Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/657

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addressing the Fifth Lateran Council (1512) reckons among its chief objects ecclesiastical reform; before its opening he had named a commission which was to set in order the officials of his Court. Leo X, in 1513, accepted the rules which had been laid down by these Cardinals with a view to redressing the grievances of which complaint was made, and published them during the eighth session of Lateran as his own. Nevertheless, not until the Fathers at Trent had brought their labours (1545-64) to an end did the new discipline, promulgated by them in twenty-five sessions and explicitly termed a reformation, take effect in the Roman Church. By that time the Northern peoples had fallen away; Christendom was rent into many pieces, and the hierarchy, the religious Orders, and the Mass, had been abolished wherever Lutherans or Calvinists prevailed.

It does not enter into the scope of the present chapter to enlarge upon a subject treated elsewhere in this volume,—the causes which led up to the Protestant Reformation. But, as was made clear by the rise of the Jesuits, the decrees of Trent, the acts and virtues of a multitude of Saints, the renewed austerity of the papal Court, and the successful resistance to a further advance on the part of Lutheranism in Germany, and of Calvinism in France and the Belgic Provinces, there also existed a Catholic Reformation, within the Church, not tinged with heresy, but founded on a deeper apprehension of the dogmas in dispute, and on a passionate desire for their triumph. In one sense, this great movement might be described as a reaction, since it aimed at bringing back the past. In another, it was merely a development of principles or a more effectual realisation of them, whose beginnings are discernible long before Trent. Thus we may regard the fifteenth century as above all an era of transition. It exhibits violent contrasts, especially among the high clergy and in religious associations, between a piety which was fruitful in good works and a worldliness which has never been surpassed. Corruption on a scale so wide as, in the opinion of many, to justify revolt from Pope and bishops, was matched by remarkable earnestness in preaching necessary reforms, by devotion to learning in the service of religion, by an extraordinary flow of beneficence, attested by the establishment of schools, hospitals, brotherhoods, gilds, and asylums for the destitute, no less than by the magnificent churches, unrivalled paintings, and multiplied festivals, and by the new shrines, pilgrimages, miracle-plays, and popular gatherings for the celebration of such events as the Jubilees of 1475 and 1500, which fling over the whole period an air of gaiety and suggest that life in the days of the Renaissance was often a public masquerade.

Catholic tradition, in the shape of an all-pervading and long-established Church, towered high above the nations. It was embodied in a vast edifice of laws. It kept its jurisdiction intact, its clergy exempt, and held its own Courts all over Christendom. It owned from a fifth to