Middle Ages

Now the courts may say what they will in support of the vested interests, for to support vested interests is what lawyers are paid for and what courts are made for. Only, unhappily, in the process of argument courts and lawyers have caused blood to flow copiously, for in spite of all that can be said to the contrary, men have practically proved that they do own all the property they can defend, all the courts in Christendom notwithstanding, and this is an issue of physical force and not at all of words or of parchments. And so it proved to be in England in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, alike in Church and State. It was a matter of rather slow development. After the conquest villeins could neither in fact nor theory acquire or hold property as against their lord, and the class of landlords stretched upwards from the owner of a knight's fee to the king on his throne, who was the chief landlord of all, but by so narrow a margin that he often had enough to do to maintain some vestige of sovereignty. So, to help himself, it came to pass that the king intrigued with the serfs against their restive masters, and the abler the king, the more he intrigued, like Henry I, until the villeins gained very substantial advantages. Thus it was that toward 1215, or pretty nearly contemporaneously with the epoch when men like Grosseteste began to show restlessness under the extortionate corruption of the Church, the villein was discovered to be able to defend his claim to some portion of the increment in the value of the land which he tilled and which was due to his labor: and this title the manorial courts recognized, because they could not help it, as a sort of tenant right, calling it a customary tenancy by base service. A century later these services in kind had been pretty frequently commuted into a fixed rent paid in money, and the serf had become a freeman, and a rather formidable freeman, too. For it was largely from among these technical serfs that Edward III recruited the infantry who formed his line at Crécy in 1346, and the archers of Crécy were not exactly the sort of men who take kindly to eviction, to say nothing of slavery. As no one meddled much with the villeins before 1349, all went well until after Crécy, but in 1348 the Black Death ravaged England, and so many laborers died that the cost of farming property by hired hands exceeded the value of the rent which the villeins paid. Then the landlords, under the usual reactionary and dangerous legal advice, tried coercion. Their first experiment was the famous Statute of Laborers, which fixed wages at the rates which prevailed in 1347, but as this statute accomplished nothing the landlords repudiated their contracts, and undertook to force their villeins to render their ancient customary services. Though the lay landlords were often hard masters, the ecclesiastics, especially the monks, were harder still, and the ecclesiastics were served by lawyers of their own cloth, whose sharp practice became proverbial. Thus the law declined to recognize rights in property existing in fact, with the inevitable result of the peasant rising in 1381, known as Wat Tyler's Rebellion. Popular rage perfectly logically ran highest against the monks and the lawyers. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon de Sudbury, the Lord Chancellor, and the Chief Justice were killed, and the insurgents wished to kill, as Capgrave has related, "all the men that had learned ony law." Finally the rebellion was suppressed, chiefly by the duplicity of Richard II. Richard promised the people, by written charters, a permanent tenure as freemen at reasonable rents, and so induced them to go home with his charters in their hands; but they were no sooner gone than vengeance began. Though Richard had been at the peasants' mercy, who might have killed him had they wished, punitive expeditions were sent in various directions. One was led by Richard himself, who travelled with Tresilian, the new Chief Justice, the man who afterward was himself hanged at Tyburn. Tresilian worked so well that he is said to have strung up a dozen villeins to a single beam in Chelmsford because he had no time to have them executed regularly. Stubbs has estimated that seven thousand victims hardly satisfied the landlords' sense of outraged justice. What concerns us, chiefly, is that this repression, however savage, failed altogether to bring tranquillity. After 1381 a full century of social chaos supervened, merging at times into actual civil war, until, in 1485, Henry Tudor came in after his victory at Bosworth, pledged to destroy the whole reactionary class which incarnated feudalism. For the feudal soldier was neither flexible nor astute, and allowed himself to be caught between the upper and the nether millstone. While industrial and commercial capital had been increasing in the towns, capitalistic methods of farming had invaded the country, and, as police improved, private and predatory warfare, as a business, could no longer be made to pay. The importance of a feudal noble lay in the body of retainers who followed his banner, and therefore the feudal tendency always was to overcharge the estate with military expenditure. Hence, to protect themselves from creditors, the landlords passed the Statute De Donis  [Footnote: 13 Edw. I, c. I (A.D. 1284).] which made entails inalienable. Toward the end of the Wars of the Roses, however, the pressure for money, which could only be raised by pledging their land, became too strong for the feudal aristocracy. Edward IV, who was a very able man, perceived, pretty early in his reign, that his class could not maintain themselves unless their land were put upon a commercial basis. Therefore he encouraged the judges, in the collusive litigation known to us as Taltarum's Case, decided in 1472, to set aside the Statute De Donis , by the fiction of the Common Recovery. The concession, even so, came too late. The combination against them had grown too strong for the soldiers to resist. Other classes evolved by competition wanted their property, and these made Henry Tudor king of England to seize it for them.

Saint Benedict founded Monte Cassino in 529, but centuries elapsed before the Benedictine order rose to power. The early convents were isolated and feeble, and much at the mercy of the laity, who invaded and debauched them. Abbots, like bishops, were often soldiers, who lived within the walls with their wives and children, their hawks, their hounds, and their men-at-arms; and it has been said that, in all France, Corbie and Fleury alone kept always something of their early discipline.

Only in the early years of the most lurid century of the Middle Ages, when decentralization culminated, and the imagination began to gain its fullest intensity, did the period of monastic consolidation open with the foundation of Cluny. In 910 William of Aquitaine draw a charter [Footnote: Bruel, Recueil des Chartes de l'Abbaye de Cluny, I, 124.] which, so far as possible, provided for the complete independence of his new corporation. There was no episcopal visitation, and no interference with the election of the abbot. The monks were put directly under the protection of the pope, who was made their sole superior. John XI confirmed this charter by his bull of 932, and authorized the affiliation of all converts who wished to share in the reform. [Footnote: Bull. Clun. p. 2, col. 1. Also Luchaire, Manuel des Institutions Françaises, 93, 95, where the authorities are collected.]

The growth of Cluny was marvellous; by the twelfth century two thousand houses obeyed its rule, and its wealth was so great, and its buildings so vast, that in 1245 Innocent IV, the Emperor Baldwin, and Saint Louis were all lodged together within its walls, and with them all the attendant trains of prelates and nobles with their servants.

In the eleventh century no other force of equal energy existed. The monks were the most opulent, the ablest, and the best organized society in Europe, and their effect upon mankind was proportioned to their strength. They intuitively sought autocratic power, and during the centuries when nature favored them, they passed from triumph to triumph. They first seized upon the papacy and made it self-perpetuating; they then gave battle to the laity for the possession of the secular hierarchy, which had been under temporal control since the very foundation of the Church.

According to the picturesque legend, Bruno, Bishop of Toul, seduced by the flattery of courtiers and the allurements of ambition, accepted the tiara from the emperor, and set out upon his journey to Italy with a splendid retinue, and with his robe and crown. On his way he turned aside at Cluny, where Hildebrand was prior. Hildebrand, filled with the spirit of God, reproached him with having seized upon the seat of the vicar of Christ by force, and accepted the holy office from the sacrilegious hand of a layman. He exhorted Bruno to cast away his pomp, and to cross the Alps humbly as a pilgrim, assuring him that the priests and people of Rome would recognize him as their bishop, and elect him according to canonical forms. Then he would taste the joys of a pure conscience, having entered the fold of Christ as a shepherd and not as a robber. Inspired by these words, Bruno dismissed his train, and left the convent gate as a pilgrim. He walked barefoot, and when after two months of pious meditations he stood before Saint Peter's, he spoke to the people and told them it was their privilege to elect the pope, and since he had come unwillingly he would return again, were he not their choice.

He was answered with acclamations, and on February 2, 1049, he was enthroned as Leo IX. His first act was to make Hildebrand his minister.

The legend tells of the triumph of Cluny as no historical facts could do. Ten years later, in the reign of Nicholas II, the theocracy made itself self-perpetuating through the assumption of the election of the pope by the college of cardinals, and in 1073 Hildebrand, the incarnation of monasticism, was crowned under the name of Gregory VII.

With Hildebrand's election, war began. The Council of Rome, held in 1075, decreed that holy orders should not be recognized where investiture had been granted by a layman, and that princes guilty of conferring investiture should be excommunicated. The Council of the next year, which excommunicated the emperor, also enunciated the famous propositions of Baronius—the full expression of the theocratic idea. The priest had grown to be a god on earth.

"So strong in this confidence, for the honour and defence of your Church, on behalf of the omnipotent God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by your power and authority, I forbid the government of the German and Italian kingdoms, to King Henry, the son of the Emperor Henry, who, with unheard-of arrogance, has rebelled against your Church. I absolve all Christians from the oaths they have made or may make to him, and I forbid that any one should obey him as king." [Footnote: Migne, CXLVIII, 790.]

Henry marched on Italy, but in all European history there has been no drama more tremendous than the expiation of his sacrilege. To his soldiers the world was a vast space, peopled by those fantastic beings which are still seen on Gothic towers. These demons obeyed the monk of Rome, and his army, melting from about the emperor under a nameless horror, left him helpless.

Gregory lay like a magician in the fortress of Canossa: but he had no need of carnal weapons, for when the emperor reached the Alps he was almost alone. Then his imagination also took fire, the panic seized him, and he sued for mercy.

On August 7, 1106, Henry died at Liège, an outcast and a mendicant, and for five long years his body lay at the church door, an accursed thing which no man dared to bury.

Gregory prevailed because, to the understanding of the eleventh century, the evidence at hand indicated that he embodied in a high degree the infinite energy. The eleventh century was intensely imaginative and the evidence which appealed to it was those phenomena of trance, hypnotism, and catalepsy which are as mysterious now as they were then, but whose effect was then to create an overpowering demand for miracle-working substances. The sale of these substances gradually drew the larger portion of the wealth of the community into the hands of the clergy, and with wealth went temporal power. No vested interest in any progressive community has probably ever been relatively stronger, for the Church found no difficulty, when embarrassed, in establishing and operating a thorough system for exterminating her critics.

Under such a pressure modern civilization must have sunk into some form of caste had the mediæval mind resembled any antecedent mind, but the middle age, though superficially imaginative, was fundamentally materialistic, as the history of the crusades showed.

At Canossa the laity conceded as a probable hypothesis that the Church could miraculously control nature; but they insisted that if the Church possessed such power, she must use that power for the common good. Upon this point they would not compromise, nor would they permit delay. During the chaos of the ninth century turmoil and violence reached a stage at which the aspirations of most Christians ended with self-preservation; but when the discovery and working of the Harz silver had brought with it some semblance of order, an intense yearning possessed both men and women to ameliorate their lot. If relics could give protection against oppression, disease, famine, and death, then relics must be obtained, and, if the cross and the tomb were the most effective relics, then the cross and the tomb must be conquered at any cost. In the north of Europe especially, misery was so acute that the people gladly left their homes upon the slenderest promise of betterment, even following a vagrant like Peter the Hermit, who was neither soldier nor priest. There is a passage in William of Tyre which has been often quoted to explain a frenzy which is otherwise inexplicable, and in the old English of Caxton the words still glow with the same agony which makes lurid the supplication of the litany,—"From battle and murder, and from sudden death, Good Lord deliver us":

"Of charyte men spack not, debates, discordes, and warres were nyhe oueral, in suche wyse, that it seemed, that thende of the world was nyghe, by the signes that our lord sayth in the gospell, ffor pestylences and famynes were grete on therthe, ferdfulness of heuen, tremblyng of therthe in many places, and many other thinges there were that ought to fere the hertes of men....

"The prynces and the barons brente and destroyed the contrees of theyr neyghbours, yf ony man had saved ony thynge in theyr kepyng, theyr owne lordes toke them and put them in prison and in greuous tormentis, for to take fro them suche as they had, in suche qyse that the chyldren of them that had ben riche men, men myght see them goo fro dore to dore, for to begge and gete theyr brede, and some deye for hungre and mesease." [Footnote: Godeffroy of Bologne, by William, Archbishop of Tyre, translated from the French by William Caxton, London, 1893, 21, 22.]

Throughout the eleventh century the excitement touching the virtues of the holy places in Judea grew, until Gregory VII, about the time of Canossa, perceived that a paroxysm was at hand, and considered leading it, but on the whole nothing is so suggestive of the latent scepticism of the age as the irresolution of the popes at this supreme moment. The laity were the pilgrims and the agitators. The kings sought the relics and took the cross; the clergy hung back. Robert, Duke of Normandy, for example, the father of William the Conqueror, died in 1035 from hardship at Nicæa when returning from Palestine, absorbed to the last in the relics which he had collected, but the popes stayed at home. Whatever they may have said in private, neither Hildebrand nor Victor nor Urban moved officially until they were swept forward by the torrent. They shunned responsibility for a war which they would have passionately promoted had they been sure of victory. The man who finally kindled the conflagration was a half-mad fanatic, a stranger to the hierarchy. No one knew the family of Peter the Hermit, or whence he came, but he certainly was not an ecclesiastic in good standing. Inflamed by fasting and penance, Peter followed the throng of pilgrims to Jerusalem, and there, wrought upon by what he saw, he sought the patriarch. Peter asked the patriarch if nothing could be done to protect the pilgrims, and to retrieve the Holy Places. The patriarch replied, "Nothing, unless God will touch the heart of the western princes, and will send them to succor the Holy City." The patriarch did not propose meddling himself, nor did it occur to him that the pope should intervene. He took a rationalistic view of the Moslem military power. Peter, on the contrary, was logical, arguing from eleventh-century premises. If he could but receive a divine mandate, he would raise an invincible army. He prayed. His prayer was answered. One day while prostrated before the sepulchre he heard Christ charge him to announce in Europe that the appointed hour had come. Furnished with letters from the patriarch, Peter straightway embarked for Rome to obtain Urban's sanction for his design. Urban listened and gave a consent which he could not prudently have withheld, but he abstained from participating in the propaganda. In March, 1095, Urban called a Council at Piacenza, nominally to consider the deliverance of Jerusalem, and this Council was attended by thirty thousand impatient laymen, only waiting for the word to take the vow, but the pope did nothing. Even at Clermont eight months later, he showed a disposition to deal with private war, or church discipline, or with anything in fact rather than with the one engrossing question of the day, but this time there was no escape. A vast multitude of determined men filled not only Clermont but the adjacent towns and villages, even sleeping in the fields, although the weather was bitterly cold, who demanded to know the policy of the Church. Urban seems to have procrastinated as long as he safely could, but, at length, at the tenth session, he produced Peter on the platform, clad as a pilgrim, and, after Peter had spoken, he proclaimed the war. Urban declined, however, to command the army. The only effective force which marched was a body of laymen, organized and led by laymen, who in 1099 carried Jerusalem by an ordinary assault. In Jerusalem they found the cross and the sepulchre, and with these relics as the foundation of their power, the laity began an experiment which lasted eighty-eight years, ending in 1187 with the battle of Tiberias. At Tiberias the infidels defeated the Christians, captured their king and their cross, and shortly afterward seized the tomb.

If the eleventh-century mind had been as rigid as the Roman mind of the first century, mediæval civilization could hardly, after the collapse of the crusades, have failed to degenerate as Roman civilization degenerated after the defeat of Varus. Being more elastic, it began, under an increased tension, to develop new phases of thought. The effort was indeed prodigious and the absolute movement possibly slow, but a change of intellectual attitude may be detected almost contemporaneously with the fall of the Latin kingdom in Palestine. It is doubtless true that the thirteenth century was the century in which imaginative thought reached its highest brilliancy, when Albertus Magnus and Saint Thomas Aquinas taught, when Saint Francis and Saint Clara lived, and when Thomas of Celano wrote the Dies Iræ. It was then that Gothic architecture touched its climax in the cathedrals of Chartres and Amiens, of Bourges and of Paris; it was then also that Blanche of Castile ruled in France and that Saint Louis bought the crown of thorns, but it is equally true that the death of Saint Louis occurred in 1270, shortly after the thorough organization of the Inquisition by Innocent IV in 1252, and within two years or so of the production by Roger Bacon of his Opus Majus.

The establishment of the Inquisition is decisive, because it proves that sceptical thought had been spread far enough to goad the Church to general and systematic repression, while the Opus Majus  is a scientific exposition of the method by which the sceptical mind is trained.

Roger Bacon was born about 1214, and going early to Oxford fell under the influence of the most liberal teachers in Europe, at whose head stood Robert Grosseteste, afterward Bishop of Lincoln. Bacon conceived a veneration for Grosseteste, and even for Adam de Marisco his disciple, and turning toward mathematics rather than toward metaphysics he eagerly applied himself, when he went to Paris, to astrology and alchemy, which were the progenitors of the modern exact sciences. In the thirteenth century a young man like Bacon could hardly stand alone, and Bacon joined the Franciscans, but before many years elapsed he embroiled himself with his superiors. His friend, Grosseteste, died in 1253, the year after Innocent IV issued the bull Ad extirpanda  establishing the Inquisition, and Bacon felt the consequences. The general of his order, Saint Bonaventura, withdrew him from Oxford where he was prominent, and immured him in a Parisian convent, treating him rigorously, as Bacon intimated to Pope Clement IV. There he remained, silenced, for some ten years, until the election of Clement IV, in 1265. Bacon at once wrote to Clement complaining of his imprisonment, and deploring to the pope the plight into which scientific education had fallen. The pope replied directing Bacon to explain his views in a treatise, but did not order his release. In response Bacon composed the Opus Majus.

The Opus Majus  deals among other things with experimental science, and in the introductory chapter to the sixth part Bacon stated the theory of inductive thought quite as lucidly as did Francis Bacon three and a half centuries later in the Novum Organum. [Footnote: Positis radicibus sapientiae Latinorum penes Linguas et Mathematicam et Perspectivam, nunc volo revolvere radices a parte Scientiae Experimentalis, quia sine experientia nihil sufficienter scire protest. Duo enim simt modi cognoscendi, scilicet per argumentum et experimentum. Argumentum concludit et facit nos concedere conclusionem, sed non certificat neque removet dubitationem ut quiescat animus in intuitu veritatis, nisi eam inveniat via experientiae; quia multi habent argumenta ad scibilia, sed quia non habent experientiam, negligunt ea, nee vitant nociva nex persequuntue bona. J. H. Bridges, The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon  (Oxford, 1897), II, 167.]

Clement died in 1268. The papacy remained vacant for a couple of years, but in 1271 Gregory X came in on a conservative reaction. Bacon passed most of the rest of his life in prison, perhaps through his own ungovernable temper, and ostensibly his writings seem to have had little or no effect on his contemporaries, yet it is certain that he was not an isolated specimen of a type of intelligence which suddenly bloomed during the Reformation. Bacon constantly spoke of his friends, but his friends evidently did not share his temperament. The scientific man has seldom relished martyrdom, and Galileo's experience as late as 1633 shows what risks men of science ran who even indirectly attacked the vested interests of the Church. After the middle of the thirteenth century the danger was real enough to account for any degree of secretiveness, and a striking case of this timidity is related by Bacon himself. No one knows even the name of the man to whom Bacon referred as "Master Peter," but according to Bacon, "Master Peter" was the greatest and most original genius of the age, only he shunned publicity. The "Dominus experimentorum," as Bacon called him, lived in a safe retreat and devoted himself to mathematics, chemistry, and the mechanical arts with such success that, Bacon insisted, he could by his inventions have aided Saint Louis in his crusade more than his whole army. [Footnote: Émile Charles, Roger Bacon. Sa vie et ses ouvrages, 17.] Nor is this assertion altogether fantastic. Bacon understood the formula for gunpowder, and if Saint Louis had been provided with even a poor explosive he might have taken Cairo; not to speak of the terror which Greek fire always inspired. Saint Louis met his decisive defeat in a naval battle fought in 1250, for the command of the Nile, by which he drew supplies from Damietta, and he met it, according to Matthew Paris, because his ships could not withstand Greek fire. Gunpowder, even in a very simple form, might have changed the fate of the war.

Scepticism touching the value of relics as a means for controlling nature was an effect of experiment, and, logically enough, scepticism advanced fastest among certain ecclesiastics who dealt in relics. For example, in 1248 Saint Louis undertook to invade Egypt in defence of the cross. Possibly Saint Louis may have been affected by economic considerations also touching the eastern trade, but his ostensible object was a crusade. The risk was very great, the cost enormous, and the responsibility the king assumed of the most serious kind. Nothing that he could do was left undone to ensure success. In 1249 he captured Damietta, and then stood in need of every pound of money and of every man that Christendom could raise; yet at this crisis the Church thought chiefly of making what it could in cash out of the war, the inference being that the hierarchy suspected that even if Saint Louis prevailed and occupied Jerusalem, little would be gained from an ecclesiastical standpoint. At all events, Matthew Paris has left an account, in his chronicle of the year 1249, of how the pope and the Franciscans preached this crusade, which is one of the most suggestive passages in thirteenth-century literature:

"About the same time, by command of the pope, whom they obeyed implicitly, the Preacher and Minorite brethren diligently employed themselves in preaching; and to increase the devotion of the Christians, they went with great solemnity to the places where their preaching was previously indicated, and granted many days of indulgence to those who came to hear them.... Preaching on behalf of the cross, they bestowed that symbol on people of every age, sex and rank, whatever their property or worth, and even on sick men and women, and those who were deprived of strength by sickness or old age; and on the next day, or even directly afterwards, receiving it back from them, they absolved them from their vow of pilgrimage, for whatever sum they could obtain for the favour. What seemed unsuitable and absurd was, that not many days afterwards, Earl Richard collected all this money in his treasury, by the agency of Master Bernard, an Italian clerk, who gathered in the fruit; whereby no slight scandal arose in the Church of God, and amongst the people in general, and the devotion of the faithful evidently cooled." [Footnote: Matthew Paris, English History, translated by the Rev. J. A, Giles, II, 309.]

When the unfortunate Baldwin II became Emperor of the East in 1237, the relics of the passion were his best asset. In 1238, while Baldwin was in France trying to obtain aid, the French barons who carried on the government at Constantinople in his absence were obliged to pledge the crown of thorns to an Italian syndicate for 13,134 perpera, which Gibbon conjectures to have been besants. Baldwin was notified of the pledge and urged to arrange for its redemption. He met with no difficulty. He confidently addressed himself to Saint Louis and Queen Blanche, and "Although the king felt keen displeasure at the deplorable condition of Constantinople, he was well pleased, nevertheless, with the opportunity of adorning France with the richest and most precious treasure in all Christendom." More especially with "a relic, and a sacred object which was not on the commercial market." [Footnote: Du Cange, Histoire de L'empire de Constantinople sous les empereurs Français, edition de Buchon, I, 259.]

Louis, beside paying the loan and the cost of transportation which came to two thousand French pounds (the mark being then coined into £2, 15 sous and 6 pence), made Baldwin a present of ten thousand pounds for acting as broker. Baldwin was so well contented with this sale which he closed in 1239, that a couple of years later he sent to Paris all the contents of his private chapel which had any value. Part of the treasure was a fragment of what purported to be the cross, but the authenticity of this relic was doubtful; there was beside, however, the baby linen, the spear-head, the sponge, and the chain, beside several miscellaneous articles like the rod of Moses.

Louis built the Sainte Chapelle at a cost of twenty thousand marks as a shrine in which to deposit them. The Sainte Chapelle has usually ranked as the most absolutely perfect specimen of mediaeval religious architecture. [Footnote: On this whole subject of the inter-relation of mediæval theology with architecture and philosophy the reader is referred to Mont-Saint-Michel et Chartres, by Henry Adams, which is the most philosophical and thorough exposition of this subject which ever has been attempted.]

When Saint Louis bought the Crown of Thorns from Baldwin in 1239, the commercial value of relics may, possibly, be said to have touched its highest point, but, in fact, the adoration of them had culminated with the collapse of the Second Crusade, and in another century and a half the market had decisively broken and the Reformation had already begun, with the advent of Wycliffe and the outbreak of Wat Tyler's Rebellion in 1381. For these social movements have always a common cause and reach a predetermined result.

In the eleventh century the convent of Cluny, for example, had an enormous and a perfectly justified hold upon the popular imagination, because of the sanctity and unselfishness of its abbots. Saint Hugh won his sainthood by a self-denial and effort which were impossible to ordinary men, but with Louis IX the penitential life had already lost its attractions and men like Arnold rapidly brought religion and religious thought into contempt. The famous Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, born, probably, in 1175, died in 1253. He presided over the diocese of Lincoln at the precise moment when Saint Louis was building the Sainte Chapelle, but Grosseteste in 1250 denounced in a sermon at Lyons the scandals of the papal court with a ferocity which hardly was surpassed at any later day.

To attempt even an abstract of the thought of the English Reformation would lead too far, however fascinating the subject might be. It must suffice to say briefly that theology had little or nothing to do with it. Wycliffe denounced the friars as lazy, profligate impostors, who wrung money from the poor which they afterwards squandered in ways offensive to God, and he would have stultified himself had he admitted, in the same breath, that these reprobates, when united, formed a divinely illuminated corporation, each member of which could and did work innumerable miracles through the interposition of Christ. Ordinary miracles, indeed, could be tested by the senses, but the essence of transubstantiation was that it eluded the senses. Thus nothing could be more convenient to the government than to make this invisible and intangible necromancy a test in capital cases for heresy-Hence Wycliffe had no alternative but to deny transubstantiation, for nothing could be more insulting to the intelligence than to adore a morsel of bread which a priest held in his hand. The pretension of the priests to make the flesh of Christ was, according to Wycliffe, an impudent fraud, and their pretension to possess this power was only an excuse by which they enforced their claim to collect fees, and what amounted to extortionate taxes, from the people. [Footnote: Nowhere, perhaps, does Wycliffe express himself more strongly on this subject than in a little tract called The Wicket, written in English, which he issued for popular consumption about this time.] But, in the main, no dogma, however incomprehensible, ever troubled Protestants, as a class. They easily accepted the Trinity, the double procession, or the Holy Ghost itself, though no one had the slightest notion what the Holy Ghost might be. Wycliffe roundly declared in the first paragraph of his confession [Footnote: Fasciculi Zizaniorum, 115.] that the body of Christ which was crucified was truly and really in the consecrated host, and Huss, who inherited the Wycliffian tradition, answered before the Council of Constance, "Verily, I do think that the body of Christ is really and totally in the sacrament of the altar, which was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, and rose again, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty." [Footnote: Foxe, Acts and Monuments, III, 452.] That which has rent society in twain and has caused blood to flow like water, has never been abstract opinions, but that economic competition either between states or classes, that lust for power and wealth, which makes a vested interest. Thus by 1382 the eucharist had come to represent to the privileged classes power and wealth, and they would have repudiated Wycliffe even had they felt strong enough to support him. But they were threatened by an adversary equally formidable with heresy in the person of the villeins whom the constantly increasing momentum of the time had raised into a position in which they undertook to compete for the ownership of the land which they still tilled as technical serfs.

The Middle Age

Probably the appreciation of the Roman monetary standard culminated during the invasion of the Huns toward the middle of the fifth century. In the reign of Valentinian III. gold sold for eighteen times its weight of silver, and Valentinian's final catastrophe was the murder of Aëtius in 454, with whose life the last spark of vitality at the heart of Roman centralization died. The rise of Ricimer and the accession of Odoacer, mark the successive steps by which Italy receded into barbarism, and, in the time of Theoderic the Ostrogoth, she had become a primitive, decentralized community, whose poverty and sluggishness protected her from African and Asiatic competition. The Ostrogoths subdued Italy in 493, and by that date the barbarians had overrun the whole civilized world west of the Adriatic, causing the demand for money to sustain a consolidated society to cease, the volume of trade to shrink, the market for eastern wares to contract, and gold to accumulate at the centre of exchanges. As gold accumulated, its value fell, and during the first years of the sixth century it stood at a ratio to silver of less than fifteen to one, a decline of eighteen per cent.[69] As prices correspondingly rose, the pressure on the peasantry relaxed, prosperity at Constantinople returned, and the collapse of the Western Empire may have prolonged the life of the European population of the Eastern for above one hundred and fifty years. The city which Constantine planted in 324 on the shore of the Bosphorus, was in reality a horde of Roman capitalists washed to the confines of Asia by the current of foreign exchanges; and these emigrants carried with them, to a land of mixed Greek and barbarian blood, their language and their customs. For many years these monied potentates ruled their new country absolutely. All that legislation could do for them was done. They even annexed rations to their estates, to be supplied at the public cost, to help their children maintain their palaces. As long as prices fell, nothing availed; the aristocracy grew poorer day by day. Their property lay generally in land, and the same stringency which wasted Italy and Gaul operated, though perhaps less acutely, upon the Danubian peasantry also. By the middle of the fifth century the country was exhausted and at the mercy of the Huns.

Wealth is the weapon of a monied society; for, though itself lacking the martial instinct, it can, with money, hire soldiers to defend it. But to raise a revenue from the people, they must retain a certain surplus of income after providing for subsistence, otherwise the government must trench on the supply of daily food, and exhaustion must supervene. Finlay has explained that chronic exhaustion was the normal condition of Byzantium under the Romans.

“The whole surplus profits of society were annually drawn into the coffers of the State, leaving the inhabitants only a bare sufficiency for perpetuating the race of tax-payers. History, indeed, shows that the agricultural classes, from the labourer to the landlord, were unable to retain possession of the savings required to replace that depreciation which time is constantly producing in all vested capital, and that their numbers gradually diminished.”[70]

Under Theodosius II., when gold reached its maximum, complete prostration prevailed. The Huns marched whither they would, and one swarm “of barbarians followed another, as long as anything was left to plunder.” The government could no longer keep armies in the field. A single example will show how low the community had fallen. In 446, Attila demanded of Theodosius six thousand pounds of gold as a condition of peace, and certainly six thousand pounds of gold, equalling perhaps $1,370,000, was a small sum, even when measured by the standard of private wealth. The end of the third century was not a prosperous period in Italy, and yet before his election as emperor in 275, the fortune of Tacitus reached 280,000,000 sesterces, or upwards of $11,000,000.[71] Nevertheless Theodosius was unable to wring this inconsiderable indemnity from the people, and he had to levy a private assessment on the senators, who were themselves so poor that to pay they sold at auction the jewels of their wives and the furniture of their houses.

Almost immediately after the collapse of the Western Empire the tide turned. With the fall in the price of gold the peasantry revived and the Greek provinces flourished. In the reign of Justinian, Belisarius and Narses marched from end to end of Africa and Europe, and Anastasius rolled in wealth.

Anastasius, the contemporary of Theoderic, acceded to the throne in 491. He not only built the famous long wall from the Propontis to the Euxine, and left behind him a treasure of three hundred and twenty thousand pounds of gold, but he remitted to his subjects the most oppressive of their taxes, and the reign of Justinian, who succeeded him at an interval of only ten years, must always rank as the prime of the Byzantine civilization. The observation is not new, it has been made by all students of Byzantine history.

“The increased prosperity ... infused into society soon displayed its effects; and the brilliant exploits of the reign of Justinian must be traced back to the reinvigoration of the body politic of the Roman Empire by Anastasius.”[72]

Justinian inherited the throne from his uncle Justin, a Dardanian peasant, who could neither read nor write. But the barbarian shepherd was a thorough soldier, and the army he left behind him was probably not inferior to the legions of Titus or Trajan. At all events, had Justinian's funds sufficed, there seems reason to suppose he might have restored the boundaries of the Empire. His difficulty lay not in lack of physical force, but in dearth of opulent enemies; in the sixth century conquest had ceased to be profitable. The territory open to invasion had been harried for generations, and hardly a country was to be found rich enough to repay the cost of a campaign by mercenaries. Therefore, the more the emperor extended his dominions, the more they languished; and finally to provide for wars, barbarian subsidies, and building, Justinian had to resort to over-taxation. With renewed want came renewed decay, and perhaps the completion of Saint Sophia, in 558, may be taken as the point whence the race which conceived this masterpiece hastened to its extinction.

In the seventh century Asiatic competition devoured the Europeans in the Levant, as three hundred years before it had devoured the husbandmen of Italy; and this was a disease which isolation alone could cure. But isolation of the centre of exchanges was impossible, for the vital principle of an economic age is competition, and, when the relief afforded by the collapse of Rome had been exhausted, competition did its work with relentless rapidity. Under Heraclius (610–640) the population sank fast, and by 717 the western blood had run so low that an Asiatic dynasty reigned supreme. Everywhere Greeks and Romans vanished before Armenians and Slavs, and for years previous to the accession of Leo the Isaurian the great waste tracts where they once lived were systematically repeopled by a more enduring race. The colonists of Justinian II. furnished him an auxiliary army. At Justinian's death in 711 the revolution had been completed; the population had been renovated, and Constantinople had become an Asiatic city.[73] The new aristocracy was Armenian, as strong an economic type as ever existed in western Asia; while the Slavic peasantry which underlay them were among the most enduring of mankind. There competition ended, for it could go no further; and, apparently, from the accession of Leo in 717, to the rise of Florence and Venice, three hundred and fifty years later, Byzantine society, in fixity, almost resembled the Chinese. Such movement as occurred, like Iconoclasm, came from the friction of the migrating races with the old population. As Texier has observed of architecture: “From the time of Justinian until the end of the Empire we cannot remark a single change in the modes of construction.”[74]

Only long after, when the money which sustained it was diverted toward Italy during the crusades, did the social fabric crumble; and Gibbon has declared that the third quarter of the tenth century “forms the most splendid period of the Byzantine annals.”[75]

The later Byzantine was an economic civilization, without aspiration or imagination, and perhaps the most vivid description which has survived of that ostentatious, sordid, cowardly, and stagnant race, is the little sketch of the Jew, Benjamin of Tudela, who travelled to the Levant in 1173.

Benjamin called the inhabitants of Constantinople Greeks, because of their language, and he described the city as a vast commercial metropolis, “common to all the world, without distinction of country or religion.” Merchants from the East and West flocked thither—from Babylon, Mesopotamia, Media, and Persia, as well as from Egypt, Hungary, Russia, Lombardy, and Spain. The rabbi thought the people well educated and social, liking to eat and drink, “every man under his vine and under his fig tree.” They loved gold and jewels, pompous display, and gorgeous ceremonial; and the Jew has dwelt with delight on the palace, with its columns of gold and silver, and the wonderful crown so studded with gems that it lighted the night without a lamp. The Greeks also roused his enthusiasm for the splendour of their clothes and of their horses' trappings, for when they went abroad they resembled princes; but on the other hand, he remarked with a certain scorn, that they were utterly cowardly, and, like women, had to hire men to protect them.

“The Greeks who inhabit the country are extremely rich and possess great wealth of gold and precious stones. They dress in garments of silk, ornamented by gold and other valuable materials.... Nothing upon earth equals their wealth.”

“The Greeks hire soldiers of all nations whom they call barbarians, for the purpose of carrying on ... wars with ... the Turks.” “They have no martial spirit themselves and like women are unfit for war.”[76]

The movement of races in the Eastern Empire proceeded with automatic regularity. The cheaper organism exterminated the more costly, because energy operated through money strongly enough to cause free economic competition; nor is the evidence upon which this conclusion rests to be drawn from books alone. Coinage and architecture, sculpture and painting, tell the tale with equal precision.

When, in the fourth century, wealth, ebbing on the Tiber, floated to the Bosphorus the core of the Latin aristocracy, it carried with it also the Latin coinage. For several generations this coinage underwent littleapparent alteration, but after the final division of the Empire, in 395, between the sons of Theodosius, a subtle change began in the composition of the ruling class; a change reflected from generation to generation in the issues of their mints. Sabatier has described the transformation wrought in eight hundred years with the minuteness of an antiquary.

If a set of Byzantine coins are arranged in chronological order, those of Anastasius, about 500, show at a glance an influence which is not Latin. Strange devices have appeared on the reverse, together with Greek letters. A century later, when the great decline was in progress under Heraclius, the type had become barbarous, and the prevalence of Greek inscriptions proves the steady exhaustion of the Roman blood. Another fifty years, and by 690, under Justinian II., the permanent and conventional phase had been developed. Religious emblems were used; the head of Christ was struck on the golden son, and fixity of form presaged the Asiatic domination. The official costumes, the portraits of the emperors, certain consecrated inscriptions, all were changeless; and in 717, an Armenian dynasty ascended the throne in the person of Leo the Isaurian.[77] This motionless period lasted for full three hundred and fifty years, as long as the exchanges of the world centred at Byzantium, and the monied race who dwelt there sucked copious nutriment from the pool of wealth in which it lay. But even before the crusades the tide of trade began to flow to the south, and quitting Constantinople passed directly from Bagdad to the cities of Italy. Then the sustenance of the money-changers gradually failed. From the reign of Michael VI. effigies of the saints were engraved upon the coin, and after the revolution led by Alexius Comnenus, in 1081, the execution degenerated and debasement began. This revolution marked the beginning of the end. Immediately preceding the crusades, and attended by sharp distress, it was probably engendered by an alteration in the drift of foreign exchanges. Certainly the currency contracted sharply, and the gold money soon became so bad that Alexius had to stipulate to pay his debts in the byzants of his predecessor Michael.[78] For the next hundred years, as the Italian cities rose, the Empire languished, and with the thirteenth century, when Venice established its permanent silver standard by coining the “grosso,” Constantinople crumbled into ruin.

In architecture the same phenomena appear, only differently clothed. Though the Germans, who swarmed across the Danube, often surged against the walls of Constantinople, they never became the ruling class of the community, because they were of the imaginative type. Money retained its supremacy, and while it did so energy expressed itself through the economic mind. Though Justinian was of barbarian blood, the nephew of a barbarian shepherd, the aristocracy about him, which formed the core of society, was neither imaginative nor devotional. Hardly Christian, it tended toward paganism or scepticism. The artists were of the subject caste, and they earned their living by gratifying the tastes of the nobles; but the nobles loved magnificence and gorgeous functions; hence all Byzantine architecture favoured display, and nowhere more so than in Saint Sophia. “Art delighted in representing Christ in all the splendour of power.... To glorify him the more all the magnificence of the imperial court was introduced into heaven.... Christ no longer appeared under the benevolent aspect of the good shepherd, but in the superb guise of an oriental monarch: he is seated on a throne glittering with gold and precious stones.”[79] Here then lay the impassable gulf between Byzantium and Paris; while Byzantium remained economic and materialistic, Paris passed into the glory of an imaginative age.

The Germans who overran the Roman territory were of the same race as the Greeks, the Latins, or the Gauls, but in a different stage of development. They tilled farms and built villages and perhaps fortresses, but they were not consolidated, and had neither nations nor federations. They were substantially in the condition in which the common family had been, when it divided many centuries before, and their minds differed radically from the minds of the inhabitants of the countries beyond the Danube and the Rhine. They were infinitely more imaginative, and, as the flood of emigration poured down from the north, the imagination came more and more to prevail.

Although the lowest of existing savages are relatively advanced, they suggest that the strongest passion of primeval man must have been fear; and fear, not so much of living things, as of nature, which seemed to him resolutely hostile. Against wild beasts, or savages like himself, he might prevail by cunning or by strength; but against drought and famine, pestilence and earthquake, he was helpless, and he regarded these scourges as malevolent beings, made like himself, only more formidable. His first and most pressing task was to mollify them, and above the warrior class rose the sacred caste, whose function was to mediate between the visible and the invisible world.

Originally these intercessors appear to have been sorcerers, rather than priests, for spirits were believed to be hostile to man; and perhaps the first conception of a god may have been reached through the victory of a clan of sorcerers in fight. As Statius said eighteen hundred years ago, “Primus in orbe deos fecit timor.”[80] Probably the early wizards won their power by the discovery of natural secrets, which, though they could be transmitted to their descendants, might also be discovered by strangers. The later discoverers would become rival medicine men, and battle would be the only test by which the orthodoxy of the competitors could be determined. The victors would almost certainly stigmatize the beings the vanquished served, as devils who tormented men. There is an example of this process in the eighteenth chapter of 1 Kings:—

“And Elijah ... said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”

Then Elijah proposed that each side should dress a bullock, and lay it on wood, and call upon their spirit; and the one who sent down fire should be God. And all the people answered that it was well spoken. And Jezebel's prophets took their bullock and dressed it, and called on “Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us!” But nothing came of it.

Then Elijah mocked them, “and said, Cry aloud: ... either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.”

And they cried aloud, and cut themselves with knives till “blood gushed out upon them. And ... there was neither voice, nor any to answer.” Then Elijah built his altar, and cut up his bullock and laid him on wood, and poured twelve barrels of water over the whole, and filled a trench with water.

And “the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God.

“And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”

The Germans of the fourth century were a very simple race, who comprehended little of natural laws, and who therefore referred phenomena they did not understand to supernatural intervention. This intervention could only be controlled by priests, and thus the invasions caused a rapid rise in the influence of the sacred class. The power of every ecclesiastical organization has always rested on the miracle, and the clergy have always proved their divine commission as did Elijah. This was eminently the case with the mediæval Church. At the outset Christianity was socialistic, and its spread among the poor was apparently caused by the pressure of competition; for the sect only became of enough importance to be persecuted under Nero, contemporaneously with the first signs of distress which appeared through the debasement of the denarius. But socialism was only a passing phase, and disappeared as the money value of the miracle rose, and brought wealth to the Church. Under the Emperor Decius, about 250, the magistrates thought the Christians opulent enough to use gold and silver vessels in their service, and, by the fourth century, the supernatural so possessed the popular mind, that Constantine not only allowed himself to be converted by a miracle, but used enchantment as an engine of war.

In one of his marches, he encouraged the belief that he saw a luminous cross in the sky, with the words “By this conquer.” The next night Christ appeared to him, and directed him to construct a standard bearing the same design, and, armed with this, to advance with confidence against Maxentius.

The legend, preserved by Eusebius, grew up after the event; but, for that very reason, it reflects the feeling of the age. The imagination of his men had grown so vivid that, whether he believed or not, Constantine found it expedient to use the Labarum as a charm to ensure victory. The standard supported a cross and a mystic monogram; the army believed its guards to be invulnerable, and in his last and most critical campaign against Licinius, the sight of the talisman not only excited his own troops to enthusiasm, but spread dismay through the enemy.

The action of the Milvian Bridge, fought in 312, by which Constantine established himself at Rome, was probably the point whence nature began to discriminate decisively against the monied type in Western Europe. Capital had already abandoned Italy; Christianity was soon after officially recognized, and during the next century the priest began to rank with the soldier as a force in war.

Meanwhile, as the population sank into exhaustion, it yielded less and less revenue, the police deteriorated, and the guards became unable to protect the frontier. In 376, the Goths, hard pressed by the Huns, came to the Danube and implored to be taken as subjects by the emperor. After mature deliberation, the Council of Valens granted the prayer, and some five hundred thousand Germans were cantoned in Mœsia. The intention of the government was to scatter this multitude through the provinces as coloni, or to draft them into the legions; but the detachment detailed to handle them was too feeble, the Goths mutinied, cut the guard to pieces, and having ravaged Thrace for two years, defeated and killed Valens at Hadrianople. In another generation the disorganization of the Roman army had become complete, and Alaric gave it its deathblow in his campaign of 410.

Alaric was not a Gothic king, but a barbarian deserter, who, in 392, was in the service of Theodosius. Subsequently, he sometimes held imperial commands, and sometimes led bands of marauders on his own account, but was always in difficulty about his pay. Finally, in the revolution in which Stilicho was murdered, a corps of auxiliaries mutinied and chose him their general. Alleging that his arrears were unpaid, Alaric accepted the command, and with this army sacked Rome.

During the campaign the attitude of the Christians was more interesting than the strategy of the soldiers. Alaric was a robber, leading mutineers, and yet the orthodox historians did not condemn him. They did not condemn him because the sacred class instinctively loved the barbarians whom they could overawe, whereas they could make little impression on the materialistic intellect of the old centralized society. Under the Empire the priests, like all other individuals, had to obey the power which paid the police; and as long as a revenue could be drawn from the provinces, the Christian hierarchy were subordinate to the monied bureaucracy who had the means to coerce them.

“It was long since established, as a fundamental maxim of the Roman constitution, that every rank of citizens were alike subject to the laws, and that the care of religion was the right as well as duty of the civil magistrate.”[81]

Their conversion made little change in the attitude of the emperors, and Constantine and his successors continued to exercise a supreme jurisdiction over the hierarchy. The sixteenth book of the Theodosian Code sufficiently sets forth the plenitude of their authority. In theory, bishops were elected by the clergy and the people, but in practice the emperor could control the patronage if it were valuable; and whether bishops were elected or appointed, as long as they were created and paid by laymen, they were dependent. The priesthood could only become autocratic when fear of the miracle exempted them from arrest; and toward the middle of the fifth century this point was approaching, as appears by the effect of the embassy of Leo the Great to Attila.

In 452 the Huns had crossed the Alps and had sacked Aquileia. The Roman army was demoralized; Aëtius could not make head against the barbarians in the field; while Valentinian was so panic-stricken that he abandoned Ravenna, which was thought impregnable, and retreated to the capital, which was indefensible. At Rome, finding himself helpless in an open city, the emperor conceived the idea of invoking the power of the supernatural. He proposed to Leo to visit Attila and persuade him to spare the town. The pope consented without hesitation, and with perfect intrepidity caused himself to be carried to the Hun's tent, where he met with respect not unalloyed by fear. The legend probably reflects pretty accurately the feeling of the time. As the bishop stood before the king, Peter and Paul appeared on either side, menacing Attila with flaming swords; and though this particular form of apparition may be doubted, Attila seems beyond question to have been oppressed by a belief that he would not long survive the capture of Rome. He therefore readily agreed to accept a ransom and evacuate Italy.

From the scientific standpoint the saint and the sorcerer are akin; for though the saint uses the supernatural for man's benefit, and the sorcerer for his hurt, both deal in magic. The mediæval saint was a powerful necromancer. He healed the sick, cast out devils, raised the dead, foretold the future, put out fires, found stolen property, brought rain, saved from shipwreck, routed the enemy, cured headache, was sovereign in child-birth, and, indeed, could do almost anything that was asked of him, whether he were alive or dead. This power was believed to lie in some occult property of the flesh, which passed by contact. The woman in the Bible said, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” Moreover, this fluid was a substance whose passage could be felt, for “Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?”[82]

Anything which came in contact with the saint was likely to have been impregnated with this magical quality, and thus became a charm, or relic, whose value depended primarily on the power of the man himself, and secondly, on the thoroughness with which the material had been charged.

The tomb, which held the whole body, naturally stood highest; then parts of the body, according to their importance—a head, an arm, a leg, down to hairs of the beard. Then came hats, boots, girdles, cups, anything indeed which had been used. The very ground on which a great miracle-worker had stood might have high value.

The Holy Grail, which had held Christ's blood, would cure wounds, raise the dead, and fill itself with choice food, at the command of the owner. The eucharist, though not properly a relic, and which only became God through an incantation, would, in expert hands, stop fires, cure disease, cast out devils, expound philosophy, and detect perjury by choking the liar.

Every prize in life was to be obtained by this kind of magic. When the kings of France made war, they carried with them the enchanted banner of Saint Denis, and Froissart has told how even in the reign of Charles VI. it decided the battle of Roosebeke.[83]

Disease was treated altogether by miracle, and the Church found the business so profitable that she anathematized experimental practitioners. In the thirteenth century Saint Thomas of Canterbury and Saint James of Compostello were among the most renowned of healers, and their shrines blazed with the gifts of the greatest and richest persons of Europe. When Philip Augustus lay very ill, Louis the Pious obtained leave to visit the tomb of Saint Thomas, then in the height of the fashion, and left as part of his fee the famous regal of France, a jewel so magnificent that three centuries and a half later Henry VIII. seized it and set it in a thumb ring. Beside this wonderful gem, at the pillage of the Reformation, “the king's receiver confessed that the gold and silver and precious stones and sacred vestments taken away ... filled six-and-twenty carts.”[84] The old books of travel are filled with accounts of this marvellous shrine.

“But the magnificence of the tomb of Saint Thomas the Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury, is that which surpasses all belief. This, notwithstanding its great size, is entirely covered with plates of pure gold; but the gold is scarcely visible from the variety of precious stones with which it is studded, such as sapphires, diamonds, rubies, balas-rubies, and emeralds ... and agates, jaspers and cornelians set in relievo, some of the cameos being of such a size, that I do not dare to mention it; but everything is left far behind by a ruby, not larger than a man's thumb-nail, which is set to the right of the altar.... They say that it was the gift of a king of France.”[85]

But beside these shrines of world-wide reputation, no hamlet was too remote to possess its local fetish, which worked at cheap rates for the peasantry. A curious list of these was sent to the Government by two of Cromwell's visitors in the reign of Henry VIII.

The nuns of Saint Mary, at Derby, had part of the shirt of Saint Thomas, reverenced by pregnant women; so was the girdle of Saint Francis at Grace Dieu. At Repton, a pilgrimage was made to Saint Guthlac and his bell, which was put on the head for headache. The wimple of Saint Audrede was used for sore breasts, and the rod of Aaron for children with worms. At Bury Saint Edmund's, the shrine of Saint Botulph was carried in procession when rain was needed, “and Kentish men ... carry thence ... wax candles, which they light at the end of the field while the wheat is sown, and hope from this that neither tares nor other weeds will grow in the wheat that year.”[86] Most curious of all, perhaps, at Pontefract, Thomas, Duke of Lancaster's belt and hat were venerated. They were believed to aid women in child-birth, and also to cure headache.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, a great venerator of the eucharist, used it to help him in his lectures. When treating of the dogma of the Supper at the University of Paris, many questions were asked him which he never answered without meditating at the foot of the altar. One day, when preparing an answer to a very difficult question, he placed it on the altar, and cried, “Lord, who really and veritably dwells in the Holy Sacrament, hear my prayer. If what I have written upon your divine eucharist be true, let it be given me to teach and demonstrate it. If I am deceived, stop me from proposing doctrines contrary to the truth of your divine Sacrament.” Forthwith the Lord appeared upon the altar, and said to him, “You have written well upon the Sacrament of My body, and you have answered the question which has been proposed to you as well as human intelligence can fathom these mysteries.”[87]

Primitive people argue directly from themselves to their divinities, and throughout the Middle Ages men believed that envy, jealousy, and vanity were as rampant in heaven as on earth, and behaved accordingly. The root of the monastic movement was the hope of obtaining advantages by adulation.

“A certain clerk, who had more confidence in the Mother than the Son, continually repeated the Ave Maria as his only prayer. One day, while so engaged, Christ appeared to him and said, ‘My mother thanks you very much for your salutations, ... tamen et me salutare memento.'”[88]

To insure perpetual intercession it was necessary that the song of praise and the smoke of incense should be perpetual, and therefore monks and nuns worked day and night at their calling. As a twelfth-century bishop of Metz observed, when wakened one freezing morning by the bell of Saint Peter of Bouillon tolling for matins: “Neither the drowsiness of the night nor the bitterness of a glacial winter [kept them] from praising the Creator of the world.”[89]

Bequests to convents were in the nature of policies of insurance in favour of the grantor and his heirs, not only against punishment in the next world, but against accident in this. On this point doubt is impossible, for the belief of the donor is set forth in numberless charters. Cedric de Guillac, in a deed to la Grande-Sauve, said that he gave because “as water extinguishes fire, so gifts extinguish sin.”[90] And an anecdote preserved by Dugdale, shows how valuable an investment against accident a convent was thought to be as late as the thirteenth century.

When Ralph, Earl of Chester, the founder of the monastery of Dieulacres, was returning by sea from the Holy Land, he was overtaken one night by a sudden tempest. “How long is it till midnight?” he asked of the sailors. They answered, “About two hours.” He said to them, “Work on till midnight, and I trust in God that you may have help, and that the storm will cease.” When it was near midnight the captain said to the earl, “My lord, commend yourself to God, for the tempest increases; we are worn out, and are in mortal peril.” Then Earl Ralph came out of his cabin, and began to help with the ropes, and the rest of the ship's tackle; nor was it long before the storm subsided.

The next day, as they were sailing over a tranquil sea, the captain said to the earl, “My lord, tell us, if you please, why you wished us to work till the middle of the night, and then you worked harder than all the rest.” To which he replied, “Because at midnight my monks, and others, whom my ancestors and I have endowed in divers places, rise and sing divine service, and then I have faith in their prayers, and I believe that God, because of their prayers and intercessions, gave me more fortitude than I had before, and made the storm cease as I predicted.”[91]

Philip Augustus, when caught in a gale in the Straits of Messina, showed equal confidence in the matins of Clairvaux, and was also rewarded for his faith by good weather towards morning.

The power of the imagination, when stimulated by the mystery which, in an age of decentralization, shrouds the operations of nature, can be measured by its effect in creating an autocratic class of miracle-workers. Between the sixth and the thirteenth centuries, about one-third of the soil of Europe passed into the hands of religious corporations, while the bulk of the highest talent of the age sought its outlet through monastic life.

The force operated on all; for, beside religious ecstasy, ambition and fear were at work, and led to results inconceivable when centralization has begot materialism. Saint Bernard's position was more conspicuous and splendid than that of any monarch of his generation, and the agony of terror which assailed the warriors was usually proportionate to the freedom with which they had violated ecclesiastical commands. They fled to the cloister for protection from the fiend, and took their wealth with them.

Gérard le Blanc was even more noted for his cruelty than for his courage. He was returning to his castle one day, after having committed a murder, when he saw the demon whom he served appear to claim him. Seized with horror, he galloped to where six penitents had just founded the convent of Afflighem, and supplicated them to receive him. The news spread, and the whole province gave thanks to God that a monster of cruelty should have been so converted.

A few days after, his example was followed by another knight, equally a murderer, who had visited the recluses, and, touched by their piety and austerity, resolved to renounce his patrimony and live a penitent.[92]

Had the German migrations been wars of extermination, as they have sometimes been described, the imagination, among the new barbaric population, might have been so stimulated that a pure theocracy would have been developed between the time of Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard. But the barbarians were not animated by hate; on the contrary, they readily amalgamated with the old population, amongst whom the materialism of Rome lay like a rock in a rising tide, sometimes submerged, but never obliterated.

The obstacle which the true emotionalists never overcame was the inheritance of a secular clergy, who, down to the eleventh century, were generally married, and in the higher grades were rather barons than prelates. In France the Archbishop of Rheims, the Bishops of Beauvais, Noyon, Langres, and others, were counts; while in Germany the Archbishops of Mayence, of Treves, and of Cologne were princes and electors, standing on the same footing as the Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria.

As feudal nobles these ecclesiastics were retainers of the king, owed feudal service, led their vassals in war, and some of the fiercest soldiers of the Middle Ages were clerks. Milo of Treves was a famous eighth-century bishop. Charles Martel gave the archbishopric of Rheims to a warrior named Milo, who managed also to obtain the see of Treves. This Milo was the son of Basinus, the last incumbent of the preferment. He was a fierce and irreligious soldier, and was finally killed hunting; but during the forty years in which he held his offices, Boniface, with all the aid of the crown and the pope, was unable to prevail against him, and in 752 Pope Zachary wrote advising that he should be left to the divine vengeance.[93]

Such a system was incompatible with the supremacy of a theocracy. The essence of a theocracy is freedom from secular control, and this craving for freedom was the dominant instinct of monasticism. Saint Anselm, perhaps the most perfect specimen of a monk, felt it in the marrow of his bones; it was the master passion of his life, and he insisted upon it with all the fire of his nature: “Nihil magis diligit Deus in hoc mundo quam libertatem ecclesiæ suæ.... Liberam vult esse Deus sponsam suam, non ancillam.”

Yet only very slowly, as the Empire disintegrated, did the theocratic idea take shape. As late as the ninth century the pope prostrated himself before Charlemagne, and did homage as to a Roman emperor.[94]

Saint Benedict founded Monte Cassino in 529, but centuries elapsed before the Benedictine order rose to power. The early convents were isolated and feeble, and much at the mercy of the laity, who invaded and debauched them. Abbots, like bishops, were often soldiers, who lived within the walls with their wives and children, their hawks, their hounds, and their men-at-arms; and it has been said that, in all France, Corbie and Fleury alone kept always something of their early discipline.

Only in the early years of the most lurid century of the Middle Ages, when decentralization culminated, and the imagination began to gain its fullest intensity, did the period of monastic consolidation open with the foundation of Cluny. In 910 William of Aquitaine drew a charter [95] which, so far as possible, provided for the complete independence of his new corporation. There was no episcopal visitation, and no interference with the election of the abbot. The monks were put directly under the protection of the pope, who was made their sole superior. John XI. confirmed this charter by his bull of 932, and authorized the affiliation of all convents who wished to share in the reform.[96]

The growth of Cluny was marvellous; by the twelfth century two thousand houses obeyed its rule, and its wealth was so great, and its buildings so vast, that in 1245 Innocent IV., the Emperor Baldwin, and Saint Louis were all lodged together within its walls, and with them all the attendant trains of prelates and nobles with their servants.

In the eleventh century no other force of equal energy existed. The monks were the most opulent, the ablest, and the best organized society in Europe, and their effect upon mankind was proportioned to their strength. They intuitively sought autocratic power, and during the centuries when nature favoured them, they passed from triumph to triumph. They first seized upon the papacy and made it self-perpetuating; they then gave battle to the laity for the possession of the secular hierarchy, which had been under temporal control since the very foundation of the Church.

About the year 1000 Rome was in chaos. The Counts of Tusculum, who had often disposed of the tiara, on the death of John XIX., bought it for Benedict IX. Benedict was then a child of ten, but he grew worse as he grew older, and finally he fell so low that he was expelled by the people. He was succeeded by Sylvester; but, a few months after his coronation, Benedict re-entered the city, and crowned John XX. with his own hands. Shortly after, he assaulted the Vatican, and then three popes reigned together in Rome. In this crisis Gregory VI. tried to restore order by buying the papacy for himself; but the transaction only added a fourth pope to the three already consecrated, and two years later he was set aside by the Emperor Henry, who appointed his own chancellor in his place.

It was a last triumph for the laity, but a triumph easier to win than to sustain. When the soldier created the high priest of Christendom, he did indeed inspire such terror that no man in the great assembly dared protest; but in nine months Clement was dead, his successor lived only twenty-four days, poisoned, as it was rumoured, by the perfidious Italians; and when Henry sought a third pope among his prelates, he met with general timidity to accept the post. Then the opportunity of the monks came: they seized it, and with unerring instinct fixed themselves upon the throne from which they have never been expelled. According to the picturesque legend, Bruno, Bishop of Toul, seduced by the flattery of courtiers and the allurements of ambition, accepted the tiara from the emperor, and set out upon his journey to Italy with a splendid retinue, and with his robe and crown. On his way he turned aside at Cluny, where Hildebrand was prior. Hildebrand, filled with the spirit of God, reproached him with having seized upon the seat of the vicar of Christ by force, and accepted the holy office from the sacrilegious hand of a layman. He exhorted Bruno to cast away his pomp, and to cross the Alps humbly as a pilgrim, assuring him that the priests and people of Rome would recognize him as their bishop, and elect him according to canonical forms. Then he would taste the joys of a pure conscience, having entered the fold of Christ as a shepherd and not as a robber. Inspired by these words, Bruno dismissed his train, and left the convent gate as a pilgrim. He walked barefoot, and when after two months of pious meditations he stood before Saint Peter's, he spoke to the people and told them it was their privilege to elect the pope, and since he had come unwillingly he would return again, were he not their choice.

He was answered with acclamations, and on February 2, 1049, he was enthroned as Leo IX. His first act was to make Hildebrand his minister.

The legend tells of the triumph of Cluny as no historical facts could do. Ten years later, in the reign of Nicholas II., the theocracy made itself self-perpetuating through the assumption of the election of the pope by the college of cardinals, and in 1073 Hildebrand, the incarnation of monasticism, was crowned under the name of Gregory VII.

With Hildebrand's election, war began. The council of Rome, held in 1075, decreed that holy orders should not be recognized where investiture had been granted by a layman, and that princes guilty of conferring investiture should be excommunicated. The council of the next year, which excommunicated the emperor, also enunciated the famous propositions of Baronius—the full expression of the theocratic idea:—

“That the Roman pontiff alone can be called universal.

“That he alone can depose or reconcile bishops.

“That his legate, though of inferior rank, takes precedence of all bishops in council, and can pronounce sentence of deposition against them.

· · · · · · · · · ·

“That all princes should kiss the pope's feet alone.

· · · · · · · · · ·

“That he may depose emperors.

· · · · · · · · · ·

“That his judgments can be overruled by none, and he alone can overrule the judgments of all.

“That he can be judged by no one.

“That the Roman Church never has, and never can err, as the Scriptures testify.

· · · · · · · · · ·

“That by his precept and permission it is lawful for subjects to accuse their princes.

· · · · · · · · · ·

“That he is able to absolve from their allegiance the subjects of the wicked.”[97]

The monks had won the papacy, but the emperor still held his secular clergy, and, at the diet of Worms, where he undertook to depose Hildebrand, he was sustained by his prelates. Without a moment of hesitation the enchanter cast his spell, and it is interesting to see, in the curse which he launched at the layman, how the head of monasticism had become identified with the spirit which he served. The priest had grown to be a god on earth.

“So strong in this confidence, for the honour and defence of your Church, on behalf of the omnipotent God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by your power and authority, I forbid the government of the German and Italian kingdoms, to King Henry, the son of the Emperor Henry, who, with unheard-of arrogance, has rebelled against your Church. I absolve all Christians from the oaths they have made, or may make to him, and I forbid that any one should obey him as king.”[98]

Henry marched on Italy, but in all European history there has been no drama more tremendous than the expiation of his sacrilege. To his soldiers the world was a vast space, peopled by those fantastic beings which are still seen on Gothic towers. These demons obeyed the monk of Rome, and his army, melting from the emperor under a nameless horror, left him helpless.

Gregory lay like a magician in the fortress of Canossa; but he had no need of carnal weapons, for when the emperor reached the Alps he was almost alone. Then his imagination also took fire, the panic seized him, and he sued for mercy.

For three days long he stood barefoot in the snow at the castle gate; and when at last he was admitted, half-naked and benumbed, he was paralyzed rather by terror than by cold. Then the great miracle was wrought, by which God was made to publicly judge between them.

Hildebrand took the consecrated wafer and broke it, saying to the suppliant, “Man's judgments are fallible, God's are infallible; if I am guilty of the crimes you charge me with, let Him strike me dead as I eat.” He ate, and gave what remained to Henry; but though for him more than life was at stake, he dared not taste the bread. From that hour his fate was sealed. He underwent his penance and received absolution; and when he had escaped from the terrible old man, he renewed the war. But the spell was over him, the horror clung to him, even his sons betrayed him, and at last his mind gave way under the strain and he abdicated. In his own words, to save his life he “sent to Mayence the crown, the sceptre, the cross, the sword, the lance.”

On August 7, 1106, Henry died at Liège, an outcast and a mendicant, and for five long years his body lay at the church door, an accursed thing which no man dared to bury.

Such was the evolution of the mediæval theocracy, the result of that social disintegration which stimulates the human imagination, and makes men cower before the unknown. The force which caused the rise of an independent priesthood was the equivalent of magic, and it was the waxing of this force through the dissolution of the Empire of the West which made the schism which split Christendom in two. The Latin Church divided from the Greek because it was the reflection of the imaginative mind. While the West grew emotional, Constantinople stayed the centre of exchanges, the seat of the monied class; and when Cluny captured Rome, the antagonism between these irreconcilable instincts precipitated a rupture. The schism dated from 1054, five years after the coronation of Leo. Nor is the theory new; it was explained by Gibbon long ago.

“The rising majesty of Rome could no longer brook the insolence of a rebel; and Michael Cerularius was excommunicated in the heart of Constantinople by the pope's legates....

“From this thunderbolt we may date the consummation of the schism. It was enlarged by each ambitious step of the Roman pontiffs; the emperors blushed and trembled at the ignominious fate of their royal brethren of Germany; and the people were scandalized by the temporal power and military life of the Latin clergy.”[99]


[69] Monnaies Byzantines, Sabatier, i. 50.
[70] History of the Byzantine Empire, Finlay, 9.
[71] Vopiscus, Tacitus, 10.
[72] Greece under the Romans, George Finlay, 214.
[73] Byzantine Empire, Finlay, 256.
[74] Byzantine Architecture, Texier, 24.
[75] Decline and Fall, ch. lii.
[76] Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, trans. from the Hebrew by Asher, 54.
[77] Monnaies Byzantines, i. 26.
[78] See treaty with Bohemund. Anna Comnena, xiii. 7.
[79] L'Art Byzantin, Bayet, 16, 17.
[80] Theb., iii. 661.
[81] Decline and Fall, ch. xx.
[82] Mark v. 28, 30.
[83] Chronicles, ii. 124.
[84] Anglican Schism, Sander, trans. by Lewis, 143.
[85] A Relation, or rather a True Account of the Island of England, Camden Soc. 30.
[86] Cal. x. No. 364. References to the calendar of State papers edited by Messrs. Brewer and Gairdner will be made by this word only.
[87] Histoire du Sacrament de l'Eucharistie, Corblet, i. 474. See also on this subject Cæsarii Dialogus Miraculorum; De Corpore Christi.
[88] Hist. Lit. de la France, xxii. 119.
[89] Les Moines d'Occident, Montalembert, vi. 34.
[90] Histoire de la Grande-Sauve, ii. 13.
[91] Monasticon, v. 628, Ed. 1846.
[92] Les Moines d'Occident, Montalembert, vi. 101.
[93] Sacerdotal Celibacy, Lea, 129.
[94] Annales Lauressenses, Perz, i. 188.
[95] Recueil des Chartes de l'Abbaye de Cluny, Bruel, i. 124.
[96] Bull. Clun., p. 2, col. 1. Also Manuel des Institutions Françaises, Luchaire, 93, 95, where the authorities are collected.
[97] Annales Ecclesiastici, Baronius, year 1076.
[98] Migne, cxlviii. 790.
[99] Decline and Fall, ch. lx.

The Suppression of the Temple

Physical weakness has always been the vulnerable point of the sacred caste, for priests have rarely been warriors, and faith has seldom been so profound as to guarantee ecclesiastics against attack. This difficulty was marked in the early Middle Ages, when, although disintegration so far prevailed as to threaten the very tradition of centralized power, a strong leaven of the ancient materialism remained.

In the ninth century the trend toward decentralization was resistless. Although several of the descendants of Charlemagne were men of ability and energy, the defence was so superior to the attack that they could not coerce their vassals, and their domains melted away into independent sovereignties until the crown became elective, and the monarchy almost a tradition. During the tenth century it seems possible that the regal authority might have been obliterated, even to the last trace, had it not been for the Church, which was in sore need of a champion. The priesthood cared nothing for the legitimate line; what they sought was a protector, and accordingly they chose, not the descendant of Charlemagne, but him who, in the words of the Archbishop of Rheims, was “distinguished by his wisdom and who found support in the greatness of his soul.” Hugh Capet succeeded Louis V. because he was the best chief of police in France.

From such an alliance, between the priest and the soldier, has always sprung the dogma of the divine right of kings. In mediæval Europe, enchantment was a chief element of the royal power. The monarch was anointed with a magic oil, girt with a sacred sword, given a supernatural banner, and endowed with the gift of miracles. His touch healed disease. In return for these gifts, he fought the battles of the Church, whose property was the natural prey of a predatory baronage. Every diocese and every abbey was embroiled in endless local wars, which lasted from generation to generation, and sometimes from century to century. A good example was the interminable feud between the Abbey of Vézelay and the Counts of Nevers, and a letter of a papal legate named Conon, which described one of the countless raids, gives an idea of the ferocity of the attack.

“The men of the Count of Nevers have burst open the doors of the cloister, have thrown stones on the reliquaries which contain the bodies of Saint Lazarus, of Saint Martha, of Saint Andocious, and of Saint Pontianus; they have not even respected the crucifix in which was preserved a morsel of the true cross, they have beaten the monks, they have driven them out with stones, and having taken one of them, they have treated him in an infamous manner.”[144]

Until the stimulus given by the crusades was felt, subinfeudation went on uninterruptedly; the Capetians were as unable to stem the current as the Carlovingians before them, so that, under Philip I., the royal domain had become almost as much dismembered as the kingdom of Lothaire a century earlier. Consolidation began after the council of Clermont, and Suger's Life of Louis the Fat  is the story of the last years of the partisan warfare between the crown and the petty nobility which had been going on since the time of Hugh Capet.

During this long period the kings had fought a losing battle, and without the material resources of the Church would have been overpowered. Even as it was they failed to hold their own, and yet the wealth of the clergy was relatively enormous. The single abbey of Saint Denis was said to have controlled ten thousand men, and though this may be an exaggeration, the corporation was organized on a gigantic scale.

Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries it held in France alone three cities, upwards of seventy-four villages, twenty-nine manors attached to these possessions, over a hundred parishes, and a great many chapels bringing in valuable rentals, beside numerous vineyards, mills and fields, with fifteen forests of the first class.[145]

Suger's description of the country at the beginning of the twelfth century is highly dramatic. Every strong position, like a hill or a forest, was a baron's hold, from whence he rode to plunder and torment the people. One of the most terrible of these robbers was Hugh du Puiset, a man whom the Abbot of Saint Denis calls a ruffian, the issue of a long line of ruffians. To the churchman, Hugh was the incarnation of evil. He oppressed the clergy, and though hated by all, few dared oppose him. At last he attacked Adèle, Countess of Chartres, daughter of William the Conqueror, who went with her son Tybalt to seek redress from the king. Louis did not relish the campaign, and the monk described how the lady taunted him with the defeat his father had suffered from the father of Hugh, who pursued him to Orléans, captured a hundred of his knights, and cast his bishops into dungeons.

Afterward, an assembly was held at Melun to consider the situation, and there a concourse of prelates, clerks, and monks “threw themselves at the king's feet and implored him, to his great embarrassment, to repress this most greedy robber Hugh, who, more rapacious than a wolf, devoured their lands.”[146]

Certainly the priests had cause for alarm, for the venerable Archbishop of Chartres, who was present, had been captured, loaded with irons, and long left to languish in prison.

Three times this baron was defeated, but even when a prisoner, his family connection was so powerful he was permitted to escape. At last he died like a wolf, fighting to the last, having impaled the Seneschal of France on his spear.

Even singly, such men were almost a match for both Church and Crown; but when joined in a league, especially if allied to one of the great feudatories, such as the Duke of Normandy, they felt sure of victory. One day, when Eudes, Count of Corbeil, was to join this very Hugh, he put aside his armour-bearer who was attending him, and said to his wife: “Pray, noble countess, bring the glittering sword to the noble count, since he who takes it from you as a count, shall to-day return it as a king.”[147]

The immediate effect of the crusades was to carry numbers of these petty princes to Palestine, where they were often killed or ruined. As their power of resistance weakened, the crown gained, and Louis the Fat reconquered the domain. His active life began in 1097, the year of the invasion of Palestine, and his absorption of the lordship of Montlhéri is a good illustration of his success.

The family of Rochefort-Montlhéri owned several of the strongest donjons near Paris, and was divided into two branches, the one represented by Guy Trousseau, Lord of Montlhéri, the other by Guy the Red, Lord of Rochefort. Guy Trousseau's father was named Milo, and all three went to Syria, where Milo was killed, and his son disgraced himself. Suger spoke of him with extreme disdain:—

“Guy Trousseau, son of Milo of Montlhéri, a restless man and a disturber of the kingdom, returned home from a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, broken down by the anxiety of a long journey and by the vexation of many troubles. And ... [being] panic stricken at Antioch at the approach of Corboran, and escaping down from a wall [he] ... abandoned the army of God and fled destitute of everything.” [148]

Returning a ruined man, he married his daughter to the illegitimate son of Philip, a half-brother of Louis, a child of twelve; and as his guardians, the king and prince got possession of the castle. This castle was almost at the gates of Paris, and a standing menace to the communications of the kingdom: therefore their delight was great. “They rejoiced as though they had taken a straw from their eyes, or as though they had burst the barrier which imprisoned them.”[149] And the old king said to his son: “Guard well the tower, Louis, which has aged me with chagrin, and through whose treachery and wicked fraud I have never known peace and quiet.”[150]

Yet the destruction of the local nobility in Syria was the least important part of the social revolution wrought by the crusades, for though the power of the barons might have thus been temporarily broken, they could never have been reduced to impotence unless wealth had grown equal to organizing an overwhelming attack. The accumulation of wealth followed the opening of the Eastern trade, and its first effect was to cause the incorporation of the communes.

Prior to 1095 but one town is known to have been chartered, Saint Quentin, the capital of Vermandois, about 1080,[151] but after the opening of the Syrian ports the whole complexion of society changed. Noyon was chartered in 1108, Laon in 1111, Amiens in 1113, and then free boroughs sprang up on every side.

For want of the mariner's compass, commerce could not pass north by the Straits of Gibraltar. Merchandise had therefore to go by land, and exchanges between the north and south of Europe centred in the County of Champagne, whose fairs became the great market of the thirteenth century.

The earliest dated document relating to these fairs is a deed drawn in 1114 by Hugh, Count of Troyes, by which he conveyed certain revenues derived from them to the Abbey of Montier-en-Der. Fifty years later, such mentions had grown frequent, and by the year 1200 the fairs had attained their full development.[152]

Weaving had been an industry in Flanders under the Romans, and in the time of Charlemagne the cloth of the Low Countries had been famous; but in the twelfth century the manufacture spread into the adjoining provinces of France, and woollen became the most valuable European export. The fleeces were brought chiefly from England, the weaving was done on the Continent, and one of the sources of the Florentine wealth was the dressing and dyeing of these fabrics to prepare them for the Asiatic market.

For mutual defence, the industrial towns of the north formed a league called the Hanse of London, because London was the seat of the chief counting-house. This league at first included only seventeen cities, with Ypres and Bruges at the head, but the association afterward increased to fifty or sixty, stretching as far west as Le Mans, as far south as the Burgundian frontier, and as far east as Liège. Exclusive of the royal domain, which was well consolidated under Philip Augustus, the French portion of this region substantially comprised the counties of Blois, Vermandois, Anjou, Champagne, and the Duchy of Normandy. This district, which has ever since formed the core of France, became centralized at Paris between the beginning of the reign of Philip Augustus in 1180 and the reign of Philip the Fair a century later, and there can be little doubt that this centralization was the effect of the accumulation of capital, which created a permanent police.

The merchants of all the cities of the league bound themselves to trade exclusively at the fairs of Champagne, and, to prosper, the first obstacle they had to overcome was the difficulty and cost of transportation. Not only were the roads unsafe, because of the strength of the castles in which the predatory nobility lived, but the multiplicity of jurisdictions added to taxes. As late as the end of the thirteenth century, a convention was made between fifteen of the more important Italian cities, such as Florence, Genoa, Venice, and Milan, and Otho of Burgundy, by which, in consideration of protection upon the roads, tolls were to be paid at Gevry, Dôle, Augerans, Salins, Chalamont, and Pontarlier. When six imposts were levied for crossing a single duchy, the cost of importing the cheaper goods must have been prohibitory.

The Italian caravans reached Champagne ordinarily by two routes: one by some Alpine pass to Geneva, and then through Burgundy; the other by water to Marseilles or Aigues-Mortes, up the Rhone to Lyons, and north, substantially as before. The towns of Provins, Troyes, Bar-sur-Aube, and Lagny-sur-Marne lie about midway between Bruges and Ypres on the one side, and Lyons and Geneva on the other, and it was at these cities that exchanges centralized, until the introduction of the mariner's compass caused traffic to go by the ocean, and made Antwerp the monied metropolis.

The market was, in reality, open continuously, for six fairs were held, each six weeks long, and the trade was so lucrative that places which, in 1100, had been petty villages, in 1200 had wealth enough to build those magnificent cathedrals which are still wonders of the world.

The communal movement had nothing about it necessarily either liberal or democratic. The incorporated borough was merely an instrument of trade, and at a certain moment became practically independent, because for a short period traders organized locally, before they could amalgamate into centralized communities with a revenue sufficient to pay a police capable of coercing individuals.

What the merchant wanted was protection for trade, and, provided he had it, the form in which it came was immaterial. Where the feudal government was strong, communes did not exist: Paris never had a charter. Conversely, where the government was weak, communes grew up, because traders combined for mutual protection, and therefore the communes reached perfection in ecclesiastical capitals.

As a whole, the secular nobility rather favoured the incorporated towns, because they could sell to them their services as policemen, and could join with them in plundering the Church;[153] on their side the tradesmen were always ready to commute personal military service into a tax, and thus both sides benefited. To the Church, on the contrary, the rise of the mercantile class was pure loss, not only because it caused their vassals to seek better protection than ecclesiastics could give, but because the propagation of the materialistic mind bred heresy. The clergy had no police to sell, and the townsmen had, therefore, either to do the work themselves or hire a secular noble. In the one case they became substantially independent; in the other they transferred their allegiance to a stranger. In any event, a new fief was carved out of an ecclesiastical lordship, and such accessions steadily built up the royal domain.

From the outset, the sacred class seems to have been conscious of its danger, and some of the most ferocious wars of the Middle Ages were those waged upon ecclesiastical serfs who tried to organize for self-defence. In one of his books Luchaire has told, at length, the story of the massacre of the peasantry of the Laonnais by a soldier whom the chapter of Laon elected bishop for the purpose,[154] and this was but a single case out of hundreds. Hardly a bishop or an abbot lived at peace with his vassals, and, as the clergy were the natural prey of the secular nobility, the barons often sided with the populace, and used the burghers as an excuse for private war. A speech made by one of the Counts of Nevers, during a rising of the inhabitants of Vézelay, gives a good idea of the intrigues which kept the prelates in perpetual misery.

“O very illustrious men, celebrated for great wisdom, valiant by your strength and rich by the riches you have acquired by your own merit, I am deeply afflicted at the miserable condition to which you are reduced. Apparently the possessors of much, in reality you are masters of nothing; and more than this, you do not enjoy any portion of your natural liberty.... If I think on these things I am greatly astonished, and ask myself what has become of, or rather to what depth of cowardice has fallen within you, that vigour formerly so renowned, when you put to death your Lord, the abbot Artaud.”

The count then dwelt upon the harshness of the living abbot, and ended thus:—

“Separate from this man, and bind yourselves to me by a mutual agreement: if you consent, I engage myself to free you from all exactions, from all illegal rentals, and to defend you from the evils which are ready to fall upon you.”[155]

Wherever developed, the mercantile mind had always the same characteristic: it was unimaginative, and, being unimaginative, it doubted the utility of magic. Accordingly, all commercial communities have rebelled against paying for miracles, and it was the spread of a scepticism already well developed in the thirteenth century among the manufacturing towns, which caused the Reformation of the sixteenth. At Saint-Riquier the monks carried the relics of Saint Vigor each year in procession. In 1264 the burghers took a dead cat and put it in a shrine, while in another casket they placed a horse-bone, to do service as the arm of Saint Vigor. When the procession reached a certain spot, the reliquaries were set down, and a mock fight began between two mummers. Then the bearers cried out, “Old Saint Riquier, you shall go no further unless you reconcile these enemies,” whereupon the combatants fell into each other's arms, and all cried out that Saint Riquier had wrought a miracle.

Afterward they built a chapel and oratory, with an altar draped with cloth of gold, and deposited the dead cat and the horse-bone; and simple pilgrims, ignorant of the sacrilege, stopped to worship the relics, the mayor and council aiding and abetting the crime, “to the detriment of the whole Church universal.”[156]

The clergy retaliated with frightful ferocity. As heresy followed in the wake of trade, the Inquisition followed in the wake of heresy, and the beginning of the thirteenth century witnessed simultaneously the prosperity of the mercantile class and the organization of the Holy Office.

Jacques de Vitry breathed the ecclesiastical spirit. One of the most famous preachers of his age, he rose from a simple monk to be Cardinal-bishop of Tusculum, legate in France, and Patriarch of Jerusalem. He led a crusade against the Albigenses, was present at the siege of Damietta, and died at Rome in 1240. His sermons burn with his hatred of the bourgeoisie: “That detestable race of men ... hurrying to meet its fate, which none or few could escape,” all of whom “were making haste toward hell.... But above all other evils of these Babylonish cities, there is one which is the worst, for hardly is there a community to be found in which there are not abettors, receivers, defenders of, or believers in, heretics.”[157]

The basis of the secular society of the early Middle Ages was individual physical force. Every layman, noble or serf, owed military service, and when a borough was incorporated, it took its place in the feudal hierarchy, like any other vassal. With the spread of the mercantile type, however, a change began—the transmutation of physical force into money—and this process went on until individual strength or courage ceased to have importance.

As soldiers the burgesses never excelled; citizen troops have seldom been formidable, and those of the communes rarely withstood the first onset of the enemy. The tradesmen themselves recognized their own limitations, and in 1317 the deputies of the cities met at Paris and requested the government to undertake the administration of the local militia.

Though unwarlike, the townsmen were wealthy, and, in the reign of Philip Augustus, the same cause which led to the consolidation of the kingdom, brought about, as Luchaire has pointed out, “a radical modification of the military and financial organization of the monarchy;” the substitution by the privileged corporations of money payments for personal service.[158]

Thus, from the time when the economic type had multiplied sufficiently to hire a police, the strength of the State came to depend on its revenue, and financiers grew to be the controlling element of civilization. Before the crusades, the high offices of the kingdom of France, such as the office of the seneschal, were not only held by nobles, but tended to become hereditary in certain warlike families. After the rise of the Eastern trade the royal council was captured by the bourgeoisie. Jacques Cœur is a striking specimen of the class which ruled in the fifteenth century. Of this class the lawyers were the spokesmen, and men like Flotte and Nogaret, the chancellors of Philip the Fair, expressed the notion of centralization as perfectly as the jurists of ancient Rome. No one has understood the movement better than Luchaire. He has pointed out, in his work on French institutions, that from the beginning of the reign of Saint Louis (1226) the Privy Council steadily gained in consequence.[159] The permanent civil service, of which it was the core, served as a school for judges, clerks, seneschals, and all judicial and executive officers. At first the administration retained a strong clerical tinge, probably because a generation elapsed before laymen could be equally well trained for the work, but after the accession of Philip the Fair, toward the end of the century, the laymen decisively predominated, and when they predominated, the plunder of the Church began.

Abstract justice is, of course, impossible. Law is merely the expression of the will of the strongest for the time being, and therefore laws have no fixity, but shift from generation to generation. When the imagination is vivid and police weak, emotional or ecclesiastical law prevails. As competition sharpens, and the movement of society accelerates, religious ritual is supplanted by civil codes for the enforcement of contracts and the protection of the creditor class.

The more society consolidates the more legislation is controlled by the wealthy, and at length the representatives of the monied class acquire that absolute power once wielded by the Roman proconsul, and now exercised by the modern magistrate.

“The two great figures of Saint Louis and of Philip the Fair which dominate the third period are profoundly unlike, but considering the facts as a whole ... [they] have but moderately influenced the direction of the communal development. With the bailiffs and Parliament the monarchical machine is in possession of its essential works; it operates and will stop no more. In vain the king shall essay to arrest its march, or to direct it in another course: the innumerable army of agents of the crown does not cease for a moment to destroy rival jurisdictions, to suppress embarrassing powers, to replace everywhere private jurisdictions by the single authority of the sovereign.

“To the infinite diversity of local liberties its will is to substitute regularity of institutions; political and administrative centralization.”[160]

As Luchaire has elsewhere observed, the current everywhere “substituted, in the paths of administration, justice, and finance, the lay and burgher for the ecclesiastical and noble element.” In other words, the economic type steadily gained ground, and the process went on until the Revolution. Saint Simon never forgave Louis XIV. for surrounding himself with men of mean birth, dependent on his will.

“The Duke of Beauvilliers was the single example in the whole course of his reign, as has been remarked in speaking of this duke, the only nobleman who was admitted into his council between the death of Cardinal Mazarin and his own; that is to say, during fifty-four years.”[161]

From the middle of the twelfth to the middle of the thirteenth century was an interval of almost unparalleled commercial prosperity—a prosperity which is sufficiently proved by the sumptuous quality of the architecture of the time. Unquestionably the most magnificent buildings of modern Europe date from this period, and this prosperity was not limited to any country, but extended from Cairo to London. Such an expansion of trade would have been impossible without a corresponding expansion of the currency, and as no new mines were discovered, recourse was had to paper. By the year 1200 bills of exchange had been introduced,[162] and in order to give the bill of exchange its greatest circulating power, a system of banking was created which operated as a universal clearing house, and by means of which these bills were balanced against each other.

In the thirteenth century, Florence, Genoa, and Venice were the chief monied centres. In these cities the purchase and sale of commercial paper was, at the outset, monopolized by a body of money-changers, who, in Venice at least, seem to have been controlled by the council of merchants, and who probably were not always in the best credit. At all events, they were required in 1318 to make a deposit of £3,000 as security for their customers, and afterward the amount was increased.[163] Possibly some such system of deposits may have originally formed the capital of the Bank of Venice, but everything relating to the organization of the mediæval banks is obscure. All that seems certain is, that business was conducted by establishments of this character long before the date of any records which now remain. Amidst the multiplicity of mediæval jurisdictions, not only did the currency become involved in inextricable confusion, but it generally was debased through abrasion and clipping. Before clearings could be conveniently made, therefore, a coinage of recognized value had to be provided, and this the banks undertook to supply by their system of deposits. They received coin fresh from the mints, for which they gave credits, and these credits or notes were negotiable, and were always to be bought in the market. The deposits themselves were seldom withdrawn, as they bore a premium over common currency, which they lost when put in circulation, and they were accordingly only transferred on the books of the corporations, to correspond with the sales of the notes which represented them. Thus merchants from all parts of Europe and the Levant could draw on Venice or Genoa, and have their balances settled by transfers of deposits at the banks, without the intervention of coin. A calculation has been made that, by this means, the effective power of the currency was multiplied tenfold. Of all these institutions, the corporations of Genoa and Venice were the most famous. The Bank of Saint George, at Genoa, was formally organized in 1407, but it undoubtedly had conducted business from the beginning of the twelfth century;[164] next to nothing is known of the development at Venice. Probably, however, Florence was more purely a monied centre than either Venice or Genoa, and no money-lenders of the Middle Ages ever equalled the great Florentine banking families. Most of the important commercial centres came to have institutions of the kind.

The introduction of credit had the same effect as a large addition to the stock of bullion, and, as gold and silver grew more plentiful, their relative value fell, and a general reform of the currency took place. Venice began the movement with the grosso, it spread through Italy and into France, and the coin of Saint Louis was long considered as perfect money.

With the expansion of the currency went a rise in prices, all producers grew rich, and, for more than two generations, the strain of competition was so relaxed that the different classes of the population preyed upon each other less savagely than they are wont to do in less happy times.

Meanwhile no considerable additions were made to the volume of the precious metals, and, as the bulk of commerce swelled, the capacity of the new system of credit became exhausted, and contraction set in. The first symptom of disorder seems to have been a rise in the purchasing power of both the precious metals, but particularly of gold, which rose in its ratio to silver from about one to nine and a half, to one to twelve.[165] At the same time the value of commodities, even when measured in silver, appears to have fallen sharply.[166] The consequence of this fall was a corresponding addition to the burden of debt, and a very general insolvency. The communes had been large borrowers, and their straits were deplorable. Luchaire has described their condition as shown “in the municipal accounts addressed by the communes to the government.”[167] Everywhere there was a deficit, almost everywhere ruin. Amiens, Soissons, Roye, Saint Quentin, and Rouen were all in difficulty with their loans, but Noyon was perhaps the worst of all. In 1278 Noyon owed 16,000 pounds which it was unable to pay. After a suspension for fourteen years the king issued an ordinance regulating liquidation; a part of the claims had to be cancelled, and the balance collected by a levy on private property. The bankruptcy was complete.

The royal government, equally hardly pressed, was unable to meet its obligations in the standard coin, and resorted to debasement. Under Saint Louis the mark of silver yielded but 2 pounds 15 sous 6 pence; in 1306 the same weight of metal was cut into 8 pounds 10 sous. The pressure upon the population was terrible, and led to terrible results—the beginning of the spoliation of the emotionalists.

Perhaps the combination of the two great forces of the age, of the soldier and the monk, was the supreme effort of the emotional mind. What a hold the dazzling dream of omnipotence, through the possession of the Sepulchre, had upon the twelfth century, can be measured by the gifts showered upon the crusading orders, for they represented a prodigious sacrifice.

At Paris the Temple had a capital city over against the capital of the king. Within a walled enclosure of sixty thousand square metres, stood the conventual buildings and a gigantic donjon of such perfect masonry that it never needed other repairs than the patching of its roof. Beyond the walls the domain extended to the Seine, a property which, even in 1300, had an almost incalculable value.

On every Eastern battle-field, and at every assault and siege, the knights had fought with that fiery courage which has made their name a proverb down to the present day. In 1265, at Safed, three hundred had been butchered upon the ramparts in cold blood, rather than renounce their faith. At Acre, whose loss sealed the fate of Palestine, they held the keep at all odds until the donjon fell, burying Christians and Moslems in a common grave. But skill and valour avail nothing against nature. Step by step the Templars had been driven back, until Tortosa surrendered in 1291. Then the Holy Land was closed, the enthusiasm which had generated the order had passed away, and, meanwhile, economic competition had bred a new race at home, to which monks were a predestined prey.

In 1285, as the Latin kingdom in Syria was tottering towards its fall, Philip the Fair was crowned. Subtle, sceptical, treacherous, and cruel, few kings have left behind them a more sombre memory, yet he was the incarnation of the economic spirit in its conflict with the Church. Nine years later Benedetto Gaetani was elected pope: a man as completely the creation of the social revolution of the thirteenth century as Philip himself. Trained at Bologna and Paris, a jurist rather than a priest, his faith in dogma was so scanty that his belief in the immortality of the soul has been questioned. A thorough worldling, greedy, ambitious, and unscrupulous, he was suspected of having murdered his predecessor, Celestin V.

When Boniface came to the throne, the Church is supposed to have owned about one-third of the soil of Europe, and on this property the governments had no means of enforcing regular taxation. Toward the close of the thirteenth century the fall of prices increased the weight of debt, while it diminished the power of the population to pay. On the other hand, as the system of administration became more complex, the cost of government augmented, and at last the burden became more than the laity could endure. Both England and France had a permanent deficit, and Edward and Philip alike turned toward the clergy as the only source of supply. Both kings met with opposition, but the explosion came in France, where Clairvaux, the most intractable of convents, appealed to Rome.

Boniface had been elected by a coalition between the Colonna and the Orsini factions, but after his coronation he turned upon the Colonnas, who, in revenge, plundered his treasure. A struggle followed, which ended fatally to the pope; but at first he had the advantage, sacked their city of Præneste, and forced them to fly to France. On the brink of this war, Boniface was in no condition to rouse so dangerous an adversary as Philip, and, in answer to Clairvaux's appeal, he confined himself to excommunicating the prince who should tax the priest and the priest who should pay the impost.

Nevertheless, the issue had to be met. The Church had weakened as terror of the unknown had waned, and could no longer defend its wealth, which was destined to pass more and more completely into the hands of the laity.

Philip continued his aggressions, and, when peace had been established in Italy, the rupture came. Not realizing his impotence, and exasperated at the royal policy, Boniface sent Bernard de Saisset, Bishop of Pamiers, to Paris as his ambassador. Bernard had recently been consecrated in defiance of Philip, and they were bitter enemies. He was soon dismissed from court, but he continued his provocations, calling the king a false coiner and a blockhead, and when he returned to Pamiers he plotted an insurrection. He was arrested and prosecuted by the Chancellor Flotte, but when delivered to the Archbishop of Narbonne for degradation, action was suspended to await the sanction of Rome. Then Flotte was sent to Italy to demand the surrender “of the child of perdition,” that Philip might make of him “an excellent sacrifice to God.” The mission necessarily failed, for it was a struggle for supremacy, and the issue was well summed up in the final words of the stormy interview which brought it to a close. “My power, the spiritual power,” cried Boniface, “embraces and encloses the temporal.” “True,” retorted Flotte, “but yours is verbal, the king's is real.”

An ecclesiastical council was convoked for October, 1302, and Philip was summoned to appear before the greatest prelates of Christendom. But, not waiting the meeting of this august assembly, Boniface, on December 5, 1301, launched his famous bull, “Ausculta, fili,” which was his declaration of war.[168]

Listen, my son: do not persuade yourself that you have no superior, and are not in subjection to the head of the ecclesiastical hierarchy: he who says this is mad, he who sustains it is an infidel. You devour the revenues of the vacant bishoprics, you pillage churches. I do not speak now of the alterations in the coinage, and of the other complaints which arise on all sides, and which cry to us against you, but not to make myself accountable to God for your soul, I summon you to appear before me, and in case of your refusal shall render judgment in your absence.[169]

A century before, the barons of France had abandoned Philip Augustus, through fear of the incantations of Innocent, but, in the third generation of the commercial type, such fears had been discarded. In April, 1302, the estates of the realm sustained the “little one-eyed heretic,” as Boniface called Flotte, in burning the papal bull, and in answering the admonitions of the pope with mockery.

“Philip, by the grace of God king of the French, to Boniface, who calls himself sovereign pontiff, little greeting or none. Let your very great foolishness know that we are subject to no one for the temporalty; that the collation to the vacant churches and prebends belongs to us by royal right; that their fruits are ours; that collations which have been made, or are to be made by us, are valid for the past and for the future, and that we will manfully protect their possessors against all comers. Those who think otherwise we hold fools or madmen.”[170]

The accepted theory long was that the bourgeoisie were neutral in this quarrel; that they were an insignificant factor in the state, and obeyed passively because they were without the power to oppose. In reality, consolidation had already gone so far that money had become the prevailing form of force in the kingdom of France; therefore the monied class was on the whole the strongest class, and Flotte was their mouthpiece. They accepted the papers drawn by the chancellor, because the chancellor was their representative.[171]

In July, 1302, Philip met with the defeat of Courtray, and the tone of the ecclesiastical council, convened in October, shows that the clergy thought his power broken. A priest relies upon the miracle, and, if defied, he must either conquer by supernatural aid, or submit to secular coercion. Boniface boldly faced the issue, and planted himself by Hildebrand. In his bull, Unam Sanctam, he defined his claim to the implicit obedience of laymen.

“We are provided, under his authority, with two swords, the temporal and the spiritual; ... both, therefore, are in the power of the Church; to wit, the spiritual and the material sword: ... the one is to be used by the priest, the other by kings and soldiers; sed ad nutum et patientiam sacerdotis.”[172]

A sentence of excommunication had also been prepared and sent to France, which was to have been followed by deposition; but when it arrived, Philip convened an assembly of prelates and barons at the Louvre, and presented an indictment against Boniface, probably without a parallel in modern history. The pope was accused of every crime. He was an infidel, a denier of the immortality of the soul, a scoffer at the eucharist, a murderer, and a sorcerer. He was guilty of unnatural crimes and of robbery.[173]

The bearer of the bull was arrested, the property of the bishops who had attended the council sequestered, and Philip prepared to seize Boniface in his own palace. Boniface, too, felt the decisive hour at hand. He tried to reconcile himself with his enemies, drew the bull of deposition, and prepared to affix it to the church door at Anagni on September 8, 1303. Before the day came he was a prisoner, and face to face with death.

Flotte had been killed at Courtray, and had been succeeded by the redoubtable Nogaret, whose grandfather was believed to have been burned as a heretic. With Nogaret Philip joined Sciarra Colonna, the bloodiest of the Italian nobles, and sent them together to Italy to deal with his foe. Boniface had made war upon the Colonnas, and Sciarra had been hunted like a wild beast. Flying disguised, he had been taken by pirates, and had preferred to toil four years as a galley-slave, rather than run the risk of ecclesiastical mercy by surrendering himself to the vicar of Christ. At last Philip heard of his misfortunes, bought him, and, at the crisis, let him slip like a mad dog at the old man's throat. Nogaret and Colonna succeeded in corrupting the governor of Anagni, and entered the town at dead of night; but the pope's nephews had time to barricade the streets, and it was not until the church, which communicated with the papal apartments, had been fired, that the palace was forced. There, it was said, they found the proud old priest sitting upon his throne, with his crown upon his head, and men whispered that, as he sat there, Colonna struck him in the face with his gauntlet.

Probably the story was false, but it reflected truly enough the spirit of the pope's captors. He himself believed them capable of poisoning him, for from Saturday night till Monday morning he lay without food or drink, and when liberated was exhausted. Boniface was eighty-six, and the shock killed him. He was taken to Rome, and died there of fever, according to the rumour, blaspheming, and gnawing his hands in frenzy.[174]

The death of Boniface was decisive. Benedict XI., who succeeded him, did not attempt to prolong the contest; but peace without surrender was impossible. The economic classes held the emotionalists by the throat, and strangled them till they disgorged.

Vainly Benedict revoked the acts of his predecessor. Philip demanded that Boniface should be branded as a heretic, and sent Nogaret to Rome as his ambassador. The insult was more than the priesthood could yet endure. Summoning his courage, Benedict excommunicated Nogaret, Colonna, and thirteen others, whom he had seen break into the palace at Anagni. Within a month he was dead. Poison was whispered, and, for the first time since the monks captured the papacy, the hierarchy was paralyzed by fear. No complaint was made, or pursuit of the criminal attempted; the consistory met, but failed to unite on a successor.

According to the legend, when the cardinals were unable to agree, the faction opposed to Philip consented to name three candidates, from whom the king should select the pope. The prelate he chose was Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux. Boniface had been his patron, but Philip, who knew men, knew that this man had his price. The tale goes that the king visited the bishop at an abbey near Saint-Jean-d'Angély, and began the conversation as follows: “My lord Archbishop, I have that in my hand will make you pope if I like, and it is for that I am come.” Bertrand fell on his knees, and the king imposed five conditions, reserving a sixth, to exact thereafter. The last condition was the condemnation of the Templars.[175]

Doubtless the picturesque old tale is as false in detail as it is true in spirit. Probably no such interview took place, and yet there seems little doubt that Clement owed his election to Philip, and gave pledges which bound him from the day of his coronation. Certainly he surrendered all liberty of action, for he established himself at Avignon, whence the battlements of Ville-Neuve can still be seen, built by Philip to overawe the town. Within an hour he could have filled the streets with his mercenaries. The victory was complete. The Church was prostrate, and spoliation began.

Clement was crowned in 1305, and after two years of slavery he began to find his compact heavy upon him. He yielded up the patronage, he consented to the taxation of the clergy, and he ordered the grand-masters of the crusading orders to return to Europe, all at Philip's bidding. But when he was commanded to condemn Boniface as a heretic, he recoiled in terror. Indeed, to have rejected Boniface as an impostor, and a false pope, would have precipitated chaos. His bishops and cardinals would have been set aside, Clement's own election would have been invalidated; none could foresee where the disorganization would end. To gain time, Clement pleaded for a general council, which the king morosely conceded, but only on the condition that the excommunications against his agents, even against Nogaret, should be withdrawn. Clement assented, for he was practically a prisoner at Poitiers, a council at Vienne was agreed to, and the Crown seized the Templars without opposition from the Church.

Criticism has long ago dispelled the mystery which once shrouded this bloody process. No historian now suggests that the knights were really guilty of the fantastic enormities charged against them, and which they confessed under torture. Scepticism doubtless was rife among them, as it was among the cardinals, but there is nothing to show that the worst differed materially from the population about them, and the superb fortitude with which they perished, demonstrates that lack of religious enthusiasm was not the crime for which they died.

When Philip conceived the idea of first murdering and then plundering the crusaders, is uncertain. Some have thought it was in 1306, while sheltered in the Temple, when, he having suddenly raised his debased money to the standard of Saint Louis, the mob destroyed the house of his master of the mint. Probably it was much earlier, and was but the necessary result of the sharpening of economic competition, which began with the accelerated movement accompanying the crusades.

After Clement's election, several years elapsed before the scheme ripened. Nothing could be done until one or both of the grand-masters had been enticed to France with their treasure. Under pretence of preparing for a new crusade this was finally accomplished, and, in 1306, Jacques de Molay, a chivalrous Burgundian gentleman, journeyed unsuspectingly to Paris, taking with him his chief officers and one hundred and fifty thousand florins in gold, beside silver “enough to load ten mules.”

Philip first borrowed all the money de Molay would lend, and then, at one sudden swoop, arrested in a single night all the Templars in France. On October 13, 1307, the seizure was made, and Philip's organization was so perfect, and his agents so reliable, that the plan was executed with precision.

The object of the government was plunder, but before the goods of the order could be confiscated, legal conviction of some crime was necessary, which would entail forfeiture. Heresy was the only accusation adapted to the purpose; accordingly Philip determined to convict the knights of heresy, and the best evidence was confession. To extort confession the Inquisition had to be set in motion by the pope, and thus it came to pass that, in order to convey to the laymen the property of ecclesiastics, Christ's soldiers were tormented to death by his own vicar.

In vain, in the midst of the work, Clement, in agonies of remorse, revoked the commissions of the inquisitors. Philip jeered when the cardinals delivered the message, saying “that God hated the lukewarm,” and the torture went on as before. When he had extorted what he needed, he set out for Poitiers; Clement fled, but was arrested and brought back a prisoner. Then his resolution gave way, and he abandoned the knights to their fate, reserving only the grand-master and a few high officials for himself. Still, though he forsook the individuals, he could not be terrified into condemning the order in its corporate capacity, and the final process was referred to the approaching council. Meanwhile, a commission, presided over by the Archbishop of Narbonne, proceeded with the trial of the knights.

For three years these miserable wretches languished in their dungeons, and the imagination recoils from picturing their torments. Finally Philip felt that an end must be made, and in March, 1310, 546 of the survivors were taken from their prisons and made to choose delegates, for their exasperation was so deep that the government feared to let them appear before the court in a body.

The precaution availed little, for the knights who conducted the common defence proved themselves as proud and bold in this last extremity of human misery, as they had ever been upon the day of battle. They denied the charges brought against them, they taunted their judges with the lies told them to induce them to confess, and they showed how life and liberty had been promised them, under the royal seal, if they would admit the allegations of the government. Then they told the story of those who had been steadfast to the end.

“It is not astonishing that some have borne false witness, but that any have told the truth, considering the sorrows and suffering, the threats and insults, they daily endure.... What is surprising is that faith should be given to those who have testified untruly to save their bodies, rather than to those who have died in their tortures in such numbers, like martyrs of Christ, in defence of the truth, or who solely for conscience sake, have suffered and still daily suffer in their prisons, so many torments, trials, calamities, and miseries, for this cause.”[176]

The witnesses called confirmed their statements. Bernard Peleti, when examined, was asked if he had been put to the torture. He replied that for three months previous to his confession to the Bishop of Paris, he had lain with his hands so tightly bound behind his back that the blood started from his finger nails. He had beside been put in a pit. Then he broke out: “If I am tortured I shall deny all I have said now, and shall say all they want me to say. If the time be short, I can bear to be beheaded, or to die by boiling water, or by fire, for the honour of the order; but I can no longer withstand the torments which, for more than two years, I have endured in prison.”[177]

“I have been tortured three times,” said Humbert de Podio. “I was confined thirty-six weeks in a tower, on bread and water, quia non confitebatur quae volebant.”[178] Bernard de Vado showed two bones which had dropped from his heels after roasting his feet.[179]

Such testimony was disregarded, for condemnation was necessary as a preliminary to confiscation. The suppression of the Temple was the first step in that long spoliation of the Church which has continued to the present day, and which has been agonizing to the victims in proportion to their power of resistance. The fourteenth century was still an age of faith, and the monks died hard. Philip grasped the situation with the intuition of genius, and provided himself with an instrument fit for the task before him. He forced Clement to raise Philip de Marigni to the See of Sens, and Marigni was a man who shrank from nothing.

When made archbishop, he convoked a provincial council at Paris, and condemned, as relapsed heretics, the knights who had repudiated their confessions. Fifty-nine of these knights belonged to his own diocese. He had them brought to a fenced enclosure in a field near the Abbey of Saint Antoine, and there offered them pardon if they would recant. Then they were chained to stakes, and slowly burned to ashes from the feet upward. Not one flinched, but amidst shrieks of anguish, when half consumed, they protested their innocence, and died imploring mercy of Christ and of the Virgin.[180]

Devotion so superb might have fired the imagination of even such a craven as Clement, but Philip was equal to the emergency. He had caused scores of witnesses to be examined to prove that Boniface was a murderer, a sorcerer, a debauchee, and a heretic. Suddenly he offered to drop the prosecution, and to restore the Temple lands to the Church, if the order might be abolished and the process closed. Clement yielded. In October, 1311, the council met at Vienne. The winter was spent in intimidation and bribery; the second meeting was not held until the following April, and then the decree of suppression was published. By this decree the corporation was dissolved, but certain of the higher officers still lived, and in an evil moment Clement bethought him of their fate. In December, 1313, he appointed a commission to try them. They were brought before a lofty scaffold at the portal of the Cathedral of Paris, and there made to reiterate the avowals which had been wrung from them in their dungeons. Then they were sentenced to perpetual imprisonment. But at this supreme moment, when it seemed that all was over, de Molay, the grand-master, and the Master of Normandy, broke into a furious defence. The commissioners adjourned in a panic, but Philip, thirsting for blood, sprang upon his prey.

He gave his orders to his own officers, without consulting any prelate. On March 18, 1314, as night fell, the two crusaders were taken from the provost, who acted as their gaoler, and carried to a little island in the Seine, on which a statue of Henry of Navarre now stands. There they were burned together, without a trial and without a sentence. They watched the building of their funeral pile with “hearts so firm and resolute, and persisted with such constancy in their denials to the end, and suffered death with such composure, that they left the witnesses of their execution in admiration and stupor.”[181]

An ancient legend told how de Molay, as he stood upon his blazing fagots, summoned Clement to meet him before God's judgment-seat in forty days, and Philip within a year. Neither survived the interval. Philip had promised to restore the goods of the Temple to the Church, but the plunder, for which this tremendous deed was done, was not surrendered tamely to the vanquished after their defeat. The gold and silver, and all that could be stolen, disappeared. The land was in the end ceded to the Hospital, but so wasted that, for a century, no revenue whatever accrued from what had been one of the finest conventual estates in Europe.[182]

Such was the opening of that social revolution which, when it reached its height, was called the Reformation.


[144] Bibl. de l'École des Chartes, 3d series, ii. 353.
[145] Histoire del'Abbaye de Saint Denis, D'Ayzac, i. 361–9.
[146] Vie de Louis le Gros, Suger, ed. Molinier, 61, 62.
[147] Vie de Louis le Gros, Suger, ed. Molinier, 70.
[148] Ibid., 18.
[149] Suger, ed. Molinier, 18.
[150] Ibid.
[151] Études sur les origines de la commune de Saint Quentin, Giry, 9.
[152] See Études sur les Faires de Champagne, Bourquelot, 72, 74; and generally on this subject.
[153] Les Communes Françaises, Luchaire, 221–225.
[154] Les Communes Françaises, Luchaire, 85.
[155] Les Communes Françaises, Luchaire, 233–234.
[156] Les Communes Françaises, Luchaire, 260.
[157] Documents sur les Relations de la Royauté avec les Villes de France, Giry, 59, 61.
[158] Les Communes Françaises, Luchaire, 189.
[159] Manuel des Institutions Françaises, Luchaire, 535.
[160] Les Communes Françaises, Luchaire, 283.
[161] Mémoires du Duc de Saint-Simon, ed. 1874, xii. 19.
[162] Le Commerce de Marseille au Moyen Age, Blancard, 3.
[163] La Libertà delle Banche a Venezia, Lattes, 26.
[164] Les Grandes Compagnies de Commerce, Bonnassieux, 23.
[165] La Rapport entre l'or et l'argent au Temps de Saint Louis, Marchéville, 22, 33.
[166] Ibid., 42.
[167] Les Communes Françaises, 200, 201.
[168] The documents relating to the controversy are printed in the Histoire du Differend, Dupuy.
[169] Dupuy, 48.
[170] Ibid., 44.
[171] See letters of Beauvais and Laon, of 1303, Documents, Giry, 160.
[172] Dupuy, 55.
[173] Dupuy, 351. Articles presented June, 1303.
[174] See Cronica di Villani, viii. 63.
[175] Cronica di Villani, viii. 80. Also Ann. Eccl., Baronius, year 1305.
[176] Documents Inédits sur l'Histoire de France, Procès des Templiers, Michelet, i. 166.
[177] Procès des Templiers, Michelet, i. 37.
[178] Ibid., 264.
[179] Ibid., 75.
[180] Cronica di Villani, viii. 92.
[181] Continuatio Chronici Guilelmi de Nangiaco, mcccxiii.
[182] La Maison du Temple, Curzon, 200, 204.