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return to their caves. This was the case at the Vosges, and at the Destercian mountain, and at St. Peter de Montibus *. Notwithstanding the austerity of such a life, we find that Catholicism contrived to render it compatible with consolation that may be termed human. Thus to the beauties of external nature were often added those of art in the decoration of the dwelling. Vasari speaks of a painting by Raphael being placed in one apartment of the hermitage of Camaldoli; and we know that many pictures were expressly painted for similar situations.
The dangers and inconveniences attending a life in such localities, whether in monasteries or in eremitical seclusion, must be taken into account in appreciating the fact of their existence. We find allusion to these perils in ancient poems, as in those of St. Paulinus, describing what the character of the place had been when religious persons came there first :
66 O vices rerum ! bene versa forma !
Invii montes prius, et cruenti
Nunc ibi ritus viget Angelorum ;
Vixit in antris.
Et bovi junctum, palea leonem
Barbari discunt resonare Christum
Vivere pacem.” Great, however, as might be the transformation of places from times when a solitary man was an object to inspire fear, as when Ulysses seeing Philoctetes from afar beholds him with alarm, suspecting that he would rather seize himself than all the Greeks together, still the dangers attending such localities were not wholly obviated. Lawless men were to be feared in spots where one might think that only by a special interposition of Providence could persons or property be protected. Leo of Ostia relates an instance. Some nobles (as he calls them) of Capua having many disputes with the abbot of Monte Cassino about a certain castle, conspired to invade the lands of the abbey, and make a descent on the monastery itself for the sake
* Ant. de Yepes, Chron. Gen. ü. 212.
of plunder. Towards evening, therefore, they set out, and coming to a place in the neighbourhood they rested awhile, and then set off again, choosing such an hour of the night that early in the morning they might enter the abbey lands. It was about midnight, and they rode on ; when lo! a wondrous thing happened, but one most certain, for it was told me,” continues Leo, “by one who rode in that company. After riding till break of day, when they thought they had reached the abbey lands, where, like other robbers, they might commence the work of pillage, they found themselves in the very place whence they had set out, and discovered that they had been riding round and round in circles. They were struck with amaze, and ascribing their error to the merits of St. Benedict, they returned to Capua, relating to every one publicly what had occurred to them *.” On another occasion dangers of a similar kind were averted in a manner no less surprising. After the sack of Rome by the troops of Charles V., Philibertus, prince of Orange, with his soldiers, invaded the lands of Monte Cassino, and prepared to visit the abbey for the sake of plunder. The abbot, dreading the nature of the man, filed, and concealed the most precious treasures in a neighbouring tower. The prior, however, Dom Urban of Cremona, a pious and magnanimous man, with the abbot's consent remained with the monks, trusting in divine aid ; nor were his hopes in vain ; for the prince of Orange, after ascending the mountain with the worst intentions, on entering the abbey was so struck with the dignity of the place, that he publicly avowed that his will was divinely changed. In fact, he put a stop to all attempts at pillage, and even placed guards to defend the abbey, taking the whole of its territory under his protection. It was this holy prior Urban who foretold his own death, being in the monastery of Parma ; saying that his soul would depart while the monks were singing the Magnificat in the choir, which prediction was exactly fulfilled f. Plundered, however, and even murdered the holy inhabitants of the desert sometimes were, as every one acquainted with monastic history will remember. In 1265 fifty intrepid men,” says Mathew Paris, “armed with swords, bows, and arrows, entered the monastery of the blessed Gilles of the Wood, near St. Albans, and, after plundering the goods of these poor nuns, they retired laden with booty. As they drew near Dunstable a man ran behind them, crying out and sounding a horn, and saying, “These men have pillaged the priory of the wood!' The population ran together, and, strange to say,
these robhers seemed struck dumb and incapable of self-defence; not one among them could raise a hand to draw a sword or wield a
+ Ib. xi. 668.
* D. Gattula, Hist. Abb. Cass. p. i. 150.
bow, so heavy did the divine vengeance lie upon them *."
Let none of you dare,” says an ancient monastic rule,“ by his own virtue or by the human arm to defend us against the rage of rustics and their evil outrages, whom the devil often arms against us ; for our sole defender is God, and the patronage of the blessed Apostles and of all the saints of God t." The old writers, in fact, remark many instances which they consider sufficient to justify this coufidence. “ This year,” says Mathew Paris, “ Robert Marmion, a fighting knight, who had chased some monks from their convent and made a fortress of their church, was killed at the head of his banditti at the gate of the monastery ; and about the same time Geoffroi, count of Mandeville, who had committed similar outrages at Ramsey, was killed by an arrow before the same church [.” He mentions another example occurring later. This year,” he says, “ 1243, Enguerrand de Coucy, an ancient persecutor of the churches, but chiefly of Clairvaux, perished in a strange manner. In life he had been an assiduous constructor of material things, but a dissipater in spiritual things. One day on a journey he came to a ford. The horse stumbled in the passage, and fell on his back in the water; while he, fastened by the stirrup, was dragged violently, till his sword, falling out of the scabbard, ran him through the body. Thus drowned and transfixed he closed his
eyes to the temporal light, to gather, we must fear, the fruit of his ways.”. Other perils arose often from the geological character of the site. Monte Cassino, for instance, was peculiarly exposed to the violence of storms. On the 7th of January, in 1500, a monk saying mass at the great altar of the abbey church, and the youth who served, were both struck with lightning, which sbattered the pavement close to them, but they were not injured 5. In 1457, on the 5th of December, on the first Sunday of that month, while the monks were celebrating the nocturnal office about the third hour of that night, when the prior sought the benediction for the twelfth lesson of matins, suddenly a terrible earthquake shook the walls, so that the lamps were thrown here and there, and the bells sounded, and all expected death ; but no one of the monastery or of the lands suffered hurt, though above 100,000 men in different places perished ll. Of the inconvenience attending such wind-blown sites incidental notice occurs in the records of the same house, where we read
* Ad ann. 1265.
Ś Chronic. Riccardi de S. Germ. ap. D. Gattula, Hist. Abb. Cassinens., 834.
ll Id. 837.
that brother Maurus Rainus, a monk of Monte Cassino, devoted to constant meditation, especially during the night, when he had charge of the lamps, which office he exercised many years, had often in the winter season to rise from his bed three or four times when the force of the wind had extinguished the lights *. In the Benedictine monastery at the foot of Mount Majellicus, as the brethren reposed during the night, a certain venerable monk appeared to them, and ordered them to rise and hasten to the church, for that the monastery was about to fall. The monks repaired to the church, and with the sound of bells as usual began to sing the office, when, lo! the whole monastery fell to the ground with a great crash t. When the earthquake shook Foligno, during the night when the stranger passed through the town, the convent of Franciscans above it on the side of the mountain was overthrown an hour before his arrival. The men who changed the horses told with gratitude how the friars, singing matins, being in the church which withstood the shock, had just been preserved.
The visitors of monasteries are heard frequently to complain of the dangers and inconveniences of their position. Thus Servatus de Lairuelz, speaking of the abbey called Bellus Portus, in Brittany, says that it is surrounded with mountains, woods, and marshes, which in the winter of 1587, when he went to make his visitation, caused him much suffering ; and of the monastery of All Saints, in the Black Forest, he says that it stood in a spot of such horror and solitude, and in so profound a gorge, that it was hardly safe for the religious to dwell there I. The choice, then, of such localities, exposed thus occasionally to dangers of different kinds, and at all times so void of the ordinary attractions which determine men in fixing their residence, may be regarded as significant. For it appears certain that abstraction made of all the sentiments wants tastes and associations arising out of those central truths which constitute a restoration of nature, there is, sooner or later, a tendency in civilized communities which causes men to fly from the solitude of the woods and mountains, not so much from wisely, perhaps, thinking with Johnson that there is no scene equal to the high tide of human existence in the heart of a populous city, or with Hazlitt that in general all people brought up in remote country places, where life is crude and harsh, are discontented and disagreeable, as through their inability to appreciate nature, and to remain alone with it, deprived of the resources which a crowd affords. The woods and mountains will then be shunned even for some fancied medical reasons, though, more salubrious
+ Gattula, iv. 94. Index Cænub. Ord. Præmonst.
* Hist. Cassinens. xii. 855.
than Crotona, the old Romans might have selected them as being conducive to health and strength for the residence of their gladiators, since to such a cruel purpose did the salubrity of a place serve them, as Strabo incidentally informs us *. Let their picturesque scenery be ever so striking, these monastic sites will then be abandoned as fit only for the bilberry which grows in the bare desert, upon heaths and wild places, a hardy plant, not an unsuitable emblem, by the way, of the monk or hermit, who in choosing his locality seems to have the same predilections. In vain did Charles V. declare himself pleased with the mountain and the forest, replying to charges of their insalubrity with the proverb, “ The lion is not so fierce as he is painted.” The mayordomo and the secretary declared that the damp of St. Yuste would drive any one away from it. In spite of the glass and the shutters, the emperor would be disturbed during the night ; and the queen of Hungary wrote to entreat him to think twice before he settled in a spot so unhealthy, though it was acknowledged afterwards to be eminently salubrious. The monks can enjoy nature in their silent convent, because, as Johnson reniarks of those of St. Anthony, “whatever is done by them is incited by an adequate and reasonable motive. Labour is not omitted, devotion prepares them for another state, and reminds them of its approach ; their time is regularly distributed, and one duty succeeds another, so that they are not left open to the distraction of unguided choice, nor lost in the shades of restless inactivity.". But place a man that has nothing to do but to enjoy himself in the most lovely solitude, and you will see another Rasselas discontented in the happy valley. Place mere landed proprietors in such places as those where we find the monks dwelling—in some forlorn and naked hermitage, remote from all the pleasures of the world, and leave them without the excitement of hunting, or political and county business, or the turmoil about serious trifles, and you will find that unless some eccentricity of character induces them to lead a lonely life in some spot where
can be stupid as a matter of course, sullen as a matter of right, and as ridiculous as they choose without being laughed at,” they will not long repeat, with much enthusiasm, the lines of the poet,
“ Illa placet tellus, in qua res parva beatum
Me facit, et tenues luxuriantur opes." They will return to the town, threaten to hamstring their horses, like Jolly in the old play, rather than be betrayed to another journey into the country; they will turn acres of land
* Lib. v. vi.