« PreviousContinue »
ecclesiastical spirit, was acquired and displayed. The works of Bellarmine and Baronius show at once the labour and the tendency of the times. The court itself assumed its singular character of pomp and piety, intrigue and austerity; the centre of profound Catholic religious feeling became the theatre of insatiable spiritual ambition. When the son of a swineherd was Pope, who might not rise to any eminence? When that swineherd's son filled the Papal See with so much vigour and dignity, how easily might pride mistake its aspirations for those of zeal for the Church! Every one, therefore, was on the lookout for advancement; from all parts of Europe flowed in candidates for ecclesiastical distinction; and learning, and morals, and religion itself became the means and the end of universal emulation. Thus concludes Professor Ranke:
The newly-awakened spirit of Catholicism gave a new impulse to all the organs of literature and art, even to life itself. The Curia is equally devout and restless, spiritual and warlike—on one side full of dignity, pomp, and ceremony-on the other, unequalled for calculating prudence and unwearied ambition. Its piety and its ambitious spirit of enterprise, both resting on the notion of an exclusive faith, conspired together to the same end. Thus Catholicism made another attempt to subjugate the world.
We shall watch with anxious expectation for the appearance of M. Ranke's successive volumes, fully convinced that nothing can proceed from his pen which will not deserve the attention of the European public. From his age (he is, we believe, still a young man) we may look for large accessions to our historical knowledge, and the style of the present volume is a safe pledge that his future works will be as agreeable in manner as valuable in matter.
THE POPES OF THE SIXTEENTH AND
We redeem the pledge given in a former Number by introducing as early as possible, to our reader's notice, the two concluding volumes of Professor Ranke's History of the Popes. The work proceeds to its close with the same calm impartiality in its judgements; the original documents are as copious, and, in some respects, as curious; the style maintains its ease and vivid perspicuity. The Popes, indeed, of this later period are men of less marked and commanding character than the Pauls and the Sixtus V. of the former century. They are decent and dignified, sometimes learned, ecclesiastics ; but they have ceased to sway the destinies of Europe by the force of their individual character. Though their religion, particularly during the first half of the seventeenth century, advances in the reconquest of the world with unexpected and, as far as the popular histories in our own language extend, unmarked success, it is not the masterly combination of measures, the subtle policy or the burning zeal which emanate from the head of Roman Catholic Christianity; it is the extraordinary activity of the allies which spring up on all sides; the adventurous spirit, the profound sagacity and the inflexible perseverance of the regular clergy, chiefly the Jesuits; the selfdeveloped, and self-governed energy of the religion itself, rather than an impulse communicated from the centre of government -which commands and achieves that success. The effective leader in this great war of reprisal and reconquest against Protestant Europe is not so much the Pope as the head of the Jesuit order.
'Die Römische Päpste, ihre Kirche und ihre Staat im sechszehnten und sicbenzehnten Jahrhundert, Von Leopold Ranke. Bände 2 und 3. Berlin, 1836.
As temporal princes, the Popes gradually retired within the narrow sphere of their own dominions; they no longer, excepting in one or two fortunate acquisitions, sought to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their neighbours ; they ceased to disturb the peace of Italy, much less of Europe, by schemes of personal ambition; they were sufficiently occupied by the increasing financial embarrassments of their own home territory -in maturing that progressive system of disproportioned taxation and mismanagement, which has reduced the rich and fertile Campagna to a wilderness or a morass. Even their nepotism was content with a humbler flight: it was now enough that a large estate and a splendid palace in Rome perpetuated the family name of each successive pontiff. A new aristocracy gradually arose in Rome, to compete in wealth and magnificence with the old Colonnas and the feudal nobles of the former centuries. Besides its churches, the Vatican and the Quirinal, modern Rome owes most of its splendour to the mansions of the Barberinis, the Borgheses, the Rospigliosis, the Ludovisis, the Albanis.
The descent, however, to this state of comparative peace and insignificance was slow and gradual. The great impulse of reaction against Protestantism was given during the pontificate of Sixtus V. Nor were the immediate successors of Sixtus men wanting either in vigour or individuality of character. The prosperous state of the religion could not but increase the influence, and add dignity to the name, of the ruling pontiff. As Southern Europe prostrated itself again at the foot of the Papal throne +he consciousness of his reviving power restored something of the ancient majesty to the demeanour of the sovereign, and summoned up all the strength and energy of his peculiar character. At such times an inferior man could not attain that commanding eminence, nor a man of superior mind and resource refrain from putting forth all the force of his intellectual faculties, to consolidate his growing authority. He could not but feel the increasing responsibility of his station : the dangers through which the Papacy had passed, the difficulties from which it seemed triumphantly emerging, demanded his entire and exclusive devotion to the interests of the See, connected as they were with those of Roman Catholicism,-in the opinion of the Roman Catholic, with those of Christianity itself.
The pontificate of Sixtus V. is the period of the great crisis in the history of the Papacy; the turning-point in the imperilled fortunes of the Roman Catholic system. The extent to which Protestantism had carried its encroachments; the depth to which the Papal power had been undermined, is estimated by Mr. Ranke, on the testimony of contemporary documents, to which we cannot deny great weight and authority, in terms which will surprise many readers of history. We transcribe an account of the losses suffered by the Popedom, written from Rome itself, by Tiepolo, the envoy from Venice :
Speaking only of those nations of Europe, which not only rendered their allegiance to the Pope, but which followed in every respect the rites and usages of the Roman Church, celebrating their offices in the Latin language—it is known that England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, in short, all the Northern nations, are estranged from the Papal See; Germany is almost entirely lost; Bohemia and Poland to a great degree infected; the Low Countries of Flanders so thoroughly corrupted, that the violent remedies of the Duke of Alva will scarcely restore them to their former health ; finally, France, through these evil humours, is everywhere full of confusion : so that nothing remains to the pontiff in a sound and secure state, except Spain and Italy, with a few islands, and those parts of Dalmatia and Greece possessed by your serene highnesses. -Ranke, vol. ii. p. 18.
This was not the language of alarm and despondency-it was the grave report of a sagacious Venetian to the Signory. The details amply bear out the general statement of the Venetian. It is not necessary to speak of England, Scotland, or the Scandinavian 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 Lutberan 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