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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 05 - The Middle Ages
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beacon Lights of History, Volume 05 - The Middle Ages" ***

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                which is titled Beacon Lights of History, Volume III,
                part 1: The Middle Ages.  See E-Book#1498,
                The numbering of volumes in the earlier set reflected
                the order in which the lectures were given.  In the
                current (later) version, volumes were numbered to put
                the subjects in historical sequence.









Change of public opinion about Mohammed
Astonishing triumph of Mohammedanism
Old religious systems of Arabia
Polytheism succeeds the doctrines of the Magians
The necessity of reform
Early life of Mohammed
Mohammed's meditations and dreams
His belief in a personal God
He preaches his new doctrines
The opposition and ridicule of his countrymen
The perseverance of Mohammed amid obstacles
His flight to Medina
The Koran and its doctrines
Change in Mohammed's mode of propagating his doctrines
Polygamy and a sensual paradise
Warlike means to convert Arabia
Mohammed accommodates his doctrines to the habits of his countrymen
Encourages martial fanaticism
Conquest of Arabia
Private life of Mohammed, after his success
Carlyle's apology for Mohammed
The conquest of Syria and Egypt
Conquest of Persia and India
Deductions in view of Saracenic conquests
Necessity of supernatural aid in the conversion of the world



Ancestry and early life of Charlemagne
The Merovingian princes
Condition of Europe on the accession of Charlemagne
Necessity for such a hero to arise
His perils and struggles
Wars with the Saxons
The difficulties of the Saxon conquest
Forced conversion of the Saxons
The Norman pirates
Conquest of the Avares
Unsuccessful war with the Saracens
The Lombard wars
Coronation of Charlemagne at Home
Imperialism and its influences
The dismemberment of Charlemagne's empire
Foundation of Feudalism
Charlemagne as a legislator
His alliance with the clergy
His administrative abilities
Reasons why he patronized the clergy
Results of Charlemagne's policy
Hallam's splendid eulogy



Wonderful government of the Papacy
Its vitality
Its contradictions
Its fascinations
The crimes of which it is accused
General character of the popes
Gregory VII. the most famous
His personal history
His autocratic ideas
His reign at the right time
Society in Europe in the eleventh century
Character of the clergy
The monks, and the need of reform
Character of the popes before Gregory VII.
Celibacy of the clergy
Alliance of the Papacy and Monasticism
Opposition to the reforms of Hildebrand
Terrible power of excommunication
Simony and its evils
Secularization of the clergy
Separation of spiritual from temporal power
Henry IV. of Germany
Approaching strife between Henry and Hildebrand
Their respective weapons
Henry summoned to Rome
Excommunication of Henry
Henry deserted and disarmed
Compelled to yield to Hildebrand
His great mistake
Renewed contest
Humiliation of the Pope
Moral effects of the contest
Speculations about the Papal power



Antiquity of Monastic life
Causes which led to it
Oriental asceticism
Religious contemplation
Insoluble questions
Basil the founder of Monasticism
His interesting history
Gregory Nazianzen
Vows of the monks
Their antagonism to prevailing evils
Vow of Poverty opposed to money-making
That of Chastity a protest against prevailing impurity
Origin of celibacy
Its subsequent corruption
Necessity of the vow of Obedience
Benedict and the Monastery of Monte Casino
His rules generally adopted
Lofty and useful life of the early monks
Growth and wealth of Monastic institutions
Magnificence of Mediaeval convents
Privileges of the monks
Luxury of the Benedictines
Relaxation of discipline
Degeneracy of the monks
Compared with secular clergy
Benefits which Monasticism conferred
Learning of the monks
Their common life
Revival of Learning
Rise of Scholasticism
Saint Bernard
His early piety and great attainments
His vast moral influence
His reforms and labors
Rise of Dominicans and Franciscans
Zeal of the mendicant friars
General benefits of Monastic institutions



Birth and early life of Anselm
The Abbey of Bec
Scholarly life of Anselm
Visits of Anselm to England
Compared with Becket
Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury
Privileges of the Archbishop
Unwillingness of Anselm to be elevated
Lanfranc succeeded by Anselm
Quarrel between Anselm and William Rufus
Despotic character of William
Disputed claims of Popes Urban and Clement
Council of Rockingham
Royal efforts to depose Anselm
Firmness and heroism of Anselm
Duplicity of the king
His intrigues with the Pope
Pretended reconciliation with Anselm
Appeals to Rome
Inordinate claims of the Pope
Allegiance of Anselm to the Pope
Anselm at Rome
Death of William and Accession of Henry I.
Royal encroachments
Henry quarrels with Anselm
Results of the quarrel
Anselm as a theologian
Theology of the Middle Ages
Monks become philosophers
Gotschalk and predestination
John Scotus Erigena
Revived spirit of inquiry
Services of Anselm to theology
He brings philosophy to support theology
Combats Nominalism
His philosophical deductions
His devout Christian spirit



Peter Abélard
Gives a new impulse to philosophy
Rationalistic tendency of his teachings
The hatreds he created
Peter Lombard
His "Book of Sentences"
Introduction of the writings of Aristotle into Europe
University of Paris
Character of the students
Their various studies
Aristotle's logic used
The method of the Schoolmen
The Dominicans and Franciscans
Innocent III.
Thomas Aquinas
His early life and studies
Albertus Magnus
Aquinas's first great work
Made Doctor of Theology
His "Summa Theologica"
Its vast learning
Parallel between Aquinas and Plato
Parallel between Plato and Aristotle
Influence of Scholasticism
Waste of intellectual life
Scholasticism attractive to the Middle Ages
To be admired like a cathedral



Becket a puzzle to historians
His early history
His gradual elevation
Friendship with Henry II.
Becket made Chancellor
Elevated to the See of Canterbury
Dignity of an archbishop of Canterbury
Becket in contrast
His ascetic habits as priest
His high-church principles
Upholds the spiritual courts
Defends the privileges of his order
Conflict with the king
Constitutions of Clarendon
Persecution of Becket
He yields at first to the king
His repentance
Defection of the bishops
Becket escapes to the Continent
Supported by Louis VII. of France
Insincerity of the Pope
Becket at Pontigny in exile
His indignant rebuke of the Pope
Who excommunicates the Archbishop of York
Henry obliged to compromise
Hollow reconciliation with Becket
Return of Becket to Canterbury
His triumphal procession
Annoyance of Henry
Assassination of Becket
Consequences of the murder


Anarchies of the Merovingian period
Society on the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire
Allodial tenure
Origin of Feudalism
Dependence and protection the principles of Feudalism
Peasants and their masters
The sentiment of loyalty
Contentment of the peasantry
Evils that cannot be redressed
Submission to them a necessity
Division of Charlemagne's empire
Life of the nobles
Pleasures and habits of feudal barons
Aristocratic character of Feudalism
Slavery of the people
Indirect blessings of Feudalism
Slavery not an unmixed evil
Influence of chivalry
Devotion to woman
The lady of the baronial castle
Reasons why women were worshipped
Dignity of the baronial home
The Christian woman contrasted with the pagan
Glory and beauty of Chivalry


The Crusades the great external event of the Middle Ages
A semi-religious and semi-military movement
What gives interest to wars?
Wars the exponents of prevailing ideas
The overruling of all wars
The majesty of Providence seen in war
Origin of the Crusades
Pilgrimages to Jerusalem
Miseries and insults of the pilgrims
Intense hatred of Mohammedanism
Peter of Amiens
Council of Clermont
The First Crusade
Its miseries and mistakes
The Second Crusade
The Third Crusade
The Fourth, Children's, Fifth, and Sixth Crusades
The Seventh Crusade
All alike unsuccessful, and wasteful of life and energies
Peculiarities and immense mistakes of the Crusaders
The moral evils of the Crusades
Ultimate results of the Crusades
Barrier made against Mohammedan conquests
Political necessity of the Crusades
Their effect in weakening the Feudal system
Effect of the Crusades on the growth of cities
On commerce and art and literature
They scatter the germs of a new civilization
They centralize power
They ultimately elevate the European races



Roman architecture
First form of a Christian church
The change to the Romanesque
Its peculiarities
Its connection with Monasticism
Gloomy aspect of the churches of the tenth and eleventh centuries
Effect of the Crusades on church architecture
Church architecture becomes cheerful
The Gothic churches of France and Germany
The English Mediaeval churches
Glories of the pointed arch
Effect of the Renaissance on architecture
Mongrel style of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
Revival of the pure gothic
Churches should be adapted to their uses
Incongruity of Protestantism with ritualistic architecture
Protestantism demands a church for preaching
Gothic vaults unfavorable to oratory



Harmony of Protestant and Mediaeval creeds
The Reformation a moral movement
The evils of Papal institutions
The evils of monastic life
Quarrels and dissoluteness of monks
Birth of Wyclif
His scholastic attainments and honors
His political influence
The powers who have ruled the world
Wyclif sent on a mission to Bruges
Protection of John of Gaunt
Wyclif summoned to an ecclesiastical council
His defenders and foes
Triumph of Wyclif
He openly denounces the Pope
His translation of the Bible
Opposition to it by the higher clergy
Hostility of Roman Catholicism to the right of private judgment
Hostility to the Bible in vernacular tongues
Spread of the Bible in English
Wyclif as a doctrinal reformer
He attacks Transubstantiation
Deserted by the Duke of Lancaster
But dies peaceably in his parish
Wyclif contrasted with Luther
His great services to the church
Reasons why he escaped martyrdom



Roland Calls for Succor in the Battle of Roncesvalles
_After the painting by Louis Guesnet_.

A Reading from the Koran
_After the painting by W. Gentz_.

Mohammed, Preaching the Unity of God, Enters the City of Mecca
_After the painting by A. Müller_.

Charlemagne Inflicts the Rite of Baptism on the Saxons
_After the painting by Adolph Maria Mucha_.

St. Bernard Counselling Conrad III.
_After the painting by Adolph Maria Mucha_.

Canterbury Cathedral
_From a photograph_.

St. Thomas Aquinas in the School of Albertus Magnus
_After the painting by H. Lerolle_.

Murder of St. Thomas à Becket
_After the painting by A. Dawant_.

The Accolade
_After the painting by Sir E. Blair Leighton_.

Winchester Cathedral
_From a photograph_.

Facsimile of Page from Wyclif Bible


       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 570-632.


[Footnote 1: Spelled also _Mahomet_, _Mahommed_; but I prefer Mohammed.]

The most extraordinary man who arose after the fall of the Roman Empire
was doubtless Mohammed; and his posthumous influence has been greater
than that of any man since Christianity was declared, if we take into
account the number of those who have received his doctrines. Even
Christianity never had so rapid a spread. More than a sixth part of the
human race are the professed followers of the Arabian prophet.

In regard to Mohammed himself, a great change has taken place in the
opinions of critics within fifty years. It was the fashion half a
century ago to speak of this man as a hypocrite, an impostor, even as
Antichrist. Now he is generally regarded as a reformer; that is, as a
man who introduced into Arabia a religion and a morality superior to
what previously existed, and he is regarded as an impostor only so far
as he was visionary. Few critics doubt his sincerity. He was no
hypocrite, since he himself believed in his mission; and his mission was
benevolent,--to turn his countrymen from a gross polytheism to the
worship of one God. Although his religion cannot compare with
Christianity in purity and loftiness, yet it enforced a higher morality
than the old Arabian religions, and assimilated to Christianity in many
important respects. The chief fault we have to find in Mohammed was, the
propagation of his doctrines by the sword, and the use of wicked means
to bring about a good end. The truths he declared have had an immense
influence on Asiatic nations, and these have given vitality to his
system, if we accept the position that truth alone has vitality.

One remarkable fact stands out for the world to ponder,--that, for more
than fourteen hundred years, one hundred and eighty millions (more than
a sixth part of the human race) have adopted and cherished the religion
of Mohammed; that Christianity never had so astonishing a triumph; and
that even the adherents of Christianity, in many countries, have not
manifested the zeal of the Mohammedans in most of the countries where it
has been acknowledged. Now these startling facts can be explained only
on the ground that Mohammedanism has great vital religious and moral
truths underlying its system which appeal to the consciousness of
mankind, or else that these truths are so blended with dangerous errors
which appeal to depraved passions and interests, that the religion
spread in consequence of these errors rather than of the truth itself.

The question to be considered, then, is whether Mohammedanism spread in
consequence of its truths or in consequence of its errors.

In order to appreciate the influence of the Arabian prophet, we are
first led into the inquiry whether his religion was really an
improvement on the old systems which previously prevailed in Arabia. If
it was, he must be regarded as a benefactor and reformer, even if we
admit the glaring evils of his system, when measured by the purer
religion of the Cross. And it then simply becomes a question whether it
is better to have a prevalent corrupted system of religion containing
many important truths, or a system of downright paganism with few
truths at all.

In examining the religious systems of Arabia in the age preceding the
advent of the Prophet, it would seem that the most prominent of them
were the old doctrines of the Magians and Sabaeans, blended with a gross
idolatry and a senseless polytheism. Whatever may have been the faith of
the ancient Sabaean sages, who noted the aspects of the stars, and
supposed they were inhabited by angels placed there by Almighty power to
supervise and govern the universe, yet history seems to record that
this ancient faith was practically subverted, and that the stars, where
were supposed to dwell deities to whom prayers were made, became
themselves objects of worship, and even graven images were made in honor
of them. Among the Arabs each tribe worshipped a particular star, and
set up its particular idol, so that a degrading polytheism was the
religion of the land. The object of greatest veneration was the
celebrated Black Stone, at Mecca, fabled to have fallen from heaven at
the same time with Adam. Over this stone was built the Kaabah, a small
oblong stone building, around which has been since built the great
mosque. It was ornamented with three hundred and sixty idols. The
guardianship of this pagan temple was intrusted to the most ancient and
honorable families of Mecca, and to it resorted innumerable pilgrims
bringing precious offerings. It was like the shrine of Delphi, as a
source of profit to its fortunate guardians.

Thus before Mohammed appeared polytheism was the prevalent religion of
Arabia,--a degradation even from the ancient Sabaean faith. It is true
there were also other religions. There were many Jews at Medina; and
there was also a corrupted form of Christianity in many places, split up
into hostile and wrangling sects, with but little of the spirit of the
divine Founder, with innumerable errors and superstitions, so that in no
part of the world was Christianity so feeble a light. But the great
body of the people were pagans. A marked reform was imperatively needed
to restore the belief in the unity of God and set up a higher standard
of morality.

It is claimed that Mohammed brought such a reform. He was born in the
year 570, of the family of Hashem and the tribe of Koreish, to whom was
intrusted the keeping of the Black Stone. He therefore belonged to the
highest Arabian aristocracy. Early left an orphan and in poverty, he was
reared in the family of one of his uncles, under all the influences of
idolatry. This uncle was a merchant, and the youth made long journeys
with him to distant fairs, especially in Syria, where he probably became
acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, especially with the Old Testament.
In his twenty-fifth year he entered the service of Cadijeh, a very
wealthy widow, who sent to the fairs and towns great caravans, which
Mohammed accompanied in some humble capacity,--according to the
tradition as camel-driver. But his personal beauty, which was
remarkable, and probably also his intelligence and spirit, won the heart
of this powerful mistress, and she became his wife.

He was now second to none in the capital of Arabia, and great thoughts
began to fill his soul. His wife perceived his greatness, and, like
Josephine and the wife of Disraeli, forwarded the fortunes of her
husband, for he became rich as well as intellectual and noble, and thus
had time and leisure to accomplish more easily his work. From
twenty-five to forty he led chiefly a contemplative life, spending
months together in a cave, absorbed in his grand reflections,--at
intervals issuing from his retreat, visiting the marts of commerce, and
gaining knowledge from learned men. It is seldom that very great men
lead either a life of perpetual contemplation or of perpetual activity.
Without occasional rest, and leisure to mature knowledge, no man can arm
himself with the weapons of the gods. To be truly great, a man must
blend a life of activity with a life of study,--like Moses, who matured
the knowledge he had gained in Egypt amid the deserts of Midian.

With all great men some leading idea rules the ordinary life. The idea
which took possession of the mind of Mohammed was the degrading
polytheism of his countrymen, the multitude of their idols, the
grossness of their worship, and the degrading morals which usually
accompany a false theology. He set himself to work to produce a reform,
but amid overwhelming obstacles. He talked with his uncles, and they
laughed at him. They would not even admit the necessity of a reform.
Only Cadijeh listened to him and encouraged him and believed in him. And
Mohammed was ever grateful for this mark of confidence, and cherished
the memory of his wife in his subsequent apostasy,--if it be true that
he fell, like Solomon. Long afterwards, when she was dead, Ayésha, his
young and favorite wife, thus addressed him: "Am I not better than
Cadijeh? Do you not love me better than you did her? She was a widow,
old and ugly." "No, by Allah!" replied the Prophet; "she believed in me
when no one else did. In the whole world I had but one friend, and she
was that friend." No woman ever retained the affections of a husband
superior to herself, unless she had the spirit of Cadijeh,--unless she
proved herself his friend, and believed in him. How miserable the life
of Jane Carlyle would have been had she not been proud of her husband!
One reason why there is frequent unhappiness in married life is because
there is no mutual appreciation. How often have we seen a noble, lofty,
earnest man fettered and chained by a frivolous woman who could not be
made to see the dignity and importance of the labors which gave to her
husband all his real power! Not so with the woman who assisted Mohammed.
Without her sympathy and faith he probably would have failed. He told
her, and her alone, his dreams, his ecstasies, his visions; how that God
at different times had sent prophets and teachers to reveal new truths,
by whom religion had been restored; how this one God, who created the
heavens and the earth, had never left Himself without witnesses of His
truth in the most degenerate times; how that the universal recognition
of this sovereign Power and Providence was necessary to the salvation
of society. He had learned much from the study of the Talmud and the
Jewish Scriptures; he had reflected deeply in his isolated cave; he knew
that there was but one supreme God, and that there could be no elevated
morality without the sense of personal responsibility to Him; that
without the fear of this one God there could be neither wisdom
nor virtue.

Hence his soul burned to tell his countrymen his earnest belief in a
supreme and personal God, to whom alone prayers should be made, and who
alone could rescue by His almighty power. He pondered day and night on
this single and simple truth. His perpetual meditations and ascetic
habits induced dreams and ecstasies, such as marked primitive monks, and
Loyola in his Manresan cave. He became a visionary man, but most
intensely earnest, for his convictions were overwhelming. He fancied
himself the ambassador of this God, as the ancient Jewish prophets were;
that he was even greater than they, his mission being to remove
idolatry,--to his mind the greatest evil under the sun, since it was the
root of all vices and follies. Idolatry is either a defiance or a
forgetfulness of God,--high treason to the majesty of Heaven, entailing
the direst calamities.

At last, one day, in his fortieth year, after he had been shut up a
whole month in solitude, so that his soul was filled with ecstasy and
enthusiasm, he declared to Cadijeh that the night before, while wrapped
in his mantle, absorbed in reverie, a form of divine beauty, in a flood
of light, appeared to him, and, in the name of the Almighty who created
the heavens and the earth, thus spake: "O, Mohammed! of a truth thou art
the Prophet of God, and I am his angel Gabriel." "This," says Carlyle,
"is the soul of Islam. This is what Mohammed felt and now declared to be
of infinite moment, that idols and formulas were nothing; that the
jargon of argumentative Greek sects, the vague traditions of Jews, the
stupid routine of Arab idolatry were a mockery and a delusion; that
there is but one God; that we must let idols alone and look to Him. He
alone is reality; He made us and sustains us. Our whole strength lies in
submission to Him. The thing He sends us, be it death even, is good, is
the best. We resign ourselves to Him."

Such were the truths which Mohammed, with preternatural earnestness, now
declared,--doctrines which would revolutionize Arabia. And why not? They
are the same substantially which Moses declared to those sensual and
degraded slaves whom he led out of Egypt,--yea, the doctrines of David
and of Job. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." What a grand
and all-important truth it is to impress upon people sunk in
forgetfulness and sensuality and pleasure-seeking and idle schemes of
vanity and ambition, that there is a supreme Intelligence who overrules,
and whose laws cannot be violated with impunity; from whom no one can
escape, even though he "take the wings of the morning and fly to the
uttermost parts of the sea." This is the one truth that Moses sought to
plant in the minds of the Jews,--a truth always forgotten when there is
slavery to epicurean pleasures or a false philosophy.

Now I maintain that Mohammed, in seeking to impress his degenerate
countrymen with the idea of the one supreme God, amid a most degrading
and almost universal polytheism, was a great reformer. In preaching this
he was neither fanatic nor hypocrite; he was a very great man, and thus
far a good man. He does not make an original revelation; he reproduces
an old truth,--as old as the patriarchs, as old as Job, as old as the
primitive religions,--but an exceedingly important one, lost sight of by
his countrymen, gradually lost sight of by all peoples when divine grace
is withheld; indeed practically by people in Christian lands in times of
great degeneracy. "The fool has said in his heart there is no God;" or,
Let there be no God, that we may eat and drink before we die.
Epicureanism, in its pleasures or in its speculations, is virtually
atheism. It was so in Greece. It is so with us.

Mohammed was now at the mature age of forty, in the fulness of his
powers, in the prime of his life; and he began to preach everywhere
that there is but one God. Few, however, believed in him. Why not
acknowledge such a fundamental truth, appealing to the intellect as well
as the moral sense? But to confess there is a supreme God, who rewards
and punishes, and to whom all are responsible both for words and
actions, is to imply a confession of sinfulness and the justice of
retribution. Those degraded Arabians would not receive willingly such a
truth as this, even as the Israelites ever sought to banish it from
their hearts and minds, in spite of their deliverance from slavery. The
uncles and friends of Mohammed treated his mission with scorn and
derision. Nor do I read that the common people heard him gladly, as they
listened to the teachings of Christ. Zealously he labored for three
years with all classes; and yet in three years of exalted labor, with
all his eloquence and fervor and sincerity, he converted only about
thirteen persons, one of whom was his slave. Think of such a man
declaring such a truth, and only gaining thirteen followers in three
years! How sickened must have been his enthusiastic soul! His worldly
relatives urged him to silence. Why attack idols; why quarrel with his
own interests; why destroy his popularity? Then exclaimed that great
hero: "If the sun stood on my right hand, and the moon on my left,
ordering me to hold my peace, I would still declare there is but one
God,"--a speech rivalled only by Luther at the Diet of Worms. Why urge
a great man to be silent on the very thing which makes him great? He
cannot be silent. His truth--from which he cannot be separated--is
greater than life or death, or principalities or powers.

Buffeted and ridiculed, still Mohammed persevered. He used at first only
moral means. He appealed only to the minds and hearts of the people,
encouraged by his few believers and sustained by the fancied voice of
that angel who appeared to him in his retreat. But his earnest voice was
drowned by discordant noises. He was regarded as a lunatic, a demented
man, because he professed to believe in a personal God. The angry mob
covered his clothes with dust and ashes. They demanded miracles. But at
this time he had only truths to declare,--those saving truths which are
perpetual miracles. At last hostilities began. He was threatened and he
was persecuted. They laid plots to take his life. He sought shelter in
the castle of his uncle, Abu Taleh; but he died. Then Mohammed's wife
Cadijeh died. The priests of an idolatrous religion became furious. He
had laid his hands on their idols. He was regarded as a disorganizer, an
innovator, a most dangerous man. His fortunes became darker and darker;
he was hated, persecuted, and alone.

Thus thirteen years passed away in reproach, in persecution, in fear. At
last forty picked men swore to assassinate him. Should he remain at
Mecca and die, before his mission was accomplished, or should he fly? He
concluded to fly to Medina, where there were Jews, and some nominal
converts to Christianity,--a new ground. This was in the year 622, and
the flight is called the Hegira,--from which the East dates its era, in
the fifty-third year of the Prophet's life. In this city he was
cordially welcomed, and he soon found himself surrounded with
enthusiastic followers. He built a mosque, and openly performed the
rites of the new religion.

At this era a new phase appears in the Prophet's life and teachings.
Thus far, until his flight, it would seem that he propagated his
doctrines by moral force alone, and that these doctrines, in the main,
were elevated. He had earnestly declared his great idea of the unity of
God. He had pronounced the worship of images to be idolatrous. He held
idolatry of all kinds in supreme abhorrence. He enjoined charity,
justice, and forbearance. He denounced all falsehood and all deception,
especially in trade. He declared that humility, benevolence, and
self-abnegation were the greatest virtues. He commanded his disciples to
return good for evil, to restrain the passions, to bridle the tongue, to
be patient under injuries, to be submissive to God. He enjoined prayer,
fastings, and meditation as a means of grace. He laid down the necessity
of rest on the seventh day. He copied the precepts of the Bible in many
of their essential features, and recognized its greatest teachers as
inspired prophets.

It was during these thirteen years at Mecca, amid persecution and
ridicule, and with few outward successes, that he probably wrote the
Koran,--a book without beginning and without end, _disjecta membra_,
regardless of all rules of art, full of repetitions, and yet full of
lofty precepts and noble truths of morality evidently borrowed from the
Jewish Scriptures,--in which his great ideas stand out with singular
eloquence and impressiveness: the unity of God, His divine sovereignty,
the necessity of prayer, the soul's immortality, future rewards and
punishments. His own private life had been blameless. It was plain and
simple. For a whole month he did not light a fire to cook his food. He
swept his chamber himself and mended his own clothes. His life was that
of an ascetic enthusiast, profoundly impressed with the greatness and
dignity of his mission. Thus far his greatest error and fault was in the
supposition that he was inspired in the same sense as the ancient Jewish
prophets were inspired,--to declare the will and the truth of God. Any
man leading such a life of contemplative asceticism and retirement is
prone to fall into the belief of special divine illumination. It
characterized George Fox, the Anabaptists, Ignatius Loyola, Saint
Theresa, and even, to some extent, Oliver Cromwell himself. Mohammed's
supreme error was that he was the greatest as well as the last of the
prophets. This was fanaticism, but he was probably honest in the belief.
His brain was turned by dreams, ecstasies, and ascetic devotions. But
with all his visionary ideas of his call, his own morality and his
teachings had been lofty, and apparently unsuccessful. Possibly he was
discouraged with the small progress he had made,--disgusted,
irritated, fierce.

Certainly, soon after he was established at Medina, a great change took
place in his mode of propagating his doctrines. His great ideas remained
the same, but he adopted a new way to spread them. So that I can almost
fancy that some Mephistopheles, some form of Satanic agency, some lying
Voice whispered to him in this wise: "O Mohammed! of a truth thou art
the Prophet of the living God. Thou hast declared the grandest truths
ever uttered in Arabia; but see how powerless they are on the minds and
hearts of thy countrymen, with all thy eloquence, sincerity, and fervor.
By moral means thou hast effected comparatively nothing. Thou hast
preached thirteen years, and only made a few converts. Thy truths are
too elevated for a corrupt and wicked generation to accept. Even thine
own life is in danger. Thou hast been obliged to fly to these barren
rocks and sands. Thou hast failed. Why not pursue a new course, and
adapt thy doctrines to men as they are? Thy countrymen are wild,
fierce, and warlike: why not incite their martial passions in defence of
thy doctrines? They are an earnest people, and, believing in the truths
which thou now declarest, they will fight for them and establish them by
the sword, not merely in Arabia, but throughout the East. They are a
pleasure-loving and imaginative people: why not promise the victors of
thy faith a sensual bliss in Paradise? They will not be subverters of
your grand truths; they will simply extend them, and jealously, if they
have a reward in what their passions crave. In short, use the proper
means for a great end. The end justifies the means."

Whether influenced by such specious sophistries, or disheartened by his
former method, or corrupted in his own heart, as Solomon was, by his
numerous wives,--for Mohammed permitted polygamy and practised it
himself,--it is certain that he now was bent on achieving more signal
and rapid victories. He resolved to adapt his religion to the depraved
hearts of his followers. He would mix up truth with error; he would make
truth palatable; he would use the means which secure success. It was
success he wanted, and success he thus far had not secured. He was
ambitious; he would become a mighty spiritual potentate.

So he allowed polygamy,--the vice of Eastern nations from remote
periods; he promised a sensual Paradise to those who should die in
defence of his religion; he inflamed the imagination of the Arabians
with visions of sensual joys. He painted heaven as a land whose soil was
the finest wheaten flour, whose air was fragrant with perfumes, whose
streams were of crystal water or milk or wine or honey, flowing over
beds of musk and camphor,--a glorious garden of fruits and flowers,
whose inhabitants were clothed in garments of gold, sparkling with
rubies and diamonds, who reclined in sumptuous palaces and silken
pavilions, and on couches of voluptuous ease, and who were served with
viands which could be eaten without satiety, and liquors which could be
drunk without inebriation; yea, where the blissful warrior for the faith
should enjoy an unending youth, and where he would be attended by
houris, with black and loving eyes, free from all defects, resplendent
in beauty and grace, and rejoicing in perpetual charms.

Such were the views, it is maintained, with which he inflamed the
faithful. And, more, he encouraged them to take up arms, and penetrate,
as warlike missionaries, to the utmost bounds of the habitable
world, in order to convert men to the faith of the one God, whose
Prophet he claimed to be. Moreover, he made new and extraordinary
"revelations,"--that he had ascended into the seventh heaven and held
converse with Gabriel; and he now added to his creed that old lie of
Eastern theogonies, that base element of all false religions,--that man
can propitiate the Deity by works of supererogation; that man can
purchase by ascetic labors and sacrifices his future salvation. This
falsity enters largely into Mohammedanism. I need not add how discrepant
it is with the cheerful teachings of the apostles, especially to the
poor, as seen in the deeds of penance, prayers in the corners of the
streets, the ablutions, the fasts, and the pilgrimages to which the
faithful are exhorted. And moreover he accommodated his fasts and feasts
and holidays and pilgrimages to the old customs of the people, thereby
teaching lessons of worldly wisdom. Astarte, the old object of Sabaean
idolatry, was particularly worshipped on a Friday; and this day was made
the Mohammedan Sabbath. Again, the month Rhamadán, from time immemorial,
had been set apart for fastings; this month the Prophet adopted,
declaring that in it he had received his first revelations. Pilgrimages
to the Black Stone were favorite forms of penance; and this was
perpetuated in the pilgrimages to Mecca.

Thus it would appear that Mohammed, after his flight, accommodated his
doctrines to the customs and tastes of his countrymen,--blending with
the sublime truths he declared subtile and pernicious errors. The Jesuit
missionaries did the same thing in China and Japan, thinking more of the
number of their converts than of the truth itself. Expediency--the
accepted Jesuitical principle of the end justifying the means--is seen
in almost everything in this world which blazes with success. It is seen
in politics, in philanthropy, in ecclesiasticism, and in education.
There are political Jesuits and philanthropical Jesuits and Protestant
Jesuits, as well as Catholic Jesuits and Mohammedan Jesuits. What do you
think of a man, wearing the livery of a gospel minister, devoting all
his energies to money-making, versed in the ways of the "heathen
Chinee,"--"ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain,"--all to
succeed better in worldly thrift, using all means for that single
end,--is not he practically a Jesuit? I do not mean a Catholic Jesuit,
belonging to the Society of Jesus, but popularly what we mean by a
Jesuit. What would you think of a college which lowered the standard of
education in order to draw students, or selected, as the guardians of
its higher interests, those men who would contribute the most money to
its funds?

This spirit of expediency Mohammed entertained and utilized, in order to
gain success. Most of what is false in Mohammedanism is based on
expediency. The end was not lost sight of,--the conversion of his
countrymen to the belief in the unity and sovereignty of God, but it was
sought by means which would make them fanatics or pharisees. He was not
such a miserable creature as one who seeks to make money by trading on
the religious capital of the community; but he did adapt his religion to
the passions and habits of the people in order that they might more
readily be led to accept it. He listened to that same wicked Voice which
afterwards appeared in the guise of an angel of light to mediaeval
ritualists. And it is thus that Satan has contrived to pervert the best
institutions of the world. The moment good men look to outward and
superficial triumphs, to the disregard of inward purity, that moment do
they accept the Jesuitical lie of all ages,--"The end justifies
the means."

But the worst thing which the Prophet did in order to gain his end was
to make use of the sword. For thirteen years he appealed to conscience.
Now he makes it an inducement for men to fight for his great idea.
"Different prophets," said he, in his memorable manifesto, "have been
sent by God to illustrate His different attributes: Moses, His
providence; Solomon, His wisdom; Christ, His righteousness; but I, the
last of the prophets, am sent with the sword. Let those who promulgate
my faith enter into no arguments or discussions, but slay all who refuse
obedience. Whoever fights for the true faith, whether he fall or
conquer, will assuredly receive a glorious reward, for the sword is the
key of heaven. All who draw it in defence of the faith shall receive
temporal and future blessings. Every drop of their blood, every peril
and hardship, will be registered on high as more meritorious than
fasting or prayer. If they fall in battle their sins will be washed
away, and they shall be transported into Paradise, to revel in eternal
pleasures, and in the arms of black-eyed houris." Thus did he stimulate
the martial fanaticism of a warlike and heroic people with the promise
of future happiness. What a monstrous expediency,--worse than all the
combined usurpations of the popes!

And what was the result? I need not point to the successive conquests of
the Saracens with such a mighty stimulus. They were loyal to the truth
for which they fought. They never afterwards became idolaters; but their
religion was built up on the miseries of nations. To propagate the faith
of Mohammed they overran the world. Never were conquests more rapid and
more terrible.

At first Mohammed's followers in Medina sallied out and attacked the
caravans of Arabia, and especially all belonging to Mecca (the city
which had rejected him), until all the various tribes acknowledged the
religion of the Prophet, for they were easily converted to a faith which
flattered their predatory inclinations and promised them future
immunities. The first cavalcade which entered Medina with spoils made
Mussulmans of all the inhabitants, and gave Mohammed the control of the
city. The battle of Moat gave him a triumphal entrance into Mecca. He
soon found himself the sovereign of all Arabia; and when he died, at the
age of 63, in the eleventh year after his Hegira, or flight from Mecca,
he was the most successful founder of a religion the world has known,
next to Buddha. A religion appealing to truth alone had made only a few
converts in thirteen years; a religion which appealed to the sword had
made converts of a great nation in eleven years.

It is difficult to ascertain what the private life of the Prophet was in
these years of dazzling success. The authorities differ. Some represent
him as sunk in a miserable sensuality which shortened his days. But I
think this statement may be doubted. He never lost the veneration of his
countrymen,--and no veneration can last for a man steeped in sensuality.
Even Solomon lost his prestige and popularity when he became vain and
sensual. Those who were nearest to the Prophet reverenced him most
profoundly. With his wife Ayésha he lived with great frugality. He was
kindly, firm in friendship, faithful and tender in his family, ready to
forgive enemies, just in decision. The caliphs who succeeded him, for
some time, were men of great simplicity, and sought to imitate his
virtues. He was doubtless warlike and fanatical, but conquests such as
he and his successors made are incompatible with luxury and effeminacy.
He stands arraigned at the bar of eternal justice for perverting truth,
for blending it with error, for making use of wicked means to accomplish
what he deemed a great end.

I have no patience with Mr. Carlyle, great and venerable as is his
authority, for seeming to justify Mohammed in assuming the sword. "I
care little for the sword," says this sophistical writer. "I will allow
a thing to struggle for itself in this world, with any sword or tongue
or implement it has or can lay hold on. What is better than itself it
cannot put away, but only what is worse. In this great life-duel Nature
herself is umpire, and can do no wrong," That is, might makes right;
only evil perishes in the conflict of principles; whatever prevails is
just. In other words, if Mohammedanism, by any means it may choose to
use, proves itself more formidable than other religions, then it ought
to prevail. Suppose that the victories of the Saracens had extended over
Europe, as well as Asia and Africa,--had not been arrested by Charles
Martel,--would Carlyle then have preferred Mohammedanism to the
Christianity of degenerate nations? Was Mohammedanism a better religion
than the Christianity which existed in Asia Minor and in various parts
of the Greek empire in the sixth and seventh centuries? Was it a good
thing to convert the church of Saint Sophia into a Saracenic mosque, and
the city of the later Christian emperors into the capital of the Turks?
Is a united Saracenic empire better than a divided, wrangling
Christian empire?

But I will not enter upon that discussion. I confine myself to facts. It
is certain that Mohammedanism, by means of the sword, spread with
marvellous and unprecedented rapidity. The successors of the Prophet
carried their conquests even to India. Neither the Syrians nor the
Egyptians could cope with men who felt that the sacrifice of life in
battle would secure an eternity of bliss. The armies of the Greek
emperor melted away before the generals of the caliph. The Cross waned
before the Crescent. The banners of the Moslems floated over the
proudest battlements of ancient Roman grandeur.

In the fifth year of the caliph Omar, only seventeen years from the
Prophet's flight from Mecca, the conquest of Syria was completed. The
Christians were forbidden to build churches, or speak openly of their
religion, or sit in the presence of a Mohammedan, or to sell wine, or
bear arms, or use the saddle in riding, or have a domestic who had been
in the Mohammedan service. The utter prostration of all civil and
religious liberty took place in the old scenes of Christian triumph.
This was an instance in which persecution proved successful; and because
it was successful it is a proof, in the eyes of Carlyle, that the
persecuting religion was the better, because it was outwardly
the stronger.

The conquest of Egypt rapidly followed that of Syria; and with the fall
of Alexandria perished the largest library of the world, the thesaurus
of all the intellectual treasures of antiquity.

Then followed the conquest of Persia. A single battle, as in the time of
Alexander, decided its fate. The marvel is that the people should have
changed their religion; but then, it was Mohammedanism or death. And a
still greater marvel it is,--an utter mystery to me,--why that Oriental
country should have continued faithful to the new religion. It must have
had some elements of vitality almost worth fighting for, and which we do
not comprehend.

Nor did Saracenic conquests end until the Arabs of the desert had
penetrated southward into India farther than had Alexander the Great,
and westward until they had subdued the northern kingdoms of Africa, and
carried their arms to the Pillars of Hercules; yea, to the cities of the
Goths in Spain, and were only finally arrested in Europe by the heroism
of Charles Martel.

Such were the rapid conquests of the Saracens--and permanent conquests
also--in Asia and Africa, under the stimulus of religious fanaticism,
until they had reduced thirty-six thousand cities, towns, and castles,
and built fourteen thousand mosques.

Now what are the deductions to be logically drawn from these stupendous
victories and the consolidation of the various religions of the
conquered into the creed of Mohammed,--not repudiated when the pressure
was removed, but apparently cherished by one hundred and eighty millions
of people for more than a thousand years?

We must take the ground that the religion of Mohammed has marvellous and
powerful truths, which we have overlooked and do not understand, which
appeal to the heart and conscience, and excite a great enthusiasm,--so
great as to stimulate successive generations with an almost unexampled
ardor, and to defend which they were ready to die; a religion which has
bound diverse nations together for nearly fourteen hundred years. If so,
it cannot be abused, or ridiculed, or sneered at, any more than can the
dominion of the popes in the Middle Ages, but remains august in
impressive mystery to us, and even to future ages.

But if, in comparison with Christianity, it is a corrupt and false
religion, as many assume, then what deductions must we draw from its
amazing triumphs? For the fact stares us in the face that it is rooted
deeply in a large part of the Eastern world, or, at least, has prevailed
victorious for more than a thousand years.

First, we must conclude that the external triumph of a religion,
especially among ignorant or wicked people, is not so much owing to the
purity and loftiness of its truths, as to its harmony with prevailing
errors and corruptions. When Mohammed preached his sublimest doctrines,
and appealed to reason and conscience, he converted about a score of
people in thirteen years. When he invoked demoralizing passions, he
converted all Arabia in eleven years. And does not this startling
conclusion seem to be confirmed by the whole history of mankind? How
slow the progress of Christianity for two hundred years, except when
assisted by direct supernatural influences! How rapid its triumphs when
it became adapted to the rude barbaric mind, or to the degenerate people
of the Empire! How popular and prevalent and widespread are those
religions which we are accustomed to regard as most corrupt! Buddhism
and Brahmanism have had more adherents than even Mohammedanism. How
difficult it was for Moses and the prophets to keep the Jews from
idolatry! What caused the rapid eclipse of faith in the antediluvian
world? Why could not Noah establish and perpetuate his doctrines among
his own descendants before he was dead? Why was the Socratic philosophy
unpopular? Why were the Epicureans so fashionable? Why was Christianity
itself most eagerly embraced when its light was obscured by fables and
superstitions? Why did the Roman Empire perish, with all the aid of a
magnificent civilization; why did this civilization itself retrograde;
why did its art and literature decline? Why did the grand triumphs of
Protestantism stop in half a century after Luther delivered his message?
What made the mediaeval popes so powerful? What gave such ascendency to
the Jesuits? Why is the simple faith of the primitive Christians so
obnoxious to the wise, the mighty, and the noble? What makes the most
insidious heresies so acceptable to the learned? Why is modern
literature, when fashionable and popular, so antichristian in its tone
and spirit? Why have not the doctrines of Luther held their own in
Germany, and those of Calvin in Geneva, and those of Cranmer in England,
and those of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England? Is it because, as men
become advanced in learning and culture, they are theologically wiser
than Moses and Abraham and Isaiah?

I do not cite the rapid decline of modern civilized society, in a
political or social view, in the most favored sections of Christendom; I
do not sing dirges over republican institutions; I would not croak
Jeremiads over the changes and developments of mankind. I simply speak
of the marvellous similarity which the spread and triumph of
Mohammedanism seem to bear to the spread and triumph of what is corrupt
and wicked in all institutions and religions since the fall of man.
Everywhere it is the frivolous, the corrupt, the false, which seem to be
most prevalent and most popular. Do men love truth, or readily accept
it, when it conflicts with passions and interests? Is any truth popular
which is arrayed against the pride of reason? When has pure moral truth
ever been fashionable? When have its advocates not been reviled,
slandered, misrepresented, and persecuted, if it has interfered with the
domination of prevailing interests? The lower the scale of pleasures the
more eagerly are they sought by the great mass of the people, even in
Christian communities. You can best make colleges thrive by turning them
into schools of technology, with a view of advancing utilitarian and
material interests. You cannot make a newspaper flourish unless
you fill it with pictures and scandals, or make it a vehicle of
advertisements,--which are not frivolous or corrupt, it is true, but
which have to do with merely material interests. Your libraries would
never be visited, if you took away their trash. Your Sabbath-school
books would not be read, unless you made them an insult to the human
understanding. Your salons would be deserted, if you entertained your
guests with instructive conversation. There would be no fashionable
gatherings, if it were not to display dresses and diamonds. Your pulpits
would be unoccupied, if you sought the profoundest men to fill them.

Everything, even in Christian communities, shows that vanities and
follies and falsehoods are the most sought, and that nothing is more
discouraging than appeals to high intelligence or virtue, even in art.
This is the uniform history of the race, everywhere and in all ages. Is
it darkness or light which the world loves? I never read, and I never
heard, of a great man with a great message to deliver, who would not
have sunk under disappointment or chagrin but for his faith. Everywhere
do you see the fascination of error, so that it almost seems to be as
vital as truth itself. When and where have not lies and sophistries and
hypocrisies reigned? I appeal to history. I appeal to the observation
and experience of every thoughtful and candid mind. You cannot get
around this truth. It blazes and it burns like the fires of Sinai. Men
left to themselves will more and more retrograde in virtue.

What, then, is the hope of the world? We are driven to this
deduction,--that if truth in itself is not all-conquering, the divine
assistance, given at times to truth itself, as in the early Church, is
the only reason why truth conquers. This divine grace, promised in the
Bible, has wrought wonders whenever it has pleased the Almighty to
bestow it, and only then. History teaches this as impressively as
revelation. Christianity itself, unaided, would probably die out in this
world. And hence the grand conclusion is, that it is the mysterious, or,
as some call it, the supernatural, spirit of Almighty power which is,
after all, the highest hope of this world. This is not discrepant with
the oldest traditions and theogonies of the East,--the hidden wisdom of
ancient Indian and Persian and Egyptian sages, concealed from the
vulgar, but really embraced by the profoundest men, before corruptions
perverted even their wisdom. This certainly is the earliest revelation
of the Bible. This is the power which Moses recognized, and all the
prophets who succeeded him. This is the power which even Mohammed, in
the loftiness of his contemplations, more dimly saw, and imperfectly
taught to the idolaters around him, and which gives to his system all
that was really valuable. Ask not when and where this power shall be
most truly felt. It is around us, and above us, and beneath us. It is
the mystery and grandeur of the ages. "It is not by might nor by power,
but by my spirit," saith the Lord. Man is nothing, his aspirations are
nothing, the universe itself is nothing, without the living, permeating
force which comes from this supernal Deity we adore, to interfere and
save. Without His special agency, giving to His truths vitality, this
world would soon become a hopeless and perpetual pandemonium. Take away
the necessity of this divine assistance as the one great condition of
all progress, as well as the highest boon which mortals seek,--then
prayer itself, recognized even by Mohammedans as the loftiest
aspiration and expression of a dependent soul, and regarded by prophets
and apostles and martyrs as their noblest privilege, becomes a
superstition, a puerility, a mockery, and a hopeless dream.


The Koran; Dean Prideaux's Life of Mohammed; Vie de Mahomet, by the
Comte de Boulainvilliers; Gagnier's Life of Mohammed; Ockley's History
of the Saracens; Gibbon, fiftieth chapter; Hallam's Middle Ages;
Milman's Latin Christianity; Dr. Weil's Mohammed der Prophet, sein Leben
und seine Lehre; Renan, Revue des Deux Mondes, 1851; Bustner's
Pilgrimage to El Medina and Mecca; Life of Mahomet, by Washington
Irving; Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes, par A.P. Caussin de Perceval;
Carlyle's Lectures on Heroes and Hero Worship; E.A. Freeman's Lectures
on the History of the Saracens; Forster's Mahometanism Unveiled; Maurice
on the Religions of the World; Life and Religion of Mohammed, translated
from the Persian, by Rev. I.L. Merrick.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 742-814.


The most illustrious monarch of the Middle Ages was doubtless
Charlemagne. Certainly he was the first great statesman, hero, and
organizer that looms up to view after the dissolution of the Roman
Empire. Therefore I present him as one with whom is associated an epoch
in civilization. To him we date the first memorable step which Europe
took out of the anarchies of the Merovingian age. His dream was to
revive the Empire that had fallen. He was the first to labor, with giant
strength, to restore what vice and violence had destroyed. He did not
succeed in realizing the great ends to which he aspired, but his
aspirations were lofty. It was not in the power of any man to civilize
semi-barbarians in a single reign; but if he attempted impossibilities
he did not live in vain, since he bequeathed some permanent conquests
and some great traditions. He left a great legacy to civilization. His
life has not dramatic interest like that of Hildebrand, nor poetic
interest like the lives of the leaders of the Crusades; but it is very
instructive. He was the pride of his own generation, and the boast of
succeeding ages, "claimed," says Sismondi, "by the Church as a saint, by
the French as the greatest of their kings, by the Germans as their
countryman, and by the Italians as their emperor."

His remote ancestors, it is said, were ecclesiastical magnates. His
grandfather was Charles Martel, who gained such signal victories over
the Mohammedan Saracens; his father was Pepin, who was a renowned
conqueror, and who subdued the southern part of France, or Gaul. He did
not rise, like Clovis, from the condition of a chieftain of a tribe of
barbarians; nor, like the founder of his family, from a mayor of the
palace, or minister of the Merovingian kings. His early life was spent
amid the turmoils and dangers of camps, and as a young man he was
distinguished for precocity of talent, manly beauty, and gigantic
physical strength. He was a type of chivalry, before chivalry arose. He
was born to greatness, and early succeeded to a great inheritance. At
the age of twenty-six, in the year 768, he became the monarch of the
greater part of modern France, and of those provinces which border on
the Rhine. By unwearied activities this inheritance, greater than that
of any of the Merovingian kings, was not only kept together and
preserved, but was increased by successive conquests, until no so great
an empire has ever been ruled by any one man in Europe, since the fall
of the Roman Empire, from his day to ours. Yet greater than the
conquests of Charlemagne was the greatness of his character. He
preserved simplicity and gentleness amid all the distractions attending
his government.

His reign affords a striking contrast to that of all his predecessors of
the Merovingian dynasty,--which reigned from the immediate destruction
of the Roman Empire. The Merovingian princes, with the exception of
Clovis and a few others, were mere barbarians, although converted to a
nominal Christianity. Some of them were monsters, and others were
idiots. Clotaire burned to death his own son and wife and daughters.
Frédegunde armed her assassins with poisoned daggers. "Thirteen
sovereigns reigned over the Franks in one hundred and fourteen years,
only two of whom attained to man's estate, and not one to the full
development of intellectual powers. There was scarcely one who did not
live in a state of perpetual intoxication, or who did not rival
Sardanapalus in effeminacy, and Commodus in cruelty." As these
sovereigns were ruled by priests, their iniquities were glossed over by
Gregory of Tours. In _his_ annals they may pass for saints, but history
consigns them to an infamous immortality.

It is difficult to conceive a more dreary and dismal state of society
than existed in France, and in fact over all Europe, when Charlemagne
began to reign. The Roman Empire was in ruins, except in the East, where
the Greek emperors reigned at Constantinople. The western provinces were
ruled by independent barbaric kings. There was no central authority,
although there was an attempt of the popes to revive it,--a spiritual
rather than a temporal power; a theocracy whose foundation had been laid
by Leo the Great when he established the _jus divinum_ principle,--that
he was the successor of Peter, to whom were given the keys of heaven and
hell. If there was an interesting feature in the times it was this
spiritual authority exercised by the bishops of Rome: the most useful
and beneficent considering the evils which prevailed,--the reign of
brute force. The barbaric chieftains yielded a partial homage to this
spiritual power, and it was some check on their rapacity of violence. It
is mournful to think that so little of the ancient civilization remained
in the eighth century. Its eclipse was total. The shadows of a dark and
long night of superstition and ignorance spread over Europe. Law was
silenced by the sword. Justinian's glorious legacy was already
forgotten. The old mechanism which had kept society together in the
fifth century was worn out, broken, rejected. There was no literature,
no philosophy, no poetry, no history, and no art. Even the clergy had
become ignorant, superstitious, and idle. Forms had taken the place
of faith. No great theologians had arisen since Saint Augustine. The
piety of the age hid itself in monasteries; and these monasteries were
as funereal as society itself. Men despaired of the world, and retreated
from it to sing mournful songs. The architecture of the age expressed
the sentiments of the age, and was heavy, gloomy, and monotonous. "The
barbarians ruthlessly marched over the ruins of cities and palaces,
having no regard for the treasures of the classic world, and unmoved by
the lessons of its past experience." Rome itself, repeatedly sacked, was
a heap of ruins. No reconstruction had taken place. Gardens and villas
were as desolate as the ruined palaces, which were the abodes of owls
and spiders. The immortal creations of the chisel were used to prop up
old crumbling walls. The costly monuments of senatorial pride were
broken to pieces in sport or in caprice, and those structures which had
excited the admiration of ages were pulled down that their material
might be used in erecting tasteless edifices. Literature shared the
general desolation. The valued manuscripts of classical ages were
mutilated, erased, or burned. The monks finished the destruction which
the barbarians began. Ignorance as well as anarchy veiled Europe in
darkness. The rust of barbarism became harder and thicker. The last hope
of man had fled, and glory was succeeded by shame. Even slavery, the
curse of the Roman Empire, was continued by the barbarians; only, brute
force was not made subservient to intellect, but intellect to brute
force. The descendants of ancient patrician families were in bondage to
barbarians. The age was the jubilee of monsters. Assassination was
common, and was unavenged by law. Every man was his own avenger of
crime, and his bloody weapons were his only law.

Nor were there seen among the barbaric chieftains the virtues of ancient
Pagan Rome and Greece, for Christianity was nominal. War was universal;
for the barbarians, having no longer the Romans to fight, fought among
themselves. There were incessant irruptions of different tribes passing
from one country to another, in search of plunder and pillage. There was
no security of life or property, and therefore no ambition for
acquisition. Men hid themselves in morasses, in forests, on the tops of
inaccessible hills, and amid the recesses of valleys, for violence was
the rule and not the exception. Even feudalism was not then born, and
still less chivalry. We find no elevated sentiments. The only refuge for
the miserable was in the Church, and the Church was governed by narrow
and ignorant priests. A cry of despair went up to heaven among the
descendants of the old population. There was no commerce, no travel, no
industries, no money, no peace. The chastisement of Almighty Power seems
to have been sent on the old races and the new alike. It was a
desolation greater than that predicted by Jeremy the prophet. The very
end of the world seemed to be at hand. Never in the old seats of
civilization was there such a disintegration; never such a combination
of evils and miseries. And there appeared to be no remedy: nothing but a
long night of horrors and sufferings could be predicted. Gaul, or
France, was the scene of turbulence, invasions, and anarchies; of
murders, of conflagrations, and of pillage by rival chieftains, who
sought to divide its territories among themselves. The people were
utterly trodden down. England was the battle-field of Danes, Saxons, and
Celts, invaded perpetually, and split up into petty Saxon kingdoms. The
roads were infested with robbers, and agriculture was rude. The people
lived in cabins, dressed themselves in skins, and fed on the coarsest
food. Spain was invaded by Saracens, and the Gothic kingdoms succumbed
to these fierce invaders. Italy was portioned out among different
tribes, Gothic and Slavonic. But the prevailing races in Europe were
Germanic (who had conquered both the Celts and the Romans), the Goths in
Spain, the Franks and Burgundians in France, the Lombards in Italy, the
Saxons in England.

What a commentary on the imperial government of the Caesars!--that
government which, with all its mechanisms and traditions, lasted
scarcely four hundred years. Was there ever, in the whole history of
the world, so sudden and mournful a change from civilization to
barbarism,--and this in spite of art, science, law, and Christianity
itself? Were there no conservative forces in that imposing Empire? Why
did society constantly decline for four hundred years, with that
civilization which was its boast and hope? Oh, ye optimists, who talk so
glibly about the natural and necessary progress of humanity, why was the
Roman Empire swept away, with all its material glories, to give place to
such a state of society as I have just briefly described?

And yet men should arise in due time, after the punishment of five
centuries of crime and violence, wretchedness and despair, to
reconstruct, not from the old Pagan materials of Greece and Rome, but
with the fresh energies of new races, aided and inspired by the truths
of the everlasting gospel. The infancy of the new races, sprung however
from the same old Aryan stock, passed into vigorous youth when
Charlemagne appeared. From him we date the first decided impulse given
to the Gothic civilization. He was the morning star of European hopes
and aspirations.

Let us now turn to his glorious deeds. What were the services he
rendered to Europe and Christian civilization?

It was necessary that a truly great man should arise in the eighth
century, if the new forces of civilization were to be organized. To show
what he did for the new races, and how he did it, is the historian's
duty and task in describing the reign of Charlemagne,--sent, I think, as
Moses was, for a providential mission, in the fulness of time, after the
slaveries of three hundred years, which prepared the people for labor
and industry. Better was it that they should till the lands of allodial
proprietors in misery and sorrow, attacked and pillaged, than to wander
like savages in forests and morasses in quest of a precarious support,
or in great predatory bands, as they did in the fourth and fifth
centuries, when they ravaged the provinces of the falling Empire.
Nothing was wanted but their consolidation under central rule in order
to repel aggressors. And that is what Charlemagne attempted to do.

He soon perceived the greatness of the struggle to which he was
destined, and he did not flinch from the contest which has given him
immortality. He comprehended the difficulties which surrounded him and
the dangers which menaced him.

The great perils which threatened Europe were from unsubdued barbarians,
who sought to replunge it into the miseries which the great irruptions
had inflicted three hundred years before. He therefore bent all the
energies of his mind and all the resources of his kingdom to arrest
these fresh waves of inundation. And so long was his contest with
Saxons, Avares, Lombards, and other tribes and races that he is chiefly
to be contemplated as a man who struggled against barbarism. And he
fought them, not for excitement, not for the love of fighting, not for
useless conquests, not for military fame, not for aggrandizement, but
because a stern necessity was laid upon him to protect his own
territories and the institutions he wished to conserve.

Of these barbarians there was one nation peculiarly warlike and
ferocious, and which cherished an inextinguishable hatred not merely of
the Franks, but of civilization itself. They were obstinately attached
to their old superstitions, and had a great repugnance to Christianity.
They were barbarians, like the old North American Indians, because they
determined to be so; because they loved their forests and the chase,
indulged in amusements which were uncertain and dangerous, and sought
for nothing beyond their immediate inclinations. They had no territorial
divisions, and abhorred cities as prisons of despotism. But, like all
the Germanic barbarians, they had interesting traits. They respected
women; they were brave and daring; they had a dogged perseverance, and a
noble passion for personal independence. But they were nevertheless the
enemies of civilization, of a regular and industrious life, and sought
plunder and revenge. The Franks and Goths were once like them, before
the time of Clovis; but they had made settlements, they tilled the land,
and built villages and cities: they were partially civilized, and were
converted to Christianity. But these new barbarians could not be won by
arts or the ministers of religion. These people were the Saxons, and
inhabited those parts of Germany which were bounded by the Rhine, the
Oder, the North Sea, and the Thuringian forests. They were fond of the
sea, and of daring expeditions for plunder. They were a kindred race to
those Saxons who had conquered England, and had the same elements of
character. They were poor, and sought to live by piracy and robbery.
They were very dangerous enemies, but if brought under subjection to
law, and converted to Christianity, might be turned into useful allies,
for they had the materials of a noble race.

With such a people on his borders, and every day becoming more
formidable, what was Charlemagne's policy? What was he to do? The only
thing to the eye of that enlightened statesman was to conquer them, if
possible, and add their territories to the Frankish Empire. If left to
themselves, they might have conquered the Franks. It was either anvil or
hammer. There could be no lasting peace in Europe while these barbarians
were left to pursue their depredations. A vigorous warfare was
imperative, for, unless subdued, a disadvantageous war would be carried
on near the frontiers, until some warrior would arise among them, unite
the various chieftains, and lead his followers to successful invasion.
Charlemagne knew that the difficult and unpleasant work of subjugation
must be done by somebody, and he was unwilling to leave the work to
enervated successors. The work was not child's play. It took him the
best part of his life to accomplish it, and amid great discouragements.
Of his fifty-three expeditions, eighteen were against the Saxons. As
soon as he had cut off one head of the monster, another head appeared.
How allegorical of human labor is that old fable of the Hydra! Where do
man's labors cease? Charlemagne fought not only amid great difficulties,
but perpetual irritations. The Saxons cheated him; they broke their
promises and their oaths. When beaten, they sued for peace; but the
moment his back was turned, they broke out in new insurrections. The
fame of Caesar chiefly rests on his eight campaigns in Gaul. But Caesar
had the disciplined Legions of Rome to fight with. Charlemagne had no
such disciplined troops. Yet he had as many difficulties to surmount as
Caesar,--rugged forests to penetrate, rapid rivers to cross, morasses to
avoid, and mountains to climb. It is a very difficult thing to subdue
even savages who are desperate, determined, and united.

Charlemagne fought the Saxons for thirty-three years. Though he never
lost a battle, they still held out. At first he was generous and
forgiving, for he was more magnanimous than Caesar; but they could not
be won by kindness. He was obliged to change his course, and at last was
as summary as Oliver Cromwell in Ireland. He is even accused of
cruelties. But war in the hands of masters has no quarter to give, and
no tears to shed. It was necessary to conquer the Saxons, and
Charlemagne used the requisite means. Sometimes the harshest measures
will most speedily effect the end. Did our fathers ever dream of
compromise with treacherous and hostile Indians? War has a horrid
maxim,--that "nothing is so successful as success." Charlemagne, at
last, was successful. The Saxons were so completely subdued at the end
of thirty-three years, that they never molested civilized Europe again.
They became civilized, like the once invading Celts and Goths; and they
even embraced the religion of the conquerors. They became ultimately the
best people in Europe,--earnest, honest, and brave. They formed great
kingdoms and states, and became new barriers against fresh inundations
from the North and East. The Saxons formed the nucleus of the great
German Empire (or were incorporated with it) which arose in the Middle
Ages, and which to-day is the most powerful in Europe, and the least
corrupted by the vices of a luxurious life. The descendants of those
Saxons are among the most industrious and useful settlers in the
New World.

There was one mistake which Charlemagne made in reference to them. He
forced their conversion to a nominal Christianity. He immersed them in
the rivers of Saxony, whether they would or no. He would make them
Christians in his way. But then, who does not seek to make converts in
his way, whether enlightened or not? When have the principles of
religious toleration been understood? Did the Puritans understand them,
with all their professions? Do we tolerate, in our hearts, those who
differ from us? Do not men look daggers, though they dare not use them?
If we had the power, would we not seek to produce conformity with our
notions, like Queen Elizabeth, or Oliver Cromwell, or Archbishop Laud?
There is not perhaps a village in America where a true catholicism
reigns. There is not a spot upon the globe where there is not some form
of religious persecution. Nor is there anything more sincere than
religious bigotry. And when people have not fundamental principles to
fight about, they will fight about technicalities and matters of no
account, and all the more bitterly sometimes when the objects of
contention are not worth fighting about at all,--as in forms of worship,
or baptism. Such is the weakness of human nature. Charlemagne was no
exception to the race. But if he wished to make Christians in his way,
he was, on the whole, enlightened. He caused the young Saxons, whom he
baptized and marked with the sign of the Cross, to be educated. He built
monasteries and churches in the conquered territories. He recognized
this,--that Christianity, whatever it be, is the mightiest power of the
world; and he bore his testimony in behalf of the intellectual dignity
of the clergy in comparison with other classes. He encouraged missions
as well as schools.

There was another Germanic tribe at that time which he held in great
alarm, but which he did not attack, since they were not immediately
dangerous. This tribe or race was the Norman, just then beginning their
ravages,--pirates in open boats. They had dared to enter a port in
Narbonensis Gaul for purposes of plunder. Some took them for Africans,
and others for British merchants. Nay, said Charlemagne, they are not
merchants, but cruel enemies; and he covered his face with his iron
hands and wept like a child. He did not fear these barbarians, but he
wept when he foresaw the evil they would do when he was dead. "I weep,"
said he, "that they should dare almost to land on my shores, in my
lifetime." These Normans escaped him. They conquered and they founded
kingdoms. But they did not replunge Europe in darkness. A barrier had
been made against their inundation. The Saxon conquest was that
barrier. Moreover, the Normans were the noblest race of barbarians which
then roamed through the forests of Germany, or skirted the shores of
Scandinavia. They had grand natural traits of character. They were
poetic, brave, and adventurous. They were superior to the Saxons and the
Franks. When converted, they were the great allies of the Pope, and
early became civilized. To them we trace the noblest development of
Gothic architecture. They became great scholars and statesmen. They were
more refined by nature than the Saxons, and avoided their gluttonous
habits. In after times they composed the flower of European chivalry. It
was providential that they were not subdued,--that they became the
leading race in Northern Europe. To them we trace the mercantile
greatness of England, for they were born sailors. They never lost their
natural heroism, or love of power.

The next important conquest of Charlemagne was that of the Avares,--a
tribe of the Huns, of Slavonic origin. They are represented as very
hideous barbarians, and only thought of plunder. They never sought to
reconstruct. There seemed to be no end of their invasions from the time
of Attila. They were more formidable for their numbers and destructive
ravages than for their military skill. There was a time, however, when
they threatened the combined forces of Germany and Rome; but Europe was
delivered by the battle of Poictiers,--the bloodiest battle on
record,--when they seemed to be annihilated. But they sprang up again,
in new invasions, in the ninth century. Had they conquered, civilization
would have been crushed out. But Charlemagne was successful against
them, and from that time to this they were shut out from western Europe.
They would be formidable now, for the Russians are the descendants of
these people, were it not for the barrier raised against them by the
Germans. The necessities of Europe still require the vast military
strength and organization of Germany, not to fight France, but to awe
Russia. Napoleon predicted that Europe would become either French or
Cossack; but there is little probability of Russian aggressions in
Europe, so long as Russia is held in check by Germany.

Charlemagne had now delivered France and Germany from external enemies.
He then turned his arms against the Saracens of Spain. This was the
great mistake of his life. Yet every one makes mistakes, however great
his genius. Alexander made the mistake of pushing his arms into India;
and Napoleon made a great blunder in invading Russia. Even Caesar died
at the right time for his military fame, for he was on the point of
attempting the conquest of Parthia, where, like Crassus, he would
probably have perished, or have lost his army. Needless conquests seem
to be impossible in the moral government of God, who rules the fate of
war. Conquests are only possible when civilization seems to require
them. In seeking to invade Spain, Charlemagne warred against a race from
whom Europe had nothing more to fear. His grandfather, Charles Martel,
had arrested the conquests of the Saracens; and they were quiet in their
settlements in Spain, and had made considerable attainments in science
and literature. Their schools of medicine and their arts were in advance
of the rest of Europe. They were the translators of Aristotle, who
reigned in the rising universities during the Middle Ages. As this war
was unnecessary, Providence seemed to rebuke Charlemagne. His defeat at
Roncesvalles was one of the most memorable events in his military
history. Prodigies of valor were wrought by him and his gallant
Paladins. The early heroic poetry of the Middle Ages has commemorated
his exploits, as well as those of his nephew Roland, to whom some
writers have ascribed the origin of Chivalry. But the Frankish forces
were signally defeated amid the passes of the Pyrenees; and it was not
until after several centuries that the Gothic princes of Spain shook off
the yoke of their Saracenic conquerors, and drove them from Europe.

The Lombard wars of Charlemagne are the last to which I allude. These
were undertaken in defence of the Church, to rescue his ally the Pope.
The Lombards belonged to the great Germanic family, but they were
unfriendly to the Pope and to the Church. They stood out against the
Empire, which was then the chief hope of Europe and of civilization.
They would have reduced the Pope to insignificance and seized his
territories, without uniting Italy. So Charlemagne, like his father
Pepin, lent his powerful aid to the Roman bishop, and the Lombards were
easily subdued. This conquest, although the easiest which he ever made,
most flattered his pride. Lombardy was not only joined to his Empire,
but he received unparalleled honors from the Pope, being crowned by him
Emperor of the West.

It was a proud day when, in the ancient metropolis of the world, and in
the fulness of his fame, Pope Leo III. placed the crown of Augustus upon
Charlemagne's brow, and gave to him, amid the festivities of Christmas,
his apostolic benediction. His dominions now extended from Catalonia to
the Bohemian forests, embracing Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy,
and the Spanish main,--the largest empire which any one man has
possessed since the fall of the Roman Empire. What more natural than for
Charlemagne to feel that he had restored the Western Empire? What more
natural than that he should have taken the title, still claimed by the
Austrian emperor, in one sense his legitimate successor,--Kaiser, or
Caesar? In the possession of such enormous power, he naturally dreamed
of establishing a new universal military monarchy like that of the
Romans,--as Charles V. dreamed, and Napoleon after him. But this is a
dream that Providence has rebuked among all successive conquerors. There
may have been need of the universal monarchy of the Caesars, that
Christianity might spread in peace, and be protected by a reign of law
and order. This at least is one of the platitudes of historians. Froude
himself harps on it in his life of Caesar. Historians are fond of
exalting the glories of imperialism, and everybody is dazzled by the
splendor and power of ancient Roman emperors. They do not, I think,
sufficiently consider the blasting influence of imperialism on the life
of nations,--how it dries up the sources of renovation, how it
necessarily withers literature and philosophy, how nothing can thrive
under it but pomp and material glories, how it paralyzes all virtuous
impulses, how it kills all enthusiasm, how it crushes out all hope and
lofty aspirations, how it makes slaves of its best subjects, how it
fills the earth with fear, how it drains national resources to support
standing armies, how it mocks all enterprises which do not receive
imperial approbation, how everything is concentrated to reflect the
glory of one man or family; how impossible, under its withering shade,
is manly independence, or the free expression of opinions or healthy
growth; how it buries up, under its armies, discontents and aspirations
alike, and creates nothing but machinery which must ultimately wear out
and leave a world in ruins, with nothing stable to take its place. Law
and order are good things, the preservation of property is desirable,
the punishment of crime is necessary; but there are other things which
are valuable also. Nothing is so valuable as the preservation of
national life; nothing is so healthy as scope for energies; nothing is
so contemptible and degrading as universal sycophancy to official rule.
There are no tyrants more oppressive than the tools of absolute power.
See in what a state imperialism left the Roman Empire when it fell.
There were no rallying forces; there was no resurrection of heroes.
Vitality had fled. Where would Turkey be to-day without the European
powers, if the Sultan's authority were to fall? It would be in the state
of ancient Babylon or Persia when those empires fell.

There is another side to imperialism besides dreaded anarchies.
Moreover, the whole progress of civilization has been counter to it. The
fiats of eternal justice have pronounced against it, because it is
antagonistic to the dignity of man and the triumphs of reason. I would
not fall in with the cant of the dignity of man, because there is no
dignity to man without aid from God Almighty through His spirit and the
message he has sent in Christianity. But there is dignity in man with
the aid of a regenerating gospel. Some people talk of the triumphs of
Christianity under the Roman emperors; but see how rapidly it was
corrupted by them when they sought the aid of its institutions to
bolster up their power. The power of Christianity is in its truths; in
its religion, and not in its forms and institutions, in its inventions
to uphold the arms of despotism and the tools of despotism. It is, and
it was, and it will be through all the ages the great power of the
world, against which it is vain to rebel. And that government is really
the best which unfetters its spiritual influence, and encourages it; and
not that government which seeks to perpetuate its corrupt and worldly
institutions. The Roman emperors made Christianity an institution, and
obscured its truths. And perhaps that is one reason why Providence
permitted their despotism to pass away,--preferring the rude anarchy of
the Germanic nations to the dead mechanism of a lifeless Church and
imperial rottenness. Imperialism must ever end in rottenness. And that
is one reason why the heart of Christendom--I mean the people of Europe,
in its enlightened and virtuous sections--has ever opposed imperialism.
The progress has been slow, but marked, towards representative
governments,--not the reign of the people directly, but of those whom
they select to represent them. The victory has been nearly gained in
England. In France the progress has been uniform since the Revolution.
Napoleon revived, or sought to revive, the imperialism of Rome. He
failed. There is nothing which the French now so cordially detest, since
their eyes have been opened to the character and ends of that usurper,
as his imperialism. It cannot be revived any more easily than the
oracles of Dodona. Even in Germany there are dreadful discontents in
view of the imperialism which Bismarck, by the force of successful wars,
has seemingly revived. The awful standing armies are a menace to all
liberty and progress and national development. In Italy itself there is
the commencement of constitutional authority, although it is united
under a king. The great standing warfare of modern times is
constitutional authority against the absolute power of kings and
emperors. And the progress has been on the side of liberty everywhere,
with occasional drawbacks, such as when Louis Napoleon revived the
accursed despotism of his uncle, and by the same means,--a standing army
and promises of military glory.

Hence, in the order of Providence, the dream of Charlemagne as to
unbounded military aggrandizement could not be realized. He could not
revive the imperialism of Rome or Persia. No man will ever arise in
Europe who can re-establish it, except for a brief period. It will be
rebuked by the superintending Power, because it is fatal to the highest
development of nations, because all its glories are delusory, because it
sows the seeds of ruin. It produces that very egotism, materialism, and
sensuality, that inglorious rest and pleasure, which, as everybody
concedes, prepared the way for violence.

And hence Charlemagne's empire went to pieces as soon as he was dead.
There was nothing permanent in his conquests, except those made against
barbarism. He was raised up to erect barriers against fresh inroads of
barbarians. His whole empire was finally split up into petty
sovereignties. In one sense he founded States, "since he founded the
States which sprang up from the dismemberment of his empire. The
kingdoms of Germany, Italy, France, Burgundy, Lorraine, Navarre, all
date to his memorable reign." But these mediaeval kingdoms were feudal;
the power of the kings was nominal. Government passed from imperialism
into the hands of nobles. The government of Europe in the Middle Ages
was a military aristocracy, only powerful as the interests of the people
were considered. Kings and princes did not make much show, except in the
trappings of royalty,--in gorgeous dresses of purple and gold, to suit a
barbaric taste,--in the insignia of power without its reality. The power
was among the aristocracy, who, it must be confessed, ground down the
people by a hard feudal rule, but who did not grind the souls out of
them, like the imperialism of absolute monarchies, with their standing
armies. Under them the feudal nobles of Europe at length recuperated.
Virtues were born everywhere,--in England, in France, in Germany, in
Holland,--which were a savor of life unto life: loyalty, self-respect,
fidelity to covenants, chivalry, sympathy with human misery, love of
home, rural sports, a glorious rural life, which gave stamina to
character,--a material which Christianity could work upon, and kindle
the latent fires of freedom, and the impulses of a generous enthusiasm.
It was under the fostering influences of small, independent chieftains
that manly strength and organized social institutions arose once
more,--the reserved power of unconquerable nations. Nobody hates
feudalism--in its corruptions, in its oppressions--more than I do. But
it was the transition stage from the anarchy which the collapse of
imperialism produced to the constitutional governments of our times, if
we could forget the absolute monarchies which flourished on the breaking
up of feudalism, when it became a tyranny and a mockery, but which
absolute monarchies flourished only one or two hundred years,--a sort of
necessity in the development of nations to check the insolence and
overgrown power of nobles, but after all essentially different from the
imperialism of Caesar or Napoleon, since they relied on the support of
nobles and municipalities more than on a standing army; yea, on votes
and grants from parliaments to raise money to support the
army,--certainly in England, as in the time of Elizabeth. The Bourbons,
indeed, reigned without grants from the people or the nobility, and what
was the logical result?--a French Revolution! Would a French Revolution
have been possible under the Roman Caesars?

But I will not pursue this gradual development of constitutional
government from the anarchies which arose out of the fall of the Roman
Empire,--just the reverse of what happened in the history of Rome; I say
no more of the imperialism which Charlemagne sought to restore, but was
not permitted by Providence, and which, after all, was the dream of his
latter days, when, like Napoleon, he was intoxicated by power and
brilliant conquests; and I turn to consider briefly his direct effects
in civilization, which showed his great and enlightened mind, and on
which his fame in no small degree rests.

Charlemagne was no insignificant legislator. His Capitularies may not be
equal to the laws of Justinian in natural justice, but were adapted to
his times and circumstances. He collected the scattered codes, so far as
laws were codified, of the various Germanic nations, and modified them.
He introduced a great Christian element into his jurisprudence. He made
use of the canons of the Church. His code is more ecclesiastical than
that of Theodosius even, the last great Christian emperor. But in his
day the clergy wielded great power, and their ordinances and decisions
were directed to society as it was. The clergy were the great jurists of
their day. The spiritual courts decided matters of great importance, and
took cognizance of cases which were out of the jurisdiction of temporal
courts. Charlemagne recognized the value of these spiritual courts, and
aided them. He had no quarrels with ecclesiastics, nor was he jealous of
their power. He allied himself with it. He was a friend of the clergy.
One of the peculiarities of all the Germanic laws, seen especially in
those of Ina and Alfred, was pecuniary compensation for crime: fifty
shillings, in England, would pay for the loss of a foot, and twenty for
a nose and four for a tooth; thus recognizing a principle seen in our
times in railroad accidents, though not recognized in our civil laws in
reference to crimes. This system of compensation Charlemagne retained,
which perhaps answered for his day.

He was also a great administrator. Nothing escaped his vigilance. I do
not read that he made many roads, or effected important internal
improvements. The age was too barbarous for the development of national
industries,--one of the main things which occupy modern statesmen and
governments. But whatever he did was wise and enlightened. He rewarded
merit; he made an alliance with learned men; he sought out the right men
for important posts; he made the learned Alcuin his teacher and
counsellor; he established libraries and schools; he built convents and
monasteries; he gave encouragement to men of great attainments; he loved
to surround himself with learned men; the scholars of all countries
sought his protection and patronage, and found him a friend. Alcuin
became one of the richest men in his dominions, and Englebert received
one of his daughters in marriage. Napoleon professed a great admiration
for Charlemagne, although Frederic II. was his model sovereign. But how
differently Napoleon acted in this respect! Napoleon was jealous of
literary genius. He hated literary men. He rarely invited them to his
table, and was constrained in their presence. He drove them out of the
kingdom even. He wanted nothing but homage,--and literary genius has no
sympathy with brute force, or machinery, or military exploits. But
Charlemagne, like Peter the Great, delighted in the society of all who
could teach him anything. He was a tolerably learned man himself,
considering his life of activity. He spoke Latin as fluently as his
native German, and it is said that he understood Greek. He liked to
visit schools, and witness the performances of the boys; and, provided
they made proficiency in their studies, he cared little for their noble
birth. He was no respecter of persons. With wrath he reproved the idle.
He promised rewards to merit and industry.

The most marked feature of his reign, outside his wars, was his sympathy
with the clergy. Here, too, he differed from Napoleon and Frederic II.
Mr. Hallam considers his alliance with the Church the great error of his
reign; but I believe it built up his throne. In his time the clergy were
the most influential people of the Empire and the most enlightened; but
at that time the great contest of the Middle Ages between spiritual and
temporal authority had not begun. Ambrose, indeed, had rebuked
Theodosius, and set in defiance the empress when she interfered with his
spiritual functions; and Leo had laid the corner-stone of the Papacy by
instituting a divine right to his decrees. But a Hildebrand and a Becket
had not arisen to usurp the prerogatives of their monarchs. Least of all
did popes then dream of subjecting the temporal powers and raising the
spiritual over them, so as to lead to issues with kings. That was a
later development in the history of the papacy. The popes of the eighth
and ninth centuries sought to heal disorder, to punish turbulent
chieftains, to sustain law and order, to establish a tribunal of justice
to which the discontented might appeal. They sought to conserve the
peace of the world. They sought to rule the Church, rather than the
world. They aimed at a theocratic ministry,--to be the ambassadors of
God Almighty,--to allay strife and division.

The clergy were the friends of order and law, and they were the natural
guardians of learning. They were kind masters to the slaves,--for
slavery still prevailed. That was an evil with which the clergy did not
grapple; they would ameliorate it, but did not seek to remove it. Yet
they shielded the unfortunate and the persecuted and the poor; they gave
the only consolation which an iron age afforded. The Church was gloomy,
ascetic, austere, like the cathedrals of that time. Monks buried
themselves in crypts; they sang mournful songs; they saw nothing but
poverty and misery, and they came to the relief in a funereal way. But
they were not cold and hard and cruel, like baronial lords. Secular
lords were rapacious, and ground down the people, and mocked and
trampled upon them; but the clergy were hospitable, gentle, and
affectionate. They sympathized with the people, from whom they chiefly
sprang. They had their vices, but those vices were not half so revolting
as those of barons and knights. Intellectually, the clergy were at all
times the superiors of these secular lords. They loved the peaceful
virtues which were generated in the consecrated convent. The passions of
nobles urged them on to perpetual pillage, injustice, and cruelty. The
clergy only quarrelled among themselves. Their vices were those of envy,
and perhaps of gluttony; but they were not public robbers. They were
the best farmers of their times; they cultivated lands, and made them
attractive by fruits and flowers. They were generally industrious; every
convent was a beehive, in which various kinds of manufactures were
produced. The monks aspired even to be artists. They illuminated
manuscripts, as well as copied them; they made tapestries and beautiful
vestments. They were a peaceful and useful set of men, at this period
outside their spiritual functions; they built grand churches; they had
fruitful gardens; they were exceedingly hospitable. Every monastery was
an inn, as well as a beehive, to which all travellers resorted, and
where no pay was exacted. It was a retreat for the unfortunate, which no
one dared assail. And it was vocal with songs and anthems.

The clergy were not only thus general benefactors in an age of
turbulence and crime, in spite of all their narrowness and spiritual
pride and ghostly arts and ambition for power, but they lent a helping
hand to the peasantry. The Church was democratic, and enabled the poor
to rise according to their merits, while nobles combined to crush them
or keep them in an ignoble sphere. In the Church, the son of a murdered
peasant could rise according to his deserts; but if he followed a
warrior to the battle-field, no virtues, no talents, no bravery could
elevate him,--he was still a peasant, a low-born menial. If he entered
a monastery, he might pass from office to office until as a mitred abbot
he would become the master of ten thousand acres, the counsellor of
kings, the equal of that proud baron in whose service his father spent
his abject life. The great Hildebrand was the son of a carpenter. The
Church ever recognized, what feudality did not,--the claims of man as
man; and enabled peasants' sons, if they had abilities and virtues, to
rise to proud positions,--to be the patrons of the learned, the
companions of princes, the ministers of kings.

And that is the reason why Charlemagne befriended the Church and
elevated it, because its influence was civilizing. He sought to
establish among the clergy a counterbalancing power to that of nobles.
Who can doubt that the influence of the Church was better than that of
nobles in the Middle Ages? If it ground down society by a spiritual
yoke, that yoke was necessary, for the rude Middle Ages could be ruled
only by fear. What fear more potent than the destruction of the soul in
a future life! It was by this weapon--excommunication--that Europe was
governed. We may abhor it, but it was the great idea of Mediaeval
Europe, which no one could resist, and which kept society from
dissolution. Charlemagne may have erred in thus giving power and
consideration to the clergy, in view of the subsequent encroachments of
the popes. But he never anticipated the future quarrels between his
successors and the popes, for the popes were not then formidable as the
antagonists of kings. I believe his policy was the best for Europe, on
the whole. The infancy of the Gothic races was long, dark, dreary, and
unfortunate, but it prepared them for the civilization which
they scorned.

Such were the services which this great sovereign rendered to his times
and to Europe. He probably saved it from renewed barbarism. He was the
great legislator of the Middle Ages, and the greatest friend--after
Constantine and Theodosius--of which the Church can boast. With him
dawned the new civilization. He brought back souvenirs of Rome and the
Empire. Not for himself did he live, but for the welfare of the nations
he governed. It was his example which Alfred sought to imitate. Though a
warrior, he saw something greater than the warrior's excellence. It is
said he was eloquent, like Julius Caesar. He loved music and all the
arts. In his palace at Aix-la-Chapelle were sung the songs of the
earliest poets of Germany. He took great pains to introduce the
Gregorian chant. He was simple in dress, and only on rare occasions did
he indulge in parade. He was temperate in eating and drinking, as all
the famous warriors have been. He absolutely abhorred drunkenness, the
great vice of the Northern nations. During meals he listened to the
lays of minstrels or the readings of his secretaries. He took unwearied
pains with the education of his daughters, and he was so fond of them
that they even accompanied him in his military expeditions. He was not
one of those men that Gibbon appreciated; but his fame is steadily
growing, after a lapse of a thousand years. His whole appearance was
manly, cheerful, and dignified. His countenance reflected a child-like
serenity. He was one of the few men, like David, who was not spoiled by
war and flatteries. Though gentle, he was subject to fits of anger, like
Theodosius; but he did not affect anger, like Napoleon, for theatrical
effect. His greatness and his simplicity, his humanity and his religious
faith, are typical of the Germanic race. He died A.D. 814, after a reign
of half a century, lamented by his own subjects and to be admired by
succeeding generations. Hallam, though not eloquent generally, has
pronounced his most beautiful eulogy, "written in the disgraces and
miseries of succeeding times. He stands alone like a rock in the ocean,
like a beacon on a waste. His sceptre was the bow of Ulysses, not to be
bent by a weaker hand. In the dark ages of European history, his reign
affords a solitary resting-place between two dark periods of turbulence
and ignominy, deriving the advantage of contrast both from that of the
preceding dynasty and of a posterity for whom he had founded an empire
which they were unworthy and unequal to maintain."

To such a tribute I can add nothing. His greatness consists in this,
that, born amidst barbarism, he was yet the friend of civilization, and
understood its elemental principles, and struggled forty-seven years to
establish them,--failing only because his successors and subjects were
not prepared for them, and could not learn them until the severe
experience of ten centuries, amidst disasters and storms, should prove
the value of the "old basal walls and pillars" which remained unburied
amid the despised ruins of antiquity, and show that no structure could
adequately shelter the European nations which was not established by the
beautiful union of German vigor with Christian art,--by the combined
richness of native genius with those immortal treasures which had
escaped the wreck of the classic world.


Eginhard's Vita Caroli Magni; Le Clerc's De la Bruyère, Histoire du
Règne de Charlemagne; Haureau's Charlemagne et son Cour; Gaillard's
Histoire de Charlemagne; Lorenz's Karls des Grossen. There is a
tolerably popular history of Charlemagne by James Bulfinch, entitled
"Legends of Charlemagne;" also a Life by James the novelist. Henri
Martin, Sismondi, and Michelet may be consulted; also Hallam's Middle
Ages, Milman's Latin Christianity, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire, Biographic Universelle, and the Encyclopaedias.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1020-1085.


We associate with Hildebrand the great contest of the Middle Ages
between spiritual and temporal authority, the triumph of the former, and
its supremacy in Europe until the Reformation. What great ideas and
events are interwoven with that majestic domination,--not in one age,
but for fifteen centuries; not religious merely, but political,
embracing as it were the whole progress of European society, from the
fall of the Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation; yea, intimately
connected with the condition of Europe to the present day, and not of
Europe only, but America itself! What an august power is this Catholic
empire, equally great as an institution and as a religion! What lessons
of human experience, what great truths of government, what subtile
influences, reaching alike the palaces of kings and the hovels of
peasants, are indissolubly linked with its marvellous domination, so
that whether in its growth or decay it is more suggestive than the rise
and fall of any temporal empire. It has produced, probably, more
illustrious men than any political State in Europe. It has aimed to
accomplish far grander ends. It is invested with more poetic interest.
Its policy, its heroes, its saints, its doctors, its dignitaries, its
missions, its persecutions, all rise up before us with varied but
never-ending interest, when seriously contemplated. It has proved to be
the most wonderful fabric of what we call worldly wisdom that our world
has seen,--controlling kings, dictating laws to ancient monarchies, and
binding the souls of millions with a more perfect despotism than
Oriental emperors ever sought or dreamed. And what a marvellous vitality
it seems to have! It has survived the attacks of its countless enemies;
it has recovered from the shock of the Reformation; it still remains
majestic and powerful, extending its arms of paternal love or Briarean
terror over half of Christendom. As a temporal government, rivalling
kings in the pomps of war and the pride of armies, it may be passing
away; but as an organization to diffuse and conserve religious
truths,--yea, even to bring a moral pressure on the minds of princes and
governors, and reinforce its ranks with the mighty and the noble,--it
seems to be as potent as ever. It is still sending its missionaries, its
prelates, and its cardinals into the heart of Protestant countries, who
anticipate and boast of new victories. It derides the dissensions and
the rationalistic speculations of the Protestants, and predicts that
they will either become open Pagans or re-enter the fold of Saint Peter.
No longer do angry partisans call it the "Beast" or the "Scarlet Mother"
or the "predicted Antichrist," since its religious creeds in their vital
points are more in harmony with the theology of venerated Fathers than
those of some of the progressive and proudest parties which call
themselves Protestant. In Germany, in France,--shall I add, in England
and America?--it is more in earnest, and more laborious and self-denying
than many sects among the Protestants. In Germany--in those very seats
of learning and power and fashion which once were kindled into lofty
enthusiasm by the voice of Luther--who is it that desert the churches
and disregard the sacraments, the Catholics or the Protestants?

Surely such a power, whether we view it as an institution or as a
religion, cannot be despised, even by the narrowest and most fanatical
Protestant. It is too grand and venerable for sarcasm, ridicule, or
mockery. It is too potent and respectable to be sneered at or lied
about. No cause can be advanced permanently except by adherence to the
truth, whether it be agreeable or not. If the Papacy were a mere
despotism, having nothing else in view than the inthralment of
mankind,--of which it has been accused,--then mankind long ago, in lofty
indignation, would have hurled it from its venerable throne. But
despotic as its yoke is in the eyes of Protestants, and always has been
and always may be, it is something more than that, having at heart the
welfare of the very millions whom it rules by working on their fears. In
spite of dogmas which are deductions from questionable premises, or
which are at war with reason, and ritualism borrowed from other
religions, and "pious frauds," and Jesuitical means to compass desirable
ends,--which Protestants indignantly discard, and which they maintain
are antagonistic to the spirit of primitive Christianity,--still it is
also the defender and advocate of vital Christian truths, to which we
trace the hopes and consolations of mankind. As the conservator of
doctrines common to all Christian sects it cannot be swept away by the
hand of man; nor as a government, confining its officers and rules to
the spiritual necessities of its members. Its empire is spiritual rather
than temporal. Temporal monarchs are hurled from their thrones. The long
line of the Bourbons vanishes before the tempests of revolution, and
they who were borne into power by these tempests are in turn hurled into
ignominious banishment; but the Pope--he still sits secure on the throne
of the Gregories and the Clements, ready to pronounce benedictions or
hurl anathemas, to which half of Europe bows in fear or love.

Whence this strange vitality? What are the elements of a power so
enduring and so irresistible? What has given to it its greatness and its
dignity? I confess I gaze upon it as a peasant surveys a king, as a boy
contemplates a queen of beauty,--as something which may be talked about,
yet removed beyond our influence, and no more affected by our praise or
censure than is a procession of cardinals by the gaze of admiring
spectators in Saint Peter's Church. Who can measure it, or analyze it,
or comprehend it? The weapons of reason appear to fall impotent before
its haughty dogmatism. Genius cannot reconcile its inconsistencies.
Serenely it sits, unmoved amid all the aggressions of human thought and
all the triumphs of modern science. It is both lofty and degraded;
simple, yet worldly wise; humble, yet scornful and proud; washing
beggars' feet, yet imposing commands on the potentates of earth;
benignant, yet severe on all who rebel; here clothed in rags, and there
revelling in palaces; supported by charities, yet feasting the princes
of the earth; assuming the title of "servant of the servants of God,"
yet arrogating the highest seat among worldly dignitaries. Was there
ever such a contradiction?--"glory in debasement, and debasement in
glory,"--type of the misery and greatness of man? Was there ever such a
mystery, so occult are its arts, so subtile its policy, so plausible its
pretensions, so certain its shafts? How imposing the words of paternal
benediction! How grand the liturgy brought down from ages of faith! How
absorbed with beatific devotion appears to be the worshipper at its
consecrated altars! How ravishing the music and the chants of grand
ceremonials! How typical the churches and consecrated monuments of the
passion of Christ! Everywhere you see the great emblem of our
redemption,--on the loftiest pinnacle of the Mediaeval cathedral, on the
dresses of the priests, over the gorgeous altars, in the ceremony of the
Mass, in the baptismal rite, in the paintings of the side chapels;
everywhere are rites and emblems betokening maceration, grief,
sacrifice, penitence, the humiliation of humanity before the awful power
of divine Omnipotence, whose personality and moral government no
Catholic dares openly to deny.

And yet, of what crimes and abominations has not this government been,
accused? If we go back to darker ages, and accept what history records,
what wars has not this Church encouraged, what discords has she not
incited, what superstitions has she not indorsed, what pride has she not
arrogated, what cruelties has she not inflicted, what countries has she
not robbed, what hardships has she not imposed, what deceptions has she
not used, what avenues of thought has she not guarded with a flaming
sword, what truth has she not perverted, what goodness has she not
mocked and persecuted? Ah, interrogate the Albigenses, the Waldenses,
the shades of Jerome of Prague, of Huss, of Savonarola, of Cranmer, of
Coligny, of Galileo; interrogate the martyrs of the Thirty Years' War,
and those who were slain by the dragonnades of Louis XIV., those who
fell by the hand of Alva and Charles IX.; go to Smithfield, and Paris on
Saint Bartholomew; think of gunpowder plots and inquisitions, and Jesuit
intrigues and Dominican tortures, of which history accuses the Papal
Church,--barbarities worse than those of savages, inflicted at the
command of the ministers of a gospel of love!

I am compelled to allude to these things; I do not dwell on them, since
they were the result of the intolerance of human nature as much as the
bigotry of the Church,--faults of an age, more than of a religion;
although, whether exaggerated or not, more disgraceful than the
persecutions of Christians by Roman emperors.

As for the supreme rulers of this contradictory Church, so benevolent
and yet so cruel, so enlightened and yet so fanatical, so humble and yet
so proud,--this institution of blended piety and fraud, equally renowned
for saints, theologians, statesmen, drivellers, and fanatics; the joy
and the reproach, the glory and the shame of earth,--there never were
greater geniuses or greater fools: saints of almost preternatural
sanctity, like the first Leo and Gregory, or hounds like Boniface VIII.
or Alexander VI.; an array of scholars and dunces, ascetics and
gluttons, men who adorned and men who scandalized their lofty position;
and yet, on the whole, we are forced to admit, the most remarkable body
of rulers any empire has known, since they were elevated by their peers,
and generally for talents or services, at a period of life when
character is formed and experience is matured. They were not greater
than their Church or their age, like the Charlemagnes and Peters of
secular history, but they were the picked men, the best representatives
of their Church; ambitious, doubtless, and worldly, as great potentates
generally are, but made so by the circumstances which controlled them.
Who can wield irresponsible power and not become arrogant, and perhaps
self-indulgent? It requires the almost superhuman virtue of a Marcus
Aurelius or a Saint Louis to crucify the pride of rank and power. If the
president of a college or of a railroad or of a bank becomes a different
man to the eye of an early friend, what can be expected of those who are
raised above public opinion, and have no fetters on their wills,--men
who are regarded as infallible and feel themselves supreme!

But of all these three hundred or four hundred men who have swayed the
destinies of Europe,--an uninterrupted line of pontiffs for fifteen
hundred years or more,--no one is so famous as Gregory VII. for the
grandeur of his character, the heroism of his struggles, and the
posthumous influence of his deeds. He was too great a man to be called
by his papal title. He is best known by his baptismal name, Hildebrand,
the greatest hero of the Roman Church. There are some men whose titles
add nothing to their august names,--David, Julius, Constantine,
Augustine. When a man has become very eminent we drop titles altogether,
except in military life. We say Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, Jonathan
Edwards, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, William Pitt. Hildebrand
is a greater name than Gregory VII., and with him is identified the
greatest struggle of the Papacy against the temporal powers. I do not
aim to dissect his character so much as to present his services to the
Church. I wish to show why and how he is identified with movements of
supreme historical importance. It would be easy to make him out a saint
and martyr, and equally so to paint him as a tyrant and usurper. It is
of little consequence to us whether he was ascetic or ambitious or
unscrupulous; but it _is_ of consequence to show the majestic power of
those ideas by which he ruled the Middle Ages, and which will never pass
away as sublime agencies so long as men are ignorant and superstitious.
As a man he no longer lives, but his thunderbolts are perpetual powers,
since they still alarm the fears of men.

Still, his personal history is not uninteresting. Born of humble
parents in Italy in the year 1020, the son of a carpenter, he rose by
genius and virtue to the highest offices and dignities. But his
greatness was in force of character rather than original ideas,--like
that of Washington, or William III., or the Duke of Wellington. He had
not the comprehensive intellect of Charlemagne, nor the creative genius
of Peter of Russia, but he had the sagacity of Richelieu and the iron
will of Napoleon. He was statesman as well as priest,--marvellous for
his activity, insight into human nature, vast executive abilities, and
dauntless heroism. He comprehended the only way whereby Christendom
could be governed, and unscrupulously used the means of success. He was
not a great scholar, or theologian, or philosopher, but a man of action,
embracing opportunities and striking decisive blows. From first to last
he was devoted to his cause, which was greater than himself,--even the
spiritual supremacy of the Papacy. I do not read of great intellectual
precocity, like that of Cicero and William Pitt, nor of great
attainments, like those of Abélard and Thomas Aquinas, nor even an
insight, like that of Bacon, into what constitutes the dignity of man
and the true glory of civilization; but, like Ambrose and the first Leo,
he was early selected for important missions and responsible trusts, all
of which he discharged with great fidelity and ability. His education
was directed by the monks of Cluny,--that princely abbey in Burgundy
where "monks were sovereigns and sovereigns were monks." Like all
earnest monks, he was ascetic, devotional, and self-sacrificing. Like
all men ambitious to rule, "he learned how to obey." He pondered on the
Holy Scriptures as well as on the canons of the Church. So marked a man
was he that he was early chosen as prior of his convent; and so great
were his personal magnetism, eloquence, and influence that "he induced
Bruno, the Bishop of Toul, when elected pope by the Emperor of Germany,
to lay aside the badges and vestments of the pontifical office, and
refuse his title, until he should be elected by the clergy and people of
Rome,"--thus showing that at the age of twenty-nine he comprehended the
issues of the day, and meditated on the gigantic changes it was
necessary to make before the pope could be the supreme ruler of

The autocratic idea of Leo I., and the great Gregory who sent his
missionaries to England, was that to which Hildebrand's ardent soul
clung with preternatural earnestness, as the only government fit for
turbulent and superstitious ages. He did not originate this idea, but he
defended and enforced it as had never been done before, so that to many
minds he was the great architect of the papal structure. It was a rare
spectacle to see a sovereign pontiff lay aside the insignia of his
grandeur at the bidding of this monk of Cluny; it was grander to see
this monk laying the foundation of an irresistible despotism, which was
to last beyond the time of Luther. Not merely was Leo IX. his tool, but
three successive popes were chosen at his dictation. And when he became
cardinal and archdeacon he seems to have been the inspiring genius of
the papal government, undertaking the most important missions, curbing
the turbulent spirit of the Roman princes, and assisting in all
ecclesiastical councils. It was by his suggestion that abbots were
deposed, and bishops punished, and monarchs reprimanded. He was the
prime minister of four popes before he accepted that high office to
which he doubtless had aspired while meditating as a monk amid the sunny
slopes of Cluny, since he knew that the exigences of the Church required
a bold and able ruler,--and who in Christendom was bolder and more
far-reaching than he? He might have been elevated to the chair of Saint
Peter at an earlier period, but he was contented with power rather than
glory, knowing that his day would come, and at a time when his
extraordinary abilities would be most needed. He could afford to wait;
and no man is truly great who cannot bide his time.

At last Hildebrand received the reward of his great services,--"a
reward," says Stephen, "which he had long contemplated, but which, with
self-controlling policy, he had so long declined." In the year 1073
Hildebrand became Gregory VII., and his memorable pontificate began as a
reformer of the abuses of his age, and the intrepid defender of that
unlimited and absolute despotism which inthralled not merely the princes
of Europe, but the mind of Christendom itself. It was he who not only
proclaimed the liberties of the people against nobles, and made the
Church an asylum for misery and oppression, but who realized the idea
that the Church was the mother of spiritual principles, and that the
spiritual authority should be raised over all temporal power.

In the great crises of States and Empires deliverers seem to be raised
up by Divine Providence to restore peace and order, and maintain the
first condition of society, or extricate nations from overwhelming
calamities. Thus Charlemagne appeared at the right time to prevent the
overthrow of Europe by new waves of barbaric invasion. Thus William the
Silent preserved the nationality of Holland, and Gustavus Adolphus gave
religious liberty to Germany when persecution was apparently successful.
Thus Richelieu undermined feudalism in France, and established
absolutism as one of the needed forces of his turbulent age, even as
Napoleon gave law and order to France when distracted by the anarchism
of a revolution which did not comprehend the liberty which was invoked.
So Hildebrand was raised up to establish the only government which could
rescue Europe from the rapacities of feudal nobles, and establish law
and order in the hands of the most enlightened class; so that, like
Peter the Great, he looms up as a reformer as well as a despot. He
appears in a double light.

Now you ask: "What were his reforms, and what were his schemes of
aggrandizement, for which we honor him while we denounce him?" We cannot
see the reforms he attempted without glancing at the enormous evils
which stared him in the face.

Society in Europe, in the eleventh century, was nearly as dark and
degraded as it was on the fall of the Merovingian dynasty. In some
respects it had reached the lowest depth of wretchedness which the
Middle Ages ever saw. Never had the clergy been more ignorant, more
sensual, and more worldly. They had not the piety of the fourth century,
nor the intelligence of the sixteenth century; they were powerful and
wealthy, but exceedingly corrupt. Monastic institutions covered the face
of Europe, but the monks had sadly departed from the virtues which
partially redeemed the miseries that succeeded the fall of the Roman
Empire. The lives of the clergy, regular and secular, still compared
favorably with the lives of the feudal nobility, who had, in addition to
priestly vices, the vices of robbers and bandits. But still the clergy
were notoriously ignorant, superstitious, and sensual. Monasteries
sought to be independent of all foreign control and of episcopal
jurisdiction. They had been enormously enriched by princes and barons,
and they owned, with the other clergy, half the lands of Europe, and
more than half its silver and gold. The monks fattened on all the
luxuries which then were known; they neglected the rules of their order
and lived in idleness,--spending their time in the chase, or in taverns
and brothels. Hardly a great scholar or theologian had arisen among them
since the Patristic age, with the exception of a few schoolmen like
Anselm and Peter Lombard. Saint Bernard had not yet appeared to reform
the Benedictines, nor Dominic and Saint Francis to found new orders.
Gluttony and idleness were perhaps the characteristic vices of the great
body of the monks, who numbered over one hundred thousand. Hunting and
hawking were the most innocent of their amusements. They have been
accused of drinking toasts in honor of the Devil, and celebrating Mass
in a state of intoxication. "Not one in a thousand," says Hallam, "could
address to one another a common letter of salutation." They were a
walking libel on everything sacred. Read the account of their banquets
in the annals which have come down to us of the tenth and eleventh
centuries, when convents were so numerous and rich. If Dugdale is to be
credited, their gluttony exceeded that of any previous or succeeding
age. Their cupidity, their drunken revels, their infamous haunts, their
disgusting coarseness, their hypocrisy, ignorance, selfishness, and
superstition were notorious. Yet the monks were not worse than the
secular clergy, high and low. Bishoprics and all benefices were bought
and sold; "canons were trodden under foot; ancient traditions were
turned out of doors; old customs were laid aside;" boys were made
archbishops; ludicrous stories were recited in the churches; the most
disgraceful crimes were pardoned for money. Desolation, according to
Cardinal Baronius, was seen in the temples of the Lord. As Petrarch said
of Avignon in a better age, "There is no pity, no charity, no faith, no
fear of God. The air, the streets, the houses, the markets, the beds,
the hotels, the churches, even the altars consecrated to God, are all
peopled with knaves and liars;" or, to use the still stronger language
of a great reviewer, "The gates of hell appeared to roll back on their
infernal hinges, that there might go forth malignant spirits to empty
the vials of wrath on the patrimony even of the great chief of the

These vices, it is true, were not confined to the clergy. All classes
were alike forlorn, miserable, and corrupt. It was a gloomy period. The
Church, whenever religious, was sad and despairing. The contemplative
hid themselves in noisome and sepulchral crypts. The inspiring chants of
Ambrose gave place to gloomy and monotonous antiphonal singing,--that
is, when the monks confined themselves to their dismal vocation. What
was especially needed was a reform among the clergy themselves. They
indeed owned their allegiance to the Pope, as the supreme head of the
Church, but their fealty was becoming a mockery. They could not support
the throne of absolutism if they were not respected by the laity.
Baronial and feudal power was rapidly gaining over spiritual, and this
was a poor exchange for the power of the clergy, if it led to violence
and rapine. It is to maintain law and order, justice and safety, that
all governments are established.

Hildebrand saw and lamented the countless evils of the day, especially
those which were loosening the bands of clerical obedience, and
undermining the absolutism which had become the great necessity of his
age. He made up his mind to reform these evils. No pope before him had
seriously undertaken this gigantic task. The popes who for two hundred
years had preceded him were a scandal and a reproach to their exalted
position. These heirs of Saint Peter wasted their patrimony in pleasures
and pomps. At no period of the papal history was the papal chair filled
with such bad or incompetent men. Of these popes two were murdered, five
were driven into exile, and four were deposed. Some were raised to
prominence by arms, and others by money. John X. commanded an army in
person; John XI. died in a fit of debauchery; and John XII. was
murdered by one of the infamous women whom he patronized. Benedict IX.
was driven from the throne by robbery and murder, while Gregory VI.
purchased the papal dignity. For two hundred years no commanding
character had worn the tiara.

Hildebrand, however, set a new example, and became a watchful shepherd
of his fold. His private life was without reproach; he was absorbed in
his duties; he sympathized with learning and learned men. He was the
friend of Lanfranc, and it was by his influence that this great prelate
was appointed to the See of Canterbury, and a closer union was formed
with England. He infused by his example a quiet but noble courage into
the soul of Anselm. He had great faults, of course,--faults of his own
and faults of his age. I wonder why so _strong_ a man has escaped the
admiring eulogium of Carlyle. Guizot compares him with the Russian
Peter. In some respects he reminds me of Oliver Cromwell; since both
equally deplored the evils of the day, and both invoked the aid of God
Almighty. Both were ambitious, and unscrupulous in the use of tools.
Neither of them was stained by vulgar vices, nor seduced from his course
by love of ease or pleasure. Both are to be contemplated in the double
light of reformer and usurper. Both were honest, and both were
unscrupulous; honest in seeking to promote public morality and the
welfare of society, and unscrupulous in the arts by which their power
was gained.

That which filled the soul of Hildebrand with especial grief was the
alienation of the clergy from their highest duties, their worldly lives,
and their frail support in his efforts to elevate the spiritual power.
Therefore he determined to make a reform of the clergy themselves,
having in view all the time their assistance in establishing the papal
supremacy. He attacked the clergy where they were weakest. They--the
secular ones, the parish priests--were getting married, especially in
Germany and France. They were setting at defiance the laws of celibacy;
they not only sought wives, but they lived in concubinage.

Now celibacy had been regarded as the supernal virtue from the time of
Saint Jerome. It was supposed to be a state most favorable to Christian
perfection; it animated the existence of the most noted saints. Says
Jerome, "Take axe in hand and hew down the sterile tree of marriage."
This notion of the superior virtue of virginity was one of the fruits of
those Eastern theogonies which were engrafted on the early Church,
growing out of the Oriental idea of the inalienable evil of matter. It
was one of the fundamental principles of monasticism; and monasticism,
wherever born--whether in India or the Syrian deserts--was one of the
established institutions of the Church. It was indorsed by Benedict as
well as by Basil; it had taken possession of the minds of the Gothic
nations more firmly even than of the Eastern. The East never saw such
monasteries as those which covered Italy, France, Germany, and England;
they were more needed among the feudal robbers of Europe than in the
effeminate monarchies of Asia. Moreover it was in monasteries that the
popes had ever found their strongest adherents, their most zealous
supporters. Without the aid of convents the papal empire might have
crumbled. Monasticism and the papacy were strongly allied; one supported
the other. So efficient were monastic institutions in advocating the
idea of a theocracy, as upheld by the popes, that they were exempted
from episcopal authority. An abbot was as powerful and independent as a
bishop. But to make the Papacy supreme it was necessary to call in the
aid of the secular priests likewise. Unmarried priests, being more like
monks, were more efficient supporters of the papal throne. To maintain
celibacy, therefore, was always in accordance with papal policy.

But Nature had gradually asserted its claims over tradition and
authority. The clergy, especially in France and Germany, were setting at
defiance the edicts of popes and councils. The glory of celibacy was in
an eclipse.

No one comprehended the necessity of celibacy, among the clergy, more
clearly than Hildebrand,--himself a monk by education and sympathy. He
looked upon married life, with all its hallowed beauty, as a profanation
for a priest. In his eyes the clergy were married only to the Church.
"Domestic affections suited ill with the duties of a theocratic
ministry." Anything which diverted the labors of the clergy from the
Church seemed to him an outrage and a degeneracy. How could they reach
the state of beatific existence if they were to listen to the prattle of
children, or be engrossed with the joys of conjugal or parental love? So
he assembled a council, and caused it to pass canons to the effect that
married priests should not perform any clerical office; that the people
should not even be present at Mass celebrated by them; that all who had
wives--or concubines, as he called them--should put them away; and that
no one should be ordained who did not promise to remain unmarried during
his whole life.

Of course there was a violent opposition. A great outcry was raised,
especially in Germany. The whole body of the secular priests exclaimed
against the proceeding. At Mentz they threatened the life of the
archbishop, who attempted to enforce the decree. At Paris a numerous
synod was assembled, in which it was voted that Gregory ought not here
to be obeyed. But Gregory was stronger than his rebellious
clergy,--stronger than the instincts of human nature, stronger than the
united voice of reason and Scripture. He fell back on the majestic
power of prevailing ideas, on the ascetic element of the early Church,
on the traditions of monastic life. He was supported by more than a
hundred thousand monks, by the superstitions of primitive ages, by the
example of saints and martyrs, by his own elevated rank, by the
allegiance due to him as head of the Church. Excommunications were
hurled, like thunderbolts, into remotest hamlets, and the murmurs of
indignant Christendom were silenced by the awful denunciations of God's
supposed vicegerent. The clergy succumbed before such a terrible
spiritual force, The fear of hell--the great idea by which the priests
themselves controlled their flocks--was more potent than any temporal
good. What priest in that age would dare resist his spiritual monarch on
almost any point, and especially when disobedience was supposed to
entail the burnings of a physical hell forever and ever? So celibacy was
re-established as a law of the Christian Church at the bidding of that
far-seeing genius who had devised the means of spiritual despotism. That
law--so gloomy, so unnatural, so fraught with evil--has never been
repealed; it still rules the Catholic priesthood of Europe and America.
Nor will it be repealed so long as the ideas of the Middle Ages have
more force than enlightened reason. It is an abominable law, but who can
doubt its efficacy in cementing the power of the popes?

But simony, or the sale of ecclesiastical benefices, was a still more
alarming evil to the mind of Gregory. It was the great scandal of the
Church and age. Here we honor the Pope for striving to remove it. And
yet its abolition was no easy thing. He came in contact with the
selfishness of barons and kings. He found it an easier matter to take
away the wives of priests than the purses of princes. Priests who had
vowed obedience might consent to the repudiation of their wives, but
would great temporal robbers part with their spoils? The sale of
benefices was one great source of royal and baronial revenues.
Bishoprics, once conferred for wisdom and piety, had become prizes for
the rapacious and ambitious. Bishops and abbots were most frequently
chosen from the ranks of the great. Powerful Sees were the gifts of
kings to their favorites or families, or were bought by the wealthy; so
that worldly or incapable men were made overseers of the Church of
Christ. The clergy were in danger of being hopelessly secularized. And
the evil spread to the extremities of the clerical body. The princes and
barons were getting control of the Church itself. Bishops often
possessed a plurality of Sees. Children were elevated to episcopal
thrones. Sycophants, courtiers, jesters, imbecile sons of princes,
became great ecclesiastical dignitaries. Who can wonder at the
degeneracy of the clergy when they held their cures at the hands of lay
patrons, to whom they swore allegiance for the temporalities of their
benefices? Even the ring and the crozier, the emblems of spiritual
authority,--once received at the hand of metropolitan archbishops alone,
were now bestowed by temporal sovereigns, who claimed thereby fealty and
allegiance; so that princes had gradually usurped the old rights of the
Church, and Gregory resolved to recover them. So long as emperors and
kings could fill the rich bishoprics and abbacies with their creatures,
the papal dominion was weakened in its most vital point, and might
become a dream. This evil was rapidly undermining the whole
ecclesiastical edifice, and it required a hero of prodigious genius,
energy, and influence to reform it.

Hildebrand saw and comprehended the whole extent and bearing of the
evil, and resolved to remove it or die in the attempt. It was not only
undermining his throne, but was secularizing the Church and destroying
the real power of the clergy. He made up his mind to face the difficulty
in its most dreaded quarters. He knew that the attempt to remove this
scandal would entail a desperate conflict with the princes of the earth.
Before this, popes and princes were generally leagued together; they
played into each other's hands: but now a battle was to be fought
between the temporal and spiritual powers. He knew that princes would
never relinquish so lucrative a source of profit as the sale of
powerful Sees, unless the right to sell them were taken away by some
tremendous conflict. He therefore prepared for the fight, and forged his
weapons and gathered together his forces. Nor would he waste time by
idle negotiations; it was necessary to act with promptness and vigor. No
matter how great the danger; no matter how powerful his enemies. The
Church was in peril; and he resolved to come to the rescue, cost what it
might. What was his life compared with the sale of God's heritage? For
what was he placed in the most exalted post of the Church, if not to
defend her in an alarming crisis?'

In resolving to separate forever the spiritual from the temporal power,
Hildebrand followed in the footsteps of Ambrose. But he had also deeper
designs. He resolved to raise, if possible, the spiritual _above_ the
temporal power. Kings should be subject to the Church, not the Church to
the kings of the earth. He believed that he was the appointed vicar of
the Almighty to rule the world in peace, on the principles of eternal
love; that Christ had established a new theocracy, and had delegated his
power to the Apostle Peter, which had descended to the Pope as the
Apostle's legitimate successor.

I say nothing here of this monstrous claim, of this ingenious falsehood,
on which the monarchical power of the Papacy rests. It is the great
fraud of the Middle Ages. And yet, but for this theocratic idea, it is
difficult to see how the external unity of the Church could have been
preserved among the semi-barbarians of Europe. And what a necessary
thing it was--in ages of superstition, ignorance, and anarchy--to
preserve the unity of the Church, to establish a spiritual power which
should awe and control barbaric princes! There are two sides to the
supremacy of the popes as head of the Church, when we consider the
aspect and state of society in those iron and lawless times. Would
Providence have permitted such a power to rule for a thousand years had
it not been a necessity? At any rate, this is too complicated a question
for me to discuss. It is enough for me to describe the conflict for
principles, not to attempt to settle them. In this matter I am not a
partisan, but a painter. I seek to describe a battle, not to defend
either this cause or that. I have my opinions, but this is no place to
present them. I seek to describe simply the great battle of the Middle
Ages, and you can draw your own conclusions as to the merits of the
respective causes. I present the battle of heroes,--a battle worthy of
the muse of Homer.

Hildebrand in this battle disdained to fight with any but great and
noble antagonists. As the friend of the poor man, crushed and mocked by
a cold and unfeeling nobility; as the protector of the Church, in danger
of being subverted by the unhallowed tyranny and greed of princes; as
the consecrated monarch of a great spiritual fraternity,--he resolved to
face the mightiest monarchs, and suffer, and if need be die, for a cause
which he regarded as the hope and salvation of Europe. Therefore he
convened another council, and prohibited, under the terrible penalty of
excommunication,--for that was his mighty weapon,--the investiture of
bishoprics and abbacies at the hands of laymen: only he himself should
give to ecclesiastics the ring and the crozier,--the badges of spiritual
authority. And he equally threatened with eternal fire any bishop or
abbot who should receive his dignity from the hand of a prince.

This decree was especially aimed against the Emperor of Germany, to
whom, as liege lord, the Pope himself owed fealty and obedience. Henry
IV. was one of the mightiest monarchs of the Franconian dynasty,--a
great warrior and a great man, beloved by his subjects and feared by the
princes of Europe. But he, as well as Gregory, was resolved to maintain
the rights of his predecessors. He also perceived the importance of the
approaching contest. And what a contest! The spiritual and temporal
powers were now to be arrayed against each other in a fierce antagonism.
The apparent object of contention changed. It was not merely simony; it
was as to who should be the supreme master of Germany and Italy, the
emperor or the pope. To whom, in the eyes of contemporaries, would
victory incline,--to the son of a carpenter, speaking in the name of the
Church, and holding in his hands the consecrated weapon of
excommunication; or the most powerful monarch of his age, armed with the
secular sword, and seeking to restore the dignity of Roman emperors? The
Pope is supported by the monks, the inferior clergy, and the vast
spiritual powers universally supposed to be delegated to him by Christ,
as the successor of Saint Peter; the Emperor is supported by large
feudal armies, and all the prestige of the successors of Charlemagne. If
the Pope appeals to an ancient custom of the Church, the Emperor appeals
to a general feudal custom which required bishops and abbots to pay
their homage to him for the temporalities of their Sees. The Pope has
the canons of the Church on his side; the Emperor the laws of
feudalism,--and both the canons of the Church and feudal principles are
binding obligations. Hitherto they have not clashed. But now feudalism,
very generally established, and papal absolutism, rapidly culminating,
are to meet in angry collision. Shall the kings of the earth prevail,
assisted by feudal armies and outward grandeur, and sustained by such
powerful sentiments as loyalty and chivalry; or shall a priest, speaking
in the name of God Almighty, and appealing to the future fears of men?

What conflict grander and more sublime than this, in the whole history
of society? What conflict proved more momentous in its results?

I need not trace all the steps of that memorable contest, or describe
the details, from the time when the Pope sent out his edicts and
excommunicated all who dared to disobey him,--including some of the most
eminent German prelates and German princes. Henry at this time was
engaged in a desperate war with the Saxons, and Gregory seized this
opportunity to summon the Emperor--his emperor--to appear before him at
Rome and answer for alleged crimes against the Saxon Church. Was there
ever such audacity? How could Henry help giving way to passionate
indignation; he--the successor of the Roman Caesars, sovereign lord of
Germany and Italy--summoned to the bar of a priest, and that priest his
own subject, in a temporal sense? He was filled with wrath and defiance,
and at once summoned a council of German bishops at Worms, "who
denounced the Pope as a usurper, a simonist, a murderer, a worshipper of
the Devil, and pronounced upon him the empty sentence of a deposition"

"The aged Hildebrand," in the words of Stephen, "was holding a council
in the second week of Lent, 1076, beneath the sculptured roof of the
Vatican, arrayed in the rich and mystic vestments of pontifical
dominion, and the papal choir were chanting those immortal anthems which
had come down from blessed saints and martyrs, when the messenger of
the Emperor presented himself before the assembled hierarchy of Rome,
and with insolent demeanor and abrupt speech delivered the sentence of
the German council." He was left unharmed by the indignant pontiff; but
the next day ascending his throne, and in presence of the dignitaries of
his Church, thus invoked the assistance of the pretended founder of
his empire:--

"Saint Peter! lend us your ears, and listen to your servant whom you
have cherished from his infancy; and all the saints also bear witness
how the Roman Church raised me by force and against my will to this high
dignity, although I should have preferred to spend my days in a
continual pilgrimage than to ascend thy pulpit for any human motive. And
inasmuch as I think it will be grateful to you that those intrusted to
my care should obey me; therefore, supported by these hopes, and for the
honor and defence of the Church, in the name of the Omnipotent
God,--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,--by my authority and power, I
prohibit King Henry, who with unheard-of pride has raised himself
against your Church, from governing the kingdoms of Germany and Italy; I
absolve all Christians from the oath they have taken to him, and I
forbid all men to yield to him that service which is due unto a king.
Finally, I bind him with the bonds of anathema, that all people may know
that thou art Peter, and that upon thee the Son of God hath built His
Church, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail."

This was an old-fashioned excommunication; and we in these days have but
a faint idea what a dreadful thing it was, especially when accompanied
with an interdict. The churches were everywhere shut; the dead were
unburied in consecrated ground; the rites of religion were suspended;
gloom and fear sat on every countenance; desolation overspread the land.
The king was regarded as guilty and damned; his ministers looked upon
him as a Samson shorn of his locks; his very wife feared contamination
from his society; his children, as a man blasted with the malediction of
Heaven. When a man was universally supposed to be cursed in the house
and in the field; in the wood and in the church; in eating or drinking;
in fasting or sleeping; in working or resting; in his arms, in his legs,
in his heart, and in his head; living or dying; in this world and in the
next,--what could he do?

And what could Henry do, with all his greatness? His victorious armies
deserted him; a rival prince laid claim to his throne; his enemies
multiplied; his difficulties thickened; new dangers surrounded him on
every side. If loyalty--that potent principle--had summoned one hundred
thousand warriors to his camp, a principle much more powerful than
loyalty--the fear of hell--had dispersed them. Even his friends joined
the Pope. The sainted Agnes, his own mother, acquiesced in the sentence.
The Countess Matilda, the richest lady in the world, threw all her
treasures at the feet of her spiritual monarch. The moral sentiments of
his own subjects were turned against him; he was regarded as justly
condemned. The great princes of Germany sought his deposition. The world
rejected him, the Church abandoned him, and God had forsaken him. He was
prostrate, helpless, disarmed, ruined. True, he made superhuman efforts:
he traversed his empire with the hope of rallying his subjects; he flew
from city to city,--but all in vain. Every convent, every castle, every
city of his vast dominions beheld in him the visitation of the Almighty.
The diadem was obscured by the tiara, and loyalty itself yielded to the
superior potency of religious fear. Only Bertha, his neglected wife, was
faithful and trusting in that gloomy day; all else had defrauded and
betrayed him. How bitter his humiliation! And yet his haughty foe was
not contented with the punishment he had inflicted. He declared that if
the sun went down on the 23d of February, 1077, before Henry was
restored to the bosom of the Church, his crown should be transferred to
another. That inexorable old pontiff laid claim to the right of giving
and taking away imperial crowns. Was ever before seen such arrogance and
audacity in a priest? And yet he knew that he would be sustained. He
knew that his supremacy was based on a universally recognized idea. Who
can resist the ideas of his age? Henry might have resisted, if
resistance had been possible. Even he must yield to irresistible
necessity. He was morally certain that he would lose his crown, and be
in danger of losing his soul, unless he made his peace with his
dangerous enemy. It was necessary that the awful curse should be
removed. He had no remedy; only one course was before him. He must
yield; not to man alone, but to an idea which had the force of fate.
Wonder not that he made up his mind to submit. He was great, but not
greater than his age. How few men are! Mohammed could renounce
prevailing idolatries; Luther could burn a papal bull; but the Emperor
of Germany could not resist the supposed vicegerent of the Almighty.

Behold, then, the melancholy, pitiable spectacle of this mighty
monarch in the depth of winter--and a winter of unprecedented
severity--crossing, in the garb of a pilgrim, the frozen Alps, enduring
the greatest privations and fatigues and perils, and approaching on foot
the gloomy fortress of Canossa (beyond the Po), in which Hildebrand had
intrenched himself. Even then the angry pontiff refused to see him.
Henry had to stoop to a still deeper degradation,--to stand bareheaded
and barefooted for three days, amid the blasts of winter, in the
court-yard of the castle, before the Pope would promise absolution, and
then only at the intercession of the Countess Matilda.

What are we to think of such a fall, such a humiliation on the part of a
sovereign? What are we to think of such haughtiness on the part of a
priest,--his subject? We are filled with blended pity and indignation.
We are inclined to say that this was the greatest blunder that any
monarch ever made; that Henry--humbled and deserted and threatened as he
was--should not have stooped to this; that he should have lost his crown
and life rather than handed over his empire to a plebeian priest,--for
he was an acknowledged hero; he was monarch of half of Europe. And yet
we are bound to consider Henry's circumstances and the ideas with which
he had to contend. His was the error of the Middle Ages; the feeblest of
his modern successors would have killed the Pope if he could, rather
than have disgraced himself by such an ignominy.

True it is that Henry came to himself; that he repented of his step. But
it was too late. Gregory had gained the victory; and it was all the
greater because it was a moral one. It was known to all Europe and all
the world, and would be known to all posterity, that the Emperor of
Germany had bowed in submission to a foreign priest. The temporal power
had yielded to the spiritual; the State had conceded the supremacy of
the Church. The Pope had triumphed over the mightiest monarch of the
age, and his successors would place their feet over future prostrate
kings. What a victory! What mighty consequences were the result of it!
On what a throne did this moral victory seat the future pontiffs of the
Eternal City! How august their dominion, for it was over the minds and
souls of men! Truly to the Pope were given the keys of Heaven and Hell;
and so long as the ideas of that age were accepted, who could resist a
man armed with the thunders of Omnipotence?

It mattered nothing that the Emperor was ashamed of his weakness; that
he retracted; that he vowed vengeance; that he marched at the head of
new armies. No matter that his adherents were indignant; that all
Germany wept; that loyalty rallied to his aid; that he gained victories
proportionate with his former defeats; that he chased Gregory from city
to city, and castle to castle, and convent to convent, while his
generals burned the Pope's palaces and wasted his territories. No matter
that Gregory--broken, defeated, miserable, outwardly ruined--died
prematurely in exile; no matter that he did not, in his great reverses,
anticipate the fruits of his firmness and heroism. His principles
survived him; they have never been lost sight of by his successors;
they gained strength through successive generations. Innocent III.
reaped what he had sown. Kings dared not resist Innocent III., who
realized those three things to which the more able Gregory had
aspired,--"independent sovereignty, control over the princes of the
earth, and the supremacy of the Church." Innocent was the greater pope,
but Hildebrand was the greater man.

Yet, like so many of the great heroes of the world, he was not destined
in his own person to reap the fruits of his heroism. "I have loved
righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile,"--these
were his last bitter words. He fancied he had failed. But did he fail?
What did he leave behind? He left his great example and his still
greater ideas. He left a legacy to his successors which makes them still
potent on the earth, in spite of reformations and revolutions, and all
the triumphs of literature and science. How mighty his deeds! How great
his services to his Church! "He found," says an eloquent and able
Edinburgh reviewer, "the papacy dependent on the emperor; he sustained
it by alliances almost commensurate with the Italian peninsula. He found
the papacy electoral by the Roman people and clergy; he left it
electoral by papal nomination. He found the emperor the virtual patron
of the Roman See; he wrenched that power from his hands. He found the
secular clergy the allies and dependents of the secular power; he
converted them into inalienable auxiliaries of his own. He found the
patronage of the Church the desecrated spoil and merchandise of princes;
he reduced it to his own dominion. He is celebrated as the reformer of
the impure and profane abuses of his age; he is more justly entitled to
the praise of having left the impress of his gigantic character on all
the ages which have succeeded him."

Such was the great Hildebrand; a conqueror, however, by the force of
recognized ideas more than by his own strength. How long, you ask, shall
his empire last? We cannot tell who can predict the fortunes of such a
power. It is not for me to speculate or preach. In considering his life
and career, I have simply attempted to paint one of the most memorable
moral contests of the world; to show the power of genius and will in a
superstitious age,--and, more, the majestic force of ideas over the
minds and souls of men, even though these ideas cannot be sustained by
reason or Scripture.


Epistles of Gregory VII.; Baronius's Annals; Dupin's Ecclesiastical
History; Voigt, in his Hildebrand als Gregory VII.; Guizot's Lectures on
Civilization; Sir James Stephens's article on Hildebrand, in Edinburgh
Review; Dugdale's Monasticon; Hallam's Middle Ages; Digby's Ages of
Faith; Jaffe's Regesta Pontificum Romanorum; Mignet's series of articles
on La Lutte des Papes contre les Empereurs d'Allemagne; M. Villemain's
Histoire de Grégoire VII.; Bowden on the Life and Times of Hildebrand;
Milman's Latin Christianity; Watterich's Romanorum Pontificum ab
Aequalibus Conscriptae; Platina's Lives of the Popes; Stubbs's
Constitutional History; Lee's History of Clerical Celibacy; Cardinal
Newman's Essays; Lecky's History of European Morals; Dr. Döllinger's
Church History; Neander's Church History; articles in Contemporary
Review of July and August, 1882, on the Turning Point of the
Middle Ages.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1091-1153.


One of the oldest institutions of the Church is that which grew out of
monastic life. It had its seat, at a remote period, in India. It has
existed, in different forms, in other Oriental countries. It has been
modified by Brahminical, Buddhistic, and Persian theogonies, and
extended to Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. Go where you will in the East,
and you see traces of its mighty influence. We cannot tell its remotest
origin, but we see everywhere the force of its ideas. Its fundamental
principle appears to be the desire to propitiate the Deity by penances
and ascetic labors as an atonement for sin, or as a means of rising to a
higher religious life. It has sought to escape the polluting influences
of demoralized society by lofty contemplation and retirement from the
world. From the first, it was a protest against materialism, luxury, and
enervating pleasures. It recognized something higher and nobler than
devotion to material gains, or a life of degrading pleasure. In one
sense it was an intellectual movement, while in another it was an insult
to the human understanding. It attempted a purer morality, but abnegated
obvious and pressing duties. It was always a contradiction,--lofty while
degraded, seeking to comprehend the profoundest mysteries, yet debased
by puerile superstitions.

The consciousness of mankind, in all ages and countries, has ever
accepted retribution for sin--more or less permanent--in this world or
in the next. And it has equally accepted the existence of a Supreme
Intelligence and Power, to whom all are responsible, and in connection
with whom human destinies are bound up. The deeper we penetrate into the
occult wisdom of the East,--on which light has been shed by modern
explorations, monumental inscriptions, manuscripts, historical records,
and other things which science and genius have deciphered,--the surer we
feel that the esoteric classes of India, Egypt, and China were more
united in their views of Supreme Power and Intelligence than was
generally supposed fifty years ago. The higher intellects of Asia, in
all countries and ages, had more lofty ideas of God than we have a right
to infer from the superstitions of the people generally. They had
unenlightened ideas as to the grounds of forgiveness. But of the
necessity of forgiveness and the favor of the Deity they had no doubt.

The philosophical opinions of these sages gave direction to a great
religious movement. Matter was supposed to be inherently evil, and mind
was thought to be inherently good. The seat of evil was placed in the
body rather than in the heart and mind. Not the thoughts of men were
evil, but the passions and appetites of the body. Hence the first thing
for a good man to do was to bring the body--this seat of evil--under
subjection, and, if possible, to eradicate the passions and appetites
which enslave the body; and this was to be done by self-flagellations,
penances, austerities, and solitude,--flight from the contaminating
influences of the world. All Oriental piety assumed this ascetic form.
The transition was easy to the sundering of domestic ties, to the
suppression of natural emotions and social enjoyments. The devotee
became austere, cold, inhuman, unsocial. He shunned the habitations of
men. And the more desirous he was to essay a high religious life and
thus rise in favor with God, the more severe and revengeful and
unforgiving he made the Deity he adored,--not a compassionate Creator
and Father, but an irresistible Power bent on his destruction. This
degrading view of the Deity, borrowed from Paganism, tinged the
subsequent theology of the Christian monks, and entered largely into the
theology of the Middle Ages.

Such was the prevailing philosophy, or theosophy--both lofty and
degraded--with which the Christian convert had to contend; not merely
the shameless vices of the people, so open and flagrant as to call out
disgust and indignation, but also the views which the more virtuous and
religious of Pagan saints accepted and promulgated: and not saints
alone, but those who made the greatest pretension to intellectual
culture, like the Gnostics and Manicheans; those men who were the first
to ensnare Saint Augustine,--specious, subtle, sophistical, as acute as
the Brahmins of India. It was Eastern philosophy, false as we regard it,
which created the most powerful institution that existed in Europe for
above a thousand years,--an institution which all the learning and
eloquence of the Reformers of the sixteenth century could not subvert,
except in Protestant countries.

Now what, more specifically, were the ideas which the early monks
borrowed from India, Persia, and Egypt, which ultimately took such a
firm hold of the European mind?

One was the superior virtue of a life devoted to purely religious
contemplation, and for the same end that animated the existence of
fakirs and sofis. It was to escape the contaminating influence of
matter, to rise above the wants of the body, to exterminate animal
passions and appetites, to hide from a world which luxury corrupted. The
Christian recluses were thus led to bury themselves in cells among the
mountains and deserts, in dreary and uncomfortable caverns, in isolated
retreats far from the habitation of men,--yea, among wild beasts,
clothing themselves in their skins and eating their food, in order to
commune with God more effectually, and propitiate His favor. Their
thoughts were diverted from the miseries which they ought to have
alleviated and the ignorance which they ought to have removed, and were
concentrated upon themselves, not upon their relatives and neighbors.
The cries of suffering humanity were disregarded in a vain attempt to
practise doubtful virtues. How much good those pious recluses might have
done, had their piety taken a more practical form! What missionaries
they might have made, what self-denying laborers in the field of active
philanthropy, what noble teachers to the poor and miserable! The
conversion of the world to Christianity did not enter into their minds
so much as the desire to swell the number of their communities. They
only aimed at a dreamy pietism,--at best their own individual salvation,
rather than the salvation of others. Instead of reaching to the beatific
vision, they became ignorant, narrow, and visionary; and, when learned,
they fought for words and not for things. They were advocates of subtile
and metaphysical distinctions in theology, rather than of those
practical duties and simple faith which primitive Christianity enjoined.
Monastic life, no less than the schools of Alexandria, was influential
in creating a divinity which gave as great authority to dogmas that are
the result of intellectual deductions, as those based on direct and
original declarations. And these deductions were often gloomy, and
colored by the fears which were inseparable from a belief in divine
wrath rather than divine love. The genius of monasticism, ancient and
modern, is the propitiation of the Divinity who seeks to punish rather
than to forgive. It invented Purgatory, to escape the awful burnings of
an everlasting hell of physical sufferings. It pervaded the whole
theology of the Middle Ages, filling hamlet and convent alike with an
atmosphere of fear and wrath, and creating a cruel spiritual despotism.
The recluse, isolated and lonely, consumed himself with phantoms,
fancied devils, and "chimeras dire." He could not escape from himself,
although he might fly from society. As a means of grace he sought
voluntary solitary confinement, without nutritious food or proper
protection from the heat and cold, clad in a sheepskin filled with dirt
and vermin. What life could be more antagonistic to enlightened reason?
What mistake more fatal to everything like self-improvement, culture,
knowledge, happiness? And all for what? To strive after an impossible
perfection, or the solution of insoluble questions, or the favor of a
Deity whose attributes he misunderstood.

But this unnatural, unwise retirement was not the worst evil in
the life of a primitive monk, with all its dreamy contemplation
and silent despair. It was accompanied with the most painful
austerities,--self-inflicted scourgings, lacerations, dire
privations, to propitiate an angry deity, or to bring the body
into a state which would be insensible to pain, or to exorcise
passions which the imaginations inflamed. All this was based on
penance,--self-expiation,--which entered so largely into the theogonies
of the East, and which gave a gloomy form to the piety of the Middle
Ages. This error was among the first to kindle the fiery protests of
Luther. The repudiation of this error, and of its logical sequences, was
one of the causes of the Reformation. This error cast its dismal shadow
on the common life of the Middle Ages. You cannot penetrate the spirit
of those centuries without a painful recognition of almost universal
darkness and despair. How gloomy was a Gothic church before the eleventh
century, with its dark and heavy crypt, its narrow windows, its massive
pillars, its low roof, its cold, damp pavement, as if men went into that
church to hide themselves and sing mournful songs,--the _Dies Irae_ of
monastic fear!

But the primitive monks, with all their lofty self-sacrifices and
efforts for holy meditation, towards the middle of the fourth century,
as their number increased from the anarchies and miseries of a falling
empire, became quarrelsome, sometimes turbulent, and generally fierce
and fanatical. They had to be governed. They needed some master mind to
control them, and confine them to their religious duties. Then arose
Basil, a great scholar, and accustomed to civilized life in the schools
of Athens and Constantinople, who gave rules and laws to the monks,
gathered them into communities and discouraged social isolation, knowing
that the demons had more power over men when they were alone and idle.

This Basil was an extraordinary man. His ancestors were honorable and
wealthy. He moved in the highest circle of social life, like Chrysostom.
He was educated in the most famous schools. He travelled extensively
like other young men of rank. His tutor was the celebrated Libanius, the
greatest rhetorician of the day. He exhausted Antioch, Caesarea, and
Constantinople, and completed his studies at Athens, where he formed a
famous friendship with Gregory Nazianzen, which was as warm and devoted
as that between Cicero and Atticus: these young men were the talk and
admiration of Athens. Here, too, he was intimate with young Julian,
afterwards the "Apostate" Emperor of Rome. Basil then visited the
schools of Alexandria, and made the acquaintance of the great
Athanasius, as well as of those monks who sought a retreat amid
Egyptian solitudes. Here his conversion took place, and he parted with
his princely patrimony for the benefit of the poor. He then entered the
Church, and was successively ordained deacon and priest, while leading a
monastic life. He retired among the mountains of Armenia, and made
choice of a beautiful grove, watered with crystal streams, where he gave
himself to study and meditation. Here he was joined by his friend
Gregory Nazianzen and by enthusiastic admirers, who formed a religious
fraternity, to whom he was a spiritual father. He afterwards was forced
to accept the great See of Caesarea, and was no less renowned as bishop
and orator than he had been as monk. Yet it is as a monk that he left
the most enduring influence, since he made the first great change in
monastic life,--making it more orderly, more industrious, and less

He instituted or embodied, among others, the three great vows, which are
vital to monastic institutions,--Poverty, Obedience, and Chastity. In
these vows he gave the institution a more Christian and a less Oriental
aspect. Monachism became more practical and less visionary and wild. It
approximated nearer to the Christian standard. Submission to poverty is
certainly a Christian virtue, if voluntary poverty is not. Chastity is a
cardinal duty. Obedience is a necessity to all civilized life. It is the
first condition of all government.

Moreover, these three vows seem to have been called for by the
condition of society, and the prevalence of destructive views. Here
Basil,--one of the commanding intellects of his day, and as learned and
polished as he was pious,--like Jerome after him, proved himself a great
legislator and administrator, including in his comprehensive view both
Christian principles and the necessities of the times, and adapting his
institution to both.

One of the most obvious, flagrant, and universal evils of the day was
devotion to money-making in order to purchase sensual pleasures. It
pervaded Roman life from the time of Augustus. The vow of poverty,
therefore, was a stern, lofty, disdainful protest against the most
dangerous and demoralizing evil of the Empire. It hurled scorn, hatred,
and defiance on this overwhelming evil, and invoked the aid of
Christianity. It was simply the earnest affirmation and belief that
money could not buy the higher joys of earth, and might jeopardize the
hopes of heaven. It called to mind the greatest examples; it showed that
the great teachers of mankind, the sages and prophets of history, had
disdained money as the highest good; that riches exposed men to great
temptation, and lowered the standard of morality and virtue,--"how
hardly shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" It
appealed to the highest form of self-sacrifice; it arrayed itself
against a vice which was undermining society. And among truly Christian
people this new application of Christ's warnings against the dangers of
wealth excited enthusiasm. It was like enlisting in the army of Christ
against his greatest enemies. Make any duty clear and imperious to
Christian people, and they will generally conform to it. So the world
saw one of the most impressive spectacles of all history,--the rich
giving up their possessions to follow the example and injunctions of
Christ. It was the most signal test of Christian obedience. It prompted
Paula, the richest lady of Christian antiquity, to devote the revenues
of an entire city, which she owned, to the cause of Christ; and the
approbation of Jerome, her friend, was a sufficient recompense.

The vow of Chastity was equally a protest against one of the
characteristic vices of the day, as well as a Christian virtue. Luxury
and pleasure-seeking lives had relaxed the restraints of home and the
virtues of earlier days. The evils of concubinage were shameless and
open throughout the empire, which led to a low estimate of female virtue
and degraded the sex. The pagan poets held up woman as a subject of
scorn and scarcasm. On no subject were the apostles more urgent in their
exhortations than to a life of purity. To no greater temptation were the
converts to Christianity subjected than the looseness of prevailing
sentiments in reference to this vice. It stared everybody in the face.
Basil took especial care to guard the monks from this prevailing
iniquity, and made chastity a transcendent and fundamental virtue. He
aimed to remove the temptation to sin. The monks were enjoined to shun
the very presence of women. If they carried the system of
non-intercourse too far, and became hard and unsympathetic, it was to
avoid the great scandal of the age,--a still greater evil. To the monk
was denied even the blessing of the marriage ties. Celibacy became a
fundamental law of monachism. It was not to cement a spiritual despotism
that Basil forbade marriage, but to attain a greater sanctity,--for a
monk was consecrated to what was supposed to be the higher life. This
law of celibacy was abused, and gradually was extended to all the
clergy, secular as well as regular, but not till the clergy were all
subordinated to the rule of an absolute Pope. It is the fate of all
human institutions to become corrupt; but no institution of the Church
has been so fatally perverted as that pertaining to the marriage of the
clergy. Founded to promote purity of personal life, it was used to
uphold the arms of spiritual despotism. It was the policy of Hildebrand.

The vow of Obedience, again, was made in special reference to the
disintegration of society, when laws were feebly enforced and a central
power was passing away. The discipline even of armies was relaxed. Mobs
were the order of the day, even in imperial cities. Moreover, monks had
long been insubordinate; they obeyed no head, except nominally; they
were with difficulty ruled in their communities. Therefore obedience was
made a cardinal virtue, as essential to the very existence of monastic
institutions. I need not here allude to the perversion of this
rule,--how it degenerated into a fearful despotism, and was made use of
by ambitious popes, and finally by the generals of the Mendicant Friars
and the Jesuits. All the rules of Basil were perverted from their
original intention; but in his day they were called for.

About a century later the monastic system went through another change or
development, when Benedict, a remarkable organizer, instituted on Monte
Cassino, near Naples, his celebrated monastery (529, A.D.), which became
the model of all the monasteries of the West. He reaffirmed the rules of
Basil, but with greater strictness. He gave no new principles to
monastic life; but he adapted it to the climate and institutions of the
newly founded Gothic kingdoms of Europe. It became less Oriental; it was
made more practical; it was invested with new dignity. The most
visionary and fanatical of all the institutions of the East was made
useful. The monks became industrious. Industry was recognized as a
prime necessity even for men who had retired from the world. No longer
were the labors of monks confined to the weaving of baskets, but they
were extended to the comforts of ordinary life,--to the erection of
stately buildings, to useful arts, the systematic cultivation of the
land, to the accumulation of wealth,--not for individuals, but for their
monasteries. Monastic life became less dreamy, less visionary, but more
useful, recognizing the bodily necessities of men. The religious duties
of monks were still dreary, monotonous, and gloomy,--long and protracted
singing in the choir, incessant vigils, an unnatural silence at the
table, solitary walks in the cloister, the absence of social pleasures,
confinement to the precincts of their convents; but their convents
became bee-hives of industry, and their lands were highly cultivated.
The monks were hospitable; they entertained strangers, and gave a
shelter to the persecuted and miserable. Their monasteries became sacred
retreats, which were respected by those rude warriors who crushed
beneath their feet the glories of ancient civilization. Nor for several
centuries did the monks in their sacred enclosures give especial
scandal. Their lives were spent in labors of a useful kind, alternated
and relieved by devotional duties.

Hence they secured the respect and favor of princes and good men, who
gave them lands and rich presents of gold and silver vessels. Their
convents were unmolested and richly endowed, and these became enormously
multiplied in every European country. Gradually they became so rich as
to absorb the wealth of nations. Their abbots became great personages,
being chosen from the ranks of princes and barons. The original poverty
and social insignificance of monachism passed away, and the institution
became the most powerful organization in Europe. It then aspired to
political influence, and the lord abbots became the peers of princes and
the ministers of kings. Their abbey churches, especially, became the
wonder and the admiration of the age, both for size and magnificence.
The abbey church of Cluny, in Burgundy, was five hundred and thirty feet
long, and had stalls for two hundred monks. It had the appointment of
one hundred and fifty parish priests. The church of Saint Albans, in
England, is said to have been six hundred feet long; and that of
Glastonbury, the oldest in England, five hundred and thirty.
Peterborough's was over five hundred. The kings of England, both Saxon
and Norman, were especial patrons of these religious houses. King Edgar
founded forty-seven monasteries and richly endowed them; Henry I.
founded one hundred and fifty; and Henry II. as many more. At one time
there were seven hundred Benedictine abbeys in England, some of which
were enormously rich,--like those of Westminster, St. Albans,
Glastonbury, and Bury St. Edmunds,--and their abbots were men of the
highest social and political distinction. They sat in Parliament as
peers of the realm; they coined money, like feudal barons; they lived in
great state and dignity. The abbot of Monte Cassino was duke and prince,
and chancellor of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Tins celebrated
convent had the patronage of four bishoprics, sixteen hundred and
sixty-two churches, and possessed or controlled two hundred and fifty
castles, four hundred and forty towns, and three hundred and thirty-six
manors. Its revenues exceeded five hundred thousand ducats, so that the
lord-abbot was the peer of the greatest secular princes. He was more
powerful and wealthy, probably, than any archbishop in Europe. One of
the abbots of St. Gall entered Strasburg with one thousand horsemen in
his train. Whiting, of Glastonbury, entertained five hundred people of
fashion at one time, and had three hundred domestic servants. "My vow of
poverty," said another of these lordly abbots,--who generally rode on
mules with gilded bridles and with hawks on their wrists,--"has given me
ten thousand crowns a year; and my vow of obedience has raised me to the
rank of a sovereign prince."

Among the privileges of these abbots was exemption from taxes and tolls;
they were judges in the courts; they had the execution of all rents, and
the supreme control of the income of the abbey lands. The revenues of
Westminster and Glastonbury were equal to half a million of dollars a
year in our money, considering the relative value of gold and silver.
Glastonbury owned about one thousand oxen, two hundred and fifty cows,
and six thousand sheep. Fontaine abbey possessed forty thousand acres of
land. The abbot of Augia, in Germany, had a revenue of sixty thousand
crowns,--several millions, as money is now measured. At one time the
monks, with the other clergy, owned half of the lands of Europe. If a
king was to be ransomed, it was they who furnished the money; if costly
gifts were to be given to the Pope, it was they who made them. The value
of the vessels of gold and silver, the robes and copes of silk and
velvet, the chalices, the altar-pieces, and the shrines enriched with
jewels, was inestimable. The feasts which the abbots gave were almost
regal. At the installation of the abbot of St. Augustine, at Canterbury,
there were consumed fifty-eight tuns of beer, eleven tuns of wine,
thirty-one oxen, three hundred pigs, two hundred sheep, one thousand
geese, one thousand capons, six hundred rabbits, nine thousand eggs,
while the guests numbered six thousand people. Of the various orders of
the Benedictines there have been thirty-seven thousand monasteries and
one hundred and fifty thousand abbots. From the monks, twenty-one
thousand have been chosen as bishops and archbishops, and twenty-eight
have been elevated to the papal throne.

From these things, and others which may seem too trivial to mention, we
infer the great wealth and power of monastic institutions, the most
flourishing days of which were from the sixth century to the Crusades,
beginning in the eleventh, when more than one hundred thousand monks
acknowledged the rule of Saint Benedict. During this period of
prosperity, when the vast abbey churches were built, and when abbots
were great temporal as well as spiritual magnates, quite on an equality
with the proudest feudal barons, we notice a marked decline in the
virtues which had extorted the admiration of Europe. The Benedictines
retained their original organization, they were bound by the same vows
(as individuals, the monks were always poor), they wore the same dress,
as they did centuries before, and they did not fail in their duties in
the choir,--singing their mournful chants from two o'clock in the
morning. But discipline was relaxed; the brothers strayed into unseemly
places; they indulged in the pleasures of the table; they were sensual
in their appearance; they were certainly ignorant, as a body; and they
performed more singing than preaching or teaching. They lived for
themselves rather than for the people. They however remained hospitable
to the last. Their convents were hotels as well as bee-hives; any
stranger could remain two nights at a convent without compensation and
without being questioned. The brothers dined together at the refectory,
according to the rules, on bread, vegetables, and a little meat;
although it was noticed that they had a great variety in cooking eggs,
which were turned and roasted and beaten up, and hardened and minced and
fried and stuffed. It is said that subsequently they drank enormous
quantities of beer and wine, and sometimes even to disgraceful excess.
Their rules required them to keep silence at their meals; but their
humanity got the better of them, and they have been censured for their
hilarious and frivolous conversation,--for jests and stories and puns.
Bernard accused the monks of degeneracy, of being given to the pleasures
of the table, of loving the good things which they professed to
scorn,--rare fish, game, and elaborate cookery.

That the monks sadly degenerated in morals and discipline, and even
became objects of scandal, is questioned by no respectable historian. No
one was more bitter and vehement in his denunciations of this almost
universal corruption of monastic life than Saint Bernard himself,--the
impersonation of an ideal monk. Hence reforms were attempted; and the
Cluniacs and Cistercians and other orders arose, modelled after the
original institution on Monte Cassino. These were only branches of the
Benedictines. Their vows and habits and duties were the same. It would
seem that the prevailing vices of the Benedictines, in their decline,
were those which were fostered by great wealth, and consequent idleness
and luxury. But at their worst estate the monks, or regular clergy, were
no worse than the secular clergy, or parish priests, in their ordinary
lives, and were more intelligent,--at least more learned. The ignorance
of the secular clergy was notorious and scandalous. They could not even
write letters of common salutation; and what little knowledge they had
was extolled and exaggerated. It was confined to the acquisition of the
Psalter by heart, while a little grammar, writing, and accounts were
regarded as extraordinary. He who could write a few homilies, drawn from
the Fathers, was a wonder and a prodigy. There was a total absence of
classical literature.

But the monks, ignorant and degenerate as they were, guarded what little
literature had escaped the ruin of the ancient civilization. They gave
the only education the age afforded. There was usually a school attached
to every convent, and manual labor was shortened in favor of students.
Nor did the monks systematically and deliberately shut the door of
knowledge against those inclined to study, for at that time there was no
jealousy of learning; there was only indifference to it, or want of
appreciation. The age was ignorant, and life was hard, and the struggle
for existence occupied the thoughts of all. The time of the monks was
consumed in alternate drudgeries and monotonous devotions. There was
such a general intellectual torpor that scholars (and these were very
few) were left at liberty to think and write as they pleased on the
great questions of theology. There was such a general unanimity of
belief, that the popes were not on the look-out for heresy. Nobody
thought of attacking their throne. There was no jealousy about the
reading of the Scriptures. Every convent had a small library, mostly
composed of Lives of the saints, and of devout meditations and homilies;
and the Bible was the greatest treasure of all,--the Vulgate of Saint
Jerome, which was copied and illuminated by busy hands. In spite of the
general ignorance, the monks relieved their dull lives by some attempts
at art. This was the age of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts.
There was but little of doctrinal controversy, for the creed of the
Church was settled; but pious meditations and the writings of noted
saints were studied and accepted,--especially the works of Saint
Augustine, who had fixed the thinking of the West for a thousand years.
Pagan literature had but little charm until Aristotle was translated by
Arabian scholars. The literature of the Church was puerile and
extravagant, yet Christian,--consisting chiefly of legends of martyrs
and Lives of saints. That literature has no charm to us, and can never
be revived, indeed is already forgotten and neglected, as well it may
be; but it gave unity to Christian belief, and enthroned the Christian
heroes on the highest pedestal of human greatness. In the monasteries
some one of the fraternity read aloud these Lives and Meditations, while
the brothers worked or dined. There was no discussion, for all thought
alike; and all sought to stimulate religious emotions rather than to
quicken intellectual activity.

About half the time of the monks, in a well-regulated monastery, was
given to singing and devotional exercises and religious improvement, and
the other half to labors in the fields, or in painting or musical
composition. So far as we know, the monks lived in great harmony, and
were obedient to the commands of their superiors. They had a common
object to live for, and had few differences in opinion on any subject.
They did not enjoy a high life, but it was free from distracting
pleasures. They affected great humility, with which spiritual pride was
mingled,--not the arrogant pride of the dialectician, but the
self-satisfied pride of the devotee. There was no religious hatred,
except towards Turks and Saracens. The monk, in his narrowness and
ignorance, may be repulsive to an enlightened age: he was not repulsive
to his own, for he was not behind it either in his ideas or in his
habits of life. In fact, the more repulsive the monk of the dark ages
is to this generation, the more venerated he was by bishops and barons
seven hundred years ago; which fact leads us to infer that the
degenerate monk might be to us most interesting when he was most
condemned by the reformers of his day, since he was more humane, genial,
and free than his brethren, chained to the rigid discipline of his
convent. Even a Friar Tuck is not so repulsive to us as an unsocial,
austere, narrow-minded, and ignorant fanatic of the eleventh century.

But the monks were not to remain forever imprisoned in the castles of
ignorance and despair. With the opening of the twelfth century light
began to dawn upon the human mind. The intellectual monk, long
accustomed to devout meditations, began to speculate on those subjects
which had occupied his thoughts,--on God and His attributes, on the
nature and penalty of sin, on redemption, on the Saviour, on the power
of the will to resist evil, and other questions that had agitated the
early Fathers of the Church. Then arose such men as Erigena, Roscelin,
Bérenger, Lanfranc, Anselm, Bernard, and others,--all more or less
orthodox, but inquiring and intellectual. It was within the walls of the
cloister that the awakening began and the first impulse was given to
learning and philosophy. The abbey of Bec, in Normandy, was the most
distinguished of new intellectual centres, while Clairvaux and other
princely abbeys had inmates as distinguished for meditative habits as
for luxury and pride.

It was at this period, when the convents of Europe rejoiced in ample
possessions, and their churches rivalled cathedrals in size and
magnificence, and their abbots were lords and princes,--the palmy age of
monastic institutions, chiefly of the Benedictine order,--that Saint
Bernard, the greatest and best representative of Mediaeval monasticism,
was born, 1091, at Fontaine, in Burgundy. He belonged to a noble family.
His mother was as remarkable as Monica or Nonna. She had six sons and a
daughter, whom she early consecrated to the Lord. Bernard was the third
son. Like Luther, he was religiously inclined from early youth, and
panted for monastic seclusion. At the age of twenty-three he entered the
new monastery at Citeaux, which had been founded a few years before by
Stephen Harding, an English saint, who revived the rule of Saint
Benedict with still greater strictness, and was the founder of the
Cistercian order,--a branch of the Benedictines. He entered this gloomy
retreat, situated amid marshes and morasses, with no outward attractions
like Cluny, but unhealthy and miserably poor,--the dreariest spot,
perhaps, in Burgundy; and he entered at the head of thirty young men, of
the noble class, among whom were four of his brothers who had been
knights, and who presented themselves to the abbot as novices, bent on
the severest austerities that human nature could support.

Bernard himself was a beautiful, delicate, refined young man,--tall,
with flaxen hair, fair complexion, blue eyes from which shone a
superhuman simplicity and purity. His noble birth would have opened to
him the highest dignities of the Church, but he sought only to bear the
yoke of Christ, and to be nailed to the cross; and he really became a
common laborer wrapped in a coarse cowl, digging ditches and planting
fields,--for such were the labors of the monks of Citeaux when not
performing their religious exercises. But his disposition was as
beautiful as his person, and he soon won the admiration of his brother
monks, as he had won the affection of the knights of Burgundy. Such was
his physical weakness that "nearly everything he took his stomach
rejected;" and such was the rigor of his austerities that he destroyed
the power of appetite. He could scarcely distinguish oil from wine. He
satisfied his hunger with the Bible, and quenched his thirst with
prayer. In three years he became famous as a saint, and was made Abbot
of Clairvaux,--a new Cistercian convent, in a retired valley which had
been a nest of robbers.

But his intellect was as remarkable as his piety, and his monastery
became not only a model of monastic life, to which flocked men from all
parts of Europe to study its rules, but the ascetic abbot himself became
an oracle on all the questions of the day. So great was his influence
that when he died, in 1153, he left behind one hundred and sixty
monasteries formed after his model. He became the counsellor of kings
and nobles, bishops and popes. He was summoned to attend councils and
settle quarrels. His correspondence exceeded that of Jerome or Saint
Augustine. He was sought for as bishop in the largest cities of France
and Italy. He ruled Europe by the power of learning and sanctity. He
entered into all the theological controversies of the day. He was the
opponent of Abélard, whose condemnation he secured. He became a great
theologian and statesman, as well as churchman. He incited the princes
of Europe to a new crusade. His eloquence is said to have been
marvellous; even the tones of his voice would melt to pity or excite to
rage. With a long neck, like that of Cicero, and a trembling, emaciated
frame, he preached with passionate intensity. Nobody could resist his
eloquence. He could scarcely stand upright from weakness, yet he could
address ten thousand men. He was an outspoken man, and reproved the
greatest dignitaries with as much boldness as did Savonarola. He
denounced the gluttony of monks, the avarice of popes, and the rapacity
of princes. He held heresy in mortal hatred, like the Fathers of the
fifth century. His hostility to Abélard was direful, since he looked
upon him as undermining Christianity and extinguishing faith in the
world. In his defence of orthodoxy he was the peer of Augustine or
Athanasius. He absolutely abhorred the Mohammedans as the bitterest foes
of Christendom,--the persecutors of pious pilgrims. He wandered over
Europe preaching a crusade. He renounced the world, yet was compelled by
the unanimous voice of his contemporaries to govern the world. He gave a
new impulse to the order of Knights Templars. He was as warlike as he
was humble. He would breathe the breath of intense hostility into the
souls of crusaders, and then hasten back to the desolate and barren
country in which Clairvaux was situated, rebuild his hut of leaves and
boughs, and soothe his restless spirit with the study of the Song of
Songs. Like his age, and like his institution, he was a great
contradiction. The fiercest and most dogmatic of controversialists was
the most gentle and loving of saints. His humanity was as marked as his
fanaticism, and nothing could weaken it,--not even the rigors of his
convent life. He wept at the sorrows of all who sought his sympathy or
advice. On the occasion of his brother's death he endeavored to preach a
sermon on the Canticles, but broke down as Jerome did at the funeral of
Paula. He kept to the last the most vivid recollection of his mother;
and every night, before he went to bed, he recited the seven Penitential
Psalms for the benefit of her soul.

In his sermons and exhortations Bernard dwelt equally on the wrath of
God and the love of Christ. Said he to a runaway Cistercian, "Thou
fearest watchings, fasts, and manual labor, but these are light to one
who thinks on eternal fire. The remembrance of the outer darkness takes
away all horror from solitude. Place before thine eyes the everlasting
weeping and gnashing of teeth, the fury of those flames which can never
be extinguished" (the essence of the theology of the Middle Ages,--the
fear of Hell, of a physical and eternal Hell of bodily torments, by
which fear those ages were controlled). Bernard, the loveliest
impersonation of virtue which those ages saw, was not beyond their
ideas. He impersonated them, and therefore led the age and became its
greatest oracle. The passive virtues of the Sermon on the Mount were
united with the fiercest passions of religious intolerance and the most
repulsive views of divine vengeance. That is the soul of monasticism,
even as reformed by Harding, Alberic, and Bernard in the twelfth
century, less human than in the tenth century, yet more intellectual.

The monks of Citeaux, of Morimond, of Pontigny, of Clairvaux, amid the
wastes of a barren country, with their white habits and perpetual vigils
and haircloth shirts and root dinners and hard labors in the field, were
yet the counsellors and ministers of kings and the creators of popes,
and incited the nations to the most bloody and unfortunate wars in the
whole history of society,--I mean the Crusades. Some were great
intellectual giants, yet all repelled scepticism as life repels death;
all dwelt on the sufferings of the cross as a door through which the
penitent and believing could surely enter heaven, yet based the justice
of the infinite Father of Love on what, when it appeals to
consciousness, seems to be the direst injustice. We cannot despise the
Middle Ages, which produced such beatific and exalted saints, but we
pity those dismal times when the great mass of the people had so little
pleasure and comfort in this life, and such gloomy fears of the world to
come; when life was made a perpetual sacrifice and abnegation of all the
pleasures that are given us to enjoy,--to use and not to pervert. Hence
monasticism was repulsive, even in its best ages, to enlightened reason,
and fatal to all progress among nations, although it served a useful
purpose when men were governed by fear alone, and when violence and
strife and physical discomfort and ignorance and degrading superstitions
covered the fairest portion of the earth with a funereal pall for more
than a thousand years.

The thirteenth century saw a new development of monastic institutions in
the creation of the Mendicant Friars,--especially the Dominicans and
Franciscans,--monks whose mission it was to wander over Europe as
preachers, confessors, and teachers. The Benedictines were too numerous,
wealthy, and corrupt to be reformed. They had become a scandal; they had
lost the confidence of good men. There were needed more active partisans
of the Pope to sustain his authority; the new universities required
abler professors; the cities sought more popular preachers; the great
desired more intelligent confessors. The Crusades had created a new
field of enterprise, and had opened to the eye of Europe a wider horizon
of knowledge. The universities which had grown up around the cathedral
schools had kindled a spirit of inquiry. Church architecture had become
lighter, more cheerful, and more symbolic. The Greek philosophy had
revealed a new method. The doctrines of the Church, if they did not
require a new system, yet needed, or were supposed to need, the aid of
philosophy, for the questions which the schoolmen discussed were so
subtile and intricate that only the logic of Aristotle could make
them clear.

Now the Mendicant orders entered with a zeal which has never been
equalled, except by the Jesuits, into all the inquiries of the schools,
and kindled a new religious life among the people, like the Methodists
of the last century. They were somewhat similar to the Temperance
reformers of the last fifty years. They were popular, zealous,
intelligent, and religious. So great were their talents and virtues
that they speedily spread over Europe, and occupied the principal
pulpits and the most important chairs in the universities. Bonaventura,
Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus were the great
ornaments of these new orders. Their peculiarity--in contrast with the
old orders--was, that they wandered from city to city and village to
village at the command of their superiors. They had convents, like the
other monks; but they professed absolute poverty, went barefooted, and
submitted to increased rigors. Their vows were essentially those of the
Benedictines. In less than a century, however, they too had degenerated,
and were bitterly reproached for their vagabond habits and the violation
of their vows. Their convents had also become rich, like those of the
Benedictines. It was these friars whom Chaucer ridiculed, and against
whose vices Wyclif declaimed. Yet they were retained by the popes for
their services in behalf of ecclesiastical usurpation. It was they who
were especially chosen to peddle indulgences. Their history is an
impressive confirmation of the tendency of all human institutions to
degenerate. It would seem that the mission of the Benedictines had been
accomplished in the thirteenth century, and that of the Dominicans and
Franciscans in the fourteenth.

But monasticism, in any of its forms, ceased to have a salutary
influence on society when the darkness of the Middle Ages was
dispersed. It is peculiarly a Mediaeval institution. As a Mediaeval
institution, it conferred many benefits on the semi-barbarians of
Europe. As a whole, considering the shadows of ignorance and
superstition which veiled Christendom, and the evils which violence
produced, its influence was beneficent.

Among the benefits which monastic institutions conferred, at least
indirectly, may be mentioned the counteracting influence they exerted
against the turbulence and tyranny of baronial lords, whose arrogance
and extortion they rebuked; they befriended the peasantry; they enabled
poor boys to rise; they defended the doctrine that the instructors of
mankind should be taken from all classes alike; they were democratic in
their sympathies, while feudal life produced haughtiness and scorn; they
welcomed scholars from the humblest ranks; they beheld in peasants'
children souls which could be ennobled. Though abbots were chosen
generally from the upper classes, yet the ordinary monks sprang from the
peasantry. For instance, a peasant's family is deprived of its head; he
has been killed while fighting for a feudal lord. The family are doomed
to misery and hardship. No aristocratic tears are shed for them; they
are no better than dogs or cattle. The mother is heartbroken. Not one of
her children can ordinarily rise from their abject position; they can
live and breathe the common air, and that is all. They are unmolested
in their mud huts, if they will toil for the owner of their village at
the foot of the baronial castle. But one of her sons is bright and
religious. He attracts the attention of a sympathetic monk, whose
venerable retreat is shaded with trees, adorned with flowers, and seated
perhaps on the side of a murmuring stream, whose banks have been made
fertile by industry and beautiful with herds of cattle and flocks of
sheep. He urges the afflicted mother to consecrate him to the service of
the Church; and the boy enters the sanctuary and is educated according
to the fashion of the age, growing up a sad, melancholy, austere, and
pharisaical member of the fraternity, whose spirit is buried in a gloomy
grave of ascetic severities, He passes from office to office. In time he
becomes the prior of his convent,--possibly its abbot, the equal of that
proud baron in whose service his father lost his life, the controller of
innumerable acres, the minister of kings. How, outside the Church, could
he thus have arisen? But in the monastery he is enabled, in the most
aristocratic age of the world, to rise to the highest of worldly
dignities. And he is a man of peace and not of war. He hates war; he
seeks to quell dissensions and quarrels. He believes that there is a
higher than the warrior's excellence. Monachism recognized what
feudalism did not,--the claims of man as man. In this respect it was
human and sympathetic. It furnished a retreat from misery and
oppression. It favored contemplative habits and the passive virtues, so
much needed in turbulent times. Whatever faults the monks had, it must
be allowed that they alleviated sufferings, and presented the only
consolation that their gloomy and iron age afforded. In an imperfect
manner their convents answered the purpose of our modern hotels,
hospitals, and schools. It was benevolence, charity, and piety which the
monks aimed to secure, and which they often succeeded in diffusing among
people more wretched and ignorant than themselves.


Saint Bernard's Works, especially the Epistles; Mabillon; Hélyot's
Histoire des Ordres Monastiques; Dugdale's Monasticon; Döring's
Geschichte der Monchsorden; Montalembert's Les Moines d'Occident;
Milman's Latin Christianity; Morison's Life and Times of Saint Bernard;
Lives of the English Saints; Stephen Harding; Histoire d'Abbaye de
Cluny, par M.P. Lorain; Neander's Church History; Butler's Lives of the
Saints; Vaughan's Life of Thomas Aquinas; Digby's Ages of Faith.


       *       *       *       *       *

A. D. 1033-1109.


The Middle Ages produced no more interesting man than Anselm, Abbot of
Bec and Archbishop of Canterbury,--not merely a great prelate, but a
great theologian, resplendent in the virtues of monastic life and in
devotion to the interests of the Church. He was one of the first to
create an intellectual movement in Europe, and to stimulate theological

Anselm was born at Aosta, in Italy, 1033, and he died in 1109, at the
age of 76. He was therefore the contemporary of Hildebrand, of Lanfranc,
of Bérenger, of Roscelin, of Henry IV. of Germany, of William the
Conqueror, of the Countess Matilda, and of Urban II. He saw the first
Crusade, the great quarrel about investitures and the establishment of
the Normans in England. Aosta was on the confines of Lombardy and
Burgundy, in a mountainous district, amid rich cornfields and fruitful
vines and dark, waving chestnuts, in sight of lofty peaks with their
everlasting snow. Anselm belonged to a noble but impoverished family;
his father was violent and unthrifty, but his mother was religious and
prudent. He was by nature a student, and early was destined to monastic
life,--the only life favorable to the development of the intellect in a
rude and turbulent age. I have already alluded to the general ignorance
of the clergy in those times. There were no schools of any note at this
period, and no convents where learning was cultivated beyond the
rudiments of grammar and arithmetic and the writings of the Fathers. The
monks could read and talk in Latin, of a barbarous sort,--which was the
common language of the learned, so far as any in that age could be
called learned.

The most famous place in Europe, at that time, where learning was
cultivated, was the newly-founded abbey of Bec in Normandy, under the
superintendence of the Archbishop of Rouen, of which Lanfranc of Pavia
was the prior. It was the first abbey in Normandy to open the door of
learning to the young and inquiring minds of Western Europe. It was a
Benedictine abbey, as severe in its rules as that of Clairvaux. It would
seem that the fame of this convent, and of Lanfranc its presiding genius
(afterwards the great Archbishop of Canterbury), reached the ears of
Anselm; so that on the death of his parents he wandered over the Alps,
through Burgundy, to this famous school, where the best teaching of the
day was to be had. Lanfranc cordially welcomed his fellow-countryman,
then at the age of twenty-six, to his retreat; and on his removal three
years afterwards to the more princely abbey of St. Stephen in Caen,
Anselm succeeded him as prior. Fifteen years later he became abbot, and
ruled the abbey for fifteen years, during which time Lanfranc--the
mutual friend of William the Conqueror and the great Hildebrand--became
Archbishop of Canterbury.

During this seclusion of thirty years in the abbey of Bec, Anselm gave
himself up to theological and philosophical studies, and became known
both as a profound and original thinker and a powerful supporter of
ecclesiastical authority. The scholastic age,--that is, the age of
dialectics, when theology invoked the aid of philosophy to establish the
truths of Christianity,--had not yet begun; but Anselm may be regarded
as a pioneer, the precursor of Thomas Aquinas, since he was led into
important theological controversies to establish the creed of Saint
Augustine. It was not till several centuries after his death, however,
that his remarkable originality of genius was fully appreciated. He
anticipated Descartes in his argument to prove the existence of God. He
is generally regarded as the profoundest intellect among the early
schoolmen, and the most original that appeared in the Church after
Saint Augustine. He was not a popular preacher like Saint Bernard, but
he taught theology with marvellous lucidity to the monks who sought the
genial quiet of his convent. As an abbot he was cheerful and humane,
almost to light-heartedness, frank and kind to everybody,--an exception
to most of the abbots of his day, who were either austere and rigid, or
convivial and worldly. He was a man whom everybody loved and trusted,
yet one not unmindful of his duties as the supreme ruler of his abbey,
enforcing discipline, while favoring relaxation. No monk ever led a life
of higher meditation than he; absorbed not in a dreamy and visionary
piety, but in intelligent inquiries as to the grounds of religious
belief. He was a true scholar of the Platonic and Augustinian school;
not a dialectician like Albertus Magnus and Abélard, but a man who went
beyond words to things, and seized on realities rather than forms; not
given to disputations and the sports of logical tournaments, but to
solid inquiries after truth. The universities had not then arisen, but a
hundred years later he would have been their ornament, like Thomas
Aquinas and Bonaventura.

Like other Norman abbeys, the abbey of Bec had after the Conquest
received lands in England, and it became one of the duties of the abbot
to look after its temporal interests. Hence Anselm was obliged to make
frequent visits to England, where his friendship with Lanfranc was
renewed, and where he made the acquaintance of distinguished prelates
and abbots and churchmen, among others of Eadmer, his future biographer.
It seems that he also won the hearts of the English nobility by his
gentleness and affability, so that they rendered to him uncommon
attentions, not only as a great ecclesiastic who had no equal in
learning, but as a man whom they could not help loving.

The life of Anselm very nearly corresponded with that of the Conqueror,
who died in 1087, being five years older; and he was Abbot of Bec during
the whole reign of William as King of England. There was nothing
particularly memorable in his life as abbot aside from his theological
studies. It was not until he was elevated to the See of Canterbury, on
the death of Lanfranc, that his memorable career became historical. He
anticipated Thomas Becket in his contest to secure the liberties of the
Church against the encroachments of the Norman kings. The cause of the
one was the cause of the other; only, Anselm was trained in monastic
seclusion, and Becket amid the tumults and intrigues of a court. The one
was essentially an ecclesiastic and theologian; the other a courtier and
statesman. The former was religious, and the latter secular in his
habits and duties. Yet both fought the same great battle, the essential
principle of which was the object of contention between the popes and
the emperors of Germany,--that pertaining to the right of investiture,
which may be regarded, next to the Crusades, as the great outward event
of the twelfth century. That memorable struggle for supremacy was not
brought to a close until Innocent III made the kings of the earth his
vassals, and reigned without a rival in Christendom. Gregory VII had
fought heroically, but he died in exile, leaving to future popes the
fruit of his transcendent labors.

Lanfranc died in 1089,--the ablest churchman of the century next to the
great Hildebrand, his master. It was through his influence that England
was more closely allied with Rome, and that those fetters were imposed
by the popes which the ablest of the Norman kings were unable to break.
The Pope had sanctioned the atrocious conquest of England by the
Normans--beneficially as it afterwards turned out--only on the
condition that extraordinary powers should be conferred on the
Archbishop of Canterbury, his representative in enforcing the papal
claims, who thus became virtually independent of the king,--a spiritual
monarch of such dignity that he was almost equal to his sovereign in
authority. There was no such See in Germany and France as that of
Canterbury. Its mighty and lordly metropolitan had the exclusive right
of crowning the king. To him the Archbishop of York, once his equal,
had succumbed. He was not merely primate, but had the supreme control of
the Church in England. He could depose prelates and excommunicate the
greatest personages; he enjoyed enormous revenues; he was vicegerent
of the Pope.

Loth was William to concede such great powers to the Pope, but he could
not be King of England without making a king of Canterbury. So he made
choice of Lanfranc--then Abbot of St. Stephen, the most princely of the
Norman convents--for the highest ecclesiastical dignity in his realm,
and perhaps in Europe after the papacy itself. Lanfranc was his friend,
and also the friend of Hildebrand; and no collision took place between
them, for neither could do without the other. William was willing to
waive some of his prerogatives as a sovereign for such a kingdom as
England, which made him the most powerful monarch in Western Europe,
since he ruled the fairest part of France and the whole British realm,
the united possession of both Saxons and Danes, with more absolute
authority than any feudal sovereign at that time possessed. His
victorious knights were virtually a standing army, bound to him with
more than feudal loyalty, since he divided among them the lands of the
conquered Saxons, and gave to their relatives the richest benefices of
the Church. With the aid of an Italian prelate, bound in allegiance to
the Pope, he hoped to cement his conquest. Lanfranc did as he
wished,--removed the Saxon bishops, and gave their sees to Normans.
Since Dunstan, no great Saxon bishop had arisen. The Saxon bishops were
feeble and indolent, and were not capable of making an effective
resistance. But Lanfranc was even more able than Dunstan,--a great
statesman as well as prelate. He ruled England as grand justiciary in
the absence of the monarch, and was thus viceregent of the kingdom. But
while he despoiled the Saxon prelates, he would suffer no royal
spoliation of the Norman bishops. He even wrested away from Odo,
half-brother of the Conqueror, the manors he held as Count of Kent,
which originally belonged to the See of Canterbury. Thus was William,
with all his greed and ambition, kept in check by the spiritual monarch
he had himself made so powerful.

On the death of this great prelate, all eyes were turned to Anselm as
his successor, who was then Abbot of Bec, absorbed in his studies. But
William Rufus, who had in the mean time succeeded to the throne of the
Conqueror, did not at once appoint any one to the vacant See, since he
had seized and used its revenues to the scandal of the nation and the
indignation of the Church. For five years there was no primate in
England and no Archbishop of Canterbury. At last, what seemed to be a
mortal sickness seized the King, and in the near prospect of death he
summoned Anselm to his chamber and conferred upon him the exalted
dignity,--which Anselm refused to accept, dreading the burdens of the
office, and preferring the quiet life of a scholar in his Norman abbey.
Like Thomas Aquinas, in the next century, who refused the archbishopric
of Naples to pursue his philosophical studies in Paris, Anselm declined
the primacy of the Church in England, with its cares and labors and
responsibilities, that he might be unmolested in his theological
inquiries. He understood the position in which he should be placed, and
foresaw that he should be brought in collision with his sovereign if he
would faithfully guard the liberties and interests of the Church. He was
a man of peace and meditation, and hated conflict, turmoil, and active
life. He knew that one of the requirements of a great prelate is to have
business talents, more necessary perhaps than eloquence or learning. At
last, however, on the pressing solicitation of the Pope, the King, and
the clergy, he consented to mount the throne of Lanfranc, on condition
that the temporalities, privileges, and powers of the See of Canterbury
should not be attacked. The crafty and rapacious, but now penitent
monarch, thinking he was about to die, and wishing to make his peace
with Heaven, made all the concessions required; and the quiet monk and
doctor, whom everybody loved and revered, was enthroned and consecrated
as the spiritual monarch of England.

Anselm's memorable career as bishop began in peace, but was soon clouded
by a desperate quarrel with his sovereign, as he had anticipated. This
learned and peace-loving theologian was forced into a contest which
stands out in history like the warfare between Hildebrand and Henry IV.
It was the beginning of that fierce contest in England which was made
memorable by the martyrdom of Becket. Anselm, when consecrated, was
sixty years of age,--a period of life when men are naturally timid,
cautious, and averse to innovations, quarrels, and physical discomforts.

The friendly relations between William Rufus and Anselm were disturbed
when the former sought to exact large sums of money from his subjects to
carry on war against his brother Robert. Among those who were expected
to make heavy contributions, in the shape of presents, was the
Archbishop of Canterbury, whose revenues were enormous,--perhaps the
largest in the realm next to those of the King. Anselm offered as his
contribution five hundred marks, what would now be equal to £10,000,--a
large sum in those days, but not as much as the Norman sovereign
expected. In indignation he refused the present, which seemed to him
meagre, especially since it was accompanied with words of seeming
reproof; for Anselm had said that "a free gift, which he meant this to
be, was better than a forced and servile contribution." The King then
angrily bade him begone; "that he wanted neither his money nor his
scolding." The courtiers tried to prevail on the prelate to double the
amount of his present, and thus regain the royal favor; but he firmly
refused to do this, since it looked to him like a corrupt bargain.
Anselm, having distributed among the poor the money which the King had
refused, left the court as soon as the Christmas festival was over and
retired to his diocese, preserving his independence and dignity.

A breach had not been made, but the irritation was followed by coolness;
and this was increased when Anselm desired to have the religious posts
filled the revenues of which the King had too long enjoyed, and when, in
addition, he demanded a council of bishops to remedy the disorders and
growing evils of the kingdom. This council the angry King refused with a
sneer, saying, "he would call the council when he himself pleased, not
when Anselm pleased." As to the filling the vacancies of the abbeys, he
further replied: "What are abbeys to _you_? Are they not _mine_? Go and
do what you like with your farms, and I will do what I please with my
abbeys." So they parted, these two potentates, the King saying to his
companions, "I hated him yesterday; I hate him more to-day; and I shall
hate him still more to-morrow. I refuse alike his blessings and his
prayers." His chief desire now was to get rid of the man he had elevated
to the throne of Canterbury. It may be observed that it was not the Pope
who made this appointment, but the King of England. Yet, by the rules
long established by the popes and accepted by Christendom, it was
necessary that an archbishop, before he could fully exercise his
spiritual powers, should go to Rome and receive at the hands of the Pope
his _pallium_, or white woollen stole, as the badge of his office and
dignity. Lanfranc had himself gone to Rome for this purpose,--and a
journey from Canterbury to Rome in the eleventh century was no small
undertaking, being expensive and fatiguing. But there were now at Rome
two rival popes. Which one should Anselm recognize? France and Normandy
acknowledged Urban. England was undecided whether it should be Urban or
Clement. William would probably recognize the one that Anselm did not,
for a rupture was certain, and the King sought for a pretext.

So when the Archbishop asked leave of the King to go to Rome, according
to custom, William demanded to know to which of these two popes he would
apply for his pallium. "To Pope Urban," was the reply. "But," said the
King, "him I have not acknowledged; and no man in England may
acknowledge a pope without my leave." At first view the matter was a
small one comparatively, whether Urban was or was not the true pope.
The real point was whether the King of England should accept as pope the
man whom the Archbishop recognized, or whether the Archbishop should
acknowledge him whom the King had accepted. This could be settled only
by a grand council of the nation, to whom the matter should be
submitted,--virtually a parliament. This council, demanded by Anselm,
met in the royal castle of Rockingham, 1095, composed of nobles,
bishops, and abbots. A large majority of the council were in the
interests of the King, and the subject at issue was virtually whether
the King or the prelate was supreme in spiritual matters,--a point which
the Conqueror had ceded to Lanfranc and Hildebrand. This council
insulted and worried the primate, and sought to frighten him into
submission. But submission was to yield up the liberties of the Church.
The intrepid prelate was not prepared for this, and he appealed from the
council to the Pope, thereby putting himself in antagonism to the King
and a majority of the peers of the realm. The King was exasperated, but
foiled, while the council was perplexed. The Bishop of Durham saw no
solution but in violence; but violence to the metropolitan was too bold
a measure to be seriously entertained. The King hoped that Anselm would
resign, as his situation was very unpleasant.

But resignation would be an act of cowardice, and would result in the
appointment of an archbishop favorable to the encroachments of the King,
who doubtless aimed at the subversion of the liberties of the Church and
greater independence. Five centuries later the sympathies of England
would have been on his side. But the English nation felt differently in
the eleventh century. All Christendom sympathized with the Pope; for
this resistance of Anselm to the King was the cause of the popes
themselves against the monarchs of Europe. Anselm simply acted as the
vicegerent of the Pope. To submit to the dictation of the King in a
spiritual matter was to undermine the authority of Rome. I do not
attempt to settle the merits of the question, but only to describe the
contest. To settle the merits of such a question is to settle the
question whether the papal power in its plenitude was good or evil for
society in the Middle Ages.

One thing seems certain, that the King was thus far foiled by the
firmness of a churchman,--the man who had passed the greater part of his
life in a convent, studying and teaching theology; one of the mildest
and meekest men ever elevated to high ecclesiastical office. Anselm was
sustained by the power of conscience, by an imperative sense of duty, by
allegiance to his spiritual head. He indeed owed fealty to the King, but
only for the temporalities of his See. His paramount obligations as an
archbishop were, according to all the ideas of his age, to the supreme
pontiff of Christendom. Doubtless his life would have been easier and
more pleasant had he been more submissive to the King. He could have
brought all the bishops, as well as barons, to acknowledge the King's
supremacy; but on his shoulders was laid the burden of sustaining
ecclesiastical authority in England. He had anticipated this burden, and
would have joyfully been exempted from its weight. But having assumed
it, perhaps against his will, he had only one course to pursue,
according to the ideas of the age; and this was to maintain the supreme
authority of the Pope in England in all spiritual matters. It was
remarkable that at this stage of the contest the barons took his side,
and the bishops took the side of the King. The barons feared for their
own privileges should the monarch be successful; for they knew his
unscrupulous and tyrannical character,--that he would encroach on these
and make himself as absolute as possible. The bishops were weak and
worldly men, and either did not realize the gravity of the case or
wished to gain the royal favor. They were nearly all Norman nobles, who
had been under obligations to the crown.

The King, however, understood and appreciated his position. He could not
afford to quarrel with the Pope; he dared not do violence to the primate
of the realm. So he dissembled his designs and restrained his wrath, and
sought to gain by cunning what he could not openly effect by the
exercise of royal power. He sent messengers and costly gifts to Rome,
such as the needy and greedy servants of the servants of God rarely
disdained. He sought to conciliate the Pope, and begged, as a favor,
that the pallium should be sent to him as monarch, and given by him,
with the papal sanction, to the Archbishop,--the name of Anselm being
suppressed. This favor, being bought by potent arguments, was granted
unwisely, and the pallium was sent to William with the greatest secrecy.
In return, the King acknowledged the claims of Urban as pope. So Anselm
did not go to Rome for the emblem of his power.

The King, having succeeded thus far, then demanded of the Pope the
deposition of Anselm. He could not himself depose the archbishop. He
could elevate him, but not remove him; he could make, but not unmake.
Only he who held the keys of Saint Peter, who was armed with spiritual
omnipotence, could reverse his own decrees and rule arbitrarily. But for
any king to expect that the Pope would part with the ablest defender of
the liberties of the Church, and disgrace him for being faithful to
papal interests, was absurd. The Pope may have used smooth words, but
was firm in the uniform policy of all his predecessors.

Meanwhile political troubles came so thick and heavy on the King, some
of his powerful nobles being in open rebellion, that he felt it
necessary to dissemble and defer the gratification of his vengeance on
the man he hated more than any personage in England. He pretended to
restore Anselm to favor. "Bygones should be bygones." The King and the
Archbishop sat at dinner at Windsor with friends and nobles, while an
ironical courtier pleasantly quoted the Psalmist, "Behold, how good and
how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

The King now supposed that Anselm would receive the pallium at his royal
hands, which the prelate warily refused to accept. The subject was
carefully dropped, but as the pallium was Saint Peter's gift, it was
brought to Canterbury and placed upon the altar, and the Archbishop
condescended, amid much pomp and ceremony, to take it thence and put it
on,--a sort of puerile concession for the sake of peace. The King, too,
wishing conciliation for the present, until he had gained the possession
of Normandy from his brother Robert, who had embarked in the Crusades,
and feeling that he could ill afford to quarrel with the highest
dignitary of his kingdom until his political ambition was gratified,
treated Anselm with affected kindness, until his ill success with the
Celtic Welsh put him in a bad humor and led to renewed hostility. He
complained that Anselm had not furnished his proper contingent of forces
for the conquest of Wales, and summoned him to his court. In a secular
matter like this, Anselm as a subject had no remedy. Refusal to appear
would be regarded as treason and rebellion. Yet he neglected to obey the
summons, perhaps fearing violence, and sought counsel from the Pope. He
asked permission to go to Rome. The request was angrily refused. Again
he renewed his request, and again it was denied him, with threats if he
departed without leave. The barons, now against him, thought he had no
right to leave his post; the bishops even urged him not to go. To all of
whom he replied: "You wish me to swear that I will not appeal to Saint
Peter. To swear this is to forswear Saint Peter; to forswear Saint Peter
is to forswear Christ." At last it seems that the King gave a reluctant
consent, but with messages that were insulting; and Anselm, with a
pilgrim's staff, took leave of his monks, for the chapter of Canterbury
was composed of monks, set out for Dover, and reached the continent
in safety.

"Thus began," says Church, "the system of appeals to Rome, and of
inviting foreign interference in the home affairs of England; and Anselm
was the beginning of it." But however unfortunate it ultimately proved,
it was in accordance with the ideas and customs of the Middle Ages,
without which the papal power could not have been so successfully
established. And I take the ground that the Papacy was an institution of
which very much may be said in its favor in the dark ages of European
society, especially in restraining the tyranny of kings and the
turbulence of nobles. Governments are based on expediencies and changing
circumstances, not on immutable principles or divine rights. If this be
not true, we are driven to accept as the true form of government that
which was recognized by Christ and his disciples. The feudal kings of
Europe claimed a "divine right," and professed to reign by the "grace of
God." Whence was this right derived? If it can be substantiated, on what
claim rests the sovereignty of the people? Are not popes and kings and
bishops alike the creation of circumstances, good or evil inventions, as
they meet the wants of society?

Anselm felt himself to be the subject of the Pope as well as of the
King, but that, as a priest, his supreme allegiance should be given to
the Pope, as the spiritual head of the Church and vicegerent of Christ
upon the earth. We differ from him in his view of the claims of the
Pope, which he regarded as based on immutable truth and the fiat of
Almighty power,--even as Richelieu looked upon the imbecile king whom he
served as reigning by divine right. The Protestant Reformation
demolished the claims of the spiritual potentate, as the French
Revolution swept away the claims of the temporal monarch. The "logic of
events" is the only logic which substantiates the claims of rulers; and
this logic means, in our day, constitutional government in politics and
private judgment in religion,--the free choice of such public servants,
whatever their titles of honor, in State and Church, as the exigencies
and circumstances of society require. The haughtiest of the popes, in
the proudest period of their absolute ascendancy, never rejected their
early title,--"servant of the servants of God." Wherever there is real
liberty among the people, whose sovereignty is acknowledged as the
source of power, the ruler _is_ a servant of the people and not their
tyrant, however great the authority which they delegate to him, which
they alone may continue or take away. Absolute authority, delegated to
kings or popes by God, was the belief of the Middle Ages; limited
authority, delegated to rulers by the people, is the idea of our times.
What the next invention in government may be no one can tell; but
whatever it be, it will be in accordance with the ideas and altered
circumstances of progressive ages. No one can anticipate or foresee the
revolutions in human thought, and therefore in human governments, "till
He shall come whose right it is to reign."

Taking it, then, to be the established idea of the Middle Ages that all
ecclesiastics owed supreme allegiance to the visible head of the Church,
no one can blame Anselm for siding with the Pope, rather than with his
sovereign, in spiritual matters. He would have been disloyal to his
conscience if he had not been true to his clerical vows of obedience.
Conscience may be unenlightened, yet take away the power of conscience
and what would become of our world? What is a man without a conscience?
He is a usurper, a tyrant, a libertine, a spendthrift, a robber, a
miser, an idler, a trifler,--whatever he is tempted to be; a supreme
egotist, who says in his heart, "There is no God." The Almighty Creator
placed this instinct in the soul of man to prevent the total eclipse of
faith, and to preserve some allegiance to Him, some guidance in the
trials and temptations of life. We lament a perverted conscience; yet
better this than no conscience at all, a voice silenced by the combined
forces of evil. A man _must_ obey this voice. It is the wisdom of the
ages to make it harmonious with eternal right; it is the power of God to
remove or weaken the assailing forces which pervert or silence it.

See, then, this gentle, lovable, and meditative scholar--not haughty
like Dunstan, not arrogant like Becket, not sacerdotal like Ambrose, not
passionate like Chrysostom, but meek as Moses is said to have been
before Pharaoh (although I never could see this distinguishing trait in
the Hebrew leader)--yet firmly and heroically braving the wrath of the
sovereign who had elevated him, and pursuing his toilsome journey to
Rome to appeal to justice against injustice, to law against violence.
He reached the old capital of the world in midwinter, after having spent
Christmas in that hospitable convent where Hildebrand had reigned, and
which was to shield the persecuted Abélard from the wrath of his
ecclesiastical tormentors. He was most honorably received by the Pope,
and lodged in the Lateran, as the great champion of papal authority.
Vainly did he beseech the Pope to relieve him from his dignities and
burdens; for such a man could not be spared from the exalted post in
which he had been placed. Peace-loving as he was, his destiny was to
fight battles.

In the following year Pope Urban died; and in the following year William
Rufus himself was accidentally killed in the New Forest. His death was
not much lamented, he having proved hard, unscrupulous, cunning, and
tyrannical. At this period the kings of England reigned with almost
despotic power, independent of barons and oppressive to the people.
William had but little regard for the interests of the kingdom. He built
neither churches nor convents, but Westminster Hall was the memorial of
his iron reign.

Much was expected of Henry I., who immediately recalled Anselm from
Lyons, where he was living in voluntary exile. He returned to
Canterbury, with the firm intention of reforming the morals of the
clergy and resisting royal encroachments. Henry was equally resolved on
making bishops as well as nobles subservient to him. Of course harmony
and concord could not long exist between such men, with such opposite
views. Even at the first interview of the King with the Archbishop at
Salisbury, he demanded a renewal of homage by a new act of investiture,
which was virtually a continuance of the quarrel. It was, however,
mutually agreed that the matter should be referred to the new pope.
Anselm, on his part, knew that the appeal was hopeless; while the King
wished to gain time. It was not long before the answer of Pope Pascal
came. He was willing that Henry should have many favors, but not this.
Only the head of the Church could bestow the emblems of spiritual
authority. On receiving the papal reply the King summoned his nobles and
bishops to his court, and required that Anselm should acknowledge the
right of the King to invest prelates with the badges of spiritual
authority. The result was a second embassy to the Pope, of more
distinguished persons,--the Archbishop of York and two other prelates.
The Pope, of course, remained inflexible. On the return of the envoys a
great council was assembled in London, and Anselm again was required to
submit to the King's will. It seems that the Pope, from motives of
policy (for all the popes were reluctant to quarrel with princes), had
given the envoys assurance that, so long as Henry was a good king, he
should not be disturbed, and that oral declarations were contrary to his
written documents.

This contradiction and double dealing required a new embassy to Rome;
but in the mean time the King gave the See of Salisbury to his
chancellor, and that of Hereford to the superintendent of his larder.
When the answer of the Pope was finally received, it was found that he
indignantly disavowed the verbal message, and excommunicated the three
prelates as liars. But the King was not disconcerted. He suddenly
appeared at Canterbury, and told Anselm that further opposition would be
followed by the royal enmity; yet, mollifying his wrath, requested
Anselm himself to go to Rome and do what he could with the Pope. Anselm
assured him that he could do nothing to the prejudice of the Church. He
departed, however, the King obviously wishing him out of the way.

The second journey of Anselm to Rome was a perpetual ovation, but was of
course barren of results. The Pope remained inflexible, and Anselm
prepared to return to England; but, from the friendly hints of the
prelates who accompanied him, he sojourned again at Lyons with his
friend the archbishop. Both the Pope and the King had compromised;
Anselm alone was straightforward and fearless. As a consequence his
revenues were seized, and he remained in exile. He had been willing to
do the Pope's bidding, had he made an exception to the canons; but so
long as the law remained in force he had nothing to do but conform to
it. He remained in Lyons a year and a half, while Henry continued his
negotiations with Pascal; but finding that nothing was accomplished,
Anselm resolved to excommunicate his sovereign. The report of this
intention alarmed Henry, then preparing for a decisive conflict with his
brother Robert. The excommunication would at least be inconvenient; it
might cost him his crown. So he sought an interview with Anselm at the
castle of l'Aigle, and became outwardly reconciled, and restored to him
his revenues.

"The end of the dreary contest came at last, in 1107, after vexatious
delays and intrigues." It was settled by compromise,--as most quarrels
are settled, as most institutions are established. Outwardly the King
yielded. He agreed, in an assembly of nobles, bishops, and abbots at
London, that henceforth no one should be invested with bishopric or
abbacy, either by king or layman, by the customary badges of ring and
crosier. Anselm, on his part, agreed that no prelate should be refused
consecration who was nominated by the King. The appointment of bishops
remained with the King; but the consecration could be withheld by the
primate, since he alone had the right to give the badges of office,
without which spiritual functions could not be lawfully performed. It
was a moral victory to the Church, but the victory of an unpopular
cause. It cemented the power of the Pope, while freedom from papal
interference has ever been dear to the English nation.

When Anselm had fought this great fight he died, 1109, in the sixteenth
year of his reign as primate of the Church in England, and was buried,
next to Lanfranc, in his abbey church. His career outwardly is memorable
only for this contest, which was afterwards renewed by Thomas Becket
with a greater king than either William Rufus or Henry I. It is
interesting, since it was a part of the great struggle between the
spiritual and temporal powers for two hundred years,--from Hildebrand to
Innocent III. This was only one of the phases of the quarrel,--one of
the battles of a long war,--not between popes and emperors, as in
Germany and Italy, but between a king and the vicegerent of a pope; a
king and his subject, the one armed with secular, the other with
spiritual, weapons. It was only brought to an end by an appeal to the
fears of men,--the dread of excommunication and consequent torments in
hell, which was the great governing idea of the Middle Ages, the means
by which the clergy controlled the laity. Abused and perverted as this
idea was, it indicates and presupposes a general belief in the
personality of God, in rewards and punishments in a future state, and
the necessity of conforming to the divine laws as expounded and
enforced by the Christian Church. Hence the dark ages have been called
"Ages of Faith."

It now remains to us to contemplate Anselm as a theologian and
philosopher,--a more interesting view, for in this aspect his character
is more genial, and his influence more extended and permanent. He is one
of the first who revived theological studies in Europe. He did not teach
in the universities as a scholastic doctor, but he was one who prepared
the way for universities by the stimulus he gave to philosophy. It was
in his abbey of Bec that he laid the foundation of a new school of
theological inquiry. In original genius he was surpassed by no
scholastic in the Middle Ages, although both Abélard and Thomas Aquinas
enjoyed a greater fame. It was for his learning and sanctity that he was
canonized,--and singularly enough by Alexander VI., the worst pope who
ever reigned. Still more singular is it that the last of his successors,
as abbot of Bec, was the diplomatist Talleyrand,--one of the most
worldly and secular of all the ecclesiastical dignitaries of an
infidel age.

The theology of the Middle Ages, of which Anselm was one of the greatest
expounders, certainly the most profound, was that which was systematized
by Saint Augustine from the writings of Paul. Augustine was the oracle
of the Latin Church until the Council of Trent, and nominally his
authority has never been repudiated by the Catholic Church. But he was
no more the father of the Catholic theology than he was of the
Protestant, as taught by John Calvin: these two great theologians were
in harmony in all essential doctrines as completely as were Augustine
and Anselm, or Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. The doctrines of theology,
as formulated by Augustine, were subjects of contemplation and study in
all the convents of the Middle Ages. In spite of the prevailing
ignorance, it was impossible that inquiring men, "secluded in gloomy
monasteries, should find food for their minds in the dreary and
monotonous duties to which monks were doomed,--a life devoted to
alternate manual labor and mechanical religious services." There would
be some of them who would speculate on the lofty subjects which were the
constant themes of their meditations. Bishops were absorbed in their
practical duties as executive rulers. Village priests were too ignorant
to do much beyond looking after the wants of hinds and peasants. The
only scholarly men were the monks. And although the number of these was
small, they have the honor of creating the first intellectual movement
since the fall of the Roman Empire. They alone combined leisure with
brain-work. These intellectual and inquiring monks, as far back as the
ninth century speculated on the great subjects of Christian faith with
singular boldness, considering the general ignorance which veiled
Europe in melancholy darkness. Some of them were logically led "to a
secret mutiny and insurrection" against the doctrines which were
universally received. This insurrection of human intelligence gave great
alarm to the orthodox leaders of the Church; and to suppress it the
Church raised up conservative dialecticians as acute and able as those
who strove for emancipation. At first they used the weapons of natural
reason, but afterwards employed the logic and method of Aristotle, as
translated into Latin from the Arabic, to assist them in their
intellectual combats. Gradually the movement centred in the scholastic
philosophy, as a bulwark to Catholic theology. But this was nearly a
hundred years after the time of Anselm, who himself was not enslaved by
the technicalities of a complicated system of dialectics.

Naturally the first subject which was suggested to the minds of
inquiring monks was the being and attributes of God. He was the
beginning and end of their meditations. It was to meditate upon God that
the Oriental recluse sought the deserts of Asia Minor and Egypt. Like
the Eastern monk of the fourth century, he sought to know the essence
and nature of the Deity he worshipped. There arose before his mind the
great doctrines of the trinity, the incarnation, and redemption. Closely
connected with these were predestination and grace, and then "fixed
fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute." On these mysteries he could
not help meditating; and with meditation came speculation on
unfathomable subjects pertaining to God and his relations with man, to
the nature of sin and its penalty, to the freedom of the will, and
eternal decrees.

The monk became first a theologian and then a philosopher, whether of
the school of Plato or of Aristotle he did not know. He began to
speculate on questions which had agitated the Grecian schools,--the
origin of evil and of matter; whether the world was created or
uncreated; whether there is a distinction between things visible and
invisible; whether we derive our knowledge from sensation or reflection;
whether the soul is necessarily immortal; how free-will is to be
reconciled with God's eternal decrees, or what the Greeks called Fate;
whether ideas are eternal, or are the creation of our own minds. These,
and other more subtile questions--like the nature of angels--began to
agitate the convent in the ninth century.

It was then that the monk Gottschalk revived the question of
predestination, which had slumbered since the time of Saint Augustine.
Although the Bishop of Hippo was the oracle of the Church, and no one
disputed his authority, it would seem that his characteristic
doctrine,--that of grace; the essential doctrine of Luther also,--was
never a favorite one with the great churchmen of the Middle Ages. They
did not dispute Saint Augustine, but they adhered to penances and
expiations, which entered so largely into the piety of the Middle Ages.
The idea of penances and expiations, pushed to their utmost logical
sequence, was salvation by works and not by faith. Grace, as understood
by the Fathers, was closely allied to predestination; it disdained the
elaborate and cumbrous machinery of ecclesiastical discipline, on which
the power of the clergy was based. Grace was opposed to penance, while
penance was the form which religion took; and as predestination was a
theological sequence of grace, it was distasteful to the Mediaeval
Church. Both grace and predestination tended to undermine the system of
penance then universally accepted. The great churchmen of the Middle
Ages were plainly at war with their great oracle in this matter, without
being fully aware of their real antagonism. So they made an onslaught on
Gottschalk, as opposed to those ideas on which sacerdotal power
rested,--especially did Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, the greatest
prelate of that age. Persecuted, Gottschalk appealed to reason rather
than authority, thus anticipating Luther by five hundred years,--an
immense heresy in the Middle Ages. Hincmar, not being able to grapple
with the monk in argument, summoned to his aid the brightest intellect
of that century,--the first man who really gave an impulse to
philosophical inquiries in the Middle Ages, the true founder of

This man was John Scotus Erigena,--or John the Erin-born,--who was also
a monk, and whose early days had been spent in some secluded monastery
in Ireland, or the Scottish islands. Somehow he attracted the attention
of Charles the Bald, A.D. 843, and became his guest and chosen
companion. And yet, while he lived in the court, he spent the most of
his time in intellectual seclusion. As a guest of the king he may have
become acquainted with Hincmar, or his acquaintance with Hincmar may
have led to his friendship with Charles. He was witty, bright, and
learned, like Abélard, a favorite with the great. In his treatise on
Predestination, in which he combated the views of Gotschalk, he probably
went further than Hincmar desired or expected: he boldly asserted the
supremacy of reason, and threw off the shackles of authority. He
combated Saint Augustine as well as Gottschalk. He even aspired to
reconcile free-will with the divine sovereignty,--the great mistake of
theologians in every age, the most hopeless and the most ambitious
effort of human genius,--a problem which cannot be solved. He went even
further than this: he attempted to harmonize philosophy with religion,
as Abélard did afterwards. He brought all theological questions to the
test of dialectical reasoning. Thus the ninth century saw a rationalist
and a pantheist at the court of a Christian king. Like Democritus, he
maintained the eternity of matter. Like a Buddhist, he believed that God
is all things and all things are God. Such doctrines were not to be
tolerated, even in an age when theological speculations did not usually
provoke persecution. Religious persecution for opinions was the fruit of
subsequent inquiries, and did not reach its height until the Dominicans
arose in the thirteenth century. But Erigena was generally denounced; he
fell under the censure of the Pope, and was obliged to fly, taking
refuge about the year 882 in England,--it is said at Oxford, where there
was probably a cathedral school, but not as yet a university, with its
professors' chairs and scholastic honors. Others suppose that he died in
Paris, 891.

A spirit of inquiry having been thus awakened among a few intellectual
monks, they began to speculate about those questions which had agitated
the Grecian schools: whether _genera_ and _species_--called
"universals," or ideas--have a substantial and independent existence, or
whether they are the creation of our own minds; whether, if they have a
real existence, they are material or immaterial essences; whether they
exist apart from objects perceptible by the senses. It is singular that
such questions should have been discussed in the ninth century, since
neither Plato nor Aristotle were studied. That age was totally ignorant
of Greek. It may be doubted whether there was a Greek scholar in Western
Europe,--or even in Rome.

No very remarkable man arose with a rationalizing spirit, after Erigena,
until Berengar of Tours in the eleventh century, who maintained that in
the Sacrament the presence of the body of Christ involves no change in
the nature and essence of the bread and wine. He was opposed by
Lanfranc. But the doctrine of transubstantiation was too deeply grounded
in the faith of Christendom to be easily shaken. Controversies seemed to
centre around the doctrine of the real existence of ideas,--what are
called "universals,"--which doctrine was generally accepted. The monks,
in this matter, followed Saint Augustine, who was a realist, as were
also the orthodox leaders of the Church generally from his time to that
of Saint Bernard. It was a sequence of the belief in the doctrine of
the Trinity.

No one of mark opposed the Realism which had now become one of the
accepted philosophical opinions of the age, until Roscelin, in the
latter part of the eleventh century, denied that universals have a real
existence. It was Plato's doctrine that universals have an independent
existence apart from individual objects, and that they exist before the
latter (_universalia_ ANTE _rem_,--the thought _before_ the thing);
while Aristotle maintained that universals, though possessing a real
existence, exist only in individual objects (_universalia_ IN _re_,
--the thought _in_ the thing). Nominalism is the doctrine that
individuals only have real existence (_universalia_ POST _rem_,--the
thought _after_ the thing).

It is not probable that this profound question about universals would
have excited much interest among the intellectual monks of the eleventh
century, had it not been applied to theological subjects, in which
chiefly they were absorbed. Now Roscelin advanced the doctrine, that, if
the three persons in the Trinity were one thing, it would follow that
the Father and the Holy Ghost must have entered into the flesh together
with the Son; and as he believed that only individuals exist in reality,
it would follow that the three persons of the Godhead are three
substances, in fact three Gods. Thus Nominalism logically led to an
assault on the received doctrine of the Trinity--the central point in
the theology of the Church. This was heresy. The foundations of
Christian belief were attacked, and no one in that age was strong enough
to come to the rescue but Anselm, then Abbot of Bec.

His great service to the cause of Christian theology, and therefore to
the Church universal, was his exposition of the logical results of the
Nominalism of Roscelin,--to whom universals, or ideas, were merely
creations of the mind, or conventional phrases, having no real
existence. Hence such things as love, friendship, beauty, justice, were
only conceptions. Plato and Augustine maintained that they are eternal
verities, not to be explained by definitions, appealing to
consciousness, in the firm belief in which the soul sustains itself;
that there can be no certain knowledge without a recognition of these;
that from these only sound deductions of moral truth can be drawn; that
without a firm belief in these eternal certitudes there can be no repose
and no lofty faith. These ideas are independent of us. They do not vary
with our changing sensations; they have nothing to do with sensation.
They are not creations of the brain; they inherently exist, from all
eternity. The substance of these ideas is God; without these we could
not conceive of God. Augustine especially, in the true spirit of
Platonism, abhorred doctrines which made the existence of God depend
upon our own abstractions. To him there was a reality in love, in
friendship, in justice, in beauty; and he repelled scepticism as to
their eternal existence, as life repels death.

Roscelin took away the platform from whose lofty heights Socrates and
Plato would survey the universe. He attacked the citadel in which
Augustine intrenched himself amid the desolations of a dissolving world;
he laid the axe at the root of the tree which sheltered all those who
would fly from uncertainty and despair.

But if these ideas were not true, what was true; on what were the hopes
of the world to be based; where was consolation for the miseries of life
to be found? "There are many goods," says Anselm, "which we
desire,--some for utility, and others for beauty; but all these goods
are relative,--more or less good,--and imply something absolutely good.
This absolute good--the _summum bonum_--is God. In like manner all that
is great and high are only relatively great and high; and hence there
must be something absolutely great and high, and this is God. There must
exist at least one being than which no other is higher; hence there must
be but one such being,--and this is God."

It was thus that Anselm brought philosophy to the support of theology.
He would combat the philosophical reasonings of Roscelin with still
keener dialectics. He would conquer him on his own ground and with his
own weapons.

Let it not be supposed that this controversy about universals was a mere
dialectical tournament, with no grand results. It goes down to the root
of almost every great subject in philosophy and religion. The denial of
universal ideas is rationalism and materialism in philosophy, as it is
Pelagianism and Arminianism in theology. The Nominalism of Roscelin
reappeared in the Rationalism of Abélard; and, carried out to its
severe logical sequences, is the refusal to accept any doctrine which
cannot be proved by reason. Hence nothing is to be accepted which is
beyond the province of reason to explain; and hence nothing is to be
received by faith alone. Christianity, in the hands of fearless and
logical nominalists, would melt away,--that is, what is peculiar in its
mysterious dogmas. Its mysterious dogmas were the anchors of belief in
ages of faith. It was these which animated the existence of such men as
Augustine, Bernard, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. Hence their terrible
antagonism even to philosophical doctrines which conflicted with the
orthodox belief, on which, as they thought, the salvation of
mankind rested.

But Anselm did not rest with combating the Nominalism of Roscelin. In
the course of his inquiries and arguments he felt it necessary to
establish the belief in God--the one great thing from which all other
questions radiated--by a new argument, and on firmer ground than that on
which it had hitherto rested. He was profoundly devotional as well as
logical, and original as he was learned. Beyond all the monks of his age
he lived in the contemplation of God. God was to him the essence of all
good, the end of all inquiries, the joy and repose of his soul He could
not understand unless he _first_ believed; knowledge was the _fruit_ of
faith, not its _cause_. The idea of God in the mind of man is the
highest proof of the existence of God. That only is real which appeals
to consciousness. He did not care to reason about a thing when reasoning
would not strengthen his convictions, perhaps involve him in doubts and
perplexities. Reason is finite and clouded and warped. But that which
directly appeals to consciousness (as all that is eternal must appeal),
and to that alone, like beauty and justice and love,--ultimate ideas to
which reasoning and definitions add nothing,--is to be received as a
final certitude. Hence, absolute certainty of the existence of God, as
it appeals to consciousness,--like the "_Cogito, ergo sum_." In this
argument he anticipated Descartes, and proved himself the profoundest
thinker of his century, perhaps of five centuries.

The deductions which Anselm made from the attributes of God and his
moral government seem to have strengthened the belief of the Middle Ages
in some theological aspects which are repulsive to consciousness,--his
stronghold; thereby showing how one-sided any deductions are apt to be
when pushed out to their utmost logical consequences; how they may even
become a rebuke to human reason in those grand efforts of which reason
is most proud, for theology, it must be borne in mind, is a science of
deductions from acknowledged truths of revelation. Hence, from the
imperfections of reason, or from disregard of other established truths,
deductions may be pushed to absurdity even when logical, and may be made
to conflict with the obvious meaning of primal truths from which these
deductions are made, or at least with those intuitions which are hard to
be distinguished from consciousness itself. There may be no flaw in the
argument, but the argument may land one in absurdity and contradiction.
For instance, from the acknowledged sinfulness of human nature--one of
the cardinal declarations of Scripture, and confirmed by universal
experience--and the equally fundamental truth that God is infinite,
Anselm assumed the dogma that the guilt of men as sinners against an
infinite God is infinitely great. From this premise, which few in his
age were disposed to deny, for it was in accordance with Saint
Augustine, it follows that infinite sin, according to eternal justice,
could only be atoned for by an infinite punishment. Hence all men
deserve eternal punishment, and must receive it, unless there be made an
infinite satisfaction or atonement, since not otherwise can divine love
be harmonized with divine justice. Hence it was necessary that the
eternal Son should become man, and make, by his voluntary death on the
cross, the necessary atonement for human sins. Pushed out to the
severest logical consequences, it would follow, that, as an infinite
satisfaction has atoned for sin, _all_ sinners are pardoned. But the
Church shrank from such a conclusion, although logical, and included in
the benefits of the atonement only the _believing_ portion of mankind.
The discrepancy between the logical deductions and consciousness, and I
may add Scripture, lies in assuming that human guilt _is infinitely_
great. It is thus that theology became complicated, even gloomy, and in
some points false, by metaphysical reasonings, which had such a charm
both to the Fathers and the Schoolmen. The attempt to reconcile divine
justice with divine love by metaphysics and abstruse reasoning proved as
futile as the attempt to reconcile free-will with predestination; for
divine justice was made by deduction, without reference to other
attributes, to conflict with those ideas of justice which consciousness
attests,--even as a fettered will, of which all are conscious (that is,
a will fettered by sin), was pushed out by logical deductions into
absolute slavery and impotence.

Anselm did not carry out metaphysical reasonings to such lengths as did
the Schoolmen who succeeded him,--those dialecticians who lived in
universities in the thirteenth century. He was a devout man, who
meditated on God and on revealed truth with awe and reverence, without
any desire of system-making or dialectical victories. This desire more
properly marked the Scholastic doctors of the universities in a
subsequent age, when, though philosophy had been invoked by Anselm to
support theology, they virtually made theology subordinate to philosophy.
It was his main effort to establish, on rational grounds, the existence
of God, and afterwards the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.
And yet with Anselm and Roscelin the Scholastic age began. They were the
founders of the Realists and the Nominalists,--those two schools which
divided the Church in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and which
will probably go on together, under different names, as long as men shall
believe and doubt. But this subject, on which I have only entered, must
be deferred to the next lecture.


Church's Life of Saint Anselm; Neander's Church History; Milman's
History of the Latin Church; Stockl's History of the Philosophy of the
Middle Ages; Ueberweg's History of Philosophy; Wordsworth's
Ecclesiastical Biography; Trench's Mediaeval Church History; Digby's
Ages of Faith; Fleury's Ecclesiastical History; Dupin's Ecclesiastical
History; Biographie Universelle; M. Rousselot's Histoire de la
Philosophic du Moyen Age; Newman's Mission of the Benedictine Order;
Dugdale's Monasticon; Hallam's Literature of Europe; Hampden's article
on the Scholastic Philosophy, in Encyclopaedia Metropolitana.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1225(7)-1274.


We have seen how the cloister life of the Middle Ages developed
meditative habits of mind, which were followed by a spirit of inquiry on
deep theological questions. We have now to consider a great intellectual
movement, stimulated by the effort to bring philosophy to the aid of
theology, and thus more effectually to battle with insidious and rising
heresies. The most illustrious representative of this movement was
Thomas of Aquino, generally called Thomas Aquinas. With him we associate
the Scholastic Philosophy, which, though barren in the results at which
it aimed, led to a remarkable intellectual activity, and hence,
indirectly, to the emancipation of the mind. It furnished teachers who
prepared the way for the great lights of the Reformation.

Anselm had successfully battled with the rationalism of Roscelin, and
also had furnished a new argument for the existence of God. He secured
the triumph of Realism for a time and the apparent extinction of
heresy. But a new impulse to thought was given, soon after his death, by
a less profound but more popular and brilliant man, and, like him, a
monk. This was the celebrated Peter Abélard, born in the year 1079, in
Brittany, of noble parents, and a boy of remarkable precocity. He was a
sort of knight-errant of philosophy, going from convent to convent and
from school to school, disputing, while a mere youth, with learned
teachers, wherever he could find them. Having vanquished the masters in
the provincial schools, he turned his steps to Paris, at that time the
intellectual centre of Europe. The university was not yet established,
but the cathedral school of Notre Dame was presided over by William of
Champeaux, who defended the Realism of Anselm.

To this famous cathedral school Abélard came as a pupil of the veteran
dialectician at the age of twenty, and dared to dispute his doctrines.
He soon set up as a teacher himself; but as Notre Dame was interdicted
to him he retired to Melun, ten leagues from Paris, where enthusiastic
pupils crowded to his lecture room, for he was witty, bold, sarcastic,
acute, and eloquent. He afterwards removed to Paris, and so completely
discomfited his old master that he retired from the field. Abélard then
applied himself to the study of divinity, and attended the lectures of
Anselm of Laon, who, though an old man, was treated by Abélard with
great flippancy and arrogance. He then began to lecture on divinity as
well as philosophy, with extraordinary _éclat_. Students flocked to his
lecture room from all parts of Germany, Italy, France, and England. It
is said that five thousand young men attended his lectures, among whom
one hundred were destined to be prelates, including that brilliant and
able Italian who afterwards reigned as Innocent III. It was about this
time, 1117, when he was thirty-eight, that he encountered Héloïse,--a
passage of his life which will be considered in a later volume of this
work. His unfortunate love and his cruel misfortune led to a temporary
seclusion in a convent, from which, however, he issued to lecture with
renewed popularity in a desert place in Champagne, where he constructed
a vast edifice and dedicated it to the Paraclete. It was here that his
most brilliant days were spent. It is said that three thousand pupils
followed him to this wilderness. He was doubtless the most brilliant and
successful lecturer that the Middle Ages ever saw. He continued the
controversy which was begun by Roscelin respecting universals, the
reality of which he denied.

Abélard was not acquainted with the Greek, but in a Latin translation
from the Arabic he had studied Aristotle, whom he regarded as the great
master of dialectics, although not making use of his method, as did the
great Scholastics of the succeeding century. Still, he was among the
first to apply dialectics to theology. He maintained a certain
independence of the patristic authority by his "Sic et Non," in which
treatise he makes the authorities neutralize each other by placing side
by side contradictory assertions. He maintained that the natural
propensity to evil, in consequence of the original transgression, is not
in itself sin; that sin consists in consenting to evil. "It is not,"
said he, "the temptation to lust that is sinful, but the acquiescence in
the temptation;" hence, that virtue cannot be tested without
temptations; consequently, that moral worth can only be truly estimated
by God, to whom motives are known,--in short, that sin consists in the
intention, and not in act. He admitted with Anselm that faith, in a
certain sense, precedes knowledge, but insisted that one must know why
and what he believes before his faith is established; hence, that faith
works itself out of doubt by means of rational investigation.

The tendency of Abélard's teachings was rationalistic, and therefore he
arrayed against himself the great champion of orthodoxy in his
day,--Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, the most influential churchman
of his age, and the most devout and lofty. His immense influence was
based on his learning and sanctity; but he was dogmatic and intolerant.
It is probable that the intellectual arrogance of Abélard, his flippancy
and his sarcasms, offended more than the matter of his lectures. "It is
not by industry," said he, "that I have reached the heights of
philosophy, but by force of genius." He was more admired by young and
worldly men than by old men. He was the admiration of women, for he was
poet as well as philosopher. His love-songs were scattered over Europe.
With a proud and aristocratic bearing, severe yet negligent dress,
beautiful and noble figure, musical and electrical voice, added to the
impression he made by his wit and dialectical power, no man ever
commanded greater admiration from those who listened to him. But he
excited envy as well as admiration, and was probably misrepresented by
his opponents. Like all strong and original characters, he had bitter
enemies as well as admiring friends; and these enemies exaggerated his
failings and his heretical opinions. Therefore he was summoned before
the Council of Soissons, and condemned to perpetual silence. From this
he appealed to Rome, and Rome sided with his enemies. He found a
retreat, after his condemnation, in the abbey of Cluny, and died in the
arms of his friend Peter the Venerable, the most benignant ecclesiastic
of the century, who venerated his genius and defended his orthodoxy, and
whose influence procured him absolution from the Pope.

But whatever were the faults of Abélard; however selfish he was in his
treatment of Héloïse, or proud and provoking to adversaries, or even
heretical in many of his doctrines, especially in reference to faith,
which he is accused of undermining, although he accepted in the main the
received doctrines of the Church, certainly in his latter days, when he
was broken and penitent (for no great man ever suffered more humiliating
misfortunes),--one thing is clear, that he gave a stimulus to
philosophical inquiries, and awakened a desire of knowledge, and gave
dignity to human reason, beyond any man in the Middle Ages.

The dialectical and controversial spirit awakened by Abélard led to such
a variety of opinions among the inquiring young men who assembled in
Paris at the various schools, some of which were regarded as
rationalistic in their tendency, or at least a departure from the
patristic standard, that Peter Lombard, Bishop of Paris, collected in
four books the various sayings of the Fathers concerning theological
dogmas. He was also influenced to make this exposition by the "Sic et
Non" of Abélard, which tended to unsettle belief. This famous manual,
called the "Book of Sentences," appeared about the middle of the twelfth
century, and had an immense influence. It was the great text-book of the
theological schools.

About the time this book appeared the works of Aristotle were introduced
to the attention of students, translated into Latin from the Saracenic
language. Aristotle had already been commented upon by Arabian scholars
in Spain,--among whom Averroes, a physician and mathematician of
Cordova, was the most distinguished,--who regarded the Greek philosopher
as the founder of scientific knowledge. His works were translated from
the Greek into the Arabic in the early part of the ninth century.

The introduction of Aristotle led to an extension of philosophical
studies. From the time of Charlemagne only grammar and elementary logic
and dogmatic theology had been taught, but Abélard introduced dialectics
into theology. A more complete method was required than that which the
existing schools furnished, and this was supplied by the dialectics of
Aristotle. He became, therefore, at the close of the twelfth century, an
acknowledged authority, and his method was adopted to support the dogmas
of the Church.

Meanwhile the press of students at Paris, collected into various
schools,--the chief of which were the theological school of Notre Dame,
and the school of logic at Mount Geneviève, where Abélard had
lectured,--demanded a new organization. The teachers and pupils of these
schools then formed a corporation called a university (_Universitas
Magistrorum et Scholarium_), under the control of the chancellor and
chapter of Notre Dame, whose corporate existence was secured from
Innocent III. a few years afterwards.

Thus arose the University of Paris at the close of the twelfth century,
or about the beginning of the thirteenth, soon followed in different
parts of Europe by other universities, the most distinguished of which
were those of Oxford, Bologna, Padua, and Salamanca. But that of Paris
took the lead, this city being the intellectual centre of Europe even at
that early day. Thither flocked young men from Germany, England, and
Italy, as well as from all parts of France, to the number of twenty-five
or thirty thousand. These students were a motley crowd: some of them
were half-starved youth, with tattered clothes, living in garrets and
unhealthy cells; others again were rich and noble,--but all were eager
for knowledge. They came to Paris as pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem,
being drawn by the fame of the lecturers. The old sleepy schools of the
convents were deserted, for who would go to Fulda or York or Citeaux,
when such men as Abélard, Albert, and Victor were dazzling enthusiastic
youth by their brilliant disputations? These young men also seem to have
been noisy, turbulent, and dissipated for the most part, "filling the
streets with their brawls and the taverns with the fumes of liquor.
There was no such thing as discipline among them. They yelled and
shouted and brandished daggers, fought the townspeople, and were free
with their knocks and blows." They were not all youth; many of them were
men in middle life, with wives and children. At that time no one
finished his education at twenty-one; some remained scholars until the
age of thirty-five.

Some of these students came to study medicine, others law, but more
theology and philosophy. The headquarters of theology was the Sorbonne,
opened in 1253,--a college founded by Robert Sorbon, chaplain of the
king, whose aim was to bring together the students and professors,
heretofore scattered throughout the city. The students of this college,
which formed a part of the university, under the rule of the chancellor
of Notre Dame, it would seem were more orderly and studious than the
other students. They arose at five, assisted at Mass at six, studied
till ten,--the dinner hour; from dinner till five they studied or
attended lectures; then went to supper,--the principal meal; after which
they discussed problems till nine or ten, when they went to bed. The
students were divided into _hospites_ and _socii_, the latter of whom
carried on the administration. The lectures were given in a large hall,
in the middle of which was the chair of the master or doctor, while
immediately below him sat his assistant, the bachelor, who was going
through his training for a professorship. The chair of theology was the
most coveted honor of the university, and was reached only by a long
course of study and searching examinations, to which no one could aspire
but the most learned and gifted of the doctors. The students sat around
on benches, or on the straw. There were no writing-desks. The teaching
was oral, principally by questions and answers. Neither the master nor
the bachelor used a book. No reading was allowed. The students rarely
took notes or wrote in short-hand; they listened to the lectures and
wrote them down afterwards, so far as their memory served them. The
usual text-book was the "Book of Sentences," by Peter Lombard. The
bachelor, after having previously studied ten years, was obliged to go
through a three years' drill, and then submit to a public examination in
presence of the whole university before he was thought fit to teach. He
could not then receive his master's badge until he had successfully
maintained a public disputation on some thesis proposed; and even then
he stood no chance of being elevated to a professor's chair unless he
had lectured for some time with great _éclat_ Even Albertus Magnus,
fresh with the laurels of Cologne, was compelled to go through a three
years' course as a sub-teacher at Paris before he received his doctor's
cap, and to lecture for some years more as master before his
transcendent abilities were rewarded with a professorship. The dean of
the faculty of theology was chosen by the suffrages of the doctors.

The _Organum_ (philosophy of first principles) of Aristotle was first
publicly taught in 1215. This was certainly in advance of the seven
liberal arts which were studied in the old Cathedral schools,--grammar,
rhetoric, and dialectic (Trivium); and arithmetic, geometry, music, and
astronomy (Quadrivium),--for only the elements of these were taught. But
philosophy and theology, under the teaching of the Scholastic doctors
(_Doctores Scholastici_), taxed severely the intellectual powers. When
they introduced dialectics to support theology a more severe method was
required. "The method consisted in connecting the doctrine to be
expounded with a commentary on some work chosen for the purpose. The
contents were divided and subdivided, until the several propositions of
which it was composed were reached. Then these were interpreted,
questions were raised in reference to them, and the grounds of affirming
or denying were presented. Then the decision was announced, and in case
this was affirmative, the grounds of the negative were confuted."

Aristotle was made use of in order to reduce to scientific form a body
of dogmatic teachings, or to introduce a logical arrangement. Platonism,
embraced by the early Fathers, was a collection of abstractions and
theories, but was deficient in method. It did not furnish the weapons to
assail heresy with effect. But Aristotle was logical and precise and
passionless. He examined the nature of language, and was clear and
accurate in his definitions. His logic was studied with the sole view
of learning to use polemical weapons. For this end the syllogism was
introduced, which descends from the universal to the particular, by
deduction,--connecting the general with the special by means of a middle
term which is common to both. This mode of reasoning is opposite to the
method by induction, which rises to the universal from a comparison of
the single and particular, or, as applied in science, from a collection
and collation of facts sufficient to form a certainty or high
probability. A sound special deduction can be arrived at only by logical
inference from true and certain general principles.

This is what Anselm essayed to do; but the Schoolmen who succeeded
Abélard often drew dialectical inferences from what appeared to be true,
while some of them were so sophistical as to argue from false premises.
This syllogistic reasoning, in the hands of an acute dialectician, was
very efficient in overthrowing an antagonist, or turning his position
into absurdity, but not favorable for the discovery of truth, since it
aimed no higher than the establishment of the particulars which were
included in the doctrine assumed or deduced from it. It was reasoning in
perpetual circles; it was full of quibbles and sophistries; it was
ingenious, subtle, acute, very attractive to the minds of that age, and
inexhaustible from divisions and subdivisions and endless
ramifications. It made the contests of the schools a dialectical display
of remarkable powers in which great interest was felt, yet but little
knowledge was acquired. In one respect the Scholastic doctors rendered a
service: they demolished all dreamy theories and poured contempt on
mystical phrases. They insisted, like Socrates, on a definite meaning to
words. If they were hair-splitting in their definitions and
distinctions, they were at least clear and precise. Their method was
scientific. Such terms and expressions as are frequently used by our
modern transcendental philosophers would have been laughed to scorn by
the Schoolmen. No system of philosophy can be built up when words have
no definite meaning. This Socrates was the first to inculcate, and
Aristotle followed in his steps.

With the Crusades arose a new spirit, which gave an impulse to
philosophy as well as to art and enterprise. "The _primum mobile_ of the
new system was Motion, in distinction from the Rest which marked the old
monastic retreats." An immense enthusiasm for knowledge had been kindled
by Abélard, which was further intensified by the Scholastic doctors of
the thirteenth century, especially such of them as belonged to the
Dominican and Franciscan friars.

These celebrated Orders arose at a great crisis in the Papal history,
when rival popes aspired to the throne of Saint Peter, when the Church
was rent with divisions, when princes were contending for the right of
investiture, and when heretical opinions were defended by men of genius.
At this crisis a great Pope was called to the government of the
Church,--Innocent III., under whose able rule the papal power
culminated. He belonged to an illustrious Roman family, and received an
unusual education, being versed in theology, philosophy, and canon law.
His name was Lothario, of the family of the Conti; he was nephew of a
pope, and counted three cardinals among his relatives. At the age of
twenty-one, about the year 1181, he was one of the canons of Saint
Peter's Church; at twenty-four he was sent by the Pope on important
missions. In 1188 he was created cardinal by his uncle, Clement III.;
and in 1198 he was elected Pope, at the age of thirty-eight, when the
Crusades were at their height, when the south of France was agitated by
the opinions of the Albigenses, and the provinces on the Rhine by those
of the Waldenses. It was a turbulent age, full of tumults,
insurrections, wars, and theological dissensions. The old Benedictine
monks had lost their influence, and were disgraced by idleness and
gluttony, while the secular clergy were ignorant and worldly. Innocent
cast his eagle eye into all the abuses which disgraced the age and
Church, and made fearless war upon those princes who usurped his
prerogatives. He excommunicated princes, humbled the Emperor of Germany
and the King of England, put kingdoms under interdict, exempted abbots
from the jurisdiction of bishops, punished heretics, formed crusades,
laid down new canons, regulated taxes, and directed all ecclesiastical
movements. His activity was ceaseless, and his ambition was boundless.
He instituted important changes, and added new orders of monks to the
Church. It was this Pope who instituted auricular confession, and laid
the foundation of a more dreadful spiritual despotism in the form of

Yet while he ruled tyrannically, his private life was above reproach.
His habits were simple and his tastes were cultivated. He was charitable
and kind to the poor and unfortunate. He spent his enormous revenues in
building churches, endowing hospitals, and rewarding learned men; and
otherwise showed himself the friend of scholars, and the patron of
benevolent movements. He was a reformer of abuses, publishing the most
severe acts against venality, and deciding quarrels on principles of
justice. He had no dramatic conflicts like Hildebrand, for his authority
was established. As the supreme guardian of the interests of the Church
he seldom made demands which he had not the power to enforce. John of
England attempted resistance, but was compelled to submit. Innocent
even gave the archbishopric of Canterbury to one of his cardinals,
Stephen Langton, against the wishes of a Norman king. He took away the
wife of Philip Augustus; he nominated an emperor to the throne of
Constantine; he compelled France to make war on England, and incited the
barons to rebellion against John. Ten years' civil war in Germany was
the fruit of his astute policy, and the only great failure of his
administration was that he could not exempt Italy from the dominion of
the Emperors of Germany, thus giving rise to the two great political
parties of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,--the Guelphs and

To cement his vast spiritual power he encouraged what doubtless seemed
even to him a great fanaticism, but which he found could be turned to
his advantage,--that of the Mendicant Friars, established by Saint
Francis of Assisi, and Saint Dominic of the great family of the Guzmans
in Spain. These men made substantially the same offers to the Pope that
Ignatius Loyola did in after times,--to go where they were sent as
teachers, preachers, and missionaries without condition or reward. They
renounced riches, professed absolute poverty, and wandered from village
to city barefooted, and subsisting entirely on alms as beggars. The
Dominican friar in his black habit, and the Franciscan in his gray,
became the ablest and most effective preachers of the thirteenth
century. The Dominicans confined their teachings to the upper classes,
and became their favorite confessors. They were the most learned men of
the thirteenth century, and also the most reproachless in morals. The
Franciscans were itinerary preachers to the common people, and created
among them the same religious revival that the Methodists did later in
England under the guidance of Wesley. The founder of the Franciscans was
a man who seemed to be "inebriated with love," so unquenchable was his
charity, rapt his devotions, and supernal his sympathy. He found his way
to Rome in the year 1215, and in twenty-two years after his death there
were nine thousand religious houses of his Order. In a century from his
death the friars numbered one hundred and fifty thousand. The increase
of the Dominicans was not so rapid, but more illustrious men belonged to
this institution. It is affirmed that it produced seventy cardinals,
four hundred and sixty bishops, and four popes.

It was in the palmy days of these celebrated monks, before corruption
had set in, that the Dominican Order was recruited with one of the most
extraordinary men of the Middle Ages. This man was Saint Thomas, born
1225 or 1227, son of a Count of Aquino in the kingdom of Naples, known
in history as Thomas Aquinas, "the most successful organizer of
knowledge," says Archbishop Trench, "the world has known since
Aristotle." He was called "the angelical doctor," exciting the
enthusiasm of his age for his learning and piety and genius alike. He
was a prodigy and a marvel of dialectical skill, and Catholic writers
have exhausted language to find expressions for their admiration. Their
Lives of him are an unbounded panegyric for the sweetness of his temper,
his wonderful self-control, his lofty devotion to study, his
indifference to praises and rewards, his spiritual devotion, his loyalty
to the Church, his marvellous acuteness of intellect, his industry, and
his unparalleled logical victories. When he was five years of age his
father, a noble of very high rank, sent him to Monte Cassino with the
hope that he would become a Benedictine monk, and ultimately abbot of
that famous monastery, with the control of its vast revenues and
patronage. Here he remained seven years, until the convent was taken and
sacked by the soldiers of the Emperor Frederic in his war with the Pope.
The young Aquino returned to his father's castle, and was then sent to
Naples to be educated at the university, living in a Benedictine abbey,
and not in lodgings like other students. The Dominicans and Franciscans
held chairs in the university, one of which was filled with a man of
great ability, whose preaching and teaching had such great influence on
the youthful Thomas that he resolved to join the Order, and at the age
of seventeen became a Dominican friar, to the disappointment of his
family. His mother Theodora went to Naples to extricate him from the
hands of the Dominicans, who secretly hurried him off to Rome and
immured him in their convent, from which he was rescued by violence. But
the youth persisted in his intentions against the most passionate
entreaties of his mother, made his escape, and was carried back to
Naples. The Pope, at the solicitation of his family, offered to make him
Abbot of Monte Cassino, but he remained a poor Dominican. His superior,
seeing his remarkable talents, sent him to Cologne to attend the
lectures of Albertus Magnus, then the most able expounder of the
Scholastic Philosophy, and the oracle of the universities, who continued
his lectures after he was made a bishop, and even until he was
eighty-five. When Albertus was transferred from Cologne to Paris, where
the Dominicans held two chairs of theology, Thomas followed him, and
soon after was made bachelor. Again was Albert sent back to Cologne, and
Thomas was made his assistant professor. He at once attracted attention,
was ordained priest, and became as famous for his sermons as for his
lectures. After four years at Cologne Thomas was ordered back to Paris,
travelling on foot, and begging his way, yet stopping to preach in the
large cities. He was still magister and Albert professor, but had
greatly distinguished himself by his lectures.

His appearance at this time was marked. His body was tall and massive,
but spare and lean from fasting and labor. His eyes were bright, but
their expression was most modest. His face was oblong, his complexion
sallow; his forehead depressed, his head large, his person erect.

His first great work was a commentary of about twelve hundred pages on
the "Book of Sentences," in the Parma edition, which was received with
great admiration for its logical precision, and its opposition to the
rationalistic tendencies of the times. In it are discussed all the great
theological questions treated by Saint Augustine,--God, Christ, the Holy
Spirit, grace, predestination, faith, free-will, Providence, and the
like,--blended with metaphysical discussions on the soul, the existence
of evil, the nature of angels, and other subjects which interested the
Middle Ages. Such was his fame and dialectical skill that he was taken
away from his teachings and sent to Rome to defend his Order and the
cause of orthodoxy against the slanders of William of Saint Amour, an
aristocratic doctor, who hated the Mendicant Friars and their wandering
and begging habits. William had written a book called "Perils," in which
he exposed the dangers to be apprehended from the new order of monks,
in which he proved himself a true prophet, for ultimately the Mendicant
Friars became subjects of ridicule and reproach. But the Pope came to
the rescue of his best supporters.

On the return of Thomas to Paris he was made doctor of theology, at the
same time with Bonaventura the Franciscan, called "the seraphic doctor,"
between whom and Thomas were intimate ties of friendship. He had now
reached the highest honor that the university could bestow, which was
conferred with such extraordinary ceremony that it would seem to have
been a great event in Paris at that time.

His fame chiefly rests on the ablest treatise written in the Middle
Ages,--the "Summa Theologica,"--in which all the great questions in
theology and philosophy are minutely discussed, in the most exhaustive
manner. He took the side of the Realists, his object being to uphold
Saint Augustine. He was more a Platonist in his spirit than an
Aristotelian, although he was indebted to Aristotle for his method. He
appealed to both reason and authority. He presented the Christian
religion in a scientific form. His book is an assimilation of all that
is precious in the thinking of the Church. If he learned many things at
Paris, Cologne, and Naples, he was also educated by Chrysostom, by
Augustine, and Ambrose. "It is impossible," says Cardinal Newman, and no
authority is higher than his, "to read the _Catena_ of Saint Thomas
without being struck by the masterly skill with which he put it
together. A learning of the highest kind,--not mere literary book
knowledge which may have supplied the place of indexes and tables in
ages destitute of these helps, and when they had to be read in
unarranged and fragmentary manuscripts, but a thorough acquaintance with
the whole range of ecclesiastical antiquity, so as to be able to bring
the substance of all that had been written on any point to bear upon the
text which involved it,--a familiarity with the style of each writer so
as to compress in a few words the pith of the whole page, and a power of
clear and orderly arrangement in this mass of knowledge, are qualities
which make this _Catena_ nearly perfect as an interpretation of
Patristic literature." Dr. Vaughan, in eulogistic language, says: "The
'Summa Theologica' may be likened to one of the great cathedrals of the
Middle Ages, infinite in detail but massive in the grouping of pillars
and arches, forming a complete unity that must have taxed the brain of
the architect to its greatest extent. But greater as work of intellect
is this digest of all theological richness for one thousand years, in
which the thread of discourse is never lost sight of, but winds through
a labyrinth of important discussions and digressions, all bearing on the
fundamental truths which Paul declared and Augustine systematized."

This treatise would seem to be a thesaurus of both Patristic and
Mediaeval learning; not a dictionary of knowledge, but a system of truth
severely elaborated in every part,--a work to be studied by the
Mediaeval students as Calvin's "Institutes" were by the scholars of the
Reformation, and not far different in its scope and end; for the
Patristic, the Mediaeval, and the Protestant divines did not materially
differ in reference to the fundamental truths pertaining to God, the
Incarnation, and Redemption. The Catholic and Protestant divines differ
chiefly on the ideas pertaining to government and ecclesiastical
institutions, and the various inventions of the Middle Ages to uphold
the authority of the Church, not on dogmas strictly theological. A
student in theology could even in our times sit at the feet of Thomas
Aquinas, as he could at the feet of Augustine or Calvin; except that in
the theology which Thomas Aquinas commented upon there is a cumbrous
method, borrowed from Aristotle, which introduced infinite distinctions
and questions and definitions and deductions and ramifications which
have no charm to men who have other things to occupy their minds than
Scholastic subtilties, acute and logical as they may be. Thomas Aquinas
was raised to combat, with the weapons most esteemed in his day, the
various forms of Rationalism, Pantheism, and Mysticism which then
existed, and were included in the Nominalism of his antagonists. And as
long as universities are centres of inquiry the same errors, under other
names, will have to be combated, but probably not with the same methods
which marked the teachings of the "angelical doctor." In demolishing
errors and systematizing truth he was the greatest benefactor to the
cause of "orthodoxy" that appeared in Europe for several centuries,
admired for his genius as much as Spencer and other great lights of
science are in our day, but standing preeminent and lofty over all, like
a beacon light to give both guidance and warning to inquiring minds in
every part of Christendom. Nor could popes and sovereigns render too
great honor to such a prodigy of genius. They offered him the abbacy of
Monte Cassino and the archbishopric of Naples, but he preferred the life
of a quiet student, finding in knowledge and study, for their own sake,
the highest reward, and pursuing his labors without the _impedimenta_ of
those high positions which involve ceremonies and cares and pomps, yet
which most ambitious men love better than freedom, placidity, and
intellectual repose. He lived not in a palace, as he might have lived,
surrounded with flatterers, luxuries, and dignities, but in a cell,
wearing his simple black gown, and walking barefooted wherever he went,
begging his daily bread according to the rules of his Order. His black
gown was not an academic badge, but the Dominican dress. His only badge
of distinction was the doctors' cap.

Dr. Vaughan, in his heavy and unartistic life of Thomas Aquinas, has
drawn a striking resemblance between Plato and the Mediaeval doctor:
"Both," he says, "were nobly born, both were grave from youth, both
loved truth with an intensity of devotion. If Plato was instructed by
Socrates, Aquinas was taught by Albertus Magnus; if Plato travelled into
Italy, Greece, and Egypt, Aquinas went to Cologne, Naples, Bologna, and
Rome; if Plato was famous for his erudition, Aquinas was no less noted
for his universal knowledge. Both were naturally meek and gentle; both
led lives of retirement and contemplation; both loved solitude; both
were celebrated for self-control; both were brave; both held their
pupils spell-bound by their brilliant mental gifts; both passed their
time in lecturing to the schools (what the Pythagoreans were to Plato,
the Benedictines were to the angelical); both shrank from the display of
self; both were great dialecticians; both reposed on eternal ideas; both
were oracles to their generation." But if Aquinas had the soul of Plato,
he also had the scholastic gifts of Aristotle, to whom the Church is
indebted for method and nomenclature as it was to Plato for synthesis
and that exalted Realism which went hand in hand with Christianity. How
far he was indebted to Plato it is difficult to say. He certainly had
not studied his dialectics through translations or in the original, but
had probably imbibed the spirit of this great philosopher through Saint
Augustine and other orthodox Fathers who were his admirers.

Although both Plato and Aristotle accepted "universals" as the
foundation of scientific inquiry, the former arrived at them by
consciousness, and the other by reasoning. The spirit of the two great
masters of thought was as essentially different as their habits and
lives. Plato believed that God governed the world; Aristotle believed
that it was governed by chance. The former maintained that mind is
divine and eternal; the latter that it is a form of the body, and
consequently mortal. Plato thought that the source of happiness was in
virtue and resemblance to God; while Aristotle placed it in riches and
outward prosperity. Plato believed in prayer; but Aristotle thought that
God would not hear or answer it, and therefore that it was useless.
Plato believed in happiness after death; while Aristotle supposed that
death ended all pleasure. Plato lived in the world of abstract ideas;
Aristotle in the realm of sense and observation. The one was religious;
the other secular and worldly. With both the passion for knowledge was
boundless, but they differed in their conceptions of knowledge; the one
basing it on eternal ideas and the deductions to be drawn from them,
and the other on physical science,--the phenomena of Nature,--those
things which are cognizable by the senses. The spiritual life of Plato
was "a longing after love and of eternal ideas, by the contemplation of
which the soul sustains itself and becomes participant in immortality."
The life of Aristotle was not spiritual, but intellectual. He was an
incarnation of mere intellect, the architect of a great temple of
knowledge, which received the name of _Organum_, or the philosophy of
first principles.

Thomas Aquinas, we may see from what has been said, was both Platonic
and Aristotelian. He resembled Plato in his deep and pious meditations
on the eternal realities of the spiritual world, while in the severity
of his logic he resembled Aristotle, from whom he learned precision of
language, lucidity of statement, and a syllogistic mode of argument well
calculated to confirm what was already known, but not to make
attainments in new fields of thought or knowledge. If he was gentle and
loving and pious like Plato, he was also as calm and passionless as

This great man died at the age of forty-eight, in the year 1274, a few
years after Saint Louis, before his sum of theology was completed. He
died prematurely, exhausted by his intense studies; leaving, however,
treatises which filled seventeen printed folio volumes,--one of the most
voluminous writers of the world. His fame was prodigious, both as a
dialectician and a saint, and he was in due time canonized as one of the
great pillars of the Church, ranking after Chrysostom, Jerome,
Augustine, and Gregory the Great,--the standard authority for centuries
of the Catholic theology.

The Scholastic Philosophy, which culminated in Thomas Aquinas,
maintained its position in the universities of Europe until the
Reformation, but declined in earnestness. It descended to the discussion
of unimportant and often frivolous questions. Even the "angelical
doctor" is quoted as discussing the absurd question as to how many
angels could dance together on the point of a needle. The play of words
became interminable. Things were lost sight of in a barbarous jargon
about questions which have no interest to humanity, and which are
utterly unintelligible. At the best, logical processes can add nothing
to the ideas from which they start. When these ideas are lofty,
discussion upon them elevates the mind and doubtless strengthens its
powers. But when the subjects themselves are frivolous, the logical
tournaments in their defence degrade the intellect and narrow it.
Nothing destroys intellectual dignity more effectually than the waste of
energies in the defence of what is of no practical utility, and which
cannot be applied to the acquisition of solid knowledge. Hence the
Scholastic Philosophy did not advance knowledge, since it did not seek
the acquisition of new truths, but only the establishment of the old.
Its utility consisted in training the human mind to logical reasonings.
It exercised the intellect and strengthened it, as gymnastics do the
body, without enlarging it. It was nothing but barren dialectics,--"dry
bones," a perpetual fencing. The soul cries out for bread; the
Scholastics gave it a stone.

We are amazed that intellectual giants, equal to the old Greeks in
acuteness and logical powers, could waste their time on the frivolous
questions and dialectical subtilties to which they devoted their mighty
powers. However interesting to them, nothing is drier and duller to us,
nothing more barren and unsatisfying, than their logical sports. Their
treatises are like trees with endless branches, each leading to new
ramifications, with no central point in view, and hence never finished,
and which might be carried on _ad infinitum_. To attempt to read their
disquisitions is like walking in labyrinths of ever-opening intricacies.
By such a method no ultimate truth could be arrived at, beyond what was
assumed. There is now and then a man who professes to have derived light
and wisdom from those dialectical displays, since they were doubtless
marvels of logical precision and clearness of statement. But in a
practical point of view those "masterpieces of logic" are utterly
useless to most modern inquirers. These are interesting only as they
exhibit the waste of gigantic energies; they do not even have the merit
of illustrative rhetoric or eloquence. The earlier monks were devout and
spiritual, and we can still read their lofty meditations with profit,
since they elevate the soul and make it pant for the beatitudes of
spiritual communion with God. But the writings of the Scholastic doctors
are cold, calm, passionless, and purely intellectual,--logical without
being edifying. We turn from them, however acute and able, with blended
disappointment and despair. They are fig-trees, bearing nothing but
leaves, such as our Lord did curse. The distinctions are simply
metaphysical, and not moral.

Why the whole force of an awakening age should have been devoted to such
subtilties and barren discussion it is difficult to see, unless they
were found useful in supporting a theology made up of metaphysical
deductions rather than an interpretation of the meaning of Scripture
texts. But there was then no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew; there was no
exegetical research; there was no science and no real learning. There
was nothing but theology, with the exception of Lives of the Saints. The
horizon of human inquiries was extremely narrow. But when the minds of
very intellectual men were directed to one particular field, it would be
natural to expect something remarkable and marvellously elaborate of
its kind. Such was the Scholastic Philosophy. As a mere exhibition of
dialectical acumen, minute distinctions, and logical precision in the
use of words, it was wonderful. The intricacy and detail and
ramifications of this system were an intellectual feat which astonishes
us, yet which does not instruct us, certainly outside of a metaphysical
divinity which had more charm to the men of the Middle Ages than it can
have to us, even in a theological school where dogmatic divinity is made
the most important study. The day will soon come when the principal
chair in the theological school will be for the explanation of the
Scripture texts on which dogmas are based; and for this, great learning
and scholarship will be indispensable. To me it is surprising that
metaphysics have so long retained their hold on the minds of Protestant
divines. Nothing is more unsatisfactory, and to many more repulsive,
than metaphysical divinity. It is a perversion of the spirit of
Christian teachings. "What says our Lord?" should be the great inquiry
in our schools of theology; not, What deductions can be drawn from them
by a process of ingenious reasoning which often, without reference to
other important truths, lands one in absurdities, or at least in
one-sided systems?

But the metaphysical divinity of the Schoolmen had great attractions to
the students of the Middle Ages. And there must have been something in
it which we do not appreciate, or it would not have maintained itself in
the schools for three hundred years. Perhaps it was what those ages
needed,--the discipline through which the mind must go before it could
be prepared for the scientific investigations of our own times. In an
important sense the Scholastic doctors were the teachers of Luther and
Bacon. Certainly their unsatisfactory science was one of the marked
developments of the civilization of Europe, through which the Gothic
nations must need pass. It has been the fashion to ridicule it and
depreciate it in our modern times, especially among Protestants, who
have ridiculed and slandered the papal power and all the institutions of
the Middle Ages. Yet scholars might as well ridicule the text-books they
were required to study fifty years ago, because they are not up to our
times. We should not disdain the early steps by which future progress is
made easy. We cannot despise men who gave up their lives to the
contemplation of subjects which demand the highest tension of the
intellectual faculties, even if these exercises were barren of
utilitarian results. Some future age may be surprised at the comparative
unimportance of questions which interest this generation. The Scholastic
Philosophy cannot indeed be utilized by us in the pursuit of scientific
knowledge; nor (to recur to Vaughan's simile for the great work of
Aquinas) can a mediaeval cathedral be utilized for purposes of oratory
or business. But the cathedral is nevertheless a grand monument,
suggesting lofty sentiments, which it would be senseless and ruthless
barbarism to destroy or allow to fall into decay, but which should
rather be preserved as a precious memento of what is most poetic and
attractive in the Middle Ages. When any modern philosopher shall rear so
gigantic and symmetrical a monument of logical disquisitions as the
"Summa Theologica" is said to be by the most competent authorities, then
the sneers of a Macaulay or a Lewes will be entitled to more
consideration. It is said that a new edition of this great Mediaeval
work is about to be published under the direct auspices of the Pope, as
the best and most comprehensive system of Christian theology ever
written by man.


Dr. Vaughan's Life of Thomas Aquinas; Histoire de la Vie et des Écrits
de St. Thomas d'Aquin, par l'Abbé Bareille; Lacordaire's Life of Saint
Dominic; Dr. Hampden's Life of Thomas Aquinas; article on Thomas
Aquinas, in London Quarterly, July, 1881; Summa Theologica; Neander,
Milman, Fleury, Dupin, and Ecclesiastical Histories generally;
Biographic Universelle; Werner's Leben des Heiligen Thomas von Aquino;
Trench's Lectures on Mediaeval History; Ueberweg & Rousselot's History
of Philosophy. Dr. Hampden's article, in the Encyclopaedia
Metropolitana, on Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastic Philosophy, is
regarded by Hallam as the ablest view of this subject which has appeared
in English.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1118-1170.


A great deal has been written of late years on Thomas Becket, Archbishop
of Canterbury in the reign of Henry II.,--some historians writing him
up, and others writing him down; some making him a martyr to the Church,
and others representing him as an ambitious prelate who encroached on
royal authority,--more of a rebel than a patriot. His history has become
interesting, in view of this very discrepancy of opinion,--like that of
Oliver Cromwell, one of those historical puzzles which always have
attraction to critics. And there is abundant material for either side we
choose to take. An advocate can make a case in reference to Becket's
career with more plausibility than about any other great character in
English history,--with the exception of Queen Elizabeth, Cromwell, and
Archbishop Laud.

The cause of Becket was the cause of the Middle Ages. He was not the
advocate of fundamental principles, as were Burke and Bacon. He fought
either for himself, or for principles whose importance has in a measure
passed away. He was a high-churchman, who sought to make the temporal
power subordinate to the spiritual. He appears in an interesting light
only so far as the principles he sought to establish were necessary for
the elevation of society in his ignorant and iron age. Moreover, it was
his struggles which give to his life its chief charm, and invest it with
dramatic interest. It was his energy, his audacity, his ability in
overcoming obstacles, which made him memorable,--one of the heroes of
history, like Ambrose and Hildebrand; an ecclesiastical warrior who
fought bravely, and died without seeing the fruits of his bravery.

There seems to be some discrepancy among historians as to Becket's birth
and origin, some making him out a pure Norman, and others a Saxon, and
others again half Saracen. But that is, after all, a small matter,
although the critics make a great thing of it. They always are inclined
to wrangle over unimportant points. Michelet thinks he was a Saxon, and
that his mother was a Saracen lady of rank, who had become enamored of
the Saxon when taken prisoner while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
and who returned with him to England, embraced his religion, and was
publicly baptized in Saint Paul's Cathedral, her beauty and rank having
won attention; but Mr. Froude and Milman regard this as a late legend.

It would seem, however, that he was born in London about the year 1118
or 1119, and that his father, Gilbert Becket, was probably a respectable
merchant and sheriff, or portreeve, of London, and was a Norman. His
parents died young, leaving him not well provided for; but being
beautiful and bright he was sent to school in an abbey, and afterwards
to Oxford. From Oxford he went into a house of business in London for
three years, and contrived to attract the notice of Theobald, Archbishop
of Canterbury, who saw his talents, sent him to Paris, and thence to
Bologna to study the canon law, which was necessary to a young man who
would rise in the world. He was afterwards employed by Theobald in
confidential negotiations. The question of the day in England was
whether Stephen's son (Eustace) or Matilda's son (Henry of Anjou) was
the true heir to the crown, it being settled that Stephen should
continue to rule during his lifetime, and that Henry should peaceably
follow him; which happened in a little more than a year. Becket had
espoused the side of Henry.

The reign of Henry II., during which Becket's memorable career took
place, was an important one. He united, through his mother Matilda, the
blood of the old Saxon kings with that of the Norman dukes. He was the
first truly English sovereign who had sat on the throne since the
Conquest. In his reign (1154-1189) the blending of the Norman and Saxon
races was effected. Villages and towns rose around the castles of great
Norman nobles and the cathedrals and abbeys of Norman ecclesiastics.
Ultimately these towns obtained freedom. London became a great city with
more than a hundred churches. The castles, built during the disastrous
civil wars of Stephen's usurped reign, were demolished. Peace and order
were restored by a legitimate central power.

Between the young monarch of twenty-two and Thomas, as a favorite of
Theobald and as Archdeacon of Canterbury, an intimacy sprang up. Henry
II. was the most powerful sovereign of Western Europe, since he was not
only King of England, but had inherited in France Anjou and Touraine
from his father, and Normandy and Maine from his mother. By his marriage
with Eleanor of Aquitaine, he gained seven other provinces as her dower.
The dominions of Louis were not half so great as his, even in France.
And Henry was not only a powerful sovereign by his great territorial
possessions, but also for his tact and ability. He saw the genius of
Becket and made him his chancellor, loading him with honors and
perquisites and Church benefices.

The power of Becket as chancellor was very great, since he was prime
minister, and the civil administration of the kingdom was chiefly
intrusted to him, embracing nearly all the functions now performed by
the various members of the Cabinet. As chancellor he rendered great
services. He effected a decided improvement in the state of the country;
it was freed from robbers and bandits, and brought under dominion of the
law. He depressed the power of the feudal nobles; he appointed the most
deserving people to office; he repaired the royal palaces, increased the
royal revenues, and promoted agricultural industry. He seems to have
pursued a peace policy. But he was unscrupulous and grasping. His style
of life when chancellor was for that age magnificent: Wolsey, in after
times, scarcely excelled him. His dress was as rich as barbaric taste
could make it,--for the more barbarous the age, the more gorgeous is the
attire of great dignitaries. "The hospitalities of the chancellor were
unbounded. He kept seven hundred horsemen completely armed. The
harnesses of his horses were embossed with gold and silver. The most
powerful nobles sent their sons to serve in his household as pages; and
nobles and knights waited in his antechamber. There never passed a day
when he did not make rich presents." His expenditure was enormous. He
rivalled the King in magnificence. His sideboard was loaded with vessels
of gold and silver. He was doubtless ostentatious, but his hospitality
was free, and his person was as accessible as a primitive bishop. He is
accused of being light and frivolous; but this I doubt. He had too many
cares and duties for frivolity. He doubtless unbent. All men loaded down
with labors must unbend somewhere. It was nothing against him that he
told good stories at the royal table, or at his own, surrounded by earls
and barons. These relaxations preserved in him elasticity of mind,
without which the greatest genius soon becomes a hack, a plodding piece
of mechanism, a stupid lump of learned dulness. But he was stained by no
vices or excesses. He was a man of indefatigable activity, and all his
labors were in the service of the Crown, to which, as chancellor, he was
devoted, body and soul.

Is it strange that such a man should have been offered the See of
Canterbury on the death of Theobald? He had been devoted to his royal
master and friend; he enjoyed rich livings, and was Archdeacon of
Canterbury; he had shown no opposition to the royal will. Moreover Henry
wanted an able man for that exalted post, in order to carry out his
schemes of making himself independent of priestly influence and papal

So Becket was made archbishop and primate of the English Church at the
age of forty-four, the clergy of the province acquiescing,--perhaps with
secret complaints, for he was not even priest; merely deacon, and the
minister of an unscrupulous king. He was ordained priest only just
before receiving the primacy, and for that purpose.

Nothing in England could exceed the dignity of the See of Canterbury.
Even the archbishopric of York was subordinate. Becket as metropolitan
of the English Church was second in rank only to the King himself. He
could depose any ecclesiastic in the realm. He had the exclusive
privilege of crowning the king. His decisions were final, except an
appeal to Rome. No one dared disobey his mandates, for the law of
clerical obedience was one of the fundamental ideas of the age. Through
his clergy, over whom his power was absolute, he controlled the people.
His law courts had cognizance of questions which the royal courts could
not interfere with. No ecclesiastical dignitary in Europe was his
superior, except the Pope.

The Archbishop of Canterbury had been a great personage under the Saxon
kings. Dunstan ruled England as the prime minister of Edward the Martyr,
but his influence would have been nearly as great had he been merely
primate of the Church. Nor was the power of the archbishop reduced by
the Norman kings. William the Conqueror might have made the spiritual
authority subordinate to the temporal, if he had followed his
inclinations. But he dared not quarrel with the Pope,--the great
Hildebrand, by whose favor he was unmolested in the conquest of the
Saxons. He was on very intimate terms of friendship with Lanfranc, whom
he made Archbishop of Canterbury,--a wily and ambitious Italian, who was
devoted to the See of Rome and his spiritual monarch. The influence of
Hildebrand and Lanfranc combined was too great to be resisted. Nor did
he attempt resistance; he acquiesced in the necessity of making a king
of Canterbury. His mind was so deeply absorbed with his conquest and
other state matters that he did not seem to comprehend the difficulties
which might arise under his successors, in yielding so much power to the
primate. Moreover Lanfranc, in the quiet enjoyment of his ecclesiastical
privileges, gave his powerful assistance in imposing the Norman yoke. He
filled the great sees with Norman prelates. He does not seem to have had
much sympathy with the Saxons, or their bishops, who were not so refined
or intellectual as the bishops of France. The Normans were a superior
race to the Saxons in executive ability and military enthusiasm. The
chivalric element of English society, among the higher classes, came
from the Normans, not from the Saxons. In piety, in passive virtues, in
sustained industry, in patient toil, in love of personal freedom, the
Saxons doubtless furnished a finer material for the basis of an
agricultural, industrial, and commercial nation. The sturdy yeomen of
England were Saxons: the noble and great administrators were Normans. In
pride, in ambition, and in executive ability the Normans bore a closer
resemblance to the old heroic Romans than did the Saxons.

The next archbishop after Lanfranc was Anselm, appointed by William
Rufus. Anselm was a great scholar, the profoundest of the early
Schoolmen; a man of meditative habits, who it was presumed would not
interfere with royal encroachments. William Rufus never dreamed that the
austere and learned monk, who had spent most of his days in the abbey of
Bec in devout meditations and scholastic inquiries, would interfere with
his rapacity. But, as we have already seen, Anselm was conscientious,
and became the champion of the high-church party in the West. He
occupied two distinct spheres,--he was absorbed in philosophical
speculations, yet took an interest in all mundane questions. His resolve
to oppose the king's usurpations in the spiritual realm caused the
bitter quarrel already described, which ended in a compromise.

When Henry I. came to the throne, he appointed Theobald, a feeble but
good man, to the See of Canterbury,--less ambitious than Lanfranc, more
inoffensive than Anselm; a Norman disinclined to quarrel with his
sovereign. He died during the reign of Henry II., and this great
monarch, as we have seen, appointed Becket to the vacant See, thinking
that in the double capacity of chancellor and archbishop he would be a
very powerful ally. But he was amazingly deceived in the character of
his Chancellor. Becket had not sought the office,--the office had sought
him. It would seem that he accepted it unwillingly. He knew that new
responsibilities and duties would be imposed upon him, which, if he
discharged conscientiously like Anselm, would in all probability
alienate his friend the King, and provoke a desperate contest. And when
the courtly and luxurious Chancellor held out, in Normandy, the skirts
of his gilded and embroidered garments to show how unfit he was for an
archbishop, Henry ought to have perceived that a future estrangement was
a probability.

Better for Henry had Becket remained in the civil service. But Henry,
with all his penetration, had not fathomed the mind of his favorite.
Becket may have been a dissembler, or a great change may have been
wrought in his character. Probably the new responsibilities imposed upon
him as Primate of the English Church pressed upon his conscience. He
knew that supreme allegiance was due to the Pope as head of the Church,
and that if compelled to choose between the Pope and the King, he must
obey the Pope. He was ambitious, doubtless; but his subsequent career
shows that he preferred the liberties of his Church to the temporal
interests of the sovereign. He was not a theologian, like Lanfranc and
Anselm. Of all the great characters who preceded him, he most resembles
Ambrose. Ambrose the governor, and a layman, became Archbishop of Milan.
Becket the minister of a king, and only deacon, became Archbishop of
Canterbury. The character of both these great men changed on their
elevation to high ecclesiastical position. They both became
high-churchmen, and defended the prerogatives of the clergy. But Ambrose
was superior to Becket in his zeal to defend the doctrines of the
Church. It does not appear that Becket took much interest in doctrines.
In his age there was no dissent. Everybody, outwardly at least, was
orthodox. In England, certainly, there were no heretics. Had Becket
remained chancellor, in all probability he would not have quarrelled
with Henry. As archbishop he knew what was expected of him; and he knew
also the infamy in store for him should he betray his cause. I do not
believe he was a hypocrite. Every subsequent act of his life shows his
sincerity and his devotion to his Church against his own interests.

Becket was no sooner ordained priest and consecrated as archbishop than
he changed his habits. He became as austere as Lanfranc. He laid aside
his former ostentation. He clothed himself in sackcloth; he mortified
his body with fasts and laceration; he associated only with the pious
and the learned; he frequented the cloisters and places of meditation;
he received into his palace the needy and the miserable; he washed the
feet of thirteen beggars every day; he conformed to the standard of
piety in his age; he called forth the admiration of his attendants by
his devotion to clerical duties. "He was," says James Stephen, "a second
Moses entering the tabernacle at the accepted time for the contemplation
of his God, and going out from it in order to perform some work of piety
to his neighbor. He was like one of God's angels on the ladder, whose
top reached the heavens, now descending to lighten the wants of men, now
ascending to behold the divine majesty and the splendor of the Heavenly
One. His prime councillor was reason, which ruled his passions as a
mistress guides her servants. Under her guidance he was conducted to
virtue, which, wrapped up in itself, and embracing everything within
itself, never looks forward for anything additional."

This is the testimony of his biographer, and has not been explained away
or denied, although it is probably true that Becket did not purge the
corruptions of the Church, or punish the disorders and vices of the
clergy, as Hildebrand did. But I only speak of his private character. I
admit that he was no reformer. He was simply the high-churchman aiming
to secure the ascendency of the spiritual power. Becket is not immortal
for his reforms, or his theological attainments, but for his
intrepidity, his courage, his devotion to his cause,--a hero, and not a
man of progress; a man who fought a fight. It should be the aim of an
historian to show for what he was distinguished; to describe his
warfare, not to abuse him because he was not a philosopher and reformer.
He lived in the twelfth century.

One of the first things which opened the eyes of the King was the
resignation of the Chancellor. The King doubtless made him primate of
the English hierarchy in order that he might combine both offices. But
they were incompatible, unless Becket was willing to be the unscrupulous
tool of the King in everything. Of course Henry could not long remain
the friend of the man who he thought had duped him. Before a year had
passed, his friendship was turned to secret but bitter enmity. Nor was
it long before an event occurred,--a small matter,--which brought the
King and the Prelate into open collision.

The matter was this: A young nobleman, who held a clerical office,
committed a murder. As an ecclesiastic, he was brought before the court
of the Bishop of Lincoln, and was sentenced to pay a small fine. But
public justice was not satisfied, and the sheriff summoned the canon,
who refused to plead before him. The matter was referred to the King,
who insisted that the murderer should be tried in the civil court,--that
a sacred profession should not screen a man who had committed a crime
against society. While the King had, as we think, justice on his side,
yet in this matter he interfered with the jurisdiction of the spiritual
courts, which had been in force since Constantine. Theodosius and
Justinian had confirmed the privilege of the Church, on the ground that
the irregularities of a body of men devoted to the offices of religion
should be veiled from the common eye; so that ecclesiastics were
sometimes protected when they should be punished. But if the
ecclesiastical courts had abuses, they were generally presided over by
good and wise men,--more learned than the officers of the civil courts,
and very popular in the Middle Ages; and justice in them was generally
administered. So much were they valued in a dark age, when the clergy
were the most learned men of their times, that much business came
gradually to be transacted in them which previously had been settled in
the civil courts,--as tithes, testaments, breaches of contract,
perjuries, and questions pertaining to marriage. But Henry did not like
these courts, and was determined to weaken their jurisdiction, and
transfer their power to his own courts, in order to strengthen the royal
authority. Enlightened jurists and historians in our times here
sympathize with Henry. High-Church ecclesiastics defend the jurisdiction
of the spiritual courts, since they upheld the power of the Church, so
useful in the Middle Ages. The King began the attack where the
spiritual courts were weakest,--protection afforded to clergymen accused
of crime. So he assembled a council of bishops and barons to meet him at
Westminster. The bishops at first were inclined to yield to the King,
but Becket gained them over, and would make no concession. He stood up
for the privileges of his order. It was neither justice nor right which
he defended, but his Church, at all hazards,--not her doctrines, but her
prerogatives. He would present a barrier against royal encroachments,
even if they were for the welfare of the realm. He would defend the
independence of the clergy, and their power,--perhaps as an offset to
royal power. In his rigid defence of the privileges of the clergy we see
the churchman, not the statesman; we see the antagonist, not the ally,
of the King. Henry was of course enraged. Who can wonder? He was bearded
by his former favorite,--by one of his subjects.

If Becket was narrow, he probably was conscientious. He may have been
ambitious of wielding unlimited spiritual authority. But it should be
noted that, had he not quarrelled with the King, he could have been both
archbishop and chancellor, and in that double capacity wielded more
power; and had he been disposed to serve his royal master, had he been
more gentle, the King might not have pushed out his policy of crippling
the spiritual courts,--might have waived, delayed, or made concessions.
But now these two great potentates were in open opposition, and a deadly
warfare was at hand. It is this fight which gives to Becket all his
historical importance. It is not for me to settle the merits of the
case, if I could,--only to describe the battle. The lawyers would
probably take one side, and Catholic priests would take the other, and
perhaps all high-churchmen. Even men like Mr. Froude and Mr. Freeman,
both very learned and able, are totally at issue, not merely as to the
merits of the case, but even as to the facts. Mr. Froude seems to hate
Becket and all other churchmen as much as Mr. Freeman loves them. I
think one reason why Mr. Froude exalts so highly Henry VIII. is because
he put his foot on the clergy and took away their revenues. But with the
war of partisans I have nothing to do, except the war between Henry II.
and Thomas Becket.

This war waxed hot when a second council of bishops and barons was
assembled at Clarendon, near Winchester, to give their assent to certain
resolutions which the King's judges had prepared in reference to the
questions at issue, and other things tending to increase the royal
authority. They are called in history "The Constitutions of Clarendon."
The gist and substance of them were, that during the vacancy of any
bishopric or abbey of royal foundation, the estates were to be in the
custody of the Crown; that all disputes between laymen and clergymen
should be tried in the civil courts; that clergymen accused of crime
should, if the judges decided, be tried in the King's court, and, if
found guilty, be handed over to the secular arm for punishment; that no
officer or tenant of the King should be excommunicated without the
King's consent; that no peasant's son should be ordained without
permission of his feudal lord; that great ecclesiastical personages
should not leave the kingdom without the King's consent.

"Anybody must see that these articles were nothing more nor less than
the surrender of the most important and vital privileges of the Church
into the hands of the King: not merely her properties, but her
liberties; even a surrender of the only weapon with which she defended
herself in extreme cases,--that of excommunication." It was the virtual
confiscation of the Church in favor of an aggressive and unscrupulous
monarch. Could we expect Becket to sign such an agreement, to part with
his powers, to betray the Church of which he was the first dignitary in
England? When have men parted with their privileges, except upon
compulsion? He never would have given up his prerogatives; he never
meant for a moment to do so. He was not the man for such a base
submission. Yet he was so worried and threatened by the King, who had
taken away from him the government of the Prince, his son, and the
custody of certain castles; he was so importuned by the bishops
themselves, for fear that the peace of the country would be
endangered,--that in a weak moment he promised to sign the articles,
reserving this phrase: "Saving the honor of his order." With this
reservation, he thought he could sign the agreement, for he could
include under such a phrase whatever he pleased.

But when really called to fulfil his promise and sign with his own hand
those constitutions, he wavered. He burst out in passionate
self-reproaches for having made a promise he never intended to keep.
"Never, never!" he said; "I will never do it so long as breath is in my
body." In his repentance he mortified himself with new self-expiations.
He suspended himself from the service of the altar. He was overwhelmed
with grief, shame, rage, and penitence. He resolved he would not yield
up the privileges of his order, come what might,--not even if the Pope
gave him authority to sign.

The dejected and humbled metropolitan advanced to the royal throne with
downcast eye but unfaltering voice; accused himself of weakness and
folly, and firmly refused to sign the articles. "Miserable wretch that I
am," cried he, with bitter tears coursing down his cheeks, "I see the
Anglican Church enslaved, in punishment for my sins. But it is all
right. I was taken from the court, not the cloister, to fill this
station; from the palace of Caesar, not the school of the Saviour. I
was a feeder of birds, but suddenly made a feeder of men; a patron of
stage-players, a follower of hounds, and I became a shepherd over so
many souls. Surely I am rightly abandoned by God."

He then took his departure for Canterbury, but was soon summoned to a
grand council at Northampton, to answer serious charges. He was called
to account for the sums he had spent as chancellor, and for various
alleged injustices. He was found guilty by a court controlled by the
King, and sentenced to pay a heavy fine, which he paid. The next day new
charges were preferred, and he was condemned to a still heavier fine,
which he was unable to pay; but he found sureties. On the next day still
heavier charges were made, and new fines inflicted, which would have
embarrassed the temporalities of his See. He now perceived that the King
was bent on his ruin; that the more he yielded the more he would be
expected to yield. He therefore resolved to yield no further, but to
stand on his rights.

But before he made his final resistance he armed himself with his
crozier, and sought counsel from the bishops assembled in another
chamber of the royal castle. The bishops were divided: some for him,
some against him. Gilbert Foliot of London put him in mind of the
benefits he had received from Henry, and the humble condition from which
he was raised, and advised him to resign for sake of peace. Henry of
Winchester, a relative of the King, bade him resign. Roger of Worcester
was non-committal. "If I advise to resist the King, I shall be put out
of the synagogue," said he. "I counsel nothing." The Bishop of
Chichester declared that Becket was primate no longer, as he had gone
against the laws of the realm. In the midst of this conference the Earl
of Leicester entered, and announced the sentence of the peers. Then
gathering himself up to his full height, the Primate, with austere
dignity, addressed the Earl and the Bishops: "My brethren, our enemies
are pressing hard upon us, and the whole world is against us; but I now
enjoin you, in virtue of your obedience, and in peril of your orders,
not to be present in any cause which may be made against my person; and
I appeal to that refuge of the distressed, the Holy See. And I command
you as your Primate, and in the name of the Pope, to put forth the
censures of the Church in behalf of your Archbishop, should the secular
arm lay violent hands upon me; for, be assured, though this frail body
may yield to persecution,--since all flesh is weak,--yet shall my spirit
never yield."

Then pushing his way, he swept through the chamber, reached the
quadrangle of the palace, mounted his horse, reached his lodgings, gave
a banquet to some beggars, stole away in disguise and fled, reaching the
coast in safety, and succeeding in crossing over to Flanders. He was now
out of the King's power, who doubtless would have imprisoned him and
perhaps killed him, for he hated him with the intensest hatred. Becket
had deceived him, having trifled with him by taking an oath to sign the
Constitutions of Clarendon, and then broken his oath and defied his
authority, appealing to the Pope, and perhaps involving the King in a
quarrel with the supreme spiritual power of Christendom. Finally he had
deserted his post and fled the kingdom. He had defeated the King in his
most darling schemes.

But although Becket was an exile, a fugitive, and a wanderer, he was
still Archbishop of Canterbury. He was the head of the English Church,
and all the clergy of the kingdom owed him spiritual obedience. He still
had the power of excommunicating the King, and the sole right of
crowning his successor. If the Pope should take his side, and the King
of France, and other temporal powers, Becket would be no unequal match
for the King. It was a grand crisis which Henry comprehended, and he
therefore sent some of his most powerful barons and prelates to the
Continent to advance his cause and secure the papal interposition.

Becket did not remain long in Flanders, since the Count was cold and did
not take his side. He escaped, and sought shelter and aid from the King
of France.

Louis VII. was a feeble monarch, but he hated Henry II. and admired
Becket. He took him under his protection, and wrote a letter to the
Pope in his behalf.

That Pope was Alexander III,--himself an exile, living in Sens, and
placed in a situation of great difficulty, struggling as he was with an
anti-pope, and the great Frederic Barbarossa, Emperor of Germany.
Moreover he was a personal friend of Henry, to whom he had been indebted
for his elevation to the papal throne. His course, therefore, was
non-committal and dilatory and vacillating, although he doubtless was on
the side of the prelate who exalted ecclesiastical authority. But he was
obliged from policy to be prudent and conciliatory. He patiently heard
both sides, but decided nothing. All he consented to do was to send
cardinal legates to England, but intrusted to none but himself the
prerogatives of final judgment.

After Henry's ambassadors had left, Becket appeared with a splendid
train of three hundred horsemen, the Archbishop of Rheims, the brothers
of the King of France, and a long array of bishops. The Pope dared not
receive him with the warmth he felt, but was courteous, more so than his
cardinals; and Becket unfolded and discussed the Constitutions of
Clarendon, which of course found no favor with the Pope. He rebuked
Becket for his weakness in promising to sign a paper which curtailed so
fundamentally the privileges of the Church. Some historians affirm he
did not extend to him the protection he deserved, although he confirmed
him in his office. He sent him to the hospitable care of the Abbot of
Pontigny. "Go now," he said, "and learn what privation is; and in the
company of Christ's humblest servants subdue the flesh to the spirit."

In this Cistercian abbey it would seem that Becket lived in great
austerity, tearing his flesh with his nails, and inflicting on himself
severe flagellations; so that his health suffered, and his dreams
haunted him. He was protected, but he could not escape annoyances and
persecutions. Henry, in his wrath, sequestrated the estates of the
archbishopric; the incumbents of his benefices were expelled; all his
relatives and dependents were banished,--some four hundred people; men,
women, and children. The bishops sent him ironical letters, and hoped
his fasts would benefit his soul.

The quarrel now was of great interest to all Europe. It was nothing less
than a battle between the spiritual and temporal powers, like that, a
century before, between Hildebrand and the Emperor of Germany. Although
the Pope was obliged from motives of policy,--for fear of being
deposed,--to seem neutral and attempt to conciliate, still the war
really was carried on in his behalf. "The great, the terrible, the
magnificent in the fate of Becket," says Michelet, "arises from his
being charged, weak and unassisted, with the interests of the Church
Universal,--a post which belonged to the Pope himself." He was still
Archbishop; but his revenues were cut off, and had it not been for the
bounty of Louis the King of France, who admired him and respected his
cause, he might have fared as a simple monk. The Pope allowed him to
excommunicate the persons who occupied his estates, but not the King
himself. He feared a revolt of the English Church from papal authority,
since Henry was supreme in England, and had won over to his cause the
English bishops. The whole question became complicated and interesting.
It was the common topic of discourse in all the castles and convents of
Europe. The Pope, timid and calculating, began to fear he had supported
Becket too far, and pressed upon him a reconciliation with Henry, much
to the disgust of Becket, who seemed to comprehend the issue better than
did the Pope; for the Pope had, in his desire to patch up the quarrel,
permitted the son of Henry to be crowned by the Archbishop of York,
which was not only an infringement of the privileges of the Primate, but
was a blow against the spiritual power. So long as the Archbishop of
Canterbury had the exclusive privilege of crowning a king, the King was
dependent in a measure on the Primate, and, through him, on the Pope. At
this suicidal act on the part of Alexander, Becket lost all patience,
and wrote to him a letter of blended indignation and reproach. "Why,"
said he, "lay in my path a stumbling-block? How can you blind yourself
to the wrong which Christ suffers in me and yourself? And yet you call
on me, like a hireling, to be silent. I might flourish in power and
riches and pleasures, and be feared and honored of all; but since the
Lord hath called me, weak and unworthy as I am, to the oversight of the
English Church, I prefer proscription, exile, poverty, misery, and
death, rather than traffic with the liberties of the Church."

What language to a Pope! What a reproof from a subordinate! How grandly
the character of Becket looms up here! I say nothing of his cause. It
may have been a right or a wrong one. Who shall settle whether spiritual
or temporal power should have the ascendency in the Middle Ages? I speak
only of his heroism, his fidelity to his cause, his undoubted sincerity.
Men do not become exiles and martyrs voluntarily, unless they are backed
by a great cause. Becket may have been haughty, irascible, ambitious.
Very likely. But what then? The more personal faults he had, the greater
does his devotion to the interests of the Church appear, fighting as it
were alone and unassisted. Undaunted, against the advice of his friends,
unsupported by the Pope, he now hurls his anathemas from his retreat in
France. He excommunicates the Bishop of Salisbury, and John of Oxford,
and the Archdeacon of Ilchester, and the Lord Chief-Justice de Luci,
and everybody who adhered to the Constitutions of Clarendon. The bishops
of England remonstrate with him, and remind him of his plebeian origin
and his obligations to the King. To whom he replies: "I am not indeed
sprung from noble ancestors, but I would rather be the man to whom
nobility of mind gives the advantages of birth than to be the degenerate
issue of an illustrious family. David was taken from the sheepfold to be
a ruler of God's people, and Peter was taken from fishing to be the head
of the Church. I was born under a humble roof, yet, nevertheless, God
has intrusted me with the liberties of the Church, which I will guard
with my latest breath."

Henry now threatens to confiscate the property of all the Cistercian
convents in England; and the Abbot of Pontigny, at the command of his
general, is forced to drive Becket away from his sanctuary. Becket
retires to Sens, sad at heart and grieved that the excommunications
which he had inflicted should have been removed by the Pope. Then Louis,
the King of France, made war on Henry, and took Becket under his
protection. The Pope rebuked Louis for the war; but Louis retorted by
telling Alexander that it was a shame for him not to give up his
time-serving policy. In so doing, Louis spoke out the heart of
Christendom. The Pope, at last aroused, excommunicated the Archbishop
of York for crowning the son of Henry, and threatened Henry himself
with an interdict, and recalled his legates. Becket also fulminated his
excommunications. There was hardly a prelate or royal chaplain in
England who was not under ecclesiastical censure. The bishops began to
waver. Henry had reason to fear he might lose the support of his English
subjects, and Norman likewise. He could do nothing with the whole Church
against him.

The King was therefore obliged to compromise. Several times before, he
had sought reconciliation with his dreadful enemy; but Becket always, in
his promises, fell back on the phrase, "Saving the honor of his order,"
or "Saving the honor of God." But now, amid the fire of
excommunications, Henry was compelled to make his peace with the man he
detested. He himself did not much care for the priestly thunderbolts,
but his clergy and his subjects did. The penalty of eternal fire was a
dreadful fear to those who believed, as everybody then did, in the hell
of which the popes were supposed to hold the keys. This fear sustained
the empire of the popes; it was the basis of sacerdotal rule in the
Middle Ages. Hence Becket was so powerful, even in exile. His greatness
was in his character; his power was in his spiritual weapons.

In the hollow reconciliation at last effected between the King and the
Prelate, Henry promised to confirm Becket in his powers and dignities,
and molest him no more. But he haughtily refused the customary kiss of
peace. Becket saw the omen; so did the King of France. The peace was
inconclusive. It was a truce, not a treaty. Both parties distrusted
each other.

But Henry was weary with the struggle, and Becket was tired of
exile,--never pleasant, even if voluntary. Moreover, the Prelate had
gained the moral victory, even as Hildebrand did when the Emperor of
Germany stooped as a suppliant in the fortress of Canossa. The King of
England had virtually yielded to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps
Becket felt that his mission was accomplished; that he had done the work
for which he was raised up. Wearied, sickened with the world, disgusted
with the Pope, despising his bishops, perhaps he was willing to die. He
had a presentiment that he should die as a martyr. So had the French
king and his prelates. But Becket longed to return to his church and
celebrate the festivities of Christmas. So he made up his mind to return
to England, "although I know, of a truth," he said, "I shall meet my
passion there." Before embarking he made a friendly and parting visit to
the King of France, and then rode to the coast with an escort of one
hundred horsemen. As Dover was guarded by the King's retainers, who
might harm him, he landed at Sandwich, his own town. The next day he set
out for Canterbury, after an absence of seven years. The whole
population lined the road, strewed it with flowers, and rent the air
with songs. Their beloved Archbishop had returned. On reaching
Canterbury he went directly to his cathedral and seated himself on his
throne, and the monks came and kissed him, with tears in their eyes. One
Herbert said, "Christ has conquered; Christ is now King!"

From Canterbury Becket made a sort of triumphal progress through the
kingdom, with the pretence of paying a visit to the young king at
Woodstock,--exciting rather than allaying the causes of discord,
scattering his excommunications, still haughty, restless, implacable; so
that the Court became alarmed, and ordered him to return to his diocese.
He obeyed, as he wished to celebrate Christmas at home; and ascending
his long-neglected pulpit preached, according to Michelet, from this
singular text: "I am come to die in the midst of you."

Henry at this time was on the Continent, and was greatly annoyed at the
reports of Becket's conduct which reached him. Then there arrived three
bishops whom the Primate had excommunicated, with renewed complaints and
grievances, assuring him there would be no peace so long as Becket
lived. Henry was almost wild with rage and perplexity. What could he do?
He dared not execute the Archbishop, as Henry VIII. would have done. In
his age the Prelate was almost as powerful as the King. Violence to his
person was the last thing to do, for this would have involved the King
in war with the adherents of the Pope, and would have entailed an
excommunication. Still, the supremest desire of Henry's soul was to get
Becket out of the way. So, yielding to an impulse of passion, he said to
his attendants, "Is there no one to relieve me from the insults of this
low-born and turbulent priest?"

Among these attendants were four courtiers or knights, of high birth and
large estates, who, hearing these reproachful words, left the court at
once, crossed the channel, and repaired to the castle of Sir Ranulf de
Broc, the great enemy of Becket, who had molested him in innumerable
ways. Some friendly person contrived to acquaint Becket with his danger,
to whom he paid no heed, knowing it very well himself. He knew he was to
die; and resolved to die bravely.

The four armed knights, meanwhile, on the 29th of December, rode with an
escort to Canterbury, dined at the Augustinian abbey, and entered the
court-yard of the Archbishop's palace as Becket had finished his mid-day
meal and had retired to an inner room with his chaplain and a few
intimate friends. They then entered the hall and sought the Archbishop,
who received them in silence. Sir Reginald Fitzurst then broke the
silence with these words: "We bring you the commands of the King beyond
the sea, that you repair without delay to the young King's presence and
swear allegiance. And further, he commands you to absolve the bishops
you have excommunicated." On Becket's refusal, the knight continued:
"Since you will not obey, the royal command is that you and your clergy
forthwith depart from the realm, never more to return." Becket angrily
declared he would never again leave England. The knights then sprang to
their feet and departed, enjoining the attendants to prevent the escape
of Becket, who exclaimed: "Do you think I shall fly, then? Neither for
the King nor any living man will I fly. You cannot be more ready to kill
me than I am to die."

He sought, however, the shelter of his cathedral, as the vesper bell
summoned him to prayers,--followed by the armed knights, with a company
of men-at-arms, driving before them a crowd of monks. The Archbishop was
standing on the steps of the choir, beyond the central pillar, which
reached to the roof of the cathedral, in the dim light shed by the
candles of the altars, so that only the outline of his noble figure
could be seen, when the knights closed around him, and Fitzurst seized
him,--perhaps meaning to drag him away as a prisoner to the King, or
outside the church before despatching him. Becket cried, "Touch me not,
thou abominable wretch!" at the same time hurling Tracy, another of the
knights, to the ground, who, rising, wounded him in the head with his
sword. The Archbishop then bent his neck to the assassins, exclaiming,
"I am prepared to die for Christ and His Church."

Such was the murder of Becket,--a martyr, as he has been generally
regarded, for the liberties of the Church; but, according to some,
justly punished for presumptuous opposition to his sovereign.

The assassination was a shock to Christendom. The most intrepid
churchman of his age was slain at his post for doing, as he believed,
his duty. No one felt the shock more than the King himself, who knew he
would be held responsible for the murder. He dreaded the consequences,
and shut himself up for three days in his chamber, refusing food,
issuing orders for the arrest of the murderers, and sending ambassadors
to the Pope to exculpate himself. Fearing an excommunication and an
interdict, he swore on the Gospel, in one of the Norman cathedrals, that
he had not commanded nor desired the death of the Archbishop; and
stipulated to maintain at his own cost two hundred knights in the Holy
Land, to abrogate the Constitutions of Clarendon, to reinvest the See of
Canterbury with all he had wrested away, and even to undertake a crusade
against the Saracens of Spain if the Pope desired. Amid the calamities
which saddened his latter days, he felt that all were the judgments of
God for his persecution of the martyr, and did penance at his tomb.

So Becket slew more by his death than he did by his life. His cause was
gained by his blood: it arrested the encroachments of the Norman kings
for more than three hundred years. He gained the gratitude of the Church
and a martyr's crown. He was canonized as a saint. His shrine was
enriched with princely offerings beyond any other object of popular
veneration in the Middle Ages. Till the time of the Reformation a
pilgrimage to that shrine was a common form of penance for people of all
conditions, and was supposed to expiate their sins. Even miracles were
reputed to be wrought at that shrine, while a drop of Becket's blood
would purchase a domain!

Whatever may be said about the cause of Becket, to which there are two
sides, there is no doubt about his popularity. Even the Reformation, and
the changes made in the English Constitution, have not obliterated the
veneration in which he was held for five hundred years. You cannot
destroy respect for a man who is willing to be a martyr, whether his
cause is right or wrong. If enlightened judgments declare that he was "a
martyr of sacerdotal power, not of Christianity; of a caste, and not of
mankind;" that he struggled for the authority and privileges of the
clergy rather than for the good of his country,--still it will be
conceded that he fought bravely and died with dignity. All people love
heroism. They are inclined to worship heroes; and especially when an
unarmed priest dares to resist an unscrupulous and rapacious king, as
Henry is well known to have been, and succeeds in tearing from his hands
the spoils he has seized, there must be admiration. You cannot
extinguish the tribute of the soul for heroism, any more than that of
the mind for genius. The historian who seeks to pull down a hero from
the pedestal on which he has been seated for ages plays a losing game.
No brilliancy in sophistical pleadings can make men long prefer what is
_new_ to that which is _true_. Becket is enshrined in the hearts of his
countrymen, even as Cromwell is among the descendants of the Puritans;
and substantially for the same reason,--because they both fought bravely
for their respective causes,--the cause of the people in their
respective ages. Both recognized God Almighty, and both contended
against the despotism of kings seeking to be absolute, and in behalf of
the people who were ground down by military power. In the twelfth
century the people looked up to the clergy as their deliverers and
friends; in the seventeenth century to parliaments and lawyers. Becket
was the champion of the clergy, even as Cromwell was the champion--at
least at first--of the Parliament. Carlyle eulogizes Cromwell as much as
Froude abuses Becket; but Becket, if more haughty and repulsive than
Cromwell in his private character, yet was truer to his principles. He
was a great hero, faithful to a great cause, as he regarded it, however
averse this age may justly be to priestly domination. He must be judged
by the standard which good and enlightened people adopted seven hundred
years ago,--not in semi-barbarous England alone, but throughout the
continent of Europe. This is not the standard which reason accepts
to-day, I grant; but it is the standard by which Becket must be
judged,--even as the standard which justified the encroachments of Leo
the Great, or the rigorous rule of Tiberius and Marcus Aurelius, is not
that which enthrones Gustavus Adolphus and William of Orange in the
heart of the civilized world.


Eadmer's Life of Anselm; Historia Novarum; Sir J. Stephen's Life of
Becket, of William of Malmsbury, and of Henry of Huntington;
Correspondence of Thomas Becket, with that of Foliot, Bishop of London,
and John of Salisbury; Chronicle of Peter of Peterborough; Chronicle of
Ralph Niper, and that of Jocelyn of Brakeland; Dugdale's Monasticon;
Freeman's Norman Conquest; Michelet's History of France; Green, Hume,
Knight, Stubbs, among the English historians; Encyclopaedia Britannica;
Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury; Lord Littleton on Henry
II.; Stanley's Memorials of Canterbury; Milman's Latin Christianity;
article by Froude; Morris's Life of Thomas à Becket; J. Craigie
Robertson's Life of Thomas Becket.


       *       *       *       *       *

ABOUT A.D. 800-1300.

There is no great character with whom Feudalism is especially
identified. It was an institution of the Middle Ages, which grew out of
the miseries and robberies that succeeded the fall of the Roman Empire.

Before I present the mutual relation between a lord and his vassal, I
would call your attention to political anarchies ending in political
degradation; to an unformed state of society; to semi-barbarism, with
its characteristic vices of plunder, rapine, oppression, and injustice;
to wild and violent passions, unchecked by law; to the absence of
central power; to the reign of hard and martial nobles; to the miseries
of the people, ground down, ignorant, and brutal; to rude agricultural
life; to petty wars; to general ignorance, which kept society in
darkness and gloom for a thousand years,--all growing out of the eclipse
of the old civilization, so that the European nations began a new
existence, and toiled in sorrow and fear, with few ameliorations: an
iron age, yet an age which was not unfavorable for the development of
new virtues and heroic qualities, under the influence of which society
emerged from barbarism, with a new foundation for national greatness,
and a new material for Christianity and art and literature and science
to work upon.

Such was the state of society during the existence of feudal
institutions,--a period of about five hundred years,--dating from the
dismemberment of Charlemagne's empire to the fifteenth century. The era
of its greatest power was from the Norman conquest of England to the
reign of Edward III. But there was a long and gloomy period before
Feudalism ripened into an institution,--from the dissolution of the
Roman Empire to the eighth and ninth centuries. I would assign this
period as the darkest and the dreariest in the history of Europe since
the Roman conquests, for this reason,--that civilization perished
without any one to chronicle the changes, or to take notice of the

From Charlemagne there had been, with the exception of brief intervals,
the birth of new ideas and interests, the growth of a new civilization.
Before his day there was a progressive decline. Art, literature,
science, alike faded away. There were no grand monuments erected, the
voice of the poet was unheard in the universal wretchedness, the monks
completed the destruction which the barbarians began. Why were libraries
burned or destroyed? Why was classic literature utterly neglected? Why
did no great scholars arise, even in the Church? The new races looked in
vain for benefactors. Even the souvenirs of the old Empire were lost.
Nearly all the records of ancient greatness perished. The old cities
were levelled to the ground. Nothing was built but monasteries, and
these were as gloomy as feudal castles at a later date. The churches
were heavy and mournful. Good men hid themselves, trying to escape from
the miserable world, and sang monotonous chants of death and the grave.
Agriculture was at the lowest state, and hunting, piracy, and robbery
were resorted to as a means of precarious existence. There was no
commerce. The roads were invested with vagabonds and robbers. It was the
era of universal pillage and destruction. Nothing was sacred. Universal
desolation filled the souls of men with despair. What state of society
could be worse than that of England under the early Saxon kings? There
were no dominant races and no central power. The countries of Europe
relapsed into a sullen barbarism. I see no bright spot anywhere, not
even in Italy, which was at this time the most overrun and the most
mercilessly plundered of all the provinces of the fallen Empire. The old
capital of the world was nearly depopulated. Nothing was spared of
ancient art on which the barbarians could lay their hands, and nothing
was valued.

This was the period of what writers call _allodial_ tenure, in
distinction from feudal. The allodialist owned indeed his lands, but
they were subject to incessant depredations from wandering tribes of
barbarians and from robbers. There was no encouragement to till the
soil. There was no incentive to industry of any kind. During a reign of
universal lawlessness, what man would work except for a scanty and
precarious support? His cattle might be driven away, his crops seized,
his house plundered. It is hard to realize that our remote ancestors
were mere barbarians, who by the force of numbers overran the world.
They seem to have had but one class of virtues,---contempt of death, and
the willing sacrifice of their lives in battle. The allodialist,
however, was not a barbaric warrior or chieftain, but the despoiled
owner of lands that his ancestors had once cultivated in peace and
prosperity. He was the degenerate descendant of Celtic and Roman
citizens, the victim of barbaric spoliations. His lands may have passed
into the hands of the Gothic conquerors; but the Gothic or Burgundian or
Frankish possessor of innumerable acres, once tilled by peaceful
citizens, remained an allodial proprietor. Even he had no protection and
no safety; for any new excursion of less fortunate barbarians would
desolate his possessions and decimate his laborers. The small proprietor
was especially subject to pillage and murder.

In the universal despair from this reign of anarchy and lawlessness,
when there was no security to property and no redress of evils, the
allodialist parted with his lands to some powerful chieftain, and
obtained promise of protection. He even resigned the privilege of
freedom to save his wretched life. He became a serf,--a semi-bondman,
chained to the soil, but protected from outrage. Nothing but
inconceivable miseries, which have not been painted by historians, can
account for the almost simultaneous change in the ownership of land in
all European countries. We can conceive of nothing but blank despair
among the people who attempted to cultivate land. And there must have
been the grossest ignorance and the lowest degradation when men were
willing to submit to the curtailment of personal freedom and the loss of
their lands, in order to find protectors.

Thus Feudalism arose in the ninth and tenth centuries from the absolute
wreck of property and hopes. It was virtually the surrender of land for
the promise of protection. It was the great necessity of that anarchical
age. Like all institutions, it grew out of the needs of the times. Yet
its universal acceptance seems to prove that the change was beneficial.
Feudalism, especially in its early ages, is not to be judged by the
institutions of our times, any more than is the enormous growth of
spiritual power which took place when this social and political
revolution was going on. Wars and devastations and untold calamities and
brutal forces were the natural sequence of barbaric invasions, and of
the progressive fall of the old civilization, continued from generation
to generation for a period of two or three hundred years, with scarcely
any interruption. You get no relief from such a dispensation of Divine
Providence, unless you can solve the question why the Roman Empire was
permitted to be swept away. If it must be destroyed, from the prevalence
of the same vices which have uniformly undermined all empires,--utter
and unspeakable rottenness and depravity,--in spite of Christianity,
whether nominal or real; if eternal justice must bear sway on this
earth, bringing its fearful retributions for the abuse of privileges and
general wickedness,--then we accept the natural effects of that violence
which consummated the ruin. The natural consequences of two hundred
years of pillage and warfare and destruction of ancient institutions
were, and could have been nothing other than, miseries, misrule,
sufferings, poverty, insecurity, and despair. A universal conflagration
must destroy everything that past ages had valued. As a relief from what
was felt to be intolerable, and by men who were brutal, ignorant,
superstitious, and degraded, all from the effect of the necessary evils
which war creates, a sort of semi-slavery was felt to be preferable, as
the price of dependence and protection.

Dependence and protection are the elemental principles of Feudalism.
These were the hard necessities which the age demanded. And for three
hundred years, it cannot be doubted, the relation between master and
serf was beneficial. It resulted in a more peaceful state of
society,--not free from great evils, but still a healthful change from
the disorders of the preceding epoch. The peasant could cultivate his
land comparatively free from molestation. He was still poor. Sometimes
he was exposed to heavy exactions. He was bound to give a portion of the
profits of his land to his lordly proprietor; and he was bound to render
services in war. But, as he was not bound to serve over forty days, he
was not led on distant expeditions; he was not carried far from home. He
was not exposed to the ambition of military leaders. His warlike
services seem to be confined to the protection of his master's castle
and family, or to the assault of some neighboring castle. He was simply
made to participate in baronial quarrels; and as these quarrels were
frequent, his life was not altogether peaceful.

But war on a large scale was impossible in the feudal age. The military
glory of the Roman conquerors was unknown, and also that of modern
European monarchs. The peasant was bound to serve under the banner of a
military chieftain only for a short time: then he returned to his farm.
His great military weapon was the bow,--the weapon of semi-barbarians.
The spear, the sword, the battle-axe were the weapons of the baronial
family,--the weapons of knights, who fought on horseback, cased in
defensive armor. The peasant fought on foot; and as the tactics of
ancient warfare were inapplicable, and those of modern warfare unknown,
the strength of armies was in cavalry and not in the infantry, as in
modern times. But armies were not large from the ninth to the twelfth
century,--not until the Crusades arose. Nor were they subject to a rigid
discipline. They were simply an armed rabble. They were more like
militia than regular forces; they fostered military virtues, without the
demoralization of standing armies. In the feudal age there were no
standing armies. Even at so late a period as the time of Queen Elizabeth
that sovereign had to depend on the militia for the defence of the realm
against the Spaniards. Standing armies are the invention of great
military monarchs or a great military State. The bow and arrow were used
equally to shoot men and shoot deer; but they rarely penetrated the
armor of knights, or their force was broken by the heavy shield: they
took effect only on the undefended bodies of the peasantry. Hence there
was a great disproportion of the slain in battle between peasants and
their mounted masters. War, even when confined to a small sphere, has
its terrors. The sufferers were the common people, whose lives were not
held of much account. History largely confines itself to battles. Hence
we are apt to lose sight of the uneventful life of the people in
quiet times.

But the barons were not always fighting. In the intervals of war the
peasant enjoyed the rude pleasures of his home. He grew up with strong
attachments, having no desire to migrate or travel. Gradually the
sentiment of loyalty was born,--loyalty to his master and to his
country. His life was rough, but earnest. He had great simplicity of
character. He became honest, industrious, and frugal. He was contented
with but few pleasures,--rural fêtes and village holidays. He had no
luxuries and no craving for them. Measured by our modern scale of
pleasures he led a very inglorious, unambitious, and rude life.

Contentment is one of the mysteries of existence. We should naturally
think that excitement and pleasure and knowledge would make people
happy, since they stimulate the intellectual powers; but on the contrary
they seem to produce unrest and cravings which are never satisfied. And
we should naturally think that a life of isolation, especially with no
mental resources,--a hard rural existence, with but few comforts and no
luxuries,--would make people discontented. Yet it does not seem to be so
in fact, as illustrated by the apparent contentment of people doomed to
hard labor in the most retired and dreary retreats. We wonder at their
placitude, as we travel in remote and obscure sections of the country. A
poor farmer, whose house is scarcely better than a hovel, surrounded
with chickens and pigs, and with only a small garden,--unadorned and
lonely and repulsive,--has no cravings which make the life of the
favored rich sometimes unendurable. The poorer he is, and therefore the
more miserable as we should think, the more contented he seems to be;
while a fashionable woman or _ennuied_ man, both accustomed to the
luxuries and follies of city life, with all its refinements and
gratification of intellectual and social pleasures, will sometimes pine
in a suburban home, with all the gilded glories of rich furniture,
books, beautiful gardens, greenhouses, luxurious living, horses,
carriages, and everything that wealth can furnish.

So that civilization would seem often a bitter mockery, showing that
intellectual life only stimulates the cravings of the soul, but does not
satisfy them. And when people are poor but cultivated, the unhappiness
seems to be still greater; demonstrating that cultivated intellect alone
opens to the mind the existence of evils which are intensified by the
difficulty of their removal, and on which the mind dwells with feelings
kindred to despair. I have sometimes doubted whether an obscure farmer's
daughter is any happier with her piano, and her piles of cheaply
illustrated literature and translations of French novels, and her
smatterings of science learned in normal schools, since she has learned
too often to despise her father and mother and brother, and her
uneducated rural beau, and all her surroundings, with poverty and unrest
and aspiration for society eating out her soul. The happiness produced
merely by intellectual pleasures and social frivolities is very small at
the best, compared with that produced by the virtues of the heart and
the affections kindled by deeds of devotion, or the duties which take
the mind from itself. Intellectual pleasures give only a brief
satisfaction, unless directed to a practical end, like the earnest
imparting of knowledge in educational pursuits, or the pursuit of art
for itself alone,--to create, and not to devour, as the epicure eats his
dinner. Where is the happiness of devouring books with no attempt to
profit by them, except in the temporary pleasure of satisfying an
appetite? So even the highest means of happiness may become a savor of
death unto death when perverted or unimproved. Never should we stimulate
the intellect merely to feed upon itself. Unless intellectual culture is
directed to what is useful, especially to the necessities or improvement
of others, it is a delusion and a snare. Better far to be ignorant, but
industrious and useful in any calling however humble, than to cram the
mind with knowledge that leads to no good practical result. The buxom
maiden of rural life, in former days absorbed in the duties of home,
with no knowledge except that gained in a district school in the winter,
with all her genial humanities in the society of equals no more aspiring
than herself, is to me a far more interesting person than the
pale-faced, languid, discontented, envious girl who has just returned
from a school beyond her father's means, even if she can play upon an
instrument, and has worn herself thin in exhausting studies under the
stimulus of ambitious competition, or the harangues of a pedant who
thinks what he calls "education" to be the end of life,--an education
which reveals her own insignificance, or leads her to strive for an
unattainable position.

I am forced to make these remarks to show that the Mediaeval peasant was
not necessarily miserable because he was ignorant, or isolated, or poor.
In so doing I may excite the wrath of some who think a little knowledge
is _not_ a dangerous thing, and may appear to be throwing cold water on
one of the noblest endeavors of modern times. But I do not sneer at
education. I only seek to show that it will not make people happy,
unless it is directed into useful channels; and that even ignorance may
be bliss when it is folly to be wise. A benevolent Providence tempers
all conditions to the necessities of the times. The peasantry of Europe
became earnest and stalwart warriors and farmers, even under the
grinding despotism of feudal masters. With their beer and brown bread,
and a fowl in the pot on a Sunday, they grew up to be hardy, bold,
strong, healthy, and industrious. They furnished a material on which
Christianity and a future civilization could work. They became
patriotic, religious, and kind-hearted. They learned to bear their evils
in patience. They were more cheerful than the laboring classes of our
day, with their partial education,--although we may console ourselves
with the reflection that these are passing through the fermenting
processes of a transition from a lower to a higher grade of living. Look
at the picture of them which art has handed down: their faces are ruddy,
genial, sympathetic, although coarse and vulgar and boorish. And they
learned to accept the inequalities of life without repining insolence.
They were humble, and felt that there were actually some people in the
world superior to themselves. I do not paint their condition as
desirable or interesting by our standard, but as endurable. They were
doubtless very ignorant; but would knowledge have made them any happier?
Knowledge is for those who can climb by it to positions of honor and
usefulness, not for those who cannot rise above the condition in which
they were born,--not for those who will be snubbed and humiliated and
put down by arrogant wealth and birth. Better be unconscious of
suffering, than conscious of wrongs which cannot be redressed.

Let no one here misunderstand and pervert me. I am not exalting the
ignorance and brutality of the feudal ages. I am not decrying the
superior advantages of our modern times. I only state that ignorance and
brutality were the necessary sequences of the wars and disorders of a
preceding epoch, but that this very ignorance and brutality were
accompanied by virtues which partially ameliorated the evils of the day;
that in the despair of slavery were the hopes of future happiness; that
religion took a deep hold of the human mind, even though blended with
puerile and degrading superstitions; that Christianity, taking hold of
the hearts of a suffering people, taught lessons which enabled them to
bear their hardships with resignation; that cheerfulness was not
extinguished; and that so many virtues were generated by the combined
influence of suffering and Christianity, that even with ignorance human
nature shone with greater lustre than among those by whom knowledge is
perverted. It was not until the evil and injustice of Feudalism were
exposed by political writers, and were meditated upon by the people who
had arisen by education and knowledge, that they became unendurable; and
then the people shook off the yoke. But how impossible would have been a
French Revolution in the thirteenth century! What readers would a
Rousseau have found among the people in the time of Louis VII.? If
knowledge breaks fetters when the people are strong enough to shake them
off, ignorance enables them to bear those fetters when emancipation is

The great empire of Charlemagne was divided at his death (in A.D. 814)
among his three sons,--one of whom had France, another Italy, and the
third Germany. In forty-five years afterwards we find seven kingdoms,
instead of three,--France, Navarre, Provence, Burgundy, Lorraine,
Germany, and Italy. In a few years more there were twenty-nine
hereditary fiefs. And as early as the tenth century France itself was
split up into fifty-five independent sovereignties; and these small
sovereignties were again divided into dukedoms and baronies. All these
dukes and barons, however, acknowledged the King of France as their
liege lord; yet he was not richer or more powerful than some of the
dukes who swore fealty to him. The Duke of Burgundy at one time had
larger territories and more power than the King of France himself. So
that the central authority of kings was merely nominal; their power
extended scarcely beyond the lands they individually controlled. And all
the countries of Europe were equally ruled by petty kings. The kings of
England seem to have centralized around their thrones more power than
other European monarchs until the time of the Crusades, when they were
checked, not so much by nobles as by Act of Parliament.

Now all Europe was virtually divided among these petty sovereigns,
called dukes, earls, counts, and barons. Each one was virtually
independent. He coined money, administered justice, and preserved order.
He ruled by hereditary right, and his estate descended to his oldest
son. His revenues were derived by the extorted contributions of those
who cultivated his lands, and by certain perquisites, among which were
the privilege of wardship, and the profits of an estate during the
minority of its possessor, and reliefs, or fines paid on the alienation
of a vassal's feud; and the lord could bestow a female ward in marriage
on whomever he pleased, and on her refusal take possession of
her estate.

These lordly proprietors of great estates,--or nobles,--so powerful and
independent, lived in castles. These strongholds were necessary in such
turbulent times. They were large or small, according to the wealth or
rank of the nobles who occupied them, but of no architectural beauty.
They were fortresses, generally built on hills, or cragged rocks, or in
inaccessible marshes, or on islands in rivers,--anywhere where defence
was easiest. The nobles did not think of beautiful situations, or
fruitful meadows, so much as of the safety and independence of the
feudal family. They therefore lived in great isolation, travelling but
little, and only at short distances (it was the higher clergy only who
travelled). Though born to rank and power, they were yet rude, rough,
unpolished. They were warriors. They fought on horseback, covered with
defensive armor. They were greedy and quarrelsome, and hence were
engaged in perpetual strife,--in the assault on castles and devastation
of lands. These castles were generally gloomy, heavy, and uncomfortable,
yet were very numerous in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They were
occupied by the feudal family, perhaps the chaplain, strangers of rank,
bards, minstrels, and servants, who lived on the best the country
afforded, but without the luxuries of our times. They lived better than
the monks, as they had no vows to restrain them. But in their dreary
castles the rooms were necessarily small, dark, and damp, except the
banqueting hall. They were poorly lighted, there being no glass in the
narrow windows, nor chimneys, nor carpets, nor mirrors, nor luxurious
furniture, nor crockery, nor glassware, nor stoves, nor the refinements
of cookery. The few roads of the country were travelled only by
horsemen, or people on foot. There were no carriages, only a few heavy
lumbering wagons. Tea and coffee were unknown, as also tropical fruits
and some of our best vegetables. But game of all kinds was plenty and
cheap; so also were wine and beer, and beef and mutton, and pork and
poultry. The feudal family was illiterate, and read but few books. The
chief pleasures were those of the chase,--hunting and hawking,--and
intemperate feasts. What we call "society" was impossible, although the
barons may have exchanged visits with each other. They rarely visited
cities, which at that time were small and uninteresting. The lordly
proprietor of ten thousand acres may have been jolly, frank, and
convivial, but he was still rough, and had little to say on matters of
great interests. Circumscribed he was of necessity, ignorant and
prejudiced. Conscious of power, however, he was proud and insolent to
inferiors. He was merely a physical man,--ruddy, healthy, strong indeed,
but without refinement, or knowledge, or social graces. His castle was a
fort and not a palace; and here he lived with boisterous or sullen
companions, as rough and ignorant as himself. His wife and daughters
were more interesting, but without those attainments which grace and
adorn society. They made tapestries and embroideries, and rode
horseback, and danced well, and were virtuous; but were primitive,
uneducated, and supercilious. Their beauty was of the ruddy sort,
--physical, but genial. They were very fond of ornaments and gay
dresses; and so were their lords on festive occasions, for
semi-barbarism delights in what is showy and glittering,--purple, and
feathers, and trinkets.

Feudalism was intensely aristocratic. A line was drawn between the
noble and ignoble classes almost as broad as that which separates
liberty from slavery. It was next to impossible for a peasant, or
artisan, or even a merchant to pass that line. The exclusiveness of the
noble class was intolerable. It held in scorn any profession but arms;
neither riches nor learning was of any account. It gloried in the pride
of birth, and nourished a haughty scorn of plebeian prosperity. It was
not until cities and arts and commerce arose that the arrogance of the
baron was rebuked, or his iron power broken. Haughty though ignorant, he
had no pity or compassion for the poor and miserable. His peasantry were
doomed to perpetual insults. Their cornfields were trodden down by the
baronial hunters; they were compelled even to grind their corn in the
landlord's mill, and bake their bread in his oven. They had no redress
of injuries, and were scorned as well as insulted. What knight would arm
himself for them; what gentle lady wept at their sorrows? The feeling of
personal consequence was entirely confined to the feudal family. The
poorest knight took precedence over the richest merchant. Pride of birth
was carried to romantic extravagance, so that marriages seldom took
place between different classes. A beautiful peasant girl could never
rise above her drudgeries; and she never dreamed of rising, for the
members of the baronial family were looked up to as superior beings. A
caste grew up as rigid and exclusive as that of India. The noble and
ignoble classes were not connected by any ties; there was nothing in
common between them. Even the glory of successful warfare shed no
radiance on a peasant's hut. He fought for his master, and not for
himself, and scarcely for his country. He belonged to his master as
completely as if he could be bought and sold. Christianity teaches the
idea of a universal brotherhood; Feudalism suppressed or extinguished
it. Peasants had no rights, only duties,--and duties to hard and
unsympathetic masters. Can we wonder that a relation so unequal should
have been detested by the people when they began to think? Can we wonder
it should have created French Revolutions? When we remember how the
people toiled for a mail-clad warrior, how they fought for his
interests, how they died for his renown, how they were curtailed in
their few pleasures, how they were not permitted even to shoot a
pheasant or hare in their own grounds, we are amazed that such signal
injustice should ever have been endured. It is impossible that this
injustice should not have been felt; and no man ever became reconciled
to injustice, unless reduced to the condition of a brute. Religious
tyranny may be borne, for the priest invokes a supreme authority which
all feel to be universally binding. But all tyranny over the body--the
utter extinction of liberty--is hateful even to the most degraded

Why, then, was such an unjust and unequal relation permitted to exist
so long? What good did it accomplish? What were its extenuating
features? Why was it commended by historians as a good institution for
the times?

It created a hardy agricultural class, inured them to the dangers and
the toils of war, bound them by local attachments, and fostered a
patriotic spirit. It developed the virtues of obedience, and submission
to evils. It created a love of home and household duties. It was
favorable to female virtue. It created the stout yeomanry who could be
relied upon in danger. It made law and order possible. It defended the
people from robbers. It laid a foundation for warlike prowess. It was
favorable to growth of population, for war did not sweep off the people
so much as those dire plagues and pestilences which were common in the
Middle Ages. It was preferable to the disorders and conflagrations and
depredations of preceding times. The poor man was oppressed, but he was
safe so long as his lord could protect him. It was a hard discipline,
but a discipline which was healthy; it preserved the seed if it did not
bear the fruits of civilization. The peasantry became honest, earnest,
sincere. They were made susceptible of religious impressions. They
became attached to all the institutions of the Church; the parish church
was their retreat, their consolation, and their joy. The priest
tyrannized over the soul and the knight over the body, but the flame of
piety burned steadily and warmly.

When the need of such an institution as Feudalism no longer existed,
then it was broken up. Its blessings were not commensurate with its
evils; but the evils were less than those which previously existed. This
is, I grant, but faint praise. But the progress of society could not be
rapid amid such universal ignorance: it is slow in the best of times. I
do not call that state of society progressive where moral and spiritual
truths are forgotten or disregarded in the triumphs of a brilliant
material life. There was no progress of society from the Antonines to
Theodosius, but a steady decline. But there was a progress, however
slow, from Charlemagne to Philip Augustus. But for Feudalism and
ecclesiastical institutions the European races might not have emerged
from anarchy, or might have been subjected to a new and withering
imperialism. Say what we will of the grinding despotism of
Feudalism,--and we cannot be too severe on any form of despotism,--yet
the rude barbarian became a citizen in process of time, with education
and political rights.

Society made the same sort of advance, in the gloomy epoch we are
reviewing, that the slaves in our Southern States made from the time
they were imported from Africa, with their degrading fetichism and
unexampled ignorance, to the time of their emancipation. How marked the
progress of the Southern slaves during the two hundred years of their
bondage! No degraded race ever made so marked a progress as they did in
the same period, even under all the withering influences of slavery.
Probably their moral and spiritual progress was greater than it will be
in the next two hundred years, exposed to all the dangers of modern
materialism, which saps the life of nations in the midst of the most
brilliant triumphs of art. We are now on the road to a marvellous
intellectual enlightenment, unprecedented and full of encouragement. But
with this we face dangers also, such as undermined the old Roman world
and all the ancient civilizations. If I could fix my eye on a single
State or Nation in the whole history of our humanity that has escaped
these dangers, that has not retrograded in those virtues on which the
strength of man is based, after a certain point has been reached in
civilization, I would not hazard this remark. Society escaped these
evils in that agricultural period which saw the rise and fall of
Feudalism, and made a slow but notable advance. That is a fact which
cannot be gainsaid, and this is impressive. It shows that society, in a
moral point of view, thrives better under hard restraints than when
exposed to the dangers of an irreligious, material civilization.

Nor is Feudalism to be condemned as being altogether dark and
uninteresting. It had redeeming features in the life of the baronial
family. Under its influence arose the institution of chivalry; and
though the virtues of chivalry may be poetic, and exaggerated, there can
be no doubt that it was a civilizing institution, and partially redeemed
the Middle Ages. It gave rise to beautiful sentiments; it blazed in new
virtues, rarely seen in the old civilizations. They were peculiar to the
age and to Europe, were fostered by the Church, and took a coloring from
Christianity itself. Chivalry bound together the martial barons of
Europe by the ties of a fraternity of knights. Those armed and mailed
warriors fought on horseback, and chivalry takes its name from the
French _cheval_, meaning a horse. The knights learned gradually to treat
each other with peculiar courtesy. They became generous in battle or in
misfortune, for they all alike belonged to the noble class, and felt a
common bond in the pride of birth. It was not the memory of illustrious
ancestors which created this aristocratic distinction, as among Roman
patricians, but the fact that the knights were a superior order. Yet
among themselves distinctions vanished. There was no higher distinction
than that of a gentleman. The poorest knight was welcome at any castle
or at any festivity, at the tournament or in the chase. Generally,
gallantry and unblemished reputation were the conditions of social rank
among the knights themselves. They were expected to excel in courage, in
courtesy, in generosity, in truthfulness, in loyalty. The great
patrimony of the knight was his horse, his armor, and his valor. He was
bound to succor the defenceless. He was required to abstain from all
mean pursuits. If his trade were war, he would divest war of its
cruelties. His word was seldom broken, and his promises were held
sacred. If pride of rank was generated in this fraternity of gentlemen,
so also was scorn of lies and baseness. If there was no brotherhood of
man, there was the brotherhood of equals. The most beautiful friendships
arose from common dangers and common duties. A stranger knight was
treated with the greatest kindness and hospitality. If chivalry
condemned anything, it was selfishness and treachery and hypocrisy. All
the old romances and chronicles record the frankness and magnanimity of
knights. More was thought of moral than of intellectual excellence.
Nobody was ashamed to be thought religious. The mailed warrior said his
orisons every day and never neglected Mass. Even in war, prisoners were
released on their parole of honor, and their ransom was rarely
exorbitant. The institution tended to soften manners as well as to
develop the virtues of the heart. Under its influence the rude baron was
transformed into a courteous gentleman.

But the distinguishing glory of chivalry was devotion to the female
sex. Respect for woman was born in the German forests before the Roman
empire fell. It was the best trait of the Germanic barbarians; but under
the institution of chivalry this natural respect was ripened into
admiration and gallantry. "Love of God and the ladies" was enjoined as a
single duty. The knight ever came to the rescue of a woman in danger or
distress, provided she was a lady. Nothing is better attested than the
chivalric devotion to woman in a feudal castle. The name of a mistress
of the heart was never mentioned but in profound respect. Even pages
were required to choose objects of devotion, to whom they were to be
loyal unto death. Woman presided in the feudal castle, where she
exercised a proper restraint. She bestowed the prize of valor at
tournaments and tilts. To insult a lady was a lasting disgrace,--or to
reveal her secrets. For the first time in history, woman became the
equal partner of her husband. She was his companion often in the chase,
gaily mounted on her steed. She always dined with him, and was the
presiding genius of the castle. She was made regent of kingdoms, heir of
crowns, and joint manager of great estates. She had the supreme
management of her household, and was consulted in every matter of
importance. What an insignificant position woman filled at Athens
compared with that in the feudal castle! How different the estimate of
woman among the Pagan poets from that held by the Provençal poets! What
a contrast to Juvenal is Sordello! The lady of a baronial hall deemed it
an insult to be addressed in the language of gallantry, except in that
vague and poetic sense in which every knight selected some lady as the
object of his dutiful devotion. She disdained the attentions of the most
potent prince if his addresses were not honorable. Nor would she bestow
her love on one of whom she was not proud. She would not marry a coward
or a braggart, even if he were the owner of ten thousand acres. The
knight was encouraged to pay his address to any lady if he was
personally worthy of her love, for chivalry created a high estimate of
individual merit. The feudal lady ignored all degrees of wealth within
her own rank. She was as tender and compassionate as she was heroic. She
was treated as a superior, rather than as an equal. There was a poetical
admiration among the whole circle of knights. A knight without an object
of devotion was as "a ship without a rudder, a horse without a bridle, a
sword without a hilt, a sky without a star." Even a Don Quixote must
have his Dulcinea, as well as horse and armor and squire. Dante
impersonates the spirit of the Middle Ages in his adoration of Beatrice.
The ancient poets coupled the praises of women with the praises of wine.
Woman, under the influence of chivalry, became the star of worship, an
object of idolatry. We read of few divorces in the Middle Ages, or of
separations, or desertions, or even alienations; these things are a
modern improvement, borrowed from the customs of the Romans. The awe and
devotion with which the lover regarded his bride became regard and
affection in the husband. The matron maintained the rank which had been
assigned to her as a maiden. The gallant warriors blended even the
adoration of our Lord with adoration of our Lady,--the deification of
Christ with the deification of woman. Chivalry, encouraged by the Church
and always strongly allied with religious sentiments, accepted for
eternal veneration the transcendent loveliness of the mother of our
Lord; so that chivalric veneration for the sex culminated in the
reverence which belongs to the Queen of Heaven,--_virgo fidelis; regina
angelorum_. Woman assumed among kings and barons the importance which
she was supposed to have in the celestial hierarchy. And besides the
religious influence, the poetic imagination of the time seized upon this
pure and lovely element, which passed into the songs, the tales, the
talk, the thought, and the aspirations of all the knightly order.

Whence, now, this veneration for woman which arose in the Middle
Ages,--a veneration, which all historians attest, such as never existed
in the ancient civilization?

It was undoubtedly based on the noble qualities and domestic virtues
which feudal life engendered. Women were heroines. Queen Philippa in the
absence of her husband stationed herself in the Castle of Bamborough and
defied the whole power of Douglas. The first military dispatch ever
written in the Middle Ages was addressed to her; she even took David of
Scotland a prisoner, when he invaded England. These women of chivalry
were ready to undergo any fatigues to promote their husbands' interests.
They were equal to any personal sacrifices. Nothing could daunt their
courage. They could defend themselves in danger, showing an
extraordinary fertility of resources. They earned the devotion they
called out. What more calculated to win the admiration of feudal
warriors than this devotion and bravery on the part of wives and
daughters! They were helpmates in every sense. They superintended the
details of castles. They were always employed, and generally in what
were imperative duties. If they embroidered dresses or worked
tapestries, they also wove the cloth for their husband's coats, and made
his shirts and knit his stockings. If they trained hawks and falcons,
they fed the poultry and cultivated the flowers. They understood the
cares of the kitchen, and managed the servants.

But it was their moral virtues which excited the greatest esteem. They
gloried in their unsullied names; their characters were above suspicion.
Any violation of the marriage vow was almost unknown; an unfaithful
wife was infamous. The ordinary life of a castle was that of isolation,
which made women discreet, self-relying, and free from entangling
excitements. They had no great pleasures, and but little society. They
were absorbed with their duties, and contented with their husbands'
love. The feudal castle, however, was not dull, although it was
isolated, and afforded few novelties. It was full of strangers, and
minstrels, and bards, and pedlars, and priests. Women could gratify
their social wants without seductive excitements. They led a life
favorable to friendships, which cannot thrive amid the distractions of
cities. In cities few have time to cultivate friendships, although they
may not be extinguished. In the baronial castle, however, they were
necessary to existence.

And here, where she was so well known, woman's worth was recognized. Her
caprices and frivolities were balanced by sterling qualities,--as a
nurse in sickness, as a devotee to duties, as a friend in distress, ever
sympathetic and kind. She was not exacting, and required very little to
amuse her. Of course, she was not intellectual, since she read but few
books and received only the rudiments of education; but she was as
learned as her brothers, and quicker in her wits. She had the vivacity
which a healthy life secures. Nor was she beautiful, according to our
standard. She was a ruddy, cheerful, active, healthy woman, accustomed
to exercise in the open air,--to field-sports and horseback journeys.
Still less was she what we call fashionable, for the word was not known;
nor was she a woman of society, for, as we have said, there was no
society in a feudal castle. What we call society was born in cities,
where women reign by force of mind and elegant courtesies and grace of
manners,--where woman is an ornament as well as a power, without
drudgeries and almost without cares, as at the courts of the
Bourbon princes.

Yet I am not certain but that the foundation of courtly elegance and
dignity was laid in the baronial home, when woman began her reign as the
equal of her wedded lord, when she commanded reverence for her
courtesies and friendships, and when her society was valued so highly by
aristocratic knights. In the castle she became genial and kind and
sympathetic,--although haughty to inferiors and hard on the peasantry.
She was ever religious. Religious duties took up no small part of her
time. Christianity raised her more than all other influences combined.
You never read of an infidel woman when chivalry flourished, any more
than of a "strong-minded" woman. The feudal woman never left her sphere,
even amid the pleasures of the chase or the tilt. Her gentle and
domestic virtues remained with her to the end, and were the most
prized. Woman was worshipped because she was a woman, not because she
resembled a man. Benevolence and compassion and simplicity were her
cardinal virtues. Though her sports were masculine, her character was
feminine. She yielded to man in matters of reason and intellect, but he
yielded to her in the virtues of the heart and the radiance of the soul.
She associated with man without seductive spectacles or demoralizing
excitements, and retained her influence by securing his respect. In
antiquity, there was no respect for the sex, even when Aspasia
enthralled Pericles by the fascinations of blended intellect and beauty;
but there was respect in the feudal ages, when women were unlettered and
unpolished. And this respect was alike the basis of friendship and the
key to power. It was not elegance of manners, nor intellectual culture,
nor physical beauty which elevated the women of chivalry, but their
courage, their fidelity, their sympathy, their devotion to
duty,--qualities which no civilization ought to obscure, and for the
loss of which no refinements of life can make up.

Thus Chivalry,--the most interesting institution of the Middle Ages,
rejoicing in deeds of daring, guided by honor and renown, executing
enterprises almost extravagant, battling injustice and wrong, binding
together the souls of a great fraternity, scorning lies, revering truth,
devoted to the Church,--could not help elevating the sex to which its
proudest efforts were pledged, by cherishing elevated conceptions of
love, by offering all the courtesies of friendship, by coming to the
rescue of innocence, by stimulating admiration of all that is heroic,
and by asserting the honor of the loved ones, even at the risk of life
and limb. In the dark ages of European society woman takes her place,
for the first time in the world, as the equal and friend of man,--not by
physical beauty, not by graces of manner, not even by intellectual
culture, but by the solid virtues of the heart, brought to light by
danger, isolation, and practical duties, and by that influence which
radiated from the Cross. Divest chivalry of the religious element, and
you take away its glory and its fascination. The knight would be only a
hardhearted warrior, oppressing the poor and miserable, and only
interesting from his deeds of valor. But Christianity softened him and
made him human, while it dignified the partner of his toils, and gave
birth to virtues which commanded reverence. The soul of chivalry,
closely examined, in its influence over men or over women, after all,
was that power which is and will be through all the ages the hope and
glory of our world.

Thus, with all the miseries, cruelties, injustices, and hardships of
feudal life, there were some bright spots; showing that Providence never
deserts the world, and that though progress may be slow in the infancy
of races, yet with the light of Christianity, even if it be darkened,
this progress is certain, and will be more and more rapid as
Christianity achieves its victories.


Hallam's Middle Ages; Sismondi's Histoire des Français; Guizot's History
of Civilization (translated); Michelet's History of France (translated);
Bell's Historical Studies of Feudalism; Lacroix's Manners and Customs of
the Middle Ages; Mills's History of Chivalry; Sir Walter Scott's article
in Encyclopaedia Britannica; Perrot's Collection Historique des Ordres
de Chivalrie; St. Palaye's Memoires de l'Ancienne Chivalrie; Buckle's
History of Civilization; Palgrave's English Commonwealth; Martin's
History of France; Freeman's Norman Conquest; M. Fauriel's History of
Provençal Poetry; Froissart's Chronicles; also the general English
histories of the reign of Edward III. Don Quixote should he read in this
connection. And Tennyson in his "Idylls of the King" has incorporated
the spirit of ancient chivalry.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1095-1272.

The great external event of the Middle Ages was the Crusades,--indeed,
they were the only common enterprise in which Europe ever engaged. Such
an event ought to be very interesting, since it has reference to
conflicting passions and interests. Unfortunately, in a literary point
of view, there is no central figure in the great drama which the princes
of Europe played for two hundred years, and hence the Crusades have but
little dramatic interest. No one man represents that mighty movement. It
was a great wave of inundation, flooding Asia with the unemployed forces
of Europe, animated by passions which excite our admiration, our pity,
and our reprobation. They are chiefly interesting for their results, and
results which were unforeseen. A philosopher sees in them the hand of
Providence,--the overruling of mortal wrath to the praise of Him who
governs the universe. I know of no great movement of blind forces so
pregnant with mighty consequences.

The Crusades were a semi-religious and a semi-military movement. They
represent the passions and ideas of Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries,--its chivalry, its hatred of Mohammedanism, and its desire to
possess the spots consecrated by the sufferings of our Lord. Their long
continuance shows the intensity of the sentiments which animated them.
They were aggressive wars, alike fierce and unfortunate, absorbing to
the nations that embarked in them, but of no interest to us apart from
the moral lessons to be drawn from them. Perhaps one reason why history
is so dull to most people is that the greater part of it is a record of
battles and sieges, of military heroes and conquerors. This is
pre-eminently true of Greece, of Rome, of the Middle Ages, and of our
modern times down to the nineteenth century. But such chronicles of
everlasting battles and sieges do not satisfy this generation. Hence our
more recent historians, wishing to avoid the monotony of ordinary
history, have attempted to explore the common life of the people, and to
bring out their manners and habits: they would succeed in making history
more interesting if the materials, at present, were not so scanty and

The only way to make the history of wars interesting is to go back to
the ideas, passions, and interests which they represent. Then we
penetrate to the heart of history, and feel its life. For all the great
wars of the world, we shall see, are exponents of its great moving
spiritual forces. The wars of Cyrus and Alexander represent the passion
of military glory; those of Marius, Sylla, Pompey, and Caesar, the
desire of political aggrandizement; those of Constantine and Theodosius,
the desire for political unity and the necessity of self-defence. The
sweeping and desolating inundations of the barbarians, from the third to
the sixth century, represent the poverty of those rude nations, and
their desire to obtain settlements more favorable to getting a living.
The conquests of Mohammed and his successors were made to swell the
number of converts of a new religion. The perpetual strife of the
baronial lords was to increase their domains. The wars of Charlemagne
and Charles V. were to revive the imperialism of the Caesars,--to create
new universal monarchies. The wars which grew out of the Reformation
were to preserve or secure religious liberty; those which followed were
to maintain the balance of power. Those of Napoleon were at first, at
least nominally, to spread or defend the ideas of the French Revolution,
until he became infatuated with the love of military glory. Our first
great war was to secure national independence, and our second to
preserve national unity. The contest between Prussia and France was to
prevent the ascendency of either of those great States. The wars of the
English in India were to find markets for English goods, employment for
the sons of the higher classes, and a new field for colonization and
political power. So all the great passions and interests which have
moved mankind have found their vent in war,--rough barbaric spoliations,
love of glory and political aggrandizement, desire to spread religious
ideas, love of liberty, greediness for wealth, unity of nations,
jealousy of other powers, even the desire to secure general peace and
tranquillity. Most wars have had in view the attainment of great ends,
and it is in the ultimate results of them that we see the progress
of nations.

Thus wars, contemplated in a philosophical aspect, in spite of their
repulsiveness are invested with dignity, and really indicate great moral
and intellectual movements, as well as the personal ambition or vanity
of conquerors. They are the ultimate solutions of great questions, not
to be solved in any other way,--unfortunately, I grant,--on account of
human wickedness. And I know of no great wars, much as I loathe and
detest them, and severely and justly as they may be reprobated, which
have not been overruled for the ultimate welfare of society. The wars of
Alexander led to the introduction of Grecian civilization into Asia and
Egypt; those of the Romans, to the pacification of the world and the
reign of law and order; those of barbarians, to the colonization of the
worn-out provinces of the Roman Empire by hardier and more energetic
nations; those of Charlemagne, to the ultimate suppression of barbaric
invasions; those of the Saracens, to the acknowledgment of One God;
those of Charles V., to the recognized necessity of a balance of power;
those which grew out of the Reformation, to religious liberty. The
Huguenots' contest undermined the ascendency of Roman priests in France;
the Seven Years' War developed the naval power of England, and gave to
her a prominent place among the nations, and exposed the weakness of
Austria, so long the terror of Europe; the wars of Louis XIV. sowed the
seeds of the French Revolution; those of Napoleon vindicated its great
ideas; those of England in India introduced the civilization of a
Christian nation; those of the Americans secured liberty and the unity
of their vast nation. The majesty of the Governor of the universe is
seen in nothing more impressively than in the direction which the wrath
of man is made to take.

Now these remarks apply to the Crusades. They represent prevailing
ideas. Their origin was a universal hatred of Mohammedans. Like
all the institutions of the Middle Ages, they were a great
contradiction,--debasement in glory, and glory in debasement. With all
the fierceness and superstition and intolerance of feudal barons, we see
in the Crusades the exercise of gallantry, personal heroism, tenderness,
Christian courtesy,--the virtues of chivalry, unselfishness, and
magnanimity; but they ended in giving a new impulse to civilization,
which will be more minutely pointed out before I close my lecture.

Thus the Crusades are really worthy to be chronicled by historians above
anything else which took place in the Middle Ages, since they gave birth
to mighty agencies, which still are vital forces in society,--even as
everything in American history pales before that awful war which
arrayed, in our times, the North against the South in desperate and
deadly contest; the history of which remains to be written, but cannot
be written till the animosities which provoked it have passed away. What
a small matter to future historians is rapid colonization and
development of material resources, in comparison with the sentiments
which provoked that war! What will future philosophers care how many
bushels of wheat are raised in Minnesota, or car-loads of corn brought
from Illinois, or hogs slaughtered in Chicago, or yards of cloth woven
in Lowell, or cases of goods packed in New York, or bales of carpets
manufactured in Philadelphia, or pounds of cotton exported from New
Orleans, or meetings of railway presidents at Cincinnati to pool the
profits of their monopolies, or women's-rights conventions held in
Boston, or schemes of speculators ventilated in the lobbies of
Washington, or stock-jobbing and gambling operations take place in every
large city of the country,--compared with the mighty marshalling of
forces on the banks of the Potomac, at the call of patriotism, to
preserve the life of the republic? You cannot divest war of dignity and
interest when the grandest results, which affect the permanent welfare
of nations, are made to appear.

The Crusades, as they were historically developed, are mixed up with the
religious ideas of the Middle Ages, with the domination of popes, with
the feudal system, with chivalry, with monastic life, with the central
power of kings, with the birth of mercantile States, with the fears and
interests of England, France, Germany, and Italy, for two hundred
years,--yea, with the architecture, commerce, geographical science, and
all the arts then known. All these principalities and powers and
institutions and enterprises were affected by them, so that at their
termination a new era in civilization began. Grasp the Crusades, and you
comprehend one of the forces which undermined the institutions of the
Middle Ages.

It is not a little remarkable that the earliest cause of the Crusades,
so far as I am able to trace, was the adoption by the European nations
of some of the principles of Eastern theogonies which pertained to
self-expiation. An Asiatic theological idea prepared the way for the war
between Europe and Asia. The European pietist embraced the religious
tenets of the Asiatic monk, which centred in the propitiation of the
Deity by works of penance. One of the approved and popular forms of
penance was a pilgrimage to sacred places,--seen equally among
degenerate Christian sects in Asia Minor, and among the Mohammedans of
Arabia. What place so sacred as Jerusalem, the scene of the passion and
resurrection of our Lord? Ever since the Empress Helena had built a
church at Jerusalem, it had been thronged with pious pilgrims. A
pilgrimage to old Jerusalem would open the doors of the New Jerusalem,
whose streets were of gold, and whose palaces were of pearls.

At the close of the tenth century there was great suffering in Europe,
bordering on despair. The calamities of ordinary life were so great that
the end of the world seemed to be at hand. Universal fear of impending
divine wrath seized the minds of men. A great religious awakening took
place, especially in England, France, and Germany. In accordance with
the sentiments of the age, there was every form of penance to avert the
anger of God and escape the flames of hell. The most popular form of
penance was the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, long and painful as it was.
Could the pilgrim but reach that consecrated spot, he was willing to
die. The village pastor delivered the staff into his hands, girded him
with a scarf, and attached to it a leathern scrip. Friends and neighbors
accompanied him a little way on his toilsome journey, which lay across
the Alps, through the plains of Lombardy, over Illyria and Pannonia,
along the banks of the Danube, by Moesia and Dacia, to Belgrade and
Constantinople, and then across the Bosphorus, through Bithynia,
Cilicia, and Syria, until the towers and walls of Tyre, Ptolemais, and
Caesarea proclaimed that he was at length in the Holy Land. Barons and
common people swell the number of these pilgrims. The haughty knight,
who has committed unpunished murders, and the pensive saint, wrapt in
religious ecstasies, rival each other in humility and zeal. Those who
have no money sell their lands. Those who have no lands to sell throw
themselves on Providence, and beg their way for fifteen hundred miles
among strangers. The roads are filled with these travellers,--on foot,
in rags, fainting from hunger and fatigue. What sufferings, to purchase
the favor of God, or to realize the attainment of pious curiosity! The
heart almost bleeds to think that our ancestors could ever have been so
visionary and misguided; that such a gloomy view of divine forgiveness
should have permeated the Middle Ages.

But the sorrows of the pious pilgrims did not end when they reached the
Holy Land. Jerusalem was then in the hands of the Turks and Saracens (or
Orientals, a general name given to the Arabian Mohammedans), who exacted
two pieces of gold from every pilgrim as the price of entering
Jerusalem, and moreover reviled and maltreated him. The Holy Sepulchre
could be approached only on the condition of defiling it.

The reports of these atrocities and cruelties at last reached the
Europeans, filling them with sympathy for the sufferers and indignation
for the persecutors. An intense hatred of Mohammedans was generated and
became universal,--a desire for vengeance, unparalleled in history.
Popes and bishops weep; barons and princes swear. Every convent and
every castle in Europe is animated with deadly resentment. Rage,
indignation, and vengeance are the passions of the hour,--all
concentrated on "the infidels," which term was the bitterest reproach
that each party could inflict on the other. An infidel was accursed of
God, and was consigned to human wrath. And the Mohammedans had the same
hatred of Christians that Christians had of Mohammedans. In the eyes of
each their enemies were infidels; and they were enemies because they
were regarded as infidels.

Such a state of feeling in both Europe and Asia could not but produce an
outbreak,--a spark only was needed to kindle a conflagration. That spark
was kindled when Peter of Amiens, a returned hermit, aroused the martial
nations to a bloody war on these enemies of God and man. He was a
mean-looking man, with neglected beard and disordered dress. He had no
genius, nor learning, nor political position. He was a mere fanatic,
fierce, furious with ungovernable rage. But he impersonated the leading
idea of the age,--hatred of "the infidels," as the Mohammedans were
called. And therefore his voice was heard. The Pope used him as a tool.
Two centuries later he could not have made himself a passing wonder. But
he is the means of stirring up the indignation of Europe into a blazing
flame. He itinerates France and Italy, exposing the wrongs of the
Christians and the cruelties of the Saracens,--the obstruction placed in
the way of salvation. At length a council is assembled at Clermont, and
the Pope--Urban II.--presides, and urges on the sacred war. In the year
1095 the Pope, in his sacred robes, and in the presence of four hundred
bishops and abbots, ascends the pulpit erected in the market-place, and
tells the immense multitude how their faith is trodden in the dust; how
the sacred relics are desecrated; and appeals alike to chivalry and
religion. More than this, he does just what Mohammed did when he urged
his followers to take the sword: he announces, in fiery language, the
fullest indulgence to all who take part in the expedition,--that all
their sins shall be forgiven, and that heaven shall be opened to them.
"It is the voice of God," they cry; "we will hasten to the deliverance
of the sacred city!" Every man stimulates the passions of his neighbor.
All vie in their contributions. The knights especially are
enthusiastic, for they can continue their accustomed life without
penance, and yet obtain the forgiveness of their sins. Religious fears
are turned at first into the channel of penance; and penance is made
easy by the indulgence of the martial passions. Every recruit wore a red
cross, and was called _croisé_,--cross-bearer; whence the name of
the holy war.

Thus the Crusades began, at the close of the eleventh century, when
William Rufus was King of England, when Henry IV. was still Emperor of
Germany, when Anselm was reigning at Canterbury as spiritual head of the
English Church, ten years after the great Hildebrand had closed his
turbulent pontificate.

I need not detail the history of this first Crusade. Of the two hundred
thousand who set out with Peter the Hermit,--this fiery fanatic, with no
practical abilities,--only twenty thousand succeeded in reaching even
Constantinople. The rest miserably perished by the way,--a most
disorderly rabble. And nothing illustrates the darkness of the age more
impressively than that a mere monk should have been allowed to lead two
hundred thousand armed men on an enterprise of such difficulty. How
little the science of war was comprehended! And even of the five hundred
thousand men under Godfrey, Tancred, Bohemond, and other great feudal
princes,--men of rare personal valor and courage; men who led the flower
of the European chivalry,---only twenty-five thousand remained after
the conquest of Jerusalem. The glorious array of a hundred and fifty
thousand horsemen, in full armor, was a miserable failure. The lauded
warriors of feudal Europe effected almost nothing. Tasso attempted to
immortalize their deeds; but how insignificant they were, compared with
even Homer's heroes! A modern army of twenty-five thousand men could not
only have put the whole five hundred thousand to rout in an hour, but
could have delivered Palestine in a few months. Even one of the standing
armies of the sixteenth century, under such a general as Henry IV. or
the Duke of Guise, could have effected more than all the crusaders of
two hundred years. The crusaders numbered many heroes, but scarcely a
single general. There was no military discipline among them: they knew
nothing of tactics or strategy; they fought pell-mell in groups, as in
the contests of barons among themselves. Individually they were gallant
and brave, and performed prodigies of valor with their swords and
battle-axes; but there was no direction given to their strength
by leaders.

The Second Crusade, preached half a century afterwards by Saint Bernard,
and commanded by an Emperor of Germany and a King of France, proved
equally unfortunate. Not a single trophy consoled Europe for the
additional loss of two hundred thousand men. The army melted away in
foolish sieges, for which the crusaders had no genius or proper means.

The Third Crusade, and the most famous, which began in the year 1189, of
which Philip Augustus of France, Richard Coeur de Lion of England, and
Frederic Barbarossa of Germany were the leaders,--the three greatest
monarchs of their age,--was also signally unsuccessful. Feudal armies
seem to have learned nothing in one hundred years of foreign warfare; or
else they had greater difficulties to contend with, abler generals to
meet, than they dreamed of, who reaped the real advantages,--like
Saladin. Sir Walter Scott, in his "Ivanhoe," has not probably
exaggerated the military prowess of the heroes of this war, or the valor
of Templars and Hospitallers; yet the finest array of feudal forces in
the Middle Ages, from which so much was expected, wasted its strength
and committed innumerable mistakes. It proved how useless was a feudal
army for a distant and foreign war. Philip may have been wily, and
Richard lion-hearted, but neither had the generalship of Saladin. Though
they triumphed at Tiberias, at Jaffa, at Caesarea; though prodigies of
valor were performed; though Ptolemais (or Acre), the strongest city of
the East, was taken,--yet no great military results followed. More blood
was shed at this famous siege, which lasted three years, than ought to
have sufficed for the subjugation of Asia. There were no decisive
battles, and yet one hundred battles took place under its walls.
Slaughter effected nothing. Jerusalem, which had been retaken by the
Saracens, still remained in their hands, and never afterwards was
conquered by the Europeans. The leaders returned dejected to their
kingdoms, and the bones of their followers whitened the soil of

The Fourth Crusade, incited by Pope Innocent III., three years after,
terminated with divisions among the States of Christendom, without
weakening the power of the Saracens (1202-4).

Among other expeditions was one called the "Children's Crusade" (1212),
a wretched, fanatical misery, resulting in the enslavement of many and
the death of thousands by shipwreck and exposure.

The Fifth Crusade, commanded by the Emperor Frederic II. of Germany
(1228-9), was diverted altogether from the main object, and spent its
force on Constantinople. That city was taken, but the Holy Land was not
delivered. The Byzantine Empire was then in the last stages of
decrepitude, or its capital would not have fallen, as it did, from a
naval attack made by the Venetians, and in revenge for the treacheries
and injuries of the Greek emperors to former crusaders. This, instead of
weakening the Mussulmans, broke down the chief obstacle to their
entrance into Europe shortly afterward.

The Sixth Crusade (1248-50) only secured the capture of Damietta, on the
banks of the Nile.

The Seventh and last of these miserable wars was the most unfortunate
of all, A.D. 1270. The saintly monarch of France perished, with most of
his forces, on the coast of Africa, and the ruins of Carthage were the
only conquest which was made. Europe now fairly sickened over the losses
and misfortunes and defeats of nearly two centuries, during which five
millions are supposed to have lost their lives. Famine and pestilence
destroyed more than the sword. Before disheartened Europe could again
rally, the last strongholds of the Christians were wrested away by the
Mohammedans; and their gallant but unsuccessful defenders were treated
with every inhumanity, and barbarously murdered in spite of truces
and treaties.

Such were the famous Crusades, only the main facts of which I allude to;
for to describe them all, or even the more notable incidents, would fill
volumes,--all interesting to be read in detail by those who have
leisure; all marked by prodigious personal valor; all disgraceful for
the want of unity of action and the absence of real generalship. They
indicate the enormous waste of forces which characterizes nations in
their progress. This waste of energies is one of the great facts of all
history, surpassed only by the apparent waste of the forces of nature or
the fruits of the earth, in the transition period between the time when
men roamed in forests and the time when they cultivated the land. See
what a vast destruction there has been of animals by each other; what a
waste of plants and vegetables, when they could not be utilized. Why
should man escape the universal waste, when reason is ignored or
misdirected? Of what use or value could Palestine have been to Europeans
in the Middle Ages? Of what use can any country be to conquerors, when
it cannot be civilized or made to contribute to their wants? Europe then
had no need of Asia, and that perhaps is the reason why Europe then
could not conquer Asia. Providence interfered, and rebuked the mad
passions which animated the invaders, and swept them all away. Were
Palestine really needed by Europe, it could be wrested from the Turks
with less effort than was made by the feeblest of the crusaders.
Constantinople--the most magnificent site for a central power--was
indeed wrested from the Greek emperors, and kept one hundred years; but
the Europeans did not know what to do with the splendid prize, and it
was given to the Turks, who made it the capital of a vital empire. All
the good which resulted to Europe from the temporary possession of
Constantinople was the introduction into Europe of Grecian literature
and art. Its political and mercantile importance was not appreciated,
nor then even scarcely needed. It will one day become again the spoil of
that nation which can most be benefited by it. Such is the course
events are made to take.

In this brief notice of the most unsuccessful wars in which Europe ever
engaged we cannot help noticing their great mistakes. We see rashness,
self-confidence, depreciation of enemies, want of foresight, ignorance
of the difficulties to be surmounted. The crusaders were diverted from
their main object, and wasted their forces in attacking unimportant
cities, or fortresses out of their way. They invaded the islands of the
Mediterranean, Egypt, Africa, and Greek possessions. They quarrelled
with their friends, and they quarrelled with each other. The chieftains
sought their individual advantage rather than the general good. Nor did
they provide themselves with the necessities for such distant
operations. They had no commissariat,--without which even a modern army
fails. They were captivated by trifles and frivolities, rather than
directing their strength to the end in view. They allowed themselves to
be seduced by both Greek and infidel arts and vices. They were betrayed
into the most foolish courses. They had no proper knowledge of the
forces with which they were to contend. They wantonly massacred their
foes when they fell into their hands, increased the animosity of the
Mohammedans, and united them in a concert which they should themselves
have sought. They marched by land when they should have sailed by sea,
and they sailed by sea when they should have marched by land. They
intrusted the command to monks and inexperienced leaders. They obeyed
the mandates of apostolic vicars when they should have considered
military necessities. In fact there was no unity of action, and scarcely
unity of end. What would the great masters of Grecian and Roman warfare
have thought of these blunders and stupidities, to say nothing of modern
generals! The conduct of those wars excites our contempt, in spite of
the heroism of individual knights. We despise the incapacity of leaders
as much as we abhor the fanaticism which animated their labors. The
Crusades have no bright side, apart from the piety and valor of some who
embarked in them. Hence they are less and less interesting to modern
readers. The romance about them has ceased to affect us. We only see
mistakes and follies; and who cares to dwell on the infirmities of human
nature? It is only what is great in man that moves and exalts us. There
is nothing we dwell upon with pleasure in these aggressive, useless,
unjustifiable wars, except the chivalry associated with them. The reason
of modern times as sternly rebukes them as the heart of the Middle Ages
sickened at them.

In one aspect they are absolutely repulsive; and this in view of their
vices. The crusaders were cruel. They wantonly massacred their enemies,
even when defenceless. Sixty thousand people were butchered on the fall
of Jerusalem; ten thousand were slaughtered in the Mosque of Omar. The
Christians themselves felt safe when they sought the retreat of
churches, in dire calamities at home; but they had no respect for the
religious retreats of infidels. When any city fell into their hands
there was wholesale assassination. And they became licentious, as well
as rapacious and cruel. They learned all the vices of the East. Even
under the walls of Acre they sang to the sounds of Arabian instruments,
and danced amid indecent songs. When they took Constantinople they had
no respect for either churches or tombs, and desecrated even the pulpit
of the Patriarch. Their original religious zeal was finally lost sight
of entirely in their military license. They became more hateful to the
orthodox Greeks than to the infidel Saracens. And when the crusaders
returned to their homes,--what few of them lived to return,--they
morally poisoned the communities and villages in which they dwelt. They
became vagabonds and vagrants; they introduced demoralizing amusements,
and jugglers and strolling players appeared for the first time in
Europe. All war is necessarily demoralizing, even war in defence of
glorious principles, and especially in these times, but much more so is
unjust, fanatical, and unnecessary war.

But I turn from the record of the mistakes, follies, vices, miseries,
and crimes which marked the wickedest and most uncalled-for wars of
European history, to consider their ultimate results: not logical
results, for these were melancholy,--the depopulation of Europe; the
decimation of the nobility; the poverty which enormous drains of money
from their natural channels produced; the spread of vice; the decline of
even feudal virtues. These evils and others followed naturally and
inevitably from those distant wars. The immediate effects of all war are
evil and melancholy. Murder, pillage, profanity, drunkenness,
extravagance, public distress, bitter sorrows, wasted energies,
destruction of property, national debts, exaltation of military maxims,
general looseness of life, distaste for regular pursuits,--these are the
first-fruits of war, offensive and defensive, and as inevitable and
uniform as the laws of gravity. No wars were ever more disastrous than
the Crusades in their immediate effects, in any way they may be viewed.
It is all one dark view of disappointment, sorrow, wretchedness, and
sin. There were no bright spots; no gains, only calamities. Nothing
consoled Europe for the loss of five millions of her most able-bodied
men,--no increase of territory, no establishment of rights, no glory,
even; nothing but disgrace and ruin, as in that maddest of all modern
expeditions, the invasion of Russia by Napoleon.

But after the lapse of nearly seven hundred years we can see important
results on the civilization of Europe, indirectly effected,--not
intended, nor designed, nor dreamed of; which results we consider
beneficent, and so beneficent that the world is probably better for
those horrid wars. It was fortunate to humanity at large that they
occurred, although so unfortunate to Europe at the time. In the end,
Europe was a gainer by them. Wickedness was not the seed of virtue, but
wickedness was overruled. Woe to them by whom offences come, but it must
need be that offences come. Men in their depravity will commit crimes,
and those crimes are punished; but even these are made to praise a Power
superior to that of devils, as benevolent as it is omnipotent,--in which
fact I see the utter hopelessness of earth without a superintending and
controlling Deity.

One important result of the Crusades was the barrier they erected to the
conquests of the Mohammedans in Europe. It is true that the wave of
Saracenic invasion had been arrested by Charles Martel four or five
hundred years before; but in the mean time a new Mohammedan power sprang
up, of greater vigor, of equal ferocity, and of a more stubborn
fanaticism. This was that of the Turks, who had their eye on
Constantinople and all Eastern Europe. And Europe might have submitted
to their domination, had they instead of the Latins taken
Constantinople. The conquest of that city was averted several hundred
years; and when at last it fell into Turkish hands, Christendom was
strong enough to resist the Turkish armies. We must remember that the
Turks were a great power, even in the times of Peter the Great, and
would have taken Vienna but for John Sobieski. But when Urban II., at
the Council of Clermont, urged the nations of Europe to repel the
infidels on the confines of Asia, rather than wait for them in the heart
of Europe, the Asiatic provinces of the Greek Empire were overrun both
by Turks and Saracens. They held Syria, Armenia, Asia Minor, Africa,
Spain, and the Balearic Islands. Had not Godfrey come to the assistance
of a division of the Christian army, when it was surrounded by two
hundred thousand Turks at the battle of Dorylaeum, the Christians would
have been utterly overwhelmed, and the Turks would have pressed to the
Hellespont. But they were beaten back into Syria, and, for a time, as
far as the line of the Euphrates. But for that timely repulse, the
battles of Belgrade and Lepanto might not have been fought in subsequent
ages. It would have been an overwhelming calamity had the Turks invaded
Europe in the twelfth century. The loss of five millions on the plains
of Asia would have been nothing in comparison to an invasion of Europe
by the Mohammedans,--whether Saracens or Turks. It may be that the
chivalry of Europe would have successfully repelled an invasion, as the
Saracens repelled the Christians, on their soil. It may be that Asia
could not have conquered Europe any easier than Europe could
conquer Asia.

I do not know how far statesmanlike views entered into the minds of the
leaders of the Crusades. I believe the sentiment which animated Peter
and Urban and Bernard was pure hatred of the Mohammedans (because they
robbed, insulted, and oppressed the pilgrims), and not any controlling
fears of their invasion of Europe. If such a fear had influenced them,
they would not have permitted a mere rabble to invade Asia; there would
have been a sense of danger stronger than that of hatred,--which does
not seem to have existed in the self-confidence of the crusaders. They
thought it an easy thing to capture Jerusalem: it was a sort of holiday
march of the chivalry of Europe, under Richard and Philip Augustus.
Perhaps, however, the princes of Europe were governed by political
rather than religious reasons. Some few long-headed statesmen, if such
there were among the best informed of bishops and abbots, may have felt
the necessity of the conflict in a political sense; but I do not believe
this was a general conviction. There was, doubtless, a political
necessity--although men were too fanatical to see more than one side--to
crush the Saracens because they were infidels, and not because they were
warriors. But whether they saw it or not, or armed themselves to resist
a danger as well as to exterminate heresy, the ultimate effects were
all the same. The crusaders failed in their direct end. They did not
recover Palestine; but they so weakened or diverted the Mohammedan
armies that there was not strength enough left in them to conquer
Europe, or even to invade her, until she was better prepared to resist
it,--as she did at the battle of Lepanto (A.D. 1571), one of the
decisive battles of the world.

I have said that the Crusades were a disastrous failure. I mean in their
immediate ends, not in ultimate results. If it is probable that they
arrested the conquests of the Turks in Europe, then this blind and
fanatical movement effected the greatest blessing to Christendom. It
almost seems that the Christians were hurled into the Crusades by an
irresistible fate, to secure a great ultimate good; or, to use Christian
language, were sent as blind instruments by the Almighty to avert a
danger they could not see. And if this be true, the inference is logical
and irresistible that God uses even the wicked passions of men to effect
his purposes,--as when the envy of Haman led to the elevation of
Mordecai, and to the deliverance of the Jews from one of their
greatest dangers.

Another and still more noticeable result of the Crusades was the
weakening of the power of those very barons who embarked in the wars.
Their fanaticism recoiled upon themselves, and undermined their own
system. Nothing could have happened more effectually to loosen the
rigors of the feudal system. It was the baron and the knight that
marched to Palestine who suffered most in the curtailment of the
privileges which they had abused,--even as it was the Southern planter
of Carolina who lost the most heavily in the war which he provoked to
defend his slave property. In both cases the fetters of the serfs and
slaves were broken by their own masters,--not intentionally, of course,
but really and effectually. How blind men are in their injustices! They
are made to hang on the gallows which they have erected for others. To
gratify his passion of punishing the infidels, whom he so intensely
hated, the baron or prince was obliged to grant great concessions to the
towns and villages which he ruled with an iron hand, in order to raise
money for his equipment and his journey. He was not paid by Government
as are modern soldiers and officers. He had to pay his own expenses, and
they were heavier than he had expected or provided for. Sometimes he was
taken captive, and had his ransom to raise,--to pay for in hard cash,
and not in land: as in the case of Richard of England, when, on his
return from Palestine, he was imprisoned in Austria,--and it took to
ransom him, as some have estimated, one third of all the gold and silver
of the realm, chiefly furnished by the clergy. But where was the
imprisoned baron to get the money for his ransom? Not from the Jews,
for their compound interest of fifty per cent every six months would
have ruined him in less than two years. But the village guilds had money
laid by. Merchants and mechanics in the towns, whom he despised, had
money. Monasteries had money. He therefore gave new privileges to all;
he gave charters of freedom to towns; he made concessions to the

As the result of this, when the baron came back from the wars, he found
himself much poorer than when he went away,--he found his lands
encumbered, his castle dilapidated, and his cattle sold. In short, he
was, as we say of a proud merchant now and then, "embarrassed in his
circumstances." He was obliged to economize. But the feudal family would
not hear of retrenchment, and the baron himself had become more
extravagant in his habits. As travel and commerce had increased he had
new wants, which he could not gratify without parting with either lands
or prerogatives. As the result of all this he became not quite so
overbearing, though perhaps more sullen; for he saw men rising about him
who were as rich as he,--men whom his ancestors had despised. The
artisans, who belonged to the leading guilds, which had become enriched
by the necessities of barons, or by that strange activity of trade and
manufactures which war seems to stimulate as well as to destroy,--these
rude and ignorant people were not so servile as formerly, but began to
feel a sort of importance, especially in towns and cities, which
multiplied wonderfully during the Crusades. In other words, they were no
longer brutes, to be trodden down without murmur or resistance. They
began to form what we call a "middle class." Feudalism, in its proud
ages, did not recognize a middle class. The impoverishment of nobles by
the Crusades laid the foundation of this middle class, at least in
large towns.

The growth of cities and the decay of feudalism went on simultaneously;
and both were equally the result of the Crusades. If the noble became
impoverished, the merchant became enriched; and the merchant lived, not
in the country, but in some mercantile mart. The crusaders had need of
ships. These were furnished by those cities which had obtained from
feudal sovereigns charters of freedom. Florence, Pisa, Venice, Genoa,
Marseilles, became centres of wealth and political importance. The
growth of cities and the extension of commerce went hand in hand.
Whatever the Crusades did for cities they did equally for commerce; and
with the needs of commerce came improvement in naval architecture. As
commerce grew, the ships increased in size and convenience; and the
products which the ships brought from Asia to Europe were not only
introduced, but they were cultivated. New fruits and vegetables were
raised by European husbandmen. Plum-trees were brought from Damascus and
sugar-cane from Tripoli. Silk fabrics, formerly confined to
Constantinople and the East, were woven in Italian and French villages.
The Venetians obtained from Tyrians the art of making glass. The Greek
fire suggested gunpowder. Architecture received an immense impulse: the
churches became less sombre and heavy, and more graceful and beautiful.
Even the idea of the arch, some think, came from the East. The domes and
minarets of Venice were borrowed from Constantinople. The ornaments of
Byzantine churches and palaces were brought to Europe. The horses of
Lysippus, carried from Greece to Rome, and from Rome to Constantinople,
at last surmounted the palace of the Doges. Houses became more
comfortable, churches more beautiful, and palaces more splendid. Even
manners improved, and intercourse became more polished. Chivalry
borrowed many of its courtesies from the East. There were new
refinements in the arts of cookery as well as of society. Literature
itself received a new impulse, as well as science. It was from
Constantinople that Europe received the philosophy of Plato and
Aristotle, in the language in which it was written, instead of
translations through the Arabic. Greek scholars came to Italy to
introduce their unrivalled literature; and after Grecian literature came
Grecian art. The study of Greek philosophy gave a new stimulus to human
inquiry, and students flocked to the universities. They went to Bologna
to study Roman law, as well as to Paris to study the Scholastic

Thus the germs of a new civilization were scattered over Europe. It so
happened that at the close of the Crusades civilization had increased in
every country of Europe, in spite of the losses they had sustained.
Delusions were dispelled, and greater liberality of mind was manifest.
The world opened up towards the East, and was larger than was before
supposed. "Europe and Asia had been brought together and recognized each
other." Inventions and discoveries succeeded the new scope for energies
which the Crusades opened. The ships which had carried the crusaders to
Asia were now used to explore new coasts and harbors. Navigators learned
to be bolder. A navigator of Genoa--a city made by the commerce which
the Crusades necessitated--crosses the Atlantic Ocean. As the magnetic
needle, which a Venetian traveller brought from Asia, gave a new
direction to commerce, so the new stimulus to learning which the Grecian
philosophy effected led to the necessity of an easier form of writing;
and printing appeared. With the shock which feudalism received from the
Crusades, central power was once more wielded by kings, and standing
armies supplanted the feudal. The crusaders must have learned something
from their mistakes; and military science was revived. There is scarcely
an element of civilization which we value, that was not, directly or
indirectly, developed by the Crusades, yet which was not sought for, or
anticipated even,--the centralization of thrones, the weakening of the
power of feudal barons, the rise of free cities, the growth of commerce,
the impulse given to art, improvements in agriculture, the rise of a
middle class, the wonderful spread of literature, greater refinements in
manners and dress, increased toleration of opinions, a more cheerful
view of life, the simultaneous development of energies in every field of
human labor, new hopes and aspirations among the people, new glories
around courts, new attractions in the churches, new comforts in the
villages, new luxuries in the cities. Even spiritual power became less
grim and sepulchral, since there was less fear to work upon.

I do not say that the Crusades alone produced the marvellous change in
the condition of society which took place in the thirteenth century, but
they gave an impulse to this change. The strong sapling which the
barbarians brought from their German forests and planted in the heart of
Europe,--and which had silently grown in the darkest ages of barbarism,
guarded by the hand of Providence,--became a sturdy tree in the feudal
ages, and bore fruit when the barons had wasted their strength in Asia.
The Crusades improved this fruit, and found new uses for it, and
scattered it far and wide, and made it for the healing of the nations.
Enterprise of all sorts succeeded the apathy of convents and castles.
The village of mud huts became a town, in which manufactures began. As
new wants became apparent, new means of supplying them appeared. The
Crusades stimulated these wants, and commerce and manufactures supplied
them. The modern merchant was born in Lombard cities, which supplied the
necessities of the crusaders. Feudalism ignored trade, but the baron
found his rival in the merchant-prince. Feudalism disdained art, but
increased wealth turned peasants into carpenters and masons; carpenters
and masons combined and defied their old masters, and these masters left
their estates for the higher civilization of cities, and built palaces
instead of castles. Palaces had to be adorned, as well as churches; and
the painters and handicraftsmen found employment. So one force
stimulated another force, neither of which would have appeared if feudal
life had remained _in statu quo_.

The only question to settle is, how far the marked progress of the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries may be traced to the natural
development of the Germanic races under the influence of religion, or
how far this development was hastened by those vast martial expeditions,
indirectly indeed, but really. Historians generally give most weight to
the latter. If so, then it is clear that the most disastrous wars
recorded in history were made the means--blindly, to all appearance,
without concert or calculation--of ultimately elevating the European
races, and of giving a check to the conquering fanaticism of the enemies
with whom they contended with such bitter tears and sullen


Michaud's Histoire des Croisades; Mailly's L'Esprit des Croisades;
Choiseul; Daillecourt's De l'Influence des Croisades; Sur l'État des
Peuples en Europe; Heeren's Ueber den Einfluss der Kreuzzüge;
Sporschill's Geschichte der Kreuzzüge; Hallam's Middle Ages; Mill's
History of the Crusades; James's History of the Crusades; Michelet's
History of France (translated); Gibbon's Decline and Fall; Milman's
Latin Christianity; Proctor's History of the Crusades; Mosheim.


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1324-1404.


A.D. 1100-1400.

Church Architecture is the only addition which the Middle Ages made to
Art; but even this fact is remarkable when we consider the barbarism and
ignorance of the Teutonic nations in those dark and gloomy times. It is
difficult to conceive how it could have arisen, except from the stimulus
of religious ideas and sentiments,--like the vast temples of the
Egyptians. The artists who built the hoary and attractive cathedrals and
abbey churches which we so much admire are unknown men to us, and yet
they were great benefactors. It is probable that they were practical and
working architects, like those who built the temples of Greece, who
quietly sought to accomplish their ends,--not to make pictures, but to
make buildings,--as economically as they could consistently with the end
proposed, which end they always had in view.

In this Lecture I shall not go back to classic antiquity, nor shall I
undertake to enter upon any disquisition on Art itself, but simply
present the historical developments of the Church architecture of the
Middle Ages. It is a technical and complicated subject, but I shall try
to make myself understood. It suggests, however, great ideas and
national developments, and ought to be interesting.

The Romans added nothing to the architecture of the Greeks except the
arch, and the use of brick and small stones for the materials of their
stupendous structures. Now Christianity and the Middle Ages seized the
arch and the materials of the Roman architects, and gradually formed
from these a new style of architecture. In Roman architecture there was
no symbolism, no poetry, nothing to represent consecrated sentiments. It
was mundane in its ideas and ends; everything was for utility. The
grandest efforts of the Romans were feats of engineering skill, rather
than creations inspired by the love of the beautiful. What was beautiful
in their edifices was borrowed from the Greeks; what was original was
intended to accommodate great multitudes, whether they sought the sports
of the amphitheatre or the luxury of the bath. Their temples were small,
comparatively, and were Grecian.

The first stage in the development of Church architecture was reached
amid the declining glories of Roman civilization, before the fall of the
Empire; but the first model of a Christian church was not built until
after the imperial persecutions. The early Christians worshipped God in
upper chambers, in catacombs, in retired places, where they would not be
molested, where they could hide in safety. Their assemblies were small,
and their meetings unimportant. They did nothing to attract attention.
The worshippers were mostly simple-minded, unlettered, plebeian people,
with now and then a converted philosopher, or centurion, or lady of rank
They met for prayer, exhortation, the reading of the Scriptures, the
singing of sacred melodies, and mutual support in trying times. They did
not want grand edifices. The plainer the place in which they assembled
the better suited it was to their circumstances and necessities. They
scarcely needed a rostrum, for the age of sermons had not begun; still
less the age of litanies and music and pomps. For such people, in that
palmy age of faith and courage, when the seeds of a new religion were
planted in danger and watered with tears; when their minds were directed
almost entirely to the soul's welfare and future glory; when they loved
one another with true Christian disinterestedness; when they stimulated
each other's enthusiasm by devotion to a common cause (one Lord, one
faith, one baptism); when they were too insignificant to take any social
rank, too poor to be of any political account, too ignorant to attract
the attention of philosophers,--_any_ place where they would be
unmolested and retired was enough. In process of time, when their
numbers had increased, and when and wherever they were tolerated; when
money began to flow into the treasuries; and especially when some gifted
leader (educated perhaps in famous schools, yet who was fervent and
eloquent) desired a wider field for usefulness,--then church edifices
became necessary.

This original church was modelled after the ancient Basilica, or hall of
justice or of commerce: at one end was an elevated tribunal, and back of
this what was called the "apsis,"--a rounded space with arched roof. The
whole was railed off or separated from the auditory, and was reserved
for the clergy, who in the fourth century had become a class. The apsis
had no window, was vaulted, and its walls were covered with figures of
Christ and of the saints, or of eminent Christians who in later times
were canonized by the popes. Between the apsis and the auditory, called
the "nave," was the altar; for by this time the Church was borrowing
names and emblems from the Jews and the old religions. From the apsis to
the extremity of the other end of the building were two rows of pillars
supporting an upper wall, broken by circular arches and windows, called
now the "clear story." In the low walls of the side aisles were also
windows. Both the nave and the aisles supported a framework of roof,
lined with a ceiling adorned with painting.

For some time we see no marked departure, at this stage, from the
ancient basilica. The church is simple, not much adorned, and adapted to
preaching. The age in which it was built was the age of pulpit orators,
when bishops preached,--like Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, and
Leo,--when preaching was an important part of the service, by the
foolishness of which the world was to be converted. Probably there were
but few what we should call fine churches, but there was one at Rome
which was justly celebrated, built by Theodosius, and called St. Paul's.
It is now outside the walls of the modern city. The nave is divided into
five aisles, and the main one, opening into the apsis, is spanned by a
lofty arch supported by two colossal columns. The apsis is eighty feet
in breadth. All parts of the church--one of the largest of Rome--are
decorated with mosaics. It has two small transepts at the extremity of
the nave, on each side of the apsis. The four rows of magnificent
columns, supporting semicircular arches, are Corinthian. In this church
the Greek and Roman architecture predominates. The essential form of the
church is like a Pagan basilica. We see convenience, but neither
splendor nor poetry. Moreover it is cheerful. It has an altar and an
apsis, but it is adapted to preaching rather than to singing. The
public dangers produce oratory, not chants. The voice of the preacher
penetrates the minds of the people, as did that of Savonarola at
Florence announcing the invasion of Italy by the French,--days of fear
and anxiety, reminding us also of Chrysostom at Antioch, when in his
spacious basilican church he roused the people to penitence, to avert
the ire of Theodosius.

The first transition from the basilica to the Gothic church is called
the _Romanesque_, and was made after the fall of the Empire, when the
barbarians had erected new kingdoms on its ruins; when literature and
art were indeed crushed, yet when universal desolation was succeeded by
new forms of government and new habits of life; when the clergy had
become an enormous power, greatly enriched by the contributions of
Christian princes. This transition retained the traditions of the fallen
Empire, and yet was adapted to a semi-civilized people, nominally
converted to Christianity. It arose after the fall of the Merovingians,
when Charlemagne was seeking to restore the glory of the Western Empire.
Paganism had been suppressed by law; even heresies were extinguished in
the West. Kings and people were alike orthodox, and bowed to the
domination of the Church. Abbeys and convents were founded everywhere
and richly endowed. The different States and kingdoms were poor, but the
wealth that existed was deposited in sacred retreats. The powers of the
State were the nobles, warlike and ignorant, rapidly becoming feudal
barons, acknowledging only a nominal fealty to the Crown. Kings had no
glory, defied by their own subjects and unsupported by standing armies.
But these haughty barons were met face to face by equally haughty
bishops, armed with spiritual weapons. These bishops were surrounded and
supported by priests, secular and regular,--by those who ruled the
people in small parishes, and those who ruled the upper classes in their
monastic cells. Learning had fled to monasteries (what little there
was), and the Church became a new attraction.

The architects of the Romanesque, who were probably churchmen, retained
the nave of the basilica, but made it narrower, and used but two rows of
columns. They introduced the transepts, or cross-enclosures, making them
to project north and south of the nave, in the space separated from the
apsis; and the apsis was expanded into the choir, filled with priests
and choristers. The building now assumes the form of a cross. The choir
is elevated several steps above the nave, and beneath it is the crypt,
where the bishops and abbots and saints are buried. At the intersection
of choir, nave, and transept,--an open, square place,--rises a square
tower, at each corner of which is a massive pier supporting four arches.
The windows are narrow, with semicircular arches. At the western
entrance, at the end opposite the apse, is a small porch, where the
consecrated water is placed, in an urn or basin, and this is inclosed
between two towers. The old Roman atrium, or fore-court, entirely
disappears. In its place is a grander façade; and the pillars--which are
all internal, like those of an Egyptian temple, not external, as in the
Greek temple--have no longer Grecian capitals, but new combinations of
every variety, and the pillars are even more heavy and massive than the
Doric. The flat wooden ceiling of the nave disappears, on account of
frequent fires, and the eye rests on arches supporting a stone roof. All
the arches are semicircular, like those of the Coliseum and of the Roman
aqueducts and baths. They are built of small stones united by cement.
The building is low and heavy, and its external beauty is in the west
front or façade, with its square towers and circular window and
ornamented portal. The internal beauty is from the pillars supporting
the roof, and the tower which intersects the nave, choir, and transepts.
Sometimes, instead of a tower there is a dome, reminding us of Byzantine

But this Romanesque church is also connected with monastic institutions,
whose extensive buildings join the church at the north or south. The
church is wedded to monasticism; one supports the other, and both make a
unity exceedingly efficient in the Middle Ages. The communication
between the church and the convent is effected by a cloister,--a vaulted
gallery surrounding a square, open space, where the brothers walk and
meditate, but do not talk, except in undertone or whisper; for all the
precincts are sacred, made for contemplation and silence,--a retreat
from the noisy, barbaric world. Connected with the cloisters is a court
opening into the refectory, where the brothers dine on herbs and eggs
and a little meat,--also in silence, and, where the rule is strict, in
gloom,--an ascetic, dreary discipline. The whole range of buildings is
enclosed with walls, like a fortress. You see in this architecture the
gloom and desolation which overspread the world. Churches are heavy and
sombre; they are places for dreary meditation on the end of the world,
on the failure of civilization, on the degradation of humanity,--and yet
the only places where man may be brought in contact with the Deity who
presides over a fallen world, exalting human hopes to heaven, where
miseries end, and worship begins.

This style of architecture prevailed till the twelfth century, and was
seen in its greatest perfection in Germany under the Saxon emperors,
especially in the Rhenish provinces, as in the cathedrals of Spires,
Mentz, Worms, and Nuremberg. Its general effect was gloomy and heavy; a
separation from the outward world,--a world disgraced by feudal wars and
peasants' wrongs and general ignorance, which made men sad, morose,
inhuman. It flourished in ages when the poor had no redress, and were
trodden under the feet of hard feudal masters; when there was no law but
of brute force; when luxuries were few and comforts rare,--an age of
hardship, privation, poverty, suffering; an age of isolations and
sorrows, when men were forced to look beyond the grave for peace and
hope, when immortality through a Redeemer was the highest inspiration of
life. Everybody was agitated by fears. The clergy made use of this
universal feeling by presenting the terrors of the law,--the penalty of
sin,--everlasting physical burnings, from which the tortured soul could
be extricated only by penance and self-expiation, offerings to the
Church, and entire subserviency to the will of the priest, who held the
keys of heaven and hell. The men who lived when the Romanesque churches
dotted every part in Europe looked upon society and saw nothing but
grief,--heavy burdens, injustices, oppressions, cruel wrongs; and they
hid their faces and wept, and said: "Let us retreat from this miserable
world which discord ravages; let us hide ourselves in contemplation; let
us prepare to meet God in judgment; let us bring to Him our offering;
let us propitiate Him; let us build Him a house, where we may chant our
mournful songs." So the church arises,--in Germany, in France, in
England,--solemn, mystical, massive, a type of sorrow, in the form of a
cross, with "a sepulchral crypt like the man in the tomb, before the
lofty spire pointed to the man who had risen to Heaven." The church is
still struggling, and is not jubilant, except in Gregorian chants, and
is not therefore lofty or ornamental. It is a vault. It is more like a
catacomb than a basilica, for the world is buried deep in sorrows and
fears. Look to any of the Saxon churches of the period when the
Romanesque prevailed, and they are low, gloomy, and damp, though massive
and solemn. The church as an edifice ever represents the Church as an
institution or a power, ever typifies prevailing sentiments and ideas.
Perhaps the finest of the old Romanesque churches was that of Cluny, in
Burgundy, destroyed during the French Revolution. It had five aisles,
and was five hundred and twenty feet in length. It had a stately tower
at the intersection of the transepts, and six other towers. It was early
Norman, and loftier than the Saxon churches, although heavy and massive
like them.

But the Romanesque church, with all its varieties, is still gloomy,
dark, sepulchral, reminding us of the sorrows of the Middle Ages, and
the dreary character of prevailing religious sentiments,--fervent,
sincere, profound, but sad,--the sentiments of an age of ignorance
and faith.

The Crusades came. A new era burst upon the world. The old ideas became
modified; society became more cheerful, because more chivalric,
adventurous, poetic. The world opened towards the East, and was larger
than was before supposed. Liberality of mind began to dawn on the
darkened ages; no longer were priests supreme. The gay Provençals began
to sing; the universities began to teach and to question. The Scholastic
philosophy sent forth such daring thinkers as Erigena and Abélard.
Orthodoxy was still supreme before such mighty intellects as Anselm,
Bernard, and Thomas Aquinas, but it was assailed. Abélard put forth his
puzzling questions. The Schoolmen began to think for themselves, and the
iron weight of Feudalism was less oppressive. Free cities and commerce
began to enrich the people. Kings were becoming more powerful; grim
spiritual despotism was less arrogant. The end of the world, it was
found, had not come. A glorious future began to shed forth the beams of
its coming day. It was the dawn of a new civilization.

So a lighter, more cheerful, and grander architecture, with symbolic
beauties, appeared with changing ideas and sentiments. The Church, no
longer a gloomy power, struggling with Saracens and barbarism, but
dominant, triumphant, issues forth from darksome crypts and soars
upward,--elevates her vaulted roofs. "The Oriental ogive appears.... The
architects heap arcade on arcade, ogive on ogive, pyramid on pyramid,
and give to all geometrical symmetry and artistic grace.... The Greek
column is there, but dilated to colossal proportions, and exfoliated in
a variegated capital." The old Roman arch disappears, and the pointed
arch is substituted,--graceful and elevated. The old Egyptian obelisk
appears in the spire reaching to heaven, full of aspiration. The window
becomes larger and encroaches on the naked wall, and radiates in mystic
roses. The arches widen and the piers become more lofty. Stained glass
appears and diffuses religious light. Every part of the church becomes
decorated and symbolical and harmonious, though infinitely variegated.
The altars have pictures over them. Shrines and monuments appear in the
niches. The dresses of the priests are more gorgeous. The music of the
choir peals forth hallelujahs. Christ is risen from the tomb. "The
purple of his blood colors the windows." The roof, like pinnacles and
spires, seems to reach the skies. The pressure of the walls is downwards
rather than lateral. The vertical lines of Cologne are as marked as the
old horizontal lines of the Parthenon. The walls too are not so heavy,
and are supported by buttresses, which give increased beauty to the
exterior,--greater light and shade. "Every part of the church seems to
press forward and strive for greater freedom, for outward
manifestation." Even the broad and expansive window presses to the outer
surface of the walls, now broken by buttresses and pinnacles. The
window--the eye of the edifice--is more cheerful and intelligent. More
calm is the imposing façade, with its mighty towers and lofty spires,
tapering like a pyramid, with its round oriel window rich in beautiful
tracery, and its wide portal with sculptured saints and martyrs. And in
all the churches you see geometrical proportions. "Even the cross of the
church is deduced from the figure by which Euclid constructed the
equilateral triangle," The columns present the proportions of the Doric,
as to diameter and height. The love of the true and beautiful meet. The
natural and supernatural both appear. All parts symbolize the passion of
Christ. If the crypt speaks of death, the lofty and vaulted roof and the
beautiful pointed arches, and the cheerful window, and the jubilant
chants speak of life. "The old church reminds one of the Christ that lay
in the tomb; the new, of the Christ who arose the third day." The old
fosters meditation and silence; the new kindles the imagination, by its
variety of perspective arrangement and mystic representation,--still
reverential, still expressive of consecrated sentiments, yet more
cheerful. The foliated shaft, the rich tracery of the window, the
graceful pinnacle, the Arabian gorgeousness of the interior,--as if the
crusaders had learned something from the East,--the innumerable shrines
and pictures, the variegated marbles of the altar, with its vessels of
silver and gold, the splendid dresses of the priests, the imposing
character of the ritualism, the treasures lavished everywhere, all
speak greater independence, wealth, and power. The church takes the
place of all amusements. Its various attractions draw together the
people from their farms and shops. They are gaily dressed, as if they
were attending a festival. Their condition is so improved that they have
time for holidays. And these the Church multiplies; for perpetual toil
is the grave of intellect. The people must have rest, amusement,
excitement. All these things the Catholic Church gives, and consecrates.
Crusader, baron, knight, priest, peasant, all resort to the church for
benedictions. Women too are there, and in greater numbers; and they
linger for the confessional. When the time comes that women stay away
from church, like busy, preoccupied, sceptical men, then let us be on
the watch for some great catastrophe, since practical paganism will then
be restored, and the angels of light will have left the earth.

Paris and its neighborhood was the cradle of this new development of
architecture which we wrongly call the Gothic, even as Paris was the
centre of the new-born intelligence of the era. The word "Gothic"
suggests destructive barbarism: the English, French, and Germans
descended chiefly from Normans, Saxons, and Burgundians. This form of
church architecture rapidly spreads to Germany, England, and Spain. The
famous Suger, the minister of a powerful king, built the abbey of St.
Denis. The churches of Rheims, Paris, and Bourges arose in all their
grandeur. The façade of Rheims is the most significant example of the
wonderful architecture of the thirteenth century. In the church of
Amiens you see the perfection of the so-called Gothic,--so graceful are
its details, so dazzling is its height. The central aisle is one hundred
and thirty-two feet in altitude,--only surpassed by that of Beauvais,
which is fourteen feet higher. It was then that the cathedral of Rouen
was built, with its elegant lightness,--a marvel to modern travellers.
Soon after, the cathedral of Cologne appears, more grand than
either,--but left unfinished,--with its central aisle forty-four feet in
width, rising one hundred and forty feet into the air, with its colossal
towers, intended to support the slender openwork spires, five hundred
and twenty feet in height. The whole church is five hundred and
thirty-two feet in length. I confess this church made a greater
impression on my mind than did any Gothic church in Europe,--more, even,
than Milan, with its unnumbered pinnacles and statues and its marble
roof. I could not rest while surveying its ten thousand wonders,--so
much lightness combined with strength; so grand, and yet so cheerful; so
exquisitely proportioned, so complicated in details, and yet a grand
unity; a glorious and fit temple for the reverential worship of the
Deity. Oh, how grand are those monuments which were designed to last
through ages, and which are consecrated, not to traffic, not to
pleasure, not to material wealth, but to the worship of that Almighty
God to whom every human being is personally responsible!

I cannot enumerate the churches of Mediaeval Europe,--built possibly by
the Freemasons, certainly by men familiar with all that is practical in
their art, with all that is hallowed and poetical. I glance at the
English cathedrals, built during this epoch,--the period of the Crusades
and the revival of learning.

And here I allude to the man who furnishes me with a text to my
discourse,--William of Wykeham, chancellor and prime minister of Edward
III., the contemporary of Chaucer and Wyclif,--who flourished in the
fourteenth century, and who built Winchester Cathedral; a great and
benevolent prelate, who also founded other colleges and schools. But I
merely allude to him, since my subject is the art to which he gave an
impulse, rather than any single individual. No one man represents church
architecture any more appropriately than any one man represents the
Feudal system, or Monasticism, or the Crusades, or the French

I do not think the English cathedrals are equal to those of Cologne,
Rheims, Amiens, and Rouen; but they are full of interest, and they have
varied excellences. That of Salisbury is the only one which is of
uniform style. Its glory is in its spire, as that of Lincoln is in its
west front, and that of Westminster is in its nave. Gloucester is
celebrated for its choir, and York for its tower. In all are beautiful
vistas of pillars and arches. But they lack the inspiration of the
Catholic Church. They are indeed hoary monuments, petrified mysteries, a
"passion of stone," as Michelet speaks of the marble histories which
will survive his rhapsodies. They alike show the pilgrimage of humanity
through gloomy centuries. If their great wooden screens were removed,
which separate the choir from the nave, the cathedrals doubtless would
appear to more advantage, and especially if they were filled with altars
and shrines and pictures, and lighted candles on the altars,--filled
also with crowds of worshippers, reverent before the gorgeously attired
ministers of Divine Omnipotence, and excited by transporting chants, and
the various appeals to sense and imagination. The reason must be
assisted by the imagination, before the mind can revel in the glories of
Gothic architecture. Imagination intensifies all our pleasures, even
those of sense; and without imagination--yea, a memory stored with the
pious deeds of saints and martyrs in bygone ages--a Gothic cathedral is
as much a sealed book as Wordsworth is to Taine. The Protestant tourist
from Michigan or Pennsylvania can "do" any cathedral in two hours, and
wonder why they make such a fuss about a church not half so large as
the New York Central Railroad station. The wonders of cathedrals must be
studied, like the glories of a landscape, with an eye to the beautiful
and the grand, cultured and practised by the contemplation of ideal
excellence, when the mind summons the imagination to its aid, with all
the poetry and all the history which have been learned in a life of
leisure and study. How different the emotions of a Ruskin or a Tennyson,
in surveying those costly piles, from those of a man fresh from a
distillery or from a warehouse of cotton fabrics, or even from those of
many fashionable women, whose only aesthetic accomplishment is to play
languidly and mechanically on an instrument, and whose only intellectual
achievement is to have devoured a dozen silly novels in the course of a
summer spent in alternate sleep and dalliance! Nor does familiarity
always give a zest to the pleasure which arises from the creations of
art or the glories of nature. The Roman beggar passes the Coliseum or
St. Peter's without notice or enjoyment, as a peasant sees unmoved the
snow-capped mountains of Switzerland or the beautiful lakes of
Killarney. Said sorrowfully my guide up the Rhigi, "I wish I lived in
Holland, for there are men there." Yet there are those whom the ascent
of Rhigi and the ruined monuments of ancient Rome would haunt for a
lifetime, in whose memory they would be perpetually fresh, never to pass
away, any more than the looks and the vows of early love from the mind
of a sentimental woman.

The glorious old architecture whose peculiarity was the pointed arch,
flourished only about three hundred years in its purity and matchless
beauty. Then another change took place. The ideal became lost in
meaningless ornaments. The human figure peoples the naked walls. "Man
places his own image everywhere.... The tomb rises like a mausoleum in
side chapels. Man is enthroned, not God." The corruption of the art
keeps pace with the corruption of the Papacy and the discords of
society. In the fourteenth century the Mediaeval has lost its charm
and faith.

And then sets in the new era, which begins with Michael Angelo. It is
marked by the revival of Greek art and Greek literature. At Florence
reign the Medici. On the throne of Saint Peter sits an Alexander VI. or
a Julius II. Genoa is a city of merchant-palaces. Museums are collected
of the excavated remains of Roman antiquity. Everybody kindles with the
contemplation of the long-buried glories of a classic age; everybody
reads the classic authors: Cicero is a greater oracle than Saint
Augustine. Scholars flock to Italy. The popes encourage the growing
taste for Pagan philosophy. Ancient art regains her long-abdicated
throne, and wields her sceptre over the worshippers of the Parthenon and
the admirers of Aeschylus and Thucydides. With the revived statues of
Greece appear the most beautiful pictures ever produced by the hand of
man; and with pictures and statues architecture receives a new
development. It is the blending of the old Greek and Roman with the
Gothic, and is called the Renaissance. Michael Angelo erects St.
Peter's, the heathen Pantheon, on the intersection of Gothic nave and
choir and transept; a glorious dome, more beautiful than any Gothic
spire or tower, rising four hundred and fifty feet into the air. And in
the interior are classic circular arches and pillars, so vast that one
is impressed as with great feats of engineering skill. All that is
variegated in marbles adorns the altars; all that is bewitching in
paintings is transferred to mosaics. And this new style of Italy spreads
into France and England. Sir Christopher Wren builds St. Paul's,--more
Grecian than Gothic,--and fills London with new churches, not one of
which is Gothic, and all different. The brain is bewildered in
attempting to classify the new and ever-shifting forms of the revived
Italian. And so for three hundred years the architects mingle the Gothic
with the classical, until now a mongrel architecture is the disgrace of
Europe; varied but not expressive, resting on no settled principles,
neither on vertical nor on horizontal lines,--blended together,
sometimes Grecian porticos on Elizabethan structures, spires resting not
on towers but roofs, Byzantine domes on Grecian temples, Greek columns
with Lombard arches, flamboyant panelling, pendant pillars from the
roof, all styles mixed up together, Corinthian pilasters acting as
Gothic buttresses, and pointed arches with Doric friezes,--a heap of
diverse forms, alien alike from the principles of Wykeham and Vitruvius.

And this varied mongrel style of architecture corresponds with the
confused civilization of the period,--neither Greek nor Gothic, but a
mixture of both; intolerant priests wrangling with pagan sceptics and
infidels,--Aquaviva with Pascal, the hierarchy of the French Church with
Voltaire and Rousseau, Protestant divines with the Catholic clergy;
Geneva and Rome compromising at Oxford, the authority of the Fathers
made antagonistic to the authority of popes, new vernacular tongues
supplanting Latin in the universities; everywhere war on the Middle
Ages, without full emancipation from their dogmas, ancient paganism made
to uphold the Church, an unbounded activity of intellect casting off all
established rules, the revival of the old Greek republics, democracy
asserting its claim against absolute power; nothing settled, nothing at
rest, but motion in every direction,--science combating faith, faith
spurning reason, humanity arrogating divinity, the confusion of races,
Babel towers of vanity and pride in the new projected enterprises,
Christian nations embroiled in constant wars, gold and silver set up as
idols, the rise of new powers in the shapes of new industries and new
inventions, commerce filling the world with wealth, armies contending
for rights as well as for the aggrandizement of monarchies: was there
ever such a simmering and boiling and fermenting period of activities
since the world began? In such a wild and tumultuous agitation of
passions and interests and ideas, how could Art reappear either in the
classic severity of Greek temples or the hoary grandeur of Mediaeval
cathedrals? In this jumble we look for new creations, but no creations
in art appear, only fantastic imitations. There is no creation except in
a new field, that of science and mechanical inventions,--where there is
the most extraordinary and astonishing development of human genius ever
seen on earth, but "of the earth earthy," aiming at material good.
Architecture itself is turned into great feats of engineering. It does
not span the apsis of a church; it spans rivers and valleys. The church,
indeed, passes out of mind, if not out of sight, in the new material
age, in the multiplication of bridges and gigantic reservoirs,--old Rome
brought back again in its luxuries.

And yet the exactness of science and the severity of criticism--begun
fifty years ago, in the verification of principles--produce a better
taste. Architects have sought to revive the purest forms of both Gothic
and Grecian. If they could not create a new style, they would imitate
the old: as in philosophy, they would go round in the old circles. As
science revives the atoms of Democritus, so art would reproduce the
ideas of Phidias and Vitruvius, and even the poetry and sanctity of the
Middle Ages. Within fifty years Christendom has been covered with Gothic
churches, some of which are as beautiful as those built by Freemasons.
The cathedrals have been copied rigidly, even for village churches. The
Parthenon reappears in the Madeleine. We no longer see, as in the
eighteenth century, Gothic spires on Roman basilicas, or Grecian
porticos ornamenting Norman towers. The various styles of two thousand
years are not mixed up in the same building. We copy either the
horizontal lines of Paganism or the vertical lines of the ages of Faith.
No more harmonious Gothic edifice was ever erected than the new Catholic
cathedral of New York.

The only absurdity is seen when radical Protestantism adopts the church
of pomps and liturgies. When the Reformation was completed, men sought
to build churches where they could hear the voice of the preacher; for
the mission of Protestantism is to teach, not to sing. Protestantism
glories in its sermons as much as Catholicism in its chants. If the
people wish to return again to ritualism, let them have the Gothic
church. If they wish to be electrified by eloquence, let them have a
basilica, for the voice of the preacher is lost in high and vaulted
roofs. If they wish to join in the prayers and the ceremonies of the
altar, let them have the clustering pillars and the purple windows.

Everything turns upon what is meant by a church. What is it for? Is it
for liturgical services, or is it for pulpit eloquence? Solve that
question, and you solve the Reformation. "My house," saith the Divine
Voice, "shall be called the house of prayer." It is "by the foolishness
of preaching," said Paul, that men are saved.

If you will have the prayers of the Middle Ages and the sermons of the
Reformation both together, then let the architects invent a new style,
which shall allow the blending of prayer and pulpit eloquence. You
cannot have them both in a Grecian temple, or in a Gothic church. You
must combine the Parthenon with Salisbury, which is virtually a new
miracle of architecture. Will that miracle be wrought? I do not know.
But a modern Protestant church, with all the wonders of our modern
civilization, must be something new,--some new combination which shall
be worthy of the necessity of our times. This is what the architect must
now aspire to accomplish; he must produce a house in which one can both
hear the sermon, and be stimulated by inspiring melodies,--for the
Church must have both. The psalms of David and the chants of Gregory
must be blended with the fervid words of a Chrysostom and a Chalmers.

This, at least, should be borne in mind: the church edifice _must_ be
adapted to the end designed. The Gothic architects adapted their vaults
and pillars to the ceremonies of the Catholic ritual. If it is this you
want, then copy Gothic cathedrals. But if it is preaching you want, then
restore the Grecian temple,--or, better still, the Roman theatre,--where
the voice of the preacher is not lost either in Byzantine domes or
Gothic vaults, whose height is greater than their width. The preacher
must draw by the distinctness of his tones; for every preacher has not
the musical voice of Chrysostom, or the electricity of St. Bernard. He
can neither draw nor inspire if he cannot be heard; he speaks to stones,
not to living men or women. He loses his power, and is driven to chants
and music to keep his audience from deserting him. He must make his
choir an orchestra; he must hide himself in priestly vestments; he must
import opera singers to amuse and not instruct. He cannot instruct when
he cannot be heard, and heard easily. Unless the people catch every tone
of his voice his electricity will be wasted, and he will preach in vain,
and be tired out by attempting to prevent echoes. The voice of Saint
Paul would be lost in some of our modern fashionable churches. Think of
the absurdity of Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians affecting to
restore Gothic monuments, when the great end of sacred eloquence is lost
in those devices which appeal to sense. Think of the folly of erecting a
church for eight hundred people as high as Westminster Abbey. It is not
the size of a church which prevents the speaker from being heard,--it is
the disproportion of height with breadth and length, and the echoes
produced by arcades. Spurgeon is heard easily by seven thousand people,
and Talmage by six thousand, and Dr. Hall by four thousand, because the
buildings in which they preach are adapted to public speaking. Those who
erect theatres take care that a great crowd shall be able to catch even
the whispers of actors. What would you think of the good sense and
judgment of an architect who should construct a reservoir that would
leak, in order to make it ornamental; or a schoolhouse without
ventilation; or a theatre where actors could only be seen; or a hotel
without light and convenient rooms; or a railroad bridge which would not
support a heavy weight?

A Protestant church is designed, no matter what the sect may be to which
it belongs, not for poetical or aesthetic purposes, not for the
admiration of architectural expenditures, not even for music, but for
earnest people to hear from the preacher the words of life and death,
that they may be aroused by his enthusiasm, or instructed by his wisdom;
where the poor are not driven to a few back seats in the gallery; where
the meeting is cheerful and refreshing, where all are stimulated to
duties. It must not be dark, damp, and gloomy, where it is necessary to
light the gas on a foggy day, and where one must be within ten feet of
the preacher to see the play of his features. Take away facilities for
hearing and even for seeing the preacher, and the vitality of a
Protestant service is destroyed, and the end for which the people
assemble is utterly defeated. Moreover, you destroy the sacred purposes
of a church if you make it so expensive that the poor cannot get
sittings. Nothing is so dull, depressing, funereal, as a church occupied
only by prosperous pew-holders, who come together to show their faces
and prove their respectability, rather than to join in the paeans of
redemption, or to learn humiliating lessons of worldly power before the
altar of Omnipotence. To the poor the gospel is preached; and it is ever
the common people who hear most gladly gospel truth. Ah, who are the
common people? I fancy we are all common people when we are sick, or in
bereavement, or in adversity, or when we come to die. But if advancing
society, based on material wealth and epicurean pleasure, demands
churches for the rich and churches for the poor,--if the lines of
society must be drawn somewhere,--let those architects be employed who
understand, at least, the first principles of their art. I do not mean
those who learn to draw pictures in the back room of a studio, but
conscientious men, if you cannot find sensible men. And let the pulpit
itself be situated where the people can hear the speaker easily, without
straining their eyes and ears. Then only will the speaker's voice ring
and kindle and inspire those who come together to hear God Almighty's
message; then only will he be truly eloquent and successful, since then
only does his own electricity permeate the whole mass; then only can he
be effective, and escape the humiliation of being only a part of a vain
show, where his words are disregarded and his strength is wasted in the
echoes of vaults and recesses copied from the gloomy though beautiful
monuments of ages which can never, never again return, any more than can
"the granite image worship of the Egyptians, the oracles of Dodona, or
the bulls of the Mediaeval popes."


Fergusson's History of Architecture; Durand's Parallels; Eastlake's
Gothic and Revival; Ruskin, Daly, and Penrose; Britton's Cathedrals and
Architectural Antiquities; Pugin's Specimens and Examples of Gothic
Architecture; Rickman's Styles of Gothic Architecture; Street's Gothic
Architecture in Spain; Encyclopaedia Britannica (article Architecture).


       *       *       *       *       *

A.D. 1324-1384.


The name of Wyclif suggests the dawn of the Protestant Reformation; and
the Reformation suggests the existence of evils which made it a
necessity. I do not look upon the Reformation, in its earlier stages, as
a theological movement. In fact, the Catholic and Protestant theology,
as expounded and systematized by great authorities, does not materially
differ from that of the Fathers of the Church. The doctrines of
Augustine were accepted equally by Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. What
is called systematic divinity, as taught in our theological seminaries,
is a series of deductions from the writings of Paul and other apostles,
elaborately and logically drawn by Athanasius, Jerome, Augustine, and
other lights of the early Church, which were defended in the Middle Ages
with amazing skill and dialectical acuteness by the Scholastic doctors,
with the aid of the method which Aristotle, the greatest logician of
antiquity, bequeathed to philosophy. Neither Luther nor Calvin departed
essentially from these great deductions on such vital subjects as the
existence and attributes of God, the Trinity, sin and its penalty,
redemption, grace, and predestination. The creeds of modern Protestant
churches are in harmony with the writings of both the Fathers and the
Scholastic doctors on the fundamental principles of Christianity. There
are, indeed, some ideas in reference to worship, and the sacraments, and
the government of the Church, and aids to a religious life, defended by
the Scholastic doctors, which Protestants do not accept, and for which
there is not much authority in the writings of the Fathers. But the main
difference between Protestants and Catholics is in reference to the
institutions of the Church,--institutions which gradually arose with the
triumph of Christianity in its contest with Paganism, and which received
their full development in the Middle Ages. It was the enormous and
scandalous corruptions which crept into these _institutions_ which led
to the cry for reform. It was the voice of Wyclif, denouncing these
abuses, which made him famous and placed him in the van of reformers.
These abuses were generally admitted and occasionally attacked by
churchmen and laymen alike,--even by the poets. They were too flagrant
to be denied.

Now what were the prominent evils in the institutions of the Church
which called for reform, and in reference to which Wyclif raised up his
voice?--for in his day there was only _one_ Church. An enumeration of
these is necessary before we can appreciate the labors and teachings of
the Reformer. I can only state them; I cannot enlarge upon them. I state
only what is indisputable, not in reference to theological dogmas so
much as to morals and ecclesiastical abuses.

The centre and life and support of all was the Papacy,--an institution,
a great government, not a religion.

I have spoken of this great power as built up by Leo I., Gregory VII.,
and Innocent III., and by others whom I have not mentioned. So much may
be said of the necessity of a central spiritual power in the dark ages
of European society that I shall not combat this power, or stigmatize it
with offensive epithets. The necessities of the times probably called it
into existence, like other governments, although I cannot see any
argument drawn from the Scriptures, or from the history of the early
Apostolic Church, to warrant its existence. Nor would I defend the long
series of papal usurpations by which the Roman pontiffs got possession
of the government of both Church and State. I speak not of their
quarrels with princes about investitures, in which their genius and
their heroism were displayed rather than by efforts in behalf of

But the popes exercised certain powers and prerogatives in England,
about the time of Wyclif, which were exceedingly offensive to the
secular rulers of the land. They claimed the island as a sort of
property which reason and the laws did not justify,--a claim which led
to heavy exactions and forced contributions on the English people that
crippled the government and impoverished the nation. Boys and favorites
were appointed by the popes to important posts and livings. Church
preferments were almost exclusively in the hands of the Pope; and these
were often bought. A yearly tribute had been forced on the nation in the
time of John. Peter's pence were collected from the people. Enormous
sums, under various pretences, flowed to Rome. And the clergy were taxed
as well as the laity. The contributions which were derived from the sale
of benefices, from investitures, from the transfer of sees, from the
bestowal of rings and crosiers (badges of episcopal authority), from the
confirmation of elections, and other taxes, irritated sovereigns, and
called out the severest denunciation of statesmen.

Closely connected with papal exactions was the enormous increase of the
Mendicant friars, especially the Dominicans and Franciscans, who had
been instituted by Innocent III. to uphold the papal domination. These
itinerating beggars in their black-and-gray gowns infested every town
and village in England. For a century after their institution, they were
the ablest and perhaps the best soldiers of the Pope, and did what the
Jesuits afterwards performed, and perhaps the Methodists a hundred
years ago,--gained the hearts of the people and stimulated religious
life; but in the fourteenth century they were a nuisance. They sold
indulgences, they invented pious frauds, they were covetous under
pretence of poverty, they had become luxurious in their lives, they
slandered the regular clergy, they usurped the prerogatives of parish
priests, they enriched their convents, they accommodated themselves to
the wishes of the great, and were marked by those peculiarities of which
the Jesuits were accused in the time of Pascal. As they had not in
England, as in Spain and Italy, tribunals of inquisition, they were
ridiculed, despised, and hated, rather than feared. One gets the truest
impression of the popular estimate of these friars from the sarcasms of
Chaucer. The Friar Tuck whom Sir Walter Scott has painted was a very
different man from the Dominicans or the Franciscans of the thirteenth
century, when they reigned in the universities, and were the confessors
of monarchs and the most popular preachers of their time. In the
fourteenth century they were consumed with jealousies and rivalries and
animosities against each other; and all the various orders,--Dominican,
Franciscan, Carmelite,--in spite of their professions of poverty, were
the possessors of magnificent monasteries, and fattened on the credulity
of the world. Besides these Mendicant friars, England was dotted with
convents and religious houses belonging to the different orders of
Benedictines, which, though enormously rich, devoured the substance of
the poor. There were more than twenty thousand monks in a population of
three or four millions; and most of them led idle and dissolute lives,
and were subjects of perpetual reproach. Reforms of the various
religious houses had been attempted, but all reforms had failed. Nor
were the lives of the secular clergy much more respectable than those of
the great body of monks. They are accused by all historians of avarice,
venality, dissoluteness, and ignorance; and it was their incapacity,
their disregard of duties, and indifference to the spiritual interests
of their flocks that led to the immense popularity of the Mendicant
friars, until they, in their turn, became perhaps a greater scandal than
the parish priests whose functions they had usurped. Both priests and
monks in the time of Bishop Grostête of Lincoln frequented taverns and
gambling-houses. So enormous and scandalous was the wealth of the
clergy, that as early as 1279, under Edward I., Parliament passed a
statute of mortmain, forbidding religious bodies to receive bequests
without the King's license.

With the increase of scandalous vices among the clergy was a corruption
in the doctrines of the Church; not those which are strictly
theological, but those which pertained to the sacraments, and the
conditions on which absolution was given and communion administered. In
the thirteenth century, as the Scholastic philosophy was reaching its
fullest development, we notice the establishment of the doctrine of
transubstantiation, the withholding the cup from the laity, and the
necessity of confession as the condition of receiving the
communion,--which corruptions increased amazingly the power of the
clergy over the minds of superstitious people, and led to still more
flagrant evils, like the sale of indulgences and the perversion of the
doctrine of penance, originally enforced in order to aid the soul to
overcome the tyranny of the body, but finally accepted as the expiation
for sin; so that the door of heaven itself was opened by venal priests
only to those whom they could control or rob.

Such was the state of the Church when Wyclif was born,--in 1324, near
Richmond in Yorkshire, about a century after the establishment of
universities, the creation of the Mendicant orders, and the memorable
usurpation of Innocent III.

In the year 1340, during the reign of Edward III., we find him at the
age of sixteen a student in Merton College at Oxford,--the college then
most distinguished for Scholastic doctors; the college of Islip, of
Bradwardine, of Occam, and perhaps of Duns Scotus. It would seem that
Wyclif devoted himself with great assiduity to the study which gave the
greatest intellectual position and influence in the Middle Ages, and
which required a training of nineteen years in dialectics before the
high degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred by the University. We
know nothing of his studious life at Oxford until he received his
degree, with the title of Evangelical or Gospel Doctor,--from which we
infer that he was a student of the Bible, and was more remarkable for
his knowledge of the Scriptures than for his dialectical skill. But even
for his knowledge of the Scholastic philosophy he was the most eminent
man in the University, and he was as familiar with the writings of Saint
Augustine and Jerome as with those of Aristotle. It was not then the
fashion to study the text of the Scriptures so much as the commentaries
upon it; and he who was skilled in the "Book of Sentences" and the
"Summa Theologica" stood a better chance of preferment than he who had
mastered Saint Paul.

But Wyclif, it would seem, was distinguished for his attainments in
everything which commanded the admiration of his age. In 1356, when he
was thirty-two, he wrote a tract on the last ages of the Church, in view
of the wretchedness produced by the great plague eight years before. In
1360, at the age of thirty-six, he attacked the Mendicant orders, and
his career as a reformer began,--an unsuccessful reformer, indeed, like
John Huss, since the evils which he combated were not removed. He merely
protested against the corruptions which good men lamented; and that is
nearly all that great men can do when they are beyond their age. They
are simply witnesses of truth, and fortunate are they if they do not die
as martyrs; for in the early Church "witnesses" and "martyrs" were
synonymous ([Greek: _martyres_]). The year following, 1361, Wyclif was
presented to the rich rectory of Fillingham by Baliol College, and was
promoted the same year to the wardenship of that ancient college. The
learned doctor is now one of the "dons" of the university,--at that
time, even more than now, a great dignitary. It would be difficult for
an unlearned politician of the nineteenth century to conceive of the
exalted position which a dignitary of the Church, crowned with
scholastic honors, held five hundred years ago. It gave him access to
the table of his sovereign, and to the halls of Parliament. It made him
an oracle in all matters of the law. It created for him a hearing on all
the great political as well as ecclesiastical issues of the day. What
great authorities in the thirteenth century were Albertus Magnus, Thomas
Aquinas, and Bonaventura! Scarcely less than they, in the next century,
were Duns Scotus and John Wyclif,--far greater in influence than any of
the proud feudal lords who rendered service to Edward III., broad as
were their acres, and grand as were their castles. Strange as it may
seem, the glory that radiated from the brow of a scholar or a saint was
greatest in ages of superstition and darkness; perhaps because both
scholars and saints were rare. The modern lights of learning may be
better paid than in former days, but they do not stand out to the eye of
admiring communities in such prominence as they did among our ancestors.
Who stops and turns back to gaze reverentially on a poet or a scholar
whom he passes by unconsciously, as both men and women strained their
eyes to see an Abélard or a Dante? Even a Webster now would not command
the homage he received fifty years ago.

It is not uninteresting to contemplate the powers that have ruled in
successive ages, outside the realms of conquerors and kings. In the
ninth and tenth centuries they were baronial lords in mail-clad armor;
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries these powers, like those of
ancient Egypt, were priests; in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
they were the learned doctors, as in the schools of Athens when
political supremacy was lost; in the sixteenth century--the era of
reforms--they were controversial theologians, like those of the age of
Theodosius; in the seventeenth century they were fighting nobles; in the
eighteenth they were titled and hereditary courtiers and great landed
proprietors; in the nineteenth they are bankers, merchants, and railway
presidents,--men who control the material interests of the country. It
is only at elections, though managed by politicians, that the people are
a power. Socially, the magnates are the rich. It is money which in these
times all classes combine to worship. If this be questioned, see the
adulation which even colleges and schools of learning pay to their
wealthy patrons or those from whom they seek benefits. The patrons of
the schools in the Middle Ages were princes and nobles; but these
princes and nobles bowed down in reverence to learned bishops and great
theological doctors.

Wyclif was the representative of the schools when he attacked the abuses
of the Church. It is not a little singular that the great religious
movements in England have generally come from Oxford, while Cambridge
has been distinguished for great movements in science. In 1365 he was
appointed to the headship of Canterbury Hall, founded by Archbishop
Islip, afterwards merged into Christ Church,--the most magnificent and
wealthy of all the Oxford Colleges. When Islip died, in 1366, and
Langham, originally a monk of Canterbury, was made archbishop, the
appointment of Wyclif was pronounced void by Langham, and the revenues
of the Hall of which he was warden, or president, were sequestered.
Wyclif on this appealed to the Pope, who, however, ratified Langham's
decree,--as it would be expected, for the Pope sustained the friars whom
Wyclif had denounced. The spirit of such a progressive man was, of
course, offensive to the head of the Church. In this case the Crown
confirmed the decision of the Pope, 1372, since the royal license was
obtained by a costly bribe. The whole transaction was so iniquitous that
Wyclif could not restrain his indignation.

But before this decision of the Crown was made, the services of Wyclif
had been accepted by the Parliament in its resistance to the claim which
Pope Urban V. had made in 1366, to the arrears of tribute due under
John's vassalage. Edward III. had referred this claim to Parliament, and
the Parliament had rejected it without hesitation on the ground that
John had no power to bind the realm without its consent. The Parliament
was the mere mouthpiece of Wyclif, who was now actively engaged in
political life, and probably, as Dr. Lechler thinks, had a seat in
Parliament. He was, at any rate, a very prominent political character;
for he was sent in 1374 to Bruges, as one of the commissioners to treat
with the representatives of the French pope in reference to the
appointment of foreigners to the rich benefices of the Church in
England, which gave great offence to the liberal and popular party in
England,--for there was such a progressive party as early as the
fourteenth century, although it did not go by that name, and was not
organized as parties are now. In fact, in all ages and countries there
are some men who are before their contemporaries. The great grievance of
which the more advanced and enlightened complained was the interference
of the Pope with ecclesiastical livings in England. Wyclif led the
opposition to this usurpation; and this opposition to the Pope on the
part of a churchman made it necessary for him to have a protector
powerful enough to shield him from papal vengeance.

This protector he found in John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who, next
to the King, had the greatest authority in England. It is probable that
Wyclif enjoyed at Bruges the friendship of this great man (great for his
station, influence, and birth, at least), who was at the head of the
opposition to the papal claims,--resisted not only by him, but by
Parliament, which seems to have been composed of men in advance of their
age. As early as 1371 this Parliament had petitioned the King to exclude
all ecclesiastics from the great offices of State, held almost
exclusively by them as the most able and learned people of the realm.
From the time of Alfred this custom had not been seriously opposed by
the baronial lords, who were ignorant and unenlightened; but in the
fourteenth century light had broken in upon the darkness: the day had at
least dawned, and the absurdity of confining the cares of State and
temporal matters to men who ought to be absorbed with spiritual duties
alone was seen by the more enlightened of the laity. But the King was
not then prepared to part with the most efficient of his ministers
because they happened to be ecclesiastics, and the custom continued for
nearly two centuries longer. Bishop Williams was the last of the clergy
who filled the great office of chancellor, and Archbishop Laud was the
last of the clergy who became a prime minister. The reign of Elizabeth
was marked, for the first time in the history of England, by the almost
total exclusion of prelates from great secular offices. In the reign of
Edward III. it was William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester,
who held the great seal, and the Bishop of Exeter who was lord
treasurer,--probably the two men in the whole realm who were the most
experienced in public affairs as men of business. Wyclif, it would
appear, although he was an ecclesiastic, here took the side of
Parliament against his own order. In his treatise on the "Regimen of the
Church" he contends that neither doctors nor deacons should hold secular
offices, or even be land stewards and clerks of account, and appeals to
the authority of the Fathers and Saint Paul in confirmation of his
views. At this time he was a doctor of divinity and professor of
theology in the University, having been promoted to this high position
in 1372, two years before he was sent as commissioner to Bruges. In
1375, he was presented to the rectory of Lutterworth in Leicestershire
by the Crown, in reward for his services as an ambassador.

In 1376 Parliament renewed its assault on pontifical pretensions and
exactions; and there was cause, since twenty thousand marks, or pounds,
were sent annually to Rome from the Pope's collector in England, which
collector was a Frenchman,--another indignity. Against these corruptions
and usurpations Wyclif was unsparing in his denunciations; and the
hierarchy at last were compelled, by their allegiance to Rome, to take
measures to silence and punish him as a pertinacious heretic. The term
"heretic" meant in those days opposition to papal authority, as much as
opposition to the theological dogmas of the Church; and the brand of
heresy was the greatest stigma which authority could impose. The bold
denunciator of papal abuses was now in danger. He was summoned by the
convocation to appear in Saint Paul's Cathedral and answer for his
heresies, on which occasion were present the Archbishop of Canterbury
and the arrogant Bishop of London,--the latter the son of the Earl of
Devonshire, of the great family of the Courtenays. Wyclif was attended
by the Duke of Lancaster and the Earl Marshal,--Henry Percy, the
ancestor of the Dukes of Northumberland,--who forced themselves into the
Lady's chapel, behind the high altar, where the prelates were assembled.
An uproar followed from this unusual intrusion of the two most powerful
men of the kingdom into the very sanctuary of prelatic authority. What
could be done when the great Oxford professor--the most learned
Scholastic of the kingdom--was protected by a royal duke clothed with
viceregal power, and the Earl Marshal armed with the sword of State?

The position of Wyclif was as strong as it was before he was attacked.
Nor could he be silenced except by the authority of the Pope
himself,--still acknowledged as the supreme lord of Christendom; and the
Pope now felt that he must assert his supremacy and interpose his
supreme authority, or lose his hold on England. So he hurled his
weapons, not yet impotent, and fulminated his bulls, ordering the
University, under penalty of excommunication, to deliver the daring
heretic into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of
London; and further commanding these two prelates to warn the King
against the errors of Wyclif, and to examine him as to his doctrines,
and keep him in chains until the Pope's pleasure should be further
known. In addition to these bulls, the Pope sent one to the King
himself. It was resolved that the work should be thoroughly done this
time. Yet it would appear that these various bulls threatening an
interdict did not receive a welcome from any quarter. The prelates did
not wish to quarrel with such an antagonist as the Duke of Lancaster,
who was now the chief power in the State, the King being in his last
illness. They allowed several months to pass before executing their
commission, during which Wyclif was consulted by the great Council of
State whether they should allow money to be carried out of the realm at
the Pope's demands, and he boldly declared that they should not; thus
coming in direct antagonism with hierarchal power. He also wrote at this
time pamphlets vindicating himself from the charges made against him,
asserting the invalidity of unjust excommunication, which, if allowed,
would set the Pope above God.

At last, after seven months, the prelates took courage, and ordered the
University to execute the papal bulls. To imprison Wyclif at the command
of the Pope would be to allow the Pope's temporal rule in England; yet
to disobey the bulls would be disregard of the papal power altogether.
In this dilemma the Vice-Chancellor--himself a monk--ordered a nominal
imprisonment. The result of these preliminary movements was that Wyclif
appeared at Lambeth before the Archbishop, to answer his accusers. The
great prelates had a different spirit from the University, which was
justly proud of its most learned doctor,--a man, too, beyond his age in
his progressive spirit, for the universities in those days were not so
conservative as they subsequently became. At Lambeth Wyclif found
unexpected support from the people of London, who broke into the
archiepiscopal chapel and interrupted the proceedings, and a still more
efficient aid from the Queen Dowager,--the Princess Joan,--who sent a
message forbidding any sentence against Wyclif. Thus was he backed by
royal authority and the popular voice, as Luther was afterwards in
Saxony. The prelates were overcome with terror, and dropped the
proceedings; while the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, who had tardily and
imperfectly obeyed the Pope, was cast into prison for a time and
compelled to resign his office.

Wyclif had gained a great triumph, which he used by publishing a summary
of his opinions in thirty-three articles, both in Latin and English. In
these it would seem that he attacked the infallibility of the
Pope,--liable to sin like any other person, and hence to be corrected by
the voices of those who are faithful to a higher Power than his,--a blow
to the exercise of excommunication from any personal grounds of malice
or hatred, or when used to extort unjust or mercenary demands. He also
maintained that the endowments of the clergy could be lawfully withdrawn
if they were perverted or abused,--a bold assertion in his day, but
which he professed he was willing to defend, even unto death. If the
prelates had dared, or had possessed sufficient power, he would
doubtless have suffered death from their animosity; but he was left
unmolested in his retirement at his rectory, although he kept himself
discreetly out of the way of danger. When the memorable schism took
place in the Roman government by the election of an anti-pope, and both
popes proclaimed a crusade and issued their indulgences, Wyclif, who
heretofore had admitted the primacy of the Roman See, now openly
proclaimed the doctrine that the Church would be better off with no pope
at all. He owed his safety to the bitterness of the rival popes, who in
their mutual quarrels had no time to think of him. And his opportunity
was improved by writing books and homilies, in which the antichristian
claims of the popes were fearlessly exposed and commented upon. In fact,
he now openly denounces the Pope as Antichrist, from his pulpit at
Lutterworth, to his simple-minded parishioners, for whose good he seems
to have earnestly labored,--the model of a parish priest. It is supposed
that Chaucer had him in view when he wrote his celebrated description of
a good parson,--"benign" and diligent, learned and pious, giving a noble
example to his flock of disinterestedness and devotion to truth and
duty, in contrast with the ordinary lives of the clergy of those times,
who were infamous for their ignorance, sensuality, gluttony, and
ostentation; frequenting taverns, and wasting their time in gambling,
idleness, and disgraceful brawls.

Hitherto Wyclif had simply protested against the external evils of the
Church without much effect, although protected by powerful laymen and
encouraged by popular favor. The time had not come for a real and
permanent reformation; but he prepared the way for it, and in no slight
degree, by his translation of the Scriptures into the vernacular
tongue,--the greatest service he rendered to the English people and the
cause of civilization. All the great reformers, successful and
unsuccessful, appealed to the Scriptures as the highest authority, even
when they did not rebel against the papal power, like Savonarola in
Florence, I do not get the impression that Wyclif was a great popular
preacher like the Florentine reformer, or like Luther, Latimer, and
Knox. He was a student, first of the Scholastic theology, and afterwards
of the Bible. He lived in a quiet way, as scholars love to live, in his
retired rectory near Oxford, preaching plain and simple sermons to his
parishioners, but spending his time chiefly in his library, or study.

Wyclif's translation of the Bible was a great event, for it was the
first which was made in English, although parts of the Bible had been
translated into the Saxon tongue between the seventh and eleventh
centuries. He had no predecessor in that vast work, and he labored amid
innumerable obstacles. It was not a translation from the original Greek
and Hebrew, for but little was known of either language in the
fourteenth century: not until the fall of Constantinople into the hands
of the Turks was Greek or Hebrew studied; so the translation was made
from the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. The version of Wyclif, besides its
transcendent value to the people, now able to read the Bible in their
own language (before a sealed book, except to the clergy and the
learned), gave form and richness to the English language. To what extent
Wyclif was indebted to the labors of other men it is not easy to
determine; but there is little doubt that, whatever aid he received, the
whole work was under his supervision. Of course it was not printed, for
printing was not then discovered; but the manuscripts of the version
were very numerous, and they are to-day to be found in the great public
libraries of England, and even in many private collections.

Considering that the Latin Vulgate has ever been held in supreme
veneration by the Catholic Church in all ages and countries, by popes,
bishops, abbots, and schoolmen; that no jealousy existed as to the
reading of it by the clergy generally; that in fact it was not a sealed
book to the learned classes, and was regarded universally as the highest
authority in matters of faith and morals,--it seems strange that so
violent an opposition should have been made to its translation into
vernacular tongues, and to its circulation among the people. Wyclif's
translation was regarded as an act of sacrilege, worthy of condemnation
and punishment. So furious was the outcry against him, as an audacious
violator who dared to touch the sacred ark with unconsecrated hands,
that even a bill was brought into the House of Lords forbidding the
perusal of the Bible by the laity, and it would have been passed but for
John of Gaunt. At a convocation of bishops and clerical dignitaries held
in St. Paul's, in 1408, it was decreed as heresy to read the Bible in
English,--to be punished by excommunication. The version of Wyclif and
all other translations into English were utterly prohibited under the
severest penalties. Fines, imprisonment, and martyrdom were inflicted on
those who were guilty of so foul a crime as the reading or possession of
the Scriptures in the vernacular tongue. This is one of the gravest
charges ever made against the Catholic Church. This absurd and cruel
persecution alone made the Reformation a necessity, even as the
translation of the Bible prepared the way for the Reformation. The
translation of the Scriptures and the Reformation are indissolubly
linked together. Nobody doubts that the whole influence of the Catholic
hierarchy has ever been, and still continues to be, hostile to the
perusal of the Scriptures by the people in the vulgar tongue; and it was
this translation by Wyclif which made him more obnoxious to the Pope
than all his tirades against the vices of the monks and the other evils
which disgraced the Church. We cannot call this translation a reform,
but it led to reforms: it arrayed the people against the usurpations of
the Pope and the corruptions of the Church as an institution. Yea, more,
it was the main cause of that memorable religious movement which
followed the death of Wyclif: there would have been no Lollards had
there been no translation of the Bible. It led also to the affirmation
of that private judgment which was the foundation pillar of
Protestantism, and which existed among the Lollards long before Luther
delivered his message.

And yet it is not strange that the Catholic hierarchy (I say Catholic
rather than Roman, because in the fourteenth century there was but one
Church, although in that Church considerable difference of opinion
existed both as to matters of faith and government) should have bitterly
opposed the translation of the Scriptures into vernacular tongues, since
it opened the door to private judgment. If there is anything the
Catholic Church has hated, it is private judgment. The very phrase is
obnoxious. It means the emancipation of the people from papal domination
and ecclesiastical bondage of all description; while the thing itself is
subversive of all the claims which the Catholic hierarchy have ever put
forth as to the authority of the Church as an institution: it has
undermined and will continue to undermine spiritual despotism,--the
great evil of the Middle Ages and of the Papal Church in our times. The
unrestrained circulation of the Scriptures in the language the people
can understand must lead to the breaking up of the false doctrines and
all the instruments by which the clergy have maintained their
usurpations. It necessarily opens the eyes of the people to the
antichristian doctrine of penance, to the absurdity of indulgences for
sin, to the unwarranted worship of the Virgin Mary, to the monstrous
claim of papal infallibility, and to all other glaring usurpations by
which the popes have ruled the world. There is not a false doctrine in
religion, nor an antichristian form of worship, nor a usurped
prerogative of the Pope and clergy, which the unrestrained perusal of
the Scriptures does not expose. "_Hinc illae lacrymae_." The dignitaries
of the Roman Catholic Church are not fools. They know that the free
circulation of the Scriptures in vulgar tongues does undermine their
authority, and will ultimately destroy the edifice of pride and pomp and
power which it took a thousand years to build. This is what they ever
have consistently opposed and will continue to oppose, as a thing
dangerous to them. They would have destroyed, if they could, every copy
of the version which Wyclif made. And now, when they can no longer
prevent the Bible from being printed, they would exclude it from the
schools which they control, and from the houses of those who belong to
their Church. Doubtless the well-known opposition to the circulation of
the Bible in the vernacular has been exaggerated, but in the fourteenth
century it was certainly bitter and furious. Wyclif might expose vices
which everybody saw and lamented as a scandal, and make himself
obnoxious to those who committed them; but to open the door to free
inquiry and a reformed faith and hostility to the Pope,--this was a
graver offence, to be visited with the severest penalties. To the storm
of indignation thus raised against him Wyclif's only answer was: "The
clergy cry aloud that it is heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in
English, and so they would condemn the Holy Ghost, who gave tongues to
the Apostles of Christ to speak the Word of God in all languages
under heaven."

Notwithstanding the enormous cost of the Bible as translated by
Wyclif,--£2, 16s. 8d., a sum probably equal to thirty pounds, or one
hundred and fifty dollars of our present money, more than half the
annual income of a substantial yeoman,--still it was copied and
circulated with remarkable rapidity. Neither the cost of the valuable
manuscript nor the opposition and vigilance of an almost omnipresent
inquisition were able to suppress it.

Wyclif was now about fifty-eight years of age. He had rendered a
transcendent service to the English nation, and a service that not one
of his contemporaries could have performed,--to which only the foremost
scholar and theologian of his day was equal. After such a work he might
have reposed in his quiet parish in genial rest, conscious that he had
opened a new era in the history of his country. But rest was not for
him. He now appears as a doctrinal controversialist. Hitherto his
attacks had been against the flagrant external evils of the Church, the
enormous corruptions that had entered into the institutions which
sustained the papal power. "He had been the advocate of the University
in defence of her privileges, the champion of the Crown in vindication
of its rights and prerogatives, the friend of the people in the
preservation of their property.... He now assailed the Romish doctrine
of the eucharist," but without the support of those powerful princes and
nobles who had hitherto sustained him. He combats one of the prevailing
ideas of the age,--a more difficult and infinitely bolder thing,--which
theologians had not dared to assail, and which in after-times was a
stumbling-block to Luther himself. In ascending the mysterious mount
where clouds gathered around him his old friends began to desert him,
for now he assailed the awful and invisible. The Church of the Middle
Ages had asserted that the body of Christ was actually present in the
consecrated wafer, and few there were who doubted it. Berengar had
maintained in the eleventh century that the sacred elements should be
regarded as mere symbols; but he was vehemently opposed, with all the
terrors of spiritual power, and compelled to abjure the heresy. In the
year 1215, at a Lateran, Council, Innocent III. established the doctrine
of transubstantiation as one of the fundamental pillars of Catholic
belief. Then metaphysics--all the weapons of Scholasticism--were called
into the service of superstition to establish what is most mythical in
the creed of the Church, and which implied a perpetual miracle, since at
the moment of consecration the substance of the bread was taken away and
the substance of Christ's body took its place. From his chair of
theology at Oxford, in 1381, Wyclif attacked what Lanfranc and Anselm
and the doctors of the Church had uniformly and strenuously defended.
His views of the eucharist were substantially those which Archbishop
Berengar had advanced three hundred years before, and of course drew
down upon him the censure of the Church. In his peril he appealed, not
to the Pope or the clergy, but to the King himself,--a measure of
renewed audacity, for in those days no layman, however exalted, had
authority in matters purely ecclesiastical. His boldness was too much
even for the powerful Duke of Lancaster, his friend and patron, who
forbade him to speak further on such a matter. He might attack the
mendicant and itinerant friars who had forgotten their duties and their
vows, but not the great mysteries of the Catholic faith. "When he
questioned the priestly power of absolution and the Pope's authority in
purgatory, when he struck at indulgences and special masses, he had on
his side the spiritual instincts of the people;" but when he impugned
the dignity of the central act of Christian worship and the highest
expression of mystical devotion, it appeared to ordinary minds that he
was denying all that is sacred, impressive, and authoritative in the
sacrament itself,--and he gave offence to many devout minds, who had
approved his attacks on the monks and the various corruptions of the
Church. Even the Parliament pressed the Archbishop to make an end of
such a heresy; and Courtenay, who hated Wyclif, needed not to be urged.
So a council was assembled at the Dominican Convent at Blackfriars,
where the "Times" office now stands, and unanimously condemned not only
the opinions of Wyclif as to the eucharist, but also those in reference
to the power of excommunication, and the uselessness of the religious
orders. Yet he himself was allowed to escape; and the condemnation had
no other effect than to drive him from Oxford to his rectory at
Lutterworth, where until his death he occupied himself in literary and
controversial writings. His illness soon afterwards prevented him from
obeying the summons of the Pope to Rome, where he would doubtless have
suffered as a martyr. In 1384 he was struck with paralysis, and died in
three days after the attack, at the age of sixty,--though some say in
his sixty-fourth year,--probably, in spite of ecclesiastical censure,
the most revered man of his day, as well as one of the ablest and most
learned. Not from the ranks of fanatics or illiterate popular orators
did the Reformation come in any country, but from the greatest scholars
and theologians.

This grand old man, the illustrious pioneer of reform in England, and
indeed on the Continent, did not live to threescore years and ten, but,
being worn out with his exhaustive labors, he died peaceably and
unmolested in his retired parish. Not much is known of the details of
his personal history, any more than of Shakspeare's. We know nothing of
his loves and hatreds, of his habits and tastes, of his temper and
person, of his friends and enemies. He stands out to the eye of
posterity in solitary and mysterious loneliness. Tradition speaks of him
as a successful, benignant, and charitable parish priest, giving
consolation to the afflicted and to the sick. He lived in
honor,--professor of theology at Oxford, holding a prebendal stall and a
parochial rectory, perhaps a seat in Parliament, and was employed by the
Crown as an ambassador to Bruges. He was statesman as well as
theologian, and lived among the great,--more as a learned doctor than as
a saint, which he was not from the Catholic standpoint. "He was the
scourge of imposture, the ponderous hammer which smote the brazen
idolatry of his age." He labored to expose the vices that had taken
shelter in the sanctuary of the Church,--a reformer of ecclesiastical
abuses rather than of the lax morals of the laity, and hence did
different work from that of Savonarola, whose life was spent in a
crusade against sin, wherever it was to be found. His labors were great,
and his attainments remarkable for his age. He is accused of being
coarse in his invectives; but that charge can also be laid to Luther and
other reformers in rough and outspoken times. Considering the power of
the Pope in the fourteenth century, Wyclif was as bold and courageous as
Luther. The weakness of the papacy had not been exposed by the Councils
of Pisa, of Constance, and of Basil; nor was popular indignation in view
of the sale of indulgences as great in England as when the Dominican
Tetzel peddled the papal pardons in Germany. In combating the received
ideas of the age, Wyclif was even more remarkable than the Saxon
reformer, who was never fully emancipated from the Mediaeval doctrine of
transubstantiation; although Luther went beyond Wyclif in the
completeness of his reform. Wyclif was beyond his age; Luther was the
impersonation of its passions. Wyclif represented universities and
learned men; Luther was the oracle of the people. The former was the
Mediaeval doctor; the latter was the popular orator and preacher. The
one was mild and moderate in his spirit and manners; the other was
vehement, dogmatic, and often offensive, not only from his more violent
and passionate nature, but for his bitter and ironical sallies. It is
the manner more than the matter which offends. Had Wyclif been as
satirical and boisterous as Luther was, he would not probably have ended
his days in peace, and would not have accomplished so much as a
preparation for reforms.

It was the peculiarity of Wyclif to recognize occasional merits in the
system he denounced, even when his language was most vehement. He
admitted that confession did much good to some persons, although as a
universal practice, as enjoined by Innocent III., it was an evil and
harmed the Church. In regard to the worship of images, while he
denounced the waste of treasure on "dead stocks," he admitted that
images might be used as aids to excite devotion; but if miraculous
powers were attributed to them, it was an evil rather than a good. And
as to the adoration of the saints, he simply maintained that since gifts
can be obtained only through the mediation of Christ, it would be better
to pray to him directly rather than through the mediation of saints.

In regard to the Mendicant friars, it does not appear that his vehement
opposition to them was based on their vows of poverty or on the spirit
which entered into monasticism in its best ages, but because they were
untrue to their rule, because they were vendors of pardons, and
absolved men of sins which they were ashamed to confess to their own
pastors, and especially because they encouraged the belief that a
benefaction to a convent would take the place of piety in the heart. It
was the abuses of the system, rather than the system itself, which made
him so wrathful on the "vagrant friars preaching their catchpenny
sermons." And so of other abuses of the Church: he did not defy the Pope
or deny his authority until it was plain that he sought to usurp the
prerogatives of kings and secular rulers, and bring both the clergy and
laity under his spiritual yoke. It was not as the first and chief of
bishops--the head of the visible Church--that Wyclif attacked the Pope,
but as a usurper and a tyrant, grasping powers which were not conferred
by the early Church, and which did not culminate until Innocent III. had
instituted the Mendicant orders, and enforced persecution for religious
opinions by the terrors of the Inquisition. The wealth of the Church was
a sore evil in his eyes, since it diverted the clergy from their
spiritual duties, and was the cause of innumerable scandals, and was
closely connected with simony and the accumulation of benefices in the
hands of a single priest.

So it was indignation in view of the corruptions of the Church and
vehement attacks upon them which characterized Wyclif, rather than
efforts to remove their causes, as was the case with Luther. He was not
a radical reformer; he only prepared the way for radical reform, by his
translation of the Scriptures into a language the people could read,
more than by any attacks on the monks or papal usurpations or
indulgences for sin. He was the type of a meditative scholar and
theologian, thin and worn, without much charm of conversation except to
men of rank, or great animal vivacity such as delights the people. Nor
was he a religious genius, like Thomas à Kempis, Anselm, and Pascal. He
had no remarkable insight into spiritual things; his intellectual and
moral nature preponderated over the emotional, so that he was charged
with intellectual pride and desire for distinction. Yet no one disputed
the blamelessness of his life and the elevation of his character.

If Wyclif escaped the wrath and vengeance of Rome because of his high
rank as a theological doctor, his connection with the University of
Oxford, opposed to itinerating beggars with great pretensions and greedy
ends, and his friendship and intercourse with the rulers of the land,
his followers did not. They became very numerous, and were variously
called Lollards, Wyclifites, and Biblemen. They kept alive evangelical
religion until the time of Cranmer and Latimer, their distinguishing
doctrine being that the Scriptures are the only rule of faith. There was
no persecution of them of any account during the reign of Richard
II.,--although he was a hateful tyrant,--probably owing to the
influence of his wife, a Bohemian princess, who read Wyclif's Bible;
but under Henry IV. evil days fell upon them, and persecution was
intensified under Henry V. (1413-1422) because of their supposed
rebellion. The Lollards under Archbishop Chicheley, as early as 1416,
were hunted down and burned as heretics. The severest inquisition was
instituted to hunt up those who were even suspected of heresy, and every
parish was the scene of cruelties. I need not here enumerate the victims
of persecution, continued with remorseless severity during the whole
reign of Henry VII. But it was impossible to suppress the opinions of
the reformers, or to prevent the circulation of the Scriptures. The
blood of martyrs was the seed of the Church. Persecution in this
instance was not successful, since there was a noble material in
England, as in Germany, for Christianity to work upon. It was in humble
homes, among the yeomanry and the artisans, that evangelical truth took
the deepest hold, as in primitive times, and produced the fervent
Christians of succeeding centuries, such as no other country has
produced. In no country was the Reformation, as established by Edward
VI. and Elizabeth, so complete and so permanent, unless Scotland and
Switzerland be excepted. The glory of this radical reform must be
ascribed to the humble and persecuted followers of Wyclif,--who proved
themselves martyrs and witnesses, faithful unto death,--more than to
any of the great lights which adorned the most brilliant period of
English history.


The Works of Wyclif, as edited by F.D. Matthew; The Life and Sufferings
of Wicklif, by I. Lewis (Oxford, 1820); Life of Wiclif, by Charles Wehle
Le Bas (1846); John de Wycliffe, a Monograph, by Robert Vaughan, D.D.
(London, 1853); Turner's History of England should be compared with
Lingard. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History; Neander's Church History;
Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography; Gieseler, Milner, and general
historians of the Church; Geikie's English Reformation. A German Life of
Wyclif, by Dr. Lechler, is often quoted by Matthew, and has been
fortunately translated into English. There is also a slight notice of
Wyclif by Fisher, in his History of the Reformation.

The name of the English reformer is spelled differently by different
historians,--as Wiclif, Wyclif, Wycliffe, Wyckliffe; but I have selected
the latest authority upon the subject, F.D. Matthew.

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