Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Freethinker's Text Book, Part II. by Annie Besant

Part 6 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

controversy regarded the manner of Christ's birth, and monks furiously
disputed whether or no Christ was born after the fashion of other
infants. The details of this dispute need not here be entered into.


"The deplorable state of Christianity in this century, arising partly
from that astonishing ignorance that gave a loose rein both to
superstition and immorality, and partly from an unhappy concurrence of
causes of another kind, is unanimously lamented by the various writers
who have transmitted to us the history of these miserable times" (p.
213). Yet "the gospel" spread. The Normans embraced "a religion of which
they were totally ignorant" (p. 214), A.D. 912, because Charles the
Simple of France offered Count Rollo a large territory on condition that
he would marry his daughter and embrace Christianity: Rollo gladly
accepted the territory and its encumbrances. Poland came next into the
fold of the Church, for the Duke of Poland, Micislaus, was persuaded by
his wife to profess Christianity, A.D. 965, and Pope John III. promptly
sent a bishop and a train of priests to convert the duke's subjects.
"But the exhortations and endeavours of these devout missionaries, who
were unacquainted with the language of the people they came to instruct
[how effective must have been their arguments!] would have been entirely
without effect, had they not been accompanied with the edicts and penal
laws, the promises and threats of Micislaus, which dejected the courage
and conquered the obstinacy of the reluctant Poles" (p. 214). "The
Christian religion was established in Russia by means every way similar
to those that had occasioned its propagation in Poland" (p. 215); the
Greek wife of the Russian duke persuaded him to adopt her creed, and he
was baptized A.D. 987. Mosheim assumes that the Russian people followed
their princes of their own accord, since "we have, at least, no account
of any compulsion or violence being employed in their conversion" (p.
215); if the Russians adopted Christianity without compulsion or
violence, all we can say is, that their conversion is unique. The Danes
were converted in A.D. 949, Otto the Great having defeated them, and
having made it an imperative condition of peace, that they should
profess Christianity. The Norwegians accepted the religion of Jesus on
the same terms. Thus the greater part of Europe became Christian, and we
even hear a cry raised by Pope Sylvester II. for the deliverance of
Palestine from the Mahommedans--for a holy war. Christianity having now
become so strong, learning had become proportionately weak; it had been
sinking lower and lower during each succeeding epoch, and in this tenth
century it reached its deepest stage of degradation. "The deplorable
ignorance of this barbarous age, in which the drooping arts were
entirely neglected, and the sciences seemed to be upon the point of
expiring for want of encouragement, is unanimously confessed and
lamented by all the writers who have transmitted to us any accounts of
this period of time" (p. 218). In vain a more enlightened emperor in the
East strove to revive learning and encourage study: "many of the most
celebrated authors of antiquity were lost, at this time, through the
sloth and negligence of the Greeks" (p. 219). "Nor did the cause of
philosophy fare better than that of literature. Philosophers, indeed,
there were; and, among them, some that were not destitute of genius and
abilities; but none who rendered their names immortal by productions
that were worthy of being transmitted to posterity" (p. 219). So low,
under the influence of Christianity, had sunk the literature of
Greece--Greece Pagan, which once brought forth Pythagoras, Socrates,
Plato, Euclid, Zenophon, and many another mighty one, whose fame rolls
down the ages--that Greece had become Greece Christian, and the vitality
of her motherhood had been drained from her, and left her without
strength to conceive men. In the West things were yet worse--instead of
Rome Pagan, that had spread light and civilization--the Rome of Cicero,
of Virgil, of Lucretius--we have Rome Christian, spreader of darkness
and of degradation, the Rome of the Popes and the monks. The Latins
"were, almost without exception, sunk in the most brutish and barbarous
ignorance, so that, according to the unanimous accounts of the most
credible writers, nothing could be more melancholy and deplorable than
the darkness that reigned in the western world during this century....
In the seminaries of learning, such as they were, the seven liberal
sciences were taught in the most unskilful and miserable manner, and
that by the monks, who esteemed the arts and sciences no further than as
they were subservient to the interests of religion, or, to speak more
properly, to the views of superstition" (p. 219). But the light from
Arabia was struggling to penetrate Christendom. Gerbert, a native of
France, travelled into Spain, and studied in the Arabian schools of
Cordova and Seville, under Arabian doctors; he developed mathematical
ability, and returned into Christendom with some amount of learning:
raised to the papal throne, under the name of Sylvester II., he tried to
restore the study of science and philosophy, and found that his
geometrical figures "were regarded by the monks as magical operations,"
and he himself "as a magician and a disciple of Satan" (p. 220).

The vice of the clergy was something terrible. "These corruptions were
mounted to the most enormous height in that dismal period of the Church
which we have now before us. Both in the eastern and western provinces,
the clergy were, for the most part, composed of a most worthless set of
men, shamefully illiterate and stupid, ignorant, more especially in
religious matters, equally enslaved to sensuality and superstition, and
capable of the most abominable and flagitious deeds. This dismal
degeneracy of the sacred order was, according to the most credible
accounts, principally owing to the pretended chiefs and rulers of the
universal Church, who indulged themselves in the commission of the most
odious crimes, and abandoned themselves to the lawless impulse of the
most licentious passions without reluctance or remorse--who confounded,
in short, all difference between just and unjust, to satisfy their
impious ambition, and whose spiritual empire was such a diversified
scene of iniquity and violence as never was exhibited under any of those
temporal tyrants who have been the scourges of mankind" (p. 221). Such
is the verdict passed on Christian rule by a Christian historian. In the
East we see such men as Theophylact; "this _exemplary_ prelate, who sold
every ecclesiastical benefice as soon as it became vacant, had in his
stable above 2000 hunting horses, which he fed with pignuts, pistachios,
dates, dried grapes, figs steeped in the most exquisite wines, to all
which he added the richest perfumes. One Holy Thursday, as he was
celebrating high-mass, his groom brought him the joyful news that one of
his favourite mares had foaled; upon which he threw down the Liturgy,
left the church, and ran in raptures to the stable, where, having
expressed his joy at that grand event, he returned to the altar to
finish the divine service, which he had left interrupted during his
absence" (p. 221, note). We shall see, in a moment, how the masses of
the people were housed and fed while such insane luxury surrounded
horses. In the west, the weary tale of the Roman pontiffs cannot all be
narrated here. Take the picture as drawn by Hallam: "This dreary
interval is filled up, in the annals of the papacy, by a series of
revolutions and crimes. Six popes were deposed, two murdered, one
mutilated. Frequently two, or even three, competitors, among whom it is
not always possible by any genuine criticism to distinguish the true
shepherd, drove each other alternately from the city. A few respectable
names appear thinly scattered through this darkness; and sometimes,
perhaps, a pope who had acquired estimation by his private virtues may
be distinguished by some encroachment on the rights of princes, or the
privileges of national churches. But, in general, the pontiffs of that
age had neither leisure nor capacity to perfect the great system of
temporal supremacy, and looked rather to a vile profit from the sale of
episcopal confirmations, or of exemptions to monasteries. The corruption
of the head extended naturally to all other members of the Church. All
writers concur in stigmatizing the dissoluteness and neglect of decency
that prevailed among the clergy. Though several codes of ecclesiastical
discipline had been compiled by particular prelates, yet neither these
nor the ancient canons were much regarded. The bishops, indeed, who were
to enforce them, had most occasion to dread their severity. They were
obtruded upon their sees, as the supreme pontiffs were upon that of
Rome, by force or corruption. A child of five years old was made
Archbishop of Rheims. The see of Narbonne was purchased for another at
the age of ten" ("Europe during the Middle Ages," p. 353, ed. 1869).
John X. made pope at the solicitation of his mistress Theodora, the
mother-in-law of the sovereign, and murdered at the instance of
Theodora's daughter, Marozia; John XI., illegitimate son of the same
Marozia, and of the celibate pontiff, Sergius III.; Boniface VII.
expelled, banished, returning and murdering the reigning pope: what
avails it to chronicle these monsters? Below the popes, a clergy as
vicious as their rulers, squandering money, plundered from the people in
dissoluteness and luxury. And the people, what of them?

As late as A.D. 1430 the houses of the peasantry were "constructed of
stones put together without mortar; the roofs were of turf--a stiffened
bull's-hide served for a door. The food consisted of coarse vegetable
products, such as peas, and even the bark of trees. In some places they
were unacquainted with bread. Cabins of reeds plastered with mud, houses
of wattled stakes, chimneyless peat fires, from which there was scarcely
an escape for the smoke, dens of physical and moral pollution swarming
with vermin, wisps of straw twisted round the limbs to keep off the
cold, the ague-stricken peasant with no help except shrine-cure," i.e.,
cure by the touching bone of saint, or image of virgin (Draper's
"Conflict between Religion and Science," p. 265). Even among the
wealthy, the life was coarse and rough; carpets were unknown; drainage
never thought of. The Anglo-Saxon "'nobles, devoted to gluttony and
voluptuousness, never visited the church, but the matins and the mass
were read over to them by a hurrying priest in their bed-chambers,
before they rose, themselves not listening. The common people were a
prey to the more powerful; their property was seized, their bodies
dragged away to distant countries; their maidens were either thrown into
a brothel or sold for slaves. Drinking, day and night, was the general
pursuit: vices, the companions of inebriety, followed, effeminating the
manly mind.' The baronial castles were dens of robbers. The Saxon
chronicler [William of Malmesbury, from whom the quotation above]
records how men and women were caught and dragged into those
strongholds, hung up by their thumbs or feet, fire applied to them,
knotted strings twisted round their heads, and many other torments
inflicted to extort ransom" (Ibid, p. 266). When the barons had nearly
finished their evil lives, the church stepped in, claiming her share of
the plunder and the wealth thus amassed, and opening the gates of
paradise to the dying thief. The cities were as wretched as their
inhabitants: no paving, no cleaning, no lighting. In the country the old
Roman roads were unmended, unkept; Europe was slipping backwards into
uttermost barbarism. Meanwhile things were very different where the
blighting power of Christianity was not in the ascendant. "Europe at the
present day does not offer more taste, more refinement, more elegance,
than might have been seen, at the epoch of which we are speaking, in the
capitals of the Spanish Arabs. Their streets were lighted and solidly
paved. The houses were frescoed and carpeted; they were warmed in winter
by furnaces, and cooled in summer with perfumed air brought by
underground pipes from flower-beds. They had baths, and libraries, and
dining-halls, fountains of quicksilver and water. City and country were
full of conviviality, and of dancing to the lute and mandolin. Instead
of the drunken and gluttonous wassail orgies of their northern
neighbours, the feasts of the Saracens were marked by sobriety. Wine was
prohibited.... In the tenth century, the Khalif Hakem II. had made
beautiful Andalusia the paradise of the world. Christians, Mussulmans,
Jews, mixed together without restraint.... All learned men, no matter
from what country they came, or what their religious views, were
welcomed. The khalif had in his palace a manufactory of books, and
copyists, binders, illuminators. He kept book-buyers in all the great
cities of Asia and Africa. His library contained 400,000 volumes,
superbly bound and illuminated" (Ibid, pp. 141, 142). When the
Christians in the fifteenth century seized "beautiful Andalusia," they
erected the Inquisition, burned the books, burned the people, banished
the Jews and the Moors, and founded the miserable land known as modern

There was but little heresy during this melancholy century; people did
not think enough even to think badly. The Paulicians spread through
Bulgaria, and established themselves there under a patriarch of their
own. Some Arians still existed. Some Anthropomorphites gave some
trouble, maintaining that God sat on a golden throne, and was served by
angels with wings: their "heresy" is, however, directly supported by the
Scriptures. A.D. 999, a man named Lentard began to speak against the
worship of images, and the payment of tithes to priests, and asserted
that in the Old Testament prophecies truth and falsehood are mingled.
His disciples seem to have merged into the Albigenses in the next

The year A.D. 1000 deserves a special word of notice. Christians fancied
that the world was to last for but one thousand years after the birth of
Christ, and that it would therefore come to an end in A.D. 1000. "Many
charters begin with these words: 'As the world is now drawing to its
close.' An army marching under the emperor Otho I. was so terrified by
an eclipse of the sun, which it conceived to announce this consummation,
as to disperse hastily on all sides" ("Europe during the Middle Ages,"
Hallam, P. 599) "Prodigious numbers of people abandoned all their civil
connections, and their parental relations, and giving over to the
churches or monasteries all their lands, treasures, and worldly effects,
repaired with the utmost precipitation to Palestine, where they imagined
that Christ would descend to judge the world. Others devoted themselves
by a solemn and voluntary oath to the service of the churches, convents,
and priesthood, whose slaves, they became in the most rigorous sense of
that word, performing daily their heavy tasks; and all this from a
notion that the Supreme Judge would diminish the severity of their
sentence, and look upon them with a more favourable and propitious eye,
on account of their having made themselves the slaves of his ministers.
When an eclipse of the sun or moon happened to be visible, the cities
were deserted, and their miserable inhabitants fled for refuge to hollow
caverns, and hid themselves among the craggy rocks, and under the
bending summits of steep mountains. The opulent attempted to bribe the
Deity and the saintly tribe, by rich donations conferred upon the
sacerdotal and monastic orders, who were looked upon as the immediate
vicegerents of heaven" (p. 226). Thus the Church still reaped wealth out
of the fear of the people she deluded, and while fields lay unsown, and
houses stood unrepaired, and the foundations of famine were laid, Mother
Church gathered lands and money into her capacious lap, and troubled
little about the starving children, provided she herself could wax fat
on the good things of the world which she professed to have renounced.


The Prussians, during this century, were driven into the fold of the
Church. A Christian missionary, Adalbert, bishop of Prague, had been
murdered by the "fierce and savage Prussians," and in order to show the
civilising results of the gentle Christian creed, Boleslaus, king of
Poland, entered "into a bloody war with the Prussians, and he obtained,
by the force of penal laws and of a victorious, army, what Adalbert
could not effect by exhortation and argument. He dragooned this savage
people into the Christian Church" (p. 230). Some of his followers tried
a gentler method of conversion, and were murdered by the Prussians, who
clearly saw no reason why Christians should do all the killing. We have
already seen that Sylvester II. called upon the Christian princes to
commence a "holy war" against "the infidels" who held the holy places of
Christianity. Gregory VII. strove to stir them up in like fashion, and
had gathered together an army of upwards of 50,000 men, whom he proposed
to lead in person into Palestine. The Pope, however, quarrelled with
Henry IV., emperor of Germany, and his project fell through. At the
close of this century, the long-talked of effort was made. Peter the
Hermit, who had travelled through Palestine, came into Europe and
related in all directions tales of the sufferings of the Christians
under the rule of the "barbarous" Saracens. He appealed to Urban II.,
the then Pope, and Urban, who at first discouraged him, seeing that
Peter had succeeded in rousing the most warlike nations of Christian
Europe into enthusiasm, called a council at Placentia, A.D. 1095, and
appealed to the Christian princes to take up the cause of the Cross. The
council was not successful, and Urban summoned another at Clermont, and
himself addressed the assembly. "It is the will of God" was the shout
that answered him, and the people flew to arms. "Every means was used to
excite an epidemical frenzy, the remission of penance, the dispensation
from those practices of self-denial which superstition imposed or
suspended at pleasure, the absolution of all sins, and the assurance of
eternal felicity. None doubted that such as persisted in the war
received immediately the reward of martyrdom. False miracles and
fanatical prophecies, which were never so frequent, wrought up the
enthusiasm to a still higher pitch. [Mosheim states, p. 231, that Peter
the Hermit carried about with him a letter from heaven, calling on all
true Christians to deliver their brethren from the infidel yoke.] And
these devotional feelings, which are usually thwarted and balanced by
other passions, fell in with every motive that could influence the men
of that time, with curiosity, restlessness, the love of licence, thirst
for war, emulation, ambition. Of the princes who assumed the cross,
some, probably from the beginning, speculated upon forming independent
establishments in the East. In later periods, the temporal benefits of
undertaking a crusade undoubtedly blended themselves with less selfish
considerations. Men resorted to Palestine, as in modern times they have
done to the colonies, in order to redeem their time, or repair their
fortune. Thus Gui de Lusignan, after flying from France for murder, was
ultimately raised to the throne of Jerusalem. To the more vulgar class
were held out inducements which, though absorbed in the more overruling
fanaticism of the first crusade, might be exceedingly efficacious when
it began rather to flag. During the time that a crusader bore the cross,
he was free from suit for his debts, and the interest of them was
entirely abolished; he was exempted, in some instances, at least, from
taxes, and placed under the protection of the Church, so that he could
not be impleaded in any civil court, except on criminal charges, or
disputes relating to land" ("Europe during the Middle Ages," Hallam, pp.
29, 30). Thus fanaticism and earthly pleasures and benefits all pushed
men in the same direction, and Europe flung itself upon Palestine. Men,
women, and children, poured eastwards in that first crusade, and this
mixed vanguard of the coming army of warriors was led by Peter the
Hermit and Gaultier Sans-Avoir. This vanguard was "a motley assemblage
of monks, prostitutes, artists, labourers, lazy tradesmen, merchants,
boys, girls, slaves, malefactors, and profligate debauchees;" "it was
principally composed of the lowest dregs of the multitude, who were
animated solely by the prospect of spoil and plunder, and hoped to make
their fortunes by this holy campaign" (p. 232). "This first division, in
their march through Hungary and Thrace, committed the most flagitious
crimes, which so incensed the inhabitants of the countries through which
they passed, particularly those of Hungary and Turcomania, that they
rose up in arms and massacred the greatest part of them" (Ibid). "Father
Maimbourg, notwithstanding his immoderate zeal for the holy war, and
that fabulous turn which enables him to represent it in the most
favourable points of view, acknowledges frankly that the first division
of this prodigious army committed the most abominable enormities in the
countries through which they passed, and that there was no kind of
insolence, in justice, impurity, barbarity, and violence, of which they
were not guilty. Nothing, perhaps, in the annals of history can equal
the flagitious deeds of this infernal rabble" (Ibid, note). Few of these
unhappy wretches reached the Holy Land. "To engage in the crusade and to
perish in it, were almost synonymous" (Hallam, p. 30), even for those
who entered Palestine. The loss of life was something terrible. "We
should be warranted by contemporary writers in stating the loss of the
Christians alone during this period at nearly a million; but at the
least computation, it must have exceeded half that number" (Ibid). The
real army, under Godfrey de Bouillon, consisted of some 80,000
well-appointed horse and foot. But at Nice the crowd of crusaders
numbered 700,000, after the great slaughter in Hungary. Jerusalem was
taken, A.D. 1099, and it was there "where their triumph was consummated,
that it was stained with the most atrocious massacre; not limited to the
hour of resistance, but renewed deliberately even after that famous
penitential procession to the holy sepulchre, which might have calmed
their ferocious dispositions if, through the misguided enthusiasm of the
enterprise, it had not been rather calculated to excite them" (Ibid, p.
31). The last crusade occurred A.D. 1270, and between the first in 1096
and the last in 1270, human lives were extinguished in numbers it is
impossible to reckon, increasing ever the awful sum total of the misery
lying at the foot of the blood-red cross of Christendom.

A collateral advantage accrued to the clergy through the crusades;
"their wealth, continually accumulated, enabled them to become the
regular purchasers of landed estates, especially in the time of the
crusades, when the fiefs of the nobility were constantly in the market
for sale or mortgage" (Ibid, p. 333).

The last vestiges of nominal paganism were erased in this century, and
it remained only under Christian names. Capital punishment was
proclaimed against all who worshipped the old deities under their old
titles, and "this dreadful severity contributed much more towards the
extirpation of paganism, than the exhortations and instructions of
ignorant missionaries, who were unacquainted with the true nature of the
gospel, and dishonoured its pure and holy doctrines by their licentious
lives and their superstitious practices" (p. 236). Learning began to
revive, as men, educated in the Arabian schools, gradually spread over
Europe; thus: "the school of Salernum, in the kingdom of Naples, was
renowned above all others for the study of physic in this century, and
vast numbers crowded thither from all the provinces of Europe to receive
instruction in the art of healing; but the medical precepts which
rendered the doctors of Salernum so famous were all derived from the
writings of the Arabians, or from the schools of the Saracens in Spain
and Africa" (p. 237). "About the year 1050, the face of philosophy began
to change, and the science of logic assumed a new aspect. This
revolution began in France, where several of the books of Aristotle had
been brought from the schools of the Saracens in Spain, and it was
effected by a set of men highly renowned for their abilities and genius,
such as Berenger, Roscellinus, Hildebert, and after them by Gilbert de
la Porre, the famous Abelard and others" (p. 238). Thus we see that in
science, in philosophy, in logic, we alike owe to Arabia the revival of
thought in Christendom. Progress, however, was very slow, and the
thought was not yet strong enough to arouse the fears of the Church, so
it spread for a while in peace.

Hallam sums up for us the state of learning, or rather of ignorance,
during the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, and his account
may well find its place here. "When Latin had thus ceased to be a living
language, the whole treasury of knowledge was locked up from the eyes of
the people. The few who might have imbibed a taste for literature, if
books had been accessible to them, were reduced to abandon pursuits that
could only be cultivated through a kind of education not easily within
their reach. Schools confined to cathedrals and monasteries, and
exclusively designed for the purposes of religion, afforded no
encouragement or opportunities to the laity. The worst effect was that,
as the newly-formed languages were hardly made use of in writing, Latin
being still preserved in all legal instruments and public
correspondence, the very use of letters, as well as of books, was
forgotten. For many centuries, to sum up the account of ignorance in a
word, it was rare for a layman, of whatever rank, to know how to sign
his name. Their charters, till the use of seals became general, were
subscribed with the mark of the cross. Still more extraordinary it was
to find one who had any tincture of learning. Even admitting every
indistinct commendation of a monkish biographer (with whom a knowledge
of church music would pass for literature), we could make out a very
short list of scholars. None certainly were more distinguished as such
than Charlemagne and Alfred. But the former, unless we reject a very
plain testimony, was incapable of writing; and Alfred found difficulty
in making a translation from the pastoral instruction of St. Gregory, on
account of his imperfect knowledge of Latin. Whatever mention,
therefore, we find of learning and the learned, during these dark ages,
must be understood to relate only to such as were within the pale of
clergy, which indeed was pretty extensive, and comprehended many who did
not exercise the offices of religious ministry. But even the clergy
were, for a long period, not very materially superior, as a body, to the
uninstructed laity. An inconceivable cloud of ignorance overspread the
whole face of the Church, hardly broken by a few glimmering lights, who
owe almost the whole of their distinction to the surrounding
darkness.... Of this prevailing ignorance it is easy to produce abundant
testimony. Contracts were made verbally, for want of notaries capable of
drawing up charters; and these, when written, were frequently barbarous
and ungrammatical to an incredible degree. For some considerable
intervals, scarcely any monument of literature has been preserved,
except a few jejune chronicles, the vilest legends of saints, or verses
equally destitute of spirit and metre. In almost every council the
ignorance of the clergy forms a subject for reproach. It is asserted by
one held in 992, that scarcely a single person was to be found in Rome
itself who knew the first element of letters. Not one priest of a
thousand in Spain, about the age of Charlemagne, could address a common
letter of salutation to another. In England, Alfred declares that he
could not recollect a single priest south of the Thames (the most
civilised part of England) at the time of his accession who understood
the ordinary prayers, or could translate Latin into his mother-tongue.
Nor was this better in the time of Dunstan, when it is said, none of the
clergy knew how to write or translate a Latin letter. The homilies which
they preached were compiled for their use by some bishops, from former
works of the same kind, or the writings of the Christian fathers.... If
we would listen to some literary historians, we should believe that the
darkest ages contained many individuals, not only distinguished among
their contemporaries, but positively eminent for abilities and
knowledge. A proneness to extol every monk of whose productions a few
letters or a devotional treatise survives, every bishop of whom it is
related that he composed homilies, runs through the laborious work of
the Benedictines of St. Maur, the 'Literary History of France,' and, in
a less degree, is observable even in Tiraboschi, and in most books of
this class. Bede, Alcuin, Hincmar, Raban, and a number of inferior
names, become real giants of learning in their uncritical panegyrics.
But one might justly say, that ignorance is the smallest defect of the
writers of these dark ages. Several of these were tolerably acquainted
with books; but that wherein they are uniformly deficient is original
argument or expression. Almost every one is a compiler of scraps from
the fathers, or from such semi-classical authors as Boethius,
Cassiodorus, or Martinus Capella. Indeed, I am not aware that there
appeared more than two really considerable men in the republic of
letters from the sixth to the middle of the eleventh century--John,
surnamed Scotus, or Erigena, a native of Ireland, and Gerbert, who
became pope by the name of Sylvester II.: the first endowed with a bold
and acute metaphysical genius, the second excellent, for the time when
he lived, in mathematical science and useful mechanical invention"
("Europe during the Middle Ages," Hallam, pp. 595-598).

If we look at the ministers of the Church, the old story of tyranny and
vice is told over again during this century. Among its popes is numbered
Benedict IX., deposed for his profligacy, restored and again deposed,
restored by force of arms, and selling the pontificate, so that three
popes at once claimed the tiara, and were all three declared unworthy,
and a fourth placed on the throne. Fresh disturbances followed, and new
usurpers, until in A.D. 1059 the election of the pope was taken out of
the hands of the people and transferred to the college of cardinals, a
change which was much struggled against, but which was ultimately
adopted. In A.D. 1073 Hildebrand was elected pope under the title of
Gregory VII.; this man, perhaps, more than any other, augmented the
temporal power of the papacy. It was he who moulded the church into the
form of an absolute monarchy, and fought against all local privileges
and national freedom of the churches in each land; it was he who claimed
rule over all kings and princes, and treated them as vassals of the
Roman see; it was he who, in 1074, calling a council at Rome, caused it
to decree the celibacy of the clergy, so that priests having no home,
and no family ties, might feel their only home in the Church, and their
only tie to Rome; it was he who struggled against Germany, and who kept
the excommunicated emperor standing barefoot and almost naked in the
snow for three days, in the courtyard of his castle. A bold bad man was
this Hildebrand, but a man of genius and a master-mind, who conceived
the mighty idea of a universal Church, wherein all princes should be
vassals, and the head of the Church absolute monarch of the world.

It was at the annual council of Rome, A.D. 1076, that Pope Gregory VII.
recited and proclaimed "all the ancient maxims, all the doubtful
traditions, all the excessive pretensions, by which he could support his
supremacy. It was, in a manner, the abridged code of his domination--the
laws of servitude that he proposed to the world at large. Here are the
terms of this charter of theocracy: 'The Roman Church is founded by God
alone. The Roman pontiff alone can legitimately take the title of
universal ... There shall be no intercourse whatever held with persons
excommunicated by the Pope, and none may dwell in the same house with
them.... He alone may wear the imperial insignia. All the princes of the
earth shall kiss the feet of the Pope, but of none other.... He has the
right of deposing emperors.... The sentence of the Pope can be revoked
by none, and he alone can revoke the sentences passed by others. He can
be judged by none. None may dare to pronounce sentence on one who
appeals to the See Apostolic. To it shall be referred all major causes
by the whole Church. The Church of Rome never has erred, and never can
err, as Scripture warrants. A Roman pontiff, canonically ordained, at
once becomes, by the merit of Saint Peter, indubitably holy. By his
order and with his permission it is lawful for subjects to accuse
princes.... The Pope can loose subjects from the oath of fealty.' Such
are the fundamental articles promulgated by Gregory VII. in the Council
of Rome, which the official historian of the Church reproduced in the
commencement of the seventeenth century as being authentic and
legitimate, and Rome has never disavowed it. Borrowed in part from the
false Decretals, resting, most of them, on the fabulous donation of
Constantine, and on the successive impostures and usurpations of the
first barbarous ages, they received from the hand of Gregory VII. a new
character of force and unity. That pontiff stamped them with the
sanction of his own genius. Such authority had never before been
created: it made every other power useless and subaltern" ("Life of
Gregory VII.," by Villemain, trans. by Brockley, vol. ii., pp. 53-55).
Thus the struggle became inevitable between the temporal and the
spiritual powers. "In every country there was a dual government:--1.
That of a local kind, represented by a temporal sovereign. 2. That of a
foreign kind, acknowledging the authority of the Pope. This Roman
influence was, in the nature of things, superior to the local; it
expressed the sovereign will of one man over all the nations of the
continent conjointly, and gathered overwhelming power from its
compactness and unity. The local influence was necessarily of a feeble
nature, since it was commonly weakened by the rivalries of conterminous
states and the dissensions dexterously provoked by its competitor. On
not a single occasion could the various European states form a coalition
against their common antagonist. Whenever a question arose, they were
skilfully taken in detail, and commonly mastered. The ostensible object
of papal intrusion was to secure for the different peoples, moral
well-being; the real object was to obtain large revenues and give
support to large bodies of ecclesiastics. The revenues thus abstracted
were not unfrequently many times greater than those passing into the
treasury of the local power. Thus, on the occasion of Innocent IV.
demanding provision to be made for three hundred additional Italian
clergy by the Church of England, and that one of his nephews, a mere
boy, should have a stall in Lincoln Cathedral, it was found that the sum
already annually abstracted by foreign ecclesiastics from England was
thrice that which went into the coffers of the king. While thus the
higher clergy secured every political appointment worth having, and
abbots vied with counts in the herds of slaves they possessed--some, it
is said, owned not fewer than twenty thousand--begging friars pervaded
society in all directions, picking up a share of what still remained to
the poor. There was a vast body of non-producers, living in idleness and
owning a foreign allegiance, who were subsisting on the fruits of the
toil of the labourers" ("Conflict between Religion and Science," Draper,
pp. 266, 267).

The struggle between the Greek and Latin Churches, hushed for awhile,
broke out again fiercely A.D. 1053, and in 1054 Rome excommunicated
Constantinople, and Constantinople excommunicated Rome. The disputes as
to transubstantiation continued, and shook the Roman Church with their
violence. Outside orthodoxy, some of the old heresies lingered on. The
Paulicians wandered throughout Europe, and became known in Italy as the
Paterini and the Cathari, in France as the Albigenses, Bulgarians, or
Publicans. The Council of Orleans condemned them to be burned alive, and
many perished.


The wars which spread Christianity were not yet entirely over, but we
only hear of them now on the outskirts, so to speak, of Europe, except
where some tribes apostatized now and then, and were brought back to the
true faith by the sword. The struggles between the popes and the more
stiff-necked princes as to their relative rights and privileges
continued, and we sometimes see the curious spectacle of a pontiff on
the side of the people, or rather of the barons, against the king:
whenever this is so, we find that the king is struggling against Roman
supremacy, and that the pope uses the power of the nation to subdue the
rebellious monarch. We do not find Rome interfering to save the people
from oppression when the oppressor is a faithful and obedient son of
Holy Church.

Fresh heresies spread during this century, and we everywhere met with
one corrective--death. Most of them appear to have grown out of the old
Manichaean heresy, and taught much of the old asceticism. The Cathari
were hunted down and put to death throughout Italy. Arnold of Brescia,
who loudly protested against the possessions of the Church, and
maintained that church revenues should be handed over to the State,
proved himself so extremely distasteful to the clergy that they arrested
him, crucified him and burned his dead body (A.D. 1155). Peter de Bruys,
who objected to infant baptism, and may be called the ancestor of the
Baptists, was burnt A.D. 1130. Many other reformers shared the same
fate, and one large sect must here be noted. Peter Waldus, its founder,
was a merchant of Lyons, who (A.D. 1160) employed a priest to translate
the Gospels for him, together with other portions of the Bible. Studying
these, he resolved to abandon his business and distribute his wealth
among the poor, and, in A.D. 1180, he became a public preacher, and
formed an association to teach the doctrines of the Gospel, as he
conceived them, against the doctrines of the Church. The sect first
assumed only the simple name of "the poor men of Lyons," but soon became
known as the Waldenses, one of the most powerful and most widely spread
sects of the Middle Ages. They were, in fact, the precursors of the
Reformation, and are notable as heretics protesting against the authorty
of Rome because that authority did not commend itself to their reason;
thus they asserted the right of private judgment, and for that assertion
they deserve a niche in the great temple of heretic thought.


In the far west of Europe paganism still struggled against Christianity,
and from A.D. 1230 to 1280 a long, fierce war was waged against the
Prussians, to confirm them in the Christian faith; the Teutonic knights
of St. Mary succeeded finally in their apostolic efforts, and at last
"established Christianity and fixed their own dominion in Prussia" (p.
309), whence they made forays into the neighbouring countries, and
"pillaged, burned, massacred, and ruined all before them." In Spain,
Christianity had a yet sadder triumph, for there the civilized Moors
were falling under the brutal Christians, and the "garden of the world"
was being invaded by the hordes of the Roman Church. The end, however,
had not yet come. In France, we see the erection of THE INQUISITION, the
most hateful and fiendish tribunal ever set up by religion. The
heretical sects were spreading rapidly in southern provinces of France,
and Innocent III., about the commencement of this century, sent legates
extraordinary into the southern provinces of France to do what the
bishops had left undone, and to extirpate heresy, in all its various
forms and modifications, without being at all scrupulous in using such
methods as might be necessary to effect this salutary purpose. The
persons charged with this ghostly commission were Rainier, a Cistercian
monk, Pierre de Castelnau, archdeacon of Maguelonne, who became also
afterwards a Cistercian friar. These eminent missionaries were followed
by several others, among whom was the famous Spaniard, Dominic, founder
of the order of preachers, who, returning from Rome in the year 1206,
fell in with these delegates, embarked in their cause, and laboured both
by his exhortations and actions in the extirpation of heresy. These
spiritual champions, who engaged in this expedition upon the sole
authority of the pope, without either asking the advice, or demanding
the succours of the bishops, and who inflicted capital punishment upon
such of the heretics as they could not convert by reason and argument,
were distinguished in common discourse by the title of _inquisitors_,
and from them the formidable and odious tribunal called the
_Inquisition_ derived its origin (pp. 343, 344). In A.D. 1229, a
council of Toulouse "erected in every city a _council of inquisitors
consisting of one priest and two laymen_" (Ibid). In A.D. 1233, Gregory
IX. superseded this tribunal by appointing the Dominican monks as
inquisitors, and the pope's legate in France thereupon went from city to
city, wherever these monks had a monastery, and there appointed some of
their number "inquisitors of heretical pravity." The princes of Europe
were then persuaded to lend the aid of the State to the work of blood,
and to commit to the flames those who were handed over as heretics to
the civil power by the inquisitors. The plan of working was most

The rules of torture were carefully drawn out: the prisoner was stripped
naked, the hair cut off, and the body then laid on the rack and bound
down; the right, then the left, foot tightly bound and strained by
cords; the right and left arm stretched; the fleshy part of the arm
compressed with fine cords; all the cords tightened together by one
turn; a second and third turn of the same kind: beyond this, with the
rack, women were not to be tortured; with men a fourth turn was
employed. These directions were written in a Manual, used by the Grand
Inquisitor of Seville as late as A.D. 1820. An analysis is given by Dr.
Rule, in his "History of the Inquisition," Appendix to vol. i., pp.
339-359, ed. 1874. Then we hear, elsewhere, of torture by roasting the
feet, by pulleys, by red-hot pincers--in short, by every abominable
instrument of cruelty which men, inspired by religion, could conceive.
Let the student take Llorente and Dr. Rule alone, and he will learn
enough of the Inquisition horrors to make him shudder at the sight of a
cross--at the name of Christianity.

Llorente gives the most revolting details of the torture of Jean de
Salas, at Valladolid, A.D. 1527, and this one case may serve as a
specimen of Inquisition work during these bloodstained centuries.
Stripped to his shirt, he was placed on the _chevalet_ (a narrow frame,
wherein the body was laid, with no support save a pole across the
middle), and his feet were raised higher than his head; tightly twisted
cords cut through his flesh, and were twisted yet tighter and tighter as
the torture proceeded; fine linen, thrust into his mouth and throat,
added to the unnatural position, made breathing well nigh impossible,
and on the linen water slowly fell, drop by drop, from a suspended
vessel over his head, till every struggling breath stained the cloth
with blood (see "Histoire critique de l'Inquisition d'Espagne," t. II.,
pp. 20-23, ed. 1818). This Spanish Inquisition, during its existence,
punished heretics as follows:--

Burnt alive ....................... 31,912

Burnt in effigy.................... 17,659

Heavily punished................... 291,450
Total 341,021

(Ibid, t. IV. p. 271). Add to this list the ruined families, some of
whose members fell victims to the Inquisition, and then--remembering
that Spain was but one of the countries which it desolated--let the
student judge of the huge total of human agony caused by this awful
institution. Nor must it be forgotten that its dungeons did not gape
only for those who opposed the pretensions of Rome; men of science,
philosophers, thinkers, all these were its foes; Llorente gives a list
of no less than 119 learned and eminent scientific men who, in Spain
alone, fell under the scourge of the Inquisition (see t. II. pp.

One special crime of the Church in this age must not be forgotten: her
treatment of Roger Bacon. Roger Bacon was a Franciscan monk, who not
only studied Greek, Hebrew, and Oriental languages, but who devoted
himself to natural science, and made many discoveries in astronomy,
chemistry, optics, and mathematics. He is said to have discovered
gunpowder, and he proposed a reform of the calendar similar to that
introduced by Gregory XIII., 300 years later. His reward was to be
hooted at as a magician, and to be confined in a dungeon for many years.

The heretics spread and increased in this century, spite of the terrible
weapon brought to bear against them. The "Brethren and Sisters of the
Free Spirit," known also as Beghards, Beguttes, Bicorni, Beghins, and
Turlupins, were the chief additional body. They believed that all things
had emanated from God, and that to Him they would return; and to this
Eastern philosophy they added practical fanaticism, rushing wildly
about, shouting, yelling, begging. The Waldenses and Albigenses
multiplied, and diversity of opinion spread in every direction.


This fourteenth century is one of the epochs that sorely test the
ingenuity of believers in papal infallibility; for the cardinals, having
elected one pope in A.D. 1378, rapidly took a dislike to him, and
elected a second. The first choice, Urban VI., remained at Rome; the
second, Clement VII., betook himself to Avignon. They duly
excommunicated each other, and the Latin Church was rent in twain. "The
distress and calamity of these times is beyond all power of description;
for not to insist upon the perpetual contentions and wars between the
factions of the several popes, by which multitudes lost their fortunes
and lives, all sense of religion was extinguished in most places, and
profligacy arose to a most scandalous excess. The clergy, while they
vehemently contended which of the reigning popes was the true successor
of Christ, were so excessively corrupt as to be no longer studious to
keep up even an appearance of religion or decency" ("Europe During the
Middle Ages," Hallam, p. 359).

Meanwhile, the struggle between Rome and the heretics went on with
ever-increasing fury. In England, Dr. John Wickcliff, rector of
Lutterworth, became famous by his attack on the mendicant orders in A.D.
1360, and from that time he raised his voice louder and louder, till he
spoke against the pope himself. He translated the Bible into English,
attacked many of the prevailing superstitions, and although condemned as
holding heretical opinions, he yet died in peace, A.D. 1387. Rome
revenged itself by digging up his bones and burning them, about thirteen
years later. Rebellion spread even among the monks of the Church, and a
vast number of some nonconformist Franciscan monks, termed Spirituals,
were burned for their refusal to obey the pope on matters of discipline.
The intense hatred between the Franciscan and Dominican orders made the
latter the willing instrument of the papacy; and, in their character as
inquisitors, they hunted down their unfortunate rivals as heretics. The
Flagellants, a sect who wandered about flogging themselves to the glory
of God, fell also under the merciless hands of the inquisitors, as did
also the Knights Templars in France. A new body, known as the Dancers,
started up in A.D. 1373, and spread through Flanders; but the priests
prayed them away by exorcising the dancing devils that, they said,
inhabited the members of this curious sect. Among the sufferers of this
century one name must not be forgotten: it is that of Ceccus Asculanus.
This man was an Aristotelian philosopher, an astrologer, a
mathematician, and a physician. "This unhappy man, having performed some
experiments in mechanics that seemed miraculous to the vulgar, and
having also offended many, and among the rest his master [the Duke of
Calabria], by giving out some predictions which were said to have been
fulfilled, was universally supposed to deal with infernal spirits, and
burned for it by the inquisitors, at Florence, in the year 1337" (p.
355). There seems no green spot on which to rest the eye in this weary
stretch of blood and fire.


In this fifteenth century the knell of the Church rang out; it is
memorable evermore in history for the discovery of the New World, and
the consequent practical demonstration of the falsehood of the whole
theory of the patristic and ecclesiastical theology. In the flood only
"Noah and his three sons, with their wives, were saved in an ark. Of
these sons, Sham remained in Asia and repeopled it. Ham peopled Africa;
Japhet, Europe. As the fathers were not acquainted with the existence of
America, they did not provide an ancestor for its people" ("Conflict
between Religion and Science," Dr. Draper, p. 63). Lactantius, indeed,
inveighed against the folly of those who believed in the existence of
the antipodes, and Augustine maintained that it was impossible there
should be people living on the other side of the earth. Besides, "in the
day of judgment, men on the other side of a globe could not see the Lord
descending through the air" (Ibid, p. 64). Clearly there was no other
side, theologically; only Columbus sailed there. Another fatal blow was
struck at the Church by the invention of the printing press, about A.D.
1440, an invention which made knowledge possible for the many, and by
diffusion of knowledge made heresy likewise certain. It is not for me,
however, to trace here the progress of heretic thought; that brighter
task is for another pen; mine only to turn over the bloodstained and
black pages of the Church. One name stands out in the list of the
pontiffs of this century, which is almost unparalleled in its infamy; it
is that of Roderic Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. Foully vicious, cruel, and
bloodthirsty, he is startlingly bad, even for a pope. Among his children
are found the names of Caesar and Lucretia Borgia, names whose very
mention recalls a list of horrible crimes. Alexander died A.D. 1503,
from swallowing, by mistake, a poison which he and his son Caesar had
prepared for others. Turning to the heretics, we see great lives cut
short by the terrible blows of the inquisition:--Savanarola, the brave
Italian preacher, the reformer monk, tortured and burned A.D. 1498; John
Huss, the enemy of the papacy, burned A.D. 1415, in direct violation of
the safe conduct granted him; Jerome, of Prague, the friend and
companion of Huss, burned A.D. 1416. Myriads of their unhappy followers
shared their fate in every European land. But to Spain belongs the
terrible pre-eminence of cruelty in this last century before the
Reformation. In the year 1478 a bull of Pope Sixtus IV. established the
Inquisition in Spain. "In the first year of the operation of the
Inquisition, 1481, two thousand victims were burnt in Andalusia; besides
these, many thousands were dug up from their graves and burnt; seventeen
thousand were fined or imprisoned for life. Whoever of the persecuted
race could flee, escaped for his life. Torquemada, now appointed
Inquisitor-General for Castile and Leon, illustrated his office by his
ferocity. Anonymous accusations were received, the accused was not
confronted by witnesses, torture was relied upon for conviction; it was
inflicted in vaults where no one could hear the cries of the tormented.
As, in pretended mercy, it was forbidden to inflict torture a second
time, with horrible duplicity it was affirmed that the torment had not
been completed at first, but had only been suspended out of charity
until the following day! The families of the convicted were plunged into
irretrievable ruin.... This frantic priest destroyed Hebrew Bibles
wherever he could find them, and burnt six thousand volumes of Oriental
literature at Salamanca, under an imputation that they inculcated
Judaism" (Draper's "Conflict of Science and Religion," p. 146).
Torquemada was, indeed, a worthy successor of Moses. During his eighteen
years of power, his list of victims is as follows:--

Burnt at the stake alive................... 10,220
Burnt in effigy, the persons having died
in prison or fled the country............ 6,860
Punished with infamy, confiscation, perpetual
imprisonment, or loss of civil
rights .................................. 97,321
Total .....................................114,401

--("History of the Inquisition," by Dr. W.H. Rule, vol. i., p. 150. Full
details of numbers are given in the "Histoire critique de l'Inquisition
d'Espagne," Llorente, t. I., pp. 272-281).

Cardinal Ximenes was not quite so successful as Torquemada, but still
his roll is long:

Burnt at the stake alive ................... 3,564
Burnt in effigy ............................ 1,232
Punished heavily .......................... 48,059
--(Ibid, p. 186). Total ................... 52,855

In A.D. 1481, in the bishoprics of Seville and Cadiz, "two thousand
Judaizers were burnt in person, and very many in effigy, of whom the
number is not known, besides seventeen thousand subject to cruel
penance" (Ibid, p. 133). In A.D. 1485, no less than 950 persons were
burned at Villa Real, now Ciudad Real.

Spite of all this awful suffering, heretics and Jews remained
antagonistic to the church, and in March, A.D. 1492, the edict of the
expulsion of the Jews was signed. "All unbaptized Jews, of whatever age,
sex, or condition, were ordered to leave the realm by the end of the
following July. If they revisited it, they should suffer death. They
might sell their effects, and take the proceeds in merchandise or bills
of exchange, but not in gold or silver. Exiled thus, suddenly from the
land of their birth, the land of their ancestors for hundreds of years,
they could not in the glutted market that arose sell what they
possessed. Nobody would purchase what could be got for nothing after
July. The Spanish clergy occupied themselves by preaching in the public
squares sermons filled with denunciations against their victims, who,
when the time for expatriation came, swarmed in the roads, and filled
the air with their cries of despair. Even the Spanish onlookers wept at
the scene of agony. Torquemada, however, enforced the ordinance that no
one should afford them any help.... Thousands, especially mothers with
nursing children, infants, and old people, died by the way--many of them
in the agonies of thirst" (Ibid, p. 147). Thus was a peaceable,
industrious, thoughtful population, driven out of Spain by the Church.
Nor did her hand stay even here. Ferdinand, alas! had completed the
conquest of the Moors; true, Granada had only yielded under pledge of
liberty of worship, but of what value is the pledge of the Christian to
the heretic? The Inquisition harried the land, until, in February 1502,
word went out that all unbaptized Moors must leave Spain by the end of
April. "They might sell their property, but not take away any gold or
silver; they were forbidden to emigrate to the Mahommedan dominions; the
penalty of disobedience was death. Their condition was thus worse than
that of the Jews, who had been permitted to go where they chose" (Ibid,
p. 148). And so the Moors were driven out, and Spain was left to
Christianity, to sink down to what she is to-day. 3,000,000 persons are
said to have been expelled as Jews, Moors and Moriscoes. The Moors
departed,--they who had made the name of Spain glorious, and had spread
science and thought through Europe from that focus of light,--they who
had welcomed to their cities all who thought, no matter what their
creed, and had covered with an equal protection Mahommedan, Christian,
and Jew.

Nor let the Protestant Christian imagine that these deeds of blood are
Roman, not Christian. The same crimes attach to every Church, and Rome's
black list is only longer because her power is greater. Let us glance at
Protestant communions. In Hungary, Giska, the Hussite, massacred and
bruised the Beghards. In Germany, Luther cried, "Why, if men hang the
thief upon the gallows, or if they put the rogue to death, why should
not we, with all our strength, attack these popes and cardinals, these
dregs of the Roman Sodom? Why not wash our hands in their blood?" ("The
Spanish Inquisition," Le Maistre, p. 67, ed. 1838). Sandys, Bishop of
London, wrote in defence of persecution. Archbishop Usher, in an address
signed by eleven other bishops, said: "Any toleration to the papists is
a grievous sin." Knox said, "The people are bound in conscience to put
to death the queen, along with all her priests." The English Parliament
said, "Persecution was necessary to advance the glory of God." The
Scotch Parliament decreed death against Catholics as idolaters, saying
"it was a religious obligation to execute them" (Ibid, pp. 67, 68).
Cranmer, A.D. 1550, condemned six anabaptists to death, one of whom, a
woman, was burned alive, and in the following year another was committed
to the flames; this primate held a commission with "some others, to
examine and search after all anabaptists, heretics, or contemners of the
book of Common Prayer" ("Students' History of England," D. Hume, p. 291,
ed. 1868).

In Switzerland, Calvin burned Servetus. In America, the Puritans carried
on the same hateful tradition, and whipped the harmless Quakers from
town to town. Wherever the cross has gone, whether held by Roman
Catholic, by Lutheran, by Calvinist, by Episcopalian, by Presbyterian,
by Protestant dissenter, it has been dipped in human blood, and has
broken human hearts. Its effect on Europe was destructive, barbarising,
deadly, until the dawning light of science scattered the thick black
clouds which issued from the cross. One indisputable fact, pregnant with
instruction, is the extremely low rate of increase of the population of
Europe during the centuries when Christianity was supreme. "What, then,
does this stationary condition of the population mean? It means, food
obtained with hardship, insufficient clothing, personal uncleanness,
cabins that could not keep out the weather, the destructive effects of
cold and heat, miasm, want of sanitary provisions, absence of
physicians, uselessness of shrine cure, the deceptiveness of miracles,
in which society was putting its trust; or, to sum up a long catalogue
of sorrows, wants and sufferings in one term--it means a high
death-rate. But, more, it means deficient births. And what does that
point out? Marriage postponed, licentious life, private wickedness,
demoralized society" (Draper's "Conflict of Religion and Science," p.
263). "The surface of the Continent was for the most part covered with
pathless forests; here and there it was dotted with monasteries and
towns. In the lowlands and along the river courses were fens, sometimes
hundreds of miles in extent, exhaling their pestiferous miasms, and
spreading agues far and wide." In towns there was "no attempt made at
drainage, but the putrefying garbage and rubbish were simply thrown out
of the door. Men, women, and children slept in the same apartment; not
unfrequently domestic animals were their companions; in such a confusion
of the family it was impossible that modesty and morality could be
maintained. The bed was usually a bag of straw; a wooden log served as a
pillow. Personal cleanliness was utterly unknown; great officers of
state, even dignitaries so high as the Archbishop of Canterbury, swarmed
with vermin; such, it is related, was the condition of Thomas a Becket,
the antagonist of an English king. To conceal personal impurity,
perfumes were necessarily and profusely used. The citizen clothed
himself in leather, a garment which, with its ever-accumulating
impurity, might last for many years. He was considered to be in
circumstances of ease, if he could procure fresh meat once a week for
his dinner. The streets had no sewers; they were without pavement or
lamps. After night-fall, the chamber-shutters were thrown open, and
slops unceremoniously emptied down, to the discomforture of the wayfarer
tracking his path through the narrow streets, with his dismal lantern in
his hand" (Ibid, p. 265). Little wonder indeed, that plagues swept
through the cities, destroying their inhabitants wholesale. The Church
could only pray against them, or offer shrines where votive offerings
might win deliverance; "not without a bitter resistance on the part of
the clergy, men began to think that pestilences are not punishments
inflicted by God on society for its religious shortcomings, but the
physical consequences of filth and wretchedness; that the proper mode of
avoiding them is not by praying to the saints, but by ensuring personal
and municipal cleanliness. In the twelfth century it was found necessary
to pave the streets of Paris, the stench in them was so dreadful. At
once dysenteries and spotted fever diminished; a sanitary condition,
approaching that of the Moorish cities of Spain, which had been paved
for centuries, was attained" (Ibid, p. 314). The death-rate was still
further diminished by the importation of the physician's skill from the
Arabs and the Moors; the Christians had depended on the shrine of the
saint, and the bone of the martyr, and the priest was the doctor of body
as well as of soul. "On all the roads pilgrims were wending their way to
the shrines of saints, renowned for the cures they had wrought. It had
always been the policy of the Church to discourage the physician and his
art; he interfered too much with the gifts and profits of the
shrines.... For patients too sick to move or be moved, there were no
remedies except those of a ghostly kind--the Paternoster and the Ave"
(Ibid, p. 269). Thus Christianity set itself against all popular
advancement, against all civil and social progress, against all
improvement in the condition of the masses. It viewed every change with
distrust, it met every innovation with opposition. While it reigned
supreme, Europe lay in chains, and even into the new world it carried
the fetters of the old. Only as Christianity has grown feebler has
civilization strengthened, and progress has been made more and more
rapidly as a failing creed has lost the power to oppose. And now, day by
day, that progress becomes swifter; now, day by day, the opposition
becomes fainter, and soon, passing over the ruins of a shattered
religion, Free Thought shall plant the white banner of Liberty in the
midst of the temple of Humanity; that temple which, long desecrated by
priests and overshadowed by gods, shall then be consecrated for evermore
to the service of its rightful owner, and shall be filled with the glory
of man, the only god, and shall have its air melodious with the voice of
the prayer which is work.

* * * * *


* * * * *


Draper, Conflict of Religion and Science...425, 433, 437, 449, 455,
456, 464, 465, 471, 472, 475, 476
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History...424
Gibbon, Decline and Fall...425, 429, 432, 433, 435
Hallam, Europe during the Middle Ages...454, 457, 458, 459, 460, 461,
462, 463, 470, 471
Hume, Student's History of England...474
Le Maistre, Spanish Inquisition...474
Llorente, Histoire critique de l'Inquisition d'Espagne...468, 469, 472, 473
Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History...Used throughout
Rule, History of the Inquisition...468, 472
Villemain, Life of Gregory VII...464
* * * * *


Advent of Christ expected...456, 457
Alexandrine Library, destruction of...432
Arius...433, 434
Boniface, Apostle of Germany...442
Century 2nd and 3rd...423, 429
Century 4th...429, 435
Century 5th...435, 439
Century 6th...439, 441
Century 7th...441, 442
Century 8th...442, 447
Century 9th...447, 451
Century 10th...451, 457
Century 11th...457, 465
Century 12th...466, 467
Century 13th...467, 469
Century 14th...469, 470
Century 15th...471, 474
Charlemagne...442, 444
Christianity, general effect of...474, 476
Church, wealth of...425, 440, 441, 444, 457, 460
Church, doctrine of...426, 450
Church, refuge for evil doers...442
Clergy, frauds of...431, 444, 448, 449
Clergy, vice of...426, 431, 435, 437, 441, 447, 448, 451, 453, 454, 469
Constantine...424, 425
Conversions...429, 430, 435, 439, 443, 451, 457, 467
Crusades...452, 458
Eastern and Western Churches, separation of...449, 450
Endowment of Church, first...429
Filioque...446, 449
Heresies...426-428, 433-435, 438, 440, 442, 446, 450, 456,
465, 466, 470, 471, 472, 473
Heretic, first burnt alive...431
" number burned in Spain...469, 472
Hildebrand...463, 464
Hypatia, murder of...437
Iconoclastic controversy...445, 446
Ignorance of bishops...441
Inquisition...467-469, 472-474
Isidorian decretals...448
Jews, expulsion of, from Spain...473, 474
Learning, lack of...437, 439, 451, 452, 453, 461, 462, 463
" revival of...460, 461
Moors, learning of...447, 453, 456
" expulsion of, from Spain...473, 474
Patristic geography...471
People, misery of...455, 475, 476
Protestant persecution...474, 475
Rome, supremacy of...436, 445, 448, 464, 465
" badness of Popes of...454, 463, 464, 469, 471
Torquemada...472, 473

Book of the day: