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´╗┐Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 3 part 1: The Middle Ages
Author: Lord, John
Language: English
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                which is titled Beacon Lights of History, Volume V:
                The Middle Ages.  See E-Book#10531,
                The numbering of volumes in the earlier set reflected
                the order in which the lectures were given.  In the
                later version, volumes were numbered to put the subjects
                in historical sequence.

Beacon Lights of History

by John Lord, LL.D.

Volume III.

Part I--The Middle Ages.




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 Rome
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 Bee
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 Abelard
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


A. D. 570-632.


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.

* Spelled also Mahomet, Mahommed; but I prefer Mohammed.

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

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, Ayesha, 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 Loyala 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 Rhamadan,
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 early missionaries did the same thing in China and
Japan, thinking more of the number of their converts than of the
truth itself.  Expediency--the utterly fallacious 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.  So the earlier
missionaries, disregarding their vows, made the cause to which they
were consecrated subservient to their personal gain.  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 he not a traitor to his God, his Church, and his
fellowmen?  "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the
throne."  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 seductive 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 Ayesha 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

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 super-natural,
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


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 Sararens;
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.  Fredegunde 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
good churchmen, 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 was secured 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.
Ignorance 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 it was governed by men who shrank
from the world.  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 battlefield 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

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 hands, 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 any thing more sincere than
religious bigotry.  And where 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

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 firmly established the Papacy by emphasizing 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 kindness itself 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 quarrelled only among
themselves.  They were human, and not wholly free from human
frailties; 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 their natural 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

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 Bruyere, Histoire du
Regne 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, Biographie 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 is
tempted to deny.

And yet what crimes and abominations have not been committed in the
name of the Church?  If we go back and accept the history of the
darker ages, 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 intrigues and tortures, all vigorously carried on
under the cloak of Religion--barbarities worse than those of
savages, inflicted at the command of the ministers of a gospel of

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 unhesitatingly 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 Abelard 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
ambitions 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 Christendom.

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 worldly or
devoted to temporal things.  They had not the piety of the fourth
century, nor the intelligence of the sixteenth century; they were
powerful and wealthy, but had grown 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 other vices, the vices of robbers
and bandits.  But still the clergy had fallen far from the high
standard of earlier ages.  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 apostles."

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 own 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 unhesitating 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

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 eeclesiastical 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 colossal claim, of this ingenious
principle, on which the monarchical power of the Papacy rests.  It
is the great fact 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

I need not trace all the steps of that memorable contest, or
describe the details, from the time that 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 Pope?  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 accepted 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 Mosasticon; 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 Gregoire
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. Dollinger'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

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

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, unquestionably false, that
influenced 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

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
rightly held 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.  This 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 regular 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 Benedictines, idle and worldly 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 religious 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 held to
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, Berenger, 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

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 Abelard, 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
Abelard 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

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

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 well-
trained, austere, and obedient member of the fraternity, whose
spirit is dominated by its superiors in all activities.  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; Helyot's
Histoire des Ordres Monastiques; Dugdale's Monasticon; Doring'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 do 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 inquiries.

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 Berenger, 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 Angustinian
school; not a dialectician like Albertus Magnus and Abelard, but a
man who went beyond words to things, and seized on realities rather
than forms; not given to disputatious 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

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 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 l0,000 pounds,--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 Anslem 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

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
Abelard 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 have
nothing to fear from the clergy.

These oral declarations were contrary to the Pope's written
documents, and this contradiction 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 Abelard 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

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 Hinemar,
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.  Hinemar, 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 Hinemar, or
his acquaintance with Hinemar may have led to his friendship with
Charles.  He was witty, bright, and learned, like Abelard, a
favorite with the great.  In his treatise on Predestination, in
which he combated the views of Gottschalk, he probably went further
than Hinemar 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 Abelard 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, probably on that account, took 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.  Unless in the Irish monastic
schools, 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 Abelard; 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 Philosophie 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 Abelard,
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 Abelard 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.  Abelard then applied himself to the study
of divinity, and attended the lectures of Anselm of Laon, who,
though an old man, was treated by Abelard with great flippancy and
arrogance.  He then began to lee-tare on divinity as well as
philosophy, with extraordinary eclat.  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 Heloise,--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 or which he denied.

Abelard 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 Abelard'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 Abelard, 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

But whatever were the faults of Abelard; however selfish he was in
his treatment of Heloise, 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 Abelard 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 Abelard, 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 Abelard 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 Genevieve, where Abelard 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 quiet old
schools of the convents were deserted, for who would go to Fulda or
York or Citeaux, when such men as Abelard, 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 eclat.  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

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
Abelard 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 Abelard, which was further
intensified by the Scholastic doctors of the thirteenth century,
especially such of them as belonged to the Dominican and Franciscan

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 monastic orders had degenerated and lost influence through
idleness and self-indulgence, while the secular clergy were
scarcely any better.  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 made auricular confession obligatory,
thus laying the foundation of an imperious spiritual sway in the
form of inquisitions.

A firm guardian of public morals, 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 arch-bishopric of Canterbury to
one of his cardinals, Stephen Langton, against the wishes of a
Norman king.  He made Philip II take back his lawful wife; 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 Ghibellines.

To cement his vast spiritual power and to add to the usefulness and
glory of the Church, he not only countenanced but encouraged 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 guarded 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
Angustine,--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

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

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 Aristotle.

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

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 repellent, 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


Dr. Vaughan's Life of Thomas Aquinas; Histoire de la Vie et des
Ecrits de St. Thomas d'Aquin, par l'Abbe 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; Biographie 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 spiritual power independent of the temporal.  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

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

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 headstrong 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 interference.

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

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,--an able, 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 Papal authority 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 was not one to dissemble, but 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.  In this he was contending for justice and he
defended 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 no doubt 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 so fatal to his position.
"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 English 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

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

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 Arch deacon 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 sheep-fold 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 clergy
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

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, the nobility
as well as the common people.  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 defiant 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 en-thrones
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 a 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 extinction.

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 held 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

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 fetes 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

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 impossible.

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

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

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 corn-fields 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 held sway 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 Provencal 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 glorification 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 hard-hearted 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 Francais; 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
Provencal Poetry; Froissart's Chronicles; also the general English
histories of the reign of Edward III.  Don Quixote should be 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 unsatisfactory.

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 he 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 his
influence.  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 croise--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 mouths.  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 Palestine.

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

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

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 peasantry.

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 philosophy.

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 disappointments.


Michaud's Histoire des Croisades; Mailly's L'Esprit des Croisades;
Choiseul; Daillecourt's De l'influence des Croisades; Sur l'Etat
des Peuples en Europe; Heeren's Ueber den Einfluss der Kreuzzuge;
Sporschill's Geschichte der Kreuzzuge; 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

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

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, and the
Church, with its growing revenues and structures, became a new

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 facade; 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 facade, 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 workmanship.

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 all the brothers dine.  "Meals were in
common, work was in common, prayer was in common"--a real community

The whole range of these sacred 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
solemn, serious,--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 complete obedience 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 richness, is still heavy,
dark, impressive, 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 Provencals began to sing; the universities began to teach and
to question.  The Scholastic philosophy sent forth such daring
thinkers as Erigena and Abelard.  Orthodoxy was still supreme
before such mighty intellects as Anselm, Bernard, and Thomas
Aquinas, but it was assailed.  Abelard 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; the spiritual despotism was less potent.  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

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 facade,
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 facade 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 long unfinished,--with its central aisle forty-four
feet in width, rising one hundred and forty feet into the air, with
its colossal towers, grandly supporting the lofty 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,--projected,
designed, and built 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 Revolution.

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

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

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

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 Wycif, 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, and coming down to us with the weight of centuries
behind it the Papacy wields perhaps a greater influence than any
other single institution of our times.  But I would not defend the
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. for Church missionary
labor.  These itinerating preachers in black-and-gray gowns were in
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 religions 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.

Naturally, Catholic authorities do not admit the extent of
degeneration to which these Orders came in their increasing numbers
and influence.  But other historians strongly represent their evil
conduct, which incited the efforts of the early reformers--
themselves Catholic.  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 many historians of
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 Grostete 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 ceremonies,
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 measures
increased amazingly the power of the clergy over the minds of
superstitious people, and led to still more flagrant evils, like
the perversion of the doctrine of penance, originally enforced to
aid the soul to overcome the tyranny of the body, by temporal
punishment after repentance, but later often 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 firmly protested against
the corruptions which good men lamented; and strove against
doctrines that he regarded as untruthful and pernicious.  Such 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 text].  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
Abelard 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

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, a tribute which they thought should be canceled.  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 powerful 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 impeccability
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 anti-christian claims of the popes were fearlessly
exposed and commented upon.  In fact, he now openly denounces the
Pope as Antichrist, from his pulpit at Luttenworth, 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 had sunk far below the levels of their calling
in purer ages and such as neither popular nor churchly standards of
intelligent times would tolerate.

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

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

The authorities of those days would have destroyed, if they could,
every copy of the version Wyclif made.  But the precious
manuscripts were secreted and secretly studied, and both from the
novelty and the keen interest they excited they were unquestionably
a powerful factor in the religious unrest of those times.
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,--L2, 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 amid 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 the real 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 or "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 a 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

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.  These 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.

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