The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/The Council of Constance

Here, by the way, is to be noted and understood, that during all this time of pope John, there were three popes reigning together, neither was yet the schism ceased, which so long time had continued, the space, as I said, of twenty-nine years; by reason whereof a general council was ordained and holden at Constance in the same year, A.D. 1414, being called by Sigismund the emperor, and pope John XXIII., Three popes together.for the pacifying of the aforesaid schism, which was then between three popcs striving for the popedom; the first whereof was John, whom the Italians set up; the second was Gregory, whom the Frenchmen set up; the third was Benedict, whom the Spaniards placed. In this schismatical ambitious conflict, every one defended his pope, to the great disturbance of christian nations. This council endured four years, wherein all their matters mostly were decided by four nations, namely, the English, German, French, and the Italian; out of which four nations were appointed and chosen four presidents, to judge and determine the matters of the council. The names of the presidents were these: John, the patriarch of Antioch, for France; Anthony, archbishop of Riegen, for Italy; Nicholas, archbishop of Genesuensis, for Germany; and Nicholas, bishop of Bath, for England;[1] by whom many great and profitable things to the glory of God, and public profit, might have been concluded, if the rotten flesh of the churchmen could have abiden the salt of the gospel, and if they had loved the truth. But, as Gregory of Nazianzen writeth, "There lightly come few general councils, but they end more with disturbance than tranquillity," so it happened in this council. For whereas John XXIII., in the first session, exhorteth them by these words taken out of the eighth chapter of Zechariah, "Veritatem diligite," that is to say, "Love the truth," further admonishing them, and especially the divines, every man to do his endeavour for the unity of the church, and to speak their mind freely; how soon this his exhortation was forgotten, it appeared shortly after by the despising of the prophets, and persecuting of Christ in his members, as by the grace of Christ shall appear hereafter in the process of this story.

First, this John did resign his papacy: the emperor, giving him thanks, kissed his feet. Afterwards, the said John, repenting him that he had so done, sought means to flee, whereunto Frederic, duke of Austria, did assist him; for he, changing his garments, fled by night with a small company. Frederic of Austria proclaimed a traitor.And when he was now come unto Frederic Schaffhausen to go into Italy, the emperor pursuing, took him, and proclaimed Frederic traitor, and for that cause took away certain claimed cities from him. At last the matter was appeased on this condition, that Frederic should require grace of the emperor, and resign all his possessions unto him : whereupon the emperor received him again into favour, and restored him to his dukedom. Pope John east into prison.This pope, being pope thus deposed, was committed unto the county Palatine, and by him carried to the castle of Manheim, where he was kept prisoner for the space of three years. Afterwards he was again, by pope Martin, admitted to the number of cardinals.

Mark the good qualities of pope John.This pope John was deposed by the decree of the council, more than three and forty most grievous and heinous crimes being objected and proved against him: as that he had hired Marcilus Parmensis, a physician, to poison Alexander, his predecessor; further, that he was a heretic, a simoniac, a liar, a hypocrite, a murderer, an enchanter, a dice-player, and an adulterer; and, finally, what crime is it that he was not infected withal?

And now, to return to the council: first, we will declare the order of their sessions, with things therein concluded, in general; then we will, Christ willing, adjoin the special tractation of such matters as pertain to the story of the Bohemians, and John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who, in the same ungodly council, were condemned and burned.

This council, therefore, of Constance, which was summoned by the emperor Sigismund and pope John XXIII., about the nativity of our Lord Jesus, Anno 1414, began the same year to be assembled, about the latter end of the year; which first beginning, as the manner is, with a mass of the Holy Ghost, as they were singing, accord- to their custom, their hymn, A writing set up how the Holy Ghost had no leisure to come to the council."Veni Sancte Spiritus," there was, at the same time, a certain bill set up in the church by some well-disposed man, as it seemed, wherein were contained these words following: "Aliis rebus occupati nunc, adesse vobis non possumus;" that is to say, "We are otherwise occupied at this time; we cannot attend to come to you." Here is also to be remembered the worthy saying of the emperor Sigismund, when talk was ministered as touching the reformation of the spiritualty, and some said, Worthy answer of the emperor."Quod oporteat incipere a Minoritis;" that is, "The reformation ought first to begin at the Minorites;" the emperor answering again, "Non a Minoritis, sed a Majoritis;" that is, "Not with the Minorites, but with the Majorites:" meaning the Reformation ought first to begin with the pope, cardinals, and bishops, and other superior states of the church; and so to descend after to the inferiors. Thus much by the way, and now to the purpose and order of the sessions as we promised. This council continued, as is aforesaid, for the space of four years, and had in it five and forty sessions, wherein many things were concluded, which altogether were too long to be recited in this place; as the deposition of three several popes, who were before spoken of, and the hearing of certain legates. Yet I mind to make some brief recapitulation of the most principal matters there done in the sessions orderly ensuing.

  1. The prelates assembled in this council were numbered together with their deputies, 1940. Philip and Cheney, &c. Gregorius in Epistola quadam.