Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/470

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whose members went by the name of Rederijlcers, derived their title from France, the institution itself was clearly a continuation or renewal of the old confraternities or guilds devoted to the performance of religious plays which flourished in various parts of the Netherlands in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Rederijkers, whose activity , cannot safely be asserted to have begun much before the fifteenth century, abandoned the domain of ecclesiastical tradition, thereby rendering collision with the Church inevitable sooner or later, and, as at the .same time the critical spirit asserted itself and the influence of the Renaissance enlarged the choice of materials, in their dramatic allegories or moralities (spelen van zinne) paid increasing attention to the treatment of their subjects and the form of their plays. Connecting their performances with the festivals that formed so material a part of the popular life of the Netherlands, they at the same time more and more acquired the character of literary associations whose activity extended to a wide variety of forms of composition. The most ancient of the Belgian Chambers, the Alpha et Omega of Ypres, seems to date from a time rather before the beginning of the fifteenth century; the famous In liefde bloeyende of Amsterdam was not instituted till 1517. Their number ultimately grew to an extraordinary extent, more especially in the Southern Netherlands; and the elaborate arrangements for establishing an organic union among them culminated in the meeting of deputies of all the Chambers at Malines in 1493 on the summons of Philip the Fair, and the setting-up in 1503 of a supreme Chamber at Ghent. But this late effort of a centralising policy was vehemently opposed, and its practical result was small. The Reformation found the Chambers instinctively sensitive to impulses moving the heart of the people-with what consequences is well known.

The popular religious movements noticeable in the Netherlands up to the close of the fourteenth century had on the whole remained ominously out of touch with the organisation of the Church. On the other hand, the Beguines and Beghards and Lollards had little or nothing to say against the doctrines of the Church of Rome; and neither the Wicliffites nor afterwards the followers of Hus seem to have attempted any propaganda in the Low Countries. The beginnings there of mystical speculation, of which the revered Johannes Rusbroek, born near Brussels in 1283, can in his age hardly have been a solitary representative, may possibly be traceable to the teachings of the "Master" Eckhart at Cologne. To Rusbroek's teachings both Tauler and Gerard Groote were listeners; they became a profound source of personal inspiration to many generations; nor has their echo died out to this day. To Geert (Gerard) Groote and his friend Florentius Radevynszoon, unlike him an ecclesiastic by profession, was due the establishment of ihefrater-huis at his native town of Deventer, which became the model of a series of similar foundations, intended as the homes of pious followers of God f