The general persecutions in Germany were principally occasioned
by the doctrines and ministry of Martin Luther. Indeed, the pope
was so terrified at the success of that courageous reformer, that
he determined to engage the emperor, Charles V, at any rate, in
the scheme to attempt their extirpation.
To this end
Thus prompted and supported, the emperor undertook the extirpation
of the Protestants, against whom, indeed, he was particularly
enraged himself; and, for this purpose, a formidable army was
raised in Germany, Spain, and Italy.
The Protestant princes, in the meantime, formed a powerful confederacy,
in order to repel the impending blow. A great army was raised,
and the command given to the elector of Saxony, and the landgrave
of Hesse. The imperial forces were commanded by the emperor of
Germany in person, and the eyes of all Europe were turned on the
event of the war.
At length the armies met, and a desperate engagement ensued, in
which the Protestants were defeated, and the elector of Saxony
and the landgrave of Hesse both taken prisoners. This fatal blow
was succeeded by a horrid persecution, the severities of which
were such that exile might be deemed a mild fate, and concealment
in a dismal wood pass for happiness. In such times a cave is a
palace, a rock a bed of down, and wild roots delicacies.
Those who were taken experienced the most cruel tortures that
infernal imaginations could invent; and by their constancy evinced
that a real Christian can surmount every difficulty, and despite
every danger acquire a crown of martyrdom.
Henry Voes and John Esch, being apprehended as Protestants, were
brought to examination. Voes, answering for himself and the other,
gave the following answers to some questions asked by a priest,
who examined them by order of the magistracy.
Priest. Were you not both, some years ago, Augustine friars?
Priest. How came you to quit the bosom of the Church at Rome?
Voes. On account of her abominations.
Priest. In what do you believe?
Voes. In the Old and New Testaments.
Priest. Do you believe in the writings of the fathers, and the
decrees of the Councils?
Voes. Yes, if they agree with Scripture.
Priest. Did not Martin Luther seduce you both?
Voes. He seduced us even in the very same manner as Christ seduced
the apostles; that is, he made us sensible of the frailty of our
bodies, and the value of our souls.
This examination was sufficient. They were both condemned to the
flames, and soon after suffered with that manly fortitude which
becomes Christians when they receive a crown of martyrdom.
Henry Sutphen, an eloquent and pious preacher, was taken out of
his bed in the middle of the night, and compelled to walk barefoot
a considerable way, so that his feet were terribly cut. He desired
a horse, but his conductors said, in derision, "A horse for
a heretic! no no, heretics may go barefoot." When he arrived
at the place of his destination, he was condemned to be burnt;
but, during the execution, many indignities were offered him,
as those who attended not content with what he suffered in the
flames, cut and slashed him in a most terrible manner.
Many were murdered at Halle; Middleburg being taken by storm all
the Protestants were put to the sword, and great numbers were
burned at Vienna.
An officer being sent to put a minister to death, pretended, when
he came to the clergyman's house, that his intentions were only
to pay him a visit. The minister, not suspecting the intended
cruelty, entertained his supposed guest in a very cordial manner.
As soon as dinner was over, the officer said to some of his attendants,
"Take this clergyman, and hang him." The attendants
themselves were so shocked after the civility they had seen, that
they hesitated to perform the commands of their master; and the
minister said, "Think what a sting will remain on your conscience,
for thus violating the laws of hospitality." The officer,
however, insisted upon being obeyed, and the attendants, with
reluctance, performed the execrable office of executioners.
Peter Spengler, a pious divine, of the town of Schalet, was thrown
into the river, and drowned. Before he was taken to the banks
of the stream which was to become his grave, they led him to the
market place that his crimes might be proclaimed; which were,
not going to Mass, not making confession, and not believing in
transubstantiation. After this ceremony was over, he made a most
excellent discourse to the people, and concluded with a kind hymn,
of a very edifying nature.
A Protestant gentleman being ordered to lose his head for not
renouncing his religion, went cheerfully to the place of execution.
A friar came to him, and said these words in a low tone of voice,
"As you have a great reluctance publicly to abjure your faith,
whisper your confession in my ear, and I will absolve your sins."
To this the gentleman loudly replied, "Trouble me not, friar,
I have confessed my sins to God, and obtained absolution through
the merits of Jesus Christ." Then turning to the executioner,
he said, "Let me not be pestered with these men, but perform
your duty," on which his head was struck off at a single
Wolfgang Scuch, and John Huglin, two worthy ministers, were burned,
as was Leonard Keyser, a student of the University of Wertembergh;
and George Carpenter, a Bavarian, was hanged for refusing to recant
The persecutions in Germany having subsided many years, again
broke out in 1630, on account of the war between the emperor and
the king of Sweden, for the latter was a Protestant prince, and
consequently the Protestants of Germany espoused his cause, which
greatly exasperated the emperor against them.
The imperialists having laid siege to the town of Passewalk, (which
was defended by the Swedes) took it by storm, and committed the
most horrid cruelties on the occasion. They pulled down the churches,
burnt the houses, pillaged the properties, massacred the ministers,
put the garrison to the sword, hanged the townsmen, ravished the
women, smothered the children, etc., etc.
A most bloody tragedy was transacted at Magdeburg, in the year
1631. The generals Tilly and Pappenheim, having taken that Protestant
city by storm, upwards of twenty thousand persons, without distinction
of rank, sex, or age, were slain during the carnage, and six thousand
were drowned in attempting to escape over the river Elbe. After
this fury had subsided, the remaining inhabitants were stripped
naked, severely scourged, had their ears cropped, and being yoked
together like oxen were turned adrift.
The town of Hoxter was taken by the popish army, and all the inhabitants
as well as the garrison were put to the sword; the houses even
were set on fire, the bodies being consumed in the flames.
At Griphenberg, when the imperial forces prevailed, they shut
up the senators in the senate chamber, and surrounding it by lighted
straw suffocated them.
Franhendal surrendered upon articles of capitulation, yet the
inhabitants were as cruelly used as at other places; and at Heidelberg
many were shut up in prison and starved.
The cruelties used by the imperial troops, under Count Tilly in
Saxony, are thus enumerated.
Half strangling, and recovering the persons again repeatedly.
Rolling sharp wheels over the fingers and toes. Pinching the thumbs
in a vice. Forcing the most filthy things down the throat, by
which many were choked. Tying cords round the head so tightly
that the blood gushed out of the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.
Fastening burning matches to the fingers, toes, ears, arms, legs,
and even the tongue. Putting powder in the mouth and setting fire
to it, by which the head was shattered to pieces. Tying bags of
powder to all parts of the body, by which the person was blown
up. Drawing cords backwards and forwards through the fleshy parts.
Making incisions with bodkins and knives in the skin. Running
wires through the nose, ears, lips, etc. Hanging Protestants up
by the legs, with their heads over a fire, by which they were
smoke dried. Hanging up by one arm until it was dislocated. Hanging
upon hooks by the ribs. Forcing people to drink until they burst.
Baking many in hot ovens. Fixing weights to the feet, and drawing
up several with pulleys. Hanging, stifling, roasting, stabbing,
frying, racking, ravishing, ripping open, breaking the bones,
rasping off the flesh, tearing with wild horses, drowning, strangling,
burning, broiling, crucifying, immuring, poisoning, cutting off
tongues, noses, ears, etc., sawing off the limbs, hacking to pieces,
and drawing by the heels through the streets.
The enormous cruelties will be a perpetual stain on the memory
of Count Tilly, who not only committed, but even commanded the
troops to put them in practice. Wherever he came, the most horrid
barbarities and cruel depredations ensued: famine and conflagration
marked his progress: for he destroyed all the provisions he could
not take with him, and burnt all the towns before he left them;
so that the full result of his conquests were murder, poverty,
An aged and pious divine they stripped naked, tied him on his
back upon a table, and fastened a large, fierce cat upon his belly.
They then pricked and tormented the cat in such a manner that
the creature with rage tore his belly open, and gnawed his bowels.
Another minister and his family were seized by these inhuman monsters;
they ravished his wife and daughter before his face; stuck his
infant son upon the point of a lance, and then surrounding him
with his whole library of books, they set fire to them, and he
was consumed in the midst of the flames.
In Hesse-Cassel some of the troops entered an hospital, in which
were principally mad women, when stripping all the poor wretches
naked, they made them run about the streets for their diversion,
and then put them all to death.
In Pomerania, some of the imperial troops entering a small town,
seized upon all the young women, and girls of upwards of ten years,
and then placing their parents in a circle, they ordered them
to sing Psalms, while they ravished their children, or else they
swore they would cut them to pieces afterward. They then took
all the married women who had young children, and threatened,
if they did not consent to the gratification of their lusts, to
burn their children before their faces in a large fire, which
they had kindled for that purpose.
A band of Count Tilly's soldiers meeting a company of merchants
belonging to Basel, who were returning from the great market of
Strassburg, attempted to surround them; all escaped, however,
but ten, leaving their properties behind. The ten who were taken
begged hard for their lives: but the soldiers murdered them saying,
"You must die because you are heretics, and have got no money."
The same soldiers met with two countesses, who, together with
some young ladies, the daughters of one of them, were taking an
airing in a landau. The soldiers spared their lives, but treated
them with the greatest indecency, and having stripped them all
stark naked, bade the coachman drive on.
By means and mediation of Great Britain, peace was at length restored
to Germany, and the Protestants remained unmolested for several
years, until some new disturbances broke out in the Palatinate,
which were thus occasioned:
The great Church of the Holy Ghost, at Heidelberg, had, for many
years, been shared equally by the Protestants and Roman Catholics
in this manner: the Protestants performed divine service in the
nave or body of the church; and the Roman Catholics celebrated
Mass in the choir. Though this had been the custom from time immemorial,
the elector of the Palatinate, at length, took it into his head
not to suffer it any longer, declaring, that as Heidelberg was
the place of his residence, and the Church of the Holy Ghost the
cathedral of his principal city, divine service ought to be performed
only according to the rites of the Church of which he was a member.
He then forbade the Protestants to enter the church, and put the
papists in possession of the whole.
The aggrieved people applied to the Protestant powers for redress,
which so much exasperated the elector, that he suppressed the
Heidelberg catechism. The Protestant powers, however, unanimously
agreed to demand satisfaction, as the elector, by this conduct,
had broken an article of the treaty of Westphalia; and the courts
of Great Britain, Prussia, Holland, etc., sent deputies to the
elector, to represent the injustice of his proceedings, and to
threaten, unless he changed his behavior to the Protestants in
the Palatinate, that they would treat their Roman Catholic subjects
with the greatest severity. Many violent disputes took place
between the Protestant powers and those of the elector, and these
were greatly augmented by the following incident: the coach of
the Dutch minister standing before the door of the resident sent
by the prince of Hesse, the host was by chance being carried to
a sick person; the coachman took not the least notice, which those
who attended the host observing, pulled him from his box, and
compelled him to kneel; this violence to the domestic of a public
minister was highly resented by all the Protestant deputies; and
still more to heighten these differences, the Protestants presented
to the deputies three additional articles of complaint.
The Protestant deputies at length became so serious as to intimate
to the elector, that force of arms should compel him to do the
justice he denied to their representations. This menace brought
him to reason, as he well knew the impossibility of carrying on
a war against the powerful states who threatened him. He therefore
agreed that the body of the Church of the Holy Ghost should be
restored to the Protestants. He restored the Heidelberg catechism,
put the Protestant ministers again in possession of the churches
of which they had been dispossessed, allowed the Protestants to
work on popish holy days, and, ordered, that no person should
be molested for not kneeling when the host passed by.
These things he did through fear; but to show his resentment to
his Protestant subjects, in other circumstances where Protestant
states had no right to interfere, he totally abandoned Heidelberg,
removing all the courts of justice to Mannheim, which was entirely
inhabited by Roman Catholics. He likewise built a new palace there,
making it his place of residence; and, being followed by the Roman
Catholics of Heidelberg, Mannheim became a flourishing place.
In the meantime the Protestants of Heidelberg sunk into poverty
and many of them became so distressed as to quit their native
country, and seek an asylum in Protestant states. A great number
of these coming into England, in the time of Queen Anne, were
cordially received there, and met with a most humane assistance,
both by public and private donations.
In 1732, above thirty thousand Protestants were, contrary to the
treaty of Westphalia, driven from the archbishopric of Salzburg.
They went away in the depth of winter, with scarcely enough clothes
to cover them, and without provisions, not having permission to
take anything with them. The cause of these poor people not being
publicly espoused by such states as could obtain them redress,
they emigrated to various Protestant countries, and settled in
places where they could enjoy the free exercise of their religion,
without hurting their consciences, and live free from the trammels
of popish superstition, and the chains of papal tyranny.