Joseph Priestley.

A general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) online

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. M 3 nong


none had they lefs efFe6l, except when the tem-
poral interePt of the fecular princes induced them
to favour their pretenfions.

The authority of the antient canons was in a
f great tneafure fet afide in this period by the col-
leftion o^ Roman decretals, begun by Innocent III,
who employed Petro Benevento his notary in the
work, and who finifhed it in a. d. 1210. This
was the firft colleftion of Jus Pontifickm made by
authority. Additions were afterwards made to it*
But Gregory XI ordered a new code to be made,
leaving out all the old regulations that were not to
his purpofe, and adding many others of his own.
In this work he employed Raimond de Pennaforte
a Dominican. This colle6lion Gregory ordered
to be alone made ufe of both in fchools and in courts
of juftice. Accordingly the profeflbrs of lav\^ taught
it, and wrote many commentaries upon it. Bo-
niface VIII made a new eolleftion in a. d. 1299,
but this was not much regarded in France. GiaU'-
none, Vol. 2. p. 49.

According to the now eflablifhed maxims of
the court of Rome, the popes were univerfal fo-
vereigns, in temporals as well as fpirituals. When
Honorius III was applied to in a. d. 1222 for
his permiffion to fufFer the Greeks to live in fub-
jeclion to their own bifhop, he would not allow
it; faying that " two billiops in one city was a

*' monller.


" monfter, and that the Greeks fhould fubmi't to
*' be governed by the Latins." By this means
the power of the pope would be paramount thro'
all the Chriftian world. Gregory IX, writing to
ihe queen of Georgia, infilled largely on the ne-
ceflity of acknowledging " one church under one
" head ;" faying that, " to Peter only was given
'' the care of his flock, and the keys of heaven, but
" that St. Peter and his fucceffors had called his
'-' brethren, the other bifhops, to partake with him
'•' in his cares ;" as if all other bifhops had derived
their power from the pope, whicii, indeed, was the
avowed opinion of fome divines of this age.

Alexander Hales, a celebrated divine, who
died in a. d. 1244, maintained in his writings that
fpiritual authority was fuperior to temporal in
dignity, antiquity, and the benediftion which was
bellowed upon it; that the fpiritual power infti-
tuted the temporal, and is thejudgeof it, and that
the pope can be judged by God only. He farther
advanced, that the powers of all inferior prelates
are derived from him, he being the head, and they
the members. Thomas Aquinas, who was un-
queflionably the greatell writer of the age, and
whofc authority was the highefl, maintained that
the pope can change whatever may be decreed in
:ounciis with refpetl to politive law, and accord-
mo; to occafions; that the fathers affembled in

M 3 council


council can do nothing without the pope, and that
without hiin they have not even a power of a{-
femb'iiig in council at all. Thefe maxims, Fleury
fays, were new, and tne lafl. of them taken from
the Ipurious decretals. Vol. 17. p. 560.

The popes were not backward to aft on fuch
maxims as thefe. Innocent III, when he called
the general council aL Lyons in a. d. 1245, in his
letters to the bifhops, only afked their advice, and
did not confider them as judges along with him.
When Otho, the pope's legate in England in a.
D. 1237, held a council in London, the bifhops
defired to examine the decrees that he laid he had
to pafs before he him felf attended, that they might
fee whether they contained any thing to their pre-
judice ; which fhews that thofe legates not only
brought draughts of decrees ready drawn up at
Rom3, but that it was not thought decent even
to difcufs them in their prefence.

The popes paid as little regard to their own de-
crees as to any others, when it was convenient for
them to have them reverfed. When John XXI,
being defirous to promote the crufade, fent his le-
gate to make peace between the kings of France and
Caftile, he dire6led him to employ, if necelfary,
excommunications and interdi£ls, notwithflanding
any privilege that particular perfons or places
tn'ght have not to be expofed to fuch cenfures;



which (hewed the infignificance of thofe privileges,
tho' granted by the popes, fince they violated them
at their own pleafure.

What was ordered by one pope, even in a
general council, was not always regarded by an-
other. At the great council in Lyons in a. d.
1274, regulations were made about the meeting of
the cardinals to chufe a pope, the objeft of which
was to prevent any cabals, and accelerate elections,
which had been much retarded before. But when
Honorius IV was made pope in a. d. 1285, he
obferved in his circular letter, that he had been
chofen without any uncertainty, the cardinals not
having been fhut up for the purpofe ; which he
faid had by a condemnable abufe been pra6liced
in vacancies of the church of Rome, fo that the
former conflitution was at that time much difiiked,
and difregarded.

In this period, as in the preceding, the popes
exercifed the right of confirming titles of royalty.
In A. D. 1204, Ii^nocent III gave the dignity of
king to Primiflas, duke of Bohemia, on his taking
the part of Othoagainft Philip of Suabia. Princes
themfelves were too ready to acknowledge this
power in the popes, without confidering that they
were liable to fuffer in confequence of it. Peter II
king of Arragon voluntarily went to Rome to re-
ceive his crown from the hands of Innocent III,

M 4 pro-


promifing that he and his kingdom would always
be f4ithful to him, and engaging to pay every year
two hundred and fifty pieces of gold. His people,
however, were much difpleafed v\'ith his making
their kingdom tributary, which before was free.

That the popes, having this immenfe power,
ihould not hitherto have made any ufe of it to ag-
grandize their over families is rather extraordinary,
confidering how common it came to be afterwards.
Nicolas III, who was made pope in a. d. 1277,
is faid to have been the firft who did this. In a
jfhort time he made his relations the richefl of all
the Romans, in lands, caflles, and money.

There is always a point beyond which op-
preffion will not be borne. In a. d. 1225 Honor
rius III made a demand of two prebends in all
cathedral and conventual churches, both in France
and England, on the pretence of removing the
com]>laints that were then made of the avarice and
exa£lions of the court of Rome; which he faid
were only occafioned by its poverty, which this
grant would remedy. It did not, however, fuc-
ceed in either of the countries.

The firfl and the Headieft oppofers of the ex-
orbitant demands cf the popes were fome of the
clergy in the diftant parts of chriflendom, where
the princes were more independent of them. In
this period two Englifh prelates diflinguifhcd them-



felves in this way, Sewald arcbbifhop of York,
and Robert Grodlied bifliop of Lincoln. Sewald
was excommunicated hy Alexander IV, becaufe
he would not admit Italians of his arbitrary nomi-
nation to livings in his gift; but, as the hifiorian
fays, the more maledi6lions were pronounced
again ft him from without, the more benedidions
he had from the people. On his death bed in a.
D. 1 258 he made a folemn appeal to Chrift, againft
the unjuft fentence of the pope, for not admitting
unworthy perfons, and who knew nothing of (he
Englifli language, to the government of churches
committed to his care, and he fummoned his holi-
nefs to that higher tribunal. He even wrote flrong
letters of remonRrance to the pope himfelf on the
fubje6l; but the haughty prelate only exprefTed
the greater contempt and indignation, as he did
for Grofthed.

This prelate, a perfon of the greatefl eminence
for literature and piety of the age in which he lived,
having received an order from the pope which he
did not approve, refufed to obey it ; becaufe it
contained the claufe non ohjlante, which, he faid,
would overturn all the bonds of human fociety,
^ven the decrees of his predeceiFors, and give
an example for violating his own. This, he faid,
kvas a manifeft abufe of the papal power ; that fuch
orders ought not to be obeyed, tho' they came

M 5 fiom


from the angels, but ought to be refifted by force.
Innocent IV was highly provoked at his condu6l,
but was advifed to pafs it over for fear of the con-
fequences it might have ; and the more, fays Mat-
thew Paris, " as a revolt will fome day come," as
if he had forefeen that the yoke of popery would
one day be thrown ofF.

When Grofthed was on his death bed in
A. D. 1250, difcourfing with fome of his clergy
of the deflru6lion of fouls by the avarice
of the court of Rome, he faid, " Jefus Chrift
" came to fave fouls, and therefore he that
*' deftroys them deferves the name of Antichrift.
"' Other popes," he faid, " had afflifted the church,
*' but this more than any of them, by means of the
*' ufurers he introduced into England, men," he
" faid, " worfe than Jtws. He orders the friars to
*' attend upon perfons in dying circumflances, to
*' perfuade them to make b».quells to the holy land,
*' and thereby defraud their natural heirs. He
" fells crofTes to laymen, as they formerly fold
"' fheep and oxen in the temple, and he propor-
" tions his indulgences according to the money
" which is given for the crufade." After enumerat-
ing many other abufes, he faid that, "in order to
*' fecure them he gives the kings a part of the revenues
"• he draws from their dominions, and that the men-
'' dicant friars ferved him as legates in difguife."



The incroachments of the court of Rome on
the Englilh in the reign of that weak prince Henry
III were greater than the people could bear ; al-
moft all the church livings being then given to
Italians, whofe only obje6l was to raife all the
money they could, fo that no care was taken of
the parifhes, there was no hofpitality, nothing given
to the poor, no care ot the ornaments of churches,
or even provifion for repairs. The popes, not
content with the tax of Peter pence, levied con-
tributions on the clergy without the king's confent,
and by the ufe of the claufe non objlante in their
bulls, fet afide all antient cuftoms, contra6ts, fta-
tutes, privileges, and rights, of every kind.

In this ftate of things letters were fent in a. d.
1231 by unknown perCons, to particular bifliops
and chapters, as from thofe who chofe to die rather
than be oppreffed by the Romans, advifing them
to take no part in favour of them, or they ihould
be treated in the fam.e manner themfelves, and
have their property deflroyed. Other letters were
fent to thofe who received the rents of thofe for-
eigners, forbidding to pay them on the fame
penalty. And about Chriftmas in this year a more
open confpiracy againft all i.he Italians broke out.
A number of men with their faces covered
plundered the granaries of a church belong-
ing to a rich Roman, and felling the greateft



part of the corn at a moderate price, gave the reft to
the poor. Some knights being fent by theearl roput
a flop to thefe proceedings, they produced letters,
as from the king, forbidding any perfons to mole ft
them, (o that in a fortnight thefe unknown perfons
fold every thing, and retired with the money.

Roger bifhop of London, hearing of this, ex-
communicated all who were concerned in the bufi-
liefs; but notwithflanding this, the fame violences
were renewed at Eafter, and were extended thro*
all England, while the Romifh clergy kept them-
felves concealed in monafteries, and durft not com-
plain, chufing to lofe their property rather than
their lives.

It appeared afterwards that the authors of thefe
violences were about eighty men, headed by Ro-
bert de Thinge. The pope hearing of them wrote
to the king to reproach him for not putting a flop
to the diforder, and ordering him, under pain of
excommunication and an interdi£l, to make dili-
gent inquiry into it, and punifh the authors of it,
Jn another letter to the archbiQiop of York, and
other bifhops, he complained of a medal of St,
Peter having been trampled upon, that one of his
officers had been torn in pieces, and another left
half dead. On this, inquiry being made, there
were found among the guilty perfons, or their ac-
f^omplices, even bifhops, the king's chaplains,


archdeacons, and deans, befides a great number of
knights and other laymen. Alfo the grand jufti-
ciaty Hubert appeared to have been the perfon
who had fent letters, as from the king, to forbid
any violence to be ofrered to thofe who plundered
the goods of the Italian clergy. Robert de Thinge
came forward with twenty' other perfons, and de-
clared to the king, that what he had done was out
of hatred to the Romans, who had by a manifell
fiaud deprived him of the only benefice that he
had, and that rather than lofe it, he ehofe to live
under excommunication for a time. The pope's
commifTaries advifmg him to go to Rome in order
to get abfolved, he went, and the king himfel£
gave him letters of recommendation.

Nothing efFo6tual being done for the relief of
the kingdom, but, on the other hand, the ex-
actions of the court of Rome continually increafing,
the king called a parliament m a. d. 1246, in
which the caufes of complaint were confidered,
and an account of them taken under diftin£l: heads,
and fcnt to the pope. After enumerating theiF
grievances, they faid that, unlefs they were re-
dreffed, the confequence would be a riling of the
people againft the king, whofe duty it was to pro-
ted them, even againfl the church of Rome. On
this remonftrance fome mitigation of the evils was
obtained ^ but this was owing to nothing but the



.irnpofTibiiity of continuing them. Slill the pope
claimed the eftates of thofe of the clergy who died
inteftate ; but the king had the fpirit to forbid the
payment, and alfo the levying of taxes on the cler-
gy for the benefit of the pope. At this his holi-
nefs was much enraged ; and hearing that the weak
king was giving way, he afterwards demanded one
third of the incomes of thofe who refided on their
livinLis, and one half of thofe who did not refide.
However, both the clergy and the king oppofed
this daring impofition.

Scotland took warning by the example of Eng-
land. Otho the pope's legate in the time of Henry
III would have proceeded to that country, but
Alexander then king of Scotland informed him,
that there never had been any legate in Scotland in
the time of his anceftors, and that he would not
fufFer it now ; and that if he infilled upon going
thither he would not be anfwerable for his fafety :
for that it was not in his power to reftrain his tur-
bulent fubjeds. On this the legate refrained from
proceeding any farther.

The fame legate met with the fame oppofition
in Germany. For when he propofed to hold a
council at Virfburgh in a. d. 1231, Albert duke
of Saxony wrote in the name of all the nobles to the
prelates, remonftrating againft the ufurpations of
the court of Rome, advifing them to preferve the



cuftoms of their anceftors, and to guard againfl the
incroachments of ftrangers, efpecially as they were
not only bifhops, but princes. This had fuch au
efFc6l that the legate did not hold his council.

Even the pious Lewis I X of France laid fome
reftraint on the papal exadlions by his ordonance
C2\\q<\ the Pragmatic fandionm a. d. 1268; when,
intending to make a fecond expedition to the holy
land, after providing for the freedom of ele6lions
to all church livings, both with refpeft to the pope
and the lay lords, and guarding againfl; limony,
he fays, " We will not that the pecuniary exa6li-
" ons, and heavy charges, which the court of Rome
" has impofed, or may impofe, upon the churchea
" of our kingdom, and by which it is miferably
*' imp-overifhed, be levied or colIe6led."

Thefe oppreffions were feverely felt by the
lower orders of people, notwithflanding their gene-
ral ignorance and fervility. In a. d. 1251 there
appeared a Hungarian of the name of Jacob, who
colleded a great number of the lower people, and
armed them, on the pretence of delivering the ho-
ly land without the alTiftance of the nobility. In
his progrefs he declaimed with great vehemence
againfl: the court of Rome and the clergy, and was
received with joy by the common people. The
queen of France at firft favoured them, thinkino-
tliey might be inllrumental in delivering her fon^



then a prifoner ; but at length committing great
diforders wherever they came, the country was
armed againfl: them ; in confequence of which their
chief was killed, and his followers, who had been
an hundred thoufand, were difperfed.

The behaviour of the Latins in the Ea(l was
far from recommending their rehgion. It was with
much difficuhy that the king of Armenia brought!
his people to fubmit to the fee of Rome after the
conqucft ot Conftantinople, tho' they had not long
before been reconciled to the Greek church. They
wanted the afliftanceof the Latins, and their union
continued no longer.

When the king of Hungary wrote in a. d. 123^
to Gregory IX, who had urged him to attack
Afon king of Bulgaria for joining the Greek em-
peror againft the Latins, he faid he would reduce
Bulgaria to depend upon himfelf with refpeft to
temporals, and on the pope in fpirituals, provided
he might have the difpofal of the church livings;
the principal reafon for which he faid was, that if
he entered the country accompanied by the pope's
le<Tate, all the people would think that he was a-
bout to reduce them to fubjedion to the fee of
Rome, of which they had fo great dread, that they
would die rather than fubmit to it. For, fays he,
they often reproach us, and other Chriflians, with
being flaves to the church of Rome,



When Gregory IX was endeavouring tolrrin'g^
all the Eaft into fubje6lion to the Roman Tee, the
Greek patriarch of Antioch, fapported by the*
patriarch of Conftantinople, excommur.icated.
the pope and all the church of Rome ; main-
taining that his church was fuperior to that of
Rome in antiquity and dignity. St. Peter, he
faid, firfl; eftabhfhed his fee at Antioch, and there
he was received with due refpefl: ; but when ha
went to Rome he fufFered every injury, and at
length a violent death ; that he therefore left the
power of binding and loofing to the Greeks, rather
than to the fee of Rome, which is conftantly de-
filedvvith fimony, and all forts of crimes.

The temporal power of the pope was always a
galling circumllance to the people of Rome, and
they made many attempts to emancipate themfelves
fi-om it. In a. d. 1234 Gregory IX was driven
from the city by the people, on the pretence that
they had the privilege of not being excommuni-
cated by any pope, or having their city laid under
an interdicl. To this he anfwered, that he was"
fuperior to ail the faithful, even kings and empe-
rors, and much more to thofe to whom he was the
proper paftor. They had alfo differences with him
of a civil nature, and defpifmg his fpiritual c.en-
fures, they cam.e to an open war with him ; but
a peace was made between them the year following.
Vol. IV. N Alex-


Alexander IV was alfo driven out of Rome by the
people, who difregarded his excommunication,
denying his right to pafs that fentence upon them.
He retired to Viterbo in May a. d. 1257, and did
not return till September the year following. This
pope durft not live in Rome all the lafl: four year&
of his life, and he died at Viterbo in a. d. 1261.

Such, however, was the advantage of wliich the
popes were pofTcfTed, that at length they got the
better of this, as well as all their other difficulties.
In A. D. 1278 Nicolas III made a conftitution, in
which he claimed the fole fovereignty of the city
of Rome from the grant of Conftantine ; ordering
that for the future, no emperor, king, prince, or
other lord, fhould have the government of Rome
under the title of fenator, captain, patrician, or
any other, and that thofe civil offices fhould only
be held one year. However the fpirit of the citi-
zens was not fubdued. For on the accefhon of
Martin IV in a. d. 1281 the people of Rome
chofe him for their civil governor, only for his
life, and, as they faid, not as pope, but on account
of his perfonal qualities; and the pope accepted it
on thofe terms.




Of the Tranfdclions of the Popes with the Emperor i
of Germany in this Period.

X HE tranfaQ ions of the popes with the
emperors of Germany makes no fmall part of the
ecclefiallical hiflory of this period, and we clearly
iperceive in the courfe of them an increafing con-
tempt of papal cenfures, and that nothing but the
flate of politics gave the popes any advantage in
thofe contefts.

After all the oppofition that the popes had
made to t;he pretehfions of Philip of Suabia, le-
gates being fent to him, and he writing a fubmif-
five letter, he was abfolved from the excommunica-
tion he had fo long lain under, and the peace of
the empire was on the point of being fettled, when
this prince was murdered in a. d. 1208. On his
death Otho was unanimoufly acknowledged em-
peror, and was crowned at Rome by Innocent III ;
but on his quarrelling widi the people of Rome,
and refufing to furrender to the pope the eftates
ot the countefs Matilda, he excommunicated him,
and proceeded fo far as to abfolve hi» fubje6ls from
their oath of allegiance to him. Oth^, hoivever,

N 2 mads


made light of the pope's proceedings againft him.
tho' by hisexprefs older the excommunication had
been repeated by ihe patriarch ot Aquileia and
Grada, the archbifhops of Ravenna, and Genoa,
and the fufFragans of the church of Milan, that fee
being then vacant. He continued his conquefla
in Apulia and Calabria againft Frederic, hoping
to drive him out of Sicily ; and the pope, alarmed
at his fuccefs, fcnt fix ambalTadors in order to make
peace with him, but the negotiation was without

In the mean time the affairs of Frederic affum-
ed a better afped ; and he going into Germany,
where he had many partifans, Otho went thifher
too in A. D. 1212; but being defeated by the
French in the battle of Bouvines, he was deferted
by every body, Frederic was univerfally re-
ceived as emperor, and the pope confirmed his
eleftion at the council of Lateran in a. n. 1215,
on his promifing to leave the kingdom of Sicily to
his fon, dependent on the holy fee. Otho died
May 19th, A. D. 1218.

Frederic II, whofe reign was a long one, was
at variance with feveral popes in fucceflion. With
lionorius III he had a difference about the ap-
pointment ot bifhops in Apulia, and other places,
and when the pope gave the fees to thofe whom
be thought proper, the emperor would not fuffer



them to take pofiefTion. The fame, at the fame
time, was the condudi of Ferdinand III king of

Gregory IX, having been offended with Fre-
deric on various accounts, proceeded at length fo
far as to excommunicate him in a. d. 1259, and
to abfolve his fubjeds from their oath of allegiance
to him, for notyieidmgto himtheifle ofSardmia,
which he pretended belonged to the holy fee. Both
the pope and the emperor publifhed their feveral
manifeflo's to the princes of Europe, in juftification
of their conduci. That of the emperor was very
large, and concludes with his faying, that he knew
of nothing that he had done to draw on him this
pcrfecution from the pope, but that he dechned
treating with him about the marriage of his niece
to his natural fon, king of fome part of Sardinia,
and deliring all the temporal princes to confider
themfelves as attacked thro' him. In anfwer to
the particular complaints of the pope, which was
a feparate writing, he mentioned his having with-
drawn from the Templars and Hofpitallers fome
eflates that had been given to them in Sicily, on
condition of their felling them again to other citi-
zens, left they fhould, in procefs of time, get pof-
felTion of all the lands in the kingdom ; which is
the firfl a£l o^ Mortmain, as they were afterwards

Online LibraryJoseph PriestleyA general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 30)