1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arnold of Brescia
ARNOLD, known as “Arnold of Brescia” (d. 1155), one of the most ardent adversaries of the temporal power of the popes. He belonged to a family of importance, if not noble, and was born probably at Brescia, in Italy, towards the end of the 11th century. He distinguished himself in his monastic studies, and went to France about 1115. He studied theology in Paris, but there is no proof that he was a pupil of Abelard. Returning to Italy he became a canon regular. His life was rigidly austere, St Bernard calling him “homo neque manducans neque bibens.” He at once directed his efforts against the corruption of the clergy, and especially against the temporal ambitions of the high dignitaries of the church. During the schism of Anacletus (1131-1137) the town of Brescia was torn by the struggles between the partisans of Pope Innocent II. and the adherents of the anti-pope, and Arnold gave effect to his abhorrence of the political episcopate by inciting the people to rise against their bishop, and, exiled by Innocent II., went to France. St Bernard accused him of sharing the doctrines of Abelard (see Ep. 189, 195), and procured his condemnation by the council of Sens (1140) at the same time as that of the great scholastic. This was perhaps no more than the outcome of the fierce polemical spirit of the abbot of Clairvaux, which led him to include all his adversaries under a single anathema. It seems certain that Arnold professed moral theology in Paris, and several times reprimanded St Bernard, whom he accused of pride and jealousy. St Bernard, as a last resort, begged King Louis VII. to take severe measures against Arnold, who had to leave France and take refuge at Zürich. There he soon became popular, especially with the lay nobility; but, denounced anew by St Bernard to the ecclesiastical authorities, he returned to Italy, and turned his steps towards Rome (1145). It was two years since, in 1143, the Romans had rejected the temporal power of the pope. The urban nobles had set up a republic, which, under forms ostensibly modelled on antiquity (e.g. patriciate, senatus populusque romanus, &c.), concealed but clumsily a purely oligarchical government. Pope Eugenius III. and his adherents had been forced after a feeble resistance to resign themselves to exile at Viterbo. Arnold, after returning to Rome, immediately began a campaign of virulent denunciation against the Roman clergy, and, in particular, against the Curia, which he stigmatized as a “house of merchandise and den of thieves.” His enemies have attributed to him certain doctrinal heresies, but their accusations do not bear examination. According to Otto of Freising (Lib. de gestis Friderici, bk. ii. chap. xx.) the whole of his teaching, outside the preaching of penitence, was summed up in these maxims:—“Clerks who have estates, bishops who hold fiefs, monks who possess property, cannot be saved.” His eloquence gained him a hearing and a numerous following, including many laymen, but consisting principally of poor ecclesiastics, who formed around him a party characterized by a rigid morality and not unlike the Lombard Patarenes of the 11th century. But his purely political action was very restricted, and not to be compared with that of a Rienzi or a Savonarola. The Roman revolution availed itself of Arnold’s popularity, and of his theories, but was carried out without his aid. His name was associated with this political reform solely because his was the only vigorous personality which stood out from the mass of rebels, and because he was the principal victim of the repression that ensued. On the 15th of July 1148 Eugenius III. anathematized Arnold and his adherents; but when, a short time afterwards, the pope, through the support of the king of Naples and the king of France, succeeded in entering Rome, Arnold remained in the town unmolested, under the protection of the senate. But in 1152 the German king Conrad III., whom the papal party and the Roman republic had in vain begged to intervene, was succeeded by Frederick I. Barbarossa. Frederick, whose authoritative temper was at once offended by the independent tone of the Arnoldist party, concluded with the pope a treaty of alliance (October 16, 1152) of such a nature that the Arnoldists were at once put in a minority in the Roman government; and when the second successor of Eugenius III., the energetic and austere Adrian IV. (the Englishman, Nicholas Breakspear), placed Rome under an interdict, the senate, already rudely shaken, submitted, and Arnold was forced to fly into Campania (1155). At the request of the pope he was seized by order of the emperor Frederick, then in Italy, and delivered to the prefect of Rome, by whom he was condemned to death. In June 1155 Arnold was hanged, his body burnt, and the ashes were thrown into the Tiber. His death produced but a feeble sensation in Rome, which was already pacified, and passed almost unnoticed in Italy. The adherents of Arnold do not appear actually to have formed, either before or after his death, a heretical sect. It is probable that his adherents became merged in the communities of the Lombard Waldenses, who shared their ideas on the corruption of the clergy. Legend, poetry, drama and politics have from time to time been much occupied with the personality of Arnold of Brescia, and not seldom have distorted it, through the desire to see in him a hero of Italian independence and a modern democrat. He was before everything an ascetic, who denied to the church the right of holding property, and who occupied himself only as an accessory with the political and social consequences of his religious principles.