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Title: Curiosities of Christian History
       Prior to the Reformation

Author: Croake James

Release Date: June 10, 2012 [EBook #39966]

Language: English

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Curiosities of Christian History.

 

 

CURIOSITIES
OF
CHRISTIAN HISTORY

PRIOR TO THE REFORMATION

 

BY
CROAKE JAMES
Author of “Curiosities of Law and Lawyers”

 

Methuen & Co.
18, BURY STREET, LONDON, W.C.
1892

All rights reserved

 

 

Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.

 

 


[Pg vii]

PREFACE.

History is often a dreary study except to a few experts; and yet the Christians of to-day naturally wish to know more about their predecessors in the old time before them. There is always much difficulty in separating what to them must be interesting from masses of detail which do not touch their sympathies.

From the time of Christ to the epoch of the Reformation there were no Dissenters—only traitors and heretics, who were deemed unworthy to live in the same world and to breathe the same air as Emperors, Popes, and Bishops. But the Christian temperament can be traced through all the centuries—whether the devout people of the period were martyrs or hermits, monks, nuns, or friars, pilgrims or crusaders, priests or warriors. The same aspirations, misgivings, trials, and difficulties existed then as now, though the trials and difficulties may now be less. The best people of to-day may be trusted to recognise a touch of their own kindred amid all the varieties of time and place and circumstance which make up the past.

I have here collected from many histories, annals, chronicles, and biographies, far and wide, some particulars[Pg viii] of the interesting persons, episodes, and events from the Christian’s point of view during the first fourteen centuries. The literature of so many ages is vast, and the things now deemed of most interest are overlaid with heavy material. But I have left out all the miracles—most of the wordy war of doctrines—most of the atrocities of persecutors and inquisitors. I have only culled a few flowers; I have only tried to snatch from oblivion a few brief memorials which may suggest wholesome thoughts and inquiries to modern Christians of every denomination.

C. J.

 

 


[Pg ix]

TABLE OF MATTERS.

CHAPTER I.

THE VIRGIN MARY, HOLY FAMILY, CHRIST, AND THE CRUCIFIXION.

Heathen Knowledge about the Virgin, 1; Simeon’s Great Age, 2; Portraits of the Virgin, 2; Marriage of Joseph and Virgin Mary, 3; Massacre of Innocents, 4; Flight to Egypt, 5; Holy Family Leaving Egypt, 6; Assumption of Virgin Mary, 7; Christ Learning Alphabet, 9; Joseph and Jesus as Carpenters, 10; Christ’s Baptism, 10; Portraits of Christ, 11; King Agbarus, 12; Christ’s Preaching, 13; Sentence on Christ, 14; Christ Appearing to James, 14; Forms of Crosses, 15; The Holy Cross, 15; Thieves at Crucifixion, 16; Soldier who Pierced the Saviour’s Side, 17; Legend of the Cross, 17; Stations of Cross, 18; Crown of Thorns, 19; Apocryphal Gospels, 20; False Christs, 21; Septuagint Bible, 21; English Versions of Bible, 22.

 

CHAPTER II.

THE DISCIPLES AND APOSTLES OF OUR LORD.

Death of the Apostles, 23; Apostles who were Married, 23; St. Matthew and St. Mark, 24; St. Luke and St. Bartholomew, 25; St. Thomas and St. Simeon, 26; St. Timothy and St. Barnabas, 27; St. Titus, St. Philip, and St. Andrew, 28; James and John, 29; St. John the Apostle, 30; St. John and his Partridge, 31; St. John’s Last Days, 32; St. John and Edward the Confessor, 33; St. James the Less, 33; St. James the Great, 34; St. Peter and St. Paul, 36; Deaths of St. Peter and St. Paul, 37; St. Peter when in Rome, 38; Churches of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, 39; If St. Paul in Great Britain, 40; Judas Iscariot, 41.

 [Pg x]

CHAPTER III.

CHRIST’S CONTEMPORARIES—CLIMATE AND SCENERY OF PALESTINE.

Sages of Greece and Rome on Christian Prodigies, 42; Zacharias and John the Baptist, 44; Pontius Pilate, 45; Herod the Great, 46; Mary Magdalene, 47; St. Martha, 48; St. Veronica, 48; Hillel, 49; Sanhedrim, 49; Working Man in Christ’s Time, 50; Pharisaic Niceties, 50; Sieges of Jerusalem, 50; Antioch, 51; Palestine Explorations, 52; Jordan to the Dead Sea, 53; Sea of Galilee, 53; Sources of Jordan, 54; Waters of Merom, 55; Rivers of Damascus, 55; Populousness of Galilee, 56; Climate of Palestine, 57; Mount Hermon, 57; Lilies of the Field, 58; Wayside Fruits and Flowers, 58; The Birds, 59; Wild Beasts and Animals, 60; Jerusalem, 60; Nazareth, 61; Capernaum, 62.

 

CHAPTER IV.

EARLY CHURCH CUSTOMS, FASTS, AND FESTIVALS.

Church History Divided into Ages and Periods, 63; Apostolic Church, 64; The Millennium, 64; Community of Goods, 65; Emblems of Christians, 66; Christian Names, 66; Auricular Confession, 67; Religious Riots, 68; Preaching much Applauded, 68; Dress and Appearance of Clergy, 69; Priests and Deacons, 69; Early Bishops, 70; The Pastoral Staff, 71; Ancient Churches, 72; Deaconess, 72; Liturgy, 73; Ritualism, 74; The Mass, 74; Ancient Church Service, 75; Organs and Bells, 76; Separation of Sexes, 77; Praying for the Dead, 77; Sin-eaters at Funerals, 78; Praising the Lord Day and Night, 78; Christmas Day and Easter Day, 79; Festival of All Saints, 80; Holidays and Feasts, 80; Feast of the Ass, 81; The Boy Bishop, 81; Miracle Plays, 82; Passion Plays, 82; Festival of the Rose, 83; The Millennium, 84; Church Building Age, 84; Round Towers, 85; Worship of the Virgin, 85; Truce of God, 86; Number Seven in Scripture, 87; A Jubilee Year, 87; King’s Prayer for Rain, 89; The Black Death, 90; Dancing Mania, 91; Monk Flagellants, 91; Extravagant Dress, 92; Telling Fortunes, 93.

 

CHAPTER V.

DIFFICULTIES WITH PAGANS, JEWS, IMAGE WORSHIP, AND CIVIL POWERS.

The Name of Christian, 94; Early Pagan Riot, 94; Early Christians and Slavery, 95; The First Persecution, 96; How Christians Appeared to Pagans, 97; Shows of Wild Beasts, 97; Testing Fidelity of Christians, 98; Constantine the Great, 99; Standard of the Cross, 100; Dream of[Pg xi] Constantine, 100; Constantine Preaching, 101; Last Illness of Constantine, 102; First Church Council, 102; Silencing the Pagans, 103; How to Refute a Heretic, 103; Julian the Apostate, 105; Theological Disputes, 105; Controversy about the Trinity, 106; Athanasius, 107; Sermon on the Trinity, 108; Against Demolishing Temples, 108; First Demolishing of Temples, 110; Image at the Palace, 111; St. Martin of Tours, 112; The King of the Goths, 112; Attila, King of the Huns, 113; Vandals Sacking Rome, 114; Justinian, 115; Mahomet’s Knowledge, 115; Oak of Geismar, 116; Pope Defending Rome, 117; Forged Decretals, 118; Separation of Greek and Latin Churches, 119; Jew and Christian, 119; Julian Inciting the Jews, 120; Hating the Jews, 121; Golden Age of Judaism, 121; The Pope and the Jews. 122; The Jews of York, 122; Jews Crucifying English Boy, 124; The Black Death, 124; Jews Stealing the Host, 125; Torquemada’s Zeal, 126; Jewish Physicians, 127; Converting a Jew, 128; Controversy about Image Worship, 129; The Iconoclasts, 130; John of Damascus, 131; Claudius of Turin, 133; Trying to Convert Image Worshippers, 134; Empress Irene, 135; Empress Theodora, 135; Image Worship in Spain, 136; Pope Hildebrand, 137; St. Thomas Aquinas, 137; The Popes as Temporal Princes, 139; Rienzi, 139; Last Hours of the Roman Empire, 140; Election to Holy Roman Empire, 141.

 

CHAPTER VI.

MARTYRS, HERMITS, ANCHORITES, AND RELICS.

Martyr Valeria, 142; St. Thecla and Polycarp, 143; St. Felicitas, 144; The Martyrs of Lyons, 144; St. Cecilia, 145; Perpetua, 146; St. Ursula, 146; St. Barbara, 147; Potamiana, 147; St. Genes the Actor, 148; Genesius, 148; St. Alban, 149; Didymus and Theodora, 149; St. Cyprian and Justina, 150; St. John Chrysostom, 150; St. James Intercisus, 151; Martyr for Image Worship, 151; Huss the Bohemian, 152; Joan of Arc a Modern Patriotic Martyr, 153; Joan’s Mission, 153; Joan taken Captive and Burnt, 159; Outbreak of Hermit Zeal, 160; First Monastic Life, 160; St. Antony, 161; Hermit Visiting, 161; Hermit and Grapes, 162; Hermit’s Courtesies, 162; Hermits’ Quarrel, 163; Political Economy of Hermits, 163; The Wise Sayings of St. Pambo, 164; A Hermit’s Olive Tree, 164; Macarius, 165; St. Martin of Tours, 165; Dorotheus, the Architect, 166; St. Pœmen, Prince of Hermits, 167; St. Moyses, Water-carrier, 167; Hermit’s New Austerities, 168; St. Carileff, 169; First Saxon Hermit, 169; St. Guthlac, 170; St. Simeon Stylites, 171; A Pillar Monk, 171; St. Herbert of Derwentwater, 171; St. Ethelwald at Farne, 172; English Queen Consulting Hermit, 174; Conscientious Hermit, 174; St. Bartholomew of Farne, 175; French King sends for Hermit, 176; Consecration of Hermits and Recluses, 177; St. Methodius the Martyr, 177; Miracles of Saints, 178; Local and Patron Saints, 179; St. Geneviève, 179; Reverence for Relics, 180; Secrecy in Removing Relics, 181; Capturing Holy Relics, 181; Stealing Relics, 182; Defending his Relics, 183; Forgery of Relics, 183; How to Flatter a Relic Worshipper, 184; Empress Begging for Relics, 185; If Genuine Relics, 185; The Crown of Thorns Pawned and Sold, 186; King of France shows[Pg xii] Holy Cross, 187; Blood of Christ at Westminster, 188; St. Stephen’s Relics, 188; St. Dunstan, 189; John Huss on Relics, 190; Crucifix During the Plague, 190; Purchasing the Head of St. Andrew, 191; Pilgrimage to Walsingham, 191; Pilgrimage in Switzerland, 192; Pilgrims to Canterbury, 192.

 

CHAPTER VII.

THE FATHERS.

Origen, 194; St. Ambrose, 194; St. Jerome, 197; St. Jerome’s Reflections, 198; St. Jerome with Lion and Ass, 198; Deathbed of St. Jerome, 199; St. Jerome’s Epistles, 199; St. Chrysostom’s Eloquence, 200; St. Chrysostom on Monkery, 201; St. Augustine Witnessing Miracles, 202; Vision of St. Augustine, 203; St. Augustine’s Faith in Dreams, 203; St. Cyril of Alexandria, 204; Some Notions of the Fathers, 204.

 

CHAPTER VIII.

THE MONKS AND THEIR WAYS.

Origin of Monachism, 206; Miracles of Monks, 207; Philosophy of Monkery, 207; Motives for Monks, 208; Weak Side of, 208; St. Benedict, 209; The Reformers of Monkery, 209; Early Difficulties, 210; Advice to Monks, 211; A Monk Denounces Ferocity, 211; Making the Monks Work, 212; Improvements, 212; Monk at Court, 213; Monks First Drinking Wine, 214; Charlemagne about Monks, 214; Leaving Court to be Monk, 215; Monk going to Court, 215; The Reason of so many Monasteries, 216; Life in a Convent, 216; A Day’s life in Monastery, 217; Routine of English Monks, 218; Arrangements of an Abbey, 218; Monks and Friars, 219; Friars and Priests, 220; Enmity between Monks, 220; Monks Disliked by Clergy, 220; Monk who Wanted to be an Angel, 221; Death of Abbess at Aries, 221; Cædmon, Monk Poet, 222; Monk Sleeping too long, 223; Abbot lecturing his Monks, 223; The War of the two Abbots, 224; Monks and Gregorian Chant, 225; Those who Pillage Monks, 225; Monks to Live Frugally, 226; Monk’s Burial, 227; Sick Monks, 227; Monks Honour Rich Men, 228; Good Lessons of the Monks, 229; Pope Inviting a Fellow Monk, 229; Order of Friars, 230; Cinderella of the Convent, 230; Nuns at Sempringham, 231; Compunctious Visitings of Monks, 232; Monkery Worked Out, 232; War of the Nuns of Basle, 233; Stealing another Monk’s Food, 234; Monks Deciding on Creeds, 234; Monk Interceding for Prisoners, 235; How Carthusians Acquired a Site, 235; Luther at his Old Convent, 236; Monks and Polite Letters, 236; Literature about Saints, 237; Scriptorium in St. Gall, 237; Beautiful Manuscripts, 238; Penmanship of Monks, 239; Monasteries as Museums, 239; Embroidery of Nuns, 240; Monks at Missal Painting, 241; Music and Illuminating, 241.

 [Pg xiii]

CHAPTER IX.

PROSELYTISING MONKS AND PREACHERS.

Nun Converts the Iberians, 243; Fourth-century Missionary, 243; Sermon by St. Patrick, 244; Monk Warding Off Locusts, 244; First Planting the Cross in England, 245; Pope Gregory and England, 246; Impression on Saxon King, 247; Methodius Preaching, 247; Apostle of Switzerland, 248; St. Eligius, 248; Anschar the Apostle, 249; St. Neot, Cornish Saint, 250; Conversion of Russia, 251; Bishop Otto, 251; Norbert and Clerical Vices, 252; Fulk, 252; St. Dominic’s Zeal, 253; St. Francis of Assisium, 254; St. Francis tending the Lepers, 254; The Stigmata of St. Francis, 255; Biography of St. Francis, 256; St. Antony of Padua, 256; English Friars Disdained Shoes, 257; Raimund Lull, 258; St. Ignatius of Loyola, 259; St. Vincent de Paul, 260; Mediæval Missionaries, 261; Friar Startling Judges, 261; The Schoolmen, 262; Friars on Useless Ornaments, 262; Friar on Fashionable Vices, 263; Denouncing Female Headdresses, 263; Savonarola, 264.

 

CHAPTER X.

FAMOUS MONKS AND MONASTERIES.

A Monk with a Genius for Monkery, 266; St. Ninian, the Scottish Saint, 267; St. Mungo, 267; Monk Absenting Himself from Prayers, 268; Death of St. Benedict, 269; St. Columba of Iona, 269; Death of St. Columba, 270; The Monk Columban, 271; St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, 272; St. Chad, 273; St. Hilda, Abbess, 274; The Abbey and Monks of St. Gall, 274; The Venerable Bede, Monk and Historian, 275; St. Cuthbert Admitted Monk, 275; The Body of St. Cuthbert, 277; Deathbed of Venerable Bede, 278; A Warrior Duke becomes Monk, 280; The Swiss Abbey of Einsiedeln, 281; St. Meinrad, a Monk of the Alps, 282; Croyland Abbey Burnt, 283; Nuns of Coldingham, 283; Monks of Cluny, 281; St. Dunstan, Archbishop, 285; Monks of St. Bernard, 285; Chancellor becomes Monk, 286; Deathbed of Abbot Turketel, 286; Monk Nilus, 287; Monastery of Bec, 289; Fire at Crowland Abbey, 290; Monks of Vallombrosa, 291; A Monk Transcriber of Holy Books, 292; A Monk Musician, 293; Training of Monk Bishop, 293; Monk Abelard and Nun Heloïse, 294; Abelard and St. Bernard, 295; Abelard’s Last Days, 295; Order of Carthusians, 296; Order of Cistercians, 297; St. Bernard as a Young Monk, 297; St. Bernard as Abbot, 298; St. Bernard’s Miracles, 298; Bernard and his Sister, 299; Bernard and Peter the Venerable, 300; Schoolmen of Middle Ages, 301; Deathbed of Abbot, 302; Visions of Sister Hildegard, 302; Travelling to Rome, 303; Portrait of Abbot Sampson of St. Edmundsbury, 304; Monks Rebuilding their Altar, 305; Abbot Harassed with Cares, 306; Annoyed at Visit of the Legate, 307; Deathbed of Princess, 308; Stealing St. Antony’s Psalm Book, 308; Monk for a King, 309; Elizabeth of Hungary, 310; Panic among Saracens, 310; Fancies of the Starved Monk, 311; Monasteries of Mount Athos, 312; Monks of La Trappe, 312; Certosa Monastery, 313; [Pg xiv]Catherine of Siena, 314; Monks of Lucca, 314; Thomas à Kempis, 315; Peter of Alcantara, 316; Visions of St. Theresa, 317; The Emperor Monk, 318; Emperor Monk’s Dress, 319; His Apartments, 319; Detestation of Heretics, 320; Interest in Clock-making, 321; His Confessor, 321; His Choir, 322; At Dinner-time, 323; He Celebrates his own Funeral, 323; Funeral Sermon on Emperor Monk, 324.

 

CHAPTER XI.

SOME BISHOPS, KINGS, POPES, AND INQUISITORS.

Unity of the Clergy, 326; Supremacy of Pope, 326; Election of Popes, 328; Dress of Cardinals, 328; The Degraded Bishop, 329; Emperor and the First Abdication, 330; Bishop Building Workhouse, 330; Bishops Striving for a Site, 331; How Bishops were Made, 331; Fifth-century Bishop, 332; Putting Down Soothsayers, 338; Bishop Releasing Prisoners, 334; The King of the Gauls, 334; Pope Getting Rid of Pestilence, 335; Choosing Archbishop, 335; Pope Gregory and the Emperor, 336; John the Almsgiver, 337; Giving a Bishop a Horse, 338; A Christian’s Scruples, 339; A Model Churchman, 339; Why Pope’s Foot Kissed, 340; Agobard of Lyons, 340; St. Swithin, 341; King Alfred, 341; King Alfred’s Love of Reading, 342; Bishop at Head of Troops, 343; Two Scapegrace Popes, 344; The Ugliest Archbishop, 345; Bishop and Emperor’s Jokes, 345; King Canute, 346; Peasant Rebuking Bishop, 347; St. Margaret of Scotland, 348; Death of William the Conqueror, 348; English King Marrying Nun, 350; Awaking Bishop for Mass, 351; Anselm, Archbishop, 351; Saracen King by Divine Right, 352; Archbishop Turstin, 353; King John and the Bishop, 354; St. Thomas à Becket, 355; Monk Describes Papal Interdict, 356; Pope Punishing Kings, 357; Candid Friend to Pope, 358; Excommunication of Emperor, 359; Emperor Retaliating on Pope, 360; Pope’s Clerks Extorting Money, 360; Aerial Music at Bishop’s Death, 362; Fool Posing Theologians, 362; Hermit for Pope, 363; Philip the Fair and the Pope, 364; Pope of Fourteenth Century, 365; Wicliff, the Reformer, 365; The Popes at Avignon, 366; The Rival Popes, 367; Three Popes at one Time, 368; Pope John XXIII., 370; Owl Attending a Council, 370; Sale of Indulgences, 371; Bishop Inviting his Old Master, 372; Sultan who Abdicated, 372; Pope Nicholas V., 373; Fop Elected Pope, 374; Pope Leo X., 375; Turning Pagan into Christian Monuments, 376; The Inquisition, 377; Spanish Inquisition at Work, 379; Torquemada, 379; An Auto-da-Fè in Spain, 380; Assassination of Inquisitor, 380; Cardinal Ximenes, 381; Irrepressible Heretics, 382; Waldenses, 382; Lawyer for Pope, 383.

 

CHAPTER XII.

SACRED LEGENDS.

Lives of Saints, 385; Christian Legends, 385; How Legends Grow, 386; Thundering Legion, 387; The Theban Legion, 387; The Divining Rod, 387; St. George and the Dragon, 388; St. Christina, 389; St. [Pg xv]Christopher, 389; Hallelujah Victory, 391; Prophecies of Merlin, 391; Devil Showing a Book, 392; Wandering Jew, 392; St. Sabas, 393; Theophilus and the Devil, 393; Holy Grail, 394; Seven Sleepers, 394; Little Blind Herve, 395; Supper of St. Gregory, 395; St. Gregory Releasing Trajan, 395; St. Bega, 397; St. Fructuosus and the Doe, 397; Pope Joan, 398; Bishop Hatto, 398; St. Conrad, 399; The Piper of Hameln, 399; Lady Godiva, 399; Sacred Fire in Greek Church, 400; Superstitions of the Greek Church, 401; Prester John, 401; Loretto, 401; King Richard I.’s Story, 402; St. Francis and his Love of Birds, 403; Bonaventura, on St. Francis, 405; St. Antony Preaching to the Fishes, 406; St. Roch, 407.

 

CHAPTER XIII.

THE CRUSADERS AND PILGRIMS.

Monk Historian on the Crusades, 408; Crusades Beneficial, 408; Practice of Pilgrimages, 409; Early Travels in Palestine, 410; Ways of Pilgrims, 410; Peter the Hermit, 411; Pope Urban II., 413; Hunger for Earth of Palestine, 413; Getting Rid of Spies, 414; Discovering the Holy Lance, 415; Testing a Doubtful Point, 417; First Sight of Jerusalem, 417; Assaulting Jerusalem, 418; Capturing Jerusalem, 419; First Visit to the Holy Places, 419; A Second Crusade, 420; French Queen as Crusader, 421; St. Bernard on his Crusade, 422; Bringing Relics, 422; Another Crusade, 423; Emperor’s Crusadership, 423; Fulk of Neuilly, 424; Death of Richard I., 424; French Pillaging Constantinople, 425; Crusaders against Heretics, 425; The Albigenses, 427; Children’s Crusade, 428; Preaching of Crusade, 428; Escaping the Crusader, 429; Master of Hungary, 430; Deathbed of St. Louis, 430; Crusaders on their Way Home, 431; Bequeathing a Heart as Crusader, 432; Knights Templars, 433; Faith in Providence, 434; Columbus Crusader, 435; Numbers of Crusaders, 436; Greek Church, 437.

 

CHAPTER XIV.

SOME GREAT CHURCHES AND CATHEDRALS.

Early Church Architecture, 438; Coptic Church, 439; Spires, Towers, and Dimensions of Cathedrals, 440; Gothic Cathedrals, 440; Altar, 441; Incense and Holy Water, 442; St. Peter’s at Rome, 442; The Sistine Chapel, 443; Genoa and Turin, 444; Milan, 445; Florence and Pisa, 446; Naples, 447; Santiago Compostella, 448; Leon, 449; Seville and Toledo, 450; Cordova and Amalfi, 451; Valencia and Oviedo, 452; Paris, Marseilles, and Strasburg, 453; Amiens, 454; Rheims and Aix-la-Chapelle, 455; Treves and Antwerp, 456; Cologne and St. Petersburg, 457; Vienna and Constantinople, 458; Mosque of Omar and Jerusalem, 459; Bethlehem, 460; British Churches and St. Paul’s, 461; Canterbury and York, 463; Durham, 465; Winchester and Oxford, 466; Peterborough, 467; Salisbury and Wells, 468; Other English Cathedrals, 469; Welsh Cathedrals, 471.

 [Pg xvi]

CHAPTER XV.

THE SACRED PAINTERS AND COMPOSERS.

Pictures in Churches, 472; Monk Painter, 472; Pictures in Monasteries, 473; Sacro Monte, 473; Images in Spain, 474; Cimabue, 475; Bishop’s Ape Takes to Painting, 475; Painter’s Critics, 477; Nuns Criticising Artist, 477; Brother Artists Rivals, 478; Painter Affronting Angel, 479; Angelico, 479; Bronzes for the Gates of Paradise, 480; Old Painters’ Perspective, 481; Monks Overfeeding Artist, 481; A Clumsy Crucifix, 482; Killed by a Sight of Gold, 482; Artist Deceiving Birds and Beasts, 483; Finding a Model, 483; A Divine Artist, 484; Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, 485; Raphael’s Pictures, 487; A Last Masterpiece, 489; The Inquisition on Sacred Art, 490; Painting Face of Christ, 491; Assisting Artist with Prayers, 492; Michael Angelo, 492; Vargas’s Devotion to Sacred Art, 496; Titian’s Head of Christ, 496; Diffident Artist, 496; Rubens’s Great Pictures, 497; Monks Getting a Bargain of Picture, 498; Velasquez’s Crucifixion, 498; How Monks Got Pictures, 499; The Divine Murillo, 499; Cano’s Picture of the Virgin, 500; A Painter Incautiously Watching Effects, 501; Origin of Church Bells, 501; Sanctity of Bells, 502; Chimes on Church Bells, 502; The Swiss Horns, 402; Early Church Music, 503; Singing in Church, 503; Origin of Singing in Church Service, 504; The Organ in Church Music, 504; Augustine Converting the Britons with Music, 506; The Earliest Hymns, 506; Monk Musicians, 506; Nicholas Peregrinus, 507; Heresy Propagated by Music, 507; The Pope Reforming Church Music, 508; Singing the Miserere, 508; Luther’s Church Music, 509; Originator of Oratorios, 509; The Heaven-born Composer of Anthems, 510; First Impressions of Handel, 511.

 

 


[Pg 1]

FLOWERS OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY.

 

CHAPTER I.

THE VIRGIN MARY, HOLY FAMILY, CHRIST, AND THE CRUCIFIXION.

 

HEATHEN KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE VIRGIN MARY.

According to an ancient legend, the Emperor Augustus Cæsar repaired to the sibyl Tiburtina to inquire whether he should consent to allow himself to be worshipped with Divine honours, which the Senate had decreed to him. The sibyl, after some days of meditation, took the Emperor apart, and showed him an altar; and above the altar, in the opening heavens, and in a glory of light, he beheld a beautiful Virgin, holding an Infant in her arms; and at the same time a voice was heard saying, “This is the altar of the Son of the Living God.” Whereupon Augustus caused an altar to be erected on the Capitoline Hill, with this inscription—“Ara primogeniti Dei”; and on the same spot in later times was built the church called the Ara-Cœli, well known, with its flight of one hundred and twenty-four marble steps, to all who have visited Rome.

This particular prophecy of the Tibertine sibyl to Augustus rests on some very antique traditions, Pagan as well as Christian. It is supposed to have suggested the “Pollio” of Virgil, which suggested the “Messiah” of Pope. It is mentioned by writers of the third and fourth centuries, and our own divines have not wholly rejected it; for Bishop Taylor mentions the sibyl’s prophecy among “the great and glorious accidents” happening about the birth of Jesus.

 [Pg 2]

LEGEND ABOUT SIMEON’S GREAT AGE.

It is related that when Ptolemy Philadelphus, about two hundred and sixty years before Christ, resolved to have the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek, for the purpose of placing them in his far-famed library, he despatched messengers to Eleazar, the high priest of the Jews, requiring him to send scribes and interpreters learned in the Jewish law to his court at Alexandria.

Thereupon Eleazar selected six of the most learned rabbis from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, seventy-two persons in all, and sent them to Egypt, in obedience to the commands of King Ptolemy; and among these was Simeon, a priest and a man full of learning. And it fell to the lot of Simeon to translate the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. And when he came to that verse where it is written, “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,” he began to misdoubt in his own mind how this could be possible; and after long meditation, fearing to give scandal and offence to the Greeks, he rendered the Hebrew word Virgin by a Greek word which signifies merely a young woman. But when he had written it down, behold, an angel effaced it, and substituted the right word. Thereupon he wrote it again and again; and the same thing happened three times; and he remained astonished and confounded. And while he wondered what this could mean, a ray of Divine light penetrated his soul. It was revealed to him that the miracle which in his human wisdom he had presumed to doubt was not only possible, but that he, Simeon, “should not see death till he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Therefore he tarried on earth by the Divine will for nearly three centuries, till that which he had disbelieved had come to pass. He was led by the Spirit to the Temple on the very day when Mary came there to present her Son and to make her offering; and immediately taking the Child in his arms, he exclaimed, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word.”

 

PORTRAITS OF THE VIRGIN MARY.

Nicephorus Callixtus says that the person of the Virgin Mary was described by Epiphanius, who lived in the fourth century, and who derived the particulars from his predecessors. He said: “She was of middle stature; her face oval; her eyes brilliant and of an olive tint; her eyebrows arched and black; her hair was of a pale brown; her complexion fair as wheat. She spoke little, but she spoke freely and affably; she was not troubled in[Pg 3] her speech, but grave, courteous, tranquil. Her dress was without ornament, and in her deportment was nothing lax or feeble.”

Mrs. Jameson says that Raphael’s “Madonna di San Sista,” in the Dresden Gallery, comes nearest to her notion of the Virgin.

 

AN EXACT PORTRAIT OF THE VIRGIN MARY.

In the College of Jesuits at Valencia a picture of the Virgin by Juanes is looked upon with immense admiration. The tradition runs that Father Alberto was on the eve of the Assumption waited on by the Blessed Virgin herself, who required him to cause her portrait to be taken in the dress she then wore, which was a white frock or tunic, with a blue cloak; and Christ was to be represented also in the design as placing a crown on her head, while the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove hovered over the group. Alberto therefore gave the commission to Juanes, who, appreciating the honour, devoutly set himself to work, and put forth all his skill on the composition. The first sketch did not please Alberto; but the Father assisted the artist so effectually with his prayers, that at last the artist’s pencil seemed to succeed at every stroke; and in the end the Father, taking credit himself for much of the work, was highly pleased with the happy result. During the work Juanes was one day seated on his scaffold finishing the upper parts of the picture, when the structure gave way, and he was in the act of falling, when the Holy Virgin stepped suddenly out of the canvas, and, seizing his hand, preserved him from instant death. This being done, the Blessed Virgin returned to her canvas, and has continued there ever since, all the supplicants and worshippers who look on it devoutly believing in this being an exact counterpart of the original. This great artist died in 1579; and Valencia contains many of his masterpieces, for he ranks high in the school of Raphael.

 

THE MARRIAGE OF JOSEPH AND THE VIRGIN MARY.

The legend of the marriage of the Virgin Mary is thus given in the “Protevangelion” and the “History of Joseph the Carpenter”: “When Mary was fourteen years old, the priest Zacharias inquired of the Lord concerning her what was right to be done; and an angel came to him and said, ‘Go forth and call together all the widowers among the people, and let each bring his rod (or wand) in his hand; and he to whom the Lord shall show a sign, let him be the husband of Mary.’ And Zacharias did as the angel commanded, and made proclamation accordingly.[Pg 4] And Joseph the carpenter, a righteous man, throwing down his axe and taking his staff in his hand, ran out with the rest. When he appeared before the priest and presented his rod, lo! a dove issued out of it—a dove dazzling white as the snow—and after settling on his head, flew towards heaven. Then the high priest said to him, ‘Thou art the person chosen to take the Virgin of the Lord and to keep her for Him.’ And Joseph was at first afraid, and drew back; but afterwards he took her home to his house, and said to her, ‘Behold, I have taken thee from the temple of the Lord, and now I will leave thee in my house, for I must go and follow my trade of building. I will return to thee, and meanwhile the Lord be with thee and watch over thee.’ So Joseph left her, and Mary remained in her house.”

 

THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS.

Milman says that the murder of the innocents by Herod’s orders is a curious instance of the reaction of legendary extravagance on the plain truth of the evangelic history. The Greek Church canonised the fourteen thousand innocents; and another notion, founded on a misinterpretation of Rev. xiv. 3, swelled the number to one hundred and forty-four thousand. The former, at least, was the common belief of the Church, though even in the English Liturgy the latter has in some degree been sanctioned by retaining the chapter of Revelation in the “epistle for the day.” Even Jeremy Taylor admits without scruple or thought the fourteen thousand. The error did not escape the notice of the acute adversaries of Christianity. Vossius was the first divine who pointed out the monstrous absurdity of supposing such a number of infant children under two years in so small a village.

 

THE ANGEL GUIDING THE VIRGIN TO EGYPT.

The journey of the Holy Family to Egypt, being about four hundred miles, must have occupied five or six weeks. It is related in the legend as follows: “We are told that, on descending from the mountains, they came upon a beautiful plain, enamelled with flowers, watered by murmuring streams, and shaded by fruit trees. In such a lovely landscape have painters delighted to place some of the scenes of the flight into Egypt. On another occasion, they entered a thick forest, a wilderness of trees, in which they must have lost their way had they not been guided by an angel. As the Holy Family entered this forest, all the trees bowed [Pg 5]themselves down in reverence to the Infant God; only the aspen, in her exceeding pride and arrogance, refused to acknowledge Him, and stood upright. Then the Infant Saviour pronounced a curse against her, as He afterwards cursed the barren fig tree; and at the sound of His words the aspen began to tremble through all her leaves, and has not ceased to tremble even to this day.”

 

HEROD HEARING OF THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT.

Another legend about the journey of the Holy Family to Egypt is this: “When it was discovered that the Holy Family had fled from Bethlehem, Herod sent his officers in pursuit of them. And it happened that when the Holy Family had travelled some distance, they came to a field where a man was sowing wheat. And the Virgin said to the husbandman, ‘If any shall ask you whether we have passed this way, ye shall answer, “Such persons passed this way when I was sowing this corn.”’ For the Holy Virgin was too wise and too good to save her Son by instructing the man to tell a falsehood. But, behold, a miracle! For, by the power of the Infant Saviour, in the space of a single night the seed sprang up into stalk, blade, and ear, fit for the sickle. And next morning the officers of Herod came up, and inquired of the husbandman, saying, ‘Have you seen an old man with a woman and a Child travelling this way?’ And the man who was reaping the wheat replied, ‘Yes.’ And they asked him again, ‘How long is it since?’ And he answered, ‘When I was sowing this wheat.’ Then the officers of Herod turned back and left off pursuing the Holy Family.”

 

THE PALM TREE AND THE HOLY FAMILY.

One of the most popular legends concerning the flight into Egypt is that of the palm or date tree which at the command of Jesus bowed down its branches to shade and refresh His mother; hence, in the scene of the flight, a palm tree became a usual accessory. In a picture by Antonello Mellone, the Child stretches out His little hand and lays hold of the branch; sometimes the branch is bent down by angel hands.

Sozomen, the historian, relates that, when the Holy Family reached the term of their journey and approached the city of Heliopolis, in Egypt, a tree which grew before the gates of the city, and was regarded with great veneration as the seat of a god, bowed down its branches at the approach of the Infant Christ. Likewise it is related (not in legends merely, but by grave[Pg 6] ecclesiastical authorities) that all the idols of the Egyptians fell with their faces to the earth.

 

THE HOLY FAMILY AND THE WILD BEASTS OF THE DESERT.

The “Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew” contains the following (chapter xix.): “In like manner lions and leopards adored the Child Jesus, and kept company with the Holy Family in the desert. Whithersoever Joseph and Blessed Mary went, they went before them, showing the way and bowing their heads; and showing subjection by wagging their tails, they adored Him with great reverence. Now, when Mary saw lions and leopards and various kinds of wild beasts coming round them, she was at first exceedingly afraid; and Jesus, with a glad countenance, looking into her face, said, ‘Fear not, mother, because they come not to thy hurt, but they hasten to come to thy service and Mine.’ By these sayings He removed fear from her heart. Now, the lions walked along with them, and with the oxen and asses and the beasts of burden which carried necessaries for them, and hurt no one, although they remained with them; but they were tame among the sheep and rams, which they had brought with them from Judæa, and had with them. They walked among wolves, and feared nothing, and no one was hurt by another. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, ‘Wolves shall feed with lambs; lion and ox shall eat chaff together’ (Isa. xi. 6-9; lxv. 25). There were two oxen also with them, and a cart, wherein they carried necessaries; and the lions directed them in their way.”

 

THE HOLY FAMILY LEAVING EGYPT.

Jeremy Taylor says, as to the pagan idols, as follows: “The Holy Family, on their departure for Egypt, made, it is said, their first abode in Hermopolis, in the country of Thebais; whither, when they first arrived, the Child Jesus, being by design or providence carried into a temple, all the statues of the idol-gods fell down, like Dagon at the presence of the ark, and suffered their timely and just dissolution and dishonour, according to the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘Behold, the Lord shall come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at His presence.’ And in the life of the prophet Jeremy, written by Epiphanius, it is reported that ‘he told the Egyptian priests that then their idols should be broken in pieces when a Holy Virgin with her Child should enter into their country.’ Which prophecy possibly might be the cause that the Egyptians did, besides their vanities, worship also an infant in[Pg 7] a manger and a virgin. From Hermopolis to Maturia went these pilgrims in pursuance of their safety and provisions, where it is reported they dwelt in a garden of balsam till Joseph ascertained by an angel the death of Herod.”

 

THE BOY CHRIST ON LEAVING EGYPT.

St. Bonaventure, a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, who died 1274, wrote a Life of Christ, which is or was much read by all good Catholics, and which contains the following: “The next morning, when the Holy Family are ready to set out on their journey from Egypt, imagine you see some of the most respectable matrons of the city and the wiser part of the men come to accompany them out of the gates. When they were out of the gates, the Holy Joseph dismissed the company, not suffering them to go on any farther, when one of the wealthiest of them called the Child Jesus, and in compassion to the poverty of His parents bestowed a few pence upon Him; and the rest of the company, after the example of the first, did the same. Compassionate here the confusion of the Divine Child, who, blushing, holds His little hands out to receive what the love of poverty has reduced Him to want. Pity likewise His holy parents, who share with Him His confusion; and think on the great lesson here set you when you see Him who made the earth and all that is in it make choice of so rigorous a poverty and so penurious a life for His blessed parents and Himself. What lustre does not the virtue of poverty receive from their practice! And how can we behold it in them without being charmed to the love and imitation of the like perfection! After returning thanks to their company and taking their leave, they proceeded on their journey.”

 

THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY.

It was usually believed that the Virgin Mary lived to a great age, and her death is unknown. It was a tradition that she was assumed to glory without dying. The practice of praying to her has been traced as far back as the second century. In the fourth century a sect called the adversaries of Mary rose up and affirmed that she had, after the birth of Christ, several children by Joseph. On the other hand, a sect honoured her as a divinity and offered cates to her.

 

THE DEATH OF THE VIRGIN MARY.

The legend of the death and assumption of the Virgin Mary[Pg 8] was to this effect. One day an angel appeared to the Virgin, bringing her a branch of palm gathered in Paradise, and saying that it was to be carried before her bier, for in three days her soul should leave her body. The Virgin then asked that the Apostles might be reunited before she died, so as to witness her death, and she asked that no evil angel should harass her soul. The angel agreed, and returned to heaven; and Mary lighted the lamps, and prepared her bed, and waited for the hour. At that instant, John, who was preaching at Ephesus, Peter, at Antioch, and all the other Apostles dispersed throughout the world, were suddenly caught up as by a miraculous power and came into her chamber. The palm branch was put in John’s hand, and he wept bitterly. At the third hour of the night a mighty sound filled the house, and a delicious perfume filled the chamber. And Jesus appeared Himself, accompanied by an innumerable company of angels, patriarchs, and prophets, all surrounding the bed of the Virgin and singing hymns of joy. Jesus presented a crown to His mother; and as the angels sang and rejoiced, her soul left her body, and was received into the arms of her Son, and they ascended into heaven. The Apostles looked up, beseeching her to remember them when she came to glory. The body of the Virgin remained on earth; and when three of the virgins washed and clothed it in a shroud, such a glory of light surrounded it that though they touched they could not see it, and no human eye beheld those sacred limbs unclothed. The Apostles took up the body reverently, and placed it on a bier. John carried the celestial palm before the procession, and Peter sang the 114th Psalm, in which the angels joined. Her soul then rejoined the body, and she ascended to heaven as the angels were blowing their silver trumpets, singing as they touched their golden lutes, and rejoicing as she rose. One disciple, Thomas, was absent; and when he arrived soon after, he would not believe in the resurrection of the Virgin, as he would not formerly believe in that of Christ. He desired that the Virgin’s tomb should be opened before him; and when it was opened, it was found to be full of lilies and roses. Then Thomas, looking up to heaven, beheld the Virgin bodily in a glory of light, slowly mounting towards heaven. And she, for the assurance of his faith, flung down to him her girdle, the same which is to this day preserved in the cathedral at Prato. And there were present at the death of the Virgin Mary, besides the twelve Apostles, Dionysius the Areopagite, Timotheus, and Hierotheus; and of the women, Mary Salome, Mary Cleophas, and a faithful handmaid whose name was Savia. When Thomas[Pg 9] went as an apostle to the East, he entrusted the precious girdle to one of his disciples. After the lapse of a thousand years, one Michael, a crusader, fell in love with the daughter of a Greek priest, who had the custody of the girdle, and she got it as a dowry, and brought it with Michael, whom she married. It was thus that it came to be deposited in the cathedral at Prato, where it still remains.

 

CHRIST LEARNING THE LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET.

There is a legend in the “Gospel of the Infancy” to this effect. When the Holy Family had returned from Egypt, our Lord being then about seven or eight years old, Mary was exhorted to send her Son to school. And although she knew perfectly that He required no human teaching, she complied. She brought Him to a certain schoolmaster whose name was Zaccheus, and the schoolmaster wrote out the alphabet for Him, and began with the first Hebrew letter, saying, “Aleph.” And Jesus pronounced after him “Aleph.” Then the master went on to the second letter, saying, “Beth”; but Jesus said, “Tell me first what means this letter ‘Aleph,’ and then afterwards I will say ‘Beth.’” But the schoolmaster could not tell Him. And Jesus began to teach him and to explain the meaning and the use of all the letters—how they were distinguished, why some were crooked and some were straight—until Zaccheus the schoolmaster stood in astonishment, and exclaimed, “Was this Child born before Noah? for, behold, He is wiser than the wisest man, and needs no teaching.”

 

HOW JESUS RAISED A BOY TO LIFE.

The “Apocryphal Gospel of Thomas” has the following (chapter vii.): “One day, when Jesus went up on a certain housetop with some children, He began to play with them. But one of the boys fell through the back door, and immediately died. And when the children saw it, they all fled; but Jesus remained on the housetop. And when the parents of the boy that was dead had come, they said to Jesus, ‘Truly thou didst make him fall.’ And they laid wait for Him. But Jesus, going down from the housetop, stood over the dead child, and called with a loud voice the name of the child: ‘Sinoo, Sinoo! arise, and say if I made thee fall.’ And suddenly he arose and said, ‘No, Lord.’ Now, when his parents saw so great a miracle which Jesus did, they glorified God and adored Jesus.”

 [Pg 10]

JOSEPH AND JESUS AS CARPENTERS.

The “Arabic Gospel of the Infancy” has the following (chapter xxxix.): “On a certain day the King of Jerusalem sent for him and said, ‘Joseph, I wish thee to make me a throne of the measure of the place where I have been used to sit.’ Joseph obeyed, and immediately after he put his hand to the work; he remained two years in the palace, until he had finished making the throne. But when he had it removed into its place, he perceived that on each side it was two spans shorter than the proper measure. On seeing this the king was angry with Joseph; and Joseph being greatly afraid of the king, passed the night supperless, and tasted nothing whatever. Then he was asked by the Lord Jesus why he was afraid. ‘Because,’ said Joseph, ‘I have lost all that I have done for two years.’ The Lord Jesus said to him, ‘Fear not, nor lose heart; but take thou one side of the throne, and I will take the other to set it right.’ And when Joseph had done as the Lord Jesus had said, and each had pulled on his own side, the throne was made right, and brought to the exact measure of the place. When this prodigy was seen, they who were present were amazed, and praised God. Now, the wood of the throne was of that kind which was celebrated in the time of Solomon the Son of David—that is, variegated and diversified.”

 

CHRIST’S PRAYER AT HIS BAPTISM.

The following is said by Jeremy Taylor to be a current version of this prayer: “O Father, according to the good pleasure of Thy will, I am made a man; and from the time in which I was born of a Virgin unto this day I have finished those things which are agreeable to the nature of man, and with due observance have performed all Thy commandments, the mysteries and types of the law; and now truly I am baptised; and so have I ordained baptism, that from thence, as from the place of spiritual birth, the regeneration of men may be accomplished. And as John was the last of the legal priests, so am I the first of the evangelical. Thou therefore, O Father, by the meditation of My prayer, open the heavens, and from thence send Thy Holy Spirit upon this womb of baptism; that as He did untie the womb of the Virgin and thence form Me, so also He would loose this baptismal womb, and so sanctify it unto men, that from thence new men may be begotten, who may become Thy sons, and My brethren, and heirs of Thy kingdom. And what the priests under the law, until[Pg 11] John, could not do, grant unto the priests of the New Testament (whose chief I am in the oblation of this prayer), that whensoever they shall celebrate baptism, or pour forth prayers unto Thee, as the Holy Spirit is seen with Me in open vision, so also it may be made manifest, that the same Spirit will adjoin Himself to their society in a more secret way, and I will by them perform the ministries of the New Testament, for which I am made a man; and as the high priest I do offer these prayers in Thy sight.”

This prayer was transcribed out of the “Syriac Catena” upon the third chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, and is by the author of that Catena reported to have been made by our Blessed Saviour immediately before the opening of the heavens at His baptism, and that the Holy Spirit did descend upon Him while He was thus praying; and for it he cites the authority of St. Philoxenus.

 

PORTRAITS OF CHRIST.

It is singular that there are no authentic portraits of Christ in existence. The evangelists do not think it necessary to make any statements as to Christ’s personal appearance. Origen, born 186, seems the earliest writer who notices that subject, and he says the Saviour had no external beauty. But the Fathers and the artists have all insisted that His countenance must have corresponded to His character. A letter supposed to have been written by Lentulus, a friend of Pilate, to the Roman Senate, professes to describe the personal appearance, but some doubt its authenticity. It was preserved, and first came to light among the writings of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, who lived in the eleventh century. Another description is contained in the writings of St. John of Damascus, who flourished in the eighth century, and he professes to have known from earlier writers that Jesus had “eyebrows that joined together, beautiful eyes, curly hair, black beard, a yellow complexion, and long fingers like His mother.” Others say that St. Luke was a painter, and Nicodemus was a sculptor, and thus that some portraits must have existed. It is also said that Pilate took secretly a portrait of Christ. There is also a legend that King Agbarus wrote a letter to Christ, asking for a visit to cure him of leprosy, and at all events for a portrait; and that Christ answered that He could not visit him, having other work to do, but He would send a disciple who would cure him. And St. Thomas did so. Others add that Christ sent His portrait on a handkerchief to Agbarus. Again, there is a legend about Veronica and her handkerchief, which had a portrait miraculously impressed, and which she preserved.

 [Pg 12]

EARLY DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST’S PERSONAL APPEARANCE.

The letter purporting to be written by Publius Lentulus, a friend of Pilate, to the Roman Senate, and preserved in St. Anselm’s writings, if not genuine, is supposed to have been fabricated as early as the third century, and is as follows: “In this time appeared a man who lives till now—a man endowed with great powers. Men call Him a great prophet. His own disciples term Him the Son of God. His name is Jesus Christ. He restores the dead to life, and cures the sick of all manner of diseases. This man is of noble and well-proportioned stature, with a face full of kindness and yet firmness, so that the beholders both love Him and fear Him. His hair is the colour of wine, and golden at the root—straight and without lustre—but from the level of the ears curling and glossy, and divided down the centre, after the fashion of the Nazarites. His forehead is even and smooth; His face without blemish, and enhanced by a comely red; His countenance ingenuous and kind; nose and mouth in no way faulty. His beard is thick, of the same colour as his hair, and forked in form. His eyes are blue and extremely brilliant. In reproof and rebuke He is formidable; in exhortation and teaching, gentle and amiable of tongue. None have seen him to laugh; but many, on the contrary, to weep. His person is tall; His hands beautiful and straight. In speaking he is deliberate and grave, and little given to loquacity. In beauty surpassing most men.”

 

KING AGBARUS WRITING A LETTER TO CHRIST.

Eusebius, who died about 338, mentions the legend about King Agbarus, who sent to Christ by the hand of Ananias, his footman, a letter inviting Him to Edessa, saying that he had heard of the cures performed by Christ, and that he earnestly desired to be cured of a disease. Our Lord replied that He could not come, for His mission to the Jews must be fulfilled; but after His Ascension He would send one of His disciples, who would cure him and all that were with him. Nothing further is known, except that St. John of Damascus, writing in the eighth century, alluding to the story, says that Agbarus also requested Christ’s picture as a means of cure. Others say Agbarus sent a painter to take the likeness, but he found an insurmountable difficulty in the light which beamed from the Lord’s countenance. Christ, knowing the thoughts of the messenger, took His robe, and, pressing it to His countenance, a perfect portrait was left upon it; and this[Pg 13] was sent to King Agbarus, who was cured thereby. Others add that Ananias, in conveying the portrait, had occasion to stop at Hierapolis, and, fearing to lose it, hid it among some bricks; but a supernatural light surrounded the place, and the image was also copied on a brick lying near the cloth, and this brick was also preserved. The original cloth afterwards found its way to Constantinople, another to Rome, and another to Genoa. The replica of the cloth is shown in St. Sylvester’s, in Rome.

 

CHRIST’S NOVEL STYLE OF PREACHING.

Dr. Jortin thus happily describes the novel, striking, and permanent beauty of Christ’s style of preaching: “In the spring our Saviour went into the fields and sat down on a mountain, and made that discourse which is recorded in St. Matthew, and which is full of observations arising from the things which offered themselves to His sight. For when He exhorted His disciples to trust in God, He bade them behold the fowls of the air, which were then flying about them, and were fed by Divine Providence, though they did not sow nor reap nor gather into barns. He bade them take notice of the lilies of the field, which were then blown, and were so beautifully clothed by the same power, and yet toiled not, like the husbandmen who were then at work. Being in a place where they had a wide prospect of cultivated land, He bade them observe how God caused the sun to shine and the rain to descend upon the fields and gardens, even of the wicked and ungrateful. And He continued to convey His doctrine to them under rural images, speaking of good trees and corrupt trees—of wolves in sheep’s clothing—of grapes not growing upon thorns, nor figs on thistles—of the folly of casting precious things to dogs and swine—of good measure pressed down, and shaken together and running over. Speaking at the same time to the people, many of whom were fishermen and lived upon fish, He says, ‘What man of you will give his son a serpent, if he ask a fish?’ Therefore, when He said in the same discourse to His disciples, ‘Ye are the light of the world: a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid,’ it is probable that He pointed to a city within their view, situated upon the brow of a hill. And when He called them the salt of the earth, He alluded perhaps to the husbandmen who were manuring the ground; and when He compared every person who observed His precepts to a man who built a house upon a rock, which stood firm; and every one who slighted His word to a man who built a house upon the[Pg 14] sand, which was thrown down by the winds and floods,—when He used this comparison, it is not improbable that He had before His eyes houses standing upon high ground, and houses standing in the valley in a ruinous condition, which had been destroyed by inundations.”

 

THE SENTENCE ON CHRIST.

St. Basil affirms that the high priest caused the Holy Jesus to be led with a cord about His neck; and in memory of that the priests for many ages wore a stole about theirs. But the Jews did it, according to the custom of the nation, to signify He was condemned to death.

Jeremy Taylor says that it cannot be thought but the ministers of Jewish malice used all the circumstances of affliction which in any case were accustomed towards malefactors and persons to be crucified; and therefore it was in some old figures we see our Blessed Lord described with a table appendent to the fringe of His garment, set full of nails and pointed iron, for so sometimes they afflicted persons condemned to that kind of death. And St. Cyprian affirms that Christ did stick to the wood that He carried, being galled with the iron at His heels and nailed even before His execution.

 

CHRIST APPEARING TO JAMES.

Jeremy Taylor says that after the resurrection Christ appeared also unto James, but at what time is uncertain, save that there is something concerning it in the Gospel of St. Matthew which the Nazarenes of Berea used, and which it is likely themselves added out of report; for there is nothing of it in our Greek copies. The words are these: “When the Lord had given the linen in which He was wrapped to the servant of the high priest, He went and appeared unto James. For James had vowed, after he received the Lord’s Supper, that he would eat no bread till he saw the Lord risen from the grave. Then the Lord called for bread; He blessed it and brake it, and gave it to James the Just, and said, ‘My brother, eat bread, for the Son of man is risen from the sleep of death.’”

By this it would seem to be done upon the day of resurrection; but the relation of it by St. Paul puts it between the appearance which He made to the five hundred and that last to the Apostles, when He was to ascend into heaven.

 [Pg 15]

THE VARIOUS FORMS OF CROSSES.

The early Christian writers even in the second century treated prominently the cross as a symbol of the faith, and it came to be held in high honour. The precise figure of the cross, however, is somewhat doubtful, and various forms have been accepted less simple than that now so familiar. There are modifications according to particular countries and places.

One cross resembles the Hebrew letter T, there being no upper limb above the horizontal line. The Greek Cross is a cross where the four limbs are of equal length. The Latin Cross is that commonly used by Christians, the lower perpendicular limb being at least twice the length of the upper limb. The Cross of the Resurrection has a small banner attached to the upper portion, and the lowest perpendicular limb is much longer than the other three. The Cross of the Baptist has also a smaller scroll attached in like manner. The Patriarchal Cross, or Cross of the Holy Sepulchre, was a Greek Cross brought from the East by the Crusaders, also called the Archbishop’s Cross and the Cross of Lorraine, and it has two transverse bars, one shorter and above the other. The Papal Cross is like the last, but has three transverse bars. The Greek Cross, known in mediæval times as St. Andrew’s Cross, consists of slanting bars, instead of perpendicular and horizontal. There are other fanciful forms of cross, called the Cross of Jerusalem, having a small lip at the end of four equal limbs. The Irish Cross, or Cross of Iona, has a circle placed over the upper part of the cross. There are pectoral crosses more or less fanciful, worn as relics and ornaments of dress.

 

THE DISCOVERY OF THE HOLY CROSS.

When Constantine triumphed over his enemies by the miraculous power of the cross, he resolved to build a magnificent church in Jerusalem. His mother, St. Helena, then resolved, though eighty years old, to go herself to discover the identical cross there. On her arrival none could tell where it was, as the heathens, it was thought, purposely concealed it from the Christians by burying it under heaps of rubbish, building over it a temple of Venus, and placing there a statue of Jupiter. But Helena persevered, and pulled down these pagan erections, and at a great depth discovered three crosses, and also the nails used and the label or superscription. A difficulty then arose as to which of the three was the cross on which the Saviour was hung. To[Pg 16] solve this doubt, Bishop Macarius suggested that the three crosses should be carried and shown to a sick and dying lady. Two of the crosses having produced no effect, the third, on being touched by her, cured the patient at once. St. Helena on this was delighted, and built a church on the spot where the cross was found, and she carried part of the cross to Constantinople to her son Constantine: another part was sent to the church at Rome. St. Helena died the same year, in 326. The board on which Christ’s title was printed in red letters was about twelve inches long, and was sent to Rome. The main part of the cross was inclosed in a silver shrine, and given to be kept in Jerusalem by St. Macarius in the church which Helena and Constantine built there. St. Paulinus said that though chips were almost daily cut off from the cross and given to devout persons, yet the sacred wood suffered no diminution. And pieces were taken to all the ends of the earth. The church at Jerusalem was called the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

 

THE NAILS OF THE CROSS.

The nails of the cross were traced with great devotion. Calvin said there were fifteen. There was one at Rome, one at Sienna, one at Venice, one in the Church of the Carmelites in Paris, and some in other places. A practice arose of filing part of the nail and touching a true nail with other nails, and so giving a kind of sanctity to those. St. Gregory the Great and other popes sent raspings of the chains of St. Peter as relics in the same way. As to the true nails of the cross, it was said St. Helena threw one into the Adriatic Sea to allay a violent storm from which the ship was sinking, whereon the storm at once ceased. St. Ambrose said that Constantine the Great fixed one of the nails in a rude diadem of pearls to be worn on great occasions, and he put another in the costly bridle of his horse as a protection in time of battle.

 

THIEVES AT THE CRUCIFIXION.

There is an ancient tradition that, when the Holy Family, travelling through hidden paths and solitary defiles, had passed Jerusalem and were descending into the plains of Syria, they encountered certain thieves, who fell upon them; and one of these would have maltreated and plundered them, but his comrade interfered and said, “Suffer them, I beseech thee, to go in peace, and I will give thee forty groats, and likewise my girdle,” which offer being accepted, the merciful robber led the Holy Travellers[Pg 17] to his stronghold on the rock, and gave them lodging for the night. And Mary said to him, “The Lord God will receive thee to His right hand, and grant the pardon of thy sins.”

And it was so: for in after-times these two thieves were crucified with Christ, one on the right hand and one on the left; and the merciful thief went with the Saviour into Paradise. The scene of this encounter with the robbers, near Ramla, is still pointed out to travellers, and still in evil repute as the haunt of banditti. The crusaders visited the spot as a place of pilgrimage; and the Abbé Orsini considers the first part of this story as authenticated, but the legend concerning the good thief he admits to be doubtful.

 

THE SOLDIER WHO PIERCED THE SAVIOUR’S SIDE.

There is a legend that the soldier who pierced the Saviour’s side, whose name was Longinus, was struck with wonder and remorse, and exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” He was therefore the first of the Gentiles to be converted. As soon as he had lifted his blood-stained hands to his face, his eyesight, which for years had been weak, was healed. He repented, was baptised, and was for twenty-eight years an ardent missionary. He was then ordered to sacrifice to the false gods, and on refusal said he longed to become a martyr, and told the governor, who was blind, that he would recover his sight only after putting him to death. Accordingly, Longinus was beheaded, and the governor had his sight restored, and became himself also a Christian. St. Longinus, as the first-fruits of the Gentiles, is painted by the artists, and he became the patron saint of Mantua; and the spear with which he pierced the Saviour’s side is preserved among the treasures of St. Peter’s at Rome.

 

THE LEGEND OF THE CROSS.

A Life of Christ published in 1517 at Troyes told the following story. When Adam, after being banished from Paradise, in his old age felt the approach of death, he sent Seth to Paradise to ask the archangel who kept the gate to give him a balsam that would save him from death. Seth with difficulty traced the way, and on reaching it was transported with wonder and rapture at the dazzling beauty of the scene, and the music, and the glittering sword of the cherub. He had not courage to remember his message; but the angel read his thoughts, and told him that the time of pardon had not yet come, and that four thousand years[Pg 18] must roll on before the Redeemer would open the gate to Adam. Nevertheless, as a token of future pardon, he allowed Seth a glimpse of the interior of Paradise, and of the mighty tree on which redemption was to be won. The cherub gave Seth three seeds of this tree, which were to be placed in the mouth of Adam when buried. This was done a few days after Seth’s return, when Adam died and was buried. Out of this grave rose a cedar, a cypress, and a pine. Moses had a rod of one of these trees. The cedar, after many ages, was that of which the Cross of Calvary was made. It was carried off on the plundering of Jerusalem to Persia, but was recovered by Heraclius on September 14th, 615, the day afterwards commemorated as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

 

THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS.

The painters of sacred subjects for churches used to divide the stages of the Crucifixion into seven, and latterly into fourteen. The first importation of the stations into Europe was said to be by a citizen of Nuremberg, who returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy City in 1477, and soon after engaged Kraft, a friend of Albert Dürer, to execute seven sculptures for stone pillars to be erected in the city of Nuremberg. The fourteen stations afterwards came to be entitled as follows: (1) Jesus is condemned; (2) Jesus takes the cross; (3) Jesus falls for the first time; (4) Jesus meets His blessed mother; (5) Simon the Cyrenian appears; (6) Jesus meets St. Veronica; (7) Jesus falls for the second time; (8) the daughters of Jerusalem; (9) Jesus falls for the third time; (10) Jesus is stripped of His garments; (11) Jesus is nailed on the cross; (12) Jesus dies on the cross; (13) Jesus is laid in the arms of His blessed mother; (14) the entombment.

 

THE CROWN OF THORNS, THE SPONGE, AND THE BLOOD.

Not only the cross, but the crown of thorns, also had its history. The crown of thorns had been preserved for several centuries at Constantinople, and had been pledged to the Venetians for a large sum of money, as is stated afterwards in more detail. The crown of thorns was at last given by the Emperor Baldwin II. to St. Louis, King of France, in acknowledgment of the king’s contributions to defend the holy places, and he redeemed it from the Venetians. It was carried in a sealed case by holy religious men from Venice into France; and St. Louis and his family, and prelates and princes, met the holy treasure five leagues beyond[Pg 19] Sens. The king and his brother were barefoot and in their shirts, and were bathed in tears, and a great procession followed them. It was ultimately lodged in La Sainte Chapelle, the exquisite Holy Chapel at Paris, built for the purpose of receiving it. A part of the cross was also afterwards received and added to the deposit there. The holy sponge used at the Crucifixion was shown at Rome in the church of St. John Lateran tinged with blood. The holy lance was kept at Jerusalem with the main part of the cross. It was afterwards buried at Antioch to preserve it from the Saracens. It was at a later date taken to Jerusalem, and then to Constantinople. It was said the Emperor Baldwin pawned the point of it to raise money, and it was redeemed by St. Louis of France and taken to the Holy Chapel in Paris. At a later date, in 1492, the Sultan sent the lance as a present to Pope Innocent VIII., stating that the point was in the possession of the King of France. The blood of Christ was also shown in some places, particularly at Mantua.

 

THE PAWNING OF THE CROWN OF THORNS (A.D. 1213).

This pawning was as follows. When Baldwin II., Emperor of Constantinople, was hard pressed in 1213, Gibbon relates that the crown of thorns had been preserved in the Imperial Chapel of Constantinople. In his absence the barons of Romania borrowed a sum of 13,134 pieces of gold (about £6,567) on the credit of the crown. They failed to repay the loan, and a rich Venetian, Nicholas Querini, undertook to satisfy the impatient creditors, on condition that the relic should be lodged at Venice, to become his absolute property if not redeemed within a short and definite period. The barons apprised their sovereign of the hard treaty and the impending loss; and as the empire could not redeem the crown, Baldwin was anxious to snatch the prize from the Venetians, and to vest it with more honour and emolument in the hands of the most Christian king, Louis IX. of France. The king’s ambassadors, two Dominicans, were despatched to Venice to redeem and receive the holy crown, which had escaped the dangers of the sea and the galleys of Vataces. On opening a wooden box, they recognised the seals of the Doge and barons, which were applied on a shrine of silver, and within this shrine the monument of the Passion was enclosed in a golden vase. The reluctant Venetians yielded to justice and power. The Emperor Frederick granted a free passage. The King of France and his court advanced as far as Troyes, in Champagne,[Pg 20] to meet with devotion the inestimable relic. It was borne in triumph by the king himself, barefoot and in his shirt; and a free gift of 10,000 marks of silver reconciled Baldwin to his loss. The success of this transaction tempted Baldwin to offer, with the same generosity, the remaining furniture of his chapel. A large and authentic portion of the true cross, the baby linen of the Son of God, the lance, the sponge, and the chain of His Passion, the rod of Moses, and part of the skull of John the Baptist, were purchased by Louis IX. for 20,000 marks, and lodged in Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

 

THE APOCRYPHAL GOSPELS.

Certain books have been written and circulated in the early ages of Christianity which professed to recite events not mentioned in the Four Gospels or New Testament. Though all are spurious and of uncertain authorship, there is, nevertheless, great interest in some of the incidents; and as they were so extensively read by early Christians some account of these is acceptable to all readers of sacred subjects. Though in all ages treated with contempt by the authoritative teachers in the Church, it is easy to comprehend how they came to attract so much notice, for there is an air of simplicity and verisimilitude in some of the incidents, and of course no human being is in a position to affirm or deny the substance of the things thus recorded. Milman says these legends can still be traced in some of our Christmas carols. One of these apocryphal gospels is called the “Protevangelion, or Gospel of James,” who was one of the sons of Joseph the carpenter, and it records incidents of the childhood of Jesus. The existence of this gospel is traced to the fourth century. Another is the “Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, or of the Infancy of Mary and of Jesus,” supposed to be written in the fifth century. Another is the “Gospel of the Nativity of Mary.” This was fathered upon Jerome, and supposed to be written in the fifth century, and it was much read in the Middle Ages. Another is the “History of Joseph the Carpenter,” supposed to belong to the fourth century. Another is the “Gospel of Thomas, or Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus,” said to be written about the middle of the second century. Another is the “Arabic Gospel of the Infancy,” ascribed to the fifth or sixth century. There is also a professed correspondence between Jesus and King Agbarus, part of which is said to belong to the sixth century and part to the third century. There is also the “Gospel of Nicodemus, or Acts of[Pg 21] Pilate,” supposed to be written in the second century. There are also Letters and Reports of Pilate and Herod about Christ, professing to narrate facts and incidents of that time. All these gospels or legends abound in miracles and prodigies, some of them very puerile. A translation was published of the above-mentioned legends by B. Harris Cowper in 1867.

 

FALSE CHRISTS IN DIFFERENT AGES.

False Christs began to appear early, as is mentioned in St. Luke and by Josephus: Jortin mentions other successors. In the reign of Adrian one Barcohab pretended to be Messias. In 434 one Moses Cretensis promised, like Moses, to divide the sea at Crete and deliver the Jews there; and some people, when commanded by him, actually cast themselves into the waves and perished. Again, about 420, the time of Socrates the historian, another impostor appeared. Again, in 520, one Dunaan; one Julian in 529; one Mohammed in 571; another, a Syrian, in 721. In 1138 another in France; in 1157 another in Spain; in 1167 another in Fez. In Arabia, in 1167, another appeared, and was brought before the king, who asked the pretender what sign or miracle he could show in attestation of his power. The man replied, “Cut off my head, and I will return to life again.” The king took him at his word, and the head was cut off, but it never was put on again nor life restored. Again, another appeared in Persia in 1174; another in Moravia in 1176; another, who was also an enchanter, in Persia in 1199; another in Spain in 1497; another in Austria in 1500; another in Cologne in 1509; another in Spain, burnt by the Emperor Charles V., in 1534; another in the East Indies in 1615; another in Holland in 1624; another in Smyrna in 1666, named Sabbatar Sevi, who raised great expectations; another in 1682, named Rabbi Mordecai, a German Jew.

 

THE SEPTUAGINT BIBLE AND NEW TESTAMENT.

Vast difficulties surround the settlement of the orthodox list of books of the New Testament. The Old Testament was not used as a name in the time of Christ; but the sacred books, or the Law and the Prophets, were the modes of reference, these being read regularly in the synagogues as part of the ceremonial of public worship. In the third century before the Christian era, the Old Testament was translated into Greek, or at least was begun to be so, in order to meet the wants of the Greek-speaking Jews. Ptolemy II. is said to have asked the high[Pg 22] priest at Jerusalem to select skilful elders to make the translation, and a copy was to be deposited in the library at Alexandria. Some think the word “Septuagint” implied that there were seventy translators; others that it only meant that the work was approved by the Alexandrine Sanhedrim. The translation is said to be defective in several passages. The Septuagint came soon to be the standard version, as Hebrew had become almost an unknown language even to the Jews of Palestine. The dates and order of the Gospels have also given rise to interminable controversies. The Apostles all gave oral recollections of the facts of Christ’s life and sayings. The expression “New Testament” did not come into use until the latter part of the second century. A canon was at length settled, though the date is uncertain, expressing the authentic collection of Christian Scriptures. And yet the earliest known list of books of the New Testament was not discovered till the seventeenth century in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, and the original of it was said to be of the date of 150 A.D.

 

ENGLISH VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE.

Mr. Dore says that there is no English Bible known to be in existence earlier than the fourteenth century. But the Psalter and other portions of the Old and New Testament were translated from the Latin into English at various times between the seventh and fourteenth centuries. Three versions in English of the Psalter bear a date soon after 1300. The first entire Bible in English was the work of Nicholas de Hereford and John Wycliffe, about 1380. Tyndale’s New Testament was printed in English about 1525, and he died in 1537. Coverdale’s Bible in the English language was published in 1535. The Genevan Version, published in English at Geneva in 1560, by its singular rendering of Gen. iii. 7, is commonly known as the Breeches Bible. A Roman Catholic translation into English of the New Testament was published at Rheims in 1582, and later at Douai, on the removal of the Roman Catholic College to the latter place. King James I.’s new translation of the Bible, called the Authorised Version, was first published in 1611.

 

 


[Pg 23]

CHAPTER II.

THE DISCIPLES AND APOSTLES OF OUR LORD.

 

DEATHS OF THE APOSTLES.

St. Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia. St. Mark expired at Alexandria, after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city. St. Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in Greece. St. John was put into a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterwards banished to Patmos. St. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward. St. James the Great was beheaded at Jerusalem. St. James the Less was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the Temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club. St. Philip was hanged against a pillar at Hierapolis, in Phrygia. St. Bartholomew was flayed alive. St. Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors till he died. St. Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel, in the East Indies. St. Jude was shot to death with arrows. St. Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded. St. Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned by the Jews at Salonica. St. Paul, after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero.

 

THE APOSTLES WHO WERE MARRIED.

Eusebius says that Clement, who lived in the first century, gave a statement of those Apostles who continued in the married state. Peter and Philip had children. Philip also gave his daughters in marriage to husbands. Others say that Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied. Paul does not demur in a certain epistle to mention his own wife, whom he did not take about with him, in order that he might expedite his ministry the better. It is said that Peter, seeing his own wife led away[Pg 24] to execution, was not displeased, and he called out to her in a comforting voice, addressing her by name, “Be sure to remember the Lord!”

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. MATTHEW THE APOSTLE.

Levi was the name of Matthew, who was of Jewish extraction, and was born in Galilee. He was a publican or tax-collector, which was a profession odious among the Jews, as it reminded them of their slavery to the Romans. After the Ascension he preached in Judæa and the neighbouring countries till the dispersion of the Apostles, and a little before the latter date he wrote his gospel, his object being to satisfy the converts of Palestine: while Mark wrote his for the Roman converts; Luke, to oppose the false histories; and John, to oppose the heresies of Cerinthus and Ebion. Matthew afterwards went as apostle to the East. He lived sparingly, ate no flesh, and was a vegetarian. He was in the south and east of Asia, ended in Parthia, and suffered martyrdom at Nadabar. He was said to be honourably interred at Hierapolis. His relics were brought to the West, and in 1080 Pope Gregory VII. said these were kept in a church which bore his name at Salerno. The Apostles each had some mystical animal as an emblem. John had the eagle; St. Luke had the calf; Mark had the lion; and Matthew had a man, to denote Christ’s human generation. The primitive Christians always stood up when the Gospel of Matthew was read, and in many places candles were lighted, though it was day. Thomas Aquinas always read the gospel on his knees.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. MARK.

St. Mark was born a Jew, and was said to be converted by the Apostles after the Resurrection. He became attached to St. Peter, and was called his disciple. He was sent by St. Peter to found the Church at Aquileia, and was afterwards appointed Bishop of Alexandria, then considered the second city of the world after Rome. He was afterwards a martyr there, having incurred suspicion of being a magician from the miracles he worked. He was tied and dragged about the streets, and thrown over rocks and precipices, and died in 68, three years after St. Peter and St. Paul. His body was afterwards conveyed by stealth to Venice in 815, and was deposited in a secret place in the Doge’s rich chapel of St. Mark, and he is deemed the patron saint of Venice.

 [Pg 25]

THE HOUSE OF ST. MARK.

Jeremy Taylor says that “the house of John, surnamed Mark (as Alexander reports in the life of St. Barnabas), was consecrated by many actions of religion: by our Blessed Saviour’s eating the Passover; His institution of the Holy Eucharist; His farewell sermon; and the Apostles met there in the octaves of Easter, whither Christ came again, and hallowed it with His presence; and there, to make up the relative sanctification complete, the Holy Ghost descended upon their heads in ‘the Feast of Pentecost’; and this was erected into a fair fabric, and is mentioned as a famous church by St. Jerome and Venerable Bede; in which, as Andrichomius adds, ‘St. Peter preached that sermon which was miraculously prosperous in the conversion of three thousand; there St. James, brother of our Lord, was consecrated first Bishop of Jerusalem; St. Stephen and the other were there ordained deacons; there the Apostles kept their first council and compiled their Creed.’”

 

PARTICULARS OF ST. LUKE THE EVANGELIST.

St. Luke was a native of Antioch, was well educated, and studied and became eminent as a physician. Some think he was converted by St. Paul, and he attached himself to that apostle. He wrote the gospel in 57, four years before his final arrival at Rome. He attended St. Paul to Rome in 61. After the martyrdom of St. Paul, he preached in Italy, Gaul, and Macedonia. It is thought he was crucified at Elæa, in the Peloponnesus, on an olive tree, at the age of eighty-four. His bones were, by order of the Emperor Constantine, in 357 removed from Patras, in Achaia, and deposited in the Church of the Apostles at Constantinople, together with those of St. Andrew and St. Timothy. Some of his relics went to Brescia, some to Nola, some to Findi, and some to Mount Athos. The head of St. Luke was brought to Rome, and laid in the church of the monastery of St. Andrew. Old manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke represent him as surrounded with instruments of writing.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. BARTHOLOMEW.

There have been differences of opinion as to the identity of St. Bartholomew, some being of opinion that he was the same Nathanael whose simplicity and guilelessness were commended. He was chosen one of the Twelve, and was a witness of the Resurrection. He went after the Ascension as an apostle to the[Pg 26] Indies and Persia. He was afterwards in Phrygia, and Lycaonia, and Great Armenia, in which last place he was crucified. Some say he was first flayed alive. In 508 the Emperor Anastasius removed his relics to the city of Duras, in Mesopotamia. Soon after they were translated to the Isle of Lipari, near Sicily, in 809 to Benevento, and in 983 to Rome, and are deposited under the high altar in the Church of St. Bartholomew, in the Isle of Tiber. An arm of the apostle’s body was sent to Edward the Confessor by the Bishop of Benevento, and it was put in Canterbury Cathedral. A fine statue of the apostle is in the cathedral at Milan, representing him flayed alive. The characteristic quality of St. Bartholomew was zeal.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE.

St. Thomas was a Galilean fisherman, and was made an apostle in 31. He was rather slow in understanding, but of great simplicity and ardour. He offered to go to Jerusalem and die with Christ, when the priests and Pharisees were contriving His death. After the Crucifixion Thomas refused to believe the report of the Resurrection until he actually saw the prints of the nails and felt the very wound in Christ’s side; and Christ, in His condescension to this weakness, allowed him to satisfy himself, whereupon Thomas was prostrated with compunction. After the descent of the Holy Ghost, Thomas went to preach in Parthia, and laboured in Media, Persia, and Bactria, as well as India. He is said to have suffered martyrdom at Meliapor, or St. Thomas’s, on this side the Ganges, on the coast of Coromandel, where his body was discovered pierced with lances. The body was carried to the city of Edessa, and deposited under the great church there with veneration. St. Chrysostom said, in 402, that the sepulchres of only four of the Apostles were then known—namely, Peter, Paul, John, and Thomas. John III., of Portugal, ordered the body of St. Thomas to be searched for at Meliapolis, and when digging there in 1523 a deep vault was discovered, containing the bones of the saint, and part of the lance with which he was slain, and a vial tinged with his blood. The apostle’s body was put in a chest of porcelain adorned with silver. The Portuguese built a new town about this church, and called it St. Thomas’s.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. SIMEON.

St. Simeon, son of Cleophas or Alphæus and of Mary, sister of the Virgin, and cousin-german of Christ, was about nine years[Pg 27] older than Christ. He succeeded his brother St. James the Less as Bishop of Jerusalem in 62. The Christians having been warned to leave Jerusalem, St. Simeon and they departed before Vespasian, general of the Romans, entered and burnt the city. Heresies grew up in the Church before the death of St. Simeon. He was crucified at the age of 120, having governed the Church at Jerusalem about forty-three years.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. TIMOTHY.

St. Timothy was early adopted as disciple by St. Paul, having been in his youth a great reader of pious books. He was made Bishop of Ephesus before St. John arrived there. Under the Emperor Nerva, in 97, while St. John was still in Patmos, Timothy was slain with stones and clubs by the heathen, owing to his opposing the idolatrous practices then current. His relics were conveyed to Constantinople in 356, in the reign of Constantius, and with those of St. Andrew and St. Luke were deposited under the altar in the Church of the Apostles.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. BARNABAS.

The Scriptures contain no mention of St. Barnabas after he separated from St. Paul and sailed for Cyprus. Some say he afterwards went to Milan, and became the first bishop there. In an apocryphal work of the fifth century, it is said he suffered martyrdom in Cyprus, being stoned by the Jews, who hated him on account of his unorthodox views. The apostle was buried in the island; but four centuries later his relics were removed to Constantinople, and a church erected and dedicated to him. It is said that at the discovery of the relics of St. Barnabas there was found lying on his breast a copy of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, written in the Hebrew tongue, and as was supposed in St. Barnabas’s own hand. The relics were translated in the seventh century to Milan. Still later, it was said that the body was taken to Toulouse, where also were the bodies of five other apostles: James, the son of Zebedee; Philip; James, son of Alphæus; Simon; and Jude. The head is now exhibited there apart from the body, which reposes in its own shrine. Another head of St. Barnabas is in Genoa, another at Naples, another in Bavaria; and legs and bones and jaw are dispersed in other places. There was extant in the second century an Epistle of St. Barnabas, but its authenticity has long been discredited.

 [Pg 28]

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. TITUS.

St. Titus was born a Gentile, and seems to have been converted by St. Paul. He was afterwards ordained by St. Paul to be Bishop of Crete. He lived to the age of ninety-four, and died in that island. His body was kept with great veneration in the cathedral of Gortyna, the ancient metropolis of the island, and six miles from Mount Ida. This city was destroyed by the Saracens in 823, and the relics could not be discovered. But the head of the saint was conveyed safely to Venice, and is venerated in the ducal basilica of St. Mark.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. PHILIP THE APOSTLE.

St. Philip, who lived at Bethsaida in Galilee, was, when called to his office, a married man with three daughters, two of whom lived virgins to a great age. It was Philip to whom Jesus proposed the problem how to feed the multitude of five thousand in the wilderness. After the Ascension Philip preached in Phrygia, and was known to Polycarp, and attained a great age. He was buried at Hierapolis, and his relics, it was believed, often saved the city. An arm of St. Philip was sent to Florence in 1204: the body was said to be in the Church of St. Philip and St. James in Rome.

 

PARTICULARS AS TO ST. ANDREW THE APOSTLE.

St. Andrew the Apostle was a native of Bethsaida, on the banks of Lake Gennesareth, and brother of Simon Peter. St. Andrew became a disciple of John the Baptist, and heard John hail Jesus as the Lamb of God. Believing there was some mysterious significance in this saying, he followed Christ wistfully, and asked where He dwelt, whereon Christ bade him come and see, and that night was spent in His company. The result was that Andrew was the first called of the Apostles; hence called by the Greeks Protoclete. Andrew could not rest till he had told Peter, and he was also called as a disciple. Jesus once lodged at the house of the two brothers, and healed their mother of a fever. Andrew was specially consulted as to the loaves and fishes available to feed the five thousand. After the Resurrection Andrew preached in Scythia, also in Greece, where he confounded all the philosophers. He went also to Muscovy. He was at last crucified at Patræ, in Achaia, and some say it was on an olive tree. His body was carried from Patræ to Constantinople in 357, along with those of Luke and Timothy, and deposited in the[Pg 29] Church of the Apostles. Some of his relics were taken to Milan, Nola, and Brescia; and the French, in 1210, brought some of them to Amalphi. It is a common opinion that the cross of St. Andrew was in the form of the letter X, styled a cross decussate; and it is said his cross was brought from Achaia to the nunnery of Weaune, near Marseilles; then to the abbey of St. Victor, Marseilles, in 1250, and where it is still shown. Part of it was taken to Brussels by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, who founded the Knights of the Golden Fleece, each of whom wears a St. Andrew’s Cross, or the Cross of Burgundy. An abbot of St. Andrew’s, Scotland, also, in 369, brought certain relics from Patræ, and deposited them in a monastery, now the site of St. Andrew’s, and many foreign pilgrims long visited that church. The order of knighthood in honour of St. Andrew was ascribed by the Scots to King Achaius in the eighth century, and James VII. revived it. The collar is of thistles and rue.

 

HOW ST. ANDREW BECAME PATRON SAINT OF SCOTLAND.

When Angus MacFergus succeeded in 731 to the throne of the Picts, he had several enemies to subdue, and carried his forces across the Firth of Forth to fight the Saxons of Northumbria. A monk, Regulus, at that time brought the relics of the apostle to Scotland. Previous to a great battle in Lothian, St. Andrew appeared to King Angus either in a dream or during the battle with the figure of the St. Andrew’s Cross in the air, and told the king that he (the saint) was defender of his kingdom, and that on the return of the king to his home he must devote one-tenth part of his kingdom in honour of St. Andrew. Angus gained a great victory over the Saxon general, named Athelstane, who fell at the place now called Athelstaneford. After this date St. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland, up to which time, as Bede says, St. Peter had filled that office. The church at Hexham and the church of St. Andrew’s were both dedicated to St. Andrew, and both possessed relics of the apostle.

 

JAMES AND JOHN THE APOSTLES.

James and John, the sons of Salome, claimed the two first places in Christ’s kingdom. James was put to death by Herod. As to John, he alone of the Apostles attended the Crucifixion, and was harassed by the spectacle. In his old age, when he survived all the other Apostles and governed all the Churches of Asia, he was arrested at the instance of Domitian, and then taken prisoner to Rome in 95.

 [Pg 30]

ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE.

St. John the Evangelist and Apostle was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a Galilean, and younger brother of St. James the Great. John was a disciple of John the Baptist, and is supposed to have been with Andrew, when the two left the Baptist to follow Christ. John was the youngest of all the Apostles, being about twenty-five when called, and he lived seventy years after the Crucifixion. He lived a bachelor. John went with Peter to the sepulchre on hearing the news from Mary Magdalene, and he outran Peter and had the first view. He and Peter returned to their fishing, and he first recognised Christ walking on the shore. After the meeting of the Apostles, John preached first in Jerusalem, then went to Parthia. He afterwards took charge of all the Churches of Asia. In the persecution of 95, John was apprehended in Asia, and sent to Rome, where he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil; but he was not injured. He was afterwards banished by Domitian to the isle of Patmos, in the Archipelago, and there he wrote the Revelation. At the death of Domitian in 97, John returned to Ephesus, some months after the martyrdom of St. Timothy there. He was pressed to take charge of that Church. John wore a plate of gold on his forehead, as an ensign of his Christian priesthood. It was to confute the blasphemies of Ebion and Cerinthus, who denied the divinity of Christ, that John composed his gospel in 98, at the age of ninety-two. He also wrote the three epistles. He died in peace at Ephesus at ninety-four, though some ancients said he never died. He was buried on a mountain outside of Ephesus, and his dust was said to be famous for the miracles it wrought.

 

AS TO ST. JOHN’S GRAVE.

St. Augustine mentions and ridicules a tradition that St. John ordered his own grave to be made, lay down in it, and went to sleep,—still sleeping there, as is manifest by the heaving of the earth over him as he breathes. This was the tradition founded on John xxi. 22, 23, where Jesus said to Peter, “If I will that he [John] tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die.” Some afterwards explained this by saying that John died without pain or change, and immediately rose again in bodily form, and ascended into heaven to rejoin Christ and the Virgin.

 [Pg 31]

ST. JOHN RECLAIMING A YOUNG ROBBER CHIEF.

It was related by Clement of Alexandria that, when St. John was at Ephesus, and before he was exiled to Patmos, he had taken under his care a young man of promising character, and whom he left in charge to a bishop during his own absence. But the youth took to evil courses, and went to the forest and headed a band of robbers and assassins. When John, on returning, asked for the youth and heard this account, he rent his garments, and wept with a loud voice at the faithless guardianship, and called for a horse and rode to the forest in search of the youth. When the latter as captain beheld his old master and instructor, he turned and would have fled from his presence. But St. John by the most fervent entreaties prevailed on him to stop and listen to his words. After some conference, the robber, utterly subdued, burst into tears of penitence, imploring forgiveness; and while he spoke he hid beneath his robe his right hand, which had been sullied with so many crimes. But St. John, falling on his knees before him, seized that blood-polluted hand, and kissed it and bathed it with his tears, and he remained with his reconverted brother till he had by prayers and encouraging words and affectionate exhortations reconciled him with Heaven and with himself. It was also related that two young men had sold all their possessions to follow St. John, and afterwards repented. He, perceiving their thoughts, sent them to gather pebbles and faggots, and on their return changed these into ingots of gold, and said, “Take back your riches and enjoy them on earth, since you regret having exchanged them for heaven!”

 

ST. JOHN AND HIS PARTRIDGE.

There is a tradition relating to St. John, and which is sometimes represented by the sacred artists—namely, that he had a tame partridge, of which he was fond, and he used to amuse himself with feeding and tending it. It is added that a certain huntsman, passing by with his bow and arrow, was astonished to see the great apostle, so venerable for age and sanctity, engaged in such an amusement. The apostle, however, answered him by asking whether he always kept his bow bent. The huntsman replied that that would be the way to render it useless. The apostle then rejoined, “If you unbend your bow to prevent its becoming useless, I do the same, and unbend my mind for the same reason.”

 [Pg 32]

ST. JOHN’S LAST DAYS.

The Syrian legend as to the last days of St. John says that the apostle once fled in fear and indignation out of a bath that had been polluted by the presence of the heretic Cerinthus. It is also said that at last his whole sermon consisted in these words: “Little children, love one another.” And when the audience remonstrated at the wearisome iteration, he declared that in these words the whole substance of Christianity was found. Many reject the authority of Tertullian, who says that St. John was taken for trial before Domitian at Rome, and plunged into a boiling caldron of oil, from which he came forth unhurt.

 

TRADITIONS OF ST. JOHN’S TALK.

Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, in 177 had been a pupil of Polycarp, who in his youth had many conversations with St. John, who died about 100. Irenæus writes to a friend thus: “I can tell the very place in which the blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and his manner of life, and his personal appearance, and the discourses which he held before the people, and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words. And whatsoever things he had heard from them about the Lord, and about His miracles, and about His teaching, Polycarp, as having received them from eyewitnesses of the life of the Word, would relate altogether in accordance with the Scriptures. To these things I used to listen at the time with attention, by God’s mercy, which was bestowed upon me, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart; and constantly, by the grace of God, I reflect upon them faithfully.” Irenæus says Polycarp told him the story of St. John and Cerinthus. Polycarp, at the age of eighty-six, was ordered to be burnt; but it is said that the fire would not consume his body, which shone like silver, and he was then despatched with a dagger. The Roman pro-consul had ordered him to forswear and revile Christ. But the answer was: “Eighty-and-six years have I served Him, and He hath done me no wrong. How, then, can I speak evil of my King, who saved me?”

 

A MIRACLE PERFORMED BY ST. JOHN AFTER DEATH.

A miracle attributed to St. John, and represented by some sacred artists, related to the Empress Galla Placidia. She was[Pg 33] returning from Constantinople to Ravenna with her two children during a terrible storm. In her fear and anguish she vowed to St. John that if she landed safely she would dedicate to his honour a magnificent church. Both events happened; but still, owing to there being no relic to deposit in her church, she remained somewhat dissatisfied. John, however, took pity upon her; for one night, as she prayed earnestly, he appeared to her in a vision, and when she threw herself at his feet to embrace and kiss them he disappeared, but left one of his sandals in her hand, and this has been long preserved. The ancient church at Ravenna of Galla Placidia contained some mosaics, now vanished, but two bas-reliefs refer to the sandal.

 

ST. JOHN AND EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.

The English monkish chroniclers have also a legend of St. John and King Edward the Confessor. One night a pilgrim accosted the Confessor as he was returning from mass at Westminster, and begged alms for the love of God and St. John. The king, who was merciful, immediately drew from his finger a ring, and delivered it privately to the beggar. Twenty-four years later, two Englishmen, returning from the Holy Land, after being asked questions about their country by a pilgrim, were entrusted with a message to thank their king for the ring he had bestowed, when that pilgrim begged of him many years before, and which he had preserved and now returned; and further to say this—that “the king shall quit the world and come and remain with me for ever.” The travellers, astounded, asked who the pilgrim was, and the answer was, “I am John the Evangelist. Go and deliver the message and ring, and I will pray for your safe arrival.” He then delivered the ring and vanished. The pilgrims praised and thanked God for this glorious vision, went on their journey, repaired to the king, delivered the ring and the message, and were received joyfully and feasted. Then the king prepared himself for his departure from the world. On the eve of the Nativity next following, being 1066, he died, and the ring was left to the Abbot of Westminster, to be for ever preserved among the relics. This legend is represented on the top of the screen of Edward the Confessor’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, and also was once on one of the windows in Romford Church.

 

ST. JAMES THE LESS, APOSTLE.

St. James the Less was so called to distinguish him from the other apostle James, either from his smaller stature or his youth.[Pg 34] He was also known as James the Just, from his eminent sanctity. He was the son of Alphæus and of Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary, and was some years older than the Saviour, his cousin. He had as brother St. Simeon and also Jude. Christ appeared separately to James and John and Peter after the Resurrection. The Apostles elected James the Less to be Bishop of Jerusalem, and it was said he wore a plate of gold on his head as an ensign of authority. He was unmarried, and never shaved nor cut his hair, and never drank any strong liquor, never ate flesh, nor wore sandals, and the skin of his knees and forehead was said to be hardened like a camel’s hoof from his frequent prayers. He wrote his epistle in Greek, some time after Paul’s epistles were written to the Galatians and to the Romans. He was afterwards, in 62, accused by the Jews of violating the laws, and was sentenced to be stoned to death; but he was first carried to the battlements, in the hope he would recant in public, and on his refusing this he was thrown over and dashed to the ground. He had life enough to rise again on his knees to pray for pardon for his murderers, and was then despatched with stones by the mob. His body was buried near the Temple in Jerusalem, and it was said the city was destroyed for the treatment he received. His relics were brought to Constantinople about 572.

 

ST. JAMES THE GREAT, APOSTLE.

St. James, the brother of St. John, son of Zebedee and Salome, was called the Great, to distinguish him from the other apostle called James the Less, probably from his small stature. St. James the Great was about ten years older than Christ, and was many years older than his brother John. St. James was a Galilean and a fisherman. He and John and Peter were distinguished by special favours, being admitted to the Transfiguration, and to the Agony in the Garden. Their mother, Salome, in her pride at their devotion, once asked if they were not to sit, one at Christ’s right hand and another at His left. After the Ascension James is said to have left Judæa and visited Spain. He was a bachelor, and very temperate, never eating fish or flesh, and wearing only a linen cloak. He was the first of the Apostles who suffered martyrdom, being beheaded at Jerusalem in 43 by order of Agrippa. His accuser was so struck with James’s courage and constancy that he repented and begged to be executed with James, who turned round and embraced him, saying, “Peace be with you,” and they were beheaded together.[Pg 35] The apostle’s body was interred at Jerusalem, but carried by his disciples to Spain at Compostella, where many miracles were wrought and pilgrims flocked. His intercession, it was thought, often protected the Christians against the armies of the Moors.

 

ST. JAMES THE GREAT IN SPAIN.

The apostle James the Great, after Christ’s ascension, as already said, went to Spain. One day, as he stood on the banks of the Ebro with his disciples, it is said that the Blessed Virgin appeared to him seated on the top of a pillar of jasper, and surrounded by a choir of angels; and the apostle having thrown himself on his face, she commanded him to build on that spot a chapel for her worship, assuring him that all this province of Saragossa, though now in the darkness of paganism, would at a future time be distinguished by devotion to her. He did as the Holy Virgin had commanded, and this was the origin of a famous church, known as Our Lady of the Pillar.

 

ST. JAMES AT COMPOSTELLA.

Another legend relates that a German noble, with his wife and son, made a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella, and while lodging at an inn at Tolosa, where the host had a beautiful daughter, she fell in love with the youth, but he refused to listen to her. She then, out of revenge, hid her father’s silver cup in the youth’s wallet, and next morning, on discovering the loss, he was pursued, accused before a judge, and condemned to be hanged. The afflicted parents prayed at the altar of St. Jago or James, and thirty days after, on returning and seeing their son on the gibbet, he suddenly spoke to them, and said he had been very comfortable, for the blessed apostle James had been at his side. The parents at once hastened to the judge to inform him, and he was sitting at dinner. On hearing their report, however, he mocked them, and said their son was as much alive as the fowls in that dish on the table, pointing to the dish; but he had scarcely uttered the words when the fowls rose up full feathered in the dish, and the cock began to crow, to the great admiration of the judge and his officers. Then the judge rose and went to the gibbet, and released the youth and gave him up to his parents, and the fowls were placed under the protection of the church, in the precincts of which they lived, and a long line of progeny after them, as a standing testimony of the miracle then wrought.

 [Pg 36]

MIRACLES OF ST. JAMES THE GREAT.

When the apostle James the Great had founded the faith in Spain, he returned to Judæa, and preached and worked miracles for many years. Once a sorcerer, named Hermogenes, set himself up against the apostle to compete with him, and sent his pupil Philetus to dispute with James. The pupil, on returning and confessing his defeat, was bound with spells by Hermogenes, who dared James to deliver him. James sent his cloak to Philetus’s servant, and this set him free. Hermogenes, being then enraged, caused both James and Philetus to be bound in fetters by demons and brought to him. But a company of angels seized on the demons, and punished them until they went and brought Hermogenes himself bound. On James declining to punish him, the sorcerer felt he was defeated, and cast his books into the sea, and became a disciple of James. At James’s death his body was privately carried away for fear of the Jews, and put on board a ship which was miraculously directed to Spain. During the journey they touched at Galicia; and Queen Lupa, coming to the shore, found that the body had become enclosed with wax. She brought some wild bulls, and harnessed them to the car to tear it asunder; but the bulls were docile as lambs, and drew the body straight into her palace, whereon she was confounded and became a Christian, and built a church to receive the body. St. James is the patron saint of Spain as well as of Galicia; and the church of Compostella, which is dedicated to him, is a shrine visited by pilgrims from all quarters. In some of the pictures St. James is represented sitting on a milk-white horse, encouraging the Spaniards to fight and defeat the Moors.

 

ST. JAMES OF COMPOSTELLA AND THE SCALLOP-SHELL.

The following is the origin of the emblem of the scallop-shell at Compostella. When the body of the saint was being miraculously conveyed in a ship without sails or oars from Joppa to Galicia, it passed the village of Bouzas, on the coast of Portugal, on the day that a marriage had been celebrated there. The bridegroom, along with his friends, was amusing himself on horseback on the sands, when suddenly his horse grew restless and plunged into the sea. Thereupon the miraculous ship stopped in its voyage, and presently the bridegroom emerged, horse and man, close beside it. The saint’s disciples on board informed the astonished rider who it was who saved him from a watery grave, and explained to him the Christian religion. He was converted[Pg 37] and baptised forthwith. The ship then resumed its voyage, and the knight went galloping back over the sea to rejoin his astonished friends. He told what had happened, and they also were converted, and he baptised his bride with his own hands. It was noticed that when the knight emerged from the sea, both his dress and the trappings of his horse were covered with scallop-shells, and the Galicians ever afterwards took the scallop-shell as the sign of St. James. Those shells were forbidden by the Pope, under the pain of excommunication, to be sold to pilgrims at any other place than the city of Santiago.

 

PORTRAITS OF ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL.

Lord Lindsay, in his “Christian Art,” says that St. Peter was generally represented in ancient art as blessing and St. Paul as preaching,—the former with white hair and beard, the hair sometimes plaited in three distinct partitions; the latter with a lofty and partially bald brow and long, high nose, as characteristic of the man of genius and the thorough gentleman, as the former is of the warm-hearted, frank, impetuous manly fisherman. The likenesses may be correct; they were current at least in the days of Eusebius in the fourth century, who speaks of their portraits as then of some antiquity. A portrait of St. Paul was said to have come down by tradition from his own time, and to have existed in the days of St. Ambrose and St. Chrysostom, a little later in the same century. The painter Giotto invariably adhered to these traditional types. After his time the heads of living models were often painted for the imaginary apostles.

 

DEATHS OF ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL.

There is some doubt as to the time and place of the death of St. Peter and St. Paul. The earliest writer, St. Clement, Bishop of Rome, near the end of the first century, alludes to both as suffering martyrdom nearly at the same time, but does not state when or where. A later writer, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, who lived in the middle of the second century, says they died in Italy at the same period, and tradition of a later date specifies Rome as the place, and that Peter was crucified by Nero in Rome with his head downwards, and the year was 67 A.D.

 

ST. PETER AND HIS DAUGHTER PETRONILLA.

Though the precise spot at Rome where St. Peter was crucified or slain is not settled, the following legend obtained currency.[Pg 38] In several churches at Florence and Rome the legend referred to was to this effect. The apostle Peter had a daughter named Petronilla, who accompanied him to Rome from the East. She there fell sick of a grievous infirmity, which deprived her of the use of her limbs. And it happened that, as the disciples were at meat with him in his house, one said to him, “Master, how is it that thou, who healest the infirmities of others, dost not heal thy daughter Petronilla?” And Peter answered, “It is good for her to remain sick.” But that they might see the power that was in the word of God, he commanded her to rise and serve them at table, which she at once did. Having done so, she lay down again, helpless as before. But many years afterwards, being perfected by long suffering, and praying fervently, she was healed. Petronilla was wonderfully fair; and Valerius Flaccus, a young Roman noble who was a heathen, became enamoured of her, and sought her in marriage. As he was very powerful, she feared to refuse him, but begged him to return in three days, and promised that he should then marry her. She prayed earnestly to be delivered from this peril; and when Flaccus returned in three days, prepared to celebrate the marriage with great pomp, he found her dead. The company of nobles thereupon carried her to the grave, in which they laid her, crowned with roses, and Flaccus lamented greatly.

 

ST. PETER WHEN IN ROME.

When St. Peter went to Rome, it is said that he lodged in the house of a rich patrician named Perdeus, whose wife and two daughters, Prasceles and Prudentiana, were converted. And during the first persecution these daughters devoted themselves to visiting and comforting the martyrs, braving every danger and suffering, and they escaped by a miracle. St. Peter was also said to lodge at Rome in the house of Aquila and Priscilla; and it was there that St. Prisca, a Roman virgin of great beauty, was baptised. She was afterwards thrown to the lions; but they refused to touch her, and she was at last beheaded. St. Peter, when in prison at Rome, was said to have promised to heal Paulina, the sick daughter of the jailer, named Artemius, if he would believe in the true God. But the jailer mocked him, and put him in the deepest dungeon, and told him to see if his God would deliver him from that depth. In the middle of the night Peter and Marcellinus, in shining garments, entered the chamber of Artemius as he lay asleep, who, being struck with awe, fell down and worshipped Christ.

 [Pg 39]

STORY OF THE DEATH OF ST. PETER.

When the day appointed for the execution of St. Peter approached, it is recorded in the legend that the Christians of Rome urged him to escape. He resisted their importunities long, but at last got over the wall of the prison and fled. As, however, he approached the gate of the city, he met our Blessed Lord bearing His cross, just entering. The astonished apostle said, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” The answer was, “I go to Rome to be crucified afresh.” At this St. Peter was smitten to the heart, and with tears returned and delivered himself up to his keepers. The church of Domine quo Vadis is believed to stand on the very spot of this meeting. Peter was thereafter scourged and led to the top of the Vatican Mount to be executed. He entreated that he might not be crucified in the ordinary way, but might suffer with his head downwards and his feet towards heaven, affirming that he was unworthy to suffer in the same posture wherein his Lord had suffered before him. His body was embalmed and buried in the Vatican. The small church being demolished by Heliogabalus, Peter’s body was removed for a time two miles off, but was brought back before the time of Constantine, who enlarged and rebuilt the Vatican in honour of St. Peter. The Emperor is said to have dug the first spadefuls, and to have carried twelve baskets of rubbish with his own hands, as a beginning, in honour of the twelve Apostles. The relics of St. Peter are numerous. The chains are in the church Ad Vincula; the wooden chair is in the Vatican. The sword with which the ear of Malchus was cut off was anciently preserved at Constantinople, and is shown at Toledo. His cap is at Namur; part of his cloak is at Prague. The bodies of Peter and Paul are said to be both in St. Peter’s Church at Rome.

 

THE CHURCHES OF ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL AT ROME.

The body of St. Peter was buried immediately after his martyrdom on the Vatican Hill; afterwards it was removed to the cemetery of Calixtus, and brought back to the Vatican. The body of St. Paul was buried on the Ostian Way, where his church now stands. These tombs were visited from the first by crowds of pilgrims. Constantine the Great, after founding the Lateran Church, built seven others at Rome; one of these was the Church of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill, where he suffered martyrdom. Another was the Church of St. Paul, at the site of his tomb on the Ostian Road. A revenue was charged to maintain these[Pg 40] churches out of the spices imported from Egypt and the East, and lands at Tyre and Alexandria and elsewhere were given as possessions for the same purpose. These churches were built in a magnificent style, so as to vie with the finest structures in the Empire. St. Peter’s was rebuilt in part in 1506 and 1626. The richest treasure consists of relics of St. Peter and St. Paul, which lie under a magnificent altar in a sumptuous vault, called the Confession of St. Peter on the Threshold of the Apostles. Raphael and Michael Angelo were in succession the architects. The area of St. Peter’s Church is 700 feet long by 509 feet wide.

 

WAS ST. PAUL EVER IN GREAT BRITAIN?

It was at one time believed that St. Paul had entered Great Britain as within his mission, and preached to the natives. But Thackeray, in his “Researches into the State of Ancient Britain” (1843), comes to a conclusion in the negative for the following reasons: (1) There is no mention nor even allusion to it in the New Testament; (2) the statement of his friend Clemens, Bishop of Rome, to the effect that Paul preached to the utmost bounds of the West, is far too vague to be available, and seems only a hyperbolic mode of expressing the magnitude of his labours; (3) there is no probable allusion to Paul’s journey to Britain to be found in the whole range of literature prior to Theodoret, early in the fifth century, and even he does not specify Britain; (4) there is no mention of any such mission to be found in our own historians prior to the Norman Conquest.

 

ST. PAUL ON AREOPAGUS, QUOTING A POET.

The fact that St. Paul, when addressing the Athenians on the summit of the Areopagus or Hill of Mars, quoted a Greek poet for the saying, “Ye are also his offspring,” has led scholars to search for the originals. And the saying is found in two poets who flourished before the Christian era—namely, Aratius and Cleanthes. There are two other quotations (Titus i. 12; 1 Cor. xv. 33), traced to Epimenides and Callimachus. Some have inferred from these quotations that St. Paul may have been familiar with the poets of Pagan antiquity. But the researches of scholars tend to show that the quotations were only common sayings of the period, and the inferences one way or another as to the Pagan learning of the apostle are mere speculations. The occasion also on which St. Paul spoke on Areopagus has been the subject of discussion, as to whether Paul was at the[Pg 41] moment charged with some indictable offence against the sanctity of the gods, or whether there was some inquisition held by authority in order to include Jesus as one of the recognised divinities, or whether it was merely an address at the request of the keen-witted Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of the time. No certain conclusion can be arrived at on these moot points.

 

ST. PAUL AND PLAUTILLA.

A legend of the death of St. Paul relates that a certain Roman matron named Plautilla, one of the converts of St. Peter, placed herself on the road by which St. Paul passed to his martyrdom, in order to behold him for the last time; and when she saw him, she wept greatly and besought his blessing. The apostle then, seeing her faith, turned to her, and begged that she would give him her veil to bind his eyes when he should be beheaded, promising to return it to her after his death. The attendants mocked at such a promise; but Plautilla, with a woman’s faith and charity, taking off her veil, presented it to him. After his martyrdom, St. Paul appeared to her, and restored the veil stained with his blood. It is also related that, when he was decapitated, the severed head made three bounds upon the earth, and wherever it touched the ground a fountain sprang forth. This legend is sometimes represented in the pictures of the martyrdom of St. Paul. The church of San Paolo at Rome, where the body of St. Paul was interred, rich with mosaics, was consumed by fire in 1823.

 

ST. PAUL AND THE VIPER.

Not far from the old city of Valetta, in the island of Malta, there is a small church dedicated to St. Paul, and just by the church a miraculous statue of the saint with a viper on his hand, supposed to be placed on the very spot on which he was received after his shipwreck on this island, and where he shook the viper off his hand into the fire without being hurt by it. At that time the Maltese assure us the saint cursed all the venomous animals of the island and banished them for ever, just as St. Patrick banished those of Ireland. Whether this be the cause of it or not, it is said to be a fact that there are no venomous animals in Malta.

 

THE HISTORY OF JUDAS ISCARIOT.

The “Apocryphal Gospel,” called the “Arabic Gospel of the Infancy,” has the following (chapter xxxv.): “In the same place[Pg 42] there dwelt another woman, whose son was vexed by Satan. He, Judas by name, whenever Satan seized him, bit all who approached him; and if he found no one near him, he bit his own hands and other members. Therefore the mother of this unfortunate youth, hearing the fame of Lady Mary and her Son Jesus, arose and took with her her son Judas to my Lady Mary. Meanwhile, James and Joses had taken away the Child Lord Jesus to play with other children; and after leaving home, they had sat down, and the Lord Jesus with them. Judas the demoniac came nigh, and sat down at the right of Jesus; and then, being assaulted by Satan as he was wont to be, he sought to bite the Lord Jesus, but he could not; yet he struck the right side of Jesus, who for this cause began to weep. Forthwith Satan went forth out of the boy in form like a mad dog. Now, this boy who struck Jesus, and from whom Satan went out in the form of a dog, was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him to the Jews, and that side of Him on which Judas had smote Him the Jews pierced with a spear” (Matt. x. 4; John xix. 34).

 

 


[Pg 43]

CHAPTER III.

CHRIST’S CONTEMPORARIES—CLIMATE AND SCENERY OF PALESTINE.

 

THE SAGES OF GREECE AND ROME ON CHRISTIAN PRODIGIES.

Gibbon observes that during the age of Christ, of His Apostles and their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons were expelled, and the laws of Nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the Church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing their ordinary occupations, were unconscious of anything extraordinary. Under the reign of Tiberius, the whole earth, or at least a celebrated province of the Roman Empire, was involved in a preternatural darkness of three hours. Yet this miraculous event passed without notice in an age of science and history. It happened during the lifetime of Seneca and the elder Pliny, who must have experienced the immediate effects or received the earliest intelligence of the prodigy. Each of these philosophers in a laborious work has recorded all the great phenomena of Nature—earthquakes, meteors, comets, and eclipses—which his indefatigable curiosity could collect. Both the one and the other have omitted to mention the greatest phenomenon to which the mortal eye has been witness since the creation of the globe. A distinct chapter of Pliny is designed for eclipses of an extraordinary nature and unusual duration, but he contents himself with describing the singular defect of light which followed the murder of Cæsar, when during the greatest part of the year the orb of the sun appeared pale and without splendour. This season of obscurity, which cannot surely be compared with the preternatural darkness of the Passion, had been already celebrated by most of the poets and historians of that memorable age.

 [Pg 44]

DEATH OF ZACHARIAS.

Jeremy Taylor says that Herod slew Zacharias between the Temple and the altar “because he refused to betray his son to the fury of that rabid bear,—though some persons, very eminent amongst the stars of the primitive Church, report a tradition that, a place being separated in the Temple for virgins, Zacharias suffered the mother of our Lord to abide there after the birth of her Holy Son, affirming her still to be a virgin; and that for this reason, not Herod, but the scribes and Pharisees, did kill Zacharias. Tertullian reports that the blood of Zacharias had so besmeared the stones of the pavement, which was the altar on which the good old priest was sacrificed, that no art or industry could wash the tincture out, the dye and guilt being both indelible; as if, because God did intend to exact of that nation ‘all the blood of righteous persons, from Abel to Zacharias,’ who was the last of the martyrs of the synagogue, He would leave a character of their guilt in their eyes to upbraid their irreligion, cruelty, and infidelity. Some there are who affirm these words of our Saviour not to relate to any Zacharias who had been already slain, but to be a prophecy of the last of all the martyrs of the Jews who should be slain immediately before the destruction of the last Temple and the dissolution of the nation. Certain it is that such a Zacharias, the son of Baruch (if we may believe Josephus), was slain in the middle of the Temple a little before it was destroyed; and it is agreeable to the nature of the prophecy and reproof here made by our Saviour that ‘from Abel to Zacharias’ should take in ‘all the righteous blood’ from first to last till the iniquity was complete, and it is not imaginable that the blood of our Lord and of St. James their bishop (for whose death many of themselves thought God destroyed their city) should be left out of the account, which certainly would be if any other Zacharias should be meant. In reference to this, Cyprian de Valera expounds that which we read in the past tense to signify the future: ‘Ye slew’—i.e., shall slay.”

 

CHILDHOOD OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.

Elizabeth fled with her son John the Baptist when he was about eighteen months old into the wilderness, where after forty days she died. His father Zacharias, at the time of his ministration, which happened about this time, was killed in the court of the Temple. According to the tradition of the Greeks, God deputed an angel to be his guardian and nourisher, as he had formerly done to Ishmael and Elias.

 [Pg 45]

DEATH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.

The Jews ascribed to the murder of John the Baptist the fate that befell Herod and Salome. Herod, in journeying to Rome four years after Christ’s death, was deprived of his tetrarchate and banished along with Herodias to Gaul, and they died in great misery at Lyons or in Spain. Salome in crossing the ice in winter fell into the water; and the ice, after parting, joined again, and decapitated her. John the Baptist’s disciples honourably buried his body. It was said the Pagans rifled the tomb and burned the body in the reign of Julian the Apostate; but some of the bones were sent to St. Athanasius at Alexandria. In 396 Theodosius built a great church in that city in honour of the Baptist, and there the holy relics were deposited. The head of the Baptist was discovered in 453, and in 800 it was conveyed to Constantinople; in 1203 the lower jaw was taken to France, and is preserved to this day. Part of the head is in St. Sylvester’s Church at Rome.

 

BURIAL OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.

Jeremy Taylor says that John was imprisoned in the castle of Macheruns, where Herod sent for him and caused him to be beheaded. His head Herodias buried in her own palace, thinking to secure it against a reunion, lest it should again disturb her unlawful lusts and disquiet Herod’s conscience. But the body the disciples of John gathered up, and carried it with honour and sorrow, and buried it in Sebaste, in the confines of Samaria, making his grave between the bodies of Elizeus and Abdias the prophets. And about this time was the Passover of the Jews.

 

CHURCHES DEDICATED TO THE BAPTIST.

Temples were dedicated to John the Baptist in the first ages of Christianity, the earliest and most celebrated being that known at Rome as St. John Lateran. The next most celebrated church dedicated to St. John is the Baptistery at Florence, dedicated by the Princess Theodolunda about 589. In this baptistery every child born in Florence of the Roman Catholic faith must by law be baptised. This renowned church is decorated both inside and without with miracles of art.

 

PONTIUS PILATE.

Pilate, after ten years of service, was disgraced and called to Rome. One of that cloud of false witnesses who sprang up every year told the people of Samaria that he knew where the sacred[Pg 46] vessels lay hid, and fixed a day when they should meet him in thousands on Gerizim to dig them up. Hearing of this movement, Pilate sent troops into the highways and villages round Shechem; and these soldiers, setting upon the people, slew the innocent with the guilty, and put the whole body of Samaritans to flight. A great cry for vengeance arose in Samaria; the Senate sent an embassy to Antioch; and Vitellius, a man of craft and policy, wishing to stand well with the Jews, put the government of Samaria and Judæa into fresh hands, and commanded Pilate to report himself in Rome. Here we lose sight of him. Legends make him a suicide—some in a Roman prison, others in Gaul, and others again near the Lake of Lucerne, on the summit of the mountain which bears the name of Mount Pilatus.

 

THE DOINGS OF HEROD THE GREAT.

About sixty years B.C., Herod, misnamed the Great, had partly by bribery prevailed on Antony and Augustus to make him king of the Jews, and Josephus describes his visit to Rome on that appointment. Herod has always been a monster of cruelty. He married a beautiful woman named Mariamne, whom he put to death after being the mother of several of his children. Then he had a fit of remorse, and frantically called her by name, and ordered his servants to do so. Then he next slew the grandfather and brother of Mariamne, the latter being ordered to be suffocated while his servants were engaged in a bathing frolic. In his old age he was seized with a sudden suspicion against two sons, whom he accused of a plot against him, and after some wavering caused them to be strangled, and some three hundred who sympathised with them to be stoned to death. After these symptoms of madness, a year before his death, being alarmed by the reports of the visits of the Magi, and the prophecies of the birth of Christ, he ordered the massacre of the innocents. He died a year after, at the age of seventy-one, of a disgusting disease, accompanied with horrible tortures, having reigned thirty-five years. In order that he should not die without being lamented, he had ordered a large number of the chief inhabitants of Jerusalem, as soon as he was dead, to be slain by his soldiers. He died enormously rich, and even Horace refers to his vast palm groves. There was a lengthened litigation and appeal to Rome about the division of his estates and governments. The son who succeeded him so misconducted himself that after nine years he was banished by Augustus and his wealth confiscated.

 [Pg 47]

MARY MAGDALENE.

There were three Marys—Mary of Bethania, Mary the sister of Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene; and some think they were all one person. Most of the early writers say that she and Lazarus and Martha left Galilee and settled at Bethany, and there Christ often visited them. The penitent woman and she are by some treated as the same person; but it is at best only a conjecture. It is a popular tradition that Mary and Lazarus, and Martha or Mary their sister, were expelled after the Ascension, and put to sea, and reached Marseilles, and founded a Church there, of which Lazarus was the first bishop. The relics of these saints were alleged to be discovered in Provence in the thirteenth century, and Mary Magdalene’s were at St. Maximius, near Marseilles, where a convent now stands. Her festival is kept July 22nd, and once was a holiday in England.

 

MARY MAGDALENE PREACHING.

A Provençal legend states that after the Ascension Lazarus, with his two sisters Martha and Mary, Maximius and seventy-two disciples, also Cedon the blind man whom our Saviour restored to sight, and Marcella the handmaiden were put by the heathen in a vessel and set adrift; but, guided by Providence, it landed at Marseilles in France. The people were then Pagans, and refused to give the pilgrims food or shelter, so that they were fain to take refuge under the porch of a temple. And Mary Magdalene preached to the people, reproaching them for their senseless worship of dumb idols. And though at first they refused to listen, yet they were after a time convinced by her eloquence, and by the miracles she and her sister performed; and they were all converted and baptised. These things being accomplished, Mary Magdalene retired to a desert near the city, where there were only rocks and caves, and she devoted herself to solitary penance for thirty years, weeping and bewailing for the past. She fasted rigorously, and must have perished, but the angels came down from heaven every day and carried her up in their arms into regions where her ears were ravished with the sounds of heavenly melody, and where she beheld the glory and the joy prepared for the penitent sinner. One day, a hermit, having wandered near the spot, beheld this wondrous vision of the angels carrying the Magdalene up to heaven in their arms, and singing songs of triumph; and after recovering from his amazement, he returned to the city of Marseilles and reported what he had seen. Fra[Pg 48] Angelico has a most interesting picture of the Magdalene preaching from the steps of a building to an audience composed mostly of nuns, who are in rapt attention.

 

ACCOUNT OF ST. MARTHA.

St. Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary, was a favourite member of that family whom Christ often visited, staying a night on His visits. On the first visit, Martha attended to the practical details of hospitality, while Mary was intensely absorbed in the spiritual charm of the conversation, and did nothing but listen, and yet was commended for this, as if each was entitled to follow her own way of displaying her affection. The message sent at a later date to Christ by the two sisters was simply this—“He whom Thou lovest is sick”: they knew it was enough to say that one word. On the last visit of Christ, Mary poured costly ointment on Christ’s feet, which Judas Iscariot said was a shocking extravagance. St. Martha seems to have been present at the Crucifixion. After Christ’s ascension, she, as stated under the head of Mary Magdalene, went to Marseilles, and her body is deposited in a vault under the church at Tarascon. King Louis XI. gave a rich bust of gold, in which the saint’s head is kept.

 

ST. VERONICA AND HER HANDKERCHIEF.

St. Veronica was the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Christ’s garment. She greatly longed for a portrait of Christ, and brought a cloth to Luke, who was a painter, to make one. But he tried three times to make a good portrait and failed. And Veronica being distressed, Christ told her He would help her if she would go home and prepare a meal, which He would take with her. She prepared the meal, and Christ went at the time appointed; and on receiving from her a cloth to wipe His face after washing it, He pressed it to His face, and it received a miraculous portrait of His features. This He gave to her, and it performed afterwards many miracles. The Emperor hearing of these miracles, sent for Veronica to show him the portrait. She went to Rome with it, and was received with great honour, and showed it to the Emperor, who, on seeing it, was immediately cured. Others say that Veronica was a compassionate woman, who, seeing the drops of agony on the brow of Christ, as He was bearing the cross to Calvary, wiped His face with a napkin, or with her veil, and then she found His likeness miraculously stamped upon the cloth. She afterwards came to Europe in the[Pg 49] same vessel with Lazarus and Mary Magdalene, and suffered martyrdom in Provence or Aquitaine.

 

HILLEL RELATED TO JESUS.

Of the Great College which inspired and guided Jewish thought, the chief luminary had been Hillel, surnamed the Great. Hillel was a Babylonian Jew by birth, though in blood (on his mother’s side at least) he belonged, like Joseph of Bethlehem, to the royal line. Hence he was of kin to Mary and Jesus. Like Joseph, too, he was a craftsman in one of the noble trades. When he left the Farther East for Syria, he was already forty years of age; when he came to Jerusalem and entered himself a student in the school of Menachem the Essene and Shammai the Pharisee, he had to labour for his college fees and daily bread. He sat under Sammias and Pollion. Each of these eminent scholars had risen by his virtues and learning to the high rank of rector of the Great College. Under him the college made a new start for fame. He invented the seven rules. A thousand pupils entered his classes: eighty are said to have become famous as men of letters, doctors, and scribes. He lived to the age of a hundred and twenty, and died when Jesus was fourteen years of age (in the tenth year of our era). He may have been one of the doctors with whom Christ talked in the Temple. Simeon succeeded his father in the rectorship, and was still alive when Jesus began to preach, and died two years after the Crucifixion.

 

THE SANHEDRIM AT JERUSALEM.

The Sanhedrim’s strength had been reduced first by Herod the Great, afterwards by the Roman governors of Judæa. Herod, on capturing Jerusalem, had seized the whole body of the Sanhedrim, thrown them into prison, and, with two illustrious exceptions, put them all to death. Around Hillel and Shammai, the men whom Herod had spared, a new council had been formed; but the prestige of the Sanhedrim could never be restored. Pilate abridged their rights, taking from them more particularly the power of life and death; yet even after they had lost the right to torture prisoners and stone offenders, they still exercised a vast authority in Jerusalem, and in every other Jewish city. Pilate could not dispute their jurisdiction over Jews, however, in whatever land they dwelt, so long as they did not encroach on the civil powers. The Sanhedrim comprised three classes—priests, Levites, and ordinary Jews. The priestly element was strong. Caiaphas, being the official high priest, had a right to preside. In his absence[Pg 50] the chair was filled by Simeon, rector of the Great College. Whoever filled the chair was considered as sitting in the place of Moses.

 

THE WORKING MAN IN CHRIST’S TIME.

No handicraft could be followed by a slave, and none but a freeman could learn a trade. Some trades were indeed less eminent than others—to wit, the art of a tanner was condemned as noisome; the arts of a barber, a weaver, a fuller, a perfumer, were all considered mean; and no man following these crafts could be allowed on any pretence to serve in the sacred office. A tanner, like Jose of Sephoris, might become a rabbi; he could never be made high priest. Not so with the craft of carpenter—a craft which had a part of its functions in the synagogue and Temple, which was often adopted as a profession by men of noble birth, and which enjoyed the same sort of repute among the Jews that is given in England to the Church, the Army, and the Bar.

 

THE PHARISAIC NICETIES.

The Pharisees were so rigid that, according to Buxtorf (“Syn. Judaica”), if an ox or other animal fell into a pit, it was deemed lawful to draw it out only when leaving it till Sabbath would involve risk to life. When delay was not dangerous, the rule was to give the beast food sufficient for the day; and if there were water in the bottom of the pit, to place straw and bolsters below it that it might not be drowned. The same author states that it was a breach of the law to let a cock wear a piece of ribbon round its leg on Sabbath, for it was making it bear something. It was also forbidden to walk through a stream on stilts, because, though the stilts appear to bear you, you really carry the stilts. While scrupulously observing the law which prohibited the cooking of food on Sabbath, they did not by any means make the holy day a day of fasting.

 

THE SIEGES OF JERUSALEM.

From the time Pompey (63 B.C.) captured Jerusalem and subjected the country to the Roman yoke, the Jews were always on the verge of insurrection. In 65 A.D., when Florus the Roman procurator robbed the sacred treasury, and brought on an insurrection, Bernice, the wife of Agrippa, rushed with bare feet through the streets to intercede with Florus; but it was in vain. In 69 A.D. Titus approached and besieged the city, starved out the inhabitants, and destroyed the Temple. Many Jewish captives[Pg 51] were afterwards carried to Rome to swell the triumph of Titus, and were thrown to the wild beasts or forced to kill one another. The triumphal arch of Titus, erected soon after his death, remains to this day in Rome. From that date the Jews ceased to be a nation, and were dispersed over the world. There are no clear accounts of what became of the Apostles after the fall of Jerusalem. Some say that they arranged to go into different regions, as Scythia, Asia, Parthia, India. Those writers who profess to give later accounts of the Apostles flourished only in the third or fourth century.

 

DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN 70.

Not long before the outbreak of the Jewish War, seven years before the siege of Jerusalem, a man, by name Jesus, came to the city at the Feast of Tabernacles, and in a fit of abstraction cried continually, “Woe to the city! woe to the Temple!” He alarmed the authorities, who ordered him to be scourged as a madman; but he continued these exclamations, and during the siege he was last seen sitting on the wall, still repeating the same cries, till a missile put an end to him. The Jews rebelled against the Romans in 66. The Christians, remembering our Lord’s admonition (Matt. xxiv. 15), forsook the city, and fled beyond the Jordan. In April 70, when the city was filled with strangers, the siege began, and history records no other instance of such obstinate resistance, such desperate bravery and contempt of death. The Castle of Antonia was surprised and taken by night. The famine was so severe that many swallowed their jewels; a mother even roasted her own child. Titus wished to spare the Temple. But in a fresh assault a soldier, unbidden, hurled a firebrand through the golden door. When the flame arose the Jews raised a hideous yell. The Roman legions vied with each other in feeding the flames. It was burnt on August 10th, 70, the same day of the year on which the first Temple was, according to tradition, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The sight was terrible. The mountain seemed enveloped in one sheet of flame; all was covered with corpses; over these heaps the soldiers pursued the fugitives. Josephus says the number of Jews slain was 1,100,000, and the number sold into slavery was 90,000. The Christian Church was by this event liberated from local influences, and took up an independent position in the world.

 

ANTIOCH THE FIRST GENTILE CHURCH.

The interest of Antioch consists in certain memorable events[Pg 52] having occurred there in the first ages of Christianity. It was situated where the chain of the Lebanon, running north, and the chain of Taurus, running east, meet, and was partly on an island. It was here that the Christians, when dispersed from Jerusalem at the death of Stephen, preached the Gospel. Here was the first Gentile Church founded; here the disciples of Christ were first called Christians; here St. Paul first settled as a minister of the Church and started on his first mission; here St. Paul rebuked St. Peter for conduct into which he had been betrayed through the influence of emissaries from Jerusalem. Jews were from the first settled in Antioch in large numbers. The city was founded in 300 B.C., and became prosperous. The citizens were noted for scurrilous wit, and for the nicknames they gave, and perhaps the name of Christian had its origin in this disposition of theirs. The modern place known as Antioch is a small and insignificant town of 6,000 inhabitants, though the ancient city was supposed to have had a population of 200,000. An earthquake destroyed most of the city in 526, and again in 583. The Saracens captured it in 635; the Crusaders stormed it in 1089; and it fell under the Moslem rule in 1286, since which time it has dwindled into insignificance.

 

PALESTINE EXPLORATIONS.

In modern times the geography of Palestine was chiefly known through the works of Dr. Robinson, Burckhart, and Vande Velde; but in 1864 a society sprang up in England for the purpose of a more systematic exploration. Successive expeditions were sent there for that purpose. In 1868 the Moabite Stone was discovered by the Rev. F. Klein. It is a block of basalt about 3½ feet by 2 feet, and has on its face thirty-four lines of writing in the character known as Phœnician. If it had remained entire, there would have been no great difficulty in reading the inscription; but when the Arabs heard that the Europeans attached great value to its possession, they quarrelled about it and broke it up. About two-thirds of the fragments were afterwards collected and pieced together. And, fortunately, a “squeeze” of the whole had been taken before it was broken, and a translation has been arrived at. The restored monument was preserved in the Louvre at Paris, and a plaster cast is in the British Museum. The inscription is supposed to be a record by Media, King of Moab (nearly nine hundred years before Christ), of the victories and public works he had achieved. Besides the Moabite Stone, the explorers discovered numerous dolmens, being circular terraces[Pg 53] 3 feet high, some of which were conjectured to be burial-places; also, dolmens being flat, table-like surfaces, probably used as altars by the Canaanite tribes.

 

THE COURSE OF THE JORDAN TO THE DEAD SEA.

Mr. Macgregor, of the Rob Roy canoe, traversed the upper part of the Jordan, and arrived at certain measurements, which have been corrected slightly by the Palestine Survey Commission. From the source to the Dead Sea it is 200 miles long. The source of the tributary of the Hasbany is 1,700 feet above the level of the sea. The Dead Sea is 1,292 feet below the level of the sea. The Lake of Tiberias is 682 feet below the level of the sea. The river at first runs 20 miles, then falls into the basin of Hooleh, 4 miles long; then runs 10 miles, and falls into the basin of Tiberias, or the Lake of Galilee, 12½ miles long and 8 miles wide; then runs 65 miles, and falls into the basin of the Dead Sea, 47 miles long and 10 miles wide. The Dead Sea is 1,278 feet deep at its greatest depth; the Sea of Galilee is 165 feet deep at the greatest; Hooleh about 15 feet deep. The Jordan ranks in size with the Dee of Aberdeenshire, but is rather less rapid. The Jordan has nearly the same rapidity as the Clyde and the Tweed. The Dead Sea, called in the Old Testament the Salt Sea, has no outlet to the south, but gets rid by evaporation from the surface of all the water poured into it. This is said to be the most remarkable depression of the kind on the face of the earth. There is no port, and there are no fish. The waters of lakes which have no outlet, such as the Caspian, the Sea of Aral, Lakes Balkash, Van, Uramiah, and the Dead Sea ultimately become more or less saline. The excessive saltness of the Dead Sea is represented as 24·57 lbs. of salt in 100 lbs. of water; while that of the Atlantic is only 6 lbs. of salt in the same quantity.

 

THE SEA OF GALILEE.

The Sea of Galilee, or Tiberias, or Gennesaret, is pear-shaped, tapering towards the lower end. In its central part it varies from 60 feet to 165 feet deep. It is 12½ miles long, and its greatest width is 8 miles. Bethsaida, now called Tabiga, is on the upper shore of Galilee, and consists of a few huts and mills. Some hot springs here flow into the lake, and great numbers of fish crowd round that spot, which cormorants and gulls watch and feed upon. Here was the miraculous draught of fishes. Here Christ stood in a ship a little from the shore and addressed the multitude. There was also a Bethsaida on the east of the Jordan[Pg 54] at St. Tell, where the five thousand were fed. The site of Capernaum, as related (p. 62), is now doubtful; but Mr. Macgregor thought it was at Khan Minyeh, about a mile west of Bethsaida and on the shore of Galilee. Magdala is on the west shore of the lake near the middle, now called Midgel, and is a poor village without beauty or cleanliness. It gives the name to Mary, who is known over the whole world. Behind Magdala the hills rise abruptly to about 1,000 feet. Tiberias is three miles farther down the west coast than Magdala, and is now a filthy town, especially in the Jews’ quarter. Christ seemed never to have entered this town, and the chief reason given is that it was full of foreigners.

 

FISHING IN SEA OF GALILEE.

The boats now used on the Sea of Galilee have dwindled to about six, of five oars each; and for half a century travellers seldom have seen more than one or two on the lake. The fish in the lake were said by Macgregor to be the carp and the cat-fish, or coracinus. When Dr. Tristram visited the country in 1869, he found a mode of fishing in vogue which was to scatter poisoned bread crumbs, which caused the fish to die and float on the surface in large shoals. He was told that there were fourteen species of fish in the lake, but only three sorts were eatable. He also saw a man wade in naked to guide his seine net round, and then draw it ashore. The storms or squalls on the Sea of Tiberias are often violent, and this is said to be owing to its depth below the level of the sea, where the air is so rarefied and causes a gap in the continuity of the atmosphere. The steep place where the herd of swine ran down into the Sea of Tiberias is judged to be at Kersa, directly opposite to Magdala.

 

THE SOURCES OF THE JORDAN.

Mr. Macgregor, with the Rob Roy canoe, about the year 1868 explored the sources of the Jordan, which are three. One is the Hasbany, due north, near which is the Pool of Fuarr, which the natives all believed to be 1,000 feet deep, being unapproachable by them; but when sounded it was only 11 feet deep. There is a weir made to form this pool, and to supply a mill near this point, and also a bridge with two arches crosses the stream a little lower down. Two miles to the east of the Hasbany is another source of the Jordan, called the Leddan; and on the east bank is a mound, about 30 feet high and 600 feet wide, said to have been once the town of Dan, where Jeroboam set up the idol[Pg 55] (1 Kings xii. 28). Near this spot is an impenetrable thicket, covering a pool 100 feet wide, supplied by a subterranean stream. The natives believed the pool bottomless, but it was found by the Rob Roy to be only 5 feet deep. This pool also supplies a mill. About fourteen miles farther east is the third source of the Jordan, issuing out of a cavern at the village of Banias, which was once the town of Cæsarea Philippi, where Christ asked His disciples who they thought He was. Near this spot was supposed to be the scene of the Transfiguration. Near this also are the vast ruins of the Castle of Subeibeh, built by the Herods, and held by the Crusaders. It is 1,500 feet above the plain.

 

THE HOOLEH, OR WATERS OF MEROM.

The three sources of the Jordan—the Hasbany, the Leddan, and the Banias—unite, after running about 12 miles, at a place called Tell Sheik Yusuf. The Banias is about 70 feet wide before it reaches this point, and the banks are 20 feet high and abrupt. The united river is called the Jordan from this point, being then about 100 feet wide, and 8 or 9 feet deep. After running about 6 miles, the river becomes dispersed into small channels, and these are soon lost in a vast morass, called the Hooleh, or Waters of Merom, choked with reeds and papyrus, and swarming with leeches. These obstacles prevent even a canoe passing. The passage being thus blocked for half a mile, the water is again collected in a central pool or lake about 60 yards wide. A clear channel of a 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep flows from this pool, between thick walls of papyrus, which grows to a height of 15 feet above the water. And this is said now to be the largest papyrus ground in the world. Pelicans and water-fowl abound in Hooleh, and Mr. Macgregor killed a pelican which measured 10 feet between the tips of the extended wings. The Hooleh lake, or that part of it which is clear of the papyrus, is about 4 miles wide and 6 miles long, tapering to a point at the lower end, where the Jordan again issues as a river. The lake is not deeper than 15 feet, and is more usually 9 and 10 feet only. The Jordan, on its issuing from Hooleh, is about 60 feet wide; and after running 10 miles very rapidly, falls into the Sea of Tiberias or Galilee, or Lake of Gennesaret.

 

THE RIVERS OF DAMASCUS.

When Naaman the Syrian went to Elisha to be healed of leprosy, and was told to wash seven times in the Jordan, he[Pg 56] exclaimed, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?” In 1868 Mr. Macgregor, with the Rob Roy canoe, visited these places. Damascus was picturesque in its situation, but the houses and people exceedingly dirty. It is said to be the oldest inhabited city in the world. Vines and orange trees relieve the mud walls, but there is nothing really beautiful except the scenery surrounding this city. The population is said to be now 150,000. The river rises a little to the east of the source of the Jordan out of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, and flows due east past Damascus. It is a deep and rapid river about sixty feet wide, with high banks, without trees, and with fruitful plains on each side. Tortoises and land crabs abound. The Rob Roy canoe sailed down to the Tell of Salahiyeh, which is a small green hill like Primrose Hill, near London. There are many canals used for irrigation in the course of the river. The river then divides into three branches, on one of which is the spot known as Abraham’s Well, now called the village of Harran. These three branches become lost in a large morass called Ateibah. The Rob Roy explored this morass, and found it perfectly still water, choked with reeds and osiers about five feet high. The natives never go into it, believing some of the pools to be bottomless. The morass or lake is of a double form, and the whole is about fourteen miles long and four miles wide, seldom visited except for wild ducks and the myriads of other fowl which are the only active inhabitants of the spot, and make the only noise that can be heard. A few villages are dotted over the surrounding plains. The river Pharpar flows parallel to the Abana in a line about twelve miles more to the south. It also runs into a large morass, south of which is the land of Bashan. Here wild boars have their tracks through the reeds. The “bulls of Bashan” are shaggy buffaloes, which stand up to their middle in the marshes enjoying the coolness, till the Arab herdsman with a long stick drives them away, when they bellow and snort, raise their tails and scamper off, spreading terror all round.

 

POPULOUSNESS OF GALILEE IN CHRIST’S TIME.

According to Josephus, who lived a few years after the Crucifixion, the populousness of Galilee was far before most other regions of the world. He says that in a district of between fifty and sixty miles long, and sixty or seventy miles broad, there were no less than 204 cities and villages, the least of which contained 15,000 souls. If this were true, then, leaving out of view[Pg 57] the straggling villages, the population of the province would amount to the incredible number of 3,060,000. There were, according to Strabo, many Egyptians, Arabians, and Phœnicians in Galilee about that period.

 

CLIMATE OF PALESTINE.

Major Conder, engaged in the survey of Palestine about 1874, said that Palestine is still a land of corn, wine, and oil, as of yore, and sheep are still fed in the same pastoral regions; the same vineyards are still famous; the corn of its plains still yields a hundred-fold. Plagues, famines, fever, and leprosy still are common. There are still the former and the latter rains; and the rose of Sharon has not withered; the purple iris is still royally robed. Except in the disappearance of the lion and the wild bull there is no change in the fauna. The deer, the antelope, the fox, the wolf, the hyæna, the jackal, the ostrich, and the crocodile still survive in the wilder part of the land, and the great boar, the leopard, the wild goat, and the wild ass. The corn ripens even in April in the Jordan Valley, and in May on the hills; and the olive harvest and the vintage follow in the early autumn. In January comes the snow, with ice and hail. In one year in Jerusalem there were seven falls of snow.

 

MOUNT HERMON.

Mount Hermon, the second mountain in Syria, is a range of hills lying east and west, all on the east side of the source of the Jordan, often called the Anti-Lebanon. The highest cone is entirely naked. The snow never disappears from the summit, though in the height of summer it melts here and there, except in the ravines radiating from the top. The parallel range nearest the Mediterranean is called the Lebanon; and Mount Lebanon, the highest part, is snow-capped the greater part of the year. The range decreases in elevation southward. The average height of both ranges, exclusive of the peaks, is 1,500 to 1,800 feet. The range is rugged, consisting of deep fissures, precipices, towering rocks, and ravines. The forests of Lebanon consist of the cedars of Lebanon and a great variety of trees; but the cedars have dwindled to about 1,400. In the lower valleys and plains fig trees cling to the rocks, mulberries are cultivated in rows on step-like terraces, vines also are trained along narrow ledges, and dense groves of olives occupy the lower parts of the glens. The date palm, once abundant, is now almost extinct.

 [Pg 58]

THE LILIES OF THE FIELD.

Considerable variety of opinion has existed as to the precise flower which Christ alluded to in the ever-memorable Sermon on the Mount (Matt. vi. 28). Some have thought it must have been the rose; but the Septuagint translated the same word into lily, and this is considered the standard meaning. Father Souciet laboured to prove it ought to be the crown imperial, a plant common in Persia. Whatever flower was indicated, it was no doubt conspicuous and beautiful, as well as common. There are red or purple and white lilies; and probably the scarlet or purple colour was the one referred to, called the scarlet martagon, which grows in profusion in the Levant, and in the district of Galilee in April and May. The purple flowers of the khob or wild artichoke, which abounds in the plains north of Tabor, are thought by some to be the lilies of the field. A recent traveller also introduces to notice a plant with lilac flowers like the hyacinth, which he thought probably the flower meant. Dean Stanley says the only lilies he saw in Palestine were the large yellow water-lilies near Lake Merom. Mr. Thompson, in “The Land and the Book,” seems to prefer a large species of lily which grows among thorns, and is fed upon by the gazelles. He calls the colour gorgeous, but does not state what the colour is. The anemone coronaria is also noticed by Mr. John Smith, of Kew, with its brilliant colours, growing everywhere, and is abundant on the Mount of Olives. The lily of the valley, as known in England, is not a native of Palestine, and is not the flower of that name mentioned in the Bible.

 

WAYSIDE CEREALS, FRUITS, AND FLOWERS OF PALESTINE.

The most substantial as well as ordinary corn and fruits of Palestine are, and probably were in our Lord’s time, wheat, maize, lentils, barley, vines, olives, figs, and pomegranates. The land was ploughed by oxen. The fields were not usually separated by hedges, walls, or fences. The plough was a rude and light implement, which did not penetrate deeply into the soil, but merely scratched the surface a little. The threshing floor was merely a smooth and hard place where the corn was piled in a heap in the centre, and the oxen led round the outside to trample out the grains. The usual vegetables in Palestine are beans, peas, beets, turnips, carrots, and radishes. Gourds also abound. The herbs are lettuce, parsley, mint, mustard, lentils, cabbages, onions, and garlic. Melons and cucumbers are[Pg 59] rather luxuries, the former being manured from the dove-cotes which abound, and which are often substantial round buildings. The vineyards, which are surrounded by a hedge and ditch, are carefully watched during the ripening season to protect them from thieves, and also from the invasion of foxes, jackals, badgers, bears, and wild boars. The vineyards also have cherry, apple, pear, fig, and nut trees. The olives are planted in rows in the orchards. It is a tradition that the olives still growing at the foot of Mount Olivet were growing in the time of our Lord; but this is highly improbable, and is contradicted by some facts recorded by Josephus. The olives are first salted, then crushed in the olive press by a round stone as a press, run out into stone troughs, and the oil is stored in skin bottles or in stone jars, which are buried in the ground. The date palm abounds in the low and sheltered places. The palm tree consists of a single stem or trunk, rising to sixty or eighty feet without a branch, and with a tuft of leaves on the top. The fig tree, with its short stem and wide lateral branches, with sprigs of little figs growing all round the trunk, is the easiest to climb. The cedar tree was considered the most excellent for size, beauty of form, and for fragrance and durability of its wood. Hence Solomon used it chiefly for the Temple. It attained sometimes 120 feet in height. The wild cypress yielded gopher wood, of which the Ark was made. The oak and the terebinth are sometimes confounded together; but a small kind of the latter produces pistachio nuts. The poplar, evergreen, and sycomore are conspicuous in the jungles near the Jordan, as well as the tamarisk and cane. Of flowers the rose is a favourite. The flower called the rose of Sharon was rather the flower of a bulbous root. The lily of the field referred to in the Sermon on the Mount has been sometimes identified as a red tulip, called by the French a meadow anemone or queen of the meadows. It is remarkable for its great variety of colours, the scarlet abounding especially. There are also buttercups, dandelions, daisies, poppies, white and yellow crocus, mandrake, hyacinth, and sweet-scented stock. Of wild shrubs the oleander grows to a height of twelve to fifteen feet, and with its bright red flowers adorns the banks of the Jordan. The maidenhair fern hangs luxuriant round the fountains.

 

THE BIRDS OF PALESTINE.

The birds found in modern times in Palestine include the following:—The woodpecker, the robin, the lark, the thrush, the willow wren, and chiff-chaff; the true bulbul, which is the nightingale[Pg 60] of Palestine; the grackle, or orange-winged blackbird, haunting the gorges of the Dead Sea; also rock doves issue from the caverns; the wagtail; rock swallows; the black-headed jay; great spotted cuckoos; the black-shouldered kite; the red-legged partridge; ducks, rails, and coots; the eagle owl, as large as those in Central Europe; also little owls; the bat; the seagull, flamingo, crane, and cormorant; the imperial eagle; the vulture, griffon, and falcon; the hooded crow, the rook, and jackdaw. Of all the birds of Jerusalem the raven is the most conspicuous, one species being the ashy-necked, and smaller than the common sort. These ravens haunt the trees of the Kedron and Mount Olivet.

 

WILD BEASTS AND ANIMALS OF PALESTINE.

The wild beasts in Palestine include the following:—The ichneumon, which frequents the rocks, being as large as a badger, and of the same colour; the fox, the hedgehog, and the badger; the mole rat, which frequents all ruins, being twice the size of the English mole, and of a pale slate colour; the wild boar, the hyæna, and jackal; hares and gazelles. The bees are of smaller size than the English; butterflies the same as in England. Lizards and snails are common.

 

JERUSALEM.

The situation of Jerusalem is such that the ancient Jews believed it to be the centre of the world, and yet it was out of the great highways, and so had an immunity from disturbance. It stands on the edge of one of the highest tablelands in the country. Hence its great height used also to be constantly mentioned as a noted feature. Its highest point is about 2,600 feet above the level of the sea; the Mount of Olives overtops the highest part, being 2,724 feet. The situation of Jerusalem was not unlike that of Rome, except that Rome was in a well-watered plain, leading direct from the sea, while Jerusalem was on a bare tableland in the heart of the country. Each had its own cluster of steep hills. One great difficulty was as to supplying water for the gardens on the north side, as no trace of an ancient reservoir is now discovered in the upper parts. The arrangement of streets is now perhaps the same as in early times. A dull, leaden, ashy hue is everywhere on the buildings and ruins. The three great works in Solomon’s time were the Temple, the Palace, and the Wall of Jerusalem. After its destruction in 70, the city disappeared from history for fifty years, and its very name[Pg 61] was almost forgotten, till Constantine built the Martyrion on the site of the Crucifixion. In 326 Constantine’s mother, the Empress Helena, erected magnificent churches in Bethlehem and on the Mount of Olives. In 369 the Emperor Julian the Apostate made an abortive attempt to rebuild the Temple. In the fourth and fifth century pilgrims began to visit it. In 529 the Emperor Justinian built a splendid church in honour of the Virgin. The Christians ceased to have power there when the Khalif Omar in 637 captured it. In 1099 the Crusaders first captured it, and held it till 1187, when Saladin retook it. In 1243 it again came to the hands of the Christians. It again in 1244 was retaken by the Mohammedans, and has remained under the Sultans till modern times. There are various theories of geographers as to the topography of Jerusalem. Some think that the sites of all the chief places were correctly ascertained in the early centuries; while others say there is nothing but guesswork as to the site of the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple.

 

THE CITY OF NAZARETH.

Nazareth, the city or village where Christ lived after the return from Egypt till manhood, is situated in a basin among the hills just before they sink down into the plain of Esdraelon. The surrounding heights rise about 400 or 500 feet higher, with rounded tops, and they are composed of the glittering limestone, diversified with fig trees and wild shrubs. The hollyhock is one of the gay flowers of the field. The valley, which is about a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, is rich and well cultivated, having corn-fields and gardens, hedges of cactus, and clusters of fruit-bearing trees. The fruits are pomegranates, oranges, figs, and olives. The village has now about 4,000 population, chiefly Christians, with a few Mohammedans, a mosque, a Franciscan convent, and two or three chapels of other confessions. In the rainy season the streams pour down rapid floods through the hills. The wise man there takes care to build and dig deep down to the rock, and not to trust to the loose soil as a foundation. From the heights extensive views are obtained of the Lebanon, Hebron, Carmel, Gilead, and Gilboa. In this village Christ taught in the synagogue, and was once dragged to a precipice by His fellow-townsmen to be cast down. The origin of the disrepute in which Nazareth was held is not clearly known; but all the inhabitants of Galilee were looked upon with contempt by the people of Judæa, because they spoke a rude dialect, and were more exposed[Pg 62] to contact with the heathen. Near the village is shown the Fountain of the Virgin, where the angel’s salutation is said to have taken place, as the Virgin, like the rest of the inhabitants, resorted there for supplies of water. Another place of note is the cliff or precipice, about two miles south-east of the town; but geographers think that a cliff of fifty feet high near the Maronite Church is the locality where the mob wished to precipitate Christ. It is related that no Christians lived in Nazareth till the time of the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, who built the first Church of the Annunciation. The town was all but destroyed by Sultan Bibars in 1263, and it was many ages before it recovered. No Jews reside in Nazareth in modern times.

 

THE SITE OF CAPERNAUM.

The place where our Lord was so conspicuously occupied, the city of Capernaum, has caused great controversy among the geographers. The doom pronounced against it and the other unbelieving cities has been notably fulfilled, for no one can in the present day pronounce between the two most probable spots. One of these is Khan Minyeh, a mound of ruins close to the shore of Gennesaret, at the north-west extremity of the plain. The other is Tell Hum, three miles north of the last place, where are ruins of walls and foundations, half a mile long by a quarter wide. It also projects into the lake, and is backed by rising ground. Dr. Wilson supports the second, as also do the geographers dating from 1675; while Dr. Robinson, relying on Josephus, supports the first. It is one of the insoluble problems.

 

 


[Pg 63]

CHAPTER IV.

EARLY CHURCH CUSTOMS, FASTS, AND FESTIVALS.

 

CHURCH HISTORY DIVIDED INTO AGES AND PERIODS.

Dr. Schaff, in his “History of the Apostolic Church,” has divided the whole history of the Church as follows:—

First Age.—The Primitive or Universal Church, from its foundation on the day of Pentecost to Gregory the Great, thus embracing the first six centuries (A.D. 30-590).

First Period.—The Apostolic Church, from the first Christian Pentecost to the death of the Apostles (A.D. 30-100).

Second Period.—The Persecuted Church, to Constantine (A.D. 100-311).

Third Period.—The Established Church of the Græco-Roman Empire, and amidst the Barbarian storms, to Gregory the Great. (A.D. 311-590).

Second Age.—The Church of the Middle Ages, or Romano-Germanic Catholicism, from Gregory the Great to the Reformation (A.D. 590-1517).

Fourth Period.—The commencement of the Middle Ages, the planting of the Church among the Germanic nations, to the time of Hildebrand (A.D. 590-1049).

Fifth Period.—The flourishing period of the Middle Ages, the summit of the Papacy, monasticism, and scholastic and mystic theology, to Boniface VIII. (A.D. 1049-1303).

Sixth Period.—The dissolution of the Middle Ages and preparation for the Reformation (A.D. 1303-1517).

Third Age.—The Modern or Evangelical Protestant Church in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church from the Reformation to the present time.

Seventh Period.—The Reformation, or productive Protestantism and reacting Romanism (A.D. 1517-1600).

Eighth Period.—Orthodox Confessional and Scholastic [Pg 64]Protestantism in conflict with ultramontane Jesuitism, and this again with semi-Protestant Jansenism (seventeenth century and first part of eighteenth).

Ninth Period.—Subjective and negative Protestantism, Rationalism, and Sectarianism, and positive preparation for a new age in both Churches (middle of eighteenth century to present time).

 

THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH.

The Apostolic period, from A.D. 30 to 100, or rather 117, the death of John, may be subdivided into three: (1) the founding of the Christian Church among the Jews, chiefly the labours of St. Peter, A.D. 30-50; (2) the founding of the Christian Church among the Gentiles, or the labours of St. Paul (A.D. 50-64), who made Christianity more and more independent of Jerusalem, and the destruction of Jerusalem completed the severance; (3) the summing-up and organic union of Jewish and Gentile Christianity in one whole, chiefly the work of John. The three important local centres were Jerusalem, the mother Church of Jewish Christianity; Antioch, the starting-point of the heathen missions; Ephesus, the later residence of John. At the same time, Rome, where Peter and Paul spent their last days, was the centre of Western Christianity. The Apostolic period differs essentially from all subsequent periods. In the first place, Christianity comes forth from the bosom of Judaism, and for a long time clothes itself in the forms of that religion. The Apostles are all Jews. In their preaching they all, not excepting Paul, go first to their brethren, preach in the synagogues, visit the Temple at Jerusalem. The Church gradually separates from the home of its birth. The second peculiarity is the unstained purity and primitive freshness of doctrine and life, and its extraordinary spiritual gifts, working harmoniously together, and providing, by their creative and controlling power, for all the wants and relations of the infant Church. Müller called the first century the century of wonders. At the head of the Church were men who enjoyed immediate intercourse with the Saviour of the world, were trained by Him in person, and filled in an extraordinary degree with the Holy Ghost. Such infallible vehicles of Divine revelation, such sanctified and influential persons, are found in no subsequent age. The Apostolic period contained the germs of all subsequent periods, Christian personalities, and tendencies.

 

EARLY CHURCH AND THE MILLENNIUM.

In the ancient Church of the first three centuries there was[Pg 65] always an expectation of the millennium, as they counted, according to the Septuagint Version then current, 6,000 years to end soon after the coming of Christ. The primitive Church of Antioch considered the creation of the world took place 6,000 years before Christ. In the fourth century this period was reduced to 5,500, next to 5,200. The authority of the Vulgate and of the Hebrew text, as accepted by the moderns, fixed 4,004 as the period. The joyful Sabbath of 1,000 years was then to begin, and Christ would reign in the New Jerusalem. The assurance of such millennium was inculcated by a succession of Fathers, from Justin Martyr and Irenæus (130), who conversed with the immediate disciples of the Apostles down to Lactantius, who was the preceptor to the son of Constantine (317). The joys of the millennium were to be balanced by a concurrent conflagration and destruction of Rome, as the mystic Babylon. It was affirmed that those who since the death of Christ had obstinately persisted in the worship of demons would be delivered over to eternal torture. And the Christians of that time were said to enjoy a spiritual pride in witnessing the destruction of their enemies. Tertullian, who died in 240, an energetic Father and champion of the truth, thus alluded to the matter: “You are fond of spectacles: expect the greatest of all spectacles, the last and eternal judgment of the universe. How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs and fancied gods groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates who persecuted the name of God liquefying in fiercer fires than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in red-hot flames with their deluded scholars; so many celebrated poets trembling before the tribunal, not of Minos, but of Christ; so many tragedians declaiming their own sufferings; so many dancers,” etc., etc.

 

EARLY CHRISTIANS AND THE COMMUNITY OF GOODS.

One of the difficulties of the early Christians was to know how to act as regards their worldly goods, seeing that they were all brethren. They acknowledged this brotherhood, and yet were not clear where to draw the line. They used to salute each other with a holy kiss (Rom. xvi. 16); and they held love-feasts (or agapæ), by way of maintaining their fellowship; and these were held especially in connection with the Lord’s Supper. But these feasts were found not to work satisfactorily—chiefly, perhaps, because there was no suitable place of meeting. They were condemned and discontinued even in the time of the Apostles. In[Pg 66] the first ardour of the Church at Jerusalem, they tried the experiment of community of goods. The Apostles were careful to point out that the surrender was entirely voluntary. Instances of hypocrisy and avarice soon disgusted many, as in the notable case of Ananias (Acts v. 1), and the dissatisfied Hebrew widows (Acts vi. 1). It is not known how long this experiment lasted at Jerusalem. It was an experiment which could not succeed according to the constitution of human nature; for the love of an exclusive proprietorship is inherent, and it has been found in all succeeding ages that individuals, as well as nations, flourish most when each attends to his own business, and is satisfied to make the best of his own opportunities, and to cease to covet the acquisitions of others. It is found most salutary when each seeks only to gain riches by his own exertions, and without undue interference with others. Many dreamers have often looked forward to a community of goods as the most perfect state; but a little practical knowledge soon teaches every one that it is a dream, and nothing more. All the virtues of life are compatible with the exclusive possession of property; and few virtues are possible when there is no security for property as a basis.

 

FAVOURITE EMBLEMS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS.

In the early centuries, before paintings and images were introduced in places of worship, and which at first were thought to resemble too closely the Pagan practices, there were some favourite emblems used by the Christians on their walls and drinking vessels and rings. One was the figure of the Good Shepherd, representing Christ carrying a lamb on His shoulders. On rings would be carved a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit; or an anchor of hope, or a fisherman with a draught of fishes; or a lyre, signifying joy and praise. These were suggested by the subjects that made most impression on their daily thoughts.

 

CHRISTIAN NAMES OF PEOPLE.

One of the early notions of Christians was to select the name of some apostle or saint as one of the names of their children; and this was deemed, if not an infallible, at least a wise and prudent incentive to worthy actions. Hence it became universal to adopt a Christian name, and to mention it at the time of baptism; and heathen names were, on the other hand, forbidden. It was long thought right that the bishop, if he found some pagan name suggested, should forbid it and alter it into some[Pg 67] proper Christian name. Indeed, it was long deemed an accepted custom, if not the law, that the Christian name once given either by a bishop or priest at baptism was indelible, and that some offence was or would be committed by seeking to change it. This, however, in modern times, is known to be a delusion; and whatever may have been the name or names given to a child by parents or priests, it is the right of every one, without anybody’s leave, at any time thereafter, to change his name, both Christian and surname if he thinks fit, into any other; and if he choose to adhere to one name of his own choice, people will seldom trouble themselves to dispute it or to deny him this gratification. The only condition is that this change must not be made for purposes of fraud.

 

AURICULAR CONFESSION AND PENANCE.

Mr. Roberts, in his “Church Memorials,” says that in 459, which was the last year but one of the eventful pontificate of Leo I., the usage which had long prevailed in the Churches of the West, that there should be a public recital of sins which had been privately confessed, and a committal of the same to writing, was suppressed by the authority of Leo as of dangerous consequence to morals and good government. It seemed to that Pope that the practice of bringing these secret things to light before the congregation was unnecessary and pernicious. He deemed it enough for the penitent to make his confession first to God, and then to the priest who was to make intercession for him and procure the needful remission. And this may be considered as the date of private or auricular confession under the full sanction of ecclesiastical authority. Nor was public confession in general understood to be interdicted by this arbitrary Pope, but only the promulgation in public of such sins as were clandestine and could transpire only by the revelation of the secret by the sinner himself. The Roman Church has, however, always maintained the confession to a priest to be necessary, as a ground for the remission of sins committed after baptism, and essential as a constituent part of the penitential ordinance. It seems but of little importance to investigate the origin of the rite of penance, which lies buried behind the rubbish of superstition and priestcraft, or to travel through the various periodical changes in its forms and ceremonies. It is to the praise of the early Church that none of the Fathers of the apostolical and primitive ages laid stress on auricular confession as an essential part of Christian duty. The Council of Lateran in 1215 declared it necessary to[Pg 68] salvation. And in 1521 the Council of Trent issued a decree making both penance and auricular confession alike necessary.

 

RELIGIOUS RIOTS ABOUT THE TRISAGION.

The sixth century opened a sanguinary internecine feud between sects of the Church, and the first religious war was said to arise about the correct words of the Trisagion as used in the Church service in Constantinople. The blood of thousands was shed in the streets, squares, and churches; and at last the Emperor had to abdicate to conciliate an insolent mob, principally composed of infuriated monks. Gibbon thus describes it: “In the fever of the times the tense, or rather the sound, of a syllable was sufficient to disturb the peace of an empire. The Trisagion (thrice holy), ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!’ is supposed by the Greeks to be the identical hymn which the angels and cherubim eternally repeat before the throne of God, and which about the middle of the fifth century was miraculously revealed to the Church of Constantinople. The devotion of Antioch soon added, ‘who was crucified for us’; and this grateful address, either to Christ alone or to the whole Trinity, may be justified by the rules of theology, and has been gradually adopted by the Catholics of the East and the West. The Trisagion, with and without this obnoxious addition, was chanted in the Cathedral by the two adverse choirs; and when their lungs were exhausted, they had recourse to the more solid arguments of sticks and stones. The aggressors were punished by the Emperor, and defended by the Patriarch, and the crown and the mitre were staked on the event of this momentous quarrel.”

 

THE ANCIENTS’ PREACHING APPLAUDED ON THE SPOT.

One remarkable feature of the ancient services of the Church was, that the people used to applaud and encourage the preacher with clapping of hands and loud acclamations. St. Jerome, writing to Vigilantius, says, “The time was when he himself had applauded him with his hands and feet, leaping by his side and crying out ‘Orthodox’ for his sermon on the Resurrection.” And George of Alexandria relates that “the people applauded the sermons of St. Chrysostom, some by tossing their thin garments, others moving their plumes, others laying their hands upon their swords, and others waving their handkerchiefs and crying out, ‘Thou art worthy of the priesthood! thou art the thirteenth apostle! Christ hath sent thee to save souls!’” etc. And[Pg 69] Gregory in his dream describes how the people during the sermon moved their bodies like the waves of the sea raised by the wind. But the great ambition of the preacher was rather to melt the congregation into tears. St. Jerome says the preacher should labour to excite the groans of the people rather than their applauses. St. Austin says he once preached in Cæsarea, in Mauritania, where a savage custom existed of the citizens engaging in a bloody fight once a year by throwing stones at each other. And he directed all his eloquence against this custom, and was glad to notice the tears shed by many, and he rejoiced at the time of writing that eight years had since passed and the fight had never been there renewed. St. Chrysostom, the most effective of all the ancient preachers, said once, “I have thought of making it a law to forbid such acclamations, and to persuade you to hear in silence.” It was a frequent practice for notaries to take down the sermons of favourite preachers in shorthand, and in that way many have been preserved to the present day.

 

DRESS AND APPEARANCE OF EARLY CLERGY.

At a very early period the leaders of the Church attributed great importance to the particular dress and appearance of the clergy, and laid down stringent rules on that subject. The Canons said a decent mean must be observed—neither too nice nor too slovenly. In particular the extremes of baldness and long hair were equally objectionable, so that all were obliged to shave the crown of the head and beard. This distinguished them from the priests of pagan deities. So they were to observe a medium in dress, and to wear neither white nor black. But the colours varied in different times and places. It was noticed that these directions as to garb arose after the danger of detection during times of persecution had ceased. One garment, called the caracalla, and since cassock, was adopted after the time of Constantine. It was a long garment, reaching down to the heels, such as the Roman people put on when they went to salute the Emperor.

 

THE FOPPISH PRIESTS AND DEACONS OF THE FOURTH CENTURY.

So early as the fourth century there were very worldly and self-seeking officers in the Church. St. Jerome in his “Treatise on Virginity” says: “There are some of them who aspire to the office of priest or deacon that they may visit women with the greater liberty. Their chief care is to be well dressed, neatly[Pg 70] shod, and perfumed; they curl their hair with irons, they have bright rings on their fingers, and they walk on tiptoe, looking more like bridegrooms than clerks. Some of them make it their only business to find out the names and residences of ladies of quality, and to discover their dispositions. I will describe one of them who is a master in the art. He rises with the sun, the order of his visits is arranged, he finds out the shortest ways, and the troublesome old man enters almost the very chambers in which they rest. If he sees a cushion, a napkin, or any other little article that he likes, he praises it and admires the neatness of it; he takes it in his hand, then complains that he has not something of that kind; and, in short, he snatches it away before it is given to him.” St. Jerome also mentions the avarice of these self-seeking priests, who, under pretence of giving blessings, reach out their hands to receive money. This plain speaking of St. Jerome made him many enemies, who attacked in turn his own reputation and the fascination he exercised over fashionable ladies, so that he had to leave Rome and retreat to Palestine.

 

THE EARLY BISHOPS.

Great learning has been shown by ecclesiastical historians as to the precise position of early bishops—one side contending that these high officials were appointed by Christ, or at least by His Apostles; and the further inference is then drawn, that therefore this mode of governing the Church is the best possible and the only right and orderly kind of government for a true Church. Both points have been denied, and especially the second, because it is urged that even if there were bishops appointed by the Apostles, it would prove nothing, except that the Apostles thought them the best kind of officers for the time being, and yet that they might not be the best in other and different countries and circumstances. Most of the Christians of all times till the Reformation too hastily overlooked the fundamental principle, that each country and age is necessarily the best judge of the peculiar mode of governing the Church, and should not surrender its better judgment to the views of earlier and less experienced ages as to matters not expressly enjoined by Scripture. The defenders of bishops delight to dwell on some facts, or assumed facts, in favour of their theory. They say that St. John was one of the authors of the order of bishops, and that he went about ordaining for various stations, and especially Polycarp, while St. Peter ordained Clement at Rome and St. Paul ordained Timothy at Ephesus. The list of the first bishops is, however, very obscure. It is said[Pg 71] that James, the Lord’s brother, was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and was ordained by the Apostles immediately after the Crucifixion. And hence it is argued that our Lord must have sanctioned this act in some way. One consequence of the theory of bishops was, that the bishop alone had an inherent right to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and also to preach and ordain others; while a presbyter could only do so with his permission express or implied. And, above all, the bishop could call presbyters to account and excommunicate and censure them, thereby implying that the one order of priests was inferior to the other in jurisdiction.

 

SOME PRIVILEGES OF EARLY BISHOPS.

In the early centuries it became a custom for people to refer disputes of all kinds to the bishops as arbitrators, and in that respect their so acting superseded the action of courts of law. St. Augustine said that nearly his whole time was taken up with this duty, so that it became a burden to him. It became also an early practice for bishops to intercede with the government for prisoners. There was an ancient custom for the people to bow their head whenever they met a bishop, as if asking for his blessing; and even emperors rendered this mark of respect. It was also usual for people to kiss the bishop’s hand, for Ambrose said people thereby thought themselves protected by the bishop’s prayers. Sometimes a still higher honour was rendered to the bishop by singing hosannas to him; but Jerome admits this was too great an honour to mere mortal man. Bishops also wore a mitre or crown, and they sat upon what was called a kind of throne. It is said that St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, first sat on this throne. When a bishop was consecrated, he was conducted by the other bishops to a throne; and the form of prayer at their consecration besought the Almighty to give the bishop power to remit sins, and loose every bond according to the power which was given to the Apostles. One of the curious things connected with the early bishops and presbyters also was, that they were frequently seized by force and compelled to act if elected by a congregation. St. Austin himself was thus compelled, and so was Paulinus.

 

THE PASTORAL STAFF.

The bishops of all countries seem to have agreed in using the pastoral staff as one of the symbols of their authority. The form used is that of a shepherd’s crook, or a straight cane or staff, with[Pg 72] a knob or volute made of cypress wood or ivory or some metal ornamented. Each bishop used some peculiarity of workmanship, and it went with the office to his successor. The head of some was formed like a serpent, or a lion, or a bird.

 

THE SACRED CHARACTER OF ANCIENT CHURCHES.

The ceremony of consecrating churches was adopted in the three first centuries, and indeed some say from the time of the Apostles. Nothing very distinct, however, is found till the fourth century, when Constantine’s protection gave an impetus to church-building. St. Ambrose composed a form of prayer for such occasions. In the sixth century a practice began to consecrate also the altar separately. A church was not allowed to be put to any profane use, though religious assemblies and meetings of clergy were not forbidden. But no one was to have meat or lodging there. The sacred vessels of the church were also kept religiously for the single use of the sacraments. And when Julian the Apostate once sent two officers to plunder the Church of Antioch and fetch away the vessels and convert them into money, all believed that Julian was immediately seized with an ulcer and died miserably. One ancient custom was for the congregation to wash their hands before entering. In some places also, particularly in Egypt, the members took off their shoes. It is doubtful whether the custom of bowing toward the altar on entrance was not general, because it was merely following the custom of the Jews. One gate of the church was called the Beautiful or Royal Gate, being that at which kings entered, in which case they had to lay aside their crowns, for it was deemed indecent that they should wear such badges in presence of the King of kings. Even though it was a universal custom to allow debtors and criminals to take refuge for a time in churches, they were not allowed to lodge there, but were maintained in a precinct outside. The women sat in a separate part of the church from the men, and each entered by a separate door. In the fourth century pictures of saints and martyrs began to be set up in churches, and this continued, subject to the iconoclast persecution, to become more and more in keeping with the thoughts and views of the time till the Reformation finally stopped it in all the Reformed Churches.

 

THE ANCIENT OFFICE OF DEACONESS.

It is said that the office of deaconess existed in the Apostolic age, for St. Paul called Phœbe a servant or deaconess of the Church[Pg 73] (Rom. xvi. 1). The deaconess was always a widow, who had had children, who had been only once married, and who was at least forty, fifty, or sixty years old. Immense importance was attached to her having been only once married. Learned men differ as to whether she was ordained by the imposition of hands, or, if so, whether this meant anything more than a benediction. But all seemed to admit that she could not administer the sacraments, though some heretics allowed women this power also. The main duties of the deaconess were to assist at the baptism of women; to be private catechists to the women preparing for baptism; to visit women who were sick and in distress; to minister to the martyrs and confessors in prison; to attend the women’s gate and regulate the behaviour of women in the church, for the women went into church at a different gate from the men. The order of deaconess flourished till the twelfth century in the Greek Church, and the tenth or eleventh century in the Latin Church, and then the practice fell into abeyance, probably owing to the new views about the celibacy of the clergy.

 

THE FORM OF LITURGY IN ANCIENT TIMES.

The clergy have been said to be at first all bishops, until the growth of population and numbers made it expedient to subdivide a city or country into parishes of such size that one priest might conveniently attend to it. Each bishop at first appointed his own form of service. And the learned have disputed whether in the earliest ages the service included or consisted of what corresponds to a modern liturgy or stereotyped form of prayer and praise. There are authorities for both views. The Lord’s Prayer was generally one of the forms, and there were always hymns and psalms, and these would naturally be in set forms. Also, there were certain set prayers for special occasions. Peter Diaconus in 520 says that St. Basil, seeing that men’s sloth and degeneracy made them weary of a long liturgy, prepared a shorter form for them. And Julian the Apostate was said to admire the Church forms of worship; for when he intended the heathen priests to imitate the Christians, he specified particularly those prayers which were so composed that the people might make their responses. St. Ephraim of Syria and St. Ambrose were great composers of hymns. The grand hymn of Te Deum was composed by St. Ambrose and St. Austin jointly. St. Austin says there were five parts in the liturgy or service of the Church—namely, psalmody, reading of the Scriptures, preaching, prayers of the bishop, and the bidding prayers of the deacon. The last were[Pg 74] directions to the people what particulars they were to pray for, the deacon going before them and repeating every petition, to which the people made answer: “Lord, hear us,” “Lord, help us,” or “Lord, have mercy,” and the like. It seems to have been a practice for the people to turn their faces to the east in the solemn adorations, the east being the symbol of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, and also of the locality of Paradise. The Psalms were usually sung by the people standing. The sermons and homilies, which were an hour or even two hours long, were sometimes written and sometimes extempore. The preacher usually sat and the people stood; but there was no fixed rule, for the preacher seems also to have stood and the people to have sat. Many people in those times also thought the sermon too long, and went out before it ended.

 

THE RISE OF RITUALISM.

In the ninth century some attention began to be paid to the meaning of rites and ceremonies. One Amalarius, a deacon of Metz, in 820 composed a treatise on the Divine office, and on the order of the antiphonary, in which he attempted to make all the stages of the liturgy represent some doctrine. All the incidents of Divine service, every attitude and gesture, the dresses of the clergy, the ornaments of the church, the sacred seasons and festivals, were expounded as full of symbolical meaning. Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, on the other hand, being something of an iconoclast, and severe against the superstitions of relic hunters, advocated the exclusion of much irrelevant matter, as profane and heretical, from the service-book and hymn-book. He said that far too much attention had been given to music, and far too little to the study of Scripture. Agobard opposed the writings of Amalarius as full of idle comments and errors in doctrine. Not content with this exposure, Florus, master of the cathedral school of Lyons, wrote strongly against Amalarius, and cited him before two councils, the latter of which examined the mystical theories of Amalarius, and condemned them as being founded on nothing but the writer’s fancy, and dangerous. The theories of Amalarius, however, kept possession of many writers of the Middle Ages, and even in the nineteenth century had their admirers and advocates.

 

THE MASS, OR HOLY COMMUNION.

The great distinguishing ceremony of Christians is the celebration of the Mass or Communion, or Administration of the[Pg 75] sacrament in commemoration of our Lord’s Supper. The word Mass was used as early as about the second century, and is derived from the Hebrew missach, signifying a freewill offering, or mincha, an oblation of meal. The name of Mass was used to include all the offices and festivals of which the Holy Communion was a leading feature. After the Reformation the word Mass was discontinued in England, and superseded by the words Holy Communion. The days and times of celebrating the Communion have differed from age to age. High Mass was sung with music and solemn ceremony and the assistance of numerous ministers, but the Communion was seldom given at High Mass. Low Mass was said by a priest attended by a single clerk. The Eucharistic bread, or Host (from hostia, the sacrifice), was required by a council of Toledo in 925 to be made in form of a wafer, so as to be easily broken, and was expressly baked for the altar. Unleavened bread came to be almost universally used. In England, after the Reformation, ordinary bread is ordered to be used, and not wafers or stamped bread. The Elevation of the Host, or lifting up of the paten (a small flat plate so called) and consecrated bread above the head of the celebrant, was instituted by Pope Honorius III. in 1210, and he directed that it was to be adored when elevated. This practice has been prohibited in England since the Reformation. The pyx is the box in which the Host is kept or conveyed, often made of silver or ivory. The wine for the Communion used by the Greeks was mixed with water, and was red wine. The Roman Church now uses white wine. The English Church forbids water to be mixed with the wine. When the custom of carrying about and exposing the Host began, about the fourteenth century, the name of the vessel in which it was shown was called a monstrance, resembling a chalice. The Agnus Dei is a little round cake of perfumed wax, stamped with the figure of the Holy Lamb bearing the standard of the Cross. The cakes were burned as perfumes, symbolical of good thoughts, or in memory of the deliverance of men from the power of the grave at Easter by the Lamb of God. The French shepherds, during the time of the Crusades, were observed to use these perfumes. And people burned them in their houses as a safeguard against evil spirits. The Agnus Dei was also the name given to a hymn sung in the canon of the Mass.

 

ANCIENT CHURCH SERVICE IN THE MOTHER TONGUE.

The learned Bingham, in his “Antiquities of the Christian Church,” says that there is abundant testimony that in the[Pg 76] earliest services of the Church it was a rule that the liturgies and forms of prayers should be in the mother tongue of the people, and not, as had been a modern practice, invariably in the Latin tongue. St. Jerome says that at the funeral of Lady Paula the Psalms were sung in Syriac, Greek, and Latin, because there were men of each language present at the solemnity. He also says it was the practice for the young virgins to sing the Psalter morning and evening, and to learn the Psalms and some portion of the Scripture every day; and St. Basil says that all the people sung the Psalms alternately, and the children joined. And the Church took care to have the Bible translated into all languages—Syrian, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, Ethiopian, Armenian, Roman, Scythian, and Gothic. Another custom pointing to the same conclusion was, that Bibles were laid in the churches for the people to read in private at their leisure. So that none of the ancient Fathers ever dreamt that a time would come when the Scriptures should be only in the hands of the bishops and clergy. St. Chrysostom, in one of his sermons upon Lazarus, says expressly, “The reading of the Scriptures is our great guard against sin. Our ignorance of them is a dangerous precipice and a deep gulf.” A Church Council of Chalons in 813 expressly ordered that the bishops should set up schools to teach the knowledge of the Scriptures. There was an order of officers, called Readers, expressly to assist the people in this matter. And Eusebius relates that a blind man called John, one of the martyrs of Palestine, had so good a memory that he could repeat any part of the Bible as readily as the reader could do. Therefore it was an entire departure from ancient practice when the Church in mediæval and later times discountenanced the reading of the Scriptures by the people at large.

 

USE OF ORGANS AND BELLS IN CHURCHES.

Though music in Divine service had always a place, yet the use of instrumental music seems not to have become general till the time of Thomas Aquinas, about 1250. And it is related that one Marinus Sanutus, who lived about 1290, was the first to introduce wind organs into churches, whence he was called Torcellus, which is the name for an organ in the Italian tongue. This instrument had long been known as a curiosity before that time, and one was sent by the Greek Emperor about 766 to King Pepin. The use of bells as a mode of summoning worshippers to Divine service was soon thought of as a substitute for employing deacons or deaconesses to give private notice to each attendant.[Pg 77] In Egypt the early Christians imitated the Jews by blowing a trumpet. In the early monastery set up by Paula at Jerusalem, one of the virgins was set apart to go round singing hallelujah. In the time of Bede, in the seventh century, bells began to be used as a mode of summoning to worship. And in 968 Pope John XIII. consecrated the great bell of the Lateran Church in Rome, calling it John.

 

SEPARATION OF SEXES IN CHURCHES.

The custom of separating the sexes in church had a very remote origin. John Gregorie, in his works (published in 1646), says: “There is a tradition that in the ark, so soon as ever the day began to break, Noah stood up towards the body of Adam and before the Lord, he and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet. And Noah prayed and his sons; and the women answered from another part of the ark, ‘Amen, Lord.’ Whence you may note too (if the tradition be sound enough) the antiquity of that fit custom (obtaining still, especially in the Eastern parts) of the separation of the sexes, or the setting of women apart from the men in the houses of God. Which sure was matter of no slight concernment if it could not be neglected, no, not in the ark, in so great a straightness and distress of congregation.”

 

THE ANCIENT CHURCH PRAYING FOR THE DEAD.

Bingham, in his “Christian Antiquities,” says that the Ancient Church used prayers for all the saints, martyrs, confessors, patriarchs, apostles, and even the Virgin Mary herself. But the practice was not founded in a belief in purgatory, but upon a supposition that they were going to a place of rest and happiness, the soul being supposed to be in an imperfect state of happiness till the Resurrection. Moreover, many of the ancients held the opinion of the millennium, or the reign of Christ a thousand years upon earth before the final day of judgment. There was also a kindred practice by which the holy books or diptychs used to be rehearsed during the service. These recited the names of famous bishops, emperors, and magistrates connected with the district; also the names of those who had lived righteously, and had attained to the perfections of a virtuous life. And this was done partly to excite and conduct the living to the same happy state by following their example, and partly to celebrate the memory of them as still living according to the principles of religion, and not properly dead, but only translated by death to a more Divine life.

 [Pg 78]

OLD CUSTOM OF SIN-EATERS AT FUNERALS.

In Kennet’s “Parochial Antiquities” it is stated by an old person living about 1640 that “in the county of Hereford there was an old custom at funerals to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the sins of the deceased party, and were called sin-eaters. One of them lived in a cottage near Ross, in Herefordshire. The manner was this: When the corpse was brought out of the house and laid on the bier, a loaf of bread was delivered to the sin-eater over the corpse, as also a mazar bowl (gossips’ bowl) full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money. In consideration whereof he took upon him at once all the sins of the defunct, and freed him or her from walking after they were dead. In North Wales the sin-eaters were frequently made use of; but there, instead of a bowl of beer, they have a bowl of milk. This custom was by some people observed even in the strictest time of the Presbyterian government.”

 

PRAISING THE LORD DAY AND NIGHT.

About 400 or soon after, a monk, Alexander, projected a new order of monks, who were to be detailed into companies for the performing of Divine offices day and night without intermission. This order acquired the name of watches, dividing the twenty-four hours into three watches, each relieving the other, and thus keeping a perpetual course of Divine service. This order attained great esteem and veneration, and many monasteries were built for their use at Constantinople. Among others one Studius, a nobleman of Rome of consular dignity, renounced the world and joined the order, erecting a famous monastery for their use, which was called after him Studium. In course of time, however, these monks were believed to be led away by the Nestorian heresy, and lost credit. We are also told that Sigismund, Burgundian king, after renouncing Arianism about 524, restored the ruined monastery of Agaune at the entrance of the principal passage of the Alps, the gorge of the Valais on the Rhone. It was built in honour of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion, whose relics were collected and there deposited. A hundred monks were obtained from Condat to give a beginning, and eight hundred more were brought together and bound under conditions, the chief of which was, that a service of praise was to be kept up without a break, day and night. For the purpose the nine hundred monks were divided into nine choirs, who sang alternately and without intermission the praises of God and the[Pg 79] martyrs. The king, to expiate an offence in his own family, himself become a monk for a time. This notion of keeping up the praise of God every day and night during the whole year was also carried out in the seventeenth century by an English gentleman, Nicholas Ferrar, who with his family made up a small colony, all having semi-monastic tendencies, and lived at the retired parish of Little Gidding, eighteen miles from Cambridge. He was the son of a wealthy London merchant, was born about 1586, and educated at Cambridge, and for some time was a Member of Parliament, and had also travelled. He, with his mother, sister, nephews, nieces, and servants, numbering thirty, at last took vows of celibacy, settled at this rustic abode, decorated their little chapel with great care, and devoted their time to works of charity; but one peculiarity was always in view—namely, that all day and night they relieved each other in turns, and kept up constant services of prayer and praise. Isaac Walton says that in this continued serving of God the Psalter or whole Book of Psalms was in every twenty-four hours sung or read over from the first to the last verse, and this was done as constantly as the sun runs his circle every day about the world, and then begins again the same instant that it ended. The ritual was that of the Church of England. And there were candles of white and green wax, and suitable decorations. At every meeting every person present bowed reverently towards the Communion table. The community was called “The Protestant Nunnery” by the peasants living near. In that age the Puritans were developing their power, and there were also reactions, so that both parties had their zealous champions in turns.

 

CHRISTMAS DAY AND EASTER DAY.

One of the most universally cherished customs of Christians was to keep in remembrance the day of Christ’s nativity, and celebrate and hold it in honour by some special service of praise and thanksgiving of a religious character. A kind of feast was celebrated on that day, and in the fourth century it was very generally observed. But the correct date was long matter of doubt in the early centuries. Some reckoned it on January 6th; some in April and May. The Western Christians soon accepted December 25th as the proper anniversary, while the Oriental Churches preferred January 6th. But by the time of the sixth century all Christians concurred in observing December 25th. Almost every country has some peculiar custom of a religious or festive character connected with Christmas Day. Another [Pg 80]commemoration day of universal observance was Easter Day, the anniversary of the Resurrection, the preceding Friday being called Good Friday. And in the early centuries there were also controversies as to the correct mode of fixing the date. It was a day on which good Christians observed the solemn Communion, as well as baptisms and acts of hospitality and almsgiving. Choral processions and singing of hymns and anthems were thought fit exercises for this memorable anniversary. The Sunday before Easter Sunday, called Palm Sunday, in commemoration of the strewing of palms on Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, is also attended with particular observances. In Italy it is called Olive Sunday; in Spain, Portugal, and France it is called Branch Sunday; in Russia, Sallow Sunday; in Wales, Flower Sunday; in Hertfordshire, Fig Sunday, in allusion to the cursing of the fig tree.

 

FESTIVAL OF ALL SAINTS.

The festival of All Saints was instituted in Rome in the eighth century. At the end of the tenth century a new celebration was annexed to it. It was related that a French pilgrim, on returning from Jerusalem, had been cast on a little island in the Mediterranean, where he met a hermit, who told him that the souls of sinners were tormented in the volcanic fires of the island, and that he could often hear the devils howling with rage because their prey was rescued from time to time by the prayers and alms of pious men, and especially of the monks of Cluny. The hermit solemnly adjured the pilgrim to report this when he returned home, and accordingly the pilgrim mentioned it to the Abbot Odilo of Cluny, who in 998 appointed the morrow of All Saints to be solemnly observed there for the repose of all faithful souls, with psalmody, masses, and copious alms to all the poor people present. The celebration was soon extended to the whole Cluniac order; and eventually some Pope, whose name is not known, ordered its observance throughout Christendom.

 

HOLIDAYS AND FEASTS IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

There were several holidays or celebrations of events very popular with young people and the lower clergy during the Middle Ages, and which had some connection with religious matters. These were the Feasts of the Ass, of the Deacons, of the Kings, of the Buffoons, and of the Innocents, all involving some horseplay and rude merriment, such as the Carnival still exhibits. About the twelfth century the Feast of the Kalends was [Pg 81]conducted by actors having hideous beards over their faces. In the Feast of Buffoons of the same period the duties and rank of the clergy were caricatured and turned into fun and ribaldry. In the Feast of the Ass that animal was dressed like a priest, and all the people brayed as the incidents at the stable of Bethany and of Balaam’s conversation were rehearsed. In the Feast of Buffoons there were mock cardinals and a mock Pope. In the procession of the Mère Folle there were a mock tribunal, mock judgments, and mock sentences. As a counterpart to these boisterous revels, there were famous legends or superstitions represented, such as the story of the “Wandering Jew,” so called from a rebuke given to an insulting assault made on the Saviour at the Crucifixion, which was followed by a supposed sentence on the offender that he should await Christ’s second coming; the superstition about Prester John, a sort of pontiff king, half Jew, half Christian, who was said to have governed a vast Indian empire, but no particulars of which were ever ascertained, and yet he was said to have invited the Pope to go and live in his dominions.

 

FEAST OF THE ASS.

The Feast of the Ass, already alluded to, was a feast celebrated in several churches in France in commemoration of the Virgin Mary’s flight into Egypt. And the gross absurdities then practised under the pretence of devotion would surpass belief were there not such incontrovertible evidence of the facts. A young female, richly dressed, with an infant in her arms, was placed upon an ass, when High Mass was performed with solemn pomp. The ass was taught to kneel; and a hymn replete with folly and blasphemy was sung in his praise by the whole congregation. And as the climax to this monstrous scene of absurdity and profaneness, the priest used at the conclusion of the ceremony, and as a substitute for the words with which he on other occasions dismissed the people, to bray three times like an ass, which was answered by three similar brays by the people, instead of the usual response, “We bless the Lord,” etc.

 

FESTIVAL OF THE BOY BISHOP.

The childish solemnities of the boy bishop on the Festival of St. Nicholas, though prohibited so early as 1274 by the Synod and Bishop of Salzburg, were always much appreciated by the public. On the eve of the Holy Innocents the child bishop and his youthful clergy, in little copes and with burning tapers in their[Pg 82] hands, went in procession chanting versicles, made some prayers before the altar, and sang complin. By the Statute of Sarum no one was to interrupt or press upon the children during their procession or service in the cathedral upon pain of anathema. This ceremony existed not only in collegiate churches, but in almost every parish. It is supposed that the anniversary montem at Eton, which used to be celebrated in winter, was only a corruption of this ceremony, and was as such suppressed by an order of Henry VIII.

 

MIRACLE PLAYS.

The miracle play was a theatrical representation of scenes in the Scriptures, and it seemed to be popular in mediæval times, and the monks took part in it as active promoters. But there were some of these in every century after the third. In times when reading was impossible, and the fancy of the public was kept alive chiefly by the pictures and images in churches, it was natural that this cognate representation by means of actors on a stage should occur to those who catered for something like a recreation. Chaucer and Piers Plowman allude to this as a frequent indulgence. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries religious plays were acted in England, France, and Spain. Bishops and canons and monks all supported them, and they were acted in churches and on Sundays, as was said to be the case in St. Paul’s until the time of Charles I. At length it was found that they degenerated into buffoonery and indecency. Some have said that the practice arose out of the lively spirits of the troops of pilgrims returning from the shrines of Compostella or St. Michael or Canterbury, and chanting or reciting sacred songs and hymns. The plays went out in England soon after the Reformation, and they became thereafter mere secular amusements.

 

THE PASSION PLAYS OF THE AMMERGHAU.

Dean Milman says he was present at one of the performances of the last of the ancient mysteries which still linger in Europe, the Passion Spiel by the peasants of the Ammerghau. He never saw even in leading theatres finer scenic effects, more rich and harmonious decorations, and dresses more brilliant with blended colours. All was serious, solemn, and devout; actors and audience were equally in earnest. The Saviour was represented with a quiet gentle dignity, admirably contrasting with the wild life and tumult, the stern haughty demeanour of the Pharisees and rulers in their secret plottings and solemn council, and the frantic[Pg 83] agitation of the Jewish people. There were one or two comic touches and rude jests, as in the greedy grasping of Judas after the pieces of silver, and the eager quarrelling of the Roman soldiers throwing dice for the seamless coat. The theatre was not roofed, but was erected at the bottom of a green valley flanked by picturesque mountains. The effect of all this on the peasants was said to be excellent. No one was permitted to appear even in the chorus unless of unimpeachable character.

 

THE FESTIVAL OF THE ROSE AT SALENCY.

St. Medard or Mard, who died in 545, was in his youth impulsively generous. One night a thief entered his garden and stole his grapes; but, losing his way in the dark, was caught and brought before Medard. All that the saint said was, “Let him go; I have given him the grapes.” It was St. Mard who founded the Festival of the Rose at Salency. He charged his family estate with a fund sufficient to yield a sum of money, to be given annually with a crown of roses to the best-behaved girl in the village. Not only must the girl have the highest character, but her parents also. As lord of the manor, he had the privilege of selecting one of three girls, who were presented to him as candidates. When he had named the successful one, he announced it next Sunday from the pulpit, and asked all who had any objections to bring them forward. Then at the day and hour appointed, the Rosière, dressed in white, and attended by twelve girls in white with blue sashes, and twelve boys, went to the castle in a procession, and thence to the church. Vespers were sung, and afterwards the priest took the crown or hat of roses from the altar, blessed it, and gave her the hat and a purse containing twenty-five francs. The procession returned to the church, where a Te Deum was chanted with an anthem. This custom was said to be a standing encouragement for centuries of the good behaviour of all the girls in the parish.

 

THE ROSARY.

The Rosary is a festival instituted to commemorate the victory of the Christians over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. It was a practice of the ancient anchorites to count the number of their prayers by little stones or grains. In the twelfth century one lady was said to recite every day sixty angelical salutations. Peter the Hermit taught the laity who would not read the Psalter to say a certain number of “Our Fathers” and “Hail Martyrs.”[Pg 84] St. Dominic was eminent for encouraging the custom of reciting fifteen decades of the angelical salutations, with one “Our Father” before each decade, in honour of the principal mysteries of the Incarnation. This repetition of a hundred and fifty angelical salutations was instituted by him in imitation of the hundred and fifty Psalms, on which account the Rosary has been often called the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin.

 

THE MILLENNIUM EXPECTED IN 1000.

As the year 1000 approached, among the many senseless notions then prevalent, and industriously cherished by the priests for the sake of lucre, was the persuasion that the last day was at hand. This doctrine had been broached in the preceding century, grounded upon the Revelation of St. John, and now was generally taught and received in Europe, and produced an excessive terror in the minds of the people. For the apostle had clearly foretold, as was taken for granted, that, after the tenth decade from the birth of Christ, Satan would be let loose, Antichrist would come, and the destruction of the earth would ensue. Hence great numbers, leaving their possessions and giving them to churches or monasteries, repaired to Palestine, where they thought that Christ would descend from heaven to judge the world. Others solemnly devoted themselves and all their goods to churches, monasteries, and the clergy, and entered their service as bond-slaves, performing a daily task. Their hope was that, if found in such a condition of life, their fate would be more favourably judged. Hence, when an eclipse of the sun or moon happened, they fled to rocks and caverns to hide themselves. Crowds flocked to be near where the Saviour was expected to appear for judgment. Others consecrated their effects at once to God and the saints—that is, to priests and friars. Hence many also suffered their houses to go to ruin, thinking these would soon be of no use. This delusion was not got rid of till the end of the eleventh century.

 

THE CHURCH-BUILDING AGE.

As the millennium had been expected by all Christendom to occur in the year 1000, most pious people at that date suspended all undertakings of a lasting character. When the time arrived and the event did not take place, a passion arose to build churches. Old churches were taken down, and new churches built on a larger scale and with splendid embellishments. Charlemagne’s cathedral at Aix, which had been copied from the[Pg 85] Byzantine type, was imitated in many churches built along the Rhine. St. Mark’s at Venice was built about that time. The art of staining glass was supposed to be invented or greatly extended at this period, and the cathedral of Rheims was described as having windows adorned with divers histories.

 

THE ROUND TOWERS OF SCOTLAND AND IRELAND.

The learned men of many generations have been much exercised as to the origin, object, and use of the round towers, of which there are two in Scotland and seventy-six in Ireland, and, like the campaniles of Italy, are altogether detached from any neighbouring structure. In Scotland one is at Brechin, and the other at Abernethy. The height is eighty-six and seventy-two feet; the building tapers gradually, and the interior is divided into seven sections. The entrance in one case is on the west side; the other on the north side, in the form of a semicircular arch, surmounted by a figure of the Crucifixion, a small statue on each side, one carrying a pastoral staff, the other a cross-headed staff, and also a book. The walls are three and a half feet thick, and the diameter of one is about thirteen feet and the other eight feet in the interior. These structures are both in ancient churchyards. The learned have concluded that the Scotch towers were erected by Irish monks between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Those being warlike ages, it is conjectured that they were meant as a defence against the savage irruptions of the Danes—not only as a refuge for ecclesiastics, but also as a secure hiding-place for relics, shrines, books, bells, crosiers, and other treasures of the Church.

 

PETER DAMIANI ADVOCATES WORSHIP OF THE VIRGIN.

Peter Damiani was born at Ravenna in 1002, and soon became a famous teacher. He developed a strong turn for asceticism, wore sackcloth, fasted and prayed, and used to tame his passions by rising from bed and standing for hours in a stream till his limbs were cold and stiff, and then he would hasten to visit churches and recite the Psalter. Once, on offering a silver cup to some monks as a present to their abbot, and which they refused because it was too heavy to carry, he was so pleased with their unworldly views that he soon became monk, and no one could equal him in his austerities. He was early enlisted by Hildebrand to propagate the doctrine of the supremacy of the Pope over all emperors and kings; and though his style of preaching was only a rhapsody of[Pg 86] scriptural phrases and allegories, he always carried out the High Church doctrines of his employer. He distinguished himself by his deification of the Virgin and his devotion to flagellation. His glorification of the Virgin consisted in making her the centre of all power in heaven and in earth. His enthusiasm on this subject led to offices of prayer being framed for her, which afterwards became developed into a series of prayers known as the Rosary. But Damiani’s masterpiece was the discovery and education of Dominic, a priest, and the greatest master of the art of self-flagellation. Dominic wore a light iron cuirass, which he never put off except to chastise himself. His body and arms were confined by iron rings, his neck loaded with heavy chains, his clothes were scanty rags. His usual exercise was to recite the Psalter twice a day, while he flogged himself with both hands at the rate of a thousand lashes to ten psalms. These self-flagellations were said to serve as a satisfaction for the sins of other men. This system of Dominic was extolled by Damiani as something divine. Damiani was also a determined enemy to the marriage of the clergy, which he denounced as a very Gomorrah. By Hildebrand’s influence he was made a cardinal, and died in 1072.

 

THE TRUCE OF GOD.

At the end of the tenth century Guido, Bishop of Puy, in Velai, was said to be the first to establish the Treuga Dei, which was the origin of the great expedient for securing peace, emanating a century later from the monks of Cluny. The Council of Clermont (1095) decreed that the Truce of God should be observed during the leading Church festivals, and every week from sunset on Wednesday till sunrise on Monday. At the Council of Soissons in 1155 King Louis VII. and many princes assembled, and swore to observe the Truce of God inviolably. And in 1209 the Pope’s legate prescribed its observance to the barons of France. Others say that the Truce of God was brought into prominence by Rudolph the Bald in 1033, as in that year there had been, after three years’ famine, a most abundant harvest, and the clergy suggested that men’s minds would then be well disposed to any sacrifice, more especially as the recent events connected with the expected millennium in 1000 were still in vivid remembrance. The Council of Limoges resolved that those who refused to adopt a similar practice, called the Peace of God, should be excommunicated, and their country laid under an interdict. Yet there was a vigorous opponent, named Gerard of[Pg 87] Cambray, who protested that war was an affair of state in which the clergy had no business to interfere; moreover, that the exercise of arms was sanctioned by Scripture. But the vast majority of the people welcomed the new practice, and the time chosen, between the evening of Wednesday and the dawn of Monday, was noted to include the interval between the Saviour’s betrayal and the Resurrection. The time was soon, however, abridged. Odilo of Cluny had been a prominent advocate of this restriction on the military barbarism of his time; and William the Conqueror, before the Conquest, had also joined in its observance.

 

THE NUMBER SEVEN IN SCRIPTURE.

Students of Scripture have noticed how frequently the number seven is chosen as the standard for a vast variety of computations. The seventh day after the Creation God rested. The children of Israel on the seventh day of the seventh month feasted seven days and remained seven days in tents. The seventh year was the Sabbath of rest for all things: for the land lying fallow; for release of debts. Seven was fixed for Jacob’s years of serving for Rachel; for years of plenty and then for famine in Egypt; for fat beasts and lean beasts; for ears of full corn and blasted corn; for bullocks and rams sacrificed; for King Ahasuerus’ feast days; for Queen Esther’s maids of honour; for days of unleavened bread; for days of feast of tabernacles; for Joseph mourning; for Churches of Asia; for golden candlesticks; for stars, lamps, seals, angels, devils, phials of wrath. It is noticed that our Saviour spoke seven times from the cross, remained seven hours, appeared seven times. Then there were seven heavens, planets, stars; seven notes in music, primary colours, deadly sins, senses. A child was not named before seven days; the teeth sprang in the seventh month, renewed in the seventh year; faculties develop in thrice seven years, and life extends to ten times seven.

 

THE POPE MAKING A JUBILEE YEAR.

In 1300 Pope Boniface VIII., whose chief objects were ambition, avarice, and revenge, celebrated with religious ceremonies the year of Jubilee. A rumour had been raised in 1299 among the people of Rome that whosoever in the ensuing year should visit the temple of St. Peter might obtain remission of all his sins, and that this blessing and felicity was annexed to every secular year. Boniface ordered inquiry to be made into the truth of this common opinion, and found, from the testimony of many witnesses of[Pg 88] undoubted credit, that it was decreed from the most ancient times that they who repaired to St. Peter’s Church with a devout disposition on the first day of the secular year should obtain indulgences of a hundred years. The Pope, therefore, by a circular epistle addressed to all Christian people, declared that those who at this time would piously visit the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, confessing their offences, and declaring their sorrow for them, should receive an absolute and plenary remission. The successors of Boniface not only adorned this institution with many new rites, but, learning by experience how honoured and how lucrative it was to the Church of Rome, brought it within a narrower compass of time, so that soon every twenty-fifth year was a year of Jubilee. From every part of Latin Christendom crowds of the faithful began to pour towards Rome. John Villani, the chronicler, who was present, estimates that there were 200,000 strangers in the city. Another chronicler describes the multitudes as resembling an army constantly marching both ways along the street. And even the poet Dante, who was then a visitor, being away from the republic of Florence, watched the people in their multitudes passing to and from St. Peter’s, along the bridge of St. Angelo, which, to prevent confusion, had a partition erected to facilitate the passengers. Some authors say that the magnificence of the scene gave the poet, and also a contemporary chronicler, the idea of composing their respective works. The coffers of the Pope were filled to overflowing, and one chronicler says he saw at St. Paul’s two of the official clergy raking together infinite heaps of money. Boniface was so intoxicated with his success that next day he showed himself in the attire of an emperor, with a sword in his hand, explaining that he was Cæsar and emperor, as well as successor of St. Peter. Boniface, in his soaring ambition to subject to his jurisdiction all temporal powers, met in Philip the Fair of France an antagonist as keen and unscrupulous as himself, and their quarrels have amused posterity. He died of insanity and rage in 1303.

 

VILLANI’S ACCOUNT OF THE JUBILEE IN 1300.

John Villani, the chronicler of Florence, who died of the plague in 1348, thus relates his visit to Rome at the Jubilee of 1300: “For the consolation of the Christian pilgrims every Friday and solemn festival, there was shown in St. Peter’s the sudarium of Christ; on which account a great portion of the Christians then living made this pilgrimage, women as well as men, from different and distant countries, from afar off as from near places.[Pg 89] And it was the most astonishing thing that ever was seen, how continually throughout the whole year they had in Rome, beside the Roman people, 200,000 pilgrims, besides those who were on the road going and coming; and all were furnished and satisfied with food in just measure, men and horses, with great patience and without noise or contentions, and I can bear witness to it, for I was present and saw it. And from the offerings made by the pilgrims the Church gained great treasure, and the Romans from supplying them all grew rich. And I, finding myself in that blessed pilgrimage in the holy city of Rome, seeing her great and ancient remains, and reading the histories and great deeds of the Romans, as written by Virgil, Sallust, Lucan, Livy, Valerius, Paulus, Orosius, and other masters of history, who wrote the exploits and deeds, both great and small, of the Romans, and also of strangers in the whole world, to leave a record and example to those who are to come, so I took style and form from them, though as a disciple I was not worthy to do so great a work, and I began to compile a book in honour of God and of the Blessed John, and in praise of our city of Florence.”

 

A PIOUS ARAB KING’S PRAYER FOR RAIN (A.D. 1343).

In 1343 Juzef Ben Ismail, King of Granada, made a truce of ten years with King Alphonso of Castile, and was noted for his pious laws and ordinances. Among other reforms he forbade people to go through the streets praying for rain, as he said those who made that offering should go forth to the fields with much devotion and humility, and utter the following prayer: “O Lord Allah, Thou, the ever merciful, who hast created us out of nothing, and knowest our faults, by Thy clemency, O Lord, Thou, who dost not desire to destroy us, regard not our shortcomings, but rather consider Thy mercy and longsuffering. Thou who hast no need of us or our services, O Lord, have pity upon Thy innocent creatures, the unconscious animals and birds of the air, who find not wherewithal to sustain their lives. Look upon the earth which Thou hast created, and upon the plants thereof, which perish and are wasted for lack of the waters that should be their nourishment. O Lord Allah, open to us Thy heavens, turn upon us the blessing of Thy waters, let us again be refreshed with Thy life-giving airs, and send upon us that mercy that shall revive and refresh the dying earth, giving succour and support to Thy creatures, that the infidel may no longer say Thou hast ceased to hear the prayer of Thy true believers. O Lord, we implore Thee by Thy great mercy, for[Pg 90] Thou lookest with pity on all Thy creatures. O Lord Allah, in Thee it is we believe, Thee we adore, from Thee we hope for pardon for our errors, and at Thy hands we seek for succour in our need.”

 

THE TERROR OF THE BLACK DEATH IN 1348.

The black death, which was said to have carried off one-fourth of the population in four years, and in England carried off half the population, was a disease which puzzled the scientific men of the period. Carbuncles, tumours, spots on arms and thighs, became fatal in about three days, and the disease spread like fire among dry fuel. The effect on society was enormous. Merchants of unbounded wealth began to carry their treasures to monasteries and churches, and to lay them at the foot of the altar; but the monks in their turn shuddered at the gift, as in their view it only brought death, and they threw it over the convent walls. People were driven by despair to take up pious works as a last defence. In Avignon the Pope found it necessary to consecrate the Rhone, so that bodies might be thrown into the river as the speediest mode of burial. The morals of the people suffered by the hopeless and ghastly spectacles around, for churches were deserted by priests, and the people without shepherds gave way to covetousness as well as licentiousness. When the alarm was over, there was a notable increase of lawyers, who, like locusts, devoured the property left without owners. The plague raged from 1347 to 1350; and owing to the Pope Clement VI. appointing a jubilee in 1350, and a vast concourse of pilgrims to Rome, it was said that scarcely one in a hundred escaped alive. The Brotherhood of the Cross or of the Flagellants reappeared at this time, which betokened the end of the world to many, and, taking on themselves the sins of the people, went about scourging themselves in churches and markets, as a mode of averting the wrath of Heaven. This imposing sacrificial ceremony had been invented about a century before by Dominic, and was kept up from time to time in various countries. The panic of the black death was in some places ascribed to the infidel practices of Jews, who were accordingly hunted to death and burnt in their synagogues, or put to the sword without compunction. The physicians of the period were all at their wits’ end how to administer remedies to those requiring a remedy. Among those carried off by this scourge was John Villani, the historian, and Laura, the beloved of Petrarch. Though the black death was so fatal in England, it was noted that Ireland escaped.

 [Pg 91]

THE DANCING MANIA AND SWEATING SICKNESS IN GERMANY AND HOLLAND.

Scarcely had the panic of the black death subsided when a delusion arose in Germany, a demoniacal epidemic, called the dance of St. John or St. Vitus, which seized upon people, convulsing body and soul, and leading them to perform a wild dance, screaming and foaming with fury. Assemblages of these fanatics became prominent in 1374, and continued more or less to exhibit the same fascination for about two centuries. They first broke out at Aix-la-Chapelle among crowds who were said to come from Germany, who formed circles hand in hand, whirling about for hours together in wild delirium, shrieking, and insensible to the wonder, horror, and jeers of the bystanders. After the fit they fell down and groaned, as if in the agonies of death, when their companions swathed them in cloths tightly drawn round the wrists, and then thumped or trampled on the parts affected. Some after this frenzy pretended to see the heavens open, and the Saviour and the Virgin Mary enthroned and beckoning to them. The clergy were gradually led to believe that these people were possessed of devils which required to be exorcised. The people affected were mostly of the class of poor, and little removed from vagabondism. Another visitation of a kindred nature was the sweating sickness, which was a violent inflammatory fever, that after a short rigor prostrated the powers as with a blow, and amid painful oppression of the stomach, headache, and lethargic stupor suffused the body with a fetid perspiration. In England it prevailed in 1485, and some chroniclers estimated that scarcely one in a hundred escaped when once seized; and it was said to be locally confined to England, and did not extend either to Scotland or Ireland or Calais. The disease was said to be traced to a season of heavy torrents of rain and inundations of rivers.

 

THE MONK FLAGELLANTS.

The austerities of monks for ages had created an admiration for the practice of flagellation, and this grew till a new sect arose, which believed in this as a supreme rule of life. Sovereign princes, as Raymond of Toulouse, kings, as Henry II. of England, had yielded their backs to the scourge. And St. Louis of France used it as if it were a daily luxury. Peter Damiani had taught it by precept and example. Dominic, called the Cuirassier, had invented or popularised by his fame the usage of singing psalms to the accompaniment of self-scourging. At last, about 1259, all[Pg 92] ranks, both sexes, all ages, were possessed with this madness; nobles, wealthy merchants, modest and delicate women, even children of five years old, admired it. They stripped themselves naked to the waist, covered their faces that they might not be known, and went two and two in solemn slow procession with a cross and a banner before them, scourging themselves till the blood tracked their steps, and shrieking out their doleful psalms. They travelled from city to city. Whenever they entered a city, the contagion seized the onlookers. They marched by night as well as by day. The busy mart and the crowded streets were visited by processions; in the dead midnight the sound of the scourge and the screaming chant were accompanied with tapers and torches. Thirty-three days and a half, the number of the years of our Lord’s sojourn on earth, was the usual period of this penance. In the burning heat of summer, and when the wintry roads were deep with snow, the crowds moved on. At length the madness wore itself out. Some princes and magistrates, finding it was not sanctioned by the Roman See or by the authority of any great saint, began to interpose, and after being for a time an object of respectful wonder the practice sank into general contempt. A contemporary tells us that in the height of the mania for flagellation the fields and mountains echoed with the voices of the sinners calling to God. Usurers and robbers restored their ill-gotten gains, criminals confessed their sins and renounced their vices, the prison doors were thrown open, and the captives walked forth; homicides offered themselves on their knees with drawn swords to the kindred of their victims, and were embraced with tears; old enemies were forgiven, and exiles were permitted to return to their homes. The movement spread to the Rhine lands, and throughout Germany and Bohemia. But the excitement disappeared as rapidly as it came, and was even denounced as a heresy. Ulberto Pallavicino was resolved to keep the new heretics out of Milan, and erected three hundred gibbets by the roadside, at the sight of which the enthusiasts abruptly retraced their steps, and their enthusiasm left them.

 

EXTRAVAGANT DRESS OF CLERGY IN 1347.

Dress was carried to a pitch of costliness and vanity in the time of Edward III. Men holding dignities, parsonages, prebends, benefices with cure of souls, treated the tonsure with scorn, and allowed their hair to hang down over their shoulders. They imitated the dress of soldiers, having an upper jump remarkably short and wide, and long hanging sleeves not covering the elbows.[Pg 93] Their hair was curled and powdered. They wore caps with tippets of great length, rings on their fingers, long beards, costly girdles, to which were attached purses enamelled with figures, and sculptured knives hanging at their sides to look like swords. Their sleeves were chequered with red and green, exceedingly long, and pinked with various colours. They had also ornamented cruppers to their saddles, and baubles like horns hanging down from their horses’ necks, and their cloaks were furred at the edge, though this was contrary to canonical rules.

 

TELLING FORTUNES BY THE BIBLE.

In the sixth century an abuse crept into religious circles of using the Bible, like a book of fate, to discover future events. Cæsarius, Bishop of Arles, warned his people against many of the current superstitions, such as a superstition against sneezing, considering Friday an unlucky day, etc. He told them not to return anybody’s salutation on the way, but on starting merely to make the sign of the cross and trust the rest to the Lord. One abuse, however, withstood all his efforts, and that was the practice of seeking for oracles in the Bible. St. Augustine also, a century before, had observed on this pagan practice. He said the custom displeased him of wishing to use the Word of God, which speaks in reference to another life, for worldly concerns and the vain objects of the present life. Even among the clergy the abuse prevailed. In doubtful earthly concerns persons would lay down a Bible in a church upon the altar, or especially on the grave of a saint, would fast and pray and invoke the saint that he would indicate the future by a passage of Scripture, and sought for the answer on the first passage which met the eye on opening the Bible. Against the practice a decree of the Council of Agde, in 508, was made, to the effect that since many persons, both of the clergy and laity, practised divination under the semblance of religion, or promised a disclosure of the future by looking into the Scriptures, all who advised or taught this were to be excluded from Church communion.

 

 


[Pg 94]

CHAPTER V.

DIFFICULTIES WITH PAGANS, JEWS, IMAGE WORSHIPPERS, AND CIVIL POWERS.

 

THE NAME OF CHRISTIAN.

Though for the last sixteen centuries the name of Christian has been used throughout the whole world, this descriptive word was not much used in the first four centuries. The Christians used to call each other disciples, believers, elect, saints, and brethren. Third parties called them at first Jesseans, spiritual physicians, or gnostics. When heretics or followers of peculiar opinions of a novel kind arose, these were called by the name of their leaders, as Marcionites, Valentinians, Donatists; while those holding the standard or orthodox opinions adhered to the name of Christians or Catholic Churchmen. The heathen often called the new body Jews, as the early Christians were of that race. There were also names of reproach given by the heathen, such as Nazarenes, Galileans, atheists, Greeks, impostors, magicians, superstitionists, Sibyllists, self-murderers (on account of their desire for martyrdom), desperadoes, fagot-men (from being so often burned), skulkers (from meeting in secret). The division between clergy and laity was soon acknowledged, all those who held regular offices in the Church being called clerici, or clerics, or clerks; and to this day the word “clerk” is the proper legal denomination of a priest of the Church of England. The origin of the word is disputed, but is generally traced to the Greek word “cleros,” signifying that the clergy at first were chosen by lot.

 

AN EARLY PAGAN RIOT AGAINST CHRISTIANS.

The teaching of Christian doctrines seems to have already begun to tell upon Pagan practices when St. Paul worked at Ephesus. After he had been preaching there two years, the[Pg 95] great feasts and shows connected with the worship of Diana came round. A silversmith, named Demetrius, found out during the fair that his little silver shrines were not sold so extensively as before, and that business was slack. He spoke to many in the trade, and they all agreed that their business had fallen off, and that it could be caused by nothing but by the missionary preaching of Paul. So they resolved to hold an indignation meeting, and, if necessary, get rid of this new-fangled sect. Demetrius harangued the mob, and they all shouted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” and “Down with the Jews!” They all rushed to seize that invidious sect. Paul was concealed from the popular vengeance by Priscilla and her husband. The crowd then rushed to the theatre, which was large enough to hold 30,000 people. Paul wanted to address the excited audience, but his friends warned him to avoid it. One Alexander was asked to satisfy them that all the Jews were not Christians. The yelling and confusion grew worse. At last the town clerk made a most businesslike speech, never to be forgotten for worldly wisdom, and which amounted to this—that if Paul or the Christians had done wrong, the law was open to the persons thereby aggrieved, but that this was no excuse for dragging them about and maltreating them. This soon quelled the storm, and the mob became more peaceable. And soon after Paul left the city, and went elsewhere to carry out his missionary labours.

 

THE EARLY CHRISTIANS AND SLAVERY.

The Pagans treated slavery as an integral part of society, and their wisest men never dreamt of a time when slaves could be dispensed with. On the contrary, one radical doctrine of Christianity being that all men are brethren, it is at first difficult to understand how it took eighteen centuries to bear upon this old vice. Dr. Schaff, in his “History of the Apostolic Church,” states the reasons in this way: The Apostles did not attempt even a sudden political and social abolition, and would have discountenanced any stormy and tumultuous measures to that effect. For, in the first place, the immediate abolition of slavery could never have been effected without a revolution which would have involved everything in confusion, a radical reconstruction of the whole domestic and social life with which the system is interwoven. In the next place, a sudden emancipation would not have bettered the condition of the slaves themselves, but would have rather made it worse, for outward liberation, in order to work well, must be prepared by moral training for the rational use of freedom,[Pg 96] and by education until majority was attained. And this can only be done by a gradual process. Paul, moreover (1 Cor. vii. 17), lays down the general principle that Christianity primarily proposes no change in the outward relations in which God has placed a man by birth, education, or fortune; but teaches him rather to strive for a higher point of view, and to attain glimpses of a new spirit, until in time a suitable change shall be worked out. He recommends Christians to emancipate their slaves (Eph. vi. 9), and he himself sent back Onesimus, a runaway slave, to his master, asking that master to receive the slave kindly. He does not exhort slaves to burst their bonds, but to give reverential and single-hearted obedience to their masters for the time being.

 

NERO AND THE FIRST PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIANS.

St. Paul was released from his first trial at Rome in A.D. 63, and the next year Rome was devastated by a great conflagration. Some say that the Emperor Nero set fire to one place, and this, owing to the inflammable materials, spread in all directions, and the inhabitants fled to the fields. Men were going about with torches, saying that they had orders to spread the fire, though perhaps this was only an excuse for plunder. Nero at the moment was at Antium, and did not return till his own palace had caught fire. He set apart the Campus Martius and his own gardens whereon to fix temporary structures to accommodate the houseless. A general report was circulated that Nero went on the stage of his private theatre while the city was burning, and sang “The Fall of Troy,” as being similar in its catastrophe. At length on the sixth day numbers of buildings had been demolished, so as to intercept the flames. The capital was rebuilt with wider streets. Meanwhile the rumour spread more and more that Nero had himself ordered the fire. To stop this rumour Nero accused and punished with exquisite tortures the people called Christians. Many were clothed in skins of wild animals and torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or set on fire, and were burned like lamps. Nero made a holiday spectacle of these atrocities, riding about like a charioteer in the circus. Tacitus, though referring to Christ as a Jewish malefactor put to death by Pilate, and treating Christianity as an Eastern superstition, yet said the people were slain, not for the public good, but because of the cruelty of one man. This is usually called the first persecution of the Christians. Four years later Paul was tried again at Rome for some offence, and it is usually believed that he perished there by the sword.

 [Pg 97]

HOW THE EARLY CHRISTIANS APPEARED TO PAGANS.

Pliny the younger, one of the most eminent advocates of Rome, and full of sprightliness and good-nature, when appointed a governor of Pontus and Bithynia, near the Black Sea, wrote to the Emperor Trajan in 101 this account of the Christians, who used to be charged before him for refusing to worship the Pagan gods. He said: “Some who said they had once been Christians affirmed the whole of their guilt or their error to be, that they met on a certain stated day before it was light, and addressed themselves in some form of prayer to Christ or to some god, binding themselves by a solemn oath—not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery—never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up, after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to eat in common a harmless meal. I tried to extort the real truth by putting two female slaves to the torture who were said to administer religious functions, but I could discover nothing more than an absurd and excessive superstition on their part. This contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among the country villages. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to remedy this evil and restrain its progress. It is possible that numbers might be reclaimed from their error if a pardon were granted to those who shall repent.” The tone of this letter showed that Pliny had misgivings as to the proper way of treating the new sect. The Emperor in reply said that Pliny seemed to have acted rightly, though it was difficult to lay down a rule; but that though these Christians were not to be run after, yet should they chance to be accused and convicted they ought to be punished.

 

CHRISTIANITY OPPOSES SHOWS OF WILD BEASTS.

The brutal spectacles in which Pagan Rome delighted—the fights of gladiators, and the combats of men with beasts—roused the indignation of the Christians. Not merely did women crowd the amphitheatre during these fierce and almost naked encounters, but it was the especial privilege of the Vestal virgins to give the signal for the mortal blow, and to watch the sword driven into the quivering entrails of the victim. St. Augustine describes the frenzy and fascination of the spectators for these brutal shows. A Christian student of the law was once compelled by the importunity of his friends to enter the amphitheatre. He sat with his eyes closed and his mind totally abstracted from the scene.[Pg 98] He was suddenly startled from his trance by a tremendous shout from the whole audience. He opened his eyes. He could not choose but gaze on the spectacle. Directly he beheld the blood, his heart caught the common frenzy; he could not choose to turn away; his eyes were riveted on the arena. The interest, the excitement, the pleasure grew into complete intoxication. He looked on, he shouted, he was inflamed; he carried away from the amphitheatre an irresistible propensity to return to its cruel enjoyments. Emperor after emperor gradually prohibited first one part then another part of these disgusting spectacles, being influenced by the persistent remonstrances of Christians. The progress was not, however, very rapid. At last an Eastern monk, named Telemachus, travelled all the way to Rome, in order to protest against the disgraceful barbarities. In his noble enthusiasm he leaped into the arena to separate the combatants; but whether with or without the sanction of the prefect or that of the infuriated assembly, he was torn to pieces—a martyr to Christian humanity. The impression of this awful scene of a Christian and a monk thus murdered in the arena was so profound, that Honorius (who died 423) issued an edict, putting an end to such bloody spectacles. This edict, however, only suppressed the mortal combats of men; the conflict of wild beasts continued till the supply was cut off by the narrowing of the limits of the empire. The distant provinces no longer rendered their accustomed contributions of lions from Libya, leopards from the East, dogs of remarkable ferocity from Scotland, crocodiles and bears and other wild animals from remote regions. Towards the end the improving humanity of the people allowed artificial methods to be substituted, so as to excite the fury of the beasts without endangering the lives of the combatants. In the West these games sank with the Western Empire; in the East they disappeared at the close of the seventh century under the prohibition of the Council of Trullo.

 

EMPEROR CONSTANTIUS TESTING THE FIDELITY OF CHRISTIANS.

Sozomen says that the Emperor Constantius (who died at York in 306) wished to test the fidelity of certain Christians as excellent and good men who were attached to his palace. He called them all together, and told them that if they would sacrifice to idols as well as serve God they should remain in his service and retain their appointments; but that if they refused compliance with his wishes, they should be sent from the palace, and should scarcely escape his vengeance. When difference of judgment had divided[Pg 99] them into two parties, separating those who consented to abandon their religion from those who preferred the honour of God to their present welfare, the Emperor determined upon retaining those who had adhered to their faith as his friends and counsellors; but he turned away from the others, whom he regarded as unmanly impostors, and sent them from his presence, judging that those who had so readily betrayed their God could not be faithful to their king. Hence, as Christians were deservedly retained in the service of Constantius, he was not willing that Christianity should be accounted unlawful in the countries beyond the confines of Italy—that is to say, in Gaul, in Britain, or in the region of the Pyrenean mountains as far as the Western Ocean.

 

CONSTANTINE THE GREAT FIRST FAVOURS THE CHRISTIANS.

Constantine the Great, son of the Emperor Constantius, deserved the appellation of the first emperor who publicly professed and established the Christian religion, and in whose epoch, accordingly, all Christendom is interested. While the Pagans represented him as a disgraceful tyrant, the Christians treat him as a hero, or even as a saint, and equal to the Apostles. His stature was lofty, his countenance majestic, and his deportment graceful. He delighted in society, and had a turn for raillery; and, though rather illiterate, he was indefatigable in business, and a consummate general in the field. He accepted the purple at York, where his father, Constantius, died in 306, and in his career gained signal victories over the foreign and domestic policy of the republic. In the last fourteen years of his life (323-337) he was said to have degenerated, being corrupted by fortune, and growing rapacious and prodigal. He affected an effeminate and luxurious dress. He is represented with false hair of various colours, laboriously arranged by the skilful artists of the times; a diadem of expensive fashion; a profusion of gems and pearls, of collars and bracelets; and a variegated and flowing robe of silk, most curiously embroidered with flowers of gold. He was twice married, and had an only son, Crispus, by the first wife, and by the second wife, Fausta, three daughters and three sons. Crispus was amiable and popular, and had been a pupil of the eloquent Christian Lactantius, but he soon incurred the suspicion and jealousy of his father, and was, owing to the intrigues and jealousies of the second family, put to death. Constantine, it was said, then discovered the falsehood of the charges against his son, erected a golden statue to his memory, and the cruel stepmother, in turn, was said to have suffered death or imprisonment.[Pg 100] In his latter days Constantine had to chastise the pride of the Goths, then led by Alaric, and spreading terror and desolation. In 337 Constantine, the only emperor since Augustus who had reigned so long as thirty years, died at the age of sixty-four at Nicomedia. His body, adorned with purple and diadem, was transported to Constantinople, and deposited on a golden bed, at which the great officials, with bended knees, offered their respectful homage as seriously as if he had been alive, so that his flatterers remarked that by the peculiar indulgence of Heaven he reigned after his death.

 

CONSTANTINE’S STANDARD OF THE CROSS.

When Constantine, in 324, was invested with the sole dominion of the Roman world, he exhorted, by circular letters, all his subjects to imitate without delay his example and embrace the Divine truths of Christianity. The Christians, knowing that the Emperor’s father, Constantius, was on their side, had looked to the elevation of Constantine as intimately connected with the designs of Providence, and they confidently expected some Divine and miraculous aid to attest the great revolution in the world’s affairs then at hand. History accordingly has preserved full particulars of the standard, the dream, and the celestial sign which sealed their hopes. The Emperor took measures to have the standard of the cross affixed to his own statue, and on the helmets, shields, and banners of his army. The principal standard was styled the labarum, which was a long pike intersected by a transverse beam, from which hung down a silken veil, which was curiously inwrought with the images of the reigning monarch and his children. The summit of the pike supported a crown of gold, which enclosed the mysterious monogram at once expressive of the figure of the cross and the initial letters of the name of Christ. The safety of the labarum was entrusted to fifty guards of approved valour and fidelity. The opinion soon grew that so long as the guards of the labarum were in the execution of their office, they were secure and invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy. The sight of the standard gave the troops an invincible enthusiasm, and scattered terror and dismay among the enemies. There is still extant a medal of the Emperor Constantine, where the standard of the labarum is accompanied with these memorable words, “By this sign thou shalt conquer!

 

THE DREAM OF CONSTANTINE.

In the age of Constantine the sign of the cross had come to be[Pg 101] used by the primitive Christians in all their ecclesiastical rites, in all the daily occurrences of life, as an infallible preservative against every species of spiritual and temporal evil. A contemporary writer affirms with perfect confidence that in the night which preceded the last battle against Maxentius Constantine was admonished in a dream to inscribe the shields of his soldiers with the celestial sign of God, the sacred monogram of the name of Christ; that he executed the commands of Heaven; and that his valour and obedience were rewarded by the decisive victory of the Milvian Bridge. The senate and people, exulting in the success of Constantine, acknowledged that his victory surpassed the power of man. The triumphal arch which was erected about three years after the event recognised that by an instinct or impulse of the Divinity Constantine had saved and avenged the Roman Republic. Twenty-six years after the event the historian Eusebius narrates that in one of his marches Constantine saw a luminous cross in the sky inscribed with the words, “By this conquer,” and this sign astonished the whole army; and that in a vision of the ensuing night Christ appeared to the Emperor, displaying the same celestial sign of the cross, and directing him to march with an assurance of victory. These incidents were universally adopted, as undoubted truths, by the Catholic Church both of the East and the West; but it is noted by the sceptics that, though the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries often celebrated the triumphs of Constantine, they do not allude to these signs and wonders as accompanying the event.

 

THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE PREACHING (A.D. 314).

The Emperor Constantine revolutionised the Empire by giving a chief place to Christian doctrines and practices. He issued an edict of toleration in 313; decreed the observance of Sunday, the use of prayer in the army; abolished the punishment of crucifixion, gladiatorial games, infanticide, private divinations; and encouraged slave emancipation. He was a great admirer of good preaching. Eusebius says he himself once delivered a sermon in the palace before the marvellous man on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There was a crowded audience. The Emperor stood erect the whole time; would not be induced to sit down on the throne close by; paid the utmost attention; would not hear of the sermon being too long; insisted on its continuance; and on being entreated to sit down, replied, with a frown, that he could not bear to hear the truths of religion in any easier posture. More often he was himself the preacher, and one sermon of his is preserved[Pg 102] by Eusebius. These sermons were always in Latin, but they were translated into Greek by interpreters appointed for the purpose. On these occasions a general invitation was issued, and thousands of people flocked to the palace to hear the Emperor do duty as the preacher. He stood erect, and then with a set countenance and grave voice poured forth his address, to which, at the striking passages, the audience responded with loud cheers of approbation. He usually discoursed on the follies of Paganism, the scheme of Providence and redemption, and the avarice and rapacity of courtiers.

 

THE LAST ILLNESS OF CONSTANTINE (A.D. 337).

The Emperor Constantine was anxious to see a reunion of the Arian and Athanasian controversialists; but owing to the sudden death of Arius at a critical moment, and, as was often surmised, by a Divine judgment, the opportunity lapsed. Constantine had been seized with sudden illness while preparing for his Persian expedition, and he tried the mineral waters near Helenopolis in vain. He now bethought himself of the necessity of baptism, which he had omitted, though he had been for twenty-five years convinced of the Christian faith. In the church of Helenopolis he was admitted a catechumen by the imposition of hands. He then cast off his imperial purple robes and assumed those of dazzling whiteness, and was baptised by an Arian bishop, but nevertheless ordered the recall of the orthodox Athanasius. He was greatly comforted at the accomplishment of his baptism, and on his deathbed bade his friends rejoice at his speedy departure. He died at the age of sixty-four. His body was laid out in a coffin of gold, and carried by a procession of the whole army to Constantinople. For three months the body lay in state in the palace, lights burning around and guards watching. The Bishop of Nicomedia, who had been entrusted with the Emperor’s will, alarmed at its contents, placed it for security in the dead man’s hand till his son Constantius arrived. It was believed to express the Emperor’s conviction that he had been poisoned by his brothers and their children, and to call on Constantius to avenge his death. That bequest was obeyed by the massacre of six princes of the imperial family. Prayers were offered up to the dead Emperor, and miracles were believed to be wrought by him.

 

THE FIRST CHURCH COUNCIL OF NICE (A.D. 325).

When the first great Church controversy arose as to the Trinity, the Emperor Constantine summoned the first great Council of[Pg 103] the Church at Nice in 325 to settle this and other doubtful points. Three hundred bishops attended, with many presbyters and deacons and laity. The assembly sat in solemn silence till the Emperor entered with great state and glittering with jewels. The whole assembly rose to do him honour. He advanced with modest dignity to a low golden seat, and did not take the seat till a sign of permission had been given by the bishops. A leading prelate began with a short address and hymn; then the Emperor delivered an exhortation to unity. The debate next began, and mutual accusations, defences, and recriminations followed, the Emperor occasionally softening asperities and commending pacific views. The council sat two months, and at the end the Emperor invited the bishops to a sumptuous banquet. They all attended, and were delighted at the prosperous turn which affairs had at last taken. The Nicene Creed was the result. Three hundred and eighteen bishops signed it, and five dissented, though ultimately only two of these withstood to the last.

 

AN EARLY BISHOP SILENCING THE PAGANS.

When Alexander was Bishop of Byzantium, about 314, being then seventy-three years old, he presided at a conference which the Emperor Constantine appointed to be held between the Pagan philosophers and the bishop. The latter was called an apostolic bishop, owing to his reputation for sanctity. And the historians say that on the occasion of the conference he put the spokesman of the Pagans to silence by firmly exclaiming, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command thee to be silent!” On another occasion the same bishop was an ardent opponent of Arius, who then enjoyed the patronage of the Court party. The Emperor Constantine ordered that Arius should be admitted to the Communion. But Alexander was determined not to admit the heretic, and rather than comply with the royal command shut himself up in the church of Irene for purposes of prayer. Strange to say, Arius died suddenly on the following morning, as he was proceeding in triumph to the cathedral, and the people all believed that this was a judgment on the heretic in answer to the good bishop’s prayers.

 

HOW TO CHALLENGE AND REFUTE A HERETIC.

Gregory of Nyssa relates of Ephraim the Syrian, who died about 373, and who was a most voluminous author, preacher, commentator, and hymn-writer: One Apollinaris had written a treatise in two volumes, containing much that was contrary to[Pg 104] Scripture. These volumes he had entrusted to a lady at Edessa, from whom Ephraim obtained a loan of them by pretending that he was a disciple of Apollinaris, and was preparing to defend his views. But before returning them he glued the leaves together, and then challenged the heretic to a public disputation. Apollinaris accepted the challenge, but only so far as to consent to read from these books what he had written, and declining to do more on account of his great age. The controversialists met; but when Apollinaris endeavoured to open the books, he found the leaves so firmly fastened together that the attempt was in vain, and he withdrew, mortified almost to death by his opponent’s unworthy triumph.

 

JULIAN THE APOSTATE.

As there are many examples of kings and emperors converted to the Christian religion, so there is a notable example of one relapsing to the condition of an apostate. Julian the Emperor was brought up as a Christian, and had the repute even of a zealous Christian till he attained the age of twenty, when he took a grudge against the Christians, and resolved to restore, if possible, the worship of the gods as it used to be before the Christian era. He was initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, and studied with the Pagan philosophers. He composed an elaborate work against the Christians. To spite the Christians he resolved to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem; but earthquakes, whirlwinds, or fiery eruptions destroyed these attempts. He prohibited the Christians from teaching rhetoric and grammar, and excluded them from offices of trust, ordered the Christian temples to be demolished and the Pagan temples to be rebuilt, and showed an irrepressible dislike to the progress of Christianity. Julian admitted that neither fire nor the sword could change the faith of mankind. He therefore prohibited the putting to death of the Galileans, as he called the Christians. He looked on them as wild, savage, and intractable brutes, or at least poor, blind, misguided creatures, who needed only be left to punish themselves. The Pagans of Antioch received him with rapture; but on entering the temple of Apollo, where he expected to find a magnificent procession, he found only a solitary priest, and a single goose for sacrifice, at the very sight of which parsimonious neglect he was greatly incensed. While he was busy urging on the restoration of Apollo’s temple, it took fire, and this the Christians viewed as a judgment; while Julian, on the other hand, attributed it to their malice. He retaliated on the cathedral at Antioch by despoiling[Pg 105] it of the sacred vessels. Julian died in battle after two years’ enjoyment of the throne, and it was said his last words were, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!” But the most trustworthy accounts state that he died in 363 without remorse, as he had lived without guilt, and delivered an impressive address to his friends, submitting with dignity to the stroke of fate.

 

HOW JULIAN THE APOSTATE DIED OF WORMS (A.D. 363).

Sozomen relates that Julian, when governor of Egypt, put the presbyter, Theodoret of Antioch, the custodian of the sacred ornaments of the church, to cruel tortures, and then caused him to be slain. Julian then proceeded to the sacrilege of the sacred vases, which he flung upon the ground and sat upon, at the same time uttering incredible blasphemies against Christ; but his impious course was suddenly arrested, for certain parts of his body were turned into corruption, and generated enormous quantities of worms. The physicians confessed that the disease was beyond the reach of their art; but from fear and reverence towards the Emperor, they tried all the resources of medicine. They procured the most costly and the fattest birds, and applied them to the corrupted part, in hope that the worms might be thereby attracted to the surface. But this was of no effect; for, in proportion as some of the worms were thus drawn out, others were generated in the flesh, by which he was ceaselessly devoured, until they put an end to his life. Many believed that this disease was an infliction of Divine wrath visited upon him in consequence of his impiety, and this supposition appears the more probable from the fact that the treasurer of the Emperor, and others of the chief officers of the Court who had persecuted the Church, died in an extraordinary and dreadful manner, as if Divine wrath had been visited upon them.

 

THEOLOGICAL DISPUTES THE TALK OF THE DAY.

When the Arians and Athanasians, early in the fourth century, were in the height of their controversy about the mysteries of the Trinity, the public also took sides, and things beyond all human comprehension became the fashionable topic of conversation at Court. The dispute spread to the people of high rank, and then pervaded the classes below. Socrates said that a war of dialectics was carried on in every family. Gregory of Nyssa in one of his orations thus graphically described the state of public excitement: “Every corner and nook of the city is full of men who discuss incomprehensible subjects—the streets, the[Pg 106] markets, the people who sell old clothes, those who sit at the tables of the money-changers, those who deal in provisions. Ask a man how many pence it comes to, he gives you a specimen of dogmatising on generated and ungenerated beings. Inquire the price of bread, you are answered, ‘The Father is greater than the Son, and the Son subordinate to the Father.’ Ask if the bath is ready, and you are answered, ‘The Son of God was created from nothing.’”

 

THE GREAT CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE TRINITY.

The controversy between the Arians and the Athanasians exercised the leaders of the Church from the time of Constantine to the Second Ecumenic Council in 381. All the great and commanding minds of the age were with the Trinitarians, each condemning the Arian heresy in his own peculiar way. One leader was Ephraim, the Syrian monk, who wept night and day for the sins of mankind and for his own, and who poured forth verse and prose in defence of orthodoxy. It was said his very writings wept, even his panegyrics and festival homilies flowed with tears. His psalms and hymns, however, animated his monkish companions, and were the occupation and delight of all the earnest believers, and all his thoughts and emotions were rigidly Trinitarian. St. Basil the monk, whose boast it was to be “without wife, without property, without flesh, almost without blood,” was equally zealous for the Trinity, and as its champion he was made Archbishop of Cæsarea. St. Gregory of Nazianzen was equally zealous and eloquent in the same cause; and even the Arian monks and virgins were excited to tumults and bloodshed by his exasperating popularity. Chrysostom in the same cause offended the Empress, who was inclined to the Arians. He was banished; but the Empress, on seeing the commotion caused by an earthquake, was afraid, and he was recalled amid the enthusiasm of the whole inhabitants, who went forth to welcome his return. His renewed insults led the Emperor to send his military officers to seize Chrysostom at the altar during the celebration of the Sacrament, and he was carried off. The same night the church took fire, for which his followers were blamed, and he never returned from exile. The cause of the Trinitarians triumphed at last and became the settled faith.

 

ATHANASIUS ATTACKED IN HIS OWN CHURCH.

Athanasius, the great champion of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, who died in 373, escaped many imminent dangers in[Pg 107] his career. When Syrianus, Duke of Egypt, at the head of five thousand soldiers attacked Alexandria in 356, the Archbishop Athanasius was with his clergy and people engaged in their nocturnal devotions. The troops with horrid imprecations battered in the door and interrupted the service; but the archbishop, seated on his throne and expecting the approach of death, merely desired the trembling congregation to chant one of the Psalms of David which celebrates the triumph of the God of Israel over the haughty and impious tyrant of Egypt. When the door was burst in, a cloud of arrows was discharged, and the soldiers with drawn swords rushed forward, their armour gleaming under the lights round the altar. Athanasius refused the importunate prayers of the monks and presbyters who urged him to escape, and insisted on keeping his seat till he had dismissed in safety the last of the congregation. The darkness and tumult of the night favoured his own retreat, though he was thrown down in the crowd and was eagerly searched for by the soldiers, who had been instructed by their Arian guides that the head of Athanasius would be a most acceptable present to the Emperor Constantius, who was zealous for the Arian faction. It was on this occasion that Athanasius was lost sight of for six years, making hairbreadth escapes during all that period.

 

ATHANASIUS CONCEALED BY A HOLY VIRGIN.

Sozomen says that Athanasius, the champion of orthodoxy, on hearing of the death of Constantius in 362, appeared by night in the church at Alexandria, to the astonishment of his friends. He told them that while his enemies were seeking to arrest him he had concealed himself in the house of a holy virgin in Alexandria. She was only twenty years old, and was of such extraordinary beauty, modesty, and wisdom that the gravest and best men felt indescribable fascination in her presence. It is said that Athanasius was led by the revelation of God to seek refuge in her house, and the result showed that all the events were directed by Providence. The friends and relatives of Athanasius would thus have been preserved from danger had search been made for him amongst them, and had they been compelled to swear that he was not concealed with them. There was nothing to excite suspicion of a bishop being concealed in the house of so lovely a virgin. She had, moreover, the courage to receive him and sufficient prudence to preserve his life. She alone ministered to him and supplied his wants. She washed his feet, brought him food, provided him with the books he wanted, and acted so[Pg 108] prudently that during the whole time of his residence with her none of the inhabitants of Alexandria suspected the place of his retreat. The people of Alexandria rejoiced at this unexpected reappearance of Athanasius, and at once restored his churches to him.

 

AN IMPRESSIVE SERMON ON THE TRINITY.

Alanus de Insulis was a schoolman of immense renown in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He had appointed a certain day to preach on the Blessed Trinity and to give a perfect explanation of that mystery to his auditors. On the preceding day, as he took a solitary walk on the margin of a river, he saw a little boy scooping out a small trench, and trying to fill it with water from a shell; but the water escaped through the sandy bottom as fast as he filled it. “What are you doing, my pretty child?” asked Alanus. The reply was, “I am going to put all the water of the river into my trench.” “And when do you think, my child, that you will succeed in this great design?” “Oh,” said the child, “I shall succeed before you succeed in yours. For they say you are to explain the Trinity, in your sermon to-morrow, by the rules of science.” Alanus was struck with this reply and seized with compunction. He returned home meditating deeply on the child’s remarks and his own presumption. On the morrow, when the hour of the sermon arrived, a great crowd assembled. Alanus mounted the pulpit and uttered these words, which were his whole discourse, “It is sufficient, my friends, that you have seen Alanus.” He immediately descended and withdrew, leaving the people in astonishment. The same day he left Paris for Burgundy, and repaired to the abbey of Citeaux, where he became a monk, and ended his days in holy offices and far-reaching reflections.

 

PAGANS PLEADING AGAINST DEMOLISHING TEMPLES.

When the young Emperor Valentinian, who died A.D. 375, was about to carry out the edict of his predecessor and demolish the Pagan temples and remove the statue of Victory, the eloquent prefect of Rome, Symmachus, ventured to remonstrate, and in the Senate he lavished his eloquence in defence of the immortal gods and the religion of his ancestors. He was cautious, dextrous, and conciliatory. He told the Emperor how their old religion had subdued the world to the Roman dominion, that Heaven was above them all, and there were many ways by which we arrive at the great secret. But he presumed not to contend on this occasion; he was a humble suppliant. It would surely be a[Pg 109] disgrace to the imperial treasury to be enriched by the paltry saving in the maintenance of the Vestal Virgins and by confiscating legacies bequeathed by the piety of individuals. Yea, the deified father of the Emperor would look down with sorrow from the starry citadel to see the intolerance of that day’s proceedings. Ambrose, the Archbishop of Milan, was, however, at hand to confront and confute this Pagan harangue. He told the Emperor that ancestors were to be treated with reverence, but that the question now was the right way of treating with God alone. No part of the public revenue must be given to maintain idolatry. He who offered to images would have his offerings returned by the Church with disdain. All the gods of Rome had done nothing for her. It was the courage of the legions, and not the influence of all the false idols, that turned in their favour the issue of battles. Valentinian was murdered before the final step was taken, and his successor hesitated. Ambrose had to fly from Milan, for the soldiery boasted that they would stable their horses in the churches and press the clergy as soldiers. Alaric soon arrived on the scene, the Roman aristocracy became absorbed by the Christianising population, and Paganism at last gradually died out in 493, and the new religion took its place in the old temples.

 

THE DEFENCE OF THE PAGAN IDOLS.

The ruin of Paganism and its idols took place in the age of the Emperor Theodosius (378-395). The Roman priests, with their robes of purple, chariots of state, and sumptuous entertainments, were the admiration of the people; and they found their great champion and advocate in Symmachus, who in turn was baffled by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, whose influence caused the Pagan orator to be exiled. On a vote of the Senate as to whether the worship of Jupiter or of Christ should be the religion of the Romans, a large majority condemned Jupiter, and this led to a special committee of officers, who were directed to shut up the temples and destroy the instruments of idolatry. The Sophists who stood by the Pagan religion describe the acts of the Christian image-breakers as a dreadful and amazing prodigy which covered the earth with darkness. They pathetically relate how the Pagan temples were converted into sepulchres, and how the filthy monks polluted holy places with relics of martyrs which were nothing better than the heads—salted and pickled—of those infamous malefactors who, for the multitude of their crimes, had suffered an ignominious death. But the monks triumphed, and the bodies of St. Andrew, St. Luke, and St. Timothy were transported from[Pg 110] their obscure graves in solemn pomp and deposited in the Church of the Apostles, which the magnificence of Constantine had founded in Constantinople. The example of Rome and Constantinople confirmed the faith and discipline of the Catholic world; and the influence of this part of the worship of the faithful lasted during the twelve hundred years which elapsed between the reign of Constantine and the reformation of Luther.

 

THE FIRST CHRISTIAN DEMOLITION OF TEMPLES.

When Theodosius, the Christian Emperor, in 379 made an edict ordering the demolition of idolatrous temples, it filled the Pagans with dismay. Theophilus, the Archbishop of Alexandria, hastened to execute the order. Marching at the head of the military, he entered the proud temple of the god Serapis, to which a hundred steps led up, and magnificent portices and pillars surrounded the spot. There stood the celebrated colossal statue of the god, made of gold, silver, and other metals fused together, and inlaid with precious stones. When the Christians entered the vast deserted building, the centre of adoration for centuries, they stood silent and awestruck, and after a pause of wonder a soldier was ordered to strike the statue on the knee. He did so timidly, for the spectators expected some terrific outburst of thunder and lightning to destroy him instantaneously. There was an echo, but no sign came. The man, being emboldened, then climbed up to the head, and with one blow struck it off and made it roll to the ground. Another pause. Still no sign of insulted godhead; but a large colony of rats, disturbed from their peaceful abode, suddenly leapt out and scampered about in all directions. The multitude, with their high-strung nerves, were prepared for some act of personal vengeance, but at once dissolved with mirth; peals of loud laughter and jests and mockery mingled with the rest of the work. The curious crowd were further gratified by discovering some of the machinery by which the tricks were produced which had so long imposed on their simple faith, such as letting the light through an aperture fall suddenly on the lips of the statue at the right moment, also a magnet in the roof, which kept a small statue suspended in the air. The fragments of the statue of Serapis were zealously dragged through the streets, and the foundations of the walls were rooted up. The Pagans waited in vain for some sequel of god-like retribution to come; but the river Nile flowed on unmindful of its god without any unusual outbreak. And like scenes were repeated in other cities with the same impunity. In some of the earlier demolitions, however, in other[Pg 111] parts of the empire the Pagans resisted, and in some cases successfully. The war against the temples began in Syria. One enthusiastic iconoclast, named Marcellus of Apamea, after successfully destroying temples in other neighbouring places, when attacking that in his own district was seized rudely by the inhabitants and burned alive. The synod of Christians, thinking it a glorious death, refused to revenge on the ignorant barbarians their precipitate outrage.

 

DESTROYING PAGAN TEMPLES TOO ABRUPTLY.

When the Emperor Theodosius in 386 directed the prætorian prefect Cynegius, an ardent supporter of Christianity, to shut up all the Pagan temples, this was not done without great excitement. One Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, a somewhat worldly man, who was rather bent on erecting splendid churches than on carrying out the spirit of Christianity, obtained from the Emperor a gift of a temple of Bacchus, and he proceeded to convert it into a Christian church. He acted most injudiciously, first collecting all the indecent decorations out of that impure place, and ordering these to be carried in a procession through the streets, so as to expose them to the ridicule and contempt of the people. But it had rather a contrary effect, for it roused the fanatical spirit, and caused the mob to create a riot and retaliate on the Christians, driving them off and themselves taking refuge in the magnificent temple of Serapis, the pride of Pagan idolaters. There a fanatical Pagan named Olympius, who was clad in the garb of a philosopher, harangued his followers, and instigated them to fight for the sanctuaries of their fathers. The spirit of the mob rose to fever heat, and the loss of life in these commotions was so great that the Emperor took occasion of it to issue a decree, in which he found it necessary to pardon the ringleaders of the Pagans, but at the same time he directed all the heathen temples at Alexandria to be destroyed, since it was through these that such serious disturbances had been created. And this led, amongst others, to the demolition of the celebrated temple of Serapis, and its conversion into churches and cloisters. After these events it was expected that Paganism would soon die out.

 

DEMOLISHING AN IMAGE AT THE PALACE.

There was a magnificent image of Christ erected over the bronze portal of the Imperial Palace at Constantinople. The legend was, that Theodore, a wealthy merchant, after losing all his property at sea, went to borrow some capital from a wealthy[Pg 112] Jew, who demanded good security. Theodore had nothing of value but an image of Christ, and this he boldly offered as his surety. The Jew was so amused and yet overwhelmed at this simplicity that he agreed to accept it. The result was that the merchant won back all his wealth, and repaid the Jew to the uttermost farthing, and the great image called the Surety was set up. When the imperial decree was published against this and other images, a soldier of the Emperor’s guard erected a ladder in order to take it down to be burned. But a crowd of women collected, demanding that the image should be spared; and when they watched the soldier striking his axe at it, they were so maddened with indignation, that they pulled the ladder from under his feet, and caused him to fall, and he was killed. The Emperor sent troops to the spot to drive away the people, and set up a plain cross instead of the image which had so won upon the reverence of the lieges.

 

ST. MARTIN OF TOURS DEMOLISHING TEMPLES (A.D. 380).

St. Martin of Tours (who died 396) distinguished himself by his zeal and efficiency as a destroyer of the Pagan temples when the word was given to destroy them. The Pagans occasionally used to resist. Once, after demolishing a temple, he was also desirous of cutting down a pine that stood near it. But the Pagans opposed this, and after some argument agreed that they themselves would fell it upon condition that he, who boasted so much of his trust in God, would stand under it where they would place him. The saint consented, and suffered himself to be tied to that side of the tree on which it leaned. When it seemed just ready to fall upon him, he made the sign of the cross, and it fell on the contrary side. Whereupon the Pagans were so astonished that they all upon the spot demanded to be enrolled in his list of catechumens. Another time he was pulling down a temple, when a great number of Pagans fell upon him with fury, and one attacked him sword in hand. The saint, however, merely took off his mantle and presented his bare neck to him, whereupon the Pagan was so terrified that he fell backwards, and begged the saint to forgive him.

 

THE KING OF THE GOTHS RESPECTS THE CHURCHES.

When Alaric, King of the Goths, besieged Rome the third time, in 410, the Salarian Gate was silently opened by his confederates inside at midnight, and the inhabitants were roused by the piercing sound of the Gothic trumpet. The tribes of Germany[Pg 113] and Scythia then rushed in, eager to enrich themselves with the spoils of the great city. Alaric exhorted his troops to respect the churches of the Apostles, St. Peter, and St. Paul. The Goths were impressed, and showed here and there some self-restraint. One barbarian chief burst open the humble dwelling of an aged virgin, demanding all her silver and gold, and was astounded at the readiness with which she conducted him to a splendid hoard of massy plate curiously inwrought, which made the eye of the captor sparkle with delight. But the woman with a confident air said to him, “These are the consecrated vessels belonging to St. Peter; if you presume to touch them, the sacrilegious deed will haunt your conscience. As for me, I dare not keep what I am unable to defend.” The captain was awestruck; and after reporting the circumstance to the king, the latter ordered all the consecrated plate and ornaments to be transported without damage or delay to the Church of the Apostles, and a detachment of Goths thereupon marched in battle-array, bearing aloft these sacred treasures amid barbarian shouts and the psalms of rejoicing Christians who joined in the procession. The Goths, in pillaging the city, spared nothing beyond these select vessels of the Church; and gold, jewels, silks, and works of art were piled in waggons for their own spoil. The victorious Goths evacuated the city on the sixth day and marched south, spreading terror and destruction. On reaching Sicily, Alaric’s life was cut short, and his funeral was celebrated with barbaric pomp. A small river, Busentinus, that washes the walls of Consentia, was diverted from its course, and in its bed the hero’s body with the spoils and trophies of Rome were buried. The prisoners who had been compelled to execute this work were then massacred, and the river was restored to its former channel, so as to conceal for ever the place of burial.

 

ATTILA, KING OF THE HUNS, IMPRESSED BY THE POPE (A.D. 453).

When Attila, the King of the Huns, was supposed to meditate the invasion of Italy, so great was the consternation that the Senate and people thought it prudent to send a solemn embassy to deprecate the wrath of that ferocious monarch. He listened to the appeal, and the deliverance of Italy was purchased by the immense ransom or dowry of the Princess Honoria. When Attila talked of carrying his victorious arms to the gates of Rome, both friends and foes warned him that Alaric did not long survive the conquest of the Eternal City; but in 453 he carried out his resolution. Meanwhile, Leo, the bishop, was induced to venture his life to endeavour to mollify the conqueror. Leo’s[Pg 114] eloquence and majestic aspect and sacerdotal robes made an immense impression on the superstitious barbarian. It was said by the chroniclers that the two apostles St. Peter and St. Paul appeared in person on the occasion, and threatened Attila with instant death if he rejected the prayer of their successor. He was much embarrassed; but before he evacuated Italy he still threatened to return more dreadful and implacable if the Princess Honoria were not delivered up to him according to the treaty. Fortunately for Italy, Attila was one night seized with sudden illness, during which a blood-vessel burst and suffocated him in his sleep. After solemnly exposing his body under a silken pavilion, squadrons of Huns wheeled round, chanting a funeral song to his memory. They inclosed his remains in three coffins, of gold, of silver, and of iron, and privately buried him in the night, throwing into his grave the spoils of nations and the bodies of captives massacred for the purpose.

 

THE VANDALS SACKING ROME AND CAPTURING SACRED VESSELS (455).

When Genseric, King of the Vandals, was secretly invited by the Empress Eudoxia to deliver her from the brutal treatment of the Emperor Maximus, the African galleys brought an army to the mouth of the Tiber. Maximus being, meanwhile, slain in a tumult of his subjects, the Vandals advanced at once to the gates of Rome; but instead of meeting an army, saw only a procession of clergy, headed by the bishop, who by his venerable appearance sought to mitigate the ferocity of the conqueror. Some show of mercy was promised; but the conquerors, nevertheless, were allowed to pillage the city, which they did for fourteen days and nights. Vast spoils were collected, including the splendid relics of the temples, both Pagan and Christian. Magnificent furniture, sideboards of massy plate, and jewels stripped from the persons of the Empress and her daughters were collected and stowed in the ships. Amongst others, the holy instruments of the Jewish worship, the gold table and the gold candlestick with seven branches, originally framed by the direction of God Himself, and which were placed in the sanctuary of His Temple, had been displayed to the Roman people by Titus, and afterwards deposited in the Temple of Peace. These spoils of Jerusalem at the end of four hundred years were transferred from Rome to Carthage by the Vandals. It has been related that the vessel which transported the relics of the Capitol was the only one of the fleet which suffered shipwreck. Thousands of Romans of both sexes, and mostly those skilled in the arts, were included among the[Pg 115] captives; and the Bishop of Carthage generously sold the gold and silver plate of his church to relieve them.

 

JUSTINIAN DRIVING OUT THE GREEK PHILOSOPHERS (526).

Though Julian the Apostate, in his zeal to re-establish Paganism, made no great impression, the schools of the Greek philosophers, with their dreamy morality, were not allowed to expire like a worn-out veteran in peaceful dignity. The impatient zeal of the Emperor Justinian in 526 led him to forcibly expel the remnant of the old philosophers from the ancient groves and porches of Athens. Seven followers of Proclus were obliged to find a retreat in Persia; but the Magi there were still more intolerant than the Christians. Philosophy found no resting-place; it found itself supplanted by a new faith, which now domineered over the human mind. Justinian governed the Roman Empire for thirty-eight years (527-565), and great and curious events occurred in his time. The Empress Theodora was daughter of an official called the Master of the Bears, and took to the stage in her youth. Her forte was not to sing or dance or play on the flute, but to act in pantomime and buffoonery, her eyes being bright, and her agile and elegant form drawing down endless applause. She captivated the nephew of the Emperor Justin, young Justinian, whom she married, and she maintained an ascendency over him to the last. She developed into a rapacious and cruel tyrant, and yet patronised many charitable schemes; and her influence and power with the Emperor were unbounded, and many a courtier fell a victim to her caprice. Her physicians at last warned her that her health required her to use the Pythian warm baths. She went there attended by a splendid train of four thousand officials. Highways and palaces were repaired and made ready during the progress. In passing through Bithynia she distributed liberal alms to the churches, the monasteries, and hospitals that they might implore Heaven for the restoration of her health. At last in 548, the twenty-second year of her reign, she was carried away by a cancer.

 

MAHOMET’S KNOWLEDGE OF CHRISTIANITY (632).

Mahomet’s knowledge of and connection with Christianity are inferred from the fact that his favourite slave Zeyd leaned to the Christian faith. And the monk Bahari, who conversed with Mahomet on his first journey with the camel-drivers, who professed to foresee and welcome the future greatness of the prophet, may have communicated many of the traditions of[Pg 116] the faith. Though Mahomet was not well acquainted with the canonical gospels, yet the apocryphal gospels with the current traditions of the time were familiar to him. He adopted the legend of the Seven Sleepers at Ephesus, and of the Wandering Jew. Many incidents of ecclesiastical history have analogies in the Koran. There is a priesthood in the sense of men devoted to the interpretation of the Koran. The saints are also venerated, and pilgrims make annual visitations. The ceremonial rites are even more mechanical than are to be found in any portion of the Christian Church.

 

THE OAK OF GEISMAR DEMOLISHED (724).

When St. Boniface was sent as a missionary by the Pope in 724 to convert the Germans, they were found grovelling in Pagan superstition, putting their faith in sacred groves and fountains. The missionary, when made a bishop, determined to strike a blow at this creed. There was an old and venerable oak of immense size in the grove of Geismar, in Upper Hesse, hallowed for ages to Thor, the thunder-god. Attended by all the clergy, Boniface, who felt that one visible ark of sacred confidence must be replaced by another, went publicly forth to fell this tree. The Pagans assembled in multitudes to behold a trial of strength between the rival gods. They awaited the issue in profound silence, some expecting that the sacrilegious axe would recoil on the impious Christians. But only a few blows had been struck when a sudden wind was heard in the groaning branches, and down it came toppling, and split into four pieces. The shuddering Pagans at once bowed before the superior might of Christianity. Boniface at once built out of the wood a chapel dedicated to St. Peter. After this churches and monasteries sprang up, and zealous labourers from England flocked to help in civilising the Teutonic race. Eadberga, the abbess of Minster, in the isle of Thanet, sent presents of clothes and books. Boniface was then made a metropolitan, with his throne at Mentz, on the Rhine, and Christianity spread from that time throughout that district, and it was by his hand that Pepin the Little was anointed king. In his old age Boniface descended the Rhine in a boat towards the Zuyder Zee. He took with him a shroud, in which his body might be wrapped and sent back to Fulda in Hesse in case of accident. It proved that the Pagan priests attacked him, and then, laying his head upon a volume of the gospels, he received the fatal blow, being killed in 755, and his seventy-fifth year.

 [Pg 117]

THE POPE DEFENDING ROME AGAINST FOREIGNERS (742).

When Luitprand, the Lombard King, was conquering Italy in 742, and was approaching Rome, Pope Zacharias went and met him at Terni, surrounded with a courtly array of bishops. He chose the church of St. Valentine for the place of meeting; and the Pope, availing himself of the solemnity of the building, and reminding the king of the last account and the damnation that must await him, made such an impression that the king was overawed and agreed to a treaty, making the concessions asked; and the Pope, after a solemn service in church, ended by inviting the king to a banquet. But ten years later another Pope (Stephen) was less successful with the next Lombard king, Astolph. The Pope’s ambassadors were received and listened to, but nothing more. The king did not stay his career, but approached Rome. Not all the Litanies, not all the solemn processions to the most revered altars of the city, in which the Pope himself with naked feet bore the cross and the whole people followed with ashes on their heads, and with a wild howl of agony implored the protection of God against the blaspheming Lombards, arrested for an instant his progress. The Pope appealed to Heaven by tying a copy of the treaty violated by Astolph to the holy cross. Astolph entered notwithstanding; and, strange to say, while he remained he busied himself digging up the bodies of saints, not for insult, but as the most precious trophies, and carried them off as tutelar deities to Lombardy. At the same time the Pope was making a journey to King Pepin of France, and there met with a warm reception, which led to many future favours from that quarter.

 

THE FORGED DECRETALS ABOUT CONSTANTINE (795).

Pope Adrian I., who died 795, in his troubles with emperors and kings, finding Charlemagne a rising power, wrote a letter to him exhorting him to imitate the liberality and revive the name of the great Constantine. He used for that purpose a legend for which he vouched, and which was to this effect: The first of the Christian emperors was healed of the leprosy, and purified in the waters of baptism by St. Sylvester, the Roman bishop, and the physician was gloriously recompensed, for that emperor withdrew from the seat and patrimony of St. Peter, declared his resolution of founding a new capital in the East, and resigned to the Popes the free and perpetual sovereignty of Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the West. By this plausible story it was made to appear that the Popes were made by the best of titles supreme; and[Pg 118] such were the ignorance and credulity of the times, that this absurd fable was received with equal reverence in Greece and France. It turned out that the story was a forgery concocted near the end of the eighth century by one Isidore, a scribe. It was, nevertheless, accepted and handed down as a magna charta of papal rights, until some opposition to its authenticity proceeded from a Sabine monastery about 1100. In the revival of letters, an eloquent critic and Roman patriot, named Laurentius Valla, who died 1457, completed the exposure of the forgery, to the amazement of his contemporaries, and before the end of the next age the imposture was rejected with the contempt of all the historians. But it served its purpose. As Gibbon observes, “The Popes themselves have indulged a smile at the credulity of the vulgar, but a false obsolete title still sanctifies their reign; and by the same fortune which has attended these forged decretals, and the Sibylline oracles, the edifice has subsisted after the foundations have been undermined.”

 

POPE NICOLAS AND THE FALSE DECRETALS (867).

One of the clever stratagems by which Pope Nicolas I., who died in 867, tried to establish his supremacy over the whole world in all things spiritual was the promulgation of the false decretals. This Pope was said to have tamed kings and tyrants, and to have ruled the world like a sovereign. A rebel Transalpine prelate, Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, had disputed the jurisdiction of the Pope, but was compelled to submit. On a sudden, at the nick of time, there was promulgated a new code, including thirty-nine (false) decrees of Popes and councils. These not only asserted the supremacy of the Pope, his dignity and privileges, but included a whole system of Church discipline on Church property, sacraments, festivals, rites, and ceremonies. The whole is composed with an air of profound piety and reverence, and a specious purity of tone. But for the too manifest design, the aggrandisement of the whole clergy in subordination to the See of Rome; but for the monstrous ignorance of history, which betrayed itself in glaring anachronisms, and in the utter confusion of the order of events and the lives of distinguished men—the former awakening keen and jealous suspicion, the latter making the detection of the spuriousness of the whole easy, clear, irrefragable—the false decretals might still have maintained their place in ecclesiastical history. They are now given up by all; not a voice is raised in their favour. The utmost done is to palliate the guilt of the forger, who fortunately is unknown.

 [Pg 119]

SEPARATION OF THE GREEK AND LATIN CHURCHES (1054).

The restoration of the Western Empire by Charlemagne was speedily followed by the permanent separation of the Greek and Latin Churches. About 850 Photius, an ambitious layman and captain of the guards, was promoted to the office of Patriarch of Constantinople, thereby superseding Ignatius, who had a large following. Both appealed to Pope Nicolas I., a proud and aspiring pontiff, who embraced the welcome opportunity of judging and condemning his rival of the East. The patriarch had the aid of his own court, and deposed the Pope; but in turn he and his patrons lost ground, and the original patriarch, Ignatius, was restored. Thereafter the feud continued more or less fiercely, till at last, in 1054, the then patriarch was excommunicated in Constantinople by the Pope’s legates. Shaking the dust from their feet, they deposited on the altar of St. Sophia a direful anathema, which enumerated seven mortal heresies of the Greeks, and consigned the Eastern Church, its teachers and sectaries, to everlasting damnation. Though the forms of civility thereafter were sometimes maintained, the Greeks never recanted the errors and the Popes never repealed their sentence. This aversion of the Greeks and Latins was nourished and manifested in the three first expeditions to the Holy Land. The Eastern Christians never gave a cordial welcome to the Crusaders, and rather treated them as schismatics, and sometimes took part in thwarting them. In 1183 the Greeks carried out a massacre, in which the Latins were slaughtered in houses and streets, their clergy burnt in the churches, and the sick in their hospitals. The Greek monks and priests actually chanted a thanksgiving to the Lord when the head of a Roman cardinal, the Pope’s legate, was severed from his body, fastened to the tail of a dog, and dragged in savage mockery through the city.

 

EARLY CONTENTIONS OF JEW AND CHRISTIAN.

In the fourth century, after miraculous powers ceased to attend the progress of Christianity, and a system of wonder-working was established, the Jews, who had long watched with jealousy the advance of their rivals, began to think that they could also become adepts in pious frauds. Next one party took to magical arts as weapons of superiority. A conference is said to have taken place in the presence of Constantine and the devout empress-mother Helena between the Jews and the Christians. Pope Sylvester had already triumphed in argument over his[Pg 120] infatuated opponents, when the Jews had recourse to magic. A noted enchanter commanded an ox to be brought forward; he whispered into the ear of the animal, which instantly fell dead at the feet of Constantine. The Jews shouted in triumph, for it was the word Ham-semphorash, the ineffable name of God, at the sound of which the awestruck beast had expired. Sylvester, with some shrewdness, observed, “As he who whispered the name must be well acquainted with it, why does not he fall dead in like manner?” The Jews answered contemptuously, “Let us have no more verbal disputations; let us come to actions.” “So be it,” said Sylvester; “and if this comes to life again at the name of Christ, will ye believe?” They all assented. Sylvester then raised his eyes to heaven, and said with a loud voice, “If He be the true God whom I preach, in the name of Christ arise, you ox, and stand on your feet.” The ox sprang up and began to move and feed. The legend then adds that the whole assembly was baptised.

 

JULIAN INCITING THE JEWS TO REBUILD THE TEMPLE.

Sozomen says that, though Julian the Apostate hated and oppressed the Christians, he was benevolent to the Jews merely in order to spite the Christians. He commanded the Jews to rebuild their Temple at Jerusalem, and gave them money to do so. They entered on the undertaking without reflecting that according to their holy prophets it could not be accomplished. They sought the most skilful artisans, collected materials, cleared the ground, and entered so earnestly on the task that even the women carried heaps of earth and sold their ornaments towards defraying the expense. Yet when they cleared the ground an earthquake occurred, and stones were thrown up from the earth, wounding those near, and houses were thrown down. After the earthquake the workmen returned to the task; and instead of regarding the unexpected wonder as a manifest indication that God was opposed to the re-creation of the Temple, they were consumed by a fire which burst from the foundations. This fact is related by all the contemporaries, who agree that the fire burst out either from the foundations or from the bowels of the earth. A still more extraordinary prodigy occurred, for the sign of the cross appeared on the garments of the workmen. These crosses were disposed like stars, and appeared the work of art. Many were hence led to confess that Christ was God, and repented and were baptised.

 [Pg 121]

CHRISTIANS HATING THE JEWS.

Southey says, “That the primitive Christians should have regarded the Jews with hostile feelings as their first persecutors was but natural, and that that feeling should have been aggravated by a just and religious horror for the crime which has drawn upon this unhappy nation its abiding punishment. But it is indeed strange that during so many centuries this enmity should have continued to exist, and that no sense of compassion should have mitigated it. For the Jews to have inherited the curse of their fathers was in the apprehension of ordinary minds to inherit their guilt; and the cruelties which man inflicted upon them were interpreted as proofs of the continued wrath of Heaven, so that the very injuries and sufferings which in any other case would have excited commiseration served in this to close the heart against it. Being looked on as God’s outlaws, they were everywhere placed, as it were, under the ban of humanity. And while these heart-hardening prepossessions subsisted against them in full force, the very advantages of which they were in possession rendered them more especial objects of envy, suspicion, and popular hatred.”

 

THE GOLDEN AGE OF JUDAISM (A.D. 800).

The Jews seemed never to be so prosperous as in the age of Pepin and Charlemagne (about 768-800). The laws were not enforced against them, and they were practically free from restrictions, except as to keeping Christian slaves and following the law of dower. Bishops, abbots, and abbesses were only prevented by heavy penalties from pledging or selling to the circumcised the costly vestments, rich furniture, and precious vessels of the churches. Jews became physicians, ministers of finance to nobles and monarchs; and when Charlemagne sent an embassy to Caliph Haroun al Raschid, a Jew was sent with two Christian counts as ambassadors, and as they died on the road he conducted the business and brought back costly presents, including an enormous elephant, which the monks of the period described as a wonder of the world. The monks also described the accomplishments of a Jew physician named Zedekiah, who was a confidential adviser of Louis the Débonnaire or the Pious. They relate that he could swallow a whole cart of hay and fly in the air. The toleration and equal treatment of Jews and Christians greatly shocked Agobard, Bishop of Lyons, who issued edicts to his people prohibiting their intercourse. But on appeal the king ordered an[Pg 122] inquiry, and the edicts were withdrawn. About the same time in Spain, from the conquest by the Moors till the end of the tenth century, the Jews enjoyed nearly equal laws; and one Moses, their rabbi, became wealthy and influential; and when his grandson Nathan enjoyed a drive in the groves near Cordova, seven hundred chariots joined in the procession that followed him.

 

THE POPE AND THE JEWS (1140).

Various Christian countries for centuries maintained laws making it necessary that Jews should wear a particular dress or badge to distinguish them. They were always viewed by Christian communities with suspicion. One of the common accusations against them was that of crucifying children, after scourging them and crowning them with thorns; and this they were suspected of doing annually. This was said to be done out of hatred to the Christian religion, and it was even alleged that the Jews received the heart of the sacrificed child at their own Communion. The Jews were also accused of scourging crucifixes and profaning images and crosses. These and other imputations were adroitly used as pretexts for confiscating the wealth of the Jews. One remarkable badge of subjection and suspicion took its rise in the twelfth century—namely, the conduct of the Jews at the installation of a new Pope. They are obliged to wait for the Pontiff on the road to St. John de Lateran, and there on their knees they present him with a copy of their Law. On receiving this, the Pope thus addresses them: “I revere the law which God gave to Moses, but condemn the false sense you give it by vainly expecting the Messiah who has been long come, and whom the Church believes to be Jesus Christ our Lord.” This custom took its rise when Pope Innocent II., on his retreat to France, made his entry into Paris, on which occasion the Jews went to meet him with great solemnity, and in a very respectful manner presented him with the holy books of their Law.

 

THE JEWS OF YORK DEFENDING THEMSELVES (1189).

A time of monstrous persecution and cruelty towards the Jews was the coronation of Richard I. in 1189. One Benedict, a York Jew, to save his life had submitted to baptism in London, but died of injuries received during a riot there. The people of York, equally excited, attacked Benedict’s house there, and his wife and children took refuge in the Castle with their valuable effects. Other Jews being with them, all at last suspected that the governor was in treaty with their enemies to surrender them, and[Pg 123] while the governor was temporarily absent they shut the gates against him. This made the populace frantic, and eager to enter and despatch them. A canon urged the mob on; and at last a rabbi, seeing the hopelessness of their situation, addressed his fellow Jews as follows: “Men of Israel, the God of our fathers calls upon us to die for our Law. Death is inevitable, but we may yet choose whether we will die speedily and nobly, or ignominiously, after horrible torments. My advice is that we shall voluntarily render up our souls to our Creator, and fall by our own hands. The deed is both reasonable and according to the Law, and is sanctioned by the example of our most illustrious ancestors.” The old man sat down in tears. The assembly was divided, but debated; and finally, while a few left the place, the great majority made up their minds to die. They collected their precious effects into a pile and burnt them. They then cut the throats of their wives and children. The rabbi and Joachim were the last to suffer; but one slew the other and then himself. Next morning the mob broke in, only to find the fire burning in all quarters, and they took care to have all the bonds and obligations and money securities of the dead men burned in an enormous bonfire. No proper punishment was ever inflicted on the ringleaders who thus caused the death of seven or eight hundred persons, though some of the ringleaders were arrested.

 

JEWS ATTEMPTING TO CRUCIFY AN ENGLISH BOY.

Matthew Paris says: “About 1240 the Jews circumcised a Christian boy at Norwich, and after he was circumcised they called him Jurnim; they then kept him to crucify him, in contempt of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The father of the boy, however, from whom the Jews had stolen him, after a diligent search at length discovered him confined in custody of the Jews, and with a loud cry he pointed out his son, whom he believed lost, shut up in a room of one of the Jews’ houses. When this extraordinary crime came to the knowledge of William de Kele, the bishop, a wise and circumspect prelate, and of some other nobles, in order that such an insult to Christ should not be passed over unpunished through the neglect of the Christians, all the Jews of that city were made prisoners; and when they wished to place themselves under the protection of the royal authority, the bishop said, ‘These matters belong to the Church; and when the question raised is concerning circumcision and insult to religion, it is not to be decided by the King’s Court.’ Four of the Jews therefore, having been found guilty of[Pg 124] the aforesaid crime, were first dragged at the tails of horses, and afterwards hung on a gibbet, where they breathed forth the wretched remains of life.”

 

JEWS CRUCIFYING AN ENGLISH BOY (1255).

Matthew Paris also says that in 1255 some Jews of Lincoln stole a boy of eight years, shut him up in a room, fed him on milk, and then sent to all the cities in England where Jews lived to come and be present at a sacrifice to take place at Lincoln, when a boy was to be crucified. A great many Jews attended, and one was appointed to take the place of Pilate, who subjected the boy to divers tortures. They beat him till blood flowed and he was quite livid; they crowned him with thorns, derided him, and spat upon him. Then he was pierced by each of them with a wood knife, was made to drink gall, was overwhelmed with reproaches and blasphemies, and was repeatedly called “Jesus, the false prophet,” by his tormentors, who surrounded him, grinding and gnashing their teeth. At last they crucified him, and pierced him to the heart with a lance, took down his body from the cross, disembowelled him, and used his body to practise magical operations, and then threw it into a well. The boy’s mother began tracing the boy to a Jew’s house, and excited the compassion of the citizens by her suspicions. A wise man, John of Lexington, encouraged the hue and cry with his eloquence, and one or two Jews were arrested, and a pardon offered if confession were made. One Jew professed then to confess that the Jews crucified a boy every year as an insult to the name of Jesus. The boy’s body was afterwards found in the well, and exposed to the gaze of the citizens. The canons of the cathedral inquired into it, and the king was informed. The Jew who confessed was tied to a horse’s tail and dragged to the gallows; and at a later day eighteen wealthy Jews were also hanged, and others imprisoned to await a like fate, though it was said that some indiscreet minor brethren interceded for them.

 

JEWS BLAMED FOR THE BLACK DEATH IN 1347.

The disease known as the Black Death first appeared at Constantinople in 1347, and soon spread along the north of the Black Sea, then to Sicily, Marseilles, France, Italy, and Spain. The black patches on the skin and the pestilential breath of the sick, who spat blood, carried contagion far and near. There were also atmospheric disturbances, deluges of rain, and earthquakes. In[Pg 125] England in 1349 the Parliament was prorogued on account of this plague. The Princess Joan, daughter of Edward III., then on her way to marry the eldest son of the King of Castile, caught the disease at Bordeaux and died. Wicliff, then a student at Oxford, wrote a book on “The Last Age of the Church,” in which it was predicted that the end of the world would be in 1400 at latest. The effect on people was twofold. Some lived more temperately, while others gave themselves up to revelling and drinking. The Flagellants, as a new religious order, went about scourging and being scourged, as a means of propitiating Heaven, and singing psalms and ringing bells. Some started the theory that the Jews were the cause of this disease, and many were put to death (as was mentioned ante, p. 90). Labourers, from the scarcity, demanded higher wages, and under Wat Tyler many joined in a local rebellion.

 

JEWS STEALING THE HOST TO INSULT IT (1350).

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the German Jews were subject to frequent spoliations and massacres. The sect of Flagellants, who, with mad enthusiasm, passed through the cities of Germany, preceded by a crucifix and scourging their naked and bleeding backs, used, as they said, to atone for their own transgressions by plundering and murdering as many Jews as they could in Frankfort and other places. The Jews were thus hunted through all Germany, Silesia, Brandenburg, Bohemia, Lithuania, and Poland. As a justification for this systematic cruelty, the following legend was circulated and believed in most countries: A certain Jew, named Jonathan of Enghien, desired to possess himself of the consecrated Host in order to treat it with sacrilegious insult. He bribed a desperado, named John of Louvain, to procure the sacred symbol. John mounted by night into the chapel of St. Catherine, stole the pyx, with the sacred contents, and conveyed it to Jonathan. The latter assembled his friends, who most impiously met and blasphemed and pierced it with knives. At that time Jonathan was advised for safety to migrate to Brussels; and there, in the synagogue, the Jews treated the Host with every insult, piercing it with knives, and though blood flowed forth the obdurate unbelievers, unmoved, continued their insults. They next sent the treasure to Cologne for similar treatment; but having entrusted it to a woman whose conscience smote her, she betrayed them to the clergy. The consequence was that the Jews were arrested, put to the torture, convicted, and sentenced to be torn with red-hot pincers and then[Pg 126] burnt alive. This memorable act of vengeance was said to be justified by many miracles that were worked in Brussels, the place of punishment.

 

BANQUETING WITH THE JEWS (1478).

Though the Jews were often treated with gross cruelty and injustice in the Middle Ages, they sometimes had it in their power to retaliate. The Jews, often acquiring great wealth, defied the clergy and refused to pay tithe. It was often a question whether the clergy should admit servants of the Jews to baptism. Once large numbers of bishops forbade Christians, under pain of excommunication, to frequent the banquets of the Jews. In 1478 one Francis de Pizicardis, a great and cruel usurer, was buried in the Church of St. Francis in Placentia. It happened to rain torrents during many days, till a report spread through the city that it would never cease as long as the said body was in holy ground. The young men of the city in a body, as if convoked by the bishop, went to the church, burst open the gates, dug up the body, and dragged it by a cord through all the streets of the city. And as they passed the house of one old woman, she ran out and insulted it, saying, “Give me back my eggs!” for she had given him two fresh eggs every day as interest for a ducat which she owed him. At length the body was dragged out of the city, suspended from a willow tree, and finally thrown into the Po. And, strange to say, according to the annalist, the rain then ceased. Some Polish rulers were so indebted to the Jews that, in order to keep their creditors quiet, they favoured the Jewish merchants more than the Christian.

 

TORQUEMADA’S ZEAL AGAINST SPANISH JEWS (1492).

After the Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella had succeeded in driving the Moors from Spain, and when at last they had agreed to send Columbus on his expedition to the New World, the clergy inflamed the minds of the sovereigns and the Inquisition against the Jews, who obstinately resisted all efforts to convert them. While the Jews were negotiating with the sovereign to avert this odium, Torquemada, the Inquisitor-General, burst into the apartment of the palace, and, drawing a crucifix from under his mantle, held it up, and exclaimed, “Judas Iscariot sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver. Your Highnesses would sell Him anew for thirty thousand. Here He is; take Him and barter Him away.” So saying, this demon priest threw the crucifix on the table, and left the apartment. The royal pair were [Pg 127]overawed, and their superstitious forebodings were so effectually worked upon that they signed, in 1492, the edict for the expulsion of the Jews which caused so much misery. The Jews, who were then estimated to be about six hundred and fifty thousand, resolved to abandon the country and sacrifice all rather than their religion. They had to sell their property for a trifle, owing to the market being glutted. A house would be sold for an ass and a vineyard for a piece of cloth. Some Jews swallowed their jewels; others tried to conceal them in clothes and saddles. Some ships carrying the fugitives were visited by the plague. Those suffered all the miseries of hunger who travelled by land, and many sold their children for bread. Some were cast naked and desolate on the African coast. Some tried to escape into Portugal; and King Joan II. drove a hard bargain, fixing a high capitation tax, which his tax-gatherers lined the frontiers in order to collect. This was only for permission to pass through the country and embark for Africa. The new king, Emanuel, acted still more brutally, and ordered all Jewish children to be kidnapped and torn from their parents’ arms, in order to be brought up in the Catholic faith. The Dominicans watched, during these years of massacre and pillage, the moment when a Jewish person was visible, rushed forth with crucifix in their hands to hunt and roast the offender, and for this brutal work of merit the reward was said to be that the sufferings in purgatory should be confined to a hundred days. This expulsion of Jews seriously marred the national prosperity.

 

THE PREJUDICE AGAINST JEWISH PHYSICIANS.

Southey says that nothing exposed the Jews to more odium, in ages when they were held most odious, than the reputation which they possessed as physicians. So late as the middle of the sixteenth century, Francis I., after a long illness, finding no benefit from his own physicians, despatched a courier to Spain, requesting Charles V. to send him the most skilful Jewish practitioner in his dominions. This afforded matter for merriment to the Spaniards. No Jewish physician being heard of, a Christian one was sent, but was dismissed without a trial; and at last a Jew came from Constantinople, who, however, prescribed nothing more for the royal patient than asses’ milk. This reputation of the Jewish physicians was said to be founded on the notion that they had stores of knowledge not accessible to other people, especially as to all the drugs known in the East. Yet at the same time there were tales as to the disreputable knowledge they had, such as killing Christian children to use their fat as [Pg 128]cosmetics. The conduct of the Romish Church tended to strengthen this obloquy. Several councils of the Church denounced excommunication against any persons who should place themselves under the care of a Jewish physician; for it was said to be pernicious and scandalous that Christians, who ought to despise and hold in horror the enemies of their holy religion, should have recourse to them for remedies in sickness. The decree of the Lateran Council, by which physicians were enjoined under heavy penalties to require that their patients should confess and communicate before they administered any medicines to them, seems to have been designed as much against Jewish practitioners as heretical patients. The Jews on their part were not more charitable, and used to forbid rabbis to attend upon either a Christian or Gentile unless he dared not refuse, and above all never to attend such patients gratuitously.

 

A HOLY FATHER CONVERTING A JEW (1600).

In the seventeenth century one Engelberger, a Bohemian Jew, was sentenced to imprisonment for stealing the plate from a synagogue at Prague. In prison he became a great reader; and a holy Father, who visited him and took an interest in him, promised him not only absolution but a considerable reward if he would renounce his faith. He did so, and was received into the Church, thereby drawing on him the contempt and vengeance of the other Jews, and the praise and congratulation of the Christians. He published a book vindicating his conversion, became a favourite of high society, and was invited to Vienna, where he was well received by the Emperor Ferdinand III. But the convert by degrees was suspected of hypocrisy; and on the first opportunity he robbed the royal treasury, and after trial was condemned to death. He again affected sincere piety and contrition, expecting that his sentence would be remitted. But at the last moment, being told the contrary, and while receiving the last Sacrament on the scaffold, he spat the sacred wafer from his mouth; he shouted to the mob that he deserved his fate for abjuring the faith of Moses, and he called on them to bear witness that he died in the faith of the patriarchs. The mob, who had formerly almost deified the renegade, were now enraged at this insult to the Catholic faith, and wanted to tear him to pieces; but he was withdrawn for a few days. He was then again exposed, and drawn on a hurdle through the streets of Vienna. And a more diabolical sentence had meanwhile been passed. His right hand was first cut off; his tongue torn from his mouth; he[Pg 129] was suspended from the gallows with his head downward, and dogs were allowed to tear him to pieces; and then his dead body was thrown into the Danube. An inscription in the Guildhall at Vienna records the date of this appalling example of religious fanaticism.

 

THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT IMAGE WORSHIP (A.D. 726).

The mode in which the great controversy about worship of images in churches arose was said to be as follows: A hermit had sent to Gregory the Great, who was appointed Pope in 589, for an image of Christ and other religious symbols. The latter sent him a picture of Christ and the Virgin Mary, also of St. Peter and St. Paul, and added some observations as to the right use of images. The Pope observed that, though it was grounded in man’s nature that he should seek to represent things invisible by means of the visible, yet the representations were not to be worshipped as God, but only used to enkindle the love of Him whose image was present to the eye. About that time country bishops reported that the worship of images was spreading, and that those opposed to that tendency demolished them and cast them out of churches. Parties began to be formed on both sides. In the Greek Church the church books had long been ornamented with pictures of Christ, of the Virgin, and the Saints; and private houses and household furniture also had like embellishments. There were legends connected with each. Some prostrated themselves whenever they approached within sight of these symbols. The most noted and determined enemy of images was the Emperor Leo, the Isaurian, who was full of zeal, and paid small respect to what he thought to be wrong. He was very arbitrary. He forced the Jews to receive baptism, which only made them more and more tenacious of their antipathy. He also forced the Montanists to join the dominant Church, and this so enraged them that they burned themselves in their own churches. Leo’s first ordinance of 726 forbade any kind of reverence to be paid to images or pictures, and any prostration or kneeling. One bishop in defence attributed miracles which were wrought to these images, and said he knew from his personal experience this was not a delusion; moreover, an image of Mary at Sozopolis, in Posidia, distilled balsam, as was well attested. In short, party spirit ran high, and at last a great champion of images arose, named John of Damascus. Leo waged war against images for twelve years, until his death. His son Constantine was as zealous an iconoclast as his father; but great disturbances were[Pg 130] caused by his proceedings. In 754 he convoked a council of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops, who agreed with the Emperor. They denounced the wretched painters who with profane hands attempted to depict the sacred feelings of the heart, and laid down the rule of faith to be, that there was only one true image or symbol, which was the bread and wine used in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Painting was described as a Pagan, godless art, which degraded the Divine Majesty; and whoever in future should manufacture an image to worship it either in church or dwelling-house should, if an ecclesiastic, be deposed; if a monk or a layman, he should be expelled from the communion of the Church. An anathema was pronounced accordingly against all images. Though the council by a majority so decided, yet the monks as a body were equally zealous and determined to resist all attempts to do away with images. It was said the monk Stephen was thrown into prison for his zeal in favour of images; he refused to touch the food which the gaoler’s wife secretly brought to him, until she secretly assured him that she kept a casket in her own chamber containing several images of Divine persons, and which she showed to the monk to reassure him of her genuine devotion. Constantine, during the thirty years of his reign, flattered himself that he had struck a final blow at image worship; but after his death the next emperor married Irene, an Athenian lady, who was an unscrupulous supporter of images, and she cunningly brought about a reaction and restored things to their former footing.

 

THE ICONOCLASTS AND THEIR FIRST REVOLT.

Thus a strong feeling grew up, maintained by the Emperor Leo, the Isaurian, that the Christians were going to an excess in their worship of images, and the contest raged for a hundred and twenty-five years, and led to bloodshed and civil war. The precise occasion of this revolt is not known with certainty; and it was thought afterwards to be unfortunate, for Christians at that time were called upon rather to combine against Mohammedanism than think of dividing their forces. When Leo had reigned ten years, he issued in 726 a prohibition against the worship of all statues and pictures of the Saviour, the Virgin, and the Saints; and all statues and pictures were to be raised sufficiently high that they could not receive pious kisses. Soon after a second edict was issued, commanding the total destruction of all images and the whitewashing of the walls of churches. The clergy and monks were driven to absolute fury by this tyrannical measure. An imperial[Pg 131] officer had orders to destroy a statue of our Saviour in a church in Constantinople, an image renowned for its miracles. The crowd (as stated ante, p. 112), consisting chiefly of women, saw with horror the officer mount the ladder. Thrice he struck with his impious axe the holy countenance which had so benignly looked down upon them. Heaven interfered not; but the women seized the ladder, threw down the officer, and beat him to death with clubs. The Emperor sent his troops to put down the riot, and a frightful massacre ensued; but the image worshippers were viewed as martyrs, and cheerfully encountered mutilation and banishment, while the Emperor was denounced as worse than a Saracen. The Pope prohibited the Italians from paying tribute to the Emperor, and wrote letters defending the practice of the Church. He alludes to that practice as including pictures of the miracles, of the Virgin with choirs of angels, of the Last Supper, the Transfiguration, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and other like subjects. The Pope’s letter, however, had no effect.

 

JOHN OF DAMASCUS, CHAMPION OF IMAGES (A.D. 756).

The great champion who rose to defend image worship against Leo, the iconoclast, was John of Damascus, the most learned man in the East, and a subject of the Sultan. The ancestors of John, when that city was taken by the Mohammedans, had remained faithful Christians; but, being wealthy and respectable, were employed by the Sultan in high judicial posts. One day, when John’s father was a judge, a Christian monk, named Cosmas, was about to be executed, and was weeping and bewailing so much that he was asked why he, a monk, should so earnestly plead for his life. The monk answered that he did not weep so much for losing life as for the treasures of knowledge that would be buried with him, for he knew nearly everything under the sun—rhetoric, logic, philosophy, geometry, music, astronomy, theology. All he wanted was some heir who could inherit this vast patrimony of knowledge, so that he might not go down to the tomb an unprofitable servant. John’s father saw at once that this was a remarkable monk, begged his life, and made him tutor to his son; and in due course the son John became, under such tuition, the greatest master of knowledge extant, as the monk took care to assure the grateful father. With these accomplishments John of Damascus entered the lists in due course, and composed three immortal orations in favour of image worship, in which all the learning of the world was brought to bear upon that delicate subject. The Emperor being indignant at John’s oration, [Pg 132]procured a letter to be forged in a similar handwriting, containing a proposal to betray his native city of Damascus to the Christians, and purporting to be signed by John. This letter was sent by the Emperor to the Sultan with specious friendly comments. The result was that John’s right hand was cut off for his wicked treason. John, however, entreated the Virgin to restore his hand; and after kneeling before her image and praying fervently, he fell asleep, and when he woke his hand was restored and was as well as ever. This astonished and convinced the Sultan, who reinstated John at once in all his honours. These orations, while containing some puerile matter, are distinguished for zeal and ingenuity. John of Damascus maintained that pictures were great standing memorials of triumph over the devil; that whoever destroys these memorials is a friend of the devil; that to reprove material images is Manicheism, as betraying the hatred of matter, which is the first tenet of that odious heresy; and that it was a kind of Docetism too, asserting the unreality of the body of the Saviour. In support of his doctrine John concluded by citing a copious list of miracles wrought by certain images. This question of images was so serious a disturbance that a council met, called the Third Council of Constantinople, in 746; and three hundred and forty-eight bishops attended, and all these united in condemning images and excommunicating those who set them up. The Empress Irene, however, afterwards favoured the image worshippers; and in 787 another council, called the Second Council of Nicæa, again considered the subject; and three hundred and eighty-seven bishops and monks came to a decision the reverse of the decision of the former council. Succeeding emperors, however, again favoured the iconoclasts, till the Empress Theodora, in 842, at last restored the images and made the clergy happy. They all then met and held a solemn festival, marching with processions of crosses, torches, and incense to the church of St. Sophia, in Constantinople. They made the circuit of the church, and bowed to every statue and picture; and the heresy of the iconoclasts was extinguished for ever from that time.

 

JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND HIS TAUNTS.

John of Damascus, the champion of image worship, in his many eloquent discourses in support of it, sneered at Leo’s arbitrary decrees against what was noticed to be a rising influence among the nations of the West. “You have only to go,” said John, “into the schools where the children are learning to read and write, and tell them you are the persecutor of images,[Pg 133] and they would instantly throw their tablets at your head. Even the ignorant would teach you what you would not learn from the wise.” “Men,” he further said, “spent their estates to have these sacred stories represented in paintings. Husbands and wives took their children by the hand, others led youths and strangers from Pagan lands, to these paintings, where they could point out to them the sacred stories with the finger, and so edify them as to lift their hearts and minds to God; but you hinder poor people from doing all this, and teach them to find their amusements in harp-playing and flute-playing, in carousals and buffoonery.”

 

CLAUDIUS OF TURIN AGAINST IMAGES AND PILGRIMAGES.

Claudius of Turin, a bishop who flourished about 795-839, was great in censuring the gross superstition attaching to the use of the cross and pilgrimages. Though a chaplain of King Louis I. of France, who became emperor, he devoted himself to purifying the ritual of the Church by writing commentaries on the Scriptures and exposing the abuses of image worship. He said those who worship the images of the saints have not forsaken idols, but changed their names. Whether the walls of churches are painted with figures of St. Peter and St. Paul or of Jupiter and Saturn, the latter are not gods, and the former are not apostles. Better worship the living than the dead. If the works of God’s hands, the stars of heaven, are not to be worshipped, much less ought the works of human hands to be worshipped. Whoever seeks from any creature in heaven or on earth the salvation which he should seek from God alone is an idolater. Those who pretend to honour the memory of Christ’s passion forget His resurrection. If one must worship every piece of wood bearing the image of the cross because Christ hung on the cross, for the same reason one should worship many other things with which Christ came in contact while living in the flesh. God has commanded us to bear the cross, not to adore it. Those are not adoring it who are unwilling to bear it either spiritually or bodily. In like manner it is foolish in people, and an undervaluing of spiritual instruction, to be always striving to go to Rome in order to obtain everlasting life. It is vain to ascribe so much merit to pilgrimages, and forget the seal of true penitence in the soul. One gets no nearer to St. Peter by finding himself on the spot where his body was buried, for the soul is the real man. In this manner Claudius displayed his aversion to the monastic life as misleading. It was[Pg 134] thought that he must soon be proceeded against as a heretic; but after publishing works which made a great impression on his age, the bishop died.

 

TRYING TO CONVERT THE IMAGE WORSHIPPERS.

When Leo the Isaurian had secured his empire against foreign enemies, he set himself resolutely to convert heretics. He issued a decree that Jews and Montanists should be forcibly baptised. In 724 he issued his first decree against the superstitious use of images, which made the monks and John of Damascus so furious. When Leo died in 741, his son, Constantine Copronymus, so called from his having polluted the baptismal font, succeeded him, and reigned thirty-four years. He was also a resolute enemy of image worship. He procured a council of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops to sit in 754, and resolve unanimously that all pictures and sculptures of sacred subjects were Pagan and idolatrous, and that all images must be removed out of churches. They pronounced anathemas against John of Damascus and other champions of images. Constantine, on the strength of this council, ordered paintings on church walls to be effaced, and paintings of birds and fruits to be substituted. The monks were furious; and he ordered, in retaliation, monasteries to be destroyed and turned into barracks. One of his governors, named Lachanadraco, put many rebellious monks to death. He anointed the beards of some of these with oil and wax, and set them on fire; he burnt the monasteries, the books, and the relics. The relics of St. Euphemia at Chalcedon, which used to exude a fragrant balsam, were thrown into the sea, though the monks afterwards narrated that these were miraculously preserved. One monk, named Stephen, exasperated by these brutalities, boldly defied the Emperor, and to show his contempt produced a coin stamped with the Emperor’s head, threw it on the ground, and trod on it. The Emperor ordered him to prison; but noticing that some sympathy seemed to be shown by his attendants, exclaimed, “Am I or is this monk emperor of the world?” The courtiers in turn, in their zeal to defend the Emperor, rushed to the prison where Stephen was kept, brought him out, and, tying a rope round his neck, dragged the body through the streets, and then tore it to pieces. The patriarch being also charged with abetting the monks, was stripped of his robes, set upon an ass with his face towards the tail, led through the streets, jeered by the mob, and then beheaded. Constantine died in 775, a resolute enemy of images to the last.

 [Pg 135]

THE EMPRESS IRENE RESTORING IMAGES (A.D. 780).

Though Leo the Isaurian and his son Constantine had for thirty years worked so energetically in stamping out image worship, yet at the death of the latter a reaction was brought about. The Emperor Leo, grandson of the Isaurian, married an Athenian wife, Irene, who was constitutionally devoted to image worship and sensuous art, and her devotion to these so worked on her irresolute husband as to baffle the labour of years. She took care to procure all the important vacancies in the Church to be filled by monks. Her household officers were encouraged to practise in secret the adoration of images, and there were concealed some figures under her pillow; and though the Emperor, on discovering this petty treason, ordered the chief actors to be scourged, yet on his death in 780 Irene assumed the government and changed everything. She took care to get a patriarch appointed who was of her way of thinking, and for that purpose first induced the then holder of the office to resign and retire into a monastery. She then spread the report that this change was due to remorse of conscience; and the new patriarch, acting in concert with her, professed his inability to assume the high office unless she would convoke a council to review the late heresy of the iconoclasts. After great manœuvring on the part of the monks, and secret meetings to canvas the chief men of the assembly, and by the Empress deciding to attend in person and with great state, she so managed affairs that a council of three hundred and fifty bishops met, and they all in her presence returned to the old traditions, declaring the worship of images agreeable to Scripture and reason, and shouted their approval and ended with the enthusiastic exclamation, “Long live the orthodox Queen Regent!”

 

EMPRESS THEODORA CONQUERING FOR THE IMAGES (A.D. 842).

The Empress Irene having in 780 so skilfully turned the tide in favour of images, the contest was still maintained during the five succeeding reigns, a period of thirty-eight years between the worshippers of images and the iconoclasts. The final victory of the images was achieved by a second female, the widow Theodora, after the death of the Emperor Theophilus in 842. Her measures were bold and decisive. She sentenced the iconoclast patriarch to a whipping of two hundred lashes instead of the loss of his eyes. At this stroke of power the bishops trembled, the[Pg 136] monks shouted, and the festival of orthodoxy preserves the annual memory of the triumph of the images. The only point left unsettled was, whether images were endowed with any proper and inherent sanctity, and this continued to be discussed in the eleventh century. The Churches of France, Germany, England, and Spain had steered a middle course between the adoration and the destruction of images, which they professed to admit into their temples, not as objects of worship, but as lively and useful memorials of faith and history. Charlemagne had used his authority in assembling a synod of three hundred bishops at Frankfort in 794, who professed to blame the superstition of the Greeks. But the worship of images advanced with silent progress, and reached to the idolatry of the ages which preceded the Reformation. Theodora skilfully gained over many bishops by representing that her husband the Emperor on his deathbed repented of his errors, and that her young son at the same time had also registered a vow to restore images.

 

IMAGE WORSHIP IN SPAIN.

In Spain image worship reached a height hardly attained in any other part of Christendom. Besides the most holy effigies heaven-descended, like the Black Lady of the Pillar at Saragossa, and the Christ of the Vine Stock at Valladolid, there were many sacred images, which, even before the hands which fashioned them were cold, began to make the blind see, the lame walk, and friars flourish and grow powerful. St. Bernard was modelled and clothed like a brother of the order in his own white robes; St. Dominic scourged himself in effigy till the red blood flowed from his painted shoulders; and the Virgin, copied from the loveliest models, was presented to her adorers gloriously apparelled in clothing of wrought gold. Many of these figures not only presided in their chapels throughout the year, but, decked with garlands and illuminated by tapers, were carried by brotherhoods or guilds instituted in their honour in the religious processions. The colouring was sometimes laid on canvas, with which the figure was covered as with a skin. The effects and gradation of tints were studied as carefully as in paintings on canvas. The imitation of rich stuffs for draperies was a nice and difficult branch of the art. For single figures real draperies were sometimes used, especially for those of the Madonnas, which possessed large and magnificent wardrobes and caskets of jewels worthy of the queens of the Mogul.

 [Pg 137]

THE AMBITIOUS POPE HILDEBRAND (1046-1085).

During the time that Hildebrand, son of a carpenter of Soan in Tuscany, became noted and acquired an ascendency with the Popes, he advocated certain reforms. The first was to make the Popes independent of the Emperor: this he achieved by procuring a decree that the Pope should be chosen by the cardinals, bishops, and priests assembled in college. He also put a stop to the immorality of the clergy by enforcing celibacy of priests. He also procured more stringent laws against simony. He succeeded to the popedom in 1073 as Gregory VII., and in carrying out his ambitious schemes he summoned the German king, Henry IV., and ultimately excommunicated him, in retaliation for Henry having procured a sentence of deposition by the Synod of Worms against himself as Pope. These two potentates exchanged some defiant and insulting letters. Henry at last was reduced to such difficulties that he had to go in the guise of a penitent, clad in a thin white dress, while the ground was deep in snow, and he waited humbly at the outer gate of the Castle of Canossa three days before he was received into the presence of his Holiness, who gave him absolution, but under most humiliating circumstances. Gregory, however, at last was punished in his turn in 1080, and he had to become an exile, in which condition he died friendless and deserted in 1085, and muttering the words: “I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore I die an exile.”

 

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, THE ANGELIC DOCTOR (A.D. 1227).

St. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1227, and became the greatest theologian and master of logic and powerful reasoner of his age. He was at first thought dull at school, and used to be called the great dumb Sicilian ox; but his genius soon broke forth, and he came to be called the angelical doctor. His versatility, power of abstraction, and memory astonished everybody. Louis IX. of France (St. Louis) made him a privy councillor, and often consulted him. Once at dinner with the king, after a long silence, Thomas thumped the table energetically, muttering to himself, “That is an overwhelming argument against the Manicheans!” and the king, curious to know what sudden thought it was, begged him to explain it, which was done, and committed to writing by clerks. While praying one day in the church at Naples, his friend Romanus, who had died some time before, appeared to Thomas and spoke to him, and said that his works pleased God,[Pg 138] and that he (Romanus) was now in eternal bliss. Thomas then asked whether the habits which are acquired in this life remain to us in heaven. Romanus answered, “Brother Thomas, I see God, and do not ask for more.” He then vanished. One day Thomas was writing a treatise on the Sacrament, and was praying, when the figure on the crucifix turned towards him and said, “Thomas, thou hast written well of Me: what reward desirest thou?” “Nought, save Thyself, Lord,” was the saint’s immediate reply. Another time Thomas, while celebrating Mass, was seized with a sudden rapture, owing to a vision which appeared to him, and which he said was so glorious that all he had written appeared worthless compared with what he had just seen. In his last illness the monks of Fossa Nuova, near Maienza, waited on him with unceasing devotion, and begged of him to expound to them the Canticle of Canticles, as St. Bernard did. The saint replied, “Get me Bernard’s spirit, and I will do your bidding.” He yielded to their wish. The saint, growing feebler, died; and while a corpse, a blind man begged to approach and pay his last tribute of respect, when the man’s sight was restored that moment.

 

ATTITUDES OF POPES TO FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS.

Guizot thus sums up the attitude between Popes and foreign governments: “From the tenth century and the accession of the Capetians (989) the policy of the Holy See had been enterprising, bold, full of initiative, often even aggressive, and more often than not successful in the prosecution of its designs. Under Innocent III. (1198-1216) it had attained the apogee of its strength and fortune. At that point its motion forward and upward came to a stop. Boniface VIII. (1294-1303) had not the wit to recognise the changes which had taken place in European communities, and the decided progress which had been made by laic influences and civil powers. He was a stubborn preacher of maxims he could no longer practise. He was beaten in his enterprise; and the Papacy, even on recovering from his defeat, found itself no longer what it had been before him. Starting from the fourteenth century, we find no second Gregory VII. or Innocent III. Without expressly abandoning their principles, the policy of the Holy See became essentially defensive and conservative, more occupied in the maintenance than the aggrandisement of itself, and sometimes even more stationary and stagnant than was required by necessity or recommended by foresight. The posture assumed and the conduct adopted by the earliest successors of Boniface VIII. showed how far the[Pg 139] situation of the Papacy was altered, and how deep had been the stab which, in the conflict between the two aspirants to absolute power, Philip the Fair (1283-1314) had inflicted on his rival.”

 

THE POPES AS TEMPORAL PRINCES (1118-1185).

The feuds of Guelphs and Ghibellines kept up constant irritation at Rome. In 1118, when Paschal II. was officiating at the altar on Holy Thursday, he was interrupted by a mob, who demanded that he should confirm the appointment of a favourite magistrate, and his silence only exasperated them. During the festival of Easter, while the bishop and clergy barefoot and in procession visited the tombs of the martyrs, they were twice assaulted with volleys of stones and darts. The houses of the Pope’s friends were demolished, he escaped with difficulty, and his last days were embittered by the strife of civil war. His successor, Gelasius II., in 1118 was dragged by his hair along the ground, beaten and wounded, and bound with an iron chain in the house of a factious baron named Cencio Frangipani, who stripped and beat and trampled on the cardinals. An insurrection of the people delivered the Pope for a while; but a few days later he was again assaulted at the altar, and during a bloody encounter between the factions he escaped in his sacerdotal garments. He then shook the dust from his feet, and withdrew from a city where, as he described it, one emperor would be more tolerable than twenty. About a quarter of a century later, Pope Lucius II., as he ascended in battle-array to assault the Capitol, was struck on the temple by a stone, and expired in a few days in 1145. Again in 1185 a body of priests were seized, and the eyes of all put out except those of one. They were crowned with mock mitres, mounted on asses with their faces to the tail, and paraded as a lesson to Pope Lucius III.

 

RIENZI AS TRIBUNE OF ROME (1353).

The Pope having lived long away from Rome, and the government of the city being impracticable, a youth named Rienzi, the son of a publican and a washerwoman, who was handsome and gifted with eloquence, aspired to raise the enthusiasm of the mob and revive the old glory of the first city of the world. He assumed the title of tribune, began to introduce order, and for a time he carried all before him. He was, however, soon intoxicated with his success, claimed a Divine mission, procured himself to be crowned as a successor of the Cæsars, imposed heavy taxes, and[Pg 140] displayed great extravagance in dress and in vulgar exhibitions of grandeur. At last the Pope’s legate anathematised him as a heretic, and enemies combined to crush him. He fled in 1308 to Prague; there he entered into wild schemes, was captured and imprisoned, but was spared from punishment as a heretic. He reappeared, and again obtained such favour with the Pope as to be made a senator in 1353, and encouraged to resume his influence over the mob in Rome. He was placed in high command, but again ruined his position with tyrannical and foolish schemes. His personal habits were gross and sensual; he became addicted to wine, and his body became bloated with his indulgences till he was likened to a fatted ox. In a sudden riot brought on by his own folly he attempted to escape, but the mob captured him and cut him to pieces.

 

LAST HOURS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1453).

When Mahomet II. in 1453 besieged Constantinople, the Greek Emperor implored the assistance of earth and Heaven to check the invaders and ward off the destruction of the Roman Empire. The celestial image of the Virgin was exposed in solemn procession, but no succour came. At last the houses and convents were deserted, and the inhabitants flocked together in the streets like a herd of timid animals, and poured into the church of St. Sophia, filling every corner. They placed no small confidence on some prophecy that had been circulated that an angel would descend from heaven and deliver the empire with some celestial weapon. While so wailing and confiding, the doors were broken in with axes, and the Turks seized the company, binding the males with cords, and the females with their veils and girdles. All ranks were mixed in groups—senators, slaves, plebeians and nobles, maids and children. The loudest in their wailings were the nuns, who were torn from the altar and consigned to the usual fate of slavery, and worse. The monasteries and churches were profaned. The dome of St. Sophia itself, a throne of heavenly splendour, was despoiled of the oblations of ages, and the gold and silver, the pearls and jewels, the vases and sacerdotal ornaments, were most wickedly perverted to the basest uses. After the divine images were stripped, the canvas and woodwork were torn or burnt or trodden under foot. The libraries, with a hundred and twenty thousand manuscripts, were sold as wastepaper. The Sultan passed in triumph through the wreck and plunder. He ordered the church to be converted into a mosque; the instruments of superstition to be removed; the crosses, images, and mosaics to be dismantled[Pg 141] and washed and purified. The cathedral of St. Sophia was soon crowned with lofty minarets, and surrounded with groves and fountains for the devotion and refreshment of the Moslems. He took care, however, to leave the churches of Constantinople to be shared between the Mussulmans and the Christians.

 

ELECTION TO THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.

The empire which Charlemagne founded over so many kingdoms, being a revival of the old Roman Empire and in imitation of the empire claimed by the Bishop of Rome over all other Churches, was commonly believed till the end of the sixteenth century to be elective, and the privilege of electing was confined by a decree of Gregory V. about 996 to seven persons. These were the archbishops of Mentz, Treves, and Cologne; the dukes of the Franks, Swabians, Saxons, and Bavarians. The Franks and Swabians were superseded respectively by the palatinate of the Rhine and the margravate of Brandenburg. A golden bull of Charles IV. in 1356 regulated the mode of election and fixed the place at Frankfort. A majority of votes carried the election. An eighth and ninth elector were added afterwards, the eighth being the elector of Brunswick, who succeeded to the English throne in 1714. An extravagant importance was attached to this titular potentate and his electors. Though he was only elected, yet he was thought to reign by a Divine right as a sort of Lord of the World. The sovereigns of Europe long continued to address the Emperor as a superior and as entitled to precedence, and it was even thought that he had the power of creating kings, though in actual resources he stood below the kings of France and England. The epithet “holy” was applied by Frederick I. (Barbarossa) in 1156. There was once a vague notion that the English kingdom was a vassal of the empire, but Edward I. and Edward III. notably disclaimed any such submissiveness. When Charles V. was elected, Francis I. of France and Henry VIII. of England were competitors. Charles V. not succeeding in dragooning the Protestants into conformity to the Catholic Church, the influence of the empire declined. After long flickering, the Holy Roman Empire came to an end by the resignation of Francis II. in 1806, about a thousand years after the coronation of Charlemagne.

 

 


[Pg 142]

CHAPTER VI.

MARTYRS, HERMITS, ANCHORITES, AND RELICS.

 

THE VIRGIN MARTYR VALERIA (A.D. 50).

St. Martial, the apostle of the Gauls, when a lad of fifteen, was taken by his father to see Christ, and became thenceforth a constant follower, and at a later date was a companion of St. Peter. In his career as first bishop of Limoges, he was hospitably entertained by a noble widow named Susanna. Her daughter Valeria devoted her virginity to the Lord, and having taken a vow of chastity she rejected the marriage which had been arranged for her with Duke Stephen. He was so enraged at her indifference to his offers that he ordered her to be beheaded. When she reached the place of execution, she spread out her hands in prayer and commended herself to the Lord, during which voices from heaven were heard encouraging her. She voluntarily offered to her executioner her head, which was cut off with a blow. Before her death she had predicted the death of the tyrant Stephen; and when this was afterwards reported to him by a squire, the latter was seized with fear and trembling, and fell dead. The duke was then greatly alarmed, and besought Martial to come to him and restore his squire to life. Martial came and prayed with a loud voice, and in presence of the people restored the dead squire, whereupon the duke knelt before the holy bishop and implored forgiveness for his sins. The bishop enjoined penance for putting to death the virgin martyr, and baptised the duke and his officers, and they gave large sums of gold to build churches and endow a hospital to the memory of Valeria, and also erected a church over her tomb. The duke after these events lived an exemplary life; and while he was a wise father of the Christians, he was a fierce persecutor of the Pagans.

 [Pg 143]

ST. THECLA CONVERTED BY ST. PAUL.

St. Thecla was a native of Lycaonia, of great beauty, and was early engaged to be married to a rich noble named Thamyris, but she was converted by St. Paul, and she then and there vowed that she would renounce the world and devote herself to virginity. She broke her plighted troth. The friends of the youth pressed her to keep her promise; but she forsook father and mother and riches and plenty, and would not listen to any of them. So the youth in revenge obtained a decree that she should be torn by wild beasts. She remained undaunted, and was exposed naked in the amphitheatre; and tigers, lions, and pards, starved and raging with fury, were let loose upon her. But the lions, instead of attacking, crouched at her feet and meekly kissed them; and though excited by the keepers again and again, they shrank like lambs. This startling picture of innocence saved from harm was a standing text with the Fathers, who glowed with enthusiastic eloquence while dilating on the story. At another time the virgin martyr was exposed to fire, and was in like manner untouched. It was said she was first converted by listening to St. Paul, whom she attended in several of his apostolic journeys. At last she died in peace in a retirement in Isauria, aged ninety, and was buried at Silencia, being treated as the first female martyr. A sumptuous church bearing her name was erected over the body, and crowds of pilgrims have always visited the spot. The great cathedral at Milan is dedicated to God in her honour, and part of her relics are deposited there. It is said that St. John deposed a priest for forging some scandalous tales about St. Paul and St. Thecla, and such tales were repeated in later ages also.

 

MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP (A.D. 168).

When Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, was burnt as a martyr about 168, a contemporary account by the leaders of the Church contained in Eusebius says this: “As soon as the martyr uttered ‘Amen’ after his prayer the fire was lighted, and a great flame burst out in the form of an arch, as the sail of a vessel filled with wind, surrounding as with a wall the body, which was in the midst, not as burning flesh, but as gold and silver refining in the furnace. We received in our nostrils such a fragrance as proceeds from frankincense or some other precious perfume. At length the wicked people, observing that the body could not be consumed with the fire, ordered the executioner to approach and to plunge his sword into his body. Upon this such a quantity of blood gushed[Pg 144] out that the fire was extinguished, and all the multitude were astonished to see such a difference providentially made between the unbelievers and the elect. Afterwards the body was burned, and we gathered up the bones, more precious than gold and jewels, and deposited them in a proper place, where, if possible, we shall meet, and the Lord will grant us in gladness and joy to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom, both in commemoration of those who have wrestled before us, and for the instruction and confirmation of those who come after.” Polycarp was burned at the age of eighty-six, and had been a pupil of St. John the Evangelist.

 

ST. FELICITAS AND HER SEVEN SONS (A.D. 173).

A rich widow named Felicitas lived at Rome about 173, and had seven sons, whom she brought up as Christians. She was cited before the tribunals for not sacrificing to the false gods. But she refused; and being told she should comply out of regard to her sons, she replied that her sons would know how to choose between everlasting death and everlasting life. They also were cited; but the mother encouraged them to defy the tyranny and refuse to obey. Then they were ordered to be tortured most cruelly, each in different form and before the mother’s eyes; but she heroically stood by and encouraged them to be firm. Instead of flinching, she gloried that she had seven sons worthy to be saints in Paradise, and she herself was subjected to a barbarous and lingering death, and at length beheaded or plunged into boiling oil.

 

THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, BLANDINA AND ATTALUS (A.D. 199).

Eusebius, referring to the end of the second century, says that one day, in place of the gladiatorial combats at Lyons, Blandina and Attalus were thrown to the wild beasts. Blandina was bound to a stake; and as her body appeared to hang in the form of the cross, this greatly encouraged her fellow-martyr. As none of the beasts touched her, she was remanded to prison to be kept for another day. Attalus was then demanded by the mob. He bore a label: “This is Attalus the Christian.” He was placed on the iron chair and his body roasted; but he maintained his courage to the last. Blandina was again brought forward, along with a youth of fifteen, named Ponticus. Refusing to swear as they were ordered, they were led the whole round, and subjected to horrible brutalities. When Ponticus drew his last breath, Blandina stood exulting, as if she were invited to a marriage feast rather[Pg 145] than thrown to the wild beasts. After scourging and exposure to the beasts, and after being roasted, she was finally wrapped in a net and tossed in the air before a bull; and when she had been tossed by that beast, and had now no longer any sense of what was done to her by reason of her hope, confidence, and faith in Christ, she too was despatched. The Gentiles confessed that no woman among them had ever endured sufferings as many and great as these; yet they insisted on watching the dead bodies, and what remained after the mangling of beasts, day and night, lest the Christians should attempt to bury them. They finally burnt the remains to ashes, and cast them into the Rhone, that there might not be a vestige of them left on dry land. Some of the ashes, however, were preserved in the church at Lyons.

 

ST. CECILIA THE MARTYR AND HER SINGING (A.D. 200).

Peter de Natalibus says: Cecilia, virgin and martyr, born of a noble house among the Romans about 180, was brought up in the faith of Christ, and always carried the Gospel hid in her bosom, and never ceased from Divine colloquy and prayer. She composed hymns to the glory of God, which she sang so sweetly that the angels came down from heaven to hear them and sing along with her. Being espoused to a youth named Valerian, who heard her often speaking of an angel whom he desired to see, she told him where to go; he was directed to the Catacombs, where the angel appeared to him in white raiment, holding a book, on which was written, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Valerian thereupon received baptism from Pope Urban. Valerian earnestly desired that his brother Tiburtius should be brought to the knowledge of the truth. So when on the morrow Tiburtius came to salute his sister-in-law Cecilia, he perceived an excellent odour of lilies and roses, and asked her wondering whence she had roses at that untimely season. He was told that God had sent them crowns of roses and lilies, but that he could not see them till his eyes were opened and his body purified, and yet that he also might see them if he would believe in Christ and renounce idols. And Tiburtius also believed and was baptised. The two brothers were afterwards seized and put to death. Cecilia also was ordered by the prefect Almachius to be burned; but though put in the fire a day and night, it had no effect on her. Nor could the executioner, though striking thrice at her neck, kill her. On the third day of her sufferings she distributed her goods and departed this life.

 [Pg 146]

THE MARTYR PERPETUA (A.D. 202).

In the early persecution of 202 under the Emperor Severus, a touching scene occurred between a young wife, aged twenty-two, named Perpetua, and her father. She was arrested, and implored by her father, who threw himself in tears at her feet, beseeching her to renounce her creed, and not bring ruin on her brothers and parents and relatives. But she gloried in being called and in calling herself a Christian. The father brought her child in his arms, and called on her in vain to spare his grey hairs and to pity the child, and join in the Pagan sacrifice to the Emperor. The guards at last ordered him to be removed after his last appeal to her pity; and after tearing the hair of his beard in his anguish, she only exclaimed, “I am pained at the sight of my father as if I had been struck with a blow. His grief is enough to move any creature.” But no other faltering word escaped her. She and some young companions were thrown to the wild beasts to gratify the brutal tastes of the multitude when celebrating a prince’s birthday. The cruel spectacle made such an impression on one of the jailers, named Pudens, that he felt an irresistible impulse to acknowledge that there must be something divine in such a triumph over human weakness. He could not choose but indulge the friends of the wretched prisoners by giving them access to cheer the latter in their desolate state.

 

ST. URSULA AND THE ELEVEN THOUSAND VIRGIN MARTYRS (A.D. 237).

Ursula and eleven thousand British virgins were said to have suffered martyrdom at Cologne in 237. The story is somewhat vague, and some even suggest that, another virgin being named Undecimilla, some play on that word gave rise to the extraordinary number mentioned. The writers of the tenth century began to tell the story that Ursula was the daughter of a British prince, and had taken a vow of celibacy, but her father had wished her to marry the son of some ferocious tyrant. To get quit of the proposal, she said she would agree if her father and the king should choose each ten virgins of her own age and beauty, and that each of those ten should have a thousand damsels under them, and that they should all be allowed to cruise about as unsullied virgins for three years in eleven triremes. The tyrant succeeded in collecting the virgins and in providing gaily equipped galleys, and they put to sea and were driven by stress of weather up the Rhine to Cologne. From that place they went to visit the Apostles’ tombs at Rome, and on their[Pg 147] return the barbarous Huns murdered them all at Cologne. The church of St. Ursula at Cologne is still visited by pilgrims who invoke the saint.

 

ST. BARBARA AND THE PRISON TOWER (A.D. 250).

St. Barbara was the daughter of a rich noble in Heliopolis, and, being of singular beauty, her father destined her for some great alliance. But she heard of Origen and visited him, and took his instruction and was converted to the Christian religion. Her father being a rabid Pagan, built a high tower in which to imprison her; and one day, on visiting it, and seeing only two windows in the plan, she ordered the workmen to add a third. Her father on hearing of this became enraged, dragged her by her hair to a dungeon, and procured a decree that she should be scourged and tortured; and as she still refused to acknowledge his gods he cut off her head. But thunder and lightning at once descended and consumed him. She became the patron saint to protect from lightning and gunpowder.

 

THE MARTYR POTAMIANA CONVERTS A SOLDIER (A.D. 299).

Eusebius says that at the end of the third century a soldier named Basilides was ordered to lead the celebrated Potamiana to execution, who had resisted many attacks on her purity. She was in the bloom of beauty, and was known far and wide for her virtues. She was, after horrible tortures, the mere relation of which made one shudder, ordered by a brutal judge for execution. The soldier who had charge of her showed much compassion and kindness in warding off the insolent mob. Perceiving this, she exhorted the soldier to be of good cheer, for that after she was gone she would intercede with her Lord for him. Boiling pitch was then poured over different parts of her body, gradually by little and little, from her feet up to the crown of her head. Not long afterwards it was observed by his comrades that Basilides himself refused to swear and take the oaths, and for this offence he was committed to prison. When some of the Christian brethren visited him to ascertain the cause of this unexpected conduct, he declared to them that for three days after the martyrdom of Potamiana she stood before him at night, placed a crown upon his head, and said that she had entreated the Lord on his account, that she had obtained her prayer, and that ere long she would take him with her. Thereupon the brethren baptised him, and he, bearing his testimony to the Lord, was beheaded.

 [Pg 148]

ST. GENES THE ACTOR BECOMING A SAINT AND MARTYR (A.D. 303).

St. Genes was an actor performing before the Emperor Diocletian in 303, and, being a clever mimic, played the character of a sick man, troubled in mind about the false gods and the future, before him. He professed to lie on his deathbed groaning over his sins, which he said were heavy and burdensome, and he wished to be lightened of them. The other actors then approached him; and one of them, being the clown, exclaimed to the rest, “Oh, if the poor fellow feels overweighted, we can only do one thing with him—take him to the carpenter’s and get him planed, and so lighten him.” At this sally there was a great roar of laughter. The sick man still groaned and sighed, and said he desired to be a Christian, and wished them to call in a priest and an exorcist. Thereupon two actors came in dressed to represent these two characters, and they suggested baptism, whereon a great vat of water was brought on the stage, and the sick man dragged out of his bed and plunged in, clothed in white. At this last sally there was another roar of laughter. At the next moment some actors dressed as Roman soldiers rushed on the stage, and arrested the new convert and had him tried and sentenced. This was part of the jest. But Genes sprang to his feet, threw off the guards, and knocking down a statue of Venus, addressed the Emperor, saying that though he had amused them with mimicking the Christians, yet after all he was himself one in his heart, and having in sickness felt the comfort, he now confessed Christ to be very God, and in Him alone he would trust. The mimic was so earnest and serious in this address that the whole assembly were petrified. The Emperor called the actor before him, and told him not to carry the joke too far. But the actor persisted, said he was in earnest, and defied all the threats of power. He was first tortured and then beheaded. The artists often represent this saint with a clown’s cap and bells.

 

GENESIUS BAPTISED WITH HIS OWN BLOOD (A.D. 303).

Genesius was a notary at Arles in 303. He had originally been a soldier, and then he became registrar of a local court. In this capacity he was called on to read an edict of persecution issued by Diocletian, and rather than read it he resigned his office and fled. He ardently longed to be baptised, and requested the Bishop of Arles to grant him this favour. The bishop, for some reason not known, deferred it, but assured Genesius that, if called upon to die for Christ, he should in thus shedding his blood receive[Pg 149] the perfection of the grace of baptism. Genesius was soon afterwards arrested, whereupon it is related that by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost he flung himself into the Rhone, wherein he received baptism, the river having become for him a second Jordan. The officers followed him to the other bank, and there beheaded him without any formal trial. Ado, speaking of this death of Genesius, says that “he received the crown of martyrdom, being baptised with his own blood.”

 

ST. ALBAN, THE FIRST BRITISH MARTYR (A.D. 303).

The first of the British martyrs was St. Alban, a wealthy native of Verulam and citizen of Rome, who in 303 entertained one Amphibalus, a Christian preacher from Caerleon in South Wales, then a Roman settlement. It was said that Alban exchanged clothes with his guest, and thus effected his escape. For this act of friendship Alban was beheaded in presence of a great concourse of people. And many other martyrdoms followed. About the same time Constantius, the father of Constantine the Great, who had been chosen emperor of the western provinces of France, Spain, and Britain, died at York, at which last city Constantine was born, who was the first Christian Emperor. Some, however, alleged that Constantine was born at London, and some at Colchester. Ten years after Alban’s death a stately church was erected and dedicated to his memory; and in 1880 a new and separate bishopric of St. Albans was created.

 

DIDYMUS AND THEODORA (A.D. 304).

The virgin Theodora, about 304, was a great beauty, and was condemned to hateful punishment for not sacrificing to the gods, and was kept in prison awaiting her terrible doom. Didymus was a young man moved to pity, and resolved to rescue the virgin of Christ out of her danger. He dressed himself as a soldier, and went into her room and told her to change clothes, and he would remain in her stead. She consented, and being instructed not to betray herself by any unusual walk or conduct, she escaped. When the truth was discovered, Didymus said he was inspired by God to rescue Theodora, and he was ready to undergo any tortures to which he might be exposed, for he would never consent to sacrifice to devils. He was ordered to be burnt. Then Theodora, hearing of this, ran to the spot, and wished to die in his place, and she was beheaded soon after his death. St. Ambrose dwells with rapture on the glorious contention between those two for the crown of martyrdom.

 [Pg 150]

ST. CYPRIAN AND JUSTINA (A.D. 304).

St. Cyprian, surnamed the Magician, who died in 304, was a native of Antioch, and had travelled in all the countries where magic was cultivated, in order to acquire that diabolic art. In Antioch lived a young heathen virgin, named Justina, with whom a pagan noble, named Agladius, was deeply in love. And as she would not listen to him, Cyprian’s magical powers were invoked in order to overcome her resolution. She made the sign of the cross and warded off all their evil arts. Cyprian himself was equally enamoured, and, enraged at being baffled, resolved to give up the diabolic art. He consulted a priest, named Eusebius, who took him to an assembly of Christians, when he was struck with the new signs of devotion. He became a convert, and burned his books of magic, gave all his goods to the poor, and enrolled himself as a catechumen. Agladius was also about the same time converted. Justina was delighted to see this change, cut off her hair, gave away her jewels, and dedicated herself to a holy life. The persecution of Diocletian breaking out, they were all scourged, and torn with hooks, kept in chains, and finally beheaded. Their relics were carried to Rome by Christians, and a pious lady, named Rufina, built a church to their memory, near the square which bears the name of Claudius. The relics were afterwards removed to the Lateran basilica.

 

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM AS HERMIT (A.D. 400).

St. John Chrysostom, who died about 407, passed many years among the anchorites who lived on the mountains near Antioch. When he was ordained deacon, he became a powerful and fervid preacher. Once, on a seditious resistance made by the people to a new tax levied by Theodosius I., he assisted the bishop in obtaining a pardon for the ringleaders. When he became himself bishop, he preached with great force against the indelicacy of the female dress, and against gaming, theatres, and swearing. The other bishops conspired against him, and obtained his banishment for alleged seditious acts, but he was soon recalled at the instance of the people. He was again banished to a bleak desert, and died after being a bishop about ten years. His body was carried to Constantinople, and was laid in the Church of the Apostles. He was said to be the most eloquent and fervid of the Fathers. Thomas Aquinas said he would rather be author of his homilies on St. Matthew than own the whole city of Paris.

 [Pg 151]

ST. JAMES, INTERCISUS (A.D. 421).

St. James was a Persian noble. The king declared war against the Christians, and the noble had not firmness to refuse. His wife and mother, however, being Christians, and shocked to see this, upbraided him, and wrote a letter that they renounced him for ever. This sank into his soul, and he withdrew from the Court, bewailing the crime he had committed; and the king, hearing of his change of views, was enraged, and, after calling the Council of Ministers, they all agreed that James should be hung on the rack, and his limbs cut off, joint after joint. The executioners, after entreating him in vain to recant, with their scimitars cut off his right thumb. The judge and bystanders, in tears, called out to him that it was enough, and he ought to surrender. But he exulted, and finger after finger was cut off; then the little toe of the left foot, and all the other toes. After fingers and toes and arms and feet left him only a trunk weltering in his blood, he continued to pray and speak cheerfully, till at last a guard severed the head from the body. This happened in 421. The Christians offered a large sum to obtain the relics, but were refused. They, however, watched an opportunity, and collected them by stealth, finding the limbs in twenty-eight different places. They were all buried in an urn, and in a place concealed from the heathen. The glory of this martyr was renowned in all the Persian, Syrian, Greek, and Latin Churches.

 

STEPHEN A MARTYR FOR IMAGE WORSHIP (A.D. 720).

During the controversy raised by the iconoclasts, when all the monks resisted the decrees against image worship, one monk, Stephen, a hermit who had lived thirty years in a cave at Sinope, greatly distinguished himself. The monks had flocked to the desert to watch in security over their tutelary images, and the most devout of the laity crowded round the cell of Stephen, who furiously denounced the iconoclasts. So many pilgrims resorted to him as their champion that the Emperor ordered him to be carried away from his cell, and shut up in a cloister at Chrysopolis. This act drove the other monks to frenzy. One named Andrew hastened from his dwelling in the desert and boldly confronted the Emperor in the church of St. Mammas, and sternly addressed him thus: “If thou art a Christian, why do you treat Christians with such indignity?” The Emperor commanded his temper, but after again ordering this monk into his presence, the latter was so violent and scornful that the Emperor ordered him[Pg 152] to be scourged. Stephen, however, continued to thunder from his cell against the iconoclasts, and mounted a pillar to be better heard; and other monks flocked and built their cells round this pillar. But this did not satisfy Stephen, who returned to the city and openly denounced and defied the Emperor, and collected a large following. The Emperor ordered him to prison. His followers on hearing of his majesty’s annoyance at last rushed to the prison, dragged the old man into the streets and murdered him, and threw his body into the malefactors’ grave (as is elsewhere mentioned, ante, p. 134).

 

HUSS THE BOHEMIAN BURNT FOR HERESY IN 1415.

John Huss, who was a Luther a century too soon, was born in 1369, became a preacher, and soon began to see the impostures connected with relic worshipping and indulgences, and became known as a great admirer of Wicliff’s writings. He was soon marked out as a heretic, and worried with citations and excommunicated. When three young artisans publicly exclaimed against the sale of indulgences and were seized and condemned and executed, great excitement arose. Some friends dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of the victims, a woman in the crowd offered white linen to enshroud them; the dead bodies were carried as saints with chanted hymns and anthems, and buried with great solemnity under the direction of Huss. Huss was summoned to answer for his many heresies, and he offered to defend himself before the Council of Constance, on condition of the Emperor securing him a safe conduct. The assurance was given, the Emperor Sigismund being at first thought favourable to the views of Huss. But the bishops craftily, on pretence of his attempt at escape, seized and imprisoned him. The Emperor acted weakly and with too much deference to the cardinals, who professed to give Huss a hearing, but took care that it should be only before themselves. His friends had early presentiment that Huss would be done to death by hook or crook. His faithful friend the Knight of Chlum stood always by his side, and protested vigorously against the breach of faith, in all the crafty steps taken, and by the imprisonments imposed before the hearing of the case. At one prison on the Rhine Huss was nearly killed by the noisome effluvia. He was next removed and imprisoned in a tower, and chained day and night. The usual result followed after a few hearings before the council, where he had no opportunity of meeting most of the charges, and where he was mocked and offered a period to recant, and then sentenced to be burnt[Pg 153] as an incorrigible heretic. Seven bishops were appointed to see him clothed in priestly vestments, then stripped and degraded. A cap painted with devils was placed on his head and inscribed with the word “Arch-heretic.” He was placed on a pile of fagots, and chained to it by the neck. He sang hymns till the smoke and flames stopped him. When his body was burned the ashes were cast into the Rhine, so that nothing of him might be left to pollute the earth, as his murderers vainly imagined.

 

JOAN OF ARC, A MODERN PATRIOTIC MARTYR (A.D. 1430).

One consequence of William the Conqueror’s success was the long and bloody wars which lasted for three centuries. It was a misfortune that William Duke of Normandy, one of the great French vassals, should become King of England. From the eleventh to the fourteenth century—from Philip I. to Philip de Valois—this position gave rise between the two crowns and the two states to questions, to quarrels, to political struggles, and to wars which were a frequent source of trouble to France. The evil and the peril became far greater still when in the fourteenth century there arose between France and England—between Philip de Valois and Edward III.—a question touching the succession to the throne of France, and the application of exemption from the Salic law. Then there commenced between the two crowns and the two peoples that war which was to last more than a hundred years, was to bring upon France the saddest days of her history, and was to be ended only by the inspired heroism of a young girl, who alone in the name of her God and His saints restored confidence and victory to her king and country. Joan of Arc at the cost of her life brought to the most glorious conclusion the longest and bloodiest struggle that had devastated France and sometimes compromised its glory.

 

JOAN OF ARC BELIEVES SHE HAS A MISSION.

In 1412 this little girl was born at Domremy, and soon learnt to sew and spin and to tend her parents’ cattle and sheep. She did not take to dancing, like other girls, though willing to sing and eat cakes under the fairy beech tree of her village. At the age of nine she was noted for her constant attendance at church; the sound of bells enchanted her, and she went often to confession and communion, and was even then taxed with being too religious. France was then torn with civil strife; and the sight of lads of the village sent home torn and bleeding from the wars, and the stories[Pg 154] of her poor neighbours whose houses were fired and homesteads devastated by troopers, and the domineering and brutal English, then masters of France, whom she always called “Goddams,” stirred her blood and made her wonder that the God in heaven could allow such mad work to go on. When she was thirteen, she declared then, and ever after, that, as she was sitting in her father’s garden, she heard a voice from heaven calling her, and a great brightness all round the church; and listening with awe, she heard the voice of angels which urged her to go to France and deliver the kingdom. She became then rapt in thought, and often the voices came to her again and again, urging her on. She at last broke the secret to her father; but he, being only a stupid peasant, chided her for her nonsense, and even threatened to drown her if she repeated it. She soon found home uncomfortable, and went and nursed her aunt, and also opened her heart to her uncle, begging him to take her to see the captain of the bailiwick, for she was sure he would help her to go to the Dauphin and assist to recover France for the French. She did get an audience, and told the captain she came from the Lord, who would be sure to help the Dauphin. On asking her who was her Lord, she said He was the King of Heaven, at which the captain set her down at once for a little madcap who should be sent home and well whipped. But the little persistent cow-girl, still further excited by news of the wars, told the captain that she was determined to go and raise the siege of Orleans, and that if she had a hundred fathers and mothers, and if she were the King’s daughter, she must and would go in spite of them all. At last the captain, puzzled and at his wits’ end, wrote about the little crazy girl and her visions to the Duke of Lorraine, who was so impressed that he sent for her, and then everybody began to talk of her wild schemes and enterprise as the wonder of the times.

 

JOAN OF ARC GOES TO INTERVIEW THE KING.

When Joan of Arc, aged nineteen, got the length of being sent for by the Duke of Lorraine, John of Metz, the knight, was assigned to escort her, and he asked if she meant to go in her little red petticoat. “No,” said she, “I should like to be in man’s clothes.” When this was known, the people round about subscribed to get her a military costume, and she was supplied with a horse, a coat of mail, a lance, a sword, a messenger, and a train; and she took farewell of her rustic friends and got their blessing. In the journey of eleven days her spirit never flagged, and she only wished she could hear Mass daily which she contrived[Pg 155] once or twice to do. Everybody treated with respect the inspired cow-girl, and her constant appeals to Heaven and to the commission which she said she bore direct from the God of Battles. She was rather tall, well shaped, dark, with a look of composed assurance which staggered even the old veterans of the war. Once on her journey a band of roughs had prepared to waylay and rob her; but on a sight of her they were struck motionless and quailed. When she arrived near to headquarters, the King’s council debated whether the King ought to receive her; and as he was then at his wits’ end, and had spent all the money in the treasury, it was decided that he might. The high steward conducted her forward; it was candlelight: warriors and knights, richly dressed, stood in rows looking on; and yet it was noticed that she by instinct fixed on the King among the crowd of grandees, and the young shepherdess at once made her bends and courtesies, as if she had been bred in courts. She at once took high ground, and said, “Good Dauphin, my name is Joan, the maid. The King of Heaven sends me to assure you that you shall be anointed and crowned in the city of Rheims, and shall be lieutenant of the King of Heaven, who is King of France. It is God’s will that these English foes shall be driven out of our country.” The King was astounded, and the chroniclers say he received her message with radiant face as a message from Heaven. Many interviews followed, and as he listened he began to believe in Heaven, and even in himself as destined to recover his kingdom as the true heir of France.

 

JOAN OF ARC PUT AT THE HEAD OF AN ARMY.

After Joan of Arc had had an interview with the King and assured him that God was on her side, the King took the advice kindly, but his stiff-necked courtiers shook their heads at the shepherdess and her schemes. At last a large committee of bishops, kings, councillors, and learned doctors resolved to go and question this presumptuous young person. One doctor tried to puzzle her by asking why she wanted men-at-arms to go and rout out the English, when, if it were God’s will, no men would be needed. She answered that warriors would fight, and God would give them the victory. Another pundit asked her in what language the voices spoke to her, and she retorted, “A better dialect than yours.” A third pundit thought he would stop her by asking if she believed in God, to which she replied, “More than you do.” Next the wiseacres told her they must have a sign before they could trust her with an army. She answered, “In the name of God, I[Pg 156] am not come to Poitiers to show signs; take me to Orleans and I will give you signs of what I am sent for. I come on behalf of the King of Heaven to cause the siege of Orleans to be raised, and to take the King to Rheims that he may be crowned and anointed there.” The doctors and councillors kept up their siege of questions at this obscure shepherdess for a fortnight, and her good temper and unflagging faith in her mission broke down their unbelief, so that they all decided that she must surely be inspired. Next a deputation of princesses and court ladies visited and questioned her, and they also were all so struck with the modesty, sweetness, and grace of her demeanour and speech that they were subdued to tears. The King no longer hesitated. Joan was accepted as a heaven-born marshal, and there was assigned to her a squire, a page, two heralds, a chaplain, many serving-men, and a complete suit of armour. She asked that her sword should be marked with five crosses; her banner was white and studded with lilies, and there were the words “Jesu Maria,” with angels adoring, and a picture of God in the clouds holding in His hand the globe and its destinies. These accoutrements being provided, she was urgent for the immediate departure of the expedition, as she said Orleans was crying aloud for succour. It took five weeks to get together an army of twelve thousand men; but at last off they went, Joan’s chaplain and some priests chanting sacred hymns, much to the amazement of the swearing troopers, who had never seen the like before.

 

JOAN OF ARC RAISES THE SIEGE OF ORLEANS.

When the army marched with Joan to succour Orleans, the generals suggested that the best plan would be for her to go into the city with a convoy of provisions, and she at once acted on the advice; and with her banner and priests and two hundred men-at-arms she entered the city at night; and on sight of her the besieged inhabitants rose in a mass, and with torches and shouts of joy hailed her as a goddess sent to deliver them. She said her first duty was to enter the church and give thanks to God, and then she would go to the governor’s house. A splendid supper was prepared for her, but she would only dip some slices of bread in wine and water. Her modesty and simplicity charmed all the company, and she had quarters in the governor’s house, and slept with one of his daughters. The besiegers heard of Joan and the frenzy she had excited, and they cursed her as a little sorceress. But her own soldiers were keen to go out at once and storm the bastiles of the English. She thought it fair[Pg 157] to give the enemy warning, and mounted one of the bastions and shouted to the English to stop and be gone; but the English general only jeered at her; and told her to go home and mind her cows. The battle went on a few days, and Joan, having called for her horse and armour, eagerly joined and encouraged the garrison. At one stage of the attack she took a scaling-ladder, set it against the rampart, and was the first to mount. But an arrow struck her between the neck and shoulder, and she fell. Yet, after retiring to have her wound dressed, she remounted her horse and shook her banner in the air; her men rallied, and with one great rush carried the bastile and routed the English. The bells rang out all night at this victory, and the Te Deum was chanted. The English were soon seen to be in retreat, leaving much victual and ammunition behind, and many sick and prisoners. The siege of Orleans was raised. A few days later Joan was anxious to visit the King; and when they met, he took off his cap and held out his hand, and the chroniclers say he would fain have kissed her for the joy that he felt. She on her side thought of nothing but to urge him to march at once while the enemy was flying, and get himself crowned at Rheims. The pious maid again reminded him that the voices were urging her and would not let her rest.

 

JOAN GETS THE KING CROWNED AT RHEIMS.

After the siege of Orleans was raised, and Joan of Arc was urging the next part of the programme, to have the King crowned at Rheims, she took part in sieges and assaults, and was gravely consulted by the generals. Difficulties were started about going at once to Rheims, and sometimes she issued military orders herself which embarrassed the plans; but she had great influence with the army and the people and those who flocked to join the standard attracted by her fame. She urged an instant assault on Troyes, and got a grumbling assent of the chiefs; and when mounting the earthwork and shouting out “Assault,” it so happened that Troyes capitulated to the King on terms. The royal forces then entered in triumph, with the maid at the King’s side carrying her banner. At that stage some of her old village friends came to see her in her great position, and she received and welcomed them like a born princess, so that they were charmed. The King in a day or two thereafter entered Rheims, and at the coronation Joan rode in state between a general, an archbishop, and the Chancellor of France. When this great ceremony was over, Joan said she had completed the[Pg 158] charge given her by the Lord, and now if it pleased Him she would gladly go back to her father and mother and tend the cattle as before. On hearing this the great councillors more and more believed that Joan had been sent as a messenger from Heaven. But difficulties still surrounded the army, and Joan seemed bent on driving out the English. Yet people noticed that Joan’s power somehow drooped after the King was crowned. She kept with the King and busied herself with affairs. Talbot, the English general, insulted her by sending flags painted with a sign of the distaff and the words, “Now, fair one, come on!” The King moved on to Paris, and she took part in an unsuccessful assault there and elsewhere. When she was fighting at Compiégne, and the enemy being determined to capture the little warrior in her red sash and rich surcoat, she was at last overmastered, and was taken prisoner. She had for some time before surmised that she would be betrayed, and that her career was near its close.

 

A YOUNG PRINCE’S FIRST SIGHT OF JOAN.

When Joan had raised the siege of Orleans and was urging the King to go to Rheims to be crowned, and he was distracted by the diversity of his councillors, a young prince, Guy de Laval, wrote on June 8th, 1429, to his mother about Joan as follows: “The King had sent for Joan to come and meet him at Selles-en-Berry. Some say that it was for my sake, in order that I might see her. She gave right good welcome to my brother and myself, and after we had dismounted at Selles I went to see her in her quarters. She ordered wine, and told me that she should soon have me drinking some at Paris. It seems a thing divine to look on her and listen to her. I saw her mount on horseback, clad all in white armour save her head, and with a little axe in her hand, on a great black charger, which at the door of her quarters was very restive and would not let her mount. Then said she, ‘Lead him to the cross,’ which was in front of the neighbouring church on the road. There she mounted him without his moving, and as if he were tied up; and turning towards the door of the church, which was very nigh at hand, she said in a soft womanly voice, ‘You priests and churchmen, make procession and prayer to God.’ Then she resumed her road, saying, ‘Push forward! push forward!’ She told me that three days before my arrival she had sent my dear grandmother a little golden ring, but that it was a very small matter, and[Pg 159] she would have liked to send you something better, having regard to your dignity.”

 

JOAN TAKEN CAPTIVE AND BURNT AS A HERETIC (1431).

When Joan was taken prisoner at the siege of Compiégne, she was kept six months in various castles by John of Luxemburg; but her youth, virtue, and courage made friends of her gaolers. The governor, however, was a sordid creature, and sold her to her enemies for English gold. Then another brutal creature called a bishop of Beauvais, also an inquisitor, rose up and insisted on his right to judge her, as she was captured within his diocese. She was taken to Rouen to be tried as a rebel heretic. Joan had a presentiment of her fate, and said, “I know well that these English will put me to death; but were they a hundred thousand more Goddams than have already been in France, they shall never have the kingdom.” On hearing this, the English Earl of Stafford half drew his dagger to strike her, but was held back. As she was led to Rouen, great crowds came to see her; ladies of distinction went five leagues to speak comfort to her and encourage her, and wept on parting. The brutal bishop, like a vulture of the desert, seized on her as his prey; and though some lookers-on cried shame, and protested that the trial was illegal, this demon inquisitor had her locked in an iron cage, with irons on her feet, and kept in a dark room, guarded night and day in a castle tower, while a sham trial was kept up for forty days, and idle questions cast at her. The demon judge, after trying in vain to shake her fortitude, at last had her brought into the torture chamber. But Joan told him, “If you tear me limb from limb, you shall get nothing more from me; nay, if I were at the stake and saw the torch lighting the fagots, I shall say naught else.” Joan was declared a heretic and a rebel; she was harassed to sign an abjuration, and a mock signature being forced from her, she was at first condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Part of her alleged crime was the wearing of man’s clothes, and after a struggle she refused to give this up. She was tried and retried, and at last forty judges agreed that she must be burned at the stake. A woman’s dress was put on her, and she was dragged to the place of execution. Her last wish was to have the cross, whereon God hung, kept continually in her sight as long as she lived. She was then done to death, and even the demon bishop was said for once to drop a tear as the inspired maid was in her last agony.

 [Pg 160]

OUTBREAK OF THE HERMIT ZEAL (A.D. 340).

Egypt afforded the first example of the monastic life; and at the head of the new zealots for macerating the body in order to perfect the soul was Antony, an illiterate youth, born in 305. After rehearsing the solitary life in Thebais and searching for a suitable site in the desert, he settled on Mount Colzim, near the Red Sea. He was a friend of Athanasius, the champion of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Others followed his example, and the region of the Nile soon swarmed with disciples. It was said that five thousand anchorites peopled the Desert of Nitria, south of Alexandria. Some thought that half of the population had taken to this sequestered mode of life, so that the old saying was repeated that in Egypt it was less difficult to find a god than a man. Athanasius introduced the knowledge and admiration of the monastic life to the Roman senators who began to take an interest in this new philosophy. A Syrian youth, named Hilarion, was incited by his enthusiasm to follow Antony’s example, and fix his cell on a sandy beach seven miles from Gaza, where he lived forty-eight years. Even Basil once spent some time in a savage solitude in Pontus. And Martin of Tours, who was soldier, hermit, bishop, and saint, established the monasteries of Gaul. The fame of these hermits filled the whole earth wherever a knowledge of Christianity had spread. This pilgrim, visiting Jerusalem, carried there the habits of the new models of Christian life, and members of wealthy families yielded to the fashion of piety. Jerome himself persuaded Paula and her daughter Eustochium to retire to Bethlehem and found monasteries, and pursue a system of rigid self-mortification.

 

FIRST BEGINNINGS OF MONASTIC LIFE (A.D. 340).

The monastic life, as a system, was not much known till the end of the fourth century. It has been conjectured that the circumstances of the Decian persecution, about the middle of the third century, caused many persons in Egypt to retreat for safety to the desert, and then, finding complete security, this became a second nature, the climate being mild and cells and cottages being easily constructed. There were at first only individuals here and there, and no regular society till the peaceable reign of Constantine, when Pachomius is said to have founded some monasteries in Thebais. Antony, the first hermit of note, gave a contemporary of Pachomius this account: “When I first became a monk, there was as yet no monastery in any part of the world where[Pg 161] one man was obliged to take care of another, but every one of the ancient monks, when the persecution was ended, exercised the monastic life by himself in private. Afterwards Father Pachomius, by the help of God, brought the monks to live in communities.” Before 250 those who lived a lonely life were called ascetics. Hilarion, who was scholar to Antony, was the first monk who ever lived in Palestine or Syria. Not long after this new mode of life spread to Armenia, Paphlagonia, and Pontus; then it reached Thrace and parts of Europe. It was not till Athanasius came to Italy and Rome in 340 that he introduced this mode of society. Marcella was the first noble woman who took to this life at Rome, being instructed by Athanasius during the Arian persecution. Pelagius, about 400, introduced monastic life into Britain. Monks at first were laymen and not clergy, their office being not to teach but to mourn. It was not till after 1311 that Pope Clement obliged all monks to take holy orders, so that they might say private Mass for the honour of God.

 

THE TEMPTATIONS OF ST. ANTONY (A.D. 340).

St. Antony, the founder of the monastic life in Egypt, who died in 356, at the age of one hundred and four, soon after he began to live in the tombs as a hermit was found in a trance, and carried to a church as one dead. He afterwards related that in the night the devil had sent his legions to terrify him. They upraised so great a clamour that the whole place seemed to quake, and, as if bursting through the four walls of the cell, devils rushed in upon him from all sides, transformed in the guise of wild beasts and creeping things, and the place was straightway filled with spectres of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, all of them in motion after their proper fashion,—the lion roaring as about to spring on him, the bull threatening to gore him, the serpent hissing, the wolf in the act of flying at him, but all in seeming only as under restraint, though dire were the noises and fierce the menaces of those phantoms crowding around him. And Antony mocked them and said, “Ye seek to terrify me with numbers, but this aping of wild beasts only proves your weakness. If you have any power, delay not, but come on; for faith in the Lord is my seal and my wall of salvation.” And they all gnashed their teeth at him, looking as if preparing to assail him. But the Lord meanwhile did not forget Antony, and came to his assistance. The saint, looking up, saw as it were the roof opened and a ray of light descending upon him. And the devils on a sudden disappeared; and the pain of his body was straightway[Pg 162] assuaged, and the cell was clear as before. And Antony rose up and prayed, and received more strength than he ever had before.

 

ONE HERMIT VISITING ANOTHER (A.D. 340).

Ruffinus says that Macarius once went to visit Antony in the mountain, and, knocking at the door, Antony opened to him and asked, “Who art thou?” He answered, “I am Macarius.” And Antony, to prove him, shut the door and left him without, as if holding him in contempt, till, considering his patience, he opened and admitted him joyfully, saying, “Long have I heard of thy fame and desired to see thee.” And then he made ready, and they ate together in charity. And in the evening Antony wetted certain palm leaves to weave baskets with, and Macarius asked for some likewise to work along with him; and thus sitting and discoursing of things useful to the soul they made a mat of those leaves; and Antony, seeing that what Macarius had woven was well done, kissed his hands, and said, “Much virtue issues forth of these hands, my brother.”

 

A STARVED HERMIT AND THE BUNCH OF GRAPES.

Macarius the hermit, in order to subdue the rebellious flesh, remained six months in a marsh, and exposed his naked body to the attacks of African gnats. Once he was presented by a traveller with a bunch of grapes, at which he looked longingly; but on reflection he thought another brother was more worthy, to whom he gave them. That brother again remembered another still more worthy, and passed them on. The tempting cluster passed from hand to hand, from worthy to more worthy, until it came back once more to the hands of Macarius, who, not to be tempted overmuch by the devil, flung the morsel far out of his reach.

 

TWO HERMITS EXCHANGING COURTESIES OVER A LOAF (A.D. 340).

St. Jerome, in his Life of Paul, the first hermit, who for fifteen years never slept except standing against a wall, relates that Antony, hearing that there was a better hermit than himself, went across the desert to find him, and after many dangers at last saw a wolf enter a cave, and divined that this must be the cell of Paul. So he went in, and at the noise Paul shut his door; but Antony fell on his knees and prayed, and then besought admittance, which was granted. Paul then said, “Behold him whom thou hast sought with such labour, with limbs decayed by[Pg 163] age, and covered with unkempt white hair. Behold, thou seest but a mortal soon to become dust. But because charity bears all things, tell me, I pray thee, how fares the human race—whether new houses are rising in the ancient cities, by what emperor is the world governed—whether there are any left who are led captive by the deceits of the devil.” As they spoke thus, they saw a raven settle on a bough, which, flying gently down, deposited, to their wonder, a whole loaf for their use. When he was gone, “Ah!” said Paul, “the Lord, truly loving, truly merciful, has sent us a meal. For sixty years past I have received daily half a loaf, but at thy coming Christ has doubled his soldier’s allowance.” Then having thanked God, they sat down on the bank of a glassy spring. But here a contention arising as to which of them should break the loaf, occupied the day till well-nigh evening. Paul insisted as the host; Antony declined as the younger man. At last it was agreed that they should take hold of the loaf at opposite ends, and each pull towards himself, and keep what was left in his hand. Next they stooped down and drank a little water from the spring; then raising to God the sacrifice of praise, they passed the night watching.

 

TWO HERMITS TRYING TO QUARREL (A.D. 350).

Ruffinus, in his Lives of the Fathers, relates that there were two ancient hermits who dwelt together and never quarrelled. At last one said to the other, with much simplicity, “Let us have a quarrel, as other men have.” And the other answering that he did not know how to quarrel, the first replied, “Look here, I will place this stone in the middle between you and me. I will say it is mine, and do you say that it is not true, for that it is yours; in this manner we will make a quarrel.” And placing the stone in the midst, he said, “This stone is mine.” And the other said, “No, it is mine.” And the first said, “If it be yours, then take it.” Not being able either to stamp and swear and blaspheme and slang and defame each other’s parents, and shake their fists or strike a blow at a venture at each other, they could not carry the conversation further, and the whole quarrel collapsed.

 

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF HERMITS.

St. Jerome and others relate that a certain anchorite in Nitria having left one hundred crowns at his death, which he had acquired by weaving cloth, the monks of that desert met to deliberate what should be done with all that money. Some were for giving it to[Pg 164] the poor, others to the Church; but Macarius, Pambo, Isidore, and others, who were called the Fathers, ordered that the one hundred crowns should be thrown into the grave and buried with the corpse of the deceased, and that, at the same time, the following words should be pronounced: “May thy money go with thee to perdition!” This example struck such a terror into all the monks that no one dared lay up any money.

 

THE WISE SAYINGS OF ST. PAMBO THE HERMIT (A.D. 350).

In the fourth century lived St. Pambo, who became a famous hermit, and practised rush-weaving. One day the blessed Melania took a fine present to him of a silver vessel, which he did not raise his head from his work even to acknowledge, and which caused her to ask if he knew its value. He replied, “He to whom it was offered need not that you should tell him.” Two Spanish brothers spent their fortune, one by building hospitals, and the other by giving it away and becoming an anchorite, and Pambo was asked which was the more perfect. His reply was, “Both are perfect before God: there are many roads to perfection, besides that which leads through the desert cell.” Some one gave Pambo gold to distribute in alms, and told him to count it. He answered, “God does not ask how much, but how!” He was on a visit at Alexandria, and there saw an actress perform. Pambo looked sad and observed, “Alas! how much less do I labour to please God than does this poor girl to delight the eyes of men!” He used to say that “a monk should only wear such a dress as no one would pick up, if thrown away.” When Pambo was on his deathbed, he said, “I thank God that not a day of my life has been spent in idleness; never have I eaten bread that I have not earned with the sweat of my brow. I thank God that I do not recall any bitter speech I have made, for which I ought to repent now.” It is said that Pambo, on beginning his own career, consulted Antony how to act, and the latter gave this advice: “Never trust in your own merits; never trouble yourself about transitory affairs; keep a check on your stomach, and learn to hold your tongue.” And Pambo acted strictly on these lines.

 

A HERMIT CULTIVATING AN OLIVE TREE (A.D. 350).

Mr. Baring-Gould says that Meffreth, a German priest of Meissen, in 1443, told, in one of his sermons, this story of a hermit: There was once an aged hermit in the Egyptian Desert, who thought it would be well with him if he had an olive tree[Pg 165] near his cave. So he planted a little tree; and thinking it might want water, he prayed to God for rain; and so rain came and watered his olive. Then he thought that some warm sunshine would do good and swell its buds; so he prayed, and the sun shone out. Now the nursling looked feeble, and the old man deemed it would do good if some frost would come and harden it. He prayed for frost, and hoarfrost settled that night on its branches. Next he thought a hot southerly wind would benefit his tree, and, after praying, the south wind blew upon the olive tree. And then it died. Some little while after, the hermit visited a brother hermit, and lo! by his cell door there grew a flourishing olive tree. “How came that goodly plant here, brother?” asked the unsuccessful hermit. “I planted it, and God blessed it as it grew.” “Ah! brother, I, too, planted an olive, and when I thought it wanted water I asked God to give it rain, and the rain came; and when I thought it needed sun, I asked, and the sun shone; and when I thought it needed strengthening, I prayed, and the frost came. God gave me all I demanded for my tree, as I saw fit, and yet it is dead.” “And I, brother,” replied the other hermit, “left my tree in God’s hands, for He knew what it wanted better than I.”

 

MACARIUS STUNG BY A GNAT (A.D. 380).

Ruffinus, in his Life of the hermit Macarius, says that that holy man, sitting one day in his cell and feeling himself bitten in the foot by a gnat, put his hand to the place, and, finding the gnat, killed it. On seeing the blood he blamed himself, as it seemed to him he had revenged himself for the injury received. For this thing and in order to learn meekness he went into the utmost solitude of the wilderness called Scilis, where those gnats are largest and most venomous. He lived there for six months naked, that he might be stung by them; and at the end of that time he returned so disfigured and wounded that he was unrecognisable save by his voice, being covered all over with boils and blisters, so that he lost all shape and appeared leprous.

 

ST. MARTIN, BISHOP OF TOURS, HERMIT MONK (A.D. 380).

St. Martin of Tours, who died 397, was from infancy devout, but was obliged to enter the army, owing to a decree of the Emperor. While in the army, one very cold and frosty day a poor naked and shivering beggar stood near the gate of Amiens; and as none relieved him, St. Martin, having already given away all he had, took off his own cloak, and with his sword cut it in[Pg 166] two, giving one half to the beggar and keeping the other. The bystanders laughed at the figure of the saint; but the following night in his sleep he was astonished to see Jesus Christ appear to him dressed in the beggar’s half of the cloak, and asked if he knew it. Jesus then said to a troop of angels attending him, “Martin, yet a catechumen, has clothed Me with this garment.” This vision encouraged the saint to persevere in his course. He soon left the army, went into a monastery, and afterwards became a bishop. He had many visions and had great insight into impostors. One day when he was praying in his cell, the devil came to him environed with light and clothed in royal robes, with a crown of gold and precious stones upon his head, and with a gracious and pleasant countenance told Martin how that he was Christ. Martin looked hard at him and said, “The Lord Jesus said not that He was to come clothed with purple and crowned and adorned with a diadem. Nor will I ever believe Him to be Christ who shall not come in the habit and figure in which Christ suffered, and who shall not bear the marks of the cross in his body.” At these words the fiend vanished and left in his cell an intolerable stench. The bishop died of a fever at the age of eighty, and insisted in his last days on lying among ashes and in a hair shirt, refusing any comforts; for he said, “It becomes not a Christian to die otherwise than on ashes.” Thousands of monks and virgins and the whole population, with hymns, carried his body to its resting-place.

 

DOROTHEUS, THE HERMITS’ ARCHITECT (A.D. 440).

Sozomen, who wrote his history about 440, says that about two thousand monks dwelt near Alexandria in a district called the Hermitage. Dorotheus, a native of Thebes, was among the most celebrated of these. He spent the day in collecting stones upon the seashore, which he used in erecting cells for those who were unable to build them. During the night he employed himself in weaving baskets of palm leaves, and these he sold to obtain the means of subsistence. He ate six ounces of bread with a few vegetables daily, and drank nothing but water. Having accustomed himself to this extreme abstinence from his youth, he continued to observe it in old age. He was never seen to recline on a mat or a bed, nor even to place his limbs in an easy attitude for sleep. Sometimes from natural lassitude his eyes would involuntarily close when he was at his daily labour or his meals, and the food would drop on the way to his mouth. One day Piammon, a presbyter, was conducting the service, and said that he[Pg 167] noticed an angel standing near the altar, and writing down the names of the monks who were present and erasing the names of those who were absent.

 

ST. PŒMEN, THE PRINCE OF HERMITS (A.D. 450).

The prince of the desert, the chief of the solitaries and the fellow-citizen of angels, as he was long called, was St. Pœmen, an Egyptian who flourished in 450. He had six brothers, and they all had a turn for fasting and self-mortifications, and retired to the desert and lived there, scorning the indulgences of ordinary life. All the people round soon confessed that Pœmen was the greatest hermit of his time, and his sayings were quoted over all Christendom. A monk who suffered from violent temptations consulted Pœmen how to overcome his evil temper, and was told to retire into the desert and wrestle there with his temper and conquer it. The monk said, “But, father, how if I were to die without Sacraments in the wild waste?” To this Pœmen answered, “Do you think God would not receive you, coming from the battle-field?” Another monk, perplexed where to live and how to act, asked Pœmen whether he should live in community or in solitude. Pœmen replied, “Wherever you find yourself humble-minded, there you may settle down and dwell with security.” Another monk went a long journey to see and consult Pœmen, and began to talk about subtle theological niceties. Pœmen looked grave and silent, till the visitor departed, expressing his disgust at coming so far for nothing. Pœmen observed on this afterwards, “This anchorite flies far above my reach. He sails up to heaven, while I creep along the earth. If he would talk about our passions and infirmities and how to overcome them, then we should have some subject in common to talk about.” Another time Pœmen, asked by a troublesome monk to tell him what was a living faith, replied, “A living faith consists in thinking little of oneself and showing tenderness to others.” He also once said, “A warm heart, boiling with charity, is not troubled with temptations, any more than with the flies hovering round it. When the caldron cools, then the flies collect and swarm round it.” Pœmen lived to one hundred and ten, and had no equal in his time.

 

ST. MOYSES, WATER-CARRIER TO THE SICK HERMITS (A.D. 470).

St. Moyses of the tenth century was a brawny negro slave who had escaped from his master and lived for a time by rapine and murder. In one of his hairbreadth escapes he took refuge among[Pg 168] the hermits, and began to see great merit in them, and tried to live like them and conquer his own furious passions. He consulted the Abbot Isidore, who told him this enterprise would take some time. Moyses said he would wait and try, and he became a priest. In order to give himself exercise and tame his evil spirit, he made a practice of regularly going round the cells of the hermits, and wherever he found one sick he would go and fetch water and fill his pitcher. And this he would do at any hour of the night and go any distance. One night, in stooping over a pool and filling a hermit’s pitcher, he was doubled up with an attack of lumbago, and thought the devil had given him a sudden stroke with a club. Moyses lay groaning with pain till next morning, when he was carried to a church, and there people took care of him. He was many months disabled, but on recovery at once resumed his work. One day, the governor hearing of Moyses and being curious to see him, met Moyses, and asked where that famous hermit Moyses lived. Moyses replied, “He’s not worth visiting, for he is only a fool.” The governor related this to the monks at the nearest monastery, and said that the man who thus answered him was a huge old black fellow, covered with rags. The monks thereupon all exclaimed, “That was Moyses himself; it could be no other.”

 

A HERMIT DEVISING NEW AUSTERITIES (A.D. 479).

In 479 Barnadatus, a Syrian monk, devised some new ways of self-mortification. First he shut himself up in a small chamber; and then, ascending a mountain, he made for himself a wooden box, in which he could not stand upright, and was always confined to a stooping posture. This box having no close covering, he was exposed to the wind, to the rain, and to the sun, and for a long time dwelt in this incommodious house. Afterwards he always stood upright, stretching up his hands to heaven, covered with a garment of skin, with only a small aperture to draw his breath. James, another contemporary monk, lived at first in a small hut, and afterwards in the open air, with only heaven for his covering, enduring the extremes of heat and cold. He had iron chains round his neck and waist, and four other chains hung down from his neck, two before and two behind. He had also chains about his arms. His only food was lentils. For three days and nights he was often so covered with snow, whilst he was prostrate and praying, that he could hardly be seen. This man, according to Theodoret, was celebrated for the many miracles which he wrought.

 [Pg 169]

HERMIT ST. CARILEFF REFUSING A QUEEN’S VISIT (A.D. 540).

St. Carileff was a monk at Menat, near Clermont, and died about 540. He early became dissatisfied with his monastery, and resolved to penetrate farther into the forest, and live a more retired and perfect life. He and a companion went to reconnoitre, and in a remote corner came upon an old neglected vineyard, where they thought of settling down. One hot day the saint was working and had hung his hood on an oak tree, and on returning to resume it he found a wren had laid an egg in it. So the good hermit rejoiced and left his hood, so as not to disturb the tiny creature’s nest. When he reported to his abbot this circumstance, the latter said, “This is no accident; return thither, and there a monastery shall arise some day.” Carileff returned and settled in the old vineyard, and he gained the confidence of other animals besides the wren; for a large buffalo used to come to his cell and let him rub his shaggy neck, and then it galloped back into the forest. One day the king heard of this splendid buffalo roaming about, and made up a hunting party to secure it. But it took refuge in the hermit’s cell; and the huntsmen, hot with pursuit, were so amazed at seeing the great monarch of the forest standing thus peaceably beside its protector, that they acknowledged the man of God’s superior power, and ended by giving him a grant of lands to build a monastery there. When the king told this story, the queen was eager to visit the holy recluse, and sent a message; but he most peremptorily refused to see her, saying, “As long as I live I shall never see the face of a woman, and no woman shall ever enter my cell. Why should this queen be so anxious to see a man disfigured by fasting and toil, and as brown as a chameleon? I will pray for her. A monk has no need of great possessions, nor has she of a monk’s blessing. But his blessing she shall have, if she will only leave him alone.”

 

THE FIRST SAXON HERMIT (A.D. 708).

Fuller, in his “Church History,” says: “St. Guthlake, a Benedictine monk in 708, was the first Saxon that professed a hermitical life in England, to which purpose he chose a fenny place in Lincolnshire called Crowland—that is, the ‘raw or crude land’; so raw, indeed, that before him no man could digest to live therein. Yea, the devils are said to claim this place as their peculiar, and to call it their own land. Could those infernal fiends, tortured with immaterial fire, take any pleasure or make any ease to themselves[Pg 170] by paddling here in puddles and dabbling in the moist dirty marshes? However, Guthlake took the boldness to ‘enter common’ with them, and erect his cell in Crowland. But if his prodigious life may be believed, ducks and mallards do not now flock thither faster in September than herds of devils came about him, all whom he is said victoriously to have vanquished. After the example of Moses and Elias, he fasted forty days and nights, till, finding this project destructive to nature, he was forced in his own defence to take some necessary but very sparing refection. He died in his own cell; and Pega, his sister, an anchoritess, led a solitary life not far from him.”

 

ST. GUTHLAC, HERMIT OF CROYLAND (A.D. 708).

This St. Guthlac, according to his biographer, after he had been two years living in a monastery, began to long for the wilderness and a hermitage. Being directed to a fen of immense size in the east of England, he met a man named Tatwaine, who told him of an island which many had attempted to inhabit, but no man could do it on account of manifold horrors and fears and the loneliness of the wide wilderness, so that no man could endure it and fled from it. The holy man at once selected and went through the wild fens till he came to a spot called Croyland. It was a place of accursed spirits; but he was strengthened with heavenly support, and vowed that he would serve God on that island all the days of his life. He used neither woollen nor linen garments, but was clothed in skins; and he tasted nothing but barley bread and water. He was sorely tempted by the devil; but at last the ravens, the beasts, and the fishes came to obey him. Once a venerable brother named Wilfred visited him, and they held many discourses on the spiritual life, when suddenly two swallows came flying in, and, behold, they raised up their song rejoicing. And often they sat fearlessly on the shoulders of the holy man Guthlac, and then lifted up their song, and afterwards they sat on his bosom and on his arms and his knees. When Wilfred had long beheld with wonder the birds so submissively sitting with him, he asked the reason, and Guthlac answered him thus: “Hast thou never learned, brother Wilfred, in Holy Writ, that he who hath led his life after God’s will, the wild beasts and birds have made friends with him? And the man who would separate himself from worldly thoughts, to him the very angels come near.” When Guthlac died in due time, angelic songs were heard in the sky, and all the air had a wondrous odour of exceeding sweetness.

 [Pg 171]

ST. SIMEON STYLITES (A.D. 459).

St. Simeon Stylites, who immortalised himself by living on a high pillar, flourished about 459, was the son of a shepherd, and in his youth displayed a genius for mortifications of the flesh. He begged admittance to a monastery, and at once outdid all the monks there; for while they ate only once a day, he ate only once a week, and that on Sunday. He at a later stage passed the forty days of each Lent without eating or drinking. Not content with a hermitage, he built himself a small unroofed enclosure of rude stones, on a high mountain forty miles east of Antioch, exposed to the weather. Crowds began to flock to see him and get his benediction. He next built a pillar six cubits high, and lived on it four years. He gradually raised higher pillars; and the fourth time he made a pillar of forty cubits (sixty feet) high, on which he spent his last twenty years of life. It was only three feet in diameter at the top, so that he might not have even the luxury of lying down or sitting. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his outstretched arms in the figure of a cross; but his most familiar practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet. He bowed his body in continual prayer, and a visitor once counted twelve hundred and forty-four reverences of adoration made by him in one day. He made exhortations to the people twice a day. He died at sixty-nine in the act of prayer on his pillar, and the bishops and all the people round attended his burial, and many miracles were said to have been worked that day in testimony of his sanctity.

 

A PILLAR MONK IN WESTERN CLIMATES (A.D. 591).

In 591 Vulfilaic, a monk of Lombardy, had a pillar erected for him at Treves, and stood upon it barefoot, enduring great hardship in the winter. The bishops therefore compelled him to come down and to live like other monks, telling him that the severity of the climate would not permit him to imitate the great Simeon of Antioch. He obeyed his superiors, but with tears and reluctance. And this, says Fleury, is the only instance that we know of a stylites or pillar monk in the Western world.

 

ST. HERBERT, THE HERMIT OF DERWENTWATER (A.D. 650).

Herbert was a monk of Lindisfarne or of Melrose at the same time as St. Cuthbert, by whose advice he retired to the island in Derwentwater, which is five miles long and one and a half miles[Pg 172] broad, and lived there. He used to meet St. Cuthbert once every year; and at their meeting about 687 that saint, being then Bishop of Lindisfarne, said to him on parting, “Remember at this time, brother Herbert, to ask and say to me all that you wish, for after our parting now we shall not see each other with the eyes of the flesh in this world; for I know that the time of my departure is at hand, and that I must shortly put off this tabernacle.” On this Herbert, falling at his feet with groans and tears, said, “For our Lord’s sake, I beseech you not to leave me, but remember your most faithful companion, and entreat the mercy of Heaven that we who have together served Him on earth may pass together to behold His grace and glory in the heavens. You know I have always studied to live according to your direction; and if from ignorance or infirmity I have in any point failed, I have taken pains to chastise and amend my fault according to the decision of your will.” The bishop bent in prayer, and being immediately informed by the Spirit that his request was granted, said, “Rise up, my brother, and do not mourn, but rather rejoice greatly, for the mercy of Heaven has granted what we asked.” They separated, and never again met; for on March 20th, 687, their spirits, departing from the body, were immediately united in the blessed vision of each other, and by the ministry of angels translated to the kingdom of heaven. In 1374 the then Bishop of Carlisle directed that the anniversary of these saints’ death should be commemorated by the vicar of Crosthwaite, with a choir chanting the Mass of St. Cuthbert on this St. Herbert’s isle.

 

ST. ETHELWALD, HERMIT AT FARNE (A.D. 700).

St. Cuthbert, the first hermit of Farne, near Holy Island, was succeeded by Edelwald about 700, and next by Felgund, who told the following anecdote to the Venerable Bede: The walls of St. Cuthbert’s oratory in Farne, being composed of planks somewhat carelessly put together, had become loose and tottering by age, and the planks left an opening to the weather. The venerable man, whose aim was rather the splendour of the heavenly than of an earthly mansion, had taken hay or clay or whatever he could get, and filled up the crevices, that he might not be disturbed from the earnestness of his prayers by the daily violence of the winds and storms. When Ethelwald entered and saw these contrivances, he begged the brethren who came thither to give him a calf’s skin, and fastened it with nails in the corner where himself and his predecessor used to kneel or stand when they prayed, as a[Pg 173] protection against the storm. Twelve years after, he also ascended to the joys of the heavenly kingdom, and Felgund became the third inhabitant of the place. It then seemed good to the Bishop of Lindisfarne to restore from its foundation the time-worn oratory. This being done, many devout persons begged of Christ’s holy servant Felgund to give them a small portion of the relics of God’s servants Cuthbert and Ethelwald. He accordingly determined to cut up the above-named calf’s skin into pieces, and give a portion to each. But he first experienced the influence on his own person, for his face was much deformed by a swelling and a red patch. The malady increased, and fearing lest he should be obliged to abandon the solitary life and return to the monastery, presuming in his faith, he trusted to heal himself by the aid of those holy men whose house he dwelt in, and whose holy life he sought to imitate; for he steeped a piece of the skin above mentioned in water and washed his face therewith, whereupon the swelling was immediately healed, and the cicatrice disappeared. “This I was told,” says Bede, “in the first instance by a priest of the monastery of Jarrow, who said he knew Felgund, and saw his face before and after the cure, and Felgund also told me the same. This he ascribed to the agency of the Almighty grace.” The Venerable Bede says he was told also of another miracle by one of the brothers on whom it was wrought, namely Guthrid, who narrated as follows: “I came to the island of Farne to speak with the reverend father Ethelwald. Having been refreshed with his discourse, and taken his blessing, as we were returning home, on a sudden when we were in the midst of the sea, there ensued so dismal a tempest that neither the sails nor the oars were of any use to us, nor had we anything to expect but death. After long struggling with the wind and waves to no effect, we looked behind us to see if we could return, and then we observed on the island of Farne Father Ethelwald, beloved of God, come out of his cavern to watch our course. When he beheld us in distress and despair, he bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in prayer for our life and safety, upon which the swelling sea was calmed, so that the storm ceased on all sides, and a fair wind attended us to the very shore. When we had landed, the storm which had ceased for a short time for our sakes immediately returned, and raged continually during the whole day; so that it plainly appeared that the brief cessation of the storm had been granted from Heaven, at the request of the man of God, in order that we might escape.” Ethelwald lived twelve years on the island of Farne, and at his death his remains were taken[Pg 174] to Lindisfarne and buried beside his master, St. Cuthbert. Here they remained two centuries till the Danes frightened the holy household, when they were taken away, and at last in the tenth century were buried under the shadow of the new cathedral at Durham.

 

AN ENGLISH QUEEN CONSULTING A HERMIT ON FAMILY TROUBLES (A.D. 1082).

Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror, being greatly distressed by the constant quarrels between the King and her favourite son Robert, sent to a German hermit of great sanctity, entreating his prayers and advice. The hermit gave his answer thus: “Tell your mistress I have prayed in her behalf, and the Most High has made known to me in a dream the things she desires to learn. I saw in my vision a beautiful pasture covered with grass and flowers, and a noble charger feeding therein. A numerous herd gathered round about, eager to enter and share the feast, but the fiery charger would not permit them to approach near enough to crop the flowers and herbage. But alas! the majestic steed in the midst of his pride and courage died, the terror of his presence ceased, and a poor silly steer appeared in his place as the guardian of the pasture. Then the throng of meaner animals, who had hitherto feared his approach, rushed in and trampled the flowers and grass beneath their feet, and that which they could not devour they defiled and destroyed.” The hermit then explained that the steed was William the Conqueror, the silly steer was Robert, and added, “Illustrious lady, if, after hearing the words of the vision in which the Lord has vouchsafed to reply to my prayers, you do not labour to restore the peace of Normandy, you will henceforth behold nothing but misery, the death of your royal spouse, the ruin of all your race, and the desolation of your beloved country.” It is said that this answer of the hermit gave no comfort to the Queen, who redoubled her prayers and penitential exercises, but drooped and soon died of a broken heart at the age of fifty-one. She was buried at Caen in a convent.

 

A THOROUGHLY CONSCIENTIOUS HERMIT (A.D. 1138).

The blessed Schetzelo was a hermit about 1138, living in the woods near Luxemburg, feeding on roots and acorns. His clothing was so scanty as to be scarcely decent; and St. Bernard, who greatly respected him, sent his monks with a present of a shirt[Pg 175] and a pair of drawers. Schetzelo at once put them on, but on reflection he pulled them off again, saying that he found he could do without them, and that it was his earnest desire to live without superfluities. The monks asked him if he had suffered many temptations in his time. “Yes,” he answered; “the life of man is one long series of temptations.” And he then told them how he had once given way, and how heavily he felt the bitterness of self-reproach ever since. One winter, he said, he was lying out in the snow, and the drift covered all his body except the face, where his breath had melted a hole. A poor, half-frozen rabbit, seeking shelter, jumped into the hole and crouched on the hermit’s breast. He was moved first to laughter, and then to compassion and pleasure, for the little creature, benumbed with cold, suffered him to stroke its fur; and so, said Schetzelo, “when I ought to have been praying and meditating, I was playing with the rabbit under the snow.”

 

ST. BARTHOLOMEW, THE HERMIT OF FARNE (A.D. 1151).

St. Bartholomew, in 1151, was living quietly as a monk in the cathedral monastery at Durham, when St. Cuthbert appeared to him in a dream and bade him go to the island of Farne, near Holy Island, and there live as a hermit. He went off with the prayers of all the convent, and took up his abode and lived sequestered from the world. He found, however, another monk there before him, called Ebwin, who was very jealous of the newcomer; but Bartholomew endured all the scoffs and reproaches patiently, and at last Ebwin left the place entirely to him. Bartholomew had a cow and a little patch of ground on which he grew barley. He also caught fish occasionally, and filled up the pauses with chanting psalms and hymns, repeating the whole Psalter once, twice, and thrice every day. He was charmed to watch the seagulls and cormorants, his only companions. He would allow no passing sailor to throw stones at these birds. He even tamed one, which came regularly to feed out of his hand every day. One day when he was out fishing, a hawk pursued this poor bird into the chapel and killed it, leaving only the feathers and bones lying on the portal of the holy place. The assassin, however, could not find its way out of the chapel, and kept wheeling round and round, beating against the windows and walls. Brother Bartholomew entered at last and found the cruel bird with its bloody talons, looking shameless and helpless. He mourned bitterly over the fate of his poor favourite and caught the hawk. He kept it two days without food to punish it for its[Pg 176] crime, and then, seized with compassion, let go the guilty prisoner. Another time the saint was sitting on the seashore, when he was surprised to feel a cormorant close by his side, pulling with its bill the corner of his garment. He rose and followed the bird along the beach till he came to a hole in the rock, down which one of the young ones had fallen. He soon extricated the trembling creature and restored it to its mother. After living forty-two years in this way, one night one of the brethren at Lindisfarne dreamed that Bartholomew was dead. He immediately aroused the convent, and a party of monks at once sailed across to Farne, and sure enough the holy hermit was lying in his stone coffin, having just died at the time indicated by the dreamer.

 

A FRENCH KING ON HIS DEATHBED SENDS FOR A HERMIT (1483).

When Louis XI. of France was in his last illness, in 1483, and his sufferings awoke in him remorse for many crimes, he gathered round him all the most famous relics which could be procured—among others, the holy phial, which had never been removed from Rheims since the time of Clovis (656). He entreated Pope Sixtus IV. to send him any relics to relieve his agonies, and liberal supplies were given. The King also sent for hermits and other holy men, in the hope that their intercessions for his life might prevail. The most renowned of the holy men of the period was Francis of Paola, in Calabria, who was born with one eye; but his mother had vowed that, if the other eye might be granted to him, he should become a Franciscan. And her desire was fulfilled. Though utterly illiterate, he became a Minorite friar, and soon withdrew to live in a cave, where the austerity of his life and his supposed miraculous powers made him famous. When Louis first sent a message to Francis, the latter refused; but the Pope interposed and commanded him. The hermit passed through Rome, and caused great excitement, and led the Pope to give leave to Francis to found a society of “Hermits of St. Francis.” On reaching the French Court, Francis was received with as much honour as if he had been the Pope himself. Louis could not live without his company, knelt before him, hung on his words, and entreated the holy man to spare his life, even if for a little longer. Rich rewards were heaped on the hermit, and even convents founded in his honour, the members of which were called Minims, owing to their habit of self-abasement. After a few weeks Louis died, notwithstanding the hermit’s merit.

 [Pg 177]

CONSECRATION OF HERMITS AND RECLUSES.

The great idea of the hermit life was to live entirely alone, though some hermits lived in small communities in one district in close neighbourhood. Pope Innocent IV., in the middle of the thirteenth century, enrolled these into a separate order with the rule of St. Augustine, and hence called Austin Friars. There were also two grades of hermits. Hermits occasionally visited their fellow-men, but those called recluses abstained from any such visits. The female solitaries were usually recluses. The English hermit of the Middle Ages lived more luxuriously than the foreign hermit, and sometimes had one or two servants to wait upon him in the hermitage, which was often a comfortable house. The usual garb of a hermit was a brown frock with girdle, and over it an ample gown or cloak with hood. A man latterly could not become a recognised hermit without consecration by a bishop, which was a religious service, and he was assigned a district. The service for blessing a hermit consisted of prayers and psalms and a gift of the eremitical habit. Some hermitages had cells to accommodate more than one, as the hermitage at Wetheral, near Carlisle, cut out of the face of a rock one hundred feet high, nearly midway. These hermits and recluses lived in places where alms were likely to be found, and an almsbox was hung up for receiving gifts. The bishop, before giving his licence, usually satisfied himself that alms would be forthcoming sufficient for maintenance. Some female recluses had a room or anchor-house assigned to them near a church or in a churchyard, as was the case at St. Julian, Norwich, and other places, so that the benefit of hearing or seeing Mass was available. In the latter days anchoresses were blamed as having too great a tendency to gossip. Their founder and patroness was Judith, and the first who made any formal rule for their mode of life was one Grimlac, who lived about A.D. 900.

 

ST. METHODIUS, THE MARTYR FOR IMAGES (A.D. 842).

When the iconoclastic Emperor Leo was persecuting all who defended images in churches, those calling themselves the orthodox party were equally resolute, and furnished also their martyrs ready to die for what they thought to be the truth. St. Methodius was sent by the Pope to make requisitions for the orthodox, but was thrown by the Emperor into prison, and shut up with two thieves in a narrow cell. One of the thieves died, and the corpse was left to putrefy; yet the patience and sweetness of Methodius[Pg 178] so gained upon the other thief, that when offered his liberty the thief preferred to remain where he was. After nine years’ confinement, Methodius, when drawn out of the cave, was shrivelled to the bone, his skin was bleached, and his rags clotted with filth. Soon again Methodius was brought before the Emperor Theophilus, charged with opposing the destruction of images, and he thus addressed his oppressor: “Sire, be consistent. If we are to have the images of Christ overthrown, then down with the images of the Emperors also.” At this Theophilus, being enraged, ordered the monk to be stripped and lashed with thongs of leather, till he fainted with loss of blood. Methodius was then thrown into a dungeon, and his jaw was broken in the struggle. In 842, however, on the death of Theophilus, Methodius was released and made Patriarch of Constantinople. The saint mounted the throne humble as a monk, and wearing a bandage round his face to support his broken jaw, a living monument of the violence of his persecutors and of his confessorship of the orthodox faith. He instituted an annual festival, called the Festival of Orthodoxy, and died in 846.

 

THE MIRACLES OF SAINTS.

The view taken of the alleged miracles performed by saints, especially in the earlier centuries, divided broadly the Roman Catholic from the Protestant Christians, the former still maintaining, defending, and believing in the existence of the power of working miracles, the latter ostentatiously and dogmatically denying such power. Guizot says that the Bollandist collection of Lives of Saints includes twenty-five thousand, and nearly all the saints there recorded occasionally worked miracles. It is true that many educated Roman Catholics admit that it is not necessary for them to believe all these records. Since the revival of learning and the Reformation incredulity has set in, and sapped and mined nearly all the miraculous feats recorded in the Lives of the Saints. Middleton in 1748 published his “Free Inquiry,” and shook the faith of the moderns in any of these miracles subsequent to those recorded in the New Testament. As Lecky observes in his “History of Rationalism,” the miracles of the New Testament were always characterised by dignity and solemnity; they always conveyed some spiritual lesson, and conferred some actual benefit, besides attesting the character of the worker. The mediæval miracles, on the contrary, were frequently trivial, purposeless, and unimpressive, constantly verging on the grotesque, and not unfrequently passing the border.

 [Pg 179]

LOCAL AND PATRON SAINTS.

There were some universal saints of Christendom, such as the Apostles and early martyrs, the four great Fathers of the Latin Church—some few like St. Thomas à Becket, held up as a martyr of his order; St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order; and some founders of monastic institutes, as Dominic and Francis. Other saints had a more limited fame, and each kingdom of Christendom had its tutelar saint. France had three—St. Martin of Tours, St. Reine, St. Denys; Spain had the Apostle James, St. Jago of Compostella; Germany had Boniface; Scotland had St. Andrew; Ireland had St. Patrick; and England had St. George. Every city, town, or village also usually had its own saint. Female prophets were called Brides of Christ, and were thought to have constant personal intercourse with the saints, the Virgin, and our Lord Himself, like St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Bridget of Sweden. In later days Christian charity had its saints, as Vincent de Paul, St. Teresa, and St. Francis de Sales. Every one of the saints had his life of wonder, the legend of his virtues, his miracles, perhaps his martyrdom, his shrines, his reliques. The legend was the dominant universal poetry of the times. And the legend was perpetually confirmed, illustrated, and kept alive by reliques, shown either in the church or under the altar or upon the altar. It was a pious enterprise even to steal reliques. Clotaire II. cut off and stole an arm of St. Denys. The head of St. Andrew was once carried away by a king in his flight; kings vied for the purchase, and vast sums were offered for it.

 

ST. GENEVIÈVE, PATRON SAINT OF PARIS AND FRANCE (A.D. 430).

About 430, as St. Germanus and St. Lupus were on their way to England to refute the Pelagian heresy, they stayed one night at Nanterre, a village near Paris. The villagers went in a crowd to look at these renowned saints, and a little girl in the crowd attracted the notice of Germanus, who called her to him, asked her name and all about her, and ended by bidding her parents to rejoice in the sanctity of their daughter. He then addressed little Geneviève on the exalted condition of perpetual virginity, and appointed a service in the church that he might consecrate her at once to that holy life. The service was performed, and the saint gave her at parting a brass coin, shaped like a cross, which he told her to wear as her only ornament, and leave silver and precious stones for the children of this world. From that day miraculous[Pg 180] gifts descended on the child, who excelled all others. She once had a trance, in which she was led by an angel to survey the dwellings of the just, and the rewards of the spiritual life. She also received the gift of divining people’s thoughts. She soon became marked out, and, like other holy people, excited envy for the powers she possessed. When the Huns invaded Paris, the terrified citizens were told by her to take courage, and she assembled the matrons that they might seek deliverance by prayer and fasting; and the deliverance came, for the Huns were diverted through the efficacy of her prayers from Paris. She had great powers of abstinence, and from her fifteenth to her fiftieth year she ate only twice a week, and that was bread of barley or beans; and after fifty a little fish and milk were added to her diet. Every Saturday night she kept a vigil in the church of St. Denys, and then retired to her cell, where she was as much visited by crowds as a saint on his pillar. After she was dead her relics were eagerly sought after by rival Churches, and these stayed the horrors of plague and famine and flood wherever they were taken. All Paris believed in her as the patron saint.

 

EXCESSIVE REVERENCE FOR RELICS (A.D. 406).

The extravagant veneration paid to the martyrs roused great opposition in the fifth century, and the presbyter Vigilantius of Barcelona wrote a tract censuring these ashes-worshippers and idolaters. He represented it as supremely ridiculous to manifest this adoration of a miserable heap of ashes and wretched bones, and covering these with costly drapery and kissing them. He also complained that the practice of placing lighted lamps before the martyrs was only an imitation of the Pagan practice before the images of their gods. Why should they think it a merit to place miserable wax candles before the effigies of those on whom the Lamb in the midst of God’s throne reflected all the brightness of His majesty? He also thought the practice of nocturnal assemblies, held by both sexes in the churches of the martyrs, was a temptation to misconduct. And he even questioned the reliance placed in the intercessions of the martyrs. Jerome, on the other hand, defended most of these practices. His answer was, that if the Apostles and martyrs in their earthly life, before they were out of the conflict, were able to pray effectually for others, how much more could they do so after they had obtained the victory! The worship of the Virgin Mary was thought to be mainly due to the ascetic spirit brooding over the cradle of Christianity.

 [Pg 181]

GREAT SECRECY IN REMOVING RELICS.

The acquisition and preservation of relics by the monks may be said to absorb all their zeal. It was decreed once that the body of St. John of the Cross should be secretly removed from Ubede to Segovia, and an officer of the Court arrived by night at the monastery, and having desired an audience of the father prior on a matter of the greatest consequence, he intimated to him the order of which he was the bearer. The order enjoined the prior, on pain of excommunication, to take up the body secretly, without apprising any one of what was to be done. This was an unexpected blow to the prior; but he took precautions, and when every one in the monastery was asleep, he went down into the grave accompanied by the officer and two monks bound to secrecy. They opened the grave; but lo! the saint being dead a year, the body was still perfect and the flesh undecayed. As the bones only were demanded, the object could not be effected, but quicklime was laid in the grave, and the officer departed and returned in nine months. The same precautions being adopted and the grave opened, the body was still perfect; but being dried by the lime, it was put in a leather case and committed to the messenger. The men left at about midnight, and strange visions were seen the same hour. One monk awoke greatly perturbed and went down to the church; but finding the prior standing at the door, who refused to allow any one to enter, the uneasy and curious monk was ordered to return to his bed without receiving any explanation. The officer meanwhile bearing the body, declared that after leaving Ubede and passing some desert mountains, he heard awful voices in the air which were not human, and which greatly disturbed him.

 

RIVAL MONKS CAPTURING HOLY RELICS (A.D. 1030).

Bishop Etheric of Dorchester, who died in 1038, having ascertained that the remains of St. Felix, formerly Bishop of East Angles, were lying neglected, obtained leave from King Canute to have these taken charge of, and privately informed the monks of Ramsey of the inexhaustible treasure which they might secure to themselves by getting the possession. On receiving this message Alfwin, the prior, and a number of his monks proceeded by water to the place pointed out, and being armed with the authority of the king and bishop, they overmastered all opposition, and placed on board their boat the holy ashes and the bones of St. Felix, and with psalms of joy steered their way back to Ramsey.[Pg 182] No sooner, however, did the monks of Ely hear of what was on foot, than they became desirous of possessing so great a treasure themselves, and therefore they hurried on board their ships with a strong body of armed persons, resolved by their superior numbers to capture the relics. An event, however, occurred which was evidently not the work of human hands, but was the dispensation of the Divine will, for at the very moment when the vessels came in sight of each other a dense mist arose, which blinded the Ely crew, and yet allowed the Ramsey boat to steer right on to its destination. Whether this can be viewed as a miracle or not, still the fact is handed down by tradition that the relics of St. Felix were successfully removed to the church of Ramsey, where they were with due honour enshrined, and where that holy saint for ages bestowed benefits on those who sought his prayers.

 

A MONK JUDICIOUSLY STEALING RELICS (A.D. 1090).

About the year 1090, says Orderic, one Stephen, the chanter of the monastery of Venosa in the city of Angers, went to Apulia, with the express sanction of the Lord Natalis, his abbot, divested himself of the monastic habit, and lived as a clerk at Bari, where he became familiar with the sacristans of the church. At length, watching his opportunity, he secretly purloined an arm of St. Nicholas, which, set in silver, was kept outside the shrine for the purpose of giving the benediction to the people. He then attempted to withdraw into France, that he might enrich his own monastery with the precious treasure. The people of Bari, however, soon discovered their loss, and guarded all the avenues to prevent the thief’s escape. Nevertheless, Stephen reached Venosa safely, where he passed the winter in great alarm, trying to conceal himself. He then fell into great poverty, and was compelled to detach the silver from the holy relic and apply it for his support. Meanwhile, the noise of the robbery of the arm of St. Nicholas spread through the whole of Italy and Sicily, and at last some one recognised the silver covering. The monks heard of this, and Erembert, an active monk, suddenly presented himself and demanded from the sick man with great vehemence the arm of St. Nicholas. The sick man, perceiving he was detected, and not knowing where to turn, pale and trembling, produced the precious relic. The resolute monk joyfully seized it, and carried it to the abbey of the Holy Trinity, the other monks and citizens returning thanks to God to this day. St. Nicholas there miraculously succoured all who implored his aid.

 [Pg 183]

A CATHOLIC DEFENDING HIS RELICS.

Sir Thomas More, contemporary of Luther, says: “Luther wisheth in a sermon of his that he had in his hand all the pieces of the holy cross, and saith that, if he so had, he would throw them there as never sun should shine on them. And for what worshipful reason would the wretch do such villainy to the cross of Christ? Because, as he saith, that there is so much gold now bestowed about the garnishing of the pieces of the cross that there is none left for poor folk. Is not this an high reason? As though all the gold that is now bestowed about the pieces of the holy cross would not have failed to have been given to poor men, if they had not been bestowed about the garnishing of the cross. And as though there were nothing but that is bestowed about Christ’s cross! How small a portion, ween we, were the gold about all the pieces of Christ’s cross, if it were compared with the gold that is quite cast away about the gilting of knives, swords, spurs, arras, and painted cloths; and (as though these things could not consume gold fast enough) the gilding of posts and whole roofs, not only in the palaces of princes and great prelates, but also many righteous men’s houses. And yet among all these things could Luther spy no gold that grievously glittered in his bleared eyes, but only about the cross of Christ!”

 

FORGERY OF SAINTS’ RELICS.

Fuller, in his “Church History,” observes as follows: “The pretended causes of miracles are generally reducible to these two heads: (1) Saints’ relics; (2) saints’ images. How much forgery there is in the first of these is generally known, so many pieces being pretended of Christ’s cross as would load a great ship. But amongst all of them commend me to the cross at the priory of Benedictines at Bromehead in Norfolk, the legend whereof deserveth to be inserted. Queen Helen, they say, finding the cross of Christ at Jerusalem, divided it into nine parts, according to the nine orders of angels. Of one of these (most besprinkled with Christ’s blood) she made a little cross, and, putting it into a box adorned with precious stones, bestowed it on Constantine her son. This relic was kept by his successors until Baldwin, Emperor of Greece, fortunate so long as he carried it about him, but slain in fight when forgetting the same: after whose death Hugh, his chaplain, born in Norfolk, and who constantly said prayers before the cross, stole it away box and all, brought it into England, and bestowed it on Brome Holme in Norfolk. It seems there is no[Pg 184] felony in such wares, but ‘catch who catch may’; yea, such sacrilege is supererogation. By this cross thirty-nine dead men are said to be raised to life, and nineteen blind men restored to their sight. It seems such merchants trade much in odd numbers, which best fasteneth the fancies of folk; whilst the smoothness of even numbers makes them slip the sooner out of men’s memories. Chemnitius affirmeth from the mouth of a grave author that the teeth of St. Apollonia being conceived effectual to cure the toothache in the reign of Edward VI. (when many ignorant people in England relied on that receipt to carry one of her teeth about them), the King gave command in extirpation of superstition that all her teeth should be brought in to a public officer deputed for that purpose; and they filled a tun therewith. Were her stomach proportionable to her teeth, a county could scarcely afford her a meal’s meat. The English nuns at Lisbon do pretend that they have both the arms of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury; and yet Pope Paul III., in a public Bull set down by Sanders, doth pitifully complain of the cruelty of King Henry VIII. for causing the bones of Becket to be burned and the ashes scattered to the wind, the solemnity whereof is recorded in our chronicles. And how his arms could escape that bonfire is to me incredible!”

 

HOW TO FLATTER A RELIC WORSHIPPER.

The belief in the efficacy of saints’ relics to work miracles was so general in the ninth century that at last monks and bishops aspired also in their own lifetime to imitate this wonder-working power. A monk who was credited in his lifetime as a miracle worker begged that his brethren would not bury his body in the cloister, for that after his death the crowds of people coming to be cured of their diseases there would be too troublesome to them all. Another monk of St. Gall, being anxious to ingratiate himself with his bishop and the lord of the manor, bethought himself of the following expedient: He one day entrapped a fox without injuring it, and then carried it as a present to Bishop Recko. The bishop, after admiring the creature, expressed his wonder how the monk could have caught it without doing it any injury, whereupon the monk replied, “Oh, I can explain that. When I saw the fox in full chase, I cried out to it, ‘In the name of Lord Recko, stop and be still!’ The fox at once on hearing the name stood stockstill till I seized him, and I thought it due to your lordship to bring it as an offering.” The bishop was so pleased at this efficacious appliance of his own reputation for sanctity[Pg 185] that he became a warm patron thenceforth of the artful ways of relic hunters.

 

AN EMPRESS BEGGING FOR RELICS.

The Empress Constantina asked of St. Gregory the head of St. Paul or some part of his body to put in the church which they were building at Constantinople in honour of that apostle. Gregory sent this answer: “You ask of me what I dare not and cannot do. For the bodies of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul are so formidable by their miracles that none can approach them, even to pray, without being seized with great terror. My predecessor, having attempted to change a silver ornament which was over the body of St. Peter, though at the distance of fifteen feet, had a frightful vision. I myself wanted to repair something near the body of St. Paul, and we were obliged to dig near the sepulchre. The superior of the place found some bones which yet did not touch the sepulchre, and moved them to another place. After having seen a terrible apparition he died suddenly. So when some monks assisted in repairs near the body of St. Lawrence, though they did not touch the body, they died within ten days. Know then, madam, that when the Romans give any relics of saints they never touch the bodies; they only put in a box a piece of linen, which they place near the holy body. Then it is withdrawn and shut up in the church which is to be dedicated, and then as many miracles are wrought by it as if the body itself were there. In the time of St. Leo some Greeks doubting of the value of such relics, he called for a pair of scissors and cut the linen, and blood issued out, as our ancestors assure us. But not to frustrate your pious desire, I will send you some portion of the chains which St. Paul wore, and which work many miracles, if, however, I be able to file off any. These filings are often begged. And the bishop applies the file; and sometimes he immediately gets the filings; at other times he labours in vain.”

 

HOW TO DECIDE ON GENUINE RELICS (A.D. 844).

In 844 two pretended monks brought to the church of St. Cenignus at Dijon a parcel of bones, which they said were the relics of some saint brought from Italy. The bishop did not wish to acknowledge nor yet to despise them, but desired the monks to get testimonials. One monk went away in quest of a certificate, but never returned; the other monk died. Meanwhile, it was reported that the bones worked miracles; for a woman fell down suddenly in church, as if tormented, and yet with no visible cause[Pg 186] for her ailment. A rumour then arose, and crowds flocked to the church of all ages and refused to leave. The bishop then consulted the archbishop as to what should be done. The archbishop said that, as there was no certainty, the bones should be removed secretly in presence of witnesses and buried. He said that the bones might have been brought by beggarly knaves only to gratify their avarice, and cause pretended miracles to give them an appearance of sanctity. It was not uncommon for knaves to encourage these abuses, that they might share in the profit and fill their bellies and their purses. He himself had seen in his own diocese persons brought to him who said that they were possessed, but by the exorcism of a few bastinadoes properly applied confessed the imposture, and declared that poverty had led them into it. He advised the bishop to exhort the people to stay quietly each in his own parish; and that when the alms and oblations should be cut off, the rabble would quietly disperse, the illusion would cease, and all would be quiet.

 

THE CROWN OF THORNS PAWNED AND SOLD (A.D. 1240).

When Baldwin II. was Emperor of Constantinople, the crown of thorns was pawned, as narrated ante, p. 19. Another chronicler gives the following account of that interesting event: In the absence of the Emperor the barons of Romania borrowed money upon the security of this precious relic; and as they could not redeem it, a rich Venetian, Nicholas Querini, undertook to satisfy the creditors on the condition that the relic should be lodged at Venice. The barons informed the Emperor of this bargain; but Baldwin was anxious to snatch the prize from the Venetians, and to vest it with more honour and emolument in the hands of St. Louis, King of France. The King sent two ambassadors to Venice to negotiate for the redemption of the holy crown. The crown was enclosed in a golden vase, and was duly forwarded to Troyes in Champagne, where the Court of France were ready to welcome the inestimable relic. The King made a free gift of ten thousand marks of silver to Baldwin, who was so pleased that he was encouraged to offer the remaining furniture of his chapel, and for twenty thousand marks more the King acquired a large portion of the true cross; the baby linen of the Son of God; the lance, the sponge, and the chain of the Passion; and part of the skull of St. John the Baptist.

 

THE CROWN OF THORNS BROUGHT TO FRANCE (A.D. 1240).

Matthew Paris’s account is this: In 1240 France exulted in[Pg 187] repeated favours of our Lord Jesus Christ, for besides being rewarded with the body of the Confessor Edmund, who had removed himself from England, it was rejoiced by obtaining our Lord’s crown of thorns from Constantinople. Baldwin, Emperor of Constantinople, had sent word that if the French King would give him effectual pecuniary assistance, he, the Emperor, would, in consideration of his old ties of friendship, give him the veritable crown of our Lord, which the Jews had woven and placed on His head when about to suffer on the cross for the redemption of the human race. The French King, by the advice of his council, willingly agreed to this, and, with his mother’s concurrence, liberally sent a large sum of money to the Emperor, whose treasury had been exhausted by continual wars, and this supply inspired the said Baldwin with confident hopes of obtaining a victory over the Greeks. In return for this great benefit obtained from the King, the Emperor, according to promise, faithfully sent to him the crown of Christ, precious beyond gold or topaz. It was therefore solemnly and devoutly received, to the credit of the French kingdom, and indeed of all the Latins, in grand procession, amidst the ringing of bells and the devout prayers of the faithful followers of Christ, and was placed with due respect in the King’s Chapel at Paris.

 

THE KING OF FRANCE SHOWS THE HOLY CROSS (A.D. 1241).

Matthew Paris says that in 1241 the French King and his mother, Blanche, gave a large sum of money to the Saracens, in order to obtain possession of the holy cross of our Lord. The cross had at first been bought by the Venetians, then pawned by Baldwin, and at last was sold to the French King. This cross, on reaching Paris, was placed in a carriage, in which sat the King, his mother, his wife, and brothers, in presence of the archbishops and nobles, and a countless host of people who were awaiting the glorious sight with great joy of heart. After all had worshipped it with due reverence and devotion, the King himself, barefooted, ungirt, and with head bare, and after a fast of three days, carried it in wool to the cathedral church of the Blessed Virgin at Paris. The two queens also followed on foot. They also carried the crown of thorns, which the Divine mercy had given to France the year before, and raising it on high on a similar carriage, presented it to the gaze of the people. When they arrived at the cathedral church, all the bells in the city were set ringing; and after special prayers had been solemnly read, the King returned to his palace, carrying his cross, his brothers carrying the crown,[Pg 188] and the priests following in a regular procession—a sight more solemn or more joyful than which the kingdom of France had never seen. The King ordered a chapel of handsome structure, suitable for the reception of the said treasure, to be built near his palace, and in it he afterwards placed the said relics with due honour. Besides these, there were in the same beautiful chapel the garment belonging to Christ, the lance—that is to say, the iron head of the lance—the sponge, and other relics besides.

 

THE BLOOD OF CHRIST AT WESTMINSTER (A.D. 1247).

Matthew of Westminster says that about the year 1247 the blood of Christ, which was preserved in the Holy Land as a most precious treasure, was sent and presented to the lord the King of England (Henry III.) by a certain brother of the Hospital, who also sent the treasure written by the lord the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the masters of the body of knights of the Temple and Hospital, who all with unanimous goodwill and prompt devotion sent and gave and presented this treasure to the lord the King; and he consigned it to his own special house in the church of St. Peter, at Westminster, on the day of the translation of St. Edward, giving it to that church out of his own spontaneous magnificence and liberality. He also on the same day obtained from the bishops who were then present an indulgence of six years and one hundred and sixteen days for all those who came to worship the holy relics and the presence of the Lord. And about the year 1249 the preaching brothers brought a stone of white marble, which ever since the time of Christ had borne the print of the Saviour in the Holy Land; and the inhabitants of the Holy Land asserted that that impression was the print of the footstep of Christ when He was ascending into heaven. And the aforesaid lord the King gave it as a noble present to the church of Westminster, as he had, a little while before, given it the blood of Christ.

 

THE DISCOVERY OF ST. STEPHEN’S RELICS (A.D. 415).

Though Stephen was the first martyr, nobody knew for near four hundred years where his body was buried, except that it was at Caphargamala or borough of Gamaliel, twenty miles from Jerusalem. Lucian, the priest of that place, in 415 was one night asleep or half awake, when suddenly a comely old man, of venerable garb and long white beard, with a golden wand, entered the baptistery and told Lucian to go to Jerusalem and ask Bishop John to come and open the tomb where lay Stephen, who was stoned by the Jews, and whose body was exposed to wild beasts; but they would[Pg 189] not touch it. Whereupon the body was taken away by Gamaliel and buried in a particular spot near the body of Nicodemus. Lucian asked who this venerable messenger was, and the answer was, “I am Gamaliel, who instructed Paul.” The vision appeared several times to Lucian, as well as others, giving further particulars. The search was afterwards made, and three coffins found, one of which was Stephen’s, at the opening of which the earth shook and an agreeable odour issued. Many miracles were wrought by these relics, and they were carried amid singing of psalms and hymns to the church of Sion at Jerusalem. Portions of the relics were carried to Spain by Orosius, and there caused many sudden conversions. Some also were given to St. Austin for his church of Hippo. In 444 the Empress Eudocia built a stately church about a furlong from Jerusalem, where Stephen’s relics were translated, the site being supposed to be that where he was stoned to death.

 

THE RELICS OF ST. DUNSTAN AT GLASTONBURY (A.D. 1184).

As Dunstan, who died 988, was a most domineering and imperious monk in his day, and stood up for his order, his bones were sacred. When Glastonbury Abbey, after a great fire in 1184, was rebuilt, there was a great stirring up of relics which were placed in shrines. Amongst others the St. Dunstan relics gave rise to a quarrel between the monks of Glastonbury and those of Canterbury, which lasted some four centuries. There was an old monk at Glastonbury, named John Canan, who was believed to be the sole depositary of the secret of Dunstan’s burying-place, and a boy named John Waterleighe was employed to get at the secret. The old monk, in circuitous phrase, told the boy at last that the place was near the door where the holy water was sprinkled, and this was divulged, and the other monks lifted a stone and found a wooden chest plated with iron. The prior and all the convent assembled to see it opened, and they found some of the bones of Dunstan and a ring, in one half of which was a picture curiously worked. There was a crown and the word sanctus under it, so that they all were confident these were the right relics. The relics were accordingly solemnly placed in a shrine covered with gold and silver. When the monks of Canterbury heard of this they were profoundly agitated, for they drew pilgrims chiefly under the belief that their own abbey had the better part of the saint. The rival monks wrote furious letters against each other; and intrigues continued at Canterbury with varying success till the time of the Reformation.

 [Pg 190]

JOHN HUSS ON RELICS (A.D. 1401).

John Huss, born 1369, became a stirring preacher, and was appointed in 1401 to officiate at the chapel of Bethlehem, where poor people chiefly attended. The archbishop of that time was anxious to check some of the current superstitions, and used Huss as a means to that end. One matter caused great wonder. A knight had destroyed a church some years before, but left a stone altar standing. In one of the cavities were found three wafers coloured red, as if with blood. Though such a colour is naturally produced in bread and similar substances long exposed to moisture, there being a fungus gradually formed, which under the microscope is easily seen, but to the naked eye having a close resemblance to blood, the ignorant multitude at once accepted this as a miracle, symbolical of the blood of Christ; and extraordinary excitement grew up, and pilgrimages were made from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Poland, and Bohemia, in order to view it. The monks and clergy encouraged the wonder. The archbishop, shocked by such a scandal, appointed a committee of three, one of whom was Huss, to examine and report. Huss drew up a report reflecting on this and many similar relics as entire delusions, and hinting that they were put forward merely by greedy ecclesiastics for base purposes. He reviewed the history of these impostures, and also exposed another fraud, about a silver hand hung up by a citizen of Prague in a church, and which was long believed to be in testimony of a lame hand of the donor being miraculously cured, though there had been really no cure, as hundreds could attest.

 

POWER OF THE CRUCIFIX DURING THE PLAGUE (A.D. 1649).

The extent to which images and their makers have produced effects on excitable crowds was shown during the plague of Malaga in 1649. A certain statue of Christ at the column carved for the cathedral by Giuseppe Micael, an Italian, performed prodigies of healing, and bade fair to rival that holy crucifix sculptured at Jerusalem by Nicodemus, and possessed by the Capuchins of Burgos, which sweated on Fridays and wrought miracles all the week. While the pestilence was yet raging, the sculptor stood one evening musing near the door of the sanctuary where his work was enshrined, but with so sorrowful a countenance that a friend, hailing him from afar, according to the usages of plague-stricken society, inquired the cause of his sadness. “Think you,” said the artist, “that I have anything more to look for on earth[Pg 191] after seeing and hearing the prodigies and marvels of this sovereign image which my unworthy hands have made? It is an old tradition among the masters of our craft that he shall soon die to whom it is given to make a miraculous image.” And Giuseppe erred not in his presentiment; his chisel’s task was done. Within eight days the dead-cart carried him to the gorged cemetery of Malaga. His fame was long preserved by his statue, which obtained the name of the “Lord of Health.”

 

THE POPE PURCHASES THE HEAD OF ST. ANDREW (A.D. 1461).

In 1461 great excitement was caused in Rome by the arrival of Thomas Palæologus, brother of the last Byzantine emperor, who had been driven from Greece, and brought with him from Patras, the supposed place of St. Andrew’s martyrdom, a head of that saint. The Pope (Pius II.), on hearing of this venerable relic, eagerly entered into a treaty and secured it, notwithstanding that many princes were his competitors. The head was brought, with much ceremony, from Ancona, and was met at Narni by Bessarion and other cardinals, and on its arrival in Rome it was received with extraordinary reverence. Invitations were at once sent out by the Pope on the same terms as for a jubilee, and great crowds flocked from all parts. The head was carried to St. Peter’s by a procession attended by thirty thousand torches, while the palaces and houses along the route were hung with tapestry and filled with altars. The weather was exceptionally fine, and the procession filed from the Flaminian gate. The Vatican basilica was splendidly illuminated, and the Pope addressed the holy relic in an eloquent and impressive speech, the delivery of which was interrupted by frequent tears, sobs, and beating of breasts. When the ceremony was concluded, the head of St. Andrew was deposited beside that of St. Peter.

 

PILGRIMAGE TO WALSINGHAM (A.D. 1061).

In 1061 an obscure widow, inhabiting a small village on the wild and tempestuous coast of Norfolk, by erecting a little chapel resembling that at Nazareth, where the Virgin was saluted by the angel Gabriel, was able to impart a renown to that village which extended to all England. Erasmus thus described it in his time: “Not far from the sea, about four miles, there standeth a town living almost on nothing else but upon the resort of pilgrims. There is a college of canons there, supported by their offerings. In the church is a small chapel, but all of wood,[Pg 192] whereunto, on either side, at a narrow and little door, are such admitted as come with their devotions and offerings. Small light there is in it, and none other than by wax tapers, yielding a most dainty and pleasant smell; nay, if you look into it, you would say it is the habitation of heavenly saints, so bright and shining all over with precious stones, with gold and silver.” Camden also mentions that princes have repaired to this chapel, walking thither barefoot.

 

A WINTER PILGRIMAGE IN SWITZERLAND (A.D. 1110).

Abbot Rodolph, about 1110, describes his pilgrimage across the Alps: “We were detained at the foot of Mount Jove (Great St. Bernard), in a village called Restopolis, from which we could neither advance nor retreat, in consequence of the heavy snow. At length the guides conducted us as far as St. Remi, which is on the same mountain, where we found a vast multitude of travellers, and where we were in danger of death from the repeated falls of snow from the rocks. We were detained there till at length the guides said they would lead us, but demanded a heavy price. Their heads and hands were guarded with skins and fur, and their shoes armed with iron nails, to prevent them from slipping on the ice, and they carried long spears in their hands, to feel their way over the snow. It was very early in the morning, and with great fear and trembling the travellers celebrated and received the holy mysteries, as if preparing themselves for death. They contended with each other who should first make his confession; and since one priest did not suffice, they went about the church confessing their sins to each other. While these things were passing within the church with great devotion, there was a lamentable shout heard in the street; for the guides, who had left the town to clear the way, were suddenly buried under a great fall of snow, as if under a mountain. The people ran to save them, and pulled them out—some dead, some but half alive, others with broken limbs. Upon this we all returned to Restopolis, where we passed the Epiphany. Upon the weather clearing, we again set out, and succeeded, happily, in passing the profane Mount of Jove.” St. Aderal of Troyes made twelve pilgrimages to Rome on foot. He passed the Apennines in a season of intense cold barefooted, that he might suffer something for Jesus Christ, and he used to beat the rocks with bare feet.

 

PILGRIMS TO CANTERBURY (A.D. 1179).

In 1179 Louis VII., King of France, in the disguise of a[Pg 193] common pilgrim visited Canterbury as a humble supplicant at the tomb of À Becket, for the restoration of sanity to the Dauphin, a prayer that was instantly complied with. Louis proved his sincerity by offering a rich cup of gold and the famous stone called Regal of France, which Henry VIII. appropriated to his own use for a thumb ring. The great St. Thomas not only attended to the prayers of mankind and restored eyes, limbs, and even life to hundreds; but, to evince his power and exhibit his tenderness to all animated nature, frequently, at the intercession of the monks, restored to life dead birds and beasts. The Pope naturally encouraged these enthusiastic feelings, though it is rather surprising that his holiness Pope Alexander should cause a liturgy to be composed and read, in which our Saviour is supplicated to redeem mankind, not by His holy blood, but by that of the saint. Indeed, to such an extent was the adoration of Becket carried that it nearly absorbed all other devotion. In one year the offerings at the altar of the Deity at Canterbury amounted to £3 2s. 6d.; at the Virgin’s, £63 5s. 6d.; and at Becket’s, £832 12s. 3d. And in another year £954 6s. 3d. was received at Becket’s altar, only £4 1s. 8d. at the Virgin’s, while at that of the Deity the oblation did not amount to one farthing!

 

 


[Pg 194]

CHAPTER VII.

THE FATHERS.

 

ORIGEN, CHAMPION OF ORTHODOXY (A.D. 253).

When a persecution was raging against the Christians about 206, Leonidas and his son Origen were among the suspected. Leonidas was beheaded. Origen, then aged seventeen, was also eager to meet the same fate, and he would have been beheaded also, but his mother privily in the night season conveyed away his clothes and his shirt. Whereupon, more for shame to be seen than for fear to die, he was constrained to remain at home. He was zealous, however, and wrote to his father, telling him not to change for his and his mother’s sake. Then Origen, to assist his mother and six brothers, kept a school, and afterwards was made a bishop. He was a great worker, lived sparingly, and went barefoot. He wrote as much as seven notaries and so many maids could pen every day. The number of his books was six thousand volumes. He encouraged and comforted all the martyrs, and was a redoubted champion of doctrines.

 

ST. AMBROSE, CHAMPION OF HIS ORDER (A.D. 397).

St. Ambrose, who died 397, was not only the great advocate and defender of the order of virginity, but he displayed a high sense of dignity in guarding the purity of his church. He refused to allow the Emperor Marcellus to enter the church because he was stained with the blood of Gratian. He also opposed the Empress Justina in her Arian tendencies. He was also the champion who opposed the orator Symmachus, who pleaded for retaining the old heathen idols in their old places of worship. When the Emperor Theodosius, in the fourth century, had ordered what most people considered a brutal massacre at Thessalonica of seven thousand persons as they were sitting in a circus[Pg 195] to witness a race, and this by way of punishment for a previous riot in the city, all eyes were turned to the Bishop of Milan to avenge this outrage. When the Emperor reached the city some days later, the bishop avoided meeting him, but wrote a letter, in which he said: “So bloody a scene as that at Thessalonica is unheard of in the world’s history. I had warned and entreated you against it. You yourself recognised its atrocity. You endeavoured to recall your decree. And now I call on you to repent.” Soon after, when Ambrose came back to Milan, the Emperor, as usual, presented himself at the hour of service. Ambrose met him in the porch, and thus spoke: “It seems your majesty has not repented of the heinousness of your murder. Your imperial power has darkened your understanding, and stood between you and the recognition of your sin. Consider the dust from which you spring. How can you uplift in prayer the hands which still drip with innocent blood, or receive into such hands the body of the Lord! Depart; add not sin to sin. Find in repentance the means of mercy which can restore you to health of soul.” The Emperor humbled himself. For eight months as a penitent he abstained from presenting himself at Divine service. During the penance Theodosius bitterly complained that the Church of God was opened to slaves and beggars, but to him was closed, and with it the gates of heaven. He tried once to gain admittance, but Ambrose sternly refused until the Emperor promised to show openly his repentance by taking his place in the church among the penitents. The spirit displayed by Ambrose in this episode raised his reputation, and has left an example to all future bishops when contending against absolute power.

 

WHY ST. AMBROSE FELL ASLEEP AT MASS.

St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, died in 397, on the day which he himself had predicted. On that day Severinus, Bishop of Cologne, asked his archdeacon if he heard any sounds in the air. The latter stood erect and listened, and then answered, “I hear voices as of those singing in heaven, but what they may be I know not.” And Severinus was then informed that these were the songs of angels as they carried Martin up to heaven. At that same hour also the blessed Ambrose was celebrating Mass at Milan, and the custom was, that the reader should not begin to read till the bishop nodded to him. And when he would have begun standing before the altar, the blessed Ambrose fell asleep on the altar. Though many saw this, no man presumed to wake him, till after two or three hours had elapsed, when they spoke to him, saying,[Pg 196] “The hour has passed by; let my lord the bishop command the lector to read, for the people are waiting and already are very weary.” And Ambrose bade them not be disturbed, for that his brother Martin had departed from the flesh, and he had just been attending his funeral. And greatly astonished, and noting the day and hour, they afterwards discovered that at that very time the blessed Martin had been buried at Tours, where the whole city and neighbourhood had followed him with hymns and tears to the grave.

 

SOME SAYINGS OF ST. AMBROSE.

It was related that an obstinate heretic who went to hear St. Ambrose preach, only to confute and mock him, beheld an angel visible at his side and prompting the words the saint uttered. On seeing this, the scoffer was self-convicted and became a convert. One day St. Ambrose, calling at the house of a Tuscan nobleman, was hospitably received, and began to inquire into the condition of his host, who replied, “I have never known adversity—every day has seen me increasing in fortune, in honours and possessions; I have a numerous family of sons and daughters, who have never caused me a moment of sorrow; I have a multitude of slaves, to whom my word is law; and I have never suffered either sickness or pain.” On hearing this, Ambrose rose suddenly from the table and said, “Let us make haste to quit this roof ere it fall upon us, for the Lord is not here!” And he had scarcely left the house when an earthquake shook the ground and swallowed up the palace and all its inhabitants. The church, the basilica of St. Ambrogio Maggiore at Milan, is one of the oldest and most interesting in Christendom, and was founded in 387. Though rebuilt and restored at least twice, it still retains the form of the primitive churches, with doors of cypress wood. On the front of the high altar, which is all of plates of gold enamelled with precious stones, are represented in relief scenes from the life of our Saviour.

 

ST. AMBROSE AND THE RELICS OF ST. GERVASIUS.

One of the points which stagger modern Christians about St. Ambrose and St. Augustine is their enthusiastic and apparently genuine belief in saints’ relics. When St. Ambrose was asked to consecrate a new church, and he consented on condition that he should have some new relics to place therein, the relics were soon forthcoming. He professed that he was told in a dream where the relics of Gervasius and another saint were buried. The[Pg 197] bodies were afterwards found in the spot indicated and placed in the new church. Ambrose delivered impassioned and fanciful harangues during the proceedings, claiming for these relics that they had expelled demons and restored sight to a blind butcher named Severus, who merely touched them. Mosheim, Gibbon, and Isaac Taylor treat all this as a mere trick or imposture. But others are not prepared to come to any decision, as next to nothing is known as to the circumstances under which all these events or apparent events happened. The expelling of demons may be explained by some hysterical excitement; and the blindness may have been something more or less temporary. Ambrose, however, apparently had the most unfeigned belief in the miracles, and he related the whole story to his sister Marcellina in a letter which does not savour of knavery. St. Augustine, at a later date, also related similar miracles worked by the same relics, which he vouches to be true.

 

ST. JEROME’S LIFE OF PAUL, THE FIRST HERMIT (A.D. 400).

St. Jerome, in his Life of Paul, the first hermit, says that Paul, when a boy, suspecting his life to be in danger, fled to the wilderness, and found a convenient great cave in which to live. “In this beloved dwelling,” says Jerome, “offered him as it were by God, Paul spent all his life in prayer and solitude, while the palm tree gave him food and clothes; as to which, lest it should seem impossible to some, I call Jesus and His holy angels to witness that I have seen monks, one of whom, shut up for thirty years, lived on barley bread and muddy water; another, in an old cistern, which in the country speech they call the Syrian’s bed, was kept alive on five figs each day. These things therefore will seem incredible to those who do not believe, for to those who do believe all things are possible.” St. Paul the hermit, in his one hundred and thirteenth year, was visited by Antony, who was ninety, Paul being in a dying state in a sequestered cell. Antony was sent on a message, and on his return Paul was found on his knees with hands uplifted as if in prayer, but was quite dead. Antony, according to previous instructions, wished to bury the saint, but had no spade, and sat down to consider how he was to proceed. Forthwith, as Jerome relates, two lions came running from the desert tossing their manes, fearless and innocent as doves. They went straight to the corpse, crouched, wagged their tails and roared, and then began to claw the ground and dig a deep place, large enough to hold a man. When they had finished they came to Antony, dropped their necks, and licked his hands and feet, as[Pg 198] if praying for a blessing. Antony praised God, who taught the dumb animals, and without whose word not a leaf drops nor one sparrow falls to the ground; and then signing with his hand to the lions, they went away peaceably to the desert from which they came.

 

ST. JEROME’S REFLECTIONS ON PAUL THE HERMIT.

St. Jerome, after narrating the life and death of Paul, the first hermit, thus concludes: “I am inclined at the end of my treatise to ask those who know not the extent of their patrimonies, who cover their houses with marbles, who sew the price of whole farms into their garments with a single thread, What was ever wanting to this naked old man? Ye drink from a gem; he satisfied nature from the hollow of his hands. Ye weave gold into your tunics, he had not even the vilest garment of your bondslave. But, on the other hand, to that poor man Paradise is open; you, gilded as you are, Gehenna will receive. He, though naked, kept the garment of Christ; you, clothed in silk, have lost Christ’s robe. Paul lies covered with the meanest dust to rise in glory; you are crushed by wrought sepulchres of stone, to burn with all your works. Spare, I beseech you, yourselves; spare at least the riches which you love. Why do you wrap even your dead in golden vestments? Why does not ambition stop amid grief and tears? Cannot the corpses of the rich decay save in silk? I beseech thee, whosoever thou art that readest this, to remember Jerome the sinner, who, if the Lord gave him choice, would much sooner choose Paul’s tunic with his merits than the purple of kings with their punishments.”

 

ST. JEROME WITH THE LION AND THE ASS.

A legend of St. Jerome, who died 420, relates that one evening as he sat within the gates of his monastery at Bethlehem, a lion entered, limping as in pain, and all the brethren when they saw the beast fled in terror. But Jerome arose, and went forward to meet the lion as though it had been a guest. And the lion lifted up his paw, and Jerome, on examining it, found that it was wounded by a thorn, which he extracted; and he tended the lion till it was healed. The grateful beast remained with his benefactor, and Jerome confided to him the task of guarding the ass, which was employed in bringing firewood from the forest. On one occasion, the lion having gone to sleep while the ass was at pasture, some merchants passing by carried away the ass, and the lion, after searching for him in vain, returned to the monastery[Pg 199] with drooping head as one ashamed. St. Jerome, believing that it had devoured its companion, commanded that the daily task of the ass should be laid upon the lion, and that the faggots should be bound on its back, to which it magnanimously submitted, until the ass should be recovered, which was in this wise. One day, the lion having finished its task, ran hither and thither, still seeking its companion, and it saw a caravan of merchants approaching, and a string of camels, which, according to the Arabian custom, was led by an ass. And when the lion recognised its friend it drove the camels into the convent, and so terrified the merchants that they confessed the theft and received pardon from St. Jerome. Hence the lion is often introduced into the pictures of St. Jerome.

 

THE DEATHBED OF ST. JEROME.

The ancient biographer Peter de Natalibus thus describes the last hours of Jerome: As Jerome’s death drew near, he commanded that he should be laid on the bare ground and covered with sackcloth, and calling the brethren around him, he spoke sweetly to them, and exhorted them in many holy words, and with tears received the blessed Eucharist. And sinking backwards again on the earth, his hands crossed on his heart, he sang the Nunc Dimittis, which being finished, suddenly a great light as of the noonday sun shone round about him, within which light angels innumerable were seen by the bystanders in shifting motion. And the voice of the Saviour was heard inviting him to heaven, and the holy doctor answered that he was ready. And after an hour that light departed, and Jerome’s spirit with it. And at that very hour Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, was sitting in his cell meditating a treatise on the beatific vision, and had begun an epistle to Jerome, consulting him on that mystery, when an ineffable light with a fragrant odour filled his cell, and a voice came to him therefrom, reproving him of presumption for deeming that, while yet in the flesh, he could comprehend the eternal beatitude. And Augustine demanding who spoke to him, the voice answered, “Jerome’s soul, to whom thou writest, for I am this very hour loosed from the flesh, and on my way to heaven.” And after Augustine had asked him many questions concerning the joys of heaven, the angelic nature, and the Blessed Trinity, and Jerome had answered thereto, the light and the voice departed.

 

ST. JEROME’S EPISTLES.

Mr. Roberts, in his “Church Memorials,” speaks of St. Jerome[Pg 200] as follows: The various letters of Jerome to Helvidius, Jovinian Vigilantius, and even to Augustine, leave the fact unquestionable that he was a man of great infirmity of temper, disposed alike to depreciate the merits of others and unduly exalt his own. To the exercise of his vituperative talents it must be owned that we are indebted for some of his most vigorous productions. Few of his corresponding friends were without some experience of the rough discipline of his pen. Ruffinus says he spared none, neither monk nor maiden. Ambrose and Didymus and Chrysostom himself shared his reproaches. Those who submitted to the obligation of celibacy on the ostensible ground of religious abstinence were among the rare objects of his eulogy. He breaks out in his writings into gross and unwarrantable sallies against the matrimonial estate, and exalting above all comparison with it the felicity of virgins. His opinions on this subject appear to have arisen out of the self-sufficiency of his own brain, which led him to consult his own fervid impressions and prejudices rather than the teaching of Divine wisdom. But after making all necessary deductions from the dignity and deserts of Jerome on the score of prejudice and passion, our obligations to him remain very great, not only for his admirable contributions to the stores of sacred learning in all its departments, but for his strenuous and efficacious advocacy of the truth as it is set forth in the oracles of God. Lessons of practical piety and discriminating Christian prudence not seldom flowed from his able pen.

 

ST. CHRYSOSTOM’S ELOQUENCE AS A PREACHER (A.D. 407).

St. Chrysostom became noted for the eloquence of his sermons soon after he was ordained a presbyter in 386. One of his sermons at a time when the people were given to riots ended thus: “When you return home, converse on these subjects with all your house, as some, when returning from the meadows, take home to their families garlands of roses or violets or some such flowers; others branches laden with fruit from the gardens; or the superfluous dainties from costly feasts in like manner. When you depart home, carry admonitions to your wives, your children, your dependants. For these counsels are more profitable to you than flowers, fruit, or feasts. These roses never wither; these fruits never decay; these meats never corrupt. The former impart a transitory pleasure; the latter insure a lasting advantage, an enjoyment both present and to come. Let us thus occupy ourselves instead of the accustomed anxiety with which we trouble to ask each other, ‘Has the Emperor heard of the things that[Pg 201] have happened? Is he incensed? What sentence has he pronounced? Has any one appeased him? Can he persuade himself to utterly destroy so great and populous a city?’ Casting these and the like cares upon God, we shall do well to heed only the observance of His commandments. Thus will all our present sorrows pass away.”

 

ST. CHRYSOSTOM ON THE WEAK POINT OF MONKERY.

Though St. Chrysostom was himself a hermit for six years, he thus, in the height of the mania for monkery, exposed the weakness of that practice in one of his sermons: “Those who forsake the city, the favour and society of men, and cease to instruct others, are apt to excuse themselves by saying that they must not become dead to godliness. How much better were it to become more dead to godliness, and to profit others rather than remain on the heights looking down on their perishing brethren! For how shall we overcome our enemies if the greater part of us have no heed to godliness, and those who have a heed to it withdraw from the order of battle? No deed can be truly great unless it impart benefit to others. This is manifest from the example of him who returned the talent, which he had received, whole, because he had added naught to its value. Wherefore, my brethren, though ye fast, though ye sleep upon the bare ground, though ye strew yourselves with ashes, though ye mourn without ceasing, yet if ye do no good to any one, ye shall have done no great thing, for this was the chief care of those great and holy men who were in the beginning. Examine closely their lives, and ye will see clearly that none of them ever looked to his own interest, but to that of his neighbour. If ye seek not the advantage of your neighbour, ye cannot attain unto salvation.”

 

ST. CHRYSOSTOM ON PEOPLE SPEAKING IN CHURCH.

St. Chrysostom, who died 407, in his homily on the text, “Brethren, be not children in understanding,” thus rebuked the habits of his people in church: “The church itself is a house, or rather worse than any house. For in a house one may see much good order. But here great is the tumult, great the confusion, and our assemblies differ in nothing from a vintner’s shop, so loud is the laughter, so great the disturbance: as in baths, as in markets, the cry and tumult is universal. And these things occur here only: since elsewhere it is not permitted even to address one’s neighbour in the church, not even if one have recognised a long-absent friend; but these things are done without, and very[Pg 202] properly. For the church is no barber’s or perfumer’s shop, nor any other merchant’s warehouse in the market-place, but a place of angels, a place of archangels, a palace of God, heaven itself. As therefore if one had rent the heaven and had brought thee in thither, though thou shouldst see thy father or thy brother, thou wouldst not venture to speak, so neither here ought one to utter any other sound but those which are spiritual. For in truth the things in this place are also a heaven. Here the buffoon who is moving laughter or the giddy woman who collects vast crowds is listened to; but when God is speaking from heaven on subjects so awful, we behave ourselves more shamelessly than dogs.”

 

ST. AUGUSTINE WITNESSING TWO MIRACLES.

St. Augustine in 426 relates two miracles which he himself witnessed. Two persons, Paul and Palladia, brother and sister, natives of Cæsarea, were afflicted with excessive trembling in their limbs. They had visited many places in search of a cure, and at last were directed by a venerable person, who appeared in a vision to Paul, to go to the church at Hippo, where St. Stephen’s relics had been deposited a year before. One Easter Sunday Paul was praying before the relics, when he suddenly fell and lay motionless, as if asleep, but without trembling. The spectators were astonished, and uncertain whether to raise him up or leave him alone. He rose up soon quite healed, whereon the congregation began to praise God and shouted with joy. They ran to another part of the church to tell St. Augustine, who was already beginning the service. He next day made Paul and his sister sit in a raised part of the church, the one healed, the other trembling, and after a general discourse thus concluded: “Now, listen to what we have heard of this miracle. During the stoning of St. Stephen a stone which had struck him on the elbow rebounded on a believer who was present. He took it up and kept it. This man was a sailor, whom chance at last brought to Ancona, and he knew by revelation that he was to leave this stone there. A chapel was erected there to St. Stephen, and a report was spread that one of his elbows was there. It was afterwards understood that the sailor had been inspired to leave this stone in that place because Ancona signifies ‘the elbow’ in Greek. But no miracles were wrought there till after the body of Stephen had been discovered.” St. Augustine was going on with his discourse, recounting other miracles from these relics, when a great shout arose, and the congregation interrupted him, and some brought[Pg 203] before him Palladia, who had just been suddenly healed in the same way as her brother Paul when she went again to pray before the relics. The people were overjoyed, and continued their shouts till Augustine had to pause; and when they were a little silent, he concluded with a thanksgiving.

 

THE VISION OF ST. AUGUSTINE.

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, near Carthage, who died 430, and whose magnificent tomb in the cathedral of Pavia is rich as a work of art, had in the course of his studies, while writing discourses on the Trinity, a dream or vision, which he thus related: “I was wandering along the seashore lost in meditation. Suddenly I beheld a child, who, having dug a hole in the sand, appeared to be bringing water from the sea to fill it. I inquired of the child what was the object of this task, and it replied, ‘I intend to empty into this hole all the waters of the great deep.’ ‘Impossible!’ I exclaimed. ‘Not more impossible,’ replied the child, ‘than for you, O Augustine, to explain the mystery on which you are now meditating.’” This incident is also related of another great preacher (see ante, p. 108). St. Augustine is often in mediæval pictures represented as standing arrayed in his episcopal robes on the seashore, gazing with astonishment on an infant Christ, who holds a bowl, a cup, and a ladle. Murillo has a great picture on this subject. St. Augustine admitted with shame that when a boy he had robbed an orchard, and that the multiplication table was detestable to him.

 

ST. AUGUSTINE’S FAITH IN DREAMS.

St. Augustine’s faith in dreams was illustrated by him in a letter to a friend, who was speculating about future life. He said there was a beloved physician at Carthage named Gennadius, who, though an earnest benefactor of the poor, had doubts about the future life. One night Gennadius dreamt that a noble-looking youth came to him and said, “Follow me.” He followed, and was led to a city in which he heard delicious music of hymns and psalms, and the youth explained that this was the singing of the blessed and the holy. When he awoke and found it was a dream, he attached no importance to it. But on another night the same youth came again, and asked, “Do you remember me?” “Yes,” said Gennadius, “I saw you in my dream, and you took me to hear the songs of the blessed.” “Are you dreaming now?” “Yes.” “Where is your body at this moment?” “In my bed.” [Pg 204]“Your eyes, then, are closed and bound in sleep?” “Yes.” “How is it, then, that you see me?” Gennadius could give no answer, and the angel said, “Just as you see me without the eyes of the flesh, so it will be when all your senses are removed by death. There shall still be life in you and a faculty to perceive. Take care that henceforth you have no doubts about the life to come.” St. Austin adds: “You may say that this was a dream, and any one may think what he likes about it. Nevertheless, there are some dreams which have a Divine significance.”

 

ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (A.D. 444).

A famous champion of orthodoxy was St. Cyril of Alexandria, who flourished in 444. He spent five years of his youth in the monasteries of Nitria, and became an ardent student of theology, and his uncle, the Archbishop Theophilus, recalled him to take office in the church. He soon became a popular preacher, having a comely person and a sonorous voice, and his friends stationed themselves in convenient places in the church to applaud him and bring out all his merits. He soon succeeded to the patriarchate, which gave him civil as well as ecclesiastical powers. He had no patience with heretics, and not only interdicted the Moravians from performing public worship, but confiscated their holy vessels. His virulent rage against the Jews had no bounds, and without warning or authority he led a fanatic mob early one morning and attacked their synagogues and demolished them, rewarded his followers with the plunder, and expelled the ancient people from the city. He insisted on paying the highest honours to a monk who, like an assassin, had wounded the prefect. He also took umbrage at Hypatia, a young and beautiful woman, who taught philosophy, and who was said to take the part of the prefect against Cyril. One day it was said Cyril’s fanatical followers seized this lady, stripped and butchered her, and burnt her body in the church, thereby leaving an indelible stain on his character. He also was indefatigable in persecuting Nestorius, an alleged heretic.

 

SOME NOTIONS OF THE FATHERS.

Some of the notions to which the Fathers clung were these: That Christ would return and reign with the saints in Jerusalem in the flesh for a thousand years; that the angels had bodies and appetites; that Christ’s body was not sensitive to the stripes and torments inflicted; that after death all should pass a fiery[Pg 205] trial before the final judgment day; that God’s Providence was confined only to men as rational creatures, but had nothing to do with the beasts of the field, with bugs and flies and worms; that marriage was in any circumstances a degrading institution, but a second marriage was accursed; that infants which die before baptism cannot be saved; that the baptism of heretics was invalid and null; that an oath was utterly unlawful for Christians to take; that our Saviour lived fifty years, and was not crucified at the age of thirty-three.

 

 


[Pg 206]

CHAPTER VIII.

THE MONKS AND THEIR WAYS.

 

ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF MONACHISM.

As early as the second century men and women began to feel the charm of a peaceful, contemplative life, wholly severed from the selfish, sensual, and brutish ways of large communities. Hence they were attracted to deserts and secluded places, and to seek happiness by living entirely alone. It is thought this turn of religious life was first developed in Egypt. About 378 St. Basil, afterwards Bishop of Cæsarea, introduced monachism into Asia Minor, and thence into the East, and he enjoined poverty, obedience, chastity, and self-mortification as the great objects to be kept in view. A peculiar habit was found to answer best to this kind of life. Both monks and nuns chose plain coarse clothes and girdles. The monks went barelegged, and their hair was more or less shaven. In 529 St. Benedict, an Italian of noble birth, instituted a code of conduct for his monastery on Monte Cassino, a hill between Rome and Naples, and added manual labour for seven hours a day. St. Augustine, the apostle to the Anglo-Saxons, about 596, belonged to the Benedictine order, and so did St. Dunstan, about 930. The habit of the Benedictines consisted of a white woollen cassock, and over that an ample black gown and a black hood. The female houses had also a white under-garment, a black gown and black veil, with a white wimple round the face and neck. The monks of Clugny, in Burgundy, founded in 927, abandoned manual labour and devoted themselves more to contemplative studies. The Clugniacs, the Carthusians, the Cistercians, and the orders of Camaldoli and Grandmont, all sprang from the Benedictine order, each having their own variations. St. Bernard joined the Cistercians in 1113. The Augustinians were a milder order than the Benedictines, and were divided into canons secular[Pg 207] and canons regular. A branch of the Augustinians were the military orders, or Knights of the Temple, who arose about 1118, after the experience of the Crusaders, and devoted themselves to escorting pilgrims to Jerusalem and the holy places.

 

THE MIRACLES AND WORSHIP OF THE MONKS.

Gibbon sums up his account of the monks as follows: “The monastic saints, who excite only the contempt and pity of a philosopher, were respected and almost adored by the prince and people. The Christian world fell prostrate before their shrines, and the miracles ascribed to their relics exceeded at least in number and duration the spiritual exploits of their lives. But the golden legend of their lives was greatly embellished by the artful credulity of their interested brethren; and a believing age was easily persuaded that the slightest caprice of an Egyptian or a Syrian monk had been sufficient to interrupt the eternal laws of the universe. The favourites of Heaven were accustomed to cure inveterate diseases with a touch, a word, or a distant message, and to expel the most obstinate demons from the souls or bodies which they possessed. They familiarly or imperiously commanded the lions and serpents of the desert, infused vegetation into a sapless trunk, suspended iron on the surface of the water, passed the Nile on the back of a crocodile, and refreshed themselves in a fiery furnace. These extravagant tales, which display the fiction without the genius of poetry, have seriously affected the reason, the faith, and the morals of the Christians. Their credulity debased and vitiated the faculties of the mind; they corrupted the evidence of history, and superstition gradually extinguished the hostile light of philosophy and science. Every mode of religious worship which had been practised by the saints, every mysterious doctrine which they believed was fortified by the sanction of Divine revelation, and all the manly virtues, were oppressed by the servile and pusillanimous reign of the monks.”

 

PHILOSOPHY OF MONKERY.

Dr. Johnson said: “I do not wonder that, where the monastic life is permitted, every order finds votaries and every monastery inhabitants. Men will submit to any rule by which they will be exempted from the tyranny of caprice and of chance. They are glad to supply by external authority their own want of constancy and resolution, and court the government of others,[Pg 208] when long experience has convinced them of their own inability to govern themselves.”

 

MOTIVES FOR BECOMING MONKS.

It would be vain to analyse the many modes by which men were induced to become monks. It has been remarked that young men who became monks out of penitence for their sins were most distinguished for zeal. Men of the first rank, struck by the force of momentary impressions or by sudden reverses of fortune, reminded of the uncertainty of worldly goods, the nearness of death, the vanity of earthly glory, would go into solitude as anchorites or enter a monastery. About 1090 Count Ebrard, of Breteuil, a youth of family and fortune, suddenly forsook all his pleasures, and went about earning his bread as an itinerant charcoal burner, and then for the first time found true peace of mind. Another noble youth, named Simon, about the same time was so struck by the transitoriness of wealth on seeing his father’s dead body, that he also became a monk. Many were driven by sickness, poverty, shame, and remorse to do likewise. Those driven into monasteries by the fear of death were said soon to lose their firmness of purpose. Once St. Bernard, when visiting Count Theobald of Champagne, and seeing a crowd following a robber who was about to be executed, begged of the count to give up to him the criminal to be reformed, and Bernard converted him into an exemplary monk, who lived such for thirty years thereafter. Another monk, Bernard, who lived on a desert island near Jersey, made such an impression on a band of pirates, that when afterwards they were on the point of shipwreck and in fear of sudden death, they remembered the good advice of the hermit, and repented, returned, and joined him in holy exercises for the rest of their days. Anselm of Canterbury, when discoursing on the virtues of monks and the temptations of worldly life, said, “It was true that it was not monks only who are saved. Still, it may be asked, Which of the two attains salvation in the most certain and noble way—he who seeks to love God alone, or he who seeks to love God and the world too at the same time? Was it rational, when danger is on every side, to choose to remain where the danger is greatest?”

 

THE WEAK SIDE OF MONACHISM.

Though there were many good points in monachism, the Fathers were not slow to point out its defects. Chrysostom lamented that Christian virtue which ought to dwell in cities had[Pg 209] fled into deserts. Vigilantius observed, “If all Christian men shut themselves up in cloisters and withdrew into deserts, who shall preach the Gospel and call sinners to repentance?” There was one Roman monk named Jovinian, sometimes called a prototype of Luther, and obviously before his time, who was uncompromising in his denunciations of the whole system. “There is,” he said, “one and the same Divine life springing from fellowship with the Redeemer, in which all genuine Christians share, and a higher stage cannot exist.” But in spite of all cavils the system held its ground down to the time of Luther. As Neander remarks: “The more the monks occupied themselves with their temptations, instead of looking from themselves to the Lord, so much the more those temptations increased, many of which they could easily have overcome if they had been willing to forget themselves in an activity of a calling that would have laid under requisition all the powers of their nature; on which account they felt the need of occupying by manual labour, such as basket-making and other handicrafts, the senses and lower powers of their nature.”

 

ST. BENEDICT AT MONTE CASSINO (A.D. 528).

St. Benedict was born in 480, and gave a fresh impetus to monkish communities and devised better laws. After some experience in other places, he selected one of the heights of the Apennines for the great capital of the monastery orders—namely, Monte Cassino. He combined agriculture and woodcutting with exercises of piety, and introduced a more severe system of discipline. Many young nobles flocked to take up their abode. They acted as missionaries and almsmen to the poor. After fourteen years’ presiding over the monastery, he had a last interview with his sister Scholastica, whom he survived forty days. A violent fever seized him, and he ordered his sister’s tomb to be opened for him, and himself to be carried to the chapel of John the Baptist. Then, supported by his disciples, he insisted on standing and receiving the holy viaticum, and extending his arms and uttering his prayers, he died standing like a sentinel at his post. His influence lasted a thousand years; his relics were carefully guarded and taken to France. In the eleventh century one of his bones was sent from France to Monte Cassino, and there received with great enthusiasm.

 

THE REFORMERS OF MONKERY (A.D. 528-1226).

Though Benedict was a great reformer of the monks by introducing[Pg 210] systematic labour into the spiritual life, and though his new order of things began with so fair a promise and had done wonders, yet the monks had by degrees yielded to the treacherous influences of fame, ease, and wealth. The Benedictine monasteries were filled with scholars, whose devotion was directed more to the preservation of classic texts than the performance of the Divine office; with luxurious monks, strangers to fasting and unused to vigils, revelling in the good things of life, and in their rich revenues; then abbots were lords and rulers living in princely state, and riding out on richly caparisoned palfreys. The old humility of the monastic life was lost; they took part in state intrigues, dictated laws to kings, shook the thrones of monarchs who had offended them, and began to aspire after worldly power and dominion. At last St. Francis arose in 1180, the founder of the Friars Minors, who discovered that there was nothing in the world really great and thoroughly satisfactory except poverty and self-humiliation, accompanied with efficient street preaching. St. Dominic also about the same time introduced mendicancy, or the absence of wealth, as part of the system of life. Yet in course of time both these last systems broke down, long before the period of the Reformation.

 

EARLY DIFFICULTIES OF MONASTERIES (A.D. 600).

When the Irish abbot Columban (who died 615) left the monastery of Bangor, where he had been reared, he became at the age of thirty consumed with a zeal to found a monastery of his own; and having obtained his abbot’s permission, he went off with twelve youths to France, and they betook themselves to an immense wilderness in Vosges, and chose the ruins of an old castle as a settlement. As the monks were obliged to till the adjoining land, they at first suffered greatly from hunger. At one time the monks had nothing to eat but the bark of trees and wild herbs; and what made matters worse, one of their number was sick, and the others could do nothing to relieve him. Three days they spent in prayer, seeking relief for their sick brother, when suddenly they saw a man standing at the door of the convent, whose horses were laden with sacks of provisions. The man told them that he had felt an indescribable impulse to go and assist with his means those who from love to Christ endured such privations in the wilderness. Another time they had for nine days suffered similar want, when the heart of another abbot moved him to send provisions. When a foreign priest once visited them and expressed surprise at their cheerfulness amid[Pg 211] such trials, Columban only said, “If people faithfully serve their Creator, they will suffer no want; for in the Psalms it is said, ‘I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.’ He who could satisfy five thousand men with five loaves can easily fill our barns with meal.”

 

ADVICE TO MONKS SETTLING IN A FOREST (A.D. 650).

When the Abbot Ebrolf settled with his monks in the seventh century in a thick forest inhabited by wild beasts and robbers, one of the robbers, struck with awe at the simplicity of the newcomers, said to them, “You have not chosen a suitable place for yourselves. The inhabitants of this forest live by robbery, and can endure nobody near them who seeks to support himself by the labour of his hands. This is no place for you.” The monk answered, “Know, my brother, that the Lord is with us; and since we are under His protection, we fear not the threatenings of men who can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Know that He will supply His servants abundantly with food even in a desert. And thou also, my friend, mayst be a partaker of these riches, if thou wilt renounce thy evil vocation and vow to serve the true and living God. Despair not of God’s goodness on account of the greatness of thy sins, but be assured the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry, and the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” Upon this the robber departed, meditating upon these words, which to him were so extraordinary. The next morning he hastened back to the monks, carrying to the abbot a present, such as his poverty could furnish, of three coarse loaves and a honeycomb, and professing his willingness to join them and become a monk. After his example other robbers were from time to time persuaded either to become monks or to labour honestly for a livelihood with their own hands.

 

A MONK DENOUNCES THE FEROCITY OF LOMBARD KINGS (A.D. 749).

The monk Paul Diaconus was at Court in the time of King Rutchis (A.D. 744-749), and relates having himself seen that king after a banquet show the famous goblet which Albuin had made of the skull of Cummund, King of the Gepidi. As is known, Albuin had killed King Cummund in battle, and afterwards married his daughter Rosamund, and used on solemn occasions to drink out of his skull, which had been made into a cup. One day Albuin commanded that the goblet should be handed to the Queen,[Pg 212] calling upon her to drink gaily with her father. This horrible outrage was at a later time cruelly avenged by Rosamund. Paul Diaconus, on seeing the goblet and remembering this brutal act of a former king, made this entry in his memoirs: “Lest this should seem incredible to any, take note that I speak the truth in Christ, for indeed I saw on a certain feast day King Rutchis holding this cup in his hand and showing it to his guests.”

 

ANOTHER BENEDICT TRIES TO MAKE THE MONKS WORK (A.D. 780).

Amid the growing demoralisation of monasteries, Benedict of Aniane, whose original name was Witïza, when a boy, was cup-bearer in the Court of Pepin, and continued with Charlemagne. In returning from Rome in 774, in the retinue of that king, he narrowly escaped drowning in attempting to save his brother. This turned his thoughts towards joining a monastery, which he soon entered, and at once excelled in all the austerities. He macerated his body by excessive fasting, clothed himself with rags, which soon swarmed with vermin, slept little and on the bare ground, never bathed, courted derision and insult like a madman, and expressed his fear of hell in loud outcries. On the death of his abbot Benedict became his successor, and built a little hermitage on the bank of the river Aniane. Some monks tried to live with him, but found the regimen too severe; others succeeded better. He and his monks resolved to build a monastery between them. They had no oxen to drag the materials, and they did the work themselves. The walls were of wood, the roof thatched with straw, the vestments were coarse, the vessels of wood, but all of their own making. They lived chiefly on bread and water, sometimes a little milk, and on Sundays a scanty allowance of wine. Yet it was noticed that they soon tended to greater luxury and splendour, for in 782 the wooden monastery was replaced by one more solid—marble and decorations and costly vessels. Charlemagne himself contributed, and exempted the building from all taxes; and he appointed Benedict and two others to collect and recast the rules of monasteries and nunneries. Benedict to the last helped to plough and dig and reap, and died in 821, aged seventy.

 

IMPROVEMENTS IN MONASTICISM (A.D. 780).

When Benedict, Abbot of Aniane, in Languedoc, born in 750, left the Court in early life, disgusted with its ways and bent on monastic labours, thought of founding a new monastery, he found[Pg 213] the system then in vogue far too lax. He taught his monks to accustom themselves to earn a living by their own industry, and then do the utmost good with their earnings. When starving crowds came to his new settlement, he taught them to join in storing all the grain that could be spared till next harvest, and each made his portion support himself and supply a surplus, as a boon to the needy ones outside. The monastery was also turned into an industrial centre for library work. Louis the Pious thought so well of these improvements in discipline, that he drew up a code in 817 on the same principles, and circulated it throughout the Frankish Empire. Benedict used to say, “If it seem to you impossible to observe many of the commandments, then try only this one little commandment: ‘Depart from evil and learn to do good.’”

 

A MONK AT COURT WRITES HOME TO HIS OLD CONVENT (A.D. 750).

Paul Diaconus was for some time a monk at Monte Cassino, on the banks of the Moselle, and was sent to the Court of Charlemagne to use influence to obtain a pardon for his brother, then in banishment. The King treated him well, and Paul thus wrote to Theodomar, the abbot: “Although my body is separated by a vast distance, yet my affection for you can never suffer any diminution, nor can I hope to express in a letter, and within the brief limit of these lines, how constantly and profoundly I am moved by the thought of your affection and that of my elders and brethren. For when I consider the leisure, filled with sacred occupations, the delectable refuge of my dwelling, your pious and holy dispositions—when I think of the holy band of so many soldiers of Christ, zealous in all Divine offices, and the shining examples of special excellence in particular brethren, and the sweet converse we had on the perfections of our celestial home—I tremble, I gaze, I languish, I cannot restrain my tears, and my breast is rent with many sighs. I am living amongst Catholics and followers of Christian worship. I am well received. All show me abundant kindness for the love of our Father Benedict and for the sake of your own merits. But compared to your convent, this palace is a prison in contrast to the great serenity of your life; my life here seems only a continual storm. I am only detained in this country by the weakness of my body, but my whole soul goes out to you. Now I seem to be in the midst of your Divine songs, now to be sitting with you in the refectory, where the reading is even more satisfying than the bodily food. Now, methinks, I am watching each at his own special work, now[Pg 214] inquiring into the health of the aged and sick, now wearing with my feet the tombs of the saints, who are dear to me as heaven itself.”

 

THE MONKS FIRST DRINKING WINE IN ENGLAND (A.D. 760).

Fuller, in his “Church History,” says that about 760 the bill of fare of monks was bettered generally in England, and more liberally indulged in their diet. It was first occasioned when Ceolwolphus, formerly King of Northumberland, but then a monk in the convent of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, gave leave to that convent to drink ale and wine, anciently confined by Aidan, their first founder, to milk and water. Let others dispute whether Ceolwolphus thus dispensed with them by his new abbatical or old regal power, which he so resigned that in some cases he might resume it, especially to be king in his own convent. And indeed the cold, raw, and bleak situation of that place, with many bitter blasts from the sea and no shelter on the land, speaks itself to each inhabitant there. This local privilege, first justly indulged to the monks of Lindisfarne, was about this time extended to all the monasteries in England, whose primitive over-austerity in abstinence was turned now into a self-sufficiency that soon improved into plenty, that quickly depraved into riot, and that at last occasioned their ruin.

 

CHARLEMAGNE HAS HIS DOUBTS ABOUT MONKERY (A.D. 800).

The monasteries were growing rich in the time of Charlemagne, and he saw many weak points in the system. He thought many made false professions of withdrawing from the world and entering as monks merely to escape military service. He therefore made an order in 805 that those who forsake the world shall be obliged to live strictly as canons or monks according to rule. In 811 the King censured the abbots as caring only to swell the number of their monks, and to obtain good chanters and readers without caring about their morals. He asked sarcastically how the monks and clergy understood the text against entangling themselves with worldly affairs: whether those could be said to have forsaken the world who were incessantly striving to increase their possessions by all sorts of means—who used the hopes of heaven and the terrors of hell, the names of God and the saints, to extort gifts not only from the rich, but from the poor and ignorant, and by diverting property from the lawful heirs drive these to theft and robbery. “How,” asked the King, “can they be said to have forsaken the world who suborn perjury in order to acquire what they[Pg 215] covet, who keep what secular property they can get and surround themselves with bands of armed men?” In that age abbots as well as bishops were addicted to war, as well as hunting and hawking, to games of chance, and to the society of minstrels and jesters. Gross immorality was winked at among the recluses of both sexes. That state of things led to the appearance of St. Benedict, a renowned reformer of monkish life (ante, p. 212).

 

LEAVING CHARLEMAGNE’S COURT TO BE MONK (A.D. 801).

Duke William had well served Charlemagne and often routed the infidels, but at last in 801 he resolved to retire from the world and be a monk in a desert in the Cevennes. But he must first obtain the consent of his King, and in seeking an interview he began: “My lord, you know how I have loved you more than my life and the light of day. I have followed you in the field and been always ready to lay down my life for you. Now I ask leave to become a soldier of the Eternal King. I have long vowed to retire to a monastery and renounce the world.” At these words Charlemagne’s eyes overflowed with tears, and he said, “My Lord William, these are hard and bitter words, which have wounded my heart; nevertheless, since it is devout and reasonable, I will not oppose. If you had preferred the service of any other mortal king, I might have felt it an injustice; but as you wish to be a soldier of the King of angels, I consent. Only you must take with you some gift as a token and memorial of our friendship.” With these words the King fell on his neck and wept bitter tears. William thereafter returned to Aquitaine; and visiting the monastery of St. Julian, at Brives, he deposited his arms as an offering to God. His buckler was long shown there as a priceless possession, and its gigantic form and strength long attracted all eyes. William then took the humble habit, and entered the monastery of Gelon, comporting himself as the lowliest of the brethren. He might be seen at harvest among the reapers, mounted on an ass, carrying a vessel of wine, from which he refreshed each reaper. Thus he who had so often given battle to the Saracens, and won renown among the warriors of his age, gave himself up entirely to humble occupations and works of charity.

 

A MONK GOING TO LIVE AT COURT (A.D. 801).

When Alcuin, a monk, who died in 804, was called to the Court of Charlemagne, he gave vent to his feelings thus: “O my cell, sweet and well-beloved home, adieu for ever! I shall see no more[Pg 216] the woods that surround thee with their interlacing branches and flowery verdure, nor thy fields full of wholesome and aromatic herbs, nor thy streams of fish, nor thy orchards, nor thy gardens where the lily mingles with the rose. I shall hear no more those birds, who, like ourselves, sing matins and celebrate their Creator in their own fashion; nor those instructions of sweet and holy wisdom, which sound in the same breath as the praises of the Most High, from lips and hearts always serene. Dear cell! I shall weep and mourn for thee always. But thus it is: everything changes and passes away; night succeeds to day, winter to summer, storm to sunshine, weary age to ardent youth. And we—unhappy that we are!—we cling to this fugitive world. It is Thou, O Christ, that puttest all away, that we may love Thee only, and Thou canst satisfy every heart.”

 

THE REASONS FOR SO MANY MONASTERIES (A.D. 1150).

Bishop Otho of Bamberg, the apostle of Pomerania, being asked in 1150 why he founded and built so many monasteries, replied, citing the parable of the Good Samaritan, thus: “The world is only a place of exile, and as long as we live in it we are at a distance from our Lord. Therefore we need inns and stables. Now, monasteries and cells are inns and stables. These are then of great utility to us poor wanderers; and if we fall among robbers and are stripped and wounded and left half dead, certainly we shall find by experience how much better it is to be near an inn than at a distance from one. For when sudden destruction comes upon us, how can we be carried to a stable if it be far off? So it is much better that there should be many such places than few, seeing how great is the danger, and how large is the number of persons exposed to it. And now, especially that men are so multiplied upon earth, it is not absurd that monasteries should be multiplied, since the abundant population admits of numbers embracing a chaste life. Finally, it is well to have these built, that in all things God might be honoured and man assisted; and how great is the honour to God and the utility to man which daily result from monasteries! The spiritual is even greater than the temporal utility; for there the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”

 

LIFE IN A CONVENT.

A convent or monastery as a place of residence for a religious community was made up of various orders and degrees. There[Pg 217] were cloister monks, lay and clerical; the professed brethren, also lay and clerical; the clerks; the novices; and the servants and artificers. There were recruits from every rank of society—knights and ladies, scions of noble houses, minstrels, and merchants. All were governed by the abbot, who was elected by the community, who lived like a prince, and who had a separate establishment within the precincts set apart for him. He administered the property and enforced discipline, being also confessor to the monks. He had his falconer and his forester, and his minstrels entertained company and travellers. He had officers under him, such as the prior, precentor, cellarer, sacrist, hospitaller, infirmarer, almoner, master of the novices, porter, kitchener, seneschal, etc., according to the size of the building; and these were usually elected by the convent and approved by the abbot. Under the monastery were abbeys, or smaller establishments, each governed by a prior, who had all the abbot’s powers, except deposing and consecrating, and he also had a separate chamber. The nucleus of a monastery was the cloister court, a quadrangular space of greensward surrounded by the cloister buildings, and a covered ambulatory went round the four sides as a promenade for the monks. The church was the principal building, and built in the form of a cross, with a nave and aisles. The scriptorium was a large apartment, where much work was done in transcribing books and illuminating them. The abbot kept open house in the hospitium, and entertained travellers of every degree.

 

A DAY’S LIFE IN A MONASTERY.

The following is Mr. Travers Hill’s account, given in his “English Monasticism,” of the order of the day in the monastery at Glastonbury, and which went on much the same for ten centuries: At 2 a.m. the bell tolled for matins, when every monk arose, and, after performing his private devotions, hastened to the church and took his seat. When all were assembled, fifteen psalms were sung; then came the nocturn and more psalms. A short interval ensued, during which the chanter, choir, and those who needed it had permission to retire for a short time if they wished; then followed lauds, which were generally finished by 6 a.m., when the bell rang for prime. When this was finished, the monks continued reading till 7 a.m., when the bell was rung and they retired to put on their day-clothes. Afterwards the whole convent, having performed their ablutions and broken their fast, proceeded again to the church, and the bell was rung[Pg 218] for tierce at 9 a.m. After tierce came the morning Mass, and as soon as that was over they marched in procession to the chapter-house for business and correction of faults. This ceremony over, the monks worked or read till sext (12 a.m.), which service being concluded, they dined. Then followed one hour’s sleep in their clothes in the dormitory, unless any of them preferred reading. Nones commenced at 3 p.m., first vespers at 4 p.m., then work or reading till second vespers at 7 p.m.; afterwards reading till collation; then came the service of complin, confession of sins, evening prayers, and retirement to rest about 9 p.m.

 

THE ROUTINE OF ENGLISH MONKS IN 1080.

The formalism of monkery was well displayed in the code drawn up by Lanfranc, who was made Archbishop of Canterbury by William the Conqueror. By this code the monks were to be called from their beds before daybreak, and go in their night-clothes to the church to sing. Thence to the cloister and hear the boys read till the bell tolls for them to put on their shoes. They were to pass to the dormitory for their day-dress and to the lavatory to wash. They were then to comb themselves, and when the great bell sounded they were to enter the church to receive the holy water. On the signal of another bell, they were to pray, and of another bell to sing, and afterwards to proceed to the altar to say or hear Mass. They were again to dress themselves and to return to the choir, to sit there till the bell summoned them to the chapter-house. On another signal, they were to resort to the refectory. After a certain hour no one was to speak till the children left the monastery; then when the bell sounded again, their shoes were to be taken off, their hands to be washed, and they were to enter the church to repeat the Litany and to hear High Mass. At another signal they were to go in procession. When the bell rang again, they were to pray, and afterwards to revisit the refectory. Some were then to sit in the choir, and those who liked might read. At a fresh signal the nones were to be sung; similar tasks were to succeed again in allotted order, till they were dismissed to their beds.

 

THE OFFICIALS AND ARRANGEMENTS OF AN ABBEY.

The officers in abbeys are, first, the abbot, who is supreme, and to whom all the others owe obedience. Next is the prior or president, then the subprior and lower officers. The gatehouse was the place where guests are admitted. The refectory was the hall[Pg 219] where the monks dine. The locutorium or parlour where leave was given to them to converse, there being silence enforced in other parts. The oriel was a side-room where the indisposed monks were allowed to dine. In the abbey church the cloisters were the consecrated ground. The navis ecclesiæ was the nave or body of the church. The presbyterium was the raised choir on which the monks chanted. The vestiarium or vestry where the copes and clothes were deposited. The century or sanctuary was the place where debtors took refuge. The farm or grange was so called a grana gerendo—the overseer whereof was called the prior of the grange. The abbot was a baron in the English Parliament, and was summoned during and after the reign of Henry III.; and so were priors of quality. In 49 Henry III. no less than sixty-four abbots and thirty-six priors with the master of the Temple were all summoned. In Edward III. they were reduced to twenty-six. Gloucestershire was said to be fullest of monasteries, and Westmoreland the freest from them. Shaftesbury had the richest nunnery.

 

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MONKS AND FRIARS.

Fuller, in his “Church History,” says: “It is necessary to premise what was the distinction between monks and friars. For though some will say the matter is not much, if monks and friars were confounded together, yet the distinguishing of them conduceth much to the clearing of history. Some make monks the genus and friars but the species, so that all friars were monks, but e contra all monks were not friars; others, that monks were confined to their cloisters, whilst more liberty was allowed to friars to go about and preach in neighbouring parishes. I see it is very hard just to hit the joint, so as to cleave them asunder at an hair’s breadth, authors being so divided in their opinions. But the most essential difference whereon we must confide is this—monks had nothing in propriety (exclusive property), but all in common; friars had nothing in propriety nor in common, but, being mendicants, begged all their substance from the charity of others. True it is they had cells or houses to dwell or rather hide themselves in, so the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but all this went for nothing, seeing they had no means belonging thereunto. Yea, it hath borne a tough debate betwixt them whether a friar may be said to be owner of the clothes he weareth; and it hath been for the most part overruled in the negative. Foresters laugh at the ignorance of that gentleman who made the difference between a stag and a hart that the one[Pg 220] was a red, the other a fallow deer, being both of a kind, only different in age and some other circumstances. Monks and friars hate each other heartily.”

 

BRAWLS BETWEEN FRIARS AND SECULAR PRIESTS.

In the time of Edward IV. a contest raged between the Begging Friars and secular priests. Fuller, in his “Church History,” says that “it was beheld to be a most pestiferous doctrine that the friars so heightened the perfection of begging that, according to their principles, all the priesthood and prelacy in the land, yea by consequence the Pope himself, did fall short of the sanctity of their order. Yet hard it was for them to persuade his Holiness to quit Peter’s patrimony and betake himself to poverty, although a friar (Thomas Holden by name) did not blush to preach at Paul’s Cross that Christ Himself, as first founder of their society, was a beggar—a manifest untruth, and easily confuted out of Scripture. For vast the difference betwixt begging and taking what the bounty of others doth freely confer, as our Saviour did from such who ministered unto Him of their substance (Luke viii. 3). After zealous preachings and disputings, Pope Paul II. interposed, concluding that it was a damnable heresy to say that Christ publicly begged, whereon the mendicants let the controversy sink into silence never more to be revived.”

 

ENMITY BETWEEN ORDERS OF MONKS.

The enmity between the Franciscans and Dominicans was notorious. A friar of each order came at the same time to the side of a brook, which it was necessary to ford, and the Dominican requested the Franciscan to carry him across, as he was barefooted, and must otherwise undress. The Franciscan took him on his shoulders and carried him to the middle; then suddenly stopped and asked if he had any money with him. “Only two reals,” replied the Dominican. “Excuse me then, father,” said the Franciscan; “you know my vow—I cannot carry money.” And in he dropped him. It is stated in Surtees’ “History of Durham” (vol. i., p. 42): “The monks well knew how impossible it was to preserve peace betwixt two bodies of ecclesiastics having property contiguous to each other, and therefore wisely provided in most of their grants that neither their feoffees nor tenants should lease or alienate to Jews, nor to any religious house save their own.”

 

MONKS DISLIKED BY CLERGY.

The chronicler Matthew Paris says that in 1207 the preachers[Pg 221] who were called Minors arose under the favour of Pope Innocent and filled the earth, dwelling in towns and cities in bodies of ten or seven, possessing nothing whatever, living on the Gospel, displaying a true and voluntary poverty in their clothes and food, walking barefoot, girded with knotted ropes, and showing a noble example of humility to all men. But they caused great alarm to many of the prelates because they began to weaken their authority—first of all by their preaching and secret confessions of penitents, afterwards by their open receptions.

 

A MONK WHO WANTED TO BE AN ANGEL.

It is related among the wise sayings of Antony the hermit and others, that a monk of Mount Sinai, finding his brethren working, said, “Why labour for the meat which perisheth? Mary chose the good part.” On hearing this the abbot ordered the monk to be put in his cell, and when the dinner-bell rang the monk was not called, which made the monk ask the reason why. The abbot replied, “Thou art a spiritual man, and needest not food. We are carnal, and must eat because we work; but thou hast chosen the better part.” The monk was then rather ashamed of his brave resolution. Another monk, John the dwarf, also wanted to be “without care, like the angels, doing nothing but praising God.” So he threw away his cloak, left his brother the abbot, and went into the desert. But after seven days he came back and knocked at the door. “Who is there?” asked his brother. “John.” “Nay, John is turned into an angel and is no more among men.” So he left John outside all night; and in the morning gave John to understand that, if he was a man, he must work; but that if he was an angel, he had no need to live in a cell.

 

DEATH OF AN ABBESS AT ARLES (A.D. 632).

In 632 St. Rusticule, abbess of the convent of St. Cesarius at Arles, died, and her last illness is thus related: “It happened on a certain Friday that after singing vespers as usual with her nuns, finding herself fatigued, she exceeded her strength in making the usual reading. She knew that she was shortly to pass to the Lord. On the Saturday morning she felt cold and lost the use of her limbs. Lying down on a little bed, she was seized with fever; but she never ceased praising God with her eyes raised to heaven. She commended to Him her daughters, whom she was about to leave orphans, and with a firm mind she comforted those who wept around her. She found herself still worse on Sunday;[Pg 222] and as it was her custom that her bed should only be made once a year, the servants of God begged permission to give her a softer bed, but she would not consent. On Monday, which was the day of St. Laurence, she lost all strength, and her breathing became difficult. At this sight the sad virgins of Christ poured forth tears and sighs. It being the third hour of the day, as the congregation in its affliction repeated the Psalms in silence, the holy mother in displeasure asked, ‘Why do I not hear the chanting of psalmody?’ The nuns replied that they could not sing through grief. ‘Do sing still louder,’ she replied, ‘in order that I may receive the benefit of it, for it is very sweet for me to hear it.’ The next day her body had lost the power of motion, but her eyes preserved their lustre and shone like stars. Looking on all sides, and not being able to speak, she made signs with her hand that they should cease weeping and be comforted. When one of the sisters felt her feet, she said it was not yet time; but shortly after, at the sixth hour of the day, with a serene countenance and eyes that seemed to smile, this glorious and blessed soul passed to heaven and joined the innumerable choir of saints.”

 

HOW CÆDMON, A COWHERD, BECAME THE MONK POET (A.D. 680).

When St. Hilda was abbess of Whitby, about 660, the rustics used to have their beer-parties, at which they sang or recited warlike songs, turn about, to the accompaniment of the harp. One of the rustics, when the harp was passed round to him in his turn, confessed he could not sing, and left the company covered with shame and confusion. That night he lay in his cattle-shed and had a dream. Some one approached him and said, “Cædmon, sing me something.” He said he could not, and that was the reason of his leaving the party; but the visitor said he knew better, and insisted that Cædmon should sing, and sing then and there of the Creation. Whereupon in his sleep he sang some verses. On waking he remembered the verses, and told the bailiff what had happened. All who heard the verses believed he was inspired, and suggested to him fresh subjects, and he immediately turned them into sacred songs equally impressive. The abbess hearing of this, told Cædmon to become a monk and learn sacred history, which he did. He soon became famous for his extemporaneous versifications of all kinds of sacred subjects, such as the Resurrection, the future judgment, the Passion, and the heavenly kingdom. He is now known as the father of English poetry, and the metrical paraphrase now extant and known as “Cædmon” is a singularly graphic description of sacred scenes. He was the[Pg 223] wonder of his time for this gift of song, and lived long among the monks of Whitby. He was cheery in his talk; and when he drew near his end, he asked them to bring the Housel, which he took into his hands, and solemnly said he had friendly disposition towards all God’s servants. The monks wondered what he meant. He asked them how long it would be before the brethren would be awakened for nocturnal lauds. On being answered he said, “Good; let us wait for that hour.” They waited; he then signed himself with the cross, lay back on his pillow, and died amid the music of the sacred hymns he loved so well.

 

A MONK SLEEPING TOO LONG (A.D. 744).

Alcuin (who died 804), when a boy of eleven and devoted to the church, was one night sent by the schoolmaster of the monastery at the request of a lay brother who was left alone in charge of the building to go up and sleep there that night as some company to the brother. They retired to rest; and when it was about cock-crowing, they were awoke by the signal for service. The rustic monk only turned in his bed, and went to sleep again. Not so Alcuin, who soon perceived that the room was full of demons. They surrounded the bed of the sleeping monk, and cried, “You sleep well, brother!” He at once awoke, and they called out, “Why do you alone lie snoring here, while all your brethren are watching in the church?” And they belaboured him heavily as a warning. Meanwhile Alcuin lay trembling under the impression that his turn would come next, and ejaculated to himself that if he were only delivered he would never again love Virgil more than the melody of Psalms. The demons, after punishing the monk, then looked about, and found the boy completely covered up in his bedclothes, panting and almost senseless. On seeing himself discovered, he burst into tears and screamed, whereupon his avengers consulted together, and after a little resolved that they would not beat him, but would turn up the clothes at the foot of the bed and cut his corns, by way of making him remember his promise. The clothes were no sooner touched than Alcuin jumped up, crossed himself, and sang the 12th Psalm with all his might; the demons thereupon vanished, and he and his companion set off to church for safety.

 

AN ABBOT LECTURING HIS MONKS AGAINST IDLENESS (A.D. 1040).

Theodoric, abbot of St. Evroult, in Normandy, about 1040 used to lecture his monks and warn them against idleness, and told[Pg 224] them this story: “There was a monk in a certain monastery who was guilty of many transgressions against its rules; but he was a transcriber; and being devoted to that work, he of his own accord wrote out an enormous volume of the Divine law. After his death his soul was brought before the tribunal of the just Judge for judgment. And when the evil spirits sharply accused him, and brought forward his innumerable crimes, the holy angels on the other hand showed the book which that monk had written in the house of God, and counted up the letters of that enormous volume as a set-off against the like number of sins. At length the letters had a majority of only one, against which, however, the demons in vain attempted to object any sin. The clemency of the Judge therefore spared the monk, commanded his soul to return to his body, and mercifully granted him space for reformation of his life. Frequently think of this, dear brethren; cleanse your hearts from vain and noxious desires; constantly offer the sacrifice of the works of your hands to the Lord God. Shun idleness with all your power. Frequently consider that only one devil tempts a monk who is employed in any good occupation, while a thousand devils attack him who is idle. Pray, read, chant, write, and employ yourselves, and wisely arm yourselves against the temptations of evil spirits.”

 

THE WAR OF THE TWO ABBOTS (A.D. 1077).

At the critical epoch when the Emperor and Pope were at war, two abbots living twenty miles apart took opposite sides. The monastery of St. Gall, on Lake Constance, founded about 650, was ruled about 1077 by Ulric of Eppinstein as abbot, who took the side of the Emperor; while Eckard, abbot of Reichnau, took the side of the Pope. Ulric was a man of polished manners, versed in the ways of the world, as fit to lead an army as to wield the crosier, of great wealth, and with a host of retainers. He was a little king, at the head of the richest abbey in Europe. The monastery was, however, exposed, being merely the centre of a large village; while Reichnau was on an island, with strong fortifications and safe from attack. For fifteen years the two monasteries were at feud, each seeking occasion to take advantage and overcome its opponent, and engaged in constant skirmishes. Each of the abbots was proud, ambitious, and eager to crush his enemy. The abbot of Reichnau one day tried to draw Ulric, and advanced almost to the gates, but failed to bring on an engagement. After long fencing, a traitor was found in the abbey of Reichnau. As the abbot of Reichnau was making[Pg 225] a journey to obtain a personal interview with the Pope, the Emperor’s troops captured him, and kept him in prison for two years, and a report was circulated of his death. The Emperor then conferred the vacant abbey on Ulric, as a recompense for his eminent services. A friendly duke then seized the opportunity of getting charge of St. Gall and appropriating its revenues. The abbot of Reichnau, on obtaining his freedom from prison, resumed the warfare; but after many intricate turns of affairs a peace was at last concluded in 1094, and put an end to the long series of skirmishes, battles, conflagrations, sieges, and plunderings between these two belligerents.

 

MONKS ATTACHED TO THE GREGORIAN CHANT (A.D. 1083).

In 1083 Roger de Hoveden says that a disgraceful quarrel arose between the monks and the Abbot Turstin of Glastonbury, who had been most unworthily appointed to his office. In his folly he treated the Gregorian chant with contempt, and wanted to force the monks to learn instead the chant of one William of Feschamp. The monks were averse to the change; but one day Turstin rushed unexpectedly into the chapter-house with a body of soldiers. The monks fled into the church and to the altar, and the soldiers pursued them, piercing the crosses, images, and shrines of the saints with darts and arrows, and even speared a monk while embracing the altar. The monks stoutly defended themselves with the benches and candlesticks; and though grievously wounded, at last drove the soldiers beyond the choir. The result was that two monks were killed and fourteen wounded, and some of the soldiers also were wounded. On investigation the King removed the abbot, and some of the monks also were transferred to other abbeys. The abbot afterwards wandered about, and died in misery, as became a homicide.

 

THE RETRIBUTION OF THOSE WHO PILLAGE MONKS (A.D. 1136).

In 1136 we are told by Orderic, a contemporary, that a famous archer, Robert Boet, with his banditti, rushed like wolves on their prey and ravaged the lands of his fellow-monks of St. Evroult. The people of the neighbouring bourg were so incensed that they caught and hanged six of the gang. But the other robbers came soon after, in great fury, to take revenge, and set fire to the village, burning eighty-four houses to ashes. The monks, in a paroxysm of terror, tolled the bells and chanted psalms and litanies in the church, fearing that instant ruin threatened the[Pg 226] monastery. Some of the monks went forth with tears to entreat the assailants to desist, and lawful satisfaction would be given; but the bandits, maddened with fury and blind with rage, insulted the envoys and dragged them from their palfreys, and fired the houses near the church. It was only through God’s mercy that the wind changed at the right moment and drove the flames in another direction. The monks’ lodgings, with the books and ecclesiastical ornaments, were saved. It was noticed that after sacking the village of St. Evroult no enterprise of those robbers against their enemies prospered. On the contrary, by God’s judgment, they suffered frequent losses, some of their gang being slain and others taken prisoners. It was but just that those who had attacked unarmed and inoffensive people, whom no fear of God induced them to spare, should meet with the derision of stronger and well-trained troops, by whose superiority they were soon brought low.

 

URGING THE MONKS TO LIVE FRUGALLY.

In the time of Philip, King of France, the venerable abbot Robert of Moleme assembled some devoted disciples, and agreed that they did not live, as they ought, in holy poverty, and procure food and raiment by the labour of their hands. But the convent of monks did not agree with this view, and said that they must wear garments suited to the climate of their own convent. The men in cold climates must wear trousers, and could not go about like women, with loose robes reaching to the ankles. Manual labour was very well, but it was wholly incompatible with constant meditation and profitable silence, or with chanting day and night the Psalms of David. They objected to all innovations. Therefore the abbot and twelve monks withdrew; and having received a gift from the Duke of Burgundy, built a monastery at Citeaux in the diocese of Chalons, and lived there in strict rule. But the Pope being referred to, ordered the Abbot Robert to return to Moleme, which he did, and a substitute was appointed to be abbot of Citeaux. The impulse given by Abbot Robert at Citeaux drew there a great concourse of monks, and sixty-five monasteries were soon after founded, all subject to the superior abbot of Citeaux. The monks of the Cistercian order wear neither trousers nor robes of fur, abstain from fat and flesh meat, maintain perpetual silence, and labour with their own hands for their food and raiment. From September 13th to Easter they fast every day except Sunday; their doors are always shut close;[Pg 227] they bury themselves in profound secrecy, admitting no monks belonging to any other religious house into their cells, nor allowing them to be present in the chapel at Mass or other Divine offices. Multitudes of noble champions and learned men join their society from the novelty of its institution, and rejoice to chant triumphant anthems to Christ in the right way.

 

FORM OF A MONK’S BURIAL.

In the records of the church of Durham it is written that when any monk died there he was dressed in his cowl and habit, and boots were put on his legs, and immediately he was carried to a chamber called the dead man’s chamber, where he remained till night. At night he was removed thence into St. Andrew’s Chapel, adjoining to the same chamber, and there the body remained till eight o’clock in the morning. The night before the funeral two monks, either in kindred or kindness nearest to him, were appointed by the prior to be especial mourners, sitting all night on their knees at the dead man’s feet. Then were the children of the ambry, sitting on their knees in stalls on either side of the corpse, appointed to read David’s Psalter all night through incessantly till eight in the morning, when the body was conveyed to the chapter-house, where the prior and the whole convent met it, and there did say their dirge and devotion; and then the dead corpse was carried by the monks into the centry-garth, where it was buried, and there was but one peal rung for him. The body of St. Francis is placed in a vault under the marble vault in the great church at Assisi, and it is in an upright position, and the vault has a small opening, through which one may look and see a lamp burning. In the convent of the Poor Clares at Assisi, in a vault under the high altar, lies the body of St. Clare, with a lamp burning in front of the opening over it.

 

HOW SICK MONKS WERE TENDED.

When a monk was sick and in prospect of death, a servant brother was appointed, who should have nothing else to do but to tend him day and night. The cross was placed before his face, and every night a wax taper was kept burning by his side until broad day. Other monks were allowed to be in attendance on him, in order to sing the regular hours and to read the Passion in his extremity. The experienced servants were to watch the proper moment, and to spread the ashes and gently to place the sick man upon them, and then to give a signal by striking[Pg 228] the door of the cloister, when all the brethren were to run to the chamber, for this was one of the two occasions when it was permitted to them to depart from their usual measured pace, the other being in the event of fire. If Mass should be celebrating or any regular office, all who were without the choir were to hasten, and those within were to remain. If the monks were in the refectory, the reading was to be instantly suspended, and the monks were to haston. The Litany was then to be chanted and the prayers, according to the progress of his agony. The custom of showing penitence by spreading ashes was well observed. Thus at the death of St. Martin, who desired it, sackcloth was spread on the ground, and ashes were strewed upon it in form of a cross, and the assistants gently laid his dying body upon it. The monk of St. Denis says that Louis IX. gave up the ghost on sackcloth and ashes, and with his arms composed in the form of a cross. When the Maid of Orleans asked at her death for a crucifix and none was at hand, an Englishman broke a stick in two parts and made a cross, whereupon the maid kissed it, pressed it to her bosom, and mounted the martyr’s pile.

 

WHY MONKS HONOR RICH MEN MORE THAN POOR.

St. Bonaventura explains it thus: “It may be asked why do monks and friars honour rich men more than poor, serving them more promptly in confessions and other things? God has care of all men alike; therefore we ought to love all men alike. If the poor man be better than the rich, we should love him more, and yet we must honour the rich more for four reasons. First, because God in this world has given pre-eminence to the rich and powerful; and therefore we conform to His ordination in honouring them so far as relates to this order. Secondly, because of the infirmity of the rich, who, if they are not honoured, grow indignant, and so become more infirm and worse, and a burden to us and to other poor; whereas we ought not to be a scandal to the weak and a cause of their becoming weaker still, but should rather provoke them to good. Thirdly, because a greater utility results from the correction of one rich man than of many poor; for a rich man’s conversion is of advantage to many in several respects. Fourthly, since we receive more corporeal support from the rich, it is but just that we should repay them spiritually. Besides, the affairs of the poor are more easily expedited, because they are not bound by so many ties nor involved in so many perplexities which require counsel oftener.”

 [Pg 229]

GOOD LESSONS INCULCATED BY THE MONKS (A.D. 1199).

One of the narratives told by monks about the year 1199, according to Cæsar of Heisterback, was this: Two citizens of Cologne confessed in Lent that they were guilty of lying and perjury, but then that they could not sell anything without both. The priest thereupon reproved them, and strongly recommended them just to try for one year to do without lying. They did agree; but Satan having found out their plan, contrived that nobody should enter their shops; and the tradesmen returned and reported that their obedience had cost them dear, and that really they could not carry on their business that way at all. The priest, however, reassured them once more, telling them that they should really resolve never to offend God this way, whatever might be the consequence. They made this solemn promise; and, strange to relate, from that hour people flocked to their shops, and they soon prospered exceedingly. Another narrative was about one Rocherus, a high dignitary in the church at Magdeburg, who was playing at chess, when a servant boy entered and whispered to the butler that a poor sick woman was at the gate, and sent him to beg just a little wine. Rocherus overhearing this, ordered that some wine should be given to her; but the butler said there was none unless he opened a new cask. Rocherus ordered him at once to open one for the purpose; but the butler, going out, pretended only to comply, and sent away the messenger empty. Scarcely had two hours elapsed when the church bells tolled for a death; and on Rocherus making strict inquiry, and finding that it was the poor woman who asked for wine, and who had not been supplied with any, he summoned the butler to appear, and, boiling with indignation, commanded him instantly to empty the entire hogshead of wine on the ground, declaring that he would never make use of that of which a part had been refused to one of Christ’s poor. He also dismissed the man, and forbade him ever again to enter his presence.

 

A POPE INVITING A FELLOW-MONK TO COURT.

Pope Paul IV., on his election to the papal chair in 1555, being mindful of his ancient friendship for Jerome Suessanus, the hermit of Monte Corona, sent orders to him to come to Rome. The obedient hermit arrived, and was joyfully welcomed; but the Pope, raising him up, said, “What garment is this, Jerome? It is too mean. You must lay it aside.” “Nay, holy father,” said Jerome; “when clad in this habit I can walk more easily[Pg 230] amid the oaks and brushwood; nor would any other be suitable to a penitent.” “Oh, but,” said the Pope, “you shall be no longer in the woods and desert; you shall remain here with us, and from a hermit become a cardinal.” The hermit at once fell prostrate on the earth, and with tears implored the Pontiff not to think of executing such a resolution, declaring that he knew of no happiness beyond the solitude of the desert. The Pope admitted, on reflection, that it would be grievous to press him further; so the holy man returned in triumph to his cell in the woods.

 

THE ORDER OF FRIARS.

The thirteenth century saw the rise of a new class of religious orders, actuated by different views from monachism. The basis of monkery was entire seclusion from the world and its busy ways, in order to fix the mind on holy contemplations, and hence monasteries were built in wilds and deserts. The friars thought they could improve their usefulness by mixing with mankind and helping them by active duties. Hence they established their houses in or near great towns, and acted like home missionaries, teaching and preaching; and they cultivated science as well as religion. There soon grew up four leading orders of friars—Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustines. The Dominicans laid themselves out for converting heretics; the Franciscans for preaching the Gospel and promoting charity; the Carmelites originated at Mount Carmel, in Palestine; the Augustines were called Austin Friars. The friars renounced property, and resolved to work for a livelihood or live on alms; and they were called the Pope’s Militia.

 

THE CINDERELLA OF THE CONVENT.

St. Basil relates that in a female convent at Tabennes, in Egypt, one of the sisters was treated by all the rest as the fool of the convent, and made to wash up the dishes and do the humblest menial work. And to crown the contempt shown towards her, she was made to wear a turban of patchwork and a dress of rags. She was never seen to sit at table and join in meals. Yet she never complained nor uttered a reproach. A holy man named Pyoterus lived not far from the convent, and one night an angel appeared and bade him go and visit a sister in the convent who wore a turban as a headdress. “That sister,” said the angel, “is holier than thou art. Though always in tribulation both night and day, she is always mindful of God,[Pg 231] and never troubled in mind, as you are.” Pyoterus went to the convent and asked to see the sisters. All were brought and presented to him. But he said, “One is still missing.” “Nay, holy father,” said the abbess, “all are here, except the poor scullion, who is a fool.” “Let me see her,” said the hermit. Then Isidora was brought; whereupon Pyoterus fell at her feet and exclaimed, “Bless me, my sister, beloved of the Lord.” The four hundred sisters were astounded at this spectacle; but Pyoterus said to them, “Pray that you may find as much favour in the day of judgment as this despised one. I tell you the Lord hath said you think yourselves wise, but it would be well if you were as wise as this fool.” So saying, he left the convent. The treatment afterwards bestowed on Isidora caused her to leave the convent altogether.

 

THE NUNS AND LAY BROTHERS AT SEMPRINGHAM (A.D. 1139).

About 1139, says Robert Manning, of Brine, St. Gilbert established a priory at Sempringham, in Lincolnshire, for poor maidens. At first these were served only by poor maids; but soon lay brothers did that duty, and priests ministered to them. The two sexes lived within the same enclosure, but were separated by a high wall, with a small hole of a window to pass food and necessaries. On high feast days both sexes met in the church of the nuns, but they were separated by a cloth. All the food was prepared by the nuns and the sisters, and passed through the small window. When the priests entered the nuns’ house, they were to be accompanied by a number of persons, and the nuns were to have their faces covered in their presence. No gossiping or talebearing was allowed. The lay brothers were never to enter the nuns’ enclosure save in case of fire, thieves, etc. The nuns and sisters washed the linen of the canons, but not of the lay brothers, who had to do their own. The women were permitted to sew for the men, but not to cut out, make, or mend their breeches for them. The head prioress and nuns, on their annual journey round the nuns’ houses, were to have an escort of a canon and a lay brother to protect them and supply necessaries. There was to be no more conversation between them than was absolutely necessary, and the men were enjoined to retire to a respectful distance whenever the women had to descend from their travelling waggon. On journeys the women were never to lodge in the same houses as the men, if it could possibly be helped. Disorderly monks were expelled, and disorderly nuns were shut up in a little hut separate from the[Pg 232] rest, there to repent till death released them. In the priory no flesh was allowed: beer was the only liquor allowed; and if it ran short, wine might be used if well watered. In the management of the farms, where milkmaids and reapers were hired, no lay brother was allowed to speak except in presence of witnesses. And young and pretty women were to be especially shunned. The lay brothers were not allowed any books, and learned only the Paternoster, the Credo, the Miserere, and other necessary prayers.

 

COMPUNCTIOUS VISITING OF MONKS.

St. Waltheof was a son of the Earl of Northumberland, and died about 1160. He became a monk and entered a monastery in Lincolnshire. He was most vigorous and scrupulous in his habits. One day, riding with the abbot, he was pestered by a horsefly, and often flapped it away with his sleeve, till at last in a fit of anger he gave a violent snap and killed it. At this fatal turn of affairs he immediately dismounted and flung himself prostrate before the dead fly, and in presence of the abbot confessed his sin in thus killing a creature of God, which he was unable to restore to life again. The abbot smiled benignly, and imposed a very light penance for the offence. St. Benno, born at Hildesheim and Bishop of Meissen, was an enthusiastic reviver of church music. When the Pope excommunicated his king, Benno ordered two of his canons to throw the keys of his minster into the river Elbe. He was intensely conscientious and mindful of the feelings of others. One evening, as he was walking in the fields near Meissen, meditating and praying, he was disturbed by the croaking of the frogs. He angrily bade them be silent, and they obeyed. But he had not gone far when his conscience smote him. He repeated to himself the verse, “O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord.” Then overwhelmed with shame, as the thought occurred to him that perhaps the praises of the poor frogs might be as acceptable as his own to the great Creator, he returned to the marsh and said aloud, “O ye frogs, sing on to the Lord your song of thanksgiving.” This good bishop died in 1106.

 

MONKERY BECOMING WORKED OUT.

By the twelfth century the status of monk was beginning to deteriorate. The fine theories on which it started lost hold, and demoralisation was setting in. The loose way of admitting all and sundry led to a difficulty in keeping strict control. It used[Pg 233] to be said they began to steal each other’s clothes and cups and little articles of property. It is said that in the abbey of St. Tron, about 1200, each monk had a locked cupboard behind his seat in the refectory, wherein he carefully secured his napkin, spoon, cup, and dish. Even the bedclothes were not safe. Then so many went about traversing every corner of Christendom, bearded and tonsured and wearing the religious habit, living by begging and imposture, and peddling false relics, that the very name of monk became a term of contempt. Yet William of Newburgh says that under Stephen’s short reign (1135-1154) more monasteries were founded in England than during the hundred years preceding.

 

THE WAR OF THE NUNS OF BASLE (A.D. 1430).

About 1297 a convent was established at Little Basle called the Sisters of Klurgenthal, who during the next century acquired great reputation, not so much from the austerity of their rules as for their wealthy connections among all the nobles of the district. The prior of a Dominican monastery in Basle was the advocate of the sisterhood; but they had long felt this a grievous burden, and they resolved to get rid of the interference of the monks. About 1430, one day, the friar called, when they barred him out, and let him know he need not show his face again within the house. The indignant monks then spread abroad rumours of the luxurious dresses, habits, and loose living of the sisters, and even slandered their characters and invoked the interference of the Pope to put down the scandal thereby created. The Pope sent commissioners, who felt it their duty to hold a solemn inquiry into the allegations against their dissipated and ungodly lives. The ladies demurely listened to the papal commissioner, and then retired without saying a word; but a few minutes later they each and all returned, armed with every kitchen implement they could find, and belaboured right and left the commissioners, who in their terror fled, leaving the papal bull behind them, and with their clothes torn off their backs. This appalling treason shocked the papal authorities, who ordered the sisters to be expelled and stripped of their possessions. One or two of the sisters who professed to be shocked at their companions begged to be allowed to remain till they could get their things put together; and during this interval, which was extended on one pretext or another to months, they appealed to their noble cousins, brothers, and relatives to come to their rescue, and they even procured the support of the Emperor to their claims. The nobles did so, and[Pg 234] with a large body of retainers so contrived that the Pope had to consent to an arbitration to settle all matters in difference with the jealous and rapacious monks who longed to succeed to the nuns’ possessions. So skilfully was the rest of the war directed on the part of the nuns that they practically reversed the adverse judgment, and were restored to all that they had lost, returning with pomp like deposed queens, and they became more powerful and kept up a more brilliant establishment than ever.

 

ONE MONK STEALING ANOTHER MONK’S FOOD.

It is related by Ruffinus that a monk was in the habit of coming to the cell of a holy anchorite and secretly stealing his food; and although the latter knew of it, still, in order to subdue himself, he made as if he perceived him not, and exerted himself to work more diligently in order to repair his loss. He thus reasoned with himself: “God hath sent me aforetime that which I needed, and this brother too will be a blessing to me.” And having sustained this tribulation a long time, his strength failed, and he was dying. And many brethren stood around looking upon him; and seeing among them the brother who had for so long a time stolen his bread, he called him to his side and kissed his hands, and said before them all, “I render thanks to these hands, my brethren, for by means of them I trust to enter Paradise.” On hearing and understanding this, that brother took shame to himself, and was touched with remorse, changed his life, did heavy penance for his sins, and became a perfect monk through the example of the holy father who had died.

 

A MONKISH MODE OF DECIDING ON CREEDS (A.D. 680).

When the Monothelite heresy arose and disturbed the Church—namely, the doctrine that Christ had only one will, though He had the human and Godlike natures separate—the sixth general council of the Church was held at Constantinople in 680 to settle it. A monk named Polychronius, and a resolute Monothelite, rose and challenged the council to put the doctrine to the test of a miracle. He proposed to lay his creed on a dead body: if the dead rose not, he surrendered himself to the will of the Emperor. A body accordingly was brought into a neighbouring bath. The Emperor, the ministers, the whole council, and a wondering multitude adjourned to this place. Polychronius presented a sealed paper, which was opened and read; it declared his creed, and that he had been commanded in a vision to hasten to[Pg 235] Constantinople to prevent the Emperor from establishing heresy. The paper was laid on the corpse; Polychronius sat whispering into its ear; and the patient assembly awaited the issue for some hours. But the obstinate dead would not come to life. A unanimous anathema was then pronounced, condemning Polychronius as a heretic and deceiver; and he was degraded from his functions. The council then anathematised all round who thereafter disbelieved the doctrine that there were two wills and two operations in Christ’s nature.

 

A MONK INTERCEDING FOR PRISONERS (A.D. 460).

The monk Severinus, in the fifth century, was asked to intercede for some Roman subjects who were condemned to hard labour by Gisa, Queen of the Rugii. She made an angry answer, and bade the monk to be gone to his cell to his prayers, and not presume to interfere with her doing as she pleased with her own prisoners. Not long afterwards she issued harsh orders to some goldsmiths who were imprisoned, and compelled to work beyond their strength, in order to complete some royal ornaments which she required. By accident her little son one day strayed into the prison, whereupon the prisoners seized him and threatened that, as they were tired of life and reckless of consequences, they would first kill the child and then themselves, unless some royal messenger was sent to assure them of their immediate release. The Queen, filled with alarm, was conscience-struck, and acknowledged the Divine retribution thus prepared for her. She acceded to the prisoners’ demands, and not only released the men, but she sent to Severinus to entreat his forgiveness for the way in which she had neglected his admonitions.

 

HOW THE CARTHUSIANS ACQUIRED AN ELIGIBLE SITE.

The order of Carthusian monks had the credit of having, the most strictly of all the orders, adhered to its rules for some six hundred years. One of the rules, that each monk was to be bled five times a year—which modern science, however, shuns—must have been founded on some misapprehension. The astute manner in which this order acquired a gift of land in Paris has been recorded as follows: St. Louis had given the order a house at Paris, from the windows of which they saw another more extensive and convenient mansion and site in the neighbourhood. Soon afterwards this house opposite was found to be haunted by spirits and goblins, which made a great noise in the night,[Pg 236] rattling their chains, and sending forth the most horrid yells and groans. Amongst other hideous things a green monster appeared every night, with a large white beard, half man and half serpent, terrifying all the passengers and neighbourhood. What was to be done with this intolerable nuisance? The pious monarch gave the house to the Carthusians, after which no more noises were heard and no more spectres appeared; but the street in which the house was situated was long known as Hell-fire Street, which name it bore in St. Foix’s time.

 

LUTHER SOFTENED AT REVISITING HIS OLD CONVENT.

It is related by Audin, in his Life of Luther, that on the eve of Palm Sunday Luther arrived at Erfurth and descended at the convent of the Augustines, where a few years before he had taken the habit. It was nightfall; a little wooden cross over the tomb of a brother whom he had known, and who had lately departed sweetly to the Lord, struck his attention and troubled his soul. He was himself no longer the poor friar travelling on foot and begging his bread. His power equalled that of Charles V., and all men had their eyes on him. That morning, on his march, he had sung the famous war hymn, which Heyne compares to the Marseillaise, and the Emperor was about to resist him, as he said in his imperial rescript, “though at the peril of his own blood, of his dignity, and of the fortune of the empire.” The triumphant innovator was recalled to himself for an instant by seeing the tomb of a faithful brother. He pointed it out to Doctor Jonas. “See, there he rests; and I——” He could not finish. After a little while he returned to it and sat down on the stone, where he remained more than an hour, and till Amsdorf was obliged to remind him that the convent bell had tolled the hour for sleep. Well might the heart in which such tempests were still gathering have wept at the image of that quiet grave.

 

THE MONKS AND POLITE LETTERS (A.D. 527).

Cassiodorus, a most accomplished and high-born youth, became prime minister to Odoacer and then to Theodoric; but on the downfall of the Ostrogoths he become tired of diplomacy, and at seventy years of age retired and founded the monastery of Viviers about 527, at the foot of Mount Moscius. He was not satisfied with the usual occupations of monastic life; and having always been devoted to the pursuit of learning and science, he sought to distinguish his monastery from the others by making it the asylum of literature and the arts. He endowed the institution with his[Pg 237] Roman library, containing the accumulations of half a century. Not only were the monks incited by his example to the study of classical and sacred literature, but he trained them likewise to the art of carefully transcribing manuscripts of rare and precious works. He introduced also the arts of bookbinding, gardening, and medicine. He employed much of his own spare time also in the composition of scientific treatises, and in making clocks, sundials, and lamps. His mode of arranging the occupations of monks became known as a system, and was adopted beyond the boundaries of Italy; and thus the multiplication of manuscripts became a recognised employment, like prayer and fasting. He is said to have lived to be a hundred years old, and left several interesting works of his own on sacred literature.

 

THE MONKISH LITERATURE ABOUT THE SAINTS.

The early Christians had great difficulty in obtaining knowledge of the Scriptures, though it was the duty of the bishops and priests and deacons to read these as part of the service. And the want of printing was a great drawback to the circulation of every kind of book knowledge at the fireside. But the Lives of the Saints were the favourites, and the most keenly sought after from the sixth to the sixteenth century. Many of the biographies were written by some friend or pupil of the deceased person, and still remain most graphic pictures of the habits of the age. The ingenuity of the authors, when they lived long after their hero, was taxed in order to crowd into the narrative every incident which could sustain the craving for the marvellous and romantic, and these were the inventions of the composer. The Lives were written in the language of the people, and the supply seemed to be equal to the demand. They moulded the creed of all the common people, and the artists embodied them in endless forms in stained windows, mosaics, and pictures. So wonderful were the works usually recorded that they not only arrested the ear at once, but they became so blended and intermixed with history, that it is almost impossible to separate the fact from the fiction. Many of the details seem purposeless in their absurdity; while a few are well narrated and so probable that they were implicitly believed by all who enrolled themselves among the faithful.

 

THE SCRIPTORIUM IN THE MONASTERY OF ST. GALL.

The monastery of St. Gall, in Switzerland, which rose to be one of the chief religious houses in the Frankish Empire in 816-883, had a fine library and scriptorium, where the monks[Pg 238] excelled in copying manuscripts and illuminating them. The monks sat daily in perfect silence at writing-tables, copying the works of the Fathers and the Bible. They often wrote marginal notes, giving vent to their wants and desires of the moment. Each house had its peculiar style of penmanship. In the time of the Abbot Hartmut, about 870, there were three famous monks at St. Gall, called Notker the Stammerer, Ratpert, and Tutilo, and close friends. Notker was said to be the most learned man of his time; and one day a presumptuous emperor’s chaplain went up to him, saying, “Most learned sir, you know everything; pray tell us what God is doing now.” Notker at once replied, “He is doing now what He is always doing, and what He will soon do to thee. He is exalting the humble and abasing the proud.” A chronicler says that this chaplain, in departing in the Emperor’s train, was thrown from his horse and disfigured for life. Notker was a great musician, and set the best hymns to music for use in all the Western Churches. Ratpert also composed sacred songs and a chronicle of the abbey. Tutilo was skilful as an orator, as well as carver and painter, and played on the flute. His delight was to travel from monastery to monastery, where he was always welcome; for he carved and painted and made gifts of his own fine workmanship. These three friends greatly enjoyed their time of meeting each night in the scriptorium, where they discoursed on Bible subjects. One night they overheard the new abbot, who was greatly disliked, listening at the door, and they seized him and chastised him vigorously, to the great delight of the brethren. In revenge the abbot wilfully cut and spoiled the leaves of some valuable Greek works then in course of being copied by Notker.

 

BEAUTIFUL MANUSCRIPTS OF MONKS.

The art of transcribing manuscripts flourished in the monasteries till about a century before the discovery of printing. Gerbert, in his “History of the Black Forest,” says that if there was nothing else, the beautiful writing of the tenth century, by means of which so many valuable monuments have been transmitted to us, ought to convince us that it was not a barbarous age. Books were then so beautifully painted and embellished with emblems and miniatures that the whole seemed to be the produce not of human but of angelic hands. The fervour of the abbots in that tenth century in employing writers to preserve valuable books by multiplying copies can never be sufficiently praised. Tangmar, in his Life of St. Berward of Hildesheim, says that he established[Pg 239] scriptoriums, not only in the monasteries, but in divers places, by means of which he collected a copious library of books, both of divines and philosophers. In fact, the art of writing never attained to such perfection as in the ninth and tenth centuries; and all antiquarians will admit that the form—more or less elegant—of characters in the manuscripts of different ages places before our eyes the state of the sciences at that time, according as it was more or less flourishing. The same parchment was sometimes twice or thrice written upon. The monks only followed the practice of the Romans in thus rewriting on the same parchment.

 

THE PENMANSHIP OF THE MONKS.

One of the departments of every monastery was the scriptorium or writing-office, where, during the dark ages, many precious books were copied and circulated, and no member was admitted except the heads of the house or on business. There were two classes of monks in this department, called the antiquarii, who made copies of valuable old books, and the librarii, who copied new books and inferior ones. The books chiefly copied were the Scriptures, also missals or church services, works on theology, and the classics. St. David, the patron saint of Wales, is said to have begun shortly before his death to transcribe the Gospel of St. John in letters of gold with his own hand. In this constant practice sprang up the art of illumination, so vainly imitated by the artists of the present day, not from want of genius, but from want of something almost indescribable in the conception and execution—a tone and preservation of colour, and especially of gilding, which was essentially peculiar to the old monks, who must have possessed some secret both of combination and fixing of colours which has been lost with them. This elaborate illumination was devoted to religious books, psalms, missals, and prayer-books; in other works the first letters of chapters were beautifully illuminated, and other leading letters in a lesser degree. Such were the peculiar labours of the scriptorium; and to encourage those who dedicated their time to it, a special benediction was attached to the office. We got our Bible and our classics from them.

 

THE MONASTERIES AS MUSEUMS OF ART.

Kings and emperors often bequeathed their rarest treasures of gold and jewels to monasteries. The kings of France often left their crowns to the abbey of St. Denis. Monte Cassino had great store of presents from kings of chalices and patens, crowns and crosses, phials and vases, and precious ornaments of purest gold,[Pg 240] and silks with gold and gems. When the Danes arrived at the abbey of Peterborough in 1070, they took away the golden crown in the church embellished with gems from the head of the crucifix, and the golden stool set with gems, and rare articles of gold and precious stones. In the monastery of Ripon were four gospels written on a purple ground in letters of gold, inclosed in a golden casket. The furniture for St. Ina’s famous chapel in Glastonbury was of silver and gold of great value, the covers of the gospels were of gold, and the priests’ vestments interwoven with gold and cunningly ornamented with precious stones. In the treasury of the abbey of the Isle Barbe, the horn of Roland was preserved; in the abbey of St. Denis the chessboard and men used by Charlemagne. In the abbey of Rheinau was a wooden cross nine inches high, cut out of a single piece, and showing in more than a hundred figures the chief passages of our Saviour’s life. In the abbey of St. Stephen, at Troyes, the Psalter of Count Henry, the founder, written in letters of gold, was still fresh after eight hundred years. In the treasury of Citeaux was the chair in which St. Bernard sat as a novice; and there were ancient breviaries of the monks, written in small letters, as pocket companions in their travels. At Treves the gospels, written in letters of gold covered with jewels, were the present of Princess Ada, sister of Charlemagne.

 

LEARNING AND EMBROIDERY OF THE NUNS.

The nuns who followed the Benedictine order often displayed learning as well as manual skill. Willibald says those of Britain and Germany excelled in the studies usual to men. They followed the example of the monks in transcribing books, and even in composing others. Those of the monastery of Eikers, in Belgium, were celebrated for their labours in reading and meditating, in writing and in painting. The abbesses Harlind and Renild, besides works of embroidery and weaving, were said to have written with their own hands the four gospels, the whole Psalter, and many other books of Scripture, which they ornamented with liquid gold, gems, and pearls. Cæsaria, abbess of Arles, and her nuns wrote out many Divine books during the time that was spent between psalmody and fasting, vigils and readings. Heloise and her nuns proposed difficult questions on the sacred Scriptures to Abelard, and showed an acuteness and discernment little inferior to his own. Peter the Venerable, in his letter to Heloise, said it was sweet to prolong discourse with her, for her erudition was not less celebrated than her sanctity. So that there was always a succession[Pg 241] of noted women from age to age, like Marcella, whose acuteness and learning were constantly extolled by St. Jerome in his letters.

 

THE MONKS AT MISSAL PAINTING.

The art of illumination was one of the great triumphs of the monks in the Middle Ages, though the same, or at least a kindred, art was practised in Egypt long before the Christian era. So early as the fourth century St. Jerome complained of the ornamentation of enormous capital letters in books as an abuse. A copy of the New Testament was executed in the fourth century in letters of silver, with the initials in gold, and is still preserved in the royal library at Upsal under the title of the “Codex Argenteus.” In the seventh century enormous initial letters began to supersede the current practice of introducing miniatures in the ornamentation. The new style then consisted of interlaced fretwork or entwined branches of white and gold on a background of variegated colours. Irish monasteries excelled the British about that age in this kind of work, and the Anglo-Saxon youths went to Ireland to obtain a mastery of the favourite styles. St. Dunstan was himself an expert illuminator. A fine specimen, called St. Cuthbert’s Gospels, was executed by a bishop of Lindisfarne about 721, and is now in the Cottonian Library. The finest specimen of English illumination of the tenth century is the Duke of Devonshire’s “Benedictional,” executed by the Bishop of Winchester in 984, where pictures of glorified confessors are on the first page. The initial letters became longer and longer, until their tails reached nearly the whole length of the page, and next they were carried round the three sides. The foliage, flowers, birds, animals, and miniatures in the background were carefully drawn. The printing-press was the death-knell of this elaborate style of decorating books; yet the earliest printed books had also spaces for illumination. While it flourished, the great artists were vastly appreciated. It was a saintly work and a labour of love, and success in it was the highest ambition of the best men of the age.

 

A MONK GREAT IN MUSIC AND ILLUMINATING.

Roger De Warrene, nephew of the Earl of Surrey, became a monk in the abbey of St. Evroult, and lived there forty-six years, abounding in zeal and every good work. Though his person was handsome, he chose to disfigure it by a mean dress. A respectful modesty marked his whole demeanour; his voice was musical, and he had an agreeable mode of speech. His strength of body[Pg 242] enabled him to undergo much toil, while he was at all times ready to sing psalms and hymns. He was gifted with pleasing manners, and was courteous towards his brother monks. He was abstemious himself, but generous to others; always alive for vigils, and incredibly modest. He did not plume himself with worldly ostentation on his noble birth, but obeyed the rules with unhesitating humility, and was always pleased to do the lowest offices required of the monks. For many years he was in the habit of cleaning the brethren’s shoes, washing their stockings, and cheerfully doing other services which would be irksome to stupid and conceited persons. He ornamented a book of the gospels with gold, silver, and precious stones, and procured several vestments and copes for the chanters, with carpets and curtains and other ornaments for the church. He got all he could from his brothers and relations as occasion offered, and what he wrested from their bodily gratifications he applied with joy to Divine offices for the good of their souls.

 

 


[Pg 243]

CHAPTER IX.

PROSELYTISING MONKS AND PREACHERS.

 

A CAPTIVE NUN CONVERTING THE IBERIANS.

In the reign of the Christian Emperor Constantine, early in the fourth century, a Christian nun, called Nunia, was carried off captive by the Iberians, and was given as a slave to one of the natives. Her ascetic and devotional life soon attracted the notice of the Pagans, who became convinced that she had some magical power of life and death. A child was thought to be at the point of death, and was carried from place to place in search of a physician. Some one suggested the nun, who when challenged said she knew of no remedy but Christ, when all other help was wanting. She prayed for the child, and it recovered. This made an extraordinary impression, and the miracle reached the ears of the Queen. The Queen fell sick, and was prayed for, and also recovered. The King hearing of this, wanted to send a rich present, but was told the Christian woman despised such earthly goods, and looked for her only reward in bringing people to join in worshipping the true God. Some time afterwards the King lost his way while hunting, and remembered this Christian woman’s action, and made a vow that, if he were saved, he would join in this new worship. Presently the sky cleared, and the King was able to find his way back. He then set about inquiring, and soon engaged teachers and preachers of the new doctrine. And this was the beginning of Christianity among the Iberians, who soon united with the Armenian Church.

 

A FOURTH-CENTURY MISSIONARY.

Near the end of the fourth century, a monk, Abraham, in Phœnicia, having recovered from a dangerous illness, felt impelled to prove his gratitude to the Lord by exposing himself to great[Pg 244] danger in publishing the Gospel. In the disguise of a merchant he betook himself with some companions to a village in Lebanon, where all were Pagans, under the pretext that they wished to purchase walnuts, for which the place was noted. They took sacks for the purpose. But when the people heard him singing spiritual songs with his friends in a hired house, they met in a rage, barricaded the house, and were on the point of murdering the inmates, though at last these were allowed to escape. Just at that moment the tax-gatherers came and made heavier demands than the people could meet, whereupon Abraham interceded, and raised among his friends a sum sufficient to buy out the excisemen, and became surety for them also. This conduct made at once a great impression on the villagers, who changed from violent hostility into great gratitude and reverence. They requested their deliverer to undertake the office of their overseer or governor—an office then vacant. He agreed, on condition of their building a church, which they soon assented to. He then urged them to appoint a priest, and they begged him to act as such himself. He did so, and in three years he established a mission which was afterwards known as the tribe of Maronites, who became noted for their pure and simple way of life.

 

A LONG SERMON BY ST. PATRICK.

It is said that St. Patrick, who died 466, once went through the four gospels in one exposition to the Irish at a place called Finnablair, and he was three days and nights about it, without intermission, to the great delight of the hearers, who thought that only one day had passed. St. Bridget was present, but it was observed that she took a sleep and had a comfortable vision during its continuance.

 

HOW A MONK WARDED OFF THE LOCUSTS.

Severinus, a monk missionary, who laboured among the German races near the Danube, and who died in 482, was deemed the holiest man of his generation, and Providence was said to be visibly supporting his ministry. Once a great swarm of locusts settled on the country. Severinus was asked for his prayers, as a means of deliverance from the plague. After quoting Scripture and urging them to works of repentance, he said, “Let no one of you now go to his fields, thinking that by human care you can ward off the locusts.” All were affected by this advice, and assembled in church, acknowledging with tears their sinful courses.[Pg 245] Only one poor man, from anxiety about his land, while the rest were at church was absent all day, trying to drive away the locusts, and only in the evening found time to join the rest at church. But next morning he found his field devoured by the locusts, while the other fields had escaped. This occurrence made a great impression, which Severinus turned to account by teaching them how their duties towards God should take precedence of everything else. But he also added, “It is but reasonable that by your bounty this poor man should be maintained during the present year, seeing that by the punishment he has suffered he has given you a lesson of humility.” Accordingly, they all contributed jointly to support the poor man for a year.

 

FIRST PLANTING OF THE CROSS IN ENGLAND.

There are two theories of historians as to the first foundation of the Anglican Church. Some say it began with the mission of St. Augustine; others say it was coeval with the Apostles. The latter party maintain that there were Christian Britons at Rome when St. Peter was there, and that the British kings and nobles used to send their sons to be educated at that period in Rome. It is said that at the time of Peter’s preaching there were about a hundred converts, Britons and others, who were in the habit of assembling at a certain house for prayer and worship. This house belonged to a British lady, Claudia, and her husband, Pudens. One Eubulus was the father of Claudia. In this house, and entertained by Claudia and Pudens, lived St. Peter, by whom they had been converted to Christianity, and many of their friends and acquaintances. Few things are said to be clearer than that St. Peter, when in Rome, was the guest of this British lady Claudia. Claudia and Pudens had two daughters, Pudentiana and Praxedes, and their son Novatus. Nearly all these persons are mentioned by St. Paul, who must have known them well. The poet Martial corroborates this account in his fifty-third epigram. Therefore, as there were British Christians at Rome known to St. Peter and to St. Paul, it is highly probable that those converts increased in number, and that some of them found their way to their native place. Justin Martyr, in the early part of the second century, says that professors of Christianity had gone to every country; and Tertullian expressly mentions Britain as one of these countries. So does Eusebius in the fourth century. Moreover, Gregory and St. Augustine, in sending their mission to England at the end of the sixth century, recognise the fact of an already existing Church in Britain.

 [Pg 246]

HOW POPE GREGORY CAME TO SEND MISSIONARIES TO ENGLAND.

Bede narrates the origin of the mission to Christianise England thus: One day, certain merchants having lately arrived at Rome, a quantity of goods was brought into the market for sale, and many people had resorted thither to buy; and among the rest Gregory the Great himself came, and saw, together with other merchandise, some boys exposed for sale—their bodies white, their faces handsome, and their hair very beautiful. And having looked at them, he asked, as they say, from what country or land they had been brought, and was told from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were of such appearance. Again he asked whether the same islanders were Christians, or were still involved in Pagan errors; and was told that they were Pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! the pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness should possess men of so bright a countenance, and that persons conspicuous for so much grace of aspect should have minds void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked what was the name of that nation. He was answered that they were Angles. “That is well,” said he, “for they have angelic faces, and such men ought to be coheirs with the angels in heaven.” He asked other things; and then repairing to the Bishop of the Roman and Apostolic See (for he himself had not yet been made Pontiff), he asked him to send into Britain some ministers of the Word, by whom they might be converted to Christ, declaring himself ready to undertake the work with the Lord’s assistance, if only the Pope were pleased that he should do so; which thing he was not for a while able to perform, because, although the Pope was willing, yet the citizens of Rome would not allow him to withdraw so far from the city. Afterwards, when he was himself made Pope, he achieved the work so long desired, sending other preachers indeed, but himself aiding by his exhortations and prayers that their preaching should bear fruit.

 

HOW ST. AUGUSTINE MADE IMPRESSION ON THE SAXON KING (A.D. 596).

When Gregory the Great, in 596, sent St. Augustine to convert the Anglo-Saxons, the saint, on landing in the Isle of Thanet, sent messengers to Ethelbert, the Saxon King, to say he was the bearer of joyful tidings. The King, however, stipulated that their first interview should be in the open air, as he had a fear of charms and spells. So the King crossed the river Stour, and waited under an oak in the middle of the Isle of Thanet. To make a deeper impression, Augustine came up from the shore in solemn[Pg 247] procession, preceded by a verger carrying a large silver cross, and followed by one bearing aloft, on a board, a well-gilt picture of the Saviour. Then came the rest of the brethren and the choir chanting a solemn litany for the eternal welfare of the Saxon people. On their meeting, the saint could not speak Anglo-Saxon, and the King could not speak Latin, but the priests interpreted the conversation. The saint told of the Son of God having left His heavenly throne to come to the world, where He died for the sins of the guilty. The King listened fairly, and confessed that the tidings were new and full of significance. He would not at once engage to change the customs of his people, but he promised hospitality and kindness to the strangers, and agreed that none of his people should be prohibited from adopting the new religion. The saint was pleased at this success, and with his companions again formed a procession and crossed the river to Canterbury (which was then a rude place surrounded with thickets, and the capital of the kingdom), chanting all the way their solemn litanies. The missionaries took up their abode, waiting till the King made up his mind, and they devoted themselves to prayers and fasting. Their conduct made a great impression; and Ethelbert, a year after the first interview, avowed his acceptance of Christianity and was baptised. Augustine, soon after, returned to France, and was consecrated at Arles the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

METHODIUS PREACHES IN THE NATIVE LANGUAGE (A.D. 862).

In Moravia, King Swatopluk and his Queen having been converted to the new faith, applied, about 862, to the Emperor Michael to send them some Christian teachers, and two missionaries named Cyril and Methodius were sent. They took with them a relic, supposed to be the body of St. Clement of Rome, a martyr. They obtained great success, for the ordinary practice of the time was to use the Greek and Latin tongues; whereas these men saw that nothing could be done without first mastering the language of the country. They set about learning the Slavonic tongue, compiled an alphabet, and rapidly spread a knowledge of the truth, which led to the building of churches and great interest in the new doctrines, so that they were summoned to Rome, charged with some kind of heretical error. But they proved their orthodoxy, and the Pope consecrated Methodius as Archbishop of the Moravians. At a later date he was again cited before the Pope for using the Slavonic tongue in the Liturgy. But he again overcame all opposition, and showed that the praises of the Lord were not confined to the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin[Pg 248] languages, for St. Paul said, “Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord,” and it was a scriptural command, “Praise the Lord, all ye nations.” It was said that Methodius afterwards met some heathen dukes at the King’s table; and after talking to them, one of the dukes asked what he might expect to gain by becoming a Christian. The answer given was that the change would exalt him above all kings and princes; whereupon the savage chiefs were all there and then baptised. It seemed that after the death of Methodius, about 885, the orthodox people still professed antipathy to the Slavonic liturgy as an innovation; but it lasted at least to the fall of the Moravian kingdom in 908.

 

GALLUS, THE APOSTLE OF SWITZERLAND (A.D. 630).

One of the Abbot Columban’s favourite scholars who went with him from Ireland to France was Gallus, who died 646. The party, on settling in the old castle in Bregenz, found three gilded images of Pagan idols; and at the first discourse preached to a large company by Gallus, he in his zeal dashed the idols in pieces, which made a great impression on the congregation. Gallus, besides being a zealous preacher, was expert at gardening and weaving nets, and was so successful in fishing that he not only supplied the monks’ table, but made gifts to guests and strangers. Gallus was too sick to accompany Columban from France to Italy; and when left behind he took a few friends and ranged the forests, which abounded in wild beasts, and looked out for a settlement. They came to a stream full of fish. These Gallus caught with ease, and they broiled them on the banks, and with some bread out of their knapsack made a meal. Gallus then went into the bush to pray, and was so pleased with the situation that he suddenly became satisfied that there he should settle. He made a cross with a small twig, thrust it in the ground, and hung up some relics, and the party knelt in prayer. On this spot was founded the great monastery called by his name, St. Gall. There he trained many monks and spread the light of the Gospel among the surrounding people. He preached in Latin, and one of his scholars translated the discourse into German.

 

ST. ELIGIUS DENOUNCING PAGAN SUPERSTITIONS (A.D. 650).

St. Eligius is said to have rebuked the superstitions of his time, such as fortune-telling. He said, “Attend not to omens, to sneezing, the flight of birds, or strange creatures met in journeys; but whatever you do sign yourself in the name of Christ, and say[Pg 249] the Creed and Paternoster with faith and devotion, and then no enemy can hurt you. Let no Christian attend to the day or to the moon for beginning any work. Practise no Pagan buffooneries, believe in no charms, for these are diabolical works; for the sun and moon are the creatures of God, and serve the necessities of men by His order. Let the sick have no recourse to magicians, but let them trust in the sole mercy of God. Adore not the heavens, or the stars, or the earth, or any other creature, because God has made and disposed them all. High indeed are the heavens, vast the earth, immense the sea, beautiful the stars, but more immense and beautiful is He who created them. And if those things that we see are so incomprehensible—that is, the various sights of the earth, the beauty of flowers, the diversity of fruits, the races of animals, the prudence of the bees, the winds and the dew, and the lightning and the succession of the seasons, all which things no human mind can fully comprehend,—if these things are such which we behold, what must be those heavenly things which have not yet been seen? or what their Maker, whose hand created them, or by whose will they are all governed? Brethren, Him you must fear, adore, and love; hold to His mercy, and never despair of His goodness.”

 

ANSCHAR, THE APOSTLE OF THE NORTH (A.D. 825).

Anschar was born in 801, near Amiens, his mother being noted for her piety, but dying while he was in his fifth year. One night, in his schooldays, he had a vision and an ecstasy. He dreamt that he stood on a slippery precipice, and could see no way of extricating himself; but on a pleasant meadow not far off a shining group of white-robed females attracted his eye; and in scanning them he beheld his own mother in the crowd, which was led on by the Virgin Mary as Queen. The Virgin kindly saluted him, and asked if he would not come to his mother. He answered that he would gladly do so if he could; whereon the Queen replied, “If you wish to join us, you must eschew vanity and diligently take heed to your ways.” From that time a change came over him. He joined the convent of Corbie, and there he had another vision and ecstasy. He dreamt that he was transported to the assembly of the blessed, and saw and heard what filled him with inexpressible delight—a company of angels surrounded with glorious colours; and Peter and John came to be his guides, when suddenly a voice issued from the centre of light, full of sweetness and majesty. It said, “Go hence, and return to Me with a crown of martyrdom.” Two years afterwards he had a third vision, in[Pg 250] which he beheld the glorified figure of Christ, who invited him to confess his sins, that he might receive forgiveness, at which he knelt down and made confession. From that time Anschar felt that he was consecrated to be a missionary. As a monk he became known to the Jutland King, Harold, who had just been baptised at the monastery near the Rhine, and who wished to take home with him a Gospel preacher. Anschar was selected, and for forty years he laboured incessantly in Denmark and Sweden, and became a great civiliser of men. When at last a mortal sickness attacked him, his only regret was that he had not been thought worthy to die a martyr, instead of being tended by loving hands all the days he lay on his bed (in 865).

 

ST. NEOT, THE CORNISH SAINT (A.D. 890).

St. Neot was a monk at Glastonbury, and an angel was sent to him, telling him to prepare to go a long journey. After many wanderings, he reached a place in Cornwall among the hills. Each morning, both in summer and winter, he went and stood up to the neck in a well, repeating the Psalter through. One day, in the depth of winter, he was disturbed by a hunting party, and sprang hastily out of the well, and was retiring, but dropped one of his shoes. He had not time to wait; but soon afterwards, when he had finished his psalms and prayers, he remembered the shoe, and sent his servant to fetch it. Meantime a fox had passed and wanted to steal the shoe; but an angel who hovered over that place smote the fox, and the thongs of the shoe were found in the creature’s mouth at the time of its death. Another time St. Neot was standing in his valley by the water’s side, when a young and beautiful fawn bounded from the adjoining thicket, and, panting from weariness and terror, sought a refuge at his feet. Hitherto the poor creature had known man only as its foe; but the serene countenance of the holy man had no terror for the innocent and oppressed; and crouching closely to him, with upturned imploring eyes, it appeared to beseech his protection. Not so the fierce and hungry bloodhounds that followed hot behind. Nature has nothing more terrible to savageness and cruelty than the gentle majesty of virtue, and the frightened animals shrank back cowed and overawed into the wood. Up came the wild huntsman, and hallooed them towards the prey; but his hot spirit too was quenched in the pure influences which flowed from the countenance of the saint. He felt the reproach; the mild rebuke cut him to the heart; and in the first enthusiasm of repentance he hung up his horn as an offering at the shrine of St. Petrox, and himself[Pg 251] assumed the habit of a monk. St. Neot soon founded the monastery of Neotstowe, where he not long afterwards died, about 890.

 

THE CONVERSION OF RUSSIA IN 864.

Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, took credit for having assisted in the conversion of the Russians about 864, with the aid of the missionaries. But the new doctrine took no visible root till 955, when the then ruling Queen, Olga, resolved to visit Constantinople. Constantine Porphyrogenitus is said to have received her with great pomp, and her vanity was gratified with titles, banquets, and presents. She openly professed to be baptised along with her retinue of domestics, ministers, and leading merchants. On her return to Kion and Novgorod, she persisted in her new religion, but her family and nation remained obstinate and indifferent. Her example, however, was long appealed to by a few, and the Greek missionaries worked with zeal and led the people to imitate the dome of St. Sophia, with its pictures of saints and martyrs, the pomp of priestly vestments and ceremonies. A little later, in 968, the marriage of King Wolodomor with a Roman bride gave a fresh impulse to Christian zeal; and the god of thunder, the chief Pagan deity, was dragged through the streets, battered with clubs, and thrown into the sea. Other relics of Paganism soon followed, and a broad foundation was laid for the culture of Christian rites.

 

BISHOP OTTO IN POMERANIA (A.D. 1124).

Bishop Otto, of Bamberg, was induced in 1124 to set out as a missionary to Pomerania. Amid the difficulties caused by the Pagan superstitions, a mob in Stettin was incited by the native priests to destroy the Christian church and all who were assembled in it. Otto was not alarmed, but by his calm confidence and courage reassured his band of followers. After commending himself and his friends in prayer to God, he went forth in his episcopal robes in the midst of the clergy, who bore before him the crucifix and relics, singing psalms and hymns. The calmness of the bishop confounded the raging multitude for a while. A stout priest, of portly stature and sonorous voice, tried to inflame the fury of the Pagans and incite them to vengeance. But Otto’s venerable appearance, at the head of a company of believers, enabled them to proceed without further difficulty in consecrating a church and founding a permanent society of Christian worshippers.

 [Pg 252]

NORBERT DENOUNCING CLERICAL VICES (A.D. 1134).

About 1114 Norbert, the founder of the Premonstrants, had been in early life a courtly ecclesiastic, and a favourite of Henry V. While riding for pleasure he was caught in a storm, and prostrated by a flash of lightning. On recovering his senses, he was so impressed by this escape from sudden death that he at once began a new life. He laid aside his sumptuous apparel, entered the order of priests, became an itinerant preacher, went barefoot and wearing a sheepskin, and having his body girt with a cord. He exposed the worldly-minded and degenerate clergy of his time, and became popular, having obtained from the Pope a roving licence to preach. Whenever he entered a village or approached a castle, the herdsmen who caught sight of him circulated the news; the bells were rung, and young and old hastened to church, where, after performing Mass, he exhorted the people. After the sermon he conversed with individuals on the concerns of their souls. Towards evening he was conducted to his lodgings, and all were eager to have him as their guest. He did not, like others, take up his abode in monasteries or priests’ houses, but preferred the populous places, where he could reach the multitude with ease. The Pope wished to see him, as a means of reforming the lives of the clergy; but so violent was their opposition that Norbert retired to a desert region in the valley of Premonstre, in the forest of Couchy, and founded a new spiritual society, resembling in its rule that of Augustine; and his power was so great that he made the wolves do the duty of sheepdogs. Finally, Norbert became Archbishop of Magdeburg, being chosen because he suddenly appeared at an election there. He died in 1134. The Premonstrantensians were, by their rules, specially forbidden to keep rare and curious tame animals, as deer, bears, monkeys, peacocks, swans, or hawks. Even when Norbert became archbishop he went barefooted and meanly dressed, and once his own porter was about to shut him out as a beggar. The order thus founded long kept up its austere discipline; but after a time, like other societies, it grew rich and careless.

 

FULK, A ROUSING MONK PREACHER (A.D. 1190).

About 1190 a bustling priest near Paris, named Fulco of Neuilly, said to be ignorant and worldly-minded, achieved a great reputation. He had attended the lectures of Peter Cantor, and obtained an insight into his impressive style. In a coarse cowl,[Pg 253] and girt about with a leather thong, he fearlessly denounced the vices of the time. His sermons wrought such deep conviction that people scourged themselves, fell down before him on the ground, and confessed themselves in public. Usurers made restitution of their gains; engrossers and corndealers threw open their granaries; abandoned women forsook their haunts; the clergy separated from their concubines. A curse from his lips spread alarm like a thunderbolt. His hearers would fall down in convulsive fits, foaming at the mouth. The sick were brought to him to be healed by his touch. His garments were sometimes seized and torn into shreds, to be preserved as precious relics. He was so mobbed in the street that he had to swing his staff violently about to clear his way; and those wounded, so far from murmuring, kissed the blood that flowed from their wounds, as if they had been instantaneously healed. His stirring example gave a great impetus to preachers, and students of theology were turned into itinerant missionaries. Afterwards Fulco stood forth as a preacher of the Crusades, and great sums of money were sent to him, which he divided among the Crusaders. It was noticed that, however impressive were his discourses when delivered by himself, those who redelivered the same after they had been taken down by shorthand writers and copied fell far short in their effect. It was also said that he impaired his influence by riding on horseback, shaving his hair, and indulging in dress and food. It was he who reproved Richard of England for cherishing his three daughters—pride, covetousness, and luxury; to which the King replied that he had bestowed his pride on the Templars, his greed on the Cistercians, and his luxury on the prelates.

 

ST. DOMINIC’S ZEAL IN PREACHING (A.D. 1221).

St. Dominic, who died 1221, said it is not by the display of power and pomp, by cavalcades of retainers, and richly houselled palfreys, or by gorgeous apparel that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by seeming, it is true, but yet seeming, holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth. He noticed how eagerly the women, especially the noble ladies of Languedoc, listened to the heretical preachers; hence he first founded a convent of females, so as to dispose of the most impressible of that sex. St. Dominic’s great maxim was—the man who governs his passions is master of the world; we must command them or be enslaved by them.

 [Pg 254]

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISIUM (A.D. 1226).

St. Francis, who died in 1226, was born at Assisium, a town situated on the brow of a hill called Assisi, in Umbria, Italy. He was in youth abandoned to all sorts of amusements, but became serious by being made a prisoner and also by a long illness. One day, on riding out and seeing a beggar, he changed clothes with him, and then became conscious of the innate beauty of poverty and humility. He visited Rome to see the tombs of the Apostles. He gloried in tending the sick lepers and in all the hardships of poverty. He wandered over the Umbrian Mountains, praising God for all things—for the sun which shone above, for the day and for the night, for his mother the earth, and for his sister the moon, for the winds which blew in his face, for the pure precious water and for the jocund fire, for the flames under his feet and for the stars above his head, saluting and blessing all creatures, whether animate or inanimate, as his brethren and sisters in the Lord. He existed entirely on the alms begged from door to door. He espoused poverty. He was endowed with an extraordinary gift of tears; he wept continually for his own sins and those of others. He founded the order of Franciscans. He held his first chapter of the order when five thousand friars assembled in tents at the foot of the hill of Assisi, called the Chapter of Mats, because mats were spread over their booths for shelter. He created an enthusiasm for austerities and mortifications. The body of St. Francis stands upright in a subterranean vault under the altar of the rich chapel of St. Francis at Assisium. On his deathbed he particularly requested to be buried at the common place of execution among the bodies of malefactors. All the princes of Christendom sent offerings, and all the neighbouring towns sent their artists to decorate his church.

 

HOW FRANCIS OF ASSISI TENDED THE LEPERS.

In the Speculum Vitæ this is related as to the attempts of the friars to help the lepers: “There was in a certain place a leper so impatient, froward, and impious that every one thought he was possessed by an evil spirit. He abused all that served him with terrible oaths and imprecations, often proceeding to blows. What was still more fearful, he uttered the direst blasphemy against Christ and His holy mother and the holy angels. The friars endured this ill-usage patiently, but they could not tolerate his blasphemies; they felt they ought not, and therefore they resolved to abandon the leper to his fate, having first taken[Pg 255] counsel with St. Francis. Brother Francis visited the leper, and upon entering the room said to him in the usual salutation, ‘The Lord give thee peace, brother.’ ‘What peace,’ exclaimed the leper, ‘can I have who am utterly diseased?’ ‘Pains that torment the body,’ replied St. Francis, ‘turn to the salvation of the soul, if they are borne patiently.’ ‘And how can I endure patiently,’ rejoined the leper, ‘since my pains are without intermission night and day? Besides, my sufferings are made worse by the vexation I endure from these friars you have appointed to wait upon me. There is not one of them who serves me as he ought.’ St. Francis perceived that the man was troubled by a malignant spirit, and went away and prayed to God for him. Then returning, he said, ‘Since others do not satisfy you, let me try.’ ‘You may if you like; but what can you do more than the rest?’ ‘I am ready to do whatever you please,’ replied St. Francis. ‘Then wash me,’ replied the leper, ‘because I cannot endure myself; the stench of my wounds is intolerable.’ Then St. Francis ordered water to be warmed with sweet herbs; and stripping the leper, began to wash him with his own hands, whilst a friar standing by poured water upon him.”

 

ST. FRANCIS’S DEXTERITY.

After giving away all his property, St. Francis of Assisi, who died 1226, set himself the task of repairing the church of St. Damian at Assisi. And he had an ingenious mode of collecting funds. He said to the mob, “Whoever will give me one stone shall have one prayer; whoever gives me two shall have two prayers; and three stones three prayers.” The mob laughed and jeered; but he carried the stones with his own hands, and gradually he accumulated materials enough. He was equally adroit with the Pope, Innocent III. One day his Holiness was walking on the terrace of the Lateran, when a mendicant of the meanest appearance presented himself, proposing to convert the world by poverty and humility. The haughty pontiff dismissed him with contempt. But on second thoughts he had a vision, and then saw that this was a very feasible way of meeting the heretics on their own ground. He sent for St. Francis, and on the whole approved of the new order.

 

THE STIGMATA OF ST. FRANCIS.

The remarkable characteristic of St. Francis was that his hands and feet had marks resembling those of Christ after the Crucifixion, called the stigmata of St. Francis. He had in the solitude of[Pg 256] Monte Alverno been holding a solemn fast in honour of the archangel Michael. He had thrice opened the Scriptures, and thrice they opened on the Passion of our Lord. One morning, it is said, he was praying with great devotion, when he saw a vision, which, on approaching, was a seraph with six wings, and having the likeness of the crucified Saviour. This left on his mind an indescribable impression of delight and awe. Instantaneously there appeared on his hands and feet marks of the Crucifixion, like those he had seen in the vision. Two black excrescences, like nails having heads and points, grew in these spots. There was also a wound on his side, which frequently flowed with blood and stained his garment. Francis, in his humility, sought to conceal this wondrous sight from his disciples, but fifty of them at one time had seen these marks. Afterwards Pope Alexander IV. also saw them, and publicly declared that they were there. Francis died two years afterwards, and then again the wondering disciples saw this sight on his body. These marks at once identified Francis with the Saviour, and this singularity became part of the creed of Christendom.

 

A CONTEMPORARY BIOGRAPHY OF ST. FRANCIS.

Thomas of Celano was a friend and biographer of St. Francis, and gives this portrait of the saint: “Oh, how beautiful, how splendid, how glorious, did he appear in the innocence of his life, in the simplicity of his words, in the purity of his heart, in his love of God, in brotherly charity, in fragrant obedience, in angelic aspect! Gentle in manners, placid in nature, affable in conversation, faithful in undertakings, of admirable foresight in counsel, able in business, gracious to all, serene in mind, gentle in temper, sober in spirit, steadfast in contemplation, persevering in grace, and in all things the same; swift to forgive, slow to anger, free in intellect, bright in memory, subtle in dissertation, circumspect in judgment, simple in all things. Rigid towards himself, pious towards others, discreet to everybody—a most eloquent man, of cheerful aspect and benevolent countenance, free from idleness, void of insolence. He was of the middle stature, rather inclined to shortness, his head was of the medium size and round, with an oblong and long face, a small smooth forehead, black and simple eyes, dark-brown hair and straight eyebrows; his nose was thin, well proportioned, and straight; his tongue was placable, though fiery and sharp; his voice was vehement, though sweet, clear, and sonorous; his teeth well set, his lips of moderate size, his beard black, his neck thin; small arms, thin hands, long fingers[Pg 257] and nails; thin legs, small feet, a delicate skin, and very little flesh. He wore a rough vest, took very little sleep, and though he was most humble he showed every courtesy to all men, conforming himself to the manners of every one. As he was holy among the holy, so among sinners he was as one of them.”

 

ST. ANTONY OF PADUA AS A STREET PREACHER (A.D. 1220).

St. Antony of Padua, who died in 1231, was in early life fired with zeal for martyrdom, and was anxious to enter the Franciscan convent at Assisi; but there was no opportunity, and he entered a hermitage at Bologna. There he was made to serve in the kitchen, and his talents and learning were not suspected till one day, owing to there being no one ready to preach, the managers asked Antony to take the duty. Antony answered that his proper work was to wash up dishes and scrub the floors; but these objections being overruled, he entered the pulpit. From the first his manner and style attracted attention. He had a rich voice of great compass and flexibility; his action was graceful, his language was choice, and his face shone with the enthusiasm of a seraph. The great St. Francis soon heard of the success, and gave his blessing to the young recruit. With this encouragement, Antony preached in many leading cities, and attracted great crowds. The churches were found too small, and he stood in churchyards and market-places. Shops were shut when he was announced, and ladies rose early to secure places. Sometimes people remained all night in the church in order to be sure of a seat next day. Crowds pressed on him as he went to the place appointed, and begged to kiss his hand and touch his garment. He swayed the congregations as he pleased—sobs of the hardened sinners sometimes drowned all sounds; his clear, bell-like voice was heard in all the neighbouring streets, and the excitement of the population was intense. His memory was so good that he knew the Scriptures by heart. He once addressed a ferocious tyrant who used to shed innocent blood, calling on the sword of the Lord to smite him. The congregation was worked to the highest pitch of excitement, when the tyrant fell on his knees and promised amendment. Antony’s exertions under this high pressure brought on paralysis, and he died at the age of thirty-six.

 

HOW THE ENGLISH FRIARS DISDAINED SHOES (A.D. 1224).

Thomas of Eccleston relates that the Franciscan friars, on coming to England in 1224, were full of zeal, and resolved to[Pg 258] adhere to the strictest rules of the order. In one of their London stations, two weary and hungry strangers one night arrived, and the seniors had not a drop of beer to give them; but after much anxious consultation, they at last made up their minds to borrow a pot of beer, and when the pot was passed to them, the brethren of the convent were only to pretend to take a sip. By this device they got through the entertainment. They resolutely made up their minds to go barefooted in spite of the cold and mud. At the Oxford station it is said that Friar Walter de Madeley, of happy memory, found two shoes, and when he went to matins put them on. He stood at matins accordingly, and felt considerable comfort. But afterwards, when he went to bed, and was resting, he dreamt that he had to go through a dangerous pass between Oxford and Gloucester—Boysalum—where there are usually robbers; and when he was going down into a deep valley, they ran up to him on each side of the way, shouting, “Kill him! kill him!” Overpowered with dread, he said he was a Friar Minor; but they said, “You lie, for you do not walk barefooted.” He, believing himself to be as usual unshod, said, “Yes, I do walk barefooted”; and when he boldly put forth his foot to look at it, he found himself standing before them shod with those shoes. In his excessive confusion he immediately awoke from sleep, and pitched the shoes into the middle of the yard as an unclean thing.

 

HOW RAIMUND LULL WENT TO CONVERT THE SARACENS (A.D. 1236).

In 1236 Raimund Lull was born, and early developed a turn for verse, and wrote sprightly drinking songs; but at the age of thirty he suddenly felt a desire to convert the Saracens, as the Crusaders hitherto had made so little impression on them. Yet he did not know the language; hence he bought a Saracen, who taught him Arabic. His notion was to go and encounter the most learned Mohammedans, and refute all their arguments against Christianity face to face. He first went and urged the Pope to found colleges to educate missionaries in foreign languages, saying that missions would keep them better employed than they used to be in their idle haunts. But he made no impression, and felt bound to go out singlehanded and encounter all the dangers of the enterprise he advocated. He arrived at Tunis, and assembled the Mohammedan doctors and disputed with them. One of them, however, soon complained that he was seditious, and proposed that Raimund should be put to death; but another of the natives interceded and saved him, on condition[Pg 259] of his quitting the country. He then composed a learned work, in which he refuted all the arguments usually brought against Christians, urging again and again the necessity of schools and colleges to train the missionary mind. He also tried his skill at argument on all the Jews and Saracens within his reach at Majorca and Cyprus. He soon again became restless, and sailed to Africa and attacked the Mohammedan religion, and again he narrowly escaped death and was banished. He next wrote a treatise, setting forth his plan for establishing colleges for missionaries, and also for uniting the various orders of knighthood, to recover the countries taken from the Christians by unbelievers. He thought that unbelievers ought never to be fought with the sword, but only by the force of truth, and that martyrdom in such a cause was the greatest of honours. He could not repress his desire to act on this view, and again he sailed to Africa and attacked the leading men with fiery zeal. They at last stoned him to death, and his body was afterwards brought and buried in his native island, Majorca.

 

ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (A.D. 1520).

Ignatius was born in 1491 in his father’s castle of Loyola, the family being ancient and noble. He was the youngest of eight sons, and was spirited and keen-witted from his earliest years. One day, after he had vowed to be a monk, he gave away his rich clothes to a beggar, who was then accused of larceny, but released after the donor followed to explain the gift; while Ignatius gloried in his freedom from the livery of sin, and indulged in the self-imposed austerities of his order. Being wounded in both legs at the siege of Pampeluna, he was long confined to his couch; and it was in seeking for amusement from romances that he was supplied with the Lives of the Saints, which first struck the new chord in his heart; and he vowed that he would devote his life to the service of Jesus and the Virgin. He transferred the habits of military obedience to the order he founded, and called it the Company of Jesus. He had nine associates closely connected with him, of whom Xavier and Faber were two. His head and face showed an imperious temper; and his visions, penances, and miracles soon attracted attention far and wide. Ignatius was general of his society about fifteen years, and died in 1556, aged sixty-five. He lived to see his society flourishing in every country. His body was buried in the church of the Virgin in Rome, and in 1587 removed to the church of Jesus under the altar, being the most magnificent church in the world[Pg 260] next to the Vatican, and called the church of St. Ignatius, where is a statue of gold and silver and diamonds. He was beatified in 1609 and canonised in 1622.

 

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, THE PHILANTHROPIST (A.D. 1600).

St. Vincent was born in 1576, and in his time originated many useful philanthropic institutions. In his youth he was taken by pirates and carried off to slavery, and kept as a slave for two years. When afterwards a domestic chaplain to a benevolent countess, he had to visit and distribute alms, and he set to work to organise a system of relief in some respects resembling a modern poor law. He divided a town into districts, and set inspectors to weed out the tramps and beggars and arrange lists of the really necessitous. He also devised a system of home missions for preaching the Gospel to the poor. In Paris a large building of the name of St. Lazare was dedicated to the service of candidates for holy orders, and he introduced method into the institution for training all the recruits who came, and to this was added soon a seminary for training young clergymen. In course of his works of charity he met with Madame le Gras, a lady of good family and devoted to good works, and they founded in 1633 the institution known as a new Society of Sisters of Charity, which grew rapidly into favour, and soon twenty-eight houses were established in different districts. The rest of France and Poland followed the example. Their chief care were the sick, poor, widows, orphans, wounded soldiers, and hospital patients. They soon added to their flock the foundlings and convicts. These Sisters of Charity or Grey Sisters underwent a five years’ training. He also instituted a kindred order, called the Company of Ladies of Charity, with like objects. It is said that in one year these ladies converted or reclaimed seven hundred and sixty heretics. The number of foundlings taken care of averaged about three hundred and four each year, and the Congregation of St. Vincent Sisters are said to take charge of such poor children in Paris. Many other institutions were originated by this apostle of charity. He died in 1660 in his armchair, as the Fathers of the Mission were saying matins, having reached his eighty-fifth year. St. Vincent de Paul, the apostle of compassion, thus showed a genius for his work, and also founded the hospital of La Madeleine for penitent girls. He became a friend of Richelieu, and was summoned from his attendance on the galley slaves to the deathbed of Louis XIII. He was called the Father of the Poor. In some of the sacred pictures he is shown[Pg 261] with a newborn infant in his arms and a Sister of Mercy at his side.

 

MISTAKES OF MEDIÆVAL MISSIONARIES.

It is related by Pasquier, on the authority of Joinville, born in 1220, and the biographer of St. Louis IX. of France, that when Louis was in the island of Cyprus, he there received from the Cham of the Tartars an embassy, informing him of the Cham’s conversion to Christianity. On this intelligence, the zealous monarch, full of joy, despatched preachers to attempt the conversion of the other Tartars. These preachers incessantly in their sermons repeated that the Pope was the Vicar of God on earth, whereupon it occurred to the Cham that he should send ambassadors to the Pope to pay him filial obedience. The preachers, hearing of this design, thereupon began to fear that if the ambassadors should go to Rome, and there witness the disorders that reigned among Christians, they would on their return recommend their master to continue in his errors, and resolved to dissuade the Cham from carrying out any such enterprise.

 

A FRIAR STARTLING THE BENCH OF JUDGES.

In Venice, one day in 1552, when the tribunal of Quaranthia, consisting of the Doge and senators, sat to try causes of life and death, a hermit or friar suddenly called out with a terrific voice, “To hell shall go all who do not administer true justice—to hell the mighty who oppress the poor—to hell the judges who shed the blood of the innocent!” After the first emotions of surprise, the intruder was recognised to be a Capuchin friar who had been a well-known preacher in Venice, and not only admonished sinners, but spent his days in works of mercy. He had no habitation, but slept at nights under the portico of St. Mark or of the Rialto, or under the campanile of the church of St. Moses, and was often seen at early dawn before the church doors in prayer. The Doge was annoyed at this unseemly interruption, and was about to order his expulsion, but an illustrious senator named Sebastian Venerius interposed, and thus addressed his brother judges: “Most serene prince and conscript fathers, we are constituted judges in this republic; and what ought to be more desired by us in our administration of justice than that we should be admonished of our duty by celestial messengers? This is a most serious judgment we are engaged in, for another sentence can be corrected; but that which deprives men of life is immutable.[Pg 262] These words of the holy man recall to our minds how important and perilous is the office which we discharge. Though we all hold in horror a wilful violation of justice, yet our judgment may sometimes sleep. And now if God should have sent this man as an angel to awaken us from sleep, ought he to be driven out and his admonition rejected, because we judge the man who conveys it to be mean, estimating his mind from the habit he wears? Far be such scorn from us who boast to be disciples of the humble Fisherman!” This address made such an impression on the assembly that the friar was allowed ever after to repeat his imprecations.

 

MENDICANT FRIARS AND SCHOOLMEN.

The mendicant friars under St. Francis and St. Dominic early forced their way into the chairs of the chief universities of Europe. Alexander Hales went first into Paris, then Oxford, giving a great impulse to the higher studies. The Dominicans produced Thomas Aquinas, the prince of schoolmen, who was born in 1228. The Franciscans also claimed Alexander Hales, Bonaventura, and Duns Scotus. These rival schoolmen divided the allegiance of the leading intellects of their time.

 

FRIARS BURNING SENSELESS ORNAMENTS (A.D. 1429).

It is related that in 1429, when Brother Richard, a Franciscan, returned from Jerusalem, he delivered so stirring a sermon that the people of Paris kindled hundreds of fires, in which men burned card and billiard tables, and the women their extravagant and gaudy ornaments. So at the preaching of Friar Jerome at Florence, the friars during the carnival incited a numerous flock of children to go round in all districts and in a spirit of humility and devotion beg people to deliver up all the profane books and pictures that were kept by them. These were freely given; and the devout women yielded humbly to these innocent preachers, suffered themselves to be despoiled of their dearest personal ornaments, and of everything that was used to give them a fictitious beauty. On the last day of the carnival, after having heard Mass, clothed in white, carrying on their heads garlands of olive, and red crosses in their hands, the children made a procession, singing psalms to the Piazzo dei Signori, where a pyramidal scaffold had been erected, upon which these instruments of pleasure and profane luxury were deposited. The children mounted the rostrum, and after having sung spiritual hymns the four deputies came down[Pg 263] with lighted torches and set fire to the pile, and watched it as it was consumed amidst voices of joy and the sound of trumpets. Another saint of the Franciscan order, named Bernardine of Sienna, born in 1380, undertook a reform which was styled of the strict observance, and was the means of founding five hundred convents in Italy. He was a most famous preacher, and shone in his denunciations of the then prevailing weaknesses, which were the vices of gaming and divination and magic. His power over his contemporaries was supreme as a reconciler of long-standing enmities. He distinguished himself by collecting on the Capitoline Hill an immense assemblage of pictures, musical instruments, implements of gaming, false hair, and extravagant female dresses, of which he made an enormous bonfire. This saint was said to work miracles, but at last was charged with heresy and idolatry, on account of his using an ornament which he invented as a help to devotion. The Pope pronounced against this ornament, and the saint dutifully gave it up. He died in 1444, and at the jubilee in 1450 was canonised at the instance of Pope Nicolas V.

 

AN ELOQUENT FRIAR ON THE FASHIONABLE VICES.

John Capistran, a Franciscan friar of the fifteenth century, was noted for his eloquence. At Nuremberg, where he went to preach in 1452, he caused a pulpit to be set up in the middle of the great square, and there preached for some days in so forcible a manner against vice that he led the inhabitants to make a pile of their cards and dice, and afterwards set fire to them; which being done, he exhorted them to take up arms against the Turks. The year after, he went to Breslau, in Silesia, and there inveighed strongly against cards and dice; and commanding a pile to be made of them all, he set fire to it. But the power of his eloquence was not confined to inanimate things; for exerting his eloquence in a most intolerant manner against the Jews, he caused a great number of these people to be burnt in all parts of Silesia, upon pretence of their behaving with irreverence towards the consecrated bread.

 

A MONK DENOUNCING FEMALE HEAD-DRESSES.

Thomas Conecte, a Carmelite monk, born in Brittany in 1434, was the greatest preacher of his time. When in Flanders, he drew vast crowds and discoursed vehemently on the vices of the clergy, the luxury and extravagance of women’s head-dresses, which were of prodigious height, called hennins. These were high[Pg 264] and broad horns an ell long, having on each side ears so large that they could not get through doors. The preacher not only denounced these, but gave presents to little children to cry and hoot at them, and even throw stones at the wearers. The ladies at last durst not appear, except in disguise, to listen to Brother Thomas’s fervent appeals. For a time the excess was reduced; but when he left the country the head-dresses were put on again, with still higher toppings than before, as if to redeem the lost time. As Paradin relates: “After Thomas’s departure the ladies lifted their horns again, and did like the snails, which, when they hear any noise, pull in their horns, but when the noise is over suddenly lift them higher than before.” Wherever Thomas went his zeal against the senseless ornaments and crying vices of the day led to many superfluous clothes, tables, dice, cards, and frivolities being burned. He passed triumphantly from the Netherlands to Italy, exciting great attention and awakening no small jealousy. At last the Pope was moved to put him on his trial, when he was found guilty of the dangerous heresy of denouncing the vices of the clergy and the gluttony of the monks. He met an appropriate fate by refusing to retract, and then by being burnt, as being far too advanced a reformer for his times.

 

SAVONAROLA, THE MARTYRED PREACHER (A.D. 1498).

Savonarola at an early age chose the study of theology for a profession, and devoted himself to the Holy Scriptures, and at the age of twenty-two was greatly impressed by the preaching of a friar. He became member of a Dominican convent at Bologna. He was removed to Florence, then became friar, and saw great need of reform in the lax and worldly ways of the monks. He soon developed great gifts as a preacher, and had a rapt and impassioned style of oratory; and his early study of the Apocalypse led him into mystical language, which heightened the effect. His denunciations of the current vices made him a formidable censor, and even gave him political influence, and excited enmities. Like some of his near contemporaries, his influence over the ardent youths caused them at the carnival of 1497 to go the round of the city and collect all the rich and extravagant dresses, pictures, musical instruments, books of sorcery, and false hair into a large pile; and then, amid singing of hymns, sounding of bells and trumpets, the heap was fired amid great enthusiasm. His attacks on the vices of the period led the Pope to excommunicate him. But his preaching was a constant attraction and kept up the excitement. Shorthand writers took the sermons down, printed[Pg 265] and dispersed them all over Italy. Once he was challenged by a bitter enemy to walk through a burning pile forty yards long, in order to test which of two opposing doctrines was true; and he felt bound to accept the challenge, though ultimately this mode of trial was prohibited by the magistrates. He was, like other advanced reformers, charged with heresy, tortured, and ultimately sentenced to be burnt alive, after being degraded. The sentence was carried out in 1498, and his ashes were thrown into the river, under the idle notion that his name and influence would perish. Some have denounced him as a fanatic, and others as a reformer too far advanced for his age, though Luther was only a few years his junior. In Germany also three noted reformers appeared between 1450 and 1489—namely, John of Goch, John of Wesel, and John Wessel, whose teaching tended towards Lutheranism, then in the bud and soon about to flower.

 

 


[Pg 266]

CHAPTER X.

FAMOUS MONKS AND MONASTERIES.

 

A MONK WITH A GENIUS FOR MONKERY (A.D. 400).

Arsenius the Great was a famous monk, born about 354, and had been early in life made tutor to the sons of the Emperor Theodosius; but finding it an unsatisfactory post, retired at the age of forty, resolving to cleanse his soul and fly from the society of men. He went to Egypt; and being anxious to be taken in as a monk, applied to John Colobus (the Dwarfish), who invited him to a meal to test his suitability. Arsenius was kept standing while the others sat. John then flung a biscuit to him, which Arsenius ate in a kneeling posture. “He will make a monk,” said John; and he was admitted forthwith. Arsenius soon afterwards went to Scetis, and lived as a hermit. A senator once left him a legacy; but the hermit rejected it, saying, “I was dead before him.” Two monks once called on Arsenius, and were received with absolute silence; they waited on another famous monk, called Moses, who received them with cordial welcome. The visitors were perplexed at two great men acting so dissimilarly; but the doubt was solved by another monk, who one day saw in a vision two boats on the Nile. One boat contained Arsenius, with the Spirit of God; the other boat contained Moses, fed with honey by angels. Arsenius was often rude to his visitors. One was a high-born Roman lady, who requested to be remembered in his prayers; but the monk brusquely told her that he hoped he might be able to forget her. She complained of this to Theophilus, who told her she was but a woman, and the old man would pray for her soul notwithstanding. Arsenius once took a thievish monk into his cell to cure him, but found it impossible. He used often to say that he had been sorry for having spoken, but never for having been silent. When his end drew near, he was seen to weep, which made the other monks ask, “Are you[Pg 267] then, father, afraid?” “Truly,” said Arsenius, “the fear that is with me in this hour has been with me ever since I became a monk.”

 

ST. NINIAN, THE SCOTTISH SAINT (A.D. 400).

St. Ninian was a Briton, born about 360, of Christian parents, and of a grave and earnest disposition. After much searching of the Scriptures, he went to Rome in order to know more of the truth. When arrived there, he wept over the relics of the Apostles, and the Pope received him graciously. After spending some years there, it was made clear to the Pope that Western Britain was much in need of Christian enlightenment, and Ninian was consecrated a bishop, and sent there as the first bishop of his nation. On his way he visited the famous St. Martin of Tours, the demolisher of Pagan temples. The two saints were mutually pleased and edified. They were described as two cherubims, from the intimate understanding and mutual light displayed by them. Ninian, on returning to Scotland, erected a church at Whithorn, in Galloway, and he was anxious to imitate what he had seen at Tours, and begged the loan of masons from that place, and the church was dedicated to St. Martin. Ninian became there a great preacher and evangelist, and the miracles he performed spread his fame everywhere. If he read the Psalter in the open air, the shower would avoid touching him and his book. If thieves tried to steal his cattle, an angel drove them away. One of Ninian’s scholars, being afraid of a whipping, fled to the seashore, but took care to steal his master’s pastoral staff; and this staff, after the youth had prayed, guided his boat in safety, and was both rudder and mast and sail by turns. The saint converted the Picts far and near, and was succeeded by St. Mungo and St. Columba. His relics also were said to continue to work miracles long after he was dead.

 

ST. MUNGO, AN EAST LOTHIAN SAINT (A.D. 580).

While St. Servanus, an early bishop of the Scots, was settled at Culross, near Loch Leven, one Kentigern, who had been born about 514, under mysterious circumstances, at a seaport in East Lothian, was taken to the bishop by the shepherds, and said to be a child of promise. On seeing the child, Servanus smiled welcome, carefully instructed him, and gave him the name of Mun Cu or Mungdu (the Gaelic words for “Dear one”), since named Mungo. The boy soon began to work miracles by restoring birds and dead bodies to life. This gift excited the jealousy[Pg 268] of the other pupils, and caused Mungo to flee. He went to Dumfries, and thereafter settled at Glasgow. The King and clergy soon afterwards elected him as bishop, an office then vacant. He lived on bread and butter and cheese, abstaining from flesh and wine. He was clothed in a rough hair shirt, and slept every night in a stone trough, which was in shape like a coffin, strewed with ashes, and a stone for a pillow. Every morning he went and stood in the neighbouring stream up to the neck, however cold it might be, till he had chanted the Psalter, after which he came out clean and pure as a dove washed in milk. He had the gift of silence, and spoke seldom, yet weightily. He could scarcely help working miracles. One day he went to plough, but had no oxen at hand; and a wolf and deer passing that way, he hailed them, and they both came and quietly entered under the yoke. After he had given away all his corn to the poor, he would sow the land with sand, and great crops grew up. One day he asked the King to supply him with corn, but met with an indignant refusal, whereon the river Clyde rose and swept away the King’s barn, and floated the contents up the Molendinar burn, and they landed near the saint’s dwelling. The King in a passion once lifted his foot to strike the saint, and the foot became gangrened, and the King died soon after. The saint went seven journeys to Rome, where he was highly valued. The Queen once lost a ring, which had been thrown into the Clyde, and she applied to St. Mungo, who caused a salmon to be caught which had swallowed the ring. He died at the age of one hundred and eighty-five, full of years, and in the odour of sanctity.

 

A MONK CURED OF ABSENTING HIMSELF FROM PRAYERS (A.D. 540).

It is related in the Life of St. Benedict, born in 480, who founded the famous monasteries for monks, that in one of these monasteries there was a certain monk, who could not endure to abide with the brethren during the time of prayer, but the moment they knelt down went out, and with a wandering mind betook himself to things purely transitory and worldly. And this being told to the man of God, and admonition proving unavailing, Benedict visited the monastery; and when the psalms were ended, and the brethren knelt down to pray, he saw a little black boy drawing the monk referred to out of the church. And pointing it out to the superior, and the latter not being able to see the boy, “Let us pray,” said Benedict, “that you may.” And after two days Maurus, a pupil of Benedict, saw him; but still the superior could not. And on the third day, after prayer, Benedict found[Pg 269] the monk standing outside the door; and striking him with his staff in reproof of the blindness of his heart, from that day forth he was no more troubled by that black boy, but stayed out the prayers patiently with his brethren.

 

THE DEATH OF ST. BENEDICT (A.D. 543).

St. Benedict, the patriarch of the Western monks and founder of the Benedictine order, died in 543, and his biographers and contemporaries thus described his death: “Shortly before the decease of St. Benedict, standing at the window by night and praying to God, suddenly he perceived a great light, and (as he thereafter declared) the whole world was brought together before his eyes, collected as under a single ray of the sun. For his spirit being dilated and rapt into God, he saw without difficulty everything that is beneath God. And at the hour of his death there appeared unto two of the brethren, then absent and apart from each other, the self-same vision; for they saw a path stretching from his cell up to heaven, strewed with robes of silk and with numberless lamps, burning all along it, ascending towards the east. And, behold, a man of majestic mien and in seemly attire stood over against them, and asked whose that path was. And they confessing that they knew not, he answered, ‘This is the path through which Benedict, the beloved of God, is ascending to heaven.’ And thereby they knew of his decease.”

 

ST. COLUMBA OF IONA (A.D. 597).

Columba, who had first an Irish name, was born about 518 at Gartan, in Donegal, of good family. After his ordination he entered the monastery of Glasnevin, near Dublin. He soon after founded the monasteries of Derry and of Durrow. He determined to be a missionary, after engaging in some family feuds and being tired of fighting. About 563 he left Ireland, then called Scotia, and, accompanied by twelve disciples, took to the sea in a wicker wherry covered with hides, leaving the result to Providence. They first landed at Colonsay, then crossed to Iona. Two savage kings having fought a battle, the successful one gave him the island to settle in. He made an early visit to the Pictish King; and though at first rudely treated, he made a conquest and obtained speedy honours. He soon became known also as a worker of miracles. One day the inhabitants were much alarmed at the visits of a sea monster that lived in the river Ness and roared terribly; the saint raised his hand, and making the sign of the cross in the air, called on the brute to desist, and, strange to say, it[Pg 270] vanished amid the breathless amazement of the crowds that were watching it. The saint and his followers settled in the island of Iona, and lived somewhat in the fashion of a monastery, but they acted as missionaries. One day a stranger visited Iona in disguise; and joining Columba in celebrating the Eucharist, the latter suddenly looking the stranger in the face as he stood at the altar, said, “Christ bless thee, brother, consecrate alone, for I know thou art a bishop.” On hearing this the stranger wondered exceedingly at the second sight of the saint, and all the bystanders gave glory to God for the honour done by the visit of a bishop, a personage then unknown in that quarter. Columba died in 597 as he was praying at the altar, and the other monks saw the church filled with a strange light, for the saint was leaving an example of piety to all future ages.

 

ST. COLUMBA PUNISHING A SAVAGE CHIEF (A.D. 520).

It is related by Adamnan, the biographer of St. Columba, that in the early days, when Columba was in deacon’s orders, going about in Leinster along with his tutor Gemman, a brutal chief was pursuing a young girl who fled before him on the level plain. As she chanced to notice the aged Gemman as he sat reading, she ran straight towards him. The old man being alarmed at this spectacle, called to Columba, who was reading at some distance, to help him in defending the girl. But the brutal chief on coming up to them, without taking the least notice of their presence, in his rage stabbed the child as she was hiding herself under their cloaks, and leaving her dead at their feet, turned to go back. At this the old man, turning to Columba, said, “How long, O holy youth, shall God the just Judge allow this horrid crime and this contempt of our faith to go unpunished?” Then the saint at once pronounced this sentence: “Mark well, that at the very instant, when the soul of this young innocent ascends to heaven, shall the soul of the murderer descend into hell.” Scarcely had Columba spoken the word, when the murderer of innocent blood, like Ananias before Peter, fell down dead on the spot. The news of this awful retribution soon spread through the land; it made the name of the holy deacon a praise and protection to the innocent, and a sure avenger of every brutal oppression on the part of those savage chiefs who then ruled the land.

 

DEATH OF ST. COLUMBA IN IONA (A.D. 597).

The biographer of St. Columba of Iona, who died in 597, aged seventy-seven, after thirty-four years’ missionary work, says that[Pg 271] on feeling the hand of death he was at his own request carried out of doors in a car to visit the working brethren, and then he warned them of his early departure, and blessed them and the island and its inhabitants. On the following Saturday, he told the friends that that would be the last day of his life. He begged them to take him out, that he might bless the barn and the crops of corn which were the supplies of their food. On going back to the monastery, the old white pack-horse, that used to carry the milk-pails, strange to say, came up to the saint, laid its head on his bosom, and uttered plaintive cries, like a human being, also shedding tears. The attendant began to drive away the beast; but the saint forbade him, saying, “Let it alone; let it pour out its bitter grief. Lo, thou who hast a rational soul canst know nothing of my departure—only expect what I have just told you; but to this brute beast, devoid of reason, the Creator Himself hath evidently in some way made it known that its master is going to leave it.” And saying this, he blessed the poor work-horse, which turned away from him in sadness. The saint then ascended a hillock overhanging the monastery, and stood musing and looking round, and said that, small as that place was, it would be held in after-times in great honour by kings and foreign rulers and saints of other Churches. On returning to the monastery, he sat in his cell and transcribed part of the thirty-third Psalm. The rest of the night he lay on the bare ground, with a stone for his pillow. He discoursed to the brethren on the blessing of peace, harmony, and charity among themselves. When the bell rang at midnight, he rose quickly and knelt before the altar, and a heavenly light was noticed to surround him; and the brethren knew that his soul was departing; and after signifying to them his holy benediction, he breathed his last. The matin hymns being then finished, his sacred body was carried, the brethren chanting psalms; and being wrapped in fine clean linen, was buried after three days and nights. A violent storm had been raging for these days, preventing any person crossing the sound; but after the burial the storm ceased, and all was calm.

 

THE MONK COLUMBAN (A.D. 615).

The monk Columban, who died 615, was held in great honour by Thierry II., the King of Burgundy, where his convents were situated. The abbot took on himself at times to reprove the King’s voluptuous life; but the grandmother of the King took offence, and schemed till she got Columban banished. In his journeying through France, he arrived with some followers at the[Pg 272] city of Nantes, and was meditating in his cell, when a beggar came before it. Columban caused the last measure of meal to be served out of his stores to the hungry man. The next two days the abbot had to contend with want himself, yet he kept up his spirits, full of faith and hope, when suddenly some one knocked at the door, and this person turned out to be the servant of a pious female of the city, who had sent a considerable supply of corn and wine for him. Afterwards he went to Italy, and established in the vicinity of the Apennines the famous monastery of Bobbio, and there the abbot found rest and ended his days. One of his sayings was, “If thou hast conquered thyself, thou has conquered all things.” He was a disciplinarian among his monks. He said to them, “A monk must learn humility and patience, silent obedience and gentleness. Let him not do his own will; let him eat what is offered to him, let him fulfil the day’s work prescribed to him, let him go to bed weary, and let him be taught to get up at the time appointed.”

 

ST. AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE (A.D. 651).

St. Aidan, whose death made such an impression on the youthful Cuthbert, was the most shining character among the early British Christians, a man of the utmost gentleness, piety, and moderation. He came from Iona in 635, settled in Northumbria, and became Bishop of Lindisfarne. He established a training school for twelve English boys, one of whom was St. Chad. He used to retire occasionally to complete solitude in Farne Island, and there fast. He was an earnest missionary, and used to travel on foot and get into conversation with any fellow-traveller, rich or poor. As he walked along with them, they used to meditate on texts or recite psalms. Oswald was then king; and being himself a saint, both worked amicably together. Oswald often invited Aidan to the royal table; but the saint, after taking very little refreshment, was always called away to some prayer meeting or mission work of an urgent kind. One Easter Sunday he took luncheon with the King, and they were just about to help themselves to some dainties, when a thane rushed in and said that there was a mob of famished people at the gates begging for alms. Oswald at once ordered the dish of untasted dainties to be carried away and divided among them, and the saint was so charmed that he seized the King’s right hand and said, “May this hand never decay!” That hand never decayed, and was kept with pride in a silver casket for four centuries later by the monks of Durham. Another time King Oswy gave a fine horse to Aidan,[Pg 273] on which he might ride during his mission work, so as to save much time; but soon afterwards, a beggar man coming up, and Aidan having no change in his pocket, dismounted and gave horse and all the trappings to the beggar instead. The King hearing of this, asked Aidan why he did such a thing, and the answer was, “Surely a mare is nothing to compare with that son of God?” The King at first thought this no answer at all, and was moody; but on reflection he relented, and threw himself at the feet of Aidan, saying he would never again dispute as to what or how much should be bestowed on sons of God. So they were good friends ever after. Aidan was the glory of his age, and died in 651, and his relics long worked miracles.

 

ST. CHAD SUBJECT TO THE FEAR OF THE LORD (A.D. 673).

St. Chad was one of the twelve pupils of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, and in due time was recommended by Archbishop Theodore as Bishop of Lichfield. St. Chad was of an ascetic and retiring manner, and went his rounds on foot; but Theodore insisted that he should ride, and gave him a horse, and with his own hands lifted him up to mount. Chad was a busy and careful bishop, but pre-eminently a grave and serious man, and dwelt most on the awful side of religion. Bede says, “He was ever subject to the fear of the Lord, and in all his actions mindful of his end.” Everything in Nature was viewed as a call to sacred employments. If it was a high wind during the service, Chad would stop his reading and implore the Divine mercy for all mankind. If it became a storm or thunder and lightning, he would repair to the church and give himself up with a fixed mind to prayer and the recitation of psalms until the weather cleared up. If questioned as to this, he would quote the Psalmist’s words, “The Lord thundered out of heaven,” and he spoke of the last great fire, and of the Lord coming in the clouds with great power and majesty to judge the quick and the dead. Chad’s death was remarkable, and occurred during a pestilence which swept away many of his flock. One night his faithful monk, Owin, when at work in the fields, heard a sweet sound as of angelic melody, which came from the south-east and entered and filled the oratory where Chad then was, and next it rose heavenward. As Owin was wondering what this could mean, he noticed Chad open the window and clap his hands, as if beckoning to some one. Owin entered, and was told to summon the brethren; and Chad addressing them seriously, and charging them to carry on the good work steadily, told them his end was near, for the lovable guest who had summoned so many brethren[Pg 274] had come to him that day. He gave them his blessing, and told Owin privately that the voices he had heard were those of angels come to summon him to his heavenly reward, and that they would return for him in seven days. So on the seventh day he died, and was always called the “most glorious” St. Chad.

 

DEATH OF ST. HILDA, ABBESS OF WHITBY (A.D. 680).

St. Hilda, who died in 680, was of the royal family of Northumbria, and devoted her life to the monastic profession, and taught the strict observance of justice, piety, and chastity. She was usually called mother, in token of her piety and grace. For the last eight years of her life she was sorely tried by a long sickness, accompanied with fever; but during all that time she never omitted either to give thanks to her Maker or to teach both publicly and privately the flock committed to her. When at the last she felt her end to be near, she received the viaticum of the Holy Communion; and then, having summoned to her the handmaids of Christ who were in the same monastery, she continued admonishing them, all the while she perceived with joy her own death approaching. On that same night the Omnipotent Lord deigned to reveal by a manifest vision her death to another monastery, where a holy woman, named Begu, had dedicated her virginity to the Lord for thirty years. Begu was then resting in the dormitory, when she suddenly heard in the air the well-known sound of the bell by which they were wont to be aroused when any one of them was called forth from the world. She noticed a great light in the heavens; and looking earnestly at it, she saw the soul of Hilda, the handmaid of the Lord, borne to heaven by attendant and conducting angels. Begu immediately arose and told her abbess how Hilda, the mother of them all, had just then departed from this world, ascending with exceeding light, having angels for guides to the abodes of eternal light, and the society of the celestial citizens. Yet these monasteries were distant from each other thirteen miles.

 

THE ABBEY AND MONKS OF ST. GALL (A.D. 680).

The abbey of St. Gall was founded by St. Gallus, an Irish monk, who left his monastery in Belfast Lough in the seventh century to preach the Gospel on the Continent; and he settled near Lake Constance, on the banks of the Steinach, then a wilderness. He taught the savage tribes the arts of peace and civilised them, and the cell which he inhabited began to be visited by[Pg 275] pilgrims, and after his death miracles were wrought at his tomb. This led to an abbey being founded, which became the most famous as well as being the oldest in Germany. It was the asylum of learning from the eighth to the tenth centuries, where the classics were most studied and copied. The monks of St. Gall in time grew ambitious, and became imbued with a military disposition, and used to sally forth sword in hand to conquer (as narrated ante, p. 224). Their wealth, from the donations of pilgrims, also turned their heads, and their military campaigns embroiled them with the authorities; and in the fifteenth century the inhabitants of the neighbouring town obtained the mastery, and soon afterwards the estates were secularised. The library is still exhibited as a famous collection of old manuscripts.

 

THE VENERABLE BEDE, MONK AND HISTORIAN (A.D. 735).

Bede, the most valuable of the early historians of English ecclesiastical affairs, who died in 735, gives this account of himself: “Thus much of the ecclesiastical history of the Britons, and especially of the English nation, as far as I could learn, either by the writings of the ancients or from the tradition of our ancestors, or by my own knowledge, I, Bede, a servant of God, and priest of the monastery of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow, have composed. And being born in the territory of that monastery, when I was seven years old, I was given to be educated to the most reverend Abbot Benedict and afterwards to Ceolfrid; and having spent my whole life since that time in the same monastery, I have devoted myself entirely to the study of Scripture, and at intervals between the observance of regular discipline and the daily care of singing in church, I always took delight in learning, or teaching, or writing. In the nineteenth year of my life, I received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood,—both by the ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and by order of Abbot Ceolfrid. From which time of my becoming a priest, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use of me and mine, to make brief notes on Holy Scriptures from the writings of venerable Fathers, or even to add something to their interpretations, in accordance with their views on the beginning of Genesis and part of Samuel.” Bede died aged sixty-two.

 

ST. CUTHBERT ADMITTED MONK (A.D. 651-758).

Cuthbert was a shepherd-boy in 651, watching his flock on the Lammermuir Hills, by the side of the river Leader, not far from[Pg 276] the ancient town of Lauder. One night, as his companions were sleeping and he was praying, on a sudden he saw a long stream of light break through the darkness of the night, and in the midst of it a company of the heavenly host descended to the earth, and having received among them a spirit of surpassing brightness, returned without delay to their heavenly home. The young man beloved of God was struck with awe at this sight, and stimulated to encounter the honours of spiritual warfare, and to earn for himself eternal life and happiness. He began to offer up praise and thanksgiving, and called on his companions to join. He then told them he had just seen the door of heaven opened, and there was led in thither amidst an angelic company the spirit of some holy man, who now, for ever blessed, beholds the glory of the heavenly mansion and Christ its King, while they were still grovelling amid this earthly darkness. He said he thought it must have been some holy bishop, or some favoured one of the company of the faithful, whom he saw thus carried into heaven amidst so much splendour by that large angelic choir. As Cuthbert said these words, the hearts of the shepherds were kindled up to reverence and praise. When the morning came, he found that Aidan, Bishop of the Church of Lindisfarne, a man of exalted piety, had ascended to the heavenly kingdom at the very moment of the vision. Immediately, therefore, he delivered over the sheep that he was feeding to their owners, and determined forthwith to enter a monastery. He went to Melrose, the monastery two miles east of the present abbey, where Boisil was prior, and being admitted, Boisil at once saw the future greatness of this young novice, who lived a holy life there for ten years more. Some other accounts state that St. Cuthbert was of Irish parentage, and was brought by his mother when a child into Britain.

 

ST. CUTHBERT AS MONK BISHOP (A.D. 687).

St. Cuthbert, after leaving the monastery at Melrose, became an eloquent preacher in Galloway and that neighbourhood, and in 664 was made prior of Lindisfarne, in the Farne Islands, where to this day the little shells found only on that coast are called St. Cuthbert’s shells, and the sea birds, his favourite friends, are called St. Cuthbert’s birds. He built a cell, and pilgrims from all parts flocked to ask his counsel and his blessing during eight years, when he was chosen Bishop of Lindisfarne. He took special interest in the monasteries of nuns, of which there were several in his diocese, such as Coldingham and Whitby.[Pg 277] When not visiting officially his charges, he retired to his cell at Farne. When his last days drew near, in 687, he directed his brethren to wrap his body after his death in the linen which the Abbess Verca had given to him, and to bury it, as they so earnestly desired, in their church at Lindisfarne. “Keep peace with one another,” were his last words, “and ever guard the Divine gift of charity. Maintain concord with other servants of Christ. Despise not any of the household of faith who come to you seeking hospitality; but receive, and entertain, and dismiss them with friendliness and affection. And do not think yourselves better than others of the same faith and manner of life; only with such as err from the unity of Catholic peace have no communion.” These were his last words. His remains were taken to Lindisfarne, where, amid the prayers and solemn chants of the brethren, they were interred in a stone sarcophagus on the right of the altar in St. Peter’s Church. Eleven years later the body, still uncorrupt, was taken from the tomb, wrapped in fresh linen, and placed in a shrine of wood which was laid on the floor of the sanctuary. Great sanctity was shown to the saint’s relics by King Alfred, King Canute, and William the Conqueror. His own copy of the Gospels is still preserved in the British Museum as a fine specimen of Celtic art. The cathedral of Durham was at a later date dedicated to his memory, and in the twelfth century his relics were transferred to that place; and in 1537, when his shrine was plundered, his body was found still to be uncorrupt.

 

THE BODY OF ST. CUTHBERT CARRIED ABOUT BY MONKS FOR SEVEN YEARS (A.D. 875).

When the Danes were ravaging the north of England in 875, causing great terror among all the monasteries, Eardulph, Bishop of Lindisfarne, in which church the body of St. Cuthbert rested, and Abbot Edred took suddenly the resolution to carry away the body for safety. When the people living near heard of this, they also resolved to leave their houses, and with their wives and children accompany the sacred charge, thinking that life without the saint’s protection would be unsafe. This company traversed nearly the whole country, carrying the body with them; and being after a time advised to seek refuge in Ireland, sailed from the mouth of the Derwent, in Cumberland, after taking a distressing farewell of their friends, who stood watching on the shore. A dreadful storm overtook the ship, and a copy of the Evangelists adorned with gold and jewels fell overboard into the sea. The vessel was in such distress that the party turned back, and landed[Pg 278] at the place from which they started. They suffered many trials, and it is said for seven years they were in charge of the holy body and fleeing from the barbarians. At length the saint himself appeared in a vision, and told the monk Hunred where to search for the book when the tide was out, and also where to find a horse to draw the carriage on which the body lay. The book was duly found, and its leaves were all sound and perfect. And when a bridle was held up before the horse, it ran up to the monk and offered itself to be yoked. The body was afterwards carried to Chester-le-Street, the second see of the diocese of Durham, and there deposited; and on account of the sanctity thereby imparted, the King settled extensive lands on the Church for ever. King Alfred confirmed this grant, and on one occasion St. Cuthbert appeared to King Alfred as he was sitting reading the Scriptures, while his men were out fishing, and not only promised an abundant supply to their nets, but encouraged him to persevere in routing the Danes, all which promises were duly fulfilled.

 

DEATHBED OF THE VENERABLE BEDE (A.D. 735).

St. Cuthbert, pupil of Bede, wrote to a friend this account of the last days of his master: “Bede was much troubled with shortness of breath, yet without pain, for a fortnight before the day of our Lord’s resurrection; but he passed his time cheerful and rejoicing, giving thanks to Almighty God every day and every night, nay every hour, and daily read lessons to us his disciples; and whatever remained of the day he spent in singing psalms. He also passed all the night awake in joy and thanksgiving, except so far as a very slight slumber prevented it; but he no sooner awoke than he presently repeated his wonted exercises, and ceased not to give thanks to God with uplifted hands. O truly happy man! He chanted the sentence of St. Paul the apostle, ‘It is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God,’ and much more out of Holy Writ, wherein also he admonished us to think of our last hour and to shake off the sleep of the soul; and being learned in our poetry, he quoted some things in it. He also sang antiphons, according to our custom and his own, one of which is, ‘O King of glory, Lord of all power, who triumphing this day did ascend above all the heavens, do not leave us orphans, but send down upon us the Spirit of truth which was promised by the Father! Hallelujah!’ And when he came to the words ‘do not leave us orphans,’ he burst into tears and wept much; and an hour after he began to repeat what he had[Pg 279] commenced, and we hearing it, mourned with him. By turns we read and by turns we wept; nay, we wept always while we read. In such joy we passed a period of fifty days. During these days he laboured to compose two works, well worthy to be remembered—the translation of the Gospel of St. John, and some collections from the ‘Book of Notes’ of Bishop Isidorus. When the Tuesday before the ascension of our Lord came, he began to suffer more in his breath, and a small swelling appeared in his feet. But he passed all that day, and dictated cheerfully, and now and then among other things said, ‘Go on quickly. I know not how long I shall hold out, and whether my Maker will not soon take me away.’ When the morning appeared, he ordered us to write with all speed what he had begun, and this done, we walked in procession with the relics of the saints till the third hour, as the custom of that day was. There was one of us, however, with him who said to him, ‘Most dear master, there is still one chapter wanting. Do you think it troublesome to be asked any more questions?’ He answered, ‘It is no trouble. Take your pen, and dip and write fast.’ Which he did. But at the ninth hour he said to me, ‘I have some little articles of value in my chest, such as pepper, napkins, and incense; run quickly and bring the priests of our monastery to me, that I may distribute among them the gifts which God has bestowed on me. The rich in this world are bent on giving gold and silver and other precious things. But I, with much charity and joy, will give my brothers that which God has given to me.’ He spoke to every one of them, admonishing and entreating them that they would carefully say masses and prayers for him, which they readily promised; but they all mourned and wept, especially because they said that they should no more see his face in this world. They rejoiced, however, because he said, ‘The time is come that I shall return to Him who formed me out of nothing. I have lived long; my merciful Judge well foresaw my life for me; the time of my dissolution draws nigh, for I desire to die and be with Christ.’ Having said much more, he passed the day joyfully till the evening; but the boy above mentioned said, ‘Dear master, there is yet one sentence not written.’ He answered, ‘Write quickly.’ Soon after the boy said, ‘The sentence is now written.’ He replied, ‘It is well; you have said the truth. It is ended. Let my head rest on your hands, for it is a great satisfaction to me to sit opposite my holy place, in which I was wont to pray, that I may also, sitting, call upon my Father.’ And thus on the floor of his little cell, singing, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,[Pg 280] and to the Holy Ghost,’ when he had named the Holy Ghost, he breathed his last, and so departed to the heavenly kingdom. All who were present at the death of the blessed Father said they had never seen any other person expire with so much devotion and in so tranquil a frame of mind. For, as you have heard, so long as the soul animated his body, he never ceased to give thanks to the true and living God, with outstretched hands exclaiming, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ with other spiritual ejaculations.”

 

A WARRIOR DUKE BECOMES MONK (A.D. 806).

Duke William was commander of the first cohort in Charlemagne’s army, and fought many battles with the infidels and subdued the Saracens, and then founded the monastery of St. Saviour, in the Herault. Afterwards, in 806, he disclosed to the King his desire of becoming a monk, a resolution which caused much grief to all the Court. He rejected the liberal gifts which were then offered him, but only asked for and obtained a reliquary containing a portion of the wood of the holy cross. It had been sent to Charles by Zechariah, Patriarch of Jerusalem. A crowd of nobles forced their way into his presence and implored William not to desert them. But being inflamed with a Divine ardour, he abandoned all he held dear, and amid tears and groans took his farewell. When he reached the town of Brives, he offered his armour on the altar of St. Julian, the martyr, hanging his helmet and splendid shield over the martyr’s tomb in the church, and suspending outside the door his quiver and bow, with his long lance and two-edged sword, as an offering to God. He then set forth in the guise of a pilgrim of Christ, and passed through Aquitaine to the monastery which he had built a short time before in the wilderness. He drew near to it with naked feet, and with haircloth about his body. When the brethren heard of his approach, they met him at the cross-roads, and forming a triumphal procession against his will, conducted him to the abbey. He then made his offering of the reliquary more precious than gold, with gold and silver vessels and all kinds of ornaments; and having proffered his petition, gave up the world with all its pomps and enticements, was made a monk, and became another person in Christ Jesus. (See another account, ante, p. 215.)

 

HOW THE WARRIOR DUKE BEHAVED AS MONK (A.D. 806).

When Duke William, in 806, became a monk in the abbey of St. Saviour, in the Herault, he at once showed his delight in[Pg 281] every lowly task. He set about making a good road up the steep cliffs, and cut through rocks to make a causeway, using hammer and pickaxe like a day labourer. He also planted vineyards and fruit-trees and laid out gardens. He laboured in all ways with his own hands in true humility. He often prostrated himself before the abbot and brethren, beseeching that for God’s mercy he might be allowed still greater self-renunciation and hard work. He sought the lowest offices in the monastery, and the meaner the toil the more welcome. He would gladly act as a beast of burden for the brethren in the Lord’s house. He who had been a mighty duke was not ashamed to mount a poor donkey with a load of bottles, or carry fagots and pitchers of water, or light the fires, or wash the bowls and platters. When the hour of refection came, he would spread the table for the monks in due order, and remain to watch the house, fasting till the meal was over. Once, when the wood for baking was exhausted, he was forced to use twigs and straw, which choked the oven, and was chidden for his delay. He had nothing with which to clear out the ashes; but, rather than be late, he invoked Christ, and making the sign of the cross, entered the oven himself and used his hands, and neither was he scorched while throwing out hot cinders, nor was his cowl singed. After this, the abbot and brethren consulting, forbade his engaging in servile work, and allotted him a suitable cell, so that he might apply his leisure to prayer and holy meditation. Thus, by degrees, William arrived at great perfection in every virtue. He predicted the day of his death, and when it occurred there was heard in the air a loud and strange tolling of bells, though no human hands touched them.

 

THE SWISS ABBEY OF EINSIEDELN AND ITS PILGRIMS (A.D. 860).

The second most famous monastery in Switzerland is Einsiedeln, which rises high on an undulating plain, and was founded in the days of Charlemagne. A monk named Meinrad lived at that time, and had resolved to spend the rest of his life in the wilderness devoted to prayer and to the faithful guardianship of a little black image of the Virgin, which had been given to him by Hildegarde, the abbess of Zurich. In 861 this holy man was murdered by two robbers, who hoped to escape, but were pursued by two pet ravens of the saint, which flapped their wings and haunted them till the men reached Zurich, when notice was taken of the strange sight, and the men were convicted and executed. The fame of the ravens and the saint became published, and pilgrims and hermits flocked to the spot where the saint had[Pg 282] lived, and a Benedictine community built an abbey and church there. They got a bull of Pope Pius VIII., authorising the consecration of the church, and the bishop of Constance was about to proceed with the consecration, when, on the night before, he was aroused by sounds of angelic minstrels, and it was announced by a voice from heaven that there was no need to go on with the sacred rite, as it had already been consecrated by the powers of heaven and by the Saviour in person. The Pope was satisfied that this was a true miracle, and granted plenary indulgence to all pilgrims who should repair to this shrine of Our Lady of the Hermits. From that time, during nine centuries, there has been a constant series of pilgrimages, and the wealth of the monastery has grown immensely, the abbot being a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. The French, in 1798, stripped the chapel of its holy image; but the monks were equal to the occasion, and produced a duplicate, which they said was the original. Another attraction to pilgrims is a fountain with fourteen jets, from one of which it is believed the Saviour once drank. Here pilgrims and worshippers swarm, and rejoice in being near so hallowed a place.

 

ST. MEINRAD, A MONK OF THE ALPS (A.D. 890).

This St. Meinrad, born about 863, when a young monk yearned to live alone on the serene heights of the Alps, and he fixed on Mount Etzell, about six miles from Lake Zurich. The pine forest behind, though frequented by wolves, did not deter him. He tore himself from his brethren, and with one pupil set out. He took nothing with him but his missal, a book of instructions on the Gospels, the rule of St. Benedict, and the works of Cassian. He fixed his eyes on the glittering pinnacles of ice and snow, and settled down in solemn silence, with nothing but the creaking of the pines and the chatter of the magpie within hearing. He made a little pine house interlaced with boughs, and a widow who entertained him at a half-way house built for him a little chapel and oratory. The mysterious noises of this lofty abode, and its grand panorama of shining realms and flitting colours, made his hut a constant pleasure. But pilgrims found him out and began to increase, so that he had to leave it and retire far into the forest. He took with him two young ravens to be the companions of his solitude. One day, after he had been some years enjoying perfect solitude, a carpenter in search of wood discovered his cell and gave him a present of a little statue of the Virgin, which became miraculous. Pilgrims found this out, and gave him presents till he was thought to be rich. Then two robbers murdered him; but[Pg 283] owing to their being pursued by the ravens, they were suspected, then watched, and then convicted, as already stated.

 

CROYLAND ABBEY BURNED BY THE DANES (A.D. 870).

In 870, the Danes having defeated the English near Croyland Abbey, the fugitives reaching that place and relating the news caused the greatest terror. The abbot and monks, confounded at the disaster, at once resolved to keep with them the elder monks and children in the abbey, in the hope of exciting pity, and to send off all the younger brethren with the relics and jewels and the body of St. Guthlac by water. Among their treasures was a large silver table, which, with some chalices, they threw into the well of the cloister; but the table was so long that it could not be concealed, and so had to be buried under ground. The younger monks carried off the rest of the property into the woods. Meanwhile the abbot and monks clothed themselves in their vestments, and entering the choir, chanted the services of the hours, and went through all the Psalms of David, after which the abbot himself said the High Mass. When the Mass was finished, and the abbot and attendants had communicated, the Danes burst into the church and slew the venerable abbot on the altar. The rest of the brethren in vain endeavoured to escape, and were put to the torture, so that they might reveal the place where the treasure was concealed. One little boy, aged ten, who was under the charge of the prior, seeing his patron about to be put to death, nobly entreated that he might be allowed to perish with him. Fortunately one of the Danish earls took a fancy to the boy and saved him. But all the monks were slain, and the brutal pirates broke into the tombs and monuments of saints in search of treasure. When disappointed, they collected all the dead bodies of their victims and set fire to the monastery, and all were consumed. Next day the Danes proceeded to Peterborough, and broke into the abbey, destroyed the altars and tombs, and burned the books and charters, reducing the whole to a heap of ashes, which smouldered for a fortnight.

 

NUNS OF COLDINGHAM CUTTING OFF THEIR NOSES (A.D. 870).

During one of the marauding expeditions of the Danes in 870, when they fixed their headquarters at York and ravaged all the country round, brutally killing men, women, and children, the monks and nuns were especial objects of their fury, and all lived in terror of a visit. In Coldingham, an abbey in Yorkshire, the lady abbess, foreseeing, from the proximity of the enemy, that her own house would shortly be attacked, and valuing her honour[Pg 284] more than life itself, called the nuns into the chapter-house. There she made to them a touching address, setting forth the brutal passions of the Danes and their own imminent peril. All promised to listen to her advice and implicitly follow it. Upon this the abbess, seizing a knife, cut off with it her nose and upper lip, and the whole sisterhood immediately redeemed their promise by mutilating themselves in the same manner. The next day the Danish troops invaded the monastery, and seeing the horrible spectacle, recoiled from their victims and gave orders that the house should be fired. This command was immediately executed, and the abbey was burned to ashes, together with the abbess and nuns, who thus nobly suffered martyrdom rather than risk a worse fate.

 

THE MONKS OF CLUNY (A.D. 909).

After the Council of Trosley in 909 expressed a resolution as to the disorderly life carried on in monasteries, where lay abbots, with wives and children, soldiers and dogs, occupied the cloisters of monks and nuns, some wealthy chiefs sought after new foundations. Duke William of Auvergne invited Berno, abbot of Beaune, to take charge of a new institution at Cluny. Berno began with twelve monks, and soon showed his skill in reforms. He required his monks at the end of meals to gather up and swallow all the crumbs of bread. This rule was complained of; but a dying monk one day exclaimed in horror that he saw the devil was holding up in accusation against him a bag of crumbs which he had been unwilling to swallow. This glimpse of the future terrified the other monks into submission. The monks of Cluny were also obliged to observe periods of perfect silence, and this was also complained of; for they dare not shout, even if they saw their horses stolen, or if they were seized and carried to prison by the Northmen. The monks were bled five times a year, as their only safeguard against disease; and when once two monks entreated the abbot to allow them to take some medicine, he told them angrily that they would never recover, and sure enough they died after taking it. Cluny soon obtained much reputation, and bred saints and attracted great wealth. Popes, kings, and emperors consulted the abbot as if he were an oracle. One abbot was called the “archangel of monks”; another, named Odilo, was called “King Odilo of Cluny.” To be the abbot of Cluny came to be a higher station than an archbishop or even a Pope. At the end of the twelfth century there were no less than two thousand monasteries affiliated with that of Cluny as head centre.

 [Pg 285]

ST. DUNSTAN, MONK AND ARCHBISHOP (A.D. 953).

Monastic life in England had been at a low ebb when St. Dunstan was born at Glastonbury, in Wiltshire, of noble parentage, in 925. He was an excellent musician, as well as a painter and worker in brass and iron, which accomplishments recommended him to the Court of King Edmund about 933. He was so ingenious that he was accused of magic arts; and it was an item of evidence against him that his harp, when hanging on the wall, twanged of itself. He was banished from Court, and lived for a time in a small cell at Glastonbury. One night the devil appeared to him in the shape of a beautiful woman; but he, knowing better, plucked a red-hot pair of tongs from the fire, and seized her or him by the nose till the fiend roared and bellowed. It was thought this legend was founded on the fact that a lady of wealth who greatly admired Dunstan made him her heir, and he built the abbey of Glastonbury with her money, and became the first abbot thereof. He built also other monasteries. After many reverses of his Court favour, he at length was made Bishop of Worcester, then of London, and next Archbishop of Canterbury; and he died and was buried there in 987, though his body was afterwards carried off clandestinely by the monks of Glastonbury to lie in their own abbey. On one occasion he is said to have gained a victory over his opponents by exhibiting a crucifix which spoke on his side; and another time, after arguments, he ended by committing the cause of the Church to God, and immediately the floor of the room fell where his enemies stood, while his own friends remained unharmed, owing to the firmness of the beam supporting their side.

 

THE MONKS OF ST. BERNARD (A.D. 952).

The monastery of St. Bernard was founded about 962 by a famous saint of that name, at the head of a pass of the Alps, about 8,131 feet above the sea. It is a massive building and exposed to tremendous storms. The chief building accommodates eighty travellers, with stabling and storerooms. Here live a community devoted to works of benevolence, in a desolate region where seldom a week passes without a fall of snow, and which lies eight feet deep all the year round, and often more. No wood grows within two leagues, and all fuel is brought from a forest four leagues distant, and forty horses are kept to fetch it. Ten or twelve brethren are always on duty, for travellers pass nearly every day, notwithstanding all the perils; and five or six dogs are[Pg 286] kept in the hospice. When a traveller reaches a certain house not far from the summit, a servant and dog issue from the monastery to conduct the stranger. The dog is the only guide, and nothing is seen of it except its tail, which directs the cavalcade. These dogs are a cross between the Newfoundland and the Pyrenean. This hospice soon became famous, and attracted many donations and grew wealthy. In 1480 it possessed ninety-eight benefices of the Church, and attained its greatest prosperity; but its resources are now greatly reduced.

 

A CHANCELLOR BECOMES A MONK (A.D. 946).

About 946 Turketul, who had been chancellor to King Edward, as well as to his son Edmund and his other son Edred, had occasion to pass through Croyland, when three old monks invited him to stay overnight in that monastery. They took him to prayers, showed their relics, told their wants, and begged him to act as their advocate with the King. The hospitality of that night made a great impression on the chancellor, who expressed to the King his wish to go there and turn monk himself some early day. The King was amazed, yet could not thwart his faithful servant, and at last consented and fixed a day to accompany the new monk to his destination; and meanwhile the chancellor gave away all his manors to the King, giving one-tenth to the monastery. The day arrived, and also the King, and his old servant, who, after laying aside his lay habit and receiving the benediction of the bishop, became abbot of Croyland. Many learned men soon joined and became priests or monks in the same house. The abbot employed them in school-keeping, and made a point of going every day to inspect the progress of each pupil, taking with him a servant, who carried figs or raisins, nuts or walnuts, apples or pears, to distribute as rewards. Turketul made great improvements at Croyland during his rule, which continued till 975, and the monastery became wealthy and powerful. He presented a great bell to the monastery, called Guthlac, and it and some others, soon afterwards added, made up the best peal of bells in all England of that day. A great fire destroyed this famous monastery in 1091.

 

DEATHBED OF ABBOT TURKETUL, OF CROYLAND (A.D. 975).

In 975 Abbot Turketul, of Croyland, caught a fever, and on the fourth day, lying on his bed, he assembled forty-seven monks and four lay brethren in his chamber, and called his steward to[Pg 287] state the position and treasures of the convent. There were numerous most precious relics, which the Emperor Henry and other kings and nobles, desiring to obtain the goodwill of Turketul, had bestowed upon him while he was chancellor. Among these he chiefly reverenced the thumb of the blessed Apostle Bartholomew (a gift of the Emperor), so that he always carried it about with him, and crossed himself with it in all perils and in storm or lightning. He greatly reverenced likewise some of the hairs of the holy mother of God, Mary, which the King of France had given him, enclosed in a golden box. Also a bone of St. Leodegarius, bishop and martyr, a gift of the Prince of Aquitaine, and many other relics. The steward also produced the whole of the gold and silver vessels, which he and the treasurer preserved entirely for the wants of the monastery. As the fever increased, Turketul communicated in the sacred mysteries of Christ, and embracing with both arms the cross which his attendants had brought from the church before the convent, he kissed it so frequently with many sighs, tears, and groans, and so devout were the sayings which he addressed to each of the wounds of Christ, that he excited to copious tears all the brethren who stood around him. On the day before his death he delivered a short discourse to his brethren who were present on the observance of order, on brotherly love, on guarding against negligence. He also, in a prophetic admonition, cautioned them thus: “Guard well your fire”—which some interpreted to mean love, and others the conflagration of the building, which afterwards actually took place. Then bidding them a last farewell, he from the bottom of his heart besought God for them all. And then the vital powers failed, and languor oppressed him till he passed from this world to the Father—from the toils of the abbey to Abraham’s bosom. He was buried in his own church which he had built from the foundations near the great altar in the sixty-eighth year of his age and the twenty-seventh of his monkhood. The great fire took place one hundred years later.

 

MONK NILUS AVOIDING SAINTHOOD (A.D. 900-1005).

The monk Nilus, who was reputed to be the wisest man of his age, was grieved that his friend John, Archbishop of Placenza, should be so much inclined to meddle in politics, and warned him rather to retire from the world. John would not be warned, and was punished for joining a conspiracy against the Pope by having his eyes put out, his tongue cut off, and being cast into a dungeon. Nilus was so shocked at this news that he left his monastery near[Pg 288] Gaeta and journeyed to Rome, and begged the Emperor then to let him join the archbishop, that they might do penance together for their sins. But the Pope and Emperor, instead of this, ordered further punishments for the archbishop. Nilus then told them both plainly that, as they had shown no mercy to the poor prisoner who had been committed to their hands, neither could they expect any mercy from the Heavenly Father for their own sins. The young Emperor Otho III. was rather pleased with his plain speaking, and invited Nilus to ask any other favour he pleased; but Nilus answered, “I have nothing to ask of you but the salvation of your own soul; for though you are an emperor, you must die like other men, and then must give account of your deeds, be they good or bad.” The Emperor on hearing this burst into tears, took the crown off his head, and begged the man of God to give him his blessing. When Nilus had reason to know that when he died the Governor of Gaeta intended to bring his body to Gaeta for public burial, and to preserve his bones as a patron saint to Gaeta, Nilus was shocked, and protested that he would rather let no one know where he would be buried. So in his old age he took leave of his monks and set off towards Rome, telling them, as they wept, that he was going to prepare a monastery where they should all meet once more. On reaching Tusculum, he rode into a small convent of St. Agatha, saying, “Here is my resting-place for ever.” He would not leave the spot, and charged the monks not to bury him in a church nor build any arch or monument over his grave; but if they wished some token, then to make it a resting-place for pilgrims, for he had been a pilgrim all his life.

 

THE MONK NILUS AS AN ADVISER (A.D. 990).

The monk Nilus, who lived in the tenth century, was dedicated in his infancy to the service of God, and at an early age was delighted to read of the monks St. Antony and St. Hilarion and St. Simeon Stylites, and developed a turn for an ascetic life. This led to his being consulted by men of all ranks, who put to him puzzling questions. One day a noble, who lived a loose life, put some unbecoming queries, when a priest, to divert the conversation, asked Nilus of what kind was the forbidden fruit which Adam tasted in Paradise. Nilus answered, “A crab-apple.” Whereupon the party laughed. He then rebuked them. “Laugh not; such a question deserves such an answer. Moses has not told us precisely what tree it was: why should we wish to know what the Holy Scriptures have concealed?” Another day Nilus[Pg 289] was visiting a castle, when he met a Jewish physician, who professed to fear that Nilus’s habits of fasting might bring on epileptic fits, and gave him a medicine that would save him from all diseases. Nilus only replied, “One of your own countrymen, a Hebrew, has told us that it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. We have a great Physician of our own—the Lord Jesus Christ; in Him we trust, and do not need your remedies.” Nilus was once sent for to advise a rich duchess who had incited her two sons to murder her nephew, and her conscience was ill at ease. The bishops had prescribed for her to repeat the Psalter three times a week and to give alms to the poor. But she could not rest till she took the advice of Nilus. After thinking a little he said to her, “Give one of your sons to the relations of the murdered man, to do with him what they please, for the Lord has said, ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood his blood shall be shed again.’” The widow said she could not do that, for they might kill her son. She then wept bitterly, and gave money to Nilus that he might purchase from God a forgiveness of her sins. This excited the anger of Nilus, who hurried away, determined to be no partaker in her sins.

 

THE MONASTERY OF BEC, FOUNDED A.D. 1034.

The chronicle Beccense thus describes the origin of the famous monastery of Bec: “In the year 1034 Herluinus, at the inspiration of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Author of all good things, casting aside the nobility of the world, for which he had been not a little conspicuous, having thrown off the girdle of military service, betook himself with entire devotion to the poverty of Christ, and that he might be free for the service of God alone, through the single love of God, assumed with great joy the habit of a monk. This man, who had been a passionate warrior, and who had gotten himself a great name and favour with Robert, the son of the second Richard, and with the lords of different foreign countries, first built a church on a farm of his, which was called Burnevilla. But because this place was on a plain and lacked water, being admonished in a dream by the Blessed Mother of God, he retired to a valley close to a river, which is called Bec, and there began to build a noble monastery to the honour of the same St. Mary, which God brought to perfection for the glory of His name, and to be the comfort and salvation of many men. To which Herluinus God, according to the desire of his heart, gave for his helpers and counsellors Lanfranc, a man every way accomplished in liberal acts; then Anselm, a man approved in all[Pg 290] things, a man affable in counsel, pitiful, chaste, sober in every clerical duty, wonderfully instructed—which two men through God’s grace were afterwards consecrated Archbishops of Canterbury. And to this same Bec, which began in the greatest poverty, so many and such great men, clerical as well as lay men, resorted, that it might fitly be said to the holy abbot, ‘With the riches of thy name hast thou made thy house drunk, and with the torrent of the wisdom of thy sons hast thou filled the world.’”

 

THE GREAT FIRE AT CROYLAND MONASTERY (A.D. 1091).

Ingulph, abbot of Croyland, describes the fire of 1091 thus: “Our plumber, who had been employed on the tower of the church, one night, with fatal madness, covered his fire over with dead cinders, so that he might be more prepared to begin work next morning, and left for supper. Some hours after, when all were buried in slumber, and a strong north wind blowing, the inhabitants of the town, seeing great flames in the belfry, began to shout and batter at the gates. The clamour of the populace awoke me, and I could discern, as clear as noonday, the servants of the monastery shouting, wailing, and rushing hither and thither. As I rushed to the dormitory I was severely burnt with the drippings of molten lead and brass. I called and shouted to the brethren, still plunged in sleep, and on recognising my voice they leaped from their beds in terror in their nightdresses and half naked, many being wounded and maimed in the hurry of escape. I attempted to regain my own chamber to get the clothes which I had there, and distribute them in case of necessity. But the heat was so excessive and the streams of molten lead so copious that even the boldest of the young men dared not to enter. I then found that the infirmary had been caught with the flames, invincible in their fury; and even the green trees, ashes, oaks, and osiers, growing near, were scorched. The tower of the church soon fell on the southern side; and I, terrified at the crash, dropped upon the ground half dead in a swoon, and lay till I was rescued by my brethren. At dawn of day the brethren, weeping and depressed, some of them pitiably mangled in the limbs, performed in common Divine service with mournful voices and woful accents in the hall of our great master. After having fully completed the daily and nightly hours of Divine service, we proceeded to examine the state of the whole monastery. The fire still raged and destroyed the granary and stable. We searched the choir, which had been reduced to ashes, and found that all the books of the Divine service, both the antiphoners and graduals,[Pg 291] had perished. Entering the vestry, we found that all our sacred vestments, the relics of the saints, and some other valuables there deposited, were uninjured by the fire. Some of the muniments in the charter room were shrivelled up by the heat; and our beautiful writings, ornamented with golden crosses, paintings, and ornamented letters, were destroyed in this night of blackness. Besides these our whole library, containing more than three hundred original volumes, besides the lesser volumes, numbering more than four hundred, perished. By that casualty we lost a very beautiful tablet, admirably constructed of every kind of metal to represent the various stars and signs of the zodiac, each of a different colour—a gift from the King of France to Turketul. Our dormitory, as also the necessary house, the infirmary, and washing house, the refectory and all its contents except a few dark-coloured cups, and the cross cup of the late King of the Mercians, were, together with the kitchens and all their contents, reduced to ashes. Our cellar and the very casks full of beer were destroyed. The abbot’s hall also, and his chamber, and the court of the monastery perished in the conflagration, the flames of which, burning as it were with Greek fury, overran them on all sides. A few of the huts of the almsmen, the feeding houses of our beasts of burden, and the sheds of the other animals, which were separated by stone walls, alone remained unburnt. This conflagration was prognosticated by many signs and portents. Repeated visions by night predicted it; all were understood after the occurrence of the fact. The words of our holy Father Turketul in his last moments, earnestly warning us to guard diligently our fire; the words of our blessed Father Ulfran, bidding me in a nightly vision at Fontenelle to preserve well the fire of the hospice and the three saints Guthlac, Neot, and Waldeve,—of all these plain warnings I now understand and recognise the meaning; but I do so unprofitably and too late. I now indulge in vain complainings, and pour forth those lamentations and inconsolable tears righteously exacted by my faults. Many nobles contributed to our wants, and in the long list of benefactors let not the sainted memory of a poor woman, Juliana of Weston, be forgotten, who gave us of her poverty her whole substance—namely, a great quantity of reels of cotton wherewith to sew the vestments of the brethren of our monastery.”

 

THE MONKS OF VALLOMBROSA (A.D. 1039).

The constant desire to reform the ways of monks brought forward John Gualbert, a Florentine of noble birth. When a youth[Pg 292] he was ordered by his father to avenge a kinsman’s death; and meeting the murderer on Good Friday in a narrow pass, he was about to fall upon him and slay him, when suddenly the murderer threw himself from his horse and placed his arms in the form of a cross, as if expecting certain death. The avenger, however, in token of the holy sign and sacred day, spared him. Another time Gualbert halted to pay his devotions in the monastic church of St. Minian’s, near Florence, when he noticed that the crucifix inclined its head towards him. This turned his thoughts to holy things. He entered a monastery, and after ten years’ experience he resolved to found one of his own at Vallombrosa, in 1039. He drew together a society of hermits and cœnobites. But his great discovery was the introduction of lay brethren, whose business it was to practise handicrafts, and to manage the secular affairs of the community, while by these labours the monks were enabled to devote themselves wholly to spiritual contemplation. The system established was rigorous. A novice had to undergo a year’s probation, doing degrading work, such as keeping swine and daily cleaning out the pigsty with bare hands. The monks of Vallombrosa were attired in grey; but afterwards this was changed to brown, and then to black. Gualbert died in 1093.

 

A MONK WHO TRANSCRIBED HOLY BOOKS (A.D. 1050).

Of all the incentives to monkish industry none excelled that used by Theodoric, abbot of St. Evroult, and stated ante, p. 223. Another chronicler gives this version of the same: “One of the brethren in a certain convent was guilty of repeated transgressions of monastic rule, but was a good scribe, and so applied himself to writing that he copied of his own accord a bulky volume of the Holy Scriptures. After his death his soul was brought before the tribunal of the righteous Judge. There the evil spirits sharply accused him, and laid to his charge innumerable offences. On the other hand, the holy angels produced the volume which the brother had transcribed in the sanctuary of the Lord, counting letter for letter of the enormous volume against the sins the monk had committed. At last the letters had a majority of one, against which all the devices of the devils could discover nothing as a set-off. The mercy of the Judge was therefore extended to the sinful brother, and his soul was permitted to return to his body, in order that he might enjoy an opportunity of amending his life. Ponder well, then, my dearly beloved brethren, and shun sloth as a deadly poison. Remember what an eminent Father once said—that only a single evil spirit vexes with his wiles[Pg 293] the monk who is laboriously occupied, while a thousand devils infest the idler, and provoke him by manifold temptations on every side, causing him to hanker after the soul-destroying vanities of the world, and after indulgence in fatal delights. You have not the means to feed the poor or build stately churches, but you can pray that the avenues to your hearts may be guarded. Pray, read, chant, write; be instant in occupations of a like kind; and you will prudently arm yourselves against the temptations of evil spirits.”

 

A MONK AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN (A.D. 1063).

Among the monks of St. Evroult, a monk named Witmund, about 1063, was an accomplished musician as well as grammarian, of which he left evidence in the antiphons and responses which he composed, consisting of some charming melodies in the antiphonary and collection of versicles. He completed the history of the Life of St. Evroult by adding nine antiphons and three responses. He composed four antiphons to the psalms at vespers, and added the three last for the second nocturn with the fourth, eighth, and twelfth response, and an antiphon at the canticle, and produced a most beautiful antiphon for the canticle, at the Gospel in the second vespers. The history of the Life of St. Evroult, composed for the use of the monks, was first recited by two young monks, Hubert and Rodolph, sent for that purpose by the abbot of Chartres. Afterwards Reginald the Bald composed the response “To the glory of God,” sung at vespers with seven antiphons, which still appeared in 1063 in the service books of the monks of St. Evroult. Roger de Sap also and other studious brethren produced with pious devotion several hymns, having the same holy Father for their subject, and which they placed in the library of the abbey for the use of their successors.

 

THE TRAINING OF A MONK BISHOP (A.D. 1062).

In 1062 Wulfstan was made Bishop of Worcester. His parents devoted him to a religious life from his childhood, and he took the monastic habit in the monastery at Worcester. He quickly became remarkable for his vigils, his fastings, his prayers, and all kinds of virtues, and was soon made master and tutor of the novices, and then precentor and treasurer of the church. Having these opportunities and devoting himself wholly to a life of contemplation, he resorted to it day and night, either for prayer or holy reading, and assiduously mortified his body by fasting for[Pg 294] two or three days together. He was so addicted to devout vigils that he not only spent the nights sleepless, but often the day and night together, and sometimes went for four days and nights without sleep—a thing we could hardly have believed if we (says Orderic) had not heard it from his own mouth—so that he ran great risk from his brains being parched, unless he hastened to satisfy the demands of nature by the refreshment of sleep. Even at last, when the urgent claims of nature compelled him to yield to sleep, he did not indulge himself by stretching his limbs to rest on a bed or couch, but would lie down for a while on one of the benches in the church, resting his head on the book which he had used for praying and reading. After some time this reverend man was appointed prior and father of the convent, an office which he worthily filled, by no means abating the strictness of his previous habits, but rather increasing it in many respects, in order to afford a good example to others. When, after the lapse of some years, he was named for the office of bishop, though at first he declared with an oath that he would rather submit to lose his head than be advanced to so high a dignity, he at last yielded to the general desire.

 

THE MONK ABELARD AND THE NUN HELOÏSE (A.D. 1079-1164).

The monk Abelard, or Master Peter, was twelve years the senior of Bernard, of noble family, haughty in manner, singularly handsome, and dressed to great advantage. He had a commanding intellect, and became a teacher of renown, being followed by crowds of admirers. His success intoxicated him, and he gave way to pleasure. He was said to have been a tutor to a niece of a Canon Fulbert, named Heloïse, and their intimacy led to an unconquerable love, since celebrated by all the poets. They were at last secretly married, and after being covered with reproaches from relatives, were separated, he seeking refuge in the abbey of St. Denis, and Heloïse becoming a nun at Argenteuil, and afterwards a prioress in Troyes district. Abelard was dogged by enemies, charged with heresy, and he became a hermit on the banks of the Ardusson, near Troyes. Yet wherever he was, his magnetic power drew the crowd after him, and he had again to escape to a monastery of St. Gildas on the coast of Brittany, where, however, the morals of the fraternity were very loose. At intervals he and Heloïse met and corresponded, and their constancy was well known. Abelard’s views relating to the Trinity, which he expounded with extraordinary ingenuity and power,[Pg 295] roused the enmity of the orthodox Bernard, who challenged him to a public discussion at Sens. These two men were the ablest theologians of their day, and the approaching contest excited extraordinary interest in the civilised world; the king, and bishops, and abbots, and grandees watched keenly the stages of the meeting. After, however, Bernard had begun to attack the heretical book, Abelard abruptly left the meeting, saying that he preferred to appeal to Rome. Abelard ended his days in pious exercises in the monastery of Cluny.

 

ABELARD AND ST. BERNARD IN CONTROVERSY.

This public discussion as to orthodox doctrines so eagerly looked forward to between Abelard and St. Bernard, and which ended so abortively, was described by Abelard’s disciple Berenger in a letter somewhat satirically. He describes Bernard as a mere idol of the crowd—gifted with a plentiful flow of words, but destitute of liberal culture and of solid abilities—one who, by the solemnity of his manner, imposed the merest truisms on his followers as if they were profound oracles. He ridicules Bernard’s reputation as a worker of miracles; hints that his proceedings against Abelard were prompted by a spirit of bigotry, jealousy, and vindictiveness, rendered more odious by his professions of sanctity and charity. Of the opinions imputed to his master, he maintains that some were never held by Abelard, and the rest, if rightly interpreted, were true and Catholic. The book of Abelard, he says, had been brought up for consideration at Sens when the bishops had dined, and it was then read amidst jests and laughter while the wine was doing its work in their brains. Any expression above the reach of their understanding excited their rage and curses against Abelard. As the reading went on, one after another succumbed to sleep, and when the question was put to them they answered without being able to articulate a word. The council reported their condemnation of Abelard’s doctrines, and requested Abelard to be interdicted from teaching. Bernard also used his influence with the Pope, who, without even calling on Abelard for explanations, ordered him to be shut up in a monastery; and it was there that the abbot of Cluny offered an asylum, in which Abelard ended his days.

 

ABELARD’S LAST DAYS IN CLUNY (A.D. 1142).

After Abelard died a monk in Cluny, the lord abbot of Cluny gave this account of him to Heloïse: “I write of that servant[Pg 296] and true philosopher of Christ, Master Peter, whom the Divine dispensation sent to Cluny in the last days of his life. A long letter would not unfold the humility and devotion of his conversation while among us. When at my order he took a high place in our large company, he always appeared the least of all by the meanness of his attire. In the processions, when he with the others preceded me, I wondered, nay, I was well-nigh confounded, to see so famous a man able so to despise and abase himself. He was so sparing in his food, in his drink, in all that related to his body, as in his dress; and he so condemned both in himself and others, both by word and deed, I do not say superfluities, but all save the merest necessaries. He read continually; he prayed frequently; he was silent always, unless the conversation of the monks, or a public discourse in the convent, addressed to them, urged him to speak. What more shall I say? His mind, his tongue, his work, always meditated, taught, or confessed philosophical, learned, or Divine things. A man simple and upright, fearing God and eschewing evil—in this conversation for a time he consecrated his life to God. In the exercise of all holy works, the advent of the Divine visitor found him, not sleeping, as it does many, but on the watch. When his end came, how faithfully he commended his body and soul to Him here and in eternity, the religious brethren are witnesses, and the whole congregation of that monastery. Thus Master Peter finished his days.”

 

THE ORDER OF CARTHUSIANS (A.D. 1084).

The popular legend as to the origin of the order of Carthusians is, that about 1084 one Bruno, a native of Cologne, and master of the cathedral school of Rheims, was anxious to escape from a domineering archbishop, whose favourite saying was, “The archbishopric of Rheims would be a fine thing, if one had not to sing masses for it.” Bruno one day, being in Paris, witnessed the funeral procession of a very pious and learned doctor, and while on its way to the grave the corpse raised itself from the bier and exclaimed, “By God’s righteous judgment I am judged.” This so horrified the company that the ceremony was postponed to next day. But next day the same thing happened, and again on a third day, the mournful tone of the dead man shocking every listener. Bruno was so overcome with a sense of the vanity of all earthly things that he resolved to retire into some solitude. A bishop of Grenoble advised him to choose the rocky woods of Chartreuse, and to that place he and six companions retired.[Pg 297] They wore goatskins, and lived on the most meagre fare. They spoke only on Sundays and festivals, and underwent a weekly flagellation. But by their rules no one was to impose any extraordinary austerity on himself without the leave of the prior. The community at first consisted of hermits and cœnobites. They contrived soon to acquire a good library, and they excelled in transcribing and literary labours. After six years Bruno was invited by the Pope to Rome; but he grew weary of city life, and founded a second Chartreuse. The order of Carthusians gradually flourished; but their rule was too rigid for females; their habits were less prone to luxury than those of other orders. Yet the convents in the seventeenth century were said to be reduced to five.

 

THE ORDER OF THE CISTERCIANS (A.D. 1098).

About 1098, one Robert, the son of a noble in Champagne, having entered a monastery, and finding the rule too lax for his tastes, went, with twenty companions, to Cistercium or Citeaux, a lonely wood near Dijon, where they settled and built a monastery. The third abbot was Stephen Harding, an Englishman, who framed the rules of their order. Their dress was white; they were to avoid pomp and luxury and refuse all gifts. From September to Easter they were to eat only one meal daily. The monks were to give themselves to spiritual employments, and instead of slaves they hired servants to assist in labour. The white dress, being a novelty in France, gave offence and caused rivalry to other orders, who wore black, the white being deemed a badge of overweening self-righteousness. The order of Citeaux acquired great celebrity by producing St. Bernard, its most famous member. The mode of government resembled the aristocratic rather than the monarchical, the affiliated monasteries joining in the election of abbot. One remarkable feature of the rule was the holding of an annual general chapter, at which every abbot of the order was imperatively required to attend. This meeting helped to keep the branch societies in harmony. The order spread very rapidly, and in 1151 was said to consist of five hundred monasteries. Until the rise of the mendicant orders, the Cistercians were the most popular of the orders, and grew rich.

 

ST. BERNARD AS A YOUNG MONK (A.D. 1100).

St. Bernard, perhaps the most influential of all monks, was born in 1071, had great beauty of person, charming manner, and a facile eloquence, which gave him an early ascendency. The[Pg 298] monastery at Citeaux, near Dijon, had been founded fifteen years, when, at the age of twenty-two, he felt a yearning to join the company. One Stephen Harding, an Englishman, was the abbot, and kept the whole of St. Bernard’s rule literally. They had one meal a day, and never tasted meat, fish, grease, or eggs, and even milk only rarely. When Bernard entered, a scarcity bordering on famine was felt there. The rule of the house then was as follows: At two in the morning the great bell was rung, and the monks rose and hastened from their dormitory, along the dark cloisters, in solemn silence, to the church. A single small lamp suspended from the roof gave a glimmering light. After short private prayer they began matins, which lasted two hours. The next service was lauds, at the first glimmer of dawn. During the interval the monk’s time was his own. He went to the cloister, and employed the time in reading, writing, or meditation. He then devoted himself to various religious exercises till nine, and next went forth to work in the fields. At two they dined; at nightfall they assembled to vespers; and at six or eight, according to the season, finished the day with complin, and passed at once to the dormitory. Bernard took to these austerities with great enthusiasm. He used to say that whatever knowledge he had of the Scriptures he had acquired chiefly in the woods and fields, and that the beeches and oaks had been his best teachers in the Word of God. He said cities to him were like a prison, and solitude was a paradise.

 

ST. BERNARD AS ABBOT.

St. Bernard, the son of a noble in Burgundy, as already stated, soon displayed a genius for self-mortification as a Cistercian monk. He was so self-concentred that, when he had walked a whole day on the banks of Lausanne Lake, he never noticed that there was any lake at all. Once he borrowed a horse for a journey, but never noticed what sort of bridle it had. He had such a reputation for learning and piety that many potentates referred their differences to him, and Bolingbroke said that the cell of Bernard was a scene of as much intrigue as the court of the Emperor. He said of Abelard that he knew everything that is in heaven and earth but himself. Bernard died at sixty-three, and was buried at Clairvaux in 1153. He said many men know many things—measure the heavens, count the stars, dive into the secrets of Nature—but know not themselves.

 

ST BERNARD’S MIRACLES.

The biographers and chroniclers ascribe abundant miracles to[Pg 299] St. Bernard. A boy with an ulcer in his foot begged the holy man to touch and bless him, and the sign of the cross was made and the lame was healed. Once a knight had been suffering from a quartan fever for eighteen months, and used to foam at the mouth and lie unconscious; but Bernard cured him instantly with a piece of consecrated bread. Young Walter of Montmirail, when three months old, was brought by his mother to be blessed; the conscious child clutched at Bernard’s hand and kissed it. Once an incredible number of flies filled the church at Foigny at the time of its dedication, and their noise and buzzing were an intolerable nuisance; but the saint merely said, “I excommunicate them,” and next morning they were all dead, and had to be shovelled out with spades. On another occasion, as Bernard was returning from Chalons, the wind and rain and cold were fierce, and one of the company by some accident lost his horse, which scampered away over the plain. Bernard said, “Let us pray,” and they were scarcely able to finish the Lord’s Prayer before the horse came back tame and mild, stood before Bernard, and was restored to its owner.

 

THE MONK BERNARD AND HIS FASHIONABLE SISTER.

St. Bernard had at an early age converted his brothers and made monks of them; but he had a sister, Humbeline, who showed no enthusiasm for a nunnery. She married a man of rank and affluence, and did her part in the gay world. One day she thought she would like to go and visit her brothers in the monastery, and with great pomp and retinue she drove to the gates of Clairvaux and asked to see Bernard. But he, “detesting and execrating her as a net of the devil to catch souls,” refused to go out and meet her. Her brother Andrew, whom she encountered at the gate, also treated her with harshness, and observed with unbecoming contempt upon her fine apparel. She burst into tears at this coldness, and at last exclaimed, “And what if I am a sinner? It is for such that Christ died! It is because I am one that I need the advice and conversation of godly men. If my brother despises my body, let not a servant of the Lord despise my soul. Let him come and command: I am ready to obey.” This speech brought out Bernard, who ordered her to imitate her saintly mother: to renounce the luxuries and vanities of the world, to lay aside her fine clothes, and to become a nun inwardly even if she could not assume the outward appearance. The sister went home, thought over all this, and ended by coming round to Bernard’s views. She astonished her friends and neighbours by the sudden change in[Pg 300] her ways of life. Her fastings, prayers, and vigils showed that she also had a turn for the monastic life. She got permission from her husband and retired to the convent of Juilly, where she emulated his austere devotion, and became worthy of such a brother as Bernard.

 

ST. BERNARD AND HIS RIVAL, PETER THE VENERABLE.

A rivalry sprang up between the monks of Cluny and those of Citeaux, the white dress of the latter causing much bitterness to those in black. Bernard of Clairvaux was the champion of the Cistercians, and Peter of the Cluniacs. Bernard blamed the Cluniacs for their luxury and secular habits. He said many of the monks, though young and vigorous, pretended sickness, that they might be allowed to eat flesh. Those who abstained from flesh indulged their palate without stint in exquisite cookery; while, in order to provoke the appetite, they drank largely of the strongest and most fragrant wines, which were often rendered more stimulating by spices. At table, instead of grave silence, light worldly gossip, jests, and idle laughter prevailed. The Cluniacs had coverlets of fur or of rich and variegated materials for their beds. They dressed themselves in the costliest furs, silk, and cloth, fit for robes of princes. Even the stuff for a cowl was chosen with feminine and fastidious care. This excessive care for the body betokened a want of mental culture. Even the mode of worship and magnificence of the churches were excessive in splendour. The churches were elaborately adorned and the poor were neglected. There were pictures and monstrous and grotesque carvings in the walls, wholly unsuited to sacred worship and apt to distract the mind. The chandeliers and candlesticks were of gold and silver and set with jewels; the pavements were inlaid with figures of saints and angels, whose character was thereby degraded. The golden shrines containing relics seemed only to flatter the wealthy and allure them into opening their purse-strings. These abbots travelled at home with a pomp and retinue of sixty horses, only suited to distant undertakings of great pith and moment. All these unseemly practices cried aloud for redress.

 

PETER THE VENERABLE REPLIES TO BERNARD.

Peter the Venerable replied to St. Bernard and defended the Cluniacs. He retorts that the white dress of the Cistercians was too significant of pride, while the black dress of Cluny was better[Pg 301] suited to the grave and sad. The severity of the Cistercian discipline was excessive, and only drove monks out of the order. The use of furs and materials for dress and bedding and the relaxation of fastings were properly made to suit the diversities of climate. Moreover, as coats of skins were given to Adam and Eve, not for pride, but for shame, the use of furs might well serve to remind us that we were exiles from our heavenly country. If the Cluniacs had lands, they were at least more indulgent to their tenants; if they had serfs, this was because these could not be separated from the lands. If the Cluniacs had castles, these were generally turned into houses of prayer; if they had tolls, they were reminded that St. Matthew came from the class of toll-collectors; if they had tithes, they at least had forsaken all earthly possessions before entering the order, and gave an ample equivalent in the prayers and tears and alms which the monks used for the benefit of the public. It was not necessary for the monks to work at manual labour when they had ample employment in spiritual concerns and priestly exercises. The washing of feet on receiving pilgrims and strangers always involved a great waste of time. Though the Cluniacs were blamed for having no bishops, this was sufficiently explained from their being under the Bishop of Rome.

 

THE SCHOOLMEN AND DOCTORS OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

The subtle and ingenious schoolmen and doctors of the Middle Ages were too often only “madly vain of dubious lore.” One doctor of Paris, named Simon Churnai, having acquired great fame in 1202 by his defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, was so conceited as to say, “Oh, poor Jesus! how greatly have I confirmed and exalted Your position! If I had chosen to attack it, I could have destroyed it by much stronger reasons and objections!” Peter Lombard, friend of St. Bernard, and author of the popular work entitled “The Sentences,” ventured to discuss such problems as the following: When the angels were made, and how; whether they be all equal in essence, wisdom, and freewill; whether they were created perfect and happy, or the reverse; whether the demons differ in rank among themselves; whether they all live in hell, or out of it; whether the good angels can sin, or the bad act virtuously; whether they have bodies; and whether every person has or has not a good angel to preserve him and a bad one to destroy him. The most famous of the doctors had their favourite adjectives, as in the following list:—

[Pg 302]

The irrefragable doctor  Alexander Hales  1230.
The angelical doctor  Thomas Aquinas  1256.
The seraphic doctor  Bonaventura  1260.
The wonderful doctor  Roger Bacon  1240.
The most profound doctor  Ægidius de Columna  1280.
The most subtle doctor  John Duns Scotus  1304.
The most resolute doctor  Durand  1300.
The invincible doctor  W. Occham  1320.
The perspicuous doctor  Walter Burley  1320.
The most enlightened doctor  Raymond Lully  1300.

 

THE DEATHBED OF AN ABBOT (A.D. 1137).

Warin, abbot of St. Evroult, after serving God under the monastic rule for forty-three years, one day in June 1137 was observed to sing Mass with great devotion in the morning, when they buried the corpse of a soldier. In the course of the day he took to his bed, and lay dangerously ill for five days, during which the sick man heard Mass daily, and said an office which he had regularly performed himself for the thirty years of his priesthood. Seeing now that he was going the way of all flesh, he earnestly sought the viaticum for the great journey, and prepared to present himself to the Most High King of Sabaoth by confessing his sins with tears in his eyes, earnest and constant prayer, the holy unction, and the life-giving participation of the Lord’s body. At last, strengthened with these great aids, he departed on June 21st; and having performed all that belonged to a faithful champion of Christ, and commended himself and his spiritual sons to the Lord God, fell asleep in the fifteenth day of his government. The sorrowing brethren all joined in paying the last offices to their lamented father, and he was buried in the chapter by the side of the tomb of Abbot Osbern. A white stone was placed over his grave; and, adds Orderic, “for the love I bore to my old and dear associate, and afterwards my spiritual father, I composed an epitaph to be engraved upon it.”

 

ECSTATIC VISIONS OF SISTER HILDEGARD (A.D. 1147).

When Pope Eugenius was visiting Albero, Archbishop of Treves, in 1147, with whom he remained three months, he was consulted and asked for an opinion as to the prophecies of Hildegard, head of a monastic sisterhood at St. Disibod’s, in the diocese of Mentz. Hildegard, born in 1098, had from her childhood been subject to fits of ecstasy, during which it was said that, though ignorant of Latin, she uttered oracles in that language,[Pg 303] and these were eagerly heard, recorded, and circulated. With the power of prophecy she was credited with the power of working miracles. She came to be consulted on all manner of subjects by emperors, kings, and popes. Her tone in addressing the highest personage was like that of a true prophetess—one of pronounced superiority. She denounced the corruptness of the monks and clergy with a vigour which delighted their enemies. Even St. Bernard, when in Germany, became interested in the position of Hildegard, and it was at his instance that the Pope examined the subject, and gave her his approval and sanctioned a design she entertained of building a convent in a spot on St. Rupert’s Hill, near Bingen, which had been revealed to her in a vision. Another ecstatic visionary about the same period was Elizabeth of Schonau, who used in her trances to utter oracles in Latin, and to relate her interviews with angels and the Queen of Heaven; and both Hildegard and she attained the honour of saintship. A little later, about 1190, Joachim, a Calabrian, though not a prophet, attained the dignity of a seer, and was consulted by popes and princes.

 

THE SAFEST WAY OF TRAVELLING TO ROME (A.D. 1172).

Abbot Sampson of Edmundsbury used to relate this: “In my earlier days as a monk I journeyed to Rome on the business of this convent, and I passed through Italy at that time when all clerks bearing letters of our lord the Pope Alexander were taken, and some were imprisoned, and some hanged, and some with nose and lips cut off were sent back to the Pope to his shame and confusion. I, however, pretended to be a Scotchman; and putting on the garb of a Scotchman, I often shook my staff in the manner they use that weapon, which they call a pike, at those that mocked me, uttering fierce language after the manner of the Scotch. To those who met and questioned me as to who I was, I answered nothing but ‘Ride, Rome, turn Canterbury.’ This I did to conceal myself and my errand, and that I should get to Rome safer under the guise of a Scotchman. Having obtained letters from the Pope even as I wished, on my return I passed by a certain castle, and was taking my way from the city, and behold the officers thereof came about me, laying hold upon me and saying, ‘This vagabond, who makes himself out to be a Scotchman, is either a spy or bears letters from the false Pope Alexander.’ And while they examined my ragged clothes, my leggings, my breeches, and even the old shoes which I carried over my shoulders, after the fashion of the Scotch, I thrust my[Pg 304] hand into the little wallet which I carried, wherein was contained the writing of our lord the Pope, close by a little mug I had for drinking. And the Lord God and St. Edmund permitting, I drew out that writing, together with the mug, so that, extending my arm aloft, I kept the writ underneath the mug. They could see the mug plainly enough, but they did not notice the writ; and so I got clean out of their hands in the name of the Lord. Whatever money I had about me, they took away; therefore I was obliged to beg from door to door, being at no danger until I arrived in England.”

 

PORTRAIT OF ABBOT SAMPSON OF ST. EDMUNDSBURY (A.D. 1182).

Sampson, abbot of Edmundsbury (Bury St. Edmunds), was thus sketched by his faithful chronicler Jocelyn of Brakeland: “The Abbot Sampson was of middle stature, nearly bald, having a face neither round nor yet long, a prominent nose, thick lips, clear and very piercing eyes, ears of the quickest hearing, lofty eyebrows and often shaved, and he soon became hoarse from a brief exposure to cold. On the day of his election he was forty-seven years old, and had been a monk seventeen years, having a few grey hairs in a reddish beard, with a few grey in a black head of hair, which somewhat curled, but within fourteen years after his election it all became white as snow; a man remarkably temperate, never slothful, well able and willing to ride or walk, till old age gained upon him and moderated such inclination; who on hearing the news of the cross being captive, and the loss of Jerusalem, began to use under-garments of horsehair, and a horsehair shirt, and to abstain from flesh and flesh meats; nevertheless, he desired that meats should be placed before him while at the table for the increase of the alms-dish. Sweet milk, honey, and suchlike things he ate with greater appetite than other food. He abhorred liars, drunkards, and chatterers; for virtue ever is consistent with itself and rejects contraries. He also much condemned persons given to murmur at their meat and drink, and particularly monks who were dissatisfied therewith, himself adhering to the uniform course he had practised when a monk. He had likewise the good quality, that he never changed the dish you set before him. Once when I, then a novice, happened to serve in the refectory, it came into my head to ascertain if this were true, and I thought I would place before him a mess which would have displeased any other but him. Yet he never noticed it. An eloquent man both in French and Latin, but intent more on the substance of what he said than on the manner of saying it.”

 [Pg 305]

MONKS OF ST. EDMUNDSBURY REBUILDING THEIR ALTAR.

One night Abbot Sampson of St. Edmundsbury dreamt that St. Edmund complained to him that his altar required rebuilding, and that the shrine or loculus, in which the saint lay buried, must be transferred. Sampson took care to carry out this monition, and Jocelyn the chronicler relates the imposing ceremony thus: “The festival of St. Edmund now approaching, the marble blocks are polished, and all things are in readiness for lifting of the shrine to its new place. A fast of three days was held by all the people, and the abbot appointed the time and way for the work. Coming therefore that night to matins, we found the great shrine raised upon the altar, but empty, covered all over with white doeskin leather, fixed to the wood with silver nails. Praises being sung, we all proceeded with our disciplines. These finished, the abbot and some others with him are clothed in their albs, and approaching reverently set about uncovering the loculus. There was an outer cloth of linen inwrapping the loculus, and all within this was a cloth of silk, and then another linen cloth, and then a third; and so at last the loculus was uncovered and seen resting on a little tray of wood, that the bottom of it might not be injured by the stone. Over the breast of the martyr there lay fixed to the surface of the loculus a golden angel about the length of a human foot, holding in one hand a golden sword and in the other a banner. Lifting the loculus and body therefrom, they carried it to the altar, and I reached out my sinful hand to help in carrying, though the abbot had commanded that none should approach except called. And the loculus was placed in the shrine, and the shrine for the present closed. We all thought that the abbot would show the loculus to the people, and bring out the sacred body again at a certain period of the festival. But in this we were wofully mistaken. Our lord the abbot spoke privily with the sacristan and Walter, the doctor, and order was taken that twelve of the brethren should be appointed against midnight who were strong to carry the shrine. I, alas! was not of the twelve. The abbot then said that it was among his prayers to look once upon the body of his patron, and that he wished the sacristan and doctor to be with him. The convent, therefore, being all asleep, these twelve, clothed in their albs, with the abbot, assembled at the altar; and when the lid was unfastened, all except the two forenamed associates were ordered to withdraw. The abbot and they two were alone privileged to look in. The head lay united to the body, a little raised with a small pillow. But the[Pg 306] abbot looking close, found now a silk cloth veiling the whole body, and then a linen cloth of wondrous whiteness, and upon the head was spread a small linen cloth, and then another small and most fine silk cloth, as if it were the veil of a nun. These coverings being lifted off, they found now the sacred body all wrapt in linen, and so at length the lineaments of the same appeared. But here the abbot stopped, saying he durst not proceed further or look at the sacred flesh naked. Taking the head between his hands, he thus spake, groaning, ‘Glorious master, holy Edmund, blessed be the hour when thou wert born. Glorious martyr, turn it not to my perdition that I have so dared to touch thee, miserable and sinful that I am; thou knowest my devoted love and my secret thought.’ And proceeding, he touched the eyes and the nose, which was very massive and prominent, and then he touched the breast and arms; and raising the left arm, he touched the fingers, and placed his own fingers between the sacred fingers. And proceeding, he found the feet standing stiff up, like the feet of a man dead yesterday; and he touched the toes and counted them. And now it was agreed that the other brethren should be called forward to see the miracles, and accordingly those ten now advanced, and along with them six others, who had stolen in without the abbot’s assent; and all these saw the sacred body, but Thurstan was the only one of them who put forth his hand and touched the saint’s knees and feet. And that there might be abundance of witnesses, one of our brethren, John of Dice, sitting on the roof of the church with the servants of the vestry, and looking through, clearly saw all these things. The body was then lifted to its place in the shrine, and the panels of the loculus refixed. When we assembled to sing matins, and understood what had been done, grief took hold of all that had not seen these things, each saying to himself, ‘Alas! I was misled.’ Matins over, the abbot called the convent to the great altar, and briefly recounting the matter, explained that it had not been in his power, nor was it permissible or fit to invite us all to the sight of such things. At hearing of which we all wept, and with tears sang Te Deum laudamus, and hastened to toll the bells in the choir.”

 

AN ABBOT HARASSED WITH THE CARES OF HIS HIGH OFFICE (A.D. 1182).

When Sampson was abbot of St. Edmundsbury, Jocelyn, his chronicler, writes: “On one occasion I said, ‘My lord, I heard thee this night wakeful and sighing heavily, contrary to thy[Pg 307] usual wont;’ and he answered, ‘No wonder: thou art partaker of my good things—in meat and drink, in riding abroad, and suchlike; but you have little need to care concerning the conduct of the house and household of the saints and arduous businesses of the pastoral cares, which harass me and make my spirit to groan and be heavy.’ Whereto I, lifting up my hands to Heaven, made answer, ‘From such anxiety, almighty and most merciful Lord, deliver me!’ I have heard the abbot say that, if he could have been as he was before he became a monk, and could have had five or six marks of rent wherewith he could have been supported in the schools, he never would have been monk or abbot. On another occasion, he said with an oath that, if he could have foreseen what and how great a charge it had been to govern the abbey, he would have been master of the almonry and keeper of the books, rather than abbot and lord. And yet who will credit this? Scarcely myself, and not even myself, unless from being constantly with him by day and night for six years I had had the opportunity of becoming fully conversant with the worthiness of his life and the rule of his wisdom.”

 

THE MONKS ANNOYED AT THE VISIT OF THE POPE’S LEGATE.

The worthy chronicler of St. Edmundsbury, Jocelyn, thus relates the sensation caused in his convent: “In 1176 there came intelligence to Hugh, the abbot, that Richard, the Archbishop of Canterbury, purposed coming to make a visitation of our church, by virtue of his authority as legate; and thereupon the abbot, after consultation, sent to Rome and sought a privilege of exemption from the power of the aforesaid legate. On the messenger’s return from Rome, there was not the means of discharging what he had promised to our lord the Pope and the cardinals, unless indeed, under the special circumstances of the case, the cross which was over the high altar, the Virgin Mary, and the St. John, which Stigund, the archbishop, had adorned with a vast quantity of gold and silver, and had given to St. Edmund, could be made use of for this purpose. There were certain of our convent who, being on terms of intimacy with the abbot, said that the shrine of St. Edmund itself ought to be stripped, as the means of obtaining such privileges, these persons not considering the great peril that would ensue from obtaining ever so valuable a privilege by such means as this, for there would be no means of calling to account any abbot who might waste the possessions of the Church and despoil the convent.”

 [Pg 308]

DEATHBED OF A REPENTANT PRINCESS IN 1199.

Joanna, daughter of Henry II. of England, and a favourite sister of Richard Cœur-de-Lion, and, like him, fond of the clang of trumpets and the martial music of armies, went to Syria, encouraging the Crusaders, and afterwards married Earl Raimond of Toulouse. She died at the age of thirty-four; and though neglectful of the monks in her busy days, she repented and wished she had joined the nuns. A monk thus describes her deathbed: “Trusting to the truth and mercy of the Most High, who will give a penny to him who works only at the eleventh hour, as well as to those who have laboured from the first, she greatly desired to assume a religious habit, and commanded the prioress of Fontevraud to be summoned by letters and messengers; but when distance delayed her coming, feeling her end approaching, she said to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was then present, ‘My good lord, father, have pity on me, and fulfil my earnest desire; furnish my body with the arms of religion to fight my adversary, that my spirit may be restored more pure and free to its Creator; for I know and believe that, if I might be joined in body to the order of Fontevraud, I should escape eternal punishment.’ But the archbishop, trembling, said that this could not be lawfully done without her husband’s consent; but when he saw her constancy and the Spirit of God speaking in her, moved by pity and conquered by her prayers, he with his own hand consecrated and gave her the sacred veil, her mother and the abbot of Tarpigny with other monks being present, and offered her to God and the order of Fontevraud. She now, rejoicing and unmindful of her pangs, declared she saw in a vision the glorious Mother of God; and as the abbot told us, she cast her veil at the enemy, saying, ‘I am a sister and a nun of Fontevraud: thus strengthened, I fear thee not.’” The royal nun died very soon, and was buried in the monastery.

 

A MONK STEALING ST. ANTONY’S PSALM BOOK (A.D. 1200).

It is related by Ribadeneira, in his Life of St. Antony of Padua, that a certain Franciscan novice, throwing off his habit, ran away from the monastery in which the saint lived, and took away with him a psalm book written with St. Antony’s own hand and explained with marginal notes, which the saint often used when he privately expounded the Scriptures to the friars. As soon as St. Antony perceived his book to be stolen, he fell down on his knees and earnestly entreated God to restore him his book[Pg 309] again. In the meantime, the apostate thief having his book with him, as he prepared to swim over the river, met the devil, who with a drawn sword in his hand commanded him to go back again immediately, and restore to St. Antony the book he had stolen from him, threatening to kill him in case of noncompliance. The devil gave his order with so dreadful an aspect, that the thief, being astonished, returned immediately to the monastery, restored the saint his book, and continued in a religious course ever after. Hence it became a saying, that St. Antony is implored to restore lost goods.

 

A MONK FOR A KING (A.D. 1226).

St. Louis, King of France, in 1226, had been bred up a monk by a strong-minded and austere mother, Queen Blanche. The young King took naturally to all the austerities. He wore coarse sackcloth next his skin, ate fruit once a year, never laughed or changed his raiment on Fridays. In his girdle he wore an ivory case of iron chain scourges, and every Friday locked his door on himself and his confessor, who then used these incitements to piety over his bleeding shoulders. He would walk with bare feet to distant churches; or sometimes, to disguise his devotion, wore sandals without soles. He constantly washed the feet of beggars. He invited the poor and sick to his table. He not only gave alms but even a brotherly kiss to lepers. He heard Masses twice or thrice a day. As he rode, his chaplain chanted or recited the offices. When challenged for these constantly repeated exercises, he would say, “If I spent twice as much time in dice and hawking, should I be so rebuked?” A woman, one day as he sat in court, exclaimed, “Fie! you are not King of France; you are only a king of friars, of priests, and of clerks. It is a great pity you ever were King of France; you should be turned out of your kingship.” He would not allow his officers to chastise this free speech, but answered, “Too true! It has pleased the Lord to make me king; it had been well if it had been some one who had better ruled the realm.” And he ordered some money to be given to the woman. The King was altogether ignorant of polite letters. He read only his Latin Bible and the Fathers. He loved everybody except Jews, heretics, and infidels. He once thought of abdicating and becoming a real monk. He joined the Crusades because he knew God would fight His own battles. His expedition took three years to complete, and it was a disastrous failure. He was defeated and made a prisoner, but he bore it all like a monk, and his people ransomed him.

 [Pg 310]

ST. ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY (A.D. 1231).

Elizabeth, daughter of a King of Hungary, and who died in 1231, was destined from a baby to be married to Ludwig, a son of the Landgrave of Thuringia, and the two as children were rocked to sleep in the same cradle. When she was fifteen they were married, and she developed a strong instinct to help the poor and sick, and always kept up a place of refuge for them. Five years after her marriage an inquisitor named Conrad became her confessor, and being of a brutal and malignant disposition, became so arrogant and domineering that her life was made miserable by his dictation and arbitrary orders. His cruel treatment of many so-called heretics ultimately roused the spirit of some nobles, who waylaid him; and when the miserable wretch begged his life, they told him he should meet with the same mercy he had shown to others, and cut him down. Ludwig went to join the Crusaders, and he afterwards died abroad; and during his absence his brothers dispossessed Elizabeth and turned her adrift with her three children, and for a time she had scarcely the means to live except on charity. Her former subjects were also afraid to shelter her, and she had often to spin for a livelihood. Amid all her own troubles she did not cease to help the poor; and when some friends came to her assistance with funds, it was always her first thought to give away all her means and even her clothes in charity. Her father at last hearing of her misfortunes, offered her a home; but she refused to leave the place where her husband had lived. Conrad, her confessor, brutally thwarted her in all her charitable schemes. At last her health gave way, and she lay on her deathbed. A little bird perched on her window-sill and sang so cheerfully that she could not choose but to sing also. She soon, however, sank, at the age of twenty-four, and her body was richly enshrined in the church dedicated to her at Marburg, where her relics were prized and attracted many pilgrims. It was after her death that the brutal Conrad was murdered. She is the patron saint of all charities.

 

A SICK NUN CAUSING A PANIC AMONG THE SARACENS (A.D. 1253).

St. Clara, who flourished in 1253, was a devout follower of St. Francis of Assisi, and though highly born gave her life up to exercises of self-mortification. In her nunnery of San Damiano it happened once that the Saracens were about to attack the city of Assisi, and she was on a bed of sickness, when roused by the[Pg 311] cries of the sisterhood. She caused herself to be borne to the point of danger, preceded by the Host. She flung herself before the sacred symbol and said, “My God, suffer not these feeble ones to fall a prey to barbarians without pity. I cannot protect them. I place them in Thy hands.” She thought she heard an answer, “I will preserve them.” She further entreated, “Lord, have mercy on this city, which has sustained us with its alms.” Again she felt sensible that she heard the words, “It shall not suffer. Be of good courage.” It was noticed that a sudden panic then fell on the Saracens. They had already climbed the walls; they jumped down outside, withdrew their ladders, and deserted Assisi, leaving it unhurt. Everybody then said it was St. Clara’s doing; the holy nun had saved them.

 

MORBID FANCIES OF ST. NICOLAS, THE STARVED MONK (A.D. 1305).

St. Nicolas of Tolentino, who died in 1305, was in his youth so impressed by a sermon on self-mortification that he resolved to embrace a religious life. He showed great aptitude for fasting, even at the growing age of fifteen, and the superior of the monastery warned him against carrying it too far and wearing himself to a skeleton; for, after all, the torture of the body was not necessary to salvation. But Nicolas hesitated; and going to church, he fell into a trance and saw a vision, which told him to remain at Tolentino. He had great delight in the spiritual exercises of Mass. At the altar his face shone with rapture and tears streamed from his eyes. He became a fervid preacher, but he also took so little food that his mind was a prey to thick-coming fancies. The cats racing over the tiles of his cottage and squalling in the night, and the rats gnawing pieces of mortar and scampering behind the wainscot, seemed to him to be an army of fiends let loose and envious of his prayers. Through his open window one night a great bat upset his candle, but he blew the extinguished candle so long that it rekindled, and this was deemed by all the neighbours quite a miraculous revival. The devil one day was said to have beaten him with a club at cockcrow, but went off without the stick, and this is still preserved as a trophy in the convent. Nicolas was ill from exhaustion, and was ordered some meat. But when a roasted partridge, hot and steaming with rich gravy, was brought to him, he looked with horror, as if he was asked to commit a mortal sin. With folded hands and tearful eyes he implored his superior to excuse him; and when he received consent not to touch the tempting bird, he made the sign of the cross over it. All at once the bird, shocked at his [Pg 312]indifference, rose in the dish, collected its scattered materials, resumed its feathers, and flew out of the window with a whir. One day an old lady baked Nicolas some nice loaves, which he ate, and got well. In memory of the wonderful event little loaves are baked and blessed and given to the sick to this day on the feast of St. Nicolas of Tolentino.

 

THE MONASTERIES OF MOUNT ATHOS.

The peninsula of Mount Athos is about forty miles long and four miles wide, and abounds in ridges and valleys of the finest scenery of rock and wood, with twenty monasteries situated on the best spots. These are either hermit villages or convents of the ordinary kind; but they enjoy an organisation under what is called a Holy Synod, consisting of representatives, though before 1500 the supreme government was intrusted to a single governor or first man. Mount Athos, at the seaward end, rises seven thousand feet high. Every part of the promontory is covered with vegetation, and its position in the waters keeps the forests fresh and green when all the neighbouring mainlands are burnt up by the summer and autumnal heats. The origin of the monasteries is lost in the early ages, and for at least a thousand years the hermits have been known to occupy these places. Most of these monasteries possess ancient manuscripts and relics of the early saints. Nearly every convent on Athos possesses a portion of the true cross. Among the relics distributed are found a piece of the Blessed Virgin, which is a narrow strip of some red material sewn with gold thread and ornamented with pearls; the gifts of the three kings, gold, incense, and myrrh; a drop of the blood of St. John the Baptist; part of the skull of St. Bartholomew; a hand and a foot of St. Mary Magdalene; the left hand of St. Anne; part of the head of St. Stephen Protomartyr; relics of St. Andrew and St. Luke; a piece of our Lord’s coat; the jaw of St. Stephen; the head of St. James the Less; three of our Lord’s hairs; a leg of St. Simon Stylites. No instrumental music of any kind is permitted in the Eastern Church; but sometimes a sort of voice accompaniment of one note, like the drone of a bagpipe, keeps up a low murmuring sound whilst the other voices are engaged upon the tune.

 

THE MONKS OF LA TRAPPE (A.D. 1122).

The convent of La Trappe had been founded in 1122, but about the year 1663 the monks had dwindled to seven. De Rancé, who[Pg 313] had been many years a wealthy prodigal and sensualist, entered La Trappe, which had an evil repute for loose living. He became abbot and began reforms; and though threatened with assassination, he introduced a system of rigorous self-denial and asceticism worthy of the hermits of the Thebaid. By degrees his numbers increased. The monks, though living in the same house, were strangers to each other. Each one followed to the choir, the garden, or the refectory the feet that were moving before him, but he never raised his eyes to discover to whom the feet belonged. There were some who passed the entire year of their novitiate without lifting up their eyes, and who, after that long period, could not tell how the ceiling of their cells was constructed, or whether they had any ceilings at all. There is mention made of one whose whole anxiety was for an only brother whom he left leading a scandalous and disorderly life in the world. This monk never passed a day without shedding tears and praying for the grace of repentance to that lost brother. On his dying-bed he had one request to make to his abbot, which was, that there might be a continuance of his prayers for this brother. De Rancé retired for a moment, and returned with one of the most useful and valued members of the brotherhood. When the cowl which concealed his features was removed, the dying monk recognised the lost brother for whom he had so often wept and prayed. De Rancé was a valued friend of Bossuet, the greatest orator of his age, and received his visits. During the last six years of his life he sat in an easy-chair almost without changing his position. He died in 1700, and was deemed the first anchorite of his time.

 

THE CERTOSA MONASTERY AT PAVIA (A.D. 1396).

The Certosa of Pavia is the most splendid monastery in the world, and is called the monastery of the Blessed Virgin of Grace. It was founded in 1396 by the first Duke of Milan, as an atonement for guilt and to relieve his conscience of the murder of his uncle and brother-in-law. On the general suppression of convents it became a national monument. The architect was Bernardo da Venezia, and he so contrived the building that from whatever side it was viewed the perspective lines were admirably disposed. Sculptures and paintings in profusion decorate the interior. Rich bronze gates divide the nave of the chapel from the transept. The most rare and costly materials were used in the structure, and the bas-reliefs are exquisite. There are many fine pictures of saints, setting forth various legends in sacred art.

 [Pg 314]

ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA, NUN (A.D. 1347).

St. Catherine was born at Siena in 1347. She was of great beauty and had a genius for virginity; and though her parents wished her, at the age of twelve, to engage herself in marriage, she resisted, and thereby brought on herself systematic tyranny and insult. At the age of fifteen she began to live on herbs, to wear haircloth, and an iron girdle armed with spikes. At eighteen she entered a nunnery and underwent with zeal a series of mortifications. She devoted herself to nursing the infected and to delivering exhortations, so that people flocked to see and hear her. When the furious factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines raged, and the Pope sent an army to subdue Florence, the inhabitants implored her to mediate, and she went, attended with great pomp of ambassadors, to the Pope, on whom she made a great impression. She was then looked up to as a sort of ambassadress in many critical State affairs, and attained high honour in all her undertakings. She had ecstasies and wonderful visions, and was deemed of sublime virtue and self-denial. She died in Rome, aged thirty-three, and was buried there, her skull being taken to the Dominican church at Siena, and she was canonised in 1461. Next to Mary Magdalene she is the most popular of all the female saints; and owing to her great learning and to her refuting the philosophers of Paganism, she is deemed a Christian Minerva. In one of her ecstasies she said the Virgin appeared to her and introduced the Saviour, who put a ring on her finger. One legend says a wheel with spikes was used to put her to death, but fire came from heaven and broke the wheel in pieces and killed the executioners. The saint and her wheel were painted by many of the great painters, and so was her marriage to the Saviour.

 

THE MONKS OF LUCCA AND THEIR DEMON PREACHER (A.D. 1320).

In the fourteenth century the Franciscan monks of Lucca found that, however industrious they were in begging, the inhabitants had gradually ceased to contribute alms to the money-box, and they were on the point of starvation. The richest man of the place drove them from his gate and called them idle vagabonds, who wanted to live at their neighbours’ expense. The courage of the friars drooped; they saw their tables laid out daily for dinner, but not a morsel of bread. They thought of selling the silver vessels or leaving the locality. The abbot felt or feigned patience, courage, and resignation, and counselled them to trust in the Lord; but in their inmost hearts they all felt[Pg 315] despair, and the devil triumphed at their approaching ruin. At this desperate juncture the Archangel Michael descended and caught an emissary of the devil as he was gloating over his prey, and condemned that emissary to do service to the monks, in spite of his evil nature. The devil gnashed his teeth and swore he would do nothing for the brood of St. Francis, his arch-foe. But Michael told the fiend that he had nothing to do but obey. So the fiend, sorely against his will, assumed the guise of a friar of higher degree, got into conversation with the abbot, and hearing of the drooping fortunes of the house, said he would compel the public to serve them and restore their comfort. The abbot looked again and again at this mysterious friend, whose bearing and confident airs made a profound impression, and asked his name, which the visitor said was “Obligatus.” So Obligatus entered the monastery, set to work, harangued the people in byways and comers, and his extraordinary eloquence soon worked an immediate change in the situation. The people were spellbound, and poured their contributions into the alms-boxes. The fame of the unwilling preacher filled all the country round, so that the monastery flourished and became too small, and then he prevailed on the people to build a second house. A rich man of the place fell sick unto death and sent for the eloquent friar, but at last he died impenitent; and this event greatly rejoiced the disguised saint, for Obligatus felt the devil within him so strong that he broke out into raptures. The secret of the demon friar was then disclosed. He tore off his friar’s habit, declared that his truce with St. Francis was ended, that he had done his work, and Francis had conquered. The friar then vanished disgusted and enraged, and was never more heard of. But the monastery flourished ever after.

 

THOMAS À KEMPIS AND THE BROTHERS OF COMMON LIFE (A.D. 1450).

Thomas à Kempis, the author of the “Imitatio Christi,” an inspired handbook of all that is best in monkish life, was born in 1380 at Kempen, in the diocese of Cologne. At the age of thirteen he went and joined the Brothers of Common Life, a small company or cloister founded by Gerard Groot and Florentius at Deventer, and seven years later he entered the convent of St. Agnes at Zwolle, where he filled several offices, and died in 1471, aged ninety. His book was first printed in 1471, and soon became the delight of all the best monks, as truly representing their higher life. Father Lamennais said of this book that “there is something celestial in its simplicity. One would almost imagine it[Pg 316] was written by one of those pure spirits who have seen God face to face, who had come expressly to explain His ways and to reveal His secrets. One is profoundly moved at this aspect of that soft light which nourishes the soul and fortifies and animates without troubling it.” Mr. Kettlewell also well says, “It shows how the life of a Christian in ordinary circumstances may be made lovely by the cultivation of the spiritual life; how a lowly life may become sublime and heavenly.” In appearance Thomas had a broad forehead and thoughtful face and bright eyes. The Brothers of Common Life were employed not only in writing out Scripture, which was to them a great means of support, but in manual labour of a homely kind. Thomas in his studious hours contrived to extract the sweetness out of all the best writings of those who lived before him. Thomas’s idea of a cloister is quoted by Mr. Kettlewell, his biographer, and gives this charming picture: “A well-founded cloister, separated from the tumult of the world, adorned with many brethren and with sacred books, is acceptable to God and to His saints. Such a place, it is piously believed, is pleasing to all that love God and take a delight in hearing the things of God; because the cloister is the castle of the Supreme King, and the palace of the Celestial Emperor, prepared for the dwelling of religious persons where they may faithfully serve God. For this is none other, as we read and sing, than the house of God in which to pray, the court of God to offer praise, the choir of God to sing unto Him, the altar of God whereon to celebrate, the gate of God whereby to enter heaven, the ladder of God to rise above the clouds. As a noble city is preserved with walls and gates and bars, so also is the monastery of the religious with many devout brethren, with sacred books, and with learned men. It is decorated with gems and precious stones to the praise of God and to the honour of all his saints, who now rejoice in heaven with Him, because they followed in the footsteps of His passion on earth.”

 

ST. PETER OF ALCANTARA, THE SELF-CONCENTRATED MONK (A.D. 1530).

At Estremadura, in Spain, St. Peter, a law student and son of the governor, born in 1499, early embraced the religious life, and was eager to crucify the flesh with its affections. He never lifted his eyes from the ground, and could not tell whether his cell had a ceiling or bare rafters. He had charge of the refectory for six months, and allowed his brethren to go without apples and pomegranates because he would not lift his eyes to see whether there were any ripe for table. He did not know by[Pg 317] sight one of the friars who had lived for years with him in the same house. He lay in a small cell not long enough to stretch his body in at full length. He wore only one garment, and that was a serge habit made like a short cloak with tight leggings. When it was torn he carefully removed the tattered portion underneath, lest he should be in the enjoyment of the double cloth. One day he was visited by a stranger, and Peter had been washing his only garment, and while it was drying in the sun he was of course not presentable to company. In his devotions he roared and howled so loudly that strangers thought he was insane, though the devout described him as only struggling manfully with the devil. To hear one of these performances was said to be far more impressive than any sermon of his contemporaries. One hot day, going to visit a nobleman, he dismounted from his ass and fell asleep, and the ass took the opportunity of trespassing and eating up the vegetables in a poor woman’s garden. On seeing the mischief done, she tugged at Peter’s cloak, which caused him to fall over and cut his head on a stone. The nobleman coming up at this point, was about to slay the woman for this rudeness, but Peter interceded for her, and begged his lordship rather to pay for the damage done by the ass, and this was done. Peter lived for forty-seven years in a perpetual penance, and was highly esteemed for the spirit he showed in so trampling the world under his feet. He had the look of a gnarled root of oak, rugged and eccentric, yet when he opened his mouth he was most affable and showed an excellent understanding. He died preaching to and admonishing the friars.

 

THE ECSTATIC VISIONS OF ST. THERESA (A.D. 1550).

St. Theresa astounded all her contemporaries with her numerous visions and high-flown devotional works. She was thought in her youth to be too much given to gossip; and when grown up, her confessors were told so many wonderful things that they plainly assured her these were mere delusions of the devil. She thus related one of these visions: “One day, when our Lord was communing with me, I gazed at His great beauty, and the sweetness with which He uttered His words with His most lovely and Divine mouth, sometimes also with sternness. I had a great desire to observe the colour of His eyes, and their shape and size, that I might give a description of them; but I have never been able to behold them, nor have I succeeded in gaining my point, as the vision has usually faded. And though sometimes I see He looks at me with compassion, yet the sight is so overpowering[Pg 318] that the soul is not able to endure it, but remains in so high a rapture that, in order to enjoy Him the more completely, this beautiful apparition disappears altogether. When I am in trouble, He has shown me His wounds as He hung on the cross or was in the garden. One day, as I was holding the cross in my hand which was at the end of my rosary, He took it into His hand, and when He returned it to me it consisted of four great stones incomparably more precious than diamonds,” etc., etc. St. Theresa founded no less than sixteen convents in Spain, and she died at the age of sixty-seven, in 1582, in an ecstasy such as she had so often had during her lifetime; and the nuns who attended on her said they saw our Lord waiting at the foot of her bed with saints to carry her to realms of bliss. She had joined with her nuns in the penitential psalms and litany, and she then lay in a trance for her last fourteen hours in the posture in which the blessed Magdalene is commonly drawn by painters, holding a crucifix firmly in her hands, so that the nuns could not remove it till after her death. They all noticed her lips moving and a glow of heavenly hope on her face. Her body was so sacred that parts of it were dispersed throughout the Christian world.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK ENTERS A MONASTERY (A.D. 1557).

The Emperor Charles V. having for twenty years looked forward to the step he was now taking, took leave of many of his old servants, and on February 2nd, 1537, was placed in his litter, and with a company of fifty-two retainers, besides his household of sixty, crossing the leafless forest, halted at the gates of Yuste, the Jeromite convent in Estremadura in Spain. There the bells were ringing a peal of welcome, and the prior was waiting to receive his imperial guest, who, on alighting, was placed in a chair and carried to the door of the church. At the threshold he was met by the whole brotherhood in procession, chanting the Te Deum to the music of the organ. The altars and the aisle were brilliantly lighted up with tapers and decked with their richest frontals, hangings, and plate. Borne through the pomp to the steps of the high altar, Charles knelt down and returned thanks to God for the happy termination of his journey, and joined in the vesper service of the feast of St. Blas. This ended, the prior stepped forward with a congratulatory speech, in which, to the scandal of the courtiers, he addressed the Emperor as “your paternity,” until some friar with more presence of mind and regard to the situation whispered that the proper style was “your majesty.” The orator next presented his Jeromites to their new brother,[Pg 319] each kissing his hand and receiving a fraternal embrace. Some of the friars bestowed on his gouty fingers so cordial a squeeze that the pain compelled him to withdraw the hand and say, “Pray, don’t, father; it hurts me.” During this ceremony the retiring halberdiers who had escorted their master to the journey’s close stood round with tears and lamentations as they took leave and felt their occupation gone. Sounds of mourning at the final parting were heard as the Emperor was conducted to an inspection of the convent, and then to supper, and then to a repose which had so long been the dream of his life.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK’S DRESS AND FURNITURE.

The Emperor monk’s dress was always black and very old. He had an old arm-chair with wheels and cushions. Some of the apartments had some rich tapestry wrought with figures, landscapes, and flowers. His usual black dress was such another as that painted by Titian in the fine portrait wherein the Emperor sits before us, pale, thoughtful, and dignified, in the Belvidere palace at Vienna. He still had an old cap to save his best velvet one in case of a shower. He had a few rings and bracelets, medals and buttons, collars and badges, some crucifixes of gold and silver, various charms (such as the bezoar-stone against the plague, and gold rings from England against cramp), a morsel of the true cross and other relics, three or four pocket watches, and several dozen pairs of spectacles. He had a few well-chosen pictures worthy of the patron and friend of Titian, a composition on the subject of the Trinity, and three pictures of Our Lady by that great master. He had three cased miniatures of the Empress painted in her youthful beauty, also some family portraits of near relatives. Over the high altar of the convent and in sight of his own bed he had placed that celebrated composition called the Glory of Titian, a picture of the Last Judgment, in which Charles, his wife, and their royal children were represented in the master’s grandest style as conducted by angels into life eternal. Also another masterpiece of the great Venetian—St. Jerome praying in his cavern with a sweet landscape in the distance—was an altar-piece in the Emperor’s private oratory.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK’S APARTMENTS.

The Emperor’s house or palace, as the friars loved to call it, in Yuste was such as many a country notary would call comfortable. It had a simple front of two storeys to the garden and the [Pg 320]noontide sun. Each of the eight rooms had an ample fireplace, such as a chilly invalid of Flemish habits required. Charles inhabited the upper rooms, and slept in one which had a window commanding the high altar. From the window on the opposite side of the corridor, where his cabinet stood, the eye ranged over a cluster of rounded knolls, clad in walnut and chestnut, in which the mountain died gently away into the broad bosom of the Vera. A summer-house peered above the mulberry tops at the lower end of the garden, and a hermitage of Our Lady of Solitude about a mile distant hung upon a rocky height which rose like an isle out of the sea of forest. Immediately below the windows the garden sloped gently to the Vera, shaded here and there with the massive foliage of the fig, or the feathery boughs of the almond, and breathing perfume from tall orange trees, cuttings of which some of the friars in after-days tried in vain to keep alive at the bleak Escurial. The garden was easily reached from the western porch or gallery by an inclined path, which had been constructed to save the gouty monarch the pain and fatigue of going up and down stairs. This porch, which was much more spacious than the eastern, was his favourite seat when filled with the warmth of the declining day. A short alley of cypress led from the parterre to the principal gate of the garden, and beyond was the luxuriant forest, and close in the foreground a magnificent walnut tree.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK’S DETESTATION OF HERETICS.

While the Emperor monk was at Yuste, he retained all his fiery zeal against heretics, and notice of any successful capture of an impious Lutheran was welcome news when forwarded to him. He always in his letters entreated his daughter, the Princess Regent, to lose no time and spare no pains to uproot the new and dangerous doctrines. He used to say to his confessor, “Father, if anything could drag me from this retreat, it would be to aid in chastising these heretics. I have written to the Inquisition to burn them all, for none of them will ever become true Catholics or are worthy to live.” He would have their crime treated in a short and summary manner, like sedition or rebellion. The King, his son (he said), had executed sharp and speedy justice upon many heretics, and even upon bishops in England. Upon news arriving about any hunt after heretics, he used to converse with his confessor and the prior on a subject that lay so near his heart. He told them that, in looking back on the early religious troubles of his reign, it was ever his regret that he did[Pg 321] not put Luther to death when he had him in his power. He had spared him, he said, on account of his pledged word, but he now saw that he greatly erred in preferring the obligation of a promise to the higher duty of avenging upon that arch-heretic his offences against God. Had Luther been removed the plague might have been stayed. He had some consolation, however, in recollecting how steadily he had refused to hear the points at issue between the Church and the schismatics argued in his presence.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK’S INTEREST IN CLOCKMAKING.

The Emperor Charles, while a monk, often visited in spare hours the workshop of Torriano, who had long been at work on an elaborate astronomical timepiece, which was to tell the month and year and the movements of the planets. He had revolved the plan for twenty years, and the making of it actually occupied three and a half years. Of wheels it contained eighteen hundred; the material of the case was gilt bronze, and round. The clock was two feet in diameter, rather less in height, and with a tapering top, ending in a tower containing the bell and hammer. The Emperor helped the inscription by adding to the name of Torriano “The Prince of Clockmakers,” and caused his own portrait to be engraved on the back. Torriano also made for the Emperor a smaller clock in a crystal case, which allowed the whole working of the machinery to be seen. The same artist constructed a self-acting mill, which, though small enough to be concealed in a friar’s sleeve, could grind two pecks of corn in a day; also the figure of a lady who danced on the table to the sound of her own tambourine. Other puppets were attributed to the artist: minute men and horses, which fought, pranced, and blew tiny trumpets; and birds which flew about the room, as if alive,—toys which at first scared the prior and his monks out of their wits, and made them think the artificer a wizard. Besides these sedentary amusements, the Emperor had also his pet birds, his wolf-hounds, and even sometimes was unmonkish enough to stroll to the forest with his gun, and pop at the wood-pigeons on the chestnut trees.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK’S CONFESSOR.

Regla, the son of a poor Aragonese peasant, and who was taken into the convent of St. Yuste at the age of thirty-six, and became a devoted son and rigid disciplinarian, was selected by the[Pg 322] Emperor Charles V. as his confessor. The recipient of so great an honour felt unworthy to take charge of His Majesty’s conscience. But Charles told him to take courage, adding, “I have had five learned divines, who have been busy with my conscience for three years past in Flanders, and all with which you will have to concern yourself will be my life in Yuste.” The meek confessor soon gained the good opinion of the Emperor, and obtained the great boon of being allowed to be seated in the royal presence—an act of condescension which greatly scandalised the loyal Quixada, the major-domo, who regarded it as an indignity that a poor friar should be placed on a level with his august sovereign. The monk felt the awkwardness—for it was the practice to keep up the same high state at Yuste in the Emperor’s presence—and he fell on his knees and besought the Emperor to allow him to stand in his presence; “for when any one enters the room,” said the friar, “it makes me feel like a criminal on the scaffold dressed in his san benito.” “Be in no trouble about that,” said Charles to him: “you are my father confessor; I am glad that people should find you sitting when they come into the room, and it does not displease me that you should change countenance sometimes at being found so.” After the confessor assisted Charles in his morning devotions, the latter usually went and watched Torriano, the mechanician, who was always busy with some mechanical invention and with improving the watches and clocks which so interested the Emperor.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK’S CHOIR.

At the convent of Yuste the Emperor Charles had with him a little organ with a silver case and of exquisite tone, which had long been kept at the Escurial, and which was also the companion of his journeys and the solace of his evenings when encamped before Tunis. The choir at Yuste, in order to gratify the Emperor’s love of music, had been reinforced with fifteen friars, chosen from different monasteries for their fine voices and skill in the art. The Emperor took a lively interest in the management of the choir and organ, and from the window of his bedroom his voice might often be heard accompanying the chant of the friars. His ear never failed to detect a false note and the mouth from which it came. A singing-master from Plasencia, being one day in the church, ventured to join in the service, but he had not sung many bars when orders came down from the palace to keep silence. Guerrero, a “chapel-master” of Seville, having composed and presented to the Emperor a book of masses and[Pg 323] motets, one of the former was selected for performance at Yuste. When it was ended, the imperial critic remarked to his confessor which were the stolen passages skilfully appropriated from the best masters and their works and names.

 

NOT A MONK AT DINNER-TIME.

The Emperor Charles V., though all his life looking forward to being a monk, did not understand a monkish dinner. After a year’s sojourn in Yuste, his physician considered His Majesty well enough to leave off his sarsaparilla and liquorice water. Then, as usual, Charles ate voraciously. His dinner began with a large dish of cherries or strawberries, smothered in cream and sugar; then came a highly-seasoned pasty; and next the principal dish of the repast, which was frequently a ham, or some preparation of rashers—the Emperor being very fond of the bacon products of Estremadura. “His Majesty,” said the doctor, “will not hear of changing his diet or mode of living, trusting too much to the force of habit, and forgetting the consequences to bodies like his, full of bad humours.” His hands occasionally troubled him, and his fingers were sometimes ulcerated. But his chief complaint was of the heat and itching in his legs at night, which he endeavoured to relieve by sleeping with them uncovered—a measure whereby temporary ease was purchased at the expense of a chill which crept into the upper part of his body, in spite of blankets and eiderdown quilts. Then came threatenings of gout, attempts to cure by cold bathing, perpetual itching, and other symptoms, which gradually enfeebled him. It was said that His Majesty’s cook was driven out of his wits to invent new dishes for table, and that he believed there was nothing left but to serve up a fricassée of watches.

 

THE EMPEROR MONK CELEBRATES HIS OWN FUNERAL.

The Emperor used, when any of his friends died, to do honour to their memory by causing their obsequies to be performed by the friars, and each on a different day. At last he asked his confessor whether he might not now perform his own funeral, and so do for himself what would soon have to be done for him by others. “Would it not be good for my soul?” asked the Emperor. And the monk replied that certainly it would, for pious works done during life were far more efficacious than when they were postponed till after death. Preparations were therefore at once set on foot. A catafalque was erected, and next day[Pg 324] the celebrated service was actually performed. The high altar, the catafalque, and the whole church shone with a blaze of wax lights; the friars were all in their places at the altars and in the choir, and the household of the Emperor attended in deep mourning. The pious monarch himself (says his biographer) was there, attired in sable weeds and bearing a taper to see himself interred and to celebrate his own obsequies. While they were singing the solemn mass for the dead, he came forward and gave his taper into the hands of the officiating priest, in token of his desire to yield his soul into the hands of his Maker. High above, over the kneeling throng, the gorgeous vestments, the flowers, the curling incense, and the glittering altar, the same idea shone forth on that splendid canvas whereon Titian had pictured Charles kneeling on the threshold of the heavenly mansions prepared for the blessed. The funeral rites ended, the Emperor dined, but he ate little; and feeling a violent pain in his head, he lay down, and next day he told his confessor that the funeral of the day before had done him good. He died six weeks later.

 

FUNERAL SERMON ON THE EMPEROR MONK.

When the Emperor Charles V. died, a monk at Yuste, his chamberlain said of him that he was the greatest man that ever lived, or ever would live, in the world. In his last moments he said, “The time is come; bring me the candle and the crucifix.” These cherished relics he had long kept for this supreme hour, and he died with his eyes fixed on the crucifix. His body was embalmed and laid in a coffin in front of the high altar. The eloquent preacher Villalva preached a funeral sermon so impassioned, that the hearers declared that it made their flesh creep and their hair stand on end. Sixteen years later messengers went to remove the body to the mausoleum at the Escurial. The monks bewailed the loss of so precious a deposit, and one of them took occasion to preach an affecting sermon, in which he thus apostrophised the dead monarch: “Although you are but a lifeless corpse, the garment of the spirit which has long enjoyed, as we believe, the glory of God, we thank your Cæsarean majesty for the grace which you have bestowed on Yuste and on our order. In a year and eight months passed in this solitude we are well assured that you have gained more renown than in the whole of your long reign. History, indeed, will never forget your great achievements, but in the end of your life you surpassed them all. Grief for losing you, who so loved us, chokes my utterance; for I know that when you are gone, although we who are now alive[Pg 325] are your devoted servants and chaplains, a time will come when even in this place your memory will be regarded no more than if you had never dwelt within our walls.” This last allusion was prophetic; for in 1849, when Mr. Stirling visited Yuste, he found it in ruins, and all save the great walnut tree told only of mouldering decay. O’Campo, the chronicler of the Emperor Charles V., had undertaken to write his history; but having begun at Noah’s flood was, after forty years’ labour, surprised by death while narrating the exploits of the Scipios, B.C. 183.

 

 


[Pg 326]

CHAPTER XI.

SOME BISHOPS, KINGS, POPES, AND INQUISITORS.

 

THEORY OF THE UNITY OF THE CLERGY.

The clergy, including the monks and friars, were one throughout Latin Christendom. Whatever antagonism, feud, hatred, and estrangement might rise between rival prelates, rival priests, rival orders, whatever irreconcilable jealousy there might be between the seculars and regulars, yet the caste seldom betrayed the interest of the caste. The clergy in general were first the subjects of the Pope, then the subjects of their temporal sovereign. The Pope came to be acknowledged over the whole of Christendom as the guardian, and in some respects the suzerain, of Church property all over the world. He was at least a more impartial judge than their rival or antagonist—the civil ruler. The universal fraternity of the monastic orders and of the friars was even more intimate than the bond between the clergy. The wandering friars found everywhere a home. Their all-comprehending fraternisation had the power and some of the mystery, without the suspicion and hatred, which attaches to secret societies. It was a perpetual campaign, set in motion and still moving on with simultaneous impulse from one or from several centres, but with a single aim and object—the aggrandisement of the society, with all the results for evil or for good.

 

THE SUPREMACY OF THE POPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

Milman says: “The essential inherent supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal power was in the time of Innocent III. (1198-1216) an integral part of Christianity. Splendid indeed it was, as harmonising with man’s natural sentiment of order. The unity of the vast Christian republic was an imposing conception, which, even now that history has shown its hopeless impossibility, still infatuates lofty minds: its impossibility, since it demands for[Pg 327] its head not merely that infallibility in doctrine so boldly claimed in later times, but absolute impeccability in every one of its possessors; more than impeccability—an all-commanding, indefeasible, unquestionable majesty of virtue, holiness, and wisdom. Without this it is a baseless tyranny, a senseless usurpation. In those days it struck in with the whole feudal system, which was of strict gradation and subordination; to the hierarchy of Church and State was equally wanting the crown, the sovereign Liege Lord. The Crusades had made the Pope not merely the spiritual but in some sort the military suzerain of Europe. He had the power of summoning all Christendom to his banner; the raising of the cross, the standard of the Pope, was throughout Europe a general and compulsory levy. The vast subventions raised for the Holy Land were to a certain extent at the disposal of the Pope. An immense financial system grew up. Papal collectors were in every land; Papal bankers in every capital to transmit these subsidies. He claimed to be supreme judge of all the ecclesiastical courts in every country, and to approve and degrade bishops, to grant dispensations, and to found new orders and direct canonisations. This claim of supremacy made lawless kings tremble, and in this way did some good. Nothing could be more sublime than the notion of a great supreme religious power, the representative of God’s eternal and immutable justice upon earth, absolutely above all passion or interest, interposing with the commanding voice of authority in the quarrels of kings and nations, persuading peace by the unimpeachable impartiality of its judgments, and even invested with power to enforce its unerring decrees. But the sublimity of the notion depends on the arbiter’s absolute exemption from the unextinguishable weaknesses of human nature. If the tribunal commands not unquestioning respect, if there be the slightest just suspicion of partiality, if it goes beyond its lawful province, if it has no power of compelling obedience, it adds but another element to the general confusion; it is a partisan enlisted on one side or the other, not a mediator conciliating conflicting interests or overawing the collision of factions. Yet such was the Papal power in these times: often, no doubt, on the side of justice and humanity—too often on the other; looking to the interests of the Church alone, assumed, but assumed without ground, to be the same as those of Christendom and mankind, the representative of fallible man rather than of the infallible God. Ten years of strife and civil war in Germany were traced, if not to the direct instigation, to the inflexible obstinacy of Pope Innocent III.”

 [Pg 328]

THE ELECTION OF POPES.

Under the first Christian princes the chair of St. Peter, like the throne of other bishops, was submitted to a popular election, and constant tumults attended these, owing to the vague and unsettled views of the voters. The voters were the clergy, the nobility, the heads of monasteries, and the common people, who all voted indiscriminately by the show of hands or counting of heads. In 1179 Pope Alexander III. abolished the popular mode of election, and assigned the sole right of election to the College of Cardinals, or two-thirds of their number. The number of cardinals seldom exceeded twenty-five, till the reign of Leo X. (1513). By this mode of election a double choice had only occurred once in six hundred years after Alexander III. In 1274 Gregory X., by his bull, fixed a short interval for filling up the vacancy. Nine days were allowed for the obsequies of the deceased Pope and the arrival of the absent cardinals. On the tenth day these are each sequestered with one domestic in a common apartment, or conclave, without any separation of walls or curtains. A small window is reserved for the introduction of necessaries; but the door is locked on both sides and guarded by the magistrates of the city, so as to exclude all correspondence with the world. If the election is not accomplished in three days, the tables are restricted to a single dish at dinner and supper. After the eighth day the food is reduced to a scanty allowance of bread, water, and wine. During the vacancy the cardinals are prohibited from touching the revenues or government of the Church, and all agreements between the electors are null and void. It is said that the cardinals have three modes of election: (1) by scrutiny; (2) by compromise; (3) by inspiration. By the first mode three of a committee take the vote of each elector in secret, and two-thirds carry the election. By the second mode each on oath pledges himself to agree to whatever candidate three others selected from the whole may select. By the third method, when all agree without a dissentient on one name, this is deemed to be by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Or if two-thirds unanimously salute one candidate as Pope, this is called an election by adoration.

 

ORIGIN AND DRESS OF CARDINALS.

The name of cardinal was merely a synonym for presbyter and deacon, and came to be given specially to those rectors or presbyters whom the Pope made use of in the government of the Churches in Rome. Till the end of the tenth century these cardinals were[Pg 329] of lower rank than the bishops who met in Church councils. The rectors of the seven Churches which were situated nearest to Rome and helped the Pope in celebrations of the liturgy began at first to be called Roman bishops, and in the eleventh century cardinal bishops of the Lateran Church, as being assistants in Divine service in the Lateran Church. By degrees these began to obtain precedence over other bishops. In 1059 they were allowed to have the chief voice in electing the Pope, and their authority was continually increasing, and in the twelfth century the election of a Pope was taken away from the people and clergy of Rome and vested in the cardinals exclusively. After that the cardinals used to be called the “Pope’s holy senate,” “princes of the world,” and “judges of the earth,” taking precedence of all other bishops. In the fourteenth century the number of cardinals was fixed by Urban VI. and directed not to exceed twenty; in another century they became twenty-four; in 1514 they reached thirty-nine, and in 1535 reached to forty, and then to seventy. They began in the thirteenth century to wear a purple dress and a red hat, which in shape was like a very small cap, with scarcely any brim. A silk mitre of damascene work and a red hood followed.

 

PAUL OF SAMOSATA, THE DEGRADED BISHOP (A.D. 260).

When the severity of persecution relaxed in the first three centuries, the effect was seen in the growing vice of unprincipled persons assuming the Christian religion and using it as a cloak for licentiousness. One Paul of Samosata was made Bishop of Antioch in 260, and contrived to make the service of the Church a lucrative profession. He extorted frequent contributions from the faithful, and appropriated to his own use much of the public revenue. His pride and luxury soon made him odious. Crowds of suppliants and petitioners frequented his house for evil ends. When he harangued his people from the pulpit, he affected the figurative style and theatrical gestures of an Asiatic sophist, whilst the cathedral resounded with the loudest and most extravagant acclamations in the praise of his Divine eloquence. He was arrogant, rigid, and inexorable to his enemies; but he relaxed the discipline and lavished the treasure of the Church on his dependent clergy, who were, like himself, given up to dissipation. Some errors of his as to the Trinity excited the indignation of the other bishops. They often met and obtained promises and treaties; but eighty of them of their own authority took on themselves at last to excommunicate him; and as they did so somewhat irregularly, it took four years to turn him out of possession.[Pg 330] The Emperor Aurelian was appealed to; and after hearing both sides, he resolved to execute the sentence of the other bishops, and to expel Paul from the possession of his see.

 

THE DIGNITY OF EMPEROR AND THE FIRST ABDICATION (A.D. 305).

The Emperor Diocletian, who joined in 303 in a persecution of the Christians, and who died in 313, was the first who made the throne of dazzling splendour in the eyes of the people. Up to his time the emperors assumed no airs and talked familiarly to the citizens. But Diocletian introduced the Persian habits, which approached adoration towards the king. Not content with the robe of purple, like his predecessors, he assumed the diadem, a broad white fillet set with pearls. His robes were silk and gold, his shoes studded with the most precious gems. The avenues of the palace were guarded by schools of officials and the interior apartments by eunuchs. When an audience was allowed, the subject was obliged to fall prostrate on the ground, as if adoring the great lord and master. The whole ceremony resembled a theatrical performance. All this naturally led to a great increase of taxation. After enjoying supreme power twenty-one years, this emperor had the glory of giving to the world the first example of a voluntary resignation, though he did not, like his successor Charles V., enter a monastery and live like a monk. When Diocletian abdicated, he was of the age of fifty-five, and Charles was fifty-nine. Diocletian had, soon after the ceremony of his triumph, caught a chill during the cold and rainy winter of 304, which brought his body down to a state of emaciation and caused him to seek repose, and it was said that he was averse to enforce his edict against the Christians. The ceremony of his abdication was performed in a spacious plain, three miles from Nicomedia. He ascended a lofty throne, and in a speech full of reason and dignity declared his intention. As soon as he divested himself of the purple, he withdrew from the public gaze and in a covered chariot to his favourite retirement of Salona, in Dalmatia, his native country. He spent his leisure hours in building, planting, and gardening. He prided himself on his cabbages; but he covered ten acres of ground with his new palace, and it was said that the stately rooms had neither windows nor chimneys, but were heated with pipes. It was said to be doubtful how he died in 313, some surmising that it was by suicide.

 

AN EARLY BISHOP BUILDING A WORKHOUSE (A.D. 373).

Though the care of the poor was long viewed as properly falling[Pg 331] under the province of the Church, and after the time of Elizabeth it was transferred by English law to the occupiers of lands in each parish, a great outcry was made against St. Basil, Bishop of Cæsarea, about 373, for establishing a large workhouse or hospital. The Phocotropheion, or hospital, for the reception and relief of the poor, was erected by Basil in the suburbs of Cæsarea. His enemies denounced this project to the governor of the province as a dangerous innovation. It was called sometimes “the new town,” and at a later date the Basilead, after its founder. It was a gigantic structure, and included a church, a palace for the bishop, residences for the clergy; hospices for the poor, sick, and wayfarers; workshops for the artisans and labourers connected with the building, and their apprentices. There was also a special department for lepers, with arrangements for their proper medical treatment, and great care was taken of these loathsome patients. By this enormous establishment Basil’s enemies said he was aiming at an invasion of the civil power. But he adroitly parried the accusation by pointing out that there were also apartments in his establishment provided for the governor of the province, and that, after all, the chief glory of the structure would redound to the latter. This view pacified the angry critics.

 

TWO BISHOPS STRIVING FOR A CHURCH SITE (A.D. 420).

About 420 two bishops in Libya had set their hearts on securing, as a site for a new church, a place which had been formerly kept as a strong refuge, well fortified against the incursions of the barbarians. Each intended to convert it into a magnificent temple according to a plan of his own. In order to secure the spot one of them resorted to the following stratagem: He pressed his way in by force, caused an altar to be instantly set up, and then and there consecrated upon it the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. According to the superstition or settled faith of the time, this was deemed equivalent to consecration, after which the place could not be used for any secular purpose of social life. When this incident was reported by Bishop Synesius to Theophilus, Patriarch of Constantinople, he condemned it as sharp practice and a debasing of holy things to unworthy purposes, most unbecoming to any genuine Christian.

 

HOW BISHOPS WERE MADE IN THE FIFTH CENTURY (A.D. 448).

Germanus of Auxerre was born in 380, of high family and rich. He was educated as a lawyer, soon became an advocate,[Pg 332] next married a wealthy lady, and was appointed to a high office as Governor-General. His great delight was then in hunting, and he used to hang up all the heads of the beasts he killed on a pear tree. The bishop, St. Amator, used to reprove him for this weakness; and one day, in the absence of Germanus, the bishop cut down the pear tree as a remnant of superstition. Germanus, on his return, was furious with rage, and threatened the bishop with death. But the bishop knew by revelation that his own end was near, and that Germanus was destined to be his successor. St. Amator went away to the Prefect, and asked leave to perform the tonsure on Germanus. Leave being given, St. Amator assembled his people, told them of his end, and bade them choose a successor and repair to the church. When they were there, he ordered the doors to be locked; and collecting a crowd of clergy and nobles, they seized Germanus by force, cut off his hair, and stripped him of his secular garments, clothed him as a deacon, and told him he was to be next bishop after St. Amator. St. Amator died a few days afterwards, and the clergy and people elected Germanus, and he was obliged to act, though very reluctant. When elected, however, he became another man. He embraced a life of poverty; sold off all his goods; gave up wine, oil, vinegar, salt, and even wheaten bread, living entirely on barley meal, which he made by his own labour. He ate his frugal meal only once a day, and sometimes only once a week. He lay on a box bed filled with ashes with his clothes on and in his hair shirt. He carried always a little box suspended on his breast, having in it relics of saints. He distributed all his property among the poor, founded several monasteries, discovered the sepulchres of several martyrs, and worked many miracles. He died in 448.

 

A FIFTH-CENTURY BISHOP VISITING HIS FRIENDS (A.D. 471).

Sidonius Apollinaris, elected bishop of Auvergne in 471, and the son-in-law of the Emperor Avitus, thus wrote to Donidius: “In visiting this delightful country I have passed a time of the greatest enjoyment with my kind and polite friends Ferreolus and Apollinaris, who are near neighbours. On the morning of each day there was an agreeable contention between our hosts whose kitchen should first begin to smoke with the good things to be prepared for us. Thus we hurried from one entertainment to another. Hardly had we passed the threshold when, behold, regular matches of tennis-players within the circular enclosures, and the frequent noise and rattling of dice, with the clamours of the players. In[Pg 333] another part were placed such an abundance of books ready for use, that you might suppose yourself in the libraries of the grammarians, or among the benches of the Roman Athenæum. After these studies a messenger from the chief cook reminded us punctually at the third hour that dinner was on the table. This copious repast was served up in few dishes, although there were both roast and boiled. Little stories were told while we were taking our wine, which conveyed delight and instruction as they happened to be dictated by experience or gaiety. We were decorously, eloquently, and abundantly entertained. Having shaken off our after-dinner nap, we amused ourselves with a short ride to get an appetite for our supper. We then repaired to the hot baths, and passed an hour or two in the midst of much wit and merriment, during which we were all thrown into a most salubrious perspiration, being enveloped in the steam as it came hissing from the water. When we had been suffused with this long enough, we were plunged into the hot water; and being well cleansed and refreshed, we were afterwards braced by an abundance of cold water from the river Viardus, a transparent and gentle stream abounding in delicate fish. I might go on and give you a description of our sumptuous suppers did not my paper put a stop to my loquacity.”

 

A BISHOP PUTTING DOWN SOOTHSAYERS (A.D. 500).

Cæsarius, Bishop of Arles, was born in 470, and in course of his career sought to suppress the then growing superstition of seeking for oracles in passages of Scripture. The first trace of the abuse was found by St. Augustine, who said: “Although it is to be wished that those who seek their fortunes out of the Gospels would rather do this than run to ask their idols, yet this custom displeases me—the wishing to use the Word of God, which speaks in reference to another life, for worldly concerns and the vain objects of the present life.” The clergy joined in this idle superstition. In doubtful earthly concerns persons would lay down a Bible in a church upon the altar, or especially upon the grave of a saint, would fast and pray, and invoke the saint that he would indicate the future by a passage of Scripture, and sought for the answer in the first passage which met the eye on opening the Bible. Cæsarius promoted a decree against this practice at the Council of Agde in 508, which excluded from Church communion all persons, both of the clergy and laity, who practised divination under the semblance of religion, or promised a disclosure of the future by looking into the Scriptures.

 [Pg 334]

A BISHOP ZEALOUS IN RELEASING PRISONERS (A.D. 500).

In the turbulent age when Bishop Cæsarius lived, about A.D. 500, a great number of prisoners were brought into the city of Arles, and the bishop used all his power in providing clothing, food, and money to purchase their freedom. It is related that, after exhausting the church chest and selling the gold and silver vessels, he stripped the walls and pillars of the church in order to raise money. One day the steward suggested that all the funds were gone, and nothing was left except to send out the prisoners into the streets to beg. Before taking this extreme step the bishop went into his cell, and prayed that the Lord would grant supplies for the poor. He then returned with a cheerful face, and reproved the steward for his want of faith, telling him to bake the last grain of corn into bread, that they might all have one meal together, so that they might be able to fast the following day. This was done, and the next day was looked forward to by all with great anxiety; but in the early morning three vessels hove in sight, laden with corn, which the Burgundian kings Gundobad and Sigismund had sent to Cæsarius in aid of his good work, and so all were relieved from a critical situation. Another time a poor man asked the bishop for money to ransom a captive, and the bishop went to fetch his sacerdotal dress, and gave it to be sold for a price to set the captive free.

 

THE KING OF THE GAULS PERSUADED TO BE CHRISTIAN (A.D. 500).

Clovis I., King of the Gauls, who died in 511, and who by successful battles made a kingdom for himself, had been brought up a Pagan till his thirteenth year. He married Clotilda, niece of the Arian King of Burgundy, and she felt bound to convert her husband. Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, was induced to explain the advantages of the Christian faith, whereupon Clovis and three thousand of his subjects were at once baptised with great solemnity. When he was told of the sufferings and death of Christ, he broke out into a passion, and exclaimed, “Had I been present at the head of my valiant Franks, I would have revenged His injuries.” The King, however, had many battles still to fight, and lived a turbulent life, but was disposed to confide in future in the protection of the Lord of Hosts. The sepulchre of St. Martin of Tours was then the centre of pious interest from the multitude of miracles, and the King made rich offerings to the saint, whom he sometimes described as a rather expensive friend. For he had made a present of his war-horse after a great[Pg 335] victory, and on wishing to redeem it by the gift of a hundred pieces of gold, the enchanted horse refused to leave its stable till he had doubled the sum offered. In his pursuit of the expedition against the Goths, and during his march from Paris through Tours, he directed his messengers to remark the words of the psalm which should happen to be chanted at the precise moment when they entered the church. It happened that the words were about Joshua who went forth to battle against the enemies of the Lord. This greatly encouraged the army. A white hart of great size and beauty was also noticed to guide the troops in the right direction, and a flaming meteor appeared in the air above the cathedral of Poitiers. With these good omens Clovis went on conquering till he established on a sure foundation the kingdom of France. A diadem was placed on his head, and he was invested in the church of St. Martin of Tours with a purple tunic and mantle.

 

HOW THE POPE GOT RID OF A PESTILENCE (A.D. 590).

St. Michael being the archangel, captain of the heavenly host who chained the revolted angels, and the patron saint of the Church militant, had a church dedicated to him in Rome before 500. It is also related that when Rome was depopulated by a pestilence in the sixth century, St. Gregory, afterwards Pope, advised that a procession should be made through the streets of the city, singing the service since called the Great Litanies. He placed himself at the head of the faithful, and during three days they perambulated the city; and on the third day, when they had arrived opposite to the mole of Hadrian, Gregory beheld the Archangel Michael alight on the summit of that monument, and sheathe his sword bedropped with blood. Then Gregory knew that the plague was stayed, and a church was dedicated to the honour of the archangel; and the tomb of Hadrian has since been called the Castle of St. Angelo to this day.

 

CHOOSING A SIXTH-CENTURY ARCHBISHOP.

The See of Constantinople once became vacant in the sixth century; and to prevent troubles and secure a perfect appointment, the Emperor caused a blank paper, sealed with his own seal, to be laid on the altar of one of the churches, accompanied by a written instrument, by which he and the clergy of Constantinople bound themselves to choose the person whose name should be found written on the blank paper under the seal. The access to[Pg 336] these papers was guarded night and day by soldiers under the command of the great chamberlain. A fast was enjoined for forty days, during which time prayers were unceasingly offered up for the choice to be divinely directed. At the end of the forty days, the paper was opened in the presence of the Emperor and the whole body of the clergy, and Fravitas being found to be the name written on the blank paper, he was forthwith proclaimed Archbishop of Constantinople amidst loud acclamations. It so happened that Fravitas died within a year after his ordination, leaving debts due from his estate for large sums borrowed at exorbitant interest from money-lenders. An inquiry into these unlooked-for circumstances being set on foot, it transpired that the money had been borrowed by Fravitas to bribe the great chamberlain, who was thereby induced to open the paper, and having written upon it the name of Fravitas, to reseal it with the imperial seal, of which he was the official keeper. On the discovery of the cheat, the great chamberlain was put to death and his estate confiscated. The exposure was probably of some use in guarding even in those days against the easy access of pious imposture, and reflects light on many supposed miracles then so frequently occurring.

 

POPE GREGORY THE GREAT POINTS OUT A HARD CASE TO THE EMPEROR (A.D. 590).

Gregory the Great, before being elected Pope in 590, had been on a mission to Constantinople, and then gained great favour at Court. He afterwards thus wrote to the Empress Constantina: “Having heard that there are many Gentiles in the island of Sardinia, and that according to their depraved custom they still sacrifice to idols, and that the priests of the island have become lax in preaching our Redeemer, I sent one of the Italian bishops there, who with the help of God converted many of these Gentiles to the faith. But he has informed me of a sacrilegious custom—namely, that those who sacrifice to idols pay a tax to the judge for a licence to do so, of whom some now, being baptised, have given up sacrificing to idols; yet still this tax for the licence is exacted from them by the same judge even after baptism. And when he was found fault with by the bishop for this, he answered that he had bought his office and could not afford to keep it up unless the tax were paid. And the island of Corsica is oppressed by the tax-gatherers to such an extent that the inhabitants can hardly satisfy these demands even by selling their own children. All which things I am quite sure have never reached your pious[Pg 337] ears; for if they had, they would not have lasted till now. Make them known on fitting occasions to your devout lord, that he may remove such a heavy load of sin from his own soul, from the Empire, and from his children. Whoever have children of their own should know well how to feel for the children of others. Let it therefore be enough for me to have suggested these things, in order that your piety may not lie ignorant of what is happening in those parts, and I might not be arraigned by the severe Judge for my silence.”

 

JOHN THE ALMSGIVER (A.D. 613).

Matthew of Westminster says that there flourished in 613 John, Archbishop of Alexandria, who, on account of his eminent liberality to the poor of Christ, deserved to obtain the surname of the Almsgiver. And it happened that a certain foreigner, beholding his excessive compassion for the poor, wishing to tempt him, came to him whilst he was visiting the sick according to his custom, and said to him, “Pity me, because I am poor and a prisoner.” And the patriarch said to his steward, “Give him six pieces of gold.” And when the beggar had received them, he changed his dress, and coming again from another quarter he fell at his feet, saying, “Have mercy upon me, because I am tormented with hunger.” Again the patriarch said to his steward, “Give him six pieces of gold.” And when he had done so, his steward whispered in the ear of the patriarch, “Master, he has now received twice to-day.” He came again a third time and asked alms; and the servant told his master that it was the same man. And that merciful bishop said, “Give him twelve pieces of gold, lest perchance he be Christ Himself, who is come to tempt me.”

 

ST. JOHN THE ALMONER’S SENTIMENTS (A.D. 609).

This John the Almoner became the last Patriarch of Alexandria, his reputation for piety prevailing with the Emperor as well as the people who joined in the appointment. His zeal in redeeming captives, establishing hospitals, and rebuilding churches was soon displayed. He would not allow applicants for charity to be denied because they wore golden ornaments, saying that the riches of God were infinite. During a famine a rich man offered to supply a vast store of grain for public use provided he was made a deacon. John spurned the offer, saying, “God, who supported the poor before either of us was born, can find the means of supporting them now. He who blessed the five loaves and multiplied them can[Pg 338] bless and multiply the two measures of corn which remain in my granary.” Scarcely had the tempting bait been refused, when tidings came that two large cargoes of grain had arrived in the ships belonging to the Church. Though John had vast stores intrusted to him for dispensing to the public, his own fare was poor and simple, and the couch on which he slept was no better than an artisan’s. One day a rich friend purchased and presented to him a magnificent bed; and John, being unwilling to hurt the donor’s feelings, accepted it; but after using it one night he said it hindered his sleep by reminding him of his slothfulness and luxury, while so many poor were lying in cold and misery. He therefore sold the bed and gave away the proceeds in charity. The original donor, however, repurchased it, and presented it again, with the same result; and this took place a third time. When he saw that the Persians were advancing and that Alexandria must fall into their hands he retired to Cyprus, but on his way was strongly urged to pay a visit to the Emperor Heraclius at Constantinople. He was about to comply, but was forewarned in a dream that his own end was approaching, whereupon he said to the royal messenger, “You invite me to the Emperor of the earth, but the King of kings summons me elsewhere.” He died at his native place at Amathus, in Cyprus, aged sixty-four, in 620, and his tomb was long visited by pilgrims.

 

A KING GIVING THE BISHOP A HORSE (A.D. 650).

King Oswin of Northumbria, says Bede, was comely to behold, tall in stature, and courteous and bountiful to all. One day he gave an excellent horse to Bishop Aidan, so that the latter might cross rivers and perform journeys in his diocese. Soon after, a poor man meeting the bishop and asking alms, the bishop dismounted and gave the horse, richly caparisoned, to the beggar. The King heard of this, and next day at dinner said, “How was it, lord bishop, that you gave away that fine horse to a beggar man? Have we not many horses less valuable that would have suited the man just as well?” The bishop’s answer was, “Surely, King, the foal of a mare cannot be dearer to you than that son of God?” This sunk into the heart of the King, who, reflecting upon it, ungirded his sword, and threw himself at the bishop’s feet, desiring that the bishop would forgive his hasty remark, for he would never again attempt to judge what or how much he might give to the sons of God. The bishop in turn begged the King to rise and be cheerful, but it was noticed that the bishop was in tears, as he knew that the King would not live long, for[Pg 339] the nation was not worthy to have such a ruler. Not long after the King was killed, as the bishop foresaw, and the bishop himself lived only twelve days afterwards.

 

A KING IMPRESSED BY A CHRISTIAN’S SCRUPLES (A.D. 640).

Bishop Eligius of Noyon, who was born in 588, was anxious to found a monastery, and requested the French King to grant him a piece of land as a site. The King consented, but Eligius afterwards discovered that he had misrepresented the extent of the ground to be a foot less than it actually measured. This vexed the bishop exceedingly, and he could not rest till he had gone to the King to inform him of the mistake. The King said to the bystanders, “See, what a noble thing is Christian integrity! My nobles and treasurers amass great wealth for themselves, and this servant of Christ, on account of his fidelity to his Lord, could not be easy till he had accounted for this extra handful of earth.” On another occasion the King had required Eligius to take an oath in reference to some matter of business; and according to the custom of the times, this required to be done by laying the witness’s hand on certain relics. The bishop’s conscience was troubled at this requirement, which was contrary to his settled convictions. At last the King was touched with this mark of tender religious feeling, and graciously expressed his consent to waive the formality, and declared that he would be quite content to believe his word in preference to any number of oaths.

 

A MODEL CHURCHMAN OF THE EIGHTH CENTURY (A.D. 740).

The Venerable Bede in his history thus describes St. Acca, Bishop of Hexham, who lived about 740: “He was a most active man, and great in the sight of God and man; he much adorned and added to the structure of his church dedicated to St. Andrew. For he made it his business, and does so still, to procure relics of the blessed Apostles and martyrs of Christ from all parts to place them on altars, dividing the same by arches in the walls of the church. Besides which he diligently gathered the histories of their sufferings, together with other ecclesiastical writings, and created there a very large and noble library. He likewise provided industriously the holy vessels, lights, and such things as pertain to the adornment of the house of God. He also invited to come to him a famous singer named Maban, who had been taught to sing by the successors of the disciples of the blessed Gregory in Kent, so that the clergy should be well instructed in[Pg 340] music, and kept him twelve years, to teach such sacred songs as were not known and to restore those which had been corrupted or too long neglected. Bishop Acca was a most accomplished singer himself, and most learned in the Holy Scriptures, most pure in the confession of the Catholic faith, and most observant of the laws of the Church; nor did he ever cease to be so till he received the reward of his pious devotion.” It is related of Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne about 710, that he could find no better mode of commanding the attention of his townsmen than by standing on a bridge and singing a ballad which he had composed.

 

WHY THE POPE’S FOOT IS KISSED (A.D. 795).

Matthew of Westminster relates that Pope Leo III., when a young man, was doing penance for some misconduct before the altar of the Virgin, that he suddenly became changed into another man, and afterwards came to be Pope. When he was celebrating Mass for the first time, about 795, offerings of great value were made to him. And among those who brought offerings, a woman whom he had known in early days pressed his hand so warmly that she made him almost forget his sacred duties. He felt so ashamed that he cut off this hand, and afterwards the Blessed Virgin restored a new hand to the arm. He showed long afterwards the old hand, which still remained undecayed, to his brethren, and narrated to them all that had happened in respect to it. From that time a rule was made, that henceforth those who brought offerings should not kiss the hand of the Pope, but his foot. In memory of this miracle the hand which was cut off was still preserved (till 1300, the date of Matthew’s history) in the Lateran treasury, and it was kept free from decay by the Lord in honour of His mother.

 

AGOBARD OF LYONS CENSURES THE CLERGY (A.D. 850).

Though previously some attempts had been made to check simony, and check the evils of the vagrant friars, these abuses reached a high pitch in the ninth century, as Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, attested. He was zealous for the dignity of the spiritual order and calling, but lamented over its degradation. He said that many of the nobles procured the most unsuitable men, sometimes their own slaves, to be ordained as priests, and employed these mechanically to perform the rites of worship in the chapels of their castles, and at the same time to do menial offices, such as waiting at table and feeding the hounds. The[Pg 341] bishops assembled at Pavia in 853 to deliberate, and complained that the multiplication of chapels in castles contributed greatly to the decline of parochial worship, and to the neglect of preaching, the nobles being satisfied with the mechanical performance of Mass by their priests, and taking no further concern in the public worship; whence it happened that the parish churches were frequented only by the poor, while the rich and noble had no opportunity of hearing sermons which might recall their thoughts from their debasing worldly pursuits. The council of Pavia again in 850 made a canon disapproving of the laity having the Mass celebrated continually in their houses, and encouraging those ecclesiastics and monks who roved from one district to another, disseminating their own crude errors without let or hindrance.

 

BISHOP ST. SWITHIN (A.D. 867).

Matthew of Westminster says that St. Swithin, Bishop of Winchester, died in 867, a pattern of clemency and humility. Once he was sitting on Winchester bridge encouraging his workmen, when a woman came along bringing her eggs to market and the men most wantonly sprang at her and broke her eggs. At this the woman’s lamentations were so piercing that, on learning of the loss, the good bishop, moved with pity, made the sign of the cross, and repaired the fractures. The great humility of the bishop was shown in his conduct when consecrating a new church. However great the distance, he would walk all the way on foot, refusing the use of horse or carriage; and lest this singularity should excite ridicule, he took care to travel by night. When he was near his end, he enjoined his domestics to bury his corpse outside his church, where it might be exposed to the feet of the passers-by and to the raindrops that fell from the roof.

 

KING ALFRED ENTERTAINING JOHN SCOTUS (A.D. 884).

Simeon of Durham says that, in 884, when Alfred was king, there came to England John Scotus, a Scot by birth, a man of clear intellect and much eloquence, who, leaving his country some time before, had gone over to France to Charles the Bald. Alfred received him with great respect, and John soon became an inseparable companion, both at table and in the King’s retirement, owing to his ready wit and pleasantry. One day at dinner John was sitting at table opposite King Charles, who, while the cups were going round, with a gay face had chid John for some want of politeness, and ended by asking what difference there[Pg 342] was between a Scot and a sot. John at once cleverly replied, “Only this table.” On another occasion, when a servant had handed to the King at table a dish which contained two very large fishes and one very small, the King gave it to John to divide with two clerics seated beside him. The clerics were both of gigantic stature, while John was very little. John very gravely kept the two large fishes to himself, and gave the little fish to the two giants. The King at once challenged this as a most unfair division; but John had this ready excuse: “Nay, I have done well and fairly. Here is one small one,” pointing to himself, “and there are two large ones,” pointing to the fishes. And then looking at the two clerics, “There also are two large ones, and,” pointing to the fish, “there is a little one.” John had translated some Greek authors at the request of King Charles, and therein made observations concerning the ranks or orders of celestial beings which the Pope urged on Charles as flat heresy, whereon John grew disgusted with France, and went to England, allured by the munificence of King Alfred, and settled at Malmesbury; but his pupils there greatly worried him and made his life a burden. He was highly esteemed, however, after his death.

 

KING ALFRED INVENTS A LANTERN FOR PIOUS USES (A.D. 890).

Asser, the biographer, after stating that King Alfred was anxious to give up to God the half of his service, bodily and mental, by night and by day, and was at a loss how to count the hours, continues thus: “After long reflection on these things, Alfred at length, by a useful and shrewd invention, commanded his chaplains to provide wax in a sufficient quantity, and he caused it to be weighed in such a manner that, when there was so much of it in the scale as would equal the weight of seventy-two pence, he caused his chaplains to make six candles out of it of equal length, so that each candle might have twelve divisions marked longitudinally upon it. By this plan, therefore, those six candles burned for twenty-four hours, a night and a day exactly, before the sacred relics of God’s elect, which always accompanied the King wherever he went. But sometimes when they would not continue burning a whole day and night till the same hour that they were lighted the preceding evening, owing to the violence of the wind which blew day and night without intermission through the doors and windows of the churches, the fissures of the partitions, the plankings of the wall, and the thin canvas of the tents, they then unavoidably burnt out, and finished their course before the appointed time. The King therefore considered[Pg 343] by what means he could shut out the wind, and so by a useful and cunning invention he ordered a lantern to be beautifully constructed of wood and white ox-horn, which, when skilfully planed till it is thin, is no less transparent than a vessel of glass. This lantern, therefore, was wonderfully made of wood and horn, as we before said, and by night a candle was put into it, which shone as brightly without as within, and was not extinguished by the wind. By this contrivance six candles lighted in succession lasted twenty-four hours, neither more nor less; and the King gave up to God the half of his daily service as he had vowed.”

 

KING ALFRED’S LOVE OF READING (A.D. 890).

Asser, the monk, biographer, and friend of King Alfred, was born in Wales, and says: “The King had sent for me to visit and take up my residence with him. I was honourably received by him, and remained that time at court eight months, during which I read to him whatever books he liked and such as he had at hand, for this was his most usual custom night and day in the midst of his many other occupations of mind and body, either himself to read books or to listen whilst others read them. And when I frequently asked his leave to depart, and could in no way obtain it, at length, when I had made up my mind by all means to demand it, he called me to him at twilight on Christmas Eve, and gave me two letters, in which was a long list of all the things which were in two monasteries, called in the Saxon tongue Ambresbury and Banwell, and on that same day he delivered to me those two monasteries, with all the things that were in them, and a silken pall of great value, and a load for a strong man of incense, adding these words: that he did not give me these trifling presents because he was unwilling hereafter to give me greater; for in the course of time he unexpectedly gave me Exeter, with all the diocese that belonged to him in Saxony and in Cornwall, besides gifts every day without number in every kind of worldly wealth, which it would be too long to enumerate here, lest they should make my reader tired. But let no one suppose that I have mentioned these presents in this place for the sake of glory or flattery, or that I may obtain greater honour. I merely certify to those who are ignorant of it how liberal the King was in giving.”

 

BISHOPS AT THE HEAD OF TROOPS (A.D. 955).

Bishops in the ninth century occupied so influential a position that they were expected to take the field, as Bishop Fulbert took[Pg 344] the command of the besieged troops when the Hungarians attacked the city of Cambray. In 955, when the Hungarians threatened the fortified town of Augsburg, the bishop mounted on horseback in his priestly robes, without shield or buckler, sat unmoved amid flights of javelins and stones, and directed the mode of defence and the erection of fortifications until nightfall, after which he spent the night mostly in prayer. After matins he distributed the Holy Supper to the combatants before they returned to continue the fight, and exhorted them to put their trust in the Lord, who would be with them, so that they had nothing to fear even in the shadow of death. So, in 1200, Bernard, Bishop of Hildesheim, led the defence of his people against the incursions of the Normans. It is true that Damiani protested against this double function, saying, “With what face can the priest, as his duty requires, undertake to reconcile contending parties with each other, when he himself strives to return evil for evil? Our Saviour taught people only to excel in love and patience: why should priests grasp the sword for the temporal and perishable things of earth?” A band of unarmed monks dressed in monkish habits had once struck knights and their followers with such awe, that they dismounted and fled panic-stricken.

 

TWO SCAPEGRACE POPES (A.D. 956).

In 956 Pope John XII. was elected at the age of eighteen, and was a monster of iniquity. He was accused and convicted in a council of simony, perjury, fornication, adultery, sacrilege, murder, incest, blasphemy, atheism, and was deposed for these exploits. But he recovered his see and deposed the Pope who had been appointed in his room. His real name was Octavianus, but he took that of John XII., and was the first Pope who introduced the custom of assuming a new name. His end was suitable to his behaviour; for being one night caught in a scandalous act, he received a blow on the head from an unknown hand which killed him. About the same time Theophilus had, at the age of sixteen, been made Patriarch of Constantinople, and was such another as John XII. He openly sold bishoprics and all ecclesiastical offices. He loved hunting and horses even to madness. He kept two thousand, and fed them with all sorts of dainties. On a Holy Thursday as he was at Mass word was brought to him in church that his favourite mare had foaled. He instantly left in the middle of the church service to pay her a visit, and then came back to make an end of the service. He introduced the custom of dancing[Pg 345] in the church on holy days, with indecent gestures and accompanied with comic ballads.

 

THE UGLIEST OF MEN MADE AN ARCHBISHOP (A.D. 1012).

It is reported by Matthew of Westminster that, in 1012, the Emperor Henry II. went out one Sunday to hunt, and his companions being all dispersed, he lost himself near the edge of a wood where there was a church, into which he went, and stating falsely that he was a soldier, asked the priest in a simple manner to give him the Mass. The priest, named Hubert, was a man eminent for his piety, but so ugly in his person that he seemed rather a monster than a man. And when the Emperor had carefully looked at him, he began greatly to marvel why God, from whom all beautiful things proceed, allowed so unsightly a man to celebrate His Sacraments. But presently the Mass was commenced, and they came to that part of the service in which a boy chanted, “Be ye sure that the Lord He is God.” And the priest, reproving the boy for his negligence in singing, said with a loud voice, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves,” at which words the Emperor was much struck, and thinking the priest a prophet, raised him, in spite of great opposition, to the Archbishopric of Cologne. And when he had received the archbishopric, he adorned that see by his religion and worthy course of life. It happened that out of a monastery of nuns in that city a beautiful damsel was captured by a wealthy young noble and made his wife. The archbishop reclaimed her; but a second time she was carried off, and he excommunicated both. When the archbishop was on his deathbed, the young man sent a messenger to ask absolution, which the archbishop refused, unless the young man agreed to leave the woman. This being refused, the archbishop foretold his own death, and also that the young man would be called to his account on the same day and hour in the following year. And, strange to say, both of them were struck with lightning and died at that very time.

 

A BISHOP’S AND EMPEROR’S JOKES (A.D. 1020).

Meinwerc, appointed Bishop of Paderborn in 1009, had occasionally his joke with the Emperor Henry II. On one occasion Henry sent the bishop after vespers his own golden cup of exquisite workmanship full of good liquor, charging the messenger not to come away without the cup. The bishop received the present with many thanks, and after a long chat the messenger[Pg 346] left the cup behind him. The bishop, noticing the cup, immediately sent for his goldsmiths, and had the cup converted into a chalice, and used it next day, which was Christmas. One of the Emperor’s chaplains, who officiated at Mass that day, recognised the cup and took it to the Emperor, who charged the bishop with theft, telling him that God abhorred robbery for burnt offering. The bishop replied that all he had done was only to rob the vanity and avarice of Henry by consecrating the cup to the service of God, and dared Henry to take it away. “I will not,” said the Emperor, “take away that which has been devoted to the service of God, but I will myself humbly offer to Him that which is my own property; and do you honour the Lord, who vouchsafed us on this night to be born for the salvation of all men, by the performance of your own duties.”

 

KING CANUTE REBUKING THE SEA (A.D. 1030).

According to Matthew of Westminster, as King Canute, who died in 1035, was flourishing and magnificent in the kingdom of England which he had acquired by his bravery, he one day ordered his royal chair to be placed on the seashore, and then mounting, he sat down in it, and said in a threatening voice, “You are under my dominion, O sea, and the land on which I sit is mine, nor is there any one in it who can dare with impunity to resist my authority. I now command you not to come upon my land, nor to presume to wet my royal vestments.” But as wave after wave rose up and disregarded his injunctions, and without any respect wetted the feet and legs of the King, he waited till it was almost too late to leap from his chair, and said, “Let all the inhabitants of the world know that the power of kings is vain and frivolous, and that no one is worthy of the name of king except Him in obedience to whose nod the heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them are subject to eternal laws.” And from that time forth the King never wore his crown, but he always placed it on the head of the image of his crucified Master, and so gave a great example of humility to all future kings. He was buried at Winchester in the old monastery with all royal honour. Other historians relate that Canute sat on the shore of the river Thames at Westminster on the occasion referred to.

 

A KING DESCRIBING HIS VISIT TO THE POPE (A.D. 1031).

Canute, King of England and Denmark, in 1031 paid a visit to Rome, and wrote a long letter to the English archbishop and[Pg 347] bishops, describing the honours paid to him. He said: “I have lately been to Rome to pray for the redemption of my sins and the salvation of my people. I had long since made a vow to do this. At Easter a great assembly of princes was present with Pope John and the Emperor Conrad, and all received me with honour and presented me with magnificent gifts. But more especially was I honoured by the Emperor with various gifts and offerings in gold and silver vessels, with palls and exceedingly costly garments. I spoke with the Emperor himself, and with our lord the Pope, and with the princes who were there, respecting the necessities of my people and their better security on their journeys to Rome, and their claim to freedom from harassing barriers and exactions. All the princes declared and assured me this should be attended to. I also complained to our lord the Pope that my archbishops were oppressed by the immense sums demanded from them on receiving the pall, and it was decreed that this should never again occur. All the princes willingly granted and confirmed their concessions by oaths, and with the attestation of four archbishops and twenty bishops and a numberless crowd of dukes and noblemen who were then present. I have humbly vowed to the Almighty God to reform my life in all things, justly and piously to govern my kingdom and the people who are subject to me. I call to witness and command my councillors to allow no injustice to be practised in any portion of my kingdom.”

 

A PEASANT REBUKING A POMPOUS BISHOP (A.D. 1035).

Fulgosius gives a story how a peasant in the electorate of Cologne puzzled his bishop. The peasant was at work in his field, when he saw his bishop pass by, attended by a train more becoming a prince than a successor of the Apostles. He could not forbear laughing loud and long, which caused the bishop to ask the reason. The peasant answered, “I laugh when I think of St. Peter and St. Paul, and see you in your equipage. Sure, they were ill advised to trudge on foot when they were heads of the Christian Church, the lieutenants of Jesus Christ, the King of kings; and here is yourself, only a bishop, yet so well mounted and with such warlike attendance that thou resemblest a prince rather than a pastor of the Church.” To this his reverence replied, “Nay, my friend, thou dost not consider that I am both a count and a baron as well as your bishop.” The rustic laughed still louder at this, and added, “Yea, but when the count and the baron, which you say you are, shall be in hell, where will the[Pg 348] bishop be?” This rather confounded the bishop, who rode off without answering a word.

 

ST. MARGARET OF SCOTLAND LEARNED IN THE SCRIPTURES (A.D. 1080).

St. Margaret, a great-niece of Edward the Confessor and granddaughter of Edmund Ironsides, married Malcolm, King of Scotland, in 1069. She was of a saintly mind, and showed a genius for self-mortification and fasting, and also for charity to the poor. The King was accustomed to offer coins of gold in the church at High Mass, but the Queen devoutly pillaged them and bestowed them on the beggars who besought her help. The Queen and the ladies of her Court were constantly employed in making vestments and other ornaments for Divine service, and her attendants were taught frequently to exercise themselves in works of piety and charity. She was not only a model mother of a family, but she had a wonderful gift of eloquence, and could teach the most learned doctors of her time out of the Holy Scriptures things that they never knew or had forgotten. Her views about the right way of observing the forty days’ fast of Lent carried conviction to all the wise men, for before her time fewer Sundays used to be computed in the forty days, so that she added four days, and thereby made the Scotch conform to the rest of the world. She also taught her subjects to be more sound and rigid in observing Sunday, so that no one should on that day carry any burdens himself or compel others to do so. She was a great friend of the monasteries, and also of the hermits who lived in cells, and whom she often visited and begged to remember her in their prayers. As they would not on principle accept any gift from her, she begged them to bid her perform some alms deed or work of mercy, and she would do it forthwith. She erected some convenient dwellings to entertain the many pilgrims who visited the church of St. Andrews, and even chartered ships to bring the pilgrims from afar. She also rebuilt the monastery at Iona. She died in 1093, aged forty-seven, and in 1250 she was declared a saint and her body placed in a silver shrine in the abbey of Dunfermline.

 

ALAS FOR THE VANITY OF GREAT CONQUERORS! (A.D. 1087).

When William the Conqueror had reigned seventeen years, his Queen, Matilda, died in 1083, after a long sickness. She was buried in her own church at Caen, where her eldest daughter was already a professed nun, and William erected a tomb over her[Pg 349] resting-place, rich with gold and gems. After this blow he never recovered his spirits. In 1087 he was resting at Rouen, under medical treatment for his corpulency, and King Philip made a jest of it by saying that William was only lying in! William, stung by this levity, swore that he would rise up again and have his revenge. He did rise, and set about harrying and devastating the vineyards and harvests of France, gladdening his sight with burning and demolishing castles, churches, and monasteries in his enemy’s country. But one day his horse stumbled, and his heavy body fell among some burning cinders. He was carried a dying man to Rouen, and for quietness was tended for some weeks in the priory of St. Gervase. His physician gave him up. He made his will and spoke his last wishes, and many a crime of his earlier days rose up against him. One morning he heard a great minster bell sounding for prime; and after inquiring what it was, he commended his soul to the Holy Mother of God and passed away, aged sixty-three. No sooner was the breath out of his body than his trusty chiefs took to their horses and scampered home, foreseeing that anarchy was at hand and self-preservation their first duty. The weeping attendants took care to pillage the weapons, clothes, and furniture in his room, leaving his body to lie a day on the bare floor. An archbishop at last took on him to order the body to be borne to Caen, but all the household had vanished, each carrying off as much booty as he could stow away, and not a vassal was to be found ready to help. A strange Norman knight, moved by natural piety, at last volunteered to wash, anoint, and embalm the royal corpse, and to find a carriage to convey it. But as the bier approached the abbey of St. Stephen, where monks and clergy stood ready to receive it, and were singing the office of the dead, a fire broke out near hand, and the members of the procession had to leave and assist in that emergency. At last the Mass of the dead was sung, and a bishop mounted the pulpit to harangue the audience on the mighty deeds of the great King. No sooner had this concluded when a knight stood forth and claimed the ground in which the King’s body was about to be laid, saying it was his property, of which he had been robbed by the King, and he challenged all and sundry to interfere with it, and swore that no robber’s body should ever be covered with his mould. The company were staggered, and yet feared it was too true, so that the bishops and nobles deemed it prudent to make a bargain on the spot and to pay a suitable purchase money. But this was not all. Some unskilful workmen had made the coffin too small to hold the great mass of flesh which William left[Pg 350] behind. The body burst in the process of handling, and a fearful stench filled the church. The rest of the holy office was therefore hurried over, and this was the end of all. It was afterwards left to William Rufus to erect a fitting monument and shrine to the mighty dead, with some verses from the archbishop, reciting how small a house was now enough for the great King William. The monk Orderic, a contemporary, thus moralises on this career: “O secular pomp, how despicable art thou, because how vain and transient! Thou art justly compared to the bubbles made by rain; for like them thou swellest for a moment to vanish into nothing. Survey this most potent hero, whom lately a hundred thousand knights were eager to serve, and whom many nations dreaded, now lying for hours on the naked ground, spoiled and abandoned by every one! The citizens of Rouen were in consternation at the tidings. Every one fled from his home and hid his property or tried to turn it into money, that it might not be identified.”

 

AN ENGLISH KING MARRYING A NUN (A.D. 1100).

When Henry I. of England at the age of thirty-one suddenly succeeded to the crown on the death of William Rufus, he demanded in marriage Matilda of Scotland, daughter of King Malcolm and of his saintly Queen Margaret. It was rumoured that she was a nun, and Henry persuaded Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, to question her, and see if this scandal could be avoided. On inquiry she explained that the rumour had no foundation, and all that happened was that, when she was a girl of eight, her aunt one day put a piece of black cloth over her head, and she sometimes kept it on as an excuse for unsuitable marriages, and as a protection against the rudeness of the Norman nobles. This being deemed a satisfactory explanation, the chronicler William of Malmesbury thus described the wedding that took place in 1100 as follows: “At the wedding of Matilda and Henry I. there was a most prodigious concourse of nobility and people assembled in and about the church at Westminster, when, to prevent all calumny and ill report that the King was about to marry a nun, the Archbishop Anselm mounted into a pulpit and gave the multitude a history of the events proved before the synod and its judgment, that the Lady Matilda of Scotland was free from any religious vow, and might dispose of herself in marriage as she thought fit. The archbishop finished by asking the people in a loud voice whether any one there objected to this decision, upon which they answered unanimously with a loud[Pg 351] shout that the matter was rightly settled. Accordingly the lady was immediately married to the King and crowned before that vast assembly.” It was said that this virtuous Queen took a leading part in persuading Henry to grant Magna Charta. She died in 1118, aged forty-one.

 

AWAKING A BISHOP FOR EARLY MASS (A.D. 1100).

An old chronicler, Helmandus of Froidmont, about 1100, relates that “Philip, Bishop of Beauvais, once tarried with us—not, we suppose, for enjoying our hospitality, but for devotion. ‘Now,’ said the bishop, ‘call me to hear early Mass.’ On going to him on the morrow when primes had begun, I found him still sleeping, and none of his household dared to disturb him. But I drew near him, saying in joke, ‘The sparrows have long risen to praise the Lord, and our bishops still snore in bed; listen, father, to the Psalmist: “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I meditate on Thy word.” Upon that the gloss of Ambrose says, “It is indecent for a Christian to be found by the sun’s rays lying slothful in bed.”’ The bishop, waking up, was confused and wroth for my reproving him so freely, and said angrily, ‘Be off, you wretch, and kill your lice.’ But I turned his anger into a joke, and forthwith rejoined, ‘Beware, father, lest your worms kill you. It is the worms of the rich that kill the rich, but the poor kill theirs. Read the history of the Maccabees and Josephus, and the Acts of the Apostles, and you will find that the most powerful kings Antiochus and Herod Agrippa were eaten by worms.’ Crushed by this reason and the authorities, the bishop straightway held his peace.”

 

ANSELM, THE MONK ARCHBISHOP (A.D. 1093).

In the twelfth century the greatest theologian was said to be Anselm, bred a monk in the monastery of Bec, in Normandy. He soon became prior and afterwards abbot, and was the life and soul of all the best monkish work. He objected to the rigorous discipline to which monks were subjected. He also had an insight into the mode of educating children by kindly methods instead of brutalising them by tyrannical punishments. To show his mastery of this new method, he reclaimed one of the most stubborn and intractable boys, so that this youth, named Osbern, became greatly attached to his master, who in turn, when the youth contracted a fatal disease, nursed him night and day. In 1093 he was made Archbishop of Canterbury, but he became entangled[Pg 352] in the contests of the time, as he thought the Church should be independent of kings; and incurring too much risk, he took refuge with the Pope, and travelled about France and Italy, always distinguishing himself by works of piety till he died in 1109. He retained through life his austere and self-mortifying habits as to food, so that Queen Matilda wrote to him a letter strongly pressing upon him the necessity of avoiding excessive abstinence as destructive to his powers of doing good. He was noted for his placidity of mind, and his constant attempts to meditate on the deeper problems of the Christian life. It is said that, on meditating about the gift of prophecy when he was prior of Bec, he awoke early, and he became so absorbed in this mystery that he at last himself actually saw through the wall all the preparations going on for Mass in the next building, and hence he said it was easy for God to reveal the future in the same way to chosen servants. On another occasion he fell into a trance, and during the celebration of vigils solved to his own satisfaction some mysteries that had long baffled his researches, he being for a time in a grand ecstasy of supernatural intuition. He also distinguished himself in his controversies with the schoolmen as the most expert and orthodox theologian of his age.

 

DEATHBED OF ARCHBISHOP ANSELM (A.D. 1109).

Before Archbishop Anselm died in 1109, at the age of seventy-six, he lay down in his last illness, and one of the priests who stood around his bed said to him, it being then Palm Sunday, “Lord father, it appears to us that, leaving this world, you are about to keep the passover in the palace of your Lord.” The ambitious theologian replied, “If indeed this be His will, I gainsay it not. But if He should choose that I should yet remain among you at least long enough to settle the question which I am revolving in my mind concerning the origin of the soul, I should take it gratefully, because I do not know whether any one will be able to determine it after I am dead. If I could but eat I might hope to recover, for I feel no pain in any part, except that, as my stomach sinks for lack of food which it is unable to take, I am failing all over.”

 

A SARACEN KING BY DIVINE RIGHT (A.D. 1130).

When El Mehedi, one of the Arab kings in Spain, died in 1130, his vizier, Abdelmumen Aben Ali, contrived to be named his successor, and vindicated his Divine right by the following artifice.[Pg 353] The premier kept the King’s death concealed for three years, and meanwhile taught a parrot to utter various little speeches. He also brought up a young lion to fawn upon him and caress him. He prepared a proper cage for the bird, and a proper hiding-place for the lion in a large hall, when he invited the chief nobles to meet and consult about the royal demise. He announced the death of the King, which gave rise to great lamentations, and then harangued them with great propriety and due acknowledgments of the Divine mercy in teaching the value of harmony and union against their enemies. He then remained silent, and the nobles being greatly perplexed and undecided, suddenly, as if by some Divine intuition, the bird spoke these words: “Honour, victory, and power to our lord the Caliph Abdelmumen, Prince of the Faithful; he is the defence and support of the Empire.” At the same moment a fierce lion bounded out of a hole into the middle of the hall, lashing its tail and glaring at the company, to the terror of all, when the vizier, calmly advancing, faced the monster, which at once succumbed, and caressed him and licked his hands. The nobles were at once confounded; and treating these demonstrations as the voice of the Divine will, took the oath of allegiance. This king became one of the most illustrious in Spain, who brought nearly the whole country under his rule, as well as the dependencies in Africa, and he carried on the Holy War against the Infidels, as the Christian rebel princes were then called. He reigned thirty-three years, and died in 1164.

 

DEATHBED OF ARCHBISHOP TURSTIN (A.D. 1140).

Archbishop Turstin of York, in 1138, though so old and feeble that he had to be carried in a litter, had energy enough to rouse and summon the nobles of Yorkshire to resist an irruption of Scots under King David. After a fast of three days they all swore a solemn oath to fight, and they easily defeated the Scots. John of Hexham says that the archbishop adhered to monastic usages; he was frequent in prayers, and had from God the grace of tears in the celebration of Masses. He wore a shirt of haircloth, and amid frequent confessions did not spare himself from corporal castigation. He was the founder of the monastery of Fountains, and watched over the monks, and was bountiful in offerings to the church of York. Feeling at last in 1140 that the vigour of life was growing weak in him, he wisely set his house in order, paying his servants’ wages, restoring what had been taken away, and taking thought about each separate matter. Having assembled in his chapel the priests of the church of York,[Pg 354] and solemnly made confession before them, he stretched himself naked on the ground before the altar of St. Andrew, and received from them the discipline of corporal chastisement with tears flowing from a contrite heart; and mindful of the vow which as a young man he had made at Clugny, he went to the monks of the Clugniac order at Pontefract, the elders of the church of York and many of the laity accompanying him; and there he solemnly received the habit and benediction of a monk, and during the remaining days of his life he was intent on the salvation of his soul. At last, surrounded by religious men, as the hour of his summons drew near he himself celebrated nine vigils for the departed, and himself read the lesson, gave the verse of the response, Dies illa, dies iræ, laying a mournful and significant emphasis on each word; and at the end of lauds, the monks being all assembled, he yielded up his spirit. He was buried with becoming honour before the high altar. Many years after, the monks in carrying out repairs required to remove the stone over his tomb, and neither his corpse nor his vestments showed any appearance of corruption.

 

KING JOHN SHOCKING THE BISHOP IN CHURCH (A.D. 1199).

When King John succeeded to the English crown in 1199, he at once sent for Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, and made much of him, promising to be guided by his directions. For two or three days John’s conduct in public was very decorous; but the biographer of Hugh relates that the very next (Easter) Sunday John attended church, when the chamberlain, according to custom, put twelve pieces of gold in John’s hand to be presented to the bishop. John, instead of giving it, held the coins in his hand, rattling them about, to the astonishment of the attendant nobles. Hugh indignantly asked why this noise was made, when John replied, “In truth, I am looking at these pieces of gold, and thinking that if I had got them a few days since, I should not have given them to you at all, but put them in my own purse.” Hugh drew back, refusing to touch the gold, nor suffering his hand to be kissed by John, bidding him put the money in the offertory dish, and withdrew. After this, Hugh preached a long sermon containing much specially intended for John’s benefit about good and bad princes. While all others acclaimed, John was exceedingly wearied. Three times he sent messages to Hugh, insisting on his coming to an end and allowing him to get away and break his long fast. He at last hurried away without partaking of the Sacrament, and it was said he had not received it since he had[Pg 355] attained the years of discretion. John did the same thing at his coronation on Ascension Day.

 

MURDER OF ST. THOMAS À BECKET (A.D. 1170).

Fitzstephen, the secretary of Thomas à Becket, says that Thomas’s countenance was mild and beautiful; he was tall of stature, had a prominent nose, slightly aquiline. He generally amused himself, not incessantly, but occasionally, with hawks, falcons, hunting dogs, or chess. His house and table were open to every rank. He never dined without the society of earls and barons whom he had invited. He ordered the hall to be strewn every day with fresh straw and hay in winter, and with green leaves in summer, that the numerous knights, for whom the benches were insufficient, might find the floor clean and neat for them to sit down on, and that their rich clothes and beautiful tunics might not be soiled and injured. His board shone with vessels of gold and silver, and abounded with costly dishes and precious beverages, so that whatever objects of food and drink were recommended by their rarity were purchased by his officers at exorbitant prices. But amid all this he was himself singularly frugal. When the King and he one day met a beggar, the King proposed to take Thomas’s warm cloak and give to the poor man, while Thomas objected, and suggested the King should give something of his own, and they had a sharp struggle for the cloak, each holding and pulling it till a button gave way and remained in the King’s hands. The King gave the button to the beggar, then told the story to his attendants, who burst into loud laughter, to the annoyance of the grave Thomas. When Thomas’s dead body after the murder was stripped by the monks, they were not a little curious to discover whether he was really a monk. They found under his outer garments a hair shirt, and then they were half convinced he must have been a godly man. But when they found also hair drawers, and examined these garments, and saw their dirty state, surpassing belief, they were in raptures, and were then wholly convinced that Thomas was a true saint and worthy of unbounded veneration in all ages.

 

A KING’S PENANCE AT ST. THOMAS’S TOMB (A.D. 1174).

In 1174, when Henry II. crossed from France to visit the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket, he reached Southampton after a rough passage. Roger of Wendover says that the King then fasted on bread and water, and would not enter any city until[Pg 356] he had fulfilled the vow which he had made to pray at the tomb of St. Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury and glorious martyr. When he came near Canterbury he dismounted from his horse, and laying aside all emblems of royalty, with naked feet, and in the form of a penitent and supplicating pilgrim, arrived at the cathedral, and, like Hezekiah, with tears and sighs sought the tomb of the glorious martyr, where, prostrate on the floor and with his hands stretched to heaven, he continued long in prayer. Meanwhile, the Bishop of London was commanded by the King to declare in his sermon that he neither commanded, nor wished, nor by any device contrived the death of the martyr, which had been perpetrated in consequence of his murderers having misinterpreted the words which the King had hastily pronounced; wherefore he requested absolution from the bishops present, and, baring his back, received from three to five lashes from every one of the numerous body of ecclesiastics there assembled. The King then made costly offerings to the martyr, spent the remainder of the day in grief and bitterness of mind, for three days took no sustenance, giving himself up to prayer, vigils, and fasting—by which means the favour of the blessed martyr was secured, and God delivered into his hands William, King of Scots, who was forthwith confined in Richmond Castle.

 

A MONK DESCRIBES A PAPAL INTERDICT (A.D. 1137).

About 1137 Orderic says that “in the diocese of Séez, in Normandy, a Papal interdict was put in force over all the territories of William Zalvas. The sweet chants of Divine worship, sounds which calm and gladden the hearts of the faithful, suddenly ceased; the laity were prohibited from entering the churches for the service of God, and the doors were kept locked; the bells were no longer rung; the bodies of the dead lay in corruption without burial, striking the beholders with fear and horror; the pleasures of marriage were forbidden to those who sought them; and the solemn joys of the ecclesiastical ceremonies vanished in the general humiliation. The same rigorous discipline was extended to the diocese of Evreux, and enforced through all the lands of Roger de Tœni, in order to terrify and restrain the perverse and disorderly inhabitants. Meanwhile Roger himself lies fettered in close confinement, weeping and groaning for the loss of his liberty of action, and cursed by the Church for the use he insolently made of that liberty, when he had it, in the profanation of sacred things; and all his lands lie under a terrible interdict. Thus proud and desperate rebels are doubly crushed; but the hard[Pg 357] hearts of those who witness such spectacles, alas! are not changed nor converted to amendment of their perverse designs.”

 

THE POPE’S MODE OF PUNISHING KINGS AND KINGDOMS (A.D. 1199).

Pope Innocent III. in 1199 ordered Philip Augustus, King of France, to take back a discarded wife, which the King would not do. An interdict was then pronounced against France. At midnight, each priest holding a torch, the clergy of France chanted the Miserere and the prayers for the dead, the last prayers which were to be uttered by them during the interdict. The cross on which the Saviour hung was veiled with black crape; the relics replaced within the tombs; the Host was consumed. The cardinal in his mourning stole of violet pronounced the territories of the King of France under the ban. All religious offices from that time ceased; there was no access to heaven by prayer or offering. The sobs of the aged, of the women and children, alone broke the silence. So, for the injustice of the King towards his Queen, the whole kingdom of France, thousands of immortal souls, were cut off from those means of grace which, if not absolutely necessary (the scanty mercy of the Church allowed the baptism of infants and the extreme unction to the dying), were so powerfully conducive to eternal salvation. For the King’s personal sin a whole nation at least thought itself in danger of eternal damnation. The doors of the churches were watched, and the Christians driven away from them like dogs; all Divine offices ceased; the Sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord was not offered; no gathering together of the people at the festivals of saints; the bodies of the dead not admitted to Christian burial, but their stench infecting the air. There was a deep sadness over the whole realm, while the organs and the voices of those who chanted God’s praises were everywhere mute. The King had to yield, or at least pretend to yield, within the space of a year. In like manner Pope Innocent III. ordered King John of England to accept Stephen Langton as archbishop, and for his refusal an interdict was levelled at England. From Berwick to the British Channel, from the Land’s End to Dover, the churches were closed, the bells silent, the dead were buried like dogs in ditches or dung-heaps without prayer, without a tolling bell; yet King John, weak, tyrannical, and contemptible as he was, held out for four years. Had he been a popular king the barons and people would have stood by him. One consequence of the interdict and excommunication was, that his kingdom was declared to be forfeited, and any one might seize it, and Philip[Pg 358] Augustus of France thought of attempting it. But before any regular encounter John made peace with the Pope, and received Stephen Langton as archbishop. And Stephen afterwards became a leader of the barons, and on June 15th, 1215, extorted Magna Charta at Runnymede, which became the great title deed of the British Constitution for all time thereafter. John complained to the Pope that the charter had been forced from him unreasonably, and the Pope professed to agree, and even ordered the rebellious barons to be excommunicated. While John was in despair and defending himself against the expected invasion of Philip, King of France, whose design was favoured by the barons, he was marching northward, and his carriages were cast away in crossing the river Ouse. This misfortune happened through the ignorance of the guides and the tide coming too fast upon them. And thus the regalia, the King’s plate, and all his treasure were lost. This loss weighed heavily upon the King’s spirits, and threw him into a fever, of which he died at Newark Castle a few days after. Some little time before he expired, forty of the barons sent him assurances of their submission, but he was in no condition to receive that satisfaction. The young King Henry III., aged ten, was crowned on October 28th, 1216.

 

A CANDID FRIEND TO THE POPE (A.D. 1200).

When John of Salisbury, the friend of Thomas à Becket, was sent by Henry II. to Pope Adrian in 1200, they had a confidential conversation, and the Pope said he wished he had never left the obscure retreat of the cloister for the Papal chair, as it was beset with thorns, and he asked John what people were saying of him and the Church of Rome. John says he answered thus: “What I have heard in many countries I will freely tell you. They say the Church of Rome shows herself not so much the mother of other Churches as their stepmother. Scribes and Pharisees have their seats in her, who lay grievous burdens on the shoulders of men, which themselves will not touch with one of their fingers. They domineer over the clergy without being an example to the flock; they heap together rich furniture and load their tables with gold and silver, whilst their hands are kept shut by avarice. The poor rarely find access to them unless when vanity may introduce them. They raise contributions on the Churches, and excite litigations, promote disputes between pastor and people, deeming it the best religion to procure wealth. With them everything is venal, and they may be said to imitate the devils, who, where they cease to do mischief, glory in their[Pg 359] beneficence. From this charge a small number of exceptions may exist. The Pope himself is a burden to Christendom which is scarcely to be borne. The complaint is, that while the churches which the piety of our fathers erected are in ruins, and their altars neglected, he builds palaces and exhibits his person clothed not only in purple, but resplendent with gold. These things and more than these the people are heard to utter.” The Pope listened patiently. “And what is your own opinion?” asked Adrian. “Your question distresses me,” said John; “I wish neither to be a flatterer nor to give offence. I cannot presume to contradict a cardinal of your Church who says that the real source of all the evils is the fund of duplicity and avarice of its officers, and yet I know many living examples to the contrary. I will only say that your precept is better than your practice.” Adrian smiled, and observed that it was like the old apologue of the stomach and the limbs.

 

HOW A MONK PUBLISHED THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF AN EMPEROR (A.D. 1238).

When the Emperor Frederick II., in his quarrels with the Pope, was excommunicated in 1238, and sentence was ordered to be published in all Christian countries, such was the impression of the power of the Emperor that no priest in Germany had the courage to declare it. At last a Jacobite Friar was discovered who ventured to make it known in the disguise of the following fable. “Sire,” said the friar, “there was once a lion so fierce and strong that no beast durst attack him; but one hot summer day a fly placed itself between his two eyes and bit him severely. ‘Who art thou,’ said the lion, ‘who darest to bite me?’ ‘I am a fly,’ said the other. ‘A fly,’ said the lion, ‘the most insignificant of beasts! bite on. If thou wert not so insignificant a beast, those shoulders would answer for it, but I disdain to revenge myself on thee.’ And, sire,” added the friar, “I compare your Majesty to the lion, and myself in my little condition to the fly, who pronounces upon you from our Holy Father the Apostle the sentence which you have incurred by your rebellion against the Holy Church.” “Well,” said the Emperor, “’tis true if it were not for your poor station you should certainly be made to repent this.” It was also noticed that when, in the following year, 1239, the Emperor went to Padua, he was handsomely entertained for several months by the abbot of the monastery of St. Justina; and in spite of the thunders of the Vatican hurled at the Emperor,[Pg 360] the latter was treated with becoming courtesy, was provided with a throne and a footstool, and all the necessary appurtenances of the most exalted rank.

 

THE EMPEROR RETALIATING ON THE POPE (A.D. 1239).

When Pope Gregory IX. in 1239 excommunicated the Emperor, the latter sent a circular letter to the King of England and his brother, beginning with the words, “Attend, ye sons of men; understand, ye nations;” and it contained these scornful sentences: “Moreover, we think him (the Pope) unworthy to be considered a vicar of Christ, a successor of Peter and regulator of the souls of Christians. We grieve at his sin and prevarication in the fact that, not content with spending money in order to gain over the nobles and chiefs of Romania to become his followers and adherents, he wasted the possessions of the Roman Church. Condole therefore, my good friend, with us as well as those dear to thee, and not only with us, but the Church which is the congregation of all faithful Christians; for its head is sick, its prince is in the midst like a roaring lion, its prophet mad and faithless, its priest polluting its sanctuary and unjustly acting against the law. We earnestly beg of you to consider the contumely heaped on us as your own injury, and to hasten to your own house with water when the fire is raging in the neighbouring houses. Without waiting for our decision or for our taking counsel of our advisers, he vomited forth against us the poison he had conceived. We for our own sake adjure you and ask your aid, and that of all of you, the magnates and princes of the whole world, not because our own strength is not sufficient to avert such injuries from ourselves, but that the whole world may know that the honour of all secular princes is touched when the person of one is offended.” The Pope replied thus: “There has risen from the sea a beast full of words of blasphemy which, formed with the feet of a bear and the mouth of a raging lion, opens its mouth in blasphemies against God’s name, and continually attacks His tabernacle and the saints who dwell in heaven,” etc., etc.

 

HOW THE POPE’S CLERKS EXTORTED MONEY (A.D. 1241).

During 1241 Matthew Paris says the avarice of the Romans still continued unsatiated; for after the legate’s departure two of the Pope’s clerks remained in England, as if to fulfil the duty of the legate. These two were Peter, surnamed Le Rouge, and Peter de Supino—two indefatigable extortioners, who held a[Pg 361] Papal warrant for exacting procurations, imposing interdicts, excommunicating, and extorting money by divers methods from the wretched English Church, as they stated, that the Roman Church, which was injured in manifold ways, might again breathe freely. The aforesaid Peter Le Rouge, who placed himself above the other one, conducted himself after the manner of the legate, wrote his letters to this and that abbot and prior, and the letter always ran thus: “Master Peter Le Rouge, familiar and relative of his Holiness the Pope, greeting,” etc. On such authority he continued to exact and extort procurations and various other collections. His colleague, Peter de Supino, by permission of the King, went to Ireland on the part of the Pope, and bearing a warrant from him whereby he was assisted by secular power, he with great tyranny extorted money from all the prelates of that island. This Peter in the ensuing autumn took his way to Rome, carrying with him 1,500 marks (£1,000), and having his saddle-bags well filled.

 

HOW THE POPE’S EXTORTIONERS WERE PURSUED (A.D. 1241).

Matthew Paris says that these two clerks, Peter de Supino and Peter Le Rouge, with their saddle-bags thus well filled, proceeded under the escort of the monks of Canterbury to Dover, and suddenly and secretly set sail, for they had heard that the Pope was not expected to live. They therefore suddenly and clandestinely took flight with their booty, lest the King should hear of the Pope’s death and confiscate it. Scarcely had they entered France, when lo! Master Walter de Oera, a messenger of the Emperor, arrived in all haste, with letters of credence from the Emperor and a message from the King to detain the booty as well as the robbers if to be found in England. The messenger was indignant at not having caught them, but followed their steps, carefully watching the meanderings of the foxes, in order to report the result to the Emperor. Meanwhile the Pope’s agents, hearing that they were watched, spared not their horses, and secretly stowed away their money with relatives in secret places. The Emperor, however, ordered them and the relatives to be arrested and imprisoned, and to render a strict account of the money collected, which was committed to writing and circulated among the merchants of the chief cities and ultimately distributed. Thus these wretched ecclesiastics, who ought to have been protected under the wings of the Pope, were utterly despoiled, and the enemies of the Church more daringly oppressed them.

 [Pg 362]

AERIAL MUSIC AT A BISHOP’S DEATH (A.D. 1253).

Matthew Paris says that Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, died in 1253 at Buckdon, in the night of St. Denis’s day. During his life he had openly rebuked the Pope and the King; had corrected the prelates and reformed the monks; in him the priests lost a director, clerks an instructor, scholars a supporter. He had shown himself a persecutor of the incontinent, a careful examiner of the Scriptures, a despiser of the Romans. In the discharge of his Pontifical duties he was attentive, indefatigable, and worthy of veneration. That same night Faulkes, Bishop of London, then staying not far off, heard in the air above a wonderful and most agreeable kind of sound, the melody of which refreshed his ears and his heart and fixed his attention. It was a supernatural sound, like that of a great convent bell ringing a delightful tune in the air above. It at once struck the listener that his beloved and venerable brother of Lincoln was passing from this world to take his place in the kingdom of heaven, and this noise was a warning, for there was no convent near in which there was a bell of that sort and so loud. The Bishop of London inquired, and found out that at that very time the Bishop of Lincoln had departed from this world. This wonderful circumstance was told as a fact to Matthew Paris by Master John Cratchale, a confidential clerk to the bishop. On the same night also some brethren of the order of Minorites, in passing through the forest of Vauberge, having lost their way and wandering about, heard in the air sounds as of the ringing of bells, amongst which they clearly distinguished one bell of a most sweet tune, unlike anything they had ever heard before. This circumstance greatly excited their wonder, for they knew that there was no church of note near. Next morning at dawn, being directed by the foresters to the right road to Buckdon, and inquiring as they went about the reason of the solemn ringing of bells that had filled the air the night before, they were informed that at that very hour the Bishop of Lincoln had breathed forth his happy spirit.

 

A FOOL POSING THE THEOLOGIANS (A.D. 1284).

John of Peckham, about 1284, says that a fool was once in company with some theologians at Paris, and he asked them which was better—to do what a man knows, or to learn what he does not know. Thereupon the doctors argued together for and against, and the fool, listening to their altercations, looked on,[Pg 363] waiting for their conclusion. At last their deliverance was, that it was better to do what a man already knows than to learn what he does not know, because, as says the apostle to the Romans, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” And Isidorus in De Summo Bono says, “A zealous student will be more prompt to perform what he reads than to know, for it is a less sin not to know what you desire to know than not to perform what you do know.” Then said the fool, “You are all mad, for you are working day and night only to learn what you do not know, and you do not care to act up to anything you do know.”

 

A HERMIT FOR A POPE (A.D. 1294).

In 1294, after the cardinals had tried in vain for a year and a half to agree upon a Pope, and no one would give way to another, a sudden solution was found by their choosing a solitary monk named Peter of Morone, in the Neapolitan territory, then distinguished in the wilderness for his austerities. He seemed to outdo the famous anchorites of old. He wore haircloth with an iron cuirass, lived on bread and water and herbs. At the age of twenty, when he became an earnest monk, one day the Virgin and St. John both stood before him and chanted portions of the Psalter, and every night a celestial bell with sweetest tones aroused him to prayer. Angels often visited him, and showered roses on his head. God pointed out a great stone, under which he dug a hole in which he could neither stand nor stretch, but only crouch behind a grating, and the place abounded with lizards, serpents, and toads. Yet crowds came to see him, and hailed him as a kind of leader of a new brotherhood. Somehow a voice from heaven pointed out to the perplexed cardinals that here was a Pope ready to their hands, and he was fixed upon unanimously. A deputation went to his cell. They found he was an old man, with a long shaggy beard, sunken eyes, heavy brow, pale cheeks, and meagre limbs. But they fell on their knees before him. He thought it must be a dream. He protested he was unworthy and unfit. But the news spread, and the crowd increased and urged him on, and he could not but accept. He at first refused to put on the gorgeous Pontifical robes, but had to consent. He then went with them, riding on an ass, with a king on each side holding the bridle. Never was an election more popular, and he took the title of Celestine V. Two hundred thousand people crowded the streets as he approached, and he had to show himself now and then on a balcony and give his[Pg 364] benediction. After a few months the cardinals, kings, and nobles began to think that this Pope was not to be a success. He was incapable of business. He lavished his dignities and offices, and was easily duped. He became weary of his burden. He contrived to make a cell in the palace, which shut out the sky. But this was not enough. He wanted to abdicate. This at first was thought impossible and illegal. But he did abdicate, and at once went off to his old hermitage. It was the first instance of an abdication, and all agreed that nothing became him so well as the leaving of the high office a few months after having entered upon it. All the other hermits praised this last act as one of transcendent humility enhancing his glory.

 

PHILIP THE FAIR RETALIATING ON THE POPE (A.D. 1303).

When Philip IV. of France offended the Pope, the latter harangued his council and boasted that, as his predecessors had already deposed three kings of France, he would depose Philip like a groom. The act was done in 1303. Two supporters of the King, William of Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna, with three hundred horsemen and infantry, made their way to Anagni, where Pope Boniface VIII. then was, and beset his palace, and after a short truce set fire to the doors of the church adjacent and made their way through the flames; and the crash so alarmed the Pope that he felt his hour was come, and resolved that he would die with dignity. He put on the Papal mantle and the imperial crown of Constantine, and sat on the throne with the pastoral cross in one hand and with the keys of St. Peter in the other. The assailants, though at first awed at this sight, dragged him from the throne, struck him on the face, and forced him to parade through the town on a vicious horse, with his face to the tail. A rescue party, however, surprised the guard, and carried the Pope to the market-place, where, famishing with hunger, his wants were supplied by willing hands, and he was sufficiently restored to pronounce absolution on all but the plunderers of the church. He was then conveyed by his friends to Rome, where a frenzy fever overcame him, and he was put under restraint, dying very soon at the age of eighty-two. Some say he was poisoned; others that he refused food, and like a mad dog bit his own flesh; others that he was found with the bedclothes stuffed in his throat, and his staff lying as if it had been gnawed by him in his rage. The saying was that “he entered like a fox, reigned like a lion, and died like a dog.”

 [Pg 365]

A POPE OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY (A.D. 1300).

Boniface VIII., at the beginning of the fourteenth century, carried Papal absolution and worldliness to its highest point. After procuring his predecessor Celestine V. to abdicate and be imprisoned and then taken off by poison, he saw a great advantage in the ushering in of 1300 as a means of satisfying his cupidity. He circulated an address that all persons visiting St. Peter’s on January 1st, 1300, would obtain an extraordinary indulgence. Crowds flocked and left their offerings. Then he issued a bull offering the fullest indulgence to all who visited the cathedral at Easter, on the condition that they truly repented and confessed their sins. Attracted by his bull, multitudes repented and were allowed to see the handkerchief of St. Veronica, as many as two hundred thousand a day. The gain to the Church was vast. This Pope persecuted his enemies with uncommon zeal. He managed to ruin the powerful family of Colonna, which had opposed his election, demolishing their castles and confiscating their estates. Philip the Fair, King of France, his equal in avarice and ambition, had taxed the clergy, and a bull was issued excommunicating all princes and nobles who dared to demand tribute from the clergy, to which Philip replied with defiance, and sent a troop to arrest the Pope, which was done, as already narrated. The mob, after a few days, at last pitied his Holiness, and turned against the French, who retired. The excitement, however, threw him into a fever, and then into insanity, in which state he died. The Florentine historian recognised the judgments of God in thus punishing a Pope who was so worldly, and further in punishing such a king as was the instrument in the hands of Providence. King Philip made a tool of his own the next Pope, and kept him in France, and in 1309 began the seventy years’ residence of the Popes in Avignon, while they lived in a state of servility to France.

 

WICLIFF THE REFORMER (A.D. 1324-1384).

Wicliff having been early disgusted at the worthless creatures who filled all the high offices of the Church, and joined some friends in trying to restore the simplicity and self-denying zeal of Apostolic times, was soon marked out as a heretic to be watched. Pope Gregory XI., in 1377, was advised to condemn Wicliff’s doctrines, and directed that he should be imprisoned; but John of Gaunt and other powerful friends were resolved that at least a semblance of a hearing should be given to him first; and he[Pg 366] managed without recanting anything to say nothing which his enemies could lay hold of. He published in 1380 his translation of the Scriptures into English. Wicliff was a determined enemy of the Mendicant Friars, as disturbing the parish priests in their more useful labours. Wicliff was cited by the Archbishop of Canterbury before a council, but an earthquake occurred at the time to interrupt this inquisition. He used to look on this earthquake council, as he called it, as a judgment of God in his favour.

 

THE TWO JOHN WICLIFFS (A.D. 1324-1384).

It has been recently discovered, as is said by Mr. Hill in his “English Monasticism,” that there were two John Wicliffs contemporaneous and both members of Oxford University, and that the biographers of the important John Wicliff have confounded these two and their performances. The Reformer was master of Balliol College in 1361, and the other John Wicliff was a fellow of Merton in 1356 and warden of Canterbury Hall. The Reformer was born at Hipswell, one mile from Richmond in Yorkshire. In 1361 he was appointed to the rectory of Fylingham, and in 1375 to that of Lutterworth, and resigned the mastership of Balliol. His first public appearance was his reading lectures at Oxford, in which he castigated the corruptions of the Friars Mendicants of his day. He was cited before the judges for heresy, one of the judges being William of Wykeham; and John of Gaunt attended with Wicliff and somewhat resented the want of fair play towards his friend; but the proceedings were not carried out, owing to the interference of the Princess of Wales. The great work of Wicliff’s life was the first translation of the Scriptures into English. This work he lived to finish, though in all probability he was assisted in it by others. In 1384, during the celebration of Mass in his parish church at Lutterworth, Wicliff was seized with paralysis, and died on December 31st. The adherents of his opinions were known as the Lollards. In 1401 the Franciscans attacked his Bible, and persecution was carried out against the Lollards. In 1428 Wicliff’s bones, or supposed bones, were dug up and cast into the river Severn, under the vain delusion that he and his doings would never more be heard of.

 

THE SEVENTY YEARS’ RESIDENCE OF POPES AT AVIGNON (A.D. 1309-1379).

After the death of the ambitious Pope Boniface VIII., whose contests with Philip the Fair of France killed him in 1303, and[Pg 367] after the death of the next Pope in eight months, the election of the next Pope again was so skilfully brought about by the leader of the French party, Cardinal Du Prat, that one was chosen who made a bargain with the French King to meet his views if elected. He was elected, and took the name of Clement V. He disappointed his Italian supporters by refusing to leave France, and in 1309 he settled at Avignon, where the Popes remained for seventy years. During all that period the Popes were noted for their servility to the French kings. Corruption grew more and more to be a second nature in all the branches of Papal government. The most worthless creatures purchased their way to the highest spiritual dignities. Extortion in collecting money, extravagant expenditure when it was collected, simony, nepotism, and debauchery ran through all the ramifications of clerical life. The disgrace reflected by this scandal made laymen and learned men question the foundations of the Popish system of government. A general murmur arose from the universities as to the degraded position in which the Popes must ever remain unless and until they should bring back the seat of government to Rome. Petrarch, then employed on Papal embassies, strongly urged this view. The leading men advocated the calling of a general council to overrule the Pope and compel him to act for the sole good of the Church. A schism then prevailed, which led to two sets of Popes being elected, who continued for forty years to keep up their intestine conflicts.

 

THE RIVAL POPES (A.D. 1378).

The line of Popes, as already stated, continued unbroken till 1305, when, owing to their constant interference in the politics of Europe, Clement V. submitted to the King of France, and fixed his chair within the jurisdiction of a Papal vassal, Robert of Anjou, at Avignon. For seventy years this captivity lasted, and the effect was to weaken greatly the power and influence of the Church. In 1376 Catherine of Siena, then an influential saint, advised Pope Gregory XI. to return to Rome, his old metropolis. Soon a fresh difficulty arose at his death in 1378, owing to a feud between the cardinals. The majority of them being at that time French, the Roman mob burst into the palace and demanded that the new Pope should be an Italian. The cardinals yielded and elected Urban VI.; but six months later they repented and wished to substitute a Frenchman, and crowned Clement VII. There being thus two Popes in the field, the chief kingdoms were almost equally divided as to recognising the one or the other as[Pg 368] the real Pope. The quarrel lasted forty years, the two lines being continued for that period. At last a general council, that of Pisa in 1409, met and summoned both Popes before it, and dismissed both for contumacy. The cardinals then elected Alexander V. And there were then three Popes, each claiming exclusive authority. A second council met at Constance in 1414, and claimed to be superior to the Pope. Another election took place, and Martin V. was elected in 1417; and the line of Popes was resumed as before, but a continual pressure from without weakened the authority of the successors. The council of Basle in 1431 showed an antipapal spirit, and set up a higher power in synods and councils, thereby lowering the other power in proportion.

 

THE THREE POPES AT ONE TIME (A.D. 1394).

When Clement VII. was told that the leading men and the University of Paris had resolved that both Popes should abdicate in order to put an end to the absurdity of the dual election, he was thrown into a fever of agitation, and died in 1394. Each cardinal then took an oath that if elected he would resign if necessary, to put an end to the schism. Benedict XIII. was elected; but no sooner was this appointment made than he gave evasive answers to all who reminded him of this condition. Another assembly of bishops by a majority of four to one resolved that both Popes should resign. But Benedict conscientiously opposed their view, and said he would rather be flayed alive than resign. In 1402 Benedict sent a mission to his rival Boniface IX., asking for a conference. But Boniface treated him as an antipope, and himself as the only Pope. Boniface, however, was so frightened at the aspect of affairs, that he contracted an illness and died in 1404. The cardinals were then implored not to proceed to another election, but they treated this advice as a jest, and elected Innocent VII. Innocent, though an old man, and though he had bound himself if elected to resign if necessary, yielded to the greed and sc