Eckenstein, Lina. Chapters IV, VI, VII and IX; Appendix of Women under Monasticism in Women under Monasticism: Chapters on Saint-Lore and Convent Life Between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500

[Chapters IV, VI, VII and IX; Appendix of Women under Monasticism]




Et ut dicitur, quid dulcius est. quam habeas illum, cum quo omnia possis loqui ut

tecum? Eangith to Boniface.

Sect. I. The Women corresponding with Boniface.

IN the course of the 6th and 7th centuries a number of men left England and settled abroad among the heathen Germans, partly from a wish to gain new converts to the faith, partly because a change of affairs at home made them long for a different field of labour. Through the influx of the heathen Anglo-Saxons, the British Christians had been deprived of their influence, and when Christianity was restored it was under the auspices of princes who were favourably inclined towards Rome. Men who objected to the Roman sway sought independence among the heathens abroad in preference to dependence on strangers at home, and it is owing to their efforts that Christianity was introduced into the valleys leading up from the Rhine, into the lake districts of Bavaria, and into Switzerland.

A century later the Church had so far extended the limits of her power that it was felt desirable at Rome that these Christian settlers should be brought into subjection. For the tenets which they held and the traditions which had been handed down to them differed in many ways from what Rome could countenance. They were liberal in tolerating heathen practices, and ignorant of matters of ritual and creed which were insisted on in the Church of Rome. The bishops, who were self-appointed, were won over by the promise of recognising the title to which they laid claim, but the difficulty remained of weaning them from their objectionable practices. Efforts were accordingly made to reconvert the [119] converted districts and to bring some amount of pressure to bear on the clergy.

The representative of this movement in South Germany was Boniface, otherwise called Wynfred, on whom posterity has bestowed the title Apostle of Germany, in recognition of his services in the twofold character of missionary and reformer. He was a native of Wessex, and his mission abroad has an interest in connection with our subject because of the friendly relations he entertained with many inmates of women's houses in England, and because he invited women as well as men to leave England and assist him in the work which he had undertaken.

Boniface had grown up as an inmate of the settlement of Nutshalling near Winchester and first went abroad in 716, but proceeded no further than Utrecht. Conjecture has been busy over the difficulties which took him away, and the disappointments which brought him back. Utrecht was an old Roman colony which had been captured from the Franks by Adgisl, king of the Frisians, who gave a friendly reception there to Bishop Wilfrith in 678. But King Radbod, his successor, was hostile to the Franks and to Christianity, and it was only in deference to the powerful Frankish house-mayor Pippin that he countenanced the settling of Willibrord, a pupil of Wilfrith, with eleven companions in 692. However, owing to Radbod's enmity the position of these monks was such that they were obliged to leave, and it is possible that Boniface when he went to Utrecht was disappointed in not finding them there.

Two years later Boniface went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where the idea of bringing his energies to assist in the extension of Papal influence originated. The Pope furnished him with a letter in which he is directed to reclaim the faithless, and armed with this he travelled in the districts of the Main. But as soon as the news of the death of Radbod the Frisian (719) reached him he went to Utrecht, where Willibrord had returned. We do not know what afterwards prompted him to resume his work in Germany, but perhaps the proposal of Willibrord that he should settle with him altogether awakened Boniface to the fact that he was not working for the Pope as he proposed. His reception at Rome, where he again went in 722, and the declaration of faith he handed in, are [120] in favour of this view. But Gregory II who was aware of the abilities of Boniface forgave him, and on the strength of his declaration provided him with further letters. One of these was addressed to the Christians of Germany, to the representative clergy and to the Thuringians, and another to the house-mayor, Karl Martel, who had succeeded Pippin; both letters commanded that the authority of Boniface was to be everywhere recognised.

From this time for a period of over thirty years Boniface devoted his energies to extending, organizing and systematizing the power of Rome in Germany. His character appears in different lights varying with the standpoint from which he is regarded. Judging from his letters he is alternately swayed by doggedness of purpose, want of confidence in himself, dependence on friends, and jealous insistence on his own authority. He has a curious way of representing himself as persecuted when in fact he is the persecutor, but his power of rousing enthusiasm for his work and for his personality is enormous.

His biographer Wilibald describes this power as already peculiar to him during his stay at Nutshalling, where many men sought him to profit by his knowledge, 'while those who on account of their fragile sex could not do so, and those who were not allowed to stay away from their settlements, moved by the spirit of divine love, sought eagerly for an account of him....'

The interest Boniface had aroused at home accompanied him on his travels. He remained in friendly communication with many persons in England, to whom he wrote and who wrote to him. Among the friends and correspondents whose letters are preserved are churchmen, princes, abbesses, clerics of various degrees, and nuns. From the point of view of this book the letters addressed to women are of special interest, since they bring us into personal contact so to speak with the abbesses and inmates of English convents, and we hear for the first time what they personally have to tell us of themselves.

Among Boniface's early friends and correspondents was Eadburg, abbess of the monastery in Thanet. She was a woman of great abilities, zealous in the pursuit of knowledge, and her influence secured several royal charters for her settlement. She had probably [121] succeeded Mildthrith, but at what date is not known. Her letters to Boniface unfortunately have not been preserved, but the letters he wrote to her are full of interesting matter. The earliest of these was written between 718 and 719; in it Boniface does not yet address her as abbess.

In this letter Boniface in compliance with a wish had expressed, describes a vision of the future life which a monk living at Mildburg's monastery at Wenlock had seen during it state of suspended animation. Boniface had first heard of this vision from the abbess Hildelith of Barking, and he writes a graphic and eloquent account of it, parts of which are put into the mouth of the monk himself. The account gives curious glimpses of that imagery of the future life which early Christians dwelt upon and elaborated more and more. Nuns at this time as well as later took a special interest in the subject.

First the monk is carried aloft through flames which enwrap the world. He sees many souls for the possession of which angels and devils are fighting. Impersonations of his sins confront and accost him, but his virtues arise also and enter into conflict with the sins. The virtues are supported by angels and the fight ends to the monk's advantage. He also sees fiery waters flowing towards hell: and souls like black birds which hover over waters from whence proceed the wails of the damned. He sees Paradise, and a river of pitch over which a bridge leads to Jerusalem, and souls are trying to cross it. Among others suffering torments he catches sight of King Ceolred of Mercia. At last the angels cast the monk down from the height and he re-awakens to life.

Such descriptions of a future life multiply as one nears the Middle Ages. By the side of the one which Boniface sent to Eadburg should be read another by him, a fragmentary one, which supplements it. The sufferers in hell mentioned in this are Cuthburg, Ceolla and Wiala (of whom nothing is known), an unnamed abbot and Aethelbald, king of Mercia (756).

The description of the after life given by Boniface agrees in various ways with one contained in the works of Bede. According to this account there was a man in Northumbria named Drycthelm, who died, came to life again, and described what he had seen of the world to come.

The other letters which Boniface addressed to Eadburg are of [122] later date and were written when he had settled abroad and was devoting his energies to converting the Hessians and Thuringians. At this time he asked her to send him through the priest Eoban the letters of the apostle Peter, which she was to write for him in gold characters. 'Often,' he says, Gifts of books and vestments, the proofs of your affection, have been to me a consolation in misfortune. So I pray that you will continue as you have begun, and write for me in gold characters the epistles of my master, the holy apostle Peter, to the honour and reverence of holy writ before mortal eyes while I am preaching, and because I desire always to have before me the words of him who led me on my mission....' He ends his letter by again hoping that she will accede to his request so 'that her words may shine in gold to the glory of the Father in heaven.'

The art of writing in gold on parchment was unknown to Scottish artists and had been introduced into England from Italy. Bishop Wilfrith owned the four gospels 'written in purest gold on purple-coloured parchment,' and a few of the purple gospels with gold writing of this period have been preserved. The fact that women practiced the art is evident from the letter of Boniface. Eadburg must have had a reputation for writing, for Lul, one of Boniface's companions, sent her among other gifts a silver style, (graphium argenteum) such as was used at the time for writing on wax tablets.

Boniface received frequent gifts from friends in England. Eoban, who carried his letter asking Eadburg for the Epistles of St Peter, was the bearer of a letter to an Abbot Duddo in which Boniface, reminding him of their old friendship, asked for a copy of the Epistles of St Paul. Again Boniface wrote asking Abbot Huetberht of Wearmouth for the minor works (opuscula) of Bede, and Lul, who was with him, wrote to Dealwin to forward the minor works of Ealdhelm, bishop of Sherbourne, those in verse and those in prose.

Judging from the correspondence the effective work of Boniface resulted in the execution of only a small part of his great schemes. His original plan was repeatedly modified. There is extant a letter from the Pope which shows that he hoped for the conversion of the heathen Saxons and Thuringians, and the idea was so far [123] embraced by Boniface that he wrote a letter to the bishops, priests, abbots and abbesses in England asking them to pray that the Saxons might accept the faith of Christ. But the plan for their conversion was eventually abandoned.

At this period belief in the efficacy of prayer was unbounded, and praying for the living was as much part of the work of the professed as praying for the dead. Settlements apparently combined for the purpose of mutually supporting each other by prayer. A letter is extant in the correspondence of Boniface in which the abbot of Glastonbury, several abbesses and other abbots agree to pray at certain hours for each other's settlements.

In his times of trouble and tribulation Boniface wrote to all his friends asking for prayers. 'We were troubled on every side,' he wrote to the abbess Eadburg, quoting Scriptures, 'without were lightings, within were fears.' She was to pray for him that the pagans might be snatched from their idolatrous customs and unbelievers brought back to the Catholic mother Church.

Eadburg had liberally responded to his request for gifts. 'Beloved sister,' he wrote, 'with gifts of holy books you have comforted the exile in Germany with spiritual light! For in this dark remoteness among German peoples man must come to the distress of death had he not the word of God as a lamp unto his feet and as a light unto his paths. Fully trusting in your love I beseech that you pray for me, for I am shaken by my shortcomings, that take hold of me as though I were tossed by a tempest on a dangerous sea.' This consciousness of his shortcomings was not wholly due to the failure of his plans, for Boniface at one period of his life was much troubled by questions of theology. The simile of being tempest-tossed is often used by him. In a letter addressed to an unnamed nun he describes his position in language similar to that in which he addresses Eadburg. This nun also is urged to pray for him in a letter full of biblical quotations.

Among the letters to Boniface there are several from nuns and abbesses asking for his advice. Political difficulties and the changed attitude of the ruling princes of Northumbria and Mercia towards convents brought such hardships to those who had adopted the religious profession that many of them wished to leave their homes, and availed themselves of the possibility of doing so which was afforded by the plan of going on pilgrimage to Rome.

[124] The wish to behold the Eternal City had given a new direction to the love of wandering, so strong a trait in human nature. The motives for visiting Rome have been different in different periods of history. To the convert in the 8th and 9th centuries Rome appeared as the fountain-head of Christianity, the residence of Christ's representative on earth, and the storehouse of famous deeds and priceless relics. Architectural remains dating from the period of Roman rule were numerous throughout Europe and helped to fill the imagination of those dwelling north of the Alps with wonder at the possible sights and treasures which a visit to Rome itself might disclose. Prelates and monks undertook the journey to establish personal relations with the Pope and to acquire books and relics for their settlements, but the taste for travelling spread, and laymen and wayfarers of all kinds joined the bands of religious pilgrims. Even kings and queens, with a sudden change of feeling which the Church magnified into a portentous conversion, renounced the splendour of their surroundings and donned the pilgrim's garb in the hope of beholding the Eternal City in its glory.

Among the letters which are preserved in the correspondence of Boniface there is one from Aelflaed, abbess of Whitby, in which she writes to the abbess Adolana (probably Adela) of Pfälzel (Palatiolum) on the Mosel near Trier, recommending to her care a young abbess who is on her way to Rome. This letter shows that Aelflaed was well versed in writing Latin. The name of the abbess in whose behalf the letter was penned is not known, but she may be identical with Wethburg, who lived and died at Rome.

'To the holy and worshipful abbess Adolana, a greeting in the Lord of eternal salvation.

'Since we have heard of your holiness from those who have come from your parts, and from widespread report, in the first place I pray for your warm affection, for the Lord has said: This is my command, that ye love one another.

'Further we make humble request that your holy and fervent words may commend us worthily to God Almighty, should it not be irksome to you to offer devotion in return for ours; for James the Apostle has taught and said: Pray for one another, that ye may be saved.

[125] 'Further to your great holiness and usual charity we humbly and earnestly commend this maiden vowed to God, a pious abbess, our dear and faithful daughter, who since the days of her youth, from love of Christ and for the honour of the apostles Peter and Paul, has been desirous of going to their holy threshold, but who has been kept back by us until now because we needed her and in order that the souls entrusted to her might profit. And we pray that with charity and true kindness she may be received into your goodwill, as well as those who are travelling with her, in order that the desired journey with God's help and your willing charity may at last be accomplished. Therefore again and again we beseech that she may be helped on her way with recommendations from you to the holy city Rome, by the help of the holy and signbearing leader (signifier) of the apostles Peter; and if you are present we hope and trust she may find with you whatever advice she requires for the journey. May divine grace watch over your holiness when you pray for us.'

The desire to go southward was strengthened among religious women by the increasing difficulties of their position at home. Monastic privileges were no longer respected by the kings of Mercia and Northumbria, and the Church lacked the power of directly interfering in behalf of monks and nuns. There is in the correspondence a letter which Boniface wrote in his own name and in that of his foreign bishops to Aethelbald, king of Mercia (716-756); he sharply rebukes him for his immoral practices and urges on him the desirability of taking a lawful wife. He accuses the king of indulging his wicked propensities even in monasteries and with nuns and maidens who were vowed to God; following the example of Tacitus, he praises the pure morals of the heathen Germans. The passages which bear on the subject are worthy of perusal, for they show how uncertain was the position of monasteries and how keenly Boniface realized the difficulties of nuns. He tells the king 'that loose women, whether they be vowed to religion or not, conceive inferior children through their wickedness and frequently do away with them.' The privileges of religious houses, he says, were respected till the reign of King Osred (706-17) of Northumbria, and of King Ceolred (709-16) of Mercia, but 'these two kings have shown their evil disposition and have sinned in a criminal way against the teaching of the gospels and the doings of our Saviour. They persisted in vice, in the seduction of nuns and the contemptuous treatment of monastic rights. Condemned [126] by the judgment of God, and hurled from the heights of royal authority, they were overtaken by a speedy and awful death, and are now cut off from eternal light, and buried in the depths of hell and in the abyss of the infernal regions.' We have seen that in the letter written by Boniface to Eadburg, Ceolred is described as suffering torments in hell, and that King Aethelbald at a later date is depicted in the same predicament.

With his letter to Aethelbald Boniface forwarded two others to the priest Herefrith, probably of Lindisfarne, and to Ecgberht (archbishop of York, 732-66), requesting them to support him against Aethelbald. 'It is the duty of your office to see that the devil does not establish his kingdom in places consecrated to God,' he wrote to Ecgberht, 'that there be not discord instead of peace, strife instead of piety, drunkenness instead of sobriety, slaughter and fornication instead of charity and chastity.' Shortly afterwards he wrote to Cuthberht, archbishop of Canterbury (740-62), telling him of the statutes passed at the Synod of Soissons, and severely censuring the conduct of the layman, ' be he emperor, king or count, who snatches a monastery from bishop, abbot, or abbess.'

These admonitions show that the position of the religious houses and that of their rulers depended directly on the temper of the reigning prince. In the correspondence there are several letters from abbesses addressed to Boniface bearing on this point, which give us a direct insight into the tone of mind of these women. Their Latin is cumbersome and faulty, and biblical quotations are introduced which do not seem always quite to the point. The writers ramble on without much regard to construction and style, and yet there is a genuine ring about their letters which makes the distress described seem very real.

One of these letters was written by an abbess named Ecgburg, probably at an early period of Boniface's career. Her reference to the remoteness of her settlement suggests the idea that it was Repton, and that she herself was identical with Ecgburg, daughter of Ealdwulf king of the East Angles, the abbess whom we have noticed in connection with Guthlac. If that be so her sister Wethburg, to whom she refers, may be identical with the young unnamed abbess whom Aelflaed sped on her journey to Rome.

[127] 'Since a cruel and bitter death,' she writes, 'has robbed me of him, my brother Osher, whom I loved beyond all others, you I hold dearer than all other men. Not to multiply words, no day, no night passes, but I think of your teaching. Believe me it is on account of this that I love you, God is my witness. In you I confide, because you were never forgetful of the affection which assuredly bound you to my brother. Though inferior to him in knowledge and in merit, I am not unlike him in recognizing your goodness. Time goes by with increasing swiftness and yet the dark gloom of sadness leaves me not. For time as it comes brings me increase of indignities, as it is written "Love of man brings sorrow, but love of Christ gladdens the heart." More recently my equally beloved sister Wethburg, as though to inflict a wound and renew a pang, suddenly passed out of my sight, she with whom I had grown up and with whom I was nursed at the same breast. one mother she and I had in the Lord, and my sister has left me. Jesus is my witness that on all sides there is sorrow, fear, and the image of death. I would gladly die if it so pleased God, to whom the unknown is manifest, for this slow death is no trifle. What was it I was saying ? From my sister not a sudden and bitter death, but a bitterer separation, divides me; I believe it was for her happiness, but it left me unhappy, as a corpse laid low, when adopting the fashion of the age she went on a pilgrimage, even though she knew how much I loved and cherished her, whom now as I hear a prison confines at Rome. But the love of Christ, which is strong and powerful in her, is stronger and more binding than all fetters, and perfect love casteth out fear. Indeed, I say, he who holds the power of divination, the Ruler of high Olympus, has endowed you with divine wisdom, and in his law do you meditate night and day. For it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring tidings of good things.") She has mounted by a steep and narrow path, while I remain below, held by mortal flesh as by irons upon my feet. In the coming judgment full of joy she, like unto the Lord, will sing: "I was in prison and ye came unto me." You also in the future life, when the twelve apostles sit on their twelve seats, will be there, and in proportion to the number of those whom you have won by your work, will rejoice before the [128] tribunal of the eternal King, like unto a leader who is about to be crowned. But I living in the vale of tears as I deserve, shall be weeping for my offenses, on account of which God holds me unfit to join the heavenly hosts. Therefore, believe me, the tempest-tossed mariner does not so much long for the haven, the thirsty fields do not long so much for rain, the mother on the winding shore does not so anxiously wait for her son, as I long to rejoice in your sight. But oppressed by sins and innumerable offenses, I so long to be freed from imminent danger, that I am made desperate; adoring the footsteps of your holiness and praying to you from the depths of my heart as a sinner, I call to you from the ends of the earth, O beloved master; as my anxious heart prompts, raise me to the corner-stone of your prayer, for you are my hope and a strong tower invisible to the enemy. And I beg as consolation to my grief and as limit to the wave of my sorrow, that my weakness may be supported by your intercession as by a prop. I entreat that you will condescend to give me some comfort either in the form of a relic or of a few words of blessing, written by you, in order that through them I may hold your presence secure.'

By the side of this letter must be quoted another written by an Abbess Eangith, describing similar difficulties in a similar strain. We do not know over which settlement Eangith presided, but her name and that of her daughter Heaburg of whom she speaks are inscribed in the Durham 'Liber Vitae.'

'Beloved brother in the spirit rather than in the flesh,' she writes, 'you are magnified by the abundance of spiritual graces, and to you alone, with God as our sole witness, we wish to make known what you see here spread out before you and blotted by our tears: we are borne down by an accumulation of miseries as by a weight and a pressing burden, and also by the tumult of political affairs. As the foaming masses of the ocean when the force of the winds and the raging fury of the tempest lash up the great sea, carry in and carry out again the heaving billows dashing over rocks, so that the keels of the boats are turned upwards and the mast of the ship is pressed downwards, so do the ships of our souls groan under the great press of our miseries and the great mass [129] of our misfortunes. By the voice of truth has it been said of the heavenly house: ``The rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house," etc.

'First and before all noteworthy of the things that affect us from without, must be mentioned the multitude of our offenses and our want of full and complete faith, due not so much to care for our own souls but, what is worse and more oppressive, to care for the souls of those of either sex and of every age which have been entrusted to us. For this care involves ministering to many minds and to various dispositions, and afterwards giving account before the supreme tribunal of Christ both for obvious sins in deeds and words, and for secret thoughts which men ignore and God alone witnesseth; with a simple sword against a double-edged one, with ten thousand to meet twenty thousand warriors. In addition to this care of souls we have difficulties in our domestic affairs, and various disagreements which the jealous enemy of all good has sown, namely, he who fills the impure hearts of men with malice and scatters it everywhere, but chiefly in the settlements of monks and nuns; but it is said "the mighty shall be mightily tormented." Moreover the poverty and scantiness of our temporal possessions oppress us, and the smallness of the cultivated part of our estate; and the hostility of the king, for we are accused before him by those who envy us, as a wise man has said: "the bewitching of vanity obscureth good things." Similarly we are oppressed by service due to the king and the queen, to bishop and prefect, officers and attendants. It would take long to enumerate those things which can be more easily imagined than described.

'To all these evils is added the loss of friends, connections, and relatives by alliance and by blood. I have neither son nor brother, neither father nor father's brother, none but an only daughter who is bereft of all that was dear to her; and a sister who is old, and the son of our brother, who too is unhappy in his mind, for our king holds his family connections in great contempt. There is no one else for us to rely on; God has removed them all by one chance or another. Some have died in their native land, and their bodies lie in the grimy dust of the earth to rise again on the day of doom, when the Master's trumpet shall sound, and the whole race of man shall come forth from dark tombs to [130] give account of themselves; when their spirits, borne upwards in angelst arms, shall abide with Christ; when all sorrow shall end, and envy be worn out, and grief and mourning shall vanish in sight of the saints. Again others have left their native shores, and trusted themselves to the wide seas, and have sought the threshold of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of all those martyrs, virgins and confessors, whose number God alone knows.

'For these and other like causes, hardly to be enumerated in one day though July and August lengthen the days of summer, we are weary of our present life and hardly care to continue it. Every man uncertain of his purpose and distrustful of his own counsel, seeks a faithful friend whose advice he follows since he distrusts his own; and such faith has he in him that he lays before him and reveals to him every secret of his heart. As has been said, what is sweeter than having someone with whom one can converse as with oneself? Therefore on account of the pressing miseries we have now insisted on to the full, we needs must find a true friend, one whom we can trust more than ourselves; who will treat our grief, our miseries and our poverty as his own, who will sympathize with us, comfort us, support us by his words, and raise us up by wise counsel. Long have we sought him. And we believe that in you we have found the friend whom we longed for, whom we wished for, whom we desired.

'Would that God had granted to us that, as Habakkuk the prophet was sped with food into the lion's den to the seer Daniel, or that as Philip one of the seven deacons was sped to the eunuch, we also were sped and could come to the land and to the district where you dwell; or that it were possible for us to hear living words from your lips. 'How sweet are thy words unto my palate, O Lord, sweeter than honey to my mouth.'

'But since this is not vouchsafed to us and we are divided from you by a wide expanse of land and of sea and by the boundaries of many provinces, because of our faith in you referred to above we will tell you, brother Boniface, that for a long time we have entertained the design like so many of our friends, relatives and others, of visiting Rome, the mistress of the world, there to seek forgiveness of our sins as many others have done and are now doing; so especially I (wish to do) since I am advanced in age, and have erred more than others. Wala, at one time my abbess and spiritual mother, was acquainted with my wish and my [131] intention. My only daughter at present is young, and cannot share my desire. But because we know how many there are who scoff at this wish and deprecate this desire, and support their view by adducing what the canons of the synods enjoin, that wherever anyone has settled and taken his vow, there shall he remain and there serve God; for we all live in different ways and God's purposes are unknown, as the prophet says: 'Thy righteousness is like the great mountains, thy judgments are a great deep, O Lord'; and because His sacred will and desire in these things is hidden,--therefore we two, both of us in our difficulty, call on you earnestly and reverently: be you to us as Aaron, a mountain of strength, let your prayer be our help, swing the censer of prayer with incense in sight of the Divine, and let the lifting up of your hands be as the evening sacrifices. Indeed we trust in God and beg of your goodness that by supplication of mouth and inward prayer it may be revealed to you what seems for us wise and useful: whether we are to live at home or go forth on pilgrimage. Also we beg of your goodness to send back your answer across the sea, and reply to what we have scratched on these leaves in rustic style and with unpolished wording. We have scant faith in those who glory in appearance and not in heart, but faith in your love, your charity in God and your goodness.'

It is not known whether Eangith carried out her intention and went to Rome.

Boniface had another correspondence with an abbess named Bugga, but though Eangith states that her daughter Heaburg was sometimes called by that name, it is not probable that they were the same, for Boniface writing to Bugga makes no mention of Eangith's plan, which he would hardly have omitted to do if Heaburg had been his correspondent.

Bugga was afterwards abbess of a monastery in Kent. She too sent gifts to Boniface, and later entertained the idea of going to Rome. In early days the prelate wrote to her telling her how he had been mercifully led through unknown countries, how 'the Pontiff of the glorious see' Gregory II had inclined to him, and how he had cast down 'the enemy of the Catholic Church, Radbod,' the Frisian.

In reply she assures him of her continued affection and makes some remarks on books they have exchanged. The Passions of [132] the Martyrs which he has asked for she has not yet procured, but she will forward them as soon as she can. 'But you, my friend,' she writes, 'send me as a consolation what you promised in your kind letter, your extracts from the holy writings. And I beseech you to offer the oblation of the holy mass for one of my relatives whom I loved beyond all others. I send you by the bearer of this letter fifty gold coins (solidi) and an altar cloth, better gifts I cannot procure. They are truly signs of a great affection though of insignificant appearance.'

Bugga does not style herself abbess, but Boniface addresses her as such in acknowledging the receipt of her gifts and advising her about going to Rome. On another occasion he wrote to express concern at her troubles, which he heard from many people had not diminished since she retired from rule for the sake of quiet. The letter in which he advises her about going to Rome is worth quoting.'

'Be it made known to you, dearest sister,' he writes, 'regarding the advice which you asked for in your letter, that I do not presume to forbid you the pilgrim's journey, neither would I directly advise it. I will explain why. If you gave up the charge you had of the servants of God, of his virgins (ancillae), and your own monastic life, for the purpose of securing quiet and the thought of God, in what way are you now bound to obey the words and the will of seculars with toil and wearing anxiety? Still if you cannot find peace of mind in your home in secular life among seculars it seems right that you should seek in a pilgrimage freedom for contemplation, especially since you wish it and can arrange it; just in the way our sister Wethburg did. She told me in her letter that she had found the quiet she longed for near the threshold of St Peter. In reference to your wish she sent me a message, for I had written to her about you, saying that you must wait till the attacks, hostility and menaces of the Saracens who have lately reached the Roman States have subsided, and that God willing she would then send you a letter of invitation. I too think this best. Prepare yourself for the journey, but wait for word from her, and then do as God in his grace commands. As to the collection of extracts for which you ask, be considerate to my shortcomings. Pressing work and continuous travelling prevent my furnishing you with what you desire. As soon as I can I will forward them to please you.

[133] 'We thank you for the gifts and vestments which you have sent, and pray to God Almighty, to put aside a gift for you in return with the angels and archangels in the heights of heaven. And I beseech you in the name of God, dear sister, yea mother and sweet lady, that you diligently pray for me. For many troubles beset me through my shortcomings, and I am more distressed by uncertainty of mind than by bodily work. Rest assured that our old trust in each other will never fail us.'

Bugga carried out her intention and went to Rome, where she met Boniface, who was the Pope's guest about the year 737. He had achieved a signal success in reconverting the Hessians, and was now appointed to constitute bishoprics in Bavaria and to hold councils of Church dignitaries at regular intervals.' At Rome Bugga and Boniface walked and talked together, and visited the churches of the holy apostles. A letter from Aethelberht II, king of Kent, to Boniface refers to their meeting. Bugga had come back to her old monastery and had given the king a description of her visit. She attained a considerable age, for she was advanced in years before her pilgrimage, and about twenty years later Bregwin, archbishop of Canterbury (759-765), wrote to Lul informing him of her death.

Boniface made provision at Rome for the women in whom he was interested. A certain deacon Gemmulus writes to him from Rome to inform him that 'the sisters and maidens of God who have reached the threshold of the apostles' are there being cared for by himself and others as Boniface has desired.

The readiness with which Anglo-Saxon nuns went abroad eventually led to a state of things which cast discredit on religion. Boniface addressed the following remarks on these pilgrimages to Cuthberht of Canterbury in the letter written after the synod of Soissons.

'I will not withhold from your holiness,' he says, '... that it were a good thing and besides honour and a credit to your Church and a palliation of evils, if the synod and your princes forbade women, and those who have taken the veil, to travel and stay abroad as they do, coming and going in the Roman states. They come in great numbers and few return undefiled. For there are very few districts of Lombardy in which there is not some [134] woman of Anglian origin living a loose life among the Franks and the Gauls. This is a scandal and disgrace to your whole Church....'

The difficulty of exercising more control over those who chose to leave their settlements was only partly met by stricter rules of supervision. For there were no means of keeping back monk or nun who was tired of living the monastic life. In the 8th century Hatto bishop of Basel († 836) wrote to the bishop of Toul enjoining that no one should be suffered to undertake a pilgrimage to Rome without leave, and provisions of a much later date order that houses shall not take in and harbour inmates from other settlements.

In this connection it is interesting to find Lul, who had settled abroad with Boniface, excommunicating an abbess Suitha because she had allowed two nuns to go into a distant district for some secular purpose without previously asking permission from her bishop. The women who settled in Germany under Boniface were brought under much stricter control than had till then been customary in either France or England.

Sect. I. Anglo-Saxon Nuns abroad.

Among the women who came to Germany and settled there at the request of Boniface was Lioba, otherwise Leobgith, who had been educated at Wimboume in Dorset, at no very great distance from Nutshalling where Boniface dwelt, and who left England between 739 and 748. She was related to him through her mother Aebbe, and a simple and modest little letter is extant in which she writes to Boniface and refers to her father's death six years ago; she is her parents' only child, she says, and would recall her mother and herself to the prelate's memory.

'This too I ask for,' she writes in this letter, 'correct the rusticity of my style and do not neglect to send me a few words in proof of your goodwill. I have composed the few verses which I enclose according to the rules of poetic versification, not from pride but from a desire to cultivate the beginnings of learning, and now I am longing for your help. I was taught by Eadburg who unceasingly devotes herself to this divine art.' And she adds four [135] lines of verse addressed to God Almighty as an example of what she can do.

As mentioned above we are indebted for an account of Lioba's life to the monk Rudolf of Fulda († 865). From this we learn that Lioba at a tender age had been given into the care of the abbess Tetta at Wimbourne. 'She grew up, so carefully tended by the abbess and the sisters, that she cared for naught but the monastery and the study of holy writ. She was never pleased by irreverent jokes, nor did she care for the other maidens' senseless amusements; her mind was fixed on the love of Christ, and she was ever ready to listen to the word of God, or to read it, and to commit to memory what she heard and read to her own practical advantage. In eating and drinking she was so moderate that she despised the allurements of a great entertainment and felt content with what was put before her, never asking for more. When she was not reading, she was working with her hands, for she had learnt that those who do not work have no right to eat.'

She was moreover of prepossessing appearance and of engaging manners, and secured the goodwill of the abbess and the affection of the inmates of the settlement. A dream of hers is described by her biographer in which she saw a purple thread of indefinite length issuing from her mouth. An aged sister whom she consulted about it, interpreted the dream as a sign of coming influence.

To Lioba, Tecla and Cynehild, Boniface addressed a letter from abroad, asking in the usual way for the support of their prayers. Lioba's biographer tells us that when Boniface thought of establishing religious settlements, 'wishing that the order of either sex should exist according to rule,' he arranged that Sturmi, who had settled at Fulda, should go to Italy and there visit St Benedict's monastery at Monte Casino, and he 'sent envoys with letters to the abbess Tetta (of Wimbourne) begging her as a comfort in his labour, and as a help in his mission, to send over the virgin Lioba, whose reputation for holiness and virtuous teaching had penetrated across wide lands and filled the hearts of many with praise of her.'

This request shows that Boniface thought highly of the course of life and occupations practiced in English nunneries and that he considered English women especially suited to manage the settlements under his care. In a letter written from Rome about 738 Boniface refers to the sisters and brothers who are living under him in Germany. Parties of English men and women joined him at different times. One travelled under the priest Wiehtberht, who sent a letter to the monks of Glastonbury to inform them of his safe arrival and honourable reception by Boniface, and he requests that Tetta of Wimbourne may be told of this. Perhaps Lioba, who was Tetta's pupil, was one of the party who travelled to Germany with Wiehtberht.

'In pursuance of his plan,' says Lioba's life, 'Boniface now arranged monastic routine and life according to accepted rule, and set Sturmi as abbot over the monks and the virgin Lioba as spiritual mother over the nuns, and gave into her care a monastery at the place called Bischofsheim, where a considerable number of servants of God were collected together, who now followed the example of their blessed teacher, were instructed in divine knowledge and so profited by her teaching that several of them in their turn became teachers elsewhere; for few monasteries of women (monasteria foeminarum) existed in those districts where Lioba's pupils were not sought as teachers. She (Lioba) was a woman of great power and of such strength of purpose that she thought no more of her fatherland and of her relations but devoted all her energies to what she bad undertaken, that she might be blameless before God, and a model in behaviour and discipline to all those who were under her. She never taught what she did not practice. And there was neither conceit nor domineering in her attitude; she was affable and kindly without exception towards everyone. She was as beautiful as an angel; her talk was agreeable, her intellect was clear; her abilities were great; she was a Catholic in faith; she was moderate in her expectations and wide in her affections. She always showed a cheerful face but she was never drawn into hilarity. No one ever heard a word of abuse (maledictionem) pass her lips, and the sun never went down on her anger. In eating and drinking she was liberal to others but moderate herself, and the cup out of which she usually drank was called by the sisters 'the little one of our beloved' (dilectae parvus) on account of its smallness. She [137] was so bent on reading that she never laid aside her book except to pray or to strengthen her slight frame with food and sleep. From childhood upwards she had studied grammar and the other liberal arts, and hoped by perseverance to attain a perfect knowledge of religion, for she was well aware that the gifts of nature are doubled by study. She zealously read the books of the Old and New Testaments, and committed their divine precepts to memory; but she further added to the rich store of her knowledge by reading the writings of the holy Fathers, the canonical decrees, and the laws of the Church (totiusque ecclesiastici ordinis jura). In all her actions she showed great discretion, and thought over the outcome of an undertaking beforehand so that she might not afterwards repent of it. She was aware that inclination is necessary for prayer and for study, and she was therefore moderate in holding vigils. She always took a rest after dinner, and so did the sisters under her, especially in summer time, and she would not suffer others to stay up too long, for she maintained that the mind is keener for study after sleep.'

Boniface, writing to Lioba while she was abbess at Bischofsheim, sanctions her taking a girl into the settlement for purposes of instruction. Bischofsheim was on the Tauber a tributary of the river Main, and Boniface, who dwelt at Mainz, frequently conferred with her there. Lioba went to stay with Boniface at Mainz in 757 before he went among the Frisians; he presented her with his cloak and begged her to remain true to her work whatever might befall him. Shortly after he set out on his expedition he was attacked and killed by heathens. His corpse was brought back and buried at Fulda, and Lioba went to pray at his grave, a privilege granted to no other woman.

Lioba was also in contact with temporal rulers. Karl the Great gave her presents and Queen Hildegard († 783) was so captivated with her that she tried to persuade her to come and live with her. 'Princes loved her,' her biographer tells us, 'noblemen received her, and bishops gladly entertained her and conversed with her on the scriptures and on the institutions of religion, for she was familiar with many writings and careful in giving advice.' She had the supervision of other settlements besides her own and travelled about a good deal. After Boniface's death she kept on friendly terms with Lul who had succeeded him as bishop of Mainz (757-786), and it was with his consent [138] that she finally resigned her responsibilities and her post as abbess at Bischofsheim and went to dwell at Schornsheim near Mainz with a few companions. At the request of Queen Hildegard she once more travelled to Aachen where Karl the Great was keeping court. But she was old, the fatigues of the journey were too much for her, and she died shortly after her return in 780. Boniface had expressed a wish that they should share the same resting-place and her body was accordingly taken to Fulda, but the monks there, for some unknown reason, preferred burying her in another part of their church.

It is noteworthy that the women who by the appointment of Boniface directed convent life in Germany, remained throughout in a state of dependence, while the men, noticeably Sturmi (I 779) whom he had made abbot at Fulda, cast off their connection with the bishop, and maintained the independence of their monasteries. Throughout his life Sturmi showed a bold and determined spirit, but he was not therefore less interesting to the nuns of Boniface's circle. His pupil and successor Eigil wrote an account of his life at the request of the nun Angiltrud, who is also supposed to have come from England to Germany.

We know little concerning the other Anglo-Saxon women who settled abroad, for there are no contemporary accounts of them. The 'Passion of Boniface,' written at Mainz between 1000 and 1050, tells us that as Liaba settled at Bischofsheim so Tecla settled at Kizzingen, where 'she shone like a light in a dark place.' No doubt this Tecla is identical with the nun of that name whom Boniface speaks of in his letter to Lioba. She has a place among the saints, but it seems doubtful whether she founded the monastery at Kizzingen or the one at Oxenfurt.

The names of several other women are given by Othlon, a monk of St Emmeran in Bavaria, who in consequence of a quarrel fled from his monastery and sought refuge at Fulda. While there, between 1062 and 1066, he re-wrote and amplified Wilibald's life of Boniface. In this account he gives a list of the men who came [139] into Germany from England, the correctness of which has been called in question. He then enumerates the women who came abroad and mentions 'an aunt of Lul called Chunihilt and her daughter Berthgit, Chunitrud and Tecla Lioba, and Waltpurgis the sister of Wilibald and Wunebald.' The only mention of Waltpurgis is her name, but he describes where the other women settled, some in the district of the Main, others in Bavaria.

This woman Waltpurgis has been the subject of many conjectures; writers generally do not hesitate to affirm that the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald is identical with the saint who was so widely reverenced. But St Waltpurgis, popularly called Walburg, is associated with customs and traditions which so clearly bear a heathen and profane character in the Netherlands and in North Germany, that it seems improbable that these associations should have clustered round the name of a Christian woman and a nun.

In face of the existing evidence one of two conclusions must be adopted. Either the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald really bore the name Waltpurgis, and the monk Wolfhard who wrote an account of a saint of that name whose relics were venerated at Eichstatt (between 882 and 912) took advantage of the coincidence of name and claimed that the Walburg, who bears the character of a pseudo-saint, and the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald were identical; or else, desirous to account for the veneration of relics which were commonly connected with the name Walburg, he found it natural and reasonable to hold that Walburg had belonged to the circle of Boniface, and identified her with the sister of Wunebald and Wilibald.

Nothing is preserved concerning this sister except a reference to her existence, which is contained in the accounts of the acts of Wilibald and Wunebald written by a nun at Heidenheim, whose name also is not recorded. These accounts offer many points of [140] interest. The nun who wrote them was of Anglo-Saxon origin; her style is highly involved and often falls short of the rules of grammar, but she had possession of interesting information, and she was determined to impart it. It has been noticed that her writing varies according to whether she is setting down facts or dilating on them; for she is concise enough when it is a question of facts only, but when it comes to description she falls into the spirit of Anglo-Saxon literature and introduces alliteration into her Latin and launches forth into panegyric. She came from England to Germany, as she tells us, shortly before the death of Wunebald (c. 765), and experiences of an unpleasant nature led her to expect that her writings would not pass without criticism.

'I am but a woman,' she says, 'weak on account of the frailty of my sex, neither supported by the prerogative of wisdom nor sustained by the consciousness of great power, yet impelled by earnestness of purpose,' and she sets to work to give a description of the life of Wilibald and the journey which he made to Palestine, parts of which she took down from his dictation, for at the close of her account she says that she wrote it from Wilibald's narrative in the monastery of Heidenheim in the presence of deacons and of some of Wilibald's pupils who were witnesses to the fact. 'This I say,' she adds, 'that no one may again declare this to be nonsense.'

The account she gives of Wilibald's experiences contains one of the earliest descriptions written in northern Europe of a journey to Palestine, and modern writers have commented on it as a curious literary monument of the time. Interest in descriptions of the Holy Land was increasing. Besides early references to such journeys in the letters of St Jerome who described how Paula went from Rome to Jerusalem and settled there in the 4th century, we hear how Adamnan came to the court of King Ealdfrith of Northumbria about the year 701 and laid before him his book on Holy Places which he had taken down from the narrative of bishop Arculf who had made the pilgrimage, but of whom we know nothing more. But Adamnan's account is bald and its interest is poor compared to this description of the adventures of Wilibald and of what he saw on his travels.

The nun prefaces her account of the journey by telling us of Wilibald's origin. She describes how he fell ill as a child, how [141] his parents vowed him to a religious life if he were spared, and how in conformity with their promise they took him to the abbey of Waltham at the age of five, where Wilibald continued studying till manhood. We are not told to what his love of travel was due. He determined to go south and persuaded his father and his brother Wunebald to accompany him. We hear how they and their companions took boat and arrived at Rouen, how they travelled on till they reached Lucca where the father fell ill and died, and how the brothers pursued their journey to Rome where they spent the winter. We hear how the heat and bad air of summer drove them away from Rome and how, while Wunebald remained in Italy, Wilibald with a few companions pushed on by way of Naples and Reggio and reached Catania in Sicily, where he took boat for Ephesus and Syria We get a good deal of information by the way on saints and on relics, and hear of the veil of St Agatha which stayed the eruptions of Mount Aetna, and of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. The travellers experienced all kinds of hardships; thrice they were cast into prison and liberated before their feet trod on holy ground. Then they visited Nazareth and Chana; they gazed upon Lake Tiberias, they bathed in the river Jordan, and finally they reached Jerusalem where they made a long stay, broken however by several long expeditions. Each site is described in turn, and its connection with scriptural history is pointed out. We hear a good deal about Jerusalem, about Mount Sion, the site of the Ascension of the Virgin, and about the site of the Nativity at Bethlehem. It was 'once a cave, now it is a square house cut into the rock,' over which a little chapel is built. We also hear of various monasteries where the travellers stayed in coming and going. Finally they travelled to Tyre, where they took boat to Constantinople. There they made a lengthy stay and then journeyed on to Italy and visited the Isle of Lipari, where Wilibald desired to get a glimpse of the crater, which is designated as hell, the thought of which called forth a fine piece of description from the nun.

'And when they arrived there they left the boat to see what sort of a hell it was. Wilibald especially was curious about what was inside the crater, and would have climbed the summit of the mountain to the opening; but he was prevented by cinders which rose from the black gulf and had sunk again; as snow settles falling from the sky and the heavenly heights in white thick masses, so these cinders lay heaped on the summit of the mountain and [142] prevented Wilibald's ascent. But he saw a blackness and a terrible column of flame projected upwards with a noise like thunder from the pit, and he saw the flame and the smoky vapour rising to an immeasurable height. He also beheld pumice-stone which writers use thrown up from the crater with the flame, and it fell into the sea and was again cast up on the shore; men there gathered it up to bring it away.'

When Wilibald and his companion Tidberht reached Rome they had been absent seven years, and their travels had made them personages of such interest that the Pope interviewed them. Wilibald at the Pope's suggestion agreed to join Boniface in Germany. Wunebald, the brother whom he had left in Italy, had met Boniface in Rome in 738 and had travelled back with him. Wilibald also settled in Germany and was made bishop of the new see of Eichstatt. Here he came across the nun, who was so fired by his account of his travels that she undertook to record them.

After she had finished this work she was moved to write a short account of the life of Wunebald. It is written in a similar style and contains valuable historical information, but it has not the special interest of the other account. Wunebald on coming into Germany had first stayed at Mainz, then he travelled about with Boniface, and finally he settled at Heidenheim where he made a clearance in the midst of a wooded wilderness and dwelt there with a few younger men. He was active in opposing idolatrous customs, but does not appear to have been satisfied with his work. He died about the year 765, and his brother Wilibald, bishop of Eichstatt, and his sister, of whom mention is now made for the first time, came to his monastery to assist at the translation of his corpse. The sister took charge of his settlement, apparently for a time only, for the monastery at Heidenheim continued to be under the rule of an abbot and there is no evidence that women belonged to it.

It was from this sister that the nun received her information about Wunebald. The theory has been put forward that she was the same person as a nun who came to Heidenheim and was there miraculously cured. However that may be, this literary nun is the last Anglo-Saxon woman of whom we have definite information who came abroad in connection with Boniface. Her name is lost, it is as the anonymous nun of Heidenheim that she has come down to posterity.



'Pulchritudo certe mentis et nutrimentum virtutum est cordis munditia, cui visio Dei spiritualiter promittitur; ad quam munditiam nullus nisi per magnam cordis custodiam perducitur.'-- Anselm to the Abbess of St Mary's.

Section I. The new Monastic Orders.

IN this chapter I intend to give a description of the different monastic orders which were founded between the 10th and the 12th centuries, and to enter at some length into the reasons for their progress. A mass of heterogeneous information must be passed in rapid review with occasional digressions on outside matters, for it is only possible to understand the rapid progress of monasticism by recalling the relation in which it stood to other social developments.

As we cross the borderland which divides the centuries before the year 1000 from the period that follows, we become aware of great changes which about this time take definite shape throughout all social institutions. In the various strata of society occupations were becoming more clearly differentiated than they had ever been before, while those who were devoted to peaceful pursuits, whether in lay or religious circles, were now combined together for mutual support and encouragement.

In connection with religion we find the representatives of the Church and of monasticism becoming more and more conscious of differences that were growing up between them. Monasticism from its very beginning practically lay outside the established order of the Church, but this had not prevented bishop and abbot from working side by side and mutually supporting each other; nay, it even happened sometimes that one person combined in himself the two offices of abbot and bishop. But as early Christian times passed into the Middle Ages, prelates ceased to agree with headquarters [185] at Rome in accepting monasticism as the means of securing a foothold for religion. The Church was now well established throughout western Europe, and her ministers were by no means prepared to side unconditionally with the Pope when he fell out with temporal rulers. The monastic orders on the contrary generally did side with him, and by locally furthering his interests, they became strongholds of his power.

The l2th century has been called the golden age of monasticism, because it witnessed the increased prosperity of existing monasteries and the foundation of a number of new monastic and religious orders. A wave of enthusiasm for the life of the religious settlement, and for the manifold occupations which this life now embraced, passed over western Europe, emanating chiefly from France, the country which took the lead in culture and in civilizing influences.

The l2th century, as it was the golden age of monasticism, was also the golden age of chivalry; the cloister and the court were the representative centres of civilized life. Under the influence of the system of mutual responsibility called feudalism, the knight by doughty deed and unwavering allegiance to his lord, his lady and his cause, gave a new meaning to service; while the monk, devoted to less hazardous pursuits, gave a hitherto unknown sanctification to toil. The knight, the lady, the court-chaplain and the court-poet cultivated the bearings and the formalities of polite intercourse which formed the background of the age of romance, while in the cloister the monk and the nun gave a new meaning to religious devotion and enthusiasm by turning their activity into channels which first made possible the approximation of class to class.

This period knew little of townships as centres of intellectual activity, and their social importance remained far below that of cloister and court. The townsmen, whose possession of town land constituted them burghers, had won for themselves recognition as an independent body by buying immunities and privileges from bishop and king. But the struggle between them and the newer gilds, into which those who were below them in rank and wealth, formed themselves, was only beginning; the success of these newer gilds in securing a share in the government marks the rise of the township.

The diversity of occupation in the different kinds of gilds was anticipated by a similar diversity of occupation in the different monastic orders. The great characteristic of the monastic revival of the Middle Ages lay in the manifold and distinct spheres of [186] activity which life offered inside the religious community. The studious, the educational, the philanthropic, and the agricultural element, all to some extent made part of the old monastic system. But through the foundation of a number of different orders which from the outset had separate aims, tastes which were widely dissimilar, and temperaments that were markedly diverse, met with encouragement in the religious settlement. The scholar, the artist, the recluse, the farmer, each found a career open to him; while men and women were prompted to undertake duties within and without the religious settlement which make their activity comparable to that of the relieving officer, the poor-law guardian and the district nurse of a later age.

To gain a clear idea of the purposes which the new monastic and religious orders set before them, it will be best to treat of them severally in the chronological order of their foundation. Two lines of development are to be observed. There are the strictly monastic orders which sprang from the order of St Benedict, which they developed and amplified. These included the orders of Clugni, Citeaux, Chartreuse, and Grandmont, of which the last two took no account of women. On the other side stand the religious orders which are the outcome of distinctions drawn between different kinds of canons, when the settlements of regular canons take a distinctly monastic colouring. Among these the Premonstrant and the Austin orders are the most important, the members of which, from the clothes they wore, were in England called respectively White and Black Canons.

The importance of canonical orders, so far as women are concerned, lies in the fact that the 12th century witnessed the foundation of a number of religious settlements for both sexes, in which the men lived as canons and the women as nuns. The Premonstrant began as a combined order; the orders of Fontevraud and of St Gilbert of Sempringham were of a similar kind. Bearing these distinctions in mind, we begin our enquiry with an analysis of the Cluniac and the Cistercian orders, which have their root directly in the monasticism of St Benedict.

As remarks in the previous chapters of this work will have shown, monasteries had sprung up during early Christian times independently of each other following a diversity of rules promulgated by various teachers, which had gradually been given up in favour of the rule of St Benedict. At the beginning of the 9th century this rule was largely prevalent in monasteries [187] abroad, owing to councils held under the auspices of Karl the Great († 814), and in England it gained ground through the efforts of Aethelwold, abbot of Abingdon and bishop of Winchester († 984). Some obscurity hangs about the subject, for a certain number of houses abroad, and among them some of the oldest and wealthiest, clung to the prerogative of independence and refused to accept St Benedict's rule, while in England, where this rule was certainly accepted in the 11th century, great diversity of routine either remained or else developed inside the different houses. This is evident from the account which Matthew Paris († 1259), a monk of St Albans, gives of the visitation of houses in the year 1232.

The order of Clugni owes its origin to the desire of obviating a difficulty. As time wore on the rule of St Benedict had betrayed a weakness in failing to maintain any connection between separate monasteries. As there was no reciprocal responsibility between Benedictine settlements, a lay nobleman had frequently been appointed abbot through princely interference, and had installed himself in the monastery with his family, his servants and his retinue, to the detriment of the monastic property, and to the relaxation of discipline among the monks. The evil was most conspicuous abroad in the eastern districts of France and the western districts of Germany, and in Go the order of Clugni was founded in Burgundy as a means of remedying it.

At first the order of Clugni was the object of great enthusiasm, and it was raised to eminence by a series of remarkable and energetic men. Powerful patrons were secured to it, master-minds found protection in its shelter. The peculiarities of its organization consisted in the two rules that the abbot of the Cluniac house should be chosen during the lifetime of his predecessor, and that the abbots of different houses should meet periodically at a synod at which the abbot of Clugni should preside. The Pope's sanction having been obtained, the order remained throughout in close contact with Rome. In Germany especially this connection was prominent, and became an important political factor in the lath century when the Cluniac houses directly supported the claim of Rome in the struggle between Pope and Emperor.

The order of Clugni took slight cognizance of women, and the [188] nunneries of the order were few and comparatively unimportant. A reason for this may be found in the nature of the order's origin, for the settlements of nuns had not been interfered with like the settlements of monks during the gth and Both centuries by the appointment of lay superiors, and were untouched by the consequent evils. If this be so the falling away from discipline, which called for correction in many houses of men, may justly be referred to a change thrust on them from without, not born from within.

In England the order of Clugni was not officially introduced till after the Norman Conquest, and then under circumstances which set a peculiar stamp on it. The seed which each order scattered broadcast over the different countries was the same, but the nature of the soil in which it took root, and the climate under which it developed, modified the direction of its growth.

During the 9th and 10th centuries England had been the scene of great social and political changes. The powerful kings who arose in Wessex and eventually claimed supremacy over all the provinces were unable to assert their authority to the extent of making the eastern provinces sink all provincial differences and jealousies, and join in organised resistance to the Danes. From the 9th century onwards, the entire seaboard of England, from Northumberland to the mouth of the Severn, had been exposed to the depredations of this people. Having once gained a foothold on the eastern coasts they quickly contracted alliances and adapted themselves to English customs, thus making their ultimate success secure.

The heathen invaders were naturally indifferent to the teachings of the Christian Church, and to the privileges of monasteries, and the scant annals of the period written before Knut of Denmark became king of England in 1016, give accounts of the destruction of many settlements. Some were attacked and laid waste, and others were deserted by their inmates. To realise the collapse of Christian institutions about this time, one must read the address which Wulfstan, archbishop of York (1002-1023), wrote to rouse the English to consciousness of the indignities to which their religion was exposed. But the collapse was only temporary bishoprics and abbacies stood firm enough to command the attention of the invader, and as the heathenism of the Dane yielded without a blow to the teaching of Christ, the settlements that were in the hands of abbot and monk rose anew.

[189] However, it was only after the establishment of William of Normandy in England (1066) that the conditions of life became settled, and that the tide turned in favour of monasticism; that is to say in favour of the monastic life of men, but not of women. Various reasons have been alleged for this difference: that the better position of the wife under Danish rule made women loth to remain in the convent, or that the spread of the system of feudal tenure excluded women from holding property which they could devote to the advantage of their sex. So much is certain, that during the reign of William many Benedictine houses for monks were founded or restored, but we do not hear of one for nuns.

In the wake of the Norman baron, the Norman prelate had entered this country, bringing with him an interest in the order of Clugni. It was William of Warren, son-in-law of the Conqueror, and earl of Surrey, who first brought over Cluniac monks, whom he settled at I ewes in Sussex. He did so at the suggestion of Lanfranc, a Norman monk of Italian origin, who had become archbishop of Canterbury (1070-1089). Before the close of William's reign Cluniac monks had met with patrons to build them four monasteries on English soil besides the house at Lewes.

The Norman barons continued to make liberal endowments to the order, but its popularity remained comparatively small, partly owing to the distinctly foreign character which it continued to bear'. Thus we find that after the accession of Henry II (1154), whose reign was marked by a rise in English national feeling, only one Cluniac house was added to those already in existence.

From the order of Clugni we pass to that of Citeaux, the foundation of which comes next in point of time, but which owed its existence to a different cause, and was characterized by widely dissimilar developments.

The story of the foundation of the order has been fully told by men who were under the influence of the movement; the facts only of the foundation need be mentioned here. It originated in France when Robert, abbot of Molemes, roused by the remonstrances of one Stephen Harding, an English monk living in his convent, left his home with a band of followers in logs, in search of a retreat where they might carry out the rule of St Benedict in a worthier spirit. They found this retreat at Citeaux. From Citeaux and [190] its daughter-house Clairvaux, founded in 1113 by the energetic Bernard, those influences went forth which made the Cistercian order representative of the most strenuous devotion to toil and the most exalted religious aspirations. While the order of Clugni in the 10th century secured the outward conditions favourable to a life of routine, devoting this routine chiefly to literary and artistic pursuits, the reform of Citeaux exerted a much wider influence. It at once gained extensive local and national sympathy, by cultivating land and by favouring every kind of outdoor pursuit.

The agricultural activity of the Cistercian has called forth much enthusiastic comment. Janauschek, a modern student of the order, describes in eloquent terms how they turned woods into fields, how they constructed water-conduits and water-mills, how they cultivated gardens, orchards, and vineyards, how successful they were in rearing cattle, in breeding horses, in keeping bees, in regulating fishing, and how they made glass and procured the precious metals.

A comparison of their temper and that of the Cluniacs offers many interesting points; a comparison which is facilitated by a dialogue written by a Cistercian monk between 1154 and 1174 to exalt the merits of his order compared with those of the order of Clugni. For while the Cluniac delighted in luxurious surroundings, the Cistercian affected a simple mode of life which added to the wealth placed at his disposal by his untiring industry. While the Cluniac delighted in costly church decorations in sumptuous vestments and in richly illuminated books of service the Cistercian declared such pomp prejudicial to devotion, and sought to elevate the soul not so much by copying and ornamenting old books as by writing new ones; not so much by decorating a timehonoured edifice as by rearing a new and beautiful building.

Perhaps the nature of these occupations yields a reason why the Cistercian order at first found no place for women. At an early date Cardinal de Vitry (Jacobus di Vitriaco, † 1144), writing about the Cistercian movement, says that 'the weaker sex at the rise of the order could not aspire to conform to such severe rules nor to rise to such a pitch of excellence.' In the dialogue referred to above, the Cluniac expresses wonder that women should enter the Cistercian order at all.

[191] The first Cistercian nunneries were founded at Tart in Langres and at Montreuil-les-Dames near Laon. Hermann of Laon (c. 1150) describes 'how the religious of Montreuil sewed and span, and went into the woods where they grubbed up briars and thorns,'-- an occupation which goes far to equalise their activity with that of the monks. In Switzerland and Germany there is said to have been a pronounced difference in the character of Cistercian nunneries, due to the various conditions of their foundation. Some were aristocratic in tone, while others consisted of women of the middle class, who banded together and placed themselves under the bishop of the diocese, following of their own accord the rules accepted by the monks of Citeaux.

In Spain a curious development of the order of Citeaux is recorded, fraught with peculiarities which recall earlier developments.

In 1187 Alfonso VIII, king of Leon and Castille, founded an abbacy for nuns of the order of Citeaux at Las Huelgas near Burgos, the abbess of which was declared head over twelve other nunneries. In the following year the king sent the bishop of Siguenza to the general chapter at Citeaux to obtain leave for the abbesses of his kingdom to hold a general chapter among themselves. This was granted. At the first chapter at Burgos the bishops of Burgos, Siguenza and Placenza were assembled together with six abbots and seven abbesses, each abbess being entitled to bring with her six servants and five horses. The power of the abbess of Las Huelgas continued to increase. In the year 1210 she had taken upon herself the discharge of sacerdotal functions. In the year 1260 she refused to receive the abbot of Citeaux, whereupon she was excommunicated. After the year 1507 the abbess was no longer appointed for life, but for a term of three years only. Chapters continued to be held under her auspices at Burgos till the Council of Trent in 1545, which forbade women to leave their enclosures.

The date of the first arrival of monks of Citeaux in England was 1128, when William Giffard, bishop of Winchester († 1129), in early days a partisan of Anselm against Henry I, founded [192] Waverley in Surrey for them. Shortly afterwards Walter Espec, the most powerful baron in northern England, granted them land at Rievaulx in Yorkshire. About the same time the foundation at Fountains repeated the story of Citeaux. A small band of monks, burning with the desire to simplify conventual life, left York and retired into the wooded solitude of Fountains, whence they sent to Bernard at Clairvaux asking for his advice.

These events fall within the reign of Henry I (1100-1135), the peacefulness of which greatly furthered the development of monastic life. The pursuits to which the Cistercians were devoted in England were similar to those they carried on abroad. Here also their agricultural successes were great, for they ditched, ridged and drained, wet land, they marled stiff soils and clayed poor ones. The land granted to them, especially in the northern counties was none of the best, but they succeeded in turning wildernesses into fruitful land, and by so doing won great admiration. Similarly the churches built in this country under the auspices of these monks bear witness to great purity of taste and ardent imagination. The churches built by them were all dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who was the patron saint of the order.

All these early settlements of the Cistercian order were for monks, not for nuns, for Cistercian nunneries in England were founded comparatively late and remained poor and unimportant. If we look upon the Cistercians as farmers, builders and writers, this fact is partly explained. But there are other reasons which suggest why the number of Cistercian nunneries was at first small, and why the Cistercian synod shrank from accepting control over them.

Convents of women had hitherto been recruited by the daughters of the landed gentry, and their tone was aristocratic; but a desire for the religious life had now penetrated into the lower strata of society. Orders of combined canons and nuns were founded which paid special attention to women of the lower classes, but they encountered certain difficulties in dealing with them. It is just possible on the one hand that the combined orders forestalled the Cistercians in the inducements they held out; on the other, that the experience of the combined orders made the Cistercians cautious about admitting women.

[193] Consideration of these facts brings us back to a whole group of phenomena to which reference was made in a previous chapter, viz. the disorderly tendencies which had become apparent in connection with loose women, the greater opprobrium cast on these women as time went on, and the increasing difficulties they had to contend with. The founders of the orders of combined canons and nuns tried to save women from drifting into and swelling a class, the existence of which was felt to be injurious to social life, by preaching against a dissolute life and by receiving all persons into their settlements regardless of their antecedents.

The earliest and in many ways the most interesting of these combined orders is that founded by Robert († 1117) of Arbrissel, a village in Brittany. Robert had begun life in the Church, but he left the clerical calling on account of his great desire to minister to the needs of the lower classes, and as a wandering preacher he gained Considerable renown. Men and women alike were roused by his words to reform their course of life, and they followed him about till he determined to secure for them a permanent abode. This he found in an outlying district at Fontevraud. He organised his followers into bands and apportioned to each its task. The men were divided into clerics, who performed religious service, and lay brothers, who did outdoor work. 'They were to use gentle talk, not to swear, and all to be joined in brotherly affection.' It appears that the women were all professed nuns; unceasing toil was to be their portion, for they were to hold the industrious and hardworking Martha as their model and take small account of such virtues as belonged to Mary.

From every side workers flocked to the settlements, for Robert opened his arms to all. We are told that 'men of all conditions came, women arrived, such as were poor as well as those of gentle birth; widows and virgins, aged men and youths, women of loose life as well as those who held aloof from men.' At first there was a difficulty in providing for the numerous settlers, but their labours brought profit, and gifts in kind poured in from outsiders, a proof that in the eyes of the world the settlements supplied an obvious need. Branch establishments were founded and prospered, so that in one cloister there were as many as three hundred women, in [194] another one hundred, and in another sixty. Robert returned to his missionary work, after having appointed Hersende of Champagne as lady superior of the whole vast settlement. Her appointment was decisive for the system of government,--Fontevraud remained under the rule of an abbess. It was for her successor, Petronille, that the life of the founder Robert was written soon after his death, by Baldric, bishop of Dol († 1130). Baldric repeatedly insists on the fact that no one was refused admission to these settlements. 'The poor were received, the feeble were not refused, nor women of evil life, nor sinners, neither lepers nor the helpless.' We are told that Robert attracted nearly three thousand men and women to the settlements; the nuns (ancillae Christi) in particular wept at his death.

The fact that Robert had the welfare of women especially at heart is further borne out by a separate account of the last years of his life, written by one Andrea, probably his pupil. Andrea tells how Robert at the approach of death assembled the canons or clerics of the settlement around him and addressed them saying: 'Know that whatever I have wrought in this world I have wrought as a help to nuns.' Fontevraud occupied a high standing, and we shall find that nuns were brought thence into England when the nunnery of Amesbury was reformed in the reign of King John. The order of Fontevraud made great progress in the course of the 12th century, and next to it in point of time stands the foundation of the order of Prémontré. Fontevraud lies in the north-west of France, Prémontré in the east, and the efforts of Robert have here a counterpart in those of Norbert († 1134), who worked on similar lines. Norbert also left the clerical calling to work as a missionary in north-western Germany, especially in Westphalia, and he also succeeded in rousing his listeners to a consciousness of their ungodly mode of life. With a view to reform he sought to give a changed tone to canonical life and founded a religious settlement in the forest of Coucy, which he afterwards called Prémontré from the belief that the Virgin had pointed it out to him. His efforts were likewise crowned with success, for many settlements were forthwith founded on the plan of that of Prémontré. Hermann of Laon, the contemporary of Norbert, praises him warmly and remarks that women of all classes flocked to his settlements, and were admitted into the communities by adopting the cloistered life. [195] The statement is made, but may be exaggerated, that ten thousand women joined the order during Norbert's lifetime.

Norbert differed greatly in character from Robert; his personal ambition was greater, and his restless temperament eventually drew him into political life. He died in 1134, and in 1137 the chapter at Prémontré decided that the women should be expelled from all the settlements that had inmates of both sexes, and that no nuns should henceforth be admitted to settlements ruled by men. The reasons which led to this resolution are not recorded. The nuns thus rendered homeless are said to have banded together and dwelt in settlements which were afterwards numbered among Cistercian houses, thus causing a sudden increase of nunneries of this order. However a certain number of Premonstrant houses, occupied solely by nuns and ruled by a lady superior, existed previous to the decree of 1137. These remained unmolested, and others were added to them in course of time. It can be gathered from a bull of 1344 that there were at that time over thirteen hundred settlements of Premonstrant or White Canons in existence in Europe, besides the outlying settlements of lay brothers, and about four hundred settlements of nuns. The settlements of White Canons in England amounted to about thirty-five and were founded after the sexes had been separated. There were also two settlements of Premonstrant nuns in England.

A third order of canons and nuns, which in various ways is akin to the orders of Fontevraud and Prémontré previously founded abroad, was founded at the beginning of the 12th century in England by Gilbert of Sempringham. But as the material for study of this order is copious, and as it marks a distinct development in the history of women's convent life in England, it will be discussed in detail later.

The canons who belonged to the combined orders were regular canons, that is they owned no individual property, and further differed from secular canons in holding themselves exempt from performing spiritual functions for the laity. Erasmus at a later date remarked that 'their life is half way between that of monks and that of those who are called secular canons.'

[196] As to the distinction between the two kinds, it appears that bands of canons who may fitly be termed regular had existed from an early period; but the subject is shrouded in some obscurity. In the 11th century mention of them becomes frequent, especially in France, and at the beginning of the l2th century their position was defined by a decree published by Pope Innocent II at the Lateran Council (1139). By this decree all those canons who did not perform spiritual functions for the laity were designated as regular and were called upon to live according to the rule of life laid down by St Augustine in his Epistle, number 109. The terms Austin canon and regular canon were henceforth applied indiscriminately, but many independent settlements of unrecognised canons of an earlier date have since been included under this term.

A few words are here needed in explanation of the term canoness or Austin canoness, which is used in diverse ways, but is generally applied to women of some substance, who entered a religious community and lived under a rule, but who were under no perpetual vow, that is, they observed obedience and celibacy as long as they remained in the house but were at liberty to return to the world. These stipulations do not imply that a woman on entering a convent renounced all rights of property, an assumption on the strength of which the Church historian Rohrbacher interprets as applying to canonesses the entire chapter of directions promulgated at Aachen in 816, in the interest of women living the religious life. But the terms used in these provisions are the ordinary ones applied to abbess and nun. Helyot, who has a wider outlook, and who speaking of the canon explains how this term was at first applied to all living in canone, points out that uncertainty hangs about many early settlements of women abroad, the members of which were in the true sense professed. It seems probable that they at first observed the rule of St Benedict, and afterwards departed from it, as has been pointed out above in connection with Saxon convents.

The tenor of the provisions made at Aachen shows that the monastic life of women in a number of early settlements abroad rested on a peculiar basis, and points to the fact that the inmates [197] of settlements founded at an early date were in some measure justified when they declared later that they had always held certain liberties, and insisted on a distinction between themselves and other nuns. The position of the imnates of some of these houses continued different from that of the members of other nunneries till the time of the Reformation. In England, however, this difference does not seem to have existed. The inmates of the few Austin nunneries, of which there were fifteen at the dissolution, though they are frequently spoken of as canonesses in the charters that are secured by them, appear to have lived a life in no way different from that of other nuns, while they were in residence, but it may be they absented themselves more frequently.

When once their position was defined the spread of the Austin Canons was rapid; they combined the learning of the Benedictine with the devotional zeal of the Cistercian, and ingratiated themselves with high and low. Of all the settlements of the Austin Canons abroad that of St Victor in Paris stands first in importance. It became a retreat for some of the master minds of the age, and its influence on English thinkers was especially great. Austin Canons came from France into England as early as 1108 At first their activity here was chiefly philanthropic, they founded hospitals and served in them; but they soon embraced a variety of interests. In the words of Kate Norgate speaking with reference to England: 'The scheme of Austin Canons was a compromise between the old-fashioned system of canons and that of monkish confraternities; but a compromise leaning strongly towards the monastic side, tending 'more and more towards it with every fresh development, and distinguished chiefly by a certain elasticity of organization which gave scope to an almost unlimited variety in the adjustment of the relations between the active and the contemplative life of the members of the order, thus enabling it to adapt itself to the most dissimilar temperaments and to the most diverse spheres of activity.'

Their educational system also met with such success that before the close of the reign of Henry I two members of the fraternity had been promoted to the episcopate and one to the primacy. In the remarks of contemporary writers on religious settlements, it is curious to note in what a different estimation regular canons and [198] monks are held by those who shared the interests of court circles. For the courtier, as we shall presently see, sympathised with the canon but abused and ridiculed the monk.

Throughout the early Christian ages the idea had been steadily gaining ground that the professed religious should eschew contact with the outside world, and it was more and more urged that the moral and mental welfare of monk and nun was furthered by their confining their activity within the convent precincts. Greater seclusion was first enforced among women; for in the combined orders the nuns remained inside the monastery, and were removed from contact with the world, while the canons were but little restricted in their movements. How soon habitual seclusion from the world became obligatory it is of course very difficult to determine, but there is extant a highly interesting pamphlet, written about the year 1190 by the monk Idung of the Benedictine monastery of St Emmeran in Bavaria, which shows that professed religious women in the district he was acquainted with went about as freely as the monks, and did not even wear a distinctive dress. The pamphlet is the more interesting as Idung was evidently distressed by the behaviour of the nuns, but failed to find an authority on which to oppose their actions. He admits that the rule as drafted by St Benedict is intended alike for men and women, and that there are no directions to be found in it about confining nuns in particular, and in fact the rule allowed monks and nuns to go abroad freely as long as their superior approved. Idung then sets forth with many arguments that nuns are the frailer vessel; and he illustrates this point by a mass of examples adduced from classical and Biblical literature. He proves to himself the advisability of nuns being confined, but he is at a loss where to go for the means of confining them. And he ends his pamphlet with the advice that as it is impossible to interfere with the liberty of nuns, it should at least be obligatory for them when away from home to wear clothes which would make their vocation obvious.

No doubt the view held by this monk was shared by others, and public opinion fell in with it, and insisted on the advantages of seclusion. Many Benedictine houses owned outlying manors which were often at a considerable distance, and the management of which required a good deal of moving about on the part of the monks and nuns who were told off for the purpose. We shall see later that those who had taken the religious vow had pleasure as their object [199] as much as business in going about; but complaints about the Benedictines of either sex are few compared with those raised against the Cistercian monks. For the Cistercians in their capacity of producers visited fairs and markets and, where occasion offered, were ready to drive a bargain, which was especially objected to by the ministers of the Church, who declared that the Cistercians lowered the religious profession in general estimation. Consequently orders which worked on opposite lines enjoyed greater favour with the priesthood; such as the monastic order of Grandmont, which originally demanded of its members that they should not quit their settlement and forbade their owning any animals except bees; and the order of Chartreuse, which confined each monk to his cell, that is, to a set of rooms with a garden adjoining. But these orders did not secure many votaries owing to their severity and narrowness.

Thus at the close of the 12th century a number of new religious orders had been founded which spread from one country to another by means of an effective system of organization, raising enthusiasm for the peaceful pursuits of convent life among all classes of society. The reason of their success lay partly in their identifying themselves with the ideal aspirations of the age, partly in the political unrest of the time which favoured the development of independent institutions, but chiefly in the diversity of occupation which the professed religious life now offered. The success obtained by the monastic orders however did not fail to rouse apprehension among the representatives of the established Church, and it seems well in conclusion to turn and recall some of the remarks passed on the new orders by contemporary writers who moved in the court of Henry II (1154-89).

It has been pointed out how the sympathies of court circles at this period in England were with the Church as represented by the priesthood; courtier and priest were at one in their antagonism against monks, but in sympathy with the canons. Conspicuous among these men stands Gerald Barri (c. 1147-c. 1220), a Welshman of high abilities and at one time court chaplain to the king. He hated all monkish orders equally, and for the delectation of some friends whom he entertained at Oxford he compiled a collection of monkish scandals known as 'The Mirror of the Church,' in which he represents the Cluniac monk as married to Luxury, and the Cistercian monk to Avarice; but, in spite of this, incidental remarks in the stories he [200] tells give a high opinion of the Cistercian's industry, hospitality and unbounded charity. Gerald mentions as a subject for ridicule that the Cistercian monk lived not on rent, but on the produce of his labour, an unaristocratic proceeding which was characteristic of the order. Gerald's attitude is reflected in that of Ralph de Glanvil († 1190), justiciar of England during the reign of Henry II, a clever and versatile man of whom we know, through his friend Map, that he disliked all the monkish orders. But his enthusiasm for religious settlements was not inconsiderable, and several settlements of the Premonstrant or White Canons were founded by him.

The student of the period is familiar with the likes and dislikes of Walter Map († c. 1210), great among poets and writers of the age, who disliked all monks, but especially the Cistercians. His friend Gerald tells how this hatred had originated in the encroachments made by the monks of Newenham on the rights and property of the church he held at Westbury. For the perseverance with which Cistercian monks appropriated all available territory and interfered with the rights of church and chapel, made them generally odious to the ministers of the Church; their encroachments were an increasing grievance. John of Salisbury, afterwards bishop of Chartres († after 1180), directly censured as pernicious the means taken by the monks to extend their power. He tells us they procured from Rome exemption from diocesan jurisdiction, they appropriated the right of confession, they performed burial rites; in short they usurped the keys of the Church. By the side of these remarks it is interesting to recall the opinion of the monkish historian, William of Malmesbury, who a generation earlier had declared that the Cistercian monks had found the surest road to heaven.

All these writers, though lavish in their criticisms on monks, tell us hardly anything against nuns. The order of St Gilbert for canons and nuns alone calls forth some remarks derogatory to the women. Nigel Wirecker, himself a monk, giving vent to his embittered spirit against Church and monkish institutions generally in the satire of Brunellus, launches into a fierce attack against the tone which then prevailed in women's settlements. He does not think it right that women whose antecedents are of the worst kind should adopt the religious profession and that as a means of preserving chastity they should systematically enjoin hatred of men.

[201] A similar reference is contained in the poem in Norman French called the 'Order of Fair Ease,' which is a production of the 13th century, and which caricatures the different religious orders by feigning an order that unites the characteristic vices of all. It is chiefly curious in the emphasis it lays on the exclusiveness of monasteries generally, representing them as reserved for the aristocracy. It contains little on nunneries and only a few remarks which are derogatory to the combined order of Sempringham.

These remarks were obviously called forth by the fact that the combined orders in particular admitted women from different ranks of life. For generally nunneries and their inmates enjoyed favour with churchman and courtier, whose contempt for the monk does not extend to the nun. In the correspondence of Thomas Beket, John of Salisbury, Peter of Blois and others there are letters to nuns of various houses which show that these men had friends and relatives among the inmates of nunneries. Indeed where members of the same family adopted the religious profession, the son habitually entered the Church while the daughter entered a nunnery. A sister of Thomas Beket was abbess at Barking, and various princesses of the royal house were abbesses of nunneries, as we shall presently see. They included Mary, daughter of Stephen (Romsey); a natural daughter of Henry II (Barking), and Matilda, daughter of Edward I (Amesbury); Queen Eleanor wife of Henry III also took the veil at Amesbury.

Section II. Benedictine Convents in the Twelfth Century.

From this general review of the different orders we pass on to the state of nunneries in England during the 12th century, and to those incidents in their history which give some insight into their constitution.

Attention is first claimed by the old Benedictine settlements which still continued in prosperity and independence. Of these houses only those which were in connection with the royal house of Wessex remained at the close of the loth century; those of the northern and midland districts had disappeared. Some were deserted, others had been laid waste during the Danish invasions; it has been observed that with the return of tranquillity under Danish rule, not one of the houses for women was restored. Secular monks or laymen took possession of them, and [202] when they were expelled, the Church claimed the land, or the settlement was restored to the use of monks. Some of the great houses founded and ruled by women in the past were thus appropriated to men. Whitby and Ely rose in renewed splendour under the rule of abbots; Repton, Wimbourne and numerous other nunneries became the property of monks.

Various reasons have been given for the comparatively low ebb at which women's professed religious life remained for a time. Insecurity during times of warfare, and displacement of the centres of authority, supply obvious reasons for desertion and decay. A story is preserved showing how interference from without led to the disbanding of a nunnery. The Danish earl Swegen († 1052), son of Earl Godwin, took away (vi abstractam) the abbess Eadgifu of Leominster in Herefordshire in Doe, and kept her with him for a whole year as his wife. The archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Worcester threatened him with excommunication, whereupon he sent her home, avenging himself by seizing lands of the monastery of Worcester. He then fled from England and was outlawed, but at a later period he is said to have wanted the abbess back. The result is not recorded, for Leominster as a women's settlement ceased to exist about this time. There is no need to imagine a formal dissolution of the settlement. The voluntary or involuntary absence of the abbess in times of warfare supplies quite a sufficient reason for the disbanding of the nuns.

About the same time a similar fate befell the monastery of Berkley-on-Severn, in spite of the heroic behaviour of its abbess. The story is told by Walter Map how it was attacked and plundered at the instigation of Earl Godwin († 1053) and how in spite of the stand made by the abbess, a 'strong and determined ' woman, the men who took possession of it turned it into a 'pantheon, a very temple of harlotry.' Berkley also ceased to exist.

The monasteries ruled by women, which survived the political changes due to the Danish invasion and the Norman Conquest, had been in connection with women of the house of Cerdic; with hardly an exception they were situated in the province of Wessex [203] within the comparatively small area of Dorset, Wilts, and Hampshire. Chief among them were Shaftesbury, Amesbury, Wilton (or Ellandune), Romsey, and St Mary Winchester (or Nunnaminster). With these must be classed Barking in Essex, one of the oldest settlements in the land, which had been deserted at one time but was refounded by King Edgar, and which together with the Wessex nunneries, carried on a line of uninterrupted traditions from the 9th century to the time of the dissolution.

The manors owned by these settlements at the time of the Conquest lay in different shires, often at a considerable distance from the monastery itself.

From the account of survey in the Domesday book we gather that Shaftesbury had possessions in Sussex, Wiltshire, Dorset, and Hampshire, and that Nunnaminster owned manors in Hampshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire. Barking, the chief property of which lay in Essex, also held manors in Surrey, Middlesex, Berkshire, and Bedfordshire.

These monasteries were abbacies, as indeed were all houses for nuns founded before the Conquest. The abbess, like the abbot, had the power of a bishop within the limits of her own house and bore a crazier as a sign of her rank. Moreover the abbesses of Shaftesbury, Wilton, Barking, and Nunnaminster 'were of such quality that they held of the king by an entire barony,' and by right of tenure had the privilege at a later date of being summoned to parliament, though this lapsed on account of their sex.

The abbess as well as the abbot had a twofold income; she drew spiritualities from the churches which were in her keeping, and temporalities by means of her position as landlord and landowner. The abbess of Shaftesbury, who went by the title of abbess of St Edward, had in her gift several prebends, or portions of the appropriated tithes or lands for secular priests. In the reign of Henry I she found seven knights for the king's service, and had writs regularly directed to her to send her quota of soldiers into the field in proportion to her knights' fees; she held her own courts for pleas of debts, etc., the perquisites of which belonged to her.

To look through the cartularies of some of the old monasteries, [204] is to realise how complex were the duties which devolved on the ruler of one of these settlements, and they corroborate the truth of the remark that the first requirement for a good abbot was that he should have a head for business. Outlying manors were in the hands of bailiffs who managed them, and the house kept a clerk who looked after its affairs in the spiritual courts; for the management and protection of the rights and privileges of the property claimed unceasing care.

The Benedictine abbesses do not seem to have been wanting in business and managing capacity. At the time of the dissolution the oldest nunneries in the land with few exceptions were also the wealthiest. The wealth of some was notorious. A saying was current in the western provinces that if the abbot of Glastonbury were to marry the abbess of Shaftesbury, their heir would have more land than the king of England. The reason of this wealth lies partly in the fact that property had been settled on them at a time when land was held as a comparatively cheap commodity; but it speaks well for the managing capacities of those in authority that the high standing was maintained. The rulers prevented their property from being wasted or alienated during the 12th and 13th centuries, when the vigour or decline of an institution so largely depended on the capacity of the individual representing it, and they continued faithful to their traditions by effecting a compromise during the 14th and 15th centuries, when the increased powers of the Church and the consolidation of the monarchical power threatened destruction to institutions of the kind.

It is worthy of attention that while all nunneries founded during Anglo-Saxon times were abbacies, those founded after the Conquest were generally priories. Sixty-four Benedictine nunneries date their foundation from after the Conquest, only three of which were abbacies. The Benedictine prioress was in many cases subject to an abbot; her authority varied with the conditions of her appointment, but in all cases she was below the abbess in rank. The explanation is to be sought in the system of feudal tenure. Women no longer held property, nunneries were founded and endowed by local barons or by abbots. Where power from the preceding period devolved on the woman in authority, she retained it; but where new appointments were made the current tendency was hi favour of curtailing her power.

[205] Similarly all the Cistercian nunneries in England, which numbered thirty-six at the dissolution, were without exception priories. The power of women professing the order abroad and the influence of the Cistercian abbesses in Spain and France have been mentioned-facts which preclude the idea of there being anything in the intrinsic nature of the order contrary to the holding of power by women. The form the settlement took in each country was determined by the prevailing drift of the time, and in England during the with and lath centuries it was in favour of less independence for women.

Various incidents in the history of nunneries illustrate the comparatively dependent position of these settlements after the Conquest. At first Sheppey had been an abbacy. It had been deserted during the Viking period; and at the instigation of the archbishop of Canterbury about the year 1130 nuns were brought there from Sittingbourne and the house was restored as a priory.

Amesbury again, one of the oldest and wealthiest abbeys in the land for women, was dissolved and restored as a priory, dependent on the abbess of Fontevraud. This change of constitution presents some interesting features. The lives of the women assembled there in the 12th century were of a highly reprehensible character; the abbess was accused of incontinence and her evil ways were followed by the nuns. There was no way out of the difficulty short of removing the women in a body, and to accomplish this was evidently no easy undertaking. Several charters of the time of King John and bearing his signature are in existence. The abbess, whose name is not on record, retired into private life on a pension of ten marks, and the thirty nuns of her convent were placed in other nunneries. A prioress and twenty-four nuns were then brought over from Fontevraud and established at Amesbury, which became for a time a cell to the foreign house. This connection with France, at a time when familiarity with French formed part of a polite education, caused Amesbury to become the chosen retreat of royal princesses. During the wars with France under the Edwards, when many priories and cells were cut off from their foreign connection, Amesbury regained its old standing as an abbacy.

Several of the Benedictine nunneries founded after the Conquest [206] owed their foundation to abbacies of men. Some were directly dependent cells, like Sopwell in Hertfordshire, a nunnery founded by the abbot of St Albans, who held the privilege of appointing its prioress. So absolute was this power that when the nuns appointed a prioress of their own choice in 1330, she was deposed by the abbot of St Albans, who appointed another person in her stead. Similarly the nunnery at Kilburn was a cell to Westminster, its prioress being appointed by the abbot of Westminster. But as a general rule the priories were so constituted that the nuns might appoint a prioress subject to the approval of the patron of their house, and she was then consecrated to her office by the bishop.

Various incidents show how jealously each house guarded its privileges and how needful this was, considering the changes that were apt to occur, for the charters of each religious house were the sole guarantee of its continued existence. From time to time they were renewed and confirmed, and if the representative of the house was not on the alert, he might awake to find his privileges encroached upon. In regard to the changes which were liable to occur the following incident deserves mention. In the year 1192 the archbishop of York formed the plan of subjecting the nunnery of St Clement's at York, a priory founded by his predecessor Thurstan, to the newly-founded abbacy for women at Godstow. Godstow was one of the few women's abbacies founded after the Conquest, and owed its wealth and influence chiefly to its connection with the family of Fair Rosamond, at one time the mistress of Henry II, who spent the latter part of her life there. But the nuns of St Clement's, who had always been free, would not obey the abbess of Godstow, and they saved themselves from the archbishop's interference by appealing directly to the Court of Rome.

A curious incident occurred during the reign of Henry III in connection with Stanford, a nunnery in Northamptonshire. Stanford was a priory dependent on the abbot of Peterborough who had founded it. It appears that the prioress and her convent, in soliciting confirmation of their privileges from Rome, employed a certain proctor, who, besides the desired confirmation, procured the insertion of several additional articles into the document, one of which was permission for the nuns to choose their own prioress, and another a release from certain payments. When the abbot of [207] Peterborough became aware of these facts he threatened to complain to the Pope, whereupon the prioress with the nuns' approval carried all their charters and records of privileges to the archbishop of Canterbury, alleging that the proctor had acted against their order. They renounced all claim to privileges secretly obtained, and besought the primate to represent their conduct favourably to the Pope and to make peace between them and their patrons.'

Both these incidents occurred in connection with Benedictine nunneries. The difficulties which occurred in Cistercian nunneries are less easy to estimate, as they were not daughter-houses to men's Cistercian abbacies, but in many cases held their privileges by a bull obtained directly from the Pope. Thus Sinningthwaite in Yorkshire, founded in 1160, held a bull from Alexander III which exempted the nuns from paying tithes on the lands they farmed, such exemption being the peculiar privilege of many Cistercian settlements. Other bulls secured by Cistercian nunneries in England are printed by Dugdale.

A few incidents are recorded in connection with some of the royal princesses, which illustrate the attitude commonly assumed towards professed nuns, and give us an idea of the estimation in which convents were held. Queen Margaret of Scotland we are told desired to become a nun; her mother and her sister Christina both took the veil, and her daughters, the princesses Matilda and Mary, lived at Romsey for some years with their aunt Christina. As Pope Innocent IV canonised (1250) Queen Margaret of Scotland a few words must be devoted to her.

Her father Edward, the son of Edmund Ironside († 1016), had found refuge at the Scottish court when he came from abroad with his wife Agatha and their children, a son and two daughters. Of these daughters, Christina became a nun; but Margaret was either persuaded or constrained to marry King Malcolm in 1070, and having undertaken the duties of so august a station as that of queen, she devoted her energies to introducing reforms into Scotland and to raising the standard of industrial art. We possess a beautiful description of her life, probably written by her chaplain Turgot, and her zeal and high principles are further [208] evidenced by her letters, some of which are addressed to the primate Lanfranc.

Margaret's two daughters, Matilda and Mary, were brought up in the convent, but it is not known when they came to Romsey in Wessex; indeed their connection with Wessex offers some chronological difficulties. Their mother's sister Christina became a professed nun at Romsey in 1086; she may have lived before in a nunnery in the north of England, and there advocated her niece Matilda's acceptance of the religious profession as a protection against the Normans. If this is not the case it is difficult to fix the date of King Malcolm's scorn for her proposal that Matilda should become a nun. King Malcolm was killed fighting against William Rufus in 1093, Queen Margaret died a few days afterwards, and the princesses Matilda and Mary, of whom the former was about thirteen, from that time till 1100 dwelt at Romsey in the south of England. In the year 1100, after the violent death of Rufus, Henry, the younger of his brothers, laid claim to the English crown. A union with a princess, who on the mother's side was of the house of Cerdic, appeared in every way desirable. According to the statement of William of Malmesbury († 1142) Henry was persuaded by his friends, and especially by his prelates, to marry Matilda. 'She had worn the veil to avoid ignoble marriages,' says William, who lived close to the locality and was nearly a contemporary, 'and when the king wished to marry her, witnesses were brought to say she had worn it without profession'.' This is borne out by the historian Orderic Vitalis († 1142), whose information however is derived at second hand, for he enlarges on the princesses' stay with the nuns at Romsey, and on the instruction they received in letters and good manners, but he does not say that they were actually professed.

The fullest account of the event is given by Eadmer († 1124), who was nearly connected with the primate Anselm, and he naturally puts the most favourable construction on Matilda's conduct. According to him she wished to leave the convent and went before Anselm to plead her cause.

' I do not deny having worn the veil,' the princess said. 'When I was a child my aunt Christina, whom you know to be a determined [209] woman, in order to protect me against the violence of the Normans, put a piece of black cloth on my head, and when I removed it gave me blows and bad language. So I trembling and indignant wore the veil in her presence. But as soon as I could get out of her sight I snatched it off and trampled it underfoot.' In a lively way she goes on to describe how her father seeing the veil on her head became angry and tore it off, saying he had no intention other than that she should be married. Anselm, before complying with the wish of the princess, convened a chapter at Lambeth, but after hearing their decision, he declared Matilda free and united her in marriage to the king.

Anselm's behaviour is doubtless faithfully represented by Eadmer. Curiously enough later historians, Robert of Gloucester, Matthew Paris and Rudbone († 1234), represent Matilda as unwilling to leave the cloister to be married; and in one of these accounts she is described as growing angry, and pronouncing a curse on the possible offspring of the union. Walter Map goes so far as to say that the king took to wife a veiled and professed nun, Rome neither assenting nor dissenting, but remaining passive.

Perhaps the validity of the union was afterwards for political reasons called in question. At any rate Mary, Matilda's sister, also left the convent to be married to Eustace, Count of Boulogne, without objection being raised.

That Matilda did not object to leaving the cloister, we have conclusive proof in her great and continued affection for Anselm as shown in her letters to him. These letters and the charitable deeds of the queen, throw light on the Latinity of the Romsey pupil and on the tastes she had imbibed there.

We shall have occasion to return to Matilda again in connection with the philanthropic movement of the age, and we shall find her founding the hospital of St Giles in the soke of Aldgate, and bringing the first Austin Canons from France into England.

All her life she retained a taste for scholarly pursuits, and patronised scholars and men of letters. Her correspondence with the primate Anselm yields proof of her own studies and the freedom with which she wrote Latin.

In one of these letters, written shortly after her marriage [210] (bk 3. 55), Matilda urges the primate in strong terms to abstain from the severe fasting he practices, quoting from Cicero 'on Old Age,' and arguing that as the mind needs food and drink, so does the body; she at the same time admits the Scriptures enjoin the duty of fasting, and Pythagoras, Socrates and others urge the need of frugality. Anselm in his answer incidentally mentions having joined her to the king in lawful wedlock.

Matilda's next letters are less fraught with learning, and in unaffected terms express grief at Anselm's voluntary exile, which was the outcome of his quarrel with the king. She is saddened by his absence and longs for his return (3.93); she would act as intercessor between him and her husband (3.96), and she writes to the Pope on Anselm's behalf (3. 99). The queen both read and admired Anselm's writings, and compares his style to that of Cicero, Quintilian, Jerome, Gregory and others (3.119) with whom her reading at Romsey may have made her acquainted.

Anselm is not slow in answering that the king's continued bitterness is to him a source of grief, and in expressing the desire that the queen may turn his heart. It is good of her to wish for his return, which, however, does not depend on himself; besides 'surely she wishes him to act in accordance with his conscience.' In one of these letters he accuses the queen of disposing otherwise than she ought of the churches which are in her keeping (3.57, 81, 97, 107, 120, 128).

Anselm's continued absence from Canterbury, which was due to the quarrel about investiture, was felt to be a national calamity, and many letters passed between him and those among the Church dignitaries who sided with him against the king.

Among Anselm's correspondents were several abbesses of Wessex settlements, who seem to have been in no way prejudiced against him on account of the approval he gave to Matilda's leaving the cloister. He writes in a friendly strain to another Matilda, abbess of St Mary's, Winchester (Winton), thanking her for her prayers, urging her to cultivate purity of heart and beauty of mind as an encouragement to virtue, and begging her to show obedience to Osmund (bishop of Winchester) in affairs temporal and spiritual (3.30). To Adeliz, also abbess at St Mary's (3.70), he writes to say she must not be sorry that William Giffard has left his appointment as bishop of Winchester, for his going is a reason for rejoicing among his friends, as it proves his steadfastness in religious matters. He also writes to Eulalia, abbess (of Shaftesbury), [211] who was anxious for him to come back, and begs her to pray that his return may prosper (3.125).

The references to the Benedictine nunneries of Wessex contained in this correspondence are supplemented by information from other sources.

In the early part of the 12th century a girl named Eva was brought up at a convent, but which she left to go to Anjou, since she preferred the life of a recluse there to the career which was open to her in the English nunnery. Her life abroad has been described in verse by Hilarius († c. 1124) who is the earliest known Englishman who wrote religious plays. After studying under Abelard Hilarius had taken up his abode at Angers, near the place where Eva dwelt, and was much impressed by her piety and devotions.

From his poem we gather that Eva had been given into the care of the nuns at St Mary's, Winchester (Winton), a place which he designates as 'good and renowned.' The girl's progress in learning was the subject of wonder to the abbess and her companions, but when Eva reached the age at which her enrolment as a member of the community was close at hand, 'she turned' in the words of the poet, from success as though it had been a sinful trespass,' and left the nunnery to go abroad.

Her admirer Hilarius has celebrated other women who were devoted to religious pursuits. He addresses one of them as 'Bona,' and praises her for caring little for the religious garb unless good works accompany it. The meaning of her name and that of other religious women whom Hilarius also addresses, such as 'Superba,' and 'Rosa,' gives him an opportunity for compliments on the virtues these names suggest. His poems, though insignificant in themselves, add touches to our knowledge of women who adopted the religious profession.

In the wars which ensued after the death of Henry I (1134) the nunneries of Wessex witnessed the climax and the end of the struggle. The Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I and Queen Matilda, who claimed the crown on the strength of her descent, finding the sympathies of London divided, approached Winchester, and was received by two convents of monks and the convent of nuns who came forth to meet her. The Empress for a time resided at St Mary's Abbey, and there received a visit from Theobald, [212] archbishop of Canterbury. During the fighting which followed the nunnery of Wherwell was burnt, and perhaps St Mary's Abbey at Winchester was destroyed. Matilda finally yielded to Stephen, and left England on condition that her son Henry should succeed to the crown.

The nunnery of Romsey continued its connection with royalty, and we find the daughter of Stephen, Mary of Blois, established there as abbess previous to her marriage. Her case again throws curious side-lights on the foundation of convents and the possibilities open to women who adopted the religious profession.

The princess Mary had come over from St Sulpice in France with seven nuns to Stratford at Bow (otherwise St Leonard's, Bromley in Middlesex), when the manor of Lillechurch in Kent was granted to the nunnery there by King Stephen for her own and her companions' maintenance. But these women, as the charter has it, because of the 'harshness of the rule and their different habits' could not and would not stay at Stratford, and with the convent's approval they left it and removed to Lillechurch, which was constituted by charter a priory for them. Mary removed later to Romsey where she became abbess some time before 1159, for in that year her brother William, the sole surviving heir of Stephen, died, so that she was left heiress to the county of Boulogne. She was thereupon brought out of the convent at the instigation of Henry II, and married to Matthew son of the Count of Flanders, who through her became Count of Boulogne. Thomas Beket, who was then chancellor, not primate, was incensed at this unlawful proceeding, and intervened as a protector of monastic rule, but the only result of his interference was to draw on himself the hatred of Count Matthew. It is said that Mary returned to Romsey twelve years later. Her daughters were, however, legitimised in 1189 and both of them married.

Various letters found here and there in the correspondence of this period show how women vowed to religion retained their connection with the outer world. Among the letters of Thomas Beket there is one in which he tells his 'daughter' Idonea to transcribe the letter he is forwarding, and lay it before the [213] archbishop of York in the presence of witnesses. It has been mentioned that a sister of Thomas Beket was in 1173 abbess at Barking.

Again, among the letters of Peter of Blois († c. 1200), chaplain to Henry II, are several addressed to women who had adopted the religious profession. Anselma 'a virgin' is urged to remain true to her calling; Christina, his 'sister,' is exhorted to virtue, and Adelitia 'a nun' is sent a discourse on the beauties of the unmarried life.

Section 3. The Order of St Gilbert of Sempringham.

The study of the order of St Gilbert, which is of English origin, shows how in this country also sympathy with convent life was spreading during the lath century, and how, owing to the protection afforded to peaceful and domestic pursuits by the religious houses, many girls and women of the middle classes became nuns. From an intellectual point of view the order of St Gilbert has little to recommend it, for we know of no men or women belonging to the order who distinguished themselves in learning, literature or art. As a previous chapter has indicated, its purpose was chiefly to prevent women from drifting into the unattached and homeless class, the existence of which was beginning to be recognised as prejudicial to society.

The material for the study of the order is abundant. We have several accounts of the life and work of Gilbert, besides minute injunctions he drafted to regulate the life of his communities, and there are references to him in contemporary literature. The success of his efforts, like that of the men who founded combined orders of canons and nuns abroad, was due to the admission of women into his settlements regardless of their class and antecedents. Like Robert of Arbrissel his interest centred in women, but he differed from him in giving the supreme authority of his settlements into the hands of men. For the settlements which afterwards became double originated in Gilbert's wish to provide for women who [214] sought him as their spiritual adviser. It was only in consequence of the difficulties he encountered that canons were added to the settlements.

Helyot likens the order of St Gilbert to that of Norbert, the founder of the order of Prémontré, but here too there are marked points of difference, for in disposition and character Gilbert was as unlike Norbert as he was to Robert; he had neither the masterfulness of the one nor the clear-sighted determination of the other. The reason of his popularity lies more in his gentleness and persuasiveness, and these qualities made him especially attractive to women.

Gilbert was a native of Lincolnshire, born about 1083, the son of a wealthy Norman baron and an English woman of low rank. His ungainly appearance and want of courtly bearing rendered him unfit for knightly service. He was sent to France for his education and there attained some reputation as a teacher. After his return home he devoted his energies to teaching boys and girls in the neighbourhood. His father bestowed on him two livings, one of which was at Sempringham. His chief characteristic was pity for the lowly and humble, and this attracted the attention among others of Robert Bloet, bishop of Lincoln († 1123). For a time Gilbert acted as a clerk in Bloet's house, and after his death remained with his successor Alexander († 1148) in a like capacity. With Alexander he consulted about permanently providing for those of the lower classes whom his liberality was attracting to Sempringham.

The first step taken by Gilbert was to erect suitable dwellings round the church of St Andrew at Sempringham for seven women whom he had taught and who had devoted themselves to religion under his guidance, and as they were not to leave their dwelling place, lay sisters were appointed to wait on them. He also provided dwellings at Sempringham for the poor, the infirm, for lepers, and orphans.

The order of Gilbert is held to have been established before 1135, the year of King Henry l's death. The author of his life in Dugdale likens Gilbert's progress at this time to the chariot of Aminadab; to it clung clerics and laymen, literate and illiterate women, and it was drawn by Master Gilbert himself.

Gilbert had entered into friendly relations with the Cistercian [215] monks who were then gaining ground in Yorkshire, and William, first abbot of Rievaulx († 1145-6), was among them. He had a good deal to do with Ailred († 1166), a notable north-country man who came from Scotland to live at Rievaulx, and afterwards became abbot successively of Revesby and Rievaulx.

At this time there were no nunneries in the north of England, for the great settlements of the early English period had passed away and no new houses for women had been founded. The numbers of those who flocked to Gilbert were so great that he felt called upon to give them a more definite organization. His friendship with Cistercian monks no doubt turned his eyes to Citeaux, and the wish arose in him to affiliate his convents to the Cistercian order. Having placed his congregations under the care of the Cistercians, he set out for Citeaux about 1146.

But his hopes were not fulfilled. At Citeaux he met Pope Eugenius III († 1153) and other leading men. He cemented his friendship with Bernard of Clairvaux and entered into friendly relations with Malachy, bishop of Armagh († 1148), who had introduced the Cistercian order into Ireland. But the assembly at Citeaux came to the conclusion that they would not preside over another religious order, especially not over one for women, and Gilbert was urged to remain at the head of his communities and Bernard and Malachy presented him with an abbot's staff.

He returned to England, burdened with a responsibility from which he would gladly have been free, and obliged to frame a definite rule of life for his followers. As one account puts it, 'he now studied the rules of all religious orders and culled from each its flowers.' The outcome of his efforts was the elaborate set of injunctions which now lie before us.

From these injunctions we can see how Gilbert's original plan had expanded, for his settlements consisted of bands of canons, lay-brethren, nuns, and lay-sisters. One set of rules is drafted for the canons who observed the rule of St Augustine and performed religious service for the double community, and a separate set for the laymen who acted as servants. And similarly there is one set of rules for the nuns who lived by the rule of St Benedict, and another for their servants the lay-sisters.

These rules suggest many points of similarity to the combined settlements of canons and nuns previously founded abroad, but there are also some differences.

[216] In the Gilbertine settlements the dwellings of the men and women were contiguous, and the convent precincts and the church were divided between them. The men's dwelling was under the rule of a prior, but three prioresses ruled conjointly in the women's house. The arrangements in both convents were alike, and the duties of prior and prioress similar, but in all matters of importance the chief authority belonged to the prior who was at the head of the whole settlement. The property owned by Gilbertine settlements apparently consisted largely of sheep, and among the men we note a number of shepherds and a 'procurator' who bought and sold the animals. The ewes were regularly milked and the wool was either used in the house for making clothes, or sold. The laysisters were appointed to spin and weave and the nuns to cut out and make the garments.

There was one cellar and one kitchen for the whole settlement, for the cellaress in the women's house acted as caterer both for the canons and the nuns. Domestic duties fell to the share of the women. They cooked the canons' food as well as their own and handed the meals into the men's quarters through a hole in the wall with a turn-table, through which the plates and dishes were returned. to them. They also made clothes for the whole establishment.

At the daily chapter held in the women's house the prioresses presided in turn, with a companion on either side. The cellaress reported to the prioress, who settled the allowances and gave out the food. She received information also from the 'scrutatrices,' the nuns whose duty it was to go the round of the house and report disorders, and according to whose reports she imposed the various penances.

We also hear in the women's house of a librarian ('precentrix'), who had the keys of the book-case ('armarium'), which was kept locked except during reading time when the nuns were allowed the use of the books. There was to be no quarrelling over the books; the nun like the canon was directed to take the one allotted to her and not to appropriate that given to another. Simplicity of life was studied. Pictures and sculpture were declared superfluous and the crosses used were to be of painted wood. Only books for choir use were to be written in the convent, but while this holds good alike for the women and for the men, there is this further prohibition with regard to the nuns, that talking in Latin was to be avoided. [217] 'Altogether,' says the rule, 'we forbid the use of the Latin tongue unless under special circumstances.'

The cooking was done by the nuns in turn for a week at a time in compliance with a regulation contained in the rule of St Benedict. The librarian also had her week of cooking, and when she was on duty in the kitchen, gave up her keys to another nun. We hear also of the mistress appointed to teach the novices, and of the portress who guarded the approaches to the house.

The injunctions drafted for the canons and the lay members of the settlement are equally explicit. Directions are also given about tending the sick, who were to be treated with tenderness and care.

Girls were admitted into the company of the nuns at the age of twelve, but several years passed before they could be enrolled among the novices. At the age of twenty the alternative was put before the novice of joining the nuns or the lay-sisters. If she decided in favour of the latter she could not afterwards be promoted to the rank of nun; she was bound to observe chastity and obedience while she remained in the house, but she was not consecrated. A certain amount of knowledge of the hymns, psalms and books of service was required from the novice before she could make profession.

The scheme of life worked out by Gilbert met with success and numerous patrons were found to endow settlements on the plan of that at Sempringham. As the chronicler says, 'many wealthy and highborn Englishmen, counts and barons, seeing and approving of the undertaking the Lord had initiated and holding that good would come of it, bestowed many properties ('fundos et praedia') on the holy father (Gilbert) and began to construct on their own account numerous monasteries in various districts.'

The greater number of these settlements were situated in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, but judging by the extant charters the conditions and purposes of their foundations were not always the same. Sometimes the grant is made conjointly to men and women, sometimes reference is made to the prior only. In the earlier charters the women are especially noticed, in the later ones more account is taken of the men. As time went on the order gradually ceased to have any attraction for women, and at the time of the dissolution several foundations originally made for men and women were occupied only by canons.

[218] Gilbert himself did not accept a position of authority in his order but became a canon at Bullington, one of its settlements. He appears to have been influential in wider circles and we find him several times at court. King Henry II visited him, and both the king and Queen Eleanor made grants of land to the order. Henry regarded Gilbert with so much favour that when he was summoned before the King's Court in London on the charge of having supported Beket in his exile, the king sent a message from abroad ordering his case to be reserved for royal judgment, which practically meant his acquittal.

Rapidly as the number of Gilbertine houses increased, the order did not remain entirely free from trouble, for even in Gilbert's lifetime distressing incidents happened which justified to some extent the scornful remarks of contemporary writers. One of these difficulties arose sometime between 1153 and 1166 in connection with a girl at Watton. A full account of the affair was written and forwarded to Gilbert by Ailred, abbot of Rievaulx. This account illustrates pointedly the readiness of the age to accept a miraculous rendering of fact, and gives a curious insight into the temper of a community of nuns. Indeed such violence of conduct, and details of such behaviour as are here described show that the barbarity of the age, which so often strikes us in connection with camp and court, was reflected in the monastery.

Watton was among the older Gilbertine houses and had been founded before 1148 by a nobleman Eustace Fitz-John on property which had belonged to a nunnery during the early English period. The settlement was among the larger Gilbertine houses; it owned property to the extent of twenty acres.

The girl had been placed under the care of the nuns of Watton at the suggestion of Murdach, abbot of Fountains († 1153), and had given endless trouble by her unbecoming levity and hopeless laziness. 'She is corrected by word of mouth but without result, she is urged by blows but there is no improvement,' writes Ailred, who speaks of her as a nun without telling us that she had actually made profession.

She made the acquaintance of one of the lay-brothers who were engaged in repairing the women's dwelling The two contrived to [219] meet frequently out of doors until at last the nun's condition became obvious. Her fellow-nuns were so incensed at this discovery that they treated her with barbarous cruelty and would have put her to death had not the prioress intervened and had her chained and imprisoned. The anger of the nuns now turned against the lay-brother who had brought disgrace on their convent, and with a mixture of cunning and deceit they managed to discover him and have him terribly mutilated. 'I do not praise the deed, but the zeal,' says Ailred; 'I do not approve of bloodshed, but for all that I praise the virgins' hatred of such wickedness.' The esprit de corps among the nuns and their indignation evidently went far in his eyes to excuse behaviour which he would not describe as he did if he had not felt it altogether reprehensible.

Meanwhile the nun overcome by contrition was awaiting her delivery in prison; there she had visions of abbot Murdach who had died some years before. He first rebuked her, but then miraculously relieved her of her burden and restored her to her normal condition. The nuns though greatly surprised were convinced of the truth of the statement concerning the miraculous doings of Murdach because they found the nun's chains loosened. The prior of Watton sent for Ailred to enquire more closely into the matter. Ailred came, collected all possible evidence, and was convinced that there had been divine intervention on the girl's behalf. He wrote an account of what had happened to Gilbert, with these words as preface: 'to know of the Lord's miracles and of his proofs of divine love and to be silent about them were sacrilege.' What became of the girl we are not told. For trespasses such as hers the rule of Gilbert decreed life-long incarceration, but the canon for a like trespass suffered no punishment beyond being expelled from the settlement.

The old age of Gilbert was further troubled by the evil conduct of two men, Gerard a smith, and Ogger a carpenter. He had taken them into the order out of charity, but they greatly abused his kindness, appropriated the revenues of the order, and encouraged dishonesty and sexual irregularities. Their behaviour was productive of such results that it called forth a letter from Beket to Gilbert in which he says 'the greater our love, the more we are troubled and perturbed by hearing of things happening in your order, which are a grievance not only before the eyes of men but before the eyes of God.'

However letters in defence of Gilbert were written by Roger [220] archbishop of York († 1181), Henry bishop of Winchester († 1171) and William bishop of Norwich († 1174), who treat the occurrence as a misfortune and praise the order generally in the warmest terms. Praise from other quarters is not wanting, which shows that Gilbert's work was considered remarkable, especially with regard to the influence he had over women. William of Newburgh wrote of him: 'As far as this is concerned, in my opinion he holds the palm above all others whom we know to have devoted their energies to the control and government of religious women.'

Gilbert lived to an advanced age. Walter Map, writing between 1182 and 1189, speaks of him as over a hundred and well-nigh blind. He was buried at Sempringham, where his tomb became the goal of many pilgrimages and the scene of many miracles. He was canonised a saint of the Church by Pope Innocent II in 1202. One of the accounts of his life, written shortly after his death, says that the order at that time numbered thirteen conventual churches and contained seven hundred men and fifteen hundred women.

The East Riding Antiquarian Society has recently begun excavating on the site of Watton Priory, one of the oldest Gilbertine settlements, and has ascertained many particulars about the inner arrangements of this house. It has found that the church, built on the foundations of a Norman church which had been destroyed by fire in 1167, was divided throughout its entire length by a substantial partition wall nearly five feet thick. The church served for both sexes of the community, which were kept separate by this partition. In some places remains of this wall were found up to the height of four feet; this was part of the solid foundation upon which, above the height of the eye, was erected an open arcade which made it possible for the whole community to hear the sermon preached on festal days from the pulpit. The parts into which the church was divided were of unequal size. Dr Cox, the president of the Society, who read a paper on the Gilbertine statutes, said that the full complement of the double house at Watton consisted of a hundred and forty women and seventy men, and that the larger part of the church was appropriated to the women and the smaller to the men.

It was further shown by the excavations that the dividing wall had in one place an archway, covering the door which was opened for the great processions of both sexes which took place on the fourteen [221] great festivals of the year and at funerals. Remains were also found of an opening in the wall with a turn-table, so arranged that articles could be passed through without either sex seeing the other. Through this the chalice, when the canons' mass was over, would be passed back and restored to the custody of the nuns; no doubt this was constructed on the same plan as the opening through which the food was passed.

The cloister of the nuns lay on the north side of the transept and must have been about a hundred feet square, an alley of ten feet wide surrounding it. It is thought that the stone of which the house was built must have been brought up the Humber from Whitby. An early writer tells us that the nuns' dwelling at Watton was connected by an underground passage with the holy well at Kilnwick, and that the nuns by means of these waters performed wonderful cures.



'Spernere mundam, spernere nullum, spernere sese,

Spernere sperni se, quatuor haec bona sunt.'-- Herrad.

Section 2. Herrad and the 'Garden of Delights.'

. . .[253] This is: 'The rhyme of Herrad, the abbess, in which she lovingly greets the young maidens (virgunculas) of the Hohenburg and invites them to their weal to faith and love of the true Bridegroom.

'Hail, cohort of Hohenburg virgins, white as the lily and loving the Son of God, Herrad, your most devoted, your most faithful mother and handmaiden sings you this song. She greets you times countless and daily prays that in glad victory you may triumph over things that pass. O. mirror of many things, spurn, spurn those of time, and garner virtues, Band of the true Bridegroom Press on in the struggle to scatter the dread foe, the King of Kings aids you for His desire is towards you. He Himself strengthens your soul against Satan; He Himself will grant the glory of His kingdom after victory. Delights await you, riches are destined for you, [254] the court of heaven proffers you countless joys. Christ prepares espousals wondrous in delights, and you may look for this prince if you preserve your chastity. Mean time put around you noble circlets (?) and make your faces to shine fair, freed from mental strife. Christ hates spot or stain, He abhors time-worn lines (of vice); He desires beauteous virgins and drives forth women who are unchaste. With a dove-like faith call upon that your Bridegroom, that your beauty may become an unbroken glory. Living without guile, be admonished by praisegiving, so that you may complete your best works of ascent. Do not hesitate amidst the doubtful currents of the world, the truthful God holds out rewards after danger. Suffer hardships now, despising the world's prosperity, be now fellow of the cross, hereafter sharer of the kingdom. Steer across the ocean freighted with holiness, till you leave the bark and land in Sion. May Sion's heavenly castle with its beauteous halls be your home when the term of life is past. May there the virgin Ruler, Mary's Son, receive you in His embrace and lift you up from sadness. Setting aside all the wiles of the mean tempter, you will be abundantly glad, sweetly rejoicing. The shining Star of the Sea, the one virgin Mother will join you to her Son in bond eternal. And by your prayer do not cease to draw me with you to the sweetest Bridegroom, the Son of the Virgin. As He will be partner of your victory and of your great glory, He will draw you from earthly things. Farewell, chaste band, you my exceeding joy, live without offence, ever love Christ. May this book prove useful and delightful to you, may you never cease to ponder it in your breast. May forgetfulness not seize you like the ostrich (more Struthineo), and may you not leave the way before you have attained. Amen.'

This address in verse was followed by these lines in prose-- 'Herrad, who through the grace of God is abbess of the church on the Hohenburg, here addresses the sweet maidens of Christ who are working as though in the vineyard of the Lord; may He grant grace and glory unto them.--I was thinking of your happiness when like a bee guided by the inspiring God I drew from many flowers of sacred and philosophic writing this book called the 'Garden of Delights'; and I have put it together to the praise of Christ and the Church, and to your enjoyment, as though into a sweet honeycomb. Therefore you must diligently seek your salvation in it and strengthen your weary spirit with its sweet honey [255] drops; always be bent on love of your Bridegroom and fortified by spiritual joys, and you will safely pass through what is transitory, and secure great and lasting happiness. Through your love of Christ, help me who am climbing along a dangerous uncertain path by your fruitful prayer when I pass away from this earth's experiences. Amen.'

Thus far we have followed Herrad in her work and in her relations towards her nuns; the question naturally arises, What inner experiences prompted her to her great undertaking and in what spirit did she carry it through ? It has been noticed that a sombreness is characteristic of certain parts of the work, and is peculiar to some of her poems also. Two short verses which occur in the work seem to reflect her mental state. The one urges great liberality of mind. It discusses the basis of purity, and comes to the conclusion that purity depends less on actions than on the spirit in which they are done. The other follows the mind through its several stages of development and deserves to be chronicled among the words of wisdom. It runs as follows: 'Despise the world, despise nothing, despise thyself, despise despising thyself, --these are four good things.'



'Die tumpheit behaget ir alleine selbe,

die weisheit ken niemer volle leren.'

(Mechthild the beguine.)

Section 1. Mystic writings for women in England.

[305] THE last chapter, in dealing with some of the women who distinguished themselves in the cause of charity and philanthropy, has suggested in what direction the determining feature of the religious life of women in the 13th century must be sought. Outward events, stirring political changes, and awakening confidence in national strength, had largely increased human sympathies and widened the mental horizon. In regard to women, who sought their vocation outside the circle of home, this had led on the one hand to efforts for alleviating human want and human suffering, on the other to a stirring of the imagination in the direction of speculation on the value and the help afforded by religious belief.

The different beauties of the active and the contemplative life had all along been realized, and were currently represented by the figures of Mary and Martha, types of divergent tendencies which were attractive in different ways. The busy Martha with her charitable devotion was the ideal of many women, since rescuing the needy, assisting the helpless, and ministering to the sick constituted the vocation of women in a special sense. But a peculiar charm of a different kind hung at all times round the thoughtful and studious Mary, who set the claims and realities of life at nought compared with the greater reality of the eternal [306] life hereafter. At the beginning of the 13th century, when the increase in religious enthusiasm deepened yearnings for the apprehension of the divine, men in their individual capacities began to seek a personal and closer communion with God. The absorption by things spiritual as contrasted with things material took a new departure. On one side was the learned thinker who, trained in the knowledge of the schools, sought to fathom his own powers and through them the powers of mankind so as to transcend the limits of sensible existence, and who gave a new development to mysticism in its technical sense. On the other side was the large number of those who, no longer satisfied with the mediation of appointed ministers of the Church, sought a personal relation to God, the effect of which on themselves .vould be moral regeneration. It was in connection with these that a number of writings were composed which represent mysticism in its popular sense: the steps by which the divine can be approached, set forth under the form of an allegory.

The allegorical mysticism of the Middle Ages culminates in Dante (1260-1321). It is well to bear this in mind in the presence of minor lights. For while there is much that is strangely fascinating in the 13th century mystic, and touches of simple good faith and of honest directness of purpose abound, the conditions under which he works and the language in which he expresses himself cannot pass without criticism. Cloistered seclusion, estrangement from the outside world, the cult of asceticism, and insistence on the emotional side of life, if judged by the standard of to-day, are not conducive to mental and moral welfare. Moreover a later age always finds it difficult to understand that an earlier one had its own notions in regard to the fitness and beauty of the surroundings it made for itself. But productive genius at all times freely makes for itself surroundings that cannot be called absolutely healthy. It needs a certain effort to realise on what ground the 13th century mystic stands. But when once we are able to follow him, moving in his world is like walking in an enchanted garden, --enchanted to us, but real to him, where each growing sentiment and each budding thought has its peculiar charm.

It is the same with regard to the language in which the mystic expresses himself The close communion he seeks with the Godhead leads him to use terms which are directly adopted from those which express the experiences and feelings of ordinary life. There is in him no shrinking from holding God and the saints [307] as personalities, and no hesitation in expressing desire for things spiritual in language currently used for expressing the promptings of desire for things of this world; for he is a realist in the view he takes of God and the saints. The old interpretation of the Song of Solomon supplied him with a model after which to form his conceptions, and by a further adaptation it led every nun to greet her bridegroom in Christ and every monk to greet his bride in the Virgin. Outside the convent the age of romance had brought a new element into the relations of the sexes and had accepted years of service and continued wooing as the steps which led to the consummation of desire. This idea transferred to spiritual relations now caused the mystic to dwell on the steps by which the Divine can be approached. The poetry of romance and the poetry of mysticism have much in common; both appear to have been the outcome of the same sentiments differently applied in convent and court. And as the language of real life made it possible for the mystic to formulate his feelings, so his religious aspirations in their turn helped to spiritualise the relations of real life.

It deserves special attention that some of the writings of these early mystics are in the vernacular and include some of the most beautiful productions in Middle English and in early German. Their philological interest has recently led to their publication, but their social importance is equally great. For in them we see how the high estimation of virgin purity, which was in the fore-ground of the moral consciousness of the age, was advocated by the leaders of thought and came to influence the lives of individual women, and how the asexual existence which hitherto had been accepted as praiseworthy was extolled as virtue in itself.

Again it is difficult for a later age to rate this conception at its just value, for the depreciation of the relationship of sex is to the modern mind not only misplaced but misleading. It is only when we think of the gain this depreciation has helped to secure in self-control and self-respect that it appears at all reasonable.

Of the early productions of the mystic school, which are distinctly moral in tendency and personal in tone, none offer greater attractions than works written in England during the first half of the l3th century for the use of women who were vowed to religion. All these writings, some of which will here be considered, are in the vernacular, and owing to their measured grace and tone of delicate refinement are among the most attractive [308] monuments of Middle English. They are chiefly productions of the south of England where the Saxon element had been preserved in its integrity. Scholars have remarked how a certain roughness of diction and a heroic element opposed to softness of sentiment lingered on in the north and precluded the utterance of gentler strains, while the south used a language of combined vigour and grace and became the cradle of lyric poetry. Moreover the south at this period cultivated the qualities which give to a movement its moral stamina. We find loyalty to the king coupled with distaste for court pleasures, and strong religious feeling combined with that insistence on nationality which precluded servile submission to the Pope. The south was also in connection with the best intellectual forces of the age as represented by the growing schools at Oxford, and Oxford in its turn was in direct touch with Paris, which remained throughout the l3th century the most important centre of learning and education in Europe.

A few words must be given to this connection and its results, for it was in Paris that the master-minds of Oxford acquired that enthusiasm for study which, applied to the realities of life, became zeal for reform and desire for moral regeneration.

Two lines of study are apparent in Paris. There is the mysticism of the school of St Victor, represented by men of such mental calibre as Hugo († 1141), a native of Germany, and his pupil Richard († 1173), a native of Scotland. The combined influence of these two men on the English mind was very great, for many productions of the English mystical school were inspired by or adapted from their Latin mystical works. The writings of Richard translated into English are frequently found in manuscripts by the side of the works of the later English mystics Richard Rolle († 1349), and Walter Hylton († 1395).

On the other hand Paris was the first to experience the vivifying influence of the renewed study of Greek philosophy, especially of the Aristotelian corpus, together with its comments by Arabian philosophers, especially with those of Averroes (fl. 1150). Jews from the south of France had introduced these writings, which, repeatedly condemned but as often advocated, had the effect on speculative minds of the introduction of a new science. Christian theology, rising to the occasion, adopted their metaphysical views, though so radically divergent from its own, and the result was the [309] birth of scholastic philosophy. But where the incompatibility of the union was felt scholars left the halls of discussion and turned their energies to grappling with the problems of active life.

In Oxford as early as 1133 Robert Pullen, who had studied in Paris, was lecturing on week days and preaching on Sundays to the people, and during the course of the l3th century a number of men who had won the highest distinctions at the university,--such as Edmund Rich († 1240), Adam Marsh († 1257-8), and Robert Grosseteste (afterwards bishop of Lincoln, † 1253), followed in his footsteps. Their efforts fell in with those of the newly founded orders of friars, and they greeted as brothers in the spirit the twelve Dominicans who arrived at Oxford in 1221 and the Franciscans who came in 1224. These maintained an utter distrust of learning, which led to much argument between them and the students, but all alike were zealous in working for the welfare of the uneducated classes.

We are indebted to Thomas de Hales for one of the earliest and most beautiful poems written for the use of a nun. He was a native of Hales in Gloucestershire, studied both at Oxford and Paris, and was under the influence of the Franciscan movement. Wadding says in his annals of the Franciscan order that 'Thomas de Hales, created a doctor of the Sorbonne, was most celebrated and is known not only in England, but also in France, Germany, and Italy.' Thomas was on friendly terms with Adam Marsh who had become a Franciscan friar, and he joined this order himself as is apparent from the superscription of his English poem. Various facts suggest possibilities as to his career, for Hales in Gloucestershire was the home also of Alexander de Hales († 1245) who went to Paris and spent his energies in compiling a work on scholasticism which secured him the title of doctor irrefragabilis. Moreover in 1246 Hales became the seat of a Cistercian monastery founded by Henry III.'s brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall, who was intimately connected with the circle of men at Oxford and a friend and patron of the Franciscans. It is possible that Thomas owed encouragement to the learned Alexander or to Earl Richard. The year 1250 is accepted as the date when he flourished, but his English poem was probably written somewhat earlier. This is suggested by the praise bestowed in it on King Henry and his [310] wealth, which could hardly have been accorded later than 1240, for it was then that the king began to alienate his people's affection by tampering with the coinage and by countenancing foreign influences at court and in the Church, in compliance with the wishes of his wife, Eleanor of Provence.

The poem of Thomas is called a Luve Ron, that is a love song; it consists of twenty-six rhymed stanzas with much alliterative assonance. Falling in with the tendencies of the age it treats of the happiness in store for women who accept Christ as their spouse. Thomas describes how he came to advise a nun in her choice of a lover. As the translation of the poem into modern English rhyme sacrifices much of its directness, the stanzas which follow have been rendered as prose.

'A maid of Christ bade me earnestly to make her a love-song,

That she might best learn how to take a faithful lover,

Most faithful of all, and best suited to a free woman;

I will not refuse her, but direct her as best I can.

Maiden, thou must understand that this world's love is rare,

In many ways fickle, worthless, weak, deceiving,

Men that are bold here pass away as the winds blow;

Under the earth they lie cold, fallen away as meadow grass.

No one enters life who is certain to remain,

For here man has many sorrows, neither repose nor rest;

Towards his end he hastens, abiding but a short time,

Pain and death hurry him away when most he clings to life.

None is so rich nor yet so free but he soon must go;

Gold and silver, pomp and ermine give him no surety;

Swift though he be, he cannot escape, nor lengthen his life by a day,

Thus, thou seest, this world as a shadow glides past.'

The poet then enlarges on the transitoriness of terrestrial love. Where are Paris and Helen, Amadis, Tristram, and others famous for their love ? 'They have glided from this world as the shaft that has left the bow-string.' Wealth such as King Henry's, beauty such as Absalom's availed them nought. But the poet knows of a true king whose love abides.

`Ah sweet, if thou knewest but this one's virtues!

He is fair and bright, of glad cheer, mild of mood,

[311] Lovely through joy, true of trust, free of heart, full of wisdom;

Never wouldst thou regret it if once thou wert given into his care.

He is the richest man in the land as far as men have the power of speech,

All is given into his hand, east, west, north and south.

Henry the king holds of him and bows to him.

Maiden, to thee he sends the message that he would be beloved by thee.'

The beauty of this lover, Christ, is thus described, and the fairness of his dwelling, where hate, pride and envy enter not, and where all rejoice with the angels. 'Are not those in a good way who love such a lord ?' the poet asks. In return for the bliss Christ grants, He asks only that the maiden keep bright the jewel of maidenhood which He has entrusted to her. The poem ends thus:

This poem, maiden, I send thee open and without a seal,

Bidding thee unroll it and learn each part by heart,

Then be very gracious and teach it faithfully to other maidens.

Who knows the whole right well will be comforted by it.

If ever thou sittest lonely, draw forth this little writing,

Sing it with sweet tones, and do as I bid thee.

He who has sent thee a greeting, God Almighty, be with thee,

And receive thee in his bower high up in heaven where He sits.

And may he have good ending, who has written this little song.'

From this poem we turn to the prose works written at this period for religious women, which are inspired by the same spirit of earnest devotion, and contain thoughts as tender, refined, and gentle as the poem of Thomas de Hales. The prose treatise known as the Ancren Riwle, the rule for recluses, is by far the most important of these works, and from the present point of view deserves close attention, for it gives a direct insight into the moral beauties of the religious attitude, and enables us to form some idea of the high degree of culture and refinement which the lath century mystic attained.

A few words of criticism on the purpose of the book and on its authorship are here necessary. We have before us a work written not for the regular inmates of a nunnery, not for nuns who lived [312] under the rule of a prioress or abbess, but for religious women who after being trained in a nunnery, left it to continue a chaste and secluded life outside. The Church at all times gave most honour to those monks and nuns who were members of a convent and lived under the rule of a superior, but it did not deny the credit of holy living, or the appellations monk and nun, to those who either alone or with a few companions devoted themselves to religion, and dwelt sometimes near a chapel or sanctuary, sometimes in a churchyard. From the earliest times the people had held such male and female recluses in special reverence, and the Church, yielding to popular feeling, accepted them as holy, and in some instances countenanced their being ranked as saints.

With reference to the distinction made from the earliest period between the different classes of those who professed religion, and their respective claims to holiness, it seems well to quote from the introductory chapter of the rule of St Benedict. The following passages occur in all the prose versions of the rule known to me, whether written for the use of men, or adapted to the use of women.

The Anglo-Saxon version of the rule of St Benedict made in the 10th or l1th century, which is based on the version written by Aethelwold about the year 961, runs thus: 'There are four kinds of monks, muneca; the first kind are those in monasteries, mynstermonna, who live under a rule or an abbot. The second kind are the hermits, ancrena, that is settlers in the wilds (westensetlena), who, not in the first fervour of religious life, but after probation in the monastery, have learned by the help and experience of others to fight against the devil, and going forth well armed from the ranks of their brethren to the single-handed combat of the wilderness, are able without the support of others to fight by the strength of their own arm and the help of God against the vices of the flesh and their evil thoughts. A third and most baneful kind of monk are the self-appointed ones, sylfdemena, who have been tried by no rule nor by the experience of a master, as gold in the furnace, but being soft as lead and still serving the world in their works, are known by their tonsure to lie to God. These, in twos or threes or even singly without a shepherd, not enclosed in the Lord's sheepfold, follow the enjoyment of their will instead of a rule; whatever they think fit or choose to do they call holy, and what they like not they condemn as unlawful. There is a fourth [313] kind of monk called wandering, widscrithul, who spend all their life wandering about, staying in different cells for three or four days at a time, ever roaming, given up to their own pleasures and the evils of gluttony, and worse in all ways than the self-appointed ones.'

In the English versions of the rule for women, two of which, drafted respectively in the l3th and in the 15th century, are extant, the same distinctions are drawn between different kinds of nuns. The l3th century version states that there are the nuns living in a monastery under an abbess, mynecene,--a kind of nun called ancre or recluse,--the self-appointed nuns,--and the wandering nuns who are declared altogether evil.

The difference between the nun and the ancre is made clear by these passages. The ancre or recluse, called in Latin inclusa, is the nun who after receiving a convent education lives a holy life away from the nunnery, and it is for ancren or nuns of this kind that the book we are about to discuss was written. Fortunately the work does not stand alone as an exhortation to women recluses. We are in possession of a letter from Ailred of Rievaulx, written between 1131 and 1161, and addressed to his sister (sic), which was written for a similar purpose though covering very much narrower ground, and contains advice analogous to that contained in the Ancren Riwle. The original is in Latin, and in this form it was probably known to the author of the Acren Riwle, who refers to it, saying how Ailred had already insisted that purity of life can be maintained only by observing two things, a certain hardness of bodily life and a careful cultivation of moral qualities.

The letter of Ailred is in the form of a series of short chapters and is divided into two parts, the first of which (c. 1-20) treats of the outward rule. It gives advice as to whom the inclusa should converse with, and whom she should admit into her presence; it tells her that she should not own flocks, which leads to buying and selling; that she should live by the work of her hands, not accepting as a gift more food than she needs for herself and her servants; and that she must not do as some recluses do, who busy themselves with 'teaching girls and boys and turn their cells into a school.' It also directs her about divine service, and about her food and clothes.

Having so far dealt with outward things Ailred (c. 21-46) [314] dwells on the inward life, on virginity, on the dangers of temptation and on the beauties of humility and love. His sentences are short and are illustrated by quotations from scripture, by reference to the holy virgin St Agnes, and by remarks on the respective merits of Mary and Martha. The concluding chapters (c. 47-78) are found also in the works of Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury († 1109), and appear to have been borrowed from him.

The letter of Ailred proves that the conduct of the recluse was attracting attention in the l2th century. Part of his letter was translated into Middle English by one Thomas N. in the l3th century, about the same time when the Ancren Riwle was drawn up, and in its superscription it is designated as the 'information' which Ailred, abbot of Rievaulx, wrote for his sister the inclusa. In this translation, however, the opening parts of the work which treat of the outward rule (c. 1-20) are omitted, evidently because the translation was intended not for recluses but for nuns, to whom directions about domestic matters, such as buying, selling, clothing and eating, would not apply.

Further evidence can be adduced to show that women recluses in the 13th century occupied public attention to an increasing degree. Hitherto they had been left to dwell where they pleased, supported by chance gifts from the people, but in the 13th century it became usual to leave them legacies. A mass of information on the subject has been collected by Cutts, who describes how women recluses occupied sometimes a range of cells, sometimes a commodious house; and how they kept one or more servants to run on their errands. In 1246 the bishop of Chichester issued an injunction which shows that his attention had been drawn to these women, and that in his mind there was a distinct difference between them and regular nuns. Under the heading 'On recluses' (inclusis) it says: 'Also we ordain that recluses shall not receive or keep any person in their house concerning whom sinister suspicions may arise. Also that they have narrow and proper windows; and we permit them to have secret communication with those persons only whose gravity and honesty do not admit of suspicion. Women recluses should not be entrusted with the care of church vestments; [315] if necessity compels it, we command it to be done with caution, that he who carries them may have no communication with the recluses.'

Taking these various remarks into consideration and comparing them with what is said in the Ancren Riwle itself, the author of which keeps clear in his mind the difference between recluse and nun, I think the idea that this work was originally written for the Cistercian nunnery at Tarent in Dorsetshire, as is usually alleged, will be abandoned. This assumption is based on the superscription of a Latin copy of the book, which states that Simon of Ghent wrote it for his sisters the anchoresses near Tarent (apud Tarente). But the theory that the book was originally in Latin, and that it was written by Simon, archdeacon at Oxford in 1284, and bishop of Salisbury between 1307-1315, has long been abandoned. The idea that it was written for the nunnery at Tarent may also be discarded, for Tarent was a house founded by Ralph de Kahaines in the time of Richard I. Therefore at the time when Simon lived, and doubtless also at the time when the book was written (1225-50), the settlement must have consisted of more than three women recluses and their servants. Women recluses might be living at Tarent as elsewhere, since Simon forwarded the book to recluses there, but they would not be members of the Cistercian convent. It may be noticed in passing that the other Latin copy of the rule, which was destroyed by fire in 1731, had a superscription saying that Robert Thornton, at one time prior, gave it to the recluses (claustralibus) of Bardney, which is a Benedictine abbey for men in Lincolnshire.

To relinquish the idea that the Ancren Riwle was written originally for the Cistercian nunnery at Tarent is to relinquish also the supposition that it is the work of Richard Poor, dean of Salisbury, and afterwards bishop successively of Chichester and Durham († 1237), for the theory of his authorship rests only on his interest in this nunnery, to which he added a chapel and where his heart lies buried. A fuller knowledge of the English writings of the time may reveal by whom and for whom the book was written. The dialect proves it to be the production of a native of the south-western part of England, while its tone reveals a connection with Paris and Oxford. The writer must have had a high degree of culture, and was familiar with French, with court poetry, [316] and with the similes so frequent in the stories of romance. He had a sound theological training, with a knowledge of the works of Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, Anselm, and notably of Bernard, from whom he frequently quotes. He had strong religious sympathies, but imperfect sympathy with the established church,--these latter facts tend to prove that he was in some measure connected with the friars. His references to 'our lay brethren,' and his description of the 'hours' as said by them, may serve as a clue to his identification.

The Ancren Riwle or rule for recluses, fills a moderately sized volume and is extant in eight manuscript copies, of which five are in English, that is four in the dialect of the south and one in that of the north,--two in Latin, and one in French. The work is divided into eight parts, a short analysis of which will give an idea of the importance of the book and of the wide range of its author's sympathies. As he says himself the book was written for three sisters who in the bloom of their youth had forsaken the world to become anchoresses, but he expects it will be read by others. He assumes that his readers know Latin and French as well as English, a fact which in itself proves that like the ancren referred to above, the ancren here addressed had received their education in a nunnery.

In the short introduction which precedes the work the author says he will accede to the request of the women who have importuned him for a rule.

'Do you now ask what rule you recluses should observe ? ' he asks (p. 5). 'You should always keep the inward rule well with all your might and strength for its own sake. The inward rule is ever alike; the outward varies.... No recluse by my advice shall make profession, that is promise to keep anything commanded, save three things, obedience, chastity and stedfastness; she shall not change her home save by need, such as compulsion, fear of death or obedience to her bishop, or her master (herre). For she who undertakes anything and promises to do it at God's command, is bound to it and sins mortally in breaking her promise by will or wish. If she has not promised she may do it and leave it off as she will, as of meat and drink, abstaining from flesh and fish and other like things relating to dress, rest, hours and prayers. Let her say as many of these as she pleases, and in what way she [317] pleases. These and other such things are all in our free choice to do or let alone whenever we choose, unless they are promised. But charity, that is love, and meekness and patience, truthfulness and keeping the ten ancient commandments, confession and penitence, these and such as these, some of which are of the old law, some of the new, are not of man's invention.'

He then goes on to tell them that if asked to what order they belong, they must say, to the order of St James, who was God's apostle (and who wrote a canonical epistle). He dilates upon early Christian hermits and recluses, saying that they were of the order of St James, for in his mind St James the apostle is identical with St James the hermit.

He then describes the contents of his work, saying the first part only shall treat of the outward rule, all the others of the inward.

The first part accordingly (pp. 15-48) is on religious service, and in it the women are advised what prayers they shall say and at what time of the day: 'Let everyone say her hours as she has written them,' and as a guide take what ~hours' are kept by 'our lay brethren.' The sick, the sorrowful, prisoners, and Christians who are among the heathen shall be called to mind. The tone which the author occasionally takes has the full personal ring of 13th century mysticism. (p. 35) 'After the kiss of peace in the mass, when the priest consecrates, forget there all the world, and there be entirely out of the body, there in glowing love embrace your beloved spouse (leofman) Christ, who is come down from heaven into the bower of your breast, and hold him fast till he have granted all that you wish.' Several prayers follow, one in Latin on the adoration of the cross, and several in English which are addressed to the sweet lady St Mary.

Outward observances being disposed of, the author then advises the women how to keep guard over the heart, 'wherein is order, religion and the life of the soul,' against the temptations of the five senses (pp. 48-117). The different senses and the dangers attending them are discussed, sometimes casually, sometimes in a systematic manner. In connection with Sight we get interesting details on the arrangement of the building in which the recluses dwelt. Its windows are hung with black cloth on which is a white cross. The black cloth is impervious to the wind and difficult to see through; the white of the cross is more transparent and emblematic of purity, by the help of which it becomes safe to look abroad. Looking abroad, however, is generally attended with danger. 'I write more [318] particularly for others,' the author here remarks, 'nothing of the kind touches you, my dear sisters, for you have not the name, nor shall you have it by the grace of God, of staring recluses, whose profession is unrecognizable through their unseemly conduct, as is the case with some, alas !'

Speech too should be wisely controlled, talking out of church windows should be avoided, and conversation generally should be indulged in only through the 'house' window and the parlour window. 'Silence always at meals,' says the author, and quotes from Seneca and Solomon on the evil effects of idle prattling. Hearing, that is listening too readily, also has its dangers, for it leads to spreading untruths. 'She who moves her tongue in lying makes it a cradle to the devil's child, and rocketh it diligently as a nurse.' In passages which show a keen insight into human nature and which are dictated by a wise and kindly spirit, the author among other examples describes how anyone seeking the recluse's sympathy for bad ends would approach her in plaintive strains, deploring that he is drawn to her, and assuring her that he desires nothing but her forgiveness, and thus by engrossing her thoughts more and more, would perturb her mind by rousing her personal sympathy.

The sense of Smell also has its dangers; but in regard to the fifth sense, Feeling, there is most need, the author thinks, of comfort, 'for in it the pain is greatest, and the pleasure also if it so happen.' The sufferings of Christ are analysed and it is shown how he suffered in all his senses but especially in feeling.

The next part of the work (pp. 118-177) contains moral lessons and examples. The peevish recluse finds her counterpart in the pelican which kills her own young ones when they molest her. Like the bird, the recluse in anger kills her works, then repents and makes great moan. There are some fine passages on the effects of anger which is likened to a sorceress (uorschuppild) and transforms the recluse, Christ's spouse, into a she-wolf (wulvene). That women devotees often behaved very differently from what they ought is evident from these passages, for false recluses are likened unto foxes who live in holes and are thievish, ravenous and yelping, but 'the true recluses are indeed birds of heaven, that fly aloft and sit on the green boughs singing merrily; that is, they meditate, enraptured, upon the blessedness of heaven that never fadeth but is ever green, singing right merrily; that is in such meditation they rest in peace and have gladness of [319] heart as those who sing.' In one passage, where the flight of birds is described, it says, 'the wings that bear the recluses upwards are good principles, which they must move unto good works as a bird that would fly moveth its wings.' From dumb animals wisdom and knowledge can be learnt, says the author, giving as an example the eagle, which deposits in his nest a precious stone called agate, which wards off harm, and thus Jesus Christ should be cherished to keep off evil. In another passage the author plays on the words ancre and anchor, saying that the ancre or recluse is anchored to the Church as the anchor to the ship, that storms may not overwhelm it. The reasons for solitary life are then enumerated under separate headings, and passages from the Old and the New Testament are freely quoted in illustration and corroboration of the statements made.

The fourth part of the book (pp. 178-298) dilates on temptation, in regard to which the writer holds that greater holiness brings increased difficulties. 'As the hill of holy and pious life is greater and higher, so the fiend's puffs which are the winds of temptation are stronger thereon and more frequent.' Patience and meekness are chiefly required to resist the troubles of sickness, and wisdom and spiritual strength must resist grief of heart, anger and wrath. Again the recluses for whom the book is written are assured that they have least need to be fortified against temptations and trials, sickness only excepted.

The imagery in which the author goes on to describe the seven chief sins is graphic and powerful. They are personified as the Lion of Pride, the Serpent of Envy, the Unicorn of Wrath, the Bear of Sloth, the Fox of Covetousness, the Swine of Gluttony, and the Scorpion of Lust, each with its offspring. Of the Scorpion's progeny we are told that 'it cloth not become a modest mouth to name the name of some of them,' while the Scorpion itself is a kind of worm, that has a face somewhat like that of a woman, but its hinder parts are those of a serpent. It puts on a pleasant countenance and fawns upon you with its head but stings with its tail. Again, the sins are likened to seven hags (heggen), to whom men who serve in the devil's court are married. The description of these men as jugglers, jesters, ash-gatherers and devil's purveyors, gives interesting details on the characters in real life by which they were suggested. Of the comforting thoughts which the recluse is to dwell upon the following give a fine example.

[320] 'The sixth comfort is that our Lord, when he suffereth us to be tempted, playeth with us as the mother with her young darling: she fleeth from him and hides herself, and lets him sit alone, look anxiously around calling Dame, dame! and weep awhile, and then she leapeth forth laughing with outspread arms and embraceth and kisseth him and wipeth his eyes. Just so our Lord leaveth us sometimes alone, and withdraweth his grace and comfort and support, so that we find no sweetness in any good we do, nor satisfaction of heart; and yet all the while our dear father loveth us none the less, but doeth it for the great love he bath for us.'

In times of tribulation the recluse is directed to meditate on God and His works, on the Virgin and the saints, and the temptations they withstood, such as are related in an English book on St Margaret. Again and again the writer, who does not tire of this part of his theme, dwells on the various sins separately, and on the best way of meeting them.

The next part of the book (pp. 298-348) is devoted to an analysis of the use and the manner of confession, the theory and practice of which in the Church of Rome are ancient, but which the religious enthusiasm of the Middle Ages elaborated into a hard and fast system. That self-introspection and analysis are helpful in developing and strengthening conscientiousness no one will deny, but the habitual disclosure of one's thoughts and criticisms of self to another, though it may still afford support to some, has ceased to appear generally advisable. Granted that the practice in the past served a good purpose, the advice given in this book for recluses appears dictated by a strong sense of fitness and moderation. The author considers confession powerful in three directions: it 'confoundeth the devil,' it gives us back all the good we have lost, and it 'maketh us children of God.' Under these headings there is a long and systematic elaboration of the sixteen ways in which confession should be made, viz. it should be accusatory, bitter, complete, candid, and it should be made often, and speedily, humbly and hopefully, etc. Stories out of the Bible and parables of a later age are introduced in corroboration of each injunction. Under the heading of candid confession the words to be used in self-accusation are interesting, because it is obvious that a higher moral standard is claimed from women than from men. The person who has committed sin is to address the father confessor (schrift feder) in these words: 'I am a woman, and ought by right to have been more modest than to speak as I have spoken, or [321] to do as I have done; and therefore my sin is greater than if a man had done it, for it became me worse.' From the Gospels and the Fathers the writer adduces strings of wise sayings which bear on the points he would impress upon his readers. This fifth part of the book, he says, belongs to all men alike, not to recluses in particular, and he ends by admonishing the sisters in this way: 'Take to your profit this short and concluding summary of all mentioned and known sins, as of pride, ambition, presumption, envy, wrath, sloth, carelessness, idle words, immoral thoughts, any idle hearing, any false joy or heavy mourning, hypocrisy, the taking too much or too little meat or drink, grumbling, being of morose countenance, breaking silence, sitting too long at the parlour window, saying hours badly or without attention of heart or at a wrong time, any false word or oath, play, scornful laughter, wasting crumbs, or spilling ale or letting things grow mouldy or rusty or rotten; leaving clothes not sewed, wet with rain, or unwashed; breaking a cup or a dish, or carelessly looking after any thing which we own and should take care of; or cutting or damaging through heedlessness.' These in the writer's eyes are the likely sins among the recluses whom he addresses and against which he warns them to be on their guard. If they have committed them they must forthwith confess, but trivial faults should be wiped away by prayers said before the altar the moment the recluse is conscious of them.

Passing from the subject of Confession to that of Penance (pp. 348-383) the author as he says borrows much from the Sentences of Bernard, the general drift of which is in favour of self-discipline and implies mortification of the flesh. In this context comes the reference to Ailred's (Seint Aldret's) advice to his sister, who also was directed to give the body pain by fasting, watching, and discipline, by having coarse garments and a hard bed, and by bearing evil and working hard. But here again the recluses addressed are told that in the eyes of their adviser they incline rather to over-much self-denial than to over-much selfindulgence.

The seventh part of the book (pp. 384-410) treats of the pure heart or of love and is attractive in many ways. The sentiments developed and the pictures described give one the highest opinion of the feelings of which the age was capable, as reflected in this writer's innermost being. The beautiful parable where Christ woos the soul in guise of a king is well worth repeating,[322] for there we see the courtly attitude, which the age of romance had developed in real life, receiving a spiritual adaptation.

'There was a lady who was besieged by her foes within an earthly castle, and her land was all destroyed and herself quite poor. The love of a powerful king was however fixed upon her with such boundless affection that to solicit her love he sent his messengers one after the other, and often many together, and sent her trinkets both many and fair, and supplies of victuals and help of his high retinue to hold her castle. She received them all as a careless creature with so hard a heart that he could never get nearer to her love. What would's" thou more ? He came himself at last and showed her his fair face, since he was of all men the fairest to behold, and spoke so sweetly and with such gentle words that they might have raised the dead from death to life. And he wrought many wonders, and did many wondrous deeds before her eyes, and showed her his power and told her of his kingdom, and offered to make her queen of all that he owned. But all availed him nought. Was not this surprising mockery? For she was not worthy to have been his servant. But owing to his goodness love so mastered him that he said at last: "Lady, thou art attacked, and shine enemies are so strong that thou canst not without my help escape their hands that thou mayest not be put to a shameful death. I am prompted by love of thee to undertake this fight, and rid thee of those that seek thy death. I know well that I shall receive a mortal wound, but I will do it gladly to win thy heart. Now I beseech thee for the love I bear thee that thou love me at least after my death, since thou would's" not in my lifetime." Thus did the king. He freed her of her enemies and was himself wounded and slain in the end. Through a miracle he arose from death to life. Would not that same lady be of an evil kind if she did not love him above all things after this?'

'The king is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who in this wise wooed our Soul which the devils had beset. And He as a noble wooer, after many messengers and many good deeds, came to prove His love and showed through knighthood that He was worthy of love, as sometime knights were wont to do. He entered in a tournament, and as a bold knight had His shield pierced everywhere in the fight for His lady's love.'

The likeness between the shield and Christ's body is further dwelt upon. The image of His crucified form hangs suspended [323] in church, as 'after the death of a valiant knight, men hang up his shield high in church to his memory.'

There is more on the theme of love that is very fine. The ideas generated by knighthood are obviously present to the mind of the writer.

Interesting also is his classification of the different kinds of love. The love of good friends ("ode iueren) is first mentioned, but higher than that is the love between man and woman, and even higher still that between mother and child, for the mother to cure her child of disease is ready to make a bath of her blood for it. Higher again is the love of the body to the soul, but the love which Christ bears to His dear spouse, the soul, surpasses them all.

'Thy love,' says our Lord, 'is either to be freely given or it is to be sold, or it is to be stolen and to be taken with force. If it is to be given, where could's" thou bestow it better than on me ? Am I not of all the fairest ? Am I not the richest king ? Am I not of noblest birth? Am I not in wealth the wisest? Am I not the most courteous? Am I not the most liberal of men ? For so it is said of a liberal man that he can withhold nothing; that his hands are perforated as mine are. Am I not of all the sweetest and most gentle? Thus in me all reasons thou may'st find for bestowing thy love, if thou lovest chaste purity; for no one can love me save she hold by that.-But if thy love is not to be given but is to be sold, say at what price; either for other love or for something else? Love is well sold for love, and so love should be sold and for nought else. If thy love is thus to be sold, I have bought it with love surpassing all other. For of the four kinds of love, I have shown thee the best of them all. And if thou sayest that thou wilt not let it go cheaply and askest for more, name what it shall be. Set a price on thy love. Thou canst not name so much but I will give thee for thy love much more. Wouldest thou have castles and kingdoms ? Wouldest thou govern the world ? I am purposed to do better; I am purposed to make thee withal queen of heaven. Thou shalt be sevenfold brighter than the sun; no evil shall harm thee, no creature shall vex thee, no joy shall be wanting to thee; thy will shall be done in heaven and on earth; yea, even in hell.'

And in a further development of this idea all imaginable good, Croesus' wealth, Absalom's beauty, Asahel's swiftness, Samson's strength, are held out as a reward to the soul who responds to [324] the wooing of Christ and gives herself entirely into His keeping. 'This love,' says the author in conclusion, ' is the rule which governs the heart.'

The last part of the book (pp. 410 - 431) appears to be appended as an after-thought, as it treats once more of domestic matters. 'I said before at the beginning,' says the author, 'that ye ought not, like unwise people, to promise to keep any of the outward rules. I say the same still, nor do I write them save for you alone. I say this in order that recluses may not say that I by my authority make new rules for them. Nor do I command that they shall hold them, and you may change them whenever you will for better ones. Of things that have been in use before it matters little.' Practical directions follow which throw a further light on the position and conduct of the recluse, and which in many particulars are curiously like the injunctions which form the opening part of the letter of Ailred. The recluses shall partake of Communion on fifteen days of the year; they shall eat twice a day between Easter and Roodmass (September 14), during the other half year they shall fast save on Sundays; and they shall not eat flesh or lard except in sickness. 'There are recluses,' says the writer, 'who have meals with their friends outside. That is too much friendship; for all orders it is unsuitable, but chiefly for the order of recluses who are dead to the world.' A recluse shall not be liberal of other men's alms, for housewifery is Martha's part and not hers. 'Martha's office is to feed and clothe poor men as the mistress of a house; Mary ought not to intermeddle in it, and if any one blame her, God Himself the supreme defends her for it, as holy writ bears witness. On the other hand a recluse ought only to take sparingly that which is necessary for her. Whereof, then, may she make herself liberal? She must live upon alms as frugally as ever she can, and not gather that she may give it away afterwards. She is not a housewife but a Church ancre. If she can spare any fragments to the poor, let her send them quietly out of her dwelling. Sin is oft concealed under the semblance of goodness. And how shall those rich anchoresses who are tillers of the ground, or have fixed rents, do their alms privately to poor neighbours ? Desire not to have the reputation of bountiful anchoresses, nor, in order to give much, be too eager to possess more. Greediness is at the root of bitterness: all the boughs that spring from it are bitter. To beg in order to give away is not the part of a recluse. From the courtesy of a recluse [325] and from her liberality, sin and shame have often come in the end.'

This idea, that the recluse shall follow the example of Mary and not that of Martha, occurs also in Ailred's letter, though it is more briefly stated (c. 41 ff.).

You shall possess no beast, my dear sisters,' says the author of the Ancren Rimle, 'except only a cat. A recluse who has cattle appears as Martha was.' She thinks of the fodder, of the herdsman, thoughts which bring with them traffic. 'A recluse who is a buyer and seller (cheapild) selleth her soul to the Chapman of hell.' Ailred similarly warned his 'sister' against keeping flocks (c. 5 ff.). But the author of the Riwle allows the recluse to keep a cow if need be. 'Do not take charge,' he says, 'of other men's things in your house, nor of their property, nor of their clothes, neither receive under your care the church vestments nor the chalice, unless compelled thereto, for oftentimes much harm has come from such caretaking.' The clothes the sisters wear shall be warm and simple, 'be they white, be they black; only see that they be plain and warm and well-made.' He warns them against severe discipline by the use of hair-cloth and hedgehogskins, and against scourging with a leathern thong. He desires them to have all needful clothing, but forbids wearing rings, brooches, ornamented girdles and gloves. The recluse shall 'make no purses to gain friends therewith, nor blodbendes of silk; but shape and sew and mend church vestments, and poor people's clothes.' The point Ailred in his rule strongly insisted upon, the command that the recluse shall not keep a school as some recluses do, is reiterated by the author of the Ancren Riwle, for the excitement it brings and the personal affection it creates between teacher and pupil are felt to be fraught with danger. If there be a girl who needs to be taught, the recluse shall cause her to be instructed by her servant, for she shall keep two servants, the one to stay at home, the other to go abroad, 'whose garments shall be of such shape and their attire such that their calling be obvious.' The recluse shall read the concluding part of this book to her women once a week, but she herself is to read in it daily if she have leisure.

Such in brief outline is the Ancren Riwle, a book which above all others gives an insight into the religious life as apprehended [326] in the l3th century in England; a book which, written for women--the number of whom can never have been great, contains much that remains wise and instructive to this day, owing to its wide outlook and liberal spirit. It gives the very highest opinion of the author's gentleness and refinement, and of the exalted sentiments of the women he was addressing.

This is not the place to dwell on the numerous spiritual lovesongs which were written in English at this period under the influence of mystic tendencies; but it must be pointed out that those which breathe the love of a woman's soul to Christ were presumably written in the interest of nuns. Among them is one in prose, entitled the 'Wooing of Our Lord,' written by its author for his 'sister,' which has a certain likeness to the 'Ancren Riwle,' and on this ground has been ascribed to the same author. Probably it is a paraphrase of part of it, but it has none of the harmonious flow of the treatise itself, and its tone is so much more emotional, that it looks like the production of a later age.

The idea of the exaltation of virginity at this period further led to the re-writing in English of the legends of women-saints whose stories turn on the might of virginity in conflict with the evil powers of this world. Among them the legends of St Margaret, St Juliana and St Cecilia, are extant in a manuscript of about the year 1230. Their authorship is unknown, but they were evidently written in the first place for religious women.

In conclusion a few words must be said on a treatise written about the same time called 'Holy Maidenhood' (Hall Meidenhad), the interest of which lies in the fact that while advocating the same cause as the writings discussed above, it is quite untouched by their spirit. Here also the advantages of the love of Christ over love for earthly things are enlarged on, and the superiority of the 'free' maiden over her who has embraced family life is upheld. But this is done in a broad familiar strain and with repeated fierce attacks on marriage.

The author ornaments his treatise with Biblical quotations, but he possesses none of the courtly grace and elegance of diction of Thomas de Hales and the author of the Ancren Riwle. In form the treatise answers to its drift, for it is written in an alliterative homely style which gives it a peculiar interest from the philological [327] point of view. Looked at from the religious standpoint it yields a curious example of what the tone and temper would be of one who, grasping the moral drift of the age, remained a stranger to its tenderer strains. At the same time its author is not without considerable insight into the realities of life and has a sense of humour usually absent in mystic writings. The following passage which dwells on some of the annoyances of married life give a good example of this (p. 37).

'And how I ask, though it may seem odious, how does the wife stand who when she comes in hears her child scream, sees the cat at the flitch, and the hound at the hide? Her cake is burning on the stone hearth, her calf is sucking up the milk, the earthen pot is overflowing into the fire and the churl is scolding. Though it be an odious tale, it ought, maiden, to deter thee more strongly from marriage, for it does not seem easy to her who has tried it. Thou, happy maiden, who hast fully removed thyself out of that servitude as a free daughter of God and as His Son's spouse, needest not suffer anything of the kind. Therefore, happy maiden, forsake all such sorrow for the reward reserved to thee as thou oughtest to do without any reward. Now I have kept my promise, that I would show that to be glazed over with falsehood, which some may say and think of as true: the happiness and sweetness which the wedded have. For it fares not as those think who look at it from the outside; it happens far otherwise with the poor and the rich, with those who loathe and those who love each other, but the vexation in every case exceeds the joy, and the loss altogether surpasses the gain.'

The writer then recommends Christ as a spouse and gives a graphic description of pride, which he considers a power equal to that of the devil. He has such a lively horror of pride and thinks its effects so baneful that, should the maidenhood he has been extolling be touched by it, its prerogative, he says, forthwith breaks down. 'A maid as regards the grace of maidenhood surpasses the widowed and the wedded, but a mild wife or meek widow is better than a proud maiden,'--a distinction which is curious and I believe stands alone at this early period. The saints Catharine, Margaret, Agnes, Juliana and Cecilia are quoted as maidens of irreproachable meekness.

The treatise 'Hall Meidenhad' exists in one copy only, and there is no evidence as to how much it was read. Its obvious purpose is to encourage girls to become nuns, and this not so [328] much on account of the beauties of convent life, as because of the troubles in worldly life they would escape by doing so.

Section 2. The Convent of Helfta and its Literary Nuns.

The mystic writings with which the present chapter has hitherto dealt are works written for nuns, not by them, for of all the English mystic writings of the l3th century, womanly though they often are in tone, none can claim to be the production of a woman. It is different on the Continent, where the mystic literature of the 13th century is largely the production of nuns, some of whom have secured wide literary fame. Their writings, which were looked upon by their contemporaries as divinely inspired, are among the most impassioned books of the age. They claim the attention both of the student of art and the student of literature. For strong natures who rebelled against the conditions of ordinary life, but were shut out from the arena of intellectual competition, found an outlet for their aspirations in intensified emotionalism, and this emotionalism led to the development of a wealth of varying imagery which subsequently became the subject-matter of pictorial art. In course of time the series of images offered and suggested by Scripture had been supplemented by a thousand floating fancies and a mass of legendary conceits, which were often based on heathen conceptions; and the 13th century mystic first tried to fix and interpret these in their spiritual application. His endeavours may appear to some a dwelling on fruitless fancies, but since this imagery in its later representations, especially in painting, has become a thing of so much wonder and delight, the writers who first tried to realise and describe these conceptions deserve at least respectful attention.

The convent of Helfta near Eisleben in Saxony stands out during the 13th century as a centre of these mystic tendencies and of contemporary culture, owing to the literary activity of its nuns. All the qualities which make early mysticism attractive,--moral elevation, impassioned fervour, intense realism and an almost boundless imagination,--are here found reflected in the [329] writings of three women, who were inmates of the same convent, and worked and wrote contemporaneously.

The convent to which these women belonged was of the Benedictine order. It had been founded in 1229 by Burkhardt, Count von Mansfield, and his wife Elisabeth, for the use of their two daughters and for other women who wished to join them in a religious life. So many of the daughters of the Thuringian nobility flocked thither that the convent was removed in 1234 to more spacious accommodation at Rodardesdorf, and again in 1258 to a pleasanter and more suitable site at Helfta.

The convent was then under the abbess Gertrud of the noble family of Hackeborn, whose rule (1251-1291) marks a climax in the prosperity and influence of the house. The convent numbered over a hundred nuns, and among them were women distinguished in other ways besides writing. In the annals of the house mention is made of Elisabeth and Sophie, daughters of Hermann von Mansfeld;--the former was a good painter, and the latter transcribed numerous books and held the office of prioress for many years before she succeeded Gertrud as abbess. Reference is also made to the nun Mechthild van Wippra († c. 1300), who taught singing, an art zealously cultivated by these nuns.

This enthusiasm for studies of all kinds was inspired in the first place by the abbess Gertrud, of whose wonderful liberality of mind and zeal for the advance of knowledge we read in an account written soon after her death by members of her convent. She was endlessly zealous in collecting books and in setting her nuns to transcribe them. 'This too she insisted on,' says the account, 'that the girls should be instructed in the liberal arts, for she said that if the pursuit of knowledge (studium scientiae) were to perish, they would no longer be able to understand holy writ, and religion together with devotion would disappear.' Latin was well taught and written with ease by various members of the convent. The three women writers who have given the house lasting fame were Mechthild,--who was not educated at the convent but came there about the year 1268, and who is usually spoken of as the beguine or sister Mechthild,--the nun and saint Mechthild von Hackeborn, the sister of the abbess Gertrud, who was educated in the convent and there had visions between 1280 and 1300,--and Gertrud--known in literature as Gertrud the Great. Her [329] name being the same as that of the abbess caused at one time a confusion between them.

The writings of these nuns were composed under the influence of the same mystic movement which was spreading over many districts of Europe, and therefore they contain ideas and descriptions which, forming part of the imaginative wealth of the age, are nearly related to what is contemporaneously found elsewhere. In numerous particulars the writings of these nuns bear a striking resemblance to the imagery and descriptions introduced into the Divine Comedy by Dante. Struck by this likeness, and bent upon connecting Matelda of the Purgatorio with a real person, several modern students have recognised her prototype in one of the writers named Mechthild.

The writings of both these women are anterior in date to the composition of the Divine Comedy, and as they were accepted by the Dominicans, certainly had a chance of being carried into distant districts. But there is no proof that Dante had either of these writers in his mind when he wrote in the Purgatorio of Matelda as appearing in an earthly paradise to the poet on the other side of the river Lethe.

'A lady all alone, she went along

Singing and culling flower after flower,

With which the pathway was all studded o'er.

"Ah, beauteous lady, who in rays of love

Dost warm thyself, if I may trust to looks,

Which the heart's witnesses are wont to be,

May the desire come unto thee to draw

Near to this river's bank," I said to her,

"So much that I may hear what thou art singing."'

It is she who makes the triumph of the Church apparent to the poet while Beatrice descends to him from heaven.

Without entering into this controversy, it is interesting to note the similarity of the visions in which Mechthild van Hackeborn describes heaven, and those which Mechthild of Magdeburg draws of hell, to the descriptions of the greatest of Italian poets.

In order to gain an idea of the interests which were prominent at the convent at Helfta it will be well to treat of the lives, history [331] and writings of its three women writers in succession,--the beguine Mechthild,--the nun Mechthild,--and the nun Gertrud. Their characters and compositions bear marked points of difference.

Mechthild the beguine was born about 1212 and lived in contact with the world, perhaps at some court, till the age of twenty-three, when she left her people and came to Magdeburg to adopt the religious life. She was led to take this step by a troubled conscience, which was no doubt occasioned by her coming into contact with Dominican friars. At this time they were making a great stir in Saxony, and Mechthild's brother Balduin joined their order. Mechthild lived at Magdeburg for many years in a poor and humble way in a settlement of beguines, but at last she was obliged to seek protection in a nunnery, because she had drawn upon herself the hatred of the clergy.

The origin and position of the bands of women called beguines deserve attention, for the provisions made for them are evidently the outcome of a charitable wish to provide for homeless women, and to prevent their vagrancy and moral degradation. The name given to these women lies in great obscurity. It is sometimes connected with a priest of Liege (Lüttich) Lambert le Bègue (the stammerer, † 1172), a reformer in his way whose work recalls that of the founders of orders of combined canons and nuns, and who was very popular among women of all classes and advocated their association. Many settlements of beguines were founded in the towns of Flanders and Brabant, some of which have survived to this day; and in Gentian towns also the plan was readily adopted of setting aside a house in the town, for the use of poor women who, being thus provided with a roof over their heads, were then left to support themselves as best they could, by begging, or by sick nursing, or by the work of their hands. These women were not bound by any vow to remain in the house where they dwelt, and were not tied down to any special routine. This freedom led to different results among them. In some instances they were attracted by mysticism; in others they advocated ideas which drew on them the reproach of heresy and gave rise to Papal decrees condemning them; in others again they drifted into ways which were little to their credit and caused them to be classed with loose women.

[332] In one of the houses allotted to these women in Magdeburg Mechthild spent the years between 1235 and 1268, and during that time, under the encouragement of the Dominican friars, she wrote prayers, meditations, reflections on the times, and short accounts of spiritual visions, some in prose, some in verse, which had a wide circulation. The fact of their being written in German at a time when writings of the kind in German were few, was the cause of their being read in lay as well as in religious circles. These writings were afterwards collected, presumably in the order of their composition, by a Dominican friar who issued them under the title of 'The Flowing Light of Divinity.' Six of the seven books into which the work is divided were composed before Mechthild went to Helfta, and the visions and reflections she wrote after her admission were grouped together in the seventh book. These writings were originally issued in the German of the north, but the only German copy now extant is a south German transcript, which was written for the mystics of Switzerland. The work was translated into Latin during Mechthild's lifetime by a Dominican friar, but his collection only contains the first six books, the contents of which are arranged in a different order. Both the German and the Latin versions have recently been reprinted.

Among these writings were several severely critical and condemnatory of the clergy of Magdeburg, who resented these attacks and persecuted Mechthild. On this account she sought admission at Helfta, which was not far distant from Halle, where her special friend the Dominican friar Heinrich was living. The nuns at Helfta were on friendly terms with the Dominicans, who frequently visited them, and it appears that the nun Gertrud the Great knew of the writings of the beguine and advocated her admission to the nunnery. She came there in 1268 and lived there for about twelve years; passages in the writings of her fellow nuns refer to her death and burial.

With regard to her writings we are struck by their diversified contents, by their variety in form, and by their many-sided sympathies. The 'Flowing Light of Divinity' (Fliessende Licht der [333] Gottheit), consists of a collection of shorter and longer compositions, some in poetry, some in prose, which may be roughly classed as spiritual poems and love-songs, allegories, visions, and moral reflections or aphorisms. Against mysticism the charge has been brought that it led to no activity in theological thought and did not produce any religious reformation, but surely enquiries into the nature of the soul and its relation to God such as these are full of speculative interest, and have played no small part in paving the way towards a more rational interpretation of the position of man with regard to faith, to merit, to retribution and to the other great questions of dogma.

Turning first to the poems which treat of spiritual love, many are in dialogue, a form much used by the Minnesingers of the age but rarely by its religious poets. Among them is a dialogue between the Soul and the queen Love, who sits enthroned. The Soul accuses Love (spiritual love of course) of robbing her of a liking for the goods of this world, but Love justifies herself by saying that she has given to the Soul instead all that constitutes her true happiness. In another dialogue the Soul exclaims in wonder at Love, who in eloquent strains describes the power that is within her. By this power she drove Christ from heaven to earth; is it then to be wondered at that she can capture and hold fast a soul ?

One of the longer pieces, less complete in form but more complex in ideas, describes how a call comes to the Soul, and how she urges her servants the Senses to help her to adorn herself to go forth to the dance, that her craving for joy may be satisfied. The Soul justifies her desire in strains such as these:

'The fish in the water do not drown, the birds in the air are not lost,

The gold in the furnace does not vanish but there attains its glow.

God has given to every creature to live according to its desire,

Why then should I resist mine ?'

The Soul then describes the various experiences which led to her union with Christ, which she expresses in passionate strains suggestive of the Song of Solomon.

[334] Again, we have the Soul complaining to Love of the ties which bind her to the body, and Love directs her how to overcome them. Understanding too discourses with the Soul, and the Soul admits the greater capacities of Understanding, but she insists that Understanding owes to her the capacity both of contemplation and spiritual enjoyment. In other poems like points of abstract interest are touched upon. One of the most curious of these productions is a dialogue in which Understanding converses with Conscience and expresses surprise at Conscience, whose attitude is one of proud humility. Conscience explains that her pride comes through her contact with God, and that her humility is due to her contrition at having done so few good works.

The question of how far good works are necessary to salvation, in other words justification by faith versus justification by works, is a thought prominent in the beguine's mind, and gives the keynote to a curious and interesting allegory on admission to the communion of the saints. A poor girl longing to hear mass felt herself transported into the church of heaven, where at first she could see no one. Presently youths entered strewing flowers,-- white flowers beneath the church tower, violets along the nave, roses before the Virgin's altar, and lilies throughout the choir. Others came and lighted candles, and then John the Baptist entered bearing the lamb, which he set on the altar and prepared to read mass. John the Evangelist came next, St Peter and so many more of heaven's inmates that the poor girl felt there was no room left for her in the nave of the church. She went and stood beneath the tower among people who wore crowns, 'but the beauty of hair, which comes from good works, they had not. How had they come into heaven ? Through repentance and good intention.' There were others with them so richly clad that the girl felt ashamed of her appearance and went into the choir, where she saw the Virgin, St Catherine, holy Cecilia, bishops, martyrs and angels. But suddenly she too was decked with a splendid cloak, and the Virgin beckoned to her to stand by her side. Prompted by the Virgin she then took part in the religious service and was led to the altar, where John the Baptist let her kiss the wounds of the lamb. 'She [335] to whom this happened is dead,' says the writer, 'but we hope to find her again among the choir of angels.'

This allegory was severely censured, and in a later chapter Mechthild says that a 'Pharisee' argued that it was forbidden for a layman, like John the Baptist, to hold mass. Mechthild's arguments in reply to the charge are somewhat involved, but she boldly declares that John, who was in close communion with God, was better fitted in some respects to say mass than Pope, bishop or priest.

With Mechthild, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and St Peter, patron saint of the Dominicans, stand foremost among the saints of heaven. There is a beautiful account of a Soul who found herself in company with God and the saints, who each in turn explained how they had helped to bring her there.

Glimpses of heaven and hell are frequent in these writings, and a full description of hell and one of paradise deserve special attention from the point of view of medieval imagery. Hell is here characterized as the seat of Eternal Hatred, which is built in the deepest depths from stones of manifold wickedness. Pride, as shown in Lucifer, forms the foundation-stone; then come the stones of disobedience, covetousness, hatred and lewdness, brought thither through acts of Adam. Cain brought anger, ferocity, and warfare, and Judas brought lying, betrayal, despair and suicide. The building formed by these stones is so arranged that each part of it is occupied by those who were specially prone to the various sins. In its depths sits Lucifer, above him Christians, Jews and heathens, according to the kind of crime committed by each. The horrors of their sufferings recall those pictured by Herrad, and at a later period by Dante and Orcagna. The usurer is gnawed, the thief hangs suspended by his feet, murderers continually receive wounds, and gluttons swallow red-hot stones and drink sulphur and pitch. 'What seemed sweetness here is there turned into bitterness. The sluggard is loaded with grief, the wrathful are struck with fiery thongs. The poor musician, who had gleefully fed wicked vanity, weeps more tears in hell than there is water in the sea.' Many horrible and impressive scenes, such as the medieval mind loved to dwell upon, are depicted.

The picture drawn of paradise is correspondingly fair. According [336] to the beguine there is an earthly and a heavenly paradise. Regarding the earthly paradise she says: 'There is no limit to its length and breadth. First I reached a spot lying on the confines of this world and paradise. There I saw trees and leaves and grass, but of weeds there were none. Some trees bore fruit, but most of them sweet-scented leaves. Rapid streams cut through the earth, and warm winds blew from the south. In the waters mingled earth's sweetness and heaven's delight. The air was sweet beyond expression. But of birds and animals there were none, for God has reserved this garden for human beings to dwell there undisturbed.' In this garden Mechthild finds Enoch and Elias who explain what keeps them there. Then she sees the higher regions of paradise in which dwell the souls who are waiting to enter the kingdom of God, 'floating in joy as the air floats in the sunshine,' says Mechthild; and she goes on to explain how on the Day of Judgment paradise will altogether cease to exist and its inhabitants will be absorbed into heaven.

The beguine's writings contain various references to herself and her compositions, and considerable praise of the Dominican friars. In one place she describes how she was told that her writings deserved to be burnt, but she turned in prayer to God as was her wont from childhood, and He told her not to doubt her powers for they came through Him. 'Ah Lord,' she exclaimed in reply, 'were I a learned man, a priest, in whom thou hadst made manifest this power, thou would's" see him honoured, but how can they believe that on such unworthy ground thou hast raised a golden house?. . . .Lord, I fail to see the reason of it.' But the attacks against her roused her to anger, and she closes the poem with a stern invective against those who are false.

Another passage contains an autobiographical sketch of Mechthild's early experiences. She says that when she was twelve years old she felt drawn to things divine, and from that time to the present, a period of thirty-one years, she had been conscious of God's grace and had been saved from going astray. 'God is witness,' she continues, 'that I never consciously prayed to be told what is written in this book; it never occurred to me that such things could come to anyone. While I spent my youth with friends and relations to whom I was most dear, I had no knowledge of such things. Yet I always wished to be humble, and [337] from love of God I came to a place (Magdeburg) where with one exception I had no friends.' She describes how at that time two angels and two devils were her companions, and were to her the representatives of the good and evil tendencies of which she was conscious. The devils spoke to her of her physical beauty, promised fame 'such as has led astray many an unbeliever,' and prompted her to rebellion and unchastity. Obviously her passionate nature rose against the mode of life she had adopted, but the thought of Christ's sufferings at last brought her comfort. She was much perturbed by her power of writing. 'Why not give it to learned folk ?' she asked of God, but God was angered with her, and her father-confessor pressed upon her that writing was her vocation. In another impassioned account she describes how she was oppressed by a devil.

In the third book of her writings Mechthild says that God pointed out to her the seven virtues which priests ought to cultivate, and we gather from this that she did not consider the clergy devout or pure-minded. In further passages she dilates on the duties of prelate, prior and prioress, and severely attacks the conduct of a deacon of Magdeburg. Even more explicit in its severity to the priesthood is an account of how God spoke to her, and told her that He would touch the Pope's heart and make him utter a prayer, which is given, and in which the Pope declaims against the conduct of his clergy who are 'straightway going to hell.' In the Latin translation God's admonition is amplified by the following passages: 'For thus says the Lord: I will open the ear of the highest priest and touch his heart with the woe of my wrath, because my shepherds of Jerusalem have become robbers and wolves before my very eyes. With cruelty they murder my lambs and devour them. The sheep also are worn and weary because you call them from healthy pastures, in your godlessness do not suffer them to graze on the heights on green herbs, and with threats and reproof prevent their being tended with healthful teaching and healthful advice by those men who are supported by faith and knowledge. He who knows not the way that leads to hell and would know it, let him look at the life and [338] morals of the base and degenerate clergy, who, given to luxury and other sins, through their impious ways are inevitably going the way to hell.'

The friars, it is said, must come to the rescue and reform the world, and Mechthild being especially inclined to the Dominicans dwells on their usefulness to true faith in a number of passages. There is a long description of how God saw that His Son, with the apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins, was unable to lead back the people who had gone astray, and therefore He sent into the world two other children, that is the two orders of friars, to save them. In another vision God explains to Mechthild the special purpose for which He has lately sent five new saints into the world, one of whom is Elisabeth of Thuringen 'whom I sent,' said the Lord, 'to those wretched ladies who sit in castles with much unchastity, puffed up with conceit, and so absorbed by vanities that they ought to be cast into the nether regions. Many a lady however has now followed her example in what measure she would or could.' The other saints are Dominic, who has been sent to reclaim unbelievers,-Francis, who has come as a warning to covetous priests and conceited laymen,--a new St Peter, the Martyr († 1252),-and the sister Jutta von Sangershausen. History tells us of Peter that he was appointed inquisitor against the heretics in Lombardy and murdered at their instigation; and of Jutta that, having lost her husband in 1260, she placed her children in convents and went among the heathen Prussians where she tended the leprous till her death four years afterwards. From later passages in the writings of Mechthild, written after she had come to live at Helfta, it appears that she felt that faith was not increasing in the world; perhaps she was disappointed in her exalted anticipations of the influence of the friars.

The writings of Mechthild of this later period are more mystic and visionary than those of earlier days. She is distressed at the troublous times that have come to Saxony and Thuringen, [339] and tells how she fell ill and was so perturbed that she lost the power of prayer for seventeen days. Many prayers and visions, some of great sweetness and beauty, were the production of these later days. A long allegory called the 'Spiritual Convent or Ghostly Abbey' shows the high opinion she had of life in a nunnery. In this poem the inmates of the convent are personified as the Virtues, an idea occasionally used during the Middle Ages, and one which at a later date in England, as we shall hear afterwards, was handled in a very different mariner, the convent inmates being represented as the Vices. In Mechthild's convent Charity is abbess, Meekness is chaplain, Peace is prioress, Kindliness is sub-prioress, and among the inmates of the convent there is Hope the singing-mistress, and Wisdom the schoolmistress 'who with good counsel carefully instructs the ignorant, so that the nunnery is held holy and honoured.' Bounty is cellaress, Mercy sees to the clothes, laity tends the sick, and Dread sits at the gate. The provost or priest is Obedience, 'to whom all these Virtues are subject. Thus does the convent abide before God,' the poem ends,'...happy are they who dwell there.'

The writings of Mechthild offer many more points of interest. Not the least curious among her compositions are the amplified descriptions of biblical history, as of the Creation, the Nativity, and the early experiences of the Virgin, which enter minutely into the feelings and emotions of those immediately concerned and give them an allegorical and spiritualized application. Short spiritual poems are also numerous, but so much depends on their form that a translation cannot convey their chief beauty. Their general drift is exemplified by the two following.

'It is a wondrous journeying onwards, this progress of the Soul, who guides the Senses as the man who sees leads him who is blind. Fearlessly the Soul wanders on without grief of heart, for she desires nought but what the Lord wills who leads all to the best.'

And again, 'My Soul spake to her Spouse: Lord, thy tenderness [340] is to my body delightful ministration; thy compassion is to my spiritual nature wondrous comfort; and thy love is to my whole being rest eternal.'

Thoughts such as these are found scattered up and down in the beguine's writings, and give one a high estimation of her poetic power, her ready imagination and her mastery of language. Her vigorous nature guided into the channel of spiritual aspirations frequently filled her poems with a passionate eloquence.

In conclusion may stand a few of the beguine's moral reflections, which, if they are not borrowed from elsewhere, argue well for her power of condensing thoughts into short sentences; but here also it is not easy to find the exact words in which to render the chief points of these reflections.

'Vanity does not stop to think what she is losing;

Perseverance is laden with virtues.

Stupidity is ever self-sufficient;

The wisest never comes to the end of what he would say.

Anger brings darkness unto the soul;

Gentleness is ever sure of attaining grace.

Pride would ever raise herself aloft;

Lowliness is ever ready to yield...

Sluggishness will never gain wealth;

The industrious seeks more than his immediate advantage.'

And the following,--which are the product of a later period and have in them the ring of a deeper experience--'None knows how firm he stands, until he has experienced the prompting of desire; none how strong he is, until hatred has attacked him; none how good he is, before he has attained a happy end.'

From the writings of the beguine Mechthild we pass to those of her companion at Helfta, the nun Mechthild von Hackeborn. Her 'Book of Special Grace" consists entirely of visions or revelations described by her and put into writing by her fellow-nuns; it was widely read, and gave rise to similar productions in other nunneries. There are many early manuscript copies of the book in existence; it was originally written in Latin, but has been translated into German, English, Italian and French, and has repeatedly been printed.

[314] The visions are so arranged that those contained in the first part of the book have reference to festal days of the Church, to Christ, Mary and the saints. The second part treats of the manifestations of divine grace of which Mechthild was conscious in herself, and the third and fourth describe how God should be praised and what is conducive to salvation or 'soul-hele.' In the fifth part Mechthild holds converse with those who have departed this life, chiefly members of the convent, for the belief that it was possible to hold communion with the souls of the departed was readily accepted at Helfta as in other religious houses.

A sixth and seventh part were added to Mechthild's book after her death by her fellow-nuns and contain information about her sister, the abbess Gertrud, and details about Mechthild's death and the visions other nuns had of her.

The nun Mechthild von Hackeborn, who was nine years younger than her sister Gertrud, had come to the house as a child on a visit with her mother, and was so much attracted to it that she remained there. She is described by her fellow-nuns as a person of tender and delicate refinement, whose religious fervour was remarkable, and these characteristics are reflected in her writings. She was often suffering, noticeably at the time when her sister, the abbess Gertrud, died (1291). She is praised for her lovely voice, and references to music and singing in her visions are frequent. It is not quite clear when her fellow-nuns began to put her visions into writing, presumably between 1280 and 1300, and authorities also differ on the year of her death, which the Benedictines of Solesmes accept as 1298, whereas Preger defers it till 1310.

In the description of her visions Mechthild van Hackeborn appears throughout as a person of even temper and great sweetness of disposition, one who was not visited by picturesque temptations, troubles and doubts, and who therefore insisted chiefly on the beautiful side of things; for hell with its torments and the whole mise-en-scène of the nether regions have no meaning and no attraction for her. In her revelations Christ, the Virgin, and other members of the vast hierarchy of heaven enter as living realities. She is particularly fond of the angels, whom she loves to picture as the associates of men on earth and in heaven. In conformity with the conceptions of her age Christ is to her the wooer of the soul, [342] the chosen bridegroom, who combines all that makes humanity attractive and divinity sublime. Christ and the Virgin love to confer with Mechthild, or rather with her Soul,--the terms are used indiscriminately,--and enter into converse with her whenever she seeks enlightenment. Flowers and precious stones, the splendour of vestments, and occasionally some homely object, supply her with similes and comparisons.

The following descriptions occurring in visions will give some idea of the spirit in which Mechthild wrote.

' After the feast of St Michael...she saw a golden ascent divided into nine grades, crowded by a multitude of angels, and the first grade was presided over by angels, the second by archangels and so on upwards, each order of angels presiding over one grade. She was divinely informed that this ascent represented the abode of men in this way,--that whoever faithfully, humbly, and devotedly fulfils his duty to the Church of God, and for God's sake, to the infirm, to the poor and to travellers, abides in the first grade, consorting with the angels. Again, they who by prayer and devotion are closer to God and in nearness to Him, are devoted to knowledge of Him, to His teaching and help, are in the next grade and are the companions of the archangels. Those again who practice patience, obedience, voluntary poverty, humility, and bravely perform all virtues, mount to the next grade with the Virtues. And those who, opposing vice and greed, hold the fiend and all his suggestions in contempt, in the fourth grade share the triumph of glory with the Powers. Prelates who fully respond to the duties the Church has entrusted to them, who watch day and night over the salvation of souls and discreetly give back twofold the talent entrusted to them,--these in the fifth grade hold the glory of heaven as a recompense of their work with the Pre-eminences. Again, those who with complete submission bow before the majesty of the Divine, and who out of love for Him love the Creator in the created, and love themselves because they are fashioned after the image of God, who conform to Hirn as far as human weakness permits, and, holding the flesh subservient to the spirit, triurnph over their mind by transferring it to things celestial, these glory in the sixth grade with the Rulers. But those who are steadfast in meditation and contemplation, who embracing pureness of heart and peace of mind make of themselves a temple meet for God, which [343] truly may be called a paradise, according to Proverbs (viii. 31) " my delights were with the sons of men," and about which it is said (2 Cor. vi. 16) "I will dwell in them and walk in them," these dwell in the seventh grade with the Enthroned. Those who outstrip others in knowledge and apprehension, who by a singular blessedness hold God in their minds as it were face to face and give back what they have drawn from the fountain of all wisdom, by teaching and explaining to others, these abide in the eighth grade of the ascent together with the Cherubim. And those who love God with heart and soul, who place their whole being in the eternal fire which is God itself, love Him not with their own but with divine love being the chosen ones of God, who see all creatures in God and love them for His sake, friends as well as enemies, those whom nothing can divide from God nor stay in their ascent--for the more their enemies attack them the more they grow in love,--those who, fervent themselves, awake fervour in others, so that if they could they would make all mankind perfect in love, who weep for the sins and faults of others, because, indifferent to their own glory, they seek but the glory of God, these shall for evermore dwell in the ninth grade with the Seraphim, between whom and God there is nought in closer nearness to Him

'During mass she (Mechthild) saw that a large number of angels were present, and each angel in guise of a lovely youth stood by the side of the maiden entrusted to his care. Some held flowering sceptres, others golden flowers. And as the maidens bowed they pressed the flowers to their lips in sign of everlasting peace. Thus angels assisted at the entire mass.

'And as the maidens advanced to partake of the communion, each of the angels led her who was entrusted to his care. And the King of Glory stood in the place of the priest surrounded by shining splendour, on His breast an ornament in the shape of a branched tree, and from His heart, in which lies hidden the wealth of wisdom and knowledge, flowed a stream which encompassed those who advanced with a flood of heavenly joy.'

In the preceding passages we see Mechthild in the state of rapture called forth by the moments of celebration and service; the extracts which follow describe one of the divine visitations which came to her as a special manifestation of grace.

[344] 'On a certain Sunday, while they were singing the Asperges me, Domine, she said "Lord, in what wilt thou now bathe and cleanse my heart ?" Straightway the Lord with love unutterable bending to her as a mother would to her son, embraced her saying: " In the love of my divine heart I will bathe thee." And He opened the door of His heart, the treasure-house of flowing holiness, and she entered into it as though into a vineyard. There she saw a river of living water flowing from the east to the west, and round about the river there were twelve trees bearing twelve kinds of fruit, that is the virtues which the blessed Paul enumerates in his epistle: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, benignity, meekness, faith, modesty, temperance, chastity. This water is called the river of love; "hereunto the soul entered and was cleansed of every stain. In this river there were numerous fish with golden scales, which signified those loving souls which, separated from earthly delights, have plunged themselves in the very well-spring of all good, that is, into Jesus. In the vineyard palm-trees were planted, some of which stood erect, while others were bent to the ground. The palms that stand erect are those who despised the world with its flowers, and who turned their minds to things divine; and the palms that are bent down are those wretched ones who lie in the earthly dust of their misdeeds. The Lord in likeness of a gardener was digging in the earth, and she said: "O Lord, what is thy spade?" And He answered: "My fear."--Now in certain places the earth was hard, in others soft. The hard earth signified the hearts of those who are hardened in sin and who know not how to be corrected either by advice or by reproof; the soft earth the hearts of those who are softened by tears and true contrition. And our Lord said: "This vineyard is my Catholic Church, in which for thirty-three years I laboured with my sweat; do thou labour with me in this vineyard." And she said: "How ?" To whom the Lord replied: " By watering it." And straightway the Soul ran eagerly to the river and set a vessel filled with water on her shoulders, and as it was heavy, the Lord came and helped her, and its burden was lightened. And the Lord said: "Thus when I give grace to men, do all things performed or borne for my sake seem light and easy. But if I withdraw my grace, then do all things seem burdensome." Moreover round about the palms she saw a multitude of angels like unto a wall...'

In a similar strain the visions of Mechthild proceed, always [345] gentle and rarely impassioned but shining with the glow of endlessly changing imagery. There is no limit to the pictures which rise before her mental eye or to the points which suggest analogy with things divine.

'To rouse the piety of believers in relation to the glorious image of our Saviour Jesus Christ, on the Sunday Omnis terra (the second after Epiphany), that is on the day when the exposition at Rome of the image of Christ takes place, she was granted this vision. On a mountain overgrown with flowers she beheld our Lord seated on a throne of jasper decorated with gold and red stone. The jasper which is green is typical of the power of eternal divinity, gold represents love, and the red stone the sufferings which He endured through love of us. The mountain was surrounded by beautiful trees covered with fruit. Under these trees rested the souls of the saints, each of whom had a tent of cloth of gold, and they ate of the fruit with great enjoyment. The hill is emblematic of the mortal life of Christ, the trees are His virtues, love, pity and others. The saints rest under different trees according as they adhered to the Lord's different virtues; those who followed Him in charity, eat of the fruit of the tree of charity; those who were full of pity, eat of the fruit of the tree of pity, and so on according to the virtue each has practiced.

'Then those who were ready to honour the holy face with a special prayer approached the Lord, carrying on their shoulders their sins, which they laid at His feet; and they were forthwith transformed into jewels of glowing gold (xenia aurea). Those whose repentance had come out of love, because they were sad at having offended God without having been punished, saw their sins changed into golden necklaces. Others who had redeemed them by saying the psalms and other prayers, had them transformed into golden rings such as are used at festivals (Dominicalibus). Those who had made restitution for their sins by their own efforts, saw before them lovely golden shields; while those who had purified their sins by bodily suffering, beheld them as so many golden censors, for bodily chastisement before God is like the sweetness of thyme.'

The following is an example of a homely simile.

[346] 'On a certain occasion she was conscious of having received an unusual gift through the Lord's bounty, when feeling her inadequacy she humbly said: " O bounteous King, this gift, does it befit me who deem myself unworthy of entering thy kitchen and washing thy platters?" Whereupon the Lord: "Where is my kitchen and where are the platters thou wouldst wash ?" She was confounded and said nothing. But the Lord, who puts questions not that they may be answered but that He may give answer unto them Himself, made her rejoice by His reply. He said: " My kitchen is my heart which, like unto a kitchen that is a common room of the house and open alike to servants and masters, is ever open to all and for the benefit of all. The cook in this kitchen is the Holy Ghost, who kindly without intermission provides things in abundance and by replenishing them makes things abound again. My platters are the hearts of saints and of chosen ones, which are filled from the overflow of the sweetness of my divine heart."'

From a passage in these books we learn that a large number of Mechthild's visions had been put into writing by her fellow-nuns before she was made acquainted with the fact. For a time she was sorely troubled, then she gained confidence, reflecting that her power to see visions had come from God, and indeed she heard a voice from heaven informing her that her book should be called the 'Book of Special Grace.'

She had all her life been distressed by physical suffering. During her last illness she was generally unconscious and her fellow-nuns crowded about her praying that she would intercede with God in their behalf.

Neither of the Mechthilds makes any reference in her writings to the nun Gertrud, but Gertrud's works contain various references to her fellow-nuns, and it is surmised that Gertrud helped to put the nun Mechthild's visions into writing before she wrote on her own account. A passage in her own book of visions refers to revelations generally, and the Lord explains to her how it is that visions are sometimes written in one, sometimes in another language. This idea may have been suggested by the fact that the beguine Mechthild's writings were in German and the nun Mechthild's in Latin.

[347] Gertrud was very different from both of these writers in disposition. Probably of humble origin, she had been given into the care of the convent as a child (in 1261), and in her development was greatly influenced by the sisters Gertrud the abbess, and the nun Mechthild von Hackeborn. Of a passionate and ambitious nature, she devoted all her energies to mastering the liberal arts, but in consequence of a vision that came to her at twenty-five, she cast them aside and plunged into religious study. She mastered the spirit and contents of Holy Writ so rapidly that she began to expound them to others. Then she made extracts and collections of passages from the Fathers, out of which we are told she made many books. The influence of her personality was such that 'none conversed with her who did not afterwards declare they had profited by it.' The admiration she aroused among her fellow-nuns was so great that they declared that God had compared her to the nun Mechthild and that He said: In this one have I accomplished great things, but greater things will I accomplish in Gertrud.' As a proof of her industry we are told that she was occupied from morning till night translating from Latin (into German), shortening some passages, amplifying others 'to the greater advantage of her readers.' From another passage it appears that she compiled a poem (Carmen) from the sayings (dictis) of the saints, and as an illustration of her moral attitude we are told that when she was reading the Scriptures aloud and 'as it happened,' passages occurred which shocked her by their allusions, she hurried them over quickly or pretended not to understand them. 'but when it became needful to speak of such things for some reason of salvation, it was as though she did not mind, and she overcame her hesitation.' Her great modesty in regard to her own requirements is insisted on by her biographer. Many bore witness to the fact that they were more impressed by her words than by those of celebrated preachers, for she frequently moved her audience to tears. In addition the writer feels called upon to mention a few incidents that happened to Gertrud, giving them a miraculous rendering, no doubt from a wish to enhance her worth.

The information about Gertrud is supplied by the first part of her book called 'The Legacy of Divine Piety,' which as it does[348] not mention Gertrud's death, seems to have been written while she was alive, perhaps as a preface to a copy of her revelations. It was only after many years of study and literary activity that she determined to write down her personal experiences, and these accounts, written between 1289 and 1290, form the second part of the book as it stands at present and constitute its chief and abiding interest.

The admiration bestowed on the 'Legacy of Divine Piety' was almost greater than that given to the writings of the nun Mechthild. The perusal of a chapter will show Gertrud's attitude of mind. Starting from the occasion when she first became conscious of a living communion with God, she describes how step by step she realised an approximation to things divine, such as reverence, love, and the desire of knowledge alone can secure. She speaks of experiencing in herself a deeper religious consciousness which reacted in making her feel herself unworthy of the special attention of her Creator, and she continues in this strain:

'If I look back on what the tone of my life was before and afterwards, in truth I declare that this is grace I am grateful for and yet unworthy of receiving. For thou, O Lord, didst grant unto me of the clear light of thy knowledge to which the sweetness of thy love prompted me more than any deserved correction of my faults could have done. I do not recall having felt such happiness save on the days when thou didst bid me to the delights of thy royal table. Whether thy wise forethought had so ordained, or my continued shortcomings were the reason of it, I cannot decide.

'Thus didst thou deal with and rouse my soul on a day between Resurrection and Ascension when I had entered the courtyard at an early hour before Prime, and sitting down by the fishpond was enjoying the beauties of the surroundings which charmed me by the clearness of the flowing water, the green of the trees that stood around, and the free flight of the birds, especially the doves, but above all by the reposeful quiet of the retired situation. My mind turned on what in such surroundings would make my joy perfect, and I wished for a friend, a loving, affectionate and suitable companion, who would sweeten my solitude. Then thou, O God, author of joy unspeakable, who as I hope didst favour the beginning of my meditation and didst complete it, thou didst inspire me with the thought that if, conscious of thy grace, I flow back to be joined to thee like the water; if, growing in the knowledge of virtue like unto [349] these trees, I flower in the greenness of good deeds; if, looking down on things earthly in free flight like these doves, I approach heaven, and, with my bodily senses removed from external turmoil, apprehend thee with my whole mind, then in joyfulness my heart will make for thee a habitation.

'My thoughts during the day dwelt on these matters, and at night, as I knelt in prayer in the dormitory, suddenly this passage from the Gospel occurred to me (John xiv. 23), "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." And my impure heart felt thee present therein. O would that an ocean of blood passed over my head that my miserable inadequacy were washed out now that thou hast made thy abode with me in dignity inscrutable! Or that my heart snatched from my body were given to me to cleanse with glowing coal, so that, freed of its dross, it might offer thee if not indeed a worthy abode, yet one not altogether unworthy. Thus, O God, didst thou show thyself from that hour onwards, sometimes kindly, sometimes stern, in accordance with my improved or neglectful way of life; though I must admit that the utmost improvement to which I sometimes momentarily attained, had it lasted all my life, never had made me worthy of the least part of the sustenance which I received in spite of many sins and, alas! of great wickedness. For thy extreme tenderness shows me thee more grieved than angered by my shortcomings, a proof to me that the amount of thy forbearance is greater when thou cost bear with me in my failings, than during thy mortal life, when thou didst bear with the betrayer Judas.

'When I strayed in mind, tempted away by some deceitful attraction, and after hours, or alas! after days, or woe is me! after weeks, returned to my heart, always did I find thee there, so that I cannot say that thou hast withdrawn thyself from me from that hour, nine years ago, till eleven days before the feast of John the Baptist, save on one occasion, when it happened through some worldly dispute, I believe, and lasted from Thursday (the fifth feria) to Tuesday (the second feria). Then on the vigil of St John the Baptist, after the mass Nec timeas etc., thy sweetness and great charity came back to me, finding me so forlorn in mind that I was not even conscious of having lost a treasure, nor thought of grieving for it, nor was desirous of having it returned, so that I cannot account for the madness that possessed my mind, unless indeed it so happened because thou didst wish me to experience [350] in myself these words of St Bernard: "We fly and thou pursuest us; we turn our back on thee, thou comest before us; thou dost ask and art refused; but no madness, no contempt of ours makes thee turn away who never art weary, and thou dost draw us on to the joy of which it is said (I Cor. ii. 9), 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard it, neither has it entered into the heart of man." '

These passages must suffice. Anyone desirous of following Gertrud through the further experiences which guided her to the knowledge of God and gave her an insight into the working of spiritual love must turn to her writings, which bear the reader onwards in continuous flow, and with much self-analysis and selfrealisation give evidence of the conscious joy which develops into rapture in the presence of the Divine. A passage contained in the last chapter of the book describes Gertrud's hopes regarding her work, and fitly summarises her aspirations.

' Behold, beloved God,' she writes, 'I here deposit the talent of thy most gracious friendship, which, entrusted to me, the lowliest and least worthy of thy creatures, I have set forth to the increase of thy power; for I believe and dare affirm that no reason prompted me to write and speak but obedience to thy will, desire for thy glory, and zeal for the salvation of souls. I take thee to witness that I wish thee praise and thanks, for thy abundant grace withdrew itself not from me on account of my unworthiness. And herein also shalt thou find praise, that readers of this book will rejoice in the sweetness of thy bounty, and, drawn to thee, learn greater things through it; for as students progress from first learning the alphabet to acquaintance with logic (logica), by means of the imagery here described they will be led to taste of that hidden divine sustenance (manna) which cannot be expressed even by allegory... Meanwhile in accordance with thy faithful promise and my humble request, grant to all who read this book in lowliness that they rejoice in thy love, bear with my inadequacy, and feel true contrition themselves, in order that from the golden censors of their loving hearts a sweet odour may be wafted upwards to thee, making full amends for my carelessness and shortcomings.'

Before the personal interest of this portion of the book the other parts written by fellow-nuns fade into insignificance. They contain accounts of Gertrud's thoughts on various occasions [351], and are chiefly interesting for the comments they contain on various accepted saints; we here see what thoughts were suggested to the Helfta nuns by the personalities of St Benedict, St Bernard, St Augustine, St Dominic, St Francis, St Elisabeth, and others. Thus the feast of St John the Apostle gives rise to an account of him sitting in heaven, where he keeps the holy record, and writes in different colours, sometimes in red, sometimes in black, sometimes in letters of gold-a simile which recalls the art of writing. The 'Legacy of Divine Piety' of Gertrud has repeatedly been printed in the original Latin, sometimes in conjunction with the 'Book of Special Grace' of the nun Mechthild, and, like the revelations of Mechthild, the writings of Gertrud have been translated into German and English. Both in their original form and in selections the writings of these nuns are used as books of devotion among Catholics to this day, but neither Gertrud nor Mechthild have till now been given a place in the Acta Sanctorum.

Gertrud outlived her distinguished contemporaries at Helfta; she died in 1311, her thoughts having been engrossed by the anticipation of death for some time before. During these last years of her life she composed a number of prayers called 'Spiritual Exercises' for the use of her fellow-nuns, the religious fervour of which has perhaps rarely been surpassed.

They are written in rhyme but in varying rhythm; perhaps they are best designated as rhymed prose. Only the original Latin can give an idea of their eloquence, but, in the interest of the general reader I have added one in English prose. It is one of the series designated as 'a supplication for sinfulness and a preparation for death.' There is one prayer for every canonical hour; the following is intended for repetition after the hour of prime, 'when the Soul holds converse with Love and Truth; and when the thought of eternal judgment, at which Truth will preside, causes the Soul to beseech Love to help her to secure Jesus as her advocate.'

'And thus shalt thou begin to effect a reconciliation with God.

'O shining Truth, O just Equity of God, how shall I appear before thy face, bearing my imperfections, conscious of the burden [352] of my wasted life, and of the weight of my great negligence? Woe, woe is unto me; I did not make the payment of a Christian's faith and of a spiritual life there where the treasures of love are stored, that thou mightest receive it back with manifold increase of interest. The talent of life entrusted to me, not only have I left it unused; but I have forfeited it, debased it, lost it. Where shall I go, whither shall I turn, how can I escape from thy presence ?

'O Truth, in thee undivided abide justice and equity. In accordance with number, weight and measure cost thou give judgment. Whatever thou cost handle is weighed in truly even scales. Woe is unto me, a thousand times woe, if I be given over to thee with none to intercede in my behalf! O Love, do thou speak for me, answer for me, secure for me remission. Take up my cause, that through thy grace I may find eternal life.

'I know what I must do. The chalice of salvation I will take; the chalice, Jesus, I will place on the unweighted scale of Truth. Thus, thus can I supply all that is wanting; thus can I outweigh the balance of my sins. By that chalice can I counterbalance all my defects. By that chalice I can more than counterpoise my sins.

'Hail, O Love, thy royal bondservant Jesus, moved in His inmost being, whom thou didst drag at this hour before the tribunal, where the sins of the whole world were laid on Him who was without spot or blemish, save that out of pity of me He charged Himself with my sins,--Him the most innocent, Him the most beloved, condemned for love through my love of Him and suffering death for me, Him I would receive from thee to-day, O Love Divine, that He may be my advocate. Grant me this security that in this cause I have Him as my defender.

'O beloved Truth! I could not come before thee without my Jesus, but with Jesus to come before thee is joyful and pleasant. Ah Truth, now sit thee on the seat of judgment, enter on the course of justice and bring against me what thou wilt, I fear no evil, for I know, I know thy countenance cannot confound me, now that He is on my side who is my great hope and my whole confidence. Verily, I long for thy judgment now Jesus is with me, He the most beloved, the most faithful, He who has taken on Himself my misery that He may move thee to compassion.

'Ah, sweetest Jesus, thou loving pledge of my deliverance, come with me to the judgment court. There let us stand together side by side. Be thou my counsel and my advocate. Declare what [353] thou hast done for me, how well thou hast thought upon me, how lovingly thou hast added to me that I might be sanctified through thee. Thou hast lived for me that I may not perish. Thou hast borne the burden of my sins. Thou hast died for me that I might not die an eternal death. All that thou hadst thou gavest for me, that through the wealth of thy merit I might be made rich.

'Verily in the hour of death judge me on the basis of that innocence, of that purity which came to me through thee when thou didst make atonement for my sins with shine own self, judged and condemned for my sake, so that I, who am poor and destitute in myself, through thee may be wealthy beyond measure.'


(to accompany p. 253).


Salve cohors virginum


Albens quasi lilium

Amans dei filium.

Herrat devotissima,

Tua fidelissima,

Mater et ancillula,

Cantat tibi cantica.

Te salutat millies

Et exoptat indies,

Ut laeta victoria

Vincas transitoria.

O multorum speculum,

Sperne, sperne seculum,

Virtutes accumula,

Veri sponsi turmula.

Insistas luctamine,

Diros hostes sternere,

Te rex regum adjuvat,

Quia te desiderat.

Ipse tuum animum

Firmat contra Zabulum.

Ipse post victoriam

Dabit regni gloriam.

[486] Te decent deliciae,

Debentur divitiae,

Tibi coeli curia,

Servat bona plurima.

Christus parat nuptias

Miras per delicias,

Hunc expectes principem

Te servando virginem.

Interim monilia

Circum des nobilia,

Et exornes faciem

Mentis purgans aciem.

Christus odit maculas,

Rugas spernit vetulas,

Pulchras vult virgunculas,

Turpes pellit feminas.

Fide cum turturea

Sponsum istum reclama,

Ut tua formositas

Fiat perpes claritas.

Vivens sine fraudibus

Es monenda laudibus,

Ut consummes optima

Tua gradus opera.

Ne vacilles dubia

Inter mundi flumina,

Verax deus praemia

Spondet post pericula

Patere nunc aspera

Mundi spernens prospera.

Nunc sis crucis socia,

Regni consors postea

Per hoc mare naviga,

Sanctitate gravida,

Dum de navi exeas

Sion sanctam teneas.

Sion turris coelica

Bella tenens atria,

Tibi fiat statio,

Acto vitae spatio.

[487] Ibi rex virgineus

Et Mariae filius

Amplectens te reclamet

A moerore relevet.

Parvi pendens omnia

Tentatoris jocula,

Tunc gaudebis pleniter

Jubilando suaviter.

Stella maris fulgida,

Virgo mater unica,

Te conjugat filio

Foedere perpetuo.

Et me tecum trahere

Non cesses praecamine,

Ad sponsum dulcissimum

Virginalem filium.

Ut tuae victoriae,

Tuae magnae gloriae,

Particeps inveniat

De terrenis eruat.

Vale casta concio,

Mea jubilatio,

Vivas sine crimine,

Christum semper dilige.

Sit hic liber utilis,

Tibi delectabilis

Et non cesses volvere

Hunc in tuo pectore

Ne more struthineo

Surrepat oblivio,

Et ne viam deseras

Antequam provenias.

Amen Amen Amen

Amen Amen Amen

Amen Amen Amen

Amen Amen Amen.