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Paul Johnson



5 - The Third Force (1500-1648)

Some time between 1511 and 1513, two of Europe's leading scholars paid a visit to the shrine of St Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. One was John Colet, Dean of St Paul's and founder of its new grammar school; the other was the Dutchman Erasmus, author of the leading spiritual handbook for Christian laymen, and of a much-admired satire on the Church, In Praise of Folly. In one of his later Colloquies, Erasmus left an account of their visit, and it would be hard to conceive of a more poignant little episode, on the eve of the Reformation, than this confrontation between the shrine of the martyred clerical triumphalist, and the two earnest apostles of the New Learning. Both the scholars were pious men, and their visit was reverent. But Erasmus's account makes it clear they were deeply shocked by what they saw. The riches which adorned the shrine were staggering. Erasmus found them incongruous, disproportionate, treasures 'before which Midas or Croesus would have seemed beggars'; thirty years later, Henry VIII's agents were to garner from it 4,994 ounces of gold, 4,425 of silver-gilt, 5,286 of plain silver and twenty-six cartloads of other treasure. Colet infuriated the verger who accompanied them by suggesting that St Thomas would prefer the whole lot be given to the poor. He added insult to injury by refusing to give a reverential kiss to a prize relic, the arm of St George, and by treating an old rag supposedly soaked in St Thomas's blood with 'a whistle of contempt'. Two miles from the town, outside the Harbledown almshouse, the Dean's impatience with 'mechanical Christianity' was further tested when a licensed beggar showered them with holy water and offered St Thomas's shoe to be kissed: 'Do these fools expect us to kiss the shoe of every good man who ever lived?' he asked furiously. 'Why not bring us their spittle or their dung to be kissed?' After this memorable encounter, the two men rode back to London.

By the time this visit took place, it was already clear that the old medieval Church, the total society dating from Carolingian times, was breaking up. A year or so before, Johann Geiler of Strasburg, one of the last great preachers of the Middle Ages, had predicted the dissolution in his final sermon before the Emperor Maximilian: 'Since neither pope, nor emperor, kings nor bishops, will reform our life, God will send a man for the purpose. I hope to see that day ... but I am too old. Many of you will see it; think, then, I pray you, of these words.' It was true that the papacy itself, the Church as an institution, had proved unwilling or incapable of directing the reforming process. But other agencies were relentlessly at work. The Christian universities, which had sprung from the total society, and underpinned it with their metaphysical systems, were in a state of change and uncertainty. The Universalist method of St Thomas Aquinas, with its logical superstructure providing answers to every conceivable human query, had been elbowed aside by the Nominalists in the fourteenth century; they taught that many of the basic elements of Christianity could not be demonstrated by logic but must be accepted by blind faith; and in the fifteenth century scholars turned increasingly to re-examine the fundamental credentials of Christianity: the scriptures, the documents of the church, the writings of the early fathers. In the 1440s, Lorenzo di Valla, secretary to Pope Nicholas V, demonstrated that the Donation of Constantine and many other key texts were blatant forgeries. He developed and popularized new techniques for the critical evaluation of sacred literature. Political changes in the Mediterranean world at this time brought to the attention of European scholars a large number of ancient books, sacred and profane, Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which had not been systematically examined for centuries. Where their Byzantine and Jewish custodians

had been content to preserve these texts, Italian Renaissance scholars, like Valla, Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, treated them as keys to the future, collated them, and used them as standards of measurement for conventional western learning.

In this new school, there was no separation of, and no desire to separate, religious and secular learning. Ficino thought of Plato, whose basic works were now available in the original Greek, as belonging to a series of interpreters of the divine, beginning with Zoroaster and stretching on through Hermes Trismegistus and Pythagoras - an ancient wisdom anticipating and confirming Christianity. At the same time, the whole range of Hebrew scholarship, which had been preserved untouched in Spain for centuries, was made available to the West by Mirandola, who married Jewish cabalistic theosophy to neo-Platonic cosmology. His pupil, the Hebraist Johann Reuchlin, produced the first Hebrew-Christian grammar in 1506, and tried to prevent the systematic destruction of these emerging Jewish books by the Dominican Inquisition. Thus was the New Learning first brought into conflict with the established Church. But conflict was inevitable. Men were now able to study the Greek and Hebrew texts in the original, and compared them with the received version in Latin treated as sacrosanct in the West for centuries. Valla, working from the Greek New Testament, pointed out numerous errors in St Jerome's Vulgate - the first glimmerings of modern scriptural scholarship. And once men began to look at the texts with fresh eyes, they saw many things which made them uncomfortable or excited. The message of the New Learning was, indeed, this: through greater knowledge to a purer spiritual truth. Ficino, Pico and Reuchlin suggested that there was, as it were, a natural religion; that behind diverse philosophical and religious experiences there was a unity. Its essential truth was most perfectly expressed in Christianity. Over the centuries, accretions had obscured this truth: the new learning would rediscover it and purify it.

Thus the new intellectual movement was pressed into the service of reforming the Church, something which had baffled popes, councils, bishops and kings for more than a century. Ignorance was identified with sin; knowledge with reform. The principle could be expressed in many ways: by the exposure of fraudulent documents; by the establishment of wholly accurate and authentic texts; by the re- examination of these texts in the light of new knowledge to discover their full meaning; and - the meaning of the scriptures having been finally established - by the elimination from the Church's life and activities of all beliefs and practices which lacked biblical authority or the sanction of the early Church. The effect of this movement, if allowed to progress unchecked, was to place the well-being and future of the Church in the hands of its empirical scholars. Or perhaps, indeed, in the hands of a wider audience. The spread of the new knowledge virtually coincided with the technical development of printing. The coincidence ensured the acceleration of both. The earliest printed books in the West were produced at Mainz in 1454-7, at the time Valli was annotating the Greek New Testament. By 1500 there were seventy-three presses in Italy, fifty-one in Germany, thirty-nine in France, twenty-four in Spain, fifteen in the Low Countries and eight in Switzerland. The most important of the firms, run by Aldus Manutius in Venice, was almost entirely devoted to publishing the recovered Greek classics; despite its extraordinarily elegant standards, the work was pushed forward with great speed: in the twenty years 1494-1515, twenty-seven editones principes of Greek authors and works of reference were produced, and when Aldus died in 1515 not a single major Greek author remained unprinted. These works were printed in very considerable quantities, and at prices well below even low-quality manuscript copies of similar length. The rapid development of printing, with its tremendous concentration on works of seminal interest to religion and reform, posed an entirely new problem to the Church and State authorities which traditionally controlled the dissemination of knowledge. Censoring or preventing the circulation of printed books was essentially the same as controlling manuscripts; but the difference in speed and scale was absolutely crucial. It took at least a generation for the censors to tackle it, and they were never able to exercise the same degree of effective supervision as in the days before cheap printing.

Erasmus was born into this new arena of scholarship and communication in 1466. His background was quintessentially that of the old age. He was the bastard son of a priest, by a washerwoman. This was the common fate of a vast number of people at the time. It testified to the unwillingness of the Church to sanction clerical marriage and its inability to stamp out concubinage. Probably as many as half the men in orders had 'wives' and families. Behind all the New Learning and the theological debates, clerical celibacy was, in its own way, the biggest single issue at the Reformation. It was a great social problem and, other factors being equal, it tended to tip the balance in favour of reform. As a rule, the only hope for the child of a priest was to go into the Church himself, thus unwillingly or with no great enthusiasm, taking vows which he might subsequently regret: the evil tended to perpetuate itself. Many thousands of men (and women) were trapped in this predicament, grudging and awkward members of a privileged class, sentenced for life to a spiritual role for which they had no calling and - since no seminaries existed- no training. Erasmus was a case in point. After his birth his parents no longer lived together. In an autobiographical fragment, written when he was already world famous, he concealed his bastardy, indicating that it still rankled. His schooling was wretched. The Brethren of the Common Life, founded by Gerard Groote, were one of the more successful of the idealistic orders of the later Middle Ages. They were genuinely poor, they took their social work seriously; in some ways they adumbrated the Protestant reformers by their stress on the Bible and their distaste for elaborate forms of worship, such as polyphonic singing. But Erasmus was taught as one of 275 boys in one room, under a single master; and the curriculum was largely confined to thought-conditioning Latin rhymes and sayings, such as The prelates of the church are the salt of the earth.' He was eighteen when both his parents died, and he saw no alternative but to join the clergy as an Augustinian; he soon regretted it and spent the next thirty years disentangling himself from his legal clerical ties, knowing that at any moment his superiors could ruin his career as a scholar and writer by forcing him to live in strict conformity with the rules of his order. He was one of many thousands who, while members of the privileged clerical order, were emotionally committed to its destruction.

Erasmus was fortunate to become secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai, who sent him to the university at Paris. Here, too, was the old medieval world. The College de Montaigu was known to Parisians as 'the cleft between the buttocks of Mother Theology'. It was ancient, dilapidated, dank and filthy; the food was revolting, the dormitories stank of urine, and there were frequent beatings. Erasmus was already twenty-six and hated it; so did Rabelais, who wanted it burnt down. Two other of its alumni, however, Ignatius Loyola and Jean Calvin, admired its austerities and welcomed their time there: here we have one of the great cleavages of the sixteenth century, between the Humanists and the Puritans. Work at the university stressed the mechanical side of religion. Thus, at the University of Louvain, where Erasmus spent some time, teachers and students were in 1493 debating the topics: do four five-minute prayers on consecutive days stand a better chance of being answered than one twenty-minute prayer? Is a prayer often minutes, said on behalf of ten people, as efficacious as ten one-minute prayers? The debate lasted eight weeks, longer than it had taken Columbus to sail to America the previous year, 1492. Erasmus' intellectual break-through came in 1499, when he went to England and, at Oxford, heard Colet lecture on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Colet did not know Greek but he had been to Florence and absorbed the spirit of Valla, Ficino and the neo-Platonists. In his lectures he went behind the endless layers of commentaries to re-examine the text of Paul afresh and discover its actual meaning as an exposition of Christian faith. Thus not for the first, or the last, time, Paul's Epistle to the Romans brought about a spiritual revelation and a new approach to the Christian life. Erasmus determined to re-examine the scriptures himself, and to learn Greek in order to do it effectively. And to support himself and his studies he began to write books.

For nearly four decades, until his death in 1536, Erasmus's output covered a huge field, embracing the Christian life, the theory and practice of education, the state of Church and society, and the meaning of the scriptures, besides including scholarly editions of sacred and patristic texts. Of these by far the most important was his Greek edition of the New Testament, which made the original text (albeit in imperfect form) available to Latin Christians for the first time. Erasmus made himself into a scholar with high academic standards; he was also a popularizer and a journalist who understood the importance of communication. He wanted his books to be small, handy and cheap, and he was the first writer to grasp the full potentialities of printing. He worked at speed, often in the printing shop itself, writing and correcting his proofs on the spot. He was exhilarated by the smell of printer's ink, the incense of the Reformation. As a result, the diffusion of his works is astounding. His first success, the Adages (1500), was a collection of Latin quotations used to teach the language but also reflecting his philosophy; it was constantly reprinted and gradually expanded into a collection of over 4,000 short essays, which influenced society in the same way as the crude proverbs of his schooling had done. His Enchiridion, or layman's handbook, first published in 1503, was reprinted in 1509 and 1515, and then every year, and by his death, had been translated into Czech, German, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. His In Praise of Folly, 1511, went into thirty-nine editions before 1536; some of these were very substantial - thus one Paris printer, hearing that the book might be suppressed, quickly ran off an edition of 24,000 copies. There were some years, it has been calculated, when between one-fifth and one-tenth of all books sold in Oxford, London and Paris were by Erasmus. In the 1530s, 300,000 copies of his Greek New Testament were circulating, and over 750,000 of his other works. He was a new phenomenon, a living world best-seller. He got so much correspondence that, when he was living in Antwerp, then the richest city in Europe, the postman used to stop at his house first, before going on to the City Hall.

Erasmus was made a political counsellor by the Emperor Charles V and offered a cardinal's hat by Pope Paul in. A number of leading European cities gave him their freedom and invited him to live there as an honoured citizen. Yet if Erasmus had sought to propound his views a generation later, he would certainly have been hounded by the Habsburgs and excommunicated by the papacy: indeed, in 1546, only a decade after his death, the Council of Trent declared his version of the New Testament anathema, and at a later session Pope Paul iv branded him as 'the leader of all heretics' and called for the burning of his collected works. By this time, too, Erasmus's unrestricted presence would have been regarded as unwelcome in most of reformed Europe. Erasmus, in fact, rode on the crest of the New Learning, which seemed to offer unlimited opportunities for spiritual and intellectual advancement, and which presaged a

thoroughgoing reform of society, conducted from within by a universal and voluntary movement. This rosy prospect was obliterated in the middle decades of the century, and what in fact happened was quite different: a division of Christianity on a compulsory and state basis. Two armed camps came into existence: one, half-reformed, basing its claims exclusively on scripture; the other, unreformed, based exclusively on authority ; and between them an unbridgeable chasm, filling with the victims of war and persecution. The outcome, in fact, was almost the complete antithesis of the Erasmian dream.

Herein lies one of the central historical tragedies, of Christianity, of Europe, and of the world. The Erasmian dream was not wholly Utopian. All men agreed that faith was a unity. Most agreed that there must be a unitary system of knowledge. Society was universally regarded not only as a unity but an organic one. Why should not the first and second infuse the third in harmony9 In a sense, the object of these Renaissance reformers was merely to bring the ideal of Carolingian society up to date - to use the new knowledge to correct its accumulated abuses and imperfections. There was, certainly, a consensus of virtually all men that reform was overdue. The astonishing success of Erasmus's works suggests there was also a wide consensus of educated men for the kind of suggestions he was putting forward. Let us now see what these suggestions were, how much they had in common with the programmes of the Protestant reformers, and where they differed.

Erasmus, like all the reformers without exception, began by ignoring the existence of a privileged clerical class. He regarded himself as a layman, and made no distinction between men in orders, like Colet, and lay friends like Sir Thomas More. This was a commonplace among the men of the New Learning, who were interested in the same things and guided by the same considerations irrespective of their status. With leading scholars like Sir John Cheke and Jacob Sturm, for instance, it is often not easy to be sure whether they were in orders or not. Erasmus's Enchiridion, though specifically addressed to laymen, is a general statement of his views which might, and indeed did, serve equally well for clerics. Intellectually, he was in the tradition of Tertullian and Pelagius, who regarded it as normal and desirable that educated laymen should play their full part in the direction of the Church and declined absolutely to endorse an exclusive role for the clergy.

The coming into existence of a Latin-speaking laity was closing the gap that had opened up in the eighth century and had been widened, on an ideological basis, by Gregory VII and his successors. This process had been going on for some time, especially in the big towns; and Erasmus was very much a product of the new urban civilization and spoke for its middle-class members - one might call him the first really articulate urbanite in the West since the fifth century. In the fifteenth century the practical difficulty of reforming the clergy effectively had virtually compelled laymen to invade spheres, particularly education, which clerics had formerly monopolized. The Church still claimed the right to control teaching but more and more schools were being endowed by laymen and run by them. When Colet founded St Paul's in 1510, Erasmus noted: 'Over the revenues and the entire management, he set neither priests, nor the bishop, nor the chapter as they call it, nor noblemen; but some married citizens of established reputation. And when asked the reason, he said that though there was nothing certain in human affairs, he yet found the least corruption in them.' Erasmus, like Colet, regarded the sober, hardworking, middle-ranking townsman as the Christian elite, and the best hope for reform. Nearly all reformers took this view. They dismissed any special clerical claims. Luther glossed Galatians 3:28:

'There is neither priest nor layman, canon nor vicar, rich nor poor, Benedictine, Carthusian, Friar Minor or Augustinian, for it is not a question of this or that status, degree or order.' Or as Nicholas Ridley said: 'St Peter calleth all men priests.' William Tyndale, a typical reformer of the 1520s, wrote: 'Thou that ministereth in the kitchen, and art but a kitchen page ... knowest that God put thee in that office ... if thou compare deed and deed, there is a difference between washing of dishes and preaching of the word of God; but as touching to please God, none at all.. .' As John Knox put it a little later: 'This is the point wherein, I say, all men are equal.' For purposes of worship, 'Ye be in your own houses bishops and kings.'

This downgrading of the clerical role was linked to the belief, which again Erasmus shared with all the reformers, that there could be no intermediaries between the Christian soul and the scriptures. All wanted the Bible to be as widely available as possible, and in vernacular translations. Access to the Bible, whether in the original or in any other tongue, had never been an issue in the East. In the West, the clergy had begun to assert an exclusive interpretive, indeed custodial, right to the Bible as early as the ninth century; and from about 1080 there had been frequent instances of the Pope, councils and bishops forbidding not only vernacular translations but any reading at all, by laymen, of the Bible taken as a whole. In some ways this was the most scandalous aspect of the medieval Latin Church. From the Waldensians onwards, attempts to scrutinize the Bible became proof presumptive of heresy - a man or woman might burn for it alone - and, conversely, the heterodox were increasingly convinced that the Bible was incompatible with papal and clerical claims. From the thirteenth century many vernacular versions of the New Testament, in several languages, began to circulate. From the end of the fourteenth century the availability of the Bible to the public became the central issue between the Church, and its critics, such as the Lollards and Hussites. No popular Bible was authorized by the authorities, except in Bohemia which in effect had broken away from Rome by 1420; on the other hand these vernacular versions were never effectively suppressed.

With the introduction of printing, the efforts of the censors became hopeless. Germany led the way. By the time Luther produced his own New Testament in 1522, there were fourteen different printed versions in German and four in Dutch; none contained a censor's imprimatur or had been printed on a monastic press, but the attempt to forbid their circulation had been virtually abandoned. Erasmus not only welcomed this development but wished to extend the principle by bringing into existence a wholly literate laity with unrestricted access to all sacred writings: 'Let us consider who were the hearers of Christ himself. Were they not a promiscuous multitude? ... Is Christ offended that such should read him as he chose for his hearers? In my opinion the husbandman should read him, with the smith and the mason, and even prostitutes, bawds and Turks. If Christ refused not his voice to these, neither do I refuse his books.' He thought it essential 'each should hear the Gospel in his native and intelligible tongue' instead of 'muttering their psalms and paternoster in Latin, not understanding their own words'.

For Erasmus, as for all reformers, the Bible then was at the centre of Christian understanding, when presented in its authentic form. And he was at one with them in rejecting mechanical Christianity virtually in toto: indulgences, pilgrimages, special privileges, masses for the dead, the whole business of winning salvation by 'merit' artificially acquired, usually by money. He wrote: 'Perhaps thou believest that all thy sins are washed away with a little paper, a sealed parchment, with the gift of a little money or

some wax image, with a little pilgrimage. Thou art utterly deceived.' Who had done the deceiving? Chiefly the papacy. And no wonder: the papacy was corrupt and desperately in need of reform. His In Praise of Folly was the outcome of a visit to the Rome of the scandalous soldier-pope Julius II, who stormed fortresses in full armour. In Julius's Rome, wrote Erasmus, 'you can see a tired old man act with youthful energy and without regard to labour and expense simply in order to overturn laws, religion, peace and humane institutions.' No man could hope to reach Heaven by using the machinery of the Church: 'Without ceremonies, perhaps thou shalt not be a Christian; but they make thee not a Christian.'

Where, then, was the road to salvation? Erasmus agreed with the reformers that the Bible must be studied. He agreed with the practice of private devotion. especially prayer. Man saved himself through knowledge of God, obtained directly, not through the mediation of an institution. But it is at this point that his thought diverged from both the Lutherans and the later Calvinists. Erasmus, as a scholar and textual critic, had learnt to distrust theology, whose dogmatic conclusions were often based, as he had discovered, on faulty readings of the text. (This distrust was violently reciprocated by the theologians, who hotly disputed the right of text-scholars to pronounce on 'theological' problems, and who clung fiercely to their old texts, however corrupt.) In his own investigations, he had found himself obliged to eliminate the famous Trinitarian verse from 1 John 5:7, since it was not in the Greek manuscript. This led him to doubt the process of metaphysical reasoning and logic which allowed the schoolmen to produce exact certitudes in any theological situation. In his commentary on Hilary of Poitiers, he asks: 'Is it not possible to have fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, without being able to explain philosophically the distinction between them, and between the nativity of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit?' This was indeed a reasonable but also an audacious question - so much. Erasmus was saying, for the disputes which led to Arianism, to the Monophysite schism and to Islam, and so much for the fatal word which had divided East and West since 1054 and had lost Byzantium to the Christian world. He went on to dismiss the importance of much theological speculation and definition, and to reassert, instead, the virtues which Jesus had outlined in the New Testament and which, to him, were the essence of Christianity: 'You will not be damned if you do not know whether the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son had one or two beginnings, but you will not escape damnation if you do not cultivate the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, mercy, faith, modesty, continence and chastity.'

What the Church needed, Erasmus argued, was a theology reduced to the absolute minimum. Christianity must be based on peace and unanimity, 'but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible.' On many points 'everyone should be left to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in these matters.' Men searching for the truth should be encouraged to return to the scriptural and patristic sources. Perhaps there was a case for a commission of learned men to draw up a formula of faith. But it must be brief, just 'the philosophy of Christ', which was concerned chiefly with moral virtues. 'All that is of faith,' he wrote, 'should be condensed into a very few articles, and the same should be done for all that concerns the Christian way of life.' Then theologians, if they wished, should be left to develop their own theories, and the faithful to believe or ignore them. On most of the contentious points, he freely admitted: 'I would not dare deprive a man of his life, if I were the judge, nor would I risk my own.'

Of course here again Erasmus was essentially striking at the clerical point of view, with its urge to define and its need for an authoritative answer to every conceivable question. He thought it was not God's desire or intention to illuminate the whole in this life. Such agnosticism was abhorrent to the Church shaped by St Augustine, and organized by Gregory VII and Innocent in, to whom the extension of definition and the reinforcement of authority was the only criterion of growth and progress. It was abhorrent to the papacy; but it was also uncongenial to the Protestant reformers. At bottom, Erasmus believed in a moral reform, pure and simple: if the moral spirit of the Church were transformed and illuminated, then all the problems of Christendom, institutional and even doctrinal, would solve themselves in turn; but the Church, in St Paul's word, had to become a 'new man' again first. To Luther, a moral reform was equally urgent. But it would prove meaningless and transitory unless it were able to operate within the context of institutional change and drastic doctrinal corrections. Indeed, moral reform was not only useless but perhaps worse than useless unless we got the theological equations right. We had first to understand how man justified himself to God, and this was a theological problem. The need was not to simplify doctrine, but to get it right - and that meant not less definition, but more.

From this basic disagreement, the area of discord widened. If theological definition were not essential, might even be undesirable, it followed naturally that one should not attempt to impose uniformity or force consciences. Erasmus hated the witch-hunting atmosphere engendered by the Inquisition and the endless search for an illusory certainty even about details. 'Formerly heresy involved only deviation from the gospels, or the articles of faith, or something of similar authority. Nowadays they shout 'heresy!' at you for almost anything. Anything that does not please them, or that they do not understand, is heresy. To know Greek is heresy. To pronounce it correctly is heresy.' This could only lead to endless turmoil. But 'the works of the mind, and charity, demand universal peace.' Reformers should be less reckless in demanding change; those who wanted to burn people at the stake should be less intolerant. Both should extend charity to each other. Persecution was an offence against charity. And it was unproductive: 'Vigorous minds will not suffer compulsion. To exercise compulsion is typical of tyrants; to suffer it, typical of asses.' In cities where men differed on religion, both sides should keep to their quarters and everyone be left to his conscience until time brought the opportunity for agreement. In the meantime, open sedition should be put down, but manifest abuses corrected; and toleration should be extended until a universal council met and achieved reunification on a new basis of faith.

This eirenic formula was unwelcome to Rome at all times; initially it appealed to Luther and other rebels, but later it was seen as an impediment to the consolidation of their position, and an infringement of what they regarded as. their undoubted right to enforce their doctrines and institutions on areas under their influence. This was linked to a further point of difference, perhaps the most important of all: Erasmus deplored Luther's invocation of the aid of the German princes in establishing reform. He had the progressive townsman's intense suspicion of princely power, and the idea of the ruler of each state settling the religion of his subjects on the basis of his own personal predilections was abhorrent. Erasmus associated princely or kingly rule with war and destruction:

'The eagle is the image of the king, neither beautiful, not musical, nor fit for food: but carnivorous, rapacious, a brigand, a destroyer, solitary, hated by all, a pest ....

Are not noble cities erected by the people and destroyed by princes? Does not a state grow rich by the industry of its citizens, only to be plundered by the greed of its rulers? Are not good laws enacted by the representatives of the people and violated by kings? Does not the commonalty love people while monarchs plan war?'

Erasmus was a pacifist. He did not accept the doctrine of the 'just war'. As a boy of eight he had seen 200 prisoners of war broken on the wheel outside the gates of Utrecht on the orders of its bishop. His Duke helium inexpertis was the first book in European history devoted entirely to the cause of pacifism. He pondered various schemes for international bodies of wise men to arbitrate between the quarrelling rulers: he thought that a de-politicized papacy might, perhaps, perform this role. He addressed his great international audience of readers: 'I appeal to you all, who are considered to be Christians - conspire together in this way of thinking. Show how much the unity of the masses can do against the tyranny of the mighty.' If each state opted for its own brand of religion at the ruler's bidding, war, he thought, would be inevitable: 'the long war of words and writings will end in blows.' As he wrote to the Duke of Saxony: 'Tolerating the sects may appear a great evil to you, but it is still much better than a religious war. If the clergy once succeed in entangling the rulers, it will be a catastrophe for Germany and the church ... ruin and misery everywhere, and destruction under the false pretext of religion.'

The last twenty years of Erasmus's life, during which he saw the religious war-clouds assemble, were a progression from optimism to fear. In 1516, he had published his Greek New Testament with a commentary which included most of the programme which progressive men agreed was essential for reform. The work was acclaimed everywhere and Pope Leo was enthusiastic. In February 1517 Erasmus wrote to his friend Wolfgang Capito: 'Now I almost wish I were young again, for this reason - I foresee the coming of a golden age: so clearly do we see the minds of princes, as if inspired, devoting all their energies to the pursuit of peace.' Again, two months later - not long before Luther sprang into prominence with his theses - he addressed the Pope: 'I congratulate this age of ours, which promises to be an age of gold if ever there was one.' He saluted Leo on 'the public and lasting concord of Christendom'.

Before the end of 1517, Erasmus had changed his mind: 'I fear a great revolution is about to take place in [Germany].' He saw no serious objections to Luther's original Wittenberg theses. He tried, behind the scenes, to protect Luther from the anger of the authorities, and urged moderation on both sides. But as early as 1518 he took the view that both would end by turning against learning, because they were obsessed by theology. To Luther himself he wrote: 'I try to stay neutral to help the revival of learning as best I can. And it seems to me that more is accomplished by a civil modesty than by impetuosity.' This advice was ignored. Luther, though initially deferential to the sage of Europe, at least publicly, saw him as 'a proud sceptic', a man of little faith - 'human conditions prevail in him much more than divine.' Erasmus privately dismissed Luther as 'a Goth', a man of the past, but also in a sinister way the portent of a horrific future - 'the tree which bears the poisonous fruit of nationalism.' He was furious to find himself accused of guilt by association, and still more to discover that some thought him the author of Luther's diatribes. Dragged unwillingly into the controversy, he was attacked by the orthodox Edward Lee, later Archbishop of York; and he was acutely embarrassed by the vulgar counter-attack on Lee published by his friends: 'You filth, if you do not beg forgiveness of Erasmus, I shall throw your name, like a piece of shit, across the frontiers of posterity, that people may remember your stench forever.' This was just the kind of theologians' Billingsgate he loathed, and in which Luther and his opponents were now freely indulging. Luther invited Christendom to 'wash your hands in the blood of these cardinals, popes and other dregs of the Roman Sodom', while the papist theologians of Louvain called for the execution of 'that pestilential fart of Satan whose stench reaches to Heaven'.

Erasmus tried to keep out of this distasteful row, which went directly contrary to his view of how reform should be carried out. But the wide dissemination of Luther's deterministic views of salvation, with which he totally disagreed, forced him to make his own position clear. His Discussion of the Free Will (1524) rejected the idea of predestination, and stressed man's capacity to use his own resources to work out his salvation - here was the voice of Pelagius, the true wisdom of the classical world. When Luther published a characteristically rude reply, Erasmus thought it time for a rebuke: 'How do your scurrilous charges that I am an atheist, an Epicurean and a sceptic, help your argument? ... It upsets me dreadfully that your arrogant, insolent and rebellious nature should have put the world in arms. ... I would wish you a better disposition, were you not so marvelously satisfied with the one you have already. Wish me anything you will - except your temper.' To Luther, he was now 'a snake', 'a piece of shit', the 'insane destroyer of the church', the 'inflamer of the base passions of young boys'; he told his circle he had seen Erasmus walking 'arm in arm with the devil in Rome'.

As Luther consolidated his position, and the secular powers - as Erasmus had feared - became involved, the old scholar kept his distance from the reformers. In Hyperaspistes, 1526-7, he re-emphasized his plea for a minimum theology: 'In sacred literature there are certain sanctuaries into which God wills that we shall not penetrate further.' He held to what he called 'natural religion'. He refused to break with Rome: 'I shall bear with this church until I find a better one ... he does not sail badly who steers a middle course between two evils.' He concentrated on attacking persecution and the Inquisition; and on pressing for peaceful coexistence. On the Emperor Charles V he urged compromise: the eucharist in both kinds, married clergy, toleration laws. He spent his last years in various free cities, such as Basle and Freiburg, which he hoped would escape the coming religious devastation: 'I am a citizen of the world, known to all, and to all a stranger.' He was grievously shocked by Henry VIII's execution of his friend Thomas More. What had happened to the gifted and enlightened young king he had known? And why had More been so foolish as to defy him on an arguable point? Was the world going mad? Among his last works was On the Sweet Concord of the Church, a plea for mutual toleration, radiant with meekness, goodwill and moderation. It was violently attacked by both sides.

Erasmus undoubtedly had a huge constituency in Europe. At one time there seemed a real chance that his approach to reform might win the consensus, and be carried through. He had admirers over a very wide spectrum of opinion. In 1518, for instance, the orthodox controversialist Johann Eck had written: 'With the exception of a few monks and would-be theologians, all learned men are followers of Erasmus.' The moderate reformer Oecolam-padius wrote to him in 1522: 'We want neither the Catholic nor the Lutheran church. We want a third one.' As late as 1526, the imperial chancellor, Mercurio Gattarina, said he saw Christendom divided into three parts: Roman, Lutheran, and those who sought nothing but the glory of God and human welfare - this was the party of Erasmus and he was proud to belong to it. Erasmus himself referred to 'the third church'. But an eirenic mood was essential to its construction, and its chances crumbled as the gap between Rome and Germany widened, and the battle lines were drawn.

At the same time, it is incorrect to present the Lutheran movement as a catastrophe which prevented the carrying through of an Erasmian programme within a framework of Christian unity. The issues were much more complicated. Erasmus had a modern kind of mind: in some ways this was an advantage in that it attuned him to progressive opinion in the wealthier cities and gave him a truly international following. He saw reform as an international movement coming from within the Church, and led by the elite. But to be modern minded was in some ways a disadvantage for it tended to make Erasmus gloss over the realities of power and the way things could actually be done. Luther, 'the Goth', the crude, earthy, but clever son of a successful tin-miner, was much closer to the thoughts of ordinary men of all classes, as opposed to intellectuals; and he was much clearer in his own mind about what forces and emotions moved men to action in the early sixteenth century, and which institutions carried weight.

Broadly speaking, the rulers of the states favoured reforms of the Church, within limits, and according to their individual requirements. The papacy was opposed to reform because it was expensive in terms of revenues, and of the power that generates revenues. There was thus a clash of interests. But it could be resolved, and during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had been resolved, by the papacy continually handing over to the rulers, as we have seen, portions of its ecclesiastical sovereignty. The states were growing stronger in relation to the Church; and the papacy, to prevent itself from growing correspondingly weaker, was trying to build up its own states in central Italy as a power base. The process can be seen at work under Julius II, whom Luther, during a visit to Rome, denounced as 'a bloodsucker' and 'a cruelly violent animal'. Maybe he was; but in preferring the role of a military commander and a king to that of a pontiff, he was following a certain line of logic. Before his election he had sworn a capitulation, repeated afterwards, that he would call a council within two years to conduct reforms. But in a universal council which he did not control, Julius realized he would be forced to dismantle much of the papacy's money-raising machinery without getting anything in return. He preferred to do his own bilateral deals with princes with the object of restoring the papacy as a universal monarchy. Yet pressure from the French king, from the emperor, and from within the Church for a reforming council continued. In 1511, nine cardinals, the outstanding one being Carvajal, who had twice been papal legate in Germany, took the unusual (though not unprecedented) step of summoning a council themselves, after taking the advice of eminent jurists, and with the tacit support of Louis xii and the Emperor Maximilian. Julius responded vigorously by excommunicating and depriving the nine men, denouncing them as 'sons of darkness' and 'true schismatics', and promptly called a council of his own, the Fifth Lateran of 1512. This council, the last of the undivided Church, was a mere manoeuvre and contemporaries saw it as such; it was not designed to carry through reforms; indeed it concentrated on the arid topic, dear to old- fashioned theologians, of the exact status of the soul between the death of the body and the Last Judgment. But it was marked by the signature of a new concordat with France which gave the French monarchy virtually everything it asked for in terms of controlling the French Church, made it possible for the French crown to carry through its own reforms, if it wished, and thus relaxed pressure on the papacy from France. Julius, in fact, had saved himself by a bilateral deal, and at the expense of the Church as a whole.

But the deal was expensive, and added to the papacy's already pressing financial problems. Shortage of money tends to produce constitutional crises in all states: the papacy was no exception. Its revenue at this time was Haifa million ducats, less than half of Venice's. The most upright popes tended to be those most in debt. Honesty came dear: reform cost money. This was something reformers did not understand. Alexander vi, the worst of the popes, kept himself solvent; most of his immediate predecessors and successors were desperate. But it was universally assumed that the popes were very rich - we must never underestimate the powerful effect on history of ignorance of state secrets. In 1517, Archbishop Albert of Mainz, the twenty-seven-year-old brother of the Elector of Brandenberg, had purchased from Rome a number of very expensive dispensations to hold sees in plurality; and to pay for them, he engaged in another deal with Rome to proclaim throughout Germany an indulgence for the building of St Peter's. The archbishop had a permanent and lucrative exhibition of relics, some 9,000 items, which included whole bodies of saints, a bone of Isaac, manna from the wilderness, a bit of Moses's burning bush, ajar from Cana (with actual wine in it), a bit of the crown of thorns, and one of the stones that killed St Stephen. But the Elector of nearby Saxony, Frederick the Wise, also had his money-raising collection of relics, some 17,433 fragments of bones, and the entire body of one of the Holy Innocents. He regarded the archbishop's show, and his sale of indulgences, as a rival, and he wanted to stop the export of bullion. Hence he forbade the sale in his territories, and was furious when some of the subjects simply crossed the border to buy them. It was at this point that Luther, a thirty-four-year-old Augustinian monk, intervened by nailing his 'Ninety-five theses against Indulgences' to the church door of Wittenberg Castle. The pope,' he said, echoing the prevailing misconception, 'has wealth far beyond all other men - why does he not build St Peter's church with his own money instead of the money of poor Christians?' Thus from the first statement of his protest, Luther aligned himself with the interest of his secular ruler.

This is not to say Luther was insincere; on the contrary, the monk's burning sincerity was the strength of his appeal. His approach to reform, as Professor of Scripture at the university, was originally Erasmian, in that it was based on a rejection of medieval metaphysics and a return to the scriptural texts. As he put it, five months before he nailed his theses: 'Nobody will go to hear a lecture now unless the lecturer is teaching my theology, the theology of the Bible and St Augustine and all true theologians of the church. I am sure the church will never be reformed unless we get rid of canon law, scholastic theology, philosophy and logic as they are studied today. ...' Yet the reference to Augustine is significant. It relates almost exclusively to the doctrine of predestination which Augustine developed from a reading of St Paul to the Romans, at the end of his life. Luther, too, had been reading Romans. The moment of conversion came to him while he was on the privy - 'the Holy Spirit endowed me with this art when I was on the [cloaca]', as he put it - when he first understood the meaning of the phrase 'the just shall live by faith'. To Luther this was the whole answer to the superstructure of sacramental and mechanical Christianity which the Church had erected. The scriptures said plainly that man was saved by faith, not by good works - the fact that he performed good works was merely an outward confirmation of his consciousness of being saved.

The concept was alien to Erasmus, as was the enthusiasm and absolute conviction with which Luther deployed it. Unlike Erasmus his mind recoiled from doubt and embraced certitude. Hence the importance he attached to theology, as the means to discover truth, and the need he felt to construct an alternative system to the Catholic faith. Here was the parting of the ways: the Erasmians believed in moral reform, the Lutherans (and later the Calvinists) in a new theory of Christianity. There was also a personal difference which is at least as important. Luther, unlike Erasmus, was an evangelist. He believed he had been given the truth and the mission to deliver it. This certitude explains his huge dogged will, which seems to radiate from the powerful head we observe in his portraits, and his ruthlessness, which made Erasmus shudder. Luther was not so much an intellect as a great force - a great spiritual force, in fact. Perhaps the most striking thing about him was his power of prayer, a relic of his training in a good monastery. He liked to spend three hours a day at prayer, with his hands clasped, at an open window. Some of his sermons on prayer are astonishing simple and unaffected. 'I take on a great thing when I pray,' he said, and the remark carried conviction. The stress on private prayer as the true alternative to mechanical Christianity was the most powerful single element in Luther's positive appeal to lay-folk of all classes, and well outside Germany; and his concept of household daily prayers underpinned the devotion to the family with which he associated his scornful repudiation of clerical celibacy and which his own warm circle epitomized. Luther evangelized by concentrating on a few comparatively simple messages which he drove home with endless repetition and furious energy. From 1517 when he first began to write, he averaged a book every fortnight - over a hundred volumes by his death. The initial thirty writings, 1517-20, reached a third of a million copies - his major tracts went into scores of editions.

Of these, the three most important were all published in 1520, the year before Luther's formal excommunication and the beginning of the Protestant schism. The Babylonish Captivity of the Church contained the essential Reformation critique of the Church and the positive, biblical programme. On the Liberty of a Christian Man outlined the doctrine of justification by faith, the heart of Lutheranism; and, finally, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation set out the means whereby the new religion could, and in fact was. established. In calling on the German princes to reform the Church by virtue of their office, Luther was taking a step Erasmus would have shrunk from; but he was in a perfectly sound Christian constitutional tradition. The medieval assumption was that society was fundamentally one. It was proper, indeed their duty, for the clergy to rebuke the regnum of lay authority and call on Christians to amend it. Equally, the converse was true, and the regnum might be called on to amend the sacerdotum. Both were within society, that is the Church. The clergy had manifestly and repeatedly failed to do their part in removing abuses; recourse therefore must be had to the other power in the Church. In calling on the princes to take up the work of reform, Luther did not mean - nor did any one suppose he meant - that he was appealing from the Christian Church to the secular State, but merely from the clerical to the civil authority within Christendom.

Yet, as Erasmus would have argued, there was undoubtedly a monstrous danger in the line Luther adopted and consistently pursued. By the second decade of the sixteenth century the power of the State was visibly growing through all Europe; to displace clerical authority and entrust the headship of the Church, and the arbitration of doctrine, to secular rulers was massively to enforce a process already fraught with peril to other elements in society. It meant, too. a degree of dependence on the princes which implied a blind endorsement of the social order they represented a social order as much in need of change and reform as the clerical one. These consequences became immediately apparent when, in 1524, the explosion detonated by the Lutheran protest became inextricably mingled with economic discontent and took the form of a peasants' revolt. This, of course, is what tended to happen in the total society. It

was hard to separate a successful attack on one aspect of authority from a challenge to another. Thus, at the close of the fourteenth century, Wyclif and his movement had lost all their powerful secular allies when the peasants rose and terrified the whole of the established order. And once Wyclif had been damned by association with millenarian revolution, the Church was able to hunt down his followers at its leisure. The tendency of wild millenarians to take over, and so ruin, any reformist movement was one reason why the Church had stayed unreformed so long. Luther was determined to avoid this fate. He saw that he could only save his reformation by sacrificing the peasants. Thus he not merely disassociated himself from the millenarians and the radicals, but positively commanded the princes to crush them. In his fearsome tract Against the Murdering. Thieving Hordes of Peasants, he identified himself wholly with the conservative, established order, and the counter-revolution. He asked the princes 'to brandish their swords, to free, save, help and pity the poor people forced to join the peasants - but the wicked, smite, stab and slay all that you can.' 'These times are so extraordinary that a prince can win heaven more easily by bloodshed than by prayer.' 'I do not want to struggle for the gospel by violence and murder.' 'You cannot meet a rebel with reason: your best answer is to punch him in the face until he has a bloody nose.'

By this ruthless advocacy of an anti-peasant crusade, Luther escaped from the blind alley which led to the millenarian bloodbath at Munster and established his social bona fides as a conservative reformer with whom the princes could do business. Thereafter, Luther always marched closely in step with his secular backers. In 1529, the reforming princes delivered their 'protest' against the Catholic powers at the Diet of Speier; two years later the Protestant movement was placed on a military footing by the formation of the Schmalkaldic League, extended in 1539 to include a vast area of Germany. From this point, there was no real chance that the Lutheran movement would be exterminated; the papacy and its secular allies were faced with the choice of compromise or permanent schism. *


* Protestantism owed its survival to the Turks. The Habsburgs put the defence of Hungary before the suppression of Protestants. The Protestants knew this and exploited the ebb and flow of Ottoman aggression to win concessions. The consolidation, expansion and legitimizing of Lutheranism in Germany by 1555 should be attributed to Ottoman imperialism more than to any other factor' Stephen A Fischer-Galati. Ottoman Imperialism and German Protestantism. 1521-55 (Harvard. 1959)

The overwhelming consensus among secular statesmen was that a compromise, and reconciliation, was possible: and that a universal council should be summoned to bring it about. From the start of the controversy this remained the Emperor Charles V's policy. His salient object was the reunification of Germany, and he saw this could only be realized by the restoration of religious unity. For the French crown, however, the salient object was the continued division of Germany, and France's influence was consistently deployed to make a satisfactory council impossible. Clement VII and his successor Paul in were similarly determined to avoid a council which they realized must end in the destruction of papal power; and their procrastinations were successful. By 1539, Luther and his Church were secure, and he had lost interest in compromise; or, rather, he did not believe that the papacy could be brought to

entertain one in any circumstances. The principals, as it were, had opted out of the dialogue. But there were many on both sides who still believed the gap could be bridged. In some ways Luther, as they appreciated, was more Catholic than many of his Roman Catholic opponents. At the beginning of the controversy, Johan Eck had chosen deliberately to argue with him on the issue of papal authority rather than on grace, the sacraments and the nature of the Church. Some pious laymen, such as his patron Frederick the Wise, said they could not see where he had been refuted on the basis of scripture. It was the same with Luther's doctrine of justification by faith. Quite independently of Luther, Cardinal Contarini had reached the same conclusions as early as 1511. There were other instances of Catholic theologians adopting this position as a result of reconsidering St Paul. One example was Cardinal Pole, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in the attempt by Queen Mary Tudor to restore Catholicism in England in the 1550s. Other eirenicists on the Catholic side included Pierre Favre of Savoy, the first Jesuit to go to Germany and one of Ignatius Loyola's earliest companions. He advocated a policy of love and friendship to heretics and the search of doctrinal harmony. On the Protestant side, Melanchthon and Bucer consistently looked for intermediary positions. Before Erasmus died, some of the Lutheran pastors appealed to him: 'We hope, man of greatness, that you will be the future Soloman, whose judgment will deprive every party of something, and thereby put an end to discord.' There were, indeed, a great many reformers who believed a split in the Church was tragic and avoidable, just as there were many Catholics who were deeply disturbed by the Church's merit-theology and its teaching about the use of the sacraments, and who were anxious to embrace the Lutheran correctives. As a result of these pressures on both sides, a series of colloquies were held 1539-41. They, if anything, provide the answer to the question: was the Reformation split avoidable?

The first meeting at Hagenau, 1540, failed because of inadequate preparation. There was a further meeting at Worms, where the discussion was transferred to a diet at Regensburg in March 1541; but in the meantime secret talks were held in the second half of December 1540. Among those taking part were Gropper, a Catholic eirenic and humanist, Granvella, the imperial chancellor, Bucer and Capito. Gropper had already begun a reform of the Cologne diocese, on behalf of the archbishop, and he feared it would be jeopardized by Catholic and Lutheran extremists. He had already set out in his Enchiridion Christianae Institutions (1538), a view of justification which was close to that of Contarini and which he hoped would reconcile the Catholic and Protestant positions. Both he and the chancellor were Erasmians. For the colloquy itself, Contarini was appointed papal legate. He came full of goodwill, convinced that justification was the heart of the matter, and that once this was resolved, others, such as papal authority and the sacraments, would fall into place. Like Luther, he had come to justification through Augustine, and did not see what the Catholic objection to it could be: 'I have truly come to the firm conclusion,' he wrote in 1523, 'that no one can justify himself by his works ... one must turn to the divine grace which can be obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. ... Since therefore the foundation of the Lutheran edifice is true, we must say nothing against it but we must accept it as true and Catholic, indeed as the foundation of the Christian religion.' (The Inquisition suppressed such passages in the Venetian edition of his works of 1584.) The colloquy was opened by Charles V in person, who expressed hope that unity could be rapidly restored in the face of the renewed Turkish pressure. Contarini said: 'How great will be the fruit of unity, and how profound the gratitude of all mankind.' Bucer replied: 'Both sides have failed. Some of us have over-emphasized unimportant points, and others have not adequately reformed obvious abuses. With God's will we shall ultimately find the truth.'

Against this friendly background, Contarini and Cropper produced their mediatory compromise (which had already been worked on) of double justification: that is, imputed and inherent justification, faith and love. The Christian man is just in a two-fold way, by faith and grace, and by doing the works of love; the former is more assured, man being imperfect. When this formula was accepted, Pole, who was present, commented: 'When I observed this union of opinion, I felt a delight such as no harmony of sounds could have inspired me with; not only because I see the approach of peace and concord, but because these articles are the foundation of the whole Christian faith.' Unfortunately, the colloquy then proceeded to break down on the question of the real presence in the eucharist. Contarini was caught off balance by his own ignorance of Protestant teaching. This is not surprising: Protestant teaching varied. All believed in the real presence in one sense or another. None accepted the technical formulation of transubstantiation, which had been devised by Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Bucer, Melanchthon, Calvin, Zwingli all tended to produce different formulae. Luther taught a real, corporal presence of Christ's body and blood, 'in, with and under' the elements. Zwingli denied the corporal eating and drinking. Calvin was half-way between the two. Luther's position was essentially that of St Augustine (as on justification); his objection to Aquinas's formulation was more methodological than substantial. In effect, he accepted the Catholic doctrine; as he put it, 'I would rather drink blood with the papists than mere wine with the Zwinglians.' But Luther was not present at Regensburg. He thought the effort to meet Rome half-way useless, and he boycotted the colloquies. Charles V would have been willing to accept a simple declaration that Christ was really and truly present, and leave the technical issue of transubstantiation to a General Council. The centre group of princes were willing to accept what had been agreed, and build on it. But extremists on both sides carried the day. Contarini left Regensburg disappointed and baffled.

Political factors - the French, the Bavarian dukes and the papacy on the one hand, Luther's Schmalkaldic League and the Elector of Saxony on the other -had had as much to do with the breakdown as theology. It was the last chance for a compromise. When the General Council finally met at Trent five years later, Contarini was dead, the moderates were scattered, the Catholic Church was a defiant and intransigent rump, no longer thinking of anything but fire and sword, and Charles V had virtually despaired of unity. Luther died during the first session, and the fact was scarcely noted except for savage expressions of regret that it was no longer possible to burn him.

By this time, too, the Protestant movement itself was split beyond redemption: there was no longer a united front with which Catholicism might negotiate. Of course Luther had not been the only reformer in the field, or even the first. Zwingli, who brought reform to Zurich in 1522, claimed to have preceded him, and he preached a more radical doctrine. Unlike Luther he had no reverence for the past; no 'feeling' of Catholicism, and the outward transformation at Zurich was more thorough: the 'Lord's Supper' which Zwingli established in 1525 had little resemblance to the medieval liturgy. At Strassburg, the leading reformer, Martin Bucer, tried to effect a reconciliation between Luther's and Zwingli's ideas; the effort failed, but in making it he produced a lengthy body of Salvationist doctrine from which his pupil, Jean Calvin, extracted a clear and coherent alternative to the Lutheran brand of reformed Christianity. Lutheranism was essentially conservative in doctrine and structure, a form of state Catholicism, shorn of its mechanical aspects, stripped and simplified, but not essentially different from medieval Christianity. In Lutheran areas, the reorganization was carried out by the secular authorities, at

Luther's request: there was a systematic visitation of all churches, from which a consistory was formed at Wittenburg in 1542: this was, in effect, a Church court of lawyers and divines appointed by the prince. which replaced the jurisdiction of the bishops and was gradually extended: ecclesiastical and secular administration was thus tidied up together. Calvinism, by contrast, was not a tidying-up operation, worked by and through the existing state machinery, but a radical experiment in theocracy, an attempt to reduce the medieval organism of the Church-State to its supposed primitive origins.

Calvin came from north-west France, the son of a clerical lawyer; his own formation, at Paris, Orleans, Bourges, was essentially legal and canonical. But (next to Erasmus) he was the best-read of the reformers, and it is perhaps significant that his first work was a commentary on Seneca's De dementia, markedly elitist in tone and approving of the Stoic doctrine of predestined fate: Calvin is a case to illustrate the theory that a man's dogmatic beliefs tend to reflect his emotional predispositions and his family background. By 1533, when he was twenty-four, he had rejected Catholicism, and within three years he had used the work of Bucer and Luther to construct not merely a new summa of Christian dogma but an entire system of state and ecclesiastical government. His Institutes of the Christian Religion were continually revised until his death in 1564; but in all essentials they were complete by 1538, when he first began to apply them in Geneva. Calvin was immensely intelligent, determined and self-confident; he had, he said, 'received from God more ample enlightenment than others'. But the controlling factor in his system was excommunication, on which all the male members of his family were brought up to be experts. Thus he pounced on Luther's rediscovery of Augustinian predestination, and drove it to its ultimate conclusion. He began by doubling it: men were not only predestined to be saved, but to be damned. Satan and the devils acted on the command of God: 'They can neither conceive any evil nor, when they have conceived it, contrive to do it, nor having contrived it lift even a little finger to execute it, save in so far as God commands them.' God forewills all the tiniest events or actions from all eternity, whether good or evil, according to his plan; some he plans to save, by grace (for all men are evil and worthy of damnation), some he plans to damn. 'If we ask why God takes pity on some, and why he lets go of the others, there is no other answer but that it pleases him to do so.' 'Furthermore, their perdition proceeds from God's predestination in such a manner that the cause and matter of it will be found in them. ... Man stumbles, then, even as God ordained that he should, but he stumbles on account of his depravity.'

This terrifying doctrine of election, or damnation, was made palatable by the fact that election was proved by communion with Christ - that is, in practice, by membership of a Calvinist congregation: 'Whoever finds himself in Jesus Christ and is a member of his body by faith, he is assured of his salvation.' So long as a man avoided excommunication, he was secure. Here is both the strength and weakness of Galvanism: if you do not accept the horrific argument of double predestination, it is abhorrent; if you do accept it, it is almost irresistible.

From this theological system followed the earthly organization. To keep the elect pure, and to detect and excommunicate those predestined to be damned, Calvinist society required a policing process. The elected councils of each city appointed elders, disciplinary officials who worked closely with the pastors; their duty was to enforce the moral code, 'to take care of the life of everyone and ... to bear report to the company which will be deputed to apply brotherly correction'. They met with the pastors in

consistories, and their excommunications were passed onto the magistrates for law-enforcement. Calvin was not able to impose his theocracy on Geneva in a 'perfect' form, since the leading citizens insisted that a magistrate preside at the consistories, and, in theory at least, the pastors were forbidden to exercise any civil jurisdiction. On the other hand, he succeeded in getting his opponents, dismissed as 'the libertines', expelled and in some cases tortured and executed; and the system, as he worked it, perhaps came closer to the idea of a total Christian society than anything Catholicism had been able to effect. A consistory of 1542, for instance, dealt with a woman who knelt on her husband's grave and said 'Requiescat in Pace', a goldsmith who made a chalice, a man who criticized 'Godly' French refugees in the city, a woman who tried to cure her husband by tying a walnut with a spider in it around his neck, a sixty-two-year-old woman who married a man of twenty-five, a barber who gave a tonsure to a priest, a man who criticized the city for executing people for their religious opinions, and so forth. As Bishop Grosseteste had wanted to do in thirteenth-century Lincoln, the pastors paid an annual visit to everyone's house to detect faults. They dealt with high prices, short measure, interest rates, the charges of doctors, tailors and other tradesmen, and they produced city codes and other by-laws. In a curious way, and on a smaller scale, the Calvinist consistories resembled the Carolingian councils - they were motivated by the same Augustinian concept of creating the city of God on earth.

By the mid sixteenth century, therefore, there were three varieties of state religion in the West: papal Catholicism, state Christianity (Lutheranism), and Calvinist theocracy. Each, at any rate in theory, was Universalist in its aims: it foresaw a future, and to some extent worked for it, when its doctrines and institutions would be imposed on the whole of Christendom. Each was organically linked to the state where it existed. Each was a compulsory religion, claiming a monopoly of the Christian ministry where it held power. Luther, as a heresiarch, had begun by pleading for tolerance, for (this was a new expression) 'freedom of conscience'. He did not want to 'triumph by fire but by writings'. Among his propositions condemned by Rome was: 'To burn heretics is against the will of the spirit.' The secular power should 'busy itself with its own affairs, and let each one believe this or that as he can and as he chooses, and not use any force with anyone on this account'. He even, at first, urged the princes to be tolerant towards millenarians, Anabaptists and others of the Munster type, 'because it is necessary that there be sects and the word of God must enter the lists and wage battle.' This early moderation did not survive Luther's increasing dependence on the princes. Once his teaching became established as a state religion, all other forms of Christianity had to be eliminated, at least in their open expression. By 1525, he had forbidden the mass, 'that this blasphemy may be suppressed by the proper authority', and this ban was soon extended to other forms of Protestantism: 'A secular prince should see to it that his subjects are not led to strife by rival preachers whence factions and disturbances might arise, but in any one place there should be only one kind of preaching.' By 1527 he had passed to positive, rather than defensive, intervention to ensure uniformity by organizing state ecclesiastical visitations, and in 1529 he went further still to deny 'freedom of conscience': 'Even if people do not believe, they should be driven to the sermon, because of the ten commandments, in order to learn at least the outward works of obedience.' Two years later he agreed that Anabaptists and other Protestant extremists 'should be done to death by the civil authority'.

Calvin, by contrast, had never asserted that consciences should be free. How could the perfected society of the elect tolerate among it those who challenged its rules? The obvious answer to critics was to expel

them from the city, following excommunication. If they attempted to remonstrate they were executed. But execution, Calvin found, was also useful to inspire terror and thus bring about compliance. One of his favourite ways of triumphing over an opponent was to make him burn his books publicly with his own hands - Valentin Gentilis saved his life by submitting to this indignity. He was particularly severe with any who rebelled against his own rule, or who used the New Learning to challenge the doctrine of the Trinity.

One such was the Basque Erasmian polymath Michael Servetus, who worked and wrote in many parts of Europe as a printer, geographer, astrologer, physician and surgeon. He had an encyclopaedic mind and a passion for novelty, whether scientific or religious. In 1546, he sent a number of his writings to Calvin, and asked for his opinion. Calvin wrote to a friend: 'Servetus has just sent me ... a long volume of his ravings. If I consent, he will come here [Geneva], but I will not give my word; for should he come, if my authority is of any avail, I will not suffer him to get out alive.' In 1553, Servetus, who had become prior of a Catholic confraternity at Vienna, published his Christianismi restitutio, under the initials MSV, proving from scripture that Christ was man only. The Catholic Inquisition at Lyons was alerted to it by Guillaime de Trie, a Calvinist and friend of Calvin, who pointed out that MSV stood for Michael Servetus Villanovanus, and who supplied documents, including Servetus's letters to Calvin, to establish his guilt. It looks as though Calvin was a party to this plan to have Servetus burned by the Inquisition. In the event, he escaped from the Inquisition but fled to, of all places, Geneva, where he was promptly recognized in church and handed over to Calvin's consistory. He was condemned to death under the Justinian Code, which was still in use even in Protestant cities as the basis for the persecution of heretics. Against Calvin's advice, he was burned - Calvin wanted a simple execution. This judicial murder of a distinguished scholar aroused protests from some reformers, especially in Italy. *


* One of those who protested, under a pseudonym, was David Joris: the true Church, he wrote, 'is not the one that persecutes but the one that is persecuted'. He died peacefully in Basle in 1556, but three years later his secret was discovered and the Basle Protestants employed all the rites prescribed by the Inquisition for posthumous judicial procedure. Felix Platter left an eye-witness account: 'In the Square of the Franciscans, stood a bier with the dug-up corpse. Faggots were heaped up in front of the Steinenthor, the usual place of executions; there the executioner placed the coffin, and after it was smashed up the dead man could be seen, dressed in a cheap cloak and a pointed velvet cap, trimmed with scarlet. The corpse was quite well preserved and still recognisable.'

Camillo Renato denounced it in a long poem: 'A fiery stake has been erected where we sought to discover a heaven.' But the burning was approved in advance by most of the Swiss Protestant cantons and later defended by many Protestant intellectuals, such as the Professor of Greek at Lausanne, Theodore Beza: 'What greater, more abominable crime could one find among men [than heresy]? ... it would seem impossible to find a torture big enough to fit the enormity of such a misdeed.' Four months after Servetus died, Calvin published his own Declaratio orthodoxae fidei: 'One should forget all mankind when His glory is in question. ... God does not even allow whole towns and populations to be spared, but will have the walls razed and the memory of the inhabitants destroyed and all things ruined as a sign of His utter detestation, lest the contagion spread.'

If both Lutherans and Calvinists (as well as Catholics) actively persecuted antinomian extremists, they also opposed and hated each other. Calvinists thought of Lutherans as virtually unreformed, Romanists masquerading in godly garments. The Lutherans would never admit that Calvinism was a 'legal' religion. They classified Calvinists as Anabaptists, and thought their denial of the real presence a scandalous breach of the Catholic faith. Some Lutherans, like Polycarp Leyser, thought Calvinist errors worse than Roman. Lutherans would not provide military assistance to protect Calvinism from Rome and its allies - one factor which limited the Reformation's gains. All three parties, Calvinists, Lutherans and Catholics, accused the others of having double standards - demanding tolerance when weak, persecuting when strong. The Catholic George Eder wrote in 1579: 'In districts dominated by Protestants, Catholics are never tolerated; they are publicly humiliated, driven from their homes and lands, and forced into exile with their wives and children. ... But as soon as a Catholic member-state of the empire proceeds in the same way ... everyone gets worked up, is indignant, and the Catholic prince is accused of breaking the peace of religion.' The Lutheran Daniel Jaconi (1615): 'As long as the Calvinists are not in power ... they are pleasant and patient; they accept life in common with us. But as soon as they are masters of the situation they will not tolerate a single syllable of Lutheran doctrine.' George Stobaeus, prince-bishop of Lavant, to the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (1598): 'Entrust the administration of a town or province to Catholics only; allow only Catholics to sit in the assemblies; publish a decree demanding that everyone should profess the Catholic faith in writing, and urging them in case of refusal to find themselves another country where they can live and believe as they like.'

In fact, from the start each of the three main groupings tried to use all the apparatus of the State, where they could control it, to impose a religious monopoly. In 1555, after years of inconclusive fighting, the system was institutionalized at the Peace of Augsburg, which 'froze' the religious pattern of three years earlier and in effect allowed each prince, or prince-bishop, in Germany to determine the religion practised by his subjects. The principle was later defined as cuius regio, eius religio. There was nothing particularly new in this concept, which might be described as a return to tribalism, since in tribal societies kings had traditionally determined the tribe's form of religion. And of course it embodied the assumption, still current, that religious beliefs could not be separated from any other fundamental colouring of society: you could no more have two rival religions than you could have two rival legal codes, or two currencies or two armies. Since men could not agree, the monarch had to decide. And anyway, was not this natural, indeed God-ordained? Did not a ruler, at his coronation, receive sacramental grace for this sort of purpose? Thus the pontifical monarch, unfrocked by Gregory VII and his successors, entered into his clerical kingdom again. Liberty of conscience was denied to the subject, but conceded to the prince. But this meant that in some cases subjects who had had Lutheranism imposed upon them by their prince, later had Calvinism imposed by his successor. Or a prince might undergo a 'conversion'. The Landgrave Maurice of Hesse-Cassel, converted to Calvinism in 1604, told a Lutheran minister: 'I have the right to wield episcopal power in my state. ... My predecessors ruled religious matters according to the word of God. In my turn, I exercise the same right as they.' Equally, the son and heir of a Lutheran might turn Catholic when he inherited the throne, and compel his subjects to turn back to Rome.

In practice, of course, the princes had to some extent to defer to the wishes of their leading subjects. But where did the process of consultation stop? At what point up the social ladder was a man sufficiently important to have his religious opinions taken into consideration? This was a point on which the sixteenth century was becoming increasingly uncertain. Again, what if the ruling circles of a society profoundly disagreed? In most of the German principalities it was possible to reach a consensus. In Spain, the Catholic crown, through its instrument the Inquisition, exterminated Protestantism in the 1550s. In the Italian states, Protestantism made little headway among the aristocracy, and the question really did not arise, except in Venice. But in France, under a Catholic monarchy, the aristocracy became divided. Great families like the Guises and the Montmorencys were strongly Catholic, and controlled Lorraine. Cities like Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse were also Catholic. But the Prince of Conde was a Calvinist Protestant, or Huguenot; so was Coligny, the High Admiral; and so were the Bourbons of Navarre. The Huguenots numbered about one-tenth to one-fifteenth of the total population, but they were in the majority in parts of the Orleanais, Normandy, Navarre, the Dauphine and many towns. How, then, could the principle be applied to France? There was a fierce debate among the Protestants as to whether they were justified in taking up arms against the lawful ruler. Beza, writing to the King of Navarre, thought it was 'the lot of the Church of God' to 'endure blows and not to strike them'; but, he added, 'remember that it is an anvil which has broken many hammers'. One Huguenot lawyer, awaiting execution in 1559, argued that any monarch who forced his subjects to live against the will of God must be illegitimate. But who was to define 'the will of God'? Therein lay the whole argument. Calvin, consulted, ruled that resistance to persecution was permissible if led by the chief magistrate or prince of the blood. Hence the importance in France of such figures as Conde, Coligny and Navarre, who made possible a rebellion which Protestants could regard as theologically legitimate: the 2,000 Huguenot consistories in France became a civil and military organization, as well as a religious one. This new principle was made to apply elsewhere. In 1559 in Scotland the predominant section of the nobility, goaded on by Calvin's pupil, John Knox, raised arms against the Catholic administration. The English crown, after much hesitation, decided that this rebellion, too, was legitimate and lawful, and assisted it. Again, in the 1560s, the Spanish Netherlands rose against the persecuting Catholic Habsburgs, using in justification their ancient constitutional machinery, and in defence of their traditional laws, customs and charters. Their leader was a blood-prince, William the Silent, Prince of Orange, and when he was assassinated their 'governorship' was offered to the anointed Protestant Queen of England.

Thus the theories determining the religious division of Europe, though springing from the same root- concept - the priestly power of the prince - were increasingly divergent and conflicting. The result was a drift towards civil war within states, and international war between them. This was absurd, since the whole object of pursuing religious unity in states was to avoid civil strife. Hence in France, where unity was unobtainable, there was a movement towards an alternative idea, of a non-denominational state, whose task was to hold the ring, and enforce a degree of peaceful coexistence on the rival faiths. This was a political solution, and its advocates were termed politiques. But it had some support among the religiously committed. Philip Camerarius, the German Lutheran jurist, argued in his Historical Meditations (1591): 'If the prince supports one party and tramples on the other ... seditions will inevitably occur ... So it is equally certain that civil wars will cease if the prince stands with sword drawn between the two parties, neither inclining to the right nor left unless for the purpose of beheading,

without exception, all instigators of riot, sedition and faction.' But this implied that the State itself, and those who ran it, should be, in effect, neutral in religion, something almost inconceivable to sixteenth- and indeed seventeenth-century minds. Thus in France, after various experiments in peaceful coexistence interspersed by three religious wars, a settlement was reached in the 1590s, whereby the Huguenots became the beneficiaries of an edict of toleration, signed at Nantes, and their leader and king, Henri iv, embraced Catholicism. But the monarchy remained Catholic, and when Henri's great-grandson, Louis xiv, turned to a more militant brand of papalism, the edict was revoked and the system broke down.

Again, if the principle of peaceful coexistence were admitted, how far should it stretch? Lutheranism achieved a kind of international respectability in 1555, Calvinism became an official state religion (in Scotland) in 1562. What about the more radical reformers? Where should the line be drawn? Varieties of Protestantism proliferated instantly and wherever state persecution was relaxed. One reformer, a Venetian weaver, Marcantonio Varotto, rejoined the Catholic Church in disgust in 1568, explaining: 'I left Moravia because during the two months I spent there I saw so many faiths and sects ... all drawing up catechisms, all desiring to be ministers, all pulling in different directions, all claiming to be the true church. In one small place, Austerlitz, there are 13 or 14 different sects.' George Eder's Evangelical Inquisition of 1573 enumerates forty sects; they included the Munzerites, the Adamists, who ran naked, the secretive Garden Brethren, the Open Witnesses, the Devillers (who believed the Devil would be saved on Judgment Day), the Libertines, who cohabited freely, the Weeping Brethren, the Silent Ones, who banned preaching, the Augustinians, who believed in the sleep of the soul, various Munsterites, Paulinists, who claimed to have the originals of Paul's Epistles, priest-murderers, Antichristians, who worshipped a mythical harlot, and Judaizers. Some were violently anti-social, some not even Christian. Virtually all states banned and hounded them all. Poland was the most liberal. In 1573, the Polish nobility promulgated the Warsaw Confederation on religious freedom:

'As there is wide disagreement in our state on matters related to the Christian religion, and in order to prevent any fatal outburst such as had been witnessed in other kingdoms, we, who differ on religion, bind ourselves for our own sake and that of our posterity in perpetuity, on our oath, faith, honour and conscience, to keep the peace among ourselves on the subject of differences of religion and the changes brought about in our churches; we bind ourselves not to shed blood; not to punish one another by confiscation of goods, loss of honour, imprisonment or exile; not to give any assistance on this point in any way to any authority or official, but on the contrary to unite ourselves against anyone who would shed blood for this reason, even if he pretended to act in virtue of a decree or decision at law.'

This was an astonishing declaration for its time. Moreover, it was successfully applied to a wide range of sectarian belief, at any rate for a generation - it broke down because nobles or princes could not in practice bind their successors; and the Counter-Reformation ensured that these were Catholic. But the declaration extended the right of choice to everyone. Then as a footnote, it added that peasants had to obey their lords.

The assumption that it was right peasants should accept the religion of their lords, just as subjects followed their princes, reminds us that we are dealing with a society where individual freedom was still

a very scarce commodity. Below a certain level, no one was expected to have political or religious opinions. The effect of the Reformation - and to some extent a cause of it -was a pushing down of this threshold of individual responsibility to enfranchise new categories - especially the well-to-do, educated townsmen. How far the poorer townsmen influenced events, and exercised choice, is hard to say. Most, like their social superiors in the towns, aligned themselves with the reforming movement - there was no conflict of interest on this point. An analysis of the 290-odd Protestants martyred during the Marian persecution in England, 1553-8, shows that, apart from clergy, most were middle-class or lower-middle- class artisans and trades-people, continuing a social pattern established by the Lollards in the early fifteenth century. This does not mean reformers were not to be found among the higher social classes: merely that the crown was less inclined to probe their opinions or enforce upon them a uniformity of religious belief which, in the case of the lower orders, it regarded as essential. Thus in England, under Elizabeth, peers were exempt from swearing the oath under the Protestant Act of Uniformity, 1559, which meant they could continue as Catholics without suffering the financial penalties inflicted on lesser folk. Moreover, it was generally assumed that peasants on the estates of Catholic peers would follow their masters and remain Catholic, as in fact the majority did. Thus even in Anglican England, small pockets of Catholicism remained throughout the period when Protestant uniformity was enforced by law.

It is, then, extraordinarily difficult to determine how far the religious changes were the result of popular pressure, and how far they were carried through against the popular will. The religious crisis of the sixteenth century was essentially an argument among the upper educated classes. The rest of society were largely spectators and followers (and victims). Whenever the crown moved decisively, as it did in England, the rest of society tended to follow without much protest. During the decade 1530-40, chiefly through the will of the monarch, Henry VIII, the old medieval Church was effectively destroyed in England. This involved huge changes in society at all levels, and the social strains thereby produced are reflected in the correspondence of Thomas Cromwell, who was charged with enforcing Henry's policy. He had a network of agents and informers throughout the country who kept him informed on who was critical of the changes, and on what grounds. Analysis of this evidence gives no suggestion of a 'Catholic', still less a 'papist' party of resistance. It might have been a different matter if the regular clergy, who constituted over a third of the Church's personnel, and controlled nearly half its resources, had resisted the royal programme. In fact, only a tiny minority did. Monastic dissolutions were accepted largely with indifference wherever they were carried out, in England, Scandinavia and Lutheran Germany. The parish clergy were likewise passive, as a rule. They were perhaps the only force capable of mobilizing conservative peasants against a reforming government. The only occasion on which they did so in England was in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in 1536, the so-called 'Pilgrimage of Grace', where beneficed clergy provided the most important element in the local leadership. These clerics were motivated not by religious beliefs but by economic fears: they thought that reform would prevent them from holding small parishes in plurality, that the dissolved monks would be after their benefices, that the effect of the Act for First Fruits and Tenths would rob them of a year's income, and that episcopal visitations would be far more onerous under the Reform; they also credited vague rumours that the crown was planning to seize the parish silver-plate. Their rising was not so much an effort to force the crown to reverse its religious policy as a protest against economic grievances. Indeed, when we look at Cromwell's reports, and are thus able to see the Reformation at a local level, we find not so much a religious or ideological conflict as a complicated morass of personal feuds and grudges, jealousies, rivalries of jurisdiction, provincial contests and sheer bloody-mindedness. Sometimes criticism was provoked by dislike of Henry himself, for the nation as a whole seems to have deplored his divorce and loathed Anne Boleyn, frequently described as 'a strong whore'. One Worcestershire suspect blamed Henry for the bad weather, and said it would never improve until 'he were knocked or patted on the head'. A Welsh priest 'wished to have the King upon a mountain in North Wales ... called Snowdon Hill. ... He would souse the King about the ears until he had his head soft enough.' A Londoner said: 'I set not a pudding by the King's broad seal, and all his charters be not worth a rush.' We get reports of reformers indulging in tremendous meat-eating during Lent, to annoy the Catholics; but often enough the Reformation dispute was stood on its head. Thus, in Salisbury, the 'proud stomach' of a reforming bishop infuriated the corporation and turned anti-clericalism, normally a chief engine of change into a conservative force. Equally, though the end of clerical celibacy was a lure successfully dangled by the reformers before many priests (a majority of the younger ones), some remained Romanists because they did not want to be forced to marry their concubines. Thus a Father Cornewell swore 'he had set his wench by the bishop's nose. ... Let me see who dare meddle with her'; if only he would agree to marry her, he said, 'the bishop would be contented that [I] tilted up her tail in every bush.'

The remarks reported to Cromwell seem a long way from the subject-matter of the colloquy of Regensburg, taking place at the same time. A reforming London Dominican said the new scriptural faith was worth more than 'a whole shipload laden with friars' girdles and a dung-cart full of monks' cowls.' A pro-Henry lady thought the Scotch might bring the Pope back, but 'the clobbes of Essex shall drive them forth again, and a bush in Essex shall be worth a castle in Kent.' A London papist told Cromwell's informers that he 'cared not a fart for the Tower'. Many of these remarks were noted down in taverns. Thus we hear of four Coventry yeomen who met for a drinking session and eventually sallied forth to the market-place, where 'they all untrussed themselves, and did their easement at the Cross.' One tore down Henry's proclamations and statutes, nailed to the cross, 'and cast the same to the said Heynes, and bid him wipe his tail with them' - which he did. Next morning, hung-over, all four said they remembered nothing. Such protesters, and others who voiced their opinions, risked public whippings. We hear of one poor man who was sentenced, according to the court record, to have his ears 'cut off by the hard head' and to be tied 'to a cart's arse'. Generally speaking, however, protests at Church reforms were confined to words, usually under the influence of drink.

The Reformation, then, was not, by and large, a popular movement; nor was the resistance to it nor, when it came, the Counter-Reformation. Public opinion alone did not determine the issue in any state. The will of the ruler, or of the ruling circle, was the most important single factor. Yet, as the century progressed, the importance of public opinion was growing, and the unrestricted rights of the rulers were increasingly restrained. In England, for instance, neither Queen Mary nor her half-sister Queen Elizabeth was able to act in religious matters with the same freedom as their father. Mary's attempt to restore Catholicism in England was breaking down even before her death, largely because of anti-Roman feeling in London and the south-east. Elizabeth's power, and popularity, arose in great part from the fact that she sympathized with this feeling. But her parliaments were always more reformist than she was herself, and her religious settlement was more radical than she would have wished. Thus the common assumption in Rome and Madrid, and among English Catholic exiles, that the great majority of the English people favoured the Catholic cause, is surely mistaken. The only real figure we have suggests the opposite. In 1564 the bishops were asked by the Privy Council to report on the state of religious feeling in the country. The returns we have show that they found 431 magistrates were well-disposed towards the Anglican settlement, 264 were neutral, and 157 hostile. As the reign progressed, these figures must have shifted in favour of the regime and its religion. It is true that in the north the Catholic element was stronger, especially early in the reign. But during the 1569 rising only 7,000 out of a possible 60,000 young, able-bodied males responded to the appeal to rise on behalf of the old faith, and the rising itself was a fiasco. Even in the north, the south-east Lancashire towns, and York, for instance, tended to favour the Anglican settlement, and by the end of Elizabeth's reign the number of actual recusants even in Lancashire and Yorkshire, the most Catholic regions, was less than five per cent of the population. In France, the position was reversed, since the Huguenots were never able to pass the ten per cent mark, and in particular could not gain a substantial foothold in Paris. By becoming a Catholic, Henry iv was in effect bowing to public opinion, at any rate among the higher classes.

The will of the ruler, and the rising force of public opinion among the wealthier classes, were thus to some extent in equipoise during the second half of the sixteenth century. It is against this background that we must analyse the workings of the Counter-Reformation. Papal Catholicism had, however, one uncovenanted advantage. During the fifteenth century the tendency had been for the reform of the Church to fall into the hands of the monarchies, the only institutions willing and able to undertake it. The outstanding example was Spain, where the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, followed by the creation of the Spanish Inquisition under the secular control of the monarchy, gave it more power over the Church than any other secular government had possessed since the eleventh century. In the last decade of the fifteenth, and the first two of the sixteenth century, reform was entrusted to the vigorous and scholarly primate, Cardinal Ximenes, who possessed plenipotentiary powers over the Spanish Church (his first biographer lists his titles: 'Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal of Sancta Balbina, Grand Chancellor of Castile, Reformer of Religious Orders, Inquisitor-General, Captain-General of All Africa, Conqueror of Oran, Confessor of Our Lady the Queen, Governor of Spain, Founder of the Great College of San Ildefonso, and University of Alcala, and other pious works.') His combination of ecclesiastical and secular power enabled him to carry through a thoroughgoing reformation of the religious orders, which involved shutting down many houses and amalgamating others, and to impose a higher degree of discipline on the clergy (especially bishops) than was possible anywhere else in Christendom. Nor was this all. Ximenes learnt Hebrew and Greek, and imported Erasmian scholarship. The new university he founded at Alcala repudiated the old scholastic methods still used at Salamanca and Valladolid, taught the grammatical and expository principles developed by Valla, and employed outstanding Greek and Hebrew scholars such as Antonio de Nebrija, who pledged himself as he put it, to root up las barbari de los ombros de nuestra nation. * Nowhere else in the West had an all-powerful prelate identified himself with reform and renaissance, and though the experiment did not long survive Ximenes's death in 1517, it acted as a lightning-conductor to keep the anti-papal Reformation from Spain. Spain, in effect, had a national Church, with higher standards of discipline and pastoral care than could be found anywhere else. And in the Indies it had a new field of endeavour which attracted the evangelical and energetic elements among the clergy.


{*} An unpublished contemporary life of Ximenes noted: 'Antonio de Nebrija dwelt at the printing-press at Alcala, and often when the Cardinal passed by the road to the College he went to the press and spent a short time talking with him in the street while Antonie was at the window It was agreed between the Cardinal and his friend that for the rest of the day they would not leave off drinking wine.' Ximenes spent 50,000 gold ducats of his own money on his polyglot Bible, 600 sets were printed, of which about 150 survive (most were lost by shipwreck on their way to Italy). The Greek fount used was 'undoubtedly the finest Greek fount ever cut'. Victor Scholderer, Greek Printing Types, 1465-1927 (London, 1927) For the polyglot Bible see Basil Hall, The Great Polyglot Bible (San Francisco, 1966), and The Trilingual College of San Ildefonso and the Making of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible', Studies in Church History V (Leyden, 1969).

The Spanish crown, then, had no ecclesiastical demands to make on the papacy. It controlled its own Church, both at home and overseas, and could carry out such reforms as it judged necessary. The Inquisition was a popular instrument, directed against Jews and Moors. In the 1550s it was used effectively to root out Spain's very limited Protestant element. Moreover, in the 1550s, the Spanish Habsburgs lost direct responsibility for the empire.

Charles V, as emperor, had tried to uphold the Catholic cause in Germany while at the same time to bully the papacy into carrying out sufficient reforms to satisfy his German subjects. The effort had been unsuccessful on both counts, and had poisoned his last years as a ruler. When he abdicated, and divided his possessions, Philip II, as his Spanish heir, was freed from the incubus of empire, and the divisions of policy-ruling it entailed, and able to devote Spanish resources wholeheartedly to preserving the unity of papal Christendom, against the Turks on the one hand, and the Protestants on the other. Thus the Counter-Reformation acquired a single-minded secular champion, and one with vast means. The gold and silver of the New World was thrown into the struggle. Philip II was always short of money, and on occasions actually bankrupt. But he still disposed of funds which were more than three times as great as any other Christian state; he had the only really effective standing army in the West; and he controlled a narrow corridor which allowed him to move men and supplies from Spain and Italy to the Spanish Netherlands. Catholic military power thus divided Europe in two, a salient strategic fact which the militant Protestants were never able to circumvent; and Spanish fleets controlled the western Mediterranean, which ensured that the whole of Italy remained beyond the grasp of the reformers. At the same time, Spanish money was available to finance Catholic efforts to stem or reverse the Protestant advance wherever these could be organized.

The essence of the Counter-Reformation, therefore, was Spanish power. It was not a religious movement. It had no specific programme, other than the negative one of stamping out Protestant 'error'. It involved no substantial reform of the Church, and embodied no change of attitude on the part of the papacy. Between 1520-42, there was a distinct chance that a council would be summoned, probably in Germany, which would in effect impose changes on the papacy. Charles V did his best to bring it about. The only occasion on which he is recorded as having lost his temper arose from the delaying tactics of Paul in. These were successful, from the papacy's point of view. Up until about 1542, the evidence of secret consistories shows that many of the cardinals would have been willing to concede Protestant demands on a married clergy, on communion in both kinds, on vernacular translations of the scriptures, on justification by faith, on feast-days, fasts and on many other contentious points. A council held on these assumptions, and with a Protestant attendance, must have ended in a reduction of papal power. But no such council was held. After 1542 there was, in effect, a move to the right in Rome. The colloquies had failed. The Protestants were moving further apart, and it was increasingly evident that, whatever prospect there might be of compromise with the Lutherans, there could be none with the Calvinists. Contarini died, and those of his school fell under suspicion. The Inquisition was set up in Rome, under the fanatical Neapolitan papalist Cardinal Caraffa (later Pope Paul iv), whose watchwords were: 'No man is to abase himself by showing toleration towards any sort of heretic, least of all a Calvinist'; and 'Even if my own father were a heretic, I would gather the wood to burn him.' The new atmosphere in Rome was puritanical and intolerant, but not reformist. The Index of Forbidden Books was set up, and there were massive book-burnings; Jews were forced to wear the Yellow Star; Daniel of Volterra, 'the Trouserer', was employed to clothe the nudes of the Sistine Chapel; Protestants were burned and liberals silenced.

Against this background a council finally met, at Trent, in 1545. By this time they took it seriously. It had been delayed twenty-five years, during which time forms of Protestantism had spread over a large part of Europe. The dying Luther remarked: 'The remedy comes too late'. How could he negotiate and submit now? 'This might have been done a quarter of a century ago.' Its proceedings were 'twaddle'. Bucer, far more ecumenically minded, nevertheless dismissed it as 'a joke'. Catholics were scarcely less scathing. The Council began to assemble in March; but hardly anyone arrived on time. On the day appointed for the opening, it poured with rain and no one turned up for the ceremony. By April, only six bishops were actually in Trent. The opening, postponed from month to month, finally took place in December, with four cardinals, four archbishops, and only twenty-one bishops - including not a single ruling bishop from Germany. There seems to have been no sense of urgency or historical magnitude, no reforming spirit. A papal decree, ordering bishops actually to reside in their sees, a salient reforming issue, had been almost totally ignored, notably by most of the bishops present. Thus Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, Archbishop of Milan for twenty years (1520-50) never once visited the city. The 'host' bishop of Trent, Christoforo Madruzzo, was a symbol of the unreformed Church. He was handsome, well-born and well-connected, and always wore the red velvet dress of a secular prince - his scarlet biretta alone betrayed the fact he was a cleric. He had been given two parishes and a canonry in his teens, later three more canonries and a deanery, had been made a bishop at twenty-six and a cardinal at thirty. At the first banquet he gave to the council fathers, he served seventy-four different dishes and a famous Valtellina wine a hundred years old, while his private orchestra played. There were a good many ladies present. Madruzzo danced with them, and induced other clerics to do so; and, so few of the bishops having turned up, the ladies pushed their way into the chancel of the cathedral at the opening ceremony.

Nor did the council substantially improve. No preparatory work had been done. Seripando, the Augustinian General, characterized its first session as 'irresolution, ignorance, incredible stupidity'. Its first decision, to discuss reform and discipline simultaneously, was reversed by the Pope, who ordered it to concentrate on dogma; and he vetoed a statement on justification. The council muddled the issue of vernacular translations, and its decree enforcing episcopal residence was feeble; even while it was being debated, the Pope was issuing exemptions to cardinals, and licensed them to hold sees in plurality, one of the recipients being the notorious d'Este. An outbreak of typhus led to an angry and panicky debate in 1547, on the translation of the council to Bologna. When the motion was finally carried, some prelates had boats and horses waiting for them to get away. They barely listened to the last notes of the Te Deum, and one bishop did not even remove his vestments but galloped out of the city in full pontificals, to the jeers of the citizens. At subsequent sessions, which lasted until the 1560s, the Council of Trent improved both in attendance and decorum. But the atmosphere did not essentially alter. The objectives of Trent, as they developed, were seen to be not so much the reform of the Church as the strengthening of papal power. This was demonstrated by its first historian, the Venetian anti-papalist Fra Paolo Sarpi, whose three chief informants were all well-placed eye-witnesses. Even the reformist decrees were of limited scope, since they either applied only to Italy, or were not 'received' by the secular authorities in France, Spain and elsewhere. Reform of clerical standards was a very slow process indeed: in some respects it was not complete until the latter part of the nineteenth century. But there was a marked improvement of tone in the papacy itself during the decades after Trent. The Dominican Grand Inquisitor Michael Ghislieri, who became Pius V in 1565, created the new puritanical atmosphere, which involved the expulsion of prostitutes from Rome, the enforcement of strict clerical dress, and savage punishments for simony. The change was widely noted: 'Men in Rome have become a great deal better,' wrote Tiepolo, the Venetian ambassador, 'or at least have put on the appearance of being so.'

Where Trent did introduce an important change was in instructing bishops to create seminaries for the training of clergy. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan 1560-84, founded three in his diocese, and set about the creation of an educated and resident clergy by insisting on minimum standards before ordination and frequent visitations thereafter. This was something entirely new. Borromeo can be called the first modern Catholic bishop, as his predecessor Ambrose was the first medieval one. It is astonishing that no provision for training priests in their specific duties had ever existed before. This was the curse of the Church until Borromeo's system was widely imitated. Moreover, the creation of seminaries served to open up the whole question of Christian education. The Church had never looked at it systematically. There had been no need. It had exercised a complete monopoly. That monopoly had been undermined in the fifteenth century, when wealthy townsmen began to endow schools outside the clerical system. The layman entered the field decisively, at all educational levels, and the Renaissance fuelled the Reformation by presenting clericalism as an obstacle to learning and truth. Thus in the period 1520-50, to cite a small but significant instance, an almost infallible test of a scholar's religious views was the way he pronounced Greek: correct pronunciation was identified with reform. With each generation, there was an increasing tendency for the educated young people to turn against Rome. Then, too, Protestant societies devoted a far greater proportion of total resources to education, since a large slice of the endowments made available by the winding up of the monasteries had been allocated to grammar schools and universities. This Protestant challenge forced the Catholic world to take education seriously, and this meant a new type of cleric.

Yet the way in which the challenge was triumphantly met was largely an accident. The religious struggles of the sixteenth century inspired earnest Catholics to found new religious orders. Some successfully established themselves - the Capuchins (reformed Franciscans), the Theatines, the Somaschi, the Barnabites, the Oratorians; many proved abortive. There was a strongly held view in Rome that a multiplicity of orders was an embarrassment to the Church, and some even urged that all

male religious be regrouped in one order, to re-establish the monopoly position the Benedictines had occupied in the latter part of the Dark Ages. Against this background Ignatius Loyola established his new order, the Society of Jesus, in the 1530s. He was a middle-aged Basque from a family of borderchieftains, and his dictated Confessions dismiss his earlier life in one sentence. Like many of the reformers, he was an ascetic and a puritan, and for a time lived as a hermit, growing his hair and nails long, and eating no meat. But he turned the reforming process on its head by translating the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith into the principle of absolute obedience to the Church; this, for him, became the creedal hinge, and the certain guarantee of salvation. Moreover, he developed a self- disciplinary technique, known as the 'Spiritual Exercises', which took the place of the Lutheran 'conversion' and could be applied collectively. Loyola was thus a part of the new puritan-reformist movement but an aberration from it. For the Inquisition he was an object of intense suspicion, was twice gaoled by them, and for a number of years he remained on their records as a suspect person. He was also unclear about his aims. He began to collect companions from 1534, but his original idea was that they should work as stretcher-bearers and hospital porters in Jerusalem; then, for practical reasons, the field of operations was switched to Venice. In his long negotiations with the Inquisition and the papacy, however, Loyola revealed himself as an astute operator and organizer - as his successor put it, 'a man of great good sense and prudence in matters of business'. He insisted on an exceptionally long training for his men during which the principle of total obedience was absorbed. As Alfonso Rodriguez put it, the great consolation of the Jesuit - the equivalent of the Calvinist certainty of 'election' - is 'the assurance we have that in obeying we can commit no fault ... you are certain you commit no fault as long as you obey, because God will only ask you if you have duly performed what orders you have received, and if you can give a clear account in that respect, you are absolved entirely. ... God wipes it out of your account and charges it to the superior.' To illustrate the effectiveness of Jesuit discipline, Juan Polanco tells of the mortally ill novice who asked the Novice-Master for permission to die, 'something which caused great edification'. Paradoxically, this insistence on total subordination of the will did not deter the able; from the start, Loyola recruited men of unusual ability, mainly from the higher classes.

The creation of this remarkable human instrument gave the Tridentine papacy an opportunity to reinforce its educational policy. The only order which had hitherto specialized in ordinary education were the Flemish Brethren of the Common Life. The Jesuits were adept at training themselves. Why should they not train others in the faith? The alliance between the papacy and the Jesuits was consolidated during the first session of the Council of Trent, and the new order was given almost unlimited freedom to expand throughout Europe (and in the overseas Spanish and Portuguese missions) as propagandists and educators. By Loyola's death in 1556 they had over 1,000 members and 100 establishments. What in fact they did was to provide an educational service on demand. If a Catholic prince or prince-bishop wanted an orthodox school, college or university established and conducted efficiently, he applied to the Jesuits; he supplied the funds and buildings, they the trained personnel and techniques. They were, in effect, rather like a modern multi-national company selling expert services. And they brought to the business of international schooling a uniformity, discipline and organization that was quite new.

The Jesuits had originally intended to work among the poor and sick. In fact, the success of their educational mission cast their lot among the rich and the mighty: they became the specialists in upper- class schooling. Largely by chance, then, the Counter-Reformation forged itself a mighty instrument. For, granted that the determination of a state's religion was still to a large extent a matter for the prince to decide, and granted that this principle was qualified to the extent that the nobility and wealthier classes generally had an influence on his decision, what better way was there of ensuring orthodoxy than that the schooling of the well-born be in the hands of Catholic experts absolutely dedicated to the Tridentine faith? Jesuits provided education at all stages, from primary to university; and they complemented the service by allocating well-born men of the world to serve as private confessors to the great. Moreover, in a variety of ways, they sought to emphasize that the survival of Catholic orthodoxy was inextricably linked to that of the secular social order, based on privilege, hierarchy, grandeur and ceremony. The Jesuits did not practise austerities. They were allowed to use the shorter breviary. They moved in the world. At their schools and colleges, the pupils were encouraged to produce plays and public performances, at a time when such were closely linked to the rituals of royalty and lordship. Jesuit plays became famous: Lope de Vega and Calderon both learnt from them; and the European stage, especially in the fields of stage management and design, owes much to the Jesuit theatre. Their big city churches, designed to accommodate huge congregations for propagandist sermons (very like Calvinist edifices) were themselves theatres of the new Baroque arts, of which they became the leading patrons. They encouraged their princes to support artists such as El Greco and Caravaggio, who dedicated themselves to Counter-Reformation themes. * They fleshed out the miserable bones of the Tridentine reforms in such a way as to create a new universe, in which it seemed absolutely natural and inevitable that a man with a vested interest in the established order should be not only a Catholic, but a militant papalist.


* El Greco's giantic Burial of the Count de Orgaz (Toledo) asserts the Counter- Reformation theory of the intercession of the Virgin and the saints on behalf of the individual; and his Laocoon is also a Counter-Reformation allegory. But Greco frequently got into trouble through the suspect theology of his paintings and his refusal to carry out clerical orders; so did Caravaggio, e.g. for his Death of the Virgin (Louvre). Later, Rome took over iconographical guidance directly. See Ellis Waterhouse, 'Some Painters and the Counter-Reformation before 1600', TRHS (1972).

The Jesuits opened a college at Padua, the most innovative of the Italian universities, as early as 1542, within three years of their establishment as an order. The same year, the Catholic bishops of southern Germany summoned them to operate' there. The Jesuits started their first secondary school at Messina in 1548, and this was quickly duplicated all over Catholic Europe. During the 1550s, they particularly concentrated on Germany, with an operational headquarters at Ingoldstadt University, and a German College in Rome (1552) to train Counter-Reformation clergy. Within a generation, pupils from the last occupied many of the key German prince-bishoprics. Jesuits moved into all areas where conflicting religions were struggling for the hearts and minds of the well-born. In 1580, we find the Prince of Parma, Governor of the Netherlands, writing to Philip II: 'Your Majesty desired me to build a citadel at Maastricht. I thought that a college of the Jesuits would be a fortress more likely to protect the inhabitants against the enemies of the Altar and the Throne. I have built it.'

The Jesuits were not only more effective than fortresses; they were cheaper. The Counter-Reformation made its most important gains not by battle but by capturing the loyalty and enthusiasm of well-placed individuals. Until the mid 1560s, Protestantism, both Lutheran and Calvinist, was gaining ground everywhere in Germany. In Graz, for instance, the population was almost entirely Protestant, and Protestant schools flourished in south German cities as well as in the north. Then, in 1573, the Archduke Charles of Austria founded a Jesuit school. Freedom of religion was granted by the Diet of Bruck in 1578; but three years later the duke expelled evangelical pastors and forbade Graz citizens to attend the Protestant city school. The old duke died in 1590, and Protestantism again flourished during his son's minority. When he attained his majority, however, the new Jesuit-trained duke announced: 'I would rather rule a country ruined than a country damned', and set about extirpating Protestantism by force. In 1598 he expelled all Protestant pastors and schoolmasters, and the next year he closed non-Catholic churches. The process was completed a generation later, in 1628, when 800 leading Protestant families were compelled to leave the country. The same forces were at work in Bavaria and, more spectacularly, in liberal Poland. There, Stephen Batory, elected king in 1574 on a platform of toleration, had allowed the Jesuits in as part of his policy of protecting both sides to the dispute. There were 360 in Poland by the time his successor, Sigismund III, a vehement Catholic, was elected in 1587. Thereafter, Catholics alone were appointed to office, and Catholic nobles were encouraged to evict Protestants from their estates; the courts ruled that Protestants might not use parish churches, and they were driven into the town halls; then, in 1607, the Protestant nobles were provoked into revolt, and its suppression marked the end of reform. As the papal nuncio reported: 'A short time ago, it might have been feared that heresy would entirely supersede Catholicism in Poland. Now Catholicism is bearing heresy to its grave.'

The Jesuits were instrumental in turning the tide in Austria, Bavaria, in the prince-bishoprics of the Rhineland, and in Poland. Their city schools had a marked success in deflecting the bourgeoisie from reform to orthodoxy. But of course they worked chiefly through powerful individuals. Their last great success came in the 1680s, when Louis xi V's Jesuit confessor, Le Tellier, finally persuaded the monarch to smash the Edict of Nantes and (it was said) actually drafted the revocation himself. But this influence was not exerted on the plane of morals and piety. In the confessional, the Jesuits and their powerful penitents had a lawyer-client relationship. The reason why they were popular confessors, especially of the great, was that they tended to identify good Christian behaviour with mere prudence, a kind of enlightened realpolitik redeemed only by religious intention: as Escobar, one of their moral theologians put it, 'Purity of intention may be justification for acts contrary to the moral code and human law.' They adopted the role of defence-advocate, trying to evade the moral law rather than interpret it; and they took the 'probabilist' line that penitents should be given the benefit in doubtful cases. Casuistry was for them a form of charity, an attempt to make the moral law human. But generosity tended to degenerate into laxism, as Jesuit confessors adopted the deformation professionnelle of their world lyclients Cardinal Noris, an Inquisition expert, explained to Cosimo in of Florence (1692) why some Jesuits opposed the strict morality of their General, Tirso Gonzales: 'As they were confessors to so many great princes in Europe, so many princely prelates in Germany, and so many high-ranking courtiers, they must not be so severe as their General desires, because if they followed his teaching they would lose their posts as confessors at all courts.'

It is clear, too, that Jesuit confessional activities covered the whole political and military field. As Louis xiii's Jesuit confessor, Father Caussin, put it in a letter to his General, Vitelleschi, whether an alliance with the infidel Turks was right or not was, to the king's confessor, a matter of conscience, as well as politics. In fact the Jesuits were at all stages, and in all countries, deeply involved in the physical, as well as the moral, aspects of the Counter-Reformation. They were active in the Catholic League in France, organized to fight civil war against the Huguenots, and the legitimate King Henri iv: their provincial, Odon Pigenat, was a member of the League's governing Conseil des Seize and known to the Huguenots as 'the cruelest tiger in Paris'. Jesuits organized subversion against Queen Elizabeth in England and Ireland, and against the regency government in Scotland. They played a leading role in the Thirty Years War, both in its opening, and the forced 'conversion' of Bohemia, and by preventing a compromise peace after the victories of the Swedish Protestant army under Gustavus Adolphus. In 1626, the papal nuncio in Vienna reported to Rome:' [The Jesuits] have the upper hand over everything, even over the leading ministers of state. ... Their influence has always been considerable, but it has reached its zenith since Father Lamormaini has been confessor to the Emperor.' Gustavus Adolphus remarked: 'There are three Ls I should like to see hanged: the Jesuit Lamormaini, the Jesuit Laymann and the Jesuit Laurentius Forer.'

Above all, the Jesuits were widely identified with the view that the moral code could in some way be suspended when Catholic interests were at risk. The Jesuits not only advocated war as a legitimate instrument against heresy but defended the selective murder of Protestants, especially if they held important positions. It was an extension of their educational techniques: if a ruler could not be converted, let him be slain. Thus in 1599, Juan Mariani, offering Philip in advice on the question of the kingship, wrote of Protestant sovereigns: 'It is a glorious thing to exterminate the whole of this pestilential and pernicious race from the community of mankind. Limbs, too, are cut off when they are corrupt, that they may not infect the remainder of the body; and likewise this bestial cruelty in human shape must be separated from the state and cut off with the sword.'

The Jesuits were a striking case of a highly educated and strongly motivated elite allowing the stresses of religious conflict to confuse their moral values. They were not isolated. Indeed, the problem was general. It is a tragic but recurrent feature of Christianity that the eager pursuit of reform tends to produce a ruthlessness in dealing with obstacles to it which brings the whole moral superstructure crashing down in ruins. The Gregorian papacy, so zealous for virtue, fathered some of the worst crimes of the Middle Ages. So, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the desire to purge the Church of its errors and to recreate an apostolic society set off a chain of consequences which not only wrecked the unity of Christendom but induced its severed fragments to exercise unrivalled ferocity on each other. From the 1520s religious war was endemic in the West until 1648, with one brief respite in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. These wars, civil or international - usually both - were without redeeming features and were destructive of Christian faith itself, as well as human life and material civilization. They came, too, after a period when mankind had rediscovered the riches of the ancient world and was advancing rapidly in knowledge and techniques. The effect of religious conflict was not to halt this process completely but to retard and deform it. Reason was devalued. Dark and horrible forces were unleashed or resuscitated. The hopeful dawn Erasmus noted broadened into a tempestuous day where sensible and civilized men had to shout to make their voices heard above the winds of

violence, cruelty and superstition.

The religious wars were based on the assumption that only a unitary society was tolerable, and that those who did not conform to the prevailing norms, and who could not be forced or terrified into doing so, should be treated as second-class citizens, expelled, or killed. They thus reinforced or brought back to life destructive forces which already existed in medieval society. South of the Pyrenees, for instance, the elimination of Protestant heretics was presented as a further chapter in the struggle against the Jews, which went back to Visigothic times. The triumphant Catholics of Castile had been systematically persecuting the Jews since the fourteenth century. Many had accepted Catholicism, and the converses, always suspect, were a powerful element in Spanish society. In Spain, the Inquisition was part of the process whereby the Castilians penetrated and unified the whole of Spanish society: it was set up in 1478 to examine the credentials of the converts. The conquest of the Moors was virtually completed in 1492 with the fall of Granada; three months later the crown ordered all remaining Jews to leave the country, the culmination of twelve years of intensive anti-Semitic legislation. In fact, up to fifty per cent, perhaps 400,000, remained as forced converts, and solving the Jewish problem merely exacerbated the problem of the converses. Christians with Jewish blood had been, and remained, powerful in finance, administration and medicine. By the end of the fifteenth century most of the noblest and richest families in Spain, including the royal family of Aragon, were 'tainted'. Nevertheless, racial legislation was introduced to 'purify' the upper regions of society. Statutes of limpieza de sangre were passed banning descendants of Moors and Jews (especially the latter) from universities and religious orders. The Inquisition effectively controlled their enforcement and progressively extended their scope. Torquemada, who set the system in motion, and his successor as head of the Inquisition, Diego Deza, both had Jewish blood. But the Inquisition could authenticate false genealogies, and the fact that virtually everyone of any importance was vulnerable merely increased its power - accurate genealogies, secretly circulated, were a form of subversive literature. It was the guardian of the Spanish race, and one of the reasons it was popular among the Castilian masses was that in general they alone had the limpieza de sangre. In a memorandum to Charles v, the historian Lorenzo Galindez de Carvajal pointed out that most of the members of his council were 'tainted'; among the exceptions was Dr Palacios Rubios, 'a man of pure blood because he is of labouring descent'.

The effect of the Inquisition under Torquemada was to confuse the theoretically separate matters of racial and religious purity. He issued instructions at Seville in 1484 that the 'children and grandchildren of those condemned [by the Inquisition] may not hold or possess public offices or posts or honours, or be promoted to hold orders, or be judges, majors, constables, magistrates, jurors, stewards, officials of weights and measures, merchants, notaries, public scriveners, lawyers, attorneys, secretaries, accountants, treasurers, physicians, surgeons, shopkeepers, brokers, changers, collectors, tax-farmers or holders of any other public office.' A new doctrine of original sin was thus introduced, all the more unChristian since it could not be effaced by baptism; the saffron robes worn by the condemned (the great majority of whom were Jews) had to be hung up in churches as a perpetual reproach to their descendants - a law observed until the end of the eighteenth century. The limpieza de sangre system might have disappeared in the sixteenth century under the weight of its own contradictions and cruelties. In fact, the religious struggle not only prolonged its life but immeasurably increased the authority, power and durability of its control-mechanism, the Inquisition. By an almost magical process, Protestantism was

simply identified with impure blood, that is with the Jewish taint. Archbishop Siliceo of Toledo expressed the common view in 1547: 'It is said, and it is considered true, that the principal heretics of Germany, who have destroyed all that nation ... are descendants of Jews.' In fact no one had said this outside Spain; and Luther himself was notoriously anti-Semitic. But Spaniards of Jewish descent were duly identified by the Inquisition as Protestants, and burned, and these convictions were taken as proof of an unfounded assumption. By 1556 we find Philip n writing: 'All the heresies which have' occurred in Germany and France have been sown by descendants of Jews, as we have seen and still see daily in Spain.' Protestantism was thus fitted into the hate-structure of the country, and doctrinal orthodoxy was reinforced by racism. The campaign was directed against foreigners as well as Spanish Jews and intellectuals; in fact after the mass-burning of Protestants in 1559-62, conducted at grandiose ceremonies in front of the king and other members of the royal family, most of the Protestants executed were foreigners, who were assumed to be actively plotting to subvert the State. Many of these were seamen and merchants, chiefly from France, England and the Low Countries; commercial rivalry was thus reinforced by doctrinal hatred, and sea-warfare took on a new ferocity.

The process tended to seal off Spain (and her colonies) from the rest of the world. The Spanish Erasmians were wiped out or driven into exile, one of the first victims being Ximenes's former secretary, Juan de Vergera. The great Spanish pedagogue Juan Luis Vives wrote: 'We live in such difficult times that it is dangerous either to speak or to be silent.' As one of Vives's correspondents, Rodrigo Manrique, put it (from exile): 'Our country is a land of pride and envy and, you may add, of barbarism; down there one cannot produce any culture without being suspected of heresy, error and Judaism. Thus silence has been imposed on the learned.' The Spanish Index of Prohibited Books was first published in 1551, and progressively updated and expanded. The 1559 list included sixteen of Erasmus's works, notably his Enchiridion, once a best-seller in Spain; and the Index of 1612 classified him among the auctores damnati, so that henceforth he could be quoted only as quidam ('someone'). The Spanish Index was quite independent of Rome's - it banned the orthodox historian Cardinal Baronius, who had been publicly praised by the Pope, as well as Thomas More, Cardinal Pole and Francis Borgia, General of the Jesuits. Indeed, the whole apparatus of repression was autarchic and nationalist, struck at the highest as well as the lowest, and was impervious to papal remonstrance. In 1559 the Inquisition arrested Bartolomeo de Carranza, Archbishop of Toledo, and kept him in its underground cells at Valladolid despite papal intervention for seven years. In 1565, a papal legation including three future popes, Gregory xiii, Urban VII and Sixtus v, reported to Pius iv: 'Nobody dares to speak in favour of Carranza because of the Inquisition ... and its authority would not allow it to admit that it had imprisoned Carranza unjustly. The most ardent defenders of justice here consider that it is better for an innocent man to be condemned than for the Inquisition to suffer disgrace.' Pius v finally got Carranza brought to Rome in 1566, where he was held in the fortress at St Angelo. The power of Spain prevented his clearance until 1576, just eighteen days before his death.

The Inquisition was not only supremely powerful (it constituted one of the governing councils of Spain); it proved durable, largely because it was self-financing from the confiscated property of the condemned. The fact that it needed the money for its operations meant that it had to secure convictions. Hence the use of torture. It is calculated that in the Toledo Tribunal, 1575-1610, about thirty-two per cent of those whose 'offences' made them liable to torture were in fact tortured; those thus brutalized, according to the

records, included women aged seventy to ninety, and a girl of thirteen. After funds from confiscations ran out, the Inquisition raised money by selling posts as informers or 'familiars', who enjoyed privileges such as freedom from arrest; in 1641 they cost 1,500 ducats each. Even so, the Inquisition finally ran out of money in the late eighteenth century, and from that point it became moribund, though it was not effectively abolished until 1834. The last official Spanish execution for heresy was in 1826, when a schoolmaster was hanged for substituting 'Praise be to God' in place of 'Ave Maria' in school prayers. The limpieza de sangre statutes remained valid (though increasingly unenforceable) until 1865.

While in Spain orthodox intolerance concentrated on Moors and Jews, and then on an amalgamation of Jews, Protestants, foreigners and those of 'impure blood', north of the Pyrenees Jews had ceased to be the main object of hatred in the thirteenth century, and attention had focused on those heretics who fled into mountain areas to escape persecution. Almost imperceptibly, in these remote and backward areas, the heresy-hunt broadened out into the witch-hunt. Witches had not, on the whole, been hunted in the Dark Ages, since belief in their existence tended to be treated as pagan superstition: Charlemagne, in fact, passed laws against the hunting of witches. The position changed in the thirteenth century with the development of the Dominican Inquisition, which tended to create (often for financial reasons) a new category of victims when it ran out of an old one. Thus in the Alps witches were called Waudenses and in the Pyrenees Gazarii or Cathars. When the hunting of heretics and other antinomian groups became endemic in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, witch-hunting began to evolve its own theory and methodology, while at the same time it spread down from the mountain areas to embrace the whole of society.

The two leading German Dominican inquisitors, who specialized in witch-hunting, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprender, compiled a huge dossier based on confessions extracted under torture; in 1484 they used this to persuade Innocent VIII to issue the bull Summis desiderantes affectibus, which gave them specially enlarged powers, and two years later they condensed their 'findings' into the great witch- encyclopaedia, the Malleus Maleficarum, which became a best-seller. The combination of bull and book internationalized their hunting techniques. Since their forms of questioning put words into the mouths of the victims, which they were compelled by torture to repeat, the patterns of the Malleus appeared to be confirmed by experience all over Christendom. In reality there is no reason to suppose that such a phenomenon as witchcraft ever existed. The myth was on a level with the supposed ritual murders of Christian children, of which the Jews were accused in the twelfth century. Witches simply replaced Jews as objects of fear and hatred, and torture supplied 'proof of their existence and malevolence. Indeed, witch-hunting could not survive, or even become a powerful movement, without torture. The European craze really dates from about 1468, when the papacy first declared witchcraft a crimen exceptum, und made those accused subject to torture. Once torture was authorized, the confessions multiplied, the number of victims and accusations increased, and the movement generated its own momentum. Once torture was banned, the process was reversed, and the movement gradually died. Where torture was not used, as in England, cases were much rarer and the confessions less horrific.

The first big spate of witch-hunting was in the second half of the fifteenth century; then there was a period of relative calm, during which some governments took action against hunting. Charles v's imperial constitution of 1532 ordered punishments only for witches who did actual harm; merely being a witch was not enough to invoke the law. Erasmus and other Renaissance scholars were highly sceptical, and a new mood appeared to be setting in which would destroy the superstitious base on which the hunt had been created. This more enlightened attitude was rapidly reversed when religious war broke out and the persecution of heretics was intensified. Moreover, both Catholics and reformers tended to hunt witches, as they hunted Anabaptists, to demonstrate their doctrinal purity and fervour. With the exception of Zwingli, the German reformers accepted the mythology of witchcraft. Luther thought that witches should be burnt for making a pact with the Devil even if they harmed no one, and he had four of them roasted at Wittenburg. The Protestants relied on Exodus 22:18: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' As Calvin said: 'The Bible teaches us that there are witches and that they must be slain ... this law of God is a universal law.' The Calvinists, in fact, were much fiercer against witches than the Lutherans. On the whole, Anglican Protestants were not keen witch-hunters, and during the whole period 15421736 many fewer than 1,000 were executed (by hanging) in England, against 4,400 in Calvinist Scotland during the ninety years beginning in 1590. The worst year in England was 1645, when the Calvinist Presbyterians were in power. Where English Calvinists could, they propagated witch-hunting. Bishop Jewel, who had lived in exile in Geneva, brought the craze with him on his return in 1559; and in the 1590s, the Calvinist William Perkins lectured on the subject at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a Puritan institution where some of the Founding Fathers of New England were educated. Wherever Calvinism became strong, witches were systematically hunted.

Equally, on the other side of the religious barriers, it was the followers of Loyola, the puritanical Catholic, who now popularized the witch-hunt. This in itself is interesting, for the Jesuits were not necessarily intolerant. As a Spanish-dominated order, they might have been expected to show particular hostility to Jews. In fact they did not, because in Spain Puritanism was identified with Jewry- Protestantism. Loyola had been accused of Judaism as a student in 1527 simply because of his strict religious observances. He later said, defiantly, that he would consider it an honour to be descended from Jews: 'What? To be related to Christ Our Lord and to Our Lady the glorious Virgin Mary!' He and his first three successors as General of the Jesuits were all firmly opposed to the limpieza statutes and ecclesiastical anti-Semitism, and the Jesuits only gave way in the end because their attitude was ruining recruitment in Spain. In fact it was the moderate line the Jesuits took on the Jews which lay at the bottom of their ferocious 200-year struggle with the Dominican Inquisition. The rule seemed to be that, in a period of intense religious conflict, everyone needed to have an obsessional enemy, but no one could cope with more than one at a time. In Spain, orthodoxy hunted Jews but very rarely witches. The Jesuits were pro-Jewish (up to a point) but prominent witch-hunters. Burning of witches increased wherever they triumphantly carried the Counter-Reformation, especially in Germany, Poland and Franche-Comte; and in the Low Countries, where they were less successful, they intensified witch- hunting after a proclamation by Philip n in 1590, which declared witchcraft 'the scourge of the human race'. Jesuits were associated with the most savage campaign, conducted around Trier by Archbishop Johann von Schoneburg, and his suffragan, Bishop Binsfield. In the years 1587-93, the archbishop burned 368 witches in some twenty-two villages, leaving two of them with only one female inhabitant each. As with the Inquisition against heretics, officials who dragged their feet were liable to become victims: thus Schoneburg had the University Rector, Dietrich Flade, chief judge of the electoral court, arrested for leniency, tortured, strangled and burned. The hunters constantly alarmed the authorities by stories of vast and growing conspiracies of witches; once they were allowed to torture they produced not only scores of victims but hundreds of accusations - thus justifying their forecasts. Some hunters were paid by results: Balthasar Ross, minister to the Prince-Abbot of Fulda, made 5393 guilden out of 250 victims, 1602-5.

There seems to have been a fairly steady correlation between the intensity of the Protestant-Catholic struggle and the number of witches accused and burned. Just as there had been a lull in the early sixteenth century, ended by the Lutheran Reformation and its violent consequences, so there was another lull just before the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618. Then, with the Catholic reconquest of Bohemia and parts of Germany, the witch-trials multiplied. This last great phase of witch-hunting was the product of Catholic-Protestant rivalry, since hunters on both sides often identified witchcraft with opposing beliefs; on the other hand, they drew on each other's theoretical writings and practical experiences. The Catholic witchcraft terror in Germany was remarkably like the Inquisition's 'Protestant- Jewish' terror in Spain, since it might strike at anyone. Philip Adolf von Ehrenberg, Bishop of Wurtzburg, burned over 90o during his reign 1623 31, including his own nephew, nineteen priests and a child of seven. In the Bavarian prince-bishopric of Eichstatt, 274 were burned in the year 1629 alone. In Bonn, the chancellor and his wife, and the wife of the archbishop's secretary, were executed. The worst hunt of all was at Bamberg, where the 'witch-bishop', Johann Georg n Fuchs von Dornheim burned 600 witches, 1623-33. His chancellor, accused of leniency, implicated under torture five burgomasters; one of them, arrested and tortured in turn, accused twenty-seven colleagues, but later managed to smuggle out a letter to his daughter: 'It is all falsehood and invention, so help me God. ... They never cease to torture until one says something. ... If God sends no means of bringing the truth to light, our whole kindred will be burned.' The hunt led a Jesuit, Friedrich Spee, who had acted as confessor to witches in the Wurzburg persecution, to circulate in manuscript an attack on hunting called Cautio Criminalis: 'Torture fills our Germany with witches and unheard-of wickedness, and not only Germany but any nation that attempts it . If all of us have not confessed ourselves witches, that is only because we have not all been tortured.'

This revealing Catholic document fell into the hands of Protestants, who printed it in 1631. But exposures of Catholic enormities did not prevent Protestants from doing the same. Erasmian humanists like Johann Weyer had long since drawn the connection between torture and confessions. (His book was put on the Index). As Richard Scott, one of Weyer's admirers, put it in 1584: 'Note also how easily they may be brought to confess that which they never did, nor lieth in the power of man to do.' (Scott's book was burned by James I.) Many intellectuals shared the sceptical attitude of Montaigne: 'It is rating our conjectures highly to roast people alive for them'; and even in the worst affected areas the judicial authorities were eventually persuaded to discountenance torture. As Sir George Mackenzie, the Scottish Lord Advocate, said: 'Most of all that ever were taken were tormented after this manner, and this usage was the ground of all their confession.' This had been apparent all along, to anyone with an open mind. But so long as men killed each other for their religious beliefs, witches were extensively hunted. Once the major fighting had stopped, with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, reason had the chance to raise its head again, and the rapid diffusion of scientific ideas about the workings of nature undermined the theoretical basis of witch-hunting. Witchcraft ceased to be an international mania, but special local conditions produced brief outbursts, in Sweden in the 1660s, following the defection of Queen Christina to Rome, and in New England in the 1690s. The last legal execution of a witch was carried out in

Protestant Switzerland in 1782; and there was an illegal burning in Catholic Poland eleven years later.

The identification of Protestants with Jews in Spain, and the persecution of old women in northern and central Europe, were only two of the ways in which the Christian schism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the religious passion it generated, damaged the structure of European civilization and retarded the progress of reason. Here, then, we come to an important watershed in the history of Christianity. In Roman times, philosophers and intellectuals generally had tended to identify Christianity with obscurantism and superstition, an impression only gradually (and never completely) effaced in the fourth century. Thereafter, however, Christianity had appeared to associate itself wholly with Roman culture, and after the collapse of the secular Roman state in the West it had successfully grafted the civilization of the ancient world on to the dynamic barbarian societies of the West Following this, and for many centuries, Christianity remained both the chief focus of culture and the driving force behind economic and institutional innovation. The strength of the total Christian society was essentially religious, and linked to the well-being and vigour of the Catholic Church. But then in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there came the first sign of a change: that is, a tendency for the more progressive and innovatory elements in society to operate not within the institutional framework of the Church but outside it - and eventually against it. The Church ceased to be in the van of progress, and quite rapidly became an obstacle to it. This switch-about came both in the economic and the intellectual field.

Let us look at the economy first. The Dark Age Church had been a perfect instrument for the relaunching of the economy of western Europe on an agricultural basis: it had the theory, and it had the institutional agencies. Its urban bishoprics also played a major part in founding the town economy, and its pilgrimage routes and relic-centres in developing communications and trade. But further than that it could not go. It did not develop a theology of trade or capitalism. It did not produce orders which made a contribution to commercial techniques in the way that the Benedictines and the Cistercians had developed agricultural techniques; indeed, even in agriculture, from the early fourteenth century it changed from a producer to a rentier role. The Templars, by acting as bankers, were the only Christian order to make a commercial contribution, and they were suppressed and plundered by the papacy and the crown, acting in concert. During the crusades, which supplied a crucial forum for economic innovation, it was the secular merchants of the Italian maritime cities who took on the role of pioneers, right outside the institutional framework of the Church.

Those who practised the incipient capitalism of the later Middle Ages were not irreligious often they were extremely pious - but they tended to conduct their religious life on their own terms, and outside the constraints and abuses of official Christianity. This blend of anti-clericalism, mild Puritanism, and devotion to commerce - soon to be associated with the 'Protestant ethic' of Calvinism - was commonplace in the bigger western cities by the fourteenth century. It is reflected, for instance, in the surviving correspondence of Francesco di Marco Datini, c. 1335-1410, who traded for thirty years at Avignon, and then at Prato near Florence. His ledgers were inscribed with the Ten Commandments, and many pages have at their head 'In the name of God and Profit'. This man was a sincere, and on the whole orthodox Catholic (though he joined a flagellant procession on one occasion). But, like Dean Colet, he did not want the money he left to the poor in his will to go through Church channels, and he therefore excluded clerics from its administration. This was very common at the close of the Middle Ages. A growing number of Christian charitable foundations were established beyond the reach of corrupt clerics; it was part of the reassertion of the laity which was the essential dynamic of the Reformation.

There is plenty of evidence, then, that the progressive elements in the commercial community were turning against the Church, as the epitome of clericalism, long before the Reformation, and long before Protestantism developed specific doctrines which have since been identified as the generating forces of the capitalist mentality and its work-concentration techniques. In putting forward the theory of the 'Protestant ethic', Max Weber and his followers argued that Protestant theology, with its heavy emphasis on justification by faith and predestination, generated 'a salvation panic' among believers. This, in turn, led to the methodical practice of good works (thus developing in economic terms habits of industry and capitalism). Good works were useless as a means of attaining salvation, since that was already determined, but they were indispensable as a sign of election, to get rid of the fear of damnation, and induce what Luther called 'the feeling of blessed assurance' an inner conviction that you were saved. Weber thought that Calvinism was an anxiety-inducing ideology that drove its victims to seek self- control and confidence in methodical work and worldly success. But there is no evidence that Calvinism, or other powerful forms of Protestantism, induced anxiety. The anxiety was already there. It always had been. Origen, with his theory of universal salvation, had always represented a minority trend in Christianity. Vast numbers of Christians had feared Hell and its fires at all periods. These anxieties naturally tended to generate work. Anxious men assuaged their worries, in medieval society, by paying for masses to be said for them, or by buying indulgences. They had to work to get this salvation money. But profit thus generated was creamed off by the Church, and used in display buildings, masses and charitable foundations. It was not available for entrepreneurial investment. To this extent medieval society was not a saving society; or, rather, it banked its treasure in Heaven. It had a wealthy Church, rather than capitalist enterprises, to show for its industry. Again, medieval merchants were less inclined to bequeath large sums in cash to their heirs than their successors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Huge bequests went to purposes which Protestantism later ruled to be futile or anti-Christian. A comparatively small percentage change in such habits could effect, over a period, a major transformation in economic life.

This does not mean that passionate Protestants, especially Calvinists, were more likely to be successful in business. It has not been, and probably cannot be, demonstrated that, for instance, Englishmen who actually became Puritans and lived through the 'salvation panic' then became entrepreneurial businessmen or significantly changed their commercial habits as a result. The evidence from individual diaries, letters and memoirs suggests that the most significant expression of their new faith was in the cultural and political field rather than the economic. It is true that the Puritan spirit did tend to make good organizers; but, as such, it operated on both sides of the religious divide - Loyola and Borromeo were both brilliant organizers, as indeed had been the early Benedictines and Cistercians, quite independent of any particular Salvationist theology.

Thus, though it is true that the commercial instinct tended to turn men against the Catholic Church, with its excessive clericalism, it did not necessarily turn them to Protestantism. There was nothing in Luther's teaching specifically favourable to commerce or industry. He condemned usury, as did most Catholic evangelists; both Lutheran and Catholic writers continued to attack usury in any form until well into the seventeenth century. The Calvinists, on the other hand, did not. Calvin argued that Deuteronomy 23:19 applied only to the Hebrews and was not intended to be universal: the sole guide was the law of charity. In 1564-5 Bartholomew Gernhard, pastor of St Andrew, Rudolstadt, was forced out of office for refusing communion to two men who had loaned money at interest; and in 1587 at Ratisbon five preachers were expelled for insisting on preaching against usury. The English Parliament, with Protestant majorities, approved lending at interest in 1545 and again in 1571; and in 1638, the Dutch Calvinist, Claude Saumaise, argued in On Usury that charging interest was now necessary to salvation. But all this proves is that theory and practice tended to be closer (though not all that much) in the Protestant world than in the Catholic. What cannot be shown is that Calvinism can be causally linked to capitalism (or economic progress generally) in any particular society. For instance, few if any countries were more completely Calvinist than Scotland between 1560 and 1700. Yet it is hard to demonstrate how the Reformation in any way favoured the rise of economic individualism in Scotland. On the contrary, the ethics of the 'Kirk Session', the institutional dynamic of Scottish Calvinism, was similar to the group discipline of the medieval guild and burgh, which militated against competition; and in fact ancient restrictions on free competition - the privileges of royal burghs, rights of merchant- and craft- guilds, single-staple ports, and so on - survived intact at least a century after the Scottish Reformation. Their defenders were the classes and communities most favourable to the new religion. Such bars to free enterprise lasted longer in Calvinist Scotland than almost anywhere else in Europe, and they were slowly removed after 1660 for reasons which had nothing to do with religion. Legislation passed by merchant- guilds, and by the Calvinist General Assembly, was often interchangeable in content, and even in its tone. What Calvinism did contribute was the foundations of a good educational system. In the eighteenth century this became the best and most liberal in Europe, but its fruition was a product of the relaxation of Calvinism; the Scottish culture and economy flourished, in fact, only when Calvinism with its all consuming demands began to relax its grip.

Here we begin to get at the heart of the matter. The progressive elements in the economy, which gradually became identified with the capitalist system, were distinguished not by their adherence to any particular doctrinal formulation but by their antipathy to highly institutionalized and highly clericalized Christianity of any kind. They were to be found in the later Middle Ages in the more advanced towns of Italy, south Germany, Flanders and the Rhineland, and in Iberian seaports like Seville and Lisbon. In the fourteenth and fifteenth century they were already in revolt against clericalism and 'mechanical' Christianity (or, if they were Jews, against the systematic operation of the race-laws and the Spanish Inquisition). The common characteristic of these entrepreneurs was their desire to be left alone by the religious enthusiasts and organizers, and to escape from the clericalist and canon law network. Their religion might be intense, but it was essentially private and personal. Thus it had a good deal in common with the type of religious piety advocated by Erasmus in his Enchiridion; indeed, the ideas of Erasmus, who had a similar urban background, both reflected and shaped the attitudes of the new economic elite. These well-to-do and hard-working men were educated. They wished to read the scriptures for themselves. They did not want their reading matter interfered with or censored. They disapproved of clerics, especially those in the orders, whom they thought dishonest or lazy, or both. They deplored the superstitious accretions of medieval Christianity, and preferred the simpler practices of the 'primitive' Church which they claimed to discern in the acts of the apostles and the epistles of St Paul. They believed in the worthiness, indeed sanctification, of lay life; they exalted the married state and thought

laymen the spiritual equal of clerks.

This type of urban bourgeois had found it possible to come to terms with the pre-Reformation Church in roughly the same way as Erasmus himself. But after the 1520s the situation changed. Reformed Christianity seemed to offer a more viable alternative. Reformed Tridentine Catholicism, on the other hand, became less tolerable. Moreover, many of the urban centres where pre-sixteenth-century capitalism flourished were convulsed by the religious struggle, and life became intolerable for independent-minded businessmen who wished to keep their religion private. The sixteenth century thus witnessed a great series of displacements among the entrepreneurial class. Jews moved out of Seville and Lisbon, and to northern and central Europe. Merchants from Germany, the Rhineland and France moved to Lisbon and Seville. Italians moved northwards from Como, Locarno, Milan and Venice into the Rhineland. South Germans moved away from the Counter-Reformation into north Germany. From such Flanders towns as Liege, Brussels and Ghent, where Catholicism of the new Counter-Reformation variety was forcibly imposed by the Spanish tercios, there was a movement to Frankfurt, Hamburg, Bremen, the Rhineland and Switzerland; and a movement into the Protestant Netherlands, especially after the fall of Antwerp to the Spanish in 1585. Some of these emigrants were Catholics; among the Protestants many were Lutherans rather than Calvinists. They were seeking peace and toleration rather than a new doctrinal system.

It was from these emigrant business communities that the giants of the new capitalism were drawn. One such was the Calvinist Jan de Willem, who worked for Christian iv of Denmark. He and his brothers helped to create the Danish East India Company. They came from Amsterdam. King Christian also employed Gabriel and Celio Marcelis to farm tolls and mineral tithes, and advance loans on the proceeds, as contractors, munition merchants and timber exporters. Both were Flemish, refugees from the Counter-Reformation. Again, the great entrepreneur Louis de Geer, who controlled the iron and copper industries of Sweden, supplied the armies and fleets of Gustavus Adolphus, and performed similar services for other Protestant countries, as well as Venice, Portugal and Russia, was an Amsterdam Calvinist who came originally from Catholic Liege. Other displaced Calvinist families helped to found the Bank of Sweden in 1658. The state bankers of France, under both Henri iv and Richelieu, were Huguenots, the Rambouillets and the Tallemants, and the Calvinist financier from Catholic Brabant, Jan Hoeufft. Mazarin's chief financial adviser and Intendant des Finances, Barthelemy d 'Herwarth, was a displaced Protestant. A Calvinist refugee from Antwerp, Hans de Witte, served as financial organizer to the Emperor Rudolph n and later to the Catholic generalissimo Albert von Wallenstein; at one point he controlled the empire's silver and tin, and supplied all its armies. The Spanish Habsburgs also used Protestants for such purposes - Francois Grenus, a Calvinist who had migrated from Switzerland to the Rhineland, while the Hamburg merchants employed by Spain to manage the sugar and spice trade were originally refugees from the Low Countries. Many of these capitalists were Calvinists, but their life-styles did not particularly reflect their religion. Some were Calvinist refugees from Lutheranism, or vice versa; or Calvinist followers of Arminius, who rejected fundamentalism. Some were Erasmian-type Catholics, or genuine religious independents.

Protestant states tended to be the chief beneficiaries of this international series of religious movements. They might have state religions but they tended to be more tolerant. They rarely persecuted

systematically. They had no equivalent to the Inquisition. They were not clericalist. They permitted books to circulate more freely. They did not burden commerce with canon law. They accepted 'private' religion, and placed marriage and the family at the centre of it. They were thus more congenial to the capitalist community. As a result, Protestant societies appeared far more successful than Catholic ones as the capitalist system developed. The point was noted as early as 1804 by Charles de Viller in his Essai sur I'esprit et ['influence de la reformation de Luther. In the nineteenth century it became a commonplace to link economic success and industrialization with the Protestant creed, particularly when it was observed that, in Catholic countries like France, Belgium and Austria, the entrepreneurial lead was taken by members of the Protestant minority. Catholic leaders, and the Vatican in particular, grew very alarmed at Protestant propaganda which harped on this theme; it was one chief reason why the Vatican tended to damn all forms of 'modernism' and to detect Protestant heresy behind any kind of innovation.

Yet both the Protestant propagandists and the frightened Vatican were really missing the point. What inhibited the growth of the economic freedom necessary to allow capitalism to develop was not a particular theology but Christian institutionalism. Capitalism could not expand in a total Christian society, whether it were Catholic or Calvinist. The emigrant capitalists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were fleeing not from particular dogmas but from the institutions which insisted that dogmas should control life. They took the Erasmian view that what Christianity needed was a change in morals, not in theology. Capitalism benefited from the observance of the Ten Commandments; but it regarded a society dominated by an expensive and arrogant institutional Church as a hostile environment. Capitalism, in its religious aspect, was a retreat from public to private Christianity. It was a movement-to wards the freedom of the will and the individual, and against collective enforcement. The strength of clericalism varied greatly in Protestant countries, but it was everywhere weaker than in Catholic ones. Hence it was in Protestant societies that capitalism first took strong root. But as the institutional power of the Catholic church has declined, in the twentieth century, capitalism has spread into the once- clericalist states. The different theories of salvation are thus seen to be what they have always been - of marginal importance as an economic incentive. What is significant, and what, to the shrewd analyst was already ominous in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was that the progressive economic forces in society were in conflict with its institutional religion. Clever businessmen were leaving areas where religious institutions were strong, and seeking cities and countries where they were weak. Such men often practised an intense personal and private Christian piety. Yet the long-term survival of Christianity appeared impossible without an institutional framework. If the economic forces of the future tended to find Christian institutions inimical, and therefore worked to destroy them, how long would it be before Christian faith itself was damaged by economic progress?

The period also witnessed the first breach between intellectuals and institutional Christianity. Here, again, we can trace the influence of Erasmus. All those, on both sides of the religious barrier, who worked for a compromise during the period of the colloquies, 1538-41-Contarini, Pole, Melanchthon, Bucer - were essentially Erasmians, and Erasmian attitudes continued to find a response in all countries, and at all times, through the century of religious conflict. This 'third force' was never organized internationally, and often it worked, as it were, underground, especially during the periods of intense violence and persecution. But it was never entirely silent. It expressed itself in two chief ways. One was a straightforward protest against the horrors of religious war and the wickedness of burning men for their religious beliefs. The execution of Michael Servetus, for instance, evoked not only defences of persecution by Calvin and Beza but a vigorous and eloquent attack on the whole system of compulsion by Sebastian Castellio (1509-63). His protest was particularly courageous since, though a convert to Calvinism, he was suspect in both Geneva and Basle, and owed his livelihood as a teacher to Calvin's favour. His De Haereticis an sint persequendi? is less an argument than a collection of useful quotations from the Fathers and Protestant writers, and a series of vigorous assertions. 'I have carefully examined what a heretic means. and I cannot make it mean more than this; a heretic is a man with whom you disagree.' To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine; it is to kill a man.' The better a man knows the truth, the less he is inclined to condemn.' 'Who would not think Christ a moloch, or some such God, if he wanted men to be immolated to him, and burned alive?' The appeal was emotional, but effective - at any rate, Calvin and Beza tried to get him dismissed from Basle University, and their followers never ceased to hound him. But it met with a response chiefly in areas where both sides were strong and organized, and toleration was the only alternative to war. The best example was France, where civil war led to the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561, and the following year to the first of the toleration edicts. Castellio commented: I think that the aim and decisive cause of this illness - this insurrection and war which torment France - is the forcing of consciences.' He blamed both sides: 'Either the victim resists, and you murder his body, or he yields and speaks against his conscience, and you murder his soul.' But though sensible men in France were struggling towards some system of toleration, they were often in a small minority, at any rate among the educated and influential. Beza, on behalf of the Geneva Calvinists, denounced toleration in 1570 as 'a purely diabolical doctrine'. To support freedom of conscience was sinful. In 1588, at the States Assembly at Blois, the Bishop of Le Mans tried to maintain that 'heretics should be loved and brought back by instruction and good example', but the Assembly 'shouted with indignation" and 'was so angry that they made noises with their hands and feet and did not allow him to say a word'. When the Edict of Nantes was signed in 1598 it was promptly denounced by Pope Clement VIII as 'the worst thing in the world'.

Nevertheless, during the late sixteenth century, burnings for heresy as such began to decline. Most of the victims of the Reformation were killed aimlessly, in the course of religious warfare. Was there any way of ending the fighting, men asked, by finding a middle ground of belief? Here was the second of the two ways in which liberal opinion tried to exert itself. Among the Lutherans, the followers of Melanchthon broke away to form the 'Philippist' branch of the Church, which believed an arrangement with Rome was still possible. In Cologne, the Catholic humanist George Cassander put forward, in the 1560s, the idea of Fundamental Articles: 'In essentials, unity; in inessentials, liberty; in everything, charity.' Protestants used Catholic works, such as Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ, and works by Melanchthon, Bucer and even Calvin circulated in Catholic countries; but in virtually every case the name of the author was suppressed and the books were edited.

Below the surface, we can detect a 'third force' at work. To some extent it was connected with the Renaissance discoveries of lost texts and especially the cabalistic and Hermetic philosophies. This led to the belief, quite common among sixteenth-century liberal intellectuals, that there was a complete and final system of knowledge to be discovered, which embraced all the arts and sciences, and revolved around Christianity. When, in due course, this system was completely unveiled, it would automatically solve all religious disputes and controversies. Hence it was important that men of goodwill and intelligence should work together. But it might also be dangerous, so there was a need for secrecy. One idea which constantly crops up is the 'invisible college' of learned men - an international network of scholars and humanists. Secret societies as such probably originated among fifteenth-century Italian intellectuals, and may have been brought to northern Europe by the Hermetic philosopher Giordano Bruno. He certainly formed a circle of like-minded men in Lutheran Germany.

In the Netherlands, the secret society or college took the form of the so-called Family of Love. Its members were eirenic Christians, who ostensibly conformed to the practice of whichever Christian sect was in power in the area where they lived, but privately subscribed to ecumenical doctrines and owed their true allegiance to the Christian unity of the Family itself. These men found themselves impotent to prevent the horrors of religious strife, or to still the doctrinal passions on both sides, and were forced back on their inner resources. Like the burgeoning capitalists, they believed in a private, Erasmian religion. They were, in fact, Stoics: the demands of reason were necessarily ineffective, so the educated must take refuge in private morality, while externally conforming and doing their best to serve the common weal. One such circle, in Antwerp, revolved around Philip if s typographer royal, Christopher Plantin, and included natural scientists, botanists, geographers, cartographers, antiquarians, linguists, Hebrew and oriental scholars, and many artists and engravers.

Some of these Christian humanists actively proselytized for the third force and travelled extensively, evangelists for a religion which was scholarly and pietist, rather than doctrinal. Giordano Bruno travelled from Germany to England, where he was in touch with Sir Philip Sidney, his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, and their intellectual circle. To men like Bruno and Sidney, there was no absolute distinction between Christian and secular knowledge, or between theology and the natural sciences. As Sidney put it, all forms of knowledge 'lead and draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate souls, made worse by their clayey longings, can be capable of ... all, one and other, having this scope - to know, and by knowledge to lift up the mind from the dungeon of the body to the enjoying of his own divine essence'. Just as Roger Bacon had advised the Pope to combine mystical prophetic exploration with biblical exegesis and scientific research, to discover religious truth, so many of the most enlightened scientists of the sixteenth century still believed that communication with the angels by cabalistic or Hermetic means could unravel the mysteries of the universe. Natural science had not yet emerged from within its metaphysical carapace. Hence many argued that religious peace was essential to scientific discovery and, equally, that such research was the key to unity and reconciliation. Dr John Dee, England's leading mathematician and a friend of Sidney and Bruno, wrote extensively on plans to reunite the Churches around an agreed body of learning, and the unity of Christendom was very much on his mind when he began a series of spiritualist experiments in the 1580s.

In 1583 Dee transferred his activities to the court of the Emperor Rudolf n at Prague, which, until the Counter-Reformation victory of the White Mountain, 1620, was a centre of 'third force' activity. Charles v and his imperial successors had tried hard to reunite Germany around an agreed religious settlement. Maximillian II refused to allow himself to be called either Papist or Lutheran; he was, he insisted, 'a Christian', and he refused the Catholic Last Sacrament as it was given to him in one species. His successor, Rudolf n, who patronized Dee, also refused the last rites, and cannot easily be called either

Catholic or Protestant. He hated the internal squabbles of the Protestants, and what he saw as their doctrinal pettiness; on the other hand, he became increasingly alarmed by the militancy of the CounterRevolution and the intransigence of the papacy. It was obviously in his political interests to devise some mediatory alternative. But this was also the drift of intellectual opinion at his court, a centre of the late Renaissance.

The third force had a philosophy and a theory of knowledge. There was a general belief in a divine scheme for Europe knowable only through revelation: popular wisdom was seen as superficial, and the pure evidence of the senses as fallible, so there was necessarily a need for properly illuminated guidance. With the blossoming of natural philosophy, it was felt that the mediation of the learned intellect has replaced prophets and mystics as the means by which God's truth would be revealed. Philosophy and science did not stand alone, either. Art has its rule. Rudolfs court was the centre of the Mannerist school, the artistic expression of the very dense symbolism, and the mixture of reason, mythology and metaphysics, which marks the writings of the Hermetics. Rudolf's court entertainments were organized by Giuseppe Archiboldo, whose grotesque 'composed heads' still strike us as mysterious and enigmatic. Just as artists like El Greco proclaimed Counter-Reformation doctrine, so others had an eirenic message, though often they were obliged to hide it in a maze of symbols and artifice. Sometimes we can get their point: thus Rudolfs favourite painter, Pieter Breughel the Elder, attacked the senseless folly of confessional strife between Catholics and Protestants in his allegorical Combat between Carnival and Lent, which hung in Rudolf s private gallery. But often their meaning, clear enough to their intelligent and learned contemporaries in the third force, is now unfathomable.

Those who ranked themselves as eirenic evangelists took risks on either side of the religious frontier. In Protestant countries they tended to be politically suspect. The Elizabethan authorities thought Bruno had come to England as a papal and Counter-Reformation agent, and he was watched. On the Catholic side there was a much more serious risk of the Inquisition and burning. One of those who took part in Dee's experiments in Prague was the Florentine humanist Francesco Pucci, who accepted Dee's idea of an 'imminent renovation' of Christianity, introduced by learned men, which would obliterate Protestant- Catholic factions. He wrote a book about it, the Forma d'una republica Catholica, which spelt out many third force themes, including the idea of an enlightened, invisible 'college', and an ecumenical, universal form of Christianity. He had the temerity to wish to carry the good news to Italy. He only got as far as Salzburg, where he was arrested, transferred to Rome, judged and burned. The same fate befell Bruno himself. He went to Venice, where he felt himself reasonably safe. In fact he was 'delated' to the Inquisition. The charge against him was that he said (and the words seem plausible):

'The procedure which the church uses today is not that which the Apostles used, for they converted the people with preaching and the example of good life. But now, whoever does not wish to be a Catholic must endure punishment and pain, for force is used and not love. The world cannot go on like this, for there is nothing but ignorance and no religion which is good. [He said] the Catholic religion pleased him more than any other, but this too has need of great reform. It is not good as it is now, but soon the world will see a general reform of itself, for it is impossible that such corruptions should endure. He hopes great things of the King of Navarre. ...'

Great mystery still surrounds the Bruno case. Some of the documents turned up as recently as 1942, when they were discovered in the effects of the librarian-pope, Pius xi; but the official processo, giving the precise reasons for his condemnation, has disappeared. What we do know is that Bruno was in Inquisition hands for eight years, recanted heresies twice, but finally denied that he had ever been a heretic and was burned alive in the Gampo de'Fiori in Rome, 1600. Like all those who crossed and recrossed the religious borders, he was a particular object of Roman suspicion. *


* The harsh treatment of Galileo by the Roman Inquisition in 1633 was determined, at least in part, by Pope Urban VIII, s belief that Galileo was somehow linked to Bruno's heresies, and that his Dialogue of the Two Great World Systems, setting out Copermcan theory, was full of hidden Hermetic symbolism Less foolhardy than Bruno, Galileo made a full submission: ' ... with sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies', nor is it true that he then added 'Eppur si muove', which might have led to his death. What he did do was to note in the margin of his own copy of the Dialogue: 'In the matter of introducing novelties. And who can doubt that it will lead to the worst disorders when minds created free by God are compelled to submit slavishly to an outside will? When we are told to deny our senses and subject them to the whim of others? When people of whatsoever competence are made judges over experts and are granted authority to treat them as they please? These are the novelties which are apt to bring about the ruin of commonwealth and the subversion of the state.' See G. de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo (Chicago, 1955). and C A Renan, Galileo (London, 1974)

In some ways, the Counter-Reformation forces, especially the Jesuits, hated the third force people even more than the militant Protestants. Cabalistic and Hermetic knowledge had been prized in pre-Tridentine Italy: Cardinal Egidius of Viterbo, for instance, had been one of the greatest of the Christian cabalists. With the Council of Trent the atmosphere stiffened. Trent put many cabalistic books on the Index. Rome did not like a force and a system of knowledge which it did not wholly control. Orthodox suspicions grew when the third force went underground and began to form secret societies. These took many forms - the Spiritual Brotherhoods of Holland and Flanders, the Rosicrucians of Germany and. eventually, in a degenerate late seventeenth-century form, the various freemason movements. All incurred the relentless enmity of the papacy, and especially of the Jesuits, and thus tended to be driven increasingly into an anti- Catholic posture. But in the case of the Jesuits and the third force, the relationship was a love-hate one. The Jesuits also cultivated science and art, and tried to put them to religious purposes. They also studied the Hermetic and cabalistic texts. The vast work on Hermetic pseudo-Egyptology published in 1652 by Athanasius Kircher SJ was employed on the Jesuits' missions; and a colleague of Bruno's, Tommaso Campanella, arrested on similar charges and held in papal prisons for over twenty years, saved his life by writing Catholic missionary propaganda.

Both Campanella and Bruno believed in the idea of a vast, all-embracing general reform, which would be followed by a Christian Utopia. At bottom the notion was really a complicated and sophisticated version of the old millenium, to be brought about by a 'college' of learned men, rather than by fanatical armed peasants or 'saints'. And, like the millenarians, the members of the third force tended to identify this marvellous happening with a particular monarch. In this respect, indeed, Renaissance peoples differed very little from their medieval forebears: they still had the same theory of history. The third force needed a royal champion, the catalytic charismatic figure who would personally detonate the process that would bring the Golden Age into existence. Queen Elizabeth of England was certainly an Erasmian princess, learned, moderate in her religious views, and a protector of scholars like Dr Dee; but she was disqualified by her sex.

After 1589, attention centered on the new king of France, Henri iv. As head of the house of Navarre, Henri was a Huguenot; as king of France he found it necessary to embrace Catholicism. But his policy was eirenic rather than sectarian, and it transcended the institutional frameworks of the big Christian religions. He disliked the Protestant militants almost as much as the fanatics of the Catholic League, and tended to be sceptical of the merits of organized religion. His follower, Montaigne, argued on the same lines in elegant essays. How could Catholics and Protestants be so sure they had the truth? Their arrogance was 'the nurse of false opinion'. We should admit our 'uncertainty, weakness and ignorance'. As for persecuting other people's views, no two opinions were exactly alike, 'any more than two faces'. Montaigne was a Catholic, but thought that both sides twisted religion cynically to suit their cause. 'There is no hostility that excels Christian hostility. How wonderful is our zeal when it is aiding our tendency to hatred, cruelty, ambition, avarice, lying, rebellion. ... Our religion is made to extirpate vices: in fact, it protects them, fosters them, incites them.'

The coronation of Henri iv persuaded many that a new age of Christian peace was dawning - it was the chief reason why Bruno thought it was at last safe to return to Italy. Henri did indeed impose religious toleration in France, but it was a long time before he could establish his authority effectively, and only towards the end of his life was he able to work towards a general European settlement. His minister, Sully, spoke of Henri's 'great design' for a peace treaty, and his earliest biographer, Perefixe, wrote that he was working towards a Christian commonwealth of Europe in his last years, to be based on the reconciliation of sensible, liberal Protestants and Catholics in France and elsewhere, and a resumption of the colloquies. His international coalition of states would almost certainly have been mainly Protestant in composition, and would have taken the form of an anti-Habsburg alliance; but this was inevitable, since it was the Habsburg-Papal-Jesuit axis which kept the Counter-Revolution going, with the object of a total extirpation of heresy, and so made peaceful coexistence impossible. Hence Henri, though a Catholic, was seen as Antichrist in Rome, and his assassination in 1610 as a divine deliverance.

After the death of Henri, the third force tended to look towards the young Elector Palatine, Frederick v, the chief of the lay electors of the empire, as the ecumenical champion. He married Elizabeth, daughter of James I, and this was appropriate, since James saw himself as an ecumenical figure. In 1604 he told Parliament: 'I could wish from my heart that it would please God to make me one of the members of such a general Christian union in religion, as laying willfulness aside on both hands, we might meet in the midst, which is the centre and perfection of all things.' The proposal was transmitted through the Venetian ambassador, Carlo Scaramelli, to the Papal legate in Paris, and so to Pope Clement Viii. The Pope's cynical response, scrawled on the back of the legate's letter, was: 'These are things which make

me doubt that he believes anything.' The official reply was no more encouraging. James told the Venetian ambassador in 1606: 'Pope Clement VIII invited me to join the Roman church. I replied that if they would resolve the various difficulties in a general council, legitimately convened, I would submit myself to its decisions. What do you think he answered? Just look at the zeal of the Vicar of Christ! Why, he said: "The King of England need not speak of Councils. I won't hear of one. If he will not come in by any other means, things stand as they are.'" There were, indeed, as Henri iv had already discovered, obstacles to an ecumenical agreement which could only be removed by force, that is, by a combination of enlightened Catholic and Protestant forces.

In the Jacobean period there appeared to be excellent hopes for the third force. It was a great time for free intellectual exchanges between scholars. The phrase 'the republic of letters' was coined, entirely in line with Erasmus's claim: 'I am a citizen of all states.' After half a century of darkness and killing, it seemed, for a few brief years, that the ideological barriers were coming down again, and that reason and knowledge would triumph over bigotry and ignorance. Bacon, who had his own vision of the 'great instauration' of learning and science, published his Advancement of Learning in 1605, and was already at work on his Novum Organum and New Atlantis, projects which placed the millenarian dream on a firm foundation of experimental science. As with Greece and Rome, he thought, a new civilization was coming into existence: 'Surely, when I set before me the condition of these times, in which learning hath made her third visitation, I cannot but be raised to this persuasion, that this third period of time will far surpass that of the Grecian and Roman learning - if only men will know their own strength and their own weakness both, and take, one from the other, light of invention, not fire of contradiction.' The times seemed propitious in other respects. England was no longer hag-ridden by the Spanish war and Jesuit subversion. In Holland, Arminius and his followers, such as Hugo Grotius, were triumphantly developing a new and liberal form of Calvinism. In Venice, the battling friar Paolo Sarpi had successfully persuaded the authorities to defy the Vatican, and keep the Counter-Reformation out of Venetian territory, which included the great Renaissance university of Padua. The English ambassador, Sir Henry Wotton, thought Sarpi's Venice might well embrace a form of Anglicanism. In 1616 Antonio de Dominis, Archbishop of Spalato, actually became an Anglican; and three years later he published in England Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent, which told the inside story of how the council was manipulated by the papacy; the book was dedicated to James I.

It is significant that Sarpi was in touch with Christian of Anhalt, chief adviser to the Elector Frederick at his court in Heidelberg. The idea seems to have been to create a liberal corridor running through central Europe, from England through Holland, Germany, Austria to Venice, which would cut the Counter- Reformation extremists in two, and ultimately with the help of France impose an eirenic religious settlement on Europe. The marriage between Elizabeth and Frederick was part of this plan, and it was to be followed by Frederick's establishment as the king of Bohemia and ultimately as emperor of a reunified, liberal Germany. These hopes were reflected in the publication of a number of Hermetic or Rosicrucian manifestos. Their theme was as follows: The Protestant Reformation has lost its strength, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation is driving in the wrong direction. A new reformation of the whole world is called for, and this third reformation will find its strength in Christian evangelism, with its emphasis on brotherly love, in the Hermetic and cabalist traditions, and in a turning towards the works of God in nature in a scientific spirit of exploration.

To the third force in England, the heroine, of course, was their princess, Elizabeth, who was seen as both an ecumenical talisman and a patroness of the sciences. Wotton wrote a poem to her, On his Mistress the Queen of Bohemia, and John Donne addressed her prophetically:

Be thou a new star that to us portends Ends of great wonder; and be thou those ends.

Donne, Dean of St Paul's, was in many ways the outstanding figure of the English third force during this brief, illusory period. He had changed from Catholicism to Anglicanism without acquiring enmity to his old faith. Writing to his Catholic friend, Toby Matthew, he admitted men could go to heaven by different routes: 'Men go to China both by the Straits and by the Cape.' His library included many works of Catholic theology, most of them printed in Spain, and he made no bones about his ecumenicalism: 'I never fettered nor imprisoned the word Religion, not ... immuring it in a Rome, or a Wittenberg or a Geneva; they are all virtual beams of one sun. ... They are not so contrary as the North and South poles.' In 1619, when hopes were still high, James I sent Lord Doncaster on a peace-mission to the Palatinate and Bohemia, and Donne was senior member of the suite. At Heidelberg he preached a sermon to the Elector and the Princess Elizabeth, soon to be the 'Winter Queen' of Bohemia. The text has not survived; but we can imagine it, probably with truth, as an eloquent manifesto of the third force.

The ecumenical dream collapsed with the great Catholic victory at the White Mountain; Frederick was driven from Bohemia and his Palatinate, and his fine library was carted off to Rome; his princess spent a long exile in Holland, where scholarly remnants of the third force gathered round her Among her later admirers, by an astonishing irony, was Descartes. Catholic, Jesuit-educated, he seems to have enrolled in the Duke of Bavaria's army in 1619 without being clear what the fighting was about, and fought on the winning side at the White Mountain without realizing that he was helping to crush a great intellectual movement. More than twenty years later he dedicated his Principia to Elizabeth; and in the long run Cartesian mechanics played a salient role in destroying religious institutionalism.

Meanwhile, however, the Renaissance third force, which had been about to emerge as what was later termed the Enlightenment, was thrust underground by war, persecution, witch-hunting, censorship, bigotry and priestcraft. The Counter-Reformation rolled across Germany, everywhere triumphant until Gustavus Adolphus intervened. The 1620s and 1630s were among the darkest decades in European history. James I was bitterly assailed for his failure to assist his son-in-law with Britain's force. The Venetian ambassador in London reported: 'The common prosperity depends on the success of the Palatine.' When James refused to intervene, Sarpi's friend Micanzio wrote bitterly: 'To stand looking on for doubtfulness of right and let him [the Habsburg] that is mighty grow still more mighty and be able to undermine all free states. ... If from England there come not some helpful resolutions and that well accompanied with deed ... the Spaniards are conquerors of Germany and have Italy at their discretion.' The liberal corridor was never constructed: Venice surrendered to the Counter-Reformation. In Holland. the Arminians were expelled or executed. In England, the attempt to erect a putative royal tyranny led to censorship, sectarian persecution and constitutional crisis. The opportunity for the third force to effect the religious reunification of Europe never recurred. The peace of exhaustion signed at Westphalia ended the doctrine of the prince's right to settle the religion of his subjects - and so the great age of Jesuit power - but it also froze the religious divisions of Europe, which henceforth became permanent. The seamless garment of Christendom had gone for ever.

Yet the third force remained, still waiting for the millenium of the intellectuals. At the end of 1640, Charles I of England bowed to the Long Parliament, the censorship was ended and London burst into a frenzy of political and religious excitement. Once more men thought that the 'great instauration' had come, and that Christendom was entering into the third and final reformation. The date deserves to be remembered: it was the last time men would place a renaissance of learning and a political revolution within an essentially Christian context. Milton believed the whole thing was plainly ordained by God: the ills of England, Scotland and Ireland were to be cured at the same time as a true reformation was set on foot to purge and reunite the Christian Church. Others thought the same. Among the third force survivors from the Palatinate circle was Samuel Hartlib who addressed to Parliament his Description of the Famous Kingdome of Macaria, a Utopian scheme modelled on More and Bacon. The moment had arrived, he claimed; and he hoped the House of Commons 'will lay the corner stone of the world's happiness before the final recesse thereof. Another Palatinate survivor, John Amos Comenius, reached liberated London in 1641 and published his The Way of Light, which brought the Hermetic programme up to date. He forecast 'an Art of Arts, a Science of Sciences, a Wisdom of Wisdom, a Light of Light'; this stupendous intellectual and religious breakthrough was to be achieved through international cooperation, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge; there would be an invisible college, or sacred society, devoted to the common welfare of mankind.

Once again, the dawn proved illusory. The intellectual excitement generated in the heady months of the winter 1640-1 was dispelled by the Civil War, and the sectarian battles that followed it. After the 1640s, very few people believed any more in the possibility of a re-unification of Christendom and its recreation within a single Church. Indeed, the third force, and institutional religion, parted company completely. For the first time we get a disassociation between religious reform and scientific development. The Reformation and the Renaissance had been at one in thinking that the true way to God, and the secrets of knowledge, were to be rediscovered by examination of the mysteries and secrets of the past; it had been assumed that knowledge of the supernatural and the natural world was inextricably linked, that metaphysics began where physics ended, and that theology was indeed the Queen of the Sciences. These were bedrock Christian assumptions; assumptions, in fact, which even antedated Christianity, or rather had been absorbed by Christianity during the process of Hellenization which marked the triumph of Pauline doctrine.

During the twenty years 1640 60 we see the earliest challenge to the belief that knowledge was indivisible. We can observe it in the formative period in the history of the Royal Society. The Society, of course, was incorporated under Charles n at the Restoration; but its origins go back to the end of the Civil War. Indeed, it was none other than the materialization of the famous invisible college' so long demanded by the Christian Hermetics and third force propagandists. In origin it was undoubtedly part of a religious-scientific movement to purge Christianity and give it rebirth as part of a 'general instauration' of knowledge. We see this from what might be called the 'Palatine connection'. John Wallis, in his account of the first meetings in London in 1645, says that those taking part included 'Dr John Wilkins,

afterwards Bishop of Chester, then chaplain to the Prince Elector Palatine in London', and 'Mr Theodore Haak, a German of the Palatinate, and then resident in London, who, I think, gave the first occasion and first suggested these meetings'. This group was undoubtedly the 'invisible college' referred to Robert Boyle in letters dating from 1646-7. Later it met at Wadham College, Oxford, and moved to London in 1659, before finally attaining royal recognition, patronage and complete respectability. During its migrations and transmutations, however, the embryo Royal Society seems to have discarded its original religious context completely. Religious 'enthusiasm', attachment to a particular sect or creedal confession - which might be politically acceptable one year, and illegal the next - were now seen as possible barriers to official approval, even fatal to the survival of the Society. The founder-members of the Royal Society were all sincere Christians, but they were coming to accept that institutional Christianity, with its feuds and intolerances, was an embarrassment and a barrier to scientific endeavour. Hence they decided to concentrate purely on science, and ruled that religious matters were not to be discussed at the Society's meetings. So for the first time we have a deliberate attempt to cut off science from religion, and to treat the two subjects as completely separate spheres of knowledge and lines of inquiry.

Fellows of the Royal Society, however, were not obliged to observe this dichotomy in their own studies; nor did most of them do so. Newton, the greatest of them, clung to the old connection in much of his work and interests. He was a magus, in exactly the same sense as Dr Dee, as well as a great empirical scientist. He was still searching for the one God, and the divine unity revealed in nature. He thought, for instance, that he had found his system of the universe adumbrated in Apollo's lyre, with its seven strings. The Renaissance type of thinking behind his scientific experiments led him to believe that ancient wisdom was concealed in myth, that the true philosophy behind mythology was discoverable, and that revelation was a scientific as well as a theological concept. He foresaw no future warfare between God and science; on the contrary, to him valid scientific research was, and must be, the confirmation of religious truth. Nevertheless, once religion and science were separated, as now they were, the possibility of their antagonism had to be considered. It cast a lengthening shadow as the Christian world emerged from religious warfare and began to construct a new theology on the basis of reason.

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