The Protestants commissioned three ambassadors to carry the Protest composed at Spires to Emperor Charles in Italy. It was considered such a risky task that the German princes promised to pay the ambassadors’ widows a pension if they did not return.[i]
The emperor’s chaplain, Cardinal Gattinara, arranged a meeting between the emperor and the ambassadors on September 22, 1529. Gattinara himself wished to see reforms in the church. Alexis Frauentraut, one of the German ambassadors, had married a nun and was held in contempt by the Catholics because of this. This didn’t stop him from telling the emperor, “Our nation will obey no decrees that are based on any other foundation than the Holy Scriptures.”[ii]
Charles Takes Offense
Emperor Charles V told one of his secretaries that the ambassadors were to stay in town until the emperor gave them a reply to take back to Germany. During their waiting time, Michael Caden, one of the ambassadors approached the emperor as he was going to mass and passed him a beautifully ornamented book. The emperor passed the book to a nearby bishop who flipped through it quickly. The book was about the beliefs of the Protestants. The bishop misread a passage and reported it to Charles. Charles was outraged and swore that the ambassador would pay for his rudeness.
The ambassadors waited twenty days for Charles to call them. Finally, he called them back and told them that the minority should submit to the decrees passed by majority vote at the diet, or council meeting. He was referring to the decree that had been passed by the Diet of Spires earlier in the year which strongly favoured the aims of the Roman Church to put a stop to reforms. The decree would have greatly restricted religious liberty.
The ambassadors had an appeal ready and read it to the emperor. They tried to pass the document to a secretary, but he wouldn’t take it, so they left it on a table and left the room.
The Ambassadors are Arrested
That evening the ambassadors were put under arrest. A week later, two of the three were released, but Michael Caden was kept under arrest. However, soon afterward, Caden escaped and fled to Germany. These events did not bode well for the Protestants. The arrest of the ambassadors was seen to be a declaration of war.
Shortly after these things, Charles met with Pope Clement VII. They shared a palace in Bologna where they each made concessions and ironed out their differences following the sack of Rome. Then they discussed the Reformation.
Gattinara, the emperor’s chaplain, counselled Charles to call a general council, as the Protestants had requested, to restore religious unity in the empire. The pope vehemently opposed this suggestion. “It is not by decrees of councils, but with the edge of the sword, that we should decide controversies,” he said.[iii] Gattinara did not easily give up, though, and the pope finally said he would think about it.
Whether the pope at any time entertained the idea of a general council or not, in private meetings he convinced Charles to use the sword to compel Germany to submit once again to Rome.
On January 21, 1530, Charles called all the states of the empire to meet at Augsburg, Germany. In the meantime, he had other official business to attend to in Italy.
On February 24, Charles presented himself before the pope to be coronated. Clement sat upon a throne as Charles came forward. Priests of St. Peter’s and St. John Lateran churches in Rome, removed Charles’ kingly robes and put on him the garments of a priest. Charles, as a deacon, served the pope as he conducted mass, then knelt before him.
After this, he returned to the throne prepared for him next to the pope’s where he received the emperor’s robe which had been brought from Constantinople. Then he knelt before the pope who anointed him with oil and gave him a scepter and a sword. The pope said, “Make use of it (the sword) in defense of the church against the enemies of the faith.” A duke brought the imperial crown to the pope and Clement placed it upon Charles’ head just as Pope Leo III had coronated Emperor Charlemagne.
Having done this, Charles, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and Pope Clement, vicar of Christ, turned their faces toward Germany to deal with the Protestants.
[i] History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, 890.
[ii] Ibid, as quoted, 891.
[iii] Ibid, as quoted, 893.