Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

tleventh century, a more honorable mode of satisfaction the merit of military service against the Saracens of Africa and Spain had been allowed. by the predecessors of Urban the Second. In the council of Clermont, that pope proclaimed B plenary indulgence to those who should enlist under the tanner of the cross; the absolution of all their sins, and a full receipt for all that might be due of canonical penance/" The cold philosophy of modern times is incapable of feeling the impression that was made on a sinful and fanatic wcrld. At the voice of their pastor, the robber, the incendiary, the homicide, arose by thousands to redeem their souls, by repeating on the infidels the same deeds which they had exercised against their Christian brethren; and the terms of atonement were eagerly embraced by offenders of every rank and denomination. None were pure; none were exempt from the guilt and penalty of sin; and those who were the least amenable to the justice of God and the church were the best entitled to the temporal and eternal recompense of their pious courage. If they fell, the spirit of the Latin clergy did not hesitate to adorn their tomb with the crown of martyrdom;" and should they survive, they could expect without impatience the delay and increase of their heavenly reward. They offered their blood to the Son of God, who had laid down his life for their salvation : they took up the cross, and entered with confidence into the way of the Lord. His providence would watch over their safety; perhaps his visible and mirac ulous power would smooth the difficulties of their holy enterprise. The cloud and pillar of Jehovah had marched before the Israelites into the promised land. Might not the Christians more reasonably hope that the rivers would open for their passage; that the walls of their strongest cities would

M Quicunque pro sola devotione, non pro honoris vel pecuniae adoptione, ad liberandam ecclesiam Dei Jerusalem profectus fuerit, iter illud pro oinni pcenitentia reputetur. Canon. Concil. Claroraont. ii. p. 829. G-uibert styles it novum salutis genus, (p. 471,) and is almost philosophical on the subject.*

89 Such at least was the belief of the crusaders, and such is the uniform style of the historians, (Esprit des Croisades, torn. iii. p. 477 ;] wit the prayer for the repose of their souls i9 inconsistent in orthodoi W.iaology with the merits of martyrdom.

[ocr errors]

fall at the sound of their trumpets; and that the sun would txj arrested in his mid career, to allow them time for the destruction of the infidels?

Of the chiefs and soldiers who marched to the holy sepulchre, I will dare to affirm, that all were prompted by the spirit if enthusiasm; the belief of merit, the hope of reward, and (lie assurance of divine aid. But I am equally persuaded, that in many it was not the sole, that in so?ne it was not the leading, principle of action. The use and abuse of religion are feeble to stem, they are strong and irresistible to impel, the stream of national manners. Against the private wars of the Barbarians, their bloody tournaments, licentious love, and judicial duels, the popes and synods might ineffectually thunder. It is a more easy task to provoke the metaphysical disputes of the Greeks, to drive into the cloister the victims of anarchy or despotism, to sanctify the patience of slaves and cowards, or to assume the merit of the humanity and benevolence of modern Christians. War and exercise were the reigning passions of the Franks or Latins; they were enjoined, as a penance, to gratify those passions, to visit distant lands, and to draw their swords against the nations of the East Their victory, or even their attempt, would immortalize the names of the intrepid heroes of the cross; and the purest piety could not be insensible to the most splendid prospect of military glory. In the petty quarrels of Europe, they shed the blood of their friends and countrymen, for the acquisition perhaps of a castle or a village. They could march with alacrity against the distant and hostile nations who were devoted to their arms; their fancy already grasped the golden 3ceptres of Asia; and the. conquest of Apulia and Sicily bj the Normans might exalt to royalty the hopes of the most private adventurer. Christendom, in her rudest state, must have yielded to the climate and cultiyation of the Mahometan countries; and their natural and artificial wealth had been magnified by the tales of pilgrims, and the gifts of an imper feet commerce. The vulgar, both the great and small, were taught to believe every wonder, of lands flowing with milk and honey, of mines and treasures, of gold and diamonds, of palaces of marble and jasper, and of odoriferous groves of cinnamon and frankincense. In this earthly paradise, each warrior depended on his sword to carve a plenteous and hon onihle establishment, which he measured only by the exteoj of his wishes.80 Their vassals and soldiers trusted their fortunes to God and their master: the spoils of a Turkish emir might enrich the meanest follower of the camp; and the flavor of the wiues, the beauty of the Grecian women,11 were temptations more adapted to the nature, than to the profession, of the champions of the cross. The love of freedom was a powerful incitement to the multitudes who were oppressed by feudal or ecclesiastical tyranny. Under this holy sign, the peasants and burghers, who were attached to the servitude of the glebe, might escape from a haughty lord, and transplant themselves and their families to a land of liberty. The monk might release himself from the discipline of his convent: the debtor might suspend the accumulation of usury, and the pursuit of his creditors; and outlaws and malefactors of ever) cast might continue to brave the laws and elude the punishment of their crimes.8*

These motives were potent and numerous: when we have singly computed their weight on the mind of each individual, we must add the infinite series, the multiplying powers, of example and fashion. The first proselytes became the wannest and most effectual missionaries of the cross: among their friends and countrymen they preached the duty, the merit, and the recompense, of their holy vow; and the most reluctant hearers were insensibly drawn within the whirlpool of persuasion and authority. The martial youths were fired by the reproach or suspicion of cowardice; the opportunity of visiting with an army the sepulchre of Christ was embraced by the old and infirm, by women and children, who consulted rather their zeal than their strength; and those who in the evening had derided the folly of their companions, were the most eager, the ensuing day, to tread in their footsteps. The

30 The same hopes were displayed in the letters of the adventurers nd animandos qui in Francia residerant. Hugh de Reiteste could boast, that his share amounted to one abbey and ten castles, of the vearly value of 1500 marks, and that he should acquire a her dred castles by the conquest of Aleppo, (Guibert, p. 554, 555.)

11 In his genuine or fictitious letter to the count of Flanders, Alexins mingles with the danger of the church, and the relics of saints, the auri et argenti amor, and pulcherrimarum foeminarum voluptas, p. 476 ;) as if, says the indignant Guibert, the Greek women were handsomer than those of France.

** See the privileges of the Crucesignati, freedom from debt, usury injury, secular justice, &c. The pope was their perpetual guardian (Lmcange, torn. ii. p. 651, 652.)

ignorance, which magnified the hopes, diminished the perils^ of the enterprise. Since the Turkish conquest, the paths of pilgrimage were obliterated; tae chiefs themselves had an imperfect notion of the length of the way and the state of their enemies; and such was the stupidity of the people, that, at the sight of the first city or castle beyond the limits of their knowledge, they were ready to ask whether that was not the Jerusalem, the term and object of their labors. Yet the more prudent of the crusaders, who were not sure that they should be fed from heaven with a shower of quails or manna, provided themselves with those precious metals, which, in every country, are the representatives of every commodity. To defray, according to their rank, the expenses of the road, princes alienated their provinces, nobles their lands and castles, peasants their cattle and the instruments of husbandry. The value of property was depreciated by the eager competition of multitudes; while the price of arms and horses was raised to an exorbitant height by the wants and impatience of the buyers.33 Those who remained at home, with sense and money, were enriched by the epidemical disease: the sovereigns acquired at a cheap rate the domains of their vassals; and the ecclesiastical purchasers completed the payment by the assurance of their prayers. The cross, which was commonly sewed on the garment, in cloth or silk, was inscribed by some zealots on their skin: a hot iron, or indelibh liquor, was applied to perpetuate the mark; and a craft) monk, who showed the miraculous impression on his breast was repaid with the popular veneration and the richest bene fices of Palestine.34

The fifteenth of August had been fixed in the council ol Clermont for the departure of the pilgrims; but the day wa anticipated by the thoughtless and needy crowd of plebeians. and I shall briefly despatch the calamities which they inflicted and suffered, before I enter on the more serious and successful enterprise of the chiefs. Early in the spring, from the confines of France and Lorraine, above sixty thousand of the

"Guibert (p. 481) paints in lively colors this general emotion. He •res one of the few contemporaries who had genius enough to feel the astonishing scenes that were passing before their eyes. Erat iti-que ridere miraculum, caro omnes emere, atque vili vendere, <tc.

14 Some instances of these stigmata are given in the Esprit it* ./rwades, (torn. iii. p. 169 <fec ,) from authors whcm I have not seen populace of both sexes flocked round the first missionary of the crusade, and pressed him with clamorous importunity to lead them to the holy sepulchre. The hermit, assuming the character, without the talents or authority, of a general, impelled or obeyed the forward impulse of his votaries along the bank* of the Rhine and Danube. Their wants and numbers soon compelled them to separate, and his lieutenant, Walter the Penniless, a valiant though needy soldier, conducted a van guard of pilgrims, whose condition may be determined from the proportion of eight horsemen to fifteen thousand foot. The example and footsteps of Peter were closely pursued by another fanatic, the monk Godescal, whose sermons had swept away fifteen or twenty thousand peasants from the villages of Germany. Their rear was again pressed by a herd of two hundred thousand, the most stupid and savage refuse of the people, who mingled with their devotion a brutal license of rapine, prostitution, and drunkenness. Some counts and gentlemen, at the head of three thousand horse, attended the motions of the multitude to partake in the spoil; but their genuine leaders (may we credit such folly ?) were a goose and a goat, who were carried in the front, and to whom these worthy Christians ascribed an infusion of the divine spirit."

** Fuit et aliud scelus detestabile in hac congregatione pedestm wpuli stulti et vesanae levitatis, matron quendam divino spiritu asserebant afflatum, et capellam non minus eodem repletam, et has sibi duces secundsa viae fecerant, &c, (Albert. Aquensis, 1. i. c. 31, p. 196.) Had these peasants founded an empire, they might have introduced, as in Egypt, the worship of animals, which their philosophic descend ants would have glossed over with some specious and subtile allegory *

* A singular " allegoric" explanation of this strange fact lias recently been broached: it is conuected with the charge of idolatry and Eastern heretical opinions subsequently made against the Templars. '• We have no doubt lhat they were Manichee or Gnostic standards.'' [The author says the animals themselves were carried before the army.—M.] "The goose, in Egyptian symbols, as every Egyptian scholar knows, meant 'divine Son,' or'Son of God.' The goat meant Typhon. or Devil. Thus we have the Manichee opposing principles of good and evil, as standards, at the head of the ignorant mob of crusading invaders. Can any one doubt that a large portioc of this host must have been infected with the Manichee or Gnosti Ministry'!" Account of the Temple Church by R. W. Billings, p. 5 Lc ndon. 18:38. This is, at all events, a curious coincidence, especially considered in connection with the extensive dissemination of the Pauliclan opinions among the common people of Europe. At any rate, in so inexplicable a matter, we are inclined to catch at any explanation, however wild rt mbtile.—M.

« ForrigeFortsett »