Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

before us, he wielded over the minds of his subjects the most absolute and extended sway; and that he, more than any other master-spirit of the centuries we have examined, may be looked upon as the representative of his age; so that whatever results, whether for good or for evil, priestly intercourse produced in him, may be said to have been transferred, in bolder and more enduring lineaments, to the nations which owned his commands.

If, instead of continuing our survey of the general moral action of the clergy through the century of turmoil and gloom with which our appointed cycle closes, and endeavouring to discover in that universally corrupt age anything beyond the mere shadow of former glory and the yet powerful influence of old tradition, we turn to the records of monasticism, we shall find much that is characteristic in its progress and in its influence on the literature and arts of Europe, not only during the more prosperous age of Charlemagne but even during the melancholy period which witnessed the fall of his Empire. We have already investigated the consequences on the monastic establishments throughout Europe, more especially in our own island, of the reformed Benedictine Rule. We have seen a change take place in the system, which raised the religious houses from being nurseries of indolence and false humanity to no mean position in effecting the moral and intellectual improvement of mankind. But at a time when the polluting influences of the world without were so numerous, when a higher prize was open to clerical ambition than any preceding age had presented to it, we can scarcely be surprised if the consequences of the changes we have mentioned disappeared along with the pristine vigor of secular society. The very superiority attained by the monks above their brethren was in a measure the cause of their moral debasement; for the desire universally felt by the prelates at the first rise of a purer monasticism to maintain their sway over so important an instrument of religious influence led to a prolonged contest between the regular and secular clergy, which, although it appeared to be terminated by a peaceable fusion of the two conflicting orders, had nevertheless introduced a worldly spirit into the cloisters, which all the exertions of succeeding disciplinarians failed permanently to remove. In the frequent struggles which took place between the bishops and the monks, when the former claimed an authority always unprecedented and often tyrannical in the extreme, the latter were reduced to desert the retirement of the sacred walls, in order to enter a less congenial field, and appeal to the royal authority for that protection which could come from no other quarter1; so that the barriers which had so long separated them from the world were broken down, and secular passions usurped the place of religious fervor and theologic erudition. The rapacity and sacri

1 See, for instance, the account of the struggle between the monastery of S. Gallen and the bishops of Constance, finally decided by the intervention of Lewis, in Ratpert's Casus S. Galli (ap. Pertz. ii. 63—69).

legious violence which, if we may believe Roman Catholic historians, sit so heavy on the soul of Charles Martel, and which surrendered once flourishing religious houses to the pleasures of barbarian owners, may convince us that their inmates had lost all the moral grandeur which had so long rendered them secure against all perils from the world without. The reforms enunciated by the decrees of Charlemagne were during his life carried out with all the vigor of his energetic administration, but it was reserved for the efforts of an ecclesiastical enthusiast finally to establish monasticism in the form which it maintained without any great variation during the middle ages.

As the tendency which led originally to monastic organization is represented by Benedict of Monte Cassino, so that which conduced to its reorganization comes before us in the person of Benedict of Anianum. The position of this remarkable man relatively to the institutions which preceded and succeeded him in France so strongly resembles that of his illustrious namesake, that, among his countrymen at least, he may dispute with him the patriarchal honors. But in one important respect his fame must ever fall far short of that of his great prototype, that, whereas the latter supplied a want universally felt, and legislated for the entire Western world, the former was confined in his influence to France alone, for the religious houses of that country had long been sunk far below those of all neighbouring lands. The power displayed by the monasteries and schools of England*, and which became only too fatally apparent under the intriguing guidance of Dunstan1, was very different from the inanition of similar bodies in France under the later Carlovingians2. And Italy, we are assured, retained some share at least of its early intellectual supremacy.

* See Ingulph's description of Croyland Abbey, quoted by Maitland, Dark Ages, p. 304.

1 The Historia Ingulphi (Gale, Rer. Angl. Scr. i. 38—50) describes at some length the means taken (in 974) to strengthen and then improve Croyland by the Abbot Turketul, who had been Chancellor to Athelstan, Edmund the Elder, and Edred: "Confirmato itaque Monasterio suo et contra omnes adversarios tam pontificali quam regali auctoritate sufficienter suffulto et fortissimo effecto, venerabilis pater Abbas noster Turketulus jam senior etate plenusque dierum deinceps in seculum non exibat; sed inter seniores Monasterii quotidie conversatus de statu et observantiis antiqui Monasterii inquirere et audire summopere affectabat." Some of these elders, "quatenus suis posteris tam memoranda de monumentis veteris monasterii quam de regularibus observantiis ejus studiose contraderent, instantissima vigilantia deprecatus est. Ediderunt tunc ill! seniores historiam illam," &c. "Quo etiam tempore venerabilis pater noster Abbas Turketulus, antiquis observantiis veteris monasterii Croylandensis plenius auditis examinatis et integre intellects, statuit et decrevit subsequentia in suo Croylandensi monasterio perpetuis temporibus inviolabiliter ab omnibus observanda." Then follows an account of his reforms. "Hac sanctissima statuta sua...Turketulus, in suo capitulo publico promulgata et ab omnibus acclamata et obedientissime acceptata, fecit scribi et in fine regulse sancti Benedict! jussit apponi, ut omnes cum vellent valerent legem suam legere et ne contingeret aliquem per ignorantiam contraire."

2 The subsequent corruption of monasticism in England is thus attested by the Anglo-Saxon Institutes of Polity, Civil and Ecclesiastical (c. xiv. ap. Thorpe, Anc. Laws, p. 431): "It is truly an evil, as may be supposed, that some [monks] are too arrogant, To these causes must be referred the fact that the reforms of the Second Benedict, however great they might appear to his contemporaries among his own countrymen, have never raised him to any distinction approaching to that which posterity has conferred on the former of his order. And yet it cannot be denied that to his activity and earnestness must 'be attributed that impetus received by the religious principle in France which subsequently developed itself in accordance with the opinions of the age in the formation of the great houses of Clugni and Citeaux. His efforts were not confined merely to the organization of individual establishments, for he lent his advice and name to the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, held under Louis le Debonnaire in the year 817, the decrees

and altogether too proud, and too widely erratic, and too useless, and altogether too idle in every good deed, and with regard to an evil deed in secret profligacy, inwardly heartless and outwardly indignant. And some are apostates, who ought, if they would, to be God's soldiers within their minsters; such are those who have cast off their flocks, and who continue in worldly affairs with sins. It alas goeth ill altogether too widely. So greatly doth it widely become worse among men, that those men in orders, who through fear of God were whilom the most useful and most laborious in divine ministry and in bookcraft, are now almost everywhere the most useless, and never labour strenuously on anything needful before God or before the world; but do all for lust and for ease, and love gluttony and vain pleasure, stroll and wander, and all day trifle and talk and jest, and do nothing useful. That is a hateful life that they so lead; it is also the worse, that the superiors do not amend it, nor some conduct themselves so well as they should; but it is our duty to amend it, as we most diligently may, and to be unanimous for the common need, before God and before the world."

« AnteriorContinuar »