G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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and loose us also, who are prisoners to these bar-
barians, from this perilous pass into which we are
come by the death of the King's daughter, insomuch
as Thou mayest make of this dead maiden, by Thy
marvellous power, a living youth, granting to him
quick motion and sense through our ministry." After
which prayer the king turned to him and said, "
man of God, saving thy reverence, it is my only son
who is dead, and whom I beseech thee to vouchsafe to
raise up." Then said St. Gerald, "Be it son or
daughter, may God Who giveth life to all, and to
Whom all things are possible, vouchsafe to raise thee
up a male child." Whereupon, making a sign of the
cross, he poured water into the maiden's mouth from
that stone which he ever carried mth him from his
mother's womb ; and, to the amazement of all be-
holders, a royal youth arose forthwith from the bier ;
by which unwonted miracle their infidelity was scat-
tered, and the faith of them that believed was made
more strong . . . Then the king and his dukes endowed
this new son with thirty towTiships of land, together
with all the appurtenances thereof, t

* The text, by an obvious error, has " he turned to the King."

+ Upon this the learned Father Colgan notes : " This tale of one
sex changed into another may be thought of doubtful authenticity,
since no such story is recorded in the histories of Ireland concerning
any son of a king or chief, and events so rare are rarely omitted by
accurate historians. But, seeing that it is no easier for the Creator to
change one shape into another (which, as we read. He hath oftentimes
done) than to transmute one sex into another, I see no reason why
this so clearly possible event should be thought altogether incredible.
See Jocehn in the Acts of St. Patrick, c. 84 and 85 and 150 ; St. Eninu
in the Tripartite Life, par. 2 c. 16, and our notes on those passages,
where we have made many remarks concerning wondrous transforma-
tions. Moreover in the Life of St. Abban, which we shall print below
imder the 16th March, we read of a female child turned into a male,"




2 8 A Medieval Garner.

Acta Sanctorum Bolland. Julii II. (July 6th) ; Life of St. Goar,
possibly by a younger contemporary. The Saint, who died about
650 A.D., built himself a little hermitage, at which two legates of the
Bishop of Treves once chanced to attend a very early mass : after
which, out of hospitaUty to them, their host ate and drank. They, at
the Devil's instigation, and in the hope of extorting money from him,
accused him of " eating or drinking intemperately in the early morning."
St. Goar, compelled to go with them to the Bishop, miraculously milked
three wild does on the way to refresh his two persecutors,

11 — anotfjet of %u (©oat.

[EHOLD, the man of God entered into the
palace where the Bishop sat ; and looked
about forthwith for a place where his dis-
ciple might stand, and where he might hang
or hide his own cape. Seeing therefore,
in a corner of the chamber, how a sunbeam slid through
a little window, he or his servant took this for an
oaken pole ;* so that he hanged up his cape thereon
and bade his attendant stand there. Which when
Bishop Rusticus and his clergy saw, he said : " See
ye now what he will do ! This case is not of God ; if
it had been, he would not have eaten or drunken so
early, for the saints of old entered through almsgiving
and fasting into the kingdom of Heaven, and became
friends of God. Now therefore I know not what this
case may be. He eateth and drinketh at dawn, he
milketh wild beasts, he hangeth his cape on a sunbeam.
Let him come near and render account, whether he do
this for God's sake or for the Devil's."

Then they enquired of the man of God, who answered
and said : " God of all justice and might. Thou knowest
that I nowise consent to the Devil's part, nor desire to
consent ; nor know I that my cape hangeth on a
sunbeam, for methought it was an oaken perch.
Moreover, it was by no witchcraft that I milked those
beasts ; but God ordained them for me at that very
hour, that He might show His marvels to these un-

* Clothes were mostly hung on such perches, even in Kings' chambers :
see the accompanying illustration.



A Batch of Miracles.



29



believing folk whom thou hast sent to me. In that I ate
or drank at dawn, the Lord Who seeth all hearts knoweth
that I did this not for gluttony but for charity's sake.
[St. Goar was triumphantly acquitted ; and the same
miracle is related of two later saints — St. Aicaire and
Pope Celestine V of the Gran Eifiuto].




CLOTHES ON A PERCH.

From a 15th century French MS. in T. Wright's Homes of otlicr Days, p 158.




30 A Medieval Garner.

The two following extracts are from Eadmer, the Saxon monk who
became St. Anselm's confidant and biographer. I give them here only
because they are necessarily much abbreviated in Dean Church's
deUghtful St. Anselm. The first is from a description of Anselm's first
visit to England in 1079, on which he stayed long with his friend and
fellow-monk Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was now that
Eadmer first saw and heard the great man {Vita. S. Anselmi, Lib. I. c.
V. § 42).

12.— an OBnglisb ^aint Eescueti.

OPtEOVER Lanfranc was but a half-fledged
Englishman, as it were, nor had he yet
formed his mind to certain institutions
which he had found here ; whereof he
changed many for excellent reasons, but
others of his own will and authority. Since, therefore,
he purposed to change them, and had now the company
of his like-minded friend and brother Anselm, he said
to him one day in more familiar converse : " These
English, among whom we live, have set up certain
saints to worship them ; concerning whose merits, as
related by their countryfolk themselves, I have some-
times pondered, and cannot resolve the doubts of
their sanctity that arise in my mind. And, lo ! here
is one of them, laid to rest in this same holy See where-
unto God hath called me, a good man indeed, and in
his lifetime an archbishop here. Him they number
not only among the saints but also among the martyrs,
though they confess that he was slain not for confessing
Christ's name but for refusing to ransom himself. For
when (to tell it in their own words) his adversaries and
God's enemies, the heathen, had taken him, and yet
for reverence of his person had granted him leave to
redeem himself, they demanded from him an immense
ransom ; and he, seeing that he could by no means
collect such a sum without stripping his vassals of their
money, and, perchance, bringing some under the
hateful yoke of beggary, chose rather to lose his life
than to keep it on such conditions. I would fain hear
therefore, dear Brother, thy mind also on this matter."
Thus did he, as a novice in Enghsh citizenship, briefly



St. Ansclm. 3^

propose this question to Anselm. . . . But Anselm,
as a prudent man, answered this prudent man simply-
according to the question proposed, saying : " It is
manifest that he who feareth not to die rather than to
commit even a hght sin against God, would still less
fear to meet death rather than to provoke God by a
grievous sin. Now it would indeed seem a more
grievous sin to deny Christ than that any earthly lord
should somewhat oppress his subjects by taking away
their money for his oami ransom. But this Elphege
refused to do the lesser evil ; much more, then, would
he have refused to deny Christ, if the furious band had
constrained him thereunto by the threat of death.
Wherefore we may understand that his soul was
possessed ^\ith exceeding righteousness, when he chose
rather to offer up his hfe than to violate charity and
offend his neighbours. It is plain, then, that he was
far from that woe which our Lord threateneth to him
through whom the offence cometh ; nor (as I think) is
he undeservedly counted among the martyrs, since
he is truly recorded to have borne death wdllingly for
so liigh and righteous a cause. For even the blessed
John Baptist, who is beUeved and worshipped by the
whole church of God as one of the chief among the
mart\TS, was slain not for a matter of denying Christ,
but for refusing to conceal the truth ; and what matters
it whether a man die for righteousness or for truth ? "
... To which Lanfranc answered, " I confess that I
vehemently approve and revere the subtle perspicacity
and the perspicacious subtlety of thy mind ; and,
taught by thy clear reasoning, I trust henceforward
heartily to worship and venerate the Blessed Elphege
as a truly great and glorious martyr of Christ, so help
me God ! " Which, indeed, he afterwards so devoutly
performed, that he caused the Hfe and passion of that
saint to be dihgently compiled . . . and authorised
and bade it to be read or sung in God's Church, whereby
he did no little to glorify the martyr's name in this
country.*

* It must be borne in mind that the canonization of saints was not
formally reserved to the Holy See until 1170 a.d. ; before that time it
lav at the diocesan's discretion.



32 A Medieval Garner.



13.— a Confirmation ^ccne.

{lb., Lib. ii, c. iv, § 38).

NSELM, therefore, set out from Wissant early
on the morrow, and came after certain days
to St. Omer, where he was received mth
joy by clergy and monks, and detained
for five days ; during which time, at the




prayer of the canons, he consecrated an altar. After
which there came to him certain honourable men of
those parts, kneeling at his feet and beseeching him
to confirm their children by the la\ing on of hands
and anointing with sacred oil. To whom he made
answer forthwith : " Not only will I gladly receive
those for whom ye pray in this matter, but others
also who present themselves shall not be rejected."
They, marvelling at the great man's benignity in so
easy a condescension, were rejoiced above measure
and gave him thanks ; and, when their children had
been confirmed, they forthwith filled the whole city
with the words which they had received from his lips.
Then might ye see men and women, great and small,
pouring forth from their houses and outrunning each
other in their haste to reach our lodging and share in
so great a sacrament ; for it was now many years since
any bishop had suffered himself to be employed in any
such office among them.* At last, on the sixth day,
when he had already confirmed an innumerable
multitude, and we were on the point of setting forth,
and the long journey of this day compelled us to
hasten, behold ! a maiden came into the house as we
were leaving it to mount our horses, and besought
with lamentable affection of piety that she might be
confirmed. Some of our companions, hearing this,

* The medieval bishops had no settled times or places for confirm-
ing. It was usual for the people to try and catch them Mke this on
their way through the district. It was frequently complained that
many folk died thus unconfirmed. Archbishop Peckham complained
in 1281 that there were " numberless people grown old in evil days
who had not yet received the grace of confirmation." Compare also
extract 36 (p. 92).



St. Anselm. 33

were grievously troubled, and beat her down with
contradictions, as folk who were already wearied with
such matters. In short, though the holy man would
have condescended to the maiden's prayers, yet these
held him back and persuaded him to turn a deaf ear
unto her, objecting the length of that day's journey,
and the perils which commonly threaten travellers by
night, especially in a strange country ; and showing
that very many stood at the door intent upon this
same matter, ready to burst in if he granted this one
request. But when he had gone a Httle forward, then
the father bethought himself what reasons he had fol-
lowed and what he had done ; whereupon, accusing
himself of grievous impiety, he was so cut to the heart
with grief that, for all the rest of his life on earth (as
he often confessed) repentance for that deed never
departed from his mind.

Few things are more characteristic of the old monastic ideal than
this institution of Oblates — children oSered by their parents to be
monks or nuns. The age of seven seems to have been generally con-
sidered the earhest at which this ceremony might take place : but the
Canons Kegular of Porto admitted children " three or four years after
they had been weaned." In the Benedictice Rule (c. 59) such an
oblation is characterized as absolutely binding on the child ; to decide,
with growing years and experience, against the monastic Hfe, was to
commit apostasy with all its temporal and spiritual penalties. This,
stiU the almost unquestioned doctrine in the 12th century, is introduced
into Gratian's Decretum. But the following hundred years brought a
reaction, and four popes at last admitted the oblate's strict right
to make his final and irrevocable choice in his fifteenth year. From
this time forward the custom gradually decayed, especially as many
monastic disciphnarians were keenly sensible to the moral evils which
it often entailed ; and it is maintained by some scholars that the
Council of Trent intended to abohsh it altogether. (See J. N. Seidl,
Die Gottverlohung von Kindern, Munich, 1872). The following extract
is from the Custumal of Lanfranc's and Anselm's abbey of Bee, as
printed by Dom Martene {de Antiquis Monachorum Ritihus. Bassano,
1788, p. 230— Lib. v. c. v. § iii.)



34 A Medieval Garner.

14.— CbilD a^onks.




HEN any boy is offered for the holy Order,
let his parents bring him to the altar after
the Gospel at Mass ; and, after the Cantor
hath offered as usual, let the boy also make
his offering. After which let the Sacristan
take the offering, and let the parents, drawing near,
wrap the boy's right hand in the altar-cloth. Then,
having kissed it thus enveloped, let them give it into
the hands of the priest, who shall receive the boy and
make the sign of the cross over his head. If they
wish to make him a monk on that same day, let the
Abbot bless his crown, saying : Let us pray, beloved
Brethren ; then let him pour holy water on his head
and, making the sign of the cross over it, crop his hair
with the shears round his neck. While the boy is
being shorn, let the Cantor begin the antiphon. Thou
art He Who wilt restore, the Psalm Preserve me, O God
(another antiphon is This is the generation and the
Psalm The earth is the Lord's) ; then let him pray,
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, then let the
Abbot bless his cowl, saying the prayer. Lord Jesu
Christ, by Whom the garment. After this aspersion
and benediction, let the boy be stripped of his clothes,
and the Abbot say, as he strips him. May the Lord
strip thee ; then let him clothe him in the cowl and say.
May the Lord clothe thee, and say over him as a prayer.
Lord, be present at our supplications. . . . When the
boy be come to the age of reason, let him make his
profession after the same order as the other monks,
except for the benediction of the cowl, which he hath
already received as an Oblate.

Martene then subjoins, from the Custumal of St. Benigne at Dijon,
a series of rules for the education of these Oblates, from which the
following extracts are taken.

At Nocturns, and indeed at all the Hours, if the
boys commit any fault in the psalmody or other
singing, either by sleeping or such like transgression,
let there be no sort of delay, but let them be stripped



Child Monks. 35

fortliAvith of frock and cowl, and beaten in their shirt
onl}^ . . . mth pliant and smooth osier rods provided
for that special purpose.

x\nd because, so long as the Abbot is in his bed in
the dormitory, none may make the sound whereby
the Brethren are awakened to rise in the early morn-
ing . . . therefore the Master of the Boys should rise
very softly and just touch each of the children gently
with a rod, that he may awake from sleep ; then let
them rise as quickly as possible, and, leaving the
dormitory, wash and comb and say their prayers . . .

Let the masters sleep between every two boys in the
dormitory, and sit between every two at other times,
and, if it be night, let all the candles be fixed without
on the spilves which crown the lanterns, that they may
be plainly seen in all that they do. When they lie
do\^Ti in bed, let a master always be among them with
his rod and (if it be night) with a candle, holding the
rod in one hand and the light in the other. If any
chance to linger after the rest, he is forthwith smartly
touched ; for children everywhere need custody with
discipline and discipline v/ith custody. And be it
knowTi that this is all their discipline, either to be
beaten with rods, or that their hair should be stoutly
plucked ; never are they disciplined with kicks, or
fists, or the open hand, or in any other way . . .

When they wash, let masters stand between each
pair at the lavatory. . . . When they sit in cloister or
chapter, let each have his own tree-trunk for a seat,
and so far apart that none touch in any way even the
skirt of the other's robe ... let them wipe their
hands as far as possible one from the other, that is, at
opposite corners of the towel. . . .

If any of them, weighed down with sleep, sing ill
at Nocturns, then the master giveth into his hand a
reasonably great book, to hold until he be well awake.
. . . Nor doth one ever speak to the other except by
his master's express leave, and in the hearing of all
who are in the school. . . . When there is in the
refectory a loving-cup of pyment or other drink, then
the refectorer-master, if he be of mature age and



36 A Medieval Garner.

manners, may let the boys hold out cups and pour
them out some drink. . . . One reporteth whatsoever
he knoweth against the other ; else, if he be found to
have concealed aught of set purpose, both the con-
cealer and the culprit are beaten.* . . . [At Mattins]
the principal master standeth before them with a rod,
until all are in their seats, and their faces well covered.
At their uprising likewise, if they rise too slowly, the
rod is straightway over them. After Mattins, when
they are to sleep again, if it be not yet dawn, then the
master standeth before them as they take off their
clothes, with a rod in his right hand and a candle in
his left, and they are quickly in their places. ... In
short, that I may make an end of this matter, me-
seemeth that any King's son could scarce be more
carefully brought up in his palace than any boy in a
well-ordered monastery.

* Espionage and the rod were the two main pillars of monastic and
scholastic discipline in the Middle Ages. The scholars of Pembroke,
Cambridge, held their scholarships on the express condition of acting
as faithful talebearers (Rashdall, Universities, ii. 617) ; and a frequent
complaint recorded by Odo Rigaldi against the monasteries which he
visits is non clamat unus alterum — " they do not inform against each
other."



Compare with this a passage from the Constitutions of the monastery
of Hirschau, about 1000 a.d. (Migne, Pat. Lat. vol. 150, pp. 939 fi.).
" But all such [boys] if (as men commonly say) they wish their backs to
be spared, must beware with all possible diUgence and in all places lest
they stand or sit together without [some] elder between, or touch each
other or suffer their clothes to come into contact in any way ; and that
none ever presume to make any sign, or even to wink his eye, at any
other youth (whether under the same guardianship as himself or no),
or to smile at him, or simulate any famiharity, or even sit so that their
faces are turned towards each other and each can see the other." Such
discipline naturally produced some of the greatest saints and sinners
in the monastic orders : the Cluniacs therefore modified the custom,
while the Carthusians and others aboHshed it altogether. Most interest-
ing in tliis connection is the following passage from Eadtner (lib, i. c.
iv.), which gains additional significance from the fact that St. Ansehn
was at this time Prior, and afterwards Abbot, of Bee.




Child Monks. 37



15.— Ctain up t\)t Cfjilti.

JNE day, when a certain Abbot, much reputed
for his piety, spake with Anselm concern-
ing divers points of Monastic ReHgion, and
conversed among other things of the boys
that were brought up in the cloister, he
added : " What, pray, can we do with them ? They
are perverse and incorrigible ; day and night we cease
not to chastise them, yet they grow daily worse
and worse." Whereat Anselm marvelled, and said,
" Ye cease not to beat them ? And when they are
grown to manhood, of what sort are they then ? "
" They are dull and brutish," said the other. Then
said Anselm, " With what good profit do ye expend
your substance in nurturing human beings till they
become brute beasts ? " " Nay," said the other, " but
what else can we do ? By all means we compel them
to profit, yet our labour is unprofitable." " Ye
compel them, my lord Abbot ? Tell me, I prithee, if
thou shouldst plant a sapling in thy garden, and
presently shut it in on all sides so that it could nowhere
extend its branches ; when thou hadst liberated it
after many years, what manner of tree would come
forth ? Would it not be wholly unprofitable, with
gnarled and tangled branches ? And whose fault
would it be but thine own, who hadst closed it in
beyond all reason. Thus without doubt do ye with
your children. They have been planted in the
Garden of the Church by way of Oblation, there to
grow and bear fruit to God. But ye so hem them in
on every side with terrors, threats, and stripes, that
the}^ can get no liberty whatsoever ; wherefore, being
thus indiscreetly afflicted, they put forth a tangle of evil
thoughts like thorns, which they so foster and nourish,
and thus bring to so thick a growth, that their obstinate
minds become impenetrable to all possible threats for
their correction. Hence it cometh to pass that,
perceiving in you no love for themselves, no pity, no
kindness, no gentleness, they are unable henceforth



38 A Medieval Garner.

to trust in your goodness, believing rather that all
your works are done through hatred and envy against
them ; insomuch that (I grieve to say it), even as they
grow in stature, so doth this hatred and suspicion of
all evil grow with them ; for evil ever bendeth and
gUdeth downward and downward into vice. Where-
fore, having nowhere found true charity in their
bringing-up, they cannot look upon any man but with
scowhng brow and sidelong glance. But I prithee tell
me, for God's sake, wherefore ye are so set against
them ? Are they not human, sharing in the same
nature as yourselves ? Would ye wish to be so
handled as ye handle them ? Ye will say, ' Yes, if we
were as they are.' So be it, then ; yet is there no way
but that of stripes and scourges for shaping them to
good ? Did ye ever see a goldsmith shape his gold or
silver plate into a fair image by blows alone ? I trow-
not. What then ? That he may give the plate its
proper shape, he will first press it gently and tap it
with his tools ; then again he will more softly raise it
with discreet pressure from below, and caress it into
shape. So ye also, if ye would see your boys adorned
with fair manners, ye should not only beat them down
with stripes, but also raise their spirits and support
them with fatherly kindness and pity." To whom the
x'Vbbot replied, " What sayest thou of raismg their
spirits and supporting them ? We labour to constrain
them to the heavy burdens of riper age." " Well
indeed," replied Anselm, " for bread and strong meats
are good and profitable to all who are able to eat them ;
but, if ye take milk from a suckhng to feed him on
strong meats, ye shall see him rather choked than
refreshed thereby. Why so ? I disdain to say it, for
it is clearer than daylight. Yet mark this, that even
as a weak or a strong body hath each his own proper
food, so also weak and strong souls have their different
measures of nourishment. The strong soul delighteth
in and is nourished by strong meats, such as patience
in tribulation, not to covet other men's goods, to
offer the other cheek to the smiter, to pray for his
enemies, to love them that hate him, and many like



Guibert dc Nogent. 39

virtues. . . . But the weakling soul, yet tender to
the service of God, hath need of milk ; that is, of
loving-kindness from others, of gentleness, mercy,cheer-
ful address, charitable patience, and many suchlike
comforts. If ye thus suit yourselves to the strong and
to the weak, then by God's grace ye shall win them all
to Him, so far as in you heth." The Abbot, hearing
these words, groaned and said, " Truly we have erred
from the truth, and the light of discretion hath not



Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 4 of 61)