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The witness of

THE SWISS CATASTROPHE

in Protestantism

 


 

SWITZERLAND--CATASTROPHE 1528-1531.

BOOK 16 CHAPTER 9

by

J. H. Merle D'Aubigne

 

(Many long paragraphs have been modified for easier reading. The compilers of this site have added all the emphasis, as well as the entries in square brackets.)


Contents

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Consternation in Zurich Violence of the Populace Grief and Distress Zwingle is dead! Funeral Oration Army of Zurich Another Reverse on the Goubel Inactivity of the Bernese Hopes and Plan of Charles V. End of the War Treaty of Peace.

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Frightful darkness hung over Zurich during the night that followed the afflicting day of Cappel. It was seven in the evening when the first news of the disaster arrived......Vague but alarming reports spread at first with the rapidity of lightning. It was known that a terrible blow had been inflicted, but not of what kind; soon a few wounded men, who arrived from the field of battle, cleared up the frightful mystery.

"Then," said Bullinger, whom we shall allow to speak, "there arose suddenly a loud and horrible cry of lamentation and tears, bewailing and groaning." The consternation was so much the greater because no one had expected such a disaster. "There is not enough for a breakfast," had said some haughty worldly men; "With one blow we shall be masters of the Five Chalets," had said another; and an old soldier added with disdainful sneer, "We shall soon have scattered these five dunghills."

The Christian portion, convinced that Zurich was fighting in a good cause, had not doubted that victory would be on the side of truth.......Thus their first stupefaction was succeeded by a violent outburst of rage. With blind fury the mob accused all their chiefs, and loaded with insults even those who had defended their country at the price of their blood. An immense crowd - agitated, pale, and bewildered, filled all the streets of the city. They met, questioned each other, and replied; they questioned again, and the answer could not be heard, for the shouts of the people interrupted or drowned the voices of the speakers.

The councillors who had remained in Zurich repaired in haste to the town-hall. The people, who had already assembled there in crowds, looked on with threatening eyes. Accusations of treason burst from every mouth, and the patricians were pointed out to the general indignation. They must have victims. "Before going to fight against the enemy on the frontiers," said the mob, "we should defend ourselves against those who are within our walls." Sorrow and fear excited the minds of all. That savage instinct of the populace, which in great calamities leads them, like a wild beast, to thirst for blood, was violently aroused. A hand from the midst of the crowd pointed out the council-hall, and a harsh and piercing voice exclaimed: "Let us chop off the heads of some of the men who sit in these halls, and let their blood ascend to heaven, to beg for mercy in behalf of those whom they have slain."

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But this fury was nothing in comparison with that which broke out against the ministers, against Zwingle, and all those Christians who were the cause (as they said) of the ruin of the country. Fortunately the sword of the Waldstettes had withdrawn them from the rage of their fellow-citizens; nevertheless, there still remained some who could pay for the others.

Leo Juda, whom Zwingle's death was about to raise to the head of religious affairs, had scarcely recovered from a serious illness; it was on him they rushed. They threatened, they pursued him; a few worthy citizens carried him off and hid him in their houses. The rage of these madmen was not appeased: they continued shouting that atonement must be made for the slaughter at Cappel, by a still more frightful slaughter within the very walls of the city. But God placed a curb in the mouths of these infuriate beasts of prey, and subdued them.

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On a sudden, grief succeeded to rage, and sobs choked the utterance of the most furious. All those whose relatives had marched to Cappel imagined that they were among the number of the victims. Old men, women, and children, went forth in the darkness by the glimmering light of torches, with haggard eyes and hurried steps; and as soon as some wounded man arrived, they questioned him with trembling voice about those whom they were seeking. Some replied: "I saw him fall close by my side." - "He was surrounded by so many enemies," said others, "that there was no chance of safety for him." At these words the distracted family dropt their torches, and filled the air with shrieks and groans.

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Anna Zwingle had heard from her house the repeated discharges of artillery. As wife and mother, she had passed in expectation many long hours of anguish, offering fervent prayers to heaven. At length the most terrible accounts, one after another, burst upon her.

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In the midst of those whose cries of despair re-echoed along the road to Cappel, was Oswald Myconius, who inquired with anxiety what had become of his friend. Soon he heard one of the unfortunate wretches who had escaped from the massacre, relating to those around him that Zwingle had fallen!......"Zwingle is no more! Zwingle is dead!" The cry was repeated: it ran through Zurich with the rapidity of lightning, and at length reached the unhappy widow. Anna fell on her knees.

But the loss of her husband was not enough: God had inflicted other blows. Messengers following each other at short intervals announced to her the death of her son Gerold of Knonau, of her brother the bailiff of Reinhard, of her son-in-law Antony Wirz, of John Lutschi the husband of her dear sister, as well as of all her most intimate friends. This woman remained alone - alone with her God; alone with her young children, who, as they saw her tears, wept also, and threw themselves disconsolate into their mother's arms.

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On a sudden the alarm-bell rang. The council, distracted by the most contrary opinions, had at last resolved to summon all the citizens towards the Albis. But the sound of the tocsin re-echoing through the darkness, the lamentable stories of the wounded, and the distressful groans of bereaved families, still further increased the tumult.

A numerous and disorderly troop of citizens rushed along the road to Cappel. Among them was the Valaisan, Thomas Plater. Here he met with a man that had but one hand, - there with others who supported their wounded and bleeding heads with both hands; - further still was a soldier whose bowels protruded from his body. In front of these unhappy creatures peasants were walking with lighted torches, for the night was very dark. Plater wished to return; but he could not, for sentinels placed on the bridge over the Sihl allowed persons to quit Zurich, but permitted no one to re-enter.

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On the morrow the news of the disgraceful treatment of Zwingle's corpse aroused all the anger of Zurich; and his friends, uplifting their tear-bedimmed eyes, exclaimed: "These men may fall upon his body; they may kindle their piles, and brand his innocent life......but he lives - this invincible hero lives in eternity, and leaves behind him an immortal monument of glory that no flames can destroy. God, for whose honour he has laboured, even at the price of his blood, will make his memory eternal."

"And I," adds Leo Juda, "I, upon whom he has heaped so many blessings, will endeavour, after so many others, to defend his renown and to extol his virtues." Thus Zurich consecrated to Zwingle a funeral oration of tears and sighs, of gratitude and cries of anguish. Never was funeral speech more eloquent!

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Zurich rallied her forces. John Steiner had collected on the Albis some scattered fragments of the army for the defence of the pass: they bivouacked around their fires on the summit of the mountain, and all were in disorder. Plater, benumbed with cold (it is himself who gives us the account), had drawn off his boots to warm his feet at the watchfire. On a sudden an alarm was given, the troop was hastily drawn up, and, while Plater was getting ready, a trumpeter, who had escaped from the battle, seized his halberd. Plater took it back, and stationed himself in the ranks; before him stood the trumpeter, without hat or shoes, and armed with a long pole. Such was the army of Zurich.

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The chief captain Lavater rejoined the army at daybreak. Gradually the allies came up; 1500 Grisons, under the orders of the captain-general Frey of Zurich, 1500 Thurgovians, 600 Tockenburgers, and other auxiliaries besides, soon formed an army of 12,000 men. All, even children, ran to arms. The council gave orders that these young folks should be sent back to share in the domestic duties with the women.

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Another reverse erelong augmented the desolation of the Reformed party. While the troops of Berne, Zurich, Basle, and Bienne, amounting to 24,000 men, were assembling at Bremgarten, the Five Cantons intrenched themselves at Baar, near Zug. But Zwingle was wanting [lost] to the Reformed army, and he would have been the only man capable of inspiring them with courage. A gust of wind having thrown down a few fir-trees in the forests where the Zurichers were encamped, and caused the death of some of their soldiers, they failed not to see in this the signal of fresh reverses.

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Nevertheless, Frey called loudly for battle; but the Bernese commandant Diesbach refused. Upon this the Zurich captain set off in the night of the 23rd October at the head of 4000 men of Zurich, Schaffhausen, Basle, and St. Gall; and, while the Bernese were sleeping quietly, he turned the Waldstettes, drove their outposts beyond the Sihl, and took his station on the heights that overlook the Goubel.

His imprudent soldiers, believing victory to be certain, proudly waved their banners, and then sunk into a heavy sleep. The Waldstettes had observed all. On the 24th October, at two in the morning, by a bright moonlight, they quitted their camp in profound silence, leaving their fires burning, and wearing white shirts over their dresses that they might recognise one another in the obscurity. Their watchword was "Mary, the mother of God." They glided stealthily into a pine forest, near which the Reformed troops were encamped.

The men stationed at the advanced guard of the Zurichers having perceived the enemy, ran up to the fires to arouse their friends, but they had scarcely reached the third fire before the Waldstettes appeared, uttering frightful shouts. "Har...Har...Har...Har!...Where are these impious heretics?......Har...Har...Har...Har!" The army of the cities at first made a vigorous resistance, and many of the white shirts fell covered with blood; but this did not continue long. The bravest, with the valiant Frey at their head, having bitten the dust, the rout became general, and 800 men were left on the field of battle.

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In the midst of these afflictions the Bernese remained stubborn and motionless. Francis Kolb, who, notwithstanding his advanced age, had accompanied the Bernese contingent as chaplain, reproached in a sermon the negligence and cowardice of his party. "Your ancestors," said he, "would have swum across the Rhine, and you - this little stream stops you! They went to battle for a word, and you, even the Gospel cannot move. For us it only remains to commit our cause to God."

Many voices were raised against the imprudent old man, but others took up his defence; and the captain, James May, being as indignant as the aged chaplain at the delays of his fellow-citizens, drew his sword, and thrusting it into the folds of the Bernese banner, pricked the bear that was represented on it, and cried out in the presence of the whole army, "You knave, will you not show your claws?" But the bear remained motionless.

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The whole of the Reformation was compromised. Scarcely had Ferdinand received intelligence of the death of the arch-heretic Zwingle, and of the defeat at Cappel, than with an exclamation of joy, he forwarded these good news to his brother the Emperor Charles the Fifth, saying, "this is the first of the victories destined to restore the faith."

After the defeat at the Goubel, he wrote again, saying that if the emperor were not so near at hand, he would not hesitate, however weak he might be, to rush forward in person, sword in hand, to terminate so righteous an enterprise. "Remember," said he, "that you are the first prince in Christendom, and that you will never have a better opportunity of covering yourself with glory. Assist the cantons with your troops; the German sects will perish, when they are no longer supported by heretical Switzerland."

"The more I reflect," replied Charles, "the more I am pleased with your advice. The imperial dignity with which I am invested, the protection that I owe to Christendom and to public order, in a word, the safety of the house of Austria, - every thing appeals to me!"

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Already about two thousand Italian soldiers, sent by the pope and commanded by the Genoese De l'Isola, had unfolded their seven standards, and united near Zug with the army of the Five Cantons. Auxiliary troops, diplomatic negotiations, and even missionaries to convert the heretics, were not spared.

The Bishop of Veroli arrived in Switzerland in order to bring back the Lutherans to the Roman faith by means of his friends and of his money. The Roman politicians hailed the victory at Cappel as the signal of the restoration of the papal authority, not only in Switzerland, but throughout the whole of Christendom. At last this presumptuous Reformation was about to be repressed. Instead of the great deliverance of which Zwingle had dreamt, the imperial eagle let loose by the Papacy was about to pounce on all Europe, and strangle it in its talons. The cause of liberty had perished on the Albis.

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But the hopes of the Papists were vain: the cause of the Gospel, although humbled at this moment, was destined finally to gain a glorious victory. A cloud may hide the sun for a time; but the cloud passes and the sun reappears. Jesus Christ is always the same, and the gates of hell may triumph on the battle-field, but cannot prevail against his Church.

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Nevertheless every thing seemed advancing towards a grand catastrophe. The Tockenburgers made peace and retired. The Thurgovians followed them; and next the people of Gaster. The evangelical army was thus gradually disbanded. The severity of the season combined with these dissensions; continual storms of wind and rain drove the soldiers to their homes.

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Upon this the Five Cantons with the undisciplined bands of the Italian general Isola threw themselves on the left bank of the Lake of Zurich. The alarm-bell was rung on every side; the peasants retired in crowds into the city, with their weeping wives, their frightened children, and their cattle that filled the air with sullen lowings. A report too was circulated that the enemy intended laying siege to Zurich. The country-people in alarm declared that if the city refused to make terms, they would treat on their own account.

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The peace party prevailed in the council; deputies were elected to negotiate. "Above all things, preserve the Gospel, and then our honour, as far as may be possible!" Such were their instructions.

On the 16th November, the deputies from Zurich arrived in a meadow situated near the frontier, on the banks of the Sihl, in which the representatives of the Five Cantons awaited them. They proceeded to the deliberations.

"In the name of the most honourable, holy, and divine Trinity," began the treaty [written by the Catholics], "Firstly, we the people of Zurich bind ourselves and agree to leave our trusty and well-beloved confederates of the Five Cantons, their well-beloved co-burghers of the Valais, and all their adherents lay and ecclesiastic, in their true and indubitable Christian faith, renouncing all evil intention, wiles, and stratagems.

And, on our side, we of the Five Cantons, agree to leave our confederates of Zurich and their allies in possession of their faith."

At the same time, Rapperschwyl, Gaster, Wesen, Bremgarten, Mellingen, and the common bailiwicks, were abandoned to the Five Cantons.

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Zurich had preserved its faith; and that was all.

The treaty having been read and approved of, the plenipotentiaries [delegates] got off their horses, fell upon their knees, and called upon the name of God. Then the new captain-general of the Zurichers, Escher, a hasty and eloquent old man, rising up, said as he turned towards the Waldstettes: "God be praised that I can again call you my well-beloved confederates!" and approaching them, he shook hands successively with Golder, Hug, Troguer, Rychmuth, Marquart, Zellger, and Thoss, the terrible victors at Cappel.

All eyes were filled with tears. Each took with trembling hand the bottle suspended at his side, and offered a draught to one of the chiefs of the opposite party. Shortly after a similar treaty was concluded with Berne.

 

On to Chapter Ten.


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