Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

In the open

The other drawing in the MS. is a figure of St. Luke seated on a throne, within an elaborately ornamented architectural design, consisting of marble columns supporting a semicircular arch, with a bull in the tympanum. The evangelist is habited in a white tunic and buff-coloured pallium, and holds an open book of his Gospel on his knees. space between the double columns which support the arch are introduced a series of miniatures, smaller than the others, of the following subjects : on one side—(1) The annunciation to Zacharias; (2) The finding in the temple; (3) Christ teaching from the boat; (4) Peter worshipping Christ; (5) The resurrection of the widow's son; (6) The call of Matthew. On the other side—(1) Christ answering the doctors in the temple; (2) The healing of the woman who touched the hem of His garment; (3) Christ cursing the barren fig-tree; (4) Christ healing the dropsy; (5) Zaccheus in the tree.

The Bodleian volume is 10 inches by 77, written in double columns, with twenty-nine lines in a page ; the vellum thin and polished; the ink faded and brown; there are no miniatures.

Thomas of Elmham adds: “We have also the Bible of St. Gregory and his Book of the Gospels, and some ancient codices, all which Gregory sent to Augustine."

Leland saw and describes these Gospels as written in majuscule Roman letters, after the manner of the ancients, carrying in their venerable appearance an incredible majesty of antiquity.

Wanley contended that this large Gregorian Bible was alluded to as still existing, in a petition addressed, in 1604, to James I.; and, in the judgment of Pro

fessor Westwood, part of this great Bible exists in the British Museum : Royal MS. 1, E. vi.l

Mr. Stevenson has, on the contrary, declared that, “with respect to the claims of particular volumes to form part of this donation, the external evidence is dubious, and the internal evidence condemnatory”; while Mr. Hardwick, the editor of Elmham in the Rolls Series, says: “With regard to the Corpus MS., enough, I think, might be advanced to make it probable that we have here at least one veritable relic of St. Gregory's benefaction.”

Archæological Journal, xl. 292.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XVI

THE OLD TEMPLES AND CHURCHES

ANOTHER letter from Gregory to Abbot Mellitus comes in here in chronological order; it is dated June 17, 601; but the internal evidence seems to prove that it was sent at least some months after the departure of Laurence, Mellitus, and the company of monks whom they conducted, for it begins by saying: “We have been much concerned since the departure of our congregation which is with you, because we have received no account of the success of your journey." The batch of letters sent by Mellitus, for instance that to Augustine granting the pall, and that to Ethelbert, are dated the 22nd of June 601. The journey of the party to England would occupy some months, and that of a messenger back with tidings of their safe arrival not much less time, and it might be expected that there would be some interval before the messenger was sent off, and another interval before Gregory would begin to be anxious at not receiving news; so that it might well be a twelvemonth before the letter would be sent to Mellitus. It is certainly the latest extant letter of Gregory on the subject of the English mission, and its date might very likely be June 602.

The interest of the letter consists in the directions which it contains to Augustine on the details of his

[ocr errors]

mission work. It proceeds: “When, therefore, Almighty God shall bring you to our brother, the Most Reverend Bishop Augustine, tell him what I have, on mature deliberation on the affair of the English, determined upon, viz. that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed in the letter to Ethelbert he had said, “Suppress the worship of idols, , overthrow the temples," so that this order is an afterthought, after “mature deliberation "], but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nations seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and, knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed. And because they have been accustomed to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be exchanged for them on this account, so that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer beasts to the devil, but kill cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their sustenance; to the end that, while some gratifications are permitted to them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds; because he who endeavours to ascend to a very high place, rises by degrees or steps, and not by bounds. . . . This it behoves your Affection to communicate to our aforesaid brother, that he, being there present, may consider how he is to order all things."

We need not discuss the policy of utilising the religious sentiment and habits of the converted peoples by elevating and Christianising them ; this had always been the policy of the Church. What we have to remark is that the letter contains probably another instance of Gregory's ignorance of the actual condition of the English people; the temples to which he alludes are clearly those in which he supposes that the English people worshipped before their conversion to Christianity.

But it is very doubtful whether they had any "wellbuilt" temples such as Gregory supposed, suitable for conversion into churches. The probability is that the worship of the Teutonic Barbarians was an open-air worship; not a daily or weekly worship like that which our religious customs suggest to us, but an occasional meeting of a tribe or of the inhabitants of a wide district, three or four times a year, at some sacred central place of meeting.

We are told, indeed, that Ethelbert, before his conversion, had been accustomed to worship in a building situated outside the city, between the old Church of St. Martin and the city wall, which Augustine afterwards consecrated as a church, and dedicated to St. Pancratius; but this occurs in a late and doubtful legend.

« ForrigeFortsett »