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the friend of truth, remote from the least cupidity, and beloved by every one, at length, despising all things, withdrew into retreat, in the celebrated Carthusian monastery of the Porta Coeli *. These historical associations include also innumerable names of interest connected with the chivalry and nobility of Europe in general. In 1083, Berthold of Constance, praising the three great German monasteries of St. Blase, of the holy Saviour at Schafhausen, and of St. Aurelius, particularly remarks "how many great nobles, marquises, and others, lived there as servants of the monks, fulfilling the office of cook, or baker, or swine-herd, or cattle-herd, on the mountains; innumerable nobles thinking that they had lost whatever they did not give to the poor of Christ. King Henry III., who received the Franciscans on their first coming to England, not only gave funds for building their convent at Oxford where he then resided, but also put his own hand to the work; and many great men, laying aside their grandeur, served the masons with stones and mortar with a surprising humility t." There were besides bonds of connexion supplied by the third orders which united the highest classes of society with the monastic world. Thus, at the court of Spain at one time the number of illustrious persons who were members of the third order of St. Francis, in Madrid amounted to six hundred. In fine, it was in monasteries that occurred many historical events that can hardly be recalled to mind without a sense arising of the wisdom, and holiness, and moral grandeur of Catholicism. Here, too, died many kings and illustrious strangers, who either sought for their last moments the peace and edification which a cloister yielded, or whose presence there at their death was only the consequence of their general custom through life of frequenting places favourable to religious impressions. Henry III., returning from Norwich to London, stopped," says Mathew Paris, "at the abbey of St. Edmond, when he was seized with his mortal sickness. Many counts and barons and prelates came to assist at his last moments; he made his confession most humbly, striking his breast, and abjuring all resentment against every one, and desiring to do penance for his sins. Then, after receiving the sacraments, he embraced the crucifix, and ordered that his debts should be paid, and that the poor should have the rest. So he rendered his soul to God. Little skilled in secular affairs," continues this historian," he had great merit in the eyes of the Lord by the ardour of his devotion; for every day he was accustomed to hear three masses in plain chant; and when the priest was at the elevation the king used to hold his hand and kiss it +."
* Hieron. Blanca Argonens. Rer. Comment., 237.
Ad ann. 1275.
It may be remarked, by the way, here, that the identity of the feelings and dispositions of many men in ancient and modern times, in regard to the advantage yielded by monasteries, is significative of the truth of a religion whose institutions seem to suit human nature equally well in all ages of the world. Time is continually on the move, and as Goethe, who was not fond of innovation, says, " Human affairs change their aspect every fifty years, so that an institution which was perfect in 1800 may be a great nuisance in 1850;" but at the present day, wherever one of these religious houses exists, it is found to yield to an immense number of persons forming and visiting it, precisely the same resources which were drawn from a similar establishment a thousand years ago.
Ay, thus it was one thousand years ago.
To look so plainly through them? to dispel
And one's own image from the bottom peep?"
Yes, it is so here. Now it can hardly be a falsehood or an error that has produced an institution which is found in the nineteenth age of Christianity to yield exactly the same spiritual, moral, and social resources to persons of the highest wisdom and virtue that it did to the medieval generations, to the citizens of the Roman empire, to the refined and profoundly intellectual society of the seventeenth century, or, in brief, to the greatest and best in every age from the days of the Apostles. Certainly it is very remarkable to find that what a great writer observes of the pleasure we derive from the best books is true in regard to these institutions; for they also impress us ever with the conviction that one nature and one religion presided at their composition, while the same nature and the same religion, as it were, read them. Catholics of the present day enter these buildings, however ancient, with a most modern joy-with a pleasure which is in great part caused by the abstraction of all time from their application. There is some awe mixed with the pleasure of our surprise, when this monk or architect, who lived in some past world sixteen hundred years ago, speaks as it were in stone that which lies close to the souls of Christians now living, and that which he would speak to-morrow. But for the evidence thence afforded to the theological doctrine of the identity of all Catholic faith, we should suppose some preestablished harmony, some foresight of souls that were to be, and some preparation of stores for their future wants, like the VOL. VII.
fact observed in insects, who lay up food before death for the young they shall never see.
But to return to history. Monasteries and convents, down to the latest times, having been visited by kings and queens, and historical personages, in their prosperous and adverse fortune, supplied many occasions for observing and comparing characters in high station. "We have had five queens here whom I remember very well," says the abbess of Moulins, on occasion of the visit of the queen of James II.; "but not one comparable to this. Every one is equally charmed and edified by her." This connexion between monasteries and thrones, and between monks and the world, explains the advantage, in regard to historical studies, which can be drawn from the monastic traditions, which of course supply direct signals in abundance pointing to the centre. Nearly every religious house had information of this kind. Historic or great literary names, "deeds, grey legends, dire events, rebellions, majesties, sovereign voices, agonies, creations, and destroyings,”—all had left some trace or other there. Thus the Panegyris Oddonum, or panegyric of the Otho's, by Hrovita, the nun of the tenth century, was composed, as she avows, not from any written documents, but from oral and confidential reports which had reached her within the solitary cloister of Gandersheim; her object being to preserve the memory of the virtues of the three heroes of the ducal and imperial family of Saxony. If any one had desired to write the history of Don Carlos, son of John, king of Arragon, whose calamities were so unmerited, he would have to repair to the Benedictine abbey near Messina, where that unfortunate prince spent the greater portion of his time, resuming in the society of those learned and holy men the studies that had charmed his youth. Zurita, who visited the monastery nearly a century after his death, found the monks possessed of many traditionary anecdotes respecting him during his seclusion among them. But it is not in biography alone that the archives of such houses are rich. "The history of the German empire," says an old historian, "would be sadly interrupted if it were not for the records of monasteries. Genealogy and geography, the foundations of history, borrow from them more than can be expressed. One need not wonder, therefore, if we devote so much care to investigate the monastic antiquities *. Nor should we neglect to observe the importance, in an historical point of view, of the traditions of the monks respecting their own founders, and the holy or remarkable personages that were especially connected with their respective houses. When one hears Benedictine monks, on the evening of St. Scholastica, singing the
* Thuringia Sacra, Præfatio.
words which the saint uttered, and, as it were, saluting her, one feels moved at the unwearied constancy with which these families preserve a memory of all that is associated with the lives and actions of their ancestors. Enter this convent with the stranger on the 17th of September. Behold the kneeling crowds and the lighted altar beneath an image of St. Francis stigmatized, nothing else being visible in the dark shades of evening. Does it not seem as if the seraphic father is still present in the midst of his family? Certainly were he to appear in person suddenly amongst them, and to address them from these steps, he would find them all well acquainted with himself and with his previous instructions. Sometimes the ritual in particular monasteries commemorated an event in their history. Thus Pope Gregory X., sending two nuncios to carry the cardinal's hat to St. Bonaventura, who found him in the convent of the wood of Mugel, four leagues from Florence, the conversation which ensued, and the joy of the community, having caused them to forget the usual hour of complins, in memory of that delay complins are ever afterwards sung in that convent at nightfall, after the bell for the Angelus, which elsewhere is always tolled after the office. In some monasteries proses relative to the saint, whose history is woven up with that of the house, were sung. In the abbey of Murbach, on the feast of St. Leger, his praise was commemorated in honour of God in a sequence which began
"Sanctam præsentis diei solemnitatem
In laudibus æterni Creatoris
Illiusque athletæ fortissimi
Frequently the manuscripts in a monastery had been actually written by some of its earliest inhabitants, the very name of whose country perhaps had changed since their time; as in the old histories the Irish are called Scotch *. In the abbey of Monte Cassino there is a manuscript in Langobard characters, entitled "Liber Sententiarum Bruni," which Dom Gattula believes to have been written during the lifetime of this Saint Bruno, who was abbot of that house. The order of the Holy Trinity boasts that St. Francis, when in Spain, was received to hospitality in their convent of Ilerda; and though there is no mention of this in his history, the constant tradition of that house is deemed sufficient to establish the fact. The order even took care to have the event recorded on a marble slab placed on a column in that convent, in which are these lines:
* Yepes, ii. 389.
Hist. Abb. Cass. vii. 390.
"Hic Barchinona rediens, pater ille Minorum
Old pictures, too, preserved in monasteries, possessed a certain historical value, as attesting the domestic traditions of the houses in which they were placed. In the convent of Mount Alvernia was preserved a picture of Brother Agnellus of Pisa receiving from St. Francis, and holding in his expanded hands, his letters patent, written in large letters as follows: " Ego Frater Franciscus de Assisio, minister generalis, præcipio tibi Fratri Agnello de Pisa per obedientiam, ut vadas in Angliam, et ibi facias officium Ministeriatus. Vale. Anno 1219+." The very alms of the monks had sometimes an historical signifieation, preserving the names of many who, without them, had died to all men's thoughts. Thus, in memory of Louis the Pious, the husband of St. Elizabeth, Dytherus, abbot of Reinhardsborn, with the consent of the community, gave certain lands and a sum of money in order that on the anniversary of the said prince for ever, one hundred talents of denarii should be given in bread and meat to all the poor who should come on that day to the abbey ‡. The commemoration of benefactors alone comprised often a mine of curious history. "In the great Benedictine monastery of Valleroletan," says Yepes, “they have a book called Of Benefactors,' in which are recited the names of all persons who conferred benefit on the house, which book, at stated times, is read aloud, lest the monks should lose the memory of them." To such monuments we owe our acquaintance with many men sprung from poor but ancient houses, known to their contemporaries in poetry and in arms. On the other hand, a book like that chronicle of the persecutions of the abbey of Monte Cassino, by the Abbot John I., would contain a history of nearly all the civil and military affairs of the time; for, in fact, the calamities of each religious house were associated with most of the great contemporary events in which the interests of the whole country were involved. In general, every circumstance of the time, connected with public men, though it were only such as the abbot of Cluny, Hugues, having reconciled the Emperor Henry the Black with the monks of Payerne, used to be handed down traditionally in religious houses. To such sources of information even the monastic writers themselves refer. Thus we read, "Mathew Paris, monk of St. Albans, instructed by the recitals of Richard de Witz, and by those of Master Roger Bacon, the friar, has written the life of St. Edmond, carefully putting down what he had learned from
* Baron, Annales Ord. S. Trin. p. 43.
Thuringia Sacra, 160.