The disputation was opened in the Catholic city of Baden, in Aargau, May 21, 1526, and lasted eighteen days, till the 8th of June. The cantons and four bishops sent deputies, and many foreign divines were present. The Protestants were a mere handful, and despised as “a beggarly, miserable rabble.” Zwingli, who foresaw the political aim and result of the disputation, was prevented by the Council of Zurich from leaving home, because his life was threatened; but he influenced the proceedings by daily correspondence and secret messengers. No one could doubt his courage, which he showed more than once in the face of greater danger, as when he went to Marburg through hostile territory, and to the battlefield at Cappel. But several of his friends were sadly disappointed at his absence. He would have equalled Eck in debate and excelled him in biblical learning. Erasmus was invited, but politely declined on account of sickness.
The arrangements for the disputation and the local sympathies were in favor of the papal party. Mass was said every morning at five, and a sermon preached; the pomp of ritualism was displayed in solemn processions. The presiding officers and leading secretaries were Romanists; nobody besides them was permitted to take notes. The disputation turned on the real presence, the sacrifice of the mass, the invocation of the Virgin Mary and of saints, on images, purgatory, and original sin. Dr. Eck was the champion of the Roman faith, and behaved with the same polemical dexterity and overbearing and insolent manner as at Leipzig: robed in damask and silk, decorated with a golden ring, chain and cross; surrounded by patristic and scholastic folios, abounding in quotations and arguments, treating his opponents with proud contempt, and silencing them with his stentorian voice and final appeals to the authority of Rome. Occasionally he uttered an oath, “Potz Marter.” A contemporary poet, Nicolas Manuel, thus described his conduct:—
“Eck stamps with his feet, and claps his hands,
He raves, he swears, he scolds;
‘I do,’ cries he, ‘what the Pope commands,
And teach whatever he holds.’ ”
Schaff continues a brilliant description which is very much worth reading.