John Henry Newman.

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Preface ....




Introduction ....


The Old Monastery



The Reformation in Scotland



The Struggle


The Battle of the Standard



The Cistercian Novice



The Spirit of Citeaux



The World in the Church

. 88


The Cistercian Abbot



Cistercian Teaching



Our knowledge of St. Ninian is chiefly owing
to the Life of him by St. Aelred, which has been
principally followed in these pages. Its genuine-
ness was, indeed, questioned by the Bollandists,
but apparently without any reason. It has been
uniformly referred to as St. Aelred's by a long
chain of English writers, nor is there any other
known as such. The copy in the Bodleian
Library is part of a M.S. (Laud 668) containing
works undoubtedly his, which was written within
twenty years after his death ; and one in the
British Museum (M.S.S. Cotton. Tib. D. 3.), of
the close of the twelfth or beginning of the thir-
teenth century, distinctly attributes the author-
ship to him. The chief reason assigned by the
Bollandists for doubting its genuineness is, that
the opening words of their copy, which they do
not quote, are not the same as those given by
Pitseus as St. Aelred's. His words are " Multo-


rum bonorum virorum." Those at the beginning
of the Prologus in our M.S.S. are " Multis
virorum sapientium." The difference is so slight
that it would seem most probable, and from other
considerations it is almost certain, that the person
who made the topy for the Bollandists, over-
looked, as he might easily do, the Prologus, and
began with the Life, of which the first words are,
" Gloriosissimam beati Niniani ;" since in other
respects their M.S. appears to have been the same
as ours.

The Service for St. Ninian's Day, from the
Aberdeen Breviary, was not seen until this Life
had nearly passed through the press. The histor-
ical references coincide almost entirely with what
had been written, being derived for the most part
from St. Aelred's Life. The only points which
call for notice are, that the words " patriae pater
genuit patronum," which occur in a Responsary,
look as if the Saint was considered to be a native
of Galloway ; and that the " brother," mentioned
as the companion of his journeying, is called
" collega," as if he had been a brother of his
monastery, not a relation.


^t ^tlvtti.



It is often said that things look on paper or on canvass
very different from what they are in reality ; how
often is the traveller disappointed, on arriving at a spot
of which he had read in poetry, or seen portrayed by
a painter. We repeat over and over again to ourselves
that it is beautiful, as if to persuade ourselves of it, and
yet there is something wanting ; after all, we have
seen woods as green, and streams as clear, and rocks as
wild, and the ruined tower that looks over the stream
is but a very poor ruin, as the baron who lived there
was probably a very indifferent character. And yet
were the poet or the painter so unfaithful as we sup-
pose ? They saw it under some particular aspect, when
the sun was upon it, or when the woods were coloured
by autumn, and they caught it at some moment when
one of Nature's endless combinations had made it look
more than usually lovely. No two persons see the
same scene under the same aspect ; it will not look to-
morrow as it does now, and yet it is the same sun, and



the same trees, and the same river. And so it is with
history ; the historian must colour his work with his own
mind ; it is his view of facts, and yet it may nevertheless
be true. Nay, in some respects it is more true than the
view which a contemporary might take of them. Kings
and queens are doubtless very different from the ermine-
covered things which we think them to be, and we
must make them objects of the intellect before we can
judge of them ; just as a surgeon must in a manner
forget that he is operating on flesh and blood, before he
can do his duty. Besides whicli the ideas that con-
temporai'ies have of the men of their day, are after all
only theories ; they are but approximations to the
truth ; events and actions are but exponents of the
inward life of men and nations, and none on earth can
judge them precisely as they are. We have in this
sense only a view of our dearest friends, and yet it
does not follow that we love an abstraction or an idea.
And so it by no means follows that history is untrue
because it is the view of the historian ; it is coloured
of coui-se by his character and his opinions. The facts
of history want an interpretation and are utterly mean-
ingless, like an unknown language, until they are
viewed in relation to each other and with the whole
period to which they belong. This is what the histo-
rian supplies ; his view may be true or false, but all
views are not false, because they are partly subjective.
All views are not true, for that would in fact be saying
that all are false, but some are right and others are
wrong, and that, though the facts related are given with
equal honesty ; just as in physical science experiments
are the same, but the true explanation of them is the
simplest formula which will take in all their results.
All this eminently applies to the lives of the blessed


Saints, because the view which we have of them is in
all cases coloured by the reverence of the Christian
world, and yet it is by no means falsified. It is history
with the perpetual interpretation of Christendom ; the
mind of the Church acting upon facts in the life of
one of her children. It may be quite true that in
many instances false miracles or actions which may be
proved never to have taken place, may have been
ascribed to them. An unknown monk in some obscure
monastery may have written a life of a Saint, merely
putting together all the traditions which remained of
him, without caring to separate the true from the false ;
but still the result of the whole may be true ; and the
general aspect in which Christendom views the Saint
may be the right one, though some particular stories
may be false. How few in many instances are the facts
known about some of the Saints in the middle ages.
Their parentage is often forgotten, and the history of
their early years unknown ; or perhaps the names of
their parents are preserved with the vague and suspi-
cious addition that they were of very noble birth.
Some few great deeds are on record, but the internal
struggles which led to them are all forgotten ; all at
once they appear before us as perfect Saints, as if no
discipline had been required to form them. We are left
to eke out the scanty materials of their lives with what
we know must have happened, from the character of
the times and from the manners of the age. And yet
perhaps we should hardly regret this ; the picture of a
Saint with the aureole round his head and the meek
expression of joy on his features, may be unlike what
he was in his lifetime, and yet it may be the more like
what he is in heaven now. And after all, if we had
come close to him, a real living Saint, should we have


understood him ? K we had lived with St. Basil, might
we not have been tempted to look upon him as a
peevish invalid, to think him an austere man, or over-
sensitive, or too methodical, and apt to care about
trifles ? Many a holy Abbot must have appeared cross
to a lazy monk. We cannot enter into God's Saints
upon earth ; even if we stand by their side, we could
only make an api)roximation to the truth, as we do now.
This is the case with Saints in scripture. How little
has it pleased the Holy Spirit to disclose of their hid-
den life, just as much of course a| we can bear, and as
was needful for His Church, and yet how little !
Which of the Saints is there that we can picture
vividly to ourselves ? In the case of the blessed Virgin
indeed, the Church has marvellously filled up the out-
line of Scripture ; of her we know one fact, that she
was the Mother of God, and the delicate sense, so to
speak, of the Christian mind, has found out that this
must necessarily involve much more than appears on
the surface of Scripture. The Church has so long
dwelt in love on our ever-blessed Lord in His infancy,
that we almost fancy that we can " come into the
house and see the yomig cliild with Mary His mother."
This may also be the case with St. Paul, who has left
so completely the impress of his mind, on his writings,
but it is hardly so witli any other Saint. St. Mary
may be said to live in Christian doctrine ; St. Paul in
the Holy Scriptures ; but the other great Saints con-
nected with our Lord have their life in Chi-istian tradi-
tion. Even St. John we think of, not as tlie old man
with the golden mitre, but as ever young and Ijeautiful
as we have been used to see him in ecclesiastical pic-
tures and sculptures.

All this may perhaps reconcile us to much that is


disappointing from the paucity of materials in the life
of Aelred. And yet his life is such an important
one, from his being the Cistercian Saint of England,
a sort of EngUsh St. Bernard, as he is called by his
contemporaries, that he seems to deserve that every
effort should be made to put forward the little that
is known with due prominence. All that can now be
done is to interpret the few facts that remain by
making him, what he really was, the representative
of the internal system of the Cistercian order in Eng-
land. Facts taken by themselves prove nothing, and
to suppose that any real knowledge of by-gone times
can be obtained from the bare enumeration of them,
is the same error as it would be to suppose that aU
our knowledge comes to us from experience. With-
out the light thrown upon them by the cross, the events
of the world are the mere stirrings of the sick and dis-
tempered life of humanity ; even the lives of Saints
are the mere developments of a highly moral man, as the
actions of a hero are the development of a great man.
If a Clu'istian theory does not interpret the lives of
Saints, a Pantheistic one will come in its stead. So
we will attempt to show what Aelred was, by showing
in what relation the system of which he was the head
stood to the world and to the church of the period.
As in the life of St. Stephen the external life of the
Cistercians was described, so we will attempt now to
show what was their inward life, and to bring it out in
contrast, not only with the troubled world around, but
with that of the leading ecclesiastics of the time. It
will then be seen how the cloister was the remedy pro-
vided by God for keeping up the contemplative life
amidst the busy and distracting scenes in which eccle-
s iastics were obliged to take part. It is easy to do this


in the case of Aelred, because we have a most com-
plete insight into his religious character from liis writ-
ings ; and because as he himself is the historian of
much that is related, we are only endeavouring to look
upon the troubled scene without the cloister as he did
himself. And all this it is hoped may reconcile us to
the scantiness of facts about himself, and also to the
long digressions which such a plan involves ; for it is
impossible to give an idea of the work in which he
was engaged without pointing out what were the wants
of the Church of the period. Besides which we can-
not gain a correct view of the middle ages from the
lives of Saints alone. They had their good and bad
points, like other ages ; and in order to understand
the twelfth century, the world and the cloister must
be shown in opposition. Thus, though the cloister
of Rievaux will be the central point of the whole,
the reader will not be surprised to find himself some-
times on the banks of the Rhine, or beyond the Alps,
or to hear the din of border warfare breaking on the
peace of the monastery. Though from the fewness of
materials, we only catch glimpses of Aelred at inter-
vals, still we will do our best to draw a truthful pic-
ture of him, at once the Saint of England and of Scot-
land, once well known from the Frith of Forth to the
banks of the Tine and the Tees, the man of peace in
the midst of barbai'ian war.

The Old Monastery.

In the beginning of the reign of Henry I. the
ancient monastery of Hexham was in a miserable
state. • Its three Churches were in ruins, and the vast


monastic buildings were desolate ; for ever since the
Danes had sacked and plundered it, there had been no
monks to dwell there. ^ One chaplain alone, a married
priest, lived there with his family, a careless and
indifferent man, with one strong feeling in his soul,
and that was a love of the old royal line of England,
and a hatred of the Normans. The circumstances
which led to his dwelling thus with his children, in
the midst of the ruinous Abbey buildings, make up a
long tale of mingled good and evil. He was appa-
rently one of a priestly race ; for his grandfather and
father were priests before him. His grandfather,
Alured, the son of Weston, was a good and a learned
man. He used to go about through the North, re-
pairing the ancient places which the devastation caused
by the Danes had laid waste. One day, there came to
him a man who dwelt at Hexham. He told him that
an old man dressed in pontifical garments had appeared
to him in a dream, and had bidden him go to Alured,
and command him to come to Hexham, and search for
the relics of the Saints which were buried there.
Alured bethought himself awhile, whether this dream
were worth attending to ; but he looked at the man
who had brought him the news, and felt that they
were true. He was a plain man, one of the inferior
nobility of the realm, ^ and one who had had in his

' Post desolationem Nordhymbrorum quam, irruentibus in
Angliam Danis,miserabiliterincurrit,sicutciBterahujusecclesise,
ha3c Hagulstadensis, ut verbis propheticis utar, multo tempore
sine sacerdote, sine ephod, sine teraphim gemebunda resedit.
Quicquid de lignis fuerat, ignis absumpsit, bibliotheca ilia no-
bilissima quam prsesul sanctus condiderat tota depcriit. MS.

2 Vir quidam de minoris ordinis proceribus. Ibid.


roush life far more to do with the lance than with the
psalter. He thought, therefore, that he might be
trusted, and went with him to Hexham. They
travelled through St. Cuthbert's domain, and came to
Tynedale, a wasted and depopulated country, and
when they came to Hexham, the miserable inhabitants
of the place gathered about them, to see what they
were doing amongst the ruins. When they heard
their errand, the poor people caught their enthusiasm,
and brought spades, and set to work to lielp them. From
dawn of day they searched till mid-day came, and they
found nothing ; they searched as men look for trea-
sure, for the names of Acca and Eata, the ancient
Saints of Hexham, whose bodies they hoped to find,
were known as household words in the hut of every
peasant of Northumberland. They who have no
friends on earth, naturally look about them for friends
in heaven, and in the midst of their wasted and de-
populated fields, they bethought themselves of those
who originally reclaimed the country from heathenism.
And now they worked on, for they hoped to see before
evening fell, and to touch, their sacred relics ; but the
day was far advanced, and they had found nothing,
and in their disappointment they began to laugh at
Alured, for having come all the way from Durham
on a fool's errand. But his entluisiasm did not cool,
and he rose up, and taking a mattock, went to the
porcli of the Church, and struck it deep into the
ground, saying that there were the holy Bishops
buried. So the people set to work again, and by and
bye they came to two stone coffins, and there lay the
bodies of the Saints, waiting for a blessed resurrection,
clad in their pontifical robes, which time had not
impaired. And all that night they watched about


them with chanting and prayer, and the next day
they phxced them in a sh'rine on the south side of the
Church, near the sacristy. Time went on, and the
Conqueror ruled in England, and another storm of war
had depopulated Tynedale. Other lords possessed the
land, who had never heard of the holy Bishops of
Hexham. But cruel as was the rule of the new
possessors of the soil, yet they brought reformation
with them. The Norman Bishop of Durham, Wil-
liam of St. Carilefe, loved not the lazy canons, who,
without submitting to any rule whatever, lived on the
broad lands which stretched from the Tine to the Tees.
They were but poor representatives of St. Cuthbert,
those thriftless canons, and it was well to remove
them. They had the option of becoming monks if
they pleased, and provision was made for them if they
chose still to be secular.^ One alone, the dean, was
persuaded by his son, a monk, to remain and take the
vows ; the others all remained in the world. There
was one among them who disdained to receive any
thing at Norman hands, and this was the son of
Alured. The royal family of England was in exile ;
English prelates and abbots were compelled to make
room for foreigners ; he himself and his brethren were

' Successit Walchero Guillelmus habitu nionachus, qui clericos
ab ecclesia Dunelmensi eliminans monachos subrogavit, et
aliis quidem possessiones extra ecclesiam ordinavit, alios id
suscipere contemnentcs expeilere non cunctavit. Intra quos
praedicti Aluredi filius qui caeteris praeerat, cum nihil ab episcopo
suscipere dignaretur, adiit venerabilem archiepiscopum Thomam
qui primus Normannorum rexit ecclesiam Eboracensem rogans
ut ei Hagulstudensem ecclesiam daret sedificandam. — It does
not appear what " qui praeerat" means, for the dean became a
monk of the new monastery. Simeon Dunelm. b. iv. 3.


turned out of their liouse at Durham, and he disdained
to be a pensioner of the stranger. So he bethought
himself of Hexham, the seat of the old Saxon bishops,
and went there to hide his head till better times came.
And, indeed, there were rumours of war in tlie North,
and the king of Scotland might still make a fight for
St. Edward's line, though Edgar the Atheling had
submitted to the Conqueror, and was soon to assume
the cross under Robert, AVilliam's eldest son. So away
went Eillan, for such was his name, to Hexham. The
Bishop, who seems to have been indulgent to the
refractory canons, gave him his sanction, though, in-
deed, Eillan need have been in no dread of a rival, for
his new dwelling was a sad scene of desolation. The
country around was still bleeding from the vengeance
of the Conqueror and the »Scot, and in the midst of
the deserted fields arose the ruined Abbey itself. ^ Its
Church was half unroofed, and the rain and the snow
forced a ready entrance tlirough the gaps in the tiles ;
the tesselated pavement was in many places torn up,
the windows were dashed in, and the high columns
were covered with green moss, and vdih damp, which
was rapidly eating away the frescoes on the walls, and
on the arch which divided tlie nave from the choir. ^

' Veniens ad locum homo invenit omnia desolata, muros
ecclesiae sine tppmine sordere feno, silvis supercrescentibus hor-
rcre, litura imbribus et tempestate dejecta, nihil pristini retin-
uisse decoris. Erat autem talis terra} illius desolatio ut fere
biennio ex solo venatu et aucupio se sum, que familiam sus-
tineret. So well was the remembrance of the family kept at
Hexham, that there was not long ago, and may be still, a street
in Hexham called Eilan's street.

- Arcum sanctuarii historiis et imaginibus et variis caelatu-
rarum fisuris— decoravit. Rich. Hagulst. de statu eccl. c. 3.


Amidst these ruins lived tlie family of the Saxon
priest ; the Abbey lands were amply sufficient for
their maintenance, but there were no corn-fields
around, and no vassals to till them ; so they lived on
hunting and hawking for two years after their arrival,
and in the thick woods around them, many a wild deer
was aroused by the horns and the hounds of the
Saxons. Not long after they came there, the Abbey
lands were given to a Norman, by Gerard, Arch-
bishop of York, and this of course did not make Eillan
love the strangers a whit more. He was alloAved to
continue there as chaplain, and a large part of the
proceeds still came to him. After his death, his son,
also called Eillan, the priest whom we have seen at
Hexham, succeeded his father. He found himself heir
to the ruined Abbey, and he inherited too the feelings
and prejudices of his family, the love for Hexham and
its Saints, and for the old royal line of England, and
probably, no great good-will to the Norman rulers,
ecclesiastical or civil. But it is said of him that he was
" a sinner, and that he lived as he ought not to have
done."^ What this means is not known, but it is pro-
bable that he was of the jovial race of hunting priests,
who knew more about the winding of horns and the
cheering of hounds than about Gregorian chants ; for
these unsacerdotal accomplishments were but too com-
mon among the Saxon clergy of the time. This was

' Qui, licet peccator secus quam oportuit vixerit — ecclesias,
tamen Christi renovandas ornandas serviendas devotum se et
sollicitum exhibebat. — MS. Bodl. From the same manuscript
it appears, in the dedication of his life of St. Bridget, that
Lawrence, Abbot of Westminster, knew Eillan, and received
from him the original life, which being " semi-barbara," he
polished up and made " Latinissima."


not a promising character for the father of a Saint, and
yet Eillan had three sons, one of whom was Aelred,^
and a daughter, who became a holy recluse.

The present is not the first time in the annals of
England that her monastic system has been extinct ;
at least it was so in the north at the period of which
we write ; and in the south the spirit of monks
seems to have well-nigh disappeared, though there
were still vast Abbeys, flourishing in worldly wealth.
But their Abbots were often men frank-hearted and
generous, yet with far more of the noble lord about
them than of the churchman. A type of them was
the high-spirited Abbot of St. Alban's, who disdained
to submit to the Conqueror, and left his Abbey for the
fastnesses of Ely, where Ilereward was still fighting
for the old royal line of England. In the North,
however, monastic life was fairly extinct, and if by
chance a stray monk, in the black Benedictine habit,
was seen north of the Humber, men stared at his
cowl and shaven crown as they would at the strange
dress of a foreigner.*^ Aelred, then, was born amid
the very ruins of the ancient monasticism of the
North. Instead of the green banks where grew
primroses and violets, the first place where his little
feet would naturally take him, would be the ruined
nave of the old chm-ch, with its mysterious side
chapels ; and there were beautiful faces of Saints peer-
ing out upon him, amidst the damp green moss which

' The common date for the birth of St. Aelrod is 1 109. The
evidence of this depends on the date assigned for his death in
the life of him, given in the Bollandists, which says that he
died in 1166, in his fifty-seventh year.

- Simeon Dunelm. in. ann. 1074.


was struggling with tlie bright colours of the frescoes.
And he would first hear of St. Wilfrid, the founder of
Hexham, though his relics were far away at Canter-
bury, for it was he Avho traced the pictures on the
walls, to instruct the barbarous people whom he had to
teach. ^ He would hear, too, of Acca, the successor of
St, Wilfrid, the friend of Bede, for though his name
was almost forgotten in the ecclesiastical calendar, the
peasants kncAV his shrine, and every little child could
tell where the relics of the holy Bishop lay.^ His
first play-ground would be the ruined cloisters of the
Abbey, where the crosses still marked the graves of
the old monks. And the stories w^hich lie heard were
of the good St. Edward, with tales of King Alfred's
wars and of Edmund L'onside.

He was not many years old when a change took
place at Hexham, which took away some portion of its

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