R. S Alemany.

The life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order online

. (page 3 of 37)
Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 3 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


kind was wrought. A similar prodigy took place at
Montreal, in the diocese of Carcassona, under different
circumstances. Dominic had, in the course of one of his
public disputations, written down on a sheet of paper
various quotations from the Holy Scriptures, which he
had cited in the course of his argument, and these he
gave to one of the heretics, praying him to consider them
well, and not to resist the conclusion to which they might
bring him. The same evening, as this man sat over the
fire with some of his companions, discussing the subjects
of dispute, he drew out the paper, and proposed submit-
ting it to the flames, as a test of the truth of its contents.
They consented, and thrusting it into the fire, kept it
there for some time, and then drew it out unscorched.
Again and again they repeated the experiment, and always
with the same result. And a second time what do we
find to be the effect on the witnesses of this new miracle ?
" Then the heretics were filled with great wonder, and,
instead of keeping the promise they had made of believing
the truths preached by the Catholics, agreed to keep the
prodigy a close secret, lest it should reach the ears of the
Catholics, who would be certain to claim it as a sign of
victory."f One, however, more noble-minded than the
rest, was converted by what he saw, and published it to
the world, and from his testmony it was inserted by
Peter de Vaulx Cernay, in his history of the Albigenses.

It is to be regretted that more particulars have not

* Castiglio, part i. cap. viii. t Polidori, cap. vi.





18 LIFE OF S. DOMINIC.

been preserved of those memorable conferences, but we
arc only told in general that great success everywhere
followed the footsteps of the missionaries, and that the
r.umbers of the Catholics daily increased, which reduced
the heretics to the necessitybf using frauds and the most
incredible ingenuity to preserve their ground against the
power of their adversaries

It will be observed that we have made no attempt in
these pages to give any account of the nature of that
celebrated heresy, the name of which will be for ever
inseparably united with that of S. Dominic ; neither is it
our intention to do so. An ample account of its doc-
trines may be gathered from so many works within the
reach of the Catholic reader, that we feel it is wholly
unnecessary to devote any space here to the task of un-
veiling its true character. Indeed, whilst alluding to its
connection with this period of S. Dominic's life, we
cannot but feel that this connection has been greatly
overrated by many, who have made his biography little
more than a history of political and ecclesiastical affairs,
with which he had personally but little to do. In this
way his own personal life and character have often been
lost sight of, and confused with the troubles of the times,
and the portrait of the Saint has been hidden by the
shadow which rests, in some degree, on the Count de
Montfort's crusade. With all this we have nothing to
do; nor shall we allude to the political history of the
time, except in so far as is necessary to explain and illus-
trate the details preserved to us of the life of Dominic.
There is little doubt that the Albigensian heresy, besides
its corruptions of the faith and its frightful immorality,
had a directly political character, and was mixed up with
a spirit of revolution and sedition, which goes far to ex
plain the bitterness of those civil wars of which it, was the
immediate cause; and, like all revolutionary movements,
it had a disorganizing effect on all social ties, so that the
south of France was plunged by it into a state of civil
anarchy, which was doubtless the chief reason which
moved the civil arm against its followers with such pecu-
liar severity. One of the consequences of these political



FOUNDATION OP THE CONVENT OF PROUILLE. 19

commotions was the impoverishing of many noble families
engaged in them, and this often led to their concealing
their faith through the pressure of necessity, and suffering
their children to be educated by the heretics, who eagerly
made use of the worldly temptations which were in their
power to offer, in order to get the children of Catholics
into their hands. This evil was very soon perceived by
the quick eye of Dominic, and so deplorably did he feel the
cruelty which exposed these souls to the certain ruin of their
religious principles, that he determined on a very strenuous
effort to oppose it, and to provide some means for the
education of the daughters of Catholics in the true faith.
For this purpose he resolved to found a monastery,
where, within the protection of strict enclosure, and under
the charge of a few holy women whom he gathered to-
gether out of the suffering provinces, these children might
be nurtured under the Church's shadow. The spot chosen
for the purpose was Prouille, a name illustrious in the
Dominican annals, for there, unconsciously probably to
its founder, rose the mother-house of an institute which
was to cover the world. It was a small village' near
Montreal, at the foot of the Pyrenees ; and a church dedi-
cated to our Lady, under the familiar title of Notre Dame
de Prouille, was the object of considerable veneration
among the people. There, with the warm sanction and
co-operation of Fulk, bishop of Toulouse, Dominic founded
his monastery. The church we have spoken of was granted
to the new foundation, and it seemed as if the plan had no
sooner been proposed than every one saw its fitness for the
necessities of the times, and vied one with another in
forwarding and contributing to it. Peter of Castelnau,
stretched on a bed of sickness, gave thanks to God with
clasped hands for what he deemed so signal a mercy.
Bcrenger, archbishop of Nar bonne, immediately granted it
considerable lands and revenues ; and all the Catholic
nobles, with the Count de Montfort at their head, gave*
their prompt and liberal aid to a scheme from which they •
themselves were sure to derive su/ch lasting advantage.

The little community consisted at first of nine mem-
bers, all of them converted from the Albigensian heresy
c 2



20 LIFE OP 6, DOMINIC.

by the preaching and miracles of Dominic. They were
joined by two noble ladies of Catholic families, one of
whom, Guillemette de Fanjeaux, though the last to re-
ceive the habit, was chosen by Dominic as their Superior.
She continued in that office until the year 1225 ; but he
himself governed the monastry, and thenceforth received
the title of Prior of Prouille, residing in a house outside
the enclosure, when his apostolic labours did not call him
elsewhere. The community took possession of their new
retreat on the 27th of December, 1206. Their habit was
white with a tawny mantle ; of the rule given them by
their founder we know nothing, save that it bound them,
besides attending to the education of children, to devote
certain hours to manual labour, such as spinning. Prouille,
afterwards associated to the Order of Preachers, became
in time a flourishing monastry, never numbering less
than a hundred religious ; it was the mother-house of no
less than twelve other foundations, and reckoned among
its prioresses several of the royal house of Bourbon.



CHAPTER V.

Diego returns to Spain. His death. Dominic remains in Langue-
doc The murder of Peter de Castelnau, and the commence-
ment of the Albigensian war.

Piego of Azevedo saw the foundation of Prouille before
returning to his diocese of Osma. He had now been two
years in the French provinces, and he felt it was time to
revisit his own church and people. He left the country
in which he had laboured so truly and nobly, with the
promise soon to return with fresh labourers in the cause ;
^but this promise was destined never to be fulfilled. His
• companions attended him to the confines of the province
of Toulouse, all journeying on foot and preaching as
they went. These last missionary labours of Diego were
crowned with new successes. At Montreal 500 heretics



DEATH OF DIEGO. 21

abjured their errors. A meeting of the legates and chief
Catholics also took place at the same town, and another
at Pamiers, when the increased courage and strength of
the Catholic party were plainly visible, and some of the
principal of the Albigenses made their submission with
the most unequivocal marks of sincerity. After this last
conference Diego turned his steps towards Spain, and,
still travelling on foot, reached Osma, having been absent
from his diocese exactly three years. He died before he
could carry his intention of returning to France into
execution; and thus he and Domnic never met again.
He was the first of a long line of great men with whom
the founder of the Friars Preachers was united in bonds
of no common friendship, nor was he the least worthy of
the number. So holy and stainless was the life he led,
that even the heretics were wont to say of him in the
words of blessed Jordan, that " it was impossible not to
believe such a man predestined to eternal life, and that
doubtless he was sent among them to be taught the true
doctrine." It was his influence that had consolidated the
weak and scattered elements of the Catholic party into a
firm and united body, and his loss was felt by all to be
that of a father and chief. Nay, it seemed as if his death
dissolved in a moment the tie which had bound them
together. They were again scattered, each in different
directions, and a few weeks after the news of his friend's
death reached the ears of Dominic, he found himself alone.
We cannot guess, or rather we can but guess, what
kind of solitude that was when the work remained to do,
but the fellow-labourers, and he among them whose com-
pany had been a brotherhood «f fourteen years, were gone.
Yet Dominic was equal to the shock of that great lone-
liness : he saw one after another of the missioners depart,
the Spanish ecclesiastics to Spain, the Cistercians back to
their abbey, but he remained firm and tranquil at the
post where God had placed him. The sweetness of human,
consolation had left it, but the will of God was clear as*
ever, and that was the law of his life ; and if hitherto he '
had been displayed to the world as following rather in
another's track, than as himself the originator of the



22 LIFE OP S. DOMINIC.

enterprise in which be was engaged, it was for the test of
a crisis like this to show him to the world in his true
light. We have mentioned Fulk, bishop of Toulouse, as
co-operating in the foundation of the convent of Prouille.
His presence and influence in some degree supplied the
loss which the Catholics had sustained by the death of
Diego. Until his elevation to the episcopate, one of the
greatest drawbacks to the Catholic cause had been the
coldness and indifference of their own bishops; but the
vigorous example of the new prelate roused many of his
colleagues from their negligence, and infused new life into
the ecclesiastical administration of the diocese. He was
indeed in every way a remarkable man, one in whom the
energy of human passion had been, not laid aside, but
transformed and sanctified by the influence of grace.
Not many years before, he had been known to the world
only as a brilliant courtier, a successful cultivator of the
"gaie science," the very embodiment of the Provengal
character. The world spoiled him for a time, and then
deserted him ; or we might rather say that God haL de-
termined to draw to Himself a soul too noble for the
world's spoiling. Deaths came one after another to strip
his life of everthing that made it desirable ; then there
followed that period of bitter conflict and agony which
precedes the putting off of the old nature ; and when it
was over, Provence had lost her gayest troubadour, and
Fulk was a monk in the abbey of Citeaux. In 1206 he
was raised to the bishopric of Toulouse, and in that capa-
city his energy and enthusiasm of character was of special
service in animating the chilled and timorous spirit of his
colleagues. Towards Dominic and his companions he was
ever a liberal benefactor.

And indeed there was need of some support in the
position in which the departure and death of Diego bid
left his friend. He was not only alone, but alone just as
.the difficulties of the cause to which he was bound were
about to be increased tenfold by the horrors of civil war.
This conflict, associated as it was with the religious
contest in which he was engaged, could scarcely fail to
entangle him in something of its confusion: so at least



DOMINIO AT NARBONNE. 23

it would J seem, if we remember that the war was that
crusade against the Albigenses, which history has per-
sisted in linking with the name of Dominic. The reader
of his life who comes full of this prepossession, will turn to
the chapter of the Albigensian crusade with the natural
expectation of finding there the most striking details of
the man he has been accustomed to think of as its hero.
Whereas it is literally true that it is just during the ten
years of the Albigensian war that we find least record of
Dominic's life, so far as the world knew it. He had a life,
and a work, but one so wholly distinct from the conflict
that was raging around him, that it has hidden him from
sight. Here and there we find a trace of him, but in no
case are those scattered notices connected with any of
the warlike or political movements of the times. They
are the anecdotes of an apostolic life, whose course has
been thus briefly sketched by Blessed Humbert in a few
lines : " After the return of the bishop Diego to his dio-
cese," he says, " S. Dominic, left almost alone with a few
companions who were bound to him by no vow, during
ten years upheld the Catholic faith in different parts of the
province of Narbonne, particularly at Carcassona and at
Fanjeaux. He devoted himself entirely to the salvation
of souls by the ministry of preaching, and he bore with a
great heart a multitude of affronts, ignominies, and suf-
ferings for the name of Jesus Christ." And this is all.
The few details preserved of these ten years of suffering
and silent work will disappoiut any who look for stirring
pictures of the crusade. Some trait of humility and
patience exhibited amid the insults of his enemies, — or,
it may be, a few words redolent with the spirit of prayer
and trust in God, which have come down in the tradition
of ages, or the record of miracles, worked, like those of
the Master whose steps he followed, as he went up and
down the hills of Narbonne, and among the towns and
villages, preaching the faith, and seeking* for the sheep
that were lost, — this is all we find. There is an evan-
gelical sweetness of simplicity about these broken notices
of his life, which, coming in the midst of the troubled and
bloody history of the period, sounds like the rich notes of



24 LIFE OF S. DOMINIC.

a thrush's song falling on the ear between the intervals
of a thunder-storm, — lost every now and then, and hushed
by the angry roll of the elements, then sounding sweetly
again in the stillness when the storm is over. We shall
give them as we find them, in their proper place, but it is
necessary first of all to notice very briefly some of those
events which followed on the departure of Diego of Azevedo,
and which plunged the southern provinces of France into
the bloody contest of which we have spoken.

It will be remembered, that among the legates and
missioners whom Dominic and Diego met. at Montpellier,
on their first entrance on the mission, mention was made
of Peter de Castelnau, against whom the hatred of the
heretics had been so strongly evinced, that he had been
persuaded for some time to withdraw from the enterprise.
Something of severity and harshness in his character may
probably account for the peculiar vindictiveness of which
he was the object. He had often been used to say, that
religion would never raise its head in Languedoc till the
soil had been watered with the blood of a martyr ; and
his constant prayer was, that he himself might be the
victim. It was even as he desired. Count Raymond of
Toulouse, the sovereign of the distracted provinces, had
been the constant but not always the avowed protector
of the Albigenses during the whole period of his govern-
ment. Again and agai*, in reply to the pressing en-
treaties of the Holy See, he had promised to use his
authority to suppress their disorders, and to defend the
property and liberty of the Catholics ; and again and
again, when the dread of excommunication was with-
drawn, he had failed to fulfil his engagements. It is
no part of history to asperse its characters with epithets
of reproach. Count Raymond has been the hero of one
party, and the object of unlimited abuse from the other ;
but we may well content ourselves with such conclusions
as may be drawn from facts which none have attempted
to dispute. He had bound himself by solemn oaths to
suppress those violent disorders, the frightful increase of
which had opened the eyes of his predecessor, and forced
from him the unwilling acknowledgment, that " the



MURDER OP PETER DE CASTELNAU. 25

spiritual sword was no longer enough; the material
sword was needed also." These oaths were made, and
as often violated ; after incessant remonstrances, Peter
de Castelnau, in his office of Papal legate, pronounced
the final sentence of excommunication against him. The
result was an earnest entreaty from the count to meet
him at Saint Gilles, in order that by fresh submissions
he might be once more reconciled to the Church. His
request was agreed to, but it seemed impossible for
Raymond to act with good faith. No sooner were the
legates in his power, than he changed his tone of sub-
mission, and naughtily threatened them with imprison-
ment if they did not grant him the unconditional repeal
of his sentence. Such threats were lightly felt by men
who counted their lives as nothing in the cause in which
they were engaged, and they answered him only with a
stern reproof. Next day, as they stood by the rapid
waters of the Rhone, on the banks of which they had passed
the night, and which they were preparing to cross, two
members of the count's household came up in pursuit of
them, and one plunged his lance into the body of Peter
de Castelnau. It was the death for which he had so
often longed; he fell without a struggle, and summoned
his departing strength to utter words worthy of a
martyr. "May God pardon you," he said to his mur-
derer; "as for me, I forgive you, — I forgive you;" then
turning to his companion, "Keep the faith," he said,
" and serve God's Church without fear, and without
negligence;" and, with these words upon his lips, he
died.

When the news of this murder reached the ears of
the Pope and the Catholic potentates of Europe, there
seemed a unanimous feeling that all time for further
treating with the heretics was at an end. Let us re-
member, that the south of France had now been at their
mercy for more than a century ; that during that time
these atrocious wretches, whom Protestants are not
ashamed to boast of as their ancestors in the faith,
had ravaged the country like bandits, setting fire to
churches, torturing priests and nuns, trampling under



26 LIFE OP S. DOMINIC.

foot the holy Eucharist, and committing every violence
most shocking to human feeling; and that during this
century of crime the Church had opposed only her
censures and her entreaties, sending among them mis-
sionaries and preachers, but never unloosing the temporal
sword. Nay, she had even interposed with peaceful
measures when the civil arm was at length raised
against them. Raymond of Toulouse, the predecessor
of the present count, and himself a favourer of the
heretics, had at length become aware of the danger
threatened to his own government, and to the very
existence of all law, by their continued excesses. Too
late he strove to check the evil he had fostered, but
he found the task was far beyond his strength. In his
terror he wrote to the French king a memorable letter,
which, as coming from his pen, may fairly be received as
impartial testimony, "Our churches," he says, "are in
ruins, penance is despised, the Holy Eucharist is held in
abomination, all the sacraments are rejected — yet no one
thinks of offering any resistance to these wretches." He
then makes an earnest appeal to the king for assistance,
and would have obtained it had not the reigning Pontiff,
Alexander III., interfered, and proposed once more to
try the effect of an ecclesiastical mission before harsher
measures were adopted.

But however well fitted a legation of monks and
preachers might be for the suppression of theological
errors, it scarcely had the strength necessary for deliver-
ing Languedoc from its swarms of bandits. The sufferings
of the country were not simply doctrinal : Stephen, abbot
of S. Genevieve, sent to Toulouse by the king, and an
eye-witness of what he describes, gives us a picture of
the state of things in his time in a few words which
occur in one of his letters: "I have seen," he says,
"churches burnt and ruined to their foundations; I have
seen the dwellings of men changed into the dens of
beasts." Is it any wonder, therefore, that after these
terrible disorders had been endured for more than a
century, and opposed only by the weapons of eccle-
siastical censures, the murder in cold blood of the Papal



PROCLAMATION OF THE CRUSADE. 27

legate by the avowed leader of the Albigenses seemed
to fill the measure of their iniquity? War at once
burst out ; and surely if ever war is just, it must be
deemed so when waged to defend society from outrage,
and the faith from ruin. This at least we may affirm
without in any way binding ourselves to vindicate the
manner in which it was carried on, when men's passions
and personal interests were once irretrievably engaged ;
but we cannot think that the act which proclaimed the
crusade against the Albigenses, after a century of for-
bearance, can be condemned by any who will patiently
go over that century's most melancholy history.



— ooo —



CHAPTER VI.

Proclamation of the Crusade. Simon de Montfort. Dominic
among the heretics. His apostolic labours

The death of De Castelnau took place in the February
of the year 1208. Early in the following month Pope
Innocent addressed letters to the kings of Prance and
England, and to the sovereign nobles of Prance, calling
on them to lay aside their private quarrels, and join
in an unanimous effort against " the rage of heresy."
The crime of the Count of Toulouse was declared to be
one which freed his subjects from their allegiance until
such time as he would return to his own allegiance to the
Church; and a new commission of bishops and abbots
was appointed to preach the crusade, and undertake the
ecclesiastical government of the country. In this commis-
sion Dominic's name does not occur ; Arnold of Citeaux
is the man charged with the chief burden of the whole
undertaking, and his fiery and inflexible temper caused
him to fulfil his charge with an unrelenting severity,
which can never be excused. If indeed we had to make
any religious body responsible for the severites of the
crusade, it certainly seems as though the Cistercians had



28 LIFE OF S. DOMINIC.

done more to merit such a reproach than any other. We
find their leader, Arnold, eagerly and zealously engaged
in all the movements of the Catholic chiefs, often accom-
panying them to the field and rousing the country to
arms with the energy of his preaching. Every represen-
tation of the progress of the war which reached the Pope
came through him and his followers; and these repre-
sentations seem, in more instances than one, to have been
coloured by partiality, and to have misled the Pontiff
whom they were intended to direct. For more than a
year after the war first broke out, Arnold was the only
acknowledged leader and director of the Catholic forces ;
and the unfortunate plan of setting the two houses of
Montfort and Toulouse in rivalry one against the other,
as the means of destroying the latter by the vindictive-
ness of a personal quarrel, was the invention of his own
scheming brain.

Yet this man, who really played so conspicuous a part
in the history of his time, and who stands bound to every
detail in those proceedings of which he was the animating
spirit, is almost forgotten by Protestant historians and
their readers, so eager are they to heap terms of reproach
on one who had little or no share in them. Doubtless in
their own day, Dominic Gusman was a very insignificant



Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 3 of 37)