« PoprzedniaDalej »
aymes toujours a ton pouvoir, et avec ce aime toujours saincte Eglise.”
Although it is a boundless subject, I must briefly notice how faithfully that precept of chivalry was observed, which prescribed the application of riches to founding and providing for religious institutions. All that can be done is to select a few examples, which may convey an idea of the spirit which actuated the nobles of Europe. One day, Charlemagne having lost his way while hunting, came to a brook in a deep forest, which his horse refused to approach, as soon as he perceived the sulphureous exhalation from the water. The king dismounted, and followed the brook till he reached its source, hidden under the superb ruins of a Roman palace. Upon this discovery, Charlemagne resolved to fix his court here.
The first thought of his creative genius was turned towards the eternal Being, without whom all the projects of kings fail : soon, says Marchangy, at the voice of this new Solomon, a magnificent temple is raised to the Lord, enriched with spoils, mosaiques and bronzes from Pisa, candelabras from Verona, and fragments from the imperial palace of Ravenna; the perfumes of the East are burnt in vases taken from the caliphs, and the hymns which Charles had brought from Rome, with the Gregorian chant, add to the solemnities of the sacred place. This religious spirit of magnificence belonged especially to knighthood. When Bouchet relates the death of La Tremoille, he gives as a reason, why, notwithstanding his high station, there was so little money found in his possession, that he had built in his own town the church of our Lady, qui est fort sumptueuse et magnifique." We read of the Mareschal Boucicaut, in the memoirs of his life, “Moult volontiers aussi ayde à secourir convens et eglises, et faict reparations de chapelles et lieux d'oraisons. Volontiers donne à pauvres prestres, à pauvres religieux, et à tous ceulx qui sont au service de Dieu.” Many of the superb churches and monasteries of Normandy were raised by the bounty of the dukes and nobles. The rich donations of the Tancarvilles, the Harcourts, the Pommerayes, the Crevec@urs, Lacys, Courcys, Saint Clairs, Montgomerys, may be still seen in the charters of these different foundations, many of which have
been published by the Abbé de la Rue. King Alfred used
1 Vide Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, ix. 193. 8vo.
the order of the Bear of St. Gall, giving to the abbots the privilege of conferring it upon whom they would on the festival of St. Gall. Oh, what a sight it was to go into the ducal vaults at Nancy, to behold the tombs of those princes whose characteristic was goodness! It was John Duke of Lorraine, in the 14th century, who ordered that his charger should be presented to the church at his funeral,
en signe que tout doit retourner à Dieu.” The moderns leave orders to have them shot, according to the heathen practice. The first notice which occurs of a Coucy is in a charter of Alberic, Seigneur de Coucy, in 1059, which conveys his intention of founding a monastery at Noyent, at the foot of the mountain of Coucy. It was a religious baron, Conrad von Seldenburen, who built the convent of Engelberg, in a savage valley of Unterwalden, at the foot of Mount Titlis, which is covered with eternal snow. To this day, the convent of Engelberg is a blessing to that country. The chartreuse of Montrieux was founded by an illustrious knight and baron, Guillaume de Valbelle. In the church of St. Paul, at Lyons, was a piece of sculpture, as old as the ninth century, representing Count Richard, who had built the monastery, on his knees, saying, as indicated by a scroll in Carlovingian letters,
Christe, rei miserere mei, medicina reorum. The history of the Counts of Champagne furnishes an astonishing series of religious endowments.2
The monastery of St. Florent in Aquitaine having been destroyed by the Normans, Count Thibaud of Champagne built another in the year 937, which he protected by the Castle of Saumur, built expressly for the purpose.3 This spirit did not even forsake them in time of war. When Charles the Bold directed his artillery against Amiens, he gave particular orders to avoid striking the Cathedral. As a specimen of the deeds of endowment, I give the following, by which my worthy ancestor bequeathes a portion of his land to the brethren of St. Lazarus. “ Carta Johannis de Diggeby militis de dimidia acra terræ in Billesdon.
1 Hist. de la Ville et des Seigneurs de Coucy, par Dom. Toussaints du Plessis, p. 15.
2 Hist. des Comptes de Champagne et de Brie. 3 Ibid. tom. i. p. 16.
4 Olivier de la Marche.
“ Sciant (&c.) quod ego Johannes de Diggeby miles, dedi (&c.) fratri Roberto de Danby, magistro de Burton S. Lazari et fratribus ibidem Deo et S. Lazaro servientibus unam dimid. acram terræ arabilis in territorio de Billesdon in puram et perpetuam elemosinam, pro salute animæ meæ et antecessorum meorum,” &c.
This shews that it was not from human motives, worldly policy, or even "public spirit,” that these magnificent and beneficial institutions were founded and supported ; but out of love to God, and the desire of benefiting men for His sake, out of a penitential spirit, to give proof of sincerity, and to propitiate the divine favour. Thus Archduke Gottfried der Bärtige of Lothringa changed a game-park into a convent, probably as a penance for his having pursued the chase with too much ardour. In the reign of King Edward I. three most valiant knights, Sir Everard, Sir John, and Sir Philip Digby, accompanied Prince Edward to the holy war before he became king. It is recorded of them, that “they were the most powerful and noble knights in Leicestershire, who did much for the glory of God, and the honour of the holy Church.” Their arms are in a church in Leicester, of which they were benefactors. I have delayed too long upon this subject. I confess that these records move and deeply interest me.
When I behold the Tower of Exeter Cathedral, built by the Courtenays, and when I hear the deep-toned bells, which were the gift of that once illustrious family; and when at another time I behold the pompous villa of some modern lord, raising its haughty staring front as if in disdain of the humble fabric raised out of the pittance of the poor, dedicated to the ancient and unchanging religion of Christ, —then I confess my spirits and my heart fail
, and I fly for refuge to the images of the past, to adore and venerate the piety of our ancestors.
VII. Let us now proceed to take examples from romance and history of the religious spirit in general which distinguished chivalry. The first I shall select is from the celebrated Romance of Huon de Bourdeaux, peer of France. The emperor Thierry, enraged at the death of his nephews and attendants, who had been killed by Huon,
| Dugdale, Mon. ii. 399.
? Miraei op, dipl. i. 81.
had seized upon his noble wife Esclarmonde, whom he kept in a dungeon, with a number of attendants, intending at a future time to put them all to death. Huon had intelligence of this fatal event, and hastened to Mayence, the place of the emperor's residence. He arrived on Maunday Thursday, in the disguise of a pilgrim returning from the Holy Land, and besought the maître d'hotel, whom he first met, to give him food : this good man was greatly interested by his appearance, and in reply to his demand, if upon the morrow, Good Friday, it was not the custom to give liberal alms, he replied, “ Amy, bien pouvez croire certainement que l'empereur fera demain de grandes aumones, il departira de ses biens tant et si largement que tous pauvres qui la seront venus seront assouvis, car de plus preud'homme ne de plus grand aumonier on ne pourroit trouver; mais bien vous veux advertir que l'empereur a une coutume qu'à celui jour le premier pauvre qui vient au devant de lui est bien heureux; car il n'est aujourd'huy chose au monde ne si chere qu'il demande à l'empereur qui s'en voise esconduit et y convient estre à l'heure qu'il va en sa chapelle faire ses oraisons.” Upon this information Huon greatly rejoiced, and resolved to attend carefully the following day. That night, the history relates, he slept not, but only thought upon delivering his wife and her fellow-prisoners. « Et fut toute la nuit en oraison en priant Dieu qu'il le voulut conseiller et aider, par quelque maniere il pourra sa femme ravoir.” When the morning came, he dressed, took his pilgrim's staff, and hastened to the palace, where there were already many poor people expecting the emperor, and each wishing that he might be seen the first ; but Huon, by his cunning, contrived to place himself in so secret a corner that the rest could not see him, and where the emperor assuredly would. The emperor came and entered the chapel, and now the crowd was in anxious expectation till the office should be over. The crisis at length arrived, and Huon, by an artifice which is not worth repeating, attracted attention the first. He then began by informing the emperor, that he came there upon the account of his custom to grant the petition of those who first presented themselves after the office upon that day. Ami,” said the emperor, “ bien veux que sçachiez que si vous me deman