup erintenden t^ 
one of the city clergy, was placed over the city churches,, 
and that he was more or less responsible to the city fathers 


for the ecclesiastical life and rule within the domains of 
t"he city. 

The ecclesiastical organisation of the territories of the 
princes was a much more difficult task. Luther proposed 
to the'Elector of SasonjC-Jhat- a ..careful., visitation of his 
principality should be made, district by district, in order 
t6'"Sn3'out the state of matters and what required to be 

The correspondence of Luther during the years 1525— 
1527 shows how urgent the need of such a visitation 
appeared to him. He had been through the country 
several times. Parish priests had laid their difficulties 
before him and had asked his advice. His letters describe 
graphically their abounding poverty, a poverty increased 
by the fact that the only application of the new evangelical 
liberty made by many of the people was to refuse to pay 
all clerical dues. He came to the conclusion that the 
" common man " respected neither priest nor preacher, that 
there was no ecclesiastical supervision in the country dis- 
tricts, and no exercise of authority to maintain even the 
necessary ecclesiastical buildings. He expressed the fear 
that if things were allowed to go on as they were doing, 
there would be soon neither priest's house nor schools nor 
scholars in many a parish. The reports of the first Saxon 
Visitation showed that Luther had not exaggerated matters.^ 
The district about Wittenberg was in much better order 
than the others ; but in the outlying portions a very bad 
state of things was disclosed. In a village near Torgau 
the Visitors discovered an old priest who was hardly able 
to repeat the Creed or the Lord's Prayer,^ but who was 

* Winter, "Die Kirchenvisitation von 1528 im Wittenberger Kreise" 
[Zeitschrift filr die historische Theologie, xxxiii. pp. 295-322) ; and VisitatioTis 
Protocolle in Neuen Mittheilungen des thuring. -sacks. Geschichts- Verein z« 
Halle, IX. ii. pp. 78 ff. 

^ The Visitation of Biabop Hooper of the diocese of Gloucester, made in 
1551, disclosed a worse state of matters in England. The Visitor put these 
simple questions to his clergy: "How many commandments are there? 
Where are they to be found ? Repeat them. What are the Articles of the 
Christian Faith (the Apostles' Creed) ? Repeat them. Prove them from 
Scripture. Repeat the Lord's Prayer. How do you know that it is the 


held in high esteem as an exorcist, and who derived a good 
income from the exercise of his skill in combating the evil 
influences of witches. Priests had to be evicted for gross 
immoralities. Some were tavern-keepers or practised other 
worldly callings. VOlage schools were rarely to be found. 
Some of the peasants complained that the Lord's Prayer 
was so long that they could not learn it ; and in one place 
the Visitors found that not a single peasant knew any 
/"""■" This Saxon Visitation was the model for similar ones 
made in almost every evangelical principality, and its re- 
ports serve to show what need there was for inquiry and 
reorganisation. The lands of Electoral Saxony were divided 
ThtoTour •' circles," and a commission of theologians and 
lawyers was appointed to undertake the duties in each 
circle. The Visitation of the one " circle " of Wittenberg, 
with its thirty-eight parishes, may be taken as an example 
of how the work was done, and what kinds of alterations 
were suggested. The commissioners or Visitors were Martin 
Luther and Justus Jonas, theologians, with Hans Metzsch, 
Benedict Pauh, and Johann v. Taubenheim, jurists. They 
began in October 1528, and spent two months over their 
task. It was a strictly business proceeding. There is no 
account of either Luther or Jonas preaching while on tour. 
The Visitors went about their work with great energy, 
holding conferences with the parish priests and with the 
representatives of the community. They questioned the 
priests about the religious condition of the people — whether 
there was any gross and open immorality, whether the 
people were regular in their attendance at church and in 
comiQg to the communion. They asked the people how 
the priests did their work among them — in the towns their 
conferences were with the Rath, and in the comitry dis- 

Lord's? Where is it to be found?" Three hundred and eleven clergymen 
were asked these questions, and only fifty answered them all ; out of the 
fifty, nineteen are noted as having answered mediocriter. Eight could not 
answer a single one of them ; and while one knew that the number of the 
commandments was ten, he knew nothing else [English ffistorical Eefiew 
for 1904 (Jan.), pp. 98 ff.]. 


fcricts and villages with the male heads of families. Their 
common work was to find out what was being done for the 
" cure of souls," the instruction of the youth, and the care 
of the poor. By " cure of souls " (Seelsorge) they meant 
preaching, dispensation of the sacraments, catechetical 
instruction, and the pastoral visitation of the sick. It 
belonged to the theologians to estimate the capacities of 
the pastors, and to the jurists to estimate the available 
income, to look into all legal difficulties that might arise, 
and especially to clear the entanglements caused by the 
supposed jurisdiction of convents over many of the parishes. 
This small district was made up of three outlying por- 
tions of the three dioceses of Brandenburg, Magdeburg, and 
Meissen. It had not been inspected within the memory 
of man, and the results of episcopal negligence were mani- 
fest. At Klebitz the peasants had driven away the parish 
clerk and put the village herd in his bouse. At Biilzig 
there was neither parsonage nor house for parish clerk, and 
the priest was non-resident. So at Danna ; where the 
priest held a benefice at Coswig, and was, besides, a chaplain 
at Wittenberg, while the clerk lived at Zahna. The par- 
sonages were all in a bad state of repair, and the local 
authorities could not be got to do anything. Eoofs were 
leaking, walls were crumbling, it was believed that the 
next winter's frost would bring some down bodily. At 
Pratau the priest had buUt all himself — parsonage, out- 
houses, stable, and byre. All these things were duly 
noted to be reported upon. As for the priests, the com- 
plaints made against them were very few indeed. In one 
case the people said that their priest drank, and was con- 
tinually seen in the public-house. Generally, however, the 
complaints, when there were any, were that the priest was 
too old for his work, or was so utterly uneducated that he 
could do little more than mumble the Mass. There was 
Scanty evidence that the people understood very clearly 
the evangelical theology. Partaking the Lord's Supper in 
both " kinds," or in one only, was the distinction recognised 
and appreciated between the new and the old teaching ; 


and when they had the choice the people universally pre- 
ferred the new. In one case the parishioners complained 
that their priest iasisted on saying the Mass in Latin and 
not in G-erman. In one case only did the Visitors find 
any objection taken to the evangelical service. This was 
at Meure, where the parish clerk's wife was reported to be 
an enemy of the new pastor because he recited the service 
in German. It turned out, however, that her real objection 
was that the pastor had displaced her husband. At Bleddin 
the peasants told the Visitors that their pastor, Christopher 
Eichter, was a learned and pious man, who preached regu- 
larly on all the Sundays and festival days, and generally 
four times a week in various- parts of the parish. It 
appeared, however, that their adnliration for him did not 
compel them to attend his ministrations with very great 
regularity. The energetic pastors were all young men 
trained at Wittenberg. The older men, peasants' sons all 
of them, were scarcely better educated than their parish- 
ioners, and were quite unable to preach to them. The 
Visitors found very few parishes indeed where three, four, 
five or more persons were not named to them who never 
attended church or came to the Lord's Table ; in some 
parishes men came regularly to the preaching who never 
would come to the Sacrament. What impressed the 
Visitors most was the ignorance, the besotted ignorance, 
of the people. They questioned them directly ; found out 
whether they knew the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Conmiand- 
ments, and the Lord's Prayer ; and then questioned them 
about the meanings of the words ; and the answers were 

Luther came back from the Visitation in greatly de- 
pressed spirits, and expressed his feelings in his usual 
energetic language. He says in his introduction to his 
Small Catechism, a work he began as soon as he returned 
from the Visitation : 

" In setting forth this Catechism or Christian doctrine 
in such a simple, concise, and easy form, I have been com- 
pelled and driven by the wretched and lamentable state of 


affairs which I discovered lately when I acted as a Visitor. 
Merciful God, what misery have I seen, the common people 
knowing nothing at all of Christian doctrine, especially in 
the villages ! and unfortunately many pastors are well-nigh 
unskilled and incapable of teaching; and although all are 
called Christians and partake of the Holy Sacrament, they 
know neither the Lord's Prayer, nor the Creed, nor the Ten 
Commandments, but live like poor cattle and senseless swine, 
though, now that the gospel is come, they have learnt well 
enough how they may abuse their liberty. Oh, ye bishops, 
how will ye ever answer for it to Christ that ye have so 
shamefully neglected the people, and have not attended for 
an instant to your office ? May all evil be averted from 
you! (Das euch alles ungliick fliche). Ye forbid the taking 
of the Sacrament in one kind, and insist on your human 
laws, but never inquire whether they know the Lord's 
Prayer, the Belief, the Ten Commandments, or any of the 
words of God. Oh, woe be upon you for evermore ! " 

The Visitors found that few books were to be seen in 
the parsonages. They record one notable exception, the 
parsonage of Schmiedeberg, where the priest had a library 
of twelve volumes. It could not be expected that such 
uneducated men could preach to much edification ; and 
one of the recommendations of the Visitors was that copies 
of Luther's Postils or short sermons on the Lessons for the 
Day should be sent to all the parishes, with orders that they 
should be read by the pastors to their congregations. 

They did not find a trace anywhere of systematic 
pastoral visitation or catechising. 

In their practical suggestions for ending the priestly 
inefficiency, the Visitors made simple and homely arrange- 
ments. To take one example, — at Liessnitz, the aged pastor 
Conrad was quite unable from age and ignorance to perform 
his duties; but he was a good, inoffensive old man. It 
was arranged that he was to have a coadjutor, who was to be 
boarded by the rich man of the parish and get the fees, while 
the old pastor kept the parsonage and the stipend, out of 
which he was to pay fourteen gulden annually to his coadjutor. 

The Visitors found that schools did not exist in most 
of the villages, and they were disappointed with the con- 


dition of the schools they found in the smaller towns. It 
was proposed to make the parish clerks the village school- 
masters ; but they were wholly incompetent, and the 
Visitors saw nothing for it but to suggest that the pastors 
must become the village schoolmasters. The parish clerks 
were ordered to teach the children to repeat the Small 
Catechism by rote, and the pastors to test them at a cate- 
chising on Sunday afternoons. In the towns, where the 
churches usually had a cantor or precentor, this ofl&cial was 
asked to train the children to sing evangelical hymns. 

In their inquiries about the care of the poor, the Visi- 
tors found that there was not much need for anything to 
be done in the villages ; but the case was different in the 
towns. They found that in most of them there existed 
old foundations meant to benefit the poor, and they dis- 
covered all manner of misuses and misappropriations of 
the funds. Suggestions were made for the restoration of 
these funds to their destined uses. 

This very condensed account of what took place in the 
Wittenberg " circle " shows how the work of the Visitors 
was done ; a second and a third Visitation were needed in 
Electoral Saxony ere things were properly arranged ; but in 
the end good work was accomplished. The Elector refused 
to take any of the confiscated convent lands and possessions 
for civil purposes, and these, together with the Church 
endowments, provided stipends for the pastors, salaries for 
the schoolmasters, and a settled provision for the poor. 

"When the Visitation was completed and the reports 
presented, the Visitors were asked to draft and issue an 
Instruction or lengthy advice to the clergy and people of 
the " circle " they had inspected. This Instruction was 
not considered a regular legal document, but its contents 
were expected to be acted upon. 

These Visitations and Instructions were the earliest 

attempts at the reorganisation of the evangelical Cliurch 

in Electoral Saxony. The Visitors remained as a " prindtive 

evangelical consistory " to supervise their " circles." 

' The Saxon Visitations became a model for most of the 


North German evangelical territorial Churches, and the In- 
structions form the earliest collection of requirements set 
forth for the guidance of pastors and Christian people. 
The directions are very minute. The pastors are told how 
to preach, how to conduct pastoral visitations, what sins 
they must specially warn their people against, and what 
example they must show them. The care of schools and 
of the poor was not forgotten.^ 

The fact that matrimonial cases were during the Middle 
Ages almost invariably tried in ecclesiastical courts, made 
it necessary to provide some legal authority to adjudicate 
upon such cases when the mediaeval episcopal courts had 
either temporarily or permanently lost their authority. 
This led to a provisional arrangement for the government 
of the Church in Electoral Saxony, which took a regular 
legal form. A pastor, called a superintendent, was ap- 
pointed in each of the four " circles " into which the 
territory had been divided for the purpose of Visitation, to 
act along with the ordinary magistracy in all ecclesiastical 
matters, including the judging in matrimonial cases.^ This 
Saxon arrangement also spread largely through the northern 
German evangelical States. 

A tljird.Visitation. _Df_JElectoral Saxony was made in 
1532, and led to important ecclesiastical changes which 
formed the basis of all that came afterwards. As a result 
of the reports of the Visitors, of whom Justus Jonas seems 
to have been the most energetic, the parishes were re- 
arranged, the incomes of parish priests readjusted, and the 
whole ecclesiastical revenues of the mediseval Church within 
Electoral Saxony appropriated for the threefold evangelical 
Uses of supporting the ministry, providing for schools, and 
caring for the poor. ThealQctrinejCeremonies, and worship of 
the evangelical Church were also settled on a definite basis.' 

' Sehling, Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des ISten Jahrhunderls 
(Leipzig, 1902), I. 1. 142 ff. » Ihid. i. i. 49. 

' The rites and ceremonies of worship in the Lutheran churches are given 
in Daniel, Codex Liturgicus Bcclesia LiUherance in epitomen redaclus, wliich 
forms the second volume of his Codex LUurgicus Ecclesice Universce (Leipzig, 


The Visitors pointed out that hitherto no arrangement 
had been made to give the whole ecclesiastical administra- 
tion one central authority. The Electoral Prince had 
always been regarded- as iJi6..supreme ruler orTB e-'CL ui dr - 
within his_^ dominions, but as he could not personally 
supermtend everythiiig, there was needed some supreme 
court which could act in all ecclesiastical cases as his 
representative or instrument. The Visitors suggested the 
revival of the mediaeval episcopal consistorial courts modi- 
fied to suit the new circumstances. Bishops in the mediaeval 
sense of the word might be and were believed to be super- 
fluous, but their true function, the/tts episcopate, the right 
of oversight, was indispensable. According to Luther's ideas 
— ideas which had been gaining ground in Germany from 
the last quarter of the fifteenth century- — this jm episcopale 
belonged to the supreme secular authority. The mediaeval 
bishop had exercised his right of oversight through a con- 
sistorial court composed of theologians and canon lawyers 
appointed by himself. These mediaeval courts, it was sug- 
gested, might be transformed into Lutheran ecclesiastical 
courts if the prince formed a permanent council composed 
of lawyers and divines to act for him and in his name in 
aU ecclesiastical matters, including matrimonial cases. The 
Visitors sketched their plan ; it was submitted for revision 
to Luther and to Chancellor Briick, and the result was the 
Wittenberg Ecclesiastical Consistory established in 1542.^ 
That the arrangement was stni somewhat provisional ap- 
pears from the fact that the court had not jurisdiction 
over the whole of the Electoral dominions, and that 
other two Consistories, one at Zeitz and the other at 
Zwickau, were established with similar powers. But the 
thing to be observed is that these courts were modelled on 
the old medieval consistorial episcopal courts, and that, 

' The ordinance establishing the Wittenberg Consistory will be found 
in Ricliter, Die evangeliscJien Kirdteiwrdnunge^i des sechszelinten Jahrhun- 
derls (Weimar, 1846), i. 367 ; and in Sehling, Die evangelischen Kirchen- 
ordnuiigen des ISten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1902), i. i. 200. Seliling sketchi-a 
the history of its institution, i. i. 55. 


like them, they were compogfi d of lawyers and of theo- 

Jogians. "The essential difference was that these Lutheran 

jiourts were appointed b^ and,, acted in the.,, name of the 

iup£eine_^JSCinaZr"aa£hority. In Electoral Saxony their 
ocal bounds of jurisdiction did not correspond to those 
of the medijeval courts. It was impossible that they 
should. Electoral Saxony, the ordinance erecting the Con- 
sistory itself says, consisted of portions of " ten or twelve " 
mediaeval dioceses. The courts had different districts 
assigned to them ; but in all other things they reproduced 
the mediaeval eonsistorial courts. 

The constitutions of these courts provided for the 
assembhng and holding of Synods to deliberate on the 
affai*8-«f-th'e Church. The General Synod consisted of the 
Consistory and the superintendents of the various " circles " ; 
and particular Synods, which had to do with the Church 
affairs of the "circle," of the superintendent, and of all 
the clergy of the " circle." 

Such were the beginnings of the CQasistorial system 
of Church government/ which is a distinctivemarETifTh^ 
Lutheran Church, and which exhibits some of the indi- 
vidual traits of Luther's personality. We can see in it 
his desire to make full use of whatever portions of the 
mediaeval Church usages could be pressed into the service 
of his evangelical Church ; his conception that the one 
supreme authority on earth was that of the secular govern- 
ment ; his suspicion of the " common " man, and his resolve 
to prevent the people exercising any control over the 
arrangements . of the Church. 

Gradually all the Lutheran Churches have adopted, in 
general outline at least, this eonsistorial system ; but it 
would be a mistake to think that the Wittenberg " use " 
was adopted in all its details. Luther himself, as has 
been said, had no desire for anything like uniformity, and 
there was none, in the beginning. All the schemes of 
ecclesiastical government proceed on the idea that the 
jus episcopale or right of ecclesiastical oversight belongs to 
the supreme territorial secular authority. All of them 


include within the one set of ordinances, pro\dsions for the 
support of the ministry, for the maintenance of schools, and 
for the care of the poor — the last generally expressed bj 
regulations about the " common chest." The great variety 
of forms of ecclesiastical government drafted and adopted 
may be studied in Eichter's collection, which includes one 
hundred and seventy - two separate ecclesiastical consti- 
tutions, and which is confessedly very imperfect. The 
gradual growth of the organisation finally adopted in each 
city and State can be traced for a portion of Germany in 
Sehling's unfinished work.^ 

The number of these ecclesiastical ordinances is 
enormous, and the quantity is to be accounted for partly 
by the way in which Germany was split up into numerous 
small States in the sixteenth century, and also partly by 
the fact that Luther pled strongly for diversity. 

The ordinances were promulgated in many different 
ways. Most frequently, perhaps, the prince published and 
enacted them on his own authority like any other piece of 
territorial legislation. Sometimes he commissioned a com- 
mittee acting in his name to frame and publish. In 
other cases they resulted from a consultation between the 
prince and the magistrates of one of the towns within his 
dominions. Sometimes, they came from the councUs and 
the pastors of the towns to which they applied. In other 
instances they were issued by an evangelical bishop. And 
in a few cases they are simply the regulations issued by a 
single pastor for his own parish, which the secular author- 
ities did not think of altering. 

Although they are independent, one from another, 
they may be grouped in families which resemble each other 

Some of the territories reached the consistorial system 

' The first half of the first part of Sehling's Die evangelischen Kirehen- 
ordmungen des 16 Jahrhwnderts appeared in 1902, and the second half of the 
first part in 1904. 

^ Cf. article on "Kirohen-Ordnung" in the 8rd edition of Herzog'a 
Healencyclopadie filr proteslaMische Theologie. 


much sooner thau others. If a principality consisted in 
whole or in part of a secularised ecclesiastical State, the 
machinery of the consistorial court lay ready to the hand 
of the prince, and was at once adapted to the use of the 
evangelical Church. The system was naturally slowest to 
develop in the imperial cities, most of which at first pre- 
ferred an organisation whose outlines were borrowed from 
the constitution drafted by Zwingli for Zurich. 

Once only do we find an attempt to give an evan- 
gelicarl'-Ghtrrch occupying a large territory a democratic 
constitution. It was made by Philip^Landgraye.of, Hesse," 
wEo"was never afraid „of the democracy. No German 
prince had so thoroughly won the confidence of his com- 
monalty. The Peasants' War never devastated his do- 
minions. He did not join in the virulent persecution of 
the Anabaptists which disgraced the Lutheran as well as 
the Eoman Catholic States during the latter half of the 
sixteenth century. It was natural that Luther's earlier 
ideas about the rights of the Christian community (Gemeinde) 
should appeal to him. In 1526 (Oct. 6th), when the Diet 
of Speyer had permitted the organisation of evangelical 
Churches, Philip summoned a Synod at Homberg, and in- 
vited not merely pastors and ecclesiastical lawyers, but 
representatives from the nobles and from the towns. A 
scheme for ecclesiastical government, which had been drafted 
by Francis Lambert, formerly a Franciscan monk, was laid 
before the assembly and adopted. It was based on the idea 
that the word of God is the only supreme rule to guide 
and govern His Church, and that Canoa Law has no place 
whatsoever within an evangelical Church. Scripture teaches, 
the document explains, that it belongs to the Christian com- 
munity itself to select and dismiss pastors and to exercise 
discipline by means of excommunication. The latter right 
ought to be used in a weekly meeting (on Sundays) of the 
congregation and pastor. For the purposes of orderly rule 
the Church must have office-bearers, who ought to conform 
as nearly as possible to those mentioned in the New Testa- 
ment Scriptures. They are bishops (pastors), elders, and 


deacons ; and the deacons are the guardians of the poor 
as well as ecclesiastical officials. All these office-bearers 
must remember that their function is that of servants, 

and in no sense lordly or magisterial. They ought to be 
chosen by the congregation, and set apart by the laying 
on of hands ^cording to apostolic practiceT" — Ar-bisbop 
(pastor) must be' ordaiaed by at least three pastors, and a 
deacon by the pastor or by two elders. The government 
of the whole Church ought to be in the hands of a Synod, 
to consist of all the pastors and a delegate from every 
parish. Such in outHne was the democratic ecclesiastical 
government proposed for the territory of Hesse and ac- 
cepted by the Landgrave.^ He was persuaded, however, by 
Luther's strong remonstrances to abandon it. There is no 
place for the democratic or representative-filfiment in ffi5~ 
oi^nisation of the Lutheran Churches. 

1 Eichter, Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen, etc. i, 66 ff. 



The influence of Luther went far beyond Germany. It 
was felt in England, France, Scotland, Holland, Poland, 
and Scandinavia. England went her own peculiar way; 
France, Holland, and Scotland, in the end, accepted the 
leadership of Calvin ; the Lutheran Eeformation, outside 
Germany, was really confined to Scandinavia alone. 

In these Scandinavian lands the religious awakening 
was bound up with political and social movements more 
than in any other countries. The reformation in the 
Church was, indeed, begun by men who had studied under 
Luther at Wittenberg, or who had received their first 
promptings from his writings ; but it was carried on and 
brought to a successful issue by statesmen who saw in it 
the means to deliver their land from political anarchy, 
caused by the overweening independence and turbulence of 
the great ecclesiastical lords, and who were almost com- 
pelled to look to the large possessions of the Church as 
a means to replenish their exhausted treasuries without 
ruining the overburdened taxpayers. 

When Eric was crowned King of Denmark, Sweden, 
and Norway in 1397, the assembled nobles, representative 

' Sources : Baazius, Inventarium Ecdes. Smogothorum (1642) ; Pon- 
toppidan, Annales ecclesice Damicce, bks. ii., iii. (Copenhagen, 1744, 

Later Books : Lau, Geschichte der Meformalion in SehUswig-Holstein 
(Hamburg, 1867) ; Willson, History of Church and State in Norway (London, 
1903) ; Watson, The Swedish Revolution under Oustavus Vasa (Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, 1889) ; Wiedling, Schwedische Geschichte im Zeitalter der 
Befarmation (Gotha, 1882) ; Cambridge Modem History, ii. xvii. (Cambridge, 



of the three kingdoms, agreed to the celebrated Union of 
Kalmar, which declared that the three lands were to be 
for ever united under one sovereign. The treaty was 
purely dynastic, its terms were vague, and it was never 
very effective. Without going into details, it may be said 
that the king Hved in Denmark, and ruled in the interests 
of that country ; that he also may be said to have ruled 
in Norway ; but that in Sweden his authority was merely 
nominal, and sometimes not even that. In Denmark itself, 
monarchical government was difficult. The Scandinavian 
kingship was elective, and every election was an oppor- 
tunity for reducing the privileges, authority, and wealth of 
the sovereign, and for increasing those of the nobles and 
of the great ecclesiastics, who, being privileged classes, were 
freed from contributing to the taxation. 

In 1513, Christian ii., the nephew of the Elector of 
Saxony, and the brother-in-law of the Emperor Charles V. 
(1515), came to the throne, and his accession marks the 
beginning of the new era which was to end with the 
triumph of the Eeformation in all three countries. Chris- 
tian was a man of great natural abUities, with a profound 
sense of the miserable condition of the common people 
within his realms, caused by the petty tyrannies of the 
nobles, ecclesiastical and secular. No reigning prince, save 
perhaps George, Duke of Saxony, could compete with him 
in learning; but he was cruel, partly from nature and 
partly from policy. He had determined to estabUsh his 
rule over the three kingdoms whose nominal king he 
was, and to free the commonalty from their oppression 
by breaking the power of the nobles and of the great 
Churchmen. The task was one of extreme difficulty, 
and he was personally unsuccessful; but his efforts laid 
the foundation on which successors were able to buUd 

He began by conquering rebellious Sweden, and dis- 
graced his victory by a treacherous massacre of Swedish 
notables at Stockholm (1520), — a deed which, in the end, 
led to the complete separation of Sweden from Denmark. 


After having thus, as he imagined, consolidated his power, 
he pressed forward his schemes for reform. He took piiins 
to encourage the trade and agriculture of Denmark ; he 
patronised learning. He wrote to his uncle (1519), 
Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, to send him preachers 
trained by Luther ; and, in response to his appeal, received 
first Martin Eeinhard, and then Andrew Bodenstein of 
Carlstadt. These foreigners, who could only address the 
people through interpreters, did not make much impression ; 
but reformation was pushed forward by the king. He 
published, on his own authority, two sets of laws dealing 
with the nobles and the Church, and subjecting both to 
the sovereign. He enacted that all convents were (;o be 
under episcopal inspection. Non-resident and unlettered 
clergy were legally aboHshed. A species of kingly consis- 
torial court was set up in Copenhagen, and declared to 
be the supreme ecclesiastical judicature for the country ; 
and appeals to Eome were forbidden. It can scarcely be 
said that these laws were ever in operation. A revolt 
by the Jutlanders gave a rallying point to the disaffection 
caused by the proposed reforms. Christian fled from Den- 
mark (1523), and spent the rest of his life in exile or in 
prison. His law-books were burnt. 

The Jutlanders had called Frederick of Schleswig- 
Holstein, Christian's uncle, to the throne, and he was recog- 
nised King of Denmark and of Norway in 15 23. He had 
come to the kingdom owing to the reaction against the 
reforms of his nephew, but in his heart he knew that they 
were necessary. He promised to protect the interests of 
the nobles, and to defend the Church against the advance 
of Lutheran opinions ; but he soon endeavoured to find a 
means of evading his pledges. He found it when he pitted 
the nobles against the higher clergy, and announced that 
he had never promised to support the errors of the Churph 
of Eome. At the National Assembly {Herredag) at Odense 
he was able to get the marriage of priests permitted, and 
a decree that bishops were in the future to apply to the 
king and not to the Pope for their Pallium. The Eeforma- 


tion had now native preachers to support it, especially Hans 
Tausen, who was called the Danish Luther, and they were 
encouraged by the king. At the Herredag at Copenhagen 
in 1530, twenty-one of these Lutheran preachers were 
summoned, at the instigation of the bishops, and formal 
accusations were made against them for preaching heresy. 
Tausen and his fellows produced a confession of faith in 
forty-three articles, all of which he and his companions 
offered to defend. A public disputation was proposed, which 
did not take place because the Eomanist party refused to 
plead in the Danish language. This refusal was inter- 
preted by the people to mean that they were afraid 
to discuss in a language which everyone understood. 
Lutheranism made rapid progress among all classes of the 

On Frederick's death there was a disputed succession, 
which resulted ia civil war. In the end Frederick's son 
ascended the throne as Christian iii.. King of Denmark 
and Norway (1536). The king, who had been present at 
the Diet of "Worms, and who had learned there to esteem 
Luther highly, was a strong Lutheran, and determined to 
end the authority of the Eomish bishops. He proposed 
to his council that bishops should no longer have any share 
in the government, and that their possessions should be 
forfeited to the Crown. This was approved of not merely 
by the councU, but also at a National Asssembly which 
met at Copenhagen (Oct. 30th, 1536), where it was further 
declared that the people desired the holy gospel to be 
preached, and the whole episcopal authority done away 
with. The king asked Luther to send him some one to 
guide his people in their ecclesiastical matters. Bugen- 
hagen was despatched, came to Copenhagen (1537), and took 
the chief ecclesiastical part in crowning the king. Seven 
superintendents (who afterwards took the title of bishops) 
were appointed and consecrated. The Eeformation was 
carried out on conservative Lutheran lines, and the old 
ritual was largely preserved. Tausen's Confession was set ^ 
aside in favour of the Augsburg Confession and Luther's 


Small Catechism, and the Lutheran Keformation was 
thoroughly and legally established. 

The Eeformation also became an accomplished fact in 
Norway and Iceland, but its introduction into these lands 
was much more an act of kingly authority. 

After the massacre of Swedish notables in Stockholm 
(Nov. 1520), young Gustaf Ericsson, commonly known as 
Gustaf Vasa, from the vasa or sheaf which was on his coat 
of arms, raised the standard of revolt against Denmark. 
He was gradually able to rally the whole of the people 
around him, and the Danes were expelled from the kingdom. 
In 1521, Gustaf had been declared regent of Sweden, and 
in 1523 he was called by the voice of the people to the 
throne. He found himself surrounded by almost insuper- 
able difficulties. There had been practically no settled 
government in Sweden for nearly a century, and every 
great landholder was virtually an independent sovereign. 
The country had been impoverished by long wars. Two- 
thirds of the land was owned by the Church, and the 
remaining third was almost entirely in the hands of the 
secular nobles. Both Church and nobles claimed exemp- 
tion from taxation. The trade of the country was in the 
hands of foreigners — of the Danes or of the Hanse Towns. 
Gustaf had borrowed money from the town of Liibeck 
for his work of liberation. The city was pressing for 
repayment, and its commissioners followed the embarrassed 
monarch wherever he went. It was hopeless to expect to 
raise money by further taxation of the already depressed 
and impoverished peasants. 

In these circumstances the king turned to the Church. 
He compelled the bishops to give him more than one 
subsidy (1522, 1523); but this was inadequate for his 
needs. The Church property was large, and the king 
planned to overthrow the ecclesiastical aristocracy by the 
help of the Lutheran Eeformation. 

Lutheranism had been making progress in Sweden. 
Two brothers, Olaus and Laurentius Petri, sons of a black- 
smith at Orebro, had been sent by their father to study 


in Germany. They had meant to attend the University 
of Leipzig ; but, attracted by the growing fame of Luther, 
they had gone to "Wittenberg, and had become enthusiastic 
disciples of the Eeformer. On their return to Sweden 
(1519) they had preached Lutheran doctrine, and had 
made many converts — among others, Laurentius Andreas, 
Archdeacon at Strengnas. In spite of protests from the 
bishops, these three men were protected by the king.' 
Olaus Petri was especially active, and made long preach- 
ing tours, declaring that he taught the pure gospel which 
"Ansgar, the apostle of the North, had preached seven 
hundred years before in Sweden." 

Gustaf brought Olaus to Stockholm (1524), and made 
him town-clerk of the city ; his brother Laurentius was 
appointed professor of theology at Upsala ; Laurentius 
Andrese was made Archdeacon of Upsala and Chancellor 
of Sweden. When the bishops demanded that the Ee- 
formers should be silenced, Olaus challenged them to a 
public disputation. The challenge was refused ; but in 1524 
a. disputation was arranged in the king's palace in Stockhohn 
between Olaus and Dr. Galle, who supported the old re- 
ligion. The conference, which included discussion of the 
doctrines of Justification by Faith, Indulgences, the Mass, 
Purgatory, and the Temporal Power of the Pope, had the 
effect of strengthening the cause of the Eeformation. In 
1525, Olaus defied the rules of the mediaeval Church by 
pubUcly marrying a wife. The same year the king called 
for a translation of the Scriptures into Swedish, and in 
1526 Laurentius Petri published his New Testament. A 
translation of the whole Bible was edited by the same 
scholar, and published 1540—1541. These translations, 
especially that of the New Testament, became very popular, 
and the people with the Scripture in their hands were 
able to see whether the teaching of the preachers or 
of the bishops was most in accordance with the Holy 

There is no reason to belie\^e that the king did not 
take the side of the Lutheran Reformation from genuine 


conviction. He had made the acquaintance of the brothers 
Petri before he was called to be the deliverer of his coiintry. 
But it is unquestionable that his financial embarrassment 
whetted his zeal for the reformation of the Church in 
Sweden. Matters were coming to a crisis, which was 
reached in 1 527. At the Diet in that year, the Chancellor, 
in the name of the king, explained the need for an increased 
revenue, and suggested that ecclesiastical property was the 
only source from which it could be obtained. The bishops, 
Johan Brask, Bishop of Linkoeping, at their head, replied 
that they had the Pope's orders to defend the property of 
the Church. The nobles supported them. Then Gustaf 
presented his ultimatum. He told the Diet plainly that 
they must submit to the proposals of the Chancellor or 
accept his resignation, pay him for his property, return 
him the money he had spent in defence of the kingdom, 
and permit him to leave the country never to return. The 
Diet spent three days in wrangling, and then submitted 
to his wishes. The whole of the ecclesiastical property — 
episcopal, capitular, and monastic — which was not absolutely 
needed for the support of the Church was to be placed 
in the hands of the king. Preachers were meanwhile to 
set forth the pure gospel, until a conference held ' in 
presence of the Diet would enable that assembly to come 
to a decision concerning matters of religion. The Diet 
went on, without waiting for the conference, to pass the 
twenty-four regulations which made the famous Ordinances 
of Vesteras, and embodied the legal Eeformation. They 
contained provisions for secularising the ecclesiastical pro- 
perty in accordance with the previous decision of the Diet ; 
declared that the king had the right of vetoing the deci- 
sions of the higher ecclesiastics ; that the appointment of 
the parish clergy was in the hands of the bishops, but that 
the king could remove them for inefficiency ; that the 
pure gospel was to be taught in every school ; and that 
auricular confession was no longer compulsory. 

While the Ordinances stripped the Swedish Church of 
a large amount of its pronerty and made it subject to the 


king, they did not destroy its episcopal organisation, nor 
entirely impoverish it. Most of the monasteries were de- 
serted when their property was taken away. The king knew 
that the peasantry scarcely understood the Eeformed doc- 
trines, and had no wish to press them unduly on his people. 
For the same reason the old ceremonies and usages which 
did not flagrantly contradict the new doctrines were suffered 
to remain, and given an evangeUcal meaning. The first 
evangeUcal Hymn-book was published in 1530, and the 
Swedish "Mass" in 1531, both drafted on Lutheran 
models. Lauren tius Andreae was made Archbishop of 
Upsala (1527), and a National Synod was held under his 
presidency at Orebro (1528), which guided the Eeformation 
according to strictly conservative Lutheran ideals. Thus 
before the death of Gustaf Vasa, Sweden had joined the 
circle of Lutheran Churches, and its people were slowly 
coming to understand the principles of the Eeformation. 
The Eeformation was a very peaceful one. No one suffered 
death for his religious opinions. 

The fortunes of the Swedish Church were somewhat 
varied under the immediate successors of Gustavus. His 
iU-fated son showed signs of preferring Calvinism, and 
insisted on the suppression of some of the ecclesiastical 
festivals and some of the old rites which had been retained ; 
but these attempts ended with his reign. His brother and 
successor, Johan m., took the opposite extreme, and coquetted 
long with Eome, and with proposals for reunion, — proposals 
which had no serious result. When Johan died in 1592, 
his son and successor, who had been elected King of Poland, 
and had become a Eoman Catholic, aroused the fears of 
his Swedish subjects that he might go much further than 
his father. The people resolved to make sure of their 
Protestantism before their new sovereign arrived in the 
country. A Synod was convened at which both lay and 
ecclesiastical deputies were present. The members first 
laid down the general rule that the Holy Scriptures were 
their supreme doctrinal standard, and then selected the 
Augsburg Confession as the Confession of the Swedish 


Church. Luther's Small Catechism, which had been re- 
moved from the schools by King Johan in., was restored. 
This meeting at Upsala settled for the future the ecclesi- 
astical polity of Sweden. The country showed its attach- 
ment to the stricter Lutheranism by adopting the Formula 
of Concord in 1664. 



§ 1. The Reformation did not take its rise from a Criticism 
of Doctrines. 

The whole of Luther's religious history, from his entrance 
into the convent at Erfurt to the publication of the 
Augsburg Confession, shows that the movement of which 
he was the soul and centre did not arise from any merely 
intellectual criticism of the doctrines of the mediaeval 
Church, and that it resulted in a great deal more than a 
revision or reconstruction of a system of doctrinal con- 
ceptions.^ There is no trace of any intellectual difficulties 
about doctrines or statement of doctrines in Luther's mind 
during the supreme crisis of his history. He was driven 
out of the world of human life and hope, where he was 
well fitted to do a man's work, by the overwhelming 
pressure of a great practical religious need — anxiety to 
save his soul. He has himself said that the proverb that 
douht,maJ:es : a monk was true in his case. He doubted 

' Domer, Sistory of Protestant Theology (Edinburgh, 1871) ; Kbstlin, 
Luthers Theologie in ihrer geschichtlichen EntwickeluTig und in ihrem inneiii 
Zusammenhamge (Stuttgart, 1883) ; Theodor Harnack, Luthers Theologie mit 
besonderer Beziehwng auf seine Versohnungs- und Erlbsungslehre (Erlangen, 
1862-1886) ; A. Eitsohl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Secon- 
ciliaiion (Edinburgh, 1872) ; A. Harnack, Sistory of Dogma, vii. (Londou, 
1899) ; Loofs, Leitfaden eum Studium der Dogmengeschichte '(Halle, 1893) ; 
Herrmann, Communion viith God (London, 1895) ; Hering, Die Mystik 
Luthers in Zusammenhang seiner Theologie (Leipzig, 1879) ; Denifle, Ltither 
und Lutherthum in der ersten Entwictlung, toI. i. (Mainz, 1904), vol. ii. 
(1905) ; Walther, FUr Lulher wider Mom (Halle, 1906). 

^ Loofs, Leitfaden, etc. p. 345. 



whether he could save his soul in the world, and was 
thBrefQiSIfsrced_k!_.leaTO~Jt; and enter^the convent. 

He had lost whatever evangelical teaching he had 
learnt in childhood or in Frau Cotta's household at Eise- 
nach. He had surrendered himself to the popular belief, 
fostered by the whole penitential system of the mediaeval 
Church, that man could and must make himself fit to 
receive the grace of God which procures salvation. The 
self -torturing cry, " Oh, when wilt thou become holy and 
fit to obtain the grace of God ? " (0 wenn will tu einmal 
fromm werden und genug thun du einen gnadigen Gott 
kriegest f), drove him into the convent. Hej.^lieved, and 
the almost unanimous opinion of his age agreeawith~him, 
that there, if anywhere, he could find the peace he was 
seeking with such desperation. ~ 

Inside the convent he applied himself with all the force 
of a strong nature, using every means that the complicated 
penitential system of the Church had provided to help 
him, to make himself pious and fit to be the receptacle 
of the grace of God. He submitted to the orders of his 
superiors with the blind obedience which the most rigorous 
ecclesiastical statutes demanded; he sought the comforting 
consolations which confession was declared to give ; he 
underwent every part of the ^om^lgx-.aystem of - expiations 
jEhi^ "ffie" medTaevalUhurch recommended ; he made full — . 
use_of_theja^rament8, and waited in vain for the mysterious, / 
inexplicable experience of the grace which was said to \ 
accompany and flow from them. He persevered in spite-«f — 

eling of continuous failure. " If ajnonk ever reached 
heaven—by-flionECTy,'^ "he has said, " I would have^und 
my way there also ; all my convenT comrades will bear 
witnBS5^o"that." * He gave a still stronger proof of his 
loyalty to the medieeval Church and its advice to men in 
his mood of mind ; he persevered in spite of the knowledge 
that his comrades and his religious superiors believed him 
to be a young saint, while he knew that he was far other- 

' Luther's Works (Erlangen edition), xxxi. 273 ; in Die ICleine Anlwort 
wuf Uerzog Oeorgen ndhestes Buch. 


wise, and that he was no nearer God than he had been 
before he entered the monastery, or had begun his quest 
after the sense of pardon of sin. The contrast between 
what his brethren thought he must be and what his own 
experience told him that he was, must have added bitter- 
ness to the cup he had to drink during these terrible 
months in the Erfurt convent. He says himseli : 

" After I had made the profession, I was congratulated 
by the prior, the convent, and the father-confessor, because 
I was now an innocent child coming pure from baptism. 
Assuredly, I would willingly have dehghted in the glorious 
fact that I was such a good man, who by his own deeds and 
without the merits of Christ's blood had made himself so 
fair and holy, and so easily too, and in so short a time. But 
although I hstened readily to the sweet praise and glowing 
language about myself and my doings, and allowed myself to 
be described as a wonder-worker, who could make himseK 
holy in such an easy way, and could swallow up death, and 
the devil also, yet there was no power in it aU to maintain 
me. When even a small temptation came from sin or death 
I fell at once, and found that neither baptism nor monkery 
could assist me ; I felt that I had long lost Christ and His 
baptism. I was the most miserable man on earth ; day and 
night there was only waOing and despair, and no one could 
restrain me." ^ 

He adds that all he knew of Christ at this time was 
that He was " a stern judge from whom I would fain have 
fled and yet could not escape." 

"""" during these two years of anguish, Luther believed that 
he was battling_^with himself and with__his_sin ; he was 
really struggling with the religion of his times and Church. 
He was probing it, testing it, examining all its depths, 
wrestling with all its means of grace, and finding that 
what were meant to be sources of _cjQBifort and consolajion 
were simply additional -springs__QL--terror. "He""^^ too 
clear-sighted, his spiritual senses were too acute, he was 
too much in deadly earnest, not to see that none of l^ese 
aids were leading Jiini^o a soJid_^roundjof3fi32H^-fflt-^' 
• Luther's Works (Ei-langen edition), xxxi. 278, 279. 

FAITH 429 

which he could base his hopes for time and for eternity ; 
and he was too honest with himself to be persuaded that 
he was otherwise than his despair told him.^ 

At length, guided in very faltering fashion by the 
Scriptures, especially by the Psalms and the Epistle to 
the Eomans, by the Apostles' Creed, and by fellow monks, 
he (to use his own words) came to see- that the righteous- 
ness^ of God (Rom. i. 17) is not the righteousness by 
whrch" a righteous God punishes the um-ighteous and 
sinners, but that by which a merciful God justifies us 
through faith (not justitia, qua deus Justus est et peccatores 
infustosque punit, but that qiia nos deus misericors justificat 
per fidem)} '&J faith, he says. What, then, did he mean 
by "faith"? --"' ' 

He replies : 

"There are two kinds of belieying : first, a believing / 

about God wEIch roeaiis that I Ibelieve that what is said of I/O' 
God is true. This faith is rather a form, of knowledge than^ v"^^ 
aTMEE There isTsecoUdly, a Believing in_God which means _l 
thaJ.I.jaiJBJ-Ji^!^JJ^i^--'^!^^-Si72 iiiyselfjip, to. thinking that I • 
I can have dealings with Him^ andJeUeve without . any 1 
doiiH' that Hel)nll''|ift"aiid"c[o~to me according to the things J 
said of Him. Such faith, which throws itself upon God, 
whether in life or "in'dealH, alone makes a Christian man." * 

The -f aith which he_pTdzp.rl is that religious_faculiy:jsliic]i_ , 
" throws__itselt,.jipon,_GQd " ; and from the first Luther 
recognised that fai^h of this ]s.ifl,d was a. direct, gift from 
God. Havin g it wg jiave^ everything ; ^without it we -have 
nothing. Here we find something entirely new, or at least 
hitherto unexpressed, so far as mediaeval theology was 
concerned. Mediaeval theologians had recognised faith in 
the sense of what Luther called frigida opinio, and it is 
difficult to conceive that they did not also indirectly 

' Harnack, History of Dogma, yii. 182. 

'' Loofs, Leitfaden, etc. p. 346. 

' Luther's Works (Erlangen edition), xxii. 15. Cf. xlviii. 5 : "If thou 
holdest faith to be simply a thought concerning God, then that thought il 
as little able to give eternal life as ever a monkish cowl could give it." 


acknowledge that there must be something like trust oi 
fiduda ; but faith with them was simply one among^many 
Euinan efforts .all equally necessary in . order to see and 
know God. Luther recognised that therejwas„thi&Jaa!Lctf^ 
faith, which a man begets and brings to pass in hijnself^by 
assent to doctrines of some sort. But he did not think Jnuch 
of it. He calls it worthless "because it gives us nothing. 

" They think that faith is a th ing which they may have 

or noyba^e_at^willi,like_any4ither.jtiatoalJiunianT3im so 

■""when they arrive at a conclusion and sayP' Truly the 

doctrine is correct, and therefore I believe it,' then they 

, think that this is faith. Now, when they see and feel that 

t[o change has been wrought in^themselves and in others, 

and that workfe do not "follow, and they remain as before 

in the old nature, then they think that the faith is not 

good enough, but that there must be something more and 

greater." ^ 

The real f aith^ the faith which^^is trugt, the di vine gift 

1 whi^ impels us to throw ourselves upon_GocLgis£s^us_the 

1 living assurance of a living God, who hasxfi-vealed_^mself, 

I Boade us see His loving Fatfierly heartJn . Christ Jesus; 

I and that is the Christian rejigion in its very core and 

centre. He sum of Christianity is — (1) God manifest in 

Christ, the God of grace, accessible by every Christian man 

and woman ; and (2) unwavering trust in Him who has 

given Himself to us in Christ Jesus, — unwavering, because 

jChrist with His work has undertaken our cause and made 

lit His. 

The God we have access to and Whom we can trust 
because we have thrown ourselves upon Him and have found 
that He sustains us, is no philosophical abstraction, to be 
described in definitions and argued about in syllogisms. 
He is seen and known, because we see and know Christ 
Jesus. " He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." 
For with Luther and all the Eeformers, Christ fills the 
e sphere of God ; an d they do not recognise any~ 

theology which is not a Christology. ~ ~- 

^ Iflif^"^t n^"~?«" f^"'' Vi - U 'n^cr. edition), xiii. 801. 

^ FAITH 431 

The faith which makes us throw ourselves upon God is 
no mood of jaigre mystical abandonment .It is our very 
life, as Luther was never tired of saying. It is God within 
us, and wells forth in all kinds of activities. 

"It is a living, busy, active, powerful thing, jaith; it is 
impossible for itriSt~fc©-d«-«g gSotl-coBlinuallyr It never 
asks whether good works are to be done ; it has done them 
before there is time to ask the question, and it is always 
doing them."^ 

Christianity is therefore an interwoven tissue of 
promises and prayers of faith. On the one side there is 
the Father, reveaUng Himself, sending down to us His 
promises which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus ; and on 
the other side there are the hearts of men ascending in 
faith to God, receiving, accepting, and resting on the 
promises of God, and on God who always gives Himself in 
His promises. 

This is what came to Luther and ended his long and 
terrible struggle. He is unwearied in describing it. The 
descriptions are very varied, so far as external form and 
expression go, — now texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, 
or the New Testament most aptly quoted ; now phrases 
borrowed from the picturesque language of the mediaeval 
mystics; now sentences of striking, even rugged, origin- 
aUty; sometimes propositions taken from the mediaeval 
scholastic. But whatever the words, the meaning is always 
the same. 

V This conception of what is meant by Christianity is the 
religious SOul ol the Eeformation. It contains within it all 
tbe'ffiimptlVSly'retigious principles which inspired it. It 
caS scarcely be called a^^dpgma. ItJi, ,jn^ experience, and 
the phrases wEicti set it forth are the descriptions of an 
experience which a human soul has gone through. The 
thing itself is beyond exact definition — as all deep experi- 
ences are. It must _bg.,-felt.._and_^one through to be 
known. The Eefbrmation started from this personal 
' Luther's Works (Erlangen edition), Ixiii, 125. 


experience of the believing Christian, which it declared 
to be the one elemental fact in Christianity which cquld_ 
never be proved by argument and could never be dissolved 
away by speculation. It proclaimed the greaTtrutE", which 
had' been universally neglected throughout the whole period 
of mediaeval theology by everyone except the Mystics, tha^ 
I in order to know God man must be in living touch with 
I God Himself. Therein lay its originality and its power^ 
Luther rediscovered religion whenjig ^clared tha t-t he ■ tr uI jl 
Christian man must cling directly and with a living faith 
to the God Who speaks to him in Christ, saymg,"" i am thy 
salvation?' The earlier ^iforiners never forgot thliT LutHef~ 
proclaimed his discovery, he never attempted to prove it by 
argument ; it was something self-evident — seen and known 
when experienced. 

This is always the way with gre