Page images

dinavian kingdoms, which had burst the yoke for ever. On the shores of the Baltic, Prussia took the lead in an extensive secularization of the church property. The condition of the subjection of Liefland to Poland was the free use of the Confession of Augsburg. In the great cities in Polish Prussia the Lutheran rites were established by express charters ; the smaller cities were secured against the encroachments of the powerful bishops. In Poland the greater part of the nobility had embraced Protestant opinions. During the reign of Sigismond Augustus, himself a Romanist, but who looked with indifference on the progress of Protestantism among his subjects, the Protestants gained possession of some of the episcopal sees, and thus obtained a majority in the senate. In Hungary, Ferdinand I. in vain endeavoured to force the Diet into resolutions hostile to Protestantism. In the year 1554, a Lutheran was chosen palatine of the kingdom. Transylvania severed itself entirely from the see of Rome; the property of the Church was confiscated by a formal decree of the states in 1556; the crown seized the larger part of the tithes.' But it was in Germany that Protestantism had advanced most remarkably beyond the limits which now separate the rival religions. The existing Protestant States are but a remnant of the dominion which the Reformation had onee wrung from its adversary. The great prelates in Franconia had in vain opposed its progress. In Wurtzberg and Bamberg by far the greater part of the nobles and the officers of state, even those in the service of the bishops, at least the majority of the magistrates and burghers of the cities, and the mass of the country-people, had gone over to Protestantism : in the district of Bamberg there was a Lutheran preacher in almost every parish. In Bavaria the greater part of the nobility professed the Protestant doctrines; the cities manifested the same inclination ; the Duke was obliged, at a diet in 1556, to submit to conditions of which it was the evident tendency to establish the Confession of Augsburg; nay, the Duke himself was not so decidedly averse to the change, as to refuse sometimes to attend a Protestant preacher. In

Austria the revolution had gone still further :—the nobility went to study in Wittenberg; the colleges of the country were filled with Protestants— it was calculated that not more than the thirtieth part of the inhabitants were Romanists.' (We should have wished that Professor Ranke had quoted his authority for this startling fact.) The powerful Archbishop of Saltzburg in vain succeeded in prohibiting the public preaching of Lutheranism within his territory. In Saltzburg itself the mass was neglected; neither fasts nor holidays observed.

The general discontent reached the mountainous districts. In Rauris and Gastein, in St. Veit, Tamsweg, Rastadt, the country-people loudly demanded the cup in the sacrament. As it was refused, they kept away altogether from the sacrament. They no longer sent their children to the school. In one church a peasant rose up and exclaimed to the preacher, 'Thou liest I'—the peasants preached to each other. It can be no matter of surprise that in the abandonment of all regular worship, which thus arose out of the conversion to the new doctrines, the wildest and most fantastic opinions should spring up in these Alpine solitudes.

The contrast of these statements is peculiarly striking to those who have observed how deeply and devoutly the Romish opinions and ceremonies appear at present to be observed in all these dominions of Austria.

The splendour and the power of the great spiritual electorates on the Rhine was controlled by the avowed Protestantism of the nobility, who extorted full liberty of religious worship for their vassals. Even under the very shadow of the cathedrals, in the cities which were the residence of those magnificent prelates, the Protestant party grew and flourished. In Cologne, in Treves, in Mentz, the Italian envoys of the Pope wondered at the inactivity of the prelates, whose very councils were infected by “furious heretics' (de' più arrabbiati heretici). Westphalia was in the same state-in Paderborn the Protestant party made an ostentatious display of their superiority; the Duke of Cleves, though in other respects Romish, received the sacrament under both forms in his private chapel.

In short (says Ranke), from the east to the west, from north to south throughout Germany, Protestantism had a decided superiority. The nobility had been attached to it from the beginning; the civil officers (beamtenstand), already a numerous and distinguished body, were educated in the new opinions; the common people would no longer hear of certain doctrines, such as purgatory, or certain ceremonies, such as pilgrimages, &c. A Venetian ambassador calculates in the year 1558 that in all Germany not more than a tenth part of the inhabitants were true to the ancient faith.

The ecclesiastical dignities were not secure against Protestant encroachment. In direct opposition to the articles of the religious peace, which enacted the forfeiture of his dignity by any spiritual prince who should abandon the ancient faithmany chapters, having become Protestant, did not scruple to elect Protestant bishops—they only guarded against the mitres becoming hereditary in certain families.

A prince of the House of Brandenburg obtained the archiepiscopal see of Magdeburg, a Lunenburg that of Bremen, a Brunswick that of Halberstadt. The bishoprics of Lubeck, Verden, Minden, and the abbey of Quedlinberg came into the possession of the Protestants.

The education was almost entirely in their hands. Foundations made expressly for the propagation of the Romish faith were in a few years crowded by Lutherans. The Church had no longer any attraction for ambitious youth. In Vienna for twenty years no student of the university entered into the priesthood. Important spiritual offices remained vacant for want of candidates. The youth of Germany from its earliest childhood imbibed hatred of the Papal system. In France Protestantism had found its way into every province.

Not merely the laity,' writes a Venetian ambassador, ‘have embraced the new doctrines, but what is most remarkable, the spiritual order, not only priests, monks, nuns (there are few cloisters undisturbed), but even bishops and many of the most eminent prelates. Your highness[he writes to the doge]—may be assured that, except the common people, who still attend the church with much zeal, all the rest have fallen away from it, particularly the nobles, the young men under forty years almost without exception. Though many of these still go to mass, it is to keep up appearances and out of timidity; when they are unobserved they avoid the mass and the church.'

In the Netherlands, the execution of 30,000 Protestants produced, apparently, no effect on the inflexible people.

What, then, were the powers at the command of the Papacy to arrest this growing defection, and to turn back the revolted mind of Europe to her allegiance ? Spain and Italy were comparatively faithful to her dominion. The more powerful sovereigns, the Kings of Spain, France, and Poland, the Emperor, the Duke of Bavaria, adhered to Rome. In many of the countries in which Protestantism had taken strongest root it had not worked downwards among the common people. In Poland, in Hungary, in Bavaria it was an aristocratical distinction of the upper orders. In France Paris gave the tone to many of the great cities in its fierce hostility to the new doctrines. M. Capefigue's theory-(and what French writer can resist the tempting effect of a brilliant theory ?)—is grounded on some truth: that the ancient guilds and corporations, of necessity, made common cause with the ancient religion against the innovating spirit of the times. In Flanders the Walloon provinces were still zealously Catholic; in England, both among the nobility and the common people, especially at the extremities of the kingdom, the majority was yet to be converted ; in Ireland Protestantism had made little progress; the Tyrol and part of the mountains of Switzerland had not received the doctrines of the Reformation. But the strength of the Papacy was in its own reviving energy and activity. It had armies at its command more powerful than the men-atarms of Alva, or the Chivalry of the Guises. For home or foreign service it had its appropriate and effective forces. It had its stern and remorseless domestic police in the Dominicans, who administered the inquisition in Italy and Spain; men of iron hearts, whose awful and single-minded fanaticism bordered on the terrible sublime—for they had wrought themselves to the full conviction that humanity was a crime when it endangered immortal souls: the votaries of the hair-cloth and the scourge, the chilling midnight vigil, the austere and withering fast; those who illustrate the great truth that men

who proscribe kappiness in themselves are least scrupulous in inflicting misery ; whom one dark engrossing thought made equally ready to lay down their own lives, or to take away those of others. Where the revolt had only reached a certain height these were the efficient soldiery for its suppression ; the melancholy volumes of the history of the Reformation in Spain and Italy at once trace and explain the operations and the success of this part of the great Papal army of defence. But though in Spain the extirpation of the enlightened few could alone reduce the land to an uniformity of obedience—and in Italy many took refuge from the perils of suspected heresy in that secret atheism which did not scruple to conform outwardly to the practices of religion—the genius, and national feeling in both were essentially Romish. As it had been in Italy, so Romanism was in Spain the inspiration of its military glory, its literature, and its fine arts. Alva and Pescara and Gonzales de Cordova, Calderon with his profoundly religious autos, Murillo with his virgins, and Ribera with his martyrs, were the genuine representatives of the Spanish mind; not the few proselytes to a more severe and rational faith, who pined in the dungeons of the holy office, or glutted the fires of the auto-da-fé. It may be doubted whether, if left to its free choice, the nation would not have rejected Protestantism with an indignation and animosity which would have incited, rather than repressed, the strong measures of the Church and government against the religious mutiny of a small minority.

But in the provinces of the ancient spiritual empire of Rome, which were almost totally alienated, in which Protestantism had penetrated the body of the people, or at least had deeply imbued the educated classes with free opinions, a different policy was necessary to bring them again into subjection :instruments of a totally opposite character must be employed. The Jesuits were at hand with their exclusive devotion to the interests of the Roman see—the one article of religion which absorbed the rest, but did not trammel the free development of all their intellectual faculties. Subtle, but not exempt from

« PreviousContinue »