Johannes Janssen.

History of the German people at the close of the middle ages (Volume 16) online

. (page 10 of 45)
Online LibraryJohannes JanssenHistory of the German people at the close of the middle ages (Volume 16) → online text (page 10 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


whoredom especially were very common among the
ministers of the church and the schoolmasters,' and
eight years later he exclaimed : ' Good God, how universal
murder and whoredom are becoming ! Verily God will
punish the land/ ^

In the duchy of Brunswick like conditions were met
with. In 1568 Martin Chemnitz, at the head of the
clergy, said, in connexion with a scheme for church
disciphne in Brunswick, that sin and wickedness of
all sorts were gaining ground more and more.^' In 1582
Duke JuHus owned that vice was still increasing and
prevailed ' not only in the country but also at the
court.' ^ A mandate issued by Duke Henry Julius in
1593 against immorahty of all sorts, shows how wide-
spread and deep-rooted it was.*"' In 1588 Duke
Juhus had already insisted that the superintendents
should take in hand the official people and others

' Gallus, iii, 101. - Richtcr, Kirchenordnungen, ii. 379.

^ Tholuck, Das kirchliche Leben, 116. Goltz, Chronik von Fiirstenwalde,
242.

■■ Lentz, 31. Chemnitz, 163. ^ Schlegel, ii, 292. " Ibid. ii. 332.



GENERAL MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CHAOS lH

in authority, and not allow them to go on un- •
punished in their scandalous hves. At the same
time he called on the clergy to think of some method
by which the abominable drunkenness of women and
preachers might be stopped : ' they sit on and on and
drink themselves full of brandy/ Towards the end of
the century a greater and greater number of preachers
fell victims to this vice. The Consistory named this
species of preachers ' the sect of the Aquavitists ' ;
now in the company of squires, now in that of peasants,
they would sit over their bottle till they had drunk
themselves into a state of imbecihty. On the occasion of
a church inspection in 1588 it was found that out of
thirty preachers scarcely one had had any higher
education than could be got at the town school of
Gottingen, or Hanover, or Brunswick. In 1571 a
former bone-chopper had actually been appointed
superintendent at Peine. Many preachers, acting as
judges of morality, showed immorality in the exercise
of their function. One preacher said from the pulpit
that among his congregation ' there was not a single
virgin.' Another denounced a Protestant * Jungfern-
stift ' (home for young women) as a brothel. A third
described all the members of his parish as murderers,
wolves, and brute beasts. The superintendent at
Konigslutter, in 1586, preached four whole hours against
a journeyman mason, whereupon the latter struck
him a blow in his neck with a hammer, which rendered
him speechless.^ Almost innumerable were the com-
plaints on ' breach of promise ' cases. Promises of
marriage were generally attended by such circum-
stances as betokened general corruption of morals.^

' Schlegel, ii. 82, 312-313, 341-343. 2 /j^-^/ jj 344-345.



112 lllsrOJiV OF TIIH (IKHMAX PEOPLE

A fliuR'li inspoction sot on foot in 1582 in the eastern
part of the duchy of AVeimar, to which at that time
the principahty of Altenburg belonged, showed that
among the clergy who adhered faithfully to the * pure
doctrine,' with only a few exceptions, there was no fault
to find, but that among the laity who followed this
' pure doctrine ' conditions were in part very repre-
hensible. In Altenburg complaints were rife of im-
moderate brandy-drinking and immorality. In the
town adultery and whoredom were not tolerated by
the coimcil, but in the country round the council
fell very short of its duty. At Lucka the pastor com-
plained of his parishioners that their children ' were
very neghgent in attending the catechising,' also that
the weekly sermon was very sparsely attended by the
burghers, who were especially hindered from coming
to church ' by the excessive number of brandy shops,
of which there are more than fourteen in this httle
town.' Of the deacon Christopher Singel, pastor,
council, and parish all complained, ' once more, as they
had often done before, very sternly and mercilessly
that he not only emptied the girls' school, which
he had to superintend, because, owing to his evil,
scandalous hving, nobody hked to send his children
to him, but that he still went on with his gluttony and
tipphng, and that quite recently he had kept the Pohsh
fiddlers with him in his house till one o'clock at night
and had caroused frightfully with them. At last he
was so intoxicated that he lay down in the field hke
a dead sow.' In Treben it was complained that:
' Inordinate drinking, carousing, brandy-selling have
become terribly common everywhere, to the great
hindrance of the Word of God ; it all goes on unchecked



GENERAL MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CHAOS 113

and unpunished and leads to other great iniquity —
whoredom and other scandalous sins/ At Gossnitz
the pastor complained that ' cursing and outrageous
immorahty were gaining ground greatly/ In the town
of Ronneburg the deacon had to be admonished
' to abstain from immoderate drinking/ ' The tenant
of a knight's property near Ropsen carries on revelry
and debauchery every day and seldom comes to church
and to Communion/ ' At Grossenstein the women folk
were able to stand examination, but the old peasant
men could scarcely say the Lord's Prayer/ At Riicken-
dorf the pastor complained of Wolf von Weisbach
that he was ' almost a heathen ' ; ' the people stood
examination well/ Not so, however, in Linda, where
' the people are much given to sleeping in church/
At Haselbach the pastor, burdened with numerous
children, was obhged to earn money by carting away
dung. He gave the inhabitants a very bad character ;
said that they were always abusing and slandering
each other, and that in the whole village no two of
them were at peace together/

In the county of Diepholz, in 1596 the countess
complained bitterly that ' there was such a wild profli-
gate sort of hfe going on that it would be a wonder if God
did not send down punishment, and the innocent would
have to suffer with the guilty/ - For the county of
Hoya a police ordinance decreed that soldiers and
youths must put of! their swords and spears at weddings,
because there were so many cases of murder and blood-
shed.'^ In the Osnabriick district of Fiirstenau, in

' See Miiteilungen der geschichls. unci nUerliimsforschenden Gesdlschnft
des Osierlandes, 11 (Altenbui-g, 189D), 117 ff.

- Schlegel, ii. 402. ^ Havemann, ii. 862.

VOL. XVI. I



Ill HISTORY OK TIIK (JERMAN PEOPLE

the years 1550 IGUO, atcording to a register in our
])ossessioii, there occurred on an average two cases of
murder and 120 bloody frays yearly. • The Counts
of Sohns found themselves compelled, on account of ' the
terrible increase of immorality/ to strengthen the
]irovincial ordinance which had been issued in 1571
and to decree death by the sword, banishment from
the country, the pillory, cutting off of ears, or scourging
with rods as punishment, respectively, for the worst
forms of immorahty.-

In the Saxon Electorate, also, attempts were made
by means of severe penalties to put a check to the
prevalent anarchy and demoralisation, but with what
results ! In 1557 the Elector Augustus of Saxony
complained of the increase of all that was godless. ' In
the Adllages also,' he said, ' it has become the scandalous
fashion for peasants at the high festivals, such as
/ Christmas and Whitsuntide, to begin their jolhfications
on the eve of the festival and to carry them on till
morning, either missing the church service altogether or
else coming tipsy to church and sleeping all the time
like hogs. In some places the peasants desecrate
their church, which should be a house of prayer, store
the Whitsun beer in it to keep it fresh, and drink it
there amid blaspheming and cursing. And they even
dare to mock and ridicule the priests and the ministry
in the church itself, get up into the pulpit and dehver
mock-sermons to excite laughter." In 1566 the Elector
complained anew that ' godless behaviour, of which
even heathen folk w^ould be ashamed, had become
common among young and old.' A stern mandate was

^ Moser, Patriotische Phaniasien, ii. 310.

^ Solmsche Gerichts und Landesordnung, 237-246.



GENERAL MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CHAOS 115

issued against the nocturnal dances organised in Dresden
by the court retinue and other nobles, which 'were
not unaccompanied by blasphemy and great disorder
and rowdyism, to which there was no end/ ' Formerly/
the Elector had already said in an earher edict, ' dancing
took place for the innocent recreation and enjoyment
of young people ; now, however, both in towns and
villages, it was abused to immoral purposes, men
appearing naked. Even in pubhc places wild improper
dancing went on with very scanty clothing, or even in a
state of nudity. In Dresden itself sharp punishment
had to be dealt out to persons who confessed to having
executed midnight sword-dances on the cemetery,
wearing shifts only or nothing at all.' ^

In Zwickau, in Naumburg and Zeitz^ things were
just the same. Near Leipzig, since 1609, it had been
the custom for swarms of beggars to carry on fights in
the open field, when some were left dead on the plain ;
of murderous attacks in the public streets, of violent
risings of the populace, the chronicles give reports from
various districts." ' Moral corruption/ says an edict
of 1610 addressed to the preachers of the Saxon
Electorate, ' is now so great in all places, that not
only pious men and women, but inanimate nature
itself, sighs and groans, and a general upheaval seems
to be at hand. For many among your congregations
flatter themselves that they are excellent Christians if
they only boast of their faith with their hps, and murmur
out a few passages about the unspeakable mercy of
God, and the grace given to sinners without any

' ** Falkc, Kurfursl ^w,7?



Online LibraryJohannes JanssenHistory of the German people at the close of the middle ages (Volume 16) → online text (page 10 of 45)