Imágenes de páginas

so well known in the monkish legends-who, dedicating themselves to the perpetual service of the Virgin Mary, retired from the business of the world, and built their cells on the Monte Senario. The Servites, or Servants of Mary, extended far and wide, till they numbered twenty-seven provinces and seventy monasteries, at the head of which stood the Santissima Annunziata of Florence. Divisions arose in the order, as in almost every other monkish fraternity, and these divisions, and the perpetual jealousies of the different convents and provinces, afforded abundant opportunity for the exercise of generalship on the part of the priors, provincials, and other heads of the order. Father Paul rose rapidly to the higher dignities of the Servites. When he had reached the age of twenty, he took the vows publicly in a chapter held at Cremona; two years later he graduated as Bachelor of Theology at Mantua ; and at the age of twenty-six he received the laurel of Doctor in the University of Padua. In 1585, at a general chapter held at Bologna, he was elected Procurator of the order, and for about three years resided constantly at Rome, where he had an opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with the Roman court, and of meeting several of the distinguished members of the Tridentine Council. When his term of office expired, he returned to Venice.

We shall not enter on the debateable ground of the scientific discoveries attributed to Father Paul, though it would be interesting to know precisely how far the solitary studies of a friar in his cell had carried him in the path of discovery. The church in that age was jealous of scientific innovation, and strongly conservative of the old-established order of things, by which the sun moved round the earth, and “the stars in their courses” were confined within the modest sphere which the Roman Curia hadi assigned them. But revolutionary theories were climbing to the heavens, and making sad havoc of all settled principles below, while the church was holding fast to the old ideas. War was still waged between the Platonists and the more orthodox adherents of Aristotle. Porta was astounding the enlightened population of Naples with his natural magic and his camera obscura. Giordano Bruno, cloudy and transcendental, was scandalising the Inquisitors, who finally burned a theorist whom they could not comprehend. Campanella, abstruse and mystical, was expiating in long imprisonment the sins of his early liberalism, and dreaming, in his Neapolitan dungeon, of angels and demons, and a soul in every living thing, or wandering in fancy in his own“ City of the Sun.” Galileo, young in years, was elaborating at Pisa, or at Padua, those theories which he was afterward to retract under the terrors of the Inquisition. Astrology and alchemy had not given place to their more sober successors: the cabalistic jargon, that had passed for wisdom even with Pico of Mirandola, had not been banished from the schools, and Cornelius Agrippa was still an oracle to one party and a wizard to another. In that age of black-letter folios, of astrologers, and alchemists, and inquisitors, it is singular to find a friar, in a Venetian cloister, advancing soberly in the path of science, and anticipating discoveries that formed the boast of later philosophers. He had thought out for himself a system of metaphysics that anticipated in much the analysis of Locke; he had preceded Harvey in the discovery, to a certain extent, of the circulation of the blood; and in natural science, in optics, and electricity, he had made discoveries which it is not worth while now to specify, but which showed him to be far in advance of his age,-though even in these he has not attained to the reputation of Galileo, Gilbert, and Vieta. The letters of Father Paul give some curious information on the progress of science; but his scientific treatises, or the fragments of them that remain, can have little importance now, except to the plodding antiquary. We question whether any living man in this nineteenth century has read through the twenty-four volumes of Sarpi's works, published about sixty years ago in Naples. And in those very volumes the name of Sarpi was used to sustain a huge bookmaking speculation, and to give currency to treatises which Fery likely Father Paul never set his eyes on. Enough, how. ever, remains to show that the lofty terms in which the Italians are accustomed to speak of the scientific genius of Sarpi are not unjustifiable.

But the fame of Father Paul does not rest on his scientific discoveries. He was dragged almost reluctantly into ecclesiastical controversy; and the strife in which he won his laurels was not of his choosing. But before passing to those keen discussions with the Roman Curia, we would take a look at the man who was destined to humble the tiara of the Popes, and vindicate, as far as a friar could, the liberties of Europe. In the very appearance of Sarpi there was something that indicated no common man. His high forehead, and keen black eye,—the mouth finely formed, and indicating decision of character in the firmly-compressed lips,-his calm, diplomatic selfpossession, and that dignity of manner which he had acquired by his frequent converse with distinguished men, and which his monkish garb could not conceal,-marked him out at once from the common herd of friars. Except among the higher orders, especially the Benedictines, the conventual life has not been favourable to intellectual development. The friars fatten into a uniforin type, as if their heads had been almost all cast in the same mould; and this want of distinctive character in the individuals was well understood by the great Italian masters who have painted the legends of the monks. A friar is simply a friar, and almost any one specimen might sit for his order. The exceptions of high intellectual development are rare. Aquinas was a Dominican, with a Luther-like head, if Beat Angelico has painted him rightly; Duns Scotus and Roger Bacon were Franciscans; but among the countless thousands of the Mendicant Orders, how many have left behind them a book worth reading, or a name worth remembering? But Father Paul was no ordinary friar. His singular erudition, his liberal Protestant tendencies, and his keen perception of the false and hypocritical, did not interfere with his regular observance of the duties, such as they were, of his cloistral life--the mass, and the choral chant, and the days of abstinence. His system of doctrine does not seem to have been fully made out; and, notwithstanding very strong passages in his letters in favour of the principles of the Reformation, most people will acquiesce in Ranke's judgment of his opinions.* He was certainly more of a Calvinist than a Romanist, and his Letters manifest a strong desire for the spread of the principles of the Reformation. He desired even a war, as likely to shake the Papal power, and to bring about the introduction of the gospel into Italy. But Sarpi was not so much a reformer as a man of letters and of business. He dedicated eight hours each day to his studies, and problems, and experiments, sleeping among his books like Magliabecchi; but when occasion required he was able to turn his accumulated stores to good practical account. He seems to have been as content with his humble cell as the meanest friar; and the largesses of the Republic never tempted him to change it for more magnificent apartments. A bed, a book-case, a table and chair, a skull, a crucifix, and a picture representing Christ in the garden, constituted all the furniture of the terrible 'Servite whose name caused such terror in the Vatican. But he was not a solitaire, though living in a cell. He was deeply immersed in the business of the day, and the Appendix to the voluines before us presents the titles of a mass of papers and

* In an extremely clever little work, entitled “ The Trial of Antichrist, otherwise the Man of Sin, for High Treason against the Son of God," published about fifty years ago, and reprinted in these days of Papal aggression, we have the following reference:

“Father PAUL SWORN. "Q. As you wrote the History of the Council of Trent, will you relate to the court what you know of the prisoner, and some of the proceedings of that rebellious assembly?

“A. (Here follows Father Paul's evidence, anything but flattering to the morality of the prisoner.)

Cross-examined by Mr EQUIVOCATOR.-Q. Are you not a priest ? "A. I am; but it is well known that I was never fully reconciled to his authority." documents, drawn up by the Counsellor in favour of the rights of Venice in her interminable disputes with the neighbouring States. In the literary society which met in the house of Andrea Morisini he had Doges and Senators for his companions

-the Donati and Contarini, the Molini and Trevisani, some of whom were far enough removed from asceticism in life and conversation; and it was a special charge against him by the Roman Curia that he had commerce with foreigners and Calvinists, and read Hebrew with Jewish Rabbis. He had travelled too, though “ the grand tour” of a Servite friar in those days was somewhat limited. He paid an occasional visit to his friend, “ Professor Galileo,” in Padua ; and when Vicargeneral at Naples, he was not so absorbed in the duties of the chapter as to neglect Della Porta and his magic; but above all he had been at Rome; and, like Luther and Scipio Ricci, he had gained wisdom in that city of intrigues.

“ An Petrus fuerat Romæ, sub judice lis est;

Simonem Romæ nemo fuisse negat." No man, it has been said, ever wrote a good history without some practical acquaintance with the business of government. It is true, the quorum pars magna fui will not qualify a man for being his own commentator in a style like Cæsar's ; but the rule holds good in the main. Macchiavelli was Florentine Secretary; Gibbon and Mackintosh (we might add Macaulay as a brilliant example) had Parliamentary experience; Robertson had a Scotch Assembly to govern as dictator; and Sarpi, though we cannot take his “ Storia del Tridentino” as a model of history, was trained by the factions of the friars. " The fierce contentions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines,” says Bianchi, “ were mere child's-play in comparison with a quarrel among friars.” He describes a chapter at Vicenza where the dispute arose so high, that a strong police force was sent to maintain ecclesiastical decorum ; but the constables having paid a devout visit to the cellar of the monks, indulged so heartily in the generous wine, of which the fathers had good store, that the servants of the Most Holy Mary were able to disarm them, to the edification of the whole fraternity. In addition to the jealousies of the different provinces, and the keen contest for dignities, there were doctrinal disputes between the rival Orders. The question of Grace and Free-will, stirred by Molina in 1588, became, as is well known, the fruitful source of discord in the Romish Church. The doctrines sanctioned by the high authority of Augustine, had been appropriated by the Reformers; and the Jesuits were too keen-sighted to make common cause with the partisans of Calvin. Molina put forth the old heresy of Pelagius as the Catholic verity, to which no objection would have been made,

and the Augue,The the

had he not assailed Aquinas, the oracle of the Dominicans. The great “Jansenist " question bad divided the church into two great parties, long before the days of St Cyran and the Augustine of Ypres. Sarpi, when consulted by one of the members of the Congregation, to which the Pope had referred this troublesome question, decided in favour of the Dominicans, and thus exposed himself to the enmity of their formidable rivals. His biographer, with more of honesty than of theological depth, calls this opinion Fatalism, a “Stoical Philosophy," and says, “ To say the truth, the Jesuit opinion appears more reasonable ; but the austere Servite said it tended to foment human presumption, and was better for preaching friars than for profound theologians.”—(Vol. ii. p. 186.)

Father Paul had special reason to complain of Papal intrigues. He wished to be made a bishop, chiefly that he might have better opportunity of prosecuting his studies, and judging, perhaps, with his biographer, that he might spend his time more profitably than in chanting Latin in the choir. He was nominated by the Senate to the bishopric of Caorle, an island in the lagoons, but the Pope refused to confirm the nomination. A year later (A.D. 1601), Clement VIII. (Aldobrandini of Florence was at that time Pope) refused to appoint him to the See of Nona, in Dalmatia, on the ground of his intercourse with heretics; and such treatment on the part of the Papal party may have sharpened the weapons that were soon to be so powerfully used against them. Bellarmine complained afterwards that the Curia had not manifested its usual sagacity, in neglecting to “buy over ” a man who might have been a powerful auxiliary, but was a dangerous enemy; and Bianchi acknowledges the possibility that a bishopric might have changed the opinions of Sarpi, on the ground that Popes generally change their nature with their name, and support, with the sanction of infallibility, opinions which they have laughed at and repudiated in their private capacity. But grave doubts were entertained of Sarpi's orthodoxy. In the Mass he omitted the “ Salve Regina,”—his hat was not strictly constitutional,-and it was asserted that his slippers were not Catholic. On this latter charge a formal examination ensued, but the orthodoxy of the slippers having been triumphantly established, sentence was pronounced in Latin, Exemptionem nullius esse momenti, et planellam decere religiosos !

But graver questions were soon to be discussed. The court of Rome was labouring to carry out to the utmost the decrees of the Council of Trent, and to establish firmly the Papal authority over the kingdoms that still remained Catholic. Germany, England, and Holland, had been lost to the Papacythe St Bartholoinew massacre had not exterminated the Hugue

« AnteriorContinuar »