History of the rise of the huguenots

The monastic orders incur contempt

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The monastic orders incur contempt.

It was a lamentable but notorious fact that, as a consequence of the

unnatural divorce of religion and morality, the clergy, both secular and

regular, by their excesses had incurred the contempt of the laity. If

the Franciscan monks enjoyed an unenviable pre-eminence in this respect,

so as to have come to constitute one of the stock characters in the

"Heptameron" and similar works, scarcely less constant than the

prodigals or parasites of the New Comedy, the other orders were but

little behind them. And so Louise de Savoie made this significant entry

in her diary: "In the year 1522, in December, my son and I, by the grace

of the Holy Ghost, began to understand the hypocrites, white, black,

gray, smoky, and of all colors; from whom may God, by his clemency and

infinite goodness, be pleased to preserve and defend us. For, if Jesus

Christ be not a liar, there is no more dangerous generation in all human

kind."2 Bishops and cardinals won little more respect than the

monks; for was it not the most prominent of the wearers of the purple

who, as Chancellor of France, introduced venality into the most sacred offices

1 Le protestantisme en Champagne: Récits extraits d'un

manuscrit de N. Pithou, seigneur de Chamgobert concernant l'histoire de

la fondation, etc., de l'église réf. de Troyes dès 1539 à 1595, par Ch.

L. B. Recordon (Paris, 1863), 31-33.

2 The original of this remarkable record, the more

significant from the subsequent position of Louise as a determined enemy

of the Protestants, may be seen in Journal de Louise de Savoie, Coll. de

mémoires (Petitot), xvi. 407.

of state,1 while by his quarrelsome and unscrupulous

diplomacy he richly merited the bon mot of the Emperor Charles the

Fifth, that he was more inclined to make four wars than, one


Abortive efforts at reform

It does not enter into the province of this history to discuss in detail

the causes of the deplorable vices that characterized the priesthood on

the eve of the great religious movement of the sixteenth century; nor

can we pause to make that analysis of the doctrinal errors then

prevalent, which belongs rather to the office of the historian of the

Reformation. It will be sufficient, therefore, if we glance hastily at

some of the partial and abortive efforts directed toward the reform of

doctrine and manners of which mediæval France was the theatre.
The Cathari and Albigenses.

Foremost among the popular opponents of the papacy were the Cathari and

Albigenses. The accounts of the origin of the sect or sects bearing

these names are vague and unsatisfactory, and the reports of their creed

and worship are inconsistent or incredible. The ruin that overwhelmed

them spared no friendly narrative of their history, and scarcely one

authoritative exposition of the belief for the profession of which their

adherents encountered death with heroic fortitude. Defeat not only

compelled the remnants of the Albigenses to succumb to Simon de Montfort

and his fellow crusaders, but reduced them to the indignity of having

the record of their faith and self-devotion transmitted to posterity

only in the hostile chronicles of Roman ecclesiastics. But even partisan

animosity has not robbed the world of the edifying spectacle of a large

number of men and women, of a quiet and peaceable disposition,

persistently and fearlessly protesting, through a long series of years,

against the worship of saints and

1 See Mézeray's bitter words respecting Cardinal Duprat's

last hours and character, Abrégé chronologique, iv. 584.

2 "Poi me disse che per opera del Reverendissimo di

Granmont non si faria cosa buona in questa cosa, perche et lui et il

Gran Cancellario di Francia erano huomini più disposti a fare quattro

guerre die una pace." Cardinal Campeggio to Cardinal Salviati, apud

H. Laemmer, Monumenta Vaticana hist. ecclés. sæculi XVI. illustrantia,

ex tab. sanctæ sedis Apostolicæ secretis, Frib. Brisg., 1861, 67.

images, resisting the innovations of a corrupt church, and
adhering with constancy to a simple ritual unencumbered
with superstitious observances. Careful investigation establishes
the fact that the Holy Scriptures were read and accepted as the
supreme authority as well in doctrine as in practice, and that the

precepts there inculcated were adorned by lives so pure and exemplary as

to evoke an involuntary expression of admiration from bitter opponents.

There is little doubt that strange doctrinal errors found a foothold in

parts, at least, of the extensive territory in southern France occupied

by the Albigenses. Oriental Dualism or Manichæism not improbably

disfigured the creed of portions of the sect; while the belief of others

scarcely differed from that of the less numerous Waldenses of Provence

or their brethren in the valleys of Piedmont. But, whatever may be the

truth on this much contested point,1 the remarkable spread of the

Albigenses during the latter part of the twelfth century must be

regarded as strongly marking the revolt of the French mind, especially

in the more impetuous south, against the priestly absolutism that

crushed all freedom of religious thought, and equally against a church

tolerating the most flagrant abuses. Nor can the historian who desires

to trace the more remote consequences of important moral movements fail

to notice the singular fact that the soil watered by Albigensian blood

at the beginning of the thirteenth century was precisely that in which

the seed sown by the reformers, three hundred years later, sprang up

most rapidly and bore the most abundant harvest. After so long a period

of suspended activity, the spirit of opposition once more asserted its

vital energy--soon, it is true, to meet fresh difficulties, but only

such difficulties as would tend to develop and strengthen it.

1 The Manichæism of the Albigenses is maintained by

Mosheim, Gieseler, Schmidt, etc. A good summary of the evidence in favor

of this view is given in an article in the London Quarterly Review for

April, 1855. The defence of the Albigenses from this serious charge is

ably conducted by George Stanley Faber in his "Inquiry into the History

and Theology of the Ancient Vallenses and Albigenses" (London, 1838).

One of the more recent apologists is F. de Portal, in his "Les

descendants des Albigeois et des Huguenots" (Paris, 1860).

The crime of vauderie.

With the suppression of the Albigenses all open popular protest against

the errors of the church ceases until the advent of the Reformation. The

latent tendency did, indeed, manifest its continued existence in those

obscure practices known as vauderie, which, distorted by the

imagination of reckless informers and interested judges, and converted

into the most monstrous crimes against religion and morality, occasioned

the death of countless innocent victims.1 But it was chiefly among

the learned, and particularly in the bosom of the University of Paris,

that the pressing need of a thorough purification of the church found

expression. Not that the remedies advocated were so definite and

radical, or based upon so full a recognition of the distinctive

character of Christianity, as to merit the name of reformatory projects.

Yet, standing somewhat in advance of their contemporaries, a few

theologians raised their voices in decided condemnation of those evils

which needed only to be held up to public notice to incur the universal

reprobation of mankind.
Nicholas de Clemangis. John Gerson.

Nicholas de Clemangis, Rector of the University of Paris, subsequently

private secretary of Benedict the Thirteenth at Avignon, and perhaps the

most elegant writer of his age, drew a startling picture of the wretched

state of the church at the beginning of the fifteenth century. No writer

had ever described more vividly the corruption of the convents and

monasteries, or denounced more unsparingly the unfaithfulness and

impurity of the parish clergy, and the simony pervading alike all grades

of the hierarchy. His censure was

1 At Arras, for instance, in 1460, a number of men and

women were burned alive as Vaudois, after having been entrapped into

an admission of their guilt by a treacherous advocate. Too late they

exposed the deceit practised upon them, and protested their innocence.

The alleged crimes were: flying to their place of assembly by

witchcraft, adoring the devil, trampling upon the cross, blasphemy,

riotous feasting, and vile offences against morality--staple charges

recurring again and again, ad nauseam, whenever persecuted men and

women have been compelled to meet secretly for God's worship. See L.

Rossier, Histoire des protestants de Picardie (Paris, 1861), 1-4; and

more at length, Chronicon Cornelii Zantfliet, which styles the sufferers

heretics a hundred times worse than Waldenses. Martene et Durand, Vet.

Scriptorum ampliss. collectio (Paris, 1729), vii. 501.]

the more effective because he spoke in sorrow rather than in

anger.1 John Gerson, his contemporary and friend, who
reached the eminent position of chancellor of the university,
was not less bold in stigmatizing the same evils, while the

weight of his authority was even greater. So far, however, was he from

grasping the nature and need of a substantial renovation of the existing

religious belief, that to his influence in no inconsiderable measure was

due the perfidious condemnation and execution of the great Bohemian

forerunner of the Reformation, John Huss. The student of mediæval

history may be inclined to smile at the subtilties of scholastic

distinctions, but he is also compelled to lament the fact that the death

of a Realist was greeted with demonstrations of evident satisfaction

by a philosopher belonging to the opposite school of the

Jean Bouchet's "Deploration."

A century elapsed between the time of Nicholas de Clemangis and Gerson

and the almost simultaneous appearance of Ulrich Zwingle in Switzerland

and Martin Luther in Germany. During this long interval of expectation

the voice of remonstrance was not altogether silent. A few earnest men

refused to suppress the indignation they felt at the sight of the

impiety that had invaded the sacred precincts of the church. Among

1 If, as Adolphe Müntz concludes, after a critical

examination of style, etc. (Nicolas de Clémangis; sa vie et ses écrits,

Paris, 1846), the famous treatise De ruina Ecclesiæ, or De corrupto

Ecclesiæ statu, emanated not from Clemangis at Avignon, but from some

member of the University of Paris hostile to the Popes of Avignon, yet

the undisputed writings of Clemangis contain denunciations of the

corruptions of the church quite as decided as any found in the spurious

treatise. In his tract De Præsulibus Simoniacis, for example, he

declares that the degradation of the clergy, fostered by the cupidity of

the episcopate, had indeed made God's house a den of robbers. It was

"rapinæ officina in qua venalia exponuntur sacramenta ... in qua peccata

etiam venduntur," etc. Müntz, 53. Certainly it would be hard to portray

the life of the priests in darker colors than they appear in the letters

of C. to Gerson, the authenticity of which is not challenged. See the

extracts in Von Polenz, Calvinismus in Frankreich, i. 115. According to

Nicholas de Clemangis, the chaste priest was a rare exception, and an

object of ridicule to his companions.

2 The complicated motives inducing the Council of Constance to acquiesce
in the cruel sentence of Huss were skilfully traced as far back as by the
learned Mosheim, Institutes of Eccles. Hist. (ed. Murdoch), ii. 429, note.

the last of those whose words have come down to us was Jean Bouchet, a

native of Poitiers. In 1512, only five years before the publication of

the theses of the reformer of Wittemberg, he gave to the world a poem

not devoid of historical interest, though possessed of little poetic

merit, entitled "La Déploration de l'Église militante."1 In this

spirited lament it is the church herself that addresses the

hierarchy--pontiff, cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, and others--as well

as kings and secular dignitaries. She complains of the great injuries

and molestations she endures. The practice of simony has converted a

temple into a loathsome stable. Science and learning are no longer

necessary for the candidate for ecclesiastical preferment; a hundred

crowns in hand will serve his purpose much better, no matter how bad his

moral character may be. As for his qualifications, he is full well

provided if he can manage the hounds aright and knows how to hunt with

the falcon. "Cease," cries the church through the poet to the French

princes, "cease to load me down with gewgaws, with chalices, crosses,

and sumptuous ornaments. Furnish me instead with virtuous ministers. The

exquisite beauty of abbeys or of silver images is less pleasing in God's

sight than the holy life of good prelates."2 As it is, the dissolute

ministers of religion are engrossed in forbidden games, in banquets, and

the chase. Decked out with flowers, rings, and trinkets, the bishop in

his dress is more like a soldier or a juggler, than a servant of the

church. He recites his prayers reluctantly, while words of profane

swearing flow freely from his lips. From such disorders as these the

church invokes her worldly protectors to deliver her.

1 This rare poem has been reprinted, with the unimportant

passages omitted, in the Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franç.,

v. (1857) 268, etc.

2 "Cessez, cessez me donner ornemens,

Calices, croix, et beaux accoutremens;

Faictes que j'aye ministres vertueux....

Les images d'argent tant sumptueux,

La grant beauté des moustiers si notables

Ne sont pas tant devant Dieu acceptables

Que la doctrine et vie bonne et saincte

Des bona prelatz."

The abuses which Jean Bouchet described, and other abuses of a similar

kind, were so notorious that no intelligent man could close his eyes to

the evidence of their existence. They had been recited again and again

by more eloquent tongues than that of the poet of Poitiers. Dante and

Petrarch had held them up to immortal contempt. Boccaccio had made them

the subject of ridicule in his popular stories. But neither remonstrance

nor taunt had effectually abated the prevailing corruption. It remained

that a new remedy should be tried, and the time for its application was

close at hand.
Changes in the boundaries of France during the sixteenth century.
It must not be forgotten that the boundaries of France varied

considerably during the sixteenth century. Thus Artois and

Flanders, at the accession of Francis the First, were nominally

fiefs of the French crown, for which Charles of Austria sent to

France a very honorable embassy, with Henry, Count of Nassau, at

its head, to do homage to the young prince. It was on this occasion

that Francis, desirous of gratifying Charles, proposed or consented

to the marriage of his favorite with Claude de Châlons, daughter of

the Prince of Orange (Jean de Serres, Inventaire Général de

l'Histoire de France, 1619, ii. 4, Motley, Dutch Republic, i. 234).

Eleven years later, January, 1526, by the Treaty of Madrid, Francis

renounced his suzerainty over the counties of Artois and Flanders,

as a condition of his release from captivity (Inventaire Général,

ii. 96). On the other hand, not to speak of the "Three

Bishoprics"--Metz, Toul, and Verdun--definitely incorporated with

the French dominions in 1552, France had for a longer or shorter

time possession of the Duchy of Milan, of the island of Corsica,

and of Piedmont. Not only Bresse, but the very Duchy of Savoy, were

for years merged in the realm of France, until restored to

Philibert Emmanuel by the disgraceful Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis.



Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples.

The reformatory movement, whose almost simultaneous rise at so many

different points constitutes one of the most noticeable features of the

history of Europe in the sixteenth century, originated, so far as France

was concerned, within the bosom of that famous nursery of mediæval

learning, the University of Paris. Among the teachers who, during the

later years of the reign of Louis the Twelfth, attracted the studious

from the most distant parts of Christendom, Jacques Lefèvre, a native of

Étaples in Picardy, held a high rank for natural ability and extensive

acquirements. It is true that neither his personal appearance nor his

extraction commanded respect: he was diminutive in stature, and he could

boast of no noble blood running in his veins.1 A more formidable

hinderance in the path to distinction had been the barbarous instruction

he had received from incompetent masters, both in the inferior schools

and in the university itself. But all obstacles, physical, social, and

intellectual, melted away before the ardor of an extraordinarily active

mind. Rising steadily above the contracted views, the blind respect for

authority, and the self-satisfied ignorance of the instructors of his

youth and the colleagues of his manhood and old age, he greeted with

delight the advent of those liberal ideas which had wrought so wonderful

a change in Germany and Italy. A thirst for knowledge even led him, in

imitation of the sages of the early world, to travel to distant parts of

Europe, and, if we may credit the statements of his admiring

1 Scævolæ Sammarthani Elog. lib. i., i. 3. "Statura fuit

supra modum humili," etc.

disciples, to pursue his investigations into portions of Asia and Africa.
Restores letters to France. His wide range of study.

To Jacques Lefèvre, of Étaples--better known to foreigners under the

Latin designation of Faber Stapulensis--belongs the honor of restoring

letters to France. His eulogist, Scævola de Sainte-Marthe, has not

exaggerated his merit, when, placing him in the front rank of the

learned men whom he celebrates, he likens the Picard doctor to a new sun

rising from the Belgian coast to dissipate the fogs and darkness

investing his native land and pour upon its youth the full beams of a

purer teaching.1 Lefèvre confined his attention to no single branch

of learning. He was equally proficient in mathematics, in astronomy, and

in Biblical literature and criticism.2 Brilliant attainments in so

many departments were commended yet more to the admiration of beholders

by a modest and unassuming deportment, by morals above reproach, and by

a disinterested nature in which there was no taint of avarice. The

sincerity of his unselfish love of knowledge was said to be attested by

the liberality with which he renounced the entire income of his small

patrimony in favor of his needy relations.3
His pupil, Guillaume Farel.

Enjoying a reputation for profound and exact learning which had spread

to foreign countries, and admired even by the great humanist Erasmus,

Lefèvre had drawn to him a small band of the most promising of the

scholars in attendance upon the university. Prominent among these for

brilliancy and fiery zeal was a student more than thirty years younger

than his teacher, Guillaume Farel, destined to fill an important place in the
annals of the French reformation, and to play a leading role in the history
of Geneva and Neufchâtel. Farel was born in 1489, near Gap, in Dauphiny,

1 Sc. Sammarthani Elog., ubi supra.

2 Lefèvre's scientific works were numerous, and some of

them passed through many editions during the early years of the

sixteenth century. See Haag, La France protestante, art. Lefèvre. I have

before me his edition of the Arithmetic of Boëtius, with introduction

and commentary, of the year 1510, and copies of his Astronomical

Treatises of 1510 and 1516, the last of these published at Cologne.

3 Sc. Sammarth. Elog., ubi supra.
and his childhood was spent at the foot of the Alps. Unlike Lefèvre, he
belonged to a family of considerable importance in the provincial nobility.
The contrast was still more marked between the mild and timid professor
and the pupil in whose nature courage was so prominent an element that
it often assumed the appearance of imprudent contempt of danger.
Devotion of scholar and pupil.

But, in spite of dissimilarity of character, Lefèvre and Farel lived

together in close friendship. Together they frequented the churches, and

united in the pious work, as they regarded it, of decking out with

flowers the pictures of the saints, to whose shrines they made frequent

pilgrimages. Lefèvre was scrupulously exact in the performance of his

religious duties, and was especially punctual in attendance on the mass.

In his zeal for the church, he had even undertaken as a meritorious task

to compile the lives of the saints whose names appear on the Roman

calendar, and had actually committed to the press an account of those

whose feast-days fell within the months of January and February.1 On

the other hand, Farel was so sincere an adherent of the current faith,

that, to employ his own forcible description, he had become "a very

Pantheon, full of intercessors, saviors and gods, of whom his heart

might have passed for a complete register." The papacy had so entrenched

itself in his heart, that even the Pope and papal church were not so papal as he.

The man who came to him with the Pope's endorsement appeared to him like a god, while he would gladly have overwhelmed in ruin the sacrilegious wretch that
dared to say a word against the Roman pontiff and his authority.2

1 Epistre à tons Seigneurs et Peuples (Edit. J. G. Fick),172.

2 The passage in which Farel describes his former

superstition is so characteristic, that I quote a few sentences: "Pour

vray la papauté n'estoit et n'est tant papale que mon cœur l'a

esté.... Car tellement il avoit aveuglé mes yeux et perverti tout en

moy, que s'il y avoit personnage qui fut approuvé selon le pape, il

m'estoit comme Dieu; si quelqu'un faisoit ou disoit quelque chose, d'ou

le pape et son estat en fut en quelque mespris, j'eusse voulu qu'un tel

... fut du tout abbatu, ruiné et destruit.... Ainsy Satan avoit logé le

pape, sa papauté, tout ce qui est de luy en mon cœur, de sorte que

le pape mesme, comme je croy, n'en avoit point tant en soy ne [ni]

les siens aussy, comme il y en avoit en moy.... Et ainsy je persevere,

ayant mon panteon en mon cœur, et tant d'advocats, tant de sauveurs,

tant de dieux que rien plus ... tellement que je pouvoye bien estre tenu

pour un registre papal, pour martyrologe," etc. Epistre à tous Seigneurs

et Peuples, 164, 167, 169.

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