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"the preacher laid the first stone, which being done, happy were they that could fill the baskets with stones to serve the workmen, especially women, not of the baser sort, but of the "best and wealthiest in the town, and for casting of the earth "for the foundation they lack no labourers, but have more 'than have place to work-all without wages-some that are esteemed worth ten thousand pounds and upwards; so that "it is marvellous to see how willing all men are to help forward "with the works. And the same day that the first stone was "laid, there was given in my presence above £400, whereof 66 one man gave 100 angels, and many women their hand full of gold, and, as it was showed me, one Spaniard gave in the "afternoon 800 gilderns, besides many great gifts, as by one "man £1000, and divers £100 a piece; so I think they will all "be made before Christmas. Whereupon some of the Lords of "the town and the priests together with the Spaniards wrote "to Brussels to the Regent, that they had begun in Antwerp, "and laid the foundations of such temples, more like the temple "of Solomon than otherwise; and not, to be called temples, but "rather bulwarks to beat the town if occasion so served. "Whereupon the Regent wrote to the Prince, that her meaning "was not that they should make any such temples, but places "to preach in, and to defend them from wind and rain. Whereunto the Prince wrote answer, that it was not so, declaring the order thereof; so that since there hath been no "more heard of that matter, but [they] go still forwards with "their building." After referring to another gift to the temple builders, he continues, "I think they have, and shall have, more money than will serve this turn, yet the ground for "their temples cost at the least £7000, and they do make just "so many temples as there are parish churches in the town." Another letter written on the 28th says, they "go forward with as much help as may be, divers of good substance laying to their hands, both to dig and to carry lime and stone; and other assistance there lacketh not.”
From a letter dated the 12th October, it appears that they were all to be built of brick, and that as soon as they were finished, two more were to be commenced.
Though there is no doubt that these temples were designed to hold unusually large congregations, it is obviously impossible in spite of the galleries, that a church of the dimensions named by Clough, could have contained 10,000 persons. As was to be looked for in a servant of the great financier Gresham, Clough seems to have been in most matters extremely careful
and exact in the information he sent home; but probably through being accustomed to hear the many vague and varying estimates which were current as to the numbers composing the audiences of the field-preachers, he had fallen into the prevailing lax way of referring to the size of these assemblies, and was not precise to a few thousands when speaking of the capacity of the temples.
With regard to the field services themselves, there can be little question but that they were attended by immense multitudes, or the authorities would not have been so powerless to prevent them being held. Mr. Browning has called my attention to a list of some fifty assemblies held in France, in the days of the persecution in the Desert, giving the number of persons present at each meeting, which appeared in a recent number of the Bulletin of the Société de l'histoire du Protestantisme Français. It will be seen by this list that these services were also as a rule attended by several thousand persons, but still the average number present does not approach the gigantic total of the Antwerp assemblies. It must, however, be remembered that they were held under very different circumstances. The French assembles met as secretly as possible, and many of those who were present had come long distances and from scattered villages, while the Reformers of Antwerp, though acting in defiance of the authorities, had apparently little fear of the consequences, and had only to go a few yards from the town walls.
Before these troubles had commenced, Antwerp had been at the height of its prosperity and was exceedingly populous. Though Brussels was the seat of the Government, Antwerp was a town of more importance, and was the commercial capital of the Low Countries, and "the centre of the trade of "Northern Europe." The veritable armies which sprang so suddenly into existence in the town after the Protestant defeat at Austruwell, afford good evidence of the immense number of the inhabitants who held the reformed doctrines and were ready to fight in defence of them. The lowest estimate fixes the number of Calvinists alone in arms on that occasion at 14,000, and the other estimates are much higher. If so large a number of men were to be found willing to proceed to such extreme measures, it may be readily conceded, that counting persons of both sexes and children, the numbers present at the more peaceable meetings held by the field preachers would not fall far short of the estimates furnished by Cecil's agents.
But to return to the story. The letter last mentioned, dated
the 12th October, states that the Prince of Orange had just left for Holland, greatly to the terror of the friars and priests, many of whom removed from the town, for fear of a rising of the people in his absence.
The same letter also refers to an order issued at Brussels, forbidding preachings, either within the town or without, and declaring the ground upon which service was held forfeited, unless the owner had given notice to the Council of the intention of the Protestants to meet there. This is probably the order which Fitzwilliams, writing four weeks later, says had been published in several places, and had caused much uneasiness at Antwerp, though the Magistrates had taken no official cognizance of it.
On Friday, the 1st November, Marc Perez, and some twenty of the leaders of the reformed congregations, presented a petition to the Count of Hooghstraten, who had taken over the government of the town in the absence of the Prince, praying him to obtain from the King, licence for all men in the Low Countries "to live according to their conscience," and to have churches of their own building, the Protestants undertaking not to interfere with the Catholic clergy or molest them in their lands or goods. If his Majesty would grant their request, they, in token that they were his true subjects and not rebels as had been reported, would pay him "30 tons of gold,"* equivalent to five hundred thousand pounds in English money. Meanwhile, great hopes were entertained that the StatesGeneral would shortly be convoked to deal with the matter, and the preachers at every service exhorted their congregations to pray for success at their assembling. But it was only too clear that the end was fast approaching. Troops were stationed in the towns and villages around Antwerp, and Clough, writing on the 10th, says that it was believed by most men that the preachings would be stopped before long. "Notwithstandingf the preachers still earnestly persuaded their audiences not to "fear any power that the King should make to subdue God's word, who would suffer no more to be done than should be 'necessary for the maintenance of his glory." Although the outlook was so gloomy," when the news was worst then there came most to the sermons, and many rich men gave them"selves out to be of the congregation that were not known
* "Three millions of gold " according to another letter.
Letter of Clough, 17th Nov.
"before, as amongst the rest, Giles Houffman,* who kept him'self secret before, but when the worst news was, then he, his son, Peter Panhowsse, and all his servants, came to the preaching, and standing together in the presence of all the 'people that were there, with the rest sang psalms, which was "much marvelled at, for there were at that sermon above 15,000 persons." To so great an extent had their numbers increased, that services were now held in six additional places within the town, while the Catholic preachers had but very scanty audiences.
Owing to the uncertain aspect of affairs, very little progress was being made with the building of the temples. To put an end to this suspense, some of the leaders of the Protestant party went with one or two of the preachers to Holland, to consult with the Prince of Orange. They told him,that relying upon the promises made to them, they had at great expense commenced to build new temples for their services. Having regard to the preparations made by the Court, they wished to know if those promises would be kept; if he did not think they would, they would cease building at once. The Prince counselled them to go on with the temples, and to have no fear provided they, on their part, kept their engagements. His advice was promptly followed. Clough, writing on the 24th, says that the buildings were progressing rapidly, and many men were engaged upon them.
One or two preachers now came to Antwerp from Geneva, and attracted to their services many Spaniards and Portuguese. The priests felt this defection more keenly than they had the desertion of the natives of the town, and highly enraged, commanded the ministers to cease their sermons upon pain of death, but no notice was taken of their threats.
About this time a rumour broke out, that the Lords of the town had intended to take the preachers and the principal members of their congregations prisoners in the night-time, and to put them to death. The failure of the plot was said to have been due to the vigorous resistance offered to it by four of the town officials, whom the Court in revenge had ordered to be discharged from their posts. As it was found, however, that this could not be done except in the presence of the people, by whom they had been appointed, the matter was allowed to drop.
*See however Clough's letter on p. 180.
+ Avis d'Anvers, 17th Nov.
Letters dated the 1st and 14th December, state that the building of the temples was still going on, and it was expected that one of them would be roofed in by Christmas.
An order came from the Court about the middle of the month, prohibiting the ministers from officiating at christenings, marriages, or burials, but the Magistrates declined to publish it.
It might be thought that the common danger which now threatened the two sects of Protestants, would have had some effect in causing them to sink their differences for a while. So far, however, from this being the case, the ill-feeling existing between them was more marked than ever, and had even extended to the ministers.
Fitzwilliams, writing on the 18th January, 1567, says they were beginning to preach against each other in the pulpit, a proceeding which he believed would lead to their ruin.
Writing again on the 8th February, he says that many persons holding the new doctrines having come to Antwerp, a proclamation had been issued, ordering everyone to leave the town who had not resided there for four months, unless they had come for purposes of trade.
In his next letter, which is dated the 13th, he says that owing to the doubt as to the Regent's intentions, the building of the new churches had again been suspended, but that within the past two days it had recommenced.
Writing again on the 1st March, he says that great efforts had been made to persuade the Protestant preachers to discontinue their services. They were told, that if they would, they should not be molested in either body or goods, but they refused to listen, asserting they would rely on the Regent's promises.
Matters were now becoming very serious. A rumour spread that the Prince of Orange had determined to leave the Low Countries for Germany. The Regent, regaining courage, indignantly denied that she had authorised the preachings, and commanded the Magistrates to put a stop to them, but in the troubled state of the town, they dared not attempt to put the order into execution. The pastors of the Reformed Church of Antwerp had already written* to Cecil, asking for help. One of them, Marc Perez, now enquired of Gresham what sort of an asylum their congregations would find in England. He was told that they might live there in safety, *Letters of 31st Jan. and 1st Feb., signed by Marcus Perez, Carolus Bombergus, Hermannus Van der Meere, Franchois Godin, Nicolas Sellin, and Jehan le Carlier.