loyola

The Counter Reformation 1521-1648

THE BLAST OF MUSKETS and the clang of swords against armour echoed across the plains of Italy, Spain and the Lowlands. Warriors of the king of France were clashing with the Spanish infantry and German knights of the Holy Roman Emperor. Control of the nations of Europe was the prize both nations sought. They schemed and plotted; their generals planned campaigns; their soldiers marched out to victory or defeat. Victories counted for little, for much of Europe’s future was decided by another, different kind of war – a war for the minds and souls of men. Village squares and royal council chambers, churches, university lecture halls and schoolrooms were the battlefields of this new war. Its troops were armies of preachers whose battle-songs were hymns and whose weapons were Bibles and textbooks. Reformers were on the march, Lutherans and Calvinists. Their thundering voices shook the domes of ancient cathedrals and wakened bishops dozing in their palaces. The Reformers won no easy victories‚ however. The forces of the pope were also on the march and the strongholds of the Church were well defended. Frightened by rebellions in Germany and Switzerland, the Catholic leaders in Rome took further measures to strengthen the Church. “There is but one way to silence the Protestants’ complaints‚” a learned churchman told the pope “and that is not to deserve them.” Lowly monks and the powerful cardinals alike began to talk of reform, of hard work, of honesty and godliness. Gradually there were deeds to match the talk — a great Church house-cleaning that one day would be called the Counter-Reformation. Meanwhile, in Europe’s towns and colleges‚ new soldiers of the Church appeared. Their uniforms were the simple black robes of monks, but their minds were as keen as dueling swords — much too sharp and smooth, …

Read More »
calvin

Preachers of Reform 1518-1564

IN 1518, AN INDULGENCE PEDDLER, a priest from France, made his way through one of the twisting Alpine passes that led into Switzerland. He carried with him a supply of bright banners, an impressive-looking copy of Pope Leo’s Declaration of Indulgences and of course, a collecting box. The French priest’s hopes were high, for the little Swiss merchant towns were rich. He did indeed do well at first and his collecting box began to grow heavy with pieces of gold. Then he came to the town of Zurich. As he began to set up his banners, a town official stopped him. “No indulgences here,” the official said. “I come in the name of Pope Leo and the Holy Church,” the Frenchman replied. “And I,” said the official, “speak for the town council of Zurich and the People’s Priest of our Cathedral who has told us that these indulgences you peddle are no good.” When the Frenchman began to protest, the official said he would have him driven out of town if he didn’t leave peacefully. The Frenchman rolled up his bright banners and went on his way. The Swiss, he knew‚ had always been too independent and now, with this People’s Priest, whoever he was, they seemed to have found another Martin Luther. Actually, nothing so annoyed the People’s Priest of Zurich as being called the “other Luther.” Ulrich Zwingli said that his ideas were his own and that he had come upon them long before Luther began to make a stir in Wittenberg. As a young parish priest‚ fresh from the university, Zwingli had studied Greek and Hebrew in order to read the Bible and other early church writings in their original languages. Three times he had gone to Italy, as chaplain to the rugged Swiss soldiers who were …

Read More »

The Monk from Wittenberg 1505-1546

ON A SULTRY JULY DAY IN 1505, a young law student, Martin Luther, was walking along a country road in Germany when a summer storm blew up. The air grew heavy and black clouds filled the sky. Before Luther could take shelter, thunder began to crash. A bolt of lightning struck the road almost at his feet. Thrown to the ground, he lay shaking, not certain whether he was alive or dead. “Help me, Saint Anne,” he cried, “help me and I will become a monk.” After a moment, Luther’s trembling stopped. He stood up, found that he was not hurt and continued his walk toward Erfurt, the town in which he attended the university. He did not forget his promise to Saint Anne. He spent a week or so thinking and making plans. Then he told his professors that he could come no more to their classes. He sold his books, bade farewell to his friends and went to the monastery of the Augustinian friars and said that it was his wish to become a monk. When Martin’s father, old Hans Luther, heard what his son had done, he was puzzled and angry. Hans had worked hard all of his life. Though his ancestors had been peasant farmers, he had managed to set himself up in a little business. But he was far from rich; he had scrimped and saved to send his son to school and to the university. He had long looked forward to the time when Martin would be a lawyer, a man of standing who would make his parents proud and earn the money to care for them in their old age. Now those plans were ruined. As a monk, Martin would never win fame or riches. Hans was furious and he wrote to Martin …

Read More »
wyclif

The Walls Come Tumbling Down 1300-1415

IN THE MIDDLE AGES, when knights fought wars in Europe’s fields, robbers roamed the roads and the dark forests seemed filled with unknown dangers, men put their trust in walls. Around each little town rose ramparts of massive stonework, a strong defense against the evils outside. Within the safety of the wall was a crowded little world, complete in itself — a castle‚ a church, a monastery or two, a marketplace and a tangle of cobbled streets lined with the thatch-roofed houses of townsmen. In such a town a man knew his place. He was a nobleman or a knight, a churchman, a craftsman, or a farmer and there were ancient invisible walls that marked off the little world in which each kind of person belonged. For a lord there was the realm of chivalry. He lived according to the code of knights and in time of war, put on his armour and defended the town against its enemies. In peacetime, he amused himself with hunting, banquets, poetry, music, dancing and wooing ladies in the complicated fashion called courtly love. Religion and scholarship were the territory of monks, priests and bishops. They were men who had learned to read the Bible and other books and who understood the Latin of church services. For commoners, there was work on land owned by the nobles and in shops that served the castle. It was an orderly system and it seemed as if it would never change. No peasant dreamed of becoming a knight or questioned the wisdom of the churchmen. The invisible walls, like the walls of stone around the town, were strong and old and within them a man felt safe. THE WORLD OF CHRISTENDOM The world of Europe also had its walls in the Middle Ages. To the east and …

Read More »
elizabeth

England’s Elizabeth: Queen of Words and Music 1511 – 1603

In 1600, the Duke Virginio Orsini‚ nephew of the Medici ruler of Florence, arrived in England. He came to spend the New Year’s holidays and to see for himself the woman who fascinated all Europe. She was Elizabeth, queen of England and she was already a legend. To aristocratic travelers, such as the Duke Orsini, she was the most important tourist sight in England. Years later, she would still be as fascinating as any woman in history, for in her time — the Elizabethan Age — her country flourished as never before and the Renaissance blossomed in England. As a girl of twenty-five, Elizabeth had come to the throne of a kingdom torn by religious hatred and civil wars. Her towns were poverty stricken, her farmlands unsown and her army and navy devastated by a series of disastrous foreign wars. Her subjects were weary and confused after years in which short-lived monarchs had alternately honoured and defied the pope and the church of England had split away from the church at Rome. Across the English Channel, the kings of France, Spain and other Catholic nations prepared to attack. They were sure that England, with only a woman to lead it, would soon be easily conquered. THE “FLORENTINE” QUEEN Yet forty years later, when the Duke Orsini came to London, Elizabeth was still queen, the ruler of a kingdom as great as any in Europe. This seeming miracle was the queen’s own doing. “I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman,” she had told her people, “but I have the heart and stomach of a king.” She had lived up to her words, for she proved to have the commanding air of her kingly father and grandfather, Henry VIII and Henry VII. England had never known …

Read More »
spain

The Renaissance in the North and Spain 1400 – 1598

Through the bustling market-towns of the Low Countries passed the traders, goods and gold of all Europe. Here the luxuries of Asia — spices‚ silks, jewels and perfumes — were exchanged for the practical products of the North — woolen cloth and utensils of iron and copper and wood. In shops and inns, wily Italian shippers and bankers bargained with the solemn, solid merchants from Germany and Flanders — and made the profits that built the Renaissance cities of Italy. In tall-spired cathedrals, in palaces, guildhalls and universities, wandering Italian artists discovered works of art and scholarship as great as any they had known at home. The men of the North had needed no outsiders to teach them about money-making or magnificence. Long before the Renaissance spread across Europe from Italy, they had turned to business, formed the guilds, grown rich and invested their gold in displays of splendour. Flanders was the center of a great cloth-making industry. Germany was the home of expert craftsmen—armourers, goldsmiths and engravers. In Haarlem in the Low Countries, a jack-of-all-trades named Laurent Coster had first thought of using movable carved letters to form words and sentences from which pages could be printed. About 1440, Johann Gutenberg and his assistant Peter Schoeffer had put Coster’s idea to use, made the first printed books and brought about a revolution in learning that changed the history of the world. The northern artists also were inventive and their guildsman patrons kept them as busy as the artists of Italy. Of course, their tastes were not Italian and their paintings and statues, like their ideas, were very different from those in Florence, Milan and Rome. When Masaccio was first teaching the Florentines how to paint figures that “stood on their feet,” the wool merchants of Flanders were buying paintings …

Read More »

The Italian Kings of France 1494 – 1590

In all Europe there was no greater admirer of Italy than Francis I, king of France. Francis practiced Italian manners in his court, built Italian palaces in his parks and kept Italian books in his library. He collected Italian paintings and the artists who painted them. Indeed, the king admired Italy so much that he wanted to conquer it all. Francis was not the first ruler to feel these strong Italian longings. In England, Spain and Germany, kings and princes were busily remodeling their courts, their castles and themselves in the Italian manner. Though the little states of Italy were growing poor and weak, it seemed that every richer, stronger nation in Europe was struggling to catch up with them. Actually, it was the Renaissance that Francis and the others were striving to match — the displays of splendour, the well-bred elegance of the courts, the wisdom, and of course, the riches. Western Europe was waking up to the new age, after long years of poverty, confusion and fear brought on by the wars and plagues that destroyed the old world of chivalry. Through the Alps from Italy came an army of peaceful invaders, merchants first, then artists and men of learning. Along with their bolts of wool and Silk, their books and paintings, they brought the Renaissance. The Europeans, gradually stirring with the excitement of the new age, turned to Italy where its wonders had first appeared. Some sent their scholars and artists to Italy to study. Some, like the French, sent their troops. In 1494, little Charles VIII of France clapped a gilded helmet over his shaggy red hair, marched down the peninsula and conquered Naples. For three months he paraded about his new city, while four embarrassed Neapolitan noblemen trotted beside him, holding a golden canopy over …

Read More »
venice

Venice, City in the Sea 1350 – 1590

The houses of Venice are “like sea-birds half on sea and half on land,” said Cassiodorus. An officer of a king of the Goths, Cassiodorus saw Venice in 537. It was a little settlement of huts built on the mud-flats in an out-of-the-way lagoon. Its people were refugees‚ Italians who had been driven from their homes by a horde of barbaric invaders. They were safe in the lagoon, for no stranger could navigate the treacherous channels. For the sake of safety, they were content with comforts that were simple at best. “In this place,” Cassiodorus said, “rich and poor are alike — they all fill up on fish.” A thousand years later, when Venice had become the richest and most powerful city in Italy, it was still a place of refuge from the wars and turmoil of the mainland. The lagoon was still an unbeatable defense. Instead of streets, there were canals and the city’s mansions, marble palaces and gold-peaked churches still hovered above the water like sea-birds, perched on 117 islands linked by nearly 400 bridges. In every way, Venice belonged to the sea and for many years the sea belonged to Venice. The descendants of the settlers commanded mighty warships that ruled the eastern Mediterranean. With their great merchant galleys, they were the lords of the trade-routes of the Adriatic and Aegean Seas and they sailed the Atlantic to England and Flanders. In the Middle Ages, the Venetians built and manned the hundreds of ships that took the Crusaders to the Holy Land — and they saw to it that the knights captured a few colonies for Venice along the way. Through the years, these colonies multiplied into an ocean empire until even Constantinople, the capital of the old Roman Empire of the East, paid homage to the …

Read More »

Rome, the City of the Pope 1492-1564

In 1492, young Giovanni de’ Medici bade farewell to his father, Lorenzo the Magnificent and left Florence to take his place in Rome among the cardinals of the church. At sixteen, Giovanni was a nobleman in the court of the pope, a man of influence and power. That was fortunate, for when Giovanni was eighteen, his family’s power collapsed. The Florentines drove the Medici from their city and Giovanni, who had come home for a visit, narrowly escaped being stoned by the citizens who once had cheered him. As he crept out of the city, disguised as a poor friar, he swore that he would one day return in triumph. First, he thought, he must look to his career in the church. Whatever the Florentines did, he was still a cardinal and in the papal court there were many ways for a clever man to rise to greatness. When he had crossed the Tuscan border, Giovanni threw off his humble disguise, put on the crimson robes and red hat that marked him as a “prince of the church” and took the road that led to Rome. The young cardinal was not alone in hoping to make his fortune in Rome. Indeed, the old city teemed with ambitious men of every sort — scholars and scoundrels, diplomats and spies, millionaires and fortune-hunters, priests and professional murderers. Rome had known every sort of splendour and evil. Memories of unmatched elegance and unbelievable cruelty lingered in the ruins of temples and arenas built by ancient emperors. Grim fortress-houses were reminders of an age of violence, when the bloody feuds of rival clans of nobles had turned Rome into a ghost city. Now there were new mansions, palaces and lofty churches. A new magnificence had come to Rome with the gold that poured into …

Read More »

Gentlemen, Scholars and Princes 1400 – 1507

One day in the fifteenth century, the Turkish potentate of Babylonia decided to send gifts to the greatest ruler in Italy. He consulted his counselors and men who had traveled widely in Europe, asking them who best deserved this honour. They agreed that one Italian court outshone the rest and that his court must surely be the home of Italy’s mightiest sovereign. They did not name Milan, the home of the proud Sforza, nor Florence, the city of the clever Medici. The most magnificent court in Italy, they said, was at Ferrara, the capital of the dukes whose family name was d’Este and to Ferrara the Turkish potentate’s ambassadors carried the presents. Ferrara was small, a mere toy state in comparison to Milan or Florence. Actually, it was not an independent state at all. Like several of its neighbours in central Italy, Ferrara had for centuries belonged to the Church. Its duke paid an annual tribute to the pope for the privilege of governing his family dukedom himself. Even so, the Turkish potentate’s advisers had made no mistake. No court in Italy could match the splendor of the court commanded by the dukes of little Ferrara. During the Renaissance, there were many such small cities that won fame. It all depended on their rulers — the ambitious dukes or counts or sometimes, commoners who had gained riches and power. With their money, they, too, hired fine artists, sculptors and architects; they, too, collected manuscripts and things of beauty. So the small cities were as much part of the new age as Florence or Milan. In that new age, Ferrara was a place of old fashioned grandeur. Its dukes, the d’Estes, had come to power in the last days of chivalry. In 200 years, the d’Estes had turned Ferrara into a …

Read More »
Translate »