Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 128. DISCONTENT IN GERMANY


This Savanarola, above mentioned, suffered under Pope Alexander the Sixth, of which pope more leisure and opportunity shall serve hereafter, Christ willing, to treat, after that we shall first make a little digression, to treat of certain causes and complaints of the Germans, incident in the mean time, which, as they are not to be overpast in silence, so can they have no place nor time more convenient to be inferred. What complaints of the Germans were made and moved unto the Emperor Frederic against the pope's suppressions and exactions, mention was made before; where also was declared, how the said Germans at that time were twice put back and forsaken of the emperor, whereby they continued in the same yoke and bondage until the time of Luther. Wherefore it cometh now to hand, and we think it also good here briefly to declare, how the said Germans, in the time of Maximilian the emperor, renewing their complaints again, delivered unto the emperor ten principal grievances, whereby the Germans have been long time oppressed; showing also the remedies against the same, with certain advisements unto the emperor's Majesty, how he might withstand and resist the pope's subtleties and crafts: the order and tenor whereof here ensueth.

The ten grievances of the Germans.

"1. That the bishops of Rome, successors one unto another, do not think themselves bound to observe and keep the bulls, covenants, privileges, and letters, granted by their predecessors, without all derogation; but by often dispensation, suspension, and revocation, even at the instance of every vile person, they do gainsay and withstand the same.

"2. That the elections of prelates are oftentimes put back.

"3. That the elections of presidentships are withstood, which the chapter-houses of many churches have obtained with great cost and expense, as the church of Spire and Haselt do well know; whose bull, touching the election of their president, is made frustrate, he being yet alive which granted the same.

"4. That benefices, and the greatest ecclesiastical dignities, are reserved for cardinals and head notaries.

"5. That expectative graces, called advowsons, are granted without number, and many oftentimes unto one man, whereupon continual contentions do arise, and much money is spent, both that which is laid out for the bulls of those advowsons, which never take effect, and also that which is consumed in going to law. Whereupon this proverb is risen, Whosoever will get an advowson from Rome, must have one or two hundred pieces of gold laid up in his chest, for the obtaining of the same, which he shall have need of, to prosecute the law withal.

"6. That annats, or yearly revenues, are exacted without delay or mercy, even of the bishops lately dead, and oftentimes more extorted than ought to be, through the new offices and new servants, as by the examples of the churches of Mentz and Strasburgh may be seen.

"7. That the rule of the churches is given at Rome unto those that are not worthy, which were more fit to feed and keep mules, than to have the rule and governance of men.

"8. That new indulgences and pardons, with the suspension and revocation of the old, are granted to gather and scrape money together.

"9. That tenths are exacted, under pretence of making war against the Turk; when no expedition doth follow thereupon.

"10. That the causes which might be determined in Germany, where there are both learned and just judges, are indistinctly carried unto the court of Rome; which thing St. Bernard, writing to Pope Eugenius, seemeth wonderfully to reprove."

Here ensueth the remedy against the said grievances.

"If it shall seem good unto the emperor's Majesty, let it be declared unto the bishop of Rome, how grievous and intolerable a thing it is unto the Germans, to suffer continually so great charges and grievances, to pay so great annats for the confirmation of the bishops and archbishops, and especially in such bishoprics, where the annats by process of time are enhanced, and in many, as it is said, doubled. For the archbishop's see of Mentz, as it is said, sometime paid only 10,000 florins; which sum, when one which was chosen there refused to give, and so continued even unto his death, he which was afterward elected, being desirous of confirmation, fearing to withstand the apostolic see, offered the old sum of 10,000 florins; but, notwithstanding, he could not get his confirmation, except he would pay the other 10,000, which his predecessor before him had not paid.

"By this means he was compelled to pay 20,000 florins; which, being enrolled in the register of the chamber, as much hath been exacted of every archbishop since, until these our days; and not only 20,000, but also 25,000, for their new offices, and new servants. At last, the sum drew to 27,000 florins, which James, the archbishop of Mentz, was compelled to pay, as his commissary did report. So by this means, in a little time there was seven times 25,000 florins paid out of the archbishopric of Mentz unto Rome, for the confirmation of the archbishop. And when this Archbishop James had kept the archbishopric scarce four years, the Lord Uriel was elected after him, who was compelled to pay at the least 24,000 or 25,000 florins. Whereof a part he borrowed of the merchants; but to satisfy and pay them again, he was forced to exact a subsidy of his poor subjects and husbandmen, whereof some have not yet satisfied and paid the tribute for the bishop's pall: so that by this means our people are not only tormented and brought to extreme poverty, but also are moved unto rebellion, to seek their liberty by what means soever they may, grievously murmuring against the cruelty of the clergy.

"The pope also should be admonished, how that, through divers and sundry wars and battles, the lands of Germany lie desolate and waste, and through many mortalities, the number of men is diminished, so that, for the scarceness of husbandmen, the fields, for the most part, lie unfilled, the tolls are by divers means diminished, the mines consumed, and the profits daily decay, whereby the archbishops and bishops should pay their annats unto the apostolic see, besides their other necessary and honest charges; insomuch that, not without just cause, James .the archbishop of Mentz, being even at the point of death, said, that he did not so much sorrow for his own death, as for that his poor subjects should be again forced to pay a grievous exaction for the pall. Wherefore let the high bishop, as a godly father and lover of his children, and a faithful and prudent pastor, deal more favourably with his children the Germans, lest that persecution happen to rise againstthe priests of Christ, and that men, following the example of the Bohemians, do swerve from the Church of Rome.

"At the least, let him be more favourable, as often as any archbishop or bishop happened to rule his church but a few years; as it happened to the bishops of Bamberge, whereof three died within few years. The like also might happen by other bishoprics, whereof, as Æneas Sylvius witnesseth, there are in Germany to the number of fifty, besides abbots, whereof a great number are confirmed at Rome.

"And admit that in Germany there were greater profits and revenues rising of the ground, mines, and tolls; notwithstanding, the emperor and the other princes should lack treasure and munition of war against their enemies, and specially the infidels, and to preserve Germany in peace and quietness, and to minister justice unto every man; for which purpose the council of the chamber, being most holily instructed and furnished with great cost and charges, doth chiefly serve. Besides that, the emperor hath need of treasure, to suppress the rebels in the empire, to banish and drive away thieves and murderers, whereof a great number are not ashamed to spoil churches only, and to rob them of their goods, but also to assail the clergy themselves. Finally, our nation and country of Germany hath need of great riches and treasure, not only for the repairing of churches and monasteries, but also for hospitals for children that are laid out in the streets, for widows, for women with child, for orphans, for the marriage of the daughters of poor men, that they be not defloured, for such as have need and necessity, for the old and weak, for the sick and the sore, whereof (the more is the sorrow) Germany is fully replenished and filled."

Hereafter ensueth the copy of a certain letter of the Emperor Maximilian, given out in manner of a decree or commandment against certain abuses of the clergy.

"We, according to the example of our dearly beloved father, Frederic, emperor of Rome, reverencing the chief pastor of the church, and all the clergy, have suffered no small revenues of the ecclesiastical dignities to be carried out of our dominion by the prelates and clergy that are absent, whose faults committed by human frailty, with Constantine our predecessor, we have not disdained to hide and cover. But forasmuch as through our liberality the decay of God's honour is risen, it is our part to foresee (which are elect unto the empire, without any desert) that among all other affairs of peace and war, the churches do not decay, religion quail not, or God's true worship be not diminished, which we have manifestly experimented, and daily do perceive, by the insatiable covetousness of some, which are never satisfied in getting of benefices, through whose absence (being resident but only upon one) God's honour and worship is diminished, houses decay, churches decrease, the ecclesiastical liberty is hurt, learning and monuments are lost and destroyed, hospitality and alms diminished, and by their unsatiable greediness, such of the clergy as for their learning and virtue were worthy of benefices, and their wisdom profitable in commonwealths, are hindered and put back. Wherefore, according to the office and duty of our estate, for the love of the increase of God's honour, we exhort and require, that no man from henceforth, having any canonship or vicarage in one city of our empire, shall occupy or possess a prebend in another church of the same city, except he give over the first within a year's space unto some person fit and profitable for the church; neither that he do, by unjust quarrels, vex or trouble any man in getting of benefices; neither that any man do falsely feign himself to have been of the emperor's household, which hath not been comprehended within the league and agreement made by the princes; neither that any man attempt to take away the patronages from any layman, or aggravate the small prebends of curates, or churches with pensions; neither that they do use in getting of benefices and bulls, any fraud, deceit, false instruments, corrupt witnesses, and cloaked simony; neither that any man presume to obtain any regress, or other thing contrary to the sacred canons, right, honesty, equity, and reason, upon pain of the most grievous offence of treason: the which we will, that not only they going so contrary to God and all honesty; but also all their favourers, which do help, counsel, harbour, or give them any thing, all their messengers and writers, proctors, sureties, and other their friends, shall incur and receive condign punishment for so great offence and contempt of our commandment. From ?nopont," &c.

To return now to the order of popes, where we left before, speaking of Innocent the Eighth. After the said Innocent, next succeeded Pope Alexander the Sixth. In which Alexander, among other horrible things, this is one to be noted, that when Gemes, (Peucer named him Demes,) brother to Bajazet the great Turk, was committed by the Rhodians to the safe custody, first of Pope Innocent, then of Alexander the Sixth, for whose keeping the pope received every year forty thousand crowns; yet notwithstanding, when Pope Alexander afterward was compelled to send the said Gemes to Charles the Eighth, the French king, for a pledge, because the French king should not procure the great Turk's favour, by sending his brother Gemes to him to be slain, he being hired by the Turk, caused the said Gemes to be poisoned, who, in his journey going toward the French king, died at Terracina.

Moreover, in the said Hieronymus Marius it appeareth, that this Alexander, taking displeasure with the aforesaid Charles, the French king, about the winning of Naples, sent to Bajazet the Turk, to fight against the aforesaid Charles.

Munsterus, lib. 4. Cosmog., declaring the aforesaid history of Gemes something otherwise, first calleth him Zizymus, and saith that he was first committed by the Rhodians to the French king. And when Johannes Huniades before mentioned did labour to the French king to have him, thinking by that means to obtain a noble victory against the Turks, as it was not unlike, this Alexander the pope, through his fraudulent flattery, got him of the French king into his own hands, by whose means the said Gemes afterward was poisoned, as is in manner before expressed.

Unto these poisoned acts of the pope, let us also adjoin his malicious wickedness, with like fury exercised upon Antonius Mancinellus; which Mancinellus being a man of excellent learning, because he wrote an eloquent oration against his wicked manners and filthy life, with other vices, he therefore commanded both his hands and his tongue to be cut off, playing much like with him as Antoninus the tyrant once did with M. Cicero, for writing against his horrible life. At length, as one poison requireth another, this poisoned pope, as he was sitting with his cardinals and other rich senators of Rome at dinner, his servants, unawares, brought to him a wrong bottle, wherewith he was poisoned, and his cardinals about him.

In the time of this Pope Alexander also it happened (which is not to be pretermitted) how that the angel, which stood in the high top of the pope's church, was beaten down with a terrible thunder; which thing seemed then to declare the ruin and fall of the popedom. After this pope next succeeded Pius the Third, about the year of our Lord 1503. After whom came next Julius the Second, a man so far passing all other in iniquity, that Wicelius, and such other of his own friends writing of him, are compelled to say of him, That he was more given to war and battle than to Christ. Concerning the madness of this man, this is most certainly known, that at what time he was going to war, he cast the keys of St. Peter into the river Tiber, saying, that forasmuch as the keys of Peter would not serve him to his purpose, he would take himself to the sword of Paul.

Of this Julius it is certainly reported, that partly with his wars, partly with his cursings, within the space of seven years, as good as two hundred thousand Christians were destroyed. First he besieged Ravenna against the Venetians, then Servia, Imola, Faventia, Forolivium, Bononia, and other cities, which he got out of princes' hands, not without much bloodshed. The Chronicles of John Sleydan made mention, that when this Julius was made pope, he took an oath, promising to have a council within two years; but when he had no leisure thereunto, being occupied with his wars in Italy among the Venetians, and with the French king, and in Ferraria, and in other countries, nine of his cardinals, departing from him, came into Milan, and there appointed a council at the city of Pisa; amongst whom, the chief were Bernardus, Cruceius, Gulielmus Prenestinus, Franciscus Constantinus, with divers others; unto whom also were adjoined the procurators of Maximilian the emperor, and of Charles the French king. So the council was appointed the year of our Lord 1511, to begin in the kalends of September. The cause why they did so call this council was thus alleged, because the pope had so broken his oath, and all this while he gave no hope to have any council; and also because there were divers other crimes, whereupon they had to accuse him. Their purpose was to remove him out of his seat, the which he had procured through bribes and ambition. Julius hearing this, giveth out contrary commandment, under great pain, that no man should obey them, and calleth himself another council against the next year, to be begun the 19th day of April. The French king, understanding Pope Julius to join with the Venetians, and so to take their part against him, converted a council at Turin, in the month of September; in which council these questions were proposed:

"Whether it was lawful for the pope to move war against any prince without cause?

"Whether any prince, in defending himself, might invade his adversary, and deny his obedience?" Unto the which questions it was answered, That neither the bishop ought to invade, and also that it was lawful for the king to defend himself. Moreover, that the Pragmatical Sanction was to be observed through the realm of France: neither that any unjust excommunications ought to be feared, if they were found to be unjust. After this the king sent to Julius the answer of his council, requiring him either to agree to peace, or to appoint a general council some other where, where this matter might be more fully decided. Julius would neither of both these, but forthwith accursed Charles the French king, with all his kingdom. At the length, at Ravenna, in a great war he was overcome by the

French king, and at last, after much slaughter, and great bloodshed, and mortal war, this pope died, in the year of our Lord 1513, the 21st day of February.

Previous Next