The Gospel having spread itself into Persia, the
pagan priests, who worshipped the sun, were greatly alarmed, and dreaded the
loss of that influence they had hereunto maintained over the people's minds and
properties. Hence they thought it expedient to complain to the emperor that the
Christians were enemies to the state, and held a treasonable correspondence with
the Romans, the great enemies of Persia.
sapores, being naturally averse to
Christianity, easily believed what was said against the Christians, and gave
orders to persecute them in all parts of his empire. On account of this mandate,
many eminent persons in the church and state fell martyrs to the ignorance and
ferocity of the pagans.
Constantine the Great being informed of the
persecutions in Persia, wrote a long letter to the Persian monarch, in which he
recounts the vengeance that had fallen on persecutors, and the great success
that had attended those who had refrained from persecuting the Christians.
Speaking of his victories over rival emperors of
his own time, he said,
"I subdued these solely by faith in Christ; for
which God was my helper, who gave me victory in battle, and made me triumph over
my enemies. He hath likewise so enlarged to me the bounds of the Roman Empire,
that it extends from the Western Ocean almost to the uttermost parts of the
East: for this domain I neither offered sacrifices to the ancient deities, nor
made use of charm or divination; but only offered up prayers to the Almighty
God, and followed the cross of Christ. Rejoiced should I be if the throne of
Persia found glory also, by embracing the Christians: that so you with me, and
they with you, may enjoy all happiness.
In consequence of this appeal, the persecution
ended for the time, but it was renewed in later years when another king
succeeded to the throne of Persia.
The author of the
arian heresy was
arius, a native
of Lybia, and a priest of Alexandria, who, in A.D. 318, began to publish his
errors. He was condemned by a council of Lybian and Egyptian bishops, and that
sentence was confirmed by the Council of Nice, A.D. 325. After the death of
Constantine the Great, the arians found means to ingratiate themselves into the
favor of the emperor Constantinus, his son and successor in the east; and hence
a persecution was raised against the orthodox bishops and clergy. The celebrated
Athanasius, and other bishops, were banished, and their sees filled with
In Egypt and Lybia,
bishops were martyred,
and many other Christians cruelly tormented; and, A.D. 386, George, the arian
bishop of Alexandria, under the authority of the emperor, began a persecution in
that city and its environs, and carried it on with the most infernal severity.
He was assisted in his diabolical malice by catophonius, governor of Egypt;
sebastian, general of the Egyptian forces; faustinus,
the treasurer; and
heraclius, a Roman
The persecutions now raged in such a manner that
the clergy were driven from Alexandria, their churches were shut, and the
severities practiced by the arian heretics were as great as those that had been
practiced by the pagan idolaters. If a man, accused of being a Christian, made
his escape, then his whole family were massacred, and his effects confiscated.
This emperor was the son of Julius Constantius, and
the nephew of Constantine the Great. He studied the rudiments of grammar under
the inspection of Mardonius, an eunuch, and a heathen of Constantinople. His
father sent him some time after to Nicomedia, to be instructed in the Christian
religion, by the bishop of Eusebius, his kinsman, but his principles were
corrupted by the pernicious doctrines of ecebolius the rhetorician, and maximus
Constantius, dying the year 361, julian succeeded him, and had no sooner attained the imperial dignity than he renounced Christianity and embraced paganism, which had for some years fallen into great disrepute. Though he restored the idolatrous worship, he made no public edicts against Christianity.
He recalled all banished pagans, allowed the free exercise
of religion to every sect, but deprived all Christians of offices at court, in
the magistracy, or in the army. He was chaste, temperate, vigilant, laborious,
and pious; yet he prohibited any Christian from keeping a school or public
seminary of learning, and deprived all the Christian clergy of the privileges
granted them by Constantine the Great.
Bishop Basil made himself first famous by his opposition to arianism, which brought upon him the vengeance of the arian bishop of Constantinople; he equally opposed paganism. The emperor's agents in vain tampered with Basil by means of promises, threats, and racks, he was firm in the faith, and remained in prison to undergo some other sufferings, when the emperor came accidentally to Ancyra.
Julian determined to examine
Basil himself, when
that holy man being brought before him, the emperor did every thing in his power
to dissuade him from persevering in the faith.
Basil not only continued as firm
as ever, but, with a prophetic spirit foretold the death of the emperor, and
that he should be tormented in the other life. Enraged at what he heard, julian
commanded that the body of
Basil should be torn every day in seven different
parts, until his skin and flesh were entirely mangled. This inhuman sentence was
executed with rigor, and the martyr expired under its severities, on June 28,
Donatus, bishop of Arezzo, and
Hilarinus, a hermit,
suffered about the same time; also
Gordian, a Roman magistrate.
commander in chief of the Roman forces in Egypt, being a Christian, was deprived
of his commission, then of his estate, and lastly of his head.
The persecution raged dreadfully about the latter end of the year 363; but, as many of the particulars have not been handed down to us, it is necessary to remark in general, that in Palestine many were burnt alive, others were dragged by their feet through the streets naked until they expired; some were scalded to death, many stoned, and great numbers had their brains beaten out with clubs.
innumerable were the martyrs who
suffered by the sword, burning, crucifixion and stoning. In Arethusa, several
were ripped open, and corn being put into their bellies, swine were brought to
feed therein, which, in devouring the grain, likewise devoured the entrails of
the martyrs, and in Thrace,
Emilianus was burnt at a stake; and
murdered in a cave, whither he had fled for refuge.
julian the apostate, died of a wound
which he received in his Persian expedition, A.D. 363, and even while expiring,
uttered the most horrid blasphemies. He was succeeded by Jovian, who restored
peace to the Church.
After the decease of Jovian, Valentinian succeeded
to the empire, and associated to himself Valens, who had the command in the
east, and was an Arian and of an unrelenting and persecuting disposition.
Many Scythian Goths having embraced Christianity
about the time of Constantine the Great, the light of the Gospel spread itself
considerably in Scythia, though the two kings who ruled that country, and the
majority of the people continued pagans. Fritegern, king of the West Goths, was
an ally to the Romans, but Athanarich, king of the East Goths, was at war with
them. The Christians, in the dominions of the former, lived unmolested, but the
latter, having been defeated by the Romans, wreaked his vengeance on his
Christian subjects, commencing his pagan injunctions in the year 370.
In religion the Goths were Arians, and called
themselves Christians; therefore they destroyed all the statues and temples of
the heathen gods, but did no harm to the orthodox Christian churches. Alaric had
all the qualities of a great general. To the wild bravery of the Gothic
barbarian he added the courage and skill of the Roman soldier. He led his forces
across the Alps into Italy, and although driven back for the time, returned
afterward with an irresistible force.
After this fortunate victory over the Goths a "triumph," as it was called, was celebrated at Rome. For hundreds of years successful generals had been awarded this great honor on their return from a victorious campaign. Upon such occasions the city was given up for days to the marching of troops laden with spoils, and who dragged after them prisoners of war, among whom were often captive kings and conquered generals.
This was to be
the last Roman triumph, for it celebrated the last Roman victory. Although it
had been won by Stilicho, the general, it was the boy emperor, Honorius, who
took the credit, entering Rome in the car of victory, and driving to the Capitol
amid the shouts of the populace. Afterward, as was customary on such occasions,
there were bloody combats in the Colosseum, where gladiators, armed with swords
and spears, fought as furiously as if they were on the field of battle.
The first part of the bloody entertainment was finished; the bodies of the dead were dragged off with hooks, and the reddened sand covered with a fresh, clean layer. After this had been done the gates in the wall of the arena were thrown open, and a number of tall, well-formed men in the prime of youth and strength came forward.
Some carried swords, others
three-pronged spears and nets. They marched once around the walls, and stopping
before the emperor, held up their weapons at arm's length, and with one voice
sounded out their greeting, ave, caesar, morituri te salutant! "hail,
caesar, those about to die salute thee!"
The combats now began again; the
nets tried to entangle those with swords, and when they succeeded mercilessly
stabbed their antagonists to death with the three-pronged spear. When a gladiator
had wounded his adversary, and had him lying helpless at his feet, he
looked up at the eager faces of the spectators, and cried out, Hoc habet!
"He has it!" and awaited the pleasure of the audience to kill or
If the spectators held out their hands toward him,
with thumbs upward, the defeated man was taken away, to recover if possible from
his wounds. But if the fatal signal of "thumbs down" was given, the
conquered was to be slain; and if he showed any reluctance to present his neck
for the death blow, there was a scornful shout from the galleries, Recipe ferrum!
"Receive the steel!" Privileged persons among the audience would even
descend into the arena, to better witness the death agonies of some unusually
brave victim, before his corpse was dragged out at the death gate.
The show went on; many had been slain, and the people, madly excited by the desperate bravery of those who continued to fight, shouted their applause. But suddenly there was an interruption. A rudely clad, robed figure appeared for a moment among the audience, and then boldly leaped down into the arena. He was seen to be a man of rough but imposing presence, bareheaded and with sun-browned face.
Without hesitating an instant he advanced
upon two gladiators engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and laying his hand
upon one of them sternly reproved him for shedding innocent blood, and then,
turning toward the thousands of angry faces ranged around him, called upon them
in a solemn, deep-toned voice which resounded through the deep enclosure. These
were his words:
"Do not requite God's mercy in turning away the swords of
your enemies by murdering each other!"
Angry shouts and cries at once drowned his voice: "This is no place for preaching!--the old customs of Rome must be observed!--On, gladiators!" Thrusting aside the stranger, the gladiators would have again attacked each other, but the man stood between, holding them apart, and trying in vain to be heard.
"Sedition! sedition! down with
him!" was then the cry; and the gladiators, enraged at the interference of
an outsider with their chosen vocation, at once stabbed him to death. Stones, or
whatever missiles came to hand, also rained down upon him from the furious
people, and thus he perished, in the midst of the arena.
His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus-no more.
His spirit had been stirred by the sight of
thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted
zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their
conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment
he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the
hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which
they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from
Telemachus fell dead
in the colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.
Proterius was made a priest by Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, who was well acquainted with his virtues, before he appointed him to preach. On the death of Cyril, the see of Alexandria was filled by Discorus, an inveterate enemy to the memory and family of his predecessor. Being condemned by the council of Chalcedon for having embraced the errors of Eutyches, he was deposed, and Proterius chosen to fill the vacant see, who was approved of by the emperor.
This occasioned a dangerous insurrection, for the city of Alexandria
was divided into two factions; the one to espouse the cause of the old, and the
other of the new prelate. In one of the commotions, the Eutychians determined to
wreak their vengeance on Proterius, who fled to the church for sanctuary: but on
Good Friday, A.D. 457, a large body of them rushed into the church, and
barbarously murdered the prelate; after which they dragged the body through the
streets, insulted it, cut it to pieces, burnt it, and scattered the ashes in the
Hermenigildus, a Gothic prince, was the eldest son of Leovigildus, a king of the Goths, in Spain. This prince, who was originally an Arian, became a convert to the orthodox faith, by means of his wife Ingonda. When the king heard that his son had changed his religious sentiments, he stripped him of the command at Seville, where he was governor, and threatened to put him to death unless he renounced the faith he had newly embraced. The prince, in order to prevent the execution of his father's menaces, began to put himself into a posture of defense; and many of the orthodox persuasion in Spain declared for him.
The king, exasperated at this act of rebellion, began to punish all the orthodox Christians who could be seized by his troops, and thus a very severe persecution commenced: he likewise marched against his son at the head of a very powerful army. The prince took refuge in Seville, from which he fled, and was at length besieged and taken at Asieta.
Loaded with chains, he was
sent to Seville, and at the feast of Easter refusing to receive the Eucharist
from an Arian bishop, the enraged king ordered his guards to cut the prince to
pieces, which they punctually performed, April 13, A.D. 586.
Martin, bishop of Rome, was born at Todi, in Italy.
He was naturally inclined to virtue, and his parents bestowed on him an
admirable education. He opposed the heretics called Monothelites, who were
patronized by the emperor Heraclius. Martin was condemned at Constantinople,
where he was exposed in the most public places to the ridicule of the people,
divested of all Episcopal marks of distinction, and treated with the greatest
scorn and severity. After lying some months in prison, Martin was sent to an
island at some distance, and there cut to pieces, A.D. 655.
John, bishop of Bergamo, in Lombardy, was a learned
man, and a good Christian. He did his utmost endeavors to clear the Church from
the errors of Arianism, and joining in this holy work with John, bishop of
Milan, he was very successful against the heretics, on which account he was
assassinated on July 11, A.D. 683.
Killien was born in Ireland, and received from his
parents a pious and Christian education. He obtained the Roman pontiff's license
to preach to the pagans in Franconia, in Germany. At Wurtzburg he converted
Gozbert, the governor, whose example was followed by the greater part of the
people in two years after. Persuading Gozbert that his marriage with his
brother's widow was sinful, the latter had him beheaded, A.D. 689.
Boniface, archbishop of Mentz, and father of the German church, was an Englishman, and is, in ecclesiastical history, looked upon as one of the brightest ornaments of this nation. Originally his name was Winfred, or Winfrith, and he was born at Kirton, in Devonshire, then part of the West-Saxon kingdom. When he was only about six years of age, he began to discover a propensity to reflection, and seemed solicitous to gain information on religious subjects.
Wolfrad, the abbot, finding that he possessed a bright
genius, as well as a strong inclination to study, had him removed to Nutscelle,
a seminary of learning in the diocese of Winchester, where he would have a much
greater opportunity of attaining improvements than at Exeter.
After due study, the abbot seeing him qualified for the priesthood, obliged him to receive that holy order when he was about thirty years old. From which time he began to preach and labor for the salvation of his fellow creatures; he was released to attend a synod of bishops in the kingdom of West-Saxons.
He afterwards, in 719, went to Rome, where Gregory II who then sat
in Peter's chair, received him with great friendship, and finding him full of
all virtues that compose the character of an apostolic missionary, dismissed him
without commission at large to preach the Gospel to the pagans wherever he found
them. Passing through Lombardy and Bavaria, he came to Thuringia, which country
had before received the light of the Gospel, he next visited Utrecht, and then
proceeded to Saxony, where he converted some thousands to Christianity.
During the ministry of this meek prelate, Pepin was declared king of France. It was that prince's ambition to be crowned by the most holy prelate he could find, and Boniface was pitched on to perform that ceremony, which he did at Soissons, in 752. The next year, his great age and many infirmities lay so heavy on him, that, with the consent of the new king, and the bishops of his diocese, he consecrated Lullus, his countryman, and faithful disciple, and placed him in the see of Mentz.
When he had thus eased himself of his charge, he recommended the church of Mentz to the care of the new bishop in very strong terms, desired he would finish the church at Fuld, and see him buried in it, for his end was near. Having left these orders, he took a boat to the Rhine, and went to Friesland, where he converted and baptized several thousands of barbarous natives, demolished the temples, and raised churches on the ruins of those superstitious structures.
A day being appointed for
confirming a great number of new converts, he ordered them to assemble in a new
open plain, near the river Bourde. Thither he repaired the day before; and,
pitching a tent, determined to remain on the spot all night, in order to be
ready early in the morning. Some pagans, who were his inveterate enemies, having
intelligence of this, poured down upon him and the companions of his mission in
the night, and killed him and fifty-two of his companions and attendants on June
5, A.D. 755. Thus fell the great father of the Germanic Church, the honor of
England, and the glory of the age in which he lived.
Forty-two persons of Armorian in Upper Phyrgia,
were martyred in the year 845, by the saracens, the circumstances of which
transactions are as follows:
In the reign of
theophilus, the Saracens ravaged
many parts of the eastern empire, gained several considerable advantages over
the Christians, took the city of Armorian, and numbers suffered martyrdom.
was born at Corduba, in Spain, and
brought up in the Christian faith. Having a quick genius, he made himself master
of all the useful and polite literature of that age; and at the same time was
not more celebrated for his abilities than admired for his piety. At length he
took priest's orders, and performed the duties of his office with great
assiduity and punctuality. Publicly declaring Mahomet an impostor, he was
sentenced to be beheaded, and was accordingly executed, A.D. 850; after which
his body was honorably interred by the Christians.
Adalbert, bishop of Prague, a Bohemian by birth,
after being involved in many troubles, began to direct his thoughts to the
conversion of the infidels, to which end he repaired to Dantzic, where he
converted and baptized many, which so enraged the pagan priests, that they fell
upon him, and despatched him with darts, on April 23, A.D. 997.
Alphage, archbishop of Canterbury, was descended
from a considerable family in Gloucestershire, and received an education
suitable to his illustrious birth. His parents were worthy Christians, and
Alphage seemed to inherit their virtues.
The see of Winchester being vacant by the death of
Ethelwold, Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, as primate of all England,
consecrated Alphage to the vacant bishopric, to the general satisfaction of all
concerned in the diocese.
Dustain had an extraordinary veneration for Alphage,
and, when at the point of death, made it his ardent request to God that he might
succeed him in the see of Canterbury; which accordingly happened, though not
until about eighteen years after Dunstan's death in 1006.
After Alphage had governed the see of Canterbury about four years, with great reputation to himself, and benefit to his people, the Danes made an incursion into England, and laid siege to Canterbury. When the design of attacking this city was known, many of the principal people made a flight from it, and would have persuaded Alphage to follow their example. But he, like a good pastor, would not listen to such a proposal. While he was employed in assisting and encouraging the people, Canterbury was taken by storm; the enemy poured into the town, and destroyed all that came in their way by fire and sword.
He had the courage to address the enemy, and offer himself to their swords, as more worthy of their rage than the people: he begged they might be saved, and that they would discharge their whole fury upon him. They accordingly seized him, tied his hands, insulted and abused him in a rude and barbarous manner, and obliged him to remain on the spot until his church was burnt, and the monks massacred.
They then decimated all the inhabitants, both ecclesiastics
and laymen, leaving only every tenth person alive; so that they put 7236 persons
to death, and left only four monks and 800 laymen alive, after which they
confined the archbishop in a dungeon, where they kept him close prisoner for
During his confinement they proposed to him to redeem his liberty with the sum of 3000 pounds, and to persuade the king to purchase their departure out of the kingdom, with a further sum of 10,000 pounds. As Alphage's circumstances would not allow him to satisfy the exorbitant demand, they bound him, and put him to severe torments, to oblige him to discover the treasure of the church; upon which they assured him of his life and liberty, but the prelate piously persisted in refusing to give the pagans any account of it.
They remanded him to prison again, confined him six days longer, and then, taking him prisoner with them to Greenwich, brought him to trial there. He still remained inflexible with respect to the church treasure; but exhorted them to forsake their idolatry, and embrace Christianity. This so greatly incensed the Danes, that the soldiers dragged him out of the camp and beat him unmercifully. One of the soldiers, who had been converted by him, knowing that his pains would be lingering, as his death was determined on, actuated by a kind of barbarous compassion, cut off his head, and thus put the finishing stroke to his martyrdom, April 19, A.D. 1012.
happened on the very spot where the church at Greenwich, which is dedicated to
him, now stands. After his death his body was thrown into the Thames, but being
found the next day, it was buried in the cathedral of St. Paul's by the bishops
of London and Lincoln; from whence it was, in 1023, removed to Canterbury by
Ethelmoth, the archbishop of that province.
Gerard, a Venetian, devoted himself to the service
of God from his tender years: entered into a religious house for some time, and
then determined to visit the Holy Land. Going into Hungary, he became acquainted
with Stephen, the king of that country, who made him bishop of Chonad.
Ouvo and Peter, successors of Stephen, being deposed, Andrew, son of Ladislaus, cousin-german to Stephen, had then a tender of the crown made him upon condition that he would employ his authority in extirpating the Christian religion out of Hungary. The ambitious prince came into the proposal, but Gerard being informed of his impious bargain, thought it his duty to remonstrate against the enormity of Andrew's crime, and persuade him to withdraw his promise.
In this view he undertook to go to that prince,
attended by three prelates, full of like zeal for religion. The new king was at
Alba Regalis, but, as the four bishops were going to cross the Danube, they were
stopped by a party of soldiers posted there. They bore an attack of a shower of
stones patiently, when the soldiers beat them unmercifully, and at length
despatched them with lances. Their martyrdoms happened in the year 1045.
Stanislaus, bishop of Cracow, was descended from an
illustrious Polish family. The piety of his parents was equal to their opulence,
and the latter they rendered subservient to all the purposes of charity and
benevolence. Stanislaus remained for some time undetermined whether he should
embrace a monastic life, or engage among the secular clergy. He was at length
persuaded to the latter by Lambert Zula, bishop of Cracow, who gave him holy
orders, and made him a canon of his cathedral. Lambert died on November 25,
1071, when all concerned in the choice of a successor declared for Stanislaus,
and he succeeded to the prelacy.
Bolislaus, the second king of Poland, had, by nature, many good qualities, but giving away to his passions, he ran into many enormities, and at length had the appellation of Cruel bestowed upon him. Stanislaus alone had the courage to tell him of his faults, when, taking a private opportunity, he freely displayed to him the enormities of his crimes. The king, greatly exasperated at his repeated freedoms, at length determined, at any rate, to get the better of a prelate who was so extremely faithful.
Hearing one day that the bishop was by himself, in the chapel of St. Michael, at a small distance from the town, he despatched some soldiers to murder him. The soldiers readily undertook the bloody task; but, when they came into the presence of Stanislaus, the venerable aspect of the prelate struck them with such awe that they could not perform what they had promised.
On their return, the king, finding that they had not obeyed his orders, stormed at them violently, snatched a dagger from one of them, and ran furiously to the chapel, where, finding Stanislaus at the altar, he plunged the weapon into his heart. The prelate immediately expired on May 8, A.D. 1079.
Thus far our history of persecution has been
confined principally to the pagan world. We come now to a period when
persecution, under the guise of Christianity, committed more enormities than
ever disgraced the annals of paganism. Disregarding the maxims and the spirit of
the Gospel, the
arming herself with the power of the sword, vexed
the Church of God and wasted it for several centuries, a period most
appropriately termed in history, the "dark ages." The kings of the
earth, gave their power to the "Beast," and submitted to be trodden on
by the miserable vermin that often filled the papal chair, as in the case of
Henry, emperor of Germany. The storm of
papal persecution first burst upon the
Waldenses in France.
popery having brought various innovations into the
Church, and overspread the Christian world with darkness and superstition, some
few, who plainly perceived the pernicious tendency of such errors, determined to
show the light of the Gospel in its real purity, and to disperse those clouds
which artful priests had raised about it, in order to blind the people, and
obscure its real brightness.
The principal among these was
about the year 1000, boldly preached Gospel truths, according to their primitive
purity. Many, from conviction, assented to his doctrine, and were, on that
account, called Berengarians. To Berengarius succeeded Peer Bruis, who preached
at Toulouse, under the protection of an earl, named Hildephonsus; and the whole
tenets of the reformers, with the reasons of their separation from the Church of
Rome, were published in a book written by Bruis, under the title of
By the year of Christ 1140, the number of the
reformed was very great, and the probability of its increasing alarmed the
who wrote to several princes to banish them from their dominions, and employed
many learned men to write against their doctrines.
In A.D. 1147, because of Henry of Toulouse, deemed
their most eminent preacher, they were called Henericians; and as they would not
admit of any proofs relative to religion, but what could be deduced from the
Scriptures themselves, the
popish party gave them the name of apostolic. At
length, Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a native of Lyons, eminent for his piety and
learning, became a strenuous opposed of popery; and from him the reformed, at
that time, received the appellation of Waldenses or Waldoys.
alexander III being informed by the bishop of
Lyons of these transactions, excommunicated Waldo and his adherents, and
commanded the bishop to exterminate them, if possible, from the face of the
earth; hence began the papal persecutions against the Waldenses.
The proceedings of Waldo and the reformed,
occasioned the first rise of the inquisitors; for Pope Innocent III authorized
certain monks as inquisitors, to inquire for, and deliver over, the reformed to
the secular power. The process was short, as an accusation was deemed adequate
to guilt, and a candid trial was never granted to the accused.
The pope, finding that these cruel means had not the intended effect, sent several learned monks to preach among the Waldenses, and to endeavor to argue them out of their opinions. Among these monks was one Dominic, who appeared extremely zealous in the cause of popery. This Dominic instituted an order, which, from him, was called the order of Dominican friars; and the members of this order have ever since been the principal inquisitors in the various inquisitions in the world.
The power of the inquisitors was unlimited; they proceeded against whom they pleased, without any consideration of age, sex, or rank. Let the accusers be ever so infamous, the accusation was deemed valid; and even anonymous information's, sent by letter, were thought sufficient evidence. To be rich was a crime equal to heresy; therefore many who had money were accused of heresy, or of being favorers of heretics, that they might be obliged to pay for their opinions. The dearest friends or nearest kindred could not, without danger, serve any one who was imprisoned on account of religion.
To convey to those who were confined, a little straw, or give them
a cup of water, was called favoring of the heretics, and they were prosecuted
accordingly. No lawyer dared to plead for his own brother, and their malice even
extended beyond the grave; hence the bones of many were dug up and burnt, as
examples to the living. If a man on his deathbed was accused of being a follower
of Waldo, his estates were confiscated, and the heir to them defrauded of his
inheritance; and some were sent to the Holy Land, while the
possession of their houses and properties, and, when the owners returned, would
often pretend not to know them. These persecutions were continued for several
centuries under different
popes and other great dignitaries of the
The Albigenses were a people of the reformed
religion, who inhabited the country of Albi. They were condemned on the score of
religion in the council of lateran, by order of
pope Alexander III.
Nevertheless, they increased so prodigiously, that many cities were inhabited by
persons only of their persuasion, and several eminent noblemen embraced their
doctrines. Among the latter were
Raymond, earl of Toulouse,
Raymond, earl of
Foix, the earl of Beziers, etc.
A friar, named Peter, having been murdered in the dominions of the earl of Toulouse, the pope made the murder a pretense to persecute that nobleman and his subjects. To effect this, he sent persons throughout all Europe, in order to raise forces to act coercively against the Albigenses, and promised paradise to all that would come to this war, which he termed a Holy War, and bear arms for forty days. The same indulgences were likewise held out to all who entered themselves for the purpose as to such as engaged in crusades to the Holy Land.
The brave earl defended Toulouse and other places with the most heroic bravery and various success against the pope's legates and simon, earl of Montfort, a bigoted catholic nobleman. Unable to subdue the earl of Toulouse openly, the king of France, and the queen mother, and three archbishops raised another formidable army, and had the art to persuade the earl of Toulouse to come to a conference, when he was treacherously seized upon, made a prisoner, forced to appear barefooted and bareheaded before his enemies, and compelled to subscribe an abject recantation. This was followed by a severe persecution against the Albigenses; and express orders that the laity should not be permitted to read the sacred Scriptures.
In the year 1620
also, the persecution against the Albigenses was very severe. In 1648 a heavy
persecution raged throughout Lithuania and Poland. The cruelty of the
was so excessive that the Tartars themselves were ashamed of their barbarities.
Among others who suffered was the Rev.
Adrian Chalinski, who was roasted alive
by a slow fire, and whose sufferings and mode of death may depict the horrors
which the professors of Christianity have endured from the enemies of the
The reformation of
error very early was
projected in France; for in the third century a learned man, named Almericus,
and six of his disciples, were ordered to be burnt at Paris for asserting that
God was no otherwise present in the sacramental bread than in any other bread;
that it was idolatry to build altars or shrines to saints and that it was
ridiculous to offer incense to them.
The martyrdom of
Almericus and his pupils did not,
however, prevent many from acknowledging the justness of his notions, and seeing
the purity of the reformed religion, so that the faith of Christ continually
increased, and in time not only spread itself over many parts of France, but
diffused the light of the Gospel over various other countries.
In the year 1524, at a town in France, called
John Clark set up a bill on the church door, wherein he called the
pope antichrist. For this offence he was repeatedly whipped, and then branded on
the forehead. Going afterward to Mentz, in Lorraine, he demolished some images,
for which he had his right hand and nose cut off, and his arms and breast torn
with pincers. He sustained these cruelties with amazing fortitude, and was even
sufficiently cool to sing the One hundredth and fifteenth Psalm, which expressly
forbids idolatry; after which he was thrown into the fire, and burnt to ashes.
Many persons of the reformed persuasion were, about
this time, beaten, racked, scourged, and burnt to death, in several parts of
France, but more particularly at Paris, Malda, and Limosin.
A native of Malda was burnt by a slow fire, for
saying that Mass was a plain denial of the death and passion of Christ. At
John de Cadurco, a clergyman of the reformed religion, was apprehended
and ordered to be burnt.
cardinal de pellay,
for speaking in favor of the reformed, had his tongue cut out, and was then
burnt, A.D. 1545.
James Cobard, a schoolmaster in the city of St. Michael, was
burnt, A.D. 1545, for saying 'That Mass was useless and absurd'; and about the
fourteen men were burnt at Malda, their wives being compelled to
stand by and behold the execution.
Peter Chapot brought a number of Bibles
in the French tongue to France, and publicly sold them there; for which he was
brought to trial, sentenced, and executed a few days afterward. Soon after, a
cripple of Meaux, a schoolmaster of Fera, named
Stephen Poliot, and a man named
John English, were burnt for the faith.
Blondel, a rich jeweler, was, in A.D.
1548, apprehended at Lyons, and sent to Paris; there he was burnt for the faith
by order of the court, A.D. 1549.
Herbert, a youth of nineteen years of age, was
committed to the flames at Dijon; as was also
Florent Venote in the same year.
In the year 1554,
two men of the reformed religion,
with the son and daughter of one of them, were apprehended and committed to the
castle of Niverne. On examination, they confessed their faith, and were ordered
to execution; being smeared with grease, brimstone, and gunpowder, they cried,
"Salt on, salt on this sinful and rotten flesh." Their tongues were
then cut out, and they were afterward committed to the flames, which soon
consumed them, by means of the combustible matter with which they were
On the twenty second day of August, 1572, commenced this diabolical act of sanguinary brutality. It was intended to destroy at one stroke the root of the Protestant tree, which had only before partially suffered in its branches. The king of France had artfully proposed a marriage, between his sister and the prince of Navarre, the captain and prince of the Protestants. This imprudent marriage was publicly celebrated at Paris, August 18, by the cardinal of Bourbon, upon a high stage erected for the purpose. They dined in great pomp with the bishop, and supped with the king at Paris.
Four days after
this, the prince (Coligny), as he was coming from the Council, was shot in both
arms; he then said to Maure, his deceased mother's minister, "O my brother,
I do now perceive that I am indeed beloved of my God, since for His most holy
sake I am wounded." Although the Vidam advised him to flee, yet he abode in
Paris, and was soon after slain by Bemjus; who afterward declared he never saw a
man meet death more valiantly than the admiral.
The soldiers were appointed at a certain signal to burst out instantly to the slaughter in all parts of the city. When they had killed the admiral, they threw him out at a window into the street, where his head was cut off, and sent to the pope. The savage papists, still raging against him, cut off his arms and private members, and, after dragging him three days through the streets, hung him by the heels without the city.
After him they slew many great and honorable persons who were Protestants; as Count Rochfoucault, Telinius, the admiral's son-in-law, Antonius, Clarimontus, marquis of Ravely, Lewes Bussius, Bandineus, Pluvialius, Burneius, etc., and falling upon the common people, they continued the slaughter for many days; in the three first they slew of all ranks and conditions to the number of ten thousand.
were thrown into the rivers, and blood ran through the streets with a strong
current, and the river appeared presently like a stream of blood. So furious was
their hellish rage, that they slew all papists whom they suspected to be not
very staunch to their diabolical religion. From Paris the destruction spread to
all quarters of the realm.
a thousand were slain of men, women,
and children, and
six thousand at Rouen.
two hundred were put into prison, and
later brought out by units, and cruelly murdered.
eight hundred were massacred. Here
children hanging about their parents, and parents affectionately embracing their
children, were pleasant food for the swords and bloodthirsty minds of those who
call themselves the catholic church. Here
three hundred were slain in the
bishop's house; and the impious monks would suffer none to be buried.
Augustobona, on the people hearing of the
massacre at Paris, they shut their gates that no Protestants might escape, and
searching diligently for
every individual of the reformed Church, imprisoned and
then barbarously murdered them. The same cruelty they practiced at Avaricum, at
Troys, at Toulouse, Rouen and many other places, running from city to city,
towns, and villages, through the kingdom.
As a corroboration of this horrid carnage, the
following interesting narrative, written by a sensible and learned
roman catholic, appears in this place, with peculiar propriety.
"The nuptials (says he) of the young king of Navarre with the French king's sister, was solemnized with pomp; and all the endearments, all the assurances of friendship, all the oaths sacred among men, were profusely lavished by Catharine, the queen-mother, and by the king; during which, the rest of the court thought of nothing but festivities, plays, and masquerades. At last, at twelve o'clock at night, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, the signal was given. Immediately all the houses of the Protestants were forced open at once.
Admiral Coligny, alarmed by the uproar jumped out of bed, when a company of assassins rushed in his chamber. They were headed by one Besme, who had been bred up as a domestic in the family of the Guises. This wretch thrust his sword into the admiral's breast, and also cut him in the face. Besme was a German, and being afterwards taken by the Protestants, the Rochellers would have brought him, in order to hang and quarter him; but he was killed by one Bretanville.
Henry, the young duke of Guise, who afterwards framed the Catholic
league, and was murdered at Blois, standing at the door until the horrid
butchery should be completed, called aloud, 'Besme! is it done?' Immediately
after this, the ruffians threw the body out of the window, and Coligny expired
at Guise's feet.
"Count de Teligny also fell a sacrifice. He
had married, about ten months before, Coligny's daughter. His countenance was so
engaging, that the ruffians, when they advanced in order to kill him, were
struck with compassion; but others, more barbarous, rushing forward, murdered
"In the meantime, all the friends of Coligny
were assassinated throughout Paris;
men, women, and children were promiscuously
slaughtered and every street was strewed with expiring bodies.
holding up a crucifix in one hand, and a dagger in the other, ran to the chiefs
of the murderers, and strongly exhorted them to spare neither relations nor
"tavannes, marshal of France, an ignorant,
superstitious soldier, who joined the fury of religion to the rage of party,
rode on horseback through the streets of Paris, crying to his men, 'Let blood!
let blood! bleeding is as wholesome in August as in May.' In the memories of the
life of this enthusiastic, written by his son, we are told that the father,
being on his deathbed, and making a general confession of his actions, the
priest said to him, with surprise, 'What! no mention of St. Bartholomew's
massacre?' to which Tavannes replied, 'I consider it as a meritorious action,
that will wash away all my sins.' Such horrid sentiments can a false spirit of
"The king's palace was one of the chief scenes of the butchery; the king of Navarre had his lodgings in the Louvre, and all his domestics were Protestants. Many of these were killed in bed with their wives; others, running away naked, were pursued by the soldiers through the several rooms of the palace, even to the king's antichamber. The young wife of Henry of Navarre, awaked by the dreadful uproar, being afraid for her consort, and for her own life, seized with horror, and half dead, flew from her bed, in order to throw herself at the feet of the king her brother.
But scarce had she opened her
chamber door, when some of her Protestant domestics rushed in for refuge. The
soldiers immediately followed, pursued them in sight of the princess, and killed
one who crept under her bed. Two others, being wounded with halberds, fell at
the queen's feet, so that she was covered with blood.
"Count de la Rochefoucault, a young nobleman,
greatly in the king's favor for his comely air, his politeness, and a certain
peculiar happiness in the turn of his conversation, had spent the evening until
eleven o'clock with the monarch, in pleasant familiarity; and had given a loose,
with the utmost mirth, to the sallies of his imagination. The monarch felt some
remorse, and being touched with a kind of compassion, bid him, two or three
times, not to go home, but lie in the Louvre. The count said he must go to his
wife; upon which the king pressed him no farther, but said, 'Let him go! I see
God has decreed his death.' And in two hours after he was murdered.
"Very few of the Protestants escaped the fury
of their enthusiastic persecutors. Among these was young La Force (afterwards
the famous Marshal de la Force) a child about ten years of age, whose
deliverance was exceedingly remarkable. His father, his elder brother, and he
himself were seized together by the Duke of Anjou's soldier. These murderers
flew at all three, and struck them at random, when they all fell, and lay one
upon another. The youngest did not receive a single blow, but appearing as if he
was dead, escaped the next day; and his life, thus wonderfully preserved, lasted
four score and five years.
of the wretched victims fled to the
water side, and some swam over the Seine to the suburbs of St. Germaine. The
king saw them from his window, which looked upon the river, and fired upon them
with a carbine that had been loaded for that purpose by one of his pages; while
the queen-mother, undisturbed and serene in the midst of slaughter, looking down
from a balcony, encouraged the murderers and laughed at the dying groans of the
slaughtered. This barbarous queen was fired with a restless ambition, and she
perpetually shifted her party in order to satiate it.
"Some days after this horrid transaction, the French court endeavored to palliate it by forms of law. They pretended to justify the massacre by a calumny, and accused the admiral of a conspiracy, which no one believed. The parliament was commended to proceed against the memory of Coligny; and his dead body was hanged in chains on Montfaucon gallows.
The king himself went to view this shocking spectacle. So one of his courtiers
advised him to retire, and complaining of the stench of the corpse, he replied,
'A dead enemy smells well.' The massacres on St. Bartholomew's day are painted
in the royal saloon of the Vatican at Rome, with the following inscription:
Pontifex, Coligny necem probat, i.e., 'The pope approves of Coligny's death.'
"The young king of Navarre was spared through
policy, rather than from the pity of the queen-mother, she keeping him prisoner
until the king's death, in order that he might be as a security and pledge for
the submission of such Protestants as might effect their escape.
"This horrid butchery was not confined merely
to the city of Paris. The like orders were issued from court to the governors of
all the provinces in France; so that, in a week's time, about one hundred
thousand Protestants were cut to pieces in different parts of the kingdom! Two
or three governors only refused to obey the king's orders. One of these, named
Montmorrin, governor of Auvergne, wrote the king the following letter, which
deserves to be transmitted to the latest posterity.
"SIRE: I have received an order, under your
majesty's seal, to put to death all the Protestants in my province. I have too
much respect for your majesty, not to believe the letter a forgery; but if
(which God forbid) the order should be genuine, I have too much respect for your
majesty to obey it."
At Rome the horrid joy was so great, that they
appointed a day of high festival, and a jubilee, with great indulgence to all
who kept it and showed every expression of gladness they could devise! and the
man who first carried the news received 1000 crowns of the cardinal of Lorraine
for his ungodly message. The king also commanded the day to be kept with every
demonstration of joy, concluding now that the whole race of Huguenots was
Many who gave great sums of money for their ransom
were immediately after slain; and several towns, which were under the king's
promise of protection and safety, were cut off as soon as they delivered
themselves up, on those promises, to his generals or captains.
At Bordeaux, at the instigation of a villainous
monk, who used to urge the papists to slaughter in his sermons,
two hundred and
sixty-four were cruelly murdered; some of them senators. Another of the same
pious fraternity produced a similar slaughter at Agendicum, in Maine, where the
populace at the holy inquisitors' satanical suggestion, ran upon the
Protestants, slew them, plundered their houses, and pulled down their church.
The duke of Guise, entering into Blois, suffered
his soldiers to fly upon the spoil, and slay or drown all the Protestants they
could find. In this they spared neither age nor sex; defiling the women, and
then murdering them; from whence he went to Mere, and committed the same
outrages for many days together. Here they found a minister named Cassebonius,
and threw him into the river.
At Anjou, they slew
Albiacus, a minister; and many
women were defiled and murdered there; among whom were two sisters, abused
before their father, whom the assassins bound to a wall to see them, and then
slew them and him.
The president of Turin, after giving a large sum
for his life, was cruelly beaten with clubs, stripped of his clothes, and hung
feet upwards, with his head and breast in the river: before he was dead, they
opened his belly, plucked out his entrails, and threw them into the river; and
then carried his heart about the city upon a spear.
At Barre great cruelty was used, even to young
children, whom they cut open, pulled out their entrails, which through very rage
they gnawed with their teeth. Those who had fled to the castle, when they
yielded, were almost hanged. Thus they did at the city of Matiscon; counting it
sport to cut off their arms and legs and afterward kill them; and for the
entertainment of their visitors, they often threw the Protestants from a high
bridge into the river, saying, "Did you ever see men leap so well?"
At Penna, after promising them safety,
hundred were inhumanly butchered; and
five and forty at Albia, on the Lord's
Day. At Nonne, though it yielded on conditions of safeguard, the most horrid
spectacles were exhibited. Persons of both sexes and conditions were
indiscriminately murdered; the streets ringing with doleful cries, and flowing
with blood; and the houses flaming with fire, which the abandoned soldiers had
thrown in. One woman, being dragged from her hiding place with her husband, was
first abused by the brutal soldiers, and then with a sword which they commanded
her to draw, they forced it while in her hands into the bowels of her husband.
At Samarobridge, they murdered
above one hundred
Protestants, after promising them peace; and at Antsidor,
one hundred were
killed, and cast part into a jakes, and part into a river.
One hundred put into
a prison at Orleans, were destroyed by the furious multitude.
The Protestants at Rochelle, who were such as had miraculously escaped the rage of hell, and fled there, seeing how ill they fared who submitted to those holy devils, stood for their lives; and some other cities, encouraged thereby, did the like. Against Rochelle, the king sent almost the whole power of France, which besieged it seven months; though by their assaults, they did very little execution on the inhabitants,
Yet by famine, they destroyed eighteen thousand out of two and twenty. The dead, being too numerous for the living to bury, became food for vermin and carnivorous birds. Many took their coffins into the church yard, laid down in them, and breathed their last. Their diet had long been what the minds of those in plenty shudder at; even human flesh, entrails, dung, and the most loathsome things, became at last the only food of those champions for that truth and liberty, of which the world was not worthy.
At every attack, the besiegers met with such an intrepid reception,
that they left one hundred and thirty-two captains, with a proportionate number
of men, dead in the field. The siege at last was broken up at the request of the
duke of Anjou, the king's brother, who was proclaimed king of Poland, and the
king, being wearied out, easily complied, whereupon honorable conditions were
It is a remarkable interference of Providence,
that, in all this dreadful massacre, not more than two ministers of the Gospel
were involved in it.
The tragical sufferings of the Protestants are too numerous to detail; but the treatment of Philip de Deux will give an idea of the rest. After the miscreants had slain this martyr in his bed, they went to his wife, who was then attended by the midwife, expecting every moment to be delivered. The midwife entreated them to stay the murder, at least till the child, which was the twentieth, should be born.
Notwithstanding this, they
thrust a dagger up to the hilt into the poor woman. Anxious to be delivered, she
ran into a corn loft; but hither they pursued her, stabbed her in the belly, and
then threw her into the street. By the fall, the child came from the dying
mother, and being caught up by one of the Catholic ruffians, he stabbed the
infant, and then threw it into the river.
The persecutions occasioned by the revocation of
the edict of Nantes took place under Louis XIV. This edict was made by Henry the
Great of France in 1598, and secured to the Protestants an equal right in every
respect, whether civil or religious, with the other subjects of the realm. All
those privileges Louis the XIV confirmed to the Protestants by another statute,
called the edict of Nismes, and kept them inviolably to the end of his reign.
On the accession of Louis XIV the kingdom was
almost ruined by civil wars.
At this critical juncture, the Protestants, heedless of our Lord's admonition, "They that take the sword shall perish with the sword," took such an active part in favor of the king, that he was constrained to acknowledge himself indebted to their arms for his establishment on the throne. Instead of cherishing and rewarding that party who had fought for him, he reasoned that the same power which had protected could overturn him, and, listening to the popish machinations, he began to issue out proscriptions and restrictions, indicative of his final determination.
Rochelle was presently fettered with an incredible number of denunciations. Montauban and Millau were sacked by soldiers. Popish commissioners were appointed to preside over the affairs of the Protestants, and there was no appeal from their ordinance, except to the king's council. This struck at the root of their civil and religious exercises, and prevented them, being Protestants, from suing a Catholic in any court of law.
This was followed by another injunction, to make an inquiry in all
parishes into whatever the Protestants had said or done for twenty years past.
This filled the prisons with innocent victims, and condemned others to the
galleys or banishment.
Protestants were expelled from all offices, trades, privileges, and employs; thereby depriving them of the means of getting their bread: and they proceeded to such excess in this brutality, that they would not suffer even the midwives to officiate, but compelled their women to submit themselves in that crisis of nature to their enemies, the brutal catholics.
Their children were taken from them to be educated by the
seven years of age, made to embrace
The reformed were prohibited from
relieving their own sick or poor, from all private worship, and divine service
was to be performed in the presence of a
To prevent the
unfortunate victims from leaving the kingdom, all the passages on the frontiers
were strictly guarded; yet, by the good hand of God, about 150,000 escaped their
vigilance, and emigrated to different countries to relate the dismal narrative.
All that has been related hitherto were only infringements on their established charter, the edict of Nantes. At length the diabolical revocation of that edict passed on the eighteenth of October, 1685, and was registered the twenty-second, contrary to all form of law. Instantly the dragoons were quartered upon the Protestants throughout the realm, and filled all France with the like news, that the king would no longer suffer any Huguenots in his kingdom, and therefore they must resolve to change their religion.
attendant's in every parish (which were
and spies set over the Protestants) assembled the reformed inhabitants, and told
them they must, without delay, turn
catholics, either freely or by force. The
Protestants replied, that they 'were ready to sacrifice their lives and estates
to the king, but their consciences being God's they could not so dispose of
Instantly the troops seized the gates and avenues
of the cities, and placing guards in all the passages, entered with sword in
hand, crying, "die, or be
catholics!" In short, they practiced every
wickedness and horror they could devise to force them to change their religion.
They hanged both men and women by their hair or
their feet, and smoked them with hay until they were nearly dead; and if they
still refused to sign a recantation, they hung them up again and repeated their
barbarities, until, wearied out with torments without death, they forced many to
yield to them.
Others, they plucked off all the hair of their
heads and beards with pincers. Others they threw on great fires, and pulled them
out again, repeating it until they extorted a promise to recant.
Some they stripped naked, and after offering them
the most infamous insults, they stuck them with pins from head to foot, and
lanced them with penknives; and sometimes with red-hot pincers they dragged them
by the nose until they promised to turn. Sometimes they tied fathers and
husbands, while they ravished their wives and daughters before their eyes.
Multitudes they imprisoned in the most noisome dungeons, where they practiced all sorts of torments in secret. Their wives and children they shut up in
Such as endeavored to escape by flight were pursued in the woods, and hunted in the fields, and shot at like wild beasts; nor did any condition or quality screen them from the ferocity of these infernal dragoons: even the members of parliament and military officers, though on actual service, were ordered to quit their posts, and repair directly to their houses to suffer the like storm.
Such as complained to the king were sent to the
Bastile, where they drank the same cup. The bishops and the attendant's marched
at the head of the dragoons, with a troop of missionaries, monks, and other
ecclesiastics to animate the soldiers to an execution so agreeable to their
holy church, and so glorious to their
demon god and their tyrant king.
In forming the edict to repeal the edict of Nantes,
the council were divided; some would have all the ministers detained and forced
into popery as well as the laity; others were for banishing them, because their
presence would strengthen the Protestants in perseverance: and if they were
forced to turn, they would ever be secret and powerful enemies in the bosom of
the Church, by their great knowledge and experience in controversial matters.
This reason prevailing, they were sentenced to banishment, and only fifteen days
allowed them to depart the kingdom.
On the same day that the edict for revoking the
Protestants' charter was published, they demolished their churches and banished
their ministers, whom they allowed but twenty-four hours to leave Paris. The
papists would not suffer them to dispose of their effects, and threw every
obstacle in their way to delay their escape until the limited time was expired
which subjected them to condemnation for life to the galleys. The guards were
doubled at the seaports, and the prisons were filled with the victims, who
endured torments and wants at which human nature must shudder.
The sufferings of the ministers and others, who were sent to the galleys, seemed to exceed all. Chained to the oar, they were exposed to the open air night and day, at all seasons, and in all weathers; and when through weakness of body they fainted under the oar, instead of a cordial to revive them, or viands to refresh them, they received only the lashes of a scourge, or the blows of a cane or rope's end.
For the want of sufficient clothing and necessary cleanliness, they were most grievously tormented with vermin, and cruelly pinched with the cold, which removed by night the executioners who beat and tormented them by day. Instead of a bed, they were allowed sick or well, only a hard board, eighteen inches broad, to sleep on, without any covering but their wretched apparel; which was a shirt of the coarsest canvas, a little jerkin of red serge, slit on each side up to the armholes, with open sleeves that reached not to the elbow; and once in three years they had a coarse frock, and a little cap to cover their heads, which were always kept close shaved as a mark of their infamy.
The allowance of provision was as narrow as the sentiments of those who condemned them to such miseries, and their treatment when sick is too shocking to relate; doomed to die upon the boards of a dark hold, covered with vermin, and without the least convenience for the calls of nature. Nor was it among the least of the horrors they endured, that, as ministers of Christ, and honest men, they were chained side by side to felons and the most execrable villains, whose blasphemous tongues were never idle.
If they refused to hear Mass, they were sentenced to the bastinado, of which dreadful punishment the following is a description. Preparatory to it, the chains are taken off, and the victims delivered into the hands of the Turks that preside at the oars, who strip them quite naked, and stretching them upon a great gun, they are held so that they cannot stir; during which there reigns an awful silence throughout the galley.
The Turk who is appointed the executioner,
and who thinks the sacrifice acceptable to his
prophet mahomet, most cruelly
beats the wretched victim with a rough cudgel, or knotty rope's end, until the
skin is flayed off his bones, and he is near the point of expiring; then they
apply a most tormenting mixture of vinegar and salt, and consign him to
most intolerable hospital where thousands under their cruelties have expired.
We pass over many other individual
insert that of
John Calas, which took place as recently as 1761, and is an
indubitable proof of the bigotry of
popery, and shows that neither experience
nor improvement can root out the inveterate prejudices of the
or render them less cruel or inexorable to Protestants.
John Calas was a merchant of the city of Toulouse, where he had been settled, and lived in good repute, and had married an English woman of French extraction. Calas and his wife were Protestants, and had five sons, whom they educated in the same religion; but Lewis, one of the sons, became a roman catholic, having been converted by a maidservant, who had lived in the family about thirty years.
The father, however, did not express any resentment or ill-will upon the occasion, but kept the maid in the family and settled an annuity upon the son. In October, 1761, the family consisted of John Calas and his wife, one woman servant, Mark Antony Calas, the eldest son, and Peter Calas, the second son. Mark Antony was bred to the law, but could not be admitted to practice, on account of his being a Protestant;
Hence he grew
melancholy, read all the books he could procure relative to suicide, and seemed
determined to destroy himself. To this may be added that he led a dissipated
life, was greatly addicted to gaming, and did all which could constitute the
character of a libertine; on which account his father frequently reprehended him
and sometimes in terms of severity, which considerably added to the gloom that
seemed to oppress him.
On the thirteenth of October, 1761, Mr. Gober la
Vaisse, a young gentleman about 19 years of age, the son of La Vaisse, a
celebrated advocate of Toulouse, about five o'clock in the evening, was met by
John Calas, the father, and the eldest son Mark
Antony, who was his friend. Calas, the father, invited him to supper, and the family and their guest sat
down in a room up one pair of stairs; the whole company, consisting of Calas the
father, and his wife, Antony and Peter Calas, the sons, and La Vaisse the guest,
no other person being in the house, except the maidservant who has been already
It was now about seven o'clock. The supper was not
long; but before it was over, Antony left the table, and went into the kitchen,
which was on the same floor, as he was accustomed to do. The maid asked him if
he was cold? He answered, "Quite the contrary, I burn"; and then left
her. In the meantime his friend and family left the room they had supped in, and
went into a bed-chamber; the father and La Vaisse sat down together on a sofa;
the younger son Peter in an elbow chair; and the mother in another chair; and,
without making any inquiry after Antony, continued in conversation together
until between nine and ten o'clock, when La Vaisse took his leave, and Peter,
who had fallen asleep, was awakened to attend him with a light.
On the ground floor of Calas's house was a shop and a warehouse, the latter of which was divided from the shop by a pair of folding doors. When Peter Calas and La Vaisse came downstairs into the shop, they were extremely shocked to see Antony hanging in his shirt, from a bar which he had laid across the top of the two folding doors, having half opened them for that purpose. On discovery of this horrid spectacle, they shrieked out, which brought down Calas the father, the mother being seized with such terror as kept her trembling in the passage above.
When the maid discovered what had happened, she continued below, either because she feared to carry an account of it to her mistress, or because she busied herself in doing some good office to her master, who was embracing the body of his son, and bathing it in his tears. The mother, therefore, being thus left alone, went down and mixed in the scene that has been already described, with such emotions as it must naturally produce. In the meantime Peter had been sent for La Moire, a surgeon in the neighborhood. La Moire was not at home, but his apprentice, Mr. Grosle, came instantly.
examination, he found the body quite dead; and by this time a papist crowd
of people were gathered about the house, and, having by some means heard that
Antony Calas was suddenly dead, and that the surgeon who had examined the body,
declared that he had been strangled, they took it into their heads he had been
murdered; and as the family was Protestant, they presently supposed that the
young man was about to change his religion, and had been put to death for that
The poor father, overwhelmed with grief for the loss of his child, was advised by his friends to send for the officers of justice to prevent his being torn to pieces by the catholic multitude, who supposed he had murdered his son. This was accordingly done and David, the chief magistrate, or capitol, took the father, Peter the son, the mother, La Vaisse, and the maid, all into custody, and set a guard over them.
He sent for M. de la
Tour, a physician, and la Marque and Perronet, surgeons, who examined the
body for marks of violence, but found none except the mark of the ligature on
the neck; they found also the hair of the deceased done up in the usual manner,
perfectly smooth, and without the least disorder: his clothes were also
regularly folded up, and laid upon the counter, nor was his shirt either torn or
Notwithstanding these innocent appearances, the
capitol thought proper to agree with the opinion of the mob, and took it into
his head that old Calas had sent for La Vaisse, telling him that he had a son to
be hanged; that La Vaisse had come to perform the office of executioner; and
that he had received assistance from the father and brother.
As no proof of the supposed fact could be procured,
the capitol had recourse to a monitory, or general information, in which the
crime was taken for granted, and persons were required to give such testimony
against it as they were able. This recites that La Vaisse was commissioned by
the Protestants to be their executioner in ordinary, when any of their children
were to be hanged for changing their religion: it recites also, that, when the
Protestants thus hang their children, they compel them to kneel, and one of the
interrogatories was, whether any person had seen Antony Calas kneel before his
father when he strangled him: it recites likewise, that Antony died a
roman catholic, and requires evidence of his
But before this monitory was published, the mob had
got a notion that Antony Calas was the next day to have entered into the
fraternity of the White Penitents. The capitol therefore caused his body to be
buried in the middle of st. stephen's church. A few days after the interment of
the deceased, the White Penitents performed a solemn service for him in their
chapel; the church was hung with white, and a tomb was raised in the middle of
it, on the top of which was placed a human skeleton, holding in one hand a
paper, on which was written "Abjuration of heresy," and in the other a
palm, the emblem of martyrdom. The next day the Franciscans performed a service
of the same kind for him.
The capitol continued the persecution with
unrelenting severity, and, without the least proof coming in, thought fit to
condemn the unhappy father, mother, brother, friend, and servant, to the
torture, and put them all into irons on the eighteenth of November.
From these dreadful proceedings the sufferers appealed to the parliament, which immediately took cognizance of the affair, and annulled the sentence of the capitol as irregular, but they continued the prosecution, and, upon the hangman deposing it was impossible Antony should hang himself as was pretended, the majority of the parliament were of the opinion, that the prisoners were guilty, and therefore ordered them to be tried by the criminal court of Toulouse.
One voted him innocent, but after long debates the
majority was for the torture and wheel, and probably condemned the father by way
of experiment, whether he was guilty or not, hoping he would, in the agony,
confess the crime, and accuse the other prisoners, whose fate, therefore, they
Poor Calas, however, an old man of sixty-eight, was condemned to this dreadful punishment alone. He suffered the torture with great constancy, and was led to execution in a frame of mind which excited the admiration of all that saw him, and particularly of the two Dominicans (Father Bourges and Father Coldagues) who attended him in his last moments, and declared that they thought him not only innocent of the crime laid to his charge, but also an exemplary instance of true Christian patience, fortitude, and charity.
When he saw the executioner prepared to give him the last stroke, he made a
fresh declaration to Father Bourges, but while the words were still in his
mouth, the capitol, the author of this catastrophe, who came upon the scaffold
merely to gratify his desire of being a witness of his punishment and death, ran
up to him, and bawled out, "Wretch, there are fagots which are to reduce
your body to ashes! speak the truth." M. Calas made no reply, but turned
his head a little aside; and that moment the executioner did his office.
The popular outcry against this family was so
violent in Languedoc, that every body expected to see the children of
broke upon the wheel, and the mother burnt alive.
Young Donat Calas was advised to fly into Switzerland: he went, and found a gentleman who, at first, could only pity and relieve him, without daring to judge of the rigor exercised against the father, mother, and brothers. Soon after, one of the brothers, who was only banished, likewise threw himself into the arms of the same person, who, for more than a month, took every possible precaution to be assured of the innocence of the family.
Once convinced, he thought himself, obliged, in conscience, to employ his friends, his purse, his pen, and his credit, to repair the fatal mistake of the seven judges of Toulouse, and to have the proceedings revised by the king's council. This revision lasted three years, and it is well known what honor Messrs. de Grosne and Bacquancourt acquired by investigating this memorable cause.
Fifty masters of the Court of Requests unanimously declared the whole
family of Calas innocent, and recommended them to the benevolent justice of his
majesty. The Duke de Choiseul, who never let slip an opportunity of signalizing
the greatness of his character, not only assisted this unfortunate family with
money, but obtained for them a gratuity of 36,000 livres from the king.
On the ninth of March, 1765, the
arrest was signed
which justified the family of Calas, and changed their fate. The ninth of March,
1762, was the very day on which the innocent and virtuous father of that family
had been executed. All Paris ran in crowds to see them come out of prison, and
clapped their hands for joy, while the tears streamed from their eyes.
This dreadful example of bigotry employed the pen of Voltaire in deprecation of the horrors of superstition; and though an infidel himself, his essay on toleration does honor to his pen, and has been a blessed means of abating the rigor of persecution in most European states. Gospel purity will equally shun superstition and cruelty, as the mildness of Christ's tenets teaches only to comfort in this world, and to procure salvation in the next.
To persecute for being of a different opinion is as absurd as to persecute for having a different countenance: if we honor God, keep sacred the pure doctrines of Christ, put a full confidence in the promises contained in the Holy Scriptures, and obey the political laws of the state in which we reside, we have an undoubted right to protection instead of persecution, and to serve heaven as our consciences, regulated by the Gospel rules, may direct.