Edited by William Byron Forbush
This is a book that will never die–one of the great English classics. Interesting as fiction, because it is written with both passion and tenderness, it tells the dramatic story of some of the most thrilling periods in Christian history.
Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when “a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,” “climbed the steep ascent of heaven, ‘mid peril, toil, and pain.”
“After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.” — James Miller Dodds, English Prose.
FOX’S BOOK OF MARTYRS
A HISTORY OF THE LIVES, SUFFERINGS AND TRIUMPHANT DEATHS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN AND THE PROTESTANT MARTYRS
FOX’S BOOK OF MARTYRS
“When one recollects that until the appearance of the Pilgrim’s Progress the common people had almost no other reading matter except the Bible and Fox’s Book of Martyrs, we can understand the deep impression that this book produced; and how it served to mold the national character. Those who could read for themselves learned the full details of all the atrocities performed on the Protestant reformers; the illiterate could see the rude illustrations of the various instruments of torture, the rack, the gridiron, the boiling oil, and then the holy ones breathing out their souls amid the flames. Take a people just awakening to a new intellectual and religious life; let several generations of them, from childhood to old age, pore over such a book, and its stories become traditions as individual and almost as potent as songs and customs on a nation’s life.” — Douglas Campbell, “The Puritan in Holland, England, and America”
“If we divest the book of its accidental character of feud between churches, it yet stands, in the first years of Elizabeth’s reign, a monument that marks the growing strength of a desire for spiritual freedom, defiance of those forms that seek to stifle conscience and fetter thought.” — Henry Morley, “English Writers”
“After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly inflienced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our own time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.” — James Miller Dodds, “English Prose”
FOX’S BOOK OF MARTYRS
SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR
John Fox (or Foxe) was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1517, where his parents are stated to have lived in respectable circumstances. He was deprived of his father at an early age; and notwithstanding his mother soon married again, he still remained under the parental roof. From an early display of talents and inclination to learning, his friends were induced to send him to Oxford, in order to cultivate and bring them to maturity.
During his residence at this place, he was distinguished for the excellence and acuteness of his intellect, which was improved by the emulation of his fellow collegians, united to an indefatigable zeal and industry on his part. These qualities soon gained him the admiration of all; and as a reward for his exertions and amiable conduct, he was chosen fellow of Magdalen College; which was accounted a great honor in the university, and seldom bestowed unless in cases of great distinction. It appears that the first display of his genius was in poetry; and that he composed some Latin comedies, which are still extant. But he soon directed his thoughts to a more serious subject, the study of the sacred Scriptures: to divinity, indeed, he applied himself with more fervency than circumspection, and discovered his partiality to the Reformation, which had then commenced, before he was known to its supporters, or to those who protected them; a circumstance which proved to him the source of his first troubles.
He is said to have often affirmed that the first matter which occasioned his search into the popish doctrine was that he saw divers things, most repugnant in their nature to one another, forced upon men at the same time; upon this foundation his resolution and intended obedience to that Church were somewhat shaken, and by degrees a dislike to the rest took place.
His first care was to look into both the ancient and modern history of the Church; to ascertain its beginning and progress; to consider the causes of all those controversies which in the meantime had sprung up, and diligently to weigh their effects, solidity, infirmities, etc.
Before he had attained his thirtieth year, he had studied the Greek and Latin fathers, and other learned authors, the transactions of the Councils, and decrees of the consistories, and had acquired a very competent skill in the Hebrew language. In these occupations he frequently spent a considerable part, or even the whole of the night; and in order to unbend his mind after such incessant study, he would resort to a grove near the college, a place much frequented by the students in the evening, on account of its sequestered gloominess. In these solitary walks he was often heard to ejaculate heavy sobs and sighs, and with tears to pour forth his prayers to God. These nightly retirements, in the sequel, gave rise to the first suspicion of his alienation from the Church of Rome. Being pressed for an explanation of this alteration in his conduct, he scorned to call in fiction to his excuse; he stated his opinions; and was, by the sentence of the college convicted, condemned as a heretic, and expelled.
His friends, upon the report of this circumstance, were highly offended, when he was thus forsaken by his own friends, a refuge offered itself in the house of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Warwickshire, by whom he was sent for to instruct his children. The house is within easy walk of Stratford-on-Avon, and it was this estate which, a few years later, was the scene of Shakespeare’s traditional boyish poaching expedition. Fox died when Shakespeare was three years old.
In the Lucy house Fox afterward married. But the fear of the popish inquisitors hastened his departure thence; as they were not contented to pursue public offences, but began also to dive into the secrets of private families. He now began to consider what was best to be done to free himself from further inconvenience, and resolved either to go to his wife’s father or to his father-in-law.
His wife’s father was a citizen of Coventry, whose heart was not alienated from him, and he was more likely to be well entreated, or his daughter’s sake. He resolved first to go to him; and, in the meanwhile, by letters, to try whether his father-in-law would receive him or not. This he accordingly did, and he received for answer, “that it seemed to him a hard condition to take one into his house whom he knew to be guilty and condemned for a capital offence; neither was he ignorant what hazard he should undergo in so doing; he would, however, show himself a kinsman, and neglect his own danger. If he would alter his mind, he might come, on condition to stay as long as he himself desired; but if he could not be persuaded to that, he must content himself with a shorter stay, and not bring him and his mother into danger.”
No condition was to be refused; besides, he was secretly advised by his mother to come, and not to fear his father-in- law’s severity; “for that, perchance, it was needful to write as he did, but when occasion should be offered, he would make recompense for his words with his actions.” In fact he was better received by both of them than he had hoped for.
By these means he kept himself concealed for some time, and afterwards made a journey to London, in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. Here, being unknown, he was in much distress, and was even reduced to the danger of being starved to death, had not Providence interfered in his favor in the following manner:
One day as Mr. Fox was sitting in St. Paul’s Church, exhausted with long fasting, a stranger took a seat by his side, and courteously saluted him, thrust a sum of money into his hand, and bade him cheer up his spirits; at the same time informing him, that in a few days new prospects would present themselves for his future subsistence. Who this stranger was, he could never learn; but at the end of three days he received an invitation from the Duchess of Richmond to undertake the tuition of the children of the Earl of Surry who, together with his father, the Duke of Norfolk, was imprisoned in the Tower, by the jealousy and ingratitude of the king. The children thus confided to his care were, Thomas, who succeeded to the dukedom; Henry, afterwards Earl of Northampton; and Jane who became Countess of Westmoreland. In the performance of his duties, he fully satisfied the expectations of the duchess, their aunt.
These halcyon days continued during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII and the five years of the reign of Edward VI until Mary came to the crown, who, soon after her accessiopn, gave all power into the hands of the papists.
At this time Mr. Fox, who was still under the protection of his noble pupil, the duke, began to excite the envy and hatred of many, particularly Dr. Gardiner, then Bishop of Winchester, who in the sequel became his most violent enemy.
Mr. Fox, aware of this, and seeing the dreadful persecutions then commencing, began to think of quitting the kingdom. As soon as the duke knew his intention, he endeavored to persuade him to remain; and his arguments were so powerful, and given with so much sincerity, that he gave up the thought of abandoning his asylum for the present.
At that time the Bishop of Winchester was very intimate with the duke (by the patronage of whose family he had risen to the dignity he then enjoyed,) and frequently waited on him to present his service when he several times requested that he might see his old tutor. At first the duke denied his request, at one time alleging his absence, at another, indisposition. At length it happened that Mr. Fox, not knowing the bishop was in the house, entered the room where the duke and he were in discourse; and seeing the bishop, withdrew. Gardiner asked who that was; the duke answered that he was “his physician, who was somewhat uncourtly, as being new come from the university.” “I like his countenance and aspect very well,” replied the bishop, “and when occasion offers, I will send for him.” The duke understood that speech as the messenger of some approaching danger; and now himself thought it high time for Mr. Fox to quit the city, and even the country. He accordingly caused everything necessary for his flight to be provided in silence, by sending one of his servants to Ipswich to hire a bark, and prepare all the requisites for his departure. He also fixed on the house of one of his servants, who was a farmer, where he might lodge until the wind became favorable; and everything being in readiness, Mr. Fox took leave of his noble patron, and with his wife, who was pregnant at the time, secretly departed for the ship.
The vessel was scarcely under sail, when a most violent storm came on, which lasted all day and night, and the next day drove them back to the port from which they had departed. During the time that the vessel had been at sea, an officer, despatched by the bishop of Winchester, had broken open the house of the farmer with a warrant to apprehend Mr. Fox wherever he might be found, and bring him back to the city. On hearing this news he hired a horse, under the pretence of leaving the town immediately; but secretly returned the same night, and agreed with the captain of the vessel to sail for any place as soon as the wind should shift, only desired him to proceed, and not to doubt that God would prosper his undertaking. The mariner suffered himself to be persuaded, and within two days landed his passengers in safety at Nieuport.
After spending a few days in that place, Mr. Fox set out for Basle, where he found a number of English refugees, who had quitted their country to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors, with these he associated, and began to write his “History of the Acts and Monuments of the Church,” which was first published in Latin at Basle in 1554, and in English in 1563.
In the meantime the reformed religion began again to flourish in England, and the popish faction much to decline, by the death of Queen Mary; which induced the greater number of the Protestant exiles to return to their native country.
Among others, on the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, Mr. Fox returned to England; where, on his arrival, he found a faithful and active friend in his late pupil, the Duke of Norfolk, until death deprived him of his benefactor: after which event, Mr. Fox inherited a pension bequeathed to him by the duke, and ratified by his son, the Earl of Suffolk.
Nor did the good man’s successes stop here. On being recommended to the queen by her secretary of state, the great Cecil, her majesty granted him the prebendary of Shipton, in the cathedral of Salisbury, which was in a manner forced upon him; for it was with difficulty that he could be persuaded to accept it.
On his resettlement in England, he employed himself in revising and enlarging his admirable Martyrology. With prodigious pains and constant study he completed that celebrated work in eleven years. For the sake of greater correctness, he wrote every line of this vast book with his own hand, and transcribed all the records and papers himself. But, in consequence of such excessive toil, leaving no part of his time free from study, nor affording himself either the repose or recreation which nature required, his health was so reduced, and his person became so emaciated and altered, that such of his friends and relations as only conversed with him occasionally, could scarcely recognize his person. Yet, though he grew daily more exhausted, he proceeded in his studies as briskly as ever, nor would he be persuaded to diminish his accustomed labors. The papists, forseeing how detrimental his history of their errors and cruelties would prove to their cause, had recourse to every artifice to lessen the reputation of his work; but their malice was of signal service, both to Mr. Fox himself, and to the Church of God at large, as it eventually made his book more intrinsically valuable, by inducing him to weigh, with the most scrupulous attention, the certainty of the facts which he recorded, and the validity of the authorities from which he drew his information.
But while he was thus indefatigably employed in promoting the cause of truth, he did not neglect the other duties of his station; he was charitable, humane, and attentive to the wants, both spiritual and temporal, of his neighbors. With the view of being more extensively useful, although he had no desire to cultivate the acquaintance of the rich and great on his own account, he did not decline the friendship of those in a higher rank who proffered it, and never failed to employ his influence with them in behalf of the poor and needy. In consequence of his well-known probity and charity, he was frequently presented with sums of money by persons possessed of wealth, which he accepted and distributed among those who were distressed. He would also occasionally attend the table of his friends, not so much for the sake of pleasure, as from civility, and to convince them that his absence was not occasoned by a fear of being exposed to the temptations of the appetite. In short his character as a man and as a Christian was without reproach.
Although the recent recollection of the persecutions under Bloody Mary gave bitterness to his pen, it is singular to note that he was personally the most conciliatory of men, and that while he heartily disowned the Roman Church in which he was born, he was one of the first to attempt the concord of the Protestant brethren. In fact, he was a veritable apostle of toleration.
When the plague or pestilence broke out in England, in 1563, and many forsook their duties, Fox remained at his post, assisting the friendless and acting as the almsgiver of the rich. It was said of him that he could never refuse help to any one who asked it in the name of Christ. Tolerant and large-hearted he exerted his influence with Queen Elizabeth to confirm her intention to no longer keep up the cruel practice of putting to death those of opposing religious convictions. The queen held him in respect and referred to him as “Our Father Foxe.”
Mr. Fox had joy in the fruits of his work while he was yet alive. It passed through four large editions before his decease, and it was orderred by the bishops to be placed in every cathedral church in England, where it was often found chained, as the Bible was in those days, to a lectern for the access of the people.
At length, having long served both the Church and the world by his ministry, by his pen, and by the unsullied luster of a benevolent, useful, and holy life, he meekly resigned his soul to Christ, on the eighteenth of April, 1587, being then in the seventieth year of his age. He was interred in the chancel of St. Giles’, Cripplegate; of which parish he had been, in the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, for some time vicar.
History of Christian Martyrs to the First General Persecutions Under Nero
Christ our Savior, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, hearing the confession of Simon Peter, who, first of all other, openly acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, and perceiving the secret hand of His Father therein, called him (alluding to his name) a rock, upon which rock He would build His Church so strong that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. In which words three things are to be noted: First, that Christ will have a Church in this world. Secondly, that the same Church should mightily be impugned, not only by the world, but also by the uttermost strength and powers of all hell. And, thirdly, that the same Church, notwithstanding the uttermost of the devil and all his malice, should continue.
Which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified, insomuch that the whole course of the Church to this day may seem nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy. First, that Christ hath set up a Church, needeth no declaration. Secondly, what force of princes, kings, monarchs, governors, and rulers of this world, with their subjects, publicly and privately, with all their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this Church! And, thirdly, how the said Church, all this notwithstanding, hath yet endured and holden its own! What storms and tempests it hath overpast, wondrous it is to behold: for the more evident declaration whereof, I have addressed this present history, to the end, first, that the wonderful works of God in His Church might appear to His glory; also that, the continuance and proceedings of the Church, from time to time, being set forth, more knowledge and experience may redound thereby, to the profit of the reader and edification of Christian faith.
As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Savior’s history, either before or after His crucifixion, we shall only find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of the Jews by His subsequent resurrection. Although one apostle had betrayed Him; although another had denied Him, under the solemn sanction of an oath; and although the rest had forsaken Him, unless we may except “the disciple who was known unto the high-priest”; the history of His resurrection gave a new direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy Spirit, imparted new confidence to their minds. The powers with which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim His name, to the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of Gentile proselytes.
I. St. Stephen
St. Stephen suffered the next in order. His death was occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel to the betrayers and murderers of Christ. To such a degree of madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. The time when he suffered is generally supposed to have been at the passover which succeeded to that of our Lord’s crucifixion, and to the era of his ascension, in the following spring. Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet. We are immediately told by St. Luke, that “there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;” and that “they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” About two thousand Christians, with Nicanor, one of the seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the “persecution that arose about Stephen.”
II. James the Great The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apsotles’ Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place A.D. 44.
III. Philip Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee and was first called by the name of “disciple.” He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54.
IV. Matthew Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.
V. James the Less Is supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the Catholic superstition, that Mary never had any other children except our Savior. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the Epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club.
VI. Matthias Of whom less is known than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.
VII. Andrew Was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew’s Cross.
VIII. St. Mark Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his Gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.
IX. Peter Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, “Lord, whither dost Thou go?” To whom He answered and said, “I am come again to be crucified.” By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.
X. Paul Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero. Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death. They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly after they should believe and be baptised at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword.
XI. Jude The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.
XII. Bartholomew Preached in several countries, and having translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.
XIII. Thomas Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.
XIV. Luke The evangelist, was the author of the Gospel which goes under his name. He travelled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece.
XV. Simon Surnamed Zelotes, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, in which latter country he was crucified, A.D. 74.
XVI. John The “beloved disciple,” was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.
XVII. Barnabas Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about A.D. 73. And yet, notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical, and watered plentously with the blood of saints.
The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The First Persecution, Under Nero, A.D. 67
The first persecution of the Church took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that ‘he wished the ruin of all things before his death.’ Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed; several thousands perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins.
This dreadful conflagration continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution; and the barbarities exercised on the Christians were such as even excited the commiseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.
To their names may be added, Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth; Aristarchus, the Macedonian, and Trophimus, an Ephesians, converted by St. Paul, and fellow-laborer with him, Joseph, commonly called Barsabas, and Ananias, bishop of Damascus; each of the Seventy.
The Second Persecution, Under Domitian, A.D. 81
The emperor Domitian, who was naturally inclined to cruelty, first slew his brother, and then raised the second persecution against the Christians. In his rage he put to death some of the Roman senators, some through malice; and others to confiscate their estates. He then commanded all the lineage of David be put to death.
Among the numerous martyrs that suffered during this persecution was Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, who was crucified; and St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos. Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, was likewise banished to Pontus; and a law was made, “That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion.”
A variety of fabricated tales were, during this reign, composed in order to injure the Christians. Such was the infatuation of the pagans, that, if famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the Christians. These persecutions among the Christians increased the number of informers and many, for the sake of gain, swore away the lives of the innocent.
Another hardship was, that, when any Christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed, when, if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves Christians, the sentence was the same.
The following were the most remarkable among the numerous martyrs who suffered during this persecution.
Dionysius, the Areopagite, was an Athenian by birth, and educated in all the useful and ornamental literature of Greece. He then travelled to Egypt to study astronomy, and made very particular observations on the great and supernatural eclipse, which happened at the time of our Savior’s crucifixion.
The sanctity of his conversation and the purity of his manners recommended him so strongly to the Christians in general, that he was appointed bishop of Athens.
Nicodemus, a benevolent Christian of some distinction, suffered at Rome during the rage of Domitian’s persecution.
Protasius and Gervasius were martyred at Milan.
Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the Church until A.D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later.
The Third Persecution, Under Trajan, A.D. 108
In the third persecution Pliny the Second, a man learned and famous, seeing the lamentable slaughter of Christians, and moved therewith to pity, wrote to Trajan, certifying him that there were many thousands of them daily put to death, of which none did any thing contrary to the Roman laws worthy of persecution. “The whole account they gave of their crime or error (whichever it is to be called) amounted only to this–viz. that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat together a set form of prayer to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an obligation–not indeed to commit wickedness; but, on the contrary–never to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, never to defraud any man: after which it was their custom to separate, and reassemble to partake in common of a harmless meal.”
In this persecution suffered the blessed martyr, Ignatius, who is held in famous reverence among very many. This Ignatius was appointed to the bishopric of Antioch next after Peter in succession. Some do say, that he, being sent from Syria to Rome, because he professed Christ, was given to the wild beasts to be devoured. It is also said of him, that when he passed through Asia, being under the most strict custody of his keepers, he strengthened and confirmed the churches through all the cities as he went, both with his exhortations and preaching of the Word of God. Accordingly, having come to Smyrna, he wrote to the Church at Rome, exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom, lest they should deprive him of that which he most longed and hoped for. “Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!” And even when he was sentenced to be thrown to the beasts, such as the burning desire that he had to suffer, that he spake, what time he heard the lions roaring, saying: “I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”
Trajan being succeeded by Adrian, the latter continued this third persecution with as much severity as his predecessor. About this time Alexander, bishop of Rome, with his two deacons, were martyred; as were Quirinus and Hernes, with their families; Zenon, a Roman nobleman, and about ten thousand other Christians.
In Mount Ararat many were crucified, crowned with thorns, and spears run into their sides, in imitation of Christ’s passion. Eustachius, a brave and successful Roman commander, was by the emperor ordered to join in an idolatrous sacrifice to celebrate some of his own victories; but his faith (being a Christian in his heart) was so much greater than his vanity, that he nobly refused it. Enraged at the denial, the ungrateful emperor forgot the service of this skilful commander, and ordered him and his whole family to be martyred.
At the martyrdom of Faustines and Jovita, brothers and citizens of Brescia, their torments were so many, and their patience so great, that Calocerius, a pagan, beholding them, was struck with admiration, and exclaimed in a kind of ecstasy, “Great is the God of the Christians!” for which he was apprehended, and suffered a similar fate.
Many other similar cruelties and rigors were exercised against the Christians, until Quadratus, bishop of Athens, made a learned apology in their favor before the emperor, who happened to be there and Aristides, a philosopher of the same city, wrote an elegant epistle, which caused Adrian to relax in his severities, and relent in their favor.
Adrian dying A.D. 138, was succeeded by Antoninus Pius, one of the most amiable monarchs that ever reigned, and who stayed the persecutions against the Christians.
The Fourth Persecution, Under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A.D. 162
Marcus Aurelius, followed about the year of our Lord 161, a man of nature more stern and severe; and, although in study of philosophy and in civil government no less commendable, yet, toward the Christians sharp and fierce; by whom was moved the fourth persecution.
The cruelties used in this persecution were such that many of the spectators shuddered with horror at the sight, and were astonished at the intrepidity of the sufferers. Some of the martyrs were obliged to pass, with their already wounded feet, over thorns, nails, sharp shells, etc. upon their points, others were scourged until their sinews and veins lay bare, and after suffering the most excruciating tortures that could be devised, they were destroyed by the most terrible deaths.
Germanicus, a young man, but a true Christian, being delivered to the wild beasts on account of his faith, behaved with such astonishing courage that several pagans became converts to a faith which inspired such fortitude.
Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, “Swear, and I will release thee;–reproach Christ.”
Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?” At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.
Metrodorus, a minister, who preached boldly, and Pionius, who made some excellent apologies for the Christian faith, were likewise burnt. Carpus and Papilus, two worthy Christians, and Agatonica, a pious woman, suffered martyrdom at Pergamopolis, in Asia.
Felicitatis, an illustrious Roman lady, of a considerable family, and the most shining virtues, was a devout Christian. She had seven sons, whom she had educated with the most exemplary piety.
Januarius, the eldest, was scourged, and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip, the two next had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus, the fourth, was murdered by being thrown from a precipice; and the three younger sons, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial, were beheaded. The mother was beheaded with the same sword as the three latter.
Justin, the celebrated philosopher, fell a martyr in this persecution. He was a native of Neapolis, in Samaria, and was born A.D. 103. Justin was a great lover of truth, and a universal scholar; he investigated the Stoic and Peripatetic philosophy, and attempted the Pythagorean; but the behavior of our of its professors disgusting him, he applied himself to the Platonic, in which he took great delight. About the year 133, when he was thirty years of age, he became a convert to Christianity, and then, for the first time, perceived the real nature of truth.
He wrote an elegant epistle to the Gentiles, and employed his talents in convincing the Jews of the truth of the Christian rites; spending a great deal of time in travelling, until he took up his abode in Rome, and fixed his habitation upon the Viminal mount.
He kept a public school, taught many who afterward became great men, and wrote a treatise to confuse heresies of all kinds. As the pagans began to treat the Christians with great severity, Justin wrote his first apology in their favor. This piece displays great learning and genius, and occasioned the emperor to publish an edict in favor of the Christians.
Soon after, he entered into frequent contests with Crescens, a person of a vicious life and conversation, but a celebrated cynic philosopher; and his arguments appeared so powerful, yet disgusting to the cynic, that he resolved on, and in the sequel accomplished, his destruction.
The second apology of Justin, upon certain severities, gave Crescens the cynic an opportunity of prejudicing the emperor against the writer of it; upon which Justin, and six of his companions, were apprehended. Being commanded to sacrifice to the pagan idols, they refused, and were condemned to be scourged, and then beheaded; which sentence was executed with all imaginable severity.
Several were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the image of Jupiter; in particular Concordus, a deacon of the city of Spolito.
Some of the restless northern nations having risen in arms against Rome, the emperor marched to encounter them. He was, however, drawn into an ambuscade, and dreaded the loss of his whole army. Enveloped with mountains, surrounded by enemies, and perishing with thirst, the pagan deities were invoked in vain; when the men belonging to the militine, or thundering legion, who were all Christians, were commanded to call upon their God for succor. A miraculous deliverance immediately ensued; a prodigious quantity of rain fell, which, being caught by the men, and filling their dykes, afforded a sudden and astonishing relief. It appears that the storm which miraculously flashed in the face of the enemy so intimidated them, that part deserted to the Roman army; the rest were defeated, and the revolted provinces entirely recovered.
This affair occasioned the persecution to subside for some time, at least in those parts immediately under the inspection of the emperor; but we find that it soon after raged in France, particularly at Lyons, where the tortures to which many of the Christians were put, almost exceed the powers of description.
The principal of these martyrs were Vetius Agathus, a young man; Blandina, a Christian lady, of a weak constitution; Sanctus, a deacon of Vienna; red hot plates of brass were placed upon the tenderest parts of his body; Biblias, a weak woman, once an apostate. Attalus, of Pergamus; and Pothinus, the venerable bishop of Lyons, who was ninety years of age. Blandina, on the day when she and the three other champions were first brought into the amphitheater, she was suspended on a piece of wood fixed in the ground, and exposed as food for the wild beasts; at which time, by her earnest prayers, she encouraged others. But none of the wild beasts would touch her, so that she was remanded to prison. When she was again produced for the third and last time, she was accompanied by Ponticus, a youth of fifteen, and the constancy of their faith so enraged the multitude that neither the sex of the one nor the youth of the other were respected, being exposed to all manner of punishments and tortures. Being strengthened by Blandina, he persevered unto death; and she, after enduring all the torments heretofore mentioned, was at length slain with the sword.
When the Christians, upon these occasions, received martyrdom, they were ornamented, and crowned with garlands of flowers; for which they, in heaven, received eternal crowns of glory.
It has been said that the lives of the early Christians consisted of “persecution above ground and prayer below ground.” Their lives are expressed by the Coliseum and the catacombs. Beneath Rome are the excavations which we call the catacombs, whivch were at once temples and tombs. The early Church of Rome might well be called the Church of the Catacombs. There are some sixty catacombs near Rome, in which some six hundred miles of galleries have been traced, and these are not all. These galleries are about eight feet high and from three to five feet wide, containing on either side several rows of long, low, horizontal recesses, one above another like berths in a ship. In these the dead bodies were placed and the front closed, either by a single marble slab or several great tiles laid in mortar. On these slabs or tiles, epitaphs or symbols are graved or painted. Both pagans and Christians buried their dead in these catacombs. When the Christian graves have been opened the skeletons tell their own terrible tale. Heads are found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades are broken, bones are often calcined from fire. But despite the awful story of persecution that we may read here, the inscriptions breathe forth peace and joy and triumph. Here are a few:
“Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace.”
“Lawrence to his sweetest son, borne away of angels.”
“Victorious in peace and in Christ.”
“Being called away, he went in peace.”
Remember when reading these inscriptions the story the skeletons tell of persecution, of torture, and of fire.
But the full force of these epitaphs is seen when we contrast them with the pagan epitaphs, such as:
“Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else.”
“I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of twenty though I had done no harm.”
“Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it, and it is no concern of mine.”
“Traveler, curse me not as you pass, for I am in darkness and cannot answer.”
The most frequent Christian symbols on the walls of the catacombs, are, the good shepherd with the lamb on his shoulder, a ship under full sail, harps, anchors, crowns, vines, and above all the fish.
The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192
Severus, having been recovered from a severe fit of sickness by a Christian, became a great favorer of the Christians in general; but the prejudice and fury of the ignorant multitude prevailing, obsolete laws were put in execution against the Christians. The progress of Christianity alarmed the pagans, and they revived the stale calumny of placing accidental misfortunes to the account of its professors, A.D. 192.
But, though persecuting malice raged, yet the Gospel shone with resplendent brightness; and, firm as an impregnable rock, withstood the attacks of its boisterous enemies with success. Tertullian, who lived in this age, informs us that if the Christians had collectively withdrawn themselves from the Roman territories, the empire would have been greatly depopulated.
Victor, bishop of Rome, suffered martyrdom in the first year of the third century, A.D. 201. Leonidus, the father of the celebrated Origen, was beheaded for being a Christian. Many of Origen’s hearers likewise suffered martyrdom; particularly two brothers, named Plutarchus and Serenus; another Serenus, Heron, and Heraclides, were beheaded. Rhais had boiled pitch poured upon her head, and was then burnt, as was Marcella her mother. Potainiena, the sister of Rhais, was executed in the same manner as Rhais had been; but Basilides, an officer belonging to the army, and ordered to attend her execution, became her convert.
Basilides being, as an officer, required to take a certain oath, refused, saying, that he could not swear by the Roman idols, as he was a Christian. Struck with surpsie, the people could not, at first, believe what they heard; but he had no sooner confirmed the same, than he was dragged before the judge, committed to prison, and speedily afterward beheaded.
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, was born in Greece, and received both a polite and a Christian education. It is generally supposed that the account of the persecutions at Lyons was written by himself. He succeeded the martyr Pothinus as bishop of Lyons, and ruled his diocese with great propriety; he was a zealous opposer of heresies in general, and, about A.D. 187, he wrote a celebrated tract against heresy. Victor, the bishop of Rome, wanting to impose the keeping of Easter there, in preference to other places, it occasioned some disorders among the Christians. In particular, Irenaeus wrote him a synodical epistle, in the name of the Gallic churches. This zeal, in favor of Christianity, pointed him out as an object of resentment to the emperor; and in A.D. 202, he was beheaded.
The persecutions now extending to Africa, many were martyred in that quarter of the globe; the most particular of whom we shall mention.
Perpetua, a married lady, of about twenty-two years. Those who suffered with her were, Felicitas, a married lady, big with child at the time of her being apprehended, and Revocatus, catechumen of Carthage, and a slave. The names of the other prisoners, destined to suffer upon this occasion, were Saturninus, Secundulus, and Satur. On the day appointed for their execution, they were led to the amphitheater. Satur, Saturninus, and Revocatus were ordered to run the gauntlet between the hunters, or such as had the care of the wild beasts. The hunters being drawn up in two ranks, they ran between, and were severely lashed as they passed. Felicitas and Perpetua were stripped, in order to be thrown to a mad bull, which made his first attack upon Perpetua, and stunned her; he then darted at Felicitas, and gored her dreadfully; but not killing them, the executioner did that office with a sword. Revocatus and Satur were destroyed by wild beasts; Saturninus was beheaded; and Secundulus died in prison. These executions were in the 205, on the eighth day of March.
Speratus and twelve others were likewise beheaded; as was Andocles in France. Asclepiades, bishop of Antioch, suffered many tortures, but his life was spared.
Cecilia, a young lady of good family in Rome, was married to a gentleman named Valerian. She converted her husband and brother, who were beheaded; and the maximus, or officer, who led them to execution, becoming their convert, suffered the same fate. The lady was placed naked in a scalding bath, and having continued there a considerable time, her head was struck off with a sword, A.D. 222.
Calistus, bishop of Rome, was martyred, A.D. 224; but the manner of his death is not recorded; and Urban, bishop of Rome, met the same fate A.D. 232.
The Sixth Persecution, Under Maximus, A.D. 235
A.D. 235, was in the time of Maximinus. In Cappadocia, the president, Seremianus, did all he could to exterminate the Christians from that province.
The principal persons who perished under this reign were Pontianus, bishop of Rome; Anteros, a Grecian, his successor, who gave offence to the government by collecting the acts of the martyrs, Pammachius and Quiritus, Roman senators, with all their families, and many other Christians; Simplicius, senator; Calepodius, a Christian minister, thrown into the Tyber; Martina, a noble and beautiful virgin; and Hippolitus, a Christian prelate, tied to a wild horse, and dragged until he expired.
During this persecution, raised by Maximinus, numberless Christians were slain without trial, and buried indiscriminately in heaps, sometimes fifty or sixty being cast into a pit together, without the least decency.
The tyrant Maximinus dying, A.D. 238, was succeeded by Gordian, during whose reign, and that of his successor Philip, the Church was free from persecution for the space of more than ten years; but in A.D. 249, a violent persecution broke out in Alexandria, at the instigation of a pagan priest, without the knowledge of the emperor.
The Seventh Persecution, Under Decius, A.D. 249
This was occasioned partly by the hatred he bore to his predecessor Philip, who was deemed a Christian and was partly by his jealousy concerning the amazing increase of Christianity; for the heathen temples began to be forsaken, and the Christian churches thronged.
These reasons stimulated Decius to attempt the very extirpation of the name of Christian; and it was unfortunate for the Gospel, that many errors had, about this time, crept into the Church: the Christians were at variance with each other; self- interest divided those whom social love ought to have united; and the virulence of pride occasioned a variety of factions.
The heathens in general were ambitious to enforce the imperial decrees upon this occasion, and looked upon the murder of a Christian as a merit to themselves. The martyrs, upon this occasion, were innumerable; but the principal we shall give some account of.
Fabian, the bishop of Rome, was the first person of eminence who felt the severity of this persecution. The deceased emperor, Philip, had, on account of his integrity, committed his treasure to the care of this good man. But Decius, not finding as much as his avarice made him expect, determined to wreak his vengeance on the good prelate. He was accordingly seized; and on January 20, A.D. 250, he suffered decapitation.
Julian, a native of Cilicia, as we are informed by St. Chrysostom, was seized upon for being a Christian. He was put into a leather bag, together with a number of serpents and scorpions, and in that condition thrown into the sea.
Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, “I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish. No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers.” Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.
Nichomachus, being brought before the proconsul as a Christian, was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan idols. Nichomachus replied, “I cannot pay that respect to devils, which is only due to the Almighty.” This speech so much enraged the proconsul that Nichomachus was put to the rack. After enduring the torments for a time, he recanted; but scarcely had he given this proof of his frailty, than he fell into the greatest agonies, dropped down on the ground, and expired immediately.
Denisa, a young woman of only sixteen years of age, who beheld this terrible judgment, suddenly exclaimed, “O unhappy wretch, why would you buy a moment’s ease at the expense of a miserable eternity!” Optimus, hearing this, called to her, and Denisa avowing herself to be a Christian, she was beheaded, by his order, soon after.
Andrew and Paul, two companions of Nichomachus, the martyr, A.D. 251, suffered martyrdom by stoning, and expired, calling on their blessed Redeemer.
Alexander and Epimachus, of Alexandria, were apprehended for being Christians: and, confessing the accusation, were beat with staves, torn with hooks, and at length burnt in the fire; and we are informed, in a fragment preserved by Eusebius, that four female martyrs suffered on the same day, and at the same place, but not in the same manner; for these were beheaded.
Lucian and Marcian, two wicked pagans, though skilful magicians, becoming converts to Christianity, to make amends for their former errors, lived the lives of hermits, and subsisted upon bread and water only. After some time spent in this manner, they became zealous preachers, and made many converts. The persecution, however, raging at this time, they were seized upon, and carried before Sabinus, the governor of Bithynia. On being asked by what authority they took upon themselves to preach, Lucian answered, ‘That the laws of charity and humanity obliged all men to endeavor the conversion of their neighbors, and to do everything in their power to rescue them from the snares of the devil.’
Lucian having answered in this manner, Marcian said, “Their conversion was by the same grace which was given to St. Paul, who, from a zealous persecutor of the Church, became a preacher of the Gospel.”
The proconsul, finding that he could not prevail with them to renounce their faith, condemned them to be burnt alive, which sentence was soon after executed.
Trypho and Respicius, two eminent men, were seized as Christians, and imprisoned at Nice. Their feet were pierced with nails; they were dragged through the streets, scourged, torn with iron hooks, scorched with lighted torches, and at length beheaded, February 1, A.D. 251.
Agatha, a Sicilian lady, was not more remarkable for her personal and acquired endowments, than her piety; her beauty was such, that Quintian, governor of Sicily, became enamored of her, and made many attempts upon her chastity without success. In order to gratify his passions with the greater conveniency, he put the virtuous lady into the hands of Aphrodica, a very infamous and licentious woman. This wretch tried every artifice to win her to the desired prostitution; but found all her efforts were vain; for her chastity was impregnable, and she well knew that virtue alone could procure true happiness. Aphrodica acquainted Quintian with the inefficacy of her endeavors, who, enaged to be foiled in his designs, changed his lust into resentment. On her confessing that she was a Christian, he determined to gratify his revenge, as he could not his passion. Pursuant to his orders, she was scourged, burnt with red-hot irons, and torn with sharp hooks. Having borne these torments with admirable fortitude, she was next laid naked upon live coals, intermingled with glass, and then being carried back to prison, she there expired on February 5, 251.
Cyril, bishop of Gortyna, was seized by order of Lucius, the governor of that place, who, nevertheless, exhorted him to obey the imperial mandate, perform the sacrifices, and save his venerable person from destruction; for he was now eighty-four years of age. The good prelate replied that as he had long taught others to save their souls, he should only think now of his own salvation. The worthy prelate heard his fiery sentence without emotion, walked cheerfully to the place of execution, and underwent his martyrdom with great fortitude.
The persecution raged in no place more than the Island of Crete; for the governor, being exceedingly active in executing the imperial decrees, that place streamed with pious blood.
Babylas, a Christian of a liberal education, became bishop of Antioch, A.D. 237, on the demise of Zebinus. He acted with inimitable zeal, and governed the Church with admirable prudence during the most tempestuous times.
The first misfortune that happened to Antioch during his mission, was the siege of it by Sapor, king of Persia; who, having overrun all Syria, took and plundered this city among others, and used the Christian inhabitants with greater severity than the rest, but was soon totally defeated by Gordian.
After Gordian’s death, in the reign of Decius, that emperor came to Antioch, where, having a desire to visit an assembly of Christians, Babylas opposed him, and absolutely refused to let him come in. The emperor dissembled his anger at that time; but soon sending for the bishop, he sharply reproved him for his insolence, and then ordered him to sacrifice to the pagan deities as an expiation for his ofence. This being refused, he was committed to prison, loaded with chains, treated with great severities, and then beheaded, together with three young men who had been his pupils. A.D. 251.
Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, about this time was cast into prison on account of his religion, where he died through the severity of his confinement.
Julianus, an old man, lame with the gout, and Cronion, another Christian, were bound on the backs of camels, severely scourged, and then thrown into a fire and consumed. Also forty virgins, at Antioch, after being imprisoned, and scourged, were burnt.
In the year of our Lord 251, the emperor Decius having erected a pagan temple at Ephesus, he commanded all who were in that city to sacrifice to the idols. This order was nobly refused by seven of his own soldiers, viz. Maximianus, Martianus, Joannes, Malchus, Dionysius, Seraion, and Constantinus. The emperor wishing to win these soldiers to renounce their faith by his entreaties and lenity, gave them a considerable respite until he returned from an expedition. During the emperor’s absence, they escaped, and hid themselves in a cavern; which the emperor being informed of at his return, the mouth of the cave was closed up, and they all perished with hunger.
Theodora, a beautiful young lady of Antioch, on refusing to sacrifice to the Roman idols, was condemned to the stews, that her virtue might be sacrificed to the brutality of lust. Didymus, a Christian, disguised himself in the habit of a Roman soldier, went to the house, informed Theodora who he was, and advised her to make her escape in his clothes. This being effected, and a man found in the brothel instead of a beautiful lady, Didymus was taken before the president, to whom confessing the truth, and owning that he was a Christian the sentence of death was immediately pronounced against him. Theodora, hearing that her deliverer was likely to suffer, came to the judge, threw herself at his feet, and begged that the sentence might fall on her as the guilty person; but, deaf to the cries of the innocent, and insensible to the calls of justice, the inflexible judge condemned both; when they were executed accordingly, being first beheaded, and their bodies afterward burnt.
Secundianus, having been accused as a Christian, was conveyed to prison by some soldiers. On the way, Verianus and Marcellinus said, “Where are you carrying the innocent?” This interrogatory occasioned them to be seized, and all three, after having been tortured, were hanged and decapitated.
Origen, the celebrated presbyter and catechist of Alexandria, at the age of sixty-four, was seized, thrown into a loathsome prison, laden with fetters, his feet placed in the stocks, and his legs extended to the utmost for several successive days. He was threatened with fire, and tormented by every lingering means the most infernal imaginations could suggest. During this cruel temporizing, the emperor Decius died, and Gallus, who succeeded him, engaging in a war with the Goths, the Christians met with a respite. In this interim, Origen obtained his enlargement, and, retiring to Tyre, he there remained until his death, which happened when he was in the sixty-ninth year of his age.
Gallus, the emperor, having concluded his wars, a plague broke out in the empire: sacrifices to the pagan deities were ordered by the emperor, and persecutions spread from the interior to the extreme parts of the empire, and many fell martyrs to the impetuosity of the rabble, as well as the prejudice of the magistrates. Among these were Cornelius, the Christian bishop of Rome, and Lucius, his successor, in 253.
Most of the errors which crept into the Church at this time arose from placing human reason in competition with revelation; but the fallacy of such arguments being proved by the most able divines, the opinions they had created vanished away like the stars before the sun.
The Eighth Persecution, Under Valerian, A.D. 257
Began under Valerian, in the month of April, 257, and continued for three years and six months. The martyrs that fell in this persecution were innumerable, and their tortures and deaths as various and painful. The most eminent martyrs were the following, though neither rank, sex, nor age were regarded.
Rufina and Secunda were two beautiful and accomplished ladies, daughters of Asterius, a gentleman of eminence in Rome. Rufina, the elder, was designed in marriage for Armentarius, a young nobleman; Secunda, the younger, for Verinus, a person of rank and opulence. The suitors, at the time of the persecution’s commencing, were both Christians; but when danger appeared, to save their fortunes, they renounced their faith. They took great pains to persuade the ladies to do the same, but, disappointed in their purpose, the lovers were base enough to inform against the ladies, who, being apprehended as Christians, were brought before Junius Donatus, governor of Rome, where, A.D. 257, they sealed their martyrdom with their blood.
Stephen, bishop of Rome, was beheaded in the same year, and about that time Saturninus, the pious orthodox bishop of Toulouse, refusing to sacrifice to idols, was treated with all the barbarous indignities imaginable, and fastened by the feet to the tail of a bull. Upon a signal given, the enraged animal was driven down the steps of the temple, by which the worthy martyr’s brains were dashed out.
Sextus succeeded Stephen as bishop of Rome. He is supposed to have been a Greek by birth or by extraction, and had for some time served in the capacity of a deacon under Stephen. His great fidelity, singular wisdom, and uncommon courage distinguished him upon many occasions; and the happy conclusion of a controversy with some heretics is generally ascribed to his piety and prudence. In the year 258, Marcianus, who had the management of the Roman government, procured an order from the emperor Valerian, to put to death all the Christian clergy in Rome, and hence the bishop with six of his deacons, suffered martyrdom in 258.
Let us draw near to the fire of martyred Lawrence, that our cold hearts may be warmed thereby. The merciless tyrant, understanding him to be not only a minister of the sacraments, but a distributor also of the Church riches, promised to himself a double prey, by the apprehension of one soul. First, with the rake of avarice to scrape to himself the treasure of poor Christians; then with the fiery fork of tyranny, so to toss and turmoil them, that they should wax weary of their profession. With furious face and cruel countenance, the greedy wolf demanded where this Lawrence had bestowed the substance of the Church: who, craving three days’ respite, promised to declare where the treasure might be had. In the meantime, he caused a good number of poor Christians to be congregated. So, when the day of his answer was come, the persecutor strictly charged him to stand to his promise. Then valiant Lawrence, stretching out his arms over the poor, said: “These are the precious treasure of the Church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth, in whom Jesus Christ hath His mansion-place. What more precious jewels can Christ have, than those in whom He hath promised to dwell? For so it is written, ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.’ And again, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ What greater riches can Christ our Master possess, than the poor people in whom He loveth to be seen?”
O, what tongue is able to express the fury and madness of the tyrant’s heart! Now he stamped, he stared, he ramped, he fared as one out of his wits: his eyes like fire glowed, his mouth like a boar formed, his teeth like a hellhound grinned. Now, not a reasonable man, but a roaring lion, he might be called.
“Kindle the fire (he cried)–of wood make no spare. Hath this villain deluded the emperor? Away with him, away with him: whip him with scourges, jerk him with rods, buffet him with fists, brain him with clubs. Jesteth the traitor with the emperor? Pinch him with fiery tongs, gird him with burning plates, bring out the strongest chains, and the fire-forks, and the grated bed of iron: on the fire with it; bind the rebel hand and foot; and when the bed is fire-hot, on with him: roast him, broil him, toss him, turn him: on pain of our high displeasure do every man his office, O ye tormentors.”
The word was no sooner spoken, but all was done. After many cruel handlings, this meek lamb was laid, I will not say on his fiery bed of iron, but on his soft bed of down. So mightily God wrought with his martyr Lawrence, so miraculously God tempered His element the fire; that it became not a bed of consuming pain, but a pallet of nourishing rest.
In Africa the persecution raged with peculiar violence; many thousands received the crown of martyrdom, among whom the following were the most distinguished characters:
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, an eminent prelate, and a pious ornament of the Church. The brightness of his genius was tempered by the solidity of his judgment; and with all the accomplishments of the gentleman, he blended the virtues of a Christian. His doctrines were orthodox and pure; his language easy and elegant; and his manners graceful and winning: in fine, he was both the pious and polite preacher. In his youth he was educated in the principles of Gentilism, and having a considerable fortune, he lived in the very extravagance of splendor, and all the dignity of pomp.
About the year 246, Coecilius, a Christian minister of Carthage, became the happy instrument of Cyprian’s conversion: on which account, and for the great love that he always afterward bore for the author of his conversion, he was termed Coecilius Cyprian. Previous to his baptism, he studied the Scriptures with care and being struck with the beauties of the truths they contained, he determined to practise the virtues therein recommended. Subsequent to his baptism, he sold his estate, distributed the money among the poor, dressed himself in plain attire, and commenced a life of austerity. He was soon after made a presbyter; and, being greatly admired for his virtues and works, on the death of Donatus, in A.D. 248, he was almost unanimously elected bishop of Carthage.
Cyprian’s care not only extended over Carthage, but to Numidia and Mauritania. In all his transactions he took great care to ask the advice of his clergy, knowing that unanimity alone could be of service to the Church, this being one of his maxims, “That the bishop was in the church, and the church in the bishop; so that unity can only be preserved by a close connexion between the pastor and his flock.”
In A.D. 250, Cyprian was publicly proscribed by the emperor Decius, under the appellation of Coecilius Cyprian, bishop of the Christrians; and the universal cry of the pagans was, “Cyprian to the lions, Cyprian to the beasts.” The bishop, however, withdrew from the rage of the populace, and his effects were immediately confiscated. During his retirement, he wrote thirty pious and elegant letters to his flock; but several schisms that then crept into the Church, gave him great uneasiness. The rigor of the persecution abating, he returned to Carthage, and did everything in his power to expunge erroneous opinions. A terrible plague breaking out in Carthage, it was as usual, laid to the charge of the Christians; and the magistrates began to persecute accordingly, which occasioned an epistle from them to Cyprian, in answer to which he vindicates the cause of Christianity. A.D. 257, Cyprian was brought before the proconsul Aspasius Paturnus, who exiled him to a little city on the Lybian sea. On the death of this proconsul, he returned to Carthage, but was soon after seized, and carried before the new governor, who condemned him to be beheaded; which sentence was executed on the fourteenth of September, A.D. 258.
The disciples of Cyprian, martyred in this persecution, were Lucius, Flavian, Victoricus, Remus, Montanus, Julian, Primelus, and Donatian.
At Utica, a most terrible tragedy was exhibited: three hundred Christians were, by the orders of the proconsul, placed round a burning limekiln. A pan of coals and incense being prepared, they were commanded either to sacrifice to Jupiter, or to be thrown into the kiln. Unanimously refusing, they bravely jumped into the pit, and were immediately suffocated.
Fructuosus, bishop of Tarragon, in Spain, and his two deacons, Augurius and Eulogius, were burnt for being Christians.
Alexander, Malchus, and Priscus, three Christians of Palestine, with a woman of the same place, voluntarily accused themselves of being Christians; on which account they were sentenced to be devoured by tigers, which sentence was executed accordingly.
Maxima, Donatilla, and Secunda, three virgins of Tuburga, had gall and vinegar given them to drink, were then severely scourged, tormented on a gibbet, rubbed with lime, scorched on a gridiron, worried by wild beasts, and at length beheaded.
It is here proper to take notice of the singular but miserable fate of the emperor Valerian, who had so long and so terribly persecuted the Christians. This tyrant, by a stretagem, was taken prisoner by Sapor, emperor of Persia, who carried him into his own country, and there treated him with the most unexampled indignity, making him kneel down as the meanest slave, and treading upon him as a footstool when he mounted his horse. After having kept him for the space of seven years in this abject state of slavery, he caused his eyes to be put out, though he was then eighty-three years of age. This not satiating his desire of revenge, he soon after ordered his body to be flayed alive, and rubbed with salt, under which torments he expired; and thus fell one of the most tyrannical emperors of Rome, and one of the greatest persecutors of the Christians.
A.D. 260, Gallienus, the son of Valerian, succeeded him, and during his reign (a few martyrs excepted) the Church enjoyed peace for some years.
The Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274
The principal sufferers were: Felix, bishop of Rome. This prelate was advanced to the Roman see in 274. He was the first martyr to Aurelian’s petulancy, being beheaded on the twenty- second of December, in the same year.
Agapetus, a young gentleman, who sold his estate, and gave the money to the poor, was seized as a Christian, tortured, and then beheaded at Praeneste, a city within a day’s journey of Rome.
These are the only martyrs left upon record during this reign, as it was soon put to a stop by the emperor’s being murdered by his own domestics, at Byzantium.
Aurelian was succeeded by Tacitus, who was followed by Probus, as the latter was by Carus: this emperor being killed by a thunder storm, his sons, Carnious and Numerian, succeeded him, and during all these reigns the Church had peace.
Diocletian mounted the imperial throne, A.D. 284; at first he showed great favor to the Christians. In the year 286, he associated Maximian with him in the empire; and some Christians were put to death before any general persecution broke out. Among these were Felician and Primus, two brothers.
Marcus and Marcellianus were twins, natives of Rome, and of noble descent. Their parents were heathens, but the tutors, to whom the education of the children was intrusted, brought them up as Christians. Their constancy at length subdued those who wished them to become pagans, and their parents and whole family became converts to a faith they had before reprobated. They were martyred by being tied to posts, and having their feet pierced with nails. After remaining in this situation for a day and a night, their sufferings were put an end to by thrusting lances through their bodies.
Zoe, the wife of the jailer, who had the care of the before- mentioned martyrs, was also converted by them, and hung upon a tree, with a fire of straw lighted under her. When her body was taken down, it was thrown into a river, with a large stone tied to it, in order to sink it.
In the year of Christ 286, a most remarkable affair occurred; a legion of soldiers, consisting of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men, contained none but Christians. This legion was called the Theban Legion, because the men had been raised in Thebias: they were quartered in the east until the emperor Maximian ordered them to march to Gaul, to assist him against the rebels of Burgundy. They passed the Alps into Gaul, under the command of Mauritius, Candidus, and Exupernis, their worthy commanders, and at length joined the emperor. Maximian, about this time, ordered a general sacrifice, at which the whole army was to assist; and likewise he commanded that they should take the oath of allegiance and swear, at the saame time, to assist in the extirpation of Christianity in Gaul. Alarmed at these orders, each individual of the Theban Legion absolutely refused either to sacrifice or take the oaths prescribed. This so greatly enraged Maximian, that he ordered the legion to be decimated, that is, every tenth man to be selected from the rest, and put to the sword. This bloody order having been put in execution, those who remained alive were still inflexible, when a second decimation took place, and every tenth man of those living was put to death. This second severity made no more impression than the first had done; the soldiers preserved their fortitude and their principles, but by the advice of their officers they drew up a loyal remonstrance to the emperor. This, it might have been presumed, would have softened the emperor, but it had a contrary effect: for, enraged at their perseverance and unanimity, he commanded that the whole legion should be put to death, which was accordingly executed by the other troops, who cut them to pieces with their swords, September 22, 286.
Alban, from whom St. Alban’s, in Hertfordshire, received its name, was the first British martyr. Great Britain had received the Gospel of Christ from Lucius, the first Christian king, but did not suffer from the rage of persecution for many years after. He was originally a pagan, but converted by a Christian ecclesiastic, named Amphibalus, whom he sheltered on account of his religion. The enemies of Amphibalus, having intelligence of the place where he was secreted, came to the house of Alban; in order to facilitate his escape, when the soldiers came, he offered himself up as the person they were seeking for. The deceit being detected, the governor ordered him to be scourged, and then he was sentenced to be beheaded, June 22, A.D. 287.
The venerable Bede assures us, that, upon this occasion, the executioner suddenly became a convert to Christianity, and entreated permission to die for Alban, or with him. Obtaining the latter request, they were beheaded by a soldier, who voluntarily undertook the task of executioner. This happened on the twenty-second of June, A.D. 287, at Verulam, now St. Alban’s, in Hertfordshire, where a magnificent church was erected to his memory about the time of Constantine the Great. The edifice, being destroyed in the Saxon wars, was rebuilt by Offa, king of Mercia, and a monastery erected adjoining to it, some remains of which are still visible, and the church is a noble Gothic structure.
Faith, a Christian female, of Acquitain, in France, was ordered to be broiled upon a gridiron, and then beheaded; A.D. 287.
Quintin was a Christian, and a native of Rome, but determined to attempt the propagation of the Gospel in Gaul, with one Lucian, they preached together in Amiens; after which Lucian went to Beaumaris, where he was martyred. Quintin remained in Picardy, and was very zealous in his ministry. Being seized upon as a Christian, he was stretched with pullies until his joints were dislocated; his body was then torn with wire scourges, and boiling oil and pitch poured on his naked flesh; lighted torches were applied to his sides and armpits; and after he had been thus tortured, he was remanded back to prison, and died of the barbarities he had suffered, October 31, A.D. 287. His body was sunk in the Somme.
The Tenth Persecution, Under Diocletian, A.D. 303
Under the Roman emperors, commonly called the Era of the Martyrs, was occasioned partly by the increasing number and luxury of the Christians, and the hatred of Galerius, the adopted son of Diocletian, who, being stimulated by his mother, a bigoted pagan, never ceased persuading the emperor to enter upon the persecution, until he had accomplished his purpose.
The fatal day fixed upon to commence the bloody work, was the twenty-third of February, A.D. 303, that being the day in which the Terminalia were celebrated, and on which, as the cruel pagans boasted, they hoped to put a termination to Christianity. On the appointed day, the persecution began in Nicomedia, on the morning of which the prefect of that city repaired, with a great number of officers and assistants, to the church of the Christians, where, having forced open the doors, they seized upon all the sacred books, and committed them to the flames.
The whole of this transaction was in the presence of Diocletian and Galerius, who, not contented with burning the books, had the church levelled with the ground. This was followed by a severe edict, commanding the destruction of all other Christian churches and books; and an order soon succeeded, to render Christians of all denomination outlaws.
The publication of this edict occasioned an immediate martyrdom, for a bold Christian not only tore it down from the place to which it was affixed, but execrated the name of the emperor for his injustice. A provocation like this was sufficient to call down pagan vengeance upon his head; he was accordingly seized, severely tortured, and then burned alive.
All the Christians were apprehended and imprisoned; and Galerius privately ordered the imperial palace to be set on fire, that the Christians might be charged as the incendiaries, and a plausible pretence given for carrying on the persecution with the greater severities. A general sacrifice was commenced, which occasioned various martyrdoms. No distinction was made of age or sex; the name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans that all indiscriminately fell sacrifices to their opinions. Many houses were set on fire, and whole Christian families perished in the flames; and others had stones fastened about their necks, and being tied together were driven into the sea. The persecution became general in all the Roman provinces, but more particularly in the east; and as it lasted ten years, it is impossible to ascertain the numbers martyred, or to enumerate the various modes of martyrdom.
Racks, scourges, swords, daggers, crosses, poison, and famine, were made use of in various parts to dispatch the Christians; and invention was exhausted to devise tortures against such as had no crime, but thinking differently from the votaries of superstition.
A city of Phrygia, consisting entirely of Christians, was burnt, and all the inhabitants perished in the flames.
Tired with slaughter, at length, several governors of provinces represented to the imperial court, the impropriety of such conduct. Hence many were respited from execution, but, though they were not put to death, as much as possible was done to render their lives miserable, many of them having their ears cut off, their noses slit, their right eyes put out, their limbs rendered useless by dreadful dislocations, and their flesh seared in conspicuous places with red-hot irons.
It is necessary now to particularize the most conspicious persons who laid down their lives in martyrdom in this bloody persecution.
Sebastian, a celebrated martyr, was born at Narbonne, in Gaul, instructed in the principles of Christianity at Milan, and afterward became an officer of the emperor’s guard at Rome. He remained a true Christian in the midst of idolatry; unallured by the splendors of a court, untained by evil examples, and uncontaminated by the hopes of preferment. Refusing to be a pagan, the emperor ordered him to be taken to a field near the city, termed the Campus Martius, and there to be shot to death with arrows; which sentence was executed accordingly. Some pious Christians coming to the place of execution, in order to give his body burial, perceived signs of life in him, and immediately moving him to a place of security, they, in a short time effected his recovery, and prepared him for a second martyrdom; for, as soon as he was able to go out, he placed himself intentionally in the emperor’s way as he was going to the temple, and reprehended him for his various cruelties and unreasonable prejudices against Christianity. As soon as Diocletian had overcome his surprise, he ordered Sebastian to be seized, and carried to a place near the palace, and beaten to death; and, that the Christians should not either use means again to recover or bury his body, he ordered that it should be thrown into the common sewer.
Nevertheless, a Christian lady named Lucina, found means to remove it from the sewer, and bury it in the catacombs, or repositories of the dead.
The Christians, about this time, upon mature consideration, thought it unlawful to bear arms under a heathen emperor. Maximilian, the son of Fabius Victor, was the first beheaded under this regulation.
Vitus, a Sicilian of considerable family, was brought up a Christian; when his virtues increased with his years, his constancy supported him under all afflictions, and his faith was superior to the most dangerous perils. His father, Hylas, who was a pagan, finding that he had been instructed in the principles of Christianity by the nurse who brought him up, used all his endeavors to bring him back to paganism, and at length sacrificed his son to the idols, June 14, A.D. 303.
Victor was a Christian of a good family at Marseilles, in France; he spent a great part of the night in visiting the afflicted, and confirming the weak; which pious work he could not, consistently with his own safety, perform in the daytime; and his fortune he spent in relieving the distresses of poor Christians. He was at length, however, seized by the emperor Maximian’s decree, who ordered him to be bound, and dragged through the streets. During the execution of this order, he was treated with all manner of cruelties and indignities by the enraged populace. Remaining still inflexible, his courage was deemed obstinacy. Being by order stretched upon the rack, he turned his eyes toward heaven, and prayed to God to endue him with patience, after which he underwent the tortures with most admirable fortitude. After the executioners were tired with inflicting torments on him, he was conveyed to a dungeon. In his confinement, he converted his jailers, named Alexander, Felician, and Longinus. This affair coming to the ears of the emperor, he ordered them immediately to be put to death, and the jailers were accordingly beheaded. Victor was then again put to the rack, unmercifully beaten with batoons, and again sent to prison. Being a third time examined concerning his religion, he persevered in his principles; a small altar was then brought, and he was commanded to offer incense upon it immediately. Fired with indignation at the request, he boldly stepped forward, and with his foot overthrew both altar and idol. This so enraged the emperor Maximian, who was present, that he ordered the foot with which he had kicked the altar to be immediately cut off; and Victor was thrown into a mill, and crushed to pieces with the stones, A.D. 303.
Maximus, governor of Cilicia, being at Tarsus, three Christians were brought before him; their names were Tarachus, an aged man, Probus, and Andronicus. After repeated tortures and exhortations to recant, they, at length, were ordered for execution.
Being brought to the amphitheater, several beasts were let loose upon them; but none of the animals, though hungry, would touch them. The keeper then brought out a large bear, that had that very day destroyed three men; but this voracious creature and a fierce lioness both refused to touch the prisoners. Finding the design of destroying them by the means of wild beasts ineffectual, Maximus ordered them to be slain by the sword, on October 11, A.D. 303.
Romanus, a native of Palestine, was deacon of the church of Caesarea at the time of the commencement of Diocletian’s persecution. Being condemned for his faith at Antioch, he was scourged, put to the rack, his body torn with hooks, his flesh cut with knives, his face scarified, his teeth beaten from their sockets, and his hair plucked up by the roots. Soon after he was ordered to be strangled, November 17, A.D. 303.
Susanna, the niece of Caius, bishop of Rome, was pressed by the emperor Diocletian to marry a noble pagan, who was nearly related to him. Refusing the honor intended her, she was beheaded by the emperor’s order.
Dorotheus, the high chamberlain of the household to Diocletian, was a Christian, and took great pains to make converts. In his religious labors, he was joined by Gorgonius, another Christian, and one belonging to the palace. They were first tortured and then strangled.
Peter, a eunuch belonging to the emperor, was a Christian of singular modesty and humility. He was laid on a gridiron, and broiled over a slow fire until he expired.
Cyprian, known by the title of the magician, to distinguish him from Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was a native of Natioch. He received a liberal education in his youth, and particularly applied himself to astrology; after which he traveled for improvement through Greece, Egypt, India, etc. In the course of time he became acquainted with Justina, a young lady of Antioch, whose birth, beauty, and accomplishments, rendered her the admiration of all who knew her. A pagan gentleman applied to Cyprian, to promote his suit with the beautiful Justina; this he undertook, but soon himself became converted, burnt his books of astrology and magic, received baptism, and felt animated with a powerful spirit of grace. The conversion of Cyprian had a great effect on the pagan gentleman who paid his addresses to Justina, and he in a short time embraced Christianity. During the persecutions of Diocletian, Cyprian and Justina were seized upon as Chrisitans, the former was torn with pincers, and the latter chastised; and, after suffering other torments, both were beheaded.
Eulalia, a Spanish lady of a Christian family, was remarkable in her youth for sweetness of temper, and solidity of understanding seldom found in the capriciousness of juvenile years. Being apprehended as a Christian, the magistrate attempted by the mildest means, to bring her over to paganism, but she ridiculed the pagan deities with such asperity, that the judge, incensed at her behavior, ordered her to be tortured. Her sides were accordingly torn by hooks, and her breasts burnt in the most shocking manner, until she expired by the violence of the flames, December, A.D. 303.
In the year 304, when the persecution reached Spain, Dacian, the governor of Terragona, ordered Valerius the bishop, and Vincent the deacon, to be seized, loaded with irons, and imprisoned. The prisoners being firm in their resolution, Valerius was banished, and Vincent was racked, his limbs dislocated, his flesh torn with hooks, and he was laid on a gridiron, which had not only a fire placed under it, but spikes at the top, which ran into his flesh. These torments neither destroying him, nor changing his resolutions, he was remanded to prison, and confined ina small, loathsome, dark dungeon, strewed with sharp flints, and pieces of broken glass, where he died, January 22, 304. His body was thrown into the river.
The persecution of Diocletian began particularly to rage in A.D. 304, when many Christians were put to cruel tortures and the most painful and ignominious deaths; the most eminent and paritcular of whom we shall enumerate.
Saturninus, a priest of Albitina, a town of Africa, after being tortured, was remanded to prison, and there starved to death. His four children, after being variously tormented, shared the same fate with their father.
Dativas, a noble Roman senator; Thelico, a pious Christian; Victoria, a young lady of considerable family and fortune, with some others of less consideration, all auditors of Saturninus, were tortured in a similar manner, and perished by the same means.
Agrape, Chionia, and Irene, three sisters, were seized upon at Thessalonica, when Diocletian’s persecution reached Greece. They were burnt, and received the crown of martyrdom in the flames, March 25, A.D. 304. The governor, finding that he could make no impression on Irene, ordered her to be exposed naked in the streets, which shameful order having been executed, a fire was kindled near the city wall, amidst whose flames her spirit ascended beyond the reach of man’s cruelty.
Agatho, a man of a pious turn of mind, with Cassice, Philippa, and Eutychia, were martyred about the same time; but the particulars have not been transmitted to us.
Marcellinus, bishop of Rome, who succeeded Caius in that see, having strongly opposed paying divine honors to Diocletian, suffered martyrdom, by a variety of tortures, in the year 324, conforting his soul until he expired with the prospect of these glorious rewards it would receive by the tortures suffered in the body.
Victorius, Carpophorus, Severus, and Severianus, were brothers, and all four employed in places of great trust and honor in the city of Rome. Having exclaimed against the worship of idols, they were apprehended, and scourged, with the plumbetae, or scourges, to the ends of which were fastened leaden balls. This punishment was exercised with such excess of cruelty that the pious brothers fell martyrs to its severity.
Timothy, a deacon of Mauritania, and Maura his wife, had not been united together by the bands of wedlock above three weeks, when they were separated from each other by the persecution. Timothy, being apprehended, as a Christian, was carried before Arrianus, the governor of Thebais, who, knowing that he had the keeping of the Holy Scriptures, commanded him to deliver them up to be burnt; to which he answered, “Had I children, I would sooner deliver them up to be sacrificed, than part with the Word of God.” The governor being much incensed at this reply, ordered his eyes to be put out, with red-hot irons, saying, “The books shall at least be useless to you, for you shall not see to read them.” His patience under the operation was so great that the governor grew more exasperated; he, therefore, in order, if possible, to overcome his fortitude, ordered him to be hung up by the feet, with a weight tied about his neck, and a gag in his mouth. In this state, Maura his wife, tenderly urged him for her sake to recant; but, when the gag was taken out of his mouth, instead of consenting to his wife’s entreaties, he greatly blamed her mistaken love, and declared his resolution of dying for the faith. The consequence was, that Maura resolved to imitate his courage and fidelity and either to accompany or follow him to glory. The governor, after trying in vain to alter her resolution, ordered her to be tortured, which was executed with great severity. After this, Timothy and Maura were crucified near each other, A.D. 304.
Sabinus, bishop of Assisium, refusing to sacrifice to Jupiter, and pushing the idol from him, had his hand cut off by the order of the governor of Tuscany. While in prison, he converted the governor and his family, all of whom suffered martyrdom for the faith. Soon after their execution, Sabinus himself was scourged to death, December, A.D. 304.
Tired with the farce of state and public business, the emperor Diocletian resigned the imperial diadem, and was succeeded by Constantius and Galerius; the former a prince of the most mild and humane disposition and the latter equally remarkable for his cruelty and tyranny. These divided the empire into two equal governments, Galerius ruling in the east, and Constantius in the west; and the people in the two governments felt the effects of the dispositions of the two emperors; for those in the west were governed in the mildest manner, but such as resided in the east felt all the miseries of oppression and lengthened tortures.
Among the many martyred by the order of Galerius, we shall enumerate the most eminent.
Amphianus was a gentleman of eminence in Lucia, and a scholar of Eusebius; Julitta, a Lycaonian of royal descent, but more celebrated for her virtues than noble blood. While on the rack, her child was killed before her face. Julitta, of Cappadocia, was a lady of distinguished capacity, great virtue, and uncommon courage. To complete the execution, Julitta had boiling pitch poured on her feet, her sides torn with hooks, and received the conclusion of her martyrdom, by being beheaded, April 16, A.D. 305.
Hermolaus, a venerable and pious Christian, or a great age, and an intimate acquaintance of Panteleon’s, suffered martyrdom for the faith on the same day, and in the same manner as Panteleon.
Eustratius, secretary to the governor of Armina, was thrown into a fiery furnace for exhorting some Christians who had been apprehended, to persevere in their faith.
Nicander and Marcian, two eminent Roman military officers, were apprehended on account of their faith. As they were both men of great abilities in their profession, the utmost means were used to induce them to renounce Christianity; but these endeavors being found ineffectual, they were beheaded.
In the kingdom of Naples, several martyrdoms took place, in particular, Januaries, bishop of Beneventum; Sosius, deacon of Misene; Proculus, another deacon; Eutyches and Acutius, two laymen; Festus, a deacon; and Desiderius, a reader; all, on account of being Christians, were condemned by the governor of Campania to be devoured by the wild beasts. The savage animals, however, would not touch them, and so they were beheaded.
Quirinus, bishop of Siscia, being carried before Matenius, the governor, was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan deities, agreeably to the edicts of various Roman emperors. The governor, perceiving his constancy, sent him to jail, and ordered him to be heavily ironed; flattering himself, that the hardships of a jail, some occasional tortures and the weight of chains, might overcome his resolution. Being decided in his principles, he was sent to Amantius, the principal governor of Pannonia, now Hungary, who loaded him with chains, and carried him through the principal towns of the Danube, exposing him to ridicule wherever he went. Arriving at length at Sabaria, and finding that Quirinus would not renounce his faith, he ordered him to be cast into a river, with a stone fastened about his neck. This sentence being put into execution, Quirinus floated about for some time, and, exhorting the people in the most pious terms, concluded his admonitions with this prayer: “It is no new thing, O all-powerful Jesus, for Thee to stop the course of rivers, or to cause a man to walk upon the water, as Thou didst Thy servant Peter; the people have already seen the proof of Thy power in me; grant me now to lay down my life for Thy sake, O my God.” On pronouncing the last words he immediately sank, and died, June 4, A.D. 308. His body was afterwards taken up, and buried by some pious Christians.
Pamphilus, a native of Phoenicia, of a considerable family, was a man of such extensive learning that he was called a second Origen. He was received into the body of the clergy at Caesarea, where he established a public library and spent his time in the practice of every Christian virtue. He copied the greatest part of the works of Origen with his own hand, and, assisted by Eusebius, gave a correct copy of the Old Testament, which had suffered greatly by the ignorance or negligence of former transcribers. In the year 307, he was apprehended, and suffered torture and martyrdom.
Marcellus, bishop of Rome, being banished on account of his faith, fell a martyr to the miseries he suffered in exile, January 16, A.D. 310.
Peter, the sixteenth bishop of Alexandria, was martyred November 25, A.D. 311, by order of Maximus Caesar, who reigned in the east.
Agnes, a virgin of only thirteen years of age, was beheaded for being a Christian; as was Serene, the empress of Diocletian. Valentine, a priest, suffered the same fate at Rome; and Erasmus, a bishop, was martyred in Campania.
Soon after this the persecution abated in the middle parts of the empire, as well as in the west; and Providence at length began to manifest vengeance on the persecutors. Maximian endeavored to corrupt his daughter Fausta to murder Constantine her husband; which she discovered, and Constantine forced him to choose his own death, when he preferred the ignominious death of hanging after being an emperor near twenty years.
Constantine was the good and virtuous child of a good and virtuous father, born in Britain. His mother was named Helena, daughter of King Coilus. He was a most bountiful and gracious prince, having a desire to nourish learning and good arts, and did oftentimes use to read, write, and study himself. He had marvellous good success and prosperous achieving of all things he took in hand, which then was (and truly) supposed to proceed of this, for that he was so great a favorer of the Christian faith. Which faith when he had once embraced, he did ever after most devoutly and religiously reverence.
Thus Constantine, sufficiently appointed with strength of men but especially with strength of God, entered his journey coming towards Italy, which was about the last year of the persecution, A.D. 313. Maxentius, understanding of the coming of Constantine, and trusting more to his devilish art of magic than to the good will of his subjects, which he little deserved, durst not show himself out of the city, nor encounter him in the open field, but with privy garrisons laid wait for him by the way in sundry straits, as he should come; with whom Constantine had divers skirmishes, and by the power of the Lord did ever vanquish them and put them to flight.
Notwithstanding, Constantine yet was in no great comfort, but in great care and dread in his mind (approaching now near unto Rome) for the magical charms and sorceries of Maxentius, wherewith he had vanquished before Severus, sent by Galerius against him. Wherefore, being in great doubt and perplexity in himself, and revolving many things in his mind, what help he might have against the operations of his charming, Constantine, in his journey drawing toward the city, and casting up his eyes many times to heaven, in the south part, about the going down of the sun, saw a great brightness in heaven, appearing in the similitude of a cross, giving this inscription, In hoc vince, that is, “In this overcome.”
Eusebius Pamphilus doth witness that he had heard the said Constantine himself oftentimes report, and also to swear this to be true and certain, which he did see with his own eyes in heaven, and also his soldiers about him. At the sight whereof when he was greatly astonished, and consulting with his men upon the meaning thereof, behold, in the night season in his sleep, Christ appeared to him with the sign of the same cross which he had seen before, bidding him to make the figuration thereof, and to carry it in his wars before him, and so should we have the victory.
Constantine so established the peace of the Church that for the space of a thousand years we read of no set persecution against the Christians, unto the time of John Wickliffe.
So happy, so glorious was this victory of Constantine, surnamed the Great! For the joy and gladness whereof, the citizens who had sent for him before, with exceeding triumph brought him into the city of Rome, where he was most honorably received, and celebrated the space of seven days together; having, moreover, in the market place, his image set up, holding in his right hand the sign of the cross, with this inscription: “With this wholesome sign, the true token of fortitude, I have rescued and delivered our city from the yoke of the tyrant.”
We shall conclude our account of the tenth and last general persecution with the death of St. George, the titular saint and patron of England. St. George was born in Cappadocia, of Christian parents; and giving proofs of his courage, was promoted in the army of the emperor Diocletian. During the persecution, St. George threw up his command, went boldly to the senate house, and avowed his being a Christian, taking occasion at the same time to remonstrate against paganism, and point out the absurdity of worshipping idols. This freedom so greatly provoked the senate that St. George was ordered to be tortured, and by the emperor’s orders was dragged through the streets, and beheaded the next day.
The legend of the dragon, which is associated with this martyr, is usually illustrated by representing St. George seated upon a charging horse and transfixing the monster with his spear. This fiery dragon symbolizes the devil, who was vanquished by St. George’s steadfast faith in Christ, which remained unshaken in spite of torture and death.
Persecutions of the Christians in Persia
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 hitherto 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.
The emperor 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.
Persecutions Under the Arian Heretics
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 Arians.
In Egypt and Lybia, thirty 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 officer.
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.
Persecution Under Julian the Apostate
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, a 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 the magician.
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.
Biship 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, A.D. 362.
Donatus, bishop of Arezzo, and Hilarinus, a hermit, suffered about the same time; also Gordian, a Roman magistrate. Artemius, 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. In Alexandria, 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 Domitius murdered in a cave, whither he had fled for refuge.
The emperor, 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.
Persecution of the Christians by the Goths and Vandals.
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.
The Last Roman “Triumph”
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 glatiators with nets tried to entangle those with swords, and when they succeeded mercilessly stabbed their antagonists to death with the three-pronged spear. When a glatiator 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 spare.
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 inclosure. 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 the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.
Persecutions from About the Middle of the Fifth, to the Conclusion of the Seventh Century
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 air.
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 defence; 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.
Persecutions from the Early Part of the Eighth, to Near the Conclusion of the Tenth Century
Boniface, archbishop of Mentz, and father of the German church, was an Englishman, and is, in ecclasiastical 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 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.
Flora and Mary, two ladies of distinction, suffered martyrdom at the same time.
Perfectus 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.
Persecutions in the Eleventh Century
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 several months.
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. This transaction 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 papal Church, 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.
Persecution of 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 Berengarius, who, 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 “Antichrist.”
By the year of Christ 1140, the number of the reformed was very great, and the probability of its increasing alarmed the pope, 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 apostolics. At length, Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a native of Lyons, eminent for his piety and learning, became a strenuous opposer of popery; and from him the reformed, at that time, received the appellation of Waldenses or Waldoys.
Pope 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 informations, 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 Dominicans took 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 Catholic Church.
Persecutions of the Albigenses
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 Cossacks 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 Redeemer.
The reformation of papistical 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 Melden, one 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 Limosin, John de Cadurco, a clergyman of the reformed religion, was apprehended and ordered to be burnt.
Francis Bribard, secretary to 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 same time, fourteen men were burnt at Malda, their wives being compelled to stand by and behold the execution.
A.D. 1546, 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.
Monsieur 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 besmeared.
The Bartholomew Massacre at Paris, etc.
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 fly, 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. The bodies 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.
At Orleans, a thousand were slain of men, women, and children, and six thousand at Rouen.
At Meldith, two hundred were put into prison, and later brought out by units, and cruelly murdered.
At Lyons, 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.
At 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 curelty 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 him.
“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. Some priests, 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 friends.
“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 religion inspire!
“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.
“Many 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 enemuy 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 extinct.
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, three 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 granted them.
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.
From the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, to the French Revolution, in 1789
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 Catholics, and at seven years of age, made to embrace popery. 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 popish priest. 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. Hereupon the intendants in every parish (which were popish governors 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 them.’
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 practised all sorts of torments in secret. Their wives and children they shut up in monasteries.
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 intendants 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 that most intolerable hospital where thousands under their cruelties have expired.
Martyrdom of John Calas
We pass over many other individual maretyrdoms to 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 Roman Catholics, 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 mentioned.
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. Upon examination, he found the body quite dead; and by this time a papistical 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 reason.
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 MM. 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 unbuttoned.
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 catholicism.
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 suspended.
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 Calas 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 arret 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.
An Account of the Inquisition
When the reformed religion began to diffuse the Gospel light throughout Europe, Pope Innocent III entertained great fear for the Romish Church. He accordingly instituted a number of inquisitors, or persons who were to make inquiry after, apprehend, and punish, heretics, as the reformed were called by the papists.
At the head of these inquisitors was one Dominic, who had been canonized by the pope, in order to render his authority the more respectable. Dominic, and the other inquisitors, spread themselves into various Roman Catholic countries, and treated the Protestants with the utmost severity. In process of time, the pope, not finding these roving inquisitors so useful as he had imagined, resolved upon the establishment of fixed and regular courts of Inquisition. After the order for these regular courts, the first office of Inquisition was established in the city of Toulouse, and Dominic became the first regular inquisitor, as he had before been the first roving inquisitor.
Courts of Inquisition were now erected in several countries; but the Spanish Inquisition became the most powerful, and the most dreaded of any. Even the kings of Spain themselves, though arbitrary in all other respects, were taught to dread the power of the lords of the Inquisition; and the horrid cruelties they exercised compelled multitudes, who differed in opinion from the Roman Catholics, carefully to conceal their sentiments.
The most zealous of all the popish monks, and those who most implicitly obeyed the Church of Rome, were the Dominicans and Franciscans: these, therefore, the pope thought proper to invest with an exclusive right of presiding over the different courts of Inquisition, and gave them the most unlimited powers, as judges delegated by him, and immediately representing his person: they were permitted to excommunicate, or sentence to death whom they thought proper, upon the most slight information of heresy. They were allowed to publish crusades against all whom they deemed heretics, and enter into leagues with sovereign princes, to join their crusades with their forces.
In 1244, their power was further increased by the emperor Frederic II, who declared himself the protector and friend of all the inquisitors, and published the cruel edicts, viz., 1. That all heretics who continue obstinate, should be burnt. 2. That all heretics who repented, should be imprisoned for life.
This zeal in the emperor, for the inquisitors of the Roman Catholic persuasion, arose from a report which had been propagated throughout Europe, that he intended to renounce Christianity, and turn Mahometan; the emperor therefore, attempted, by the height of bigotry, to contradict the report, and to show his attachment to popery by cruelty.
The officers of the Inquisition are three inquisitors, or judges, a fiscal proctor, two secretaries, a magistrate, a messenger, a receiver, a jailer, an agent of confiscated possessions; several assessors, counsellors, executioners, physicians, surgeons, doorkeepers, familiars, and visitors, who are sworn to secrecy.
The principal accusation against those who are subject to this tribunal is heresy, which comprises all that is spoken, or written, against any of the articles of the creed, or the traditions of the Roman Church. The inquisition likewise takes cognizance of such as are accused of being magicians, and of such who read the Bible in the common language, the Talmud of the Jews, or the Alcoran of the Mahometans.
Upon all occasions the inquisitors carry on their processes with the utmost severity, and punish those who offend them with the most unparalleled cruelty. A Protestant has seldom any mercy shown him, and a Jew, who turns Christian, is far from being secure.
A defence in the Inquisition is of little use to the prisoner, for a suspicion only is deemed sufficient cause of condemnation, and the greater his wealth the greater his danger. The principal part of the inquisitors’ cruelties is owing to their rapacity: they destroy the life to possess the property; and, under the pretence of zeal, plunder each obnoxious individual.
A prisoner in the Inquisition is never allowed to see the face of his accuser, or of the witnesses against him, but every method is taken by threats and tortures, to oblige him to accuse himself, and by that means corroborate their evidence. If the jurisdiction of the Inquisition is not fully allowed, vengeance is denounced against such as call it in question for if any of its officers are opposed, those who oppose them are almost certain to be sufferers for the temerity; the maxim of the Inquisition being to strike terror, and awe those who are the objects of its power into obedience. High birth, distinguished rank, great dignity, or eminent employments, are no protection from its severities; and the lowest officers of the Inquisition can make the highest characters tremble.
When the person impeached is condemned, he is either severely whipped, violently tortured, sent to the galleys, or sentenced to death; and in either case the effects are confiscated. After judgment, a procession is performed to the place of execution, which ceremony is called an auto da fe, or act of faith.
The following is an account of an auto da fe, performed at Madrid in the year 1682.
The officers of the Inquisition, preceded by trumpets, kettledrums, and their banner, marched on the thirtieth of May, in cavalcade, to the palace of the great square, where they declared by proclamation, that, on the thirtieth of June, the sentence of the prisoners would be put in execution.
Of these prisoners, twenty men and women, with one renegade Mahometan, were ordered to be burned; fifty Jews and Jewesses, having never before been imprisoned, and repenting of their crimes, were sentenced to a long confinement, and to wear a yellow cap. The whole court of Spain was present on this occasion. The grand inquisitor’s chair was placed in a sort of tribunal far above that of the king.
Among those who were to suffer, was a young Jewess of exquisite beauty, and but seventeen years of age. Being on the same side of the scaffold where the queen was seated, she addressed her, in hopes of obtaining a pardon, in the following pathetic speech: “Great queen, will not your royal presence be of some service to me in my miserable condition? Have regard to my youth; and, oh! consider, that I am about to die for professing a religion imbibed from my earliest infancy!” Her majesty seemed greatly to pity her distress, but turned away her eyes, as she did not dare to speak a word in behalf of a person who had been declared a heretic.
Now Mass began, in the midst of which the priest came from the altar, placed himself near the scaffold, and seated himself in a chair prepared for that purpose.
The chief inquisitor then descended from the amphitheater, dressed in his cope, and having a miter on his head. After having bowed to the altar, he advanced towards the king’s balcony, and went up to it, attended by some of his officers, carrying a cross and the Gospels, with a book containing the oath by which the kings of Spain oblige themselves to protect the Catholic faith, to extirpate heretics, and to support with all their power and force the prosecutions and decrees of the Inquisition: a like oath was administered to the counsellors and whole assembly. The Mass was begun about twelve at noon, and did not end until nine in the evening, being protracted by a proclamation of the sentence of the several criminals, which were already separately rehearsed aloud one after the other.
After this followed the burnings of the twenty-one men and women, whose intrepidity in suffering that horrid death was truly astonishing. The king’s near situation to the criminals rendered their dying groans very audible to him; he could not, however, be absent from this dreadful scene, as it is esteemed a religious one; and his coronation oath obliged him to give a sanction by his presence to all the acts of the tribunal.
What we have already said may be applied to inquisitions in general, as well as to that of Spain in particular. The Inquisition belonging to Portugal is exactly upon a similar plan to that of Spain, having been instituted much about the same time, and put under the same regulations. The inquisitors allow the torture to be used only three times, but during those times it is so severely inflicted, that the prisoner either dies under it, or continues always after a cripple, and suffers the severest pains upon every change of weather. We shall give an ample description of the severe torments occasioned by the torture, from the account of one who suffered it the three respective times, but happily survived the cruelties he underwent.
At the first time of torturing, six executioners entered, stripped him naked to his drawers, and laid him upon his back on a kind of stand, elevated a few feet from the floor. The operation commenced by putting an iron collar round his neck, and a ring to each foot, which fastened him to the stand. His limbs being thus stretched out, they wound two ropes round each thigh; which ropes being passed under the scaffold, through holes made for that purpose, were all drawn tight at the same instant of time, by four of the men, on a given signal.
It is easy to conceive that the pains which immediately succeeded were intolerable; the ropes, which were of a small size, cut through the prisoner’s flesh to the bone, making the blood to gush out at eight different places thus bound at a time. As the prisoner persisted in not making any confession of what the inquisitors required, the ropes were drawn in this manner four times successively.
The manner of inflicting the second torture was as follows: they forced his arms backwards so that the palms of his hands were turned outward behind him; when, by means of a rope that fastened them together at the wrists, and which was turned by an engine, they drew them by degrees nearer each other, in such a manner that the back of each hand touched, and stood exactly parallel to each other. In consequence of this violent contortion, both his shoulders became dislocated, and a considerable quantity of blood issued from his mouth. This torture was repeated thrice; after which he was again taken to the dungeon, and the surgeon set the dislocated bones.
Two months after the second torture, the prisoner being a little recovered, was again ordered to the torture room, and there, for the last time, made to undergo another kind of punishment, which was inflicted twice without any intermission. The executioners fastened a thick iron chain round his body, which crossing at the breast, terminated at the wrists. They then placed him with his back against a thick board, at each extremity whereof was a pulley, through which there ran a rope that caught the end of the chain at his wrists. The executioner then, stretching the end of his rope by means of a roller, placed at a distance behind him, pressed or bruised his stomach in proportion as the ends of the chains were drawn tighter. They tortured him in this manner to such a degree, that his wrists, as well as his shoulders, were quite dislocated. They were, however, soon set by the surgeons; but the barbarians, not yet satisfied with this species of cruelty, made him immediately undergo the like torture a second time, which he sustained (though, if possible, attended with keener pains,) with equal constancy and resolution. After this, he was again remanded to the dungeon, attended by the surgeon to dress his bruises and adjust the part dislocated, and here he continued until their auto da fe, or jail delivery, when he was discharged, crippled and diseased for life.
An Account of the Cruel Handling and Burning of Nicholas Burton, an English Merchant, in Spain
The fifth day of November, about the year of our Lord 1560, Mr. Nicholas Burton, citizen sometime of London, and merchant, dwelling in the parish of Little St. Bartholomew, peaceably and quietly, following his traffic in the trade of merchandise, and being in the city of Cadiz, in the party of Andalusia, in Spain, there came into his lodging a Judas, or, as they term them, a familiar of the fathers of Inquisition; who asking for the said Nicholas Burton, feigned that he had a letter to deliver into his own hands; by which means he spake with him immediately. And having no letter to deliver to him, then the said promoter, or familiar, at the motion of the devil his master, whose messenger he was, invented another lie, and said he would take lading for London in such ships as the said Nicholas Burton had freighted to lade, if he would let any; which was partly to know where he loaded his goods, that they might attach them, and chiefly to protract the time until the sergeant of the Inquisition might come and apprehend the body of the said Nicholas Burton; which they did incontinently.
He then well perceiving that they were not able to burden or charge him that he had written, spoken, or done any thing there in that country against the ecclesiastical or temporal laws of the same realm, boldly asked them what they had to lay to his charge that they did so arrest him, and bade them to declare the cause, and he would answer them. Notwithstanding they answered nothing, but commanded him with threatening words to hold his peace, and not speak one word to them.
And so they carried him to the filthy common prison of the town of Cadiz where he remained in irons fourteen days amongst thieves.
All which time he so instructed the poor prisoners in the Word of God, according to the good talent which God had given him in that behalf, and also in the Spanish tongue to utter the same, that in that short space he had well reclaimed several of those superstitiuous and ignorant Spaniards to embrace the Word of God, and to reject their popish traditions.
Which being known unto the officers of the Inquisition, they conveyed him laden with irons from thence to a city called Seville, into a more cruel and straiter prison called Triana, where the said fathers of the Inquisition proceeded against him secretly according to their accustomable cruel tyranny, that never after he could be suffered to write or speak to any of his nation: so that to this day it is unknown who was his accuser.
Afterward, the twentieth of December, they brought the said Nicholas Burton, with a great number of other prisoners, for professing the true Christian religion, into the city of Seville, to a place where the said inquisitors sat in judgment which they called auto, with a canvas coat, whereupon in divers parts was painted the figure of a huge devil, tormenting a soul in a flame of fire, and on his head a copping tank of the same work.
His tongue was forced out of his mouth with a cloven stick fastened upon it, that he should not utter his conscience and faith to the people, and so he was set with another Englishman of Southampton, and divers other condemned men for religion, as well Frenchmen as Spaniards, upon a scaffold over against the said Inquisition, where their sentences and judgments were read and pronounced against them.
And immediately after the said sentences given, they were carried from there to the place of execution without the city, where they most cruelly burned them, for whose constant faith, God is praised.
This Nicholas Burton by the way, and in the flames of fire, had so cheerful a countenance, embracing death with all patience and gladness, that the tormentors and enemies which stood by, said, that the devil had his soul before he came to the fire; and therefore they said his senses of feeling were past him.
It happened that after the arrest of Nicholas Burton aforesaid, immediately all the goods and merchandise which he brought with him into Spain by the way of traffic, were (according to their common usage) seized, and taken into the sequester; among which they also rolled up much that appertained to another English merchant, wherewith he was credited as factor. Whereof as soon as news was brought to the merchant as well of the imprisonment of his factor, as of the arrest made upon his goods, he sent his attorney into Spain, with authority from him to make claim to his goods, and to demand them; whose name was John Fronton, citizen of Bristol.
When his attorney was landed at Seville, and had shown all his letters and writings to the holy house, requiring them that such goods might be delivered into his possession, answer was made to him that he must sue by bill, and retain an advocate (but all was doubtless to delay him,) and they forsooth of courtesy assigned him one to frame his supplication for him, and other such bills of petition, as he had to exhibit into their holy court, demanding for each bill eight reals, albeit they stood him in no more stead than if he had put up none at all. And for the space of three or four months this fellow missed not twice a day attending every morning and afternoon at the inquisitors’ palace, suing unto them upon his knees for his despatch, but especially to the bishop of Tarracon, who was at that very time chief of the Inquisition at Seville, that he of his absolute authority would command restitution to be made thereof; but the booty was so good and great that it was very hard to come by it again.
At length, after he had spent four whole months in suits and requests, and also to no purpose, he received this answer from them, that he must show better evidence, and bring more sufficient certificates out of England for proof of this matter, than those which he had already presented to the court. Whereupon the party