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THE BEGINNING OF HUS’S OPPOSITION TO THE
IT has already been noted that the end of the year I408 is a very important landmark in the life of Hus. He henceforth appears an open enemy of Rome, though he continued to the end of his life to consider himself a true and faithful member of the Church of Christ. The history of Hus at this period widens out and becomes more closely connected with the vast stage of European politics on which Hus himself for a brief moment appears as a prominent figure. The political situation of Europe at the beginning of the fifteenth century was entirely, either directly or indirectly, influenced by the great Western schism. The cardinals assembled in Rome in I378 had elected as pope, Bartolomeo Prignano, Archbishop of Bari, who assumed the name of Urban VI. Though the Roman Church has in later days declared that Urban VI. and his successors up to Gregory XII. were legitimate popes, Urban’s election was impugned almost immediately, as hav* rig been obtained by violence and by intimidation on the part of the populace of Rome. A few months after the election of Urban a certain number of—mostly French—cardinals elected as pope, Robert, Cardinal of Geneva, who took the name of Clement VII. The following period, during which two, and for some time three, popes claimed to be the successors of St. Peter, is one of the darkest in the history of the church. The struggle, however, here requires notice only as far as it concerned Bohemia and the fate of Hus in particular. Verbal warfare between the contending popes was waged in the coarsely vituperative manner customary among mediwval theologians. The formidable power of excommunication which the popes possessed was misused for the purpose of crushing political enemies. To equip armed forces against their adversaries, the contending popes raised money by taxing the faithful, selling absolutions and benefices, and other simoniacal means. Each pope being only able to claim a certain number of countries as belonging to his “ obedience,” as it was called, the papal agents became ever more extortionate. It is only by taking these facts into account that we can explain the spirit of intense hatred and scorn with which contemporary, even moderate writers, some of whom had been papal officials, speak of the Roman Church. It was natural that at such a period pious and unworldly men, when contrasting the events of their times with their own ideals, should feel an intense longing for the true Church of Christ as they conceived it.
When Pope Urban VI. died in I 389, the cardinals of his obedience, fearing that the termination of the schism might prove dis advantageous to them, immediately chose as Urban's successor the Neapolitan cardinal, Piero Tomacelli, who took the title of Boniface IX. Similarly, after the death of Clement VII. in 1394, the Spaniard, Peter de Luna, who took the name of Benedict XIII., was elected pope by the cardinals of Clement’s obedience. The cardinals of both obediences, with characteristic insincerity and falseness, continued meanwhile to maintain that their greatest wish was to terminate the schism. This, however, for the time appeared impossible, nor did the deaths of Boniface IX. in 1404, and of his successor Innocent VII. in 1406, change the situation. Pope Gregory XII. was immediately chosen as the successor of Innocent, and though he conformed to the custom of his predecessors by stating that he wished to re-establish the unity of the church, it was thoroughly understood that, to each of the two popes and to his adherents, unity of the church meant the recognition of the pope of their obedience and the division of the benefices of the church among his principal partisans.
In the year 1408 the principal dignitaries of the Roman Church, with the weighty moral support of the universities of Paris and Bologna, made a determined attempt to terminate the schism. After difficult and prolonged negotiations, cardinalsgiof both obediences, together with many other dignitaries, met at Pisa March 25, I409. The debates were stormy and at times threatened tB'E'Yésmrrés‘s, but finally the council deprived both popes, Benedict and Gregory, of the papal rank and all other dignities, declaring them to be heretics and schismatics. The faithful were released from their oath of fidelity to both popes, and all decrees and nominations that they might publish were declared void. It ‘ remained to elect a new pope. Mainly through the influence of the cardinal-legate of Bologna, Baldassare Cossa, who was the leading spirit of the council of Pisa, Peter Philargi, Cardinal of Milan, was chosen as pope. He assumed the name of Alexander V. His reign was short. Through the influence of Cossa, his principal councillor, he was induced, though already a man of over seventy years, to travel in the middle of winter across the Apennines from Pisa to Bologna. Though he became ill in consequence of the hardships of his journey, his life was not at first despaired of; but he died at Bologna on May II, I4I0, poisoned, as appears almost certain, by Cardinal Cossa, aided by Cossa’s doctor, Master Daniele di Santa Sofia.1 Baldassare Cossa now openly assumed the authority which he had practically already wielded. On May 17, Cossa was by the cardinals then present at Bologna elected pope, “ unfortunately for himself and many others,” as Niem writes. Though his enemies from the first declared that his election was due to intimidation, Cossa was a few days later crowned pope under the name of John XXIII. in the cathedral church of St. Petronius. While the popes and cardinals previously mentioned enter but little into the life of Hus, this is not the case as regards Baldassare Cossa. We meet with Pope John XXIII. in some of the most important moments of the life of Hus. It was this pope who summoned Hus to Rome. It was the attempt of Cossa to raise funds 1 Of the many crimes of which Baldassare Cossa was rightly or wrongly accused, this appears one of the most authenticated. See Giovanni Gozzadini, Namu Gozzadini e Baldassare Cossa, pp. 367 and 368. where a list of contem
porary authorities on this subject is given. Mr. Gozzadini's book contains much authenticated information on the early life of Pope John XXIII.
in Bohemia for the continuation of his war against Naples that caused the troubles in Prague which forced Hus to exile himself. It was Pope John XXIII. who appears as, Hus’s principal antagonist during the earlier part of his stay at Constance. It was Baldassare Cossa through whose influence Hus was imprisoned shortly after his arrival at Constance—though the pope repudiated the responsibility for this act whenever he found it convenient to do so. It is therefore interesting to glance briefly at the early life of this pontiff. Baldassare Cossa was born at Naples about the year 1360 and took orders at a very early age. He, however, early in life, felt the vocation of a soldier, and took part in the struggle for the Neapolitan throne between Ladislas of Hungary and Louis of Anjou. Military discipline, however, soon became irksome to Cossa, who is stated to have behaved rather as a brigand than as a soldier. Bishop Creighton, writing with his usual moderation, states that his life exceeded the bounds of military licence.” 1 It has often been stated2 that he for a time became a pirate, but this tale probably only indicates that he took part in naval warfare during the struggle between the competitors for the Neapolitan crown. Though no one could be less worthy of the papal tiara than Cossa, he was undoubtedly, particularly in his younger days, a man of exceptional talent and reckless determination, endowed with an absolute contemptwfordthedistinction pf goodarrd eyil, jenseits des’éiiféhwiihdz Bé'sen, to use Nietzsche’s now almost proverbial expression. If he played a somewhat pitiable part at Constance, we may assume that the excesses of his earlier days had impaired his formerly brilliant mental power. Finding that a military career was not at that moment likely to lead to rapid advancement, Cossa took to study and visited the famed University of Bologna. He here obtained the degree of laureate both of civil and of canon law “ in consequence of his talents,” though he was said to have been more assiduous in debauchery than in study. The accusations afterwards brought forward against Cossa at Constance are terrible. Even if we trust some of Niem’s hideously-grotesque tales, and believe that some of the evidence produced at Constance may have been spurious, Cossa’s record remains very black. Almost all contemporary writers assert that he was tainted with unnatural vice. Cossa soon ingratiated himself with his countryman, Pope Boniface IX., who appointed him archdeacon of Bologna, an important oflice, the holder of which acted as rector of the university. To be nearer to the pontiff Cossa proceeded to Rome, and by paying large sums to the pope, whose avarice was insatiable, he became Bishop of Ischia, and cardinal in 1402. He then obtained other ecclesiastical dignities, and was finally sent as papal legate to Bologna, Ferrara Ravenna, and Rimini. These cities, which, during the then prevailing anarchy, had thrown off the papal rule, were subdued by Cossa. Not less greedy for money than his patron Pope Boniface, the new legate succeeded in extorting vast sums from these cities, particularly from Bologna, where even the churches and monasteries were not secure from his greed. Cossa for a time became absolute ruler of Bologna, hardly caring to keep up the pretence that he was acting as a papal legate. His reign of terror, which obtained for him the name of “ diavolo cardinale,” 1 scarcely suffered any interruption, when a conflict broke out between him and Pope Gregory XII., the second successor of his former patron. Pope Gregory had appointed his nephew to the wealthy bishopric of Bologna, the revenues of which Cardinal Cossa refused to renounce. Deadly enmity sprang up between the cardinal and the pope, who excommunicated him, stating “ that notorious fact proved that the disciple (alumnus) of perdition, Baldassare Cossa, formerly cardinal deacon of St. Eustachius, formerly apostolic legate, had with other sons of iniquity revolted against the pope and the mother-church of God, that he had treated with contempt the worship of God, neglected the ceremonies of the Christian religion, and seized the sword of Satan and that of tyrannical
I History of Papacy, vol. i. p. 268.
a " Durn autem simplex clericus ac in adolescentia constitutus existeret curn quibusdam fratribus suis piraticam in mari Neopolitano, ut fertur exercuit." (Theodoric de Niem, De Vita Papae joannis XXIII.) Except the members of the council of Constance, no one writes of Baldassare Cossa with greater animosity than this grey-grown servitor of the popes.