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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Was compelled to call a Diet at Speyer



Pope Leo X. died in 1521, and was succeeded by Adrian VI., the last German who wore the Papal crown. He admitted many of the corruptions of the Roman Church, and seemed inclined to reform them; but he only lived two years, and his successor was Clement VII., a nephew of Leo. The latter induced Ferdinand of Austria, the Dukes of Bavaria and several Bishops to unite in a league for suppressing the spread of Luther's doctrines. Thereupon the Elector John of Saxony (Frederick the Wise having died in 1525), Philip of Hesse, Albert of Brandenburg, the Dukes of Brunswick and Mecklenburg, the Counts of Mansfeld and Anhalt and the city of Magdeburg formed a counter-alliance at Torgau, in 1526. At the Diet held in Speyer the same year, the party of the Reformation was so strong that no decree against it could be passed; the question was left free.

The organization of the Christian Church which was by this time adopted in Saxony, soon spread over all Northern Germany. Its principal features were: the abolition of the monastic orders and of priestly celibacy; divine service in the language of the country; the distribution of the Bible, in German, to all persons; the communion in both forms, for laymen; and the instruction of the people and their children in the truths of Christianity. The former possessions of the Church were given up to the State, and Luther, against Melanchthon's advice, even

insisted on uniting the episcopal authority with the political, in the person of the reigning prince. He set the example of giving up priestly celibacy, by marrying, in 1525, Catharine von Bora, a nun of a noble family. This step created a great sensation; even many of Luther's friends condemned his course, but he declared that he was right, and he was rewarded by twenty-one years of unalloyed domestic happiness.

The Emperor Charles V., during all these events, was absent from Germany. His first war with France was brought to a conclusion by the battle of Pavia, in February, 1525, when Francis I. was obliged to surrender, and was sent as a prisoner to Madrid. But having purchased his freedom the following year, by giving up his claims to Italy, Burgundy and Flanders, he no sooner returned to France than he recommenced the war,--this time in union with Pope Clement VII., who was jealous of the Emperor's increasing power in Italy. The old knight George von Frundsberg and the Constable de Bourbon--a member of the royal family of France, who had gone over to Charles V.'s side,--then united their forces, which were principally German, and marched upon Rome. The city was taken by storm, in 1527, terribly ravaged and the Pope made prisoner. Charles V. pretended not to have known of or authorized this movement; he liberated the Pope, who promised, in return, to call a Council for the Reformation of the Church. The war continued, however,--Venice, Genoa and England being also involved--until 1529, when it was terminated by the Peace of Cambray.

[Sidenote: 1529.]

Charles V. and the Pope then came to an understanding, in virtue of which the former was crowned king of Lombardy and Emperor of Rome in Bologna, in 1530, and bound himself to extirpate the doctrines of Luther in Germany. In Austria, Bavaria and Wuertemberg, in fact, the persecution had already commenced: many persons had been hanged or burned at the stake for professing the new doctrines. Ferdinand of Austria, who had meanwhile succeeded to the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary, was compelled to call a Diet at Speyer, in 1529, to take measures against the Turks, then victorious in Transylvania and a great part of Hungary; a majority of Catholics was present, and they passed a decree repeating the outlawry of Luther and his doctrines by the Diet of Worms. Seven reigning princes, headed by Saxony, Brandenburg and Hesse, and fifteen imperial cities, joined in a solemn protest against this measure, asserting that the points in dispute could only be settled by a universal Council, called for the purpose. From that day, the name of "Protestants" was given to both the followers of Luther, and the Swiss Reformers, under the lead of Zwingli.

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