Vol. 6, Chapter IX – Works of Charity


Benevolence and philanthropy, which are of the very essence of the Christian religion, flourished in the later Middle Ages. In the endeavor to provoke his generation to good works, Luther asserted that “in the good old papal times everybody was merciful and kind. Then it snowed endowments and legacies and hospitals.” Institutions were established to care for the destitute and sick, colleges and bursaries were endowed and protection given to the dependent against the rapacity of unscrupulous money-lenders.

The modern notion of stamping out sickness by processes of sanitation scarcely occurred to the medieval municipalities. Although the population of Europe was not 1/10 of what it is to-day, disease was fearfully prevalent. No epidemics so fatal as the Black Death appeared in Europe but, even in England, the return of plagues was frequent, as in 1406, 1439, 1464, 1477. The famine of 1438, called the Great Famine, was followed the next year by the Great Pestilence, called also the pestilence sans merci. In 1464, to follow the Chronicle of Croyland, thousands, “died like slaughtered sheep.” The sweating sickness of 1485 reappeared in 1499 and 1504. In the first epidemic, 20,000 died in London and, in 1504, the mayor of the city succumbed. The disease took people suddenly and was marked by a chill, which was followed by a fiery redness of the skin and agonizing thirst that led the victims to drink immoderately. Drinking was succeeded by sweating from every pore.

Provision was made for the sick and needy through the monasteries, gilds and brotherhoods as well as by individual assistance and state collections. The care of the poor was in England regarded as one of the primary functions of the Church. Archbishop Stratford, 1342, ordered that a portion of the tithe should be invariably set apart for their needs. The neglect of the poor was alleged as one of the crying omissions of the alien clergy.

Doles for the poor, a common form of charity in England, were often provided for on a large scale. During the 40 days the duke of Gaunt’s body was to remain unburied, 50 marks were to be distributed daily until the 40th day, when the amount was to be increased to 500 marks. Bishop Skirland wanted 200 given away between his death and his interment. A draper of York gave by will 100 beds with furniture to as many poor folk. A cloth-maker made a doubtful charity when he left a suit of his own make to 13 poor people, with the condition that they should sit around his coffin for 8 days. There were houses, says Thorold Rogers, where doles of bread and beer were given to all wayfarers, houses where the sick were treated, clothed and fed, particularly the lepers. One of the hospitals that survives is St. Crow at Winchester for old and indigent people. The cook Ketel, a Brother of the Common Life, whose biography Thomas à Kempis wrote, said it would be better to sell all the books of the house at Deventer and give more to the poor.

Hospitals, in the earlier part of our period, were the special concern of the knights of the Teutonic Order and continued throughout the whole of it to engage the attention of the Beguines. It became the custom also for the Beguines to go as nurses to private houses as in Cologne, Frankfurt, Treves, Ulm and other German cities, receiving pay for their services. The Beguinages in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp andother cities of Belgium and Holland date back to this period. The 15th century also witnessed the growth of municipal hospitals, a product of the civic spirit which had developed in North-Europe. Cities like Cologne, Lübeck and Augsburg had several hospitals. The Hotel de Dieu, Paris, did not come under municipal control till 1505. In cases, admission to hospitals was made by their founders conditional on ability to say the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Ave Maria, as for example to St. Anthony’s, Augsburg. In this case, the founder took care to provide for himself, requiring the inmates on entering to say 100 Pater nosters and 100 Ave Marias over his grave and every day to join in saying over it 15 of each. Damian of Löwen and his wife, who endowed a hospital at Cologne, 1450, stipulated that “the very poorest and sickest were to be taken care of whether they belonged to Cologne or were strangers.”

Rome had more than one hospital endowment. The foundation of Cardinal John Colonna at the Lateran, made 1216, still remains. In his History of the Popes (III. 51), Pastor has given a list of the hospitals and other institutions of mercy in the different states of Italy and justly laid stress upon this evidence of the power of Christianity. The English gilds, organized, in the first instance, for economic and industrial purposes, also pledged relief to their own sick and indigent members. The gild of Corpus Christi at York provided 8 beds for poor people and paid a woman by the year 14 shillings and fourpence to keep them. The gild of St. Helena at Beverley cared constantly for 3 or 4 poor folk.

Leprosy decreased during the last years of the Middle Ages, but hospitals for the reception of lepers are still extensively found, — the lazarettos, so called after Lazarus, who was reputed to have been afflicted with the disease. Houses for this malady had been established in England by Lanfranc, Mathilda, queen of Henry I. at St. Giles, by King Stephen at Burton, Leicestershire and by others till the reign of John. St. Hugh of Lincoln, as well as St. Francis d’Assissi distinguished themselves by their solicitude for lepers. But the disease seems to have died out in England in the 14th century and it was hard to fill the beds endowed for this class of sufferers. In 1434, it was ordered that beds be kept for 2 lepers in the great Durham leper hospital “provided they could be found in these parts.” Originally the hospital had beds for 60. Late in the 16th century there were still lepers in Germany. Thomas Platter wrote, “When we came to Munich, it was so late that we could not enter the city, but had to remain in the leperhouse.”

Begging was one of the curses of England and Germany as it continues to be of Southern Europe to-day. It was no disgrace to ask alms. The mendicant friars by their example consecrated a nuisance with the sacred authority of religion. Pilgrims and students also had the right of way as beggars. Sebastian Brant gave a list of the different ecclesiastical beggars who went about with sacks, into which they put with indiscriminate greed apples, plums, eggs, fish, chickens, meat, butter and cheese, — sacks which had no bottom.

Der Bettler Sack wird nimmer voll;

Wie man ihn füllt, so bleibt er hohl.

In Germany, towns gave franchises to beg. The habit of mendicancy, which Brant ridiculed, Geiler of Strassburg called upon the municipality to regulate or forbid altogether. In England, mendicancy was a profession recognized in law.

With the decay of the monastic endowments and the legal maintenance of wages at a low rate, the destitution and vagrancy increased. The English statutes of laborers at the close of this period, 1495 and 1504, ordered beggars, not able to work, to return to their own towns where they might follow the habit of begging without hindrance.

At a time when in Germany, the richest country of Europe, church buildings were multiplying with great rapidity, many churches in England, on account of the low economic conditions, were actually left to go to ruin or turned into sheepcotes and stables, a transmutation to which Sir Thomas More as well as others refers. The rapacity of the nobles and abbots in turning large areas into sheep-runs deprived laborers of employment and brought social distress upon large numbers. On the other hand, parliament passed frequent statutes of apparel, as in 1463 and 1482, restricting the farmer and laborer in his expenditure on dress. The different statutes of laborers, enacted during the 15th century, had the effect of depressing and impoverishing the classes dependent upon the daily toil of their hands.

In spite of the strict synodal rules, repeated again and again, usury was practised by Christians as well as by Jews. All the greater Schoolmen of the 13th century had discussed the subject of usury and pronounced it sin, on the ground of Luk_6:34, and other texts. They held that charges of interest offended against the law of love to our neighbor and the law of natural fairness, for money does not increase with use but rather is reduced in weight and value. It is a species of greed which is mortal sin. It was so treated by medieval councils when practised by Christians and the contrary opinion was pronounced heretical by the ecumenical council of Vienne. Geiler of Strassburg expounded the official church view when he pronounced usury always wicked. It was wrong for a Christian to take back more than the original principal. And the substitution of a pig or some other gift in place of a money payment he also denounced.

The rates of the Jews were exorbitant. In Florence, they were 20% in 1430 and, in 1488, 32 1/2%. In Northern Europe they were much higher, from 43 1/3 to 80 or even 100%. Municipalities borrowed. Clerics, convents and churches mortgaged their sacred vessels. City after city in Germany and Switzerland expelled the Jews, — from Spires and Zürich, 1435, to Geneva, 1490, and Nürnberg, Ulm and Nördlingen, 1498-1500. The careers of the great banking-houses in the second half of the fifteenth century show the extensive demand for loans by popes and prelates, as well as secular princes.

To afford relief to the needy, whose necessities forced them to borrow, a measure of real philanthropy was conceived in the last century of the Middle Ages, the montes pietatis, or charitable accumulations. They were benevolent loaning funds. The idea found widespread acceptance in Italy, where the first institutions were founded at Perugia, 1462, and Orvieto, 1463. City councils aided such funds by contributions, as at Perugia, when it gave 3,000 gulden. But in this case, finding itself unable to furnish the full amount, it mulcted the Jews for 1,200 gulden, Pius II. giving his sanction to the constraint. In cases, bishops furnished the capital, as at Pistoja, 1473, where Bishop Donato de’ Medici gave 3,000 gulden. At Lucca, a merchant, who had grown rich through commercial affiliation with the Jews, donated the princely capital of 40,000 gold gulden. At Gubbio, a law taxed all inheritances one per cent in favor of the local fund, and neglect to pay was punished with an additional tax of one per cent.

The popes showed a warm interest in the new benevolence by granting to particular funds their sanction and offering indulgences to contributors. From 1463 to 1515 we have records of 16 papal authorizations from such popes as Pius II., Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII., Alexander VI., Julius II. and Leo X. The sanction of Innocent VIII., given to the Mantua fund, 1486, called upon the preachers to summon the people to support the fund, promised 10 years full indulgence to donors, and excommunicated all who opposed the project. Sixtus IV., in commending the fund for his native town of Savona, 1479, pronounced its worthy object to be to aid not only the poor but also the rich who had pawned their goods. He offered a plenary indulgence on the collection of every 100 gulden. In 1490, the Savona fund had 22,000 gulden and the limit of loans was raised to 100 ducats.

The administration of these bureaus of relief was in the hands of directors, usually a mixed body of clergymen and laymen, and often appointed by municipal councils. The accounts were balanced each month. In Perugia, the rate, which was 12% in 1463, was reduced to 8% a year later. In Milan it was reduced from 10% to 5%, in 1488. Five per cent was the appointed rate fixed at Padua, Vicenza and Pisa, and 4% at Florence. The loans were made upon the basis of property put in pawn. The benevolent efficacy of these funds cannot be questioned and to them, in part, is due the reduction of interest from 40% to 4 and 10% in Italy, before the close of the 15th century. They met, however, with much opposition and were condemned as contravening the traditional law against usury.

A foremost place in advancing the movement was taken by the Franciscans and in the Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre, 1439-1494, it had its chief apostle. This popular orator canvassed all the greater towns of Northern Italy, — Mantua, Florence, Parma, Padua, Milan, Lucca, Verona, Brescia. Wherever he went, he was opposed from the pulpit and by doctors of the canon law. At Florence, so warmly was the controversy conducted in the pulpits that a public discussion was ordered at which Lorenzo de’ Medici, doctors of the law, clerics and many laymen were present, with the result that the archbishop forbade opposition to the mons on pain of excommunication. The Deuteronomic injunction, Deu_24:12 sq., ordering that, if a man borrow a coat, it should be restored before sundown and the Lord’s words, Luk_6:1-49, were quoted by the opposition. But it was replied, that the object of loaning to the poor was not to enrich the fund or individuals but to do the borrower good. Savonarola gave the institution his advocacy. The Fifth Lateran commended it and in this it was followed, 50 years later, by the Council of Trent.

The attempt to transplant the Italian institution in Germany was unsuccessful and was met by the establishment of banks by municipal councils, as at Frankfurt. In England also, it gained no foothold. So strong was the feeling against lending out money at interest that, at Chancellor Morton’s importunity, parliament proceeded against it with severe measures, and a law of Henry VII.’s reign made all lending of money at interest a criminal offence and the bargain between borrower and lender null and void.

Notable expression was also given to the practice of benevolence by the religious brotherhoods of the age. These organizations developed with amazing rapidity and are not to be confounded with the gilds which were organizations of craftsmen, intended to promote the production of good work and also to protect the master-workers in their monopoly of trade. They were connected with the Church and were, in part, under the direction of the priesthood, although from some of them, as in Lübeck, priests were distinctly excluded. Like the gilds, their organization was based upon the principle of mutual aid but they emphasized the principle of unselfish sympathy for those in distress. Luther once remarked, there was no chapel and no saint without a brotherhood. In fact, nothing was so sure to make a saint popular as to name a brotherhood after him. By 1450, there was not a mendicant convent in Germany which had not at least one fraternity connected with it. Cities often had a number of these organizations. Wittenberg had 21, Lübeck 70, Frankfurt 31, Hamburg 100. Every reputable citizen in German cities belonged to one or more. Luther belonged to 3 at Erfurt, the brotherhoods of St. Augustine, St. Anna and St. Catherine.

The dead, who had belonged to them, had the distinct advantage of being prayed for. Their sick were cared for in hospitals, containing beds endowed by them. Sometimes they incorporated the principle of mutual benefit or assurance societies, and losses sustained by the living they made good. At Paderborn, in case a brother lost his horse, every member contributed one or two shillings or, if he lost his house, his fellow-members contributed three shillings each or a load of lumber.

As there were gilds of apprentices as well as of master-workmen, so there were brotherhoods of the poor and humble as well as of those in comfortable circumstances. Even the lepers had fraternities, and one of these clans had fief rights to a spring at Wiesbaden. So also had the beggars and cripples at Zülpich, founded 1454. The entrance fee in the last case was 8 shillings, from which there was a reduction of one-half for widows.

In the case of the Italian brotherhoods, it is often difficult to distinguish between a society organized for a benevolent purpose and a society for the cult of some saint. The gilds of Northern Italy, as a rule, laid emphasis upon religious duties such as attendance upon mass, confession of sins and refraining from swearing. The Roman societies had their patron saints, — the blacksmith and workers in gold, St. Eligius, the millers Paulinus of Nola, the barrel-makers St. James, the inn-keepers St. Blasius and St. Julian, the masons St. Gregory the Great, the barbers and physicians St. Cosmas and St. Damian, the painters St. Luke and the apothecaries St. Lawrence. The popes encouraged the confraternities and elevated some of them to the dignity of archfraternities, as St. Saviour in Rome, the first to win this distinction. Florence was also good soil for religious brotherhoods. At the beginning of the 16th century, there were no less than 73 within its bounds, some of them societies of children.

Society did not wait for the present age to apply the principle of Christian charity. The development of organizations and bureaus in the 15th century was not carried as far as it is to-day, and for the good reason that the same demand for it did not exist. The cities were small and it was possible to carry out the practice of individual relief with little fear of deception.


80. The Sale of Indulgences

Nowhere, except in the lives of the popes themselves, did the humiliation of the Western Church find more conspicuous exhibition than in the sale of indulgences. The forgiveness of sins was bought and sold for money, and this sacred privilege formed the occasion of the rupture of Western Christendom as, later, the Lord’s Supper became the occasion of the chief division between the Protestant churches.

Originally an indulgence was the remission of a part or all of the works of satisfaction demanded by the priest in the sacrament of penance. This is the definition given by Roman Catholic authorities to-day. In the 13th century, it came to be regarded as a remission of the penalty of sin itself, both here and in purgatory. At a later stage, it was regarded, at least in wide circles, as a release from the guilt of sin as well as from its penalty. The fund of merits at the Church’s disposition — thesaurus meritorum — as defined by Clement VI., in 1343, is a treasury of spiritual assets, consisting of the infinite merits of Christ, the merits of Mary and the supererogatory merits of the saints, which the Church uses by virtue of the power of the keys. One drop of Christ’s blood, so it was argued, was sufficient for the salvation of the world, and yet Christ shed all his blood and Mary was without stain. From the vast surplus accumulation supplied by their merits, the Church had the right to draw in granting remission to sinners from the penalties resulting from the commission of sin. The very term “keys,” it was said, implies a treasure which is locked away and to which the keys give access. The authority to grant indulgences was shared by the pope and the bishops. The law of Innocent III., intended to check its abuse, restricted the time for which bishops might grant indulgence to 40 days, the so-called quarantines. By the decree of Pius X., issued Aug. 28, 1903, cardinals, even though they are not priests, may issue indulgences in their titular churches for 200 days, archbishops for 100 and bishops for 50 days.

The application of indulgence to the realm of purgatory by Sixtus IV. was a natural development of the doctrine that the prayers and other suffrages of the living inure to the benefit of the souls in that sphere. As Thomas Aquinas clearly taught, such souls belong to the jurisdiction of the Church on earth. And, if indulgences may be granted to the living, certainly the benefit may be extended to the intermediate realm, over which the Church also has control.

Sixtus’ first bull granting indulgence for the dead was issued 1476 in favor of the church of Saintes. Here was offered to those who paid a certain sum — certam pecuniam — for the benefit of the building, the privilege of securing a relaxation of the sufferings of the purgatorial dead, parents for their children, friend for friend. The papal deliverance aroused criticism and in a second bull, issued the following year, the pontiff states that such relaxations were offered by virtue of the fulness of authority vested in the pope from above plenitudo potestatis — to draw upon the fund of merits.

To the abuse, to which this doctrine opened the door, was added the popular belief that letters of indulgence gave exemption both from the culpability and penalty of sin. The expression, “full remission of sins,” plena or plenissima remissio peccatorum, is found again and again in papal bulls from the famous Portiuncula indulgence, granted by Honorius III. to the Franciscans, to the last hours of the undisputed sway of the pope in the West. It was the merit of the late Dr. Lea to have called attention to this almost overlooked element of the medieval indulgence. Catholic authorities of to-day, as Paulus and Beringer, without denying the use of the expression, a poena et culpa, assert that it was not the intent of any genuine papal message to grant forgiveness from the guilt of sin without contrition of heart. The expression was in current use in tracts and in common talk. John of Paltz, in his Coelifodina, an elaborate defence of indulgences written towards the close of the 15th century, affirmed that an indulgence is given by virtue of the power of the keys whereby guilt is remitted and penalty withdrawn. These keys open the fund of the Church to its sons. Luther was only expressing the popular view when, writing to Albrecht of Mainz, 1517, he complained that men accepted the letters of indulgence as giving them exemption from all penalty and guilt — homo per istas indulgentias liber sit ab omni poena et culpa. Not only on the Continent but also in England were such forms of indulgence circulated. For example, Leo X.’s indulgence for the hospital S. Spirito in Rome ran in its English translation, “Holy and great indulgence and pardon of plenary remission a culpa et poena.” The popular mind did not stop to make the fine distinction between guilt and its punishment and, if it had, it would have been quite satisfied to be made free from the sufferings entailed by sin. If by a papal indulgence a soul in purgatory could be immediately released and given access to heavenly felicity, the question of guilt was of no concern.

Long before the days of Tetzel, Wyclif and Huss had condemned the use of the formula, “from penalty and guilt,” as did also John Wessel. In denouncing the bulls of indulgence for those joining in a crusade against Ladislaus, issued 1412, Huss copied Wyclif almost word for word. Wyclif fiercely condemned the papal assumption in granting full indulgence for the crusade of Henry de Spenser. Priests, he asserted, have no authority to give absolution without proper works of satisfaction and all papal absolution is of no avail, where the offenders are not of good and worthy life. If the pope has power to absolve unconditionally, he should exercise his power to excuse the sins of all men. The English Reformer further declared that, to the Christian priest it was given, to do no more than announce the forgiveness of sins just as the old priests pronounced a man a leper or cured of leprosy, but it was not possible for him to effect a cure. He spoke of, the fond fantasy of spiritual treasure in heaven, that each pope is made dispenser of the treasure at his own will, a thing dreamed of without ground.” Such power would make the pope master of the saints and Christ himself. He condemned the idea that the pope could “clear men of pain and sin both in this world and the other, so that, when they die, they flee to heaven without pain. This is for blind men to lead blind men and both to fall into the lake.” As for the pardoning of sin for money, that would imply that righteousness may be bought and sold. Wyclif gave it as a report, that Urban VI. had granted an indulgence for 2,000 years.

Indulgences found an assailant in Erasmus, howbeit a genial assailant. In his Praise of Folly, he spoke of the “cheat of pardons and indulgences.” These lead the priests to compute the time of each soul’s residence in purgatory and to assign them a longer or shorter continuance according as the people purchase more or fewer of these salable exemptions. By this easy way of purchasing pardon any notorious highwayman, any plundering bandit or any bribe-taking judge may for a part of their unjust gains secure atonement for perjuries, lusts, bloodsheds, debaucheries and other gross impieties and, having paid off arrears, begin upon a new score. The popular idea was no doubt stated by Tyndale in answer to Sir Thomas More when he said, that “men might quench almost the terrible fire of hell for three halfpence.”

It is fair to say that, while the last popes of the Middle Ages granted a great number of indulgences, the exact expression, “from guilt and penalty,” does not occur in any of the extant papal copies although some of their expressions seem fully to imply the exemption from guilt. Likewise, it must be said that they also contain the usual expressions for penitence as a condition of receiving the grace — “being truly penitent and confessing their sins” — vere poenitentibus et confessio.

Indulgences in the last century of the Middle Ages were given for all sorts of benevolent purposes, crusades against the Turks, the building of churches and hospitals, in connection with relics, for the rebuilding of a town desolated by fire, as Bruex, for bridges and for the repair of dikes, such an indulgence being asked by Charles V. The benefits were received by the payment of money and a portion of the receipts, from 33% to 50%, was expected to go to Rome. The territory chiefly, we may say almost exclusively, worked for such enterprises was confined to the Germanic peoples of the Continent from Switzerland and Austria to Norway and Sweden. England, France and Spain were hardly touched by the traffic. Cardinal Ximenes set forth the damage done to ecclesiastical discipline by the practice and, as a rule, it was under other pretexts that papal moneys were received from England.

In the transmission of the papal portions of the indulgence-moneys, the house of the Fuggers figures conspicuously. Sometimes it charged 5%, sometimes it appropriated amounts not reckoned strictly on the basis of a fixed per cent. The powerful banking-firm, also responding cheerfully to any request made to them, often secured the grant of indulgences in Rome. The custodianship of the chests, into which the indulgence-moneys were cast, was also a matter of much importance and here also the Fuggers figured prominently. Keys to such chests were often distributed to two or three parties, one of whom was apt to be the representative of the bankers.

Among the more famous indulgences for the building of German churches were those for the construction of a tower in Vienna, 1514, for the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Constance, which had suffered great damage from fire, 1511, the building of the Dominican church in Augsburg, 1514, the restoration of the Cathedral of Treves, 1515, and the building of St. Annaberg church, 1517, in which Duke George of Saxony was much interested. One-half of the moneys received for these constructions went to Rome. In most of these cases, the Fuggers acted as agents to hold the keys of the chest and transmit the moneys to the papal exchequer. The sees of Constance, Chur, Augsburg and Strassburg were assigned as the territory in which indulgences might be sold for the cathedral in Constance. No less than four bulls of indulgence were issued in 1515 for the benefit of Treves, including one for those who visited the holy coat which was found 1512 and was to be exhibited every 7 years.

Among the noted hospitals to which indulgences were issued — that is, the right to secure funds by their sale — were hospitals in Nürnberg, 1515, Strassburg, 1518 and S. Spirito, Rome, 1516.

Both of the churches in Wittenberg were granted indulgences and a special indulgence was issued for the reliquary-museum which the elector Frederick had collected. An indulgence of 100 days was attached to each of the 5,005 specimens and another 100 to each of the 8 passages between the cases that held them. With the 8,133 relics at Halle and the 42 entire bodies, millions and billions of days of indulgence were associated, a sort of anticipation of the geologic periods moderns demand. To be more accurate, these relics were good for pardons covering 39,245,120 years and 220 days and the still further period of 6,540,000 quarantines, each of 40 days.

In Rome, the residence of the supreme pontiffs, as we might well have expected, the offer of indulgences was the most copious, almost as copious as the drops on a rainy day. According to the Nürnberger relic-collector, Nicolas Muffel, every time the skulls of the Apostles were shown or the handkerchief of St. Veronica, the Romans who were present received a pardon of 7,000 days, other Italians 10,000 and foreigners 14,000. In fact, the grace of the ecclesiastical authorities was practically boundless. Not only did the living seek indulgences, but even the dying stipulated in their wills that a representative should go to Assisi or Rome or other places to secure for their souls the benefit of the indulgences offered there.

Prayers also had remarkable offers of grace attached to them. According to the penitential book, The Soul’s Joy, the worshipper offering its prayers to Mary received 11,000 years indulgence and some prayers, if offered, freed 15 souls from purgatory and as many earthly sinners from their sins. It professed to give one of Alexander VI.’s decrees, according to which prayer made three times to St. Anna secured 1,000 years indulgence for mortal sins and 20,000 for venial. The Soul’s Garden claimed that one of Julius II.’s indulgences granted 80,000 years to those who would pray a prayer to the Virgin which the book gave. No wonder Siebert, a Roman Catholic writer, is forced to say that “the whole atmosphere of the later Middle Ages was soaked with the indulgence-passion.”

An indulgence issued by Alexander VI., in 1502, was designed to secure aid for the knights of the Teutonic Order against the Russians. The latter was renewed by Julius II. and Cologne, Treves, Mainz, Bremen, Bamberg and other sees were assigned as the territory. Much money was collected, the papal treasury receiving one-third of the returns. The preaching continued till 1510 and Tetzel took a prominent part in the campaign.

It remains to speak of the most important of all of the indulgences, the indulgence for the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome. This interest was pushed by two notable popes, Julius II. and Leo X., and called forth the protest of Luther, which shook the power of the papacy to its foundations. It seems paradoxical that the chief monument of Christian architecture should have been built in part out of the proceeds of the scandalous traffic in absolutions.

On April 18,1506, soon after the laying of the cornerstone of St. Peter’s, Julius II. issued a bull promising indulgence to those who would contribute to its construction, fabrica, as it was called. Eighteen months later, Nov. 4, 1507, he commissioned Jerome of Torniello, a Franciscan Observant, to oversee the preaching of the bull in the so-called 25 Cismontane provinces, which included Northern Italy, Austria, Bohemia and Poland. By a later decree Switzerland was added. Germany was not included and probably for the reason that a number of indulgence bulls were already in force in most of its territory. A special rescript appointed Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, as chief overseer of the business in England. At Julius’ death, the matter was taken up by Leo X. and pushed.

The preaching of indulgences in Germany for the advantage of St. Peter’s began in the pontificate of Leo X. and is closely associated with the elevation of Albrecht of Hohenzollern to the sees of Mainz, Magdeburg and Halberstadt. Albrecht, a brother of Joachim, elector of Brandenburg, was chosen in 1513 to the archbishopric of Magdeburg and the bishopric of Halberstadt. The objections on the ground of his age and the combination of two sees — a thing, however, which was true of Albrecht’s predecessor — were set aside by Leo X., after listening to the arguments made by the German embassies.

In 1514, Albrecht was further honored by being elected archbishop of Mainz. The last incumbent, Uriel of Gemmingen, died the year before. The archdiocese had been unfortunate with its bishops. Berthold of Henneberg had died 1504 and James of Liebenstein in 1508. These frequent changes necessitated a heavy burden of taxation to enable the prelates to pay their tribute to the Holy See, which amounted to 10,000 ducats in each case, with sundry additions. By the persuasion of the elector Joachim and the Fuggers, Leo sanctioned Albrecht’s election to the see of Mainz. He was given episcopal consecration and thus the three sees were joined in the hands of a man who was only 24.

But Albrecht’s confirmation as archbishop was not secured without the payment of a high price. The price, 10,000 ducats, was set by the authorities in Rome and did not originate with the German embassy, which had gone to prosecute the case. The proposition came from the Vatican itself and at the very moment the Lateran council was voting measures for the reform of the Church. It carried with it the promise of a papal indulgence for the archbishop’s territories. The elector Joachim expressed some scruples of conscience over the purchase, but it went through. Schulte exclaims that, if ever a benefice was sold for gold, this was true in the case of Albrecht.

The bull of indulgences was issued March 31, 1516, and granted the young German prelate the right to dispose of pardons throughout the half part of Germany, the period being fixed at 8 years. The bull offered, “complete absolution — plenissimam indulgentiam — and remission of all sins,” sins both of the living and the dead. A private paper, emanating from Leo and dated two weeks later, April 15, mentions the 10,000 ducats proposed by the Vatican as the price of Albrecht’s confirmation as having been already placed in Leo’s hands. To enable him to pay the full amount of 30,000 ducats his ecclesiastical dignities had cost, Albrecht borrowed from the Fuggers and, to secure funds, he resorted to a two-years’ tax of two-fifths which he levied on the priests, the convents and other religious institutions of his dioceses. In 1517, “out of regard for his Holiness, the pope, and the salvation and comfort of his people,” Joachim opened his domains to the indulgence-hawkers. It was his preaching in connection with this bull that won for Tetzel an undying notoriety. Oldecop, writing in 1516, of what he saw, said that people, in their eagerness to secure deliverance from the guilt and penalty of sin and to get their parents and friends out of purgatory, were putting money into the chest all day long.

The description of Tetzel’s sale of indulgences and Luther’s protest are a part of the history of the Reformation. It remains, however, yet to be said, as belonging to the medieval period, that the grace of indulgences was popularly believed to extend to sins, not yet committed. Such a belief seems to have been encouraged by the pardon-preachers, although there is no documentary proof that any papal authorities made such a promise. In writing to the archbishop of Mainz, Oct. 31, 1517, Luther had declared that it was announced by the indulgence-hawkers that no sin was too great to be covered by the indulgence, nay, not even the sin of violating the Virgin, if such a thing had been possible. And late in life, 1541, the Reformer stated that the pardoner “also sold sins to be committed.” The story ran that a Saxon knight went to Tetzel and offered him 10 thaler for a sin he had in mind to commit. Tetzel replied that he had full power from the pope to grant such an indulgence, but that it was worth 80 thaler. The knight paid the amount, but some time later waylaid Tetzel and took all his indulgence-moneys from him. To Tetzel’s complaints the robber replied, that thereafter he must not be so quick in giving indulgence from sins, not yet committed.

The traffic in ecclesiastical places and the forgiveness of sins constitutes the very last scene of medieval Church history. On the eve of the Reformation, we have the spectacle of the pope solemnly renewing the claim to have rule over both spheres, civil and ecclesiastical, and to hold in his hand the salvation of all mankind, yea, and actually supporting the extravagant luxuries of his worldly court with moneys drawn from the trade in sacred things. How deep-seated the pernicious principle had become was made manifest in the bull which Leo issued, Nov. 9, 1518, a full year after the nailing of the Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, in which all were threatened with excommunication who failed to preach and believe that the pope has the right to grant indulgences.