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against them. The war covered twenty years.
The stubbornness of the bloody fight against the Albigenses is explained partly by the
fact that the Albigenses were aided in their war against the pope by the local feudal lords of
southern  France.  When  a  papal  legate  and  inquisitor  was  killed  on  the  territory  of  Count
Raymond VI of Toulouse, Pope Innocent III decided to use this occurrence as the occasion
for  taking  away  the  lands  from  Count  Raymond,  who  maintained  a  tolerant  attitude
towards the heretics. A struggle ensued between the lords of southern France and the pope,
who  was  supported  by  the  lords  of  the  north.  Northern  France  was  in  conflict  with  the
south,  which  being  economically  more  developed,  was,  therefore,  a  menace  to  it.  The
northern  armies  were  headed  by  Count  Simon  de  Montfort  and  papal  legates.  When  the
armies of the north took the city of Béziers, they killed 20,000 Albigenses. In the course of
the ensuing struggle hundreds of thousands fell. The provinces of Provence and Languedoc
were  devastated.  Peace  was  concluded  only  as  late  as  1229.  In  consequence  of  the  wars
against  the  Albigenses  the  wealthy  south  was  destroyed  and  the  territories  of  the  French
crown were expanded.
7.
 

John  Wycliffe

 (Born  October  1320,  died  1384)  –  An  English  reformer.  One  of  those
ideologists  who,  even  prior  to  the  Reformation  (Fifteenth  and  Sixteenth  Centuries),  drew
an  outline  of  the  coming  reforms.  John  Wycliffe  was  a  professor  of  Oxford  University.
Prior  to  his  appearance  on  the  social  and  political  arena,  he  devoted  himself  entirely  to
research work in the fields of physics, logic and philosophy. The Fourteenth Century was
an epoch of stubborn fighting between the royal power of England and the pope. The pope
exploited England cruelly. In the Thirteenth Century, the English kingdom paid to the pope
a  yearly  tribute  of  1,000  pounds  of  silver.  Under  Edward  III  (Fourteenth  Century),
Parliament complained that the country was paying the pope a sum five times the amount
of  the  taxes  paid  to  the  king.  The  development  of  industry  and  commerce  increased  the
resisting power of England. The struggle between Rome and England was deepened by the
Hundred  Years’  War  between  England  and  France  (1339–1456).  This  war  affected  the
interests  of  all  classes  of  the  English  people.  The  governing  classes  of  England  sought
possession of the treasuries of Netherland, and they also looked with a covetous eye on the
riches of the French nobility. The middle-class saw in this war a means of enrichment. The
burden of the war fell primarily upon the peasantry. It is not surprising, therefore, that the
pope,  having  become  an  ally  of  France,  aroused  universal  hatred  in  England.  In  1336,
Parliament abolished the tribute to the pope. Heresies persecuted in Italy and France now
spread to England. Wycliffe’s preachings were popular among all the strata of the people.
He  taught  that  in  case  of  necessity  the  State  had  a  right  to  deprive  the  Church  of  its
possessions, that power was based upon service, and that consequently only service could
The Peasant War in Germany
– 104 –

justify  the  levying  of  taxes  and  duties  by  the  clergy.  In  1374,  in  disputes  with  the
representatives  of  the  Roman  court,  Wycliffe  disclosed  also  the  abuses  of  the  Roman
Church  in  appointing  candidates  to  ecclesiastical  posts  in  England.  He  was  severely
persecuted by the clergy, and only the interference of the court, and the intervention of the
university and the cities, saved him.
In  his  doctrines,  Wycliffe  never  overstepped  the  boundaries  laid  down  by  the  ruling
classes. He preached poverty and equality in Christ, but only for the clergy. He proposed
that  their  lands  should  be  expropriated;  but  this  was  entirely  in  the  interests  of  the
landowners  and  the  king.  The  relations  between  man  and  God,  Wycliffe  pictured  in  the
image of the feudal relations of his time. Man holds all his possessions, he said, from God.
God’s  mercy  is  the  condition  of  this  vassalage.  Mortal  sin  deprives  man,  he  preached,  of
his  right  to  hold  possessions  by  the  mercy  of  God.  Therefore,  he  said,  the  clergy  should
have common property, and should submit to civil jurisdiction. The supreme judge of the
human conscience, he said, was not the pope, but God.
After the peasant insurrection of 1381, a general sympathy for Wycliffe in his struggle
against  the  pope  changed  into  a  hatred  on  the  part  of  the  propertied  classes.  Oxford
University  condemned  his  Twelve  Articles,  which  rejected  the  doctrine  of
transubstantiation. Wycliffe died in peace, but his doctrines were cruelly persecuted.
In 1415, the church council at Constance decided to burn his remains.
8.
With the name of

John Huss

 is  connected  the  struggle  against  the  Catholic  Church  in
Bohemia, the so-called Hussite movement of the Fifteenth Century. During the Fourteenth
and  Fifteenth  Centuries,  the  Roman  Catholic  Church  had  lost  its  authority  among  the
masses  of  the  people.  The  Roman  pope  was,  in  the  eyes  of  all  peoples,  an  exploiter  who
deprived them of earthly goods in the name of God and heavenly life. In England, France
and Spain, the Church was assuming a national character, severing its relations with Rome.
The  exception  was  Germany,  which  became  the  object  of  the  avaricious  appetite  of  the
pope. If the other countries were in a more favourable condition, if they were earlier in a
position  to  free  themselves  from  under  the  papal  yoke,  it  is  to  be  explained  only  by  the
development of capitalism, the growth of wealth, and the power of the middle-class and the
princes.  Of  all  Germany,  only  Bohemia  was,  in  this  respect,  in  an  exceptional  situation.
Bohemia  developed  economically  in  the  Fourteenth  Century  with  incredible  rapidity
because  of  its  silver  mines.  The  Church  and  the  king  with  his  court,  as  well  as  the
merchants  and  the  artisans,  received  enormous  profits.  The  pope  and  the  emperor  were
keenly  watching  Bohemia  lest  it  free  itself  from  their  dependence.  Dissatisfaction  had
begun to gather in the country. The lower nobility, the peasantry and the middle-class were
The Peasant War in Germany
– 105 –

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