Philip Thicknesse.

A Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) online

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in person to remove the image of the Virgin from the old to the new
church; which I shall hereafter mention more fully. Before this noble
altar, in which the figure of the Virgin stands in a nitch about the
middle of it, are candlesticks of solid silver, each of which weighs
eighty pounds; they are a yard and a half high; and yet these are mere
trifles, when compared to the gold and jewels which are shewn

The monks observe very religiously their statutes; nor is there a single
hour in the day that you find the church evacuated. - I always heard at
least two voices chanting the service, when the monks retire from the
church, which is not till seven o'clock at night; the pilgrims continue
there in prayer the greater part of the night.

I should have told you, that beside the superior among the hermits,
there are two sorts of them, neither of which can possess a hermitage
till they have spent seven years in the monastery, and given proofs of
their holy disposition, by acts of obedience, humility, and
mortification; during, which they spend most of their time, night as
well as day, in the church, but they never sing or chant. After the
expiration of the seven years, the Abbot takes the advice of his
brethren, and if they think the probationer's manners and life entitle
him to a solitary life above, he is sent, - but not, perhaps, without
being enjoined to wait upon some old hermit, who is past doing the
necessary offices of life for himself. - Their habit, as I said before,
is brown, and they wear their long beards; but sometimes the hermits are
admitted into holy orders, and then they wear black, and shave their
beards: however, they are not actually fixed to the lonely habitations
at first, but generally take seven or eight months trial. Many of the
abbes, whose power, you may be sure, is very great, and who receive an
homage from the inferiors, very flattering, have, nevertheless, often
quitted their power for a retirement above. They observe religiously
their abstinence from all sorts of flesh; nor are they permitted to eat
but within their cells. When any of them are very ill, they are brought
down to the convent; and all buried in one chapel, called St. Joseph.

The lay-brothers are about fourscore in number; they wear a brown habit,
and are shaved; their duty is to distribute bread, wine, and other
necessaries, to the poor and the pilgrims, and lodge them according to
their condition: and many of them are sent into remote parts of the
kingdom, as well as France and other Catholic countries, to collect
charity; while those who continue at home assist in getting in their
corn, and fetching provisions from the adjacent towns, for which
purposes they keep a great number, upwards of fifty mules. - These men
too have a superior among them, to whom they are all obedient.

There are also a number of children and young students, educated at the
convent who are taken in at the age of seven or eight years, many of
whom are of noble families; they all sleep in one apartment, but
separate beds, where a lamp constantly burns, and their decent
deportment is wonderful. Dom Jean de Cardonne, admiral of the galleys,
who succoured Malta when it was besieged by the Turks, was bred at
_Montserrat_, and when he wrote to the Abbe, "Recommend me," he said,
"to the prayers of my little brethren."

As I have already told you of the miracle of a murdered and violated
virgin coming to life, and of a child of three months old saying,
_Guerin, rise, thy sins are forgiven thee_; perhaps you will not like to
have further proofs of what miracles are wrought here, or I could give
you a long list, and unanswerable arguments to prove them.

_Frere Benoit d'Arragon_ was a hermit on this mountain, whose sanctity
of life has made his name immortal in the hermitage of St. Croix. The
following sketch of his life is engraven.

"Occidit hac sacrã Frater Benedictus in sede,
Inclytus & sama, & religione sacer,
Hic sexaginta & septem castissimus annos,
Vixit in his saxis, te, Deus alme, peccans
Usque senex, senio mansit curvatus & annis
Corpus humo retulit, venerat unde prius
Ast anima exultans, clarum repetivit olympum,
Nunc sedet in summo glorificata throno."

It appears, that Louis the Fourteenth, King of France, gave a certain
sum to this convent, to say mass and pray for the soul of his deceased
mother; the sum however was not large, being something under fifty
pounds; and the donation is recorded in the chapel of _St. Louis_, upon
a brass lamp.

_P.S._ The time that this wonderful mountain became the habitation of a
religious community, may be pretty nearly ascertained by the following
singular epitaph, on a beautiful monument, still legible in the great
church of _Tarragona_.

"_Hic quiescit Corpus sanctæ memoriæ Domini Joannis filii Domini
Jacobi, Regis Arragonum, qui decimo septimo anno ætatis suæ
factus Archiepiscopus Toletanus, sic dono scientiæ infusus
Divinitus & gratia prædicationis floruit, quod nullus ejusdem
ætatis in hoc ei similis crederetur. Carnem suam jejuniis &
ciliciis macerans, in vigesimo octavo anno ætatis suæ factus
Patriarcha Alexandrinus & Administrator Ecclesiæ Tarraconensis
ordinato per eum, inter multa alia bona opera_ novo Monasterio
scalæ Dei _Diacessis Tarraconensis, ut per ipsam scalam ad Coelum
ascenderet reddidit spiritum Creatori XIV. kalendas Septembris,
anno Domini MCCCXXXIV. anno vero ætatis suæ XXXIII. pro quo Deus
tam in vita, quam post mortem ejusdem est multa miracula

This very young Bishop was the son of James the second, and his Queen
_Dona Blanca_; and that he was Prior of the monastery of Montserrat,
appears in their archives; for I find the names of several hermits of
this mountain, that came down to pay homage to him. - _Dederunt
obedientiam domino Joanni Patriarchæ Alexandrino, & administratori
prioratus Montis Serrati_, &c. - It is therefore probable, that he was
the first Prior, and that the convent was built about the year 1300; but
that the mountain was inhabited by hermits, or men who retired from the
world many ages before, cannot be doubted.



I have had (since I mentioned the Spanish Ladies in a former letter) an
opportunity of seeing something more of them; what they may be at
_Madrid_, I cannot take upon me to say; but I am inclined to believe,
that notwithstanding what you have heard of Spanish beauty, you would
find nature has not been over liberal as to the persons of either sex in
Spain; and though tolerable good features upon a brown complexion, with
very black hair finely combed and pinned up with two or three gold
bodkins, may be very pleasing, as a _new object_, yet a great deficiency
would appear, were you to see the same women dressed in the high fashion
of England or France. England, for real and natural female beauty,
perhaps surpasses all the world; France, for dress, elegance, and ease.
The Spanish women are violent in their passions, and generally govern
every body under their roof; husbands who contend that point with them,
often finish their days in the middle of a street, or in a prison; on the
other hand, I am told, they are very liberal, compassionate, and
charitable. They have at _Barcelona_ a fine theatre, and tolerable good
music; but the actors of both sexes are execrable beyond all imagination:
their first woman, who they say is rich by means of one _talent or
other_, (for me, like my little Lyons water girl, has _two talents_) is
as contemptible in her person as in her theatrical abilities: it is no
wonder, indeed; for these people are often taken from some of those
gipsey troops, I mentioned in a former letter, and have, consequently, no
other qualifications for the stage but impudence instead of confidence,
and ignorance instead of a liberal education. Perhaps you will conclude,
that the theatre at _Madrid_ affords much better entertainment; on the
contrary, I am well assured it is in general much worse: a Gentleman who
understands the language perfectly, who went to _Madrid_ with no other
view but to gratify his curiosity, in seeing what was worthy of notice
there, went only once to the theatre, where the heat of the house, and
the wretchedness of the performance, were equally intolerable; nor are
the subjects very inviting to a stranger, as they often perform what they
call "_Autos Sacramentales_" - _sacramental representations_. The people
of fashion, in general, have no idea of serving their tables with
elegance, or eating delicately; but rather, in the stile of our
fore-fathers, without spoon or fork, they use their own fingers, and give
drink from the glass of others; foul their napkins and cloaths
exceedingly, and are served at table by servants who are dirty, and often
very offensive. I was admitted, by accident, to a Gentleman's house, of
large fortune, while they were at dinner; there were seven persons at a
round table, too small for five; two of the company were visitors; yet
neither their dinner was so good, nor their manner of eating it so
delicate, as may be seen in the kitchen of a London tradesman. The
dessert (in a country where fruit is so fine and so plenty) was only a
large dish of the seeds of _pomegranates_, which they eat with wine and
sugar. In truth, Sir, an Englishman who has been in the least accustomed
to eat at genteel tables, is, of all other men, least qualified to travel
into either kingdoms, and particularly into Spain; especially, if what
Swift says be true, that "a nice man is a man of dirty ideas," - I know
not the reason, whether it proceeds from climate, or food, or from the
neglect of the poorer order of the people; but _head combing_ seems to be
a principal part of the day's business among the women in Spain; and it
is generally done rather publicly. - The most lively, chearful, neat young
woman, I saw in Spain, lived in the same house I did at _Barcelona_; she
had a good complexion, and, what is very uncommon, rather light hair;
and though perfectly clean and neat in her apparel, yet I observed a
woman, not belonging to the house, attended every morning to comb this
girl's head, and I believe it was _necessary_ to be combed. I could not
very well ask the question; but I suspect that there are people by
profession called _headcombers_; every shop door almost furnishes you
with a specimen of that business; and if it is so common in _Barcelona_,
among a rich and industrious people, you may imagine, it is infinitely
more so among the slothful part of the inland cities and smaller
towns; - but this is not the only objection a stranger (and especially an
English Protestant) will find to Spain; the common people do not look
upon an Englishman as a Christian; and the life of a man, not a
Christian, is of no more importance in their eyes than the life of a dog:
it is not therefore safe for a protestant to trust himself far from the
maritime cities, as an hundred unforeseen incidents may arise, among
people so ignorant and superstitious, to render it very unsafe to a man
known to be a Protestant. If it be asked, how the Consuls, English
merchants, &c. escape? - I can give no other reason than what a Spaniard
gave me, when I put that question to him: - "Sir," said he, "we have men
here, (meaning Barcelona) who are Protestants all day, and Papists all
night; and we have a chapel where they go, into which no other people are
admitted." However, I was convinced, before I went into Spain this time,
from what I remembered formerly, that it was necessary to appear a good
Catholic; so that I always carried a little crucifix, or two, some beads,
and other _accidental_ marks of my faith; and where I staid any time, or,
indeed, where I slept upon the road, I took occasion to let some of those
_powerful protectors_ be seen, as it were, by chance; - it is very
necessary to avail one's self of such innocent frauds, in a country where
innocence itself may not be sufficient to shield you from the fury of
religious bigotry, where people think they are serving God, by destroying
men: The best method to save yourself, is by serving God in the same
manner they do, till you are out of their power. I really thought, that
Philosophy and Reason entered into Spain at the same gate that the
Jesuits were turned out of the kingdom; and, I suppose, some did; but it
must be many years before it is sufficiently diffused over the whole
nation, to render it a country like France; where men, who behave with
decency and decorum, may live, or pass through, without the least
apprehension or inconvenience on the score of religion; if they do not
meddle with politics or fortifications.

That you may not imagine my suspicions of the danger of passing thro'
Spain are ill founded, I will relate what happened to two English
Gentlemen of fashion at _Marcia_ as I had it from the mouth of one of
them lately: - they had procured letters of recommendation from some
friends to the _Alguazile_, or chief magistrate of that town; and as
there were some unfavourable appearances at their first entering
_Marcia_, and more so at their _posada_, they thought it right to send
their letters directly to the _Alguazile_; who, instead of asking them
to his house, or visiting them, sent a servant to say he was ill, and
who was directed to invite them to go that night to the comedy: they
thought it right, however, to accept the invitation, extraordinary as it
was: the _Alguazile_'s servant conducted them to the theatre, and paid
(for he was directed so to do, he said) for their admittance; and having
conducted his strangers into the pit, he retired. The comedy was then
begun; but, nevertheless, the eyes of the whole house were turned upon
them, and their's, to their great astonishment, upon the _sick
Alguazile_ with his whole family. Those near whom they at first stood,
retired to some distance: they could not, he said, consider the manner
in which they were looked at, and retired from, but to arise from
disgust or dislike, more than from curiosity. This reception, and the
manner in which they had been sent there, deprived them of all the
amusement the house afforded; for though the performers had no great
excellence, there was, among the female part of the audience, more
beauty than they expected. Mr. B - - , one of the Gentlemen, at length
discovered near him in the pit a man whom he knew to be an Irishman, and
in whole countenance he plainly perceived a desire to speak, but he
seemed with-held by prudence. At length, however, he was got near enough
to his countryman to hear him say, without appearing to address himself
to any body, "_Go hence! go hence_!" They did so; and the next morning,
tho' it was a fine town, which they wished to examine, and to spend some
time in, set off early for _Carthagena_, where they had some particular
friends, to whom they related the _Alguazile_'s very extraordinary
behaviour, as well as that of the company at the theatre. It was near
the time of the Carnival at _Carthagena_: the conduct of _Don Marco_ to
the two gentlemen strangers, became the subject of conversation, and
indeed of indignation, among the Spaniards of that civilized city; and
the _Alguazile_, who came to the Carnival there soon after, died by the
hands of an assassin; he was stabbed by a mask in the night. Now suppose
this man lost his life at _Carthagena_, for his ill behaviour to the two
strangers at _Marcia_, or for any other cause, it is very certain, if
natives are so liable to assassination, strangers are not more secure.

P.S. To give you some idea of the address of the pulpit oratory in
Spain, about sixty or seventy years ago, (and it is not in general much
better at present) take the following specimen, which I assure you, is
strictly true: -

A preacher holding forth in the place called _Las_ Mancanas at Madrid,
after informing his auditors of the sufferings of Jesus Christ,
added, - and is it not strange, that we still continue to sin on, and
live without repentance? O Lord God! said he, why sufferest thou such
ungrateful and wretched sinners to live? - And instantly giving himself a
violent box on the ear, the whole assembly followed his example, and
four thousand _soufflets_ were given and received in the twinkling of an
eye. - The French Embassador, from whose _memoires_ I take this story,
was upon that instant bursting out in laughter at the pious ceremony,
had he not been checked by one of his friends, who happened to stand
near, and who assured him, that his rank and character would not have
saved him, had he been so indiscreet, for the enraged populace would
have cut him in a thousand pieces; whereupon he hid his face in his
handkerchief, and boxed his own ears more for the love of himself than
from gratitude to his Redeemer.


There are in Spain twelve councils of state, viz. of _War_, of
_Castile_, of the _Inquisition_, of the royal orders of _St. Iago_, of
_Arragon_, of the _Indies_, of the chamber of _Castile_, of the
_Croisade_, of the _State_, of _Italy_, of the _Finances and Treasure_,
and lastly, that (of no use) of _Flanders_.

The council of _War_ is composed of experienced men of various orders,
who are thought capable of advising upon that subject, and not of any
determinate number.

That of _Castile_ has a president and sixteen other members, beside a
secretary and inferior officers; it is the first of all the councils,
and takes cognizance of civil as well as criminal matters. The King
calls this council only OUR council, to mark its superiority to all
others. The president is a man of great authority, and is treated with
the utmost respect; nor does he ever visit any body.

The council of the _Inquisition_, established by _Don Fernando_ in 1483,
has an inquisitor general for its president, who is always a _Grandee_
of the first condition; he has six counsellors, who are called apostolic
inquisitors. This court, (the power of which has, fortunately for
mankind, been of late years greatly abridged) has a great number of
inferior officers, as well as _holy spies_, all over the kingdom,
particularly at _Seville_, _Toledo_, _Valladolid_, _Barcelona_, and
other places, where these horrid tribunals are fixed; each is governed
by three counsellors, who, however, are dependant on that of Madrid; and
to whom they are obliged every month to give a particular account of
what has passed through their hands. These men have not power to
imprison a priest, a religious, nor even a gentleman, without obtaining
the consent of the supreme court above; they meet at _Madrid_ twice
every day, and two of the King's council always attend at the afternoon

Of the council of the three royal orders of Spain; that of _Santiago_ is
the first; the other two are _Calatrava_ and _Alcantara_. It is composed
of a president, six counsellors, and other officers.

The president of the council of _Arragon_ is called the vice chancellor;
who is assisted by nine counsellors, and inferior officers. This council
attend to the public state of the kingdom of _Arragon_, as well as to
the islands of _Majorca_, _Ivica_, &c.

The council of the _Indies_ was established in 1511, for the
conservation and augmentation of the new kingdoms discovered by
_Columbus_ in South America, in 1492; and where the Spaniards have at
this time four thousand nine hundred leagues of land, including _Mexico_
and _Peru_; land divided into many kingdoms and provinces, in which they
had built, in the year 1670, upwards of eight thousand churches, and
more than a thousand convents. They have there a patriarch, six
arch-bishops, and thirty-two bishops, and three tribunals of the
inquisition. This council is composed of a president, a grand
chancellor, and twelve counsellors, a treasurer, secretary, advocates,
agents, and an infinite number of inferior officers. They meet twice a
week, to regulate all the affairs, both by land and sea, relative to
that part of the King's dominions.

The council of the _Croisade_ is composed of a president, who is called
the commissary general, and who has great privileges. The clergy are
obliged to pay something annually to it; and if any one finds a purse of
money in the streets, they are obliged to deliver it to the secretary of
this council.

The council of _State_ is composed of men of the first birth and
understanding about the court. The King presides, and is assisted by
the archbishop of _Toledo_. This council is not confined to any certain
number; they meet three times a week, to deliberate on the most
important affairs of the kingdom.

The council of _Italy_ attends to the affairs of _Naples_, _Sicily_, and
_Milan_; it is composed of a president, and six counsellors, three of
whom are Spaniards, one Neapolitan, one Italian, and one Sicilian; each
of which have their separate charge on the affairs of those countries.

The council of _Finances and Treasure_ is composed of a president, who
is called _presidente de hazienda_, that is, superintendant of the
finances; eight counsellors, and a great number of other officers,
beside treasurers, controllers, &c, who have a great share of the most
important affairs of the nation to regulate; they hear causes, and are
not only entrusted with the treasures of the kingdom, but with
administration of justice to all the king's subjects. You may easily
judge what a number of officers compose this council, when I tell you,
that they have twenty-six treasurers.

The council of _Flanders_ have now only the _name_; as the King of
England bears that of France. - The formal manner which men, high in
office or blood, observe in paying or receiving visits, is very
singular: the inquisitor-general, for instance, has several black lines
marked upon the floor of his anti-chamber, by which he limits the
civilities he is to shew to men, according to the rank or office they
bear: he has his _black_ marks for an embassador, an envoy, &c. When
people of condition at Madrid propose to make a visit, it is previously
announced by a page, to know the day and hour they can be received; and
this ceremony is often used on ordinary visits, as well as those of a
more public nature: the page too has his coach to carry him upon these
errands. I have seen the account of a visit made by the Cardinal of
_Arragon_ to the Admiral of _Castile_, the train of which filled the
whole street; he was carried by six servants in a magnificent chair, and
followed by his body coach drawn by eight mules, attended by his
gentlemen, pages, esquires, all mounted on horseback, and arrayed in a
most sumptuous manner. Every order of men assume an air of importance in
Spain. I have been assured, that when a shoemaker has been called upon
to make a pair of shoes, he would not undertake the work till he had
first enquired of _Dona_, his wife, whether there was any money in the
house? if she answered in the affirmative, he would not work. Even the
beggars do not give up this universal privilege, as the following
instance will evince: - A foreigner of fashion, who was reading in a
bookseller's shop in Madrid, was accosted by one of the town beggars,
who in an arrogant manner asked his charity, in terms which implied a
demand rather than a favour. The stranger made no reply, nor did he take
the least notice, but determined to continue reading, and dismiss the
insolent beggar by his silent contempt: this encreased the beggar's
hardiness; he told him, he might find time enough to read after he had
attended to his request, and what he had to say. But still the gentleman
read on, and disregarded his rudeness. At length, the beggar stept up to
him, and with an air of the utmost insolence, at the same time taking
him hold by the arm, added, What! neither charity, nor courtesy? By this
time, the stranger lost all patience, and was going to correct him for
his temerity: - Stop, Sir, (said the beggar, in a lower tone of voice)
hear me; - pardon, me, Sir; do you not know me? No, certainly; replied
the stranger, But, said he, you ought, for I was secretary to an embassy
in a certain capital, where we lived together in intimacy; and then told
him his name, and the particular misfortunes which had reduced him to
that condition; he expressed himself with art, address, and eloquence,
and succeeded in getting money from the gentleman, though he could not
convince him that he was his old acquaintance.

There are in Spain an infinite number of such sort of beggars, who are
men of sense and letters, and so _au fait_ in the art, that they will
not be denied. The grand secret of the art of begging is in

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Online LibraryPhilip ThicknesseA Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 10 of 11)