Arnold of Brescia

Roughly contemporary with Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne was Arnold of Brescia. Born in the city in the north of Italy by which he is known, he studied theology at Paris. Returning to Brescia, he was ordained priest and became the head of a community of canons regular. From his youth he had been noted for his purity of life and his espousal of poverty. He was earnestly eager to see the Church conform fully to the Christian ideal. Believing that this could not be so long as its leaders compromised with the world, he attacked the bishops for their cupidity, dishonest gains, and frequent irregularity of life and urged that the clergy renounce all property and political and physical power. Ardent by temperament and uncompromising, he aroused the antagonism of his bishop, and was ordered by Pope Innocent II to leave Italy and not to preach without Papal consent. A friend of Abelard, a distinguished scholar and teacher and a centre of controversy whom we are to meet later, he was lumped with the latter by Bernard of Clairvaux and was vigorously attacked. Bernard obtained his condemnation by the Council of Sens (1140). In 1145 or 1146, after protracted wanderings, Arnold was given absolution by Pope Eugene III. Soon, however, he again broke with the Pope. He denounced the temporal power of the Papacy and sided with a republic which had been set up in Rome under the local aristocracy and which had driven the Pope out of the city. The effort at a republic collapsed. Eugene III returned to Rome, and his successor, the able Hadrian IV (Nicholas Breakspear, the only Englishman to occupy the Papal throne), had Arnold expelled from the city. At the instance of Hadrian Arnold was seized by order of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa), was delivered to the civil authorities of Rome, and in 1155 he was hanged, his body was burned, and his ashes were thrown into the Tiber. Some of his followers survived him and, a dissident sect, like him lived chastely and austerely and denounced the clergy and the Pope.

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