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1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Twenty Five

       Last updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 20:49 EDT



Munich, Bavaria

    The English Ladies received mail in the ordinary way, of course. In addition to that, they received mail through the Jesuit Order’s own postal system. This was “just one of those things” in the ambivalent relationship between the Ladies and the Jesuits.

    More than one officer of the inquisition, over the past decade, had found this an exasperating state of affairs. In 1631, the cardinals had authorized a decree to the effect that the bishops of those territories in which the Ladies had foundations were to apprise the Inquisition of such details as where these “Jesuitesses” lived, under whose protection they stood, and whether they received letters from foreigners. If yes, the letters were to be intercepted, their contents checked, and reported to the Congregation for the Faith.


    Long before the current crisis, one frustrated Dominican had reported to his superior that, as far as the source of their correspondence was concerned, he had been told in confidence that the Ladies ordinarily got their letters from England by way of the Father General of the Society of Jesus, but he had not been able to find out the specific Jesuits under whose names the letters arrived, because the letters were contained in the Jesuits’ mail bag. He did know that since many of the Ladies from England were of good family, they received money in this manner for their own support and that of their schools. What was more, he himself found out all of this only through another member of his own order, who found it out from his sister, who found it out from some noblewomen who were in the confidence of the English Ladies.

    This morning, the mail bag was full. Mary Ward distributed the regular mail. Letters from family (many addressed to Father Edward Shiner, S.J., and redirected from him to Munich). Then she looked at the business letters (even nuns need food, clothing, and shelter; not to mention books and school supplies), including a bank draft from Cardinal Francesco Barberini. Mary Ward looked at the amount in astonishment. No explanation. She put it aside.

    There was a copy of a letter from one annoyed inquisitor to another complaining that in the Ladies’ schools, they taught the more capable young girls the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas in, depending on the language of the region, Flemish, German, and English translations. Not to mention teaching the most capable girls Latin in addition to more appropriate subjects such as grammar and needlework, and then having them read the saint’s treatises in the original. The author was practically spastic on the topic of the impropriety of teaching philosophy and theology to those who should keep silence in the church.

    A copy of a letter written two months earlier by Cardinal Saint Onofrio (Antonio Barberini, the elder) to the secretariat of the Holy Office. Saint Onofrio assured the father general of the Dominicans that he was still “concerned” (he had been expressing this concern for the past three years without actually doing anything) by the fact that Cardinal Buoncompagni in Naples was pretending that he didn’t know anything about the decree of dissolution and was permitting the Ladies there not only to accept new pupils, but also to accept postulants. According to the nuncio in Naples, Saint Onofrio said, Buoncompagni had been so oblivious, or so under the thumb of certain noblewomen, as to make the manifestly absurd protest to the Holy Office that he was under the impression that the pope was actually going to change his mind and confirm the Institute.

    Mary Ward grinned to herself. When it came to playing dumb, few could outdo Cardinal Buoncompagni. A fact which Cardinal Saint Onofrio most certainly knew.

    Of course, it was barely possible that Cardinal Buoncompagni in Naples really never had received proper legal notice of the decree dissolving the Institute. She had received good information that in 1631 Father Corcione, S.J., had pulled the official copy down off the door before anyone had a chance to read it.

    But this was old news. Where were the letters from Rome? Surely someone would have written her about the attempt to assassinate the pope. Surely someone would have forwarded a description of what led to the appointment of a cardinal-protector for the United States of Europe.

    Ah-Cardinal Antonio Barberini the Younger. And a very, very, entertaining version of the events in Rome. She would read it aloud to the sisters during supper.

    A large, closed, envelope. Not a folded letter, as most, with the address on the outside. A thick envelope. Opaque. Sealed. Nothing on the outside but her name.

    Two letters inside. One from Father-General Vitelleschi. Rare, but not unprecedented.

    The other. From the pope himself.

    Mary Ward had been standing at her pedestal desk. She moved back, sitting down on a straight-backed wooden bench that stood against one wall of her office.



    The English Ladies were to leave Munich.

    That first sentence of the pope’s edict was so shattering that she almost dropped the letter. To give up even the limited scope of activity that they had been allowed thus far?

    It was very hard to pretend that a person had not read a letter from the vicar of Christ on earth. Especially when it was accompanied by one from the father general of the Jesuit order and arrived in a Jesuit mail bag. His Holiness would know perfectly well that it had been delivered into her own hands.

    Praying for the courage to obey, she read farther.

    They were to go to-Grantville? Her heart started to pound; her hands shook.

    Not to some polite prison where they would live henceforth in the shadow of the Inquisition? Next year, she would complete a half century on this earth. She was not well-had not been well for years. But, if God were gracious, she would still have time to serve him.

    She started to read the pope’s letter again, from the beginning. They were to remove from Munich and go to Grantville.

    There. That was clearly written. She had not been mistaken.

    She could safely read farther. They were to remove from Munich inconspicuously, if possible surreptitiously. It might be the course of prudence for them to announce their intent of making a pilgrimage, but any other plausible reason would be quite acceptable. They would be observed by the Holy Office, of course; the Holy Office observed everything that the Ladies did. It was to be presumed that Duke Maximilian would not endorse their departure.

    That, Mary Ward thought, had to be the understatement of the year. Everybody knew that the duke was infuriated by anything that had to do with these “monstrous men from the future” who had welded themselves to the cause of the Swede.

    They were to go to Grantville, where the suppression of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary would be reversed for purposes of its operation within the limits of the United States of Europe, under the sponsorship of the new Cardinal-Protector.

    “You will have received a bank draft from Our nephew.”

    That accounted for the transmission from Cardinal Francesco.

    “Father Vitelleschi will provide details.”



    The school run by the English Ladies announced that for purposes of allowing their pupils to participate more fully in the festivities associated with the marriage of Bavaria’s gracious Duke Maximilian to Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, after the girls had participated in the ceremony of welcome when the wedding procession reached the gates of Munich, classes would be dismissed for the entire following week. The Jesuits had extended a blanket invitation for the pupils of the school to participate as extras in the production of Belisarius, Christian General in the Schrannenplatz to celebrate the wedding. The girls would need to be available for costuming, rehearsals, and other incidentals.

    The pupils were duly ecstatic.

    Their parents, upon occasion, somewhat less so. It meant, of course, that during a week of uproar, they would have to keep an eye on their daughters themselves. However, they could hardly protest the decision without seeming disloyal to the duke. And girls could always help their mothers with the cooking, baking, and other activities at home when they weren’t rehearsing. The parents made the best of it. There probably wouldn’t be another wedding in the ducal family for a long time. If the Austrian became pregnant and bore a son, not for twenty years, at least.

    Let the girls have their fun.



    Father General Vitelleschi’s instructions had been meticulously detailed.

    Arrangements in Munich would be made through Father Matthaeus Roeder. Mary Ward cocked her head for a moment at the spelling. Who? Oh, Father Rader. He was very old. But he had taught rhetoric for years. He knew everybody, including, because of his three-volume history of the duchy, everybody at court. And he had written famous plays himself, so he was certain to be consulted on the production being put on for the wedding. What a good choice, especially since the girls from the school had been invited to take part in the play.

    Was that why the girls from the school had been invited to take part in the play? The English ladies were never cloistered; they could move freely through the city in pairs. But this way, no one would be surprised to see them at the rehearsals, supervising the girls even though they were officially out of school.

    Father Drexel would assist them. Jeremias Drexel was the rector of the Jesuit collegium in Munich; formerly head of the gymnasium as well. Also formerly Duke Maximilian’s court preacher, although he had given up that responsibility more than a dozen years ago, in 1621, after the duke’s Bohemian campaign. He had retired to write a biography of the Duchess Elisabeth Renata and compose theological works. Conflict of interest? Not for a Jesuit; his vow of obedience was to the pope, not the duke. Father General Vitelleschi must be serious about this.

    Drexel had overall responsibility for the entire production of the play.

    He would also be, perhaps, better able than most to give the Ladies advice on what might be happening in the United States of Europe. Born in Augsburg, he had originally been Lutheran. Father Drexel, as a convert, might have some insight into the way the Swede and his allies would look at the holy father’s latest move.

    Mary Ward decided to use Father Drexel’s School of Patience for this evening’s spiritual reading.

    We should think, as we gather riches, as we sit in positions of great honor, as we indulge in luxurious pleasures. All this only a dream, and moreover a short and frivolous dream. When we wake from it, there will be no riches in our hands.

    What, then is life? To be brief, the period for which human life lasts is only a point on a line, its very nature changeable, during which we see through a glass darkly. Our bodies are unreliable, our moods variable. Riches are a thorn, lust is a poison. Everything bodily is a running river that passes on. Life is a war; the stay of a guest in a foreign city; an existence full of suffering and effort. Great buildings and strong fortifications collapse; their strength does not help them. The hardest of stones erode. The greatest fame is forgotten after a man’s death; the greatest worldly titles disappear like smoke.

    The most beautiful and praiseworthy thing a man can do before he dies is to devote his life to the untiring performance of virtuous acts, constantly seeking to practice prudence, justice, moderation, endurance; faith, hope, and unselfish love.



    It seemed as though all of Munich was involved in preparing for the presentation of Belisarius. Of course, Father Drexel was fielding a veteran team. For the past three decades, Jesuit theater in Bavaria had assumed an increasingly a laudatory function of praising the piety of the ruling house and the martial glory of its duke. This was far from the first performance that was no longer confined to the yard of the Wilhelmsgymnasium, the secondary school named for Duke Maximilian’s father, but rather staged in the Schrannenplatz. It was designed to draw in the entire city, not just as spectators, but to a great extent, as participants. The city was the stage; the cast was huge. The casts of the Jesuit plays presented in Munich had been huge for a half-century, already. In 1575, about a thousand actors and extras took part in the presentation of Constantine the Great. Esther, with its crowd scenes at the court of Persia, required half again that many, or more.

    Belisarius. Belisarius had armies. Scenes with armies required the maximum number of extras that the director could locate, cajole, persuade, or strong arm into appearing on a stage.

    The costumes would be elaborate; the staging more so. Music had increasingly become an important element of the productions. The Oratory of Philothea, performed earlier in the year, had been more an opera than a play. In addition to the new prologue and epilogue, which Balde had sent from Amberg, they were adding music to the new production of Belisarius. That would require a couple of hundred additional performers, just for the vocals. Here a martial chorus of men; there a heavenly choir of angelic voices. It all added up.

    The residents of Munich were becoming quite accustomed to seeing groups of heavily armed Roman soldiers strolling down the street, accompanied by Byzantine court ladies garbed in stiff robes and elaborate headdresses, not to mention an occasional angel. They were becoming used to hearing random explosions from the direction of the Schrannenplatz as the technicians experimented with the fireworks that would accompany the battle scenes. It was normal to observe portions of nearly full-sized ships (one side only, with braces behind them) being hauled through the streets on wagons, with much cursing by the teamsters as they had to negotiate through narrow Gassen to make their deliveries. There was constant hammering. The bleachers and pegs were saved from one performance to the next, of course; just placed in storage. Still, each time, they had to be fastened back together sturdily enough that there was no danger of their collapsing under the weight of those spectators lucky enough to obtain a seat.

    The programs were at the printer. The play’s dialogue would be in Latin, of course. However, the programs provided a German libretto, so that all the spectators could follow the action. There was little point in presenting such a spectacle if those in attendance could not understand the moral that it was all designed to impress upon them.



    Mary Ward called upon Father Rader. Between them, they got the removal plans for the English Ladies under way. He agreed that the announcing a pilgrimage might not be amiss, although that might also be considered something of a cliche. Perhaps such an announcement could be made more timely by linking it to the closing of the school for the wedding festivities. Perhaps the ladies were graciously doing this in order to make the space in their house available to the duke’s important guests.

    “Important guests,” he said, “but not quite important enough to merit quarters in the Residenz itself. Or even in Duke Albert’s old palace. I will give some thought to precisely who might fit into that category. Ecclesiastical guests, perhaps? In any case, we should represent it as being an act of generosity on your part. Since the Marian pilgrimage at Ettal has become so much more popular in recent years, particularly since Ettal is almost due south of Munich, we could try that. Your departure in that direction will scarcely raise immediate alarms in the mind of even the most zealous agent of the Holy Office.”




    While Father Rader had been expecting Mary Ward, he had not been expecting Dona Mencia de Mendoza. She begged a favor from him. She needed to send an important and confidential letter to her brother, Cardinal Bedmar, in the Netherlands. If he would be so kind as to include it in the Jesuit mail bag . . .

    He agreed. And wrote a letter of his own to Father General Vitelleschi. It might, at a minimum, he reminded the authorities in Rome, be prudent to alert the Jesuits at St. Mary’s in Grantville to expect the arrival of the English Ladies, in order that they could arrange for appropriate housing, if nothing else. He understood that the up-time town had become very crowded in the past three years.

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