Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/658

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a third of the soil in mortmain. It had revenues far exceeding the resources of kings, to which it was continually adding by fresh taxation. It offered enormous prizes to the well-born in its bishoprics, abbacies, and cathedral Chapters, which carried with them feudal dominion over lands, serfs, and tribute-yielding cities. It opened a career to clever ambitious lads of the middle and lower class. Within its cloisters women might study as well as pray, and rule their own estates, wielding the crozier and equalling prelates in dignity and power. The Church, too, maintained her pre-eminence, though shaken once and again, in the old Universities, at Paris, Oxford, and Bologna, while founding new seats of learning at Louvain (1426) or along the Rhine; as far east as Ingolstadt (1472) or even Frankfort-on-the-Oder (1506), and as far south as Alcalä (1499). Her authority was still strong enough to put down the Hussites for a time, though not without conceding to them points of discipline. It showed no dismay at the light which was dawning in humanism. And it gave back to ruined and desolate Rome the Augustan glory of a capital in which letters, arts, manners, attained to a fulness of life and splendour of expression, such as had not been witnessed in Europe since the fall of the Empire.

From the days of Nicholas V down to those of Leo X, Rome was the world's centre. The Popes held in their hands the key of religion; they aspired to possess the key of knowledge. Along every line of enterprise and from every point of the compass, except one, they were visible. They would not dedicate themselves to the long-sought reformation in head and members, although they allowed its necessity again and again in the most emphatic terms. The plans which were laid before them by ardent churchmen like Cesarini we shall consider as we proceed. But they declined to take those measures without which no lasting improvement of the Curia was to be anticipated. They were loth to summon a representative Council; they refused to cross the Alps and meet the German people, or to listen when it drew up its grievances in formal array. Had the Fifth of Lateran fulfilled its task, instead of leaving it to the Council of Trent half a century later, the Diet of Worms might have never met, and Luther would perhaps have lingered out his years in a cell at Wittenberg.

Two series of considerations may explain why the papacy shrank from calling a fresh parliament of Western prelates and sovereigns, and why it relegated these questions of discipline to a secondary place. One was that the Holy See felt itself engaged in the necessary and therefore just enterprise of recovering its temporal independence, shattered since the migration to Avignon. That plea has been urged on behalf of Sixtus IV, and still more of Julius II. The other was that it had not long emerged from a period of revolution. In Rome the Church had been constantly regarded as a monarchy with the Pope at its head; he was the supreme judge of spiritual causes, from whom there could be no appeal. But in