« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
LYING CHURCH HISTORIANS.
ABSTRACTEDLY from all the influences which we have sustained in common with the rest of the civilized commonwealth, our British disparagement of the Middle Ages has been exceedingly enhanced by our grizzled ecclesiastical or church historians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These “standard works,” accepted and received as Canonical Books, have tainted the nobility of our national mind. An adequate parallel to their bitterness, their shabbiness, their shirking, their habitual disregard of honor and veracity, is hardly afforded even by the so-called “AntiJacobin” during the revolutionary and Imperial wars. The history of Napoleon, his Generals, and the French nation, collected from these exaggerations of selfish loyalty, rabid aversion, and panic terror, would be the match of our popular and prevailing ideas concerning Hildebrand, or Anselm, or Becket, or Innocent III., or mediæval Catholicity in general, grounded upon our ancestral traditionary “Standard ecclesiastical authorities,” such
as Burnet’s Reformation, or Fox's Book of Martyrs.
The scheme and intent of mediæval Catholicity was to render Faith the all-actuating and all-controlling vitality. So far as the system extended, it had the effect of connecting every social element with Christianity. And Christianity being thus wrought up into the mediæval system, every mediaeval institution, character, or
character, or mode of thought afforded the means or vehicle for the vilification of Christianity. Never do these writers, or their school, whether in France or in Great Britain, Voltaire or Mably, Hume, Robertson, or Henry, treat the Clergy or the Church with fairness; not even with common honesty. If histori- . cal notoriety enforces the allowance of any merit to a Priest, the effect of this extorted acknowledgment is destroyed by a clever insinuation, or a coarse innuendo. Consult, for example, Hume when compelled to notice the Archbishop Hubert's exertions in procuring the concession of the Magna Charta ; and Henry, narrating the communications which passed between Gregory the Great and Saint Austin.
SIR FRANCIS PALGRAVE, History of Normandy and England.
THE STUDIOUS MONKS OF THE MIDDLE
MONACHISM in art, taken in a large sense, is historically interesting, as the expression of a most important era of human culture. We are outliving the gross prejudices which once represented the life of the cloister as being from first to last a life of laziness and imposture; we know that, but for the monks, the light of liberty, and literature and science had been forever extinguished ; and for six centuries there existed for the thoughtful, the gentle, the inquiring, the devout spirit, no peace, no security, no home but the cloister. There, learning trimmed her lamp; there, contemplation plumed her wings; there, the traditions of art preserved from age to age by lonely, studious men, kept alive in form and color the idea of a beauty beyond that of earth-of a might beyond that of the spear and the shield-of a divine sympathy with suffering humanity. To this we may add another and a stronger claim to our respect and moral sympathies. The protection and the better education given to women in these early communities; the venerable and distinguished rank assigned to them, when as governesses of their order, they became in a manner dignitaries of the Church; the introduction of their beautiful and saintly effigies, clothed with all the insignia of sanctity and authority into the decoration of places of worship and books of devotion, did more, perhaps, for the general cause of womanhood than all the boasted institutions of chivalry.
THE GREAT CATHOLIC ITALIAN
DURING the gloomy and disastrous centuries which followed the downfall of the Roman Empire, Italy had preserved, in a far greater extent than any other part of Western Europe, the traces of ancient civilization. The night which descended upon her was the night of an Arctic summer—the dawn began to reappear before the last reflection of the preceding sunset had faded from the horizon. It was in the time of the French Merovingians, and of the Saxon Heptarchy, that ignorance and ferocity seem to have done their worst. Yet even then the Neapolitan provinces, recognizing the authority of the Eastern Empire, preserved something of Eastern knowledge and refinement. Rome, protected by the sacred character of its Pontiffs, enjoyed at least comparative security and repose. Even in those regions where the sanguinary Lombards had fixed their monarchy, there was incomparably more of wealth, of information, of physical comfort, and of social