Imágenes de páginas

Causes of the

like an obscure provincial town, to the mandates of the Eastern court. Moreover, in her eyes, the emperor, by reason of his iconoclasm, was a heretic. But if alliance with the Lombards and allegiance to the Greeks were equally inexpedient,

a third course was possible. A mayor of the palace of the Frankish kings had

successfully led his armies against the Arabs from alliance of the Spain, and had gained the great victory of popes and the Tours. If the Franks, under the influence of their climate or the genius of their race, had thus far shown no encouragement to images, in all other respects they were orthodox, for they had been converted by Catholic missionaries; their kings, it was true, were mere phantoms, but Charles Martel had proved himself a great soldier; he was, therefore, an ambitious man.

There was Scripture authority for raising a subordinate to sovereign power; the prophets of Israel had thus, of old, with oil anointed kings. And if the sword of France was gently removed from the kingly hand that was too weak to hold it, and given to the hero who had already shown that he could smite terribly with it—if this were done by the authority of the pope, acting as the representative of God, how great the gain to the papacy! A thousand years might

not be enough to separate the monarchy of France from the theocracy of Italy.

The resistance which had sprung up to the imperial edict for the destruction of images determined the course of events. The pope rebelled, and attempts were made by the emperor to seize or assassinate him. *A fear that the pontiff might be carried to Constanti- pope from the nople, and the preparations making to destroy emperor. the images in the churches, united all Italy. A council was held at Rome, which anathematized the Iconoclasts. In retaliation, the Sicilian and other estates of the Church were confiscated. Gregory III., who in the meantime succeeded to the papacy, continued the policy of his predecessor. The emperor was defied. A fleet, fitted out by him in support of the exarch, was lost in a storm. With this termination of the influence of Constantinople in Italy came the imminent danger that the pope must acknowledge the supremacy of the Lombards. In his distress Gregory

Revolt of the

the Franks.

The monks.

turned to Charles Martel. He sent him the keys of the

sepulchre of St. Peter, and implored his assistAlliance of the pope and ance. The die was cast. Papal Rome revolted

from her sovereign, and became indissolubly bound to the barbarian kingdoms. To France a new dynasty was given, to the pope temporal power, and to the west of Europe a fictitious Roman empire. The monks had thus overcome the image-breaking

emperors, a result which proves them to have

already become a formidable power in the state. It is necessary, for a proper understanding of the great events with which henceforth they were connected, to describe their origin and history.

In the iconoclastic quarrel they are to be regarded as the representatives of the common people in contradistinction to the clergy; often, indeed, the representatives of the populace, infected with all its instincts of superstition and fanaticism. They are the upholders of miracle-cures, invocation of saints, worship of images,

clamorous position asserters of a unity of faith in the Church-a unity which they never practised, but which offered a convenient pretext for a bitter persecution of heresy and paganism, though they were more than half pagan themselves.

It was their destiny to impress on the practical life of Europe that mixture of Christianity and heathenism

engendered by political events in Italy and

Greece. Yet, while they thus co-operated in provement.

great affairs, they themselves exhibited, in the most signal manner, the force of that law of continuous variation of opinion and habits to which all enduring communities of men must submit. Born of superstition, obscene in their early life, they end in luxury, refinement, learning. Theirs is a history to which we may profitably attend. From very early times there had been in India zealots

who, actuated by a desire of removing them

selves from the temptations of society and preparing for another life, retired into solitary places. Such also were the Essenes among the Jews, and the Therapeuta

Their first

and subsequent im

The first hermits.

in Egypt. Pliny speaks of the blameless life of the former when he says, “They are the companions of palms ;" nor does he hide his astonishment at an immortal society in which no one is ever born. Their example was not lost upon more devout Christians, particularly after the influence of Magianism began to be felt. Though it is sometimes said that the first of these hermits were Anthony and Paulus, they doubtless are to be regarded as only having rendered themselves more illustrious by their superior sanctity among a crowd of worthies who had preceded them or were their contemporaries. As early as the second and third centuries the practice of retirement had commenced among Christians; soon afterwards it had become common. The date of Hilarion is about A.D. 328, of Basil A.D. 360. Regarding prayer as the only occupation in which man may profitably engage, they gave no more attention to the body than the wants of nature absolutely demanded. A little dried fruit or bread for food, and water for drink, were sufficient for its Their selfsupport; occasionally a particle of salt might be denial. added, but the use of warm water was looked upon as betraying a tendency to luxury. The incentives to many of their rules of life might excite a smile, if it were right to smile at the acts of earnest men. Some, like the innocent Essenes, who would do nothing whatever on the Sabbath, observed the day before as a fast, rigorously abstaining from food and drink, that nature might not force them into sin on the morrow. For some, it was not enough, by the passive means of abstinence, to refrain from fault

or reduce the body to subjection, though starvation is the antidote for desire; the more active, and, perhaps, more effectual operation of periodical flagellations and bodily torture were added. Ingenuity was taxed to find new means of personal infliction. A hermit who never permitted himself to sleep more than an hour without being awakened endured torments not inferior to those of the modern fakir, who crosses his arms on the top of his head and keeps them there for years, until they are wasted to the bone, or suspends himself to a pole by means of a hook inserted in the flesh of his back.

Among the Oriental sects there are some who believe

Profound con


Aerial martyrs.

that the Supreme Being is perpetually occupied in the con

templation of himself, and that the nearer man templation of can approach to a state of total inaction the more

will he resemble God. For many years the Indian sage never raises his eyes from his navel; absorbed in the profound contemplation of it, his perennial reverie is unbroken by any outward suggestions, the admiring by-standers administering, as chance offers, the little food

and water that his wants require. Under the

influence of such ideas, in the fifth century, St. Holy birds.

Simeon Stylites, who in his youth had often been saved from suicide, by ascending a column he had built, sixty feet in height, and only one foot square at the top, departed as far as he could from earthly affairs, and approached more closely to heaven. On this elevated retreat, to which he was fastened by a chain, he endured, if we may believe the incredible story, for thirty years the summer's sun and the winter's frost. Afar off the passer-by was edified by seeing the motionless figure of the holy man with outstretched arms like a cross, projected against the sky, in his favourite attitude of prayer, or expressing his thankfulness for the many mercies of which he supposed himself to be the recipient by rapidly striking his forehead against his knees. Historians relate that a curious spectator counted twelve hundred and forty-four of these motions, and then abstained through fatigue from any farther tally, though the unwearied exhibition was still going on. This “most holy aerial martyr,” as Evagrius calls him, attained at last his reward, and Mount Telenissa witnessed a vast procession of devout admirers accompanying to the grave his mortal remains.

More commonly, however, the hermit declined the conspicuous notoriety of these "holy birds," as they were called by the profane, and, retiring to some cave in the desert, despised the comforts of life, and gave himself up to penance and prayer. Among men who had thus altogether exalted themselves above the wants of the flesh, there was The monks in

no toleration for its lusts. The sinfulness of the

marriage relation, and the pre-eminent value of libacy.

chastity, followed from their principles. If it was objected to such practices that by their universal

sist on ce


adoption the human species would soon be extinguished, and no man would remain to offer praises to God, these zealots, remembering the temptations from which they had escaped, with truth replied that there would always be sinners enough in the world to avoid that disaster, and that out of their evil works good would be brought. St. Jerome offers us the pregnant reflection that, though it may be marriage thať fills the earth, it is virginity that replenishes heaven.

If they were not recorded by many truthful authors, the extravagances of some of these enthusiasts would pass belief. Men and women ran naked upon all fours, associating themselves with the beasts of the field. In the spring season, when the grass is tender, the hermits. grazing hermits of Mesopotamia went forth to the plains, sharing with the cattle their filth, and their food. Of some, notwithstanding a weight of evidence, the stupendous biography must tax their admirers' credulity. It is affirmed that St. Ammon had never seen his own body uncovered ; that an angel carried him on his back over a river which he was obliged to cross; that at his death he ascended to heaven through the skies, St. Anthony being an eye-witness of the event-St. Anthony, who was guided to the hermit Paulus by a centaur; that Didymus never spoke to a human being for ninety years.

From the Jewish anchorites, who of old sought a retreat beneath the shade of the palms of Engaddi, who beguiled their weary hours in the chanting of psalms by the bitter waters of the Dead Sea ; from the philosophic Hindu, who sought for happiness in bodily inaction and mental exercise, to these Christian solitaries, the stages of delu- Insane hersion are numerous and successive. It would not mits. be difficult to present examples of each step in the career of debasement. To one who is acquainted with the working and accidents of the human brain, it will not be surprizing that an asylum for hermits who had become hopelessly insane was instituted at Jerusalem.

The biographies of these recluses, for ages a source of consolation to the faithful in their temptations, are not to be regarded as mere works of fiction, though they abound in supernatural occurrences, and are the forerunners of the

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