« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. 11. the signs of a growing jealousy of each other's influence and
reputation, and their rivalry before long broke out into open Description warfare. The Benedictine historian does not fail to turn to Paris of the account so grave a scandal and descants thereon with welltween the two affected consternation : And as though,' he says, 'no part
of the horizon might appear unvisited by storms,” (he is writing of the year 1243) 'a controversy now arose between the brothers Minor and the Preachers, which excited the astonishment of not a few, inasmuch as these orders appeared to have chosen the path of perfection,-to wit, that of poverty and patience. For while the Preachers asserted that, as the older order, they were the more worthy, that they were more decent in their apparel, had worthily merited their name and office by their preaching, and were more truly distinguished by the apostolic dignity; the brothers Minor replied, that they had embraced in God's service a yet more ascetic and humble life, and one which as of greater humility was of greater worth, and that brethren both might and ought freely to pass over from the Preachers to themselves, as from an inferior order to one more austere and of higher dignity. This the Preachers flatly denied, affirming that though the brothers Minor went barefoot, coarsely clad (viriliter tunicati) and girded with a rope, the permission to eat flesh and even yet more luxurious diet, and that too in public, was not refused to them,-a thing forbidden in their own order : so far therefore from the Preachers being called upon to enter the order of the brothers Minor, as one more austere and worthy than their own, the direct contrary was to be maintained. Therefore between these two bodies, as between the Templars and Hospitallers in the Holy Land, the enemy of the human race having sown his tares, a great and scandalous strife arose; one too, all the more fraught with peril to the entire Church inasmuch as it was between men of learning and scholars (viri literati et scholares) and seemed to forbode some great judgement imminent. It is a terrible, an awful presage, that in three or four hundred years or more, the monastic orders have not so hurried to degeneracy, as have these new orders, who, within less than four-and-twenty
years, have reared in England mansions as lofty as the palaces of CHAP. II. Kings. These are now they who, enlarging day by day their sumptuous edifices and lofty walls, display their countless wealth, transgressing without shame, even as the German Hildegard foretold, the limits of the poverty that forms the basis of their profession; who, impelled by the love of gain, force themselves upon the great and wealthy in the hour of death, to the wrong and contempt of the ordinary priests, so that they may seize upon emoluments, extort confessions and secret wills, extolling themselves and their order above all the rest. Insomuch that none of the faithful now believe that they can secure salvation unless guided by the counsels of the Preachers and the Minorites. Eager in the pursuit of privileges they are found acting as counsellors in the palaces of Kings and nobles, as chamberlains, treasurers, bridesmen, or notaries of marriages (nuptiarum præloquutores), and as instruments of papal extortion. In their preaching they are now flatterers, now censurers of most biting tongue, now revealers of confessions, now reckless accusers. As for the legitimate orders whom the holy fathers instituted, to wit those of St. Benedict and St. Augustine, on these they pour contempt while they magnify their own fraternity above all. The Cistercians they regard as rude and simple, half laics or rather rustics; the Black Monks as proud Epicureans?'
It was not long before this arrogance brought about an Contentions open trial of strength between the old and the new orders. Mendicants Among the wealthiest religious houses throughout the country orders. was the monastery at the ancient town of Bury St. Edmund's; originally a society of canons, it had, for reasons which we can only surmise, and contrary to the tradition of the Danish monarchs, been converted by Cnut into a Benedictine foundation, and its revenues had been largely augmented by successive benefactors. In defiance of the prohibitions of the abbat, and backed by some influential laymen, the Franciscans endeavoured in the year 1258 to establish them- The Francisselves at Bury. A struggle ensued which lasted for five years. . The friars erected buildings, which the monks de
1 Wats, p. 612. MS. Cott. Nero. D.V. fol. 324 a.
and the old
cans at Bury.
CHAP. II. molished. The dispute was carried by the latter to Rome,
but their efforts in that direction proved of but small avail while Alexander IV filled the papal chair. In the year 1261 that pontiff died, and his successor Urban iv issued a mandate requiring the Franciscans to quit the town; they succeeded in avoiding actual expulsion by an unconditional submission to the authority of the abbat; but not before their protracted resistance to the jurisdiction of a foundation of such acknowledged dignity and antiquity, had, according to Matthew Paris, 'greatly scandalised the world".'
In other quarters, where they managed to enlist on their side the sympathies of the laity, the new comers proved too powerful for their antagonists. In 1259 the Dominicans
established themselves at Dunstable, to the no small injury The Domini- of the priory in that town”. In the year 1276 the same Canterbury. order at Canterbury, acting in conjunction with the towns
people, nearly succeeded in driving the monks of Christchurch from the city, aud Kilwardby, the archbishop, with difficulty allayed the strife. But a policy thus aggressive could not long be popular, and it would seem that even during the
lifetime of Grosseteste the enthusiasm which first greeted Subserviency the Mendicants had begun to ebb. Foremost among the
causes of this change must be placed the fact that they consented to subserve the purposes of papal. extortion. It was in the year 1249 that two messengers belonging to the Franciscan order arrived in England, armed with authority from Innocent iv to extort whatever money they could from the different dioceses, for the use of their lord the Pope.' The king, the historian tells us, was conciliated by their humble demeanour, the missives they presented, and their bland address. He gave them permission to proceed on
of the new orders to Papal extortion.
· Matthew Paris, ed. Wats, pp. 967 -8, and 970; Register Werketone, Harleian MS, 638; Dugdale, Monasticon, in 106.
9 Qui de die in diem ædificantes, collatis sibi a quamplurimis locis cir. cumjacentibus de quibus Prior et conventus redditus debent percipere, in magnum ejusdem domus detrimen. tum, in brevi satagunt ampliare. Et
quantum ipsi in ædificiis et spatiis latioribus augmentantur, tanto Prior et conventus in bonis suis et juribus angustiantur; quia redditus quos a messuagiis fratribus collatis receperant, sibi nunc pereunt; et oblationes, quæ eis dari consueverant, fratres jam noviter venientes, prædicationibus suis urgentibus, funditus usurpant,' Matthew Paris, p. 986.
their errand, stipulating only that they should ask for money CHAP. II. as a free offering and resort to no intimidation. They accordingly set forth on their mission; they were richly attired, booted and spurred, mounted on noble palfreys, their saddles ornamented with gold. In such guise they presented them- Toerentes selves to Grosseteste at Lincoln. He had been a warm supporter of their order, having even at one time intended Grosseteste. to enrol himself among their number, won by their devotion, earnestness and missionary zeal. It must accordingly have been a sad disenchantment for the good bishop, and his heart must have sunk within him, as he looked on the two messengers and listened to their demands. Of what avail were his efforts on behalf of church reform, his stern dealings with the degenerate Benedictines, when those in whom his hopes centered were thus falling away from their profession? Their demand was the sum of six thousand marks, an exorbitant amount even though levied through the length and breadth of his wide bishopric. It would be equally impossible and dishonorable, he declared, to pay it; nor would he even entertain their application until he had consulted the rulers of the state. Disconcerted and repulsed they remounted their horses and rode away. It was not however the only time that the Mendicants appeared before him on such an errand; on his death-bed he lamented the manner in which they had lent themselves to the extortionate policy of Rome, though he still strove to believe that they were only its unwilling accomplices. But such charitable views could not long be shared by the world at large. The virtues of the Mendicants, it soon became apparent, were not destined to be more enduring than those of the Cistercians or the Camuldules; as the morning cloud and as the early dew that quickly goeth away, so passed the fair promise of the followers of St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi.
It would perhaps be unjust not to recognise the fact, that the Mendicants lay under a special disadvantage in that they encountered to a far greater extent than any preceding order the hostility of the older societies. Their system of propagandism, again, directly clashed with the functions of the
generacy of the new orders.
CHAP. II. parochial clergy. Everywhere the parish priest found his Rapid de authority contemned, his sphere of action invaded, his mode
of life censured and decried, by their unscrupulous zeal. For a time, by talents of an essentially popular order, they managed to retain their hold on the affections of the common people, among whom indeed their example of mendicity proved at one time so attractive that it is almost surprising that all England did not turn able-bodied beggars. But with the fourteenth century their character and popularity rapidly declined, and even before the close of the thirteenth, it had become manifest that the new movement which had enlisted the warm sympathies of the most pious of monarchs, the most sagacious of popes, and the most highminded of English ecclesiastics, was destined, like so many other
efforts commencing in reform, to terminate only in yet deeper Testimony of degeneracy. Consideremus religiosos, says Roger Bacon, Spread out writing in the year 1271, himself a Franciscan friar, nullum the religious ordinem excludo. Videamus quantum ceciderunt singuli a
statu debito, et novi ordines jam horribiliter labefacti sunt a pristina dignitate. Totus clerus vacat superbiæ, luxuriæ, et avaritiæ'; and, recalling the enormous vices which had recently rendered the university of Paris a scandal to Europe, he solemnly declares, homo deditus peccatis non potest proficere in sapientia? The literature of England during the Middle Ages, says Hallam, consisted mainly of 'artillery directed against the clergy,' and of this artillery the Mendicants undoubtedly bore the brunt. Whether we turn to the homely satire of the Vision of Piers the Ploughman, the composition of a Londoner of the middle class, or to the masterly delineations of the different phases of contemporary society by Chaucer, the courtier and man of the world, —or to the indignant invectives of Wyclif, foremost among the schoolmen of his time,—we equally discern the inheritance of hatred and contempt which followed upon the apostasy of
orders in his day.
1 Comp. Studii Philosophiæ, c. 1. This treatise, written in 1271, must be carefully distinguished from the Compendium Studii Theologia et per
Consequens Philosophiæ, written in 1292.
2 Ibid. c. 6.