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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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meeting unless it were supported by two-thirds of
the votes ; and secondly, a proposition even when
approved in this manner, could not come under
discussion in the general meeting, unless it had the
previous consent of the majority ; ordinances, by
which it is obvious the influence of the provincial
congregations was extremely diminished.

But besides this, a formal sentence of condemna-
tion on the enemies of the general was pronounced,
and the provincial superiors were expressly ad-
monished to proceed against the so-called dis-
turbers of the peace. Tranquillity was thus gra-
dually restored. The Spanish members submitted,
and ceased to struggle against the new spirit which
actuated their order. A more tractable generation
gradually grew up under the reigning influences ;
while on the other hand, the general strove to re-
quite Henry IV. for the countenance and favour he
had received from him by redoubled devotedness.


Thus did all these dissensions seem once more
likely to be tranquillized.

368 CONCLUSION. [book vi.

But if we reflect on their growtii and general
result, we shall perceive that changes of a most
important nature had been wrought in the bosom
of the catholic church.

We started from the point at which the papacy,
engaged in a victorious struggle, advanced by con-
stant progression to the plenitude of power. In
strict alliance with the Spanish policy, it conceived
the design of urging on all the catholic states in
one direction, and overpowering the refractory by
one great movement. Had this scheme succeeded,
the ecclesiastical spirit would have risen to absolute
supremacy, would have incorporated all catholic
states in a unity of idea, faith, conduct and policy,
and would thus have acquired a resistless influence
even over their internal affairs.

At this very juncture, however, the most violent
internal disunion showed itself.

In France the feeling of nationality rose in oppo-
sition to the claims of the hierarchy. Even the
more orthodox catholics would not submit to be
guided in all points by the interests of the church,
or the commands of the ecclesiastical sovereign ;
there were still principles at work, such as temporal
policy and national independence, which resisted
the encroachments of the papacy with unconquer-
able energy. In the main these principles obtained
the victory; the pope was forced to recognise them,
and the French church adopted them as its basis.

Hence it followed, however, that France resumed
her hostile attitude towards the Spanish monarchy;


that two great powers, rivals by nature and always
disposed for strife, advanced to the conflict in the
centre of the catholic world. So little was it pos-
sible to preserve unity. The circumstances of Italy
were such as to render this conflict, and the equili-
brium of which it was the cause, advantageous
to the see of Rome.

Meanwhile too, new theological schisms broke
out. However acute and precise were the defini-
tions of the council of Trent, they were ineflectual
to prevent them ; within the circle which it had
traced there was still room for controversy. The
two most powerful orders entered the lists ; the two
great powers took part to a certain degree in the
contest, while Rome had not courage to pronounce
a decision.

To the sources of dissension there were now
added the disputes concerning the limits of the
spiritual and the temporal jurisdictions ; disputes
of a local origin, and with a neighbour of no for-
midable power, but carried on in a spirit and with
a vehemence which conferred upon them a general
importance*. Justly is Paolo Sarpi's memory held
in reverence in all catholic states. He was the
able and victorious champion of those principles
determining the bounds of ecclesiastical authority,
which are their guides and safeguards to this day.

These conflicts between ideas and doctrines, —

* "V. S*'\" exclaims P. Priuli on his return from France, "a di-
chiarito, si pu(j dire, sin a quai termini sia permesso al pontefice
estendere la sua temporale e spirituale autorita." (Relatione di
Francia, 1608.)

VOL. II. 2 B

370 CONCLUSION. [book VI.

between constitutional government and absolute
power, — now proved the grand impediment to that
ecclesiastico-secular unity which the papacy sought
to establish, and indeed seemed to render it utterly

The progress of things however proved that pa-
cific ideas were the strongest. It was impossible to
prevent the internal discords, but an open struggle
was avoided. The peace between the great powers
was restored and maintained ; the Italian states
were not yet fully conscious of their strength, nor
active in the exertion of it ; silence was imposed on
the hostile orders ; the struggles between church
and state were not pushed to extremity ; Venice
accepted the offered mediation.

The policy of the papacy was, as far as possible,
to assume a position superior to the contending
parties, and to act as a mediator in their differences;
a position and character which it still possessed
sufficient authority to sustain.

Without doubt, the perpetuation of the struggle
with protestantism, and the advancement of the
catholic reformation, in which the influence of the
papacy on the world was mainly exerted, reacted
upon this policy, in which it at the same time ori-

We must now return to the consideration of tliis
grand struggle and to its further developement.





CATHOLICISM. 1590—1617.


It appears to me that I do not deceive myself, nor
overstep the province of the historian, if I here
pause a moment to indicate an universal law of
social life, which the period under consideration
naturally suggests.

It is indisputable that the great movements which
stir society from its very foundations, are invari-
ably produced by the workings of the living spirit
of man. The sense of moral and intellectual want,
which disposes men to seize on new opinions,
often lies for centuries fermenting in the fathomless
depths of the heart of society. At length, in the
fulness of time, arises one of those master-spirits,
endowed with the genius, energy and confidence
which fit a man to wield these moral forces ; to
reveal to his age the wants of which it had but a
dim and perplexed consciousness ; to interpret to it
its own confused and half- formed opinions, and to
give them shape, compactness and strength.


It is of the very nature of these moral forces to
be eager to carry the world with them, — to strive
to bear down all resistance. The greater however
their success, and the wider the circle which they
embrace, the more inevitably do they come in con-
tact with peculiar and independent elements of
social existence which they cannot completely sub-
due or absorb. Hence it happens, that as they are
of necessity in a state of continual progress, they
must continually undergo change and modification.
The foreign elements which they gather up in their
course and incorporate with themselves, tinge them
with their own colom* ; tendencies are developed,
events take place, which are not unfrequently at
variance with the predominant character of the
movement. These heterogeneous elements neces-
sarily share in the general growth of the body of
which they form a part ; the important matter is,
that they should not acquire a predominance which
w^ould completely destroy the unity, and change
the principle, to which it owes its compactness
and its character.

We have seen how powerfully internal discrepan-
cies and profound contrasts were at work within
the bosom of reviving and restoring papacy. But the
master-idea retained its victory ; the highest unity
of Catholicism, though not perhaps with its former
all-embracing power, remained predominant,* and
advanced with steady course, unimpeded by mo-
ments of internal strife, from which indeed it often
borrowed fresh energy for new conquests.

Its projects now bespeak our attention. What


was their success, what the social revolutions
they occasioned, and what the resistance they en-
countered from within or from without, are ques-
tions of the highest importance to the human race.


We have already expressed our opinion, that the
protestants, who for some time had decidedly the
ascendency in Poland, would have been strong
enough to raise a king of their own religion to the
throne ; but that even they ultimately thought it
more advantageous to their interests to have a
catholic sovereign ; since in the pope he would be
forced to recognise a superior power, and a supreme
judge. If such were the motives by which they
were guided, they drew down upon themselves a
severe punishment for this departure from protest-
ant principles.

For it was precisely by means of a catholic king
that the pope was enabled to wage war against

Besides, of all the foreign ministers in Poland,
the papal nuncio alone had the privilege of an
audience of the king without the presence of a
senator : — we know well what sort of men filled
that office ; they were dexterous and prudent enough


to foster and turn to account the confidential inter-
course which was thus open to them.

Cardinal Bolognetto was the nuncio in Poland
at the beginning of the year 1 580. He complains
of the inconveniences of the climate, the cold, (to
which an Italian was doubly susceptible) the suffo-
cation of the small heated rooms, and the mode of
life, so thoroughly strange to him ; nevertheless he
accompanied king Stephen from Warsaw to Cracow,
from Wilna to Lublin — throughout the kingdom ;
sometimes indeed in rather a melancholy mood, but
not the less indefatigable: during the campaigns he
kept up a constant correspondence with Stephen,
and maintained an unbroken connexion between the
interests of Rome and the person of the king.

We have a detailed account of the manner in
which he performed his office, and by this we are
made acquainted with the nature of his underta-
kings and the measure of his success*.

Above all things he impressed upon the king
the necessity of filling the government offices ex-
clusively with catholics ; of tolerating the catholic
mode of worship alone in the royal towns, and of
re-establishing tithes ; measures which, about this
same time, were taken in other countries, and which
were either the causes or the signs of the revival of

He did not now succeed in his attempt; king

* Spannocchi, Relatione all' 111"^° Rev"^° Cardinal Rusticucci,
segretario di N. S. Papa Sisto V., delle cose di Polonia intorno
alia religions e delle azioni del cardinal Bolognetto in quattro
anni ch'egli h stato nunzio in quella provincia.

§ I.] IN POLAND. 377

Stephen did not think he could venture so far, and
declared that he was not yet sufficiently powerful.
Nevertheless, this prince had not only catholic
convictions, but an innate zeal for the interests of
the church ; on many other points he gave in to
the representations of the nuncio. The Jesuit col-
leges in Cracow, Grodno, and Pultusk were esta-
blished by the immediate bounty of the king ; the
new calendar was introduced without difficulty, and
the greater portion of the decrees of the council of
Trent put in execution. But the most important
point was the king's determination to confer the
bishopricks in future only on catholics*. Protest-
ants had possessed themselves of the highest as well
as the subordinate ecclesiastical dignities ; the nun-
cio was now empowered to summon them before
his tribunal, and to depose them ; a matter of the
greatest importance, since a seat and voice in the
senate were attached to the episcopal office. It
was this very political character of the ecclesias-
tical institutions of Poland which the nuncio chiefly
sought to turn to account. He most earnestly en-
joined the bishops to unanimity in their measures
at the diet, and these measures he prescribed to
them ; with the most powerful, namely, the arch-
bishop of Gnesen and the bishop of Cracow, he
had personally formed a strict friendship which
was extremely advantageous to him ; and he thus
succeeded not only in inspiring the clergy with
renovated zeal, but acquired a great influence

* " Sendosi (il re) determinato che nessuno possa tenere chiese
che non sia della vera fede romana." (Spannocchi.)


in temporal matters. The English had proposed a
commercial treaty with the Poles, which promised
to be very advantageous, especially to Dantzic ;
the nuncio alone prevented its conclusion, chiefly
because the English required the most distinct pro-
mise that they should be allowed to trade in peace,
without molestation on account of their religion*.

In short, whatever might be the moderation of
king Stephen's proceedings, it is certain that
Catholicism first materially regained its ascend-
ency under him.

But this change acquired a higher degree of
importance from the fact that the most powerful
party in Poland, that of the Zamoyskies, to whom,
clnefly by the favour of the king, the highest offices
of the state were entrusted, now also assumed a
catholic complexionf ; and it was this faction which,
after the death of Stephen, decided the election of
his successor. The Zamoyskies placed upon the

* Spannocclii, "II che non prima venne agli orecchj del Bolo-
gnetto, che ando a trovare S. M*^, e con efficacissirae ragioni mostro
quanto esorbitante cosa sarebbe stata che avesse concesso per jmb-
lico decreto una tanto obbrobriosa setta, e come non senza nas-
costo inganno e speranza d'importantissime conseguenze quella
scellerata donna voleva che si dichiarasse cosi per decreto potersi
esercitar la setta Anglicana in quel regno, dove tutto il mondo pur
troppo sa che si permetta il credere in materia di religione quel
che place a chi si sia : con queste ed altre efficacissime ragioni il
re Stefano rimase talmente persuaso che promesse non voler mai
far menzione alcuna di religione, in qualunque accordo avesse
fatto con quella regina o suoi mercanti."

f Spannocclii: "Alle dignitu senatorie et all' entrate del regno
diconi hoggi non ammettersi se non i dependenti da esso cancel-
liero, accio che da nissuno venga impedito di far quello che ad
esso ed al re piu tornera di piacere di fare."

§ I.] IN POLAND. 379

throne that Swedish prince whom Catherina Jagel-
lonica bore in prison ; and who from his earUest
years, either from original inchnation, or from
the influence of his mother, or perhaps from a hope
of succeeding to the Pohsh crown, or from a com-
bination of all these motives, had remained im-
moveably firm in the catholic faith, in the midst
of a Protestant country. The character of mind and
opinions of Sigismund III. were entirely moulded
by those catholic impulses which at that period
agitated all Europe.

Pope Clement VIII. says, in one of his in-
structions, that he had, while he was yet cardi-
/ nal and legate in Poland, advised that prince to
distribute all public appointments in future ex-
clusively to catholics. This advice had already
been often given, by Paul IV., by cardinal Ho-
sius*, and also by Bolognetto ; but now for the
first time it found a soil fitted to receive it. A
measure, which neither Sigismund Augustus, nor
Stephen could be prevailed upon to adopt, Sigis-
mund III. showed a ready determination to carry
through. He established it as a principle to pro-
mote only catholics, and pope Clement had per-
fect reason to ascribe the progress of Catholicism
in Poland to this measure above all others.

* In a letter dated Hth of March, 1568, he begs the king to
declare " nuUis se deinceps vel honoresvel praefecturasvel qusecun-
que tandem alia munera publice mandaturum nisi qui Christum
aperte confessus fuerit et omni perfidiee sive Lutheristicae sive
Calvinisticse sive anabaptistarum nuntium remiserit,"


The highest attribute of the kingly power in
Poland consisted in the distribution of the great
public offices and dignities. All appointments, whe-
ther temporal or spiritual, great or small, (and they
were said to amount to nearly twenty thousand,) were
in the gift of the king. It is obvious what an effect
must have been produced by Sigismund's resolution
to fill not only ecclesiastical but all offices whatso-
ever with catholics ; to extend the " beneficence of
the state," as the Italians once expressed it, the full
rights of citizenship in the highest sense of the
word, to his co-religionists alone. A man's suc-
cess in life depended mainly on his skill in ingra-
tiating himself with the bishops and the Jesuits.
The Starost Ludwig of Mortangen was created
Woivode of Pomerellia, chiefly because he presented
his house in Thorn to the company of Jesus. In
consequence of this a feud arose between the
cities and the nobles in the polish-prussian pro-
vinces, which assumed a religious complexion. Both
parties had originally embraced protestantism, but
the nobles now returned to their ancient faith.
The example of the houses of Kostka, Dzialinsky
and Konopat, which rose to power by abjuring
protestantism, exercised the strongest influence
upon others. The Jesuits' schools were chiefly
attended by the young nobility ; and we soon
find that quarrels arose between the scholars of
the Jesuits and the citizens' sons in those towns
which still remained protestant. The revived spirit
of Catholicism was chiefly displayed amongst the no-

§ I.] IN POLAND. 381

bilit5^ ^^^ college at Pultiisk contained four
hundred pupils, all noble*. The general impulse
originating in the spirit of the times, the instruction
given by the Jesuits, the newly-awakened zeal
which animated the whole body of the clergy, and
the favour of the court, all conspired to dispose the
Polish nobility towards a return to Catholicism.

It naturally followed that, encouraged by success,
the government soon took stronger measures, and
that those who did not recant, were made to feel
its displeasure.

The catholic clergy of Poland urgently renewed
a claim formerly set up; viz. that all ecclesiastical
buildings which had been founded by the faithful, at
the suggestion or with the co-operation of bishops
and frequently of popes, were the unalienable pro-
perty of their church. In all places where the ca-
tholic service had been excluded from the parish
churches, the bishops resorted to legal proceed-
ings founded upon that claim. The courts of law
were now filled with zealous catholics ; and, as
might be anticipated, the same suits were instituted
and the same judgments obtained, in one town after
another. It was of no avail that the sufferers ap-
pealed to the king, and reminded him of that con-
federation, by the terms of which equal protection
had been promised to both confessions ; he replied,
that the very meaning of equal protection was, that
each party should be assisted to regain its own
rights, and that the confederation contained no

* Maffei, ii. 140.


clause securing the ecclesiastical buildings to the
protestants*. In a few years the catholics regained
possession of all the parish churches in the towns :
" In the parish churches," exclaims a Polish writer,
"the ancient God is worshiped;" in the smaller
towns of Russian-Poland the lutheran service was
performed in a room of the town-hall ; among the
larger, Dantzig alone retained its parish churchf.

Elated by the success which had crowned their
efforts, the catholics were no longer contented with
their triumphs over the protestants, but turned their
eyes upon the Greek schismatics.

On this point too, the king and the pope united
their influence ; and it appears that the threat of
exclusion from a seat and a vote in the senate had
great effect upon the Greek bishops, some of
whom, including Wladika of Wladimir, accordingly
determined, in the year 1595, to join the Romish
church according to the standard fixed by the
council of Florence, Their delegates proceeded to
Rome; papal and royal commissioners appeared in
the province; the ceremony of reconciliation with
the church, at which a Jesuit, the king's confessor,
preached a sermon full of zeal and enthusiasm,
was performed ; and in this part of the Polish do-
minions also, churches were restored to the catholics.

This was an immense advance in so few years.

* The circumstantial letter of the Waiwode of Culm, trans-
lated by Lengnich, Polnisch-preussische Geschichte, Vol. IV.
p. 291, particularly details these motives.

t Lengnich, Nachricht von der Religions änderung in Preussen.


"But shortly before," says a papal nuncio in
the year 1598, "it appeared as if heresy would
completely supersede Catholicism in Poland ; now,
Catholicism bears heresy to its tomb." Our inqui-
ries into the causes of this revolution lead us to
attribute it principally to the personal character
and disposition of the king; and these, from his
peculiar position, rapidly led him to far more ex-
tensive projects.


By the death of his father John, in the year
1 592, Sigismund became king of Sweden.

This monarchy was not indeed an absolute one,
nor was Sigismund unfettered by personal pledges,
— for in the year 1587 he had signed a solemn en-
gagement not only to alter nothing in the ceremo-
nies of the church, but even to promote none but
protestants. He now pledged himself anew, to
maintain the privileges of the clergy as well as of the
laity ; neither to love nor hate any one on account of
his religion, nor in any manner to endeavour to pre-
judice the church of the country. Yet in spite of
these securities, all the hopes of the catholics and all
the fears of the protestants were instantly excited.

The earnest wish of the catholics to have a king
of their own faith in Sweden was now granted
them. Surrounded by a catholic retinue which
even included a papal nuncio, Malaspina, Sigismund


made his entry into his hereditary dominions in
July 1593. Already had his progress through the
Prussian provinces heen marked by the advance-
ment of Catholicism : Bartholomeus Powsinsi^y, a
papal envoy, hastened to meet him at Dantzig, with
a present of 20,000 scudi, " a small contribution,"
as it was called in his instructions, "towards the
expenses which would attend the re- establishment
of Catholicism."

These instructions are very remarkable, as show-
ing with what confidence this re-establishment was
hoped for and recommended in Rome*.

" Powsinsky," they state, " a confidential servant
of his holiness and vassal of your majesty, has been
commissioned to express to your majesty the in-
terest taken by the pope in the joyful events which
have lately occurred to you ; the safe delivery of
your wife, the happy issue of the last diet, but above
all, the greatest felicity which could have befallen
you, namely, the opportunity now afforded you to
re-establish Catholicism in your hereditary domi-
nions." The pope failed not to indicate some new
points of view under which this work might be

"Without doubt it was through God's special
providence," he adds, "that several sees were at that
moment vacant, — among others the archbishop-
rick of Upsalf . Should the king delay for a mo-

* Instruttione al Sr. Bartolommeo Powsinsky alia M^ del re di
Polonia e Suetia. (MS. Rom.)

f "Intendendosi restar vacante I'arcivescovato di Upsalia, che
la divina providenza pei* piu facilitare le cose del suo servitio non


ment to remove the protestant bishops still remain-
ing in the country, he would assuredly at any rate
fill the vacant benefices with orthodox believers."
The envoy was furnished with a list of Swedish
catholics who appeared qualified for those offices.
The pope expressed his conviction that these
bishops would immediately endeavour to secure the
services of catholic priests and schoolmasters. It
must be the king's care to put it in their power to
do so.

" It might perhaps be possible," he adds, " im-
mediately to found a Jesuits' college in Stockholm ;
but if this could not be effected, the king might
certainly take with him into Poland as many young

Online LibraryLeopold von RankeThe ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 39)