A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages.
By Henry Charles Lea - 1888
Chapter VI: The Mendicant Orders
Material for Reform within the Church
In the struggle which the Church was making to regain its forfeited hold upon the veneration of Christendom its most efficient instrument was not force. It is true that the dignitaries at its head relied solely on persecution, and by skilful use of popular superstition and princely ambition they succeeded in crushing the open revolt which threatened its supremacy. Something more was required to render that success permanent by arousing anew the trust and confidence of the people, and that something could not be supplied by a worldly and ambitious prelacy.
Far down in the ranks of the Church, however, were men with truer insight and nobler aspirations, who saw its fatal omissions and who sought in their humble spheres to do the work which lay immediately around them. They builded better than they knew, and to them rather than to the Innocents and the de Montforts did the hierarchy owe the restoration of the tottering edifice. The response which they met showed how deep was the popular longing for a church which should in some degree fitly reflect the precepts of its Founder.
It is not to be supposed that the corruption of the ecclesiastical body was allowed to pass unnoticed and unreproved by the pious among the orthodox, and that occasional efforts at reform were not made by those who would have shrunk with horror from open opposition or even secret dissidence. The free speaking of St. Bernard, Geroch of Reichersberg, and Peter Cantor show how deeply the offences of priest and prelate were felt and how sharply they were criticised. The self-imposed mission of Peter Waldo was an effort to evangelize the Church, which in its inception had no thought of antagonizing the existing order, and was forced into schism by the obstinacy of the disciples in recurring to Scripture, and the natural dread which conservatism feels of all enthusiasm that may become dangerous. As the twelfth century drew to an end there appeared another apostle whose brief career for a space seemed to give assurance that both clergy and people might be aroused to a practical sense of the changes requisite to enable the Church to fulfil its bright promises to mankind.
Foulques de Neuilly
Foulques de Neuilly was an obscure priest, with little education or training and with profound contempt for the dialectics of the schools, but whose conviction of the sins of Church and people led him to abandon the cure of souls for the more arduous duties of a missionary. Moved by his enthusiasm, Peter Cantor procured for him from Innocent III. a license to preach, but at first his success was disheartening. He had not discovered the secret of reaching the hearts of his hearers, but the experience gained by earnest work acquired it for him, and his legend explains it in the customary shape of a special revelation from God, accompanied with the gift of working miracles.
He caused, it is said, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the crippled to walk, but he selected his subjects and ofttimes refused to work cures, telling the applicant that his time had not yet come, and that health would but give him fresh opportunity to sin. Though popularly known as "le sainct homme," he was no ascetic, and at a time when maceration was popularly deemed an indispensable accompaniment of holiness, it was remarked with wonder that he would eat thankfully whatever was set before him, and that he was not observant of vigils. Yet he was irascible, and was wont to give over to Satan those who refused to listen to him, when it was observed that they would shortly perish through the divine vengeance. Thousands of sinners flocked to hear him and were converted to repentance, though few of them persevered in the path of righteousness, and he was so successful in reclaiming women of evil life who became nuns that the Convent of St. Antoine in Paris was founded to receive them. Many Cathari, also, were won over by him to the faith, and it was through his exertions that Terric, the heresiarch of the Nivernois, was discovered in his cave at Corbigny and was burned.
He was especially severe on the licentiousness of the clergy, and at Lisieux he so angered them with his invectives that they seized and threw him in a dungeon and loaded him with chains, when his miraculous powers stood him in good stead and he walked forth without difficulty. The same thing occurred at Caen, when the officials of Richard of England imprisoned him, thinking to gratify their master, who was supposed to be offended by the preacher's plain speaking.
Foulques warned him to marry off his three daughters lest worse should befall him; and when the king retorted that Foulques was a hypocrite who knew that he had no daughters, the monitor rejoined that the first daughter was pride, the second avarice, and the third lust. Richard, however, was too keen-witted to be overcome in a war of words; he assembled his court, and solemnly repeating what Foulques had said, added,
"My pride I give to the Templars, my avarice to the Cistercians, and my lust to the prelates in general."
Foulques suffered somewhat in public estimation from the backsliding of Pierre de Roissi, whom he had taken as an associate, and who in preaching poverty amassed wealth and obtained a canonry at Chartres, where he rose to be chancellor. Yet he might have accomplished much had not Innocent III., who thought more of the recovery of the Holy Land than of the spiritual awakening of souls, sent him, in 1198, an urgent request to preach the crusade. Into this work Foulques threw himself with all his enthusiasm. It was owing to his eloquence that Baldwin of Flanders and other magnates undertook the crusade; he is said with his own hand to have imposed the cross upon two hundred thousand pilgrims, taking the poor by preference, as he deemed the rich unworthy of it, and the Latin Empire of Constantinople, which was the outcome of the crusade, was his work.
Scandal said that of the immense sum which he raised he kept a portion, but this may be safely set to the account of malice; certain it is that never was money more joyfully received by the struggling Christians in Palestine than the large remittances from him which enabled them to rebuild the walls of Tyre and Ptolemais, recently overthrown by an earthquake. As the crusade was about to set out, which he proposed to accompany, he died at Neuilly, in May, 1202, leaving whatever he possessed to the pilgrims. Had his life been lengthened and had he not been diverted from his true career, he might possibly have accomplished permanent results.
Wholly different from Foulques was DurÃ¡n de Huesca the Catalan. Despite the persecuting edicts of Alonso and Pedro, the Waldensian heresy had taken deep root in Aragon. DurÃ¡n was one of its leaders, who took part in the disputation held at Pamiers about 1207 between the Waldenses and the Bishops of Osma, Toulouse, and Conserans, in the presence of the Count of Foix. It is probable that Dominic also took part in it, and as the two men had so much in common, one is tempted to believe that to Dominic's eloquence was due the conversion of DurÃ¡n, which was the only substantial result of the colloquy. DurÃ¡n was too earnest a man to remain satisfied with assuring his own salvation, and sought thenceforth to win over other erring souls.
He not only wrote various tracts against his recent heresy, but he conceived the idea of founding an order which should serve as a model of poverty and self-abnegation, and be devoted to preaching and missionary work, thus fighting the heretics with the very weapons which they had found so efficacious in obtaining converts from the wealthy and worldly Church.
Filled with this inspiration, he labored among his brethren and brought many of them over to his way of thinking, from Spain to Italy. In Milan a hundred of them agreed to return to the Church if a building erected by them for a school, which the archbishop had torn down, were restored to them. DurÃ¡n, with three companions, presented himself before Innocent, who was satisfied with his profession of faith and approved of his plan.
Most of the associates were clerks, who had already given away all their possessions in charity. Renouncing the world, they proposed to live in the strictest chastity, to sleep on boards, except in case of sickness, praying seven times a day and observing specified fasts in addition to those prescribed by the Church. Absolute poverty was to be enforced; no thought was to be taken of the morrow, all gifts of gold and silver were to be refused, and only the necessaries of food and clothing were to be accepted. A habit of white or gray was adopted, with sandals to distinguish them from the Waldenses. Those of them who were learned and fit for the work were to devote themselves to preaching to the faithful and converting the heretic, pledging themselves not to attack the vices of the clergy. Laymen unable to serve in this capacity were to live in houses and labor with their hands, giving due tithes, oblations, and first-fruits to the Church. The care of the poor, moreover, was to be a special duty, and a rich layman in the diocese of Elne proposed to build for them a hospital with fifty beds, to erect a church, and to distribute garments to the naked. They were to elect their own superior, but were to be in no wise exempt from the regular jurisdiction of the prelates.
In this institution of the "Pauperes Catholici," or Poor Catholics--as they called themselves in contradistinction to the "Pauperes de Lugduno" or Waldenses--there lay the possibilities of all that Dominic and Francis afterwards conceived and executed. It was the origin, or at least the precursor, of the great Mendicant Orders, the germ of the great fructifying idea which accomplished results so marvellous; and while it is not likely that Francis in Italy borrowed his conception from DurÃ¡n, it is more than probable that Dominic in France, where he must have been familiar with the movement, was led by the plan of the Poor Catholics to that of the Preaching Friars, which was so closely modelled on it. Yet though at the start DurÃ¡n had apparently far better prospects of success than either Dominic or Francis, his project was foredoomed from the beginning.
Already in 1209 he had communities planted in Aragon, Narbonne, BÃ©ziers, Usez, Carcassonne, and NÃ®mes, but the prelates of Languedoc were universally suspicious of the project and secretly or actively hostile. Cavils were raised as to the reconciliation of converted heretics; complaints were made that the conversions were feigned and that the converts were lacking in respect for the Church and its observances. The crusade was on foot; it seemed easier to crush than to persuade, and in the tumultuous passions of that fierce time the humble methods of DurÃ¡n and his brethren were laughed to scorn. In vain he appealed to Innocent. In vain Innocent, who viewed the project with the intuition of a Christian statesman, assured him of the papal protection, and wrote again and again to the prelates commanding them to favor the Poor Catholics, reminding them that wandering sheep were to be welcomed back to the fold, that souls were to be won by gentleness and mercy, and commanding them not to insist on trifles.
In vain he even conceded to DurÃ¡n that secular members of his society should not be required to join in war against Christians, or to take oaths in secular matters, in so far as was compatible with justice and with the rights of their suzerains. The passions and the prejudices which he had unchained in Languedoc had grown beyond his control, and the Poor Catholics disappeared in the tumult. After 1212 we hear little more of them. We find Gregory IX., in 1237, ordering the Dominican Provincial of Tarragona to reform them and let them select one of the approved Rules under which to live. A mandate of Innocent IV., in 1247, to the Archbishop of Narbonne and Bishop of Elne to restrain them from preaching shows that when they attempted to perform the function for which the order had been established they were promptly silenced. It was left to other hands to develop the enormous possibilities of the scheme which DurÃ¡n had devised.
Far different were the results achieved by Domingo de Guzman, whom the Latin Church reverences as the greatest and most successful of its champions.
"Della fede Christiana santo atleta,
Benigno a' suoi, et a' nemici crudo--
--E negli sterpi eretici percosse
L'impeto suo piÃ¹ vivamente quivi
Dove le resistenze eran piÃ¹ grosse."
Born at Calaruega, in Old Castile, in 1170, of a stock which his brethren love to connect with the royal house, his saintliness was so penetrating that it reflected back upon his mother, who is reverenced as St. Juana de Aga, and at one time there was danger that even his father might be drawn into the saintly circle. Both parents were buried in the convent of San Pedro de Gumiel, until, about 1320, the Infante Juan Manuel of Castile obtained the body of Juana to enrich the Dominican convent of San Pablo de PeÃ±afiel which he had founded; when Fray Geronymo Orozco, the Abbot of Gumiel, prudently transferred the remains of Don Felix de Guzman to an unknown spot in order to preserve it from an extension of acquisitive veneration. Even the font of white stone, fashioned like a shell, in which Dominic was baptized could not escape. In 1605 Philip III. transported it with much pomp from Calaruega to Valladolid. Thence it was translated to the royal Convent of San Domingo in Madrid, where it has since been used for the baptism of the royal children.
Ten years of training in the University of Palencia made of Dominic an accomplished theologian and equipped him thoroughly for the missionary work to which his life was devoted. Entering the Chapter of Osma, he was speedily made sub-prior, and in this capacity we have seen him accompany his bishop, who from 1203 onward for some years was employed on missions that carried him through Languedoc. Dominic's biographers relate that his career was determined by an incident in this first voyage, when he chanced to lodge in the house of a heretic of Toulouse and spent the night in converting him.
This success, and the sight of the wide extent of heresy, led him to devote his life to its extirpation. When in 1206 Bishop Diego dismissed his retinue and remained to evangelize the land, Dominic alone was retained; when Diego returned to Spain to die, Dominic remained behind and continued to make Languedoc the scene of his activity.
The legend which has grown around Dominic represents him as one of the chief causes of the overthrow of the Albigensian heresies. Doubtless he did all that an earnest and single-hearted man could do in a cause to which he had surrendered himself, but historically his influence was imperceptible. The monk of Vaux-Cernay alludes to him but once, as a follower of Bishop Diego, and the epithet there applied to him of "vir totius sanctitatis" is but one of the customary meaningless civilities of the day. That he was one of the preachers licensed by the legates under the authority granted by Innocent, in 1207, is shown by an absolution issued by him which has chanced to be preserved, in which he styles himself canon of Osma and "prÃ¦dicator minimus;" but his subordinate position is indicated by the absolution being subject to the pleasure of Legate Arnaud, from whom his authority was derived. This and a dispensation to a burgher of Toulouse to lodge a heretic in his house are the only extant evidences of his activity as a missionary. Yet already his talent for organization had been shown by his founding the Monastery of Prouille. One of the most efficient means by which the heretics propagated their belief was by establishments in which poor girls of gentle blood could obtain gratuitous education. To meet them on their own ground, Dominic, about 1206, conceived the idea of a similar foundation for Catholics, and with the aid of Bishop Foulques of Toulouse he carried it out. Prouille became a large and wealthy convent, which boasted of being the germ of the great Dominican Order.
For the next eight years the life of Dominic is a blank. That he labored strenuously in his self-imposed mission we cannot doubt, gaining, if not souls, at least skill in disputation, knowledge of men, and the force which comes from the concentration of energies on a task of conscience; but of results there is not a trace in the wild tumult of the crusades. We may safely dismiss as a fable the tradition that he refused successively the bishoprics of BÃ©ziers, Conserans, and Comminges, and the legends of the miracles which he wrought in vain among hard-hearted Cathari.
He emerges again to view after the battle of Muret had destroyed the hopes of Count Raymond, when the cause of orthodoxy seemed triumphant and the field was unobstructed for conversions. In 1214 he was in his forty-fifth year, in the full strength of mature manhood, yet having thus far accomplished nothing that gave promise of what was to follow. Divested of their supernatural adornments, the accounts which we have of him show him to us as a man of earnest, resolute purpose, deep and unalterable convictions, full of burning zeal for the propagation of the faith, yet kindly in heart, cheerful in temper, and winning in manner. It is significant of the impression produced on his contemporaries that with scarce an exception the miracles related of him are beneficent ones--raising the dead, healing the sick and converting heretics, not by punishment, but by showing that he spoke by command of the Almighty. The accounts of his habitual austerities may be exaggerated, but no one who is familiar with the self-inflicted macerations of the hagiology need hesitate to believe that Dominic was as severe with himself as with his fellows, even though we may not place faith in the legend that his constant falling out of bed when an infant was caused by an early ascetic development which led him to prefer mortifying the flesh on a hard floor to the luxury of a soft couch.
His endless scourgings, his tireless vigils, and, when exhausted nature could bear them no longer, his short repose on a board, or in the corner of a church where he had passed the night, his almost uninterrupted prayer, his superhuman fasts, are probably only harmless exaggerations of the truth. So, too, may be the legends which tell of his boundless charity and his love for his fellows; how, when a student, in a time of dearth he sold all his books to relieve the distress around him, and would, unless divinely prevented, have sold himself to redeem from the Moors a captive whose sister he saw overwhelmed with grief. Whether these stories be true or not, they at least show us the ideal which his immediate disciples thought to realize in him.
The brief remaining years of Dominic's life witnessed the rapid garnering of the harvest sowed in the period of humble but zealous obscurity. In 1214 Pierre Cella, a rich citizen of Toulouse, moved by his earnestness, resolved to join him in his mission-work, and gave for the purpose a stately house near the ChÃ¢teau Narbonnais, which for more than a hundred years remained the home of the Inquisition. A few other zealous souls gathered around him, and the little fraternity commenced to live like monks. Foulques, the fanatic Bishop of Toulouse, assigned to them a sixth of tithes, to provide them with books and other necessaries, that they might not lack the means of training themselves and others for the work of preaching, which was the main object of the community.
DurÃ¡n de Huesca anticipates Dominic and Francis
By this time DurÃ¡n de Huesca's attempt had proved a failure, and Dominic, who must have been familiar with it, doubtless saw the causes of its ill-success and the means to avoid them. Yet it is noteworthy that in the inception of the plan there was no thought of employing force. The heretics of Languedoc lay defenceless at the feet of de Montfort, an easy prey to the spoiler, but Dominic's project only looked to their peaceful conversion and to performing the duties of instruction and exhortation of which the Church had been so wholly neglectful.
All eyes were now bent on the Lateran Council which was to decide the fate of the land. Foulques of Toulouse on his voyage thither took with him Dominic to obtain from the pope his approval of the new community. Tradition relates that Innocent hesitated; his experience with DurÃ¡n de Huesca had not taught him to expect much from the irregular action of enthusiasts; the council had forbidden the formation of new orders of monkhood, and had commanded that zeal for the future should satisfy itself with those already established. Yet Innocent's doubts were removed by a dream in which he saw the Lateran Basilica tottering and ready to fall, and a man in whom he recognized the humble Dominic supporting it on his shoulders.
St. Dominic, his Career and Character
Thus divinely warned that the crumbling church edifice was to be restored by the man whose zeal he had despised, he approved the project on condition that Dominic and his brethren should adopt the Rule of some established order.
Dominic returned and assembled his brethren at Prouille. They were by this time sixteen in number, and it is a curious illustration of the denationalizing influence of the Church to observe in this little gathering of earnest men in that remote spot that Castile, Navarre, Normandy, France, Languedoc, England, and Germany were represented. This self-devoted band adopted the rule of the Canons Regular of St. Augustin, which was Dominic's own, and elected Matthieu le Gaulois as their abbot. He was the first and last who bore this title, for as the Order grew its organization was modified to secure greater unity and at the same time greater freedom of action.
His Order founded in 1214.--Its Success
It was divided into provinces, the head of each being a provincial prior. Supreme over all was the general master. These offices were filled by election, with tenure during good behavior, and provisions were made for stated assemblies, or chapters, both provincial and general. Each brother, or friar, was held to implicit obedience. Like a soldier on duty, he was liable at any moment to be despatched on any mission that the interest of religion or of the Order might demand.
They deemed themselves, in fact, soldiers of Christ, not devoted, like the monks, to a life of contemplation, but trained to mix with the world, exercised in all the arts of persuasion, skilled in theology and rhetoric, and ready to dare and suffer all things in the interest of the Church Militant. The name of Preaching Friars, which acquired such world-wide significance, was the result of accident. During the Lateran Council, while Dominic was in Rome, Innocent had occasion to address a note to him and ordered his secretary to begin, "To brother Dominic and his companions;" then, correcting himself, he said, "To brother Dominic and the preachers with him," and finally, considering further, "to Master Dominic and the brethren preachers." This greatly pleased them, and they at once commenced calling themselves Friar Preachers.
Curiously enough, poverty formed no part of the original design. The impulse to found the order was given by Cella's donation of his property and the share of the tithes offered by Bishop Foulques; and, as soon as it was organized, Dominic had no scruple in accepting three churches from Foulques--one in Toulouse, one in Pamiers, and one in Puylaurens. The historians of the Order endeavor to explain this by saying that its founders desired to make poverty a feature of the Rule, but were deterred for fear that so novel an idea would prevent the papal confirmation. As Innocent had already approved of poverty in DurÃ¡n de Huesca's scheme, the futility of this excuse is apparent, and we may well doubt the legends about Dominic's rigidity in requiring his brethren to dispense absolutely with the use of money. Certain it is that as early as 1217 we find the friars quarrelling with the agents of Bishop Foulques over the grant of tithes, and demanding that churches with only half a dozen communicants should be reckoned as parish churches and subject to their claim on the tithes. It was not until the success of the Franciscans had shown the attractive power of poverty that it was adopted by the Dominicans in the General Chapter of 1220.
It was finally embodied in the constitution adopted by the Chapter of 1228, which prohibited that lands or revenues should be acquired, ordered preachers not to solicit money, and classed among the graver offences the retention by a brother of any of the things forbidden to be received. The Order speedily outgrew these restrictions, but Dominic himself set an example of the utmost rigidity in this respect, and when he died in Bologna, in 1221, it was in the bed of Friar Moneta, as he had none of his own, and in Moneta's gown, for his own was worn out and he had not another to replace it; and when the Rule was adopted in 1220 such property as was not essential for the needs of the Order was made over to the Convent of Prouille.
All that now was lacking was the papal confirmation of the Order and its statutes. Before Dominic could reach Rome on the errand to obtain this, Innocent had died, but his successor, Honorius III., entered fully into his views, and the sanction of the Holy See was given on December 21, 1216. Returning to Toulouse in 1217, Dominic lost no time in dispersing his followers. It was not for them to practise the strenuous idleness of conventual life, in a ceaseless round of barren liturgies. They were the leaven which was to leaven Christianity, the soldiers of Christ who were to carry the banner of salvation to the farthest corners of the earth, and for them there was no pause or rest. The little band seemed absurdly inadequate for the task, but Dominic never hesitated. Some were sent to Spain, others to Paris, others again to Bologna, while Dominic himself went to Rome, where, under the favor of the papal court, his enthusiasm was rewarded with an abundance of disciples.
Those who went to Paris were warmly received, and were granted the house of St. Jacques, where they founded the famous convent of the Jacobins, which endured until the Order was swept away in the Revolution. The state of mental exaltation in which laymen and ecclesiastics of all ranks hastened to join the new Order is shown by the persecutions which the early brethren of St. Jacques endured from Satan. Frightful or sensual visions were constant with them, so that they were obliged by turns to keep watch at night over each other. Many of them were diabolically possessed and became mad. Their only refuge was the Virgin, and to the gracious assistance which she rendered them in their trials is attributed the Dominican custom of singing "Salve Regina" after complins, during which pious exercise she was frequently seen hovering over them in a sphere of light. Men in such a frame of mind were ready to suffer and to inflict all things for the sake of salvation.
It is not worth while to follow further in detail the marvellous growth of the Order in all the lands of Europe. Already in 1221, when Dominic as General Master held the second General Chapter in Bologna, four years after the sixteen disciples had parted in Toulouse, the Order already had sixty convents, and was organized into eight provinces--Spain, Provence, France, England, Germany, Hungary, Lombardy, and Romagnuola. The same year witnessed the death of Dominic, but his work was done and his removal from the scene made no change in the mighty machine which he had built and set in motion. Everywhere the strongest intellects of the age were donning the Dominican scapular, and everywhere they were earning the respect and veneration of the people. Their services to the papacy were fully recognized, and they are speedily found filling important offices in the curia. In 1243 the learned Hugh of Vienne became the first Dominican cardinal, and in 1276 the Dominicans rejoiced to see Brother Peter of Tarentaise raised to the chair of St. Peter as Innocent V. Yet the delay in Dominic's canonization would seem to show that personally he made less impression on his contemporaries than his followers would have us believe. Dying in 1221, the bull enrolling him in the calendar of saints only bears date July 3, 1234. His great colleague, or rival, Francis, who died in 1226, was canonized within two years, in 1228; the young Franciscan, Antony of Padua, who died in 1231, was recognized as a saint in 1233; and when the great Dominican martyr, St. Peter Martyr, was slain, April 12, 1252, proceedings for his canonization were commenced August 31 of the same year and were completed by March 25, 1253, less than a twelvemonth after his death. That thirteen years should have elapsed in the case of Dominic shows that his merits were recognized but slowly.
St. Francis of Assisi. His Order Founded.--Injunction of Poverty
If the Franciscans were in the end closely assimilated to the Dominicans, it was through the overmastering demands of the work to be accomplished by both, for in their origin the Orders were destined to objects as diverse as the characters of their founders. If St. Dominic was the type of the active practical missionary, St. Francis was the ideal of the contemplative ascetic, modified by boundless love and charity for his fellows.
Born in 1182, Giovanni Bernardone was the son of a prosperous trader of Assisi, who trained him in his business. Accompanying his father on a voyage to France, he came back with the accomplishment of speaking French, which gained for him among his companions the nickname of Francesco, a name which he adopted as his own. A dissipated youth was brought to a sudden close in his twentieth year by a dangerous illness which resulted in his conversion, and thereafter he devoted himself to works of mercy and charity, earning for himself with no little verisimilitude the reputation of insanity.
In order to restore the dilapidated church of St. Damiani he stole a quantity of his father's cloths, which he sold at Foligno, together with the horse that carried them. Finding him irrevocably bent on following his own devices, the exasperated parent took him before the bishop to make him renounce all claim on his inheritance, which Francis willingly did, and to render the renunciation more complete stripped off all his clothes, save a hair shirt worn to mortify the flesh, when the bishop, to cover his nakedness, gave him the worn-out cloak of a peasant serving-man.
Francis was now fairly embarked on a life of wandering beggary, which he used to so good an account that he was able to restore four churches which were sinking to ruin. He had no thought other than to work out his own salvation in poverty and acts of loving charity, especially to lepers; but the fame of his holiness spread, and the Blessed Bernard of Quintavalle asked to be associated with him.
The solitary ascetic at first was indisposed to companionship, but to learn the will of God he thrice opened the Gospels at random, and his finger lit on the three texts on which the great Franciscan order was founded:
"And Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me" (Matt. xix. 21).
"Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him" (Matt. vi. 8).
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt. xvi. 24).
The command was obeyed and the recruit accepted. Others joined from time to time, till the little band numbered eight. Then Francis announced that the time had come for them to evangelize the world, and dispersed them in pairs to the four points of the compass. On their reuniting, four more volunteers were added, when Francis drew up a Rule for their governance, and the twelve proceeded to Rome, according to the Franciscan legend, at the time of the Lateran Council, to procure the papal confirmation. When Francis presented himself to the pope in the aspect of a beggar the pontiff indignantly ordered him away, but tradition relates that a vision that night induced him to send for the mendicant. There was much hesitation among the papal advisers, but the earnestness and eloquence of Francis won the day, and finally the Rule was approved and the brethren were authorized to preach the Word of God.
He Realizes the Christian Ideal
Even yet were they undecided whether to abandon themselves to the contemplative life of anchorites or to undertake the great work of evangelization which lay before them in its immensity. They withdrew to Spoleto and counselled earnestly together without being able to reach a conclusion, until a revelation from God, which we can readily believe as actual to a mind such as that of Francis, turned the scale, and the Franciscan Order, in place of dying out in a few scattered hermitages, became one of the most powerful organizations of Christendom, though the abandoned hovel to which they resorted on their return to Assisi gave little promise of future splendor.
The rapidity of the growth of the Order may be measured by the fact that when Francis called together his first General Chapter in 1221, it was attended by brethren variously reported as from three thousand to five thousand, including a cardinal and several bishops; and when, in the General Chapter of 1260, under Bonaventura, the Order was redistributed to accord with its growth, it was partitioned into thirty-three provinces and three vicariates, comprehending in all one hundred and eighty-two guardianships. This organization can be understood by the example of England, which formed a province divided into seven guardianships, containing, as we learn from another source, in 1256, forty-nine houses with twelve hundred and forty-two friars. The Order then extended into every corner of what was regarded as the civilized world and its contiguous regions.
The Minorites, as in humility they called themselves, were so different in their inception from any existing organization of Church that when, in 1219, St. Francis made the first dispersion and sent his disciples to evangelize Europe, those who went to Germany and Hungary were regarded as heretics, and were roughly handled and expelled. In France they were taken for Cathari, to whose wandering perfected missionaries their austerity doubtless gave them close resemblance. They were asked if they were Albigenses, and, not knowing the meaning of the term, knew not what to say, and it was only after the authorities had consulted Honorius III. that they were relieved from suspicion.
In Spain five of them endured martyrdom. Innocent had only given a verbal approbation of the Rule; he was dead, and something more formal was requisite to protect the brethren from persecution. Francis accordingly drew up a second Rule, more concise and less rigid than the first, which he submitted to Honorius.
The pope approved it, though not without objecting to some of the clauses; but Francis refused to modify them, saying that it was not his but Christ's, and that he could not change the words of Christ.
From this his followers assumed that the Rule had been divinely revealed to him. This belief passed into the traditions of the Order, and the Rule has been maintained unaltered in letter, though, as we shall see, its spirit has been more than once explained away by ingenious papal casuists.
Extravagant Laudation of Poverty
It is simple enough, amounting hardly to more than a gloss on the entrance-oath required of each friar, to live according to the gospel, in obedience, chastity, and without possessing property. The applicant for admission was required to sell all he had and give it to the poor, and if this were impossible the will so to do sufficed. Each one was permitted to have two gowns, but they must be vile in texture, and were to be patched and repaired as long as they could be made to hang together. Shoes were allowed to those who found it impossible to forego them. All were to go on foot, except in case of sickness or necessity.
No one was to receive money, either directly or through a third party, except that the ministers (as the provincial superiors were called) could do so for the care of the sick and for provision of clothing, especially in rigorous climates. Labor was strenuously enjoined on all those able to perform it, but wages were not to be in money, but in necessaries for themselves and their brethren.
The clause requiring absolute poverty caused, as we shall see, a schism in the order, and therefore is worth giving textually:
"The brethren shall appropriate to themselves nothing, neither house, nor place, nor other thing, but shall live in the world as strangers and pilgrims, and shall go confidently after alms. In this they shall feel no shame, since the Lord for our sake made himself poor in the world. It is this perfection of poverty which has made you, dearest brethren, heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven. Having this, you should wish to have naught else under heaven."
The head of the Order, or General Minister, was chosen by the Provincial Ministers, who could at any time depose him when the general good required it. Faculties for preaching were to be issued by the General, but no brother was to preach in any diocese without the assent of the bishop.
Influence of the Mendicant Orders
This is all; and there is nothing in it to give promise of the immense results achieved under it. What gave it an enduring hold on the affections of the world was the spirit which the founder infused in it and in his brethren. No human creature since Christ has more fully incarnated the ideal of Christianity than Francis.
Amid the extravagance, amounting at times almost to insanity, of his asceticism, there shines forth the Christian love and humility with which he devoted himself to the wretched and neglected--the outcasts for whom, in that rude time, there were few indeed to care.
The Church, absorbed in worldliness, had outgrown the duties on which was founded its control over the souls and hearts of men, and there was need of the exaggeration of self-sacrifice taught by Francis to recall humanity to a sense of its obligations. Thus, of all the miseries of that age of misery, the hardest lot was that of the leper--the being afflicted by God with a loathsome, incurable, and contagious disease, who was cut off from all intercourse with fellow-men, and who, when he wandered abroad for alms from the lazar-house in which he was herded, was obliged, by clattering sticks, to give notice of his approach, that all might shun his pestiferous neighborhood. It was to these, the most helpless and hopeless and abhorred of mankind, that the boundless charity and love of Francis was especially directed.
The example which he set in his own person he required to be followed by his brethren; and when noble or simple applied for admission to the Order he was told that prominent among the obligations which he assumed was that of humbly serving the lepers in their hospitals. Francis did not hesitate to sleep in the lazar-houses, to handle the dangerous sores of the afflicted, to apply medicaments, and to minister to the sufferings of the body as well as of the soul. For the sake of the leper he relaxed the rule as to receiving alms in money. Yet his humility led him to forbid his disciples from leading in public the "Christian brethren," as he called them.
Once, when Friar James had taken with him to church a leper who was shockingly eaten by disease, Francis reproved him; then, reproaching himself for what the sufferer might regard as a slight, he asked Friar Peter of Catania, at that time the minister-general of the Order, to confirm the penance which he had appointed for himself, and when Peter, who looked upon him with too much reverence to deny him anything, had assented, he announced that he would eat out of the same dish as the sick man. At the next simple meal, therefore, the leper was seated among them, and the brethren were terrified to see a single dish set between the two, and the leper dipping his fingers, dripping with blood and purulent discharge, into the food common to both.
It would perhaps be too much to assert one's faith in the absolute veracity of such stories, but that makes little difference. If they be but legendary, the very growth of the legend shows the impression which Francis left on those who followed him; and the value of such an ideal on an age so hard and cruel can scarce be exaggerated. We know as a fact that the Franciscans were ever foremost in the cure of the sick, that they tended the hospitals in the midst of pestilence, and that to their intelligent devotion is due whatever progress the science of healing made in the dark ages. We are told, moreover, that the tender love of Francis lavished itself on the brute creation as well as on man--on insects, birds, and beasts, whom he was wont to call his brethren and sisters, and for whom he was never weary in caring. All the stories related of him and his immediate disciples, in fact, are instinct with infinite love and self-sacrifice, with the perfection of humility and patience and long-suffering, with the control of the passions, and with endless striving to subdue all that renders human nature imperfect, and to realize the standard which Christ had erected for the guidance of man.
Viewed in this aspect, even the semi-blasphemy of the "Book of Conformities of Christ and Francis" loses its grotesqueness. We may, indeed, smile at the absurdity of some of its parallels, and they may seem shocking enough when cleverly presented, stripped of all that softens them, in the "Alcoran des Cordeliers." We may doubt the verity of the Stigmata which it took so long and so many miracles, and repetition of papal bulls, to impose upon the incredulity of a hard-hearted generation. We may think that Satan showed less than his usual shrewdness when he so repeatedly wasted his energies in seeking to tempt or to terrify the saint in the crude form of a lion or of a dragon.
Yet, in spite of all the absurdities of the cult of St. Francis, we recognize the profound impression which his virtues made on his followers in the vision which showed the heavenly throne of Lucifer, next to the Highest, kept vacant to be filled by Francis.
To the pride and cruelty of the age he opposed patience and humility. "The perfection of gladness," he says, "consists not in working miracles, in curing the sick, expelling devils, or raising the dead; nor in learning and knowledge of all things; nor in eloquence to convert the world, but in bearing all ills and injuries and injustice and despiteful treatment with patience and humility." So far from valuing himself on his virtues, he humbly confesses that he had himself not lived up to the Rule, and apologizes for it through his infirmity and ignorance. To what extravagant lengths his disciples carried this striving for humility is shown by Giacomo Benedettone, better known as Jacopone da Todi, the author of the Stabat Mater, an active and successful lawyer, who, crushed by the death of a lovely wife, entered the Order, and for ten years feigned idiocy in order to revel in the abuse and ill-treatment that were showered upon him.
Obedience was taught and enforced to the utter renunciation of the will, and many are the stories related to show how completely the earlier disciples subjected themselves to each other and to their superiors. When, in 1224, the Franciscans were first sent to England, Gregory, the Provincial Minister of France, asked Friar William of Esseby if he wished to go. William replied that he did not know whether he wished it or not, because his will was not his own, but the minister's, and therefore he wished whatever the minister wished him to wish. Somewhat similar is a story told of two brethren of Salzburg in 1222.
This blindness of obedience produced a discipline in the Order which increased incalculably its importance to the Church when it grew to be an instrument in the hands of the papacy. St. Francis was especially emphatic in urging upon the brethren the most implicit devotion to Rome, and the Franciscans became an army which played in the thirteenth century the part filled by the Jesuits in the sixteenth.
It was no part of Francis's design that the friars should live by idle mendicancy, and we have seen that the Rule expresses the obligation to labor. This was obeyed by the stricter members. Thus his third disciple, the blessed Giles, earned his subsistence by the rudest work, such as that of carrying wood, and he always adhered to the precept not to take wages in money, but in necessaries for his support. When he had earned more than enough for the scanty subsistence of the day, he would give away the surplus in charity, and trust to God for the morrow. It was well that, in an age of class distinctions so rigid, there should be some to teach practically the dignity of labor as a Christian doctrine.
When St. Bonaventura was elevated to the cardinalate, in 1273, he had for seventeen years been the head of what by that time was the most powerful organization in Christendom, yet the messengers sent to announce to him his promotion arrived while he was engaged in his daily task of washing the dishes used in the frugal dinner of his convent. He refused to see them till his work was finished, and meanwhile the hat which they had brought was hung upon the branch of a tree.
Thus the aim of St. Francis and his followers was to realize the simplicity of Christ and the apostles, and in nothing was this manifested with so much fervor as in their seeking after poverty. They argued that Jesus and his disciples owned nothing, and that the perfect Christian must likewise divest himself of all property. Of food and clothing and shelter he might have the use, as likewise of books requisite for his religious needs, but property of all kinds was absolutely prohibited, and the Christian's trust in God rendered forethought for the morrow a sin. As a protest against the avarice and worldliness of the Church, this was of exceeding value, but it was pushed to an extravagance which idealized poverty as an intrinsic good, and the greatest of all goods.
"Brethren," said St. Francis, "know that poverty is the special path to salvation, the inciter to humility, and the root of perfection.... He who seeks to attain the height of poverty must, in a sense, renounce not only worldly prudence, but the knowledge of letters, so that, divesting himself of these possessions, he may offer himself naked to the arms of the Crucified.... Wherefore, like beggars, build little hovels in which to live, not as in your own, but as strangers and pilgrims in the houses of others."
His prayer to Christ for poverty is a curiously earnest rhapsody. She is Lady Poverty, the Queen of virtues, for whose sake Christ descended unto earth, to marry her and beget on her all the children of perfection. She clung to him with inseparable fidelity, and in her arms he died upon the cross. She alone possesses the seal with which to mark the elect who choose the way of perfection. "Grant me, O Jesus, that I may never possess under heaven anything of my own, and sustain the flesh sparely by the use of the things of others!" This exaggerated lust of poverty he carried out to the last, and on his death-bed stripped himself naked that he might die possessing absolutely nothing. Poverty thus was the corner-stone on which he founded the Order, and, as we shall see, the effort to maintain this superhuman perfection led to a schism and gave to the Inquisition an ample store of victims whose heresy consisted in fidelity to the precepts of their founder.
With all this there was too much kindliness in his nature for gloom, and cheerfulness was a virtue which he constantly inculcated. Sadness he held to be one of the most deadly weapons of Satan, while cheerfulness was the Christian's thankful acknowledgment of the blessings bestowed by God upon his creatures. This was consequently a distinguishing characteristic of the Friars in the early days of the Order. In Eccleston's simple and quiet narration of their advent to England, in 1224, when nine of them crossed to Dover without knowing what their fate might be from day to day, there is something singularly beautiful in the picture of their zeal, their trustfulness, their patience, their unfailing cheerfulness under privation and disappointment, and in their tireless activity in ministering to the spiritual and corporeal wants of the neglected children of the Church. Such men were real apostles, and had the Order continued to follow the lines laid down by its founder its services to humanity would have been incalculable.
The Mendicant Orders were a startling innovation upon the monastic theory. In its essence monachism was the selfish effort of the individual to secure his own salvation by repudiating all the duties and responsibilities of life. It is true that at one time it had earned the gratitude of the world by leaving its retreats and carrying civilization and Christianity into barbarous regions, under such men as St. Columba, St. Gall, and St. Willibrod, but that time had long past, and for ages it had sunk into worse than its primitive selfishness.
The Mendicants Rendered Independent of the PrelatesThe Mendicants came upon Christendom like a revelation--men who had abandoned all that was enticing in life to imitate the apostles, to convert the sinner and unbeliever, to arouse the slumbering moral sense of mankind, to instruct the ignorant, to offer salvation to all; in short, to do what the Church was paid so enormously in wealth and privileges and power for neglecting. Wandering on foot over the face of Europe, under burning suns or chilling blasts, rejecting alms in money but receiving thankfully whatever coarse food might be set before the wayfarer, or enduring hunger in silent resignation, taking no thought for the morrow, but busied eternally in the work of snatching souls from Satan, and lifting men up from the sordid cares of daily life, of ministering to their infirmities and of bringing to their darkened souls a glimpse of heavenly light--such was the aspect in which the earliest Dominicans and Franciscans presented themselves to the eyes of men who had been accustomed to see in the ecclesiastic only the sensual worldling intent solely upon the indulgence of his appetites.
It is no wonder that such an apparition accomplished much in restoring to the populations the faith in Christianity which had begun to be so sorely shaken, or that it spread through Christendom the hope of an approaching regeneration in the Church which greatly lessened popular impatience under its exactions, and doubtless staved off a rebellion which would have altered the aspect of modern civilization.
Their Utility to the Papacy
It is no wonder, moreover, that the love and veneration of the people followed the Mendicants; that the charitable showered their gifts upon them, to the destruction of the primal obligation of poverty; that the men of earnest convictions pressed forward to join their ranks. The purest and noblest intellects might well see in such a career the realization of their loftiest aspirations; and whenever in the thirteenth century we find a man towering above his fellows, we are almost sure to trace him to one of the Mendicant Orders. Raymond of Pennaforte, Alexander Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventura, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, are names which show how irresistibly the men of highest gifts were led to seek among the Dominicans or Franciscans their ideal of life.
That they failed to find it goes without saying, but their presence in the Orders is at once an evidence of the impression which the Mendicants made upon all that was worthiest in the age, and an explanation of the enormous influence which the Orders obtained with such marvellous rapidity. Even Dante cannot refuse to them the tribute of his admiration--
"L'un fu tutto serafico in ardore,
L'altro per sapienza in terra fue
Di cherubica luce uno splendore."
Their Utility to the Papacy
There was another instrumentality of vast importance, in utilizing which both Francis and Dominic manifested their organizing ability--the Tertiary Orders through which laymen, without abandoning the world, were assimilated to the respective brotherhoods, aided in their labors, shared in their glory, and added to their influence, thus stimulating and utilizing the zeal of the community at large.
There is a trace of an order of Crucigeri or Cross-bearers, laymen organized for the defence of the Church, claiming to date back to the time of Helena, mother of Constantine, and revived in 1215 by the Lateran Council, but there is no evidence of its activity or usefulness. Francis, however, who, though unlearned in scholastic theology and untrained in rhetoric, excelled his contemporaries in insight into the gospel and possessed a simple, earnest eloquence which carried the hearts of his hearers, on one occasion produced by his preaching so profound an impression that all the inhabitants of the town, men, women, and children, begged admission to his Order. This was manifestly impossible, and he bethought him of framing a Rule by which persons of both sexes, while remaining in the world, could be subjected to wholesome discipline and be connected with the fraternity, which in turn promised them its protection.
Of the restrictions placed on them perhaps the most significant was that they should carry no weapons of offence except for the defence of the Roman Church, the Christian faith, and their own lands. The project and the Rule were approved by the pope in 1221, and the official name of the organization was "The Brothers and Sisters of Penitence," though it became popularly known as the Tertiary Order of Minorites, or Franciscans. Under the more aggressive name of "Militia Jesu Christi," or Soldiery of Christ, Dominic founded a similar association of laymen connected with his Order.
The idea proved a most fruitful one. It reorganized to some degree the Church by removing a portion of the barrier which separated the layman from the ecclesiastic. It brought immense support to the Mendicant Orders by enlisting with them multitudes of the earnest and zealous, as well as those who from less worthy motives sought to share their protection and enjoy the benefit of their influence. Types of both classes may be found in the royal house of France, for both St. Louis and Catherine de Medicis were Tertiaries of St. Francis.
To comprehend fully the magnitude and influence of these movements we must bear in mind the impressionable character of the populations and their readiness to yield to contagious emotion. When we are told that the Franciscan Berthold of Ratisbon frequently preached to crowds of sixty thousand souls we realize what power was lodged in the hands of those who could reach masses so easily swayed and so full of blind yearnings to escape from the ignoble life to which they were condemned. How the slumbering souls were awakened is shown by the successive waves of excitement which swept over one portion of Europe after another about the middle of the century.
The dumb, untutored minds began to ask whether an existence of hopeless and brutal misery was all that was to be realized from the promises of the gospel. The Church had made no real effort at internal reform; it was still grasping, covetous, licentious, and a strange desire for something--they knew not exactly what--began to take possession of men's hearts and spread like an epidemic from village to village and from land to land. In Germany and France there is another Crusade of the Children, earning from Gregory IX. the declaration that they gave a fitting rebuke to their elders, who were basely abandoning the birth-place of humanity.
But the most formidable and significant manifestation of this universal restlessness and gregarious enthusiasm is seen in the uprising of the peasantry--the first of the wandering bands known as Pastoureaux. The helpless and hopeless state of the lower classes of society in those dreary ages has probably never been exceeded in any period of the world's history. The terrible maxim of the feudal law, that the villein's only appeal from his lord was to God--"MÃ¨s par notre usage n'a-il entre toi et ton vilein juge fors Deu"--condenses in a word the abject defencelessness of the major part of the population, and human degradation has never, perhaps, been more forcibly expressed than in the infamous jus primÃ¦ noctis or "droit de marquette."
The bitter humor of the trouvÃ¨re RutebÅ“uf describes how Satan considered the soul of the villein too despicable to be received in hell; there was no place for it in heaven, so that, after a life of misery on earth, it had no refuge in the hereafter. It is noteworthy in many ways that the Church, which should have been the mediator between the villein and his lord, and which, in teaching the common brotherhood of man, should have earned the gratitude of the miserable serf, was always the special object of aversion and attack in the brief saturnalia of the self-enfranchised wretches.
Suddenly, about Easter, 1251, there appeared a mysterious preacher, known as the Hungarian, advanced in years, and clothed with the attributes which most excite popular awe and veneration. In his clenched hand, which never was opened, he carried a paper given to him by the Virgin Mary herself, which was his mandate and commission. Yet men said that he had from his youth been an apostate from Christ to Mahomet, that he had drunk deeply of the poisonous wells of magic flowing at Toledo, and that he had received from Satan the mission of carrying the unarmed populations of Europe to the East, so that the Soldan of Babylon should find Christendom an easy prey.
Remembering the Crusade of the Children, people leaped to the conclusion that it was he who had devastated so many houses with his magic arts, leading forth the tender youth to perish of starvation and exposure. Tall and pale, gifted with eloquence to win the hearts of the multitude, speaking like a native in French and German and Latin, he set forth, preaching from town to town the supineness of the rich and powerful who allowed the Holy Land to remain in the grasp of the Infidel and the good King Louis to languish in his Egyptian dungeon. God had tired of the selfishness and ambition of the nobles, and he called the poor and humble, without arms and captains, to rescue the Holy Places and the Good King. All this found ready response, but even greater applause followed his attacks upon the clergy.
The Mendicant Orders were vagrants and hypocrites; the Cistercians were greedy of money and lands; the Benedictines proud and gluttonous; the canons wholly given to secular aims and the lusts of the flesh; the bishops and their officials were money-seekers, who shrank from no trickery to accomplish their aims. As for Rome, no terms of objurgation were too strong for the papal court. The people, whose hate and contempt for the clergy were unbounded, listened to this rhetoric with delight, and eagerly joined a movement which promised a reform in some unseen way. Shepherds left their sheep, husbandmen their ploughs, deaf to the commands of their lords, and followed him unarmed, taking no thought of the morrow, nor asking how they were to be fed.
There were not lacking those high in station who, carried away with the general enthusiasm, imagined that God was about to work miracles with the poor and helpless after the great ones of the earth had failed. Even Queen Blanche, eager for any means that promised to liberate her son, looked upon the movement for a while with favor, and lent it her countenance. It swelled and grew till the wandering multitudes amounted to more than a hundred thousand men, bearing fifty banners as an emblem of victory. It was impossible, of course, to confine such an uprising to the peaceful and humble.
No sooner did it assume proportions promising immunity than it inevitably drew to itself all the disorderly elements inseparable from the society of the time--the "ruptarii" and "ribaldi," whom we have seen figure so largely in the Albigensian troubles. These flocked to it from all sides, bringing knife and dagger, sword and axe, and giving to the immense procession a still more menacing aspect. That outrages were committed we can well believe, for the wrongs of class against class were too flagrant to remain unavenged when opportunity offered for reprisals.
On June 11, 1251, they entered Orleans, against the commands of the bishop, but welcomed by the people, though the richer citizens prudently locked their doors. All might have passed peaceably there as elsewhere but for a hot-headed student of the flourishing university of the city, who interrupted the preaching of the Hungarian to denounce him as a liar, and was promptly brained by a zealous follower. A tumult followed, in which the Pastoureaux made short work of the Orleans clergy, breaking into their houses, burning their books, and slaying many, or tossing them into the Loire; and, what is most significant, the people are described as looking on approvingly. The bishop, and all who could hide themselves from the fury of the mob, escaped during the night, and valiantly laid the city under interdict for the guilty complicity of the citizens.
On hearing this the Regent Blanche said,
"God knows I thought they would recover the Holy Land in simplicity and holiness. But since they are deceivers, let them be excommunicated and destroyed."
Accordingly they were excommunicated, but before the anathema could be published they had reached Bourges, where, in a tumult, the Hungarian was slain, and they broke up into bands. The authorities, recovering from their stupor, pursued the luckless wretches everywhere, who were slain like mad dogs. Some emissaries who penetrated to England, and succeeded in raising a revolt of some five hundred peasants, met the same fate; and it was reported that the second in command under the Hungarian was captured in a vessel on the Garonne, while endeavoring to escape, and on his person were found magic powders and strange letters in Arabic and Chaldee characters from the Soldan of Babylon promising his co-operation.
The quasi-religious nature of the uprising is shown in the functions exercised by the leaders, who acted the part of bishops, blessing the people, sprinkling holy water, and even celebrating marriages. The favor which the people everywhere showed them was attributed principally to their spoiling, beating, and slaying the clergy, thus indicating the deep-seated popular antagonism to the Church, and justifying the declaration made by prelates high in station that so great a danger had never threatened Christendom since the time of Mahomet.
Emotional Character of the Age.--The Pastourcaux.--The Flagellants
Even more remarkable, as a manifestation of popular emotion, was the first apparition of the Flagellants. Suddenly, in 1259, in Perugia, no one knew why, the population was seized with a fury of devotional penitence, without incitement by friar or priest. The contagion spread, and soon the whole of upper Italy was filled with tens of thousands of penitents.
Nobles and peasants, old and young, even to children five years of age, walked solemnly in procession, two by two, naked except a loin-cloth, weeping and praying God for mercy, and scourging themselves with leather thongs to the drawing of blood. The women decently inflicted the penance on themselves in their chambers, but the men marched through the cities by day and night, in the sharpest winter, preceded by priests with crosses and banners, to the churches, where they prostrated themselves before the altars.
A contemporary tells us that the fields and mountains echoed with the voices of the sinners calling to God, while music and love-songs were heard no more. A general fever of repentance and amendment seized the people. Usurers and robbers restored their ill-gotten gain; criminals confessed their sins and renounced their vices; the prison doors were thrown open, and the captives walked forth; homicides offered themselves on their knees, with drawn swords, to the kindred of their victims, and were embraced with tears; old enmities were forgiven, and exiles were permitted to return to their homes.
Everywhere was seen the operation of divine grace, and men seemed to be consumed with heavenly fire. The movement even spread to the Rhinelands and throughout Germany and Bohemia; but whatever hopes were aroused of the regeneration of man vanished with the subsidence of the excitement, which disappeared as rapidly as it came, and was even denounced as a heresy. Uberto Pallavicino took effectual means of keeping the Flagellants out of his city of Milan; for when he heard of their approach he erected three hundred gibbets by the roadside, at sight of which they abruptly retraced their steps.
It was in a population subject to such tempests of emotion, and groping thus blindly for something higher and better than the hopeless degradation around them, that the Mendicant Orders came to gather to themselves the potential religious exaltation of the time. That they should develop with unexampled rapidity was inevitable.
Everything favored them. The papal court early recognized in them an instrument more efficient than had yet been devised to bring the power of the Holy See to bear directly upon the Church and the people in every corner of Christendom; to break down the independence of the local prelates; to combat the temporal enemies of the papacy, and to lead the people into direct relations with the successor of St. Peter. Privileges and exemptions of all kinds were showered upon them, until, by a series of bulls issued, between 1240 and 1244, by Gregory IX. and Innocent IV., they were rendered completely independent of the regular ecclesiastical organization.
A time-honored rule of the Church required that any excommunication or anathema could only be removed by him who had pronounced it, but this was revolutionized in their favor. Not only were the bishops required to give absolution to any Dominican or Franciscan who should apply for it, except in cases of such enormity that the Holy See alone could act, but the Mendicant priors and ministers were authorized to absolve their friars from any censures inflicted on them. These extraordinary measures removed them entirely from the regular jurisdiction of the establishment; the members of each Order became responsible only to their own superiors, and in their all-pervading activity throughout Europe they could secretly undermine the power and influence of the local hierarchy, and replace it with that of Rome, which they so directly represented.
This independent position, however, had only been reached by degrees. Papal briefs of 1229 and 1234, enjoining them to show proper respect and obedience to the bishops, and empowering the bishops to condemn any friars who abuse their privileges of preaching for purposes of gain, show that complaints of their aggressions had commenced thus early, and that Rome was not yet prepared to render them independent of the hierarchy; but when the policy had once been adopted it was carried to its fullest development, and the cycle of legislation was completed by Boniface VIII., in 1295 and 1296, by a series of bulls in which, following his predecessors, the Mendicants were formally released from all episcopal jurisdiction, and the statutes of the Orders were declared to be the only laws by which they were to be judged, all provisions of the canon law to the contrary notwithstanding. At the same time, by a new issue of the bull Virtute conspicuos, commonly known as the Mare Magnum, he codified and confirmed all the privileges conferred by his predecessors.
The Holy See was thus provided with a militia, recruited and sustained at the expense of the faithful, panoplied in invulnerability, and devoted to its exclusive service. In order that its usefulness might suffer no limitation, in 1241 Gregory IX. granted to the friars the privilege of freely living in the lands of excommunicates, and of asking and receiving assistance and food from them. They could, therefore, penetrate everywhere, and serve as secret emissaries in the dominions of those hostile to Rome. Human ingenuity could have devised no more efficient army, for, not only were they full of zeal and inspired with profound convictions, but the reputation for superior sanctity which they everywhere acquired secured for them popular sympathy and support, and gave them an enormous advantage in any contest with local churches.
Their efficiency, when directed against temporal opponents, was thoroughly tried in the long and mortal struggle of the papacy with Frederic II., the most powerful and dangerous enemy whom Rome has ever had. As early as the year 1229 we hear of the banishment of all the Franciscans from the kingdom of Naples, as papal emissaries seeking to withdraw from the emperor the allegiance of his subjects. In 1234 we find them raising money in England to enable the pope to carry on the struggle, and using every device of persuasion and menace with a success which realized immense sums and reduced numbers to beggary.
When, in the solemnities of Easter, 1239, Gregory fulminated an excommunication against the emperor, it was to the Franciscan priors that he communicated it, with a full recital of the imperial misdeeds, and ordered them to publish it with ringing of bells on every Sunday and feast-day. It was the most effective method that could be devised to create public opinion against his adversary, and Frederic retorted with another edict of expulsion. When Frederic was deposed by the Council of Lyons, in 1244, it was the Dominicans who were selected to announce the sentence in all accessible public places, with an indulgence of forty days for all who would gather to listen to them, and plenary remission of sins to the friars who might suffer persecution in consequence.
Soon afterwards we find them playing the part, which the Jesuits filled in Jacobean England, of secret emissaries engaged in hidden plots and fomenting disturbances. Frederic always declared that the conspiracy against his life in 1244 was the work of Franciscans who had been commissioned to preach a secret crusade against him in his own dominions, and who encouraged his enemies with prophecies of his speedy death. When, as the result of papal intrigues, Henry Raspe of Thuringia was elected, in 1246, as King of the Romans, to supersede Frederic, Innocent IV. sent a circular brief of instructions to the Franciscans to use every opportunity, public or secret, to advocate his cause, and to promise remission of sins to those who should aid him. Again, in 1248, we find friars of both orders sent as secret emissaries to stir up disaffection in Frederic's territories.
He complained bitterly of it, as he had always cherished and protected the Mendicants, and he met the attempt with savage ferocity. The Dominican Simon de Montesarculo, who was caught, was subjected to eighteen successive tortures; and Frederic instructed his son-in-law, the Count of Caserta, that all friars showing signs of disaffection, or contravening the strict regulations which he prescribes, shall not be exiled as heretofore, but shall be promptly burned. The shrewd and experienced prince evidently recognized them as the most dangerous enemies to whom he was exposed. They continued to earn his hostility by the zeal with which they preached the crusade against him, and, after his death, against his son Conrad; and we can regard as not improbable the statement that Ezzelin da Romano, his vicar in the March of Treviso, put to death no less than sixty Franciscans during his thirty years of power.
The Mendicants gradually superseded the bishops, when papal commands were to be communicated to the people or papal mandates enforced. Even when fugitives were to be tracked, they formed an invisible network of police, spread over Europe and available in a thousand ways. Formerly, when a complaint reached Rome of an abuse to be rectified or of a prelate whose conduct required investigation or trial, a commission would be issued to two or three neighboring bishops or abbots to make an examination and report, or to reform churches and monasteries neglectful of discipline. Gradually this changed, and the Mendicants alone were charged with these duties, which made the papal power felt so directly in every episcopal palace and every abbey in Europe.
They complained repeatedly of the amount of this extra work thrown upon them, and they were promised relief, they were too useful to be dispensed with in thus subjecting the Church to the Apostolic See. How disagreeable and even dangerous these duties might be is visible in a case which shows how little the condition of the Church in the middle of the thirteenth century had changed from what we had seen it in the previous age. The great electoral archiepiscopate of TrÃ¨ves, in 1259, was claimed by two rivals who litigated with each other for two years in Rome, to the great profit of the curia, till Alexander IV. set them both aside. The Dean of Metz, Henry of Fistigen, went on some pretext to Rome, where, by promising to pay the enormous debts left behind by the two litigants, he obtained the appointment from Alexander. On his return the pallium was withheld as security for the debts which he had incurred, but without waiting for it he assumed archiepiscopal functions, consecrated his suffragan Bishop of Metz, and commenced a series of military enterprises, in the course of which he devastated the Abbey of St. Matthias and nearly burned to death the unhappy monks. These misdeeds, and his neglect to pay his debts, led Urban IV., in 1261, to commission the Bishops of Worms and Spires and the Abbot of Rodenkirk to investigate the charges against him of simony, perjury, homicide, sacrilege, and other sins, but the archbishop bribed them, and they did nothing.
Then, in 1262, Urban sent another commission to William and Roric, two Franciscans of the province of TrÃ¨ves, ordering them to investigate and report under pain of excommunication. This frightened all the Mendicants of the province. The Franciscan guardian and the Dominican prior, more worldly-wise than righteous, forbade them under pain of dungeon from exercising the functions imposed on them, and the two unlucky commissioners were glad to escape with their lives by flying from TrÃ¨ves to Metz.
The Franciscan provincial had the effrontery to send envoys to Rome asking that the investigation be postponed or committed to others. They were heard in full consistory, in presence of Urban himself and of Bonaventura, the general of the Order, when Urban bitterly retorted, "If I had sent bishoprics to two of your brethren they would have been accepted with avidity. You shall not refuse to do what is necessary for the honor of God and the Church." It is not worth while to pursue the intricate details of the dreary quarrel, which lasted until 1272 and presented in its successive phases every variety of fraud, forgery, robbery, and outrage.
It is sufficient to say that when William and Roric were forced to work, they seem to have performed their duty with independence and fidelity, and that the Roman curia, in the course of the proceedings, managed to extort from the unfortunate diocese the enormous sum of thirty-three thousand sterling marks--in spite of which Archbishop Henry attended the coronation of Rodolph of Hapsburg, in 1273, with a splendid retinue of eighteen hundred armed men.
* * * * *
It is easy to imagine that such functions as these produced antagonism between the new orders and the old organization which they were undermining and supplanting. Yet this was, perhaps, the least of the causes of bitterness between them. A far more fruitful source of discord was the intrusion of the Mendicants in the office of preaching and hearing confessions. We have seen how jealously the former had always been reserved by the bishops and how utterly it had been neglected until the primary object of St. Dominic had been to supply the deficiency, which Honorius III. lamented as one of the pressing wants of the age. The Church was scarce better prepared to discharge the duty of the confessional, which the Lateran Council had rendered obligatory and had confined to the priesthood. Lazy and sensual priests, intent only on maintaining their revenues, neglected the souls of their flocks and permitted no intrusion which might diminish their gains.
In the populous town of Montpellier there was only one church in which the sacrament of penitence could be administered, and the consuls, in 1213, petitioned Innocent III., in view of the multitude of perishing souls, to empower four or five of the other churches of the town to divide the duty. As late as 1247, Ypres, with two hundred thousand inhabitants, had but four parish churches. If the Church Militant was to perform its duty, and if it was to regain the veneration of the people, these deficiencies must be supplied.
The first efforts of Dominic had been based on the power granted to the legates of Languedoc to issue licenses for preaching, and these were, of course, at the time independent of episcopal permission, but in the Rule of 1228 it was especially provided that no friar should preach in a diocese without first obtaining permission of the bishop, and in no case was he to declaim against the vices of the secular priesthood. Francis professed the humblest reverence for the established clergy; he declared that if he were to meet simultaneously a priest and an angel, he would first turn to kiss the hands of the priest, saying to the angel,
"Wait, for these hands handle the Word of Life and possess something more than human;"
and in his Rule it was also provided that no friar should preach in any diocese against the will of the bishop. The bishops were not particularly disposed to welcome the intruders, and Honorius III. condescended to entreaty in asking them to permit the Dominicans to preach, while he also took steps to provide preachers from among the secular clergy by stimulating their study of theology.
The intrusion of the Mendicants on the functions of the parish priests was gradual, and was commenced with the privilege granted them of celebrating mass everywhere on portable altars. Some resistance was made to this, but it was broken down; and when Gregory IX., in 1227, signalized his accession by empowering both Orders to preach, hear confessions, and grant absolution everywhere, the wandering friars, in spite of the prohibitions of the Rules, gradually invaded every parish and performed all the duties of the cure of souls, to the immense discomfort of the local priesthood, who had always guarded with extreme jealousy the rights which were the main source of their influence and revenue. Complaints were loud and reiterated, and were sometimes listened to, but were more frequently answered by an emphatic confirmation of the innovation.
The matter was made worse by the fact that everywhere the laity welcomed the intruders and preferred them to their own curates. The fervor of their preaching and their reputation for superior sanctity brought crowds to the sermon and the confessional. Training and experience rendered them far more skilful directors of conscience than the indolent incumbents, and there arose a natural popular feeling that the penance which they imposed was more holy and their absolution more efficacious. If the beneficed clergy complained that this was because they soothed and indulged their penitents, they were able to retort with justice that the laymen preferred them for themselves and their wives rather than the drunken and unchaste priests who filled most of the parishes. A friar would come and set up his portable altar, as he said, for a day. His preaching was attractive; penitents aroused to a sense of their sins would hasten to confess; his stay was prolonged and he became a fixture. If the place was populous, he would be joined by others.
The gifts of the charitable would flow in. A modest chapel and cloisters would be provided, which grew till it overshadowed the parish church and was filled at its expense. Worse than all, the dying sinner would assume the robe of the Mendicant on his death-bed, bequeath his body to the friars, and make them the recipient of his legacies, leading to a prolonged and embittered renewal of the old ghoul-like quarrels over corpses. In 1247, at Pamplona, some bodies long lay unburied owing to a fierce contention between the canons and the Franciscans; and a division of the spoils, by which a share varying from a half to a quarter, was allotted to the parish priests, only gave rise to new disputes. Whenever an open conflict arose, however much the pope might deprecate scandal, the decision would be almost certainly in favor of the friars, and the clergy saw with dismay and hatred that the upstarts were supplanting them in all their functions, in the veneration of the people, and in the profitable results of that veneration. When, in 1268, a popular uprising against tyranny occurred in Holland and Guelderland, and, encouraged by success, the rebels formulated a policy for the reformation of society, they proposed to slay all nobles and prelates and monks, but to spare the Mendicants and such few parish priests as might be necessary to administer the sacraments. Some feeble efforts were made by the clergy to emulate the services and activity of the new-comers, but the sloth and self-indulgence of ages could not be overcome. It was inevitable that the strongest antagonism between the old order and the new should spring up, heightened by the duty which the friars felt of denouncing publicly the vices and corruption of the clergy.
Already in the previous century the secular priesthood had complained bitterly of the impulse given to monachism by the founding and development of the Cistercians. They had even dared to make vigorous representations to the third Council of Lateran, in 1179, alleging that they were threatened with pauperization. Here was a new and vastly more dangerous inroad, and it was impossible that they should submit without an effort of self-preservation. There must be a struggle for supremacy between the local churches on the one hand and the papacy with its new militia on the other, and the conservatives manifested skill in their selection of the field of battle.
The Battle Fought out in the University of Paris
The University of Paris was the centre of scholastic theology. Cosmopolitan in its character, a long line of great teachers had lectured to immense masses of students from every land, until its reputation was European and it was looked upon as the bulwark of orthodoxy. In every episcopate it could count its graduates and the holders of its degrees, who looked back upon it with filial affection as to their alma mater. It had welcomed Dominic's first missionaries when they came to Paris to found a house of the Order, and it had admitted Dominicans to its corps of teachers. Suddenly there arose a quarrel, the insignificance of its cause showing the tension which existed and the eagerness of all classes of the clergy to repress the growing influence of the Mendicants.
The University had always been jealous of its privileges, among which not the least was the jurisdiction which it enjoyed over its students. One of these was slain and several were wounded by the Paris watch in a disturbance, and the reparation tendered for the offence was deemed insufficient. The University closed its doors, but the Dominican teachers, Bonushomo and Elias, continued their lectures. To punish this contumacy they were ordered to be silent, and students were forbidden to listen to them. They appealed to the pope, but their appeal was disregarded; and when the University resumed its functions, they were required to take an oath to observe its statutes, provided there was nothing therein to conflict with the Rule of the Order. This they refused unless they were allowed two teachers of theology, and after a delay of a fortnight they were expelled. The provincials of both Orders at Paris took up the quarrel and appealed to Rome, and Innocent IV. demanded the repeal of the obnoxious rules.
The gage of battle was thrown and the university was resolved on no half-measures. It would reduce the Mendicants to the condition of the other religious orders and earn the gratitude of all the prelates and clergy by stripping them of the privileges which rendered them so dangerous. For this purpose it was necessary to win the favor of Rome, and the students enthusiastically assessed themselves, economizing in their expenses that they might contribute to the fund which was necessary if anything was to be done with the curia. The leader of the faculty in the quarrel was William of St. Amour, noted both as a preacher and a teacher.
For the exemption of students from secular jurisdiction see Berger, Registres d'Innocent IV. No. 1515.--Molinier (Guillem Bernard de Gaillac, Paris, 1884, pp. 26 sqq.) gives a good account of the educational organization of the Dominicans at this period.]
learned, eloquent, and inflexible of purpose. He was sent to the Holy See, where he found Innocent IV. in a frame of mind adapted to listen to his arguments that the Mendicant Rules were fitted only to lead souls to perdition.
The pope had been the friend of the Orders, and had confirmed and enlarged their privileges, but just now was out of humor. The Dominicans asserted that this arose from their having secretly received into the Order one of his cousins whom he loved greatly and intended to advance in the world; and also from the malevolence of another cousin, who proposed to build at Genoa a fortress-palace to dominate the city, and had been prevented by the Dominicans refusing to sell a piece of ground essential to his purpose. Innocent's mind must indeed have been receptive of William of St. Amour's arguments.
In July and August, 1254, he had issued repeated briefs in favor of the Mendicants and against the University. On November 21 he promulgated the bull Etsi Animarum, known among the Mendicants as the "terrible" bull, by which the members of all religious orders were forbidden to receive in their churches on Sundays and feast-days the parishioners of others; they were not to hear confessions without the special license of the parish priests, they were not to preach in their own churches before mass, so that parishioners should not be drawn away from their parish churches, nor were they to preach in the parish churches, nor when bishops preached or caused preaching to be done.
Victory of the Mendicants.--Unappeasable Hostility
The bull was in reality a terrible one, for it shattered at a blow the edifice erected with such infinite labor and self-sacrifice. To meet it, the Dominicans not only summoned their greatest and wisest members, but appealed to Heaven. Every friar was ordered daily after matins to recite seven psalms and the litanies of the Virgin and St. Dominic. A brother, during this exercise, was encouraged with a vision of the Virgin pleading with the Son and saying "Listen to them, my Son, listen to them!"
He did listen to them, for though we may doubt the Dominican story that Innocent was stricken with paralysis the very day that he signed the "crudelissimum edictum" he certainly did die on December 7, within sixteen days after it, and a pious Roman had a vision of his soul handed over to the two wrathful saints, Dominic and Francis. Moreover the Cardinal of Albano, whose hostility to the Orders had led him to take an active part in advising Innocent to the measure, was imprudent enough to boast that he had caused the subjugation of the Mendicants to the bishops and would place them under the feet of the lowest priests. The same day a beam in his house gave way; he fell and broke his neck. It would perhaps be unjust to accuse the Dominicans of having assisted nature in these catastrophes; but, strange as it seems to hear them boast of having prayed a pope to death, they certainly do relate with pride that "Beware of the Dominican litanies, for they work miracles," became a common phrase.
The death of Innocent saved the Mendicant Orders. That his successor was elected after an interval of only fourteen days was due to the provident care of the Prefect of Rome, who, distrusting the operation of the Holy Ghost, put the fathers of the Conclave on short rations, resulting in the election of Alexander IV. The new pope was specially favorable to the Mendicants. When John of Parma, the Franciscan general, came to him with the customary request that he would appoint a cardinal as "Protector" of the Order, he refused, saying that so long as he lived it should need no other protector than himself; and his selection of the Dominican Raymond of Pennaforte and the Franciscan Ruffino as papal chaplains showed how willingly he subjected himself to their influence. On December 31, ten days after his elevation, he addressed letters to both Orders asking their suffrages and intercession with God, and the same day he issued an encyclical, revoking the terrible bull of Innocent and pronouncing it void.
Before such a judge the case of the University was evidently lost. On April 14, 1255, appeared the bull Quasi lignum vitÃ¦, deciding the quarrel in favor of the Dominicans. Yet William of St. Amour returned to Paris resolved to carry on the war. In the pulpit he and his friends thundered forth against the Mendicants. They were not specifically named, but there was no mistaking the ingenious application to them of the signs foretold by the prophets of those who should usher in the days of Antichrist, nor the description of the Pharisees and Publicans made to fit them.
New and unimagined perils threatened the Church in the last times. The devil has found that he gained nothing in sending heretics who were easily confuted, so now he has sent the Pale Horse of the Apocalypse--the hypocrites and false brethren who, under an external guise of sanctity, convulse the Church. The persecution of the hypocrites will be more disastrous than all previous persecutions. Another weapon which lay to his hand was eagerly grasped. In 1254 there appeared a work under the name of "Introduction to the Everlasting Gospel," of which the authorship was ascribed to John of Parma, the Franciscan general. We shall have occasion to recur to this, and need only say here that a section of the Franciscans were strongly inclined to the mysticism which now began to show itself, and that the writings of Abbot Joachim of Fiore, now revived and hardily developed, predicted the downfall, in 1260, of the existing order of things in Church and State, the substitution of a new evangel for that of Christ, and the replacement of the hierarchy by mendicant monachism.
The "Introduction to the Everlasting Gospel" attracted universal attention and offered too tempting an opening for attack to be neglected.
Degeneracy of the Orders
The University sullenly held out, while Alexander fulminated bull after bull against the recalcitrants, threatening them with varied penalties, and finally calling in the assistance of the secular arm by an appeal to St. Louis. The clergy of Paris, delighted with the opportunity afforded by the temporary unpopularity of the Mendicants, reviled them from the pulpit, and even attacked them personally with blows and threats of worse treatment, till they scarce ventured to appear in the streets and beg their daily bread.
The controversy raged wilder as the indomitable St. Amour, undeterred by Alexander's request to the king to throw him into jail, issued a tract entitled "De Periculis novissimorum Temporum," in which he boldly set forth all the arguments of his discourses against the Mendicants. He proved that the pope had no right to contravene the commands of the prophets and apostles, and that they were convicted of error when they upturned the established order of the Church in permitting these wandering hypocrites and false prophets to preach and hear confessions.
Those who live by beggary are flatterers and liars and detractors and thieves and avoiders of justice. Whoever asserts that Christ was a beggar denies that he was the Messiah, and thus is a heresiarch who destroys the foundation of all Christian faith. An able-bodied man commits sacrilege if he receives the alms of the poor for his own use, and if the Church has permitted this for the monks it has been in error and should be corrected. It rests with the bishops to purge their dioceses of these hypocrites; they have the power, and if they neglect their duty the blood of those who perish will be upon their heads.
This was answered by Aquinas and Bonaventura. The former, in his tract "Contra Impugnantes Religionem," proved in the most finished style of scholastic logic that the friars have a right to teach, to preach and hear confessions, and to live without labor; in the same mode he rebutted the charges as to their morals and influence, showing that they were not precursors of Antichrist. He also demonstrated the more suggestive theorems that they had a right to resist their defamers, to use the courts in their defence, to secure their safety if necessary by resort to arms, and to punish their persecutors. That his dialectics were equal to bringing out any desired conclusion when once his premises were granted is well known, and they did not fail him on this occasion. Bonaventura also replied in several treatises--"De Paupertate Christi," in which he earnestly pleaded the example of Christ as an argument for poverty and mendicancy; the "Libellus Apologeticus" and the "Tractatus quia Fratres Minores prÅ“dicent," in which he carried the war into the enemy's territory with a vigorous and plain-spoken onslaught on the shortcomings and defects and sins and corruption and vileness of the clergy.
Heretics might well feel justified in seeing the two parties into which the Church was divided thus expose each other; and the faithful might well doubt whether salvation was assured with either.
Their Activity as Missionaries
Yet this wordy war was mere surplusage. On the appearance of St. Amour's book, St. Louis had hastened to send copies to Alexander for judgment. The University likewise sent St. Amour at the head of a delegation to demand the condemnation of the Everlasting Gospel. Albertus Magnus and Bonaventura came to defend their Orders, and a hot disputation was held before the consistory.
The Everlasting Gospel and its Introduction were condemned with decent reserve by a special commission assembled at Anagni, in July, 1255, but St. Amour's book was declared by the bull Romanus Pontifex, October 5, 1256, to be lying, scandalous, deceptive, wicked, and execrable. It was ordered to be burned before the curia and the University; every copy was to be surrendered within eight days to be burned, and any one presuming to defend it was pronounced a rebel. The envoys of St. Louis and the University were obliged to subscribe to a declaration assenting to this and to the right of the Mendicants to preach and hear confessions and to live on alms without labor, William of St. Amour alone resolutely refusing. Alexander moreover ordered all teachers and preachers to abstain from reviling the Mendicants and to retract the abuse they had uttered under pain of loss of preferment--a command which was but slackly obeyed.
The victory was won for the Mendicants. The University submitted ungraciously to the irresistible power of the papacy, and the unconquerable William of St. Amour alone held out. He would make no acknowledgments, no concessions. He had sworn to abide by the mandates of the Church, but he refused to recant like his comrades. When about to return, in August, 1257, Alexander forbade him to go to France and perpetually interdicted him from teaching, and so great was the dread which he inspired that the pope wrote to St. Louis asking him to prevent the inflexible theologian from entering his kingdom. Yet from abroad he maintained an active correspondence with his old colleagues, and the University continued in a state of disquiet.
It was in vain that Alexander prohibited all intercourse with him. Though the Mendicants were allowed to teach, they were ridiculed in indecent rhymes and lampoons, which were eagerly circulated; and, on Palm Sunday of 1259 the beadle of the University, Guillot of Picardy, interrupted the preaching of Thomas Aquinas by publishing a scandalous and libellous book against the Mendicants.
Yet this gradually died out, and the final act of the quarrel is seen in an epistle of Alexander's, December 3, 1260, authorizing the Bishop of Paris to absolve those who had incurred excommunication by keeping copies of St. Amour's book, on their surrendering them to be burned, the number of these "rebels" apparently being quite large. Still St. Amour remained steadfast in exile. He was allowed to return to Paris by Clement IV. who ascended the papal throne in 1264, and in 1266 he sent to the pontiff another book on the same theme. Clement had hastened, in 1265, to proclaim his good-will to the Mendicant Orders by a bull in which he confirmed in the amplest manner their independence of the bishops, and, as was inevitable, he rejected St. Amour's new book as filled with the old virus. William died in 1272, obstinate and unrepentant, and was honorably buried in his native village of St. Amour, though he is reputed as a heretic by all good Dominicans and Franciscans.
The embers of the controversy had been rekindled in 1269 by an anonymous Franciscan who assailed St. Amour's book. Gerald of Abbeville, who is ranked with Aquinas, Bonaventura, and Robert of Sorbonne, as one of the four chief theologians of the age, replied with an attack on the doctrine of poverty and a defence of the ownership of property. Bonaventura rejoined with his "Apologia Pauperum," an eloquent defence of poverty, and the Franciscan annalists relate with natural glee how Gerard was so overcome by his adversary's logic that, under the vengeance of God, he lost the faculty of reasoning, sank into paralysis, and ended with a horrible death by leprosy.
Though an occasional outbreak like this might occur, the victory was won. The aggressions of the Mendicants had raised a deep and widespread hostility against them in all ranks of the clergy, who recognized not only that their privileges and wealth were impaired, that the reverence of the people was intercepted, but, what was even more important, that this new papal militia was subjecting them to Rome with a force that would deprive them of what little independence had been left by former encroachments.
When, therefore, the upstarts had dared a combat with the honored and powerful University of Paris--the shining sun, to use the words of Alexander IV., which pours the light of pure doctrine through the whole world, the body from which, as from the bosom of a parent, are born the noble race of doctors who enlighten Christendom and uphold the Catholic faith--it might well be thought that the rash interlopers had provoked their fate. Everything had been tried--learning and wit, reverence for established institutions, popular favor, the long-enjoyed right of the governing faculty to regulate its internal affairs--yet everything had failed against the steadfastness of the Mendicants supported by the unwavering favor of Alexander. When the University of Paris had been worsted in the struggle, though aided with the sympathy of all the prelates of Christendom, there was little hope in further opposition to those whom the pope, in forbidding the prelates to side with the University, described as "Golden vials filled with sweet odors."
Yet spasmodic resistance, however hopeless, still continued. A bull of Clement IV., in 1268, forbidding the archbishops and bishops from even interpreting the privileges conferred on the Mendicants, shows that the hostility was as bitter as ever. The clergy would also still occasionally endeavor to prevent the establishment of new Mendicant houses, or seek to drive them away by ill-treatment, with the inevitable result of calling forth the papal vengeance. They had a gleam of hope when the wise and learned John XXI. ascended the papal throne, but his antagonism to the Mendicants, like that of Innocent IV., was not conducive to longevity.
The roof of his palace fell in upon him after a pontificate of but eight months, and the pious chroniclers of the Orders handed down his memory as that of a heretic and magician. About 1284 the interpretation put on some fresh concessions by Martin IV. aroused the antagonism anew. The whole Gallican Church uprose.
In 1287 the Archbishop of Reims called a provincial council to consider the subject. He pathetically described his futile efforts to reach a peaceful solution, the unbearable encroachments of the friars, the intolerable injuries inflicted on both clergy and laity, and the necessity of an appeal to Rome. The expenses of such an appeal were known to be heavy, and all the bishops agreed to contribute five per cent. of their revenues, while a levy of one per cent. was made on all abbots, priors, deans, chapters, and parochial churches of the province. The pious Franciscan Salimbene informs us that a hundred thousand livres tournois were raised and Honorius IV. was won over. On Good Friday of 1287 he was to issue a bull depriving the Mendicants of the right to preach and hear confessions. They were in despair, but this time it was the prayers of the Franciscans which prevailed, as those of the Dominicans had done in the case of Innocent IV.
The hand of God fell upon Honorius in the night of Wednesday, he died on Thursday, and the Orders were saved. Yet the struggle continued till the bull of Martin IV. was withdrawn in 1298 by Boniface VIII., who in vain attempted to put an end to the quarrel which distracted the Church. Benedict XI. was no more successful, and complained that the trouble was a hydra, putting forth seven heads for every one which was cut off. In 1323 John XXII. pronounced heretical the doctrine of Jean de Poilly, who held that confession to the friars was void and that every one must confess to his parish priest. In 1351 the clergy again took heart for another attack.
Possibly the devotion shown by the Mendicants during the Black Death, when twenty-five million human beings were swept away, when the priests abandoned their posts, and the friars alone were found to tend the sick and console the dying, may have led to fresh progress by them and have enkindled antagonism anew. Be this as it may, a vast deputation, embracing cardinals, bishops, and minor clergy, waited on Clement VI. and petitioned for the abolition of the Orders, or at least the prohibition of their preaching and hearing confessions, and enjoying the burial profits, by which they were enormously enriched at the expense of the parish priests.
The Mendicants deigned no reply, but Clement spoke for them, denying the allegation of the petition that they were useless to the Church, and asserting that, on the contrary, they were most valuable.
"And if," he continued, "their preaching be stopped, about what can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, arrogant and given to pomp. If on poverty, you are the most grasping and most covetous, so that all the benefices in the world will not satisfy you. If on chastity--but we will be silent on this, for God knoweth what each man does and how many of you satisfy your lusts. You hate the Mendicants and shut your doors on them lest they should see your mode of life, while you waste your temporal wealth on pimps and swindlers. You should not complain if the Mendicants receive some temporal possessions from the dying to whom they minister when you have fled, nor that they spend it in buildings where everything is ordered for the honor of God and the Church, in place of wasting it in pleasure and licentiousness. And because you do not likewise, you accuse the Mendicants, for most of you give yourselves up to vain and worldly lives."
Under this fierce rebuke, even though uttered by a pope whom St. Birgitta denounced as himself a follower of the lusts of the flesh, there was evidently nothing practicable but submission. Yet the prelates were not silenced, for a few years later Richard, Archbishop of Armagh, preached in London some sermons against the Mendicants, for which they accused him of heresy before Innocent VI.
In 1357 he defended himself in a discourse wherein he handled them unsparingly, but his case dragged on, and he died in Avignon, in 1360, before it reached an end. This was not reassuring for the secular clergy, but still the quarrel went on. Thus in 1373 the Franciscan Guardian of Syracuse applied to Gregory XI. for an authentic copy of the bull of John XXII. against the errors of Jean de Poilly, showing that in Sicily the secular clergy were contesting the right of the Mendicants to hear confessions. In 1386 the Council of Salzburg forcibly described the scandals wrought by the intrusion in all parishes, uninvited and irrepressible, of those licentious wandering friars, who kindled discord and set an example of evil, and it proceeded to decree that in future they should not be allowed to preach and hear confessions without the license of the bishop and the invitation of the pastor. In 1393 Conrad II., Archbishop of Mainz, varied his persecution of the Waldenses by an edict in which he described the Mendicants as wolves in sheep's clothing, and prohibited them from hearing confessions. On the other hand, MaÃ®tre Jean de Gorelle, a Franciscan, in 1408, publicly argued that curates were not competent to preach and hear confessions, which was the business of the friars--a proposition which the University of Paris promptly compelled him to retract.
The quarrel seemed endless. In 1409 the Mendicants complained that the clergy stigmatized them as robbers and wolves, and insisted that all sins confessed to them must be confessed again to the parish curates, thus reviving the error of Jean de Poilly condemned by John XXII. Alexander V., himself a Franciscan, responded to their request by issuing the bull Regnans in excelsis, which threatened with the pains of heresy all who should uphold such doctrines, or that the consent of the priest was requisite before the parishioner could confess to the friars. During the great schism the papacy was no longer an object of terror.
The University of Paris boldly took up the quarrel, and under the leadership of John Gerson refused to receive this bull, compelling the Dominicans and Carmelites publicly to renounce it, and expelling the Franciscans and Augustinians, who refused to do likewise.
Gerson did not hesitate to preach publicly against it in a sermon, in which he enumerated the four persecutions of the Church in the order of their severity--tyrants, heretics, the Mendicants, and Antichrist. This unflattering collocation was not likely to promote harmony, but the matter seems to have slept for a while in the greater questions raised by the councils of Constance and Basle, though the latter assembly took occasion to decide against the Mendicants on the points at issue, as well as to condemn the widespread popular belief that any one dying in a Franciscan habit would not spend more than a year at most in purgatory, since St. Francis made an annual visit there and carried off all his followers to heaven.
When the papacy regained its strength it renewed the struggle for its favorites. In 1446 Eugenius IV. put forth a new bull, Gregis nobis crediti, condemning the doctrines of Jean de Poilly, which attracted little attention, and was followed in 1453 by Nicholas V. with another, Provisionis nostrÅ“, of similar import. This was brought in 1456 to the notice of the University, which denounced it as surreptitious, destructive to peace, and subversive of hierarchial subordination. Calixtus III. continued the struggle, and, finding the University unyielding, appealed to Louis XI. for secular interposition, but in vain; the University refused to admit into its body any friars who would not pledge themselves not to make use of these bulls. It is true that in 1458 a priest of Valladolid who denied the authority of the Mendicants to supersede the parish priests was forced to recant publicly in his own church; but the trouble continued, leading in Germany to such scandals that the archbishops of Mainz and TrÃ¨ves, with other bishops, and the Duke of Bavaria, were obliged to appeal to the Holy See.
A commission of two cardinals and two bishops was appointed to determine upon a compromise, which was accepted by both parties and approved by Sixtus IV. about 1480. The priests were not to teach that the Orders were fruitful of heresies, the friars were not to teach that parishioners need not hear mass on Sundays and feast days in their parish churches, or confess to their curates at Easter, though they were not to be deprived of hearing confessions and granting absolutions. Neither priests nor friars were to endeavor to get the laity to choose sepulture with either; and neither party was to assail or detract from the other in their sermons.
The insertion of this compromise in the canon law shows the importance attached to it, and that it was regarded as a lasting settlement, applicable throughout Latin Christendom. Its effect is seen in the inclusion, among the heresies of Jean Lallier condemned in Paris in 1484, of those which revived the doctrine of Jean de Poilly and declared that John XXII. had no power to pronounce it heretical. Yet, at the Lateran Council, in 1515, a determined effort was made by the bishops to obtain the revocation of the special privileges of the Mendicants.
By refusing to vote for any measures they obtained a promise of this, but skilful delay enabled Leo X. to elude performance till the following year, when a compromise was effected, which merely shows by what it forbade to the Mendicants how contemptuous had been their defiance of episcopal authority. They lost little by this, for in 1519 Erasmus complains in a letter to Albert, Cardinal-Archbishop of Mainz, "The world is overburdened with the tyranny of the Mendicants, who, though they are the satellites of the Roman See, are yet so numerous and powerful that they are formidable to the pope himself and even to kings. To them, when the pope aids them, he is more than God, when he displeases them he is worthless as a dream."
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It must be confessed that both Dominicans and Franciscans had greatly fallen away from the virtues of their founders. Scarce had the Orders commenced to spread when false brethren were found who, contrary to their vow of poverty, made use of their faculty of preaching for purposes of filthy gain; and as early as 1233 we find Gregory IX. sharply reminding the Dominican chapter-general that the poverty professed by the Order should be genuine and not fictitious. The wide employment of the friars by the popes as political emissaries necessarily diverted them from their spiritual functions, attracted ambitious and restless men into their ranks, and gave the institutions a worldly character thoroughly in opposition to their original design. Their members, moreover, were peculiarly subject to temptation. Wanderers by profession, they were relieved from supervision, and were subject only to the jurisdiction of their own superiors and to the laws of their own Orders, thus intensifying and rendering peculiarly dangerous the immunity common to all ecclesiastics.
The "Seraphic Religion" of the Franciscans, as it was based on a lofty ideal, was especially subject to the reaction of human imperfection. This was manifest even in the lifetime of St. Francis, who resigned the generalate on account of the abuses which were creeping in, and offered to resume it if the brethren would walk according to his will.
It was inevitable that trouble should come between those who conscientiously adhered to the Rule in all its strictness and the worldlings who saw in the Order the instrument of their ambition; and it did not need the prophetic spirit to lead Francis to predict on his death-bed future scandals and divisions and the persecution of those who would not consent to error--a forecast which we will see abundantly verified, as well as that in which he foretold that the Order would become so defamed that it would be ashamed to be seen in public. His successor in the mastership, Elias, gave the Order a powerful impetus on its downward path. Reckoned the shrewdest and most skilful political manager in Italy, he greatly increased its influence and public activity, till his relaxation of the strictness of the Rule gave such offence to the more rigid brethren that, after a hard struggle, they compelled Gregory IX. to remove him, whereupon he went over to the party of Frederic II., and was duly excommunicated.
As the Order spread it was not in human nature to reject the wealth which came pouring in upon it from all sides, and ingenious dialectics were resorted to to reconcile its ample possessions with the absolute rejection of property prescribed by the Rule. The humble hovels which Francis had enjoined became stately palaces, which arose in every city, rivalling or putting to shame the loftiest cathedrals and most sumptuous abbeys. In 1257 St. Bonaventura, who had just succeeded John of Parma as General of the Order, varied his controversy with William of St. Amour by an encyclical to his provincials in which he bewailed the contempt and dislike felt universally for the Order, caused by its greedy seeking after money; the idleness of so many of its members, leading them into all manner of vices; the excesses of the vagabond friars, who oppress those who receive them and leave behind them the memory of scandals rather than examples of virtue; the importunate beggary which renders the friar more terrible than a robber to the wayfarer; the construction of magnificent palaces, which oppress friends and give occasion to attacks from enemies; the intrusting of preaching and confession to those wholly unfit; the greedy grasping after legacies and burial fees, to the great disturbance of the clergy, and in general the extravagance which would inevitably cause the chilling of charity.
Evidently the assaults of St. Amour and the complaints of the clergy were not without foundation; but this vigorous rebuke was ineffective, and ten years later Bonaventura was obliged to repeat it in even stronger terms. This time he expressed his special horror at the shameless audacity of those brethren who, in their sermons to the laity, attacked the vices of the clergy, and gave rise to scandals, quarrels, and hatreds; and he wound up by declaring,
"It is a foul and profane lie to assert one's self the voluntary professor of absolute poverty and then refuse to submit to the lack of anything; to beg abroad like a pauper and to roll in wealth at home."
Bonaventura's declamations were in vain, and the struggle in the Order continued, until it ejected its stricter members as heretics, as we shall see when we come to consider the Spiritual Franciscans and the Fraticelli. In the succeeding century both Orders gave free rein to their worldly propensities. St. Birgitta, in her Revelations, which were sanctioned by the Church as inspired, declares that
"although founded upon vows of poverty they have amassed riches, place their whole aim in increasing their wealth, dress as richly as bishops, and many of them are more extravagant in their jewelry and ornaments than laymen who are reputed wealthy."
Their Functions as Inquisitors
Such was the development of the Mendicant Orders and their complicated relations with the Church. Yet their activity was too great to be confined to the defence of the Holy See and to the religious revival by which they, for a time, reacquired for Rome the veneration of the people. One of the collateral objects to which they devoted a portion of their energies was missionary work, and in this they set a worthy example to their successors, the Jesuits of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Among the incessant labors of St. Francis his efforts to convert the infidel were conspicuous. He proposed to visit Morocco, in the hope of converting King Miramolin, and had reached Spain on his voyage thither, when compelled by sickness to return. In the thirteenth year of his conversion he travelled to Syria for the purpose of bringing over the Soldan of Babylon to the Christian faith, although war was then raging with the Saracens. Captured between the hostile lines, he was carried with his companion in chains to the soldan, when he offered to undergo the ordeal of fire to prove the truth of his faith; he was offered magnificent presents, but spurned them, and was allowed to depart.
His followers were true to his example. No distance and no danger deterred them from the task of winning souls to Christianity, and in these arduous labors there was a noble emulation between them and the Dominicans, for Dominic had likewise proposed an extended scheme of missions in which to close his life's work. As early as 1225 we find missionaries of both orders laboring in Morocco. In 1233 Franciscans were despatched to convert Miramolin, the Sultan of Damascus, the caliph, and Asia in general. In 1237 the Eastern Jacobites were brought back to Catholic unity by the zeal of Dominicans, and they were at work among Nestorians, Georgians, Greeks, and other Eastern schismatics. Indulgences, the same as for a crusade, were offered to all who engaged in these enterprises, which were perilous enough, for soon after we hear of ninety Dominicans suffering martyrdom among the Cumans in eastern Hungary, when the hordes of Genghis Khan swept over the land.
After the retirement of the Tartars they returned and converted the Cumans by wholesale, besides laboring among the Cathari of Bosnia and Dalmatia, where several of them were slain and two of their convents were burned by the heretics. The extent of the Franciscan missions may be judged by a bull of Alexander IV., in 1258, addressed to all the brethren in the lands of the Saracens, Pagans, Greeks, Bulgarians, Cumans, Ethiopians, Syrians, Iberians, Alans, Cathari, Goths, Zichori, Russians, Jacobites, Nubians, Nestorians, Georgians, Armenians, Indians, Muscovites, Tartars, Hungarians, and the missionaries to the Christian captives among the Turks; and however hazy may be the geography of this enumeration, the extent of the ground sought to be covered shows the activity and self-sacrificing energy of the good brethren. Among the Tartars their success was for a while encouraging. The great khan himself was baptized, and the converts were so numerous that a bishop became necessary for their organization; but the khan apostatized and the missionaries paid with their lives the forfeit of their zeal, nor were they by any means the only martyrs who suffered in the cause. The efficacy of their Armenian mission may be seen in the renunciation of King Haito of Armenia, who entered the Order and assumed the name of Friar John, though the vicissitudes of his subsequent career were not encouraging to future imitators.
He was not, however, the only royal Franciscan, for St. Louis of Toulouse, son of Charles the Lame of Naples and Provence, resisted his father's offer of a crown to become a Franciscan. Less authentic, perhaps, are the Dominican accounts of eight missionaries of their Order who, in 1316, penetrated to the empire of Prester John in Abyssinia, where they founded so durable a Church that in half a century they had the Inquisition organized there, with Friar Philip, son of one of Prester John's subject kings, as inquisitor-general. His zeal led him to attack with both spiritual and fleshly weapons another king who indulged in bigamy, and by whom he was treacherously seized and put to death, November 4, 1366, his martyrdom and sanctity being attested by numerous miracles. Be this as it may, the Franciscans record with pardonable pride that members of their Order accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to America, eager to commence the conversion of the New World.
The special field of activity of the Mendicants, however, which more particularly concerns us, was that of the conversion and persecution of heretics--of the Inquisition, which they made their own. It was inevitable that this should fall into their hands as soon as the inadequacy of the ancient episcopal courts required the organization of a new system. The discovery and conviction of the heretic was no easy task. It required special training, and that training was exactly what the Orders sought to give their neophytes to fit them for the work of preaching and conversion. With no ties of locality, soldiers of the Cross ready to march to any point at the word of command, they could be despatched at a moment's notice whenever their services were required. Moreover, their peculiar devotion to the Holy See rendered them specially useful in organizing the papal Inquisition which was to supersede by degrees the episcopal jurisdiction, and prove so efficient an instrument in reducing the local churches to subjection.
Inveterate Hostility between the Orders
That Dominic was the founder of the Inquisition and the first inquisitor-general has become a part of Roman tradition. It is affirmed by all the historians of the Order, and by all the panegyrists of the Inquisition; it has the sanction of infallibility in the bull Invictarum of Sixtus V., and it is confirmed by quoting a bull of Innocent III. appointing him inquisitor-general. Yet it is safe to say that no tradition of the Church rests on a slenderer basis. That Dominic devoted the best years of his life to combating heresy there is no doubt, and as little that, when a heretic was deaf to argument or persuasion, he would cheerfully stand by the pyre and see him burned, like any other zealous missionary of the time; but in this he was no more prominent than hundreds of others, and of organized work in this direction he was utterly guiltless.
Indeed, from the year 1215, when he laid the foundation of his Order, he was engrossed in it to the exclusion of all other objects, and was obliged to forego his cherished design of ending his days as a missionary to Persia. We shall see that it was not until more than ten years after his death, in 1221, that such an institution as the papal Inquisition can be said to have existed. The prominent part assigned in it to his successors easily explains the legend which has grown around his name, a legend which may safely be classed with the enthusiastic declaration of an historian of the Order that more than a hundred thousand heretics had been converted by his teaching, his merits, and his miracles.
A similar legendary halo exaggerates the exclusive glory, claimed by the Order, of organizing and perfecting the Inquisition. The bulls of Gregory IX. alleged in support of the assertion are simply special orders to individual Dominican provincials to depute brethren fitted for the purpose to the duty of preaching against heresy and examining heretics, and prosecuting their defenders. Sometimes Dominicans are sent to special districts to proceed against heretics, with an apology to the bishops and an explanation that the friars are skilful in convincing heretics, and that the other episcopal duties are too engrossing to enable the prelates to give proper attention to this. The fact simply is that there was no formal confiding of the Inquisition to the Dominicans any more than there was any formal founding of the Inquisition itself. As the institution gradually assumed shape and organization in the effort to find some effectual means to ferret out concealed heretics, the Dominicans were the readiest instrument at hand, especially as they professed the function of preaching and converting as their primary business.
As conversion became less the object, and persecution the main business of the Inquisition, the Franciscans were equally useful, and the honors of the organization were divided between them. Indeed, there was no hesitation in confiding inquisitorial functions to clerics of any denomination when occasion required. As early as 1258 we find two canons of LodÃ¨ve acting under papal commissions as inquisitors of Albi, and we shall meet hereafter, at the close of the fourteenth century, Peter the Celestinian discharging the duties of papal inquisitor with abundant energy from the Baltic to Styria.
Yet the earliest inquisitors, properly so called, were unquestionably Dominicans. When, after the settlement between Raymond of Toulouse and St. Louis, the extirpation of heresy in the Albigensian territories was seriously undertaken, and the episcopal organization proved unequal to the task, it was Dominicans who were sent thither to work under the direction of the bishops. In northern France the business gradually fell almost exclusively into the hands of Dominicans. In Aragon, as early as 1232, they are recommended to the Archbishop of Tarragona as fitting instruments, and in 1249 the institution was confided to them. Eventually southern France was divided between them and the Franciscans, the western portion being given to the Dominicans, while the Comtat Venaissin, Provence, Forcalquier, and the states of the empire in the provinces of Arles, Aix, and Embrun were under charge of the Franciscans.
As for Italy, after some confusion arising from the conflicting pretensions of the two Orders, it was, in 1254, formally divided between them by Innocent IV., the Dominicans being assigned to Lombardy, Romagnola, Tarvesina, and Genoa, while the central portion of the peninsula fell to the Franciscans; Naples, as yet, being free from the institution. This division, however, was not always strictly observed, for at times we find Franciscan inquisitors in Milan, Romagnola, and Tarvesina. In Germany and Austria the Inquisition, as we shall see, never took deep root, but, in so far as it was organized there, was in Dominican hands, while Bohemia and Dalmatia were under the care of Franciscans.
Sometimes the two orders were conjoined. In 1237 the Franciscan Ã‰tienne de Saint ThibÃ©ry was associated with the Dominican Guillem Arnaud in Toulouse, in hopes that the reputation of his Order for greater mildness might diminish the popular aversion for the new institution. In April, 1238, Gregory IX. appointed the provincials of the two Orders in Aragon as inquisitors for that kingdom, and in the same year the same policy was pursued in Navarre.
In 1255 the Franciscan Guardian of Paris was associated with the Dominican prior as the heads of the Inquisition in France; in 1267 we find both Orders furnishing inquisitors for Burgundy and Lorraine; and in 1311 we hear of two Dominicans and one Franciscan as inquisitors in the province of Ravenna.
It was found the wisest course, however, to define sharply the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions, for the active and incessant jealousy between the two bodies rendered any concurrence or competition between them an explosive mine liable to be started by a spark. Their mutual hatreds began early, and the unscrupulous means by which they were gratified were a perpetual scandal and danger to the Church. In 1266, for instance, a lively quarrel arose between the Dominicans of Marseilles and the Franciscan inquisitor of that city. The dissension spread until the two Orders were embroiled throughout Provence, Forcalquier, Avignon, Arles, Beaucaire, Montpellier, and Carcassonne, and everywhere they were preaching against and insulting each other in public. Several briefs of Clement IV. show that the pope was obliged to intervene, and his command that in future inquisitors shall forbear to use their powers to prosecute each other, no matter how guilty the offending party may apparently be, indicates that the sharpest weapons of the Holy Office had been used in the strife.
When, as late as 1479, Sixtus IV. forbade inquisitors of either Order to sit in judgment on brethren of the other, it would indicate that the intervening two centuries had not diminished the tendency. The jealousy with which their respective limits were defended is illustrated by troubles which occurred in 1290 about the Tarvesina. This was Dominican territory, but for many years the office of inquisitor at Treviso was filled by the Franciscan Filippo Bonaccorso. When, in 1289, he accepted the episcopate of Trent, the Dominicans expected the office to be restored to them, and were indignant at seeing it given to another Franciscan, FrÃ Bonajuncta. The Dominican inquisitor of Lombardy FrÃ Pagano, and his vicar, FrÃ Viviano, went so far in their resistance that serious disturbances were excited in Verona, and it became necessary for Nicholas IV. to intervene in 1291, when he punished the recalcitrants by perpetual deprivation of their functions. To the heretics it must have offered excusable delight to see their persecutors persecuting each other.
So ineradicable was the hostility between the two Orders that Clement IV. established the rule that there should be a distance of at least three thousand feet between their respective possessions--a regulation which only led to new and more intricate disputes. They even quarrelled as to the right of precedence in processions and funerals, which was claimed by the Dominicans, and settled in their favor by Martin V. in 1423. We shall see hereafter how important in the development of the mediÃ¦val Church was this implacable rivalry.
The disturbances at Marseilles show the favoritism always manifested towards the Mendicants. Two clerks, whom the Dominicans had procured to depose falsely against the inquisitor, were punished with perpetual prison, degradation, and inability to hold benefices; the bishop who had listened to them was suspended from his office and jurisdiction, while the friars who had suborned the perjury and caused the whole trouble were let off with rendering humiliating apologies and transferred to another province. (Martene ubi sup.)
There has been some dispute as to whether FrÃ Filippo Bonaccorso was a Franciscan or a Dominican.
In the busy world of the thirteenth century there was thus no agency more active than that of the Mendicant Orders, for good and for evil. On the whole perhaps the good preponderated, for they undoubtedly aided in postponing a revolution for which the world was not yet ready.
Though the self-abnegation of their earlier days was a quality too rare and perishable to be long preserved, and though they soon sank to the level of the social order around them, yet had their work not been altogether lost. They had brought afresh to men's minds some of the forgotten truths of the gospel, and had taught them to view their duties to their fellows from a higher plane. How well they recognized and appreciated their own services is shown by the story, common to the legend of both Orders, which tells that while Dominic and Francis were waiting the approval of Innocent III. a holy man had a vision in which he saw Christ brandishing three darts with which to destroy the world, and the Virgin inquiring his purpose. Then said Christ,
"The world is full of pride, avarice, and lust; I have borne with it too long, and with these darts will I consume it."
The Virgin fell on her knees and interceded for man, but in vain, until she revealed to him that she had two faithful servants who would reduce it to his dominion. Then Christ desired to see the champions; she showed him Dominic and Francis, and he was content.
The pious author of the story could hardly have foreseen that in 1627 Urban VIII. would be obliged to deprive the Mendicant Friars of Cordova of their dearly prized immunity, and to subject them to episcopal jurisdiction, in the hope of restraining them from seducing their spiritual daughters in the confessional.