G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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thy thefts, for if they took it not thou wouldst have
left it alone. Thus ma^ny a man betrayeth another
for his life or his possessions ; but none are so false
as the countryfolk among each other, who are so untrue
that for envy and hatred they can scarce look upon
one another. One will drive another's cattle to his
harm and damage, and another will buy his fellow-
peasant out of his farm, all from untruth.




168.— partioner0 anD ^zmm,

Pred. I. 393. Berthold is describing the different hindrances that
keep men from God.

EAVEN is still below us as above us, and
when the sun is in heaven below us, then it is
night with us above. So the earth stands
midway betwixt us and the sun ; wherefore
by night the earth hinders us from seeing the
sun until morning, when he shall rise again in the East,
as Solomon saith : " The sun riseth, and goeth down,
and returneth to his place." So the earth hindereth
us far and wide that we may not see the worldly sun :
and this earth is a type of a certain sin which hinders
us far and wide from the sight of the true sun. This
sin is called covetousness for wealth — filthy lucre —
and it is grown so great that no man can measure it.
Alas ! how many folk there are who strive for filthy
lucre, and gain filthy lucre ! Such are deceivers in



Pardoners and Heretics. 355

their trade and handiwork ; such are men thieves and
women thieves, within the house and without ; usurers,
pa\Mibrokers, money-lenders, forestallers that they may
buy cheaper, and all such as inflict violent taxes, un-
righteous taxes, unrighteous tolls, unrighteous contri-
butions ; such as take on this hand and not on that
hand ; and penny-preachers, who are among the
dearest servants that Satan hath in the world. Fie !
penny-preacher, murderer of all the world ! How
many a soul dost thou cast with thy filthy lucre from
God's own sunlight to the bottom of hell, where there
is no hope more for them ! Thou promisest so much
indulgence for a single halfpenny or a single penny, that
many thousand people trust thee and dream falsely
that they have done penance for all their sins with
that penny or that halfpenny, as thou babblest to them.
So they will do no right penance, and go straight hence
to hell where there is no more help for them. There-
fore shalt thou too be cast to the bottom of hell, and
all they shall be cast upon thee whom thou hast seduced
away from almighty God and hast sold, every soul for
a penny or a halfpenny. Thou murderer of right
penitence ! thou hast murdered right penitence in
our midst, which is one of the seven holy things of
the highest that God hath. It hath been so murdered
now by penny-preachers that there are few among us
who will still do penance for their sins ; for they count
upon thy false promises. For this penny-preacher
preacheth to them so long and in such manifold words
of our Lord's passion that men take him for a true
messenger of God : for he weepeth in his preaching
and useth all manner of deceit whereby he may coax
pennies from his hearers, and their souls into the
bargain. Therefore be so many led astray by their
covetousness that they never see the true sun.* Even in

* So also wrote the Oxford Chancellor Gascoigne, about 1450 a.d.
" Sinners say in our days ' I care not how many or great sins I
commit in God's sight; for I can get with all ease and despatch a
plenary remission from any penalty or guilt whatsoever through an
absolution and indulgence granted me by the Pope, whose writing
and grant I have bought for fourpence or sixpence, or won at a game



25^ A Medieval Garner.

cloisters has covetousness so utterly won the upper
hand that God must ever have pity to see how things
go in some cloisters, with sacrilege, with simony, with
possession of private property. Thou monk or nun, if
but a half-penny be found in thy possession there is
no help for thy soul ! (contrition and repentance,
nevertheless, I refuse to no man.) " Evil lay-folk, evil
religious," as it is written ; but that is the very devil
made visible ! Thus the world betokeneth covetousness.
The earth is cold and dry, so also is covetousness ; it
is cold of true love and dry of all true contrition. Ye
priests, to all men who are so cold and dry at their last
end that they will not restore and give back their ill-
gained wealth (so far as it is in their power, and so far
as the rightful possessors are known,) to such men should
ye never give our Lord's Body, whether they be whole
in|body or sick, neither before their end nor after
their end ; nor shall ye ever bury them in a consecrated
spot, nor shall any baptised hand ever be laid upon them.
" Brother Berthold, how shall we then do ? " Why,
take a rope and make a noose in it and put the noose
on the man's foot with a hook, aud drag him out of
the door. " Brother Berthold, but when the threshold
is high, how shall we do then ? " Then shall ye dig
through the threshold and drag him through ; but
never shall a baptised hand be laid on him. Then tie
him to a horse's tail and drag him out to the cross ways
where the hanged criminals and the suicides lie. Drag

of ball.' " Evidence of this kind is so essential to the real compre-
hension of medieval life, and the facts are so persistently falsified in
certain quarters, that I must append here for the reader's comparison
a quotation of a kind from which I have usually tried to refrain in
this book. Abbot Gasquet, in his "Eve of the Reformation," p.
437, writes, " In the literature of this period, it must be remembered,
there is nothing to show that the true nature of a 'pardon' or
Indulgence was not fully and commonly understood. There is no
evidence that it was in any way interpreted as a remission of sin,
still less that any one was foolish enough to regard it as a permission
to commit this or that offence against God." The Roman Catholic
Bishop of Newport, (while mistakenly limiting the period,) quotes
this statement under the evident impression that it is trustworthy
and conclusive. {XIX Century, Jan. 1901, p. 170.)



Pardoners and Heretics. 357

him to the gallows with the rest of the gallows-birds ;
he is scarce worth even that. . . .

The third thing that leads us astray is betokened by
the moon . . . that is, unbelief. Now see how many
thousand men are led astray thereby, that they never
see the high and true sun. Firstly, heathendom far
and wide and great ; and then Jews and heretics into
the bargain. Now have pity yourselves, that God may
be pitiful to you, for that so many men are damned
through unbelief. The moon betokens unbelief, because
unbelief is of so many changing forms. The heathens
have so many and divers unbeliefs that there is no end
thereof ; and the Jews believe in one house that which
they believe not in another, and they believe such simple
things of God as they scarce dare repeat to their children;
for they are become heretics and break their Old Testa-
ment in all points. Twelve of them came together
and made a book that is called Talmoud, and it is a
mere mass of heresy, wherein stand such accursed
heresies that it is pity they should live. It saith and
saith such evil things as I am loth to repeat. Ask me
a Jew where God is and what He doth ; then saith he :
" He sitteth on the heaven, and His legs stretch down
even to the earth." Alas, good God ! Thou must
needs have two long hosen if this speech be true ! And
therefore doth the moon betoken unbelief, because she
is so unstable and her changes are so many. To-day
she is young and to-morrow older ; to-day she wanes,
to-morrow she waxes ; now small, now great ; now
riding aloft in heaven, to-morrow riding alow ; now
here, now there ; now this, now that. Even so are
faithless folk ; so are the heathen, so are the Jews, so
are the heretics. They have the most manifold un-
beliefs that ever were heard of. They have a good
hundred and a half of heresies, the one believeth not
as the others. . . . Nevertheless, however many names
they have, all alike are called Ketzer* And that is
not without cause in God's providence that they are

* Ketzer (corrupted from Cathari) is the ordinary German word for
heretic.



35^ A Medieval Garner.

called Ketzer. Now wherefore are they not called
Hunder, or Mauser, or Vogler, or Schweiner, or Geiszer,
after dogs, mice, fowls, swine, or goats ? God called
the creature a Ketzer for this cause, that he can creep
secretly where no man seeth him, as doth also the cat
[German, Katze,'] who can make herself most soft and
secret ; and there is no beast, for all her soft ways, that
hath so soon done so great evil as the cat ; but most of
all and swiftest of all in summer. Let all folk beware
of the cat ! She goeth apart and licketh a toad where-
soever she may find him, under a hedge or wherever
he may be found, until the toad begin to bleed. Thus
his poison maketh the cat thirsty, then she maketh for
the water whence christian-folk are wont to cook or
drink ; and she drinketh thereof and defileth the folk
so that many a man lieth half a year sick thereafter,
or a whole year, or his whole life long, or taketh
sudden death thereby. Oftentimes drinketh the cat so
greedily that a drop falleth from her eye into the water,
or that she sneezeth therein ; and whosoever useth
that water for cooking or drinking must taste bitter
death therefrom ; or she sneezeth in a dish or some
other vessel wherefrom a man will eat or drink, whence
he taketh great harm and sickness, or perchance two
or four, or as many folk as are in the house. Therefore,
good folk, drive the cat from you, for the breath that
Cometh from her throat is most unwholesome and
dangerous. Bid the maids drive her forth from the
kitchen or wherever else ye see her, for she is deadly
unclean. Therefore is the heretic called Ketzer, because
he is like no beast so much as a cat, for he goeth so
spiritually to good people and speaketh such sweet
words at the first and can do all as softly as the cat
herself ; and even so swiftly hath he defiled a man's
body. Thus doth the heretic ; he will rehearse to
thee so sweet speeches of God and the angels that thou
wouldst swear a thousand oaths he were an angel
himself, yet is he a devil in human form ; and he saith
he will show thee an angel and will teach thee so that
thou shalt see God with thy bodily eyes, and so much
of this sort will he say to thee that he will soon have



Pardoners and Heretics. 359

turned thee from thy christian faith and there shall be
no more hope for thee. Therefore he is called Ketzer,
because his soft ways are as baneful as a cat's ; yea,
and far more baneful ! The cat will defile thy body,
the heretic defileth the soul and body, so that all
hope of both is lost. So baneful is he that, had I a
single sister in the whole countryside wherein there
was but one heretic, I should live in fear for her sake
because of that single heretic, so destructive is he.
Therefore let all folk take good heed of him. I hold —
God pardon the word — my christian faith as fast as
every christian man rightly should ; but before I
would dwell knowingly for a single fortnight in a house
wherein a heretic was, rather would I dwell for a whole
year in one house with five hundred devils. What
heretic ! art thou perchance here in this congregation ?
Now God Almighty grant that none be before me here !
Moreover, they go not into goodly towns ; for there
the folks are understanding, and mark them for heretics
at the very first word. They love to creep round the
hamlets and villages, and even to the children that
herd the geese in the field. Formerly they went even
in clerical garb, and never swore for any occasion,
whereby indeed men knew them.* Now they change
their life and their heresy even as changing moon ; now
they wear sword and dagger, long hair and long
garments ; and now they swear oaths. There was a
day when they had rather suffered death, when they
said that God had forbidden to swear ; and now their
masters allow them to swear oaths. Say, wretched
heretic, if God hath forbidden it, how then can thy
master allow it ? What devil hath given him such
power — to a cobbler or weaver or spurrier, such as
thou callest thy spiritual master ? How may such an
one allow what God hath disallowed ? Ah, the man
shall turn twelve christian folk to heretics, and thereby

* The avoidance of oaths, whether in common speech or in a court
of Law, is recorded in inquisitors' manuals as a presumption of heresy.
Many readers will remember how Chaucer's Host " smells a Lollard in
the wind " so soon as the Poor Parson begins to protest against profane
language. Compare extract 41.



360 A Medieval Garner.

shall he atone for his sinful oath ! Fie, miserable
heretic, rather shalt thou thyself be burned, than that
thou shalt make another heretic like unto thyself !




169.— Somen's Dress.

Pred. I. 408 abbreviated ; tlie description of ladies' dresses is com-
pleted from I. 253, 397, and II. 242.

AM come here to speak of these words, how
you should beware of these snares of the devil,
for the holy saint saw so many thereof that
he said: "Alas, Lord! is there any who
may avoid all these snares ? " He saw well
that the whole of the world was full of the devil's
snares. They go by night to towns and villages m
great companies and multitudes and lay their snares
and gins of many kinds ; for the devils have nought
else to do than daily to set more and more of such
snares. — " But, Brother Berthold, thou sayest much
to us of these devils and of their manifold guiles, and we
never see a single devil with our eyes, nor hear we any,
nor grasp, nor feel them." — Lo, now ! that is even
the worst harm that they do thee ; for, didst thou see
but once a single devil as he is, then wouldst thou
surely never commit one sin again ; that itself is one
of their snares the worst of all that they have, that they
deal so stealthily with us. Now see how dead a silence
they keep, albeit there are many thousand of them
here in this place ! Ye devils, ye hear me well enough
preaching here, yet ye would not take all the wealth
that is under heaven (I except a man's soul) that only
one of you should let himself once be seen ; for then
all your cunning and your snares would avail you no
more. Now see, ye young folk, what a deadly snare
that is, that no man may ever see a devil ! Behold
now what silence they keep, though so many are here
with us ; for if ye saw them but once ye would never
sin more, since they are so foul of form that, if we
could but see one single devil as he is, all mankind
would die of fear. As little as a man may endure the



Women^s Dress. 361

sight of Almighty God with his fleshly eyes for excess
of joy, so little may one ever see the devil for fear.
And if it were so that a man might see the devil with
his bodily eyes and not die of horror, and if the devil
were to come out at this moment from that forest
yonder,* and this towTi here before us were a burning
fiery furnace heated through and through, there would
yet be the grertest throng of men pressing into that
fiery furnace that ever there was in the world, or ever
will be ! . . .

The second snare which the devils set so perilously
for us christian folk, they have set specially for women.
Women are as well created for the Kingdom of Heaven
as men, and they need it also as much as men, and many
more of them would come into the Kingdom of Heaven
but for this one snare. Fie ! ye wicked devils ! How
many thousand poor women's souls would now be in
heaven but for the single snare which ye have laid so
cunningly for them ! Ye women, ye have bowels of
compassion, and ye go to church more readily than men,
and ye pray more readily than men, and come to hear
preaching and to earn indulgences more readily than
men ; and many of you would be saved but for his
one snare, which is called vain glory and empty honour.
In order that ye may compass men's praise ye spend all
your labour on your garments — on your vefls and your
kirtles. Many of you pay as much to the sempstress
as the cost of the cloth itself ; it must have shields
on the shoulders, it must be flounced and tucked all
round the hem ; it is not enough for you to show your
pride in your very buttonholes, but you must also
send your feet to hell by special torments, ye trot this
way and that way with your fine stitchings ; and so
many ye make, and with so much pains, that no man
may rehearse it all. At the least excuse ye weary
yourselves with your garments ; all that wherewith
ye busy yourselves is nought but vanity. Ye busy
yourselves with your veils, ye twitch them hither, ye

* Many sentences in these sermons testify to Berthold's habit of
preaching in the open air ; chroniclers reckoned the numbers of his
hearers somewhat wildly at 60,000, or even 100,000 men.



362 A Medieval Garner.

twitch them thither ; ye gild them here and there
with gold thread, and spend thereon all your time and
trouble. Ye will spend a good six months' work on a
single veil, which is sinful great travail, — and all that
men may praise thy dress : " Ah, God ! How fair !
Was ever so fair a garment ? " Yea, our Lady was
far fairer than thou, yet was she exceeding humble of
heart ; and St. Margaret, and many other saints. —
" How, Brother Berthold ! we do it only for the good-
man's sake, that he may gaze the less on other women."
No, believe me, if thy goodman be a good man indeed
he would far rather see thy chaste conversation than
thine outward adorning, so that the folk point their
fingers at thee and gape : " See, who is she ? " or
" Whose wife is she ? " Or if he be a lewd fellow,
then all thy crimple-crispings and christy-crosties and
thy gold thread are of no avail ; and they help thee
only to hell for ever and ever, unless thou come to
contrition and true penitence. Every woman's excuse
is : " I do it not for vain glory's sake ; I do it only
for my goodman ! " But many husbands are heartily
sorry for your dressing ; and then more especially
when ye leave them no rest. Now ye will have this,
now ye will have that ; and when thou shouldest be
busy in the house with something needful for the
goodman, or for thyself, or thy children, or thy guests,
then art thou busy instead with thy hair or thy wimple !
thou art careful whether thy sleeves sit well, or thy
veil, or thy headdress, wherewith thy whole time is
filled — the days and the weeks and the whole year
long. Now see, ye women, to how little purpose ye
lose the Kingdom of Heaven ! Believe me, whatsoever
thou doest with thy dress, yet in all the world it is
nought but a little dust and a bit of cloth. With all
the crimple-crispings here and the christy-crosties
there, and the gold thread here and there, yet again
I say, it is nought but a bit of cloth after all ! Only
the Jewesses and the parsons' lemans and the lost
women who walk outside the town walls — only such
should wear these yellow scarves, that they may be
known from the rest. Ye men might put an end to



A Lesson in Anatomy. 2^3

this and fight against it doughtily, first with good
words, and if they are still obdurate, then ye should
step valiantly in. — " Ah, Brother Berthold, yet that
is a perilous enemy whom the goodman must always
keep in his house ! I have oftentimes besought my
wife kindly and commanded her straitly, yet would
she never forbear. Now therefore, were I to pull one
veil from her, I fear lest she should do me all the greater
harm behind my back, and go buy another twice as
dear." — Lo, now, thou shouldst take heart of grace.
Thou art a man after all, and bearest a sword, yet thou
art easily conquered with a distaff. Take courage, and
pluck up heart and tear it from her head, even though
four or ten hairs should come away with it, and cast
it into the fire ! Do thus not thrice or four times only ;
and presently she will forbear. It is fitting that the
man should be the woman's lord and master.




170.— a Lesson! m anatomp.

(Pred. I, 431).

J'N old days women were exceeding temperate,
eating and drinking but little, yet now is
gluttony become an ingrained custom with
them. By the time the goodman hath drunk
away his sword, the goodwif e hath drunk away
her ring and the veil from her head ; and both have
lost their honour for their gluttony's sake, and ruined
soul and body, and health, and hope of long life. —
" How, Brother Berthold, I had ever thought that,
the better a man ate and drank, the stronger and
stouter he would be, and live the longer for it." —
That is false, and I will tell thee why. The stomach
is in thy body ; right in the midst of the body lieth a
man's stomach, that receive th first of all whatsoever
thou eatest or drinkest ; and this same stomach is
shaped even Uke a cauldron on the fire, wherein we
boil our food. Ye see well how, if the cauldron on the
fire be filled too full, then must one of two evil things
come to pass : either the cauldron will boil over and



364 A Medieval Garner.

the food remain uncooked, or the food must bum in
the cauldron, and so again stay uncooked ; but if a
man fill the cauldron in all temperance, then the food
may be well sodden and find room to simmer quietly
through and through. . . . Now see and mark this, all
and several. Even so is it with a man's stomach,
that standeth in the midst of the body like a cauldron,
and the liver lieth hard by the stomach like a fire, for
the liver hath by nature the greatest heat of the whole
body, and bringeth heat to the stomach wherewith all
is seethed that a man may eat and drink. ... If the
stomach be too full, however hot the liver be, yet must
the food stay uncooked ; and if it boil over, then the
superfluity rises either to the head, that a man's ears
are dulled and he becomes deaf ; or to the face, that
his eyes grow weak or blind — heavy eyes, glassy eyes,
or gravel-blind. . . . And mark me this one thing !
rich folks' children grow far more seldom to old age,
or even to manhood, than poor folk's children ; that
Cometh from the over-feeding that men practise on rich
folk's children, for none can ever fill them so full that
another will believe it is enough. That ariseth from
the tenderness wherewith they are cherished, and also
for that there is ever enough and to spare in the house.
So the child's sister makes him a pap and coaxes it into
him ; now mark ! his little cauldron, his little belly,
is soon filled, and the pap begins to bubble out again,
but she coaxes it in and in. Then cometh his aunt and
doth likewise. Then cometh his nurse and crieth :
" Alas ! my child hath eaten nought this livelong
day ! " and she will straightway coax the pap in again
as before, for all that the child may cry and toss his
little limbs. Thus do all vie one with another in
feeding rich men's children, so that few indeed grow to
a good old age.



Thomas Cantimpratanus (of Chantimpre in Brabant) was the son of
a noble who had fought under our Richard I. in the Holy Land. A
hermit near Antioch, to whom the father had confessed his sins, warned
him that some of them would keep him long in purgatory unless he
bred up one of his sons to the priesthood. The child Thomas was




A Mother's Tears. 365

therefore sent to school at Liege, where (as he tells us in extract No. 174)
he spent eleven years. At the age of 15 he was much impressed by-
Jacques de Vitry's preaching. In early manhood he became a Canon
Regular at Chantimpre, but passed over to the stricter Dominicans
about 1231. He became a very distinguished preacher, a suffragan
bishop, and a fairly voluminous writer. By far the most valuable
of his works is the Bonum Universale de Apibics, a treatise on virtues
and vices by analogy with the Ufe of the bee, illustrated by personal
and historical anecdotes. This was written somewhere about 1260 ;
my extracts are from the Douay edition of 1597.

171.— a a^ofter's Ccars,

(Lib. II, c. 5;}, p. 41,3).

|T was my own mother who told me the story
which I am about to relate. My grandmother
had a firstborn son of most excellent promise,
comely beyond the wont of children, at whose
death she mourned and could not be consoled,
partly, perchance, through a foreboding of future ills ;
for after him she had another son who, though he was
renowned in knighthood, yet, seduced by the pomp
of vain glory, became an utter prodigal and squandered
his paternal inheritance. His mother, therefore, as we
have said, mourned for her firstborn with a grief that
could not be consoled, until one day, as she Vv^ent by
the way, she saw in her vision a band of youths moving
onwards, as it seemed to her, with exceeding great



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 31 of 61)