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HOME > Classical Novels > History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin > CHAPTER XI.
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(From the beginning of November 1535 to the end of January 1536.)
A reverse is not always an evil; it may sometimes lead to a decisive victory. There were few regular troops among those who had been beaten at Gingins, which made the defeat a lesson by which the duke of Savoy might profit. He resolved, in effect, to benefit by it, to bring up veteran soldiers, to place a distinguished general at their head, and thus to crush that rebellious city which presumed to set up a religion unknown at Rome. But as these troops were not ready, Charles III. ordered the chiefs of the great valley of the Leman to exact of their vassals the military service which they owed. The nobles of that district were persuaded that they would easily triumph over Geneva, if the Swiss did not come to their help; and as that was not likely, the hatred felt against the city, and the hope of enriching themselves with its spoil, induced a great number of
liegemen to rally round the banners of their lords. About the end of October the Sire de Lullin took his measures for blockading Geneva. Mangerot, baron of La Sarraz, a prompt, violent, obstinate man, filled with contempt for the reformation of the Church and the liberty of the citizens, was placed at the head of the attack. On the 1st of November these armed bands occupied certain villages and small towns which formed a kind of circle round the city, and began to plunder, burn, and kill all who fell into their hands. Famine and the cold, which was very severe that year, soon caused distress in the city. The churches were filled with old men, women and children, and even armed men. 'There is no resource and refuge left but God alone,' said Farel from the pulpit, and voices were heard responding to him from the midst of the congregation, 'In Him alone we place our trust.' If a musket-shot was heard, or shouts, or the drum, the armed men left immediately, but 'without noise or confusion; nobody else moved from the sermon,' and the service was not interrupted. As the firing grew hotter without, those who had remained in the temple cried to God that 'not to man's arm did they look for deliverance, but to His great faithfulness.' One night, the Genevans, startled out of their sleep and rising hastily, found the city surrounded by fires kindled by the men-at-arms of Savoy, with the intention of giving them light for the assault, and heard the bells of the convents and chapels all round ringing as loud as possible to increase their terror. The citizens fought valiantly, and the enemy was once more repulsed.[675]
Yet the blockade was still maintained round the city, and no one could tell whence succor would arrive. One day a messenger coming from France succeeded in
making his way through the troops which surrounded Geneva: he was the bearer of a letter conceived in these terms:
'You will certainly receive some mule loads of good and salable merchandise, and they will be there one of these days.
'Pierre Croquet.'[676]
The letter was handed to Maigrot the Magnificent. ''Tis good,' he said, 'salvation comes to us from France.'
At that moment certain evolutions were taking place in the policy of the great powers of Europe, which might favor the deliverance of Geneva. 'If you desire Milan, take Turin,' said the crafty Clement VII. to the king of France. As Sforza, the last duke of Milan, was dead, Francis I., in order to follow up the pontiff's advice, had to seek some kind of pretext for declaring war against his uncle, the duke of Savoy. There was one which presented itself quite naturally. 'Charles IV. oppresses Geneva,' said some. 'Let France oppose his laying hands on it, and war will be certain.' Francis I., who was then at Lyons and negotiating with Charles V., saw that he could not support Geneva openly; but permitted the Sieur de Vérey, a French nobleman, to raise a troop of volunteers. Men, charmed with the new liberties, flocked with enthusiasm to his banners. Many printers in particular joined the band. The printers in those times remarked that the Reformation produced not only authors who wrote for the people, but a people who read their books with eagerness; and accordingly they were ready to fight for it. Francis I. was not content to look on, but gave Vérey the company of Jean Paoli, son of the Sieur de Ceri, the old captain of the Roman
bands, consisting of 'excellent cavalry and valiant personages.'[677]
Meanwhile the city was going to ruin: there was no money to pay the soldiers. What was to be done? In many old houses Genevan coins were found, bearing the sun as a symbol with this device—Post tenebras spero lucem.[678] These pieces proved that the city of Geneva had once possessed the right of coining money—a right of which the prince-bishops had deprived her. Claude Savoye received instructions to issue a new coinage, and was forthwith supplied with silver crosses, chalices, patens, and other sacred utensils. The coins he struck bore on one side the key and eagle (the arms of Geneva), with the legend, Deus noster pugnat pro nobis, 1535, 'Our God fighteth for us;' and on the reverse, Geneva civitas. The following year another coinage was issued which, in addition to the ordinary device, Post tenebras lucem, bore these words of Isaiah and St. Paul, Mihi sese flectet omne genu, 'Unto me every knee shall bow,' the monogram of Jesus, I. H. S., being in the centre. Geneva did not believe in its own victory only, but in the victory of God, whose glory, hidden until then, would be magnified among all nations.
While Francis I. was stealthily aiding Geneva, the powerful republic of Berne was negotiating in its favor. Some of its statesmen crossed the Saint-Bernard on their way to the town of Aosta, where the duke of Savoy was to meet them. Berthold Haller, the reformer, and the other Bernese pastors, had gone in a body to the council and conjured them to make an appeal to the people for the deliverance of Geneva. 'They are ready,' said the ministers, 'to sacrifice their goods and their lives to uphold the Reformation in that city.' The lords of Berne, desirous of taking at least one step, sent a deputation
to the duke, and commissioned their general, Francis Nägueli, who was at its head, to support the cause of Geneva. Son of one of the most distinguished chiefs of the Swiss bands, Francis had grown up in the camp, and like Wildermuth, had made his first campaign in the wars of Italy in 1511. 'He was a man at twenty,' people said. His features bronzed by a southern sun presented a mixture of energy, acuteness, and antique grandeur, and the Christian piety by which he was animated imparted to them a great charm.[679] P. d'Erlach, Rodolph of Diesbach, and the chancellor P. Zyro accompanied him. Crossing the mountains with difficulty—it was in the latter half of November—and braving rain, cold, and snow,[680] the ambassadors arrived at last at the city of Aosta. The duke was not there; they were invited to push on to Turin, but the lords of Berne replied that they would wait for the duke at the foot of the glaciers. The Bernese and their suite took advantage of this delay to enter into conversation with the inhabitants, and spoke to them fearlessly of Holy Scripture and the usurpations of the Roman bishop.
At last Charles III. arrived and the conference was opened. 'First of all,' said the Bernese, 'we require you to leave the citizens of Geneva at liberty to obey the Word of God, as the supreme authority of faith.' The duke, surrounded by the servants of Rome and urged particularly by Gazzini, bishop of Aosta, declared that he could not concede their demand without the consent of the emperor, the permission of the pope, and the decision of a general council. 'I ask you once more,' said Nägueli, 'to leave the Genevans free to profess their faith.' 'Their faith,' ejaculated Charles, 'what is their faith?' 'There are Bibles enough,
I think, in Savoy,' answered Nägueli; 'read them, and you will discover their faith.' The duke asked for a truce of five or six months to come to an understanding on the matter with the emperor and the pope. The ambassadors, recrossing the snows of those lofty mountains, returned to Berne and made their report.[681]
During this time the Savoyard troops had drawn closer round Geneva, and on the 7th of December had attacked the city. Rodolph Nägueli, the general's brother, communicated to the council the offer made by Charles III. of a five months' truce. But the Genevese replied: 'How can the duke observe a truce of five months, when he cannot keep one of twenty days? He makes the proposal in order to starve us out. We will negotiate no more with him, except at the sword's point. All delays are war to us. Give us your assistance, honored lords. We ask it not only in the name of our alliances, but in the name of the love you owe to your poor brethren in Christ. Do what you may, the hour is come, and our God will fight for us.' The herald was sent through the city, ordering every citizen to get his arms ready and to muster round their captains.[682]
At the same time Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, who was then in Switzerland, employed all his energies to awaken the sympathy of the people in favor of Geneva. At Berne, he sought support among the middle classes, among those who loved the Gospel and liberty, feeling persuaded that they would carry the magistrates with them. He was indefatigable and pleaded the cause of his country in private houses, in society, and in the council. He labored as if desirous of repairing the fault he had committed in allowing
himself to be outwitted at Coppet by the Savoyard statesmen. The government of Lullin, being informed of the exertions of the Genevese citizen, ordered him to be seized when he attempted to cross the territory of Vaud on his return home. De la Maisonneuve was filled with joy, for he was succeeding in his efforts; the good cause was gradually gaining the upper hand in Berne; but one thing distressed him: he received no news from Geneva, and could not go there to communicate his great expectations to his fellow-countrymen. 'I have received no news at all from you,' he wrote on the 9th of December to the council, 'no more than if I were a Jew or a Saracen. If I could pass, I would not remain here; but I am warned that I am watched on all s............
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