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livres of our present money: thus the pound of
bread came to a Hard and something more, that is,
in effect, an eighth part of the price now usually

In the northern countries silver was still more
scarce : there, for example, the price of an ox was
fixed at a golden sol. We shall see later in what
manner trade and riches extended themselves close
in the rear of each other.

The liberal arts and sciences must have had but
very weak beginnings in those vast countries that
were still in a state of barbarity. Eginhard, secre-
tary to Charlemagne, gives us to understand that this

122 Ancient and Modern History.

conqueror could not sign his own name. Never-
theless, by the force of his natural genius, he com-
prehended how necessary it would be to encourage
literature. He brought teachers of grammar and
arithmetic from Rome. The ruins of that capital
furnished everything to the West, which is not yet
sufficiently reformed. Alcuin, that English monk
so famous in those days, and Peter of Pisa, who
taught Charlemagne the rudiments of grammar,
had both studied at Rome.

There were chanters in the churches of France,
and, what is very remarkable, they were known by
the name of Gaulish chanters. The race of the
conquering Franks had cultivated no art or science ;
those Gauls pretended, as at this day, to dispute the
prize for vocal music with the Romans. The Grego-
rian music, attributed to St. Gregory the Great, was
not without merit. There is some dignity, even in
its simplicity. The Gaulish singers, who did not
use the ancient alphabetical notes, had corrupted the
music which they pretended to embellish, and Charle-
magne, in one of his expeditions to Italy, compelled
them to conform to the music of their masters. Pope
Adrian supplied them with books, in which the
music was noted, and two Italian musicians were
established to teach these notes, one at Metz, and the
other at Soissons. They were besides compelled
to send organs from Rome. There was not a strik-
ing clock in any town of his whole empire, nor
indeed was there any until about the thirteenth cen-


tury; hence the ancient custom, still preserved in
Germany, Flanders, and England, of employing
watchmen to call the hours in the night. The pres-
ent of a striking clock, which the caliph Haroun-al-
Raschid sent to Charlemagne, was looked upon as a
miracle. With respect to the sciences of philosophy,
physics, astronomy, and the principles of medicine,
how was it possible that they should be known?
They had but just dawned in this part of the world.
They reckoned by nights ; and hence in England
they still say a fortnight, in order to express two
weeks. The language, called Romanic, began to be
formed by a mixture of Latin with the Teutonic.
This is the origin of the French, Spanish, and Italian
languages. It continued until the reign of Frederick
II., and it is still spoken in some villages of the
Grisons, and towards Switzerland. The garments
which have been always varying since the ruin of
the Roman Empire, were very short, except on days
of ceremony, when the coat was covered with a
cloak, frequently lined with fur. . These skins were
brought, as they are now, from the north, especially
from Russia. From the knee downwards they still
preserved the Roman manner of dressing. It is
observed that Charlemagne's legs were covered with
fillets of various colors, in the form of buskins, as
they are still worn by the Highlanders of Scotland,
the only people upon earth among whom the military
garb of the Romans is preserved.

124 Ancient and Modern History.



IF we now turn our eyes upon the happy conse-
quences of religion ; upon the evils which mankind
brought upon themselves when they used it as an
instrument of their passions ; upon the consecrated
rites, and the abuse of those rites; the quarrel
between the Iconoclasts and the Iconolaters, is the
most important object that first presents itself to our

The empress Irene, guardian of her unfortunate
son, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in order to pave
her way to the empire, flattered the people and the
monks who had still a hankering after image-wor-
ship, although it had been proscribed by so many
emperors since the reign of Leo the Isaurian. She
was attached to it herself, because it had been
abhorred by her husband. Irene had been per-
suaded, that, in order to gain the ascendancy over
her husband, she must place the images of certain
saints under his bolster. Credulity finds way even
into the most politic bosoms. The emperor, her hus-
band, had punished the author of this superstition.
Irene, after his death, gave free scope to her own
fancy and ambition: this was the cause of her
assembling, in the year 786, the second Council of
Nice, the seventh ecumenical council, which first

Charlemagne. 125

began at Constantinople: she caused Tarasius, her
secretary of state, a layman, to be erected patriarch.
There had been formerly some examples of laymen
thus raised to bishoprics, without passing through
the other degrees; but, at that time, this custom
no longer obtained.

When this patriarch opened the council, the con-
duct of Pope Adrian appeared very extraordinary.
He did not anathematize the secretary of state who
had erected himself into a patriarch. He did no
more than modestly protest, in his letter to Irene,
against the title of Universal Patriarch; but he
insisted upon her restoring to the holy see the patri-
monies of Sicily. He loudly demanded restitution
of this petty estate; while, in imitation of his pre-
decessors, he wrested the profitable dominion of so
many fair territories which, he assured us, were
bestowed by Pepin and Charlemagne. In the mean-
time the ecumenical council of Nice, at which the
pope's legates and this ministerial patriarch pre-
sided, thought proper to re-establish the worship of

It is a circumstance confessed by all judicious
writers, that the fathers of this council, the number
of whom amounted to three hundred and fifty, recog-
nized a number of pieces that were evidently spuri-
ous ; a number of miracles, the bare recital of which
would, in our days, be deemed scandalous ; a num-
ber of books that were apocryphal. Yet these false
pieces ought not to affect the credit of the genuine

126 Ancient and Modern History.

works, on the merits of which they decided. But,
when it became necessary that this council should be
received by Charlemagne and the churches of
France, how was the pope embarrassed? Charle-
magne had loudly declared against images ; he had
given directions for writing the books called
" Carolins," in which that worship was anathema-
tized. In the year 794, he assembled a council at
Frankfort, at which he presided, according to the
custom of all the emperors ; a council composed of
three hundred bishops or abbots, as well of Italy as
of France, who unanimously rejected the service and
adoration of images. This equivocal word, " adora-
tion," was the source of all those differences. If
mankind would define the words they use there
would be fewer disputes. More than one kingdom
has been overthrown through a misunderstanding.

While Pope Adrian sent into France the acts of
the second Council of Nice, he received the
" Carolins," in opposition to that council ; and he
was pressed in the name of Charlemagne to declare
the emperor of Constantinople and his mother here-
tics. We see by this conduct of Charlemagne that
he wanted to derive from the pretended heresy of the
emperor a new right or pretence to wrest Rome from
him under color of justice.

The pope, divided between the Council of Nice,
which he adopted, and Charlemagne, whom he had
no inclination to disoblige, chose, in my opinion, a
politic medium, which should have served as an


example in all the unfortunate disputes which gen-
erally divided Christendom. He explained the
"Carolins " in a manner that was favorable to the
Council of Nice, and by this expedient refuted the
king, without incurring his displeasure. He dis-
pensed with the worship of images, a relaxation
which was very reasonable among the Germans,
hardly rescued from their idolatry, and the ignorant
Franks, who had very little sculpture or painting;
at the same time he exhorted the people to abstain
from breaking those images. Thus he satisfied both
parties, and left it to time to confirm or abolish
a rite that was still doubtful. Attentive to the art
of managing mankind, and making religion subser-
vient to his own interest, he wrote to Charlemagne in
these terms : " I cannot declare Irene and her son
heretics, after the Council of Nice ; but I will brand
them as such if they do not restore the lands of

We see the same discretion of this pope in a
dispute that was still more delicate, which alone
would have been sufficient at any other time to kindle
up the flame of civil war. The question was:
whether the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father
and the Son, or from the Father only? At first
in the East, the first Council of Nice had added, that
he proceeded from the Father ; afterwards in Spain,
and then in France and Germany, they added that
he proceeded from the Father and the Son. This

128 Ancient and Modern History.

article was believed by almost the whole empire of

These words of the creed, " Qui ex patre filioque
procedit," were deemed sacred among the Franks,
even though they had never been adopted at Rome.
Charlemagne pressed the pope to declare himself on
this article; the pope replied that he did not con-
demn the king's opinion: nevertheless he made no
change in the creed at Rome. He appeased the dis-
pute by forbearing to decide it. In a word, he
treated spiritual affairs as a prince, whereas too
many princes have treated them as bishops.

From that period the profound policy of the popes
established their power by little and little. A col-
lection was made of false facts, now known under
the name of false decretals; they are said to have
been collated by a Spaniard called Isidore Mercator.
or Piscator, or Peccator. They were circulated and
put in force by the German bishops, whose integrity
had been imposed upon. Some pretend that there
are now incontestable proofs of their having been
composed by one Algeram, abbot of Senones, and
bishop of Metz. They are still extant in manuscript,
in the library of the Vatican ; but what signifies their
authenticity? These false decretals are supposed to
contain ancient canons, decreeing that even a provin-
cial council shall not be held without the pope's per-
mission; and that his holiness should be the last
resort in all ecclesiastical causes. In these decretals
the immediate successors of the apostles are made

Charlemagne. 129

to speak; nay, they are supposed to be the writers
of the collection : true it is, the whole being in the
barbarous style of the eighth century, abounding
with errors in history and geography, the artifice
was very gross ; but the people were grossly ignor-
ant on whom they imposed. Mankind were puzzled
by these false decretals for eight whole centuries;
and at last, when the falsehood stood confessed, the
rights and customs which they established still
existed in one part of the Church ; antiquity main-
tained the place of truth.

Even at that time, the bishops of the West were
temporal lords, and possessed many lands in fief;
but none of them were independent sovereigns. The
kings of France nominated persons to bishoprics;
in this particular more resolute and politic than the
Greek emperors and the kings of Lombardy, who
contented themselves with interposing their author-
ity in the elections.

The first Christian churches were governed as
republics, on the model of the synagogues. Those
who presided at these assemblies insensibly assumed
the title Episcopus, a Greek word, used by the Greeks
as an appellation to their governors of colonies. The
elders of these assemblies were called " presbyters,"
which in the Greek language signifies old men.

Charlemagne in his old age invested the bishops

with a right to which his own son fell a victim.

They made this prince believe, that in the code

digested in the reign of Theodosius, there was a

Vol. 24 9

130 Ancient and Modern History.

law importing, that if two laymen carried on a
process against each other, and one of them should
refer the dispute to the arbitration of a bishop, the
other was obliged to submit to his decision, with-
out power of appeal. This law, which had never
been put in execution, is deemed by all the critics
to be supposition. It is the last of the Theodo-
sian code, without date, and without the names of
the consuls. It excited a kind of private civil war
between the tribunals of justice and the ministers
of the sanctuary, but as at that time all in the
West, except the clergy, were in profound igno-
rance, it is matter of surprise that it did not give
still greater power to those, who, having all the little
learning to themselves, seemed alone deserving of
the prerogative to judge mankind.

In the same manner as the bishops disputed this
authority with the laity, the monks began to dispute
it with the bishops, although these were their mas-
ters by the canons. The monks were already too
rich to be submissive. This celebrated formula of
Marculfus was already often put in practice : " I,
for the repose of my soul, and that I may not after
my death be placed among the goats, give and
bequeath to such a monastery, etc." Even in the
first age of the Church, people believed the world
was near an end, and this opinion, gaining ground
from one century to another, they bestowed their
lands upon the monks, as if they were to be pre-
served in the general conflagration. Many charters

Charlemagne. i j I

of donation began with these words: "Adventante
mundi vespero." A long time before Charlemagne
there were Benedictine abbots powerful enough to
raise rebellions. An abbot of Fontanelle had the
boldness to assemble troops, and put himself at the
head of a party against Charles Martel. The hero
caused the monk to be beheaded; an execution
which contributed not a little to all those relations
which so many monks had afterwards, concern-
ing the damnation of Charles Martel. Before that
time we find an abbot of St. Remy, of Rheims,
together with the bishop of that city, exciting a
civil war against Childebert, in the sixth century,
a crime which belongs to none but men of power
and influence.

The bishops and abbots had a great number of
slaves. The abbot Alcuin is reproached with hav-
ing had no fewer than twenty thousand : nor is this
number incredible. Alcuin possessed three abbeys,
the lands of which might have been inhabited by
twenty thousand persons. These slaves, known by
the name of Serfs, could neither marry nor change
their habitation without the permission of the abbot.
They were obliged to drive their carts fifty leagues,
when he commanded this service. They worked
for him three days in the week, and he shared all
the fruits of their labor. Those Benedictines indeed
could not be charged with having by their wealth
violated their vow of poverty, for they made no
such vow. They took no other engagement at their

Ancient and Modern History.

admission into the order than that of being obedi-
ent to the abbot. They even frequently received
grants of uncultivated grounds, which they tilled
with their own hands, and afterwards portioned
out to the serfs to be cultivated. They raised vil-
lages, and even little towns around the monasteries.
There they studied, and they alone were the means
of preserving books, by transcribing different copies.
Finally, in those barbarous times, when all nations
were so miserable, it was a great consolation to find
in cloisters a secure retreat against tyranny.

In France and Germany more than one bishop
went to battle with his serfs. Charlemagne, in a
letter to one of his wives, called Frastada, mentions
a bishop who had valiantly fought at his side in
a battle against the Avars, a people descended from
the Scythians, who inhabited the country now called
Austria. I find in his time no fewer than fourteen
monasteries, which were obliged to find a certain
number of soldiers. If an abbot had the least turn
for a military life, nothing hindered him from con-
ducting them in person. True it is, in the year 803,
a parliament complained to Charlemagne of the great
number of priests who had been slain in battle.
Then the ministers of the altar were forbidden to
expose their lives in the field. No person was per-
mitted to call himself clerk without being of the
clergy, or to wear the tonsure unless he belonged to a
bishop. These clerks were called Acephali, and
they were punished as vagabonds, but people were

Charlemagne. 133

then altogether ignorant of that station so common
in our days, which is neither secular nor ecclesi-
astic. The title of Abbe, which signified father,
belonged to none but the heads of monasteries.

The abbots, even then, had the pastoral staff,
which was borne by the bishops, and had been for-
merly the badge of the pontifical dignity in pagan
Rome. Such was the power exercised over the
monks by those abbots, that they sometimes con-
demned them to the most cruel corporal pains.
They adopted the barbarous custom practised by the
Greek emperors, of burning out their eyes, and it
was found necessary that a council should prohibit
this outrage, which they began to consider as a right
appertaining to their dignity.

The mass was different from what it now is, and
still more different from what it had been origin-
ally. At first it was a supper ; afterwards, the maj-
esty of worship increasing with the number of the
faithful, it became gradually what is now called
high mass. There was only a common mass in
every church before the fifth century. The name
of Synaxis, which it has among the Greeks, and
which signifies a congregation, the formularies that
exist and are addressed to this congregation, plainly
prove that private masses must have been long
unknown. The sacrifice, the assembly, and the
common prayer, were distinguished by the name of
Missa among the Latins, because, according to some
authors, the penitents who did not communicate

134 Ancient and Modern History.

were sent back, mittebantur ; and in the opinion of
others, because the communion was sent, missa erat,
to those who could not come to church.

When the number of priests increased, they were
obliged to say private masses. Men of fortune
maintained chaplains. Agobard, bishop of Lyons,
complained of this practice in the ninth century.
Dionysius the Little, in his collection of canons, and
many others, confirms the opinion that all the faith-
ful communicated at public mass. In his time they
brought along with them the bread and the wine,
which the priest consecrated, and each received the
bread in his own hands. This bread was fermented,
and not yet leavened ; and they gave it even to chil-
dren. The communion in both species was a uni-
versal custom under Charlemagne. It is still pre-
served among the Greeks, and it continued among
the Latins until the twelfth century. We find that
even in the thirteenth century it was sometimes
practised. The author of the relation of the victory
obtained in the year 1264, by Charles of Anjou
over Mainfroy, records that the knights communi-
cated with bread and wine before the battle. The
custom of soaking the bread in the wine was estab-
lished before the time of Charlemagne; that of
sucking the wine through a reed or metal siphon
was not introduced till about two hundred years
after this period, and was very soon abolished. All
these rites and practices were changed, according to

Charlemagne. 135

the circumstances of the times, and at the discretion
of the pastors.

The Latin was the only church that prayed in a
foreign language, unknown to the people. This
seeming inconsistency was occasioned by the inunda-
tions of barbarians, who introduced their idioms
into Europe. The Latins were as yet the only Chris-
tians who conferred baptism by simple aspersion,
a very natural indulgence to children born in the
severe northern climates, and decently suitable to
the warm climate of Italy. The ceremony for
grown persons was not the same as that for chil-
dren. The difference was pointed out by nature.

Auricular confession is said to have been intro-
duced as early as the sixth century. The bishops
at first exacted of their canons that they should
confess to them twice a year, in consequence of the
canons enacted by the Council of Attigny in the year
763, and this is the first time that it was expressly
commanded. The abbots subjected their monks to
this yoke, which was by little and little imposed upon
the laity. Public confession was never used in the
West, for by that time the barbarians embraced
Christianity, the abuse and scandal with which it
was attended had abolished it in the East, under the
patriarch Nectarius, at the end of the fourth cen-i.
tury, but public sinners frequently did public pen-
ance in the churches of the West, especially in Spain,
where the invasion of the Saracens redoubled the
fervor of the Christians, whom they had humbled.

136 Ancient and Modern History.

Until the twelfth century, I find no traces of the
form of confession, nor of the confessionals estab-
lished in churches, nor of the previous necessity
of confessing immediately before the communion.
In the eighth and ninth centuries there were three
Lents, and people generally confessed at these three
seasons of the year. The commandments of the
Church, which were not well understood till after
the fourth Council of the Lateran, in the year 1215,
imposed the necessity of doing that once a year,
which before seems to have been more arbitrary
and unsettled.

In the time of Charlemagne the army was pro-
vided with confessors. Charlemagne had one for
himself by the express title of his office ; his name
was Waldon, and he was abbot of Augi, near Con-

Any person was allowed to confess to a layman,
and even to a woman in case of necessity, and this
permission was of long standing. Thus de Joinville
tells us, that when he was in Africa, he confessed
a knight and gave him absolution, according to the
power with which he was vested. " It is not alto-
gether a sacrament," says St. Thomas, "but it
resembles a sacrament."

Confession may be regarded as the most effectual
restraint upon secret crimes. The sages of antiq-
uity had embraced the shadow of this salutary
practice. Confession was used in expiations among
the Egyptians and the Greeks, and in almost all the

Charlemagne. 137

celebrations of their mysteries. Marcus Aurelius,
when admitted into the mysteries of the Eleusinian
Ceres, confessed himself to the Hierophantes.

This custom, so piously established among Chris-
tians, was afterwards unhappily the occasion of
some fatal abuses, especially during the dissensions
between the emperors and the popes, and in the
factions of cities, when the priests absolutely refused
absolution to those who were not of their own
party. This is what was seen in France in the
reign of Henry IV., when almost all the father con-
fessors refused absolution to those subjects who
acknowledged their lawful sovereign. Such is the
deplorable condition of mankind, that the most
divine remedies are often converted into the most
deadly poison.

The Christian religion had not yet extended north-
wards, farther than the conquests of Charlemagne.
Scandinavia and Denmark, which were at that time
called the country of the Normans, were plunged
in the grossest idolatry. They worshipped Woden,
and fancied that after death the happiness of man
consisted in carousing in the hall of Woden, and
drinking beer out of the skulls of their enemies. We
have still extant translations of some of their old
ballads, in which this notion is expressed. It was
a great deal for them even to believe a future state.
Poland was equally savage and idolatrous. The
Muscovites, as barbarous as the balance of Tartary,
knew scarce enough to be ranked among Pagans,

ij 8 Ancient and Modern History.

yet all these nations lived peaceably in their igno-
rance happy in being unknown to Charlemagne,
who sold so dear the knowledge of Christianity!

The English began to receive the Christian relig-
ion, which had been lately carried thither by Con-
stantius Chlorus, the secret protector of that faith

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