XII. Reformation of the Eleventh Century

[British Critic, April 1841]

{249} PERHAPS the greatest of the wants under which our religious literature labours at this day is that of an ecclesiastical history. It is inconvenient enough to have no good commentary on Scripture, and so little of systematic theology; but the Creed tells us the principal points of doctrine, and Scripture is to the pious mind, in some sense, its own interpreter. But the providences of God towards His Church during eighteen centuries, though contained in outline in prophecy, are consigned to no formula or document, clear enough to convey its own meaning, and minute enough to impress its peculiarities upon the private Christian. Not even the wildest advocate for the right of Private Judgment ever professed to apprehend past facts, as he might think he discovered revealed doctrines, without the assistance of books or teachers. Rather such an one will commonly be found to depreciate, instead of pretending to, historical knowledge: he will apply the Caliph Omar's argument to the events of 1800 years, and say that except for the first and three last centuries they are not to be studied at all, as being little or nothing better than the times of predicted evil. He shuts up God's dealings with His {250} Church under a formula, and is contented with symbols which neither he nor any one else can put into plain English.

It is difficult justly to estimate the injury done to our whole view of Gospel truth by our ignorance of ecclesiastical history. Every department of theology acts upon the rest, and if one is neglected the others suffer. Our view of doctrine affects our view of history, and our view of history our view of doctrine; and our view of doctrine the sense we put upon Scripture: and our interpretation of Scripture our ethics, and our ethics our interpretation of Scripture. And, moreover, the history of the past ends in the present; and the present is our scene of trial; and to behave ourselves towards its various phenomena duly and religiously, we must understand them; and to understand them, we must have recourse to those past events which led to them. Thus the present is a text, and the past its interpretation. To a child there is no difference between one fact and another in the religious world. He does not understand their mutual relations or their respective bearings. He has, when an infant in arms, learned to classify and dispose of objects of sense; he knows that the church spire is not so near him as his nose or his hand, and that leaves are parts of the tree, and not of the sky or the earth, with which they are conterminous. But he cannot learn without the assistance of others the meaning of moral facts; and, as things are, he commonly grows up and lives and dies as ignorant of those of an ecclesiastical character as he was when he first had the faculty of thought. "What is the difference between a Methodist and a Roman Catholic?" and "Why are we not all Quakers?" are the questions which a thoughtful child of five years old may ask; and it is not at all clear whether he is likely to have taken {251} any real steps towards the solution of them by the time he is fifty. This of course is witnessed in the case of political and social facts quite as much as in ecclesiastical. What a different meaning, for instance, has the so-called "Catholic Relief Bill," or the Reform Bill, to men of twenty and of thirty! How differently has the character of the Duke of Wellington come out to the present generation since the publication of his dispatches! How differently appear our present relations with Russia to those who know and those who are ignorant of the history of the last century! Men enter into life, and take what they find there, and put their own interpretation upon it, if their imaginations are not pre-occupied with the one true historical comment. This is why there is such difficulty in rousing the public mind to understand the importance of certain measures, proposed or resisted: to the public they are facts without meaning. What virtue is there in a name to those who are dead to it? Why should not Brutus stir a spirit as soon as Cęsar? It is the association which is everything; but to those who know not the true history of that to which the name belongs, there are no associations with it, or wrong ones.

The case is the same as regards words written or spoken. Take an orator and he shall make a speech, or an author and he shall write a pamphlet, or a preacher and he shall deliver a sermon; and then let it be considered how differently the speech, or the pamphlet, or the sermon, in each case seems to persons who know him well and those who do not. Very different for better and for worse; let him be a man of pomp and parade, or of smoothness and artifice, and strangers will be taken in, and admire the very words, turns of speech and gestures, which make those who know him well only cry out, "How like so-and-so!" On the other hand, the deep feeling and {252} reality of another sort of man go clean over the heads of those who do not know him, while friends are pierced by every word. Let the very same speech or sentiment come from two persons, and it has quite a different meaning, according to the speaker, and takes a different form in our minds. We always judge of what meets us by what we know already. There is no such thing in nature as a naked text without note or comment.

It is a curious fact, that these remarks even apply to the case of personal appearance, as is sometimes proved by the test of portraits. Let a likeness, taken twenty years ago, be put before two persons, now for the first time, one of whom knew the subject of it at the time, and the other did not, and the former will think it like him as he is now, and the latter will deny the likeness. We colour our ocular vision with the hues of the imagination: as reason is said to deceive our eyes in the phenomenon of the horizontal moon, so memory is a gloss upon them here. Our friend has grown fat, or his temples are higher, or his face is broader, or lines have come to view along his cheek, or across his forehead, and yet in certain cases we shall be heard to say, that such a one has not altered at all since the day we first knew him. To us his youth is stamped upon his maturity, and he lives in our eye, as well as in our mind, as when we first gave him our affection. We are surprised on going into the world to hear him called a middle-aged man.

In such a case, to be sure, we have an instance of an abuse of the important instrument which has been above insisted on. But we adduce it to prove the extent of the influence which the knowledge of the past has on the present;—that it may become excessive and out of place, that we may become mere antiquarians and pedants, that we may bury ourselves in the illusions of {253} history, when we should be contemplating things as they are before us, is very certain: but the danger at this day rather is, lest, from total ignorance of history, we should be obliged to determine every action and every principle by the only test which will practically be left us, the test of visible expediency. And late ecclesiastical occurrences supply some melancholy instances in point. This will be the certain consequence of treating history as an old almanac, whatever persons of some station in the Church may say to the contrary.

And, again, it must be recollected that men will form their theories and write books on religious subjects, whether or not they have the facts, which alone can enable them to do so justly. To assign causes, to draw out relations, is natural to man; and he will do it on a theory, rather than not at all. A number of answers can be given to the question, What is the Church? We are far from saying that in so complicated a question only one, or perhaps that any one, is right and true; but whatever is right, whatever wrong, surely we must go to history for the information. If we are content merely to look round us to catch up certain peculiarities which meet our eye, listen to what is said in parliament or the newspapers, or in some fashionable chapel, and then proceed to form our theory, we shall probably approach about as near the truth as the clever Oriental who defined the English as a nation who live on the sea, and make penknives. This is a remark which applies in a measure even to writers of a deeper tone of thought: we are just now becoming rich in treatises on ecclesiastical politics and doctrine: let us take good care that our arbitrary views do not get ahead of our knowledge.

We have now given some of the reasons why we are especially obliged to Mr. Bowden for the life of Hildebrand, {254} known in history as Pope Gregory VII., which he has lately given to the world. No one can write without opinions: we are far from saying that Mr. Bowden has not his own, and that of a very decided character; but what we principally thank him for is his narrative of facts; he has drawn out the facts of a momentous and wonderful period of history with great distinctness and perspicuity, and we are sure that no one will rise from the perusal of his volumes without respectful feelings towards their author for the information and instruction he has provided. We do not intend to make this article a panegyric on Mr. Bowden; but to convey to the reader by means of it some account of his subjects. Yet, before proceeding to business, it is but justice to him to say, that he has given us at once a very learned and very well-arranged history. To have read the original sources diligently and to report them accurately is one great praise; but a far more difficult task is the combination and adjustment of materials. To bring out the course of events so that a reader may go away with a definite impression upon his mind of what has passed through it, is a very difficult art. We are not perhaps quite satisfied with Mr. Bowden's style; but we eulogize his composition. He is a very neat and skilful artist, a clear and forcible narrator; makes a great many points, and every one of them tells.


But now let us proceed to his work itself. It is the history of the commencement of that great reformation of the Church in the middle ages, which Providence conducted through the instrumentality, partly divine, partly human, of the Papal Monarchy. It is usual to {255} call the times in which it occurred the dark ages; but, properly speaking, that title applies to the centuries which preceded it. No exaggeration is possible of the demoralized state into which the Christian world, and especially the Church of Rome, had fallen in the years that followed the extinction of the Carlovingian line (A.D. 887). The tenth century is even known among Protestants par excellence as the sęculum obscurum, and Baronius expresses its portentous corruption in the vivid remark that Christ was as if asleep in the vessel of the Church. "The infamies prevalent among the clergy of the time," says Mr. Bowden, "as denounced by Damiani and others, are to be alluded to, not detailed."—Vol. i., p. 144. When Hildebrand was appointed to the monastery of St. Paul at Rome, he found the offices of devotion systematically neglected, the house of prayer defiled by the sheep and cattle who found their way in and out through its broken doors, and the monks, contrary to all monastic rule, attended in their refectory by women. The excuse for these irregularities was the destitution to which the holy house was reduced by the predatory bands of Campagna; but when the monastic bodies were rich, as was the case in Germany, matters were worse instead of better. Unworthy brethren of the conventual orders, Mr. Bowden tells us, incessantly beset the ears of princes and great people, who had the presentation to abbeys and benefices, offering sums so large in purchase that secular competitors were excluded. The world wondered, says an historian of the times, himself a monk, from what springs such rivers of wealth could flow; and understood not how the riches of Crœsus or Tantalus could be amassed by men who had taken on them the scandal of the Cross and the profession of poverty. Adelbert, Archbishop of Bremen, though himself a man {256} of pure life and austere practice in an age of general dissoluteness, conceived a plan, by means of the imperial influence which he enjoyed, of making Hamburg the seat of his power, and establishing a sort of papacy in the North. With this purpose in view, he was tempted to grasp at every method of increasing his revenues, and disgraced his rule by a wide-spread system of corruption and plunder. Associating himself with a profligate favourite of the Emperor, he despoiled without shame the lands and revenues of the less powerful religious communities, and put up to sale every office, civil or ecclesiastical, which fell to his disposal. On an archbishop in France, who had contrived to bribe to silence the principal evidences against him of simony, at length being brought to confess his guilt and being deposed, no less than forty-five bishops and twenty-seven other dignitaries or governors of churches came forward to confess the criminal mode by which they had obtained their benefices, and retired from stations which they had no valid right to retain. In Lombardy, the Archbishop Guido in the eleventh century was said to have invariably demanded a price for the favour of admission into holy orders; his clergy were in their own way as deeply involved in the guilt of simony as himself, till their very flocks learned to treat them with open manifestations of contempt, reviled them in the house of God itself, and hooted them along the streets. In the times of St. Romauld, who died in 1027, the practice of emperors selling bishoprics, bishops their preferments, and laymen their benefices, was so recognized and ordinary, that when the saint had spoken even to religious persons of simony as a sin, he seemed to them to inculcate over-strained and fanciful notions.

Even two centuries earlier than this, when, as appears {257} on the face of the facts, the corruption was not so general, a Council of Paris had complained that many of the clergy were so occupied in the pursuit of gain and other worldly avocations that they suffered many infants to die without baptism. A Council of Aix-la-Chapelle of the same date prohibits extortion and intemperance in bishops, and protests against their non-residence. A Synod of Pavia a little later prohibits the clergy the practice of sumptuous banquets and the use of dogs and hawks. Hincmar judged it expedient to issue a decree against the pawning by the clergy of the vestments and the communion plate. In 829, the prelates assembled in council at Paris found it necessary to urge Louis the Debonair to use all his influence in extirpating simony, "this heresy so detestable, this pest so hateful to God," from the Church. The Synod of Meaux, in 845, renewed the warning. And Leo IV., in or about 847, denounced it in an epistle to the Bishops of Britanny as a crime condemned by many Councils. The nobles secured the ordination of their younger sons or relatives for the sole purpose of qualifying them for the acceptance of lucrative benefices; giving them, while they did so, the same military training and secular habits with the rest of the family. Others procured admission to the priesthood for dependants whom they intended to retain in subordinate stations in their household. "Such," says Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, "is the disgrace of our times, that there is scarcely one to be found who aspires to any degree of honour or temporal distinction who has not his domestic priest; and this, not that he may obey him, but that he may command his obedience alike in things lawful and things unlawful; in things human and things divine; so that these chaplains are constantly to be found serving the tables, mixing the strained wine, {258} leading out the dogs, managing the ladies' horses, or looking after the lands."

Mr. Bowden shall inform us of a scene which took place during the minority of the Emperor Henry the Fourth:

"At the commencement of vespers before the king and court at Goslar, at the solemn season of Christmas, 1062, a dispute arose between the servants of the Bishop of Hildesheim and those of the Abbot of Fulda, with regard to the position of the seats of their respective masters. The abbot, by ancient usage, was entitled to sit next to the metropolitan; but the bishop, indignant that any should take this place, within his own diocese, in preference to himself, had commanded his domestics to place the chairs accordingly. The dispute soon led to blows, and but for the interference of Otho of Bavaria, would have terminated in bloodshed. This noble asserted the rights of the abbot, and the bishop was consequently foiled. He looked forward however to a renewal of the contest under more favourable auspices; and at the feast of Pentecost following, previously to the entrance of the king and prelates into the Church, he secreted behind the high altar Count Ecbert and some well-armed soldiers. As the contending prelates proceeded to their seats, the affray between the servants began again; when the count suddenly springing from his ambush, rushed with his followers upon the astonished men of Fulda, and drove them with blows and menaces from the church. But they too had made preparations for a violent struggle, and had friends and arms at hand. In a body they rushed once more into the sacred building, and engaging their enemies with swords in the midst of the choir, confusedly mingled with the choristers. Fiercely was the combat waged: 'throughout the church,' says Lambert of Aschaffenburgh, 'resounded, instead of hymns and spiritual songs, the shouts of the combatants and the screams of the dying; ill-omened victims were slaughtered upon the altar of God; while through the building ran rivers of blood, poured forth, not by the legal religion of other days, but by the mutual cruelty of enemies.' The Bishop of Hildesheim, rushing to a pulpit or some other conspicuous position, exhorted his followers, according to the same writer, as with the sound of a trumpet, to persevere in the fray, and encouraged them by his authority, and by the promise of absolution, to disregard the sanctity of the place. The young {259} monarch called in vain on his subjects to reverence his royal dignity; all ears were deaf to his vociferated commands and entreaties; and, at length, urged by those around him to consult his own safety, he escaped with difficulty from the thickening tumult, and made his way to his palace. The men of Fulda by the efforts of Count Ecbert, were at length repulsed, and the doors of the church closed against them; upon which, ranging themselves before the building, they prepared to assault their enemies again, as soon as they should issue from it; and there remained until the approach of night induced them to retire."—Vol. i., pp. 235-237.

Miserable as are the above specimens of those truly "dark ages," yet they are decency itself compared with the atrocities which in the same era disgraced the see of Rome. At the close of the ninth century, Stephen VI. dragged the body of an obnoxious predecessor from the grave, and, after subjecting it to a mock trial, cut off its head and three fingers, and threw it into the Tiber. He himself was subsequently deposed, and strangled in prison. In the years that followed, the power of electing to the popedom fell into the hands of the intriguing and licentious Theodora, and her equally unprincipled daughters, Theodora and Marozia. These women, members of a patrician family, by their arts and beauty, obtained an unbounded influence over the aristocratic tyrants of the city. One of the Theodoras advanced a lover, and Marozia a son, to the popedom. The grandson of the latter, Octavian, succeeding to her power, as well as to the civil government of the city, elevated himself, on the death of the then Pope, to the apostolic chair, at the age of eighteen, under the title of John XII. (A.D. 956.) His career was in keeping with such a commencement. "The Lateran palace," says Mr. Bowden, "was disgraced by becoming a receptacle for courtezans: and decent females were terrified from pilgrimages to the threshold of the Apostles by the reports which were spread abroad {260} of the lawless impurity and violence of their representative and successor."—Vol. i., p. 83. At length he was carried off by a rapid illness, or by the consequences of a blow received in the prosecution of his intrigues. Boniface VII. (A.D. 974), in the space of a few weeks after his elevation, plundered the treasury and basilica of St. Peter of all he could conveniently carry off, and fled to Constantinople. John XVIII. (A.D. 1003) expressed his readiness, for a sum of money from the Emperor Basil, to recognize the right of the Greek Patriarch to the title of ecumenical or universal bishop, and the consequent degradation of his own see; and was only prevented by the general indignation excited by the report of his intention. Benedict IX. (A.D. 1033) was consecrated Pope, according to some authorities, at the age of ten or twelve years, and became notorious for adulteries and murders. At length he resolved on marrying his first cousin; and, when her father would not assent except on the condition of his resigning the popedom, he sold it for a large sum, and consecrated the purchaser as his successor. Such are a few of the most prominent features of the ecclesiastical history of these dreadful times, when, in the words of St. Bruno, "the world lay in wickedness, holiness had disappeared, justice had perished, and truth had been buried; Simon Magus lording it over the Church, whose bishops and priests were given to luxury and fornication."


Had we lived in such deplorable times as have been above described, when Satan seemed to have been let loose at the end of his thousand years, and had we been blessed with any portion of divine light to understand, and of love to desire better things, we might have asked {261} whether it was conceivable that the Church should ever recover itself from the abyss into which it was sunk. Where was the motive principle—where the fulcrum, by which it was to be righted? What was left but for matters to become worse and worse, till the last ray of truth and righteousness died away, and the last saint was gathered in, and the end of all things came, and the Judge with it? One thing we should have felt for certain, that if it was possible to retrieve the Church, it must be by some external power; she was helpless and resourceless; and the civil power must interfere, or there was no hope. So thought the young and zealous emperor, Henry III. (A.D. 1039), who, though unhappily far from a perfect character, yet deeply felt the shame to which the Immaculate Bride was exposed, and determined with his own right hand to work her deliverance. In one respect, indeed, he was plainly unequal for so high a mission, had he had other credentials of it; he who was not possessed of the grace of personal purity, could not hope to remove the more flagrant scandals with which the clergy of the day were laden; but this good thing had he, that, with all his ecclesiastical prerogatives and possessions, he had in no single instance incurred the guilt of simony; he had the most awful impression and the most acute feelings of its heinousness; and thus, if he could not animadvert upon one of the two chief sins of the day, he might aspire to be a censor of the other. And so much is undeniable, that, though he cannot be considered as regularly called to the work, and though a movement had already begun, as we shall presently see, in the Church itself, which, humanly speaking, would have effected it without him, yet in matter of fact, this well-meaning prince did begin that reformation which ended in the purification and monarchical {262} estate of the Church. He held a Council of his bishops in 1047; in it he passed a decree that "Whosoever should make any office or station in the Church a subject of purchase or sale, should suffer deprivation and be visited with excommunication;" at the same time, with regard to his own future conduct, he solemnly pledged himself as follows:—"As God has freely of His mere mercy bestowed upon me the crown of the empire, so will I give freely and without price all things that pertain unto His religion." This was his first act; but he was aware that the work of reform, to be thoroughly executed, must proceed from Rome, as the centre of the ecclesiastical commonwealth, and he determined, upon those imperial precedents and feudal principles which Charlemagne had introduced, himself to appoint a Pope, who should be the instrument of his general reformation.

The reigning Pope at this time was Gregory VI., and he introduces us to so curious a history that we shall devote some sentences to it. Gregory was the identical personage who had bought the papal office of the profligate Benedict IX. for a large sum, and was consecrated by him, and yet he was far from a bad sort of man after all. As to his traffic in holy things, he seems to have viewed it in the light of the worthy persons in our own days, whose advertisements concerning the sale or purchase of advowsons or presentations figure in the newspapers; and he really does seem to have committed his act of simony with the very best intentions, which he did in fact carry out, so far as his bargain was made good to him. He had been known in the world as John Gratianus; and at the time of his promotion was arch-priest of Rome. "He was considered," says Mr. Bowden, "in those bad times more than ordinarily religious; {263} he had lived free from the gross vices by which the clergy were too generally disgraced." He is described as "idiota et mirę simplicitatis," and, what perhaps is included in this account of him, he was unlettered. He could not be quite said to have come into actual possession of his purchase; for Benedict, his predecessor, who sold it to him, being disappointed in his intended bride, returned to Rome after an absence of three months, and resumed his pontifical station, while the party of his intended father-in-law had had sufficient influence to create a Pope of their own, John, Bishop of Sabina, who paid a high price for his elevation, and took the title of Sylvester III. And thus there were three self-styled Popes at once in the Holy City, Benedict performing his sacred functions at the Lateran, Gregory at St. Peter's, and Sylvester at Santa Maria Maggiore. Gregory, however, after a time, seemed to preponderate over his antagonists; he maintained a body of troops, and with these he suppressed the suburban robbers who molested the pilgrims. Expelling them from the sacred limits of St. Peter's, he carried his arms further, till he had cleared the neighbouring towns and roads of these marauders. On an outcry being raised at the unclerical character of such performances, brilliant as they were, he associated with him Lorenzo, Archbishop of Amalfi, who was an exile at Rome, as his coadjutor, and, while the latter undertook the direct duties of the papal office and government, he devoted himself to that police department in which he seemed so much to excel.

This was the point of time at which the Imperial Reformer made his visitation of the Church and See of the Apostles. He came into Italy in the autumn of 1046, and held a Council at Sutri, a town about thirty {264} miles to the north of Rome. Gregory was allowed to preside; and, when under his auspices the abdication of Benedict had been recorded, and Sylvester had been stripped of his sacerdotal rank and shut up in a monastery for life, Gregory's own turn came, and, as there was no one competent to judge the highest ecclesiastical authority upon earth, as he was admitted really to be, the following device was taken to get rid of him:

"His (Henry's) bishops, the cases of Gregory's rivals having been disposed of, requested the pontiff to state, for their information, the circumstances of his own election to the Papal office; and, when they had thus drawn from him an admission of the unholy traffic by which that transaction had been accomplished, they brought before him the impropriety of his conduct in a manner so glaring, that the confounded Pontiff at length exclaimed, 'I call God to witness that, in doing what I did, I hoped to obtain the forgiveness of my sins and the grace of God. But now that I see the snare into which the enemy has entrapped me, tell me what I must do?' The bishops having thus obtained their point, replied, 'Judge thyself—condemn thyself with thine own mouth; better will it be for thee to live, like the holy Peter, poor in this world and to be blest in another, than like the magician Simon, whose example misled thee, to shine in riches here, and to receive hereafter the sentence of condemnation.' And the penitent Gregory, in obedience to the suggestion spoke as follows: 'I, Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, pronounce that, on account of the shameful trafficking, the heretical simony, which took place at my election, I am deprived of the Roman See. Do you agree,' he concluded, 'to this?' 'We acquiesce,' was the reply, 'in your decision;' and the ex-Pope at once divested himself of the insignia of pontifical authority."—Vol. i., p. 119.

The new Pope whom the Emperor gave to the Church instead of Gregory VI., Clement II., a man of excellent character, died within the year. Damasus II. also, who was his second nomination, died in three or four weeks after his formal assumption of his pontifical duties. Bruno, Bishop of Toul, was his third choice; he was a relation {265} of Henry's, mild and unambitious in character, fervent in his devotion, courteous and popular in his manners, and possessed, if not of commanding talents, of considerable energy and activity of mind. He was far from desiring his elevation; when the proposal was first made to him, he requested three days to consider of it; at the end of which he made a confession of his faults before the assembled Council, with the hope of gaining their permission to decline it. But they overruled his objections, and he found himself compelled on the spot to assume the style and honours of a pontiff (A.D. 1049). Such was the person, and such the manner of his promotion, who is now known as St. Leo, the ninth of that name.


And now we are arrived at the moment when the State reformer struck his foot against the hidden rock, and found to his surprise that, in that apparently disorganized and lifeless frame, which he was attempting to new-make, there was a soul and a power of self-action adequate both to its recovery and to its resistance against foreign interference. He had chosen a Pope, but "quis custodiat ipsos custodes"? What was to keep fast that Pope in that very view of the relation of the State to the Church, that plausible Erastianism, as it has since been called, which he adopted himself? What is to secure the Pope from the influences of some Hildebrand at his elbow, who, a young man himself, shall rehearse, in the person of his superior, that part which he is one day to play in his own, as Gregory VII.? Such was the very fact; Hildebrand was with Leo, and thus commences the ecclesiastical career of that wonderful man, to whose history Mr. Bowden has {266} devoted his reading. Hildebrand was at this time from thirty to forty years of age, having been born between 1010 and 1020; his birthplace, as it is supposed, Soana, in Tuscany; his father a carpenter. He had been soon removed from home to the care of an uncle, the Abbot of St. Mary's on the Aventine, who is supposed to be the same with that Lorenzo, Archbishop of Amalfi, whom Gregory VI. had made his coadjutor, and whose assertion of ecclesiastical power had previously led to his banishment from his own diocese by Guaimar, prince of the city. Such a man was a happy master for the champion of the Church; and under his auspices Hildebrand had rapidly acquired a knowledge of the seven liberal sciences, while he exhibited from his earliest years the rudiments of that devotional temperament, which in after-life so strikingly characterized him. He was, says one of his annalists, a monk from his boyhood; his life, from its very commencement, was one of abstinence, mortification, and self-command.

Arrived at man's estate, he had undertaken a journey across the Alps, and resided for some time in the celebrated monastery of Cluni in Burgundy, the strictness of which formed an acceptable contrast, in the eyes of the austere youth, with the laxity of manners which prevailed at Rome. The Abbot Odilo, himself an eminent saint, was equally pleased with Hildebrand, applying to him prophetically the words, used by the Angel of the commissioned Reformer who went before the first Advent, "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord." On his return to Rome, disgusted with the prevalent corruptions, Hildebrand would have quitted the city again and for good, but was fixed in a resolution to stay after an occurrence not unlike, in character and termination (if we may compare together such opposite fortunes as {267} those of a Pope and a Lord Mayor), the "turn-again" passage in the history of Whittington. He afterwards served under the unfortunate Gregory VI. On Gregory's downfall, Hildebrand was carried by Henry across the Alps with Gregory himself; and thus he was at hand, when Leo, on his appointment to the papacy, invited his assistance. Such was Hildebrand, and such his previous history; and now what advice will he give to the mild and unassuming Bruno? Mr. Bowden shall tell us.

"Bruno knew and respected his zeal and ability, and, as he happened to be at Worms during the session of the Council, the newly-chosen pontiff sent for him, and requested him to be the companion of his intended journey to Rome. 'I cannot,' said Hildebrand, 'accompany you;' and, when pressed to declare the reason of this, probably unexpected, refusal, he said, 'Because you go to occupy the government of the Roman Church, not in virtue of a regular and canonical institution to it, but as appointed to it by secular and kingly power.' This led to a discussion, in which Bruno, gentle and candid by nature, and already, perhaps, inclined in his heart to favour the principles which Hildebrand now advocated before him, permitted himself to be convinced that the legitimate electors of the See of St. Peter were the Roman clergy and the people; and he prepared to shape his course accordingly. Returning to Toul, to make the necessary preparations, and to take a farewell of his diocese, he set out thence in a style very different from that which had usually been adopted by the nominees of Teutonic sovereigns in their inaugural journeys to the papal city. Instead of the rich pontifical attire which they were wont, from the day of their nomination, to assume, he clothed himself in the simple habit of a pilgrim, thus publicly testifying to the world that, notwithstanding the act of the German Henry and his Council, he considered that his real election was yet to come. Leaving Toul on the third day from the festival of Christmas, he halted on his way, at the monastery of Cluni, and from hence, if not from Toul itself, was accompanied by Hildebrand, in his unostentatious progress to the papal city. At that city, barefooted, and clad in the humble guise which he had thus assumed, Bruno arrived in the early part of February, 1049; and as he found {268} the clergy and people assembled, and uttering hymns of thanksgiving and shouts of joy in honour of his arrival, he at once addressed them, and having announced to them the mode of his election in Germany, entreating them fully and freely to declare their sentiments on the subject. Their election, he said, was of paramount authority to every other; and if what had been done beyond the Alps did not meet with their general approval, he was ready to return—a pilgrim as he had come—and to shake off the burden of a responsibility, which he had only upon compulsion undertaken. His discourse was responded to by an unanimous shout of approval; and Bruno, installed without delay in his office, assumed thenceforward the name of Leo IX."—Pp. 137-139.

It seems, then, there is a hidden power in the Church struggling with Henry in the person of his own nominees, and that, as regards the very point through which the system of Charlemagne introduced corruption into it. The State appointment to the Church offices, which was the result of the Carlovingian changes, implied the secular character of offices held by virtue of such an appointment; and that presumed secular character led to their being treated as secular, that is, to simony in obtaining them, and to a worldly use of them. Henry's reform then was conducted on a principle which involved and perpetuated the very evils which it was intended to remove; if the Church was under secular jurisdiction, it was fairly open to secular use. This feeling it was, the perception of this axiomatic truth, which the Church's instinct, or divine sense, seemed to be travailing with and bringing into effect at the era before us; and now let us, under Mr. Bowden's guidance, inquire into the history of the momentous doctrines, which it eventually succeeded in establishing.

When Christians have but a partial confidence in their own principles, there is a great temptation, when Church matters go wrong, to give up God's way, and take whatever {269} is recommended by the expediency of the moment. The ancient and true methods of proceeding appear quite out of date and place; the old materials, instruments, centres, and laws, on which the Church once moved, are apparently worn out by use; and what remains but to take up whatever comes to hand? We need not go to past ages for illustrations of this remark. In all times, weeds and scum, and all that is worthless, float on the surface, and precious gems lie at the bottom of the deep; and where there is neither faith to accept nor penetration to apprehend, what does not obtrude itself upon the senses, men are very ready to put up with what they see, in despair of meeting with what may be more to their purpose. Thus in Hildebrand's age, it might be plausibly argued that ecclesiastical affairs had, in the changes of society, devolved to the civil power; that the State was their natural administrator; that it had the means, and none but it, of reforming the Church. It might be urged that the old high spirit, beautiful as it had been, was no more; that there was no place within the Church on which a reformer could place himself, who desired to operate upon it; that whether he attempted pastors or flock, regulars or seculars, the ground would give way under him. The necessity of the case then formed the vindication of the Emperor's conduct, were there no other plea in its behalf; and yet in matter of fact, out of that hopeless chaos rose, and upon it found a seat, the broadest and most sovereign rule which the Christian world has seen.

In truth, taking the corruptions of that day at the worst, they were principally on the surface of the Church. Scandals are petulant and press into view, and they are exaggerated from the shock they communicate to beholders. Friends exaggerate through indignation, foes {270} through malevolence. In the worst of times there is always a remnant of holy men, out of sight, scanty perhaps in numbers, but great in moral strength, and there is always even in the multitude an acknowledgment of truths which they do not themselves practise. Among all men, educated and unlettered, there is a tacit recognition of certain principles as the cardinal points of society, which very rarely come distinctly into view, and of which the mind is the less conscious because of their being intimately near to it. Such there were in Hildebrand's day, and the secret of his success lay in his having the genius or the faith to appeal to them. We should rather say the faith; for this is remarkably the case, and is exemplified in our own day; that what is commonly admired as commanding talent is far more rightly to be regarded as a firm realizing grasp of some great principle, and that power of developing it in all directions, and that nerve to abide faithful to it, which is involved in such a true apprehension.

The fundamental notion of the Hildebrandine period was the ecumenical power of the Pope, which had been matured by a variety of circumstances, and remained in the European mind even in the most scandalous and trying times. Mr. Bowden has struck off some of these operative causes with great power. In the first place, Rome was the only apostolical see in the West, and thereby had a natural claim to the homage of those sees which were less distinguished. This pre-eminence was heightened by her inflexible orthodoxy amid the doctrinal controversies in which the Eastern sees had successively erred, and by the office of arbitrator and referee, which she held, amid their rivalries and quarrels. Further, when the descent of the barbarians had over-whelmed {271} or exterminated the nations and churches of the Empire, Christian Rome became the instrument of the conversion of the heathen population, and the patriarchal centre of the new world which it created. And when the seat of temporal power had been removed to Constantinople, or re-founded in France or Germany, the Roman See came into a position of independence and sovereignty which could not be the lot of Churches living under the immediate shadow of the imperial throne. It became the rival of the eastern Cęsars and the viceroy of the western. Moreover, in the age of feudalism, when monarchy was the only form of civil polity, there would be at once a tendency in the ecclesiastical state to imitate it, and an expediency in doing so in order to meet and counteract its aggressions. And, amid national changes and the rise and fall of dynasties, it was natural for struggling leaders to seek support from a settled power like Rome, and to recognize that power by asking for its exercise. And it must be considered too that power has always a tendency to increase itself and that, independently, as it would seem, of the wishes or efforts of its possessors.

To these historical causes, doctrinal sanctions, true or pretended, lent their aid. From the first, indeed, prerogatives were attached to the Church of Rome which belonged to no other but her; but these were extravagantly increased by certain well-known forgeries, of which Mr. Bowden gives us an interesting account. The chief of these were the pretended Decretals, a variety of letters, decrees, and other documents, purporting to be the work of bishops of Rome from the very earliest times. This celebrated forgery made its appearance between the years 830 and 850, and what is remarkable did not proceed from Rome, but from the North, from Mentz, {272} being, as would appear, the work of a deacon of that city of the name of Benedict. Under all circumstances it is natural for the weaker portion of the community to desire the means of appeal from the arbitrary will of their rulers, and that to a power safe from the local influences of those against whom they themselves desire protection; and this operated in an especial way in disposing the German bishops towards Rome, passing over their own metropolitans, at a time when the civil power was in the hands of tyrants but partially reclaimed from barbarism. The Churches then of Germany naturally looked to Rome for protection against their secular governors; and the forgery in question was the expression of their previous wishes, as well as the formal basis in justification of them in time to come. The spurious series, says Mr. Bowden, is throughout consistent with itself, and is occupied throughout in asserting the Church's independence from every species of secular dominion or jurisdiction; and "the bishop of the holy and universal Church" is declared to be the Pope. To him all cases of importance are to be referred; he is the head and cardinal point of all Churches, and by him they are all to be governed [Note]. Such was the combination of circumstances under which the supremacy of the Pope over other bishops had been established, both in fact and in public opinion; and in this connexion we are led to quote the following just and important remark of our author:

"The pontiffs," he says, "did not so much claim new privileges {273} for themselves as deprive their episcopal brethren of privileges originally common to the hierarchy. Even the title by which these autocratical prelates, in the plentitude of their power, delighted to style themselves, 'Summus Sacerdos,' 'Pontifex Maximus,' 'Vicarius Christi,' 'Papa' itself, had, nearer to the primitive times, been the honourable appellations of every bishop; as 'Sedes Apostolica' had been the designation of every bishop's throne. The ascription of these titles therefore to the Pope only gave to the terms a new force, because that ascription became exclusive; because, that is, the bishops in general were stripped of honours to which their claims were as well founded as those of their Roman brother; who became, by the change, not so strictly universal, as sole, bishop. The degradation of the collective hierarchy, as involved in such a relative exaltation of one of its members, was seen and resisted by one not likely to entertain unreasonable or exaggerated views of the dangers to be expected from Roman aggrandizement, the truly great and good Pope Gregory I. 'I beseech your Holiness,' said this pontiff to the Patriarch of Alexandria, who had addressed him, contrary to his previously expressed desire, by the title of Papa Universalis, 'to do so no more; for that is taken from you which is bestowed, in an unreasonable degree, upon another ... I do not reckon that to be honour, in which I see their due honour taken from my brethren; for my honour is the honour of the Universal Church, the solid strength of my brethren: I then am truly honoured when the proper share of honour is assigned to each and to all. But if your Holiness styles me "Universal Pope," you renounce that dignity for yourself which you ascribe universally to me. But let this be done no more ... My predecessors have endeavoured, by cherishing the honour of all members of the priesthood throughout the world, to preserve their own in the sight of the Almighty.'

"And even at a much more mature stage of the growth of papal pretensions, in the eleventh century itself, we find the pontiff Leo IX., in an epistle to the Grecian Patriarch, Michael Cerularius, repeating the assertion, made by Gregory in the above epistle, that his predecessor and namesake, Leo the Great, to whom the title of Ecumenical Patriarch had been offered by the Council of Chalcedon, had repudiated the proud appellation, by the ascription of which to one prelate an affront would be offered to the equal dignity of all."—Vol. i., pp. 64-66.

The causes we have been enumerating had effected {274} the introduction of papal supremacy, even before the dark times to which the Hildebrandine period succeeded; and it is observable that, even amid the moral and political degradation of the Roman See in the ninth and tenth centuries, the theory still maintained its hold upon the public mind. We find Dietrich, Archbishop of Treves in 969, soliciting and obtaining from John XIII. for himself and his successors that precedence among the archbishops of Germany, which the office of legate was considered to confer. Stephen of Hungary, a secular prince, at the end of the tenth century, with a view of strenthening his authority over his half-converted subjects, had obtained from Sylvester II. the permission to combine his regal title with that of Apostolic Legate. Gregory V., the immediate predecessor of Sylvester, when he excommunicated the son of Hugh Capet for an illegal marriage, excommunicated also the Archbishop of Treves, who had solemnized it, and the other bishops who had countenanced it with their presence; and on that prince defying the sentence, had put his kingdom under an interdict, with such effect that he was deserted by his whole court and household, and even the two domestics who remained with him, avoiding his touch as infected, threw every plate and vessel out of which he had eaten and drunk into the fire. And, to take another specimen of prerogative, John XV. about the same date, had begun the practice of canonization, acting, as he expressed it, "by the authority of the blessed Peter, prince of Apostles," from whom he claimed to be the one visible head of the community of the faithful, the "bishop of the holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church." It cannot be denied then, that in spite of the dreadful demoralization of the Church and popedom in the tenth and eleventh centuries, {275} there was laid in the temper of the age and the feelings of society a deep and firm groundwork, if men could be found who had the heart to appeal to it, for reforming and purifying the Church by an internal effort, and without recurring to the temporal power, which seemed at first sight the obvious, or rather the only resource.

Here then was the point of battle between the Church and the State. The State said to the Church, "I am the only power which can reform you; you hold of me, and your dignities and offices are in my gift." The Church said to the State, "She who wields the power even of smiting kings, cannot be a king's creature; and if you attempt to reform her, you will be planting the root of corruption by the same hand which cuts off its branches."


The struggle between the parties began from the commencement of Hildebrand's political history. Before his intimacy with Leo IX., he had, as we have seen, been connected with the unfortunate Gregory VI.; yet, even he, guilty as he was of a crime to which Hildebrand so earnestly opposed himself from first to last, committed it with the object of asserting, against the aristocracy, the dormant right of the Roman clergy and people to elect their own bishops. After this time Hildebrand seems to have been the chief spring in ecclesiastical movements in the papal city, for a space of twenty-four years, till the time of his own elevation. During that period he served the Popes Leo IX., Victor II., Stephen IX., Nicholas II., and Alexander II.,—all of them virtuous or even austere persons,—steadily developing and realizing by successive acts the purification of the Church and the theory of her independence and sovereignty. For {276} the interesting history of this period, we must refer to Mr. Bowden's second book, on which our limits will not allow us to enter, but from which, as a specimen of its contents, we will extract two or three passages from the history of two saints, Leo, whom we have already introduced to the reader, and Peter Damiani.

The pontificate of Leo IX. supplies an illustration of that mixture of catholic truth with wild romance, which pervades the history of the times. In his own person he was a model of that reform which he had in view for the whole Church. His "hours of sleep," says Mr. Bowden, "were systematically abridged by his devotions: when at Rome, it was his wont, thrice in the week, to walk barefoot at midnight from the palace of the Lateran to the church of St. Peter (from one extremity, that is, of Rome to the other) accompanied by two or three only of his clergy, for the purposes of praise and prayer: a spectacle which might well strike those with astonishment, who were accustomed to the scenes of infamy and riot, by which the palace in question, and the papal city in general, had been disgraced under the licentious pontiffs of the preceding age."—Vol. i., p. 152. Yet this pure and holy man is next presented to us as leading a military expedition against the Normans, which he seems to have thought to be as little out of character with his pontifical office, as a rector of a parish among ourselves in being a magistrate and reading the riot act, or a clergyman serving the office of proctor in our Universities. It was now about fifty years since the Normans had first become known to the inhabitants of Calabria and Apulia, whither they had at first come as pilgrims, then done battle as champions of the faith, then served as mercenaries, and at length spread devastation as marauders. The pagan, to whom they had opposed themselves, was the Saracen, {277} who from time to time made descents upon the coast, though his power was on the decline; and Mr. Bowden gives the following account of the first collision between young faith and degenerate misbelief:

"In or about the year 1002, a petty flotilla appeared before Salerno, and a body of Saracens, landing under the walls of the place, demanded, with the customary menaces, a pecuniary contribution. Guaimar III., Prince of Salerno, and his timid subjects, felt that they had no course to adopt but submission; and their surprise was great, when about forty pilgrims from a distant land, who happened to be at the moment within their walls, requested of the prince arms, horses, and permission to chastise these insolent marauders. The request was readily complied with: the pilgrim warriors, accoutred in haste, galloped eagerly forth through the gates of Salerno; the Saracens, confounded and dismayed, fled tumultuously from the onset of this unexpected foe; and esteemed themselves happy when their retreating barks bore them out of reach of the swords of the victorious Normans.

"The delighted Guaimar would willingly have been prodigal in his bounty towards his gallant deliverers; but he experienced a second surprise when the costly presents, which he laid before them, were firmly, though courteously, rejected. 'For the love of God, and of the Christian faith,' said the chivalrous pilgrims, 'we have done what we have done; and we may neither accept of wages for such service, nor delay our return to our homes.'"—Vol. i., pp. 156, 157.

"They departed accordingly," adds Mr. Bowden, "but not unaccompanied. Guaimar sent with them, to their native land, envoys laden with presents, such as might best tempt the countrymen of these hardy and disinterested warriors to enlist in his service. Specimens of southern fruits, superb vestments, golden bits, and magnificent horse-trappings, attracted and dazzled the eyes of the population of Normandy, and produced on the enterprising youth of the province their natural effect." This was the commencement of their connexion with southern Italy; but it was not for ever of so edifying a {278} character. They returned in the capacity of soldiers in the pay of its petty princes, and, with the duties, they practised the vices and excesses of their profession. They were a people of warm religious feelings; but a young nation has the waywardness and uncertainty of children, and every now and then these soldiers of fortune, turning to plunder, were tempted to rifle, for the sake of gain, the holy shrines in which, on their first appearance, they had come to worship. Tidings of their sacrilegious acts reached the ears of Leo. "And when," Mr. Bowden tells us, "he saw that the insulters of the Church were also the ruthless oppressors of their fellow-creatures, when he beheld the southern gates of Rome daily thronged by the wretched inhabitants of Apulia, who, destitute, blinded, and horribly mutilated, were seeking a refuge from further tyranny behind the sheltering walls of the papal city, the pitying pontiff yielded himself entirely to the impulses of his benevolent nature," and led an army in person against the Normans. With that object he crossed the Alps and gained of the Emperor 500 Germans, most of them volunteers; then returning, he raised the banner of St. Peter in Italy, and a motley company from Apulia, Campania, and Ancona flocked around it. It is not known whether Hildebrand sanctioned this measure. Benno "his embittered adversary," as Mr. Bowden calls him, charges him with doing so; but "the statement," he continues, "appears to be unsupported by other contemporaneous authority; and the work of Benno is filled with so many palpable calumnies against Hildebrand, that nothing in the nature of an accusation can be worthy of credit which rests upon his evidence alone." It is undeniable, however, that Hildebrand, when Pope, himself entertained a somewhat similar project. On the other hand, Hildebrand's {279} intimate friend, and the principal organ of his party, Peter Damiani, has left on record his protest against the assumption, on the part of the successor of St. Peter, of that earthly sword, which our Lord Himself denied to the Apostle. Anyhow, it was unprecedented in that age, considering Leo was Pope, and the enemy a Christian people; though bishops were in the habit of accompanying their retainers to the field, and Pope John X., somewhat more than a century before, had engaged Mahomedans in battle.

"It was on the 18th of June, 1053, that Leo's troops confronted those of the enemy near the town of Civitella. The Normans, when aware of his intentions, had made all preparations in their power to ward off the coming blow. William Ironarm was no more; but his brothers, Humphrey and Robert,—the latter of whom, subsequently surnamed Guiscard, had recently arrived in Apulia with a considerable reinforcement to the Norman forces,—succeeded to the command of his intrepid warriors; and Richard, Count of Aversa, the chief of a smaller, but independent, Norman colony in Italy, brought all the force he could muster to the defence of the common cause. But the Normans were dispirited: rumour had magnified among them the scale of the papal preparations, and they were awed by the sacred character of him in whom, even while he was their enemy, they recognized their spiritual parent. The heralds, therefore, who approached Leo while he was yet within the walls of Civitella, assumed an humble tone; they deprecated his hostility, and informed him that the Norman princes, though they declined to abandon possessions which they had won, were ready to hold their conquests thenceforth by his grant, and do suit and service for them to him, as to their lord paramount. But the tall, bulky Germans, by whom the pontiff was surrounded, smiled in scorn when they beheld the diminutive though active forms of their adversaries; and Leo, inspired by their confidence, as well as by his conviction of the goodness of his cause, rejected the overtures of the Norman leaders, and demanded the total abandonment of the lands which they had recently usurped from St. Peter. This the Normans declined to concede, and therefore, feeling that no other alternative lay before them, they gave the signal for battle, before {280} Leo had issued from the gates of Civitella. The result of the action which now took place, falsified alike the confident anticipations of the one party and the desponding auguries of the other. The impetuous charge of the Norman chivalry at once unmanned the timid Italians who composed the bulk of Leo's army, and who fled in every possible direction. Werner and his German band met the shock with the calm courage of their country; but the Normans, unresisted elsewhere, turned their flanks, and hemmed them in on every side; until this gallant troop, contending valiantly to the last, covered with their corpses the ground which they had occupied. But for their resistance,—so sudden was the flight, so rapid the dispersion of Leo's army,—the business of the day might seem rather to deserve the name of a slaughter than of a battle.

"The conquering chiefs pushed on without delay, through the streets of Civitella, into the presence of Leo. But they no sooner beheld the venerable pontiff, than, exchanging the fierceness of the warrior for the subdued tone of the penitent, they fell at his feet, and in abasement and tears besought the absolution and the blessing of their vanquished enemy. Moved by this conduct, and induced by the exigency of his position, Leo revoked the sentence of anathema which he had pronounced against them; and they then escorted him with all reverence and honour to the city of Benevento. There the humbled pontiff remained nine months, during which time, at the request of his captors, he consented to grant them, in the name of St. Peter, the investiture of all their conquests, made or to be made, in Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily; which they were thenceforward to hold as fiefs of the Holy See."—Vol. i., pp. 162-165.

By this turn of events, Leo's defeat and captivity involved more favourable results than could have been reaped from the most brilliant victory. The Pope acquired a claim on the services of the Normans, as of vassals; and, moreover, recognition of his power to confer the investiture, as lord paramount, of extensive domains, over which they had held no previous sway. What was more to the immediate purpose of the war, the presence of the mild old man succeeded in subduing the fierceness and cruelty with which the proceedings of the Normans had hitherto been attended; an {281} effect, moreover, which would be naturally promoted by their admission, in consequence of the compact, into the circle of recognized sovereigns and the responsibilities of legitimate power. However, Leo did not at the time find all this consolation in the issue of his military exploits. He considered the failure of his arms to be a sign of the divine displeasure that he had taken them up. He gave himself over to acts of penance. Though his health was declining, a carpet on the bare earth was his ordinary couch, a stone his pillow, and a hair shirt his garment. "Under such austerities," says Mr. Bowden, "aided as they were in their effect by the sorrows and anxieties of his mind, his constitution gradually sank; and when he at length left Benevento, and returned, in March, 1054, to the papal city, it was only to breathe his last there on the 19th of the following April, after having committed to his beloved friend Hildebrand the provisional government of the Roman Church, until a new pontiff should be appointed to the Apostolic See."—Vol. i., pp. 166, 167.

St. Peter Damiani, Bishop of Ostia, who has already been incidentally mentioned, is another personage of this period, whom the course of the history brings before us, and to whom, we think, that Mr. Bowden, as regards one passage of his life, is hardly fair, though he treats him always with that respect and honour which is his due. He speaks of him "as a man of sincere and deep devotion, of extraordinary talents, and of a monastic austerity; of too ardent a temperament to be uniformly judicious in his proceedings;" while "his faith was of a description which led him to receive, without question, a host of legends of the most absurd description." "But," he continues, "there shone forth in him a singleness and purity of character, which, in connexion {282} with his abilities, procured him the universal respect and admiration of his contemporaries." He had devoted himself to a monastic life, and he resisted his elevation to the episcopate with all his might. "He feared," says Mr. Bowden, "to be drawn from the unremitting austerities of his retirement; and it was not until he was threatened by Stephen and his Council with excommunication, that he consented to change the life of seclusion and self-denial which he lived for the activity and notoriety of a more responsible situation."—Vol. i., pp. 189, 190.

After a time, he was sent to Milan, as legate, to set right the disorders existing in those parts which the Milanese clergy attempted to shield from reform under colour of the dignity and independence of the Church over which St. Ambrose had presided. Another point on which reform was demanded was their assertion that they had a right to marry, by virtue of a privilege granted them by the same Saint. In this business he was associated with Anselm da Badagio, Bishop of Lucca, afterwards Pope Alexander II.

"Making their appearance in the long-disturbed city, these envoys found the archbishop and his clergy, however hostile in secret to their coming, prepared to acknowledge their authority, and to receive them with every outward mark and sign of deference. But the populace, moved perhaps by the secret instigations of their pastors, soon showed, disposed as they might be themselves to ridicule or revile these careless guides, that they were keenly jealous of the assumed independence of their native Church, and viewed with suspicion any papal interference with the proceedings of its governors. In tumultuous throngs they filled the streets, and entered the building in which the legates had convened the clerical body of the place ... The discontent at length broke out in open tumult ... The clergy, eager to augment the fray, rang the alarm-bell in the various churches of the city; the confusion increased, and even the life of Damiani was apparently in danger. But that bold and {283} high-spirited man was equal to the crisis; ascending a pulpit, he showed himself prepared to address the tumultuous multitude. His dauntless bearing awed them to silence, and he was heard with attention, while with dignity, and all the eloquence which distinguished him, he set forth the claims which the mother Church of Rome possessed on the dutiful obedience of her daughter, the Church of Milan. He cited instances in which St. Ambrose himself had appealed to the protection of the Roman prelate, and acknowledged his pre-eminence. 'Search,' he concluded, 'your own records, and if ye find not there that what we say is the truth, expose our falsehood. But if ye find us true, resist not the truth, resist not undutifully the voice of your mother; but from her, from whom ye first drew in the milk of apostolic faith, receive with gratitude the more solid food of heavenly doctrine.'

"This appeal, and the legate's fearless demeanour, produced a sudden turn in the feelings of his hearers ... and the clergy offered no further opposition to the legatine authority. On Peter's demand, their whole body, with the archbishop at their head, agreed to pledge themselves with a solemn vow against simony and clerical marriage; ... and Peter, thus successful in his mission, pronounced in his official character the reconciliation of Milan to the Apostolic See."—Vol. i., pp. 208-210.

Shortly after this, Damiani resolved on resigning his bishopric and retiring back to his beloved cloister, from which he had been with such difficulty separated. Here it is that we think Mr. Bowden is rather hard upon him, unless, as is certainly possible, he has reasons which do not appear in his work. He calls him "singular-minded," and he speaks of "his morbid craving after ascetic retirement." Now surely there is nothing strange in his desiring quiet, and as to whether he ought to have indulged that desire, that is a question which no one could determine but himself. Supposing he found himself falling back in self-control and divine love, would not that be a reason for doubt and deliberation what it was his duty to do? Gibbon speaks ironically of unwilling monks torn out of their retreats and seated on {284} bishops' thrones, but no one could know but themselves how great a blessing the cloister was, and what a great sacrifice to relinquish it. The ten thousand trivial accidents of the day in a secular life which exert a troublous influence upon the soul, dimming its fair surface with many a spot of dust and damp, these give place to a divine stillness, which, to those who can bear it, is the nearest approach to heaven. A sharp word, or a light remark, or a tone, or an expression of countenance, or a report, or an unwelcome face, or an association, ruffles the mind, and keeps it from fixing itself upon its true good. "One day," says Pope St. Gregory I., "when I was oppressed with the excessive trouble of secular affairs, I sought a retired place, friendly to grief, where whatever displeased me of my engagements might show itself openly, and all that was accustomed to inflict pain might be seen at one view." There he was surprised by "his most dear son Peter the deacon," whom he had made his intimate from the time that the latter was a young man. He opens his grief to Peter in words which are so much to our purpose, that with the reader's indulgence we will digress to quote them. "My sad mind," he says, "labouring under the soreness of its engagements, remembers how it went with me formerly in my monastery, how all perishable things were beneath it, how it was superior to all that was transitory; that it was wont to think of nought but things of heaven; that, though still in the body, it went out beyond the very prison of the flesh in contemplation; that it even loved death, which is nearly to all a punishment, as the entrance of life and a reward of its labour. But now, in consequence of the pastoral charge, it undergoes the occupation of secular men, and for that fair beauty of its quiet, is dishonoured with the dust of earthly work. And after dissipating {285} itself on outward things to serve the many, even when it seeks what is inward, it comes home indeed, but is no more equal to itself."—Dial. i. 1.

Such would be the bitter experience of a mind like Damiani's; and it depends on a number of minute circumstances, whether it was not as much his duty to decline the pastoral charge, as Gregory's to retain it. Mr. Bowden allows, too, that "from his retirement he continued to watch with an attentive eye the fortunes of the Church; by his epistles he still interfered with her concerns and influenced her destiny, nor was he backward, when called on, to devote himself on special occasions to active service in her cause." And we find in the after-history, of his going, in his extreme age, as Alexander's legate, to the young King Henry, and preventing him from the scandalous step of divorcing an innocent wife, against whom he had no charge except that he did not like her. Mr. Bowden notices, however, that his retirement, at a time when the Church had such need of his services in his episcopate, was never forgiven by Hildebrand; and he adds his own suspicion that some personal feelings towards Hildebrand influenced him in retiring from his post.


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[Mr. Bowden says that, before the appearance of the forgery, "the theory of papal supremacy already existed in its great, but yet unconnected, elements," though the forgery of course consolidated it; and that "the immediate effect of it was rather to make and consolidate relations already existing between the different orders in the Christian hierarchy than to introduce new ones."]—Vol. i., pp. 52, 56. Vid. Note on this Essay, infra.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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