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minds the principles of generosity and honor. These were strengthened by everything that can affect the senses or touch the heart. The wild exploits of those romantic knights who sallied forth in quest of adventures are well known. The political and permanent effects of the spirit of chivalry have been less observed. Perhaps the humanity which accompanies all the operations of war, the refinements of gallantry, and the point of honor—the three chief circumstances which distinguish modern from ancient manners—may be ascribed in a great measure to this institution, which has appeared whimsical to superficial observers, but by its effects has proved of great benefit to mankind. The sentiments which chivalry inspired had a wonderful influence on manners and conduct during the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. They were so deeply rooted, that they continued to operate after the vigor and reputation of the institution itself began to decline.
WILLIAM ROBERTSON, History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V.
THE SACRED STRUCTURES OF THE
As we advance into the Middle Ages, we observe the Christian idea unfolding itself in art of imposing majesty and of exceeding beauty. First, , naturally in architecture. The architecture which ultimately prevailed in the sacred buildings of Western Europe was that which we call the Gothic. I enter into no discussion on its name, its origin, its varieties, and its transitions. The distinctive spirit which pervades all its forms, is what we have to consider. That, I would say, was the spirit of mystery and of aspiration. A Gothic cathedral seemed an epitome of creation. In its vastness it was a sacramental image of the universe; in its diversity it resembled nature, and in its unity it suggested God. But it suggested man too. It was the work of man's hands, shaping the solemn visions of his soul into embodied adoration. It was, therefore, the grandest symbol of union be tween the divine and human which imagination ever conceived, which art ever moulded ; and it was 3*
in being symbolic of such union, that it had its Christian peculiarity. The mould of its structure was a perpetual commemoration of Christ's sufferings, and a sublime publication of His glory. Its ground plan in the figure of a cross was emblematic of Calvary. Its pinnacles, which tapered through the clouds and vanished into light, pointed to those heavens to which the Crucified had ascended. Here is the mystery of death and sorrow. And that mystery is intensified in the sufferings of Christ; hence is the aspiration of life and hope, as it is exalted in the victory of Christ.
In yet other ways mystery and aspiration are suggested in the sacred structures of Gothic architecture. I particularly refer to structures of ancient and majestic greatness. The mere bulk of one of those seems at the same time to overpower the mind, and yet lift it up to heaven. The mere personal presence of a human being seems lost in its mighty space; but while the body is dwarfed, the soul is magnified. As we look and wonder, the thought ever comes that man it was who conceived, consolidated, upreared those monuments of immensity; and the spirit of his immortal being seems to throb in every stone. Here, then, is the
, mystery of man in his lowliness and his grandeur, in his dust and dignity, touching earth and heaven-feeble as an insect, and mighty as an angel. Again, if we look through a vast cathedral in its many and dim-lit passages, our sight “in wandering mazes lost,” finds no end and no beginning. Then does the thought occur to us, that, if we can not with the eye take in the windings of a church, how infinitely less can we with the mind discover all the ways of God. And while the cathedral gives us in one aspect a sense of sacred mystery, in another it gives us an impression of the boundless. Its awful spaces of naves and aisles carry our thoughts away into the amplitude of God's dominion. Its bold and lofty arches lift them up to the battlements of His throne. Was it not the soul, reaching to its sublimest strivings, which placed turret above tower and spire above turret, until the cross, over all, seemed to melt away into immortal light? I love with the strength of early love the sacred structures of the Middle Ages. Ireland, the country of my birth and of my youth, is covered with the ruins of olden sanctuaries, and in their sombre silence many an hour of my early life was passed. The rustic parish church, the pontifical cathedral, though all unroofed, were even in their desolation lovely; and more days than I can now remember they were my lonely shelter from the sun of summer noontide. Then, in such visions as under the spells of hoary Time the young imagination dreams, I have built these
ruins up again-flung out the sound of matin