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Beacon Lights of History, Volume V by John Lord

Part 2 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


* * * * *

A.D. 1091-1153.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


* * * * *

A. D. 1033-1109.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The friendly relations between William Rufus and Anselm were disturbed
when the former sought to exact large sums of money from his subjects to
carry on war against his brother Robert. Among those who were expected
to make heavy contributions, in the shape of presents, was the
Archbishop of Canterbury, whose revenues were enormous,--perhaps the
largest in the realm next to those of the King. Anselm offered as his
contribution five hundred marks, what would now be equal to L10,000,--a
large sum in those days, but not as much as the Norman sovereign
expected. In indignation he refused the present, which seemed to him
meagre, especially since it was accompanied with words of seeming
reproof; for Anselm had said that "a free gift, which he meant this to
be, was better than a forced and servile contribution." The King then
angrily bade him begone; "that he wanted neither his money nor his
scolding." The courtiers tried to prevail on the prelate to double the
amount of his present, and thus regain the royal favor; but he firmly
refused to do this, since it looked to him like a corrupt bargain.
Anselm, having distributed among the poor the money which the King had
refused, left the court as soon as the Christmas festival was over and
retired to his diocese, preserving his independence and dignity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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