The Catholic Reformation
The Catholic Reformation
The Catholic Reformation was a reform movement that took place within the Roman Catholic Church during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The movement is also known as the Counter Reformation, but many historians prefer not to use this term because it suggests that changes within the church were simply a reaction to Protestantism. In fact, many Catholics were already aware that reform was needed as early as the fifteenth century, one hundred years before the Protestant Reformation. By that time popes, cardinals (church officials ranking directly below the pope), bishops (heads of church districts), and priests had become corrupt and greedy. Neglecting their responsibilities as religious leaders, they pursued their own personal advancement. The church had accumulated more property and wealth than kings and princes. Many Catholics, both inside and outside the church, were troubled by this situation.
During the fourteenth century the church faced a serious crisis that hastened the need for reform. In 1307, following a power struggle among cardinals, the papacy (office of the pope) was moved to Avignon, France, where it remained for seventy years. This period was known as the Babylonian captivity (see "Crisis in the papacy" in Chapter 1). The papacy was briefly returned to Rome in 1378. Then the cardinals had another confrontation that caused a deep split in the church, and soon there were two popes—one in Avignon and one in Rome. At one point there were even three popes vying for control. This period was called the Great Schism. It ended in 1417 with the Council of Constance, a meeting of church officials and heads of European states. There was now only one pope, who was based in Rome.
Once the papacy was permanently returned to Rome, deep corruption and abuse of power became even more obvious. Popes, cardinals, and bishops were members of ruthless Italian families such as the Medicis in Florence and the Sforzas in Milan, who profited from controlling the papacy. They operated complex schemes and appointed family members to high church positions. Cardinals had luxurious homes, bishops did not reside in their districts, and priests were poorly educated. Another crisis occurred in May 1527, when soldiers in the army of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–1558; reigned 1519–56) sacked, or attacked, the city of Rome. For several months they terrorized citizens and looted and burned buildings. Pope Clement VII (1478–1534; reigned 1523–34) fled to a castle, where he was a virtual prisoner until he paid for his own release the following December. The siege has often been called the "German Fury" because the majority of the marauding soldiers were German Lutherans. Charles's spokesmen claimed the troops had moved on Rome against the emperor's wishes. According to an official report, when the soldiers reached the city they were so upset by the corruption of the Roman clergy that they committed atrocities. Even the pope's supporters agreed that the moral failings of the clergy helped to bring on the catastrophe. Clement himself later preached a sermon on the subject in 1528. Soon pamphlets were circulating around Rome, proclaiming that prophesies of punishment and doom were being fulfilled. One such prophesy was a blade-shaped comet, which was supposedly a sign that disaster would take place. The sack of Rome also gave renewed life to reforming preachers, who warned that Rome would someday have to pay for the sins and corruption of the church.
Reform movements take shape
Many Catholics had already been seeking change for years. Although they did not directly call for reform, they tried to improve the spiritual aspects of the church's mission. For instance, the Devotio Moderna (Modern Devotion) movement stressed a greater commitment to the religious life. Italian activists Catherine of Siena (1347–1380) and Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510), both of whom were later declared saints, worked among the sick and the poor. They left documents that testified to their mystical, or intensely spiritual, experiences and their devotion to spiritual renewal. Humanist scholars also promoted an upright and devout life. Previously, humanists were considered pagans (those who have no religion) because they emphasized the unlimited capabilities of human beings and rejected the Christian ideal of devoting one's life to the glory of God. Now, English humanists such as John Colet (c. 1466–1519) and Thomas More (1478–1535) were studying Scripture (the text of the Bible), and they advocated reform of the church and the education of clergymen. The Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466–1536) formed friendships with Colet, More, and others. In 1503 he published Enchiridion militis Christiani (Handbook of the militant Christian), in which he stressed the ethical behavior and piety, or holiness, found in the "philosophy of Christ." Within the church, Benedictine monks formed groups of monasteries committed to Christian teachings. The most important were located in Santa Giustina, Italy; Valladolid, Spain; Chézal-Benoît, France; and in the unions of Melk, Austria, and Bursfeld, Germany.
Savonarola is early leader
Several Catholic priests called for reform and achieved fame as inspiring preachers. Among them was Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), a Dominican monk who was executed for challenging the church. Savonarola began his career in 1482 as a lecturer at the convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy, the center of the Italian Renaissance (see "Florence" in Chapter 2). Within a few years he became a harsh critic of church practices. He was angered by the corrupt behavior of popes, cardinals, and bishops. He demanded stricter adherence to the spiritual values of Christianity and greater social awareness of the poor. Earning the title of the "Preacher of the Despairing," he gave immensely popular sermons. Around 1491 Savonarola was named prior (second in rank to the abbot, or head, of a monastery) of San Marco. He became famous for having visions that enabled him to predict future events. His first vision was about the "Scourge [whip] of the Church," which would come to banish the evil materialism of the Catholic clergy. He also correctly predicted the deaths of Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492), the powerful duke of Florence, and Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492; reigned 1484–92), who both died in 1492.
Savonarola's sermons reached a peak during Advent (the forty days preceding Christmas) in 1492, when he prophesied the coming of the "Scourge of Italy." This vision may have been prompted by the election of Pope Alexander VI (formerly Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia; 1431–1503; reigned 1492–1503), after the death of Innocent VIII. The behavior of the new pope—taking mistresses, advancing members of his own family to prominent church positions, and squandering money on clothes and horses—was outrageous even in a time known for its corruption and decadence. Savonarola set out to reform the church in Florence. His first step was to withdraw the monastery of San Marco from the Congregation of Lombardy, the ruling organization of monasteries in the region. He then formed a new, stricter congregation, which was approved by the pope in 1493. Savonarola saw the separation as the beginning of the reform of the Roman Catholic Church. Expanding his movement, he convinced other convents to join his congregation. In his own monastery, he demanded that monks give up all possessions, which were then sold to raise money for the poor.
Savonarola had also been criticizing the city government and was a bitter enemy to Lorenzo de' Medici before the duke's death. In 1494 Savonarola's prophecy of the "Scourge of Italy" was fulfilled when King Charles VIII (1470–1498; ruled 1483–98) of France invaded Italy in the first phase of the Italian Wars (a conflict between France and Spain over control of territory in Italy; see "Italian Wars dominate Renaissance" in Chapter 2). Lorenzo's son and the new duke of Florence, Piero de' Medici (1471–1503), fled from Italy and threw himself upon the mercy of the French king. The leading political body of Florence, the Signoria, elected Savonarola to ask Charles to insure Florence's security and safety. Savonarola then turned to the problem of a new government without the Medicis. In his sermons he suggested new policies that became law. For instance, he demanded an increase in jobs for the lower classes and relief for the poor. He also urged the churches to melt down their gold and silver ornaments to buy bread for the hungry. In 1495 he met resistance when a group called the Tiepidi (the lukewarm) was formed by priests, nuns, and monks who were opposed to strict observance of the vows of poverty and obedience. The Tiepidi received support from Pope Alexander, Duke Ludovico Sforza (1452–1508) of Milan, and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519; reigned 1493–1519), who had formed an alliance called the Holy League to oppose Charles VIII. The League needed backing from Florence, but first they had to remove Savonarola from power.
Challenged by pope In 1495 Savonarola became ill with dysentery (an intestinal disease caused by an infection). Although his doctors told him to rest, he returned to the pulpit and delivered stinging sermons against his opponents, especially the Tiepidi. In response, Pope Alexander sent an official letter stating that certain people had accused Savonarola of committing heresy (violations of the laws of God and the church) and false prophecy and troubling the peace of the church. Although he praised Savonarola's work, Alexander insisted that he come to Rome to defend himself. Since Savonarola was still weak from his illness, he asked permission to stay in Florence. The pope agreed, but told him to stop preaching until the accusations could be proven false. During the next few months, however, the pope became more hostile toward Savonarola and ordered him to stand trial. When an investigation found no evidence against Savonarola, Alexander canceled plans for a trial but would not lift the ban on preaching.
In 1496 the people of Florence persuaded the pope to allow Savonarola to preach the Lenten sermons. Once again Savonarola lashed out at the church, charging that abuses had gone beyond all bounds and that the church no longer observed its own rules. He met opposition, however, when he demanded that the government pass stricter laws regulating the dress and ornamentation of Florentine women. By refusing to pass such a statute, city leaders took their first step away from Savonarola's reform platform. In 1497 new members of the Signoria who supported the Holy League began passing laws that limited Savonarola's preaching. On May 4, a group of rowdies known as the Compagnacci started a riot while he was giving a sermon, apparently hoping to kill him. Although loyal monks saved his life, Florentine leaders identified him as the source of discontent in the city, and many demanded his exile. Alexander then excommunicated (forced to leave the church) Savonarola and his followers for heresy. This event brought a deeper split among the Florentine factions, or opposing groups. In July the pope and his cardinals decided Savonarola must either come to Rome to defend his criticism of the church or abandon his reforms.
The final showdown between Savonarola and the pope began on February 11, 1498, when Alexander ordered the Signoria to silence the disobedient monk. In April, Florentine officials conducted two three-day trials. During both trials they tortured and questioned Savonarola for evidence against him and two companions, Fra (Brother) Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silvestro Maruffi. Although Savonarola signed a confession, lack of sufficient evidence led to the second trial. With the verdict already decided, a two-day church trial then took place in May. The church court passed a death sentence for all three clergyman. On May 23, 1498, Savonarola and his two companions were hanged and their bodies were cremated. Government officials scattered the ashes in the Arno River to prevent the veneration, or declaration of holiness, of the remains. Savonarola's attempt to reform the church had failed.
Church starts reforms
Within thirty years after Savonarola's death, the rapid rise of Protestantism brought more demands for reform of the Catholic Church. In keeping with a practice dating back to early times, many religious and political leaders wanted to hold a general council of bishops to discuss problems. A general council met at Rome from 1515 until 1517. This gathering, called the Fifth Lateran Council, agreed to make various reforms. It adjourned shortly before the German reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) posted his Ninety-Five Theses, a list of grievances with the church, at Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517.
Popes showed no serious interest in reform until 1537, when Pope Paul III (1468–1549; reigned 1534–49) appointed a committee of cardinals to study problems in the church. Their report, A Council … for Reforming the Church, denounced evils and abuses at all levels. Most of these abuses were laid at the door of the papacy itself. For the next few years Pope Paul tried to convene a council, but it had to be postponed several times. In the meantime he initiated his own reforms. He encouraged many new religious communities and approved the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1540 and the Order of Saint Ursula in 1544. In 1542 he founded the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy (see "The Inquisitions" section later in this chapter).
The first session of a council of bishops finally met at Trent in northern Italy in 1545. Attendance was sparse, with an overwhelming number of Italian bishops. Although no Protestants were mentioned by name in council documents, Protestant teachings were discussed. The bishops agreed to accept the Latin Vulgate as the official Bible of the Catholic Church, including the books of Judith and Maccabees and the Epistle of James. The worth of these books had been questioned by Luther. The delegates at Trent also decided that ancient traditions of the church were equal to the religious truth of the Bible. Luther had asserted that the Bible, not the opinions or practices of church officials, should be "the sole rule of faith."
The most important decree pertained to the Protestant concept that humans are basically sinful and lack free will (the ability to make independent choices). Protestants believed that salvation (forgiveness of sins) is a gift called grace from God and that people are incapable of fulfilling God's law without this gift. Furthermore, they are not free to accept or reject it. The Council of Trent, on the other hand, decreed that people are capable of performing some naturally good works on their own. However, they must be open to God's offer of grace, which enables them to fulfill his law. If they reject grace, they will not gain salvation. The first session also officially declared that there are seven sacraments, or holy rites, established by Jesus Christ—communion, baptism (use of water in admitting a person into the Christian community), confirmation (conferring the gift of the Holy Spirit), penance (confession of sins), anointing (applying oil as a sacred rite) of the sick, marriage, and holy orders (ordination of priests). The church had taught this doctrine since the twelfth century, but most Protestants had rejected all sacraments except baptism and communion. The council was suspended in 1547 because of poor attendance, an outbreak of typhus (bacterial disease), and a bad climate.
The second session met at Trent in 1551 and 1552 under Pope Julius III (1487–1555; reigned 1550–55). It declared that Christ is really and physically present in communion. In contrast, most Protestants, except for Martin Luther, believed that the presence of Christ in the ritual is merely symbolic. The next pope, Paul IV (1476–1559; reigned 1555–59), opposed the council as a threat to papal authority, so he started his own reform measures. In 1555 he strengthened the Roman Inquisition, which Paul III established in 1542. At that time the Roman Catholic Church wrongly suspected Jews of influencing the Protestant Reformation, so the pope established the Jewish ghetto (a part of the city in which a minority group is forced to live) at Rome. He required all Jews to wear an identifying badge, thus separating them from Christians. In 1559 Paul IV issued the first edition of his Index of Prohibited Books.
Borromeo sets example
Toward the end of the sixteenth century, partly under the influence of the Council of Trent, a number of bishops emerged as reformers in northern Italy. Among them was Carlo Borromeo (1538–1584), who served as a model for others and was later declared a saint. Borromeo was born into a prosperous family in the town of Rocca d'Arona. After studying with tutors, he enrolled at the University of Padua, where in 1559 he received the degree of doctor of laws. That same year his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV (1499–1565; reigned 1559–65). Within a few months the new pope had called twenty-one-year-old Borromeo to Rome to help in administering the affairs of the church. Borromeo was given the rank of cardinal to go with his position as personal assistant to the pope. Pius IV then made Borromeo secretary of state and relied heavily on him in directing the third session of the Council of Trent. In 1563 Borromeo was ordained a priest and consecrated archbishop (a supervisor of other bishops) of Milan, but he continued to live in Rome and work with his uncle. He was given responsibility for making reforms required by the Council of Trent in Rome. Borromeo improved religious instruction in the parishes, toned down elaborate worship rituals, and built a new seminary for training priests.
In 1565 Borromeo's services in Rome came to an end with his uncle's death. The following year he moved to Milan, where he directed the church. The diocese of Milan was split into five districts, which he had to operate simultaneously. Over the years he was a highly effective bishop. Almost all of the people of Milan respected him, but his popularity with the people disturbed the senate. His disciplinary measures also antagonized several religious groups. At one point an assassin was hired to kill Borromeo, but the attempt on his life failed. When the plague (a widespread outbreak of disease epidemic; see "Black Death" in Chapter 1) struck Milan in 1576, Borromeo spent much of his time nursing the sick. The centers for religious instruction that he established were so effective that Protestantism made no headway in Milan. He died in 1584, and he was canonized, or declared a saint, in 1610.
Religious orders and congregations formed
During the Catholic Reformation several new religious orders and congregations for men and women were founded throughout Europe, but mainly in Italy and France. Many of them were a new kind of order called clerics regular. They were given this name because members lived according to a regula (the Latin term for rule) within a community. They took the traditional vows of poverty, chastity (refraining from sexual intercourse), and obedience. They were officially connected with the Catholic Church, yet they did not live in isolation behind the walls of monasteries and convents. Instead, they devoted themselves to active ministries, mainly in parishes (local church communities) and schools.
Other groups, called congregations, had the same mission as religious orders, but members did not take formal vows. Although they were headed by bishops and priests and worked in parishes, they were not officially connected with the church.
Orders and congregations for men
The prominent new orders for men were the Theatines, the Barnabites, the Piarists, and the Jesuits. The largest was the Jesuits. Although the Jesuits were founded in Italy, most of their original leaders were Spanish, and most Jesuits worked outside of Italy. The Theatines, Barnabites, Piarists were smaller and predominantly Italian orders. The Oratorians, based in Italy, were technically a congregation, but their branches in France closely resembled a religious order.
Theatines The Theatines were founded in 1524 by four members of a Roman confraternity (a society devoted to a charitable or religious cause), the Order of Divine Love. Their leaders were Cajetan of Thiene, Gian Pietro Carafa (later Pope Paul IV), Benefic de' Coli, and Paolo Consiglieri. Thiene worked as a priest in the papal curia (administrative branch of the office of the pope) and founded confraternities and hospitals in several northern Italian cities. Carafa came from a noble family in Naples. As a young humanist he corresponded with the Dutch humanist Desiderio Erasmus, who praised his friendliness and learning. Alarmed by the rising tide of Protestantism, Carafa soon became Italy's most ardent supporter of repression. He resigned as bishop of Chieti when he established the Theatines (from Theate, the Latin name for Chieti).
The founders saw a need for communities of morally strict and devout, or religiously faithful, priests. Members of the new order would be dedicated to preaching, hearing confessions, encouraging the frequent receipt of communion, giving spiritual guidance, and working with the sick in hospitals. Like earlier orders of monks and friars, the Theatines took permanent vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but two practices set them apart from the others. They refused to beg, which meant that they would live on stipends (grants of money) from their ministries and from free-will gifts. Also, unlike other orders, they recited their religious ritual together, but without singing. They did not wear a distinctive religious habit (garment), but only the usual cassock (ankle-length garment) and biretta (a square cap with ridges on the top) of priests. For their first eighty years Theatines had no official constitution, or set of rules, but depended on a long letter written by Carafa in 1526 that described their lifestyle. Each year the Theatines elected a superior—the head of a religious order—who looked to Carafa's letter for guidance. In 1603, at a general meeting, the order finally proposed official constitutions that were approved by Pope Clement VII the following year.
The Theatines set up their first community at Rome, but they fled to Venice when Emperor Charles V's army sacked Rome in 1527. They set up a second community at Naples in 1533 and returned to Rome in 1557. In 1550 the Theatines had only twenty-seven members, but between 1565 and 1600 new houses were started throughout Italy. A total of 744 men had joined them by 1600. Most were already priests when they entered, though the order had some lay brothers, or unordained priests. During the next century the Theatines slowly moved into Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Poland. Probably their greatest contribution to Catholic reform originated from the forty-five bishops who came from their ranks between 1524 and 1624.
Barnabites The Barnabite order was founded by Antonio Maria Zaccaria (1502–1539), who studied at the University of Padua. Returning to his home in Cremona in 1524, he briefly practiced medicine but gradually became involved in helping the poor and sick. In 1528 he was ordained and worked briefly in a local parish. Around 1530 he came into contact with Battista Carioni da Cremona (c. 1460–1534), an aging Dominican priest (member of a religious order founded by Saint Dominic). Carioni had been preaching religious reform in Milan and Venice. He condemned humanism for what he viewed as excessive concern with literary matters. Carioni helped to draw up the Barnabite constitutions, but this brought him under the suspicion of the Inquisition.
In 1531 Zaccaria wrote to two friends and proposed a community of clerics that would combine the responsibilities of priests with monastic living. Two years later the three men started such a community. Six others joined them the following year; they all lived in a community, but without taking formal vows. Zaccaria served as the superior until 1536. He was the confessor (priest who hears confessions) to Countess Ludovica Torelli (1500–1569). She was a wealthy widow who organized a related order for women, the Angelic Sisters of the Converted (known as the Angelics). Married people among Zaccaria's friends joined a new confraternity, the Devoted Married Laity of Saint Paul, founded about 1531. The three organizations—one for priests, one for nuns (women who devote their lives to the church), and one for married couples—were closely linked.
The early years of the Barnabites were turbulent. In 1534 their public penances (acts of sorrow or repentance for sins) at Milan resulted in their being accused of heresy and public disorder. Carioni's books were put on the Venetian Index of Prohibited Books in 1554 and on the Roman Indexes starting in 1557. They remained there for more than three centuries. What provoked this hostility toward the writings and practices of the Barnabites? At Milan the priests and nuns mixed together to perform public acts of penance—painting fools' masks on their faces, whipping themselves, carrying heavy crosses (the cross is the symbol of Christ's suffering for the sins of all people), and openly confessing their sins. These public displays of penance were considered unseemly because the act of penance was considered a private matter. The Barnabites also went into marketplaces to beg donations for pregnant unwed mothers; such begging on the part of the Barnabites was shocking because so many of them came from the nobility, a class of people generally unaccustomed to such behavior. Zaccaria defended his followers before the Inquisition in Milan. Such attacks could be expected, he said, because the Barnabites were trying to devote their lives to Christ. They were proud of being "fools" for Christ. Although the Inquisition found no real evidence against them, Zaccaria and his followers were not formally declared innocent.
Zaccaria turned to Pope Clement VII for approval. In 1533 Clement placed the Barnabites under church jurisdiction, and in 1543 Pope Paul III put them under the jurisdiction of the office of the pope. Still, new accusations of heresy kept cropping up, so the order grew only to forty members during its first twenty years. In 1551 the Barnabites drafted new constitutions, which were approved by Pope Julius III in 1553. The Angelics received approval from the pope in 1535, but in 1552 they were forced to become cloistered—that is, to live in a convent—rather than living among the general population. Their new constitutions were approved by Pope Urban VIII (1568–1644; reigned 1623–44) in 1625.
Jesuits The Jesuit order, also called Society of Jesus, was led by Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556). Ignatius was born into a noble family in the Basque region of northern Spain. Baptized Iñigo de Oñaz y Loyola, he adopted the name Ignatius in about 1537, in honor of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, an early Church martyr—one who sacrifices his or her life for a cause. After receiving a limited education, he became a soldier. His brief military career ended in 1521 when he was wounded in battle at Pamplona, Spain, during the Italian Wars. While he was recuperating at his home, the castle of Loyola, he had a series of religious experiences that changed the course of his life. Ignatius began a program of asceticism, or strict self-denial, for which his Jesuit followers later honored him. He sometimes went days at a time without food, walked barefoot in winter, and deliberately neglected his long hair, of which he had earlier been proud, until it was matted and filthy. He wore a hair shirt—a garment made of rough animal hair worn next to the skin—and sometimes a nail-studded belt turned inward to his body. The effect of these torments was to weaken him and give him a pale and haggard appearance, which terrified both strangers and acquaintances. It also caused him lifelong stomach problems.
After a period of time in Manresa, Spain, where he spent six or more hours a day in prayer and a few hours a day begging for alms (money or food), Ignatius worked in hospitals, caring for the poor. He had sold all his property and given away the proceeds to the needy. As a local nobleman, however, Ignatius was still well known in the community. His social status, along with his growing spiritual reputation, led to frequent invitations to other nobles' houses to dine and to give religious instruction. He would not stay with the nobility, however, but retired to humble lodgings to sleep.
Ignatius tried to confess and do penance (an act to show sorrow or repentance) for all the sins of his earlier life. When he found he had committed so many sins that he could not enumerate them, a priest suggested writing them out. Beginning in 1522 he spent a year in seclusion at the small town of Mansera outside Barcelona. During this time he put his ideas on paper, eventually producing his masterpiece, the Spiritual Exercises, which was published in 1548. This short but influential book outlines a thirty-day regimen, or systematic plan, of prayer and self-abasement (acts of self-denial and punishment), with the understanding that devotion to God must be central. After a pilgrimage, or religious journey, to Jerusalem in 1524, Ignatius decided he needed a better education if he was to do his work effectively. He began to study Latin at Barcelona, then moved in 1526 to the recently founded university at Alcalá de Henares, where humanist influence was strong. Finally he spent a short time at the University of Salamanca.
Ignatius targeted by Inquisition While Ignatius was at Alcalá de Henares and Salamanca, Catholic officials suspected him of being involved in Luther's reform movement. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was also the king of Spain, was unable to stop the spread of Protestantism in Germany. He therefore used the Inquisition to stamp it out in Spain (see "The Inquisitions" section later in this chapter). Although Ignatius does not appear to have known about Luther, he was imprisoned without trial or formal charges on several occasions. He always insisted on a judgment, but he was usually found blameless despite his unconventional practices. After these experiences with inquisitors Ignatius concluded that he ought to be a fully educated priest rather than a hermit (one who lives in isolation) and preacher. In 1528 he went to the University of Paris, which was then the center of Catholic learning in Europe. Again he lived on alms, begged in Flanders and England between academic sessions, and studied continuously. While in Paris, Loyola met six of the men who were to form the nucleus of the Jesuits. Among them were Diego Lainez (1512–1565), later a theologian at the Council of Trent, and Francis Xavier (1506–1552), who became the first Jesuit missionary to India and Japan.
Ignatius was ordained a priest in 1537. He then requested that Pope Paul III allow his group to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he hoped they might remain as hospital workers. The pope was delighted by the group's zeal and funded their journey. They planned to take a ship from the port of Venice to Syria, but Turkish pirates in the Mediterranean prevented any pilgrim ships from setting sail that year—contributing to that being the only year in the past half century that pilgrim ships did not leave Venice for Syria. The "Company of Jesus," as the Jesuits now called themselves, took it as an omen, or warning sign, that their future work did not lie in the Holy Land (called Palestine at the time; the territory is now in parts of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt). Apart from taking short trips, Ignatius spent the rest of his life in Italy.
Troubled by serious social and religious problems in Italy, Ignatius saw an opportunity to do his work closer to home. He invited his companions from around Italy to join him in Rome. The time had come, he told them, to establish an order that differed from the older orders of the Church (Benedictines, Carthusians, Franciscans, Dominicans, and others). First, his group would be loyal to the pope. Second, they would not live a monastic life with regular hours of prayer and choral singing. Third, strict obedience to leaders of the order would be the foremost priority. (One of the oldest Jesuit tales is about a mortally ill novice (candidate for the priesthood) on his death bed asking the novice-master for permission to die.) The organization members' task was to act as "trumpeters of Christ." Members of the order were to be made strong and adaptable through prayer, self-surrender, and a very long training period. At first some influential Roman clergymen opposed the new order, but the pope established the Society of Jesus as an order of the Catholic Church in 1540.
Jesuits an influential order In 1541 Ignatius was named the first superior general of the Jesuits. The order eventually grew from the original six followers to more than a thousand. Several Jesuits acted as experts at the Council of Trent. Pierre Favre (Peter Faber; 1506–1546), one of Ignatius's earliest companions, was the first Jesuit to go to Germany. He advocated reconciliation with Protestants rather than conflict. Some Jesuits became missionaries in the New World (the European term for North and South America) and others went to Poland. The Jesuits also moved early into the field of education, founding colleges in Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and India. These colleges became the basis of the Jesuit educational system that has continued to the present.
By maintaining good relations with the popes, Ignatius was also able to improve conditions nearer to home. In Rome he set up Saint Martha's, a refuge, or safe place, for reforming prostitutes (women who engage in sexual intercourse for money). For most of the last fifteen years of his life he worked a twenty-hour day, resting only to recover from increasingly severe illnesses. He finally died after a day of hard work in 1556. Ignatius was declared a saint in 1622. By that time the Jesuits had become the single most powerful weapon of the Catholic Reformation.
Piarists The Piarist order was founded by José Calasanz (1557–1648). He was a priest from Aragon, Spain, who went to Rome in 1592 to take a position in the papal curia (the body of congregation, tribunals, and office through which the pope governs the Roman Catholic Church). While working with a confraternity that taught catechism (religious doctrines in the form of questions and answers) to poor children, he became aware that these children lacked sufficient schooling. He tried to get city officials and religious orders to provide better education for poor boys, but both agencies claimed they lacked the funds. In 1597 Calasanz and three friends opened a school that did not charge fees for instruction. Students flocked to the doors. Money came from the donations of wealthy church officials. The Jesuits also did not charge fees, but they accepted only students who already knew some Latin, the official language of the church. Therefore poor boys were not usually eligible for Jesuit schools because they rarely knew Latin. The Piarist schools taught catechism along with subjects that would enable the boys to get better jobs. The band of teachers grew to twenty. In 1604 Pope Clement VIII (1536–1605; reigned 1592–1605) authorized them to live as a religious community. Ten years later Pope Paul V (1552–1621; reigned 1605–21) agreed to Calasanz's request that they be merged with the Matritani, a small order founded by Giovanni Leonardi (1541–1609). This association ended three years later, primarily because the Matritani did not focus on education
Peter Canisius, a Jesuit in Central Europe
Peter Canisius (also known as Peter Kanis; 1521–1597), a Jesuit from the Netherlands, was a leading figure of the Catholic Reformation. A prayerful man and tireless worker, he revitalized the Catholic Church in central Europe by preaching, writing, and founding Jesuit colleges.
Peter Canisius was born in the Dutch town of Nijmegen. After studying at the Latin school of Saint Stephen in Nijmegen, he entered the University of Cologne at the age of fifteen. At a monastery in Cologne he was influenced by the Devotio Moderna, a movement stressing a greater commitment to the religious life. In 1540 he earned a master of arts degree and began studying theology. In 1543 he heard about Pierre Favre, one of the first Jesuits, who was then at Mainz. Under Favre's direction he read the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and decided to become a Jesuit. Peter was ordained a priest in 1546.
Peter had a long missionary career in many countries of Europe. In 1546 he participated in the Council of Trent. Two years later he joined nine other Jesuits in opening a school at Messina, and in 1549 he joined the faculty of the University of Ingolstadt. In 1552 he went to Vienna to assist the new Jesuit community there. To meet the challenge of Martin Luther's popular catechism (a book of religious instructions in the form of questions and answers), Peter published his Summary of Christian Doctrine in 1555. Designed for boys in the upper classes and clearly written in easy Latin, Peter's catechism was eventually reissued in hundreds of editions. In 1556 he published Tiny Catechism for children. His most popular work, An Abridged Catechism for students in the middle grades, appeared in 1558. Through the years he embellished this book with engravings, verses, and prayers.
In 1556 Peter became superior (the head of a religious house or order) of the Upper German Province. For the next forty-one years his days were filled with diverse activities. He shared in the establishment of 18 Jesuit colleges, and in the Augsburg Cathedral alone he preached 225 long sermons in 18 months. He also wrote two volumes of church history. In 1557 he traveled about 2,000 miles through Italy, Austria, Bavaria, and the Rhineland. Bishops and abbots constantly sought his advice. Peter's correspondence, which fills eight large volumes, reveals a person of gentle patience and ardent devotion to the Catholic Church. He regarded heresy as "a plague more deadly than other plagues," but he insisted on a spirit of charity in meeting non-Catholics. In 1597, at the age of 76, he died at Fribourg, Switzerland. Pope Pius XI canonized Peter and declared him a doctor of the church (one who defends Roman Catholic teaching) in 1925.
and they were not so devoted to the vow of poverty as the Piarists.
The Piarists were formally approved by Pope Gregory XV (1554–1623; reigned 1621–23) in 1621. Calasanz was elected the first superior of the order and wrote their constitution, which was approved by the pope in 1622. To the traditional three vows—poverty, chastity, and obedience—the Piarists added a fourth vow, teaching. Calasanz did not allow his priests to preach, and he discouraged them from hearing confessions or doing any work that would distract them from teaching.
Growth brings problems The Piarists resorted to begging from door to door when they were low on funds. Their schools filled a need, and the order grew rapidly. New schools were opened in thirteen Italian cities between 1617 and 1634. The first school outside Italy opened in Moravia in 1631. By 1646 the Piarists had five hundred members and thirty-seven houses, almost all with schools. In a few cases the Piarists took over existing town schools and received annual financial support from the town.
Rapid growth caused severe problems for the Piarists. Calasanz seems to have lowered standards to rush teachers into the classroom after only a year of training. The Piarists had a large proportion of lay brothers. The priests taught the more advanced classes, especially those in Latin, and the brothers were restricted to the lower classes. To ease mounting tensions between the priests and the brothers, Calasanz authorized all the brothers to be ordained in 1627. This decision caused even more problems and the order was withdrawn ten years later. Calasanz's authoritarian policies alienated other superiors. The Jesuits resented the Piarists as a rival teaching order, and many nobles saw free education for the poor as a threat to the upper classes. The noblemen feared that peasants would be able to rise above their lowly status once they learned to read and write. Some Piarists were denounced to the Inquisition, and in 1642 Calasanz was arrested briefly. Finally the order was prohibited to take novices, and those who had taken vows as priests were allowed to join other orders. Two hundred members left, but three hundred stayed with the Piarists. In 1656 the pope relented and restored the Piarists as a community. It qualified as a full order in 1669. Once more their ranks swelled, and new schools were opened, notably in eastern Europe and Spain. The Piarists, who were especially devoted to the Virgin Mary (mother of Jesus Christ) and communion, borrowed much of their spiritual teachings from the Jesuits.
Oratorians The Oratorian congregation was founded by the Italian reformer Philip Neri (Filiippo Romolo de' Neri; 1515–1595). He was born in Florence, the son of a lawyer. As a boy, Philip befriended monks at the convent of San Marco. In 1532 or 1533 he went to San Germano to learn business from an uncle, but he decided he wanted a more spiritual life. After a few months he left San Germano and moved to Rome. There he studied philosophy and theology at Sapienza University and Sant' Agostino. He made friends easily and met regularly with some of them at the church of San Girolamo della Carità for discussion, prayer, and communion. San Girolamo became his home for thirty-two years. In 1551, after eighteen years in Rome, Philip was ordained a priest. His room, known as the "Oratory," became the center for meetings. Philip dreaded formality and loved spontaneity. He gave his little groups a definite character with Scripture readings, short commentaries, brief prayers, and hymns. The Italian composer Giovanni Palestrina (c. 1525–1594) set many of the scriptural texts to music, creating the "oratorio"—named for Philip's room—a form of musical presentation that is still popular today.
Popes Paul IV and Pius V (1504–1572; reigned 1566–72) did not approve of Philip's group. But among Philip's friends were some of the great religious figures of the age: Carlo Borromeo, Francis de Sales, and Ignatius of Loyola. As more priests became his followers, Philip rejected the traditional, tightly organized group united by religious vows. Instead, he created a congregation of lay priests living in a community. In 1575 Pope Gregory XIII (1502–1585; reigned 1572–85) approved the Congregation of the Oratory, which was called the Oratorians.
Philip's famous walks through Rome contributed to his earning the title Apostle of Rome. (In the Catholic Church an apostle is the principal missionary sent to a city or country.) Surrounded by a laughing and joking group of followers, he went into all corners of the city, radiating gaiety by his simple friendship and playful wit. Beneath his external life were the deep foundations of an intense spirit of prayer and love for the priestly responsibilities of hearing confessions and holding mass. In 1575 Santa Maria in Vallicella became the Oratorians' church. Eight years later Philip moved to the church, and he died there in 1595. Philip Neri was declared a saint in 1622.
Congregation of Missions The Congregation of Missions was started by the French priest Vincent de Paul (1581–1660) for the purpose of helping the poor. Vincent came from a peasant family in the village of Pouy in southwestern France. He studied theology at the University of Toulouse, was ordained a priest at age nineteen, and completed his theological studies four years later. Using his status as a priest to escape the dull village life of southern France, Vincent went to Paris in 1608. He wrote a curious letter to some friends at this time, telling in detail how he had been captured by Barbary pirates and taken as a slave to Tunisia. This story is not supported by any other evidence, and Vincent never referred to it later in his life.
In Paris, Vincent came under the influence of a spiritual guide who gradually led him to realize that helping others was more important than helping himself. For a few years he worked as a parish priest in Clichy near Paris. In 1613 he tutored the children of the general of the French galleys (ships or boats propelled by oars) and in 1617 became chaplain, or religious adviser, to the galley slaves, people who were forced to operate the oars on galleys. He was concerned for all the peasants on the general's properties because of their terrible living conditions. By 1625 he had influenced a number of young men, some of them priests, to join him in forming a religious group to be called the Congregation of the Mission. Vincent and his friends worked with the poor people of the countryside near Paris, helping them obtain food and clothing and teaching them about Jesus Christ.
Vincent formed associations of wealthy people in Paris, persuading them to dedicate some of their time and money to helping the poor. He started several hospitals, including one in Marseilles, France, for convicts sentenced to the galleys. Several times he was asked to act as a mediator in the wars of religion that were tearing France apart (see "France" in Chapter 6). With Louise de Marillac, one of his followers, Vincent started the Sisters of Charity, the first religious group of women dedicated entirely to works of charity outside the cloister (see "Sisters of Charity" section later in this chapter). He died in 1660 and was canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 1737. The religious groups he founded continue to carrying on his work.
Orders and congregations for women
Between the mid-fifteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries the church's involvement in the lives of women changed profoundly. Previously, women who were devoted to religious work lived in cloisters, secluded convents. Under the influence of humanism and new thinking in the church in the fifteenth century, women were encouraged to become involved in charitable activities aimed at helping the poor, the sick, and orphans. During the Catholic Reformation these activities expanded to include teaching catechism and performing welfare services. Religious institutions for females provided women with an alternative lifestyle or a substitute for the family. Under these new conditions women were free to remain unmarried, whereas in earlier times being unmarried was considered dishonorable.
Although the Council of Trent required women's communities to be cloistered, many worked within their local communities, principally as teachers. Throughout the seventeenth century, however, the church increasingly brought pressure on communities to become cloistered.
Company of Saint Ursula The Company of Saint Ursula was founded in 1535 by Angela Merici (c. 1474–1540). It was the original model for several communities and congregations bearing the name "Ursuline." The best known is the Order of Saint Ursula, the oldest and most influential Roman Catholic women's teaching order.
Angela Merici was born to peasant parents in Desenzano, on Lake Garda in northern Italy. She was orphaned in early childhood and later became a Franciscan tertiary (member of the third, or lay, order of Saint Francis). She taught poor girls the essentials of the Catholic faith and instructed them in caring for sick women in her native town. In 1516 she was invited to undertake similar tasks in Brescia. In 1524 and 1525 she made pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to Rome. In 1535 she established a more formal group, composed of twenty-eight young women, called the Company of Saint Ursula. As a society of virgins dedicated to the teaching of girls, Angela and her companions bound themselves to the service of their patron saint, Ursula.
Taking no religious vows and wearing simple clothing rather than habits (the garments worn by nuns), these women lived in their own homes or in suitable private households. Although they were not an organized community, they formed a sisterhood, each serving an apostolate, or mission, among her family, friends, and neighbors. Full-fledged members of the Company of Saint Ursula were young virgins, age twelve or older, of lower social status. They were protected and governed by upper-class widows. The organization was approved by the local bishop in 1536 and by the pope in 1544. The bishop of Milan, Carlo Borromeo promoted the Company of Saint Ursula in his diocese.
Angela Merici composed her Regola (1535–40) in which she advised her first followers that "if according to times and needs you should be obliged to make fresh rules and change certain things, do it with prudence [sound judgment] and good advice." Without binding her group to rigid rules, she formed a "new company" that took different forms, including communities of sisters taking simple vows. A cloistered order of teachers, the Ursulines of France, was founded in the early seventeenth century and later established in Canada, where it became the first training school for nuns. Some were communities of sisters who took simple vows. Among others was a cloistered order of teachers, the Ursulines of France, which was founded in the early seventeenth century. It was later established in Canada, where it became the first female missionary order. Angela Merici was beatified (declared holy) in 1768 and canonized in 1807.
Visitation of Holy Mary The Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitation Nuns) order was cofounded by the activist reformer Francis of Sales (1567–1622) and his follower Jane Frances of Chantal (1572–1641). Francis of Sales grew up in Thorens-Glières, Savoy, and was educated at the Jesuit college of Clermont in Paris (1580–88). He attended the university in Padua, Italy, where he received a doctorate of law degree in 1591. After briefly practicing law he turned to religion and was ordained in 1593 at Annecy, the chief town of his native Savoy. Francis began intense missionary work in Chablais, a district that had broken away from Savoy and had converted to Calvinism (a strict form of Protestantism; see "John Calvin" in Chapter 6). Chablais was later regained by the duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I (1562–1630), an ardent Catholic. Under Charles's protection, Francis returned the majority of the people of Chablais to Catholicism. Francis was consecrated bishop of Geneva in 1602. In 1610, he and Jane Frances of Chantal founded the Visitation of Holy Mary, called the Visitation Nuns, which became principally a teaching order for women.
Francis wrote the devotional classic Introduction to a Devout Life (1609). In the book he emphasized that spiritual perfection is possible for people who are busy with the affairs of the world. Contrary to what many believed at the time, Francis stressed that spirituality was not reserved only for those who withdraw from society. In addition to his spiritual works, his writings include controversies against Calvinists, letters, sermons, and documents on diocesan administration. Francis was the first to receive a solemn beatification at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome (1661). In 1877 he became the first writer in French to be named doctor of the church, and in 1923 Pope Pius XI named him the patron saint of writers.
Jane Frances of Chantal
Jane Frances of Chantal was the cofounder, with Francis of Sales, of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitation Nuns). Born in Dijon, France, she married Baron de Chantal in 1592. Her husband was killed in a hunting accident in 1601, leaving her with four children. Three years later she heard Francis of Sales preach at Dijon and she became his follower. By 1610 Jane Frances's oldest daughter had married and her fourteen-year-old son was provided for. With her two remaining children, she went to Annecy and joined Francis of Sales. Together she and Francis founded the Visitation of Holy Mary, which was primarily a teaching order for women. During the next two decades Jane Frances coped with tragedy. Francis of Sales died in 1622, and five years later her son was killed in battle. Then in 1628 the plague struck France and she turned her convent at Annecy into a hospital. She died in 1641 at a Visitation convent in Moulins; at the time she was returning home from a trip to Paris, where she had been a guest of Queen Anne of Austria. In the year of Jane Frances's death, the Visitation Order had eighty-six houses. Jane Frances of Chantal was canonized in 1767.
Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a network of schools for girls founded by an English lay apostle, or missionary, named Mary Ward (1586–1645). Ward was born into a wealthy recusant family (Roman Catholics who refused to attend Church of England services) from Yorkshire during a time when Catholicism was outlawed in England and Catholics were legally penalized for their faith. Ward dedicated herself to a religious life at a nearly age. Soon she was one of a wave of women who traveled to the European continent to pursue vocations in the Poor Clare teaching community in Saint-Omer in France. After an unsatisfying one-year novitiate (probationary membership) as a Clarist sister, Ward left Saint-Omer. Inspired by the Jesuits, in 1616 Ward established an English community for ladies, who would follow the spirit of Ignatius of Loyola and live uncloistered.
Pope Paul V approved the institute, and during the next fifteen years Ward started three hundred schools throughout Europe. Her goal was to provide an opportunity to young girls for life in either the secular (nonreligious) world or the religious world. Ward pursued her ambitions as a "jesuitess" by traveling and writing works on education and spirituality. The Jesuits themselves, however, resisted Ward and her fellow "galloping girls," the nickname given to the uncloistered religious women. The church eventually began pressuring women's congregations to become cloistered, so Ward met with hostility and suspicion. Ward's schools were suppressed by Pope Urban VIII in 1631, and Ward was imprisoned for refusing to make her organization a cloistered community. Eventually released from prison, she returned to England, where she died and was buried in her native Yorkshire. In 1701 the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary was revived. Ward's influence on lay missions was recognized by Pope Pius XII (1876–1958; reigned 1939–58) in 1951.
Sisters of Charity With the French priest Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac (1591–1660) cofounded the Sisters of Charity. It is a congregation dedicated to teaching and hospital work. Born in Ferrières-en-Brie, France, Louise was a member of the powerful de Marillac family and was well educated. She was orphaned by the age of fifteen, but poor health prevented her from joining the strict order of Poor Clares. In 1613 she married Antoine Le Gras (secretary to Queen Marie de Médicis of France), with whom she had a son, Michel. Widowed in 1625, she had already chosen Vincent de Paul as her spiritual guide, and he encouraged her to undertake charitable works.
In 1633 Marillac and Vincent started the Sisters of Charity with four girls who worked in Marillac's Paris home. As the superior of the group, Marillac trained the girls in the spiritual life and taught them to assist in visiting, feeding, and nursing the needy. Community members did not live in a cloister and they were not called nuns. They began taking religious vows in 1642, and then only for a year at a time. This practice continues today. By the late twentieth century the Sisters of Charity was the Roman Catholic Church's largest congregation of women. Louise de Marillac was canonized in 1934 and named the patron saint of Christian social work in 1960.
During the Catholic Reformation men and women in religious communities were encouraged to become active in the world beyond monastery and convent walls. At the same time, however, a renewed emphasis on spirituality produced two of the greatest mystics in the history of Christianity, Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. Both were from Spain and both were members of Carmelite orders.
Teresa de Ávila Teresa de Ávila (1515–1582) was the founder of the Reformed Discalced (Barefoot) Carmelite Convent of San Jose. She is most famous today for her experiences as a mystic; she described these experiences in her autobiography, Life (1611), and numerous other books. She was born Teresa de Ahumada on a farm near Ávila, Spain. Her father was Alonso (Pina) de Cepeda, son of a wealthy Jewish businessman, and her mother was Beatriz de Ahumada, a farmer's daughter. When Teresa was fourteen, her mother died in childbirth. In her autobiography Teresa recalled that when she was sixteen she would sneak out of the house to meet with a man she loved. When gossip about the relationship reached her father, he took her to Our Lady of Grace, an enclosed Augustinian convent nearby.
Teresa stayed at Our Lady of Grace until 1532, when she became ill with a weak heart. She suffered poor health for the rest of her life. After recuperating for nearly three years at her sister's farmhouse, she decided to become a nun. One of her greatest fears was going to hell when she died, and she claimed that she wanted to be a nun because of that fear. When she told her father about her decision, he was determined not to give her to the church. Teresa then ran away to the Carmelite Convent of the Encarnacion (Incarnation), where she became a nun in 1537 and took the name of Teresa de Jesus. The convent, which was uncloistered, offered great freedom to Carmelites. They wore perfume, jewelry, and colorful sashes. Later, Teresa called it "an inn just off the road of hell." While she was there, she met a nobleman and fell in love, which was a disturbing experience for her.
About a year later she became ill again and left the convent to recuperate at her sister's house. The doctors said she was fatally ill with consumption, a disease that causes the body to waste away. One of her uncles had given her religious books to read the previous time she was ill. This time, he had discovered "mystical theology" and gave her The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna, a Franciscan monk. Teresa began collecting books on the new theology and entered the mystical stage of her life. When she became strong enough, she decided to go to a healer in Becedas for a "cure." She became so ill that her father had to take her home to die. Teresa went into a coma for four days. She slowly recovered and insisted on going back to the Carmelite convent, where she spent the next three years in the infirmary. After her recovery, she left the infirmary and returned to the convent.
Experiences conversion In 1543 Teresa's father died and she went through a long struggle with inner conflict. She agonized over her feelings for men, especially a nobleman and priest named Garcia de Toledo. In 1554 she experienced a conversion, or spiritual change, when she saw a statue of the wounded Christ. Then someone gave her a copy of Confessions by Saint Augustine (354–430), one of the early church leaders. She identified with the spiritual suffering described by Augustine and realized that she was not damned (destined for hell or eternal suffering). In 1556 Teresa asked for permission to leave the convent. Her practices in penance and prayer were considered extreme, compared to the casual lifestyle at the convent. The Carmelites therefore allowed her to leave.
For the next three years Teresa lived with a friend, Dona Guiomar de Ulloa (Yomar). With the help of Juan de Pradanos, her Jesuit confessor and the vice-rector, or assistant head, of the College of Saint Gil, Teresa found more depth in her spiritual experience. Following his instructions she had her first rapture, a spiritual experience in which one achieves knowledge of the divine. As a result, she gave up some of her friendships with men, especially Garcia de Toledo. When de Pradanos became ill, he was moved into Yomar's home so that Teresa and Yomar could nurse him. This situation caused a scandal in the community.
After de Pradanos recovered, he, Teresa, and Yomare left Ávila. Teresa went to her sister's home in Alba for a while. Yomar went to visit her mother and de Pradanos was transferred to Valladolid. After two months, Teresa was ordered to return to the Carmelite convent in Ávila. A young Jesuit priest became her new confessor, but because of the scandal he would not talk to her about spiritual matters. She spent much of her time reading, until 1557, when Pope Paul IV banned many "mystical" books. (At that time the church did not recognize mysticism as a valid religious practice.) In 1559 Teresa's own book collection was burned by inquisitors.
Becomes famous for visions When Teresa finished Life, the inquisitors ordered her to expand it, filling in omitted events. They wanted to know more about her visions. Many times she fell into seizures, or trancelike states, and did not remember what had happened. Witnesses described these events, and gossip soon spread throughout the community. Teresa heard voices and saw visions of both the devil and Jesus Christ. Many people thought she was possessed by the devil and should be exorcised, an act in which a priest drives out evil spirits. According to some accounts, Teresa also experienced levitation, or lifting of the body by supernatural forces. She ordered the other nuns not to tell anyone because the inquisitors were searching for heretics and burning them at the stake. She was afraid church officials would think she was making a pact with the devil through these visions and they would convict her of heresy. She completed her expanded version of Life in 1559.
By 1560 Teresa had made a decision to reform the Carmelites. She had long been troubled by the lax standards at her convent, and she wanted to return the Carmelites to strict observance of the original rules of the order. After much opposition and struggle, in 1562 Pope Pius IV granted her permission to start the San Jose convent for the Reformed Discalced Carmelite Order. Four nuns were transferred from the Convent of the Encarnacion to her reformed convent. Next, four novices joined the order against opposition from members of the church and the city. But Teresa was determined to achieve her goal, and she continued to write. Before her death she produced numerous books, which are now considered classics in mystical literature. Teresa was instrumental in reforming not only the Carmelite convents for women but also the Carmelite monasteries for men. She is credited with reviving Catholicism at a time when Protestantism threatened to bring down the church. She spent the remainder of her life traveling for the Reformed Discalced Carmelite Order.
Teresa's death considered a miracle There were several accounts of Teresa's last days before her death on October 4, 1582. One account said that she was kidnapped by Friar Antonio de Jesus Heredia and taken to Alba so she could be present at the birth of an heir of the duke and duchess of Alba. Another account said that Heredia ordered Teresa to go to Alba and even though she was ill, she went willingly. After arriving in Alba, she went to the convent, where she suffered a hemorrhage, or uncontrolled bleeding, and was taken to the infirmary. Teresa knew she was dying, but she was joyful at the end. Witnesses said that a sweet fragrance filled the room at the time of her death. Teresa was buried at the convent chapel in Alba, though many friends protested that she should be buried in Ávila. Her tomb emitted the mysterious sweet fragrance and miracles were reported.
Nine months later, Gracian, a Reformed Carmelite superior, had Teresa's body exhumed, or removed from the grave. Although her robes were rotting, her body was well preserved. Gracian cut off Teresa's left hand and took it back to Ávila. He cut off one finger to use as a talisman, or good luck charm, then reburied her in the tomb. Three years later, Gracian convinced the Chapter of the Discalced to exhume her body and take it to Ávila. Teresa's body was still preserved. The Discalced considered this a supernatural occurrence since she had not been embalmed, or preserved with special fluids after death. They agreed to leave one arm in Alba to console the nuns there. The duchess was outraged and the duke convinced the pope to order Teresa's body to be returned to Alba. By the eighteenth century, her body had been exhumed many times for examination and little by little body parts, bones, and pieces of flesh were missing. When Teresa's heart was removed, it appeared to have a knife wound that was burned around the edges. Teresa was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. She was declared a doctor of the church in 1970.
John of the Cross The Spanish Carmelite John of the Cross (1542–1591) was one of the most important mystical writers in the Catholic tradition. He also played a leading role in the sixteenth-century reform of the Carmelites. John of the Cross was born Juan de Yepes at Fontiveros, Spain. When John was two years old his father died and left the family penniless. After John's mother moved with him and his two siblings to Medina del Campo, he tried several trades without success. He excelled in school and continued his studies at the Jesuit college in Medina. In 1563 he became a novice at the monastery of Saint Ana in Medina. His superiors sent him to the University of Salamanca, where he was ordained a priest in 1567.
In 1568 the reformer and mystic Teresa de Ávila (see "Teresa de Ávila" section previously in this chapter) visited the Medina monastery to discuss the possibility of including male monasteries in her Reformed Discalced (Barefoot) Carmelite order. Both John and the prior of the house joined Teresa's order, and John was the first friar accepted into the new monastery, Duruelo. After some short stays in Pastrana and Alcalá, John joined Teresa as confessor in the unreformed Carmelite convent of Ávila, of which she had become prioress. During this period they stayed in constant spiritual contact.
Meanwhile, the opposition between Reformed Discalced Carmelites and Calced Carmelites, which had existed from the beginning, took on alarming proportions. In 1575 John was abducted and imprisoned by the Calced friars. He was set free at the request of the papal nuncio (pope's representative in the government). But he was imprisoned again in 1577, and this time he had to escape. For safety he stayed in remote places in Andalusia (a region in southern Spain). During those years of obscurity he wrote most of his mystical works.
After the two branches of the Carmelites were finally split, John remained in the south but regained status as vicar provincial (the deputy district head of a religious order). It was only toward the end of his life, in 1588, that he returned to Castile as prior of the house of Segovia and as councilor (adviser) to the provincial (district head of the order). Because of his disagreement with the radical, innovative provincial, he was soon removed from office and sent back to Andalusia. He became ill in 1591 and died that same year. John of the Cross was canonized in 1726 and pronounced a doctor of the church in 1926. The work of Saint John consists of poetry and mystical commentaries that he wrote on some of his poems. Best known are The Spiritual Canticle, The Living Flame of Love, The Dark Night of the Soul, and Ascent of Mount Carmel.
The most infamous aspect of the Catholic Reformation was the Inquisition. Today the Inquisition is perceived as a single church court that used terrifying tactics to discover and punish heretics throughout Europe. Actually, it consisted of three separate courts—the Roman Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Portuguese Inquisition—which were all extensions of the medieval Inquisition that came into being during the thirteenth century (see "Inquisition" in Chapter 1). Although these courts did unleash a reign of terror in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, historians have found that many stories about the Inquisitions are exaggerations. For instance, fewer people were executed and torture was used less frequently than is generally believed, especially in Italy and Portugal. The most horrible methods were used by Tomás de Torquemada (1420–1498), head of the Spanish Inquisition, yet the mass executions that took place under his direction were apparently not duplicated elsewhere, even in Spain. Nevertheless, the Inquisition remains a troubling chapter in European history because the power of the church was used to persecute thousands of people, non-Christian and Christian alike.
Popes implement Roman Inquisition
The Catholic Reformation gained momentum in 1542 when Pope Paul III established the Roman Inquisition to prevent the spread of Protestantism in Italy. By that time, however, the Spanish Inquisition, which started in 1478, had already been underway for more than sixty years (see "Inquisition reaches Spain" in Chapter 3). Some historians note that the Roman Inquisition was an attempt to combat the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition. At that time a great part of Italy was under the rule of Spain. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was also the king of Spain, was using the Spanish Inquisition to gain even more control in Italy.
Although Paul III set up the Roman Inquisition, he did not actively enforce it. His successor, Julius III, limited the Inquisition to Italy, but he took no other significant steps. Popes Paul IV and Pius V, however, gave inquisitors more power. In 1555 Paul IV introduced such extreme measures that he alienated nearly everyone. He believed false charges that Jews were influencing the Protestant Reformation, and he established the Jewish ghetto at Rome. He required all Jews to wear a badge, thus separating them from Christians. In 1559 Paul IV issued the first edition of his Index of Prohibited Books, which was used in conjunction with the Inquisition to stop the flow of heretical ideas. Although Pius V was not as brutal as Paul IV, he was determined to suppress heresy and all other violations of church laws. In fact, Pius V himself took part in many Inquisition proceedings. During his reign, Protestantism was completely eliminated in Italy.
Roman and Spanish Inquisitions
The Roman and Spanish Inquisitions followed similar procedures. Although both were headed by the pope, the Spanish court was actually controlled by the monarchs of Spain. Each inquisition was administered through a supreme council that consisted of cardinals who acted as inquisitors and judges. Local tribunals were set up to try cases in large areas. Inquisitors in these tribunals did not necessarily have to be priests or theologians; the only requirement was that they have a law degree. The local tribunals had two or three inquisitors and a small administrative staff of assistants, familiars (clerical workers), and priests.
Index of Prohibited Books
In 1559 Pope Paul IV issued the first edition of his Index of Prohibited Books, a list of works that the Roman Catholic Church considered to be heretical. Paul's Index was not the first such list. In fact, certain books were prohibited in ancient times. The church had been following this practice since the early days of Christianity and throughout the Middle Ages.
During the Catholic Reformation church and government authorities saw an urgent need for an Index. They wanted to prevent the printing, sale, possession, and reading of works by Martin Luther and his Protestant followers. The first printed Index of Prohibited Books was issued by the theology faculty at the University of Paris, the center of Catholic learning, in 1544. The first Index printed in Italy appeared at Venice in 1549 as a cooperative effort of the Roman Inquisition and the Venetian government. The Spanish Inquisition and the Portuguese Inquisition both issued an Index in 1551.
The Index released by Paul IV included titles of more than 1,000 works divided into three classes. The first contained authors whose complete writings were prohibited. The second, with 126 titles, listed individual works under the names of their authors. The third, with 332 titles, was reserved for books considered to be anonymous. This section was followed by a list of 45 editions of the Bible and the New Testament (the second part of the Bible), along with the names of 61 printers known to have published heretical books. Many considered Paul's Index too severe, so it was modified later in 1559 and again in 1561. The church continued to publish Indexes. In 1571 Pope Pius V created the Congregation of the Index, which became a permanent part of church government and was charged with keeping the Index up to date. Although the Congregation was to have jurisdiction over the entire Catholic world, Spain and Portugal published their own Indexes in conjunction with their national Inquisitions. The sixteenth-century Indexes of Prohibited Books hit about 2,000 authors with at least one condemnation. Three-fourths of these writers had all of their works banned. Among the authors were the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, the French humorist and satirist François Rabelais, and the Spanish mystic Teresa de Ávila.
The Index of Prohibited Books was published until 1948, when the twentieth and final edition appeared. In 1966 the Catholic Church abolished the Index and classified it as an historical document.
All Inquisition proceedings were kept secret. Charges were brought to the tribunal by members of the public who suspected people of heresy. In Italy, inquisitors concentrated on people who seemed to be embracing Protestantism. In Spain, insincere Marranos (also called Conversos; Jews who had converted to Christianity) and Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) were the targets. The Spanish Inquisition was therefore most successful in areas where there were conflicts between Christians and non-Christians. Protestants were later sought out by the Spanish court, especially in the Netherlands, which was then ruled by Spain. The Roman Inquisition handled some witchcraft cases (see "Witchcraft trials" section later in this chapter), but the rights of the accused were protected. The Spanish Inquisition was allowed to go beyond finding and punishing heretics. The tribunals often took cases that were usually tried in local courts, putting people on trial for such offenses as smuggling horses out of the country or committing bigamy (being married to more than one person). The Spanish Inquisition sometimes became involved in cases of witchcraft, which were usually tried by local courts. In 1526 the Suprema (supreme council) decided to treat witchcraft as an imaginary offense, which was not considered a crime. Some tribunals exceeded their authority and allowed witches to be executed, but after a famous case in Navarre in 1610 no accused witches suffered the death penalty at the hands of the Inquisition.
Before a person was arrested by the tribunal, the evidence against him or her was examined by theologians to see if heresy was involved. If so, the person was taken into custody and his or her property was seized to pay court and prison costs. The accused was held in the inquisitorial prison and periodically questioned by inquisitors in sessions that were considered the "trial." Torture was rarely used to extract information, and then only in cases involving heresy. During a trial, representatives of the inquisitors and the accused person stated their cases. Sentences were announced in the presence of judges and representatives of the local bishop. The most infamous method used by the Inquisitions, both in Spain and in Italy, was the auto-da-fé ("act of faith"; pronounced awh-toh deh FAY). Introduced by Torquemada in 1481, the auto-da-fé was a public ceremony in which sentences were announced. Executions, usually burning at the stake, were carried out in a different location. They were usually conducted by local authorities because church officials were not allowed to shed blood. In times of great activity, such as the prosecution of Protestants in 1559, autos-da-fé could be held annually. Otherwise they were seldom held more than once every ten years. Between 1480 and 1530, about two thousand people were executed in Spain. After that time, executions, for whatever offense, were few. Records for the Roman Inquisition show that only a small number of trials ended with the death penalty. According to one account, ninety-five people were put to death between 1542 and 1761.
Everyone is a target
Both the Roman and Spanish Inquisitions promoted anti-Semitism, or prejudice against Jews. In Italy and Spain, Jews were segregated and forced to wear an identifying badge. In 1492 about 100,000 Jews were driven out of Spain, and during the next two centuries Jews were regularly harassed by inquisitors. Muslims were also targeted by the Spanish Inquisition. In 1609 King Philip III signed a decree of expulsion. From 1609 until 1614, between 300,000 and 350,000 Muslims were forced to leave Spain. Charges were also brought against Catholics who appeared to be guilty of heresy. In Spain, Ignatius Loyola and Teresa of Ávila, founders of religious orders, were sought out by inquisitors. During the Roman Inquisition, Italian astronomer Galileo (Galileo Galilei; 1564–1642) was convicted of heresy for supporting the theory that the Earth moves around the Sun (see "Astronomy" in Chapter 10). During the mid-1500s Catholics suspected of embracing Lutheranism were increasingly targeted by both Inquisitions. Methods of the Spanish Inquisition were especially brutal. In 1567 King Philip II introduced the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands. He sent Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, duke of Alba (c. 1507–1582) to crush a revolt staged by Protestants. Álvarez established the Council of Troubles (known as the "Council of Blood") and executed perhaps 12,000 people (see "Netherlands" in Chapter 6). Even King Philip was
The Inquisition was founded in Portugal during the reign of King John III the Pious (1502–1557; ruled 1521–57). He wanted to enforce Catholicism in his kingdom and block the circulation of heretical works. In 1531 Pope Clement VII issued a bull, or decree, establishing a Portuguese Inquisition, but it was revoked two years later. Representatives of Portuguese New Christians (also called Conversos; Jews who converted to Christianity) had pressured Rome to prevent the creation of an Inquisition. In 1536, however, Pope Paul III authorized a tribunal in Portugal. It was organized like the Roman and Spanish Inquisitions, with an inquisitor general overseeing local tribunals. The Inquisition extended to Portuguese possessions in Asia, east Africa, and Brazil. After Spain took over Portugal in 1580, the Portuguese and Spanish Inquisitions remained separate.
The list of offenses to be tried by Portuguese inquisitors included practicing the Jewish, Islam, and Protestant religions; witchcraft; sacrilege (violation of anything considered sacred to God); and bigamy. From 1536 to 1674, 32,675 people were put on trial and 1,515 were executed in Portugal. Other punishments included exile, terms as galley slaves, floggings, and property confiscations. The inquisitors also played a role in book censorship. Agents of the Inquisition searched foreign ships for prohibited books. The Portuguese Inquisition issued its own list of prohibited books in 1551 and added titles to several editions of the Roman Index.
repulsed by Alba's methods and he recalled the duke to Spain, thus ending the siege of terror.
It is a commonly held opinion that the Inquisition prevented Spain from becoming a Protestant nation, but many historians believe this is inaccurate. The tribunal did not begin to act against suspected Protestants until after 1558. Historians suggest that the real reason Spain remained Catholic was that it was culturally isolated from the rest of Europe. When Protestants were identified, they were eliminated in a number of trials from 1558 until 1562. About seventy were executed, and the rest were imprisoned or penanced (persuaded to confess their error). After 1562 the greatest number of arrests for so-called Lutheranism were of people from foreign countries, such as sailors, who strayed into tribunal districts. In the late 1500s and throughout the 1600s the Spanish Inquisition focused mainly on immorality or other social issues instead of heresy. It was inactive after the 1730s and finally abolished in 1834.
After Protestantism had been eliminated in Italy during the 1570s, the Roman Inquisition became part of the papal government. During the next three centuries the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition focused on maintaining social order and enforcing pure religious observation among Catholics. In 1908 Pope Pius X reorganized the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition and officially named it the Holy Office. In 1965 Pope Paul VI (1897–1978; reigned 1963–78) reorganized the congregation along more democratic lines and renamed it the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
During the Reformation period witchcraft trials were held throughout Europe by both Catholics and Protestants. The purpose of the trials was to discover and punish people who committed heresy by practicing harmful magic or worshiping the devil. Harmful magic was the use of a supernatural or mysterious power that caused death, bodily injury, illness, or some other misfortune. This type of magic, often called sorcery, was feared because it could harm an entire community, such as when a witch brought down a hail storm that destroyed crops. Worship of the devil involved not only the making of a face-to-face pact with the evil spirit but also group worship of him in secret ceremonies at night. During these ceremonies, known as sabbaths, witches supposedly ate children, danced naked, and had sexual intercourse with demons. The word for witchcraft in most European languages could also mean white (beneficial) magic, but most judges considered this type of witchcraft to be a lesser offense and punished it less harshly.
The concept of witchcraft was gradually developed over three centuries by theologians and inquisitors. At its root was the Christian belief, first expressed by church fathers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, that the power of all magic came from the devil. Since magic came from the devil, it was therefore a form of heresy. By the fifteenth century the charge of heresy was directed against people who were suspected of casting spells and committing evil deeds, such as killing children. Theologians and judges began to think of witches as members of a new and dangerous heretical sect (small group). Their crimes included rejection of religion and morality, conspiracy (plots against the government), and magical destruction of life and property. Soon learned men were saying that witches could fly. This notion came from the popular belief that some women could turn themselves into cannibalistic screech owls and that other women joined nighttime processions to the Moon with Diana. (Diana was the Roman goddess of the Moon, forests, animals, and women in childbirth.) Scholars proclaimed that the devil had given these women the power to fly.
Malleus Maleficarum triggers witch-hunts
Witchcraft had been added to the list of official punishable heresies in 1320, but it did not become a primary target until more than a century later. Then, in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued an edict called a papal bull that ordered the eradication, or complete extermination, of witches and other heathens (people who do not believe in God). Although many such edicts had previously been issued, the Papal Bull of 1484 had the advantage of a recent invention, the printing press, which rapidly spread information about so-called witches throughout Europe.
Stereotypes Fuel Witch Craze
Before the onset of the witch trials in the Reformation period, Jews were especially vulnerable to charges of heresy, as were Muslims, homosexuals, and Gypsies (wandering people who originated in India). Members of these targeted groups were driven to resettle in eastern and southern Europe. Many of the same accusations that later fueled the witch-hunts were initially aimed at these peoples. Charged with making pacts with the devil, eating children, and murdering Christians, these groups were often tortured to the point of confessing to crimes they did not commit. The word synagogue (a Jewish place of worship) was actually redefined to describe a time and place of devil worship. The word sabbath, traditionally associated with the Jewish day of rest, came to symbolize large group meetings between witches and the devil. Even the stereotype of a witch was borrowed from the racist caricature (distorted representation of certain physical features) of Jews and Arabs as having extremely large, crooked noses.
Although Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, and Gypsies were not actually a political threat, they were used by church and government officials to stir up suspicion and violence during the Inquisition. Thus Christian leaders gained supremacy through growing bigotry and intolerance toward "outsiders" or anyone else who might threaten the status quo (existing state of affairs). This campaign caused great fear among the common people, preparing the way for the persecution of witches.
The printing press also aided the mass publication of more than thirty scholarly works on witchcraft that were written during the fifteenth century. They were the basis of the most famous witchcraft study, Malleus malificarum (The hammer of witches;1487), which became the second-best-selling book in Europe for more than two centuries. This work was the official handbook for detecting, capturing, trying, and executing witches. It was written in 1486 by Austrian priest Heinrich Kramer (also Kraemer) and German priest Jakob Sprenger, at the request of Innocent VIII. As the main justification for persecution of witches, the authors relied on a brief passage in the Bible, which states: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18). According to the Malleus, "it has never yet been known that an innocent person has been punished on suspicion of witch-craft and there is no doubt that god would never permit such a thing to happen…"
The Malleus was a three-part work that described witchcraft in elaborate detail. The first part acknowledged the existence of witches and condemned them as demons and heretics. Much power was given to an accuser, regardless of his or her status in the community, and anyone accused of witchcraft was immediately discredited. The Malleus specified that even criminals, the insane, or children could testify against an accused witch once the person was brought to trial. The second part of the book preyed upon the imaginations and fears of the people by giving evidence of satanic activities of witches. The Malleus placed special emphasis on the relationship between female witches and the devil. Witches were accused of eating children, having sex with the devil, going to sabbaths with other witches and demons, and having evil connections with animals known as "familiars." Witches became the human agents of the devil and were held responsible for any number of imagined or real catastrophes.
The conclusion of the Malleus outlined the legal procedures required for finding, trying, and executing witches. This section gave free license to lawyers and clergymen, enabling them to take any means necessary to obtain a signed or verbal confession. To absolve lawyers and clergymen themselves from charges of murder, all accused witches were presumed guilty and innocence did not have to be proven. Any accused person could be taken from his or her home to the courts and subjected to various methods of extreme torture. The book prescribed these methods in detail, noting various markings that could prove a person was a witch. Such evidence included warts, excessive body hair, or extra nipples—all of which gave reason for intense punishment.
Torture brings confessions
The Malleus became the guide for civil and church law, going through twenty-eight editions between 1486 and 1600. It was accepted by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike as the authority on ridding Europe of satanism and witchcraft, which were now considered inseparable. The most important impact of Malleus was that it united the church and the state, making torture a legal means of obtaining confessions from accused witches. One of the most common means of torture was the stretching rack, a device that would slowly tear a person limb from limb as he or she was repeatedly commanded to confess to specific crimes. A similar tool was the strapado, which involved attaching weights to a victim's legs, then slowly lifting the person off the ground so that the legs would begin to tear away from the body. Another method involved the victim being stripped naked and slowly cut in half by being dragged along a very tight rope. Some people were tied to stakes and placed near a fire that would slowly "cook" them. Many others had their eyes gouged out or were beaten, raped, disemboweled (internal organs cut out), dropped from high above the ground, or subjected to numerous torturing devices. Also popular were "Spanish boots," devices that were put on a victim's legs and could work in either of two ways. One used internal vices that would slowly crush the victim's legs, while the other involved pouring boiling water or oil into the "boots."
These methods were extremely efficient. People were brought close to death and promised relief if they confessed to the charges against them. Thousands gave in, no matter how false or ridiculous the charges might have been, to save themselves from additional torture. In turn, the confessions fanned mass hysteria, proving that the initial suspicions had been correct and creating an enemy out of innocent people. Officials in some regions used so-called tests that pointed to the guilt of an accused person in various ways. A popular method in England (where torture was considered a crime) was the water test. The results were supposed to determine whether or not a person was indeed a witch—yet nobody could actually pass the test. It involved tying the accused person's arms and legs together, then throwing him or her into a body of water. If the victim sank (enduring death by drowning), he or she was not a witch. A person that floated was considered a witch. Since multilayered clothing was worn at the time, people quite often ended up floating because their clothes created pockets of air that forced them to remain at the surface of the water. Many accused witches were declared guilty by this method, then publicly burned at a stake in the center of town. Burning was considered another test, as well as the most severe form of punishment: it was thought that witches could survive fire because of their association with the devil. Those who did not survive the fire were pronounced innocent. The prevalence of the fire test led to this era being called "The Burning Times."
The relatives of the accused were charged money for all manner of details involved in the trial. Not only did they pay the salary of the judge, they also bore the costs of food and lodging for the accused in prison. In addition, relatives were charged for the wood and straw used for kindling the execution fire, and they were billed for the lavish banquets typically held for officials before mass executions. In the case of accused people who had no relatives in the region, personal property was confiscated to pay the bills. The result was that many people lost their land, money, and lives while a few witch-hunters and judges accumulated wealth with every successful trial.
Witch-hunts reach peak
Witchcraft prosecutions reached a peak between 1580 and 1660, and officially ended on June 17, 1782, when the last execution was held in Switzerland. Trials took place mainly in France, Germany, and Switzerland, but also extended throughout western Europe, into pockets of northern and eastern Europe, and eventually to the American colonies in New England. Spain was one of the few countries not associated with the witch hunts because Spanish officials did not believe in witchcraft as defined by the Malleus. In Spain suspected witches were locked up in convents. It is difficult to establish the number of people who were killed in the anti-witch campaign because many died in jails from torture and starvation and were not recorded in official execution counts. Most estimates state that one hundred thousand trials were held and that about half of the trials resulted in executions. On average, 80 percent of the accused were women and 85 percent of those actually executed were women. Most men who were accused were either related to women who had been tried, or they had criminal records implicating them in other crimes against the church and state. Nearly all of the accused were poor or came from the lower classes.
The most severe measures were taken in Germany. At the start of the seventeenth century the ruling prince of western Germany established a team of prosecutors and torturers equipped with special buildings and devices made specifically for torture. In the city of Bamberg, for instance, officials burned nine hundred witches in the first half of the century alone. Three hundred of the victims were under the age of four. In the village of Langendorf all but two women were arrested as witches. Two other German villages were left with only one female inhabitant each. Records show that in nearby Alsace, a province in France, a total of five thousand people were burned during the witch-hunts. England had its moments of severity as well, particularly after 1604, when King James I (1566–1625) passed a law that officially prohibited pacts with the devil. James stated publicly that out of every twenty-one witches, twenty were women, thus contributing to a focus on women as targets.
Approximately 80 percent of all accused witches throughout Europe were female, mainly because women engaged in types of activities that brought them under suspicion of practicing harmful magic. Midwives (women who assist in childbirth) and lying-in maids (women who assist mothers after delivery of a baby) frequently became targets of accusations from mothers who feared for the well-being of their newborn infants. Female healers (women who treated illnesses and diseases with herbs and other remedies) were often accused of being witches, especially when they did not cure their patients. Suspected witches were described as being outspoken or quarrelsome, and they usually failed to conform to the ruling-class's notion that most witches were women. But most charges of witchcraft came from peasant-class neighbors of the accused, not form the judges who questioned and charged them.
Witch craze ends
Although there were some vocal opponents of the witchcraft trials, very few survived their own outspokenness. Most were considered guilty by association and were virtually powerless against the campaign. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, two factors brought the persecutions to a halt. First, officials were running out of victims: so many people had been killed that entire regional populations had been altered. The high number of executions began raising concerns. In response to the atrocities in Bamberg and other areas of Germany, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II (1578–1637; ruled 1619–37) issued a decree to stop the killings. Other officials slowed down the witch-hunt as they began to realize it was no longer necessary. Another factor that helped grind the machine to a halt was a new European ideology, which envisioned a more rational and ordered universe. This shift in thinking eventually led to the era called the Enlightenment that began in the eighteenth century. By then, past history was dismissed as having been the result of irrational ancient superstitions.