A Little Tale Luther Tells

In the year of our Lord 1510 (if I remember correctly) I was in Rome and heard tell this story: about seven German miles this side of Rome there is a spot called Ronciglione, where lived, at the time of Paul II (who reigned seventy years ago), a papal official who saw the blasphemous, devilish nature of the pope and his scum in Rome, and did not give the pope his annual tax from his office.

The pope sent for him, he did not come; and whatever the pope ordered him to do, he ignored. Finally the pope put him under the ban, but he did not care about this either. After this, the pope had him tolled out with bells and thrown out and damned with lights extinguished from the pulpit, as is the custom; this did not bother him either. At last, because such obstinate disobedience to the pope in his canon law must be called heresy, he had the official’s portrait drawn on paper, with many devils over his head and on both sides, and had it brought to court, accused, and sentenced to the stake for heresy.

Then straightaway he took the paper to the fire and burned it. The official also had a portrait of the pope amid his cardinals drawn on paper, with lots of devils above and around them, called a court into session, and the pope and cardinals were accused as the worst scoundrels living on earth, doing immeasurable harm to poor people; and if their leader were to die, they would diligently set in his place the very worst one they could find among themselves; they were surely worthy of hell-fire, and many witnesses testified to all this.

Then the judge, the official, and the plaintiffs stepped forth and declared that they should be burned; and quickly, in the name of a thousand devils, he put the picture of the pope and cardinals into the fire to burn them, until the pope forcefully drove him out.*

* Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 41, 278–279.