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Kathy Stuart and Louis XIV

In Tuesday’s lecture, we learned about Louis XIV and his pompous habits.

One of the things he did that struck a chord with me was how he insisted on teaching people how to do their own jobs. He believed himself to be better at everything than anyone else, even when he clearly had no idea what he was doing. He was also very prideful, and loved flattery the most, especially when people tripped over their words while flattering him. In addition to being prideful, he associated himself with Apollo, who was the Greek god of the sun. Due to this obsession, he became known as the “Sun King”. One would think that associating oneself with a “heathen” god would be considered heretical, but, I think, people were too afraid of Louis XIV to point that out.

Normally, people would get mad at someone butting in and telling them how to do their job. However, this was the king. People couldn’t get mad at their own king – just imagine the consequences of speaking out against an all-powerful monarch! Surely any craftsman who spoke out against the king, especially one with such a high opinion of himself, would be killed!


Something that happened in today’s (Thursday’s) lecture reminded me of Louis XIV. Professor Stuart asked the class if any STEM majors were present, and then asked them to explain the scientific method.  This wouldn’t be a problem… if this class was a basic science class and that was asked as a review question. Now that was a problem. This class is neither a science class nor was that question relevant as review material for an exam or anything else for this course. I know that she intended to tie it into the lecture, but I feel it just caused more distraction. For one, it didn’t tie into lecture very well. For two, nobody really answered, both on Facebook and in lecture.

Of course, not many people raised their hands and admitted to being a STEM major. After all, not many people would want to answer something that embarrassing and then explain it to everyone in the class, who had all learned it in middle school. *This was something a STEM student admitted during lecture.

In the end, Lawrence, who seems to know more about this course than our professor, ended up speaking up for everyone, who were all too nervous or didn’t care enough to speak. The professor then clumsily attempted to apply the basic concepts of the scientific method (as Lawrence so carefully stated for her) to the class.

Image source: our class’ facebook page

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On Protestantism

Luther’s version of Protestantism claimed that people would receive salvation based on scripture, grace and faith alone. This went directly against the Catholic Church’s many rituals and selling of indulgences, which Luther was vehemently against.

He also believed that Purgatory was a concept contrived by the Catholic Church in order to get people to buy indulgences. Indulgences from the Pope or the Church’s many branches would shorten a person’s time in Purgatory, so they’d be able to get to Heaven faster instead of suffering for, say, 10,000 years before moving on.

Also, both Protestants and Calvinists believed in the concept of predestination, which means that God chose who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell from birth. To me, this seems lazy, as it looks as if people would be able to do whatever they wanted and still end up in Heaven.

Personally, I strongly dislike Luther’s view on religion. Relying on faith and scripture alone just seems lazy to me. The Bible is a book already filled with plotholes and contradictions. Referencing it word for word just seems like a recipe for disaster to me. Also, people like events. They want days where they can eat together, or even just meet up. Thus, Catholicism’s many rituals sate the masses and give them something to do. In addition, it takes money to run an organization. Even non-profit organizations need to get funding from somewhere, which is usually out of pocket, from the government, or from donations. Thus, selling indulgences, to me, seems like a rational choice for the Catholic Church.

I mentioned above that the Bible is full of plotholes. This alone is bad enough, but Luther was not a logical man. Even Prof. Stuart, who seems to adore Luther, admits that he contradicted himself on many occasions. Later, Calvin would do his best to fix these contradictions (leading to the Calvinist branch of Protestantism), but I still don’t agree with their sect’s ideals.

Calvin’s crusade resulted in iconoclasm: the destruction of holy icons. In addition, Calvinist churches were blank. All of the fancy stained-glass windows? The beautiful paintings and other works of art? Broken. Burned. As a designer, it’s emotionally painful that people destroyed such weighted art. But my feelings are beside the point here.

People need stimulation if they’re going to be interested in anything for an extended period of time. Blank churches with no imagery whatsoever are the complete opposite of what people would find interesting. Burning and throwing away all “indulgent” items (as Luther wanted) leaves people plain and lowly, which is exactly what Luther wanted. However, I don’t believe that people can stay that way for long. People will seek out their pleasures elsewhere.

These reasons are why Protestantism, especially as how it was presented in lecture, doesn’t sit well with me.

Indulgences

In the Feb. 7 lecture, Professor Stuart mentioned indulgences.

An indulgence was an item that could be purchased by a person in order to reduce their sin, meaning that they’d spend less time in hell if they bought some.

The buying and selling of indulgences eventually went commercial by the Late Middle Ages, and went out of the Church’s control.

Eventually, the buying and selling of indulgences was repressed, partially due to the Protestant Reformation that we’ll soon learn about.


Interestingly, or perhaps not very interestingly, indulgences are exactly what Hans of Peasant Fires would’ve urged people to burn. Hans believed that any items indicating wealth (like fancy clothes and pointed shoes) should be burned, as they contributed to sin. Since indulgences were items purchased in order to reduce a person’s sin, they go counter to Hans’ beliefs.

I believe that Hans would’ve believed indulgences to be heretical, as they were something only the wealthy could obtain many of. Therefore, they’d be but another item thrown onto the communal bonfire.

Early Social Hierarchy of Florence

In early Florentine society, merchants (the popolo grosso) had to find ways to fight off the warring nobles (the grandi), as those nobles saw merchants on a tier below them, and saw fit to destroy what they had.

Thus, the merchants had to hire mercenaries to defend themselves.

Money makes the world go ’round, and it was no different back then. The mercenaries would fight for whoever paid them the highest amount, and so they fought for the merchants.

Eventually, the nobles were forced to leave their countryside estates and move into the city. However, moving into the city doesn’t mean that their worldview changed. In order to gain a higher vantage point and look down upon the rest of the citizens, they built high towers. In addition, many noble families married into rich merchant families, creating a new type of upper class in Florence.

After the nobles and merchants came the artisans and guildsmen, who were able to influence some things in government as long as they had the right connections. They were the middle class, so, although they didn’t have the lavish riches of the upper class, they were able to live comfortable and pursue their trade.

Behind the artisans were the poor, or “popolo minuto“. These were the working poor. Understandably, they weren’t able to accomplish much, but, as they were “unimportant”, the things they did weren’t monitored with much caution unless they did something outrageous.