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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had given fo much in alms, or had defended the
church with their blood, like theirs.

At a council held at SaUzbourg in a. d. 1310,
twenty Templars prefented themfelves, and faid
that, underftanding that a council was to be held
for the condemnation of their order, they came to
declare their innocence of the crimes laid to their
charge, appealing to the pope and a future coun-
cil. At Paris the i ith of May this year fifty- nine
Templars were burned alive, without any of them
acknowledging the crimes of which they were ae-.
cufed, which flruck the people much. A month
after this nine were condemned, and burned, at


sec.vl the christian church.


Senlis ; but ai the flake they declared that what
they had confeffed before was not true, and that
it was extorted from them by the dread of torture.
On the 14th of May fome Templars, who had en-
gaged to defend their order before the commilTaries
of the pope at Paris, maintained that every thing
that had been laid to their charge was falfe, and
that thofe who had made the confeffions were either
gained by promifes, or did it for fear of torture and
death. The Templars in the kingdom of Arragoii
flood upon their defence by arms, but the king's
troops overpov/ered them, and took them prifon-

When the council met at Vienne in a. d. 1311,
tho' the principal obje6; of it was the fuppreihon
of Templars, they were not heard in their own
defence, and the rcmonflrance of perfons
againfl fo unjufl. a proceeding was not regarded.
Nor was the order condemned or fupprefled by a
public decree of the council, but only by the pope
himfelf, in a private confiflory, and then not in the
form of an abfolute definitive fentence, but pro-
vifionaUy ; and in the fecond felTion of the council
he publilhed their fupprciTion, referving Jor his
own difpofal, and that of the church, their perfons
and pofTeffions. Thus, however, was this cele-
brated order fupprefled, after it had fubfifted one
hundred and eighty-four years. Their pcfTeflions
•Vol. IV. E e were


were given to the knights Hofpitallers, except
thofe in Spain, which were referved for the difpofal
of the pope, and afterwards appHed to maintain
the wars again ft the Moors.

At a conclufion of this myfterious bufinefs, in
A. D. 1313, the grandmafter of the order, and the
commander of Normandy being fentenced to fufFer
death, folemnly retraced their confeflions, and de-
clared themfelves and their order innocent of the
things that had been laid to their charge. They
fufFered with great firmnefs, perlifting to the laft
in alTerting their innocence, to the great aftonilh-
ment of all who wtre prefent.

If we confider the circumftances of this accufa-
tion of the Templars, it cannot but appear in the
higheft degree improbable. That there were un-
believers, and profligate perfons, among the Tem-
plars, as well as among the clergy, or monks, is
very proboble ; but that they fhould make the re-
jection of Chriftianity a term of admifiTion into their
order; is altogether incredible ; becaufe it could
only have expofed them to the indignation of all
the Chriftian world, and confequently the lofs of
all their emoluments. For a proceeding of this
nature could not have been a fecret. If the charge
had been true, an unbeliever could have had no
motive for voluntarily confefling it ; and therefore
nothing but hope, or fear can be fuppofed to have



extorted it from them. Whatever, thereforCj might
be the guilt of the order, or of the individuals that
compofed it, it cannot be faid to have been fuffi-
ciently proved, and confequently their condemna-
tion muft be pronounced to have been unjuft.

in A. D. 1318 John XXII confirmed the mi-
litary criiifr of Chriji in Portugal, giving them the
eftates of the Templars in that kingdom, and in Al-
garva. They were to follow the rule of the Ciller-
cians, according to the conftitution of the knights
of Calatrava.

Had impartial juftice been done, it is probable
that the fate of the Teutonic knights would have
been the fame with that of the Templars, and with
more appearance of reafon. For they were flill
lefs of a religious order, being continually occupied
in fighting, and acquiring territory for themfelves,
and for this purpofe engaging in wars, even with
Chriftian princes. The king of Poland having
made heavy complaints to the pope of their con-
du(a in A. D. 1339, nuncios were fent to inquire
into the grounds of them ; when it appeared that
they had entered that kingdom with an army, where
they had made great havock ; having burned nine
churches, after plundering them of every thing of
value. They had alfo feized Pomerania, and
other ftates, to which they had no right. On thefc

E e 2 ac-fr


accounts they were excommunicated, and their ab-
folution referved for the pope himfelf.

Their differences with the kings of Poland did
not end here. Being again in a flate of open war,
they were, in a. d. 1410, defeated in a great battle,
in which their grandmafter, many generals, com-
manders, and others of their nobihty, and not lefs
than fifty or fixty thoufand common foldiers, were
flain. The year after the king of Poland made
peace with them, allowing them their conquefls
in Pruflia.

Laflly, thefe Teutonic knights having a6led ty-
rannically in Samogitia, which had been converted
to Chriflianity by Ladiflas Jagellon, the inha-
bitants complained of them to the council of Con-
fiance in a. D. 1415; when it was decreed that the
people of Samogitia fhould depend upon the em-
peror in civil matters, and on their bifhops in fpi-
rituals, and the knights were ordered not to inter*
fere in their affairs.




Of the Fratricdli, or Spiritual Francifcans,

Jl\. spirit of inquiry and free dif-
cuflion once excited, and efpecially when fupport-
ed by a principle of confcience, is not ealily quelled
by authority. This the popes found with refpe6t
to the more rigid Francifcans, who thought them-
felves bound by the letter of their inftitute to re-
nounce all property in every thing ; and who, in
fupport of it, maintained that Chrift and the apofl-
les had none. Several of the popes patronifing the
contrary doftrine, an open fchifm, tho' of no very
alarming nature, was by this means produced in
the church; and other perfons, whofe principles
went farther than thofe of thefe Francifcans, avail-'
ing themfelves of the circumftance, declaimed in
the moll open manner againft the corruptions of
the church of Rome, fo as to be entitled to be
claffed with reformers, tho' they did not join them- «
felves to the Waldenfes, Albigenfes, or thofe of
any other particular denomination. Againft thofe,
■ as well as againft the rigid Francifcans, the popes
found it neceflfary to proceed with the greatefl fe-
verity ; and on theii fide they bore cruel pcrfecu-

E e 3 tion.


tion, even unto death, with the greateft conftan-
cy. In the preceding period feveral of the popes
had taken the part of the more rigid Francifcans,
but the tendency of their principles being now
more clearly feen, all the popes were hollile to

In the pontificate of Boniface VIII fome per-
fons, who at leaft called ihemfelves Fratricelli, or
Beguines (apoflates, it is faid, from various reli-
gious orders) pretendmg to have the power of giv-
ing the Holy Spirit by the impofition of their
hands and to abfolve finners, * and openly re-
nouncing the church of Rome, the pope gave the
moft rigorous orders to the inquifitors to proceed
againft them, and in a. d. 1397 he gave a fpecial
commiflTion to Matthew Chrifti, a Francifcan monk,
to dilcover and punifti them in Abruzzo, the
March of Ancona, and the neighbouring pro-

Thefe Fratricelli generally called themfelves
the third order jf Irandfcans, or brothers ofre^
pentance ; and by ihe common people they were
often called Beghards or Beguins. They were


» It is proper to mention the extravagances, as well
as the vices, that the Catholic writers lay to the charge
of their opponents; but when, as in this cafe, there is
no other evidence to be procured, they muft be heard
■\Anth caution.


much attached to the memory of John de Ollvaj
faying that he was the greateft doftor after the
apoftles, and calling him St. Peter not canonized.
Being now a feparate fed;, they were condemned
at the council of Vienne in a. d. 1312, on which
occafion they were charged with holding that in
this life a man may attain to fuch a flate of per-
fedion, as to be impeccable ; that in this ftate there
is no occafion to pray, and that any indulgence
may be granted to the body ; fince, where the fpi^
rit IS, there is liberty ; and that it is an imperfeft-
ion to defcend from this height of contemplation
to think of the eucharifl. At this council bifliops
and inquilitors were ordered to fcek out and punilh
thefe heretics. Pope Clement endeavoured to
unite the different parties of Francifcans, but thofc
who called themfelves jpiritual, tho' profeffing
themfelves Catholics, paid no regard to the decree
that was made for that purpofe. They kept them-
felves feparate ; and being favoured by the people,
they expelled the others from Narbonne and Be-

Of all the popes, John XXII had the mofl
trouble with the Fratricelli. Being much of a
theologian, he entered into controverfy with them;
but at the fame time he did not negle61: the ufe of
authority. But neither his reafoning, nor the force
that he employed was able to break the fpirit of

E e 4 thefe


thefe enthufiafls. Many of tbem being patronized
hy Lewis of Bavaria, who was at variance with the
pope, fst him at defiance. They were alfo favour-
ed not only by the common people in many places,
but by other perfons of confequence, efpecially in
Sicily and Naples.

In A. D. 1317 John wrote to the king of Sici-
ly, defiring him to afhfl the fuperior of the regu-
lar Francifcans in bringin^r back thofe who called
themUlvQS fpi7-itual, and had taken refuge in Sici-
ly, charging them with holding many errors. He
gave the fame orders with refped to thofe who were
flill in Provence; but they refufed to obey, ap-
pealing to the pope better informed. Upon this
he cited before him forty- fix from Narbonne, and
feventeen from Beziers, and in all more than fixty.
But when he commanded them to go to the con-
vent of their order in the city, and conform to the
rules of it, with refpe6l todrefs, and other articles,
concerning which he had publifhed a conditution,
they retufed, and were fent to prifon. At length,
however, all of them, except twenty-five, complied
with the pope's requifition. But even thefe main-
tained that the pope had no power to difpenfe with
the rules of their founder, which they had fu'orn
to obey. Thefe Francifcans the pope charged with
dslpifmg the facraments of the church, and hold-
ing many other errors. In the fame year he forbad



the continuance of this order of Francifcans, under
pain of excommunication.

By this time thefe fpiritual Francifcans bad
formed themfelves into a regular body, arid avowed
dodlrines pecuh'ar to themfelves, and fuch as great-
ly recommended them to the more ferious of the
common people. They faid there v^'-ere two church-
es, one carnal, loaded with riches, plunged in de-
lights, and blackened with crimes, in wh'cli the
popes and the cardinals prefided ; the other fpiri-
tual, adorned with virtue, frugal and poor, v/hich
confifled of themfelves, and their followers. They
were alfo charged v.'ith maintaining that all eccle-
fiadical pov/er belonged to them, that fvvearing
was in all cafes unlawful, and that the world was
near its end. Thefe opinions were, at leail, form-
ally condemned by the pope, as held by thern.
At the fame time he ordered them to be aoore-
-Jiended, and puniflied as they deferved, efpecially
Henry de Ceva, who was their fuperior. On the
other hand, they denied the pope's power to make
the regulations prefcribed in his bull. F;ur of
them being examined upon the fubje6l, and per-
fifting in their opinions, were burned alive, and
were honoured as martyrs by thofe of their fe6l.

The great favourer of the fpiritual Francifcans
had been pope Nicolas III, who publifiied acon-
ftitution, according to which even the property of

E e 5 things


things confumed by thefe mendicants was declared
to belong to the pope and the church. This con-
flitution John revoked, as ufelefs to the friars, and
difgracelul to the church, exprefsly renouncing
that kind of property, except that of their build-
ings and other things of the fame "permanent na-
ture. Bonnegrace of Bergamo, who was then at
the court of Avignon on the part of thefe mendi-
cants, appealing from this conftitution as invalid,
the pope caufed him to be put in prifon, and there
he continued a whole year. In a. d. 1322 one
Walter, a Hollander, a leading man among thefe
Francifcans, and who difperfed little books in
Germany, was burned at Cologne.

The year after this the pope, after long and
mature confideration, and after confulting the ab-
lefl theologians in the univerfity of Paris, pub-
liihed a conftitution, in which he declared it to
be heretical to maintain that Jefas Chrift and his
apoftles had no property, either private or in com-
mon, or that they had no right to ufe the things
which the fcriptures fay they had, or to fell, or
aive, or acquire, other things. But Michael de
Ceuna, the general of the regular Francifcans,
fupported by the bull oi pope Nicolas, ventured
to maintain the contrary doSrine. Alfo the fa-
mous William Occam declared againfl the opi-
liion of the pope, preaching even publicly, that



his opinion was a herefy ; and for this he was cited
to appear before him.

It has beenobferved that the rigid Franclfcans
were very fond of the writings of John de OUva,
in which he announced a kind of fecond coming of
Chrift, or of the fpirit of truth about the t!me of
St. Francis, whofe rule was condemned by the
carnal church. This notion had its rife, as was
obferved, from abbe Joachim, and carried farther
by John of Parma, in his IntroduBion to the ever-
lajling go/pel mtntioned hehre, and was held by
many for a century afterwards. Availing them-
felves of this, they maintained that St. Francis was
fent of God to raife the church funk in ruins, that
evangelical perfedion was only to be found in their
rule, that the church of Rome was Babylon the
Great in the Revelation, the mother of harlots, and
the pope myPdcal y\ntichrift, who was to raife a
violent perfecution againll evangelical poverty and
perfeftion ; but that the carnal church would fooa
be deftroyed by the church fpiritual, and the rei'^n
of the Holy Spirit.

Such being the do6lrines which thefe fpiritual
Francifcans drew from the writings of John de Oii-
va, pope John in a. d. 1326, condemned thefe
writings. And as, among the other predtdions
current among them, one was that the Saracens
s^nd other infidels, were to be converted by them,



tho' many would fafFer martyrdom in accomplifh-
ing it, that they were alfo to recover the fchifma-
tical Greeks, and to convert the Jews (at;d with
thefe views many of them went into foreign coun-
tries, where they pubHflicd do6lrines contrary to
thofc of the cliurchof Rome) the pope forbad any
miflionaries to be fcnt into foreign countries except
men of letters and prudence, and ordered that
thofe who ftjould go without leave fhoald be pur-
lued as apoflatcs.

Among the difciples of John de Oliva was
Uberlin de Cafal, who flying from the court of
Rome, and being ordered to be apprehended, took
rcru'^e with Leivis of Bavaria, and ioined Marfi-
lius of Padua in writing againfl; the pope. The
principal obje£l of their writings %as to advance
the power of the emperor, and to combat the opi-
nions then prevailing in the fchcols concernmg
the power of the pope.

The whole of the oppofi ion to the pope from
the Francifcans was not confined to the irregular
and fchifmatical among them. Micl)acl de Cefe-
na, the genera! of the regular Francifcans, being
fummonc-d to appear before the pope at Avignon,
maintained to his face the doctrines which he had
condemned ; and while a procefs was commenced
againO: him on that account, he fled to the empe-
ror Lewis ; and when the pope pronounced againfl



him a fentence of dcpofitlon, and appointed an-
other general of the order, he appealed to a future
counciL He was, hov/ever, dcpofed by his own
order at their next chapter in Paris in a. d. 1329 ;
when they came to a final decifion of the queftion
concerning the poverty of Chrifl;, and reconciled
as well as they could the different decrees of the
popes on that fubje6i.

In another conflitution, publifiied this year,
the pope argued at large in defence of his opinions,
in which he maintained that, when Chrift faid
that his kingdom was not of this world, he meant
that it did not come from the powers of this world,
but from God. Michael de Cefena anfivered this,
and faid that it was herefy to maintain that Jefus
Chrift had any property in temporal things, at the
fame time that he direfted his difciples to dived
themfclves of them. Being at Munich in a. d.
1330, under the protedion of the emperor Lewis,
headdreffed a letter to the Francifcans in his own
vindication, appealing to a future council, and
enumerating the heretical errors of the pope, of
which he made twelve articles, all relating to the
poverty of Chrift and the apoftles. But at the next
chapter of the order Michael and his adherents
were cenfured as heretics and fchifmatics, and fen-
tenced to perpetual imprifonment ; and the new-
general anfwered his letter,



Notwithftanding thefe vigorous proceedings of
the pope and the regular Francifcans, thofe who
called themselves fpiritual continued to be in great
numbers in feveral places, and a6led with, great
fpirit. In the fouth of France they held regular
affemblies, whofe fuperiors, lived in common, and
beoged publicly. In Italy there was another fe6l
of the fame kind, who h..d a chief called Angelo,
ot the valley of Spoleto, an illiterate perfon.
Thefe alfo held their alTemblies, publilhed divers
indulgences, and heard confeffions, tho' they were
laymen. In a. b. 1332 the pope gave orders to
the clergy to profecute them in both thefe places.
Michael de Ccfena had partifans at Prague, and
thefe the pope ordered to be apprehended, and
fent to him at his own expence. The queen of
Naples, the wife of king Robert, favoured thefe
rebellious Francifcans, and the pope made loud
complaints of it in his letters to the king.

In the beginning of the year a. d. 1333 Michael
de Cefena, confidering himfelf as the proper gene-
ral of the Francifcans, addrelTed another letter td
the order, repeating what he had written before, and
in contempt of the pope, he called him jfehn of
Cahors ; faying that a pope who decides contrary
to the Catholic faith bv the very fa6l incurs the pu-
nifhment of excommunication, and the depriva-
tion of his dignity. This letter, which was written



at Munich, he diredecl to be read frenuently in
their convents, and to be made as pullic a^ pof-

In this bafinefs of the Fiatricelli, as in almofl;
every other in which the popes were concerned,
they, by their perfeverance, and the favour of cir-
cumftances, fucceedcd. In a. d. 1349 many of
the fpiritual Francifcans being carried off by the
plague, mod of the reft made their (ubmifTion,
and among them was William Occam, the moft
diftinguiihed of them, and joined the regular Fran-
cifcans. Some, however, continued to a later pe-
riod, tho' they did not appear fo openly ; but
when queftioned they did not hefitate to maintain
that John had no power to revoke theconftitutions
of preceding popes in their favour, or to fupprefs
their order on any account. Two of them being
apprehended in a. d. 1354 at Montpcllier, and ^
on being interrogated aiferting thefe and other
things againft the authority of the pope, and main-
taining that thofe of their brethren who had fufFer-
cd death were martyrs, were themfelvcs burned.
One of them, John de Chatillon, publifhed a de-
claration before he died, that John XXII was a
heretic, and an enemy of the church, on account
of his conftitution againft them, and that his fuc-
ccflbrs, who cfpcufed the fame herefy, were he-

448 THE Ills TORY OF Per. XX.

retics, and in a ftate of excommunication with re-
fpeft to 'all other prelates who defended the Ca-
fholic faith.


Mifcdlancous Articles relating to the Monki and
the Mendicants,

.N this period, as tvell as in the prece-
rjiiig, we meet with great complaints of the difor-
qerlv fl.ate of monalleries, and from a variety of
caufes. At the council of Vienne in a. d. 131 i
ccmp'aint was made that, in confequence oftha
cardir.als having conventual priories and ahbeys
given to them, tho' they were not monks, there
.>ras .1 total negle6l of their rules, the monks hav-
ing no fuperior to inllruft, corredl, or govern them.
Jiofpitality alfo was omitted, the goods ot the
-?bbeys were diffipated, their rights loft, and
tue buildings became ruinous, to the great fcandal
of the people.

Two of the conflltutions of Benedi£l XII
fliew how exceedingly relaxed were all the monaftic
orders in his time. The fpiritofthem was fo much
forgotten, that no mention is made of mental pray-


er, or bodily labour ; and yet Fleury fays that
thefe confi-itutions contributed to the farther re*
laxation of them. The great plague that rav^aged
all Europe in a. d. 1348 was the caufe of much
relaxation in the difcipline of monafteries, many of
the monks being c< rried off by it, and the reft neg-
lecting their rules, fo that thedifcipHnc could not
be reftored afterwards. This circum fiance affeded
the mendicants as well as the monks. In a. d.
1370 the monaftery of Mount Cafiin was much
declined, both in fpirituals and temporals ; being
chiefly occupied by vagabond and infolent monks,
who lived a life almoft fecular ; and their build-
ings were aimofl: ruined by an earthquake. But it
was reftored by Urban V.

At the bare propofal to reform the Benediftine
monaftery of Clufen in the diocefe of Hildeftieim,
at the council of Conftance in a. d. 1407, all the
monks abandoned it, and left John of the abbey
of Rheinhaufen in the diocefe ct Mayence, who
had undertaken td reforni it, tohimfelf. He was
not, however, difcouraged, but alTembied other
Jnonks of a better difpofition in another place,
called St. Thomas de Bursfield, in the diocefe of
Mayence, and from this monaftery the reforma-
tion extended gradually thro' all Germany. Tvv'o
centuries after this abbey of Bursfield ferved as a
Vol. IV. F f model


model to two other famous abbeys, viz. St. Vali-
nes in Lorraine, and St Maurin France.

It appears, however, from the Life oj Petrarch
that all monafteries were not in this diforderly
ftate. Gerard the brother of Petrarch retired to
one of the order of Carthufians at Montrieu in the
fouth of France from a principle of devotion ; and
both he and the reft of that fraternity feem to have
led the moft exemplary lives. When the monks
were difperfed in the great plague in a. d. 1348,
and the prior urged him to fly for his life, as he
himfelfdid, Gerard refolutely continued in the
place, till he had buried all the thirty- four who
flayed with him. He then remained alone with a
dog to guard the houfe and the property belonging
to it. After this he got leave to chufe another
prior, and to get other monks, and re-eftablilhed
the monaftery. Some time after this Petrarch paid
him a vifit, and was much edified with the piety
of thofe monks, and greatly afFeQed with the ac-
counts they gave him of what they fufiFered from
the depredations of the neighbouring lords and
others, and for their ufe he wrote his books on the
rdigious life. Petrarch himfelf was truly pious,
and for the times in which he lived rationally fo.
as his writings and letters evince; and when he
was at Milan he chofe his habitation near a mo-

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