The Project Gutenberg eBook of Military and religious life in the Middle Ages and at the period of the Renaissance

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Military and religious life in the Middle Ages and at the period of the Renaissance

Author: P. L. Jacob

Release date: May 7, 2024 [eBook #73559]

Language: English

Original publication: London: Bickers & Son, 1870

Credits: deaurider, Karin Spence and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Fig. 403.—The Adoration of the Lamb by the Elders and Virgins of the Apocalypse.—Centre Panel of the Triptych painted on wood by Jean Van Eyck, and preserved in the Church of St. Bavon, at Ghent (Fifteenth Century).



(Bibliophile Jacob)


Illustrated with





Lately we published the “Manners, Customs, and Dress during the Middle Ages,” a necessary sequel to “The Arts of the Middle Ages.” To understand this important period of our history, we must, as was pointed out at the time, go back to the very source of art, and study society itself—the life of our forefathers. The volume of “Manners and Customs” initiated our readers into all the secrets of Civil Life; the present work treats of the Military and Religious Life of the same period.

The subject is not wanting in grandeur, and we shall endeavour to throw into relief the two parallel forces—namely, the military and the religious life—which shaped the habits of the nation in the epoch of which our work treats.

The influence of these forces was immense. Society was made up of barbarous nations and of the corrupt remnants of the heathen world. Conquerors and conquered had nothing to put in common, with a view to forming a new society, beyond their ruins and their vices. How was a state of things, higher and better than that which had gone before, to be created out of this shapeless mass? What principle of life was there powerful[vi] enough to evoke from amid this chaos modern Europe, with all its variety of forces and of glory, its influence and authority over the rest of the world? Religious life, aided by military power, has brought about such a creation, after all the misery and suffering preceding its birth. Gradually gaining a hold upon society, and elevating its ideas as the tie became closer, religious life endowed it with new manners, a new social life, a set of institutions of which it before knew nothing, and a character which raised it to a degree of moral grandeur which humanity had never as yet attained.

Christianity civilised the barbarians; by unity of faith, it established political unity amongst peoples who were split up into hostile races—a result which would only have been arrived at in former days by the annihilation of nationalities, the dominion of the sword, and the force of oppression. History presents no spectacle more worthy of our attention than the steady and deep operation of this new principle of life infused into a society in a state of decay. This principle could only succeed in remoulding and directing the world by first assimilating men as individuals, and that amidst the excesses, the violence, and the disorders of a barbarism which, even after the lapse of centuries, would not allow itself to be crushed. But it was endowed with a persevering and indomitable energy. Consider how it affected everything, how it enlisted into its service all the forces which society from time to time placed at its disposal, or, to speak more correctly, permitted it to create! By means of the monastic orders, how many necessary works did it not accomplish? The soil was transformed by cultivation; bridges, dykes, and aqueducts were constructed in every direction; manuscripts were preserved in the monasteries; education was given in numberless schools, where the poor were taught gratuitously; the universities were made learned and prosperous; architecture was raised into a science; beneficent institutions were established and liberally endowed.

“Christianity was the greatest benefactor of the Middle Ages,” said M. Benjamin Guérard; “and what is most striking in the revolutions which took place in these semi-barbarous times, is the action of the Church and of religion. The dogma of a common origin and destiny for all men[vii] alike, was an unceasing argument for the emancipation of the people; it brought together men of all stations, and opened the way for modern civilisation. Men, though they did not cease to oppress one another, began to recognise the fact that they were all members of the same family, and were led, through religious equality, up to civil and political equality; being brothers in the sight of God, they became equal before the law, the Christian became the citizen.

“This transformation took place gradually and slowly, as being necessary and inevitable, by the continued and simultaneous enfranchisement of men and of land. The slave whom paganism, as it disappeared, handed over to the Christian religion, passed first from a state of servitude to a state of bondage, from bondage he rose to mortmain, and from mortmain to liberty.”

Under the influence of the bishops, legislation was formed upon the principles of Christian morality. In the great councils of the nation, and in the royal councils, they gave a Christian direction to the government of the country, and more than once preserved national unity from being broken up. “The bishops,” says Gibbon, “constructed the French monarchy just as the bees construct the hive.”

At the same time the popes were incessant in their efforts to convert all the Christian peoples into one vast republic; and they attained their purpose in a great measure. The idea was a sublime one, springing so naturally from the unity of the doctrines which all were required to profess. As early as the twelfth century the idea was thus enunciated by Tertullian in his “Apologetica”—“We remain strangers to your factions and to your parties.... The republic of the human race is what we demand.”

Such was the work of Christianity in that society of the Middle Ages of which it was the life and soul. It is necessary to follow it in the accomplishment of this varied task, and, if we would thoroughly understand it, we must consider it in itself, in its inward life, in its form of worship and liturgy, in its monasteries, in its clergy, and in its different institutions, for herein lay its means of action.

The military power placed itself, as a general rule, at the service of the[viii] Church, and it was thus that Christianity was enabled to complete its work. Clovis, the conqueror of the Romans, the Germans, the Burgundians, and the Visigoths, was baptized at Rheims, and brought France within the fold of the Church, just when a great number of the barbarians, the new masters of the Roman empire, were embracing Arianism. In after-days the Church, represented by the sword of Joan of Arc, was instrumental in saving France and restoring her to herself. Between these two extreme points of the history of the Middle Ages, Charlemagne, Godefroi de Bouillon, St. Louis, the age of chivalry and the Crusades, prove to us that this combined action of military and religious life is a true exponent of the character of France. But when we come to consider the ordinary condition of things as they absolutely existed, we find it to be full of evils. Military life amongst the German people had produced feudalism, and with it a terrible anarchy. Royalty was powerless. Authority had not, so to speak, any centre; it was cut up and subdivided throughout the nation. Private or civil warfare became, by the mere force of things, legal for several centuries; and disorder, violence, oppression, and tyranny followed as a natural consequence. Military life, in all its manifestations, hampered and counteracted the beneficent influence of Christianity, and served as the last refuge of barbarism. The Church, however, managed to make the principle of feudalism exercise a moderating influence upon its very excesses, by the creation of chivalry, the noblest military institution which the world has ever known. Chivalry represented the Christian form of the profession of arms. The first duty was “to defend in this world the weakness of all, but especially the weakness of the Church, of justice, and of right.”

“Fais ce que dois, adviegne que peut,
C’hest commandé au chevalier.”
Ordinances of Chivalry.

It was, in fact, an armed force in the service of truth and justice, themselves defenceless. It was at the same time a bright example, the influence of which extended beyond the most brilliant of its exploits. Even this, however, was not sufficient to check the evil and insatiable desire for fighting. Under the[ix] powerful impulse of the popes, the Crusaders served to utilise this warlike spirit, and acted as a diversion which saved Europe from the fury of its own inhabitants and from the dominion of the Koran. Internal discords were brought to an end, the Communes were enfranchised, feudal power decreased, and the royal influence gained in strength, diminishing again during the long crisis of the hundred years’ war, and being once more reinstated by Joan of Arc. Such was the part played by “Military Life in the Middle Ages.”

The development of modern habits, however, is gradually to be traced. The feudal army was replaced by mercenary troops. As military power became concentrated within the hands of the sovereign, monarchy, in the true sense of the term, succeeded to feudalism.

At the same time another and deeper movement was taking place in the moral and religious order of things. A new spirit was convulsing the world. The ideas and manners established in society by Christianity were destined to undergo a change. After the capture of Constantinople, the Grecian savants who had found a refuge in the courts of Italy inspired their Western confrères with such an affection for ancient literature, that everything which was old came to be regarded with enthusiasm, while, as a natural consequence, every—thing which Christianity had produced was looked upon with contempt. The faith in and the influence of the Church diminished, and individual reason was tempted to throw off the yoke of all teaching authority. Printing, then just invented, served to accelerate this mental revolution. The principle of free examination was proclaimed by Luther, and one-half of Western Europe became Protestant. The tie, at once religious and political, which held Christian nationalities together, was thus broken, and unity amongst people who were divided in their religious doctrine became impossible. At the same period the discovery of America and of a new route to the Indies lent immense force to the development of material interests.

Thus we had the commencement of a complete revolution. The world entered upon new paths, along which it has continued to advance without interruption to our own day.

This work derives a special interest from the circumstances amidst which it is published. Ancient Europe has reached one of those solemn epochs[x] of its history when, divided within itself and uncertain of the turn which events may take, it finds itself face to face with the problem of its future destiny, demanding an immediate solution. What will that solution be? The emotions of the present may incline us to look back regretfully upon that past which reminds us of so much that is great and noble, in spite of its many and inevitable drawbacks, and which, by showing us the origin of modern society, by revealing to us the manner of its birth and its onward progress, may give us the key to its present critical condition when a profound and universal transformation seems about to take place.

It is superfluous to say anything about the engravings contained in this volume. They have been selected with the same view that dictated the publication of those appearing in the two previous volumes—a desire to produce a living image of the past. Each volume forms a collection of archæological treasures got together after the most laborious research; they are attractive to the eye, full of interest and instruction, and we feel that our readers will have in them a complete museum such as has not hitherto been within their reach.



Origin.—Barbaric Laws.—Enfeoffment.—Charlemagne and the Church.—First Construction of Strongholds.—Vassal and Suzerain.—Feudal Eights.—The Truce of God.—Feudal Churches and Abbeys.—Communal Principles.—New Townships.—Origin of the French Bourgeoisie.—The English Magna Charta.—Alienation of Fiefs.—Liberation of the Serfs.—Imperial Cities.—Feudal Rights of the Bishops.—St. Louis.—Wars between France and England.—La Bulle d’Or.—The States-General.—Origin of the Third Estate.
The Invasions of the Barbarians.—Attila.—Theodoric seizes Italy.—Organizations of Military Fiefs.—Defences of Towns.—Totila and his Tactics.—The Military Genius of Charlemagne.—Military Vassalage.—Communal Militia.—Earliest Standing Armies.—Loss of Technical Tradition.—The Condottieri.—The Gendarmerie.—The Lances Fournies.—Weakening of Feudal Military Obligations.—The French Army in the Time of Louis XI. and his Successors.—Absence of Administrative Arrangement.—Reforms.—Mercenary Troops.—Siege Operations and Engines.
Old Traditions: Long Vessels and Broad Vessels.—The Dromon.—The Galéasse.—The Coque.—Caracks and Galleons.—Francis I.’s Great Carack.—Caravelles.—The Importance of a Fleet.—Hired Fleets.—Poop Guards.—Naval Laws.—Seaport Tribunals.—Navigation in the open Seas.—The Boussole.—Armament of Men-of-war.—Towers and Ballistic Engines.—Artillery.—Naval Strategy.—Decorations and Magnificent Appointments of Vessels.—Sails and Flags.—The Galley of Don Juan of Austria.—Sailors’ Superstitions.—Discipline and Punishments.
Arab Conquest of the Holy Land.—Swarm of Pilgrims in the Year 1000.—Turkish Invasion of Judea.—Persecution of the Christians.—Pope Silvester II.—Expedition of the Pisans and the Genoese.—Peter the Hermit.—Letter from Simeon the Patriarch to Pope Urban II.—First Crusade.—Expedition of “Gautier sans Avoir.”—Godefroi de Bouillon.—The Kingdom of Jerusalem.—Second Crusade.—St. Bernard.—Third Crusade: Philip Augustus and Richard Cœur-de-Lion.—Fourth Crusade.—Fifth and Sixth Crusades.—Louis IX. turns Crusader.—Seventh Crusade.—St. Louis taken Prisoner.—Eighth and last Crusade.—Death of St. Louis.—Results of the Crusades.
CHIVALRY (Duels and Tournaments) 136
Origin of Chivalry.—Its different Characteristics.—Chivalric Gallantry.—Chivalry and Nobility.—Its Relations with the Church.—Education of the Children of the Nobility.—Squires.—Chivalric Exercises.—Pursuivants at Arms.—Courts and Tribunals of Love.—Creation of Knights.—Degradation of Knights.—Judicial Duels.—Trials by Ordeal.—Feudal Champions.—Gages of Battle.—The Church forbids Duels.—Tournaments invented by the Sire de Preuilly in the Tenth Century.—Arms used in a Tournament.—Tilt.—Lists.—The part taken by Ladies.—King René’s Book.
Pierre Gérard founds the Order of St. John of Jerusalem; History of that Order.—The Siege of Rhodes.—History of the Order of the Knights Templars.—Order of the Knights of Calatrava.—Order of the Teuton Knights.—Order of the Knights of the Golden Fleece.—Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus.—Orders of the Star, of the Cosse de Geneste, of the Ship, of St. Michael, and of the Holy Ghost.
Prayer.—Liturgy of St. James, of St. Basil, and of St. John Chrysostom.—Apostolical Constitutions.—The Sacrifice of the Mass.—Administration of Baptism.—Canonical Penances.—Plan and Arrangement of Churches.—Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.—The Ceremony of Ordination.—Church Bells.—The Tocsin.—The Poetry of Gothic Churches.—Breviary and Missal of Pius V.—Ceremonies used at the Seven Sacraments.—Excommunication.—The Bull In Cœnâ Domini.—Processions and Mystery Plays at the Easter Solemnities.—Instrument of Peace.—Consecrated Bread.—The Pyx.—The Dove.
Influence of the Papacy in the Reformation of Early Society.—St. Leo the Great.—Origin of the Temporal Power of the Popes.—Gregory the Great.—The Iconoclastic Emperors.—Stephen III. delivered by France.—Charlemagne crowned Emperor of the West.—Photius.—The Diet of Worms.—Gregory VII.; his Plan for a Christian Republic.—Urban II.—The Crusades.—Calixtus II.; Termination of the Dispute as to Investiture.—Innocent III.—Struggle of Boniface VIII. against Philippe le Bel.—The Great Western Schism.—Council of Florence.—Battle of Lepanto.—Council of Trent.
The Minor and the Major Orders in the Early Centuries of the Church.—Establishment of Tithes originally voluntary, and afterwards obligatory.—Influence of the Bishops.—Supremacy of the See of Rome.—Form of Episcopal Oath in the Early Centuries.—Reform of Abuses by the Councils.—Remarkable sayings of Charlemagne and Hincmar.—Public Education created by the Church.—The Establishment of the Communes favoured by the Bishops.—The Beaumont Law.—Struggle with the Bourgeoisie in the Fifteenth Century.—The Council of Trent.—Institution of Seminaries.
The First Monks.—St. Anthony and his Disciples.—St. Pachomius and St. Athanasius.—St. Eusebius and St. Basilius.—Cenobitism in the East and in the West.—St. Benedict and the Benedictine Code.—Monkish Dress.—St. Columba.—List of the Monasteries in Charlemagne’s Time.—Services rendered by the Monks to Civilisation, Arts, and Letters.—Reform of the Religious Orders in the Twelfth Century.—St. Norbert.—St. Bernard.—St. Dominic.—St. Francis of Assisi.—The Carmelites.—The Bernardines.—The Barnabites.—The Jesuits.
Christian Charity in the First Centuries of the Church.—The Eastern Empresses.—The Holy Roman Ladies.—Olympiade, Melanie, Marcella, and Paula.—Charity at the Court of the Franks.—St. Margaret of Scotland and Matilda of England.—Hedwige of Poland.—Origin of the Lazar-houses.—The Lazarists in France and in England.—Progress and Vicissitudes of the Order of St. Lazarus.—The Foundations of St. Louis.—The Order of Mercy founded by St. Nolasque.—St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Francis.—Bernardin Obrégon.—Jean de Dieu.—Philippe de Néri.—Antoine Yvan.
The first Pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome.—The Worship of the Martyrs.—Pilgrims’ Hospitals.—Images of the Virgin Mary.—Relics brought from the East by the Crusaders.—Celebrated Pilgrimages of Early Days.—The Roman Basilicas.—St. Nicholas de Bari.—Notre-Dame de Tersatz.—St. Jacques de Compostella.—Notre-Dame du Puy, de Liesse, de Chartres, de Rocamadour.—Pilgrimages in France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Switzerland.
The real Meaning of the word Heresy.—The Heretics of the Apostolic Days.—Simon the Magician.—Cerinthus.—The Nicolaitans.—The Gnostics.—The Schools of Philosophy of Byzantium, Antioch, and Alexandria.—Julian the Apostate.—The Pelagians and the semi-Pelagians.—Nestorius.—Eutyches.—The Iconoclasts.—Amaury.—Gilbert de la Porrée.—Abelard.—Arnold of Brescia.—The Albigenses.—The Waldenses.—The Flagellants.—Wickliff.—John Huss.—Jerome of Prague.—Luther.—Henry VIII. and the Anglican Church.—Calvin.
General Principles of the Inquisition; its Existence amongst the Greeks and Romans.—The Papal Inquisition.—The Inquisition in France.—The Albigenses.—The Royal Spanish Inquisition; its Political Purposes; it is opposed by the Popes.—Inquisitors of Toledo excommunicated by Leo X.—The Holy Hermandad.—The Spies of the Inquisition.—The Holy Office and the Supreme.—The Prisons of the Inquisition.—The Auto-da-fé.—The Inquisition in the Netherlands.—The Protestant Inquisition in Holland, Germany, France, England, and Switzerland.
Embalming and Incineration of Bodies amongst the Ancients.—Interment brought into practice by Christianity.—The Wrapping of the Dead in Shrouds.—The Direction in which the Bodies were laid.—Absolution Crosses.—Funeral Furniture.—Coffins and Sarcophagi in the Middle Ages.—Funereal Sculpture and Architecture, from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century.—The Catacombs at Rome.—Charnel-houses in the Churches.—Public Cemeteries.—The Cemetery of the Innocents, Paris.—Lanterns for the Dead.—Funerals of the Kings and Queens of France.—The Rolls of the Dead.—Consoling Thought of the Resurrection and of Eternal Life.


Abbatial Ring and Cross of St. Waudru, 312
Abbey of Saint-Germain des Prés, View of the, in 1361, 13
Abbey of Saint-Germain des Prés, North View of the, Seventeenth Century, 320
Abbey of St. Riquier, The, near Abbeville, 311
Abbey-Church of the Magdalen, at Vézelai, 120
Absolution Crosses of the Eleventh Century, 453
Act of Faith and Homage, Thirteenth Century, 8
Adoration of the Lamb, The, Frontispiece
  „  „  Magi, The, 241
Altar of the Cathedral of Arras, Thirteenth Century, 243
Altar-piece at Mareuil-en-Brie, 218, 219
Amaury’s Disciples burnt by order of Philip Augustus, 404
Angels praying over a Skull, Fourteenth Century, 298
Anne of Brittany, Funeral Service of, 495
Antilles, Discovery of the, by Columbus, 92
Antioch, Plan of, in the Thirteenth Century, 130
Antwerp, View of the Port of, 87
Arming a Knight, 143
Armogenes, the Magician, 383
Arquebusier of the Sixteenth Century, 61
Artois, The Count of, presenting himself at the Castle of the Count of Boulogne, 149
Artus, King, fighting a Giant, 137
Assault on a Fortified Place, 135
“Au juste poids véritable balance”, 391
Auto-da-fé Procession, in Spain, 436
Babylon the Great, 396
Ballista, 73
Banner of St. Denis, Representations of the, 60
Banner of the City of Strasburg, Thirteenth Century, 386
Banner of a Flemish Lazaretto, 353
Baptism of the Saxons conquered by Charlemagne, 213
Barbarian (Mounted) in the Roman Service, 4
Basilius the Great, Dream of, 400
Battering-ram, 71
Battle of Auray, The, 54
  „  Dreux, The, 62
  „  Lepanto, Plan of the, 96
  „  Tolbiac, The, 2
Beacon in the Cemetery of Antigny, Fifteenth Century, 486
Beacon in the Cemetery of Ciron, Twelfth Century, 486
Beacon in the Cemetery of Fèniou, Eleventh Century, 486
Beatrix Cornel, Tomb of, 182
Beguin, 329
  „  Convent at Ghent, the Great, 328
Beheaded Knight holding his Head in his Hands, 467
Bucentaure, The, 77
Bull with which Boniface VIII. sealed his Letters, 273
Burial among the Franks, Mode of, 451
Caltrop, or Crow’s-foot, 66
Calvin, John, 419
Caricature of the Third Century, 206
Castle of Angoulême, Thirteenth Century, 6
  „  Loches, Doorways of the Old, 37
  „  Pierrefonds, View overlooking the, 11
Catapult, 72
Celebration of Mass, The, in an Oratory, Ninth Century, 277
Celtic Burial, 451
Champion of the Tournament, The, 166
Chandelier of the Virgin, 217
Chanter or Psalmist, The, Minor Order, 274
Chapel of Pilgrimage, Thanksgiving in a, 384
Chaplet of Beads in Carved Ivory, and Girdle, Sixteenth Century, 330
Charlemagne, Statue of, Eleventh Century, 5
Charles the Bold, Great Seal of, Fifteenth Century, 55
Charles VI. fulfilling his Vow to Our Lady of Hope, 388
Charter of William the White-handed, Commencement of the, 295
Chasuble, Mitre, and Stole of St. Thomas à Becket, Cloth and Embroidery of the Twelfth Century, 225
Château de la Panouze (Aveyron), Feudal Castle of the Twelfth Century, 10
Chivalry, Allegorical Figures representing, 140
Choir Candelabrum, Foot of a large, Thirteenth Century, 216
Christ descending into Hell, 498
  „ risen from the Dead, 504
  „ victorious after Death, Eighth or Ninth Century, 449
Christian Professor on his Death-bed, The, 497
  „  Religion, The, assisting at the Death of Christ, 247
Church of St. Antony, Padua, 216
  „  the Holy Sepulchre, Façade of the, 106
Clergy going in Procession before the Emperor, Fourth Century, 318
Cloister of the Chartreuse, at Pavia, 322
Clovis, Baptism of, 2
Coffer containing the Hair-cloths of St. Louis, Thirteenth Century, 371
Concordat of Cambrio, Title of the (1466), 296
Conferring Knighthood on the Field of Battle, 141
Consecration of St. Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, 283
Constantinople, Second taking of, in 1204, 123
Coque, The, 79
Coronation of an Emperor by the Pope, Sixteenth Century, 256
Cosmas and Damianus relieving a Sick Man, 343
Council held to commemorate the Second Council of Nice, Tenth Century, 249
Council of Vienne, 190
Cross of the Bureau Family, 476
Crown of Thorns, The, brought into France, 375
  „  „  „  worn by Jesus Christ, 393
Cruelties committed by the Gueux, 440
Cruet, silver-gilt, First or Second Century, 208
Crusaders at Damietta, Disembarkation of the, 126
Crypt of the Chapel of St. Agnes, in the Catacombs at Rome, 474
Daggers with Moorish Blades and Flemish Handles, 45
Dalmatic said to have belonged to Leo III., 255
Dance of Death, The, 478–483
Death of St. Benedict, 496
  „  Mahomet II., 178
Dedication of the Church of the Monastery of St. Martin des Champs, Paris, 321
Degradation of a Knight, 154
Designs of Armour, 170
Distribution of Banners and Helmets, 164
Diver, The, 91
Don Juan of Austria, 133
Doorkeeper, The, Minor Order, 275
Doria, Andrew, 88
Dove suspended above the Altar, Thirteenth Century, 244
Dresses worn by Prisoners of the Inquisition, 437
Duel concerning the Honour of Ladies, 157
Earthen Vases found at Florence in 1863, 187
Ecclesiastical Tonsure, The, 279
Edward the Confessor, Funeral of, 490
Entry of Louis VIII. and the Pope’s Legate into Avignon, 406
Eudes, Bishop, from the Bayeux Tapestry, 47
Excesses committed by the Huguenots, Allegorical Picture of the, 415
Exorcism of a Catechumen, Fourth or Fifth Century, 212
Exorcism of a Person possessed with a Demon, 414
Exorcist, The, Minor Order, 275
Farel, William, 420
Ferrand of Portugal, Count of Flanders, being taken to Paris, 22
Fight between Raymbault de Morueil and Gruyon de Losenne, 156
Flemish Warrior, from the Ruins of St. Bavon, Ghent, 26
Fortified Bridge of Lemantano, near Rome, Twelfth Century, 33
Fortified Bridge from Valentré to Cahors, 18
Fortified City of Carcassonne, Plan of the, Thirteenth Century, 18
Fortress of the Knights Hospitallers, in Syria, 174
French Caravel, Sixteenth Century, 84
  „  Priory at Rhodes, Fifteenth Century, 181
Fresco in the Cemetery of St. Pretextat, 475
Funeral Service, Fourteenth Century, 453
Funereal Lamps found in the Catacombs, Third Century, 276, 424
Galley of the Sixteenth Century, 78
  „ Slave, 90
  „ Soldier, 90
Gallic or Gallo-Roman Pottery, 455
Gallo-Roman Lords of the Fourth Century, 3
Gate of the Town of Aigues-Mortes, 17
Gautier-sans-Avoir, Reception of, by the King of Hungary, 115
German Foot-soldiers fighting, Sixteenth Century, 57
German and Gallic Auxiliaries, Second Century, 40
German Knight, Fifteenth Century, 147
Godefroy de Bouillon, crowned with the Instruments of our Lord’s Passion, 117
Godefroy de Bouillon, Tomb of, 118
Golden Fleece, Chapter of the Order of the, 197
Great Hospital at Milan, 357
Greek Panagia, 370
Gregory IX. handing the Decretals to an Advocate of the Consistory (1227–1241), 266
Handbell, Romanesque perforated, Twelfth Century, 227
Harold, King, Finding the Body of, 48
Harvest of Souls, The, Twelfth Century, 450
Henry of Anjou, Coronation of, as King of Poland, 291
Henry I., Emperor of Germany, and one of his Generals, 368
Henry II. wounded by Montgomery in a Tournament, 169
Herald holding the Banners of the Referees, 164
Heresy of the Flagellants, 407
Hincmar, Bas-relief on the Tomb of, 289
Holy Bit of Carpentras, 376
Hospitality, Fifteenth Century, 340
Huguenots against the Catholics, Violence of the, 421
Huss, John, 412
Italian Warriors of the Fifteenth Century, 58
Judgement, The Day of, 502
Jerome of Prague, 412
Jewish Religion, The, assisting at the Death of Christ, 246
King-at-arms proclaiming a Tournament, 163
Knife for cutting Consecrated Bread, 242
Knight, in Complete Armour, Sixteenth Century, 61
Knight setting out for the War, 150
Knight of Death, The, 476
  „   Malta, 185
  „   the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, 173
  „   Rhodes, 173
Knights of the Order of the Holy Ghost from Pure Intent, 358
Knights awaiting from the Marshal the Signal to commence the Fight, 159
Knights of Rhodes, Barracks of the, 180
Knox, John, 416
Last Supper, The, Eleventh Century, 209
Legend of Christmas, Fifteenth Century, 221
  „   St. Martin, The, Tapestry of the Thirteenth Century, 281
Legend of the Passage of the Viaticum across a Bridge at Utrecht, 235
Luther, Martin, 418
Machine to break the Ranks of the Enemy 70
   „   shoot Arrows, 70
Man-at-arms, The, 51, 91
Man-of-War, Henry VIII.’s time, 80
   „   of the Sixteenth Century, 101
Margaret of York, wife of Charles the Bold, 359
Maria de Molina, Queen of Castille, handing to the Cistercian Nuns the Charter of Foundation for their Convent, 332
Mary Magdalene, Removal of the Body of, to the Church of St. Vézelay (Yonne), Fifteenth Century, 387
Massacre of St. Bartholomew, The, 416
Maximilian of Austria, with his Wife and Son, 36
Members of the Dominican Order, The most famous, 331
Messenger bringing a Letter to the King’s Army, 52
Messengers of the Sultan discussing with Christian Prisoners, 129
Military Costumes from the Sixth to the Tenth Centuries, 42
Miraculous Mass of St. Gregory the Great, Sixth Century, 210
Monograms of Christ, 205
Mons, Mauberge, and Nivelles, Foundation of the Abbeys of, 316
Montefrio, Surrender of the Town of, 193
Moorish Arms (Armeria Real, Madrid), 44
Mortars or Movable Carriages, 65
Mortuary Cloth from the Church of Folleville (Somme), 491
Mortuary Roll of Vital, Founder of the Abbey of Savigny, 499
Mosque of Cordova, Interior of the, Eighth Century, 434
Mourning Costumes, 493
Mystic Fountain, The, Eighth Century, 223
Nail used in the Crucifixion of Our Lord, 376
Nangasaki, The Great Martyrdom of (1622), 336
Nicæa, Taking of, by the Crusaders, 116
Norman Vessel, Eleventh Century, 76
Offering a Child to an Abbot, Thirteenth Century, 313
Orphan of the Venice Hospitals, Sixteenth Century, 356
Orthodoxy surrounded by the Snares of Heresy, 398
Our Lady of Boulogne, 390
   „   Grace, Miraculous Image of, at Cambria, 389
Our Lady of Grace sheltering the Grand Masters of the Order of Montessa, 192
Our Lady of Mountserrat, Sixteenth Century, 381
   „   Vladimir, Miraculous Image of, 370
Painting symbolical of the Catacombs of Rome, First or Second Century, 207
Pentecost, 240
Peter the Hermit delivering a Message to Pope Urban II., 112
Philip Augustus, Consecration of, 290
Philip the Bold in Royal Costume, 24
Philip II., King of Spain, 439
  „   „   „  Mausoleum of, 470
Pilgrims of Emmaus, The, 374
Plaintiff and Defendant taking Oath before the Judge, Fifteenth Century, 158
Pontifical Galley, 98
Poop of an Ancient Galley, 75
Portrait of Countess Matilda, 260
Prester-John and his Page, 109
Priory of the Benedictines, Canterbury, Twelfth Century, 314
Prize of the Tournament, The, 168
Procession of the Host, 238
   „     Knights of the Order of the Holy Ghost, 200
Prows of Galleys armed with the Spur, 95
Punishments decreed by Henry VIII. against the Catholics, 443
Quintain, The Game of, 145
Raised Stone, near Poitiers, 459
Reapers of Death, The, 62
Reception of a Knight of the Order of St. Michael, 199
Refectory in the Priory of St. Martin des Champs, Thirteenth Century, 326
Relics of St. Philip, Touching the, 378
Reliquary in chased Copper, Thirteenth Century, 372
Reliquary of the Holy Thorn, Thirteenth Century, 325
Remier, Count, bearing the Body of St. Veronica to the Church of St. Waudru, in Mons, 366
Rhodes, Plan of, Fifteenth Century, 176
Richard Cœur-de-Lion mortally wounded while besieging the Castle of Chalus, 50
Robert I., Duke of Normandy, on his Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, 373
Robing a Bishop, The Ceremony of, Fourteenth Century, 285
Rodolph of Hapsburg, Emperor of Germany, Equestrian Statue of, 35
Rolling Tower for scaling the walls of towns, 66
Sabbat, The, 410
Sacrament of the Eucharist, The, 234
Sacramental Cup, Twelfth Century, 233
Sancha de Roxas, 195
Seal of the Abbey of St. Denis, 317
 „  „  Commune of Soissons, 15
 „  Conon de Béthune, Twelfth Century, 7
 „  Edward, Count of Rutland, 99
 „  Gérard de Saint-Amand, Twelfth Century, 9
Seal of an Imaginary Bull of Lucifer, Fifteenth Century, 422
Seal of John, Bishop of Puy and Count of Velay (1305), 28
Seal of John sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy 31
  „  the Knights of Christ, Thirteenth Century, 189
Seal of La Rochelle, 103
  „  the Lord of Corbeil (1196), 20
  „  the Monastery of St. Louis of Poissy, 338
  „  the Town of Boston, 94
  „    „   Dover, 85
  „    „   Poole, 93
  „    „   Sandwich, 89
  „    „   Yarmouth, 86
Servetus, Michael, 445
Seven Christian Virtues, The, with their Symbols, 355
Shield presented to Don Juan of Austria by Pius V., 271
Ship of Baptism, The, Sixteenth Century, 232
Siege of Toulouse, Episode in the, 404
 „  a Town: Summons to surrender, 67
Single Combat to be decided by the Judgment of God, 161
Sitting of the Council of Trent, 1555, 270
Sixtus II. handing to St. Laurentius the Treasures of the Church to be distributed among the Poor, 341
Soldier of the Time of Philippe le Bel, 51
Soldiers of the German Bands, 64
Solemn Entry of the Emperor Charles V. and Pope Clement VII. into Bologna, in 1529, 268, 269
Solemn Procession for the Relief of the Town of Dijon, 239
Solemn Reception of a Bishop, Fifteenth Century, 286
Sovereign Pontiff, Public and Solemn Functions of the, Seventeenth Century, 264
Spanish Caravel in which Columbus discovered America, 83
Spanish Ship, Fifteenth Century, 81
Spiritual and Temporal Powers, The, dependent upon Christ, 248
St. Anthony of Padua commanding a Mule to adore the Eucharist, 334
St. Anthony, a Statuette of the Third Century, 301
St. Barbara, 364
St. Benedict, History of, 305, 307
   „   reproaching Totila, Fresco of the Thirteenth Century, 43
St. Bernard taking possession of the Abbey of Clairvaux, 327
St. Cecilia, and Valerian, her Spouse, 425
St. Cesarius, Obsequies of, 489
St. Denis carrying his head to the place of burial, 362
St. Dominic and the Albigenses, 429
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Fifteenth Century, 348
St. George and the Dragon, 202
St. Jean des Vignes, Abbey of Regular Canons at Soissons (1076), 323
St. Jerome in the Desert, 302
St. John of Capistran, 132
St. Louis and his Brothers made Prisoners by the Saracens, 128
St. Louis at Carthage, Disembarkation of, 131
  „  serving a Repast to the Poor, 351
St. Michael the Archangel offering the Symbol of the Imperial Power to a Byzantine Emperor, 251
St. Peter, 248
St. Radegonde receiving the Religious Garb from the Bishop of Noyon, 309
St. Savin and St. Cyprian before Maximus, 426
   „    „   Martyrdom of, 427
St. Theresa, 336
St. Thomas defending the Monastic Orders, Fourteenth Century, 332
St. Vincent de Paul, 360
St. Wulfram, Bishop of Sens, 287
State Gloves formerly in the possession of Louis XIII., 201
Stone Coffins, 457
Sufferers from St. Vitus’ Dance going on a Pilgrimage, 392
Superscription upon Our Lord’s Cross, 377
Surrender of the Garrison of a Town, 68
Sword of Isabella the Catholic, 139
Symbols of the Trinity, 204
Synagogue of Toledo, the Great, Third Century, 432
Templar in Travelling Dress, 185
Teutonic Knight, 196
Thomas of Savoy granting a Charter to the Town of Cambrai, 16
Three-masted Galley, Sixteenth Century, 82
Three Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Penance, 231
Three Sacraments: Marriage, Orders, and Extreme Unction, 236
Tomb, Gallo-Roman, 452
  „ of Adelaide or Alice, Countess of Hainault, 462
Tomb of Alexander de Berneval, Architect of the Church of St. Ouen, at Rouen, 472
Tomb of Du Guesclin, 464
  „  St. Elizabeth of Hungary, 461
  „  Louis, Duke of Orleans, and Valentine of Milan, his Wife, 468
Tomb of Philip Pot, Grand Seneschal of Burgundy, 466
Tomb of St. Remigius, 469
  „  Sibylle, Wife of Guy de Lusignan, 471
Torments of Hell, The, 485
Tortures inflicted by the Catholics upon the Huguenots in the South of France, 442
Tour du Télégraphe, Narbonne, Fourteenth Century, 6
Tower of Beaucaire, Thirteenth Century, 6
  „  the Castle of Fougères, Twelfth Century, 6
Tower of the Castle of Loches, Twelfth Century, 6
Tower of Notre-Dame des Bois, Eleventh Century, 487
Tower of the Wall of Provins, Twelfth Century, 6
Treaty of Arras, Conclusion of the, in 1191, 293
Tree of Battles, The, 29
Triumph of Christ, The, Seventeenth Century, 272
  „  the Lamb, The, Twelfth Century, 229
Triumphal Vessel drawn in a Car at the Funeral Ceremony of the Emperor Charles V., 492
Turreted Vessel that protected the Port of Venice, 77
Tympan in the Portico of the Church of Sémur, Eleventh Century, 346
Urban II. presiding over the Council of Clermont, in 1095, 262
Virgin of St. Luke, The so-called, 369
War Trophy of Barbarian Prisoners, Second Century, 39
Watch-tower, Fifteenth Century, 69
Wickliff, John, 409
Works of Charity, Fifteenth Century, 346
Zizim transferred to Charles VIII., 178
Zwingle, Ulrich, 416








Origin.—Barbaric Laws.—Enfeoffment.—Charlemagne and the Church.—First Construction of Strongholds.—Vassal and Suzerain.—Feudal Rights.—The Truce of God.—Feudal Churches and Abbeys.—Communal Principles.—New Townships.—Origin of the French Bourgeoisie.—The English Magna Charta.—Alienation of Fiefs.—Liberation of the Serfs.—Imperial Cities.—Feudal Rights of the Bishops.—St. Louis.—Wars between France and England.—The Bulle d’Or.—The States-General.—Origin of the Third Estate.

Before presenting any manifestation of its existence, feudalism had long been gradually developing, and seemed to be moving forward invisibly at the head of the barbarian conquerors of Roman Gaul. From the day that their great leader, Clovis, shared amongst his leudes, or companions-in-arms, the lands that they had won at the price of their blood while fighting under his orders—from the day when, by his miraculous baptism after the victory of Tolbiac (Fig. 1), he himself a proud Sicamber, submitted himself to and became a vassal of the Christian Church, simultaneously sprang into existence a theocratic and a martial aristocracy. In this simultaneous double origin might have already been perceived the hidden cause of the future inevitable antagonism between the modern influence of the cross and the material power[2] of the sword. Conspiracies, bloodthirsty executions, continual revolts, divers plots, in which were concerned at one time the king’s leudes, at another the principal clergy; ecclesiastical censures, ceaselessly threatening these blind and savage tyrants, who, while bending to the reproof, at the same time panted for revenge; curbless ambitions, terrible hatreds, the continued strife of opposing races; on one side the Gallo-Romanic (Figs. 2 and 3) and its heir the Gothic, on the other the barbarous Germanic and Slavonian, more or less christianized; all these were the endless signs by which the coming reign of feudalism, at each successive stage of modern civilisation, marked its advent. The political[3] system which a barbarous legal code had inaugurated for the benefit of the leudes, was entirely opposed to the system sanctioned by the Roman law. It was the desire of the leudes that a seignior, the owner of the land and of the men who cultivated it, should possess the right of infeudalising, that is to say, of ceding, as an inferior freehold, a certain portion of his own estate, abandoning in so doing to the concessionary or vassal not only the rights of the soil, but the sovereignty over those who occupied it. For a vassal to forfeit his rights, he must first have failed to fulfil the engagements he undertook when he received the investiture of the fief. The cession of lands and the rights attached to it, which were the foundation of dawning feudalism, remained for more than a century in that state of oscillation which precedes a stable equilibrium.

Fig. 1.—Battle of Tolbiac and Baptism of King Clovis.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the “Mirouer Historial de France,” in folio, printed in Paris by Galliot du Pré in 1516.

Fig. 2.—Gallo-Roman Lords of the Fourth Century.—Sculpture from the Tomb of the Gallic Consul Jovinus, General under the Emperor Julian, at Rheims.

Fig. 3.—Mounted Barbarian in the Roman Service.—From an Antique Monument.

Master of France, of Germany, and of Italy, and protector of the Church, Charlemagne (Fig. 4) enjoyed all the prerogatives of the Western emperors. On two occasions he delivered the Holy Seat from its enemies, and in Germany as well as in Italy he placed his sword at the service of the Christian faith. One of the popes, Adrian, bestowed upon him the dignity of patron;[4] another, Adrian’s successor, Leo III., placed, in the year 800, the imperial crown upon his head. Then might have been seen, better than in the days of the Roman and Greek Emperors, the spectacle of the Church protected by the head of the State, to whom the seignorial aristocracy paid feudal obedience, and who controlled with an iron hand their tendencies to schism. Feudalism, which was gathering strength, and which already knew its own power, never retrograded; it sometimes halted and was at rest, but it was only waiting a more propitious season to continue its path. Charlemagne’s successors were, in fact, neither the kings of France nor the emperors of Germany, but the feudal lords, the great landowners; and their power waxed all the greater from the fact that, in 853, an edict of Charles the Bald ordered the reconstruction of the ancient manors, the repair of their fortifications, and the construction of new ones, so as to arrest the devastating invasions of the Normans, of the Saracens, of the Hungarians, and of the Danes. Thus Europe became dotted with fortresses, behind which both nobles and villains found a refuge against the new flood of barbarians. There was soon scarcely a stream, a mountain pass, or an important road which was left undefended either by military posts or by strong walls (Figs. 5 to 10). The invaders, formerly rendered so bold and indomitable by the fear they had succeeded in inspiring, now ceased their raids, or at most ventured no farther than the shores on which they had disembarked. Little by little a sense of security returned to the inhabitants, and the welfare of the civilised world was assured. A service of this importance, rendered by the nobles and seigniors[5] to society at large, naturally gave them legitimate claims to the exclusive guardianship of the frontiers which they protected from the common enemy.

Fig. 4.—Statue of Charlemagne (formerly in the Church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, Paris).—Eleventh to Twelfth Century.

Towards the tenth century, every noble who desired to obtain from another noble, richer or more powerful than himself, a portion of land to be held as a fief, and who consented thus to become his vassal, personally declared in the chief’s presence that for the future he wished to be his faithful, devoted servant and his defender until death; with his sword girded to his side and his spurs on his heels, he solemnly swore this on the Holy Writ. In the subsequent ceremony of hommage-lige the vassal, bareheaded, knelt on one knee, and, placing his hands within those of his seignior, swore fealty to him, and undertook to follow him to the wars (Figs. 11 and 12), an obligation not entailed by the first act of homage, namely, that of hommage-simple. Thenceforward the seignior ceded to him the land or the feudal domain, by investiture or by seizin, a ceremony often accompanied by the giving of a symbolical sign, such as a clod of earth, a little stick, or a stone, according to the custom of the soil. The investiture of kingdoms was conferred with the sword, that of provinces with a standard.

Fig. 5.—Tower of the Walls of Provins, Twelfth Century.

Fig. 6.—Tower of the Castle of Fougères, Twelfth Century.

Fig. 7.—Tower of the Castle of Loches, Twelfth Century.

Fig. 8.—Tower of Beaucaire, Thirteenth Century.

Fig. 9.—Tour du Télégraphe, Narbonne, Fourteenth Century.

Fig. 10.—Old Castle of Angoulême, Thirteenth Century.

The reciprocal obligations of the vassal and his suzerain were numerous, some moral, some material. The vassal was bound to loyally preserve the secrets confided to him by his suzerain (Fig. 13), to prevent and frustrate any treachery on the part of his enemies, to defend him at the risk of his own life,[6] to resign his own horse on the battle-field should his lord have lost his, to go as a prisoner in his stead, to cause his honour to be respected, and to assist him with his advice. At the simple request of the suzerain, the vassal was bound to follow him to the field, either alone or accompanied with a specified number of[7] armed men, according to the importance of the fief. The duration of this military service varied, in like manner, in proportion to the fief, from twenty to sixty days—a period that did not admit of very distant expeditions. The feudal seignior stood in place of the sovereign, and being invested with executive authority, had necessarily, in order to exercise it, recourse to the latent force distributed amongst his vassals, and he naturally did so in accordance with his own convenience. Justice, administered in this manner, was termed fiance, that is to say, public security. The seignior was wont to summon the men of his fief or fiefs to his plaids, or assizes, either for the purpose of assisting him with their advice, to act with him as judges, or to carry out the sentences he pronounced. He had a right to two kinds of assistance—obligatory, or legal aids, and voluntary, or gracious aids. Legal aids were due from the vassal under three sets of circumstances: when the seignior was taken prisoner and had to pay a ransom, when his eldest son was about to be made a knight, and when he gave away his eldest daughter in marriage. In feudal society these aids stood in the place of the public taxes, which in ancient times, as in our own days, were collected by the State alone; they differed, however, in this respect, that they were not due at any stated periods, nor perhaps could they ever be absolutely enforced, they were a kind of voluntary gift—from the bestowal of which, however, few vassals dared to free themselves.

Fig. 11.—Act of Faith and Homage, Twelfth Century.—Seal of Conon de Béthune, preserved in the National Archives of France.


Fig. 12.—Act of Faith and Homage, Thirteenth Century.—Seal representing Raimond de Mont-Dragon kneeling before the Archbishop of Arles, his Suzerain, in the National Archives of France.

The seignior, who never abdicated his sovereignty over his vassal, sometimes interfered in certain essential modifications necessary to the fief—modifications that the vassal was incompetent to undertake. These gave rise to new rights, and became a fresh source of revenue to the seignior. For instance, the seignior was entitled—first, to the right of relief, a sum of money payable by every person of full age who succeeded to the possession of a fief, which sum became larger as the line of succession became less direct; secondly, to the right of alienation, payable by those who sold or alienated the fief in any way; thirdly, to the rights of escheat and of confiscation, in accordance with which the fief reverted to the suzerain when the vassal died without leaving an heir, or when, from some act of his own, he had incurred the penalty of being deprived of his feudatory rights; fourthly, to the right of guardianship, in virtue of which the seignior, during the minority of his vassals, held the ward and administration of the fief besides enjoying its revenues; fifthly, to the right of marriage, which consisted in finding a husband for the female inheritor of a fief; this right gave the seignior the privilege of forcing her to select one of the suitors that he chose to present to her.


As long as a vassal scrupulously fulfilled his numerous and delicate obligations he might consider himself as the absolute master of his fief, he might partially or entirely sub-feudalise it, and become in his own turn the suzerain of vassals of an inferior order termed vavasseurs, who were bound to render to him the same obligations that he himself paid to his own seignior. On the other hand, the suzerain was bound to respect his contract, not to dispossess his vassal without a legitimate motive, but to protect him, and to render him on all occasions substantial justice. It was, moreover, to his interest to do this, for the prosperity of the fief depended upon the security and welfare of the vassal.

Fig. 13.—Act of Faith and Homage, with the Legend, Secretum meum mici (“My Secret is to myself”).—Seal of Gérard de Saint-Amand, 1199, National Archives of France.

Vassals of the same suzerain, residing in the same territory, and possessing fiefs of a similar value, were termed pairs (pares), or equals. Suzerains of every rank, the king included, had their pairs, and all could claim the privilege of being tried by these pairs in the presence of his immediate seignior. If the seignior refused to act justly, and the vassal considered himself unrighteously condemned, he had the right of making an appeal in default of justice to the suzerain of his own seignior. Another right of appeal, that of arms, prevailed also in feudal society. The nobles, as a rule, preferred to carry out their own justice rather than await from others a slow and uncertain decision. This was the cause of there being so many little wars and so many desperate and bloody struggles between different seigniorships. Might made right; but custom, nevertheless, to some extent regulated the formalities that preceded these internecine conflicts, so that the seignior or the vassal who was to be attacked might be forearmed, and might put himself upon his guard (Figs. 14 and 15). Further, to remedy as much as possible the calamities[10] ensuing from these perpetual contentions, the Church had the power of suspending and preventing them, under pain of excommunication, from sunset on Wednesday to sunrise on Monday during the festivals of Lent and Advent, and at all periods of high religious solemnity. This was the Peace or the Truce of God.

Fig. 14.—Château de la Panouze (Aveyron), type of a French Feudal Castle of the Fourteenth Century, of which remains still exist.—From a Miniature in a Manuscript in the National Library of Paris.

The seigniors possessed no right of uniform justice. In France, a superior, a middle, and an inferior judicial court were recognised. The first alone possessed the power of life and death. The more considerable fiefs had usually attached to them the right to exercise the highest justice, but there were exceptions to this rule. A vavasseur, for instance, might sometimes appeal against this highest justice, while a seignior, who was only entitled to exercise the inferior justiciary rights, might inflict death on all robbers caught in flagrante delicto on his lands.


Fig. 15.—View overlooking the Castle of Pierrefonds (beginning of the Fifteenth Century), as restored by M. Viollet-le-Duc, in his “Dictionnaire d’Architecture.”

The privilege of coining money, always a sure index of sovereignty, together with the exclusion of all foreign jurisdiction and of all external[12] authority from the area of each fief, also constituted two important prerogatives. Finally, the fief, with its privileges, always remained intact; it passed invariably to the eldest of the family, on the sole condition of his paying homage to the suzerain.

Most of the churches and abbeys, such as those of Saint-Denis, of Saint-Martin des Champs, and of Saint-Germain des Prés (Fig. 16), which proudly reared their towers and spires opposite the Louvre of the kings of France, exercised on their own account all the feudal rights which they had acquired by reason of the territorial possessions as well as by the concessions lavishly ceded to them by their sovereigns. The archbishops, the bishops, and the abbots thus became temporal lords, and were consequently forced to have vassals for military service, to keep up a court of justice, and to support a mint, thus uniting—in the case of bishops who enjoyed the temporal rank of count—spiritual with political authority.

Fig. 16.—View of the Abbey of Saint-Germain des Prés, from the East, as it stood in 1361.—Fac-simile of an Engraving in the “Histoire de Saint-Germain des Prés,” by Dom Bouillard: in folio.

A, Road leading to the River Seine; B, St. Peter’s Chapel; C, the Close; D, Road leading to the Pré-aux Clercs; E, Place of the Breach; F, Ditch; G, the Pope’s Gate; H, Cloister; I, Refectory; K, Dormitory; L, the Church; M, Chapel of the Virgin; N, Road between the Ditch and the Pré-aux-Clercs; O, space between the Barrier to the Rue des Ciseaux; P, Great Gate of the Monastery; Q, Road to the River; R, Barrier close to the Ditch; S, the Inn called the Chapeau Rouge; T, the Pillory.

This twofold power made the prelate the suzerain of all the seigniors in his diocese. Towards the end of the tenth century the feudal ecclesiastics, by reason of the permission granted to laymen to bequeath their property to the Church, as well as of the strictness of the laws which forbade the alienation of ecclesiastical property, possessed a fifth part of all French and English soil, and nearly a third of Germany; whilst the last surviving Carlovingian could only claim the town of Laon, where he resided, to such an extent had his predecessors despoiled themselves of their lands in favour of their great vassals, who still, however, recognised him as their suzerain. In the eleventh century Europe was divided into a multitude of fiefs, each having its own mode of life, its own laws, its own customs, and its ecclesiastical or lay head, who was as independent as he well could be. Around these, but under certain conditions of dependence and of subordination, was developed the much more numerous class of freedmen. Gradually manual labour and the efforts of a growing intelligence led to the political existence of the bourgeois, those worthy representatives of the labouring portion of society. The part which was taken by the latter was not always of a passive character. As early as the year 987 the villains of Normandy rebelled and leagued themselves against their feudal lords, claiming the right of fishing and of the chase, and the privilege of having an administration and a magistracy of their own; it was thus that the innate power of the people revealed itself: the towns and the boroughs were peopled with inhabitants[14] who held their homes in tenure from the seigniors—who were the proprietors of the soil—under certain servile obligations as to the payment of taxes. As soon as the establishment of the hierarchy of fiefs had put an end to discord and anarchy, the germs of the Great Revolution—destined to restore civil liberty to the heirs of the countless inhabitants whom the misfortunes of Gaul and the tyranny of the emperors had reduced to servitude—began to show themselves. It was in this wise that the communal movement originated, and the town of Mans is generally credited with having been the first to set the example of having, through the agency of the working classes, conspired against the seignior. We find in the annals of Metz, about the year 1098, record of the election for life of a maître-échevin (high-sheriff), named Millon, in place of one, by name Hennolu-Bertin, who had been elected for one year, but who, doubtless, was not the first in his office. And we find an echevinal council, termed the council of the twelve, enjoying functions at once magisterial, administrative, and military. Metz possessed at the same time, by the side of their communal organization, a count of the name of Gerald, who was succeeded in 1063 by another count named Folmar. It had also a bishop, rich, powerful, firm, full of learning, named Adalbéron, a favourite both with the Pope and with the Emperor, influential enough to obtain anything, but never asking anything but what was just. It was, therefore, under the protection of the sword of the count and of the crozier of the bishop that the municipal liberties of Metz began to grow—liberties that became within a single century so developed and powerful that Bertram, another bishop of Saxon origin, undertook the task of restricting them, and endeavoured to regulate them by a charter which restored to the Church its electoral but not its governmental influence. This first communal organization, a type of many other municipalities in France and in Germany, was inaugurated without bloodshed. But this was not everywhere the case; at Cambrai, for instance, the commune was only established after a century of open warfare between the inhabitants and the bishop, their suzerain. At Laon—that ancient feudal city where the nobility and the burgesses engaged in all kinds of brigandage, where the bishop, who was a famous warrior and huntsman, was in the habit of sharing with the dignitaries of his cathedral and with the aristocracy of the town the fruit of his exactions—the commune inaugurated itself with the blood of their bishop, who was assassinated in the midst of a terrible insurrection. The towns of Amiens, of Beauvais, of Noyon, of Saint-Quentin,[15] of Sens, of Soissons (Fig. 17), and of Vézelay, underwent nearly the same vicissitudes that Cambrai and Laon had experienced, and finally attained, after similar trials, a similar position. Perhaps Cambrai, of all the French communes, was the most exacting towards the feudal power that it was trampling under foot. “Ni l’évêque, ni l’Empereur, ne peuvent mia asseoir ne taxe, ne tribut, et n’en peult issir la malice, fors que pour la bonne garde et défense de la ville, et ce depuis coq chantant jusques à la nuit.”[1] No vassal had ever claimed or obtained more in the exercise of his feudal rights (Fig. 18).

Fig. 17.—Seal of the Commune of Soissons, representing the Mayor of Soissons, armed at all points, in the midst of the Sheriffs of the Town (1228).—National Archives of France.

The inauguration of the communal system had taken place without a struggle, and almost without opposition, as a useful and necessary reform at Metz, at Rheims, in a few midland towns, such as Bourges, Moulins, Lyons,[16] Périgeux, and in most of the southern cities, such as Arles, Aigues-Mortes (Fig. 19), Marseilles, Narbonne, Cahors (Fig. 20), Carcassonne (Fig. 21), Nîmes, and Bordeaux. This was explained by the fact that this independent action of the people had been prepared by the system adopted by the Franks, who allowed no difference to exist between the condition of the conquered and of the conquerors. The rights they might enjoy and the duties they were to perform had been equally shared amongst all the freedmen of the monarchy without any distinction as to nationality; the Franks would have feared, had they acted differently, that they were reserving for the sovereign the possibility of using the oppressed nations as a weapon to overcome the conquerors themselves, and that in this way they might be leaving a loophole through which the monarchy might degenerate into despotism.

Fig. 18.—Thomas of Savoy, Count of Flanders, and Joan his Wife, grant to the Town of Cambrai the Charter of Peace made between the Counts of Hainaut and the Chapter of Cambrai in 1240.—Miniature from the “Chroniques de Hainaut,” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).


Beyond the Alps, particularly in Lombardy, under the fostering action of liberal institutions, commerce and manufactures developed themselves, particularly at Milan, Pavia, Verona, and Florence; and in a still higher degree, owing to their position on the sea-board, at Venice and Genoa. In these rich and prosperous cities the seignorial nobility and the Church reigned side by side, enjoying a nearly equal and parallel influence, and when feudalism attempted to absorb them by its inflexible despotism, the manufacturing and the commercial classes, selecting as their leaders a few more prominent of the artisans and some of the most respected of the clergy, allied themselves with the lesser rural nobles, and, with the assistance of the latter’s vassals, succeeded in repulsing its crushing yoke. This, however, was not accomplished without tremendous struggles, nor without painful trials and heavy sacrifices.

Fig. 19.—Fortified Gate of the Town of Aigues-Mortes, which Town obtained in 1246 a Communal Charter (Military Architecture of the Thirteenth Century).

In the Low Countries, which had always so highly exalted the sentiment of local patriotism, the struggle of the villains against the nobles, whether lay or ecclesiastic, differed but little from the struggle of the towns in the north of France against the seigniors, but it assumed larger proportions in accordance with the immense resources of every kind which they had at their disposal. The feudal lord had his drawbridge, his battlements, and his men-at-arms[18] cased in iron; but his rebellious vassal could boast on his side, besides the narrow and winding streets of his stronghold and the number of his fellow-combatants, many warlike engines and well-made weapons which he himself had manufactured. When feudalism, in order to crush what it then termed the populace, summoned to its banner hordes of adventurers recruited from all parts of the world, it was encountered by undisciplined levies of armed mechanics and artisans, who issued forth from Ghent, from Bruges, and from Liége, and not unfrequently returned victorious.

Fig. 20.—Fortified Bridge, from Valentré to Cahors (1308).

Fig. 21.—Plan of the Fortified City of Carcassonne (Thirteenth Century).

Beyond the Meuse, the Moselle, and the Rhine, feudalism flourished. Lofty fortresses, surrounded with a triple moat, everywhere cast their shadows athwart the land, though the towns enjoyed a full share of municipal liberty, and were not unfrequently the disinterested spectators of the terrible struggles that the feudal nobility carried on between themselves. Nowhere did feudalism display more arrogance or more barbarity than in Germany, which resembled some vast camp to which the nobles flocked to meet face to face in desperate combat.

When it came to pass that the industrial and populous towns of Germany[19] cried out for municipal liberties similar to those enjoyed by the towns of France, Italy, and the Low Countries, the emperor hastened to grant and confirm their desires. He did more, he gave them the right of immediate appeal against the princes of the empire—that is to say, any towns situated in the territory of any prince were responsible, not to the latter, but directly and immediately to the emperor himself, who thus laid for himself the foundations of strong natural supports in the very heart of the larger fiefs. The towns of Germany, already rich and flourishing, increased their commerce and their wealth, thanks to the new position they thus acquired.

The Emperor Henry V. greatly assisted this pacific revolution by granting privileges to the lower class of citizens and to the artisans, who up to that time had, according to the spirit of the Roman law, lived apart from the freedmen and remained at the lowest degree of the social scale. He relieved them, in particular, from the bondage of a custom by virtue of which the seignior at their deaths became entitled to all their personal property, or, at least, enjoyed the power of claiming everything worth having which they had left behind them.

In many towns Henry V. deprived the bishop of his temporal authority, and formed the burgesses into companies or guilds according to the nature of their manual occupation, a custom that was immediately imitated and adopted in other commercial countries. The bourgeoisie, organized in this manner into distinct groups, soon elected councils among themselves, the members of which, under the rule of senators, prud’hommes, bonshommes, echevins, and jurymen, began by assisting the representative of the imperial authority, whether duke, count, judge, or bishop, and ended by exercising a special and independent authority of their own, not over the vassals, but over citizens and commoners.

It will be asked, what then was the commune which had established itself with more or less effort and sacrifice in the principal parts of Europe? and further, as the commune had succeeded in one way or another in establishing itself, what privileges or immunities remained to the feudal lord, whether clerical or lay? Guilbert de Nogent, the open adversary of communal institutions, will perhaps give the best answer to these inquiries: “Those who pay taxes now pay only once a year the rent they owe to their seignior. If they commit some misdemeanour they have at the most[20] to pay a fine, the amount of which is legally fixed; as for the moneys that were wont to be levied from the serfs, they are now quite exempt from them.” Guilbert de Nogent might have indicated other victories obtained by the bourgeois, victories that were still more important in their moral influence, and which sooner or later were destined to change the face of society. As for the more intelligent seigniors who better understood their own personal interest, as well as the logical results of a paternal administration, they attempted to favour the instinctive movement of the rural populations, who, to shield themselves from the tyranny, the exactions, and the bad treatment of their feudal masters, were in the habit of seeking shelter and protection from some lord more humane or more politic than the rest, and who used, on the faith of a communal charter, to settle beside the ramparts of some seignorial manor (Fig. 22), around some loopholed church, or in the shade of some fortified monastery.

Fig. 22.—Seal of the Lord of Corbeil (1196).—National Archives of France.

The seignior in these cases was the gainer of so many able-bodied men, either artisans or agriculturists, but soldiers in case of need; and he was the gainer, moreover, in matters of revenue and influence.

It can easily be understood that in those times many charters were drawn up similar to the following, which is worth quoting as a type: “I, Henry,[21] Count of Troyes, make known to all present and to come, that I have established the undermentioned rules for the inhabitants of my new town (in the neighbourhood of Pont-sur-Seine) between the bridges of Pugny. Every man inhabiting the said town shall pay every year twelve deniers and a measure of oats as the price of his dwelling, and if he desires to hold a portion of land or meadow, he must pay four deniers yearly for every acre. The houses, vines, and fields may be sold or alienated at the pleasure of the holder. The men who reside in the said town shall go neither to the ost (an army in the field), nor shall they join any expedition unless I myself am at their head. I hereby allow them, moreover, to have six aldermen to administer the ordinary business of the town and to assist my provost in his duties. I have decreed that no seignior, be he knight or other, shall be allowed to withdraw from the town any of the men inhabitants for any reason whatsoever, unless such be his own men, or unless he owe the seignior any arrears of taxes.—Given at Provins, in the year of the Incarnation, 1175.” This name of Ville-neuve, which is so often found repeated in the charters and deeds of the Middle Ages, as, for example, Ville-neuve-l’Etang, Ville-neuve-Saint-George, Ville-neuve-le-Roi, Ville-neuve-lez-Avignon, &c., is evidence of what was an ordinary event in the twelfth century, namely, the creation of a free town, enfranchised from its birth, and subject to some small and insignificant payments to the seignior, and whose inhabitants, but yesterday serfs or villains, were now proprietors of portions of the soil, which they might dispose of or bequeath, either by gift or by testamentary disposition, under the immediate protection of their nominal seignior.

Fig. 23.—Ferrand of Portugal, Count of Flanders, made Prisoner at the Battle of Bouvines, and taken to Paris: “The Clergy and Laity singing Hymns and Songs.”—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Hainaut,” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).

Some ancient towns of the royal domains of France, such as Paris, Orleans, Meaux, Senlis, and others, which do not seem to have preserved the least trace of Roman institutions, always excepting the company of the Nautes Parisiennes, who were the true founders of the ancient municipality of Paris, were each governed by a provost, who was the officer and lieutenant of the king, their seignior, and they further enjoyed certain special liberties and privileges. In 1137, Louis VII., at the suggestion of his minister, Suger, forbade his provost and officers to annoy the burgesses in any manner whatsoever, and fixed the amount of their taxation himself. Ten years later, the same sovereign abolished the right of mortmain, repressed the abuses of the fiscal taxes, instituted a judicial system, and greatly encouraged commerce. It was not as king, but as seignior suzerain, that Louis VII. acted in this manner.[22] The French, bourgeoisie was at this time of but recent origin; it had sprung from a triumphant villanage, and was beginning to form a new branch, from which was to issue, a few centuries later, the third estate. Legal jurisdiction and the right of coinage, feudal privileges of which the royal suzerain had always been very jealous, were favours it then but seldom enjoyed. Philip-Augustus understood better than his predecessors the interests of the royal power, for he graciously granted seventy-eight communal charters; he was rewarded by the effectual assistance the communal levies afforded him at the battle of Bouvines (1214), when he was fortunate enough to overthrow the[23] coalition that foreign feudalism had formed with his rebellious great vassals. He forced the latter to return to their duty, and one of them, the Count of Flanders, remained twelve years a prisoner in the principal tower of the Louvre (Fig. 23). Philip-Augustus had not shrunk from granting a legal constitution to the bourgeoisie of Paris and the principal towns, in opposition to the feudal nobility.

The communal movement, a natural development of the legal rights introduced by the Franks, was scarcely felt in England. Already, long before the Norman Conquest, under the Anglo-Saxon rule, many busy towns, wealthy and populous, such as Canterbury, London, Oxford, and York, took a share in public affairs, a limited share, it is true, but one sufficient for their wellbeing and prosperity. The victorious invasion of William of Normandy, so fatal to the whole country, was still more so to the large towns, which were compelled to behold their own material ruin, the sequestration and confiscation of their property, the dispersion and infeudation of their inhabitants, their agriculturists and their farmers. Unable any longer to invoke the protection of an easy-natured sovereign, they were forced to bow their heads beneath the sway of strangers, lucky adventurers, bold, exacting, despotic, and cruel men, believing in no faith and obeying no law, the very dregs of French feudalism. King Henry I., the third son of William the Conqueror, after many sanguinary struggles, in which his barons were not found wanting in fealty to him, granted them the celebrated charter called Magna Charta—usually, though, erroneously, considered the fundamental origin of English liberties, which, however, really dated from a prior period; at the same time (1132) he released the burgesses of London from the lamentable state of degradation in which they had existed since the Conquest. In the reign of Henry II.—an administrative and judicial reformer—not in England alone, but in those parts of Scotland and Ireland which he had conquered (1154–1182), the inhabitants of many towns acquired the right to purchase the freehold of the soil they occupied, and to free themselves from several special taxes by paying a fixed sum to the feudal lord. Thenceforward arose that haughty bourgeoisie, with which the barons had soon to reckon, a class which John Lackland favoured proportionately as he dreaded the continual rebellions of the feudal seigniors. Twice was Prince Louis, the son of Philip-Augustus, summoned by the Anglo-Norman barons to cross the channel with an army to force the English king to fulfil the[24] clauses of the charters he had granted to his great vassals (1215–1216); on the other hand, the towns and communes, grown rich and powerful, thanks to the privileges which had been granted to them as well as to the intelligent activity of their manufactures, forced the nobles to respect them. The latter no longer attempted to compel assistance, but solicited it, often even humbly, so that the communes and the landed aristocracy held an equal position in the feudal hierarchy. The title of noble and baron, bestowed on the leading citizens of London and the Cinque Ports, raised the middle-class to a higher position. Indeed, to enable it, already powerful by its wealth and by its alliances, to become a political body, it only needed the privilege of sending representatives to parliament, a privilege which was granted in 1264 to the principal towns of the kingdom.

Fig. 24.—Philip III., called “the Bold,” in Royal Costume.—From a Miniature in a Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).

In France, about the same period, the industrial and trading bourgeoisie had seats in the privy council of St. Louis, and, advancing in letters and science, it gradually obtained possession of all the chairs at the university. As early as the reign of Philip the Bold (Fig. 24), it occupied all the higher positions in the judicature, and hence it assumed a place in the great bailiwicks and parliaments, from which the feudal nobility did not condescend to oust it, and which, after a time, enabled it to offer a successful resistance to the[25] abuse of power on the part of this same nobility, whose authority steadily diminished. Admitted by Philippe-le-Bel to the general assemblies of the nation and to the sessions of the states-general, the bourgeoisie became one of the states, an order of the kingdom, that is, the tiers-état. It absorbed the offices pertaining to the general administration and to finance, it furnished the lower orders of the clergy with most of their distinguished representatives, and the municipalities with the most gifted of their magistrates; it acquired the right of purchasing offices which carried nobility with them, of possessing seignorial domains with high and petty justice, and thus it forced its way like ivy into the crevices of the feudal edifice, which stone by stone crumbled to pieces. Philippe-le-Bel, surnamed the King of the Lawyers—who helped him in a material degree to carry out his designs—showed himself, as a natural consequence, the King of the Commons (tiers-état), and the secret enemy of the Church and the nobility. The latter, valiant and chivalrous, but devoid of forethought, rushing headlong into every kind of adventure, and caring only for deeds of daring and warlike achievements, regardless of their material interests, gradually allowed themselves to be divested of a considerable part of their domains by the bourgeoisie, who lent them money upon mortgage, and by the voués or procureurs, who ruined them. The decadence of their wealth dated from the First Crusade, when they encumbered their estates to pay the expenses of distant expeditions, which they undertook almost entirely at their own cost; and when they wished to recover possession of the properties which they had handed over to some third party, they found them loaded with fresh debts, which had been contracted during their absence, and producing but nominal revenues for want of hands to cultivate the soil. They then were obliged to sell a portion of the property, and that at a great loss. The only resource remaining was the concession of their feudal privileges, and in this way the nobility lost the right of coining money and of exercising justice, while the sovereigns—Philippe-le-Bel in particular—seconded by the bourgeoisie, increased their absolute power.

The massacre of more than six thousand chevaliers at Courtray (1302), by the Flemish militia (Fig. 25), was a heavy blow to the pride of the generous but reckless nobility of France. It was humiliating to these lords to find that the villains knew how to wield the arms which they had been in the habit of making for others; they saw that they possessed the courage and skill needed to win battles, and that henceforward they must be reckoned[26] upon as a force able to take the field as well as formidable when engaged in street riots.

Fig. 25.—Flemish Warrior in the Uniform of the Van Artevelde Militia: Stone Statue formerly in one of the niches in the Belfry at Ghent, now in the Ruins of St. Bavon of Ghent (Fourteenth Century).

In Germany, the fall of the Hohenstaufen family, formerly Dukes of Swabia and Franconia, favoured the enfranchisement of towns; all the cities in these two principalities, hitherto subject to the mediatised lords, reverted to the emperor, who, without any real power over them, left them free to establish the franchise and immunities of a republic. In order to increase their populations, they followed the example of the sovereigns and feudal lords of France and Lombardy in regard to the formation of new towns, establishing around their walls, as feudalism had done outside its donjons, fields of refuge. These were occupied by a host of strangers, who received the designation of Pfahlbürger—citizens of the palisades, or faubourgians, originally sheltered and protected by a wooden barrier. These receded in proportion as the number of inhabitants increased, and according as their trade developed. Many serfs deserted the neighbouring fiefs to seek in these free towns the independence, position, success, and all the advantages which they could not enjoy under the feudal régime. Their lords demanded their extradition by virtue of their feudal rights, accompanying the demand with threats, which were sometimes effectual; but the free towns, not less interested in keeping the fugitive than the latter was in remaining with them, endeavoured to gain time and to favour his retreat until after the expiration of three hundred and sixty-five days, when the right of the lord to his liegeman or vassal ceased.

The imperial towns—which, from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, after having freed themselves from the fetters of feudalism, had risen to such a height of independence that the emperor himself had but a nominal supremacy over them—were Ratisbon, in Bavaria; Augsburg and Ulm, in[27] Swabia; Nuremberg, Spiers, Worms, and Frankfort-on-the-Main, in Franconia; Magdeburg, in Saxony; Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck, in the Hanseatic League; Aix-la-Chapelle, Bonn, Cologne, Coblentz, Mayence, Strasburg, and Metz, in the Rhenish and Lotharingian provinces. These towns, essentially industrial and commercial, in which the middle-classes were for the most part supreme, formed vast emporiums, teeming with the products of the north, the south, and the east. They were looked upon as the store-houses and arsenals of Europe. Feudalism, unable to produce anything for itself, was always replenishing from these depôts the resources necessary for equipping and revictualling its armies. From them came the arms and the engines of warfare, as well as the special workmen, the cross-bowmen, the carpenters, the founders, and the artillerymen, who composed the personnel of the artillery at this period. If the free towns had arrived at a common understanding, and formed a pacific league between themselves, they would have presented a serious obstacle to the struggles of the suzerain lords; but their distance from each other, especially those in the centre of Germany, prevented them from coming to such an arrangement. Nor could they, as in England, form an alliance with the feudal nobility, nor, as in France, make common cause with the suzerain. As the emperor left them to act independently, they were obliged to organize their own defence, to contract alliances with some powerful neighbour, and weaken, by dividing them, those enemies whom they deemed stronger than themselves. Thus these free towns never constituted a homogeneous body; they were isolated and spread over a vast extent of territory, being only brought together by feelings of interest and sympathy, but without any mutual tie or political cohesion. The lord with whom they were at war to-day, would enter their service and pay the next, with the title of soldarien; and at times a single town would have as many as two or three hundred of these allies, who were always followed by a swarm of marauders, and who spread desolation throughout the land. The lords who were without fortune, who represented the petty feudalism of the country districts, finding in the service of these towns a means for keeping up their state and paying their followers, passed from one to the other, and only enlisted under the standard of a sovereign prince for want of better employment, for the latter did not as a rule pay so well as these free towns.

From the eleventh to the fourteenth century, the position of the bishop,[28] in point of political influence, did not improve in these free or republican towns, either in England, France, or Germany. Suzerain lord by moral authority, he was only so to a very limited degree (Fig. 26) in respect to his temporal power. He only exercised justice over his vassals, or at most over the members of the secular and inferior clergy, for the canons, the incumbents, and even the deacons, enjoying as they did special immunities, would have appealed, in the event of a dispute or of censure, to their metropolitan archbishop, or even to Rome. It is true that the lay depositaries of municipal authority did not, on their side, take any judicial steps against the ecclesiastics, except in case of conspiracy against the State, which alone rendered them answerable to secular justice. Outside the subordinates of the bishop and the chapter, the episcopal court or tribunal took cognizance of the crimes, the offences, and misdemeanours against religion of which any citizen might be guilty, and also of the heresies, blasphemies, breaking of images, glaring infractions of the commandments of God and of the Church, insults and assaults of the priests, &c. And even in these cases, where the delinquent could plead nobility, and especially when he belonged to the higher classes of feudalism, the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical tribunals could not reach him. As the nobility could always claim to be judged by their peers, there was rarely any infraction of this feudal principle, and then only where some diocesan bishop or metropolitan was powerful enough to substitute his own will for the customary right.

Fig. 26.—Seal of John, Bishop of Puy and Count of Velay (1305), holding in his right hand a naked sword as a token of secular jurisdiction.

Fig. 27.—The Tree of Battles: Allegorical Figures representing the discord which exists between the various classes of society.—Reproduced from a Miniature of “The Tree of Battles” of Honoré Bouet, Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).

In nearly all the episcopal towns, the judgment of the prelate or of his[29] delegates was delivered from the square in front of the cathedral, or from the doorway of some exterior and adjacent chapel. This practice, maintained[30] during the first centuries of the Church’s existence, ceased when another form of justice, namely, civil justice, took its place. In order to avoid the conflicts which must have ensued, and to furnish no pretext for popular disturbance, the ecclesiastical justice took refuge in some special place, generally called the Cour l’éresque, till at last the diocesan power, deprived of its temporal prerogatives within the boundary of the free towns, found itself obliged to transfer somewhere else the seat of its jurisdiction and of those feudal rights which it still retained. The mint of the prelate was established there; but so wide was the disagreement between the ecclesiastical and the civil authorities, and so sustained the struggle between the feudal and the middle-class interests, that it often happened that the episcopal money was not accepted as current coin, even in the town where the bishop was spiritually supreme, nor in the territory annexed to the free town and enjoying equal prerogatives.

In Germany and in Italy the emperor, in France and England the king, as the highest representatives of feudalism, possessed in every large city—notably in the cities termed imperial or royal—an official delegate, called burgrave, count, or viscount, who, originally at the head of the army, the magistracy, and the finances, gradually lost his prerogatives till, in the thirteenth century, he was scarcely more than a mere dignitary, without either power or credit. Many bishops, authorised by the lay sovereign, took the title of count, without, however, adding in any material degree to their influence. Besides, whatever may have been the nature and extent of the functions of a count, it does not appear that the free towns paid any more heed to them than to the pre-eminence of the bishop in all that appertained to the administration and government of the commune. In many places, especially in Italy and upon the banks of the Moselle and the Rhine, the bourgeoisie possessed councils invested both with the judicial and executive power, also a senate and a parliament, which was summoned by the ringing of a bell, and to which the lords inhabiting the adjacent castles were admitted, but only as ordinary citizens; without, however, losing any of their domainial privileges.

Though feudalism possessed nearly the same generic type in all European countries, it presented here and there varying shades of nationality, due to the dissimilarity of race, to the habits of the people, to the different modes in which it had been introduced, and to the diverse phases of its struggle and growth.


Fig. 28.—Seal of John, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Nevers and Baron of Donzy, surnamed Jean sans Peur (1371–1419).—National Archives of Paris.

The illustrious house of Franconia, alarmed at the incessant progress of high German feudalism, and anxious to check it, created, in the midst of the duchies by which it was threatened, a number of immediate lordships, owing fealty only to the emperor, and having an hereditary right over the fiefs of chivalry. This step met with an obstinate resistance from the great vassals who possessed this hereditary right, which the elected monarch did not enjoy of himself. On the other hand, the palatine lords, agents of the emperor, and empowered to represent him in the great fiefs or in his domains, and the burgraves of the towns, impatient to free themselves from the imperial suzerainty, displayed at the same time the insubordination which the leudes had practised in the Carlovingian epoch, and endeavoured to establish for themselves an independence transmissible to their heirs. While this movement was going on, the Pope was lowering the status of the empire; Innocent II. compelled the Emperor Lothair II. to receive in fee from him[32] Tuscany, the Duchy of Spoleta, the Marches of Ancona, Bologna, Parma, Placenza, &c., forming part of the legacy bequeathed to the Holy See by the Countess Matilda. From this flagrant humiliation, submitted to by Conrad of Hohenstaufen, the successor of Lothair, and haughtily rejected by Henry the Haughty when he refused to render feudal homage to the Pope, arose the celebrated quarrel of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, which, from the banks of the Rhine, spread beyond the Alps, and implanted itself in the very heart of Italy. Henry the Haughty, chief of the Guelphs, independent and royal, was proscribed and stripped of his duchies, while Conrad, chief of the Ghibellines, inaugurated the brilliant dynasty of the Hohenstaufens. Thirty years of bitter warfare, during which the alliance of the papacy with the national party was cemented, seconded by the efforts of petty feudalism, led up to the treaty of Constance, which brought to a definite close the struggle of the feudal empire against the popular independence of the cities of Italy. The Pope had recovered the freeholds left him by the Countess Matilda; the towns preserved their regal prerogatives, entire liberty to raise armies, to surround themselves with walls (Fig. 29), to exercise criminal and civil jurisdiction, and to form confederations with other towns, &c. The emperor was left with no other privileges than those of confirming, through his ambassadors, the consular elections, and of appointing in each town a judge of appeal in his name. It was in vain that the Emperor Henry VI. endeavoured to re-establish high feudalism; he died in the attempt (1199), and Innocent III., who considered himself to be the natural defender of all the rights and the supreme judge in all the monarchies in Europe, resisted every effort made by Henry VI. Several Crusades, moreover, which occurred at about this period, created a modification in the warlike sentiments of the feudal nobility, until, thanks to the policy of the illustrious pontiffs who had occupied the chair of St. Peter, and to the efforts of the Italian free towns, backed up by the petty feudal nobility, the independence of Italy rose triumphant from the tomb which opened for the Emperor Frederick II. on December 13th, 1250.

In England, John Lackland had, by the Magna Charta of 1215–1216, promised the clergy to respect the liberties of the Church, and notably the freedom of election; to the feudal lords he had promised to observe the feudal conditions of release, of ward, and of marriage; to the bourgeois, that no new tax should be levied without the consent of the common council;[33] and to all his subjects he accorded the habeas corpus—that is to say, the liberty of the person, with trial by jury, by constituting the court of common pleas at a certain fixed place. A second charter, called the Forest Charter, mitigated the extreme severity of the penalties for infraction of the laws appertaining to the chase, and guaranteed the whole of the liberties which had been extracted from him by creating a tribunal of twenty-five barons, entrusted with the function of seeing that this charter was carried out, and, further, of keeping watch over the action of the crown. This was submitting the Government to a regular course of discipline. Just as the feudal nobility had been kept under and oppressed by the sovereign power, so was the latter now hedged in, thwarted, and hampered in its despotic tendencies.

Fig. 29.—The fortified Bridge of Lamentano, near Rome, theatre of the wars between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, in the Twelfth Century.

St. Louis, following in the footsteps of Philip Augustus, laboured to suppress the abuses of the feudal régime; he compelled his barons to choose between the fiefs which they held from him and those which they had received from the kings of England; he rooted out the old feudal stocks, created a new feudalism, not less valiant but more moral than the old, and never lost sight of the formidable opposition which the old nobility had ventured to set up against the Queen-Regent, Blanche of Castile, when it declared that the young King Louis should not be consecrated until the suzerain aristocracy was restored to the plenitude of its privileges. After Louis IX., French feudalism, transformed by the saint-king, was neither less haughty, less trivial, nor less insolent than before, but it was more favourable to the crown and less hostile to the Church. It formed a brilliant array of chivalry, full of enthusiasm and impetuosity, commencing a battle[34] well, always winning it at the very beginning of the action, but losing it afterwards for want of being supported by a national body of infantry, whose help it despised; it made up a body of cavalry admirably adapted for tournaments and feats of arms, but incapable of carrying on a regular warfare, or even of ensuring success in a great battle. The victories of Mons-en-Puelle, under Philip IV., and of Cassel, under Philip of Valois (1328), increased to the utmost the blind confidence of the French nobility, and brought about, by absolutely identical means, the disasters of Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt (1346, 1356, 1415).

From the events which took place during the space of a century, from the accession to the imperial throne of the Emperor Louis V. (1313) to the Peace of Brétigny (1360), it was made manifest that the destinies of the feudal world rested henceforth upon France and England, those two rival powers, both of which were acquisitive and inflexible; that the Emperor and the Pope occupied but the second place in this latest evolution of feudalism; that Rome, compelled to bend towards France, gave the latter a considerable preponderance, and that the force of equilibrium must inevitably bring together the King of England and the Emperor of Germany. The French royalty, despite the vicissitudes caused by an incessant struggle against the English, despite the ravages of the plague, which had depopulated two-thirds of the kingdom, despite its financial burdens and the precarious position of the monarchy, continued its work of assimilation and feudal incorporation; the suzerainty attaching to the great fiefs gradually fell under the jurisdiction of the sovereign, while, upon the right bank of the Rhine, the great barons remained almost as omnipotent as ever they had been.

There existed in Germany at that time two kinds of leagues between the nobility, the one offensive and the other defensive; that of the Gauerbinate or Gauerbschaften, by virtue of which the petty nobility formed family pacts for transmitting their fiefs by indirect line when the direct line should fail, and for reconstructing or repairing their castles out of a common fund; and that of the Teutonic Hanse, the league of the prince-archbishops and electors with sixty towns upon the Rhine. Rodolph of Hapsburg (Fig. 30), a monarch as resolute as he was able, put a stop to proceedings which were full of danger to the imperial authority, compelled his vassals to do him homage, and razed to the ground seventy fortresses whose feudal brigandage[35] had scattered desolation and ruin; but, after his death, the usurpation of the suzerain lords began afresh, and the Bulle d’Or, which was the basis of public right in Germany, confirmed the downfall of the imperial suzerainty (1378).

Fig. 30.—Equestrian Stone Statue of Rodolph of Hapsburg, Emperor of Germany, by Erwin de Steinbach, placed above the Grand Portal of Strasburg Cathedral (Thirteenth Century).

Fig. 31.—Maximilian of Austria, with Mary of Burgundy, his wife, only daughter of Charles the Bold, and their young son Philip, afterwards King of Castile.—“Abridged Chronicles of Burgundy,” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Library of M. Ambroise-Firmin Didot.

In France, on the other hand, as each convocation of the States-General was attended with the creation or levying of some new tax, the third estate attempted to exact all the more from royalty in proportion as it gratified the latter’s pecuniary demands, claiming to have a voice in the question of peace or war, to direct the financial affairs of the kingdom, to be convoked every year, and to share, with the two other orders, the weight of the charges the profit of which ought to be shared by all. The feudal nobility resisted the exorbitant pretensions of the third estate, but when they saw this class forming a secret alliance with the clergy, and setting on foot a formidable[36] league, the password of which was the destruction of the castles and the annihilation of the nobles, they hesitated, and did nothing until the horrible[37] excesses committed by the league in the country districts had given the feudal reaction a character of legality. In 1383, after the battle of Rosebecque, which inflicted a heavy blow upon the communal cause in Flanders and in France, it seemed as if the power of suzerainty was about to revive once more. Froissart, in his Chronicles, rejoiced at this fact, because he believed that social order was threatened with utter ruin (see his Chronicles, year 1383); but French chivalry succumbed in its turn at Agincourt beneath the onslaught of the English archers. This was the final condemnation of feudal armies, as well as of the system which these armies represented, and which they had failed in sustaining. French feudalism had already ceased to be anything more than a storehouse of traditions which were still held in respect, and of old customs which had fallen into disuse among the ancient nobility.

In England, Scotland, and Ireland, high feudalism was rapidly in course of decay, before Henry VIII. dealt it its death-blow; in Germany it struggled for existence during the reign of Maximilian (Fig. 31); in France it was crushed by Louis XI. with the help of the third estate. Beyond the Alps, in Italy, its existence was prolonged for a short period, partly under a clerical disguise, partly by the hired help of the condottieri, and in some places by the support of the urban democracy, that is the industrial and trading part of the population. Everywhere, however, it disappeared with the Middle Ages, of which, both in its acts and in its first principles, it bore the ineffaceable imprint (Fig. 32).

Fig. 32.—Doorways of the Old Castle of Loches, in Touraine, a favourite Manor of Louis XI. (Fifteenth Century).



The Invasions of the Barbarians.—Attila.—Theodoric seizes Italy.—Organization of Military Fiefs.—Defences of Towns.—Totila and his Tactics.—The Military Genius of Charlemagne.—Military Vassalage.—Communal Militia.—Earliest Standing Armies.—Loss of Technical Tradition.—The Condottieri.—The Gendarmerie.—The Lances Fournies.—Weakening of Feudal Military Obligations.—The French Army in the Time of Louis XI. and his Successors.—Absence of Administrative Arrangement.—Reforms.—Mercenary Troops.—Siege Operations and Engines.

The art of war had attained its highest degree of perfection among the Romans, when the successive invasions of the barbarians began to burst like an overflowing river over the richest of the Roman colonies. These barbarians, most of whom were natives of the Caucasian mountains, were the Iberians, who never halted till they had reached Spain; the Celts or Cimbrians, who installed themselves among the Gauls; and the Sarmatians and the Scythians, who inhabited the vast forests of Germany before the great wars of Julius Cæsar (Fig. 33). Suddenly, in the fourth century of the Christian era, a movement which commenced in the centre of Asia caused an irruption of a race hitherto unknown upon the Caucasian races. These were the Huns, before whom the terrified Goths retreated, but who at first made but a brief apparition in Europe; for if Rome at that time was wanting in seasoned legions, she could rely, at least in the provinces of her empire, upon many numerous and powerful auxiliaries who were accustomed to fight under her standard (Fig. 34), some for the sake of pay, others to defend their own hearths.

Fig. 33.—War Trophy and Barbarian Prisoners.—From Sculptures on the Triumphal Arch of Orange (Second Century).

In 451, in the reign of the Emperor Valentinian III., who had bribed the barbarians instead of repulsing them with the sword, Attila, the King of[39] the Huns, bore down upon Europe at the head of seven hundred thousand fighting men of various races. In less than three months he had overrun and laid waste Moravia, Bohemia, Hesse, and Wurtemburg, crossed the Rhine below Strasburg, the Moselle at Trèves and at Metz, the Meuse at Tongres, the Scheldt at Tournay; and after two sanguinary raids into Burgundy and the country around Orleans, pitched his tents in the plains of Champagne. The tactics of Attila were to avoid pitched battles, to give a wide berth to the fortresses, contenting himself with sacking and plundering[40] their outskirts. He laid waste the open country, burnt villages, put their inoffensive inhabitants to the sword, and making it his chief object to divide and isolate the Roman legions, finally crushed them by the weight of numbers.

Fig. 34.—German and Gallic Auxiliaries, one wearing Trousers (Braccæ), and the other a Tunic.—From a Roman Monument of the Second Century.

The whole West was stirred up at the tidings of this terrible invasion. Ætius, the Roman leader among the Gauls, had called to his aid the confederates of Amorica, the Frank-Salians, whose leader was Merovius, the Burgundians, the Saxons, and the southern Visigoths, whose king was Theodoric. This numerous army, composed of excellent troops under the orders of Ætius, marched to meet the barbarians, and encountered them in the neighbourhood of Châlons-sur-Marne. The battle lasted three days, and the defeat of the Huns was complete.

The ferocious Attila, who had called himself the Scourge of God, and who had run his course like some fatal meteor, leaving in his track nothing but conflagrations and ruins, expired in the midst of an orgie in 455. A truceless, unceasing war was still being waged all over Europe, a sanguinary and[41] implacable war of race and of party. Political chaos, a chaos that Christianity alone was destined to regenerate, was at its height in the old world, when, towards the close of the sixth century, Theodoric, King of the Eastern Goths, who had protected Byzantium when threatened by the Bulgarians, and who had remained in the pay of the Emperor Zeno, determined to find occupation for his warlike and restless subjects by leading them against Odoacer, the sovereign of the Herulians, who at that time united under his sway Sicily and the Italian peninsula, but whose subjects were at best but a ferocious and turbulent mob. The young King of the Goths (he was only thirty-four years of age) started from the depths of Mœsia (now Servia), with the consent of the chief of the empire, at the head of an entire warlike population, to whom he promised the conquest of Italy. He easily overcame the King of the Herulians; and, having conquered Italy, he posted his soldiers in the various provinces of the peninsula, in such a manner that their pay and their rations might continue to be supplied to them as regularly in peace as in war.

The system of government and administration established by Theodoric had the advantage of distributing two hundred thousand excellent troops in the midst of a population which, glad to find itself uncalled upon for military service, and but little taxed, allowed the work of the conquest to be consolidated. The millénaires (soldiers of a battalion numbering a thousand men) occupied with their families distinct portions of territory, and were bound to hold themselves under arms, and ready to march, whenever the defence of the country required it (Fig. 35). Theodoric had already recognised the utility of urban garrisons. The flower of the country’s youth, organized in a military manner, flocked to the gymnasium of Ravenna, and the king himself presided over their exercises. His levies, as regards their discipline, their instruction, and their equipment, resembled the ancient legions of Rome. The iron cap, the shield, the broadsword, and the arrow of the Goths had been replaced by the spear, the javelin, the helmet, and the cuirass of the Romans. The old soldiers received from the royal treasury for their services as instructors a particular grant, which was annually paid to them till they retired altogether from the profession of arms. When the troops were about to take the field, the intendants, under the orders of the counts, superintended the commissariat and the gathering and the march of the different army corps. The provincial officers had to distribute arms, food, and hay on the different[42] points of the road that the troops were expected to follow, and the inhabitants had to provide lodgings—this was the only military service expected of them, but none could escape it.

Fig. 35.—Military Costume from the Sixth to the Tenth Centuries.—From a Miniature in the “Dialogues de Saint Grégoire,” Manuscript of the Eleventh Century (National Library of Paris).]

The towns were at this time almost always fortified, and entrenched camps covered nearly the whole of Italy. The castles in the rural districts, constructed to protect the frontiers, were usually full of troops, whose support was part of the duty of the pretorial prefect, and whose insubordination often necessitated severe measures of repression. “Keep up a spirit of military discipline; it is often difficult to enforce it under civil rule,” said Theodoric to Servatus, one of his generals.

If it is a matter of surprise to meet with such a right moral feeling in the sovereign of reputed barbarians, barbarians half civilised, however, by their[43] contact with the Latin race, it is not the less so to find, in the wars which occurred in the years 507, 508, and 509, other barbarian kings, namely, Alaric, Clovis, Gondebaud, and Thierry, make use of and apply with skill the rules of Greco-Roman strategy, either in executing long military manœuvres, or in displaying all the strategic science that sieges then required, in attacking or defending the fortified towns of Avignon, of Carcassonne, and of Arles.

Fig. 36.—St. Benedict reproaches Totila with having deceived him, and predicts his death.—Fresco in the Church of San Miniato, Florence, painted by Spinelli of Arezzo (Thirteenth Century).

Fig. 37.—Moorish Arms from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century: Armlet.—From the Armeria Real, Madrid.

Fig. 38.—Moorish Arms: Daggers.—Armeria Real, Madrid.

Fig. 39.—Moorish Arms: Trident.—Armeria Real, Madrid.

In proportion as the preponderance of the Goths (Fig. 36), of the Ostrogoths, and of the Visigoths diminished in Europe, that of the Franks and of the Lombards increased. The latter were the first to institute in Italy the[44] feudal system, founded on the possession of conquered territory. The conquerors established their camp in the midst of the vanquished country, seized half the land, reduced into servitude a portion of the colons, and imposed heavy taxes on those whom they had not despoiled. The king having at first distributed the great fiefs among his principal officers, these great vassals then made a subdivision of the land granted them by their suzerains in favour of their own men-at-arms and satellites, and these latter, in their turn, ceded a portion of their lands to the common soldiers. The[45] obligation of personal service, the hierarchic subordination of vassalage, were the necessary consequence of feudal institutions.

Fig. 40.—Dagger with Moorish Blade and Flemish Handle (Fourteenth Century).—Collection of M. Onghena, Ghent.

In all probability the establishment of the arrière-ban, or the ban-fieffe, dates from the sixth century. It was a call to arms of the vassals that the suzerain alone had a right to command. A century later, feudalism, which was beginning to establish itself in Gaul as in Italy, as a consequence of the successful invasion of the Franks, was nearly stamped out by the Mahometan invasion of the Spanish Moors, who had been led by their chief, Abderamus, as far as the banks of the Loire, where they were stopped by Charles Martel, who routed them with great slaughter.

After the brilliant victory of Poitiers (732), where the repulse of Arab civilisation left the field open to the defenders of the Christian faith, and to the originators of the feudal régime, the victorious army underwent a sudden change. The Frankish knights adopted as an inheritance of conquest the rich Saracen armour (Figs. 37, 38, 39, 40); the feudal troopers donned a coat of mail, and, henceforward, a full suit of armour became a necessary accessory to a warrior of high rank. The bow, which had long been thrown aside, was once more taken into favour, and became the special arm of the footmen. But we have exhaustively treated of the armament and equipment of the soldiery of the period (see the chapter on Armoury in “Art in the Middle Ages”), and we can only here deal with military tactics and organization; in a word, with the theoretical part of the art of war.

The reign of Charlemagne, which was one long series of expeditions and conquests, was naturally favourable to the progress and development of this art. The Emperor of the Franks, like a man of genius,[46] understood how to profit by the inventions and creations of his predecessors. To the warlike traditions of Greece and Rome he added, step by step, the improvements that were rendered necessary by the nature of the enemies with whom he had to contend, namely, the Lombards, the Saxons, &c. He kept up the feudal service of the ban; he established permanent orders of militia, composed of his own serfs and vassals; but, as soon as he undertook a distant expedition, his auxiliaries, ten times as numerous as his vassals, rendered his army rather a German than a French one. He caused a number of fortresses to be constructed everywhere throughout his vast empire, but he never allowed his subjects to build any on their own account. Yet he never seems to have attached any importance, as a protection to his territory, to the larger enclosed towns, in which he might have held in reserve considerable depôts of troops. He himself usually resided in rural residences and in open and unprotected villages, barely guarded by a few military pickets. At the slightest signal, it is true, a whole army of fidèles and servitors would have arisen as one man to defend him; but under no circumstances would he have consented to await his enemy under the shelter of fortifications; he was always the true primeval German, seeking for his field of battle the open plain rather than the hillside, preferring cavalry to infantry, and a direct struggle, a hand-to-hand fight, to encounters at a distance, waged and won by the missiles of the slinger and the shafts of the bowmen. His principal victories were gained in the open country, where he was enabled to deploy his masses of mailed horsemen; he never willingly sat down before a stronghold, a circumstance which shows that he was aware of his want of skill in the conduct of a siege; and he was never fortunate in mountain warfare, as was evidenced in the disastrous day of Roncevaux (778), which cast a shadow over the last years of his life.

Thirty years after the death of the great emperor, the treaty of Mersen (847) freed the great vassals from the obligation of answering the summonses of the sovereign, and of rushing to arms at his appeal, unless for the purpose of defending the State, and substituted the practice of furnishing armed contingents, whose services were to be rendered for a fixed period, settled beforehand. Infeudation—a kind of political and pecuniary contract, in virtue of which a fief was subdivided into several smaller ones—perpetuated the feudal régime, each man becoming the man of another man, bound to place himself at his disposal in time of war, and to be ready to start on any[47] expedition at his command, and according to the wishes of his immediate seignior.

Fig. 41.—Bishop Eudes, holding his baton of office, encouraging the young soldiers of the Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.—Military Costumes of the Eleventh Century, from the Bayeux Tapestry.

During the tenth century this régime grew stronger and stronger. The oath of infeudation, or the act of homage, remained a sacred tie between the seignior and the vassal. This homage involved the rendering of numerous feudal services, such as those of the ban, and of the arrière-ban, those rendered by the servitors of different ranks, known as bachelors, clients, esquires, bannerets, men-at-arms, barons, &c., names already ancient, but whose rank and place in battle were only determined on the day when they were all grouped and posted, each under his special banner or gonfanon, a distinction that implied a separate kind of equipment for each.

Thus the vassals were in the power of the seignior, who, having the[48] right to dispose of their military services, enjoyed the right of reize—a right that gave him the power of assembling and leading to battle a certain number of feudal groups. “Obey my summons, or I will burn you!”[2] were the words of the seignior in the ban published by the crier, and, at the second summons, the sound of the trumpet rang out in the cross roads, in the streets, and in the country places, calling the men to arms. To fail to answer the call of the ban was to commit a crime of the worst character.

Fig. 42.—After the Battle of Hastings (14th October, 1066), the relatives of the vanquished came to carry away their dead. The body of the Saxon King, Harold, is taken to Waltham by the monks of that monastery. In the background is seen Battle Abbey, founded by Duke William on the site of the battle.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Normandie.” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the possession of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

In the great expedition of William, Duke of Normandy, against the Anglo-Saxons (1066), he had no other auxiliaries than his Norman vassals and subjects. He conquered Harold and took possession of England with a numerous and trained army, furnished with terrible warlike machines and engines (Figs. 41 and 42). The Norman Conquest was, to a certain extent,[49] a prelude to the Crusades, for those raids across the seas, repeated from time to time for more than two centuries, bore no resemblance to the barbarian invasions, either Saracen or Norman, which had been previously recorded in history. New measures, inspired by the circumstances of the times, were the consequence of the general crumbling to pieces of all the Eastern nations; among these may be mentioned the establishment of the communal militia, which set out for a campaign accompanied by its spiritual pastors, and received the last offices of religion at their hands on the field of battle; the regular pay allowed to those who were destitute of private resources (a knight received at first ten sous a day—equivalent to ten francs of modern money—and a squire received five); the chartering of ships intended for the transport of troops; the system of commissariat for armies in the field; and the supply of military equipments, arms, &c.

This communal militia, sprung from the freeing of the communes, and detachments of soudoyers, or paid troops, soon grew into a standing army, which was formally incorporated for the first time by Louis le Jeune about 1140, and increased by Philip Augustus, who added to it the affiliated knights. Under the latter sovereign, an army in the field presented three ranks of combatants—bannerets, knights, and squires, to whom were added the men-at-arms. A motley crew of varlets on foot, without officers or discipline, followed the troops, and hovered about them during an engagement, picking up the spoil of the conquered, and killing the wounded with clubs or battle-axes, called glaives de mercy.

The disasters of the Crusaders in the East, after two centuries of useless heroism and tremendous efforts, were principally due to the defects in their military administration, which foresaw nothing, and was incapable of adjusting itself to the difficulties inherent to a war in a distant and almost unknown land whither the enthusiastic crowds who wore the cross bent their adventurous steps. Famine, plague, leprosy, and fever destroyed the Christian armies on their journey to Palestine, and during their stay there; and these evils would have been greater still had it not been for the creation of the different military orders which sprang into existence under the pressure of these almost inevitable calamities, and which supplied hospital attendants, chaplains, and soldiers. The continuation of the feudal wars (Fig. 43) in Europe gave the last blow to the disorganization of the armies of Christ.

Fig. 43.—Richard Cœur-de-Lion, King of England and Duke of Normandy, mortally wounded by an arrow shot by Bertrand de Gourdon, at the Siege of the Castle of Chalus, in Limousin (1199).—“Chroniques de Normandie,” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot).

Fig. 44.—Soldier of the Time of Philippe le Bel.—Miniature in a Manuscript of the Period (National Library of Paris).

Fig. 45.—Man-at-arms with a pot de fer with nose-piece, a coat of mail over his leather tunic, and armed with a short broadsword.—From a Miniature in the “Dialogues de Saint Grégoire,” a Manuscript of the Eleventh Century, in the National Library of Paris.

While Philippe le Bel was destroying the Knights Templars, whom he held[50] to be obstacles to his political plans, he was at the same time seeking in every way the means of restraining a haughty aristocracy, always under arms, whose systematic want of discipline was a danger both to the throne and to the country. As soon as he had obtained from the representatives of the nation, assembled together in States-General, the right to impose taxes according to the requirements of the sovereign, he set to work on the definitive organization of a permanent paid army (Fig. 44). He fixed the age of military service at eighteen, and decreed that none of his subjects, except the old and the sick, should be exempt from it, unless they paid a certain sum to the royal treasury, and supplied, according to their rank and means, one or more substitutes (decree of 1302, 1303, 1306) to serve under the flag of the ost of the[51] king (Fig. 46). Till that time, military service had only been obligatory for forty consecutive days, or, at the most, for three months. This service was, indeed, often of less duration, according to the different degree of infeudation of any particular fief, and was hedged about, besides, with so many privileges and with so many exemptions, that if a feudal army did not succeed in bringing a short campaign to a prosperous issue, it generally met with a fatal collapse. In accordance with this design, Philippe le Bel, at the opening of the Flemish campaign, summoned “for four months to his standards, archbishops, bishops, abbots, dukes, counts, barons, and other nobles, all liable to the ban,” each of whom could claim pay at the rate of twelve[52] deniers (about four francs) a day, besides a sum of thirty sous (about thirty francs) for their equipment.

Philippe le Long (1314) and Philippe de Valois 1337–1340) continued and improved the work of Philippe le Bel. Thenceforward, the ost or army of the king was regularly established; the cross-bowmen and the men-at-arms were the first corps who received a permanent organization and a fixed rate of pay.

Fig. 46.—Messenger bringing a Letter to the King’s Army.—From a Manuscript in the National Library of Paris (Thirteenth Century).

In the fourteenth century, the French infantry, composed merely of more or less badly-armed archers, inspired its leaders with no great confidence. Its want of skill and its cowardice too often compromised the issue of an engagement. It was necessary, in order to support those combatants always ready to take to flight, to employ foreign mercenaries, English, Italian, or German, who fought well when they were liberally paid. These mercenaries, more practised in war and more courageous than the soldiers of the ban, were entrusted with the management of the cannon, which at this time were first employed, and which were carried by the camp followers. We may here repeat what we have spoken of elsewhere, viz., that the imperfections of the earliest cannons, the difficulty which attended their use, and the danger incurred by those who discharged them, caused the old arms to be long preferred to these new ones. In fact, long after the new artillery had made considerable progress, it was employed simultaneously with the ancient style of projectiles.[53] The long period during which this important transition in projectile weapons was slowly taking place, was one of the most wretched in the annals of military art. All the great battles of the fourteenth century present us with striking examples of an entire absence of skill in tactics. Mons-en-Puelle (1304), where King Philippe le Bel was all but surprised in his camp; Cassel (1328), where Philippe de Valois escaped half naked from his enemies’ hands; Crecy (1346), where the English used cannon for the first time; Poitiers (1356), where King John was taken prisoner on the battle-field; Nicopolis (1393), where knighthood covered itself with disgrace; Agincourt, where the flower of the French nobility perished—are all examples of the most shameful confusion during the struggle, of the most disgraceful butchery after the defeat. It is not too much to say, that during the whole of this long epoch of bloody contests, true knights and staunch soldiers were very rare, and that good leaders were even rarer still.

In Italy, the condottieri, whose principal commander was the Englishman, John Hawkwood, and in France, the free companies, commanded by the renowned Armand de Cervoles, and even those bands of routiers, Brabançons, and tard-venus, who pillaged and plundered the realm to such an extent, says an old chronicler, “that not even a cock was heard to crow in it,” were the only troops who showed any acquaintance with the resources of military warfare or the slightest knowledge of strategic science. It was amongst the ranks of these indefatigable soldiers that the celebrated Bertrand du Guesclin made his first campaign (Fig. 47).

Fig. 47.—Battle of Auray (Sept. 29, 1364), between John de Montfort and Charles de Blois, in which Bertrand du Guesclin was made prisoner by Chandos.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the “Chroniques de Bretagne,” by Alain Bouchard: 4to, Galliot du Pré, 1514.

The paid gendarmery, a mixture of heavy and light cavalry, committed, in the reign of Charles VI., many breaches of discipline, without atoning for them by lending any really efficacious aid to French chivalry, which was almost entirely cut to pieces in the bloody disaster of Agincourt (October 25th, 1415). Charles VII., replaced on the throne of his ancestors by his nobles after he had driven out the English, “by the help of God and Joan the Virgin,” determined therefore to disband the gendarmery. From the picked men of the body he formed the framework of fifteen new companies of artillery, numbering nine thousand combatants, amongst whom were incorporated all the regular cavalry of the kingdom. Each gendarme, thoroughly equipped, was attended by two archers and two followers on horseback; this group of five mounted men was called a lance fully equipped. In 1447, a sixth man and horse were added to it. A little later, Charles VII.[54] raised several paid bands, recruited by voluntary enlistment and commanded by responsible captains, who were paid by the war treasurers, according to the number of men on the monthly muster-roll. This creation of mercenary[55] troops diminished still further the importance of the ban, which was no longer anything but a badly-equipped secondary militia, though still armed with bows and pikes, and still obliged to wear a uniform. On the actual field of battle the pikemen were always posted in the van; behind them came the foot archers, wearing salades, or helmets without vizors, the brigandine or short coat of mail, and armed with cross-bows. But this reorganization of the troops had no invigorating effect on the infantry of the communes, and the franc-archer remained the type of the cowardly soldier.

Fig. 48.—Great Seal of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The Legend, in Latin, enumerates his titles and feudal possessions.—National Archives of France (Fifteenth Century).

The death of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, slain in the battle of Nancy (1477), completed the downfall of the feudal chivalry, whose last and most martial representative he was (Fig. 48). Louis XI., who had gathered around him a devoted army, composed of mercenaries from all countries, and who could entirely rely upon the fidelity of his Scottish guard, began attacking the great fiefs, which were in reality the rivals of his throne, and succeeded in destroying them, having no further need of them and their haughty vassalage. Little by little the seigniorial standards disappeared, and[56] their war-cries ceased to resound; a fief held under the obligation to carry arms no longer forced the vassal, its occupier, under the pain of felony and bodily confiscation, to equip and arm himself at the first appeal of his suzerain, and to follow the royal ost with a definite number of fighting men. The principle of purchasing exemption from military service being henceforward admitted, all, whether nobles or villains, were at liberty either to serve or to purchase their exemption. Some few feudal gendarmes still remained, but most were free. Of the squires-at-arms, some were feudal, others free or even plain varlets. Canons, abbots, and prelates whom feudal laws had forced to contribute their personal military service, had long since found substitutes in the persons of the attorneys or bailiffs, who superintended the ban and arrière-ban of the land-owning nobles. Some of the clergy, however, preferred to be individually present with the armies of their sovereign; many a prelate or abbot was delighted to add to his coat-of-arms a cuirass, a sword, a helmet, or some other warlike emblem. In 1356, the bishops of Châlons, of Sens, and of Melun distinguished themselves by feats of personal bravery at the bloody engagement of Poitiers; in 1359, the Bishop of Rheims, by a few vigorous sorties, was the means of saving that city when the English were besieging it; the Archbishop of Sens, William of Montaigu, fell sword in hand on the field of Agincourt; in 1455, a simple monk successfully defended Belgrade; while at the siege of Plaisance, Philip of Savoy, Bishop of Valence, was knighted for his prowess in the breach itself. It is true that many of these ecclesiastical dignitaries had never been solemnly invested; but the example they followed was a lofty one, for several popes, John X., Leo IX., Urban II., Innocent II., and Julius II. (who had first distinguished himself as an able leader under the name of Julien de la Rovère) had personally commanded the troops of the Holy See.

The fire-stick, that is to say the arquebuse, which was then called hequebutte, with difficulty took the place of the bow, and with still greater difficulty that of the cross-bow. In 1481, Louis XI. deprived his sergeants-at-arms of both the latter weapons, not to arm them with fire-sticks, but in order to give them the pike, the halbert, and the broadsword, of which the Swiss in the recent wars had made such formidable use. Louis XI., however, increased the number of his mounted archers, and placed them later under the orders of the colonel of a company of free-lances known as Albanais or Scouts. These combined bodies formed the French national light cavalry till[57] Francis I. replaced them by the light horse, a body chiefly composed of mercenaries of different nations. In England, ever since the thirteenth century, the mounted archers formed a considerable portion of the national forces. An army of fifteen hundred complete lances, which represented a total of six or seven thousand horsemen, required a complement of at least five thousand mounted archers, who were all skilful marksmen. In the time of Henry VIII., an English bowman could discharge as many as twelve arrows in a minute, and he would have considered himself disgraced if he had let fly a single shaft which failed to kill, wound, or at least strike an enemy.

Fig. 49.—German Foot-soldiers fighting.—From a Drawing by Holbein preserved in the Museum at Basle (Sixteenth Century).

Fig. 50.—Italian Warriors of the Fifteenth Century.—From a Bas-relief on the Triumphal Arch of Castel Nuovo, Naples, erected in 1470 by Ferdinand of Aragon, to celebrate his Victories over John of Calabria, Son of René d’Anjou.

The desperate mêlée of Fornoue (July 6th, 1495), which forced Charles VIII. to retrace his steps after his successful Italian expedition, was nearly the last of the confused and sanguinary struggles of the Middle Ages. The sword and the bow contributed more than the cannon and the fire-stick to the terrible result of the day. From that time the infantry regained its old pre-eminence over the cavalry, and cannon were employed preferably to all other projectile weapons. A complete revolution was also about to ensue, as well in the tactics of an army in the field as in the attack and defence of fortresses. Louis XII. and Francis I., in their Italian campaigns,[58] in which, they wasted so much of the resources and treasures of France, had to contend with German and Spanish mercenaries, at that time the best soldiers in the world; they opposed to them bodies of foreign infantry, sometimes lansquenets (Fig. 49), sometimes Swiss, who made a trade of war, and who, to earn their pay, did not hesitate to fight against their own countrymen. There was one drawback, however, to the acceptance of their services, and that was that they frequently changed sides on the eve of an engagement, or refused to fight on the slightest pretext. More than once the knights of France saw themselves suddenly abandoned by the infantry[59] whose duty it was to support them, and who allowed them to be cut to pieces before their eyes without stirring to assist them (Fig. 50). This happened at the fatal battle of Pavia, when the king and his nobles struggled on foot in hand-to-hand desperation till they fell or were taken prisoners.

In the ordinary arrangement, at this period, of any army giving battle in the open field, the free archers, the men-at-arms, and the knights were posted either in the centre or at the wings, while the infantry, properly so called, divided into little groups of five, termed cinquains, was either thrown forward to skirmish, or sent behind to cover the rearguard, or detached at intervals on the flanks in order to harass the enemy and to protect the baggage. During the engagement, all the knights, clad entirely in armour, dismounted in order to fight, and left their horses to the care of the infantry. In these days horses were only used to carry their riders on the march, which the weight of their armour would not have allowed them to perform on foot.

A horseman, when disabled by long service or by age, was no longer employed in the cavalry, but retired into the infantry, where he enjoyed, under the title of anspessade (from the Italian spezzate, broken), the privileges that were at a later period granted to veterans.

No troops, until the time of the Crusades, had any distinguishing mark among themselves, except the difference of their arms, and the idea of a military uniform had not then arisen. But with the emblazoned arms, the standards, and the pennants, there came into use scarves, worn as baldricks or sashes, over the cuirass, and of which the colour, which generally matched that of the standard of the feudal seignior of the wearer, became as much a rallying signal as the standards themselves (Fig. 51). The necessity of distinguishing friends from foes at a distance naturally also brought about more or less marked distinctions of dress.

Fig. 51.—Representations of the Banner of St. Denis: No. 1, the oldest, is from a window in the Cathedral of Chartres; No. 3, the latest, is from a Manuscript of Froissart, No. 2644, in the National Library (the original which it represents was carried at the defeat of Artevelde at Rosebecque); No. 2, Drawing from the Library of the Célestins, preserved by Montfaucon.—From “Paris and its Historians,” by MM. Leroux de Lincy and L. Tisserand.

The administration and inner regulation of an army, which had been one of the principal cares of the Gothic and earlier Frankish kings, were entirely neglected, like everything pertaining to the art of war, for many centuries. For instance, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the captains of the different companies were allowed to distribute the pay to their men as they pleased after each muster, and were solely and entirely entrusted with the administration of their companies. They were thus entirely irresponsible, and did not concern themselves to see that the regulations, prescribed by superior authority, concerning the general discipline[60] of the army, were carried into effect. In 1355, daring the captivity of King John in England, special commissioners were appointed, with the title of controllers, whose duty it was to superintend the internal economy of the army generally, with a view to put a stop to the numerous abuses that existed; but the disturbed and unfortunate period at which this attempt was made rendered it almost necessarily a barren one. When the dauphin came to the throne as Charles V., he returned to this project, which he had indeed himself originated, but at his death anarchy again reigned for more than a century. Civil and foreign wars laid waste and exhausted France, without bringing to the surface one single creative mind, with the exception perhaps of Jean Bureau, the grand master of artillery under Charles VIII. It is by no means going beyond the mark to state that the reverses sustained in Italy, in the reigns of Charles VIII. and Louis XII., were owing less to the chivalrous recklessness of the nobility and their ignorance of the first principles of warfare, than to the gross faults of the military administration of the country. Even in Francis I.’s time, the public service was in such a miserable condition that he was never really properly informed of the actual effective strength of his army,[61] for his captains, whose interest it was to exaggerate the number of the rank and file under their standards (Figs. 52 and 53), habitually deceived the generals and their superiors. To such a degree was this carried that, on the eve of the battle of Pavia, Francis I. was led to believe that his army was a third stronger than it really was. At last, however, in 1517, there issued from this chaotic confusion the first germ of a proper system of supervision and control of all matters relating to war.

Fig. 52.—Knight in complete Armour.

After Cesare Vecellio, “Degli Habiti Antichi e Moderni:” 8vo, 1590.

Fig. 53.—Arquebusier of the Sixteenth Century.

After Cesare Vecellio, “Degli Habiti Antichi e Moderni:” 8vo, 1590.

If the tacticians of Italy were the first to fathom theoretically the science of war, it was the Swiss, under Marshal Trivulce, the Spaniards,[62] under Gonzalvez of Cordova, and finally the Flemish, under the Duke of Alba, who successfully restored the military combinations of ancient Greece. They were the first to manœuvre in dense masses and in battalions, and they were the first to successfully employ the column formation of troops. The pikemen of France followed their example, while the troops armed with projectile weapons fought as skirmishers in the van, or in lines two or three deep. It was not, however, till Henry IV.’s time that any considerable body of troops was seen capable of advancing in close column without breaking its formation, and it was not till Louis XIII.’s time that the regiment, first introduced in the preceding reign, became a recognised permanent military unit.

Fig. 54.—The Reapers of Death, an Allegory of War, from an Engraving of Hans-Sebald Beham (Sixteenth Century).—Collection of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

Fig. 55.—Battle of Dreux, December 19, 1562, won by François de Guise over the Protestants. In the foreground is Marshal Saint-André being shot by a soldier.—Fac-simile of an Engraving of the period by Tortorel and Périssin (Collection of M. Guénebaut).

Towards the close of the fifteenth century the French native cavalry still consisted entirely of heavy troopers. The Albanians, the mercenaries of whom the French light cavalry were composed, sold their services, man and horse, as the Swiss sold theirs, man and halbert. Charles VIII. enrolled[63] eight thousand Albanians for his Italian expedition; but, fifty years later, this foreign element had disappeared from the French army, which had by that time, in addition to its heavy cavalry, a body of light cavalry of its own (Fig. 55).

Until the reign of Henry IV., who was the first monarch to dispense with their dangerous and immoral assistance, free lances were universally employed even by those sovereigns who had promulgated the severest decrees against them, but who, for want of regular soldiers, found themselves forced to accept their doubtful services. Brantôme has thus portrayed them: “Vestus à la pendarde, un haut de chausses bouffant; monstrant la jambe nue, une ou deux, portant leurs bas déchaussés pendant à la ceinture; chantant en cheminant pour soulager le travail de leur chemin.”[3] These scouts, who served on foot, were only allowed l’étape—that is to say, a daily allowance of food and forage; but they enjoyed in war time the right of pillage in all towns and fortresses taken by assault (Fig. 56).

This system of paying auxiliary troops à l’étape was first adopted in France in the fourteenth century, and had continued in use in a desultory manner till the reign of Henry II., under whose order a ration scale was drawn up, as well as a scale of provisions, cartage, and billeting due to the king’s troops from the churches, monasteries, communes, nobles, and burgesses, through the possessions of which and in whose neighbourhood their road lay.

The legal age at which the enlistment of soldiers could be made, the manner in which it was effected, and the length of service, varied considerably throughout the Middle Ages and the period of the Renaissance. In Henry II.’s time it was a custom to hire the soldier for three months; Henry IV. increased this period, but not without difficulty, for, to quote, the words of Sully, “Our soldiers can now only be enlisted by force, and can only be persuaded to march by the use of the stick and the threat of the gibbet.” To this picture we must add the significant fact that the system of drill was a very insufficient one, and that it was by no means unusual to find soldiers, whose stay with the standards was after all but a[64] very temporary one, entirely incapable of handling the arms they were entrusted with. The urban militia were, however, far superior to these recruits, for, since the reign of Charles V., it was customary to drill the citizen every Sunday with pike, bow, and cross-bow, particularly in the frontier towns. It is not till Coligny’s time, in the middle of the sixteenth century, that traces can be found of any regulations imposing on commanding officers the duties of teaching and drilling their soldiers.

Fig. 56.—Soldiers of the German Bands.—From an Oil Painting by Joachim Bueckelaer (Frankfort, 1548–1596), in the possession of M. Paul de Saint-Victor.

We have attempted to outline the general military physiognomy of the Middle Ages; we will now rapidly examine the weapons and warlike engines that were invented for the attack and defence of fortified places.


Until the invention of gunpowder, or rather till that of artillery (Fig. 57) the whole art of fortification, says the learned Prosper Mérimée, consisted in following more or less exactly the traditions handed down by the Romans. The stronghold of the Middle Ages had precisely the same characteristic as the ancient castellum. The methods of attack against which the engineers had to guard were the assault by escalade, either by surprise or by force of numbers, and the breach, caused either by sapping, mining, or by the battering-rams of the besiegers. The employment of machines or engines of this description was much less frequent after than before the fall of the Roman empire, when the art of war knew no higher flight than to lay siege to a place or sustain a siege.

Fig. 57.—Mortars on Movable Carriages.—From an Engraving in the “Kriegsbuch” of Fronsperger: in folio, Frankfort, 1575.

The first operation of the besiegers was to destroy the outworks of the besieged place, such as the posterns, the barbicans, the barriers, &c. As most of these outworks were built of wood, attempts were generally made to cut them to pieces with hatchets, or to set them on fire with arrows to[66] which were fastened pieces of burning tow steeped in sulphur, or some other incendiary composition.

Fig. 58.—Caltrop, or Crow’s-foot (Fourteenth Century).

If the main body of the place were not so strongly fortified as to render a successful assault by force impossible, it was usual to attempt an escalade. With this end in view, the moat, which was generally literally strewn with caltrops (Fig. 58), was filled up with fascines, on which ladders were reared against the ramparts, while archers on the brink of the ditch, protected by mantlets stuck in the ground, drove away with their arrows any of the defenders who attempted to show themselves above the parapets or at the loopholes.

Fig. 59.—Rolling Tower for scaling the Walls of Towns.—Miniature from the “Histoire du Monde,” Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century (Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot).

If the siege, in spite of the efforts of the besiegers, promised to be a long one, a blockade was the sole remaining means of reduction, though this was a[67] thing difficult to carry out with forces which were not permanent, and which were generally far from numerous. It therefore became necessary for the besieger to protect his approaches by wooden, earthen, or even stone works, constructed under cover of the night, and solid and lofty enough to enable his archers to aim right on to the battlements of the besieged place. Wooden towers, several stories high, were also frequently resorted to, put together piece by piece at the edge of the moat, or constructed out of bow-shot, and subsequently rolled on wheels to the foot of the walls (Fig. 59). At the siege of Toulouse, in 1218, a machine of this kind was built by the order of Simon de Montfort, capable of accommodating, according to the ballad of the “Albigeois,” five hundred men.

Fig. 60.—Siege of a Town: Summons to lay down the arms and open the gates.—From a Copper-plate in the “Kreigsbuch” of Fronsperger.

When the missiles hurled from the higher stories of these towers—termed chattes in the south, chats, châteaux, bretesches, in the north—had driven the besieged from their ramparts and battlements, a movable bridge was lowered across the moat, and a hand-to-hand struggle then took place (Fig. 59). The besieged, to prevent or retard the approach of these dreaded towers, were[68] accustomed to hurl immense stones and lighted darts against them, or to undermine or inundate the ground on which they stood, so that their own weight might cause them to topple over.

Fig. 61.—Capture of a Town: The Garrison surrendering and throwing themselves on the mercy of the captors.—Miniature from the “Histoire du Monde,” Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century (Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot).

Besides the means we have just described, there still remained the sap and the mine. Miners, equipped with pickaxes, were sent into the ditch under the protection of a body of archers. A sloping roof, covered with mantlets, sheltered them from the missiles of the besieged. They then pierced the wall, stone by stone, till they had made a hole large enough to allow the passage of several soldiers at once, while the sappers put the finishing stroke to the aperture. The besieged, observing in what direction the enemy was pursuing his operations, strove to concentrate all his means of defence at this point. Sometimes he attempted to crush the miners with immense stones or pieces of wood, sometimes he poured molten lead or boiling oil over them, sometimes, by hastily constructing a fresh wall in rear of the one the miners were breaking through, he gave the latter the trouble of beginning their work all over again just as they thought it was complete.

The mine had this advantage over the sap—that the besieger, being out of sight while engaged in the former method of subterranean work, had every[69] chance of surprising the besieged. In order to effect this, an underground gallery was dug as noiselessly as possible, and carried beneath the foundations of the ramparts. When the mine had reached the walls, these were propped up with pieces of timber, and the earth was dug away until they were supported entirely by this artificial method. Dry vine wood and other inflammable materials were then piled round the props and set on fire, so that when the timber was consumed the walls crumbled down and opened a large breach to the besiegers. Nothing then was left to the garrison but to surrender, in order to avoid the horrors of an assault and the sack of the town (Figs. 60 and 61).

Fig. 62.—Watch-tower, lighted up with beacons and protected by dogs.—Fac-simile of a Miniature of the Fifteenth Century, from a drawing by M. Prosper Mérimée.

The only remedy possessed by a garrison against this last method of attack was to keep a good watch and to endeavour to discover the whereabouts[70] of the mine, and neutralise it by a countermine. At the siege of Rennes, in 1356, the governor of the town ordered basins of copper, each containing several globes of the same metal, to be placed all about the ramparts; when these globes were seen to vibrate and tremble at each stroke of the hidden pickaxe, it was easy to guess that the mine was not far off. There was also a body of night watchmen, who carefully noted the enemy’s movements, and who rang the alarm-bell at the slightest noise. These watchmen were often replaced by dogs, whose barks, in case of a surprise, gave notice to the garrison (Fig. 62).

Fig. 63.—Machine intended to break the ranks of the enemy and to crush his soldiers.—Végèce, “L’Art Militaire:” 1532.

Fig. 64.—Machine to shoot arrows, and to assist in approaching a besieged town.—Robert Valturin, “La Discipline Militaire:” 1555.

The slow and laborious work of the miner was often advantageously replaced by the more powerful action of certain machines, which may be divided into two distinct classes. The first, intended to be used at close quarters and to make a breach in the wall, comprised several varieties of the ancient battering-ram; the second, employed at a distance, were termed pierriers, mangonneaux, espringales, &c. (Figs. 63 and 64).


The battering-ram, which was probably well known from the remotest periods, is described, in the documents of the Middle Ages, pretty much as we see it figured on the monuments of Nineveh. “On Easter day,” says the anonymous author of the chronicle of the “Albigeois,” “the bosson (the southern name of the battering-ram) was placed in position; it is long, iron-headed, straight, and pointed, and it so hammered, and pierced, and smashed, that the wall was broken through (Fig. 65); but they (the besieged) lowered a loop of rope suspended from a machine, and in this noose the bosson was caught and retained.”

Fig. 65.—Battering-ram.—From a Miniature in Manuscript 17,339 in the National Library of Paris.

Generally speaking, the battering-ram was a long, heavy beam, suspended in the centre from a kind of massive trestle. The end which battered the wall was either covered with an iron hood or pointed with brass. The beam was swung backward and forward by the besiegers, and by dint of striking a wall always in the same spot it often succeeded in shattering or overthrowing it. At other times the ram, instead of being suspended in an oscillating manner, was mounted on wheels, and ran forward with great rapidity against the wall to be battered. The chronicle of the “Albigeois,” just quoted, alludes to the head of the ram being caught in a noose; besides this manœuvre, the garrison would hurl stones and pieces of timber upon it, in order to break it or to put it out of trim; or else they would strive to deaden its blows by interposing a thick mattress of wool covered with leather between it and the stonework of their stronghold.

Fig. 66.—Catapult.—When the lever revolves rapidly on its axis, the centrifugal power causes the loop C to slip off the hook D, when the barrel held on the fork E E is liberated and projected to a distance. F represents the end of the lever when held down by the windlass A, and loaded with a barrel of combustible matter or iron. B, rings of stone, iron, or lead.

The machines which they employed to hurl their projectiles seem to[72] have corresponded in nearly every respect with the catapults of the ancients. It was often merely a species of gigantic sling, worked by several men, and throwing pieces of rock and round masses of stone. The mangonneau, bricole, or trabuch, was a kind of square wooden platform, made of thick planks laid crosswise; a long beam, fastened at its lower end by a revolving axis to the platform, was supported at an angle of about 45° by an elevated crosspiece resting on two uprights. The distance between the revolving axis and the point of support was about one-half of the length of the beam. The latter was then secured in this position by long cords fastened to the front of the platform. The men who managed the bricole then lowered the beam backwards by a windlass fixed in the rear, till it (the beam) formed an obtuse instead of an acute angle with the platform, and till the cord securing it in front was stretched to its utmost tension. While it was in this position the projectile they wished to cast was placed in the spoonshaped extremity of the beam. A spring, termed déclic, then released the[73] tension of the windlass and the beam, obeying that of the cord fastened to the front of the platform, swung rapidly forward, and hurled the projectile to great distances and to some considerable height (Fig. 66). These bricoles were sometimes employed to throw into besieged strongholds the dead bodies of horses and other animals, fire-balls, and cases of inflammable matter; but they were generally used to shatter the roofs of the buildings inside the walls, and to crush the protecting wooden sheds constructed on the ramparts.

Their use was still continued long after the invention of gunpowder. In the wars of the fourteenth century, particularly in the sieges of Tarazonia, Barcelona, and Burgos, bricoles were made use of side by side with cannons discharged with gunpowder. It was not until the close of the fifteenth century that the rapid progress of the new artillery, which enabled besiegers to breach a wall from a considerable distance, and with a smaller expenditure both of time and men, caused the whole paraphernalia of the old-fashioned ballistic machines to fall into disuse. Thenceforward a new era commenced in the science of attack and defence—an era of which the immense results do not belong only to the period of the Renaissance.

Fig. 67.—Ballísta.—From a Miniature in Manuscript 17,339, in the National Library of Paris.



Old Traditions: Long Vessels and Broad Vessels.—The Dromon.—The Galéasse.—The Coque.—Caracks and Galleons.—Francis I.’s Great Carack.—Caravelles.—The Importance of a Fleet.—Hired Fleets.—Poop Guards.—Naval Laws.—Seaport Tribunals.—Navigation in the open Seas.—The Boussole.—Armament of Men-of-War.—Towers and Ballistic Engines.—Artillery.—Naval Strategy.—Decorations and Magnificent Appointments of Vessels.—Sails and Flags.—The Galley of Don Juan of Austria.—Sailors’ Superstitions.—Discipline and Punishments.

Ships from the most remote ages have been divided into two classes, namely, long vessels, those propelled by the oar, or by the wind, sometimes by the two combined, and vessels of greater beam, which trusted to their sails alone. The Middle Ages conformed to these traditions; they possessed galleys which answered to the long vessels of antiquity, and ships which corresponded to the larger class.

The galleys of the Middle Ages, like the long vessels of antiquity, may be divided into several varieties. The large galley (Fig. 68), strong in build and swift in sailing, had received from the Greeks the significant name of dromon (runner). In the fifth century Theodoric had a thousand dromons constructed for the defence of the Italian coasts and for the transport of corn; in the ninth, the Emperor Leo the Philosopher, in the military precepts he gave to his son, recommended the construction of dromons with two tiers of oars, five-and-twenty in each tier on each side. For the flag-ship (if we may use the term) of the commander of the fleet, he recommended the construction of a much larger dromon with a hundred oars in each tier, similar to[75] those that used to be built in Pamphylia, and which, for that reason, were known as pamphiles. The fleet was to be accompanied by smaller dromons, with a single tier of oars, for the purpose of carrying despatches, and to act as scouts. These bore more particularly the name of galleys. For more than three hundred years the construction and rigging of ships underwent no change (Fig. 69); in the twelfth century the dromon was still the principal type of the class of ships propelled by oars. Next came the galley, smaller than the dromon, but fitted, like it, with two tiers of oars, and lastly, the galion or galéide (termed later the galiot), a much smaller vessel than the galley.

Fig. 68.—Poop of an Ancient Galley.—From Pompeian Paintings collected in the Bourbon Museum, Naples.

The largest and the best-armed galley which at that period ploughed the Mediterranean was the one encountered by Richard Cœur de Lion, according to the historian Matthew Paris, on the 3rd of June, 1191, near the coast of Syria, and which was carrying large reinforcements to the camp of the unbelievers, who were besieging at that time the town of Acre. When the sailors of the English fleet first perceived this gigantic vessel, whose vast hull was painted with the most brilliant colours, whose poop was surmounted with a castellated tower, whose three masts unfurled to the wind an immense expanse of canvas, and whose long oars beat the waves with majestic rhythm, they were surprised, and undecided how to act. Richard, however, ordered his men to attack the floating fortress. His lighter galleys surrounded it on all sides, in spite of the arrows and glass vases showered on them by the dromon. These vases broke when they came in contact with the galleys, and enveloped them in Greek fire. The captain of the Arab craft[76] attempted to sail away from his swarm of assailants, but the wind fell, and half his rowers having been slain by the English arrows, he was forced to accept battle. The galleys skirmished around the dromon, striking it repeated blows with their brazen prows, and making large holes in its sides. At last, after a desperate resistance, the giant was engulfed in the waters with all its defenders.

Fig. 69.—A Norman Vessel (Eleventh Century).—Restoration from the Bayeux Tapestry.

A companion craft to the dromon, as before mentioned, was the pamphile, which, before disappearing in the fifteenth century, frequently changed its shape and character. Nor must we forget the chelande (Fig. 70), or sélandre, which a writer of the eleventh century represents as a ship of extraordinary length, of great speed, possessing two tiers of oars, and a crew of a hundred and fifty men, and which, three centuries later, became a large flat sailing vessel, and was termed chaland. The taride, a kind of merchant galley with oars, and the huissier, the name of which was derived from a huis, or large door, which opened in its side in front of the poop to allow of the embarkation of horses, were contemporaneous with the pamphile and with the sélandre; as also was the chat or chatte, which William of Tyre mentions in connection with a maritime war which took place in 1121. According to him it was a ram-armed vessel larger than a galley, and carried a hundred oars, each of which was handled by two men.

Besides all these there were the bucentaures (Fig. 71), large Venetian galleys, and the sagettes, or saïties (arrows), whose names denote their slender shape and speed, and which, with their twelve or fifteen oars on each side,[77] played the same part in the twelfth century as the baliner, or barineal, and the brigantin played from the fourteenth to the seventeenth.

Fig. 70.—Turreted Vessel which protected the Port of Venice.—From a Medal struck in honour of the Doge P. Candiano I., who died in 887 (Venetian Museum).

There were two sorts of vessels used in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries also belonging to the numerous and varied family of the galley—the fuste and the frégate, both smaller examples of the galéasse. A galley was termed galéasse (Fig. 72) when it was of large size, powerfully armed, and propelled by such long and heavy oars that it took six or seven men to work one of them.

Fig. 71.—The Bucentaure, State Barge used for the Marriage of the Doge of Venice with the Sea.—From the Model preserved in the Arsenal of Venice.

We have not by any means exhausted the number of long vessels propelled by oars, but we will now turn to those which only used sails, and which were termed nefs, or round vessels.

In the tenth century the Venetians employed these large heavy vessels, which they had adopted from the Saracens, and which were termed cumbaries (from the Latin cymba), or gombaries. To the same class belonged the coque[78] (Fig. 73), which, according to an old chronicler, had a round stem and stern, a high freeboard, and drew very little water. This style of vessel, which from its shape was considered insubmersable, was largely used both for warlike and commercial purposes, from the twelfth to the close of the fifteenth century.

The coque, so frequently employed in the Middle Ages, doubtless suggested the construction of another large vessel of the same sort, called by the Venetians buzo, by the Genoese panzono, and busse by the Provençaux, three words having a similar signification.[4] These various names plainly indicate the character of this kind of vessel, namely, that it was a broad-beamed, slow-sailing craft, but one capable of carrying large and heavy cargoes.

Fig. 72.—Sketch of a Galley of the Sixteenth Century, painted in distemper on the door of a cupboard preserved in the Doria Palace, Genoa.

Such names, however, as gombaries, coques, and busses, are nowadays as completely forgotten as the ships to which they were applied, while such terms as carraque and galliot still convey a meaning understood by everybody. Indeed, they immediately call up in the mind the memory of the numerous Spanish galleons which, according to popular tradition, were constantly returning home laden with Peruvian gold, and of those gigantic caracks which, hailing from the French ports on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean,[79] invested the navy of France, in the reigns of Louis XII. and Francis I., with such a splendid and imposing renown.

Fig. 73.—The Coque.—From a Miniature in a Manuscript Virgil of the Fifteenth Century (Riccardi Library, Florence).

In 1545, Francis I. had a magnificent carack constructed in Normandy, so richly decorated, with such lofty decks and towers, and so capitally appointed, that it was called the Great Carack. It was anchored in the roadstead of Havre-de-Grâce. Henry VIII. ordered one equally splendid (Fig. 74), in which he intended to embark when he started to meet his brother sovereign at the famous Field of the Cloth of Gold. The French vessel was about to set sail at the head of a powerful fleet dispatched to meet the English. The King, desirous of inspecting it, boarded it on the eve of its departure, accompanied by a numerous and brilliant court. A collation had been prepared for him and his suite, the band was playing, salutes were thundering out in his honour, and he himself was in the midst of his inspection of the floating citadel, when suddenly cries of alarm were heard. A fire had broken out between decks; it burnt with astonishing rapidity, and, before help could be efficiently rendered, the whole of the rigging was in flames. In a few hours all that remained of the Great Carack was an immense hull, half consumed, aground on the beach, upon which the sea was casting up the corpses of those of the crew who were killed by the discharge of its cannons during the progress of the conflagration.


Fig. 74.—Man-of-War in which Henry VIII., King of England, embarked in 1520 at Dover to come to France.—From a Drawing by Holbein.

The galliot occupied an intermediate place between the ship properly so called and the large galley. It was, in fact, a slighter vessel, longer and narrower in the beam than all other kinds of ships. Galliots were sometimes,[81] but not often, propelled by oars (Fig. 76). The ordinary build of galliot, whose poop consisted of two rounded quarter circles, separated by the rudder-post, had two decks; the largest of all had three. Two remarkable galliots are mentioned in history, one of which was an exact model of the celebrated Great Carack. It was built at Venice to carry three hundred guns and five hundred soldiers, besides its own crew of sailors, but while still in the lagoons it was caught in a tremendous hurricane. Being severely tossed by the wind and the waves, its rolls threw the whole of its heavy ordnance to the port-side, and, being unable to right itself, it turned over, and went down in sight of the town.

Fig. 75.—Spanish Ship of the End of the Fifteenth Century.—From an Engraving in the “Arte del Navegar,” by Peter of Medina.

Merely mentioning the palandres, the hourques, the pataches, and the mahones, which were smaller than the galliot, but which had certain advantages of their own, we come to a craft whose diminutive dimensions have not prevented it from acquiring a kind of historical renown, in consequence of the important events at the close of the fifteenth century in which it played a part. The craft we refer to is the caravel (Fig. 77), which had the honour of carrying Columbus to the New World. The design of the caravel was taken from the caravo, a small barque used by the Spaniards. The grace, the lightness, the fine outlines, and the speed of the caravel, recommended it to the hardy mariners who sailed, in search of new continents, across the[82] Atlantic Ocean. Narrow at the poop, wide at the prow, carrying a double tower at its stern, and a single one at its bows, the caravel carried four vertical masts and one inclined one. Two square sails were bent from the foremast, while the three others each bore a single triangular one (Fig. 78). The caravel sailed as well against the wind as before it, and tacked as easily as a row boat; so, at least, we are told in the log of the first voyage of Columbus.

Fig. 76.—Three-masted Galley, with Square Sails, of the Sixteenth Century.—From a Picture by Raphael in the Cathedral of Sienna.

It is, therefore, an undeniable fact that the sailors of the Middle Ages did not lack large and handsome ships, though the boldest mariner did not care to put too much salt water between his craft and the shore, and, as a rule, the longest voyages were made by following the outline of the coast. The Middle Ages, moreover, could often boast the possession of considerable fleets. In 1242 the Genoese put to sea with ninety-three galleys, thirty traders, and three large ships, to struggle for the supremacy of the seas with a hundred and ten Pisan and Imperial galleys. At the beginning of the same century the Crusaders, when they set sail to attack Constantinople, had a fleet of three hundred vessels according to one writer, and of four hundred and eighty according to another. Amongst them there was one called The World, of such large size and so beautifully finished that it was the admiration of all the ports along the coasts of the Mediterranean. Joinville, the ingenuous historian of the crusades of Louis IX., tells us that that sainted king sailed from the port of Aigues-Mortes with a fleet of “eighteen hundred vessels, large and small,”[83] some of which carried as many as a thousand passengers, and some a hundred horses.

Fig. 77.—Spanish Caravel in which Columbus discovered America.—From a Drawing attributed to Columbus, and placed in the “Epistola Christofori Columbi:” undated edition (1494?), 8vo.

In 1295, the combined French and Norwegian fleets, intended to act against the English (Figs. 79 and 80) in the wars of Philippe le Bel and Edward I., amounted to upwards of five hundred vessels, two hundred and sixty of which were galleys, and three hundred and thirty ships of different sizes. Three centuries later fleets were not a whit more numerous or more powerful, though better equipped and organized. In 1570, Sultan Selim sent from Constantinople, against the island of Rhodes, a fleet of a hundred and sixteen galleys, thirty galliots, thirteen fustes, six large ships, one galleon, eight mahones, forty passe-chevaux (horse transports), and a great number of caramoussats, laden with provisions, with artillery, and with stores of all[84] kinds. The Christians, under Marco-Antonio Colonna, could only oppose to this formidable flotilla one hundred and four galleys, twelve galéasses, one large galleon, and fourteen large ships.

Fig. 78.—French Caravel.—From “Premières Œuvres de J. Devaux, Pilot du Havre,” Manuscript of the Sixteenth Century, in the National Library of Paris.

But in point of fact, and it was one of the consequences of feudalism, large fleets were never constructed and kept up by the governments under whose authority they put to sea. Kings and republics possessed, it is true, a small number of vessels of their own that carried their flag, but, generally speaking, too few to allow them to attack a formidable enemy, or to enable them to defend themselves against one. Here, again, a complete analogy existed between feudal rights at sea and those on land. Feudalism possessed its ships as well as its castles. The barons who possessed estates near the sea-coast were bound to keep up at their own cost one or more vessels, fitted either for war or commerce. The rich merchants of Venice, of Genoa, of Marseilles, and, in later times, of Havre, of Dieppe, and of Antwerp (Fig. 81), by means of their vast wealth, either individually or by combining together, maintained flotillas of galleys and ships.

When war was imminent, and it became necessary to prepare a fleet to[85] carry the Crusaders, the sovereign, directed the nobles who held fiefs and were ship-owners to prepare their vessels for sea, and to equip and arm them—an order which did not require any long time or especial pains to carry into effect, for at that period every sea being infested with pirates, merchant vessels were always forced to keep themselves armed in self-defence. Each sailor of the crew could, at a pinch, be turned into a soldier; and, besides these, there were always cross-bowmen and regular soldiers, whose duty it was to be the first to board an enemy’s ship, or to beat back his boarders with handspikes and cross-bow shafts. To embark, therefore, a few catapults and a few extra soldiers was all that was ordinarily required to transform a peaceable merchant vessel into a ship or galley of war.

Fig. 79.—Seal of the Town of Dover (1281).

The admiral appointed to the command of the fleet published the order to arm in every port under his master’s rule. In virtue of this order, the first proceeding was to exhibit the cartel—a scroll fastened to the top of a post or the end of a lance—announcing that so many vessels of such and such a kind were to be ready equipped within a given time, to take the seas against such and such an enemy, or to proceed in such and such a direction. Besides the cartel, which was displayed on the shore or in the gateway of[86] the town, surrounded with garlands and pennants, floated the standard of the prince, which had previously been blessed at a solemn mass celebrated to pray for the success of the undertaking. The sea trumpets rang out their fanfares, and a herald at arms repeated in a loud voice the purport of the cartel. A clerk stood by, pen in hand, for the purpose of registering the names of the sailors and marines, who, as they gave them, settled the conditions of their engagement. A formal contract binding both sides was then signed and sealed before a notary, and as soon as sufficient hands had volunteered, the cartel was taken down and the trumpets ceased to sound.

Fig. 80.—Seal of the Town of Yarmouth (Thirteenth Century).

When the ships of the sovereign, and of the nobles and burgesses his feudal vassals, were insufficient in number to form the fleet with which it was desirable to put to sea, recourse was had to allies and to foreign navies in general. Vessels were bought, hired, and chartered, but in the latter case they were usually only employed as transports. The merchants of Genoa and Venice were in this manner the principal charterers for the Crusaders. In 1246, Saint Louis addressed a demand to them for ships, at the same time making a similar request to the merchants of Marseilles. Emissaries from the king were sent into Provence and Italy to make contracts for the construction and chartering of vessels for the transport of the armed[87] pilgrims who were to accompany him to the Holy Land. These envoys, amongst whom was Brother Andrew, “the prior of the holy house of Jerusalem,” made the necessary arrangements with the podestate of Genoa, with the Duke of Venice, and with the syndicate of the commune of Marseilles, and settled the size of the ships, the number of their crew, the space reserved for each passenger and each horse, and the different tariffs for the berths in the fore and aft towers, for those in the main saloons (termed paradis), for those between decks, and for those under the lower deck.

Fig. 81.—View of the Port of Antwerp in 1520.—Fac-simile of a Drawing by Albert Dürer, in the Gallery of the Archduke Albert, at Vienna.

In 1263 the arrangements for St. Louis’s second crusade were carried out in a similar manner.

Genoese vessels reappear in the “army of the sea prepared in the year of grace 1295” by Philippe le Bel against Edward I. of England; in the fleet equipped in 1337 by Philippe de Valois against Edward III.; and in the splendid flotilla lost by Nicholas Behuchet, a French admiral, at l’Ecluse in 1340. Two centuries later the Genoese again contributed ten caracks to[88] the armada prepared by the order of Francis I. on the coast of Normandy, though most of them unfortunately foundered at the mouth of the Seine through the ignorance of their pilots. History also informs us that Andrew Doria (Fig. 82), a Genoese, was one of Francis’ admirals, having commanded that sovereign’s Mediterranean fleet for several months.

Fig. 82.—Andrew Doria (1468–1560).—From a Portrait of the Period in the Collection of the Doges of Genoa.—National Library of Paris.

The adventurers who served on board vessels chartered by a sovereign or a foreign State were usually the sons, brothers, relations, friends, or dependents of the captains who commanded them. Moreover, the chosen band which, under the name of retenue de poupe[5] (Fig. 83), was entrusted with the duty of defending the captain’s flag, was solely recruited from among these adventurers. Their principal duty being the defence of this flag, which floated on the starboard side close to the entrance to the poop, they were[89] expected never to leave their post, except at the captain’s express order. Even when a galley was boarded at the stern, and its deck, up to the mainmast, was swarming with the enemy, all was by no means lost, for the poop still remained in the hands of its brave defenders, who died at their post rather than yield. Among the splendid feats of arms which have adorned naval history, many instances could be cited when a ship’s safety was secured by the desperate resistance of its poop guard. The warriors of the sea (Figs. 84 and 85) were always distinguished for their extreme intrepidity and boldness, and it is easy to believe that from them emanated the system of submarine warfare (Figs. 86 and 87), which, in the fifteenth century, gave birth to a series of extraordinary inventions in nautical weapons.

Fig. 83.—Seal of the Town of Sandwich, representing the Poop Guard (Thirteenth Century).

It is to the credit of these benighted ages, too often accused of barbarism and social anarchy, that in most of the Mediterranean ports overseers were appointed, whose duty it was to inspect and survey everything connected with voyages beyond the sea—that is to say, voyages to the Holy Land. This friendly tribunal settled all differences between the passengers or pilgrims and the ship-owners or captains, according to the terms of their reciprocal contracts. One part of their duties was to carefully measure the space assigned to each passenger, to see that every individual had his proper allotment,[90] so as to secure that all were made as comfortable as possible for the voyage, which usually lasted for twenty-five or thirty days.

Fig. 84.—Galley Soldier (Sixteenth Century).

Fig. 85.—Galley Slave (Sixteenth Century).

From Cesare Vecellio, “Degli Habiti Antichi:” 8vo, 1590.

In point of fact, a perfect maritime code was drawn up to regulate during the passage the mutual relations of the different inmates of the same vessel, and to establish a reciprocity between the ships of friendly nations. The merchant, for instance, who spent a great portion of his life at sea, was treated on board ship with greater deference than the soldier who was there for a short time only. When several merchants chartered a vessel in common for the transport of their merchandise, and proceeded to sea in it themselves, the captain was bound to consult them and to follow their advice in all[91] perils, whenever storms threatened, or when from a dread of pirates it seemed advisable to put into the nearest port. Before setting sail, the captain and the crew swore upon the Gospel to defend the ship and its passengers against the elements and against man. In the latter case, however, the merchants themselves became soldiers for the nonce, and were prepared to assist in the defence of their floating home.

Fig. 86.—The Diver.

Fig. 87.—Man-at-Arms.

From Woodcuts by Végèce, “L’Art Militaire:” Paris, Christian Wechel, 1532, small 4to.

It was usual, in order to give both vessels and merchants the best possible chance, for ships, not strong enough separately to resist pirates, to sail together in twos and threes, or, if possible, in still larger numbers. When a large powerful ship fell in with a smaller vessel which claimed its protection, it was bound to throw it a hawser so as to fasten the two vessels together, and enable them to assist one another in case of need. A ship’s captain who refused to render this service to a smaller craft than his own, would have run the risk of a very heavy punishment. The maritime code, whose regulations were decided by the overseers, laid down that all merchandise entrusted to a ship’s captain should be properly stored away in the hold, and not left on the deck, on which the rigging, the carpenter’s and caulker’s tools,[92] the weapon cases, and the water casks were alone to be placed. Similarly, any damage done to the cargo during the voyage, owing to bad stowage or bad ballasting, was liable to be made good by the ship-owner, who was bound to have his ship in the best possible condition, and who was held responsible for the proper preservation of the cargo.

Fig. 88.—Discovery of the Antilles by Columbus.—From a Drawing attributed to him in the “Epistola Christofori Columbi:” undated (1494?), 8vo.

Longer voyages began to be undertaken in the fifteenth century, navigation having been rendered less dangerous by the improvements in the mariner’s compass, in the quadrant, and in other nautical instruments. Ships went as far as to the Azores, and to the Canary Islands, to the coast of Guinea, and to the East Indies; and one even touched at the new continent discovered by Columbus (Fig. 88), and named by Americus Vespazius. Certain seasons of the year, however, were considered dangerous, during[93] which all navigation was absolutely forbidden by law. Already, in the fourth century, the magistrates entrusted with naval matters closed the sea from the third day of the Ides of November to the sixteenth of the Ides of March; in the thirteenth century, the season opened in April and closed in October. In the sixteenth, no vessel could legally return to Venice from Constantinople, Alexandria, or the coast of Syria, from the 15th of November to the 20th of January. Although this regulation, which had for its object the protection of seafaring men, was often broken, there were others emanating from the same source, and issued in the same spirit, that were more binding. For instance, galleys (galleys were frequently used in commercial ventures), as soon as they were launched, underwent a minute inspection by the overseers, who, after satisfying themselves on the solidity of their construction, gauged their capacity, and marked the water line on their side, beyond which it was illegal to submerge them.

Fig. 89.—Seal of the Town of Poole (Thirteenth Century).

But we will leave a subject whose complicated details would lead us too far, and return to the equipment proper of vessels. As far back as the tenth century, the Emperor Leo originated the practice of building towers for attack and defence on the deck of the dromons; these towers, from the centre of which sprang the mainmast, reached half-way up the mast. This custom was still observed in the thirteenth century, and was no doubt handed down[94] from very ancient times when it was usual to build towers and citadels on the decks of triremes. The round class of vessels were also provided with towers, one fore and another aft. In the smaller vessels these towers were simply platforms surrounded with a crenulated parapet and raised upon pillars (Fig. 89); in the larger ones, the towers were constructed of several stories added to the normal elevation of the poop and prow. Mangonels, catapults, and other projectile machines were placed on these towers and platforms. The big ships especially carried terrible engines of destruction, sometimes a heavy beam which worked horizontally like an ancient battering-ram against the sides of a hostile vessel, sometimes an immense bulk of timber, which was worked vertically from the top of the mast in order to shatter and sink a smaller craft. Around the masts, too, and nearly at their tops, châtelets or platforms were suspended, in which were hidden, behind a low parapet, slingers, archers, and stone-throwers. In the sixteenth century, these châtelets on board the vessels of the Mediterranean were called cages or gabies, while in the North sailors designated them by the Icelandic term of hunes (Fig. 90).

Fig. 90.—Seal of the Town of Boston (1575), on which the hune is depicted at the extremity of the mast.

The introduction of gunpowder on board ship was long subsequent to the invention of fire-arms, and was very slowly adopted by most navies. From the fact that, in the middle of the fifteenth century, a vessel of seven hundred and fifty tons burden had only a single piece of artillery, and one of fifteen hundred only eight guns, and as for a commission of four[95] months—the usual length of a ship’s commission in the Middle Ages—each piece of artillery was only provided with five-and-twenty to thirty rounds, we see with what difficulty and how slowly the new style of weapons replaced the old one. In the ships’ inventories of 1441, side by side with bombardes, we find invariably figuring large cross-bows, viretons, darts, long lances, and complete sets of armour for the sailors. Things were not much more advanced than they were in 1379 at the celebrated naval battle of Chioggia, in which the Venetians made use, against the Genoese, of cannon constructed of pieces of metal, welded together and covered with a casing of wooden staves, bound round with stout iron bands and ropes. Some of these primitive guns exploded at their first discharge; one alone survives, and is now to be seen in the arsenal at Venice, the solitary specimen of the first attempt at projecting iron and stone shot from a tube by the ignition of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal.

Fig. 91.—Prows of Galleys armed with the Spur.—From Drawings by Breugel the Elder, engraved by Fr. Huys (1550).

More than a hundred years passed away before marine artillery attained any importance; it was not till the close of the sixteenth century that Brantôme was able to put on record that he had seen in the Mediterranean a galliot armed with two hundred pieces of artillery, belonging to Cosmo I. of Medici, the Grand-Duke of Tuscany.

The galleys of the Middle Ages and of the sixteenth century, armed at[96] first with an iron spur and afterwards with four or five cannon placed in the bows, always engaged the enemy prow first, and bore down in order of battle, side by side, in a straight or curved line. The half-moon formation practised by the ancients was reserved for the largest fleets. At Lepanto (Fig. 92), for instance, the Christian fleet was drawn up in the form of a half-moon, and was divided into four squadrons: one in the centre, two at the wings, and one in reserve. In front of each division six galéasses were posted in couples to open the engagement; they were all one hundred and sixty feet in length, twenty-seven in breadth, and fifteen above the water-line, and they did a great deal of damage to the Turkish fleet with their powerful artillery. Previous to the construction of these gigantic galleys, a line of round vessels used to be placed in the van to receive the first brunt of the battle. Sometimes, besides this vanguard of sailing vessels, ships were placed at the wings, the most powerful in the quarter where it was imagined that the struggle would become the hottest. The smaller craft formed a line in reserve, always prepared to row to the assistance of a hard-pressed galley.

Fig. 92.—Plan of the Naval Battle of Lepanto.—From a Drawing by Don Juan, preserved in the Archives of Simancas, Spain.


In the eleventh century, at the battle of Durazzo, the Venetian ships, being hard pressed by the Italo-Norman fleet of Robert Guiscard, Duke of Puglia and Calabria, and unable to make for the land owing to the dropping of the wind, ranged themselves in a line, and bound themselves together, leaving but a small interval between each ship, just sufficient to allow their smaller vessels to row out, harass the enemy, and hasten back again. This style of battle was not a new one, being the reproduction of a manœuvre invented or employed for the first time by Scipio in the days of ancient Rome. When time had developed the progress of marine artillery, a fleet composed of large ships, in giving battle to one consisting of galleys, always presented their broadsides to their antagonists, since, in this position, the fire from their double row of cannon could do the galleys the most harm. This order of battle, however, was not always observed, particularly when the guns, owing to their great weight, were placed in the prow (Fig. 93).

At first, merely to preserve the wood, the ship-builders covered every part of the vessel exposed to the action of the air or water with a coating of pitch, but this sombre and uniform tint soon wearied the eye. A more brilliant colour, prepared with wax, was painted over the pitch; the costlier class of ships glistened in all the splendour of white, ultramarine, and vermilion, while pirates, and occasionally men-of-war, were covered with a coat of green paint, which, blending with the colour of the sea, prevented them from being distinguished at any distance. Gilding glistened on the vessels of the rich, and the sculptor’s chisel added busts and figures to the decoration of their bows and sterns. Even in this respect the Middle Ages still followed the traditions of antiquity.

The decorations of ships varied according to the caprice of owners and the fashion of the times. The Saracen dromon boarded and taken by Richard Cœur-de-Lion had one side coloured green and the other yellow. The Genoese at first painted their ships green; but in 1242, when they were at war with the Pisans, they coloured them white spotted with vermilion crosses, that is, “red crosses on a silver ground,” which resembled the arms of “Monsieur Saint-Georges.” Red was the colour generally adopted for ships’ hulls in the sixteenth century, though a pattern in black and white was sometimes added, and sometimes the ground was painted black and the pattern only vermilion.

Fig. 93.—Pontifical Galley with Sails and Oars, and provided with heavy Artillery.—Drawn by Breugel the Elder, and engraved by Fr. Huys (1550).

In 1525, when Francis I., made prisoner at the battle of Pavia, was taken[98] to Barcelona, the six galleys which carried the captive sovereign and his suite were painted entirely black from the top of the masts to the water-line. This was not, however, the first time that ships had been known to put on mourning: for instance, the Knights of St. Stephen, in the fifteenth century, hid the brilliant hues of their Capitane,[6] and painted its sails, pennants, awnings, oars, and hull with black, and swore never to alter the sombre hue till their[99] order had recaptured from the Turks a galley lost by the Pisans in an engagement which, however, had not been altogether inglorious for the vanquished.

Fig. 94.—Seal of Edward, Count of Rutland (1395).

Vessels in the Middle Ages, as in ancient times, had frequently gold-coloured and purple sails. The sails of seigniorial ships were generally brilliantly emblazoned with the coat-of-arms of the seignior (Fig. 94); the sails of merchant vessels and of fishing boats with the image of a saint, the patron figure of the Virgin, a pious legend, a sacramental word, or a sacred sign, intended to exorcise evil spirits, who played no inconsiderable part in the superstitions of the toilers of the deep. Different kinds of sails were originally employed to make signals at sea, but flags soon began to be used for this purpose. A single flag, having a different meaning according to its position, ordinarily sufficed to transmit all necessary orders in the daytime. At night its place was taken by lighted beacons. These flags, banners, standards, and pennants, most of them embroidered with the arms of a town, a sovereign, or an admiral, were made of some light stuff, taffeta or satin. Sometimes square, sometimes triangular, sometimes forked, each had its own use and signification, either for the embellishment of the vessel’s appearance or to assist in its manœuvring. The galleys were provided with a smaller kind of pennant, which was put up at the prow or fastened to the handle of each oar: these were purely for ornamental purposes, and were often trimmed with golden or silken fringes.


Amongst the most celebrated flags and standards of the French navy we must not omit to mention the baucents, a name that recalls the Bauséant, the banner of the Knights Templars. These flags, made of red taffeta, and sometimes “sprinkled with gold,” were only employed in the most merciless wars, for, says a document of 1292, “they signified certain death and mortal strife to all sailors everywhere.” In 1570, Marco-Antonio Colonna hoisted on his flag galley a pennant of crimson damask, which bore on both sides a Christ on the Cross between St. Peter and St. Paul, with the Emperor Constantine’s motto, In hoc signo vinces. The banner which Don Juan of Austria received at Naples, on the 14th of April, 1571, with the staff of supreme command over the Christian league, was made of crimson damask fringed with gold, on which were embroidered, besides the arms of the prince, a crucifix with the arms of the Pope, of the Catholic king, and of the republic of Venice, united by a chain, symbolical of the union of the three powers “against the Turk.”

The Normans, or the men of the north, were as fond of these brilliant standards as the nations of the Mediterranean. When they sailed on a warlike expedition, or when they celebrated a victory over pirates, they covered their vessels with flags. The poet Benoît de Sainte-More tells us that it was in this fashion, covered with seven hundred banners of different colours, that Rollo brought his fleet back up the Seine to Meulan. The Middle Ages made use of all kinds of fanciful decorations for their vessels; during the Renaissance, this taste was renewed and was an improvement both upon the customs of antiquity, whence it drew its inspirations, and on those of the thirteenth century, which it seemed anxious to forget (Fig. 95). “A galley,” says the learned M. Jal, “was in those days a species of jewel, and was handed over for embellishment to the hands of genius as a piece of metal was given to Benvenuto Cellini.” Sculptors, painters, and poets combined their talents to adorn a ship’s stern. No more striking example of this artistic refinement in naval ornamentation could be well quoted than that of the Spanish galley which was constructed in 1568 by order of Philip II. for his brother, Don Juan of Austria, to whom he had confided the command of the fleet intended to fight the barbarous Moorish States of Africa. The vessel’s cutwater was painted white and emblazoned with the royal arms of Spain, and with the personal ones of Don Juan. The prince being a Knight of the Golden Fleece, and the adventurous expedition on which he was bound being likely to be[101] attended with as many perils as that of the Argonauts, the history of Jason and of the good ship Argo was represented in coloured sculpture on the stern above the rudder. This pictured poem was accompanied with four symbolical statues—Prudence, Temperance, Power, and Justice, above which[102] floated angels carrying the symbols of the theological virtues. On one side of the poop might be seen Mars the Avenger, Mercury the Eloquent, and Ulysses stopping his ears against the seductions of the Sirens; on the other, Pallas, Alexander the Great, Argus, and Diana. Between these were inserted pictures, which conveyed either a moral lesson for the benefit of the young admiral, or a delicate eulogium on Charles V., his father, or on Philip II., his brother. All these emblems were chefs-d’œuvre of drawing and sculpture, which the brilliancy of their gold, azure, and vermilion settings tended to enhance.

Fig. 95.—Man-of-War of the Sixteenth Century.—Drawn by William Barendsz and engraved by Visscher, from the Collection of Engravings in the National Library of Paris.

A noticeable incident in the above description is its incongruous mixture of Christian and Pagan allegories. It bears witness to the anti-religious tendency of the school of thought of the Renaissance, and is a faithful reflection of the alteration in custom and belief. In the Middle Ages, sailors, and indeed all classes of society, were imbued with a strong spirit of faith, tinged, however, with a great deal of superstition. As in our day, they had a sincere belief in Providence, and professed great devotion to the Virgin; in seasons of peril they invoked those saints who were supposed to take special interests in ships and sailors; but, in spite of their natural reverence for religion, they allowed themselves to be influenced by childish superstition, and confused the promptings of their orthodox faith with all kinds of vain imaginings. Sailors have ever been superstitious; their credulous brains are the parents of all the fantastic beings and animals that they persuade themselves they have seen in their wanderings, and with which they have peopled the mysterious depths of the ocean. The sirens of antiquity, the monsters of Scylla and Charybdis, have been far surpassed by modern legendary creations, such as the kraken, a gigantic mass of pulp, which attacked and dragged down the largest ships; the bishop fish, which, mitre on head, blessed and then devoured shipwrecked mariners; the black hand, which, even in the days of Columbus, was depicted on the map as marking the entrance to the sunless ocean; and the numerous troops of hideous demons, one of whom, in the sight of the whole French fleet of Crusaders on their way to attack the island of Mitylene, in the reign of Louis XII., clutched and swallowed up a profligate sailor, who, over his dice, had “blasphemed and defied the Holy Virgin.”

Blasphemy was by no means uncommon among seamen; in spite of the laws of the Church and the regulations of the Admiralty, they insisted[103] on using the most frightful oaths; they swore continually by bread, by wine, and by salt, meaning thereby the very principles of life itself, and by their soul—an oath which was forbidden on pain of the severest punishment. Yet the mariners of the Middle Ages had strong reasons for avoiding open blasphemy, for, an offence against Heaven being considered far more criminal than any injury to mankind, a blasphemer was liable to fine, to the cat, and to death itself. Even in the thirteenth century the Danish code inflicted a comparatively moderate punishment on a thief; it shaved his head, tarred and feathered him, and made him run the gauntlet of the whole crew, after which it contented itself with dismissing him from his ship.

Fig. 96.—Seal of La Rochelle (1437).



Arab Conquest of the Holy Land.—Swarm of Pilgrims in the Year 1000.—Turkish Invasion of Judea.—Persecution of the Christians.—Pope Silvester II.—Expedition of the Pisans and the Genoese.—Peter the Hermit.—Letter from Simeon the Patriarch to Pope Urban II.—First Crusade.—Expedition of “Gautier sans Avoir.”—Godefroy de Bouillon.—The Kingdom of Jerusalem.—Second Crusade.—St. Bernard.—Third Crusade: Philip Augustus and Richard Cœur de Lion.—Fourth Crusade.—Fifth and Sixth Crusades.—Louis IX. turns Crusader.—Seventh Crusade.—St. Louis taken Prisoner.—Eighth and last Crusade.—Death of St. Louis.—Results of the Crusades.

“Jerusalem,” says Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Ptolemais in the thirteenth century, and one of the most eloquent historians of the Crusades, “Jerusalem is the city of cities, the saint of saints, the queen of nations, and the princess of provinces. She is situated in the centre of the world, in the middle of the earth, so that all men may turn their steps towards her; she is the patrimony of the patriarchs, the muse of the prophets, the mistress of the apostles, the cradle of our salvation, the home of our Lord, and the mother of the faith, as Rome is the mother of the faithful. She is chosen and hallowed by the Almighty, who placed his feet upon her, honoured by the angels, and visited by all the nations of the earth.” A poet of the same period declares, in a burst of fervent inspiration: “She attracts the faithful as the magnet attracts the steel, as the sheep attracts the lamb with the milk of its teats, as the sea attracts the river to which it has given birth.”

Under the influence of this belief it is easy to understand the powerful interest which, in the eyes of the whole Christian world, was attached to a[105] corner of the globe so marked with the impress of the Almighty, and the object of so much veneration.

Since the conversion of Constantine I., which so gloriously signalized the triumph of the cross, and while the ostentatious but feeble successors of that great emperor were preparing the decline of the empire of Byzantium, Jerusalem had frequently been forced to submit to infidel profanations, and the Western Christians, in their visits to the holy places, had, in consequence, many times encountered painful and almost insurmountable obstacles.

In the seventh century, the conquest of Palestine by the Arabs or Saracens, attracted by fanaticism to the banner of Mahomet’s immediate successors, had occasioned the most painful, if not the first of these terrible trials to Christendom. Already pilgrims, on their return from the Holy Land, had related to the dismayed West the sacrileges of which they had been the witnesses, and the annoyances of which they themselves had been the victims. Their dismal recitals represented the Christian population of Judea as reduced to a species of slavery, groaning under heavy tribute, clad in a degrading livery, forbidden to use the language of their conquerors, banished from their temples, now transformed into mosques, and obliged to conceal every external emblem of their religion, which they were no longer allowed publicly to practise.

But a gentler rule succeeded these hardships, thanks to the internal dissensions of the Mussulmans, who, in the midst of their fratricidal struggles, forgot to persecute the Christians; thanks also to the policy of the famous Haroun-al-Raschid and his children, who, being constantly at war with the emperors of Constantinople, dreaded lest the Eastern Christians should summon the Western to their assistance, and, consequently, were always showering on the latter every possible mark of deference, of kindness, and of consideration.

Later, when the empire of Haroun-al-Raschid had fallen into decay, one of Constantine’s successors, John I., surnamed Zimisces (970), attempted to accomplish the freedom of the Holy Land, and had nearly succeeded, when death struck down the leader of the Christian army in a battle with the Arabs, and with him was destroyed the last hope of the faithful, who soon found themselves delivered over to the horrors of a terrible persecution. “It is impossible to put on record all the evils they suffered,” says William of Tyre, in his great history of the holy war.


Fig. 97.—Façade of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, founded in 326 by the Emperor Constantine, and restored by the Crusaders in 1099 (present condition, from a Photograph).

Towards the close of the tenth century, a false interpretation of a passage in the Gospels, according to which the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ in Judea had been fixed for the year one thousand,[107] had struck all Christendom with stupor and affright. “The end of the world being at hand,” were the opening words of all deeds and contracts; and the vanities of the world being forgotten in the near approach of the “supreme and inevitable catastrophe,” every one was anxious to start for the Holy Land, in the hope of being present at the coming of the Saviour, and of finding there pardon for their sins, a peaceful death, and the salvation of his soul. The immense crowd of pilgrims, according to another historian of the Crusades, Glaber the monk, was far greater than religious devotion alone could possibly account for. The first to come were the poor and the working classes, and then counts, barons, and princes, who no longer attached any value to the possessions of this world. And further, as if the miraculous influence of this grand religious manifestation had inspired the infidels themselves with admiration and awe, the cruelties and the persecutions inflicted upon the Christians in Palestine suddenly ceased. When the dreaded epoch had passed away, and no perceptible disturbance had occurred in the laws of the universe, when each successive day had lessened the fears and increased the courage of the Western Church, the Holy Land remained open to pilgrims, who came in swarms to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for having a second time saved the world.

But all this was merely a kind of tacit truce granted to the children of Christ by the unbelievers, who had sworn to destroy the religion of the cross, and to establish in its place the creed of Mohamet. The East, moreover, was about to change masters. The Turks, an Asiatic nomadic people, sprung from the countries beyond the Oxus, had conquered Persia, and had thence borne their triumphant arms towards Syria and the banks of the Nile. This rapid conquest included Judea, and was signalized by horrible excesses. No quarter was given either to the followers of Moses, to those of Jesus, or to the disciples of the Prophet. The same blow fell upon the Jewish synagogues, the Mussulman mosques, and the Catholic churches. Jerusalem was steeped in blood. Deprived of their property, groaning under a bitter and humiliating yoke, says a contemporary historian, the Christians suffered as they had never suffered before.

Asia Minor, the land generally crossed by the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, was also in the power of the Turks. In the principal towns, Nicea, Tarsus, Antioch, Edessa, &c., whose names are inseparable from the glorious memories of the first centuries of the Church, neither the Greek[108] nor the Roman Catholic ritual could be publicly celebrated. The precepts of the Koran were the only ones that were rigorously observed; and Christians everywhere experienced from the Mohammedans the same injustice, the same annoyances, and the same hardships.

The accounts of these persecutions, which seemed intended to utterly annihilate the faith of the cross, filled the hearts of the faithful with gloom and anger. The day was already fast approaching when the groans and complaints that reached them from the Holy Land were to rouse and arm the nations of the West for the deliverance of Christ’s tomb, and the formidable struggle, soon to take place between the Christian and the Moslem—a struggle fated to last for two hundred years with alternate successes and reverses on either side—was destined to decide the future of European civilisation.

So far back as the commencement of the eleventh century, Gerbert, a French monk, one of the most remarkable men of his time, who had succeeded to the papacy as Silvester II., attempted, under the influence of the impressions he had brought back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to make a fresh appeal to Christendom against the persecutions he had witnessed in the East. Roused by his summons, an expedition of Pisans, of Genoese, and of the subjects of the King of Arles, had put to sea and disembarked on the coasts of Syria, where it inflicted a certain amount of injury on the cruel votaries of Islamism; without, however, being able to penetrate very far inland, but not without influencing to some extent the fate of the inhabitants of Palestine.

In fact, persecution for the time ceased, or at any rate was sensibly diminished, and it was not until half a century later that a fresh crusading appeal rang through Christendom. This time the cry of sorrow and indignation was uttered by Pope Gregory VII., that illustrious pontiff whose ardent and resolute nature, in the midst of the universal disorder and disorganization of government and society, seemed to have a divine mission to fulfil in settling upon an indestructible basis the supreme authority of the Church. “The miseries suffered by the Eastern Christians,” he wrote, “have so stirred up my heart that I almost long for death, and I would rather expose my life in delivering the holy places than reign over the universe. Come, sons of Christ, and you will find me at your head!”

Such words as these at such an epoch necessarily rekindled faith and[109] hope in every heart that received them. Fifty thousand Christians bound themselves by an oath to follow the successor of St. Peter to Constantinople, when the Emperor Michael Ducas promised to put an end to the dissensions that had so long separated the Greek from the Latin Church, and to Jerusalem, where the standard of Christ, supported by heroic hands and hearts, could not fail soon to replace the standard of the Prophet. Rumours were rife in Europe that a part of Asia was already christianised, and that Prester-John, a powerful sovereign of Tartary (Figs. 98 and 99), had forced his subjects to adopt the precepts of the Gospel.

Fig 98.—Prester-John, Chief of a Christian Tribe in Tartary.

Fig. 99.—Prester-John’s Page.

From Cesare Vecelli’s “Degli Habiti Antichi e Moderni:” 8vo, Venice, 1560.


But the political struggles which Gregory VII. had to sustain against the princes of the West, and the refusal of the King of Germany, Henry IV., to grant him the assistance he had demanded, prevented him from undertaking the sacred expedition which was to have crowned his apostolic work. Victor III., his successor, inspired by his example, continued to preach the Holy War against the infidels. The latter not only manifested throughout the entire East their implacable hatred to the Christian race, but, having founded large settlements on the shores of Africa, they infested the seas, endangered the security of all maritime trading, ceaselessly pillaged the coasts of Italy, ravaged the greater part of Spain, and seemed to be within very little of making Europe a tributary of Islam. But if Victor III. was unable to give birth to a real crusade, he at least succeeded in persuading the Italians to take up arms. An army of Pisans and Genoese landed in Africa (1087), gave battle to the Saracens, killed more than a hundred thousand of them, took and sacked two of their towns, and returned victorious with an immense booty, which they devoted to the embellishment of the churches of Genoa and of Pisa. But this daring enterprise, in spite of its important results, is not mentioned by any of the historians of the Crusades, although in every respect it had the characteristics of a holy war. This appears to prove that its guiding principle was by no means entirely a religious one, but was one bound up with many more material interests, particularly with that of Italian commerce, which had suffered so much from African piracy that it naturally wished at any price to punish the accursed race from which it sprung.

The successor of Victor III. was Urban II., a pontiff of French extraction, who, following up the policy of his predecessors, endeavoured with all his influence to stir up the Christians against the infidels. But the Almighty often confides the execution of his most important designs to the hands of the humblest, and the honour of initiating the Crusades was not reserved for the occupant of the chair of St. Peter. It was destined to fall to the lot of a humble pilgrim, who, as the learned historian of these events tells us, was inspired only by his zeal, and whose only influence was the force of his character and his genius. This humble pilgrim was Peter of Acheris, better known as Peter the Hermit. Descended from a noble family of Picardy, but ungainly in body and short of stature, he had vainly sought happiness and peace in the most opposite conditions of society. At first he embraced the[111] profession of arms, then he gave himself up to literature, then he married, and being soon left a widower, he entered into holy orders. Everywhere, however, he met with nothing but bitterness and deception. Having become at last, to use the expression of William of Tyre, “hermit both in deed and in name,” he sought in solitude, in fasting, and in prayer to forget the empty vanities of the world, and it was no doubt with a last hope of giving some practical effect to his fervent but barren devotion that he undertook his pious pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

His habits of meditation and prayer had infused a burning ardour and an enlightenment into his soul. When he found himself on the very soil that had been pressed by the Saviour’s feet, when he witnessed the hardships and the humiliations inflicted on the worshippers of Christ by the infidels, when, above all, he heard the lamentations of the venerable Simeon, the patriarch of Jerusalem, and had wept with him over the terrible trials of the Eastern Church, indignation, grief, piety, and faith awoke in his heart the feeling that he must at all hazards devote his life to a special vocation. He resolved to devote himself to the protection of his brethren in Christ, and to the deliverance of the holy places.

One day, as he was secretly praying in front of the Holy Sepulchre, he heard a voice saying, “Peter, arise! go forth and announce the tribulation of my people; it is time that my servants be succoured and my holy places delivered.” Under the influence of this heavenly command, the poor pilgrim, convinced that he was henceforward chosen by the divine will, determined to allow himself no rest till the holy mission, with which Christ himself had entrusted him, had been fully and faithfully accomplished. He left Palestine with letters from the patriarch Simeon to the Pope; he crossed the sea, hurried to Rome, and threw himself at the feet of Urban II., who, listening to the pathetic and eloquent language of the poor pilgrim, fancied that he was addressed by some inspired prophet, and entrusted him with the mission of summoning the nations to the holy war (Fig. 100).

Peter the Hermit, says the historian whose account we are following, left Italy, crossed the Alps, and wandered over France and a great part of Europe, infusing into all the burning zeal with which he was filled. He journeyed on a mule, a crucifix in his hand, his feet bare, his head uncovered, his body girdled with a thick cord, and clad in a long frock and mantle of the commonest, coarsest stuff. His peculiar garments excited the curiosity of the[112] people, while the austerity of his life, his charity, and the morality he inculcated, made them reverence him as a saint. He wandered in this guise from town to town, from province to province, stirring up the courage of some and the piety of others; sometimes he addressed them from church pulpits, sometimes in the highways and public places. His eloquence was keen and vigorous, full of vehement appeals that carried away the multitudes who listened to him. He recalled to their memories the profanation of the holy places, and the Christian blood that had poured in rivers down the streets of Jerusalem; he called on Heaven, the saints, and the angels, whose testimony he invoked as to the truth of his statements; he appealed to them by the holy hill of Sion, by the heights of Calvary, and by the mount of Olives, whose slopes he declared were ringing with groans and lamentations. When words failed him to further depict the miseries of the faithful in the far East, he showed them the crucifix which he always carried about him, and, beating his breast, burst into passionate tears.

Fig. 100.—Peter the Hermit delivering the Message of Simeon, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to Pope Urban II.—From a Coloured Drawing by Germain Picavet in the “Histoire des Croisades,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).

The populace everywhere crowded around him. The preacher of the holy war was received as the special envoy of the Almighty. To be allowed[113] to touch his clothes was considered an inestimable privilege, the hair even of the mule he bestrode was prized and preserved as a relic. The tones of his voice hushed domestic strife, forced the rich to succour the needy, and the profligate to slink ashamed away. His austerities and his miracles, his discourses and his exhortations, were repeated to those who had not been fortunate enough to witness the former or to hear the latter. As his hearers realised the fact that Jerusalem, Holy Jerusalem, was in the power of the infidel, the emotions of pity and the desire for vengeance were kindled within them. Every voice was lifted up to beseech God to restore to his keeping his once-beloved city. Some proffered their wealth, others their prayers, and all their life, to deliver the holy places.

Everything in Europe was ready for the great expedition; every heart beat high and every voice re-echoed the solemn hope so ardently and so persistently instilled by Peter the Hermit. Nothing now was wanted but to crown the work so far accomplished, and some watchword that would strike home to every heart, and raise, amidst the pious and countless hosts of the Crusaders, some one central banner around which they could all unite and rally. To this end Urban convoked a council on the very spot in that land of the Franks in which he had been born, a land which had always been foremost to set a noble example to surrounding nations.

The council assembled in Clermont, a town in Auvergne, scarcely large enough to contain the crowd of illustrious personages that soon flocked thither, “in such numbers,” says the French chronicler, William Aubert, “that, towards the middle of November, in the year 1096, the neighbouring towns and villages were so full of strangers that many were obliged to pitch their tents in the midst of the fields and meadows, although the season was extremely cold.”

The first sittings of this council, about to proclaim war against the enemies of the cross, were employed in decreeing the truce of God between all Christians. Then came the question of the hour. The apostle of the Crusade, Peter the Hermit, spoke first; with that tearful voice, with that burning emotion which had won him so many adherents, he depicted the miseries of the Eastern Church. After him the Pope addressed the assembly, and with such a distinguished and aristocratic audience, it may easily be understood that his skilful and learned eloquence had at least as much influence as the[114] simple and rough speech of the poor hermit who had such sway over the minds of the masses.

The council rose as one man, and one cry burst simultaneously from every breast—“Dieu le veut! Dieu le veut! (Diex li volt).”[7] The pontiff repeated in a stentorian voice these words, Diex li volt, words which for two centuries were destined to be the war-cry of the Crusaders, and showed to the excited crowd the emblem of the Redemption. “Let the cross,” he said, “glitter on your arms and on your standards! Bear it on your shoulders and on your breasts, it will become for you the emblem of victory or the palm of martyrdom; it will ever remind you that Jesus Christ died for you, and that it is your part to die for Him.” At these words, all the princes, barons, knights, prelates and clergy, artisans and labourers, swore to dedicate their lives to avenge the outrages inflicted on Christ and on His followers. The oath was cemented by a declaration of oblivion of all private animosities and quarrels, and every one of the immense audience fastened a red cross to his dress. From this the appellation of Crusaders was derived, a title which was bestowed on the faithful who then enrolled themselves under Christ’s banner, and also that of Crusade, the name given to the holy war. The council, before separating, confirmed and allotted the temporal and spiritual privileges which were to be bestowed upon the Crusaders.

It is impossible to paint in sufficiently vivid colours the universal and spontaneous movement which took place in Western Christendom, when the faithful who had taken part in the council of Clermont went forth everywhere, as formerly did Christ’s apostles, repeating what had taken place, and proclaiming the decrees which had been promulgated there. Thenceforward all, in spite of age, sex, or social position, were carried away by the same enthusiasm. Family ties were broken, riches were no longer held of any account. The question was not who had taken up the cross, but who had hesitated to do so. A poet of the time says, “I hold no man a true knight who refuses to go willingly, with his whole heart and with all the means in his power, to the assistance of God, who so greatly needs it.” Women of every rank sewed the cross to their clothing, children of every age marked it on their innocent bodies. Monks left the retreat where they had hoped to peacefully end their existence, hermits came out of their caves and forests, and even the very[115] robbers of the highway came forward, confessed their crimes, and swore to expiate them in the ranks of the holy army. The train was laid, the match was lighted, and for two centuries the Crusades were waged continually, with a few intervals of rest, caused by the enormous sacrifice of men and money entailed by this gigantic undertaking, which, inspired and controlled by an ardent faith, was persisted in, in spite of every reverse and every disaster.

Fig. 101.—Reception of Gautier-sans-Avoir by the King of Hungary, who permits him to pass through his territory with the Crusaders.—From a Miniature in the “Histoire des Empereurs,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Library of the Arsenal, Paris).

The spring of the year 1096 witnessed the first departure of the[116] Crusaders, in two numerous bodies, under the orders of Peter the Hermit himself, and of a poor but valiant warrior, Gautier-sans-Avoir (Fig. 101). But these undisciplined masses, forced to support themselves on their road by pillage, were dispersed and nearly destroyed by the nations through whose countries they had to pass, and who were ruined by their advent as they might have been by an army of locusts. Only a few thousand ever reached Constantinople, when the Emperor Alexis I., who had summoned the Western Christians to his aid against the Turks, succoured them, and enabled them to await the arrival of the more regular expeditions, which had started three months later under Godefroy de Bouillon.

Fig. 102.—Taking of Nicæa by the Crusaders, in 1097; from a Window ordered by the Abbé Suger for the Church of the Abbey of St. Denis, and now destroyed.—From the “Monuments de la Monarchic Française,” by Montfaucon (Twelfth Century).

It was then only that the real Crusade, that is to say, the actual war against the unbelievers, commenced. In March, 1097, the Christian army crossed the Bosphorus from Thrace, seized Nicæa (Fig. 102), penetrated into[117] Syria, and laid siege to the important town of Antioch, which by an act of treachery was forced to surrender in June, 1098. In the spring of the following year the soldiers of Christ entered Palestine, but it was not till the 15th of July, 1099, that the holy city fell into their hands, and that Godefroy de Bouillon (Figs. 103 and 104), elected king by the principal leaders of the victorious army, under the modest title of Baron of the Holy Sepulchre, founded the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem.

Fig. 103.—Godefroy de Bouillon, crowned with the Instruments of our Lord’s Passion.—From a Woodcut of the end of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Fig. 104.—Tomb of Godefroy de Bouillon, as it existed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, with the inscription:—“Hic jacet inclitus Godfridus de Bulion, qui totam istam terram acquisivit cultui Christiano, cujus anima cum Christo requiescat. Amen.” (“Here lies the illustrious Godefroy de Bouillon, who won all this Holy Land to the worship of Christ. May his soul rest with Jesus.”)—Monument of the early part of the Twelfth Century, now destroyed, from a Drawing taken on the spot in 1828, now in the possession of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.

Half a century passed away, during which Christendom sent forth expedition after expedition to defend the Holy Land and to consolidate its conquest; but with little success, for the Saracens never desisted from their attacks on[118] the Crusaders, and persistently disputed with them the possession of Palestine. Moreover, the ardour of the pilgrims gradually diminished, the zeal for the Crusades commenced to slacken in Europe, and indifference and apathy began to take its place. When the throne of Godefroy de Bouillon began to totter upon its insecure foundations, the road to Jerusalem became deserted, and the civilised world, absorbed and distracted by the nearer and keener struggles continually waging between its popes and its sovereigns,[119] soon, preserved but a vague remembrance of the glorious enterprises of its fathers.

Suddenly, however, it was rumoured in the West that the city of Edessa, the capital of the first Christian principality founded by the Crusaders in the East, and considered as the bulwark of the kingdom of Jerusalem, had been retaken by the Saracens, who had deluged the streets in blood. The painful tidings were received with deep indignation; but a man of genius was at hand to strike the keynote of distress and vengeance, and the voice of St. Bernard, the Abbot of Clairvaux, rekindled the waning torch of crusading enthusiasm.

It was at Vézelai (Fig. 105), where Louis VII. held his court, that the illustrious abbot, “fortified with the apostolical authority and his own sanctity,” first addressed the nobles and the populace (1146). “As there was no room in the castle,” says an eye-witness, Eudes de Deuil, in his Latin chronicles, “a pulpit had been constructed in the open air upon the plains which lay at the foot of the hill of Vézelai, into which Bernard ascended, accompanied by the king, wearing the cross sent him by the pope.” When the heaven-born orator had aroused his hearers with the divine fire of his eloquence, there arose a universal shout of “Crosses! crosses!” The crosses which the abbot had prepared beforehand were soon exhausted, and, tearing his clothes into strips, he distributed them amongst the assembly, who fastened them crosswise on their garments. He continued his exhortations during the whole of his stay at Vézelai, giving proof of the sanctity of his mission by the numerous miracles which he performed.

The pious and touching appeals of St. Bernard attained the success he desired. King Louis, his wife Eleanor, his principal nobility and clergy, many thousand knights, and a vast number of the lower classes, enrolled themselves under the banner of the cross. “As soon as it was agreed that they should set out at the expiration of a year,” says another chronicler, “all joyfully returned home. But the Abbot of Clairvaux went about preaching from place to place, and it soon became impossible to reckon the number of the Crusaders.” From France, Bernard crossed over to Germany, where the influence of his inspired words fully revealed itself, for whole populations, unable even to understand the language he addressed them in, carried away by the marvellous charm of his manner, smote their breasts, and cried out, “God be merciful to us! The saints be with us!”


Fig. 105.—Façade of the Abbey Church of the Magdalen, as it now stands at Vézelai, where, in 1146, St. Bernard preached the Second Crusade (Twelfth Century).

The Emperor Conrad, whom the Abbot endeavoured to persuade to join the King of France in the new crusade, at first gave the enterprise considerable opposition; but at last, at a meeting held at Spires, the 28th of December, 1146, Bernard’s extraordinary eloquence produced such an effect[121] upon him that he vowed on the spot to assume the cross. His example was immediately followed by several German princes, amongst whom was his own nephew, the youthful Frederick of Suabia, who afterwards became so celebrated under the name of Frederick Barbarossa.

A few months later, the French and German armies, each of which contained more than a hundred thousand fighting men, without reckoning the swarm of pilgrims who accompanied them, set out, well armed, well equipped, and full of confidence, for the East. The two armies contained the élite of the chivalry of both countries. “Europe,” said St. Bernard in one of his letters, “contained nothing but desert towns and castles, nothing but widows and orphans, whose husbands and fathers were still alive.”

But, alas! this enthusiasm, this zeal, this heroism, displayed by all classes of European society, were destined to end in miserable disaster. The insubordination of the troops, the want of foresight and co-operation of their leaders, and the treachery of the Greek emperor Manuel, prepared a fatal ending for this ill-omened undertaking, which saw its host melt away long before their arrival in the Holy Land. After more than a year of tremendous efforts and sanguinary reverses, its remnants struggled painfully back to the West, leaving the kingdom of Jerusalem in a far more precarious position than before the arrival of the combined forces. “And on all sides,” relates a chronicler, “were heard complaints and reproaches against the Abbot of Clairvaux, whose promises of victory had been so little realised, who, it was said, had sent so many brave men to a useless death, and who had plunged so many noble families into mourning. The holy man was mortified to the very depths of his soul, but rather than doubt the beneficent wisdom of the Almighty, he exclaimed, ‘If they must murmur, it is better that they should murmur against me than against God. I am rejoiced that the Lord has condescended to use me as a shield. I am willing to be humiliated, provided always that His glory be unassailed.’”

Forty years later, after the terrible battle of Tiberias (1187), where so much generous blood was spilt around Guy de Lusignan, the last King of Jerusalem, the Sultan Saladin, one of the most remarkable characters in Mussulman history, seized the holy city, which henceforth was only destined once, and then but for a short time, to fall again into the hands of the Christians.


In 1181 the Third Crusade was undertaken, and Philip Augustus, the King of France, and Richard, the King of England, whose great deeds in this holy war obtained for him the surname of Cœur de Lion, forgetting their own personal quarrels, put themselves at its head. Subsequently, Frederick Barbarossa, the Emperor of Germany, who had previously taken part in the Second Crusade, joined the undertaking, in which he was destined to meet his death.

After having shed more blood and displayed more bravery than would have sufficed to conquer the whole of Asia, after the long and memorable siege of the city of Ptolemais, after many signal successes, the Christian armies, discouraged and diminished by more than one half, returned to Europe, bringing with them “moult de gloire,”[8] says a chronicler, but without having in reality obtained any material or lasting advantage over the unbelievers, who it was true had lost St. Jean d’Acre, but who still retained possession of Jerusalem.

The Fourth Crusade (1198–1204), which some historians call the fifth, was authorised by Pope Innocent III., and preached in France by the celebrated Foulques de Neuilly. This crusade was remarkable in one respect. Its efforts at first were directed against the persecutors of Christianity, but events, as they developed themselves, modified its aim, and the question of the holy places having become abandoned, it ended, after the taking of Constantinople (Fig. 106), in the overthrow of the dynasty of the successors of Constantine, and its being replaced by a French dynasty, the founders of the Latin Empire of Byzantium. Following the example of Baudouin, Count of Flanders, the principal nobles of the crusading army divided among themselves the spoils of the Greek Empire, and ceased to think of the holy war.

In 1217, Andrew, King of Hungary, in company with several nobles of Germany and France, assumed the cross. This expedition sailed for Egypt, and laid siege to Damietta, which only capitulated after losing eighty thousand of its inhabitants. From thence it moved on to Cairo, but, being decimated by the plague, it was forced to retreat and return to Europe. This was really the fifth crusade.

Fig. 106.—Second taking of Constantinople, in 1204.—From a Fresco by Tintoretto, in the Palace of the Doges, Venice (Sixteenth Century).

In 1228, Frederick II., King of Naples and Sicily, having been elected[123] Emperor of Germany, conceived the idea, more from political than religious motives, of reconquering, in the name of Christendom, the Holy City. He embarked, accompanied only by a few hundred soldiers, and, landing in Egypt, had an interview with the Sultan, who was persuaded, under some unknown influence, to sign a treaty, by virtue of which Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem were to be restored to the Christians, under the express condition that the Mussulmans should be allowed to retain the Temple and to erect a mosque in the city of Jesus Christ. This was at best a sacrilegious[124] compact. It was neither approved nor kept by the Christians or by the Saracens, and was soon considered by Frederick himself a worthless compromise, although he had entered Jerusalem in person, and had there crowned himself with his own hands. This singular expedition was termed the Sixth Crusade.

But the hour was now fast approaching when the vigorous and sincere faith which had inspired the apostles of the First Crusade was once more to revive and to shine forth in all its pristine brilliancy; and it was again in France that the flame of Christian devotion was to be rekindled at the cry which still found its echo in every heart, the cry of “Dieu le veut!” The French nation, the eldest daughter of the Church, had then at its head one of those pure and simple-minded men whom Providence too rarely raises up for the honour and welfare of mankind. Louis IX., the son of Blanche of Castile, and the grandson of King Philip Augustus, united in his pure and magnanimous soul all the gentle virtues of his mother to the generous and chivalrous sentiments of his grandfather.

Whilst bestowing an assiduous and intelligent care on the government, and, it may be said, on the regeneration of his kingdom, whilst devoting the influence of his moral authority to appease the political discord which was agitating and devastating Europe, the sainted king could not forget that his Eastern brethren were groaning under slavery and persecution. The object of his dreams, at some future day when his kingly task should be nearing its accomplishment, when peace should reign in his dominions and in those of his neighbours, was to deliver Jerusalem and to drive the Saracen from the Holy Land. He was forced to postpone this noble undertaking, but it was only to await a more propitious opportunity of carrying it out in a thoroughly efficacious manner.

“Or advint,” says the Sire de Joinville in his Memoirs, “que le roi cheut en une grande maladie, et tellement fut au bas, qu’une des dames qui le gardoient, cuidant qu’il fût oultre, lui voulut couvrir le visage d’un linceul, et de l’autre part du lit y eut une autre dame qui ne le voulut souffrir. Or Notre-Seigneur ouvra en lui et lui redonna la parole; et demanda le bon roi qu’on lui apportât la croix; ce qui fut fait. Et quand la bonne dame, sa mère, sut qu’il eut recouvré la parole, elle en eut une si grande joie qui plus[125] ne se pouvoit, mais quand elle le vit croisé, elle fut aussi transie que si elle l’eût vu mort (1244).”[9]

Notwithstanding, however, the grief of the queen-mother, who, in spite of her devotion to the holy cause, feared lest the absence of the king might prove disadvantageous to France, Louis IX., having once taken the vow, was determined faithfully to perform it. Moreover, he was encouraged by seeing that his example alone had more influence than the warmest exhortations of his preachers, for, as soon as it was known that their revered sovereign had assumed the cross, zeal revived among all classes, faith regained its sway, and an impatience to set forth on the crusade manifested itself on all sides.

But the king, sagacious and prudent in spite of his ardour, and forewarned by the errors of his predecessors, was unwilling to give the signal until he had taken all proper precautions and made all necessary arrangements. Three years elapsed, during which Louis IX. continued his preparations, and collected provisions of every kind, which were conveyed to Cyprus, the spot chosen for the general rendezvous of the Crusaders; in the meantime, he busied himself in preparing, in the interests of his kingdom, for the events that might take place in his absence. At length, having appointed his mother regent, he embarked from the port of Aigues-Mortes on the 15th of August, 1248, with his wife, his brother, and his principal adherents. At Cyprus he was joined in turn by all the nobles of France, with their men-at-arms and their vassals. He passed the winter in organizing the expedition, which was first destined for Egypt; for, of all the Mahometan chiefs who were at that time contending for the possession of Palestine, the Sultan of Cairo, who had already made himself master of Syria, was considered the most powerful, and it was the opinion of the most competent soldiers that the conquest of the Holy Land must commence on the shores of the Nile.

Everything seemed to promise a happy result. A considerable fleet, a[126] numerous and well-disciplined army, an abundant supply of provisions, arms, and military stores, the supreme command concentrated in one hand, and, above all, a real feeling of devotion to the sacred cause—a feeling inspired by the exhortations and the example of the king—such were the elements from which the Seventh Crusade might have hoped to attain success.

In the spring, eighteen hundred vessels sailed from Cyprus, where they had been fitted out, and conveyed the crusading army to Damietta. The king, armed from head to foot, was one of the first to spring ashore. Several of his knights and men-at-arms followed him, and, in the midst of a shower of darts, dispersed the Saracens, with whom the shore was covered, and drove them back in disorder into the town (Fig. 107). The attack was so bold and so unforeseen, that the infidels, struck with terror, no longer believed themselves secure behind the walls which thirty years before had sustained a siege of eighteen months, and abandoned Damietta without striking a blow in its defence.

The possession of this stronghold, situated on the sea-coast at the mouth of the Nile, would have been of but little importance to the Crusaders, but its conquest had been so rapid and easy that they were led by the intoxication of success to neglect the first elements of prudence and discipline. Their entry into the town was the signal for its pillage, in spite of the orders and entreaties of the king, whose humane and generous character was repugnant to this act of barbarism.

The Christian host should have profited by the enemy’s discomfiture, and immediately have penetrated into the interior of the country, instead of remaining, as it did, stationary for five months, either on account of the periodic inundations of the river, or in expectation of the reinforcements which were due from Europe. This long delay, which fostered idleness, dissipation, and insubordination, was fatal to the expedition. When the king at last gave the order to advance, he had under his orders none but effeminate, enervated troops, without obedience and without discipline; and the Saracens, who had had plenty of time to forget their panic and overcome their discouragement, found, in the demoralization of their enemies, a still further ground for comfort, and a fresh motive for confidence.

Fig. 107.—Disembarkation of the Crusaders at Damietta.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the “Grand Voyage de Hiérusalem,” printed in Paris in 1522 by François Regnault, in the Library of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.

Thenceforward the Christian cause proceeded from bad to worse. After several engagements in which they were worsted, after several battles, the[127] effect of which was merely to sacrifice life—particularly after the battle of Mansourah, in which Robert of Artois, the king’s brother, was killed, with the flower of the nobility—the Crusaders found themselves surrounded in their camp, a prey to a pestilential epidemic produced by want, which daily made considerable ravages in their ranks. French valour, however, was not to be daunted, and over and over again the soldiers, though exhausted by fatigue and disease and dying of hunger, put forth fresh efforts, and defeated the Saracens; at a cost to themselves, however, that each victory made them less able to endure. At last they were forced to retreat on Damietta, where the Queen with some reserve troops was awaiting them, and where they hoped to reorganize themselves.

After they had been three or four days on the march, during which this weary host of sick and wounded had been ceaselessly harassed by the enemy, the king—who was seriously ill himself, but who always rode and fought in the rear to protect the remnant of his ost, whose safety, he said, he valued far more than his own life—was forced to halt in a village, which the Saracens surrounded and attacked on all sides, while the bravest and most devoted of Louis’s knights allowed themselves to be cut to pieces to prevent their good sire from falling into the hands of the infidels.

Louis was lying on the field in a dying condition, quite incapable of giving any command, when some traitor cried out in the midst of the fight, “Yield, sir knights, yield all of you, the king orders it; do not cause him to be slain.” The fight immediately ceased, the knights threw down their arms and asked for quarter. The Saracens pitilessly massacred not only the sick, from whom they feared the effects of contagion, but every Christian beneath the rank of knight. The king was taken prisoner, together with his two brothers (Fig. 108), his principal barons, and the officers of his household. This occurred on the 6th of April, 1250.

History records the most touching incidents of the captivity of the pious monarch. Never was Louis IX. so noble, so heroic, as during these thirty days of trial, of suffering, and of danger. Though a captive in the hands of the unbelievers, subjected to the grossest outrages, loaded with chains, and threatened with death, he still displayed in the gentleness of his disposition and the serenity of his soul the high virtues of the Christian faith and the nobility pertaining to his kingly dignity. The Saracens greatly admired this magnanimity in misfortune, and their principal leader, the terrible Sultan of[128] Damascus, entered into negotiations with his august prisoner, who was prepared to die rather than submit to some of the demands of his conquerors. A million of golden besants (about half a million of French livres) for the ransom of the Franks, the restitution of Damietta for that of their king, and ten years’ truce between the Christians and the Mussulmans of Egypt and of Syria, were the conditions that Louis was obliged to accept. Joinville tells us that the emirs of the sultan were content to accept, as their only guarantee, the bare word of this Frankish prince, the noblest Christian, they said, they had ever seen in the East. Some of the Saracens, indeed, according to the same chronicler, had conceived the intention of offering the throne of Egypt to King Louis (Fig. 109), so much respect and esteem had he inspired them with.

Fig. 108.—St. Louis and his two brothers, Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, and Charles, Count of Anjou, made prisoners by the Saracens.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the “Grand Voyage de Hiérusalem,” printed in Paris by François Regnault in 1522; folio. Library of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.

Louis having recovered his liberty, would not return to France without having tried every means in his power to alleviate the miseries of Palestine, or at least to deliver the Christian prisoners whom the infidels still detained.[129] He went, with seven hundred knights who still remained under his orders, to the Holy Land, and then, rather by conciliation than by force, and by the exercise of a marvellous sagacity, he was enabled to a certain extent to re-establish the prestige of the defenders of the cross. He devoted four years to this good work, and only consented to return to France on hearing of the death of his beloved mother. He re-entered Paris, after an absence of six years (1254), with a wounded and broken spirit, “because,” says the English chronicler, Matthew Paris, “through him disorder had overspread Christendom.”

Fig. 109.—The Messengers of the Sultan, having at their head a little old man walking with crutches, come to discuss terms of ransom with the Christian prisoners.—From a miniature in the “Credo de Joinville,” Manuscript of the end of the Thirteenth Century, formerly in the National Library of Paris, but now in England.

Palestine in 1268 had fallen into the deepest misery and desolation; the few towns and strongholds which remained in the hands of the Eastern Christians had been pillaged and sacked by the Mamelukes, who at last took Antioch, where they slew seventeen thousand of the inhabitants, and sold a hundred thousand more into slavery (Fig. 110). These dreadful tidings, which two centuries earlier would have caused a general indignation in Christendom, reached the West without creating much excitement, in the midst of the political troubles which were agitating most of the states of Europe. But since his return to France, St. Louis had worn the cross, if not on his garments, at least in his heart, and had always cherished the hope of realising the dream of his youth. “The cries of the miserable Eastern Christians,” says an old chronicle, “deprived him of rest; and[130] he felt within him a deep anguish of soul and a passionate desire for martyrdom.”

Fig. 110.—Plan of Antioch in the Thirteenth Century, with its five gates—of St. Paul, of the Dog, of the Duke, of the Bridge, and of St. George. To the right is Mount Oronte; in the foreground is the sea.—From a Manuscript of the Thirteenth Century, No. 4,939, in the National Library of Paris.

Accordingly he convened a solemn parliament, when he announced to his assembled nobles his intention of undertaking a new crusade. At first many were greatly surprised and afflicted, thinking, writes the Sire de Joinville, “that those who had counselled the undertaking had committed an evil deed and a mortal sin.” Some, indeed, of the king’s most faithful servants openly refused to join his crusade, not through fear, but from wisdom, and with the intention perhaps of persuading him to abandon his fatal project; but the majority of the barons and feudal lords found it impossible to gainsay the will of their sovereign, and the example of the king was of still greater power than his orders. His three sons, the Counts of Toulouse, of Champagne, and of Flanders, took up the cross, as well as his brother, Charles of Anjou, who had recently been raised to the throne of Sicily, and many other princes of the royal house of France.

The preparations for the crusade required three years, during which St. Louis, in the hope of persuading every Christian state to send its troops[131] against the infidels, did his best, but without success, to put an end to the political quarrels that divided kings from their subjects. He embarked, in 1270, with his sons and his principal nobles, for Sardinia, which had been fixed upon as the rendezvous of the Crusaders. On his arrival there it was decided that Tunis should be attacked first. A French chronicler mentions that the king had been given to understand that “Tunis afforded great assistance to the Sultan of Cairo, which was very injurious to the Holy Land, and the barons believed that if that root of evil, the city of Tunis, were destroyed, it would be of much advantage to Christendom.” Other chroniclers, on the contrary, and amongst them Matthew Paris, give a more plausible motive for the expedition, viz., that the king had heard that the Moorish sovereign of that part of the coast had shown a disposition to embrace Christianity and join the western powers in their attempt to conquer Egypt.

Fig. 111.—Disembarkation of St. Louis at Carthage.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the “Passaiges d’oultremer:” small folio, Paris, 1518.

However that may have been, the crusading fleet sailed for Tunis, carrying an army sadly tried by sickness, and whose ardour had already strangely begun to cool. The Moors permitted the Christians, almost unopposed, to disembark and take possession of Carthage (Fig. 111), which had dwindled[132] down to a mere village. Some of the Crusaders housed themselves in the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city, the remainder bivouacked under the burning sun of Africa, surrounded and harassed by the infidels, whose light cavalry kept continuously skirmishing around them. It was not long before the plague broke out in the Christian army, whilst it was still awaiting the arrival of the King of Sicily and his troops, and Louis IX., already in feeble health, bowed down by premature old age, and heartbroken in consequence of the death of one of his sons, was attacked by it.

Fig. 112.—St. John of Capistran, Franciscan Monk, who defended Belgrade against the Turks.—From a Painting by Bartolommeo Vivarini, in the Louvre. Fifteenth Century.

As soon as this culminating misfortune was known in the camp there was unusual consternation and despondency, for every one knew that the king was the life and soul of the expedition. From his sickbed, where he was undergoing the most cruel sufferings, he still continued to issue his orders with that composure and gentleness which were habitual to him; but every hour increased his feebleness, every moment brought him nearer to his end. As soon as he perceived that his death was at hand, he tranquilly dictated his last instructions to his son Philip—instructions which have rightly been termed celestial;—then kneeling at the bedside he received extreme unction, after which, stretching himself upon[133] a bed of ashes as a sign of repentance and humility, his eyes turned beseechingly towards heaven, and the words of the psalmist on his lips, “O Lord, I will enter thy temple and glorify thy name,” he quietly breathed his last (August 25th, 1270).

Fig. 113.—Don Juan of Austria, holding a boarding-axe in remembrance of the Battle of Lepanto.—From a painting attributed to Alonso Sanchez Coello, Portuguese painter, in the possession of M. Carderera, of Madrid. End of the Sixteenth Century.

And with the last beat of this grand and noble heart terminated the eighth crusade, the last on the heroic list of these adventurous expeditions in which the power and the influence of the Christian faith had been so signally manifested. It had indeed required all the personal influence of the revered monarch to re-awaken the religious enthusiasm, to quicken into life the zeal and faith of a state of society which had become more sceptical, if not more corrupt, as it had become more civilised, and which occupied itself less with the spiritual consolations of the soul than with the material pleasures of the body. Never again was the sceptre of France to pass into[134] such sainted hands, never again was the martyr’s halo of glory to illuminate its crown. It is true that more than once since the death of St. Louis a call to the crusade has resounded from the pontifical chair and from the dais of the council hall, but it never found an echo in the heart of either prince or peasant. Nevertheless on two subsequent occasions have voices as persuasive as those of Peter the Hermit and the Monk of Clairvaux attempted to re-awaken popular enthusiasm. In the middle of the fifteenth century, while Mahomet II., master of Constantinople, was advancing full of confidence to conquer the West, John Corvin, vayvode of Transylvania, better known under the name of Huniades, put himself at the head of the Crusaders who had been assembled by the eloquent appeals of St. John of Capistran (Fig. 112). Carried away with the enthusiasm of this man of God, who, crucifix in hand, was wont to penetrate the ranks in the hottest part of an engagement, the Crusaders showed themselves worthy of their heroic leader, Huniades. At the close of a tremendous struggle, the Turks were put to flight; Belgrade remained in the hands of the Christians, and the haughty Mahomet II. was wounded and hurried off the field by his followers.

Towards the close of the sixteenth century, the King of Spain and the Italian princes concluded arrangements with Pope Pius V. and the Venetians for a crusade to defend Christian Europe against the Turks. Don Juan of Austria (Fig. 113), who was appointed commander-in-chief of the troops by Pius V., obtained, on the 7th of October, 1571, that tremendous victory in which the Turks lost thirty thousand men and two hundred and twenty-four vessels, a loss that destroyed their naval supremacy and saved Europe. But in the meantime the Holy Land had again fallen beneath the yoke of the infidel, and there was soon no trace left of those principalities beyond the seas which the crusading nobles had founded in the Archipelago and in Asia Minor, and which for a brief, a very brief, space had seemed so flourishing; there was soon, indeed, no trace left of even the name of the ephemeral kingdom of Jerusalem, for the creation of which the nations of Europe had lavished, for nearly two centuries, so much blood, so much wealth, and so much heroism.

The effect of the Crusades was nevertheless a complete revolution in the manners and customs of the Western nations; the suppression of servitude, the founding of the free towns, the alienation and the division of the feudal lands, and the development of the communal system, were the immediate consequences of the tremendous emigration of men who went forth to fight[135] and die in Palestine. The nobles ceased to wage their perpetual private quarrels, knighthood assumed a regular and solemn character, judiciary duels diminished, religious orders multiplied, and charitable institutions were established on every side. Men’s minds became more enlightened and their manners softened under the influence of the growing expansion of science, art, and literature. Law, natural history, philosophy, and mathematics came to them in direct descent from the Greeks and the Arabians; a new literature, abounding in poetic gems, sprang forth all at once from the imagination of troubadours, minstrels, and minnesingers; art, the fine arts particularly, architecture, painting, sculpture, and embroidery, began to unfold their thousand wonders; industry and commerce multiplied a hundredfold the public wealth, which at one time had seemed nearly swallowed up in ruinous expeditions; and the art of war, as well as the art of navigation, made immense strides in the direction of progress.

Fig. 114.—Assault on a Fortified Place.—From a Miniature in the “Histoire des Croisades” of Guillaume de Tyr, Manuscript of the Thirteenth Century, in the Library of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.




Origin of Chivalry.—Its different Characteristics.—Chivalric Gallantry.—Chivalry and Nobility.—Its Relations with the Church.—Education of the Children of the Nobility.—Squires.—Chivalric Exercises.—Pursuivants at Arms.—Courts and Tribunals of Love.—Creation of Knights.—Degradation of Knights.—Judicial Duels.—Trials by Ordeal.—Feudal Champions.—Gages of Battle.—The Church forbids Duels.—Tournaments invented by the Sire de Preuilly in the Tenth Century.—Arms need in a Tournament.—Tilt.—Lists.—The part taken by Ladies.—King René’s Book.

The word Chivalry, according to M. Philarète Chasles, whose ingenious opinions we often borrow, expresses a mixture of manners, of ideas, and of customs peculiar to the Middle Ages of Europe, and to which no analogy is to be traced in the annals of the human race.

Fig. 115.—King Artus, protected by the Virgin, is fighting a Giant.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut in the “Chroniques de Bretagne,” of Alain Bouchard; 4to, Paris, Galliot du Pré, 1514.

The Eddas, Tacitus, and the Dano-Anglo-Saxon poems of Béowulf contain the only positive documents concerning the origin of chivalry. It reached its apogee rapidly after its birth, and gradually declined towards the close of the thirteenth century. At that period ladies took a very prominent position; they armed the knights, conferred the order of knighthood, and bestowed the prizes of honour. It was under the influence of the ideas peculiar to this epoch that Dante wrote his great poem, “for the sole purpose,” he said, “of glorifying Beatrice Portinari,” a child of eleven years of age whom he had accidentally seen in a church. It was at this time that the Suabian knights, invaded by the barbarous Hungarians, who were in the habit of slaying their enemies[137] with their enormous bows and arrows, implored them, “in the name of the ladies,” to take sword in hand, in order to fight in “a more civilised manner.” But chivalry soon began to decline, both as an institution and as a doctrine. Froissart characterizes and describes with picturesque liveliness this tendency to decay, which, as time advanced, gradually resulted in a complete[138] transformation, so that the chivalric ideal became lost, and the independence of the soldier, once the slave only of his God and of his lady, gave way to the obsequiousness of the courtier, and finally became a selfish and pitiful servility.

At these different epochs of organic transformation, chivalry was constantly modifying itself according to each nation’s particular tendency. In Thuringia and Saxony, in Ireland and in Norway, it resisted longer than elsewhere the growing influence of Christianity. It exhibits its semi-paganism in certain passages of the “Niebelungen,” a German epic poem of the thirteenth century, in which the rude impress of ancient Teutonism is still clear and distinct. Between the seventh and the eleventh centuries the traces of this rudeness of origin still strongly showed themselves among the Franks, whose bravery consisted in spilling their blood, in fearing nothing, and in sparing nobody. This thirst for blood was unknown in the south of Europe; there men’s dispositions were amiable and gentle, and as far back as the eleventh century chivalric gallantry was regulated by fixed laws, and gave birth to a learned and refined school of poetry. From Provence this spirit of gallantry and poetry made its way into Italy and Sicily, where the barbarous Teutonic knights had been so frequently turned into ridicule. Little by little, however, German chivalry was affected by these southern influences. The minnesingers softened to the best of their ability the Teutonic language to permit of its repeating the softer songs of the Provençal muse, and the light but lively imaginations of the troubadours assumed a gentle melancholy and often a metaphysical grace in their German verses. In Great Britain, where the actual has always overshadowed the ideal, chivalry remained cold, feudal, and aristocratic, whilst it was passionately worshipped by the Spaniards, those noble and knightly descendants of the Goths and Iberians, whose struggle with the Arabs was one long tournament that lasted for more than seven centuries (Fig. 116). In religious countries chivalry assumed monastic characteristics; among nations of a gay and lively disposition it verged on the voluptuous and licentious. Alphonso X., King of Leon and Castile, forced his subjects to submit to monkish regulations, and prescribed the shape of their clothes as well as the manner in which they were to spend their time. In Provence, chivalry regarded unlawful love with an indulgent eye, and made a jest of marriage.

Chivalry was in fact a fraternal association, or rather an enthusiastic compact between men of feeling and courage, of delicacy and devotion;[139] such at least was the noble aim it had in view, and which it constantly strove to attain (Fig. 117).

Fig. 116.—Sword of Isabella the Catholic. Upon the hilt is the following inscription, partly in Spanish and partly in Latin:—“I am always desiring honour; now I am watching, peace be with me” (“Deseo sienpre onera; nunc caveo, pax con migo”).—From the “Armeria Real of Madrid,” a publication of M. Ach. Jubinal’s.

However praiseworthy its motives and intentions, chivalry was not favourably regarded by everybody. In its feudal aspect it was displeasing to sovereigns, who constantly endeavoured to create beside it, and sometimes above it, a nobility of the sword, an individual and personal rank that could not be handed down from father to son (Fig. 118). Thus Philippe le Bel, being in want of soldiers after the Flemings had destroyed his chivalry—that is to say, his nobility—attempted immediately to replace it by ordering that[140] the elder of two sons of a villain, and the two elder of three sons, should be admitted into the order of knighthood. In this way Frederick Barbarossa knighted peasants who had displayed personal bravery on the field of battle.

Fig. 117.—Chivalry represented by Allegorical Figures.—Fac-simile of a Copper-plate in the Spanish translation of the “Chevalier délibéré” of Olivier de la Marche: 4to, Salamanca, 1573.

Fig. 118.—Conferring Knighthood on the Field of Battle.—Romance of “Lancelot du Lac,” a Manuscript in the National Library of Paris (Thirteenth Century).

As for the Church, it contented itself with warning the knights against[141] too bellicose a spirit, and with imbuing them as far as possible with the sentiments of Christian charity; in fact, knights were frequently considered to be a species of Levite. “There was,” says the “Ordène de Chevalerie”[10] “a great resemblance between the duties of a knight and those of a priest.” Thence the reason that the priest was “the hero of the faith,” and the knight “the pontiff of true honour.” Thence the name of ordène, or ordination, given to the investiture of knighthood. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish knight Don Ignatio de Loyola, who became so famous as the founder of the Order of the Jesuits, made himself a knight of the Virgin, and solemnised his entrance into God’s service, according to ancient[142] custom, by keeping the veillée des armes[11] before the sacred image of the mother of Christ.

The Church, although it seeks to maintain peace and has a horror of bloodshed, has never forbidden legitimate wars, and thus good King St. Louis never shrank on the field of battle from driving his sword up to the very hilt into his enemy’s heart. And the Church, whilst approving of the noble character as well as of the enthusiasm of chivalry, always endeavoured to restrain its more romantic and warlike tendencies. Its pacific and charitable spirit is expressed in the solemn blessing on the sword of a knight, which we take from the “pontifical:”—“Most holy Lord,” said the officiating prelate, “omnipotent Father, eternal God, who alone ordainest and disposest all things; who, to restrain the malice of the wicked and to protect justice, hast, by a wise arrangement, permitted the use of the sword to men upon this earth, and willed the institution of the military order for the protection of thy people; O thou who, by the mouth of the thrice-blessed John, didst tell the soldiers who came to seek him in the desert to oppress no one, but to rest content with their wages,—we humbly implore thy mercy, Lord. It is thou who gavest to thy servant David to overcome Goliath, and to Judas Maccabeus to triumph over the nations who did not worship thee; in like manner now to this thy servant here, who has come to bend his head beneath the military yoke, grant strength and courage for the defence of the faith and justice; grant him an increase of faith, hope, and charity; inspire him with thy fear and love; give him humility, perseverance, obedience, and patience; make his disposition in everything such that he may wound no person unjustly either with this sword or with any other, but that he may use it to defend all that is just and all that is right.”

The bishop gave the naked sword to the new knight, saying, “Receive this blade in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and use it for your own defence and for that of God’s Holy Church, and for the confusion of the enemies of the cross of Christ and of the Christian faith; and as far as human frailty permits it, wound no one unjustly with it.” The new-made knight then rose, brandished the sword, wiped it on his left arm, and replaced it in its scabbard. The prelate then gave him the kiss of[143] peace, saying, “Peace be with thee.” Then with the naked sword in his right hand, he struck the knight gently thrice across the shoulders, saying, “Be thou a peaceable, brave, and faithful warrior.” After which the other knights present put on his spurs (Fig. 119), whilst the bishop said, “Valiant warrior, thou who surpassest in beauty the children of men, gird thyself with thy sword upon thy thigh.”

Fig. 119.—Arming a Knight; whilst his spurs are being put on, the prince girds the sword to his side.—From a Manuscript of the Thirteenth Century in the British Museum.

The son of a noble, or even of a commoner, intended for the ranks of knighthood, was at the age of seven taken away from the care of the women; who, however, never allowed him to reach that age without instilling into him such sentiments of right and valour as should govern his conduct during the rest of his life. He was then entrusted to the men, of whom he became not only the pupil, but the servitor; for, says the “Ordène de Chevalerie,” “it is proper that he should learn to obey before he governs; for otherwise he would not appreciate the nobility of his rank when he became a knight.” Moreover, the chivalric code, which distrusted the prejudices and weaknesses of paternal affection, required “every knight to place his son in the service of some other knight.” These youthful novices, particularly if they belonged to a noble and honourable family, always found plenty of princely courts, seignorial households, manors, and castles to receive them, which were, so to speak, the public schools of chivalry. There existed, besides, hospitals founded and maintained by wealthy and generous nobles, in the same manner as are the colleges of the University of Paris; and these hospitals were governed by[144] old knights without family or fortune, who considered it no shame to accept, not a salary in money, but a retiring pension in the shape of a house with board, in which to hold a kind of school of chivalry for the benefit of the youths, who promised at some future time to prove a credit to the institution.

These youths were termed pages, varlets, and damoiseaux, and they performed under their masters and mistresses the most humble and the most domestic functions: they followed them in their travels and to the chase; they formed part of their suites on occasions of ceremony; they wrote their letters and carried their messages; they waited on them at meals, carved their dishes, and poured out their drinks.

In the eyes even of those nobles who were most jealous of their birth and of their name, this temporary and casual servitude had nothing in it either of a humiliating or degrading character, and its only effect was to knit still closer the ties of respect, obedience, and sympathy which bound the youth to his adopted parents, the aspirant for knighthood to his master and teacher. The latter by no means neglected the moral and religious education of the neophyte; the first lessons which were given him taught him not only to love God, but to respect women.

As soon as the young page had acquired sufficient experience and discernment to direct his own movements in the intricacies of chivalric life, he was bidden to choose an ideal sovereign from among the noble and beautiful ladies of the aristocratic world that he frequented, a sort of terrestrial divinity whom he was to swear to serve, and to whom he was henceforth to recount all his thoughts and actions, treating her at the same time with all the delicacy and devotion which the example of those around him had shown him to be her due.

He was taught, above all, to revere the august character of chivalry, and to respect, in the persons of the knights who composed this institution, the dignity to which he himself aspired. It was thus that, led by the instinct of imitation peculiar to the young, the pages habitually played at doing everything they saw done by the knights. They practised wielding the lance and the sword; they played at combats, attacks, and duels between themselves. Excited by emulation, they coveted the honour of being considered brave, hoping if they attained their wish, that it would lead to their being attached to the service of some person of mark, or to their being promoted to the rank of esquire.


When the young men abandoned the position of pages in order to be made esquires, an event that never took place before their fourteenth year, their change of social condition was celebrated by a religious ceremony, which the Church appointed for the purpose of consecrating their knightly vocation, and of hallowing the use of the arms they were henceforward destined to carry. Standing at the altar and surrounded by his nearest relations, the youthful novice received the consecrated sword from the hands of the priest, promising always to wield it in the interests of religion and honour. A higher position in the household of his lord or lady was then assigned to the new esquire. He was admitted to their private gatherings, he took part in all assemblies and state ceremonies, and it was now his duty to superintend the reception, that is to say, to regulate the laws of etiquette relating to the foreign nobles who visited his master’s court.

Fig. 120.—The Game of Quintain: tilting at a quintain (revolving effigy of a knight).—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Charlemagne” (Fifteenth Century). Burgundian Library, Brussels.

A passage from the history of Boucicaut, a marshal of France in the reign of Charles VI., will give an idea of the laborious and arduous existence[146] of the young esquire who aspired to become a worthy knight: “Now cased in armour, he would practise leaping on to the back of a horse; anon, to accustom himself to become long-winded and enduring, he would walk and run long distances on foot, or he would practise striking numerous and forcible blows with a battle-axe or mallet. In order to accustom himself to the weight of his armour, he would turn somersaults whilst clad in a complete suit of mail, with the exception of his helmet, or would dance vigorously in a shirt of steel; he would place one hand on the saddle-bow of a tall charger, and the other on his neck, and vault over him.... He would climb up between two perpendicular walls that stood four or five feet asunder by the mere pressure of his arms and legs, and would thus reach the top, even if it were as high as a tower, without resting either in the ascent or descent.... When he was at home, he would practise with the other young esquires at lance-throwing and other warlike exercises, and this continually.”

Besides all this, it was necessary for an esquire who wished to fulfil his duties properly to possess a number of physical qualities, great versatility of talent and capability, and a zeal that never flagged. At court, as in the larger seignorial households, there were various classes or categories of esquires who performed totally distinct duties, which in less important households were all entrusted to the same individual. The first in importance was the body esquire, or the esquire of honour; then the chamber esquire, or chamberlain; the carving esquire, the stable esquire, the cup-bearing esquire, &c., all separate personages, whose names sufficiently indicate their duties.

It is scarcely necessary to remark that esquires, besides the domestic services expected from them within their master’s house, had especially to give proofs of their vigilance and skill in the duties of the stable—duties which, as an historian aptly observes, were of necessity noble, since the military aristocracy never fought but on horseback. It was the duty of all first esquires to break in their master’s chargers, and to teach the younger esquires the routine of the stable. The duty of attending to the arms and armour devolved upon another class of esquires. We may add that, as each seignorial castle was also a species of fortress, most of the esquires, in addition to their other tasks, were required to perform certain military duties analogous to those practised in a regular stronghold, such as rounds, sentry duty, watches, &c. (Fig. 121).

When their lord mounted his horse, his esquires shared amongst them[147] the honour of assisting him; some held his stirrup, others carried various parts of his armour, such as the armlets, the helmet, the shield, the gauntlets, &c. When a knight was merely going for a ride or on a journey, he usually bestrode a sober kind of hack that was called a palfrey, but when he was going to take the field, one of his esquires led at his right hand (whence the name of destrier given to this sort of steed) a charger or high horse, which the knight only mounted at the last moment. Hence the expression, “to ride the high horse,” which has become proverbial.

Fig. 121.—German Knight, engraved by Burgmayer from designs by Albert Dürer, taken from a collection entitled “Vita Imperatoris Maximiliani” (Fifteenth Century).

As soon as the knight had decided to mount his charger, his squires proceeded to arm him, that is to say, they firmly fastened together all the different pieces of his armour on his body with straps attached to metal buckles for the purpose; and it may be well conceived that no slight care was required to properly adjust such a cumbrous and complicated steel or iron casing; an esquire’s neglect, indeed, frequently caused his master’s death.

When a single combat took place, the esquires, drawn up behind their[148] lord, remained for a few moments inactive spectators of the struggle, but as soon as it had once fairly begun their share in the affray commenced. Watching the slightest movement, the smallest signals of their master, they stood ready to assist him in an indirect but efficacious manner if he attained any advantage, without actually becoming aggressors themselves, in order to assure his victory; if the knight were hurled from his steed, they helped him to remount, they brought him a fresh horse, they warded off the blows that were aimed at him; if he were wounded and placed hors de combat, they did their utmost, at the risk of their own life, to carry him off before he was slain outright. Again, it was to his esquires that a successful knight confided the care of the prisoners he had taken on the battle-field. In fine, the esquires, short of actually fighting themselves, a thing forbidden by the code of chivalry, were expected to display the greatest zeal, the greatest skill, and the greatest courage, and consequently had it very materially in their power to contribute to their master’s success.

A long novitiate and the consciousness of an aptitude for a military career were not always, however, sufficient to enable an esquire to obtain the rank of knight. He was frequently obliged, in the intermediate rank of pursuivant-at-arms, to travel through foreign countries, either as the acknowledged envoy of some prince or noble, or merely in the character of an ordinary traveller, and be present at chivalric games and tournaments, without actually taking part in them himself; he thus acquired, by constant intercourse with distinguished soldiers and high-born ladies, a thorough technical knowledge of the military calling, and an intimate acquaintance with all the elegant refinements of courtesy.

In this way pursuivants-at-arms went about everywhere, one day being ceremoniously received at the court of a powerful noble, the next being simply entertained in the lowly manor of a poor gentleman; acting, wherever they might be, honourably both in word and in deed, observing scrupulously the precepts both of honour and virtue, showing themselves to be noble, brave, and devoted, and seeking every opportunity of proving themselves worthy of ranking with the noble knights whose deeds and whose names were the theme of constant and universal praise.

Chance alone was not allowed to direct their wandering and adventurous steps, they eagerly sought the most renowned princely and seignorial courts, at which they were certain to meet with chivalry’s loftiest traditions; they[149] thought themselves fortunate indeed when they were able to make their obeisance to some hero famous for his deeds in arms, or to elicit a smile from some lady celebrated for her beauty and her worth.

Fig. 122.—The Count of Artois, who has come from Arras to take part in the tournament at Boulogne, presents himself at the Castle of the Count of Boulogne, and is received by the Countess and her daughter.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Livre du très-chevalereux Comte d’Artois et de sa Femme,” Barrois Manuscript (Fifteenth Century).

Fig. 123.—Knight setting out for the War.—“Il prist le dur congié de sa bonne et belle femme, en si grans pleurs et gemissemens qu’elle demoura toute pasmée” (“He said farewell to his good and beautiful wife with such tears and groans that she was ready to swoon”).—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Livre du très-chevalereux Comte d’Artois et de sa Femme,” Barrois Manuscript (Fifteenth Century).

And while the most perfect respect and courtesy to ladies were the first duties instilled into each youthful aspirant, it must be owned that the education received by the former was one calculated to make them in every way worthy of such homage. To fit ladies for the queenly part they were destined to play in the world of chivalry, they were taught from their childhood to practise every virtue, to cherish every noble feeling, and generally[150] to emulate the dignity demanded by the social privileges of their rank. They were profuse in their acts of kindness and civility to the knights, whether friends or strangers, who entered the gates of their castles (Figs. 122 and 123); on a knight’s return from tournament or battle, they unbuckled his armour with their own hands, they prepared perfumes and spotless linen for his wear, they clothed him in gala dress, in mantle and scarf that they had themselves embroidered, they prepared his bath, and waited on him at table. Destined to become the wives of these same knights who frequented[151] their homes, they did their utmost to bring themselves under their notice by their modest demeanour, and to make themselves beloved by the courtesy and the attentions which they lavished upon them. It was theirs to respond, with admiration and tenderness, to the boldness and to the bravery of the knights, who sought glory only to lay it at their mistresses’ feet, and who asked for nothing better than to be subject to the gentle sway of beauty, grace, and virtue.

It was thus, for instance, that in Provence, from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, the most powerful nobles humbly obeyed, in everything that concerned the heart, the decrees issued by the courts or tribunals of love, a kind of feminine areopagus which was held with great ceremony on certain days, and at which the ladies most distinguished by birth, beauty, intelligence, and knowledge, met to deliberate, publicly or with closed doors, with proper gravity and solemnity, on delicate questions of gallantry, which in those days were considered highly important. These courts of love, which appear to have been regular and permanent institutions in the twelfth century, had a special code, in accordance with which the sentences pronounced were more or less rigorously in conformity; but this code has not been handed down to our day, and we only possess its outline conveyed in the commentaries of the legal writers of the fifteenth century. Causes in these courts were sometimes decided on written evidence, sometimes the parties themselves were allowed to appear in person. Among the celebrated women who at different epochs and in different places presided over these romantic assizes, may be cited the beautiful Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France, and afterwards of England; Sibyl of Anjou, who married Thierry, Count of Flanders; the Countess of Die, surnamed the Sappho of France; and the famous Laura or Lauretta of Sade, whom Petrarch, who chose her for the lady of his love, has immortalised in his verse.

But to return to the esquire, who was left undergoing his laborious novitiate. When he had at last performed all its numerous requirements, the investiture of knighthood was conferred upon him, a symbolical ceremony, as indeed were all that went to make up a chivalric ordination, but one of a more serious and solemn character than the rest.

We have already said that this word ordination (ordène) implies that the arming of a knight was a kind of sacred ceremony. A very curious poem entitled “L’Ordène de Chevalerie” is still in existence. Its author, Hugues[152] de Tabarie or de Tibériade, undertook the task of explaining all the forms of the investiture. In order to make his explanations more intelligible, Hugues de Tibériade supposes himself before an aspirant entirely ignorant of all the usages of chivalry: he pretends that the Sultan Saladin, whose prisoner he is, has forced him to confer upon him the order of knighthood. The first thing Hugues does is to order him to comb his hair and beard, and to carefully wash his face:—


Caviaus et barbe, et li viaire
Li fist appareiller moult bel;
Ch’est droit à chevalier nouvel.
Puis le fist en un baing entrer.
Lors li commenche à demander
Le soudan, que che senifie.


His hair, his beard, and his face
He made him carefully arrange;
It is the duty of a new knight.
Then he made him enter a bath.
Then the sultan began to ask
What all this signified.

“Sire,” answers Hugues, “like the babe that leaves the font cleansed from original sin,—

“Sire, tout ensement devez
Issir, sanz nule vilounie
De ce baing, car chevalerie
Si doit baingnier en honesté,
En courtoisie et en bonté
Et fere amer à toutes gens.”
“Sire, it is thus that you must
Emerge without any stain
From this bath; for knighthood
Must be clothed with honesty,
With courtesy, and with goodness,
And make itself beloved by all.”

“By the great God,” says Saladin, “this is a wonderful beginning!” “Now,” answers Hugues, “leave the bath and recline on this great bed. It is an emblem of the one you will obtain in paradise, the bed of rest that God grants to his followers, the brave knights.” Shortly after, whilst dressing him from head to foot, he says: “The snow-white linen shirt with which I am clothing you, and which touches your skin, is to teach you that you must keep your flesh from every stain if you wish to reach heaven. This crimson robe indicates—

“Que votre sanc devez épandre
Pour Dieu servir et hounorer;
Et pour défendre Sainte Eglise;
Car tout chou doit chevalier faire,
S’il veust à Dieu de noient plaire;
Ch’est entendu par le vermeil.
“That you must pour out your blood
To serve and honour God;
And to defend the holy Church;
For all this must a knight do
If he wishes entirely to please God;
Such is the meaning of the crimson.


“These trunk-hose of brown silk by their sombre hue are meant to remind you of—


“La mort, et la terre où gisrez,
Dont venistes, et où irez.
A chou doivent garder votre œil;
Si n’enkerret pas en orguel,
Car orgueus ne doit pas régner
En chevalier, ni demorer.
A simpleche doit toujours tendre.


“Death, and the earth where you will rest,
Whence you came and whither you will return;
This is what you must keep before your eyes;
Thus you will not fall into pride,
For pride should never govern
A knight nor reign within him.
Humility should always be his aim.

“This white girdle which I place around your loins is to teach you to keep your body pure and to avoid luxury. These two golden spurs are to urge on your horse; imitate its ardour and its docility, and as it obeys you, so be you obedient to the Lord. Now I fasten your sword to your side; strike your enemies with its double edge, prevent the poor from being crushed by the rich, the weak from being oppressed by the strong. I put upon your head a pure white coif to indicate that your soul similarly should be stainless.”

Every pursuivant was perfectly well acquainted with the meaning of the ordination of knighthood. The vigil of arms, the strict fasts, the three nights spent in prayer in a lonely chapel, the white garments of the neophyte, the consecration of his sword in front of the altar, were sufficient to prove to the novice the gravity of the engagement he was contracting under the auspices of religion. At last a day was fixed for the great ceremony, and the neophyte—after hearing mass on his bended knees, and with his sword, which he had not yet acquired the right to gird to his side, suspended from his neck—received from the hands of some noble or of some noble lady his spurs, his helmet, his cuirass, his gauntlets, and his sword. The ceremony was completed by the colée; that is to say, the investing knight, before presenting him with the sword, struck him across the shoulder with its flat side, and then gave him the accolade as a sign of brotherly adoption. His shield, his lance, and his charger, were then brought to the new-made knight, and he was thenceforward at liberty to commence the career of glory, of devotion, and of combat, to which for so many years he had aspired.

Fig. 124.—Degradation of a Knight.—Fragment of a Woodcut attributed to Jost Amman, bearing the date 1565 and the monogram A. J. (Collection of M. Guénebault of Paris).

The Christian symbolism, which had accompanied the first steps of the novice, followed and surrounded him in some way or other during the whole


of his knightly career. Indeed, it took part in his punishment and degradation if he broke his plighted faith or if he forfeited his honour. Exposed on a scaffold in nothing but his shirt, he was stripped of his armour, which was broken to pieces before his eyes and thrown at his feet, while his spurs were thrown upon a dunghill. His shield was fastened to the croup of a cart-horse and dragged through the dust, and his charger’s tail was cut off. A[155] herald-at-arms asked thrice, “Who is there?” Three times an answer was given naming the knight about to be degraded, and three times the herald rejoined, “No, it is not so; I see no knight here, I see only a coward who has been false to his plighted faith.” Carried thence to the church on a litter like a dead body, the culprit was forced to listen while the burial service was read over him, for he had lost his honour, and was now only looked upon as a corpse (Fig. 124).

Although the Church was the protectress of chivalry, and even invested it with an almost sacred dignity, she always refused to extend her protection to tournaments, tilts, and assaults of arms, brilliant, but often dangerous manifestations of the chivalric spirit, and particularly to judicial duels, which were of German origin, and which dated from a period long prior to the institution of Christian chivalry. When the Church found itself obliged to show indulgence to these ancient traditions, which custom had interwoven with the habits of the Middle Ages, she did so in as reserved a manner as possible. She was always indignantly protesting against the barbarous custom which compelled or allowed women, children, churches, and convents, to choose from among the knights a special champion (campeador) who should be always ready to sustain against all the patron’s cause. The Church, while approving the generous protection which chivalry extended to the weak and to the oppressed, always endeavoured to destroy the savage doctrine of paganism which confounded might with right; but it was in vain that she opposed all her influence and authority to the custom of duelling; she was obliged to restrict herself to lessening the evil effects of the opinions that generally prevailed, without hoping to destroy the opinions themselves.

The point of honour had no existence in the breasts of the warriors of antiquity. They sacrificed themselves to their country and to the commonwealth, and they loved glory—a sentiment which with them was collective and not individual, for with them society, as a whole, was everything, its unit, nothing. The modern duel, whether it be considered a brutal and speedy method of settling private quarrels, or a proper act of submission to the divine will which cannot fail to crown right with success, springs from the strong individuality of barbarism, and from the personal tendency of savage dignity and independence.

Fig. 125.—Fight between Raymbault de Morueil and Guyon de Losenne. The Abbot of St. Denis at the feet of the Archbishop of Paris, taking oath that his cause, defended by Raymbault, is a just one.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Romance of Charles Martel,” enlarged by David Aubert. Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

This strange confusion of ideas relative to victory and innocence, to might[156] and right, first gave rise to trial by ordeal, or the judgment of God, which included ordeal by fire, by boiling water, by the cross, and by the sword, to which women, and even princesses, were subjected. Mankind, in the simplicity of its belief, appealed to God, the sovereign judge, and implored Him to grant strength and victory to the just cause. Trial by ordeal fell into discredit about the time of Charlemagne, and was superseded, towards the latter half of the twelfth century, by the judicial duel. The institution of chivalry favoured this hasty method of decision, which was in accordance with the manners and ideas of the period. Questions which otherwise would have been difficult to solve were thus abruptly settled, and from these bloody decisions there was no appeal. In some countries, indeed, the judge who had decided between two antagonists had himself to submit to the judgment of God, as represented by the judicial duel, and was forced to come down from his judgment-seat and contend in arms against the criminal he had just[157] condemned. On the other hand, however, it must be said that the judge, in his turn, possessed the privilege of challenging a prisoner who refused to bow to his decision.

Fig. 126.—Duel concerning the Honour of Ladies.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Histoire de Gérard de Nevers,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the National Library of Paris.

If the principle of this rough combatant justice be once admitted, it must be acknowledged that a spirit of wisdom dictated every possible precaution to render its inconveniences as few as possible. The duel, in fact, only took place when a crime punishable by death had been committed, and then only when there were no witnesses to the crime, but merely grave suspicions against the supposed criminal. All persons less than twenty-one or more than sixty years of age, priests (Fig. 125), invalids, and women (Fig. 126), were dispensed from taking part in these combats, and were allowed to be represented by champions. If the two parties to a dispute were of a different rank in life, certain regulations were drawn up in favour of the plaintiff. A knight who challenged a serf was forced to fight with a serf’s weapons, that is to say, with a shield and a staff, and to wear a leathern jerkin; if, on the contrary, the challenge came from the serf, the knight[158] was allowed to fight as a knight, that is to say, on horseback and in armour. It was customary for the two parties to a judicial duel to appear before their count or lord; after reciting his wrongs, the plaintiff threw down his gage—generally a glove or gauntlet—which his adversary then exchanged for his own as a sign that he accepted the challenge. Both were then led to the seignorial prison, where they were detained till the day fixed for the combat, unless they could obtain substantial sureties who would make themselves responsible for their safe custody, and bind themselves, in case their bailee failed to appear at the appointed time, to undergo the penalties attached to the committal of the act that had necessitated the appeal to arms. This was termed the vice prison.

Fig. 127.—“How the plaintiff and the defendant take the final oath before the judge.”—Fac-simile of a Miniature in “Cérémonies des Gages de Bataille,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century in the National Library of Paris.

On the day fixed for the combat, the two adversaries, accompanied by their seconds and by a priest, appeared in the lists mounted and armed at all points, their weapons in their hands, their swords and daggers girded on. They knelt down opposite to one another with their hands clasped, each in his[159] turn solemnly swearing upon the cross and upon Holy Writ (Fig. 127) that he alone was in the right, and that his antagonist was false and disloyal; and he added, moreover, that he carried no charm or talisman about his person. A herald-at-arms then gave public notice at each of the four corners of the lists to the spectators of the combat to remain perfectly passive, to make no movement, and to utter no cry that could either encourage or annoy the combatants, under pain of losing a limb, or even life itself. The seconds then withdrew, and the camp-marshal, after seeing that both antagonists were fairly placed, and had their proper share of the wind and the sun, called out three times, “Laissez-les aller!” and the fight began (Fig. 128).

Fig. 128.—“How both parties are out of their tents, armed and ready to do their duty at the signal from the marshal, who has thrown the glove.”—From a Miniature in the “Cérémonies des Gages de Bataille,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the National Library of Paris.

The judicial duel never commenced before noon, and was only allowed to last till the stars appeared in the sky. If the defendant held out till[160] then he was considered to have gained his cause. The knight who was beaten, whether killed or merely wounded, was dragged off the ground by his feet, the fastenings of his cuirass were cut, his armour was thrown piece by piece into the lists, and his steed and his weapons were divided between the marshal and the judges of the duel. Indeed sometimes, as, for instance, in Normandy and in Scandinavia, according to ancient usage, the vanquished champion was hung or burnt alive, according to the nature of the crime; while if he had fought as the champion of another person, that person was usually put to death with him.

The Church, although she allowed a priest to be present in the lists, never even granted a tacit approval to these judicial duels; she excommunicated the successful duellist, and refused the rites of burial to his victim; nor was she alone in condemning this barbarous custom; the lay authorities did all in their power, but without very much success, to restrict the number of these sanguinary appeals. St. Louis, in a celebrated decree of 1260, substituted trial by evidence in place of the judicial duel, but he found himself only able to enforce this reform within the area of his own dominions, and imperfectly even there, for long after his reign it is on record that the Parliament of Paris ordered certain criminal cases to be decided by personal combat.

When at last, in the fifteenth century, the custom of the judicial duel fell into disuse, the nobility still retained and practised single combat (Fig. 129). A personal affront, often an extremely slight one, a quarrel, a slight to be avenged, were enough to bring two rivals or two enemies to blows. This combative custom, which made a man’s strength and personal skill the guardians of his honour, was sustained and encouraged by the spirit of chivalry and by that of German feudalism. Sometimes, however, the practice was considered justifiable on other grounds. History, for instance, has honourably recorded the “Battle of the Thirty,” which took place in 1351, between thirty knights of Brittany, under the Sire de Beaumanoir, and thirty English knights; and another equally bloody struggle of the same kind between Bayard and ten other French knights, and eleven Spaniards, before the walls of Tranni. The national honour alone was the motive of these two celebrated duels; but they were only the exceptions to the rule. It almost seems as if the nobility, in their efforts to cling to the shadow and the memory of the rapidly-expiring traditions of chivalry,[161] became more inveterate in their adherence to the cruel system of duelling. In the sixteenth century, under the last monarchs of the house of Valois, the Place Royale and the Pré aux Clercs were often watered with the blood of the best families of France. In vain did Henry IV. and Louis XIII. issue[162] the most stringent edicts against this barbarous custom; in vain did the decree, called the decree of Blois, render nugatory all letters of pardon granted to duellists, “even if they were signed by the king himself.” In spite of everything, the nobles, upon whose privileges the monarchy daily made fresh encroachments, had recourse to duelling as if to assert their connection with a chivalric and adventurous past, and the most trivial, ridiculous, and shameful motives served as pretexts for a renewal of the sanguinary struggles, which had been originally inspired by a generous courage and a loyal sympathy with justice.

Fig. 129.—Single Combat to be decided by the judgment of God.—From a Miniature in the “Conquêtes de Charlemagne,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the National Library of Paris.

But we must go back to the time of the zenith of the Middle Ages to see its tournaments, its tilts, and its passages of arms. In the halcyon period of chivalry, its sham fights, its courteous tournaments, and its warlike exhibitions, occasioned many an accident, and brought about many a fatal result. History mentions a tournament in Germany where sixty persons perished in a struggle waged with weapons deprived of edge and point. No question of mere gallantry, no point of honour, was involved in the oldest tournaments on record (the tournament was first alluded to in the chronicles of the reign of Charles the Bald); no pomp of drapery, no brilliancy of banner, adorned them then. No princesses, no noble ladies, showed themselves in all their pride of beauty and of dress around those ancient lists. The tournament (in old French tournoiement) of those days was merely a violent athletic pastime, in which the iron men of that period measured their strength one against the other with sword strokes, with lance thrusts, and with mace blows. But as the customs of chivalry gradually softened the manners of the nobility, so the primitive coarseness and roughness of these trials of strength became modified and regulated. Tradition declares that the tournament properly so called was first inaugurated in Brittany in the tenth century by Geoffrey, the Sire de Preuilli.

Fig. 130.—“Here is shown how the king-at-arms, having on his shoulder the gold cloth with the two leaders painted on parchment, and in the four corners the arms of the said judges, proclaims the tournament, and how the heralds offer the arms of the said judges to whoever will take them.”—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Tournaments of King René,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century in the National Library at Paris.

As a rule, tournaments were proclaimed, that is to say published, à cor et à cri (Figs. 130 and 131), either when a promotion of knights, or a royal marriage, or a solemn entry of a sovereign into a town took place; and the character of these chivalrous festivals changed according to the time and place at and in which they occurred. The arms used on these occasions varied in a similar manner. In France, the tournament lance was made of the lightest and straightest wood, either fir, aspen, or sycamore, pointed with[163] steel, and with a pennant floating from the end; whilst in Germany and in Scotland they were made of the heaviest and toughest wood, with a long iron pear-shaped point. The tournament must not be confounded with the tilt or joust (from the Latin juxta), which was a single hand-to-hand combat, nor with the passage of arms, in which several combatants, both on foot and on horseback, were engaged, and imitated the attack and defence of some military position, some pass, or some narrow mountainous defile. Tilts[164] usually formed part of a tournament, and marked its close; but there were also more complicated tilts, open to all comers, which lasted for several days, and were termed joutes plénières. As the ladies were the life and soul of these tilts, the knights always terminated the proceedings by a special passage of arms which was termed the lance des dames; they were always ready to pay this homage to the charms of the fair sex, and frequently fought for them with sword, axe, and dagger.

Fig. 131.—Here is portrayed a herald holding the banners of the four referees.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Tournaments of King René” (Fifteenth Century).

Fig. 132.—The Banners and Helmets are ranged round a cloister, and are then distributed by the judges, in the presence of the ladies and those taking part in the tournament.—Miniature from the “Tournois du Roi René,” MS. of the Fifteenth Century, in the National Library, Paris.

The preparations for a tournament afforded an animated and interesting picture. The lists, which at first were of a round shape like the amphitheatres of antiquity, were later constructed in a square, and later still in an oblong form; they were gilded, painted with emblems and heraldic devices, and ornamented with rich hangings and historical tapestries. While the lists were being prepared, the knights who were to take part in the tournament,[165] as well as those who were to be only its spectators, had their armorial banners hung up from the windows of the houses in which they were putting up, and affixed their coats of arms to the outer walls of the neighbouring castles, monasteries, and cloisters. When this was done, the nobles and the ladies went round and inspected them (Fig. 132); a herald or a pursuivant-at-arms named their owners, and if a lady recognised any knight against whom she had any ground of complaint, she touched his banner or his shield, in order to bring him under the notice of the camp judges, and if, after an inquiry, he was found guilty, he was forbidden to appear in the tournament.

Coats of arms, which were striking characteristics of chivalry, and which were adopted by the nobility as one of its most striking attributes, had no doubt a contemporaneous origin with the institution whose emblem it became. It is supposed to have been in the eleventh century, at the time of the First Crusade, that the necessity of distinguishing between the multitude of nobles and knights who flocked to the Holy Land led to the invention of the different heraldic colours and devices. Each Crusader chose and kept his own particular emblem; these emblems became the external marks of nobility, and were to be seen everywhere—on the war tents, on the banners, on the liveries, on the clothes, and on every object belonging to a noble family. Hence the language of heraldry, that figurative and hieroglyphic jargon, incomprehensible to everybody at that period except to professional heralds-at-arms.

Fig. 133.—The Champion of the Tournament, from the Collection entitled “Vita Imperatoris Maximiliani,” engraved by Burgmayer from drawings by Albert Dürer (Fifteenth Century).

On the eve of the tournament the youthful esquires practised among themselves in the lists with less weighty and less dangerous weapons than those wielded by the knights. These preludes, which were often graced by the presence of the ladies, were termed éprouves (trials), vêpres du tournoi (tournament vespers), or escremie (fencing bouts). The esquires who distinguished themselves the most in these trials were frequently immediately admitted to the rank of knighthood, and allowed to take part in the ensuing feats. Like the Olympic games of Greece, tournaments, which were real popular solemnities, excited the ambition and quickened the pulses of all. Stands, usually roofed and closed in, were erected at the ends of the lists to afford shelter to persons of distinction in the event of bad weather. These stands, sometimes built tower-shape, were divided into boxes, and more or less magnificently decorated with tapestry, hangings, pennants, shields of[166] arms, and banners. Kings, queens, princes, dames, damoiselles, and the older knights, the natural judges of the combats in which they could no longer take a personal share, stationed themselves there. The camp marshals and the seconds or counsellors of the knights, whose duty it was to enforce the laws of Christian chivalry, and to give their advice and assistance to all who might require it, had also their respective posts. The kings-at-arms, the heralds, and pursuivants-at-arms, stood within the arena or just without it, and were expected to narrowly observe the combatants,[167] and to draw up a faithful and minute report of the different incidents of the combat, without forgetting a single blow. Every now and then they lifted up their voices to encourage the younger knights who were making their first appearance in the lists: “Recollect whose son you are! be worthy of your ancestry!” they cried, in loud tones. Besides these, varlets and sergeants, who were specially entrusted with the duty of keeping order, of picking up and replacing broken weapons, and of raising unhorsed knights, were posted everywhere in and about the lists; while musicians on separate stands held themselves ready to celebrate with noisy flourishes every great feat of arms and every fortunate and brilliant stroke. The sound of their clarions announced the entry of the knights into the lists, stepping with slow and solemn cadence, magnificently armed and equipped, and followed by their esquires on horseback. Sometimes the ladies were the first to enter the lists, leading in by golden or silver chains the knights, their slaves, whom they only set at liberty when the signal was given for the combat to commence. The ladies almost always bestowed a favour on their favourite knight or servitor, generally a scarf, a veil, a head-dress, a mantle, a bracelet, or even a plain bow of ribbon, which had formed part of their own dress. This was termed an enseigne or nobloy (distinguishing mark), and was placed on a knight’s shield, lance, or helmet, so that his lady might be able to recognise him in the mêlée, particularly when his weapons were broken, or when he had lost some essential portion of his armour. While the combat lasted the heralds uttered loud cries of encouragement, and the musicians sounded loud flourishes, at each decisive blow of lance or sword; and between each tilt the nobles and the ladies distributed a quantity of small coins amongst the crowd, who received it with loud and joyous cries of largesse! and noël!

Fig. 134.—The Prize of the Tournament.—From a Looking-glass Lid in Carved Ivory. End of the Thirteenth Century.

Fig. 135.—King Henri II. wounded by Montgomery in a Tournament (1559).—From an Engraving of the Sixteenth Century in the possession of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.

The combat being over, and the victor being declared according to the reports of the heralds and pursuivants, the prize was given away with all proper solemnity by the elder knights and sometimes by the ladies (Fig. 134). The latter conducted the conqueror with great pomp and triumph to the splendid banquet which followed the tournament. The place of honour occupied by the successful knight, the resplendent clothes in which he was dressed, the kiss that he had the privilege of giving to the most beautiful ladies, the poems and the songs in which his prowess was celebrated, were the last items in this knightly pageant, which[168] was generally accompanied by bloodshed, and frequently by the death of some of its actors. As we have already stated, the usages of the tournament often varied; nothing, for example, could be more unlike the warlike sports of Germany in the thirteenth century, as related in the “Niebelungen,” nothing could be more unlike those sanguinary and ferocious struggles, than the Provençal and Sicilian tournaments of the fifteenth century, described in such glowing language by good King René in the magnificent manuscript which he spent his leisure in illuminating with miniatures. This poet-king, refined in manners, generous in disposition, and cultivated in his tastes, attempted, under the influence of the romantic and[169] religious charm which, still pervaded the chivalric sports of this epoch, to perpetuate with pen and pencil, in prose and in verse, the memory of a magnificent festival over which he presided, and which may be considered an unsurpassed example of the ceremonies of the time. All who take an interest in the subject should read this curious manuscript, which describes among other things the famous struggle between the Duke of Brittany and the Duke of Bourbon. In this may be found related to its smallest details the whole ceremony of a grand tournament, its forms, its progress, and its incidents; in it appear careful comments upon every trifle that increased the brilliancy or added to the effect of this courtly festival, as well as everything that threw a light upon the spirit in which it was carried out, or the usages that regulated every detail, from the armour of the knights to the smallest incidents of the ceremonial. In its pages illustrations reproduce with exact truthfulness the helmets of the knights with barred vizors and leathern shields, their maces, their swords, and their hourts, intended to protect the croup and the hind legs of their chargers (Fig. 136). Its text, written with great care and in an elegant hand, records the rules[170] to be observed, in accordance with knighthood’s truest spirit, at the different stages of the combat and the tournament, and minutely describes all their preliminaries and accessories, the giving and the accepting of a challenge, the mutual exchange of gages, the presentation of warrants of nobility by the kings-at-arms, the distribution of the coats-of-arms or insignia of the two parties to the strife, the entry of the nobles, and the bestowal of the prizes upon the conquerors by the queen of the tournament.

Fig. 136.—“Designs of armour for the head, the body, and the arms, helmets and streamers (called in Flanders and Brabant hacheures or hachements), coats-of-arms, and swords for tournaments.”—From Miniatures in the “Tournaments of King René” (Fifteenth Century).


King René’s book is a document all the more valuable to an historian of the customs of chivalry, in that it was written at an epoch when they still existed in all their splendour; although signs of their decadence had already showed themselves. That punctilious sovereign, Philippe le Bel, with his court of lawyers and usurers, had already dealt chivalry a crushing blow by the regulations be drew up for the better government of single combats and gages of battle. Between his reign and that of Charles VII. this decadence became more marked. Commerce had made much progress, the wealth of the middle classes had much increased, and the monarchy had acquired a preponderating influence, to the detriment both of feudalism and chivalry, which began simultaneously to decline; the reign of Louis XI., a reign of espionage and of cunning, was fatal to them—thenceforward their little remaining prestige rapidly waned and soon entirely expired. François I. made several fruitless attempts to rekindle the dying embers of chivalry, and, at a later period, Henri IV. and Louis XIV. vainly essayed, with many brilliant pageantries and passages of arms, to quicken once more the phantom of the noble institution which came into existence with the Middle Ages, and with them passed away.



Pierre Gérard founds the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.—History of that Order.—The Siege of Rhodes.—History of the Order of the Knights Templars.—Order of the Knights of Calatrava.—Order of the Teuton Knights.—Order of the Knights of the Golden Fleece.—Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus.—Orders of the Star, of the Cosse de Geneste, of the Ship, of St. Michael, and of the Holy Ghost.

One of our great modern historians remarks:—“The association of the Church and chivalry, of war and religion, culminated in the foundation of an institution hitherto entirely unknown, and owing its origin principally to the Crusades, namely, the institution of religious military orders....

“In nothing does chivalry show itself more worthy of admiration than in its religious military aspect; in that phase it accepted the sacrifice of all the affections, it abandoned the renown of the soldier and the repose of the cloister, and it exposed its votary to the hardships of both, by devoting him in turn to the perils of the battle-field, and to the labours attendant upon the succouring of the distressed. Other knights courted adventure for the sake of their honour and the lady of their love; these incurred it in order to help the unfortunate and to assist the poor. The Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers was proud of the title of Guardian of the Redeemer’s poor; he of the order of St. Lazarus was of necessity always a leper; while the knight-companions termed the poor ‘our masters.’ Such were the admirable effects of religion, which, at a period when the sword decided every question, knew how to chasten the[173] failings of valour, and make it forget the pride that generally accompanies it.”

As early as the middle of the eleventh century some merchants of Amalfi had obtained from the Caliph of Egypt permission to build a hospital at Jerusalem, which they dedicated to St. John, and in which were received and sheltered the poor pilgrims who visited the Holy Land. Godefroy de Bouillon and his successors encouraged this charitable institution, and bestowed upon it several large donations. Pierre Gérard, a native of the Island of Martigues, in Provence, proposed to the brothers who managed the hospital to renounce the world, to don a regular dress, and to form an uncloistered monastic order under the name of the Hospitallers. Pope Pascal II. appointed Gérard director of the new institution, which he formally authorised, took the Hospitallers under his protection, and granted them many privileges.

Fig. 137.—Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, afterwards called the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Fig. 138.—Knight of the Order of Rhodes.

Fac-similes of Woodcuts by Jost Amman, in a work entitled “Cleri totius Romanæ ecclesiæ ... habitus:” 4to., Frankfort, 1585.

The regulations of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem not only[174] imposed upon the brethren the triple vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience; they enjoined upon them, besides the duties of hospitality, the exercise of arms, in order that they might defend the kingdom of Jerusalem against the attacks of the unbelievers. The opportunity was soon afforded them of putting aside their purely charitable character, and of becoming men of war (Fig. 139).

Fig. 139.—Fortress of the Knights Hospitallers, in Syria, taken from the Kurds by the Franks about the year 1125, and rebuilt in 1202. A representation of it as restored.—Engraving from “Monuments of the Architecture of the Crusaders in Syria,” by M. G. Rey.

Driven out of Jerusalem by the victorious Saladin, who retook that city on the 19th of October, 1191, the Hospitallers were the last to leave the Holy Land, and transferred their hospital to Margat, after ransoming from the Saracens more than a thousand captive Crusaders; they remained there until the end of the siege of Acre by the Christians, in which they took an active and glorious share, and they then established themselves in the reconquered city and took the name of Knights of St. John of Acre. Again driven from their new residence by the infidels, the Hospitallers asked the[175] King of Cyprus to allow them to settle in his dominion, and to re-establish the central house of their order in the town of Limisso, at which they arrived in small knots, as fast as they were able to escape from the cruisers of the Mussulman fleet. As they, disembarked, exhausted with war’s fatigues, covered with wounds, and unable to console themselves for having survived the loss of Palestine, they presented a really touching spectacle.

The grand master of the knights of St. John of Acre, Jean de Villiers, assembled a chapter general in Cyprus to deliberate upon the best policy to adopt after the last disasters of the crusade, and to take measures to prevent the complete extinction of the order, which had been decimated in the war against the infidels. The Hospitallers of all nations answered the appeal of Jean de Villiers. Never had a meeting been so numerously attended since the foundation of the order; the knights present, carried away by the eloquent appeal of their grand master, swore that they would shed their last blood to recover possession of the Holy Sepulchre.

In spite of the wise measures recommended by Jean de Villiers, the Hospitallers were no longer in safety at Limisso. They had to defend themselves from two equally formidable enemies; from the Saracens, who were ceaselessly threatening their naval and military organization, and from the King of Cyprus, who seemed to desire the ruin of the order, upon which he had just imposed a heavy tax. Indeed, Villaret, the new grand master, proposed to his brothers in arms that they should retire to the island of Rhodes, entrench themselves there, and wait until a more propitious moment should arrive for their return to Palestine. Unfortunately the forces of the order of St. John were not sufficient for such a daring enterprise, and the grand master invited the Western Christians to undertake a new crusade, keeping the real motive of the expedition a secret. The Crusaders assembled in great numbers at the port of Brindisi, in Italy, and the grand master, selecting the noblest and the best equipped, set sail for Rhodes. There he successfully disembarked his little army, with provisions and warlike materials, and laid siege to the capital, which was well fortified and thronged with defenders. After an investment of four years the town was taken by assault; the other strongholds met with a similar fate, and the whole island passed under the sway of the Hospitallers in 1310. But for more than two centuries they had to defend it against the constant attacks of the infidels.

Under the leadership of Joubert or Jacques de Milly, the grand prior of[176] Auvergne, the Knights of Rhodes (the Hospitallers had assumed this name in memory of a victory that so redounded to the fame of the Order of St. John) inflicted a first repulse upon the Ottomans in 1455. All danger, however, was not banished. A rupture seemed imminent with the Sultan of Egypt, quite as formidable an adversary as Mahomet II., the Sultan of Constantinople; and the knights were also obliged to bestir themselves against the Venetians, who had effected a landing on the island, and had been guilty of greater cruelty and violence than the Saracens and the Turks. Raymond Zacosta, the successor of Jacques de Milly in the grand mastership, took advantage of an interval of truce to build a new fort intended to defend the town and port of Rhodes. This impregnable fortress, constructed upon a rocky promontory, received the name of St. Nicholas, from a chapel dedicated to that saint standing within its walls (Fig. 140).

As, in spite of the truce, the Turkish corsairs made continual descents upon the island, the grand master dispatched his galleys to the Ottoman shores, and inflicted a series of reprisals. These so aroused the anger of Mahomet II., that he swore to drive the knights of Rhodes right out of the island. With this purpose he organized an expedition, and entrusted its command to Misach Paleologus, a Greek renegade of the imperial household, who had been appointed grand vizier by the sultan, and who was continually urging his master to take possession of Rhodes.

A hundred and sixty vessels of war and an army of a hundred thousand men arrived off Rhodes on the 23rd of May, 1480. The Turkish fleet endeavoured, under cover of the fire of their artillery, to effect the disembarcation of their troops, while the knights of the order, supported by the guns of the town and its forts, waded up to their waists in the sea and attacked the Ottoman boats sword in hand.

Fig. 140.—Plan of the Island of Rhodes.—Reduced Fac-simile of one of the large Topographical Plans in the “Saintes Pérégrinations de Hiérusalem,” by Breydenhach; in folio, with copperplate figures: Lyons, 1488. (Library of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.)

The infidels at last succeeded in making good their landing, and entrenched themselves on Mount St. Stephen. After the knights had been vainly summoned to surrender, a German engineer who had accompanied Paleologus, and who was the superintendent of the siege operations, advised the latter to concentrate his attack on the tower of St. Nicholas, the capture of which would be certain to make him master of the place. After more than three hundred discharges of cannon a breach was effected, and the Turks rushed to the assault. Pierre d’Aubusson, grand prior of Auvergne, recently elected grand master, stood aloft in the breach and set an example[177] of the highest courage to his knights: “Here,” said he, “is the only post of honour worthy of your grand master.”

Exasperated by such an energetic resistance, the vizier determined to rid himself by foul means of Pierre d’Aubusson; but an engineer who had undertaken the treacherous commission was detected, and torn in pieces by the inhabitants of Rhodes on his way to the scaffold.

Misach Paleologus proposed to hold a conference to discuss terms of capitulation. To this the grand master gave his consent, his real object being to gain time to construct new defences in place of those the enemy had destroyed; and the interview, between one of the principal officers of the Turkish army and the castellan of Rhodes, took place at the edge of the moat. The vizier’s envoy urged that in the extremity to which the town was reduced, with its walls levelled, its towers shattered, and its ditches filled up, it would be perfectly possible to take it by assault in a couple of hours; and that it behoved the knights companions to prevent, by an honourable capitulation, a general massacre of the inhabitants. D’Aubusson, concealed hard by, overheard these specious proposals: in pursuance of his orders the castellan made answer to the Ottoman officer that his spies had misinformed him; that, behind the moat, defences had been constructed, the capture of which would cost many lives; that the town was defended by Christians all animated with the same spirit and perfectly resigned to sacrifice their lives for their religion; and that the order would entertain no proposal inimical to its honour or to the interests of its faith.

The haughty vizier, irritated by this noble reply, swore to put every knight to the sword; he even ordered a large number of stakes to be sharpened on which to impale the inhabitants, and, under cover of a still hotter fire from his guns, gave the signal for the assault.

The Turks succeeded for a moment in planting their standard on the ramparts, but they were soon beaten off by the defenders, led by their grand master in person: five times wounded, and covered with blood, Pierre d’Aubusson refused to leave the scene of the struggle, which he animated by his example. His lofty heroism infused new energy into his knights, who rushed on the Turks with the courage of despair and put them completely to the rout. But victory as it was, it was not sufficiently definitive or decisive to secure to the order the tranquil possession of the island, and leave them for the future free from Turkish aggression. Ever since the death of[178] Mahomet II., they had had in their power a precious hostage, Zizim, a brother of Sultan Bajazet, and his most formidable competitor for the throne (Figs. 141 and 142).

Fig. 141.—Death of Mahomet II. (1481): the devil flying away with his soul.—His two sons, Bajazet and Zizim, disputed the throne, and the latter was defeated.

Fig. 142.—Zizim, who had been kept a prisoner at Rhodes, to which he had fled after his defeat, and had afterwards been transferred to Rome, is handed over to Charles VIII., King of France.

“Description of the Siege of the Island of Rhodes,” by G. Caoursin (Ulm, 1496: Gothic folio).—Library of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.

In 1522, Sultan Soliman II., surnamed the Magnificent, discovered amidst his father’s archives an exact account of the island of Rhodes, and resolved to attack it. He put forward, as a pretext, a desire to punish the knights of the order for the losses they were daily inflicting on the Turkish navy, and the hope of paralyzing their efforts in favour of the Holy Land. The treachery of André Amaral, the chancellor of the order and the grand prior of Castile, who wished to revenge himself on his brother knights for having preferred to himself as their grand master, Philippe de[179] Villiers de l’Ile-Adam, made Soliman aware of the scanty material resources of the island, and persuaded him to undertake the fatal siege, in which treachery and deceit were his most powerful allies. In vain did he collect a fleet of four hundred sail, an army of one hundred and forty thousand men and sixty thousand pioneers; in vain he swept the ramparts with the fire of his guns, in vain he dug ditch after ditch, mine upon mine, and endeavoured to wear out the besieged by his harassing and ceaseless attacks. His want of success would have certainly exhausted his patience, and he would probably have raised the siege had not the traitor Amaral revealed to him the weak condition of both the town and its garrison. At last, however, on the 30th of November, the Turks made what was supposed to be their final effort. They penetrated as far as the inner defences, and the struggle was a terrible one. Roused by the tocsin, the grand master, the knights, and the inhabitants poured on to the ramparts and threw themselves on the enemy, who had already deemed themselves successful, and forced them to retreat.

Grieved and discouraged by this final check, Soliman proposed a capitulation. He threw letters into the town exhorting the inhabitants to yield, and threatening them with the utmost severities if they persisted in a useless resistance. At first Villiers de l’Ile-Adam made answer that he only treated with infidels sword in hand; but he had to give way to the urgent remonstrances of the principal inhabitants, who showed a determination to take at all hazards measures to ensure the honour and the lives of their wives and their children. The sultan having hung out a white flag, the grand master did the same, and demanded a truce of three days to draw up the capitulation. But Soliman, fearing lest assistance might arrive in the interval, rejected this proposal, and ordered a fresh assault. The knights of Rhodes, reduced to a mere handful, and having only the barbican of the Spanish bastion left to protect them, obliged the enemy once more to retire. On the morrow, however, another attack of the Turks drove the defenders of the bastion back into the town, and the terror-stricken inhabitants implored the grand master to resume negotiations. Achmet, Soliman’s minister, who knew how impatiently his master desired the end of the war, obtained at last the surrender of Rhodes on terms so honourable and so advantageous to its defenders, that they spoke volumes for the esteem with which the conquered had inspired their conquerors. The knights, to the number of four thousand, abandoned the island under the guidance of their[180] grand master, Villiers; after touching at Candia and Sicily, they finally settled at Malta, which was ceded to them by Charles V., and which became the definitive residence of the order. This was in 1530.

Fig. 143.—Barracks of the Knights of Rhodes. State of the Ruins in 1828.—From “Monuments of Rhodes.”

Thirty-five years later, at the end of Soliman II.’s reign, the Turks once more attacked the order under the pretext of avenging the capture of a galliot laden with costly merchandise, the property of the sultana; and Mustapha, Pasha of Buda, a brave officer, the general of the Ottoman army, landed on the island on the 18th of May, 1565. After a few skirmishes the Turks made a fierce attack on Fort St. Elmo, and captured it in spite of the brave defence of the Knights of Malta (the new title of the members of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem)—a defence which lasted twenty-four days, and cost the lives of four thousand of the assailants, amongst them that of the famous pirate Dragut, the vice-sultan of Tripoli. The fort of St. Michael, and the suburb of that name, were reduced to ashes by the fire of the enemy; and it was only the invincible courage of the grand master, Jean de la Valette, and of a small number of his knights, all to the last man prepared to die for their faith—even after more than two thousand of them had already perished—that still enabled Malta to hold out.


Fortunately, Don Garcias de Toledo, the viceroy of Sicily, came with sixty galleys to their assistance. During the four months of the siege the Turkish forces fired seventy-eight thousand rounds of artillery, and lost fifteen thousand soldiers and eight thousand sailors.

Fig. 144.—The French Priory at Rhodes (Fifteenth Century).—State of the Ruins in 1828.

The knights of the order had on their side to deplore the loss of more than three thousand of their brethren. Their grand master decreed that annually, on the eve of the festival of Our Lady of September, prayers should be offered up in all the churches of the order, thanking God for the providential succours which had delivered the besieged, and that on the preceding day a commemorative service should be celebrated in honour of those who had fallen in defence of the faith.

Henceforward neither the town nor the island, which remained the head quarters of the order, was again disturbed by the Turks, and Jean de la Valette built a new city in Malta, which was called Valetta, after him.


The members of the Order of Malta were divided into three classes: the knights, the chaplains, and the serving brothers. The first comprised those whose noble birth and previous rank in other armies marked them out for military service. The second consisted of priests, and ecclesiastics who performed all the ordinary religious duties, and who acted as almoners in time of war. The last were neither nobles nor ecclesiastics; and all that was necessary to admit an individual to this class, was for him to prove that he was born of respectable parents, who had never exercised any handicraft. The serving brothers were distinguished at a later period by a coat-of-arms of a different colour to that of the knights. The aspirants were termed douats or demi-croix. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem had merely a nominal existence in the statutes of the Order of Malta, although the knights of the latter, on their reception into the order, were still termed “servants of the sick and needy.” For a long time there existed in Spain, Lady Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, who devoted themselves to hospital work and deeds of charity (Fig. 145). Every country in Europe furnished its quota to the Order of Malta, which had entirely replaced that of St. John, and was divided into eight different tongues or nations, each under the direction of a grand prior, viz., Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, Germany, Castile, and England. These national grand priors were termed piliers, or monastic bailiffs. Each nation was subdivided into a number of lesser commands, to hold one of which was equivalent to holding an ecclesiastical benefice, and which were subordinate to their grand prior alone.

Fig. 145.—Tomb of Beatrix Cornel, Prioress of the Lady Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, in the Convent of Sigena, in Aragon (Fifteenth Century).—From the “Iconografia Española” of M.] Carderera.

The regular dress of the order consisted, in each nation, of a black robe, with a pointed cape of the same colour; on the left sleeve of each robe was[183] a cross of white linen having eight points, typical of the eight beatitudes they were always supposed to possess, and which, according to a MS. preserved in the library of the Arsenal, were:—1, spiritual contentment; 2, a life free from malice; 3, repentance for sins; 4, meekness under suffering; 5, a love of justice; 6, a merciful disposition; 7, sincerity and frankness of heart; and 8, a capability of enduring persecution. At a later period the regulations became less austere, and permitted the knights to wear an octagonal golden cross inlaid with white enamel, and suspended from the breast with black ribbon.

A candidate for the robe of St. John of Jerusalem was obliged to present himself at the high altar, clad in a long gown without girdle, in order to denote that he was free from all other vows, and with a taper in his hand. The knight assessor then handed him a gilt sword, saying, “In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” to remind him that henceforth it would be his duty to devote his life to the defence of religion. A girdle was then fastened round his waist, to signify that he was bound for the future by the vows of the order. The professing knight then brandished the sword round his head, in token of defiance of the unbelievers, and returned it to its scabbard, first passing it under his arm as if to wipe it, as a symbol that he intended to preserve it free from stain. The knight who received his vows then placed his hand on his shoulder, exhorted him to succour the poor of Jesus Christ, to undertake works of charity, and to devote himself to the welfare of the faith. The new knight having promised to observe these exhortations, golden spurs were placed on his heels as emblems that he was bound to fly wherever honour called him, and to trample under his feet the riches of this world. His taper was then lighted and he continued to hold it during the celebration of a mass, and while a preacher passed in review the rules which should bind, and the duties which should sway a true knight. He was then asked if he was in debt, if he was married or betrothed, if he already belonged to any other religious order, and, finally, if he really and sincerely desired to belong to the Order of St. John. If he answered these questions in a satisfactory manner, he was admitted into the brotherhood, and led up to the high altar. There he pronounced the oath upon the missal, and was declared formally invested with the privileges granted to the order by the pontificate. He was told that henceforward he must daily recite fifty paters, fifty aves, the service of the Virgin, the burial service, and several prayers for the repose of the souls of departed knights companions.[184] Whilst he was donning the dress of the order he was further instructed in his duties. As he put his arms through his sleeves he was reminded of the obedience he owed to his superiors; as the white cross was being adjusted next his heart, he was told that he must be always ready to shed his blood for Christ, who by his own death had redeemed mankind. All the insignia of the Order of Malta were symbols. The pointed black mantle with its peaked cape, worn only on occasions of solemn ceremony, was typical of the robe of camel’s hair worn by John the Baptist, the patron of the order. The cords which fastened the mantle about the neck, and fell over the shoulder, were significant of the passion our Saviour suffered with such calmness and resignation. In time of battle the members of the order wore a red doublet embroidered with the eight-pointed cross.

About twenty years after the first establishment of the Hospitallers, Hugues de Payens, and Geoffrey de Saint-Aldemar, having crossed the seas with nine other nobles, all of French birth, obtained from the patriarch Guarimond, and from Baldwin II., King of Jerusalem, permission to form an association, the objects of which were to act in concert with the Hospitallers against the infidels, to protect pilgrims, and to defend Solomon’s Temple. Baldwin granted them a dwelling within the Temple walls, a circumstance which gave them the name of Templars, or Knights of the Temple. At first they led a simple and regular life, contenting themselves with the humble title of poor soldiers of Jesus Christ. Their charity and their devotion obtained for them the sympathy of the kings of Jerusalem and the Eastern Christians, who made them frequent and considerable donations.

In the first nine years of their existence, from 1118 to 1127, the Templars admitted no strangers into their ranks; but their number having nevertheless considerably increased, they soon preferred a request to the Holy See to ratify the institution of their order. At the Council of Troyes, in 1228, Hugues de Payens, accompanied with five of his companions, presented the letters that the brotherhood had received from the pope and the patriarch of Jerusalem, together with the certificate of the founding of their order. Cardinal Matthew, Bishop of Alba, who presided over the council as the pope’s legate, granted them an authentic confirmation of their order, and a special code was drawn up for them under the guidance of St. Bernard.


The Templars were bound to go to mass three times a week, and to communicate thrice a year; they wore a white robe symbolical of purity, to which Pope Eugenius III. added a red cross, to remind them of their oath to be always ready to shed their blood in defence of the Christian religion. Their rules were of great austerity; they prescribed perpetual exile, and war for the holy places to the death. The knights were to accept every combat, however outnumbered they might be, to ask no quarter, and to give no ransom. However irksome might prove the observance of these regulations, they were not allowed to escape them by entering the ranks of a less austere order.

Fig. 146.—Knight of Malta.

Fig. 147.—Templar in Travelling Dress.

Fac-similes of Woodcuts by Jost Amman, in his work entitled “Cleri totius Romanæ ecclesiæ ... habitus;” 4to., Frankfort, 1585.

The unbelievers dreaded no enemy so much as these poor soldiers of Christ, of whom it was said that they possessed the gentleness of the lamb and the patience of the hermit, united to the courage of the hero and the strength of the lion. Their standard, termed Beaucéant, was half black and half white, and inscribed with these words: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.[12]


According to the rules of St. Bernard, the Order of the Temple was composed of milites, or knights commanders, of serving brothers, called armigeri, or men bearing arms, and of clientes, or clients, whose duty it was to attend to domestic matters. Their oaths were similar to those of St. John of Jerusalem. They swore to live in chastity, poverty, and obedience. Some of their number obtained permission to marry, but on condition of their no longer wearing the white dress, and of their bequeathing a portion of their property to the order. The distinctive mark of the Templars was, according to some, a broad red patriarchal cross; according to others, a red Maltese cross embroidered with gold. As they all made public profession of extreme poverty, they were forbidden to use valuable articles of furniture, or gold or silver utensils; to wear velvet trappings in the field, helmets with armorial bearings, silken sashes, or other superfluous articles of clothing; and they were only permitted to wear an under doublet of white wool.

The Order of the Temple had only been established fifty years when its knights held at Jerusalem its first general chapter, attended by three hundred gentlemen, and as many serving brothers, most of whom were French. The chapter elected a grand master, Gérard de Rederfort, and in so doing freed themselves from the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Jerusalem. The new grand master transferred the seat of the order to St. Jean d’Acre, and manifested the prowess of his knights on several occasions against the troops of Saladin, who attempted shortly afterwards to capture the town, but who was obliged to abandon the task.

The resources of the Knights Templars increased, in a very short space, in such a remarkable manner, by donations and legacies, that some historians declare that the revenue of the order amounted to four and a half millions sterling; others merely observe that the Templars possessed enormous wealth in Christendom, one item being nine thousand houses. In 1129 they already had several establishments in the Low Countries; six years later the King of Navarre and of Aragon, Alphonso I., bequeathed his states to the order; but it was with great difficulty that the knights obtained possession of even a few of his towns. At that time, however, they possessed seventeen strongholds in the kingdom of Valencia. In their quarters in London were deposited most of the treasures of the English crown, and King Philip Augustus, on the eve of his departure for the Holy Land, entrusted them with the care of his jewels and archives.


Fig. 148.—The Earthern Vase, on one side of which is seen, between two fleurs-de-lis, the figure of St. Paul bitten by a serpent, bears a Latin inscription signifying, “In the name of St. Paul, and by this stone, thou shalt drive out poison.” On the other side is engraved in relief the cross of the Temple, between a sword and a serpent. Another Vase bears the head of a saint and a sword, and is surrounded by venomous animals and herbs. On the Medal is represented a dragon with an Italian legend signifying, “The grace of St. Paul is proof against any poison.” These objects were found in 1863 at Florence, on the site of the old Church of the Templars, dedicated to St. Paul.—Collection of M. Gancia.

The Templars were magnificent soldiers, and the annals of the Crusades are full of their feats of arms. Few knights acquired the fame they did in their expeditions across the seas; though always inferior in number to the infidel, who held them in greater fear than the Crusaders, they almost always defeated them. The defence of Gaza, the battle of Tiberias, the capture of[188] Damietta, and the Egyptian Crusade, are all splendid attestations of their courage and prowess.

The Templars in time reached the summit of their fortunes, the height of their prosperity and their fame, and nothing was left to them but to decay. Inflated with wealth, laden with privileges which gave them almost sovereign power, the only judges they recognised were the pope and themselves. The order at last became so demoralised by luxury and idleness that it forgot the aim for which it was founded, disdained to obey its own rules, and gave itself up to the love of gain and thirst for pleasure. Its covetousness and pride soon became boundless. The knights pretended that they were above the reach of even crowned heads: they seized and pillaged without concern the property of both infidels and Christians.

Their jealousy of the Knights Hospitallers induced them to interfere with a man of position, a vassal of the Order of St. John, and to drive him from a castle he possessed in the neighbourhood of their establishment at Margat. This caused a violent quarrel between the two orders, which soon became a permanent struggle for supremacy. The pope wrote to the grand masters of both orders to exhort them to re-establish peace and good-will, and to forget their mutual rancour, so dangerous for Christendom and so fatal to the interests of the Holy Land. An apparent truce took place between them; but the Templars had not forgotten their hatred, and they lost no opportunity of showing it to the knights of St. John. Moreover, they no longer cared to support the holy cause that had led to the birth of their order. They signed a treaty of alliance with the Old Man of the Mountain, the leader of the sect of the Assassins or Ishmaelites, the most implacable enemies of the cross; they allowed him, on condition of paying tribute, to fortify himself in Lebanon; they made war against the king of Cyprus and the prince of Antioch; ravaged Thrace and Greece, where the Christian nobles had founded principalities, marquisates, and baronies; took Athens by storm, and massacred Robert de Brienne, its duke.

In short, the consciousness of their strength, of their wealth, and of their power, inspired the Templars with an audacity that nothing could restrain. Their pride, which had become proverbial, was particularly offensive. Their belief and their morals were very far from orthodox, and even in 1273, Pope Gregory X. had thought of fusing their order in that of the Hospitallers. In the beginning of the following century, Philippe le Bel, King of France,[189] received weighty accusations against them of most serious offences, accusations that were generally believed to be true, and consulted Pope Clement V. on the subject. Clement at first declared the crimes with which they were accused to be altogether improbable, but the grand master having insisted on a rigorous inquiry, the pope wrote to the king for the details of his information. Philippe le Bel wished to decide the matter himself, and proceeded to arrest all the Templars within his jurisdiction, amongst them their grand master, Jacques de Molai, who had just returned from Cyprus.

Fig. 149.—Seal of the Knights of Christ (Thirteenth Century).—Early Device of the Order of Templars, representing two knights on one horse.

One hundred and forty knights were examined in Paris, and all but three confessed that the order practised a secret initiation, in which the aspirants were bound to deny Christ, and spit upon the cross; and that, moreover, immoral customs were practised amongst them. Many of them also confessed that they had committed acts of idolatry. A learned contemporary writer, De Wilcke, a German protestant clergyman, has epitomized the researches of two of his co-religionists—Moldenhawer, who discovered in the National Library in Paris the original records of the examination, and Munster, who found in the library of the Vatican the original notes of the proceedings that took place in England. This is De Wilcke’s conclusion: “The two facts of the denial of Christ and the spitting on the cross are attested by all the witnesses who were examined, with one or two exceptions.”

In spite of the scandal caused by these confessions, Pope Clement V. urgently protested against Philippe’s course of action, and represented to him that the Templars were a religious body, under the control of the Holy See alone, that the king was consequently wrong to make himself their judge, and that he had no authority over either their possessions or their persons.

Philippe unwillingly yielded to the pope’s remonstrances, and the pontiff[190] himself examined seventy-two Templars, whose confessions tallied with the avowals made in the first instance at Paris.

An inquiry was instituted in England, in Italy, in Spain, and in Germany. The answers extracted in the course of the different examinations were not exactly coincident, but the confessions of impiety and immorality were very numerous, except in Spain. The Aragonese Templars took up arms and held themselves on the defensive in their fortresses; they were however, conquered by King James II., and thrown into prison as rebels. The Templars of Castile were arrested, tried before an ecclesiastical tribunal, and declared innocent.

Fig. 150.—Council of Vienne.—Fresco executed in the Vatican Library by order of Pope Pius V. (Sixteenth Century).

The pope acknowledged the existence of serious irregularities amongst the knights of the order, but persisted in reserving to himself the right to pronounce a final decision. He, however, instructed every bishop in the Christian world to investigate the cases within his own diocese, and to absolve the innocent, and condemn the guilty Templars according to the utmost rigour of the law.


The provincial council of Paris handed over the contumacious to the secular authorities; fifty-nine of the guilty knights were burnt in that city at the back of the abbey of St. Antoine. A second council, at Senlis, in a similar manner delivered nine Templars to the mercies of the secular judge, who sentenced them to be burnt at the stake. It is said that the culprits retracted their confession on the scaffold, and died protesting their innocence. As soon as the commissioners appointed by the pope were informed of these executions they suspended their sittings, declaring that the terror inspired by these capital penalties deprived the prisoners of the tranquillity of mind necessary to their defence. They further requested the council of Paris to act with more deliberation.

When Pope Clement V. had obtained all the necessary information he convoked the council of Vienne (Fig. 150), and there, on the 22nd of March, 1312, pronounced his decision, which rather absolved than condemned the order, and placed their persons and their property at his disposal and at that of the Church. In Spain and in Portugal, this property was applied to the defence of the Christians against the constant attacks of the Saracens and the Moors (Fig. 151); but the greater portion of the possessions of the Templars, and particularly those they held in France, was transferred to the keeping of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, who continued to devote themselves to the cause of the holy places, and kept up the good works to perform which the Templars had received so many and such costly donations.

The serious abuses and crimes which caused the suppression of the order had not fortunately vitiated the whole of its members: most of the Templars were set at liberty, many of them, preserving their former rank, enrolled themselves in the Order of St. John. In this wise, as is pointed out by Wilcke, Albert de Blacas, prior of Aix, obtained the commandership of Saint-Maurice, as prior of the Hospitallers; and Frederick, grand prior of Lower Germany, retained the title in the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Fig. 151.—Our Lady of Grace sheltering under the folds of her mantle the first Grand Masters of the Military Order of Montessa. This order was established in Spain in 1317 by James II., King of Aragon, with the approval of John XXII., as a substitute for the Order of the Temple, with whose possessions it was endowed.—From a Painting on Wood of the Fifteenth Century, held in veneration in the Church of the Temple, at Valencia; and from the “Iconografia Española” of M. Carderera.

The pope had specially reserved his judgment in the case of the grand master, Jacques de Molai, in that of the Visitor of France, and in those of the commanders of Guyenne and of Normandy. Several cardinals-legate, with some French bishops and doctors of the University of Paris, constituted the tribunal which was to pass the sentence in the name of the pontiff. After satisfying themselves that these four eminent knights had repeated their avowals before a second commission, the members of the tribunal,[192] convinced of their guilt, caused a scaffold to be erected in front of Notre-Dame, and there, on Monday, March 18th, 1314, the four Templars were publicly condemned to imprisonment for life. On the scaffold the grand master and one of the others recanted their confession of guilt and protested their innocence. The cardinals, surprised at this recantation, committed the prisoners to the care of the provost of Paris, with orders to bring them before them the next day, when the tribunal had had time to deliberate[193] on this fresh incident. But Philippe le Bel, learning what was taking place, hurriedly assembled his council, and had the grand master, and the other Templar who had similarly persisted in denying his twice-avowed guilt, burnt alive the same night. They underwent this horrible torture protesting their innocence to the last. The two remaining knights who had acknowledged their guilt were kept for some time in prison, but were afterwards set at liberty.

Fig. 152.—Surrender of the Town of Montefrio, near Granada, in 1486. The alcids and Moorish chiefs, after the siege, delivering the keys of the town to Ferdinand the Catholic and Queen Isabella.—Bas-relief on the stalls of the choir of the high altar of the cathedral, carved in wood in the Sixteenth Century.

Other orders of knighthood, having more or less of a religious character, were founded in the Middle Ages, or during the Renaissance period: the principal were, in Spain, the Order of the Knights of Calatrava; in Germany, the Order of the Teuton Knights; the Order of the Golden Fleece in the Low Countries, in Spain, and in Austria; that of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus in Savoy; that of St. Stephen in Tuscany; and in France, those of St. Michael and of the Holy Ghost, which were merely honorary orders, although the first Order of the Holy Ghost, founded in 1352 by Louis d’Anjou, King of Jerusalem and Sicily, had for its object the re-establishment[194] of an essentially military knighthood, as a means for bringing about a new crusade.

The Knights of Calatrava, on whom their founder, Don Raymond, Abbot of Citeaux, imposed the regulations of his own monastery, distinguished themselves by many brilliant feats of arms, particularly against the Moors of Spain and Africa (Fig. 152); and the princes in whose cause they had fought in these wars—termed, like the Crusades in the East, holy—granted them large possessions and considerable privileges. They were bound by a triple vow of poverty, obedience, and chastity, and, like the Templars, wore a red cross embroidered on a white mantle. From the days of Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella, the sovereigns of Spain have always been the grand masters of this order, which acquired and long retained a considerable amount of importance, even when it had ceased to signify anything but an indication of nobility. The order of Alcantara, which had a similar origin to that of Calatrava, ran a like career and was in like manner doomed to decay. Spain, too, was the only country that possessed a military order for ladies. After the heroic defence of Placentia against the English by the women of that city in 1390, John I., the sovereign of Castile, created in their honour the order of the Ladies of the Sash, which was united at a later period to the Order of the Belt, founded in the fourteenth century to do battle against the Moors.

The Teutonic Knights, whose order had been founded in 1128, at Jerusalem, by the German Crusaders, obeyed the rules of St. Augustin. They were subject beside to special statutes somewhat similar to those of the Knights of St. John and of the Temple, whose privileges they also enjoyed. Their first grand master, Henri Walpot, established his residence near St. Jean d’Acre.

This order was divided, like that of St. John, into knights, chaplains, and serving brethren. Its members wore a white mantle with a rather broad black cross, picked out with silver, on the left sleeve. To gain admission into the order it was necessary for the candidate to be over fifteen years of age, and to be of a strong, robust build, in order to resist the fatigues of war. Its knights, bound by a vow of chastity, were expected to avoid all intercourse with women; they were not even allowed to give their own mothers a filial kiss when they saluted them. They possessed no individual property; they always left their cell doors open, so that everybody might see what they were doing. Their arms were free from both gold and silver ornaments, and for a long period they spent their lives in great humility. Their most celebrated[195] grand master, Hermann de Salza, received in 1210, from Pope Honorius III. and the Emperor Frederick II., whom he had reconciled, large possessions and high honours.

The Teutonic Knights conquered Prussia, Livonia, and Courland, and in 1283 became masters of the whole territory between the Vistula and the Niemen. In 1309 they abandoned Venice, where, twenty years earlier, their grand master had fixed his ordinary residence, and selected Marienburg as their head-quarters. At that date the order had reached the culminating point of its prosperity, and its sway in Germany had the most fortunate results for Prussia. But luxury soon began to undermine the religious faith of the knights; and internal struggles, caused by the elections of their grand masters, introduced fresh elements of decay into their organization.

Fig. 153.—Sancha de Roxas, who died in 1437, wearing the scarf which was the insignia of the military order bearing his name (Fifteenth Century).—From the “Iconografia Española” of M. Carderera.

Dragged into endless conflicts with Lithuania and Poland, the order lost its banners, its treasure, and its principal defenders in the disastrous battle of Grümwald, in the year 1410, and would have been utterly ruined but for Henry von Plauen. After the death of this illustrious grand master, the knights, to whom the treaty of Thorn had restored their territorial possessions, lost them one after the other in the few years that elapsed between 1422 and 1436. For thirteen years Casimir IV., King of Poland, summoned into Prussia by the inhabitants, who had rebelled against the despotic sway of the knights, laid waste the country that he had undertaken to protect. The order, driven out of Marienburg and Konitz, only retained possession of Eastern Prussia, and held even that under Polish rule; its grand master, whose head-quarters were now at Königsberg, was, in fact, a prince and a councillor of Poland. As Prussia was a fief of the Church, the grand master of the Teutonic Order was bound by vow to preserve it to the Church and to[196] his own order. Albert of Brandenburg, its last grand master, was bound by this oath, and by the triple vow of poverty, obedience, and chastity, which he had taken on entering the order. To rid himself of the fetters of these oaths he joined the Lutheran Church, and divided the possessions of his order with his uncle, the aged Sigismund, King of Poland, who for these considerations bestowed on him the title of hereditary Duke of Prussia. This was the origin of the royal family of Prussia. After this easy acquisition of title and territory, Albert of Brandenburg married the daughter of the King of Denmark. As a matter of course, the Order of the Teutonic Knights became extinct.

Fig. 154.—Teutonic Knight.—Fac-simile of a Woodcut by Jost Amman, in his work entitled “Cleri totius Romanæ ecclesiæ ... habitus:” 4to, Frankfort, 1585.

Fig. 155.—Chapter of the Golden Fleece, held by Charles the Bold.—Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

The Order of the Knights of the Golden Fleece was not founded till 1449. It was then instituted by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and Count of Flanders, in order to induce the nobles of his court to join him in making war against the Turks, and to attach his subjects by closer ties to the service of the state. The crusade never took place, but the order survived, and still exists as an heraldic distinction.

This order, which was placed under the protection of St. Andrew, was originally composed of twenty-four knights of high rank and stainless[197] character; their number was increased by the Duke of Burgundy to thirty-one, and afterwards by Charles V. to fifty-one. The election of the knights took place in the chapters of the order, and were decided by a majority of votes. The distinguishing sign of the order was a necklet of gold, enamelled with the duke’s device, which was composed of two steels and two flints interlaced, with the motto, Ante ferit quam micat (It strikes before it lights). From the collar was suspended a golden sheep, or sheep’s fleece, with the inscription, Pretium non vile laborum (Labour’s just reward) (Fig. 155). Since the marriage of Philippe le Beau, son of the Emperor Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, with[198] Jane of Aragon, in 1496, the King of Spain and the Emperor of Austria are, in their own countries, the sovereign chiefs of the order of the Golden Fleece.

Savoy also possessed an order of military knighthood which has survived till our time. When Amadeus VIII., in whose person Savoy had been raised to the rank of a duchy by the Emperor Sigismund, determined to live as a recluse, he desired to create an order of secular knighthood, with himself as its chief. He accordingly built a retreat at Ripailles, near the Lake of Geneva, as a residence for the new order, and placed it under the protection of St. Maurice, the patron saint of Savoy. The first knights, only six in number, were distinguished by a cross of white taffeta sewn on their dress. The successors of Amadeus VIII., however, so neglected the order that it was on the point of becoming extinct, when Duke Emanuel Philibert, in 1572, obtained from Gregory XIII. a bull to reconstitute it; and shortly afterwards, by a second bull, the knights of St. Lazarus and those of St. Maurice were united.

The knights took the same triple vow as the Templars; they swore fidelity to the Dukes of Savoy, and undertook to wage war against the heretics who from Geneva were continually threatening the frontiers of the duchy. The order possessed considerable property, and its head-quarters were at Nice and Turin.

The sign of the order was a white cross with flowered points, beneath which was a second cross surrounded with green, with the image of the two patron saints.

The Knights of St. Stephen, an order founded in 1562 by Cosmo de Medicis, Grand Duke of Tuscany, played an active part in the sea-fights of the Mediterranean, where they were constantly chasing the Ottoman galleys or effecting landings on the shores of the surrounding barbarian states. In the middle of the seventeenth century they boasted that they had released, since the creation of the order, upwards of five thousand six hundred Christian captives and fifteen thousand slaves.

This order, in its customs and ceremonies, was strikingly like the order of Malta; and, like it, was divided into military and ecclesiastical knights.

Fig. 156.—Reception of a Knight of the Order of St. Michael, which was created on August 1, 1469, by Louis XI., at the Castle of Amboise.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Statuts de l’Ordre,” dated from Plessis-les-Tours. Manuscript of the Sixteenth Century, in the Library of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.

Several orders of military knighthood existed in France, created by its sovereigns; but their honorary character caused them to be looked upon as rewards bestowed for good service rendered to the monarchy, rather than as solemn engagements to take up arms in any definite cause. It[199] is hardly worth while to mention the Order of the Star, which it has been attempted to trace back to King Robert and to the year 1022, but the real origin of which only dates from King John. The oldest royal military orders of knighthood are those that Louis IX.[200] founded to encourage his nobles to join him in his expeditions beyond the seas, and to take part in the Crusades. The Order of the Cosse de Geneste, instituted in 1254, was bestowed at a later period on the sergeants of the king, a body-guard of a hundred gentlemen specially entrusted with the duty of protecting the sovereign’s person against the assassins sent by the Old Man of the Mountains. The Order of the Ship, instituted in 1269, became extinct shortly after the second crusade of St. Louis, who had conferred it, before his departure, on some of his most illustrious followers.

The Order of St. Michael was founded in 1469 by Louis XI. to fulfil a vow made by his father, who had a particular veneration for that saint, the tutelar angel and patron of France (Fig. 156). The image of St. Michael was already embroidered in gold upon the banner of the king, who created a new order of military knighthood “in honour,” say the statutes, “of the first knight who in God’s quarrel fought the ancient enemy of the human race and made him fall from heaven.” The order was composed of thirty-six knights of stainless name and arms, with the sovereign who had appointed them at their head. The collar of the order was composed of golden shells inlaid with the figure of St. Michael overthrowing Satan. The knights, besides this collar, wore on occasions of ceremony a white mantle with a hood of crimson velvet.

A, the door from which the knights issued, and then went along the terrace marked B, out at the door marked C, and so to the place where the new knights were initiated.

D, trumpets.

E, drums.

F, fifes and hautboys.

G, four heralds, walking two and two.

H, king-at-arms of France, walking by himself.

I, the Sieur de Bourgneuf, usher of the order, walking by himself.

K, the Sieur du Pont, herald of the order, walking by himself.

L, three officers of the order walking abreast—viz., MM. d’Achères, provost and master of the ceremonies; Bouthillier, grand treasurer; and Duret-Chevry, secretary.

M, M. de Bullion, keeper of the seals of the order, walking by himself.

N, the knights novices, walking two and two, each according to his rank.

O, the commanders, walking also two and two, each according to his rank.

P, the king, walking by himself, his train carried by M. le Marquis de Gesvres; behind his majesty walks M. le Cardinal Duc de Richelieu, by himself, an almoner carrying his train.

Fig. 157. Procession of the Knights of the Order of the Holy Ghost crossing the courtyard of the Palace of Fontainebleau on their way to the chapel, for the ceremony of the initiation of new knights.

Fig. 158.—State Gloves of embroidered silk, gold, and silver, with the Monogram of Christ, formerly belonging to Louis XIII.—From the originals in the Collection of M. Jubinal.

The Order of the Holy Ghost was the last military order that the sovereigns of France themselves conferred towards the close of the sixteenth century. Both this and the Order of St. Michael were termed orders of the king. Henry III., in 1579, created the order in honour of God, and particularly in that of the Holy Ghost, under whose inspiration he had accomplished “his best and most fortunate exploits,” to use the exact words of the statutes of the order. From the day of his ascending the throne he had always intended to found this order, which had been suggested to him in his childhood by the perusal of the statutes of the first Order of the Holy Ghost, instituted at Naples, in 1352, by one of his ancestors, Louis of Anjou, King of Jerusalem and Sicily. These statutes were carefully preserved in a precious manuscript, the miniature of which represented with marvellous art all the ceremonies of the order. The manuscript was a present from the nobility of Venice to Henry III. on his return from Poland. This prince, however, borrowed but little from these ancient statutes, which had been drawn up in view of the military services which the knights of the order, three[201] hundred in number, might be able to render towards the Crusades in Palestine. The new order of the Holy Ghost, although a military one, was destined to gather round the king, who was its supreme head, a body of a hundred knights, selected from among the most eminent and the most illustrious personages of the court, the Church, and the nobility. The insignia of the order were a collar composed of golden fleurs-de-lis, surmounted with enamelled flames, forming the initials of the king and his wife Louise of Lorraine, with a cross bearing a silver dove, emblem of the Holy Ghost. At the meetings of their order, the knights were clad in costly round-caped mantles of blue velvet spangled with fleurs-de-lis in gold (Fig. 157). These meetings, which at first were held in the Church of the Augustines at Paris, where the solemn receptions of the new members took place, were afterwards transferred to the Louvre, where they were celebrated with extraordinary pomp. It is true that the statutes enjoined on each lay knight the duty of taking arms for his sovereign whenever the latter was preparing to go to[202] war for the defence of his dominions, or in the interest of his crown; but they were never scrupulously obeyed on this point, and the Order of the Holy Ghost, while preserving its military and religious character on all ceremonial occasions, never played any other part than one of display and heraldic pretension. The sovereigns, however, at all times showed themselves extremely jealous of the privilege of appointing its knights, and the latter for more than three centuries composed the actual guard of honour of the royal house of France.

Fig. 159.—St. George, the patron of warriors, vanquishing the Dragon.—From the Tomb of Cardinal Georges d’Amboise, at Rouen (Sixteenth Century).



Prayer.—Liturgy of St. James, of St. Basil, and of St. John-Chrysostom.—Apostolical Constitutions.—The Sacrifice of the Mass.—Administration of Baptism.—Canonical Penances.—Plan and Arrangement of Churches.—Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.—The Ceremony of Ordination.—Church Bells.—The Tocsin.—The Poetry of Gothic Churches.—Breviary and Missal of Pius V.—Ceremonies used at the Seven Sacraments.—Excommunication.—The Bull In Cœnâ Domini.—Processions and Mystery Plays at the Easter Solemnities.—Instrument of Peace.—Consecrated Bread.—The Pyx.—The Dove.

It was the first Council of Nice, in the year 325, that gave the dignity of canonical law to the custom of prayer on bended knees, and it is a surprising fact that none of the paintings of the Catacombs represent a devotee in the act of kneeling. We, however, know from the Acts of the Apostles that from the very first days of Christianity it was sometimes customary to kneel at prayer. As for the public prayers of the early Christians, the text of the principal ones has survived unaltered to our own days. As early as the close of the first century, the younger Pliny, writing to Trajan, told him that the Christians were accustomed to assemble at daybreak to sing a hymn in honour of Christ, whom they worshipped as God. This is a valuable piece of evidence, and it is moreover corroborated by the known custom that prevailed at the same epoch in the Church of Antioch, of celebrating the Holy Trinity (Figs. 160 and 161) by singing anthems, and of glorifying Christ, the Word of God, by the intoning of canticles and psalms. St. Irenæus, who wrote in the middle of the second century, also mentions in his work[204] against heresy, a kind of Gloria in excelsis, which was chanted in Greek in Christian assemblies at the consecration of the host, and which may be translated thus: “To thee all glory, veneration, and thanksgiving; honour and worship to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, now and ever, and for century upon century of infinite eternity!” The people responded, “Amen!” In the dogmatic treatises written by Tertullian, at the end of the second century, that great pagan philosopher, who had become a convert to Christianity, alludes more than once to the first attempts at a liturgy which the Church used in the administration of the sacraments. He speaks of secret meetings where the psalms were sung, the Scriptures read, and edifying discourses were delivered; he mentions public prayers on behalf of the reigning sovereign, of his ministers, and of the great functionaries of the State; he describes ceremonies, forms of[205] prayer, and religious chants which were used according to certain rites authorised in the Latin Church, amongst which may be distinguished the Pater of the New Testament, that simple and yet sublime and touching invocation of feeble humanity prostrated before the Almighty.

Fig. 160.—Symbol of the Trinity, arranged vertically—the Son at the bottom, the Father at the top, and the Holy Ghost in the centre. The Holy Ghost descends from the mouth of the Father and settles on the head of the Son, and proceeds from both. Copied from a French Miniature by Count Horace de Vielcastel (Fourteenth Century).

Fig. 161.—The three faces of the Trinity on one head and body. At first sight is read—“The Father is not the Son; the Father is not the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost is not the Son.” But, from the angles to the centre, is also read—“The Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Ghost is God.” Printed by Simon Vostre in 1524.

The Church of Neo-Cesarea used from the first the liturgy of St. James, the earliest of the Eastern liturgies, until St. Basil, justly surnamed the great, for he was one of the most illustrious Fathers of the Greek Church in the fourth century, modified and shortened it. A little later it came to be known as the liturgy of St. Chrysostom, on account of the important changes introduced into it by that Father of the Church.

Fig. 162 to 171.—Monograms of Christ, belonging to the first centuries of the Church, except the last two. They are mostly composed of the letters X and P interlaced, letters which begin the word Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ); one is accompanied by an N [Nazarenus); several have on either side the letters α and ω, in allusion to the text, “I am the beginning and the end.” Two of these monograms, from the Catacombs, recall the labarum of Constantine, especially the one bearing the famous inscription, “In hoc signo vinces;” but it is not certain whether they are rightly attributed. The last two are from the Churches of St. Martin de Lescas (Gironde) and of St. Exupère d’Arreau (Upper Pyrenees), edifices of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.

The canons of the Council of Laodicea, held in 364, contain many regulations for the recitation of the psalms and lessons, which, as early as the second century, according to Tertullian, were recited at Tierce, at Sexte, and at None, that is, at the third, sixth, and ninth hour of the day—at vespers or evening prayer, and at the prayers offered up by the bishops, whether at the ceremonies of baptism and the eucharist, or over catechumens and penitents. It was not until after the conversion of Constantine that public prayers became general in Constantinople even amongst the troops. Constantine built an[206] oratory in his palace, where his whole court worshipped with him. He desired that his soldiers, whether Christians or pagans, should every Sunday repeat aloud certain prayers belonging to the religion of Jesus Christ. Eusebius is the historian who relates this fact. A record has been handed down of a prayer that the Emperor Maximinius declared he had received from the hands of an angel, and which he read out to his soldiers in 313, before he gave battle to Licinius, his rival for the imperial throne.

Fig. 172.—Heathen Caricature drawn on the wall of the Palatinate, in the Third Century, and preserved in the Kircher Museum, at Rome.—The object of veneration of the Christians is represented by a crucified figure with a donkey’s head, looking down on a small figure of a man: it is accompanied by a Greek inscription signifying, “Alexamenus worshipping his God.” Reduced to a quarter the size of the original.

In the fourth century, it was customary nearly everywhere, in the West as well as in the East, after having sung the praises of God, to put up prayers for the reigning sovereign and the leading potentates of the civilised world. For instance, when St. Athanasius cried out in the presence of the faithful, assembled in the splendid basilica of the Cæsars, “Let us pray for the safety of the very pious Emperor Constantine,” the whole assembly answered with one resounding voice, “Christe, auxiliare Constantio!” (“Help Constantine, O Christ!”)[207] The preceding examples, and many others that it would be easy to gather from the history of early Christianity, prove that in the fourth century, in France, in Italy, in Spain, as well as in the churches of the East and of Africa, Christian worshippers were accustomed to recite either aloud or in a low tone, a set form of prayers, to chant, or rather slowly to intone psalms, and to sing hymns. Did not St. Pacôme order his monks to recite twice a day a psalmody which was composed of psalms interspersed with prayers? Did not St. Hilary of Poictiers lay the foundations of the Gallican liturgy, as St. Ambrose did those of the Lombard liturgy, at the time that St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine revised the liturgies of the Eastern and African Churches?

Fig. 173.—Painting symbolical of the Catacombs of Rome: Jesus Christ, represented as Orpheus, fascinating with the sound of his lyre the wild and domestic animals, as also the trees, which are bending towards him to listen.—Fresco of the First or Second Century, from the Cemetery of Domitilla.

It was generally the custom to follow the precepts of the so-called “Apostolical Constitutions,” a primitive work that was supposed to date from the second century. These Constitutions ordered the psalms to be recited to[208] the congregation in the morning, at the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours of the day, at vespers, and at cockcrow, that is to say, at dawn. But the faithful, who were long prevented by persecution from openly assembling in sacred buildings, at first offered up their prayers in private, or perhaps surrounded only by their families and a few intimate friends. Tertullian tells us that each strove to show the greatest zeal in singing the praises of God. In the fourth century, the Christians both of the East and of the West were so zealously attached to their psalmody, that none would have willingly missed saying it at its appointed hour, no matter where he might happen to be. “Instead of the love songs formerly heard at all hours, and in all places,” says St. Jerome in a letter to his friend Marcellinus, “the labourer at the plough hums an Alleluia, the reaper, bathed in perspiration, repeats his psalmody as he rests from his toil, and the worker in the vineyard carols David’s grateful verse as he plies his curved sickle.”

Fig. 174.—Silver-gilt Cruet, showing its different sides; on one side is depicted the head of Christ, with a nimbus, and on the other that of St. Peter. (First or Second Century.)—Museum of the Vatican.

Fig. 175.—The Last Supper, symbolically represented as the first eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus, surrounded by his disciples, and with John, his favourite disciple, leaning on his bosom, is administering his body and blood under the form of bread and wine, to another disciple kneeling in front of the table.—From a Miniature of the Eleventh Century in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Long before any churches were open to the public, the apostles “broke[209] bread with, the faithful” in the guest chamber of private dwellings; their disciples followed their example in the subterranean cemeteries, termed Catacombs, where the early Christians used to assemble to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Fig. 175). This sacrament, the primitive form of which[210] is unknown to us, was not termed a mass (missa) till the middle of the fourth century. “It was on a Sunday,” says St. Ambrose, who was the originator of the Ambrosian rite, “that I first held a mass.” The name of mass, about the meaning and origin of which the most learned Christian archæologists are by no means agreed, appears to have been derived from a Hebrew word denoting an offering or sacrifice; or perhaps rather from the Latin missa, from mittere, to send away, or to take leave of. Apostolical discipline required that the sacrament should be preceded by a discourse, and that before it was celebrated the catechumens, those who had not yet been baptized, should leave the sanctuary. “After the sermon,” says St. Augustine, “the catechumens are sent out” (fit missa).

Fig. 176.—Miraculous Mass of St. Gregory the Great (Sixth Century), depicting the real presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist.—Miniature from a Missal of the Fifteenth Century, in the Collection of M. Ambr. Firmin-Didot.


There was, however, a mass for the catechumens which comprised the introductory prayers, lessons from the Old and New Testaments, and the bishop’s homily. The true mass, celebrated for the faithful alone, was specially called the eucharist. “Those are masses,” says St. Cesarius of Arles, “when the body and blood of Christ are offered up in sacrifice” (Fig. 176).

At first, mass was celebrated once a week, and always on the Sunday. In the second century, the sacrament or eucharistic offering took place three times a week, on Sunday, on Wednesday, and on Friday. In the following century, the Eastern Church decreed that it should also be celebrated on Saturday. In the West, mass was held only on Sundays, unless in exceptional cases; while in the days of St. Augustine, in the dioceses of Africa, Spain, and Constantinople, it was celebrated generally every day. It was not till the sixth century that it became usual in the Latin Church to celebrate mass every day.

As time passed on, and as the number of worshippers increased, the number of masses was considerably augmented, particularly on great festivals and during Holy Week. The same priest was at liberty to perform several, but after each he was bound to purify his fingers in a chalice, the contents of which were afterwards poured into a fitting vessel and consumed at the final mass, either by the priests themselves, by the deacons and clerks, or by those of the laity who were in a state of grace. At first all masses were sung, or rather chanted; they were all public, and could only be celebrated in diocesan or parish churches. Necessity, however, soon instituted inferior or private masses, thus named because they were held in one of the lesser shrines or chapels, on an ordinary day, or before a small congregation.

The bishops, the apostles’ successors, were alone entitled, during the first two centuries, to administer the solemn rites of baptism. The priests, under the authority of the bishop, were the assistant-ministers of this sacrament. The deacons could only confer it when authorised by special episcopal sanction. In cases of urgent necessity, laymen were permitted to baptize, provided they were of irreproachable morals and had been confirmed. In the Latin Church as well as in the East, public baptism was only solemnised during the vigils of Easter and Pentecost; in the Gallican Church, at Christmas, as in the case of King Clovis. Private baptism might be administered at any period whenever it was deemed necessary.


On the day set apart for baptism, the chosen catechumens met in the church at noon to undergo a final examination (Fig. 177); at midnight they again assembled there, the paschal taper and the water were consecrated, and the officiating priest asked the catechumens if they renounced the devil, the world, and its pomps. They made answer, Yes. The priest then required of them a profession of Christian faith, carefully prepared beforehand, after which they underwent a short examination on the articles of the Creed. When these preliminaries were completed the deacon presented to the priest the catechumens stripped of their clothing, but covered with a veil. Each then stepped into a large vessel of water and was dipped thrice (Fig. 178); at each immersion the bishop invoked one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, a custom that prevailed till the sixth century in the Western Church, and till the eighth in that of the East. After the immersion the assisting deacon anointed the catechumen’s forehead with holy oil, and the priest put on him the chrismal, a flowing white robe which he wore for eight days. Thus clad, and holding lighted tapers, the new Christians went in procession from the place of baptism to the basilica. Before mass they received the sacrament of confirmation; they were then given a mixture of honey and milk, a symbol of their entrance into the promised land, that is to say, into the highway of Gospel privileges. Whatever the age of the newly baptized might be, they were termed children (pueri, infantes).

Fig. 177.—Exorcism of a catechumen by four of the clergy, who are applying the cross to him to drive the devil out of his body, prior to his baptism.—From a bas-relief of the Fourth or Fifth Century, found at Pérouse. Paciaudi, “De Sacris Christianorum Balneis:” Venitiis, 1750, 4to.

Baptism by sprinkling, as practised now, was not unknown to the primitive church, but it was only adopted in urgent cases, when immersion might be dangerous to the catechumen, or when it was expedient to baptize[213] many at one time. In the ninth century baptism by sprinkling had become customary, and it soon became the only method in use.

Fig. 178.—Baptism of the Saxons conquered by Charlemagne.—Miniature in Manuscript No. 9,066 in the Burgundian Library, Brussels (Fifteenth Century).

The dogmas of Christianity would have been a dead letter for most of the neophytes, unless they had been accompanied by a rigorous and constant discipline. The Church foresaw this, and showed its sternness, though at the same time it held out indulgences to the penitent. It established a kind of scale of punishments, whose severity were proportionate to the gravity of the crimes committed. The privilege of oblation was taken from the lesser culprits—that is to say, they were neither allowed to place offerings on the altars nor to receive the eucharist; the more hardened and rebellious sinners were excluded from the communion of the faithful, and were not permitted to take part in public worship; those who had been guilty of actual crime, or who had shown themselves to be incorrigible, were expelled from the sanctuary, and their names were expunged from the list of Christians.


These more rigorous measures, however, might be modified according to the repentance of the offender or at the discretion of the bishop, the sole and sovereign judge in all such matters. Canonical penance was usually only inflicted for great public crimes, such as idolatry, adultery, and homicide; and, moreover, certain classes of individuals—children, young girls, married women, old men, priests, clerks, and monarchs—were only subject to it under the most careful restrictions; while in every case it was necessary to give legal and accurate proof of the alleged offence. When the period of canonical penance was over, if the criminal showed signs of repentance, the bishop, or even an ordinary priest in case of absolute necessity, was empowered to reconcile him with the Church.

As public worship in the early Church was slow to exhibit itself as a settled institution, so the more solemn and the more imposing it became from the moment that it took its lofty position under the protectorate of Constantine the Great. Then suddenly sprung up a number of Christian places of worship and imposing churches, amongst which we may mention the basilica of Tyre, restored and inaugurated in 315; that of St. John of Lateran, constructed in Rome in 324, with the remains of the temples once raised to the false gods of paganism; and other sanctuaries in the same city, which were consecrated by the Pope St. Damasius. The rites used at the consecrations of the early churches are unknown to us, but each inauguration had its solemn anniversary.

The position, the form, and the arrangement of the early churches were not left to the whims of their founders and architects, even when these churches were small and hidden for the most part in the catacombs, in forests, and in deserts. In the second book of the “Constitutions” of Pope Clement (chaps. 55 and 61), we read the following directions: “Let the church be of a long shape, like a ship, and facing the east.” Here, therefore, in the first century of the church, is an authentic proof of the orientation of the early Christian sacred edifices.

The method of construction of the primitive churches, however, according to the liturgical regulations of the period, is still an obscure question, and one surrounded with uncertainty. It has been surmised, with much probability, that the subterranean chapels of the catacombs of Rome were the models of the first churches; and such is the opinion of the most learned archæologists. It was from the very depths of these sepulchral caverns[215] that Christian art, bursting forth into open day after the long series of persecutions, built its crypts and its churches after the types of its hidden shrines, at first in the transmural cemeteries, and afterwards, towards the end of the third century, in the midst of the Christianized populations and in the very centre of their cities. In 303, the date of the decree of Diocletian closing the Christian places of worship, there were already forty churches and chapels in Rome. The shape of these primitive sanctuaries is not well known; they were probably in general of one uniform pattern, specially adapted to the liturgical ceremonies of the day, though considerations of safety, the capabilities of the site, and other imperious necessities, no doubt frequently obliged their architects to depart from precedent and to vary the character of their construction. It was not until the reign of Constantine that Christian edifices began to assume the attributes of size, magnificence, and majestic boldness of outline. It was then that the emperor erected basilicas in the interior of his Lateran and Vatican palaces for the first time, and consecrated to the worship of the true God those immense edifices in which art was the humble handmaid of religion and bathed itself in the ineffable splendours of the faith.

The crypts or chambers (cubicula) of the Catacombs were reproduced in the full light of day in the early churches; they were of a quadrilateral shape, with three arched naves, and three vaulted recesses (arcosolia) which served at once as tombs for the holy confessors and shrines for the celebration of the eucharist. These sanctuaries were generally of greater length than breadth, after the analogy of the ship or vessel (navis), this mysterious symbolism finding favour with the early Christians.

Fig. 179.—Church of St. Antony, Padua, completed in 1307; the seven cupolas were added in the Fifteenth Century. The bronze equestrian statue which stands in front of the church was executed in 1453 by Donatello, and represents the famous captain, Gattemalata.

Fig. 180.—Foot of a large Choir Candelabrum in gilt bronze, with seven branches, nineteen feet high, and known as the “Tree of the Virgin,” because one of its ornaments represents the Infant Jesus adored by the Magi, in the arms of the Virgin.—Work of the Thirteenth Century, in Milan Cathedral.

Fig. 181.—Chandelier, called Chandelier of the Virgin; the branches are of bronze, and the figure is of carved wood. (Church in Kempen, Rhenish Prussia).—From Weerth’s “Monuments of Christian Art.”

Crucial churches, that is to say, churches in the shape of a cross, were, however, not uncommon, as well as round, pentagonal, hexagonal, and octagonal buildings. But whatever their shape, they differed essentially from the pagan temples, as much in their general internal arrangement as in their size, which continued to increase in proportion as Christianity waxed in magnitude and influence. The basilicas were divided into three principal parts: the vestibule, or portico (in Greek, pronaon), the central area (in Greek, naos—in Latin, navis, whence the term nave), and the apse or choir (in Greek, ieratrion), reserved for the officiating priests. The portico was supported by two, five, or seven columns, and projected from the front wall. An iron rod furnished with rings ran across the columns, and from it were suspended curtains of[216] cloth or hanging tapestries which could be drawn or closed at will. Beneath this portico the penitents, termed strati (prostrated), were accustomed to kneel, and from that position they could hear the psalmody and the sermon without actually witnessing the ceremony. The larger basilicas had frequently three porticos instead of one (Fig. 179), the central one facing the west, and the two side ones the north and south. A large vessel (malluvium) full of water was placed in the centre of the portico, in which each member of the congregation before entering the church purified his face and hands. The clergy alone entered by the middle entrance (aula); the worshippers entered by the two side portals, the men by that to the right and the women by that to the left; this division of the sexes was maintained within the building also. The internal main area was subdivided into three or five naves. The central nave was always left open and [217]free, but in the others, partitions six feet high completely divided off the catechumens, the penitents, the virgins consecrated to God, the monks, and the mass of the congregation. At the end of the nave was the choir (in Greek bêma), in front of which stood the solea (the cellar or wine-press, in allusion to what was called the vineyard of the Lord), surrounded by a chancel, an open-work partition, in the centre of which one or more gates opened into the interior. One or sometimes two stands (called pulpitum, pulpit), intended for the public reading of the epistles, the Scriptures, and the holy books, were erected in front of the gates of the choir. In Rome, and probably in Constantinople, Milan, Trèves, and in all the larger imperial cities, there was in front of the choir, between the stalls of the secular clergy and those of the holy virgins and monks, a space (senatorium) reserved for the dignitaries and the noble families of the place. The solea was occupied by the sub-deacons and the minor clerks, whose duty it was to intone the psalmody. One or two sacristies (secretaria) were[218] placed at the sides of the solea. The sanctuary (Figs. 180 and 181), in which the holy sacrifice took place, was surrounded with iron or wooden railings, and communicated through one or three doors with the naves. The farther end of the choir was semicircular in shape, and is now called the apse (in Greek, kongche, a muscle or cockle-shell; in Latin, absida; in French, chevet); around it were placed seats, amongst them that of the bishop, which was raised above the altar, and was visible to the whole congregation. The altar, which was draped and surmounted with the ciborium (a canopy of a cupola shape—Italian, baldacchino), was always placed in the centre of the apse (Figs. 182 and 183).[219] Such, was the material framework, the normal arrangement of the Greek and Latin liturgy towards the end of the sixth century.

Fig. 182.—Altar-piece at Mareuil-en-Brie.

Fig. 183.—Altar-piece of the Church of Mareuil-en-Brie (Marne).—Latter half of the Thirteenth Century.

No pope was more capable than Gregory the Great (590–604) of uniting the different and scattered elements of which the liturgy was composed.[220] To him is due the merit of having been the first to put forth a revised issue of the books of religious service, and who impressed the stamp of his genius on the Roman Catholic ceremonial. Before him, however, Pope Gelasius had collected the prayers used in the administration of the sacraments, and had prepared the first missal or book of masses. The latter was remodelled and corrected by Gregory. The same pope gave a more orthodox and popular form to the Antiphonary (Antiphonarium), sometimes called Cantatorium and Graduale, a collection of anthems for every mass in the year; he amended and remodelled in the most skilful and learned manner the anthems that were badly selected and ill scored—endeavouring, after the example set by Solomon, to impart a harmonious and dignified character to sacred music which it did not previously possess. It is tolerably certain that the church chant dates from this period, and that notation by neumes, a method the present age does not understand, of marking the rhythm and the modulations of the voice, cannot be traced farther back than the pontificate of Gregory the Great. John Diacre, who has written the life of this illustrious pope, says that he has seen the school of choristers, founded at Rome by St. Gregory, officiating in full splendour. The founder of this famous school continued to give lessons to the pupils in spite of his old age, his attacks of gout, and his other infirmities, even when he was no longer able to stand or sit upright. Reclining on a narrow and very hard bed, he infused emulation into the minds of the idle and reproved the disobedient.

Since the fifth century, the holy duties and the canonical prayers to which the liturgy consecrated the different hours of the day have been known under the name of offices, or canonical hours (Fig. 184), and of breviaries. In Tertullian we already meet with the words Tierce, Sexte, and None. St. Cyprian, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, and many other fathers of the Church, assigned certain hours at which to recite the different offices, in such a manner that before the close of the fourth century psalmody seems to have been already regulated in the principal churches of the East. The practice of the Western churches differed, it is true, from that of the churches of the East; many differences even were to be found in the dioceses of the same country. But, during the earlier centuries, it was everywhere customary to perform the principal offices at night, which was divided into four watches of three hours each: these hours were measured by a water-clock, termed clepsydra. The first watch commenced at sunset[221] (ad vesperas), the second at midnight, the third at cockcrow, the fourth at dawn. Towards the fifth century the piety of the early Christians having somewhat abated, it soon became customary not to go to church till the fourth watch, when the whole psalmody, that is to say, the twelve psalms, as there were three psalms in each watch, was got through at one repetition. Hence the name of matins (matutinæ). It would seem that the monks themselves, who were more conservative of ancient rites than the secular priests, commenced about this period to chant the Nocturn and the Laud at the morning hours. Rome alone rigorously preserved the distinction between the offices of the day and those of night.

Fig. 184.—Ancient Legend of Christmas, with the words of the old French plaint. The engravings represent the Sibyl prophesying the Birth of Christ; Jesus in the Stable at Bethlehem; one of the Magi; and John the Baptist announcing that Christ was born.—Fac-simile from a book of hours, printed with illuminations at Paris by Anthoine Vérard, towards the close of the Fifteenth Century.

The Petites Heures were known as Tierce, Sexte, and None; Prime, the first of the[222] canonical hours, was not instituted till the twelfth century, but the other three appear to date from the earliest institution of Christianity. St. Cyprian, who lived in the third century, says that prayers were said at Tierce in honour of the descent of the Holy Ghost, at Sexte in memory of the Crucifixion, and at None to commemorate the death of Christ. Half a century earlier Tertullian wrote that, independently of the mystic traditions consecrated by prayer, the Church, in establishing the canonical hours, wished to conform to the secular division of the day.

Vespers (Vespera), so called from the star Vesper, which rises as the sun is setting, also dates from the origin of the liturgy. The hour of vespers was called lucernarium, because it was necessary to light the lamps at the performance of that service. A hymn exists entitled “Ad incensum lucernæ,” that is, “To the lighting of the lamp.” The Latins as well as the Greeks, until the eighth century, celebrated vespers after sunset; but since that period the usage of Rome, where vespers were said immediately after Nones, prevailed and became universal. Milan, however, still adhered to the primitive form of the rite; vespers were commenced as soon as the evening star appeared above the horizon, and terminated by torchlight. Until the fifth century vespers were the last prayers of the day, and included the psalms, which were said separately in the following century, as a last service, termed Compline, and which at first only contained three psalms—it was not till the ninth century that the thirtieth psalm was added.

The principal libraries of Europe possess several large manuscript volumes written on vellum, as remarkable for their illuminations (Fig. 185) as for the beauty of their calligraphy; they are termed the Evangeliarium, the Lectionarium, and the Liber Benedictionis, and were frequently bound with great magnificence. They belonged to different churches and dioceses which, while generally following the rules of the dogmatic liturgy established by the councils, used several modifications of their own invention. Some of these modifications were important ones, and were due either to local feeling and the peculiarities of the congregation, or arose during the anniversaries, the commemorative festivals of the diocesan ritual. The use of the Evangeliarium dates from St. Jerome. Before him each of the four Gospels formed a separate book, and the four were of different liturgical importance. St. Jerome collected them, arranged them in their proper order, and added marginal notes of the daily offices.


Fig. 185.—The Mystic Fountain, from an Evangeliarium of Charlemagne (Eighth Century), in the National Library of Paris. The jet of water represents the Church, the source of truth; the inner birds the souls of the elect; while those outside seem to personify souls attracted to baptism by divine grace.—From the large work of Count de Bastard.

A hierarchical order with defined powers and privileges existed from the date of the first establishment of Christianity. In his sixth epistle to the Magnesians, St. Ignatius, who had been a disciple of St. Peter, says, “I[224] exhort you to behave, in all things, with that spirit of concord which comes from God; and to look upon the bishop as the representative of God himself in your midst, upon the priests as forming the august senate of the apostles, and upon the deacons as those to whom is intrusted the ministry of Jesus Christ.” The faithful bowed the head to none but the bishop, to ask his blessing; and in the church the bishop occupied a seat raised above that of the priests. The bishops wore a tunic and pallium, or long mantle, a chasuble or dalmatic, and a circlet of gold or polished metal upon the head. The latter was subsequently replaced by the mitre, which for some time was made of cloth, and was a circular pointed cap split at the top (Fig. 186). The primitive insignia of office worn by the bishops were the episcopal ring and the pastoral staff, made of wood, ivory, or metal. They are mentioned as wearing sandals for the first time in the ninth century, and gloves in the twelfth. The bishop of Rome, the first among his brethren (primus inter pares), wielded over the whole Church a supremacy formally enunciated by St. Irenæus, a disciple of St. Polycarp, a contemporary of the apostles. Originally, however, he wore no distinguishing mark of his pre-eminent rank; but towards the fifth century, the term “pope” began to be exclusively applied to him.

After the reformation of his clerks (clerici) by the famous Bishop of Hippona, the former were called canonici, whence the term chanoines, because they led a life in conformity with the canons of the Church. In Africa, in Spain, and in Gaul these canonical clerks lived together and boarded with the bishop, and devoted themselves to science, literature, art, music, and especially to calligraphy. They thus formed a sort of religious school, whence their title of scholastics (scholastici)—a title which they well deserved during the reign of Charlemagne, but which they had ceased to merit at the time of Charles the Bold. The priests attached to each church constituted what was termed the assembly of the presbytery (presbyterium), or the ecclesiastical senate of the bishop of the diocese (senatus ecclesiæ episcopi). It was permissible for the clerks at an early age to enter the minor degrees of their calling, such as those of porter, exorcist, reader, and acolyte; but they were not allowed to assume the higher grades until they had reached a ripe age. The minimum age for the diaconate was thirty years; for the priesthood, thirty-five; ordination, from the fourth century upwards, took place four times a year. We learn from St. Cyprian, who lived in the third[225] century, that from that date it was decreed that this ceremony should only take place in the churches, publicly, at mass.

Fig. 186.—Chasuble, Mitre, and Stole of St. Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (1117–1170); preserved in the Cathedral of Sens.—Cloth and Embroidery of the Twelfth Century.

Before choristers were regularly introduced many churches had psalmists, who constituted a distinct minor order. These psalmists were succeeded by chanting clerks. In the reign of the Emperor Justinian, the metropolitan church of Constantinople possessed twenty-six choristers and a hundred and ten readers. In the fifteenth canon of the Council of Laodicea we read that “none but the canonical choristers are allowed to sing in the church.” The congregation, however, still kept to the custom of joining their voices to those of the choristers.


At first there no doubt existed a special dress worn during the hours of service, but it is supposed that it was only in its colour, which was white, that this dress differed from that worn by the deacons and the priests in everyday life. The maniple (manipulum) and the stole (stola), accessories to the alb, which was the original vestment worn by the priest, were not adopted and consecrated by the liturgy till the third or fourth centuries. The deacons only wore the stole during the sacrament, but the priests wore it continuously, as a mark of their sacerdotal dignity. The use of the chasuble was subsequent to that of the stole, the alb, and the dalmatic. The chasuble is first mentioned in the twenty-seventh canon of the Fourth Council of Toledo (in 527 A.D.).

Prior to the fifth century, the clergy were obliged to wear no distinctive dress in private life. As in the days of the Apostles, the bishops, the priests, the clerks, the deacons, and the choristers wore tunics and sandals, as prescribed by the Saviour in the Gospel of St. Mark (vi. 9). They covered themselves with a square piece of black or brown cloth, which was draped around the figure, and was fastened by neither hook nor tie; beneath it was a plain tunic of a dark colour. In the fifth century Pope Celestinus disapproved of this costume, which caused the followers of Christ to be confounded with the Stoic philosophers. In the sixth century the laity had abandoned the Roman style of costume, and wore short dresses, copied from those of the barbarians who had become the rulers of Gaul; but the Church, careful of the dignity of its ministers, refused to adopt this expensive alteration. Henceforward a broad distinction was established between the dress of the clergy and that of the laity. The Council of Agde (506 A.D.) ordered all clerks to wear clothes and shoes of a peculiar cut, in conformity with their religious profession. Two later councils forbade them the use of the Roman military cloak (sagum) and of purple-coloured stuffs. Gregory the Great forbade his household to wear any dress but the long toga, as the one essentially appropriate to the people of the Church. This costume, with scarcely any modification, was worn by all orthodox ecclesiastics, through all the changes of the Middle Ages, until the seventeenth century.

The priest, when in the exercise of his holy functions, was not expected to make any change in his dress. Still, from the fourth to the ninth century everything seems to show that his proper costume was always white, or at least that it was so during the celebration of the highest ceremonies. St. Chrysostom, feeling the approach of death, and being anxious to partake of[227] the holy sacrament, called for his white vestments, and distributed those he was wearing, even to his shoes, among his assistants. The customs and traditions of the West conformed in this to those of the East. The neophyte was stripped of his worldly garments, he was clad in a white or religious robe (habitus religionis), and was then considered fit to perform his duties. Sometimes, however, the white robes of the sovereign pontiff were adorned with bands of gold or purple. White was not mixed with other tints in the dress of the clergy till towards the ninth century; the five hues admitted by religious symbolism date only from the twelfth century.

Fig. 187.—Romanesque perforated Handbell, representing the symbols of the Four Evangelists (Twelfth Century).—From the Archæological Museum at Rheims.

Charlemagne, who was proud of his thorough acquaintance with the liturgy, who esteemed it an honour to wear, on high occasions, the green chasuble embroidered with gold, and to chant the epistles before the assembled congregations, took the greatest pains with all the ceremonies of the Church; and it is an undoubted fact that the pomp with which they were afterwards celebrated was inaugurated by him.

Charlemagne and his successors, Louis the Affable and Charles the[228] Bald, did not, however, content themselves with merely attending to ceremonial pomp; they did their best to introduce a principle of unity in conformity with the Roman liturgy. At the commencement of the eighth century Pope Adrian I., having sent to Charlemagne an antiphonary scored by St. Gregory himself, the Emperor ordered all the churches in his dominions to adopt the Gregorian chant. Thenceforward the ancient Gallican liturgy almost disappeared, and when Charles the Bald was desirous of comparing together the Greek, Roman, and Gallican liturgies, he was obliged to summon ecclesiastics from Toledo to officiate in his presence according to the Gallican rite. Charles preferred the Roman ritual; but notwithstanding this, each diocesan cathedral, each separate abbey, introduced into the Gallo-Roman liturgy various accessory forms differing more or less from one another.

It is possible to trace back to the sixth century the first use of church bells, but their general introduction into the Western church dates from the eighth century. They were termed seings (in Latin signa); they were not rung, but were simply struck with wooden or metal hammers (Fig. 187), as is still done south of the Pyrenees. From this practice comes the word toc-seing or tocsin, applied to the municipal peals of the Middle Ages and of still later times. The organ (organum) also dates from the eighth century. Imperfect as this instrument originally was, it caused tremendous enthusiasm among its hearers. Indeed, it may be said that organs and church bells had an equal share in raising the prestige of the ceremonial liturgy, which charmed and captivated both the senses and the souls of its hearers, by the display of its numerous officiating clergy, by the solemn gravity of its chants, by the noble simplicity of the vestments, and by the chaste and majestic arrangement of its ritual.

Fig. 188.—The Triumph of the Lamb.—Christ, typified as the spotless lamb, with a glory round his head and holding the cross, is at the feet of God the Father; around him are the Four Evangelists, represented by their typical attributes, and resting upon wheels of fire. The archangels are bringing him their offerings. The firmament is supported by four angels. Beneath is St. John explaining the Apocalypse to his commentator.—From a Miniature in the “Commentary upon the Apocalypse,” by Beatus; a Manuscript of the Twelfth Century, in the Collection of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

Under the last Carlovingians the liturgy gradually deteriorated; less in the East perhaps than in the West, less at Rome and Milan perhaps than elsewhere, but everywhere the signs of deplorable relaxation and falling away were manifest. The choristers attempted to assume the privileges of the clerks; the deacons arrogated to themselves impossible rights of independence; the priests despised the bishops, and too frequently the bishops, presuming on their power, had the audacity to disobey the pontifical decrees. This change and deterioration principally showed itself in the psalmody, in the chants, in the adornment of the sanctuary, and in the dress of the[229] ecclesiastics. The Byzantine methods of treatment, as applied to architectural monuments and to the various forms of Christian art, did something to preserve the traditions of the liturgy, but from the close of the tenth century till[230] the twelfth much confusion prevailed in the Latin Church. It was reserved for the Crusades, after a century and a half of adventurous expeditions, to bring back from countries beyond the sea, from Antioch, from Constantinople, and from Jerusalem, the elements and the principles of a Neo-Greek liturgy, in which the degenerate Gallo-Roman was as it were saturated, and its whole character remodelled.

The Catholic liturgy thus underwent a touching and marvellous transformation; this transformation was inaugurated by the construction of new churches, in which the Romanesque style gave place to that of the Ogive or Gothic; by the erection of slender belfries, recalling the minarets of the Mahometan mosques; by the introduction of transparent pictures on painted glass; by the chaste but splendid appointments of the chapels; by the dazzling decorations of the altars; by the melody of the church bells, the sonorous messengers of religion calling the faithful to prayer; and by the harmony of the human voice with the organ and other musical instruments. A complete and ingenious symbolism was contained in this comprehensive allegorical ritual, and rendered the liturgy a veritable sanctuary of Christian instruction and sacred tradition, each mystery (Fig. 188), each precept of which penetrated into the soul, as it were, through the medium of the senses.

In the thirteenth century, when the celebrated William Durand, Bishop of Mende, wrote his “Rationale of Divine Service,” a complete collection of the liturgy of the day, this sort of canonical legislation became settled as much as a matter could be which the bishops and even the mere priests were continually modifying. William Durand, following the example of his predecessors, included many innovations which were to be lamented, many eccentric rites foreign to the traditions of the primitive church, and lowering to the dignity of divine worship. Enlightened minds felt the truth of this, and the Council of Trent found it necessary to demand a liturgical reform. In consequence of this demand Pope Pius V., in 1568, issued the corrected form of the Roman Breviary, and, in 1570, the new Missal. As the principal object was to reform the errors which had crept in in later times, the dioceses which possessed rituals of at least two hundred years old could either preserve their own customs or adopt the Breviary and the Missal of Pius V.

The Church has deviated as little as possible from its ancient ceremonial, particularly in what concerns the administration of the sacraments. Nevertheless, seven sacraments, which we will rapidly notice in the order in which[231] they are enumerated by the Council of Trent, were formerly accompanied by certain ceremonies which the change of manners and customs has caused to fall into disuse, and which we shall mention merely as a proof of their antiquity.

Fig 189.—Three Sacraments: Baptism, which inaugurates life; Confirmation, which strengthens childhood; and Penance, which reconciles manhood.

Left portion of the triptych painted on panel by Roger Van der Weyden (Rogier del Pasturle).—From the Antwerp Museum (Fifteenth Century).]

1. Baptism, which St. Peter had given by aspersion to the three thousand persons whom he converted by his first sermon, was also given in primitive times by immersion; finally infusion (from the Latin verb infundere, to sprinkle) was adopted in the manner in which it is practised in our own day (Figs. 189 and 190).


2. Confirmation was administered immediately after baptism, when only adults were admitted to the latter sacrament; but when baptism was administered to new-born infants, confirmation had to be postponed till the receivers of the rite were old enough to answer for themselves—that is to say, until they were capable of distinguishing between good and evil (Fig. 189).

3. The Eucharist from the earliest times was administered under the name of communion to those in sound health, and under the name of viaticum to those at the point of death (Figs. 192 and 193).

Fig. 190.—The Ship of Baptism, a Flemish work of the Sixteenth Century, in chiselled gold and silver; from the Collection of M. Onghena, at Ghent.—When a child was baptized, it was the custom in the Low Countries to drink the infant’s health in a cup of spiced wine. The cup, shaped like a boat, is typical of the voyage of life: an aged knight is at the helm, two others are fencing together, a sailor adjusts the rigging, the wind fills the sail, and at the mast-head the look-out scans the horizon. The Flemish device runs thus: “A fortunate voyage to the new-born.”

The communion, that is to say the host, was received in the hand, and was administered by the communicant himself. After the sixth century women were enjoined to receive it in a white veil, termed dominical, with which they lifted[233] it to their mouths without touching it with their hands. In 880 the Council of Rouen decreed that in future the sacrament was only to be received at the hand of the officiating priest. Until the thirteenth century the communion was always preceded by the kiss of love; the men embraced the men, and the women the women. After the distribution of bread the deacons came forward with two-handled cups of large dimensions, containing wine for the communicants, which each tasted through a golden pipe (Fig. 191).

Fig. 191.—Sacramental Cup; a work of the Twelfth Century, in silver gilt, from the Abbey of the Benedictines of Witten, near Inspruck.

Fig. 192.—The Sacrament of the Eucharist, which keeps youth holy.—Central portion of the triptych, by Roger Van der Weyden, in the Antwerp Museum (Fifteenth Century).

4. Penance, the obligatory practice of which was reduced to once a year by the fourth Lateran Council, had always for its aim the absolution from sin consequent upon confession.

Excommunication, the extreme punishment inflicted upon great sinners, was pronounced by the faint light of a wax taper, which the priest afterwards extinguished and trampled under foot. In some countries the populace used to carry a bier to the door of the excommunicated person; stones were hurled against his dwelling, and all kinds of foul abuse were heaped upon him. Of a still more solemn nature was the excommunication pronounced by the pope himself on Holy Thursday, in virtue of the bull termed In Cœna Domini, against all who appealed to the general council against the decrees and the ordinances of the pontiffs; against the princes[234] who exacted unfair tribute from ecclesiastics; and against heretics, pirates, &c. A deacon read the bull from the balcony (loggia, an open tribunal) of[235] St. Peter’s in the presence of the pope, who, as a symbol of anathema, dashed a lighted torch of yellow wax into the open court of the Vatican, which the assistants hastened to extinguish by trampling upon it. It was also on Holy Thursday that the reconciliation of the penitents took place, that is to say, their general absolution, to enable them to take part in the mysteries of Easter.

Fig. 193.—Legend of the passage of the viaticum across a wooden bridge, at Utrecht, in 1277. Some dancers having allowed the host to pass without discontinuing their dances, the bridge suddenly gave way and two hundred persons were drowned in the river.—Fac-simile of an Engraving upon Wood by P. Wolgemuth, in the “Liber Chronicarum Mundi:” Nuremberg, 1493, in folio.

5. Extreme unction has always been given to sick people in danger of death, according to the recommendation of the Apostle St. James. The material of which this sacrament is composed is the oil of the infirm, but we can see from old rituals that the place and number of the unctions have varied at different times in the administration of this sacrament (Fig. 194).

6. Orders. Besides the higher orders, which were conferred as they are in our own day, the Church included from the earliest times the four minor[236] orders, which were bestowed, as now, upon the tonsured clerks; that is to say, the orders of porter, reader, exorcist, and acolyte.

Fig. 194.—Three Sacraments: Marriage, at full manhood; Orders, at old age; and Extreme Unction, at death. Right portion of the triptych painted on panel by Roger Van der Weyden.—Antwerp Museum. Fifteenth Century.

The consecration of abbots and abbesses, although made with a great deal of ceremony, was not considered as an ordination, but only as a benediction. The bishop, after giving the abbot the communion under the form of bread, blessed him, placed a mitre on his head, and gave him his gloves, the symbols of his rank, with the customary prayers. The abbot’s crosier and ring were[237] bestowed upon him before the offertory. Alexander II., elected pope in 1061, was the first to confer upon abbots the privilege of wearing the mitre. Abbesses also enjoyed the right of carrying the crosier; they received it from the hands of the bishop, together with the pastoral cross and ring. In the synods and councils the abbots were only allowed to wear a mitre ornamented with orfroi (a golden fringe), but devoid of pearls and precious stones; the bishops wore the precious mitre, that is to say, one ornamented with pearls and jewels.

7. The ceremony of marriage has altered but little. In old days, however, it was celebrated at the door and not in the interior of the church. In the ninth century the priest placed jewelled crowns upon the heads of husband and wife; these crowns were made in the shape of a tower, and were afterwards kept near the altar.

Most religious ceremonies were accompanied with processions; but besides these there were great public processions varying according to the country and the diocese in which they took place. They were regulated by special liturgies, which formed a separate ritual termed processional. The procession of palms or of branches, which takes place the Sunday before Easter, in remembrance of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, had for a long time been customary in the East, when towards the sixth or seventh century it was adopted by the Latin church, which frequently added scenic accessories, intended to make a still deeper impression on the minds of the spectators. This ancient festival was distinguished by many names; by some it was termed the Hosanna, in memory of the acclamations with which Jesus was received in Jerusalem; by others the Sunday of Indulgences, on account of the indulgences distributed by the Church on that holy day. In old times verses from the Gospels, inscribed upon a richly ornamented banner surrounded with palm-leaves, were carried in this procession, and it was frequently also accompanied by the chalice containing the host, in the midst of consecrated branches. It was, as a rule, customary that the ashes employed for the ceremony of Ash Wednesday should be those of the branches carried in the procession of the preceding year, and which were carefully preserved from year to year, and burnt when thoroughly desiccated.

In 1262 Pope Urban IV. confirmed and extended to the whole of Christendom the statute of Robert, Bishop of Liége; who, being of opinion that the ceremony of the eucharist ought to be celebrated in a more solemn[239] manner than it was possible to do upon Holy Thursday, the day set aside for the reconciliation of penitents, had decreed that every year, on the first Thursday after Pentecost, the festival of Corpus Christi, or the Fête-Dieu should take place (Fig. 195); the office for which, the same as is used in our own day, was composed by St. Thomas d’Aquinas.

Fig. 195.—Procession of the Host, in Paris: “The procession proceeds from the Maison aux Piliers, the ancient Hôtel de Ville, to the Place de Grève. To the left may be seen Jean Juvénal des Ursins, on his knees before the host, which is carried on a species of litter by a couple of monks of the Sainte-Chapelle, and surrounded by the clerks of the brotherhood crowned with wreaths of roses and carrying large lighted tapers.... To the right, and towards the banks of the Seine, and in front of the floating piles of wood, is the great Croix de Grève. On the other side of the Seine may be seen the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.”—From a Miniature in the Manuscript of the “Hours of Juvénal des Ursins,” presented by M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot to the town of Paris, and burnt in 1871 in the conflagration of the Hôtel de Ville.

Fig. 196.—Solemn Procession made on the 7th September, 1513, by the clergy and inhabitants of Dijon, to obtain from Our Lady the relief of the town, at that time besieged by the Swiss. The ceremony was afterwards renewed every year at the same epoch; it was termed the “Festival of Our Lady of the Swiss.”—Tapestry of the Sixteenth Century, in the Dijon Museum.—From a copy in the possession of M. Ach. Jubinal.


The procession termed Litanies majeures, first instituted in 589 by Pope Pelagius II., owed its origin to a plague that desolated Rome after an inundation of the Tiber.

In 474 St. Mamert, Archbishop of Vienne, in Dauphiny, in order to thank God for having delivered his diocese from the scourges which desolated it, and from the wild beasts which ravaged it, founded the procession of Rogations, which took place during the three days which precede the feast of the Ascension. This procession was ordered for the whole of France by the Council of Orleans in 511; but it only came into use at Rome towards the close of the eighth century, under Pope Leo III.

Fig. 197.—Pentecost.—Fac-simile of a Miniature from the “Psalmody of St. Louis.”—Manuscript of the Thirteenth Century, in the National Library, Paris.

The procession which precedes the mass of Ascension Thursday is of the highest antiquity; but nowhere was it carried out with greater ceremony, or attended by a larger number of pilgrims, than at the church built in Palestine by St. Helen, mother of Constantine, on the very spot where the ascension took place, and where still might be seen on the stone[241] the last footprints of our Saviour, as He left this earth and ascended to heaven.

Fig. 198.—The Adoration of the Magi.—From a pax attributed to Maso Finiguerra (Fifteenth Century), preserved at Florence. One of the kings is on his knees, and has taken off his crown to present incense and myrrh to the Infant Jesus; the others are riding towards the manger, escorted by their varlets and pages, and followed by a long caravan; there are angels on the roof playing the viol and the lute.

In fact, in the Middle Ages there were an immense number of festivals which gave rise to processions (Fig. 196) and to other religious ceremonies. It must not be forgotten that all great festivals were indifferently termed Easters. The anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the great Easter, and in order to prepare worthily for it, the body was purified by baths, and the hair and the beard were cut, as tokens of the care with which the Christian ought to preserve the purity of his soul, and to remove the vices that infect the unregenerated man. The Nativity, Epiphany, Ascension, and Pentecost were also called Easter. In some churches, at Great Easter,[242] dramatic representations were given of the mysteries the festival celebrated. A procession was undertaken to a tomb cut in a rock. Three women and two men in Israelitish dress represented the three Marys and the disciples John and Peter, and others dressed in white, with crowns on their heads and wings on their shoulders, played the part of the angels who communed with them.

Pentecost (Fig. 197), or the Easter of Roses, was accompanied with the same dramatic and religious accessories. In many churches during mass, at the words Veni, Sancte Spiritus, a sudden blast of the trumpet was given to recall the great noise in the midst of which the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles. Sometimes, indeed, to add to the scenic imitation of the mystery, tongues of fire fell from the roof, or a shower of red rose-leaves took place; and doves, emblems of the Holy Ghost, were allowed to flutter about the church.

Fig. 199.—Knife with which the consecrated bread was cut; on the blade may be read on one side a prayer for a blessing on the food, on the other a thanksgiving, both with music (Sixteenth Century).—Collection of M. Ach. Jubinal, Paris.

Fig. 200.—Altar of the ancient Cathedral of Arras (Thirteenth Century), now destroyed; from a picture of the Sixteenth Century preserved in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Arras.—The angels on the top of the columns bear the instruments of the Passion. Along the summit of the screen are placed six reliquaries containing the relics of different saints; they form a retinue for Jesus, the chief of all martyrs. The tabernacle is not a heavy square case, but a suspended casket borne by an angel, who appears to descend from heaven. Higher up three angels collect in the mysterious cup of the Grail the blood which flows from the feet and hands of the crucified Jesus.

At high festivals the mass was followed by the ceremony of the offering, at which all present were expected to deposit a coin in a plate, and kiss the emblem of good-will presented to them (Fig. 198). This offering was in memory of an ancient custom. The offerings, which in the primitive Church the faithful were accustomed to make every day, consisted of bread and wine. They were placed before the altar at the commencement of the second part of the mass, after the reading of the Gospel and of the Apostles’ Creed. The capitularies of the early Frankish kings prescribed that neophytes were to offer bread and wine at least every Sunday. Until the eighth or ninth century, some authors assert that for the sacrifice of the[243] mass, either leavened or unleavened bread was used indifferently; but since that period leavened bread has only been in use in the Eastern Church. From this epoch, also, the offered bread was no longer used except for[244] distribution to the people, as a symbol of the communion, and it then took the name of eulogy or consecrated bread (Fig. 199). These pieces of bread, which the assisting priests and deacons offered successively at the altar upon white napkins, were of a round shape. They were termed hoops, crowns, and wheels. The custom of offering bread and wine whilst holding a lighted taper in the hand has been handed down, and still exists at burials in many dioceses.

The altar where the offerings were made was surmounted by a cupola (called ciborium) sustained by four columns, between which were curtains, which were closed during part of the service to hide the sacred mysteries about to take place (Fig. 200). In the middle of the cupola, above the altar, a hollow dove, made of gold or silver, was suspended (Fig. 201); in this the eucharist for the sick was kept. This silver dove was replaced at a later period by the tabernacle.

Fig. 201.—Dove suspended above the altar, containing the eucharistic box (Thirteenth Century).—“Studies upon the Archæology of the Altar,” by Laib and Schwarz.

We have thus seen that time has only brought about slight modifications in the liturgy of the Church; on the other hand, we can satisfy ourselves that nothing is left to conjecture or hypothesis; the most searching criticism only affirms the truths of tradition. M. Paul Allard, a distinguished writer, has expressed this in a very happy manner in his work, “Subterranean Rome.” “For two centuries,” he says, “the soil of Rome has been searched and dug up with indefatigable ardour, in the hope of discovering the source of the first Christian institutions, the very origin of the Church, catacombs have been thrown open to the day, thousands of inscriptions have been laid bare, and rare and precious paintings have been copied, or are still to be seen. From these subterranean labours, which have left nothing to conjecture, the history of the origin of Christianity has emerged, complete and renovated, but differing in nothing from that which tradition has handed down to us, and which, confirmed as to a great number of points, has been shaken in none.”



Influence of the Papacy in the Reformation of Early Society.—St. Leo the Great.—Origin of the Temporal Power of the Popes.—Gregory the Great.—The Iconoclastic Emperors.—Stephen III. delivered by France.—Charlemagne crowned Emperor of the West.—Photius.—The Diet of Worms.—Gregory VII.; his Plan for a Christian Republic.—Urban II.—The Crusades.—Calixtus II.; Termination of the Dispute as to Investiture.—Innocent III.—Struggle of Boniface VIII. against Philippe le Bel.—The great Western Schism.—Council of Florence.—Battle of Lepanto.—Council of Trent.

During the Middle Ages the popes exercised an appreciable influence upon society, personifying as they did the Christian element which was destined to regenerate the old world. “A doctrine emanating from Asia was not to subjugate, but to convert Europe, to associate political and religious truth, and, by the force of conscience against idolatry, and of resignation against tyranny, to restore the human race in all its dignity under the one true God. With the power of the sword sprung up that of opinion, which, independent of its rival, sustained the cause of progress in its struggle against this same power of the sword, and prevented it from being overthrown. The Church, representing the people and opening the way to the emancipation of all who were weighed down by conquest and by force, was unable to destroy servitude, legalised violence, and rapine at one blow, but it encountered them with a reproving doctrine and a condemning God.

“Nero and Domitian soon found themselves face to face with Peter and Linus;—the first, armed masters of the world, having upon their side legality,[246] which is so different from justice, representatives of the old world which cried out in the circus, ‘To the lions with the Christians!’—the latter, poor, weak, misunderstood, and calumniated, propagating the kingdom of God by authority, education, ceremonies, and example; declaring that unto Cæsar should be rendered the things which are Cæsar’s, but nothing more, neither worship nor the sacrifice of one’s sentiments and convictions.”—(Cantù.)

Fig. 202.—The Jewish Religion assisting at the death of Jesus Christ. The figure has a bandage over the eyes, the Decalogue is falling from its hands, and its spear is broken to pieces.—Sculpture in Strasburg Cathedral (Thirteenth Century).—From a Photograph by Charles de Winter, of Strasburg.

This struggle, begun by St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, and first pope, and continued by his successor St. Linus, went on for three centuries. Nevertheless the popes, unchecked by persecutions, had effected the moral conquest of the Roman world,—even the palace of the Cæsars was full of Christians when their legal existence became recognised by Constantine. The seat of the empire was transferred to Byzantium; the luxury[247] and effeminacy of the East enervated the degenerated race of the Cæsars, while under the influence of the Bishops of Rome, officially recognised at that date as the sovereign pontiffs of the Christians, the West continued to advance rapidly in the path of modern civilisation.

Fig. 203.—The Christian Religion assisting at the death of Jesus Christ. Crowned and triumphant, the figure holds in one hand the standard of the cross, and in the other the chalice of the eucharist.—Sculpture in Strasburg Cathedral (Thirteenth Century).—From a Photograph by Charles de Winter, of Strasburg.

The emperors, converted to Christianity, ere long became the opponents of the popes; “laying aside the sword of defence for disputations on theology.” Their weakness handed the West over to the Germanic races; primitive society, whose organization still remained heathen, despite the change in religious belief, was swallowed up by the invasion of these Northerners, whose institutions facilitated the triumph of the ideas of political liberty and equality, the germ of which was deposited in the Gospel.


Fig. 204.—The spiritual and the temporal powers dependent upon Jesus Christ, who is handing to St. Peter the keys and to Constantine the standard surmounted by the cross.—Mosaic of the Tenth Century in the Basilica of St. John of Lateran, at Rome.

The papacy of the Middle Ages was first made illustrious by Leo I., surnamed the Great. Called to be Bishop of Rome by the people and the clergy in 440, when twenty years of age, he rendered the greatest possible services to civilisation during the twenty-two years of his reign. His preachings, his writings, his decrees, aimed chiefly at the education of his clergy and his flock, at the maintenance of the Nicene Creed (Fig. 206), the moral improvement of the clergy, and the upholding of discipline. He fought the heretics with equal energy and authority; he continued the struggle of orthodoxy against the errors which attacked the dogma of the Incarnation, which is the basis of Christianity, and upheld with vigilant perseverance the primitive doctrine of the Church, so clearly defined and proclaimed during the reign of one of his predecessors at the Council of Ephesus in 431. He was, above all things, a skilful diplomatist and a great politician. He firmly maintained the[249] apostolic pre-eminence of Rome over Constantinople—a pre-eminence which was, moreover, recognised by the Council of Chalcedon.

Fig. 205.—St. Peter.—Fac-simile of a Wood Engraving of the Old Masters, by Hans Baldung, otherwise Grum (1470–1550), in the National Library, Paris.

Fig. 206.—A Council held in the ninth or tenth century to commemorate the second Council of Nice.—From a Miniature of a menologium in the Vatican Library (Manuscript of the Tenth Century).

The empire, like the Church, needed such a man as St. Leo in its days of adversity. The invasion of the barbarians was triumphant in the West, and nearly all of the conquerors were either Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ, or idolaters. Leo triumphed over all these calamities. Rome had already been ravished by Alaric in 410, but even he respected the churches in[250] which the population had fled for refuge. Attila, at the head of seven hundred thousand men, marched on Rome for the purpose of devastating it with fire and sword; resistance seemed out of the question, and the Emperor was preparing to escape. Amidst the universal panic, Pope Leo, accompanied by a consul, went out to meet the dreaded chieftain, and induced him to turn back.

Some years later, Genseric poured his vandals into Italy, and again Leo boldly presented himself before his fierce assailant, and made him renounce his intention of burning the city and slaying the inhabitants. Thus did circumstances lead the way for the temporal power of the popes in Rome, of which they eventually became the sole guardians and defenders.

But the genius of Leo served only to defer the downfall of the Western Empire, which was doomed to disappear fifteen years after his death. His successors continued to protect Italy, so far as in them lay, against the horrors of war; and Pope Agapetus, though weighed down by years, undertook the perilous mission of going to Constantinople to make peace between the Emperor of the East and the King of the Visigoths. A few years afterwards, Pope Pelagius I. had the courage to seek an interview with Totila, and so preserve Rome from massacre and dishonour. Pelagius II., who kept within bounds the Lombards, at that time masters of Italy, was succeeded by Gregory I., surnamed Gregory the Great, one of the most illustrious of the Roman pontiffs.

Gregory, whose father was a Roman senator, and whose mother was canonised, was prætor or chief magistrate of Rome, and his administration had gained for him great popularity when, by his father’s death, he inherited a large fortune. This enabled him to found seven monasteries, and, having distributed the remainder of his money amongst the poor, he became a monk in the Abbey of St. Andrew, which he had founded previous to his entering the priesthood. Chosen as pope on September 3, 590, he, in spite of his resistance to the clergy, the senators, and the people, immediately made his profession of faith in the customary manner. He converted the Lombards, who were professed Arians, and even idolaters. This was no small triumph, for it meant the peaceful subjection, or rather the alliance of a warlike people, whose close neighbourhood to Rome had been a constant cause of alarm. It was especially in his relations with the court of Constantinople that Gregory displayed all the loftiness of his character. While he bridled[251] the ambition of the Lombards, so as to preserve for the emperors of the East their Italian possessions (Fig. 207), he defended with equal energy and tact the independence of the Church and the interests of the Italians against the unjust pretensions of the Byzantine Court. He rendered more distinct the rôle of the papacy in the Middle Ages, which was to uphold the purity of dogma as opposed to heresy against the theological pretensions of emperors, to protect also the Catholic population, vanquished and often persecuted by new masters, whether pagan or heretic; and, lastly, to convey the tidings of the Gospel to the most remote nations of the earth.

Fig. 207.—St Michael the Archangel, Minister of God, offering to a Byzantine Emperor the globe surmounted by the cross, the symbol of the imperial power.—A leaf of an ivory dyptic or tablet of the Sixth Century, preserved in the British Museum.—From a copy by M. J. Labarte. The second leaf of this dyptic being lost, the Greek inscription, which signifies, “Receive this object, and learning the cause,” is incomplete, and its meaning enigmatical.

To this great pope appertains the glory of having converted England by means of the missionaries whom he sent thither. “There is nothing grander in the history of Europe,” said Bossuet, “than the entry of St. Augustine into Kent with forty of his companions, who, preceded by the cross and image of the Great King our Lord Jesus Christ, prayed fervently for the conversion of England. St. Gregory, who had sent them forth, edified them by truly apostolic letters, and constrained St. Augustine to tremble with amazement at the numerous miracles which God wrought through him. Bertha, a French princess, brought her husband, King Ethelbert, over to Christianity. The kings of France and Queen Brunehild supported this new mission. The French bishops entered cordially into this good work, and, by order of the pope, they consecrated St. Augustine. The support which St. Gregory gave to the new bishop bore abundant fruit, and the Anglican Church was thus formed.”[13]


Amidst these important engagements, the activity of Gregory found time to superintend the relief of the poor and the education of the young. He built schools and hospitals in Rome, and increased the splendour of the church services by a judicious and well-conceived reform of sacred music. M. F. Clement, in his history of religious music, says, “St. Gregory, not content with regulating the antiphon for every service throughout the year, also founded a school of singing at Rome, and personally superintended the teaching there. While other masters were entrusted with the task of giving lessons in one division of the school, at St. Peter’s in the Vatican, he directed another section of St. John of Lateran. We read in the life of this pontiff, written by John the Deacon, that, compelled by his infirmities to lie at full length upon a couch, he still taught the children singing, and that the staff which he used for beating time is still preserved.”

A century after his death, two popes of the same name who succeeded each other, Gregory II. and Gregory III., recalled to mind the virtues, and above all the firmness of their glorious predecessor. They had to struggle against the extraordinary pretensions of the emperors of the East, who declared themselves iconoclasts—that is, breakers of images. Alleging certain abuses, brought about by the ignorance of some unenlightened Christians, Leo the Isaurian published in 726 an edict commanding the destruction of the images—the crucifixes and the statues—throughout the whole empire. Neither the clergy nor their flocks had ever seen any sign of idolatry in the worship of these images, which were venerated as sacred symbols and respected like family portraits. The Patriarch of Constantinople, refusing to obey this edict, was banished. This new heresy was severely rebuked by Gregory II., and after him by Gregory III. The latter replied to the emperor, who had requested him to convoke a council, in these noble words, “You have written asking us to assemble an œcumenical council; it would be futile, as you alone persecute the images; cease these evil deeds, and the world will be at peace, and scandals will come to an end. Do you not see that your crusade against the images is an act of revolt against the Church and of presumption? The churches were enjoying a period of profound tranquillity when you excited this tempest of disputes; put an end to the schism, and then there will be no need of a council.” This apostolic firmness excited the wrath of Leo, who dispatched against Rome a fleet of vessels carrying a large body of troops, but they were lost in the Adriatic.


Trasmund, Duke of Spoleto, and the Duke of Benevento, having risen in revolt against Luitprand, King of the Lombards, took refuge in Rome. Gregory received them very cordially, and refused to deliver them up to their redoubtable suzerain. Luitprand at once marched upon Rome, and Gregory demanded help from Charles Martel—which, however, he declined to give; and the good pope died just in time to be saved from witnessing the sack of the Eternal City (741).

Zachariah, a Greek by birth, accepted the succession left vacant by Gregory III. under such critical circumstances; but he negotiated so skilfully with Luitprand, that the king not only gave back to the pontifical domain four towns which he had already seized, but further added, as an irrevocable gift, the territories of the Sabines, Narnia, Ossimo, and Ancona, and consented to evacuate the exarchy of Ravenna, occupied by his troops. Zacharias enjoyed an equal amount of credit with the Emperor Constantinus Copronymus, who granted him, in the interest of the Roman Church, concessions which were more than could have been expected from an irritated suzerain. All the sovereigns of his time seemed anxious to have recourse to his advice. Charlemagne, son of Charles Martel, and Rachis, King of the Lombards, went to Rome for the purpose of seeing him, and he invited both of them to enter the monastery of Monte-Cassino.

Stephen III., elected by acclamation to succeed Zachariah (752), was carried from the public square to the Lateran Church upon the shoulders of his supporters; and this custom has since been adhered to in cases where the election has been unanimous.

He had concluded peace for forty years with Astolfo, King of the Lombards, but that ambitious monarch failed to keep his engagements, as, a short time afterwards, he drove the exarch Eutychius out of Ravenna, and then, claiming for himself all the rights of the emperor, he aspired to become master of Rome (753). This unjust warfare was fortunately carried on so slowly that the sovereign-pontiff had time to go to France and intercede with King Pepin for help against Astolfo. The French army was sent over the Alps, and Astolfo had to submit, and to hand over Ravenna to the people, and surrender the hostages. Stephen returned to Rome, accompanied by Prince Jérôme, the brother of Pepin; but in the following year Astolfo again took up arms, and Pepin, who had again crossed the Alps, this time compelled him to abandon definitely the exarchate of twenty-two towns, together with the territories[254] attached to them, which he made over absolutely to St. Peter and his successors. This, with the Duchy of Rome, constituted the temporal dominion of the Church.

A few years later Adrian I., who had avoided falling into the political snares laid for him by Didier, appealed to Charlemagne for his intervention, and the latter, crossing the Alps, laid siege to Pavia, the capital of the Lombard kings, took Didier prisoner, and sent him to the monastery of Corbie. Not content with delivering Rome, Charlemagne, during the two visits which he paid to that city, during and after the war, confirmed the gift solemnly made by his father of the territories which were to be inalienably annexed to the Holy See; and, at the same time, he added the coast of Genoa, Corsica, Mantua, Venetia, Istria, the duchies of Spoleto, Benevento, and the entire exarchate over its thirty towns.

Adrian had the consolation of seeing the heresies of the iconoclasts condemned by the second Nicene Council; and the Empress Irene and her son Constantine submitted to the decision.

Adrian died in 795. His successor, Leo III., sent to the great Emperor of the Franks the standard of the city of Rome, and the keys of the Confession of St. Peter, as to the protector of the Eternal City. The emperor responded to this homage by the gift of immense treasure which he had taken from the enemy, and the pope devoted the greater part of it to the decorating of the Lateran Palace, and various churches.

Fig. 208.—Byzantine Dalmatic, said to have belonged to Leo III., but probably dating from the Twelfth Century, preserved in the Treasury of St. Peter’s at Rome. Upon this garment, which is of dark-blue silk, are several designs embroidered in gold and colours. The most remarkable is one upon the front representing Christ in his glory. Seated upon a rainbow, with his feet upon two circles of fire and the right hand stretched out, he holds in his left the New Testament, which is open at the following passage: “Come unto me, ye chosen of my Father.” Above his head is seen the cross with the crowns of thorns. Around him is a choir of angels, the Virgin, the saints, David and Solomon, the bishops and the religious orders; below, to the right and to the left, St. John the Baptist, and Abraham receiving the souls of the just; above, on the two shoulders, Jesus is giving the Holy Communion to the Apostles, the wine being administered on one side and the bread on the other.

A conspiracy, which Leo III. only escaped by climbing the walls of Rome and by taking refuge with the Duke of Spoleto, who had marched to his succour, gave him an opportunity for going to see Charlemagne at Paderborn, who promised to come himself into Italy to confound the enemies of the holy father; in the meanwhile he dispatched commissioners to Rome, who reinstated the pope in his pontifical city (November 30, 799). Charlemagne came to Rome in the following year, when, convoking an assembly of the people, he declared the object of his visit and summoned the accusers of the pope to appear before his tribunal. As they did not dare to put in an appearance, he declared that the holy father should be allowed to justify himself on oath. Then in the great cathedral of St. Peter, in the presence of a vast concourse of people, Leo, with his hand upon the books of the Evangelists, cried out, “I know nothing of the crimes with which the Romans have charged me.” His declaration was received with shouts of applause that rung[255] through, the vaults of the sacred edifice. Charlemagne, who had returned to St. Peter’s on Christmas Day, for the service, knelt before the altar. The pope,[256] upstanding before him, placed upon his forehead a golden crown studded with jewels and proclaimed him emperor, thus giving him a real supremacy over all the Christian princes and people of the West. (Figs. 208 and 209.)

Fig. 209.—The Coronation of an Emperor by the Pope, the Sovereign being represented by Maximilian I.—From “Des Sainctes Ceremonies,” a Manuscript of the Sixteenth Century, in M. Ruggieri’s Collection.

The popes who were contemporary with the successors of Charlemagne, though not of special note, governed the Church with wise moderation; and as they were all patrons of the Fine Arts, Rome is indebted to them for some of her chief embellishments. Leo IV., in 847, was compelled to make Rome secure from an attack by the Saracens, who were always making incursions up to its very walls. For this purpose he constructed around the church of St. Peter a regular town—the Leonine city—which he fortified with high[257] towers. He also fortified the places near Rome, and founded a new city, called Leopolis, which he surrounded with ramparts. Rome thus being out of danger, he imitated the example of his predecessors by ornamenting the churches, to which he gave paintings and other works of art of the value of 5,971 silver marks. The fabulous story of Pope Joan—who was said to have been elected pope, and to have concealed her sex, though she was shortly after expelled, after some great scandal—is placed by historians between Leo IV. and Benedict III.; but the falsity of the story is manifest, for there was no interregnum between the death of Leo, upon July 17th, 855, and the election of Benedict.

Nicholas I. (858–867), anathematized Photius, the usurping Patriarch of Constantinople. The empire having fallen to Michael III., a child of three years old, his mother Theodora, assisted by his uncle Bardas, carried on the government in his name. When this prince grew up, Bardas ousted Theodora, and, in order to maintain himself in power, pandered to the passions of his nephew. Michael gave himself up to such scandalous excesses that the Patriarch Ignatius excluded him from the church, and excommunicated Bardas. In six days, Photius, a layman who could be depended upon to do as he was told, was made patriarch in the room of Ignatius. This was the prelude to the separation of the Greek Church. Photius added heresy to his revolt against the pope, by asserting that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father only, and not from the Son. Nicholas’ successor, Adrian II., appointed his legates to preside at the council which deposed the Patriarch Photius. He also upheld the sentence of his predecessor against Lothair, whom he compelled to renounce his adulterous union with Valdrade. When that prince came before him to partake of the sacrament, the pope said in a loud tone of voice, as he presented the host, “If thou hast given up thy adultery, if thou hast broken off all connection with Valdrade, may this sacrament comfort thee! But if thy heart is still perverse, it will be for thy punishment.” This lofty firmness of speech was all the more praiseworthy because the pope, in thus maintaining the rights of morality, had to defy and admonish a prince who had delivered Rome from the Saracens. No one can tell whether the doubt expressed by Adrian, as to the sincerity of Lothair’s conversion, was well grounded or not; but it is at least certain that the latter died forty days afterwards, and that his death appeared to be a judgment from Heaven.

The legates of John VIII., the successor of Adrian, allowed themselves[258] to be intimidated and corrupted by Photius. Deceived by their false representations, John VIII. at first approved of what they had done; but when he learnt the truth he publicly excommunicated at Rome both Photius and the cowardly legates who had betrayed their trust in order to curry favour with this impostor (880). John VIII. was the first pope, since the fall of the Roman Empire, who had to decide between two competitors for the Imperial crown. He declared, that as the empire had been conferred upon Charlemagne by the grace of God and the authority of the pope, he transferred it to the King of the Franks, Charles the Bald.

For a century and a half the factions of powerful Italian families and the arbitrary will of the emperors interfered with the free election of the popes, whence arose great scandals, and many unworthy persons were elevated to the pontificate. On several occasions the rivalry of parties led to the creation of anti-popes, and at one time there were as many as three claimants to the Holy See. It is little short of miraculous that the papacy should have kept its place against so many causes tending to its ruin. At last, in 1049, the Romans having sent to the Emperor Henry III., asking him to appoint a successor to the pope who had just died, that monarch assembled the bishops and grandees of the empire at Worms, and upon their advice selected Bruno, Bishop of Toul.

Fig. 210.—Portrait of the great Countess Matilda.—From a Miniature in a contemporary poem of which she was the heroine (Manuscript No. 4,922 in the Vatican Library).

Before repairing to Rome, Bruno went to consult Hildebrand, the monk of Cluny, whose reputation for virtue and ability stood very high. The latter received him very cordially, but pointed out to him the impropriety of a lay election, and persuaded him to exchange the pontifical gown for that of the pilgrim, until the people and clergy of Rome should have freely elected him.

Bruno entered Rome barefooted, and thus replied to the applause of those who had gone to meet him: “The choice of the people and the clergy, supported as they are by the authority of the canons, overrides all other nominations; I am therefore ready to return to my country if my election is not approved by all your suffrages.” By Hildebrand’s advice, the ancient customs were observed. Bruno took the name of Leo IX.; he was consecrated on the 2nd of February, and enthroned ten days later. Thus did the Roman Court proclaim that the emperors and princes did not possess absolute power over the election of the pontiffs, and the right of election, after having been thus restored to the people and the clergy, was subsequently vested in the cardinals.


With a view to reforming the morals of the ecclesiastics, to re-establishing discipline and the liturgy, and to combat false doctrines and heresies, Leo IX. held a vast number of councils, some at Rome, some at Vercelli, and others at Paris; he travelled all through France, Germany, and Italy, taking note of all the abuses which he discovered, and showing himself determined to correct them. Thanks to imperial munificence, he had increased very considerably the pontifical power. Carried away by his zeal, he accompanied the troops sent him by the emperor against the Normans who were devastating Italy. His soldiers were defeated, and he himself was taken prisoner; but the Normans did homage to their captive, and begged him to accept the homage of all their possessions in Italy, so that Leo IX. actually obtained advantages greater than ever he could have expected. The nomination of his successor no longer came within the province of the emperor, and the illustrious Hildebrand, who was at that time almost supreme in the Roman Church, directed the election under the canonical form of four successive popes, who required neither the approbation nor the support of the holy empire. The last of them, Alexander II., died in 1072, after having reigned nine years, and the bishops were deliberating on the choice of a new pontiff, when a voice was suddenly raised from amongst the people, “Hildebrand for pope, St. Peter has chosen him.” This was as the voice of God, and Hildebrand, who had been pope de facto for so many years, was enthroned under the title of Gregory VII. His first care was to arrange at a council the affairs of Italy and of France, and to contract alliances with Spain, Hungary, and various German principalities. He judged himself strong enough to undertake this severe and unwearied struggle, which he kept up throughout the whole of his reign, in the interests of the Church, against the sovereigns of Europe. He wished to obtain recognition of the independence of the Holy See, to dispossess the abbots and prelates who had been guilty of simony, reprimanding at the same time the emperors and kings who had trafficked in ecclesiastical dignities. He desired also to reform the loose morality of the clerks, at the same time that he condemned the careless indifference of the episcopate. He first attacked the Emperor Henry IV., he then threatened Philip I. with excommunication if he did not mend his ways; he launched an anathema against five of the principal members of the imperial household, and afterwards summoned the monarch himself to appear in person before a synod, to render account of what he had done. Henry IV., victorious over the Saxons, and[260] irritated at the pope’s audacity, convoked a diet at Worms for the purpose of deposing him, and dismissed the legates whom he had sent. During this time a conspiracy was being hatched at Rome against the pope, the promoters of which were Cencius, prefect of the city, and Guibert, Archbishop of Ravenna. It was brought to issue upon the night of Christmas, 1075. Gregory, wounded in the forehead while he was celebrating mass in the basilica of St. Peter, was carried prisoner from the altar into one of the towers; from which he was almost at once delivered by the people, and brought back to the altar to terminate the service. The pope showed great clemency towards the conspirators. Six weeks afterwards the Diet of Worms pronounced his deposition, and the bishops gave in their solemn adherence to[261] the decree. Gregory VII., nowise cast down or discouraged, anathematized the emperor at a council held in Rome; and, then addressing himself to the whole Christian world, he entreated it to join him in the defence of their outraged religion. The most distinguished women of Europe—at the head of whom was Matilda, princess of Tuscany (Fig. 210), widow of Godfrey the Humpbacked—declared themselves openly for the pope, in whose favour a sudden reaction took place. Feudal Germany deserted the cause of the emperor, who was compelled to withdraw to Spires until a diet, convoked to meet at Augsburg, should decide as to the respective complaints of the two sovereigns. But the emperor, impatient to get rid of the sentence of excommunication which had been passed against him, went to meet the pope on his way to Augsburg with the Countess Matilda. This illustrious lady interposed to effect a reconciliation between the two rivals, who had an interview in the fortress of Canossa, near Reggio, when the emperor, in order to obtain his pardon, submitted to the humiliation of going on his knees to the pope to ask for it (1077). It was then that the Countess Matilda bequeathed all her patrimonial domains and all her personal property to the Church and to the Court of Rome. The unhappy Henry, ashamed of the penance which he had been made to undergo, peremptorily separated himself from the papal communion. Council after council was convoked, and in the space of two years Gregory had convoked no less than seven for discussing the general affairs of the Church. He had not omitted to secure for himself allies, while the emperor was confronted in Germany by enemies who were attempting to wrest from him the imperial crown. Henry IV. succeeded in defeating them, and then turned to encounter Gregory, against whom he had set up an anti-pope. After the victories of Fladeheim and Marburg he crossed the Alps, crushed the papal army, and threatened Rome, where Gregory, inflexible as ever, had assembled an eighth council, which excommunicated the emperor afresh. The investment of the city had lasted three years when the emperor, by the sacrifice of a vast sum of money, caused the gates of the town to be opened to him; and though Gregory attempted a last effort to assemble a fresh council, Henry was already inside with his anti-pope, whom he had crowned under the title of Clement III. The intrepid Gregory, immured in the Castle of St. Angelo, held out until the old Norman knight Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, came to his deliverance. He then convoked a tenth council, which once[262] more excommunicated the emperor, the anti-pope, and their numerous adherents. Before the emperor could return to Rome for the fifth time, Duke Robert Guiscard deemed it prudent to return to Apulia with the pope, whose death occurred at Salerno shortly afterwards (May 25th, 1085).

Gregory possessed too much foresight not to have thought of naming an heir capable of pursuing his vast designs. Amongst those whom he had named, Danfier, Abbot of Monte-Cassino, was ultimately selected, and, though it was not without hesitation that he accepted so heavy a burden, he was made pope with the title of Victor III. The new pontiff came to Rome, and occupied with his troops the Faubourg of Transtevere and the Castle of St. Angelo, while the anti-pope Clement III. held the other bank of the Tiber. This state of things could not, however, be of long duration. Victor, overcome with grief, died soon after at Monte-Cassino, and was succeeded by Eudes de Châtillon, who took the name of Urban II. (1087). Of French origin, and brought up in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rheims, he had for twenty-eight years been prior of the famous abbey of Cluny. It was there that Gregory, whose unbounded confidence he had enjoyed, first knew him, and, under these circumstances, he naturally wished to continue the policy of that pontiff. But the Emperor Henry IV. frustrated this project by suddenly invading Italy, capturing Rome, and setting up a new anti-pope, Guibert, to rule in the Holy City, under the protection of the German soldiery. Urban, forced to abandon the Castle of St. Angelo, which was besieged by the imperial troops, transported his seat of government to Benevento, where he displayed more resolution than before, crowning Conrad, son of the emperor, King of the Romans, after getting him to abjure the schism, and excommunicated Philip I., who had sent away his wife in order to marry his concubine. After this, he returned to Rome in time to celebrate the Christmas services. He expelled the anti-pope, Guibert, and his followers, recovered the independence of the tiara, and assembled at Placentia, amidst the schismatical Lombards, a council which was attended by two hundred prelates, four thousand clerks, and thirty thousand laymen. This was an imposing protest on behalf of the peace of the Church, to which the presence of delegates from the Empires of Germany and the East, and from the Kings of France and England, lent additional significance. Urban went, in the course of the same year, to Clermont, in Auvergne (Fig. 211), to preside, under the auspices of Philip I., over another council, at which the[263] first crusade (1095), preached by him throughout France, was decided upon; he afterwards returned in triumph to Rome (1096), happy in the thought that he had realised the wishes of Gregory, who first conceived the idea of the Holy War.

Fig. 211.—Pope Urban II. presiding over the Council of Clermont, in 1095, and calling the Christian peoples to the First Crusade for the deliverance of the Holy Land.—Fac-simile of a Wood Engraving from the “Grand Voyage de Hiérusalem,” printed by François Regnault in 1522 (in the Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot).

The Council of Rome, at which the sovereign right of the Church to confer the investiture of ecclesiastical dignities was proclaimed, marked the close of his reign. He died in 1099, upon the eve of that century of strife and confusion over which his spirit and that of Gregory VII., as well as of several other popes and learned doctors who had come from Cluny, were destined, as it were, to hover, for the investiture quarrel was far from being settled. Pascal II. imitated the firmness of his predecessors, and the King of France gave way; but the Emperor Henry V., in spite of the formal engagements entered into by his father, revived his claim to appoint the bishops and the abbots, and to induct them into their charge. After entering Rome with his troops, and after having given the pope the kiss of peace, he had him arrested, together with several of his cardinals, and, by means of a long captivity, by threats, and by violence, he induced him to issue a bull, in which the pontiff acknowledged the emperor’s right to annul the canonical elections of bishops and abbots, and likewise promised not to excommunicate him for the future. Pascal II. had no sooner regained his liberty than he convoked a council at Rome, at which he confessed that he had failed in his duty, whereupon the council, with his consent, condemned afresh the ecclesiastical investitures conferred by the civil power. Another council, held in France, excommunicated the emperor, who succeeded in taking Rome. Pascal being dead, Gelasius II. had to take refuge at Cluny, and Henry V. appointed an anti-pope, who assumed the title of Gregory VIII.

At the death of Gelasius II., the cardinals who had followed him into France elected as his successor a Frenchman—Calixtus II., to whom belongs the renown of having put an end to the quarrel as to investiture. The emperor, finding that the irritation of the Germans, weary of his despotism, was growing perilous to his throne, convoked a diet at Würtzburg, when it was decided by him and the princes of the empire that ambassadors should be sent to negotiate with the pope, who had returned to Rome amidst the acclamations of the inhabitants.

Fig. 212.—Public and Solemn Functions of the Sovereign-Pontiff.—From a Roman Engraving of the Seventeenth Century.

1. Solemn mass celebrated in St. Peter’s by the Pope.—2. Celebration of the sacred services in which the Pope takes part, especially those of the Sundays in Advent and Lent.—3. Coronation of the Sovereign-Pontiff at St. John of Lateran.—4. The newly-elected Pope seated upon the altar of the Clementine Chapel and receiving the homage of the cardinals.—5. Solemn benediction which the Pope gives to the people.—6. Tribute of the white horse, formerly paid to the Pope each year, on St. Peter’s day by the King of Naples in token of his vassalship.—7. Solemn cavalcade of the Pope upon his first journey from St. Peter’s to the Lateran Church.—8. Public consistory for the reception of the ambassadors.—9. The Pope carrying the Holy Sacrament in the procession of the Fête-Dieu.—10. Opening of the holy gate by the Pope, for the twenty-five years’ jubilee.—11. Solemn procession on the days when the Pope, clad in the sacred decorations, goes to the Basilica of St. Peter to celebrate mass.]

According to the Concordat drawn up and adopted by Henry V. at the[265] Diet of Worms, the emperor finally renounced his claim to investiture by the ring and the crozier, which were symbols of ecclesiastical dignity; he acknowledged the right of the dioceses and abbeys to elect their bishops and abbots, and the investiture of the elected dignitaries into their domains was to be conferred by the emperor, in Germany, before their consecration, and in the kingdoms of Italy and Burgundy after it. This Concordat was confirmed at the œcumenical council which Calixtus II. assembled at Rome in 1125.

We have dwelt at some length upon these matters, but it was necessary in order to show what was the action of the popes in the Middle Ages, and it was at this point that their influence reached its apogee. The two conceptions of Gregory VII. had been realised: in accordance with the idea generally received at that time, the kings or emperors, in the eyes of the people, only possessed authority as long as they were orthodox, and obstinacy, under the ban of excommunication, amounted to heresy; hence the pope was regarded as the supreme chief of the Christian republic, and was entrusted with the duty of making princes respect morality, the faith, the rights of the Church, and the rights of the people. The election of the head of the Church had, therefore, to be free from the influence of the temporal power, since that head would be called upon to be its judge. This was the point which Hildebrand caused to be recognised in respect to the election of the popes, beginning with Leo IX.; and the perseverance of his successors got the principle extended to that of the bishops, during the reign of Calixtus II.

The second object which Gregory VII. had in view, was the preservation of Christian civilisation from the Mussulman yoke, by carrying the war into the East; and the Crusades realised this great design. We may now sketch in a few lines the part played by the popes during the last centuries of the Middle Ages.

Fig. 213.—Gregory IX. (1227–1241) handing the Decretals, which he had embodied in one work, to an advocate of the Consistory.—Fresco by Raphael (1515), in the Stanzas at the Vatican.

The great Roman families, anxious to obtain power, elected an anti-pope. By means of these agitations, Arnold of Brescia, under the pretext of creating a Roman republic, established a kind of dictatorship in the city. The emperor overthrew this usurper, who was burnt alive; but he set up anti-popes, and Alexander III., when besieged in Rome, declared himself the ally of the Lombard cities, the chief of the Guelfs against the Ghibelins, and the champion of Italian liberty. Under his pontificate, it was ordained[266] (at the third Council of the Lateran, in 1179, that for the future, the cardinals alone should take part in the election for the pontiff, without the intervention of the clergy or the people. The Crusades occupied men’s minds during the last twenty years of the twelfth century. The thirteenth began with one of the most celebrated of the popes, Innocent III., who,[267] following in the footsteps of Gregory VII., made emperors and kings to tremble by his threats of excommunication, and preached the crusade against the infidels and the Albigenses. His two successors, Honorius III. and Gregory IX., imitated his zeal and resolution. Gregory IX., amidst the multifarious cares of his holy office, found time to draw up a new collection of his own letters and constitutions, and those of his predecessors. He confided this heavy task, which was carried out with remarkable skill and order, to Raymundus de Pennaforti, his chaplain. This collection, which was received with respectful gratitude, has since been called the Decretals (Fig. 213).

After these three eminent popes, sedition broke out afresh inside Rome. The Holy See was vacant for a long period more than once during the latter part of this century, as the cardinals could not agree in their choice; and in consequence it was decided that the election should take place in conclave. After a numerous series of popes, who occupied the chair for only a short time, Boniface VIII. (Fig. 218) endeavoured to march in the footsteps of Gregory VII. and Innocent III. Philippe le Bel, anxious to destroy all traces of the feudal régime in order to obtain absolute power, would not submit to the reprimands and menaces of the pope, and it is well known how he caused the pontiff to be seized at Anagni by Nogaret. The aged pontiff, whom nothing could move, was set free by the people, who expelled Nogaret and his soldiers; but the rough treatment he had received hastened his death.

Philippe le Bel, who saw how seriously he had compromised himself, profited by the dissensions which arose between the Guelfs and the Ghibelins at the conclave to ensure the election of a Frenchman, Bertrand de Got, Archbishop of Bordeaux, who took the title of Clement V., and immediately came to reside in France. The prestige of the papacy was diminished by this selection of Avignon as a place of residence, for the Italians came to look upon themselves as being enfeoffed to the French kingdom. Rome and the Pontifical States fell into a condition of complete anarchy, and a man of enterprise, Rienzi, endeavoured to re-establish the ancient republic. The cardinals, nearly all of whom were Frenchmen, always nominated popes of their own nationality. One of them—Gregory XI.—who had come to Rome for a short visit, died there in 1377. The people then induced the cardinals by threats to select a pope of Italian birth, and their choice fell upon the Archbishop of Bari, who took the title of Urban VI.[268] The cardinals who were at Avignon when the election took place, at first recognised it as valid, but when he manifested his intention of remaining at Rome, they declared it to be irregular, and chose Cardinal Robert of Geneva, formerly bishop of Cambrai, who took the title of Clement VII., and the Christian world was divided between the two popes. Each had several successors, and this long schism proved the termination of the Christian republic which had been the work of the Middle Ages. At last, the General Council of Constance, convoked by one of the anti-popes, but confirmed by Gregory XII., received that pontiff’s resignation, and Cardinal Otho Colonna, a man of great piety and zeal, elected by a unanimous vote, assumed the government of the Church under the name of Martin V. He shortly afterwards repaired to Rome, where he was received with enthusiasm; and his presence brought back the prosperity and prestige of the Holy City. Notwithstanding, one of the anti-popes, with a following of two cardinals, still had a successor who was recognised by the kingdoms of Aragon, Valentia, and Sicily; but he finally complied with the wishes of Christendom, and his abdication in 1429 put an end to the schism which had lasted for half a century.

Fig. 214.—Solemn entry of the Emperor Charles V. and Pope Clement VII. into Bologna, November 5th, 1529. The persons at the head of the cortége are the great dignitaries of the Church, the first bearing the pastoral staff, the second the pontifical tiara, and the two others golden candelabra. The taper-bearers precede the Holy Sacrament. (See next engraving.)

Remainder of Fig. 214.)—The Holy Sacrament, borne upon the back of a white horse, is escorted by the patricians and doctors of Bologna. The Pope’s sacristan marches alone in the rear of the dais, and this part of the cortége is brought up by a group of princes, dukes, and counts.—Drawn and engraved on brass by John Hogenberg: in the Collection of M. Ruggieri, Paris.

Ten years after this, during the reign of the same pontiff (Martin V.),[269] another and an older schism seemed to all appearance extinguished at the Council of Florence, in which the Emperor of the East and the patriarchs of his Church were present. After grave deliberation, the Greeks drew up an orthodox profession of faith, and, by the complete submission of the Eastern Church to her Roman sister, union was restored in 1439. But the emperor and his patriarchs found upon their return that this was so deeply resented by the Greek people, that they gave way to popular clamour and withdrew from their formal engagements, the schism thus becoming wider than ever. The ruin of the Eastern empire followed very closely upon this decision.

The fall of Constantinople into the hands of the Turks indicated only too plainly the danger with which Europe was menaced, and the popes endeavoured to impress it upon the kings and their subjects. Pius II., who had distinguished himself by his erudition and his writings, was considered to be the most talented man of his day, and in a council held at Mantua in 1459 did his utmost to hurry on the preparations for the crusade. After five years’ hard work, he collected a fleet at Ancona, and was about to[270] set sail, when he was struck down by a mortal illness. His successors continued the work which he had begun; but, though the Christians obtained successes over the Turks which promised well for the undertaking, their compatriots failed to respond to the appeals of the pope, who saw that Italy was seriously threatened with invasion. It was under these critical circumstances that the choice of the cardinals fell upon a man of extraordinary energy, Roderick Borgia, who took the name of Alexander VI. He was charged with crimes which ought to have been laid at the door of members of his family, and he struggled against the oppressive spoliation to which the great Roman families had subjected the city, setting courageously to work in order to reconstitute the temporal power of the Holy See. Pius III., chosen as his successor, died a month after he was elected.

The Cardinal of Rovero was then nominated unanimously, and took the title of Julius II. In pursuance of the idea of Italian independence, this warlike pontiff carried on an obstinate struggle against Louis XII., with the view of retaking several towns of Italy which had once belonged to the States of the Church. Unintimidated either by the armies of Louis XII., or by the threats of the councils convoked under the protectorate of the King of France and the Emperor of Germany, he himself assembled a council at Rome, and this inflexible old man, after having brought about wise measures of reform which all Europe applauded, cited the king and the members of his parliament to come and answer for their revolt against the Holy See. But Julius II., worn out by his exertions, died in 1513. His successor, Leo X., who had effected a reconciliation with Louis XII., was obliged to head the Italian league against Francis I. An understanding had been brought about after the battle of Marignano, and the Pragmatic Sanction, which had been the pretext of so many disputes since the days of Philippe le Bel, was given up and replaced by a concordat concluded in 1516 between France and the Holy See. Leo X., continuing the Italian policy of his predecessor, also kept in view the idea of a crusade against the Turks; but this great work of the papacy was only realised half-a-century later under the pontificate of Pius V. The faithful were aroused by his voice; Cyprus had fallen into the hands of the Mussulmans, and the whole of Europe was in imminent peril. The cost of the expedition was divided between the King of Spain, Venice, and the pope; fifty thousand infantry and four thousand cavalry were got together, and the command of the fleet was[271] given to Don John of Austria. It encountered the Turkish fleet, which consisted of two hundred and twenty-four vessels, in the Gulf of Lepanto, on October 7th, 1571. The infidels were annihilated, losing twenty-five thousand men and ten thousand prisoners, while fifteen thousand Christians whom they had chained to their galleys were set at liberty (Fig. 215). Catholic Europe breathed once more, and in its gratitude attributed this prodigious victory to the protection of the Virgin, to whom the faithful told their beads at the hour at which the battle took place, and the memory of this event was perpetuated by a yearly fête on the first Sunday in October.

Fig. 216.—A Sitting of the Council of Trent in 1555.—From a Painting by Titian, in the Louvre (Sixteenth Century).

Fig. 215.—Iron shield presented to Don John of Austria by Pius V., in recognition of his services to Christendom by the victory at Lepanto (1571), with an inscription signifying, “Christ has won the victory; it is He who reigns and governs.”—From the “Armeria Real” (Madrid), published by M. Ach. Jubinal.

Fig. 217.—The Triumph of Christ.—From an engraving of the early part of the Seventeenth Century, reproduced from a composition attributed to Titian.

Led away from our subject in order to relate an account of the struggle against the then indomitable Islam power, we omitted to mention another[273] event which was the second greatest achievement of the popes in the sixteenth century, namely, the Council of Trent (Fig. 216). The progress made by Protestantism led to the convocation of a general council, which was to pronounce as to all the disputed points of doctrine, and to effect the indispensable and long-looked-for reforms in ecclesiastical discipline. The town of Trent was selected as the place of meeting, because its situation between Italy and Germany made it so easy of access for those who were expected to attend. Although the holding of this council was mutually agreed on by Pope Paul III. and the Emperor Charles V., in concert with the other Christian princes, the opening was deferred until 1545, and it lasted with frequent adjournments until 1563, when Pius IV. was pope. No council ever dealt with so many topics, both of dogma and of discipline. The abuses which had been pointed out by many Catholic divines were abolished even before the Protestants could draw attention to them. The catalogue of holy books which were received as canonical was inserted in one of the first decrees of the council; and it was there declared, that the interpretation of these sacred works should be given by the Church, to whom alone it belonged to decide what was the true meaning of Scripture. The questions at issue were then gone into minutely; original sin, the justification of the sinner, the seven sacraments, the mass, purgatory, indulgences, the worship of saints, &c. The twenty-fifth and last session was held on the 3rd of December, 1563. But the hopes of conciliation to which this assembly gave rise were not realised, and the Protestant Churches rejected the decisions of the Fathers of the Council of Trent, whose authority they refused to recognise. The unity of the Christian republic, which had been the work of the Middle Ages, was destroyed, and a new era brought with it new duties for the head of the Catholic Church.

Fig. 218.—Leaden Bull with which Pope Boniface VIII. sealed his letters; on it are seen the names of Boniface VIII., and of St. Peter and St. Paul, with their effigies (Thirteenth Century).—French National Archives.



The Minor and the Major Orders in the Early Centuries of the Church.—Establishment of Tithes originally voluntary, and afterwards obligatory.—Influence of the Bishops.—Supremacy of the See of Rome.—Form of Episcopal Oath in the Early Centuries.—Reform of Abuses by the Councils.—Remarkable sayings of Charlemagne and Hincmar.—Public Education created by the Church.—The Establishment of the Communes favoured by the Bishops.—The Beaumont Law.—Struggle with the Bourgeoisie in the Fifteenth Century.—The Council of Trent.—Institution of Seminaries.

Fig. 219.—The Chanter or Psalmist, Minor Order.—G. Durand’s “Rationale.”

Near the close of the ninth century, Anastasius the Librarian wrote, at Rome, an Ecclesiastical History, from which we learn that the hierarchical order of the functionaries in the primitive Church was composed as follows: the doorkeeper (Fig. 220), the reader, the exorcist (Fig. 221), the acolyte, the sub-deacon, the keeper of the confessions of the martyrs, the deacon, the priest, the bishop. To these were afterwards added the chanters or psalmists, entitled confessors, because their function was to confess the name of God by celebrating His praises. The interpreter-linguists, the copyists, and the notaries, who figure in the Greek as well as in the Roman Church down to the fourth or fifth century, ranked with the order of confessors and that of clerks.

In the early days of Christianity the bishop in each diocese consecrated to the service of religion, after the manner of St. Paul, those who were represented to him as being the most worthy, or whom he himself deemed fitting. The aspirant to the major orders sometimes rose very slowly, however[275] meritorious he might be; thus Latinus, Bishop of Brescia, who died towards the close of the third century, had been, as his epitaph recorded, simple exorcist for twelve years, priest for fifteen, and bishop for three years and seven months. There were, however, some rapid and almost immediate promotions, called per saltum, because they jumped, as it were, from one grade to another; but these were made under exceptional circumstances.

Fig. 220.—The Doorkeeper, Minor Order.

Fig. 221.—The Exorcist, Minor Order.

Miniature from the “Rationale Divinorum Officiorum” of William Durand (Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century), in the Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

At first the Christians had not any clergymen, properly so called; priests, however, ministered in each locality, for we read that St. Paul appointed Titus “to ordain elders in every city” (Titus i. 5). But in most cases, during the first centuries, the bishop alone ministered in his episcopal city, particularly in the East (Fig. 222).

Fig. 222.—The Good Shepherd, whose head appears as if crowned with seven stars, carrying the lost sheep upon his shoulders; around him are collected the seven faithful sheep. On one side Jonah is being vomited out by the great fish; on the other he is lying beneath the gourd; above him are the dove and Noah’s Ark. The old man with a crown, with his hand raised above the clouds, and the woman with a crescent on the forehead, personify the sun and the moon.—Funereal lamp in baked clay of the Third Century, found in the Catacombs. In the Christian Museum of the Vatican.

After the fourth century we find that, in the East as at Rome, there were other churches in the large towns besides the cathedral; the functions of the clergymen, or cardinals, who ministered in them were confined to giving the people religious instruction, and to keep the bishop informed of everything relating to the government of the church. Down to the fifth century, the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of the holy communion took place in the cathedral only. Pope St. Marcellus founded, in the fourth century, twenty-five titles or parishes in Rome, in order to afford greater[276] facilities for the preparatory instruction by which the sacraments of baptism and penance were preceded. But in the fifth century, when the cathedrals were found too small to hold all the congregation, it became the custom to distribute, in the titles or parishes of the city, the holy eucharist[277] which the bishop sent by the hands of deacons to the titulary clergy. The bishops also delegated to their clergy the power of receiving the reconciliation of the penitents in cases of necessity, of admitting heretics in danger of death (but only in the bishop’s absence), and of pronouncing excommunications in their parishes, by virtue of a sentence delivered by the bishop. The clergyman also visited the sick, administered the sacrament of extreme unction, blessed the private dwelling-places, and himself selected the staff for his church. At last, in the sixth century, clergymen celebrated, in the quarters or titles wherein they ministered, the entire liturgy of the holy communion, and from the seventh century they were empowered to diminish or to increase, as they thought proper, in accordance with the revenues of the parish, the number of the clerks, choristers, and the various subordinate officers. In compliance with the wishes of the faithful, the bishop would often authorise the clergy to celebrate two masses upon the same day, one to take place of necessity in the parish church, the other perhaps in some oratory attached to the parish (Fig. 223).

Fig. 223.—The celebration of Mass in an Oratory.—Fac-simile of a Miniature in a Manuscript of the Ninth Century, from an Engraving belonging to M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

Independently of the offerings made by the faithful, the churches, which already possessed landed property, after the conversion of Constantine found their domains increasing in value. The barbarian chiefs who became converts[278] to Christianity outrivalled each other in their liberality towards the clergy. Tithes, the regular payment of which was only proposed towards the close of the fifth century, were soon made compulsory, more especially in the countries subject to the Franks. It is incorrect that tithes were not made obligatory until the time of Charlemagne; all he did was to ensure their collection, and to impose them upon the newly-converted under threat of excommunication. In conformity with a decree issued by Pope Gelasius, he ordained that the produce of the tithe should be equally divided amongst the bishop, the priests, the fabrics in each diocese, and the poor—that is to say, the hospitals. These establishments were administered and provided with religious services by the charity of the clergy; thus the increase of ecclesiastical wealth turned to the profit of the needy.

By the name of presbyters (from a Greek word equivalent to the Latin words seniores, sages, and sacerdotes, sacred men) were designated the functionaries who stood in the second rank of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. From this term was afterwards derived that of priest. At first there was no fixed age for admission to the priesthood; but at the end of the fourth century Pope St. Syricius decided that a clerk, promoted to be a deacon at thirty, should not become a priest for at least five years.

The Emperor Justinian prohibited a deacon from being promoted to the priesthood until he had attained the age of thirty-five; but in Gaul, Spain, and Germany the minimum age was thirty, and as soon as the people had given their sanction to the ordination of a deacon, the election took place. The functions of deacons are from the first clearly indicated by what they did, for in the first century Philip, one of the seven deacon-cardinals chosen by the Apostles, preached the Gospel and baptized. At the end of the third century we find in Spain that St. Vincent, only a deacon, took Bishop Valerian’s place when he felt himself unable to minister the word. Moreover, St. Stephen, the first of the deacons and martyrs, was also preaching, within a few months of the death of Jesus Christ, when he was dragged from the sanctuary to be stoned. The deacons, therefore, performed liturgical functions, but their ordinary duty was to preside at the tables of the Christian communion.

The tumular epigraph on the catacombs of Rome exhibits a curious list of the various special duties allotted to the priests, as well as to the deacons, besides the service of the altar: here we find a priest doctor;[279] a priest guardian, overseer, possibly our inn or lodging-keeper (mansionarius); again, we find a deacon archivist, or keeper of the archives (scrinarius), a priest schoolmaster (magister ludi), &c.

In the first three centuries of the Church, holy orders were conferred not only in the basilicas and in the catacombs, but also in private oratories; some few recluses were even ordained in their own cells. From the reign of Constantine, it was decided by the councils that the laying on of hands upon the clerks to raise them to deacons, or upon deacons to raise them to the priesthood, should always take place in public (coram populo) and at fixed periods. The epoch chosen was at first the calends of December, afterwards extended to each of the four seasons.

Fig. 224.—The Ecclesiastical Tonsure.—Miniature from the “Rationale Divinorum Officiorum” of William Durand (Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century), Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

The iconography of the officers of the sanctuary nearly always represents the bishop as seated upon an elevated chair, laying hands upon clerks of a gradually descending order; the priest raising his arms and spreading them out to give the benediction; the deacon, bearing a cross or a book of the Gospels, or perhaps both, as he is portrayed in an ancient mosaic in St. Lawrence-without-the-walls, at Rome. It must also be noted that the deacons and the priests, as well as the clerks of a lower order, are represented as beardless and with short-cut hair.

In the sixth century, the tonsure or clerical crown, was universally adopted by the Church. It was a mark of dignity which distinguished the clerks from the monks and the rest of the faithful; laymen wore their[280] hair more or less long with a proportionate amount of beard, and the monks cut their hair almost as close as if shorn.

The primitive Church had created the office of acolyte, whose duty consisted in accompanying the bishops, the priests, and even the deacons. Under the pontificate of Cornelius (251), there were forty-two of these assistants. The Eastern Church also had its acolytes, but did not accord them the importance which they had in the city of the popes, where they formed three classes: the palatines, who assisted the sovereign pontiff in the basilica of the Lateran; the stationaries, who aided him in the churches where the stations took place; the regionaries, who assisted the deacons in each of the regions or parishes.

The political power of the bishops was founded in Gaul at the beginning of the sixth century (Fig. 225), and down to the end of the first dynasty they were the real organizers of the French monarchy. Converted to Christianity after the battle of Tolbiac, and baptized by St. Remigius, Clovis became the protector of the Gallo-Roman Church. The Clergy then enjoyed a legitimate influence, as is justly remarked by a grave historian: “The barbarians, accustomed to carry all before them by the weight of arms, could not be subdued by a force or civilised by a literature which they despised or failed to understand; but the clergy, surrounded by that pomp which has so great an influence over uncultivated imaginations, combated them with simple and plain doctrines, with a vigorous and united hierarchy, and with a faith which, needing no subtle reasonings, imposes only the duty of belief, and leans for support upon a morality the sanctity of which they could not but feel, even while violating it. Was it not most fortunate that there should have been an order capable of arresting the universal disorder? Unarmed priests mingled with these savage hordes and inspired them, by means of baptism, with some notions of humanity; they taught them to hold their hands, showing them that they whom they were about to strike was a brother.

Fig. 225.—The Legend of St. Martin.—From a piece of tapestry of the Thirteenth Century, in the Louvre (No. 1117).—1. St. Martin sharing his cloak with a poor man.—2. He sees in a dream Jesus Christ clad with this half of his cloak.—3. The saint’s baptism, the priest sprinkling him with water, and God blessing him.—4. He brings to life a catechumen, who had died without being baptized, in his monastery at Ligugé, near Poitiers.—5. At the same place he recalls to life a slave, who is first represented as hung from a gibbet, and afterwards standing on the ground and giving him thanks.—6. St. Martin consecrated Bishop of Tours in 371.—7. He evokes the spectre of a pretended martyr, held in veneration about Tours, and when it appears and avows that it had been executed for its crimes, the chapel is demolished.—8. He gives his tunic to a poor man.—9. He brings to life the son of a peasant in a heathen village near Chartres.—10. He drives out the evil spirit from the body of a mad cow.—11. Seeing on the banks of a river some birds watching to catch fish, he bids them fly away, saying, “Here we see the type of the enemies of our salvation, always on the watch to seize our souls.”—12. Death of St. Martin. His soul, in the form of a child, is being borne off to heaven by two angels.

“The bishops carried out, with as much dignity as benevolence, their sublime mission of sympathizing with the people and those who were oppressed; having a paternal solicitude for their flock, they placed themselves face to face with conquerors, whom they knew how to pacify and to conciliate. The veneration with which they were surrounded and the holiness of their lives earned them the respect even of Attila and Genseric.


They were entrusted with the embassies, and they administered in the room of magistrates, whose power had been crushed. Epiphanius, Bishop of Pavia, was sent to the Burgundian kings Gundibald and Godegesil, to procure the release of a number of Italian prisoners, whom he brought back with him in triumph. When the Ligurians were ravaged by the incursions of the Transalpines, the king remitted, at the prayer of the bishop, one-third of the indemnity. St. Cæsarius, Bishop of Arles, sold the patens and chalices[282] to ransom the prisoners. Euspicius, Bishop of Sergiopolis, upon the Euphrates, paid Chosroës for the ransom of twelve thousand prisoners. St. Germain, Bishop of Paris, gave away even his own tunic by way of charity; ‘so that,’ to use the language of an artless chronicler, ‘he was often shivering with cold, while those upon whom he had bestowed his favours were warm.’”

The bishops were sometimes obliged to exercise the duties of royalty. Honorius, of Novara, when Theodoric and Odoacer were at war, fortified, in order to give shelter to his flock, a certain number of places similar to those in which the military were garrisoned. Nicetius, Bishop of Trèves, “an apostolic man, in his progress through the country, constructed, like a good shepherd that he was, a fold to protect his flock; he surrounded the hill with thirty towers, which shut it in on all sides, and an edifice rose where hitherto a forest had cast its shadow.”

During the reigns of the last of the Merovingians and the first of the Carlovingians, the jurisconsults and the magistrates were generally bishops or plain priests, whose venerable character, in addition to their knowledge and wisdom, had caused them to be designated to fulfil these high functions. Dagobert, when about to draw up the Capitularies which were to govern the Germans, the Thuringians, the Burgundians, the Neustrians, the Ripuairians, and the Romans, entrusted the work to four ecclesiastical doctors, and consequently the disposition of this new code was remarkably tolerant,—“for,” said these pious legislators, “there is no sin so grave, but that the culprit’s life may be spared, if he will but hold God in fear and the saints in respect, seeing that the Lord hath said, ‘He who pardons shall himself be forgiven, but he who pardoneth not shall obtain no mercy.’” In cases where the crime seemed of a nature to deserve no clemency, the law remitted the culprit to be judged by the bishop or a priest delegated by him, whose tribunal, standing in the midst of a church, was from that very fact inviolable, and placed under the tutelary protection of religion. The royal decree added, “When the culprit shall take refuge in a church, let no one dare to drag him out with violence; if he has already crossed the threshold of the sanctuary, let the bishop or curate of that church be sent for, and if they refuse to deliver him up, it is to them that the pursuers shall look for his punishment.”

Fig. 226.—Consecration of St. Remigius, Bishop of Rheims.—Fac-simile of an Engraving of the “Rheims Tapestry,” in the cathedral of that city, published by M. Ach. Jubinal. (Sixteenth Century.)

For more than a century before, the spiritual and temporal constitution[283] of the Church was regularly organized throughout France. The diocese comprised the territorial boundaries which the Roman administration had established in the provinces for the civil government of the vicars and the counts, and most of these dioceses were kept, within about the same limits, down to 1789. The ecclesiastical province, of which the metropolitan or the archbishop was head, was made up of several dioceses or suffragan bishoprics, and when a provincial council took place, it assembled in the metropolis under the presidency of the archbishop. Above the metropolitans there were the patriarchs and the primates, dignitaries occupying[284] the principal apostolic sees, such as Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Cesarea, and Heraclea in the East, and in the West, Milan, Lyons, Rheims, Trèves, and Mayence—which latter city became, under Pope Zacharias (741–752), the metropolis of all Germany. The supremacy of Rome was acknowledged by the universal Church from the days of the Apostles, as is attested by all the Fathers, and especially by St. Irenæus, whose spiritual father was Polycarp, a disciple of St. John.

Fig. 227.—Ceremony of robing a Bishop for his consecration.—From the “Rationale Divinorum Officiorum” of William Durand (Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century), Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

History has handed down to us the form of oath of allegiance to the pope taken by the apostle of Germany in the eighth century, Wilfred, better known by the name of Boniface, who, in the course of a few years, made more than a hundred thousand converts. So far from being exalted with pride at the success of his mission, he continued to go for advice to Pope Gregory II., and to submit to his decision any intricate matters which might occur in the course of his ministry. The following translation of the form which he signed when raised to the dignity of bishop, will give an idea of his deference and spirit of submissiveness; it forcibly exhibits the power of the hierarchy at this epoch:—“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has saved us, Leo the Great being Emperor, the seventh year of his consulate, and the fourth of his son Constantine the Great, Emperor,—I, Boniface, by the grace of God bishop, promise to thee, blessed St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and to thy vicar, the blessed Gregory, as well as to his successors, in the name of the indivisible Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and by his most holy body here present, to observe in purity and fidelity the Catholic Faith, and, with God’s assistance, to persevere in the unity of this same Faith upon which indubitably depends the salvation of all Christians. I also promise never to yield to any instigation contrary to the unity of the common and universal Church, but faithfully and sincerely to devote all my strength to thee and to the interests of thy Church, which has received from the Lord the power of binding and loosing, and also to thy Vicar and his successors. If I find any prelate living in disobedience to the ordinances of the holy Fathers, I undertake not to hold any kind of communion with him, but to win him back if I can; if not, to send a faithful report of his conduct to my lord the successor of the Apostle. And if (which may God forfend!) I should attempt to infringe the terms of this declaration, at any time or in any manner whatsoever, I acknowledge myself guilty of eternal punishment, and deserving the fate of Ananias[286] and Sapphira, who were guilty of fraud in the declaration of their goods. I, Boniface, a humble bishop, have written with my own hand the text of this oath, which I lay upon the most holy body of St. Peter, in the presence of God who is my witness and judge; I have taken, as is herein stated, the oath which I undertake to observe.” It is worthy of notice that this formula was already in use in the time of Pope Gelasius, in the fifth century.

Fig. 228.—Solemn Reception of a Bishop. Arrival of St. Gêry at Cambrai, where he was appointed bishop, in 589. View of the city, the ramparts, and the church dedicated to St. Médard, and founded by St. Gêry.—Miniature from the “Chroniques du Hainaut” (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century), Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Fig. 229.—St. Wulfram, Bishop of Sens, clad in his pallium; died in 720 at the Abbey of St. Wandrille.—From a Miniature in the “Chronicon Fontinellense” (Manuscript of the Ninth Century), Havre Library.

From the sixth century, the influence which the bishops enjoyed under the Roman empire went on increasing. Chilperic I. was alarmed at its progress, declaring that “the bishops alone were supreme in the cities.” Each one administered the affairs of his diocese with sovereign authority (Fig. 228), and, by means of the councils convoked by the kings, they[287] governed the whole of the kingdom. In Gaul, there were twenty-five councils during the fifth century, fifty-four in the sixth, and twenty in the seventh, all of which were composed of bishops, supplemented by a few abbots and priests who were either well-known masters of ecclesiastical law, or eligible upon other grounds. From the diminution in the number of councils dates the decline of the authoritative influence of the French episcopacy; during the eighth century, in the first half of which there were only two councils, it declined still further, because the intrusion of the leudes in several bishoprics had brought about a great change in the austere morals of the ancient Church, replacing the cultivated spirit, the orderly conduct, and the charitable habits of the first prelates (Fig. 229) by a display of gross ignorance and unbridled barbarism. Three successive[288] councils, held respectively in Germany, Belgium, and at Soissons (742, 743, 744), aimed at a reformation of the morals of the clergy, which were thoroughly perverted, as is evident from the decrees of these councils, forbidding the priests to follow the chase with hounds, falcons, and sparrowhawks. Other provincial councils of the same epoch condemned simony, the traffic in the immunities and privileges of the Church, and the plurality of benefices. This last abuse went beyond all bounds; the same prelate would hold three or four bishoprics at once, several abbeys, and the revenues of numerous parishes left without a pastor. On the other hand, many lay lords, who had usurped the property of the Church, and appropriated to themselves benefices, monasteries, and episcopal revenues, especially since the days of Charles Martel, created great confusion in the temporal economy of each diocese.

Charlemagne applied himself to the reformation of these abuses. That illustrious monarch at all times displayed the most respectful deference for the clergy, from amongst whom he selected his principal ministers and most trusted councillors. Two-thirds of his Palatine Academy were ecclesiastics; the missi dominici, the official inspectors appointed to visit the provinces, the churches, the presbyteries, and the hospitals, to render justice upon appeal, to suspend or dismiss the fiscal agents, were all, or nearly all, bishops and priests. Royalty was looked upon by Charlemagne as a kind of priesthood, and his mission was to give the people greater facility for practising the Gospel, and to bring it within the reach of the idolatrous nations. The capitulars say, “The king must walk uprightly, as his name signifies (‘Rex a recte agendo vocatur’). If he acts with piety, justice, and clemency, he deserves the name of king; otherwise he is not a king, but a tyrant. The special duty of royalty is to govern the people of God, but to govern them with equity and justice; for the king is above all the defender of the churches, of the servants of God, of the widows, the other poor, and all who are in distress.” These rules, laid down in the time of Charlemagne, were adopted by all Europe. The king who did not observe them was to be deposed; his judges were the bishops, the councils, and the pope, as head of the Church (Charlemagne, in a capitular from Thionville, in 805, submitted his own sons to be judged by the bishops). If they refused obedience, they were condemned to be driven from their palaces, deprived of their dignities and goods, declared infamous, and sent into exile. This[289] is why, during the unhappy dissensions that broke out between the sons of Louis the Good-natured, each one endeavoured to procure the deposition of his rival by sentence of the council.

Fig. 230.—Bas-relief on the Tomb of Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, in the Church of St. Remigius in that city. Monument of the Tenth or Eleventh Century.—Hincmar, upon his knees, and followed by the Abbot of St. Remigius, is thanking Charles the Bald for his pious donations; the king holds in his hand a model of the church on which he bestowed his largesses.

Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, the noblest representative of the Western Church at this epoch, constituted himself the defender of the throne (Fig. 230). He endeavoured to arrive at an equitable settlement as to the respective limits of the two great powers—the Church and the Crown. Commenting upon, but not receding from, the ideas expressed by Charlemagne, he declared, “When it is said that the king is not subject to the laws or judgment of any man, but only of God, the statement is true if he be a king indeed, as his name indicates. He is called king because he reigns and governs; if he governs himself according to the will of God, if he directs the good in the right path, and corrects the wicked to draw them from their evil way, then he is king, not subject to the judgment of any man (Fig. 231 and 232); but if he be an adulterer, a homicide, an iniquitous person, a ravisher, then he must be judged, in secret or in public, by the bishops, who are God’s representatives.” It is necessary to bear well in mind these ideas, inculcated in the Middle Ages, if we would understand the important functions of the secular clergy.

Fig. 231.—Consecration of Philip Augustus at Rheims, November 1st, 1179, by his uncle, William, Archbishop of Rheims.—Manuscript 9232 of the Fourteenth Century, Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Fig. 232.—Coronation of Henry of Anjou as King of Poland, February 22nd, 1573, in the Church of St. Stanislaus at Cracow. At the termination of the consecrating ceremony the Archbishop of Gnesen, Primate of Poland, places the crown upon the prince’s forehead.—Bas-relief on a French coffer of the Sixteenth Century belonging to M. Achille Jubinal (fac-simile of its present condition).

At this early period of society, civilisation was, beyond all doubt, in the hands of the ecclesiastics. Public education, which the Church had established, and which was given in one or several episcopal schools in each diocese, under the direction of the archdeacon, was subject, like judicial proceedings, to hierarchical regulations. Although the bishop[290] was free to extend or to limit certain branches of instruction, all the clerks admitted to follow the courses of these schools had to go through the series of studies prescribed and specified in the capitulars of Charlemagne. Thus, at Metz and Soissons, for instance, the school of singing was an imperial institution, and the bishop, no matter what authority he might have in other matters, had no power to suppress it. The same was the case with[291] the courses on law and medicine, which had been founded, since the days of Charlemagne, in various episcopal cloisters at Paris, Rheims,[292] Lyons, Metz, Trèves, Canterbury, Milan, &c. Roman chanting, grammar, Holy Scripture, the Liturgy, and calligraphy, formed the classical basis of clerical education. Other studies were looked upon as accessories, without being absolutely prohibited. At the same time, to the superficial study of Latin, was added that of Greek or of German, or of the vulgar idiom of the Latin, Teutonic, or Sclavic tongues, when deemed useful for the purposes of popular preaching. In certain cases, and for the exclusive service of the Church, the clerks were taught the rudiments of architecture, painting, mechanics, agriculture, and hygiene, but it was more especially at the Palatine school, which was always open, and in the large abbeys, that this literary and scientific course of education prevailed.

Clerical discipline, though continually being reformed, was incessantly needing fresh changes. The usurpation of the Church’s domains by the monarchs, the princes, and the great lay lords, contributed to the disorder which prevailed in many abbeys. In some churches an intruder would thrust himself into a canonry, usurp the abbatial seat, or live at the expense of the community. The bishops were often powerless to get rid of these false abbots, canons, and monks, who set them at defiance. Ecclesiastical cures and prebends were formed, like many public bakehouses and mills, sometimes as dowers for daughters about to marry, and even for new-born infants. Severe measures were adopted at several provincial councils (in 860, 863, 888, 895) against the disorderly acts committed, to the detriment of the Church.

A diploma issued by the Emperor Henry III. (May 12th 1052), confirmed the doctrine of the Roman Church, declaring that the episcopal jurisdiction was entirely independent of the civil jurisdiction. By this diploma, all judges and officers of justice were prohibited from exercising their authority in the churches, castles, villages, and parishes which formed the temporal domain of the diocesan chapter.

Fig. 233.—Treaty of Arras, concluded in 1191, by the interposition of William of Champagne, Archbishop of Rheims, between Baldwin V., Count of Hainault, and Matilda of Portugal, Widow of Philip, Count of Flanders.—Miniature from the “Chroniques de Hainaut” (Fifteenth Century), Burgundian Library, Brussels.

When the Crusades brought about the concord, or rather the calm, of which the Church had so long been deprived, its progress became more regular, more marked, and more easy; it also suffered less from the encroachment of laymen upon its rights and privileges (Fig. 233), but the enormous expenses of these distant expeditions had ruined it. There was not, indeed, a single diocese where the property was not loaded with mortgages, nor where the services were not crippled by the reduction of the diocesan revenues. This penury, coupled with the absence of a great number of the[293] most esteemed ecclesiastics, who had taken up the cross, left many important churches almost without resources or guidance; hence arose a general relaxation of morals on the part of the clerks, whose misconduct was in some cases so flagrant that it became necessary to expel them from the religious houses and parishes which had been committed to their charge. The abuses of authority, the uncertainty in point of faith, and the Vaudois heresy, which shot through Western Europe like a poisoned barb, gave rise to frequent dissensions amongst the faithful, the disputes being carried on even amongst members of the same family, whilst in many localities the people, attracted by a form of worship where the chanting and the prayers were recited in the vulgar tongue, deserted their parish church for the heretic priest; this was[294] the origin of an infinity of disturbances and tumults in the large towns, especially in those governed by a municipality.

And yet the bishops had contributed in a material degree to the establishment of the communes; for, if history tells us of some towns being at war with their ecclesiastical lord, in order to declare themselves independent, we find, on the other hand, that a great number of the charters of enfranchisement were due to the initiative of the bishops. The two most interesting of these documents which have been preserved to us in their integrity, are the charter and the law of Beaumont-en-Argonne, formerly a fortified place, but almost forgotten in the present day, until brought into prominence by the war of 1870. This town had the satisfaction, not of imposing its law, but of seeing it adopted by numerous communes, amongst which may be cited Nancy, Lunéville, Verdun, Luxemburg, and Longwy, together with all the Duchy of Bar, Montmédy, &c. A lord-bishop, William, whose love of equity earned him the appellation of William the White-handed, was the author both of this law and of this charter, in the twelfth century (Fig. 234). By the charter, the lord-bishop made all the inhabitants of the commune of Beaumont proprietors of a sufficient quantity of land to give them the means of subsistence, with the use of the woods and water-courses; every precaution was taken to prevent fraud in commerce and trade, especially in regard to the millers, the bakers, and the butchers; and the administration of the commune was entrusted to so many burghers elected by the most notable citizens; while intrigue was powerless in its attempts to bias the free and independent suffrages of the burgher-electors. The time that the Beaumont law has lasted is a proof of its merits, for, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of time, five hundred communes were being governed by it in the eighteenth century.

Fig. 234.—Reduced fac-simile from the commencement of the Charter of William the White-handed, Archbishop of Rheims (Twelfth Century).—From the work of M. Defourny.

In the communes which adopted the Beaumont law, the burghers, exempt from all military burdens, were only compelled to take arms in the event of a sudden invasion of their territory, and this forced service was only of twenty-four hours’ duration. After that, the lord had to provide for the ordinary protection of the inhabitants in return for the trifling taxes which they paid him. In the commune of Escombes, for instance, which, being a frontier village, was very exposed to attack, the right of safe-guard (le droit de sauvement) consisted of two measures of oats, a hen, and a French denier for each burgher. A charter of an archbishop[295] of Rheims, successor of William the White-handed, recounts how a good chevalier, in return for the gift of a piece of land belonging to the bishopric, undertook to bring together, train, and maintain a body of armed men for the protection of the burghers of Beaumont, who were thus enabled safely to carry on the tillage of the land and their commercial operations. Towards the close of the fourteenth century, the Archbishop of Rheims exchanged with the King of France the sovereignty over the towns of Mouzon and Beaumont-en-Argonne against the lordship of Vailly and its dependencies; but the law of Beaumont was respected, and by letters patent, “given at Montargis in the month of September, the year of grace one thousand three hundred and seventy-nine,” King Charles V. solemnly recognised and sanctioned all the advantages[296] which the law of Beaumont assured to the inhabitants. “By these presents,” said the king, “we approve and confirm all their charters and liberties, franchises, usages, privileges, and customs which they have been granted by our above-mentioned Archbishops of Rheims in times past, to enjoy and use without deducting, innovating, or diminishing anything, and in the same manner and fashion as they have formerly enjoyed and used them before our acquisition.”

Throughout nearly all France, justice, which had been for eight centuries episcopal, became almost entirely civil; but the bishop still levied a part of the fines imposed, and when the citizens of a town or district were brought together to settle some grave dispute, it was the prelate of the diocese, or the dean of the chapter, or the precentor, who had the right of naming the day and the place of the meeting, which they had no power to prevent. Louis IX., great as was his piety, undertook the task of forming a lay magistracy capable of rendering justice. To avoid a conflict with the national clergy, he obtained from Innocent IV. a dispensation from the ordinary jurisdiction for the person of the King of France, for his consort, and his heir-presumptive. He solicited the intervention of the Pope to reform numerous abuses that had crept into the Church in France, especially in respect of the right of asylum, and the excessive immunities accorded to the ecclesiastical tribunals. Towards the end of the thirteenth century the jurisdiction of the clergy was, with the exception of the episcopal court, confined to the vassals of the bishops’ temporalities.

Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the episcopal power was engaged in a ceaseless struggle with a turbulent bourgeoisie (Fig. 235), whose spirit of opposition drove it into open and armed rebellion. In order to obviate this, and to order an effective resistance to the civil authority, itself overpowered by the populace, several diocesan chapters formed a league with the clergy and with the monks; but this did not bring them any increase of strength to combat the lay magistrates, because the bishop often deserted their cause or showed himself indifferent to it. Hence arose excommunications, imprisonments, proscriptions, and acts of seizure which only led to increased scandal. The schism which desolated the Christian world since the death of Gregory IX. (1378), the struggle for influence between the anti-pope Urban VI. and Pope Clement VII., were not calculated to allay the internal troubles of the Church.


Fig. 235.—Title of the Concordat of Cambrai, agreed upon in 1466 by the bishop, the chapter, and the commune of the town, for the maintenance of peace. This charter commences with the word NOUS in illuminated letters. The first letter (N) encircles an angel holding the escutcheon of Bishop John of Burgundy; the Latin inscription signifies, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The letter O represents the arms of the chapter, surmounted by Notre-Dame des Flammes, with the words in Latin, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” The third letter (U) is symbolic of the commune of Cambrai, and also expresses a peaceful idea in the motto, “His abode is an abode of peace.” Amongst the witnesses, numbering more than a hundred, who signed this Concordat, was the Chronicler of Cambrai, Enguerrand de Monstrelet.—Fac-simile of the original, preserved in the Archives du Nord, at Lille, and the text of which was published by M. L. Dancoisne, at Hénin-Liétard. (The illuminated letters in this engraving are one-fourth the size of the original.)

The desire to remedy this general disorder was at that time uppermost in every Christian mind, for the question as to the territorial possessions of the two Churches had long been settled. Rome possessed nearly all Italy, except the manufacturing and maritime States of the peninsula; she also had Germany, a part of Switzerland, Bohemia, Hungary, England, and Holland. The other Church was recognised by France, French or Vaudois Switzerland, Savoy, Lorraine, Luxemburg, the Metz district, Scotland, and Spain. The most respected of the Christians, alarmed at a state of things which was so fatal to religion, in vain attempted to stem the torrent. The only remedy lay in the reformation of the clergy, and the Church’s independence of the civil power. In the year 1469, a noble and pious woman, the Countess Vio di Thiene, gave birth at Gaeta to a son, afterwards known as Cajetan, who became cardinal-bishop, and was one of the greatest men of the age. The Countess Vio di Thiene had resolved that the heir of her noble house should be born, as was the Saviour of mankind, in a stable. It was thus that in an actual manger this blessed infant first obtained his indifference to the world, his love of simplicity, his spirit of prayer and charity, his angelic modesty, which made him a martyr of penitence, a hero of self-denial, and a model of humility. When in 1505 Luther received the minor orders at the monastery of the Augustines at Erfurt, and when, upon the occasion of a granting of indulgences by Leo X. to the Dominicans (1517), he published the programme of his anti-papal and anti-canonical propositions, he at once found himself face to face with Cajetan, who was the leader and promoter of the Catholic movement in opposition to the German pervert. Cajetan conceived the happy idea of instituting a vast confraternity of the regular clergy, with the view of re-establishing ecclesiastical discipline. He was the ideal of the praying and working priest, without family ties, with no close or continuous relations with the outside world, and yet so brought up that while mixing with it he could forward the interests of the Church. The Somasques, regular clergy for the education of orphans (1528); the Barnabites, regular clergy of St. Paul (1532); the Jesuits, regular clergy of the Company of Jesus; the Crucifers, regular clergy ministering to the sick (1592); the Scholopians, regular clergy for the poor of the Mother of God; the Minorites, regular clergy of the minor order, and many other institutions of the same kind, are the offspring of Cajetan’s creation, and thus he has been called the patriarch of the clergy. The project of the Council of Trent was the[298] conception, and its preliminary elaboration was the work, of Cajetan, and this famous council, which was to have so much influence over the Christian world, raised the moral dignity of the clergy, while it prepared the way for a general reform of the Church.

Fig. 236.—Angels praying over a Skull.—Fragment of a Bas-relief in the Cloister of the Chartreuse, at Pavia (close of the Fourteenth Century).

The instruction of the young men who were destined for the priesthood also dates from the same epoch. It is true that there existed in Italy, France, and Spain, schools of theology frequented by the clergy, but the latter prepared themselves for holy orders without rule or guidance, without any of those intellectual and moral resources which a community can offer. Many of the pupils wore no tonsure nor even a uniform ecclesiastical dress, they mixed in society, sometimes led a dissipated life, and reached the solemn period of ordination without having received any proper teaching. The Council of Trent, at the instance of Cajetan, decided that each diocese should have a school of ecclesiastics termed a seminary. St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, the good Paul d’Arezzo, Archbishop of Naples, and several Italian bishops, set Europe the example by establishing these pious retreats in their dioceses; the Cardinal of Lorraine imitated them by founding the seminary of Rheims, and two French bishops also created seminaries at Carpentras and Bordeaux. These were the only seminaries in France for more than eighty years, and they were so badly managed, so little in harmony with the importance of their design, that they were looked upon as attempts that had miscarried. The seminary of Paris, the most famous of all those in France, was not created until the middle of the seventeenth century, when it was founded by the active and generous co-operation of two pious women, with the help of St. Vincent de Paul and the Abbé Ollier, for ecclesiastical retreats and for the establishment of the Congregation de Saint-Sulpice.



The First Monks.—St. Anthony and his Disciples.—St. Pachomius and St. Athanasius.—St. Eusebius and St. Basilius.—Cenobitism in the East and in the West.—St. Benedict and the Benedictine Code.—Monkish Dress.—St. Columba.—List of the Monasteries in Charlemagne’s Time.—Services rendered by the Monks to Civilisation, Arts, and Letters.—Reform of the Religious Orders in the Twelfth Century.—St. Norbert.—St. Bernard.—St. Dominic.—St. Francis of Assisi.—The Carmelites.—The Bernardines.—The Barnabites.—The Jesuits.

During the early days of the Church, monastic life began in the vast solitudes of the Thebais, in Upper Egypt. It soon extended to Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and even beyond the limits of the Roman Empire. St. Jerome, just before the Middle Ages, wrote, “We daily receive troops of monks from India, Persia, and Ethiopia.”

The fearful austerities of the first ascetics in the East seem, at first sight, excessive, but they are justified by their results, and may be explained by the state of society at that epoch. A gross sensualism was generally prevalent, and people lived only for pleasure. The slaves, after having accomplished the work necessary for the existence of the free men, further assisted in satiating the disordered appetites of this society, which had exhausted all the refinements of sensuality and luxury.

The old world, absorbed in the worship of material things, had no taste for the culture of the mind, and in order to arouse it from its intellectual torpor, it became necessary to impress the senses and the imagination by excessive austerities. Greedy of novelty and anything emotional, the people flocked to visit those wonderful anchorites, who made a study of[300] martyrdom, some shutting themselves up in a den where they could neither stand upright nor lie down; others lying motionless day and night upon a narrow plank, upon the top of a column, exposed to all weathers; all of them refusing meat, drink, and sleep, or only taking just enough to keep body and soul together. These men, who only thought of their body as a target for torture, in order to give themselves up exclusively to penitentiary practices and the contemplation of a future life, attracted general attention. As tender-hearted for others as they were pitiless for themselves, they took an interest in all suffering, they consoled the sorrowful, they prayed for the recovery of the sick at the request of the relatives. Their goodness found them a way to many hearts, and, with the eloquent force of example, they inculcated upon the crowds the vanity of sensual pleasures, they taught them to look to heaven rather than to earth; and they reminded their audience of the immortality of the soul, of its destinies in a better world, and of the duty of earning eternal happiness by the exercise of Christian virtues; in their discourses, as in their lives, they preached the Gospel. They were first listened to, then contemplated with curiosity, and afterwards believed in. People soon came to admire them, and from that moment imitating them was a natural consequence—in a few years the deserts were peopled with thousands of their disciples, who gave themselves up entirely to prayer and to manual labour.

St. Anthony was the first of these Fathers of the desert who consented to tear himself away from the austere charms of this solitude, and come with a retinue of monks to reside in Alexandria, for the purpose of combating the Arians, and inducing them to recognise the decisions of the Council of Nice. After having won the admiration and respect of his adversaries by his brilliant arguments against the philosophers of the school of Alexandria, after holding his ground even against emperors, he retired to the desert, upon Mount Colzin, with his disciples Macarius and Amathas, and only left it to inspect the monasteries which he had founded, and which contained more than fifteen thousand cenobites.

St. Athanasius, one of the most illustrious pupils of St. Anthony, continued to spread, by his discourses and his writings, the doctrines of his master. He went to reside at Rome in 340, with several eminent anchorites, and he then preached by example as well as by precept, and became the indefatigable promoter of monastic institutions in Western Europe.

At the same period, St. Pachomius, who had founded in the Thebais the[301] monastery of Tabennæ, compiled the first complete regulations that have been handed down to us for the use of the cenobites, in which manual labour as well as prayer was prescribed. Several celebrated doctors and fathers of the Church, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome (Fig. 237), and St. Cyril, practised asceticism.

Fig. 236*—St. Anthony, a statuette in stone of the Third Century, belonging to a gentleman of Cambrai. This engraving, never before published, shows us what the holy doctors thought of the great anchorite of Egypt. He is treading underfoot the devil, who is represented by the unclean animal in the flames. The closed book signifies that, without any study, solely by hearing them read, he learnt the Holy Scriptures by heart; and St. Jerome testifies that he expounded them with wisdom. The triangular tau is the Egyptian shape of the cross; the bell signifies the power of driving away the evil spirit.

St. Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli, was the first Western prelate who associated monastic and clerical life. His clergy passed their existence in fasting, praying, reading, and labour. St. Ambrosius says, “These clergy only changed their condition for a bishopric or martyrdom.” At about the[302] same period (352–360) St. Martin founded, in the neighbourhood of Poitiers, the most ancient of the monasteries in Gaul (Monasterium Locociagense), and twelve years afterwards, the famous Abbey of Marmoutiers, which was so rich a nursery of holy prelates and learned doctors. The sermons of St. Basilius, in the kingdom of Pontus, his numerous monastic foundations, the rules which he laid down, and which were forthwith adopted by all the Eastern monks, bear witness to the strength of the Christian movement in Asia towards the close of the fourth century.

Fig. 237.—St. Jerome in the desert: the saint is holding in his hand a stone with which he is about to beat his beast.—From a picture of the School of Andrea del Sarto (Sixteenth Century), in the Louvre.

The great monastery of Tabennæ, which at that time served as the type for all conventual foundations, comprised a vast network of small houses, built one after the other, and united under the supreme control of one head. The religious administration of the monastery was, moreover, entrusted to a prior or abbot, who was assisted by a deputy, while the steward who was entrusted with the secular duties—the daily expenditure, and the incidents connected with material life—also had an assistant, who took his place when he was absent. The monastery was thus divided into houses, each managed by a prior; each house contained a certain number of chambers, or cells, and each cell was always shared by three monks. It required three or four houses to constitute the tribe, or monastery.

The great monasteries had from thirty to forty houses, with about forty[303] monks in each, making in all seven or eight hundred persons. At the death of St. Pachomius, the order of Tabennæ numbered seven thousand monks. Palladius says that catechumens preparing for baptism, children, youths, and men of all ages were received there. All were obliged to study the New Testament and the Psalter; three times a day wholesome instruction was given to those who required it, and three times a week the prior of each house assembled the monks who were placed under his control to hold conversation with them, called a catechizing, or argument, after which they discussed amongst each other the questions that had been dealt with. The teaching of the monks was not limited to this, it extended from beyond the walls of the monastery to the faithful in the neighbouring district. Once on Saturdays, and twice on Sundays, the prior explained to them the mysteries of the faith, to say nothing of the catechisms and lessons, of which the chief or general of the order himself took charge every week. St. Pachomius and St. Orsevius did not confine themselves to the mere development of the moral principles taken from Holy Scripture; they entered upon an exegesis of them, giving their audience the right of questioning, replying, and discussing their statements, and afterwards answering all objections so made by writing. The study of the Fathers of the Church was added to that of the holy books. The prior sometimes authorised plain monks, who were learned or eloquent, as was a certain Theodorus, to defend the truths of the Christian religion against the profane and to establish a series of public lectures.

The monastic discipline set up by St. Basilius was almost identical with that of St. Pachomius; his monks discussed nearly every topic amongst themselves. He merely instructed them not to try and override each other in these debating tournaments, urging them to avoid ostentation, empty words, and the inspirations of vanity; he even directed them as to the intonation of voice, and the gestures most becoming. In the monasteries founded by St. Basilius, many children were taken as pupils, and sent back into the world when they were old enough to select a profession and make their own way in life.

The convents for women are contemporaneous with the monasteries. The virgins devoted to the Church, the young widows, and the deaconesses, led a kind of life calculated to prepare them for habits of reclusion, of contemplation, and asceticism. The sisters of St. Anthony and St. Pachomius[304] were placed by their venerable brothers at the head of two communities of virgins, in Egypt and in Palestine. In Pontus and Cappadocia St. Basilius founded several convents, and their number increased so largely, that in the beginning of the fifth century, one single convent (cœnobium) contained two hundred and fifty virgins.

In Europe the convents for virgins increased no less rapidly. Two religious houses for young women were opened at Rome in the days of St. Anthony, and, no doubt, at his instigation. Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli, founded an establishment of the same kind close to his church; but the most remarkable of all these convents was that founded at Milan by St. Ambrose, a religious asylum in which his sister, Marcellina, and her faithful companion, Candida, took refuge.

Towards the end of the fourth century, a Roman lady, St. Paula, built three convents and a monastery in Africa, the management of them being undertaken by St. Jerome. St. Augustine also founded two religious houses in his diocese of Hippona, one for cenobites, the other for virgins, imposing on them the regulations of St. Anthony and St. Pachomius, as to life in common and poverty. “There were at this time,” says this illustrious father, “monks all over the world.” They were called monks, from the Greek μóνος (alone), because of their solitary life; and cenobites, from the Greek words κοινóς and βíος (life in common). They abstained from meat and wine, living upon bread and fruits, and being only allowed to eat cooked vegetables on the Sunday. They were obliged to prepare their own food, and to make their own clothing. Upon Sunday they took the communion with the general congregation, and went back after the service into their monastery.

Fig. 238.—History of St. Benedict.—On the left are the monks of a neighbouring monastery, who have come to seduce him from his hermitage in order to place him at their head; but the austerity of his rule soon dissatisfies them, and they resolve to rid themselves of him. On the right the monks are offering him a cup of poison, but, on his making the sign of the cross on the vase, it is shattered to pieces.—From a Fresco by Spinello d’Arezzo (1390) in the Church of San Miniato, near Florence.

Before the monkish order had been in existence a century, in the East as in the West, the monastic regulations underwent considerable relaxation. The monks having become part of the clerical hierarchy (by force of circumstances, for there was often a deficiency of clergy), took precedence of the latter; their abbots, called archimandrites in the Eastern Church, were raised to the priesthood and to the episcopate; they even took part in councils, though these functions and duties interfered with their cenobitic life. This manifest infraction of the primitive discipline, while it lowered the moral position of the monks, rather increased than otherwise their social influence, and gave them greater weight in the world. Their piety, too, was only temporarily distracted from its original purpose, for men of note[305] like St. Honoratus, St. Maximus, St. Hilary, St. Dalmatius, the two brothers Romanus and Lupicius, maintained the true tradition of monkish life; and the famous abbeys of Lérins and Mount Jura were built. The ascetics of Constantinople, too, were spoken of in high terms, as keeping up a perpetual psalmody (401–405). In Palestine, not far from Jerusalem, a multitude of[306] hermits, under the guidance of St. Euthymius, practised the most rigorous abstinence.

In Africa, St. Fulgentius, exiled by the Arians, was the promoter of regular observances—that is, he preached strict obedience to monastic rule (501–523); while in the West there were founded, in the midst of the Romagnol Alps, in the towns of Arles and St. Maurice d’Agaune, three model monasteries, the first superintendents of which were St. Hilary, St. Cæsarius, and St. Severinus; and its principal benefactors, Theodoric, King of the Goths, Theodoric the Great, and Sigismund, King of Burgundy (504–522). In the monastery of Kildare, governed by St. Bridget, and in the monastery founded by St. Colomba, in Ireland, which was afterwards so justly called the Isle of Saints, the teaching of Christian art, of the liturgy, of ecclesiastical lore and profane literature, was unequalled in its perfection, and the fame of it reached even to Gaul.

Fig. 239.—History of St. Benedict.—As his disciples were attempting to put a stone in place for the construction of their chapel, the devil placed himself upon it, and the united efforts of several persons failed to dislodge him; but St. Benedict having blessed the stone, the devil took flight.—From a Fresco by Spinello d’Arezzo (1390), in the Church of San Miniato, near Florence.

Such was the general position of cenobitism when St. Benedict (Fig. 238), the future patriarch of the monks of the West, the supreme legislator of the monastic order, abandoned his humble cell at Subiaco (528) to found the immense abbey of Monte-Cassino (Fig. 239), which was the glory of the age. The Benedictine rule, the result of profound physiological and philosophical studies, a work of moral science, of wisdom, and of piety, divided the monks’ time between prayer and manual labour, to be succeeded by the cultivation or exercise of the intellect whenever the glory of God, the interests of the monastery, and the education of the people might require it. St. Benedict soon had under his control an army of monks who spread throughout the whole Christian world the rules of their illustrious chief. Amongst them were St. Maurus and Cassiodorus, the former minister of Theodoric the Great: one of them founded the monastery of St. Maur-sur-Loire, in France; the other, that of Vivieri, in Calabria. Cassiodorus took great pains to collect books of the Old and the New Testament, with their commentaries. He went to great expense in collecting all the writings of the Greek and Latin Fathers, of the Jewish historians as well as of those of the Church, and the principal works on geography, grammar, and rhetoric, and even the best treatises on medicine, so that the monks attached to the infirmary might be fully capable of tending the sick. The monastery of Vivieri contained one of the richest libraries of the period. We find in the collection of the Institutions of Cassiodorus the following remarkable homage[307] paid to the calligraphist monks, who were the greatest men of letters in that day: “I confess, my brethren, that of all your physical labours, that of copying books has always been the avocation most to my taste; the more so, as by this exercise of the mind upon the Holy Scriptures, you convey to those who will read what you have written a kind of oral instruction. You preach with the hand, converting the fingers into organs of speech, announcing silently to men a theme of salvation; it is as it were fighting the evil one with pen and ink. For every word written by the antiquary, the demon receives a severe[308] wound. At rest in his seat, as he copies his books, the recluse travels through many lands without quitting his room, and the work of his hands has its influence in places where he has never been.”

Those whom Cassiodorus calls antiquaries were simply scribes—that is to say, clerks or monks who deciphered the old manuscripts and transcribed the books. In the monastery of St. Martin, at Tours, calligraphy was the sole art practised. St. Fulgentius, a prelate distinguished both for his learning and eloquence; St. Gregory, Bishop of Agrigentum, no less celebrated; Mamertus Claudius, who was a regular walking library, themselves copied manuscripts which they gave to the Church. Calligraphy and illuminating were also favourite occupations with many nuns, amongst whom may be cited St. Melanie the younger, St. Cesarie, St. Harnilde, and St. Renilde, all Frenchwomen (Fig. 240), who, to use the language of the Christian annalist, wrote with elegance, rapidity, and correctness.

From the time that the monks were raised to the clerical rank, after first undergoing an examination, the clerks and monks studied together just as they had before prayed and lived in common, a monastery being a complete school of ecclesiastical research and administration. At Monte-Cassino, at St. Ferréol, at St. Calais, at Tours, and in many other flourishing abbeys in the sixth century, the monks, and especially the novices, were instructed in religious and secular subjects as well as in the duties of the priesthood.

The monastic dress was not in every case the same, for, though always simple and coarse, it varied in shape and appearance with the statutes of each order, and according to the necessities of climate. The cenobites in Egypt wore the lebitus or the colobium, the pera or melote, and the cuculla. The lebitus was a linen garment with long sleeves open at the hands, and sometimes up to the wrist. The pera, a jacket of goatskin, is spoken of in one of the epistles of St. Paul, who alludes to it as especially worn by holy men and prophets, when they were driven by threats of persecution into the desert. The cuculla covered the head, and came half-way over the shoulders. St. Benedict, who borrowed it from the early monks, had it so much lengthened as to envelop the whole body; but as in this shape it would have embarrassed the monks in their manual labour, he made it a garment only to be worn at ceremonials, and replaced it for ordinary wear by the scapulary (scapulum), which covered the head and the back.[309] The Western monks also wore a short mantle—a sort of cape, called a maforte, according to Sulpicius Severus. The Greeks and Orientals adopted the pallium, which led to their being designated agmina palliata (an army in robes), when they assembled in large numbers. Every Greek who devoted himself to the cenobitic life was compelled to wear a black pallium.

Fig. 240.—St. Radegonde, Wife of King Clotaire (Sixth Century), receiving the religious garb from the hands of St. Médard, Bishop of Noyon.—“Histoire et Cronicque de Clotaire” (16mo, Paris, Jean Mesnage, 1513).

Pope Gregory the Great, who had been a Benedictine, was most ardent in the establishment of monasteries, of which he himself founded a large number. He was the chief promoter of two important missions which took place in 585 and 596; the first in Gaul, consisting of missionaries from Ireland, headed by St. Columba and St. Gall; the second in Great Britain, with monks from the Abbey of St. Andrew, headed by another monk, St. Augustine. This latter, who converted the Anglians and their king, Ethelbert, was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Colomba founded the Abbey of Luxeuil, upon the southern side of the Vosgian forests; while[310] Gall, his disciple, much younger than himself, penetrated into the country of the Helvetians, who were as deeply sunk in barbarism as the Anglians, where he founded a monastery which afterwards became famous under the name of its founder, and which owed its celebrity to the variety of subjects which were taught there.

St. Colomba was the first to draw up a complete set of monastic rules, which were generally adopted in France, just as the rules of St. Isidore, Bishop of Seville, and those of St. Augustine of Ireland, were followed in the British Isles. These three codes, very similar in their general principles, varied from each other in many particulars, for they were applicable to monks living in different countries. In the communities which adhered to the rules of St. Colomba, as in all the great Benedictine monasteries, prayer, mental culture, and manual labour were the invariable occupations of cloister life (Fig. 241). The rules drawn up by St. Colomba and his imitators, St. Isidore and St. Augustine, thus remained in force down to the eighth century, in spite of the new system of education and religious teaching inaugurated so zealously throughout Gaul by the Anglo-Saxon monk, St. Boniface; in spite, too, of the industrial and artistic, rather than scientific and contemplative, turn which St. Eloi gave to the studies of the monks in his abbey of St. Martin at Limoges, and in the other monasteries founded or reorganized by him. That illustrious Bishop of Noyon, Master of the Mint to King Clotaire II., afterwards treasurer, goldsmith, and minister to Dagobert I. (568–659), was at great pains to make the cultivation of art an important feature in monastic life.

It would be incorrect to suppose that the interior of a monastery in the seventh century presented the same appearance of asceticism and penance that were afterwards characteristic of certain communities subject to the most austere regulations. In the country districts the monasteries possessed vast domains which yielded wheat, rye, oats, hay, vegetables, and fruits; and on which were produced wine, beer, cider, and hydromel; they were tilled by numerous labourers in bands of tens and hundreds, who while at work sang hymns and prayers—a veritable religious militia, grouped beneath the banner of faith in the populous centres and in the neighbourhood of the towns. These monasteries were generally schools in which the monks gave gratuitous education, vast workshops in which they followed and taught every branch of trade—carving in wood, ivory, bronze, silver,[311] and gold; painting on vellum, glass, wood, and metal; weaving tapestry, embroidering church ornaments and vestments; damask work, and enamelling of shrines, tabernacles, diptychs and triptychs, church furniture, and book-covers; the cutting of precious stones to prepare them for setting; the making of arms and instruments of music, illuminating, copying of manuscripts, &c. The whole life of a monk or nun was passed in the exercise of one description of art, or perhaps even in executing a single work which required miraculous patience.

Fig. 241.—The Abbey of St. Riquier, near Abbeville, founded in 799 by St. Angilbert, who gave it its triangular shape in honour of the Trinity.—From a Drawing in a very old Manuscript engraved in the Dissertation of Paul Petau, “De Nithardo” (4to, 1612).

As the regular associations became permanently settled in the towns, they[312] began to construct for their use dormitories, cells, workshops, granaries or sheds for their provisions, and built handsome churches with long cloisters and vast chapter-rooms. Each community made a point of having within its own boundary a library, a study, a lecture-room, schools, a cemetery, some shady walks for meditation, as well as a fruit and kitchen garden, the cultivation of which was a healthy and agreeable recreation. In this vast aggregation of monastic buildings and appurtenances (Fig. 244), we have a holy city in the heart of the secular town, a retreat for the peaceful, the devout, and the abstinent, amidst the troubles and vanities of the world.

Fig. 242.—Abbatial Ring and Cross (front and back) of St. Waudru, patroness of Mons, who died in 670. The cross is in silver, with gold relief, and studded with precious stones.—Relics preserved in the Church of St. Waudru, at Mons.


Fig. 243.—The Offering of a Child to an Abbot.—From a Miniature in a Manuscript published at the Close of the Thirteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).

Fig. 244.—Priory of the Benedictines at Canterbury (Twelfth Century), plan in relief drawn by Edwin, a monk, about the year 1530.—A, belfry; B, fountain; C, cemetery; D, reservoir, with conduit pipes; E, Canterbury Cathedral; F, vestry; G, crypt; H, chapter-house; I, prior’s house; J, infirmary and annexes; K, kitchen-garden, with well, pumps, and water-pipes; L, cloister; M, cellar; N, dormitory; O, refectory; P, kitchens; Q, parlour; R, house for the guests and the poor; S, water-closets; T, baths; U, granary; V, bakehouse and brewery; X, the chief entrance; Y, Z, fortified wall of the abbey and the city.—From an Engraving in vol. i. of the “Architecture Monastique,” by M. Albert Lenoir.

The endowment of each monastery was generally made up of the property belonging to the monks who had fixed their abode there. If the novice was an adult, he was obliged to distribute all his goods to the poor, or to make a solemn grant of them to the abbey, before he could be admitted to the minor orders. If he was a child whose parents devoted him to the service of God (Fig. 243), the parents either made no gift to the community which received the young novice, or they ceded the income of the lands and the property by deed of transfer to the monastery. Enriched by these successive donations, the monasteries, especially those which had acquired a wide renown for learning or piety, acquired still more wealth through the largesses of princes, great nobles, and bishops, through the economical management of the abbots, and the annual produce of the agricultural and commercial labour of the monks. To the various arts and trades which were at first carried on by the monks with a view to do honour to the[314] cause of religion, those of the West afterwards added others of a more lucrative and worldly character. In the sixth century we find that they spun and[315] wove their own silk; that they possessed numerous receipts for preparing liqueurs and drugs; that they practised medicine, surgery, and the veterinary art. Pepin the Short, suffering from incurable dropsy, went first to the monastery of St. Martin at Tours, and afterwards to the abbey of St. Denis, that “the servants of God” might give him relief by means of their skill as well as by their prayers.

The Church was very sorely tried during the reign of Charles Martel, and monastic institutions were also exposed to many difficulties. In order to win back the secular clergy to the habits of communal life, the wisest of the bishops grouped around them the clergy who had remained faithful to their cause, and laid down a code of regulations for their guidance.

Charlemagne, in the Capitularies, added the following excellent amendments to the rules of monastic institutions:—“Young men destined to monastic life must first pass their novitiate, and then remain in the monastery to learn the rules, before they are sent forth to fulfil their duties outside. Those who give up the world in order to avoid the king’s service shall be compelled to serve God in good faith, or else to resume their former occupation. All clerks shall be required to make their choice between clerical life in conformity with the canons, and monastic life in conformity with the regulations. The abbeys shall not receive too large a number of serfs, so that the villages may not be depopulated; no community shall have more members than can be properly looked after by one superior. Young women shall not take the veil until they are of an age to choose their own career in life. Laymen are to be disqualified for governing the interior of a monastery, nor shall they fill the post of archdeacon.” Charlemagne and Louis the Good-natured became members of the royal monastery of St. Denis under the title of “conscript brothers” (fratres conscripti)—an academical rather than a religious title, but one which nevertheless admitted them to certain liturgical privileges. The Emperor Lothair, in imitation of his father and ancestor, also got himself invested with this title by the monastery of St. Martin-lez-Metz.

The Norman invasion, the feudal wars, the encroachment of the great vassals, and even of the kings, upon ecclesiastical domains and rights, impoverished the monastic orders, whose lands remained untilled for want of hands, and their schoolrooms often empty for want of teachers and scholars. While the Normans burnt and pillaged the monasteries, fortified though[316] many of them were, in the country districts, the urban abbeys, nearly always protected by the diocesan power, preserved some remnants of their former splendour.

Fig. 245.—Foundation of the secular abbeys of Mons, Maubeuge, and Nivelles. The canonesses meeting at Nivelles, where Walcand, Bishop of Liége (810 to 832 or 836), promises to give them a code of rules.—From the “Chroniques de Hainaut,” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

There existed between the principal abbeys of the same order a spirit of unity, a brotherly zeal to render help and service, and a reciprocal interchange of learned and skilful clerks, who went from one community to another to give it the benefit of their learning or manual ability. It was in this way that the conventual churches and buildings were erected and kept in repair; that they became rich in paintings, statues, and mosaics; that the treasury was filled, and the library founded and maintained.[317] Rupert, a monk of the Abbey of St. Gall (Switzerland), before his elevation to the bishopric of Metz, a learned linguist, poet, and man of letters; Tutilo, his contemporary at St. Gall, a carver, painter, and sculptor; Regino, Abbot of Prüm, an excellent musician, author of a Treatise on Harmony, are of themselves a proof that arts and letters were hidden in the cloisters. At this epoch of barbarism and ignorance, the Church organized what was good, strengthened the shattered foundations of the social edifice, established new monastic institutions and reformed the old, grouped around her the irresolute, lawless, and undisciplined minds (Fig. 245), selling the principles of order and peace in opposition to those of violence and disorder engendered by war.

Fig. 246.—Seal of the Abbey of St. Denis, in the Twelfth Century, in the National Archives, Paris.—The saint is clad in his episcopal garb. It is, no doubt, as the apostle of Gaul that the motto gives him the title of archbishop.

Never was the monastic order more numerous or better organized, and at no period, perhaps, were works of mental intelligence cultivated more ardently or successfully in certain privileged monasteries, than at this time.

Canterbury, Monte-Cassino, St. Maur, St. Denis (Fig. 246), St. Martin of Tours, St. Gall, Remiremont, Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, Trèves, St. Trudon, St. Arnulph, St. Clement, and St. Martin of Metz, the Messinà and the Gorza basilica, were cited as so many foci of light whence radiated in every direction the good doctrines set forth in certain remarkable works of art, as well as in learned literary compositions.


Fig. 247.—The Clergy, with the Cross and the Holy Images, going in procession before the Emperor.—From a Miniature taken from a Manuscript of the Fourth Century (Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot).

In the libraries, which composed the principal wealth of the religious houses, the cartularies of the diocese were preserved with great care. The charters of institution, and the patrimonial titles of the chief abbeys, are both the proof and the reward for the services rendered to civilisation by the monastic establishments: one abbey was given a domain on the condition that it put the waste lands into cultivation; another received its lands with the understanding that it opened asylums and places of hospitality for the poor and sick, for pilgrims and for strangers; while a host of documents[319] taken from the cartularies relate to the instruction of the clerks, the education of the novices, the splendour of public worship, and the duty of the ecclesiastical vassals when the suzerain raised the ban and the arrière-ban, &c., together with all the details of monastic life which are connected with the various social movements of each territorial district (Fig. 247).

Outside the abbeys there lived a population whose manual labour was necessary to their inmates, and profitable to the material interests of the house. Women, even when doing penance, and under religious vows, were strictly forbidden to enter the monasteries. The aged mother of an eminent monk, John of Gorze, unwilling to separate herself altogether from her son, took up her abode just outside the walls of his abbey, where she spent her time in making cloaks for the monks.

It was around the abbatial close, perhaps beneath the shelter of a second walled enclosure, not so strong nor so high as the first, but still capable of resisting the attacks of the marauders which were so frequent in those days of feudal disorder, that were built the shops, the stalls, and the sheds which served for the sale of the crops, the cattle, and the agricultural and other produce of the abbatial domain (Fig. 248). On the anniversary of the festival of the saint to whom the monastery was dedicated there was a fair—sometimes several—which attracted large crowds.

St. Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolite order; St. Mayeul, Abbot of Cluny, and the reformer of the Abbey of St. Denis; St. Dunstan, the resolute Archbishop of Canterbury, who reformed the clergy of the British Isles; Adalbert, son of a Duke of Lorraine and nephew of Hugh Capet, who was elected Bishop of Metz, after having been monk at Gorze; St. Cadroé, descended from the Kings of Scotland, Abbot of Vaussey and contemporary of Adalbert, with whom he was associated in the reformation of the abbeys in the north-east of France, were among the leading figures who, in the tenth century, represented the reformed monachism. Unfortunately, their wholesome influence could not make itself everywhere felt; it was a period of disorder, of pitiless and bitter wars, of usurpations of every kind. Upon every side misery reigned supreme; the serfs attached to the domains of the canonical churches and to the monasteries left them to find some more certain means of livelihood. The Cathedral of Metz was in this way deprived of eight hundred serfs, who were heads of[320] families. The only independent voices raised on behalf of these victims of oppression came from the great abbeys, such as Stavelo, St. Arnulph,[321] Cluny, &c., to which monarchs and popes, under the pretext of dedicating churches (Fig. 249) which had been recently built or restored, repaired in secret to consult, with many members of the higher clergy, as to the political affairs of Christendom.

Fig. 248.—North View of the Abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés, as it still existed in the Seventeenth Century.—A, outer gates; B, houses in the enclosure; C, church square; D, church; E, Lady chapel; F, sacristy; G, small cloister; H, great cloister; I, library; K, dormitory; L, refectory; M, kitchen; N, dormitory of the Superior; O, offices; P, inner courtyard; Q, houses for the wine-presses; R, bakehouse; S, stables; T, garden; V, infirmary; X, infirmary garden; Y, lavatory; Z, dormitory for the guests. 1, abbey palace; 2, abbey garden; 3, courtyard; 4, outer courtyard; 5, officers’ apartments; 6, stables; 7, barns; 8, houses in the abbatial enclosure; 9, bailiff’s house; 10, outer gates; 11, bailiwick prisons.—Fac-simile of an Engraving in the “Histoire de St. Germain-des-Prés,” by Dom Bouillart, in folio: 1724.

Fig. 249.—Dedication of the Church belonging to the Monastery of St. Martin-des-Champs, Paris, destroyed by the Normans and rebuilt by King Henry I. The artist has represented—1st, the ancient Church of St. Samson dedicated to St. Martin; 2nd, the counts and barons who signed the charter for the re-establishment of the monastery; 3rd, the archbishops and bishops who were present at the dedication of the new church.—Fac-simile of an Engraving from Don Meurier’s work, “Historia Monasterii regalis Sancti Martini” (4to, Paris, 1636).

Fig. 250.—The Small Cloister of the Chartreuse at Pavia, with the cupola of the church in the background (close of the Fourteenth Century).

The two Councils of Rheims and of Mayence (1049), devoted exclusively[322] to disciplinarian reforms, are characteristic of the state of monastic institutions at this period, just as the journey of Pope Leo IX. through France and Germany indicates the exact condition, the resources, the manners, and the habits of the religious houses. The illustrious pontiff, when visiting these houses, made them splendid presents, promised them important privileges, and instituted minute inquiries into the studies pursued within their walls.[323] At the Abbey of Gorze, in 1149, he even went so far as to note with his own hand the nocturn responses in the “Office de Saint-Gorgon.”

Fig. 251.—Saint-Jean des Vignes, an Abbey of Regular Canons at Soissons (1076), the entrance-gate guarded by a barbican and bastilles.—From an Engraving in vol. i. of “Architecture Monastique,” by M. Albert Lenoir.

At about the same period, William, Abbot of St. Bénigne de Dijon, re-established in several dioceses the monastic rules and studies; Sigebert, a monk in the monastery of Gemblours, came to Metz to teach the Holy Scriptures, philosophy, and the dead languages; St. William of Hirsange reformed the cloister discipline in Germany; St. Robert, Abbot of Molême, founded the Cistercian order; St. Gualbert, the order of Vallombrosa, in the Apennines; St. Bruno, the Carthusian order, which he established both in the neighbourhood of Grenoble and in Calabria.

It is impossible to depict the profound disorder which reigned in the religious houses during the eleventh century, owing to the social disturbance which had followed the terrors of the year 1000. There were but a few solitary monasteries, remote from the troubles and vanities of the world, which still adhered to the rules (Fig. 251), and the monastic schools were nearly[324] everywhere closed, and the notes of song had ceased to be heard in the churches, when, in the year 1095, the inspired voice of a monk, Peter the Hermit, summoned the Christian peoples to the Holy War. At this voice, which seemed to come down from heaven, the whole world was stirred up to deeds of energy; the young were inspired with a current of warlike and adventurous ideas which converged upon one single object—the deliverance of the holy places.

The difficulty of managing both the spiritual and temporal affairs of a monastery or cathedral church had led to the appointment of a sort of steward or lay administrator, termed an avowee, who was paid out of the dues which he received from the vassals of the community. He generally levied on each household a loaf of bread, a denier, a measure of oats, wheat, or barley, if the land grew cereals; a measure of wine, beer, or cider if the produce of the domains was grapes, hops, or apples. The avowee was arbiter in all disputed cases, and himself fixed the remuneration, before and after giving his decision, which the two parties to the suit had to pay him. He presided over judicial duels, and ordeal by boiling water or fire. He had a right to one head of stock at all cattle fairs, and he also received a draught or a saddle-horse, according as the district bred the one kind or the other. The avowee of a cathedral or a monastery always held a distinguished position in society; barons, dukes, and counts did not disdain to accept these functions—which they often abused, it must be added, by keeping for their own use the sums which they had received for the monastery. The usurpations of every kind which the avowees committed had been flagrant enough during the investiture dispute, but they increased enormously during the Crusades, owing to the absence of so many bishops, archdeacons, abbots, and priors, who had started for Palestine after loading their domains with mortgages, and even raising money upon the sacred vessels of their church.

The Crusades, notwithstanding, had the unquestionable advantage of sifting the clergy, and of removing from the cloisters a large number of clerks who were less fitted for study and seclusion than for the hardships of the battle-field. The monks who remained in Europe shut up in their cloisters were nearly all acting in obedience to some special aptitude, and they formed that band of artists, architects, painters, sculptors, and musicians, calligraphists, savants, translators, philosophers, rhetoricians, and preachers, which shed so much lustre upon the monasteries during[325] the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. By their direct action, as well as by their example, ecclesiastical architecture made vast progress, and the wonderful wealth of decoration which accompanied it, suddenly burst forth in the erection of those holy-chapels which seem like shrines of chiselled stone, in which the relics brought back from the Crusades were deposited (Fig. 252). It was under these influences that most of the great abbeys (Fig. 253) were restored, that painting upon glass attained its full perfection, that the Roman tongue reached the solitude of the cloister, and the beautiful literature of the ancient classics, which had for centuries been relegated to the dust of the monastic libraries, once more saw the light, and lent the aid of all its charms to combat the invasion of the vulgar idiom which the inhabitants of the communes had everywhere substituted for the Latin language.

Fig. 252.—Reliquary of the Holy Thorn, preserved in the Convent of the Augustine Sisters at Arras.—Carved brasswork of the Thirteenth Century.

Fig. 253.—Refectory in the Priory of St. Martin des Champs, Paris (now part of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers), the work of Pierre de Montereau, architect to St. Louis (Thirteenth Century).—Archæological Restoration by M. Alfred Lenoir.

Fig. 254.—St. Bernard taking possession, with the Cistercian Monks, of the Abbey of Clairvaux. At the foot of the engraving is inscribed: “St. Bernard, Chaplain of the Virgin Mary, was descended from the house of the Kings of Burgundy.” He was, as a matter of fact, related through his mother, Aleth (diminutive for Elizabeth), to the first house of the Dukes of Burgundy.—“Chroniques abrégées de Bourgogne,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

Fig. 255.—The Great Beguin Convent at Ghent, called the Convent of St. Elizabeth, founded in the Twelfth Century, and which now occupies the same site as in 1234, when the Countess Jane gave a code of rules to the community.—General View taken from the “Ghent Churches,” by Baron Kervyn de Volkaersbeke, reproducing the Engraving of P. J. Goetghebuer.

Contemporaneously with the foundation in Palestine of the order of the Templars—a hospitaller and military order,[326] which had no connection with the monastic orders, and which for a long time devoted all its energies to defending the holy places by prayer and force of arms—St. Norbert, the reformer of the regular canons of the St. Augustine[328] order, founded the Premonstrants in Picardy; Stephen of Muret, a contemplative cenobite of Limoges, founded the order of Grandmont in his province; another Frenchman, Aimeric Malefaye, Patriarch of Antioch, being alarmed at the relaxation of discipline in the monasteries of Asia Minor, introduced some useful reforms into the establishment upon Mount Carmel; while Stephen Harding, third abbot of the Cistercians, an active propagator of the rules which Robert de Molême drew up under the title of “Charte de Charité,” entrusted to his pupil, St. Bernard, the destinies of the new communities which sprang from this glorious cradle. It was in the middle of the twelfth century that there appeared upon the scene one of the brightest lights of the Church, namely, St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux (Fig. 254), which he founded, and which was called the third daughter of the Cistercians. He was an admirable orator, a savant of the first rank, a brilliant writer, and an eminent statesman; he had under his control all the interests and secrets of Christendom and of the sovereign papacy, and he never used them for purposes of worldly ambition. He sent forth vast armies of Crusaders to the East,[329] but he adhered to his character of monk and apostle, by devoting his energies to combating the Oriental heretics by verbal arguments; to preventing schisms; to appeasing the scholastic quarrels, in which the famous Abelard was one of the disputants; to aiding with his counsels the popes and the monarchs; and to pouring forth, from diocese to diocese, from council to council, and from synod to synod, that fervid and powerful eloquence which won him all hearts. The death of the illustrious abbot of Clairvaux, in 1153, was a terrible blow to the Church, and an irreparable loss for monastic institutions; for there was no one to take his place or to continue his work of reformation in the monasteries of the Benedictine order.

Fig. 256.—A Beguin.—From an Engraving in the “Histoire de l’Origine des Béguines Belges,” by Hallman.

Amongst the contemporary monks, who were founders or reformers of abbeys, we need only mention the Danish Archbishop Eckel, Felix of Valois, John of Matha, the Englishman Gilbert of Sempringham, the Liége priest Lambert Begh or Lebègue, who created the Beguin convents (Figs. 255 and 256), of which there are so many in the Netherlands, and which were pious[330] retreats where the Beguins lived in common without taking the vows. But the eminent reputation of these austere personages sinks into comparative insignificance before the touching legend of Heloisa, the unfortunate wife of Abelard, who quitted the convent of Argenteuil, near Paris, to immure herself in “the Paraclete,” a house which she had founded in Champagne, to await and receive there the mortal remains of her beloved lord.

Fig. 257.—Carved Ivory Chaplet of Beads and Girdle of an Abbess (Sixteenth Century). Collection of M. Achille Jubinal.

Following her example, many women of equal endowments sought in[331] mental labour and in devotional exercises an aliment for their moral activity; and, when the great St. Dominic commenced his apostleship (1170–1221), he found them ready to receive his teaching. He accordingly created, under the St. Augustine rule, in unison with the preaching brothers, afterwards called Dominicans (Fig. 258), a congregation of preaching sisters known by the same title, namely, Dominicaines.

Fig. 258.—The most famous Members of the Dominican Order.—1. Hugh de St. Cher, Cardinal of St. Sabine, the most learned theologian of his time, who died March 19, 1263. 2. St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, 1389–1459. 3. John Dominicus (the blessed), Cardinal of Ragusa, 1360–1419. 4. Pope Innocent V., born in Savoy, died June 22, 1276. 5. St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (1170–1221). 6. Pope St. Benedict XI., born at Treviso (1240–1304).—From a Fresco of the Crucifixion, by Fra Angelico, in the Convent of St. Mark at Florence (Fifteenth Century).—From a copy belonging to M. H. Delaborde.

The vulgar tongue was absolutely prohibited in the Dominican houses, Latin alone being used for conversation. The principal European languages were, however, taught for preaching purposes: including the southern idioms, familiar to St. Dominic and St. Raymond, whose eloquence had so deep an effect in Languedoc and Provence, as well as in a part of Spain (1175–1275); and the northern idioms of the Sclaves and the Tartars, which a preaching brother of Breslau, St. Hyacinthus (1183–1257), used to some purpose in a[332] successful mission that ended in the establishment of two monasteries, at Cracow and at Kiew. In these still barbarous regions, St. Hedwige, the wife of a duke of Poland, who died in 1243, founded at Trebnitz a convent of the Cistercian order, and at about the same period a queen of Castille created one at Valladolid (Fig. 259). At this epoch, also, the Sisterhood of St. Clare, founded in 1218 by St. Clare, at the suggestion of St. Francis of Assisi, failed in its attempts to extend the order beyond Italy.

Fig. 259.—Maria de Molina, Queen of Castille (1284–1321), handing to the Cistercian Nuns the Charter of Foundation for their convent.—Bas-relief from her Tomb at Valladolid.—From an Engraving in the “Iconografia Española” of M. Carderera.

Fig. 260.—St. Thomas in a Council of Prelates and Doctors held at Anagni in 1256, and presided over by Pope Alexander IV., defending the attack made upon the monastic orders by the University of Paris, and successfully refuting the assertions of William of St. Amour. The saint, of whom the back only is seen, is in the foreground, with St. Bonaventura at his right. Near the Pope are seated the Cardinals Hugh de Saint-Cher and Jean des Ursins, and next to them the Bishop of Messina, the famous Albert the Great, the heads of orders, the deputies of King Louis IX., &c.—From a Painting in the Louvre, by Benozzo Gozzoli (Fourteenth Century), termed the “Triumph of St. Thomas of Aquinas.”

The poor and docile religious militia organized by St. Francis of Assisi under the name of Minors or Franciscans (1208), at that time set the world an edifying example of Christian humility and self-denial. The chief characteristic of the Franciscans was their complete renunciation of all worldly goods. This mendicant order increased so rapidly that their saintly founder was able to gather round him, in his monastery of Assisi, five thousand delegates from religious houses which had been built in nine years from the founding of the order. There were occasionally some unfortunate quarrels between the secular clergy and the monastic orders. One of the most[333] notorious was that which broke out between the University of Paris and the mendicant orders. The university was in the habit of suspending its lectures when it had any dispute with the government. The Dominicans and the Franciscans having refused to submit to this practice, their priests were deprived of their professorial chairs, and all their monks excluded from the university. A doctor, William of St. Amour, published a violent diatribe against the mendicant orders. The quarrel lasted a long time, and Popes Innocent IV. and Alexander IV. supported the cause of the monks in several bulls issued upon this subject (Fig. 260). The university, in the end, consented to reopen its doors to them, but only on the condition that they should always occupy the lowest rank, and in the public disputations not urge their views until the other doctors had had their say. It may be imagined how this petty restriction was put up with by these humble monks, when we remember that among those whom the doctors treated with so much contumely were such men as Roger Bauer, Duns Scotus, and St. Bonaventura among the Franciscans; and Albert the Great, Vincent of Beauvais, and St. Thomas of Aquinas among the Dominicans. It was the last-mentioned of these who defended the mendicant orders from the attacks of William of St. Amour.

Towards the close of the thirteenth century, and during two-thirds of the fourteenth, many reforms took place in the monastic orders, especially in that of the minor brothers (Fig. 261), who changed their name with each change of rules. The new orders, however, obtained but a slight celebrity, and lasted only a short time, with the exception of that of Mercy, for the ransom of the captives—an eminently charitable work, instituted by St. Nolasque, a Languedoc crusader, who died in 1256. We must not, however, forget to mention St. Bridget, the inspired Scandinavian (1302–1372), who, during a journey to Jerusalem, conceived the idea of founding the order of St. Saviour, which she established in Sweden; nor Gerhard Groot, surnamed the Great (1340–1384), founder, in Holland, of the Brethren of the Common Life, who devoted their time to the teaching of the poor, and whose chief occupation was to copy the books of the Fathers and of other ecclesiastical writers.

Fig. 261.—St. Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan Friar, anxious to demonstrate to a heretic, who asked him to perform a miracle, the truth of the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, commands a mule to adore the Eucharist. The mule, though ravenously hungry, refuses the oats that his master is sifting, and kneels down at the bidding of the saint.—Miniature from the “Heures” of Anne of Brittany (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century), National Library, Paris.

The disorder prevalent in that century extended unfortunately to the Church; the priests—notably the monks and the regular canons—gradually laid on one side the spirit of holy meditation, the habits of prayer, seclusion,[334] and pious works. Young men were admitted into the abbeys without having gone through the period of novitiate; the monks were not compelled[335] to be resident, and many members of a chapter or of a congregation were never or rarely present at the services. An increase of the penalties for breach of discipline failed to suppress these abuses, and in some churches and communities, those monks who attended the services were provided with counters, each of which, when given up in the chapel, entitled the holder to a small sum of money. Leave of absence was also granted quarterly and half-yearly, on condition that the rest of the year should be passed in residence. Different abbeys formed mutual communities for prayer and good works, which bound them closely together; while, at the end of the thirteenth century, several diocesan chapters had drawn up new constitutional codes, which were to be read each year, and adopted for guidance; but the external troubles were always reacting upon the internal quiet of the religious houses. The abuses which had crept into many of them, in reference to the distribution of the property belonging to the monks in each monastery, also added fresh elements of discord; for the laymen often retained possession of these portions and diminished by so much the resources of the community, which none the less continued to shelter the needy, to feed the hungry, and to bestow alms.

Whilst Battista Spagnuolo, of Mantua, General of the Carmelite Order, and one of the most celebrated Latin poets of the fifteenth century, vainly endeavoured to reform his ill-disciplined monks, St. Bernardine of Sienna (1380–1446), more fortunate if not more gifted, set a practical example by joining the order of St. Francis, with the intention of introducing the needed reforms. He founded three hundred houses of the Brethren of the Stricter Observance, which were urgently needed at a period when Europe was being devastated by three scourges—the plague, famine, and the sword. At about the same epoch, St. Colette of Corbie succeeded, by the exercise of an angelic sweetness, in correcting the abuses which had found their way into the convent of the St. Clare and many other female congregations, more recently formed under the Franciscan rules; St. Francis, of Romagna, instituted the Collatine order (1425), and St. Jeanne de Valois, daughter of Louis XI. (1464–1505), founded the community of the Sisterhood of the Annunciation, at Bourges, where her husband, the Duke of Orleans, had banished her, previous to repudiating the marriage. This virtuous princess was guided by the counsels of the Calabrian, St. Francis of Paula, the celebrated founder of the order of the Minimi (1416–1507), who, when[336] summoned to France by Louis XI., and resident in Touraine under the eye of that most suspicious and mistrustful of monarchs, had so far won his confidence as to induce the king to prepare for death like a Christian.

The Barnabites, and other religious institutions of more or less importance, which had principally in view the conversion of heretics by preaching, date from the close of the fifteenth century, and the origin of many of them was due to the spirit of morality and philanthropy then in vogue. Thus the first house of the Penitents, founded at Paris in 1496 by a Gray Friar under the name of Tisseran, afterwards became celebrated for its wholesome example amid the dissolute morals of the sixteenth century.

Fig. 262.—St. Theresa, the Reformer of the Carmelites, who died in 1582.—From a Portrait of the period engraved in the “Iconografia Española” of M. Carderera.

Fig. 263.—The Great Martyrdom of Nangasaki (Sept. 10, 1622), in which twenty-two missionaries and native Christians were burnt to death, and thirty others, including several women and children, beheaded, in presence of a vast crowd.—From a Japanese water-colour Drawing of the period, preserved in the Gésu Convent at Rome.—Pope Pius IX. commemorated this event by the beatification of two hundred and five martyrs, which was decreed at Rome on the 7th of July, 1867.

A great literary event, though only indirectly connected with the history of the monastic orders, nevertheless enables us to form an accurate judgment as to the intellectual character of the religious houses during the last thirty-five years of the fifteenth century, and the first years of the sixteenth: we refer to the invention of printing. Whatever may have been the causes that induced these houses to encourage the extension of printing, the action of each[337] community is made manifest by its achievements in that vast laboratory which typographical art had founded, in the stead of a few cells and studies where the human hand had been wearily transcribing manuscript after manuscript.

In an obscure monastery at Subiaco, near Rome, two printers from Mayence, Sweynheym and Pannartz, guests of the monks, published the first edition of Lactantius, followed by several other valuable works of ecclesiastical authors (1465–1467); in the monastery of St. Eusebius, within the walls of Rome, George Laver, of Würzburg, printed many publications, about 1470. Several clerks brought up in the episcopal schools of Metz, Liége, Mayence, and Tuscany—Adam Rot, Paul Leenen, Ulric Zell, and Jacob Caroli—superintended in person printing-offices at Rome, Cologne, and Florence, which were worthy rivals of those which were being established in every direction by ordinary traders. Colard Mansion, a clerk belonging to a community at Bruges, who was specially entrusted with the copying of manuscripts (1414–1473) conceived the idea of substituting for the tedious process of the pen and the engraving pencil the rapidity of movable types and screw printing-presses. The Brethren of the Common Life, his colleagues, who were settled at Rhingau, near Mayence, at Val St. Marie, Nuremberg, at Cologne, and at Rostock, imitated the example of Colard Mansion, and from mere calligraphists became master-printers (1474–1479). Two theological doctors of the Sorbonne, William Fichet and Jehan de la Pierre, also induced three skilful German workmen, Ulric Gering, Martin Crantz, and Michael Friburger, to come to Paris, where they provided them with a place to set up their presses and to establish a workshop (1470). This was the origin of printing in Paris. Two years later, William Caxton obtained leave to print in England, beneath the roof of Westminster Abbey; while in Switzerland, a canon of Munster (in Argovia), Hélias Hélye (1472, 1473), had some small presses at work. Soon after this, the Dominicans, the Carthusians, and the Carmelites established large printing workshops at Pisa, Parma, Genoa, and Metz (1476–1482); the Franciscans, surnamed Frères Conférenciers, who had a settlement near Gaude, in Holland, also opened a printing-office; and lastly, such celebrated orders as those of Cluny and Cîteaux, branches of the Benedictines, sent for workmen to their houses in Burgundy, at Clervaux, in Champagne, and Montserrat in Catalonia, to print the principal liturgical books, which were termed the books of common prayer.


The members of the Order of Jesus, founded in Paris by the Spanish nobleman St. Ignatius Loyola, on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1534), from this period devoted themselves closely to the work of social regeneration—an undertaking which, looked at in all its different phases, seemed as if it could only be brought about by means of religious reform. While St. Francis Xavier, the friend and companion of St. Ignatius, made use of the influence of the Order of Jesus to convert the idolatrous peoples in the Indian Ocean (Fig. 263), the Jesuit clerks, a learned and highly intellectual body, in a short time obtained a hold over the whole world, forming one vast army which answered as one man to the commands of the Holy See, and whose representatives were everywhere to be met with, in the professorial chairs, in the schools, in the affairs of State, and more especially in the various domains of literature, science, and art. Thus the sixteenth century, during which Luther and Calvin made such an onslaught upon the Catholic Church and the monastic orders, gave birth to a new religious order, which, though the most recent, was the most powerful and invincible of them all. Luther, who had worn the cowl in the monastery of the Augustines at Erfurt, and Calvin, who had been canon in the chapter of Noyon, urged the Huguenots to make away with the monasteries; but their number only seemed to increase whenever one of them was destroyed by the sacrilegious hands of the heretics.

Fig. 264.—Seal of the Monastery of St. Louis of Poissy, belonging to the Order of Preaching Brothers of the St. Dominic rule.—St. Louis, with a halo round his head, is covering with the folds of his cloak the people who are imploring him for protection.



Christian Charity in the First Centuries of the Church.—The Eastern Empresses.—The Holy Roman Ladies.—Olympiade, Melanie, Marcella, and Paula.—Charity at the Court of the Franks.—St. Margaret of Scotland and Matilda of England.—Hedwige of Poland.—Origin of the Lazar-houses.—The Lazarists in France and in England.—Progress and Vicissitudes of the Order of St. Lazarus.—The Foundations of St. Louis.—The Order of Mercy founded by St. Nolasque.—St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Francis.—Bernardin Obrégon.—Jean de Dieu.—Philippe de Néri.—Antoine Yvan.

At Christ’s coming, the Greco-Roman civilisation had reached the last stages of corruption, and the slavery of the vast majority of men failed to satisfy the thirst for supremacy which devoured the small section of privileged leaders in ancient society. The barbarian peoples, on their part, recognised no other power than that of brute force, nor any other pleasures than those of sanguinary orgies. To transform this condition of society, which toiled only for money and sensual enjoyment, Christ gave forth these touching and sublime words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: blessed are the pure in heart” (Beati pauperes spiritu: beati mundo corde). To the savage spirit of the barbarian who deified brute force Christ opposed the reverence for all that is weak and feeble by clothing himself with all manner of infirmities: “Come, ye blessed of my Father; I was poor, I was sick, I was in prison, and ye comforted me; inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

In these powerful words was contained the germ of modern civilisation;[340] wherever the Gospel reaches a feeling of tenderness and respect for the poor and the weak must go hand in hand with the spirit of chastity, self-denial, and devotion. Two words unknown to the old world sum up this transformation—humility and charity. The rich, the high-born, and even the offspring of royalty, from the moment they believe in the divine word, are found tending the sick in hospitals, and the proof of true belief in the Messiah is ever the same as that which He gave to attest his divine mission to John’s disciples: “Unto the poor the Gospel is preached.”

Fig. 265.—Hospitality.—Jesus Christ, represented as a Pilgrim, being received by two Preaching Brothers of the Order of St. Dominic.—Fresco-painting by Fra Angelico in St. Mark’s Convent at Florence (Fifteenth Century).

From the first days of Christianity we find the great apostle of the Gentiles recommending the giving of alms, and stimulating the generosity of the faithful. “If the amount collected,” he says, “makes it worth while, I will come myself and take it to our brethren.” The apostles appointed deacons to distribute the alms. One of those who reflected the greatest honour on this appointment was St. Laurentius, the noble martyr. He had seen his bishop, his spiritual father, led out to execution, and he became entrusted with the care of the property of his church (Fig. 266). The prefect of the prætorium said to him, “I know that you have gold and silver vessels for your sacrifices; let me have these treasures, which the prince requires for maintaining his troops.” The holy deacon replied, “I know that our church is rich; I will let you have all its most valuable contents, but you must give me three days to put everything in order.” He made[341] use of this delay to bring together the poor whom he maintained, and divided the silver and gold amongst them. The prefect came upon the appointed day, and St. Laurentius, pointing to the crowd of halt and poor, said with a saintly pride, which he afterwards expiated by his martyrdom,[342] “Here are the treasures which I promised you; the real gold is the divine light which illuminates these poor men, the disciples and brethren of Jesus Christ.”

Fig. 266.—Pope Sixtus II. handing to St. Laurentius, in 258, the Treasures of the Church, to be distributed amongst the Poor.—Fresco, painted by Fra Angelico, in the Chapel of Nicholas V. in the Vatican (Fifteenth Century).

Thus Christian charity began in the days of the apostles, and went on increasing even amidst persecution; but it did not reach its full expansion until the conversion of the Emperor Constantine at length obtained for the Church peace and liberty.

Helen, the wife of Constantius Chlorus, and mother of Constantine (247–328), may be regarded as having most brilliantly inaugurated the era of Christian charity in the Middle Ages. Simple and modest, kind to the suffering and to the needy, she tended and consoled the poor with maternal solicitude; her fortune was exclusively devoted to their relief. When, in her extreme old age, this pious lady went to visit the Holy Places in Palestine, she made most munificent gifts to the sick soldiers, whom the imperial government left without relief; also to the places where the inhabitants were poor; and to the religious houses and churches, whose mission it was “to succour the suffering members of Jesus Christ” (Fig. 265), according to the figurative expression which the new faith used to characterize human misery. She recalled the exiles, ransomed the captives, released from the mines the unfortunate men who had been condemned to labour underground, and obtained for them the means of living in open daylight, thus causing them to bless her name and that of her God. Her daughter Constance also devoted herself to works of charity; she was accompanied by a band of maidens whom she animated with her example—and this was, in fact, the first school of Sisters of Charity.

Despite the religious disputes of this century, Christian charity did not stop here; it received a further impulse during the reign of Theodosius, thanks to Placilla his wife, and to Pulcheria his daughter, both of whom were canonised after death. Placilla and Pulcheria were the guardian angels of the imperial palace, Placilla especially being full of compassion for all those who were in distress. She would go, without attendant, to visit the poor in their hovels; she passed whole days with the sick in the infirmaries attached to the canonical churches and convents, never shrinking from any charitable service, however repugnant it might be. Pulcheria, a worthy rival of her mother, was associated with her in all these good works by their eloquent panegyrist, St. Gregory of Nyssa. She was, nevertheless,[343] outdone by another Pulcheria, grand-daughter of the great Theodosius, who was called augusta, and who already, at the death of her father the Emperor Arcadius, though at that time only sixteen, was a model of piety and wisdom; she established so severe a rule of life and such complete asceticism around her, that her palace was commonly “the convent” (asceterium vulgo diceretur). For forty years she reigned like a saint and a great empress, and this period was for the Church a golden age.

Fig. 267.—The Holy Brothers, Cosmas and Damianus (end of the Third Century), visiting a sick man and relieving him.—Picture on wood, by Francesco Peselli, in the Louvre (Fifteenth Century).

Many other heroines of Christian charity descended from an illustrious family at that time exiled in the forests of Pontus, were also distinguished by the same virtues; to wit, Emmelia, mother of St. Basilius, Macrina his aunt, and Macrina his sister, who were true servants of the poor, undertaking as they did long journeys to discover unknown suffering, with a view to its relief. Anthusa, mother of St. John Chrysostom, suffered great privations in order to give away as much as possible, whilst Olympiade, widow of a prefect of Constantinople, and heiress of an immense fortune, distributed her money with ungrudging freedom. The emperor, who was anxious to marry Olympiade to a member of his own family, deprived her of[344] the management of her property, but afterwards restored it to her, knowing what a noble use she would make of it. Olympiade visited the sick, the orphans, the widows, and the aged, gave alms to the prisoners and the exiles, and ransomed the captives, for her liberality knew no bounds; she was, moreover, seconded in her works of charity by ecclesiastical virgins (vierges ecclésiastiques), devoted to the service of God. Never was woman’s apostolic mission more effective, nor had charity more zealous servants.

The wonderful influence which Olympiade and her companions exercised in the Christian world, towards the close of the fourth century, was derived from their ardent charity, which radiated from Constantinople throughout the whole empire, and awoke a sympathetic response at Rome, Milan, Lyons, Trèves, Rheims, &c. Thus Melanie, the elder daughter of the Consul Marcellinus, Proba, Falconia, St. Juliana, St. Demetriada, St. Paula, mother of St. Ambrose, and her daughter St. Marcellina, Roman ladies of the highest rank, were endowed with the heroism of the Roman character purified by the Christian religion. St. Ambrose, who has given us so touching an account of their good works, calls them “the august brides of Jesus Christ.” They dwelt with their own families, but passed nearly all their time in workshops, where they laboured together for the benefit of the poor, leaving off their occupations only to sing hymns, recite psalms, attend church for the hearing of God’s word, sharing with each other the task of instructing the people, distributing alms to the poor, and giving succour to the weak. Thus was prepared the way for the first charitable institutions which were called into existence at the bidding of Melanie the Younger, Fabiola, St. Paulina, and St. Pammachius, thanks to the help given by a great number of Roman ladies whose lives set an example of all the Christian virtues.

Whilst St. Melanie the Younger was exciting the enthusiasm of the Catholic world by her ardent charity, St. Marcella, the most illustrious of the gifted daughters of St. Jerome, was the pride and admiration of the Roman aristocracy. Gifted in the very highest degree both in respect to birth, wealth, grace, and beauty, at a time, too, when these rare endowments were rendered such a source of peril, owing to the capture of the Eternal City by Alaric (410), she had withdrawn to a modest dwelling on the Aventine Hill, with Principia, a young maiden recommended to her by St. Jerome. Here she had to submit to every kind of outrage, without permitting her zeal to be lessened by this cruel trial. She afterwards[345] opened a fresh centre of charity, having founded not far from Rome the Convent of the Relieving Virgins (Vierges Secourables), which was taken as a model for many similar institutions throughout Italy.

Fig. 268.—Robert I., Duke of Burgundy, having slain his father-in-law, builds the Church of Sémur to expiate the crime, and has the parricide represented on the building.—Tympan in the portico of the Church of Sémur (Eleventh Century).

Her friend St. Paula, who was Roman by birth, and a descendant of the Scipios, whose daughters were saints, whose theatre of action was in the East, whose tomb was at Bethlehem, and whose panegyrist was St. Jerome, followed in her footsteps. A widow at thirty, she effected a sweeping change in her own household and property, set all her slaves at liberty, and devoted herself to doing good; then shrouding herself in an incomparable modesty, and breaking off all her social ties, she emigrated to Palestine, where she worked miracles of charity. Long before her death, in 404, she had distributed all her worldly wealth to the poor. She had herself become so needy that it was necessary to borrow money to pay for her funeral, and her beloved daughter, who closed her eyes, inherited nothing but her faith and charity.

The marvels of charity wrought by the Christian ladies for two centuries were imitated in the fifth by many bishops, who had in turn become missionaries and dispensers of alms. St. Paulinus, the illustrious Bishop of Nolo, who died in 431 at the age of eighty, after having for forty years fed, clothed, and comforted the poor of his diocese, after having released the insolvent debtors from prison, ransomed the captives, and allowed himself to be sold as a slave to the barbarians in order to rescue from their hands the son of an unfortunate widow, is the most perfect type of the prelates of this remarkable epoch. Amongst his many other remarkable contributions to literature, must be cited his “Discourse on Almsgiving,” which is an eloquent exposition[346] of his doctrine. St. Paulinus, by his teaching and his example, had formed an eminent school of disciples, amongst them Sulpicius Severus (363–420), who, in concert with some pious ladies of the Roman aristocracy, seems to have been desirous of inaugurating a new era of things in the reign of Gregory the Great.

The ransom of the captives was the most urgent of the works of charity in the sixth century, for the wars and invasions of the barbarians had reduced whole populations to slavery; and so the Church devoted all its resources and efforts to this work of redemption, Pope Gregory deeming no sacrifice too great for furthering it. He was, moreover, powerfully seconded by the earnest efforts of women who constituted themselves the humble handmaids of Jesus Christ. The Empress Constantina, her sister-in-law Theodissa, St. Sopatra, and St. Damienna, all of whom were imperial princesses, sent him enormous sums from Constantinople; the Empress Leontia, Theodelinda, Queen of the Lombards, and her son Theodoaldus acted in a similar manner. As Christianity extended westward, the bright light of charity radiated in the same direction. St. Adelberga, wife of the first Christian King of England, and her daughter Bertha, wife of Ethelbert, King of Kent, were zealous in the cause of benevolence upon their conversion to the faith.

This impulse given to the Christian spirit did not slacken: St. Clotilda, Queen of the Franks, who was guided by the counsels of the Archbishop of Rheims, the eminent doctor St. Remigius; St. Albofleda, sister of Clovis; St. Radegonda of Thuringia, wife of King Clotaire, who founded a hospital at Athies, and a monastery at Poitiers; and St. Bathilda, of noble birth, who, after degrading herself to the humble condition of slavery, shared the throne of Neustria as the wife of Clovis II., were so many heroines of charity. Bathilda, in the course of a long and wise administration of affairs (645–680), was the good angel of the unfortunate. The abbot St. Gènes was her almoner, and her privy councillors were St. Eloi, St. Owen, St. Leger—venerable prelates whose active and pious co-operation was in perfect harmony with the prompting of her own heart. She founded abbeys, and, what was even more useful, increased the number of hospitals which were built in every direction. The royal abbey of Chelles, near Paris, founded by Queen Clotilda and rebuilt by Bathilda, and another monastery which she constructed after the same plan, were establishments of religious education, literary instruction, and benevolence.

Fig. 269.—Works of Charity.—Reduced Fac-simile of a Drawing of the Fifteenth Century, attributed to Savonarola, in the National Collection of Drawings. The artist shows the practice of works of mercy being carried on in each of the detached cottages, the mottoes recalling the texts in which Christ intimates that at the Last Judgment the exercise of Charity will weigh heaviest in the scale. In No. 1, the sick are being tended in their beds or picked up in the streets; in No. 2, the people are being clothed; No. 3 represents travellers who are being given to drink; No. 4, the hungry receiving bread; No. 5, pilgrims being sheltered; No. 6, a dead body being prepared for burial; No. 7, the visiting of prisoners. The last scene is a sanctuary in which the divine sacrifice—the true source of Christian charity—is being celebrated, whilst a penitent is obtaining the remission of his sins because he has practised charity. In the foreground rich men are throwing their money into a heap, and the poor are receiving their share of it. The monk whose bust is seen to the left is perhaps Bernardin de Feltri, preaching in encouragement of this good work.


During the eighth and ninth centuries, a great number of hospitable houses were built upon the high-roads leading from France to Italy, from France to Spain, and also from Spain to the confines of civilised Germany. The Carlovingian kings, beginning with Charlemagne and ending with Charles the Bald, with the view of facilitating international commerce throughout the vast extent of their empire, ordered the establishment of a number of free houses of which travellers might make halting-places, and in which they could count upon finding not only security, but any assistance which they might require. The establishment of lazar-houses or lazarettos, the origin of which dates from the fifth century, seems to have been less a work of charity than a sanitary measure of precaution against leprosy, a terrible and incurable malady which was generally looked upon as a punishment from heaven. These lazar-houses increased in the West, as the relations of Europe with the East became more general. It is from this period also that may be dated the foundation of many Hôtels-Dieu, religious asylums, most of which were constructed in close proximity to the porch of the cathedral churches, taking the place of the ancient canonical infirmaries. Such was the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris, the origin of which is lost in the obscurities of the Middle Ages.

After an interval of dejection and selfishness which must be attributed to the misfortunes that overwhelmed the peoples and ruined the Church, Christian charity, though permanent and persistent in each diocese, though too often ineffectual, was the distinguishing characteristic of several contemporary sovereigns. Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great (900–925), surnamed in the Roman breviary “the father of the poor and of the orphan,” must be mentioned as the first of them, for the various benevolent institutions which he created were never a burden upon his subjects, the whole cost coming out of his private revenues.

Canute I., leader of the Danes, converted to Christianity by a French princess to whom he was married, did as much good at the close of his reign as he had done evil in the early part of it by his persecution of the Christians (1016–1036). Olaus or Olaf of Sweden, and Olaus of Norway, King of the Scandinavians, founders of two Christian monarchies in the North, intermixed works of charity with dogmatic principles, and rendered the religion of Christ popular by making it contribute to the welfare of their subjects. But the two noblest types of the Christian Church in Northern Europe[348] during the eleventh century were Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm, King of Scotland (1070–1095), and St. Matilda their daughter, wife of Henry I. of England.

Margaret, the mother of the poor, the consoler of the afflicted, looking upon her subjects as a large family committed to her charge by providence, underwent constant privations that she might have more to distribute in alms; she relieved sufferers before they had time to ask for help; inquired into hidden distress; sought out the insolvent debtors in order to free them from their liabilities; ransomed the prisoners of war, and visited constantly the hospitals which she had endowed or founded. Before sitting down to table, she washed the feet and dressed the wounds of the sick poor, while nine orphans and twenty-four widows or aged persons were always partakers of her meals. During Advent and Lent she had as many as three hundred at her table.

Her daughter Matilda, who was also canonised, survived her more than twenty-six years (1118). She founded two hospitals in London, and took great pleasure in visiting them, and tending the inmates with her own hands.

Fig. 270.—St. Elizabeth of Hungary, going to relieve the poor, suddenly sees the folds of her cloak covered with roses in full bloom.—From a Painting by Fra Angelico in the Academy of Fine Arts at Perugia (Fifteenth Century).

Before her day there was another St. Matilda, who was early instructed in the exercise of charity, first by her august mother, and afterwards by her grandmother, abbess of a convent at Erfurt, where she spent several years: she was a woman of true piety. She married the Emperor Henry, surnamed the Fowler, and owing to the wars in which her husband was constantly engaged, the regency was often entrusted to her. When she had resigned these high functions, which were very burdensome to her, she again became the influential adviser of the emperor, the counsellor of justice, the minister of clemency, and the[349] friend of the unfortunate. Left a widow, she retired, when her son succeeded his father on the throne, to her favourite convent of Northausen, a vast charitable foundation in which three thousand maidens belonging to the first families of Germany passed their lives in holy meditation, and in the relief of human suffering. Her three children, the Emperor Otho I., the Archbishop Bruno, the apostle of Germany, and Queen Gerberga, wife of Louis d’Outremer, King of France, reflected the virtues of their mother; but the memory of St. Matilda of Germany was still more vividly awakened in the person of her grand-daughter St. Adelaide, and of her great-grand-daughter Emma, wife of King Lothair.

Under the Emperor Henry II., surnamed the Pious, and the Empress Cunegunda, charitable establishments, hospitals, houses of relief, and places of refuge increased very largely, and when Conrad came to the throne at the death of Henry II., the empress-regent retired to the convent of Kaffung, which she had founded in the diocese of Paderborn, and devoted herself to the service of the poor and the sick who were under the special care of this institution.

Dambrooka, daughter of the despotic Boleslav, Duke of Bohemia, and wife of a duke of Poland whose hardness of heart she succeeded in softening, afterwards mother of Boleslav the Great, together with the Princess Adelaide of Poland, mother of St. Stephen I., the most famous of the Hungarian kings, were both celebrated for their charity and self-devotion, and, with St. Margaret of Scotland, Matilda of England, Matilda of Germany, and Adelaide of Germany, they prepared the way for St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207–1231), who reflected so faithfully the angelic disposition of her aunt Hedwiga, the patron-saint of the kingdom of Poland. It would seem, indeed, as if they all followed the same programme of benevolence. St. Hedwiga, daughter of the Duke of Carinthia, who by her marriage with Boleslav the Modest became Duchess of Poland and Silesia, created a new kind of charitable institution which was calculated to bring about the best results. She founded a convent of the Carthusian order at Trebnitz, of which her daughter Gertrude became an inmate, with the view of devoting it specially to the education, the marriage, and the dowry of girls who had been left unprovided for. She enriched it with very large donations, and a thousand needy persons were fed there every day, exclusive of the abundant alms and relief in kind which the community distributed without its walls.

At this epoch, the Abbey of Longchamps, near Paris, began its existence[350] with the modest and touching title of “the Humility of our Lady.” Isabella, the only sister of Louis IX., whom the saintly monarch made the minister of his bounty and kindness to the suffering, was the foundress of this institution. The nuns at Longchamps educated and maintained poor girls, and distributed the rest of their revenues in alms. Their rules, a model of good sense, wisdom, and charity, approved of by St. Bonaventura, were copied by several similar establishments. Isabella, who had consecrated herself to the service of God by taking the veil, besides instructing, caring for, and feeding the poor, also worked for them with her own hands. She established in the abbey a kind of workshop in which ladies of the highest rank, while singing hymns and reciting prayers, spun wool and made garments for the poor.

The Crusades, what with the additional calls which they made on public charity, and the epidemic diseases which they brought, had rendered greater development of works of mercy absolutely indispensable. Works of charity are, in fact, the most marked characteristics of the reigns of Louis VII., Philip Augustus, and Louis IX. (1179–1270); most notably of the last, in which the saint-king set all his contemporaries such an example of Christian self-denial. We possess, under the title Etablissements de Saint Louis, a collection of the laws and ordinances framed by this great monarch, and forming an administrative code which displays wonderful sagacity, firmness, and forethought. His saintly mother, Blanche of Castille, to whose counsels he perhaps paid too little heed, seems to have taken a prominent part in the drawing up of this admirable code, which seems to breathe the true spirit of the Gospel. In St. Louis’s numerous and important charitable foundations, such as the Quinze-vingts, the Maison-Dieu, enlarged and endowed in Paris, the Hostelleries des Postes, in the chief towns of the kingdom, we recognise the collective work of this great king and his mother, who threw their love for humanity into the scale of politics (Fig. 271).

The angel of charity spread its wings over the West and the East, and whatever might be the final result of so many distant wars which were on that account the more perilous, they could not fail to bring about an infinite increase of benevolent institutions. The most important, in point of utility, was the extension of the hospitaller order of St. Lazarus.

Fig. 271.—St. Louis serving a Repast to the Poor.—Miniature from the “Petites Heures” of Anne of Brittany, which belonged to Catherine de Medicis (beginning of the Sixteenth Century), in the Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.

The Lazarists had two hospitals in Jerusalem, when Godfroi de Bouillon entered the holy city with the Crusaders (1099). Subsequently Louis VIII., having induced these monks to send some of their brethren to France,[351] settled them outside Paris at the extreme end of the Faubourg St. Denis, in the lazaretto originally founded by Queen Adelaide, wife of Louis le Gros. These monks were also endowed with a rich domain at Boigny, near Orleans (1154), which afterwards became the head-quarters of their order. Louis VII.,[352] who had seen female communities in the East devoted to the tending of lepers, and who wished to create similar ones in France, founded a house at La Saussaie, near Villejuif, where nuns had charge of leprous women, and he assigned them, as a revenue, the tithe on the wine brought into Paris, which belonged by right to the king and queen. This establishment rapidly became rich: Philip Augustus bequeathed to it at his death all his gold and silver seals, on condition that prayers should be said on behalf of himself and the members of his family; other sovereigns gave it the privilege of claiming, at the death of a king or a prince of the house of France, his linen, his mules, the state-horses, and all the other horses used at his funeral, together with all the mourning harness and drapery. These privileges were so fully recognised, and the rights of the nuns so completely understood, that, a century and a half later, after the death of King John in England, eight hundred pounds (800 livres parisis) were paid to this convent as an indemnity for the horses which, owing to the death of the insolvent monarch in captivity, had not been bequeathed. Charles VI. paid the convent 2,500 livres to buy back the horses belonging to his father, Charles V.

A lazar-house had also been established by Louis VII. at Etampes, in an ancient hospital for indigent lepers, and the monks of this house, being entitled to call themselves maîtres and frères, were authorised to hold chapters and to sign their own capitulary documents. Their founder assigned them valuable property, with right of petty and ordinary justice, with right of toll, of market, &c. Several institutions of a similar kind were also set up in different parts of France, for the public health required that persons afflicted with leprosy should be provided with asylums where they could not come in contact with any one. Henry II., King of England and Duke of Normandy (1133–1189), founded one house at Rouen for lepers and for the monks in charge of them, and another in the forest of Rouvrai, not far from Rouen, for leprous women, with the condition that their nurses should be ladies of noble birth. Henry II., moreover, in founding a number of lazarettos in England, did for his kingdom what Louis VII. had done for France upon a much smaller scale. Both were seconded by the aristocracy of their respective countries, as the progressive development of a disease which science deemed incurable was beginning to cause great alarm.

Fig. 272.—The Banner of a Flemish Lazaretto with the Arms of the Gruthuyse Family, dating from 1502.—From a painted Curtain preserved among the Collection of Engravings in the National Library. The picture refers to the life of St. Lazarus. In the middle are the Virgin and St. Lazarus, the latter with traces of the sores which the dogs licked. In the top medallion to the left is the rich man driving Lazarus from his door. Opposite, Lazarus is standing at the rich man’s door, while a dog licks his sores. Below, the rich man is upon his death-bed, with an evil spirit waiting to carry off his soul. Upon the opposite side, Lazarus is lying dead upon the bare ground, but a dove is bearing his soul to heaven. The donors of the banner are kneeling before the Virgin and St. Lazarus. The clapper (which was used to announce the approach of the lepers) is depicted eight times in the border.

Richard Cœur-de-Lion, King of England, also supported the Order of St. Lazarus, which he had seen doing good service during the Crusades. The[353] Lazarists, both men and women, who had taken up their abode at Jerusalem, Acre, Jericho, and Bethany, were looked upon with admiration even by[354] Saladin, who permitted them to remain in the first-named city a year after its capture. They were also favourably treated by the Emperor Frederick II., who, in his fierce disputes with Rome, had occasion to notice their pacific and conciliatory spirit. His contemporary and friend, Andrew II., King of Hungary, and father of St. Elizabeth, combined with his daughter and with his son-in-law, Louis VI., Landgrave of Thuringia, to increase the lazarettos throughout Germany. The hospital of St. Mary Magdalene at Gotha, which was founded by St. Elizabeth, and richly endowed by her family, was administered by the Lazarists, who “received travellers and needy wayfarers.” Detachments of the same order gave succour in Saxony, Poland, the banks of the Elbe, the Danube, and the Maine. Wherever the brethren were established they recognised the authority of the grand-master, who resided at Boigny, in France, and the sovereignty of the King of France. They all followed the rules of St. Augustine, and lived in conformity with the statutes which commanded them to visit the sick with pious zeal, to tend, feed, and clothe persons afflicted with incurable diseases, and to receive charitably the pilgrims, the poor, the desolate, and those who were unable to earn their livelihood. The order, though at times a warlike one in the Holy Land, was never any but a hospitallers’ order in Europe.

During the latter half of the thirteenth century, various papal bulls, decisions of councils, and official sentences testify very clearly to the eminently hospitable character of the Lazarists; and these good brethren, far from confining themselves to the care of the lepers whose numbers diminished daily, relieved every variety of infirmity and sickness, and succoured all kinds of misery and suffering.

The downfall of the Knights Templars, who had been rivals of the Knights of St. Lazarus, in respect both of fortune and influence, proved advantageous to the latter. The greater the severity shown towards the Templars, the greater was the protection accorded to the Lazarists, the Knights of St. John, and all the orders designated in the papal bulls as hospitalarii milites, that is, warriors or knights of hospitality and charity.

In the time of St. Louis, a Languedoc knight called Nolasque, touched with pity for the fate of the unhappy captives, men, women, and children, who were daily falling into the hands of the Barbary corsairs, and sold like cattle in the Eastern slave-markets, conceived the philanthropic idea of instituting an order of “Mercy,” or Ransom. He died in 1236, after having[355] had the satisfaction of seeing this charitable undertaking make great progress. The Brethren of Mercy preached and collected arms for the ransoming of the captives; they then crossed the seas with the produce of their appeals to buy them back, and, if the sum was insufficient, they gave themselves to slavery in exchange for the unhappy prisoners. The Christian religion was alone capable of inspiring such feelings of self-devotion.

Fig. 273.—The Seven Christian Virtues, with their Symbols.—From a Miniature in the “Ethics of Aristotle” (Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century), Rouen Library.

On the left are the Theological Virtues: Faith, dressed as a nun, is holding a church, a New Testament, and a wax taper; Hope, in the garb of a peasant girl, has a ship upon her head, a cage beneath her feet, a beehive and a spade in her hands; Charity is a young woman standing on a hot oven, with a pelican upon her head, and her hair falling loose upon her shoulders; she has in her hands a bleeding heart and the monogram of Christ surrounded with flames of fire. Then come the Cardinal Virtues: Temperance, balancing upon the sails of a windmill, a bridle in her mouth, a clock upon her forehead, and a telescope in her hand; Justice, standing on the seat of justice, with scales at her girdle, and balancing swords; Prudence is in the garb of a nun, and is weighed down under her symbols, viz. a coffin, a mirror, a sieve, and the shield of faith; lastly, Strength, mounted on a screw-press, and with an anvil on her head, is holding a donjon in one hand, while she strangles a dragon with the other.]


Leprosy, however, still prevailed, and was, moreover, complicated with strange and unknown epidemics which spread terror everywhere and depopulated the cities of the West. It was then that Providence raised up a few saintly women and holy confessors who, amidst sickness and death, pursued their charitable mission—such as St. Catherine of Sienna (1347–1380); St. Bernardin of Sienna, who was born in the same year that Catherine died (1380–1446); St. Frances, a Roman matron; St. Juliana of Florence, and many others, who taught men that God only sent them trials in order to render them more worthy of Him. St. Catherine, from her youth, was a member of the Order of St. Dominic; she distributed amongst the poor the patrimony which her father had left her, and devoted herself to teaching and preaching to the salvation of souls. When she took upon herself the further task of tending the sick, she selected the most painful cases, those in which the sores were so contagious and so fearful to behold that no one had the courage to come near them. During the great plague at Florence (1374), her heroism was something sublime; divine inspiration made up for a want of medical skill, and she cured a great number of the plague-stricken; she saved, perhaps, even more of those who were hardened in sin—a double miracle of nature and of grace.

Fig. 274.—Orphan of the Venice Hospitals in the Sixteenth Century.—From the work of Cesare Vecellio: octavo, 1590.

In spite of the terrible vicissitudes to which Europe and Asia were exposed for two centuries, the Order of St. Lazarus never lost, either in the West or in the East, its essentially hospitable character. This it preserved, notwithstanding the impediments placed in its way by the rivalry of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and the avowed preference of the Court of[357] Rome for the latter—a preference which was due to the fact that the Popes, who had never given up all hope of recovering the Holy Land, were vexed to see the Lazarists renouncing altogether their military functions to devote themselves exclusively to the poor, the infirm, the sick, and the pilgrims. It was, however, their purely charitable mission which obtained for them the security, the protection, and the privileges which were everywhere accorded them.

Fig. 275.—The Great Hospital at Milan, founded in 1456 by Duke Francis Sforza and his Wife.

The chief authorities at Boigny, who had remained intact amidst the ruin of the Order of the Templars, acted with extreme prudence; the chapters were held very quietly, but always at fixed periods, and the nature of their decisions, their choice of persons to direct the branch establishments, their general administration of the property of the poor, were such as to give no handle to hostile criticism and malevolence. Moreover, it was the sole hospitable institution which was in proper and continuous working order. The spirit which animated King Louis and Queen Blanche had communicated[358] itself to many of the lords and ladies of their Court, who, as volunteer or auxiliary Lazarists, devoted themselves to the service of the lepers and the sick. Such were Elzéar de Sabran, Count of Arian, and his wife. Not only did they assiduously frequent the lazarettos and do work as menial as it was revolting, but they collected alms in concert with the Lazarist brethren, and assisted them in the most painful of their duties.

Fig. 276.—Knights of the Order of the Holy Ghost from pure intent.—“Ytem doyvent jeuner chascun jeudi de l’an si veullent ou ont le povoir, et se n’ont le povoir ou la volonté doyvent donner à mengier à trois poures en lonor du Pere, du Fils et du Saint-Esprit ou leur donner tant qu’il puissent avoir leur sustenance pour le jour” (old French).—From the Statutes of the Order of the Holy Ghost from pure intent, or of the Union, instituted at Naples in 1352, by Louis of Anjou, the first of that name, King of Jerusalem, Naples, and Sicily.—Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century, preserved in the Louvre (Musée des Souverains), now in the National Library, Paris.

St. Cajetan the Dominican, so celebrated in the fifteenth century for his controversy with Luther, his clerical institutions, and the energy of his proceedings with regard to teaching and benevolence, sowed the germs of the charitable congregations which, under various names, afterwards constituted a splendid body of religious and hospitable establishments. At Naples he founded the immense Hospital for Incurables, the Mount of Mercy for the poor belonging to the better classes, asylums for orphans, and houses of refuge for penitent women. Nor was this all,—with a view to suppressing usury, which had ruined so many families and prevented the[359] unfortunate debtors from recovering themselves, he conceived the idea of founding pawn establishments, and a lady, the Contessa di Porto, procured him the sum of four million pounds (Italian) to establish the first house which lent money at the legal rate of interest (1469–1534).

Fig. 277.—Margaret of York, third wife of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, one of the most charitable princesses of her time, who died at Mechlin in 1503.—She is represented on her knees between the four Doctors of the Church, St. Gregory, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Ambrose. In the background is the Church of St. Gudule, at Brussels.—From a Miniature in a “Traité sur la Miséricorde,” translated from Latin into French by Nicholas Finet, Canon of Cambrai and Almoner to Margaret. (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.)

The saddening spectacle of human misery excited the sympathy of Jean de Dieu, a Portuguese gentleman, who had successively fought against the French, the Turks, and the Hungarians; after having led a licentious life as a soldier, he devoted himself to healing the wounded and to the care of the[360] sick (1540). The wounds inflicted by fire-arms required much more careful treatment than those caused by steel weapons, for they were followed by suppuration of a contagious character, and other dangerous consequences; they, moreover, entailed terrible operations, which made an increase in the number of surgeons a matter of absolute necessity. Jean de Dieu determined to make good this deficiency, and he was the originator of the corps of hospital attendants and sick-nurses. But the institution which he founded was not properly organized and put in working order until after his death (1550), in the midst of the Italian wars and the great struggles of France and Spain.

Fig. 278.—St. Vincent de Paul.—Reduced Fac-simile of a Drawing by Edelmet (Seventeenth Century).

Obregon and Jean de Dieu were both contemporaries of Philippe de Néri, founder of the Order of the Oratory, a learned Florentine, animated as much by the spirit of charity as by his fondness for religious teaching. The beneficent institutions of St. Philip were perhaps but the intelligent application upon a larger scale of the schemes of moral reform so wisely conceived by St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Francis the Roman, and St.[361] Juliana. At about the same period, a Frenchman, less celebrated than Philippe de Néri, but whose memory is cherished by his compatriots in Provence, Antoine Yvan, inspired by the example of the Somasques, the Crucifers, and the Scholopians (regular clerks whose office it was to care for the orphans, the sick, and the poor), endeavoured to collect in one institution, under the title of “Order of the Religious Clerks of Mercy,” a staff entrusted with the task of relieving these three classes of misery (1576–1653). And, lastly, there appeared in France that great benefactor of suffering humanity, St. Vincent de Paul, who, having taken orders in 1600, commenced his apostleship just at the close of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, bequeathing to modern generations the admirable practice of Christian charity, organized, regulated, and disseminated with wondrous forethought amongst all grades of society in the Catholic world.



The first Pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome.—The Worship of the Martyrs.—Pilgrims’ Hospitals.—Images of the Virgin Mary.—Relics brought from the East by the Crusaders.—Celebrated Pilgrimages of Early Days.—The Roman Basilicas.—St. Nicholas de Bari.—Notre-Dame de Tersatz.—St. Jacques de Compostella.—Notre-Dame du Puy, de Liesse, de Chartres, de Rocamadour.—Pilgrimages in France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Switzerland.

The first of the Christian pilgrimages were those made to the tomb of Christ, when the apostles, the disciples, the mother of sorrow (mater dolorosa), a few saintly women, and soon, no doubt, many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, paid their pious visits to the sepulchre which the resurrection had robbed of its prey. Afterwards, when the Gospel became known throughout the countries near Judæa, St. Paul set the example of making a pilgrimage to the holy places—an example which was followed by millions of the faithful in later ages.

Fig. 279.—St. Denis carrying his Head to his place of burial: according to the old legend, he is supported by two angels, and followed by a Christian lady, St. Catulla, who is going to put him in his shroud. In the scene above, the body of the martyr is being prepared for burial.—After a Miniature in the “Vie de Monseigneur Sainct Denis,” Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century (National Library, Paris).

In the third century, but even more so in the fourth, Christian men and women of all nations visited the places mentioned in the Gospel as having been the scenes of some episode in the life of Jesus Christ, from the stable at Bethlehem to the Calvary of Golgotha. Amongst this host of pilgrims, history has handed down to us the names of St. Hilarius, St. Basilius the Great, and his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote a discourse concerning the visitors to Jerusalem; St. Jerome also, with the Scriptures in his hand, made the solemn pilgrimage, accompanied by learned theologians such as the Bishop of Gaza, Porphyrius, and Rufinus of Aquileia, and by several saintly[363] women, Melanie, Paula, Fabiola, Eustochia, who were scarcely less erudite than the doctors.

We find the proofs of these early pilgrimages in the inscriptions traced with the point of the stylus, or merely with charcoal, upon the plaster of the walls of the Catacombs at Rome. There are many in the cemetery of St. Calixtus which give expression to pious thoughts, touching prayers, and some interesting events. In the crypt of the old church at Montmartre, where, as there is reason to believe, the martyrdom of St. Denis (Fig. 279) and his companions took place, there were found many similar inscriptions, which would seem to indicate that there, as at Rome, the pilgrims have left traces of their visits.

The Catacombs at Rome are full of images of saints, painted in fresco on a groundwork of glass or mosaics in coloured stones; and many of them, some dating from the second and even from the first century of the Church, seem to mark the stations at which the primitive pilgrims halted or knelt or prayed.

The memory of any act which has excited admiration, or has impressed itself vividly, long remains indelible in the heart of the people, to which fact must be attributed the origin and long duration of a number of pilgrimages which date from the early ages of Christianity. The commemorative marks of these pilgrimages remained unknown to posterity, until recourse was had to consecrated standards (signa), to images, and to amulets which generally bore the monogram of Christ or the sign of the redemption. The cross was never of the shape which it assumed in the fourth century, being rather the cross termed commissa or patibulata—in the form of the Greek letter tau (T), which, as tradition tells us, corresponded exactly to the shape of the cross upon which our Lord suffered death. This kind of cross is, in fact, to be seen on amulets or reliquaries of the third century; it was embroidered on garments and engraved upon tombs. The cross was thus the symbol of pilgrimage, as it was afterwards the emblem of the Crusades.

Fig. 280.—St. Barbara, a Maiden of Nicomedia, who suffered Martyrdom in the Third Century.—Drawn with the pen and pencil by John Van Eyck, called John of Bruges, in honour of the building of a church dedicated to her.—In the Museum at Antwerp (Fifteenth Century).

The worship of relics, whatever be its origin, was a natural adjunct to the worship of the tombs in which Christ’s confessors were laid, and of the soil where their martyrdom had taken place; thus the smallest fragment of a saint’s body, the most trifling piece of raiment, or most insignificant object (tantillæ reliquiæ) that had belonged to a blessed martyr, and more especially anything which represented a material reminder of the glorious death[364] which a Christian had won in confessing the Gospel, was carefully preserved as a relic. Thus the periods of persecution were the most favourable for the multiplication of these relics. Almost before the martyr’s sufferings were over, a crowd of believers invaded the amphitheatres and arenas, carried off and concealed the mortal remains of the victim, collected his precious blood in sponges, and almost fought for the very sand upon which it was shed; and when the new saint had been laid in some sure resting-place, they vied with each other in sprinkling sweet perfumes over the body, in wrapping it up in white linen, and even in purple and gold. His solemn interment[365] afterwards took place in some sanctuary (loculum) of the Catacombs, which was afterwards visited by numerous and devout pilgrims who came to pay their pious homage to his memory.

One of the earliest instances of this worship of the martyrs is furnished us in the hagiography of St. Ignatius, who suffered martyrdom at Rome in the reign of Trajan. We see therein how, in spite of the armed attendants and heathen crowds which filled the amphitheatre where the execution had taken place, some courageous Christians, at the risk of their own lives, secured the remains of the prelate in order to convey them to his own church at Antioch. In a letter concerning the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, quoted by Eusebius, it is stated that the faithful carried away his bones, more precious in their eyes than gold and precious stones, and concealed them in a fitting-place (ubi decebat).

The unanimous testimony of St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Leo, St. Cyprian, St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and of all the most illustrious Fathers of the Greek, African, Eastern, Roman, and Gallican Churches, proves that the worship of martyrs, of the places of their nativity (natalia), of their burial-places, and of their relics, was established in the Christian world before the close of the fourth century (Fig. 280). The various liturgies, sacramentaries, missals, and rituals confirm this testimony. Moreover, the primitive Church had, in a measure, joined the worship of relics to the sacrifice of the eucharist by celebrating the latter upon the tombs of the martyrs. This ancient usage was raised into a liturgical law under the pontificate of St. Felix (269), as St. Athanasius affirms in his biography of that saint. When the persecutions had ceased, basilicas sub dio, or under the open sky, were raised over the crypts which held the bodies of the martyr-saints.

The enormous sum of five hundred golden sous, representing seven pounds of gold, the price for the body of an obscure martyr in the third century, fails to give an idea of the fabulous sums which were expended at that period to obtain possession of the bodies of the saints. Men hoped, to use an expression borrowed from the Acts of St. Firmus and St. Rusticus, that by so doing they were laying up treasures for the life to come; and this explains why Luitprand, King of the Lombards, purchased the relics of St. Augustine for their weight in gold.

The flow of pilgrims into Rome, Jerusalem, and other places was so great towards the close of the fourth century, and still more in the fifth, that it[366] became necessary to regulate this display of devotion by some strict rules of discipline. Many ecclesiastical writers, while deploring the abuses to which it gave rise, were unable to point out any effectual remedy; it being difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, to distinguish the false pilgrims from the true, and to prevent vagabonds, ever ready to rob any wealthy travellers they might fall in with, from assuming the garb of piety and religion.

Fig. 281.—“Count Renier bearing the Body of St. Veronica to the Church of St. Waudru, in Mons.”—After a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Hainaut” (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century), Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Every church, abbey, and chapel became at this period a place of refuge, ever open for pilgrims, who were certain of being hospitably received there at all hours, for their purse was generally light, and they lived upon alms, if only for the sake of doing penance. Charity devoted itself to the task of sheltering and feeding them during their journeys, whence they often returned ill and weak, and poorer than when they started, but always rich in indulgences, consolations, and relics.


Rome had, from the earliest times, an inexhaustible stock of relics in the Catacombs, which served for the use of the whole Christian world. By one of the canons issued by the fifth Council of Carthage, it was decreed that no church should be consecrated until some well-authenticated relics had been placed beneath the altar. In after-days, it was further required that there should be relics visible at each entrance to the church, on the diptychs fastened to the chapel walls, in the sacraria, in a number of the private oratories, and even on the cover of the books of the mass.

This continual removal of relics from one country to another gave rise to many imposing and touching ceremonies. St. Chrysostom has related, in one of his homilies, all the details concerning the translation of the relics of St. Ignatius, who suffered martyrdom at Rome, to his episcopal residence at Antioch, amidst a vast assemblage of the faithful.

From the seventh century the removal of relics became more and more frequent, and the number of pilgrimages increased accordingly. Sometimes the relics were those of unknown saints. When Pope Boniface IV. (606) was about to dedicate to the Holy Virgin, and to all the martyrs or confessors, the Pantheon of Agrippa, by transforming it into a church, to be called Sancta Maria Rotunda, he caused to be conveyed thither thirty-two chariot loads of bones, taken from the Catacombs. Pope Pascal I. (817) also deposited a vast quantity of saints’ bones in the Church of St. Praxeas at Rome, previous to consecrating it. The names of these saints were not known, but the authenticity of their remains and of their claims to veneration were verified before the ceremony, by a committee appointed for that purpose.

Fig. 282.—Henry I., Emperor of Germany, and one of his Generals, Gautier Von der Hoye.—Equestrian statues in bronze, cast in 948 by order of the Emperor, and placed in the Church of Our Lady at Maurkirchen (Austria), in commemoration of his victory over the Huns. These statues, destroyed in a fire, were re-cast in plaster and placed on the same spot, where they were visible until June 27th, 1865, when the church was burnt to the ground.—After a Woodcut from a work called “Thurnier-Buch,” in gothic folio: printed at Siemern in 1530.

In the course of three centuries, from the ninth to the eleventh, the discovery and the disinterment of saints’ bodies, their solemn removal (Fig. 281), the foundation of monasteries, oratories, and churches in their honour, the institution of anniversary fêtes, and the setting apart of a number of private devotions at services, relating not only to relics, but to holy images, abound in all the annals of the Catholic world. This is supposed to be the epoch when were introduced into Europe those ancient images, in sculpture and in painting, of the Holy Mother of Christ, which were revered in the Middle Ages just as they are in the present day; among these were black virgins, which were, no doubt, of Abyssinian origin; tawny or yellowish virgins, from some country of Africa; and brown and Byzantine virgins, of[368] a stern and hard-featured type, wanting in expression. These images, all of which were very coarsely executed—though the last-mentioned seem to be copied from a picture attributed to St. Luke (Fig. 283)—often peculiar in their expression and character, but most of them of unquestionable antiquity, were common in Italy, Spain, the Mediterranean Isles, and many of the southern provinces of France. They were much rarer in the west of Europe,[369] in Belgium, Germany, and Ireland, where, however, they were looked upon with just as much veneration—as, for instance, the Notre-Dame de Luxembourg, which was tawny. In the North, in Hungary, Poland, and Russia, but especially in Russia (Figs. 284 and 285), there were only the dark and Byzantine images of the Virgin.

Fig. 283.—The Virgin of St. Luke (so called).—An image painted on wood, placed in the Church of Sta. Maria Maggiore, now San Paolo-fuor-gli-Muri, at Rome, in the Fourth or Fifth Century.

Fig. 284.—Greek Panagia, or Image of the Holy Virgin, with a Portrait of Jesus Christ upon her bosom.—From the “Antiquities of Russia,” by Sevastianof (Thirteenth Century).

The worship of relics, as well as that of miraculous images, had, beyond question, sometimes degenerated into superstition; but it is impossible to deny the services which it rendered to Christianity in these ages of barbarism. The people, without anything to restrain or to guide them, were in a state of perpetual commotion, easily tempted to evil, a prey to the first adventurer who could show them some ready road to plunder, impatient of all social restraint, moving about from place to place, and dead to all family ties and love of country. Amidst all this disorder, preaching unaccompanied by grand religious spectacles would have been fruitless, and thus the Church revived the worship of relics. Search was made in every direction for the bodies of[370] saints; the bishops themselves journeyed to Italy, to Africa, and to the East to collect the precious remains of those who had sealed their testimony with their blood. When these relics arrived at the place for which they were destined, the people went out to meet them and escort them back. Their transfer to the sanctuary, in which they were solemnly laid, was made the occasion for ornate ceremonies and for numerous pilgrimages (Figs. 286 and 287); and so devotion brought together hostile races which had long been separated by bitter warfare. The deeds done by the saint, who seemed as if present and visible to the eyes of the faithful, were read from the pulpit; the miracles which he had wrought might always be renewed under the[371] influence of fervent prayer; a few cures were soon worked in proximity to his shrine, or upon his tomb. The pilgrims continually increased in number, and the priests gradually regained the moral authority which they had allowed to slip away from them.

Fig. 285.—Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Vladimir, the goal of one of the most famous pilgrimages in Russia.—From the “Antiquities of Russia,” by Sevastianof. (Twelfth Century.)

Fig. 286.—Coffer containing the Hair-cloths of St. Louis, presented by Philippe le Bel, his grandson, to the Abbey of Notre-Dame-du-Lis, near Melun.—The chest is in beech-wood, covered with metal, and with painted designs of the royal insignia of France and Castille, and various allegorical subjects.—Work of the Thirteenth Century, in the Louvre, Paris.

The Crusades were in reality but the general application, upon a larger scale, of those pilgrimages to the Holy Land which the inhabitants of Christian Europe had so long been performing. In the rear of the armed hosts marched with unfurled banners a tribe of infirm pilgrims, women, children, and old men (Fig. 288), led by priests in their sacerdotal vestments—undisciplined multitudes, into whose ranks inevitably crept a number of those miscreants who were the real authors of all the misdeeds with which history has reproached the Crusaders. As to the pilgrimages, the immediate result of this great movement of the European population towards Palestine was the creation, along the road which they had to travel, of a number of[372] receiving-houses, supported and managed by certain religious and military orders, who entertained the wearied and sick pilgrims, and helped them on their journey.

Fig. 287.—Reliquary in chased copper (front and reverse), with movable Panels, and containing round the Crucifixion Scene, and in the space between the columns, Relics of Apostles, Fathers of the Church, Saints, and Martyrs.—Flemish work of the Thirteenth Century, preserved in the Convent of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, at Mons.

Fig. 288.—Robert I., Duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror, seized with illness during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1035), is carried in his litter by negroes: hence his jocular saying, “I am being taken by demons into Paradise.”—From a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Normandie,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Library of M. Ambroise Firmin Didot.

That model of pilgrims, the good King Louis IX., collected, in the course of his unsuccessful expeditions (1248–1270), a number of relics (Figs. 290 to 293, and 305). These, brought back to France as trophies of the crusade, were offered as gifts to ancient and venerable churches already[373] possessing many valuable relics, or deposited in new churches which were built expressly for their reception, as in the case of the Sainte Chapelle at Paris. And this brought about the increase of pilgrimages throughout Europe, in which the worship, not only of relics but of miraculous images, was ardently pursued. At the end of the thirteenth century, which was undoubtedly the most brilliant as it was the most solemn epoch of Christian art, in respect to the processional and itinerant acts of devotion, there were said to be no less than ten thousand Catholic sanctuaries, all of more or less[374] celebrity, and each of which attracted its share of pilgrims, either for its Madonna or Notre-Dame. This was exclusive of the numberless images of Notre-Dame which were occasionally honoured by a special worship, and which were erected at cross-roads, at street-corners, and upon the fronts of houses, as a protection for the wayfarer and for the inhabitants of the locality. Many dioceses, such as those of Soissons and Toul, each contained from sixty to seventy places of pilgrimage.

Fig. 289.—The Pilgrims of Emmaus.—Pilgrim’s dress in the second half of the Thirteenth Century.—Portion of the celebrated Altar-piece of Mareuil-en-Brie, reproduced in its entirety in the article “Liturgy and Ceremonies.”

The authentic titles of the principal pilgrimages, apart from those of Rome and Jerusalem, thus date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some, no doubt, were anterior to this period, but their origin, though attested by tradition, cannot be said to rest upon any indisputable evidence. Of this nature are the celebrated devotions of Notre-Dame of Loretto, of our Lord’s robe at Trèves, of the seamless robe of Jesus Christ in the village of Argenteuil, near Paris, of St. Larme at Vendôme, of St. Face at Chambéry, of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples, of the stole of St. Hubert, &c.

Fig. 290.—The Crown of Thorns brought into France.—The three lower compartments represent: 1, the first visit of the king to the Sainte-Chapelle, expressly built to receive the crown of thorns; 2, the reception of the crown, presented by Baldwin II., Emperor of Constantinople, and brought to Paris in 1239; 3, the adoration of the crown in the Sainte-Chapelle by the king and his mother, Blanche of Castille. Above are the Island of Cyprus, the Crusaders’ fleet, and a battle with the Saracens, as recalling the crusade of Louis IX.—In the Burgundian Library, Brussels. (Fifteenth Century.)

Figs. 291 and 292.—1. The Nail used in the Crucifixion of our Lord, preserved in the Church of Santa Croce di Gerusalemme, at Rome. 2. The Holy Bit of Carpentras, brought to that town between 1204 and 1206. This is the bit which St. Helena forged for the horse of the Emperor Constantine from nails which had been driven into the holy cross.—After the Engraving of M. Rohault de Fleury, in his work called “Mémoire sur les Instrumens de la Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ.”

Fig. 293.—The Title or Superscription upon our Lord’s Cross: fragment of the piece of cedar-wood given to the Pope by St. Helena, and preserved in the Church of Santa Croce di Gerusalemme, at Rome.—The Inscription, which signifies “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” was in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, written backwards and in sunken characters; only a third remains.—Fac-simile from M. Rohault de Fleury’s Engraving for his work called “Mémoires sur les Instrumens de la Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ.”

Fig. 294.—Touching the Relics of St. Philip.—Fresco Painting by Andrea del Sarto, in the Cloister of the Church of the Annunziata, at Florence.

Christian Rome, bedewed with the martyrs’ blood and enriched with their relics, has since the first ages of Christianity been the central object of the great majority of pilgrimages. Her three hundred churches have one after another been visited by a host of believers drawn thither by pious recollections, by all kinds of effectual acts of grace or indulgences, by an abundant[375] hospitality, by a pompous ceremonial, and, above all, by the ardour of their faith. On great anniversaries, at jubilees and at the Inventions of the bodies of saints, the number of pilgrims multiplied indefinitely. As many as twelve[376] hundred thousand have been known to have arrived in the course of a single day, from different parts of the world—pious bands which encamped around the walls of the Eternal City, their ranks being constantly added to by fresh arrivals during several consecutive months. Besides the basilica of St. Peter, Rome possessed several privileged sanctuaries which were at all periods the chief haunts of the pilgrims: these were the Church of Sta. Maria Maggiore, where the manger in which our Lord was born was seen; San Praxeas, the basilica which contained two thousand five hundred martyrs; San Giovanni Laterano, in which are the scala santa, the same steps blessed by the blood of Jesus Christ when He was wearing the crown of thorns, and which are only ascended by people upon their knees; San Pietro-in-Montorio, the crypt of which stands upon the spot where that apostle was crucified; San Sebastiano-fuor-gli-Muri, famous for its catacombs; San[377] Paolo da Tre Fontane—miraculous springs which gushed from the ground with three leaps, just as St. Paul’s head rebounded three times from the ground when he was executed; San Paolo-fuori-le-Muri, where is preserved the crucifix which spoke to St. Bridget; San Lorenzo-fuori-le-Muri, where are interred the bodies of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence; Santa Croce di Gerusalemme (Fig. 293), a basilica founded by the august mother of St. Constantine on her return from a pilgrimage to Palestine; St. Cecilia, a church built upon the site of the house in which that saint lived, and containing the bath-room in which she suffered martyrdom; as well as twenty other churches which have been the cradles of the Christian religion, and which, by their origin, tradition, and relics, command the pious respect of those who visit them. No matter by what road the pilgrims travelled, they passed on their way to Rome a vast number of sanctuaries and stations which were dedicated either to the Virgin Mary or to illustrious saints (Fig. 294). Upon the sea-coast, the church of Our Guardian Lady and of Our Lady of Genesta, the tutelary guardians of the Gulf of Lyons and the Gulf of Genoa; and with them St. Martha and St. Magdalene; St. George, the legend of whose warlike exploit is reproduced in so many pictures; at Lucca, Our Lady of the Rose; in the Neapolitan States, Our Lady of the Commencement,[378] Our Lady of the Conception, Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Naples, Our Lady of Mount St. Januarius; in Sicily, Our Lady of the Crown, St. Restituta, St. Agatha, but particularly St. Rosalie; towards the eastern shores of the Ionian Sea, several virgins of Byzantine origin, who were worshipped conjointly with St. Nicholas and St. Spiridion; along the Adriatic other Madonnas and other saints, conspicuous among whom, like a precious pearl, shines the celebrated image known as Our Lady of Victory. It was in her honour that an Eastern emperor caused a triumphal car to be constructed, in order that she might be drawn through the streets of Constantinople whenever the empire was threatened with danger. Brought to Venice and deposited in the Church of St. Mark, she was looked upon as the safe-guard of the republic, and, in place of the triumphal car, a magnificent gondola was specially reserved for this image. From the days of Godfroy de Bouillon, who, with a part of the Crusaders, made a pilgrimage to Bari, on[379] the “soil of Monseigneur St. Nicholas,” before pursuing his journey to Jerusalem, this august sanctuary became the scene of continuous devotions. Joinville, Froissart, Philippe Giraud de Vigneulles, and other chroniclers speak of the number of pilgrims who visited Bari to do honour to the relics of St. Nicholas. The miracles accomplished there through the intercession of the blessed Bishop of Myra, form a rich volume of legends dating from the eleventh century, when forty burghers of the town of Bari went into Asia Minor to rescue his precious body from the violence of the Saracens.

We must not be astonished at the profanities committed by the Mahometans at the places of pilgrimage in Palestine, since the cessation of the Crusades left these venerable sanctuaries at their mercy. It was to preserve the chapel of Nazareth from these outrages that God commanded his angels to carry it into a Christian country. According to a tradition confirmed by several papal bulls, the angels who carried off this chapel deposited it, on May 10th, 1291, at Rauneza, between Fiume and Tersatz, in Dalmatia. On the same night the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to a dying priest named Alexander, and told him of the miracle. The chapel transported to Rauneza was no other than the house in which the divine mother of God had been born and had conceived the Redeemer. After her death the apostles had converted it into a chapel; St. Peter had erected an altar in it, and St. Luke had with his own hands carved in cedar a statue of the Virgin for it. The priest who had had the vision rose from his bed cured of his disease, and went to prostrate himself before the holy image previous to making a public announcement of the apparition of the Virgin. The house of Nazareth was there standing to confirm the truth of his story. Then began the pilgrimages to Tersatz. The Emperor Rudolph, on being informed of this marvellous occurrence, sent several persons of distinction into Palestine to see whether the chapel of Nazareth had really been removed. Their report was of the most satisfactory character, and very soon the worship of Our Lady of Tersatz had become very general throughout the Danubian provinces. In order to preserve the treasure with which Providence had endowed this spot, the santa casa was surrounded by a wooden framework while the church of which it was to form the sanctuary was being built. But after standing for three years in Dalmatia, this holy house disappeared. Contemporary chroniclers relate that, on the 10th of[380] December, 1291, it was carried up into the air by angels and borne across the Adriatic.

It appears that the santa casa, before taking up its definite position, halted near Recanati, upon a property belonging to two brothers who for eight months disputed its possession. In order to bring about a reconciliation between them, and chiefly, no doubt, because they were unwilling to leave this sanctuary at the mercy of these two jealous rivals, the angels bore it off once more, and finally deposited it in a field belonging to a poor widow of the name of Loreta—whence the denomination Our Lady of Loreta. Here may still be seen the santa casa, just as it came from Nazareth, but not as it was decorated, endowed, and enriched by the sumptuous devotion of the Middle Ages. Its treasures, valued at several million francs, already much diminished by the religious wars brought about by the great Western schism, ceased to accumulate in the sixteenth century during the struggle of the Church against Protestantism, and they were almost all carried off in 1796 by the pillaging armies of the French Republic. Nevertheless the fervour of the pilgrims was not in the least abated, and the splendid church in which the santa casa was as it were enshrined, was too small to contain all the votive offerings brought thither from every part of the world. The popes had granted numerous indulgences to those who made this pilgrimage, which was the most celebrated as well as the most frequented of any outside Rome.

The legend of the pilgrimages, as marvellous in Spain as it was in Italy, always associated the worship of St. James with that of the Holy Virgin. After the ascension of our Lord and the descent of the Holy Ghost, Santiago the Iberian—St. James, as we call him—bid adieu to his elder brother St. John the Evangelist, and afterwards went to ask the Virgin for her blessing. She said to him, “Dear son, since thou hast chosen Spain, the country which I love best of all European lands, to preach the Gospel, take care to found there a church dedicated to me, in the town where you convert the greatest number of heathen.” Santiago then left Jerusalem, and crossing the Mediterranean, arrived at Tarragona, where, despite all his efforts, he only succeeded in converting eight persons.

Fig. 295.—Our Lady of Mountserrat, with a Spanish Inscription signifying “Celestial abode of Our Lady of Mountserrat.”—This mountain derives its name from its rocks being shaped like the teeth of a saw (sierra, saw). This symbolical saw is seen in the hands of the Infant Jesus.—Reduced Fac-simile of a Woodcut of the Sixteenth Century, belonging to M. Bertin, publisher, of Paris.

But in the night of February 4th, A.D. 36, whilst he and his eight neophytes were sound asleep in the plain upon which Saragossa now stands, they were awaked by celestial music, and this music was the voice of angels[381] celebrating the praises of the Virgin. Santiago prostrated himself with his face to the ground, and before him he saw the august mother of Christ, standing on a pillar of jasper, surrounded with angels, and with the same smile of ineffable sweetness which he had seen on her features when he left Jerusalem. “James, my son,” she said to him, “you must build me a church[382] upon this very spot. Take the pillar upon which I am standing, place it, with my image upon its summit, in the midst of a sanctuary dedicated to me, and to the end of time it shall never cease to work miracles.” The apostle at once commenced the work, aided by his disciples, and the church was soon constructed. Such, according to the legend, was the origin of the cathedral and the pilgrimage of Our Lady of the Pillar (Nuestra señora del Pilar).

The Virgin of the Pillar (Virgo del Pilar) was not the only one held in profound veneration by the Spaniards during the Middle Ages; every petty kingdom, every principality, every important town of the Iberian peninsula had its Madonna, its Señora, which attracted numerous pilgrims. Amongst them may be mentioned Our Lady of Mountserrat, in Catalonia (Fig. 295), Our Lady of France (la Rena di Francia), half-way between Salamanca and Ciudad Rodrigo, and Our Lady of the Dice (Señora del Dado), in the kingdom of Leon—sanctuaries which stood in the midst of mountainous ranges, and which could only be reached on foot or with mules.

In a small town called El Padron—the Monument—which is but the ancient Iria, where Santiago, called James the Elder, taught (Fig. 296), and which was for a long time the guardian of his earthly remains, there flowed beneath the high altar of the church, which was dedicated to him, a stream of spring water, the ripple of which, like heavenly music, mingled with the prayers of the pilgrims, who were so numerous that their knees have worn holes in the stone slabs of the sanctuary. The body of the illustrious martyr, when brought from Compostella to Santiago, was laid upon a granite block which was miraculously fashioned into a tomb, and it never emerged therefrom save as a phantom either to appear in vision before kings, prelates, and other pious persons who had invoked it, or to seize a lance and combat the enemies of Christianity. Thus, the legend tells us, he was seen in 946, riding a white horse, holding in his hand a banner emblazoned with a red cross (such as the knights of Santiago wear on the left side of their mantles), and marching at the head of the Christian barons against the Moors or Saracens.

The pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella was famous as early as the ninth century; people came with votive offerings from all parts of the Christian world. The road leading to this sanctuary was perpetually crowded with an army of pilgrims, and such continued to be the case throughout the Middle Ages. On returning to their own country, the pilgrims of “Monseigneur[383] St. James” formed a regular order of Catholic chivalry; they kept up the pious devotions in which they had engaged during their pilgrimage, and maintained till their lives’ end the spirit of religious fellowship which had united them under the same banner.

Fig. 296.—The Magician Armogenes, in the presence of the Compostella pilgrims, orders devils to bring him the apostle St. James (the legend of the saint gives the contrary version).—After a Miniature from “The Holy Scriptures,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Burgundian Library, Brussels).

France, notwithstanding her warlike spirit, did not pay so much honour to the warlike saints as did Italy and Spain to St. George and St. James, but she seems to have held in highest esteem the healing saints, as we may term them, such as St. Martin of Tours, St. Roch, St. Christopher, St. Blaze, St. Lazarus, &c., whose venerated relics have been the object of so many celebrated pilgrimages (Fig. 297). She has also rendered touching homage to certain specially holy women, the worship of whom has become almost national, such as St. Mary Magdalene and St. Martha, St. Barbara, St. Geneviève, &c. But in no country has the worship of the Virgin Mary been more general or more sublime than in France, where the mother of God had so many venerable sanctuaries; such as that of Our Lady of Puy, Our Lady of Liesse, Our Lady of Chartres, Our Lady of Rocamadour, Our Lady of the Thorn, Our Lady of Auray, and Our Lady of Victory, amongst others.


Fig. 297.—Thanksgivings made in a Chapel of Pilgrimage by a family carrying out a vow.—It is believed that this is the chapel in which were preserved the relics of the saint in the Abbey of Mont St. Claude (Franche-Comté).—French Picture of the Fifteenth Century, belonging to M. P. Lacroix.

One of the first altars erected in France to the Virgin Mary was that upon the summit of Mount Anicium, a volcanic rock near Velay, called Le Puy (from the Italian poggio, high mountain). St. George, bishop of the diocese, came to baptize a lady of the district, who became seriously ill, upon which an unknown voice bid her repair to Mount Anicium. Having obeyed this command, she fell into a quiet sleep, during which she[385] saw a celestial female figure, wearing a crown of precious stones. “Who is this queen, so beautiful, so noble, and so gracious?” she inquired, addressing herself to one of the angelic host that surrounded her. The answer came: “This is the mother of the Son of God. She has selected this mountain for you to come and make your invocation; she bids you acquaint her faithful servant, Bishop George, of what has taken place. And now awake; you are cured of your illness.” The lady, filled with gratitude and faith, went to the bishop, who, when he had heard her story, prostrated himself to the ground, as if it were the Virgin herself who was speaking. Followed by his clergy, he then repaired to the miraculous rock. It was in the month of July; the sun was very hot, but the snow lay deep upon the table-land of the mountain. Suddenly a stag bounded forward and traced with his feet the plan of the sanctuary which was to be built upon that very spot, and then disappeared. The bishop at once saw that a fresh miracle had been wrought in confirmation of the first; he had the spot enclosed, and made a vow to erect a church there. This vow was executed by St. Evodius, seventh Bishop of Puy, in 223.

The statue of Our Lady of Puy, in cedar wood, blackened with age, was the work of the first Christians of Libanus, who executed it after the image of the Egyptian goddess Isis, sitting upright upon a stool, and holding upon her knee the Infant Jesus, swathed in fine linen as if he were a little mummy. This image was brought from the East by St. Louis in 1254.

The origin of the statue of Our Lady of Liesse also dates from the Crusades, which inundated France and the rest of Europe with so many images of the Holy Virgin. Thus, in 1131, Foulques d’Anjou, King of Jerusalem, entrusted the guard of the city of Beersheba to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, amongst the most distinguished of whom were the three brothers of the house of Eppes, near Laon. These knights having been taken prisoners, the Sultan determined to make them become Mahometans, and imprudently selected his daughter Ismeria to effect the work of conversion. But she forgot the object of her mission, and allowed herself to be converted to Christianity by the arguments of the three knights. She asked them to carve for her an image of the Holy Virgin, and though they were utterly ignorant of the art, they began an image which angels came down from heaven to complete. The Virgin appeared to the Sultan’s daughter, encouraged her in her project to set the three captives at liberty, and advised her to follow them in her flight. At about midnight she went to the prison,[386] the doors of which opened before her, as did those of the city. Ismeria bore in her arms the image of the Virgin, and the sovereign virtue of this talisman overcame all obstacles. The fugitives, who had gone to sleep upon Egyptian soil, woke up to find themselves in front of the Château d’Eppes, and the statuette, sparkling with light, selected the place which it wished to occupy in the middle of a wood. Ismeria caused to be erected upon this very spot a plain chapel, whilst in the town of Laon a cathedral was built, dedicated to Our Lady of Liesse. Since that period the great basilica and the tiny chapel have shared between them the worship of the crowd of pilgrims which the startling miracles have attracted thither. Both structures suffered from the fury of the Huguenots in the sixteenth century, but the miraculous image of the Virgin has always escaped from sacrilegious outrage.

Fig. 298.—Ancient Banner of the City of Strasburg, on which is represented the Image of Our Lady, to whom the city was dedicated about the middle of the Thirteenth Century; the lilies running round it are the emblem of the Virgin’s purity. A Memorial of the Thirteenth Century, burnt during the bombardment of Strasburg in 1870.—From a copy published in the “Dictionnaire du Haut et du Bas-Rhin,” by M. Ristelhuber.


Fig. 299.—Removal, by St. Bodillon and the Chevalier Gérard de Roussillon, of the Body of Mary Magdalene to the Church of Vézelay (Yonne).—After a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Hainaut,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.]

There is much analogy between the worship of the patronal Virgin of the country round Chartres and that of the Virgin of the Pillar at Saragossa. The two statues are alike in regard to posture, costume, and general character, and moreover they date back to the same epoch—namely, the fourth or fifth century. The Chartres cathedral, though ancient—for it was in existence during the seventh century—was nevertheless posterior to the first pilgrimages established in honour of “the Virgin who has borne a child,” according to the denomination given to this Notre-Dame by the first apostles who preached Christianity in this district, which was the centre of the Druidical religion. During the whole of the Middle Ages, and down even to our own[388] day, there have been daily arrivals of pilgrims at Chartres, and their number always increases upon the fête days of the Virgin.

Fig. 300.—Charles VI. fulfilling his vow to Our Lady of Hope (1389).—The king, who was at that time but twenty years of age, having lost his way one night in a forest near Toulouse, made a vow that if he recovered his road he would offer the value of his horse to Our Lady of Hope. In the painting he is represented in the act of carrying out his vow, bareheaded and on horseback, accompanied by his brother, the Constable of Clisson, and other nobles. Above are seen angels with streamers, on which are written the word “Hope.”—After an ancient Fresco in the Cloister of the Carmelite Monastery at Toulon.

The worship of Our Lady of Rocamadour is very possibly contemporaneous with that of Our Lady of Chartres—dating back to the first age of Christianity in Gaul. Nothing is known as to the origin of this devotion, which is supposed to have replaced that of some local divinity. The Virgin of Rocamadour was famous as early as the eighth century, for, if tradition is to be believed, Charlemagne and his brave followers came to pay it homage on their return from an expedition against the Gascons; and the sword of Roland, deposited as an offering upon the altar of the chapel of St. Michael, is still to be seen. Around this sanctuary, dedicated to the Virgin, were seventeen chapels hewn in the rock; they were dedicated to Jesus Christ, to the Twelve Apostles, to St. John the Baptist, to St. Anne, to St. Michael, and to St. Amadour, whose hermitage was here, and who had no doubt brought from the East the black Virgin who has been venerated there for twelve or fifteen centuries.

Fig. 301.—Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Grace, at Cambrai, brought to that city by Canon Furcy de Bruille in 1450: this is one of the painted images attributed by a pious tradition to St. Luke.—The inhabitants of Cambrai, having fervently prayed for protection to their patroness when the English besieged their city, attributed the impotence of the enemy’s attack to her interposition. Hence is derived the poetical representation of the Virgin gathering up the cannon-balls in a lace veil. To the right is the ancient metropolitan church of Cambrai, a remarkable monument of Gothic architecture, destroyed at the beginning of the present century.—Reduced Fac-simile of a Drawing of the Seventeenth Century, lent by M. Delattre, of Cambrai.

The pilgrimage of St. Baume, near Maximin, in Provence, was not in honour of the Virgin Mary, but of the saintly women Mary Magdalene (Fig. 299) and her sister Martha, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who were witnesses of our Saviour’s life, of his miracles, and of his resurrection.[389] Whatever may be the truth of the alleged mission of St. Lazarus and his two sisters Mary Magdalene and Martha, in southern Gaul, the devotion paid to them amongst a people who believed in the legend was almost as marked as the worship which was rendered to the Virgin. The pilgrims never left St. Baume without making a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Lazarus at Autun, after having visited the relics of the Marys in[390] the Island of Camargue, at St. Maximin, Arles, and at Tarascon. The grotto of St. Baume, in which Mary Magdalene lived for thirty years in fellowship with the angels who raised her into the air during her periods of ecstasy, who brought her food and took every care of her, was, from the fifth or sixth century, a rendezvous for the faithful who came to visit the dread abode which had been sanctified by the long penitence of the Magdalene. Popes, emperors, kings, and the most illustrious personages considered it an honour to be numbered amongst these pilgrims, and those whose age or infirmities prevented them from being personally present deputed others to bear thither their vows and their offerings.

Fig. 302.—Our Lady of Boulogne.—“One day,” so the legend goes, “the Virgin appeared to the burghers and inhabitants of the town of Boulogne in a hull floating upon the sea, without mast, sail, rigging, or oars, having on board neither seaman nor any other living man, only a young virgin, full of grace and modesty, eloquent of speech, reserved in her manner, gracious of carriage, and more beautiful than all earthly women.”—After a Miniature in a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Library of the Arsenal, Paris.

Fig. 303.—“Au juste poids véritable balance.”—Picture by Antoine Picquet, Master-Painter in the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Amiens, presented to the church of that city on the 25th of December, 1518. This painting, now in the Cluny Museum, is but the symbolic development of the above motto. The Virgin is in a standing posture beneath a canopy; the Infant Jesus is drawing towards him one of the scales of the balance in which God the Father, surrounded by his angels, is about to weigh the crowns of earthly sovereigns. In the background, amidst beautiful scenery, on one side peasants are gathering in the harvest and the vintage, and on the other is seen Queen Claude, mounted, and followed by a brilliant suite. In the foreground are two groups: to the right Francis I., with Triboulet his jester, and knights; to the left, the emperor, the pope, a cardinal, the Bishop of Amiens, and several abbots.—From an Engraving in the “Arts au Moyen Age,” by Dusommerard.

The mere list of the pilgrimages of Our Lady in France, in that kingdom of the lilies which has always been under the immediate protection of the Virgin Mary, would fill several pages, and it would take whole volumes to relate their origin and history. We will therefore only mention the most famous and the most ancient: Our Lady of Alet, near Toulouse (Fig. 300); Our Lady of the Fountain of the Ardilliers, near Saumur; Our Lady of the Virtues, at Aubervilliers, near Paris; Our Lady of the Haven, at[392] Clermont, in Auvergne; Our Lady of Fourvières, at Lyons; Our Lady of the Osier, near Grenoble; Our Lady of Bonne-Garde, at Longpont; Our Lady of Bethlehem, at Ferrières, Gâtinais; Our Lady of Good Hope, at Valenciennes; Our Lady of Grace, at Cambrai (Fig. 301); Our Lady of Boulogne-sur-Mer (Fig. 302), &c. Most of these are represented by painted images—some brought from the East at the time of the Crusades; others, the origin of which is only spoken to by the miracles which marked them out for the veneration of the faithful. There are also statuettes in wood and stone, nearly all of which belong to the Coptic group of black Virgins, which throughout Europe are associated with miracles of an early age.

Fig. 304.—Sufferers from St. Vitus’ Dance going on a Pilgrimage to the Church of St. Willibrod, Epternacht, near Luxemburg.—After a Drawing by P. Breughel (Sixteenth Century), in the Gallery of Archduke Albert, at Vienna.

It would take volumes also to describe the numerous pilgrimages in Germany, Poland, Russia, and, above all, in Belgium (Fig. 304). There, as everywhere else, the mother of our Lord always attracted to herself the most profound homage, and bestowed the greatest amount of favours upon the zealous host of her worshippers. But it is worthy of remark that these acts of devotion, so renowned and venerated in the country itself, scarcely ever extended into neighbouring countries. Belgians alone went to worship the[393] image of the Virgin known as Notre-Dame-sous-la-Tour, in the Church of St. Peter, at Louvain, the image of Our Lady of Alzemberg, and the statue of Our Lady of Verviers; and yet the crowd of pilgrims was none the less to Our Lady of Affighem, Our Lady of Chèvremont, Our Lady of Faith, near Dinan, Our Lady of Wavre, Our Lady of Belle-Fontaine, &c.

But for the most frequented pilgrimages we must look to Hungary, where a statue of the Virgin, in limewood, found during the twelfth century on the trunk of an oak, became the famous Our Lady of Maria-Zell, which worked so many miracles throughout the Middle Ages; to Cologne, where the three Magi, beatified by the Church, were venerated; and to Trèves, where, since the fourth century, the jubilee of the Holy Robe of our Lord has been celebrated—a jubilee in which as many as a hundred thousand pilgrims a day formerly took part; and, lastly, we must mention the most renowned of those sanctuaries of Notre-Dame des Neiges (Our Lady of the Snow) which are to be met with on many mountains whose summits are covered with snow—namely, the magnificent Monastery of Einsiedeln, in Switzerland (Canton of Schwitz), which was only an unpretending oratory when Meinrad, prince of the great house of Hohenzollern, founded there the worship of Our Lady of the Hermits.

Fig. 305.—The Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ, preserved at Notre-Dame, Paris.—It is composed of a ring of small reeds tied into a bundle (diameter, 21 centimetres inside); the thorns are no longer visible; it is enshrined in gold, and held together by three acanthus leaves, also in gold.—Drawn from the original by M. Rohault de Fleury.



The real meaning of the word Heresy.—The Heretics of the Apostolic Days.—Simon the Magician.—Cerinthus.—The Nicolaitans.—The Gnostics.—The Schools of Philosophy of Byzantium, Antioch, and Alexandria.—Julian the Apostate.—The Pelagians and the semi-Pelagians.—Nestorius.—Eutyches.—The Iconoclasts.—Amaury.—Gilbert de la Porrée.—Abelard.—Arnold of Brescia.—The Albigenses.—The Waldenses.—The Flagellants.—Wickliff.—John Huss.—Jerome of Prague.—Luther.—Henry VIII. and the Anglican Church.—Calvin.

Probably few persons are aware that the real meaning of the word heresy, after its Greek origin (hairesis), means only opinion. Heresy consists in the pretensions to explain Holy Scripture after one’s own private judgment or personal opinion instead of receiving the interpretation given to the sacred text by the authority of the Church. Heretics have existed from the time of the apostles. St. Paul, speaking in reference to them, recommends a course which, unfortunately, has not always been followed. “If,” he says, “any man obey not our word, ... have no company with him; ... nevertheless, count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” St. Peter, with his zealous ardour, exhorts the faithful, in language full of imagery, to be on their guard against the errors of the Gnostics (that is, the savants or the érudits): he calls them “wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest.” He then sums up the foundation of their doctrine in a few energetic sentences:—“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.” We know that the Gnostics believed perfection to consist in science; they held that[395] faith and virtuous living were only meant for the common people. Infatuated by their own learning, they even rejected the authority of Christ, whom they refused to recognise as their Lord and their God; for the doctrine concerning the angels they substituted a theory of divine emanations, and they recognised the ancient doctrine of the eternal antagonism between the good and the evil principle.

The Acts of the Apostles, in speaking of the success which attended the preaching of Philip the deacon to the inhabitants of Samaria, relate that there was in that city a magician named Simon, who exercised so great an influence over the people that they all took heed of what he said and called him “the great power of God.” But the miracles worked by Philip had greater influence than the sorceries of Simon, and the people came in crowds to be baptized, Simon himself becoming a disciple of Philip.

The remainder of the story told us in the Acts of the Apostles reveals the origin of a word which appears too often in the religious history of the Middle Ages for us to let slip the opportunity of here explaining it by a fact which, moreover, helps to show how it happened that Simon fell from sincere Christianity into heresy. The apostles at that time residing in Jerusalem, having heard of the conversion of Samaria, they came to lay hands upon—that is to say confirm—the newly baptized; and the latter, when they received the Holy Ghost, were visible partakers of His marvellous gifts, which were general in the primitive Church. The Scripture says, “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.... Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.... Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” It is because Simon was the first who attempted to buy for money a spiritual power that his crime was called simony, and that the epithet of simonist was applied to all who purchased ecclesiastical cures.

Fig. 306.—Babylon the Great (mulier super bestiam), represented as a woman holding a cup, and riding the beast spoken of in the Apocalypse.—Miniature from a “Commentaire sur quelques Livres de l’Ecriture,” a Manuscript of the Eleventh Century, in the National Library, Paris. From Count Bastard’s great work.

The repentance of Simon the heretic did not last long, for an author of the third century, whose account is confirmed by a passage in Suetonius, tells us that this neophyte having returned to his practice of magic, and being[396] jealous of the influence which the apostles had acquired by their miracles, boasted that he would raise himself into the air in the presence of the emperor and the people. In order to humiliate St. Peter, who was in Rome at that time, he insisted that the apostle should be present to witness this triumph of his magical art. At first his endeavours seemed as if about to[397] succeed—he was lifted high into the air amidst the applause of the crowd; but Peter invoked the aid of his Divine Master to confound the spirit of evil, and at his prayer the magician, suddenly abandoned by the demon who had been lending him his aid, fell to the ground and broke his leg so near to the spot where Nero was sitting, that, to quote Suetonius, the blood spurted on to the emperor’s mantle.

Amongst the heresiarchs of the first century must also be mentioned Cerinthus the Jew, who had become a Christian, but who was looked upon by the apostles as the corrupter of the religion of Jesus Christ. He taught, in fact, that Jesus was not the Son of God, and that Christ, coming down from heaven in the form of a dove, was only incorporated in him after his baptism in the waters of Jordan. Ebion, a disciple of Cerinthus, also denied the divinity of Christ, and was the founder of the sect of the Ebionites. Nicholas the deacon, in his attempt to make the law of the Gospel fit in with heathen customs, gave birth to the heresy of the Nicolaitans, who were afterwards merged in the Gnostics. This latter sect, to which we have already alluded, developed enormously in the second century; and its doctrine, as well as that of Manichæus, the originator of Manichæism—that redoubtable heresy which sprung from the admixture of the ancient religions of India with Christianity—constituted the basis of nearly all the heresies of the Middle Ages.

Fig. 307.—Orthodoxy surrounded by the Snares of Heresy.—Boniface Simoneta (1470 to 1500), Abbot of San Stefano del Corno (diocese of Cremona), “calling God to his aid in order that his work may be more efficaciously wrought, ... and desiring above all things to speak reason and equity.”—Fac-simile of a Wood-Engraving in the “Livre des Persécutions des Crestiens:” Paris, Antoine Verard, gothic 4to (no date).

The schools of philosophy of Byzantium, Antioch, and Alexandria pursued their career of scepticism and sacrilegious discussion concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ during the second and third centuries. After throwing doubt upon the divine essence of the three persons of the Trinity, others still more daring, such as Sabellius and Praxeas, attempted to show that these three persons in God were but three symbolic names given to the same substance. The Council of Alexandria (261) punished these culpable errors. Soon after, an Egyptian priest named Arius took them up and propagated them very widely, maintaining that Jesus Christ was a created being, perfect no doubt and almost like unto God, but not himself God. His doctrine also contained secret heresies which were condemned by the Œcumenical Council of Nice (325). Nevertheless this doctrine, known as Arianism, made great progress; it was adopted and supported by several emperors, it spread throughout Europe, and, in spite of the authority of councils, and the efforts of popes and bishops, it seemed destined to lay[398] the foundation of a new Christianity in which the divinity of Christ was to find no place. But the most radical attack upon Christianity was undoubtedly the conspiracy of divergent sects under the leadership of the Emperor Julian (331–362), surnamed the Apostate because he abjured the Christian faith with the view of re-establishing paganism. His plan for arriving at this result was very skilfully conceived. Perceiving that it would be necessary to combine all the forces directed against the Church, he showed favour to the heresies and the schools of philosophy which, after obtaining a certain notoriety under Plotinus and Porphyrius, had lapsed into[399] the ridiculous fancies of evocations and of demonology. But, under the protection of the emperor, matters assumed a different aspect, as is pointed out by M. Jules Simon in his “Histoire de l’Ecole d’Alexandrie.” This school, “humiliated by the triumphs of Christianity, reduced to silence and obscurity, without any fixed purpose, devoid of credit and influence, all at once took up a fresh attitude at the accession of Julian, and attempted to employ the sovereign power, with which one of its followers was clothed, for extinguishing Christianity.” The struggle was a terrible one, and the Church seemed to have lost all human means of defence. Her children implored for help from on high, and the premature death of Julian was attributed to the divine intervention. Ecclesiastical writers relate that St. Basilius the Great, while praying God to protect his Church against the persecutor, was transported in a dream: he saw Christ in heaven and heard him say to St. Mercurius (the martyr of Cesarea, in Cappadocia), “Go and smite the enemy of those who believe in me.” The holy martyr at once sped on his mission, and, returning in a short space of time, said to his Divine Master, “Your orders are executed, Julian is no more.” St. Basilius had this vision on the night of the emperor’s death. Several writers assert that the emperor, knowing whence came the blow which was to prove fatal to him, collected in the palm of his hand the blood which issued from the wound, and scattering it towards the heavens, exclaimed, “Thou hast vanquished, Galilean.” These stories, popularised by the Byzantine art (Fig. 308), testify to the importance attached by the Christians to the struggle in which they were engaged with Julian.

The fathers of the Church endeavoured to oppose to the schools of philosophy, which had done so much harm to religion, purely ecclesiastical schools, for the teaching of the faithful and in order to protect them from the seductions of heretical learning. The school of Edessa was the most flourishing of these Eastern schools during the third and fourth centuries.

Fig. 308.—Dream of St. Basilius the Great.—The Martyr of Cesarea, St. Mercurius, sent from heaven by Christ, is in the act of stabbing the Emperor Julian the Apostate, whom he has thrown to the ground (see the text, p. 399).—After a Greek Painting of the Sixteenth Century, though the style is that of the Eleventh, in the Library of M. Firmin-Didot. The matters relating to this subject will be found collected in the “Mélanges d’Archéologie” of P. Cahier, vol. i., p. 39 et seq.

The part taken by the emperors themselves in the dogmatic disputes of the Christians, and the notoriety acquired by the rhetoricians who attacked or defended the truth, had made a number of vain nonentities rival each other in extravagance and recklessness in their endeavours to become celebrated: they tried to attract public notice by an excess of zeal against the heretics, by the austerity of their habits, by some eccentric practice, or by the rashness of their attacks against the discipline of the Church, notably against the[400] worship paid to the Virgin. Such were Coluthus, Aetius, Bonosus, Helvidius, Jovinian, the Barefooted Friars, the Messalians, the Priscillianists, &c. Civil[401] dissensions broke out and blood was shed, and the Court of Byzantium felt, through the great officers of the empire—and especially through the women, who took a passionate interest in these abstractions of dogma—the effect of every religious collision.

During the fourth century Arianism, which only saw in the Word a superior being created to intervene between God and man, was the prevailing heresy. The fifth century was agitated by the Pelagians, disciples of Pelagius, a native of Great Britain. This man, who was wanting neither in talent nor in ability, endeavoured to promulgate his doctrine, based upon the negation of original sin; he maintained that man could observe the commandments of God and work out his own salvation without the supernatural aid of divine grace—this was a virtual denial of Christ’s word, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Celestius, one of his followers, promulgated this heresy in Africa, where it was eloquently combated by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippona. The council of Carthage (415) condemned it, and, upon the demand of the Fathers there present, Pope Innocent I. issued his anathema against Pelagius and his adherents. It was then that St. Augustine pronounced the celebrated sentence, “Rome has spoken, the judgment of the African bishops is confirmed by letters from the pope, the cause is at an end—pray God that the error may be also!” (Roma locuta est, causa finita est). But the leader of the sect wrote to Zosimus, Innocent’s successor, a respectful letter of justification, and, his envoy Celestius having presented to the new pope an insidious profession of faith, by which he undertook to condemn anything which should be reprobated by the Holy See, Zosimus intervened with the African bishops on behalf of Pelagius, whom he sincerely believed to be attached to the true faith. Those bishops represented to the pontiff that his credulity had been imposed upon, and that the heretic, before receiving absolution, ought to be made to abjure his errors formally and explicitly. The pope then saw the trickery which had been attempted, and again condemned Pelagius and his followers. The latter appealed to the Council, but St. Augustine proved that the heresy imputed to them had been fully inquired into by the African bishops and irrevocably condemned by the Holy See, and that all that remained to be done was to put it down. The Emperor Honorius, considering the political troubles which were engendered, in the East more especially, by religious dissensions, decreed that whoever should persist in upholding the errors of Pelagianism should be punished with exile.


The heresy did not, however, altogether disappear, but underwent a modification of form, and the semi-Pelagians, whose doctrine was formally expounded by Cassianus the monk, while admitting original sin, maintained that God had given to man the innate and natural power of walking in the way of salvation, of believing and of freeing himself from the fetters of sin without the help of divine grace. This was appropriating the religious to the philosophical notion of free-will. These abstract questions may to us seem very subtle, but in these early centuries they were the great questions which occupied the attention of society. A new heretic, Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, created a vast sensation throughout Christianity by maintaining that Jesus Christ embodied two distinct persons. Hitherto all Christians had believed as the Church taught them, that the divine and the human nature of Jesus Christ belonged to one person—the Word, the second person of the Trinity. Nestorius attacked this fundamental dogma indirectly, declaring that the Virgin should be called the Mother of Christ, but not the Mother of God. This doctrine, implying that in Christ there were two distinct persons, was so repulsive to the faithful that, when the bishop expounded it to them for the first time, they immediately left the church for fear of seeming to approve this new heresy. The Emperor Theodosius the younger, seeing what disturbance the preaching of Nestorius was giving rise to in Constantinople, assembled a council at Ephesus, which was presided over by St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, on behalf of the pope. The heresiarch refused to appear, and his doctrine was examined, discussed, and condemned.

The people of Ephesus gave marked evidence of their satisfaction when they found that the title of Mother of God was confirmed to the Virgin. But the ambassador of Theodosius, a devoted ally of Nestorius, intercepted the despatch of the proceedings of the Council, and sent to Constantinople a garbled account. The approaches to the imperial palace were so well guarded, that there seemed to be little hope of acquainting the emperor with what had really taken place, until a deputy of the council resorted to the ruse of disguising himself as a beggar and conveying the true written report in the hollow of his staff. Theodosius then shut up Nestorius in a monastery at Antioch, and, as he continued to promulgate his dogma, exiled him to Egypt.

A zealous monk, Eutyches, superior of a monastery near Constantinople, while combating the heresy of Nestorius, fell into the opposite error, alike[403] contrary to orthodox teaching. Instead of respecting the letter of the dogma, he in his turn became a schismatic, as he maintained that there was only one nature in Jesus Christ—the divine; that this had absorbed the human nature as the ocean absorbs a drop of water. Condemned at Constantinople, he appealed from the sentence to another council assembled at Ephesus, the decrees of which were confirmed by Theodosius II. At the accession of Justinian, the orthodox religion regained all its authority; Eutychianism no longer dared to attack it, but Arianism extended even into Gaul in the track of the victorious armies of Theodoric, Egidius, Odoacer, Totila, and the long-haired kings.

The reign of Leo the Isaurian opened up fresh opportunities for error. The sacred images, which had been held in veneration from the earliest ages, became a cause of dispute in the East, where they were disapproved of by Mahomet and forbidden by the Koran. It was alleged that the figurative representation of human beings was subjected to certain astral and diabolical influences, and that it was contrary to religion, not to say sacrilegious, thus to disturb the quiet repose of their souls. Leo the Isaurian, who had imbibed this idea, which was, moreover, taught in oriental magic, issued against all kinds of images the celebrated edict which was excommunicated by the pope, and which convulsed the whole Eastern world. Luitprand, King of the Lombards, the Venetians, Charles Martel and his Franks, were summoned to the aid of the Eternal City, menaced by the forces of the empire, which was determined to impose the condemnation of images upon the Western Church. Charles Martel, by his overthrow of the victorious Saracens on the plains of Poitiers (732), rendered a service of inestimable value to the Christian religion as well as to France, for Islamism was upon the point of subjugating all Christian Europe.

Fig. 309.—Amaury’s Disciples burnt by order of Philip Augustus (1208).—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Chroniques de St. Denis” (Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century).—Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Fig. 310.—Episode in the Siege of Toulouse, representing, according to tradition, the death of Simon de Montfort, who was killed on the 25th of June, 1218.—Bas-relief in stone in the Church of St. Nazaire, in Carcassonne (Thirteenth Century).

During the reign of the Empress Irene, the second Council of Nice had re-established the worship of images (787), but, until the accession of the Empress Theodora, who enforced the decisions of the Council, the Iconoclasts upon the one side, and the Manicheans upon the other, continued to disturb the East as well as the various provinces of Western and Southern Europe. In this great civil war a hundred thousand persons perished; and those who succeeded in escaping took refuge in the solitude of remote valleys and inaccessible mountains, where they entrenched themselves and incessantly made inroads upon and ravaged the territory of the[404] empire. The separation of the Greek and the Latin Churches, prepared if not actually affected under the Emperor Bardas (854-866), served to further the spread of heresy. No new sect arose in the eleventh century, but schisms broke out in the Church, some due to individual pride and ambition, others emanating from the dialectics of Aristotle, from the strange abuse of syllogism, and the substitution of reasoning for faith. The mysteries were radically changed by the endeavours to reconcile them with ordinary ideas, to interpret and accommodate them to the vulgar understanding. Bérenger (tenth century), in endeavouring to explain the dogma of the eucharist, himself fell into heresy, and Roscelin, the chief of the Nominalists (eleventh century), in his efforts to clear up the mystery of the Trinity, was led to[405] assert that it was but a name which did not correspond with any actual fact. The Manicheans had made their way into Europe; they affected a love of poverty and humble conduct which predisposed people in their favour and won them adherents. Many of them were burnt at the stake, but the sect was not crushed out, often reappearing in different cities of Europe under various names, now in one shape and now in another.

The civil tribunals also condemned to be burnt the disciples of a theologian named Amaury of Paris, who promulgated his dogma during the reign of Philip Augustus (Fig. 309). He taught that God is the first cause, and that the law of Jesus Christ was to terminate in the year 1200, and to make way for the law of the Holy Ghost, which would sanctify men without any external act; by his denial of the resurrection of the dead and of hell, he destroyed the essential basis of morality. This doctrine, as convenient as it was dangerous, found many warm partisans.

Abelard, the most talented dialectician of his day, gifted with wonderful learning, and armed with a rational theology which he made intelligible, assigned a different origin and a different mode of action to each of the three persons of the Trinity. The divines at once prepared to combat his views, and St. Bernard constituted himself their champion. Abelard, when condemned, repented, and, on his knees before his judges, burnt the books which contained his heretical theories; he showed himself, indeed, even a greater man by this expiatory act than he had ever done by the brilliancy of his teaching. Bishop Gilbert de la Porrée, a scholastic heresiarch like Abelard, also met a terrible antagonist in the gifted Abbot of Clairvaux, and, bowing his head, he confessed his guilt, leaving his disciples to maintain that the attributes of God ought to be considered as distinct from his essence. Arnold of Brescia attacked the temporal power, upon the ground that the Church should be stripped of her property, that the wallet of St. Peter should be given back to the pope, and the ancient Roman Republic proclaimed in the pontifical city. Valdo went still further; he advised the Christians to renounce all kinds of property, in order to render their lives more spiritual. The Albigenses (Figs. 310 and 311) and the Waldenses, who were Manicheans under another name, eventually embodied in themselves all the heresies which, towards the close of the twelfth century, had spread over Europe and chiefly throughout the south of France. In the following chapter (“The Inquisition”), the account of the crusade preached against them is related[406] at length. From every quarter of Christendom, but chiefly from Germany, Flanders, and France, crusaders were enlisted beneath the banner of the faith.

Fig. 311.—Entry of Louis VIII., King of France, and of Cardinal St. Angelo, the Pope’s Legate, upon the 12th of September, 1226, into Avignon, which had just capitulated after a three months’ siege.—After a Miniature in the “Chroniques de Hainaut” (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels).

Fig. 312.—Heresy of the Flagellants.—The Latin inscription upon the streamer borne by the Bishop of Hippona signifies, “They sacrifice to Satan, and not to God.”—Fac-simile of a Miniature in the “Cité de Dieu,” by St. Augustine (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in St. Geneviève Library, Paris).

This campaign was begun in 1196. The council which condemned the new Manichean heresy met at Montpellier in December of that year, and the first effect of the repressive measures which it very promptly employed was to drive back into the Cevennes, the Alps, and the Vosges, and towards the Rhône, the Moselle, and the Rhine, a host of heretics who endeavoured to teach publicly in the free towns of Germany.

An excess of devotion, which had its origin in the wish to avert the wrath of God, gave birth in Italy quite spontaneously to the sect known as the Flagellants. This strange infatuation for scourging began at Perugia, whence[407] it passed to Rome and afterwards to Germany and Poland. The nobles, the elders, the people of all classes, the poor and even the children, traversed the streets of the towns and the country districts with bare shoulders, scourging themselves mercilessly with whips having leathern thongs (Fig. 312). These fanatics who travelled through all Europe, firmly believed that an angel had brought a missive from Jesus Christ, which declared that there was only one way for a Christian to obtain pardon for his sins, viz. to leave his native country and scourge himself for thirty-three consecutive[408] days, in commemoration of the thirty-three years which Christ had passed upon earth. The Apostolicals, the Dulcinists, the Beghards, the Flagellants, the Spiritual Brothers, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Turlupins, &c., adopted these superstitious ideas, and constituted distinct sects which were condemned by the Church as heretical. The sectaries appealed from the sentence: the civil tribunals backed up the ecclesiastical ones; the faggots were kindled and a vast number of heretics perished; many, however, escaped, and, joining the Albigenses, they formed the sect of the Lollards. The Englishman Wickliff, whose heresy had pervaded all Britain (1368–1384), openly attacked the Court of Rome, the upper clergy, the liturgy, and the sacraments, with an audacity all the greater because he felt that he had the support of the people at large and of several sovereigns. The University of Oxford made a critical examination of Wickliff’s books, and found them to contain two hundred and seventy-eight reprehensible propositions, which it submitted for censure to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. After he had declaimed against the Church, its customs and its institutions, Wickliff attacked the very foundations of civil society, by his doctrine that, to possess any right or authority upon earth, it was necessary to be in a state of grace. Consequently kings, nobles, and the landowners were to lose their political and domanial rights, since they were in a state of mortal sin, just as the pope, the bishops, and the priests through sin were to lose their spiritual powers. He moreover denied the existence of free-will; and his allegation that everything which man did he was necessarily obliged to do, implied that all punishment was unjust, for no one is guilty who acts under compulsion. Lastly, he only recognised the existence of God to make Him responsible for evil, maintaining that God also is moved by an invincible necessity, that He looks with approval on those who sin, that He even constrains men to commit sin; “so that,” as Bossuet remarks, “the religion of this so-called Reformer was worse than atheism.” It is true that with Wickliff God counted for little, for, according to his system, “every creature is God, everything is God.” It is easy to understand the effect of such doctrines as these upon the masses; the religious dispute was transformed into a social question. The followers of Wickliff, when condemned, refused to bow to the decisions of the ecclesiastical authority. Their books were burnt, their apostles were sent to the stake, while others were[409] imprisoned or exiled. But, in spite of this rigorous treatment, Wickliff’s doctrines made a deep impression in England, obtained shortly afterwards the protection of the House of Commons, and disposed men’s minds to bend beneath the despotic will of Henry VIII.

Fig. 313.—John Wickliff, a theologian Heresiarch, the Precursor of Luther, born at Wickliff, in England, about 1324, died in 1387.—After the “Vrais Pourtraits des Hommes Illustres:” 4to, Jean de Laon, Geneva, 1581.

The staunchest Catholic writers admit that the clergy are themselves responsible for the triumph of the heretics. Moeller says—“The relaxation of ecclesiastical discipline amongst the clergy and that in a great many religious communities, from which the pontifical court itself was not always exempt, gave the sectaries of the sixteenth century a pretext for their rebellion against the Church, its doctrines, its hierarchy, and its institutions. To this moral decadence of a great part of the clergy must further be added the profound ignorance of the upper clergy; and even those who cultivated literature and science confined themselves almost exclusively to the study of Greek and Latin literature, which directed the whole course of scientific research from the fifteenth century downwards. Many pagan ideas had pervaded men’s minds, and had contributed to create a feeling of contempt both for Christianity and for that beautiful Christian literature[410] which had shed a lustre on the Church from the very earliest times. This condition of the clergy had a baneful influence upon the mass of the people, who lived in utter ignorance of religion, and who had lost their attachment to the Church and all respect for its pastors.”

This religious indifference of the clergy and of the people explains the success, not only of the heresiarchs who presented themselves as reformers of manners and discipline, but even of the sects held in the lowest esteem, the sorcerers, for instance. The facts are too numerous and too well-authenticated to admit of any doubt upon this head. There existed throughout all Europe, in the Middle Ages, numerous sects of sorcerers and witches who in all seriousness professed to give themselves over to the devil in exchange for the gift of magic power. The Spanish Inquisition was not the only body which sent them to the stake, after having submitted them to trial and received the confession of their misdeeds; the French tribunals pronounced sentence of death in similar cases when the accused, after long and minute interrogatories, but without being put to the torture, made a confession of their satanic orgies known by the name of sabbat (Fig. 314). This kind of heresy eluded all the steps taken by the civil and the religious powers to put it down. The “Histoire des Procès de Sorcellerie,” by Soldam, tells us that, even at the close of the sixteenth century, from 1590 to 1594, thirty-five witches were condemned to be burnt, out of a total population of six thousand, in the small Protestant town of Nordling, in Germany. The enormities of the sect of sorcerers attest, no doubt, a profound depravation of morals, but they contained no germ of social revolution; such, however, was not the case with the theories expounded by the great heresiarchs.

Fig. 314.—The “Sabbat,” reprint of the legend contained in a sentence of the Arras Tribunal in 1460.—Engraving of the Sixteenth Century, preserved in the National Library, Paris.

Wickliff’s doctrine soon made its way into Germany. It was propagated by John Huss, one of the doctors at the University of Prague. When the University discovered this, it solemnly condemned Wickliff’s books, and prohibited them from being read. John Huss did not venture upon any overt opposition; but, as the doctors of the University were Germans, he called to his aid the vanity of the Bohemians and the personal ill-will of King Wenceslaus against the Germans, who had deposed him from the empire. The situation of the professors became untenable, and they left with their two thousand pupils for Leipsic, where they founded the University. John Huss was joined by several ecclesiastics, who were anxious[411] to acquire liberty of action; but the leading Bohemian professors, convoked by the archbishop to examine the works of Wickliff which John Huss had distributed amongst the Bohemian nobles, decided that the possessors of these books should surrender them to be burnt. John Huss again endeavoured to temporise, promising the archbishop to correct in his preaching anything which might have escaped him contrary to Christian doctrine; for, in his view, this promise did not prevent him from propagating the doctrine of Wickliff, which he believed to be quite orthodox. He was supported by Jerome of Prague, a man of position, who, in addition to his ardour and daring, was a bachelor in theology, though a layman. The latter was so zealous in his partisanship, that he upon one occasion stopped three Carmelite monks who had been combating the theories of Wickliff, and threw one of them into the Moldau. Denounced to the pope by the clergy of Prague, John Huss and his adherents were declared heretics and excommunicated. A rebellion got up in Prague by his partisans, headed by the impetuous Jerome, cost a great number of them their lives, the senate visiting their crimes with capital punishment. John Huss appealed from the sentence of the pope to the next council; and this, which was held at Rome in 1413, condemned afresh the writings of Wickliff and excommunicated John Huss, who had not put in an appearance, although he was cited before the Council. The Chancellor Gerson, the illustrious Dean of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Paris, which had just condemned the nineteen errors of John Huss, wrote to the Archbishop of Prague, exhorting him to take the necessary steps for repressing this heresy.

That prelate, in conformity with Gerson’s advice, obtained the support of the King of Bohemia; and it was decreed that all those who still adhered to the condemned theories of Wickliff should be expelled from the kingdom. John Huss was thus compelled to leave the city, but he declaimed as vehemently as ever against the Church, and especially against the pope.

Fig. 315.—John Huss, the celebrated Heresiarch, born in Bohemia; tried, condemned, and burnt at Constance in 1415.

Fig. 316.—Jerome of Prague, a Disciple of John Huss, born at Prague about 1378; burnt alive for heresy at Constance in 1416.

After the “Vrais Pourtraits des Hommes Illustres:” Jean de Laon, Geneva, 1581.

The Council of Constance, convoked for the 1st of November, 1414, was ordered to examine his doctrines. John Huss, far from flinching at this decisive moment, vehemently called upon his adversaries, by public placards, to come and put him to confusion before the council. “If,” he stated in these placards, “I can be convicted of any error, or of having taught anything contrary to the Christian faith, I am ready to undergo the punishment inflicted upon heretics.” He then solicited and obtained[412] from the Emperor Sigismund a safe-conduct, in which it was stated that, “out of respect for the imperial majesty he was to be let freely and safely pass, sojourn, remain, and return, and be provided, if necessary, with other fitting passports.” John Huss left Prague on the 11th of October (Figs. 315 and 316), and on the 20th, in a letter written from Nuremberg, he expresses his satisfaction at the reception which he has everywhere met with, especially from the ecclesiastics, who seemed disposed to accept his doctrine. Upon reaching Constance, on the 3rd of November, he expounded his ideas very freely, both by word of mouth and in writing; and, in spite of the excommunication hurled against him, he said mass every day in a private room, but without making any secret of it, to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Upon the 28th of November he was arrested and cast into prison. After many witnesses had been examined, thirty-nine articles taken from his speeches and writings were read in public, the most important of which declared “that the elect alone are members of the Catholic Church; that St. Peter neither is nor ever has[413] been the chief of that Church; that by the commission of mortal sin the ecclesiastical and civil authorities lose their rights and privileges; and lastly, that the condemnation of the forty-five articles of Wickliff was unreasonable and unjust.” The venerable Peter d’Ailly exhorted John Huss to submit himself to the judgment of the council; the emperor did the same, threatening him, if he refused, with the rigour of the law. Upon the following day he was given a recantation to sign, which he would not consent to do. A fortnight afterwards, on the 24th of June, his books were condemned to be burnt. On the 6th of July the council declared him to be a heretic, and degraded him from his ecclesiastical orders, by which process he was handed over to the secular arm. The emperor, who was present, had him immediately seized by the count-palatine, and the civil law, which condemned stubborn heretics to the stake, was applied in all its rigour. John Huss submitted to his fate with courage. Jerome of Prague at first signed the formula of recantation, but he soon afterwards disavowed it; and, after publicly declaring that he adopted the whole doctrine of John Huss, he also was sent to the stake.

These pitiless measures failed to intimidate the partisans of John Huss; on the contrary, they became converted into a horde of fanatics, in which all the sects hostile to the Church became indiscriminately merged. Ziska, the chamberlain of King Wenceslaus, placing himself at their head, ravaged Bohemia, pillaged the monasteries, massacred the monks, constituted himself absolute master of the country, holding in check the whole military force of the empire. After his death (1424) the Hussites, far from giving in their submission and avowing their errors, continued supreme in Germany, so that Luther had only to cast seed upon the ground which they had bedewed with blood.

By a strange anomaly, the Hussites remained firmly attached to the dogma of the eucharist; and the chief inducement of the people to join their party was, in several cases, the privilege of being able to receive the communion in both kinds. The Hussites, assembled to the number of forty thousand in their celebrated camp of Tabor, by the wayside, without any preliminary confession, received the communion under the elements of bread and wine. Their leader signed himself Ziska of the Chalice; and when the moderate section of the party separated themselves from the more advanced section, he chose the name of Calixtines to indicate his own followers. The[414] Protestants, on the contrary, were not long in coming to deny the real and abiding presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements. The importance attached to this dogma drew general attention to the extraordinary case of a woman possessed, who travelled through the dioceses of Laon and Soissons towards the middle of the sixteenth century. This was a young woman, recently married, of the name of Nicole, belonging to a humble but very honest family. There were many public exorcisms, and the paroxysms of the patient were always allayed by the giving of the sacrament. The case was much criticised; it was submitted to a scrupulous examination, and the agitation which it gave rise to was so great that the authorities intervened. Nicole was handed over to the royal delegates (Fig. 317), “who ordered that all the experiments should be made by physicians and surgeons officially appointed, and selected from among Catholics and Protestants alike, so that there should be no suspicion attaching to their reports.” The evidence of these doctors did away with all idea of fraud, which the judicial authorities would have had no hesitation in punishing had it been practised. The Prince de Condé, Governor of Picardy, and one of the warmest upholders of the Reformed Religion, so called, detained for several days at his residence the possessed woman, together with her parents, who accompanied her wherever she went; but his interrogatories failed to shake their conviction that Nicole had been possessed, and that the eucharist had restored her. At last, a royal order enabled these poor people to return to their own home at Vervins.

Fig. 317.—Exorcism of a person possessed with a devil in the Church of Notre-Dame, at Laon, by the bishop of that city, on the 8th of February, 1566.—Reduced Fac-simile of an Engraving in the “Manuel de la Victoire du Corps de Dieu sur l’Esprit malin,” by Jean Boulaese: 16mo., Paris, 1575.

The ecclesiastical authority, seconded as it was by the orthodox sovereigns, had been nearly always sufficient to suppress the heretical movements, which were circumscribed within a few provinces or dioceses; but the violent dissensions of Rome with the Empire, the two rival camps, formed during two centuries between the popes and the anti-popes, the independent position acquired by the communes after reiterated uprisings against their bishops and nobles, rendered necessary the intervention of a judicial authority in the religious quarrels and contentions springing out of the heresies and schisms which were constantly arising. The creation of this authority, half civil and half ecclesiastical, emanating from the throne, was mainly with a view to protect the legacy of the past against the encroachments and the audacious claims of the future. This is how it came to pass that, from the fourteenth century, the courts styled Cours des Grand Jours, the presidential[415] tribunals, the parliaments, and even the bailiwicks, together with the Châtelet of Paris, intervened in matters of worship, though their rulings were not always in accordance with canonical law. The Inquisition failed to effect a permanent lodgment in France, but the ordinary tribunals claimed for themselves the right to take cognizance of crimes of heresy without having recourse to the aid of the ecclesiastical authorities.

Fig. 318.—Allegorical Picture of the Excesses committed by the Huguenots.—The lion bound and tamed represents France reduced to a deplorable position by the heretics, as much by civil war, pillage, violence, and bloodshed, as by the impiety of which they left traces everywhere, profaning churches, breaking the sacred vessels, and treading under foot the crosses, the images, and the relics of the saints.—After a Drawing from the Manuscript “De Tristibus Franciæ,” preserved in the Library of Lyons. (Sixteenth Century.)

Fig. 319.—John Knox, Propagator of the Reformed Religion, so-called, in Scotland; born at Gifford in 1504, died in 1572.

Fig. 320.—Ulrich Zwingle, the first champion of religious reform in Switzerland; born and died at Wildhaus, in the Canton of St. Gall, 1484–1531.

From the “Vrais Pourtraits des Hommes Illustres:” Jean de Laon, Geneva, 1581.

Fig. 321.—The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, Paris, August 24th, 1572.—The principal subject is the murder of Coligny. To the left, the admiral is leaving the Louvre, and while reading a memorandum is wounded by an arquebuse fired by Maurevert from a window (August 22nd); in the background, one of his equerries is communicating this fact to King Charles IX., whom he finds playing at tennis. To the right, Coligny, attacked by soldiers in his hotel, Rue Béthisy, is assassinated by Besme, and his body, thrown from the window, falls at the Duc de Guise’s feet. In the next house Téligny and other Protestants are being massacred.—After a German Engraving, a reprint of one of the Supplementary Plates of the Collection engraved by Jean Tortorel and Jacques Perrissin.

When Luther’s protests against Rome and Catholicism (1517) first burst upon the world, the heresy of Reform had long slumbered in a chrysalis state, so to speak, awaiting only some circumstance to favour its development. “The egg was laid,” as Erasmus remarked, “Luther had but to incubate and hatch it.” The corruption of the higher classes, of the clergy,[416] and of the people, increased his chances of success. The suppression of celibacy amongst the clergy, and of monastic vows, was looked upon with secret favour by the depraved among the bishops, priests, and monks; the prospect of seeing all the property of the Church fall into their possession excited the cupidity of the princes and nobles; and the rejection of ecclesiastical teaching flattered the vanity of the people, who were made supreme judges of the dogmas through the right which had been given to them, themselves to interpret the Bible, now translated into the vulgar tongue. For two centuries Rationalism had been disseminating the leaven of revolt against the authority of the past, and the advent of printing lent it fresh force. The apostle of the new doctrine had only to pronounce the word negation, and an army of disciples rose up to follow him and fight under his banner—disciples who, at first obedient to his command, soon became rebellious, and impatient to obtain for themselves the liberty of inquiry and the independence of principles which Luther despotically endeavoured to reserve exclusively for[417] himself. Carlstadt, Œcolampadius, Hutten, Zwingle (Fig. 320), Schwenckfeld, Munzer, Staupitz, Knox (Fig. 319), and many others, while following in the footsteps of the famous Wittenberg professor, had their own school: “The teachings crashed like avalanches, the doctrines rattled like the tempest; there was a dark abyss of neologies, inconsistencies, and contradictions, amidst which no ray of the eternal sun of grace was visible,” to quote the poetic simile of Wieland. The intellectual movement was none the less gigantic, especially in Germany and in the countries bordering on the Moselle. A deluge of statements, of pamphlets, and of stories, some true and others false, issuing, most of them anonymously, from an infinity of printing-presses, were rapidly disseminated, and made their way into every district; the allegorical eucharist of Zwingle, the revolutionary appeal of Munzer to the Franconian monks, the restoration of the letter by Schwenckfeld, the trope of Carlstadt against Luther, assumed a thousand different forms; while the indefatigable Luther himself, in turn a Demosthenes, a Petronius, a Danubian peasant, a beer-sodden drunkard, spun out in fifteen thousand folio pages his senseless Protestant theories—a chaos of eloquence, poesy, impassioned similes, tangible truths, audacious falsehoods, venom, hatred, jealousy, and filth. The famous Leipsic dispute, the sessions of Worms and of Augsburg, the war of extermination of the peasantry, the quarrel about images, the interview of Mauburg, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in France (Fig. 321)—in a word, the numerous revolutions of this great religious drama which Europe was watching with nervous anxiety, are brought into less marked relief in the large works since published by learned controversialists, than in these desultory pages, scattered to the winds, sung at the street-corners, accompanied by denunciations, threats and sanguinary struggles between the irreconcilable factions of Catholic and Huguenot.

Fig. 322.—Martin Luther.—Reduced Fac-simile of a Portrait by Lucas de Cranach (1520), published in the fly-leaf of a sermon preached by Luther against the authority of the Roman Church (in octavo, Wittenberg, 1522), when he threw off his garb of an Augustine monk. The Latin distich renders famous both the artist and the original in these words:—“If Luther leaves imperishable traces of his genius, Lucas (Cranach) perpetuates for ever the features which death will efface.”

Lutheranism, in consequence of a revolt in the cloister, had led to anarchy in the Church, to the exile of Carlstadt, who was compelled to beg his bread from village to village, to the persecutions against Œcolampadius and Schwenckfeld, and to the massacre of a hundred thousand rebellious peasants in Thuringia and Swabia. A multitude of sects—the Sacramentarians, the Œcolampadians, the Antinomians, the Majorists, and the Anabaptists were given birth to by the heresy of Luther; there were as many popes as there were dissenting churches. The Lutheran creed was still confined[418] to the countries on the other side of the Rhine, when the French sectaries, Farel and Froment (Fig. 324), set out to revolutionise Geneva and the neighbouring[419] country. An unjust hatred for the House of Savoy attracted to their standard a large body of patriots, who, aspiring after a democratic independence, hoped to rid themselves of hereditary monarchy and to break with Catholicism, its main ally.

Fig. 323.—John Calvin, called the Pope of Geneva, chief of the so-called Reformed Church; born at Noyon in 1509, died at Geneva in 1564.—Fac-simile of a Wood Engraving from the works of Theodore Beza, translated from the Latin by Simon Goulart—“Les Vrais Pourtraits des Hommes Illustres” (4to, Jean de Laon, Geneva, 1581).—One of the engraved frontispieces of this collection bears the monogram of Jean Cousin.

In England, the king separated himself from the Roman Church.[420] Henry VIII., unable to obtain from Pope Clement VIII. a bull annulling his marriage with Catherine of Arragon, and permitting him to espouse Anne Boleyn, declared himself to be the supreme and only head of the Church in his own kingdom, but he did not touch upon the dogmas which he had defended against Luther; thus it was a schism rather than a heresy. Under his successors, in conformity with a decision of the English Parliament, a synod assembled in London drew up the Confession of Faith for the Anglican Church, which differs less than any other, in regard to dogma and discipline, from the traditions of the Catholic Church.

Fig. 324.—William Farel, preacher of the so-called Reformed faith; born at Gap in 1489, died at Geneva in 1565.—From the “Vrais Pourtraits des Hommes Illustres:” 4to, Jean de Laon, Geneva, 1581.

Calvin, upon arriving at Geneva, his mind imbued with those evangelical novelties which constituted a heresy essentially French, found the Reformation already accomplished there. Its passage was marked only too plainly by ruins and blood-stains; the stripping of the vanquished by their conquerors had turned a religious reform into a social revolution. Calvin, a jealous and inflexible sectary, laid hold upon reform as an instrument of despotism. In order to become head of the Church as well as head of the State, he proclaimed the doctrinal negation of authority, thus beginning where Luther ended. To the Saxon-like creed of the great Reformer, he adapted a mixed system concerning the Lord’s Supper borrowed from Zwingle and Œcolampadius; he was ardent and pitiless, as the sad fate of Servet and of Gruet too clearly prove; he was determined to reign by terror, for he was a slave of politics rather than of spiritual ideas. This it is which constitutes so marked and characteristic a difference between the two champions of Protestantism, between the rebellious monk of Wittenberg[421] and the apostate priest of Noyon. Calvin entered upon an overt struggle with all the renegades of the Catholic school, with Gentilis, Ochino, Castalion, and Westphalz; his doctrine and his teaching were alike divergent from those of Zwingle in the mountains of Switzerland, of Melancthon in the University of Wittenberg, of Œcolampadius at the foot of the Hauenstein, of Martin Bucer at Strasburg, and of Brentzen at Tubingen. Amongst the Geneva sectaries, two friends, Farel and Beza, alone remained faithful to him, more through compatibility of temperament than from identity of principles. The French Huguenots had, however, accepted as their supreme chief a theocrat like Calvin, who, for four-and-twenty years, never stepped without an escort of swords, of faggots, and of executioners (Fig. 325).

Fig. 325.—Violence of the French Huguenots against the Catholics.—A. Noble lady of Montbrun (Charente) being tortured by soldiers whom she had hospitably welcomed. They are burning the soles of her feet with red-hot irons, and with the sharp edges of the irons cutting the skin from her legs in strips.—B. Master Jean Arnould, Procureur-Royal at Angoulême, after having had his limbs mutilated, is strangled in his own house.—C. The widow of the Procureur at the criminal court of that city, seventy years of age, being dragged by the hair through the streets.—Fac-simile of a Copper-plate in the “Theatrum Crudelitatum nostri Temporis” (4to, Antwerp, 1587).

Fig. 326.—Seal of an imaginary Bull of Lucifer, taken from the “Roi Modus,” a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels. The inscription on the seal seems to be cabalistic; at any rate, it is unintelligible.


It is therefore to Calvin and his personal influence that must be attributed the violent and merciless character which reform took during the sixteenth century, when the horrors of religious warfare were excused by the necessity of preaching the word of God to Christians who were anxious to hear it!



General Principles of the Inquisition; its Existence amongst the Greeks and Romans.—The Papal Inquisition.—The Inquisition in France.—The Albigenses.—The Royal Spanish Inquisition; its Political Purpose; it is opposed by the Popes.—Inquisitors of Toledo excommunicated by Leo X.—The Holy Hermandad.—The Spies of the Inquisition.—The Holy Office and the Supreme.—The Prisons of the Inquisition.—The Auto-da-fé.—The Inquisition in the Netherlands.—The Protestant Inquisition in Holland, Germany, France, England, and Switzerland.

At all times and in all places religion, which is the basis of society, has had to be protected and fostered in the public interest. This is why most men, especially those placed in authority, have always attached the highest importance to philosophical ideas and opinions, and still more to religious ideas. In fact, experience has shown only too plainly since the formation of civilised States, that a change of religious belief necessarily brings about a social transformation, and that a political revolution is but the putting into practice of a theory invented and propounded by a more or less hostile and mischievous philosophy; hence the established principle which ordains that human and divine law should alike be respected. It would therefore be erroneous to regard the Inquisition as an exceptional and abnormal fact, peculiar to the Middle Ages. The search into religious creeds—for such is the meaning of the word inquisition—was not only a natural consequence of the existence of forms of religion, but an imperious function of government. All history—of antiquity as well as that of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—bears witness to this fact. It is consoling to find that, as a general rule, even in the[424] midst of the fiercest persecutions, there were men of lofty views and generous sentiments who did not hesitate to protest with undaunted courage against the tyrannical and sanguinary excesses, by means of which it was attempted to impose upon nations and upon individuals a religious conviction which ought to be the offspring of reason, and which should be the sole result of liberty of conscience.

Fig. 327.—Funereal Lamp from the Catacombs, representing a young Christian woman crowned with the palm leaves of martyrdom.—Terra-cotta of the Third Century, in the Vatican Museum.

The Inquisition—that is to say, the research of religious orthodoxy—existed amongst the Greeks. The accusation of Melitus against Socrates, compassing his death, says in so many words, “Socrates is guilty because he does not recognise the gods of the republic, and puts demoniacal extravagancies in their place.” The judges, yielding to the influence of the democratic party, condemned Socrates to drink hemlock, but the breath was scarcely out of his body before the moderate men of all parties felt what an indignity had been committed in the name of religion; it was not, however, in the cause of religious tolerance, but by proving that Socrates had recognised and worshipped the gods of the republic, that they obtained the condemnation of Melitus his accuser, by way of reprisal.


At Rome as at Athens, we find the people full of suspicion and merciless towards those who refused to bow down to the gods of the republic; this was the cause of the cruel persecutions which, under the Roman emperors, led to the martyrdom of thousands. It was in vain that the Christians hid themselves in the recesses of the Catacombs to pray to the true God and partake of the holy mysteries—it was in vain that they rendered their lives irreproachable by fulfilling all their duties as citizens—their religious creeds, contrary to that of the State, could not be pardoned, and whenever they were discovered, they either had to offer incense to the gods of the republic or suffer death (Fig. 327). The mild Trajan replied to Pliny that it was unnecessary to seek out the Christians, but that if they were denounced and refused to change their faith, they must be punished. St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was one of the many martyrs immolated during the reign of Trajan, who allowed men of the highest honour and virtue, whose only crime was their refusal to adore the image of the emperor and the pagan idols, to be put to death.

Fig. 328.—St. Cecilia, and Valerian her spouse.—At their feet are roses and lilies in bloom, and upon each side of them is a palm-tree loaded with fruit, a symbol of their victories and of their meritorious martyrdom. Upon one of the palm-trees is a phœnix with a gloria around its head, the ancient symbol of resurrection.—Mosaic taken from the Cemetery of St. Sixtus, and preserved in the Church of St. Cecilia, at Rome (Third or Fourth Century).


Under the reign of Alexander Severus, many illustrious martyrs were put to death: St. Cecilia, her husband, and her brother-in-law (Fig. 328) among the number. St. Cecilia was descended from a very ancient family which dated back to the time of Tarquin the Proud; she belonged to the same house as Metella, many of whose children were raised to the honours of triumph and of the consulate in the heyday of the Roman republic. Her parents gave her in marriage to a young Roman patrician, named Valerian. But Cecilia had dedicated her virginity to God, and her husband, converted to the faith by her arguments and entreaties, respected her vow, and himself converted his brother Tiburcius. They all three relieved their persecuted brethren, and this Christian charity betrayed them. In spite of their distinguished birth, their wealth and their connections, they were arrested, and their refusal to sacrifice to the false gods led to their being condemned to death. We find a multitude of analogous occurrences in Gaul (Figs. 329 and 330), and also in the most distant provinces of the East.

Fig. 329.—St. Savin and St. Cyprian brought before the Proconsul Maximus in 458, and confessing that they were Christians.—Fresco in the Church of St. Savin (Vienne), the oldest extant in France (Eleventh Century).—After the Drawings of M. Gérard-Séguin.

After the conversion of Constantine, when the religion of Christ was recognised as that of the State, the secular arm at once placed itself at[427] the service of the Church to uphold the unity of the faith; but the civil power, instead of limiting itself to seconding the ecclesiastical authority in the repression of offences against the dogma as laid down by the councils, sought to obtain a sovereign influence in all the trials relating to religious matters, and hence arose deplorable abuses. The Italian Inquisition, under the immediate direction of the popes, made its appearance in the fifth century: Pope St. Leo, after having ordered a juridical inquiry to be held concerning the Manicheans who had taken refuge in Rome, stated, “What has been done is not enough; the Inquisition must continue not only as an inducement for the devout to hold fast by their faith, but in order that those who have been led astray may be converted from their errors.” The primitive and real object of the Inquisition was to discover errors in doctrine, to stop them from being propagated, and to endeavour to enlighten and to win back those who had been perverted by the apostles of error.

Fig. 330.—Martyrdom of SS. Savin and Cyprian, their flesh being torn out with iron hooks.—Fresco in the Church of St. Savin, Vienne (Eleventh Century).—After the Drawings of M. Gérard-Séguin.

In the twelfth century Pope Lucius III., with a view of checking the progress of the Manicheans, who reappeared under the names of Catharists, Patarenes, the Poor of Lyons, &c., ordered “through the council of bishops,[428] at the demand of the emperor (of Germany) and the lords of his court, that every bishop should visit the districts of his diocese which were suspected of containing heretics once or twice a year.” They were to be denounced by every one, so that the bishop might summon them before him, make them renounce their heresies, or inflict upon them the punishment awarded by canonical law. Thus we see that religious error was regarded as a breach of public order, and that the princes looked upon the heretics as rebels or conspirators. This was in keeping with the ideas of the Middle Ages, when the whole social system reposed upon the Catholic faith. We must in fairness admit that, if the Inquisition of Rome was the earliest, and the only one which outlasted the Middle Ages, it was also the most moderate, for it alone never ordered capital punishment.

The Inquisition was introduced into France through a heresy of Eastern origin, which endeavoured to associate the pagan ideas of Armenian Manicheism with the ceremonies of Christianity. Originally centred at Toulouse and Albi (whence the name Albigenses), the new heretics, numbering about one thousand and fifty, gradually made their way into Perigord and the neighbouring provinces. Towards 1160 another sect, the Waldenses, founded by Peter de Valdo or de Vaux, arose at Lyons, and gave great trouble to the papacy. The Albigenses were inferior in morality even to the Waldenses, and professed still more dangerous opinions. Immediate followers of Manes the Persian, they had adopted his doctrine of the double nature of man, of fatalism, of the origin of good and evil, &c.—a monstrous doctrine, the direct consequence of which was a life of unbridled license. In spite of the pious efforts of King Robert (1022) and the sentence of condemnation pronounced at the Council of Toulouse (1118), the Manichean heresy of the Albigenses continued to spread throughout the southern provinces of France, and obtained fresh adherents every day even amongst the clergy and the nobility. Innocent III., elected sovereign pontiff in 1198, took alarm at the danger to the Christian religion, and determined to reduce these daring sectaries to obedience, openly protected as they then were by the Counts of Toulouse, Foix, and Béarn, and by the Viscount of Béziers. But, before resorting to physical force, he at first tried persuasion.

Fig. 331.—St. Dominic handing to an envoy of the Albigenses a book containing the profession of faith in the Christian truths; to the right, this book having been cast into the fire, is leaping out of the flames, whilst the heretic’s book is being consumed.—Predella of the “Couronnement de la Vierge” by Fra Angelico, in the Louvre (Fifteenth Century).

Two monks, Guy and Raynier, of the Cistercian order, accordingly repaired to the south of France to seek out these heretics. They were[429] the first commissioners of the Holy See to whom might properly belong the title of inquisitors. The failure of their mission decided Innocent III. to give full powers to Peter de Castelnau, Archdeacon of Magliano, and to another Cistercian monk named Ralph. These two monks, accompanied by Amalric, Abbot of Citeaux, preached against the heresy of the Albigenses at Toulouse, Narbonne, Viviers, Carcassonne, and Montpellier, but the heretics only displayed greater perseverance. Peter de Castelnau and Brother Ralph, disheartened at this result, enlisted in their difficult mission twelve brothers of their own order and two distinguished Spanish prelates—Diego de Azeles, Bishop of Osma, and the sub-prior of his cathedral, Dominic Guzman, who, having witnessed the progress of heresy in Languedoc, went to Italy to obtain the Holy Father’s permission to preach against it. Dominic had given proof of a gentleness, zeal, and piety worthy of the apostles, and the renown of his exemplary life was counted[430] upon to give authority to his preaching (Fig. 331). Yet he was no less unsuccessful than the preceding commissioners sent by the pope. Insulted and mocked by an ignorant and brutal populace, he could not help exclaiming, “O Lord, let thy hand smite them, that thy punishment at least may open their eyes!” The legate Peter de Castelnau, in despair at the failure of his efforts to restore quietude and faith to men’s minds, determined to address himself directly to the Count of Toulouse, Raymond VI., and to formally demand of him to lend his aid to the papal legates, or else to proclaim openly that he sided with the heretics. After an interview during which bitter language was exchanged, two of the esquires of the Count of Toulouse believed that they would be complying with their master’s secret wishes by assassinating the courageous legate upon the banks of the Rhône (1208). Innocent III., when the news of this murder reached him, at once determined to set on foot a new crusade against the Albigenses. He appointed Milon in the room of Peter de Castelnau, and declared that he took under his immediate protection all the faithful who should take up arms for the defence of the Church. The Count of Toulouse did public penance, and his nephew Raymond Viscount of Béziers was handed over to the papal legates. The town of Béziers, taken by assault (July 22nd, 1209), was a scene of terrible carnage, for the crusaders gave no quarter—twenty thousand inhabitants were massacred without distinction of age or sex, and seven thousand were burnt in a church in which they had taken refuge.

Simon de Montfort, who was at the head of the expedition, accepted the effects of the Viscount of Béziers, and continued the war against the heretics. In 1213, before the walls of Muret, he defeated Peter II., King of Arragon, an ally of the Albigenses, who was besieging the town, and he afterwards stripped the Count of Toulouse of his domains, against the wish of Innocent III., who would have preferred that the count’s hereditary rights, and still more those of his son, should have been respected.

Simon was supported by Louis, son of Philip Augustus, who lost no time in fulfilling the vow which he had made to take up arms against the Manicheans of Languedoc, and, as the battle of Bouvines (1214) had led to a five years’ truce between the Kings of France and England, he joined the Catholic forces in the following year. In 1218 Toulouse rose[431] in revolt, and Simon de Montfort was mortally wounded by a stone during the siege. His son Amaury put himself forward as heir to his father’s domains, and endeavoured to establish his claims to the countships of Béziers and Toulouse, but he eventually abandoned them in favour of the French monarch. Very rigorous measures were taken to put down the heretics. An order issued by the bishop of Toulouse decreed that “the inhabitants of the districts infected with heresy shall pay one mark in silver for every Waldensian found within their boundaries; the house in which he is captured, those in which he has preached, shall be razed to the ground, and the property belonging to the owner of these houses confiscated. The goods of the pervert shall also be confiscated, as well as those appertaining to any person neglecting to wear or to display the two coloured crosses which should be sewn on to the breast of the penitent’s garment.” The Holy See, on its part, was not remaining inactive during this time, as in 1215 the fourth Lateran Council had excommunicated the Manicheans, the Waldenses, and the Albigenses. The third canon of that council declared that “the heretics who are condemned shall be handed over to the secular arm, in order that they may receive their merited punishment; the clerks shall be previously unfrocked.”

Just before this council terminated its sittings, Dominic, presented to Pope Innocent III., obtained, as a recompense for the services which he had rendered to the Church militant, leave to found the order of Preaching-Brothers, who from him took the name, by which they are more generally known, of Dominicans.

Their pious founder battled against heresy with purely spiritual weapons, and it is perhaps scarcely necessary to mention that he it was who, with a view to obtaining the conversion of heretics, introduced the custom of reciting the rosary. On his return to Toulouse, which eventually became the centre of the Inquisition, he delegated to eight provincials of his order, in France, Provence, Lombardy, Romagna, Germany, Hungary, England, and Spain the special mission of preaching against heresy. And, lastly, in 1229 Raymond VII., who had succeeded to his paternal inheritance after doing public penance, was reconciled to the Church and reinstated in his countship of Toulouse. His only daughter married one of the king’s brothers, thus insuring the transmission of his lands to the French crown.

Fig. 332.—Great Synagogue of Toledo (Third Century), restored at different periods, and consecrated for Catholic worship, under the name of Santa Maria Blanca, after the expulsion of the Jews in 1405: now used as a military storehouse.—After a Drawing by Don Manuel de Assas.

Louis IX. lost no time in taking measures to consolidate the results[433] of this pacific arrangement. He addressed to all his subjects, in the dioceses of Narbonne, Cahors, Rodez, Agen, Arles, and Nîmes, a decree composed of ten clauses, by which it was sought to effect the repression of heresy with the help of the secular clergy. Any one who had been excommunicated for more than a year was to be compelled, by seizure of his goods, to return to the Church. The tithes, which had long been kept back, were re-established. The barons, the vassals, the large towns and royal bailiwicks were sworn to observe and execute this decree. Even the king’s brother, when he assumed possession of the country, took the same oath for himself and his subjects. The Inquisition soon appeared to be unnecessary in France, and, with the consent of the Holy See, it suspended its action in the countship of Toulouse in 1237.

In Spain, the Inquisition was royal rather than papal. If we would understand the part played by this remarkable tribunal, it must be remembered that Spain took seven centuries to conquer its independence against the Moors and the Jews. These latter, while feigning a readiness to be converted, none the less maintained their antipathy for the Christian religion and their hatred of the Christians. Thus, when Ferdinand and Isabella had the whole of Spain under their authority, they considered it necessary to establish religious unity, in order to preserve national unity, and the Moors and Jews were ordered to quit the country or abjure their creeds (Figs. 332 and 333). The two sovereigns, who looked at the question in a political light, had established in their dominions a special Inquisition placed under their immediate control. The popes protested at once against the pretension of the Catholic monarchs to themselves superintend the Inquisition, and, on the tribunal being formed, Pope Sixtus IV. recalled his legate from the Spanish Court, which latter in turn withdrew its ambassador from Rome. A reconciliation, however, was effected, and a bull legalising the Spanish Inquisition was granted; but Pope Sixtus IV. soon regretted what he had done when he came to know of its excesses. The Spanish sovereigns, upon the other hand, did all they could to prevent the appeals made by condemned heretics from being heard at the Court of Rome, while the popes were obliged to employ stratagem in order to protect the penitent heretics from the merciless severity of the Inquisition. Llorente tells us that on many occasions a great number of heretics received secret absolution by[434] order of the pope, but he further adds that these papal amnesties were not always approved of by the Spanish government. Leo X. actually excommunicated the Inquisitors of Toledo, and Charles V., when he became emperor, pretended to lean in favour of the Lutheran reform in order to prevent Leo from interfering any further with the Spanish Inquisition.[435] This Inquisition was assisted by three corporate bodies, namely, the Holy Hermandad, the Cruciata, and the Militia of Christ.

Fig. 333.—Interior of the Ancient Mosque at Cordova, now a Catholic Cathedral; built in the Eighth Century by Abderhaman I., and altered for Catholic worship after the conversion of the Moors; it is one of the largest and most splendid monuments of Moorish architecture.

The Holy Hermandad (a corruption of the Latin word germanitas, confraternity) was at first an association of police officers employed in the protection of the streets and highways. Originally established in the three royal residences of Toledo, Cuidad-Real, and Talavera, it eventually became a military force, whose chief mission was to put into execution the orders of the Inquisition.

The Cruciata, a society composed of archbishops, bishops, and other personages of mark, was entrusted, under various circumstances, with the task of seeing that the laws of the Church were obeyed and carried out amongst Catholics.

The Family of the Inquisition, or the Militia of Christ, created during the pontificate of Honorius III., and analogous to the Order of the Templars, placed its forces at the service of the Inquisitors, and its pious zeal earned for it the good opinion of Pope Gregory IX.

As we have already mentioned, it was in 1481, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, that the Inquisition, provided with a new code of regulations, acquired a formidable power. Chiefly intended to bring to trial the Jews and the Moors who had again relapsed into paganism, it was then that it got the name of The Holy Office, and was superintended by a grand inquisitor-general and a council, termed The Supreme, consisting of forty-five members. When the Holy Office had a heretic, or any one suspected of being one, arrested, its agents stripped the accused person of all he had about his person, and took a detailed inventory of his clothing and furniture, in order that they might be restored to him intact should he prove to be innocent. The money so seized, whether in gold or silver, belonged by right to the tribunal, and went to pay the costs of the procedure. These formalities over, the accused person was taken to prison.

Of prisons, the Inquisition had several kinds: 1st, the common prison, in which were confined persons accused merely of ordinary misdemeanour, and who, consequently, were allowed to communicate with their families and friends; 2nd, the prison of mercy or of penitence, which was set apart for those who were to be detained only temporarily; 3rd, the intermediate prison, reserved for those who had committed some ordinary delinquency which brought them within the jurisdiction of the Holy Office; 4th, the secret prison,[436] the inmates of which were kept in solitary confinement. The dungeons of the Inquisition were like all those constructed in the Middle Ages.

After an incarceration which varied in length, the prisoner was conducted, when the day of trial arrived, to the large audience hall, which was hung with black, and adorned with a figure of Christ upon the cross, the body being of ivory and the cross of ebony. At the extreme end, before a circular table, sat the Inquisitor-general in a raised chair covered with black velvet and surmounted by a canopy of the same material. To his right and left, seats placed at a lower elevation were reserved for the Inquisitors, who, with the secretary, composed the tribunal. Two clerks of the court took down the questions put by the president and the answers made by the accused; behind them stood the spies of the Inquisition, and four men wearing long black robes, with their faces concealed by a mask with openings for the mouth, the nose, and the eyes.

The prisoner was seated upon a kind of raised stool placed opposite the Inquisitor; when, after a long interrogatory, he failed to avow his guilt, he was taken to the torture-chamber, preceded by the Inquisitor and the four mysterious men in black who had been present at the trial. Here he was again exhorted to abjure his errors, and, if these fresh entreaties were powerless to move him, he was handed over to the torturer, who put him to the torture with one of the four agencies employed by justice—the cord, the scourge, fire, or water (see the chapter on “Punishments,” in Manners and Customs of the Middle Ages).

The torture as used by the tribunals of the Inquisition did not differ from that employed by the civil tribunals, which, using it as unsparingly, scarcely attained a more satisfactory result, for the victim steeled himself against the pain and generally refused to reply to this interrogatory, though accompanied by inconceivable tortures. The solemn delivery of the judgment of the Inquisition and the execution of its sentences were preceded by a peculiar ceremony, designated in Spain and its dependencies by the name of Auto-da-fé, or Act of Faith. In most Auto-da-fés, the dismal procession was headed by a double file of Dominican brothers, before whom was carried the banner of the Holy Office (Fig. 334), with the device, “Justitia et misericordia.” Behind them came the condemned, followed by the spies of the Inquisition and the executioner.

Fig. 334.—An Auto-da-fé Procession, in Spain, according to the ceremonial observed from the Fourteenth Century.—Fac-simile of a large Engraving on copper in the work of Philip of Limborch, entitled “Historia Inquisitionis:” folio, Amsterdam, 1692.

There were many kinds of san-benito for different classes of penitents.[437] The first, for heretics who were reconciled to the Church before sentence had been passed, consisted of a yellow scapulary, with large reddish-coloured St. Andrew’s cross, and of a round pyramid-shaped cap called coroza, of the same material as the san-benito and with similar crosses; but no flames were represented on the garments, as the accused by timely repentance had escaped the punishment of burning (Fig. 335).

The second, for those who, sentenced to be burnt, had subsequently recanted, was made up of a san-benito and a coroza of the same material. The scapulary was covered with tongues of fire pointing downwards, to indicate that the wearer (Fig. 336) would not be burnt alive, inasmuch as he was to be strangled before being placed upon the burning pile.

Fig. 335.—San-benito. Garment worn by those who escaped burning by making a confession before being sentenced.

Fig. 336.—Fuego revolto. Garment worn by those who escaped being burnt alive by making a confession after they had been condemned.

Fig. 337.—Samarra. Garment worn by those who, refusing to confess, were about to be burnt.

Fac-simile of Engravings on Copper in the work of Philip of Limborch, entitled “Historia Inquisitionis:” in folio, Amsterdam, 1592.

The third, worn by those who died impenitent, had at the lower end the head of a man in the midst of fire and enveloped in flames. The other parts of the garment were covered with forked flames shooting upwards, as a token that the heretic would actually be burnt alive. Grotesque figures[438] of demons were also represented upon the san-benito and upon the coroza as well.

At the church whither the cortége repaired, chanting prayers on its way, ten white tapers were alight in silver candlesticks upon the high altar, which was hung in black; to the right, there was a kind of raised dais for the Inquisitor and his councillors; to the left, another such a one for the king and his court. Facing the high altar was a scaffolding covered with black cloth upon which the reconciled stood to make their abjurations upon missals which had been opened and arranged beforehand.

After the reconciliation of these latter, the impenitent heretics were handed over to the secular power, together with the prisoners who had been guilty of ordinary misdemeanour. The Auto-da-fé was then over, and the Inquisitors withdrew. An historian, in giving a detailed account of a trial before the tribunals of the Inquisition, tells us that the civil punishment was not inflicted until the day after the Auto-da-fé. Nor was it always the case that it was followed by execution, for Llorente cites that of February 12th, 1486, at Toledo, when there were seven hundred and fifty heretics brought up for punishment, not one of whom was put to death, though they had to do public penance. At another great Auto-da-fé, also held at Toledo in April of the same year, out of nine hundred repentant or condemned persons none underwent the extreme penalty. A third, on the 1st of May, comprised seven hundred and fifty persons; and at a fourth, on the 10th of December, there were nine hundred and fifty, but in both these instances no blood was shed. Out of a total of three thousand three hundred persons who had to do penance for transgressing the rules of the Church at this epoch, Llorente states that only twenty-seven were put to death. It must be remembered that the Spanish Inquisition, in conformity with the royal decree, had to try not only heretics, but those accused of unnatural crimes, brigands, lay or clerical seducers, blasphemers, persons guilty of sacrilege, usurers, and even murderers and rebels. In addition to this, those who supplied the enemy with horses and stores in time of war, together with the then frequent cases of sorcery, magic, and other similar frauds, were also brought within the jurisdiction of the tribunals of the Inquisition. Thus the twenty-seven individuals who were executed in 1486 may have been made up of malefactors of every class.

The political aim of the kings of Spain was attained, for the maintenance[439] of religious unity preserved the kingdom from the bloody catastrophes which at that period spread desolation throughout France and England. This is admitted even by Voltaire, in his “Essai sur l’Histoire Générale.” While deploring the horrors of the Inquisition, he says, “In Spain there were none of those bloody revolutions, conspiracies, or cruel reprisals which disgraced every other European nation. Neither Count Olivarès nor the Duke of Lerma sent their enemies to the scaffold, and sovereigns were never assassinated as in France, nor did they suffer beneath the headsman’s axe, as in England.”

Fig. 338.—Philip II., King of Spain.—From the work of Cesare Vecellio: 8vo, 1590.

The Inquisition was less successful in the Netherlands, for the Protestant cause made great progress in Holland during the reign of Charles V. The nobility and the upper clergy, indignant at the rigorous measures adopted by Philip II. (Fig. 338) in his efforts to put down heresy, countenanced the general uprising against the Spaniards. Emboldened thereby, the Protestants flew to arms, the churches were burnt, the priests and monks were massacred, and the Catholic form of worship suppressed in many localities. Philip dispatched thither the notorious Duke of Alva, who, on assuming the command, instituted the council of troubles, which the people nicknamed the council of blood. The religious question resolved itself into a struggle for national independence. A bitter war resulted in the definite separation of the United Provinces, which afterwards became the kingdom of Holland. Belgium, created an independent province, was handed over with[440] hereditary rights to Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella, daughter of Philip II.

Fig. 339.—Cruelties committed by the Gueux, in Holland. A. Master John Jerome, of Edam, and other Catholics of Hoorn, being put to the torture, at Scagen, in Northern Holland. Those who survive the first tortures are tied down upon their backs, a large cauldron turned upside down is placed upon their naked stomachs, with a number of large dormice underneath. A fire is lighted upon the top of the cauldron which enrages the dormice; and as they are unable to creep under the edges of the cauldron, they burrow into the entrails of the victim. B. Ursula Talèse, a nun of Haarlem, having refused to renounce her faith when made to stand beneath the gibbet upon which her father had been hung, is thrown into the water and drowned. C. Her sister, bewailing her fate and that of her father, also refuses to change her creed, and her skull is beaten in with a large stone.—Fac-simile of an Engraving on Copper in the “Theatrum Crudelitatum nostri Temporis” (4to, Antwerp, 1587); with a translation of the explanations given.

The United Provinces were no sooner constituted than, notwithstanding the Protestant principle of the liberty of free inquiry, they obeyed that instinct which impels all governments to religious unity—Spain was outdone in the refinement of punishments which they invented to use against the Catholics who refused to change their faith (Fig. 339). Nor was it against the Catholics only that the Protestant Inquisition exercised its rigorous[441] authority. In countries where Calvinists and Lutherans were brought into juxtaposition, religious persecution broke out between the various reformed Churches, always, too, under the instinctive influence that religious unity was necessary to ensure the stability of the State. A distinguished writer, Menzel, in his “New History of the Germans since the Reformation,” gives some very interesting details concerning this internecine struggle. At the end of the sixteenth century, when, at the death of the Elector of Saxony, Christian I., on September 25th, 1591, the government of Saxony fell into the hands of Duke William of Altenburg, who was a rigid Lutheran, the Calvinist party in Germany thought that the golden age was about to return. Chancellor Crell, who in Christian’s lifetime had treated the Lutherans with slight show of mercy, was cast into prison, together with Gunderman, a Leipsic preacher. After five months’ incarceration, the latter signed the “Formula of Concord,” in order that he might be able to visit his wife, whom he had left enceinte, but he had no sooner appended his signature than he was told that she had hung herself in a fit of despair. The unfortunate man went out of his mind. Other preachers were treated with almost equal severity; and at Leipsic, in 1593, the Lutheran party set fire to the houses of the Calvinists, who had to fly from the city to escape assassination. Such was also the case in Silesia. Upon the 22nd of September, 1601, Chancellor Crell was condemned to death, after having been kept ten years in prison, and he was beheaded on the 10th of October.

At Brunswick, in 1603, the Lutheran preachers excommunicated the captain of the burghers, one Brabant; in 1604 it was rumoured that he had made a pact with the devil, and that the latter had been seen following them in the form of a crow. Brabant tried to escape, but broke his leg in the attempt. Brought back to Brunswick amidst the hootings of the populace, who regarded him as a traitor and a magician, he was three times put to the most cruel torture, to terminate which he avowed himself guilty of all the crimes laid to his charge. His companions in misfortune were treated with equal cruelty. While Zachary Druseman was suspended by the arms in the torture-chamber, his judges went off to their supper. The victim implored the executioner, by the wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ, to let him down for a single moment and loosen the screws which were crushing his feet, but the latter replied that he must wait until the judges returned. When they came in an hour afterwards, completely intoxicated, Druseman was dead.[442] Menzel goes on to tell us that on St. Michael’s Day the Lutheran preachers, at the request of the town council, undertook to justify from the pulpit the executions which had been incessantly going on, and that on the 9th of December a thanksgiving service was held in all the churches, in front of which the gibbets and scaffolds were still displayed.

Fig. 340.—Tortures inflicted upon Catholics by the Huguenots in the South of France.—Thirty Catholics, imprisoned at Augoulême, in the house of a burgher of the name of Papin, are tortured in various ways:—A. Some, deprived of food, are chained together in pairs, so that, becoming delirious through hunger, they may tear each other to pieces. B. Some are dragged naked along a tightly-drawn rope, which acts like a saw, cutting the body in two. C. Several are attached to stakes, and fires lighted a short distance behind them, so that their bodies may burn slowly.—Fac-simile of an Engraving on copper in the “Theatrum Crudelitatum nostri Temporis” (4to, Antwerp, 1587); with a translation of the explanations given.

In the southern provinces of France, where the party of the Reformation acquired the upper hand, excesses were committed which were as much reprobated by the more enlightened of the Protestants as by the Catholics. The town of Angoulême in particular was the scene of many such cruelties (Fig. 340).

The dominant party was everywhere guilty of extreme intolerance, but[443] nowhere was the persecution carried on upon so large a scale as in unhappy England. Protestant writers cannot find expressions strong enough to characterize the unheard-of violence to which Henry VIII. had recourse with a view to establish religious unity in his kingdom.

Fig. 341.—Punishments decreed by Henry VIII. against the Catholics.—A. John Fisher, Cardinal-Bishop of Rochester, eighty years of age, condemned to death on the 17th of June, 1535, is beheaded on the 22nd of the same month. B. Chancellor Thomas More is also beheaded on the 9th of July, 1535. C. The Countess of Salisbury, made to answer for the accusations brought against her son, who had left the country, after being condemned to death, is beheaded.—Fac-simile of a Copper-plate in the “Theatrum Crudelitatum nostri Temporis” (Antwerp, 1587); with a translation of the explanations given.

Cobbett, in his “History of the English Reformation,” says, “Previous to this reign of bloodshed not more than three persons on the average were tried in each county at the annual assizes, but now there were as many as sixty thousand persons in prison at a time. In a word, the Court of Henry was a regular slaughter-house of human flesh.”

Henry VIII., from the very fact of his having broken with the principle of authority in religious matters, found himself driven to an excess of severity, feeling that it was by terror alone that he could put down resistance; and,[444] as the example of those who are placed high in authority exercises a decisive influence upon the masses, the king singled out for attack those who stood highest on the roll of magistrates and bishops—the Chancellor, Thomas More, and his illustrious friend Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (Fig. 341). They were both cited to appear before the King’s Council, and the Chancellor was condemned to die. More was passionately attached to his daughter Margaret, who, when the trial was over, threw herself upon her father’s neck, exclaiming, amidst her sobs, “My father, are you who are innocent to die?” To which, embracing her for the last time, and giving her his blessing, he replied, “Would you have me die guilty?” When he reached the foot of the scaffold he called upon the populace to witness that he died in the faith of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. The executioner asked for his forgiveness, and More, embracing him, rejoined, “You are rendering me the greatest service that can be done to a Christian!” He met his death with joy, and his head was exposed for a fortnight upon London Bridge. His friend, the Bishop of Rochester, had been sent to the block a few weeks before (Fig. 341).

Fig. 342.—Michael Servetus (born at Villanueva, Arragon, in 1509) burnt alive by order of Calvin, at Geneva, in 1553.—After a Copper-plate in the “Historia Michaelis Serveti:” 4to, Helmstadii, 1727.

Switzerland suffered as much as England, for the Inquisition set up by Calvin at Geneva defied all description. While Calvin, as it is reported, was allowed to stigmatize those who differed from him as rogues, dogs, and scoundrels, their emperor vermin, and their fathers and mothers imps of Satan, the peasants who used rough language to their cattle were thrown into prison. Three children were publicly whipped because they had stolen away from the meeting-house to go and eat cakes. The registers of the town record that in the course of sixty years one hundred and fifty persons were burnt alive as sorcerers. Another crime punishable with death was “to speak ill of Calvin,” who made no secret of his feelings upon this point, as may be gathered from the following sentence in a letter he sent to one of his partisans: “Do not fail to purge the country of the fanatic scoundrels who go about exhorting the people to withstand us, who blacken our conduct, and who try to depict our creed as an empty dream. Such monsters ought to be put down.” On these grounds, the poet Gruet was put to the torture and beheaded “for having spoken ill of Calvin.” Michael Servetus, who practised medicine, astrology, and theology, ventured to contradict the teaching of the Reformer, especially in reference to the doctrine of the Trinity. Calvin wrote to Farel, under date of[445] February 13th, 1546, the following letter, the original of which may still be seen in the National Library of Paris: “Servetus wrote to me the other day, and sent with his letter a large book filled with his vain and arrogant reveries, saying that I should find it full of wonderful and hitherto unknown subjects. He promises to come and meet me here, if I wish, but I do not care to enter into any arrangement, for, if he comes and I have my own way, I shall not let him escape with his life.” The unfortunate Servetus was obliged to repair thither under the following circumstances. He had clandestinely published at Vienne (Dauphiny) his book entitled “Christianismi Restitutio” (“The Restoration of Christianity”). Of this book Calvin procured[446] a copy, which, he forwarded to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyons. Servetus, thanks to Calvin’s denunciations, was arrested and thrown into the ecclesiastical prison of Vienne, as this book contained many obnoxious statements tainted with heresy. It happened that the prisoner, a better doctor than he was theologian, had formerly saved the life of the only daughter of the bailiff of that town, and the gaoler received orders to favour his escape, which was effected without difficulty. Servetus unfortunately took refuge at Geneva. Calvin’s spies discovered him there; he was imprisoned on the 13th of August, 1553, and on the 26th of October, after a lengthened examination, during which he defended himself energetically against the accusations of impiety and atheism, he was condemned to be burnt alive. The sentence was carried out on the following day (Fig. 342). Calvin witnessed the execution from his window, and was soon after congratulated on what he had done by the Cantons of Zurich, Schaffhausen, Basle, and Berne. The learned Melancthon wrote to him, “Your magistrates have acted in accordance with right and justice in having this blasphemer put to death.” These acts of cruelty and vengeance, nevertheless, have excited the just indignation of several Protestant historians, who deplore the loss to Geneva of her ancient liberties and franchises. “For more than eight hundred years,” says Fazy, “the harmony between the cause of the people and that of religion had placed Geneva in the van of civilisation. Its laws were mild, acts of violence were rare, confiscation was unknown, and nowhere do we find any traces of people being persecuted for their opinions.”

Fig. 343.—Ornament from the “Historia Testamenti” of Pierre Comestor.—MS. dated 1229. Library of M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.



Embalming and Incineration of Bodies amongst the Ancients.—Interment brought into practice by Christianity.—The Wrapping of the Dead in Shrouds.—The Direction in which the Bodies were laid.—Absolution Crosses.—Funeral Furniture.—Coffins and Sarcophagi in the Middle Ages.—Funereal Sculpture and Architecture, from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century.—The Catacombs at Rome.—Charnel-houses in the Churches.—Public Cemeteries.—The Cemetery of the Innocents, Paris.—Lanterns for the Dead.—Funerals of the Kings and Queens of France.—The Rolls of the Dead.—Consoling Thought of the Resurrection and of Eternal Life.

In the most remote epoch of the world’s history we find that the dead were treated with respect, not to say worshipped; for a natural, sentiment leads savage as well as civilised man to pay the last tribute of affection to the bodies of those for whom he once felt affection, esteem, or fear. Such is the moral principle of the various modes of burial which have been successively practised, viz., embalming, incineration, and interment. Many ancient nations, and especially the Egyptians, who sought to preserve the human body for an indefinite length of time, embalmed their dead with extreme care, or rather, we should say, with wonderful art.

The Greeks generally burnt their dead and collected their ashes in urns; with the Romans the custom of burning was usual, at least amongst the rich, and lasted long after the establishment of Christianity, which dogmatically enjoined the interment of the dead, though this mode of sepulture had before been confined to slaves, suicides, and the poor.

The Christians introduced at the same time the old Jewish custom of swathing the dead body in a winding-sheet, which was bound up with long[448] bands soaked in resinous and perfumed oil, after the fashion of the Egyptians. Embalming was, moreover, prescribed and authorised by divine legislation. It is said in Genesis that it took forty days to embalm the body of Jacob, and in the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark we read, “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him.”

All the bas-reliefs of the fifth and sixth centuries, upon which figure bodies prepared for burial, represent a regular mummy swathed in bands; and this mode of wrapping the body, which seems to imply that it had first been embalmed, was still in use at the end of the eighth century. After this epoch we do not possess sufficiently accurate data to say what was the general practice. We know, however, that for a certain length of time the dead were sewn up in leather prepared from the skins of stags or oxen. The cervicorium, or stag-hide, was a kind of shroud specially used for warriors, if we may believe the war ballads. Precious tissues were used at that time for the winding-sheets of ecclesiastical persons; and in a tomb of the tenth century, in the vault of St. Germain des Prés, in Paris, a skeleton was found which was enveloped in a piece of cloth, tied at the neck and the feet with short narrow bands. The dead bodies of the lower classes were buried in shrouds made of some common material.

Before burial, the hands were always folded across the breast. This was customary in the East throughout the whole of the Middle Ages, and the doctors of the Greek Church attached so much importance to it that, according to an author of the thirteenth century, they made it a great reproach to the Latins that they neglected to observe this Christian law.

Fig. 344.—Christ victorious over Death; with the following Inscription:—

“Hic residens solio Christus jam victor in alto
Mortem calce premit, colligat atque fodit.
Dumque salutiferam vult mors extinguere vitam,
Infelix hamo deperit illa suo.”

Fac-simile of a Miniature from the “Choir Book” of the Cathedral at Worms.—Manuscript of the Eighth or Ninth Century, in the Library of the Arsenal, Paris.

The direction in which the body was to be buried was, moreover, particularly specified. Thus it was enjoined that it should be laid upon the back “with the head to the west, the feet towards the east,” says the ancient writer John Beleth. Another liturgical writer scarcely less famous, William Durand, Bishop of Mende, adds, in his “Rationale Divinorum Officiorum,” that the body, when placed in this position, seems to be engaged in prayer, and ready to rise when the first rays of the sun shine forth. It must not be supposed, however, that this particular direction of the body (capite versus occidentem et pedibus versus orientem) was rigorously adhered to by the Christians alone, for it is found to have been observed during the second and third centuries, which were assuredly not Christian. The custom of burying[449] the dead, introduced by Christianity, was adopted in Italy long before the Roman provinces were converted to the new faith. Subsequent to the reign of the Antonines, who by edict authorised the burial of the dead, there are[450] numerous instances of pagan burials being conducted in conformity with, this edict, especially in Gaul.

Fig. 345.—The Harvest of Souls: God the Father receiving the souls in his lap.—Miniature in the “Dialogues of St. Gregory,” a Manuscript of the Twelfth Century, in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Fig. 346.—Celtic Burial.—The body, bent double, with the head between the knees, and with two vases at the feet, is placed in a grotto or natural cave.

Fig. 347.—Mode of Burial among the Franks.—The body, laid in the grave, is surrounded with arms, implements, and various articles for use: the sword or the scrama sax under the right armpit, the knife or poignard upon the breast, the hatchet at the knee, the framée or the lance at the feet, comb, bracelet, &c. It is thought that the vase in red or black clay, which is often found under the feet of the skeleton, had a symbolic meaning. This grave was discovered during excavations made in Paris.

At a much later period the principle relating to the direction in which bodies were laid fell into disuse at Christian burials. The persons attached to the ecclesiastical edifices were buried with their feet towards the west, and sometimes towards the south. There was another exception: the body was not always laid upon its back, but in certain cases it was placed upon its side, or even with the face downwards. Pepin the Short was buried with his face downwards; Hugh Capet, in accordance with his wishes, was also thus interred beneath the rain-spout which was above the porch of St. Denis Cathedral, in order that his sins might be washed out. This was termed adens burial (upon the teeth, ad dentes).

In the sixth and seventh centuries we have many instances of persons being placed in a sitting position in their tombs, with the legs and body[451] upright. This exceptional mode of interment was most frequently adopted, though not exclusively, by the barbarians; and the fact of Charlemagne having been so interred makes it peculiarly interesting. “Washed and laid out,” as we read in Legrand d’Aussy’s “Sépultures Nationales,” “arrayed in his imperial robes, at his side a sword with a golden pummel, on his head a golden crown, holding in his lap a New Testament written in letters of gold, he was seated upon a throne of gold. Before him were placed his golden sceptre and shield, which had been blessed by Pope Leo. The vault was filled with perfumes and many treasures (thesauris multis); it was closed, and even sealed down, and[452] over it was erected a golden arcade, upon which was engraved the epitaph handed down to us by Eginhardt, and is the oldest extant of all those which tell of our earliest kings.”

When the pagans adopted the custom of interment (Fig. 348), they laid by the side of the dead the insignia of his profession, and any objects which had been dear to him during his lifetime; to this they added various vases containing food and drink, to serve him as a viaticum during his more or less prolonged journey to a better world. In the coffins of Christians, on the contrary—even from the earliest times—the funeral furniture appears to have been next to nothing: a phial containing some perfume, with one, two, or perhaps three vases, of wood, glass, or clay, filled with holy water.

Fig. 348.—Gallo-Roman Tomb, representing the deceased laid upon a funeral bed, and surrounded by her weeping family and household.—Monument of the First or Second Century, found during excavations made in Paris. After a Plate in the “Statistique de Paris,” by M. Albert Lenoir.

The perfume-phials had disappeared so early as the Merovingian period, but the custom of placing the other vases in the coffin lasted, in some countries, even down to the eighteenth century. Their presence in a place of burial is not, therefore, a proof of its antiquity. The liturgists have endeavoured to explain the origin and the meaning of a custom so general and so long maintained; and William Durand suggests, in his “Rationale,” that these funeral vases, of whatever shape they might be, were intended for containing incense. A miniature of the fourteenth century would appear to confirm this theory, for we find that it represents, at the four corners of a coffin covered with the pall, small pots[453] placed in a row with the tapers (Fig. 349); and there is reason to believe that the incense in them was burnt during the funeral service. In fact, the pots represented in this miniature are white; the reddish colour of the holes with which they are perforated, and the smoke issuing from them, show that there was fire inside. Perhaps this was only the fire of red-hot coals, since they have been found to contain ashes mixed with pieces of coal.

Fig. 349.—Funeral Service, in which are shown, between the candelabra, the incense vases which were deposited in the coffin.—Drawing of the Fourteenth Century.

Fig. 350.—Absolution Cross of the Eleventh Century, in lead, found in a coffin in the Abbey of Bury St. Edmund’s (1855).

From “Les Sépultures Gauloises, Romaines, et Franques,” by the Abbé Cochet.

After the ceremony, these vases were placed, while still alight, in the coffin. And this brings us to another Christian usage, which has been ascertained to have existed in France and England from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. During this period, a cross was placed upon the breast of the deceased person. This cross, in wood or in lead, sometimes in silver, was called an absolution cross (Fig. 350), because the formula of absolution given to the dead man was generally engraved upon it—and even his name was stated in the formula. A fact related by Mabillon, in his “Annals of the Order of St. Benedict,” sufficiently proves the importance and universal extent of this custom. In 1142, after the death of Abelard, Eloisa, Abbess of the Paraclete, asked Peter the Venerable,[454] Abbot of Cluny, for a formula of absolution to place upon the tomb of the illustrious theologian. This absolution was placed, as is related by a Benedictine writer, upon Abelard’s breast. The text is so interesting that it is worth quoting, though written in Latin. Peter the Venerable, alluding therein to the unwillingness of the monks of St. Marcel to give up the body of Abelard, says, “Ego Petrus, Cluniacensis abbas, qui Petrum Abaëlardum, in monachum Cluniacensem recepi, et corpus ejus furtim delatum Heloïsæ, abbatissæ et monialibus Paracliti concessi, auctoritate omnipotentis Dei et omnium sanctorum absolvo eum pro officio ab omnibus peccatis suis.” Ancient burying-places are sometimes discovered with bodies which have been bound in chains, or, at all events, are loaded with iron and brass fetters. Thus at Couvert, near Bayeux, a skeleton was discovered a few years back laid upon the face (ad dentes), upon a wooden cross, with a small chain round the neck. This is a peculiarity having its origin in certain rules of penance which were in force from the eighth to the tenth, and probably to the eleventh, century.

The pagan rite prescribed that a piece of money should be placed in the urn or coffin; and many antiquaries have suggested that this must have been the obolus for Charon. This custom was perpetuated by the Christians, for, throughout the Middle Ages, a coin was always placed on the bier; and this practice still prevails in Poitou, Alsace, and other places.

The interments of the barbarians, even after their conversion to Christianity, are specially characteristic, because, no matter to what nation they belonged, they adhered to their own particular manner of burial. They were interred in their finest clothes, with their weapons, and, in some cases, with their war-horse. The women and children, whose burial-place is easily discoverable, wore jewels, necklaces, rings, fibulæ, girdles, buckles, &c., to which are still found adhering bits of tissue, the remains of some splendid costume.

Researches and excavations made in France of late years have led to the discovery of numerous barbarian cemeteries, and have enabled us to ascertain what were the Merovingian, or, as it would perhaps be more accurate to say, the Germanic funeral customs. These customs evidently were replaced by others when the barbarian finally settled in Gaul,[455] that is, about the middle of the ninth century. The habit of placing in the coffin various pieces of black, red, or white pottery (Fig. 351), together with small vases which seem to have been intended for the same purpose as those used in Christian burials, existed during this period. These vases, often very numerous, no doubt contained food; they were frequently accompanied by a small wooden jar, the handle of which was very richly mounted, and which the savans at one time took to be a Merovingian diadem. But a chemical analysis of the solid residue found in one of these jars, led to the discovery that they were filled with an alimentary substance which gave out a strong odour of fermented beer.

Fig. 351.—Gallic or Gallo-Roman Pottery, dug up in Paris and in the neighbourhood.

Subsequently to the period when the barbarians were no longer interred with their weapons of war, there still remained some traces of this primitive custom in Christian society, both in France and Germany; thus, kings were buried in their royal robes, with sceptre and crown. This continued to be the case throughout the Middle Ages; but, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the sceptres and crowns deposited in the coffins were made of brass or tin, in order that thieves might not be tempted to steal them. Such was also the case with bishops and abbots, as is shown by Gregory of Tours, when he speaks of Saint Gall, the Bishop of Clermont, in Auvergne, of the Abbot Mars, of the hermits Marian, Leobard, and Lupicin, being buried in their robes of ceremony. They[456] were covered at their death with the most brilliant insignia of their dignity; but after a certain epoch nothing was placed beside them in the coffin but a wooden crozier, a chalice, and a tin paten. They were always dressed, however, in their pontifical vestments, the gold lace and embroidery of which has, when these tombs have come to be opened, often been found undecayed, while the vestments themselves have crumbled into dust.

In the monasteries and communities, the old barbarian rite was observed after the tenth century, and the monks were buried with all their clothing on them; but as the woollen material of which they were made was consumed by age, it is impossible for the archæologist to reconstruct on opening these coffins the monastic dress as it must have been when the body contained in it was buried.

At present we have considered only the different modes of burial during the Middle Ages, but we may now proceed to speak of the coffin and the tomb. No work of art is more curious, or fuller of historical and picturesque information, than the funeral monuments of all ages. But it must be remembered that there is a marked distinction between the coffin and the tomb, one being the receptacle of the dead, the other only a monument raised to mark the spot of ground in which the coffin has been interred.

At all periods Christians have used coffins cut out of stone; and this custom only ceased in the thirteenth century, to make way for the use of lead coffins. The stone sarcophagi were only for persons of a certain rank. Soldiers, townsmen, and country people were buried in coffins made of wood. The Franks gave the name of off or noff to these coffins, which are alluded to in the Salic law. Gregory of Tours, speaking of the plague which desolated Auvergne in 571, says, “The mortality was so great at Clermont that it was found necessary to inter as many as ten bodies in the same grave, because there was a dearth of wooden and stone coffins.”

These ancient stone sarcophagi are met with in great numbers in those localities which were the ordinary places of burial. They have been found by thousands in certain towns and villages, such as Alichamps, Drevant, and Grou, in the department of the Cher, as well as at Meunes and Naveil, in the department of the Loir-et-Cher. The most ancient coffins are[457] easily to be recognised by their large dimensions, their thickness, and their regular shape (Figs. 352 and 353). They are, so to speak, chests with a massive stone cover, two metres and twenty centimetres (about seven feet two inches) long, and in some cases more. They are square, and resemble a rectangular trough. The lid, sloping in the shape of a roof, is quite free of all decoration.

Fig. 352.—Stone Coffin discovered during excavations made in the Rue de la Cossonnerie, Paris. In the Cluny Museum.

Fig. 353.—Stone Coffin of Gallo-Roman origin, in the Cluny Museum.

In the sixth and seventh centuries the dimensions of the sarcophagi began to decrease, being rarely more than two metres (six feet seven inches) in length. Another distinctive mark of that period was that the coffin, narrower at the foot than at the head, was covered with a large stone, hewn like that of the antique coffins. Moreover, it was often a trifle less deep at the foot than at the head; but this is the special characteristic of the coffins of the eighth century. After this period, coffins narrower at the foot than at the head, but of the same elevation on both sides, again came into use.

In the eighth century, many coffins were found to contain a small[458] cell cut into the stone for holding the head of the corpse. This cell was generally square, but sometimes round.

The further we get into the Middle Ages the more difficult it becomes to ascertain the antiquity of a coffin. After the eleventh and twelfth centuries, if not the tenth, the lids are ornamented with roughly-executed sculpture work, crosses in bas-relief, triangular facets, indistinct tracery work which have a distinct resemblance to the Roman sarcophagi.

The ancient cemeteries of the French provinces also contain coffins moulded in plaster; and the Cluny Museum has some interesting specimens of these coffins, which were in use from the ninth to the fourteenth century. Their sides are roughly decorated with very primitive ornaments, round, lozenge-shaped, and convoluted, with emblems which enable us to ascertain approximatively their date of execution. Thus, when a plaster coffin is decorated with the fleur-de-lis, we may be sure that it cannot be of earlier origin than the thirteenth century.

In the last few years of the twelfth century was invented a kind of stone coffin, hewn outside in such a way as to produce the shape of the head, and to represent the whole body as enveloped in its shroud, just like a mummy.

In the early part of the fourteenth century personages of rank were buried in stone coffins lined with lead. In the time of Charles V. stone was altogether replaced by wood and lead, even in the burials of the rich. The coffins of that epoch resemble boxes made in a great hurry by joining together sheets of lead of various thicknesses.

Fig. 354.—Raised Stone, near Poitiers.—After a Plate in the great work of Count de Laborde, “Les Monuments de la France:” in folio, 1816.

Square stone troughs, about twelve or fourteen inches in length by from eight to ten inches in breadth, are also to be met with in considerable numbers; and they were employed to receive the bones that had fallen from disused burial-places, and from the vaults beneath churches when, in the course of repairs, unknown or forgotten graves were disturbed. When these repairs led to the disinterment of the coffins appertaining to some personages of note buried in the church of which they had been the parishioners and the benefactors, it sometimes happened that in moving them they were burst open, and, in this case, the remnants of the broken coffins were placed in these small troughs, which took up less room. The tombs, that is to say the visible monuments of burial, were of nearly the same shape as the coffins, from the earliest ages down to the close[459] of the ninth century, the only distinction being that they were made of choicer materials and decorated with more or less magnificence. Thus, all the coffins which contained the bodies of martyrs, nobles, prelates, or kings, were exposed to the view of the faithful, and served for tombs, so that these illustrious persons were not, in the true sense of the term, interred. The stone chest in which the body was placed being both a coffin and a funeral monument, was not hidden beneath a tombstone, but remained visible in a church—not in a sepulchral cave, but above ground, often, indeed, raised upon columns. The early Christians of Gaul, those at least who were distinguished for their achievements or their virtues, were interred in this fashion in sarcophagi ornamented with allegorical subjects, very like those in which pagans were buried. A case in point is the sarcophagus at Rheims of Jovinus the patrician, master of the cavalry under Julian, and, it is said, founder of the Church of St. Agricole, since called St. Nicaise. This monument, removed from this ancient church to the cathedral and afterwards to the museum, is of white marble, sculptured upon three sides. The front represents various hunting scenes, in which Jovinus is taking part, with a spear in his hand, accompanied by a spirit which has the attributes of Minerva. It is very[460] probable that this sarcophagus, which had been previously used for the burial of some pagan, was used for its fresh occupant without any change being made in its artistic features. An exactly similar one was made for the King of Austrasia, Carloman, the brother of Charlemagne; an analogous subject was also sculptured upon it, and it was elevated upon four columns near the tomb of St. Remigius.

The sarcophagi were sometimes made of a more costly material than stone; that of St. Cassianus, at Autun, for instance, was of alabaster. But these were only exceptional cases; and Maurice, Archbishop of Rouen, prohibited these funeral extravagances in 1231. It is curious, however, to note the representation of scenes in profane history upon Christian coffins. Sauval describes one that was discovered in the Church of St. Geneviève, Paris, in 1620, which contained a box full of gold and silver medals representing the boar-hunt of Meleager. Christian and pagan emblems are sometimes found side by side: upon the sarcophagus of St. Andoche was represented a wheel, a bird, vine-foliage and grapes, a hatchet, and, amidst all these ornaments, a cross.

After the reign of Theodosius, there were in use throughout Gaul sarcophagi the emblems of which were exclusively borrowed from the Christian religion. As a general rule, the front surface is divided by arcades of raised architecture, and between each of them is represented a subject taken from the Old or the New Testament. Arles, in fact, appears to have been the centre of a special manufacture which executed this kind of work for all the south of France, until the middle of the sixteenth century. There were also manufactories of stone sarcophagi at St. Pierre l’Etrier, St. Emelion, and, more notably, at Quarrée-les-Tombes.

During the reigns of the first rois fainéants, the successors of Clovis, the decoration of the sarcophagi was affected by the barbarian style of art. There were no longer any figures in relief—nothing but the monogram of Christ, XP, with a circular or oval border. At that period the sarcophagus took the exact shape of the coffin, being narrower at the feet than at the head. The lid was a large stone of the same character as the coffin, generally decorated with concentric circles or the scales of fish, in memory of Christ’s monogram, ΙΧΘΥΣ (ὶχθὺς, fish).

Funeral sculptures did not flourish during the time of Charlemagne; the bodies of the kings were placed in ancient tombs, which were everywhere[461] very plentiful. Thus, the sarcophagus in which the body of Charlemagne himself was placed represented the abduction of Proserpine. It is true that upon that of Louis the Pious was represented the Passage of the Red Sea, but this was manufactured at Arles. The churches in course of time became so full of tombs that the councils were obliged to prohibit interment in them, and this order, though only partially observed, effected a change in the mode of burial. People preferred to have the coffins placed in the ground, especially as they were better protected in this way from the robbers who violated the sanctity of the grave. Thus, from the ninth to the beginning of the tenth century, sarcophagi gradually fell into disuse.

Fig. 355.—Tomb of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, in the Church of Marburg, Hesse (Thirteenth Century). She is represented upon her death-bed, and the angels are offering her soul to Jesus, who is blessing it, and to the Virgin. To the right are Duke Louis with the cross of the Crusades, St. John the Evangelist, the special protector of St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, and St. Peter; to the left, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary Magdalene, and a bishop. It was before this bas-relief that the pilgrims knelt in prayer, and their knees have worn hollows into the pavement around it.

Burials above ground again came into vogue after the eleventh century, and from that epoch dates the development of funeral art in the Middle Ages. At first, the tombs, even of the highest personages, consisted only of a plain block of stone or marble, varying in shape, placed upon the ground, or, as was more often the case, raised upon short columns. In the twelfth century we meet with a new kind of monument: tombs in the form of square altars, or altar-tables, with the image of the deceased in relief or cut out on their upper surface. These tombs were in general use throughout the Middle Ages (Fig. 355), and were combined,[462] subsequent to the thirteenth century, with another mode based on quite a different principle. As, in spite of the decrees of the councils, the churches were still full of graves, it was sought to make the tombs erected in them as little cumbersome as possible; and hence arose the custom of placing tablets or sculptures upon the walls, at a certain elevation above the ground, betokening the presence of a coffin in the vault beneath. There were, besides, the flat tombs, the pompous epitaphs on which were effaced by the footsteps of those who walked over them. These were in vogue from the time of Philip Augustus, and the use of them did not die out till the reign of Louis XIV., especially in the northern provinces of France.

Fig. 356.—Tomb in the Church of St. Waudru, at Mons, of Adelaide or Alice, Countess of Hainault, who died in 1168. This tomb is of stone, devoid of all decoration, with a triangular top in the shape of a cross. (Twelfth Century.)

Some detailed account may now be given of the square blocks of stone employed as funeral monuments. These raised tombs (for that is their proper name) were, in the eleventh century, larger at the top than at the sides. They were ornamented with mouldings at the top and at the[463] bottom, and either rested upon a stone slab or upon short columns. Other tombs, equally massive, were prism-shaped, with three, four, or five sides, and they too rested in the same manner. The oldest of these monuments are almost exactly like coffins, and their surface is devoid of all ornamental work (Fig. 356). The presence of sculpture about a tomb constitutes one of the distinctive marks of art in the reign of Philip I. (1059–1108). The sculpture generally consists of simple circles enfolding busts surrounded with foliage. The solid square tombs of that date are decorated with arcades in bas-relief, like the altars of the period.

From this species of vault, is derived the monument in the shape of a table, the dimensions and decorations of which continued to increase during the reign of Louis VIII. It was a block of stone surmounted by a table upon which rested a statue of the deceased, with his hands crossed upon his breast. Tables of this shape were chiefly used for the bronze tombs which became very numerous in the early part of the twelfth century. These bronze tombs, upon which the statue was laid, had for supporters four or six couched lions. When Suger restored his Abbey of St. Denis, he removed to the middle of the choir the grave of Charles the Bald, and erected over it a bronze table with lions for supports, and a statue designed to represent the features of the monarch.

The personages thus typified in stone, marble, or bronze, are always represented with their insignia; kings and sovereign princes with a crown and a mantle; knights bareheaded, with their armour, sword, and spurs of knighthood, and, in many cases, their coat of mail and armorial bearings (Fig. 357); nobles, not knights, with their armorial shield, one or two hounds couched at their feet, a falcon upon the wrist or the glove with which the bird was held in their hand,—that is to say, with emblems signifying their right to take part in the chase, which was the special privilege of the nobility.

In the same way women, lawyers, and the secular and the regular clergy, had the dress betokening their condition upon their tombs; but the sculptors and carvers did not always adhere very closely to the variations of fashion, and they often represented a personage of their own day in a costume belonging to a previous generation. Thus, for several centuries, kings were represented with the primitive mantle clasped or[464] tied in front; the knights appeared, even down to the time of Henry II., with the halberd and the helmet worn only by the ancient order of chivalry. Funeral sculpture had its conventional and traditional rules, like all other arts in the Middle Ages.

Fig. 357.—Tomb erected in the Church of the Dominicans, at Puy-en-Velay, to the memory of Du Guesclin, by Marshal de Sancerre, his friend.—This tomb dates from the close of the Fourteenth Century.

Archæologists have endeavoured to discover the meaning of the recumbent figures—some in full dress, others without clothing—which were placed upon the tombs of Christians, and they think that this usage is but an instinctive return to the customs of the ancient Etruscans, who represented upon the top of the tomb the body of the deceased, either bent double or in a sitting position, or stretched at full length or leaning upon his elbows, according as he had been laid in his grave. The early funeral sculptors, as unskilful as they were ignorant, copying only some particular model set before them, fashioned merely an imperfect and roughly executed figure, with scarcely any approach to bas-relief. In process of time the statue became better defined, and, in the reign of Louis VII., was altogether in alto relievo. The monks of the Abbey of St. Germain des Prés did for their benefactor, King Childebert, what Suger had done for the illustrious dead who had for several centuries been interred in the basilica[465] of St. Denis, and erected a cenotaph with a life-like figure of the monarch, the artist hollowing out the upper part of the tomb in the shape of a basin, so as to make the features stand out. The king is represented holding in one hand a model of the small church which he had founded, and in the other his sceptre.

With the advent of Gothic architecture, towards the middle of the twelfth century, the tombs were decorated with vaulted arches in the shape of quarter-foils, and these arches were afterwards made to serve as a framework within which the bas-reliefs were placed. Within the pointed arch of one is represented a monk mourner, one of those who were hired to assist at the funeral ceremonies. The figure lying upon the table was called the gisant, as is proved by old account-books containing the following item: “So much to a certain person for having carved the figure of a gisant.” The essentially French art of funeral architecture and sculpture reached its apogee in the fifteenth century, and nothing can be more perfect or beautiful than the tombs of the dukes of Burgundy at Dijon, and of the dukes of Berri at Bourges.

After the thirteenth century, one or two lions, or a dog, were placed at the feet of the gisant; and the war ballads relate that these symbolic animals were termed cagnets or cagnons—the lion being the emblem of force, and the dog of fidelity (léauté).

The tomb of a personage of rank or wealth was often decorated with secondary figures, carved in relief in marble or stone—sometimes the Virgin, or some saint, or some scene from the Old or the New Testament; upon one side the personification of the virtues, upon the other, mourners, or perhaps the family of the deceased. Thus there are carved figures of the princes and princesses of the second House of Burgundy around the tomb of Philip de Marle at Lille; a funeral ceremony was represented upon that of Philip the Bold at Narbonne.

In the fourteenth century, the sculptors surmounted the tomb with a bed, upon which a figure of the deceased was carved, with a kind of stone dais or canopy; two angels with outstretched wings held a spread-out veil, upon which they were bearing aloft a small naked figure, standing erect, and meant to represent the soul of the deceased person. In other monuments, the angels had a censer, with which they are scattering incense upon the soul of the departed, as at Neuilly-sur-Marne, upon the tomb of the famous[466] preacher Foulques, who died about the year 1200. In others, the angels are represented holding the helmet and shield of the deceased, bearing up his train, or presenting him on their knees an open prayer-book. The tomb of Philip Pot (Fig. 358), formerly in the abbey-church of the Cistercians, was supported by eight statues of women dressed in mourning. Some of the statues placed upon the tombs were carved out of hard limestone instead of marble; those of Charles VII. and his consort were of alabaster. In many cases the hands and the head only were of alabaster or marble, and the rest of the body of stone. The tomb of the Sire de Barbazan, who died in 1432, was entirely of bronze; that of Charles VIII. at St. Denis, constructed of the most valuable marble, had on it the statue of that prince in bronze, flanked by four angels, each with the royal shield.

Fig. 358.—Tomb of Philip Pot, Grand Seneschal of Burgundy, who died in 1494; formerly in the Abbey of Citeaux, now in the Museum at Dijon. The knight is laid out upon a sepulchral stone, which is being borne up by eight mourners, each of whom carries on the arm a shield of his family alliances.

From this period French art had to give place to Italian art, which Charles VIII. had brought back as a trophy from his expedition to Naples, and which eventually took root in France, and expanded with all the splendours of the Renaissance until the close of the sixteenth century.[467] Foreign artists began to distinguish themselves in the composition of tombs. Francis I., who had been struck with admiration by the monuments of this kind at Florence, Rome, and Milan, determined to have some equally remarkable in his own kingdom. The tomb of Louis XII., the chef-d’œuvre of a Florentine artist, served as a type and a model for those of Francis I. and Henry II., which were completed with still greater magnificence by the French artists Pierre Bontemps and Germain Pilon, under the superintendence of Philibert de Lorme. These funeral monuments are the most marvellous of all that have been produced by French, in imitation of Italian, art (Fig. 361).

Fig. 359.—The beheaded Knight holding his fleshless head in his hands.—A bust in the Namur Museum, dating from 1562, with this inscription: “A day will come when my account will be squared” (“Une heure viendra qui tout paiera”). This sinister cry of vengeance was no doubt addressed by the widow or the family of the victim to his murderer.

Fig. 360.—Tomb of Louis, Duke of Orleans, and Valentine of Milan, his spouse; executed by order of Louis XII.—Formerly in the Church of the Celestines, Paris; now in the Church of St. Denis. (Sixteenth Century.)

Having passed in review the various kinds of funeral monuments in vogue during the successive epochs of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, we may proceed to consider certain accessory works of art; some of which we are only[468] acquainted with by written evidence; which is, however, too detailed to permit of any doubt as to their having existed. Such are the covers (coopertoria, coopercula) under which were hidden the tombs, often plain and humble, of martyrs and saints in ancient churches. These covers were often lined with sheets of metal richly chased and enriched with precious stones. None of them, unfortunately, are now extant, and it is only from the ancient chroniclers that we learn of the marvels of art produced by St. Eloi in the reign of Dagobert. Coming down nearer to our own day, tombs were surmounted by a ciborium, or small cupola. This was made of carved wood, and sometimes of stone, notably in the fourteenth century. Thus the tomb of Marguerite of Flanders, daughter of Philip the Long, was ornamented with open carving of the Gothic order. In most cases a small edifice, with seven or eight supporting columns, was erected over the tomb, and all the resources of art were employed upon its decoration. During the period of architecture rayonnante, these light and elegant constructions consisted of arches surmounted by pointed gable-ends, which themselves served to unite the main supports of the work, which was vaulted and topped with a roof. Erections of this kind are still to be[469] seen in the south of France, above the graves of Innocent VI. (Avignon Cathedral) and of John XXII. (Bourg-de-Villeneuve). The tombs of Charles VI. and Charles VII., at St. Denis, were shut in, so to speak, by similar constructions. In accordance with a usage which dates back to the very earliest times, the tombs of the Middle Ages were often placed in the hollow of a wall arched inward, so as not to be in the way of the worshippers, nor to interfere with the celebration of divine service.

Fig. 361.—Tomb of St. Remigius, erected (1526 to 1530) in the church dedicated to him by Robert de Lenoncourt, Archbishop of Rheims. Around the monument, which has been destroyed, were niches containing marble statues of the twelve peers of France; to the right, the lay peers in royal robes and with crowns upon their heads, bearing the insignia of royalty; to the left, the ecclesiastical peers with the sacred symbols.

We have already stated that, to prevent the churches from being overcrowded with tombs, stone or marble tablets—they were of painted wood sometimes—were fixed upon the wall just above, or not far from, the grave, with an epitaph and sculptural ornaments. Some of these tablets were mounted upon two columns attached to the wall, or placed upon a pillar.

Before the time when statues on tombs were represented in a kneeling posture, the sculptor often represented the deceased in an attitude of prayer,[470] and this figure was placed upon a console at a short distance from the grave, in the chapel belonging to the family or brotherhood. The figures thus reproduced in relief always wore the costume and insignia of their profession, as is shown by certain monuments of the reign of Charles V.

Fig. 362.—Mausoleum of Philip II., King of Spain, near the high altar in the Escurial. This group of gigantic statues in bronze gilt is by Leoni. The king, kneeling in front of a prie-dieu, is arrayed in a mantle, upon which are represented the coats-of-arms of his different states. Beside him are his three wives—Elizabeth of France to the left, next to her Anne of Austria, and, to the right, Mary of Portugal. Behind him is his son, Don Carlos.—“Iconografia Española,” by Carderera.

The flat tombs consisted of a slab six feet six inches long, either of some hard stone or of marble, let into the ground or the pavement above the[471] coffin (Fig. 363). Upon the slab was originally carved the cross, no matter what might be the condition of the person interred, with a crozier for a prelate and a sword for a knight. These objects were reproduced with considerable skill by carving them out of the stone and plastering the hollow with red or black cement, which had the effect of making their outline more distinct. In the twelfth century, the flat tombs were decorated with a bordering around the stone, similarly engraved, and intended to form a fillet within which came the epitaph, with the name of the deceased and the date of his death. Later still, as in the case of raised tombs, the figure of the deceased came to be represented on them. This was so in the time of Louis VII., the statues being made to represent the image of the deceased in the dress of his particular station in life, with his hands crossed upon his breast; and, subsequently, lions and dogs were added as accessories—the whole being carved into the stone. The figure of the deceased was often surrounded with architectural devices. At first the figure was placed under a colonnade; subsequently a very complicated edifice was erected, with the statue of the deceased erect in the foreground (Fig. 364). The hands and feet were often cemented on in white or black marble. Flat tombs made either of brass, silver, or bronze were also used, the last-named metal being much in vogue in the thirteenth century; for example, we find it in the tomb of Ingerburga, wife of Philip Augustus, at St. Jean-en-Ile, near Corbeil; in that of Blanche, wife of Louis VIII., at Maubuisson; in that of Marguerite, wife of St. Louis, and in that of Blanche, their daughter, at St. Denis. Prince Louis, son of St. Louis, is also buried in that church, his tomb being in copper enamelled.

Fig. 363.—Flat Tomb of Sibylle (wife of Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem), who died in 1187. In the church at Namèche, near Namur. The inscription, half effaced, may be translated as follows:—“Here lies the rightful heiress of Samson (a village near Namur), who was descended in a direct line from the King of Jerusalem. Let us pray God for her soul’s consolation.”

Many tombs were far more sumptuous. Those of Louis VIII. and Louis IX. were in silver-gilt, decorated with carved figures. Alphonse de[472] Brienne, Comte d’Eu, had a tomb of copper-gilt enriched with enamel. It was probably at about the same period that the chapter of the Abbey of St. Germain des Prés (Paris) covered with mosaics and filigree-work the ancient tomb of Fredegonde; for it is difficult to believe, in spite of Mabillon and Montfaucon, that this tomb dates back to her death at the end of the sixth century.

Fig. 364.—Flat Tomb of Alexandre de Berneval, architect of the Church of St. Ouen, at Rouen, and of his pupil.—In the Church of St. Ouen. (Fifteenth Century.

In the fifteenth century the English, masters at that time of a considerable part of France, laid hands upon these plates of copper, silver, and[473] gold to convert them into coin; others which escaped spoliation were melted down during the Revolution, so that we must look to England and Belgium for flat metal tombs still in a state of preservation.

Such are the chief characteristics of funeral monuments in the Middle Ages and down to the period of the Renaissance. These monuments, many of which are still extant, throw great light upon the costumes of their time. We must now proceed to speak of the cemeteries, or places of public burial, in which tombs above ground were legally permitted as soon as the Church had established its authority. Burials within the churches were, in fact, a special privilege for the rich, who were able to purchase it in perpetuity. The presence of these graves in buildings intended for public worship was, moreover, in accordance with the very essence of Christianity, by reason of the practice already alluded to, of placing the body of some saint beneath the altar.

The primitive Latin Church, in the second and in the early part of the third century, performed the ceremonies of worship in the cemeteries of the Christians, that is to say, in the crypts and the Catacombs. The Christians, in imitation of the pagan custom of converting old quarries into places of common burial, called hypogea, sought refuge, during persecution, in some disused quarries near the gates of Rome, and there they celebrated their rites in secret and buried their dead. These are the Catacombs, which constitute a regular subterraneous town, and the galleries of which, composing an immense labyrinth, have been opened in the neighbourhood of and in close proximity to the ancient roads which radiated from Rome towards the surrounding districts. The appropriation of these Catacombs for Christian burial-places unquestionably dates from the first century of Christianity. The best known and the most famous are those which extend beneath the basilica of St. Sebastian, and form part of what was called the Cemetery of St. Calixtus, beneath the Appian Way. Since the sixteenth century, when these Catacombs were first explored and thoroughly studied, this generic name has been given to all excavations which have led to the discovery of Christian graves. Each catacomb was called after the martyr whom the faithful had interred there during the persecutions, and whose relics have been found beneath altars, which were chiefly erected and decorated during the eighth century.

Fig. 365.—Crypt of the Chapel of St. Agnes, in the Catacombs at Rome, set apart for the interment of Christians.—From M. Perret’s work, “Les Catacombes de Rome.”

The Catacombs are composed of very narrow galleries, from ninety-seven centimetres to one metre thirty centimetres in breadth (thirty-eight to fifty-one[474] inches), cut irregularly through the stone. These galleries, most of them very short, crossing each other in such a way as to form an inextricable maze of streets and crossways, had an arched roof supported by masonry here and there. At intervals there were chambers, or cubicula (Fig. 365), hollowed out by the Christians to serve as chapels or oratories; these were either quadrangular or circular, of small dimensions, and often decorated with fresco paintings of different epochs dating from the first to the fourth century. But little fresh air could penetrate into these galleries by the openings which had been made here and there, and also through old shafts situated at intervals of about three hundred yards from each other, which had been used in working the quarries. In the lead-lined partitions, the graves, most of which are still intact, were ranged in rows one above the other. Each grave was a hollow of about the size of a human body hewn lengthwise in the side of the gallery and closed with a large brick, or with a stone or marble slab, set in cement. Five or six bodies—sometimes as many as twelve—were so placed one above the other. The paintings (Fig. 366), the sculptures, and[475] the mosaics of the Catacombs, are the first products of Christian art as it shook off the traditions of paganism, and the subjects represented are generally taken from the Holy Scriptures; such as the Leaving the Ark, Abraham’s Sacrifice, Jonah, the Good Shepherd, the Raising of Lazarus. Many very touching funeral epitaphs have also been discovered on them.

Fig. 366.—Funeral Fresco discovered in the Cemetery of St. Pretextat, in the Catacombs at Rome. The two doves, emblems of marriage, indicate the tomb of the husband and wife.—From M. Perrét’s work, “Les Catacombes de Rome.”

Nor is it merely from the day when the triumphs of Christianity led to the building of the basilicas in Rome that personages of rank have been buried inside the churches. The bodies of bishops and leaders of the Catholic community, those of patricians and of barbarian princes who succoured the Church in her early days, were the first to be received within the sanctuary in as close proximity as possible to the relics of the saint to whom the building was dedicated.

Very soon these burial-places began to be classified according to the individual merit of the dead, and the importance of their rank or fortune. Laymen and priests had a right to be buried in the aisles of the church, or in the part corresponding to the apse, and it is no exaggeration to say that the interior was often so full of graves that they extended outside the building. Such was the case after the seventh century. A small space, either round or square, was left in front of the façade of the churches, to be reserved as a privileged place of burial, and was called the aitre or parvis[476] (paradisus); hence the origin of the rural cemetery which extends along the sides of a country church, or forms a green in front of it.

Fig. 367.—The Cross of the Bureau Family, formerly in the Cemetery of the Innocents, Paris.—Lenoir’s “Statistique Monumentale de Paris.”

Fig. 368.—The Knight of Death, by Albert Dürer.—This celebrated engraving, so characteristic of the fantastic genius of the Middle Ages, represents a fully-armed knight going to the wars with a presentiment of coming evil, and accompanied by Sin and Death, personified as his running footman and esquire.—After the Fac-simile of the original Engraving, dated 1513, by one of the Wiericx (1564).

Burial in the churches was at first interfered with, if not prevented, even under the Christian emperors, by the Roman law, which prescribed that the cemeteries should be extramural. Thus, according to tradition, many of the early French saints were first of all buried outside the towns, and their remains were subsequently placed within some consecrated building or a church, erected over their original grave. The ancient cemetery in some cases developed into an inhabited suburb, as at Tours, where the Quartier de St. Martin occupies the ground where that saint originally reposed. In other districts, the Christian cemeteries occupied the same site down to the thirteenth century, as at Arles, Autun, Bordeaux, the cemeteries of the Aliscan (Elisii campi), St. Seurin, and Champ-des-Tombes. Other cemeteries, rendered necessary by the increase in the size of the towns, were made at about this period. Thus, after the accession of the Capet dynasty, the capital increased so much in size that it was necessary to limit the space accorded to burying-places, and twenty-two parishes on the right bank of the Seine had no cemeteries of their own. A track of waste land at Champeaux, running along the Rue St. Denis, was converted into what[477] was called the Cemetery of the Innocents (Fig. 367), and it consisted of a large enclosure with three gateways; the first at the corner of the Rue aux Fers; the second at the corner of the Rue de la Ferronnerie; and the third in the Place-aux-Chats. Philip Augustus surrounded it with a wall in 1186, to prevent it being overrun by animals and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. To this wall was afterwards added a covered gallery, called the charnel-house, in which were buried those whose fortune allowed them to purchase the privilege of being interred apart from the masses. This charnel-house, which was damp and dismal, was paved with tombstones, and its walls were covered with epitaphs and funeral monuments. In the thirteenth century it became a fashionable resort in which tradesmen placed their wares for sale, and the abode of death was converted into a place of rendezvous and promenade for the idle.

This long gallery was built at different epochs, out of the largesses given by several inhabitants of Paris. Marshal de Boucicault built part of it in the beginning of the fifteenth century, and the famous Nicholas Flamel, who is said to have had a bookstall in the charnel-house, built at his own cost the whole side which ran parallel with the Rue de la Lingerie, and in which he and his wife Pernelle were buried. This charnel-house was surmounted by large galetas (lofts) in which the bones of the dead were preserved. The famous “Danse Macabre” (Figs. 369–392), that philosophical allegory in which death was leading in the dance “persons of all conditions,” was painted about the year 1430 upon the walls of the charnel-house, on the Rue St. Honoré side.

Figs. 369 to 392.—The Dance of Death, a Fac-simile of Wood Engravings executed after the Holbein Drawings in the “Simulachres de la Mort;” small 4to, Treschel Brothers, Lyons, 1538.—“As fish are taken speedily with the hook (aine), so does death take men; for death spares no man, king nor emperor, rich nor poor, noble nor villain, wise nor fool, physician nor surgeon, young nor old, strong nor weak, man nor woman. Nothing is more certain; all have to take part in death’s dance.”—Explanation taken from the “Forteresses de la Foy,” Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the Library at Valenciennes.

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

The Dance of Death, after Holbein’s Drawings (continued).

When Charles V. began to construct his château of the Louvre, in 1363, Raimond Dutemple, the builder, purchased from the churchwardens of the parish of the Innocents ten ancient tombs, each of which cost him fourteen sous parisis, for the purpose of using the stones for his masonry work—a proof that funeral monuments were not treated with much respect at that epoch. At this same period, the clergy of the Innocents’ parish sold part of the cemetery, already too small, to the chapter of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, who built thereon houses and stalls for the markets. It is estimated that more than two million persons were buried in the Innocents’ cemetery in the course of six centuries. In it were accumulated masses of stones, crosses, human remains, and filth; the grass was growing in the midst of heaps of skulls; the floors of the charnel-houses bent beneath piles of decomposed[478] bones; graves had been dug in every available space of ground, and the smell of the corpses was unbearable. Notwithstanding, this was the most celebrated[479] cemetery of the Middle Ages, and the charnel-house which enclosed it upon three sides served as a model for all those constructed for other Christian churches and cemeteries, in accordance with a custom dating back, it is reported, to the fifth or sixth century. Still, no traces can be found of any such constructions around the Gallo-Roman cemeteries, unless it be a rudely[480] built boundary-wall. At a later date, the cemeteries contiguous to parish churches or to the chapels of hospitals were surrounded with cloister-like galleries, between the roof and ceiling of which was the charnel-house, where the bones dug up when fresh graves were made found a last resting-place.

Inside the cemeteries there were other erections never omitted, as, for[481] instance, a large stone cross with florid decoration and varying in design, many of which date back to the eleventh century. After this period came into vogue a small lantern, built in the shape of a very narrow tower, like a hollow column, from twenty-six to forty feet high, the summit of which was surmounted by arcades, through which glimmered the faint light of a[482] suspended lamp. This small building was called “the lantern of the dead” (Figs. 394–396); it was also termed a beacon (fanal), a lighthouse (phare), and a little tower (tourniele). These beacon-towers, intended to indicate from afar during night-time the presence of a cemetery, generally had a door somewhat above the ground, which was reached by a ladder or flight of steps.


Upon the side opposite to the door, an altar jutted out at the base of the tower. This altar was never consecrated, as the canons forbid any celebration to be held upon those which were in the open air (sub dio). There are many monuments of this kind in Maine, Berry, Angoumois, and Gascony; they are all of Roman architecture, or of Gothic bordering upon[484] Roman, and, consequently, do not date back further than the eleventh century.

There was a tower of this kind in the Cemetery of the Innocents, at Paris (Fig. 397), but of larger dimensions than any of those alluded to above. It was a kind of octagon chapel, about forty feet high, and Gilbert de Metz, who speaks of it, says that he was told it was the tomb of a rich nobleman who had given orders that he himself should be buried beneath it in order to save his remains from being profaned by dogs and vagabonds.

In the fourteenth century the lanterns of the dead, instead of being isolated and inaccessible columns, were built in the form of open chapels, in which a lamp was kept constantly burning. Previous to the erection of these chapels in the cemeteries, there existed others which have often been taken for pagan temples. We know, through writings of the ninth century, that in the cemeteries of the Carlovingian abbeys there were chapels of this kind, with two stories and a crypt; that these funeral chapels were of the same shape as the ancient baptisteries, without the surroundings. They were octagonal buildings, the vaults of which rested upon the boundary-walls of the cemetery. There are still extant two belonging to the Roman epoch, one at Montmorillon, in Poitou; the other, enclosed in the citadel of Metz, was a dependency of the Abbey of St. Arnold.

Having treated of the burial-places and the funeral monuments of the different epochs of the Middle Ages, we may now go on to speak of the funeral ceremonies.

As soon as a king or a queen had breathed their last, the face was covered with wax, in order to take an impression of the features and reproduce them upon their effigies. Pending the completion of this likeness, the body was laid by the chamberlains and the gentlemen of the chamber in a leaden coffin, lined with wood and black velvet, covered with a white satin cross, and was carried by the archers of the body-guard into a richly-decorated chamber, and placed upon a bed trimmed with black cloth hangings which reached to the ground. An altar was erected in the middle of the chamber for celebrating mass while the body remained there.

Fig. 393.—The Torments of Hell.—The Latin inscriptions in this engraving may be translated as follows: At the top, “The worm which feeds on the ungodly man shall never die, and the fire that devours him shall never be quenched;” in the centre, “Jews; Men of war;” beneath, “Monk; Lucifer, or Satan.”—Fac-simile of a Miniature from the “Hortus Deliciarum,” a celebrated Manuscript of the Twelfth Century, executed at the Convent of Hohemburg in the time of the Abbess Herrade de Landsberg; destroyed in the fire of the Strasburg Library during the Prussian bombardment, Sept. 24th, 1870. Reprinted from Count de Bastard’s great work.

When the effigy was completed it was placed in another chamber as richly decorated as the first, and around it were placed seats, or formettes, covered with striped cloth of gold, upon which the prelates, lords, gentlemen, and officers took their places. The state bed, upon which the effigy was[486] laid, was furnished with a covering of cloth of gold reaching to the ground, and decorated with a bordering of ermine spotted with black, which overlapped by about two feet the covering, and was itself trimmed with Hungarian point-lace.

Fig. 394.—Beacon in the Cemetery of Feniou, near St. Jean d’Angely (Eleventh Century); it is formed of eleven Roman columns.

Fig. 395.—Beacon in the Cemetery of Antigny, Vienne (Fifteenth Century).

Fig. 396.—Beacon in the Cemetery of Ciron, Indre (Twelfth Century).

From the “Antiquités Monumentales” of M. de Caumont.

The effigy was arrayed in a fine linen shirt, or chemise, trimmed at the neck and sleeves with, black silk, and over this was passed a doublet of scarlet satin, lined with taffeta of the same colour, edged with narrow gold braid. Over the doublet was a tunic of azure satin, spotted with golden fleurs-de-lis, trimmed with a silver and gold lace about four inches wide, the sleeves reaching only to the elbow. Last of all came the royal mantle of purple velvet of an azure hue, spotted with golden fleurs-de-lis, six yards long, open in front, without sleeves, lined with white satin, the ermine collar about a foot deep, the facings and the train trimmed with ermine. From the neck[487] of the effigy hung the royal order; upon the head was a small cap of dark crimson velvet, surmounted by the crown studded with jewels. Upon the legs were buskins of cloth of gold, with bright crimson satin feet; the hands were crossed upon the chest. At the head of the bed were placed two cushions of red velvet, trimmed with embroidery; upon the one to the right lay the sceptre, which was almost the same length as the effigy, while upon that to the left was placed the hand of justice, open, the staff being about two feet and a half long. The bed, which was devoid of curtains, was surmounted by a very rich dais. Beside the head of the bed, to the right, was the chair covered with cloth of gold, with a cushion of the same material. At the foot was a stool, also covered with cloth of gold, for the silver vessel containing the holy water, and upon each side were two other seats covered with striped cloth of gold for the heralds, arrayed in their coats of mail, who presented holy water to the princes that came to view the body. The lower end of the mortuary chamber, which was just opposite the effigy, was occupied by a very richly decorated altar.

Fig. 397.—Tower of Notre-Dame-du-Bois, constructed during the Eleventh Century, in the Cemetery of the Innocents, Paris; demolished in 1786.

The royal effigy was laid in state for eight or ten days, during which time the ordinary service of the palace went on just the same as during the king’s lifetime. At the dinner and supper hours the table was laid by the officers, and the courses arranged by the gentlemen-in-waiting, preceded by the usher, and followed by the officers of “the king’s buttery,” who[488] approached the table with the customary obeisances. The bread was then cut and placed ready for being handed round, the dishes were brought to the table by an usher, the maître d’hôtel, the pantler, the pages, the squire of the kitchen, and the keeper of the plate; the napkin was presented by the maître d’hôtel to the highest personage present; grace was said by a prelate or an almoner, who recited the prayers for the dead. All those who were in the habit of eating at the king’s table during his lifetime were expected to be present at each of the repasts, together with the other persons of his household, the princes, princesses, and prelates. The dishes were afterwards distributed amongst the poor.

When the effigy had been removed the embalmed body was brought into the middle of the same room, and the coffin—covered with a pall of black velvet which touched the ground, with a large cross of white satin in the centre, and on each side a scutcheon representing the arms of France—was placed upon trestles; over the whole was thrown another large pall of cloth of gold with fringes, which had also in the centre a white satin cross, and at each extremity the arms of France, but smaller than those on the under pall. The pall was trimmed with violet velvet of a fine azure, spotted with fleurs-de-lis, and bordered with ermine. At the head of the coffin was a cushion of cloth of gold, upon which lay the royal crown, with the sceptre to the right and the hand of justice to the left; at the foot there was a cross of silver-gilt, and over it a splendid dais of black velvet; upon a form stood the vessel for holy water, with a stool on each side for the two heralds arrayed in their coats of arms, chaperons en tête. Beside the heralds there was a bench covered with black cloth for the princes and cardinals, who were seated on it during the celebration of mass. The coffin was surrounded by a black wooden railing. At the lower end were two altars standing in close proximity to each other; that of the chief chapel for the high masses for the dead which was chanted, and that of the oratory for low masses said by the chaplain in ordinary to the late king. The nobles, several gentlemen, the officers and the body-guard, all in mourning, were present at these services. A few days previous to the interment the new sovereign repaired to the mortuary chamber, attired in a purple mantle—purple was the mourning colour for kings, as tanné (brown) was that for queens—the train being borne by five princes, each wearing a hood of the same colour. The chief gentleman of the chamber presented him the cushion, on which the king knelt in prayer[489] after making the customary reverences. Then taking the aspersorium from the hands of a prelate, he sprinkled the coffin with holy water; this done he withdrew, after making the reverences usual upon such occasions.

When a king or a queen died in Paris, a procession was formed to their residence to conduct the body to the place of interment; if he died outside the city, the cortége started from Notre-Dame des Champs or St. Antoine des Champs to meet it at its arrival. This cortege was composed of the presidents and other officers of the parliament in black robes, the officers of exchequer, of taxes, and of the treasury, of the delegates, the provost of the merchants, the aldermen, and the councillors of the city, all in mourning.

Fig. 398.—Obsequies of St. Cesarius, physician to the Emperors Constantius and Julian; died in 369.—Fac-simile of a Miniature from a Greek Manuscript of the Ninth Century, in the National Library, Paris.

Early the next morning, the twenty-four criers of the city announced the event “en la Chambre du plaidoyé, Table de marbre, et par les rues,” enumerating the titles and qualities of the deceased monarch in the form laid down by the Grand Council, and not by Parliament, which had refused to draw up this cry for King Henry II. (27th of July, 1559), in compliance with the request of his widow.


In the afternoon, the body was taken to the Church of Notre-Dame, in Paris, and the effigy of the king was laid upon the coffin, in order to impress yet more deeply the people who were admitted to do him homage.

By special privilege the hanouars, or bearers of salt, carried the coffin; but at the interment of Charles VIII. twenty gentlemen of his household volunteered to act as bearers of the body from Notre-Dame des Champs to St. Denis. At the death of Louis XII., the hanouars demanded and obtained the restoration of their privilege.

Fig. 399.—Funeral of St. Edward the Confessor, the Anglo-Saxon king, who died on the 5th of January, 1066.—The body, covered with an embroidered pall surmounted with two small crosses, being carried by eight men to Westminster Abbey, of which he was the founder. Behind come priests chanting the Psalms for the Dead, while two clerks are ringing bells.—From the Bayeux Tapestry (Twelfth Century).

The ceremonial was altered at the funeral of Francis I. and Henry II., the body being placed in the chariot d’armes ou de parement, and the honours due to the body, which was in the hinder part of the procession, were paid to the effigy. The gentlemen of the chamber to Francis I., “with straps around their necks,” esteemed it an honour to bear the effigy of their late master; those who had been in the service of Henry II. only walked by the side of his effigy, holding up the pall of cloth of gold. The Parliament, which had always enjoyed the privilege of walking in front of, as well as of surrounding and following, the body and the effigy, felt annoyed at being exclusively[491] attached to the latter, which still represented life; whereas the body, representing death, was already, so to speak, separated from the honours of royalty.

Fig. 400.—Mortuary Cloth from the Church of Folleville (Somme), now in the Museum at Amiens (Sixteenth Century).—The cloth thrown over the coffin formed three crosses; the centre of the largest of these lay over the breast of the deceased, the two others covered the two sides of the bier; upon the white crosses are death’s heads crunching bones between their teeth. Two yellow-hued mirrors reflect the image of a human skull. The crosses bear the Latin inscription, “Memento mori.”

The funeral procession proceeded in the following order through the streets[492] of Paris to the Abbey of St. Denis. First came an esquire in mourning and on foot, carrying the banner of France covered with black crape; then followed, bareheaded, the players of the hautboy, the tabor, and the fife, with their instruments reversed, and in their rear trumpeters with their bannerols flying.

Fig. 401.—Triumphal Vessel, which was drawn upon a car in the solemn funeral ceremony celebrated at Brussels, upon the 29th of December, 1558, in honour of the Emperor Charles V., who died on the 21st of September, in the same year, at the Monastery of St. Just.—This vessel gives some idea of the shape as well as of the magnificence of the galleys constructed at that period. Three symbolic personages are conducting the vessel towards eternity: in the stern stands Charity (Charitas), ever glowing with love; amidships is Faith (Fides), with her eyes fixed upon the image of Christ; and at the prow, above the gilt beak-head, is Hope (Spes), standing with one hand placed upon the anchor of safety. The masts and bulwarks of the ship are decorated with flags upon which figure the arms of the different Netherland States, of Burgundy, and the Tyrol—all direct fiefs or conquests of the deceased emperor. The triangular sail in the stern indicates, by its colour (black), that the vessel is in mourning. The marine monsters which are seen swimming around it represent the enemies vanquished by Charles V., and the columns of Hercules, surmounted by the crown and the tiara, typify the alliance between the Empire and the Church, an alliance to which the Cesarean motto—“Non plus oultre,” lends special significance.—From the “Magnifique et Somptueuse Pompe Funèbre faite aux Obsèques du très-grand Empereur Charles Cinquième en la Ville de Bruxelles” (Plantin, Antwerp, 1559). In the Collection of M. Ruggieri, Paris.


After these came the chariot d’armes, hung with black velvet which reached to the ground, and upon it a large cross in white satin, and twenty-four shields representing the arms of France. The coach was drawn by six horses with black velvet trappings and the large white satin cross, and on the near wheeler and leader postilions in mourning and bareheaded. Around the coach were armourers and sommeliers d’armes, together with some members of the four mendicant orders, carrying tapers to which were affixed armorial shields. Twelve pages followed, dressed in black velvet, who rode, bareheaded, upon twelve horses, also caparisoned in black velvet with a white satin cross, each led by a footman dressed in mourning and also bareheaded.

Fig. 402.—Mourning Costumes.—Group consisting of Gold Fleece, Herald of Spain; of King Philip II., son and successor of Charles V., accompanied by Henry IV., Duke of Brunswick; of the Duke d’Arcos, Spanish Grandee; of Ruy Gomez de Sylva, Count of Melito, and of Emanuel-Philibert, Duke of Savoy. The last-named wears, like King Philip, the mourning hood, being the son of Beatrice of Portugal, sister-in-law of Charles V. The hood was only worn by the heirs of the deceased sovereign.—From the work on the funeral of Charles V., quoted on the previous page (see Fig. 401), published by Plantin, at Antwerp, in 1559. In the Collection of M. Ruggieri, Paris.

One of the esquires of the stable carried the spurs and another the gauntlets; a third, the arms of France, in the form of an escutcheon, with the crown; a fourth bore at the end of a staff, in the form of a gallows, the coat-of-arms made of violet velvet, and studded with golden fleurs-de-lis. The first esquire, or, in his absence, the eldest, carried the royal-crested helmet.

The state charger, with his housings entirely covered with crimson velvet studded with Cyprus fleurs-de-lis of gold, was led by two esquires; and upon each side came dismounted heralds-at-arms chaperon en tête.

Behind the master of the horse, hooded and wearing at his side the royal[494] sword, followed the effigy, drawn upon a car, and holding in its right hand the sceptre and in its left the hand of justice.

It was succeeded by the personage who was conducting the funeral procession, and by the first or high chamberlain, bearing the banner of France. Next to them marched the provost of the merchants and the aldermen in full dress, bearing the dais and the pall which had been used in the mortuary chamber, and which were carried at a certain distance from the effigy, so as not to prevent the latter from being seen.

Then came the princes, mounted upon small mules, the trains of their mantles being each held up by a gentleman on foot in deep mourning. After the princes were the ambassadors, dressed in mourning, but without hood; the royal knights, wearing their in