Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World

Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World by Amir Alexander Read Free Book Online

Book: Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World by Amir Alexander Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amir Alexander
humiliated and much-diminished Pope was to remain effectively a client princeling of the emperor for years to come.
    The upshot of all this was that when confronted with the challenge of the Reformation, the Renaissance popes had no answer. Leo X first attempted to use the most tried-and-true weapon in the papal arsenal by excommunicating Martin Luther, but this had little effect. The pleasure-loving Medici prince simply did not possess the moral stature to face down the upright Luther, and his pronouncements carried little weight. The next option for the popes was to rely on the military might of the emperor to bring the schismatics to heel, and Charles was more than willing to take on this role. The popes, however, from Leo X onward, worried that throwing their hat in with the empire meant abandoning the strategy of playing off the Habsburgs against Valois of France. Calling on Charles would effectively end the independence of the Papal States, and reduce the Pope’s temporal power to nothing. So, as Charles V struggled for decades to suppress the Protestant heresy and restore unity to Christendom, he did so with either the grudging support of the Holy See or, just as often, its open enmity. To contemporaries, it seemed that the popes would rather see all Christendom torn to shreds than surrender even a sliver of their power in Italy.
    In 1540 the fires of the Reformation were still spreading unchecked through the domains of the Roman Church, and lands that had been under the sway of Rome for centuries were falling away one by one. The commonality of faith and ritual that had unified Western Christendom was replaced by a cacophony of competing creeds, each denouncing the others as impostors or worse. As chaos, war, and subversion ruled the land, the Pope proved helpless to put out the fire, but was as intent as ever on amassing titles and incomes for his relatives and protecting his territorial interests. With schism on the ground and corrupt leadership at the top, any objective observer of the European scene in 1540 would likely have concluded that the days of the ancient Church of Rome were numbered.
    But on September 27 of that year, at the height of the storm, Pope Paul III took a small administrative step that seemed to bear little relation to the great events of the day: he approved a petition from a group of ten priests to form a religious company dedicated to serving the Pope and the Church. Though hardly noted at the time, it may have been the single most important step taken by the Papacy to save the Roman Church from dissolution. In his bull announcing the new order, Paul also approved the name requested by the group for their new association: they called it the Society of Jesus.
    The Society of Jesus, or more commonly, the Jesuit Order, was the creation of one man, the Spanish nobleman Ignatius of Loyola. Born in 1491 to an old aristocratic family in the Basque country, Ignatius spent his early years as a gentleman courtier in the entourage of Ferdinand of Aragon. Though reputedly a good Christian, the handsome Inigo, as he was then called, focused his energies on the arts of courtly refinement and romantic love, rather than religious devotion. Heir to the martial tradition of his ancestors, and an ardent reader of the chivalric literature of his day, he aspired more than anything to live out his dreams of military glory. His opportunity finally came in the spring of 1521 in the Spanish city of Pamplona, just a few short weeks after Luther took his stand at Worms in a different corner of Charles V’s empire. With French forces advancing on the city and the Spanish army in retreat, Ignatius convinced the local commander to stand his ground and refuse the French demand to surrender. According to Jesuit lore, when the besiegers breached Pamplona’s walls, Inigo stood unyielding in their path, but was immediately cut down, and the city was overrun. Close to death, he was treated kindly by the French

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