History of the rise of the huguenots

She corresponds with Bishop Briçonnet

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She corresponds with Bishop Briçonnet.

It was through the instrumentality of the Bishop of Meaux that Margaret

of Angoulême was first drawn into sympathy with the reformatory

movement. Unsatisfied with herself and with the influences surrounding

her, she sought in Briçonnet a spiritual adviser and guide. The prelate,

in the abstruse and almost unintelligible language of exaggerated

mysticism, endeavored to fulfil the trust. His prolix correspondence

still exists in manuscript in the National Library of Paris, together

with the replies of his royal penitent. Its incomprehensibility may

perhaps forever preclude the publication of the greater part;2 but

we can readily forgive the bishop's absurdities and far-fetched

conceits, when we find him in his letters leading Margaret to the Holy

Scriptures as the only source of spiritual strength, and enjoining a

humble and docile reception of its teachings.

Luther's teachings condemned by the Sorbonne.

On the fifteenth of April, 1521, the University of Paris, whose opinion

respecting Luther's tenets the entire Christian world had for two years

been anxiously expecting, pronounced its solemn decision. It condemned

the writings of the German monk to the flames, on the ground that they

were seductive, insulting to the hierarchy,

1 Brantôme does, indeed, accuse Henry of using severity

toward his wife, on account of her religious innovations, until

threatened with the displeasure of Francis; but the truth seems to be

that the King of Navarre was himself not ill-disposed to the religious reformation.

2 M. Herminjard has been criticised for inserting too many

of Bishop Briçonnet's epistles in the first volume of his Correspondance

des réformateurs dans les pays de langue française. M. Génin also gives

specimens of the bishop's bombast, observing maliciously: "Si Briçonnet

argumenta en pareil style aux conciles de Pise et du Latran, il dut

embarrasser beaucoup ses adversaires." Lettres de Marg. d'Angoulême, i. 128.

contrary to Scripture, and schismatic. It likened his latest production, De
Captivitate Babylonica, to Alcoran. It branded as preposterous the notion that God

had reserved the discovery of what is needful to the salvation of the

faithful for Martin Luther to make; as though Christ had left his

spouse, the Church, so many centuries, and until now, in the darkness

and blindness of error. Such sentiments as he uttered were a denial of

the first principles of the faith, an unblushing profession of impiety,

an arrogance so impious that it must be repressed by chains and

censures--nay, by fire and by flame, rather than refuted by

argument.1 A long list of heretical propositions selected from

Luther's works was appended.2

Melanchthon's defence.

In the month of June following, Melanchthon replied to the Sorbonne's

condemnation. He declared that, could the great Gerson and his

illustrious associates and predecessors rise from the dead, they would

fail to recognize in the present race of theologians their legitimate

offspring, and that they would deplore the misfortune of the university

as well as of the whole of Christendom, in that sophists had usurped the

place of theologians, and slanderers the seat of Christian doctors. As

for the silly letter prefixed to the decree, the reformer wrote, it is a

feeble production full of womanish fury: "He pretends to the sole

possession of wisdom. He contemns us. He is a Manichæan, a Montanist; he

is mad. Let him be compelled by fire and flame." Who could refrain from

derisive laughter at the unmanly and truly monkish weakness of such threats?3
Regency of Louise de Savoie.

In the summer of 1523 the king, in order to provide for the government

of France during his expected absence from the capital, appointed his

mother temporary regent--a dignity which Louise de Savoie enjoyed more

than once during Francis's reign. The chancellor, Antoine Duprat,

embraced the opportunity to persuade the queen mother

1 "O impiam et inverecundam arrogantiam," etc. See chapter

I., p. 24.]

2 Determinatio Facultatis, etc., Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 10, etc.; Bretschneider, Corpus
Reformatorum (Opera Melanchthonis), i. 366, etc., 371, etc.]

3 Adversus furiosum Parisiensium theologastrorum decretum

Philippi Melanchthonis pro Luthero apologia, Bretschneider, i. 399-416.]

that she could not better atone for the irregularities of her own life than by

enforcing submission to the authority of the papal church. What causes

had contributed to the very radical change apparently effected in her

mental attitude to the established ecclesiastical system, since she had

in the preceding December discovered the monks, of whatever color their

cowl might be, to be arrant "hypocrites" and the most "dangerous

generation of human kind"--if, indeed, any such change in her mental

attitude had really taken place at all, and her present zeal was not

altogether assumed from political motives--we have not the means of

determining with certainty. However this may be, she was now induced to

take a much more decided stand than Francis had ever taken in opposition

to the reformed doctrines, of whose spread, not only in Meaux and other

cities in the provinces, but even in Paris, both in the schools of

learning and without, there began to be symptoms alarming to the

The Sorbonne's recommendations for the extirpation of heresy.

As a preliminary step, the regent sent her confessor, Friar Gilbert

Nicolai, to the Sorbonne, with instructions to consult it respecting

"the means to be employed for purging this very Christian realm of the

damnable doctrine of Luther." It need scarcely be said that the message

was received with great delight. The theological doctors soon replied,

rendering thanks to Almighty God for having inspired Louise with the

holy purpose of executing whatever might be found most likely to promote

God's honor and the prosperity of France.1 What measures did they

propose to her as best calculated to accomplish this laudable end?

Sermons, disputations, books, and other scholastic means, they write,

may be employed in the refutation of the errors of Luther, as indeed

they are every day employed, at the Sorbonne's instigation, and from

this instrumentality some good effects may be expected; but since, after

all, neither sermons nor books, however learned and conclusive, compel

any person to renounce his heretical views, more practical and coercive

measures must be adopted if the object is to be attained. All

1 Lettre de la faculté de théologie à la reine, Oct. 7,

1523, Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 16, 17.]

royal officers must be enjoined strictly to enforce every order promulgated

against heretics. The prelates must be urged to demand, on pain of

excommunication, the surrender of all books of Luther or his supporters

found in their dioceses. Meanwhile, the highest ecclesiastical censures

are to be directed against those who in any way uphold the heterodox

belief. It is only in this way that hope can reasonably be entertained

of suppressing this pernicious innovation, which may yet inflict still

greater evils upon unfortunate France; since the Scriptures tell us that

pestilence, famine, and war served as a rod for the punishment of God's

chosen nation of old, whenever it forsook the pure precepts of the law

given by the Almighty.

In reply to another inquiry made by the regent at the same time, the

Sorbonne enters into greater detail. If any one complains that he is

unjustly accused of favoring the heresy that has recently appeared, let

him clear himself by following St. Paul's example, who, when brought to

the knowledge of the truth, instantly undertook the defence of what he

had ignorantly persecuted. Rumors that some persons in high places are

friendly to the spread of the new errors have gained lamentable

currency, both at home and abroad. They have obtained confirmation from

the praise lately lavished by "some great personages" upon the doctrine

of Luther, and the blame poured upon its opponents. The execution of the

king's order for the burning of Luther's books has been singularly

delayed. Worst of all have been the obstacles placed in the way of the

pious efforts of the prelates, either without the consent of the king,

or by him ill-advised--for example, in the proceedings of the Bishop of

Paris against Louis de Berquin. Similar impediments have been interposed

to prevent the condemnation by parliament and university of the printed

works of this same Berquin and of Lefèvre d'Étaples; while, as if to

make the affair still more scandalous, two treatises lately written in

refutation of Luther's doctrines have been seized in the name of the

king and by his authority.1
Wide circulation of Luther's works.

Such were the complaints of the theological faculty, such the means

1 Articules concernans les responces que après meure

délibération a fait la faculté de théologie. Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 17-21.

suggested for the destruction of the new leaven that was already

beginning to assert its mission to permeate society. There were

certainly sufficient grounds for apprehension. The works of Luther, as

we have before seen, had early been translated into French, and a

contemporary writer confirms the statement that they had already been

widely disseminated.1 An order of parliament, referred to in its

communication to the regent, had indeed been published, to the sound of

the trumpet, throughout the city of Paris (August 3, 1521), strictly

commanding all booksellers, printers, and others that might have copies

in their possession, to give them up within the space of eight days, on

pain of imprisonment and fine.2 But even this measure failed to

accomplish the desired result. The Reformation was silently extending

its influence, as some significant events sufficiently proved.
Lambert, the first French monk to embrace the Reformation.

At Avignon, copies of several of the writings of Martin Luther fell into

the hands of François Lambert, son of a former private secretary of the

papal legate entrusted with the government of the Comtât Venaissin. He

was a man of vivid imagination, keen religious sensibilities, and marked

oratorical powers. He had at the age of fifteen been so deeply impressed

by the saintly appearance of the Franciscans as to seek admission to

their monastery as a novice. No sooner did he assume, a year later

(1503), the irrevocable vows that constituted him a monk, than his

disenchantment began. According to his own account, the quarrelsome and

debauched friars no longer felt any of the solicitude they had

previously entertained lest the knowledge of their excesses should deter

him from embracing a "religious" life. A few years later Lambert became

a preacher, and having, through a somewhat careful study of the Holy

Scriptures, embraced more evangelical views than were held by most of

his order, began to deliver discourses as well received by the people as

they were hated by his fellow-monks. Great was the outcry

1 "Qui [les livres de Luther] furent imprimez et publiez

par toutes les villes d'Alemaigne et par tout le royaume de France."

Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, 94.

2 Ibid., 104.

against him when he openly denounced the misdeeds of a worthless vender of

papal indulgences; still greater when copies of Luther's treatises were found

in his possession. The books were seized, sealed, condemned, and burned,

although scarcely a glance had been vouchsafed at their contents. It was

enough for the monkish judges to cry: "They are heretical! They are

heretical!" "Nevertheless," exclaims honest Lambert, kindling with

indignation at the remembrance of the scene, "I confidently assert that

those same books of Luther contain more of pure theology than all the

writings of all the monks that have lived since the creation of the

He is also the first to renounce celibacy.

Lambert had made full trial of the monastic life. He had even immured

himself for some time in a Carthusian retreat, but found its inmates in

no respect superior to the Franciscans. At last an opportunity for

escape offered. In 1522, when a score of years had passed since he

entered upon his novitiate, he was despatched with letters to the

general of his order. Instead of fulfilling his commission, he traversed

Switzerland, and made his way to Wittemberg, where he satisfied the

desire he had long entertained, of meeting the great reformer to whose

works he owed his own spiritual enlightenment. Full of zeal for the

propagation of the doctrines he had embraced, Lambert, not long after

(1524), established himself at Metz as a favorable point from which

France might be influenced. But the commotion excited by his

opponents--perhaps, also, his own lack of prudence--compelled him within

a fortnight to flee to Strasbourg.2 Here, more secure, but scarcely

more judicious, he busied himself with sending over the French borders

numbers of tracts composed or translated by himself, and addressing to

1 "Ego confidenter loquar, credens in Domino quod verum

sit, quod plus syncerioris theologiæ in libris prædictis continetur,

quam in omnibus scriptis omnium monachorum, qui a principio fuerunt."

2 A contemporary song (1525) denouncing woes against

Strasbourg for harboring the "Lutherans," contains these doggerel lines:

"Ce faulx Lambert, hérétique mauldict,

Te fait prendre la dance

De l'infemal déduyt."

Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franç., ix. (1860) 381.

Francis and the chief persons of his court appeals which, doubtless,

rarely if ever reached their eyes.1 In another field of labor, to

which the Landgrave of Hesse called him, François Lambert performed

services far more important than any he was permitted to render his

native land. As the first French monk to throw aside his habit--above

all, as the first to renounce celibacy and defend in a published

treatise the step he had taken (1523), no French reformer, even among

those of far greater abilities and wider influence, was regarded by the

adherents of the Roman Catholic Church with so intense a dislike.2

The firm hold which the Reformation was gaining on the population of

several places of great importance, close upon the eastern frontiers of

the kingdom, was a portent of evil in the eyes of the Sorbonne; for

Metz, St. Hippolyte, and Montbéliard, all destined to be absorbed in the

growing territories of France, were already bound to it by close ties of

commercial intercourse.
Jean Châtellain, of Metz.

In Metz the powerful appeals of an Augustinian monk, Jean Châtellain,

had powerfully moved the masses. He was as eloquent as he was learned,

as commanding in appearance as fearless in the expression of his

belief.3 The attempt to molest him would have proved a very dangerous

1 Margaret of Angoulême, out of all patience, at last sent

word requesting him to desist from these untimely letters to her

brother--"qu'il n'escripva plus ny au Roy ny à aultres." Toussain to

Farel, December 17, 1524, Herminjard, i. 313.

2 Witness the malignant satisfaction exhibited by the

Nuncio Aleander when noting the reported death of Lambert and his entire

family: "Mi ha detto hoggi, che Francesco Lamberto d'Avignon, qual

fugito dal monasterio, et ito astar un tempo con Luther ha scritto

infiniti libri contra la Chiesa di Dio, quest' anno in terra del

Langravio di Hassia insieme con la moglie et figliuoli tutti

miserabilmente, et come da miracolo, in gran calamità son crepati."

Aleander to Sanga, Brussels, November 25, 1531, Vatican Library,

Laemmer, Monumenta, 90. See Lambert's autobiographical sketch, entitled:

"Rationes propter quas Minoritarum conversationem habitumque rejecit,"

Gerdes., iv. (Doc.) 21-28, and translated, Herminjard, i. 118, etc.; F.

W. Hassencamp, Fr. Lambert von Avignon; Haag, France prot., s. v.; Baum,

Lambert von Avignon.

3 So says Lambert, who states: "Novi ilium ex intimis; fuit

enim mihi perinde atque Jonathas Davidi." Præf. ad Comm. in Hoseam,

Gerdes., Scrinium antiquarium, vi. 490.

one for the clergy of Metz to make; for the enthusiasm of the

laity in his support knew no bounds, and the churchmen prudently avoided

giving it an occasion for manifestation. But, no sooner had Châtellain

been induced on some pretext to leave the safe protection of the walls,

than a friar of his own order and monastery betrayed him to the

bishop.1 He was hurriedly taken to Nommeny, and thence to Vic for

trial and execution. In vain did the Inquisitor of the Faith strive to

shake his constancy. His judges were forced to liken their incorrigible

prisoner to the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear. As "a preacher of

false doctrines," an "apostate" and a "liar toward God Almighty," they

declared him excommunicated and deprived of whatever ecclesiastical

benefices he might hold. The faithful compiler of the French martyrology

gives in accurate, but painful, detail the successive steps by which

Châtellain was stripped of the various prerogatives conferred upon him

in ordination. I shall not repeat the story of sacred vessels placed in

his hands only to be hastily snatched from them, of the scraping of his

fingers supposed to remove the grace of consecration, of chasuble and

stole indignantly taken away--in short, of all the petty devices of a

malice at which the mind wearies and the heart sickens. It was perhaps a

fitting sequel to the ceremony that the degrading bishop should hand his

victim over to the representative of the secular arm to be put to death,

with a hypocritical recommendation to mercy: "Lord Judge, we entreat you

as affectionately as we can, as well by the love of God, as from pity

and compassion, and out of respect for our prayers, that you do this

wretched man no injury tending to death or the mutilation of his

body."2 The prayer was granted--according

1 The Bishop of Metz was John, Cardinal of Lorraine,

uncle of the more notorious Cardinal Charles. Châtellain had written a

poetical chronicle of Metz reaching to the year 1524. A friendly hand

continued it, and recorded the fate of Châtellain, described as

"Augustin, grand Docteur

Qui estoit grand prédicateur."

The chronicle, which certainly possesses no striking literary merit, is

printed among the Preuves of Dom Calmet, Histoire de Lorraine (Nancy,

1748), iii. pp. cclxxii., etc.

2 Crespin, Actiones et Monimenta (Geneva, 1560), fol. 44-46.

to the intent of the petitioner. On the twelfth of January, 1525, Châtellain

was led to the place of execution, as cheerful in demeanor, the witnesses said,
as if walking to a feast. At the stake he knelt and offered a short prayer,

then met his horrible sentence with a constancy that won many converts

to the faith for which he had suffered. At the news of the fate of their

admired teacher, the citizens of Metz could not contain their rage. A

tumultuous scene ensued, in which it was well that the

ecclesiastics--there were more than nine hundred within the

walls1--escaped with no greater injury at the hands of the angry

populace than some passing insults. John Vedast, an evangelical teacher,

was at that time in confinement, reserved for a similar doom to that of

Châtellain. He was liberated by the people, who, in a body membering

several thousand men, visited his prison and enabled him to escape to a

safe refuge. It was not until a strong detachment of troops had been

thrown into the city that the burgesses were reduced to submission.2

"None the less," admits a Roman Catholic historian, "did Lutheranism

spread over the entire district of Metz."3
Tragic end of Wolfgang Schuch.

At St. Hippolyte, a town near the Swiss frontier, dependent upon the

Duke of Lorraine, similar success and a similarly tragic end were the

results of the zealous labors of Wolfgang Schuch, a priest of German

extraction. The "good duke" Antoine, having been led to confound the

peaceable disciples of Schuch with the revolted peasants, whose ravages

had excited widespread alarm throughout Germany, publicly proclaimed his

intention of visiting the town that harbored them with fire and sword.

To propitiate him by removing his misapprehension, Schuch wrote to the

duke a singularly touching letter containing a candid exposition of the

religion he professed;4 but finding that his missive had been of no

avail, he resolved to immolate himself in behalf of his flock.

1 "Quorum (Antichristi prophetæ) fæx in eadem civitate tam

multa est, ut eosdem nongentos esse ferant." Lamberti præf. ad Comm. in

Hoseam, Gerdes., Scrinium Antiq., vi. 485, etc.

2 Ibid., ubi supra.

3 Hist. de l'église gallicane, apud Gaillard, vi. 404.

4 The letter is given by Crespin, Actiones et Monimenta,

fol. 50; also Gerdes., iv. (Doc), 48-50.

At Nancy, the capital of the duchy, whither he had gone to dissuade Antoine

from executing his savage threats, he was thrown into a loathsome

dungeon, while the University of Paris was consulted respecting the

soundness of thirty-one propositions extracted from his writings by the

Inquisitor of Lorraine. On the nineteenth of August, 1525--the

theologians of the Sorbonne having some months before reported

unfavorably upon the theses submitted to them--Wolfgang Schuch was

consigned to the flames.1

Farel at Montbéliard.

Less sanguinary results attended the Reformation at Montbéliard, where

the indefatigable Farel was the chief actor. One of those highly

dramatic incidents, in which the checkered life of this remarkable man

abounds, is said to have preceded his withdrawal from the city.

Happening, on St. Anthony's day, to meet, upon a bridge spanning a

narrow stream in the neighborhood, a solemn procession headed by priests

chanting the praises of the saint whose effigy they bore aloft, Farel

was seized with an uncontrollable desire to arrest the impious service.

Snatching the image from the hands of ecclesiastics who were little

prepared for so sudden an onslaught, he indignantly cried, "Wretched

idolaters, will you never forsake your idolatry?" At the same instant he

threw the saint into the water, before the astonished devotees had time

to interfere. Had not some one just then opportunely raised the shout,

"The saint is drowning," it might have gone hard with the fearless


The Reformation was thus gaining a foothold in the bishopric of Metz, in

the duchy of Lorraine, and the county of Montbéliard--districts as yet

independent of France, in which country they were subsequently merged.

But, if suffered to be

1 Gerdes., iv. 51; Crespin, fol. 49-52; Haag, s. v.

2 The incident, it must be confessed, is by no means above

suspicion (see Kirchhofer, Life of Wm. Farel, London ed., p. 40, and

Schmidt, Wilhelm Farel, p. 6), although, as Merle d'Aubigné observes,

Hist. of the Reformation, bk. xii. c. 13, it is in keeping with Farel's

character. Œcolampadius, foreseeing the possibility of his indulging

in such inconsiderate words and actions, warned him, as early as Aug.

19, 1524, to temper his zeal with mildness, and to treat his opponents

rather as was most expedient, than as they deserved to be treated.

Herminjard, i. 265-267.

victorious at these important points, it might readily cross the

borders and spread with irresistible force to the contiguous
parts of Francis's dominions. Nearer home, the reformatory

movement at Meaux, though abandoned by the bishop who had fostered its

first development, was not wholly suppressed. In Lyons and Grenoble,

Friar Aimé Maigret had preached such evangelical sermons--in French to

the people and in Latin to the Parliament of Dauphiny--that he had been

sent to Paris to be examined by the Sorbonne. The primate and his

council had seen with solicitude that from the ashes of Waldo and the

Poor Men of Lyons "very many new shoots were springing up,"1 and

called for some signal act of severity to repress the growing evil.

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