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A Short History of Monks and Monasteries by Alfred Wesley Wishart

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attention to dress Paula said, "A clean body and a clean dress mean an
unclean soul." To her credit, she was more lenient with others than with
herself. Jerome admits she went to excess, and prudently observes:
"Difficult as it is to avoid extremes, the philosophers are quite right
in their opinion that virtue is a mean and vice an excess, or, as we may
express it in one short sentence, in nothing too much." Paula swept
floors and toiled in the kitchen. She slept on the ground, covered by a
mat of goat's hair. Her weeping was incessant. As she meditated over the
Scriptures, her tears fell so profusely that her sight was endangered.
Jerome warned her to spare her eyes, but she said: "I must disfigure
that face which, contrary to God's commandment, I have painted with
rouge, white lead and antimony." If this be a sin against the Almighty,
bear witness, O ye daughters of Eve! Her love for the poor continued to
be the motive of her great liberality. In fact, her giving knew no
bounds. Fuller wisely remarks that "liberality must have banks as well
as a stream;" but Paula said: "My prayer is that I may die a beggar,
leaving not a penny to my daughter and indebted to strangers for my
winding sheet." Her petition was literally granted, for she died leaving
her daughter not only without a penny but overwhelmed in a mass
of debts.

As Jerome approaches the description of Paula's death, he says:
"Hitherto the wind has all been in my favor and my keel has smoothly
ploughed through the heaving sea. But now my bark is running upon the
rocks, the billows are mountain high, and imminent shipwreck awaits me."
Yet Paula, like David, must go the way of all the earth. Surrounded by
her followers chanting psalms, she breathed her last. An immense
concourse of people attended her funeral. Not a single monk lingered in
his cell. Thus, the twenty hard years of self-torture for this Roman
lady of culture ended in the rest of the grave.

Upon her tombstone was placed this significant inscription:

"Within this tomb a child of Scipio lies,
A daughter of the far-famed Pauline house,
A scion of the Gracchi, of the stock
Of Agamemnon's self, illustrious:
Here rests the lady Paula, well beloved
Of both her parents, with Eustochium
For daughter; she the first of Roman dames
Who hardship chose and Bethlehem for Christ."

Another interesting character of that period was Marcella, a beautiful
woman of illustrious lineage, a descendant of consuls and prefects.
After a married life of seven years her husband died. She determined not
to embark on the matrimonial seas a second time, but to devote herself
to works of charity. Cerealis, an old man, but of consular rank, offered
her his fortune that he might consider her less his wife than his
daughter. "Had I a wish to marry," was her noble reply, "I should look
for a husband and not for an inheritance." Disdaining all enticements to
remain in society, she began her monastic career with joy and turned
her home into a retreat for women who, like herself, wished to retire
from the world. It is not known just what rules governed their
relations, but they employed the time in moderate fasting, prayers and

Marcella lavished her wealth upon the poor. Jerome praises her
philanthropic labors thus: "Our widow's clothing was meant to keep out
the cold and not to show her figure. She stored her money in the
stomachs of the poor rather than to keep it at her own disposal." Seldom
seen upon the streets, she remained at home, surrounded by virgins and
widows, obedient and loving to her mother. Among the high-born women it
was regarded as degrading to assume the costume of the nun, but she bore
the scorn of her social equals with humility and grace.

This quiet and useful life was rudely and abruptly ended by a dreadful
catastrophe. Alaric the Goth had seized and sacked Rome. The world stood
aghast. The sad news reached Jerome in his cell at Bethlehem, who
expressed his sorrow in forceful language: "My voice sticks in my
throat; and as I dictate, sobs choke my utterance. The city which has
taken the whole world is itself taken." Rude barbarians invaded the
sanctity of Marcella's retreat. They demanded her gold, but she pointed
to the coarse dress she wore to show them she had no buried treasures.
They did not believe her, and cruelly beat her with cudgels. A few days
after the saintly heroine of righteousness went to her long home to
enjoy richly-merited rest and peace.

"Who can describe the carnage of that night?
What tears are equal to its agony?
Of ancient date a sovran city falls;
And lifeless in its streets and houses lie
Unnumbered bodies of its citizens.
In many a ghastly shape doth death appear."

Marcella and her monastic home fell in the general ruin, but in the
words of Horace, she left "a monument more enduring than brass." Her
noble life, so full of kind words and loving deeds, still stirs the
hearts of her sisters who, while they may reject her ascetic ideal,
will, nevertheless, try to emulate her noble spirit. As Jerome said of
Paula: "By shunning glory she earned glory; for glory follows virtue as
its shadow; and deserting those who seek it, it seeks those who
despise it."

Still another woman claims our attention,--Fabiola, the founder of the
first hospital. Lecky declares that "the first public hospital and the
charity planted by that woman's hand overspread the world, and will
alleviate to the end of time the darkest anguish of humanity." She, too,
was a widow who refused to marry again, but broke up her home, sold her
possessions, and with the proceeds founded a hospital into which were
gathered the sick from the streets. She nursed the sufferers and washed
their ulcers and wounds. No task was beneath her, no sacrifice of
personal comfort too great for her love. Many helped her with their
gold, but she gave herself. She also aided in establishing a home for
strangers at Portus, which became one of the most famous inns of the
time. Travelers from all parts of the world found a welcome and a
shelter on landing at this port. When she died the roofs of Rome were
crowded with those who watched the funeral procession. Psalms were
chanted, and the gilded ceilings of the churches resounded to the music
in commendation of her loving life and labors.

These and other characters of like zeal and fortitude exemplify the
spirit of the men and women who interested the West in monasticism. Much
as their errors and extravagances may be deplored, there is no question
that some of them were types of the loftiest Christian virtues, inspired
by the most laudable motives.

Noble and true are Kingsley's words: "We may blame those ladies, if we
will, for neglecting their duties. We may sneer, if we will, at their
weaknesses, the aristocratic pride, the spiritual vanity, we fancy we
discover. We must confess that in these women the spirit of the old
Roman matrons, which seemed to have been dead so long, flashed up for
one splendid moment ere it sank into the darkness of the middle ages."

_Monasticism and Women_

The origin of nunneries was coeval with that of monasteries, and the
history of female recluses runs parallel to that of the men. Almost
every male order had its counterpart in some sort of a sisterhood. The
general moral character of these female associations was higher than
that of the male organizations. I have confined my treatment in this
work to the monks, but a few words may be said at this point concerning
female ascetics.

Hermit life was unsuited to women, but we know that at a very early date
many of them retired to the seclusion of convent life. It will be
recalled that in the biography of St. Anthony, before going into the
desert he placed his sister in the care of some virgins who were living
a life of abstinence, apart from society. It is very doubtful if any
uniform rule governed these first religious houses, or if definitely
organized societies appear much before the time of Benedict. The
variations in the monastic order among the men were accompanied by
similar changes in the associations of women.

The history of these sisterhoods discloses three interesting and
noteworthy facts that merit brief mention:

First, the effect of a corrupt society upon women. As in the case of
men, women were moved to forsake their social duties because they were
weary of the sensual and aimless life of Rome. Those were the days of
elaborate toilettes, painted faces and blackened eyelids, of intrigues
and foolish babbling. Venial faults--it may be thought--innocent
displays of tender frailty; but woman's nature demands loftier
employments. A great soul craves occupations and recognizes obligations
more in harmony with the true nobility of human nature. Rome had no
monitor of the higher life until the monks came with their stories of
heroic self-abnegation and unselfish toil. The women felt the force and
truth of Jerome's criticism of their trifling follies when he said: "Do
not seek to appear over-eloquent, nor trifle with verse, nor make
yourself gay with lyric songs. And do not, out of affectation, follow
the sickly taste of married ladies, who now pressing their teeth
together, now keeping their lips wide apart, speak with a lisp, and
purposely clip their words, because they fancy that to pronounce them
naturally is a mark of country breeding."

Professor Dill is inclined to discount the testimony of Jerome
respecting the morals of Roman society. He thinks Jerome exaggerated the
perils surrounding women. He says: "The truth is Jerome is not only a
monk but an artist in words; and his horror of evil, his vivid
imagination, and his passion for literary effect, occasionally carry him
beyond the region of sober fact. There was much to amend in the morals
of the Roman world. But we must not take the leader of a great moral
reformation as a cool and dispassionate observer." But this observation
amounts to nothing more than a cautionary word against mistaking evils
common to all times for special symptoms of excessive immorality.
Professor Dill practically concedes the truthfulness of contemporary
witnesses, including Jerome, when he says: "Yet, after all allowances,
the picture is not a pleasant one. We feel that we are far away from the
simple, unworldly devotion of the freedmen and obscure toilers whose
existence was hardly known to the great world before the age of the
Antonines, and who lived in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and in
constant expectation of the coming of their Lord. The triumphant Church,
which has brought Paganism to its knees, is very different from the
Church of the catacombs and the persecutions." The picture which Jerome
draws of the Roman women is indeed repulsive, and Professor Dill would
gladly believe it to be exaggerated, but, nevertheless, he thinks that
"if the priesthood, with its enormous influence, was so corrupt, it is
only probable that it debased the sex which is always most under
clerical influence."

But far graver charges cling to the memories of the Roman women. Crime
darkened every household. The Roman lady was cruel and impure. She
delighted in the blood of gladiators and in illicit love. Roman law at
this time permitted women to hold and to control large estates, and it
became a fad for these patrician ladies to marry poor men, so that they
might have their husbands within their power. All sorts of alliances
could then be formed, and if their husbands remonstrated, they, holding
the purse strings, were able to say: "If you don't like it you can
leave." A profligate himself, the husband usually kept his counsel, and
as a reward, dwelt in a palace. "When the Roman matrons became the equal
and voluntary companions of their lords," says Gibbon, "a new
jurisprudence was introduced, that marriage, like other partnerships,
might be dissolved by the abdication of one of the associates." I have
but touched the fringe of a veil I will not lift; but it is easy to
understand why those women who cherished noble sentiments welcomed the
monastic life as a pathway of escape from scenes and customs from which
their better natures recoiled in horror.

Secondly, the fine quality of mercy that distinguishes woman's character
deserves recognition. Even though she retired to a convent, she could
not become so forgetful of her fellow creatures as her male companions.
From the very beginning we observe that she was more unselfish in her
asceticism than they. It is true the monk forsook all, and to that
extent was self-sacrificing, but in his desire for his own salvation, he
was prone to neglect every one else. The monk's ministrations were too
often confined to those who came to him, but the nun went forth to heal
the diseased and to bind up the broken-hearted. As soon as she embraced
the monastic life we read of hospitals. The desire for salvation drove
man into the desert; a Christ-like mercy and divine sympathy kept his
sister by the couch of pain.

Lastly, a word remains to be said touching the question of marriage. At
first, the nun sometimes entered the marriage state, and, of course,
left the convent; but, beginning with Basil, this practice was
condemned, and irrevocable vows were exacted. In 407, Innocent I. closed
even the door of penitence and forgiveness to those who broke their vows
and married.

Widows and virgins alike assumed the veil. Marriage itself was not
despised, because the monastic life was only for those who sought a
higher type of piety than, it was supposed, could be attained amid the
ordinary conditions of life. But marriage, as well as other so-called
secular relations, was eschewed by those who wished to make their
salvation sure. Jerome says: "I praise wedlock, I praise marriage, but
it is because they give me virgins; I gather the rose from the thorns,
the gold from the earth, the pearl from the shell." He therefore
tolerated marriage among people contented with ordinary religious
attainments, but he thought it incompatible with true holiness.
Augustine admitted that the mother and her daughter may be both in
heaven, but one a bright and the other a dim star. Some writers, as
Helvidius, opposed this view and maintained that there was no special
virtue in an unmarried life; that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also
the mother of other children, and as such was an example of Christian
virtue. Jerome brought out his guns and poured hot shot into the
enemies' camp. In the course of his answer, which contained many
intolerant and acrimonious statements, he drew a comparison between the
married and the unmarried state. It is interesting because it reflects
the opinions of those who disparaged marriage, and reveals the character
of the principles which the early Fathers advocated. It is very evident
from this letter against Helvidius that Jerome regarded all secular
duties as interfering with the pursuit of the highest virtue.

"Do you think," he says, "there is no difference between one who spends
her time in prayer and fasting, and one who must, at her husband's
approach, make up her countenance, walk with a mincing gait, and feign a
show of endearment? The virgin aims to appear less comely; she will
wrong herself so as to hide her natural attractions. The married woman
has the paint laid on before her mirror, and, to the insult of her
Maker, strives to acquire something more than her natural beauty. Then
come the prattling of infants, the noisy household, children watching
for her word and waiting for her kiss, the reckoning up of expenses, the
preparation to meet the outlay. On one side you will see a company of
cooks, girded for the onslaught and attacking the meat; there you may
hear the hum of a multitude of weavers. Meanwhile a message is delivered
that her husband and his friends have arrived. The wife, like a swallow,
flies all over the house. She has to see to everything. Is the sofa
smooth? Is the pavement swept? Are the flowers in the cup? Is dinner
ready? Tell me, pray, amid all this, is there room for the thought
of God?"

Such was Roman married life as it appeared to Jerome. The very duties
and blessings that we consider the glory of the family he despised. I
will return to his views later, but it is interesting to note the
absence at this period, of the modern and true idea that God may be
served in the performance of household and other secular duties. Women
fled from such occupations in those days that they might be religious.
The disagreeable fact of Peter's marriage was overcome by the assertion
that he must have washed away the stain of his married life by the blood
of his martyrdom. Such extreme views arose partly as a reaction from and
a protest against the dominant corruption, a state of affairs in which
happy and holy marriages were rare.

_The Spread of Monasticism in Europe_

Much more might be said of monastic life in Rome, were it not now
necessary to treat of the spread of monasticism in Europe. There are
many noble characters whom we ought to know, such as Ambrose, one of
Christendom's greatest bishops, who led a life of poverty and strict
abstinence, like his sister Marcella, whom we have met. He it was, of
whom the Emperor Theodosius said: "I have met a man who has told me the
truth." Well might he so declare, for Ambrose refused him admission to
the church at Milan, because his hands were red with the blood of the
murdered, and succeeded in persuading him to submit to discipline. To
Ambrose may be applied the words which Gibbon wrote of Gregory
Nazianzen: "The title of Saint has been added to his name, but the
tenderness of his heart and the elegance of his genius reflect a more
pleasing luster on his memory."

The story of John, surnamed Chrysostom, who was born at Antioch, in 347,
is exceedingly interesting. He was a young lawyer, who entered the
priesthood after his baptism. He at once set his heart on the monastic
life, but his mother took him to her chamber, and, by the bed where she
had given him birth, besought him in fear, not to forsake her. "My son,"
she said in substance, "my only comfort in the midst of the miseries of
this earthly life is to see thee constantly, and to behold in thy traits
the faithful image of my beloved husband, who is no more. When you have
buried me and joined my ashes with those of your father, nothing will
then prevent you from retiring into the monastic life. But so long as I
breathe, support me by your presence, and do not draw down upon you the
wrath of God by bringing such evils upon me who have given you no
offence." This singularly tender petition was granted, but Chrysostom
turned his home into a monastery, slept on the bare floor, ate little
and seldom, and prayed much by day and by night.

After his mother's death Chrysostom enjoyed the seclusion of a monastic
solitude for six years, but impairing his health by excessive
self-mortification he returned to Antioch in 380. He rapidly rose to a
position of commanding influence in the church. His peerless oratorical
and literary gifts were employed in elevating the ascetic ideal and in
unsparing denunciations of the worldly religion of the imperial court.
He incurred the furious hatred of the young and beautiful Empress
Eudoxia, who united her influence with that of the ambitious Theophilus,
patriarch of Alexandria, and Chrysostom was banished from
Constantinople, but died on his way to the remote desert of Pityus. His
powerful sermons and valuable writings contributed in no small degree to
the spread of monasticism among the Christians of his time.

Then there was Augustine, the greatest thinker since Plato. "We shall
meet him," says Schaff, "alike on the broad highways and the narrow
foot-paths, on the giddy Alpine heights and in the awful depths of
speculation, wherever philosophical thinkers before him or after him
have trod." He, too, like all the other leaders of thought in his time,
was ascetic in his habits. Although he lived and labored for
thirty-eight years at Hippo, a Numidian city about two hundred miles
west of Carthage, in Africa, Augustine was regarded as the intellectual
head not only of North Africa but of Western Christianity. He gathered
his clergy into a college of priests, with a community of goods, thus
approaching as closely to the regular monastic life as was possible to
secular clergymen. He established religious houses and wrote a set of
rules, consisting of twenty-four articles, for the government of
monasteries. These rules were superseded by those of Benedict, but they
were resuscitated under Charlemagne and reappeared in the famous Austin
Canons of the eleventh century. Little did Augustine think that a
thousand years later an Augustinian monk--Luther--would abandon his
order to become the founder of modern Protestantism.

Augustine published a celebrated essay,--"On the Labor of Monks,"--in
which he pointed out the dangers of monachism, condemned its abuses, and
ended by sighing for the quiet life of the monk who divided his day
between labor, reading and prayer, whilst he himself spent his years
amid the noisy throng and the perplexities of his episcopate.

These men, and many others, did much to further monasticism. But we must
now leave sunny Africa and journey northward through Gaul into the land
of the hardy Britons and Scots.

Athanasius, the same weary exile whom we have encountered in Egypt and
in Rome, had been banished by Constantine to Treves, in 336. In 346 and
349 he again visited Gaul. He told the same story of Anthony and the
Egyptian hermits with similar results.

The most renowned ecclesiastic of the Gallican church, whose name is
most intimately associated with the spread of monasticism in Western
Europe, before the days of Benedict, was Saint Martin of Tours. He lived
about the years 316-396 A.D. The chronicle of his life is by no means
trustworthy, but that is essential neither to popularity nor saintship.
Only let a Severus describe his life and miracles in glowing rhetoric
and fantastic legend and the people will believe it, pronouncing him
greatest among the great, the mightiest miracle-worker of that
miracle-working age.

Martin was a soldier three years, against his will, under Constantine.
One bleak winter day he cut his white military coat in two with his
sword and clothed a beggar with half of it. That night he heard Jesus
address the angels: "Martin, as yet only a catechumen has clothed me
with his garment." After leaving the army he became a hermit, and,
subsequently, bishop of Tours. He lived for years just outside of Tours
in a cell made of interlaced branches. His monks dwelt around him in
caves cut out of scarped rocks, overlooking a beautiful stream. They
were clad in camel's hair and lived on a diet of brown bread, sleeping
on a straw couch.

But Martin's monks did not take altogether kindly to their mode of life.
Severus records an amusing story of their rebellion against the meager
allowance of food. The Egyptian could exist on a few figs a day. But
these rude Gauls, just emerging out of barbarism, were accustomed to
devour great slices of roasted meat and to drink deep draughts of beer.
Such sturdy children of the northern forests naturally disdained dainty
morsels of barley bread and small potations of wine. True, Athanasius
had said, "Fasting is the food of angels," but these ascetic novices, in
their perplexity, could only say: "We are accused of gluttony; but we
are Gauls; it is ridiculous and cruel to make us live like angels; we
are not angels; once more, we are only Gauls." Their complaint comes
down to us as a pathetic but humorous protest of common sense against
ascetic fanaticism; or, regarded in another light, it may be considered
as additional evidence of the depravity of the natural man.

In spite of all complaints, however, Martin did not abate the severity
of his discipline. As a bishop he pushed his monastic system into all
the surrounding country. His zeal knew no bounds, and his strength
seemed inexhaustible. "No one ever saw him either gloomy or merry,"
remarks his biographer. Amid many embarrassments and difficulties he was
ever the same, with a countenance full of heavenly serenity. He was a
great miracle-worker--that is, if everything recorded of him is true. He
cast out demons, and healed the sick; he had strange visions of angels
and demons, and, wonderful to relate, thrice he raised bodies from
the dead.

But all conquerors are at last vanquished by the angel of death, and
Martin passed into the company of the heavenly host and the category of
saints. Two thousand monks attended his funeral. His fame spread all
over Europe. Tradition tells us he was the uncle of Saint Patrick of
Ireland. Churches were dedicated to him in France, Germany, Scotland and
England. The festival of his birth is celebrated on the eleventh of
November. In Scotland this day still marks the winter term, which is
called Martinmas. Saint Martin's shrine was one of the most famous of
the middle ages, and was noted for its wonderful cures. No saint is
held, even now, in higher veneration by the French Catholic.

It is not known when the institution was planted in Spain, but in 380
the council of Saragossa forbade priests to assume monkish habits.
Germany received the institution some time in the fifth century. The
introduction of Christianity as well as of monasticism into the British
Isles is shrouded in darkness. A few jewels of fact may be gathered from
the legendary rubbish. It is probable that before the days of Benedict,
Saint Patrick, independently of Rome, established monasteries in Ireland
and preached the gospel there; and, without doubt, before the birth of
Benedict of Nursia, there were monks and monasteries in Great Britain.
The monastery of Bangor is said to have been founded about 450 A.D.

It is probable that Christianity was introduced into Britain before the
close of the second century, and that monasticism arose some time in the
fifth century. Tertullian, about the beginning of the third century,
boasts that Christianity had conquered places in Britain where the Roman
arms could not penetrate. Origen claimed that the power of the Savior
was manifest in Britain as well as in Muritania. The earliest notice we
have of a British church occurs in the writings of the Venerable Bede
(673-735 A.D.), a monk whose numerous and valuable works on English
history entitle him to the praise of being "the greatest literary
benefactor this or any other nation has produced." He informs us that a
British king--Lucius--embraced Christianity during the reign of the
Emperor Aurelius, and that missionaries were sent from Rome to Britain
about that time. Lingard says the story is suspicious, since "we know
not from what source Bede, at the distance of five centuries, derived
his information." It seems quite likely that there must have been some
Christians among the Roman soldiers or civil officials who lived in
Britain during the Roman occupation of the country. The whole problem
has been the theme of so much controversy, however, that a fuller
discussion is reserved for the next chapter.

_Disorders and Oppositions_

But was there no protest against the progress of these ascetic
teachings? Did the monastic institution command the unanimous approval
of the church from the outset? There were many and strong outcries
against the monks, but they were quickly silenced by the counter-shouts
of praise. Even when rebellion against the system seemed formidable, it
was popular nevertheless. The lifted hand was quickly struck down, and
voices of opposition suddenly hushed. Like a mighty flood the movement
swept on,--kings, when so inclined, being powerless to stop it. As Paula
was carried fainting from the funeral procession of Blaesilla, her
daughter, whispers such as these were audible in the crowd: "Is not this
what we have often said? She weeps for her daughter, killed with
fasting. How long must we refrain from driving these detestable monks
out of Rome? Why do we not stone them or hurl them into the Tiber? They
have misled this unhappy mother; that she is not a nun from choice is
clear. No heathen mother ever wept for her children as she does for
Blaesilla." And this is Paula, who, choked with grief, refused to weep
when she sailed from her children for the far East!

Unhappily, history is often too dignified to retail the conversations of
the dinner-table and the gossip of private life. But this narrative
indicates that in many a Roman family the monk was feared, despised and
hated. Sometimes everyday murmurs found their way into literature and so
passed to posterity. Rutilius, the Pagan poet, as he sails before a
hermit isle in the Mediterranean, exclaims: "Behold, Capraria rises
before us; that isle is full of wretches, enemies of light. I detest
these rocks scene of a recent shipwreck." He then goes on to declare
that a young and rich friend, impelled by the furies, had fled from men
and gods to a living tomb, and was now decaying in that foul retreat.
This was no uncommon opinion. But contrast it with what Ambrose said of
those same isles: "It is there in these isles, thrown down by God like a
collar of pearls upon the sea, that those who would escape from the
charms of dissipation find refuge. Nothing here disturbs their peace,
all access is closed to the wild passions of the world. The mysterious
sound of waves mingles with the chant of hymns; and, while the waters
break upon the shores of these happy isles with a gentle murmur, the
peaceful accents of the choir of the elect ascend toward Heaven from
their bosom." No wonder the Milanese ladies guarded their daughters
against this theological poet.

Even among the Christians there were hostile as well as friendly critics
of monasticism; Jovinian, whom Neander compares to Luther, is a type of
the former. Although a monk himself, he disputed the thesis that any
merit lay in celibacy, fasting or poverty. He opposed the worship of
saints and relics, and believed that one might retain possession of his
property and make good use of it. He assailed the dissolute monks and
claimed that many of Rome's noblest young men and women were withdrawn
from a life of usefulness into the desert. He held that there was really
but one class of Christians, namely, those who had faith in Christ, and
that a monk could be no more. But Jovinian was far in advance of his
age, and it was many years before the truth of his view gained any
considerable recognition. He was severely attacked by Jerome, who called
him a Christian Epicurean, and was condemned as a heretic by a synod at
Milan, in 390. Thus the reformers were crushed for centuries. The Pagan
Emperor, Julian, and the Christian, Valens, alike tried in vain to
resist the emigration into the desert. Thousands fled, in times of peril
to the state, from their civil and military duties, but the emperors
were powerless to prevent the exodus.

That there were grounds for complaint against the monks we may know from
the charges made even by those who favored the system. Jerome Ambrose,
Augustine, and in fact almost every one of the Fathers tried to correct
the growing disorders. We learn from them that many fled from society,
not to become holy, but to escape slavery and famine; and that many were
lazy and immoral. Their "shaven heads lied to God." Avarice, ambition,
or cowardice ruled hearts that should have been actuated by a love of
poverty, self-sacrifice or courage. "Quite recently," says Jerome, "we
have seen to our sorrow a fortune worthy of Croesus brought to light by
a monk's death, and a city's alms collected for the poor, left by will
to his sons and successors."

Many monks traveled from place to place selling sham relics. Augustine
wrote against "those hypocrites who, in the dress of monks, wander about
the provinces carrying pretended relics, amulets, preservatives, and
expecting alms to feed their lucrative poverty and recompense their
pretended virtue." It is to the credit of the Fathers of the church
that they boldly and earnestly rebuked the vices of the monks and tried
to purge the monastic system of its impurities.

But the church sanctioned the monastic movement. She could not have done
anything else. "It is one of the most striking occurrences in history,"
says Harnack, "that the church, exactly at the time when she was
developing more and more into a legal institution and a sacramental
establishment, outlined a Christian life-ideal which was incapable of
realization within her bounds, but only alongside of her. The more she
affiliated herself with the world, the higher and more superhuman did
she make her ideal."

It is also noteworthy that this "life-ideal" seems to have led,
inevitably, to fanaticism and other excesses, so that even at this early
date there was much occasion for alarm. Gross immorality was disclosed
as well as luminous purity; indolence and laziness as well as the love
of sacrifice and toil. So we shall find it down through the centuries.
"The East had few great men," says Milman, "many madmen; the West,
madmen enough, but still very many, many great men." We have met some
madmen and some great men. We shall meet more of each type.

After 450 A.D., monasticism suffered an eclipse for over half a century.
It seemed as if the Western institution was destined to end in that
imbecility and failure which overtook the Eastern system. But there came
a man who infused new life into the monastic body. He systematized its
scattered principles and concentrated the energies of the wandering and
unorganized monks.

Our next visit will be to the mountain home of this renowned character,
fifty miles to the west of Rome. "A single monk," says Montalembert, "is
about to form there a center of spiritual virtue, and to light it up
with a splendor destined to shine over regenerated Europe for ten
centuries to come."



Saint Benedict, the founder of the famous monastic order that bears his
name, was born at Nursia, about 480 A.D. His parents, who were wealthy,
intended to give him a liberal education; but their plans were defeated,
for at fifteen years of age Benedict renounced his family and fortune,
and fled from his school life in Rome. The vice of the city shocked and
disgusted him. He would rather be ignorant and holy, than educated and
wicked. On his way into the mountains, he met a monk named Romanus,--the
spot is marked by the chapel of Santa Crocella,--who gave him a
haircloth shirt and a monastic dress of skins. Continuing his journey
with Romanus, the youthful ascetic discovered a sunless cave in the
desert of Subiaco, about forty miles from Rome. Into this cell he
climbed, and in it he lived three years. It was so inaccessible that
Romanus had to lower his food to him by a rope, to which was attached a
bell to call him from his devotions. Once the Devil threw a stone at the
rope and broke it.

But Benedict's bodily escape from the wickedness of Rome did not secure
his spiritual freedom. "There was a certain lady of thin, airy shape,
who was very active in this solemnity; her name was Fancy." Time and
again, he revisited his old haunts, borne on the wings of his
imagination. The face of a beautiful young girl of previous acquaintance
constantly appeared before him. He was about to yield to the temptation
and to return, when, summoning all his strength, he made one mighty
effort to dispel the illusion forever. Divesting himself of his clothes,
he rolled his naked body among the thorn-bushes near his cave. It was
drastic treatment, but it seems to have rid his mind effectually of
disturbing fancies. This singular self-punishment was used by Godric,
the Welsh saint, in the twelfth century. "Failing to subdue his
rebellious flesh by this method, he buried a cask in the earthen floor
of his cell, filled it with water and fitted it with a cover, and in
this receptacle he shut himself up whenever he felt the titillations of
desire. In this manner, varied by occasionally passing the night up to
his chin in a river, of which he had broken the ice, he finally
succeeded in mastering his fiery nature."

One day some peasants discovered Benedict at the entrance of his cave.
Deceived by his savage appearance, they mistook him for a wild beast,
but the supposed wolf proving to be a saint, they fell down and
reverenced him.

The fame of the young ascetic attracted throngs of hermits, who took up
their abodes near his cell. After a time monasteries were established,
and Benedict was persuaded to become an abbot in one of them. His
strictness provoked much opposition among the monks, resulting in
carefully-laid plots to compass the moral ruin of their spiritual guide.
An attempt to poison him was defeated by a miraculous interposition, and
Benedict escaped to a solitary retreat.

Again the moral hero became an abbot, and again the severity of his
discipline was resented. This time a wicked and jealous priest sought to
entrap the saint by turning into a garden in which he was accustomed to
walk seven young girls of exquisite physical charms. When Benedict
encountered this temptation, he fled from the scene and retired to a
picturesque mountain--the renowned Monte Cassino. Let Montalembert
describe this celebrated spot among the western Apennines: "At the foot
of this rock Benedict found an amphitheatre of the time of the Caesars,
amidst the ruins of the town of Casinum, which the most learned and
pious of Romans, Varro, that pagan Benedictine, whose memory and
knowledge the sons of Benedict took pleasure in honoring, had rendered
illustrious. From the summit the prospect extended on one side towards
Arpinum, where the prince of Roman orators was born, and on the other
towards Aquinum, already celebrated as the birthplace of Juvenal.... It
was amidst those noble recollections, this solemn nature, and upon that
predestinated height, that the patriarch of the monks of the West
founded the capital of the monastic order."

In the year 529 a great stronghold of Paganism in these wild regions
gave way to Benedict's faith. Upon the ruins of a temple to Apollo, and
in a grove sacred to Venus, arose the model of Western monasticism,--the
cloister of Monte Cassino, which was to shine resplendent for a thousand
years. The limitations of my purpose will prevent me from following in
detail the fortunes of this renowned retreat, but it may not be out of
place to glance at its subsequent history.

Monte Cassino is located three and a half miles to the northeast of the
town of Cassino, midway between Rome and Naples. About 589 A.D. the
Lombards destroyed the buildings, but the monks escaped to Rome, in
fulfilment, so it is claimed, of a prophecy uttered by Benedict. It lay
in ruins until restored by Gregory II. in 719, only to be burned in 884
by the Saracens; seventy years later it was again rebuilt. It afterwards
passed through a variety of calamities, and was consecrated, for the
third time, by Benedict XII., in 1729. Longfellow quotes a writer for
the _London Daily News_ as saying: "There is scarcely a pope or emperor
of importance who has not been personally connected with its history.
From its mountain crag it has seen Goths, Lombards, Saracens, Normans,
Frenchmen, Spaniards, Germans, scour and devastate the land which,
through all modern history, has attracted every invader."

It was enriched by popes, emperors and princes. In its palmy days the
abbot was the first baron in the realm, and commanded over four hundred
towns and villages. In 1866, it shared the fate of all the monasteries
of Italy. It still stands upon the summit of the mountain, and can be
seen by the traveler from the railway in the valley. At present it
serves as a Catholic seminary with about two hundred students. It
contains a spacious church, richly ornamented with marble, mosaics and
paintings. It has also a famous library which, in spite of bad usage, is
still immensely valuable. Boccaccio made a visit to the place, and when
he saw the precious books so vilely mutilated, he departed in tears,
exclaiming: "Now, therefore, O scholar, rack thy brains in the making of
books!" The library contains about twenty thousand volumes, and about
thirty-five thousand popes' bulls, diplomas and charters. There are also
about a thousand manuscripts, some of which are of priceless value, as
they date from the sixth century downward, and consist of ancient
Bibles and important medieval literature.

Benedict survived the founding of this monastery fourteen years. His
time was occupied in establishing other cloisters, perfecting his rule,
and preaching. Many stories are related of his power over the hearts of
the untamed barbarians. Galea the Goth, out on a marauding expedition,
demanded a peasant to give him his treasures. The peasant, thinking to
escape, said he had committed them to the keeping of Benedict. Galea
immediately ordered him to be bound on a horse and conducted to the
saint. Benedict was seated at the gateway reading when Galea and his
prisoner arrived. Looking up from his book he fastened his eyes upon the
poor peasant, who was immediately loosed from his bonds. The astonished
Galea, awed by this miracle, fell at the feet of the abbot, and, instead
of demanding gold, supplicated his blessing. Once a boy was drowning,
and, at the command of Benedict, St. Maur, a wealthy young Roman, who
had turned monk, walked safely out upon the water and rescued the lad.
Gregory also tells us many stories of miraculous healing, and of one
resurrection from the dead.

Benedict's last days were linked with a touching incident. His sister,
Scholastica, presided over a convent near his own. They met once a year.
On his last visit to her, Scholastica begged him to remain and "speak of
the joys of Heaven till the morning." But Benedict would not listen; he
must return. His sister then buried her face in her hands weeping and
praying. Suddenly the sky was overcast with clouds, and a terrific storm
burst upon the mountains, which prevented her brother's return. Three
days later Benedict saw the soul of his sister entering heaven. On March
21, 543, a short time after his sister's death, two monks beheld a
shining pathway of stars over which the soul of Benedict passed from
Monte Cassino to heaven. Such, in brief, is the story preserved for us
in his biography by the celebrated patron of monasticism, Pope
Gregory I.

_The Rules of Benedict_

The rules, _regulae_, of St. Benedict, are worthy of special
consideration, since they constitute the real foundation of his success
and of his fame. His order was by far the most important monastic
brotherhood until the thirteenth century. Nearly all the other orders
which sprang up during this interval were based upon Benedictine rules,
and were really attempts to reform the monastic system on the basis of
Benedict's original practice. Other monks lived austere lives and worked
miracles, and some of them formulated rules, but it is to Benedict and
his rules that we must look for the code of Western monachism. "By a
strange parallelism," says Putnam, "almost in the very year in which the
great Emperor Justinian was codifying the results of seven centuries of
Roman secular legislation for the benefit of the judges and the
statesmen of the new Europe, Benedict, on his lonely mountain-top, was
composing his code for the regulation of the daily life of the great
civilizers of Europe for seven centuries to come."

The rules consist of a preface and seventy-three chapters. The prologue
defines the classes of monks, and explains the aim of the "school of
divine servitude," as Benedict described his monastery. The following is
a partial list of the subjects considered: The character of an abbot,
silence, maxims for good works, humility, directions as to divine
service, rules for dormitories, penalties, duties of various monastic
officers, poverty, care of the sick daily rations of food and drink,
hours for meals, fasting, entertainment of guests, and dress. They close
with the statement that the Benedictine rule is not offered as an ideal
of perfection, or even as equal to the teaching of Cassian or Basil, but
for mere beginners in the spiritual life, who may thence
proceed further.

The Benedictine novitiate extended over one year, but was subsequently
increased to three. At the close of this period the novice was given the
opportunity to go back into the world. If he still persisted in his
choice, he swore before the bones of the saints to remain forever cut
off from the rest of his fellow beings. If a monk left the monastery, or
was expelled, he could return twice, but if, after the third admission,
he severed his connection, the door was shut forever.

The monk passed his time in manual labor, copying manuscripts, reading,
fasting and prayer. He was forbidden to receive letters, tokens or
gifts, even from his nearest-relatives, without permission from the
abbot. His daily food allowance was usually a pound of bread, a pint of
wine, cider or ale, and sometimes fish, eggs, fruit or cheese. He was
dressed in a black cowl. His clothing was to be suitable to the climate
and to consist of two sets. He was also furnished with a straw mattress,
blanket, quilt, pillow, knife, pen, needle, handkerchief and tablets. He
was, in all things, to submit patiently to his superior, to keep
silence, and to serve his turn in the kitchen. In the older days the
monks changed their clothes on the occasion of a bath, which used to be
taken four times a year. Later, bathing was allowed only twice a year,
and the monks changed their clothes when they wished.

Various punishments were employed to correct faults. Sometimes the
offender was whipped on the bare shoulders with a thick rod; others had
to lie prostrate in the doorway of the church at each hour, so that the
monks passed over his body on entering or going out.

The monks formerly rose at two o'clock, and spent the day in various
occupations until eight at night, when they retired. The following rules
once governed St. Gregory's Monastery in England: "3:45 A.M. Rise. 4
A.M. Matins and lauds, recited; half-hour mental prayer; prime _sung_;
prime B.V.M. recited. 6:30 A.M. Private study; masses; breakfast for
those who had permission. 8 A.M. Lectures and disputations. 10 A.M.
Little hours B.V.M., recited; tierce, mass, sext, _sung_. 11:30 A.M.
Dinner. 12 noon. None _sung_; vespers and compline B.V.M., recited.
12:30 P.M. Siesta, 1 P.M. Hebrew or Greek lecture. 2 P.M. Vespers
_sung_. 2:30 P.M. Lectures and disputations. 4 P.M. Private study. 6
P.M. Supper. 6:30 P.M. Recreation. 7:30 P.M. Public spiritual reading;
compline _sung_; matins and lauds B.V.M., recited; half-hour mental
prayer. 8:45 P.M. Retire[D]."

[Footnote D: Appendix, Note D.]

Such a routine suggests a dreary life, but that would depend upon the
monk's temperament. Regularity of employment kept him healthy, and if he
did not take his sins too much to heart, he was free from gloom. Hill
very justly observes: "Whenever men obey that injunction of labor, no
matter what their station, there is in the act the element of happiness,
and whoever avoids that injunction, there is always the shadow of the
unfulfilled curse darkening their path." Thus, their ideal was "to
subdue one's self and then to devote one's self," which De Tocqueville
pronounces "the secret of strength." How well they succeeded in
realizing their ideal by the methods employed we shall see later.

The term "order," as applied to the Benedictines, is used in a different
sense from that which it has when used of later monastic bodies. Each
Benedictine house was practically independent of every other, while the
houses of the Dominicans, Franciscans or Jesuits were bound together
under one head. The family idea was peculiar to the Benedictines. The
abbot was the father, and the monastery was the home where the
Benedictine was content to dwell all his life. In the later monastic
societies the monks were constantly traveling from place to place.
Taunton says: "As God made society to rest on the basis of the family,
so St. Benedict saw that the spiritual family is the surest basis for
the sanctification of the souls of his monks. The monastery therefore is
to him what the 'home' is to lay-folk.... From this family idea comes
another result: the very fact that St. Benedict did not found an Order
but only gave a Rule, cuts away all possibility of that narrowing
_esprit de corps_ which comes so easily to a widespread and
highly-organized body."

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, however, it became necessary
for the general good of each family to secure some kind of union. The
Chapter then came into existence, which was a representative body,
composed of the heads of the different houses and ordinary monks
regularly appointed as delegates. To the Chapter were committed various
matters of jurisdiction, and also the power of sending visitors to the
different abbeys in the pope's name.

Each society was ruled by an abbot, who governed in Christ's stead.
Sometimes the members of the monastery were consulted, the older ones
ordinarily, the whole congregation; in important matters. But implicit
obedience to the abbot, as the representative of God, was demanded
by the vows.

The abbot was to be elected by the monks. At various periods popes and
princes usurped this power, but the monks always claimed the right as an
original privilege. Carlyle quotes Jocelin on Abbot Samson, who says
that the monks of St. Edmundsbury were compelled to submit their choice
to Henry II., who, looking at the committee of monks somewhat sternly,
said: "You present to me Samson; I do not know him; had it been your
prior, whom I do know, I should have accepted him; however, I will now
do as you wish. But have a care of yourselves. By the true eyes of God,
if you manage badly, I will be upon you."

In Walter Scott's novel, "The Abbot," there is an interesting contrast
drawn between the ceremonies attending an abbot's installation, when the
monasteries were in their glory, and the pitiable scenes in the days of
their decline, when Mary Stuart was a prisoner in Lochleven. In the
monastery of Kennaquhair, which had been despoiled by the fury of the
times, a few monks were left to mourn the mutilated statues and weep
over the fragments of richly-carved Gothic pillars. Having secretly
elected an abbot, they assembled in fear and trembling to invest him
with the honors of his office. "In former times," says Scott, "this was
one of the most splendid of the many pageants which the hierarchy of
Rome had devised to attract the veneration of the faithful. When the
folding doors on such solemn occasions were thrown open, and the new
abbot appeared on the threshold in full-blown dignity, with ring and
mitre and dalmatique and crosier, his hoary standard-bearers and
juvenile dispensers of incense preceding him, and the venerable train of
monks behind him, his appearance was the signal for the magnificent
jubilate to rise from the organ and the music-loft and to be joined by
the corresponding bursts of 'Alleluiah' from the whole assembled

"Now all was changed. Father Ambrose stood on the broken steps of the
high altar, barefooted, as was the rule, and holding in his hand his
pastoral staff, for the gemmed ring and jewelled mitre had become
secular spoils. No obedient vassals came, man after man, to make their
homage and to offer the tribute which should provide their spiritual
superior with palfrey and trappings. No bishop assisted at the solemnity
to receive into the higher ranks of the church nobility a dignitary
whose voice in the legislature was as potent as his own."

We are enabled by this partially-quoted description to imagine the
importance attached to the election of an abbot. He became, in feudal
times, a lord of the land, the richest man in the community, and a
tremendous power in political councils and parliaments. A Benedictine
abbot once confessed: "My vow of poverty has given me a hundred thousand
crowns a year; my vow of obedience has raised me to the rank of a
sovereign prince."

No new principle seems to be disclosed by the Benedictine rules. The
command to labor had been emphasized even in the monasteries of Egypt.
The Basilian code contained a provision enforcing manual labor, but the
work was light and insufficient to keep the mind from brooding. The
monastery that was to succeed in the West must provide for men who not
only could toil hard, but who must do so if they were to be kept pure
and true; it must welcome men accustomed to the dangerous adventures of
pioneer life in the vast forests of the North. The Benedictine system
met these conditions by a unique combination and application of
well-known monastic principles; by a judicious subordination of minor
matters to essential discipline; by bringing into greater prominence
the doctrine of labor; by tempering the austerities of the cell to meet
the necessities of a severe climate; and lastly, by devising a scheme of
life equally adaptable to the monk of sunny Italy and the rude Goth of
the northern forests.

It was the splendid fruition of many years of experiment amid varying
results. "It shows," says Schaff, "a true knowledge of human nature, the
practical wisdom of Rome and adaptation to Western customs; it combines
simplicity with completeness, strictness with gentleness, humility with
courage and gives the whole cloister life a fixed unity and compact
organization, which, like the episcopate, possessed an unlimited
versatility and power of expansion."

_The Struggle against Barbarism_

No institution has contributed as much to the amelioration of human
misery or struggled as patiently and persistently to influence society
for good as the Christian church. In spite of all that may be said
against the followers of the Cross, it still remains true, that they
have ever been foremost in the establishment of peace and justice
among men.

The problem that confronted the church when Benedict began his labors,
was no less than that of reducing a demoralized and brutal society to
law and order. Chaos reigned, selfishness and lust ruled the hearts of
Rome's conquerors. The West was desolated by barbarians; the East
dismembered and worn out by theological controversy. War had ruined the
commerce of the cities and laid waste the rural districts. Vast swamps
and tracts of brush covered fields once beautiful with the products of
agricultural labor. The minds of men were distracted by apprehensions of
some frightful, impending calamity. The cultured Roman, the untutored
Goth and the corrupted Christian were locked in the deadly embrace of
despair. "Constantly did society attempt to form itself," says Guizot,
"constantly was it destroyed by the act of man, by the absence of the
moral conditions under which alone it can exist."

But notwithstanding failures and discouragements, the work of
reconstructing society moved painfully on, and among the brave master
builders was Benedict of Nursia. "He found the world, physical and
social, in ruins," says Cardinal Newman, "and his mission was to restore
it in the way,--not of science, but of nature; not as if setting about
to do it; not professing to do it by any set time, or by any series of
strokes; but so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often till the work
was done, it was not known to be doing. It was a restoration rather than
a visitation, correction or conversion. The new world he helped to
create was a growth rather than a structure."

But the chaos created by the irruption of the barbarous nations at this
period seriously affected the moral character and influence of the
clergy and the monks. The church seemed unequal to the stupendous
undertaking of converting the barbarians. The monks, as a class, were
lawless and vicious. Benedict himself testifies against them, and
declares that they were "always wandering and never stable; that they
obey their own appetites, whereunto they are enslaved." Unable to
control their own desires by any law whatsoever, they were unfitted to
the task before them. It was imperative, then, that unity and order
should be introduced among the monasteries; that some sort of a uniform
rule, adapted to the existing conditions, should be adopted, not only
for the preservation of the monastic institution, but for the
preparation of the monks for their work. Therefore, although the
Christianity of that time was far from ideal, it was, nevertheless, a
religion within the grasp of the reckless barbarians; and subsequent
events prove that it possessed a moral power capable of humanizing
manners, elevating the intellect, and checking the violent temper of
the age.

Excepting always the religious services of the Benedictine monks, their
greatest contribution to civilization was literary and educational[E].
The rules of Benedict provided for two hours a day of reading, and it
was doubtless this wise regulation that stimulated literary tastes, and
resulted in the collecting of books and the reproduction of manuscripts.
"Wherever a Benedictine house arose, or a monastery of any one of the
Orders, which were but offshoots from the Benedictine tree, books were
multiplied and a library came into existence, small indeed at first, but
increasing year by year, till the wealthier houses had gathered together
collections of books that would do credit to a modern university."
There was great danger that the remains of classic literature might be
destroyed in the general devastation of Italy. The monasteries rescued
the literary fragments that escaped, and preserved them. "For a period
of more than six centuries the safety of the literary heritage of
Europe,--one may say of the world,--depended upon the scribes of a few
dozen scattered monasteries."

[Footnote E: Appendix, Note E.]

The literary services of the earlier monks did not consist in original
production, but in the reproduction and preservation of the classics.
This work was first begun as a part of the prescribed routine of
European monastic life in the monastery at Vivaria, or Viviers, France,
which was founded by Cassiodorus about 539. The rules of this cloister
were based on those of Cassian, who died in the early part of the fifth
century. Benedict, at Monte Cassino, followed the example of
Cassiodorus, and the Benedictine Order carried the work on for the seven
succeeding centuries.

Cassiodorus was a statesman of no mean ability, and for over forty years
was active in the political circles of his time, holding high official
positions under five different Roman rulers. He was also an exceptional
scholar, devoting much of his energy to the preservation of classic
literature. His magnificent collection of manuscripts, rescued from the
ruins of Italian libraries, "supplied material for the pens of thousands
of monastic scribes." If we leave out Jerome, it is to Cassiodorus that
the honor is due for joining learning and monasticism.

"Thus," remarks Schaff, "that very mode of life, which, in its founder,
Anthony, despised all learning, became in the course of its development
an asylum of culture in the rough and stormy times of the migration and
the crusades, and a conservator of the literary treasures of antiquity
for the use of modern times."

Cassiodorus, with a noble enthusiasm, inspired his monks to their task.
He even provided lamps of ingenious construction, that seem to have been
self-trimming, to aid them in their work. He himself set an example of
literary diligence, astonishing in one of his age.

Putnam is justified in his praises of this remarkable character when he
declares: "It is not too much to say that the continuity of thought and
civilization of the ancient world with that of the middle ages was due,
more than to any other one man, to the life and labors of Cassiodorus."

But the monk was more than a scribe and a collector of books, he became
the chronicler and the school-teacher. "The records that have come down
to us of several centuries of medieval European history are due almost
exclusively to the labors of the monastic chroniclers." A vast fund of
information, the value of which is impaired, it is true, by much useless
stuff, concerning medieval customs, laws and events, was collected by
these unscientific historians and is now accessible to the student.

At the end of the ninth century nearly all the monasteries of Europe
conducted schools open to the children of the neighborhood. The
character of the educational training of the times is not to be judged
by modern standards. A beginning had to be made, and that too at a time
"when neither local nor national governments had assumed any
responsibilities in connection with elementary education, and when the
municipalities were too ignorant, and in many cases too poor, to make
provision for the education of the children." It is therefore to the
lasting credit of Benedict, inspired no doubt by the example of
Cassiodorus, that he commanded his monks to read, encouraged literary
work, and made provision for the education of the young.

The Benedictines rendered a great social service in reclaiming deserted
regions and in clearing forests. "The monasteries," says Maitland,
"were, in those days of misrule and turbulence, beyond all price, not
only as places where (it may be imperfectly, but better than elsewhere)
God was worshipped,... but as central points whence agriculture was to
spread over bleak hills and barren downs and marshy plains, and deal its
bread to millions perishing with hunger and its pestilential train."
Roman taxation and barbarian invasions had ruined the farmers, who left
their lands and fled to swell the numbers of the homeless. The monk
repeopled these abandoned but once fertile fields, and carried
civilization still deeper into the forests. Many a monastery with its
surrounding buildings became the nucleus of a modern city. The more
awful the darkness of the forest solitudes, the more the monks loved
it. They cut down trees in the heart of the wilderness, and transformed
a soil bristling with woods and thickets into rich pastures and ploughed
fields. They stimulated the peasantry to labor, and taught them many
useful lessons in agriculture. Thus, they became an industrial, as well
as a spiritual, agency for good.

The habits of the monks brought them into close contact with nature.
Even the animals became their friends. Numerous stories have been
related of their wonderful power over wild beasts and their
conversations with the birds. "It is wonderful," says Bede, "that he who
faithfully and loyally obeys the Creator of the universe, should, in his
turn, see all the creatures obedient to his orders and his wishes." They
lived, so we are told, in the most intimate relations with the animal
creation. Squirrels leaped to their hands or hid in the folds of their
cowls. Stags came out of the forests in Ireland and offered themselves
to some monks who were ploughing, to replace the oxen carried off by the
hunters. Wild animals stopped in their pursuit of game at the command of
St. Laumer. Birds ceased singing at the request of some monks until
they had chanted their evening prayer, and at their word the feathered
songsters resumed their music. A swan was the daily companion of St.
Hugh of Lincoln, and manifested its miraculous knowledge of his
approaching death by the most profound melancholy. While all the details
of such stories are not to be accepted as literally true, no doubt some
of this poetry of monastic history rests upon interesting and
charming facts.

A fuller discussion of the permanent contributions which the monk made
to civilization is reserved for the last chapter. I have somewhat
anticipated a closer scrutiny of his achievements in order to present a
clearer view of his life and labors. His religious duties were, perhaps,
wearisome enough. We might tire of his monotonous chanting and incessant
vigils, but it is gratifying to know that he also engaged in practical
and useful employments. The convent became the house of industry as well
as the temple of prayer. The forest glades echoed to the stroke of the
axe as well as to hymns of praise. Yes, as Carlyle writes of the twelfth
century, "these years were no chimerical vacuity and dreamland peopled
with mere vaporous phantasms, but a green solid place, that grew corn
and several other things. The sun shone on it, the vicissitudes of
seasons and human fortunes. Cloth was woven and worn; ditches were dug,
furrowed fields ploughed and houses built."

_The Spread of the Benedictine Rule_

It is generally held that Benedict had no presentiment of the vast
historical importance of his system; and that he aspired to nothing
beyond the salvation of his own soul and those of his brethren.

But the rule spread with wonderful rapidity. In every rich valley arose
a Benedictine abbey. Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, France and Spain
adopted his rule. Princes, moved by various motives, hastened to bestow
grants of land on the indefatigable missionary who, undeterred by the
wildness of the forest and the fierceness of the barbarian, settled in
the remotest regions. In the various societies of the Benedictines there
have been thirty-seven thousand monasteries and one hundred and fifty
thousand abbots. For the space of two hundred and thirty-nine years the
Benedictines governed the church by forty-eight popes chosen from their
order. They boast of two hundred cardinals, seven thousand archbishops,
fifteen thousand bishops and four thousand saints. The astonishing
assertion is also made that no less than twenty emperors and forty-seven
kings resigned their crowns to become Benedictine monks. Their convents
claim ten empresses and fifty queens. Many of these earthly rulers
retired to the seclusion of the monastery because their hopes had been
crushed by political defeat, or their consciences smitten by reason of
crime or other sins. Some were powerfully attracted by the heroic
element of monastic life, and these therefore spurned the luxuries and
emoluments of royalty, in order by personal sacrifice to achieve
spiritual domination in this life, and to render their future salvation
certain. But whatever the motive that drew queens and princes to the
monastic order, the retirement of such large numbers of the nobility
indicates the influence of a religious system which could cope so
successfully with the attractions of the palace and the natural passion
for political dominion.

Saint Gregory the Great, the biographer of Benedict, who was born at
Rome in 540 A.D. and so was nearly contemporaneous with Benedict was a
zealous promoter of the monastic ideal, and did as much as any one to
advance its ecclesiastical position and influence. He founded seven
monasteries with his paternal inheritance, and became the abbot of one
of them. He often expressed a desire to escape the clamor of the world
by retirement to a lonely cell. Inspired by the loftiest estimates of
his holy office, he sought to reform the church in its spirit and life.
Many of his innovations in the church service bordered upon a dangerous
and glittering pomp; but the musical world will always revere his memory
for the famous chants that bear his name.

Gregory surrounded himself with monks, and did everything in his power
to promote their interests. He increased the novitiate to two years, and
exempted certain monasteries from the control of the bishops. Other
popes added to these exemptions, and thus widened the breach which
already existed between the secular clergy and the monks. He also fixed
a penalty of lifelong imprisonment for abandonment of the
monastic life.

Under Gregory's direction many missionary enterprises were carried on,
notably that of Augustine to England. The story runs that one day
Gregory saw some men and beautiful children from Britain put up for sale
in the market-place. Deeply sighing, he exclaimed: "Alas for grief! That
the author of darkness possesses men of so bright countenance, and that
so great grace of aspect bears a mind void of inward grace!" He then
asked the children the name of their nation. "Angles," was the reply.
"It is well," he said, "for they have _angelic_ faces. What is the name
of your province?" It was answered, "Deira." "Truly," he said,
"_De-ira-ns,_ drawn from anger, and called to the mercy of Christ. How
is your king called?" They answered, "AElla, or Ella." Then he cried
"_Alleluia!_ it behooves that the praise of God the Creator should be
sung in those parts." While it is hard to accept this evidently fanciful
story in its details, it seems quite probable that the sale of some
English slaves in a Roman market drew the attention of Gregory to the
needs of Britain.

Some years afterwards, in 596, Gregory commissioned Augustine, prior of
the monastery of St. Andrew's on the Celian Hill, at Rome, with forty
companions, to preach the gospel in Britain. When this celebrated
missionary landed on the island of Thanet, he found monasticism had
preceded him. But what was the nature of this British monasticism? On
that question Rome and England are divided.

The Romanist declares that no country received the Christian faith more
directly from the Church of Rome than did England; that the most careful
study of authentic records reveals no doctrinal strife, no diversity of
belief between the early British monks and the Pope of Rome; that St.
Patrick, of Ireland, and St. Columba, of Scotland, were loyal sons of
their Roman mother.

The Anglican, on the other hand, believes that Christianity was
introduced into Britain independently of Rome. As to the precise means
employed, he has his choice of ten legends. He may hold with Lane that
it is reasonable to suppose one of Paul's ardent converts, burning with
fervent zeal, led the Britons to the cross. Or he may argue with others:
"What is more natural than to imagine that Joseph of Arimathea, driven
from Palestine, sailed away to Britain." In proof of this assumption, we
are shown the chapel of St. Joseph, the remains of the oldest Christian
church, where the holy-thorn blossoms earlier than in any other part of
England. Many Anglicans wisely regard all this as legendary. It is also
held that St. Patrick and St. Columba were not Romanists, but
represented a type of British Christianity, which, although temporarily
subjected to Rome, yet finally threw off the yoke under Henry VIII. and
reasserted its ancient independence. Still others declare that when
Augustine was made archbishop, the seat of ecclesiastical authority was
transferred from Rome to Canterbury, and the English church became an
independent branch of the universal church. It was Catholic, but
not Roman.

The difficulty of ascertaining when and by whom Christianity was
originally introduced into southern Britain must be apparent to every
student. But some things may be regarded as historically certain. The
whole country had been desolated by war when Augustine arrived. For a
hundred and fifty years the brutality and ignorance of the barbarians
had reigned supreme. All traces of Roman civilization had nearly
disappeared with the conquest of the heathen Anglo-Saxons. Whatever may
be thought about the subsequent effects of the triumph of Roman
Christianity, it is due to Rome to recognize the fact that with the
coming of the Roman missionaries religion and knowledge began a
new life.

The Anglo-Saxons had destroyed the Christian churches and monasteries,
whose origin, as we have seen, is unknown. They drove away or massacred
the priests and monks. Christianity was practically extirpated in those
districts subject to the Germanic yoke. But when Augustine landed
British monks were still to be found in various obscure parts of the
country, principally in Ireland and Wales. Judging from what is known of
these monks, it is safe to say that their habits and teachings were
based on the traditions of an earlier Christianity, and that originally
British Christianity was independent of Rome.

The monks in Britain at the time when Augustine landed differed from the
Roman monks in their tonsures, their liturgy, and the observance of
Easter, although no material difference in doctrine can be established.
The clergy did not always observe the law of celibacy nor perhaps the
Roman rules of baptism. It is also admitted, even by Catholic
historians, that the British monks refused to acknowledge Augustine
their archbishop; that this question divided the royal family; and that
the old British church was not completely subdued until Henry II.
conquered Ireland and Wales. These statements are practically supported
by Ethelred L. Taunton, an authoritative writer, whose sympathy with
Roman monasticism is very strong. He thinks that a few of the British
monks submitted to Augustine, but of the rest he says: "They would not
heed the call of Augustine, and on frivolous pretexts refused to
acknowledge him." A large body of British monks retired to the monastery
of Bangor, and when King Ethelfrid invaded the district of Wales, he
slew twelve hundred of them in the open field as they were upon their
knees praying for the success of the Britons. It was then that the power
of the last remnants of Celtic or British Christianity was practically
broken, and the Roman type henceforth gradually acquired the mastery.

Montalembert says: "In no other country has Catholicism been persecuted
with more sanguinary zeal; and, at the same time, none has greater need
of her care." While the latter observation is open to dispute, it is
certainly true that England has never remained quiet under the dominion
of Rome. Goldsmith's tribute to the English character suggests a
reasonable explanation of this historic fact:

"Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state,
Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
True to imagined right, above control,
While even the peasant boasts those rights to scan,
And learns to venerate himself as man."

The fact to be remembered, as we emerge from these ecclesiastical
quarrels and the confusions of this perplexing history, is that the
monks were the intellectual and religious leaders of those days. They
exercised a profound influence upon English society, and had much to do
with the establishment of English institutions.

But, on the other hand, the continent is indebted to England for the
gift of many noble monks who served France and Germany as intellectual
and moral guides, at a time when these countries were in a state of
extreme degradation. Boniface, the Apostle to the Germans, who is
regarded by Neander as the Father of the German church and the real
founder of the Christian civilization of Germany, was the gift of the
English cloisters, and a native of Devonshire. Alcuin, the
ecclesiastical prime minister of Charlemagne and the greatest educator
of his time, was born and trained in England. Nearly all the leading
schools of France were founded or improved by this celebrated monk. It
was largely due to Alcuin's unrivaled energy and splendid talents that
Charlemagne was able to make so many and so glorious educational
improvements in his empire.

Notable among the men who introduced the Benedictine rule into England
was St. Wilfred (634-709 A.D.), who had traveled extensively in France
and Italy, and on his return carried the monastic rule into northern
Britain. He also is credited with establishing a course of musical
training in the English monasteries. He was the most active prelate of
his age in the founding of churches and monasteries, and in securing
uniformity of discipline and harmony with the Church of Rome.

One of the most famous monastic retreats of those days was the wild and
lonely isle of Iona, the Mecca of monks and the monastic capital of
Scotland. It is a small island, three miles long and one broad, lying
west of Scotland. Many kings of Scotland were crowned here on a stone
which now forms a part of the British coronation chair. Its great
monastery enjoyed the distinction from the sixth to the eighth century
of being second to none in its widespread influence in behalf of the
intellectual life of Europe.

This monastery was originally founded in the middle of the sixth century
by Columba, the Apostle to Caledonia, an Irish saint actively associated
with a wonderful intellectual awakening. The rule of the monastery is
unknown, but it is probable that it could not have been, at the first,
of the Benedictine type. Columba's followers traveled as missionaries
and teachers to all parts of Europe, and it is said, they dared to sail
in their small boats even as far as Iceland.

Dr. Johnson says in his "Tour to the Hebrides": "We are now treading
that illustrious island which was once the luminary of the Caledonian
regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits
of knowledge and the blessing of religion. That man is little to be
envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon,
or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona." The
monastery which Columba founded here was doubtless of the same character
as the establishments in Ireland. Many of these Celtic buildings were
made of the branches of trees and supported by wooden props. It was some
time before properly-constructed wooden churches or monasteries became
general in these wild regions. In such rude huts small libraries were
collected and the monks trained to preach. Ireland was then the center
of knowledge in the North. Greek, Latin, music and such science as the
monks possessed were taught to eager pupils. Copies of their manuscripts
are still to be found all over Europe. Their schools were open to the
rich and poor alike. The monks went from house to house teaching and
distributing literature. As late as the sixteenth century, students from
various parts of the Continent were to be found in these Irish schools.

There is an interesting story related of Columba's literary activities.
It is said that on one occasion while visiting his master, Finnian, he
undertook to make a clandestine copy of the abbot's Psalter. When the
master learned of the fact, he indignantly charged Columba with theft,
and demanded the copy which he had made, on the ground that a copy made
without permission of the author was the property of the original owner,
because a transcript is the offspring of the original work. Putnam, to
whom I am indebted for this story, says: "As far as I have been able to
ascertain, this is the first instance which occurs in the history of
European literature of a contention for a copyright." The conflict for
this copyright afterwards developed into a civil war. The copy of the
Latin Psalter "was enshrined in the base of a portable altar as the
national relic of the O'Donnell clan," and was preserved by that family
for thirteen hundred years. It was placed on exhibition as late as 1867,
in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy.

Enough has now been said to enable the reader to understand something of
the spirit and labors of the monks in an age characteristically
barbaric. For five centuries, from the fifth to the tenth, the
condition of Europe was deplorable. "It may be doubted," says an old
writer, "whether the worst of the Caesars exceeded in dark malignity, or
in capriciousness of vengeance, the long-haired kings of France." The
moral sense of even the most saintly churchmen seems to have been
blunted by familiarity with atrocities and crimes. Brute force was the
common method of exercising control and administering justice. The
barbarians were bold and independent, but cruel and superstitious. Their
furious natures needed taming and their rude minds tutoring. Even though
during this period churches and monasteries were raised in amazing
numbers, yet the spirit of barbarism was so strong that the Christians
could scarcely escape its influence. The power of Christianity was
modified by the nature of the people, whose characters it aimed to
transform. The remarks of William Newton Clarke respecting the
Christians of the first and second centuries are also appropriate to the
period under review: "The people were changed by the new faith, but the
new faith was changed by the people." Christianity "made a new people,
better than it found them, but they in turn made a new Christianity,
with its strong points illustrated and confirmed in their experience,
but with weakness brought in from their defects."

Yes, the work of civilizing the Germanic nations was a task of herculean
proportions and of tremendous significance. Out of these tribes were to
be constructed the nations of modern Europe. To this important mission
the monks addressed themselves with such courage, patience, faith and
zeal, as to entitle them to the veneration of posterity. With singular
wisdom and unflinching bravery they carried on their missionary and
educational enterprises, in the face of discouragements and obstacles
sufficient to dismay the bravest souls. The tenacious strength of those
wild forces that clashed with the tenderer influences of the cloister
should soften our criticism of the inconsistencies which detract from
the glory of those early ministers of righteousness and exemplars of
gentleness and peace.



The monastic institution was never entirely good or entirely bad. In
periods of general degradation there were beautiful exceptions in
monasteries ruled by pure and powerful abbots. From the beginning
various monasteries soon departed from their discipline by sheltering
iniquity and laziness, while other establishments faithfully observed
the rules. But during the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries there was a
widespread decline in the spirit of devotion and a shameful relaxation
of monastic discipline. Malmesbury, King Alfred, Alcuin, in England, and
many continental writers, sorrowfully testified against the monks
because of their vices, their revelings, their vain and gorgeous
ornaments of dress and their waning zeal for virtue. The priests hunted
and fought, prayed, preached, swore and drank as they pleased. "We
cannot wonder," says an anonymous historian, "that they should commit
the more reasonable offence of taking wives." Disorders were common
everywhere; the monastic vows were sadly neglected. Political and
religious ideals were lost sight of amid the prevailing confusion and
wild commotion of those dark days. "It is true," says Carlyle, "all
things have two faces, a light one and a dark. It is true in three
centuries much imperfection accumulates; many an ideal, monastic or
otherwise, shooting forth into practice as it can, grows to a strange
reality; and we have to ask with amazement, Is this your ideal? For alas
the ideal has to grow into the real, and to seek out its bed and board
there, often in a sorry way."

This, then, may be accepted as the usual history of a monastery or a
monastic order. First, vows of poverty, obedience and chastity zealously
cherished and observed; as a result of loyalty to this ideal, a spirit
of devotion to righteousness is created, and a pure, lofty type of
Christian life is formed, which, if not the highest and truest, is
sufficiently exalted to win the reverence of worldly men and an
extra-ordinary power over their lives and affections. There naturally
follow numerous and valuable gifts of land and gold. The monks become
rich as well as powerful. Then the decline begins. Vast riches have
always been a menace to true spirituality. Perhaps they always will be.
The wealthy monk falls a prey to pride and arrogance; he becomes
luxurious in his habits, and lazy in the performance of duty. Vice
creeps in and his moral ruin is complete. The transformation in the
character of the monk is accompanied by a change in public opinion. The
monk is now an eyesore; his splendid buildings are viewed with envy by
some, with shame by others. Then arise the vehement cries for the
destruction of his palatial cloister, and the heroic efforts of the
remnant that abide faithful to reform the institution. This has been the
pathway over which every monastic order has traveled. As long as there
was sufficient vitality to give birth to reformatory movements, new
societies sprang up as off-shoots of the older orders, some of which
adopted the original rules, while others altered them to suit the views
of the reforming founder. "For indeed," says Trench, "those orders,
wonderful at their beginning, and girt up so as to take heaven by storm,
seemed destined to travel in a mournful circle from which there was no
escape." These facts partly explain the reformatory movements which
appear from the ninth century on.

The first great saint to enter the lists against monastic corruption was
Benedict of Aniane (750-821 A.D.), a member of a distinguished family in
southern France. The Benedictine rule in his opinion was formed for
novices and invalids. He attributed the prevailing laxity among the
monks to the mild discipline. As abbot of a monastery he undertook to
reform its affairs by adopting a system based on Basil of Asia Minor and
Pachomius of Egypt. But he leaned too far back for human nature in the
West, and the conclusion was forced upon him that Benedict of Nursia had
formulated a set of rules as strict as could be enforced among the
Western monks. Accordingly he directed his efforts to secure a faithful
observance of the original Benedictine rules, adding, however, a number
of rigid and burdensome regulations. Although at first the monks doubted
his sanity, kicked him and spat on him, yet he afterwards succeeded in
gathering about three hundred of them under his rule. Several colonies
were sent out from his monastery, which was built on his patrimonial
estate near Montpellier. His last establishment, which was located near
Aix-la-Chapelle, became famous as a center of learning and sanctity.

One of the most celebrated reform monasteries was the convent of Cluny,
or Clugny, in Burgundy, about fifteen miles from Lyons, which was
founded by Duke William of Aquitaine in 910. It was governed by a code
based on the rule of St. Benedict. The monastery began with twelve monks
under Bruno, but became so illustrious that under Hugo there were ten
thousand monks in the various convents under its rule. It was made
immediately subject to the pope,--that is, exempt from the jurisdiction
of the bishop. Some idea of its splendid equipment may be formed from
the fact that it is said, that in 1245, after the council of Lyons, it
entertained Innocent IV., two patriarchs, twelve cardinals, three
archbishops, fifteen bishops, many abbots, St. Louis, King of France,
several princes and princesses, each with a considerable retinue, yet
the monks were not incommoded. It gave to the church three
popes,--Gregory VII., Urban II. and Paschal II.

From his cell at Cluny, Hildebrand, who became the famous Gregory VII.,
looked out upon a world distracted by war and sunk in vice. "In
Hildebrand's time, while he was studying those annals in Cluny," says
Thomas Starr King, "a boy pope, twelve years old, was master of the
spiritual scepter, and was beginning to lead a life so shameful, foul
and execrable that a subsequent pope said, 'he shuddered to
describe it.'"

Connected with the monastery was the largest church in the world,
surpassed only a little, in later years, by St. Peter's at Rome. Its
construction was begun in 1089 by the abbot Hugo, and it was consecrated
in 1131, under the administration of Peter the Venerable. It boasted of
twenty-five altars and many costly works of art.

So great was the fame and influence of this establishment that numerous
convents in France and Italy placed themselves under its control, thus
forming "The Congregation of Cluny."

After the administration of Peter the Venerable (1122-1156), this
illustrious house began to succumb to the intoxication of success, and
it steadily declined in character and influence until its property was
confiscated by the Constituent Assembly, in 1799, and the church sold
for one hundred thousand francs. It is now in ruin.

But in spite of every attempt at reform during the ninth and tenth
centuries the decline of the continental monasteries continued. Many
persons of royal blood, accustomed to the license of palaces, entered
the cloister and increased the disorders. The monks naturally respected
their blood and relaxed the discipline in their favor. The result was
costly robes, instead of the simple, monastic garb, riotous living, and
a general indifference to spirituality. Spurious monasteries sprang up
with rich lay-abbots at their head, who made the office hereditary in
their families. Laymen were appointed to rich benefices simply that they
might enjoy the revenues. These lay-abbots even went so far as to live
with their families in their monasteries, and rollicking midnight
banquets were substituted for the asceticism demanded by the vows. They
traveled extensively attended by splendid retinues. Some of the monks
seemed intent on nothing but obtaining charters of privileges and
exemptions from civil and military duties.

In England the state of affairs was even more distressing than on the
Continent. The evil effects of the Saxon invasion, the demoralization
that accompanied the influx of paganism, and the almost complete
destruction of the religious institutions of British Christianity have
already been noted. About the year 700, the island was divided among
fifteen petty chiefs, who waged war against one another almost
incessantly. Christianity, as introduced by Augustine, had somewhat
mitigated the ferocity of war, and England had begun to make some
approach toward a respect for law and a veneration for the Christian
religion, when the Danes came, and with them another period of
disgraceful atrocities and blighting heathenism. The Danish invasion had
almost extirpated the monastic institution in the northern districts.
Carnage and devastation reigned everywhere. Celebrated monasteries fell
in ruins and the monks were slain or driven into exile. Hordes of
barbaric warriors roamed the country, burning and plundering.

"At the close of this calamitous period," says Lingard, in his "History
and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church," "the Anglo-Saxon church
presented a melancholy spectacle to the friends of religion: 1. The
laity had resumed the ferocious manners of their pagan forefathers. 2.
The clergy had grown indolent, dissolute and illiterate. 3. The monastic
order had been apparently annihilated. It devolved on King Alfred,
victorious over his enemies, to devise and apply the remedies for these
evils." The good king endeavored to restore the monastic institution,
but, owing to the lack of candidates for the monastic habit, he was
compelled to import a colony of monks from Gaul.

The moral results of Alfred's reformatory measures, as well as those of
his immediate successors, were far from satisfactory, although he did
vastly stimulate the educational work of the monastic schools. He
devoted himself so faithfully to the gathering of traditions, that he is
said to be the father of English history. The tide of immorality,
however, was too strong to be stemmed in a generation or two. It was a
century and a half before there was even an approach to substantial
victory over the disgraceful abuses among the clergy and the monks.

The churchman who is credited with doing most to distinguish the monks
as a zealous and faithful body was Dunstan (924-988 A.D.), first Abbot
of Glastonbury, then Bishop of Winchester, and finally Archbishop of
Canterbury. He is the most conspicuous ecclesiastical personage in the
history of those dark days, but his character and labors have given rise
to bitter and extensive controversy.

It was Dunstan's chief aim to subjugate the Anglo-Saxon church to the
power of Rome, and to correct existing abuses by compelling the clergy
and the monks to obey the rule of celibacy. He was a fervent believer in
the efficacy of the Benedictine vows, and in the value of clerical
celibacy as a remedy for clerical licentiousness. Naturally, Protestant
writers, who hold that papal supremacy never was a blessing in any
country or in any age, and who think that clerical celibacy has always
been a fruitful source of crime and sin, condemn the reforms of Dunstan
in the most unqualified terms. A statement of a few of the many and
perplexing facts may assist us to form a fairly just judgment of the
man and his work.

The principle of sacerdotal celibacy appeared early in the history of
Christianity, and for many centuries it was the subject of sharp
contention. Roman Catholics themselves have been divided upon it. In
every Christian country, from the Apostolic period onward, there were
priests and teachers who opposed the imposition of this rule upon the
clergy, and, on the other hand, there were those who practiced and
advocated celibacy as the indispensable guarantee of spiritual power
and purity.

What the rule of celibacy was at this period, in England, seems
uncertain. Lingard maintains that marriage was always permitted to the
clergy in minor orders, who were employed in various subordinate
positions, but that those in higher orders, whose office it was to
minister at the altar and to offer the sacrifice, were expressly bound
to a life of the strictest continence. During the invasion of the Danes,
when confusion reigned, many priests in the higher orders had not only
forsaken their vows of chastity, but had plunged into frightful
immoralities; and married clerks of inferior orders were raised to the
priesthood to fill the ranks depleted by war. These promoted clerks were
previously required to separate from their wives, but apparently many of
them did not do so. Consequently, from several causes, the married
priests became a numerous body, and since the common opinion seems to
have been that a married priest was disgracing his office, this body was
regarded as a menace to the welfare of the church and the state.

Lea, in his elaborate "History of Sacerdotal Celibacy," holds that the
rule of celibacy was only binding on the regulars, or monks, and that
the secular priesthood was at liberty to marry. But from several other
passages in his work it seems that he also recognizes the fact that,
while marriage was common, it was in defiance of an ancient canon. "It
is evident," he says, "that the memory of the ancient canons was not
forgotten, and that their observance was still urged by some ardent
churchmen, but that the customs of the period had rendered them
virtually obsolete, and that no sufficient means existed of enforcing
obedience. If open scandals and shameless bigamy and concubinage could
be restrained, the ecclesiastical authorities were evidently content.
Celibacy could not be enjoined as a law, but was rendered attractive by
surrounding it with privileges and immunities denied to him who yielded
to the temptations of the flesh."

Throughout Western Christendom the law of celibacy was openly and
shamefully trampled upon, and every reformer seemed to think that the
very first step toward any improvement in clerical morals was to be
taken by enforcing this rule.

When Dunstan commenced his reforms, the clergy were guilty of graver
sins than that of living in marriage relations. Adultery, bigamy,
swearing, fighting and drinking were the order of the day. The
monasteries were occupied by secular priests with wives or concubines.
All the chroniclers of this period agree in charging the monks and
clergy with a variety of dissipations and disorders.

It is quite clear, therefore, that in Dunstan's view he was doing the
only right thing in trying to correct the existing abuses by compelling
the priests to adopt that celibate life without which it was popularly
believed the highest holiness and the largest usefulness could not be
attained. In the light of this purpose and this common opinion of his
time, Dunstan and his mission should be judged.

Dunstan was aided in his work by King Edgar the Pacific, who, by the
way, was himself compelled to go without his crown seven years for
violating the chastity of a nun. Oswald, the Bishop of Worcester, and
Ethelwold, the Bishop of Winchester, were also zealously engaged in the
task of reform.

A law was enacted providing that priests, deacons and sub-deacons should
live chastely or resign. As a result of this law, many priests were
ejected from the monasteries and from their official positions. Strict
monks were put in their places. A strong opposition party was created,
and the ejected clergy aroused such discontent that a civil war was
barely averted. This state of things continued until the Norman
invasion, when the monks and secular clergy joined forces in the common
defence of their property and ecclesiastical rights.

It would seem that many writers, misled by legends for which Dunstan
must not be held responsible, and blinded by religious prejudice, have
unjustly charged him with hypocrisy and even crime. All his methods may
not be defensible when estimated in the light of modern knowledge, and
even his ideal may be rejected when judged by modern standards of
Christian character, but he must be considered with the moral and
intellectual life of his times in full view. He was a champion of the
oppressed, a friend of the poor, an unflinching foe of sinful men in the
pulpit or on the throne. His will was inflexible, his independence noble
and his energy untiring. In trying to bring the Anglo-Saxon church into
conformity to Rome he was actuated by a higher motive than the merely
selfish desire for ecclesiastical authority. He regarded this harmony as
the only remedy for the prevailing disorders. He believed, like many
other churchmen of unquestioned purity and honesty, that it was
necessary to compel temporal authorities to recognize the power of the
church in order to overcome that defiance of moral law which was the
chief characteristic of the kings and princes in that turbulent period.

What the Anglo-Saxon church might have been if the rule of celibacy had
not been forced upon her, and if she had not submitted to Roman
authority in other matters, is a theme for speculation only. The fact
is that Dunstan found a church corrupt to the core and left it, as a
result of his purifying efforts, with some semblance, to say the least,
of moral influence and spiritual purity. Some other kind of
ecclesiastical polity than that advocated by Dunstan might have achieved
the same results as his, but the simple fact is that none did. In so far
as Dunstan succeeded in his monastic measures, he laid the foundations
of an ecclesiastical power which afterwards became a serious menace to
the political freedom of the Anglo-Saxon race. The battle begun by him
raged fiercely between the popes, efficiently supported by the monks,
and the kings of England, with varying fortunes, for many centuries. But
perhaps, under the plans of that benign Providence who presides over the
destiny of nations, it was essentially in the interests of civilization,
that the lawlessness of rulers and the vices of the people should be
restrained by that ecclesiastical power, which, in after years, and at
the proper time, should be forced to recede to its legitimate sphere and

Another celebrated reformatory movement was begun by St. Bruno, who
founded the Carthusian Order about the year 1086. Ruskin says: "In
their strength, from the foundation of the order at the close of the
eleventh century to the beginning of the fourteenth, they reared in
their mountain fastnesses and sent out to minister to the world a
succession of men of immense mental grasp and serenely authoritative
innocence, among whom our own Hugh of Lincoln, in his relations with
Henry II. and Coeur de Lion, is to my mind the most beautiful sacerdotal
figure known to me in history."

Bruno, with six companions, established the famous Grand Chartreuse in a
rocky wilderness, near Grenoble, in France, separated from the rest of
the world by a chain of wild mountains, which are covered with ice and
snow for two-thirds of the year.

Until the time of Guigo (1137), the Grand Chartreuse was governed by
unwritten rules. Thirteen monks only were permitted to live together,
and sixteen converts in the huts at the foot of the hill. The policy of
this monastery was at first opposed to all connection with other
monasteries. But applications for admission were so numerous that
colonies were sent out in various directions, all subject to the mother
house. The Carthusians differed in many respects from other orders. The
rules of Dom Guigo indicate that the chief aim was to preclude the monks
from intercourse with the world, and largely with each other, for each
monk had separate apartments, cooked his own food, and so rarely met
with his brethren, that he was practically a hermit. The clothing
consisted of a rough hair shirt, worn next the skin, a white cassock
over it, and, when they went out, a black robe. Fasting was observed at
least three days a week, and meat was strictly forbidden. Respecting
contact with women Dom Guigo says: "Under no circumstances whatever do
we allow women to set foot within our precincts, knowing as we do that
neither wise man, nor prophet, nor judge, nor the entertainer of God,
nor the sons of God, nor the first created of mankind, fashioned by
God's own hands, could escape the wiles and deceits of women."

Blistering and bleeding, as well as fasting, were employed to control
evil impulses. On the whole, the austerities were as severe as human
nature in that wild and cold region could endure. Yet the prosperity
that rewarded the piety and labors of the Carthusian monks proved more
than a match for their rigorous discipline, and in the middle of the
thirteenth century we read charges of laxity and disorder.

The Carthusians settled in England in the twelfth century, and had a
famous monastery in London, since called the Charterhouse. The order was
in many respects the most successful attempt at reform, but as has been
said, "the whole order, and each individual member, is like a
petrifaction from the Middle Ages." Owing to its extremely solitary
ideal and its severe discipline, it was unfitted to secure extensive
control, or to gain a permanent influence upon the rapidly-developing
European nations. Its chief contributions to modern civilization were
made by the gift of noble men who passed from the seclusion of the cell
into the active life of the world, thus practically proving that the
monks' greatest usefulness was attained when loyalty to their vows
yielded to a broader ideal of Christian character and service.

Thus the months passed into years and the years into centuries. Man was
slowly working out his salvation. Painfully, laboriously he emerged out
of barbarism into the lower forms of civilization; wearily he trudged
on his way toward the universal kingdom of righteousness and peace.

There were many other attempts at reform which may not even be
mentioned, but one character deserves brief consideration,--Bernard of
Clairvaux,--the fairest flower of those corrupt days. The order to which
he belonged was the Cistercians, so named because their mother house was
at Citeaux (Latin, _Cistercium_), in France. Its members are sometimes
called the "White Monks," because of their white tunics. Their
buildings, with their bare walls and low rafters, were a rebuke to the
splendid edifices of the richer orders. Austere simplicity characterized
their churches, liturgy and habits. Gorgeousness in decoration and
ostentation in public services were carefully avoided. They used no
pictures, stained glass or images. Once a week they flogged their sinful
bodies. Only four hours' sleep was allowed. Seeking out the wildest
spots and most rugged peaks they built their retreats, beautiful in
their simplicity and furnishing some of the finest examples of monastic
architecture. The order spread into England, where the first
Cistercians were characterized by devoutness and poverty. After a while
the hand of fate wrote of them as it had of so many, "none were more
greedy in adding farm to farm; none less scrupulous in obtaining grants
of land from wealthy patrons." In general, the order was no better and
no worse than the rest, but its chief glory is derived from the luster
that was shed upon it by Bernard.

[Illustration: SAINT BERNARD]

This illustrious counselor of kings and Catholic saint was born in
Burgundy in 1091. When about twenty years of age he entered the
monastery at Citeaux with five of his brothers. His genius might have
secured ecclesiastical preferment, but he chose to dig ditches, plant
fields and govern a monastery. He entered the cloister at Citeaux
because the monks were few and poor, and when it became crowded because
of his fame, and its rule became lax because of the crowds, he left the
cloister to found a home of his own. The abbot selected twelve monks,
following the number of apostles, and at their head placed young
Bernard. He led the twelve to the valley of Wormwood, and there, in a
cheerless forest, he established the monastery of Clairvaux, or Clear
Valley. His rule was fiercely severe because he himself loved hardships
and rough fare. "It in no way befits religion," he writes, "to seek
remedies for the body, nor is it good for health either. You may now and
then take some cheap herb,--such as poor men may,--and this is done
sometimes. But to buy drugs, to hunt up doctors, to take doses, is
unbecoming to religion and hostile to purity." His success in winning
men to the monastic life was almost phenomenal. It was said that
"mothers hid their sons, wives their husbands, and companions their
friends, lest they be persuaded by his eloquent message to enter the
cloister." "He was avoided like a plague," says one.

Bernard's monks changed the whole face of the country by felling trees
and tilling the ground. Their spiritual power rid the valley of Wormwood
of its robbers, and the district grew rich and prosperous. Thus Bernard
became the most famous man of his time. He was the arbiter in papal
elections, the judge in temporal quarrels, the healer of schisms and a
powerful preacher of the crusades. He was the embodiment of all that was
best in the thought of his age. His weaknesses and faults may largely be
explained by the fact that no man can rise entirely above the spirit of
his times and absolutely free himself from all pernicious tendencies.
"As an advocate for the rights of the church, for the immunities of the
clergy, no less than for the great interests of morality, he was fierce,
intractable, unforgiving, haughty and tyrannical." There was, however,
no note of insincerity in his work or writings, and no tinge of
hypocrisy in fervent zeal. He was brave, honest and pure; controlled
always by a consuming passion for the moral welfare of the people.

Our chief interest in Bernard relates to his monastic work which shed
undying luster on his name. Vaughan, in his "Hours with the Mystics,"
says of him: "His incessant cry for Europe is, Better monasteries, and
more of them. Let these ecclesiastical castles multiply; let them cover
and command the land, well garrisoned with men of God, and then, despite
all heresy and schism, theocracy will flourish, the earth shall yield
her increase, and all people praise the Lord.... Bernard had the
satisfaction of improving and extending monasticism to the utmost; of
sewing together, with tolerable success, the rended vesture of the
papacy; of suppressing a more popular and more scriptural Christianity
for the benefit of his despotic order; of quenching for a time, by the
extinction of Abelard, the spirit of free inquiry, and of seeing his
ascetic and superhuman ideal of religion everywhere accepted as the
genuine type of Christianity."

But in spite of Dunstans, Brunos and Bernards, the monastic institution
keeps on crumbling. The edifice will not stand much more propping and
tinkering. While we admire this display of moral force, this commendable
struggle of fresh courage and new hope against disintegrating forces,
the conviction gains ground that something is radically wrong with the
institution. There is something in it which fosters greed and desperate
ambition. "Is it not a shame," we feel compelled to ask, "that so much
splendid, chivalrous courage and magnificent energy should be expended
in trying to prevent a structure from falling, which, it seems, could
not possibly have been saved?" But while the decay could not be stayed,
we must admire the noble aims and pious enthusiasm of the reformers who
sought to preserve an institution which to them seemed the only hope of
a sinful world.

Dr. Storrs, in his life of Bernard, says: "His soon-canonized name has
shone starlike in history ever since he was buried; and it will not
hereafter decline from its height or lose its luster, while men continue
to recognize with honor the temper of devoted Christian consecration, a
character compact of noble forces, and infused with self-forgetful love
for God and man."

_The Military Religious Orders_

The life of Bernard forms an appropriate introduction to a consideration
of the Military Religious Orders. Although weary with labor and the
weight of years, he traveled over Europe preaching the second crusade.
"To kill or to be killed for Christ's sake is alike righteous and alike
safe," this was his message to the world. In spite of the opposition of
court advisers, Bernard induced Louis VII. and Conrad of Germany to take
the crusader's vow. He gave the Knights Templars a new rule and kindled
afresh a zeal for the knighthood. Although the members of the Military
Orders were not monks in the strict sense of the word, yet they were
soldier-monks, and as such deserve to be mentioned here.

At the basis of all monastic orders, as has been pointed out, were the
three vows of obedience, celibacy and poverty. Certain orders, by adding
to these rules other obligations, or by laying special stress on one of
the three ancient vows, produced new and distinct types of monastic
character and life.

The Knights of the Hospital assumed as their peculiar work the care of
the sick. The Begging Friars, as will be seen later, were distinguished
by the importance which they attached to the rule of poverty; the
Jesuits, by exalting the law of unquestioning obedience. In view of the
warlike character of the Middle Ages it is strange the soldier-monk did
not appear earlier than he did. The abbots, in many cases, were feudal
lords with immense possessions which needed protection like secular
property, but as this could not be secured by the arts of peace, we find
traces of the union of the soldier and the monk before the distinct
orders professing that character. The immediate cause of such
organizations was the crusades. There were numerous societies of this
character, some of them so far removed from the monastic type as
scarcely to be ranked with monastic institutions. One list mentions two
hundred and seven of these Orders of Knighthood, comprising many
varieties in theory and practice. The most important were three,--the
Knights of the Hospital, or the Knights of St. John; the Knights
Templars; and the Teutonic Knights. The Hospitallers wore black mantles
with white crosses, the Templars white mantles with red crosses, and the
Teutonic Knights white mantles with black crosses. The mantles were in
fact the robe of the monk adorned with a cross. The whole system was
really a marriage of monasticism and chivalry, as Gibbon says: "The
firmest bulwark of Jerusalem was founded in the Knights of the Hospital
and of the Temple, that strange association of monastic and military
life. The flower of the nobility of Europe aspired to wear the cross and
profess the vows of these orders; their spirit and discipline were

A passage in the Alexiad quoted in Walter Scott's "Robert of Paris"
reads: "As for the multitude of those who advanced toward the great city
let it be enough to say, that they were as the stars in the heaven or
as the sand of the seashore. They were in the words of Homer, as many as
the leaves and flowers of spring." This figurative description is almost
literally true. Europe poured her men and her wealth into the East. No
one but an eye-witness can conceive of the vast amount of suffering
endured by those fanatical multitudes as they roamed the streets of
Jerusalem looking for shelter, or lay starving by the roadside on a
bed of grass.

The term Hospitallers was applied to certain brotherhoods of monks and
laymen. While professing some monastic rule, the members of these
societies devoted themselves solely to caring for the sick and the poor,
the hospitals in those days being connected with the monasteries.

About the year 1050 some Italian merchants secured permission to build a
convent in Jerusalem to shelter Latin pilgrims. The hotels which sprang
up after this were gradually transformed into hospitals for the care of
the sick and presided over by Benedictine monks. The sick were carefully
nursed and shelter granted to as many as could be accommodated. Nobles
abandoned the profession of arms and, becoming monks, devoted
themselves to caring for the unfortunate crusaders in these inns. The
work rapidly increased in extent and importance. In the year 1099,
Godfrey de Bouillon endowed the original hospital, which had been
dedicated to St. John. He also established many other monasteries on
this holy soil. The monks, most of whom were also knights, formed an
organization which received confirmation from Rome, as "The Knights of
St. John of Jerusalem." The order rapidly assumed a distinctly military
character, for, to do its work completely, it must not only care for the
sick in Jerusalem, but defend the pilgrim on his way to the Holy City.
This ended in an undertaking to defend Christendom against Mohammedan
invasion and in fighting for the recovery of the Holy Sepulcher.

After visiting some of these Palestinian monasteries, a king of Hungary
thus describes his impressions: "Lodging in their houses, I have seen
them feed every day innumerable multitudes of poor, the sick laid on
good beds and treated with great care. In a word, the Knights of St.
John are employed sometimes like Martha, in action, and sometimes like
Mary, in contemplation, and this noble militia consecrate their days
either in their infirmaries or else in engagements against the enemies
of the cross."

The Knights Templars were far more militant than the Knights of St.
John, but they also were actuated by the monastic spirit. Bernard tried
to inspire this order with a strong Christian zeal so that, as he said,
"War should become something of which God could approve." The success
which attended its operations led as usual to its corruption and
decline. Beginning with a few crusaders leagued together for service and
living on the site of the ancient Temple at Jerusalem, it soon widened
the scope of its services and became a powerful branch of the crusading
army. It was charged by Philip IV. of France, in 1307, with the most
fearful crimes, to sustain or to deny which accusations many volumes
have been composed. Five years later the order was suppressed and its
vast accumulations transferred to the Knights of St. John. "The horrible
fate of the Templars," says Allen, "was taken by many as a beginning and
omen of the destruction that would soon pass upon all the hated
religious orders. And so this final burst of enthusiasm and splendor in
the religious life was among the prognostics of a state of things in
which monasticism must fade quite away."

Wondrous changes have taken place in those dark and troubled years since
Benedict began his labors at Monte Cassino, in 529. The monk has prayed
alone in the mountains, and converted the barbarian in the forest. He
has preached the crusades in magnificent cathedrals, and crossed stormy
seas in his frail bark. He has made the schools famous by his literary
achievements, and taught children the alphabet in the woodland cell. He
has been good and bad, proud and humble, rich and poor, arrogant and
gentle. He has met the shock of lances on his prancing steed, and
trudged barefoot from town to town. He has copied manuscripts in the
lonely Scottish isle, and bathed the fevered brow of the pilgrim in the
hospital at Jerusalem. He has dug ditches, and governed the world as the
pope of the Church. He has held the plow in the furrow, and thwarted the
devices of the king. He has befriended the poor, and imposed penance
upon princes. He has imitated the poverty and purity of Jesus, and aped
the pomp and vice of kings. He has dwelt solitary on cold mountains,
subsisting on bread, roots and water, and he has surrounded himself with
menials ready to gratify every luxurious wish, amid the splendor of
palatial cloisters. Still there are new types and phases of monasticism
yet to appear. The monk has other tasks to undertake, for the world is
not yet sufficiently wearied of his presence to destroy his cloister and
banish him from the land.



Abraham Lincoln only applied a general principle to a specific case when
he said, "This nation cannot long endure half slave and half free."
Glaring inconsistencies between faith and practice will eventually
destroy any institution, however lofty its ideal or noble its
foundation. God suffers long and is kind, but His forbearance is not
limitless. Monasticism, as has been shown, was never free from serious
inconsistency, from moral dualism. But the power of reform prolonged its
existence. It was constantly producing fresh models of its ancient
ideals. It had a hidden reserve-force from which it supplied shining
examples of a living faith and a self-denying love, just at the time
when it seemed as if the system was about to perish forever. When these
fresh exhibitions of monastic fidelity likewise became tarnished, when
men had tired of them and predicted the speedy collapse of the
institution, forth from the cloister came another body of monkish
recruits, to convince the world that monasticism was not dead; that it
did not intend to die; that it was mightier than all its enemies. The
day came, however, when the world lost its confidence in an institution
which required such constant reforming to keep it pure, which demanded
so much cleansing to keep it clean. Ideals that could so quickly lose
their influence for good came to be looked upon with suspicion.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century we are confronted by the
anomaly of a church grossly corrupt but widely obeyed. She is nearing
the pinnacle of her power and the zenith of her glory, although the
parochial clergy have sunk into vice and incapacity, and the monks, as a
class, are lazy, ignorant and notoriously corrupt. Two things,
especially, command the attention,--first, the immorality and laxity of
the monks; and second, the growth of heresies and the tendency toward
open schism. The necessity of reform was clearly apprehended by the
church as well as by the heretical parties, but, since the church had
such a hold upon society, those who sought to reform the monasteries by
returning to old beliefs and ancient customs were much more in favor
than those who left the church and opposed her from the outside. The
impossibility of substantial, internal reform had not yet come to be
generally recognized. As time passed the conviction that it was of no
use to attempt reforms from the inside gained ground; then the
separatists multiplied, and the shedding of blood commenced. The world
had to learn anew that it was futile to put new wine into old bottles or
to patch new cloth on an old garment.

"It is the privilege of genius," says Trench, "to evoke a new creation,
where to common eyes all appears barren and worn out." Francis and
Dominic evoked this new creation; but although the monk now will appear
in a new garb, he will prove himself to be about the same old character
whom the world has known a great many years; when this discovery is made
monasticism is doomed. Perplexed Europe will anxiously seek some means
of destruction, but God will have Luther ready to aid in the solution of
the problem.

_Francis Bernardone_, 1182-1226 _A.D._.

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