immorality was rare; nor did Lutheranism receive its first impulse from the relaxation of conventual rule. That the clergy as a body were throughout this period corrupt or immoral, is an assumption unsupported by definite evidence.
When the century was ending, Trithemius, Abbot of Sponheim, celebrated Cusanus as an angel of light appearing to the fatherland. He restored, said Trithemius, the unity of the Church and the dignity of her Head; his mind embraced the whole circle of knowledge. The Cardinal, while not disdaining the tradition of the Schools, had busied himself in Italy with Plato and Aristotle; he encouraged the study of the classics, during his embassy to Constantinople collected Greek manuscripts, and won a reputation in astronomy and physics which entitles him to be named as a forerunner of Copernicus. With George Peurbach and John Müller of Königsberg, who died Bishop of Ratisbon, he kept up a correspondence on scientific and literary topics. His designs for the exaltation of the imperial power, though somewhat chimerical, stamp him as a patriot who would have prevented by timely changes the disorders which Charles V, a Fleming or a Spaniard rather than a true German Emperor, could not overcome. But he failed in politics, and his other reforms bore little fruit. Of the hundred and twenty-seven abbeys which accepted his statutes, not more than seventy observed them in 1493.
Cusanus had been appointed Bishop of Brixen directly by the Pope, without the local Chapter being consulted. This was a violation of the Concordat, and the Chapter appealed to Archduke Sigismund, Count of Tyrol. But the Cardinal was peacefully installed; and when he came back from his legatine mission in 1452, he set about reforming his diocese, which stood greatly in need of it. He began with a visitation of the convents. At Brixen he turned the unruly Sisters out of their, house. The Benedictine nuns of Sonnenburg pleaded exemption and, like the Chapter, called upon Sigismund who, though notorious for his profligacies, took up their defence. Very unwisely, Cusanus, by way of answering the Duke, laid claim to a temporal jurisdiction and enforced it by anathema and interdict, which were little heeded. The Tyrolese detested strangers and wanted no reform. In 1457 the Cardinal fled from Wilten, declaring that his life was in danger: Calixtus III interdicted Sigismund; and the Duke, prompted by Heimburg, a lifelong enemy of the Holy See, appealed to the Pope better informed. This did not avail with Cusanus. He proceeded with his censures, hired troops out of Venetia, and cut to pieces a band of forty men who were in the pay of the Sonnenburg Sisters. In 1459, Pius II undertook to mediate. He was not successful. On the contrary, Sigismund, who had pleaded his own cause in Mantua, went away dissatisfied and was preparing an appeal to a future Council, when Pius launched the bull Execrabilis (January, 1460), by which all such appeals were condemned and forbidden.