Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/667

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

promised obedience to his decrees; though all did riot keep their engagement. The Bursfelde Congregation, which brought under strict observance as many as eighty-eight abbeys and several nunneries, was already nourishing. It had been set up by John Dederoth of Minden, who became Abbot of Bursfelde in 1433, and was closely allied with another zealous reformer, John Rode of St Matthias at Trier. But the original impulse appears to have been derived from the Augustinian houses which had adopted the rule of Windeshem, and the famous John Busch may be named in the present connexion. This indefatigable preacher visited and succeeded in reforming a large number of convents in Thuringia and the adjacent parts. Cusanus examined and approved the statutes of Bursfelde in May, 1451. He appointed visitors to the convents of Thuringia, and in June opened the Synod of Magdeburg, which passed the usual decrees touching reform of the monasteries, concubinary priests, and economic oppression as practised by Hebrew money-lenders. But his next proceeding, an attempt to put down the pilgrimage to the "Miraculous Host" of Wilsnack, was the beginning of great troubles and met with no success.

Archbishop Frederick of Magdeburg, who had supported the Cardinal in this attempt, was however an opponent of John Busch, and in 1454 the latter returned to Windeshem, so that the decrees of Cusanus were not in the end carried out. He, meanwhile, continued his visitation at Hildesheim and Minden. In August he was at Deventer, whither much business followed him. The Holy See extended his legatine powers to Burgundy and England; but in what manner this part of his mission was fulfilled does not seem clear. That he fell into a serious illness, from which he did not recover until February, 1452, may be ascribed to his apostolic labours and journeyings. It had been his intention to preside at the Synod of Mainz, which was opened in his absence by Archbishop Dietrich, in March, 1452, and which repeated the enactments of Magdeburg against usury, clerical concubines, vagrant collectors of alms, and the holding of markets on feast-days. Other decrees imply that superstition was rife, and that crime was not unknown in holy places. The Cardinal confirmed these statutes, which were published in many diocesan Synods. In March, 1452, he presided over a gathering at Cologne in which twenty-one decrees were published, all indicating how deep and wide were the wounds of religion in the German Church, the wealthiest and the most feudalised in Christendom, and how little prospect there was of healing them. It is not the way of religious Councils to legislate for evils which do not exist or have attained only slender proportions; and we must conclude from the reiterated acts of authority that all over the West the bonds of discipline were loosened; that clerics in various places broke their vows with the connivance of bishops; that into some convents vice had found an entrance; and that many more had lapsed into ease and sloth. Yet in the largest houses