Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/682

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Tower at Oxford in his bursar's days. With a revival of monastic discipline he intended to combine large schemes of study founded on the classics. Bishops as severe as Foxe of Winchester welcomed his clerical reform, which could not imply designs on the Catholic Faith. The nation did not repulse an English Legate. Various Benedictine houses put into Wolsey's hands the election of their superiors. The Dominicans would not resist. But with the Observantines there was great difficulty. For his own Province of York Wolsey drew up a Constitution (1515 or 1518) which has been termed a model of ecclesiastical government; how far it was carried out we have scanty means of determining. His measures with regard to education are better known. In 1515 the University of Oxford surrendered to him all its powers. He proceeded to found seven lectureships, one of which was held by Ludovico Vives. He planned the "College of Secular Priests" for five hundred students, which was then styled Cardinal College and is now Christ Church. It was to be fed from a richly-endowed school at Ipswich, where only a gateway remains to tell of that splendid undertaking. Twenty-two small convents, with less than six inmates apiece, were suppressed and their revenues applied to defray these enterprises. It was remarked afterwards that Wolsey's Legatine autocracy had paved the way for Henry's assumption of the Supreme Headship; and that a precedent had been given in dissolving the small monasteries for the pillage and spoliation that speedily followed by Act of Parliament. On the other side, if reformation was necessary, Wolsey's dealing can scarcely be judged inhumane; his hand would have been lighter than Thomas Cromwell's; and while he protected the ancient creed he was lenient with such dissenters as fell under his jurisdiction.

In truth, it was not the Revival of Learning that shook Europe to its base, but the assault on a complicated and decaying system in which politics, finance and privileges, were blended with religion. Of the twelve Popes who sat in St Peter's Chair between 1420 and 1520 not one was a man of transcendent faculty or deep insight. Martin V broke his solemn engagement to reform the Curia. Eugenius IV trifled with the Council of Basel and squandered a great opportunity. Cesarini warned him in vain that the German clergy were dissolute, the lay people scandalised; that the Holy See had fallen from its high estate. He pleaded for a serious amendment, if, "the entire shame were not to be cast on the Roman Curia, as the cause and author of all these evils." When the anarchy of Basel drove him from it he did what in him lay at Florence (1439) to promote the short-lived union with the Greeks. And he perished in Hungary at the battle of Varna, still fighting on behalf of a united and reformed Christendom. Nicholas V, though intent chiefly on restoring literature, sent Cusanus with ample powers, as we have seen, into the North. But his own desire was that Rome should be a missionary of culture, when what the world needed