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"I have assigned a place on the mountain of Rombeck near my castle, in a wood not far from the Moselle river, ut ubi prius lupi tantum ac ursæ audiebantur, psalmos sancti angeli, hymnos, et cantica spiritualia audirent cum perpetua gratiarum actione conjuncta *." St. William, an Augustinian, is represented in an old picture reading in a wood, with bears and wolves near him, and a suit of armour lying on the ground. The inscription under it is as follows:
"Quis docuit solum te visere lustra ferarum?
Absit ab hoc animus; tenero quia mitior agno
Dive nimis felix! hæc est mutatio dextræ
Excelsi, dextrè qui sua quæque movet.
In fact, wolves and bears were often the nearest neighbours of the monks. The Cartulaire of the monastery of Zwelt, in Lower Austria, commenced in 1273 by the Abbot Ebron, and continued by his successors, was known on account of its binding by the title of La Peau d'Ours‡. Peter the Venerable, writing to Guigo, prior of the Chartreuse, begs him to send the volume of St. Augustin that contains his letters to St. Jerome, because a great part of their own copy, while lying at one of their cells, had been eaten by a bear—“ casu comedit ursus §.” Delmée, the curate of Haulchin, on visiting the abbey of Westmalle, similarly had proof, without looking out of the windows, of the wildness of the locality, though in a different form, for he found in his soup a piece of a fir-tree.
"Far from towns,” says Vincent of Lerins, “in the secret retirement of a monastery, we live where we can fulfil what is sung in the Psalm, Vacate et videte quoniam ego sum Dominus .' On the summit of Cape Saint-Mathieu, in Lower Brittany, considered one of the most wild and melancholy spots in France, stood the abbey of which only ruins now remain. When storms came on, these monks used to be seen coming forth, chanting sacred hymns, processionally to bless the sea and to implore from Heaven mercy for those navigating; after which, in silence they would regain their cloister. One only used to remain bareheaded, exposed to the storm as long as it lasted, and when he saw any vessel exposed to danger he knelt down
* Yepes, Chron. Gen. ii. 79.
+ Crusenius, pars ii. c. 21.
Bib. de l'École des Chartes, iii. 289.
§ Lib. i. Ep. xxiv. Bib. Clun. 653.
and prayed. In general, the monasteries which are now in the vicinity of towns, with good roads leading to them, were formerly in desert places, and almost inaccessible. Pius II., on visiting the two abbeys of Subiaco, speaks of the difficulty of the zigzag path to them, over the rocks, amidst precipices which inspire horror *.”
St. John Climacus mentions an abbey named Sydey, which was at a distance of sixty miles from any town or village. It was a privilege of Grandmont that the monks could toll their bells during an interdict, as the sound was beyond reach of the ears of men †. When such absolute seclusion did not exist, the monastery stood either in a town, which was itself so hid away in woods as to explain why Cervantes's duchess could say in her letter to Sancho's wife, "I am told that the acorns of your town are very large," or else it was situated in the distant retired suburbs, or without the gates of some great city. St. Jerome himself, it is true, a great lover of the desert, was so impressed with a sense of the advantages of such a position, that, speaking of St. Paul, he says he must have sought a lodging in Rome in some street," ab omni importunitate vacua-nec proxima spectaculorum jocis nec turpi vicinia detestabilis." In fact, solitude and seclusion could be found in the metropolis of the empire itself. "There was a monk," we read, "who dwelt in a little cell outside of the wails of Constantinople. The Emperor Theodosius, hearing that there was such a hermit who never left his cell, walked one day to the place, and charged his attendants not to approach the spot. So he knocked at the door, and the hermit opened to him, and after prayer they both sat down, and the emperor asked him respecting the hermits in Egypt; and looking on all sides he saw nothing but a few dry loaves in a basket hanging, and he asked him to bless and give him food; and the hermit brought water and salt, and they ate together. Do you know me?' asked the emperor. No,' replied the hermit. 'I am Theodosius.' Then the hermit prostrated himself, and the emperor said, 'Oh, how happy are you! I, who reign, cannot take food without solicitude."" Down to the sixteenth century, and even to the French Revolution, there were persons inhabiting such cities as London and Paris, and yet living in as peaceful a retreat as if they were in the deserts of Palestine. The London Carthusians had their cells and gardens in the city; and the convent of the Carmelites in the Faubourg St. Jacques at Paris appeared, as the Marchioness de Portes said, "like a great desert, in which grace spoke incessantly to the heart. I say what I have felt," she adds; "this place seemed to me a profound soli
* Comment. ann. 1614.
tude reserved for heavenly minds, separated from all the vanities of earth."
This allusion to the anachorite and the desert serves as a fitting prelude to another observation respecting the localities chosen by religious men; for besides the greater monasteries built, as we have seen, amidst woods and mountains, there are also hermitages presenting the same phenomenon of habitations in solitude; and if the forest presents an analogy to the desires which partly led to the creation of the former, since the height and strength of the pine depend on the closeness with which they grow together, which proximity prevents them from spreading out their branches to their own detriment, it no less has points of resemblance to the genius of the latter; for in the case of most timber, the finest trees, both for size and quality, are not in the most accessible situations, but on rocks and mountains to which approach is difficult. Marina d'Escobar describes a vision, in which she was reminded of the life of hermits and solitary monks on the mountains. "The Divine Majesty seemed," she says, "to lead me to a certain castle, whence I beheld some lofty mountains, most beautiful and lovely, which produced inestimable gems; for they were planted, as it were, with little shrubs of gold, and covered with precious stones. The mountains shone splendidly, and men most wise and holy seemed to inhabit them, waited on by angels; and when I asked who were these few holy, happy men, I was told, These are the holy anachorites, who in the world turn from its vanities to the desert, and resolve to lead a solitary life, that they may more freely enjoy the divine love, mortifying their bodies with a rude asperity of life. Does not this vision comfort and delight you?' Then I felt exhilarated and refreshed *." Poets themselves seem to invoke such images, as where Fletcher says,—
"Nor want, the curse of man, shall make me groan,
St. Ephrem refers men to this life of hermits in a remarkable passage. Consider," he says, "the lives of the fathers who dwell in the desert, in the midst of a vast solitude. Let us repair to them, though the way may inspire terror, for we shall derive immense assistance from beholding and hearing them. They have left cities, with their tumults, desiring to live on mountains in solitude; in the midst of the rocks are their delights; their table is the green grass, and their head's rest a stone; a cavern is their house; their only walls are the rocks and mountains around them; their viands are the wild roots and herbs, and their drink the torrent. They wander through the
Vit. Mar. S. I. lib. iii. c. 15.
haunts of wild beasts as if wild themselves, and with the birds, whose song is their matin bell, they perch from rock to rock. If a robber sees them, he falls down and adores, since they always wear a cross on their habit. If cruel animals come up, they turn aside dismayed. A light surrounds them wherever they stray, and their dwelling is made in peace. Kings find their palaces too confined, but the caverns of the desert are lofty and wide, and here is tranquillity which crowns cannot bestow. The pleasures of Paradise surround them, and when tired wandering over the mountains they lie down on the earth, and find a sweet repose; for angels watch over their lying down, and over their rising, and guard them ever. Their dwelling is not magnificent. Where the sun sets, there they sleep; where the sun rises, there they remain. They have no cares for providing a tomb, for to the world they are dead in the love and desire of Christ; but where sometimes they accomplish a fast, there they erect a monument. Many of them, while intently praying, depart in peace; others, supported by rocks, deliver up their souls; others die while simply straying on the mountains; others sleep in the Lord while partaking of herbs upon the ground; others are taken away abruptly while employed in the divine praises; others while reciting psalms upon the mountain passes*" This singular mode of life was chiefly confined to the early ages of Christianity, though it has left some traces even at the present day. On all the great chains of mountains that traverse Spain, and especially on the northern coast, almost every town and hamlet has its hermitage in some adjoining wood or cave. Thus, VillaReal, in the Basque mountains, has three hermitages; Mondragon and Salinas, in the province of Alava, have the same number; Guetaria and Ondarrea, on the coast, have each four hermitages; Lequetio has eight, Bermeo nine, Placencia two, Portugalette three, Elorrio seventeen, Durango nine hermits; Barcena has one hermit. Then, in Navarre, Tafalla has four hermits, Olite six, Valtierra, near the Ebro, four; Lumbier, near Pampeluna, six; Sanguessa three, but Estella has only one hermit; Logrono has two hermits, Salvatierra eight, Guadalaxara the same number. Villa-Franca de Panades has its hermitage of St. Laurence, Cordova its hermitage in the Sierra Morena of our Lady, La Fuen Santa, of the Holy Fountain, to which you ascend through delicious gardens.
Some of these solitudes are associated with memorable events in Spanish history. A certain good knight of Saragossa, named Votus," says Marineus Siculus, "hunting one day on the Pyrenean mountains, and cutting his way through the wood with his sword in pursuit of an animal, came to a little ruined
In SS. Patres tunc defunctos.
chapel under a rock, on entering which he found an altar with these words inscribed on it: Ego Joannes hujus ædiculæ con-ditor et primus habitator, velut in heremo Deo servire cupiens, hanc ecclesiolam parvumque sacellum erexi, sanctoque, Joanni Baptistæ consecravi. In qua vixi diutius, et nunc mortuus in Domino requiesco.' This John was one of the Christians who had fled from the Moors in 714. The knight wept on reading this inscription, and returning to Saragossa, sold all his goods, and gave the price to the poor. His brother Felix followed his example, and both of them then repaired to this little hermitage hid away in the woods, where they lived most holily; and it was by their advice that, in 730, the Christians chose Garsias Ximenes for their captain-general against the Moors *.” But these habitations, as every one knows, were not confined to Spain; they existed in every country. At present it is only the spot itself, the material scene, which we have to observe, pursuing thus our solitary way.
This beautiful world is not without visible traces of the life
ἐν σπέσσι γλαφυροῖσι ---
familiar to the reader of Homer, and of all the earliest bards— life poetical ascribed to men in the Golden Age, when, as we read,
domus antra fuerunt,
Et densi frutices, et junctæ cortice virga ‡."
Here are grottoes, like the cave of Philoctetes, opening both to the rising and the setting sun, with their fountain near Kɛvýv οἴκησιν ἀνθρώπων δίχα, with a heap of leaves for bed, and a wooden cup for furniture §. Here is the entrance of a human habitation,
sub rupe cavata,
Arboribus clausam circum, atque horrentibus umbris ||.” It is what our fathers formerly so loved,—
Sculptured from out the chasm-one huge block
Oh, how the wanderer through such wilds would gaze, saying to himself,
Within that cave I deem
Whereon so fixedly I hold my ken
There is a spirit dwells, -one of my blood!"
He might gaze from without, but, say the constitutions of the