« VorigeDoorgaan »
sions. “ We came," say John Bollandus, Henschenius, and Papebroch *, " to the abbey of Monte Cassino on the 16th of March, 1661, and we can truly say, 'sicut audivimus ita et vidimus in civitate Domini virtutum, in civitate Dei nostri et in monte sancto ejus.”” “ It is not for us,” they add, “ to describe the buildings, nor the admirable charity with which we were received, nor the splendour of virtues which appeared in these most devout monks." The learned Bacchinius, in his dissertation on the origin of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, says to Dom Gattula," under your guidance we visited the archives,-versabamus diu noctuque, manu, mente, sermonibus, cartas istas auro, longe gemmisque pretiosiores, et inter ingentes earum positi otio illi indulgebamus, quo a rerum omnium curis longe remoti, ea solida felicitate fruebamur, quæ sola in hac mortalium conditione veræ felicitatis nomen meretur f.” The blessed brother Peter Nolasco, of the convent of the Order of Mercy in Tarragone, on arriving in that city a pilgrim from St. James, returning to his country, had been received charitably by the monks of the convent of St. Antonio without the walls, where hospitality was shown to all strangers, in which house he was so edified by all that he saw and heard, that he lost the remembrance of his dear country, the Tyrol, and resolved to remain there and demand the habit, which was accordingly granted to
Ancient writers speak of the great spiritual profit which guests used to receive from visiting the monastery of St. Martin of Tours.“ Thither hasten,” they say, “kings and the princes of various nations, with their wives, impelled by holy vow? There flourish charity, the love of God, and the love of men, proceeding from a pure heart, and faith not feigned; there flourishes hospitality to the poor, to strangers, widows, and orphans, and especially to those of the household of faith ; there flourish discipline, obedience, justice, silence, reading, meditation, and the service of God, day and night; there, too, abundance is found, because as our seniors deliver to us where first the kingdom of God is sought, all the rest will certainly be added $.” Recently an Englishman who visited Spain with views far from prejudiced in favour of these institutions, describing his visit to the monastery of St. Yuste, laments that future travellers, in consequence of its menaced destruction, may not have the lot to be welcomed as he was there by those worthy men. “ The day,” he says, was passed in sketching and sauntering about the ruined buildings and gardens with the good-natured brother
• Tom. iii. Martii Act. S.S. + Hist, Abb. Cassinens. 767.
hood; at night-fall supper was laid for the monks at a long board, but the prior and procurador had a small table set apart in an alcove, where, bidden to a spare but cheerful meal, I sat an hononred guest. As the windows were thrown open to admit the cool thyme-scented breeze, the eye in the clear evening swept over the boundless valley ; and the nightingales sang sweetly in the neglected orange garden ; and how often had Charles V. looked out on this self-same and unchanged scene! When supper was done, I shook hands all round with my kind hosts, and went to bed in the chamber where the emperor breathed his last. Long ere day-break next morning, I was awakened by a pale monk, and summoned to the early mass which the prior in his forethought had ordered. The chapel was imperfectly lighted, and the small congregation consisted of the monk, my sun-burnt muleteer, and a stray beggar, who, like myself, had been sheltered that night in the convent.” Such were the impressions of a Protestant on visiting this abode, not of indolent, useless men, as some are resolved to represent the monastery, but a house eminently constituted to please and delight the most intelligent; not a proud and wretched habitation,
Sed felix, simplexque domus, fraudumque malorum
Inscia, et hospitibus superis dignissima sedes *.” The names of guests preserved in the monasteries furnished often a curious document, of some historical interest. Before the disasters of 93, there was kept thus in the abbey of the Sainte-Baume in Provence, a register called the Journalier, in which were inscribed the names of distinguished persons who had visited it. There were inscribed those of popes Stephen I V. and John VIII., the former having come into France in 816, to crown Louis le Débonnaire, and the latter having visited Provence in 878. Mathieu Paris even, in his great chronicle of England, mentions the most remarkable of the guests who were received in his abbey from time to time. Thus, in a passage connected with an instance that betrays his credulity, he says, “ In 1252, some Armenians, of whom one was brother of the holy man who died at St. Yves, came to St. Albans to pray. In fact, the holiness of their faces, the length of their beards, and the austerity of their manners, testified their sanctity. Now these Armenians, who seemed men worthy of credit, replied to all questions respecting the East which were addressed to them.” Some of their replies, however, as he gives them, would be thought at present as stunning as their beards. But this allusion to the conversations of guests within the cloister, may lead us to reflect a moment upon the old romantic traditions which can often be heard related under such roofs. The early monks did not disdain
* Statius, Sylv, ii.
such memories. Some will have read with pleasure those conversations held in the desert, when the seven hermits, Peter, Stephen, John, George, Theodore, Felix, and Laurus, used to meet every Saturday at three o'clock in the afternoon, and after dining together on dates and olives, converse on various themes. Under the monastic roofs of the west are conversations without gall, without bitterness, denoting men formed by nature like doves, who will keep alive the fame of amity, where all discourse flows innocent, and each free jest is taken as it was meant. “At Alcobaça,” says a traveller in Spain, “after supper when old convent tales went round, with legends of interposing angels, and anecdotes of friars long dead and gone, I retired to my cell through the never-ending galleries that echoed to my steps, and beneath the lamps that hung at great intervals, and dimly lit up those high and gloomy corridors.” To look out from such casements at the night, and upon woods and mountains, after a storm, is not a bad termination of a day spent in visiting a monastery, or ill calculated to send us thoughtful and wondering to our beds.
“Jamque fere medium stellata in veste tenebat
Alta polo incedit per opaca silentia mundi *." In the convent of the Dominicans at Bornhem, where that revered friend of the stranger who was mentioned before we set out upon these journeys, was receiving his education, there was an ancient raven kept, and it was so old that the most aged father of the house did not remember its first coming there. It would be well to hear the voice of that bird while these tales are being related, and moreover to have added all the circumstances of a fearful night. Let the wind be murmuring amongst old rooms ; let the swallow-nests, the guest of summer's masonry, falling with a startling noise from the windows, and the jutting frieze be giving warning of the dark and rainy season's return; let the clouds scowl, make the moon dark, the stars extinct, the trees bending and groaning, the bells tolling, the owls shrieking, the toads croaking, the minutes jarring, and the clock striking twelve. The monk has read some aged stories worthy of a place in the book which has been Jately published under the title of the Night-side of Nature. it is not from the iron-bound clasped volume Cæsarius
* Ceva, Jesus Puer, ix.
that I will draw an instance of the cloistral narrative. It is from the History of France, composed by one of the most sceptical writers of the present day. Louis d'Orleans, brother of Charles VI., in his thirty-sixth year, had a presentiment, says this historian, of his approaching end. It was at the close of autumn-at the first cold,—the leaves were fast falling. He had written a most Christian will, in which he ordained the payment of his debts, and left legacies to churches, colleges, hospitals, and to the poor. He left funds to construct a chapel in the churches of Saint Croix at Orleans, of Notre Dame de Chartres, of St. Eustache, and St. Paul, at Paris ; besides he left foundations in each of the thirteen convents of the Celestins in France, in the habit of which order he desired to be buried. “ Considering,” he says, “ the words of the prophet- Ego sum vermis et non homo, opprobrium hominum et abjectio plebis, I will and ordain that the remembrance of my face and hands be carved on my tomb in guise of death, and that my figure be clothed in the habit of the Celestins, having under its head, instead of a pillow, a rude stone like a rock, and at my feet, instead of lions, another rock; and I wish that my tomb should not be higher than three fingers from the ground, and that I should hold in my two hands a book, on which is inscribed, the Quicumque vult salvus esse, and round the tomb let the Pater Ave and Credo be inscribed.” He used often to visit the Celestins in Paris. He loved that house. When he was a child his good lady governess used often to take him there to the offices ; later he used to visit there the wise Philippe de Maizières, the old counsellor of Charles V., who had retired to it. He used even himself to reside occasionally in the convent, living with the monks, and assisting at their offices by night and day. Down to the revolution the cell in which he resided used to be shown. It was his custom to say his breviary daily. He gave to the monks the great illuminated bible on parchment which belonged to his father Charles V., and another in five volumes, from which they uśed ever after to read in the refectory. But now comes the awful part of his history; for, one night as he was proceeding to matins, and crossing the dormitory, he saw, or thought he saw, something which he took for Death. Such was the tradition of the monastery. The monks caused this vision to be painted in their chapel at the side of the altar. Death was represented with a scythe, and pointing with his finger, as if to call the attention of the duke, who was standing near him, to this legendJuvenes ac senes rapio. This vision seemed confirmed by another. He thought himself before God, about to hear his judgment. It was a solemn warning that in the spot where he commenced his childhood, he should be warned of his end. The prior of the convent, to whom he confided the secret, believed, in fact, that he ought to think of his soul, and prepare for death *. The duke certainly was troubled, thinking that these strange apparitions are for the most part fatal, as this one proved, for shortly after, as every one knows, he fell by assassins in the Rue Barbette. He was then interred in the chapel of the Celestins, which he had founded.
It is curious to find in a modern book, the Diary of a late Physician, an instance of warning by a vision, or an optical or spectral illusion, nearly similar, related by a philosopher as having happened to himself, and which was followed soon after by the death of which he had recognized it as a solemn premonition. I would only conclude that since such writers publish narratives of the kind in the nineteenth century, the monks may be excused for having in the middle ages simply related what was communicated to themselves. “ But, good host, no more such terrible stories ; your guest will not for a world lie alone to-night, lest he should have such strange dreams!” Though their marvellous had this advantage over ours that it did not turn any heads, in point of fact some of the monastic traditions are appalling ; at least those that are concerned with love and sorrow are calculated to terrify all who are conscious of having broken any heart, and to revive the memory of that spectre which threatened the worldly-minded father of its former beloved one in those awful words
“ When thou art at the table, with thy friends,
Merry in heart, and filled with swelling wine,
And stand as mute and pale as death itself.” Such collections as the Magnum Speculum, and the Legends of Cæsarius, are significant, at all events, as showing that the monks were not like these men immersed in business and pleasure, who forget how limited are our senses, how much may exist of which they can take no cognizance, and who are in haste to dispose of whatever they do not understand. Sometimes what the guest hears is only a dark allusion to some singular events of an inexplicable character which time has disguised and wrapped in obscurity, as having occurred either in the very monastery which he is visiting, or in other houses of the same order. Thus Antonio de Yepes says, “ Throughout the whole world there is not another monastery besides Jumieges which in one day enriched heaven with 450 holy confessors, all dying without any apparent cause of death t." Reader, you must take the record as I find • Michelet, Hist. de France, tom iv.
f ii. 381.