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§ 113. The Emperor and the Pope. The Sacking of Rome, 1527.

Contemporary accounts of the sacking of Rome are collected by Carlo Milanesi: Il Sacco di Roma del MDXXVII., Florence, 1867. Alfred von Reumont: Geschichte der Stadt Rom (Berlin, 1870), vol. III. 194 sqq.; Comp. the liter. he gives on p. 846 sq. Ranke: bk. V. (vol. III. I sqq.). Janssen: vol. III. 124 sqq.

Charles V. neither signed nor opposed the edict of Speier. He had shortly before fallen out with Clement VII., because this Pope released King Francis I. from the hard conditions of peace imposed upon him after his defeat at Pavia, June 26, 1526, and placed himself at the head of a Franco-Italian league against the preponderance of Austria   the Holy League" of Cognac, May 22, 1526). The league of the Emperor and the Pope had brought about the Edict of Worms; the breach between the two virtually annulled it at the Diet of Speier. Had the Emperor now embraced the Protestant doctrines, he might have become the head of a German imperial state church. But all his instincts were against Protestantism.

His quarrel with the Pope was the occasion of a fearful calamity to the Eternal City. The Spanish and German troops of the Emperor, under the lead of Constable Charles de Bourbon, and the old warrior Frundsberg (both enemies of the Pope), marched to Rome with an army of twenty thousand men, and captured the city, May 6, 1527. Bourbon, the ablest general of Charles, but a traitor to his native France, was struck by a musket-ball in climbing a ladder, and fell dead in the moment of victory. The pope fled to the castle St. Angelo. The soldiers, especially the Spaniards, deprived of their captain, surpassed the barbarians of old in beastly and refined cruelty, rage and lust. For eight days they plundered the papal treasury, the churches, libraries, and palaces, to the extent of ten millions of gold; they did not spare even the tomb of St. Peter and the corpse of Julius II., and committed nameless outrages upon defenseless priests, monks, and nuns. German soldiers marched through the streets in episcopal and cardinal’s robes, dressed a donkey like a priest, and by a grim joke proclaimed Luther as pope of Rome.

Never before had Rome suffered such indignities and loss. The sacking was a crime against civilization, humanity, and religion; but, at the same time, a fearful judgment of God upon the worldliness of the papacy, and a loud call to repentance.939939    Reumont (l.c. III. 201) says: "Wüster und andauernder ist keine Stadt geplündert, sind keine Einwohner misshandelt worden als Rom und die Römer. Spanier wie Teutsche haben bei diesem grausen Werke gewetteifert, jene mit erfinderischer Unmenschlichkeit, diese mit wilder Barbarei. Kirchen, Klöster, Palläste, Wohnhäuser, Hütten wurden mit gleicher Beutelust ausgeleert und verwüstet, Männer, Frauen, Kinder mit gleicher Grausamkeit misshandelt."

When the news reached Germany, many rejoiced, at the fall of Babylon." But Melanchthon, rising above bigotry, said in one of his finest addresses to the students of Wittenberg: "Why should we not lament the fall of Rome, which is the common mother-city of all nations? I indeed feel this calamity no less than if it were my own native place. The robber hordes were not restrained by considerations of the dignity of the city, nor the remembrance of her services for the laws, sciences, and arts of the world. This is what we grieve over. Whatever be the sins of the Pope, Rome should not be made to suffer." He acquitted the Emperor of all blame, and held the army alone responsible.940940    "Corp. Ref.," XI. 130; C. Schmidt, Phil. Melanchthon, p. 135 sq.

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