G. G. (George Gordon) Coulton.

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

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well all that concerneth thee ; wherefore I pity thee
even as a father pitieth his OAvn children. For in this
long-delayed absence of mine, wherein I must needs



St. Bernard. 6^

lack that bodily presence of my Brethren which I ever
desire above all other earthly things — in this my
absence (I say), God of His grace vouchsafed to me
that I might supply in the spirit all that my body was
powerless to accomphsh : in the spirit, I returned
hither and passed through every corner of this house,
enquiring Avith all diligence how my Brethren bare
themselves. Then also I came to this Cell of the
Novices, wherein I found all the rest exulting in the
fear of God and ^vitli their loins girt to the labours of
penitence, yet I groaned to see thee alone languishing
in immoderate sadness. When therefore I tried to
entice thee to me by blandishments, thou didst turn
thy spirit and thy face away from me, weeping so
bitterly that my cowl was drenched with thy tears."
With these words, and with other spiritual warnings,
the holy father pressed hard upon the novice, and so
subdued him as to put all his grief to flight, recalling
him thus from the melancholy in which he had been
almost altogether overwhelmed, to the liberty of
spiritual joy.




26 — Cbe lap^TSrotber's CSHorkfcllotti.

lb., col. 1106.

CERTAIN lay-brother in one of the granges
of Clairvaux, whose office was to drive the
oxen, was a man of pure heart and great
simplicity, who performed promptly and
devoutly all that his masters enjoined upon
him, and bore his daily toil with all patience, look-
ing ever to his heavenly reward. One day this man
saw in a dream how the Lord Jesus walked by his
side, bearing in His sweet hand a goad, and helping
him to drive the oxen as he walked on the other
side of the waggon-pole : with which vision he was
over- joyed beyond measure. When therefore he had
awaked and called to mind the gentleness, kindness,
and sweetness of this his dearly-beloved fellow- worker,
suddenly his heart was inflamed with the fire of



66 A Medieval Garner.

vehement desire : he sighed after Him, he longed to
see Him face to face Who had vouchsafed Himself as
his yokefellow. When, therefore, he longed vehe-
mently to depart and be with Christ, then the loving
Lord, Avho walketh with the meek and whose converse
is with the simple, would no longer defer the desire of
his poor servant ; but soon this same brother was laid
upon a bed of sicloiess, so that death freed him on the
seventh day from his labour and pain, and he happily
laid hold on eternal life, with that everlasting rest
which is Christ the Lord. As he lay in his last agony,
his most revered abbot the Blessed Bernard came in
to visit him, and to bid farewell to his son on the way
to his long home (whose conscience he knew to be pure
and simple), and to fortify him with a benediction,
even at his last setting-forth, against the evil purposes
of ghostly robbers. The saint rejoiced greatly to
learn this vision from the sick man's own mouth ;
after whose death he proclaimed with all boldness that
God had taken him to Himself for that he had walked
Avith God, Who had in truth wrought in him ; for it
could not be that the Almighty and merciful God
would desert in his last agony that servant whose
most condescending companion and fellow-worker he
had been in the days of his toil.



The letter, or " Apologia," to William, Abbot of St. Thierry, from
which this extract is taken, was written by St. Bernard about 1125
A.D., when the Cluniac Order was at the height of its fame. Founded
as a reform of the Benedictine Rule, the Cluniac congregation had by
its strictly discipUned Ufe earned a popularity and wealth which soon
reacted against strictness and disciphne : hence the fresh reform of
the Cistercians. The Cluniacs had formed a great school of architec-
ture, sculpture, and painting, which profoundly influenced the whole
course of medieval art. " So far " (writes Mr. E. S. Prior) " the
Benedictine reformation seems only to have accentuated the luxuries
of architecture."* This may be clearly seen in the great Cluniac
portal of Vezelay, built during St. Bernard's Ufetime, and in the reflected
glories of the same art which still remain, for example, at Glastonbury.
The Cistercians, although the next two generations brought them to

* Cathedral Builders in England, page 40.




A



THE PORTAL OF VEZELAY.

From Viollet le-Duc's Diet, de V Architecture, vii, 388. The work of Cluniac masons,
and our best guide to the now destroyed sculptures of Cluny itself.



68 A Medieval Garner.

the front with that splendid style which may still be studied at Tintern
and Fountains, began (Uke the Carthusians) by a protest against all
magnificence in architecture, and kept a certain severity even through
the long period of power and wealth which so soon succeeded to the
strict poverty of St. Bernard's day. In his time, however, sculptures
and paintings were expressly forbidden by the Constitutions, " because,
when we busy ourselves with such things, the profit of good meditation
is often neglected, or the discipline of religious gravity." Even in
1213, the General Chapter protested against all " notable superfluity
and curiousness of carving, building, pavement, and suchhke things,
which deform the ancient honour of our Order and suit ill with poverty."
This poverty, however, was already only a tradition among the Cister-
cians : in a few years the Franciscans and Dominicans were again to
protest by the meanness of their chapels and the purity of their rehgious
zeal against the splendour of the older Orders ; but only to follow the
same example themselves before a generation was past. The glories
of Gothic art which perished at the Dissolution of the Monasteries
would, in themselves, have been Httle regretted by the greatest monks
of the Middle Ages. St. Bernard begins by rebuking his fellow-Cister-
cians who carp at the Cluniacs out of pure jealousy, and then passes on
to note the real faults which could be justly urged against these latter
(chapters viii.-xiii.).

27— ^t. TdernatD as IPuritan.

MARVEL how monks could grow accus-
tomed to such intemperance in eating and
drinking, clothing and bedding, riding abroad
and building, that, wheresoever these things
are wrought most busily and with most
pleasure and expense, there religion is thought to
be best kept. For behold ! spare living is taken for
covetousness, sobriety for austerity, silence for melan-
choly ; while, on the other hand, men rebaptize
laxity as " discretion," waste as " liberality," gar-
rulousness as " affabiUty," gigghng as " jollity," effemi-
nacy in clothing and bedding as " neatness." . . .
Who, in those first days when the monastic Order began,
would have believed that monks would ever come to
such sloth ? . . . Dish after dish is set on the table ;
and instead of the mere flesh-meat from which men
abstain, they receive twofold in mighty fishes. Though
thou have eaten thy fill of the first course, yet when
thou comest to the second thou shalt seem not even
to have tasted the first ; for all is dressed with such



1




1



St. Bernard. 69

care and art in the kitchen that, though thou hast
swallowed four or five dishes, the first are no hindrance
to the last, nor doth satiety lessen thine appetite. . . .
For (to say notliing of the rest) who may tell of the
eggs alone, in how many ways they are tossed and
vexed, how busily they are turned and turned again,
beaten to froth or hard-boiled or minced, now fried
and now baked, now stuffed and now mixed, or again
brought up one by one ? . . . What shall I say of
water-drinking, when watered wine is on no account
admitted ? All of us, forsooth, in virtue of our
monkish profession, have infirm stomachs, and are
justified in not neglecting the Apostle's salutary advice
as to " drinking wine " ; yet (I know not why) we
omit that word " little " wherewith he begins. . . .
Men seek for their garments, not the most useful stuff
they may find, but the most dehcately woven. . . .
" Yet, sayest thou, " Religion is not in the dress, but
in heart." Well said. But thou, when thou wilt buy
a frock, thou goest from city to city, scourest the
markets, searchest the fairs from booth to booth,
scannest the merchant's shops, turnest over each man's
store, unrollest vast bales of cloth, touchest with thy
fingers, bringest close to thine eyes, boldest up to the
sunlight, and rejectest whatsoever is seen to be too
coarse or too sHght ; on the other hand, whatsoever
taketh thee \vith its purity and gloss, that thou seekest
to buy forthwith at any price : I ask thee, therefore,
doest thou this from thy heart, or in mere simpHcity ?
. . . Yet I marvel, since the Rule saith that all faults
of the Disciple concern the Master, and our Lord
through His prophet threateneth to require the blood of
such as die in their sins at the hand of their Pastors —
I marvel how our Abbots suffer such things to be done ;
unless it be perchance (if I may risk the word) that no
man confidently rebuketh that wherein he trusteth
not himself to be without blame. ... I lie, if I have
not seen an Abbot with a train of sixty horses and
more ; on seeing such pass by, thou wouldst say that
they are not fathers of monasteries but lords of castles,
not rulers of souls but princes of provinces. ...



70 A Medieval Garner.

But these are small things ; I will pass on to matters
greater in themselves, yet seeming smaller because
they are more usual. I say naught of the vast height
of your churches, their immoderate length, their super-
fluous breadth, the costly polishings, the curious
carvings and paintings which attract the worshipper's
gaze and hinder his attention, and seem to me in some
sort a revival of the ancient Jewish rites. Let this
pass, however : say that this is done for God's honour.
But I, as a monk, ask of my brother monks as the pagan
[poet Persius] asked of his fellow-pagans : " Tell me,

Pontiffs " (quoth he) " what doeth this gold in the
sanctuary ? " So say I, " Tell me, ye poor men " (for

1 break the verse to keep the sense) " tell me, ye poor
(if, indeed, ye be poor), what doeth this gold in your
sanctuary ? " And indeed the bishops have an excuse
which monks have not ; for we know that they, being
debtors both to the wise and the unwise, and unable to
excite the devotion of carnal folk by spiritual things,
do so by bodily adornments. But we [monks] who
have now come forth from the people ; we who have
left all the precious and beautiful things of the world
for Christ's sake ; who have counted but dung, that
we may win Christ, all things fair to see or soothing to
hear, sweet to smell, delightful to taste, or pleasant to
touch — ^in a word, all bo(Mly dehghts — whose devotion,
pray, do we monks intend to excite by these things ?
What profit, I say, do we expect therefrom ? The
admiration of fools, or the oblations of the simple ?
Or, since we are scattered among the nations, have we
perchance learnt their works and do we yet serve their
graven images ? To speak plainly, doth the root of
all this He in covetousness, which is idolatry, and do
we seek not profit, but a gift ? If thou askest :
" How ? " I say : " In a strange fashion." For
money is so artfully scattered that it may multiply ;
it is expended that it may give increase, and prodi-
gahty giveth birth to plenty : for at the very sight of
these costly yet marvellous vanities men are more
kindled to offer gifts than to pray. Thus wealth is
drawn up by ropes of wealth, thus money bringeth



St. Bernard. 7 1

money ; for I know not how it is that, wheresoever
more abundant wealth is seen, there do men offer more
freely. Their eyes are feasted with relics cased in gold,
and their purse-strings are loosed. They are shown a
most comely image of some saint, whom they think
all the more saintly that he is the more gaudily painted.
Men run to kiss him, and are invited to give ; there is
more admiration for his comehness than veneration for
his sanctity. Hence the church is adorned with
gemmed crowns of light — nay, with lustres like cart-
wheels, girt all round with lamps, but no less brilliant
with the precious stones that stud them.* Moreover
we see candelabra standing like trees of massive bronze,
fashioned with marvellous subtlety of art, and glisten-
ing no less brightly with gems than with the lights
they carry. What, think you, is the purpose of all
this ? The compunction of penitents, or the admira-
tion of beholders ? vanity of vanities, yet no more
vain than insane ! The church is resplendent in her
walls, beggarly in her poor ; f she clothes her stones in
gold, and leaves her sons naked ; the rich man's eye is
fed at the expense of the indigent. The curious find
their delight here, yet the needy find no rehef. Do we
not revere at least the images of the Saints, which
swarm even in the inlaid pavement whereon we tread ?
Men spit oftentimes in an Angel's face ;J often, again,
the countenance of some Saint is ground under the heel
of a passer-by. And if he spare not these sacred
images, why not even the fair colours ? Why dost
thou make that so fair which will soon be made so foul ?

* The contemporary Abbot of Cluny, Peter the Venerable, ordained
that " the great crown of Ughts, most deUcately fashioned of gold,
bronze, and silver, which hangeth by a strong chain in the midst of the
choir, shall not be lighted except on the five principal feasts of the
year." A less magnificent one, which still survived in the 18th Century
in St. Kenii, at Rheims, held 72 wax candles.

t Horstius has here collected in a note a number of parallel passages
from St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, etc.

I It must be remembered that the modern use of the handkerchief
was practically unknown in all ranks of society until the end of the
Middle Ages.



72 A Medieval Garner.

Why lavish bright hues upon that which must needs be
trodden under foot ? What avail these comely forms
in places where they are defiled with customary dust ?
And, lastly, what are such things as these to you poor
men, you monks, you spiritual folk ? Unless per-
chance here also ye may answer the poet's question in
the words of the Psalmist : " Lord, I have loved the
habitation of Thy House, and the place where Thine
honour dwelleth." I grant it, then, let us suffer even
this to be done in the church ; for, though it be harm-
ful to vain and covetous folk, yet not so to the simple
and devout. But in the cloister, under the eyes of
the Brethren who read there, what profit is there in
those ridiculous monsters, in that marvellous and
deformed comehness, that comely deformity ? To
what purpose are those unclean apes, those fierce
Hons, those monstrous centaurs, those half-men, those
striped tigers, those fighting knights, those hunters
winding their horns ? Many bodies are there seen
under one head, or again, many heads to a single body.
Here is a four-footed beast with a serpent's tail ; there,
a fish with a beast's head. Here again the forepart of
a horse trails half a goat behind it, or a horned beast
bears the hinder quarters of a horse. In short, so
many and so marvellous are the varieties of divers
shapes on every hand, that we are more tempted to
read in the marble than in our books, and to spend the
v/hole day in wondering at these things rather than in
meditating the law of God. For God's sake, if men
are not ashamed of these follies, why at least do they
not slirink from the expense ?

The abundance of my matter suggested much more
for me to add ; but from this I am distracted both
by my own anxious business and by the too hasty
departure of Brother Oger, [the bearer of this letter].
. . . This is my opinion of your Order and mine ; nor
can any man testify more truly than you, and those
who know me as you do, that I am wont to say these
things not about you but to your faces. What in your
Order is laudable, that I praise and publish abroad ;
what is reprehensible, I am wont to persuade you and



St. Bernard and Abelard. 73

my other friends to amend. This is no detraction, but
rather attraction : wherefore I wholly pray and
beseech you to do the same by me. Farewell.



At the council of Sens, (1140), St. Bernard formally accused Abelard
of heresy ; but the latter, preferring not to defend himself before a
coui-t which he beUeved to have prejudged the case, left the council
and appealed directly to the Pope. The following account of part
of the proceedings is from a pamphlet addressed to St. Bernard by
Abelard's pupil Berengarius (Migne, Pat. Lat., vol. 178, 1857 £E.) ; its
purpose is frankly satirical, but on the whole it bears the stamp of truth.

28.— IBisbops in Councii.




HOU hast set up Peter Abelard as a mark
for thine arrows, to vomit forth the venom
of thy bitterness against him, to take him
away from the land of the living and set
him among the dead men. Thou didst call
together bishops from all sides and condemn him
as an heretic in the Council of Sens ; thou hast
separated him as an untimely birth from the womb of
Mother Church. Though he walked in the way of
Christ, yet thou, hke a murderer coming forth from
his ambush, hast robbed him of his seamless robe.
Thou didst preach to the people, bidding them pour
forth prayers to God for him ; yet in thine heart thou
didst purpose to banish him from Christendom. What
could the multitude do ? How could the multitude
pray, knowdng not for whom they were to pray ?
Thou, the man of God, the worker of miracles, who
sattest with Mary at Jesus' feet, who didst keep all
these words in thine heart, thou shouldst have offered
the purest incense of holy prayers before the face of
God, that thine accused Peter might return to his
right mind, and become clean from all suspicion. Yet
perchance thou wert more willing to find an apt
occasion of blame against him ! At length, when [the
bishops] had dined, Peter's book was brought out,
and one was chosen to read forth his writings in a loud
voice : but he, urged on by hatred of Peter, and well-



74 A Medieval Garner,

watered from the vine-stock (not indeed from Him
who said / am the true vine, but from that vine which
stretched the patriarch Noah naked on the floor),
bawled even louder than he had been bidden. After
a while the prelates might be seen leaping up from
their chairs, stamping their feet, laughing and jesting ;
so that all men might mark how their vows were paid
not to Christ but to Bacchus. Meanwhile cups are
saluted, goblets are celebrated, the wines are praised,
and the prelates' throats are well moistened. Then
might a man have cited . . . from the satiric poet : —

" Betwixt one goblet and the next,
The fuddled pontiffs con the sacred text ! "*

— inter pocula quaerunt
Pontifices saturi quid dia poemata narrent.
Berengarius has substituted pontifices for Romulidae.

At length, when the reader mouthed out any subtle
points of divinity, unwonted to these episcopal ears,
then the hearers were all cut to the heart, and gnashed
with their teeth on Peter : considering the philosopher
with mole-like blindness, they cried : " What ! shall
we suffer this monster to live ? " and wagging their
heads Hke the Jews, they said, " Vah ! thou that
destroyest the temple of God ! . . ."

Meanwhile the heat of the wine had so crept into
their brains, that all eyehds drooped with the heaviness
of sleep. Still the reader bawls ; but the hearers
snore. One leans on his elbow to slumber ; another
nods and winks on his soft cushion ; a third dozes
mth his head on his knees. When therefore the
reader had stumbled upon some sufficiently thorny
passage, he would cry to the deaf ears of these prelates :
'' Damnatis ? " t Then a few, barely awakening at the
sound of the last syllable, murmured with slumberous
voice and nodding head : " Damnamus " !% while
others, aroused by the chorus of the rest, caught only the
last syllable and droned out — "namus, — namus /" . . .

* Persius, i. 30 :

f " Do ye condemn it ? "

+ " We condemn it ! "



Sons of St. Bernard. 75

To what end did such men do thus ? To what purpose is
this decree of the lawyers ? There is consolation in
the Gospel story. " The chief priests and the Phari-
sees " (saith the Scripture) " gathered a council, and
said : ' What do we, for this man doth many miracles ?
If we let him alone so, all will believe in him.' But
one of them named Abbot Bernard, being the high
priest of that council, prophesied, saying, ' It is expe-
dient for us that one man should be cast forth from
among the people, and that the whole nation perish
not.' From that day, therefore, they devised to
condemn him."




29.— Cbe ©eauenlp Ecapers,

Pat. Lat., vol. 185, col. 1062.

N the monastery of Clairvaux was a pious
monk named Renaud, worthy to be re-
membered by all good folk. . . . This man
of God, although before his conversion he
passed thirty years in the habit of the
world, yet he hved no worldly life, but busied himself
with deeds of piety, solicitous to glorify God and to
bear Him in his soul. For, among other pious motions
of his chaste heart, he even dedicated his bodily purity
to the Lord, by Whose helping grace he passed by all
lewd temptations and filth of the flesh, treading an
undefiled path from his mother's womb to the day of
his own death. This man took the monastic habit
in the monastery of St. Amand, where he dwelt more
than twenty years in holy conversation, and gave
abundant proof of his sanctity to all men. Then was
he inflamed with so much greater love of virtue, that
his holy zeal took him to Clairvaux, after long premoni-
tion of many revelations from God. What labours,
what troubles this saintly man suffered from the
Brethren of St. Amand, who grudged at his blessed
conversation and would fain have turned him aside
from this purpose, I mil here pass by for the reader's
sake and for very weariness. When, therefore, he



76 A Medieval Garner.

was received at Clairvaux, he forthwith girded himself
like a man to this new warfare, and, veteran as he was
already, showed himself a sturdy novice among us ;
all day long he mortified himself with labours and
watchings, fasts and all other duties of holy discipline.
His zeal for prayer was incessant, and in all his praying
he had a marvellous gift of tears.* One day, therefore,
that he was gone out with the other monks to labour
at the wheat-harvest, he stood a little apart from the
rest and began to rejoice in soul at the sight of the
reapers, marvelling deeply to consider all these mse
and noble and delicately nurtured men who exposed
themselves for Christ's sake to so great toil and vexa-
tion, and who suffered this burning sun as cheerfully
as though they were plucking apples of heavenly
fragrance in some garden of delights, or feasting
delicately at some table loaded with the most exquisite
meats. At last, raising his eyes and hands to heaven,
he thanked the God who had brought him, unworthy
sinner as he was, into so holy and numerous a fellow-
ship. While he pondered these and suchlike thoughts,
scarce able to contain himseK for excess of joy, he was
suddenly aware of three worshipful ladies, glorious
with rosy cheeks and snow-white garments, whereof
one walked before with brighter robes and fairer form
and loftier stature than the rest. These three came
down from the mountain hard by, and drew near unto
the Brethren as they toiled in reaping on the steep
hillside. He, therefore, troubled and amazed at so
strange a sight, cried aloud to himself : " Lord God ! "
(quoth he) " what may these ladies be, so fair, so
worshipful, who draw near unto our convent contrary
to the custom of other women ? " Even as he spake,
he was aware of a reverend white-haired man, clad in
a long white mantle, who said unto him, " That taller
lady, who goeth before the rest, is Mary herself, the
Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ ; behind whom follow
St. Ehzabeth and St. Mary Magdalene." As soon

* For this coveted gift of tears, see From St. Francis to Dante, 2nd
ed., pp. 317, 405 (1).



Sons of St. Bernard. 77

therefore as he heard the name of God's Mother, then
all his bowels were moved for devotion to her name
whom he loved so vehemently ; and he asked again,
saying, " And whither, my lord, whither doth our Lady
walk ? " "To visit," said the other, " her own
reapers " : and so saying he suddenly vanished from
him, whereat tliis man of God marvelled the more in
his own mind. Then he looked again towards the holy
Mother of God with her fellows, and gazed upon them



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