Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/421

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

the Reformation two of these powers had been yoked in complete submission, and the third was far on the way to final subjugation.

Critical in all respects, the period of Charles VII and his three successors was not least so in respect of the King's relations with the Church and the Papacy. The Conciliar movement, fruitless on the whole, had an important effect in France. It initiated a fresh stage in the struggle between Church and State in France; and for a time Gallican liberties were conceived as something different from the authority of the French King over the French Church, and especially over her patronage.

From the beginning the King played a conspicuous part, and in the end he succeeded in seizing the chief share of all that was won from the Pope. But at first he assumed the air of an impartial and sovereign arbiter between Council and Pope. In 1438 the majority of the Council of Basel were in open rupture with the Pope, Eugenius IV. Charles VII, while negotiating on the one hand with the Fathers of the Council, and on the other with the Pope, and outwardly maintaining his obedience to Eugenius, was careful to preserve his liberty of action. In the same year a deputation of the Council waited upon Charles and communicated to him the text of the decrees of reform adopted up to that time by the Fathers. The King called an assembly of the clergy of his kingdom to meet at Bourges, where, together with himself and a considerable number of his chief councillors, ambassadors of Pope and Council were present. The result was the royal ordinance issued on July 7, 1438, and known as the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.

In this solemn edict, issued by the sovereign authority of the prince, but supported by the consent and advice of the august assembly which he had summoned, more of conciliar spirit is observable than of royal ambition. The superiority of the Council to the Pope was acknowledged in matters touching the faith, the extirpation of schism, and the reform of the Church in Head and members. Decennial Councils were demanded. Election by the Chapter or the Convent was to be the rule for the higher ecclesiastical dignities; but the King and the magnates were not debarred from recommending candidates for election. The general right of papal reservation was abolished, and a strict limit placed on the cases in which it was permissible. No benefice was to be conferred by the Pope before vacancy under the form known as an expectative grace.

Provisions were made in favour of University graduates. In every cathedral church one prebend was to be given on the earliest opportunity to a graduate in theology, who was bound to lecture at least once a week. Furthermore, in every cathedral or collegiate church one-third of the prebends were to be reserved for suitable graduates, and the same principle was to obtain in the collation of other ecclesiastical benefices. Graduates were also to be entitled to a special preference in urban parish churches.