G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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* Probably the Cathedral of Laon, which our author knew veiy well.
It was burned down in 1112 and sent round its shrine to beg for help ;
cf. Guibert's autobiography col. 938, and Herman's Book of Miracles
performed on this tour, ibid. col. 963. It is noteworthy that the large
majority of the miracles there described belong precisely to the three
classes which Guibert describes as most easily feigned.

52 A Medieval Garner.

such filthy gains, but they preach doctrines of heresy
in matters of our faith, even in mine own hearing.
For, as Boethius saith, " I should be rightly condemned
for a madman if I should dispute with madmen." . . .
If, therefore, it be so doubtful a matter to judge of
the claim to martyrdom, how shall we decide in the
matter of confessors, whose end is often less certain ?
What though the common consent of the Church agree
in the case of St. Martin, St. Remy, and such great
saints, yet what shall I say of such as are daily sainted
and set up in rivalry to them, by the common folk of
our towns and villages ? — Let them tell me how they
can expect a man to be their patron saint concerning
whom they know not even that which is to be known ?
For thou shalt find no record of him but his mere name.
Yet, while the clergy hold their peace, old wives and
herds of base wenches chant the lying legends of such
patron saints at their looms and their broidering-
frames ; and, if a man refute their words, they will
attack him in defence of these fables not only with
words but even with their distafis. Who but a sheer
madman, therefore, would call on those to intercede
for him concerning whom there is not the merest
suspicion left in men's minds to tell what they once
were ? And what availeth that prayer wherein the
petitioner himself speaketh in utter uncertainty of him
whom he would make into his intercessor with God ?
How (I say) can that be profitable, which can never be
without sin ? For if thou prayest to a man whose
sanctity thou knowest not, then thou sinnest in that
very matter wherein thou shouldst have prayed for
pardon ; for though thou ofPerest aright thou dividest
not aright. . . . But why should I labour this point at
such length, when the whole Holy Church is so modest
of mouth that she dareth not to afiirm even the body
of the Lord's Mother to have been glorified by resurrec-
tion, for the reason that she cannot prove it by the
necessary arguments !* If, therefore, we may not

* This question lias never, in fact, been officially decided, though
tbe bodily assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the favourite
themes of medieval art. " Melchior Canus sums up the general teach-

Guibert de Nogent. 53

affirm this of her whose glory no creature can measure,
what must we enjoin but eternal silence for those of
whom we know not even whether they be saved or
damned ? Moreover, there be some things written
concerning certain saints which are far worse than old
wives' fables, and with which we ought not to pollute
the ears even of s\vineherds. For indeed, since many
attribute the highest antiquity to their patron saints,
they demand in these modern times that their lives
should be \vritten : a request which hath oftentimes
been preferred to me. Yet I may be deceived even
in that which passeth under mine owti eyes ; how then
can I tell the truth of those things which no man ever
saw ? Were I to say what I have heard said (and I have
been besought also to speak the praises of such unknown
saints, — nay even to preach them to the people —
then i, who say what men ask of me, and they who
have suggested it to me, would be ahke worthy of a
pubhc reprimand.

But, omitting those whom their own authority
proveth to be unauthorized, let us touch upon those
others which are attended with certain faith. Even
among these, error is infinite ; or perchance one and
the same saint is claimed by two different churches ;
for example, the clergy of Constantinople claim to
possess the head of John Baptist, yet the monks of
Angers maintain the same claim. What greater
absurdity, therefore, can we preach concerning this
man, than that both these bodies of clergy should
assert him to have been two-headed ? But a truce
to jest, since we are certain that the head cannot be
duplicated, and therefore that either these or those are
under a grievous falsehood. If, however, in this
matter, which is altogether associated with piety, they
contend together with mutual arrogance and lies, then
they worship not God but the Devil. Therefore, both

ing of theologians on this head when he says : — ' The denial of the
Blessed Virgin's corporal assumption into heaven, though by no means
contrary to the faith, is still so much opposed to the common agree-
ment of the Church, that it would be a mark of insolent temerity.' "
Arnold & Addis, Catholic Dictionary, s.v. Assumption.

54 A Medieval Garner.

the deceived 'and'^the deceivers worship wrongfully
that very relic wherein they make their boast. If,
however, they worship an unworthy object, it is
evident how great must be the peril to which all the
worshippers are exposed. Even though, not being
John Baptist's head, it be that of some other saint,
even then there is no small guilt of lying.*

But wherefore speak I of the Baptist's head, when I
hear the same tale daily concerning innumerable
saints' bodies ? In truth my predecessor, the Bishop
of Amiens, when he would have translated the body of
St. Firmin (as he thought) from the old shrine to a new,
found there no shred of parchment — nay not even
the testimony of a single letter — to prove who lay
there. This I have heard with mine own ears from the
bishops of Arras and Amiens. Wherefore the bishop
wrote forthwith on a plate of lead, that it might be
laid in the shrine ; Firmin the Martyr, Bishop
of^I^Amiens. Soon afterwards, the same thing was
repeated at the monastery of St. Denis. The abbot
had prepared a more splendid shrine ; when lo ! in
the ceremony of translation, while his head and bones
were loosed from their wrappings, a slip of parchment
was found within his nostrils, affirming him to be
Firmin, Bishop of Amiens. . . .

Hear now an illustration of our complaints, which
may pass judgment on these instances aforesaid. Odo,
Bishop of Bayeux, eagerly desired the body of St.
Exuperius, his predecessor, who was honoured with
special worship in the town of Corbeil. He paid,
therefore, the sum of one hundred pounds to the
sacristan of the church which possessed these relics,
that he might take them for himself. But the sacristan
cunningly dug up the bones of a peasant named
Exuperius and brought them to the Bishop. The
Bishop, not content with his mere assertion, exacted
from him an oath that these bones which he brought
were those of Saint Exuperius. " I swear," replied

* Amiens also claimed to possess the Baptist's head : but this
tradition was apparently still without authority in Guibeit's days.

Guibert dc Nogent. 55

the man, " that these are the bones of Exuperius : as
to Ills sanctity I cannot swear, since many earn the
title of saints who are far indeed from hoHness." Thus
the thief assuaged the Bishop's suspicions and set his
mind at rest. But the townsfolk heard of the bargain
which the custodian had made with their patron saint,
and called him before them ; whereupon he replied :
" Search again the seals on his shrine ; and, if ye find
them not unbroken, let me pay the penalty ! " See
now what disgrace this Bishop's bargain brought upon
religion, when the bones of this profane peasant
Exuperius were thrust upon God's holy altar, which
perchance will never more be purged of them. I can
recall so many like deeds in all parts that I lack time
and strength to tell them here ; for fraudulent bar^
gains are made, not so much in whole bodies as in limbs
or portions of limbs, common bones being sold as relics
of the saints. The men who do this are plainly such
of whom St. Paul speaketh, that they suppose gain
to be godliness ; for they make into a mere excrement
of their money-bags the things which (if they but knew
it) would tend to the salvation of their souls.

1 8.— OitJiscction.

(Guibert's God's Dealings, col. 798).

ALDWIN [afterwards King of Jerusalem] had
been wounded in battle while he rescued
a footsoldier of his army, with whose
bravery he was much delighted. The
leech whom he summoned feared in his
foresight lest the cataplasm outwardly applied might
film over the wound, which (as he knew) had
pierced deep into the prince's body ; he feared
therefore lest, while the skin grew smooth over the
wound, it might rankle inwardly with a mass of
putrid matter. This he foresaw in his wondrous skill,
partly by a most praiseworthy conjecture, and partly

56 A Medieval Garner.

from past experience. He therefore besought the king
to command that one of the Saracen prisoners (for it
would have been wicked to ask it of a Christian) should
be wounded in that same place, and afterwards slain ;
whereby he might enquire at better leisure in the
dead man's body — nay, might clearly perpend from
its examination — how it was with the king's wound
at the very bottom. From this however, the prince's
loving-kindness shrank in horror ; and he repeated that
ancient example of the Emperor Constantine, v/ho
utterly refused to become the cause of any man's
death, even of the basest, for so small a chance of his
own safety. Then said the doctor : ''If indeed thou
art resolved to take no man's life for the sake of thine
own cure, then at least send for a bear, a beast that
is of no use but to be baited ; let him stand erect
on his hinder paws with his fore-feet raised, and
bid them thrust him with the steel ; then, by inspection
of his bowels after death, I may in some degree
measure how deep that wound is, and how deep thine
own." Then said the king, " We will not strain at
the beast, if need be : do therefore as thou wilt."
Whereupon it was done as the leech bade ; and he
discovered from this proof of the wild beast how
perilous it would have been for the king if the lips of
the wound had become united before the matter had
been drawn forth and the bottom had grown together.
Let this suffice concerning the king's pitifulness.

I put together here several documents concerning St. Bernard and
the early history of his Order. They are taken mostly from vol. 185 of
Migne's Patrologia Latina, which contains the almost contemporary
lives of St. Bernard, and the valuable collection of early records com-
piled under the title of Exordium Magnum Cisterciense by a monk of
Clairvaux, who had known intimately several of the Saint's com-
panions. They admirably illustrate monasticism at its best, and may
be compared with the extracts to be given later on from Csesarius of
Heisterbach, a Cistercian of the next generation.




From a plan of the end of the 12th century, reproduced in Viollet-le-Duc's
Diet, dc V Architecture, i, 266.

58 A Medieval Garner.

19.— ^t. TBernatD's Character.

(Trevisa's Higden. R.S. viii, 17).

!HAT year [1153] died St. Bernard, abbot
of Clairvaux, that was bom in Burgoyne,
in the castle of Fontaine ; he was a noble
knight's son, and was first fed with his
own mother's milk, and afterward nour-
ished with greater meats.* Then the year of our
Lord 1112 — after the beginning of the Order of Cister-
cians (that is the Order of white monks), fifteen, of his
own age, two and twenty — he entered into Citeaux
with thirty fellows ; and after the fifth year of his
conversion he was abbot of Clairvaux ; there he
used waking passing the usage of mankind, he said
that he lost no time more than when he slept, and he
likened death to sleep ; unnethe he might suffer them
that snored and fared foul in their sleep ; he went to
meat as it were to torment. For great abstinence
that he used, he had lost his taste and savour of meat
and of drink, so that he would take oil instead of wine
and blood instead of butter, t He would say that he
savoured water, for it cooled his mouth and his jaws.
All that he learned of Scripture he drank it [especially]
in woods and in fields in his meditations and prayers.
He acknowledged none other masters but oaks and
beeches. In his clothing was poverty without any
filth. He said that clothing is judge and witness of
heart and thought, of negligence or of pride and vain-
glory ; that proverb he had oft in his mouth and
alway in his heart, "All men wondrethof him that
doth as none other doth." To the novices that should
come to religion, he would say, "If ye te in haste to
that that is within, leave here without the bodies that
ye brought of the world ; the spirits shall enter, flesh
doth no profit." As oft as men prayed him to be

* It was unusual for mothers in high hfe to suckle their own children :
of. No. 100 in this book.

f Trevisa here unwittingly distorts the occasional misapprehensions
of the Saint into a settled habit.

St. Bernard. 59

bishop he said that he was not his own man but that
he was ordained to the service of other men. Alway
he was wont either praying, or reading, or writing, or
in meditations, or preaching and teaching his brethren.
The year of our Lord 1102 and fifty, when his death
nighed, he betook his brethren three points to keep,
and said that he had kept them in this wise all his life,
and said, " I would no man slander, but if any slander
were to arise I ceased it what I might ; I trowed mine
own wit less than the reason of other men ; if I were
grieved I asked no vengeance of him that had grieved
me." Bernard wrote many noble books, and specially
of the Incarnation of Christ, and did many miracles,
and built sixty abbeys, and passed out of this v/orld to
our Lord of Heaven.

20.— ©is IPersonai appearance.

From the Life by the Saint's younger contemporary, Alan Bishop
of Auxerre, who gathered notices of Bernard's early days from
Godfrey Bishop of Langres, the Saint's cousin and fellow-convert.
Pat. Lot. vol.'l85, 479.

IS body was marked by a certain grace
rather spiritual than bodily ; his face was
radiant with a Hght not of earth but of
heaven ; his eyes shone with angelic purity
and dovelike simplicity. Such was the
beauty of the inner man, that it brake forth by manifest
tokens to the sight, and even the outer man seemed
bedewed with the abundance of his inward purity and
grace. His .whole body was meagre and emaciated.
His skin itself was of the finest texture, with a shght
flush of red on the cheeks, seeing that all the natural
heat of his frame had been drawn thither by constant
meditation and the zeal of his holy compunction. His
hair was of a yellow inchning to white ; * his beard
was auburn, sprinkled towards the end of his life with

* Caesaries ex flavo colorahatur et candido : probably the blond cendrd
of modern French.

6o A Medieval Garner.

grey. His stature was of an honourable middle size,
yet inclining to tallness. Nevertheless, whereas his
flesh (first by the gift of preventing grace, then by
the help of nature, and lastly by the holy use of
spiritual disciphne) scarce dared to lust now against
the spirit, yet the spirit lusted so sore against the
flesh, beyond the man's strength and above the power
of flesh and blood, that the frail beast fell beneath the
load and could not rise again.

21.— ij>is austerities.

f" From p. 422 of the Anecdotes of Etienne de Bourbon, who tells us
that he learned many particular? from the mouth ,of Lord Calon de
Fontaines, St. Bernard's grand-nephew.

HAVE heard of the blessed Bernard of
Clairvaux that in youth he so afflicted his
flesh as to be unable to bear the common
[monastic] life in his old age : wherefore his
Abbot-Superior commanded him to obey, in
his bodily diet, certain Brethren that were assigned to
him. It came to pass, therefore, that King Louis VII.
came once to Clairvaux when the saint was already
an old man dwelling in the infirmary ; which when
the king heard, he sent him a present of fish. But
his messengers found St. Bernard sitting before roast
capons' flesh, and reported the matter to the king,
who would not believe it of so great a man ; wherefore
afterwards, in familiar speech with him, he told him
what his servants had said. Then the saint confessed
it to be true, saying that, so long as he was in health
and had felt the power of endurance in his body, he
had worn it down with abstinence ; until, being
unable to bear its accustomed burthens, it must at
last be supported and sustained, whereunto he was
now compelled by his Superior. At which words
the king was much edified.

St. Bernard. 6i

23.— ^t. T5ernarti ann the ^fjcpbertJ IBops.

(Jacques de Vitry's, Exempla, fol. 150, ed. Crane, p. 120).

OBj the prayer of innocents is most acceptable

to God. Wherefore we read of St. Bernard

that, when he rode abroad in the morning

and saw boys keeping their flocks in the

fields, he would say to his monks : " Let us

salute these boys, that they may answer to bless us ;

and thus, armed with the prayers of the innocent, we

shall be able to ride on Avith an easy mind."

23.— a Contient CtagcDp^

From the Life of St. Bernard, by John the Hermit. (About 1180.)
Pat. Lat., vol. 185, col. 546.

CERTAIN monk. Christian by name, planted
a vineyard on the crest of the hill hard by
Clairvaux. Then came Guy and Gerard,
blood-brethren of the venerable Father [St.
Bernard] and cursed this vineyard, saying
unto the monk, " Brother Christian, where is thy mind
and where is thine heart ? Wherefore hast thou not
considered the Scripture which saith that wine is not
fit for monks ?* But he answering said : " Ye indeed

* The reference is to chap. 40 of St. Benedict's Rule, which runs,
" Every one hath his proper gift from God ; one after this manner and
another after that : wherefore we have some scruple in fixing a measure
for other men's meat and drink. Yet, considering the fragihty of the
weaker brethren, we hold that an keniina of wine daily is enough for
each monk. But let them to whom God giveth power to abstain,
know that they shall have their own reward. If, however, either the
need of the monastery, or the labour, or the smnmer heat, call for more
than this, then let it be left to the Prior's choice, who shall take heed at
all points lest satiety or drunkenness creep in : — although, indeed, we
read that wine is altogether unfit for monks. But because the monks
of our age cannot be persuaded of this, let us at least accord in this,
that we drink not to satiety, but somewhat sparingly, since wine
maketh even wise men fall off. Where, however, the need of the

62 A Medieval Garner.

are spiritual brethren, who eschew wine ; but I am a
sinner, and would fain drink somewhat." Then said
Gerard, " I tell thee, brother Christian, thou shalt not
see the fruit thereof " : after which they returned to
the monastery. So he digged his vineyard and tilled
it many seasons : but at last he died and saw not the
fruit thereof. Wherefore, after a long while, the
keeper of the vineyard came and spake to St. Bernard :
" Father, our vineyard is accursed, and can bear no
fruit." " Why so ? " said he : and they answered,
" Thy brethren cursed it, and thenceforward it bare no
fruit." Then said St. Bernard : " Bring me water in
a bowl " : and so he did. Then the Saint, having
hallowed the water with the sign of the cross, said :
" Go, my son, and sprinkle this over the whole vine-
yard." So the brother went and did as his Abbot had
commanded him ; and the vineyard grew and multi-
phed so that all marvelled to see it.

24.— iacUgious Despair.

Ih., col. 419, cap. vi.

M CERTAIN monk, subject to this holy father,
had come to such poverty of spirit, partly
through the devil's wiles and partly through
his own simplicity and want of sense, as to
assert that the bread and the watered
wine which are shown on the altar could not possibly
be transubstantiated into the true body and blood of

monastery maketh it impossible to find tlie aforesaid measure, but only
far less, or even none whatever, then let the monks of that place bless
God and murmur not. For this we prescribe above all things, that
there be no murmurs among them." The exact measure of the hemina
has been hotly debated, and at great length. Dom Martene, after
summing up the conflicting arguments, agrees with Mabillon in estima-
ting it at 18 ounces. The Rule of St. Benedict, which is most interesting
and instructive, may be found almost entirely translated on p. 274 of
Mr. E. F. Henderson's Historical Documents of the Middle Ages (Bell,

St. Bernard. 63

our Lord Jesus Christ : wherefore he scorned to take
the Hfe-giving sacraments, as unprofitable to his soul.
At length the Brethren took note that he never shared
in the Sacrament of the Altar, and the elder monks
summoned him to private speech. They enquired
the cause : he for his part denied not, but confessed
that he had no faith in the Sacraments. In spite of
all their teaching and admonitions, since he still
refused his assent and maintained his disbelief in the
proofs which they adduced from Holy Scripture,
therefore the matter was reported to the venerable
Abbot, who summoned him to his presence, and
confuted his unbelief with all that wisdom wherewith
he was endowed. But the other answered, " No
words can bring me to believe that the bread and wine
set forth on the altar are the true body and blood of
Christ ; wherefore I know that I must go down to
hell." At which words the man of God (who was
ever wont to display a marvellous force of authority
in matters of extreme difficulty) cried aloud, " What !
a monk of mine go down to hell ? God forbid ! If
thou hast no faith of thine own, yet in virtue of thine
obedience I bid thee go take the Communion with my
faith ! " pious father ! O truly wise physician of
souls, through the anointing of grace which taught him
in all things how to heal the temptations of the weaker
brethren ! He said not, " Hence, heretic ! — Begone,
thou damned soul ! — Away with thee, lost wretch ! "
but said boldly, " Go and communicate with my
faith," firmly believing that this his little son,
whom he brought to the birth with the pangs of
spiritual yearning until Christ should be fulfilled in
him — that this son, I say, even as he could never be
separated from the bowels of his charity, neither
could he from the foundation of his faith. The monk,
therefore, constrained by the virtue of obedience,
though (as it seemed to him) utterly without faith,
came before the altar and communicated ; whereupon,
being straightway enlightened by the holy Father's
merit, he received a faith in the Sacraments which he
kept unspotted even to the day of his death.

64 A Medieval Garner,

25.— ^t IBernarD anD tU J13ot)ice.

lb. col. 422.

";HIS faithful and prudent steward of the
Lord's substance had once stayed abroad
longer than was his wont for the Church's
sake : for he was oftentimes compelled by
the Pope's mandate to travel abroad, sorely
against his will, for the making of peace, or the
healing of schism, or the confuting of heresies. At
length, having unravelled the tangled threads of the
matter which had taken him abroad, he came back to
the monastery, and seized the first occasion of entering
the cell of the novices, in order that these young and
tender sucklings might be refreshed all the more
abundantly with the milk of his consolation, as they
had lacked for so long a time the sweetness of
his divine exhortations. For whithersoever the holy
father went forth, he sowed the Lord's word over all
the waters, so that he scarce ever returned without
the usury of spiritual gain, filling the Cell of Probation
with a multitude of novices, oftentimes to the number
of a hundred ; so that, at the hours of divine service,
the no\dces filled the choir, and the monks (save for a
few elder brethren who kept disciphne) must needs
stand mthout.

When therefore, as aforesaid, he had come to the
Cell of the Novices, and with his pleasant and edifying
tongue had rendered them all more joyful and fervent
in the observance of their holy purpose, then he called
one novice aside, sa3ring : " Dearly-beloved son,
whence this sadness of thine, which gnaweth so fatally
at the innermost folds of thine heart ? " The novice,
for very shame, scarce dared to speak a word. Then
said that truly meek and humble man, knowing well
how to show himself to all men as a true shepherd,
and no hireling : "I know, dearly-beloved son, I know

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