5.1. The papal demonization and the development of historicism

5. THE APOCALYPSES OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

5.1. THE PAPAL DEMONIZATION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF HISTORICISM

In 1510 the German monk Martin Luther suffered a shock after he traveled to Rome and saw the stage of ecclesiastical corruption: Sixtus IV was the first pope who imposed a license on brothels, a special tax on the priests who had a concubine and established the selling of indulgences417 to be applied to the dead as well; the latter was a religious-financial scheme that assured unlimited income to the budget of the institution. In turn, Pope Alexander IV fathered seven children and simultaneously fostered two mistresses. After he returned to Wittenberg at the end of 1517, disgusted and resentful, Luther conceived a list entitled Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum and nailed it on the door of All Saints’ Church. The list of 95 theses was a summary of his grievances, through which he mainly requested a reopening of the debates regarding the selling of indulgences, the concepts of Purgatory, individual Judgment, Mariology (the devotion to the Virgin Mary), the worship of the saints, most of the sacraments and the authority of the Papacy. Luther’s disagreement was the spark that ignited the conflagration. The Ninety-Five Theses (as the document remained known in history) enjoyed a powerful support from laity and some clerics, marking the eruption of a widespread

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4.2.7. Girolamo Savonarola and the Florentine theocracy

4.2.7. Girolamo Savonarola and the Florentine theocracy



(This text is incomplete. If you wish to read it in full, please purchase the book)The influence of the monk in Florence grew as the House of Medici lost the control of its subjects. Under Lorenzo the Magnificent art and literature felt the humanist renaissance of the 15th century, whose spirit was in complete opposition with Savonarola’s view about spirituality and morality. The expensive Renaissance art paid by the leading Italian families contrasted with the poorness of the common people, becoming a source of resentment for the hungry crowd. In parallel, the relations between France and Italy worsened and clouds of war gathered. In 1494 Charles VIII of France entered Italy to occupy Naples. But in order to reach his destination, Charles had first to pass through Florence. Savonarola saw the French invasion as the hand of God which releases Florence from the authority of the corrupt pope. The political revolution was necessary; without it the religious and moral revolution could not take place. He urged the Florentines to peacefully and willingly obey the French invasion because that was God’s will.405 Accordingly, the Florentines opened the gates to the invaders, warmly welcoming them. The ruling House of Medici was dethroned, and when the French left Florence

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4.2.5. The Great Western Schism and the prophecies of the popes

4.2.5. The Great Western Schism and the prophecies of the popes

The catastrophes of the 13th and 14th centuries had a baneful effect on church authority. The troubles were seen as manifestations of divine anger, while the writings of the period lamented the decadence of the institution of God: “they [the priests] frequent brothels and taverns, and spend their time in drinking, revelling, and gambling, fight and brawl in their cups, and with their polluted lips blaspheme the name of God and the saints, and from the embraces of prostitutes hurry to the altar.”349 Popular pamphlets speak about monks and priests in the roughest terms. Geoffrey Chaucer, in his pilgrimages to Canterbury, offers details about the price of a monk from his time. Money became the true god of the church. Bishops sold licenses to priests so that they could keep concubines and many popes were never elected as representatives of Christ if free elections were held and if gold did not talk instead of the voters. But the all-powerful money revealed its limits within an event that profoundly altered the image of the Papacy: the Great Western Schism.

The Great Western Schism, which took place between 1378 and 1417, manifested itself only within Catholicism and, as the Great Schism in the 11th century, was not caused by theological issues, but by political ones. In 1309 the seat of the Papacy was transferred from Rome to Avignon, where seven popes succeeded until 1378. At the death of Gregory XI the citizens of Rome protested against the election of a new French pope in Avignon and constrained the bishops to choose an Italian pope in the person of Urban VI. But the French cardinals refused to recognize Urban VI, declared the election null and named Clement VII as pope. Clement settled in Avignon, while Urban remained in Rome. In this situation Western Christendom could not decide who to listen to; some nations acknowledged Urban, others Clement. The scene of the two rival popes, each one claiming to be the veritable successor of Saint Peter, continued for approximately 40 years and damaged the institution of the Papacy more than any other event. The schism was finally solved through the Council of Constance (1414-1418). At the

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4.2. The anti-papal apocalypticism and the foreshadowing of the Reformation

4.2. THE ANTI-PAPAL APOCALYPTICISM AND THE FORESHADOWING OF THE REFORMATION

The medieval apocalypticism was fueled, on the one hand, by the Islamic menace, which threatened the body of Christianity, and, on the other hand, by the church decadence, which threatened its soul. The corruption of the institution of God appears in the eyes of the observers as an eloquent symptom of the universal disorder. From the sin of simony, the intemperance of the clergy for wealth to the perversion of the scriptures according to earthly interests – the moral filth present within the institution of God was believed to attract dreadful divine punishments. In the 7th century Beatus of Liébana said that “he [Nero] is Antichrist himself, who now rules subtly in the church through false priests, but then he will devastate the church openly.”263 Likewise, Rodulphus Glaber, the chronicler of the year 1000, noticed the loose morals of the clergy and associated them with the apostasy:

For, indeed, every time the piety of the bishops is missing and the abbots lack the rigor in applying the rules, immediately the discipline fails in monasteries and, after their example, the entire people is alienated from God. It is not then the entire mankind turned back, by its own will, to the ancient chaos and thrown into the abyss of perdition?264

In 1170 the nun Hildegard of Bingen, surnamed the “Sibyl of the Rhine,” had gloomy epiphanies regarding the evolution of the church.

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3.3.2. Babylon the Great

3.3.2. Babylon the Great

Babylon the Great, or the Whore of Babylon, is an allegorical figure of evil mentioned in chapters 17 and 18 of the Book of Revelation. Babylon the Great stirs the interest of the exegetes because it is in close relationship with the Antichrist (the beast from the sea) and it is one of the apocalyptic entities most clearly depicted. First, Babylon the Great undoubtedly refers to a city, a kingdom, or both; not only is Babylon the Great called the “great city” in Revelation 14 and 18, but there are also many textual similarities between the apocalyptic Babylon and the historical Babylon from the Old Testament (Isaiah 13:19; 21:9 or Jeremiah 25:12-17). Second, Babylon the Great will have a global influence: “that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 14:8). And third, Revelation offers a very important geographical indication regarding Babylon the Great: “Here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (Revelation 17:9).

The image of the apocalyptic Babylon has been assigned to several cities and kingdoms throughout history, on more or less religious grounds, but the best-known

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