The Peasant War in Germany - səhifə 47
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.
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
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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.
With the name of
John Hussis 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
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