Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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The Hohen- ick of Hohenzollern, gave him the mark of Brandenburg.
B°randVnbur''^'^ -^X ^^^^ ^^^^^ government, Frederick reestablished order and
^415- made himself master of the territory. The power and pos-

sessions of his successors steadily grew, till in 1701 the
mark was made into the kingdom of Prussia, in our day the
leading power in Germany.
The revolt in The burning of Huss led to a national revolt in Bohemia.
That country was inhabited by Slavs, but there were many
Germans there also. There was much opposition between
the two races, and when the national hero, Huss, was
burned by the German Emperor, the Bohemian opposition
to everything German was quickened into the most bitter
hostility. In 1419 Sigismund became lawful king of Bohe-
mia, but the Bohemians refused to acknowledge him. A
fierce civil war ensued ; the Hussites, as they called them-
selves, were at first victorious, but religious and social dis-
sensions arose among them ; conservative Bohemians,
frightened at the radical changes proposed by the fanatical
party, made peace with the Emperor and assisted him in
restoring order.




Germany, 12^4.-1^^3


The brief reign of Albrecht II. (1438-39), the son-in-law Aibrecht il.,
and heir of Sigismund, was important for the Hapsburgs, ^^^ ^^'
because he reacquired for them the imperial crown, and
united under his dominion all the territory which has ever
since formed the principal part of their possessions. He
ruled over the duchy of Austria, Styria, Carniola, Tyrol,
Bohemia, and Hungary. His nephew, Frederick III.
(1440-93), succeeded him, but his reign presents only a long
succession of blunders. He lost Bohemia and Hungary,
and they were not recovered by the Hapsburgs till 1526.

The signal and unmerited good fortune which befel
Frederick's house and gave to it new lustre was the acc^ui- 'Die House of
sition of the greater part of the states of the duke of Bur-

Frcdcrick III.,

gundy. During the fifteenth century a collateral branch
of the House of France had gradually added to its French
fief of Burgundy the whole of the Netherlands, and Charles
the Bold, duke of Burgundy (1467-77), had become one
of the foremost rulers of Europe. His ambition looked
toward the establishment of a great middle kingdom be-
tween France and Germany, independent of either. In
this scheme the Swiss proved a stumbling-block. Their
territory lay so opportune for his plans that he resolved to
subjugate it. But the brave mountaineers beat back his in-
vasion at Granson and Murten (1476), and finally his whole
splendid chivalry went down before them at Nancy (1477).
Charles himself was among the dead. Since there was only
a daughter, Mary, to succeed him, Louis XI. of France im-
mediately seized the crown fief, the duchy of Burgundy prop-
er, on the claim that it was vacant, and would have taken
more had not Frederick promptly acquired Mary's hand in
marriage for his son Maximilian (1477), and thus estab-
lished a legal claim to the rest. So the territorial expan-
sion of the House of Austria was not checked even under
this weak king. A similar chance of a happy matrimonial

quires Bur-
gundy and

268 A Short History of McdicBval Europe

alliance gave it, a i>t\i years later, the vast possessions of
Spain (1516), when Maximilian's son, Philip, married
Joan, heir of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Their son,
Charles, was the famous Emperor Charles V. (1519-55),
who could dream of renewing the Empire of the west.

Though the Hapsburgs figure, from the fifteenth century
on, among the most powerful dynasties of Europe, the Em-
Permanent pire in nowise profited from their strength. The decay of
Empire. ^ ^° this institution had continued from the twelfth century on,
and was destined to continue without interruption. One
by one its cosmopolitan claims had been exploded. It was
now only the national government of Germany. But even
in Germany we have seen it lose its authority, and, al-
though it tided itself over to the nineteenth century (1806),
it was never again anything more than a body without a
soul. Germany had lost her central government in all but
name. German strength and civilization, as far as they
acquired political expression at all in the modern period,
sought refuge among the local governments of the princes
and the cities.


THE PAPACY, 1250-1450

The struggle between the Papacy and the Empire had
been fatal to both. The Papacy, indeed, seemed to have
won the victory, but it had lost much of its rehgious char-
acter in the eyes of the people. The college of cardinals
was divided into three parties, the Italian, the French, and
the German. It was almost impossible to secure an uncon- Difficulties in
tested election, and there were many times during the thir-
teenth century when there was no Pope. In Rome the
Pope was continually quarrelling with the citizens, and he
often found it impossible to live there. Innocent IV.
spent very little time in Rome; Alexander IV. (1254-61)
was never there; and Clement IV. (1265-68) lived in ,

Perugia. Anarchy prevailed in Italy, each city being in
arms against its neighbor.

In 1282 the uprising of the Sicilians against the French,
called the Sicilian Vespers, took place,^d shortly after-
ward Peter III. of Aragon gained possession of Sicily in
spite of all the resistance the Pope could offer. Italy was
now more hopelessly divided than ever. The Spaniards
held Sicily; the French, southern Italy; the Germans,
parts of upper Italy; and the rest was divided among
many cities and powers. Among the Ghibellines there
lived on the hope that the Emperor would come from Ger-
many and restore unity to Italy. It seemed impossible for
the idea of the Empire to die.

In 1294 Benedictus Cajetanus of Anagni, having com-

270 A Short History of Mediczval Europe

pelled his predecessor to resign, was made Pope, with the
Boniface titl» of Boiiiface VIII. (i 294-1 303). His pontificate

vni., 1294- i^-iarked the highest pretensions, and, at the same time,
proved the impotence, of the Papacy. "When Boniface
mounted the throne he found much in the complexion of
politics which invited a brilliant course of papal states-
manship. The Holy Land was in the power of the infi-
dels ; the Sicilian question still undecided. In Germany,
instead of the powerful Rudolf of Hapsburg, ruled a less
powerful king, Adolphus of Nassau; Philip IV., the Fair,
king of France, and Edward I., king of England, were
engaged in a desperate war. On both sides were numer-
ous allies, namely, on the French side, the king of Scotland,
on the English, Adolphus, king of Germany, and the count
of Flanders. Boniface wished, after the example of Innocent
III., to convert this war at once into a suit to be decided
before him, and when his legates were dismissed by Philip
he thought to frighten the king by forbidding him to im-
pose extraordinary taxes on the clergy." In the famous
bull, " Clericis Lai cos," he forbade, on pain of excommuni-
cation, all laymen to collect taxes on Church lands, and all
clergymen to pay them. Since the Church was very rich
in lands, if this bull had been enforced the income of the
king would have been greatly diminished. Philip IV. re-
taliated by forbidding any money to be taken out of France
into Italy, thus cutting off the Pope's income. For a time
Boniface yielded, and even tried to make peace with Philip.
He said the bull was not to be enforced in France, and
even granted Philip the tithe from the French clergy for
three years. But the quarrel soon broke out again. Philip
received at his court two members of the Colonna family,
whom Boniface had exiled from Rome, and made an
alliance with Albrecht, king of Germany, whose election
Boniface refused to recognize ; seizing also and imprison-

Tlic Papacy^ 12^0-14^0 271

ing the papal legate. Angered by this, Boniface sent forth
one decree after another against Philip. The French clergy-
were summoned to Rome to meet the Pope and settle the
dispute. Another bull, " Unam Sanctam," was issued,
which declared that the Pope was entrusted witli both the
spiritual and temporal power, and that whoever resisted
him was resisting the ordinance of God. Submission in
temporal matters to the Pope was declared to be necessary
for salvation. Boniface next threatened to depose Philip
and put him under the ban if he did not yield. Albrecht
of Germany made peace with the Pope and accepted the
terms of the bull, " Unam Sanctam," but Philip called
another meeting of his council, preferred a large number
of charges against Boniface, and called for a general coun-
cil to settle the matter. Boniface then published the ban
and edict of deposition, only to be besieged in Anagni a
month later by the king's amba.ssador, William of Nogaret,
and the Colonna family. He was personally maltreated, but
set free a few days later, dying, however, the next month,
probably from chagrin and anger caused by the indignities
which had been heaped upon him.

It was Boniface VIII. who celebrated the jubilee in The jubilee of
1300, an event which stirred the minds and imaginations
of the people at that time most deeply. During this cele-
bration Boniface, it is said, gave expression to his extrava-
gant claims by seating himself on the imperial throne,
"arrayed with sword and crown and sceptre, shouting
aloud, * I am Caesar ! I am Emperor ! ' "

His successor, Benedict II. (1303-4), was hard pressed
by Philip IV., and at last retracted all the extravagant
claims of Boniface so far as France was concerned. For
nearly a year after his death the cardinals could not agree
on a candidate, but at length the French party in the col-
lege elected the bishoi) of Bordeaux, who had already

272 A Short History of Medmval Europe

made a secret compact with Philip IV. He chose the
name of Clement V. (1304-14). In 1309 he moved the
Clement V. at whole Curia to Avignon. Rome was no longer safe for
vignon. \{xxix, the noble families of the city being constantly en-

gaged in street brawls, and since the G'erman Emperors had
lost their power, there was no one to preserve order. He
went to Avignon because that city was in France, and
France was at that time the leading country of Europe.
Philip IV. wished to use the Papacy against other nations.
There was a certain advantage in this to the Pope. He
could issue his bulls against hostile powers in all security,
because being surrounded by French territory no foreign
power could reach him. But the Papacy lost much in the
estimation of the world. It was but a tool in the hands of
the French king, whose powers were rapidly growing.
The religious authority of the Pope suffered much, and
various parts of the Church showed signs of breaking loose
from it. Clement V. yielded to almost all the demands
of Philip IV. He supported him in the unjust destruction
of the order of Knights Templars. He was despised by
the people of his time, and before he died Dante had al-
ready put him into hell.

His successor, John XXII., spent most of his time in a
bitter struggle with Ludwig of Bavaria (1314-47) about
the imperial crown and Italy, which is marked by the ap-
pearance of a new theory of the state, promulgated by one
branch of the Franciscans. They advanced the idea that
the people are sovereign. "Church" meant the whole
body of Christian believers, not, as the Roman Catholic
Church said, the clergy alone. Even the laymen are all
viri ecclesiastici, that is, they have a part in the govern-
ment of the Church. The highest authority is vested in
a General Council. The Papacy is not apostolic in its
origin, but dates from the time of Constantine. The Pope,

The Papacy, 1250-1450 273

therefore, has no authority over kings, and the state is in-
dependent of him. These Franciscans were protected by
Ludwig, and assisted him in his struggle. Other writers,
however, continued to develop a definite theory of the
supremacy of the Pope.

During the residence of the Popes at Avignon the finances
of the Papacy were systematized and everything dohe to in-
sure the collection of vast sums of money. The principal
aim of the Church seemed to be to tax the world. This
period of the residence of the Popes in Avignon is general-
ly called by church historians the Babylonian Exile of the

In 1378 the papal Schism began. Gregory XI. had The Schism,
finally, in 1377, moved the Curia back to Rome, but died
the next year. Urban VI. (1378-89) was elected in Rome,
but by his harsh manner he alienated those cardinals who
were under the influence of the French king, and they soon
after revolted from him, declared his election void, and
elected Clement VII. (1378-94). Clement soon withdrew
to Avignon and continued the papal line there, while Ur-
ban VI. remained in Rome. There were now two men
claiming to be Pope. Germany, England, Denmark,
Sweden, and Poland declared for Urban ; France, Naples,
Savoy, Scotland, Lorraine, Castile, and Aragon were true
to Clement VII. For about thirty years there were two
lines of Popes, and the religious world did not know which
one to obey. The Schism gave rise to the severest criticism
of the Papacy, and gave such men as Wyclif and Huss a
good opportunity to set forth doctrines at variance with
those of the Church.

Since neither Pope would yield, and it seemed impossible
to end the Schism in any other way, the idea of calling a
universal Council was broached. It was declared that in the The ConciHar
early days of the Church a Council had been the highest

274 ^^ Short History of Medieval Europe

authority. This position of authority had been usurped
by the Popes. Now let the Council be called, and since it
is competent to do so, let it say who is the right Pope.
After long discussion of all this the cardinals called a Coun-
cil to meet at Pisa (1409). This Council deposed the two
Popes, and elected Alexander V., but as the deposed Popes
refused ft) acknowledge the authority of the Council, there
were now three Popes and the Schism was made worse.
Although Alexander V. had promised not to dismiss the
Council until the Papacy had been reformed, and especially
its finances regulated, he soon prorogued it on the ground
that not sufficient preparations had been made to proceed
with the reform.

From this theory of the power of the Council over the
Pope this period has been called the conciliar epoch. It
produced two more Councils, that of Constance and that of
Basel. In Constance (14 14) the question of the Schism
was again taken up. Every cardinal swore once more that,
if elected, he would reform the Church before dismissing
the Council. In 141 7 Martin V. was elected, after the
three other Popes had been deposed, but he destroyed all
hopes of reform by adjourning the Council and declaring
that whoever appealed to a general Council would be guilty
of heresy.

The idea of a reform -was still strong in the minds of
many, and the belief that a general Council could reform
the Church led to the calling of a third Council at Basel
(1431). The Pope, however, was too shrewd and strong
for the reform party, and succeeded in blocking all their
attempts to reform the Church. Some action was taken,
indeed, but the Pope was able to prevent its being en-
forced. The failure of this council showed that no reform
could come by way of legislation. From the time of
Eugene IV. (1431-47) a new period may be said to have

The Papacy, 12^0-14^0 275

begun for the Papacy. The concihar idea lost all its power,
although the people still called for a general Council, and
even Luther, nearly a hundred years later, thought at first
that the Church might be reformed by this means. l"he
Popes gave up all thought of a reform, and the Papacy
became a political principality. The Popes of the succeed-
ing period are often called heathen.



ideas of the
Middle Age.

The Middle
Age w^ pro-
ductive in
many fields.

The period which we have been studying, erroneously
called the Dark Ages, had a civilization peculiarly its own.
Politically, the age was dominated by the idea of the world-
Empire, until the thirteenth century saw the destruction of
the Empire and the rise of nationalities and states. Eccle-
siastically, it was ruled by the idea of the world-Church,
with the Pope at its head, until the Papacy lost sight of its
religious calling and degraded itself to the rank of a politi-
cal principality. Intellectually, the period may be gauged
by the fact that the Germans, a vigorous, primitive people,
w'ere slowly leahiing, adopting, and adapting the Roman
civilization preserved and taught them by the Church. Of
all the institutions in the Middle Age the Church, because
she held the position of both priest and teacher of the young
barbarian world, was by far the most powerful. She as-
sumed an authority that was often burdensome, trying many
times to limit and even to prevent any new social or intel-
lectual movement which seemed calculated to diminish her
supremacy. This clerical. domination lasted almost unques-
tioned till about 1300. Then, after many ineffectual at-
tempts, Europe, finally, in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen-
turies, broke away from it, intellectually, in the Renaissance
and, religiously, in the Reformation.

The Middle Age presents many phenomena which indi-
cate that the mind of man was not idle. The schools of
Karl the Great, and the universities which appear about


The Italian Renaissa?ice 277

the twelfth century ; the Latin literature, chronicles, biog-
raphies, histories, controversial and doctrinal writings ;
the two opposing systems of philosophy, nominalism and
realism, each of which was represented by men who have
left us many works attesting the keenness and power of
their intellects ; the many treatises on theological questions ;
the religious writings of such men as Bernhard of Clairvaux,
Eckhart, and Thomas a Kempis, whose inimitable "Imi-
tation of Christ ' ' is still a classic of men mystically inclined ;
the organized life of the nobility, as seen in Chivalry, with
its ideal of Christian knighthood, and its literature of relig-
ion, love, war, and adventure ; the minstrels, in the north
of France the trouveres, in the south the troubadours, in
Germany the minnesingers ; the lyric poetry, and especially
the great national or religious epics, such as the Song of
Roland, the Nibelungenlied, the Tales of king Arthur and
the Round Table, the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, the
Tales about Karl the Great, and Alexander the Great,
and the Holy Grail, and the Divine Comedy of Dante ;
the two great styles of architecture, the Romanesque (to
1 1 50) and the Gothic (i 125-1500), with their magnifi-
cent churches, cathedrals, city halls, and palaces ; the
decorative arts, wood-carving, glass and panel-painting,
sculpture, miniature painting and illuminating ; the religious
painting whose greatest representative is Giotto ; the new
life in the cities, the growth of commerce, the rise of the
people to wealth and political independence, their activity
in building, in the practice of the fine as well as the in-
dustrial arts, in literature, such as the fables, miracle plays,
and master-songs ; what more is necessary to show that the
Middle Age was full of mental vigor and activity, much of
which may still command our interest and admiration ?

The Renaissance in its broadest signification is the name The
given the new civilization which gradually displaced in the

278 A Short History of Medieval Europe

minds of men the mediseval conceptions of the state, of
society, of nature, of art, and of philosophy. It was a
revolution under the dominant influence of the Roman-
Greek world, which, after a thousand years of oblivion,
was again brought to light and life. The world had out-
grown the narrow ideals of the Middle Age, and when the
ancient world was revealed in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries by its art and literary treasures, there was a spon-
taneous movement toward the freer life which had been the
charm of classic times. But as the people could not wholly
get away from their past, so the Renaissance is characterized
by the fusion of the classical with the mediaeval.
The Renais- The Renaissance had its origin, and reached its highest

luly!^^^^"'" development, in Italy, and was from there carried to all the
other countries of Europe. In Italy the conditions favor-
able to such a movement were far more numerous than
anywhere else. Italy had more of the Roman civilization.
Rome was there with her monuments and all her wealth of
traditions. Though the wear and tear of daily use had
greatly simplified it, and it was rapidly becoming Italian,
the Latin tongue was kept alive. In Italy the power of
the Empire was weakest, and the feudal system remained
an excrescence. The cities of Italy were the first to be-
come independent. Their situation, Avith all its opportu-
nities, seemed to act as an intellectual ferment, and for
a while they led the world in civilization.

No fixed date can be given for the beginning of the Re-
naissance ; but when the awakened intelligence of the peo-
ple began to busy itself with the materials of antiquity, it
may be said to have been fairly initiated. Not that the
classics had been wholly neglected during the Middle Age.
Many Latin authors had been read ; but the point of view
from which they were regarded was now changed. And,
besides, while hitherto they had been read and studied by

The Italian Renaissance 279

the clergy, they now became the intellectual possession of
the laity.

Petrarch (1304-74), because he did not stand under the Petrarch,
control of the ideas of the Middle Age, is commonly called ^°'*~^'*'
the first modern man. His education was not mediaeval.
He was trained in the study of the best Latin authors, and
their beauties he learned to appreciate and imitate. He
leads the list of able men, those Humanists, who with this
changed conception of the classics devoted themselves to
their study. While he based his claim to fame on his
Latin works, we admire him because of his sonnets and
songs in Italian.

No man before Petrarch was so deeply introspective in
a psychological way as he. He may be said to have re-
discovered the world of emotions as well as the world of
the senses without. He had a direct pleasure in the beauti-
ful things of the earth, her hills and valleys, her fields and
flowers. The Middle Age believed that nature with all her
glorious phenomena were manifestations of the Evil One.
Petrarch almost emancipated himself from this view. Per-
haps he was the first man in centuries to climb a mountain
for the mere delight of the journey. In 1335 he made the
difficult ascent of Mt. Ventoux in France. When he reached
the summit he was for a moment lost in admiration of the
magnificent prospect. But only for a moment. The medi-
aeval man in him soon reasserted himself. Overcome by
the recollection of his sins and follies, he drew from his
pocket and began to read his favorite book, the " Confes-
sions of St. Augustine."

Boccaccio (1313-75), a friend of Petrarch, like him was
a scholar whose interests were centred in the works of an-
tiquity. Although a Latin author of renown in his day,
he is known to us as the author of the '' Decameron," the
first great work in Italian prose.

28o A Sliort History of MedicBval Europe

Petrarch and Boccaccio were followed by a large number
of scholars of varied attainments, who collected and copied
manuscripts, wrote works in Latin, and taught in the uni-
versities. The most famous among them were Poggio, cele-
brated for his wit, and Laurentius Valla, known as the
father of historical criticism, because he proved that the
Donation of Constantine was a forgery. Florence became
the home of this new learning and the centre of the Hu-
manistic movement. The Medici family were its patrons,
and to this fact owe much of their fame. The Popes,
too, became eager promoters of art and Humanism, and
spent large sums in rebuilding, restoring, and beautifying

Not all the art of Italy is Renaissance art. The Renais-
sance, we have seen, begins with Petrarch and his disciples,
but there was an art in Italy before Petrarch. It does not
lie within our task to treat of it at length. Two broad di-
visions are usually noted : the Romanesque period (800-
1250) and the Gothic period (i 250-1400).

Art practice had almost died out in Italy after the inva-
sions. The old structures, baths, theatres, arches of tri-

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Online LibraryOliver J. (Oliver Joseph) ThatcherA short history of mediæval Europe → online text (page 22 of 25)