Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/659

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the fourth and fifth sessions of Constance (1415) another view had prevailed,—a view unknown to earlier ages and impossible to carry out in practice,—that of the superiority to the Pope of the Church in Council assembled. This doctrine, put forward by Cardinal d'Ailly, by Gerson, and by the followers of William Occam, might be welcome to lawyers; but it had no roots among the people; it had never flourished in the schools deemed orthodox; and it irritated as much as it alarmed the Pontiff. At Basel it led to repeated and flagrant violations of the ancient canons. During the eighteen years of its existence (1431-49) this convention had deposed one Pope, Eugenius IV, elected by lawful scrutiny; it had chosen another, Felix V, Duke of Savoy, who was hardly recognised beyond the valley of the Rhone. It had compelled bishops to sit and vote, not only with simple priests but with laymen, on questions which concerned the Catholic faith. It had submitted to the feeble Emperor Sigismund; its president was D'Allemand, the Cardinal of Avignon-an ominous title; and for ten years it sat in permanent schism. Professing to do away with abuses, it enacted them once more in the shape of commendam, annates, and pluralities. When the large-minded reformers, Cardinal Julian Cesarini and Nicholas of Cusa, forsook its tumultuous sittings; when Aeneas Sylvius, that politic man of letters, looked round for a wealthier patron and joined himself to Eugenius; and when the German prelates could no longer hold it up as a shield against the strokes of the Curia, the Council came to an end, and with it all hopes of reform on the parliamentary system. Felix V, last of the anti-Popes, laid down the keys and the tiara (April, 1449) in the house called La Grotte at Lausanne, under the roof of which Gibbon was afterwards to complete his History of The Decline and Fall. Henceforth it was evident that the spiritual restoration of Christendom would come, if ever it came, from the zeal of individuals. For the Council had failed; no Pope would risk his supreme authority by a repetition of Basel; and the rules of the Roman Chancery which Martin V had confirmed were, as a matter of course, approved by his successors.

Private effort could do much, so long as it refrained from calling dogma in question or resisting the legal claims of Pope and bishops. But the creed was not in danger. So far as we can judge from the local Councils and the literature of the years before us, in no part of Europe did men at this time cast away their inherited beliefs, with the exception of a humanist here and there, like Pomponazzo at Rome-and even these kept their denials to themselves or acquiesced in the common practices of religion. In 1466 groups of the Fraticelli were discovered and put down by Pius II at Poli near Palestrina. In the same year a German sect, of which the chiefs were Brothers Janko and Livin von Wirsberg, was denounced to Henry, Bishop of Ratisbon, by the papal Legate. The Fraticelli appeared again in 1471 on the coast of Tuscany; and notices are extant of heretics in the diocese of Reims and at Bologna.