Saturday, September 5, 2020

The year was 1568, and we remember the curious utopian, Catholic, heretic, and freedom fighter against the Spanish, Tommasso Campanella. The reading is from Arthur Hugh Clough, “With Whom is No Variableness, Neither Shadow of Turning.”

It is the 5th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1568.

It was this year that the Edict of Torda was signed in Hungary. This edict can lay claim to being the first early modern declaration of religious freedom in Europe. The Kingdom of Hungary was significantly larger than the country today. It consisted of Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, and Transylvania. The King of Hungary, John Sigismund, had been notorious for changing confessions. A one-time Calvinist, he became a Lutheran, and then followed his anti-trinitarian court preacher into the radical reformation tradition. Sigismund would ultimately lose half of his former Kingdom. But when he consolidated the eastern portions and was named Prince of Transylvania, this edict would be the law of the land.

It famously reads: “but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve . . . no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone . . . and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment. . . . For faith is the gift of God. . . . “

Another landmark agreement took place in 1568 between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. After a 25-year war between Austria and the Ottomans, Emperor Maximillian II agreed to pay a yearly fee to the Sultan to keep the peace on the Eastern and Hungarian borders.

On the other side of the continent, the once-mighty Spanish empire was losing its footing. The disastrous 80 Years War with the Dutch began in 1568. The war ended with the Peace of Muenster that recognized an independent Dutch nation.

The Spanish had also had problems with its Morisco population. The year 1568 saw an uprising in Granada amongst this Spanish Muslim population that had been forcibly converted. To be more precise, you would only be forced to leave if you didn’t convert. Many fled, and those who stayed lived in relatively small isolated communities. From the hills of Alpujarra, the Granadian Moriscos fought against new laws that forbade speaking in Arabic or wearing traditional Arabic dress. The illegitimate son of Charles V led the war against the guerrillas, and the Moriscos were all but gone by the end of the century.

Spain also ruled in Calabria, Italy, and the native Italians and Spanish were often scuffling. One of the agitators in this relationship would be the philosopher, humanist, and Catholic Calabrian, Tommasso Campanella, who was born on this, the 5th of September, in 1568.

HIs given name was Giovanni, but as a child prodigy, he was sent to study with the Dominicans and took the name Tommasso in honor of Thomas Aquinas. His dissent from following the standard Aristotelian models saw him fall into disfavor with some. Furthermore, his radical political ideas and association with Calabrian rebels led to his imprisonment and torture. Campanella is said to have faked his madness, set his cell on fire, and managed only to be locked in a Spanish prison.

It was here that he embraced his Catholic faith and wrote poetry as well as his wildly successful “The City of the Sun.” It is a utopian story following the model of Thomas More. It argues for a perfect state with all things shared. And it’s just outrageous enough to shock our modern sensibilities. For example, women are considered property in his utopian city and thus should be shared like common goods.

After 27 years of being imprisoned, he was released by the Spanish and promptly rearrested by the church in Rome and charged with heresy. With the help of the Pope and Louis XIII, Campanella was able to flee to Paris, where he lived out the last days of his life as a court astrologer to the King of France.

The curious utopian, Catholic, heretic, and freedom fighter against the Spanish, Tommasso Campanella died in 1639. Born on this, the 5th of September, in 1568, he was 70 years old.

The reading for today is a short poem from Arthur Hugh Clough. This is his: “With Whom is No Variableness, Neither Shadow of Turning.”

It fortifies my soul to know
That, though I perish, Truth is so:
That, howsoe’er I stray and range,
Whate’er I do, Thou dost not change.
I steadier step when I recall
That, if I slip, Thou dost not fall.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by a man who has dreams of living out his days as an astrologer to any king, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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