Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/660

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


The Maranos, or crypto-Jews, in Spain deserve separate consideration. Nor did the Waldensians ever cease to exist in Italy. But obstinate unbelief was rare: even a reprobate like Sigismondo Malatesta, the monstrous tyrant of Rimini, would not die without the last Sacraments. Machiavelli, who writes as if the Christian faith were an exploded superstition, had a priest with him when he expired. Of Caterina Sforza, whose crimes and profligacies were notorious, it is on record that, while she sinned, she endowed convents and built churches. Other examples of repentant humanists are Giovanni Pontano and Antonio Galatea. Among Germans who, after quarrelling with the papal authorities or questioning articles of the creed, came back to offer their submission, may be remarked Gregor Heimburg and in the next generation Conrad Mutianus of Erfurt. It has been stated elsewhere that the famous Wessel spent his last days in the cloister of the Agnetenberg. Revolt, followed by repentance, was a common feature in the Italian genius. But indeed the rules of the Inquisition, which allowed of easy retractation, imply that few heretics would persist in their opinion after once being called to account. During the ninety years with which we are concerned no popular uprising against the authorities of the Church on purely dogmatic grounds is recorded to have taken place anywhere outside Bohemia.

Intolerance was not a characteristic feature of an age abounding in hope, dazzled with discoveries and inventions, and far from ascetic in its habits of life, its outdoor spectacles, its architecture, painting, music, and popular diversions. The later fifteenth century was eclectic rather than critical. At Rome itself, an "incredible liberty" of discussion was allowed under all the Popes of the Renaissance. And though Paul II dealt severely with Platina and the Roman Academicians, whom he accused of unbelief, his motives seem to have been personal or political rather than religious. Philosophy, too, was undergoing a serious change. Plato had supplanted Aristotle in his influence over men's minds; and the high Doctors of the School-Aquinas, Bonaventura, and Scotus- had lost no little of their power since Occam brought into repute his logic of scepticism, which fixed between religion and metaphysics an impassable gulf where every human system disappeared in the void.

It is not, therefore, without significance that the chief reformer of the age, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, exhibits in his action and writings not only the pious enthusiasm which he learned from the Brethren of the Common Life, but a passion for every kind of knowledge; or that his method of apologetics sought in every form of religion its affinities with the Christian, as we learn from his Dialogue of' Peace, or The Concord of Faith. His speculations, afterwards used or abused by Giordano Bruno in building up a system of pantheism, cannot be drawn out here. Nicholas Krebs was the son of a fisherman, born, probably in 1401, at Cues on the Mosel. He belonged to that Low-Dutch race,