G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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was spread [into the student's mind] which, by that
contemplation, he would fain have and acquire. But
it was necessary to call upon certain unknown names,
of which names men firmty believed that they were
devils" names ; wherefore that science deceived many,
for none had ever practised it who had drawn any good
fruit therefrom. Nevertheless that monk revived this
science, inasmuch as he feigned that the Blessed Virgin
had oftentimes appeared to him as if to inspire him
therewith ; in w^hose honour he had let paint many
images of her in his books, with many prayers and
characters, very piteously and in fine colours, saying
that the Virgin Mary had revealed all this unto him.
Which images being applied to each science, and con-
templated after the prayers duly said, then should a
man receive the science that he coveted, and more
withal ; for, if a man would fain have riches, honours,
or delights, then he had them [through this book].
Seeing therefore that the book promised such things,
and that a man must needs make invocations and
■wTite his o\\n name twice in the book, and let write
the book for his own proper use alone, which was a
matter of great cost, otherwise it would be worth
nothing but if the book were written at his own cost
and expense — therefore, I say, the said book was
judged at Paris and justly condemned to be burned in
the fire, as false and evil and contrary to Christian


A Medieval Garner.

221.— a precocious 9[9iraclc^©Horkcr.

(Vol. V, p. 335).

N this same year [1329] in the diocese of Paris
and the town of Pomponne, there was a boy
of eight years old or thereabouts, who was
said to heal sick folk by his word only ;
wherefore it came to pass that the sick
flocked to him from divers parts. So it befel that some
were healed and others not ; moreover, he had no
semblance of truth in his deeds and words ; but, when
men came to him with fevers or other such evils, then
he would bid them eat meats that were contrary to
their health. Wherefore prudent folk, seeing the
manner of his conversation, paid no heed to it, for it
seemed to them that this was but vanity and error.
Then within a while it befel that the Bishop of Paris,
seeing clearly how this was naught but error, sent for
the father and mother of the said child and commanded
them to suffer him no more to do such things ; as also
he forbade to all the folk of his diocese, under pain of
excommunication, that none from thenceforth should
resort unto this boy.

222.— Cbe IBeatific (Hision.

(Vol. V, p. 347, A.D. 1331).

|N the first Sunday in Advent, Pope John XXII
must needs preach publicly at Avignon,
that the souls of such as die in grace see
not yet the Divine essence, nor are in
perfect bliss, until the resurrection of the
body : wherefore many who heard those words and
that opinion were sore scandalized. Yet we must
believe that the Pope uttered those words according
to his opinion, and not for certain truth ; for that
would have been heresy, and whosoever would affirm
such a thing must be judged an unbeliever and an

The Beatific Vision. 463

heretic. . . . Again, in this year [1333] when the
sermon which Pope John had preached at Avignon,
concerning the Beatific Vision, as aforesaid, seemed as it
were to have been brought to nought, though some
held it as true for favour of the Pope, and many more
for fear [of him], then it came to pass that a Friar
Preacher deHvered a sermon asserting the true doctrine
and gainsaying the Pope's opinion.* When the Pope
knew this, he caused the said friar to be put in prison.
Then were two friars sent from the Pope to Paris, one
a Minor and the other a Preacher. So the Minor came
and preached plainly, in full congregation of the Univer-
sity, that the blessed souls see not God face to face,
neither before nor after the Day of Judgment [sic] ;
whereupon a great murmur arose among the scholars
who were there present. Then all the Masters of
Theology at Paris judged this opinion to be false and
full of heresy. When the Friar Preacher had heard
how great a scandal had arisen among the Scholars
at Paris, by reason of this Friar Minor's preaching
and determining concerning the Beatific Vision, then
he made ready to return to Avignon and speak with
the Pope : yet before his departure he excused the
Pope in a public sermon, saying how his Holiness
had said all this not for certain truth, but according to
his own belief. So this news came to the King's ears,
and the Friar Minor who had preached as aforesaid
knew that the King was ill-pleased wdth him. Then
the said Friar sought the King's presence and greatly
desired to excuse himself ; but it was the King's will
that he should speak thereof in the presence of clerks.
Therefore the King sent for ten Masters in Theology,
amongst whom were four Friars Minor ; of whom he
asked, in the presence of this Friar aforesaid, what
they thought of his doctrine which he had freshly
published at Paris. Then these Masters made answer
with one voice that it was false and evil and stuffed
full of heresy ; yet, for all that they said or showed to

* Tliis was an Englishman, Thomas Wallis. The whole dispute was
partly due to jealousies between the Dominican and Franciscan Orders ;
the Pope's view had been first mooted among the Franciscans.

464 A Medieval Garner.

that Friar, he would not budge one whit from his
sentence or his opinion. Then the king called straight-
way together to his castle of Vincennes all the masters
of theology, all the prelates and all the abbots who
could then be found at Paris, before whom the said
Friar was summoned, and the King asked two questions
of him in French : to wit, first, whether the souls of the
saints see God's face forthwith, and secondly, whether
this vision which they have at present of God's face
will fail at the Day of Judgment, so that another vision
must come. Then the masters answered affirming the
first to be true, and the second doubly [false] ; for the
vision will abide perpetually and will thus be the more
perfect. To which the said Friar Minor consented,
as it were by constraint. After which, the King
required that letters should be drawn up concerning
this matter. Then three pairs of letters were made,
containing the same form, and sealed singly and
separately by twenty-nine seals of the Masters who
were there present. One of these the King sent to
the Pope, requiring him to give a fuller approval to
the sentence of the theologians concerning the Beatific
Vision (as justice required), than to that of the jurists ;
and demanding that he should correct all such as
maintamed the contrary, for this would now be his
duty. Moreover, this same year [1334], on the fourth
of December and in the 19th year of his reign. Pope
John gave up the ghost ; and on his deathbed (as
men report) he revoked this error which he had so long
held concerning the Beatific Vision. . . .

And in the year 1350, King Philip died ... to whom
men gave several surnames. Firstly he was called
Philip the Fortunate. . . . Secondly, Philip the Happy.
. . . Thirdly, Philip the Most Christian. . . . Fourthly,
Philip the True Catholic ; for, as is written of him, he
showed this both in word and in deed during his life.
... In deed he showed it when, during his reign,
(to wit, in the year 1331), Pope John had publicly
preached at Avignon a grievous error concerning the
Vision of God, which error had finally been preached
in the city of Paris by two Masters of Theology.

The Beatific Vision. 4^5

This strange story of the dispute concerning the Beatific Vision will
be found fully related in Rashdall's Universities of Europe, vol. I., pp.
529 ff., and Fleury, ann. 1331-4. The Pope relied upon the authority
of Saints Augustine and Bernard ; his reply to the King's letter " is as
humble and apologetic as if he were a young student at Paris in danger
of losing his Bachelor's degree for heresy. He apologizes for venturing
to express an opinion upon a theological question when he was not a
Doctor of Divinity, denies that the Franciscan General's utterances
were inspired by him, and declares that he had in his sermon only
explained the two views taken on the subject by different Fathers
without positively committing himself to either side of the question.
He refused, however, to condemn the opinion to which he personally
leaned." In another letter, he expressed himself even more humbly :
" Moreover, we add that if any person say that we have spoken against
the aforesaid [truths], in any certain article or articles, then are we
ready to hear that person with benignity, even though it were a child
or a woman ; and, if that person could prove us thus to have spoken,
we ofFer ourselves as prepared to revoke those words, specially and
expressly, in all due form." (H. Denifle, Chartularium Universitatis
Parisiensis, t. 2, p. 983.) The genuineness of his deathbed Bull of
Revocation has been seriously contested ; it is admitted by all that he
did not seal it, and that the earlier printed versions of it were garbled
in the orthodox interest ; but the mere fact of this garbUng seems to
imply the genuineness of the slightly less edifying form of the document
as enrolled in the Papal Registers. How great a storm this event
raised throughout Christendom may be seen from the large nimiber of
references collected in Baluze's Vitae Paparum Avenionensium ; and
from Villani's account (see next Extract). It is probable that the
recollection of this, as much as anything else, dictated the frank admis-
sion of St. James of the Mark (Extract 306).

Giovanni Villani, perhaps the most brilliant of all medieval historians
next to Froissart, was a Florentine merchant of good family. He was
a Prior of the Republic in 1316, played an important part in poUtics
for many years, was ruined with many others by our Edward III.'s
repudiation of his debts, and died of the Great Plague in 1348. He had
been inspired to write his book by the sight of the pilgrims from all
Europe who flocked to Rome for the first Jubilee of 1300, as Gibbon
was inspired to write his Decline and Fall by the sight of the Capitol.
An excellent volume of selections from Villani's Chronicle has been
pubUshed in English by Mr. P. H. Wicksteed and Miss Rose Selfe, and
is indispensable to all Dante readers who cannot get at the original.
This selection, ending in 1321, necessarily omits the following important
extract, which is from the last chapter of the 10th book. After telling
briefly the story of John XXII. and the Beatific Vision the Chronicler
goes on :


4^6 A Medieval Garner,

223.— Cbe TBeatific Umon again.

HIS opinion of his he proved and argued by
many authorities and sayings of the saints ;
yet this question displeased the greater part
of the Cardinals ; nevertheless he com-
manded them, and all Masters and Prelates
at his court, under pain of excommunication, that
each should study this same question of the Vision of
the Saints and should make his report to him thereof,
according as each was of the same or the contrary
opinion ; protesting always that he had not determined
on one side or the other, but that whatsoever he himself
said and proposed was by way of disputation and
exercise, to discover the truth. Yet with all his
protestations it was certainly said and seen in fact that
he thought and believed the said opmion ; seeing that
whensoever any Master or Prelate brought him any
authority or saying of the saints favouring in any
measure this opinion of his, then he received him
gladty and rewarded him with some benefice. Then
the Minister General of the Friars Minor, who was of
the Pope's native city and a creature of his, preached
this opinion at Paris : wherefore he was reproved by
all the Masters of Divinity at Paris and by the
Dominican and Austin and Carmelite Friars ; and
King Philip of France sore rebuked this said minister,
saying that he was an heretic and that, if he recognized
not his error, he the king would burn him as an heretic,
for he suffered no heresy in his realm ; moreover he
said that, even though the Pope himself had set forth
this false opinion and would have maintained it, he
would rebuke him for an heretic, saying as a faithful
christian layman that we should pray m vain to the
saints, and hope vainly for salvation through their
merits, if our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary and St.
John and St. Peter and St. Paul and the other saints
could not see the Deity or have perfect beatitude in
the life eternal untU the Judgment Day ; and that,
if this opinion were true, then all indulgences and

The Earthly Paradise. 467

pardons granted of old by Holy Church, or to be
granted in future, were vain ; which thing would be
a great error and mischief to the Catholic faith. And
it was agreed that, before the said Minister departed,
he should preach the contrary of that which he had
said, saying that whatsoever he had preached was only
by way of question, and that his own belief was such
as Holy Church was wont to believe and preach.
Whereupon the King of France and King Robert [of
Sicily] wrote to Pope John rebuking him courteously ;
for (as they said) notwithstanding that he propounded
the aforesaid opinion only by way of question to seek
out the truth, yet it became not a Pope to raise
suspected questions against the Catholic faith, but
to cut off and extirpate such as should raise them.

224.— c&rec Q^onkg; in IParatJise.

The following anonymous fourteenth-century Italian legend, which
should be compared with Dante's description of the Earthly Paradise,
is printed on p. 489 of the first volume of Leggende del Secolo XIV.
(Florence. Barbera. 1863.)

HE Paradise of Delights is in the eastern
region of this earthly world, upon a moun-
tain lifted high above all other mountains
and all this earth of ours ; from which
Paradise spring four rivers which encompass
the whole world, and which are called Tigris, Euphrates,
Gihon and Pison. Now, beside one of these rivers
which is named Gihon, there stood a convent of monks
who were great friends of God and lived a truly angelic
life. So it came to pass one day that three of the
monks went walking through the convent garden and
came to the banks of the Gihon, where they bathed
their feet and hands. Then they saw drifting doAvn
this stream a bough of a tree, enamelled with every
colour that is fairest to see ; for one of its leaves was
golden, another silvery, a third azure, a fourth green,
and so forth of all motley hues ; and the bough was

468 A Medieval Garner.

laden with apples and fruits most fair to the eye and
most enchanting to the taste. Then these monks took
that bough and considered its beauty, praising and
glorifying the name and the power of God who made
so marvellous a tree ; and, as they saw and considered
how marvellous and fair the bough was, and as each
fell into a contemplation thereof, then they began to
weep at the thought of God's mighty works, and said
within themselves, " Truly that is a holy place from
whence this bough is come ! " And while each pondered
thereon with tears, one looked upon the other and said :
" Wherefore weepest thou ? " "I weep," quoth he,
" at the great imagination and contemplation that I
have in my soul, thinking and pondering of the place
whence this bough is come ; for methinks God must
be there with all His angels." Then each confessed
that the same thought was in his own mind ; and one
said : " Shall we go to that sacred place, even upwards
by the bank of this river, until God lead us to that
holy spot ? " Then said the others : " Let us go now
in God's name ! " Thus went they forthwith, without
speech of their abbot, so were the}^ inflamed and
kindled with the love of Christ. And, as they went
up the river banks, they found the herbs all full of
manna, whereat they marvelled, for they found this
to be the sweetest and most savourous substance in
the whole world. Thus therefore they pained them-
selves to go upwards a whole year long ; and they
found trees laden with the sweetest fruit and most
delicious to the taste, that drooped even to the ground
all around them ; wherefore they went with such
sweetness and delight of soul that their feet scarce
touched the earth. When they were come nigh unto
that mountain, on whose top lay the Paradise of Delights,
then they began to hear the song of the angels in
Paradise ; whereat all were filled with joy, and went
onwards in great desire. Now this mountain was
clothed all round with divers sorts of trees, all full of
sweetest fruit and most delicious and comforting to
the taste, and marvellous withal to the sight ; and all
beneath grew holy herbs, bearing flowers of marvellous

The Earthly Paradise. 4^9

hues and of divers and marvellous scents ; and that
mountain was an hundred miles high. Yet they went
so joyfully that they ascended to the summit and felt
no pain ; and soon they were at the gate of Paradise,
which they found fast closed, and over all an angel of
the Cherubim guarding it with a sword of fire in his
hand. Then these monks sat them down beside the
gate, and gazed upon this Cherub ; whereat they felt
so great sweetness and joy of heart and soul that they
lost all count of this world and the next, so great were
the most exalted beauties and marvels of that angel !
Thus then they tarried at the gate, contemplating that
angel for five days and five nights ; for his face shone
as^doth the sun. Then the angel spake and said,
" What would ye have ? " "If such be your pleasure,'*
said they, " we would fain enter therein, and tarry
there three or four days." Then the door opened
forthwith, and the monks entered in. And as soon as
they were within, they heard the sound of the wheel
of heaven, that turned round with a music so sweet,
so soft, so delightful, that they knew not where they
were, but sat them down there within the gate, such
bliss and content had they of that sound of the wheel
of heaven ! Thus then they sat in great joy, until
they saw two stewards coming towards them, most
comely of face and white as snow, with hair and beards
that swept the ground ; which were no other than
Enoch and Elias, holy fathers whom God set to dwell
in His Paradise of Delights until the world's end, to
give testimony of the death of Jesus Christ His only-
begotten Son. Then said these men to the monks,
" What do ye here ? " "We are come," said they,
" to see this holy place." Then said the holy fathers
Elias and Enoch : " Give thanks and praise to our
Lord Jesus Christ, who hath granted you the grace
and the priceless gift of entering into this sacred place ;
for never came man hither that was born of woman,
but only souls that have been purged and glorified.
Since therefore it hath pleased God our Lord, we will
lead you all around and show you the exceeding great
glories and marvels of lioly Paradise, so many and so

470 A Medieval Garner.

great as no tongue can tell nor no heart conceive."
Then they took those holy monks by the hand and
led them throughout Paradise, showing them the great
gifts of God and the marvels that sweet Jesus had
wrought. While they thus went and sought throughout
Paradise, they heard the delightful music and the
amorous chants of the angels of heaven ; then they
wellnigh fainted for delight of that angelic song that
was so soft and sweet ; and, lifting their eyes and minds
and hands to God, they rendered thanks and praise to
Him. Then were they aware of a living spring, whereof
whoso drinketh can never grow old, and whosoever is
already old, he turneth to the age of thirty years.
And they saw the tree of good and evil, through which
all we were lost for Adam's and Eve's sake that ate
thereof. They saw also the tree of our salvation,
wherefrom was taken the wood of the Holy Cross ;
to which sacred tree these monks knelt and did great
reverence, adoring God with many tears. Then saw
they another tree, whereof whosoever eateth shall
never die. After that they saw four fountains, whence
issued the four rivers that encompass the world. Then
again they saw a fountain five miles long and broad,
filled with a multitude of fishes that chanted day and
night in answer to the song of Paradise ; whose chant
was more sweet than man's tongue may tell. Then
they saw the tree of glory, which was so great that it
spread its branches for the space of a mile around ;
whose leaves were of gold, after the bigness and fashion
of figleaves, and the fruit seemed marvellously ^\Tought,
as it were of sugared confections, of unspeakable
softness and delight and sweetness to the taste. This
tree was full of small fowls, whose wings were red as
burning coals of fire, even as though they had been
lamps hanging amid the leaves, and all sang with one
voice as though they had indeed been angels of the
celestial Paradise. Thus sang they at every hour of
the day ; so sweet and so soft was their song that
every human mind would have been lulled to sleep ;
all day long they praised the court of Paradise. Then
those holy fathers Elias and Enoch led these holy

The Earthly Paradise.


monks unto the gate of Paradise, saying : " Return
now to j'^our convent, for thither are ye called by God
the Creator Who hath made you." Then said the
monks, " Sirs, have mercy upon us ! we beseech you,
vouchsafe to let us tarry fifteen days here ! " There-


From a 13th-century window at Chartres. C:f. Chaucer's Cant. Talcs, rrologue, 1. 23G.

with they wept and wailed and fell on their knees, and
said to those holy fathers : " We have not yet been
eight days here ! " Then they made answer : "Ye
have been here seven hundred years." Then those
monks began to weep yet more piteously, lifting their

472 A Medieval Garner.

eyes and hands and souls to heaven, praising and
glorifpng the power and wisdom of the true God, and
saying : "0 sweet Jesus Christ, seeing that this Earthly
Paradise is so sweet and delightful, what then must
be that life of bliss wherein Thou dwellest visibly
with Thy sweet Mother ! sweet Jesus Christ, how
great must be the joy and gladness to see the choirs of
Thy saints, with the hosts of angels and archangels
and principalities and powers. O how delightful must
it be to behold the choirs of cherubim and seraphim,
and the legions of sainted men and women ! O sweet
Jesus Christ, shall we too ascend to Thy blessed King-
dom ? " Then answered the holy fathers Elias and
Enoch : "Go now with God's grace, and in a brief
space ye shall come to that realm of eternal life."
Then said those holy monks : " How can it be that we
have been here seven hundred years ? for we seem to
be of that same age whereof we were when we came
hither." Then said the holy fathers, " Ye have eaten
of the fruit of that tree which suffereth not old age,
and ye have drunken of the sacred water of the Fountain
of Youth, and have dwelt in this most holy place
wherein ye have heard somewhat of the glory of eternal
life : now therefore go to your convent." " holj''
fathers," said they, " shall we find any yet living of
our own company ? " " Nay," said the others, " for
your brethren and companions live now in eternal life,
but their bodies are returned to earth and dust these
seven hundred years agone, and your convent is renewed
and reformed with fresh folk ; seven times have they
died and been renewed, and seven ages are gone by
since your departure." Then answered the monks,
*' They who are now in our convent will not receive
us, nor believe that we have been Brethren of that
house ; how then shall we do ? " "Ye shall show
them this sign : bid them seek in the high altar and
find the missal-book wherein are written all monks'
names of that house for the last thousand years ; then
shall they find your names also, with the hour and day
and month and year of your departure to come hither.
This other sign also shall ye show ; that after forty days

The Earthly Paradise. 473

ye shall return suddenly to dust, neither shall flesh or
bone be left of you ; and your souls shall go to rest
in the holy quiet of eternal life, and the angels of heaven
shall see through your souls with their own eyes."
Then wept those holy monks for very joy, and went
forth from the Paradise of Delights, rendering thanks
and honour to the holy fathers. Joyfully they went
on their way, and came to the convent, and found the
gate open, and entered into the church, where they
fell on their knees before the altar, weeping and praising
and magnifying the mighty power of God, who had

Online LibraryG. G. (George Gordon) CoultonA medieval garner; human documents from the four centuries preceding the reformation → online text (page 40 of 61)