Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

it. At other times there is mention of strange events actually passing. The conversations at Pontigny must have been very interesting, at the time when the monks, in their letter to the pope respecting the miracles of St. Edmond, wrote in these terms: “ The present miracles will produce faith in former miracles, and the expectation of future miracles will be strong and invincible. Now it seems that one ought to be more astonished at the concourse of people than at the miracles, unless one regards this very concourse as a miracle. For what is more miraculous, what more admirable, than to see the world to-day adoring him whom yesterday it detested ; flying to-day to him whom it avoided yesterday ; imploring to-day as a salutary patron for us with God him whose society it fled from yesterday, either through fear of the earthly power, or through the malice of its own heart? Lo! what appears to many sages as the greatest of greatest miracles *? Blessed Thomas," they continue, “ has been to us a true prophet of what now happens ; for at the epoch of his exile, having sojourned in our monastery by order of Pope Alexander, and having received a celestial warning to return to his church, and proceed to the Lord, gathering the palm of martyrdom, he had no means of recompensing us for the liberality of our predecessors, and fearing to be a burden to us, which, however, he was not, he promised that after him one of his successors would come here and acquit his obligations; which prediction we now see accomplished 7."

At other times, no doubt, the rustic entertainment of the monks relishes of the curiousness of the court; for events and traits of manners connected with kings and men living in the world were often mentioned under their roofs, though cautiously, as if introduced with such words as “make fast the chamberdoors, stifle the key-hole and the crannies, we must discourse of secret matters.” It must have been not a little amusing, for instance, to hear the monk of St. Albans relating in a whisper some of his royal anecdotes. “ While Henry III.,” he says,

was seeking with open mouth money in every way, it happened that, travelling near Huntingdon, about the feast of St. Hilary, he ordered the abbot of Ramsey to come to him, to whom he said in secret audience, My friend, I beg you earnestly to help me by granting me a hundred pounds, or at least by lending me that sum, for I want it greatly, and I must find it without delay.' The abbot, not being able honourably to make any other answer, said, “Lately I gave you money willingly, but I never lent it, nor will I ever lend.' Then he applied to usurers, and at great interest borrowed the sum for this little king, who begged like a mendicant. About the same time the lord king fatigued the abbot of Bourg with similar prayers, assuring him that in affording him pecuniary aid he would give more meritorious alms than those which he distributed to the poor who came to beg at his gate. The abbot, excusing himself, was loaded with reproaches, and obliged to escape secretly from the king's house *."

* Mat. Paris, ad ann. 1244.

+ Ann. 1244.

But we must not linger here, though we could have maintained this theme for hours.

“ The grey-ey'd morn smiles on the frowning night,
Checkering the eastern cloud with streaks of light,
And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels

From forth day's pathway, made by Titan's wheels." We must proceed forth into the adjoining woods and fields, in order to observe the monastic character on another side, for it still remains to remark the services conferred on society by these institutions, in regard to agricultural and other interests of a material order.

CHAPTER IV.

THE ROAD OF RETREAT (terminated).

VERY one knows that the monks were the first in the Christian world to propose agricultural labour as an employment fitting for free men. The ancient monastic rules imposed it as an obligation.

“ Non oderis laboriosa opera, et rusticationem ab Altissimo creatam, that we

may abound in daily and necessary things by our own labours, and that we may with convenient mediocrity attend on those whom spiritual love invites to visit us, or assist those who are pressed by necessity +.” In summer the monks were to labour 'till tierce, which interval in the autumn and winter was to be spent in study I. Though we live in an age of diggings, modern schools would disdain such occupations for highly educated men ; and yet a distinguished advocate of progressive views says, “ There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands .” He might well say so, and perhaps modern literature itself can prove it ; * 1249.

+ Regula SS. Pauli et Step. 1. # Reg. S. Isidore, 6. § Emerson,

[graphic]

for probably it would be much healthier if poets and philosophers were accustomed at times to exchange their pens for such implements. “ I am in my wits," says Franio, in the Maid of the Mill, “ I am a labouring man, and we have seldom leisure to run mad; we have other business to employ our hands in ; you are mad for nothing, and no man dare proclaim it ; in you, wildness is a noble trick, and cherished in ye, and all men must love it." The neglect of agricultural occupations in religious communities was sometimes a subject of complaint ; as when Jocelin of Brakelond, speaking of the abbot of St. Edmundsbury, Hughe, says, that during his rule, “good governance and religion waxed warm in the cloister, but out-door affairs were badly managed : but that when Sampson was elected there was a change for the better. In the first place, far from being inert, he commenced building barns and ox-stalls, above all things solicitous to dress the land for tillage, and watchful in preserving the woods, in respect whereof, either in giving or diminishing, he professed himself very chary. There was but one manor, and that was Thorpe, which by his charter he confirmed to one of English birth, a villan, in whose honesty be the rather trusted, as he was a good husbandman, and could not speak French.” The building of bridges, the making of roads, and the drainage of marshes, were carried on by the monks. London itself had instances of the former, for Stowe says that in St. Olave's-street“ there is Battaile-bridge, so called of Battaile-abbey, for that it standeth on the ground, and over a water-course (filowing out of Thames) pertaining to that abbey, and was, therefore, both built and repaired by the abbots of that house, as being hard adjoining to the abbot's lodging."

An eminent English statesman points to the fact that the monks in England were good landlords. “ Their rents," he says,

; they granted leases ; their tenants were men of spirit and property. The monks lived, received, and expended in com

The monastery was a proprietor that never died and never wasted. The farmer had a deathless landlord ; not a harsh guardian, or a grinding mortgagee, or a dilatory master in chancery; all was certain. The manor had not to dread a change of lords, or the oaks to tremble at the axe of the squandering heir *." “With regard to agriculture,” says Lord Carnarvon, judging from what he saw with his own eyes, “ the existence of the wealthier convents in Spain and Portugal was a blessing ; and their abolition is, I conceive, a positive evil to the state. The monks were often the only resident proprietors, and their beneficial infiuence was visible in the improvement of their estates, and in the increased comforts of the surrounding popu

were low

mon.

* Disraeli, Sibyl.

lation ; for they brought to the management of their properties great capital and great intelligence, and largely employed and liberally rewarded the industry of the labourer.” Observations of this kind had been made in ancient times ; for bear what Peter the Venerable says, “ Every body sees how secular masters rule over their peasants, servants, and hand-maids ; for they are not satisfied with their due service, but always unmercifully claim their persons with their property, and their property with their persons, spoiling them of their goods as often as they please ; oppressing them with innumerable claims of service, forcing many to leave their native soil, and fly to foreign parts. Now monks, though they may have such possessions, do not possess them in the same way ; for they employ only the lawful and dne services of the peasants to procure the conveniencies of life. They harass them with no exactions ; they impose no intolerable burdens, and if they see them in want they maintain them at their own expense; they have servants and hand-maids, not as servants and hand-maids, but as brothers and sisters *.” It was well in general for peasants, when an abbot was their neighbour. John, abbot of Monte Cassino, grants the unlimited right of pasturage on the mountains by night and by day to the inhabitants of St. Pietro de Avellana, on condition of their giving yearly ten pounds of good wax to the abbey. The monastery of Stivagium, in the diocese of Toul, was so called from stiva, a plough-handle, because by the plough and agriculture it had enriched the neighbourhood †.

Minute sanitary laws, that would greatly edify us in England at the present day, emanated from such proprietors. Amongst the regulations given by Ignatius Squarcialupus, abbot of Monte Cassino, to the town of Citrarius, one is entitled, De non projiciendo in viis publicis, seu vicinalibus sorditias et immunditias. It is ordered-quod nullus homo vel mulier dictæ terræ et habitantes in ea, possit ullo unquam tempore in stradis et locis publicis, fidum, sorditias, stercora, opa olivarum macinata, et alia quæ generant fetorem et aeris corruptionem projicere, seu projici facere I.” It is a curious fact that six centuries ago the Cistercian monks of Waverley Abbey abandoned the use of the river Wey, though flowing beneath their windows, and resorted to a distant hill for pure soft water, which they collected and conveyed to the abbey in subterranean pipes, closely resembling those laid down on Hungay Hill for the supply of Farnham, and recommended now for the supply of London. These ancient waterworks of Waverley were planned and executed by a monk of the abbey called Brother Simon. Fra Giocondo rendered such service to Venice by his works for the preservation of the

* Peter the Venerable, Defence of Cluny.
+ Servat. Index, Cænob. Ord. Præmonst.

Gattula, Hist. Abb. Cassin. 587.

Lagoons, which were in danger of being choked, so as to render the air insalubrious, that Signor Luigi Cornaro said he should be called the second founder of that city. All works of this nature they used to designate as holy. It was the monks who, like this illustrious friar, constructed many of the old bridges, causeways, dikes, and embankments, so that their respective countries may be said to have eternal obligation to their memory.

It should not be forgotten that all kinds of industry were conducted by religious men. The best operatives, the most intelligent agriculturists of Europe, as well as some of the greatest artisans, have been monks. So early as in the ninth century the abbey of St. Germain formed one of the chief territorial properties in France, which was wholly agricultural. The monks of Tamié, in Savoy, had iron mines and manufactures which yielded an immense return. This monastery was celebrated for the security which it furnished to travellers, for its agricultural labours, and its charities to the poor*. All this agricultural organization, which certain modern reformers have attempted to establish in France at such a vast expense, and hitherto with so little fruit, had been realized by monks all over Europe more than six hundred years ago, only with this difference, that the monks did not demand twenty-five millions a year in order to make their experiments, but only some forests and marshes t. “ We have read,” says an historian of Morimond, " Varro and Columella on the manner of cultivating the ground with the Romans ; Matthieu de Dombasle, Olivier de Serres, Moreau de Jonnès, and De Gasparin, in France, John Sinclair, in England, Ronconi, in Italy, Cotta, Burgsdoff, Kasthoffer, in Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium, have given us an idea of the progress of agricultural science in modern times. Well, after admiring the labours of these authors, we have studied the works of the first Cistercians, we have visited those executed by their successors at the present day, and we have been obliged to recognize that in whatever spots the monks have fixed their spades, are still to be found the Columns of Hercules, as far as farming is concerned [.” The right of feeding herds in forests was generally bestowed on monasteries. These herds were numerous. single night, during the reign of Charlemagne, we read of one abbey losing a hundred oxen by a disease there prevalent $. In 1358, when the English pillaged the abbey of St. Eloi, near Noyon, they took from it 423 horses, more than 200 foals, 552 horned cattle, 8000 sheep, and 800 swine ||. Every where the

In a

* Chevray, Vie de S. Pierre de Tarentaise, 242. + Dubois, Hist. de l'Abbaye de Morimond, 217. Id. 226. § Le President Fanchet Fleurs de la Maison de Charlemagne, 161. || Moët de la Forte-Maison, Antiquités de Noyon, 453.

« VorigeDoorgaan »