Ex-Classics Home Page



This, as more properly belonging to the story of the church, I thought good not to pass over, touching such as were condemned, and suffered the pains of fire for testimony of Christ and his truth. Of whom one was John, a pastor or a neatherd, which was a keeper of cattle: the other was Johannes de Wesalia, although not burned, yet persecuted near to death, under the reign of this emperor, Frederic the Third.

And first touching this John the neatherd, thus writeth Sebastian Munsterus, That the bishop of Herbipolis condemned and burned for a heretic one John, which was a keeper of cattle, at a town called Nicholas Hansen in Franconia, because he taught and held that the life of the clergy was ignominious and abominable before God.

The other was Doctor Johannes Wesalia, who was complained upon unto Dietherus, the archbishop of Mentz, by the Thomists, upon certain articles and opinions gathered out of his books. Wherefore the said Dietherus, fearing else to be deposed again from his bishopric, directeth forth commission to the universities of Heidelberg and Cologne, to have the matter in examination; who, convening together the year above mentioned, called this Doctor de Wesalia before them, making him to swear that heshould present and give up all his treatises, works, and writings, whatsoever he had made or preached; that being done, they divided his books amongst themselves, severally every man to find out what heresies and errors they could. His articles and opinions are these:

"That all men be saved freely, and through mere grace by faith in Christ. Free-will to be nothing. That we should only believe the word of God, and not the gloss of any man, or fathers. That the word of God is to be expounded with the collation of one place with another. That prelates have no authority to make laws, nor to expound the Scriptures by any peculiar right given them more than to another. That men's traditions, as fastings, pardons, feasts, long prayers, peregrinations, and such like, are to be rejected. Extreme unction and confirmation to be reproved; confession and satisfaction to be reprehended. The primacy of the pope also he affirmed to be nothing."

Certain other articles also were gathered out of him by his adversaries, but in such sort that they may seem rather to follow their own malicious gathering, than any true intelligence of his mind; whereof more is to be understood in this process hereafter.

Thus when Weselianus was commanded to appear, there converted together first the archbishop, the inquisitor, the doctors of Cologne, and the doctors of Heidelberg, with the masters of the same, and the rector of the university of Mentz, the dean of faculties, bachelors of divinity, and many other masters of the same university, canons, doctors, with the bishop's chancellor, and his counsellors, besides many religious prelates, scholars, with a doctor of Frankfort, the sumner and beadles, which all met together in the great hall of the Minorites for the examination of this Johannes de Wesalia.

Friar Elton, the inquisitor, first sitteth in the highest place, then after him others according to their degree. In the beginning of the examination, first the inquisitor beginneth with these words, "Most reverend father and honourable doctors, &c. Our reverend father and prince elector hath caused this present convocation to be called, to hear the examination of Master John de Wesalia, in certain suspected articles concerning the catholic faith. But something I will say before, that may do him good, and desire that two or three of them that favour him, or some other, will rise up and give him counsel to forsake and leave his errors, to recognise himself, and to ask pardon; which, if he will do, he shall have pardon; if he will not, we will proceed against him without pardon." And thus Wesalia being cited and brought in the midst betwixt two Minorites, being very aged, and having a staff in his hand, was set before the inquisitor. Who, beginning to answer for himself with a long protestation, could not be suffered to prosecute his oration, but was cut off, and required briefly to make an end, and to tell them in few words whether he would stand to his opinions, or to the determination of the church. To this he answered, that he never spake any thing against the determination of the church, but said, that he had written divers and sundry treatises, in the which if he had erred, or were found to say otherwise than well, he was contented to revoke and call back the same, and do all things that were requisite. Then said the inquisitor, "Do you ask then pardon? "The other answered, "Why should I ask pardon, when I know no crime or error committed? "The inquisitor said, "Well, we will call you to the remembrance thereof, and proceed to the examination."

In the mean time others called upon him instantly to ask pardon. Then said Wesalianus, "I ask pardon." Notwithstanding, the inquisitor proceeded to the examination, reading there two instruments, declaring that he had authority from the apostolic see: after this he cited the said John to appear to his examination. Thirdly, he commanded him under pain of disobedience, in the virtue of the Holy Ghost, and under pain of excommunication of the greater curse, (from the which no man could absolve him, but only the pope, or the inquisitor, except only at the point of death,) to tell plainly the truth upon such things as should be demanded of him concerning his faith, without ambushes and sophistication of words. And so being demanded first whether he did believe upon his oath taken, that he was bound to tell the truth, although it were against himself or any other, to this he answered, Scio, that is, I know. Then the inquisitor biddeth him say, Credo, that is, I believe. To which he answered again, "What need I say that I believe that thing which I know?" There the inquisitor, something stirred with the matter, as hot as a toast, (as they say,) cried with a loud voice, "Master Johannes, Master Johannes, Master Johannes, say Credo, say Credo." Then he answered, Credo.

After this, being demanded whether he had written any treatise, concerning the binding of human laws, to one Nicholas of Bohemia; and whether he had written any treatise of the ecclesiastical power of indulgences and pardons, and of fasting, and other treatises; he answered, that he believed that he had so written, and had conferred with divers learned men; also that he had sent to the bishop of Wormes a certain treatise of fasting.

Many other interrogatories were ministered unto him, whereof some were vain, some false. Such as were more principal here we will briefly touch, leaving out superfluities.

Being demanded whether he was a favourer of the Bohemians; he said he was not. Also being demanded concerning the sacrament of the holy body and blood of our Lord, whether he thought Christ there to be contained really, or only divinely, and whether he did believe in the said sacrament the substance of bread there to remain, or only the form thereof; to this he answered, not denying but the body of Christ was there really contained, and also that with the body of Christ the substance of bread did remain.

After this he was demanded his opinion concerning religious men, as monks, nuns, or beguines, whether he thought them to be bound to the vow of chastity, or to the keeping of any other vow, and whether he said to the Friars Minorites any such word in effect, "I cannot save you in this your state and order." This he confessed that he had said, how that not your religion saveth you, but the grace of God, &c., not denying but they might be saved.

Item, being required whether he believed or had written that there is no mortal sin, but which is expressed to be mortal in the canon of the Holy Bible; to this he answered, that he did so believe as he hath written, till he was better informed. Likewise, being required what he thought of the vicar of Christ in earth, he answered, that he believed that Christ left no vicar in earth; for the confirmation whereof he alleged and said, that Christ, ascending up to heaven, said, Behold, I am with you, &c. In the which words he plainly declared, that he would substitute under him no vicar here in earth; and said moreover, if a vicar signified any man which in the absence of the principal hath to do the works of the principal, then Christ hath no vicar here in earth.

In like manner, concerning indulgences and pardons, such as the church doth use to give, they demanded of him, whether they had any efficacy, and what he thought thereof; who answered again, that he had written a certain treatise of that matter, and what he had written in that treatise, he would persist therein: which was thus; that he believed that the treasure box of the merits of saints could not be distributed of the pope to others, because that treasure is not left here in earth; for so it is written in the Apocalypse, Their works follow them.

Item, That their merits could not be applied to other men, for the satisfaction of their pain due unto them; and therefore that the pope and other prelates cannot distribute that treasure to men.

It was objected to him moreover, that in the said his treatise he called pardons and indulgences, holy frauds and deceits of the faithful.

Also being demanded what he thought of the hallowing and blessing of altars, chalices, vestments, wax candles, palms, herbs, holy water, and other divine things, &c.; he answered, that they had no spiritual virtue and power in them to drive away devils, and that holy water hath no more efficacy than other water not hallowed, as concerning remission of venial sins, and driving away devils, and other effects, which the school doctors do attribute to it.

Item, For degrees of marriage forbidden in the Scriptures, he believeth that all Christian men under deadly sin are bound unto the same.

Item, That he believeth that God may give grace to a man, having the use of reason, without all motion of free-will. Also he thinketh that St. Paul in his conversion did nothing of his own free-will for his conversion. He believeth moreover, that God may give such grace to a man having the use of reason, not doing that which in him is.

Item, He affirmed that nothing is to be believed which is not contained in the canon of the Bible.

Also, that the elect are saved only by the grace of God.

Besides all these, moreover he was charged with the old opinion of the Grecians, which they did hold contrary to the Roman Church, unto the time of the council of Ferraria, above mentioned, concerning the proceeding of the Holy Ghost.

The Wednesday next following, three doctors, the suffragan, Herwicus, and Jacobus Sprenger, were sent unto him with persuasions to exhort him; and when he would not stand to their canons, whereby they went about to refute his doctrine, he was then demanded of Herwicus, why he would believe rather the four evangelists, than the Gospel of Nicodemus. To whom he answered, Because he would. Being asked again, why he believed the four evangelists; he said, Because he so received of his parents. Then being demanded, why he would not believe the doctors; Because, said he, their doctrine is not canonical Scripture. Again, it was to him objected, why he would be credited himself when he preached, seeing he would not believe the holy doctors? To whom he answered in this wise, saying, that he did preach as his duty was, but whether they gave credit to his words, he did not care.

This examination being ended, after these articles were condemned by the inquisitor and his assistants, then said he after this manner, "As you do with me, if Christ himself were here, he might be condemned as a heretic." After this they sent divers to him to have communication with him, and to persuade him, sending also to him, with his articles, a form of asking pardon. At length, within three or four days after, he was content to condescend unto them, and to submit himself to their holy mother church, and the information of the doctors. In the book of Orthuinus Gratius, and in Paralipomena, adjoined to Abbas Urspergensis, we read these words written of this Johannes de Wesalia: "Except only the article of the proceeding of the Holy Ghost, in other articles it seemeth that he was not to be chastened with so sharp censure, if respite and space had been given him, if good counsellors had been about him, if all they which did accuse and molest him had not been as Thomists, that is, of the sect of Thomas; which Thomists were set at that time against the other sect of the seculars, which were called Nominales, and therefore they so spited this doctor, because he did not hold with their Thomas, against whom otherwise, had it not been for that cause, they would never have been so fierce and malicious in proceeding against him. I take God to witness, which knoweth all things, that the process which was made against him, for his revoking and burning of his books, did greatly displease Master Engeline of Brunswick, a great divine, and also Master John Keisersburge, being both learned and famous men; but namely, Master Engeline thought, that too much malice and rashness was showed in handling of that same man, and did not fear to say, that many of his articles, and the greater part thereof, might be holden well enough, and greatly blamed the mad and fantastical dissension of the Thomists, seeking, by all manner of ways, how to get the triumph over the secular divines," &c.

Although this aged and feeble old man by weakness was constrained to give over unto the Romish clergy by outward profession of his mouth, yet, notwithstanding, his opinions and doctrine declared his inward heart, of what judgment he was, if fear of death present had not enforced him to say otherwise than he did think. Again, although he had revoked after their minds, yet we read no such form of recantation to be prescribed to him to read openly unto the people, as the use is here in England.

As touching the reign of this Frederic, emperor, seeing we have comprehended hitherto sufficiently the most principal matters in his time occurring, we will now pass forward, the Lord guiding us, to Maximilian, after I have first given a brief memorandum of three valiant princes and captains, flourishing in the same time of this Frederic in Germany: of the which, one was Albert, duke of Saxony, who, for his renowned and famous acts, was called by public voice, The right hand of the empire. The other was Albert, marquis of Brandenburg, to whom also the name was attributed, named of Pope Pius, to be Achilles Germanicus. The third was Frederic, Earl Palatine, surnamed Victoriosus, who manfully defended the freedom and majesty of the empire, from the fraudulent oppressions of the pope's tyranny.

In the year of our Lord 1484, in this emperor's time, died Pope Sixtus the Fourth, a little before touched on, a monster rather of nature, than a prelate of the church. Of him writeth Platina, that unjustly he vexed all Italy with war and dissension. Agrippa, writing of him, saith, that among all the bawds of these other latter days, which were builders of brothel houses, this Pope Sixtus the Fourth surmounted all other, who at Rome erected a stews of double abomination, not only of women, but also * * * whereupon no small gain redounded to his coffers. For every such common harlot in Rome paid him a July piece, the sum whereof grew in the year, some while to two thousand, at length to forty thousand ducats. Whereunto accordeth right well the epitaph of John Sapidus:

Non potuit sævum vis ullo extinguere Sixtum,
Audito tandem nomine pacis obit.

John Carion also witnesseth him to be a man rather born to war than to religion. For he warred against Vitellius Tiphernates, against the Florentines, the Venetians, whom he excommunicated, and did not absolve till he died: also against Columnensis, against Ferdinandus, king of Apulia, and duke of Calabria; also against other nations and princes more.

Of the said pope it is recorded, that he was a special patron and tutor to all Begging Friars, granting them to have and enjoy revenues in this world, and in the world to come everlasting life. Among the which friars there was one named Alanus de Rupe, a Black Friar, which made the rosary of our Lady's Psalter, so they term it, and erected a certain new fraternity upon the same, called Fraternitas Coronariorum, pertaining to the order of the Dominics, of the which order Jacobus Sprenger, one of the condemners of Johannes de Wesalia above-mentioned, was a great advancer, and especially this Pope Sixtus the Fourth, who gave to the said fraternities large graces and privileges.

Concerning the institution of this rosary, there was a book set forth about the year of our Lord 1480. In the beginning whereof is declared, that the blessed Virgin entered into the cell of this Alanus, and was so familiar with him, that not only she did espouse him to her husband, but also kissed him with her heavenly mouth, and also for more familiarity opened to him her paps, kissed him with her heavenly mouth, and also for and poured great plenty of her own milk into his mouth. For the confirmation whereof the said Alanus, this holy babe, saith the story, did swear deeply, cursing himself, if it were not thus as he had made relation.

This fabulous figment when I read in the Centuries of John Bale, I began with myself to mistrust the credit thereof, and had thought not to trouble the reader with such incredible forgeries; but as the providence of God worketh in all things, so also it appeared in this, that the very same book came to my hands at the writing hereof, wherein this selfsame narration is contained, wherein I found not only this to be true, which in John Bale is expressed, but also found in like manner another wonder as prodigious as this; where in another place not far off it is storied in the same book, how that about the time of St. Dominic, there was a certain matron in Spain, named Lucia, which being taken captive by the Saracens, having her husband killed, was carried great with child into the Turkish land.

When the time of her labour came, she being left desolate among beasts and hogs, and remembering this twice holy rosary, (first instituted, saith the book, by St. Dominic, and afterward renewed by Alanus,) eftsoons the holy Virgin was ready and stood by her, and received the child at her travail, supplying all the parts of a diligent midwife; and moreover causing a priest suddenly to appear, she gave the child to be christened, calling it after her own name, Marianus; and so was she wife to Alanus, midwife to Lucia, and godmother to Marianus. Which story if it be true, then is the pope's canon by this example to be controlled, which permitteth midwives in times of necessity to baptize, seeing the blessed Virgin, playing the part herself of a midwife, durst not baptize this child without a priest.

It followeth more in the story, that by the help of the said blessed Virgin, this Lucia, our Lady's gossip, after her purification, was restored with her child safe to her country again.

And this by the occasion of Pope Sixtus. Which Sixtus, what a maintainer of blind superstition he was, partly by that before spoken, partly by the end following, it may be seen. For we read in certain writers, that after this pope had understanding that Hercules Estensis, duke of Ferraria, had joined peace with the Venetians against his will, he was so grieved therewith, that for rancour of mind, within five days after, he died; about whose time also died Platina, a man not unlearned, but yet a shameful flatterer and bearer with the wicked lives of the popes.

Previous Next