120. THE PAPACY, 1449-1492
From persecution and burning in England now out of the way to digress a little, to speak of foreign matters of the Church of Rome: you remember before, in the latter end of the council of Basil, how Eugenius was deposed. Of whose conditions and martial affairs, how he made war against Sfortia, a famous captain of Italy, and what other wars he raised beside, not only in Italy but also in Germany, against the city and council of Basil, I shall not need to make any long rehearsal. After his deposition ye heard also how Felix, duke of Savoy, was elected pope. Whereupon another great schism followed in the church during all the life of Eugenius.
After his death, his next successor was Pope Nicholas the Fifth, who (as you before have heard) brought so to pass with the Emperor Frederic the Third, that Felix was contented to renounce and resign his papacy to Nicholas, and was, therefore, of him afterward received to the room of cardinal for his submission; and Frederic for his working was confirmed at Rome to be full emperor, and there crowned, A. D. 1451. For emperors, before they be confirmed and crowned by the pope, are no emperors, but only called kings of Romans.
This Pope Nicholas here mentioned, to get and gather great sums of money, appointed a jubilee in the year of our Lord 1450, at which time there resorted a greater number of people unto Rome, than hath at any time before been seen. At which time we read, in the story of Platina, that to have happened, which I thought here not unworthy to be noted for the example of the thing. As there was a great concourse of people resorting up to the mount Vatican to behold the image of our Saviour, which there they had to show to pilgrims, the people being thick going to and fro between the mount and the city, by chance a certain mule of the cardinals of St. Mark came by the way, by reason whereof the people not being able to avoid the way, one or two falling upon the mule, there was such a press and throng upon that occasion on the bridge, that to the number of two hundred bodies of men and three horses were there strangled, and on each side of the bridge many besides fell over into the water, and were drowned.
By means of which occasion the pope afterward caused the small houses to be plucked down, to make the way broader. And this is the fruit that cometh by idolatry.
In the time of this pope, one Matthew Palmerius wrote a book De Angelis, for defending whereof he was condemned by the pope, and burned at Corna, A. D. 1448.
After him succeeded Calixtus the Third, who, amongst divers other things, ordained, both at noon and at evening, the bell to toll the AVes, as it was used in the popish time, to help the soldiers that fought against the Turks, for the which cause also he ordained the feast of the transfiguration of the Lord, solemnizing it with like pardons and indulgences as was Corpus Christi day.
Also this pope, proceeding contrary to the councils of Constance and Basil, decreed that no man should appeal from the pope to any council. By whom also St. Edmund of Canterbury, with divers other, were made saints.
Next after this Calixtus succeeded Pius Secundus, otherwise called Æneas Sylvius, who wrote the two books of Commentaries upon the Council of Basil, before mentioned. This Æneas, at the time of the writing of those his books, seemed to be a man of an indifferent and tolerable judgment and doctrine, from the which he afterward, being pope, seemed to decline and swerve, seeking, by all means possible, how to deface and abolish the books which heretofore he had written.
Sentences attributed unto this Pope Pius II.
"The Divine nature of God may rather be comprehended by faith, than by disputation.
"Christian faith is to be considered, not by what reason it is proved, but from whom it proceedeth.
"Neither can a covetous man be satisfied with money, nor a learned man with knowledge.
"Learning ought to be to poor men instead of silver, to noblemen instead of gold, and to princes instead of precious stones.
"An artificial oration moveth fools, but not wise men.
"Suitors in the law be as birds, the court is the bait, the judges be the nets, and the lawyers be the fowlers.
"Men are to be given to dignities, and not dignities to men.
"The office of a bishop is heavy, but it is blessed to him that doth well bear it.
"A bishop without learning may be likened to an ass.
"An evil physician destroyeth bodies, but an unlearned priest destroyeth souls.
"Marriage was taken from priests not without great reason, but with much greater reason it ought to be restored again."
The like sentence to this he uttereth in his Second Book of the Council of Basil, before specified, saying, peradventure it were not the worst, that "the most part of priests had their wives, for many should be saved in priestly marriage, which now in unmarried priesthood are damned." The same Pius also, as Celius reporteth, dissolved certain orders of nuns, of the orders of St. Bridget and St. Clare, bidding them to depart out, that they should burn no more, nor cover a harlot under the vesture of religion.
This Pius, if he had brought so much piety and godliness as he brought learning unto his popedom, had excelled many popes that went before him.
It shall not be impertinent here to touch, what the said Æneas, called Pius the Pope, writeth, touching the peace of the church, unto Gasper Schlick, the emperor's chancellor, in his 54th epistle.
"All men do abhor and detest schism. The way to remedy this evil, Charles, the French king, hath showed us both safe and brief, which is, that princes or their orators should convent and assemble together in some common place, where they may conclude upon matters amongst themselves. To bring this to pass, it were needful writings to be sent again to all kings and princes, to send their orators to Strasburgh, or to Constance, with their full authority there to treat of matters appertaining to the peace of the church. Neither would it require so great expenses, forasmuch as we see the year before 300 gilders to be sufficient. Constantine the emperor bestowed not much more in the congregation of the council of Nice. And this way could not be stopped; neither could the pope or the council withstand it, or make excuse, as though this might not easily be done without them. For why? the secular princes may convent and assemble together, will they, nill they; and yet, notwithstanding, unity may there be concluded; for he shall be an undoubted pope, whom all princes would obey. Neither do I see any of the clergy so constant to death, which will suffer martyrdom, either for the one part or the other. All we lightly hold that faith which our princes hold, which, if they would worship idols, we would also do the same, and deny not only the pope, but God also, if the secular power strain us thereunto, for charity is waxed cold, and all faith is gone. Howsoever it be, let us all desire and seek for peace; the which peace, whether it come by a council, or by assembly of princes, call it what you will, I care not, for we stand not upon the term, but upon the matter. Call bread, if you will, a stone, so you give it me to assuage my hunger. Whether you call it a council, or a conventicle, or an assembly, or a congregation, or a synagogue, that is no matter, so that schism may be excluded, and peace established."
Thus much out of the epistle of Pius.
By this it may appear, of what sentence and mind this Pius was in the time of the council of Basil, before he was made pope. But as our common proverb saith, Honours change manners; so it happened with this Pius, who after he came once to be pope, was much altered from what he was before. For whereas before he preferred general councils before the pope, now, being pope, he did decree, that no man should appeal from the high bishop of Rome to any general council.
And likewise for priests' marriage, whereas before he thought it best to have their wives restored, yet afterward he altered his mind otherwise; insomuch that in his book treating of Germany, and there speaking of the noble city of Augsburg, by occasion he inveighed against a certain epistle of Hulderick, once bishop of the said city, written against the constitution of the single life of priests. Whereby it appeareth how the mind of this Pius was altered from that it was before. This epistle of Hulderick is before expressed at large.
Here also might I touch something concerning the discord betwixt this Æneas Sylvius and Diotherus, archbishop of Mentz, and what discord was stirred up in Germany upon the same, between Frederick the Palatine and the duke of Wittenberge, with others; by the occasion whereof, besides the slaughter of many, the city of Mentz, which was free, lost her freedom and became servile.
The causes of the discord betwixt Pope Pius and Diotherus were these:
First, because that Diotherus would not consent unto him in the imposition of certain tallages and taxes within his country.
Secondly, for that Diotherus would not be bound unto him, requiring that the said Diotherus, being prince elector, should not call the other electors together without his licence, that is, without the licence of the bishop of Rome.
And thirdly, because Diotherus would not permit to the pope's legates, to convocate his clergy together after their own lust. This Pope Pius began his see about the year of our Lord 1458.
After this Pius the Second succeeded Paulus the Second, a pope wholly set upon his belly and ambition, and not so much void of all learning, as the hater of all learned men. This Paulus had a daughter begotten in fornication, and because he saw her to be had in reproach, for that she was gotten in fornication, he began (as the stories report) to repent him of the law of the single life of priests, and went about to reform the same, had not death prevented him.
After this Paulus came Sixtus the Fourth, which builded up in Rome a stews of both kinds, getting thereby no small revenues and rents unto the Church of Rome. This pope, amongst his other acts, reduced the year of jubilee from the fiftieth unto the twenty-fifth. He also instituted the feast of the Conception, and the presentation of Mary and of Anna her mother, and Joseph. Also he canonized Bonaventure and Saint Francis for saints.
By this Sixtus also beads were brought in, and instituted to make our Lady's Psalter, through the occasion of one Alanus and his order, whom Baptista maketh mention of in this verse, "These men putting their beads upon a string, number their prayers." This Sixtus the pope made two and thirty cardinals in his time, of whom Petrus Ruerius was the first, who for that time that he was cardinal, which was but two years, spent in luxurious riot, wasted and consumed two hundred thousand florins, and was left sixty thousand in debt. Wesellus Groningensis, in a certain treatise of his writing of this Pope Sixtus, reporteth this, that at the request of the aforesaid Peter, cardinal, and of Jerome his brother, the said Pope Sixtus permitted and granted unto the whole family of the cardinal of St. Lucy, in the three hot months of summer, June, July, and August, (a horrible thing to be spoken,) free leave and liberty to use sodomitery, with this clause, Be it as it is asked.
Next after this Sixtus came Innocentius the Eighth, as rude, and as far from all learning, as his predecessor was before him. Amongst the noble facts of this pope this was one, that in the town of Polus apud Equicolos, he caused eight men and six women, with the lord of the place, to be apprehended and taken, and judged for heretics, because they said that none of them was the vicar of Christ which come after Peter, but they only which followed the poverty of Christ. Also he condemned of heresy, George, the king of Bohemia, and deprived him of his dignity and also of his kingdom, and procured his whole stock to be utterly rejected and put down, giving his kingdom to Matthias king of Pannonia.