Papal Rome - PART III
John Wycliffe and Jan Hus
John Wycliffe was an English man who lived from the mid-1320s to 1384. He had studied at Oxford University and became an ordained priest in 1351. By the time he became a rector in 1374, he had developed some very unorthodox ideas. He was part of a group of people known as the Lollards. Supposedly, they were named this because they tended to mumble “loll-loll” like their tongues were slow. But for being dullards, they had some very keen ideas. For one thing, they felt that scripture was the only reliable truth about God, and that Christians should rely on the Bible, rather than unreliable and frequently self-serving teachings of popes and clerics. This means they felt everyone should have access to a Bible written in their own language, so he began to translate the Latin Vulgate Bible into English. They felt there was no scriptural justification for the papacy's existence, and attacked the riches and power that the popes and the Church as a whole had collected. They disapproved of clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences and praying to saints. They thought the monasteries were corrupt and the immorality with which many clerics often behaved invalidated the sacraments they conducted. When clerics were accused of a crime, it was felt that they should be tried in a regular court of law, not in their special ecclesiastical tribunals. They believed in the separation of Church and state. England should be ruled by its monarchs and administrators, with no interference from the papacy or the Church. Pope Gregory VII condemned Wycliffe's ideas in 1377, but he had a lot of support from some very powerful people, who intervened to protect him from infuriated bishops and archbishops. He lost a little of that support in 1381 when he denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, which means that during the Eucharist, the bread and wine become transformed into the body and blood of Christ. His teachings were condemned by Parliament the following year, which was also the same year he issued the first translation of the Bible. He suffered a stroke during Mass on December 28, 1384, and died on the 31st. His body was buried in Lutterworth churchyard.
Jan Hus came from the small southern Bohemian town of Husinec, from which he takes his name. It's not certain when he was born, but he enrolled in the arts faculty at the university in Prague and received his Bachelor of Arts there in 1393, and his Master of Arts in 1396, at which point he began to teach in the arts faculty. By 1400, he had become an ordained priest and enrolled in the theology faculty at Prague, while continuing to teach in the arts, and even became Dean of the arts faculty before he was chosen by the Czech masters of Charles College to be preacher at Bethlehem Chapel. As he was progressing through his baccalaureate in theology, the controversy over reform in the area forced him to end his studies. He became known for his passionate sermons in support of reform. For the most part, his sermons remained orthodox, but Wycliffe's philosophical and theological writings had made their way to Prague during the 1390s, when Hus was a student, and his sermons began to take on similarity to Wycliffe's teachings. Hus didn't completely agree with Wycliffe. For one thing, Hus still believed in transubstantiation. However, he used most of Wycliffe's writings in support of moral, ecclesiastical, and theological reform. In 1403, the German faculty at Prague condemned 45 articles that had been extracted from Wycliffe's writings. But Czech Bohemians were at odds with German Bohemians, and sought their independence. The Czechs did manage to get the Germans out, but not without major political upheaval. With Wycliffe's writings condemned, it wasn't long until Hus was excommunicated, first locally, and then in Rome in 1411, but this only made him more popular in Bohemia. When his excommunication was declared in Prague in 1412, Hus was forced to withdraw from the city for a couple years. When the Council of Constance was called in 1414, Hus decided to attend, hoping to address the need for reform. However, this would be his downfall. He was imprisoned that November and he was given a hearing the following June. He had expected a theological debate, but was only presented with 30 teachings he'd been charged with, and while he didn't actually teach all of those things as charged, he refused to recant, and denounced the council. The council then condemned him as a heretic, stripped him of his ecclesiastical vesture, and had him burned alive on July 6, 1415. Thirteen years later, in 1428, under the orders of the Council of Constance, Wycliffe's body was then dug up and burned as well. His ashes were scattered in a nearby river.
Joan of Arc
The most well-known victim of heresy during this time period was Joan of Arc. She was a French peasant who had visions that led her to believe that God had chosen her to lead the French to victory against the English during the hundred-years war. She convinced King Charles to let her lead the French army to the city of Orleans where they did achieve a huge victory over the English and Burgundians. Not long after this battle, she was captured by the English, tried for witchcraft and heresy, and burned at the stake, at only around 19 years of age, in 1431.
When the schism ended, Martin V became the new pope. Unfortunately for Martin, the way the schism ended led the College of Cardinals to believe that the Council was now in charge, and was superior to the pope. He did his best to ignore them, but getting anything done was now a huge process as it had to be discussed by the Council first.
Rome was a battlefield, as ever, and it took three full years before Martin could enter Rome, and when he did, he was shocked. The city was in ruins. It was difficult for him to find even a halfway decent place to live, let alone a palace. Work on the Vatican had stopped 50 years earlier. It was time to get back to it. Martin commissioned three great painters from the north to decorate just the Lateran: Pisanello, Masaccio, and Gentile da Fabriano. He was the first of the Renaissance popes. Renaissance literally means a revival of or renewed interest in something. In this case, a renewed interest was taken in classical art and literature and was to be the start of some very great works of art for the next two hundred years. When Martin died, Donatello and Michelozzo worked on his papal tomb.
Martin's successor, Eugenius IV, did not have much time to devote to the classics. Despite being open to reform before his election, meaning allowing the Council to remain supreme, once he was pope, he was no longer interested in letting them run everything. This led to a huge power struggle. Meetings were deadlocked until the pope was willing to concede to the Council, which made the pope an easy target for his enemies. He was forced to flee Rome in disguise. He spent the next nine years in Florence with his Sacred College and Curia, unable to do anything about the rebellion in Rome that was becoming increasingly anti-papal. He finally chose an ex-soldier from among the Curia, promoted him to Bishop, and sent him back to Rome with a contingent of soldiers, who were able to bring Rome back to order and re-establish the pope's authority in the city. He still had to contend with the deadlock in the Council until an unexpected visitor arrived, John VIII, emperor of Byzantium, asking for aid. The Ottoman Turks were still advancing and Constantinople needed military help from the West or they wouldn't make it. Unfortunately, the East and West had been in schism for hundreds of years. The only way to get the military aid they needed was to end the schism, once and for all.
A new Council was called, this time of the whole Church, inviting representatives from both East and West. The delegation from the East was about 700 strong, including the emperor, his patriarch, Joseph II, and representatives, not just from Constantinople, but also Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. They waited a long while for all of the princes who wanted to come to arrive. When they finally determined that everyone who was coming was already there, they got down to business. When all was said and done, on Sunday, July 5, 1439, the official Decree of Union was signed by both the Latin and Greek bishops and abbots, and the following day, the decree was read aloud in both Latin and Greek. The Orthodox Church had officially been brought back into the Roman fold, and the schism between East and West was over. And Eugenius had also re-established papal supremacy over the Council. After nine years away, Eugenius returned to Rome. In the remaining four years of his life, he went back to work rebuilding the city. When he died, Nicholas V took over from there.
There had been previous popes, namely Boniface VIII in 1303 and Innocent VII a hundred years later, who tried to bring a university to Rome, but with the turn of the fifteenth century, there was a new feeling in the air. For one thing, Greek influence had begun to make itself felt. A great Greek scholar named Manuel Chrysoloras came to Florence and taught Greek for fifteen years. The humanist style of Greek art was returning, as was a new awareness of antiquity. For a thousand years, the pagan splendors of Rome had been largely ignored. Neither pope nor pilgrim were interested in them because they were not useful. They were at the point of grinding the ancient statues into dust to be re-used to make concrete. However, having been away from Rome for such a long period of time while the papacy was in Avignon, the new popes brought fresh eyes to the city. They were determined to create a new city that combined both classical and Christian civilizations, which would arouse the admiration of all who saw it. Nicholas also declared 1450 to be a Jubilee year, bringing close to 100,000 pilgrims flocking to Rome, tempted by the prospect of plenary indulgence for their sins, which completely restored the papal finances.
In May 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. A few attempts were made to dredge up a Crusade to take back the city, but it was not meant to be. After 1,123 years, Constantinople was no more. Nicholas started a massive collection of books. He wanted a copy, both in Latin and in Greek, of everything he could get his hands on, whether pagan or Christian. He himself was rarely seen without a book. He had to start virtually from scratch, as the old papal library had been left at Avignon and most of that had been either lost or stolen. He also worked on rebuilding the city, strengthening the Leonine walls, supervising the restoration of over forty early Christian churches, repairing aqueducts, paving streets, and instituting a major restoration of the Castel Sant'Angelo. He put a great deal of work into St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican, and he made the decision to move the papal residence from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican.
Nicholas died in 1455 and was succeeded by Calixtus III who really didn't care for the Renaissance that was taking place. He felt that all of the art and literature was a huge waste of money and promptly dismissed all of the copiers and artisans in the papal service and started selling off some of the most valuable articles and books to raise money for a Crusade, which didn't achieve much. When he died, no one was particularly upset. He was not well liked.
It's ironic that Calixtus came to power in 1455 and thought that literature was a huge waste of money, as that is also the year that Johannes Gutenberg completed his printing press and printed the first Gutenberg Bible, which was a copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible. Gutenberg was a goldsmith and a jeweler who knew how to make metal into shapes. He worked on a particular metal alloy that would be able to be inked and be able to stand up to repeatedly stamping letters onto a page without breaking apart. The printing press took around 20 years to complete, and while the Bible was much less expensive to print in this way, it still cost around 3 years wage for the average cleric. Only about 180 Bibles were printed by Gutenberg in his life.
Calixtus' successor was Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius II. He was very well liked and had a long career as a great administrator. He also attempted to organize a Crusade, and was sorely disappointed by the inadequate response he received. He died at Ancona, not long after his Crusade failed to get off the ground. His successor was not much different from Calixtus, not interested in the arts, so it wasn't until Sixtus IV that the rebuilding of Rome was picked up again where Nicholas V left off. By the time he had died, Rome was a Renaissance city and the Vatican library was triple the size that Nicholas had left it. Sixtus is most remembered for his work on the Sistine Chapel. When the basic construction was completed in 1481, he brought in a whole troop of painters to do the frescoes, including Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Perugino. Michelangelo was only 6 years old at the time. He wouldn't join in until the very end, 27 years later, to do the ceiling and the east wall. Unfortunately, it was also Sixtus who called for the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition
The Reconquista in Spain was almost complete. This was the recovery of certain lands that had been conquered by Muslims (the Moors). Ferdinand II and Isabella were the king and queen of Spain. Jews had been persecuted for centuries in Europe, but Spain was particularly bad. In 694 AD, the archbishop of Toledo gave all Spanish Jews the choice to be baptized or face perpetual enslavement. In 1391, the newly crowned Henry III encouraged the massacres of Jews in several Spanish cities. During the reign of Henry IV, however, many Jewish Christians had enjoyed considerable power, reaching high positions in government, business, finance, and even the Church. Now, the suspicion was growing that a large number of them were holding onto their old beliefs, and that they had only converted to escape anti-Semitic persecution. So, in 1478, Sixtus issued a papal bull, ordering a major inquiry. This was the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition, which was to last until Napoleon ended it in 1808.
The Jews had been blamed for all kinds of things, including a plague, poisoning the water, and abducting Christian boys. Ferdinand and Isabella felt that Christian support was important for an upcoming Crusade that was being planned to go against Muslims, and the Christians did not like the Jews, plus, there was the added bonus that the Crusade could be funded by seizing the wealth of the condemned heretical Jews. In 1480, in the town of Castile, Jews were separated from Christians and moved in to ghettos. The Inquisition then expanded to Seville. A huge number of Jews fled the area. In 1481, 20,000 Jews went ahead and confessed to heresy in hopes of avoiding execution. However, part of the penitence they were given required them to name other heretics, and by the end of the year, thousands of Jews were being burned at the stake.
Those Jews who had fled to Rome informed Sixtus what was going on, and he proclaimed that the Spanish Inquisition was too harsh and that too many Jewish people were being falsely accused, so, in 1482, he appointed a council to take on the Inquisition. Tomas de Torquemada, a clergyman who had already been a leader in the Inquisition in Spain, was appointed the Inquisitor General, and from that point, torture became routinely and systematically used to elicit confessions. Many brutal methods of torture were used, including tying a person's hands and feet to a rack, then slowly turning cranks to pull the person's joints apart, until their shoulders or legs might pop out of their sockets. If turned far enough, the person's arms or legs could tear off. And if that wasn't bad enough, they often chose to double up the tortures. While someone was on the rack, they might use hot metal pincers or thumbscrews on the skin to pinch, twist, or mutilate. The funny thing is, the torture wasn't to punish the accused. It was only to get them to admit to wrongdoing. Once a “true” confession was elicited, the person could be given a penance, like being sent away on a pilgrimage or being told to wear several heavy crosses around their neck, and sent on their way...in theory. Often, people were executed. This was a terrifying period in history. Didn't like your neighbor? Accuse him of being a heretic (or Jewish) and he'll be put to the torture. But you'd need to watch out, because you could just as easily be accused of the same and end up there yourself. This went on for hundreds of years.
Let's stop and talk for a moment about the ninth commandment. Exodus 20:16 says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” You might have also read it as “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Obviously, the people accusing their neighbors of being heretics or being Jewish, especially if they weren't, were breaking this commandment. First of all, I want to remind you that most people didn't have Bibles of their own, and the vast majority of the people in this time period didn't know how to read, so even if they DID have their own Bibles, it wouldn't have done them any good. PLUS, in most places, it was actually illegal to have a Bible in your possession, or to translate it or own a translation in a language you actually speak. The punishment for translating the Bible was to be burned at the stake. As we already mentioned, John Wycliffe's bones were dug up and burned. He had translated the Bible into English. William Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the Bible into English. It was up to the Church to tell people what was right and wrong, and the Church, unfortunately, was telling them to turn their neighbors in if they were heretics. Some of these people may have done it in an attempt to protect themselves, thinking that their neighbors didn't like them, so they'd better get there first, and accuse the neighbor of the heresy, before the neighbor could accuse them.
And how many times, and in how many ways, are we still doing this today? This is not an easy world we live in. It is almost instinctual to lash out at someone who you perceive as having done you wrong. But God is asking us to stop. He is asking us to take the higher road. He is asking us to be honest. We will talk more about the Ten Commandments in another post, but I will say this here. The Ten Commandments were given to us, not to give us rules that we then need to punish ourselves for disobeying, but to teach us how to get along better in the world. The first four commandments show us how to have a better relationship with God. The last six commandments show us how to have a better relationship with people. When you are honest, you don't steal, you don't cheat, etc, people will begin to see that you are trustworthy. That doesn't mean that someone won't take offense at your actions. After all, Jesus was perfect, and look what people did to Him. I cannot guarantee that your neighbor will also live by these rules, or that your neighbor will not turn you in if they see some benefit to themselves. But God is asking you to take the higher road and live the honest and faithful life anyway. Don't be tempted to give in and make someone else's life hard in hopes that you will be spared hard times. It doesn't work that way.
1492 - Birth of a New Age
1492 was kind of a big year. Thomas Cahill talks about this is in his book, Heretics and Heroes. Many scholars consider this year to mark the official end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of a new age. The Reconquista came to an end as the Muslims (also known as the Moors) were finally pushed out of Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella also announced the Alhambra Decree on March 31, which required all Jewish people to leave Spain unless they converted to Christianity and were baptized. If they refused to leave or be converted, they would be put to death. They would be allowed to take their possessions with them, but not any gold, silver, or minted money. If any Christian was caught hiding a Jew, their property would be confiscated and all hereditary privileges would be cancelled. Understandably, many Jews publicly converted to Christianity and were baptized. However, their Christian neighbors tended to be suspicious of them and would devise bizarre tests to see if they had sincerely converted, like giving them pork to eat and if they refused or gagged, they were considered insincere converts and were put to the question.
We also saw the death of Pope Innocent VIII just days before Columbus sailed from Spain to find a new, more efficient route to the Indies and stumbled upon the New World instead. The cost of imported goods from China and India had been going up, and the European nobility had come to love and rely on the spices, opiates and silks, which couldn't be found anywhere else. The problem was that the shortest routes to get back and forth for the trade were through the Mediterranean Sea, to the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and then across the Arabian Sea to India, but that whole area was overrun with Turks, who made safe travel close to impossible, so traders had to sail all the way around the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa, which meant sailing all the way around the western edge of the entire continent of Africa, to get into the Indian Ocean and across to India. It was a really long and dangerous journey, which is why the goods were becoming so expensive!
There were many people attempting to solve this problem, but no one, until Columbus, had come up with a decent solution. Columbus was an experienced sailor and tradesman from the area around Genoa, Italy. Contrary to popular belief, people of the time knew the world was a sphere, and the circumference of the Earth was also known. It had been accurately calculated by the Greek Eratosthenes in the second century BC. But the huge land mass between western Europe and eastern Asia was completely unknown. Also, Columbus had made a mistake with his calculations. His mistake was due to a misunderstanding in reading a Latin translation of a Persian astronomer known as Alfraganus. The correct measurements were given in Arabic miles, which Columbus had assumed was the same as Roman miles, while in fact, Roman miles are about 25 percent shorter. This had him seriously underestimating the size of the ocean to the west. He assumed he could reach Japan or the eastern coast of China within a few weeks. Now he just needed a financial backer for the trip. He started to present himself to the nobility, acting the part of a noble himself, discussing his plans, which would then be turned over to the scholars of the land, but most of them, having read the same books as Columbus, and then some, thought he was a crackpot and wouldn't have anything to do with him or his plan. It wasn't until he reached Spain and convinced Ferdinand and Isabella (particularly Isabella), that someone was willing to listen and back his voyage. He already had about half of the cash he needed for the trip, and Spain was actually out of money, but Isabella donated her jewels, which inspired other Spanish nobility to give to the cause as well.
Columbus should have perished in the ocean. It was far too vast, even with the Americas in his way. What saved him, aside from the huge land mass that no one in the then known world had yet heard about, was the fact that he understood the North Atlantic trade winds, which flow in a clockwise circle. He planned his route so that he would always have the wind at his back, plotting a southerly outgoing course, and a northerly homecoming one. This considerably cut down his time on the ocean since he was able to use the wind to his advantage and never had to fight it. He landed on a Bahaman island, and spent the next several months sailing from island to island, searching for pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices, and other objects and merchandise whatsoever, to no avail. He returned the following year, leaving about 40 men behind to govern the new settlement of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). His Spanish patrons were extremely disappointed in what he brought back. He made three other trips to the Americas, in 1493, 1498, and 1502, exploring further south and west. He died in Spain in 1506.
Back to 1492, after the death of Pope Innocent VIII, the new pope, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, the great-nephew of Pope Calixtus III, took the name Alexander VI. He was given the papal position through bribes and was in direct competition with Giuliano della Rovere, who was also attempting to bribe his way into the papacy, but Borgia, coming from a very prominent family, had more money and won. Alexander VI was a lot of things: highly intelligent, an experienced administrator, perfectly capable of restoring order to Rome, well-versed in knowledge of the workings of the Curia, witty, charming, and very popular with the ladies. He was not, however, in the slightest bit religious. He made no secret of the fact that he was in the Church for what he could get out of it, and that, apparently, was a great deal. By the time he was elected, he had already fathered eight children by three different women. He gave his children and other family members positions in the church, even making some of his children cardinals. His son Cesare was already an archbishop by the age of 18, when Alexander then made him a cardinal. However, in 1498, Cesare asked to be released from being a cardinal, and was soon made the Duke of Valentinois and given a wife. He started going after the Papal States, one by one, eliminating the feudal lords by expulsion of poisoning. Cesare was known for his violence and cruelty. It was said that four or five men, bishops, prelates, and others, would be murdered each night, and all of Rome trembled for fear that he would murder them in their sleep. Much like his father, he also had a huge sexual appetite, and would hold orgies at his home, with the pope also in attendance.
By the end of his pontificate, Alexander was working together with Cesare to turn the Papal States into fiefs for the Borgia family. Alexander died in August 1503. Several cities rose up in open revolt against Cesare, who was in his sickbed, having become ill at the same time as his father. His only hope was to bribe the conclave to keep his biggest enemy, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere out of the papacy. In fact, another man was chosen, a relative of the late Pope Pius II, another Piccolomini, who took the name Pius III, and there are indications that he would have done a wonderful job and brought back order to the chaos and undone the corruption, but he was sick, and his pontificate only lasted 26 days. Within a few hours of his death, it was clear that della Rovere had spread his money around wisely. He became the new pope and took the name Julius II. Not long after, Cesare was exiled to Spain, where he died in 1507, fighting for his brother-in-law.
Julius was no more religious than Alexander had been. He was interested in the temporal power of the papal position, not the spiritual. He was an experienced soldier and led his armies personally into battle. He spent a great deal of his pontificate fighting against Venice because the Venetians had recently seized several other cities that had previously fallen to Cesare Borgia. Those cities traditionally belonged to the Holy See, and the Venetians refused to surrender them. Venice had become a small empire and the pope was not happy about this. He asked for, and received, help from neighboring countries, including France. Once he had Venice under control, he made a complete about-face and turned his attention to getting the French out of Milan in northern Italy, which he received help from Venice to do. He planned to put together a Holy League with himself at the head, and comprising of Venice,Spain, England, and the empire to drive France out of Italy once and for all. However, he hadn't counted on King Louis' nephew, Gaston de Nemours, who had proved himself an outstanding military commander. Only 22 years old, he was courageous, innovative, and resourceful, and was said to be able to make snap decisions and then move his army like lightning, arriving at towns before they'd even had the opportunity to man the walls. Nemours won many battles, but was killed in the battle at Ravenna in 1512. His successor on the battlefield had none of his flare, and was soon driven back to France. Julius regained all of his papal lands and died in February 1513. Aside from being a battle leader, his lasting legacy was that of a patron of the arts. He had a passion for classical statuary, and enriched the Vatican with a number of statues. It was he who convinced Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo did not see himself as a painter, much preferring the art of sculpting. He also commissioned Michelangelo to work on his tomb. He had envisioned a huge tomb containing 40 bigger-than-life statues that would sit in the new St. Peter's that he had planned to have built. Unfortunately, there was not enough money to go into this vast project, and his tomb is much smaller than he had wanted, sitting inside what had been completed of his new St. Peter's.
His successor was Giovanni de Medici, who became Pope Leo X. He was elected on his own merits, without bribing anyone in the conclave. He was a pious man, who took his religious duties seriously and fasted twice a week. The de Medici family were very well-to-do and he was more like a Renaissance prince than a pope. He was a dedicated patron of the arts and spent money on lavish banquets, parades, hunts, and parties. Unfortunately, he drove the papacy deeper and deeper into debt. He was also homosexual, and as time went on, he tried less and less to hide it, even showing off his latest lover, the singer Solimando, son of Prince Cem of the Ottoman Turks. And, as always, he continued the sale of indulgences and cardinal positions for papal income. Back when the papacy had begun selling indulgences, it had been innocent enough. People worried about their loved ones who had passed on and maybe hadn't had the chance to repent and were likely in Purgatory (a Catholic invention). For a small fee, a priest would offer to say prayers for the lost loved ones of the person, and get them out of Purgatory more quickly. Over time, they also started paying for prayers for their own sins they had committed, and then around the time of Pope Leo X, they had even opened up the sale of indulgences for sins not yet committed. Like many of his predecessors, he paid lip service to the idea of reform, but did not really feel any particular need to change the way he did things. The author Erasmus had a real problem with the way things were done and wrote several satires on the subject, becoming very popular. He also re-translated the New Testament. This book was written in three columns, the first the Latin Vulgate translation, the second his own, better, translation, and the third in the original Greek so other Greek scholars could check his work. This made it possible for a flood of vernacular translations to make their way across Europe as well.
It was also during this timeframe when, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The 95 theses were a list of questions and propositions that were open for debate, and pretty soon, copies of his 95 theses had spread like wildfire, translated into many different languages, sparking major controversy all over Europe. Luther hadn't started out his life planning to be a monk. He had actually been studying to be a lawyer, the career path his father had chosen for him, when he was nearly struck by lightning out riding his horse. This scared him so much, thinking that the next strike would actually hit him, that he cried out to St. Anne and promised to become a monk. He joined an order of Augustinian monks called the Black Cloister. This order tended to be particularly strict, and this suited the new monk just fine. He devoted himself to fasting, self-flagellation, hours on his knees in prayer, and would spend up to six hours at a time in confession. He remembered that time as having “lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter”, instead making Him “the jailer and hangman” of his poor soul. Luther's superior felt that Luther was a little too exuberant in his self-punishment and encouraged him to take up theological studies in preparation for a career as a university lecturer, hoping that such an occupation would return Luther to a healthier frame of mind, and give him a break in the confessional.
Luther never did anything half-hearted. His plunge into his studies became his sole focus. He couldn't bring himself to believe that he was forgiven by God, and no matter what he did, how hard he abased himself, he didn't feel rid of the stain of sin on his soul. The answer was to give up trying to justify himself, and he found what he was looking for in Paul's letter to the Romans. He began to understand that justification was by faith in Jesus alone. Not by anything he did. He began to notice the corruption around him. In spring 1517, indulgences salesmen began arriving in the area, selling plenary indulgences for a monetary “donation,” preying on the guilty consciences of those who have lost loved ones, preaching in cathedrals, churches, and public squares, offering up salvation for gold. The people were offered certificates for their paid remission of sins. Some of those people brought their certificates to Luther in confession, and he was deeply troubled by what he saw going on. He had actually taken a pilgrimage to Rome back around the en of 1510, while Michelangelo was in the middle of painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and had not been at all impressed with what he had seen: men openly urinating in the streets, priests hurrying through Mass, without showing any proper reverence, bishops and cardinals openly pat,ronizing prostitutes and/or keeping boys for the purposes of homosexual practices. In fact, he was downright disgusted. There was an overall sense that everything and everyone in Rome was for sale, and from that moment on, it became his greatest insult to refer to anyone as being “an Italian.”
Despite the legend, Luther did not actually nail his 95 theses to the cathedral door, but he might as well have with the impact it made. He simply wrote his theses in a diplomatic private letter to Archbishop Albrecht, who owned the bishopric where the indulgences were being sold and would be receiving the proceeds of the sales. In the letter, Luther argued that indulgences cannot bring a human soul to salvation or holiness, and that Christ had never commanded anyone to preach such things, but to only preach the gospel, which was being buried under the vulgar clatter of the hawking of indulgences. He then proceeded to write out several thesis statements that he hoped would be opened for debate. These were not fully reasoned arguments, simply a statement or question that he hoped would be addressed. He also called to account the actions of the pope, and also addressed questions he'd heard from lay people, wondering why, if he has the power, wouldn't the pope just empty purgatory out of love for the people, instead of demanding gold for the service, and also, since the pope actually had the money for it, why he didn't just pay for the new St. Peter's Basilica out of his own pocket, rather than taking the funds from those who don't have much to offer? Somehow, the letter was leaked, perhaps by a disgruntled secretary, we will never know, and from there, the printing press made it easy for copies to be made and distributed. Within a month, all of Germany had read or heard the letter, and within a year, it had been translated and distributed throughout Europe.
All across Germany, Luther had become a bit of a hero. He hadn't intended to publicly challenge papal authority, but there it was. He began to write more, in German as well as Latin. The original theses were in Latin, so he wrote his Sermon on Grace and Indulgence in German, which restated most of the arguments central to the 95 theses. He wrote that indulgences were for lazy Christians. If they have extra money lying around, they should be using it to help poor people, rather than wasting it on petty indulgences for themselves. He then wrote Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses in Latin, which was a defense of his arguments against the accusations that he was a heretic. He sent this to the pope with a polite letter of introduction. From that point on, until his death in 1546, he spent almost all of his time writing, publishing something new, on average, about every two weeks. He also made a number of public appearances, in an attempt to explain himself. From 1518-1521, he made four public appearances outside the city of Wittenberg and published eight seminal essays.
In April 1518, Luther set out on foot across Germany to the University of Heidelberg. He was received everywhere along his route as a celebrity. In his speech on Augustinian questions of grace and human nature, he impressed everyone. Martin Bucer, who would become one of his intellectual supporters, was in the audience and wrote that Luther answered questions sweetly, listened intently and patiently, and his answers were brief, wise, and drawn from the Holy Scriptures, making everyone who heard him his admirers. Unfortunately, Luther wasn't able to keep that tone throughout his life. He was not as well received by other audiences.
When he ventured further south that August, to the city of Augsburg, he spoke with the papal legate, the Dominican Jacopo di Vio, in the audience. He represented the interests of the pope, which meant that it was his job to put Martin Luther firmly in his place. He insisted that Martin Luther recant on his knees. The result was a screaming match, with Martin Luther insisting that the decision of whether the pope actually has the power to release souls from Purgatory should be put before a council of the universal church, and Jacopo basically screaming at him that he's a Conciliarist, meaning that Luther believed that a general council, not the pope, can be said to hold ultimate earthly authority in the church. This wasn't exactly true. Luther was more than happy to admit that he believes a council is very capable of making mistakes. It was a silly argument, really. If you read your Bible, there's nowhere that describes anything like Purgatory. That was made up by the Catholic Church in the 12th century, adopted as doctrine in 1274, and spread by Dante in his Divine Comedy.
In the summer of 1519, Luther was present for another debate at the University of Leipzig with a practiced public speaker going by the name of Johann Eck. Eck was already very well-known and liked at the university. He was known for his ability to debate any subject with razor-sharp wit, able to throw out logical objections with lightning speed. Luther was also a very good debater. He could be cutting in print or in conversation, but Eck had the home team advantage. The students and faculty knew him, loved him, and were already familiar with his arguments. As far as they were concerned, Luther was a nobody. His points required more thought than they were prepared to give in this lightning-quick debate. The question up for discussion was whether the pope had any sort of primacy in the church. Eck, of course, was defending the papacy, and brought up Matthew's Gospel, which had been established by the church leaders, that Jesus had given his power to Peter as the first pope, and thus down the line of Peter's successors. Luther countered that the Greeks were just as Orthodox as the Romans, but did not see Peter or the papacy as superior, and Eck came back that the Greeks had lost their empire to the Turks as God's punishment for seceding from the Roman church. Eck accused him of being no better than a Wycliffite or a Hussite, deserving to be burned at the stake. Luther told him, to the horror of the audience, that he felt the Council of Constance had made a serious error in judgment in treating Hus so badly. For a German to defend a Bohemian was pretty much unheard of back then, as Germans and Bohemians were mortal enemies. Luther realized, despite seeming to lose that argument, that Eck hadn't come up with any original arguments of his own, and he didn't think Eck actually believed most of the things he had said. He'd seemed to be playing the devil's advocate for the sake of a debate, the object of which is to vanquish one's opponent through dramatic words and embellishments. No one was quite prepared for Luther's passion and honesty in what he was trying to say.
He continued to write, making the papacy more angry, and even causing friction in his friendship with the author Erasmus, who was starting to take a little heat for basically giving Luther the idea that sparked the flames. Eck, the very same Eck that Luther had debated in 1519, assisted in writing the papal bull that would lead to the excommunication of Luther if he refused to recant. It was titled Exsurge Domine. Nothing could become official until it had been distributed to all regions and read aloud as a proclamation, but several areas in Germany, including Wittenberg, refused to take part in the distribution, making it more difficult to move forward. Encouraged by Eck and the papacy, book burnings were held, in which much of Luther's writings were thrown into the fire. In retaliation, there was a similar book burning in Wittenberg, where Luther's supporters threw things like canon law and a copy of Exsurge Domine into the fire.
The next Diet (general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire) would be held in the spring of 1521, and Luther was requested to attend. He was promised safe conduct by Charles V, and despite remembering Hus's fate when he was offered safe conduct to a similar function (Hus was burned at the stake), Luther decided to go. In April 1521, Luther, along with a few friends, made their way nervously into the city of Worms. A huge pile of writings were piled in the alcove of a window. The titles were read off and Luther was asked to verify that he was the author of all of them. He did. Then they asked if he was willing to recant everything he wrote. He asked for more time, another day, to think about his response to that question, on account of the momentousness of all he had written. Like Hus, he was really hoping to debate his ideas, not just be put on the spot with one yes/no question. The extra time was granted. The next day, when they reconvened, he told them that not all of his works could be recanted. Some of them were simple writings, about scripture and Christian doctrine as it is accepted universally, that no Christian would ever argue with, so to recant those would be to recant the Word of God, which he could not do. He said that others of his books denounced the immoral lives of so many Romanists, as he had seen in person on his pilgrimage a decade earlier, and their tyranny over the “great and good” German people. Another set of books, he claimed, were writings in defense of accusations made against him, and his language, he admitted, was not as mild as it maybe should have been. He then made a flowery speech which he was not supposed to have been allowed to make, essentially pleading his case and begging them not to condemn him for the passions of his enemies, and when told to answer the question directly, of whether he chooses to recant, he said that it would go against Scripture, reason, and his conscience to do so, and refused.
If Luther had been left to his own devices, he likely would have been killed within the year. However, Charles V fully intended to keep his word about giving Luther safe conduct, which meant Luther would leave with armed guards to protect him. Shortly before he left Worms, he received word from Frederick the Wise of Saxony that he had arranged for Luther to be “kidnapped” by a group of armed men on horseback, which was exactly what happened. Shortly after leaving town, a group of men on horseback, bows trained on Luther's guards, swooped in and whisked Luther away, crisscrossing their path over and over again to confuse anyone trying to follow, and took Luther to an out-of-the-way castle called the Wartburg, overlooking the town of Eisenach. He was held there in a small room, most of the time unable to roam about the castle for fear that passersby or the occasional visitor might see him. He grew out his hair and a beard to disguise himself, and, with so little exercise, also put on weight. He might have gone insane had he not found a project to occupy him. Over the next several months, he began the arduous process of translating the Bible, both Old and New Testaments into German. This was not an easy task. For one thing, there was no real literary German yet. There were many spoken dialects, and a more formal German that was used for things like legal documents, but no actual literature written in German. Also, he had decided he would translate the Bible, not from the Latin Vulgate, but from its original Hebrew and Greek. Three months into his project, he had completed his translation of the New Testament, which not only gave the New Testament in vernacular to the German people, but practically re-invented the German language. He translated the Bible in such a way that modern German people could understand, for example, using German coinage instead of shekels or denarius. It made the Bible almost come to life, and even the lowliest classes of people studied it with avid interest and began to debate theology with those who had devoted their lives to it, like the Catholic priests. It took Luther more than a decade to finish the Old Testament, which was published in 1534, long after he had returned safely to Wittenberg.
King Henry VIII
1534 was also when King Henry VIII seceded from the Catholic Church and formed his own church, the Anglican Church. You might wonder how things got to this point. Pope Leo X had died in 1521, leaving the church virtually bankrupt. Because of Martin Luther's 95 Theses from five years earlier, the church was very unpopular. The cardinals needed to hire a guard to keep them safe while they met for conclave to choose their new pope. However, things were deadlocked between Cardinal Soderini and Cardinal Giulio de Medici, and nothing was resolved until a letter arrived from Charles V, recommending his former tutor, a 62-year old Dutch man named Adrian Dedal. None of the cardinals knew him, and since no one in the city knew him, he could have no enemies there, so they took a chance and elected him and he became Pope Adrian (or Hadrian). Fortunately, he did not last long. Once he arrived, no one could stand him, including the populace in the city because he didn't speak Italian or Latin, so they just saw him as a northern barbarian, the Curia because he wasn't selling benefices, and even Charles V, who had expected him to join forces with him against Francis I. Francis I was even annoyed with him for arresting Cardinal Soderini for plotting to hand over Naples to the French. In the meantime, he lived like a monk, only employing his old domestic housekeeper and spending one crown a day on catering. When he died in September 1523, everyone was relieved. The next conclave eventually decided on Giulio de Medici, cousin of Pope Leo X, who now became Pope Clement VII. Clement was not terribly popular either. In fact, it was during his pontificate that Protestantism became a separate religion in Europe. Also, due to forming a secret alliance with the king of France, rather than Emperor Charles V, his pontificate also resulted in the worst sack of Rome since the early days of the barbarian raids. He barely escaped Rome with his life. Most in Rome were massacred. The city was left an empty shell of itself, the streets piled with corpses. He snuck out of Rome in disguise and went to the town of Orvieto. It was there that an embassy arrived from King Henry VIII of England, seeking an annulment from his wife, Catherine of Aragon. She was not producing any sons and he needed an heir. It should have been easy to go ahead and grant him his annulment, but for one thing. Catherine of Aragon was the aunt of Emperor Charles V and he could not afford to offend Charles again. So, he held out, waiting for an opportune moment to excommunicate Henry. That moment arrived on July 11, 1533, when Henry forced Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to declare his marriage to Catherine null and void and he had already married Anne Boleyn months earlier. Unfortunately, Henry fought back. In 1534, he broke from Rome and established the Church of England and placed himself at its head. Not long after, Pope Clement VII died.
Henry VIII (reigned 1509-1547) was not a nice man. He started out ok, showing promise as an artistic intellectual. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, his brother's widow, was a good match for his intellectual pursuits, but she had a series of miscarriages and stillbirths, only giving him one living female child, Mary in 1516, who would eventually become Queen Mary I, otherwise known as Bloody Mary. He had gotten the pope to pull some strings to be allowed to marry Catherine to begin with, because she was his brother's widow, it was thought to be somewhat incestuous, and he used that as grounds to ask the pope to go back on the string-pulling and give him an annulment. He felt that God's displeasure with their marriage was being shown with so many stillborn children, particularly the males. The ironic thing was, in 1521, because of a book he published attacking Luther and expressing his devotion to the papacy, he had been awarded with the title, Defender of the Faith. Now he had gone against the papacy, thus fueling the fire of Protestantism even further.
He needed a male heir. Also, he had started to fall for one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting, 20-year old Anne Boleyn, who refused to be his mistress, only his wife. With the pope's refusal to grant him the annulment, he turned to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to perform his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and then, several months later, with Anne already pregnant with their first child, to annul his marriage to Catherine. This led to his excommunication by the pope, and his subsequent withdrawal from the Roman Catholic Church, establishing his own Church of England. This was a beginning to some much sought-after English reform, but not in the way the English people had hoped. Henry despised Luther and kept almost all of the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion, except in recognizing himself as the supreme headship on earth over the Church of England. Anne also had a series of miscarriages and produced one living female child, the future Queen Elizabeth I in 1533, last of the Tudor line.
Anne was arrogant and Henry soon tired of her. Had she given birth to a male heir, it might have saved their marriage, but the only male child she gave birth to was stillborn. A few months later, Henry had her locked up in the Tower of London under charges of adultery with various men, and subsequently had her executed. After that, Henry married Jane Seymour. Jane was the only one of Henry's six wives to produce a male heir, the future King Edward VI in 1537, and she died shortly after his birth.
As time passed, and Henry's attempts to produce other heirs failed, he became increasingly secretive and suspicious, to the point of becoming downright paranoid. He was known to have people executed who crossed him the wrong way, including another of his wives, Catherine Howard for her continued promiscuity after their marriage, and his friend Sir Thomas More, who had been one of his most trusted advisors. He also grew enormously fat, requiring machinery or the aid of more muscular attendants to move him around. He finally died in January 1547 and was succeeded by his son Edward. For an interesting look at the lives of Henry's six wives, although it is a piece of historical fiction, I would recommend reading the book, Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All.
William Tyndale was an English priest. He had attended both Oxford and Cambridge and had his master's degree around the age of 19 or 20. He was particularly good at languages. He had read many of Luther's works and had decided to make his own English translation of the New Testament using Erasmus's text with the original Greek. He wrote his translation, not so much to be read, as to be heard. The problem was that it was still very much illegal to translate the Bible into English. Those who made the attempt were very likely to be killed. This did not stop him. In 1523, he went to London in an attempt to seek the patronage of its bishop, Cuthbert Tunstall. Tunstall was not interested in working with him, sensing a true zealot, rather than the playful irony of someone like Erasmus. Tunstall was an intimate of King Henry and was helping him go against Luther. It would not have been wise of him to take on this charge. So, in 1524, Tyndale sailed for mainland Europe, never to return to England.
He settled in Cologne, France, where he completed his translation of the New Testament. He had planned to have a first edition of six thousand copies printed there, but was tipped off at the last minute that the printer's shop was about to be raided, and slipped off to the more Lutheran precincts of Worms, where his New Testament in modern English was printed, bound, and shipped to England hidden among cases of grain, fabric, and other dry goods. Many of the volumes were confiscated and burned, but thousands more made their way into the hands of English readers. Thomas More was put in charge of defending the status quo against the revolutionary differences in translation that Tyndale offered. For example, the Greek word ekklesia had always been translated as “church” and now Tyndale used the term “congregation.” The Greek word presbyteros had always been translated as “priest” and Tyndale used the term “senior” and later, “elder.” Tyndale's translation made sense. The ancient church had no hierarchy. It really was a congregation, and each local congregation likely had an elder who had been witness to the life of Jesus. If it had been a hierarchy, the Greeks likely would have used the word hieros. He also used other theologically specific words, like what normally was translated as “penance” and thought of as the Sacrament of Penance, he translated as “repentance,” reflected a more introspective attitude than an outward show. He also changed the word normally translated as “confess” to “acknowledge” and “grace” to “favor,” where in reference to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary being born full of grace, and therefore free from the stain of original sin. He also wrote little notes in the margins of his New Testament, often condemning the Catholic Church and the Papacy.
Tyndale spent years on continental Europe, traveling around, never staying in one place very long, for fear of being caught. Despite his constant moving about, he managed to learn ancient Hebrew and begin his translation of the Old Testament, completing the first five books of Moses before being captured in Antwerp. He had met a man named Henry Phillips who pretended to befriend Tyndale, then turned him over to the authorities, very much Judas-style, holding a finger over Tyndale's head as they were in conversation together so that the authorities would know which man to take. He was imprisoned in the dungeons at a castle north of Brussels where he begged only to be granted his Hebrew bible, grammar, and dictionary so he could continue his work. He completed from Joshua through Second Chronicles. He had fallen in love with the Hebrew language. He said it was very comparable to English, so that he was able to translate nearly word for word. In August 1536, Tyndale was found guilty of heresy by a church court, defrocked as a priest, and turned over to the state for burning. Out of pity for him, someone strangled him with a chain before taking his body out to be burned in the prison courtyard. His last words were “Lord, open the King of England's eyes.” He was referring to King Henry VIII, who we have already seen did affect some sense of reform, but never what the country needed.
A Series of Reformations
Martin Luther was the catalyst for a whole wave of changes in the way people viewed the Bible, the Church, and themselves. Luther wasn't quite prepared for these types of consequences for his own rebellion. He didn't see what he had done as rebellion. He felt that he was right, and all these other people with their new ideas were wrong. One group of people felt that baptism, scripturally, should only be done on adults who are old enough to make a decision for Christ, and that baptism should be full-immersion. To them, infant baptism wasn't baptism at all. These people became known as the Anabaptists, which meant re-baptizing. They didn't feel like they were re-baptizing anyone. After all, if infant baptism wasn't really valid, then how could they be baptizing someone again? But Luther strongly believed that the Catholic Church was right about infant baptism and did not agree with the Anabaptists at all. As it was, the Anabaptists were some of the most gentle people around, and neither Catholics nor Protestants liked them. Many of the Anabaptists were burned at the stake for heresy, but there were many people who liked to sneak into their baptism ceremonies and drown the new converts. Catholics and Protestants alike congratulated one another for their mutual dislike and destruction of the Anabaptists.
If you're wondering, the Anabaptists were right. As far as Scripture is concerned, baptism is for those who are ready to make a commitment to God. Infants cannot choose to give their life over to God. Parents can dedicate those infants to God, but they cannot choose for their child whether the child will turn to God. Only the child can do that when he or she has matured. Acts 2:38-41 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” This shows that you must be mature enough to repent and respond to the call of God in order to be baptized. Mark 1:4-5 describes baptism in the River Jordan, “ And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4, “Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The description of being buried with Christ through baptism is one of the ways we are certain that baptism means being fully immersed in the water, as it is like being buried, so that we can live again when we rise back out of the water.
In southwest Germany, peasants toiling in the realm of the Black Forest were reading Luther's New Testament for themselves. The sparks of spirituality began to light the fires of rebellion, which spread out in all directions into Europe. In 1524, the uprising caused the peasants to take up arms, miners went on strike in Hungary, farmers took up weapons in Switzerland, Austria, and Poland, rising up against their landlords and anyone else who was taking taxes and tithes from them. These were not battle-trained people. They were just poor farmers. As things got out of control, the emperor called his armies to march against them, and they were slaughtered. Luther, not appreciating that the responsibility for their rebellion was being laid at his feet, published An Admonition to Peace, amending it to encourage the emperor's armies and anyone, really, to “smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel!” He clearly did not see his own actions several years before as rebellious, and he lost the respect of many people who had seen him as the Christ-connected leader of the Reformation.
There were people who took their own interpretations of the Bible to extremes. In 1524, some women, having read Paul's letters to the Corinthians, cut off their hair (a shocking sight at the time) to spare men lustful thoughts, and then one of their number began to claim herself as the new “Messiah” and then that she was carrying the “Antichrist” in her womb.
In the 1520s and 30s, whole regions were becoming Lutheran. At first, just Prussia, Hesse, and Saxony, then later, most of northern Germany and all of Scandinavia adopted it as well. In each of these incidences, the prince of the realm was responsible for the change in religion. Emperor Charles had no intention of standing by and letting this happen, but as it turned out, he had other problems that took precedence, as the Ottoman Turks were invading the borders of his Eastern European territories. He didn't want to repeat the Peasants' War on top of everything else, so he thought it best to just let Lutherans be Lutherans. In 1526, the imperial Diet of Speyer issued a decree permitting princely territories to decide religious matters on their own, and then three years later, in 1529, he changed his mind and called off the decree, which caused the Lutheran princes to band together for protection. In July 1546, just months after the death of Martin Luther, war erupted between the emperor and the band of Lutheran princes. Charles won, causing a mass exodus of Protestants to other realms. This continued across Europe for the rest of the century. It also held the unexpected consequence that many of the Catholic princes also deserted the emperor out of fear for their own autonomy. The French Catholic king, Henry II, even joined up with the Lutherans, just to reduce Charles' power. Finally, in 1555, the Peace of Augsburg was signed, leaving each realm free to adopt either Lutheranism or traditional Catholicism.
Another reformer who was heavily influenced by the work of Martin Luther was Jean Calvin. Calvin's father had been an administrator for the bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Noyon, France, around 60 miles north of Paris. As such, he was raised as a staunch Roman Catholic and his father hoped that he would one day grow up to become a priest. At the age of 14, he was sent to the University of Paris to study theology. He graduated with a master's degree in 1928, at the age of 19. However, soon after his graduation, his father had a falling-out with the bishop and recommended that Jean study law instead. He started at the university at Orleans, where he encountered the works of Martin Luther, which were widely discussed in academic circles, and later at the university at Bourges, where he completed his law degree in 1532. It was during his time at Orleans that Calvin became converted to Christ. He returned to the University of Paris, where, in 1533, a friend, Nicholas Cop, gave the opening address for the winter term. The message was a call for reform based on the New Testament, calling out some of the major theologians of the day. It was strongly believed that Calvin had collaborated with Cop on the message because a copy of the manuscript existed in Calvin's handwriting, and both were forced to flee Paris.
Calvin moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he planned to pursue his studies in solitude. This is where he wrote his most famous book, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, otherwise known as just the Institutes. You can read it for yourself here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.i.html. He intended for it to be a guide for studying Scripture and is laid out in four main sections based on the apostles' creed: God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. In it, he lays out the fundamentals of the Protestant Church, and gives well-reasoned arguments for the Reformed interpretation of Scripture. He was only 25 years old when he began this work, just one year after his conversion. His first version was published when he was 26, but he worked at editing and adding to it his entire life.
In 1536, he decided to move to Strasbourg, Germany. He wanted to further his quiet studies there, but a war had broken out between Francis I and Emperor Charles V, which meant he needed to find a roundabout route to get there. He headed to Geneva, Switzerland, only intending to spend one night, but he was immediately recognized as the author of the Institutes and was waylaid by his fans. Geneva had recently decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church and become a Reformation city and was sorely in need of a teacher who could articulate Reform truths. He was taken to meet William Farel, who had led the Protestant movement in Geneva for the last decade. Farel pressed him to accept the challenge of becoming their teacher, but Calvin hesitated. He wanted to study privately, not be saddled with the burden of teaching others. However, Farel frightened him with the idea that God would curse him if he didn't provide the assistance that was so badly needed, so he gave in and stayed, beginning his ministry as a lecturer, and then later, as a pastor. He began enacting discipline in a couple different ways. Those who were openly living in sin were required to sit at the front of the church, facing the rest of the congregation. No one particularly likes having their sins pointed out, and many of the prominent citizens of Geneva were living sinful lives. It reached the worst point on Easter Sunday of 1538 when Calvin refused to give those particular citizens Communion because they lived in open sin. The tension was so high that Farel and Calvin were forced to flee the city. Once again, I'd like to remind people that this isn't the way Jesus handled things with sinners. In John 8:1-11, we see a story of a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, and Jesus' reaction to the accusation against her by the Pharisees... “but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” It is a commonly held belief that Jesus was likely writing the sins of each of the accusers present, letting them know that He recognizes their guilt, without actually calling any of them out. Whether or not this is true, because the scriptures do not actually tell us, He is still treating this woman with compassion. He does not make a mockery of her, nor does he make a mockery of any of those who accused her of her crime. I do not doubt that Calvin didn't know what to do with those people he found troublesome in his church. I don't know what I would do either, in his place, but making a public spectacle of them probably wasn't the best way to go about getting them to change their ways.
Calvin was finally free to go to Strasbourg as he had originally planned. He still hoped to study in private, out of the public eye, but when he got to Strasbourg, he met Martin Bucer, who insisted that Calvin needed to continue his public pulpit ministry, and giving in, he ended up a pastor to 500 Protestant refugees from France. However, he was also given time to write. He wrote Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and expanded on the Institutes. He also married a widow with two children, who brought him a great deal of joy.
After three years of happiness in Strasbourg, he received a letter from the city fathers in Geneva, asking for him to return. The religious and political situation in the city had deteriorated in his absence and they needed his help. At first, Calvin had no intention of returning. He'd almost rather die a thousand deaths than go back, but he had given his life over to God's will and he felt that God was asking him to return to Switzerland. He arrived back on September 13, 1541, after 3 ½ years of absence, and picked up on his sermons right where he had left off. His first several years back in Geneva were met with a great deal of resistance, by those who resented that he was a foreigner and by those who openly lived immoral lives. He also lost his first son, who died in infancy in 1542, and his wife in 1549.
In 1553, an unfortunate event took place regarding a man by the name of Michael Servetus, originally Miguel Serveto, of Spain. Servetus was outspoken about his belief that the doctrine of the Trinity was incorrect, that any who believed in it, were actually Tritheists or atheists, and that they believed in the spirit of the dragon, the priests, and the false prophets who make war on the Lamb. He also said that Jesus was the Son of the eternal God but not the eternal Son of God. Denying the Trinity and Jesus' incarnation were both capital offenses. He also taught that both faith and works were necessary for salvation. He sent Calvin a portion of his book in an attempt to get support from him, but Calvin didn't want anything to do with it and turned him in to the Inquisition. Servetus at first escaped, and fleeing through Geneva, stopped at a church where Calvin was preaching. He was recognized and promptly arrested for heresy. He was tried and found guilty by the Geneva Council, and was condemned to execution. Calvin agreed that he must die, but tried to argue for a more merciful death by sword, but it was determined Servetus should be burned at the stake. The burning of Servetus caused a great deal of controversy. Most felt that a reformation church should not have anything to do with the execution of heretics. Calvin took a great deal of heat for his role in the death of Servetus.
Toward the end of his life, he finally gained the support of the city fathers in Geneva and was able to establish the Geneva Academy in 1559, based on what he had seen in Strasbourg, It contained a private school for elementary learning, and a public school for training ministers, lawyers, and doctors. In 1559, he also completed the fifth and final edition of the Institutes. In 1560, the Geneva Bible was published. This was an English translation of the Bible that contained theological notes in the margins. It was produced by men who had learned under Calvin and presented a worldview of the sovereignty of God over all creation. Calvin dispatched French-speaking missionaries to France, and by 1560, over a hundred churches had been planted there. By 1562, there were close to 2,150, with over 3 million members, and also included churches in Italy, Hungary, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, the Rhineland, and even Brazil. They became known as the Huguenots, which is thought to be a term that comes from German and Flemish words that describe their practice of home worship.
In February 1564, Calvin became ill. By April, it was clear that he did not have long to live. He called his fellow ministers to his bedchamber and reminded them that they would need to fortify themselves, that they would be persecuted and life would not be easy when he was gone. He passed away on May 27, 1564, and was buried in a humble unmarked grave at his own request. The Huguenots, indeed, were persecuted heavily by the Catholics and by other Protestants, the worst of which took place in 1572, in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in which around 70,000 Huguenots were killed across France, under the direction of Catherine de Medici, the regent queen and mother of King Charles IX.
The Protestants weren't called Protestants for no reason. They were protesting the Catholic Church's continued abuse of power and the blatant and unabashed sinfulness of many of its top officials, including the majority of its most recent popes. If the Church was going to have any effect on the Protestants, it was going to have to earn their respect back. It needed to reform. In 1534, Pope Paul III was elected. Despite the fact that he had fathered a number of offspring and was happy to put some of them into positions of power, he was also a man with a strong moral conscience, and a willingness to reform. As he was working to set up a General Council, that would include Protestants, he asked for a special commission to report on all of the ills of the Church, and to recommend measures to remedy them. The report was submitted to the pope in 1537. It listed all of the current abuses, including benefices, sinecures, stockpiling of bishoprics, and many others, and laid all of the blame squarely on the Papacy. The result of all of these abuses had been the Protestant Reformation, and it was easy to see why. If the Church had kept itself in order, there would have been no need for any of that. Despite an attempt to sweep the report under the rug, a copy was leaked and it wasn't long before a German translation was making the rounds through the Lutheran churches.
Serious reform was in the air, and Pope Paul did everything he could to encourage it. In 1545, his long-awaited Council was opened up in the city of Trent. It was broken up into three parts between 1545 and 1563, due to the disinterest and outright opposition to it of some of the popes that were in power. Over the course of that time, the Catholic Church gave decrees of self-reform and clarified its position on all of the doctrine that was contested by Protestants.
The Tudor Dynasty
When Henry VIII died in 1547, he was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, who had been born to his third wife, Jane Seymour, who died shortly after he was born due to complications of childbirth. Edward was raised as a Protestant. He was never allowed to govern the nation due to his young age. He had regents who did that for him, starting with his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, and then after major social unrest and rebellion in 1549, John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick took over. However, young Edward was very interested in religious matters and he did work to change the religious practices in England. Despite having cut ties with the Catholic Church, Henry had never allowed the Church of England to let go of Catholic doctrine or ceremony. Edward worked to change that and establish Protestantism as the new religion, abolishing such things as clerical celibacy and the Mass. He also had services performed in English. In 1553, Edward fell deathly ill with a lung infection, possibly turberculosis. When they realized he was not going to survive long, he worked with a council to draw up a “Devise for the Succession.” He did not want his half-sister Mary to be able to take the throne, knowing she did not agree with his desire for a Protestant England and would return England to Catholicism. His advisors informed him that he couldn't just disinherit one of his half-sisters, even though Elizabeth was Protestant, so he instead named his cousin, Lady Jane Grey as his heir. After his death, the decision was disputed, and Mary, the daughter of Henry's first wife Catherine of Aragon, deposed Jane after only nine days of being queen.
Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, became the queen of England and Ireland in July 1553. She had Lady Jane and Jane's father-in-law, John Dudley, imprisoned in the Tower of London. One of her first acts as queen was to release a number of Roman Catholic nobles from prison and execute Dudley for high treason due to his role in counseling Edward to name Lady Jane as his successor, instead of allowing for the succession as it had been set up by Henry before his death. Within a month, she had issued a proclamation that she would not compel any of her subjects to follow her religion, but soon after, she began imprisoning leading Protestant churchmen, including John Bradford, John Rogers, John Hooper, Hugh Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer. In her first Parliament, she re-validated her parents' marriage and abolished the religious laws her brother had set up. Church doctrine was restored to the form it had taken in 1539, which re-affirmed clerical celibacy. Any married priests were now deprived of their benefices. At the age of 37, Mary turned her attention to finding a husband so she could produce an heir, which would keep Elizabeth, who was a Protestant, off the throne.
She had a couple of prospective suitors, but settled on Prince Philip of Spain, who stood to inherit vast territories in Continental Europe and the New World. The marriage was very unpopular among the English. Some opposed it out of sheer patriotism, others because they feared Catholicism. Mary insisted on the marriage, which caused insurrections to break out. One rebellion sought to depose Mary in favor of Elizabeth. Mary finally agreed to consult with Parliament about the marriage. Those involved with the rebellion included the Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane. When the leader of the rebellion was captured, Mary had him executed, along with Lady Jane, her father, and her husband. Elizabeth, though protesting innocence, was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two months, then kept under house arrest at Woodstock Palace.
Under the law in England during that time, the property and titles belonging to a woman became her husband's upon marriage, and it was feared that any man she married would thereby become the King of England, so terms were drawn up for marriage to Mary, in which Philip would be styled as “King of England” for Mary's lifetime only. Any documents drawn up must include both of their names, and Parliament could only be called under joint authority of the couple. England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip's father in any war, and Philip could not act without his wife's consent or appoint foreigners to office in England. Philip wasn't thrilled with the arrangement, but he agreed for the sake of securing the marriage for its political and strategic gains. They were married two days after they met in July 1554. Philip could not speak English, so they communicated in a mixture of Spanish, French, and Latin.
Mary had always hated the break with Rome that her father had instituted, and with the help of Philip, they persuaded Parliament to repeal Henry's religious laws, which returned the English church to Roman jurisdiction, yet left the monastery lands Henry had confiscated in the hands of its current owners. By the end of 1554, Pope Julius III had approved this deal and the Heresy Acts were revived, allowing for the arrest and punishment of heretics. She started executing Protestants in February 1555. In total, she executed 283 people, most by burning at the stake, earning her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” This definitely did not make her more popular with her English subjects, it only increased the anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish sentiment of the people, and her victims were lauded as martyrs.
In September 1554, Mary began to show signs of pregnancy. She had stopped bleeding, gained weight, and was nauseated in the mornings. In the last week of April 1555, Elizabeth was released from house arrest to come to court as a witness to the birth, which was expected to happen soon. If Mary died in childbirth, Elizabeth would be there to become queen, but if Mary had a healthy child, Elizabeth's chances of ever taking the throne would go down significantly. However, May and June came and went, and there was still no sign of a baby. Mary continued to show signs of pregnancy until July 1555, when her abdomen receded. She felt this was God's punishment for having “tolerated heretics” in her realm. When Philip left England to command his armies against France, she fell into a deep depression. Elizabeth remained at court until October, apparently returned to favor. Philip convinced Mary that Elizabeth should be married to his cousin to secure the Catholic succession and preserve the Habsburg interest in England, but Elizabeth refused.
In January 1556, Philip's father denounced his throne and Philip became king of Spain. He returned to England in March 1557 to persuade Mary to join Spain in a renewed war against the French. Mary was all for the idea, but her counselors did not like it because it would jeopardize trade with France, and England needed whatever supplies they could get. The years of Mary's reign had been particularly rainy, and England was suffering from a famine due to flood. However, England did finally declare war in June after Thomas Stafford invaded England and seized Scarborough Castle with help from the French, in an attempt to depose Mary.
After her husband's visit, Mary once again thought she was pregnant, with a baby to be due in May 1558, and she decreed in her will that her husband would be regent to the child while it was still a minor, but once again, no baby was born, and Mary realized she was going to have to accept that Elizabeth would be her lawful successor. She was weak and very ill from May 1558, quite possibly from uterine cancer, and died that November at the age of 42. She had requested to be buried next to her mother, but was interred instead at Westminster Abbey, in a tomb she would eventually share with her sister Elizabeth.
Elizabeth I became queen in November 1558, at the age of 25. She was already very popular with the English people, but there was still a great deal of concern about the Catholic threat both at home and abroad. And, there was also the question of who she would marry that left the country in a slight state of nervousness.
Elizabeth was a Protestant, but was also worried about the Catholic threat of a possible crusade against heretical England, and looked to find a Protestant solution that would not offend the Catholics too greatly. Her father had become the Supreme Head of the church, but many thought that was an unacceptable title for a woman to hold, so she became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. All public officials were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the monarch as the supreme governor, or risk losing his title. The heresy laws were repealed, and a new Act of Uniformity was passed, which required people to attend church and to use the Book of Common Prayer, although penalties for not attending or conforming were not extreme.
When Elizabeth was 14, her father had died, and she was living under the care of her stepmother and her stepmother's new husband, Thomas Seymour. It is on record that Thomas Seymour molested young Elizabeth. When her stepmother found out, she immediately sent Elizabeth away, and after her death, Seymour turned his attentions once again to Elizabeth, which only ended in his execution when it was uncovered what he had done. Some speculate that Seymour may have turned Elizabeth off of men. It could also be that she didn't want to lose power the way Mary had, and also, her choice of husband may provoke political instability or insurrection, but without a child, she would not have an heir to put on the throne. I'm sure it was a difficult decision, but in any case, she entertained a number of suitors until she was about 50 years old, yet decided to remain unmarried.
In 1563, at the age of 30, Elizabeth came down with small pox and survived, but was left with a very scarred face. The question of succession became a very heated debate. Parliament insisted that she marry or name an heir. Elizabeth continued to entertain suitors to keep them appeased, but she was often called irresponsible for not getting married. By not naming an heir, she was giving herself a little added stability. She was less vulnerable to a coup. Her unmarried status also inspired a cult of virginity. She was portrayed in poetry and portraits as being a virgin or a goddess, or both, not as a normal woman.
Her cousin, Mary Stuart, otherwise known as Mary, Queen of Scots, posed a bit of a problem. Many saw her as the actual heir to the English throne. To the Catholics, Elizabeth has never been considered legitimate due to the shady way Henry managed to annul his first marriage and marry Elizabeth's mother Anne Boleyn against the express declaration of the pope. Mary Stuart was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's older sister, Margaret, and had been raised in France since the age of five, married the young prince of France in April 1558 at 16 years old, after signing a contract giving Scotland and her claim to England to the French crown if she died without issue. Mary's mother ruled as regent in Scotland in Mary's absence. In July 1559, the king of France died and Mary and Francis became king and queen of France. Elizabeth attempted to subdue the threat that Mary represented very early on. She first sought to get rid of the French presence in Scotland, for fear that the French may attempt to invade England to put Mary on the throne. Elizabeth sent a force in to aid Protestant rebels in Scotland, and due to a Huguenot uprising in France, the French were not able to send reinforcements except to send ambassadors to negotiate a settlement. In June 1560, Mary's mother died. Her representatives signed the Treaty of Edinburgh in July 1560, which removed the French threat in the north, and France recognized Elizabeth's right to rule England, although Mary, still in France and grieving her mother, refused to consent to the treaty. Her husband then passed away in December from a middle ear infection that led to an abscess in his brain. Mary was grief-stricken. Her mother-in-law became regent for the new 10-year old king Charles IX, and Mary was free to go home.
By the time Mary returned to Scotland a year later, the country had established a Protestant church and was run by Protestant nobles supported by Elizabeth. The political and religious climate was very different than what she was used to. Many people distrusted her because she was a devout Catholic, and some, like John Knox, even preached against her, condemning her for hearing Mass, dancing, and dressing too elaborately. Her half-brother was a Protestant, but she decided to keep him on as her chief advisor, to the disappointment of the Catholics. Mary also made some poor choices in marriage, starting with marrying a Catholic cousin in July 1565 without first getting approval from the Catholic church. The match also upset Elizabeth, because he was also her cousin, and as an English subject, should have asked for her approval first, not to mention that any child they produced would have an added claim to the English throne. Mary was very much in love with him, though. Her husband quickly grew arrogant, and wasn't content with being just a king consort. He wanted to be king, with the right to the throne if he outlived Mary, but she refused to allow this, and their marriage grew strained. They had conceived a child, but there was a rumor that the child belonged to her Catholic private secretary. Her husband plotted to have the secretary murdered right in front of pregnant Mary at a dinner party.
Their son James was born in June 1566, but her husband's plot to murder her secretary led to a breakdown in their marriage. In October, while staying in the Scottish Borders, Mary began to journey on horseback to visit the Earl of Bothwell, who lay ill from wounds sustained in a skirmish with border raiders. Mary was accompanied by her counselors and guards, but rumors still sprouted that she and the Earl were lovers. Upon her return to Edinburgh in November 1566, meetings were held to discuss the problem of her husband. Divorce was discussed, but it must have been felt by some of those present that other means were necessary to get rid of him. In February 1567, her husband was found dead in the garden, apparently smothered, although there were no visible marks of strangulation or violence on his body. Mary and the Earl of Bothwell, as well as a number of other people, were all under suspicion of having him murdered, and by the end of the month, Bothwell was generally believed to be the guilty party, although he was acquitted after a seven-hour trial in April, after which, he managed to convince more than two dozen lords and bishops to support him in his aim to marry the queen, which he did in May with a Protestant wedding ceremony.
Initially, Mary felt that many nobles supported her marriage, but the marriage turned out to be deeply unpopular. Catholics considered the marriage unlawful, since they did not recognize Bothwell's divorce or the validity of the Protestant service. Both Protestants and Catholics were shocked that she would marry the man accused of murdering her late husband. Things turned ugly pretty quickly. She was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, on an island in the middle of the lake. She was forced to give up her throne to her son James, who was still just a baby. He was taken away to be raised Protestant. Mary escaped her imprisonment in May 1568 and came to England, where she felt that Elizabeth would protect her and help her regain her throne, but was instead detained and confined in comfort in England for the next 19 years.
The Catholics rallied behind Mary's cause. In 1569, there was an uprising in Scotland. They hoped to free Mary, marry her to Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, and put her on the English throne. They were defeated, and over 750 rebels were executed on Elizabeth's orders. The pope thought the revolt had been successful, and issued a papal bull calling Elizabeth a pretend queen, a heretic, and expressed her excommunication. It released all of her subjects from any allegiance to her. Any Catholics who chose to obey her orders were threatened with excommunication as well. In turn, Elizabeth declared that any conversion of English subjects to Catholicism, with the intent to withdraw them from their allegiance to Elizabeth became a treasonable offense and carried the death penalty. There were many who snuck into England with this intent, and suffered execution, bringing about a cult of martyrdom. In 1586, due to a series of letters she had written, Mary was implicated in a plot to have Elizabeth assassinated, and summarily was tried and executed. At the trial, she vehemently denied the charges brought against her, but when it came time for her execution, she very bravely and gracefully accepted her fate and walked up to the headsman's block on her own power. Whether she was truly innocent or guilty is still being debated to this day.
Elizabeth held the throne for 45 years until her death in 1603 at the age of 70. Her reign became known as the Elizabethan era. In the later half of her reign, playwrights like William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe flourished. English theater reached its highest peaks during this time, although that had little to do with Elizabeth, as she was not a patron of the arts. As she aged, her health and her looks declined. She had been scarred by smallpox in 1562, leaving her half bald and dependent on wigs and cosmetics, that also contained a fair number of toxic chemicals that contributed to her decline. She also loved sweets, but had no dental care, so she had severe tooth decay and was missing several teeth, which caused her speech to be impaired. It was difficult for foreign ambassadors to understand her. Despite all of this, her courtiers praised her beauty, and she played along, and even acted as though she believed them. When her senior advisor, William Cecil, died in 1598, his political mantle passed to his son, Robert Cecil, and he took on the task of making sure there would be a smooth succession when she was gone. She had never named a successor, and James VI of Scotland (the son of Mary, Queen of Scots) had the strongest claim. Cecil began coded negotiations with James, coaching him to humor Elizabeth and do what he can to secure her heart. This worked well. She loved James's tone toward her, and while she did not say it directly, she made it clear that she would like James to succeed her. Her health was good until the autumn of 1602, when a number of her friends passed away, and she went into a deep depression. By March, Elizabeth herself became sick, and fell into a heavy melancholy, sitting motionless on a cushion for hours. She died on March 24, 1603, and a few hours later, Cecil set his plan in motion, and proclaimed King James VI of Scotland the new king, becoming King James I of England and Ireland. It was he who was associated with the King James Version of the Bible.
James became the king of Scotland at the age of 13 months, when his mother was forced to abdicate the throne to him. His coronation sermon was preached by John Knox, and he was brought up as a member of the Protestant Church of Scotland. He was set up with a number of tutors, and developed a lifelong love of literature and learning. He was raised with a number of regents in charge of governing until he came of age. His last, a newly-arrived Frenchman, found his favor by the time he was 15, and he made him the only duke in Scotland. The Frenchman, Earl of Lennox, was a Protestant convert, but was distrusted by the Scottish Calvinists, who hadn't failed to notice the physical displays of affection between the king and the earl. In August of 1582, James was lured into Ruthven Castle, imprisoned, and the Earl of Lennox was forced out of Scotland. James wasn't liberated until June 1583, at which point he was able to start taking control of his own kingdom. He still showed preference for male company after the Earl of Lennox was gone, but in order to secure his monarchy, he required a suitable marriage.
The choice of marriage fell on 14-year old Anne of Denmark. She set sail from Copenhagen in August 1589, but was waylaid by storms on the way to Scotland, and became stuck on the coast of Norway. Upon hearing this news, James set sail with a 300-strong retinue to rescue her personally. They were married formally at the Bishop's Palace in Oslo on November 23, and returned to Scotland on May 1, 1590. James was quite taken with Anne. They produced seven living children, only three of whom survived to adulthood, Henry died of typhoid at age 18, leaving Elizabeth, who later became the Queen of Bohemia, and Charles, who would succeed James.
James' visit to Denmark sparked an interest in studying witchcraft, which he considered a branch of theology. He became very concerned about the threat posed by witches, thinking that witchcraft had even been involved in sending storms against James' ship. He wrote Daemonologie in 1597, inspired by his personal experiences. He personally oversaw the torture of a number of women accused of being witches. After 1599, his views on the matter had become much more skeptical. He wrote to his oldest son that miracles often prove to be nothing but illusions, and that judges should be wary in trusting accusations.
Also in 1597, he wrote The True Law of Free Monarchies. In this book, he laid out the concept of the divine right of kings, saying that a king has the royal prerogative to impose new laws, but he must also pay heed to tradition and to God, for God would likely punish him for any wicked deeds.
While Queen Elizabeth was not a patron of the arts, James was. He encouraged music, poetry, and theater, which reached a pinnacle of achievement during his reign. From 1601, it was becoming very clear that James would likely soon be the new king of England and Ireland due to secret correspondence with certain English politicians, particularly Elizabeth's chief minister. Elizabeth died in the early hours of March 24, and James was proclaimed king in London later the same day. James left Edinburgh for London on April 5, promising to return every three years, although he only managed to come back once, in 1617. As he traveled south, he encountered the lavish wealth of his new land and subjects. He was treated with extravagantly by the local lords as he made his way through. His new subjects flocked to catch a glimpse of their new king, relieved by the smooth succession, that there was to be no unrest or invasion.
That's not to say that there were no problems, however. There was a widespread sense of grievance due to monopolies and taxes, plus war in Ireland had become a heavy burden, carrying a debt of over £400,000. There were also two plots to overthrow him in the first year of his reign. James continued with the same councilors as Elizabeth had used, soon adding a few more he knew and trusted, and they took care of most of the day-to-day governing, which left James free to work on a closer union between England and Scotland, as well as on foreign policy. He was determined to bring England, Ireland, and Scotland into one unified country, and insisted that all documents refer to him as “King of Great Britain.” He had a little more success with foreign policy, finally bringing the long Anglo-Spanish War to an end, signing a peace treaty between the two countries in August 1604, although there was still some contention on the issue of worship, as the Spanish were still determined that there should be freedom of worship for Catholics in England, while his Privy Council at home wanted to show even less tolerance toward them. In 1605, there was even a plot to destroy the whole House of Lords, including the king, by blowing up the parliament building. Fortunately, an anonymous tip was made to search the cellars under the building and Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic who had fought for the Spanish, was found hiding near 35 casks of gunpowder that were to be used the next day while Parliament was in session. The plan was to then put a Catholic back on the throne. Fawkes and his other co-conspirators were executed.
The king and the Parliament rarely saw eye to eye, at first just because they didn't understand one another. One problem was the king's debts. James's court was not good with finances. When there was a war with Spain, it was understandable that a certain amount of money was needed, but after that, the Parliament felt that James's expenses were for extravagance and they would not approve his requests for money. In 1614, he dismissed them completely and ruled without them until 1621, instead employing officials who were good at raising and saving money for the crown, using tactics similar to the Catholic Church, selling titles and other dignities as an alternative source of income. He even tried to negotiate with Spain about a possible marriage dowry between his youngest son Charles and Maria Anna of Spain. This kept a measure of peace between Spain and England for about a decade, but angered the English Protestants who distrusted the Spanish and wanted nothing to do with a marriage between England and Spain. It turned out that Maria Anna despised Prince Charles as it was, so those negotiations fell apart after a decade and war once again became a very real possibility.
In 1604, discussions started at Hampton Court between James and representatives of the Church of England who were concerned about the number of translations of the Bible that were circulating around which held discrepancies between them. James commissioned an English translation of the Bible, which was completed in 1611 and came to be known as the King James Version. It is still one of the most widely used translations today.
James died in 1625 from severe health issues culminating in a serious attack of dysentery at the age of 58. He was widely mourned. As much as people had been nervous about his apparent Catholic sympathy, the country had enjoyed uninterrupted peace and relatively low taxation during his reign. Things would change as his son Charles I took the throne.
If James had problems with Parliament, it was nothing compared to what Charles experienced. They refused to fund his endeavors, so he came up with other ways of bringing in money, like additional taxes, among them were tonnage and poundage, which were two types of customs duties, and later, ship money. These were very unpopular, but very lucrative for Charles. Ship money had previously only been collected during wars and only on coastal towns, but Charles could see no reason not to collect ship money during peacetime, or from anywhere in the kingdom. He also granted monopolies, which was supposed to be an illegal practice, but still brought in over £100,000 a year in the late 1630s.
He not only faced challenges with Parliament, but he also faced challenges on the religious front. After the debacle with the Spanish princess, he married a Bourbon princess, Henrietta Maria of France in June 1625. She was another Catholic, and the British Parliament was not happy about this turn of events. There were many who worried that he sympathized with Catholicism. At this stage, England consisted largely of Puritans (Calvinists), and Charles had taken up support of a man who was a prominent anti-Calvanist, Richard Montagu. His followers, known as Arminians, believed in the doctrine that salvation and damnation were preordained by God, and that humans could influence their own fate through the exercise of free will, which the Puritans thought was heresy and a doorway to reinviting Catholicism back in.
Charles wanted religious uniformity throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. Unfortunately, he hadn't been in Scotland since he was very young. They favored presbyterian leadership in the church, which meant it was led by elders and deacons, not by bishops. There was far less corruption in the church this way. Charles wanted to be the head of the church, the same way he was in England. His first visit back to Scotland since he was a child was for his Scottish coronation in 1633, when he was 33 years old. The Scots had removed many of the traditional rituals from their liturgical practice, and Charles insisted that the coronation be conducted in the Anglican fashion. In 1637, he ordered that they start using a prayer book in Scotland that was nearly identical to the English Book of Common Prayer, without consulting the Scottish Parliament or the Kirk, which is the name given the Church in Scotland. This did not go over well. In November 1638, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met and condemned the new prayer book, as well as abolished episcopal church government by bishops and formally adopted the presbyterian government by elders and deacons.
Charles perceived all of this as rebellion against his authority. He raised an army without any assistance from the English Parliament and marched to the border of Scotland in what became known as the First Bishops' War in 1639. He did not actually engage the Scottish in a battle, fearing that he would be far outnumbered. Instead, he negotiated a treaty to regain his Scottish fortresses and dissolve the interim presbyterian government, then called Parliament in both England and Ireland in an attempt to raise funds to launch another military campaign. Ireland was willing to give him a subsidy of £180,000 and an army of 9,000 men. England, however, were a little more difficult. They were attempting to compromise and offer him £650,000 if he were willing to forfeit ship money. (His war was estimated to cost around £1 million.) The House of Commons was also asking for further reforms, which were ignored by Charles. He still held the support of the House of Lords, but tensions were mounting.
Another Parliament was going to need to be called, and Charles decided to summon a great council of peers in September 1640. After informing the peers that Parliament would be meeting in November, he asked their advice about how to raise funds to continue his war efforts in Scotland. They recommended that he make peace with them, which led to a humiliating treaty with Scotland, where he agreed to lay down his arms against them, and they could continue to occupy the area of northern England where they were camped, and they would be paid £850 per day until peace was restored and the English Parliament was recalled, which would be required in order to pay that sum to the Scottish forces. Charles was not looking good to his supporters.
Charles' right-hand man, Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford, and William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had been working together to pursue a policy called “Thorough,” which aimed to make central royal authority more efficient and effective at the expense of local or anti-government interests. When Parliament was called, they began the impeachment process of Charles' leading counselors. Wentworth was taken into custody on November 10, and Laud was impeached on December 18. Two others were impeached within days of that. Then, to prevent the king from dissolving Parliament at will, which James and Charles had both done, they passed the Triennial Act, which required Parliament to be summoned at least once every three years, and allowed the Lord Keeper and 12 peers to summon Parliament if the king failed to do so. The Act was coupled with a subsidy for the king, which he desperately needed, so Charles grudgingly granted royal assent in February 1641.
Wentworth was the primary target of the Parliamentarians, and he went on trial for high treason in March 1641, and he was subsequently pronounced guilty and was sentenced to death. They could not actually have him executed without the king's consent, which Charles was initially unwilling to give, but fearing for the safety of his family, he reluctantly gave in and Wentworth was killed.
Shortly after, Charles also assented to an Act that forbade the dissolution of the English Parliament without its consent. In the following months, ship money, fines and excise without parliamentary consent were declared unlawful. All remaining forms of taxation were legalized and regulate by the Tonnage and Poundage Act (again, these are two types of customs duties). Charles also temporarily improved his position in Scotland by visiting from August to November 1641, during which time he conceded to the official establishment of presbyterianism.
Wentworth's impeachment also weakened Charles' influence in Ireland. The Irish had been opposed to Wentworth, yet claimed to remain loyal to the king, arguing that the king had been lead astray by bad counselors. However, when the English Parliament pushed Charles to disband his Irish army, and then disputes arose when land ownership was transferred from native Catholics to Protestant settlers, and finally moves to ensure that the Irish Parliament would be subordinate to the English Parliament, the seeds of rebellion were sown. The Irish rose up, still professing loyalty to their king, which caused the English Parliament to think that Charles was behind the rebellion. They threatened to impeach the queen for supposedly conspiring with the Irish rebels, and the king decided to take drastic action.
Charles suspected that some members of the English Parliament had colluded with the invading Scots, and demanded, on January 3, 1642, that Parliament give up the five of its members of the Commons who were most likely to be behind the collusion, but Parliament refused. Charles put out an arrest warrant on the five men, and entered the House of Commons with an armed guard the next day, but the news had reached Parliament ahead of them and the men were gone. The whole botched arrest attempt was politically disastrous for Charles. No English nobles had ever entered the House of Commons, and Charles' invasion was considered a grave breach of parliamentary privilege, and Charles lost the respect of his remaining supporters.
By mid-1642, the English were arming for a civil war, one side for Charles, the other for Parliament. Three years later, the war had taken a turn in favor of the Parliament. In April 1646, Charles put himself into the care of the Scottish presbyterian army that was besieging Newark, who then negotiated with and sold him for £100,000 and the promise of more money to come to the English Parliament in January 1647. In December, he works out a secret treaty with the Scots that if they will invade England and put him back on the throne, he will establish presbyterianism in England for three years. In May 1648, the royalists rose up, the Scots invaded England, and the second Civil War was ignited. It did not last long. The Scots were defeated in August, and the royalists lost all hope of winning the war. Charles turned to negotiations, but even that fell short. Oliver Cromwell and the army opposed any further talks with the man they viewed as a bloody tyrant. Many of the members of Parliament who didn't sympathize with the army were purged from Parliament and a new Rump Parliament was established with the purpose of charging Charles with high treason.
In January 1649, the Rump House of Commons indicted Charles on a charge of treason, but this was rejected by the House of Lords. The idea of trying a king was completely new. The Chief Justices of the three common law courts of England also opposed the indictment, calling it unlawful, so the Rump House of Commons declared itself capable of legislating alone, and passed a bill creating its own separate court to hold Charles' trial, declaring that they do not need royal assent for this bill. They created a new High Court of Justice consisting of 135 commissioners, but many of them either refused to serve or chose to stay away. Only 68 attended the trial, and all of them were firm Parliamentarians.
Charles was accused of treason against England by using his power to pursue his personal interest rather than the good of the country by levying war against the present Parliament, and therefore against the people that they represent. This indictment also held him responsible for all murder, rape, burning, spoils, and damage done in the process of the war. In the first few days of the trial, whenever he was asked to plead, he refused, stating that no court held jurisdiction over a monarch, that his authority to rule had been given to him by God and by the traditional laws of England, and that the power wielded by those trying him was only that of force of arms. He insisted that the trial was illegal, explaining that no earthly power could justly call the King into question as a delinquent. He claimed that the authority of obedience unto Kings is clearly warranted and commanded in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. He claimed that no educated lawyer would agree that an impeachment can lie against the King, that one of their maxims is that “the King can do no wrong.” The court challenged the doctrine of sovereign immunity. After three days, Charles was removed from court and 30 witnesses were heard against the king over the next two days, and on January 26, Charles was condemned to death. His execution took place four days later.
With the monarchy overthrown, England became a republic, or commonwealth. The Rump Commons was abolished by the House of Lords and executive power was assumed by a Council of State. Oliver Cromwell and his armies extinguished all significant military opposition in Britain and Ireland in a third Civil War, forcibly disbanded the Rump Parliament in 1653, and established a Protectorate with himself as Lord Protector. At his death in 1658, his son Richard briefly took over the protectorate, but Parliament was soon reinstated and the monarchy restored to Charles I's eldest son, Charles II in 1660. Even today, there is controversy about whether he Charles I was the best king that England ever had, or the worst. There were those who considered him a martyr, and others who condemn him. One historian described him as “duplicitous and delusional.” Both James and Charles believed in the divine right of kings, but while James was open to compromise and consensus with his subjects, Charles believed he did not need to compromise or even explain his actions. He thought he was answerable only to God.
If you're an American and living at the end of 2019, this might sound pretty familiar. I see a lot of parallels between what was going on in England during the reign of Charles I and what is going on in America with our president right now. I am not here to weigh in on what side anyone should be on. However, I do want to talk about the Bible. There is a story in chapter 8 of 1 Samuel about the Jews asking God to give them a king. They wanted someone to lead them the way all of the other nations had.
1 Samuel 8:6-22 But