No other mediæval seat of learning attained so enviable a reputation as
Paris for completeness of theological training. From all parts of
Christendom students resorted to it as to the most abundant and the
purest fountain of sound learning. In 1250, Robert de Sorbonne, the
private confessor of Louis the Ninth, emulating the munificence of
previous patrons of letters, founded a college intended to facilitate
the education of secular students of theology. The college took
1 The chancellor "de Notre Dame," the chancellor proper,
alone had the power to create doctors in theology, law, and medicine;
but candidates for the degree of master of arts might apply either to
him or to the rival chancellor of Sainte Geneviève: "Quant aux Maistres
és Arts, à l'un ou l'autre Chancelier, selon le choix qui en est fait
par celuy qui veut prendre sa licence." Pasquier, Recherches, 840.
2 "Le premier juge et censeur de la doctrine et mœurs des
escoliers, que nous appelons Chancelier de l'Université." Pasquier, ubi
3 Pasquier has a fund of quaint information respecting the
university, the chancellor, the rector, etc. Of the contrast between
rector and chancellor he remarks: "Quant au Chancelier de l'Université
il pare seulement de ce coup contre toutes ces grandeurs (sc. du
Recteur); que le Recteur fait des escoliers pour estudier (tout ainsi
que le capitaine des soldats, quand il les enrolle pour combattre) mais
le Chancelier fait des capitaines quand il baille le bonnet de
Theologie, Decret, Medecine, et Arts, pour enseigner et monter en
chaire." Ubi supra, 843.
the name of its author, and, becoming famous for the ability of its
instructors, the Sorbonne soon engrossed within its walls almost the
entire course of theological teaching given in the University of Paris.
Although the students in the colleges of Navarre and Plessis devoted
themselves to the acquisition of the same science, they had little
public instruction save that for which they resorted to the Sorbonne. By
reason of the prominence thus gained as the seat of the principal
instruction in theology, the Sorbonne became synonymous with the
theological faculty itself.1
Its great authority.
A body of theologians of admitted eminence necessarily spoke with
authority. In France the decisions of the Sorbonne were accepted as
final upon almost all questions affecting the doctrine and practice of
the Church. Abroad its opinions were esteemed of little less weight than
the deliberate judgments of synods. Difficulties in church and state
were referred to it for solution. In the age of the reformation the
Sorbonne was invited to pronounce upon the truth or falsity of the
propositions maintained by Martin Luther, and, a few years later, upon
the validity of the grounds of the divorce sought by Henry the Eighth of
England. But, unhappily, the reputation of the faculty was tarnished by
scholastic bigotry. Slavish attachment to the past had destroyed freedom
of thought. With a species of inconsistency not altogether without a
parallel in history, the very body which had been active in the
promotion of science during the Middle Ages assumed the posture of
resistance the moment that the advocates of substantial reform urged the
necessity of immediate action. Abuses which had provoked the indignation
of Gerson, once Chancellor of the University of Paris, and employed the
skilful pen of the bold Rector Nicholas de Clemangis, met with no word
of condemnation from the new generation of theologians.
Such was the Sorbonne of the beginning of the sixteenth century, when
intriguing doctors, such as Beda and Quercu, ruled in its deliberations.
An enemy of liberal studies as well
1 Sleidanus, De statu rel., etc., ad annum 1521.
as of the "new doctrines," the faculty of theology was as ready to attack
Erasmus for his devotion to ancient literature, or Jacques Lefèvre for
establishing the existence of the "three Marys," as to denounce the Bishop
of Meaux for favoring "Lutheran" preachers in his diocese. Against all
innovators in church or state, the sentiments of the Sorbonne, which it took
no pains to conceal, were that "their impious and shameless arrogance must
be restrained by chains, by censures--nay, by fire and flame--rather than
vanquished by argument!"1
Number of students.
Meanwhile, in the external marks of prosperity the University of Paris
was still in its prime at the period of which I speak. The colleges,
clustered together in the southern quarter of the city--the present
Quartier Latin--were so numerous and populous that this portion
continued for many years after to be distinguished as l'
Université.2 The number of students, it is true, had visibly
diminished since one hundred years before. The crowd of youth in
attendance was no longer so great as in 1409, when, according to a
contemporary, the head of a scholastic procession to the Church of Saint
Denis had already reached the sacred shrine before the rector had left
the Church of the Mathurins in the Rue Saint Jacques, a point full six
miles distant.3 Yet the report of Giustiniano, in 1535, stated it as
the current belief that the university still had twenty-five thousand
students in attendance, although this seemed to be an exaggerated
estimate. "For the most part," he added, "they are young, for everybody,
however poor he may be, learns to read and write."4 Another
ambassador, writing eleven years later, represents the students, now
numbering sixteen or twenty thousand, as extremely poor. Their
instructors, he tells us, received very modest salaries;
1 "Vinculis, censuris, imo ignibus et flammis coercendam,
potius quam ratione convincendam." Determination of the Fac. of Theology
against Luther, April 15. 1521, Gerdes, Hist. Evang. Renov., iv. 10,
2 From the Cité, or island on which the city was
originally built, and the Ville, or Paris north of the Seine. Pasquier,
Recherches, 797; J. Sinceri, Itinerarium Galliæ (1627), 270.
3 Juvenal des Ursins, apud Pasquier, 267.
4 Relazioni Venete (Albèri), i. 149.
yet, so great was the honor attaching to the post of teacher within the
university walls, that the competition for professorial chairs was
The Gallican liberties.
The influence of the clergy fell little short of that of the university
in moderating the arbitrary impulses of the monarch.
The Gallican Church had for many centuries been distinguished for a
manly defence of its liberties against the encroachments of the Papal
court. Tenacious of the maintenance of doctrinal unity with the See of
Rome, the French prelates early met the growing assumption of the Popes
with determined courage. At the suggestion of the clergy, and with their
full concurrence, more than one French king adopted stringent
regulations intended to protect the kingdom from becoming the prey of
foreigners. Church and State were equally interested in the successful
prosecution of a warfare carried on, so far as the French were
concerned, in a strictly defensive manner. The Papal treasury, under
guise of annats, laid claim to the entire income of the bishopric or
other benefice for the first year after each new appointment. It seized
upon the revenues of vacant ecclesiastical offices, which the king
specially affected. Every bull or brief needed to secure induction into
office--and the number of these articles was almost unlimited--was
procured at a heavy expense. Further sums were exacted for pronouncing a
dispensation in favor of those appointees whom youth or some other
canonical impediment incapacitated for the acceptance and discharge of
the requisite functions.
Objects of the Gallican party.
The main objects of both crown and clergy were, consequently, to secure
the kingdom from the disastrous results of the interference of Italians
in the domestic affairs of France; to preserve the treasure of the realm
from exhaustion resulting from the levy of arbitrary imposts fixed by
irresponsible aliens, and exacted through the terrors of ecclesiastical
penalties; to prevent the right of election to lucrative livings from
falling into the hands of those who would use the privilege only as a
means of acquiring
1 Ibid., i. 226.
riches; and to rescue clergymen themselves from
being hurried away for trial beyond the confines of their native land,
and possibly from suffering hopeless confinement in Roman dungeons. In a
word, it was the aim of the Gallican party to prove that "the government
of the church is not a despotism."1
Pragmatic Sanction of St. Louis.
It is a somewhat anomalous circumstance that the first decided step in
repressing the arrogant claims of the Papal See was taken by a monarch
whose singular merits have been deemed worthy of canonization by the
Roman Church. Louis the Ninth had witnessed with alarm the rapid strides
of the Papacy toward universal dominion. His pride was offended by the
pretension of the Pontiff to absolute superiority; his sovereign rights
were assailed when taxes were levied in France at the pleasure of a
foreign priest and prince. He foresaw that this abuse was likely to take
deep root unless promptly met by a formal declaration placing the rights
of the French monarch and nation in their true light. For this reason he
issued in 1268 a solemn edict, which, as emanating from the
unconstrained will of the king, took the name of the "Pragmatic
Sanction of Saint Louis."
The preamble of this famous ordinance, upon the authenticity of which
doubts have been unnecessarily cast,2 declares the object of the king
to be to secure the safety and tranquillity of the church of his realm,
the advancement of divine worship, the salvation of the souls of
Christ's faithful people, and the attainment of the favor and help of
Almighty God. To his sole jurisdiction and protection had France ever
been subject, and so did Louis desire it to remain. The provisions of
the Pragmatic Sanction were directed chiefly to guarding the freedom of
election and of collation to benefices, and to prohibiting the
imposition of any form of taxes by the Pope upon ecclesiastical
1 "Donc, le gouvernement de l'Église n'est pas un empire
despotique." Abbé Claude Fleury, Discours sur les Libertés de l'Église
gallicane, 1724 (reprinted in Leber, Coll. de pièces relatives à l'hist.
de France, iii. 252).
2 "On a contesté l'authenticité de cette pièce, mais elle
est aujourd'hui généralement reconnu." Isambert, Recueil gén. des
anciennes lois françaises, i. 339.
property in France, save by previous consent of the prince and
In this brief document had been laid the foundation of the liberties of
the Gallican Church, not under the form of novel legislation, but of a
summary of previous usage.
Philip the Fair and Boniface.
Political reasons, not long after the death of Louis, gave new vigor to
the policy of opposition to which this king had pledged France. His
grandson, the resolute Philip the Fair, found fresh incitement in the
extravagant conduct of a contemporary Pope, Boniface the Eighth. The
bold ideas advanced by Hildebrand in the eleventh, and carried into
execution by Innocent the Third in the thirteenth century, were wrought
into the very texture of the soul of Boniface, and could not be
concealed, in spite of the altered condition of mediæval society.
Intolerant, headstrong, and despotic, he undertook to exercise a
theocratic rule, and commanded contending monarchs to lay down their
arms, and submit their disputes to his arbitrament. To such a summons
Philip was not inclined to submit. The crafty and unscrupulous prince,
whose contempt for divine law was evidenced by his shameless practice of
injustice, whose coffers were filled indifferently by the confiscation
of the rich spoils of the commanderies of the Templars, and by
recklessly debasing the national currency, did not hesitate to engage in
a contest with the most presumptuous of Popes. He appealed to the States
General, and all three orders indignantly repudiated the suggestion that
their country had ever stood to the Papacy in the relation of a fief.
The disastrous example of the English John Lackland had found no
imitator on the southern side of the channel. The Pope was
1 Preuves des Libertez de l'Eglise Gallicane, pt. ii.;
Isambert, ubi supra; Ordonnances des Roys de France de la troisième
race, i. 97-98. Section 5 sufficiently expresses the feelings of the
king in reference to the insatiable covetousness of the Roman court:
"Item, exactiones et onera gravissima pecuniarum, per curiam Romanam
ecclesiæ regni nostri impositas vel imposita, quibus regnum nostrum
miserabiliter depauperatum extitit, sive etiam imponendas, aut imponenda
levari, aut colligi nullatenus volumus, nisi duntaxat pro rationabili,
pia et urgentissima causa, inevitabili necessitate, et de spontaneo et
expresso consensu nostro et ipsius ecclesiæ regni nostri." See also
Sismondi, Histoire des Français, vii. 104.
declared a heretic. Emissaries of Louis seized him in his native city of Anagni,
within the very bounds of the "Patrimony of St. Peter," and the rough
usage to which he was then subjected hastened his death. His successors
on the pontifical throne proved somewhat more tractable.
The Popes at Avignon.
During his short and unimportant pontificate, Benedict the Eleventh
restored to the chapters of cathedrals the right of electing their own
bishops. Upon his death, Philip secured the elevation to the pontifical
dignity of an ecclesiastic wholly devoted to French interests, the
facile Clement the Fifth, who, in return for the honor conferred upon
him, removed the seat of the Papacy to Avignon. Here for the seventy
years of the so-called "Babylonish Captivity," the Popes continued to
reside, too completely subject to the influence of the French monarchs
to dream of resuming their tone of defiance, but scarcely less exacting
than before of homage from other rulers. In fact, the burden of the
pecuniary exactions of the Popes rather grew than diminished with the
change from Rome to Avignon, and with the institution of rival claimants
to the tiara, each requiring an equal sum to support the pomp of his
court, but recognized as legitimate by only a portion of Christendom.
The devices for drawing tribute from all quarters were multiplied to an
almost insupportable extent. So effectual did they prove, that no
pontiff, perhaps, ever left at his death a more enormous accumulation of
treasure than one of the Popes of Avignon, John the Twenty-second. Much
of this wealth was derived from the rich provinces of France.
Close upon the "Captivity" followed the "Schism," during which the
generally acknowledged Popes, who had returned to Rome, were opposed by
pretenders at Avignon and elsewhere. A double incentive was now given to
the monarchs of Europe for setting bounds to the ambition of the Papacy.
For while the Popes, through the loss of a great part of their authority
and prestige, had become less formidable antagonists, their financial
extortions had waxed so intolerable as to suggest the strongest
arguments appealing to the self-interest of kings. Hence the frequency
with which the demand
for "a reformation in the head and the members"
resounded from all parts of the Western Church. And hence, too, those
memorable councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basle, which, coming in rapid
succession at the commencement of the fifteenth century, bade fair to
prove the forerunners of a radical reformation. It does not belong here
to discuss the causes of their failure to answer this reasonable
expectation. Yet with one of these assemblages is closely connected a
very important incident in the history of the Gallican Church.
The Council of Bourges.
The Council of Basle had not yet concluded its protracted sessions when
Charles the Seventh summoned the clergy of France to meet him in the
city of Bourges. The times were troublous. The kingdom was rent with
intestine division. A war was still raging, during the progress of which
the victorious arms of the English had driven the king from his capital
and deprived him of more than one-half of his dominions. The work of
reinstating the royal authority, though well begun by the wonderful
interposition of the Maid of Orleans, was as yet by no means complete.
Undaunted, however, by the unsettled aspect of his affairs, Charles--the
"King of Bourges," as he was contemptuously styled by his
opponents--made his appearance in the national council convened in his
temporary capital. He was attended by the dauphin, the Dukes of Burgundy
and Brittany, the Count of Maine, and many other noblemen, as well as by
a goodly train of doctors of civil and canon law. Awaiting his arrival
were five archbishops, twenty-five bishops, and a host of abbots and
deputies of universities and chapters of cathedrals. In the presence of
this august convocation, in which all that was most prominent in church
and state was represented, Charles published, on the seventh of July,
1438, an ordinance which has become celebrated under the name of the
"Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges"--by far the more important of the two
documents of similar nature emanating from the French throne.1
The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.
The Pragmatic Sanction, as it is often called by way of pre-eminence, is
the magna charta of the liberties of the Gallican
1 Sismondi, Hist. des Français, xiii. 317, etc.
Church. Founded upon the results of the discussions of the Council of Basle,
it probably embodies all the reformatory measures which the hierarchy of
France was desirous of effecting or willing to accept. How far these were
from administering the needed antidote to the poison which was at work
and threatened to destroy all true religious life--if, indeed, that life was
not already too near extinction--may readily be understood when it is
discovered that, with the exception of a few paragraphs relating to
ecclesiastical discipline and worship, the following comprise all the
The Pragmatic Sanction establishes the obligation of the Pope to convene
a general council of the church at least every ten years. The decisions
of the Council of Basle are declared to be of perpetual force. Far from
deriving its authority from the Holy See, the Œcumenical Council, it
is affirmed, depends immediately upon Christ, and the Pope is no less
bound than all other Christians to render due obedience to its
decisions. The right of appeal from the Pope to the future council--a
claim obnoxious in the last degree to the advocates of papal
supremacy--is distinctly asserted. The Pope is declared incapable of
appointing to any high ecclesiastical dignities, save in a few specified
cases; in all others recourse is to be had to election. The pontiff's
pretensions to confer minor benefices are equally rejected. No abuse is
more sharply rebuked and forbidden than that of expectatives--a
species of appointment in high favor with the papal chancery, whereby a
successor to ecclesiastical dignities was nominated during the lifetime
of the incumbent, and in view of his decease.
The Pragmatic Sanction restricts the troublesome and costly appeals to
Rome to cases of great importance, when the parties in interest reside
at a distance of more than four days' journey from that city. At the
same time it prescribes that no one shall be vexed by such appeals after
having enjoyed actual possession of his rank for three years. Going
beyond the limits of the kingdom, it enters into the constitution of the
"Sacred College," and fixes the number of the cardinals at twenty-four,
while placing the minimum age of candidates for the hat
at thirty years. The exaction of the annats is stigmatized as simony. Priests
living in concubinage are to be punished by the forfeiture of one-fourth
of their annual stipend. Finally the principle is sanctioned that no
interdict can be made to include in its operation the innocent with the
So thorough a vindication of the rights of the Gallican Church had never
before been undertaken. The axe was laid at the root of formidable
abuses; freedom of election was restored; the kingdom was relieved of a
crushing burden of tribute; foreigners were precluded from interfering
with the systematic administration of the laws. The clergy, both regular
and secular, received the greatest benefits, for, while they could no
longer be plundered of so large a part of their incomes, their persons
were protected from arbitrary arrest and hopeless exile beyond the Alps.
The council had not adjourned when the tidings of the transactions at
Bourges reached the city of Basle. The members were overjoyed, and
testified their approval in a grateful letter to the Archbishop of
Lyons. But their exultation was more than equalled by the disgust of
Pope Eugenius the Third. Indeed, the pontificates of this pope and his
immediate successors were filled with fruitless attempts to effect the
repeal of the Pragmatic Sanction. A threat was made to place France
under an interdict; but this was of no avail, being answered by the
counter-threat of the king's representative, who proposed to make a
practical application of the instrument, by appealing from his Holiness
to a future general council. So the Pope, having a vivid recollection of
the perils attending a contest with the French crown, wisely avoided the
1 The Pragmatic Sanction is long and intricate, consisting
in great part of references to those portions of the canons of the
Council of Basle which it confirms. The entire document may be seen in
the Ordonnances des Roys de Fr. de la troisième race, xiii. 267-291, and
in the Recueil gén. des anc. lois franç., ix. 3-47. Isambert thus
defines the term pragmatic: "On appelle pragmatique toute
constitution donnée en connaissance de cause du consentiment unanime de
tous les grands, et consacrée par la volonté du prince. Le mot pragma
signifie prononcée, sentence, édit; il était en usage avant Saint
2 Abbé Claude Fleury, Libertés de l'Église Gallicane, in
Leber, iii. 321.