Joseph Henry Allen.

Christian history in its three great periods ... (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibraryJoseph Henry AllenChristian history in its three great periods ... (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


CHRISTIAN HISTORY



IN ITS



Three Great Periods

$cton& fJcriob
THE MIDDLE AGE

BY

JOSEPH HENRY ALLEN

Author of "Hebrew Men and Times," "Our Liberal
Movement in Theology," &c.



Porrc subessc Rortano Pontifxi _orn.r limr-anai creature d-claia-
mus dicimus definimus et pronuntiamus omnino esse de necessitate
salutis. — Bull " Unam Sanctam" of Boniface VIII.



BOSTON

ROBERTS BROTHERS

1883



796:



Copyright, 1883,
By Joseph Henry Allen.



University Press:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.



CONTENTS.



PAGE



I. The Ecclesiastical System 1

II. Feudal Society 29

III. The Work op Hildebrand 54

IV. The Crusades' 79

V. Chivalry 104

VI. The Eeligious Orders 131

VII. Heretics 15g

VIII. Scholastic Theology *. 189

IX. Eeligious Art 225

X. Dante 251

XI. The Pagan Eevival 278

Chronological Outline 305

Index 309



THE MIDDLE AGE.



THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

SEVEN centuries, dating from the time of Charle-
magne, include the Catholic system of the
Middle Age. Strictly speaking, the great era of
ecclesiastical power covers only two centuries and a
half, beginning (about 1050) with the work of Hilde-
brand, and ending with the Jubilee of the year 1300.
In a broader sense, however, the Middle Age extends
from the founding of the Empire of the West in 800
to the dawn of the Protestant Reformation.

Again, it will be convenient to take the exact
middle point of the period thus defined (1150), as the
moment when the spiritual power, properly so called,
culminates. The Papacy reached its greatest political
splendor and strength a little later ; but reasons will
appear for taking the above date as marking the time
of highest vigor in the system as a whole.

Mr. Bryce, in his "Holy Roman Empire," has
made familiar to students of history the theory of
Sovereignty on which the Mediaeval system was built.
It is, shortly, something like this. The ideal govern-



2 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

ment, divinely appointed for all mankind, is of two
sorts, spiritual and temporal. The first (including
worship, morals, and education) is represented by the
Holy Church Universal, whose head is the vicegerent
of God on earth. The second (including political
government, civil order, and military authority) is
embodied in the Holy Eoman Empire, which is, in
theory, alike universal, and inherits direct from that
of Rome as established by the Csesars.

Ideally conceived, the two are co-extensive and
co-ordinate ; but the first has the greater dignity.
The Empire is to the Church as body is to soul, or
(in the phrase addressed by Gregory VII. to William
the Conqueror) as moon to sun, shining only by its
reflected light.

When we speak, then, of the spiritual power of
the Church, we speak not only of its authority over
men's conscience and belief, but of its divine right
to assert that authority, at will, through the " secu-
lar arm " of any state-government the world over ;
nay, to control and overrule all political authority,
or to abolish any which shall not exactly execute its
will.

First of all, in dealing with the theory of the
Catholic Church, it is important to bear in mind that
it regards men — theoretically, every individual of
the human race — not simply as the Objects of its
instruction, discipline, or charity, which Protestant
churches do, but as the Subjects of its government,
which Protestant churches do not. The submission
it requires is first of all obedience to its authority, as
to that of a government. To question this is not



CHURCH AUTHORITY. 3

merely heresy, but rebellion. Assent of reason and
conscience is well also ; but submission to the sover-
eign must be had first. Believe : but first, Obey.

Bearing this in mind, what now is the nature of
this spiritual or ecclesiastical power in itself ? Instead
of discussing its theory in the abstract, I will present
a few familiar aspects of it as they meet our eye.

We see a Church which, after a thousand years of
various fortune, has reached at length a height of
power, the like of which was never held in human
hands, nor, it is likely, conceived in human thought,
elsewhere. It is a power resting on the invisible
foundations of conscience, conviction, and religious
fear. To the popular belief, it holds literally the
keys of heaven and hell. It spans like an arch the
dreadful gulf between the worlds seen and unseen.
Its priesthood rules by express divine appointment ;
and its chief is addressed in language such as it
seems impious to address to any other than to Al-
mighty God*"

We see this Church, in the person of its Priest-
hood, present absolutely everywhere. It carries in
its hand the threads that govern every province of
human life. It enters every house. It is a guest at
every board, a companion at every hearth. It adopts
every new-born babe by its mystic rite of baptism, or
else consigns it, unblest, to endless limbo, that dreary
twilight of hell. It watches over and teaches every
growing child. It regulates the marriage-contract,
and the solemn rites of burial. It guides through
the confessional every scruple of conscience, every

* The Pope is alter Dcus, according to the expression of Paul II.



4 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

impulse of devotion, every affection of the heart. It
offers or withholds, on its own terms, the soul's peace
on earth, and its salvation in eternity.

We see it, in the person of its Pontiffs, maintaining
conflict or alliance, on equal terms, with the powers
of the world. At its will it lifts up the lowly, or
tramples on the proud. To haughty feudal chiefs it
dictates its haughtier counsel or command. A sov-
ereign who (like the Emperor Frederick II.) defies its
authority it punishes by its doom of excommunica-
tion. A stubborn and proud realm (like England) it
lays under the awful shadow of its interdict. It is a
party to all treaties, an accomplice in all political in-
trigues, a power behind the throne mightier than the
throne itself. It allies itself with sovereign, nobles, or
people, as its policy requires : here warily concedes,
there imperiously commands ; gives its license of
conquest to the Norman William, or sets its foot on
the proud neck of the German Barbarossa ; protests
against an English Magna Charta, and defies a French
States-General ; refuses to own allegiance to any
earthly sovereign, and asserts, in the name of God,
its authority to make or unmake kings.

We see it, in the person of its Eeligious Orders,
penetrating to every nook and hamlet, ruling the
popular passion and imagination no less than the
counsel of courts by its imperious word. It stirs
men's minds by its enthusiastic appeal, — sending
forth its enormous hosts under the banner of the
Cross to battle in the Holy Land, or defending the
fastnesses of its empire by the fanatic hate it breathes
against heretic and infidel. By the same insidious,



CHURCH REVENUES. 5

ubiquitous control it arms the invincible valor of its
military monks to war with Turk and Saracen, and
the implacable fanaticism of its mendicant monks to
hunt down heresy at home. With its right hand it
upholds the glorious Orders of the Temple and St.
John ; with its left it guides the merciless police of
the " Holy Office " of Inquisition.

We see its matchless skill and power employed in
the accumulation of enormous wealth. The terrors
of a death-bed, the popular fear of the approaching
Day of Judgment, the enthusiasm that equips the
ranks of the Crusaders, and the disorders of their
impoverished estates, — all are skilfully wrought upon
to fill the treasuries of the Church. It turns its
doctrine of Purgatory into a source of profit, and sets
a fixed price on its Masses for the dead. It makes
a traffic of penance and indulgences. It seizes lands
under forged charters and deeds, and claims the ad-
ministration of intestate estates. It owns half the
landed property of England, a nearly like proportion
of France and Germany. It profits even by the vio-
lence of robbers and plunderers. " Those very men,"
says Hallam, "who in the hour of sickness and im-
pending death showered the gifts of expiatory devo-
tion upon its altars, had passed the sunshine of their
lives in sacrilegious plunder." Thus its power is
extended and increased in a thousand hidden ways,
aiming, apparently, at an absolute monopoly of men's
temporal as well as spiritual estate : a power em-
ployed often in behalf of the enslaved and poor, to
loose the heavy burden and let the oppressed go free ;
often to feed the vices and pride of some bishop-



6 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

sovereign of Bamberg or Cologne, and to strengthen
upon the kingdoms the grasp of the heavy hand of
Borne.

We see its pomp of Priests, with chant and lighted
taper and silver bell, striking the rude mind of bar-
baric ignorance with awe, as some holy spell or ora-
cle. We see its Hermits, in their austere seclusion ;
its trains of Pilgrims, with bead and cockle-shell ; its
Palmers, journeying from shrine to shrine, and bear-
ing the fragrant memory of the Holy Land ; its bare-
foot Friars, sworn to beggary, and wrangling whether
Jesus and his disciples held in common any goods at
all. We see its secluded Abbey, in some smiling
valley by the waterside, — where its ruins stand yet,
as at Tintern, Holyrood, or Melrose, — a centre of
culture, peace, and religious veneration, almost under
the very shadow of the frowning castle of some feudal
lord ; its stately Cathedral, looming large, as at Stras-
burg or Milan, amid the dark and lowly dwellings of
the city, — the daring and vast proportions, the intri-
cate perfection of workmanship, challenging all mod-
ern rivalry ; its statuary and painting, as in Parma,
Florence, Pome, that from rude beginnings reach
gradually the topmost height of sacred Art. We see
its Universities, at Tadua, Paris, Oxford, thronged
by great armies of young men, as many as twenty
thousand at once, it is said, in a single place : first
the fond care, then the arbiter, at last the invincible
rival of the Church itself in the realm of intellect.
To these we add the troubled yet stirring story of
Feudalism as it slowly shaped itself towards modern
Monarchy ; the gorgeous associations of Chivalry,



CHURCH PENALTIES. 7

throwing its fitful grace over the barbarism of per-
petual strife ; the thrilling adventure of the Crusades ;
the stern devotion and fatal pride of the Military
Orders, which from champions became at length the
victims of ecclesiastical and civil policy.

Lastly, we see its monstrous engine of despotic
power, exercised through Inquisition, Excommunica-
tion, and Interdict. By its secret spies, by the am-
bush of its Confessional, it seeks to lay bare every
private thought or chance breath of opinion hostile to
its imperious claim. No husband, father, brother, is
safe from the betrayal that may become the pious
duty of sister, daughter, bride. No place of hiding-
is sufficiently close, or far enough away, to escape
its ubiquitous, stealthy, masked police. No soldierly
valor, no public service, no nobility of intellect, no
purity of heart, is a defence from that most terrible
of tribunals, which mocks the suspected heretic with
a show of investigation, which wrenches his limbs on
the rack or bursts his veins with the torturing wedge,
and under a hideous mask of mercy — since the
Church may shed no blood — delivers him over to the
secular arm to be " dealt with gently " as his flesh
crackles and his blood simmers at the accursed stake.
That is the Inquisition, the Church's remedy for free
thouoht.

For simple disobedience, it has in its hand the
threat of Excommunication. Shut out from all
church privilege ; shunned like a leper by servants,
family, and friends ; incapable of giving testimony, or
of claiming any rights before a court (so to this day,
or till very lately, by the common law of England) ;



8 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

the very meats he has touched thrown away as pol-
lution ; a bier sometimes set at his door, and stones
thrown in at his casement ; his dead body cast out
unburied, incapable (as was thought) of decay, but
kept whole to bear everlasting testimony against his
guilt, — emperor, prince, priest, or peasant, the ex-
communicated man is met every moment, at every
hand, by the shadow of a Curse that is worse than
death.

The Interdict excommunicates a whole people for
the guilt of a sovereign's rebellion. No church may
be opened, no bell tolled. The dead lie unburied ; no
pious rite can be performed but baptism of babes and
absolution of the dying. The gloom of an awful
Fear hangs over the silent street and the sombre
home ; and not till the Church's ban is taken off can
the people, in these " ages of faith," be free from the
ghastly apparitions of supernatural horror. Nay,
more. The Interdict, in the last resort, " dissolved
all law, annulled all privilege, abrogated all rights,
rescinded all obligations, and reduced society to a
chaos, until it should please the high-priest of Eome
to reinstate order on the terms most conducive to his
own glory and the pecuniary profit of the chief and
his agents."* These are the ultima ratio, the final
appeal of ecclesiastical sway. " From the moment
these interdicts and excommunications had been
tried," says Hallam, "the powers of the earth may
be said to have existed only by sufferance."

The steps by which this vast ecclesiastical empire
had been won, through a campaign of some six cen-

* Greenwood : Cathedra Petri, vol. v. p. 622.



DONATION OF CONSTANTINE. 9

turies, we have briefly traced already.* The period
of conquest being passed, we come now to that of
organization.

The historical fact before us, early in the ninth
century, is the strict alliance between the Eoman
Church and the Empire of Charles and his descen-
dants, together with the temporal power of the Pope
founded on that alliance. The historical fact had
been wrought up into a myth, — as in a rude time all
significant facts are apt to be, — which at the date
we are approaching had already taken distinct form
as accepted history, f

This mythical account reports that Constantine,
when at Eome after his triumph over Maxentius,
suffering with incurable leprosy, had been directed to
bathe in innocent blood ; and to that end had gath-
ered many young children, to be slain for the healing
bath. His compassion, however, did not surfer the
sacrifice, and the infants, with their weeping mothers,
were dismissed with gifts. He was then rewarded by
a vision of the apostles Peter and Paul, who directed
him where to find the Christian bishop Sylvester,
hiding from persecution, who should heal him of his
malady. Converted, and healed by the water of
baptism (that is, the blood of Christ), he bestowed on
Sylvester and his successors, to the end of time, all

* See "Early Christianity," especially the chapters on "Leo the
Great" and "The Holy Roman Empire."

tin a document of the year 1152 it is called "a falsehood and
an heretical fable." Greenwood (Cathedra Petri) quotes Fleury as
saying that it was first cited by Ratramnus, about 875 ; but gives,
himself (vol. v. p. 327), 776, as the date when it was first notified
by Pope Adrian I. to King Charles (Charlemagne).



10 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

the imperial power, dignity, and authority over the
regions of the West, transferring his own seat of
empire to Byzantium ; for it was not meet (he said)
that any earthly sovereign should reign where the
Lord himself had appointed to be the head of his
kingdom upon earth.*

This celebrated fiction of the Donation of Constan-
tine — on which the whole theory of papal sover-
eignty has rested since — is to be taken as the mythical
form in which an age at once unscrupulous and un-
critical had clothed the historical fact with which we
are already familiar. But in the process that fact
was exaggerated to an enormous falsehood, which
made the Pope real Emperor of the West, and all
sovereigns mere delegates acting under his authority.
We shall see, in due time, what this was sure to
lead to.

The moment of the perfect coincidence of the two
powers, spiritual and temporal, was the founding of
the Christian Empire in the person of Charlemagne.
In fact, during this period and that immediately fol-
lowing, the two overlapped each other. Under Char-
lemagne, we may even say that the two were not so
much allied, as fused and blended into one. Some-
thing to Adrian's surprise, it is likely, Charles had
not only presided at the church-council in Frankfort
(794), but had taken in hand to discuss the theologi-
cal points at issue, — the heresy of the Adoptians, and
the worship of images. In the latter, particularly, he
was quite in advance of the average church feeling

* The tale is given in full in Migne's " Patrol ogia," vol. cxxx.,
col. 245-251.



TENURE OF POWER. 11

then, in the clear good sense with which he distin-
guishes between religious homage of images and their
use as pious memorials ; and one is struck, in the
books put forth under his name,* with the ease and
confidence of handling the Scripture argument. Of
his Capitularies, or Imperial Laws, also — particularly
the earlier ones — fully half may be set down as
dealing with matters that, by every fair line of divi-
sion, belong purely to the spiritual power. So plainly
he asserted his own authority, in Church as well as
State.

On the other hand, this frank assuming or combin-
ing of both hemispheres of authority went in the long
run to the clear benefit of the Church as against the
State. Not only the Pope could claim that he had,
conferred the imperial crown by his own hand, and
so, that the spiritual power was the real source of the
political and above it ; but the very tenure of power
worked to weaken the one and confirm the other.
The Pope was head of a spiritual body, which kept
its identity without change. The line of ecclesiastical
tradition was unbroken. A weak Head of the Church
might waver, a profligate one would cause scandal ;
but nothing would be permanently lost. The next
man of intelligence and vigor would by a single turn
of the helm put the ship into her old channel.

It was no such thing with a temporal sovereign, —
least of all with such a monarchy as that of Charles,
however strong in his own person. The turbulent
traditions, the disorderly household, the shifting
frontiers, the degeneracy of descendants, dissensions

* The Libri Carblini, composed, probably enough, by Alcuin,



12 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

among brothers or cousins only to be settled by force
of arms, — these were seeds of weakness and division
always ; and against them was the steady, powerful
pressure of an authority which knew its own mind,
kept its own counsel, and chose its own Head as the
policy of the moment seemed to demand. So that,
within two generations, the royal councils were
controlled by churchmen, and the able, clear-headed,
and ambitious prelate Hincmar, of Eheims, was the
real sovereign of France.

Thus, in the division and decay that so quickly
overtook the empire of Charlemagne, the Church was
able to assert its independent authority as it had
never done before. I shall not attempt to trace the
steps of the revolution. It is sufficient to connect it
with the name of one of the three or four Popes who
have been called " great," — Nicholas I. (858-867),—
and to note the three main acts, or causes of policy,
w r hich have made his brief term memorable.*

In the first of these, Nicholas tried to assert the
jurisdiction of Eome over all the East, and he carried
great weight in the decision ; but, a few years later
(879), a Council at Constantinople definitely rejected
that jurisdiction, and made the separation of East
and West complete. The policy of Nicholas failed

* These were : 1. The steady support of Ignatius, the banished
and persecuted Patriarch of Constantinople, against Photius, an
accomplished and able statesman put in his place by the Eastern
emperor. 2. The firm maintaining of the rights of Theutberga the
divorced queen of Lothaire, a grandson of Louis, King of Lorraine
in the divided Empire. 3. Enforcing the claim of Rome to suprem-
acy over the feudalized and secularized church of France and Ger-
many, as against the powerful and able Hincmar.



GROWTH OF CHURCH POWER. 13

here, exactly as that of Leo had failed before him.*
In the second, the case of the divorced Queen of Lor-
raine led to one of the most extraordinary ecclesiasti-
cal trials on record; and fairly established the Church
of Rome as a court of appeal, to control the lawless
will of kings — this time, as perhaps generally, in
favor of humanity and morals. In the third, the case
of Hincmar, the decision turned on what may be
called a point of ecclesiastical Constitutional Law;
and of this it remains now to say a word.

I have already told, in brief, the myth of the
Donation of Constantine, which was assumed at this
time as the real ground of the temporal authority
claimed by the Church. Now a myth is the vivid
and imaginative picture of a forgotten fact. The
legend about Constantine here is pure invention ;
very probably a wilful fraud. But the thing which
it signifies was real. In fact, and by co-operation of
the imperial government, church power had grown to
what it was, because it was a needed thing in the long
social evolution. Here are the steps : —

1. The accepted Creed must have its recognized
expounder : Theoclosius had forbidden all but the
clergy even to discuss theology.

2. That privilege must be respected : to dispute it,
even, was declared heresy by Arcadius.

* The grounds of the jealousy of the Greeks are thus stated by
Nicholas (Ep. 152) : 1. The affair of Photius. 2. The Latin claim
to Bulgaria. 3. The addition of Filioque to the Creed. 4. Celibacy
required of the Latin clergy. 5. Certain laxities in the observance
of Lent. 6. The false charge of placing a lamb on the paschal
altar. 7. The shaving of beards by the Latin clergy. 8. That a
deacon may be made bishop without having first been presbyter.



14 THE ECCLESIASTICAL SYSTEM.

3. Unity of administration must be had : the decree
of Valentinian (445) had put Gaul in direct subordi-
nation to Borne in the person of Leo ; declaring the
Pope " director and governor," and that " whatever he
ordained should be as law."

4. The spiritual Head must be chosen by those
most competent, — in the interest, that is to say, of
the spiritual order : hence the body of clergy became
self-elective and independent.

5. As the old order of things decayed, the duties of
civil magistrate were forced more and more upon the
church-officers : a ruler of secular rank, with genius
and courage for command, would be compelled (as
Ambrose was) to become a bishop, — a fighting bishop,
perhaps, as often happened in the barbarous times
that followed.

Piety took refuge in the Monastery; and monks
were in demand for offices of administration, however
honestly reluctant. Of such a one a certain bishop
writes : " We seized him unawares, stopped his mouth
close, lest he should adjure us in Christ's name, and
made him deacon ; when we appealed to him by his
fear of God to fulfil the duties of his office. When
he had done this, again with great difficulty we held
his mouth and made him priest." The burden so
imposed must be borne, — how bravely and well
sometimes, we have seen in the compulsory pontifi-
cate of Gregory the Great.

The services of some of these men have been re-
counted by Guizot. Thus Hilary of Aries — the
same stern ecclesiastic who crossed the Alps to dis-
pute with Leo, and who went barefooted summer or



TASKS OF ADMINISTRATION. 15

winter on his parish rounds — " rose early ; received
on rising whoever wished to speak with him ; heard
complaints, settled disputes, and was in short a local
judge of circuit; taught daily, as well as served and
preached at church ; worked with his hands in
carding wool for the poor or cultivating his plot of
ground, and had some useful task for every hour."
Of St. Lupus such was the reputation for sanctity,
that Attila the Hun took him with his army to the
Bhone, thinking no harm could come to him while
the saint was near. Of cultivated mind also, he was
a patron and defender of that learning which was
in danger of being swallowed up in the universal
wreck.

Thus, for generations, the real tasks of adminis-
tration had come to be assumed by officers of the
Church, — sometimes reluctantly, sometimes uncon-
sciously, sometimes (no doubt) with a definite policy,


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryJoseph Henry AllenChristian history in its three great periods ... (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 22)