G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

. (page 36 of 61)
Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 36 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

well, and pray for me.

* It is evident from many indications that Christina wrote not with
her own hand, but through the Priest and the Schooknaster.

t To this the learned Jesuit editor notes " above the word cheeses
is written cherries, from wliich our Flemish peasants make a most
excellent condiment which they keep a whole year ; meanwhile I note
so clear a difference of style and spirit between this letter and Brother
Peter's, that I do not wonder how Christina, so earnest and so intent
on divine things alone, should be less pleased with the former than with
the latter."

414 A Medieval Garner,

194.— Ctout)le0 anu Ctialg.

Christina to Peter, who has now come back to Sweden and stands
high in his Order. (A.D. 1272 : Lib. II., c. VI., p. 320.)

O her dear, her dearer, her dearest Brother
Peter, Lector of Skenninge, his own Christina
von Stommeln sends salutations in Him
Who is our true Salvation. After your
departure, being long without my Beloved,
I was so affected that great gouts of blood, as many
saw, came from my mouth. I complain now of my
friends, in whose trouble I am afflicted. You must
know my grief in the matter of my well-beloved lord
the Prior of Braunweiler, who died after the Assump-
tion of the Blessed Virgin, committing himself to me
in his last sickness with such pitiful words as I cannot
relate without weeping. This same Prior desired me
to write that you also might intercede for him ; and
I too beg for him that, even as I am confident you would
do for me if I were to die, so you should do the same
for his soul ; for you know not how much good he
did for me in his lifetime. After this, [my confessor]
Brother Gerard von Greifen departed and was made
Prior d.t Coblenz, to heap up the measure of my sorrows ;
and thus almost all my friends have left me.

Moreover there hath been other and most grievous
trouble with my remaining friends and my parents,
who are fallen into such poverty that my father, by
reason of his standing surety between Jews and Chris-
tians, hath lost all that he had ; wherefore he dares
not stay here, but is departed from the village three
months since. Consider therefore, my well-beloved,
how great was my tribulation when my father, who
had done me so much kindness, was thus stripped of
all his goods and departed ! And when he was at
Cologne, I must needs cumber myself with his business
and go to him ; and when I saw his affliction I shed
many tears. On Innocents' Day, when my mother
must needs go to Cologne to see my father, she fell

Christina^s Trials, 4^5

from the cart and broke her arm and took a grievous
wound in the head, and so is departed to Cologne.
This again was a grievous tribulation to me ; for she
must needs keep her bed a long while and spend much
money ; and with all this she had a sharp fever, and
your Brethren anointed her ; moreover she broke out
in boils and blains so that no man knew her face.
There then she stayed seven weeks long in all these
afflictions ; wherefore I myself went to Cologne
immediately after Christmastide, though I could not
put on my shoes by reason of my green wounds, in
bitter cold and in great torment of body and mind.*
And when at last I returned, I found our farm and
house deserted ; and here I dwelt like a poor outcast
wretch, finding nothing in the place ; and so I must
needs go hither and thither in all pain.

Such are the pains with which I am filled to-day,
and I await still worse ; yet I must needs cumber
myself with business, and all day long I expect a
separation between us. Wherefore, dearly beloved, I
instantly beseech and warn you, that you may vouch-
safe to intercede for me and on my behalf : (for, as
you now already know, grievous necessity is laid upon
me), that God may vouchsafe to keep me without sin
in these tribulations, nor any the more withdraw His
grace by reason of my distraction ; that my tribulation
may at last be changed to joy which no man can take
from me. This Lententide, wherein I write you this
letter, you must know that all grace hath been taken
away from me, and all delight in prayer, and withal I
have a grievous temptation of heart. Moreover, when
I pray, then cometh the Devil in the likeness of a great
spider, as great as an egg, flying in my face and molesting
me. Already he hath set boils in my finger, whereof
T fear I shall suffer yet more from this spider. Dearly
beloved, again I beseech you, if so it may be, vouchsafe
now to see me as soon as you may ; for I need your

* During the Advent weeks, the devil had more than once pierced
her feet with green withies, plaited them together, and hung her naked
by night on a tree in the garden ! " That same tree " (notes Peter with
solemn reverence) " I have seen with mine own eyes."

41 6 A Medieval Garner.

counsel and would gladly see your face. Farewell in
the Lord Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, among other diabolical temptations, Christina was
sometimes tormented by visions of trusted friends who came and told
her lies ; of letters from Peter, brought by devils who grinned and
vanished with horrible sounds or smells (380, 444). At last in 1279,
(hearing how the house had suddenly fallen down about Christina's
ears, and how she herself suffered grievous tribulation from the parish
priest's mother, who accused her of embezzlement,) Peter obtained
leave from his Provincial to go to Cologne. Lib. II. c. I., §4.

195.— T5alm in (^ileati.

|0 with God's help, and further reinforced
(as I most certainly hope) by the merits of
Christina, all my purposes fell out prosper-
ously ; and I found by experience that the
Poet saith true : " Importunate love con-
quers everything."* ... At length, on the Octave o^
the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, we came to Stom-
meln, the place for which we had yearned, fair in
God's sight with many gifts, and specially for the
devotion of those that dwelt there. As we drew near
the village, we saw from afar how the people came
away from Mass, for it was the sixth day of the week ;
and at last we saw two Beguines, and I said to my
companion Folquin, " See where Christina goeth ! "
for he also yearned to see her. Now Christina could be
discerned from the rest ; for, even as she was more
religious in her manner of life and devouter in her
aspect, so also was she graver in her walk, and, to be
brief, from every act of hers, or gesture, or motion,
or step, there shone forth a certain special grace, so
that whosoever devoutly considered her manners could
not doubt that God's grace and presence was with her
and in her. So when we had come to the parish priest's

* Amor omnia vincit itnprobus, parodied from Virgil. Many similar
passages were borrowed and adapted from the heathen poets by the
medieval mystics. It will be remembered that Chaucer's Prioress bore
on her brooch Amor vincit omnia.

Balm in Gilead. 417

house, to get the things necessary for our mass, there
stood the wife of the bell-ringer and looked hard at
me, and said at last, " What is your name ? " " Peter,"
quoth I. " Whence come you ? " " From Sweden."
Then she leapt forth into the street and began to cry
with a loud voice, " Christina, Christina ! come back,
if 3^ou would fain hear a mass." We too therefore
went out into the street and met Christina returning.
When I had saluted her, she stood as it were in stupor
of heart, scarce knowing what to answer. At last she
said, " Whence come ye ? " and I answered, " The
Lord God hath sent me hither." And so, when my
companion and I had said our masses, we ate with
Christina in the inner room, by the hospitality of
Master John [the schoolmaster], a most devout man :
but the parish priest also bare us company. On the
morrow, after Vespers, when at Christina's prayer I
had preached on that text, " Good measure and
pressed doAvn and shaken together and running over
shall they give into your bosom," she herself fell into
such a transport of mind that she could neither sup
nor speak. ... At length, when she was somewhat
recovered. Master John and Alice led her to her own
lodging ; and once, when I went by her side, she asked
who I was : and they told her how I was Brother Peter.
Then she said, " Brother Peter, if thou wilt speak of
God, thou art welcome ; otherwise, thou mayest
quickly do thy business and depart ; for otherwise
we shall soon wax weary of thee."* So she remained
all that night in this devotion : but on the morrow,
those who had heard this began to repeat it to her,
as it were complaining that some one had insulted me.
Whereunto she replied, " Truly, whosoever said that
was over-bold " : for she had no recollection of that
which she had said the evening before. We therefore
were three days in Stommeln, and thus we came to
Cologne, much edified and comforted by Christina's
presence. . . . Here I dwelt well-nigh a month . . .
and here I procured nine heads of the [Eleven Thousand]

* The Devil had more than once come to her in the form of Peter
or other spiritual friends, seeking to dissuade her from mortifications
and special devotions.

4 1 8 A Medieval Garner.

Virgins, and one of the Theban Legion, by the kind
offices of the Brethren at Cologne, and with the help
of Brother Folquin.

[About Michaelmas we paid another visit to Stom-
meln.] On the fourth day of the week, when all the
Beguines of Stommeln were come together, and had
made an excellent dinner for Brother Folquin and me,
(at which the parish priest was present, and Gerard the
Advocate's son, and Master John,) and when after
dinner I had made a discourse concerning spiritual joy
on the text, " Rejoice, O Jerusalem," then I began to
talk specially with Christina in the church, in the
presence of many others, concerning a certain miracle
told by Brother Folquin, how the Priest espoused St.
Agnes with a ring,* and her image accepted it and held
forth its finger from the wall, whereon the ring abideth
still unto this day ; for when this was told I saw in
Christina evident signs of joy, and heard her saying :
" I was glad and overjoyed to hear that instance ; "
and, when I had enquired what this speech might
signify, she added : " Because I know that there is
in our case some similitude of this thing. Wherefore
I earnestly insisted upon her, and after many words
she said : "I will tell thee a secret which I have never
yet revealed to living man. From my very infancy
I have known youf in the spirit, and discerned your
face and voice, and loved you more than all men, so that I
have vehemently feared lest some tribulation of tempta-
tion might arise hence for a time. For never in my
prayers could I separate your person from mine own
intention, but must needs pray as much for you as for
myself ; and in all my tribulations I have ever had you
for my fellow. When therefore I for a long time sought
the cause thereof with supplications before God, to know
whether it were of Him, then on St. Agnes' day I was
certified of this matter ; J for in my Communion a

* The story is in the Golden Legend (Temple Classics, vol. II., p. 251).

t Here and elsewhere I follow the thee and you of the original.

\ It must be remembered that this day and its eve were among the
traditional times at which village girls hoped to dream of their future
husbands ; this idea would be in the air among the worldly folk of
Stommeln at the time.

Balm in Gilead. 419

ring was given visibly unto me, and signed upon my
finger. And when you first saluted me, and I first
saw you, then I discerned thy voice and recognized
thy face clearly, and was sore amazed and rejoiced
when tlie Lord appeared unto me. . . . There are
very many proofs of this thing, given me from God,
which I cannot for shamefastness reveal unto thee ;
for I have often received the figure of a ring in assurance
thereof." Now I will here insert what I have heard
from others concerning this ring. John, the parish
priest, of pious memory, said that the figure of a ring
was not painted on her finger, but inscribed on her
flesh with sundry ornaments. For at times it had on
its boss the figure of a cross, at other times it was
marked in with the most glorious name of Jesus Christ,
now in Hebrew letters, now in Greek, again in Latin.
Master John told me the same. And when I said to
her, " Methinks you had the ring on that same finger
whereon I have a token of our mutual love," she
besought me most humbly never to speak thereof to
IMaster John.* Here therefore our colloquy ended, for
we parted in mutual comfort, and were certified of that
v.hereof we had doubted before. Whereof I know
not how to speak or to write, save by praising God for
all the good things which He hath vouchsafed to us.
... So on the evening of the day before our final
departure from Stommeln, while Christina was saying
her vespers and commending our journey to God, she
received much consolation, so that she could not
conceal it ; for at supper she was more joyful than her
wont. When therefore after supper I had enquired
of the cause, she said, " For these two days past I have
been most grievously afflicted for your departure ;
and even now, as I said Vespers under a certain tree,
and commended you to God in much bitterness of
heart, then said the Lord unto me, ' Be not troubled ;
I was with Brother Peter in his coming, and I will be

* One day she had a vision of Peter sitting by her side, with a
resplendent ring on his finger, " on which was written : ' Jesus Christ
is your [vestrum, phiral] eternal faith [or troth]' : but what was written
on the inner side of that ring she would not divulge." p. 442, § 51.

420 A Medieval Garner.

his guide in returning ' ; and He said more to me,
whereby I am consoled, adding among other things, ' I
have planted your mutual love in Myself, and there
will I keep it.' " Wherefore I took this occasion and
began to speak of the sweetness of divine love ; and
Christina fainted so sore in her devotion that she with-
drew from me and was rapt altogether from her senses,
and lay without motion, stiffened in all her limbs.
But early on the morrow, the feast of SS. Crispin and
Crisipinian, we said our Masses and ate our dinner ;
and then, when I had delivered a discourse on the text
" Turn, my soul, unto thy rest, for the Lord hath
been bountiful to thee," we bade farewell to Christina
and her fellows and went on our way, each commending
the other to the Lord.

The Letters continued, and Peter probably revisited Christina once
more in 1287, on his way back from the Chapter General at Bordeaux.
He wrote from Louvain (June 1). " Though importunate Love con-
quers all, yet he worketh not withovit labour and sorrow, as I find in
myself at this present time. For on this long pilgrimage, not less
perilous than wearisome, undertaken for your love, I have suffered
manifold labours and no small bodily pain in divers members. ... I
hope to God, though I halt sore of my left foot, to see you next week,
and I pray that you may be as well in health as I desire." The next
letter, probably written in 1288, is from Folquin, announcing briefly
how " that reverend father of ours. Brother Peter, late Prior and Lector
of our convent, migrated in Lententide to the Lord ; whose soul I
commend most earnestly to your holy prayers." The letters end here :
but a contemporary life of the Saint gives us a few more particulars.

196.— iLa$t ^ags.

I OR a whole year and a half she ate nothing
but ginger, which was about the time of
the battle of Woringen, between the lord
Siegfried, Bishop of Cologne, and John
Duke of Brabant ; in which battle the Lord
of Berg escaped death by this Virgin's intercession
. . . moreover she interceded for certain lords of
Luxemburg and very many others, who at her prayers
and intercession escaped the pains of hell by God's

Grin and Bear It. 4^1

mercy. These innumerable and incomprehensible
kinds of torments which I have above written, she had
obtained grace from the Lord to suffer for the sake of
those men and others ; for in those days, for a whole
year and a half, the demons salted* her like a fish that
is to be baked ; after which she had issues of blood,
and pain, so that at least two linen cloths daily were
soaked through and through with her blood. . . . This
was the last pain which the demons inflicted upon
Christina, the Spouse of Christ : so that after the battle
of Woringen all persecution of the Devil ceased alto-

At this time she was in her 47th year, and had no doubt learned
the death of Peter, whose naive admiration had hitherto encouraged
the hysterical excesses of her earlier mysticism. The advanced age
to which she lived (70) tends to corroborate the biographer's assurance
that her later years were tranquil.

* If we may read salsahant for the saltahant of the text. Otherwise
I suppose we must interpret saltahant as some frying or grilUng operation,
like sauter in modern French.

197.— etin anD l^mi 3It.

(P- 24).
The following are from the collection of Latin Stories pubhshed by
T. Wright for the Percy Society in 1842. They are from preachers'
manuals of the 13th and 14th centuries, to be used as illustrations in
sermons ; many are by the celebrated Cardinal Jacques de Vitry.

CERTAIN woman complained to a witch of
her husband, that he ill-treated her contrary
to her deserts. The witch said : "I will
give thee a remedy : take with thee cheese,
wine, and a penny, and go lay them down
in yonder forest, saying thus :

So wist I the broom
That is me for to do'n !
I have the worst husband
That is in any land.

Whereunto the witch, hid among the thorn-bushes,
answered thus :

If thy husband is ill,
Hold thy tongue still !


A Medieval Garner,

198.— a a^erciful arcl)t)i0bop*

(p. 30).

ALDWIN, monk and abbot and afterwards
archbishop, was wont to eat no flesh. A
certain old woman therefore asked him
whether he ate flesh ; whereunto he replied :
"No." But she: "It is false, my lord;
for thou hast eaten my flesh to the bones, and thou
hast drunken my blood to the very heart. Behold
how lean am I ! for thy reeves have seized my cow,
the only one that I had, wherefrom I and my children
had our sustenance." To whom the Archbishop
answered, " I will see that they shall give thee back
thy cow, and from henceforth I will beware of such

* Mr. Wright notes, " I suppose the Baldwin mentioned here, was
Baldwin archbishop of Canterbury, the preacher of the crusade in
which Richard I. distinguished himself. He was abbot of Ford in
Devonshire, previous to being bishop of Worcester, from which see
he was promoted to the archbishopric of Canterbury in 1184."



199.— a 3longleur*s iReticnge.*

(p. 40).

HAVE heard of a certain monastery that,
whereas at its first foundation it had but
few possessions, the brethren were then
hospitable and kind to the poor ; but when
they had become rich they did the very
opposite. One of their abbots, being most hard-
hearted and inhuman himself, put men like unto
himself into the monastic ofiices, the most evil whom
he could find. It befel then that a jongleur was be-
nighted on his journey and came to this monastery
for entertainment ; where he found neither cheerful
welcome nor any pity, but got with difficulty the

* This is also given in Crane's Exempla of Jacques de Viiry, p. 28,
from which I have made one or two corrections in this text.

Psalm-Skippers. 4-3

blackest of bread, and herbs with salt and water, and
a hard pallet. Whereat he was so grieved that he
began to think within himself how he might take
vengeance on the heartless guestmaster. So when the
day had dawTied, he turned aside by the way whereby
he hoped that the abbot would come back to his
monastery ; and, meeting him, he cried, " Welcome,
my lord, my good and liberal abbot ! I thank you
and your whole community, for that the brother guest-
master entertained me royally last night ; he set before
me most excellent fish and wine of price, and so many
dishes that we know not their number ; and even now
as I departed he gave me a pair of shoes, a belt, and
a knife." The abbot, hearing this, was moved to
indignation and hastened back to his abbey, where he
accused the aforesaid monk in Chapter as for a grievous
crime. The guestmaster denied in vain ; for he was
sore scourged and driven forth from his office ; and
the abbot set in his place another whom he believed
to be still worse.

200.— ipsalm^^feippcrs.

(p. 44).

CERTAIN holy father, seeing the devil sore
laden vvdth a sack that was well nigh filled,
adjured him to say what he bore there.
" I bear," said he, " the syllables cut off
from the reading and the verses of the psalms
which these clergy here stole last night." Then said
the saint, " What is thy name ? " " Tityvillus,"
answered the demon. Wherefore the saint made that
verse : —

Fragmina Psalmorum Tyty villus colligit horum.*

* The poem of which this verse forms part is given in Beliquim
AntiqucB, vol. I, p. 287. It runs in English, "These are they who
wickedly corrupt the holy psalms : the dangler, the gasper, the leaper,
the galloper, the dragger, the mumbler, the forskipper, the forerunner,
and the overleaper : Tutivillius collecteth the fragments of these men's


A Medieval Garner.

201.— C6e Ctrec 3t)t)0ts.

(p. 49).

CERTAIN abbot gave his monks three
dishes [to their dinner], wherefore they said :
" This man giveth us but sparingly : let
us pray God that he may soon die." And
so it was ; for within a brief while, for that
or some other cause, he died. Then came another abbot
who gave them but two dishes : whereat they were
sore wroth and grieved, saying : " Now must we pray
all the more (since one dish hath been taken from us)
that the Lord take away this man's life." At length
he died ; and the third gave them but one. Then were
the monks moved to indignation and said : " This
fellow is worst of all, for he will slay us with hunger ;
let us pray God for his speedy death." Then said one
monk : " Nay, but I pray God He may give him a
long life and keep him among us." The others, mar-
velling, asked him why he spake thus ; and he : " The
first (I see) was evil, the second worse, and this man
worst of all. Yet I fear that, when he is dead, another
may come who will famish us outright." For as the
proverb hath it : " Selde cometh the latter the better."

202.— a ©Homan's SDatf)0.

(p. 61).

OT only men, however, but some women also
are grown into such a habit of swearing
that they can scarce even speak without an
oath. . . . Whence I have heard of a woman
whom, in confession, the priest commanded
to swear no more : to whom she answered, " Sir, I will
swear no more, so help me God ! " And he : " Lo,
thou swearest already." " Nay, by God," quoth she.
" but I will indeed abstain from henceforth." Then
said the priest, " But let your speech be yea, yea ! no,

A Woman^s Oaths. 425

no ! as the Lord biddeth : and that which is over and
above these, is of evil." Then said she, "Sir, ye say-
it again, and I say unto you, by the blessed Virgin
and all the saints ! I will swear no more, but do your
bidding, and ye shall never hear me swear again."
So that accursed woman gave many promises, yet
contradicted them in deed.

203.— Cf)e TBlaspbemet's Eetoam.

(p. 66).

^|N the town called Chateau en Brie, two ribalds
played at hazard in the church porch,
wherein was a great image of the Blessed
Virgin with the child Jesus on her lap, all
carved in stone. One of these fellows,
therefore, losing at the game, blasphemed the Blessed
Virgin, omitting none of her members, but enumerating
all both outward and inward. When therefore he lost
all the more, then he dishonoured still more this Mother
of Mercy and Shamefastness with his affronts, daring
to call her a harlot, and to invent unheard-of lies against
her. At last, having lost all, he fell into a fury, and,
rising to his feet, seized a stone which he hurled at the
image, and broke the left arm wherewith she held her
Child. Then, as the Boy seemed about to fall, she
stretched forth her right arm by the marvellous power
of God, and caught her Child. Moreover, blood flowed
in abundance from her left arm, which men and women
caught and laid up with all diligence. But the
sacrilegious wretch was seized with a devil ; and, seeing
that he had blasphemed the bowels of the spotless
Virgin, therefore in that same place, and in the eyes
of all the people, his own bowels gushed foully forth
as a worthy end to his unworthy life.


A Medieval Garner.


205.— ct)e Jl3ot)ice anD tfte (^eege.

Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 36 of 61)