Mrs. (Anna) Jameson.

Legends of the monastic orders, as represented in the fine arts. Forming the second series of Sacred and legendary art online

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treux, they converted the stony waste into a garden.
When they were set down amid the marshes at Pavia,
they drained, they tilled, they planted, till the unhealthy
swamp was clothed, for miles around, with beauty and
fertility : it is now fast sinking back to its pristine state,
but that is not the fault of the few poor monks, who,
after years of exile, have lately been restored to their
cells,Vnd wander up and down the precincts of that
wondrous palace-like church, and once smiling garden,
like pale phantoms come back to haunt their earthly

It is remarkable that, with all their sumptuous pat-
ronage of art, and all their love of the beautiful in na-
ture, these religious re*cluses have never been accused of
deviating personally from the rigid rule of their Order,
which has been but slightly modified since the days of
Peter of Clugni, who, writing of them about fifty years
after the death of their founder Bruno, has left us such
a striking, and almost fearful, description of their aus-
terities. The rule was the severest ever yet prescribed.
To the ordinances of St. Benedict, which commanded
poverty, chastity, obedience, and daily labor, was added
almost perpetual silence ; only once a week they were
allowed to walk and discourse together. They fasted
rio-orouslv eio;ht months out of the twelve ; flesh was
absolutely forbidden at all times, even to the sick ; of
the pulse, bread and water, to which they were confined,
they made but one meal a day, and that was eaten sep-
arately, and in silence, except on certain festivals, when
they were allowed to eat together. They were enjoined
to study, and to labor with their hands ; their labor con-
sisted in cultivating their fields and gardens, aud in
transcribing books, by which, in the commencement of
of the institution, they supported and enriched their
community. Mr. Ford (Handbook of Spain) speaks
of the Carthusian monks at Paular, as paper-makers
and breeders of sheep on a large scale. The libraries


in the Carthusian convents have always been well filled
with books, even from the first institution of the Order.
St. Bruno, who had been an eminent scholar and
teacher, was careful to provide good books at a great
expense, and these were transcribed and multiplied by
the monks with most praiseworthy industry. When
the Count de Nevers, who had been much edified by
their sanctity, sent them a rich present of plate for their
church, they sent it back as useless to them. He then
sent them a quantity of parchment and leather for their
books, which they accepted with gratitude.*

Peter of Clugni, writing to Pope Eugenius, to com-
plain of some contention relative to the election of a Su-
perior of the Carthusians, thus expresses his admiration
of the Order generally : —

" I thought, and I do not believe I was wrong, that
theirs was the best of all the Latin systems, and that
they were not of those who strain at a gnat and swal-
low a camel : that is, who make void the command-
ment of God for the traditions of men ; and, tithing
mint, and anise, and cummin, and (according to one
Evangelist) every herb, neglecting the weightier mat-

* The several parts of which the Bible consists were in the
middle ages considered more in the light of separate and indepen-
dent books than they are now, when the Bible is accepted as one
book, and it is even difficult to procure the Old Testament and the
New Testament bound separately. We find MS. copies of the
Pentateuch, the Book of Job, the Prophecies, the Four Gospels, the
Revelation, the Canonical Epistles, all in separate volumes. The
copying of the whole Bible was a very long and laborious under-
taking ; and many apologues and legends were invented to en-
courage and extol the merits of so vast a performance. I give
one, quoted in Mr. Maitland's work : —

" A monk who was a scribe, wrote out the whole volume of the
divine law ; but he was a great transgressor, and after his death
there was a sharp contention for his soul : the evil spirits brought
forward his innumerable sins ; the angels counted up the letters in
the volume he had written as a set-off against the same number of
sins. At length the letters were found in a majority of one, by
virtue of which the monk was spared for a while for reformation
in this life." — Dark Ages, p. 268.

ST. BRUNO. 169

ters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. For they
do not consider the kingdom of God as consisting prin-
cipally in meats and drinks, in garments, in labors, and
the like, though these, wisely managed, may do that
kingdom of God good service ; but in that godliness of
which the Apostle says, ' Bodily exercise is profitable
to little, but godliness is profitable to all things, having
promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to
come.' These holy men feast at the table of wisdom ;
they are entertained at the banquet of the true Solomon,
not in superstitions, not in hypocrisy, not in the leaven
of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth."

I have said enough of the Carthusians, to show what
interest attaches to their connection with art ; but, at
first sight, it appears unaccountable, that while the in-
stitution of the Order dates from the year 1084 or 1086,
we do not find that the Carthusians figure in very early
art. This is explained by the circumstance that their
founder and patriarch, Bruno, was not canonized for
more than five hundred years after his death. The Or-
der had increased in numbers, in possessions, and in
influence, but the monks remained secluded, laborious,
and unambitious ; at length, Bruno was declared a
Beato by Leo X. ; — the most humble, and self-denying
of ascetics was beatified by the most luxurious and
profligate of churchmen ! — and he was finally canon-
ized by Gregory XV. in 1623.

Of course, all the single devotional figures of Bruno,
as saint and patriarch, date subsequently to this period ;
he wears the peculiar habit of his Order, the white scap-
ular, which, hanging down before and behind, is joined
at the side by a band of the same color, about six inches
wide. The hands are usually crossed on the bosom,
the head declined, and the whole attitude expresses con-
templation and humility.

There was a fine statue of St. Bruno over the porch
of the hospital of the Carthusians, in the Alcala at
Madrid. (Manuel Pereyra, 1647.) This effigy was so


much admired by Philip IV., that the coachman who
drove him about Madrid had general orders to slacken
his pace whenever the royal carriage passed it, in order
that the king might have leisure to dwell upon it for a
few moments.* This statue I have not seen, but it
could hardly surpass the fine characteristic figure by
Houdon, in the Certosa at Rome. This, for simplicity
and contemplative repose, far exceeds another figure of
the same saint, the colossal statue by Sloedtz, in St. Pe-
ter's, erected soon after the canonization of the saint.

Instead of relating in detail the life of St. Bruno, I
will give it here as represented by Le Sueur, in the se-
ries of pictures painted for the cloisters of the Char-
treuse at Paris, in 1649 ; purchased from the monks,
and transferred to Versailles, in 1776 ; and now in the
Louvre, where the twenty-two pictures fill one room : —

1. Raymond, a learned doctor of Paris, and canon
of Notre Dame, teaching theology to his pupils.

Bruno, born at Cologne, was the son of rich and no-
ble parents, who, proud of his early distinction in let-
ters, sent him to finish his studies in the theological
school at Paris, under a celebrated teacher and preacher,
whose name was Raymond. In this picture Raymond
is instructing his auditors from the pulpit, and Bruno,
under the lineaments of a beautiful youth, is seated in
front, — a book under his arm, and listening with deep

2. The death of Raymond.

This learned doctor, venerated by the people for his
apparent piety and austere virtue, lies extended on his
death-bed. A priest, attended by two young students,
one of whom is Bruno, presents the crucifix. A demon
at the pillow appears ready to catch the fleeting soul.
This may have suggested to Reynolds the imp upon the
pillow of Cardinal Beaufort ; but in both instances it is
a fault of taste which we expect to meet with and ex-
cuse in the early ages of art, but which is inexcusable

* Stirling's Sp. Art, p. 573.

ST. BRUNO. 1 7 i

in painters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centu-

3. The fearful resurrection of Kaymond.

" Now Raymond, being greatly venerated for his ap-
parent sanctity, was carried to the grave attended by a
great concourse of the people ; and as they were chant-
ing the service for the dead, just as they came to the
words ' Responde mihi quantas habes iniquitates/ the
dead man half raised himself from his bier, and cried,
with a lamentable voice, • By the justice of God I am
accused!' thereupon the priests laid down the bier, and
put off the interment till the following day. Next day
they again formed in procession, and as they chanted
the same words, ' responde mihi,' the dead man again
rose up and cried out with a more dreadful voice, ' By
the justice of God I am judged ! ' and then sank down on
his bier as before. Great was the consternation of the
people, and they put off the conclusion of the obsequies
till the third day ; when just as they had begun to chant
the same verse, trembling for the result, the dead man
again rose up, crying with a terrible voice and look,
' By the justice of God I am condemned ! ' Upon this,
priests and attendants, half dead with fear and horror,
rlnng the body out into a field as unworthy of Christian
burial.' In the picture the ghastly terror of the inci-
dent is given with the highest dramatic power without
the slightest exaggeration ; and the effect of the awful
incident on Bruno, who stands behind the officiating
priest, prepares us for the next scene.

4. St. Bruno kneeling before a crucifix in an atti-
tude of profound meditation ; in the background they
throw the body of the canon into an unhallowed grave.

5. St. Bruno teaches theology in the school at

6. St. Bruno, after a long meditation on the dangers
of the world, engages six of his friends to follow him
into a life of penance and seclusion.

7. St. Bruno and his companions prepare to set oft'
for Grenoble, but first they distribute all their worldly
possessions in alms to the poor.


8. Hugo, bishop of Grenoble, had a dream, in which
he beheld seven stars move before him, and remain
stationary above a certain spot in his diocese. When
Bruno and his six companions appeared in his presence
and made their request for a spot of ground on which
to found a reti'eat from the world, he saw the interpreta-
tion of his vision, and bestowed on them a rocky and
barren hollow near the summit of a mountain, about
six leagues from Grenoble.

9. Bruno and his companions, preceded by St. Hugo
on his mule, journey to the village of Chaitreux.

10. St. Bruno founds the monastery afterwards cele-
brated under the name of " La Grande Chartreuse."
(a. d. 1084.) In the picture he is examining the plan
presented by an architect, while masons and other artifi-
cers are seen at work in the background.

11. St. Hugo, bishop of Grenoble, invests St. Bruno
with the habit of his Order.

12. The rule which Bruno drew up for his brother-
hood is confirmed by Pope Victor III. Though in
this picture, and others of the same subject, St. Bruno is
represented as giving a written rule to his monks, it is
certain that his ordinances were not reduced to writing
till after his death.

13. St. Bruno, wearing the chasuble as abbot, re-
ceives several young men into his Order. Among
those who are present is the father of one of the novices,
who seems to lament the loss of his son.

14. Urban II., raised to the pontificate in 1088, had
been one of the disciples of St. Bruno when he taught
in the university of Rheims. On his accession to the
supreme spiritual power, he sent for St. Bruno to aid
him in the administration of his affairs. The picture
represents St. Bruno reading the letter, while the monks
around him exhibit disquiet and consternation. Sev-
eral of these refused to be separated from him, and fol-
lowed him to Rome.

15. St. Bruno is received by Pope Urban II.

16. The pope desired to make St. Bruno archbishop

ST. BRUNO. 173

of Reggio ; but he absolutely declined the honor. In
the picture, St. Bruno in his coarse white habit kneels
before the pope : prelates and cardinals in rich dresses
are standing round.

17. St. Bruno, unable to endure the cares and tur-
moils of the court, retired to a desert in Calabria. He
is seen lying on the ground, and looking up at a glory
of cherubim in the skies.

18. He obtained leave from Urban to found a con-
vent for his Order in Calabria. In the picture he is
seen praying in his cell, while several of his monks are
employed in clearing and cultivating the ground.

19. Roger (or Ruggiero), Count of Sicily aud Cala-
bria, being out on a hunting expedition, lost himself in
the wilderness, and discovered the hermitage of St.
Bruno. In the picture he finds the holy man praying
in his rocky cell, and, kneeling before the entrance, en-
treats his blessing.

20. Shortly afterwards, this same Count Roger of
Sicily besieged Capua, and while asleep in his tent he
beheld in a vision St. Bruno, who warned him that one
of his officers had conspired with the enemy to betray
his army. The count, awaking, is enabled to guard
against the meditated treachery.

21. The death of St. Bruno, who expires on his lowly
pallet, surrounded by his monks. His death took place
in 1200. This is one of the most striking pictures of
the whole series.

22. The last picture represents the apotheosis of the
saint. He is carried up by angels, his white habit
fluttering against the blue sky. Not a pleasant pic-
ture, nor gracefully arranged.

I have described these subjects as painted by Le
Sueur ; but the same incidents have been often repeated
and varied by other painters, employed to decorate the
edifices of the Carthusian Order. Whatever might
have been the austerities of the monks, their churches
and monasteries were in later times sumptuous. Zur-


baran was employed in the Chartreuse of Santa Maria
de las Cuevas, near Seville, already " rich in architec-
ture, in tombs, plate, jewels, carvings, books, and pic-
tures, and celebrated for its groves of orange and lemon
trees, on the banks of the Guadalquiver,"* and repre-
sented the life of the founder and the fortunes of the
Order in twenty-eight pictures.

No one ever painted the Carthusians like Zurbaran,
who studied them for months together while working"
in their cloisters. " Every head looks like a portrait ;
their white draperies chill the eye, as their cold hope-
less faces chill the heart " ; t but the faces are not al-
ways cold and hopeless. The fine head in the Munich
Gallery, styled " St. Bruno with a skull," is probably
a study of a Carthusian monk, after nature, and noth-
ing can exceed the intense devotional aspiration of the
upward look and parted lips.

The series of the life of St. Bruno, painted for the
Chartreuse of Paular by Vincenzio Carducho, consists
of fifty-four large pictures. Twenty-six represent scenes
from the life of St. Bruno, and twenty-six are conse-
crated to the exaltation of the Order. Both the series
of Zurbaran, and that of Carducho, comprise the sub-
jects from the story of the Carthusian martyrs, — a
dark page in our English history.

The Charter-House was suppressed by Henry VIII.,
after existing from 1372 : it was founded by Sir Walter
Manny, of chivalrous memory ; and the history of the
dissolution of the monastery, and the fate of the last
unhappy monks, is feelingly related in Knight's " Lon-
don." The prior Haughton and eleven Carthusian
monks were hanged, drawn, and quartered; one of the
quarters of Haughton's body being set over the gate of
his own monastery. " Ten others were thrown into
prison, a prey to the most horrible tyranny, neglect,
filth, and despair, till they all, but one, died under the
treatment," and he was afterwards executed. " What-
ever we may think of their opinions, these men were

* Turd's Handbook of £i»aiu. t Stirling.



truly martyrs ; deliberately dying, because they would
not accept of mercy offered on condition of violating
their vows and belying their conscience." In the series
by Carducho, two pictures represent the monks in their
white robes, dead or dying, and chained to the pillars
of their dungeon ; and open doors give a view of Catho-
lic martyrs in the hands of grim Protestant tormentors.
In the third, three Carthusians are hurried otFto execu-
tion on a hurdle drawn by horses, which are urged to
their full speed by their rider, in the dress of a Spanish

This whole series has been removed from Paular to
the Museum at Madrid, where it is placed in the first
hall as we enter. Mr. Stirling's observations on the
present locality of these pictures are in such good taste,
and so often applicable to other changes of the kind,
that I give the passage entire : —

" Like many other trophies of Spanish art, these fine
works of Carducho have lost much of their significance
by removal from the spot for which they were painted.
Hang on the crowded walls of an ill-ordered museum,
his Carthusian histories can never again speak to the
heart and the fancy as they once spoke in the lonely
cloister of Paular, where the silence was broken only
by the breeze as it moaned through the overhanging
pine-forest, by the tinkling bell or the choral chant of
the chapel, or by the stealing tread of some mute white-
stoled monk, the brother and the heir of the holv men
of old, whose good deeds and sufferings and triumphs
were there commemorated on canvas. There, to many
generations of recluses, vowed to perpetual silence and
solitude, these pictures had been companions ; to them
the painted saints and martyrs had become friends ; and
the benign Virgins were the sole objects within these
melancholy walls to remind them of the existence of

" In the Chartreuse, therefore, absurdities were veiled,
or criticism awed, by the venerable genius of the place;
while in the Museum, the monstrous legend and ex-


travagant picture, stripped of every illusion, are coolly
judged of on their own merits as works of skill and
imagination. Still, notwithstanding their present dis-
advantages of position, these pictures vindicate the high
fame of Carducho, and will bear comparison with the
best history ever painted of the Carthusian Order."

But neither Carducho nor Le Sueur have equalled
Zurbaran in characteristic expression. I recollect a
picture by him in the Aguado Gallery, which represents
a curious legend of St. Hugo. Hugo, it will be re-
membered, was bishop of Grenoble when Bruno founded
the first Chartreuse. He frequently left his bishopric,
and resided among the Carthusians as a humble brother
of the Order, devoting himself for months to a life of
austerity and seclusion. On one occasion, when he
appeared in the refectory, he found the monks seated
motionless, for, although it was a festival, they were not
permitted to eat any flesh whatever, and, no other food
being obtainable, fowls had been served up before them.
In this picture seven Carthusians, looking very grave,
and some with their white cowls drawn over their heads,
as if resigned to fasting and despair, are seated at table ;
the aged bishop, in purple vestments, attended by a
page, stands in the foreground, and by the sign of the
cross converts the fowls into tortoises.* Of Hugo of
Grenoble it is related, that for forty years he was troubled
and haunted by Satan after a very singular fashion.
The demon was continually whispering to his mind in-
trusive questionings of the providence of God in per-

* Not into turtle. The small land -tortoise was considered
as fish. There is a similar picture in the Museum at Madrid,
mentioned by Mr. Stirling (Artists of Spain, 771).

A legend similar to this of St. Hugo is related of St. Ulrich, first
bishop and patron saint of Augsburg. On a fast-day he converted
flesh into fish; and in German prints and pictures he is repre-
sented with a fish in his hand, as in the fine woodcut of Albert
Diirer, in which he stands with St. Erasmus and St. Nicholas. (Sa-
cred and Legend. Art.) Where there is a key with the fish, it is
St. Benno.


mitting evil in this world. Hugo firmly believed that
such thoughts could only come by diabolical suggestion.
He endeavored to repel them by fasting, prayer, and
penance, and he complained bitterly to his spiritual
father, the pope, that he should be, in despite of his
will, thus grievously tormented. The pope, Gregory
VII. (the great and sagacious Hildebrand), possibly
smiled to himself at the simplicity of the good bishop,
and assured him it was only a trial of his virtue. Never-
theless, in spite of pope and penance, these perplexing
doubts pursued him to the grave, without, however,
obtaining any dominion over his mind or disturbing his

St. Hugo of Grenoble died in 1132.

It is necessarv to distinguish between this St. Huo-h
of Grenoble, and another St. Hugh, also a Carthusian,
and connected in an interesting manner with our own
ecclesiastical history. He was sent here in 1126, by
Pope Urban III., and consecrated Bishop of Lincoln.
To him we owe the rebuilding of the cathedral, which
had been destroyed by an earthquake ; the greater part
remains as this good bishop left it, — one of the most
splendid and perfect monuments of the best period of
Gothic architecture. The shrine of the founder, rich
in gold and gems, and yet more precious for its exquis-
ite workmanship, stood behind the choir. It was confis-
cated and melted down at the Eeformation. Such
memorials of St. Hugh as offered no temptation to
Henry VIII. were destroyed by those modern Vandals,
the Cromwellian soldiery, who stabled their horses in
the nave of the cathedral; and the sole memorial of this
excellent and munificent priest, within the glorious pre-
cincts raised by his piety, is the stained glass in the
rose window of the south transept. This contains sev-
eral scenes from his life, confused and dazzling, from the
rude outlines and vivid coloring, so that the only one


I could make out distinctly was the translation of his
remains, when the two kings of England and Scot-
land bore him on their shoulders to the porch of the

His name is retained in our calendar, November 17th.

Devotional pictures of St. Hugo are rare. One
represents him in the Carthusian habit, over it the
episcopal robes, the mitre on his head and the pastoral
staff in his hand. By his side a swan, his proper attri-
bute, which is here the emblem of solitude, in which he
delighted. He has sometimes three flowers in his hand,
or an angel who defends him against the lightning,
emblems mentioned in the German authorities, but not

There was a third St. Hugh, a little St. Hugh of
Lincoln, who was not indeed a monk, but his story is
one of the late monkish legends. The popular hatred
of the Jews, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is set
forth, and not exaggerated, in the tale of Ivanhoe. It
should seem that our ancestors regarded the whole
Jewish nation as if they had been the identical Jews
who crucified our Saviour; as if every individual Jew
represented, to their imaginations, the traitor Judas.
To this fanatic hatred was added, on the part of the
people, envy of their riches ; on that of the ecclesiastics,
jealousy and fear of the superior intelligence and medi-
cal and astrological skill of some distinguished individu-
als of that detested race. I will not dwell upon the
fearful excesses of cruelty and injustice towards this
oppressed people, in our own and other countries ;
though I must touch upon the horrible reprisals im-
puted to them, and which served as excuses for further
persecutions. There are a number of stories related of
their stealing little children, and crucifying them on
their Easter feast, in ridicule of the God and Saviour
of the Christians. Of these real or imaginary victims
we have four who were canonized as saints : St. William

Online LibraryMrs. (Anna) JamesonLegends of the monastic orders, as represented in the fine arts. Forming the second series of Sacred and legendary art → online text (page 15 of 41)