FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS
General Persecutions in Germany
The general persecutions in Germany were principally occasioned by the
doctrines and ministry of Martin Luther. Indeed, the pope was so terrified at
the success of that courageous reformer, that he determined to engage the
emperor, Charles V, at any rate, in the scheme to attempt their extirpation.
To this end
1. He gave the emperor two hundred thousand crowns in ready money.
2. He promised to maintain twelve thousand foot, and five thousand horse,
for the space of six months, or during a campaign.
3. He allowed the emperor to receive one half the revenues of the clergy
of the empire during the war.
4. He permitted the emperor to pledge the abbey lands for five hundred
thousand crowns, to assist in carrying on hostilities against the Protestants.
Thus prompted and supported, the emperor undertook the extirpation of the
Protestants, against whom, indeed, he was particularly enraged himself; and,
for this purpose, a formidable army was raised in Germany, Spain, and Italy.
The Protestant princes, in the meantime, formed a powerful confederacy, in
order to repel the impending blow. A great army was raised, and the command
given to the elector of Saxony, and the landgrave of Hesse. The imperial forces
were commanded by the emperor of Germany in person, and the eyes of all Europe
were turned on the event of the war.
At length the armies met, and a desperate engagement ensued, in which the
Protestants were defeated, and the elector of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse
both taken prisoners. This fatal blow was succeeded by a horrid persecution,
the severities of which were such that exile might be deemed a mild fate, and
concealment in a dismal wood pass for happiness. In such times a cave is a
palace, a rock a bed of down, and wild roots delicacies.
Those who were taken experienced the most cruel tortures that infernal
imaginations could invent; and by their constancy evinced that a real Christian
can surmount every difficulty, and despite every danger acquire a crown of
Henry Voes and John Esch, being apprehended as Protestants, were brought
to examination. Voes, answering for himself and the other, gave the following
answers to some questions asked by a priest, who examined them by order of the
Priest. Were you not both, some years ago, Augustine friars?
Priest. How came you to quit the bosom of the Church at Rome?
Voes. On account of her abominations.
Priest. In what do you believe?
Voes. In the Old and New Testaments.
Priest. Do you believe in the writings of the fathers, and the decrees of
Voes. Yes, if they agree with Scripture.
Priest. Did not Martin Luther seduce you both?
Voes. He seduced us even in the very same manner as Christ seduced the
apostles; that is, he made us sensible of the frailty of our bodies, and the
value of our souls.
This examination was sufficient. They were both condemned to the flames,
and soon after suffered with that manly fortitude which becomes Christians when
they receive a crown of martyrdom.
Henry Sutphen, an eloquent and pious preacher, was taken out of his bed in
the middle of the night, and compelled to walk barefoot a considerable way, so
that his feet were terribly cut. He desired a horse, but his conductors said,
in derision, "A horse for a heretic! no no, heretics may go barefoot." When he
arrived at the place of his destination, he was condemned to be burnt; but,
during the execution, many indignities were offered him, as those who attended
not content with what he suffered in the flames, cut and slashed him in a most
Many were murdered at Halle; Middleburg being taken by storm all the
Protestants were put to the sword, and great numbers were burned at Vienna.
An officer being sent to put a minister to death, pretended, when he came
to the clergyman's house, that his intentions were only to pay him a visit. The
minister, not suspecting the intended cruelty, entertained his supposed guest
in a very cordial manner. As soon as dinner was over, the officer said to some
of his attendants, "Take this clergyman, and hang him." The attendants
themselves were so shocked after the civility they had seen, that they
hesitated to perform the commands of their master; and the minister said,
"Think what a sting will remain on your conscience, for thus violating the laws
of hospitality." The officer, however, insisted upon being obeyed, and the
attendants, with reluctance, performed the execrable office of executioners.
Peter Spengler, a pious divine, of the town of Schalet, was thrown into
the river, and drowned. Before he was taken to the banks of the stream which
was to become his grave, they led him to the market place that his crimes might
be proclaimed; which were, not going to Mass, not making confession, and not
believing in transubstantiation. After this ceremony was over, he made a most
excellent discourse to the people, and concluded with a kind hymn, of a very
A Protestant gentleman being ordered to lose his head for not renouncing
his religion, went cheerfully to the place of execution. A friar came to him,
and said these words in a low tone of voice, "As you have a great reluctance
publicly to abjure your faith, whisper your confession in my ear, and I will
absolve your sins." To this the gentleman loudly replied, "Trouble me not,
friar, I have confessed my sins to God, and obtained absolution through the
merits of Jesus Christ." Then turning to the executioner, he said, "Let me not
be pestered with these men, but perform your duty," on which his head was
struck off at a single blow.
Wolfgang Scuch, and John Huglin, two worthy ministers, were burned, as was
Leonard Keyser, a student of the University of Wertembergh; and George
Carpenter, a Bavarian, was hanged for refusing to recant Protestantism.
The persecutions in Germany having subsided many years, again broke out in
1630, on account of the war between the emperor and the king of Sweden, for the
latter was a Protestant prince, and consequently the Protestants of Germany
espoused his cause, which greatly exasperated the emperor against them.
The imperialists having laid siege to the town of Passewalk, (which was
defended by the Swedes) took it by storm, and committed the most horrid
cruelties on the occasion. They pulled down the churches, burnt the houses,
pillaged the properties, massacred the ministers, put the garrison to the
sword, hanged the townsmen, ravished the women, smothered the children, etc.,
A most bloody tragedy was transacted at Magdeburg, in the year 1631. The
generals Tilly and Pappenheim, having taken that Protestant city by storm,
upwards of twenty thousand persons, without distinction of rank, sex, or age,
were slain during the carnage, and six thousand were drowned in attempting to
escape over the river Elbe. After this fury had subsided, the remaining
inhabitants were stripped naked, severely scourged, had their ears cropped, and
being yoked together like oxen were turned adrift.
The town of Hoxter was taken by the popish army, and all the inhabitants
as well as the garrison were put to the sword; the houses even were set on
fire, the bodies being consumed in the flames.
At Griphenberg, when the imperial forces prevailed, they shut up the
senators in the senate chamber, and surrounding it by lighted straw suffocated
Franhendal surrendered upon articles of capitulation, yet the inhabitants
were as cruelly used as at other places; and at Heidelberg many were shut up in
prison and starved.
The cruelties used by the imperial troops, under Count Tilly in Saxony,
are thus enumerated.
Half strangling, and recovering the persons again repeatedly. Rolling
sharp wheels over the fingers and toes. Pinching the thumbs in a vice. Forcing
the most filthy things down the throat, by which many were choked. Tying cords
round the head so tightly that the blood gushed out of the eyes, nose, ears,
and mouth. Fastening burning matches to the fingers, toes, ears, arms, legs,
and even the tongue. Putting powder in the mouth and setting fire to it, by
which the head was shattered to pieces. Tying bags of powder to all parts of
the body, by which the person was blown up. Drawing cords backwards and
forwards through the fleshy parts. Making incisions with bodkins and knives in
the skin. Running wires through the nose, ears, lips, etc. Hanging Protestants
up by the legs, with their heads over a fire, by which they were smoke dried.
Hanging up by one arm until it was dislocated. Hanging upon hooks by the ribs.
Forcing people to drink until they burst. Baking many in hot ovens. Fixing
weights to the feet, and drawing up several with pulleys. Hanging, stifling,
roasting, stabbing, frying, racking, ravishing, ripping open, breaking the
bones, rasping off the flesh, tearing with wild horses, drowning, strangling,
burning, broiling, crucifying, immuring, poisoning, cutting off tongues, noses,
ears, etc., sawing off the limbs, hacking to pieces, and drawing by the heels
through the streets.
The enormous cruelties will be a perpetual stain on the memory of Count
Tilly, who not only committed, but even commanded the troops to put them in
practice. Wherever he came, the most horrid barbarities and cruel depredations
ensued: famine and conflagration marked his progress: for he destroyed all the
provisions he could not take with him, and burnt all the towns before he left
them; so that the full result of his conquests were murder, poverty, and
An aged and pious divine they stripped naked, tied him on his back upon a
table, and fastened a large, fierce cat upon his belly. They then pricked and
tormented the cat in such a manner that the creature with rage tore his belly
open, and gnawed his bowels.
Another minister and his family were seized by these inhuman monsters;
they ravished his wife and daughter before his face; stuck his infant son upon
the point of a lance, and then surrounding him with his whole library of books,
they set fire to them, and he was consumed in the midst of the flames.
In Hesse-Cassel some of the troops entered an hospital, in which were
principally mad women, when stripping all the poor wretches naked, they made
them run about the streets for their diversion, and then put them all to death.
In Pomerania, some of the imperial troops entering a small town, seized
upon all the young women, and girls of upwards of ten years, and then placing
their parents in a circle, they ordered them to sing Psalms, while they
ravished their children, or else they swore they would cut them to pieces
afterward. They then took all the married women who had young children, and
threatened, if they did not consent to the gratification of their lusts, to
burn their children before their faces in a large fire, which they had kindled
for that purpose.
A band of Count Tilly's soldiers meeting a company of merchants belonging
to Basel, who were returning from the great market of Strassburg, attempted to
surround them; all escaped, however, but ten, leaving their properties behind.
The ten who were taken begged hard for their lives: but the soldiers murdered
them saying, "You must die because you are heretics, and have got no money."
The same soldiers met with two countesses, who, together with some young
ladies, the daughters of one of them, were taking an airing in a landau. The
soldiers spared their lives, but treated them with the greatest indecency, and
having stripped them all stark naked, bade the coachman drive on.
By means and mediation of Great Britain, peace was at length restored to
Germany, and the Protestants remained unmolested for several years, until some
new disturbances broke out in the Palatinate, which were thus occasioned:
The great Church of the Holy Ghost, at Heidelberg, had, for many years,
been shared equally by the Protestants and Roman Catholics in this manner: the
Protestants performed divine service in the nave or body of the church; and the
Roman Catholics celebrated Mass in the choir. Though this had been the custom
from time immemorial, the elector of the Palatinate, at length, took it into
his head not to suffer it any longer, declaring, that as Heidelberg was the
place of his residence, and the Church of the Holy Ghost the cathedral of his
principal city, divine service ought to be performed only according to the
rites of the Church of which he was a member. He then forbade the Protestants
to enter the church, and put the papists in possession of the whole.
The aggrieved people applied to the Protestant powers for redress, which
so much exasperated the elector, that he suppressed the Heidelberg catechism.
The Protestant powers, however, unanimously agreed to demand satisfaction, as
the elector, by this conduct, had broken an article of the treaty of
Westphalia; and the courts of Great Britain, Prussia, Holland, etc., sent
deputies to the elector, to represent the injustice of his proceedings, and to
threaten, unless he changed his behavior to the Protestants in the Palatinate,
that they would treat their Roman Catholic subjects with the greatest severity.
Many violent disputes took place between the Protestant powers and those of the
elector, and these were greatly augmented by the following incident: the coach
of the Dutch minister standing before the door of the resident sent by the
prince of Hesse, the host was by chance being carried to a sick person; the
coachman took not the least notice, which those who attended the host
observing, pulled him from his box, and compelled him to kneel; this violence
to the domestic of a public minister was highly resented by all the Protestant
deputies; and still more to heighten these differences, the Protestants
presented to the deputies three additional articles of complaint.
1. That military executions were ordered against all Protestant shoemakers
who should refuse to contribute to the Masses of St. Crispin.
2. that the Protestants were forbid to work on popish holy days, even in
harvest time, under very heavy penalties, which occasioned great
inconveniences, and considerably prejudiced public business.
3. That several Protestant ministers had been dispossessed of their
churches, under pretence of their having been originally founded and built by
The Protestant deputies at length became so serious as to intimate to the
elector, that force of arms should compel him to do the justice he denied to
their representations. This menace brought him to reason, as he well knew the
impossibility of carrying on a war against the powerful states who threatened
him. He therefore agreed that the body of the Church of the Holy Ghost should
be restored to the Protestants. He restored the Heidelberg catechism, put the
Protestant ministers again in possession of the churches of which they had been
dispossessed, allowed the Protestants to work on popish holy days, and,
ordered, that no person should be molested for not kneeling when the host
These things he did through fear; but to show his resentment to his
Protestant subjects, in other circumstances where Protestant states had no
right to interfere, he totally abandoned Heidelberg, removing all the courts of
justice to Mannheim, which was entirely inhabited by Roman Catholics. He
likewise built a new palace there, making it his place of residence; and, being
followed by the Roman Catholics of Heidelberg, Mannheim became a flourishing
In the meantime the Protestants of Heidelberg sunk into poverty and many
of them became so distressed as to quit their native country, and seek an
asylum in Protestant states. A great number of these coming into England, in
the time of Queen Anne, were cordially received there, and met with a most
humane assistance, both by public and private donations.
In 1732, above thirty thousand Protestants were, contrary to the treaty of
Westphalia, driven from the archbishopric of Salzburg. They went away in the
depth of winter, with scarcely enough clothes to cover them, and without
provisions, not having permission to take anything with them. The cause of
these poor people not being publicly espoused by such states as could obtain
them redress, they emigrated to various Protestant countries, and settled in
places where they could enjoy the free exercise of their religion, without
hurting their consciences, and live free from the trammels of popish
superstition, and the chains of papal tyranny.