Joseph Priestley.

A general history of the Christian church, from the fall of the western empire to the present time (Volume 2) online

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he made Becket his legate for all England, except
tho diocefe of York.

Thus fupported, the archbifhop wrote letters
to the king, firft in a mild ftrain, but afterwards in

E 3 a more


a more lofty one, magnitying the facerdotal dignity
and threatning the king with the anger of God ;
which provoked him Hill more. But: fearing left
the archbifliop or the popes legates fhould excom-
municate him, and lay his kingdom under an in-
terdifl, he appealed to the pope. To this extre-
mity Bcckefc had inteiided to go; but hearing of
the king's ilinefs at this time, he deferred it for the
prefent, and contented himfelf with excommuni-
cating the bifhop of Oxford and fome other per-
fons whofe condutl offended him, as too com-
plaifant to the king, and all tjiofe who fhould taka
any thing belonging to his fee of Canterbury. At
the fame iime he admonifhed the king to give fatis-
fa£lion to the church ; for that, otherwife, he fhould
certainly excommunicate him. He alfo condemned
the fixteen articles of antient cuftoms, and excom-
municated all thofe who fhould be governed by

In thefe circumflances the king wrote to Eng-
land, to acquaint the people with his appeal to the
pope, and forbad his clergy to obey the archbiihop.
And fome time after the bifhops, by his order, af-
fembled in London, where they wrote to thepOpe
in favour of the king, who, they faid, only wifhed
to punifh, as they obferved, thofe of the clergy who
fhould be convifted of great crimes. They aii'b
complained of the archbiiliop, as haying aded im-



tjroperly, efpecially irritattng the king by his threats
of excommunication, and of laying the kingdom
under an interdi6l, and having adually excommu-
cated feveral oi their own body : but againft this
they appealed to his holinefs. They alio wrote a
letter ol expoftulation to the archbifhop himfelf,
exhorting him to behave with more patience, hu-
mility, and gratitude to the king. In anfwer to
this, he reproached ?hem wifh cowardice, and
abandoning the common caufe of the church.

The king and tlie archbifhop having ooth ap-
pealed to ihe p^pe, he prorailtd to fend legates o
negotiate a peace between rhcm. In th* tne;,ii
time, the king threatk^ned the Cillercians wih ihc
lofs of all that they held in h-s teiriiories K.r re-
ceiving his enemy ; and in conlvqacnce ot this
Becket was obliged to leave Ponti^ni, wheie lie
had refided two years, and he wuic tj Sens, whcie
he remained four years.

When the bifliop of Oxford and the deputies
of Becket waited on the mother of Hetjry, a woman
of fenfe and fpirit, ftie excufed her f^n's condrtCt,
as proceeding from his zeal for juftice, and irritated
by the malice of the bifhops. They ordained,
ihe faid, clergymen without choice, and without
attaching them to any church ; and the c jnfequence
was that, thro' idlenefs, they committed many
crimes. A clergyman, fhe obferved, without a

:E 4 title


title or benefice, had nothing to lofe, he feared no
temporal punifhment, for his holy orders fecured
him from that, and he did not fear the prifon of
the bifhop, who would rather kt him go unpunifh-
ed than be at the expence of maintaining and
guarding him. The biihops, fhe alfo faid, gave
to one clergyman five or fix benefices, which oc-
cafioned difiPerences about prefentations and col-
lations, and laftly that the bifhops received mo-
ney for conniving at the offences of which perfons
were accufed before them. To all this the depu-
ties were unable to make any anfwer, and owned
that there was the true foarce ot the mifchief.

In A. D. 1167, the legates arrived from the
pope ; but though they had ieveral conferences
with the king, the archbifhop, and the bifhops of
England, at the head of whom was the bifliop of
London, who made many complaints of the tyran-
ny of Becket with refpe6l to himfelf, nothing was
concluded. But the king ftill faid he would a:bide
by the decifion of the pope.

When Henry and the king of France made
peace, the archbifhop apprehenfive of lofing his
chief fupport in the friendfhip ot the latter, and
alfo urged to it by the pope, who always gained
more by the differences than the agreement of
princes, went to make his fubmiffion, and even
prppofed to refer all the articles of tlieir differenoft

sec.v. the christian church. ys

to the king himfelf, in which, from the knowledge
he had of the king's generofity, he might think
himfelf fafe. But as, in doing this, he added/^-y-
ing the honor of God, the king was very angry, ob-
ferving that, whatever difpleafed himfelf, he would
fay was contrary to the honour oi God. The king,
with the greatefl firninefs, propcffed that Becket
fhould only do to him what the greatefl; of his prc-
deceffors in the archbilhoprick of Canterbury had
always done to the meaneft of his predeceffors the
kings of England. This, however, the haughty
prelate refufed ; faving, that hi^ predeceffors had re-
formed fome abufes, but had left others to be re-
formed by him. This appearing extremely unrea-
fonable to the lords of both kingdoms, they faid
he was an obftinate man, refilling the will of both
the kings, and ought to be abandoned by them
both. Accordingly, botli the kings mounted their
horfes, and left him without even the common fa-

Some time after this, the king of France confi-
derisg probably the advantages he might fome-
time derive from fuch a fpirited opponent to his
rival, relented in his favour, and allowed him an
honourable maintenance as before. Encouraged
by this, the archbifhop again excommunicated all
thofe who had feized any thing that belonged to
him as archbifliop of Canterbury* and elpecially

E 5 ^ the


the bifhop of London ; and the confequence of
this was, that the king could hardly find a perfon
in his own chapel who would give him the kifs of
peace at mafs, for the clergy were almoft all ex-
communicated, either dire6lly or indireftiy, as hav-
ing communicated with thofe who were fo. On
this the king applied to the pope to get them ab-
folved ; but all that he could obtain was that the
pope would fend A nuncio to make peace.

Accordingly they met the king at Domfront in
France, when the king, not liking the pope's pro-
pofal, which was fimply to receive the archbifhop
into his favour, began to threaten fomething, they
replied, " Do not threaten us, for we do not fear
*' you. We belong to a court which is accuftomed
^- to command emperors and kings." In their far-
ther conferences, th€ king, provoked at their in-
fodence, faid he fliould not value their excommu-
nications an egg. Afterwards, however, he was
appcafed, and promifed he would reinftate Becket
in his archbifhoprick ; but not being able to agree
on the form of the oath to be taken on the occafion,
the king infilling on his promifmg with a/avhig of
the dignity of his kingdom, and the archbifhop witfi
Sifaving of the rights of the church, the conferences,
which had been carried on at different places, broke
up without any good effect.



The king, hearing of a legate to be Tent to
England, and dreading the probable confequences
of it, ordered that, if any perlon fliould be found
there with letter* from the pope, or the archbilhop,
containing an interdi6t on the kingdom, they
Ihould be feized and executed as traitors ; and that if
any bifhop, abbot, or other ecclefiaftic, fhould
obferve the interdifl, they fhould be banifhed,
together with all their relations, and their goods
fhould be confifcated. All appeals to Rome were
forbidden, as alfo the payment of Peter pence,
and what there was of that tax already levied was
to be kept in the exchequer, to be difpofed of as
king fhould dhefi.

The lay lords conformed to thefe fpirited orders
of the king; but the bifhops and abbots refufed,
efpecially the bifhops of Winchefler, of Exeter,
and of Norwich ; and this feems to have encouraged
the archbiOiop and the pope to oppofe to the bold
mcafures of the king, meafures as bold on their
fide. For, after fome other attempts to promote
a reconciliation had proved inefFe6lual, the pope
took off the archbifliop's fufpenfion, in cafe the
king did not give fatisfa6iion to the church before
Eafler in a. d. 1169; and Becket, anticipating
this term a fortnight, fent orders to all the clergy,
that if the king did not make tlie required fatis-
fe6lion before candlemas, they fhould difcontinue



all the public ofEces of religion, except the bap-
tifm of infants, penance, and the viaticum ; tor
which purpofe they might fay mafs, but with the
doors fhut, and excluding all excommunicated
.perfons. Many perfons the archbifliop excom-
municated by name, efpecially the bifhops Lon^
don, and Salifbury, and the archdeacon of Can-
terbu ry .

The pope feconded thefe violent proceedings
of Bccket, giving commifiion to the archbifhop of
Rouen to lay an interdid on all the king's domi-
nions in France, except that infants might be bap-
tized, and the viaticum given to the dying, if after
forty days he did not receive the archbifhop into
favour. He alfo forbad the archbilhop of York to
crown the king's fon, inflead of the archbifhop of
Canterbury, whofe prerogative it had been. This,
however, was aQuall}' done, no perfon having de-
livered the pope's letters.

At length the king, fearing the effect of the et-
communication, agreed to make peace with Beck-
et ; and meeting once more, they behaved to each
other with the greatell complaifance, efpecially the
king, who was naturally generous, and on this
occafion Ihewed the greateft command of temper.
It does not appear that any particular terms were
made, only the king prornifed to make reftitution
of whatever belonged to Becket as archbifliop.


Sec.v. the christian church. rr

With this promife he went to England, where
he arrived in November a. d. 1170, and was re-
ceived with the mod joyful acclamations by the
common people. But refufing to abfolve the ex-
communicafed bifhjps, he was ill received by the
friends of the king, and two of them, viz. Roul and
Robert de Broc, v^ho were brothers, having ofFered
him fome infult, he excommunicated them.

The archbifbop of York having informed the
kinor of this, and complaining that Becket was a-
gain difturbing the kingdom by his cenfures, the
king, being in a violent pafTion, curfed thofe who
had received fo many favours from him, and would
not revenge him of one prieft, who difturbed his
kingdom, and would deprive him of his dignity.
Four knights, hearing of this, agreed among them-
felves to difpalch the archbifhop ; and with this
view, leaving the court, which was then in Nor-
mandy, they went 10 Canterbury, and having firfl
infulted the archbifliop in his own houfe, followed
him into the church at vefpies, and rufliing upon
him with their fwords, foon put an end to his life.
Seeing their purpofe, he received them with the
greateft firmnefs, and in dying recommended his
caufe, and that of the church, to God, to the holy-
virgin, to the holy patron of tnat church, and to
the martyr St. Dennis. This was the 29th of De-
cember, A, D, 1 1 70. While, after this, the knights



and their companions were plundering the archie-
pifcopal palace, the common people were gather-
ing the relicks of Becket, and preferving tliem with
the greateft care.

The king was ferioufly concerned when he
heard what had been the confequence of his raSi
language ; and dreading the vengeance of the pope,
efpeciallyas holy Thurfday, on which it was cufto-
mary at Rome to publifh excommunications, was
at hand, he made all hafte to difpatch ambaffadors
to the pope ; and as he promifed abfolute obedi-
ence to his orders, the pontiff contented himfelf
with excommunicating the murderers of Becket,
their abettors, and all who fiiould afford them re-
lief or proteftion. He then fent legates to receive
the king's fubmiiTion, which he made in the moll
ample m-anner, after foiemnly declaring that he
had no knowledge of the murder of the archbifhop ;
yet, becaufe his rafh expreflions had been the oc-
cahon of it, he promifed to fend to Jerufalem two
hundred knights to ferve a year at his expence, to
take the crofs himfelf for three years if the pope did
not excufe him, to difcontinue the antient cuflom
v/hich gave offence to the church, to admit of ap-
peals to Rome, to rellore to the church of Canter-
bury all the lands belonging to it, and to receive
into his favour all thofe perfons with whom he had
been difpleafcd on account of Becket. The legates



alfo enjoined the king fecret facing, alms, and o*
ther penances. The king's fon alfo pvomifed that
he would difcharge the articles of the penance, if
his fiither fhould be prevented by dearh.

The pope being niformed of the mnacles faid ta
have been wrought at the tomb of Becket, folemn-
ly canonized him in February a. d. 1173, as one
of the martyrs. Tae four knights who had mur-
dered him were held in fo great execration, that
no perfon chofe to eat with them, or even to fpeak
to them. Finding themfelves in thefe circumAaa-
ces, they went to Rome, and confefling their crimej
the pope impofed upon them the penance of going
to Jerufalem; but one of them dying before bs
arrived thither, and the three others prefently aff
t«r, all within three years of the deed, it was corr-
fidered as a divine judgment.

Henry himfelf being embarraflfed by the v/ar
with his fons, and almoft abandoned by his fubjeclsj
whether in order to recover his popularity with liis
fuperflitious people, or to cafe his own mind, went
to Canterbury, which had immediately become a
place of general refort as a place of pilgrimage, in
July A. D. 1174, to make fatisfaClion at Becket's,
now SL Thomas's, tomb. Being arrived there, he
fet out from the church of St. Dunftan, which is
at a diftance from the city, cloathed with a tunic
of coarfe wool, walking b.^refooted thro' the dirty



flreets, till he came to the tomb. Then proftrat-
ing himfelf, he received the difciplme properly
fo called from all the bifhops and abbots who were
prefent. Alfo every monk in the raonaftery gave
liim a blow on his naked back. After this, he
continued proftrate all that day, and the night
following, without taking any nourifhment. He
then vilited all the altars in the cathedral church,
and again returned to the tomb of Becket. On
faturday at day break he afked for a mafs in honour
of the new faint, and then left the city with great

So famous was the tomb of Becket, as an ob-

jeft of pilgrimage, that Lewis king of France, ad-
monifhed, as he thought, in a dream that he could
not otherwife obtain relief for his fon Philip, who
was ill, than by making a pilgrimage to Canter-
■\ bury, applied to Henry for his leave to do

it. Henry not only gave him leave, but in a libe-
ral manner defrayed all his expences.




Of the Monks in this Period,

N this period, as in the preceding, the
orders of monks kept advancing in power and con-
fideration, notwithftanding many complaints ot
their degeneracy ; owing to the greater degeneracy,
and the greater ignorance, ot the fecular clergy.
Alfo, by their fuperior influence with the popes,
to whom they were always peculiarly devoted, and
the favour of the princes, to whom they made
themfelves ufeful, they continually gained new-
privileges, tho' in the end thefe were prejudicial
to their intereft.

For the fervices that Bernard rendered pope
Innocent, he, in a. d. 113I, granted a privilege
to his houfe at Clairvaux, and all the Ciftercians„
of paying no tythes of their poireffions, which was
the caufe of great animofity between the Cifter-
cians and the other monks, efpecially thofe of

The monks were always eager to obtain ex-
emptions from the jurifdidlion of the bifhops ; but
they were often fufFerers in confequence of it. In
A. D. 1175 Richard archbifhop of Canterbury
complained to pope Alexander III of thefe ex-
VoL, IV, F emptions.


emptions. " Hence it is," faid he, " that the
*' goods of the greater part of the monafteries are
•' pli.mdered; the abbot thinks of nothing but
*' making good chear, and the monks abandon
*' themfflves to vain difcourfes. I know," fays
he, " that the pope has granted ^hefe exemptions
*' on account of the tyranny of the bifhops ; bat
*' the conJf-ary is the cafe now For the monafle-
" ries which have obtained tht-fe exemptions, ei-
*' ther by the authority of 'he pope, or which is
*' more common, by falle bulls, are fallen into the
" greateft trouble and poverty ; fo that the moft
*' celebrated monafteries have refufed thefe ex^.
*' emptions.'*

At the council of Lateran, in a. d. 1 1 23, there
were great complaints of the incroachments of the
monks. '- Nothing remains," faid the bifhops,
*' but that they take from us the crofs and the
ring, and make us fubmit to their ordinations.
They are in poffeffion of churches, lands, caf-
tles, tythes, the oblations of the living, and of
" the dead. The glory of canons, and of the cler-
" gy is obfcured, fince the monks, forgetting ce-
'* leftial things, feek the rights of bifhops with an
" infatiable ambition, inftead of living in repofe
*' according to the inflitutions of Benedi6l." Oa
this account it was ordered in this council, that
abbots and monks fhould not appoint public pen-



ance, viiit the fick, give the unftion, or fing pub-
lic maffes; that theyftiould receive from the bi-
ihops the holy oil, the confecration of their altars,
and the ordination of their clergy. At the coun-
cil ofRheimsin a. d. 1131, the monks and the
regular canons were forbiddden the pra6lice of the
law or of medicine, which was tacitly allowed to
the fecular clergy, then a neceffary evil, becaufe
thofe profeffions required to be exercifed by men
of letters. Alfoj at a council of Tours in a. d.
1163, held by Alexander III, monks were for-
bidden to leave their monafteries for the cxercife
of thofe profeffions. But it is probable that the
decrees of this council were as little obferved as
thofe of the former. In all the profeffions thofe
perfons will be employed in whom thofe who have
occafion for them have the greateft confidence.

Bernard made great complaint of the relaxa-
tion of difcipline at Clugni. *' Their great feafls,"
he faid, ** confifl indeed of fiffi, but feafoned with
•' the greateft art, they have a variety of exquifite
*' wines, they go to the infirmary for the fake
" of eating flefh, they wear the richeft habits, they
*' travel with fo much pomp, both of men and
*' horfes, that the train of one abbot would fuffice
*' for two biffiops. You would take tkem for lords,
*' and governors of provinces, rather than pallors,
*« and fpiiitual fathers. They can fcarce go four

Fa " leagues


" leagues wirhout carrying all their equipage,
" One of them," he faid, "he knew who travelled
" with no lefs than fixty horfes." He alfo b amed
the magniScence of their churches, for which he
faid there was no pretence wi;,h monks ; their
cloillers alfo were ornamented with ridiculous
grotefques, and painiings unbecoming their cha-

It appears from the writings of Peter the ve-
nerable, abbot of Clugni, in the time of Bernard,
and who wrote in defence of his monallcry againll
Bernard, that difcipline was even then much re-
laxed in that monaftery ; and at that time it con-
tained about four hundred monks. There were
more than three hundred houfes of the order, and
about two thoufand depending upon it, fome of
them in ^he mofl dillant countries, as one at Jeru-
falem, and another at mount Tabor. But after
the time of this Peter it fell into the greateft obfcu-
rity. He governed his monaftery thirty- five years
with fingular prudence, dying in a. d. 1156. Be^
ringtons Abelard, p. 390.

Abbots, as well as the fecular c\tYgY, had
fometimes recourfe to arms. In a. d. 1126 Pons,
who had been abbot of Clugni, returning from the
holy land, took poffeffion of it again by force,
which occafioned a war of fome continuance.
When pope Honorius pronounced a fentence of


excommunication againfl him, he defpifed it, as
well as a more folemn one at Rome, where both
the competitors attended ; Pons faying that only
St. Peter himfelf, who was in heaven, couH ex-
communicate him. However, alter the fecond fen*
tence he was depofed, and confined m a tower,
where foon after he died peni^ent.

Abelard gives a fhocking account of the ftate
of the monafterv of St Gi'das, of which he was
the abbot. The monks, exafperated at his at-
tempts to reform them, firft importunately applied
to him for clothing, and other thm^s with which
they well knew he was not able to fupply them;
and till that time they had fpent what they had
ftolen out of the common ftock, or faved out of
their allowance, in the maintenance of their con-
cubines and children. After this they proceeded
fo far as to make feveral attempts to murder him,
efpscially by po;fon. At the fame time the lord
of the territory, availing himfelf of the notorious
conduci of the monks, feized fuch of their poffef-
lions as he hkc;d ; and if Abelard went beyond the
door of the monaftery, he was met and threatened
by this tyrant or his followers. Bcrington's Hijiory^
p. 189.

But the greateft acls of violence that we meet
with relating to any monaflery were committed by
Oderife abbot of Mount Caflin, Pope Honorius,

F 3 when


ivrhenhe was bifhop of Oftia, haviv-^ had a quar*
rel with him, demanded of him, when he was pope,
a fum ot money for the fupport of the church.
But he replied that, as he had had nothing to do
in the election of a pope, he would not bear the
expence of ore. The pope then fent for hiti7, and
reproved him publicly, as more of a warrior than
an abbot, and for fpending and dillipating the
goods of the monaftery. Being, after this, fum-
moned to appear at Rome, he refufed to go ; and
when the pope pronounced againfthim a fentencc
of depofition, he paid no regard to it. The pope
then proceeded to the excommunication of him,
and all his adherents. But this was fo far from
intimidatmg him, that it produced an open rupture
between them, and caufed a great divifiori among
the monks and the people, who depended upon
the monaftery, fome taking part with the pope,
and others with the abbot. On both fides they
had recourfe to arms; but the friends of the pope
overpowering the others, the monks were obliged
to expel the abbot, and chufe another.

With fome difficulty, one Nicolas, recom-
mended by the pope, was chofen abbot ; but
when Oderife heard of it, he feized the caftle of
Bantra ; and having coileded troops, he deftroyed
thofe catlles which acknowledged Nicolas with fire
and fword. On this Nicolas called to his affiftance



Fobert prince of Capua, and took from the mo-
nallery m.iny valuable ihings, the gifts of princes
and popes, to enable him to carry on the war,
winch maJe the monks bis enemies. At length,
Oderife, delpairing of fuccefi" in any otht-r way,
fubmitted to the p<>pe, and refigned the monaflery
into his hands. The pope then depoied Nicolas,
zrxd excommunicated his adherenf,s; and the monks,
Ihutting ihcir gates agnnll him, fubmitted to nis
ho inels. Ai his rtcommenda:ion, Seignoret was
cho-en abbot ; but the monks, tho' they had yield-
ed thus tar, would not permit hnn to fwear feal y
lo the pope. When they were alkcd, why he muft
iK)t do what other abbots and bifhops did, they
(aid the monallery of M junt Caflia had never been
in any herefy, or entertained any fentiment con-
trary to the church of Rome ; and with this anfwer,
unfatisfaftory as it was, the pope was obliged to

be content.

Another inflance of great diforder occurs in the
monaflery of Lifieu in a. d. 1182, in confequence
of the frequent abfence of their abbot William in
England, on pretence of taking care of the ellates
belonging to his monaflery in that country. There
was no obfervance of the rule within the monaflery,
JBO hofpitality, or alms. The monks quarrelled,
and fometimes fought with knives. They had
propagated a report that they had a miraculous

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