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.
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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?

Voes. Yes.

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

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


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

suffocated them.

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

drive on.

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.