« PreviousContinue »
at Clugni, when he gave special directions that the Cistercians should have none but iron candlesticks in their churches ; nor, indeed, that he meant to be personal in the minute directions which he gave respecting various little matters, wherein grounds
of accusation against the monks of Clugni were afterwards • found; but it seems impossible not to believe that there was * from the first something like a design on the part of the Cister• cians to reform (not to say rival or humble) the monks of
Clugni.'i But, without doubt, the motives which animated the first Cistercians were not entirely drawn from jealousy of Clugni. There was a burning zeal for religion, and an attempt to compass an exalted holiness by a rigid asceticism. The manual labours prescribed by S. Benedict, but which, with the Clugniacs, consisted in working in the garden, and shelling peas, became, with the Cistercians, the hard and regular employment of all the hours that could be spared from the divine service. Their diet had none of the delicacies of Clugni, but consisted of one or two meals of bread and vegetables, even eggs and fish being excluded. Upon this miserable sustenance they lived, or rather slowly died, as outraged nature sooner or later revenged herself. It was in this school that the great spirit of S. Bernard learned that fierce asceticism, which gives to some of his writings the character rather of vituperative railing than of fair discussion. The aim of the Cistercian use was to reach abstinence and mortification of the extremest. type. For a time they succeeded in doing this at the expense of the health, temper, and usefulness of the members of the order; then came the reaction, in which Cistercians and Clugniacs were not far asunder.
The Abbey of Citeaux was founded in 1098, and within thirty years the order had increased so rapidly that an affiliated abbey was erected in England. This foundation was made by William Giffard, bishop of Winchester, and the place selected was Waverley, near Farnham in Surrey. An abbot with twelve monks came from the Cistercian house of Aumone in Normandy, and established themselves on the English soil. The annals of this abbey are now republished in the chronicle series of the Master of the Rolls, and the learned labours of Mr. Luard, the editor, have put us in easy possession of inany interesting facts connected with the rise and progress of the Cistercian order in this land.
From the very first the Cistercians were the spoiled children of the papal see, and by a series of bulls and ordinances every conceivable privilege and exemption was heaped upon them. 'Pascal, the bishop, servant of the servants of God,' gives to them at their first institution, 'the place which they had chosen
* Dark Ages, p. 358. ? Udalric, on the ‘Customs of Clugni.'
safe and free from the molestation of all men,' and places their • abbey under the special protection of the apostolical see. No . archbishop or bishop, emperor or king, prince or duke, count or ' viscount, judge or person ecclesiastical or secular,' is to venture to oppose them. Innocent III. gives them the power of refusing the jurisdiction of the local ordinaries when accused of crimes, and not content with thus shielding the monks themselves, he also protects from the ecclesiastical censures of the bishops, all their servants and dependents, any one associated with their convents, and all those who had been their benefactors. Pope Alexander III. gives them the high privilege of not being visited, even under the authority of Rome, except by abbots of their own order. He exempts them from the claim for hospitable entertainment which the bishops were wont to make on the abbeys; he protects their animals, when being kept on the lands of others, from liability to tithes. He forbids even their making confessions except to priests of their own order. He discharges them from all taxes and claims of bishops of whatever sort. Innocent IV. exempts them from being obliged to plead in any law court. Alexander IV. severely reproving the bishops who 'continually grudge and oppose their liberties and immunities,' allows them to erect oratories and chapels in any place not exempt from diocesan jurisdiction, and thereby to make it exempt, and to introduce all the special privileges of the order ; protects them from the claim of tithes in respect of lands which shall in any future time be brought into cultivation, while Boniface extends this protection to those to whom the Cistercians shall have granted lands for service or fines. The privilege of Pope Honorius is even more remarkable. He protects the Cistercians not only from the diocesan bishop, the natural enemy of the papacy, but even from the apostolical legate himselt, who is not, without the special direction of the Pope, in any way to interfere with them. This same Pope allows the Cistercians to receive persons near their death into their houses, so as to exempt them from the mortuary fee due to the priest of the parish on a death, while both he and Pope Innocent give special enunciations of these privileges to the Cistercians in England. The Cistercian, in fact, according to the legislation of the Popes, was bound by no law, human or divine, except his own rule. So far as everything external to the order was concerned, he might commit any crime with impunity, he might obstruct, inconvenience, and paralyse ecclesiastical discipline, he might exempt large tracts of land from contributing to the burdens of the state, he might rob the parish priest of his dues, and by the erection of a chapel in his
1 Monasticon, vol. v. p. 220---236.
parish in fact deprive him of his cure of souls-kings, judges, bishops, even papal legates, were to this privileged order but as so many ordinary persons. · They were an imperium in imperio which could not be touched or interfered with. To the class of men surrounded with these portentous privileges vast estates in almost all the counties of England rapidly accrued. The magnificent foundations of Furness, Rievaulx, Fountains, Tintern, Ford, and Vale Royal, were all Cistercian. Eighty-five abbeys in various parts of England owned the maternity either of Citeaux or Clairvaux. It is clear that the mere fact of the existence of such an order, in itself so strong, and upheld by a foreign power of unlimited force, must have rendered the violent suppression of monasteries inevitable, if anything like good government was to be reached. The Black Benedictines, protected by no exemptions, more genial, more popular, might have assimilated themselves to the requirements of their Church and country, and even taken the popular side against the papal pretensions. It is possible to conceive a Glastonbury, a Croyland, or a S. Albans, flourishing in literary pursuits and magnificent services even in reformed times. But the Cistercian was necessarily doomed. He was the bitter product of a false asceticism, and, when he degenerated from his ideal, and exhibited the enormous luxury of Fountains or Vale Royal, he was an anomaly and a sham, only propped up by the timid deference so long yielded to the false pretensions of Rome.
There were, it is to be presumed, some signal merits in the Cistercian order, especially in its early days, to justify the reiterated gifts of papal privileges, but if we are to take the character given of it by one of the abbots of the order in 1264, we scarcely seem able to regard it with unmixed admiration. Thus writes the Abbot of Savigny to his affiliated houses in England: 'It has become known to the chief pontiff that our
order needs reformation in many points on account of the 'oppression and insolence of some abbots, who basely and un'justly compel their children to yield to them, and intrude into • their convents their relations and other persons of bad * character. Many convents are defrauded of the freedom of
election ; honourable and useful monks are expelled without ' reasonable cause; scandals are not looked to; quarrels increase • and multiply ; novelties are introduced ; zeal is diminished; ' lax practices gain hend; and the strictness of monastic dis'cipline is remitted. The visitation of the order is only super'ficial, being conducted simply according to the self-will of the • abbot of Citeaux, and that house is overwhelmed with debt, which it is endeavoured to throw on the whole order.''
1 Monasticon, vol. v. p. 227.
The annals of Waverley Abbey would be far more interesting were they, like the history of the Abbot Ingulphus, or the Chronicles of Evesham, the record mainly or entirely of the life and growth of the abbey and of the order in England. But this they are not. They profess to give a complete course of history from the Christian era to the time of the writer, and consequently they have not very much space to devote to the Cistercians. Of the internal history of the abbey we learn but little. Facts connected with its outward condition we glean here and there, records of the foundation of new Cistercian houses, and notices of any general topics connected with the history of the order in England; but with individual monks and abbots we are not made acquainted, as the history of Croyland makes us acquainted with Turketyl, or that of Evesham with Thomas of Marlborough. Nevertheless the annals of Waverley, though not specially full on the subject of their own abbey, are by no means barren of interesting facts and notices, with some of which we will make the reader acquainted when we have first performed the main object of the present article, viz. the tracing out of the history of the Cistercians in England.
It would seem that the first entrance of the order into England by the foundation of Waverley in 1128, was the signal for a sudden outburst of zeal for the Cistercians in the land. Rievaulx, -Tintern, Fountains, and many abbeys of less note, date their existence to a time very little later than this. What was it that determined the devout nobles and princes of any particular period as to the choice of the order which they should enrich with their donations, and the prayers of which they should desire for their souls' health? There was, doubtless, much of fashion in these things. At one time one order of religious, at another time another, would carry off the spoils. But we may easily see what gave the Cistercians so great a popularity in the earlier half of the twelfth century. If it is needful that one's soul should be prayed for, one would naturally select the pale, mortified ascetic, who, with stooping gait and downcast eyes, goes to his daily toil in the fields, telling his beads as he walks, rather than the stout, jovial monk, who lounges in his refectory or cloister, and does not recognise the call to labour either with the brains or the hands. When the Cistercians came with their mengre diet and self-denying lives to establish themselves in the land, they were gladly welcomed as the very ideal of a monastic order. The glory of the great S. Bernard, his miracles, his eloquence, his asceticism, gave still further prestige to the order. That nobleman would have been a personage of exceptionally strong mind, who, desiring to make all things comfortable for the future by a gift of his manors to the church, would venture at that period to select any but a Cistercian brotherhood to receive them. The first foundation mentioned in the Waverley Chronicle is that of Rievaulx in Yorkshire. There is something of touching pathos in the circumstances which led to the foundation of this house of religion in that wild spot of the Yorkshire Wolds. The famous Norman baron, Walter Espec, a knight, .active and fair to behold,' had married in early manhood a beauteous wife, named Adelina. This lady bore him one son, a boy like his father in beauty of person, and devotion to active and manly sports. The youth's especial delight was to ride the swiftest horses at the most headlong speed. One day, when he was rushing along at a mad pace, his horse fell with him near the little stone cross towards Frithby,' and he broke his neck. The father, overwhelmed with grief, and left without an heir for his numerous manors, determined, at the advice of William, Rector of Garton, to dedicate his lands to religious uses. Accordingly, he founded three monasteries, Kirkham, Rievaulx, and Wardon,
-the two latter for monks of the Cistercian Order. Doubtless Kirkham would have been also given to the same Order, but the foundation of this was before the date of the appearance of the Cistercians in England. It is recorded that after this munificent dedication, Walter Espec lived long and flourished mightily. Another son was born to him, to whom he was able, after thirty years of renowned warfare, to leave a large inheritance, as well as handsomely to endow his three sisters, all married to famous knights. When he had settled his affairs, the old baron retired to Rievaulx, where, laying aside the secular dress, and donning the white habit of the Cistercian, he spent the remaining two years of his life among his grateful monks. The situation of Rievaulx, at the junction of three valleys, among the bleak hills of Yorkshire, supplied a model Cistercian site. The Order desired to be located in the most solitary, inaccessible, and uncultured spots, that the labour which they religiously expended on the cultivation of the soil might not be too easy or remunerative, but hard, disappointing, and repulsive. To this heroical or Quixotic determination, we owe at once the picturesque beauty of the Cistercian ruins, and no small debt of gratitude for the good work done in cultivating the waste lands. And upon this principle, that the
i Rievaulx was first founded with monks from S. Bernard's Monastery of Clairvaux. Disputes had arisen between Citeaux and Clairvaux, and the Bernardines were on the point of forming a distinct Order, but they afterwards lapsed into Cistercians again. The same was the case with the Savigniacs, or Grey Monks. They, too, sank their differences, and became pure Cistercian.
?Carta fundationis Rievallensis ('ænobii. Dugdale.