G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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the church of St. Mary, the Blessed Mother of God,
where bishops are wont to give indulgences to the people
on Palm Sunday, having there no other garment which
he could take off, in the sight of the poor man he loosened
his breeches and let them fall ; and the other, raising
them from the ground, went his way rejoicing. The
man of God would fain have hidden this virtuous act,
but at God's will it was set upon a candlestick as an
example to posterity, as I shall here relate. When he
was come from St. Gereon's and was sitting by the
embers, seeing that he raised not up the skirt of his fur
cloak to warm himself according to his wont, the afore-
said Frederick said unto him : " Raise your cloak and
warm yourself " : for it was cold and he was an old
man : to which he replied : " There is no need : " and
Frederick : " Verily I believe that ye have no breeches,"
for he read this in the shamefaced colour of his coun-
tenance. At last he confessed that they had fallen



A Good Canon. 247

from him, saying no word of his charity. Whereupon
his nephew laughed and published the matter abroad.
^ Novice. We read of no such charity in the acts of St.
Martin ; it was a greater thing to give his breeches than
cut his cloak in half. % Monk. For these and other like
deeds some said that they had never read of a man who
was so compassionate, so merciful, and so pitiful to the
poor. . . . On a certain solemn festival when the lord
Adolf, Dean of the cathedral church and afterwards
Archbishop, had invited him to his feast, Ensfrid
refused, saying that he had noble guests. So, when
mass had been said and the blessed man was hastening
homewards, then Gottfried, his fellow-canon and notary
of the cathedral deanery (who told me this story him-
self) looked forth from the window of the upper chamber
of the clergy-house and saw many poor following him,
whereof some were halt and others blind ; and since
they could not cross the stepping-stones which there
divide the square, he, aged and decrepit as he was, was
giving his hand to each in turn. Forthwith the clerk
called his master to the window and said : " Behold,
lord, these are the noble guests whom our friend the
Dean said that he had invited " ; and both were no
little edified. I myself have seen another like work of
his mercy. On the anniversary of the lord Bruno,
Archbishop of Cologne, when all the chapters of the
conventual churches flocked together to the church of
St. Pantaleon which this same Bruno had built, after
mass had been said for his soul, and the priors as had
been ordained were entering the refectory, I know not
how many poor folk followed the lord Ensfrid to the
very refectory door. When therefore the refectorer
would have admitted him and cast out the poor, he
was moved with indignation and cried : "I will not
enter to-day without them " : for, as a most prudent
man, he knew that the poor are God's friends and door-
keepers of heaven, and he kept well in his memory that
counsel of the Son of God : " Make unto you friends of
the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail they
may receive you into everlasting dwellings." Hence
one day when he had been set to stand beside the relics



248 A Medieval Garner.

and to warn those who came in to give alms for the
building of that church whereof he was then custos, he
spake to the people in these words : " Good folk, ye see
well what noble buildings stand here around you ! ye
will do well indeed in giving your alms to them, yet ye
expend them better and more safely on the poor."
This sermon of his was heard by Frederick of blessed
memory, our fellow monk, who at that moment entered
the church of St. Andreas with certam knights, and who
afterwards was often wont to repeat it to me. ... A
certain citizen of Cologne, named Lamprecht, was his
familiar friend and near neighbour ; who, sitting one
day with the aforesaid Gottfried the notary, as they
spake together of the lord Ensfrid's almsgivings, said
in my hearing : "I will tell you how he treated me.
One day he had invited me and my wife to sup with
him. We sat down to table with him and waited long
in expectation that some meat would be set before us,
for nought was there but dry bread ; then I, knowing
well his ways, called one of the servants and whispered
in his ear : " Tell me, good fellow, shall we have any-
thing to eat ? " The man answered : " We have
nothing ; for a goodly repast had been prepared for
you, but my master entered the kitchen before the
hour of supper and divided among the poor all that we
had prepared, in spite of all our cries." Then I smiled
and sent the same servant to mine own house, and he
brought enough meat to suffice for all our guests.
Another day I came into his kitchen and saw I know
not how many geese roasting on the spit ; then said I
in my heart : " Of a truth this Dean nourishes his
household well ! " but when the geese were roasted he
himself came in and cut them down, and dividing them
plate by plate, sent them round to the widows and poor
even unto the last fragment. Oftentimes geese and
hens were sent to him both for his office of Dean and
for a personal gift by the many who respected him,
knowing his charity ; and, because he was most pitiful,
therefore whatsoever he would send of them to his
brethren or other neighbours, he sent it not alive but
dead, that they might eat it forthwith. So great, as 1



A Good Canon. 249

have often said, was his compassion towards the poor
that sometimes he did that which seemed scarce just
according to the judgment of men. A certain citizen
of Cologne, as one of the priests of St. Andreas related
to me, loved his own wife little and afflicted her often,
v.herefore she stole much money from him. When
therefore her husband accused her and she stoutly
denied, then, fearing to be caught by him, she cast the
money into the cesspool ; after which, grieving at that
which she had done, she came to the Dean and told him,
under seal of confession, of her theft and its cause ; and
methinks that the holy man must have persuaded her
to bring forth the money to her husband ; but she, for
tliat she had denied the deed to him with an oath, dared
not do thus, fearing lest he should afflict her all the
more on this account. The Dean therefore answered
her : " If I may get the money secretly, wilt thou that
I give it to the poor ? " " Yea," said she, " that is all
my desire." Wherefore, a few days afterwards, the
Dean said to this citizen : " Wilt thou give me leave to
cleanse thy cesspool and take thence whatsoever the
Lord shall give me there ? " He, knowing the Dean
to be a holy man, and thinking moreover that God had
revealed something to him, gave him leave. The place
was purged, the money was found, and within a few
days was spent among the poor by the hands of this
m^an of God. 1[ Novice. Herein might some detractor fix
his tooth. ^ Monk. Three things would seem to excuse
him here from sin : first that this same money, as it
v.as the husband's, so also was it the wife's : secondly,
that it was already lost and might not be brought forth
on account of the seal of confession : thirdly, that he
gave it to the poor. To this may be added lastly, that
it was charity which impelled him to the deed ; for
priests are wont oftentimes to give wives leave that
they may take from their covetous and merciless
husbands and distribute among the poor. The Dean
did one more deed which was yet more disputable.
Having nought to eat, he entered the bakery of the
bretliren, and seeing there the loaves set in order upon
a table to be borne away, he asked the baker whose



250 A Medieval Garner.

was this or that loaf ; and when the man had answered
him in each case as the truth was, he bade that the
loaves of those whom he knew to be rich should be
brought to his home, saying : " They are in abundance,
and I have nought to eat." ^ Novice. How should this
deed be excused ? ^ Monk. Many things are lawful to
the saints which are unlawful to such as are no saints,
for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Whence the Author saith : " have charity, and do
whatsoever thou wilt." . . . Now when his failing
body and his ripe old age warned him that the day of
his death was near, lest any earthly possession should
burden his poor spirit on its journey to its heavenly
home, he sold his house and divided its price — not
among his kinsfolk, not among his friends, but with
his own hands among Christ's poor ; for he knew that
his fellow-canons, however faithful to his face, would
be less faithful after his death. When, therefore, the
man who had bought his house, a certain priest and
canon of the same church named Conrad, said unto
him : " Lord, I would fain have my house," then
Ensfrid answered in all simplicity : " Good Conrad, I
am a decrepit old man : my day of death is at hand :
wait a little while and ye shall have it. Where wouldest
thou have me dwell in the meanwhile ? " Conrad, as a
good man, made a virtue of necessity and awaited his
death in all patience. The blessed man was so pitiful
that oftentimes, as he sat in the porch of his church and
watched the poor creeping up laden with moss which
they had collected in the woods, he himself would buy
it, not that it was of any use to him, but that he might
free the poor from their labour. . . . One day, passing
by the schools and hearing the cries of a certain canon*
who had committed a grievous fault and was being held
by four scholars to be scourged, he rushed into the
schools all breathless, and coming up like a lion, brand-
ishing his staff (as I myself saw) against the master of
the schools and his fellow-canon, he released the boy

* Boys were frequently promoted to canonries ; see Nos. 87 and 152
of tills book.



A Good Canon. 2 5 1

from his hand, saying : " What dost thou, tyrant ?
Thou art set here to teach the scholars, not to slay
them." At which word the other was confounded and
held his peace. The following story will declare how
patient he was. One day as he sat in the church accord-
ing to his wont, between nones and vespers as I believe,
a wretch named Scothus, who was oftentimes drunken
and utterly unworthy of the honour of the priesthood,
found him alone there, and seizing him by the hood
drew out his knife and threatened him, saying : " Give
me somewhat, or I will slay thee." By God's provi-
dence a certain young and lusty canon came up at that
moment and dragged this Scothus roughly from him ;
then, when he would have beaten him as one whom he
judged worthy of death, this meekest of men withheld
him, saying : "Be not troubled, brother ! beware lest
thou hurt him, for he did this in Jest." He never
returned evil for evil, for the simplicity of a dove
reigned in him ; but, though he was so exceeding
merciful, as I have said, yet he burned with the zeal of
justice. One day he met the abbess of the holy Eleven
Thousand Virgins : before her went her clerks, wrapped
in mantles of grey fur like the nuns ; behmd went her
ladies and maid-servants, filling the air with the sound
of their unprofitable words ; while the Dean was
followed by his poor folk that besought him for alms.
Wherefore this righteous man, burning with the zeal
of discipline, cried aloud in the hearing of all : " Oh,
lady Abbess, it would better befit your profession, it
would better adorn your religion, that ye, like I, should
be followed not by buffoons but by poor folk ! " Where-
at she was much ashamed, not presuming to answer so
worthy a man. So great was his love of justice that
one day when some other spake in his hearing of the
evil lives of the clergy, he answered abruptly : " It is
all one howsoever they live ! " which was as if to say :
" A good tree cannot spring from an evil root : " for he
knew that there were few clergy who had entered by
canonical ways : few who were not either blood-clerks
(that is, foisted in by their kinsfolk) ; or jester-clerks
(that is, such as had been thrust in by the power of



2 52 A Medieval Garner.

great folks) ; or simoniacs who had crept in through
money or through worldly services. . . . ^1 Novice. How
is it that thou tellest no miracle of so holy a man ?
^ Monk. Who was greater than John the Baptist ? Yet
we read not that he worked any miracles, as the Gospel
telleth of Judas who betrayed the Lord.* Know
therefore that to some who now work miracles in
Christ's name He will say in the end : "I know you not
whence you are : depart from me, all ye workers of
iniquity." All miracles are not of the essence of holi-
ness, but only signs of holiness.

* Mark vi., xiii.





1





123— a Simple ^ouL

(Caes. Heist. 1, 357).

jHERE lived in our days, in the church of St.
Gereon the Martyr in Cologne, a certain canon
called Werinbold, of noble race and great
wealth of church revenues ; yet was he so
simple-minded that he could not comprehend
the sum-total of anything, except so far as it could be
understood from the evenness or oddness of the number.
Once upon a time, therefore, having many flitches hang-
ing in his kitchen, and fearing lest any should be stolen
from him, he went in and counted them thus : " Here is
a flitch, and there is his wife ! here is a flitch, and there
is his wife ! " and so forth. When one of these had
been stolen by a wicked servant, then this Werinbold,
entering once more and numbering them as he had done
aforetime, found the number odd, and cried out : "I
have lost one of my flitches ! " to whom his servants
answered smiling : " Master, it shall soon be found."
So they led him forth ; and, taking away another,
made the number even. When therefore he had been
brought again into his kitchen and counted them
afresh, finding the number even, he said to them with
much cheerfulness : " Lo now, masters, I might have
held my peace too long ! "



A Simple Soul ^5.^

When his servants would fain fare sumptuously,
they would saj^ to him : "" Master, wherefore do ye not
care for yourself, for ye are exceeding sick ? " He
then would answer : " How know ye that, good
fellows ? " and they : " We see it well in your hairs,
for they are swollen." Then, putting him to bed, they
would prepare delicate meats as for his infirmity, and
make good cheer for themselves. A certain country-
fellow, Avily and cunning, hearing of his simplicity,
feigned to be an hereditary serf of his from ancestor to
ancestor, and said : "I cannot suffer, my lord, that
your goods should be thus wasted or neglected, for I
am your serf. It is meet that I should serve your
worship and guard your goods with all faithfulness."
In short, all things w^ere committed to him : he then
would sit drinking over the fire with the servants by
night, when his master had gone to sleep. One night
he let a wandering minstrel in, whose merry fiddle
awakened the sleeping canon. W^hen, therefore, he
arose from his bed, the servant met him and asked :
" Where will ye go, lord ? " He answered : " I hear an
excellent merry tune, but I know not where it is.'
Then answered the servant : " Return to your bed ; it
is the monks of Deutz who sing to theu^ organs."* . . .
1] Novice. Methinks that this man was rather foolish
than simple-minded, for simplicity should not be without
prudence. ^ 3IonL Prudence consisteth in warding
against evil, in which virtue he was not altogether
lacking ; wherefore by Divine Providence he was made
cellarer of the church of St. Gereon, whose revenues are
many and abundant ; and we may say of him as it is
written of the Holy Joseph : " Neither knew he any
other thing, but the bread which he ate " ; nor even
that fully ; therefore the Lord, who loveth simplicity,
fulfilled his defects and blessed everything whereto he
put his hand. Yet one day he entered the church-barn
and saw many cats running hither and thither among
the corn ; w^hereupon he could scarce contain himself
until the hour of Chapter. Then, falling at the feet of
the Dean, he gave up his keys and begged to be absolved

* The Rhine separates Cologne from Deutz.



254 A Medieval Garner.

from his office. When therefore the Dean of the
brethren said : " Good Master Werinbold, what ails
you ? why do ye do thus ? " he answered : " For I
cannot suffer to see the waste of this church." " What
waste ? " said they : and he : " This day I saw your
barn full of cats, who will surely devour your whole
store." When they had enquired further of him, even
though they told him how cats devour not the store,
but rather cleanse it," yet even so they could scarce
prevail on him to take back the keys. For they had
learned by experience that the Lord blessed them for
his simplicity's sake. . . . H Novice. Such men would
not be chosen for cellarers in our day. ^ Monk. Times
are changed, and men are changed with them ; yet
even in our days it cometh to pass oftentimes that
houses of religion profit in worldly things under simple-
minded prelates and officials, and fail under wily men
trained in the school of the world.



1


1



124.— Cbe noun's ^impUcitp.

(Caes. Heist. I, 389).

N the diocese of Treves is a certain convent of
nuns named Lutzerath, wherein by ancient
custom no girl is received but at the age of
seven years or less ; which constitution hath
grown up for the preservation of that simpli-
city of mind which maketh the whole body to shine.
There was lately in that monastery a maiden full-grown
in body, but such a child in worldly matters that she
scarce knew the difference betwixt a secular person and
a brute beast, since she had had no knowledge of secular
folk before her conversion. One day a goat climbed
upon the orchard wall, which when she saw, knowing
not what it might be, she said to a Sister that stood by
her : " What is that ? " The other, knowing her
simplicity, answered in jest to her wondering question :
" That is a woman of the world," adding : " When
secular women grow old they sprout to horns and
beards." She, believing it to be the truth, was glad to
have learned something new.




A Knight^s Conversion. 255



125.— a l&nigbt's €ont3Ct0ion,

(Caes. Heist. II, 49).

jALTHER VON BIRBECH was born in the
to^\^l of that name, a man of great wealth
and power and nobility, cousin to Henry,
Duke of Louvain. He, in the heyday of his
youth, being devoted to the knighthood of
this world wherein he was most doughty and renowned,
was accustomed from his earliest boyhood to call upon
our Lady, the Holy Mother of God and Ever- Virgin
Mary, whom he loved from the bottom of his heart,
honouring her with fastings, almsgiving and masses.
For though his body was given up, as we have said, to
tournaments, yet his whole heart was devoted to the
Blessed Virgin. One day, therefore, as he hasted to a
tournament with many knights in his company and
came to a wayside church, he begged them to hear the
mass. They refused and rode away, giving in excuse
that so long a delay would be perilous to them. But
he remained, bade the priest sing him a mass of St.
Mary, and then rode after his companions. After a
while he met men riding back from the tournament ;
and, learning from their speech where they had been,
he added : " Is it yet begun ? " " Yea," replied they :
and he : " Who beareth him best there ? " '" The lord
Walther von Birbech," said they : "his name is in all
men's mouths ; all extol him and praise him to the
skies." In process of time he met others who gave him
the same answer, whereat he marvelled, not knowing
what this might portend. (Now this was wrought by
the insatiable lovmg-kindness of the Blessed Virgin,
that she might honour meanwhile in the tournament
her devoted knight who had delayed in her service,
and that she might supply his absence by her wondrous
might.) When, therefore, he was come to the place, he
armed himself and entered the lists, but did no great
deed there. At last, when the tournament was over,
some of the knights came to his lodging and besought
that he would deign to deal more gently with them.



256 A Medieval Garner.

" Why ? " said he, " What is the cause of your peti-
tion ? " And they answered : " To-day ye took us
prisoners, and we beseech you to treat us well." Which
when our Walther denied, saying : "I took you not,"
then they answered : "In very truth we have held out
our right hand to you this day ; we have seen your
armorial bearings, we have heard your voice at the
tournament : " whereby he knew forthwith that this
had been wrought by the grace of the Blessed Virgin
whom he had honoured in the mass. ^ Novice. Since it
is a mortal sin to go and joust at tournaments, how
could Walther' s prayer and offering please the Blessed
Virgin ?* *|| Monk. Two mortal sins are committed at
tournaments — pride and disobedience — pride because
men joust for the sake of earthly praise, and disobed-
ience because it is done against the prohibition of Holy
Church ; wherefore those who are slain in tournaments
are buried apart from the faithful and without the
churchyard. But, since the service of the aforesaid
mass if it had been rendered in charity, might have
been meritorious to Walther for eternal life, therefore
in this case it was transferred to his temporal reward. . .
This Walther, while he was yet in the world, consider-
ing these great loving-kindnesses of the Blessed Mother
towards him, was so kindled with love for her that, in
a certain lowly church dedicated to her, with the
approval of the priest, he cast a rope round his neck
and offered himself to her as a serf upon the altar,
paying her such a yearly poll-tax as bondmen born
are wont to pay. ... At length, hearing that our
Order was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, he left for
her sake all things in this world — riches, honours, and
friends — and took the cowl in the monastery of Hem-

* " That the church struggled vahantly against tournaments, cannot
be disputed by any judge worthy of that name. From Innocent II. to
Clement V. [i.e. from 1143 to 1314], we have a series of anathemas and
thunderbolts. ... If St. Louis had not hated them, he would not have
been St. Louis. . . . PhiUppe le Bel, who was no coward, condemned
them not once only, but ten times over. . . . But Popes and Kings
could do nothing, and the nobles laughed at their prohibitions." L.
Gautier, La Chevalerie, Nouvelle Edition, p. 681.



A Knight's Conversion. 257

menrode, whose fame was then (as now) most renowned ;
in which monastery how humbly he conversed, how
fervent and obedient he was, and how devoted to the
service of the Blessed Virgin, all the monks of that
foundation will bear witness. He learned in his time
of probation the psalter, the hymns and canticles,
and many other prayers to our Lady ; all of which
he repeated with great devotion. He would ever be
present at the daily mass of the Blessed Virgin. Almost
every word that fell from his lips was a word of edifica-
tion. Therefore, because many were edified, not only
b}^ his words and by the sight of him but also by the
odour of his good report, he was made Guestmaster
there. . . . Not only devils, but even brute-beasts
obeyed his holiness. The monastery possessed a most
comely colt, so precious that both the archbishop of
Treves and the duke of Lorraine offered for him 40
marks (as I think) of money ; for that colt showed
promise of a most excellent war-horse. The monks,
fearing to offend either if it were sold to the other, sent
the steed as a gift to the count of Holland by the
hands of this lord Walther and two lay-brethren.
When, therefore, they were come to a certain forest,
the colt saw a herd of mares feeding afar off ; and
forthwith, neighing and frisking, he shook himself free
from his guardians and galloped off towards them.
The lay-brethren followed after him ; but the mares
fled and the colt left them farther and farther behmd.
When therefore they had come back empty-handed,
Walther said : " Let us go on our way ; that horse is
lost but if St. Mary bring him back to us." Scarcely
had they gone two miles of their way when this unbroken
colt came galloping back, and submitted his neck like
a tame lamb to the hands of his leaders.



The foregoing episode is admirably illustrated by a passage in the life
of one of Walther's friends, which I therefore intercalate here from the
Chronicle of the Monastery of Vilars (Martene, Thesaurus, vol. III., col.
1311).



258 A Medieval Garner.



1 26.— anotber.




rOM CHARLES, the 8th abbot of VHars, once
a famous knight and doughty in the world,
had passed from the schools to knighthood;
wherein he profited so well that he gained the
favour and love of kings and princes, so that



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 22 of 61)