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Memoirs of Leonardo Aretino.
he maintained, that ministers in a withdrew from Constance, in the disstate of mortal sin cannot effectually guise of a postillion, and took shelter administer the sacraments, and that, in the city of Schaffhausen. on the contrary, any other person may ! Leonardo seems to have foreseen, do it, provided he be in a state of or to have been informed of, the apgrace. 4. That by the Church, ought proach of this crisis. He quitted Connot to be understood the Pope, Car- stance a few days before his master, dinals, Archbishop3, and Clergy; and and arrived at Florence on the 14th of that this is a wicked definition invent- | March, 1415.8 Here he found so ed by the schoolmen. 5. That the much pleasure in the prosecution of Church ought not to possess tempora- | his studies, and in the renewal of his lities; and that secular Lords may intercourse with his ancient friends, take them away from the ecclesiastics that, to adopt his own expression, he with impunity. 6. That all Priests was almost grateful to the storms, are of equal authority, and that con- which had thus driven him into a hasequently the ordinations and casual- ven of security and rest.ll ties reserved to the Popes and Bishops Leonardo was endued with a mind are the mere effect of their ambition. of uncommon activity, and did not 7. That the Church has no longer the suffer a day to pass in idleness. He power of the keys, when the Pope, was no sooner settled in his natire Cardinals, Bishops, and all the country, and freed from the laborious Clergy, are in a state of mortal sin, occupations of the Pontifical chanwhich is, a contingency which may cery, than be determined to avail himhappen.*
self of this season of leisure to comIt will readily be believed, that in pose a work, which might be the an age of religious ignorance and means of preserving his memory to intolerance, and in the head-quarters future ages ; and, after due deliberaof bigotry, propositions thus founded tion, chose for his subject the History on plain common sense, excited gene- of Florence. Though, when he had ral indignation against their unfortu- advanced a little way in the prosecunate promulgator. Huss had been tion of his design, he began to be arrested before the arrival of Sigis- alarmed at the magnitude of his unmund. Immediately on the Empe- dertaking, yet so great was his zeal, and ror's coming to Constance, the friends so exemplary his diligence, that he of the Reformer (for friends he had, finished it in the space of nine months. who did not desert him in this hour of It bears, however, no marks of haste. need) called upon that monarch to vin- In the narration of events, it evinces dicate his insulted authority, and to a lucid order; in style, it is at once set the captive at liberty. But, to elegant and forcible, and the sentihis everlasting disgrace, Sigismund ments with which it is interspersed are winked at the violation of his safe- worthy of a virtuous man, and of the conduct, and left the Bohemian to his citizen of a free state. Leonardo has, fate.t
however, been accused by Vossius, The Pontiff, however, was disap- and perhaps justly, of dwelling too pointed in his expectations, that these much on foreign transactions, and proceedings against Huss would ope- touching too lightly the domestic disrate as a diversion in his own favour. cussions of the Florentine republic. I He found his difficulties daily increas- His history commences with the founing, and at length perceiving that he dation of the colony of Fasculæ by was virtually a prisoner in his own Sylla, and is brought down to the end palace, where he was surrounded and of the year 1402. strictly watched by the emissaries of John XXII. in all probability enterSigismund, he at length determined tained hopes, that by withdrawing to escape by flight. In this enterprise from the council, he should embarrass he was assisted by the Duke of Aus- the proceedings of that assembly, tria, who, to facilitate the means of which in his absence would be regardhis evasion, gave a grand tournamented by Christendom in general, as a on the 20th of March, during the bus-body without a head. If this was the tle and tumult of which, his Holiness case, he was soon convinced of the
Memoirs of Leonardo Aretino.
futility of his expectations. Encou. Jerome, however, soon took alarm at raged by the Emperor, the assembled the perils by which he was surround-fathers declared themselves indepen-ed, and attempted to save himself by dent of his Holiness, and shortly af- fight. Being taken and brought back terwards proceeded solemnly to de- to Constance, his resolution failed pose him from his sacred office. This him, and on the 15th of December, bold step filled John with alarm. It 1415, he read in full council a retrachas been already related, that on his tation of his imputed errors. But escape from Constance, he had repair- this did not satisfy his enemies, who, ed to Schaffhausen. When he was being determined on his destruction, apprised of the decisive measures loaded him with fresh accusations. which were meditated against him, This new act of injustice seems to thinking himself no longer safe in this have roused the spirit of the Reformlatter place, he suddenly quitted it, er; and to have nerved him to the and took shelter in Lauffenburg, froni utmost energy of active and of sufferwhence, in the course of a little time, ing virtue. The process of his trial his fears drove him to Friburg, a city and execution is faithfully and forcibly of considerable strength belonging to described in the following letter, adhis partizan, the Duke of Austria. dressed to Leonardo, by his friend But that prince having made his peace Poggio Bracciolini, who, having conwith the Emperor, the Pontiff was tinued at Constance after the depocompelled to quit this place of refuge, sition of his master, was a witness of and was conveyed, in the custody of the skill and power of his defence, and the officers of Sigismund, to Ratolf of his constancy in the endurance of cell, a small town at about the dis- torture, tance of a German league from Con- “Soon after my return from Baden stance. Here a deputation from the to Constance, the cause of Jerome of council speedily waited on him, who Prague, who was accused of heresy, announced to him his deposition, in came to a public hearing. The purwhich the necessity of his circum port of my present letter is to give stances compelled him to acquiesce ; you an account of this trial, which and he was soon afterwards conveyed must of necessity be a matter of conas a prisoner to the fortress of Got siderable interest, both on account of leben.*
the importance of the subject, and the What must have been the feelings eloquence and learning of the defenof the fallen Pontiff, when he found,dant. I must confess that I never saw immured in the same prison with him any one, who, in pleading a cause, self, the victim of his cold blooded especially a cause, on the issue of cruelty, the Reformer Huss! If sym which his own life depended, appathy in misfortune excited in his proached nearer to that standard of breast any sentiments of compassion ancient eloquence, which we so much towards his victim, they were fruit admire. It was astonishing to witness less and unavailing. The council re with what choice of words, with what lentlessly pursued their process against closeness of argument, with what conthe heretic. In the fifteenth sessionfidence of countenance, he replied to of that assembly, which was held on his adversaries. So impressive was the 6th of July, 1415, he was con- / his peroration, that it is a subject of demned to die the death of a martyr. great concern, that a man of so noble Being conducted from the tribunal to and excellent a genius should have the stake, he was not overpowered by deviated into heresy. On this latter the fear of death. He maintained his point, however, I cannot help enterprinciples with firmness to the last, taining some doubts. But far be it and perished, exulting in the good from me, to take upon myself to deness of the cause for which he was cide in so important a matter. I shall doomed to suffer.t.
acquiesce in the opinion of those who When Huss was first arrested by are wiser than myself. Do not, howthe agents of the Pontiff, his friend ever, imagine that I intend to enter and associate, Jerome of Prague, had into the particulars of this cause. I hastened to Constance, to yield him shall only touch upon the more remarkthe requisite assistance and support. able and interesting circumstances,
which will be sufficient to give you an * L'Enfant, book ii. Ibid. book iii. idea of the learning of the man. Many No. 35,- Vol. III.
Memoirs of Leonardo Aretino.
things having been alleged against many other observations, he made the prisoner, as proofs of his enter- with great eloquence; but he was intaining heretical notions, and the terrupted by the murmurs and clacouncil being of opinion that the proof mour of several of his auditors. It was sufficiently strong to warrant fur-was decreed, that he should first anther investigation, it was ordered that swer to the charges exhibited against he should publicly answer to every him, and afterwards have free liberty particular of the charge. He was of speech. The heads of the accusaaccordingly brought before the coun- tion were accordingly read from the cil. But when he was called upon to desk. When, after they had been give in his answers, he for a long time proved by testimony, he was asked refused so to do; alleging, that he whether he had any remarks to make ought to be permitted to speak gene- in his defence ; it is incredible with rally in his defence, before he replied what skill and judgment he put in his to the false imputations of his adver- answers. He advanced nothing unbesaries. This indulgence was, how- coming a good man; and, if his real ever, denied him. Upon which, stand- sentiments agreed with his profesing up in the midst of the assembly sions, he was so far from deserving to What gross injustice is this! exclaim die, that his principles did not even ed he, that though for the space of give just ground for the slightest ofthree hundred and forty days, which fence. He denied the whole impeachI have spent in filth and fetters, de- ment, as a fiction invented by the prived of every comfort, in prisons malice of his enemies. Among others, situated at the most remote distances an article was read, which accused from each other, you have been con- him of being a detractor of the Apostinually listening to my adversaries tolic see, an oppugner of the Roman and slanderers, you will not hear me Pontiff, an enemy of the Cardinals, for a single hour! The consequence a persecutor of Prelates, and an adof this is, that while on the one hand, versary of the Christian Clergy. When every one's ears are open to them, this charge was read, he arose, and and they have for so long a time been stretching out his hands, he said in a attempting to persuade you that I am pathetic tone of voice, Fathers ! to a heretic, an enemy to the true faith, whom shall I have recourse for suca persecutor of the clergy; and on the cour? Whose assistance shall I imother hand, I am deprived of every plore ? Unto whom shall I appeal, in opportunity of defending myself: you protestation of my innocence?-Unto have prejudged my cause, and have, you?-But these my persecutors have in your own minds, condemned me, prejudiced your minds against me, by before you could possibly become declaring that I entertain hostility acquainted with my principles. But, against all my judges. Thus have says he, you are not gods, but men, they artfully endeavoured, if they not immortals, but mortals, liable to cannot reach me by their imputations error, and subject to imperfection. of error, so to excite your fears, that We are taught to believe that this you may be induced to seize any assembly contains the light of the plausible pretext to destroy your world, the prudent men of the earth. common enemy, such as they most You ought, therefore to be unremit falsely represent me to be. Thus, if tingly careful not to do any thing you give credit to their assertion, all rashly, foolishly, or unjustly. I in my hopes of safety are lost. He causdeed, who am pleading for my life, ed many to smart by the keenness of am a man of little consequence ; nor his wit, and the bitterness of his redo I say what I do say through anxiety proaches. Melancholy as the occasion for myself (for I am prepared to sub- was, he frequently excited laughter, mit to the common lot of mortality) | by turning to ridicule the imputations but I am prompted by an earnest de- of his adversaries. When he was sire, that the collective wisdom of so I asked what were bis sentiments conmany eminent men may not, in my | cerning the sacrament, he replied, person, violate the laws of justice, that it was by nature bread; but that As to the injury done to myself, it is at the time of consecration, and aftercomparatively of trifling consequence, wards, it was the true body of Christ, but the precedent will be pregnant l&c, according to the strictest orthowith future mischief. These, and I doxy. Then some one said, But it is 1181
Memoirs of Leonardo Aretino.
reported that you have maintained, of the people. He also instanced Jothat there remains bread after conse- seph, who was sold to slavery, in concration. True, said Jerome, there re- sequence of the envy of his brethren, mains bread at the baker's. When and afterwards imprisoned under a one of the order of preaching friars groundless suspicion of incontinence, was railing against him with uncom- | Besides these, he enumerated Isaiah, mon asperity, he said to him, “ Hold Daniel, and almost all the prophets, thy peace, hypocrite.” When ano who were calumniated and persecuted, ther swore by his conscience, “This," as despisers of God and sowers of sesaid he, “is a very safe mode of deceiv dition. He also alluded to the trial of ing.” One man, who was particularly Susannah, and of many others, who, inveterate against bim, he never ad- notwithstanding the integrity of their dressed but by the title of ass or dog. lives, perished by unjust sentences. As, on account of the number and im- “Coming down to the time of John the portance of the articles exhibited Baptist and our Saviour, he observagainst him, the cause could not be ed, that all agreed that they were undetermined at that sitting, the court justly condemned, upon false charges, was adjourned to another day, on supported by false witnesses. He next which the proofs of each article of im- quoted the case of Stephen, who was peachment were read over, and con- put to death by the priests; and refirmed by more witnesses. Then he minded the assembly that all the aposarose and said, “ Since you have at-tles were condemned to die, as seditended so diligently to my adversaries, tious movers of the people, contemners I have a right to demand that you of the gods, and workers of iniquity. should also hear me with patience.” He maintained that it was a scandaThough many violently objected to this lous thing that one priest should be demand, it was at length conceded to unjustly condemned by another ; that him, that he should be heard in his it was still more scandalous, that a defence.
college of priests should be guilty of "He then began by solemnly praying this crime ; and that it was most scanto God, so to influence his mind, and dalous of all, that it should be perpeso to inspire his speech, that he might trated by a general council. Neverbe enabled to plead to the advantage theless, he proved from history that and salvation of his soul. He then these circumstances had actually ocproceeded thus :-I know, most curred. Upon these topics he enlarglearned judges, that many excellented in so impressive a manner, that men have been most unworthily dealt every body listened to him with fixed with, overborne by false witnesses, attention. But as the weight of every and condemned by the most unjust cause rests upon the evidence by judgments. Illustrating this position which it is supported, he proved, by by particular instances, he began with various arguments, that no credit was Socrates, who was unjustly condemn- due to the witnesses who deposed cd by his countrymen, and who could against him, more especially, as they not be persuaded by the dread of the were instigated to give evidence amost formidable evils, imprisonment gainst him by hatred, malevolence, and death, to avail himself of an op- and envy. He then so satisfactorily portunity which was presented to him detailed the causes of the hatred, which of escaping out of custody. He then | he imputed to his prosecutors, that he proceeded to mention the captivity of almost convinced his judges of the reaPlato, the torments endured by Anax- sonableness of his objections against agoras and Zeno, and the unjust con- their testimony. His observations demnations of many other Gentiles- were so weighty, that littlo credit the banishment of Rutilius, the unme- would have been given to the deporited death of Boetius, and of others sitions of the witnesses for the prosementioned in the writings of that au-cution, in any other cause except in a thor. He then passed on to the in- | trial for heresy. stances which are recorded in the Jew “He moreover added, that he had ish history-and in the first place, he voluntarily come to the council, in observed, that Moses, the deliverer order to defend his injured character, and legislator of the Jews, was fre- and gave an account of his life and quently calumniated by his own coun-studies, which had been regulated by tryinen, as a seducer and contemner the laws of duty and of virtue..
.. .remed remarked, that holy men of old were | He then continued his speech, begging accustomed to discuss their differences and entreating them to suffer hiin to of opinion in matters of belief, not spcak, since this was the last time with a view of impugning the faith, they would hear him. He was never butof investigating the truth-that St. terrified by the murmurs of his adver Augustine and St. Jerome had thus saries, but uniformly maintained the differed in opinion, and had upon | firmness and intrepidity of his mind. some points even held contrary senti “It is a wonderful instance of the ments, without any suspicion of he- strength of his memory, that though resy. All the audience entertained he had been confined three hundred hopes that he would either clear him-, and forty days in a dark dungeon, self by retracting the heresies which where it was impossible for him to were objected to him, or supplicate read, and where he must have daily pardon for his errors. But he main suffered from the utmost anxiety of tained that he had not erred, and that mind, yet he quoted so many learned therefore he had nothing to retract, writers in defence of his opinions, and
“He next began to praise John supported his sentiments by the auHuss, who had been condemned to the thority of so many doctors of the flames ; calling him a good, just, and church, that any one would have been holy man, a man who had suffered led to believe, that he bad devoted all death in a righteous cause. He pro- the time of his imprisonment to the fessed that he himself also was pre- peaceful and undisturbed study of pared to andergo the severest punish- philosophy. His voice was sweet, ment with an undaunted and constant clear, and sonorous; his action dignimind, declaring that he snbmitted to fied, and well adapted either to exbis enemies, and to witnesses who had | press indignation, or to excite comtestified such shameful falsehoods ; passion, which however he neither who would, however, on some future asked nor wished for. . He stood unday, give an account of what they had daunted and intrepid, not merely consaid, to a God who could not be de- temning, but, like another Cato, longceived. When Jerome made these ing for death, He was a man worthy declarations, the assembly was affect to be had in everlasting remembrance. ed with the greatest sorrow'; for every I do not commend him for entertaining body wisbed, that a man of such extra- sentiments hostile to the constitution ordinary talents should repent of his of the church ; but I admire his learnerrors, and be saved. But he persisteding, his 'extensive knowledge, the in his sentiments, and seemed to court suavity of his eloquence, and his abidestruction.
lity in reply. But I am afraid that all “ Dwelling on the praises of John these endowments were bestowed on Huss, he said, that he had entertained him by nature, in order to effect his no principles hostile to the constitution destruction. of the holy church, and that he only “As he was allowed two days for rebore testimony against the abuses of pentance, several learned men, and the clergy, and the pride and pomp of amongst the rest the Cardinal of Floprelates : for that since the patrimony | rence, visited him, with a view of perof the church was appropriated first to suading him to change his sentiments, the poor, then to strangers, and lastly and turn from the error of his ways. to the erection of churches, good men But as be pertinaciously persisted in thought it highly improper that it his false notions, he was condemned should be lavished on harlots, enter- as guilty of heresy, and consigned fo tainments, dogs, splendid garments, the flames. No stoic ever suffered and other things unbecoming the reli death with such constancy of mind. gion of Christ. It may be mentioned When he arrived at the place of exeas the greatest proof of Jerome's abi-cution, he stripped himself of his garlities, that though he was frequently ments, and knelt down before the interrupted, and was teased by some stake, to which he was soon after tied people who cavilled at his expressions, with wet ropes and a chain. Then he replied to them all, and compelled great pieces of wood, intermixed with them either to blush or to be silent. straw, were piled as high as his breast, When the clamour incommoded him, When fire was set to the pile, he behę ceased speaking, and sometimes gan to sing a hymn, which was scarcereproved those who disturbed him. ly interrupted by the smoke and