Matthew of Cracow

Matthew Of Cracow (more accurately of Krokow, in Pomerania), a noted German prelate of the Church of Rome, and worthy to be counted foremost among the forerunners of the great Reformation, was a native of Pomerania, and flourished near the opening of the 15th century. But little is known of his personal history, except that he was made by the emperor Rupert a professor in the young University of Heidelberg; afterwards became chancellor to Rupert, and through the latter's influence became bishop of Worms in 1405, and that he attended the Council of Pisa in 1409, and died in 1410. But of his labors we know enough to award him great praise as an ardent and faithful worker for reform among the clergy of his Church. Indeed, the corrupt condition of the Romish Church, and especially of the ecclesiastical body, seems to have early engaged his serious attention. In 1384 he delivered a discourse on the improvement of morals, both in priests and people, before an archiepiscopal synod in Prague; and, as he began then, so he continued through life to battle for reform and the eradication of corruption, and the abandonment of simony and other vile practices. Both with his tongue and by his pen he sought to advance the interests of the noble cause he had espoused, and, as his position secured him great influence, his labors were certainly not in vain. For his day and generation he was no doubt another cardinal Julian (q.v.). He desired reform rather than a revolution, and therefore failed to accomplish his mission.

Matthew left behind him a number of MSS., some of which were afterwards printed. Among the most noted of his works is a treatise on the pollutions of the Romish court, which appears to have been written a little previous to the year 1409, about the period when the schism in the papacy seemed to open a door for conscientious minds to cherish doubts, at least privately, yet sufficiently to afford a leaven for the future, respecting the boasted infallibility of the popes, and the degree of implicit faith and obedience due to their appointments and decisions. It may be that the weakness occasioned by this papal schism furnished a reason why the author of so bold an attack on the prevailing corruptions did not encounter the hostility and persecution of the ecclesiastical powers. His favor with the emperor was an additional source of impunity, and probably also his early death after the publication of the work. We have no information of the effect immediately produced by the treatise, but it shows that the harvest of the 16th century was even then in its germ, and it seems like some of the seed towards the harvest, sown for a hundred years, to produce fruit in the times of Luther and Melancthon. See Ullmann, Reformers before the Reformation, vol. 1; Hodgson, Reformers and Martyrs (Phila. 1867, 12mo), p. 118 sq. (J. H. W.)

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