G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

A medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation online

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twice been corrected and hath sworn to the Arch-
deacon that, if he relapsed, he would take his benefice
as resigned. Item . the chaplain of Douvrend is ill-
famed of drunkenness, and the priest of St. Laurent-le-
Petit of selling his sacraments. Item, the priest of
Etrun, of trading. Item the priest of Bailleul singeth
not his vespers in the church.

* There were repeated attempts to put down these wakes in England,
from at least as early as 1240 to the verge of the Reformation ;
see Wilkms, Concilia, I., 675 ; II., 706 ; III., 68, 845 ; Grosseteste
Epistolae, p. 74. Abp. Thoresby of York, for instance, ordained " since
it often Cometh to pass that folk assemble in the churches on the eves
of holidays, who ought there to busy themselves in divine worship, or
in prajdng for souls at the obsequies of the dead, yet who, turning to a
reprobate mind, are intent upon noxious games and vanities, and
sometimes worse still, grievously ofiending God and His saints whom
they feign to honour, and making the house of mourning and funeral-
prayer into a house of laughter and excess, to the most grievous peril of
their own souls ; therefore we strictly forbid that any who come to
these wakes or obsequies, especially within the aforesaid churches,
should make or in any way practise wrestlings or foul sports [turpitu-
dines], or anything else tending to error or sin."



Etienne de Bourbon is one of the many distinguished mission-
preachers who arose among the early Friars. Born about 1195, he
was studying at Paris when the Dominicans first arrived there. He
joined the Order about 1223, preached in many places and with great
effect for the crusades and against the heretics, and was appointed
Inquisitor shortly after 1235. His active career seems to have ended
in 1249 ; he died about 1261, leaving still incomplete his Preachers'
Manual, of which its modern editor justly says : " Whoever wishes to
grasp the moral and mental state of St. Louis's time, and all that
intimate side of medieval society towards which modern learning seems
most willingly to turn, must henceforth study this collection of anec-
dotes." {Anecdotes Historiques, etc., d'Etienne de Bourhon, ed. by A.




296 A Medieval Garner.

Lecoy de la Marche for the Societe de L'Histoire de France, 1877, p. iii.)
Very many of the tales are taken from Etienne's personal experiences ;
but even those which are patently legendary throw much light on the
ideas of the age.

140.— Pauper jFunerals.

(Bourb., p. 384).

SECOND evil thing to sell is the burial of
the dead ; for he who selleth it selleth their
rest, [requiem] so far as the body is concerned.
To the priest who for such a man sings Mass
and the Requiem eternam, the Lord may say
" Rest he shall not have, for he hath sold it for money."
... In reproof of those men's wickedness who
demand money for burials, Master Jacques de Vitry
used to tell how a poor man in Lorraine, James by
name, lost his mother, and his priest would not bury
her unless he would give money, which indeed he had
not. He therefore put his mother's corpse in a sack
and carried it to the priest's house, laying her on his
bed and saying that in this sack he had brought for
a pledge the linen and the balls of yarn which she had
made. The priest felt her head and, taking it for a
great ball of yarn, " Now " (quoth he) "I have a good
pledge." So he went straightway to the poor man's
house with his cross and his parishioners, to fetch the
body. Then said the other, " You need not labour
to carry her hence ; for she lieth already in your house
and on your bed ; it is she who lieth in the sack for] a
pledge ; you may now lay her in earth or in salt as it
liketh you best."

Another man was poor in worldly goods but rich in
children, one of whom died. When therefore his priest
would not bury the child without money, which the
poor man had not, then he brought his son's body in
a sack to Roche-Seise, Archbishop Regnaud's palace of
Lyon, and told the porter that it was a present of
venison which he brought to his lord. Then, when he
had been admitted and brought before the Archbishop,
he laid the child down at his feet and declared the
whole matter. The Archbishop therefore gave the



Unsuccessful Magic. 297

boy honourable burial ; after which, calling the priest,
" Pay me " (quoth he) " my fee as your Vicar " ;
for which he forced him to pay a great sum.




141.— 23nsuccc0sful Q^agic.

(Bourb., p. :m).

HILE I was a student at Paris, one Christmas
Eve when our companions were at Vespers,
a certain most noted thief entered our hostel,
and, opening the chamber of one of our fellows,
carried off many volumes of law-books. The
scholar would have studied in his books after the feast ;
and, finding them not, he hastened to the wizards,
of whom many failed him, but one wrought as follows.
Adjuring his demons and holding a sword, he made the
boy gaze upon the blade ; and he, after many things
there seen, beheld at last by a succession of many
visions how his books were stolen by one of our fellows,
his own cousin, whom he thought the most upright
of our fellowship ; whom the possessor of the books
slandered not only among the scholars but also among
his friends, accusing him that he had stolen them.
Meanwhile the aforesaid thief stole other things and
was detected, whereupon he fled to a certain church
where he lay in the belfry, and, having been duly
examined, confessed all that he had stolen, and where,
and what he had done with his thefts. When therefore
certain scholars who lodged hard by our hostel had
found by his means a mantle which they had lost and
he had stolen, then he who had lost his books could
scarce rest until he had gone to enquire of this thief ;
who answered and told him when and where he had
taken his books, and the Jew's house where he had
pledged them, where also my friend found them. This
I have told that ye may clearly mark the falsehood of
those demons who showed the vision in the sword-blade
in order that they might slander that good man and
break the bonds of charity between those kinsfolk,
and bring the man who believed in them to eternal
perdition, both him and his.



298 A Medieval Garner.



142.— iconoclastic Osutetg.

(Bourb., p. 365).

T befel at Dijon, about the year 1240, that a
certain usurer would have celebrated his
wedding with much rejoicing ; and, having
been lead with instruments of music to
the parish church of the blessed Virgin, and




standing now under the church portal that his bride
might give her consent and the marriage be ratified
according to custom by the promise " I do," and so
the wedding might be solemnized in the church by
the singing of mass and other ceremonies — while this
was there being done, I say, and the bride and bride-
groom should have been led with joy into the church,
a certain usurer carved in stone upon the portal above,
whom a carven devil was bearing to hell, fell with his
money-bag upon the head of this living usurer who
should have been married, and crushed and slew him ;
so that the wedding was turned to mourning, and their
joy to lamentation, and the living man was thus shut
out by the stone image from that entrance into church,
and those sacraments, from which the priests not only
did not exclude him but would have led him in.* Then
the usurers, or other citizens, by dint of bribes, procured
the destruction of the other graven images which stood
without, on the forefront of the said portal, vv^hich I
myself have seen there broken away, lest a like fate
might befal them or others under like circumstances. t

* By strict church law, the sacraments should have been refused to
an impenitent usurer ; but Etienne agrees with all others in complaining
that the golden key opened this door also,

t Etienne tells the same story more briefly on p. 60, where he adds
that this destruction was still fresh when he saw it, and that the Bishop
of Cambrai held forth about it on the spot itself.




SCULPTURES FROM NOTRE DAME DE DIJON.



(L. Gonse's Art Guthiqiie, p. 217).

From nil upper gallery of the fa(;ade, but conteiuporaiit'oii

with the portal spoken of in the text.




Satan Disguised. 2 99

143.— 93nlt)illing Sceptics.

(Bourb., p. 195).

HE Devil useth grievous and secret tempta-
tions, either subtly in matters of faith or with
a spirit of blasphemy, wherewith oftentimes,
when other arts fail, he tempteth pious souls,
specially those of simple folk, to drive them
to despair or keep them from the good. I have seen a
pious and religious and upright clerk tempted during
h's noviciate, first by the doubt whether the world
were other than a mere dream, and whether he himself
had a soul, and even whether there were a God ;
whereof he was grieved unto death, and the devil had
thus almost driven him to despair or to self-murder,
but that he believed the wiser counsels of those who
told him that, since that thought — the Devil's rather
than his own — pleased him not, but rather utterly
displeased him, therefore it was rather a martyrdom
than a sin, as we shall say in another place concerning
blasphemous thoughts.*

* Similar anecdotes are common in medieval records : one of the
best known is in Joinville's Life of St. Louis, § 46.



144.— ^atan as an angel of Ligftt.

(Bourb., p. 198).




HE Devil is treacherous, not only uttering
lies of false witness, but striving also to
deceive men with false deeds, transfiguring
himself at times into the likeness of Christ
and His apostles and angels and other saints
and good men, that by such lies he may seduce the
unwary. . . . Moreover, he doth deceive certain indis-
creet folk by such illusions. ... I have seen a man,
a novice in a Religious Order, who was much troubled,
waking by night while the others slept and praying
God and the Blessed Virgin to reveal to him how it



300 A Medieval Garner.

stood with his dead mother, believing himself to be
worthy to whom such revelations should be made, since
he waked in his bed at the hour when others slept.
Once, when he had thus watched almost until Mattins,
the Devil appeared to him in the guise of the Blessed
Virgin, showing a false vision of his mother under her
cloak, and saying that she was freed from purgatory by
his prayers. When again he had watched in like
manner on the following night almost until Mattins,
he appeared to him in a less decent form ; and at last,
leaving foul traces behind him, tempted him to sin ;
whence the novice grew to such wakefulness and weak-
ness of head that, but for the succour and counsel of
discreet men, he might have come to grievous peril of
body and soul.




145.— cj)e mm €onfe00ot.

(Bourb., p. 162).

ERE let us consider what should be the nature
of true and salutary confession. ... I have
heard how a priest in the diocese of Reims
had a certain woman in his parish whom he
knew to be a grievous sinner, but in secret.
When therefore she was justifying herself before him,
nor could he press from her any confession of sin, then
he shut the screened enclosure wherein she was, saying
that God had given him a most precious relic such as
had never been found of any woman save only the
Mother of God, who was sinless ! Then, ringing the
bells, he called together his parishioners and told them
how he would set her in a silver shrine ; whereby she
was brought to confusion, and confessed many heinous
sins.



The Irishman and the Devil.



301




146.— Cbe anatomp of ©eresp.

Bourb., p. 289).

ERETICS are refuse and debased, and there-
fore they may not return to their former state
but by a miracle of God, as dross may not
turn to silver, nor dregs to wine. In the
county of the Albigenses a heretic argued
with a Catholic that his own sect was better than the
faith of the Roman church, since our Catholics some-
times turned to heretics, but never from heretic to
Catholic. To whom the Catholic answered that this
was rather a sign of their utter depravity and corruption,
since excellent wine may turn to vinegar, but never
contrariwise, especially when it is much corrupted ;
and corn may turn to tares or weeds, but never back
again.




147.— Cbe 3lti86man anti tbe DetJiU

(Bourb., p. 157).

HILE two Friars Preachers wandered amidst
the mountains of Ireland, and had lost their
way, they saw hard by a little man to whom
they cried. He fled from them ; but they
followed after him and caught him in a narrow
pass betwixt the hills. Then they asked him their
way, but he could scarce answer them ; wherefore,
when they had long insisted to know who he might be,
he told them how for thirty years he had served the
demons who appeared unto him in divers wickednesses,
and had done them homage to perform their bidding ;
in sign whereof he showed them a seal impressed upon
his hand, and inscribed with the letters of that homage.
The friars had much ado to persuade him to come with
them to the town ; but when they were come thither,
and one of them had preached on the abominableness
of sin and on God's mercy towards the penitent, that
man proclaimed his own guilt before the congregation ;
and, having made his confession with tears to the



302 A Medieval Garner.

friar, he found the devil's seal erased from his hand.
After a few days he returned, comforted and instructed,
to his accustomed forest, that he might bear thence
his few possessions. Here he met that same demon
to whom he had done homage, scouring the mountains
with a multitude of fellow-demons, and black horses
and hounds. The devil asked him whether he had
seen such and such a man, his runaway slave whom he
had lost. At length, therefore, the man asked the
demons whether they knew him not ; and they said
" No." " Yea," said he, " for I am the man whom ye
seek ! " whereupon they looked upon his hand and,
finding not the seal, told him that he lied, not bearing
the sign of his homage ; and, believing themselves to
be mocked of him, they departed. The man came back
rejoicing to the Friars, and abode with them. This
was told me by an Irish friar who had come to the
lord Pope's court at Lyons.




148.— Pilgrims* DisovDers.

(Bourb., p. 167).

ILGR.IMS should be joyful (as the Psalmist
saith " Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye
just ") that they may sing of God, as the

Germans do, and not of other vanities and

foul things, as the Jews who had gone forth
from Babylon, and of whom it is written that they
spake in the speech of Azotus [II. Esdras xiii. 24].
Now Azotus signifieth fire. So do those pilgrims also
who, when they visit holy places, sing lecherous lays
whereby they inflame the hearts of such as hear them
and kindle the fire of lechery ; and sometimes they
themselves are burned by God's hand with material
flames or hell-flre, as those most sacrilegious persons
who tread down the bodies of holy Christian folk in
the churchyards, where they dance on Saints' eves
and kindle the living temples of God with the fire of
lechery, flocking to the churches on Saints' days and
eves and holding dances and hindering the service of



Pilgrims^ Disorders. 3^3

Cxod and His saints.* It came to pass in the diocese
of Elne that, when a certain preacher had preached
in that country and had straitly forbidden this holding
of dances in churches and on the vigils of saints, whereas
in one of the parishes certain young folk were wont to
come and ride upon a wooden horse, and to dance
masked and disguised in the church and through the
churchyard on the vigil of the dedication-day of that
church — whereas, I say, the men had left their dances
by reason of the words of that preacher and the pro-
hibition of their priest, a certain youth came to his
fellow and invited him to the accustomed sport. The
other refused to play, telling how the priest and the
preacher had forbidden it ; but the youth harnessed
himself, saying that the man should be accursed who
should abandon the v/onted sport on account of their
prohibition. When therefore the aforesaid youth
pranced upon his wooden horse into the church, while
the congregation were keeping their vigils in peace and
prayer, then on the very threshold of the sanctuary
a fire caught him by the feet and utterly consumed him,
horse and man. No man in that church, whether
kinsman or friend, could bring him the least help to
quench those flames that burned before their eyes ;
wherefore at length the whole congregation, dismayed
by this judgment from heaven, left the church and
fled to the priest's house. He arose and came to the
church, where he found the youth already almost
utterly consumed ; from whose body rose so great a
flame that it seemed to issue forth from the windows
of the spu-e. This I heard in the parish itself, not long
after the event, from the chaplain and the youth's
parents and other parishioners.

* All dances, almost without exception, were anathema to the
medieval moralists. Thoroughly characteristic is the following quota-
tion from Cardinal Jacques de Vitry given by Lecoy on p. 162. The
dancers joined hands and sang as they tripped round, led by one who
gave time and tune to the rest, and of whom the Cardinal writes : "As
the cow which goeth before the herd hath a bell at her neck ; so like-
wise the woman who leadeth the song and the dance hath as it
were the devil's bell bound to hers.




304 A Medieval Garner.



149.— C!)e %m of Dancing.

(Bourb., p. 397).

E should specially avoid the places wherein
dances take place, and the dances themselves.
The devil is the inventor and governor and
disposer of dances and dancers. I have heard
how a certain holy man saw the devil, under
the form of a little Ethiopian, standing over a woman
who led the dance, and leading her round at his will,
and leaping upon her head. . . . The inventor of these
things is Satan, leading vain folk who are like unto
thistledown wafted on the blast, or the dust which the
wind lifteth from the face of the earth, or clouds without
water, which are carried about by winds.

Moreover, God suffereth him sometimes to vex men
with a sudden tempest for this sin of dancing, and to
wreak the fury of his wrath upon them. I have heard
from Brother Philip, first prior of our convent at
Reims, of a certain church in the diocese of Soissons
wherein dances had been made. While the priest sang
mass one morning in that church, there arose suddenly
a great whirlwind and uproar, and a thunderbolt fell
upon the church, consuming the altar-cloth and claying
many of the congregation, but leaving the priest and
the host untouched ; moreover it overthrew a mill that
was there and slew four men. One who fled thence
saw many demons springing and leaping after the
fashion of dancers over a certain ditch ; by whom he
was beaten to death and scarce escaped by making
the sign of the cross, whereat they fled in indignation
and terror. One of the demons in his wrath bit a
mighty stone in the wall and carried away a great part
in his mouth, leaving the marks of his teeth on the
stone, as the men of that place showed to Brother
Philip in testimony of the fact ; and the aforesaid man
who had been beaten by the demons told the tale in
the presence of Master Jean des Vignes, who was in
those days the greatest clerk and preacher in France.



Saint Greyhound.



305




150.— a T5isl)op anti ©is jTlock.

(Bourb., p. 268).

UCH as defile or violate holy places, or do
injury to them . . . are accursed, for they
incur the sentence of anathema, which is the
greatest of ecclesiastical penalties. . . . Yet
many fear more to be hurt in their purses,
though it were but a small fine, than to be smitten with
this sword fatal both to body and soul — for it destroyeth
both and consumeth to all eternity. I have heard
how a certain bishop of Grenoble commanded his
priests, when they came to the S3mod, to come decently
in stole and alb or surplice ; which they scorned to
obey. Then he commanded it under pain of suspension;
yet even thus they obeyed not ; then he made his hand
yet heavier, proclaiming at the next synod that they
should come under pain of excommunication ; yet few
obeyed even then. Then said the Bishop: "Come
to-morrow as I have bidden, under pain of five
shillings." Then all the clergy, fearing this fine afore-
said, sought out albs and surplices, or even hired them ;
so that all came attired as they had been bidden.
Wherefore the bishop rebuked them in that s3rnod,
showing plainly how they feared more to lose a little
money than to lose their souls.



151.— ^aint ($tep6ounti*

(Bourb., p. 325).

ISHONOURABLE to God are all supersti-
tions which attribute divine honours to the
demons, or to any other creature, as idolatry
doth, and as those Avretched witches do who
seek health by adoring elder-trees* or offering
to them, in contempt of the churches and the relics of
saints, by carrying their children thither or to ant-hills
or to other places for health's sake. So they wrought

* The text has sambucas, but samhucos seems to give a better sense.




3o6 A Medieval Garner.

lately in the diocese of Lyons, where I preached against
witchcraft and heard confessions, and many women
confessed that they had taken their children to St.
Guinefort. Whereof I enquired, supposing him to be
some true saint ; and at last I heard that he was a
certain greyhound who came thus by his death.

In the diocese of Lyons, near the nuns' town called
Villeneuve, on the lands of the lord de Villars, was a
certain castle whereof the lord had one little boy by
his wife. One day that he and his lady and the nurse
had gone forth, leaving the child alone in his cradle,
then a vast serpent glided into the house and moved
towards the child. The hound, seeing this, followed
him in all haste even beneath the cradle, which they
overturned in their struggles ; for the dog gnawed upon
the serpent, which strove to defend itself and bit him
in turn ; yet at last the dog slew it and cast it far from
the child ; after which he stood then by the bloody
cradle and the bloodstained earth, with his own head
and jaws all bloody, for the serpent had dealt roughly
with him. Hereupon the nurse came in ; and at this
sight, believing that the hound had slain and devoured
the child, she cried aloud in lamentation ; hearing
which the mother hastened to the spot, and saw, and
believed, and cried likewise. The Knight also came
and believed the same ; wherefore, drawing his sword,
he slew the hound. Then, coming to the child, they
found him unhurt and softly sleeping ; and seeking
further, they found the dead serpent all torn to pieces
by the hound's teeth. Wherefore, recognizing the
truth, and grieving that they had so unjustly slain this
hound which had done them so great a kindness, they
cast him into a well hard by the castle gate, and cast
an immense heap of stones over him, and planted trees
by the spot as a memorial of his deed.

But God so willed that this castle should be destroyed,
and the land made desert and left without inhabitants.
Wherefore the country folk, hearing of that dog's
prowess, and how he had lost his guiltless life for a deed
that deserved so great a reward, flocked to that place
and honoured the hound as a martyr, praying to him



Saint Greyhound. 307

for their sicknesses and necessities ; all which came to
pass at the instigation of the Devil, who oftentimes
deluded them there, that he might thus lead men into
error. More especially the women who had weak or
sickly children were wont to bring them to that spot ;
and they used to take an old woman from a town that
lay a league distant, who would teach them the due
rites of offering to the demons and calling upon their
name, and would guide them to that place. When
they were come thither, they offered salt with certain
other oblations, and hung the child's clothes upon the
bushes around, and thrust a needle into the wood which
grew over the spot, and thrust the naked child through
a hole that was betwixt two tree-trunks ; the mother
standmg on one side to hold him and casting him nine
times into the hands of the hag who stood on the other
side, calling with demoniacal invocations upon the
hobgoblins which haunted that forest of Rimita, and
beseeching them to take the child (who, as they said,
belonged to the fiends), and bring back their own
child which these had carried off, fat and well-liking
and safe and sound. After which these murderous
mothers* would take the child and lay him naked at
the foot of the tree upon the straw of his cradle ; and,
taking two candles an inch long, they lighted them at
both ends from a fire which they had brought thither,



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 26 of 61)