It is the 21st of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1526.
It was the year that the Torgau League was formed. It was formed in response to the recent Edict of Worms from Emperor Charles V. This edict forbade anyone from harboring, supporting, or giving credence or comfort in any way to the heretic Martin Luther. Luther, working in Torgau at the time, helped to write the constitution of the group that would consist of Lutheran princes. With the power of emperors and monarchs much more significant than local electors, the League was an attempt to shore up the new regional reformation-friendly magistrates' collective power.
You might understand the fear from Catholic monarchs and magistrates that internal divisions could cause further destabilization from within. Troubling for some, 1526 saw flooding of Bibles in the vernacular into the market. It was the year that Tyndale's English transition first appeared in England. Laurentius Petri's Swedish Bible appeared for the first time in Sweden.
The Battle of Mohacs, which took place in 1526, struck fear into many Western monarchs' hearts as it was a resounding victory for Suleiman the Magnificent over the Western and Hungarian armies.
And it wasn't just internal theological enemies, or marauders from the East that led to struggle and strife. The Italian Wars were raging between the House of Valois and the House of Habsburg. This was the battle between France's kings and the Holy Roman Emperor over control of the Italian Peninsula. Francis I, King of France, was afraid of being encircled by Charles V and the Habsburgs. Francis first sought to recruit England and the house of Tudor as allies. When he was rebuffed by his Christian neighbors to the West, he formed the rather radical alliance with Suleiman and the Ottomans.
Francis I found himself in a peculiar situation. He was open to the Reformation. But he feared both the radical and iconoclastic elements of the movement. Furthermore, the French Monarch had a very Catholic mother, Louise of Savoy (who was Regent for Francis when he inherited the Throne but was too young to rule).
Francis' sister, Marguerite of Navarre, was a prominent Protestant sympathizer, which gave the king pause. You might also remember that John Calvin dedicated his Magnum Opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, to Francis to make a case for the Reformation to him.
Francis' ecclesiastical inclinations were often a question and an important one at that. He perhaps made his most defiant anti-reformation statement when he finally turned on the French Reformer Louis De Berquin. De Berquin studied in the Netherlands and became a follower of Erasmus. He was amongst the first to translate Luther into French. When De Berquin's translations of both Luther and Melanchthon found their way to the Sorbonne, De Berquin was denounced as a heretic.
De Berquin was acquainted with the Navarre's reform-friendly Marguerite, and she convinced her brother, Francis, to pardon him. As a lay preacher and teacher, Berquin began to emphasize the unbiblical nature of clerical celibacy and preach more openly the Lutheran doctrine of Justification. He was arrested again and then pardoned. But when Francis found himself indebted to the Bishops to approve and help pay for foreign wars, they insisted that he no longer give safe harbor to Reformers. De Berquin kept preaching until this, the 21st of November in 1526. Louis De Berquin was arrested, his books were burned, his tongue pierced, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Louis attempted to appeal to Francis again, and this outraged the Parliament, which then changed their sentence to death by burning.
De Berquin appealed again, and the judgment was also changed. His new punishment was a mere strangling. The reformer Theodore Beza said of De Berquin that he would have been the Luther to France if only Francis acted more like the Elector Frederick. The suggestion is that Reformers needed sympathetic magistrates to both stay alive and spread the Reformation. That dream came to an end for Louis De Berquin when he was arrested for the last time by French authorities on this, the 21st of November in 1526.
Today's reading is an excerpt from a poem by Antoine de Chandieu, the Calvinist poet of the French Reformation.
Tear out of forgetful silence
The violence that knows no pity
Which is so scandalous; in hot pursuit
It chases away, kills and destroys
My family, my people, my Church
And I must suffer a living death.
O powerful and fearful God
Always the same, never changing
Look down, I pray, on my captivity:
Change my weakness into strength
My fear into joy and consolation
My slavery into freedom.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who celebrates the French, especially their doors, fries, toast, kissing, bread, and braids, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.