Vol. 6, Chapter VIII (Cont’d) – The Revival of Paganism


The revival of letters and the cultivation of art brought no purification of morals to Italy nor relief from religious formalism. The great modern historians of the period, — Voigt, Burckhardt, Gregorovius, Pastor, Creighton and Symonds, — agree in depicting the decline of religion and the degeneracy of morals in dark colors, although Pastor endeavors to rescue the Church from the charge of total neglect of its duty and to clear the medieval hierarchy and theology from the charge of being responsible for the semi-paganism of the Renaissance.

The medieval theology had put the priesthood in the place of the individual conscience. Far from possessing any passion to rescue Italy from a religious formalism which involved the seeds of stagnation of thought and moral disintegration, the priesthood was corrupt at heart and corrupt in practice in the highest seats of Christendom. Finding the clerical mind of Italy insincere and the moral condition of the Church corrupt, Humanism not only made no serious effort to amend this deplorable state but, on the contrary, it contributed to the further decadence of morals by a revival of paganism, now Epicurean, now Stoical, attested both in the lives and the writings of many of its chief leaders. Gregorovius has felt justified in pronouncing the terrible sentence that the sole end of the Italian Renaissance was paganism.

The worship of classical forms led to the adoption of classical ideas. There were not wanting Humanists and artists who combined culture with Christian faith, and devoted their genius to the cause of truth and virtue. Traversari strictly observed the rules of his monastic order; Manetti, Lionardo Bruni, Vittorino da Feltre, Ficino, Sadoleto, Fra Angelico, Fra Bartolomeo, Michelangelo and others were devout Christian believers. Traversari at first hesitated to translate classic authors and, when he did, justified himself on the ground that the more the Pagan writers were understood, the more would the excellence of the Christian system be made manifest. But Poggio, Filelfo, Valla and the majority of the other writers of the Renaissance period, such as Ariosto, Aretino, Machiavelli, were indifferent to religion, or despised it in the form they saw it manifested. Culture was substituted for Christianity, the worship of art and eloquence for reverence for truth and holiness. The Humanists sacrificed in secret and openly to the gods of Greece and Rome rather than to the God of the Bible. Yet, they were not independent enough to run the risk of an open rupture with orthodoxy, which would have subjected them to the Inquisition and death at the stake. Yea, those who were most flagrant in their attacks upon the ecclesiastics of their time often professed repentance for their writings in their last days, as Boccaccio and Bandello, and applied for extreme unction before death. So it was with Machiavelli, who died with the consolations of the Church which he undermined with his pen, with the half-Pagan Pomponius Laetus of Rome and the infamous Sigismondo Malatesta of Rimini, who joined to his patronage of culture the commission of every crime.

Dangerous as it may be to pronounce a final judgment upon the moral purity of a generation, even though, as in the case of the 15th century, it reveals itself clearly in its literature and in the lives of the upper classes, literary men, popes and princes, nevertheless this it is forced upon us to do. The Renaissance in Italy produced no Thomas à Kempis. No devout mystics show signs of a reform movement in her convents and among her clergy, though, it is true, there were earnest preachers who cried out for moral reform, as voices crying in the wilderness. Nor are we unmindful of the ethical disintegration of the Church and society at other periods and in other countries, as in France under Louis XIV., when we call attention to the failure of religion in the country of the popes and at a time of great literary and artistic activity to bear fruits in righteousness of life.

The Humanists were the natural enemies of the monks. For this they cannot be blamed. As a class, the monks hated learning, boasted of superior piety, made a display of their proud humility and yet were constantly quarrelling with each other. Boccaccio and the novelists would not have selected monks and nuns as heroes and heroines of their obscene tales if monastic life had not been in a degenerate state. Poggio, Filelfo, Valla, Bandello, Machiavelli, Ariosto, Aretino and Erasmus and the writers of the Epistolae virorum obscurorum chastised with caustic irony and satire the hypocrisy and vices of the monastic class, or turned its members into a butt of ridicule. To the charges of unchastity and general hypocrisy was added the imposition of false miracles upon the ignorant and credulous. It was common rumor that the nuns were the property of the monks. The literature of the 15th century teems with such charges, and Savonarola was never more intense than when he attacked the clergy for their faithlessness and sins. Machiavelli openly declared “we Italians are of all most irreligious and corrupt,” and he adds, “we are so because the representatives of the Church have shown us the worst example.” Pastor has suggested that Humanists, who were themselves leading corrupt lives, were ill-fitted to sit in judgment upon the priesthood. This in a sense is true, and their representations, taken alone, would do no more than create an unfavorable presumption, but their statements are confirmed by the scandals of the papal court and the social conditions in Rome; and Rome was not worse than Venice, Florence and other Italian towns. The same distinguished historian seeks to parry the attacks of Humanistic writers and to offset the lives of the hierarchy by a long list of 89 saints of the calendar who lived 1400-1520. The number is imposing, but outside of Bernardino da Siena, Fra Angelico, Jacopo della Marca and John of Capistrano, few of the names are known to general history, and the last two showed traits which the common judgment of mankind is not inclined to regard as saintly. Pastor also adduces the wills of the dying, in which provision was made for ecclesiastical objects, but these may indicate superstitious fear as well as intelligent piety. After all is said, it remains true that the responsibility and the guilt were with the clergy, who were rightly made the targets of the wits, satirists and philosophers of the time.

But while the Humanists were condemning the clerical class, many, yea, the most of them, lived in flagrant violation of the moral code themselves and inclined to scepticism or outright paganism. In their veneration of antiquity, they made the system of Plato of equal authority with the Christian system, or placed its authority above the Christian scheme. They advocated a return to the dictates of nature, which meant the impulses of the natural and sensuous man. The watchword, sequere naturam, “follow nature,” was launched as a philosophical principle. The hard-fought controversy which raged over the relative merits of the two Greek thinkers, Aristotle and Plato, was opened by Plethon, who accused Aristotle of atheism. The battle was continued for many years, calling forth from contestants the bitterest personal assaults. In defending Plato, Ficino set the philosopher so high as to obscure the superior claims of the Christian religion, and it was seriously proposed to combine with the Scripture readings of the liturgy excerpts from Plato’s writings.

The immortality of the soul was formally questioned by Pietro Pomponazzi, a popular teacher of the Aristotelian philosophy in Padua and Bologna. His tract, published in 1516, was burnt by the Franciscans at Venice, but was saved from a like fate in Rome and Florence by the intervention of Bembo and Julius de’ Medici. So widespread was the philosophy of materialism that the Fifth Lateran three years before, Dec. 19, 1513, deemed it necessary to reaffirm the doctrine of the soul’s immortality and to instruct professors at the universities to answer the arguments of the materialists. In the age of Julius II. and Leo X., scepticism reigned universally in Rome, and the priests laughed among themselves over their religious functions as the augurs once did in the ancient city.

The chief indictment against Humanism is, that it lacked a serious moral sense, which is an essential element of the Christian system. Nor did it at any time show a purpose of morally redeeming itself or seek after a regenerative code of ethics. It declined into an intellectual and esthetic luxury, a habit of self-indulgence for the few, with no provision for the betterment of society at large and apparently no concern for such betterment. The Humanists were addicted to arrogance, vanity, and lacked principle and manly dignity. They were full of envy and jealousy, engaged in disgraceful personal quarrels among themselves and stooped to sycophancy in the presence of the rich and powerful. Politian, Filelfo and Valla agreed in begging for presents and places in terms of abject flattery. While they poured contempt upon the functionaries of religion, they failed to imitate the self-denying virtues which monasticism enjoined and that regard for the rights of others which Christian teaching commands. Under the influence of the Renaissance was developed that delusive principle, called honor, which has played such an extensive rôle in parts of Europe and under which a polished culture may conceal the most refined selfishness.

No pugilistic encounter could be more brutal than the literary feuds between distinguished men of letters. Poggio and Filelfo fought with poisoned daggers. To sully these pages, says Symonds, “with Poggio’s rank abuse would be impossible.” Poggio, not content with thrusts at Filelfo’s literary abilities, accused him of the worst vices, and poured out calumnies on Filelfo’s wife and mother. In Poggio’s contest with George of Trebizond, the two athletes boxed each other’s ears and tore one another’s hair. George had accused Poggio of taking credit for translations of Xenophon and Diodorus which did not belong to him. Between Valla and Fazio eight books of invectives were exchanged. Bezold is forced to say that such feuds revealed perhaps more than the cynicism of the Italian poetry the complete moral decay.

To the close of the period, the Renaissance literature abounds in offences against morality and decency. Poggio was already 70 years of age when he published his filthy Facetiae, Jest-book, which appeared 26 times in print before 1500 and in 3 Italian translations. Of Poggio’s works, Burckhardt says, “They contain dirt enough to create a prejudice against the whole class of Humanists.” Filelfo’s epigrams, De jocis et seriis, are declared by his biographer, Rosmini, to contain “horrible obscenities and expressions from the streets and the brothels.” Beccadelli and Aretino openly preached the emancipation of the flesh, and were not ashamed to embellish and glorify licentiousness in brilliant verses, for which they received the homage of princes and prelates. Beccadelli’s Hermaphroditus was furiously attacked by the monks in the pulpit, but applauded by the Humanists. Cosimo allowed the indecent work to be dedicated to himself, and the author was crowned by the Emperor Sigismund in Siena, 1433, and died old and popular at Naples, 1471. The critics of his obscenities, Beccadelli pointed to the ancient writers. Nicolas was loaned a copy of his notorious production, kept it for nine days and then returned the work without condemning it. Pietro Aretino, d. 1557, the most obscene of the Italian poets, was called il divino Aretino, honored by Charles V., Francis I. and Clement VII., and even dared to aspire to a cardinal’s hat, but found a miserable end. Bandello, d. 1562, in his Facetiae, paints society in dissolution. Moral badness taints every one’s lips. Debauchery in convents is depicted as though it were a common occurrence. And he was a bishop!

Machiavelli, the Florentine politician and historian, a worshipper of ability and power, and admirer of Caesar Borgia, built upon the basis of the Renaissance a political system of absolute egotism; yet he demands of the prince that he shall guard the appearance of five virtues to deceive the ignorant. Under the cover of Stoicism, many Humanists indulged in a refined Epicureanism.

The writers of novels and plays not only portrayed social and domestic immorality without a blush, but purposely depicted it in a dress that would call forth merriment and laughter. Tragedy was never reached by the Renaissance writers. The kernel of this group of works was the faithlessness of married women, for the unmarried were kept under such close supervision that they were with difficulty reached. The skill is enlarged upon with which the paramour works out his plans and the outwitted husband is turned into an object of ridicule. Here we are introduced to courtesans and taken to brothels.

In the Mandragola by Machiavelli, Callimaco, who has been in Paris, returns to Florence determined to make Lucrezia, of whose charms he has heard, his mistress. Assuming the roll of a physician, he persuades her husband, who is anxious for an heir, to allow him to use a potion of mandragora, which will relieve his wife of sterility and at the same time kill the paramour. Working upon the husband’s mind through the mother-in-law and Lucrezia’s confessor, who consents to the plot for a bribe, he secures his end. Vice and adultery are glorified. And this was one of the plays on which Leo X. looked with pleasure! In 1513, in face of the age-long prohibition of the theatre by the Church, this pontiff opened the playhouse on the Capitol. A few years later he witnessed the performance of Ariosto’s comedy the Suppositi. The scenery had been painted by Raphael. The spectators numbered 2,000, Leo looking on from a box with an eye-glass in his hand. The plot centres around a girl’s seduction by her father’s servant. One of the first of the cardinals to open his palace to theatrical representations was Raffaele Riario.

Intellectual freedom in Italy assumed the form of unrestrained indulgence of the sensual nature. In condemning the virginity extolled by the Church, Beccadelli pronounced it a sin against nature. Nature is good, and he urged men to break down the law by mixing with nuns. The hetaerae were of greater service to mankind than monastic recluses. Illegitimacy, as has already been said, was no bar to high position in the state or the Church. Aeneas Sylvius declared that most of the rulers in Italy had been born out of wedlock, and when, as pope, he arrived in Ferrara, 1459, he was met by eight princes, not a single one of them the child of legitimate marriage. The appearance of the Gallic disease in Italy at the close of the 15th century may have made men cautious; the rumor went that Julius II., who did not cross his legs at public service on a certain festival, was one of its victims. Aretino wrote that the times were so debauched that cousins and kinsfolk of both sexes, brothers and sisters, mingled together without number and without a shadow of conscientious scruple.

What else could be expected than the poisoning of all grades of society when, at the central court of Christendom, the fountain was so corrupt. The revels in the Vatican under Alexander VI. and the levity of the court of Leo X. furnished a spectacle which the most virtuous principles could scarcely be expected to resist. Did not a harlequin monk on one occasion furnish the mirth at Leo’s table by his extraordinary voracity in swallowing a pigeon whole, and consuming forty eggs and twenty capons in succession! Innocent VIII.’s son was married to a daughter of the house of the Medici, and Alexander’s son was married into the royal family of France and his daughter Lucrezia into the scarcely less proud family of Este. Sixtus IV. taxed and thereby legalized houses of prostitution for the increase of the revenues of the curia. The 6,800 public prostitutes in Rome in 1490, if we accept Infessura’s figures, were an enormous number in proportion to the population. This Roman diarist says that scarcely a priest was to be found in Rome who did not keep a concubine “for the glory of God and the Christian religion.” All parts of Italy and Spain contributed to the number of courtesans. They lived in greater splendor in Rome than the hetaerae in Athens, and bore classical names, such as Diana, Lucrezia, Camilla, Giulia, Costanza, Imperia, Beatrice. They were accompanied on their promenades and walks to church by poets, counts and prelates, but usually concluded their gilded misery in hospitals after their beauty had faded away.

The almost nameless vice of the ancient world also found its way into Italy, and Humanists and sons of popes like the son of Paul III., Pierluigi Farnese, if not popes themselves, were charged with pederasty. In his 7th satire, Ariosto, d. 1533, went so far as to say it was the vice of almost all the Humanists. For being addicted to it, a Venetian ambassador lost his position, and the charge was brought against the Venetian annalist, Sanuto. Politian, Valla and Aretino and the academicians of Rome had the same accusation laid at their door. The worst cannot be told, so abhorrent to the prime instincts of humanity do the crimes against morality seem. No wonder that Symonds speaks of “an enervation of Italian society in worse than heathen vices.”

To licentiousness were added luxury, gaming, the vendetta or the law of blood-revenge, and murder paid for by third parties. Life was cheap where revenge, a licentious end or the gain of power was a motive. Cardinals added benefice to benefice in order to secure the means of gratifying their luxurious tastes. In the middle of the 16th century, Italy, says Burckhardt, was in a moral crisis, out of which the best men saw no escape. In the opinion of Symonds, who has written seven volumes on the Renaissance, it is “almost impossible to overestimate the moral corruption of Rome at the beginning of the 16th century. And Gregorovius adds that “the richest intellectual life blossomed in a swamp of vices.”

Of open heresy and attacks upon the papal prerogatives, popes were intolerant enough, as was quickly proved, when Luther appeared and Savonarola preached, but not of open immorality and secret infidelity. In the hierarchical interest they maintained the laws of sacerdotal celibacy, but allowed them to be broken by prelates in their confidence and employ, and openly flaunted their own bastard children and concubines. And unfortunately, as has been said, not only did the Humanists, with some exceptions, fall in with the prevailing licentiousness: there even was nothing in their principles to prevent its practice. As a class, the artists were no better than the scholars and, if possible, even more lax in regard to sexual license. Such statements are made not in the spirit of bitterness toward the Church of the Middle Ages, but in deference to historic fact, which ought at once to furnish food for reflection upon the liability of an ecclesiastical organization to err and even to foster vice as well as superstition by its prelatical constitution and unscriptural canons, and also to afford a warning against the captivating but fallacious theory that literature and art, not permeated by the principles of the Christian faith, have the power to redeem themselves or purify society. They did not do it in the palmy days of Greece and Rome, nor did they accomplish any such end in Italy.

In comparing our present century with the period of the Renaissance, there is at least one ground for grateful acknowledgment. The belief in astrology, due largely to the rise of astronomical science, has been renounced. Thomas Aquinas had decided that astrology was a legitimate art when it is used to forecast natural events, such as drought and rain, but when used to predict human actions and destiny it is a demonic cult. At an early period it came to be classed with heresy, and was made amenable to the Inquisition. In 1324, Cecco d’Ascoli, who had shown that the position of libra rendered the crucifixion of Christ inevitable, was obliged to abjure, and his astrolabe and other instruments were burnt, 1327, by the tribunal at Florence. In spite of Petrarca’s ridicule, the cult continued. The Chancellor D’Ailly gave it credit. Scarcely a pope or Italian prince or republic of the latter part of the Renaissance period who did not have his astrologer or yield to the delusion in a larger or smaller measure, as, for example, Sixtus IV., Julius II. and Leo X., as well as Paul III. at a period a little later. Julius II. delayed his coronation several weeks, to Nov. 26, 1503, the lucky day announced by the astrologer. Ludovico of Milan waited upon favorable signs in the heavens before taking an important step.

On the other hand, Savonarola condemned the belief, and was followed by Pico della Mirandola and Erasmus. To the freedom of human action astrology opposed a fatalistic view of the world. This was felt at the time, and Matteo Villani said more than once that “no constellation is able to compel the free-will of man or thwart God’s decree.” Before the 15th century had come to a close, the cult was condemned to extinction in France, 1494, but in Germany, in spite of the spread of the Copernican system, it continued to have its followers for more than a century. The great Catholic leader in the Thirty Years’ War, Wallenstein, continued, in the face of reverses, to follow the supposed indications of the heavenly bodies, and Schiller puts into his mouth the words:

The stars he not; what’s happened

Has turned out against the course of star and fate;

Art does not play us false. The false heart

‘Tis, which drags falsehood into the truth-telling heavens.

The revolt against the ascendancy of medieval priestcraft and scholastic dialectic was a great and necessary movement demanded by the sane intents of mankind. The Italian Renaissance led the revolt. It gave liberty to the individual and so far its work was wholesome, but it was liberty not bound by proper restraints. It ran wild in an excess of indulgence, so that Machiavelli could say, “Italy is the corruption of the world.” When the restraint came, it came from the North as it had come centuries before, in the days of the Ottos, in the 10th century. When studies in Italy set aside the ideals of Christianity, when religion seemed to be in danger of expiring and social virtue of altogether giving way, then the voice was raised in Wittenberg which broke with monastic asceticism and scholasticism and, at the same time, asserted an individualism under the control of conscience and reverence for God.


68. Humanism in Germany

Humanistic studies were late in finding entrance into Germany. They were opposed not so much by priestly ignorance and prejudice, as was the case in Italy, as by the scholastic theology which reigned at the universities. German Humanism may be dated from the invention of the printing-press about 1450. Its flourishing period began at the close of the 15th century and lasted only till about 1520, when it was absorbed by the more popular and powerful religious movement, the Reformation, as Italian Humanism was superseded by the papal counter-Reformation. Marked features distinguished the new culture north of the Alps from the culture of the Italians. The university and school played a much more important part than in the South. The representatives of the new scholarship were teachers, even Erasmus, who taught in Cambridge, and was on intimate terms with the professors at Basel. During the progress of the movement new universities sprang up, from Basel to Rostock. Again, in Germany, there were no princely patrons of arts and learning to be compared in intelligence and munificence to the Renaissance popes and the Medici. Nor was the new culture here exclusive and aristocratic. It sought the general spread of intelligence, and was active in the development of primary and grammar schools. In fact, when the currents of the Italian Renaissance began to set toward the North, a strong, independent, intellectual current was pushing down from the flourishing schools conducted by the Brothers of the Common Life. In the Humanistic movement, the German people was far from being a slavish imitator. It received an impulse from the South, but made its own path. Had Italy been careful to take lessons from the pedagogy of the North, it is probable her people would to-day be advanced far beyond what they are in intelligence and letters.

In the North, Humanism entered into the service of religious progress. German scholars were less brilliant and elegant, but more serious in their purpose and more exact in their scholarship than their Italian predecessors and contemporaries. In the South, the ancient classics absorbed the attention of the literati. It was not so in the North. There was no consuming passion to render the classics into German as there had been in Italy. Nor did Italian literature, with its loose moral teachings, find imitators in the North. Boccaccio’s Decameron was first translated into German by the physician, Henry Stainhöwel, who died in 1482. North of the Alps, the attention was chiefly centred on the Old and New Testaments. Greek and Hebrew were studied, not with the purpose of ministering to a cult of antiquity, but to more perfectly reach the fountains of the Christian system. In this way, preparation was made for the constructive work of the Protestant Reformation.

And what was true of the scholarship of Germany was also true of its art. The painters, Albrecht Dürer, who was born and died at Nürnberg, 1471-1528, Lukas Kranach, 1472-1553, and for the most part Hans Holbein, 1497-1543, were free from the pagan element and contributed to the spread of the Reformation. Kranach lived in Wittenberg after 1504 and painted portraits of Luther, Melanchthon and other leaders of the German Reformation. Holbein gave illustrations for some of the new writings and painted portraits of Erasmus and Melanchthon. His Madonna, now at Darmstadt, has a German face and wears a crown on her head, while the child in her arms reflects his concern for the world in the sadness of his countenance.

If any one individual more than another may be designated as the connecting link between the learning of Italy and Germany, it is Aeneas Sylvius. By his residence at the court of Frederick III. and at Basel, as one of the secretaries of the council, he became a well-known character north of the Alps long before he was chosen pope. The mediation, however, was not effected by any single individual. The fame of the Renaissance was carried over the pathways of trade which led from Northern Italy to Augsburg, Nürnberg, Constance and other German cities. The visits of Frederick III. and the campaigns of Charles VIII. and the ascent of the throne of Naples by the princes of Aragon carried Germans, Frenchmen and Spaniards to the greater centres of the peninsula. A constant stream of pilgrims itinerated to Rome and the Spanish popes drew to the city throngs of Spaniards. As the fame of Italian culture spread, scholars and artists began to travel to Venice, Florence and Rome, and caught the inspiration of the new era.

To the Italians Germany was a land of barbarians. They despised the German people for their ignorance, rudeness and intemperance in eating and drinking. Aeneas found that the German princes and nobles cared more for horses and dogs than for poets and scholars and loved their wine-cellars better than the muses. Campanus, a witty poet of the papal court, who was sent as legate to the Diet of Regensburg by Paul II., and afterwards was made a bishop by Pius II., abused Germany for its dirt, cold climate, poverty, sour wine and miserable fare. He lamented his unfortunate nose, which had to smell everything, and praised his ears, which understood nothing. Such impressions were soon offset by the sound scholarship which arose in Germany and Holland. And, if Italy contributed to Germany an intellectual impulse, Germany sent out to the world the printing-press, the most important agent in the history of intellectual culture since the invention of the alphabet.

Before the first swell of the new movement was felt, the older German universities were already established: Prag in 1347, Vienna 1365, Heidelberg 1386, Cologne 1388, Erfurt 1392, Würzburg 1402, Leipzig 1409 and Rostock 1419. During the last half of the 15th century, there were quickly added to this list universities at Greifswald and Freiburg 1456, Treves 1457, Basel 1459, Ingolstadt 1472, Tübingen and Mainz 1477, and Wittenberg 1502. Ingolstadt lost its distinct existence by incorporation in the University of Munich, 1826, and Wittenberg by removal to Halle. Most of these universities had the four faculties, although the popes were slow to give their assent to the sanction of the theological department, as in the case of Vienna and Rostock, where the charter of the secular prince authorized their establishment. Strong as the religious influences of the age were, the social and moral habits of the students were by no means such as to call for praise. Parents, Luther said, in sending their sons to the universities, were sending them to destruction, and an act of the Leipzig university, dating from the close of the 15th century, stated that students came forth from their homes obedient and pious, but “how they returned, God alone knew.” In 1510, the student-body at Erfurt were so turbulent that the citizens and the peasant-folk turned cannons upon the collegiate building and, after the students had fled, battered down its walls and did great damage to university archives and library.

The theological teaching was ruled by the Schoolmen, and the dialectic method prevailed in all departments. In clashing with the scholastic method and curricula, the new teaching met with many a repulse, and in no case was it thoroughly triumphant till the era of the Reformation opened. Erfurt may be regarded as having been the first to give the new culture a welcome. In 1466, it received Peter Luder of Kislau, who had visited Greece and Asia Minor, and had been previously appointed to a chair in Heidelberg, 1456. He read on Virgil, Jerome, Ovid and other Latin writers. There Agricola studied and there Greek was taught by Nicolas Marschalck, under whose supervision the first Greek book printed in Germany issued from the press, 1501. There John of Wesel taught. It was Luther’s alma mater and, among his professors, he singled out Trutvetter for special mention as the one who directed him to the study of the Scriptures.

Heidelberg, chartered by the elector Ruprecht I. and Pope Urban VI., showed scant sympathy with the new movement. However, the elector-palatine, Philip, 1476-1508, gathered at his court some of its representatives, among them Reuchlin. Ingolstadt for a time had Reuchlin as professor and, in 1492, Konrad Celtis was appointed professor of poetry and eloquence.

In 1474, a chair of poetry was established at Basel. Founded by Pius II., it had among its early teachers two Italians, Finariensis and Publicius. Sebastian Brant taught there at the close of the century and among its notable students were Reuchlin and the Reformers, Leo Jud and Zwingli. In 1481, Tübingen had a stipend of oratoria. Here Gabriel Biel taught till very near the close of the century. The year after Biel’s death, Heinrich Bebel was called to lecture on poetry. One of Bebel’s distinguished pupils was Philip Melanchthon, who studied and taught in the university, 1512-1518. Reuchlin was called from Ingolstadt to Tübingen, 1521, to teach Hebrew and Greek, but died a few months later.

Leipzig and Cologne remained inaccessible strongholds of scholasticism, till Luther appeared, when Leipzig changed front. The last German university of the Middle Ages, Wittenberg, founded by Frederick the Wise and placed under the patronage of the Virgin Mary and St. Augustine, acquired a world-wide influence through its professors, Luther and Melanchthon. Not till 1518, did it have instruction in Greek, when Melanchthon, soon to be the chief Greek scholar in Germany, was called to one of its chairs at the age of 21. According to Luther, his lecture-room was at once filled brimful, theologians high and low resorting to it.

As seats of the new culture, Nürnberg and Strassburg occupied, perhaps, even a more prominent place than any of the university towns. These two cities, with Basel and Augsburg, had the most prosperous German printing establishments. At the close of the 15th century, Nürnberg, the fountain of inventions, had four Latin schools and was the home of Albrecht Dürer the painter and Willibald Pirkheimer, a patron of learning.

Popular education, during the century before the Reformation, was far more advanced in Germany than in other nations. The chief schools, conducted by the Brothers of the Common Life, were located at Zwolle, Deventer, Herzogenbusch and Liége. All the leading towns had schools. The attendance at Deventer ran as high as 2,200. Melanchthon attended the Latin school at Pforzheim, now in Baden. Here Reuchlin found his young grand-nephew and gave him a Greek grammar, promising him a Vocabulary, provided Melanchthon would have ready some verses in Latin on his return. It is needless to say that the boy was ready and received the book. The town of Schlettstadt in Alsace was noted as a classical centre. Here Platter found Sapidus teaching, and he regarded it as the best school he had found. In 1494, there were five pedagogues in Wesel, teaching reading, writing, arithmetic and singing. One Christmas the clergy of the place entertained the pupils, giving them each cloth for a new coat and a piece of money. The primary or trivial schools, as they were called from teaching the trivium, — grammar, rhetoric and dialectic, — gradually extended their courses and, before the Reformation, such schools as Liége and Schlettstadt had eight classes. Greek was begun with the 4th class.

Among the noted schoolmasters was Alexander Hegius, who taught at Deventer for nearly a quarter of a century, till his death in 1498. At the age of 40 he was not ashamed to sit at the feet of Agricola. He made the classics central in education and banished the old text-books. Trebonius, who taught Luther at Eisenach, belonged to a class of worthy men. The penitential books of the day called upon parents to be diligent in keeping their children off the streets and sending them to school. It remained for Luther to issue a stirring appeal to the magistrates of the Saxon towns to establish schools for both girls and boys and he called for a curriculum, which included not only history and Latin but vocal and instrumental music.

The chief Humanists of Germany were Rudolph Agricola, Reuchlin and Erasmus. To the last two a separate treatment is given as the pathfinders of biblical learning, the venerabiles inceptores of modern biblical research.

Agricola, whose original name was Roelef Huisman, was born near Groningen, 1443, and died 1485. He enjoyed the highest reputation in his day as a scholar and received unstinted praise from Erasmus and Melanchthon. He has been regarded as doing for Humanism in Germany what was done for Italy by Petrarca, the first life of whom, in German, Agricola prepared. He was far in advance of the Italian poet in the purity of his life. After studying in Erfurt, Louvain and Cologne, Agricola went to Italy, spending some time at the universities in Pavia and Ferrara. He declined a professor’s chair in favor of an appointment at the court of Philip of the Palatinate in Heidelberg. He made Cicero and Quintilian his models. In his last years, he turned his attention to theology and studied Hebrew. Like Pico della Mirandola, he was buried in the cowl of a monastic order. The inscription on his tomb in Heidelberg stated that he had studied what is taught about God and the true faith of the Saviour in the books of Scripture.

Another Humanist was Jacob Wimpheling, 1450-1528, of Schlettstadt, who taught in Heidelberg. He was inclined to be severe on clerical abuses but, at the close of his career, wanted to substitute for the study of Virgil and Horace, Sedulius and Prudentius. The poetic Sebastian Brant, 1457-1521, the author of the Ship of Fools, began his career as a teacher of law in Basel. Mutianus Rufus, d. at Gotha 1526, in his correspondence, went so far as to declare that Christianity is as old as the world and that Jupiter, Apollo, Ceres and Christ are only different names of the one hidden God.

A name which deserves a high place in the German literature of the last years of the Middle Ages is John Trithemius, 1462-1505, abbot of a Benedictine convent at Sponheim, which, under his guidance, gained the reputation of a learned academy. He gathered a library of 2,000 volumes and wrote a patrology, or encyclopedia of the Fathers, and a catalogue of the renowned men of Germany. Prelates and nobles visited him to consult and read the Latin and Greek authors he had collected. These men and others contributed their part to that movement of which Reuchlin and Erasmus were the chief lights and which led on easily to the Protestant Reformation.