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History of Protestantism, vol. 1 - Contents
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    Chapter 19: Meeting Between the Emperor and Pope at Bologna

    Meeting of Protestants at Schmalkald-Complete Agreement in Matters of Faith insisted on-Failure to Form a Defensive League-Luther’s Views on War-Division among the Protestants Over-ruled-The Emperor at Bologna-Interviews between Charles and Clement-The Emperor Proposes a Council-The Pope Recommends the Sword- Campeggio and Gattinara-The Emperor’s Secret Thoughts-His Coronation-Accident-San Petronio and its Spectacle-Rites of Coronation-Significancy of Each-The Emperor sets out for Germany

    Picture: Entrance to the Imperial Castle Nuremberg

    Picture: Street in Coburg

    On almost the same day on which Charles set out from Piacenza, Caden’s letter, telling what reception the emperor had given their deputies, reached the Senate of Nuremberg. It created a profound sensation among the councillors. Their message had been repulsed, and their ambassadors arrested. This appeared to the Protestants tantamount to a declaration of hostilities on the part of the powerful and irate monarch. The Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse consulted together. They resolved to call a meeting of the Protestant princes and cities at an early day, to deliberate on the crisis that had arisen. The assembly met at Schmalkald on November 29, 1529. Its members were the Elector of Saxony; his son, John Frederick; Ernest and Francis, Dukes of Luneburg; Philip the Landgrave; the deputies of George, Margrave of Brandenburg; with representatives from the cities of Strasburg, Ulm, Nuremberg, Heilbronn, Reutlingen, Constance, Memmingen, Kempten, and Lindau. 1Sleidan, bk. 7, p: 125. The sitting of the assembly was marked by a striking incident. The emperor having released two of the ambassadors, and the third, Caden, having contrived to make his escape, they came to Schmalkald just as the Protestants had assembled there, and electrifying them by their appearance in the Diet, gave a full account of all that had befallen them at the court of the emperor. Their statement did not help to abate the fears of the princes. It convinced them that evil was determined, that it behooved them to prepare against it; and the first and most effectual preparation, one would have thought, was to be united among themselves.HOPV1 573.1

    The necessity of union was felt, but unhappily it was sought in the wrong way. The assembly put the question, which shall we first discuss and arrange, the matter of religion or the matter of defense? It was resolved to take the question of religion first; for, said they, unless we are of one mind on it we cannot be united in the matter of defense. 2Seckendorf, lib. 2,sec. 16; Additio. Luther and his friends had recently revised the articles of the Marburg Conference in a strictly Lutheran sense. This revised addition is known as the “Schmalkald Articles” Under the tenth head a very important change was introduced: it was affirmed, without any ambiguity, that the very body and blood of Christ are present in the Sacrament, and the notion was condemned that the bread is simply bread. 3The articles are given in Walch, 16, p. 681. This was hardly keeping faith with the Reformed section of Christendom. But the blunder that followed was still greater. The articles so revised were presented to the deputies at Schmalkald, and their signatures demanded to them as the basis of a political league. Before combining for their common defense, all must be of one mind on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.HOPV1 573.2

    This course was simply deplorable. Apart from religious belief, there was enough of clear political ground on which to base a common resistance to a common tyranny. But in those days the distinction between the citizen and the church-member, between the duties and rights appertaining to the individual in his political and in his religious character, was not understood. All who would enter the proposed league must be of one mind on the tenet of consubstantiation. They must not only be Protestant, but Lutheran.HOPV1 573.3

    The deputies from Strasburg and Ulm resisted this sectarian policy. “We cannot sign these articles,” said they, “but are willing to unite with our brethren in a defensive league.” The Landgrave of Hesse strongly argued that difference of opinion respecting the manner of Christ’s presence in the Sacrament did not touch the foundations of Christianity, or endanger the salvation of the soul, and ought not to divide the Church of God; much less ought that difference to be made a ground of exclusion from such a league as was now proposed to be formed. But the Dukes of Saxony and Luneburg, who were strongly under Luther’s influence, would hear of no confederation but with those who were ready to take the religious test. Ulm and Strasburg withdrew. The conference broke up, having first resolved that such as held Lutheran views, and only such, should meet at Nuremberg in the January following, 4Sleidan, bk. 7, p. 126. D’Aubigne, bk. 14, chap. 1. to concert measures for resisting the apprehended attack of the emperor and the Pope. Thus the gulf between the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches was deepened at an hour when every sacrifice short of the principle of Protestantism itself ought to have been made to close it.HOPV1 573.4

    It was the views of Luther which triumphed at these discussions. He had beforehand strongly impressed his sentiments upon the Elector John, and both he and the Margrave of Brandenburg had come to be very thoroughly of one mind with regard to the necessity of being one in doctrine and creed before they could lawfully unite their arms for mutual defense. But to do Luther justice, he was led to the course he now adopted, not alone by his views on the Sacrament, but also by his abhorrence of war. He shrank in horror from unsheathing the sword in any religious matter. He knew that the religious federation would be followed by a military one. He saw in the background armies, battles, and a great effusion of the blood of man. He saw the religious life decaying amid the excitement of camps; he pictured the spiritual force ebbing away from Protestantism, and the strong sword of the Empire, in the issue, victorious over all. No, he said, let the sword rest in its scabbard; let the only sword unsheathed in a quarrel like this be the sword of the Spirit; let us spread the light. “Our Lord Christ,” wrote he to the Elector of Saxony, “is mighty enough, and can well find ways and means to rescue us from danger, and bring the thoughts of the ungodly princes to nothing. The emperor’s undertaking is a loud threat of the devil, but it will be powerless. As the Psalm says, ‘it will fall on his own pate.’ Christ is only trying us whether we are willing to obey His word or no, and whether we hold it for certain truth or not. We had rather die ten times over than that the Gospel should be a cause of blood or hurt by any act of ours. Let us rather patiently suffer, and as the Psalmist says, be accounted, as sheep for the slaughter; and instead of avenging or defending ourselves, leave room for God’s wrath.” If then Luther must make his choice between the sword and the stake, between seeing the Reformation triumph on the field of war and triumph on the field of martyrdom, he infinitely prefers the latter. The Protestant Church, like that of Rome, wars against error unto blood; but, unlike Rome, she sheds not the blood of others, she pours out her own.HOPV1 574.1

    Had the Lutheran princes and the Zwinglian chiefs at that hour united in a defensive league, they would have been able to have brought a powerful army into the field. The enthusiasm of their soldiers, as well as their numbers, was to be counted on in a trial of strength between them and their opponents. The Geman princes who still remained on the side of Rome they would have swept from the field-even the legions of the emperor would have found it hard to withstand them. But to have transferred the cause of Protestantism at that epoch from the pulpit, from the university, and the press, to the battle-field, would not have contributed to its final success. Without justifying Luther in the tenacity with which he clung to his dogma of consubstantiation, till Reformed Christendom was rent in twain, and without endorsing the judgment of the Schmalkald Conference, that men must be at one in matters of faith before they can combine for the defense of their political and religious rights, we must yet acknowledge that the division between the Lutheran and the Reformed, although deplorable in itself, was ruled to ward off a great danger from Protestantism, and to conduct it into a path where it was able to give far sublimer proofs of its heroism, and to achieve victories more glorious and more enduring than any it could have won by arms. It was marching on, though it knew it not, to a battle-field on which it was to win a triumph the fruits of which Germany and Christendom are reaping at this hour. Not with “confused noise and garments rolled in blood” was to be the battle to which the Protestants were now advancing. No wail of widow, no cry of orphan was to mingle with the paeans of its victors. That battle was to be to history one of its memorable days. There, both the emperor and the Pope were to be routed. That great field was Augsburg.HOPV1 574.2

    We return to Bologna, which in the interval has become the scene of dark intrigues and splendid fetes. The saloons are crowded with gay courtiers, legates, archbishops, ministers, and secretaries. Men in Spanish and Italian uniforms parade the streets; the church bells are ceaselessly tolled, and the roll of the drum continually salutes the ear; for religious ceremonies and military shows proceed without intermission. The palaces in which the Pope and the emperor are lodged are so closely contiguous that a wall only separates the one from the other. The barrier has been pierced with a door which allows Charles and Clement to meet and confer at all hours of the day and night. The opportunity is diligently improved. While others sleep they wake. Protestantism it mainly is that occasions so many anxious deliberations and sleepless hours to these two potentates. They behold that despised principle exalting its stature strangely and ominously from year to year. Can no spell be devised to master it? can no league be framed to bind it? It is in the hope of discovering some such expedient or enchantment that Clement and Charles so often summon their “wise counsellors” by day, or meet in secret and consult together alone when deep sleep rests on the eyelids of those around them.HOPV1 574.3

    But in truth the emperor brought to these meetings a double mind. Despite the oath he had taken on the confines of the Ecclesiastical States never to encroach upon the liberties of the Papal See, 5Sleidan, 7, 126. Robertson, Hist. Charles V., 5, 171. despite the lowly obeisance with which he saluted the Pope when Clement came forth to meet him at the gates of Bologna, and despite the edifying regularity with which he performed his devotions, Charles thought of the great Spanish monarchy of which he was the head in the first place, and the Pope in the second place. To tear up the Protestant movement by the roots would suit Clement admirably; but would it equally suit Charles? This was the question with the emperor. He was now coming to see that to extinguish Luther would be to leave the Pope without a rival. Clement would then be independent of the sword of Spain, and would hold his head higher than ever. This was not for Charles’s interests, or the glory of the vast Empire over which his scepter was swayed. The true policy was to tolerate Wittemberg, taking care that it did not become strong, and play it off, when occasion required, against Rome. He would muzzle it: he would hold the chain in his hand, and have the unruly thing under his own control. Luther and Duke John and Landgrave Philip would dance when he piped, and mourn when he lamented; and when the Pope became troublesome, he would lengthen the chain in which he held the hydra of Lutheranism, and reduce Clement to submission by threatening to let loose the monster on him. By being umpire Charles would be master. This was the emperor’s innermost thought, as we now can read it by his subsequent conduct. In youth Charles was politic: it was not till his later years that he became a bigot.HOPV1 575.1

    The statesmen of Charles’s council were also divided on the point. The emperor was attended on this journey into Germany by two men of great experience and distinguished abilities, Campeggio and Gattinara, who advocated opposite policies. Campeggio was for dragging every Protestant to the stake and utterly razing Wittemberg. There is an “Instruction” of his to the emperor still extant, discovered by the historian Ranke at Rome, in which this summary process is strongly recommended to Charles. 6Instructio data Caesari a Reverendmo Campeggio in Dieta Augustana, 1530. “I found it,” says Ranke, “in a foot-note, in a Roman library, in the handwriting of the time, and beyond all doubt authentic.” (Ranke, vol. I., p. 85; Bohn’s edition, 1847.) “If there be any,” said the legate Campeggio in this “Instruction,” referring to the German princes-“If there be any, which God forbid, who will obstinately persist in this diabolical path, his majesty may put hand to fire and sword, and radically tear out this cursed and venomous plant.”HOPV1 575.2

    “The first step in this process would be to confiscate property, civil or ecclesiastical, in Germany as well as in Hungary and Bohemia. For with regard to heretics, this is lawful and right. Is the mastery over them thus obtained, then must holy inquisitors be appointed, who shall tramp out every remnant of them, proceeding against them as the Spaniards did against the Moors in Spain.” 7Ranke, bk. 1, chap. 3. Such was the simple plan of this eminent dignitary of the Papal Church. He would set up the stake, why should he not? and it would continue to blaze till there was not another Protestant in all Christendom to burn. When the last disciple of the Gospel had sunk in ashes, then would the Empire enjoy repose, and the Church reign in glory over a pacified and united Christendom. If a little heretical blood could procure so great a blessing, would not the union of Christendom be cheaply purchased?HOPV1 575.3

    Not so did Gattinara counsel. He too would heal the schism and unite Christendom, but by other means. He called not for an army of executioners, but for an assembly of divines. “You (Charles) are the head of the Empire,” said he, “you (the Pope) the head of the Church. It is your duty to provide, by common accord, against unprecedented wants. Assemble the pious men of all nations, and let a free Council deduce from the Word of God a scheme of doctrine such as may be received by every people.” 8Oratio de Congressu Bononiensi, in Melanchthonis, Orationum, 4, 87, and Caelestinus, Hist. Council, 1530. Augustae, 1, 10. D’Aubigne, bk. 9, chap. 1. The policies of the two counsellors stood markedly distinct—the sword, a Council.HOPV1 575.4

    Clement VII. was startled as if a gulf had yawned at his feet. The word Council has been a name of terror to Popes in all ages. The mention of it conjured up before the Pontifical imagination an equal, or it might be a superior authority to their own, and so tended to obscure the glory and circumscribe the dominion of the Papal chair. Pius IX. has succeeded at last in laying that terrible bugbear by the decree of infallibility, which makes him absolute monarch of the Church. But in those ages, when the infallibility was assumed rather than decreed to be the personal attribute of the Popes, no threat was more dreadful than the proposal, sure to be heard at every crisis, to assemble a Council. But Clement had reasons peculiar to himself for regarding the proposition with abhorrence. He was a bastard; he had got possession of his chair by means not altogether blameless; and he had squandered the revenues of his see upon his family inheritance of Florence; and a reckoning would be exceedingly inconvenient. Though Luther himself had suddenly entered the council-chamber, Clement could not have been more alarmed and irritated than he was by the proposal of Gattinara. He did not see what good a Council would do, unless it were to let loose the winds of controversy all over Europe. “It is not.” said he, “by the decrees of Councils, but by the edge of the sword, that we should decide controversies. 9“Non concilii decretis sed armis controversias dirimendas.” (Scultet., p. 248. Maimbourg, 2, 177. Fra Paolo Sarpi, Histoire du Concile de Trent, tom. 1, pp. 95-97; Basle, 1738.)HOPV1 575.5

    But Gattinara had not made his proposal without previous consultation with the emperor, whose policy it suited. Charles now rose, and indicated that his views lay in the direction of those of his minister; and the Pope, concealing his disgust, seeing how the wind set, said that he would think further on the matter. He hoped to work upon the mind of the emperor in private.HOPV1 577.1

    These discussions were prolonged till the end of January. The passes of the Alps were locked, avalanches and snow-drifts threatened the man who would scale their precipices at that season, and the climate of Bologna being salubrious, Charles was in no haste to quit so agreeable an abode. The ecclesiastical potentate continued to advocate the sword, and the temporal monarch to call for a Council. It is remarkable that each distrusted the weapon with which he was best acquainted. “The sword will avail nought in this affair,” urged the emperor; “let us vanquish our opponents in argument.” “Reason,” exclaimed the Pope, “will not serve our turn; let us resort to force.” But, though all considerations of humanity had been put aside, the question of the practicability of bringing all the Protestants to the scaffold was a serious one. Was the emperor able to do this? He stood at the head of Europe, but it was prudent not too severely to test his superiority. The Lutheran princes were by no means despicable, either in spirit or resources. The Kings of France and England, though they disrelished the Protestant doctrines, had come to know that the Protestant party was an important political element; and it was just possible their majesties might prefer that Christendom should remain divided, rather than that its unity should be restored by a holocaust like that advocated by Campeggio. And then there was the Turk, who, although he had now retreated into his own domain, might yet, should a void so vast occur as would be created by the slaughter of the Protestants, transfer his standards from the shores of the Bosphorus to the banks of the Danube. It was clear that the burning of 100,000 Protestants or so would be only the beginning of the drama. The Pope would most probably approve of so kindly a blaze; but might it not end in setting other States besides Germany on fire, and the Spanish monarchy among the rest? Charles, therefore, stuck to his idea of a Council; and being master, as Gattinara reminded him, he was able to have the last word in the conferences.HOPV1 578.1

    Meanwhile, till a General Council could be convened, and as preparatory to it, the emperor, on the 20th January, 1530, issued a summons for a Diet of the States of Germany to meet at Augsburg on the 8th April. 10Sleidan, bk. 7, p. 126. 11 D’Aubigne, bk. 9, chap. 1. The summons was couched in terms remarkably gracious, and surely, if conciliation was to be attempted, at least as a first measure, it was wise to go about it in a way fitted to gain the object the emperor had in view. “Let us put an end to all discord,” he said; “let us renounce our antipathies; let us all fight under one and the same leader-Jesus Christ-and let us strive thus to meet in one communion, one Church, and one unity.” 11D’Aubigne, bk. 9, chap. 1.HOPV1 578.2

    What a relief to the Protestants of Germany! The great sword of the emperor which had hung over their heads, suspended by a single thread, was withdrawn, and the olive-branch was held out to them instead. “The heart of kings is in the hand of God.”HOPV1 578.3

    One thing only was lacking to complete the grandeur of Charles, namely, that he should receive the imperial diadem from the hands of the Pope. He would have preferred to have had the ceremony performed in the Eternal City; the act would have borrowed additional lustre from the place where it was done; but reasons of State compelled him to select Bologna. The Pope, so Fra Paolo Sarpi hints, did not care to put so much honour upon Charles in the presence of a city which had been sacked by his soldiers just two years before; and Bologna lay conveniently on the emperor’s road to the Diet of Augsburg. Charles had already been crowned as Emperor of Germany at Aix-la-Chapelle. He now (22nd February) received the iron crown as King of Lombardy, and the golden one (24th February) as Emperor of the Romans. The latter day, that on which the golden crown was placed on his brow, he accounted specially auspicious. It was the anniversary of his birth, and also of the victory of Pavia, the turning-point of his greatness. The coronation was a histrionic sermon upon the theological and political doctrines of the age, and as such it merits our attention.HOPV1 578.4

    Charles received his crown at the foot of the altar. The sovereignty thus gifted was not however absolute; it was conditioned and limited in the manner indicated by the ceremonies that accompanied the investiture, each of which had its meaning. In the great Cathedral of San Petronio-the scene of the august ceremony-were erected two thrones. That destined for the Pope rose half-a-foot higher than the one which the emperor was to occupy. The Pontiff was the first to take his seat; next came the emperor, advancing by a foot-bridge thrown across the piazza which separated the palace in which he was lodged from the cathedral where he was to be crowned. 12In front; of the palace at Bologna is a tablet with an inscription, in which this and other particulars of the coronation are mentioned: “Fenestra haec ad dextrum fuit porta Praetoria; et egressus Caesar per pontem sublicium, in AEdem D. Petronii deductus. Sacris ritis peractis a Pont. Max. auream coronam Imperii caeteraque insignia accepit.” (The window on the right was the Praetorian gate, out of which Caesar passed by a wooden bridge to the temple of San Petronio. The sacred rites being performed by the supreme Pontiff, he received the golden crown and the rest of the imperial insignia.)-Maximilian Misson, Travels, vol. 2, part 1; Lond., 1739. The erection was not strong enough to sustain the weight of the numerous and magnificent suite that attended him. It broke down immediately behind the emperor, precipitating part of his train on the floor of the piazza, amid the debris of the structure and the crowd of spectators. The incident, so far from discomposing the monarch, was interpreted by him into an auspicious omen. He had been rescued, by a Power whose favorite he was, from possible destruction, to wield those high destinies which were this day to receive a new sanction from the Vicar of God. He surveyed the scene of the catastrophe for a moment, and passed on to present himself before the Pontiff.HOPV1 578.5

    The first part of the ceremony was the investiture of the emperor with the office of deacon. The government of those ages was a theocracy. The theory of this principle was that the kingdoms of the world were ruled by God in the person of His Vicar, and no one had a valid right to exercise any part of that Divine jurisdiction unless he were part and parcel of that sacred class to whom this rule had been committed. The emperor, therefore, before receiving the scepter from the Pope, had to be incorporated with the ecclesiastical estate. Two canons approached, and stripping him of the signs of royalty, arrayed him in surplice and amice. Charles had now the honour of being a deacon of St. Peter’s and of St. John Lateranus. The Pope leaving his throne proceeded to the altar and sang mass, the new deacon waiting upon him, and performing the customary services. Then kneeling down the emperor received the Sacrament from the Pope’s hands.HOPV1 579.1

    Charles now reseated himself on his throne, and the princess approaching him removed his deacon’s dress, and robed him in the jewelled mantle which, woven on the looms of the East, had been brought from Constantinople for the coronation of the Emperors of Germany.HOPV1 579.2

    The emperor now put himself on bended knee before Clement VII. First the Pontiff, taking a horn of oil, anointed Charles; then he gave him a naked sword; next he put into his hands the golden orb; and last of all he placed on his head the imperial crown, which was studded all round with precious stones. With the sword was the emperor to pursue and smite the enemies of the Church; the orb symbolised the world, which he was to govern by the grace of the Holy Father; the diadem betokened the authority by which all this was to be done, and which was given of him who had put the crown upon his head; the oil signified that Divine puissance which, shed upon him from the head of that anointed body of which Charles had now become a member, would make him invincible in fighting the battles of the faith. Kissing the white cross that adorned the Pope’s red slipper, Charles swore to defend with all his powers the rights and liberties of the Church of Rome.HOPV1 579.3

    When we examine the magnificent symbolisation acted out in the Cathedral of Bologna, what do we see? We behold but one ruler, the head of all government and power, the fountain of all virtues and graces-the Vicar of the Eternal King. Out of the plenitude of his great office he constitutes other monarchs and judges, permitting them to take part with him in his superhuman Divine jurisdiction. They are his vicars just as he is the Vicar of the Eternal Monarch. They govern by him, they rule for him, and they are accountable to him. They are the vassals of his throne, the lictors of his judgment-seat. To him appertains the power of passing sentence, to them the humble office of using the sword he has put into their hands in executing it. In this one immense monarch, the Pope namely, all authority, rights, liberties are comprehended. The State disappears as a distinct and independent society: it is absorbed in the Church as the Church is absorbed in her head-occupying the chair of St. Peter. It was against this hideous tyranny that Protestantism rose up. It restored to society the Divine monarchy of conscience. The theocracy of Rome was uprooted, and with it sank the Divine right of priests and kings, and all the remains of feudalism.HOPV1 579.4

    It was now the beginning of March. Spring had opened the passes of the Alps, and Charles and his men-at-arms went on their way to meet the Diet he had summoned at Augsburg.HOPV1 579.5

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