William Shepherd.

The life of Poggio Bracciolini online

. (page 4 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 4 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

acts of the council of Pisa, withdrew to Rimini, where he
was honourably entertained by Carlo Malatesta.* Benedict
was not more obedient to the decree which announced his
deposition. After holding a council at Perpignan, he defied

Gregory was accompanied to Rimini by Leonardo Aretino, who sent to
Niccolo Niccoli an interesting and elegant account of the remains of antiquity
which then existed in that city. Towards the close of his letter on this subject,
Leonardo dilates with great eloquence upon the praises of Carlo Malatesta.
After enlarging upon his merits ag a soldier and a statesman, he thus proceeds.-
" So liberal has nature been in her gifts to him, that he seems to possess an uni-
" versa! genius. He reads with the utmost grace he writes verses he dictate*
" the most elegant prose, and his hand-writing is no neat, that it is superior to
' that of professed scribes. I should not have mentioned this fact, had I not
" found the same circumstance recorded with respect to Augustus, and Titus
" son of Vespasian."

Leonardi Aretini Ep. I. iii. //>. ix.

38 CHAP. i.

liis foes, and thundered his anathemas from the walls of the
strong Spanish fortress of Paniscola.*

The well known virtues of Alexander V. had inspired
the friends of the church with sanguine expectations of wit-
nessing the speedy revival of the power and dignity of the
holy see. But these flattering hopes were at once dissipated
by his death, which took place in the eighth month of his
pontificate.^ It was strongly suspected that his days were
shortened by poison, administered to him by Baldassare
Cossa, cardinal of St. Eustachio, who succeeded him in his
pontifical honours.!

* Plalina ut supra.
f Platirut, p. 389.

A manuscript, containing an account of the lives of several of the pontiffs,
which is printed by Muratori, in his magnificent collection of the writers of
Italian history, contains the following encomium on Alexander V.

" This pontiff, who truly deserved the name of Alexander, would have sur-
" passed in liberality all his predecessors, to the extent of a distant period, had
" he not been embarrassed by the insufficiency of his revenues. But so great
" was his poverty, after his accession to the papal chair, that he was accustomed
" to say, that when he was a bishop he was rich, when he became a cardinal he
" was poor, and when he was elected pontiff he was a beggar."

A little while before his death he summoned the cardinals, who were then
attendant on his court, to his bed-side, and after earnestly exhorting them to
adopt such measures after his decease as were likely to secure the tranquillity of
the church, he took leave of them, by repeating the words of our Saviour,
" Peace I give you, my peace I leave unto you."

In a manuscript volume, which formerly belonged to the house of Este,
there occurs the following epitaph on this pontiff, the two concluding lines of
which are so uncouth and obscure, that we may reasonably suspect some error
on the part of the transcriber.

CHAP. I. 39

At an early period of his life, Baldassare seems to have
aspired to the highest ecclesiastical dignity. When he had
finished his studies at Bologna, he determined to repair to
Home. Being asked by some of his friends who saw him
making preparations for his journey, whither he was going,
he replied, " to the pontificate." Soon after his arrival in
the capital of the church, he was advanced by Boniface IX.
to the confidential office of private chamberlain ; and in the
course of a little time he obtained, from the favour of the
same patron, the dignity of cardinal of St. Eustachio, and
was sent, invested with the office of legate, on an important
mission to Bologna. In the exercise of this office, he greatly
contributed, by the exertion of considerable political and
military talents, to the establishment and extension of the
authority of the holy see. It is said, that the power and the
money with which this situation supplied him, were the
principal instruments of his exaltation to the chair of St.
Peter. [A. D. 1410.] However that may be, he was unani-
mously elected to the sovereign pontificate, on the 19th of
May, 1410, and assumed the name of John XXII.*

About this time Leonardo Aretino was, by the con-
current voice of the people, elected to the chancellorship of

Divus Alexander, Cretensi oriundus ab ora
Clauditur hoc saxo, summo venerandua honore.
Antea Petrus erat, sed celsd sede potitus
Quintus Alexander fit, ceu sol orbe coruscans,
Relligione minor, post ad sublime vocatus.
Muratori Hcrum Italicarum Scriptores, torn. vi. p. 84'2.
* Platina, torn. i. p. 389, 390.

40 CHAP. T.

the city of Florence. He did not, however, long retain
this office, which he found to be attended with more labour
than profit. In the latter end of the ensuing year, 1411,
he abdicated his municipal honours, and entered into the
service of John XXII. The return of his friend to the
pontifical chancery was highly gratifying to Poggio, who
during the late storms had retained his situation, and regu-
lating his conduct by the decrees of the council of Pisa, had
acted as apostolic scribe to Alexander V., and was now, in
the same capacity, a member of the household of that pon-
tiffs successor.

Shortly after the resumption of his functions in the
Roman court, Leonardo took a journey to Arezzo, where
he married a young lady of considerable distinction in that
city. The event was of course very interesting to the
colleagues and friends of the bridegroom ; and Poggio wrote
to him on the occasion, informing him of the witticisms to
which his present predicament had given rise, and inquiring
what opinion his short experience had led him to form of the
comforts of the conjugal state. Leonardo replied to Poggio's
letter without delay. By the tenor of his answer, he seems to
have found nothing unpleasant in matrimony, except its
costliness. " It is incredible, 1 ' says he, " with what expense
" these new fashions are attended. In making provision
" for my wedding entertainment, I emptied the market, and
" exhausted the shops of the perfumers, oilmen, and poul-
" terers. This however is comparatively a trivial matter ;
" but of the intolerable expense of female dress and orna-

CHAP. I. 41

" ments, there is no end. In short," says he, " I have in
" one night consummated my marriage, and consumed my
" patrimony."*

* Mehi Vita Leonardi Aretini, p. xxxix. xl. Leonardi Aretini Epistolte,
lib. Hi. ep. xvii. Leonardo Arctino was esteemed by his contemporaries too
attentive to the minutue of o-conomy. From the perusal of the following letter
from Ermolao Barbaro to Pietro Cara, however, it should seem, that in the
fifteenth century, complaints of the cxpensivcuess of matrimony were by no
means destitute of foundation.

" Duxit uxorem, clarus bello et pace vir Trivulcius, Neapolitanam, praenobili
" familia. Invitatus sum ad convivium, immo ad poutificiaui, et adipalem
" cacnam. At ego ad epulas primas satur, spectator potius quam conviva fui.
" Credo gratum fore vel tibi, vel posteris, si fercula quam brevissime descripsero,
" non ut Macrobius apud nostros, nee ut apud Graecos Athenaeus justis volum-
' inihus, sed ut occupatus homo, et ad epi stoke mensuram. Primum aqua
" manibus data, non ut apud nos, stantibus, sed accumbentibus, utique rosacea.
" Turn illati pugillares ex nucleis pineis, et saccaro pastilli. Item placentae nucleis
" amygdalis, et saccaro confectse, quos vulgo martios paneis vocamus. Secundum
" fertum altiles asparagi. Tertium pulpulffi, ita enim popinoe appellant et
" jecuscula. Quartum caro dorcadis tosta. Quintum capitula junicum vitulo-
' rutnve una cum pellibus elixa. Sextum capi, gallinarum, columborumque
' pulli, bubuleis comitati linguie, et petasonibus, ac sumino omnibus clixis addito
" Lymonyacae pultario; sic enim Cupediarii Mediolanenses vocant, quam nostri
' scrmiacam. Septimum hedus integer tostus, in singulas singuli capidas, cum
' jure quod ex amaria Cerasis sire ut quidam malunt appellate laurocerasis,
" coudimenti vice fungitur. Octavum turtures, perdices, phasiani, coturnices,
" turdi, ficedulae, et omnino plurimi generis avitia, molliter et studiose tosta.
" Colymbades olivse condiment! loco apposite. Nonum gallus gallinaceus sac-
" caro iucoctus, et aspergine rosacea madefactus, singulis convivis, singuli patinis
" argenteis, ut et csetera quoque vascula. Decimum porcellus integer tostus, in
" singula singuli crateria jusculento quodam liquore perfusi. Undecimum pavi
11 tosti, pro condimcnto leucopheon jus, immo fcrugineum e jocinoribus pistis,
" et aromate pretiosi generis, ad portionem et Symmetriam additum ; hyspani
appellant- Duodecimum tostus orbis ex ovo, lacte, salvia, polline
" saccareo, Salviatum vocamus. Tertium decimum Struthea cotonca ex saccaro.
" Quariuui decimum, Carduus, pinea, Icolymon sive Cynaram potius appellare


CHAP. 1.

Whilst Poggio and his associates were making them-
selves merry at the expense of the new married man, the
superior officers of the pontifical court were engaged in very
serious deliberations. Sigismund, who had been elected to
the imperial throne, July 21st, 1411, being earnestly desi-
rous of the extinction of the schism, demanded of John the
convocation of a general council ; which the cardinals who
had assembled at Pisa in the year 1409, had declared to be
the only measure which could restore to Christendom the
blessings of peace. But the pontiff inherited the prejudices
of his predecessors, against those dangerous assemblies
which were so apt to trench upon the prerogatives of the
head of the church. He would gladly have evaded comply-
ing with the requisition of Sigismund, and with this view
proposed that the intended council should be summoned to
meet at Rome. But danger awaited him in his own cap-
ital. Ladislaus, king of Naples, whom he had endeavoured
to secure in his interest, invaded the territory of the church,
made himself master of Rome, and compelled the pontiff
successively to seek refuge in Florence, in Bologna, and in
Mantua. From this latter city, John went to Lodi, where

" convenit. Quintum decimum a lotis manibus, bellaria et tragemata omnis
' generis saccarea. Inducti mox histriones, pantomimi, petauristse, aretalogi,
" funambuli, choraulse, citharsedi. Singulis porro ferculis prasibant faces, atque
" tubse ; sub facibus inclusa caveis altilia, quadrupedes, aviculae, omnia viventia
" generis ejus videlicet, cujus ea quse magistri et structores coctamensis iuferebant ;
" mensae per atrium ubacis singular singulis dispositae, sed et privi privis ruinistri.
" Ante omnia silentium quale ne pythagorici quidem servare potuissent. Vale
" Mediolani, Idibus Maiis, 1488."

Politiani Epistolce, lib. xii.

CHAP. I. 43

lie was met by Sigismund, who, accompanied by a numerous
retinue, attended him on his return to Mantua. Thus
finding himself in the power of the emperor, and flattered
by the magnificent promises of that potentate, who pro-
fessed his readiness to assist him in expelling the enemies of
the church from the patrimony of St. Peter, John was
persuaded to take the desperate step of summoning a gene-
ral council, and to appoint the city of Constance as the place
of its meeting.*

* Plalina, lorn i. p. 390, 391.


JOHN XX I L opens the council of Constance John
Huss arrives at that city His imprisonment
Disagreeable proposals made to John XXII He
escapes from Constance His deposition Death of
Manuel Crysoloras Poggio's epitaph on Crysoloras
Trial and execution of John Huss The pontifical
household dispersed Poggio remains at Constance
His Hebrew studies His visits to the baths of Baden
His description of those baths Jerome of Prague
Poggufs account of Jerome's trial and execution


_!_ HE reluctance which John XXII. felt at the proposal
of his authorizing the meeting of a general council, was
increased by the importunity of his relations and dependants,
who prophetically warned him to take care, lest, though he
went to such an assembly as a pope, he should return as a
private man.* The death of his enemy Ladislaus, who was
cut off by a violent distemper as he was on his march to
besiege the pontiff in Bologna, seemed also to relieve him
from the necessity of submitting to the requisitions of
Sigismund. But the Christian world was weary of the
schism which had for so long a period tarnished the lustre
of the church. The zeal of Sigismund had accelerated
every necessary preparation for the assembling of the coun-
cil. Sanguine expectations had been awakened throughout
Europe, of the blessed consequences which were likely to
result from the labours of an assemblage of the most dig-
nified and learned members of the Catholic community.
The intrepidity of John shrunk from the idea of encounter-
ing the obloquy which would be poured upon his character,

* Platina, vol. i. p. 391.

48 CHAP. II.

should lie, by refusing to fulfil the engagements into which
he had entered with Sigismund, disappoint the reasonable
hopes of the friends of union and of peace. Poggio has
recorded it to the praise of Zabarella, cardinal of Florence,*
who seems to have enjoyed much of the pontiff's favour and
confidence, that he faithfully impressed these considerations
upon the hesitating mind of the father of the faithful.-f-
Impelled by that prelate's arguments and intreaties, John
took the decisive step and set out for Constance, in which
city he arrived on the 28th of October, 1414. He was
accompanied on his journey by the greater part of his court,
and among the rest by Poggio, whom he had promoted,
from the office of apostolic scribe to the still more confiden-
tial employment of secretary. J In the course of a few weeks
after his arrival, Poggio had the pleasure of welcoming his
friend Leonardo, who after a dreary journey over the Alps,
of which he has left an interesting description in a letter to
Niccolo Niccoli, embarked on the lake of Constance, and
landed at that city towards the latter end of December.

Three principal objects demanded the utmost exertion
of the wisdom of the council the termination of the schism
the reformation of the church and the extirpation of
heresy. The pontiff earnestly wished to confine the atten-

* The correct title of Zabarella, was that of cardinal of St. Cosmo and St.
Damien ; but he is now generally known by the designation of cardinal of Florence.

f- Poggii Opera, p. 255.

Poggii Histor. Florent. p. 76.

Leon. Arel. Epist. lib. iv. ep. iii.

CHAP. U. 4w

tion of the assembled fathers to the last of these points.
He accordingly availed himself of the earliest opportunity
to engage them in prosecuting the enemies of the orthodox
faith. John Huss, a celebrated Bohemian reformer, had
repaired to Constance with an avowed intention of vindi-
cating the correctness of his creed, and of retracting any
errors, of which he might be convinced by the learning of
his opponents. Aware of the danger to which he would be
exposed in defending his cause in the midst of his preju-
diced adversaries, he had taken the precaution of procuring
from the emperor a safe conduct, by which all princes, as
well ecclesiastical as secular, were strictly enjoined " to let
him freely and securely pass, sojourn, stop, and repass."*
But the unfortunate Bohemian soon found to his cost, that
the imperial mandate was insufficient to protect a reputed
heretic. He had not resided at Constance many days,
before he was taken into custody, and imprisoned in the
monastery of the Dominicans. Whilst he was there labour-
ing under the aggravated evils of severe sickness, and
uneasiness of mind, his enemies were employed in making
preparations for his trial, and his friends in vain protested
against the violation of the law of nations, which had been
committed in his imprisonment. In consequence of their
remonstrances, Sigismund had indeed given positive orders
for Huss's release : but these orders were disobeyed : and
when the emperor arrived at Constance, on Christmas day,
sufficient reasons were alleged by the pope, to induce
him to pardon this act of resistance to his authority, and

" L'EnfanCs History of the Council of Constance, book i. sect, xxxix.

50 CHAP. II.

to resign the too credulous prisoner to the jurisdiction of
an ecclesiastical tribunal.

But though Sigismund consented to sacrifice a defence-
less individual to the religious zeal, or to the crooked policy
of the pontifical court, he entertained designs by no means
friendly to the interests of John XXII. As the jealous
suspicion of the partizans of the pontiff had foreseen, the
emperor, with the concurrence of the council, proposed to
his holiness, that, in order to put an end to the schism, he
should solemnly engage to resign the tiara, in case his
competitors, Gregory XII. and Benedict XIII. could be
persuaded to concur with him, by taking a similar step.
John with difficulty smothered the indignation which this
proposal excited within his ardent mind. Professing how-
ever his readiness to comply with the wishes of the assem-
bled representatives of the Christian church, he threw every
possible obstacle in the way of their completion. Being at
length pushed to extremity by the importunity of Sigismund,
who had in a manner compelled him to read the instrument
of his resignation in open council, he meditated the despe-
rate design of withdrawing from Constance. By the assist-
ance of the duke of Austria he was enabled to put this
design into execution. That prince, in order to favour the
flight of the pontiff, instituted a grand tournament on the
20th day of March, which was the eve of the festival of
St. Benedict. While the attention of all orders of men
was absorbed by this magnificent spectacle, John easily
found an opportunity of passing through the city gates in
the disguise of a postillion.

CHAP. II. 51

The fugitive pontiff withdrew first to Schaffausen, and
afterwards to Lauffenbourg. Not thinking himself suffi-
ciently secure even in this latter place, he took shelter in
Fribourg. Here he at length deemed himself beyond the
reach of his adversaries ; and in the pride of confidence, he
sent to the council certain extravagant demands, which that
assembly treated with contempt. In the mean time the
duke of Austria had been put under the ban of the empire ;
his territories had been invaded on all sides ; many of his
towns had been taken ; and he was given to understand,
that nothing less than the most unequivocal acts of humilia-
tion, and the delivering up of the contumacious pontiff,
could reconcile him to his imperial sovereign. He accord-
ingly repaired to Constance, and in a most solemn assembly
of the council, craved pardon of Sigismund, and surren-
dered to him the remnant of his dominions.

The council now proceeded to summon John to appear
and answer to divers articles of impeachment, which had
been preferred against him ; and on his refusing to attend,
either in person or by proxy, the members of that assembly
proceeded to exercise a memorable act of supremacy, [May
14th, A. D. 1415.] by first suspending him from the dis-
charge of the pontifical functions, and afterwards decreeing
and proclaiming his deposition. John, finding himself
deserted by the duke of Austria, and at the absolute dis-
posal of the emperor, submitted to the ordinance of the
council. After the annunciation of his sentence, the officers
of his household were discharged from their customary
attendance on his person, and he was sent a prisoner to

62 CHAP. II.

the fortress of Gotleben, whence he was soon afterwards
transferred to Heidleberg. The articles of impeachment,
declared by the council to have been proved against John,
charged him with the most atrocious vices incident to the
vilest corruption of human nature. Influenced however by
the consideration of the exalted rank which he had lately
held, and perhaps mollified by the meekness of his submis-
sion, his judges were satisfied with the measure of punish-
ment which they had already inflicted, in degrading him
from his dignity, and depriving him of liberty.

Whilst the council was thus occupied in contention
with the head of the church, it was deprived of an illustrious
member by the death of Manuel Crysoloras. It has been
already observed, that this eminent scholar, by his assiduous
labours, diffused a knowledge and admiration of Grecian
literature, amongst a numerous assemblage of pupils in
the university of Florence. After a residence of three
years in the Tuscan capital, Manuel was summoned to
Milan by his sovereign, the eastern emperor, who, in the
course of his progress through Italy, was then paying a visit
to Giovanni Galeazzo.* Having received advantageous pro-
posals from the latter prince, and being deterred from return-
ing to Florence, by the violence of Niccolo Niccoli, who
had become his bitter enemy, he undertook to read lectures
on the Greek language in the academy of Ticino, an institu-
tion which had been just founded by the late duke of Milan,

" Jloilins de Greeds illuslribus, p. 14.

(HAP. II. .53

the father of Giovanni.* The tumult and anarchy which
ensued after the death of his patron, compelled Manuel to
quit the Milanese, and take shelter in Venice, whence, at
the recommendation of his pupil Leonardo Aretino, he was
invited to Rome. In this city his talents and his virtues
raised him to such a degree of respectability, that in 1418
John XXII. empowered him, jointly with Zabarella, cardi-
nal of Florence, to treat with Sigismund upon the choice of a
place proper for the holding of the approaching council ; and
it was with his concurrence that the city of Constance was
fixed upon as being well adapted for that purpose. "f Having
faithfully executed this important commission, he returned to
Constantinople, where he was appointed by the emperor of the
east to attend the council as one of the representatives of the
Greek church. He accordingly repaired to Constance, where
the delicacy of his constitution sinking under the fatigues of
business, he died on the 15th of April, 1415.J His
remains were deposited in the Dominican monastery, and
a monument was erected to his memory, on which was engra-
ven the following inscription, said to have been composed
by his disciple Pietro Paulo Vergerio.

Hodius, p. 1.5.
f- Hodius, p. 15.

* /bid.

Pietro Paulo Vcgcrio was a native of Capo d'lstria, a town situated at the
extremity of the Adriatic gulf, not far from Trieste. He was eminent for his
knowledge of the civil law, and made considerable proficiency in the study of
philosophy and the mathematics. Under the instruction of Manuel Crysoloras,
he also attained a respectable knowledge of the Grecian language. He composed
a treatise, De moribus ingenuis, which was received by the literary characters

54 CHAP. II.

" Ante aram situs est D. Emanuel Crysoloras, eques
" Constantinopolitanus, ex vetusto genere Roman orum, qui
" cum Constantino Imperatore migrarunt, Vir doctissimus,
" prudentissimus, optimus, qui tempore Generalis Concilii
" diem obiit, ea existimatione, ut ab omnibus summo sacer-
" dotio dignus haberetur, die xv. Aprilis, MCCCCXV."*

Poggio also, availing himself of this last opportunity
of testifying his sense of the merits of Crysoloras, dedicated
to his memory the following epitaph :

"Hie est Emanuel situs

" Sermonis decus Attici :

" Qui dum quserere opem patriae

" Afflictse studeret hue iit.

" Res belle cecidit tuis

" Votis, Italia ; hie tibi

" Linguae restituit decus

" Attic89, ante reconditse.

of his time with considerable applause ; and at the request of the emperor
Sigismund, he translated into Latin Arrian's history of the expedition of
Alexander the Great. In the execution of this translation, he purposely avoided
the cultivation of elegance of style, through an apprehension, as he himself said,
lest his royal reader should stand in need of the assistance of an interpreter. He
testified his zeal for the honour of classical learning, by publishing an invective
against Carlo Malatesta, who, in detestation of heathens and heathenism, had
removed from the market place of Mantua, a statue of Virgil. In the latter period
of his life he lost his reason, which however returned at intervals before his
death, the date of which event is uncertain.

Facius de Vii is illustribuf, p. 8.
" Hodius, p. 23.


" Res belle cecidit tuis
" Votis, Emanuel ; solo
" Consecutus in Italo
" ^Eternum decus es, tibi
" Quale Graecia non dedit,
"'Bello perdita Greecia."*

In the mildness of the sentence passed t>y the council

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 4 of 31)