G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

. (page 32 of 61)
Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 32 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

joy ; and she, remembering her son and weeping that
she saw him not in this joyful band, suddenly beheld
him trailing weary footsteps after the rest. Then
with a grievous cry the mother asked : " How comes
it, my son, that thou goest alone, lagging thus behind
the rest ? " Then he opened the side of his cloak and
showed her a heavy water-pot, saying : " Behold, dear
mother, the tears which thou hast vainly shed for me,
through the weight whereof I must needs linger behind
the rest ! Thou therefore shalt turn thy tears to God,
and pour forth thy pious and devout heart in the
presence of the Sacrifice of Christ's Body, with alms
to'the poor : then only shall I be freed from the burden
wherewith I am now grieved."

366 A Medieval Garner.

172.— a Strange Election.

(Lib. I, c. 2, p. 10).

ERTAIN canons, not being able to agree in
the election of a bishop, gave up their votes
to the Provost and the Dean on condition

li that they should choose one of the ministers

of that church ; after which they went their
ways, leaving these others to order more freely the
election of the bishop. One of the canons, unwilling
to defer the hour of dinner, hastened from the chapter-
house to the nearest tavern ; where, having dined, he
sat down to play dice, for he was a youth of disorderly
life, though excelling all the rest in mother-wit, affable
to all, and eminent for his natural gifts. When there-
fore the Provost and Dean, having conferred together,
saw that they could find none spiritual or proper for
the office among all their fellow ministers, then at last
they agreed to choose for the bishopric that young
canon who had such excellent parts. The choice was
proclaimed to the Chapter, the procession was ordained,
and all moved in solemn array to the tavern. There
they found the youth, who had gambled away his
clothes. They dragged him weeping and struggling
into the open air, carried him to the church, and set
him in the bishop's seat, where in due time he was
consecrated. He, therefore, as soon as he found himself
a bishop, was changed into another man, and ordered
all things that were proper to his office so perfectly
within himself that no vestige of his former life re-
mained, and men might have believed him to have lived
all his life in this high station. He so managed the out-
ward affairs of his bishopric that none should hinder
him in the exercises of his spiritual offices. Why
should we marvel ? The free gift of virtue which had
come upon him shaped the possibilities of his excellent
nature. . . . Yet, though the choice of this youth,
who had as yet been given to vanity, had in this case
so good and happy an issue, yet it should by no means

A Strange Election. 3^7

be made into a precedent where any safer way can
be found. But what should be done in any congrega-
tion where many wise, noble, or powerful men, ungraced
by a good life or manners, strive for authority over
the rest, may be seen in that which here foUoweth.
[Among the bees,] when the froward members of the
hive begin to grow to maturity, then all with one
consent fall upon them and slay them, lest they distract
the community and incite the rest to sedition. So
when such undisciphned men begin to set up their
horn of liberty, they should be repressed without delay
by such as are holier than they, and further advanced
in virtue. They should be kept close and withdrawn
from all offices of authority, lest they find any occasion
of showing their malice. Against such Ezekiel crieth :
" Remove the diadem, take off the crown : " What
then ? Do I here inveigh against learned men ? Do
I teach my readers to abhor the noble or povv^erful ?
God forbid. Nay, if such are shown to be fit by manners
that suit their station, then, as the Apostle saith, they
are " esteemed worthy of double honour ": But
alas ! in these days learning for the most part is puffed
up without charity, worldly nobility is for the most
part degenerate in manners ; almost all are wont
foully to abuse their power. Of old, the Apostle Paul,
though he went round the whole world and was most
learned in the law, " by the foolishness of preaching
saved them that believed." Peter, by throwing out
his net and leaving his ship, subdued the Roman
Empire ; and do our pontiffs in these days, those that
hold the highest places, believe that the church can be
firmly built with the noble but lukewarm blood of
infants ? — that church which was founded on the
blood of robust martyrs ? God forbid !



368 A Medieval Garner.

173.— Cfte accutgetJ CalmuU,

(Lib. 1, c. 3, p. 14).

MYSELF also have seen another Archbishop
in France, a man of learning and noble birth,
upon whom the following vengeance fell from
God. [Saint] Louis King of France, devoutest
of princes, commanded about the year 1239,
at the persuasion of Brother Henry of Cologne, of the
Order of Friars Preachers, that men should gather
together at Paris, under pain of death, all copies of
that most abominable Jewish book called the Talmud,
wherein unheard-of heresies and blasphemies against
Christ and His Mother were written in many places ;
wherefore divers copies of this book were brought to
Paris to be burned. The Jews therefore came in tears
to the Archbishop, who was the King's chief Councillor,
and offered him untold gold for the preservation of
those books. He, corrupted by these bribes, repaired
to the King, whose boyish mind he soon bent to his
own will. The Jews, having recovered their books,
ordained a solemn yearly day of thanksgiving ; but in
vain, since the Spirit of God had ordered otherwise :
for at the year's end, on the same day and at that very
place where these execrable books had been rendered
back — to wit, at Vincennes near Paris — the Archbishop
aforesaid was seized with intolerable inward pains on
his way to the King's council, and died that same day
amidst cries and lamentations. The King with all his
train fled from the spot, fearing sore lest he also should
be struck by God's hand ; and within a short space,
at the persuasion of Brother Henry as before, the Jews'
books were gathered together under pain of death
and burned in very great multitudes. Now note, good
Reader, that all Eastern Jews do hereticate and ex-
communicate their brethren who, against the law
of Moses and the Prophets, accept and copy this book
called Talmud ; yet this Christian Archbishop defended
such a book !

The Pluralisms Fate. 369

174.— Cbe ipiurali0t'!8 j?atc.

(Lib. I, c. 19, p. 62. The author has beeu complaining of pluralism and ;tli-
senteeism rampant in the Church).

SPENT eleven years of my youth in a certain
Episcopal city, where the Cathedral church
was served by sixty- two Canons endowed with
exceeding fat prebends of the value of almost
two hundred livres parisis* ; yet many of
these occupied many other benefices. Lo now, what
vengeance of God's T have seen against those foul
occupiers of benefices ! So may the Holy Trinity, the
One God, testify and judge me, as I have seen few of
these men die the death of other men ; but all died
suddenly and in reprobation : so that one of them,
hearing how one of his fellows had gone to bed in sound
health and had been found dead in the morning, clapped
his hands and cried, " What would ye have ? He
hath, as ye see, died after the wont and custom of our
Cathedral ! " I myself have seen, within a few years,
four archdeacons of that church die after this fashion :
see, Reader, and marvel at the miracle ! The first,
falling from his great barded charger, brake his neck,
and gave up the ghost. The second sat down one
morning in his stall, and was found to be dead. The
third fell backwards as he stood in choir, while Christ's
body was being raised on high in the mass ; and, losing
sense and speech at once, he died on the third day like
a brute beast without the sacraments of the church.
The fourth, refusing to confess or receive the sacra-
ments, died thus and was buried in unhallowed ground.

* i.e., about £1,200 modern English money. The cathedral in
question is Liege,


370 A Medieval Garner.

175.— Clje Q^aiUen's psalter.

(Lib. I, c. 23, p. 76).

KNEW in Brabant a woman of most holy
life, the manner of whose living I will briefly
narrate, that thou mayest the more easily
believe that which shall follow. She was
enclosed within a scanty cell of stone ; she
wore an iron coat of mail next to her flesh, and over
the mail a hair-shirt of bristles which pricked her
deeply through the mail. She slept upon the hardest
cobble-stones, at broken intervals, and bare-footed ;
she ate only thrice a week, and then only according to
weight and measure, of a bread made with equal parts
of ashes and dough. This woman, in her prayers,
offered daily supplications to God for many people who
had commended themselves to her, that He might in
His mercy defend them from all adversities. Hear
now a miracle worthy of the greatest admiration : she
herself told me how, at the moment when she remem-
bered any one of these in her prayers, she felt virtue or
grace go as sensibly from her, as though she had felt
a bodily hurt in some joint or limb. Wherefore (as I
know by most certain proof) very many were delivered
by her prayers from long-standing temptations, perils,
and adversities.

Concerning this woman one indubitable miracle was
in all men's mouths. She was the daughter of a very
poor man ; and, while yet in her sixth year, some
marvellous inward fervour of the spirit impelled her
to beseech her father, even with tears, that he would
buy her a psalter. " Nay, daughter," answered he,
" how shall I buy thee a psalter, when I am scarce able
to earn for thee our daily bread ? " She therefore
turned her supplications forthwith to the Mother of
Christ, and prayed saying : "0 blessed Mary, Mother
of Christ, give me this psalter which my father cannot
give, and I will be thy servant to all eternity ! " In
this simple prayer she persevered for a whole year ;
when lo ! the blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her in

The Maiden's Psalter. 37 1

a dream bearing two psalters and saying, " Take now,
my daughter, whichsoever of the two thou wilt choose."
She therefore chose one hastily and with the greatest
joy ; whereupon the blessed Virgin disappeared ; and
she, awaking from her dream, found nought in her
hands : so that she burst into a flood of tears, com-
plaining that the Mother of Christ had deceived her.
Her father, hearing this, laughed and comforted her,
saying, '' Go now, on Sundays and holy-days only, to
the mistress who teacheth the psalter to the daughters
of rich folk ; learn first to read, and then perchance
the blessed Virgin will procure thee a psalter." Mar-
vellous to relate, the maiden received his words in
simple faith, came to the mistress who taught the
daughters of the rich, looked upon a psalter, and read
it ; and thus the blessed Mary fulfilled in a far more
marvellous fashion the promise she had deigned to
give. When the honourable and wealthy ladies of the
parish saw this, they bought a psalter for the maiden ;
and, in later days, seeing how eager and devout she
v.as in the service of Christ, they hired a cell hard by
the church as an hermitage for her.

176.— ©ugl) of ^t. Oictot'0 Purgatorp.

(Lib. II, c. 16, p. 174).

jASTER Hugh was canon of the monastery of
Canons Regular of St. Victor at Paris ; men
called him a second Augustine ; that is,
second in learning to St. Augustine himself.
Although his life was most laudable, yet in
this one thing he wTOught somewhat imperfectly, that
he received discipline for daily faults neither in secret
nor in the Chapter House with the rest ; for he had
from his boyhood a most tender skin, and of exceeding
delicacy. Seeing therefore that he never conquered m
himself, by the exercise of virtue, this his imperfect
nature, or rather habit, hear therefore what suffering
befel him. In his latest moments, a certain fellow-
canon who had loved him very dearly in life adjured

372 A Medieval Garner.

him to appear to him in death. " Willingly," answered
he, " if only the Master of Life and of Death grant me
that power." In the midst of which compact Master
Hugh died ; and, not long afterwards, he appeared to
his expectant comrade, saying, " Lo, here am I ; ask
what thou wouldst know, for my time is brief." Then
the other, with fear indeed yet with no small pleasure,
said, " How is it with thee, my dearest friend ? " "It
is well with me now," answered he, " yet, because in
my lifetime I would not accept discipline, therefore
there remained scarce one devil in hell who dealt me
not some shrewd blow on my way to purgatory."

177.— Priest antj penitent.

(Lib. II, c. 30, p. 290).

|HEN I was in Brussels, the great city of
Brabant, there came to me a maiden of lowly
birth but comely, who besought me with many
tears to have mercy upon her. When there-
fore I had bidden her tell me what ailed her,
then she cried out amidst her sobs : " Alas, wretched
girl that I am ! for a certain priest would fain have
ravished me by force, and began to kiss me against
my will ; wherefore I smote him in the face with the
back of my hand, so that his nose bled ; and for this
as the clergy now tell me, I must needs go to Rome."*
Then I, scarce withholding my laughter, yet speaking
as in all seriousness, affrighted her as though she had
committed a grievous sin ; and at length, having made
her swear that she would fulfil my bidding, I said, " I
command thee, in virtue of thy solemn oath, that if

* " If any man, at the devil's instigation, incur such a guilt of
sacrilege as to lay violent hands on a cleric or a monk, let him be laid
under the bond of anathema, and let no bishop presume to absolve
him (unless on his death bed) until he shall have come personally to
the Pope and received his commands." — Decree of Innocent II in
the Lateran Council (1139). A few years later, Alexander III decreed
that women, children under age, etc., might be absolved from this
rime by their own bishops.

Priest and Penitent. 373

this priest or any other shall attempt to do thee violence
with kisses or embraces, then thou shalt smite him
sore with thy clenched fist, even to the striking out
if possible, of his eye ; and in this matter thou shalt
spare no order of men, for it is as lawful for thee to
strike in defence of thy chastity as to fight for thy life."
With which words I moved all that stood by, and the
maiden herself, to vehement laughter and gladness.

178.— H:)iscipUne anu 3£)umiUtg.

(Lib. II, c. 39, p. 313).

HAVE heard, from the lips of those who knew
the man, of a certain most capable dean of
the Cathedral at Reims, an Englishman by
birth, who used to correct his canons severely
for their faults. Now it came to pass at that
time that the venerable and worthy father in God,
Albert, Bishop of Liege, brother to the duke of Brabant,
wpvS banished from the empire by the Emperor Henry,
whose knights slew him treacherously hard by Reims
for righteousness' sake. The venerable Rotard, a man
of royal blood, who was then Archdeacon of Reims
but already Bishop-Elect of Chalons, came to his
funeral with a multitude of nobles but without his
wedding-garment. After that the sacred body had
been decently laid in the Cathedral choir, then the
Dean summoned all the canons to the Chapter-house,
and the Bishop-Elect of Chalons with the rest. When
all were seated, the Dean said unto him, " As I believe,
you have not yet resigned your archdeaconry or
canonry," " Not yet," answered the Bishop-Elect.
" Rise therefore," said the Dean, " and make satis-
faction to this church ; prepare your back for discipline
in the presence of the Brethren, seeing that you have
violated the rule of the Cathedral by coming into the
choir among the canons without your wedding-
garment. The Bishop-Elect rose forthwith, fell on his
face, stripped his back, and accepted a most hearty
discipline from the Dean's hands ; after which he

374 A Medieval Garner.

clothed himself and stood upright, saying publicly to
the Dean with all grace of speech, " I thank God and
His most merciful Mother, to whom our cathedral is
dedicated, that I leave such an one as you in authority
here. I shall ever love this place the better, and shall
revere the worthy memory of this severity when I pass
to mine own see." With these words he resigned his
archdeaconry and canonry, verifying in his own person
that common proverb : " The higher the head, the
softer the neck." . . .

Hear again that which this same Dean did in the
case of his erring nephew. For love and reverence of
his uncle, a canonical prebend in the Cathedral of
Arras was conferred upon this clerk ; but after a while
the clerk was punished for a lapse of the flesh by one
year's suspension from his prebend. It chanced now
that the Dean his uncle came to Arras upon business ;
where he was received by the canons with all honour
due to such a man. The nephew's fault was related
by his fellow-canons, together with the punishment
inflicted : to wit, that he should lose his canonical
portion for a whole year ; but they assured him of the
Chapter's willingness freely to release the nephew
from this punishment, if the Dean deigned to pray
for him. " Wherefore not," replied he ; " for he is
my sister's son." When therefore the canons were
assembled in chapter, he said, " I have heard my
nephew's fault, and how he hath been mulcted of his
prebend for a year according to the custom of your
church : I pray you therefore to submit this fault to
my judgment." To this all gladly consented forthwith
— for the clerk was (as the vulgar saying hath it) one
of those good fellows who had never done well.* Then
said the Dean, " For your own sakes, beloved sirs, ye
have submitted my nephew's fault to my judgment.
I do indeed commend and approve your custom whereby
ye punish the unchaste for a year. To this year wherein
ye have mulcted my nephew of his prebend I add now

* Erat enim clericus de bonis sociis illis, quorum nee unus unquam,
ut vulgo dicitur, bene fecerat.

Discipline and Humility. 375

a second year, so that he may lose all profit of his
prebend for two years : and, if he so amend himself
meanwhile as worthily to deserve restoration, herein 1
assent to your benevolent liberality : if not, by the very
fact of his misconduct let him be shut out for ever
from his prebend and from the bosom of this Cathedral."
The Canons, hearing this, were marvellously edified
by his words, and noised abroad this virtue of the
Dean's throughout the whole realm of France.






179.— a P0pcl)ological Iproblem.

(Lib. II, c. 46, p. 352).

KNEW a youth in a religious Order in France,
who, albeit of most slender learning and dull
of wit, yet set himself earnestly to learn, and
devoted himself to the study of books. Now
he had a custom (as I learned from his own
lips) of praying long and earnestly every evening and
recalling all that he had learnt during the day ; after
which he w^ould lie down to sleep. Then within a
little while, when his ear caught the sound of the bell
that roused the Brethren to the night services, that
last recollection of his reading, wherewith he had lam
do^^^l to rest, would come into his mind ; and, taking
it with him to mattins in the choir, he would stand
there with his eyes shut. Then the whole series of the
Scriptures* would appear to him as it were a vast, lofty,
and long palace, of exceeding beauty ; and at that
hour he understood them so perfectly that no question
— not even the most difficult — seemed insoluble, but
he sav/ all the hidden things of Scripture with the
greatest clearness, even as the five fingers of his o^vn
hand. If however he opened his eyes, were it but

* This word, though of course often applied to Holy Writ in the
Middle Ages, had at other times a far wider signification. Michelet
has noted, in his Italic (Chapter VI.), that prolonged fasting produced
on his own mind a similar rapturous clearness of intellect, from which
however he could bring nothing tangible back with him into ordinary

37^ A Medieval Garner.

for the twinkling of an eye, then the vision would flee
away, nor could he recall any but the most superficial
memory of the least fragment thereof ; yet, when he
shut his eyes again, the vision would return forthwith.
Moreover, the vision had this most marvellous character
that, while he chanted his psalms with the rest, he
lost no whit either of its contemplation or of its
admirable sweetness ; but his attention was in a
fashion divided betwixt the chant and the contempla-
tion, and he enjoyed the fruit of both to an inestimable

180.— C6c prout) Professor.

(Lib. II. c. 48, p. 361).

ASTER Simon de Tournai was Master of
Theology at Paris, and excelled all others in
his time ; yet, contrary to the decorum of
such an office, he was beyond measure incon-
tinent and proud. Having a greater audience
than all other Masters in that city, while he was publicly
determining in the schools a question concerning the
humility of the most lofty Christian doctrine, then at
length, at the very end, he was given over to a reprobate
mind and burst forth into execrable blasphemies
against Christ, saying : " There are three who have
ensnared the world with their sects and dogmas : to
Avit, Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet. Moses first infatuated
the Jewish people ; then Jesus Christ the Christians,
called after His own name ; thirdly, Mahomet the
heathen folk." Then his eyes turned forthwith in his
head, and his human voice changed into a bellow ;
and, falling straightway upon the ground in an epilepsy,
he received on the third day the full punishment of
that sickness. Wherefore the Almighty smote him
with an incurable wound, depriving him of all his
learning even to the first rudiments of letters ; and the
plague fell even more grievously upon his soul, for he
remained as it were dumb until his dying day, and
was compared unto the beasts that perish.

Hunters and Farmers. 377

181.— Cbe %m of Dancing.

(Lib. II, c. 49, p. 871).

I HERE is also a third kind of game, namely
dancing. How harmful this is, St. Augustine
teacheth in his book Of the City of God, wherein
he relateth how Scipio Nasica, the most noble
general of all the Romans, removed all benches
from the theatre lest the citizens, who had recently
triumphed in war over Carthage the inveterate enemy
of their empire, should give themselves over to dances
and the sports of Venus, whereby they would become
effeminate and envious one of the other, and be moved
to war by their intestine discords, even when all out-
ward wars were at an end. \ This is a most plain and
evident token among the dancers, that they circle
round towards the left (on which side the accursed
goats will be set), and will therefore lose that Kingdom
which shall be bestowed by the Judge upon the blessed
who are set at His right hand. ( But if it be better
(as St. Augustine truly saith) to plough on a Sunday
or holy day than to dance ; and if servile works, such
as ploughing, are a mortal sin upon holy days, therefore
it is far more sinful to dance than to plough. Yet
those dances which are held at the weddings of the
faithful may be partly, though not wholly, excused ;
since it is right for those folk thus to have the consola-
tion of a moderate joy, who have joined together in
the laborious life of matrimony. For, according to
the vulgar proverb, that man is worthy to have a little
bell hung with a golden chain around his neck, who
hath not repented of taking a wife before the year is out.

182.— ij)untcr!S anu j?armers.

(Lib. II, c. 49, p. .S7.S).

iHERE is also a fourth kind of game, of those
who sport with the fowls of the air and the
hounds of the earth ; whereof the damnation
is most manifest in clerics, who wander about
after such sports and neglect their due service
to Christ. Yet even in noble laymen those things may

37^ A Medieval Garnen

be seen to be damnable, if on this account they neglect
and despise their daily prayers and masses. ... A
certain knight of high degree was wont to compel many
of his tenants daily to wander and spend their labour
in hunting with him ; whereby very many left their
own business of tilling the fields, and fell with their
wives and children into poverty and want. It befel
therefore one day that he went into the forest to chase
the stag with his own body-servants and his household,
and the hounds were in full cry, and he followed the

Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 32 of 61)