Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XII.

THE AGE OF FAITH IN THE WEST.

The Age of Faith in the West is marked by Paganism.-The Arabian military Attacks produce the Isolation and permit the Independence of

the Bishop of Rome. GREGORY THE GREAT organizes the Ideas of his Age, materializes Faith,

allies it to Art, rejects Science, and creates the Italian Form of

Religion. An Alliance of the Pupacy with France diffuses that Form.- Political

History of the Agreement and Conspiracy of the Frankish Kings and the Pope. -The resulting Consolidation of the new Dynasty in France,

and Diffusion of Roman Ideas.-Conversion of Europe. The Value of the Italian Form of Religion determined from the papal

Biography.

From the Age of Faith in the East, I have now to turn to the Age of Faith in the West. The former, as we have seen, ended prematurely, through a metamor- The Age of phosis of the populations by military operations, Faith in the conquests, polygamy; the latter, under more West. favourable circumstances, gradually completed its predestined phases, and, after the lapse of many centuries, passed into the Age of Reason.

If so many recollections of profound interest cluster round Jerusalem, “the Holy City” of the East, many scarcely inferior are connected with Rome, “the Eternal City" of the West.

The Byzantine system, which, having originated in the policy of an ambitious soldier struggling for Is essentially supreme power, and in the devices of ecclesiastics marked by intolerant of any competitors, had spread itself tion of reall over the eastern and southern portions of the ligion.

the paganiza

Effects of the

Roman empire, and with its hatred of human knowledge and degraded religious ideas and practices, had been adopted at last even in Italy. Not by the Romans, for they had ceased to exist, but by the medley of Goths and half-breeds, the occupants of that peninsula. Gregory the Great is the incarnation of the ideas of this debased population. That evil system, so carefully nurtured by Constantine and cherished by all the Oriental bishops, had been cut down by the axe of the Vandal, the Persian, the Arab, in its native seats, but the offshoot of it that had been planted in Rome developed spontaneously with unexpected luxuriance, and cast its dark shadow over Europe for many centuries. He who knew what Christianity had been in the apostolic days, might look with boundless surprise on what was now ingrafted upon it, and was passing under its name. In the last chapter we have seen how, through the

w Vandal invasion, Africa was lost to the empireLoss Africa a dire calamity, for, of all the provinces, it had on events in been the least expensive and the most proItaly.

. ductive; it yielded men, money, and, what was perhaps of more importance, corn for the use of Italy. A sudden stoppage of the customary supply rendered impossible the usual distributions in Rome, Ravenna, Milan. À famine fell upon Italy, bringing in its train an inevitable diminution of the population. To add to the misfortunes, Attila, the King of the Huns, or, as he called himself, “ the Scourge of God,” invaded the empire. The battle of Chalons, the convulsive death throe of the Roman empire, arrested his career, A.1). 451.

Four years after this event, through intrigues in the Fall and pil- imperial family, Genseric, the Vandal king, was lage of Rome. invited from Africa to Rome, The atrocities which of old had been practised against Carthage under the auspices of the senate were now avenged. For fourteen days the Vandals sacked the city, perpetrating unheard-of cruelties. Their ships, brought into the Tiber, enabled them to accomplish their purpose of pillage far more effectually than would have been possible by any land expedition. The treasures of Rome, with multitudes of noble captives, were transported to Carthage. In twenty. one years after this time, A.D. 476, the Western Empire became extinct.

Thus the treachery of the African Arians not only brought the Vandals into the most important of all the provinces, so far as Italy was concerned ; it also fferta of the furnished an instrument for the ruin of Rome. wars of JusBut hardly had the Emperor Justinian recon- tinian. quered Africa when he attempted the subjugation of the Goths now holding possession of Italy. His general, Belisarius, captured Rome, Dec. 10, A.D. 556. In the military operations ensuing with Vitiges, Italy was devastated, the population sank beneath the sword, pestilence, famine. In all directions the glorious renains of antiquity were destroyed; statues, as those of the Mole of Hadrian, were thrown upon the besiegers of Rome. These operations closed by the surrender of Vitiges to Belisarius at the capture of Ravenna.

But, as soon as the military compression was withdrawn, revolt broke out. Rome was retaken by the Goths; its walls were razed; for forty days it was deserted by its inhabitants, an emigration that in the end proved its ruin. Belisarius, who had been sent back by the emperor, reentered it, but was too weak to retain it. During four years Italy was ravaged by the Franks and the Goths. At last Justinian sent the eunuch Narses with a wellappointed army. The Ostrogothic monarchy was overthrown, and the emperor governed Italy by his exarchs at Ravenna.

But what was the cost of all this? We may reject the statement previously made, that Italy lost fifteen millions of inhabitants, on the ground that such computations were beyond the ability of the survivors, but, from the asserted number we may infer that there had been a horrible catastrophe. In other directions the relics of civilization were fast disappearing; the valley of the Danube had relapsed into a barlarous state; the African shore had become a wilderness ; Italy a hideous desert;, and the necessary consequence of the extermina- of the in. tion of the native Italians by war, and their coming Age of replacement by barbarous adventurers, was the falling of the sparse population of that peninsula into a

Debased ideas

Faith.

Steady pro

lower psychical state. It was ready for the materialized religion that soon ensued. An indelible aspect was stamped on the incoming Age of Faith. The East and the West had equally displayed the imbecility of ecclesiastical rule. Of both, the Holy City had fallen; Jerusalem had been captured by the Persian and the Arab, Rome had been sacked by the Vandal ani the Goth.

But, for the proper description of the course of affairs, I must retrace my steps a little. In the important political events coinciding with the death of Leo the Great, and the constitution of the kingdom of Italy by the barbarian Odoacer, A.1). 476-490, the bishops of Rome seem to have

taken but little interest. Doubtless, on one side, dress of the they perceived the transitory nature of such papacy to su incidents, and, on the other, clearly saw for premacy.

. themselves the road to lasting spiritual domination. The Christians everywhere had long expressed a total carelessness for the fate of old Rome; and in the midst of her ruins the popes were incessantly occupied in laying deep the foundations of their power. Though it mattered little to them who was the temporal ruler of Italy, they were vigilant and energetic in their relations with their great competitors, the bishops of Constantinople and Alexandria. It had become clear that Christendom must have a head; and that headship, once definitely settled, implied the eventual control over the temporal power. Of all objects of human ambition, that headship was best worth struggling for.

Steadily pursuing every advantage as it arose, Rome inexorably insisted that her decisions should be carried out in Constantinople itself. This was the case especially in the affair of Acacius, the bishop of that city, who, having been admonished for his acts by Felix, the bishop of Rome, was finally excommunicated. A difficulty arose as to the manner in which the process should be served; but an adventurous monk fastened it to the robe of Acacius as he. entered the church. Acacius, undismayed, proceeded with his services, and, pausing deliberately, ordered the name of Felix, the Bishop of Rome, to be struck from the roll of bishops in communion with the East. Constantinople and Rome thus mutually excommunicated one another. It is

in reference to this affair that Pope Gelasius, addressing the emperor, says: “ There are two powers which rule the world, the imperial and pontifical. You are its attitude the sovereign of the human race, but you bow toward the your neck to those who preside over things emperot. divine. The priesthood is the greater of the two powers ; it has to render an account in the last day for the acts oi kings.” This is not the language of a feeble ecclesiastic, but of a pontiff who understands his power.

The conquest of Italy by Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, A.D. 493, gave to the bishops of Rome an Arian sove- The Gothic reign, and presented to the world the anomaly conquest

gives the pope of a heretic appointing God's vicar upon earth. in Arian There was a contested election between two master. rival candidates, whose factions, emulating the example of the East, filled the city with murder. The Gothic monarch ordered that he who had most suffrages, and had been first consecrated, should be acknowleged. In this manner Symmachus became pope.

Hormisdas, who succeeded Symmachus, renewed the attempt to compel the Eastern emperor, Anastasius, to accept the degradation of Acacius and his party, and to enforce the assent of all his clergy thereto, but in vain. On the accession of Justin to the imperial throne, Rome at last carried her point; all her conditions were admitted ; the schism was ended in the humiliation of the Bishop of Constantinople, it was said, through the orthodoxy of the em peror. But very soon began to appear unmistakable indications that for this religious victory a temporal equivalent had been given. Conspiracies were

The emperor detected in Rome against Theodoric, the Gothic an

and pope conking; and rumours were whispered about that spire against the arms of Constantinople would before long release Italy from the heretical yoke of the Arian. There can be no doubt that Theodoric detected the The

The Gothic treason. It was an evil reward for his im par- king detects tial equity. At once he disarmed the population chem. of Rome. From being a merciful sovereign, he exhibited an awful vengeance. It was in these transactions that Boethius, the philosopher, and Symmachus, the senator, fell victims to his wrath. The pope John himself was

him.

« AnteriorContinuar »