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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 93. CONTINUING SCHISM.


By the way, here is to be considered, at least to be admonished, that all this while the schism in the Church of Rome did yet continue, and so endured till the Council of Constance, which was, in the whole, the space of twenty-nine years; the origin whereof, as was said before, first began at Urban the Fifth, which Urban being dead, A. D. 1389, next followed Pope Boniface the Ninth, who sat fourteen years. He, in selling his pardons, was so impudent and so past shame, that he brought the keys of Peter, as saith Platina, in contempt. After him succeeded Innocent the Seventh, and sat two years; who being dead, the cardinals consulting together, and seeing the foul enormity and inconvenience growing upon this contentious schism in their Church of Rome, (minding to provide some remedy for the same, after the best device they could,) in their conclave where they were assembled for a new election for the pope, took this order, promising among themselves with solemn vow made to God, to Mary the blessed Virgin, to Peter and Paul, and to all the blessed company of saints: That if any of them, within the college or without the college, should be called to that high place of apostolical pre-eminence, he should effectuously renounce the jurisdiction and title of his popedom, if or whensoever the contrary pope for the time being would in like manner renounce his place and title, and his cardinals in the like manner condescend to the other cardinals of Rome; so that both these two colleges of cardinals agreeing together, one chief bishop might be chosen and taken out of them both, to be made the true pope: provided, moreover, that none should seek any releasement or absolution from the said promise, vow, and bond, once passed among them: unto all which things furthermore every one subscribed with his hand. These things thus prefixed and ratified upon the same, they proceeded to the election, in which was chosen Gregory the Twelfth, who, the same day of his election, in the presence of all the cardinals, confirmed the vow, sacrament, and promise made, subscribing the same with his hand in form as followeth: "And I, Gregory, this day, being the last of November, in the year of our Lord 1407, chosen and elected for bishop of Rome, do swear, vow, and promise, and confirm, all the premises above contained," &c. This being done, shortly after he was crowned, being of the age of eighty years. As the time thus passed, the people and cardinals were in great expectation, waiting when the pope, according to his oath, would give over, with the other pope also. And not long after, the matter began indeed between the two popes to be attempted by letters from one to another, assigning both day and place, where and when they should meet together; but yet no effect did follow.

This so passing on, great murmuring was among the cardinals, to see their holy perjured father so to neglect his oath and vow aforenamed; insomuch that at length divers of them did forsake the pope, as being perjured, as no less he was, sending, moreover, to kings and princes of other lands, for their counsel and assistance therein, to appease the schism. Amongst the rest, Cardinal Bituriensis was sent to the king of England; who, publishing divers propositions and conclusions, (remaining in the registers of Thomas Arundel,) disputeth, that the pope ought to be subject to laws and councils. Then King Henry (moved to write to Gregory the pope) directeth his letter hereunder ensuing, which was the year of our Lord 1409. The contents of the letter be these:

"Most blessed father! if the discreet providence of the apostolical see would call to mind with what great perils the universal world hath been damnified, hitherto, under pretence of this present schism; and especially would consider, what slaughter of Christian people, to the number of two hundred thousand, (as they say,) hath been, through the occasion of war raised up in divers quarters of the world; and now of late, to the number of thirty thousand soldiers, which have been slain through the dissension moved about the bishopric of Leodium between two set up, one by the authority of one pope, the other by the authority of the other pope, fighting in camp for the title of that bishopric: certes, ye would lament in spirit and be sore grieved in mind for the same, so that with good conscience ye would relinquish rather the honour of the see apostolic, than suffer such horrible bloodshed hereafter to ensue, under the cloak of dissimulation; following herein the example of the true mother in the Book of Kings, who pleading before Solomon for the right of her child, rather would depart from the child, than the child should be parted by the sword. And although it may be vehemently suspected by the new creation of nine cardinals, by you last made, contrary to your oath, (as other men do say,) that you do but little heed or care for ceasing the schism, yet far be it from the hearing and noting of the world, that your circumspect seat should ever be noted and distained with such an inconstancy of mind, whereby the last error may be worse than the first."

King Henry the Fourth to the cardinals.

And to the cardinals, likewise, the said king directeth another letter with these contents here following: "We, desiring to show what zeal we have had and have to the reformation of peace of the church, by the consent of the states of the realm, have directed to the bishop of Rome our letters after the tenor of the copy herewith in these presents enclosed, to be executed effectually: wherefore we seriously beseech your reverend college, that if it chance the said Gregory to be present at the council of Pisa, and to render up his popedom, according to your desire, and his own oath, you then so ordain for his state totally, that chiefly God may be pleased thereby, and that both the said Gregory, and also we, which entirely love his honour and commodity, may have cause to give you worthily condign thanks for the same."

This being done in the year of our Lord 1409, afterward in the year next following, A. D. 1410, the cardinals of both the popes, to wit, of Gregory and Benedict, by common advice assembled together at the city of Pisa, for the reformation of unity and peace in the church. To the which assembly a great multitude of prelates and bishops being convened, a new pope was chosen, named Alexander the Fifth. But to this election neither Gregory nor Benedict did fully agree, whereby there were three popes together in the Roman church; that is to understand, not three crowns upon one pope's head, but three heads in one popish church together. This Alexander, being newly made pope, scarcely had well warmed his triple crown, but straight giveth out full remission, not of a few, but of all manner of sins whatsoever, to all them that conferred any thing to the monastery of St. Bartholomew, by Smithfield, resorting to the said church any of these days following: to wit, on Maundy-Thursday, Good Friday, Easter-even, the feast of the Annunciation, from the first even-song to the latter. But this pope, which was so liberal in giving remission of many years to others, was not able to give one year of life to himself, for within the same year he died: in whose stead stept up Pope John the Twenty-third.

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