General Persecutions In Germany
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 the Fifth, at any rate, in the scheme to
attempt their extirpation.
To this end;
1. He gave the emperor two hundred thousand crowns in ready money.
2. He promised to maintain twelve thousand foot, and five thousand
horse, for the space of six months, or during a campaign.
3. He allowed the emperor to receive one-half the revenues of the clergy
of the empire during the war.
4. He permitted the emperor to pledge the abbey lands for five hundred
thousand crowns, to assist in carrying on hostilities against the
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 mean time, 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 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 the infernal
imaginations could invent; and, by their constancy evinced that a real
christian can surmount every difficulty, and despise ever danger to
acquire a crown of martyrdom.
Henry Voes and John Esch, being apprehended as protestants, were brought
to examination; when 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 of 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
Many were murdered at Halle; Middleburg being taken by storm all the
protestants were put to the sword, and great numbers were burned at
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 of 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 blow.
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, &c. &c.
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 20,000 persons, without distinction of rank, sex, or
age, were slain during the carnage, and 6,000 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; when the houses being
set on fire, the bodies were consumed in the flames.
At Griphenburg, when the imperial forces prevailed, they shut up the
senators in the senate-chamber, and surrounding it by lighted straw
Franhendal surrendered upon articles of capitulation, yet the
inhabitants were as cruelly used as at other places, and at Heidelburg,
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 tight that the blood gushed out of
the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Fastening burning matches to the
fingers, toes, ears, arms, legs, and even 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, &c. Hanging protestants up by the legs,
with their heads over a fire, by which they were smoked dried. Hanging
up by one arm till it was dislocated. Hanging upon hooks by the ribs.
Forcing people to drink till 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, nose, ears, &c. 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 permitted, 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, and desolation.
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 knawed his bowels.
Another minister, and his family, were seized by these inhuman monsters;
when 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 Basil, who were returning from the great market of
Strasburg, they 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
By means and mediation of Great Britain, peace was at length restored to
Germany, and the protestants remained unmolested for several years, till
some new disturbances broke out in the Palatinate which were thus
The great church of the Holy Ghost, at Heidelburg, 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 time immemorial, the elector Palatinate, at
length, took it into his head not to suffer it any longer, declaring,
that as Heidelburg 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 Heidelburg
catechism. The protestant powers, however, unanimously agreed to demand
satisfaction, as the elector, by this conduct, had broke an article of
the treaty of Westphalia; and the courts of Great Britain, Prussia,
Holland, &c., sent deputies to the elector, to represent the injustice
of his proceedings, and to threaten, unless he changed his behaviour 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 carrying 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
1. That military executions were ordered against all protestant
shoemakers who should refuse to contribute to the masses of St. Crispin.
2. That the protestants were forbid to work on popish holydays even in
harvest time, under very heavy penalties, which occasioned great
inconveniences, and considerably prejudiced public business.
3. That several protestant ministers had been dispossessed of their
churches, under pretence of their having been originally founded and
built by Roman Catholics.
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 Heidelburg catechism, put the protestant ministers again in
possession of the churches of which they had been dispossessed, allowed
the protestants to work on popish holydays, 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 Heidelburg, removing all the
courts of justice to Manheim, 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 Heidelburg,
Manheim became a flourishing place.
In the mean time the protestants of Heidelburg 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 30,000 protestants were, contrary to the treaty of
Westphalia, driven from the archbishopric of Saltzburg. They went away
to the depth of winter, with scarce clothes to cover them, and without
provisions, not having permission to take any thing 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.
Next: An Account Of The Persecutions In The Netherlands