Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LXX - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 12
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CHAPTER LXX - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 12 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 12.
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Character and Coronation of Petrarch — Restoration of the Freedom and Government of Rome by the Tribune Rienzi — His Virtues and Vices, his Expulsion and Death — Return of the Popes from Avignon — Great Schism of the West — Re-union of the Latin Church — Last Struggles of Roman Liberty — Statutes of Rome — Final Settlement of the Ecclesiastical State
In the apprehension of modern times, Petrarch1 is the Italian songster of Laura and love. In the harmony of his Tuscan rhymes, Italy applauds, or rather adores, the father of her lyric poetry; and his verse, or at least his name, is repeated by the enthusiasm or affectation of amorous sensibility. Whatever may be the private taste of a stranger, his slight and superficial knowledge should humbly acquiesce in the taste of a learned nation; yet I may hope or presume that the Italians do not compare the tedious uniformity of sonnets and elegies with the sublime compositions of their epic muse, the original wildness of Dante, the regular beauties of Tasso, and the boundless variety of the incomparable Ariosto. The merits of the lover I am still less qualified to appreciate; nor am I deeply interested in a metaphysical passion for a nymph so shadowy that her existence has been questioned;2 for a matron so prolific3 that she was delivered of eleven legitimate children4 while her amorous swain sighed and sung at the fountain of Vaucluse.5 But in the eyes of Petrarch, and those of his graver contemporaries, his love was a sin, and Italian verse a frivolous amusement. His Latin works of philosophy, poetry, and eloquence established his serious reputation, which was soon diffused from Avignon over France and Italy; his friends and disciples were multiplied in every city; and, if the ponderous volume of his writings6 be now abandoned to a long repose, our gratitude must applaud the man who by precept and example revived the spirit and study of the Augustan age. From his earliest youth, Petrarch aspired to the poetic crown. The academical honours of the three faculties had introduced a royal degree of master or doctor in the art of poetry;7 and the title of poet-laureat, which custom, rather than vanity, perpetuates in the English court,8 was first invented by the Cæsars of Germany. In the musical games of antiquity, a prize was bestowed on the victor;9 the belief that Virgil and Horace had been crowned in the Capitol inflamed the emulation of a Latin bard;10 and the laurel11 was endeared to the lover by a verbal resemblance with the name of his mistress. The value of either object was enhanced by the difficulties of the pursuit; and, if the virtue or prudence of Laura was inexorable,12 he enjoyed, and might boast of enjoying, the nymph of poetry. His vanity was not of the most delicate kind, since he applauds the success of his own labours; his name was popular; his friends were active; the open or secret opposition of envy and prejudice was surmounted by the dexterity of patient merit. In the thirty-sixth year of his age, he was solicited to accept the object of his wishes; and on the same day, in the solitude of Vaucluse, he received a similar and solemn invitation from the senate of Rome and the university of Paris. The learning of a theological school, and the ignorance of a lawless city, were alike unqualified to bestow the ideal, though immortal, wreath which genius may obtain from the free applause of the public and of posterity; but the candidate dismissed this troublesome reflection, and, after some moments of complacency and suspense, preferred the summons of the metropolis of the world.
The ceremony of his coronation13 was performed in the Capitol, by his friend and patron the supreme magistrate of the republic. Twelve patrician youths were arrayed in scarlet; six representatives of the most illustrious families, in green robes, with garlands of flowers, accompanied the procession; in the midst of the princes and nobles, the senator, count of Anguillara, a kinsman of the Colonna, assumed his throne; and, at the voice of an herald, Petrarch arose. After discoursing on a text of Virgil,14 and thrice repeating his vows for the prosperity of Rome, he knelt before the throne, and received from the senator a laurel crown, with a more precious declaration, “This is the reward of merit.” The people shouted, “Long life to the Capitol and the poet!” A sonnet in praise of Rome was accepted as the effusion of genius and gratitude; and, after the whole procession had visited the Vatican, the profane wreath was suspended before the shrine of St. Peter. In the act or diploma15 which was presented to Petrarch, the title and prerogatives of poetlaureat are revived in the Capitol, after the lapse of thirteen hundred years; and he receives the perpetual privilege of wearing, at his choice, a crown of laurel, ivy, or myrtle, of assuming the poetic habit, and of teaching, disputing, interpreting, and composing in all places whatsoever and on all subjects of literature. The grant was ratified by the authority of the senate and people; and the character of citizen was the recompense of his affection for the Roman name. They did him honour, but they did him justice. In the familiar society of Cicero and Livy, he had imbibed the ideas of an ancient patriot; and his ardent fancy kindled every idea to a sentiment and every sentiment to a passion. The aspect of the seven hills and their majestic ruins confirmed these lively impressions; and he loved a country by whose liberal spirit he had been crowned and adopted. The poverty and debasement of Rome excited the indignation and pity of her grateful son: he dissembled the faults of his fellow-citizens; applauded with partial fondness the last of their heroes and matrons; and in the remembrance of the past, in the hope of the future, was pleased to forget the miseries of the present time. Rome was still the lawful mistress of the world; the pope and the emperor, her bishop and general, had abdicated their station by an inglorious retreat to the Rhône and the Danube; but, if she could resume her virtue, the republic might again vindicate her liberty and dominion. Amidst the indulgence of enthusiasm and eloquence,16 Petrarch, Italy, and Europe were astonished by a revolution which realised, for a moment, his most splendid visions. The rise and fall of the tribune, Rienzi, will occupy the following pages.17 The subject is interesting, the materials are rich, and the glance of a patriot-bard18 will sometimes vivify the copious but simple narrative of the Florentine,19 and more especially of the Roman,20 historian.
In a quarter of the city which was inhabited only by mechanics and Jews, the marriage of an innkeeper and a washerwoman produced the future deliverer of Rome.21 From such parents Nicholas Rienzi Gabrini could inherit neither dignity nor fortune; and the gift of a liberal education, which they painfully bestowed, was the cause of his glory and untimely end. The study of history and eloquence, the writings of Cicero, Seneca, Livy, Cæsar, and Valerius Maximus, elevated above his equals and contemporaries the genius of the young plebeian; he perused with indefatigable diligence the manuscripts and marbles of antiquity; loved to dispense his knowledge in familiar language; and was often provoked to exclaim, “Where are now these Romans? their virtue, their justice, their power? why was I not born in those happy times?”22 When the republic addressed to the throne of Avignon an embassy of the three orders, the spirit and eloquence of Rienzi recommended him to a place among the thirteen deputies of the commons. The orator had the honour of haranguing Pope Clement the Sixth, and the satisfaction of conversing with Petrarch, a congenial mind; but his aspiring hopes were chilled by disgrace and poverty; and the patriot was reduced to a single garment and the charity of the hospital. From this misery he was relieved by the sense of merit or the smile of favour; and the employment of apostolic notary afforded him a daily23 stipend of five gold florins, a more honourable and extensive connection, and the right of contrasting, both in words and actions, his own integrity with the vices of the state. The eloquence of Rienzi was prompt and persuasive; the multitude is always prone to envy and censure: he was stimulated by the loss of a brother and the impunity of the assassins; nor was it possible to excuse or exaggerate the public calamities. The blessings of peace and justice, for which civil society has been instituted, were banished from Rome: the jealous citizens, who might have endured every personal or pecuniary injury, were most deeply wounded in the dishonour of their wives and daughters;24 they were equally oppressed by the arrogance of the nobles and the corruption of the magistrates; and the abuse of arms or of laws was the only circumstance that distinguished the lions from the dogs and serpents of the Capitol. These allegorical emblems were variously repeated in the pictures which Rienzi exhibited in the streets and churches; and, while the spectators gazed with curious wonder, the bold and ready orator unfolded the meaning, applied the satire, inflamed their passions, and announced a distant hope of comfort and deliverance. The privileges of Rome, her eternal sovereignty over her princes and provinces, was the theme of his public and private discourse; and a monument of servitude became in his hands a title and incentive of liberty. The decree of the senate, which granted the most ample prerogatives to the emperor Vespasian, had been inscribed on a copper-plate still extant in the choir of the church of St. John Lateran.25 A numerous assembly of nobles and plebeians was invited to this political lecture, and a convenient theatre was erected for their reception. The notary appeared in a magnificent and mysterious habit, explained the inscription by a version and commentary,26 and descanted with eloquence and zeal on the ancient glories of the senate and people, from whom all legal authority was derived. The supine ignorance of the nobles was incapable of discerning the serious tendency of such representations: they might sometimes chastise with words and blows the plebeian reformer; but he was often suffered in the Colonna palace to amuse the company with his threats and predictions; and the modern Brutus27 was concealed under the mask of folly and the character of a buffoon. While they indulged their contempt, the restoration of the good estate, his favourite expression, was entertained among the people as a desirable, a possible, and at length as an approaching, event; and, while all had the disposition to applaud, some had the courage to assist, their promised deliverer.
A prophecy, or rather a summons, affixed on the churchdoor of St. George, was the first public evidence of his designs; a nocturnal assembly of an hundred citizens on Mount Aventine, the first step to their execution. After an oath of secrecy and aid, he represented to the conspirators the importance and facility of their enterprise; that the nobles, without union or resources, were strong only in the fear of their imaginary strength; that all power, as well as right, was in the hands of the people; that the revenues of the apostolical chamber might relieve the public distress; and that the pope himself would approve their victory over the common enemies of government and freedom. After securing a faithful band to protect his first declaration, he proclaimed through the city, by sound of trumpet, that on the evening of the following day all persons should assemble without arms before the church of St. Angelo, to provide for the re-establishment of the good estate. The whole night was employed in the celebration of thirty masses of the Holy Ghost; and in the morning, Rienzi, bare-headed, but in complete armour, issued from the church, encompassed by the hundred conspirators. The pope’s vicar, the simple bishop of Orvieto, who had been persuaded to sustain a part in this singular ceremony, marched on his right hand; and three great standards were borne aloft as the emblems of their design. In the first, the banner of liberty, Rome was seated on two lions, with a palm in one hand and a globe in the other; St. Paul, with a drawn sword, was delineated in the banner of justice; and in the third, St. Peter held the keys of concord and peace. Rienzi was encouraged by the presence and applause of an innumerable crowd, who understood little and hoped much; and the procession slowly rolled forwards from the castle of St. Angelo to the Capitol. His triumph was disturbed by some secret emotion, which he laboured to suppress: he ascended without opposition, and with seeming confidence, the citadel of the republic; harangued the people from the balcony; and received the most flattering confirmation of his acts and laws. The nobles, as if destitute of arms and counsels, beheld in silent consternation this strange revolution; and the moment had been prudently chosen, when the most formidable, Stephen Colonna, was absent from the city. On the first rumour he returned to his palace, affected to despise this plebeian tumult, and declared to the messenger of Rienzi that at his leisure he would cast the madman from the windows of the Capitol. The great bell instantly rang an alarm, and so rapid was the tide, so urgent was the danger, that Colonna escaped with precipitation to the suburb of St. Lawrence; from thence, after a moment’s refreshment, he continued the same speedy career, till he reached in safety his castle of Palestrina, lamenting his own imprudence, which had not trampled the spark of this mighty conflagration. A general and peremptory order was issued from the Capitol to all the nobles, that they should peaceably retire to their estates: they obeyed; and their departure secured the tranquillity of the free and obedient citizens of Rome.
But such voluntary obedience evaporates with the first transports of zeal; and Rienzi felt the importance of justifying his usurpation by a regular form and a legal title. At his own choice, the Roman people would have displayed their attachment and authority, by lavishing on his head the names of senator or consul, of king or emperor: he preferred the ancient and modest appellation of tribune;28 the protection of the commons was the essence of that sacred office; and they were ignorant that it had never been invested with any share in the legislative or executive powers of the republic. In this character, and with the consent of the Romans, the tribune enacted the most salutary laws for the restoration and maintenance of the good estate. By the first he fulfils the wish of honesty and inexperience, that no civil suit should be protracted beyond the term of fifteen days. The danger of frequent perjury might justify the pronouncing against a false accuser the same penalty which his evidence would have inflicted; the disorders of the times might compel the legislator to punish every homicide with death and every injury with equal retaliation. But the execution of justice was hopeless till he had previously abolished the tyranny of the nobles. It was formerly provided that none, except the supreme magistrate, should possess or command the gates, bridges, or towers of the state; that no private garrisons should be introduced into the towns or castles of the Roman territory; that none should bear arms or presume to fortify their houses in the city or country; that the barons should be responsible for the safety of the highways and the free passage of provisions; and that the protection of malefactors and robbers should be expiated by a fine of a thousand marks of silver. But these regulations would have been impotent and nugatory, had not the licentious nobles been awed by the sword of the civil power. A sudden alarm from the bell of the Capitol could still summon to the standard above twenty thousand volunteers; the support of the tribune and the laws required a more regular and permanent force. In each harbour of the coast, a vessel was stationed for the assurance of commerce; a standing militia of three hundred and sixty horse and thirteen hundred foot was levied, clothed, and paid in the thirteen quarters of the city; and the spirit of a commonwealth may be traced in the grateful allowance of one hundred florins, or pounds, to the heirs of every soldier who lost his life in the service of his country. For the maintenance of the public defence, for the establishment of granaries, for the relief of widows, orphans, and indigent convents, Rienzi applied, without fear of sacrilege, the revenues of the apostolic chamber; the three branches of hearth-money, the salt-duty, and the customs, were each of the annual produce of one hundred thousand florins;29 and scandalous were the abuses, if in four or five months the amount of the salt-duty could be trebled by his judicious economy. After thus restoring the forces and finances of the republic, the tribune recalled the nobles from their solitary independence; required their personal appearance in the Capitol; and imposed an oath of allegiance to the new government and of submission to the laws of the good estate. Apprehensive for their safety, but still more apprehensive of the danger of a refusal, the princes and barons returned to their houses at Rome, in the garb of simple and peaceful citizens; the Colonna and Ursini, the Savelli and Frangipani, were confounded before the tribunal of a plebeian, of the vile buffoon whom they had so often derided, and their disgrace was aggravated by the indignation which they vainly struggled to disguise. The same oath was successively pronounced by the several orders of society, the clergy and gentlemen, the judges and notaries, the merchants and artisans, and the gradual descent was marked by the increase of sincerity and zeal. They swore to live and die with the republic and the church, whose interest was artfully united by the nominal association of the bishop of Orvieto, the pope’s vicar, to the office of tribune. It was the boast of Rienzi that he had delivered the throne and patrimony of St. Peter from a rebellious aristocracy; and Clement the Sixth, who rejoiced in its fall, affected to believe the professions, to applaud the merits, and to confirm the title of his trusty servant. The speech, perhaps the mind, of the tribune was inspired with a lively regard for the purity of the faith: he insinuated his claim to a supernatural mission from the Holy Ghost; enforced by an heavy forfeiture the annual duty of confession and communion; and strictly guarded the spiritual as well as temporal welfare of his faithful people.30
Never, perhaps, has the energy and effect of a single mind been more remarkably felt than in the sudden, though transient, reformation of Rome by the tribune Rienzi. A den of robbers was converted to the discipline of a camp or convent: patient to hear, swift to redress, inexorable to punish, his tribunal was always accessible to the poor and stranger; nor could birth or dignity or the immunities of the church protect the offender or his accomplices. The privileged houses, the private sanctuaries in Rome, on which no officer of justice would presume to trespass, were abolished; and he applied the timber and iron of their barricades in the fortifications of the Capitol. The venerable father of the Colonna was exposed in his own palace to the double shame of being desirous, and of being unable, to protect a criminal. A mule, with a jar of oil, had been stolen near Capranica; and the lord of the Ursini family was condemned to restore the damage, and to discharge a fine of four hundred florins for his negligence in guarding the highways. Nor were the persons of the barons more inviolate than their lands or houses; and, either from accident or design, the same impartial rigour was exercised against the heads of the adverse factions. Peter Agapet Colonna, who had himself been senator of Rome, was arrested in the street for injury or debt; and justice was appeased by the tardy execution of Martin Ursini, who, among his various acts of violence and rapine, had pillaged a shipwrecked vessel at the mouth of the Tiber.31 His name, the purple of two cardinals his uncles, a recent marriage, and a mortal disease were disregarded by the inflexible tribune, who had chosen his victim. The public officers dragged him from his palace and nuptial bed: his trial was short and satisfactory; the bell of the Capitol convened the people; stript of his mantle, on his knees, with his hands bound behind his back, he heard the sentence of death; and, after a brief confession, Ursini was led away to the gallows. After such an example, none who were conscious of guilt could hope for impunity, and the flight of the wicked, the licentious, and the idle soon purified the city and territory of Rome. In this time (says the historian) the woods began to rejoice that they were no longer infested with robbers; the oxen began to plough; the pilgrims visited the sanctuaries; the roads and inns were replenished with travellers; trade, plenty, and good faith were restored in the markets; and a purse of gold might be exposed without danger in the midst of the highway. As soon as the life and property of the subject are secure, the labours and rewards of industry spontaneously revive: Rome was still the metropolis of the Christian world; and the fame and fortunes of the tribune were diffused in every country by the strangers who had enjoyed the blessings of his government.
The deliverance of his country inspired Rienzi with a vast, and perhaps visionary, idea of uniting Italy in a great federative republic, of which Rome should be the ancient and lawful head, and the free cities and princes the members and associates. His pen was not less eloquent than his tongue; and his numerous epistles were delivered to swift and trusty messengers. On foot, with a white wand in their hand, they traversed the forests and mountains; enjoyed, in the most hostile states, the sacred security of ambassadors; and reported, in the style of flattery or truth, that the highways along their passage were lined with kneeling multitudes, who implored Heaven for the success of their undertaking. Could passion have listened to reason, could private interest have yielded to the public welfare, the supreme tribunal and confederate union of the Italian republic might have healed their intestine discord and closed the Alps against the Barbarians of the North.32 But the propitious season had elapsed; and, if Venice, Florence, Sienna, Perugia, and many inferior cities offered their lives and fortunes to the good estate, the tyrants of Lombardy and Tuscany must despise, or hate, the plebeian author of a free constitution. From them, however, and from every part of Italy, the tribune received the most friendly and respectful answers; they were followed by the ambassadors of the princes and republics; and in this foreign conflux, on all the occasions of pleasure or business, the lowborn notary could assume the familiar or majestic courtesy of a sovereign.33 The most glorious circumstance of his reign was an appeal to his justice from Lewis king of Hungary, who complained that his brother, and her husband, had been perfidiously strangled by Jane queen of Naples:34 her guilt or innocence was pleaded in a solemn trial at Rome; but, after hearing the advocates,35 the tribune adjourned this weighty and invidious cause, which was soon determined by the sword of the Hungarian. Beyond the Alps, more especially at Avignon, the revolution was the theme of curiosity, wonder, and applause. Petrarch had been the private friend, perhaps the secret counsellor, of Rienzi: his writings breathe the most ardent spirit of patriotism and joy; and all respect for the pope, all gratitude for the Colonna, was lost in the superior duties of a Roman citizen. The poet-laureat of the Capitol maintains the act, applauds the hero, and mingles with some apprehension and advice the most lofty hopes of the permanent and rising greatness of the republic.36
While Petrarch indulged these prophetic visions, the Roman hero was fast declining from the meridian of fame and power; and the people, who had gazed with astonishment on the ascending meteor, began to mark the irregularity of its course and the vicissitudes of light and obscurity. More eloquent than judicious, more enterprising than resolute, the faculties of Rienzi were not balanced by cool and commanding reason; he magnified in a tenfold proportion the objects of hope and fear; and prudence, which could not have erected, did not presume to fortify, his throne. In the blaze of prosperity, his virtues were insensibly tinctured with the adjacent vices: justice with cruelty, liberality with profusion, and the desire of fame with puerile and ostentatious vanity. He might have learned that the ancient tribunes, so strong and sacred in the public opinion, were not distinguished in style, habit, or appearance from an ordinary plebeian;37 and that, as often as they visited the city on foot, a single viator, or beadle, attended the exercise of their office. The Gracchi would have frowned or smiled, could they have read the sonorous titles and epithets of their successor, “Nicholas, severe and merciful; deliverer of rome; defender of italy;38friend of mankind, and of liberty, peace, and justice; tribune august”: his theatrical pageants had prepared the revolution; but Rienzi abused, in luxury and pride, the political maxim of speaking to the eyes as well as the understanding of the multitude. From nature he had received the gift of an handsome person,39 till it was swelled and disfigured by intemperance; and his propensity to laughter was corrected in the magistrate by the affectation of gravity and sternness. He was clothed, at least on public occasions, in a parti-coloured robe of velvet or satin, lined with fur and embroidered with gold; the rod of justice which he carried in his hand was a sceptre of polished steel, crowned with a globe and cross of gold, and enclosing a small fragment of the true and holy wood. In his civil and religious processions through the city, he rode on a white steed, the symbol of royalty; the great banner of the republic, a sun with a circle of stars, a dove with an olive-branch, was displayed over his head; a shower of gold and silver was scattered among the populace; fifty guards with halberds encompassed his person; a troop of horse preceded his march; and their tymbals and trumpets were of massy silver.
The ambition of the honours of chivalry40 betrayed the meanness of his birth and degraded the importance of his office; and the equestrian tribune was not less odious to the nobles whom he adopted than to the plebeians whom he deserted. All that yet remained of treasure or luxury or art was exhausted on that solemn day. Rienzi led the procession from the Capitol to the Lateran; the tediousness of the way was relieved with decorations and games; the ecclesiastical, civil, and military orders marched under their various banners; the Roman ladies attended his wife; and the ambassadors of Italy might loudly applaud, or secretly deride, the novelty of the pomp. In the evening, when they had reached the church and palace of Constantine, he thanked and dismissed the numerous assembly, with an invitation to the festival of the ensuing day. From the hands of a venerable knight he received the order of the Holy Ghost; the purification of the bath was a previous ceremony; but in no step of his life did Rienzi excite such scandal and censure as by the profane use of the prophyry vase in which Constantine (a foolish legend) had been healed of his leprosy by Pope Sylvester.41 With equal presumption the tribune watched or reposed within the consecrated precincts of the baptistery; and the failure of his state-bed was interpreted as an omen of his approaching downfall. At the hour of worship he showed himself to the returning crowds in a majestic attitude, with a robe of purple, his sword, and gilt spurs; but the holy rites was soon interrupted by his levity and insolence. Rising from his throne, and advancing towards the congregation, he proclaimed in a loud voice, “We summon to our tribunal Pope Clement, and command him to reside in his diocese of Rome; we also summon the sacred college of Cardinals.42 We again summon the two pretenders, Charles of Bohemia and Lewis of Bavaria, who style themselves emperors; we likewise summon all the electors of Germany, to inform us on what pretence they have usurped the unalienable right of the Roman people, the ancient and lawful sovereigns of the empire.”43 Unsheathing his maiden sword, he thrice brandished it to the three parts of the world, and thrice repeated the extravagant declaration, “And this too is mine!” The pope’s vicar, the bishop of Orvieto, attempted to check this career of folly; but his feeble protest was silenced by martial music; and, instead of withdrawing from the assembly, he consented to dine with his brother tribune, at a table which had hitherto been reserved for the supreme pontiff. A banquet, such as the Cæsars had given, was prepared for the Romans. The apartments, porticoes, and courts of the Lateran were spread with innumerable tables for either sex and every condition; a stream of wine flowed from the nostrils of Constantine’s brazen horse; no complaint, except of the scarcity of water, could be heard; and the licentiousness of the multitude was curbed by discipline and fear.44 A subsequent day was appointed for the coronation of Rienzi;45 seven crowns of different leaves or metals were successively placed on his head by the most eminent of the Roman clergy;46 they represented the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost; and he still professed to imitate the example of the ancient tribunes. These extraordinary spectacles might deceive or flatter the people; and their own vanity was gratified in the vanity of their leader. But in his private life he soon deviated from the strict rule of frugality and abstinence; and the plebeians, who were awed by the splendour of the nobles, were provoked by the luxury of their equal. His wife, his son, his uncle (a barber in name and profession), exposed the contrast of vulgar manners and princely expense; and, without acquiring the majesty, Rienzi degenerated into the vices, of a king.
A simple citizen describes with pity, or perhaps with pleasure, the humiliation of the barons of Rome. “Bare-headed, their hands crossed on their breast, they stood with downcast looks in the presence of the tribune; and they trembled, good God, how they trembled!”47 As long as the yoke of Rienzi was that of justice and their country, their conscience forced them to esteem the man whom pride and interest provoked them to hate: his extravagant conduct soon fortified their hatred by contempt; and they conceived the hope of subverting a power which was no longer so deeply rooted in the public confidence. The old animosity of the Colonna and Ursini was suspended for a moment by their common disgrace: they associated their wishes, and perhaps their designs; an assassin was seized and tortured; he accused the nobles; and, as soon as Rienzi deserved the fate, he adopted the suspicions and maxims, of a tyrant. On the same day, under various pretences, he invited to the Capitol his principal enemies, among whom were five members of the Ursini, and three of the Colonna, name. But, instead of a council or a banquet, they found themselves prisoners under the sword of despotism or justice; and the consciousness of innocence or guilt might inspire them with equal apprehensions of danger. At the sound of the great bell the people assembled: they were arraigned for a conspiracy against the tribune’s life; and, though some might sympathise in their distress, not a hand nor a voice was raised to rescue the first of the nobility from their impending doom. Their apparent boldness was prompted by despair; they passed in separate chambers a sleepless and painful night; and the venerable hero, Stephen Colonna, striking against the door of his prison, repeatedly urged his guards to deliver him by a speedy death from such ignominious servitude. In the morning they understood their sentence from the visit of a confessor and the tolling of the bell. The great hall of the Capitol had been decorated for the bloody scene with red and white hangings; the countenance of the tribune was dark and severe; the swords of the executioners were unsheathed; and the barons were interrupted in their dying speeches by the sound of trumpets. But in this decisive moment Rienzi was not less anxious or apprehensive than his captives: he dreaded the splendour of their names, their surviving kinsmen, the inconstancy of the people, the reproaches of the world; and, after rashly offering a mortal injury, he vainly presumed that, if he could forgive, he might himself be forgiven. His elaborate oration was that of a Christian and a suppliant; and, as the humble minister of the commons, he entreated his masters to pardon these noble criminals, for whose repentance and future service he pledged his faith and authority. “If you are spared,” said the tribune, “by the mercy of the Romans, will you not promise to support the good estate with your lives and fortunes?” Astonished by this marvellous clemency, the barons bowed their heads; and, while they devoutly repeated the oath of allegiance, might whisper a secret, and more sincere, assurance of revenge. A priest, in the name of the people, pronounced their absolution. They received the communion with the tribune, assisted at the banquet, followed the procession; and, after every spiritual and temporal sign of reconciliation, were dismissed in safety to their respective homes, with the new honours and titles of generals, consuls, and patricians.48
During some weeks they were checked by the memory of their danger rather than of their deliverance, till the more powerful of the Ursini, escaping with the Colonna from the city, erected at Marino the standard of rebellion. The fortifications of the castle were instantly restored; the vassals attended their lord; the outlaws armed against the magistrate; the flocks and herds, the harvests and vineyards, from Marino to the gates of Rome, were swept away or destroyed; and the people arraigned Rienzi as the author of the calamities which his government had taught them to forget. In the camp Rienzi appeared to less advantage than in the rostrum; and he neglected the progress of the rebel barons till their numbers were strong and their castles impregnable. From the pages of Livy he had not imbibed the art, or even the courage, of a general. An army of twenty thousand Romans returned, without honour or effect, from the attack of Marino; and his vengeance was amused by painting his enemies, their heads downwards, and drowning two dogs (at least they should have been bears) as the representatives of the Ursini. The belief of his incapacity encouraged their operations: they were invited by their secret adherents; and the barons attempted, with four thousand foot and sixteen hundred horse, to enter Rome by force or surprise. The city was prepared for their reception; the alarm bell rung all night; the gates were strictly guarded, or insolently open; and after some hesitation they sounded a retreat. The two first divisions had passed along the walls, but the prospect of a free entrance tempted the headstrong valour of the nobles in the rear; and, after a successful skirmish, they were overthrown and massacred without quarter by the crowds of the Roman people. Stephen Colonna the younger, the noble spirit to whom Petrarch ascribed the restoration of Italy, was preceded or accompanied in death by his son John, a gallant youth, by his brother Peter, who might regret the ease and honours of the church, by a nephew of legitimate birth, and by two bastards of the Colonna race; and the number of seven, the seven crowns, as Rienzi styled them, of the Holy Ghost, was completed by the agony of the deplorable parent, of the veteran chief, who had survived the hope and fortune of his house. The vision and prophecies of St. Martin and Pope Boniface had been used by the tribune to animate his troops;49 he displayed, at least in the pursuit, the spirit of an hero; but he forgot the maxims of the ancient Romans, who abhorred the triumphs of civil war. The conqueror ascended the Capitol; deposited his crown and sceptre on the altar; and boasted with some truth that he had cut off an ear which neither pope nor emperor had been able to amputate.50 His base and implacable revenge denied the honours of burial; and the bodies of the Colonna, which he threatened to expose with those of the vilest malefactors, were secretly interred by the holy virgins of their name and family.51 The people sympathised in their grief, repented of their own fury, and detested the indecent joy of Rienzi, who visited the spot where these illustrious victims had fallen. It was on that fatal spot that he conferred on his son the honour of knighthood; and the ceremony was accomplished by a slight blow from each of the horsemen of the guard, and by a ridiculous and inhuman ablution from a pool of water, which was yet polluted with patrician blood.52
A short delay would have saved the Colonna, the delay of a single month, which elapsed between the triumph and the exile of Rienzi. In the pride of victory, he forfeited what yet remained of his civil virtues, without acquiring the fame of military prowess. A free and vigorous opposition was formed in the city; and, when the tribune proposed in the public council53 to impose a new tax and to regulate the government of Perugia, thirty-nine members voted against his measures; repelled the injurious charge of treachery and corruption; and urged him to prove, by their forcible exclusion, that, if the populace adhered to his cause, it was already disclaimed by the most respectable citizens. The pope and the sacred college had never been dazzled by his specious professions; they were justly offended by the insolence of his conduct; a cardinal legate was sent to Italy, and, after some fruitless treaty and two personal interviews, he fulminated a bull of excommunication, in which the tribune is degraded from his office and branded with the guilt of rebellion, sacrilege, and heresy.54 The surviving barons of Rome were now humbled to a sense of allegiance; their interest and revenge engaged them in the service of the church; but, as the fate of the Colonna was before their eyes, they abandoned to a private adventurer the peril and glory of the revolution. John Pepin, count of Minorbino,55 in the kingdom of Naples, had been condemned for his crimes, or his riches, to perpetual imprisonment; and Petrarch, by soliciting his release, indirectly contributed to the ruin of his friend. At the head of one hundred and fifty soldiers, the count of Minorbino introduced himself into Rome; barricaded the quarter of the Colonna; and found the enterprise as easy as it had seemed impossible. From the first alarm, the bell of the Capitol incessantly tolled; but, instead of repairing to the well-known sound, the people was silent and inactive; and the pusillanimous Rienzi, deploring their ingratitude with sighs and tears, abdicated the government and palace of the republic.
Without drawing his sword, Count Pepin restored the aristocracy and the church; three senators were chosen, and the legate, assuming the first rank, accepted his two colleagues from the rival families of Colonna and Ursini. The acts of the tribune were abolished, his head was proscribed; yet such was the terror of his name that the barons hesitated three days before they would trust themselves in the city, and Rienzi was left above a month in the castle of St. Angelo, from whence he peaceably withdrew, after labouring, without effect, to revive the affection and courage of the Romans. The vision of freedom and empire had vanished; their fallen spirit would have acquiesced in servitude, had it been smoothed by tranquillity and order; and it was scarcely observed that the new senators derived their authority from the Apostolic See; that four cardinals were appointed to reform, with dictatorial power, the state of the republic.56 Rome was again agitated by the bloody feuds of the barons, who detested each other and despised the commons; their hostile fortresses, both in town and country, again rose and were again demolished; and the peaceful citizens, a flock of sheep, were devoured, says the Florentine historian, by these rapacious wolves. But, when their pride and avarice had exhausted the patience of the Romans, a confraternity of the Virgin Mary protected or avenged the republic; the bell of the Capitol was again tolled, the nobles in arms trembled in the presence of an unarmed multitude; and of the two senators, Colonna escaped from the window of the palace, and Ursini was stoned at the foot of the altar. The dangerous office of tribune was successively occupied by two plebeians, Cerroni and Baroncelli. The mildness of Cerroni was unequal to the times; and, after a faint struggle, he retired with a fair reputation and a decent fortune to the comforts of rural life. Devoid of eloquence or genius, Baroncelli was distinguished by a resolute spirit: he spoke the language of a patriot, and trod in the footsteps of tyrants; his suspicion was a sentence of death, and his own death was the reward of his cruelties. Amidst the public misfortunes, the faults of Rienzi were forgotten; and the Romans sighed for the peace and prosperity of the good estate.57
After an exile of seven years, the first deliverer was again restored to his country. In the disguise of a monk or a pilgrim, he escaped from the castle of St. Angelo, implored the friendship of the king of Hungary at Naples, tempted the ambition of every bold adventurer, mingled at Rome with the pilgrims of the jubilee, lay concealed among the hermits of the Apennine,58 and wandered through the cities of Italy, Germany, and Bohemia. His person was invisible, his name was yet formidable; and the anxiety of the court of Avignon supposes, and even magnifies, his personal merit. The emperor Charles the Fourth gave audience to a stranger, who frankly revealed himself as the tribune of the republic and astonished an assembly of ambassadors and princes by the eloquence of a patriot and the visions of a prophet, the downfall of tyranny and the kingdom of the Holy Ghost.59 Whatever had been his hopes, Rienzi found himself a captive; but he supported a character of independence and dignity, and obeyed, as his own choice, the irresistible summons of the supreme pontiff. The zeal of Petrarch, which had been cooled by the unworthy conduct, was rekindled by the sufferings and the presence, of his friend; and he boldly complains of the times in which the saviour of Rome was delivered by her emperor into the hands of her bishop. Rienzi was transported slowly, but in safe custody, from Prague to Avignon; his entrance into the city was that of a malefactor; in his prison he was chained by the leg; and four cardinals were named to inquire into the crimes of heresy and rebellion. But his trial and condemnation would have involved some questions which it was more prudent to leave under the veil of mystery: the temporal supremacy of the popes; the duty of residence; the civil and ecclesiastical privileges of the clergy and people of Rome. The reigning pontiff well deserved the appellation of Clement; the strange vicissitudes and magnanimous spirit of the captive excited his pity and esteem; and Petrarch believes that he respected in the hero the name and sacred character of a poet.60 Rienzi was indulged with an easy confinement and the use of books; and in the assiduous study of Livy and the Bible he sought the cause and the consolation of his misfortunes.
The succeeding pontificate of Innocent the Sixth opened a new prospect of his deliverance and restoration; and the court of Avignon was persuaded that the successful rebel could alone appease and reform the anarchy of the metropolis. After a solemn profession of fidelity, the Roman tribune was sent into Italy with the title of senator; but the death of Baroncelli appeared to supersede the use of his mission; and the legate, Cardinal Albernoz,61 a consummate statesman, allowed him, with reluctance, and without aid, to undertake the perilous experiment. His first reception was equal to his wishes: the day of his entrance was a public festival, and his eloquence and authority revived the laws of the good estate. But this momentary sunshine was soon clouded by his own vices and those of the people: in the Capitol, he might often regret the prison of Avignon; and, after a second adminstration of four months, Rienzi was massacred in a tumult which had been fomented by the Roman barons. In the society of the Germans and Bohemians, he is said to have contracted the habits of intemperance and cruelty; adversity had chilled his enthusiasm, without fortifying his reason or virtue; and that youthful hope, that lively assurance, which is the pledge of success, was now succeeded by the cold impotence of distrust and despair. The tribune had reigned with absolute dominion, by the choice and in the hearts of the Romans; the senator was the servile minister of a foreign court; and, while he was suspected by the people, he was abandoned by the prince. The legate Albornoz, who seemed desirous of his ruin, inflexibly refused all supplies of men and money; a faithful subject could no longer presume to touch the revenues of the apostolical chamber; and the first idea of a tax was the signal of clamour and sedition. Even his justice was tainted with the guilt or reproach of selfish cruelty; the most virtuous citizen of Rome was sacrificed to his jealousy; and in the execution of a public robber, from whose purse he had been assisted, the magistrate too much forgot, or too much remembered, the obligations of the debtor.62 A civil war exhausted his treasures, and the patience of the city; the Colonna maintained their hostile station at Palestrina; and his mercenaries soon despised a leader whose ignorance and fear were envious of all subordinate merit. In the death as in the life of Rienzi, the hero and the coward were strangely mingled. When the Capitol was invested by a furious multitude, when he was basely deserted by his civil and military servant, the intrepid senator, waving the banner of liberty, presented himself on the balcony, addressed his eloquence to the various passions of the Romans, and laboured to persuade them that in the same cause himself and the republic must either stand or fall. His oration was interrupted by a volley of imprecations and stones; and, after an arrow had transpierced his hand, he sunk into abject despair, and fled weeping to the inner chambers, from whence he was let down by a sheet before the windows of the prison. Destitute of aid or hope, he was besieged till the evening: the doors of the Capitol were destroyed with axes and fire; and, while the senator attempted to escape in a plebeian habit, he was discovered and dragged to the platform of the palace, the fatal scene of his judgments and executions. A whole hour, without voice or motion, he stood amidst the multitude, half naked and half dead; their rage was hushed into curiosity and wonder; the last feelings of reverence and compassion yet struggled in his favour; and they might have prevailed, if a bold assassin had not plunged a dagger in his breast. He fell senseless with the first stroke; the impotent revenge of his enemies inflicted a thousand wounds; and the senator’s body was abandoned to the dogs, to the Jews, and to the flames. Posterity will compare the virtues and the failings of this extraordinary man; but in a long period of anarchy and servitude the name of Rienzi has often been celebrated as the deliverer of his country and the last of the Roman patriots.63
The first and most generous wish of Petrarch was the restoration of a free republic; but, after the exile and death of his plebeian hero, he turned his eyes from the tribune to the king of the Romans. The Capitol was yet stained with the blood of Rienzi, when Charles the Fourth descended from the Alps to obtain the Italian and Imperial crowns. In his passage through Milan he received the visit, and repaid the flattery, of the poet-laureat; accepted a medal of Augustus; and promised, without a smile, to imitate the founder of the Roman monarchy. A false application of the names and maxims of antiquity was the source of the hopes and disappointments of Petrarch; yet he could not overlook the difference of times and characters: the immeasurable distance between the first Cæsars and a Bohemian prince, who by the favour of the clergy had been elected the titular head of the German aristocracy. Instead of restoring to Rome her glory and her provinces, he had bound himself, by a secret treaty with the pope, to evacuate the city on the day of his coronation; and his shameful retreat was pursued by the reproaches of the patriot bard.64
After the loss of liberty and empire, his third and more humble wish was to reconcile the shepherd with his flock; to recall the Roman bishop to his ancient and peculiar diocese. In the fervour of youth, with the authority of age, Petrarch addressed his exhortations to five successive popes, and his eloquence was always inspired by the enthusiasm of sentiment and the freedom of language.65 The son of a citizen of Florence invariably preferred the country of his birth to that of his education; and Italy, in his eyes, was the queen and garden of the world. Amidst her domestic factions, she was doubtless superior to France both in art and science, in wealth and politeness; but the difference could scarcely support the epithet of barbarous, which he promiscuously bestows on the countries beyond the Alps. Avignon, the mystic Babylon, the sink of vice and corruption, was the object of his hatred and contempt; but he forgets that her scandalous vices were not the growth of the soil, and that in every residence they would adhere to the power and luxury of the papal court. He confesses that the successor of St. Peter is the bishop of the universal church; yet it was not on the banks of the Rhône, but of the Tiber, that the apostle had fixed his everlasting throne; and, while every city in the Christian world was blessed with a bishop, the metropolis alone was desolate and forlorn. Since the removal of the Holy See, the sacred buildings of the Lateran and the Vatican, their altars and their saints, were left in a state of poverty and decay; and Rome was often painted under the image of a disconsolate matron, as if the wandering husband could be reclaimed by the homely portrait of the age and infirmities of his weeping spouse.66 But the cloud which hung over the seven hills would be dispelled by the presence of their lawful sovereign: eternal fame, the prosperity of Rome, and the peace of Italy would be the recompense of the pope who should dare to embrace this generous resolution. Of the five whom Petrarch exhorted, the three first, John the Twenty-second, Benedict the Twelfth, and Clement the Sixth, were importuned or amused by the boldness of the orator; but the memorable change which had been attempted by Urban the Fifth was finally accomplished by Gregory the Eleventh. The execution of their design was opposed by weighty and almost insuperable obstacles. A king of France, who has deserved the epithet of Wise, was unwilling to release them from a local dependence: the cardinals, for the most part his subjects, were attached to the language, manners, and climate of Avignon; to their stately palaces; above all, to the wines of Burgundy.67 In their eyes, Italy was foreign or hostile; and they reluctantly embarked at Marseilles, as if they had been sold or banished into the land of the Saracens. Urban the Fifth resided three years in the Vatican with safety and honour; his sanctity was protected by a guard of two thousand horse; and the king of Cyprus, the queen of Naples, and the emperors of the East and West devoutly saluted their common father in the chair of St. Peter. But the joy of Petrarch and the Italians was soon turned into grief and indignation. Some reasons of public or private moment, his own impatience or the prayers of the cardinals, recalled Urban to France; and the approaching election was saved from the tyrannic patriotism of the Romans. The powers of Heaven were interested in their cause: Bridget of Sweden, a saint and pilgrim, disapproved the return, and foretold the death, of Urban the Fifth; the migration of Gregory the Eleventh was encouraged by St. Catherine of Sienna, the spouse of Christ and ambassadress of the Florentines; and the popes themselves, the great masters of human credulity, appear to have listened to these visionary females.68 Yet those celestial admonitions were supported by some arguments of temporal policy. The residence of Avignon had been invaded by hostile violence: at the head of thirty thousand robbers, an hero had extorted ransom and absolution from the vicar of Christ and the sacred college; and the maxim of the French warriors, to spare the people and plunder the church, was a new heresy of the most dangerous import.69 While the pope was driven from Avignon, he was strenuously invited to Rome. The senate and people acknowledged him as their lawful sovereign, and laid at his feet the keys of the gates, the bridges, and the fortresses; of the quarter at least beyond the Tiber.70 But this loyal offer was accompanied by a declaration that they could no longer suffer the scandal and calamity of his absence; and that his obstinacy would finally provoke them to revive and assert the primitive right of election. The abbot of Mount Cassin had been consulted whether he would accept the triple crown71 from the clergy and people: “I am a citizen of Rome,”72 replied that venerable ecclesiastic, “and my first law is the voice of my country.”73
If superstition will interpret an untimely death,74 if the merit of councils be judged from the event, the heavens may seem to frown on a measure of such apparent reason and propriety. Gregory the Eleventh did not survive above fourteen months his return to the Vatican; and his decease was followed by the great schism of the West, which distracted the Latin church above forty years. The sacred college was then composed of twenty-two cardinals: six of these had remained at Avignon; eleven Frenchmen, one Spaniard, and four Italians entered the conclave in the usual form. Their choice was not yet limited to the purple; and their unanimous votes acquiesced in the archbishop of Bari, a subject of Naples, conspicuous for his zeal and learning, who ascended the throne of St. Peter under the name of Urban the Sixth. The epistle of the sacred college affirms his free and regular election, which had been inspired, as usual, by the Holy Ghost; he was adored, invested, and crowned with the customary rites; his temporal authority was obeyed at Rome and Avignon, and his ecclesiastical supremacy was acknowledged in the Latin world. During several weeks, the cardinals attended their new master with the fairest professions of attachment and loyalty, till the summer-heats permitted a decent escape from the city. But, as soon as they were united at Anagni and Fundi, in a place of security, they cast aside the mask, accused their own falsehood and hypocrisy, excommunicated the apostate and antichrist of Rome, and proceeded to a new election of Robert of Geneva, Clement the Seventh, whom they announced to the nations as the true and rightful vicar of Christ. Their first choice, an involuntary and illegal act, was annulled by the fear of death and the menaces of the Romans; and their complaint is justified by the strong evidence of probability and fact. The twelve French cardinals, above two thirds of the votes, were masters of the election; and, whatever might be their provincial jealousies, it cannot fairly be presumed that they would have sacrificed their right and interest to a foreign candidate, who would never restore them to their native country. In the various and often inconsistent narratives,75 the shades of popular violence are more darkly or faintly coloured; but the licentiousness of the seditious Romans was inflamed by a sense of their privileges, and the danger of a second emigration. The conclave was intimidated by the shouts, and encompassed by the arms, of thirty thousand rebels; the bells of the Capitol and St. Peter’s rang an alarm: “Death, or an Italian pope!” was the universal cry; the same threat was repeated by the twelve bannerets or chiefs of the quarters, in the form of charitable advice; some preparations were made for burning the obstinate cardinals; and, had they chosen a Transalpine subject, it is probable that they would never have departed alive from the Vatican. The same constraint imposed the necessity of dissembling in the eyes of Rome and of the world; the pride and cruelty of Urban presented a more inevitable danger; and they soon discovered the features of the tyrant, who could walk in his garden and recite his breviary, while he heard from an adjacent chamber six cardinals groaning on the rack. His inflexible zeal, which loudly censured their luxury and vice, would have attached them to the stations and duties of their parishes at Rome; and, had he not fatally delayed a new promotion, the French cardinals would have been reduced to an helpless minority in the sacred college. For these reasons, and in the hope of repassing the Alps, they rashly violated the peace and unity of the church; and the merits of their double choice are yet agitated in the Catholic schools.76 The vanity, rather than the interest, of the nation determined the court and clergy of France.77 The states of Savoy, Sicily, Cyprus, Arragon, Castille, Navarre, and Scotland were inclined by their example and authority to the obedience of Clement the Seventh, and, after his decease, of Benedict the Thirteenth. Rome and the principal states of Italy, Germany, Portugal, England,78 the Low Countries, and the kingdoms of the North, adhered to the prior election of Urban the Sixth, who was succeeded by Boniface the Ninth, Innocent the Seventh, and Gregory the Twelfth.
From the banks of the Tiber and the Rhône, the hostile pontiffs encountered each other with the pen and the sword; the civil and ecclesiastical order of society was disturbed; and the Romans had their full share of the mischiefs, of which they may be arraigned as the primary authors.79 They had vainly flattered themselves with the hope of restoring the seat of the ecclesiastical monarchy, and of relieving their poverty with the tributes and offerings of the nations; but the separation of France and Spain diverted the stream of lucrative devotion; nor could the loss be compensated by the two jubilees which were crowded into the space of ten years. By the avocations of the schism, by foreign arms and popular tumults, Urban the Sixth and his three successors were often compelled to interrupt their residence in the Vatican. The Colonna and Ursini still exercised their deadly feuds; the bannerets of Rome asserted and abused the privileges of a republic; the vicars of Christ, who had levied a military force, chastised their rebellion with the gibbet, the sword, and the dagger; and, in a friendly conference, eleven deputies of the people were perfidiously murdered and cast into the street. Since the invasion of Robert the Norman, the Romans had pursued their domestic quarrels without the dangerous interposition of a stranger. But, in the disorders of the schism, an aspiring neighbour, Ladislaus king of Naples, alternately supported and betrayed the pope and the people; by the former he was declared gonfalonier, or general of the church, while the latter submitted to his choice the nomination of their magistrates. Besieging Rome by land and water, he thrice entered the gates as a Barbarian conqueror; profaned the altars, violated the virgins, pillaged the merchants, performed his devotions at St. Peter’s, and left a garrison in the castle of St. Angelo. His arms were sometimes unfortunate, and to a delay of three days he was indebted for his life and crown; but Ladislaus triumphed in his turn, and it was only his premature death that could save the metropolis and the ecclesiastical state from the ambitious conqueror, who had assumed the title, or at least the powers, of king of Rome.80
I have not undertaken the ecclesiastical history of the schism; but Rome, the object of these last chapters, is deeply interested in the disputed succession of her sovereigns. The first counsels for the peace and union of Christendom arose from the university of Paris, from the faculty of the Sorbonne, whose doctors were esteemed, at least in the Gallican church, as the most consummate masters of theological science.81 Prudently waiving all invidious inquiry into the origin and merits of the dispute, they proposed, as an healing measure, that the two pretenders of Rome and Avignon should abdicate at the same time, after qualifying the cardinals of the adverse factions to join in a legitimate election; and that the nations should subtract82 their obedience, if either of the competitors preferred his own interest to that of the public. At each vacancy, these physicians of the church deprecated the mischiefs of an hasty choice; but the policy of the conclave and the ambition of its members were deaf to reason and entreaties; and, whatsoever promises were made, the pope could never be bound by the oaths of the cardinal. During fifteen years, the pacific designs of the university were eluded by the arts of the rival pontiffs, the scruples or passions of their adherents, and the vicissitudes of French factions that ruled the insanity of Charles the Sixth. At length a vigorous resolution was embraced; and a solemn embassy, of the titular patriarch of Alexandria, two archbishops, five bishops, five abbots, three knights, and twenty doctors, was sent to the courts of Avignon and Rome, to require, in the name of the church and king, the abdication of the two pretenders, of Peter de Luna, who styled himself Benedict the Thirteenth, and of Angelo Corrario, who assumed the name of Gregory the Twelfth. For the ancient honour of Rome and the success of their commission, the ambassadors solicited a conference with the magistrates of the city, whom they gratified by a positive declaration that the most Christian king did not entertain a wish of transporting the holy see from the Vatican, which he considered as the genuine and proper seat of the successor of St. Peter. In the name of the senate and people, an eloquent Roman asserted their desire to co-operate in the union of the church, deplored the temporal and spiritual calamities of the long schism, and requested the protection of France against the arms of the king of Naples. The answers of Benedict and Gregory were alike edifying and alike deceitful; and, in evading the demand of their abdication, the two rivals were animated by a common spirit. They agreed on the necessity of a previous interview, but the time, the place, and the manner could never be ascertained by mutual consent. “If the one advances,” says a servant of Gregory, “the other retreats; the one appears an animal fearful of the land, the other a creature apprehensive of the water. And thus, for a short remnant of life and power, will these aged priests endanger the peace and salvation of the Christian world.”83
The Christian world was at length provoked by their obstinacy and fraud: they were deserted by their cardinals, who embraced each other as friends and colleagues; and their revolt was supported by a numerous assembly of prelates and ambassadors. With equal justice, the council of Pisa deposed the popes of Rome and Avignon; the conclave was unanimous in the choice of Alexander the Fifth,84 and his vacant seat was soon filled by a similar election of John the Twenty-third, the most profligate of mankind.85 But, instead of extinguishing the schism, the rashness of the French and Italians had given a third pretender to the chair of St. Peter. Such new claims of the synod and conclave were disputed; three kings, of Germany, Hungary, and Naples, adhered to the cause of Gregory the Twelfth; and Benedict the Thirteenth, himself a Spaniard, was acknowledged by the devotion and patriotism of that powerful nation. The rash proceedings of Pisa were corrected by the council of Constance; the emperor Sigismond acted a conspicuous part as the advocate or protector of the Catholic church; and the number and weight of civil and ecclesiastical members might seem to constitute the states-general of Europe. Of the three popes, John the Twenty-third was the first victim: he fled, and was brought back a prisoner; the most scandalous charges were suppressed; the vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy, and incest; and, after subscribing his own condemnation, he expiated in prison the imprudence of trusting his person to a free city beyond the Alps. Gregory the Twelfth, whose obedience was reduced to the narrow precincts of Rimini, descended with more honour from the throne, and his ambassador convened the session in which he renounced the title and authority of lawful pope. To vanquish the obstinacy of Benedict the Thirteenth, or his adherents, the emperor in person undertook a journey from Constance to Perpignan. The kings of Castille, Arragon, Navarre, and Scotland obtained an equal and honourable treaty; with the concurrence of the Spaniards, Benedict was deposed by the council; but the harmless old man was left in a solitary castle to excommunicate twice each day the rebel kingdoms which had deserted his cause. After thus eradicating the remains of the schism, the synod of Constance proceeded, with slow and cautious steps, to elect the sovereign of Rome and the head of the church. On this momentous occasion, the college of twenty-three cardinals was fortified with thirty deputies; six of whom were chosen in each of the five great nations of Christendom, the Italian, the German, the French, the Spanish, and the English:86 the interference of strangers was softened by their generous preference of an Italian and a Roman; and the hereditary as well as personal merit of Otho Colonna recommended him to the conclave. Rome accepted with joy and obedience the noblest of her sons, the ecclesiastical state was defended by his powerful family, and the elevation of Martin the Fifth is the era of the restoration and establishment of the popes in the Vatican.87
The royal prerogative of coining money, which had been exercised near three hundred years by the senate, was first resumed by Martin the Fifth,88 and his image and superscription introduce the series of the papal medals. Of his two immediate successors, Eugenius the Fourth was the last pope expelled by the tumults of the Roman people,89 and Nicholas the Fifth, the last who was importuned by the presence of a Roman emperor.90 I. The conflict of Eugenius with the fathers of Basil, and the weight or apprehension of a new excise, emboldened and provoked the Romans to usurp the temporal government of the city. They rose in arms, selected seven governors of the republic and a constable of the Capitol; imprisoned the pope’s nephews; besieged his person in the palace; and shot volleys of arrows into his bark as he escaped down the Tiber in the habit of a monk. But he still possessed in the castle of St. Angelo a faithful garrison and a train of artillery: their batteries incessantly thundered on the city, and a bullet more dexterously pointed broke down the barricade of the bridge and scattered, with a single shot, the heroes of the republic. Their constancy was exhausted by a rebellion of five months. Under the tyranny of the Ghibeline nobles, the wisest patriots regretted the dominion of the church; and their repentance was unanimous and effectual. The troops of St. Peter again occupied the Capitol; the magistrates departed to their homes; the most guilty were executed or exiled; and the legate, at the head of two thousand foot and four thousand horse, was saluted as the father of the city. The synods of Ferrara and Florence, the fear or resentment of Eugenius, prolonged his absence: he was received by a submissive people; but the pontiff understood from the acclamations of his triumphal entry that, to secure their loyalty and his own repose, he must grant, without delay, the abolition of the odious excise. II. Rome was restored, adorned, and enlightened by the peaceful reign of Nicholas the Fifth. In the midst of these laudable occupations, the pope was alarmed by the approach of Frederic the Third of Austria; though his fears could not be justified by the character or the power of the Imperial candidate. After drawing his military force to the metropolis and imposing the best security of oaths91 and treaties, Nicholas received, with a smiling countenance, the faithful advocate and vassal of the church. So tame were the times, so feeble was the Austrian, that the pomp of his coronation was accomplished with order and harmony; but the superfluous honour was so disgraceful to an independent nation that his successors have excused themselves from the toilsome pilgrimage to the Vatican, and rest their Imperial title on the choice of the electors of Germany.
A citizen has remarked, with pride and pleasure, that the king of the Romans, after passing with a slight salute the cardinals and prelates who met him at the gate, distinguished the dress and person of the senator of Rome; and, in this last farewell, the pageants of the empire and the republic were clasped in a friendly embrace.92 According to the laws of Rome,93 her first magistrate was required to be a doctor of laws, an alien, of a place at least forty miles from the city; with whose inhabitants he must not be connected in the third canonical degree of blood or alliance. The election was annual; a severe scrutiny was instituted into the conduct of the departing senator; nor could he be recalled to the same office till after the expiration of two years. A liberal salary of three thousand florins was assigned for his expense and reward; and his public appearance represented the majesty of the republic. His robes were of gold brocade or crimson velvet, or in the summer season of a lighter silk; he bore in his hand an ivory sceptre; the sound of trumpets announced his approach; and his solemn steps were preceded at least by four lictors or attendants, whose red wands were enveloped with bands or streamers of the golden colour or livery of the city. His oath in the Capitol proclaims his right and duty to observe and assert the laws, to control the proud, to protect the poor, and to exercise justice and mercy within the extent of his jurisdiction. In these useful functions he was assisted by three learned strangers, the two collaterals, and the judge of criminal appeals: their frequent trials of robberies, rapes, and murders are attested by the laws; and the weakness of these laws connives at the licentiousness of private feuds and armed associations for mutual defence. But the senator was confined to the administration of justice; the Capitol, the treasury, and the government of the city and its territory were entrusted to the three conservators,94 who were changed four times in each year; the militia of the thirteen regions assembled under the banners of their respective chiefs, or caporioni; and the first of these was distinguished by the name and dignity of the prior. The popular legislature consisted of the secret and the common councils of the Romans. The former was composed of the magistrates and their immediate predecessors, with some fiscal and legal officers, and three classes of thirteen, twenty-six, and forty counsellors, amounting in the whole to about one hundred and twenty persons. In the common council, all male citizens had a right to vote; and the value of their privilege was enhanced by the care with which any foreigners were prevented from usurping the title and character of Romans. The tumult of a democracy was checked by wise and jealous precautions: except the magistrates, none could propose a question; none were permitted to speak, except from an open pulpit or tribunal; all disorderly acclamations were suppressed; the sense of the majority was decided by a secret ballot; and their decrees were promulgated in the venerable name of the Roman senate and people. It would not be easy to assign a period in which this theory of government has been reduced to accurate and constant practice, since the establishment of order has been gradually connected with the decay of liberty. But in the year one thousand five hundred and eighty the ancient statutes were collected, methodised in three books, and adapted to present use, under the pontificate, and with the approbation, of Gregory the Thirteenth:95 this civil and criminal code is the modern law of the city; and, if the popular assemblies have been abolished, a foreign senator, with the three conservators, still resides in the palace of the Capitol.96 The policy of the Cæsars has been repeated by the popes; and the bishop of Rome affected to maintain the form of a republic, while he reigned with the absolute powers of a temporal as well as spiritual monarch.
It is an obvious truth that the times must be suited to extraordinary characters, and that the genius of Cromwell or Retz might now expire in obscurity. The political enthusiasm of Rienzi had exalted him to a throne; the same enthusiasm, in the next century, conducted his imitator to the gallows. The birth of Stephen Porcaro was noble, his reputation spotless; his tongue was armed with eloquence, his mind was enlightened with learning; and he aspired, beyond the aim of vulgar ambition, to free his country and immortalise his name. The dominion of priests is most odious to a liberal spirit: every scruple was removed by the recent knowledge of the fable and forgery of Constantine’s donation; Petrarch was now the oracle of the Italians; and, as often as Porcaro revolved the ode which describes the patriot and hero of Rome, he applied to himself the visions of the prophetic bard. His first trial of the popular feelings was at the funeral of Eugenius the Fourth: in an elaborate speech, he called the Romans to liberty and arms; and they listened with apparent pleasure, till Porcaro was interrupted and answered by a grave advocate, who pleaded for the church and state. By every law the seditious orator was guilty of treason; but the benevolence of the new pontiff, who viewed his character with pity and esteem, attempted, by an honourable office, to convert the patriot into a friend. The inflexible Roman returned from Anagni with an increase of reputation and zeal; and on the first opportunity, the games of the place Navona, he tried to inflame the casual dispute of some boys and mechanics into a general rising of the people. Yet the humane Nicholas was still averse to accept the forfeit of his life; and the traitor was removed from the scene of temptation to Bologna, with a liberal allowance for his support, and the easy obligation of presenting himself each day before the governor of the city. But Porcaro had learned from the younger Brutus that with tyrants no faith or gratitude should be observed: the exile declaimed against the arbitrary sentence; a party and a conspiracy were gradually formed; his nephew, a daring youth, assembled a band of volunteers; and on the appointed evening a feast was prepared at his house for the friends of the republic. Their leader, who had escaped from Bologna, appeared among them in a robe of purple and gold: his voice, his countenance, his gestures, bespoke the man who had devoted his life or death to the glorious cause. In a studied oration, he expatiated on the motives and the means of their enterprise; the name and liberties of Rome; the sloth and pride of their ecclesiastical tyrants; the active or passive consent of their fellow-citizens; three hundred soldiers and four hundred exiles, long exercised in arms or in wrongs; the licence of revenge to edge their swords, and a million of ducats to reward their victory. It would be easy (he said) on the next day, the festival of the Epiphany, to seize the pope and his cardinals before the doors, or at the altar, of St. Peter’s; to lead them in chains under the walls of St. Angelo; to extort by the threat of their instant death a surrender of the castle; to ascend the vacant Capitol; to ring the alarm-bell; and to restore in a popular assembly the ancient republic of Rome. While he triumphed, he was already betrayed. The senator, with a strong guard, invested the house; the nephew of Porcaro cut his way through the crowd; but the unfortunate Stephen was drawn from a chest, lamenting that his enemies had anticipated by three hours the execution of his design. After such manifest and repeated guilt, even the mercy of Nicholas was silent. Porcaro, and nine of his accomplices, were hanged without the benefit of the sacraments; and, amidst the fears and invectives of the papal court, the Romans pitied, and almost applauded, these martyrs of their country.97 But their applause was mute, their pity ineffectual, their liberty for ever extinct; and, if they have since risen in a vacancy of the throne or a scarcity of bread, such accidental tumults may be found in the bosom of the most abject servitude.
But the independence of the nobles, which was fomented by discord, survived the freedom of the commons, which must be founded in union. A privilege of rapine and oppression was long maintained by the barons of Rome; their houses were a fortress and a sanctuary; and the ferocious train of banditti and criminals whom they protected from the law repaid the hospitality with the service of their swords and daggers. The private interest of the pontiffs, or their nephews, sometimes involved them in these domestic feuds. Under the reign of Sixtus the Fourth, Rome was distracted by the battles and sieges of the rival houses; after the conflagration of his palace, the proto-notary Colonna was tortured and beheaded; and Savelli, his captive friend, was murdered on the spot, for refusing to join in the acclamations of the victorious Ursini.98 But the popes no longer trembled in the Vatican: they had strength to command, if they had resolution to claim, the obedience of their subjects; and the strangers, who observed these partial disorders, admired the easy taxes and wise administration of the ecclesiastical state.99
The spiritual thunders of the Vatican depend on the force of opinion; and, if that opinion be supplanted by reason or passion, the sound may idly waste itself in the air; and the helpless priest is exposed to the brutal violence of a noble or a plebeian adversary. But after their return from Avignon the keys of St. Peter were guarded by the sword of St. Paul. Rome was commanded by an impregnable citadel; the use of cannon is a powerful engine against popular seditions; a regular force of cavalry and infantry was enlisted under the banners of the pope; his ample revenues supplied the resources of war; and, from the extent of his domain, he could bring down on a rebellious city an army of hostile neighbours and loyal subjects.100 Since the union of the duchies of Ferrara and Urbino, the ecclesiastical state extends from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, and from the confines of Naples to the banks of the Po; and, as early as the sixteenth century, the greater part of that spacious and fruitful country acknowledged the lawful claims and temporal sovereignty of the Roman pontiffs. Their claims were readily deduced from the genuine or fabulous donations of the darker ages; the successive steps of their final settlement would engage us too far in the transactions of Italy, and even of Europe: the crimes of Alexander the Sixth, the martial operations of Julius the Second, and the liberal policy of Leo the Tenth, a theme which has been adorned by the pens of the noblest historians of the times.101 In the first period of their conquests, till the expedition of Charles the Eighth, the popes might successfully wrestle with the adjacent princes and states, whose military force was equal, or inferior, to their own. But, as soon as the monarchs of France, Germany, and Spain contended with gigantic arms for the dominion of Italy, they supplied with art the deficiency of strength, and concealed, in a labyrinth of wars and treaties, their aspiring views and the immortal hope of chasing the Barbarians beyond the Alps. The nice balance of the Vatican was often subverted by the soldiers of the North and West, who were united under the standard of Charles the Fifth; the feeble and fluctuating policy of Clement the Seventh exposed his person and dominions to the conqueror; and Rome was abandoned seven months to a lawless army, more cruel and rapacious than the Goths and Vandals.102 After this severe lesson, the popes contracted their ambition, which was almost satisfied, resumed the character of a common parent, and abstained from all offensive hostilities, except in an hasty quarrel, when the vicar of Christ and the Turkish sultan were armed at the same time against the kingdom of Naples.103 The French and Germans at length withdrew from the field of battle: Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and the sea-coast of Tuscany were firmly possessed by the Spaniards; and it became their interest to maintain the peace and dependence of Italy, which continued almost without disturbance from the middle of the sixteenth to the opening of the eighteenth century. The Vatican was swayed and protected by the religious policy of the Catholic king; his prejudice and interest disposed him in every dispute to support the prince against the people; and, instead of the encouragement, the aid, and the asylum which they obtained from the adjacent states, the friends of liberty or the enemies of law were enclosed on all sides within the iron circle of despotism. The long habits of obedience and education subdued the turbulent spirit of the nobles and commons of Rome. The barons forgot the arms and factions of their ancestors, and insensibly became the servants of luxury and government. Instead of maintaining a crowd of tenants and followers, the produce of their estates was consumed in the private expenses, which multiply the pleasures, and diminish the power, of the lord.104 The Colonna and Ursini vied with each other in the decoration of their palaces and chapels; and their antique splendour was rivalled or surpassed by the sudden opulence of the papal families. In Rome the voice of freedom and discord is no longer heard; and, instead of the foaming torrent, a smooth and stagnant lake reflects the image of idleness and servitude.
A Christian, a philosopher,105 and a patriot will be equally scandalised by the temporal kingdom of the clergy; and the local majesty of Rome, the remembrance of her consuls and triumphs, may seem to embitter the sense, and aggravate the shame, of her slavery. If we calmly weigh the merits and defects of the ecclesiastical government, it may be praised in its present state as a mild, decent, and tranquil system, exempt from the dangers of a minority, the sallies of youth, the expenses of luxury, and the calamities of war. But these advantages are overbalanced by a frequent, perhaps a septennial, election of a sovereign, who is seldom a native of the country; the reign of a young statesman of threescore, in the decline of his life and abilities, without hope to accomplish, and without children to inherit, the labours of his transitory reign. The successful candidate is drawn from the church, and even the convent; from the mode of education and life the most adverse to reason, humanity, and freedom. In the trammels of servile faith, he has learned to believe because it is absurd, to revere all that is contemptible, and to despise whatever might deserve the esteem of a rational being; to punish error as a crime, to reward mortification and celibacy as the first of virtues; to place the saints of the calendar106 above the heroes of Rome and the sages of Athens; and to consider the missal or the crucifix as more useful instruments than the plough or the loom. In the office of nuncio, or the rank of cardinal, he may acquire some knowledge of the world, but the primitive stain will adhere to his mind and manners: from study and experience he may suspect the mystery of his profession; but the sacerdotal artist will imbibe some portion of the bigotry which he inculcates. The genius of Sixtus the Fifth107 burst from the gloom of a Franciscan cloister. In a reign of five years, he exterminated the outlaws and banditti, abolished the profane sanctuaries of Rome,108 formed a naval and military force, restored and emulated the monuments of antiquity, and, after a liberal use and large increase of the revenue, left five millions of crowns in the castle of St. Angelo. But his justice was sullied with cruelty, his activity was prompted by the ambition of conquest: after his decease, the abuses revived; the treasure was dissipated; he entailed on posterity thirty-five new taxes, and the venality of offices; and, after his death, his statue was demolished by an ungrateful or an injured people.109 The wild and original character of Sixtus the Fifth stands alone in the series of the pontiffs: the maxims and effects of their temporal government may be collected from the positive and comparative view of the arts and philosophy, the agriculture and trade, the wealth and population, of the ecclesiastical state. For myself, it is my wish to depart in charity with all mankind; nor am I willing, in these last moments, to offend even the pope and clergy of Rome.110
[1 ]The Mémoires sur la Vie de François Pétrarque (Amsterdam, 1764, 1767, 3 vols. in 4to) form a copious, original, and entertaining work, a labour of love, composed from the accurate study of Petrarch and his contemporaries; but the hero is too often lost in the general history of the age, and the author too often languishes in the affectation of politeness and gallantry. In the preface to his first volume, he enumerates and weighs twenty Italian biographers, who have professedly treated of the same subject. [Körting, Petrarca’s Leben und Werke, 1878; Geiger, Petrarca, 1874. Cp. above, vol. xi. p. 277, note 92.]
[2 ]The allegorical interpretation prevailed in the xvth century; but the wise commentators were not agreed whether they should understand by Laura, religion, or virtue, or the blessed Virgin, or —. See the prefaces to the first and second volumes.
[3 ]Laure de Noves, born about the year 1307, was married in January 1325 to Hugues de Sade, a noble citizen of Avignon, whose jealousy was not the effect of love, since he married a second wife within seven months of her death, which happened the 6th of April 1348, precisely one and twenty years after Petrarch had seen and loved her.
[4 ]Corpus crebris partubus exhaustum; from one of these is issued, in the tenth degree, the Abbé de Sade, the fond and grateful biographer of Petrarch; and this domestic motive most probably suggested the idea of his work, and urged him to inquire into every circumstance that could affect the history and character of his grandmother (see particularly tom. i. p. 122-133, notes, p. 7-58; tom. ii. p. 455-495, notes, p. 76-82).
[5 ]Vaucluse, so familiar to our English travellers, is described from the writings of Petrarch, and the local knowledge of his biographer (Mémoires, tom. i. p. 340-359). It was, in truth, the retreat of an hermit; and the moderns are much mistaken if they place Laura and an happy lover in the grotto.
[6 ]Of 1250 pages, in a close print, at Basil, in the xvith century, but without the date of the year. The Abbé de Sade calls aloud for a new edition of Petrarch’s Latin works; but I much doubt whether it would redound to the profit of the bookseller, or the amusement of the public. [Petrarch’s Epistolae de rebus familiaribus et variae have been edited in 3 vols. 1859-63 by G. Fracassetti and translated (with commentary) into Italian by the same scholar (in 5 vols. 1863-7), who has also translated and annotated the Epistolae seniles (Lettere senili, 2 vols. 1869). The De viris illustribus vitae has been edited by A. Razzolini, 1874, who has added in a 2nd vol. the Italian translation thereof by Donato degli Albanzani.]
[7 ]Consult Selden’s Titles of Honour, in his works (vol. iii. p. 457-466). An hundred years before Petrarch, St. Francis received the visit of a poet, qui ab imperatore fuerat coronatus et exinde rex versuum dictus.
[8 ]From Augustus to Louis, the muse has too often been false and venal; but I much doubt whether any age or court can produce a similar establishment of a stipendiary poet, who in every reign, and at all events, is bound to furnish twice a year a measure of praise and verse, such as may be sung in the chapel, and, I believe, in the presence of the sovereign. I speak the more freely, as the best time for abolishing this ridiculous custom is while the prince is a man of virtue and the poet a man of genius.
[9 ]Isocrates (in Panegyrico, tom. i. p. 116, 117, edit. Battie, Cantab. 1729) claims for his native Athens the glory of first instituting and recommending the ἀγω̂νας καὶ τὰ [Editor: Illegible character]’θλα μέγιστα μὴ μόνον τάχους καὶ ῥώμης, ἀλλὰ καὶ λόγων καὶ γνώμης. The example of the Panathenæa was imitated at Delphi; but the Olympic games were ignorant of a musical crown, till it was extorted by the vain tyranny of Nero (Sueton. in Nerone, c. 23; Philostrat. apud Casaubon ad locum; Dion Cassius or Xiphilin, l. lxiii. p. 1032 [c. 9], 1041 [c. 20]. Potter’s Greek Antiquities, vol. i. p. 445, 450).
[10 ]The Capitoline games (certamen quinquennale, musicum, equestre, gymnicum) were instituted by Domitian (Sueton. c. 4) in the year of Christ 86 (Censorin. de Die Natali, c. xviii. p. 100, edit. Havercamp), and were not abolished in the ivth century (Ausonius de Professoribus Burdegal. V.). If the crown were given to superior merit, the exclusion of Statius (Capitolia nostræ inficiata lyræ, Sylv. l. iii. v. 31) may do honour to the games of the Capitol; but the Latin poets who lived before Domitian were crowned only in the public opinion.
[11 ]Petrarch and the senators of Rome were ignorant that the laurel was not the Capitoline, but the Delphic crown (Plin. Hist. Natur. xv. 39; Hist. Critique de la République des Lettres, tom. i. p. 150-220). The victors in the Capitol were crowned with a garland of oak-leaves (Martial, l. iv. epigram 54).
[12 ]The pious grandson of Laura has laboured, and not without success, to vindicate her immaculate chastity against the censures of the grave and the sneers of the profane (tom. ii. notes, p. 76-82).
[13 ]The whole process of Petrarch’s coronation is accurately described by the Abbé de Sade (tom. i. p. 425-435; tom. ii. p. 1-6, notes, p. 1-13), from his own writings [see Ep. Poet. ii. 1], and the Roman Diary of Ludovico Monaldeschi, without mixing in this authentic narrative the more recent fables of Sannuccio Delbene.
This address has been published by Attilio Hortis in Scritti inediti di Fr. Petrarca, 1874, p. 311 sqq.]
[15 ]The original act is printed among the Pièces Justificatives in the Mémoires sur Pétrarque, tom. iii. p. 50-53.
[16 ]To find the proofs of his enthusiasm for Rome, I need only request that the reader would open, by chance, either Petrarch or his French biographer. The latter has described the poet’s first visit to Rome [ 1337] (tom. i. p. 323-335). But, in the place of much idle rhetoric and morality, Petrarch might have amused the present and future age with an original account of the city and his coronation.
[17 ]It has been treated by the pen of a Jesuit, the P. du Cerceau, whose posthumous work (Conjuration de Nicholas Gabrini, dit de Rienzi, Tyran de Rome, en 1347) was published at Paris, 1748, 12mo. I am indebted to him for some facts and documents in John Hocsemius, canon of Liège, a contemporary historian (Fabricius, Bibliot. Lat. med. Ævi, tom. iii. p. 273; tom. iv. p. 85).
[18 ]The Abbé de Sade, who so freely expatiates on the history of the xivth century, might treat, as his proper subject, a revolution in which the heart of Petrarch was so deeply engaged (Mémoires, tom. ii. p. 50, 51, 320-417, notes, p. 70-76; tom. iii. p. 221-243, 366-375). Not an idea or a fact in the writings of Petrarch has probably escaped him.
[19 ]Giovanni Villani, l. xii. c. 89, 104, in Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, tom. xiii. p. 969, 970, 981-983.
[20 ]In his third volume of Italian Antiquities (p. 249-548), Muratori has inserted the Fragmenta Historiæ Romanæ ab Anno 1327 usque ad Annum 1354, in the original dialect of Rome or Naples in the xivth century, and a Latin version for the benefit of strangers. It contains the most particular and authentic life of Cola (Nicholas) di Rienzi, which had been printed at Bracciano, 1627, in 4to, under the name of Tomaso Fortifiocca, who is only mentioned in this work as having been punished by the tribune for forgery, [This Life has been edited by Zeferino Re, 2nd ed. 1854.] Human nature is scarcely capable of such sublime or stupid impartiality; but whosoever is the author of thes Fragments, he wrote on the spot and at the time, and paints, without design or art, the manners of Rome and the character of the tribune. [Rienzi’s letters have been published by A. Gabrielli, Epistolario di Cola di Rienzo, 1890. Monographs: Papencordt, Cola di Rienzi und seine Zeit, 1841 (and French transl. by Boré, 1845); Rodocanachi, Cola di Rienzo: histoire de Rome de 1342 à 1354, 1888.]
[21 ]The first and splendid period of Rienzi, his tribunitian government, is contained in the xviiith chapter of the Fragments (p. 399-479), which, in the new division, forms the iid book of the history in xxxviii. smaller chapters or sections. [The more correct form of his name is Rienzo, from Lorenzo. In Latin documents he is called Nicolaus Laurentii.]
[22 ]The reader may be pleased with a specimen of the original idiom: Fò da soa juventutine nutricato di latte de eloquentia, bono gramatico, megliore rettuorico, autorista bravo. Deh como et quanto era veloce leitore! moito usava Tito Livio, Seneca, et Tullio, et Balerio Massimo moito li dilettava le magnificentie di Julio Cesare raccontare. Tutta la [Editor: Illegible word] se speculava negl’ intagli di marmo lequali iaccio intorno Roma. Non era altri che esso, che sapesse lejere li antichi pataffii. Tutte scritture antiche vulgarizzava; quesse fiure di marmo justamente interpretava. Oh come spesso diceva, “Dove suono quelli buoni Romani? dove ene loro somma justitia? poleramme trovare in tempo che quessi fiuriano!”
[23 ][Monthly, not daily. See Cola’s petition for the office, which was granted to him by the Pope. See Gregorovius, vi. p. 231, note.]
[24 ]Petrarch compares the jealousy of the Romans with the easy temper of the husbands of Avignon (Mémoires, tom. i. p. 330).
[25 ]The fragments of the Lex Regia may be found in the inscriptions of Gruter, tom. i. p. 242, and at the end of the Tacitus of Ernesti, with some learned notes of the editor, tom. ii. [See C.I.L. vi. 930. Cp. above vol. i. p. 84, n. 19. “Cola had discovered this bronze tablet in the Lateran, where it had been employed in the construction of an altar in the time of Boniface VIII. The inscription had then been turned inwards, but it was restored to light either by the fall of the church in consequence of the fire or in process of rebuilding. The use to which Cola turned this monument of imperial despotism was singular and ingenious. He caused the tablet to be built into the wall behind the choir of the Lateran, and round it had the Senate painted in the act of conferring the imperial authority on Vespasian.”]
[26 ]I cannot overlook a stupendous and laughable blunder of Rienzi. The Lex Regia empowers Vespasian to enlarge the Pomœrium, a word familiar to every antiquary. It was not so to the tribune; he confounds it with promarium an orchard, translates lo Jardino de Roma cioene Italia, and is copied by the less excusable ignorance of the Latin translator (p. 406) and the French historian (p. 33). Even the learning of Muratori has slumbered over the passage. [Gregorovius compares Dante’s (Purgatorio, vi. 105) chè il giardin dell’ Imperio sia deserto.]
[27 ]Priori (Bruto) tamen similior, juvenis uterque, longe ingenio quam cujus simulationem induerat, ut sub hoc obtentu liberator ille P. R. aperiretur tempore suo . . . ille regibus, hic tyrannis contemptus (Opp. p. 536).
[28 ][This was his style: Nicholaus, Severus et Clemens, Libertatis Pacis Justitiaeque Tribunus, et sacre Romane Reipublice Liberator. (Gregorovius, vi. 249.)]
[29 ]In one MS. I read (l. ii. c. 4, p. 409) perfumante quatro solli, in another quatro florini: an important variety, since the florin was worth ten Roman solidi (Muratori, dissert. xxviii.). The former reading would give us a population of 25,000, the latter of 250,000, families; and I much fear that the former is more consistent with the decay of Rome and her territory. [The population was probably not more than 50,000 in all, at this period. Cp. Gregorovius, vi. 152 note. The hearth tax (focaticum) is said to have been 26 denari (ib. 256).]
[30 ]Hocsemius, p. 398, apud du Cerceau, Hist. de Rienzi, p. 194. The fifteen tribunician laws may be found in the Roman historian (whom for brevity I shall name) Fortifiocca, l. ii. c. 4.
[31 ]Fortifiocca, l. ii. c. 11. From the account of this shipwreck we learn some circumstances of the trade and navigation of the age. 1. The ship was built and freighted at Naples for the ports of Marseilles and Avignon. 2. The sailors were of Naples and the Isle of Oenaria, less skilful than those of Sicily and Genoa. 3. The navigation from Marseilles was a coasting voyage to the mouth of the Tiber, where they took shelter in a storm, but, instead of finding the current, unfortunately ran on a shoal; the vessel was stranded, the mariners escaped. 4. The cargo, which was pillaged, consisted of the revenue of Provence for the royal treasury, many bags of pepper and cinnamon, and bales of French cloth, to the value of 20,000 florins: a rich prize.
[32 ][It is strange that Gibbon should have made no mention of Dante’s work De Monarchia, which, though it expressed the Ghibelline ideal and looked for salvation to Germany, was nevertheless animated with the same idea which inspired Rienzi, in so far as it recognised that the rule of the world belonged to Rome. The De Monarchia is an important indication of the mediaeval ideals which moved Italians in the fourteenth century, and the reaction against the Popes. Mr. Bryce gives an account of its argument in his Holy Roman Empire, p. 265 sqq. (ed. 7). As the work appeared after the Italian expedition of Henry VII. — the last episode in the history of the Empire in Italy — Mr. Bryce describes the book as “an epitaph instead of a prophecy.” See also the observations of Gregorovius, vi. p. 19-24. It is pathetic to see how men like Petrarch looked for the regeneration of Italy to the degenerate rabble of Rome.]
[33 ]It was thus that Oliver Cromwell’s old acquaintance, who remembered his vulgar and ungracious entrance into the House of Commons, were astonished at the ease and majesty of the Protector on his throne (see Harris’s Life of Cromwell, p. 27-34, from Clarendon, Warwick, Whitelocke, Waller, &c.). The consciousness of merit and power will sometimes elevate the manners to the station.
[34 ]See the causes, circumstances, and effects of the death of Andrew, in Giannone (tom. iii. l. xxiii. p. 220-229), and the Life of Petrarch (Mémoires, tom. ii. p. 143-148, 245-250, 375-379, notes, p. 21-37). The Abbé de Sade wishes to extenuate her guilt.
[35 ]The advocate who pleaded against Jean could add nothing to the logical force and brevity of his master’s epistle. Johanna! inordinata vita præcedens, retentio potestatis in regno, neglecta vindicta, vir alter susceptus, et excusatio subsequens, necis viri tui te probant fuisse participem et consortem. Jane of Naples and Mary of Scotland have a singular conformity.
[36 ]See the Epistola Hortatoria de Capessendâ Republicâ, from Petrarch to Nicholas Rienzi (Opp. p. 535-540), and the fifth eclogue or pastoral, a perpetual and obscure allegory.
[37 ]In his Roman questions, Plutarch (Opuscul. tom. i. p. 505, 506, edit. Græc. Hen. Steph.) states, on the most constitutional principles, the simple greatness of the tribunes, who were not properly magistrates, but a check on magistracy. It was their duty and interest ὁμοιον̂σθαι σχήματι, καὶ στολῃ̑ καὶ διαίτῃ τοɩ̂ς ἐπιτυγχάνουσι τω̂ν πολιτω̂ν . . . καταπατεɩ̂σθαι δεɩ̂ (a saying of C. Curio) καὶ μὴ σεμνὸν εɩ̂̓ναι τῃ̑ δημάρχου ὄψει . . . ὅσῳ δὲ μα̂λλον ἐκταπεινον̂ται τῷ σώματι, τοσούτῳ μα̂λλον αὔξεται τῃ̑ δυνάμει, &c. Rienzi, and Petrarch himself, were incapable perhaps of reading a Greek philosopher; but they might have imbibed the same modest doctrines from their favourite Latins, Livy and Valerius Maximus.
[38 ]I could not express in English the forcible though barbarous title of Zelator Italiæ, which Rienzi assumed.
[39 ]Era bell’ homo (l. ii. c. 1, p. 399). It is remarkable, that the riso sarcastico of the Bracciano edition is wanting in the Roman MS. from which Muratori has given the text. In his second reign, when he is painted almost as a monster, Rienzi travea una ventresca tonna trionfale, a modo de uno Abbate Asiano, or Asinino (l. iii. c. 18, p. 523).
[40 ]Strange as it may seem, this festival was not without a precedent. In the year 1327, two barons, a Colonna and an Ursini, the usual balance, were created knights by the Roman people: their bath was of rose-water, their beds were decked with royal magnificence, and they were served at St. Maria of Araceli in the Capitol by the twenty-eight buoni huomini. They afterwards received from Robert, king of Naples, the sword of chivalry (Hist. Rom. l. i. c. 2, p. 259). [On 26th July of this year, 1347, Rienzi issued an edict, declaring the majesty and supremacy of the Roman people, and abolishing all the privileges assumed by the Popes. This edict was submitted to a council of jurists, and was issued in the name of the Italian nation. See Gregorovius, vi. p. 267.]
[41 ]All parties believed in the leprosy and bath of Constantine (Petrarch, Epist. Famil. vi. 2), and Rienzi justified his own conduct by observing to the court of Avignon that a vase which had been used by a pagan could not be profaned by a pious Christian. Yet this crime is specified in the bull of excommunication (Hocsemius, apud du Cerceau, p. 189, 190).
[42 ]This verbal summons of Pope Clement VI., which rests on the authority of the Roman historian and a Vatican MS., is disputed by the biographer of Petrarch (tom. ii. not. p. 70-76), with arguments rather of decency than of weight. The court of Avignon might not choose to agitate this delicate question.
[43 ]The summons of the two rival emperors, a monument of freedom and folly, is extant in Hocsemius (Cerceau, p. 163-166). [Gregorovius (vi. p. 276) well observes: “The Romans, accustomed to all the spectacles of history, blunted to the distinctions between the sublime and the ridiculous . . . neither laughed at this edict nor at the figure of the crazy tribune. . . . They loudly shouted their approval. The absurd proclamation appeared as the ultimate consequence of the claims of the city to the Imperial majesty, with which she had formally confronted Conrad the first of the Hohenstaufens. . . . The errors and theories of Dante and Petrarch in their theological age explain or excuse the insane dreams of the Tribune.”]
[44 ][On the next day, 2nd August, a festival of the Unity of Italy was held. Cola assigned the banner of Italy to the Florentines, the banner of Constantine to Perugia, the banner of freedom to Siena.]
[45 ]It is singular that the Roman historian should have overlooked this sevenfold coronation, which is sufficiently proved by internal evidence, and the testimony of Hocsemius, and even of Rienzi (Cerceau, p. 167-170, 229).
[46 ][Not exactly seven crowns, but six crowns (of oak, ivy, myrtle, laurel, olive, silver) and a globe, emblem of the world. Rienzi believed that the ancient tribunes were crowned with these six crowns, and thus he characteristically combined classical antiquity with Christianity. He was at once (Gregorovius, vi. p. 284) “Tribunus Augustus and Candidate of the Holy Ghost.”]
[47 ]Puoi se faceva stare denante a se, mentre sedeva, li baroni tutti in piedi ritti co le vraccia piecate, e co li capucci tratti. Deh como stavano paurosi! (Hist. Rom. l. ii. c. 20, p. 439). He saw them, and we see them.
[48 ]The original letter, in which Rienzi justifies his treatment of the Colonna (Hocsemius, apud du Cerceau, p. 222-229), displays, in genuine colours, the mixture of the knave and the madman.
[49 ]Rienzi, in the above-mentioned letter, ascribes to St. Martin the tribune, Boniface VIII. the enemy of Colonna, himself, and the Roman people, the glory of the day, which Villani likewise (l. xii. c. 104) describes as a regular battle. The disorderly skirmish, the flight of the Romans, and the cowardice of Rienzi are painted in the simple and minute narrative of Fortifiocca, or the anonymous citizen (l. ii. c. 34-37).
[50 ]In describing the fall of the Colonna, I speak only of the family of Stephen the Elder, who is often confounded by the P. du Cerceau with his son. That family was extinguished, but the house has been perpetuated in the collateral branches, of which I have not a very accurate knowledge. Circumspice (says Petrarch) familiæ tuæ statum, Columniensium domos: solito pauciores habeat columnas. Quid ad rem? modo fundamentum stabile solidumque permaneat.
[51 ]The convent of St. Silvester was founded, endowed, and protected by the Colonna cardinals, for the daughters of the family who embraced a monastic life, and who, in the year 1318, were twelve in number. The others were allowed to marry with their kinsmen in the fourth degree, and the dispensation was justified by the small number and close alliances of the noble families of Rome (Mémoires sur Pétrarque, tom. i. p. 110, tom. ii. p. 401).
[52 ]Petrarch wrote a stiff and pedantic letter of consolation (Fam. l. vii. epist. 13, p. 682, 683). The friend was lost in the patriot. Nulla toto orbe principum familia carior; carior tamen respublica, carior Roma, carior Italia. Je rends grâces aux Dieux de n’être pas Romain.
[53 ]This council and opposition is obscurely mentioned by Pollistore, a contemporary writer, who has preserved some curious and original facts (Rer. Italicarum, tom. xxv. c. 31, p. 798-804).
[54 ]The briefs and bulls of Clement VI. against Rienzi are translated by the P. du Cerceau (p. 196, 232), from the Ecclesiastical Annals of Rodericus Raynaldus ( 1347, No. 15, 17, 21, &c.), who found them in the archives of the Vatican.
[55 ]Matteo Villani describes the origin, character, and death of this count of Minorbino, a man da natura inconstante e senza sede, whose grandfather, a crafty notary, was enriched and ennobled by the spoils of the Saracens of Nocera (l. vii. c. 102, 103). See his imprisonment, and the efforts of Petrarch, tom. ii. p. 149-151.
[56 ][One of these cardinals asked Petrarch his opinion on the question. Petrarch’s advice was: “Snatch all this pestilential tyranny from the hands of the nobles; not only give the Plebs Romana a share of the public dignities, but deprive the unworthy Senators of the office which they have so badly administered” (Gregorovius, vi. p. 330).]
[57 ]The troubles of Rome, from the departure to the return of Rienzi, are related by Matteo Villani (l. ii. c. 47; l. iii. c. 33, 57, 78) and Thomas Fortifiocca (l. iii. c. 1-4). I have slightly passed over these secondary characters, who imitated the original tribune.
[58 ][The Fraticelli of Monte Majella in the Abruzzi. Rienzi stayed there above two years, doing penance for his sins.]
[59 ]These visions, of which the friends and enemies of Rienzi seem alike ignorant, are surely magnified by the zeal of Pollistore, a Dominican inquisitor (Rer. Ital. tom. xxv. c. 36, p. 819). Had the tribune taught that Christ was succeeded by the Holy Ghost, that the tyranny of the pope would be abolished, he might have been convicted of heresy and treason without offending the Roman people. [The letters of Rienzi at this time (given in Papencordt’s work cited above, p. 128, note 20) are very important. They portray the state of Rome; indict the Pope; and are thoroughly Ghibelline in spirit, expressing the need of keeping the secular and ecclesiastical powers apart. Gregorovius says (vi. 346): “The tribune in chains at Prague was more dangerous to the Papacy than he had been when at the height of his power in the Capitol. He now expressed, like the Monarchists, the necessity for mankind of a reformation; and this constitutes the serious importance of this extraordinary Roman, and secures him a place in history.”]
[60 ]The astonishment, the envy almost, of Petrarch is a proof, if not of the truth of this incredible fact, at least of his own veracity. The Abbé de Sade (Mémoires, tom. iii. p. 242) quotes the vith epistle of the xiiith book of Petrarch, but it is of the royal MS. which he consulted, and not of the ordinary Basil edition (p. 920).
[61 ]Ægidius or Giles Albornoz, a noble Spaniard, archbishop of Toledo, and cardinal legate in Italy ( 1353-1367), restored, by his arms and counsels, the temporal dominion of the popes. His life has been separately written by Sepulveda; but Dryden could not reasonably suppose that his name, or that of Wolsey, had reached the ears of the Mufti in Don Sebastian.
[62 ]From Matteo Villani and Fortifiocca, the P. du Cerceau (p. 344-394) has extracted the life and death of the Chevalier Montreal, the life of a robber, and the death of an hero. At the head of a free company, the first that desolated Italy, he became rich and formidable; he had money in all the banks, 60,000 ducats in Padua alone.
[63 ]The exile, second government, and death of Rienzi are minutely related by the anonymous Roman who appears neither his friend nor his enemy (l. iii. c. 12-25). Petrarch, who loved the tribune, was indifferent to the fate of the senator.
[64 ]The hopes and the disappointment of Petrarch are agreeably described in his own words by the French biographer (Mémoires, tom. iii. p. 575-613); but the deep though secret wound was the coronation of Zanubi, the poetlaureat, by Charles IV.
[65 ]See, in his accurate and amusing biographer, the application of Petrarch and Rome to Benedict XII. in the year 1334 (Mémoires, tom. i. p. 261-265), to Clement VI. in 1342 (tom. ii. p. 45-47), and to Urban V. in 1366 (tom. iii. p. 677-691); his praise (p. 711-715) and excuse (p. 771) of the last of these pontiffs. His angry controversy on the respective merits of France and Italy may be found (Opp. p. 1068-1085).
He spins this allegory beyond all measure or patience. The epistles to Urban V. in prose are more simple and persuasive (Senilium, l. vii. p. 811-827; l. ix. epist. i. p. 844-854).
[67 ][Vinum Bennense, “Beaune.”]
[68 ]I have not leisure to expatiate on the legends of St. Bridget or St. Catherine, the last of which might furnish some amusing stories. Their effect on the mind of Gregory XI. is attested by the last solemn words of the dying pope, who admonished the assistants, ut caverent ab hominibus, sive viris, sive mulieribus, sub specie religionis loquentibus visiones sui capitis, quia per tales ipse seductus, &c. (Baluz. Not. ad Vit. Pap. Avenionensium, tom. i. p. 1223). [St. Bridge was the wife of a great Swedish noble, Ulf Gudmarson. Her Life by Bartholdus de Roma is published in the Acta Sanctorum, 8th October, iv. p. 495 sqq. Her Revelations have been frequently edited, most recently (Revel. Selectæ) by A. Heuser, 1851. There is also an English translation: “Certayne revelacyons of St. Brigitte,” by Th. Godfrey (London, no date). The most important monograph is by a Swede, F. Hammerich, and has been done into German by A. Michelsen: St. Birgitta die nordische Prophetin und Ordensstifterin, 1872. There is also a Danish monograph by A. Brinkmann (1893); and a French by the Comtesse de Flavigny: Sainte Brigitte de Suède, 1892. — There is an immense literature on Catherine of Siena. Chavin de Malan’s Histoire de Sainte Catherine de Sienne, 2 vols., 1846, and Augusta T. Drane’s History of St. Catherine of Siena with her companions (with a translation of her treatise on Consummate Perfection), 2 vols., 1887, may be mentioned. The letters of the saint have been edited by N. Tommaseo in 4 vols., 1860.]
[69 ]This predatory expedition is related by Froissart (Chronique, tom. i. p. 230), and in the life of du Guesclin (Collection Générale des Mémoires Historiques, tom. iv. c. 16, p. 107-113). As early as the year 1361, the court of Avignon had been molested by similar freebooters, who afterwards passed the Alps (Mémoires sur Pétrarque, tom. iii. p. 563-569).
[70 ]Fleury alleges, from the annals of Odericus Raynaldus, the original treaty which was signed the 21st of December 1376 between Gregory XI. and the Romans (Hist. Ecclés. tom. xx. p. 275).
[71 ]The first crown or regnum (Ducange, Gloss. Latin. tom. v. p. 702) on the Episcopal mitre of the popes is ascribed to the gift of Constantine [to Pope Sylvester] or Clovis. The second was added by Boniface VIII. as the emblem, not only of a spiritual, but of a temporal, kingdom. The three states of the church are represented by the triple crown which was introduced by John XXII. or Benedict XII. (Mémoires sur Pétrarque, tom. i. p. 258, 259). [The regnum or pointed tiara “originally consisted of white peacock’s feathers, and was later ornamented with precious stones, encircled by a gold rim, and afterwards by three diadems; the whole was surmounted by a carbuncle.” Gregorovius, v. p. 8 (where there is a description of the papal coronation). The three diadems are said to have been added by Nicholas I., Boniface VIII., and Urban V. Monograph: Zöpffel, Die Papstwahlen und die mit ihnen im nächsten Zusammenhang stehenden Ceremonien vom 11 bis 14 Jahrhundert, 1871.]
[72 ]Baluze (Not. ad Pap. Avenion. tom. i. p. 1194, 1195) produces the original evidence, which attests the threats of the Roman ambassadors, and the resignation of the abbot of Mount Cassin, qui ultro se offerens respondit se civem Romanum esse, et illud velle quod ipsi vellent.
[73 ]The return of the popes from Avignon to Rome, and their reception by the people, are related in the original Lives of Urban V. and Gregory XI. in Baluze (Vit. Paparum Avenionensium, tom. i. p. 363-486) and Muratori (Script. Rer. Italicarum, tom. iii. p. i. p. 610-712). In the disputes of the schism, every circumstance was severely though partially scrutinised, more especially in the great inquest which decided the obedience of Castile, and to which Baluze, in his notes, so often and so largely appeals, from a MS. volume in the Harley library (p. 1281, &c.). [See the works of Theodoricus de Niem: De scismate (ed. Erler, 1890); Vitae Pontificum Romanorum a Nicolao IV. usque ad Urbanum V. with an anonymous continuation to 1418 (in Eccard, Corpus hist. medii aevi (i. p. 1461 sqq.); Nemus Unionis (collection of documents for Gregory XII. and Benedict XIII.) ed. Schard (with the De scismate), 1566. Monograph: G. Erler, Dietrich von Nieheim; sein Leben und seine Schriften, 1887.]
[74 ]Can the death of a good man be esteemed a punishment by those who believe in the immortality of the soul? They betray the instability of their faith. Yet, as a mere philosopher, I cannot agree with the Greeks, δν οί θεοὶ ϕιλον̂σιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος (Brunck, Poetæ Gnomici, p. 231). See in Herodotus (l. i. c. 31) the moral and pleasing tale of the Argive youths.
[75 ]In the first book of the Histoire du Concile de Pise, M. Lenfant has abridged and compared the original narratives of the adherents of Urban and Clement, of the Italians and Germans, the French and Spaniards. The latter appear to be the most active and loquacious, and every fact and word in the original Lives of Gregory XI. and Clement VII. are supported in the notes of their editor Baluze.
[76 ]The ordinal numbers of the popes seem to decide the question against Clement VII. and Benedict XIII. who are boldly stigmatised as anti-popes by the Italians, while the French are content with authorities and reasons to plead the cause of doubt and toleration (Baluz. in Præfat.). It is singular, or rather it is not singular, that saints, visions, and miracles should be common to both parties.
[77 ]Baluze strenuously labours (Not. p. 1271-1280) to justify the pure and pious motives of Charles V., king of France: he refused to hear the arguments of Urban; but were not the Urbanists equally deaf to the reasons of Clement, &c.?
[78 ]An epistle, or declamation, in the name of Edward III. (Baluz. Vit. Pap. Avenion. tom. i. p. 553) displays the zeal of the English nation against the Clementines. Nor was their zeal confined to words; the bishop of Norwich led a crusade of 60,000 bigots beyond sea (Hume’s History, vol. iii. p. 57, 58).
[79 ]Besides the general historians, the Diaries of Delphinus Gentilis, Peter Antonius, and Stephen Infessura, in the great Collection of Muratori, represent the state and misfortunes of Rome.
[80 ]It is supposed by Giannone (tom. iii. p. 292) that he styled himself Rex Romæ, a title unknown to the world since the expulsion of Tarquin. But a nearer inspection has justified the reading of Rex Ramæ, of Rama, an obscure kingdom annexed to the crown of Hungary.
[81 ]The leading and decisive part which France assumed in the schism is stated by Peter du Puis, in a separate history, extracted from authentic records, and inserted in the seventh volume of the last and best edition of his friend Thuanus (tom. xi. p. 110-184).
[82 ]Of this measure, John Gerson, a stout doctor, was the author or the champion. The proceedings of the university of Paris [of which he was chancellor] and the Gallican church were often prompted by his advice, and are copiously displayed in his theological writings, of which Le Clerc (Bibliothèque Choisie, tom. x. p. 1-78) has given a valuable extract. John Gerson acted an important part in the councils of Pisa and Constance. [The collective works of Gerson were issued several times in the 15th century. The best edition is that of Ellies Du Pin, 1706. Monographs: J. B. Schwab, Johannes Gerson, 1858; A. L. Masson, Jean Gerson, sa vie, son temps, ses œuvres, 1894.]
[83 ]Leonardus Brunus Aretinus, one of the revivers of classic learning in Italy, who, after serving many years as secretary in the Roman court, retired to the honourable office of chancellor of the republic of Florence (Fabric. Bibliot. medii Ævi, tom. i. p. 290). Lenfant has given the version of this curious epistle (Concile de Pise, tom. i. p. 192-195). [The Letters of Leonardus were edited in eight books by L. Mehns, 1741.]
[84 ][Pietro Filargo was a native of Candia. The last Greek Pope was John VII. (elected 705).]
[85 ][Theodoric of Niem, Historia de vita Johannis XXIII., in Meibomius, Ser. rer. Germ. i. p. 5 sqq. C. Hunger, Zur Geschichte Papst Johanns, xxiii. 1876.]
[86 ]I cannot overlook this great national cause, which was vigorously maintained by the English ambassadors against those of France. The latter contended that Christendom was essentially distributed into the four great nations and votes of Italy, Germany, France, and Spain; and that the lesser kingdoms (such as England, Denmark, Portugal, &c.) were comprehended under one or other of these great divisions. The English asserted that the British islands, of which they were the head, should be considered as a fifth and co-ordinate nation with an equal vote; and every argument of truth or fable was introduced to exalt the dignity of their country. Including England, Scotland, Wales, the four kingdoms of Ireland, and the Orkneys, the British islands are decorated with eight royal crowns, and discriminated by four or five languages, English, Welsh, Cornish, Scotch, Irish, &c. The greater island, from north to south, measures 800 miles, or 40 days’ journey; and England alone contains 32 counties, and 52,000 parish churches (a bold account!), besides cathedrals, colleges, priories, and hospitals. They celebrate the mission of St. Joseph of Arimathea, the birth of Constantine, and the legatine powers of the two primates, without forgetting the testimony of Bartholemy de Glanville ( 1360), who reckons only four Christian kingdoms, 1. of Rome, 2. of Constantinople, 3. of Ireland, which had been transferred to the English monarchs, and 4. of Spain. Our countrymen prevailed in the council, but the victories of Henry V. added much weight to their arguments. The adverse pleadings were found at Constance by Sir Robert Wingfield, ambassador from Henry VIII. to the emperor Maximilian I. and by him printed in 1517, at Louvain. From a Leipsic MS. they are more correctly published in the Collection of Von der Hardt, tom. v.; but I have only seen Lenfant’s abstract of these acts (Concile de Constance, tom. ii. p. 447, 453, &c.).
[87 ]The histories of the three successive councils, Pisa, Constance, and Basil, have been written with a tolerable degree of candour, industry, and elegance, by a Protestant minister, M. Lenfant, who retired from France to Berlin. They form six volumes in quarto; and, as Basil is the worst, so Constance is the best, part of the Collection. [See above, vol. xi. p. 253, note 40.]
[88 ]See the xxviith Dissertation of the Antiquities of Muratori, and the ist Instruction of the Science des Médailles of the Père Joubert and the Baron de la Bastie. The Metallic History of Martin V. and his successors has been composed by two monks, Moulinet a Frenchman, and Bonanni an Italian; but I understand that the first part of the series is restored from more recent coins.
[89 ]Besides the Lives of Eugenius IV. (Rerum Italic. tom. iii. p. i. p. 869, and [the Life by Vespasianus Florentinus] tom. xxv. p. 256), the Diaries of Paul Petroni and Stephen Infessura are the best original evidence for the revolt of the Romans against Eugenius IV. The former, who lived at the time and on the spot, speaks the language of a citizen equally afraid of priestly and popular tyranny.
[90 ]The coronation of Frederic III. is described by Lenfant (Concile de Basle, tom. ii. p. 276-288) from Æneas Sylvius, a spectator and actor in that splendid scene.
[91 ]The oath of fidelity imposed on the emperor by the pope is recorded and sanctified in the Clementines (l. ii. tit. ix.); and Æneas Sylvius, who objects to this new demand, could not foresee that in a few years he should ascend the throne and imbibe the maxims of Boniface VIII.
[92 ]Lo senatore di Roma, vestito di brocarto con quella beretta, e con quelle maniche, et ornamenti di pelle, co’ quali va alle feste di Testaccio e Nagone, might escape the eye of Æneas Sylvius, but he is viewed with admiration and complacency by the Roman citizen (Diario di Stephano Infessura, p. 1133). [See Gregorovius, v. p. 289 sqq.]
[93 ]See, in the statutes of Rome, the senator and three judges (l. i. c. 3-14), the conservators (l. i. c. 15-17; l. iii. c. 4), the caporioni (l. i. c. 18; l. iii. c. 8), the secret council (l. iii. c. 2), the common council (l. iii. c. 3). The title of feuds, defiances, acts of violence, &c. is spread through many a chapter (c. 14-40) of the second book.
[94 ][Urban V. introduced the three Conservators of the Civic Camera — “a civic council with judicial and administrative power whose office endures to the present day,” Gregorovius, v. p. 439. At the same time, Urban abolished the Council of Seven Reformatores, who had been elected in 1358 to advise the Senators, and suppressed the “Banderesi,” the heads of military companies which had been organised in 1356. These Banderesi executed justice (like the Gonfalonieri in Florence), and their power had become very tyrannical. See Gregorovius, ib. p. 403.]
[95 ]Statuta almæ Urbis Romæ Auctoritate S. D. N. Gregorii XIII. Pont. Max. a Senatu Populoque Rom. reformata et edita. Romæ, 1580, in folio. The obsolete, repugnant statutes of antiquity were confounded in five books, and Lucas Pætus, a lawyer and antiquarian, was appointed to act as the modern Tribonian. Yet I regret the old code, with the rugged crust of freedom and barbarism.
[96 ]In my time (1765), and in M. Grosley’s (Observations sur l’Italie, tom. ii. p. 361), the senator of Rome was M. Bielke, a noble Swede, and a proselyte to the Catholic faith. The pope’s right to appoint the senator and the conservator is implied rather than affirmed in the statutes.
[97 ]Besides the curious though concise narrative of Machiavel (Istoria Florentina, l. vi. Opere, tom. i. p. 210, 211, edit. Londra, 1747, in 4to), the Porcarian conspiracy is related in the Diary of Stephen Infessura (Rer. Ital. tom. iii. p. ii. p. 1134, 1135), and in a separate tract by Leo Baptista Alberti (Rer. Ital. tom. xxv. p. 609-614). It is amusing to compare the style and sentiments of the courtier and citizen. Facinus profecto quo . . . neque periculo horribilius, neque audaciâ detestabilius, neque crudelitate tetrius, a quoquam perditissimo uspiam excogitatum sit. . . . Perdette la vita quell’ huomo da bene, e amatore dello bene e libertà di Roma. Another source: Petrus de Godis, Dyalogon de conjuratione Porcaria, was first published by M. Perlbach in 1879. See also Tommasini, Documenti relativi a Stefano Porcari, in the Arch. della Soc. rom. di storia patria, iii. p. 63 sqq. 1879; Sanesi, Stefano Porcari e la sua congiura, 1887.]
[98 ]The disorders of Rome, which were much inflamed by the partiality of Sixtus IV., are exposed in the diaries of two spectators, Stephen Infessura and an anonymous citizen. See the troubles of the year 1484, and the death of the proto-notary Colonna, in tom. iii. p. ii. p. 1083, 1158.
[99 ]Est toute la terre de l’église troublée pour cette partialité (des Colonnes et des Ursins), come nous dirions Luce et Grammont, ou en Hollande Houc et Caballan; et quand ce ne seroit ce différend la terre de l’église seroit la plus heureuse habitation pour les sujets, qui soit dans tout le monde (car ils ne payent ni tailes ni guères autres choses), et seroient toujours bien conduits (car toujours les papes sont sages et bien conseillés); mais très souvent en advient de grands et cruels meurtres et pilleries.
[100 ]By the economy of Sixtus V. the revenue of the ecclesiastical state was raised to two millions and a half of Roman crowns (Vita, tom. ii. p. 291-296); and so regular was the military establishment that in one month Clement VIII. could invade the duchy of Ferrara with three thousand horse and twenty thousand foot (tom. iii. p. 64). Since that time ( 1597), the papal arms are happily rusted; but the revenue must have gained some nominal increase.
[101 ]More especially by Guicciardini and Machiavel: in the general history of the former, in the Florentine history, the Prince, and the political discourses of the latter. These, with their worthy successors, Fra Paolo and Davila, were justly esteemed the first historians of modern languages, till, in the present age, Scotland arose to dispute the prize with Italy herself.
[102 ]In the history of the Gothic siege, I have compared the Barbarians with the subjects of Charles V. (vol. v. p. 250-251): an anticipation which, like that of the Tartar conquests, I indulged with the less scruple, as I could scarcely hope to reach the conclusion of my work.
[103 ]The ambitious and feeble hostilities of the Caraffa pope, Paul IV., may be seen in Thuanus (l. xvi.-xviii.) and Giannone (tom. iv. p. 149-163). Those Catholic bigots, Philip II. and the duke of Alva, presumed to separate the Roman prince from the vicar of Christ; yet the holy character, which would have sanctified his victory, was decently applied to protect his defeat. [For the Popes of the 16th century, see Ranke, History of the Popes, their Church and State (Eng. tr. by Kelly), 1843.]
[104 ]This gradual change of manners and expense is admirably explained by Dr. Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations, vol. i. p. 495-504), who proves, perhaps too severely, that the most salutary effects have flowed from the meanest and most selfish causes.
[105 ]Mr. Hume (Hist. of England, vol. i. p. 389) too hastily concludes that, if the civil and ecclesiastical powers be united in the same person, it is of little moment whether he be styled prince or prelate, since the temporal character will always predominate.
[106 ]A Protestant may disdain the unworthy preference of St. Francis or St. Dominic, but he will not rashly condemn the zeal or judgment of Sixtus V. who placed the statues of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul on the vacant columns of Trajan and Antonine.
[107 ]A wandering Italian, Gregorio Leti, has given the Vita di Sisto-Quinto (Amstel. 1721, 3 vols. in 12mo), a copious and amusing work, but which does not command our absolute confidence. Yet the character of the man, and the principal facts, are supported by the annals of Spondanus and Muratori ( 1585-1590), and the contemporary history of the great Thuanus (l. lxxxii. c. 1, 2; l. lxxxiv. c. 10; l. c. c. 8). [The source of Leti was a collection of anecdotes, of apocryphal character, entitled Detti e fatti di papa Sisto V., of which the MS. is in the Corsini library at Rome. This discovery was made by Ranke. See his Sämmtliche Werke, vol. 39, pp. 59-65 (in Appendix to his Lives of the Popes).]
[108 ]These privileged places, the quartieri or franchises, were adopted from the Roman nobles by the foreign ministers. Julius II. had once abolished the abominandum et detestandum franchitiarum hujusmodi nomen; and after Sixtus V. they again revived. I cannot discern either the justice or magnanimity of Louis XIV. who, in 1687, sent his ambassador, the marquis de Lavardin, to Rome, with an armed force of a thousand officers, guards, and domestics, to maintain this iniquitous claim, and insult Pope Innocent XI. in the heart of his capital (Vita di Sisto V. tom. iii. p. 260-278; Muratori, Annali d’Italia, tom. xv. p. 494-496; and Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV. tom. ii. c. 14, p. 58, 59).
[109 ]This outrage produced a decree, which was inscribed on marble and placed in the Capitol. It is expressed in a style of manly simplicity and freedom: Si quis, sive privatus, sive magistratum gerens de collocandâ vivo pontifici statuâ mentionem facere ausit, legitimo S. P. Q. R. decreto in perpetuum infamis et publicorum munerum expers esto. MDXC. mense Augusto (Vita di Sisto V. tom. iii. p. 469). I believe that this decree is still observed, and I know that every monarch who deserves a statue should himself impose the prohibition.
[110 ]The histories of the church, Italy, and Christendom have contributed to the chapter which I now conclude. In the original Lives of the Popes, we often discover the city and republic of Rome; and the events of the xivth and xvth centuries are preserved in the rude and domestic chronicles which I have carefully inspected, and shall recapitulate in the order of time.
Except the last, all these fragments and diaries are inserted in the Collections of Muratori, my guide and master in the history of Italy. His country and the public are indebted to him for the following works on that subject: 1. Rerum Italicarum Scriptores ( 500-1500), quorum potissima pars nunc primum in lucem prodit, &c. xxviii. vols. in folio, Milan, 1723-1738, 1751. A volume of chronological and alphabetical tables is still wanting as a key to this great work, which is yet in a disorderly and defective state. [After the lapse of nearly a century and a half this great Collection has been supplied with Chronological Indices by J. Calligaris and others: Indices Chronologici ad Script. Rer. Ital. 1885.] 2. Antiquitates Italiæ medii Ævi, vi. vols. in folio, Milan, 1738-1743, in lxxv. curious dissertations on the manners, government, religion, &c. of the Italians of the darker ages, with a large supplement of charters, chronicles, &c. [Also published in 17 quarto volumes at Arezzo, 1777-80. Chronological Indexes have been prepared to this work too by Battaglino and Calligaris, 1889, &c.] 3. Dissertazioni sopra le Antiquità Italiane, iii. vols. in 4to, Milano, 1751, a free version by the author, which may be quoted with the same confidence as the Latin text of the Antiquities. 4. Annali d’Italia, xviii. vols. in octavo, Milan, 1753-1756, a dry, though accurate and useful, abridgment of the history of Italy, from the birth of Christ to the middle of the xviiith century. 5. Dell’ Antichità Estense ed Italiane, ii. vols. in folio, Modena, 1717, 1740. In the history of this illustrious race, the parent of our Brunswick kings, the critic is not seduced by the loyalty or gratitude of the subject. In all his works, Muratori proves himself a diligent and laborious writer, who aspires above the prejudices of a Catholic priest. He was born in the year 1672, and died in the year 1750, after passing near sixty years in the libraries of Milan and Modena (Vita del Proposto Ludovico Antonio Muratori, by his nephew and successor, Gian. Francesco Soli Muratori, Venezia, 1756, in 4to). [Several biographies of Muratori have appeared since; e.g. by Reina in 1819; by Brigidi in 1871. In 1872, the centenary of his birth, were published: Belviglieri, La vita, le opere, i tempi di L. A. Muratori; and Roncaglia, Vita di L. A. Mur.]