Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Paris in the 1540s

I've been reading Calvin by Bruce Gordon. Here's an extract, quoting Eustache Knobelsdorf, a Catholic German student in Paris, who witnessed executions of Protestants in 1542:

I saw two burnt there. Their death inspired in me differing sentiments. If you had been there, you would have hoped for a less severe punishment of these poor unfortunates....The first was a very young man, not yet with a beard...he was the son of a cobbler. He was brought in front of the judges and condemned to have his tongue cut out and burned straight afterward. Without changing the expression of his face, the young man presented his tongue to the executioner's knife, sticking it out as far as he could. The executioner pulled it out even further with pincers, cut it off, and hit the sufferer several times on the tongue and threw it in the young man's face. Then he was put into a tipcart, which was driven to the place of execution, but, to see him, one would think that he was going to a feast....When the chain had been placed around his body, I could not describe to you with what equanimity of soul and with what expression in his features he endured the cries of elation and the insults of the crowd that were directed towards him. He did not make a sound, but from time to time he spat out the blood that was filling his mouth, and he lifted his eyes to heaven, as if he was waiting for some miraculous rescue. When his head was covered in sulphur, the executioner showed him the fire with a menacing air; but the young man, without being scared, let it be know, by a movement of his body, that he was giving himself willingly to be burned.

-Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 182.

The Roman Catholic church in France didn't treat its heretics with kindness. It makes awful reading, but on the other hand, it is not a bad thing to be reminded of how unnatural it is for the government to leave us alone to believe the gospel.

"32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

(Hebrews 10:32-39)

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