G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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there surples & ames wtowt blake abbet feriall, and
othere frome Pasche to our latter Lady day, and
generall processions, as tha do in other cathedrall
churches, & this we desire for a special cause ; oftyn
it happs that the secund forme & othere that be
necligent oftyn tymes cummethe in there blak abbetts,
when they shulde cum in surples, & when they shulde
cum in surples thay will cum in abbet, whiche wolde
not be so if we did as tha do in other places
cathedrall. Item we f5nide the segistans gevethe not
suche attendaunce of the Churche as hathe bene, for
it hathe bene that one of them hathe gevyn attendaunce
all ye day when there wek fel, and sawe there were no
dogges nor bryborse in ye Churche, bot tha wolde
rewarde thame ; and also a resonable tyme betwene
ye fyrst pele and the secund, and also they wolde have
no (query mo ?) plukkes, as we thynke, than tha giff
tham, for ye pelys be veray shorte. . . .


Mesbuke = mass-book ; heghauter = high altar ; wt = with ; reyre-
dewse = reredos ; awterse = altars; uplandishe toune= remote country
village ; 8udary= towel ; colet = acolyte ; cophynse = chests ; where =

320 A Medieval Garner.

choir ; yt = that ; presbitory = the part of the choir where the canons'
stalls are ; put furthe, etc., apparently means that the ministers are
responsible for having put these hangings forth from their proper places ;
caduke — dilapidated ; lettron = lectern ; chapiter = chapter-house ;
roste yerne = a small iron oven used for baking the eucharistic bread ;
ebdomadory = the priest who has charge of the services for the week ;
crowet — cruet, for holding the wine and water before consecration at
mass ; sone — soon ; crowdes = crypt ; borned = burned ; suspent =
cast-off ; parores = trimmings ; amette = amyt, a mass-vestment ;
coshyn = cushion ; weres = whereas ; albys = albs ; ordande — or-
dained ; chysable = chasuble ; tunakle = tunicle ; moster or moister —
moulder ; revestre = vestry ; dure = door ; stokkyd — shut ; watynge ==
waiting ; abbettes = habits ; ames = amyt ; segistans = sacristans,
sextons ; when there wek fell = when it fell to their week of duty ;
bryborse — thieves, tramps ; plukke = pull of a bell ; pelys = peals.

St. Douceline, born about 1214 of a rich merchant family at Digne
in Provence, was sister to the celebrated Franciscan preacher Hugues
de Digne ; for whom see Joinville, (§657 fE.), Miss A. Macdonell's Sons
of Francis, and Salimbene's chronicle. At the age of 26, she founded
at Marseilles, and under the direction of the Franciscans, a house of
Beguines which was spared when Clement V. and John XXII. abolished
the majority of such houses, and which only perished of inanition in
1407. Douceline died Sept. 1, 1274, her worship began from that
moment among the people ; an office was composed for her day, the
tomb became a great resort of pilgrims ; and (like many other saints)
she enjoyed every honour but that of Papal canonization. Her life,
published with a translation by Abbe Albanes in 1879, was written in
Provengal probably by Douceline 's disciple and friend Phillippine de
Porcellet, sister to the only Frenchman whose life was spared in the
Sicilian Vespers.

159.— ^aint Douceiine*

(Pp. 10, 50, 73, 80, 56, 186, 82, 196).

VEN while she was yet in the world] she wore
in secret a shirt of pigskin, hard and rough,
which galled her to the quick, so that she
was oftentimes unable to remove it ; and
when it was taken off it left her body all
torn and covered with sores. It befell one day that
this shirt was so ingrown into her flesh as to defy all
her efforts to tear it away ; whereupon she was fain
to call her handmaid, in whom she put her trust, and

St. Douceline. 3^1

who drew off the shu-t by main force, tearing her flesh
with the hide. She was wont to gird her waist so
straitly with a knotted cord, that worms would often-
times breed where the knots entered into her flesh.
Moreover, she wore an iron hoop night and day . . .
over which she showed fair and choice garments, as
though she loved gay stuffs. She lay, for penance'
sake, on a little straw in the corner of her room ; and,
lest she should rest in sleep, she bound a cord above
her bed with one end, and with the other round her
own waist ; so that, whensoever she stirred, the cord
would drag and awake her. Then would she rise
forthwith to say her matins with all devotion, and to
read. . . . Such then was her life so long as she lived
in the world. . . .

[During her life as a Beguine] she ordained the
avoidance not only of all famfliarity with men, but
also of all speech and interchange of glances ; and this
she demanded strictly not only from her spiritual
daughters but of all who would live under her direction.
For herself, she knew no man's face ; and if she saw
one of her sisterhood raise her head to look upon any
man, even though he were a near relation, then she
would rebuke her sharply, and chastise her with
severity. It befell one day that a girl of the house,
who was but seven years old, had looked upon some
men who were there at work. When the holy mother
knew this, she beat her so shrewdly that the blood
ran do\^Ti her ribs, saying meanwhile that she would
sacrifice her to God. . . .

She could not hear speak of God or St. Francis, or
the Saints, but that she fell forthwith into a trance.
Oftentimes she was caught up into so high contempla-
tion, that she remained rapt the whole day long ; in
which state she felt things beyond all human sense,
knowing and perceiving naught of what was done
around her. This was oftentimes proved, and in
manifold ways, by all manner of persons who, seeing
her thus ravished, thrust or drew her violently, and
even did her much harm, yet without being able to
make her stir. Sometimes she was raised up in the

322 A Medieval Gamer.

air, leaning on nothing nor touching the earth with her
feet, save with her two big toes alone ; and she was
raised so high, held up in the air by the virtue of her
marvellous trance, that there was a whole handsbreadth
betwixt her and the ground ; so that, while she stayed
thus, we oftentimes kissed the soles of her feet. . . .
The first time that king Charles [of Anjou] saw her thus
ravished, he desired to prove the truth (and he was
then but Count of Provence, and thus he proved her :)
he let men bring much molten lead and cast it boiling
upon her bare feet, under his own eyes ; and she felt
it not. Wherefore the king felt such love towards
her that he made her godmother to a child of his.
Nevertheless at her awakening she felt great pain in
her feet, and anguish that might scarce be endured. . . .
When men brought her presents of living fowls, then
she would not suffer them to be killed, but would
disport herseK a space with them, speaking meanwhile
of our Lord Who made them ; then her mind would
rise to God and she would let them go, saying, " Praise
now the Lord Who created thee ! "... As she sat
at meat, if anyone brought her a flower, a bird, a fruit,
or any other thing that gave her pleasure, then she
fell straightway mto an ecstasy, and was caught up
to Him Who had made these fair creatures. . . . When
one read before her at meat, if some devout word came
in the lesson, she was ravished forthwith even as she
sat at table, and could eat no more. If she heard an
air which aroused her devotion, or pleased her, then
she was forthwith drawn to her Lord ; so that she
could at last support no sweet sound, and scarce any
song, not even the singing of birds, but that she was
rapt beside herself. One day she heard a lonely
sparrow sing, whereupon she said to her companions,
" How lonely is the song of that bird ! " and in the
twinkling of an eye she was in an ecstasy, drawn up to
God by the bird's voice. . . .

On tlie day after her death, the body was removed to the Franciscan
church for burial.

The whole people flocked together and rushed upon

St. Bonavcntura. 323

the sacred body with incredible ardour, so that the
guards could by no means keep them at arm's length.
Before the procession had reached the church, three
tunics had been cast upon her, one after the other,
for each in turn was cut into pieces : moreover, one of
the Friars having spread his frock over the corpse,
this was forthwith cut piecemeal by the people. Thrice,
on the way, was the cloth renewed that covered her ;
for men left nought of that which was laid upon her,
but all was torn into a thousand shreds. The soldiers,
who did all they might to defend her with swords and
maces, could scarce hinder the people from cutting her
body itself to pieces, in their excess of devotion.* We
had thus all the pains in the world to bring her holy
body decently to the church ; and it was the chief men
of the town who, out of respect, desired to carry the

* When St. Elizabeth of Hungary was carried to her grave, the
people did actually cut her flesh for reUcs. " Quaedam autem aures
illius truncabant ; etiam summitatem mamillarum ejus quidam prse-
cidebant," &c. I. B. Mencken. Scriptores, vol. II., col. 2032.

Giovanni Fidanza, born in 1221 at Bagnorea in the upper valley of
the Tiber, joined the Franciscans at an early age as Brother Bonaventura.
He became first Professor of Theology at Paris and then Minister
General of his Order. Dante has immortalized his character and
genius (Paradiso XII.) ; but his moderation as General rendered him
unpopular with the Spirituals ; and he is the unnamed Adversary who
in chapter 48 of the Fioretti, is represented as persecuting the saintly
John of Parma. The two following extracts give, in a much abbreviated
form, (i) his defence of the Order against those who accused the Friars
of undue trespass upon the duties and privileges of the parish clergy,
and (ii) his confession of decay even among this the second generation
of Franciscans : a confession which comes out far more strongly in his
two Letters to the officials of the Order which I have summarized in
No. 9 of my Medieval Studies (Simpkin, Marshall, 6d.). In concert
with liis old friend and fellow-Franciscan Odo Kigaldi (see No. 139) he
led the van of the Reforming party at the Ecumenical Council of Lyons ;
and died, probably of overwork, before the end of the Council (1274).
The first extract is from the treatise Quare Fratres Minores fraedicent
(ed. Mainz, 1609, vol. vii., pp. 341 fE) ; the second from the 19th of his
Quaestiones Circa Regulam (ibid., p. 336).

324 A Medieval Garner

160.— a ^amt'0 apologp.

OW this is the reason why, in!!early days, no
Religious were called or sent by the Apostolic
See to the aforesaid offices of preaching and
confession. When the sickness is as yet
slight, it needs fewer and lighter remedies ;
but when it begins to grow strong and spread abroad,
then we must apply more and stronger remedies lest
the sick man's state become desperate. So also, now
that the state of the world seems far worse than of
old, it is fit that there should be more helpers, according
to the text : The harvest truly is great, hut the fit and
faithful labourers are jew ; pray ye therefore the Lord of
the harvest that he would send forth labourers into his
vineyard. Again as it is written in Romans : Where
sin abounded, grace did more abound. We see the
harvest of people multiplied in our days, and woods
hewn down for the building of towns [or villages]. We
see sins invented in great numbers, and more perplexing
cases [of conscience] springing up from day to day ;
the wicked becoming still more incorrigible from mere
habit, and more hardened in their sins. Again, we see
that many of the clergy by their evil example corrupt
the laity both in morals and in faith ; also, that few of
them are experienced enough to teach as they should,
or can be trusted to do so. Again, we see that they
rule negligently over the souls committed to their
charge, and are too closely bent upon worldly business.
Again, that many of them are suspended, excom-
municated, and hindered in divers manners from the
performance of their duty. Again, that few rectors
reside in their parishes, but the cure of souls is offered
for sale among slight vicars : and that the prelates,*
given up to temporal cares, dissemble these things, so
that there is scarce any hope of correction. If, more-
over, they ever wished to correct these things and

* The ipsi of the text seems an obvious error for praelati, to whom
alone the following complaints of St. Bonaventura could apply.

A Saint's Apology.


remove the unprofitable persons, they have no better
to put in their places. Since therefore the Church\is
now as a ship tempest-tossed, wherein the rowers
quake for fear and the stormy billows almost cover the
bark, therefore we Friars have been sent by the supreme
Pilot, and supported by the authority of the Apostolic
See, that we may scour the world in our little boats and


From the Magazine of Art, by kind permission of Messrs. Cassell & Co.

snatch from the waves all such as we find in peril of
shipwreck, to bring them back to the shore of salvation.
Now there is no parish that has not either a proper
Parson, or one in some way insufficient, or one that is
no Parson [w^/^i^m] . . . Since therefore the parishioners
of these [last two] classes both may and should confess
to others, rather than to such as seem their Parsons, on
account of these said defects ; and since the laity have
no discernment to choose better, and the vicious clergy
would rather send them to others like themselves than

326 A Medieval Garner,

to proper priests, and there are few indeed among the
clergy nowadays who are not spotted with any of these
blemishes, therefore we Friars have been sent through-
out the world by the Apostolic See*. . . There are
other cases which sometimes make even honest persons
fear confession to their own priests ; because Vicars
are unstable and often changed, wherefore men dare
not reveal their secrets to them, since they must so
often have unknown confessors. Again, because many
[plerique] of them are so vicious that an honest woman
fears to lose her reputation if she whisper secretly with
them. Again, because many [plures] of them are
unknown, and men fear that they are apostates, or
hindered in their priestly office, or perchance with no
priestly Orders at all. . . . Now, that it may be more
plainly seen how few there are now in these parts
among the rectors or their vicars who have free power
of binding or loosing, or who deal well with men's
souls in confession, and that ye may thus understand
how sorely our Brethren are needed to supply their
places, and to succour perishing souls, let these things
following be considered. Every man that is suspended
from his office, or irregular, or excommunicated, or
who hath entered by an ill way into a cure of souls,
hath no power of binding or loosing, nor aught else
pertaining to the exercise of that jurisdiction which
the Church hath forbidden to him : wherefore, what-
soever that man bindeth or looseth or the like, is of no
validity. See therefore how very many nobles and
great men, in whose gift benefices are, frequently incur
the sentence of excommunication, whether by law or
by judicial sentence, through their wars and other
excesses, or in other ways lose the right of conferring
such benefices ... In like manner we see Bishops,

* The rest of this Extract is from the second part of the treatise, the
authenticity of which has lately been questioned for the first time
by the Friars of Quaracchi, but without sufficient reason. Their main
argument is that it is wanting in a single manuscript : another is
that " it contains scarcely anything but a repetition of the first part,"
which is perfectly true, and may go far to reassure the less sceptical

A Saint^s Apology . 327

through wars or other excesses, oftentimes fall under
sentence of excommunication or suspension, or become
suspended by the lord Pope, or excommunicated.
Some, again, are either themselves promoted through
simony or simoniacally confer cures of souls on others.
Likewise certain other prelates gain their own pro-
motion and promote others by simoniacal means ; and
all benefices thus conferred, or by such means, confer
no legal rights on the recipients. We see rectors hire
out their parishes to their vicars on condition of certain
yearly pensions, and one will oftentimes supplant
another by promising a greater pension, that he may
thus get the parish ; which is oftentimes done in-
cautiously and with peril of simony. We see that very
many undertake cures of souls contrary to canon law ;
as those who have no clerical Orders, or are under the
right age, or of illegitimate birth, or are subject to any
excommunication or irregularity, and therefore unable
to receive such a benefice. Many, again, have several
benefices with cures of souls, which involve certain
obstacles invalidating their election or institution, as
for instance the plurality of the benefices, or the like.
For even though some have a Papal dispensation per-
mitting them to take ecclesiastical revenues up to a
certain yearly sum, yet by this the Supreme Pontiff
doth not intend to grant any man the unconditional
right of amassing so many cures of souls as to glut his
ravenous appetite indiscriminately with their revenues,
leaving the souls shepherdless and forsaken ; but (as
the best and most experienced authorities expound),
such dispensations rather apply to other revenues, as
prebends and other benefices which involve no cure of
souls. We see again that judges oftentimes command
parish priests, under pain of suspension or excom-
munication already pronounced, to proclaim or execute
certain judgments, which these neglect and thus incur
the penalty. We see that many, receiving Orders
against the episcopal prohibition, incur the penalty of
suspension ; we see that students oftentimes strike
[other] acolites in wrath and thus fall under canonical
sentence, yet seek no absolution, but proceed to [Holy]

3^8 A Medieval Garner,

Orders or take church benefices, solemnly serving
churches and executing clerical duties.* We see that
very many among the clergy are notorious fornicators,
keeping concubines in their own houses or elsewhere,
or sinning at large with several women. Now a
notorious fornicator is defined as he whose guilt can by
no equivocation be concealed, or is testified by the
public which (according to some authorities) consists
of ten men or women : and all such notorious sinners
are ipso facto suspended both as to themselves and as
to [their ministrations to] others. Some are also
sometimes [specially] excommunicated by their own
bishops or by the Lord Pope's officials . . . There are
very many more impediments of the clergy which I
omit for superfluity's sake ; but by these few words it
may be seen how many parish priests there are in these
parts who are such in themselves, or promoted or
instituted by such men, or in such ways, that they
have no power to bind or loose souls ; so that men
may know how sorely God's Church needs the Friars
to take their places, and succour souls which thus
might perish.

* All university scholars were, in theory at least, in the lower clerical
Orders, and thus enjoyed full clerical immunities. These unabsolved
strikers would be ifso facto excommunicate ; so also would all who,
when suspended, went on celebrating mass ; therefore the absolution
they pronounced in the confessional would be as invalid as many of
their other ministrations ; and they themselves would thus plunge
daily deeper into mortal sin.

Professor Thorold Rogers, after enumerating the social virtues of the
13th century monk, adds "It is not easy to understand how these
monasteries declined in character and usefulness, till they came to the
condition which is described so indignantly by Gascoigne, — a condition
which renders probable the charges which Henry the Eighth's Commis-
sioners made against them. But many causes appear to have contri-
buted to the result." {Six Centuries of Worlc and Wages, p. 362). The
following passage will go far to answer this speculation.

Chauccr*s Friar. 329

161.— Cf)aucer'0 JFriat in tbe Quaking.

EN say to us : We see that all Orders of
Religious are decaying in religious life, even
though they seem to prosper in temporal

things and in certain ceremonial uses. I

would fain know the principal causes of this
decay : for ye ought either not to begin that which ye
cannot complete, or else ye should use all possible
perseverance in what ye have begun, lest ye be
deservedly judged as prevaricators of your vow.

I answer : Everything which draweth not its being
from itself, faileth and falleth into non-being, unless it
be sustained by that which giveth it being. So it is
with all Orders, as with all men. Wherefore the Orders
not only of Religious, but also of Bishops and Clergy
and Laity, and the whole state, are far decayed, in the
gross, from that which they were in the beginning,
when all the faithful were so perfect and holy as is now
but seldom seen. But, because the evil are now the
more numerous, therefore the holy make no show in
comparison with the multitude of the rest. For true
sanctity consisteth not in bodily exercises but in
virtues of the mind : which since they make no
outward show (except a slight one through certain
indications of works), and the saints seek not to
be seen and praised of men, but hide those virtues
wherein they surpass the rest, therefore there seem to
be few saints nowadays in the Church or in the Orders.
But as to the causes of decay in religious communities,
these (among others) are the commonest. First, the
multitude of those that enter in ; for the many cannot
be so easily bent as the few, even as a great ship is less
easily steered than a small, and where are many heads,
there are many brains, which cannot all be bent to one
mind. Secondly, when those are taken away who
first kept the Order in its vigour, or when these are
broken down in body, then they can no longer give the
former severe example of rigour to the younger mem-
bers ; and the newcomers, who never saw their proper

330 A Medieval Garner.

works, imitate them only in that which they now see
in them, and become remiss, and spare their bodies
under a cloke of discretion, lest they should destroy
their health as the older Brethren did. And, since
they see not those inward virtues which their elders
possessed, these [latter] are everywhere neglected ; for
[the younger] neither follow their outward asceticism
nor apprehend their inward virtues. Moreover the
ancient Brethren, no longer able to set them a strict
example, fear even to rebuke them by word of mouth ;
for the younger are wont to say : " The words indeed
are good which ye tell us ; but your works show them
not ; " and thus they are the more scandalized.
Thirdly, that which a man never learned, he cannot
teach ; wherefore, when the government of the Order
descendeth to these younger Brethren, they foster
others like unto themselves ; so that the early Brethren
are already a laughing-stock, and no longer a model of
life. Nay, these younger are the more prone to think
themselves better than their elders, the less they
recognise what are the virtues of the perfect ; and,
whereas they keep certain models in the matter of
exterior discipline, as in the choir, or in processional
entrances [into the church] and suchlike, therefore they
dare to affirm that the Order was never in so good a
state as now. Fourthly, unedifying customs creep in
little by little, which are forthwith taken as examples
by others ; and if any Bretliren, filled with godly zeal,
rebuke such customs, then others defend them boldly.
" Why " (quoth they), " is that unlawful for me which
is allowed unto others ? " so that, since custom hath
already given it a certain fitness, it will pass for an
almost ineradicable law. Moreover our rulers, even
though they love not such things, yet fear lest some
greater evil ensue, and shut their eyes that they may
live at peace with the Brethren. And when one such
custom hath become bearable, then another is intro-
duced in its train, as though it followed necessarily
therefrom, so that if this be admitted the former one
may be tolerated. Fifthly [we see] the distractions
which frequently spring up, diverting men's hearts.

Chauccr*s Friar. 331

quenching their devout affections, impairing their
morals, inducmg occasions of inward faults, and
entangling ReUgious in daily fresh impediments to all

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