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Cistercians, whose riches consisted in wool, had vast flocks of sheep. Those of England depended much on Flanders for the sale of their wool*. The monastic barns still existing in many places can give an idea of the extent of agricultural produce belonging to these houses. The greatest men in cloisters did not disdain to be occupied with such interests. Dom Mabillon was célérier, a sort of steward, at Corbie. Lanfranc one day returning from the monastery of Bec to a certain poor grange, rode with a cat in a bag behind him; a stranger who joined his company on the road, seeing something move in the bag, asked him what he carried, and he replied," Mures et rati valde nobis sunt infesti, et idcirco nunc affero catum ad comprimendum furorem illorum t." In consequence of their attention to agriculture, observations on the weather occupied the monks; and many curious deductions can be traced to them, as to men who wished to be useful: as old Homer would say,
Τοῖς, οἳ νῦν γεγάασι, καὶ οἳ μετόπισθεν ἔσονται †.
For their motive was not exactly that which makes, perhaps, so many of the respectable classes now take an interest in the weather at harvest time; as when we read under the date of July 29, "This day, in consequence of the late rains and the lowering aspect of the harvest, the Society of Friends mustered in great numbers at the Corn Exchange." Observations of temperature were made five times a day at the convent Degli Angeli, in Florence, and in many monasteries of Italy and Germany. "In the middle ages," says Humboldt, "much was enunciated concerning the connexion of natural phenomena, which has at a later period been confirmed by sure experience, and has since become matter of scientific knowledge §." The falling stars of the tenth of August, as a recurring phenomenon, called the fiery tears of St. Laurence, as also the cold days of the saints Mamertus, Pancratius, and Servatius, had been observed by the monks. At Christ's College, Cambridge, is a manuscript ascribed to a monk, and entitled "Ephemerides Rerum Naturalium," in which the natural phenomena proper to each day of the year are indicated, such as the first blossoming of plants, the arrival of birds, &c. The tenth of August is marked by the word "meteorodes," which first suggested to Dr. Thomas Forster his inquiry into the August phenomenon. The notices of the seasons that occur in the monastic chronicles, indicate with what care observations of this kind were made. Thus one grave writer, speaking of the year 1288, mentions that in "October, November, and
* Mat. Paris, ad ann. 1254.
+ Vita Abb. Beccensium.
December the weather was as warm as in summer, so that the youth of Constance took the amusement of swimming in the lake and in the Rhine at Christmas, as if in July and August *." The historian monk of St. Albans relates in great detail the atmospheric phenomena of each year. Thus he describes the tempest in 1234, which began in Bedfordshire, and thence passed eastward over the Isle of Ely and Norfolk to the sea. Similarly he fails not to mention the torrents of rain in July, about St. Mary Magdalen, which carried away wooden bridges and granaries. He records that "during the night of St. Lambert, on a Sunday in 1251, the darkness was so thick, that it seemed as if you could touch it; while the rain fell in such abundance, that the cataracts of heaven seemed opened to overwhelm the earth. "On the octave of the Epiphany, the next year, the fury of the south-west wind raged," he says, "with unheard of violence. In the cemetery of the monastery of St. Albans three oaks, not one of which three men could encompass with their arms, were uprooted." "In 1256 the flood of Deucalion,” he says, "seemed to return; for from the Assumption till the Purification the rains ceased not each day, so that all the roads became impassable and the fields barren." Again he says, "On the day of the Holy Innocents this year, 1257, a vast inundation covered the country, which resembled a sea. One river alone, in the north of England, carried away seven great bridges of wood and stone. Mills and houses were destroyed also; and that night the hail was mingled with the tempest amidst thunder and lightning, which," he adds, "was a sad prognostic, since in winter such phenomena are almost always followed by bad seasonst." The monks sometimes had more reasons even than those of an agricultural kind for remembering such visitations, as may be gathered from what this historian adds; for he proceeds to say, "At the Ephiphany of our Lord, the king, never heeding the pluvial inundations, and the tempests of wind, and the impetuosity of the rivers, and all the troubles he was about to occasion, caused to be convoked the abbots of the Cistercian order to London, to receive his commands. So they came, for they could not help it, though strangely tormented and without hope of mercy; and, on arriving, they were required to give money." In 1254 he mentions an atmospheric phenomenon similar, in some respects, to what has lately puzzled the philosophers of Paris. This year," he says, "on the Circumcision of our Lord, a wondrous ship appeared in the air about midnight. Some monks of St. Albans, who happened to be at St. Amphibale for the solemnity, having looked out at the stars, in order to
* Bucelinus, Chronolog. Constant.
see if it was the hour to sing matins, perceived this surprising light and form."
The monks were attentive, and not always unintelligent observers of natural phenomena connected with the soil of their respective localities. Humboldt speaks repeatedly of the services he reaped from the observations of Franciscans and Jesuits on the deserts of the New World. In 1691, we find Dom Mabillon acknowledging with gratitude the receipt of a dissertation on the diseases in fruits of the preceding year, which work was entitled "De Constitutione anni 1690 ac de rurali Epidemia quæ Mutinensis agri, et vicinarum regionum colonos graviter afflixit,-dissertatio, ubi quoque rubiginis natura disquiritur, quæ fruges et fructus vitiando aliquam caritatem annonæ intulit *." The presence and escape of gases in marshes and mineral springs arrested the attention of Basilius Valentinus, an Erfurt Benedictine monk, at the close of the fifteenth century. So early as the end of the third century St. Patricius of Pertusa was led, by a consideration of the hot springs near Carthage, to form very correct views respecting these phenomena. Religion imposed no blindness with respect to any phenomena of either the ground or the heavens. Cardinal Nicholas de Cuss, almost a century before Copernicus, had reascribed to the earth both a rotation round its axis and a progressive movement round the sun; and, indeed, the example of Roger Bacon alone might prove that the cloistral influence has no inherent incompatibility with the cultivation of the natural sciences.
But we must return to our more immediate subject. The services of the monks, in regard to horticulture, deserve here a passing notice. Monastic gardens have been always celebrated. There, with men of elegant, pure, and aerial minds, who seemed the abstract of what is choicest in society, you might walk in groves, and orchards, and parterres; from the variety of curious flowers contemplate nature's workmanship and wonders; and then, for change-near to the murmur of some bubbling fountain, "that seems by some inexplicable association always to blend with, and never to disturb, our feelings, gay when we are joyful, and sad amid our sorrow"-you might hear discourses wise and charitable, enabling you to conceive in your imagination with what melodious harmony angels above sing their Maker's praises.
"How gaily murmur, and how sweetly taste,
The poet alludes to the abbey of Einseidelin. “At Alcobaça,” says Lord Carnarvon, we found in the gardens of the abbey a
fine running stream, overhung with romantic willows.
Suffecere oculi, vix, dum per singula ducor,
The monks studied horticulture from the beginning. "Whenever a colony set out from Morimond to form a new monastery, it used to take with it seeds and plants of all kinds for the gardens of the new house; whence they passed to another, and so on to the extremities of Europe. The monks on their journeys, whenever they met with a new kind of fruit, plant, or culinary vegetable, used to carry it home with them; and then, from the ground of the monastery, it used to be introduced into the gardens of the peasants and village near them; and thus climates exchanged their productions by the intermedium of the monks." In a manuscript of the monastery of St. Gall, of the ninth century, we find an abbot writing to one of his brethren, to pray. that he will send him a certain kind of seed, which cannot be found "in tota Franciat." At the present day, in England, these religious men are still at this work, sowing seeds which they have brought with them from the Continent, with a view to the introduction of some species hitherto unknown here. All the secret virtues of plants and simples, and in what degree they are useful to mankind, the monks could well discourse of; but they were not superstitious, like the ancient naturalist, who, speaking of the anagallida, or corchoron, says, “Before sunrise, and before any thing else is spoken, three times salute this plant, and then gather it." It is the honest herbalist protesting against popery who evinces credulity of this kind, as old Colepepper will bear willing evidence. But in the cultivation of plants and fruits the monks were indefatigable. Fra Giocondo, among his other attainments, was so skilful a gardener, that we read of his having astonished the French court, when he was in that kingdom, by the pear-trees which he reared in earthen vases. In places like the Isle of Thanet, where the chalk presents an obstacle to the cultivation of fruit trees, they had a
*Statius Svlv. lib. ii.
Bib. de l'École des Chartes, iii. s. tom. iv. 466.
plan of loosening it to a great depth below the roots, and placing a cement to prevent their contact with it, by means of which they succeeded in obtaining the best fruit; and to this process the gardeners of that part have been obliged to return. “In the early ages of our history," says a modern English writer, "the monks were the only gardeners. In 674 we have a description of the pleasant fruit-bearing close at Ely cultivated by the Abbot Brithnoth. The abbey garden still exists near most of our old ruined convents, where can be discovered at least the vestiges of the aged fruit trees-the venerable pears, the delicate little apples, and the black cherries, all of which the hooded man had planted. The chesnuts and walnuts have yielded to the axe, but the mulberry is often left, and even the strawberry and raspberry struggle among the ruins. The monks were men of peace; and their works show that they were improving the world, while the warriors were spending their lives to spoil it. The monastic orchards, it is said, were in their greatest perfecttion from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. The nonpareil apple, according to the old herbalists, was brought from France by a Jesuit in the time of Queen Mary. The Oslin pippin was introduced, it is said, by the monks of the abbey of Aberbrothwick. The fig-tree was brought into England, in 1525, by Cardinal Pole. In the time of William of Malmesbury, the culture of the vine in the vale of Gloucester was so advanced, that wine little inferior to that of France was made there in abundance. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries almost every monastery in England had its vineyard. These vineyards continued till the time of the Reformation, when the ecclesiastical gardens were either neglected or destroyed; and about this period ale, though long known in England, seems to have superseded, as a general beverage, the use of wine, which before had been largely imported."
But it is, above all, the woods that owe a debt of gratitude to the men who founded and administered monasteries. From earliest times the hermits and monks were friends and neighbours to the trees. Pliny, speaking of the Jewish Essenes, or hermits, styles them "mira gens, socia palmarum *." Dear to the Christian solitaries were the green cypress and the cedar, which cast so venerable a shade, keeping off at a distance other trees, and impressing the beholders with a feeling of almost religious solemnity. Needful to them, too, in the West, before the general use of pottery ware, was the maple-tree, of which they made their bowls and platters. Some trees derived even a name from the abbey near which they seemed to flourish best, and so the mahaleb is called the wood of St. Lucie, from being found
* v. 15.