Vol. 5, Chapter VIII (Cont’d) – St. Bernard of Clairvaux


Virtus in pace acquiritur, in pressura probatur, approbatur in victoria, St. Bernard.

Literature. — The Works of St. Bernard, ed. by Mabillon, 2 vols. Paris, 1667, reprinted with additions in Migne, 182-185, Engl. trans. by Saml. J. Eales, London, 1889, 2 vols. — Xenia Bernardina, a Memorial ed. by Cistercian convents of Austro-Hungary, 6 vols. Vienna, 1891. Leop. Janauschek: Bibliographia Bernardina, Vienna, 1891. The tract De consideratione, trans. by Bp. J. H. Reinkens, Münster, 1870.

Biographies. — Contemporary, in Migne, vol. 185: I. the so-called Vita prima, in six parts, by William of Thierry (while Bernard was still living), Gaufrid of Clairvaux, and Ernald, abbot of Bona Vallis; II. the Vita secunda, by Alanus of AuxerrVe; III. Fragments collected by Gaufrid; IV. — a Life, by John The Hermit, full of legendary materials. — Modern, by Neander, Berlin, 1813, 1848, 1868, new ed. with Introd. and Notes, by * S. M. Deutsch, 2 vols. Gotha, 1889. Engl. trans. London, 1843. — Ellendorf, Essen, 1837. — Abbé T. Ratisbonne, 2 vols. Paris, 1841, etc. Full of enthusiasm for Bernard as a saint. — * J. C. Morison, London, 1863; rev. ed. 1868, 1884. Cool and impartial. — Capefigue, Paris, 1866. — Chevallier, 2 vols. Lille, 1888. — Hofmeister, Berlin, 1891. — Eales (Rom. Cath.), London, 1891. — *Richard S. Storrs, 1892, stimulating and eloquent. — *L’Abbé E. Vacandard, 2 vols. Paris, 1895, 2d ed. 1897. A thorough study following a number of previous presentations in magazines and brochures. — J. Lagardère, Besançon, 1900. — Deutsch, art. Bernhard, in Herzog, II. 623-639. Also H. Kutter: Wilhelm von St. Thierry, ein Representant der mittelalterlichen Frömmigkeit, Giessen, 1898. For other literature see chapters, Mystical Theology and Hymns.

St. Bernard, 1090-1153, founder and abbot of the convent of Clairvaux, was the model monk of the Middle Ages, the most imposing figure of his time, and one of the best men of all the Christian centuries. He possessed a magnetic personality, a lively imagination, a rich culture, and a heart glowing with love for God and man. Although not free from what might now be called ecclesiastical rigor, he was not equalled by any of his contemporaries in services for the Church and man. “In his countenance,” according to the contemporary biographer who knew him well, “there shone forth a pureness not of earth but of heaven, and his eyes had the clearness of an angel’s and the mildness of a dove’s eyes.” There is no spotless saint in this world, and Bernard was furthest from claiming perfection, but he came as near the medieval ideal of ascetic holiness as any man of his century.

In the twelfth century there were at least two other ecclesiastics of the first order of genius, Anselm and Innocent III. The former passed away a few years after the century opened. Innocent began his papal reign two years before it went out. Anselm has pre-eminence as a profound theological thinker and dialectician. Innocent ruled the world, as pope never ruled it before or since. Between the two fall the intellectual genius and activity of Bernard, combining some of the qualities of Anselm and Innocent. As a mystical theologian he is allied to Anselm, whose Meditations give him a high place in the annals of devotional literature. And Bernard was also a statesman, although he did not attain the eminence of Innocent and shrank from participation in public affairs which were so much to the taste of the great pope. Contemporary with himself was Peter Abaelard, whose brilliant mind won for him enviable fame as a teacher and thinker. But Abaelard never won the confidence of his own age, and is not to be compared with Bernard in moral dignity.

By preference a monk, Bernard figured, with almost equal prominence, in the history of the papacy, the Crusades, mysticism, monasticism, and hymnology. In the annals of monasticism, the pulpit, and devotional literature he easily occupies a place in the front rank. He was called the “honey-flowing doctor,” doctor mellifluus. Twenty years after his death he was canonized by Alexander III. as “shining preeminently in his own person by virtue of sanctity and religion, and in the whole Church by the light of his doctrine and faith.” Pius VIII., in 1830, admitted him to the select company of the doctors of the Church. Both Calvin and Luther, who ridiculed the Schoolmen as a body, held him in high regard.

Bernard was descended from a noble family of Burgundy, and was born at Fontaines near Dijon. He was one of seven children, six of whom were sons. His mother, Aletha, like Nonna and Monica, was a deeply pious woman and planted in the son the seeds of religious faith. Carried away for a time with enthusiasm for scholastic learning, the son was overwhelmed, while on a lonely journey, with religious impressions, and, entering a chapel, resolved to dedicate himself wholly to God. He entered the convent of Citeaux, two of his brothers following him at once, and the rest later into the monastic life.

This was in 1113 that Bernard cast in his lot with the Cistercians, and the event proved to be an epoch in the history of that new community. His diet was bread and milk or a decoction of herbs. He devoted himself to the severest asceticism till he was reduced almost to a shadow, and his feet became so swollen from standing at devotions as almost to refuse to sustain his body. In after years, Bernard reproached himself for this intemperate self-mortification which unfitted his body for the proper service of the Lord. But his spirit triumphed over his physical infirmities. While he was engaged in work in the fields, it soared aloft to heavenly things. He studied the Scriptures and the Fathers. His writings betray acquaintance with the classics and he quotes Seneca, Ovid, Horace, and other classical writers. The works of nature also furnished him with lessons, and he seems to have approached the modern estimate of nature as an aid to spiritual attainment. “Thou wilt find,” he wrote, “something greater in the woods than in books. The trees and rocks will teach thee what thou canst not hear from human teachers. And dost thou not think thou canst suck honey from the rocks and oil from the hardest stones!” This seems to lose its weight in view of what one of Bernard’s biographers relates. Bernard travelled the whole day alongside the Lake of Geneva, and was so oblivious to the scenery that in the evening, at Lausanne, he was obliged to inquire what they had seen on the journey. We are probably justified in this case in ascribing an ascetic purpose to the monkish writer.

In 1115, in company with twelve companions, Bernard founded Clairvaux — Claravallis, Clear Valley — in a locality which before had been called Wormwood, and been the seat of robbers. William of St. Thierry, Bernard’s close friend and biographer, is in doubt whether the name vallis absinthialis came from the amount of wormwood which grew there or from the bitter sufferings sustained by the victims of the robbers. But he does not fail to draw the contrast between the acts of violence for which the place was once notorious, and the peace which reigned in it after Bernard and his companions set up their simple house. Then he says, “the hills began to distil sweetness, and fields, before sterile, blossomed and became fat under the divine benediction.”

In this new cloistral retreat Bernard preached, wrought miracles, wrote innumerable letters, received princes and high ecclesiastics. From there he went forth on errands of high import to his age. The convent soon had wide fame, and sent off many shoots.

William of St. Thierry draws an attractive picture of Clairvaux, which at this long distance compels a feeling of rest. William says: — 

I tarried with him a few days, unworthy though I was, and whichever way I turned my eyes, I marvelled and thought I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and also the old pathways of the Egyptian monks, our fathers, marked with the recent footsteps of the men of our time left in them. The golden ages seemed to have returned and revisited the world there at Clairvaux…. At the first glance, as you entered, after descending the hill, you could feel that God was in the place; and the silent valley bespoke, in the simplicity of its buildings, the genuine humility of the poor of Christ dwelling there. The silence of the noon was as the silence of the midnight, broken only by the chants of the choral service, and the sound of garden and field implements. No one was idle. In the hours not devoted to sleep or prayer, the brethren kept busy with hoe, scythe, and axe, taming the wild land and clearing the forest. And although there was such a number in the valley, yet each seemed to be a solitary.

Here is another description by the novice, Peter de Roya, writing from Clairvaux: — 

“Its monks have found a Jacob’s ladder with angels upon it, descending to provide help to the bodies of the monks that they fail not in the way, and also ascending, and so controlling the monks’ minds that their bodies may be glorified. Their song seems to be little less than angelic, but much more than human…. It seems to me I am hardly looking upon men when I see them in the gardens with hoe, in the fields with forks and rakes and sickles, in the woods with axe, clad in disordered garments — but that I am looking on a race of fools without speech and sense, the reproach of mankind. However, my reason assures me that their life is with Christ in the heavens.”

Bernard, to whom monastic seclusion was the highest ideal of the Christian life, bent his energies to induce his friends to take the vow. Its vigils and mortifications were the best means for developing the two cardinal virtues of love and humility. His persistent effort to persuade his sister Humblina shocks our sense of what is due to the sacred ties of nature, but was fully justified by the examples of St. Anthony and Benedict of Nursia. Humblina was married to a husband of rank and had a family. When she appeared one day at Clairvaux, Bernard refused to go down to see her, for he had insisted before on her taking the veil and she had declined. Now she finally communicated to him the bitter cry, “If my brother despises my body, let not the servant of God despise my soul.” Bernard then heeded and again called upon her to renounce the vanities of the world and lay aside the luxuries of dress and ornaments. Returning to her household, Humblina, after two years, and with her husband’s consent, retired to the convent of Juilly, where she spent the remainder of her days.

Bernard’s attack upon the conventual establishment of Cluny was born of mistaken zeal. If of the two men Peter the Venerable appears to much better advantage in that controversy, it was different when it came to the treatment of the Jews. Here Peter seems to have completely laid aside his mild spirit, while Bernard displays a spirit of humaneness and Christian charity far beyond his age. In the controversy with Abaelard, a subject which belongs to another chapter, the abbot of Clairvaux stands forth as the churchman who saw only evil in views which did not conform strictly to the doctrinal system of the Church.

Bernard was a man of his age as well as a monastic. He fully shared the feelings of his time about the Crusades. In 1128, at the Synod of Troyes, his voice secured recognition for the Knight Templars, “the new soldiery.” The ignoble failure of the Second Crusade, which he had preached with such warmth, 1146, called forth from him a passionate lament over the sins of the Crusaders, and he has given us a glimpse into the keen pangs he felt over the detractions that undertaking called forth. The ill issue was not his fault. He himself was like Moses, who led the people towards the Holy Land and not into it. The Hebrews were stiff-necked. Were not the Crusaders stiff-necked also and unbelieving, who in their hearts looked back and hankered after Europe? Is it any wonder that those who were equally guilty should suffer a like punishment with the Israelites? To the taunt that he had falsely represented himself as having delivered a message from God in preaching the Crusade, he declared the testimony of his conscience was his best reply. Eugenius, too, could answer that taunt by what he had seen and heard. But, after all was said, it was a great honor to have the same lot with Christ and suffer being unjustly condemned (Psa_69:9).

When, at a later time, Bernard was chosen at Chartres to lead another Crusade, the choice was confirmed by the pope, but the Cistercians refused to give their consent.

In the reigns of Innocent II. and Eugenius III. Bernard stood very near the papacy. He did more than any other single individual to secure the general recognition of Innocent II. as the rightful pope over his rival, Anacletus II. He induced the king of France to pronounce in favor of Innocent. Bent on the same mission, he had interviews with Henry I. of England at Chartres, and the German emperor at Liége. He entertained Innocent at Clairvaux, and accompanied him to Italy. It was on this journey that so profound were the impressions of Bernard’s personality and miracles that the people of Milan fell at his feet and would fain have compelled him to ascend the chair of St. Ambrose. On his third journey to Rome, in 1138, Bernard witnessed the termination of the papal schism. In a famous debate with Peter of Pisa, the representative of Anacletus, he used with skill the figure of the ark for the Church, in which Innocent, all the religious orders, and all Europe were found except Anacletus and his two supporters, Roger of Sicily and Peter of Pisa. But an attempt, he said, was being made to build another ark by Peter of Pisa. If the ark of Innocent was not the true ark, it would be lost and all in it. Then would the Church of the East and the Church of the West perish. France and Germany would perish, the Spaniards and the English would perish, for they were with Innocent. Then Roger, alone of all the princes of the earth, would be saved and no other.

Eugenius III. had been an inmate of Clairvaux and one of Bernard’s special wards. The tract de consideratione which, at this pope’s request, Bernard prepared on the papal office and functions is unique in literature, and, upon the whole, one of the most interesting treatises of the Middle Ages. Vacandard calls it “an examination, as it were, of the pope’s conscience.” Here Bernard exhorts his spiritual son, whom he must address as “most holy father,” and whom he loves so warmly, that he would follow him into the heavens or to the depths, whom he received in poverty and now beholds surrounded with pomp and riches. Here he pours out his concern for the welfare of Eugenius’s soul and the welfare of the Church under his administration. He adduces the distractions of the papal court, its endless din of business and legal arbitrament, and calls upon Eugenius to remember that prayer, meditation, and the edification of the Church are the important matters for him to devote himself to. Was not Gregory piously writing upon Ezekiel while Rome was exposed to siege from the barbarians! Teacher never had opportunity to impress lessons upon a scholar more elevated in dignity, and Bernard approached it with a high sense of his responsibility.

As a preacher, Bernard excels in the glow of his imagination and the fervor of his passion. Luther said, “Bernard is superior to all the doctors in his sermons, even to Augustine himself, because he preaches Christ most excellently.” In common with his other writings, his sermons abound in quotations from the Scriptures. They are not pieces of careful logical statement nor are they keen analyses of the states of conscience, but appeals to the highest impulses of the religious nature. His discourse on the death of his brother Gerard is a model of tender treatment as his address before Konrad was of impassioned fervor. The sermons on the Canticles preached within convent walls abound in tropical allegory, but also in burning love to the Saviour. One of the most brilliant of modern pulpit orators has said, “the constant shadow of things eternal is over all Bernard’s sermons.” His discourses, so speaks his biographer Gaufrid, were congruous to the conditions of his hearers. To rustic people he preached as though he had always been living in the country and to all other classes as though he were most carefully studying their occupations. To the erudite he was scholarly; to the uneducated, simple. To the spiritually minded he was rich in wise counsels. He adapted himself to all, desiring to bring to all the light of Christ.

The miraculous power of Bernard is so well attested by contemporary accounts that it is not easy to deny it except on the assumption that all the miraculous of the Middle Ages is to be ascribed to medieval credulity. Miracles meet us in almost every religious biographer of the Middle Ages. The biographer of Boniface, the apostle of Germany, found it necessary to apologize for not having miracles to relate of him. But the miracles of Bernard seem to be vouched for as are no other medieval works of power. The cases given are very numerous. They occurred on Bernard’s journeys in Toulouse and Italy, nearer home in France, and along the Rhine from Basel northward. William of St. Thierry, Gaufrid, and other contemporaries relate them in detail. His brothers, the monks Gerard and Guido, agree that he had more than human power. Walter Map, the Englishman who flourished in the latter years of Bernard’s life and later, speaks in the same breath of Bernard’s miracles and his eloquence. But what, to say the least, is equally important, Bernard himself makes reference to them and marvelled at his power. Miracles, he said, had been wrought of old by saintly men and also by deceivers, but he was conscious neither of saintliness nor of fraud. He is reported as recognizing his power, but as being reluctant to speak of it. In a letter to the Toulousans, after his visit in their city, he reminded them that the truth had been made manifest in their midst through him, not only in speech but in power. And appealing to the signs which had accompanied his preaching the Second Crusade, he speaks of his religious shrinking which forbade his describing them.

These miracles were performed at different periods of Bernard’s life and, as has been said, in different localities. The bishop of Langres, a near relative, says that the first miracle he saw Bernard perform was upon a boy with an ulcer on his foot. In answer to the boy’s appeal, Bernard made the sign of the cross and the child was healed. A mother met him carrying her child which had a withered hand and crooked arm. The useless members were restored and the child embraced its mother before the bystanders. A boy in Charletre, ten years old, unable to move his head and carried on a pillow, was healed and shown to Bernard four years afterwards.

Sometimes Bernard placed his hand upon the patient, sometimes made the sign of the cross, sometimes offered prayer, sometimes used the consecrated wafer or holy water. In Milan many persons possessed with evil spirits were healed. As for the miracles performed on his tour along the Rhine from Constance and Basel to Cologne, when he was engaged in preaching the Second Crusade, Hermann, bishop of Constance, with nine others kept a record of them, declaring the very stones would cry out if they were not recorded. After a sermon at Basel, says Gaufrid, a woman, who was mute, approached Bernard and after he had uttered a prayer, she spoke. A lame man walked and a blind man received his sight. Thirty men, moved by the sight of Bernard’s healing power, accompanied him back from Germany to France to take the monastic vow.

Abaelard and his pupil, Berengar, were exceptions to their age in expressing doubts about the genuineness of contemporary miracles, but they do not charge Bernard by name with being self-deceived or deceiving others. Morison, a writer of little enthusiasm, no credulity, and a large amount of cool, critical common sense, says that Bernard’s “miracles are neither to be accepted with credulity nor denied with fury.” Neander recognized the superior excellence of the testimony, refused to pronounce a sentence denying their genuineness, and seeks to explain them by the conditions of the age and the imposing personality of Bernard as in the case of those possessed with evil spirits. A presumption against the miracles of Bernard, which can hardly be put aside, is the commonness of miracles in the medieval convent and in the lives of eminent men like Norbert, not to speak of the miracles wrought at shrines, as at the shrine of Thomas à Becket and by contact with relics. On the other hand, there are few mortal men whom miracles would so befit as Bernard.

Bernard’s activity was marked, all through, by a practical consideration for the needs of life, and his writings are full of useful suggestions adapted to help and ameliorate human conditions. He was a student by preference, but there were men in his day of more scholastic attainments than he. And yet in the department of speculative and controversial theology his writings also have their value. In his work on the Freedom of the Will he advocated the position that the power to do good was lost by sin, and prevenient grace is required to incline the will to holiness. In his controversy with Abaelard he developed his views on the Trinity and the atonement. In some of his positions he was out of accord with the theology and practice of the Roman Communion. He denied the immaculate conception of Mary and accepted foot washing as one of the sacraments. In his views on baptism he was as liberal as the most liberal of his age in declaring that baptism was not indispensable to salvation when the opportunity is not afforded.

Severe at times as Bernard, the Churchman, from the standpoint of this tolerant age seems to be, the testimonies to his exalted moral eminence are too weighty to be set aside. Bernard’s own writings give the final and abundant proof of his ethical quality. It shines through his works on personal religion, all those treatises and sermons which give him a place in the front rank of the mystics of all ages.

William of St. Thierry, himself no mean theological writer, felt that in visiting Bernard’s cell he had been “at the very altar of God.” Joachim of Flore praised him in enthusiastic language and evidently regarded him as the model monk. The impression upon Hildegard, the prophetess of the Rhine, was the same. In his Memoir of St. Malachy, Bernard, as has been said, put “an image of his own beautiful and ardent soul.” No one but a deeply religious character could have written such a life. Malachy, the Irish archbishop, visited Clairvaux twice and on the second visit he remained to die, 1148. Bernard wrote: — 

“Though he came from the West, he was truly the dayspring on high to us. With psalms and hymns and spiritual songs we followed our friend on his heavenward journey. He was taken by angels out of our hands. Truly he fell asleep. All eyes were fixed upon him, yet none could say when the spirit took its flight. When he was dead, we thought him to be alive; while yet alive, we thought him to be dead. The same brightness and serenity were ever visible. Sorrow was changed into joy, faith had triumphed. He has entered into the joy of the Lord, and who am I to make lamentation over him? We pray, O Lord, that he who was our guest may be our leader, that we may reign with Thee and him for evermore. Amen.”

Bernard’s sense of personal unworthiness was a controlling element in his religious experience. In this regard he forms a striking contrast to the self-confidence and swagger of Abaelard. He relied with childlike trust upon the divine grace. In one of his very last letters he begged his friend the abbot of Bonneval to be solicitous in prayer to the Saviour of sinners in his behalf. His last days were not without sorrow. His trusted secretary was found to have betrayed his confidence, and used his seal for his own purposes. William of St. Thierry and other friends had been passing away. Bernard’s last journey was to Metz to compose a dispute between bishop Stephen and the duke of Lorraine. Deutsch, perhaps the chief living authority on Bernard, says: “Religious warmth, Genialität, is the chief thing in his character and among his gifts.” Harnack pays this tribute to him, that “he was the religious genius of the twelfth century, the leader of his age in religion.” “Bernard,” said Luther, — and he was not easily deceived by monkish pretension, — “Bernard loved Jesus as much as any one can.” Ray Palmer has imparted to his version of Bernard’s hymn its original religious fervor,

“Jesus, Thou Joy of loving hearts,

Thou Fount of life, Thou Light of men,

From the best bliss which earth imparts

We turn unfilled to Thee again.”

The encomium of Bernard’s early biographer Alanus is high praise, but probably no man since the Apostles has deserved it more: “The majesty of his name was surpassed by his lowliness of heart,”

vincebat tamen sublimitatem nominis humilitas cordis.


66. The Augustinians, Carthusians, Carmelites, and Other Orders

Among the greater orders which came into existence before 1200 are the Augustinians, the Premonstrants, the Carthusians, and the Carmelites.

1. The Augustinians were a distinct family from the Benedictines, followed the so-called rule of St. Augustine, and were divided into the canons regular of St. Augustine and the mendicant friars of St. Augustine.

The bodies of canons regular were numerous, but their organization was not compact like that of the stricter monastic orders. They were originally communities of secular clerics, and not conventual associations. They occupied a position between the strict monastic existence and an independent clerical life. Their origin can be assigned to no exact date. As early as the eleventh century a rule, ascribed to St. Augustine, appeared in several forms. It was professed by the clerical groups forming the cathedral chapters, and by bodies of priests associated with other churches of prominence. The various church services, as, for example, the service of song, and the enforced rule of celibacy, encouraged or demanded a plurality of clergymen for a church.

Moved by the strong impulse in the direction of conventual communities, these groups inclined to the communal life and sought some common rule of discipline. For it they looked back to Augustine of Hippo, and took his household as their model. We know that Augustine had living with him a group of clerics. We also know that he commended his sister for associating herself with other women and withdrawing from the world, and gave her some advice. But so far as is known Augustine prescribed no definite code such as Benedict afterwards drew up, either for his own household or for any other community.

About 750 Chrodegang, bishop of Metz, drew up a code for his cathedral chapter, whom he enjoined to live together in common, and here and there in Germany isolated communities of this kind were formed.

In the twelfth century we find many groups of clerics who adopted what began to be known as the rule of St. Augustine. Under Innocent III. organizations were formed by William Langlois of the Paris University, and others under the name canons regular to live distinctly under this code. Innocent IV. and Alexander IV., 1256, definitely recognized the rule.

The Augustinian rule established a community of goods. Even gifts went into the common fund. The clerics ate together and slept in one dormitory. They wore a common dress, and no one on returning his suit to the clothing room retained any peculiar right to it. The papal attempts to unite these groups into a close organization proved to be in vain. In England the Augustinian canons had charge of Carlisle cathedral.

The Augustinian hermits, or Austin friars, as they were called in England, were monastics in the true sense. They arose after the canons regular, adopted the rule of St. Augustine, and were mendicants. In the closing period of the Middle Ages they were addicted to preaching. To this order John of Staupitz and Luther belonged.

The rule of St. Augustine was also adopted with modification by the Premonstrants, the Gilbertines of England, and other orders, and was made the basis by Dominic of his first rule.

2. The Premonstrants adopted the Augustinian rule, were called from their dress White Canons, and grew with great rapidity. They had houses from Livland to Palestine, and from Great Britain to Spain. Their founder, Norbert, born about 1080 in Xantes, on the Lower Rhine, was a great preacher and one of the most influential men of his age. Thrown from his horse during a storm, he determined to devote himself in earnest to religion. He gave up his position in the Cologne Cathedral and entered the Benedictine Convent of Sigeberg. Norbert then travelled about in Germany and France as a preacher of repentance, calling the people together by a sheep’s bell. With others like-minded with himself he settled, 1119, in the woods at Coucy, near Laon, France, giving the spot the name of Praemonstratum, or Prémontré, the designated field, with reference to his having been directed to it by a higher power. The order secured papal sanction 1126, and received, like other orders, special papal privileges. Innocent III. bespoke the special intercession of the Premonstrants as he did that of the Cistercians. The first rule forbade meat and eggs, cheese and milk. As in the case of the Cistercians, their meals were limited to two dishes. At a later date the rule against meat was modified. Lay brethren were introduced and expected to do the work of the kitchen and other manual services. The theological instruction was confined to a few prayers, and the members were not allowed to read books.

Norbert in 1126 was made archbishop of Magdeburg and welcomed the opportunity to introduce the order in Northeastern Germany. He joined Bernard in supporting Innocent II. against the antipope Anacletus II. He died 1134, at Magdeburg, and was canonized in 1582. Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux praised the order and Norbert himself as a man who stood near to God. Miracles were ascribed to him, but Abaelard ridiculed the claim.

The almost incredible number of one thousand houses is claimed for this order in its flourishing period. There was also an order of Premonstrant nuns, which is said to have numbered ten thousand women during Norbert’s lifetime. Their earliest settlement in England was at Newhouse, Lincolnshire, 1143. Norbert and Bruno, the Carthusian, were the only Germans who established monastic orders in this period.

3. More original and strict were the Carthusians, who got their name from the seat of their first convent, Chartreuse, Cartusium, fourteen miles from Grenoble, southeast of Lyons. They were hermits, and practised an asceticism excelling in severity any of the other orders of the time. The founder, St. Bruno, was born in Cologne, and became chancellor of the cathedral of Rheims. Disgusted with the vanities of the world, he retired with some of his pupils to a solitary place, Saisse Fontaine, in the diocese of Langres, which he subsequently exchanged for Chartreuse. The location was a wild spot in the mountains, difficult of access, and for a large part of the year buried in snow. Bruno was called by Urban II. to Rome, and after acting as papal adviser, retired to the Calabrian Mountains and established a house. There he died, 1101. He was canonized 1514. In 1151 the number of Carthusian houses was fourteen, and they gradually increased to one hundred and sixty-eight. The order was formally recognized by Alexander III., 1170.

The first Carthusian statutes were committed to writing by the fifth prior Guigo, d. 1137. The rule now in force was fixed in 1578, and reconfirmed by Innocent XI., 1682. The monks lived in cells around a central church, at first two and two, and then singly. They divided their time between prayer, silence, and work, which originally consisted chiefly in copying books. The services celebrated in common in the church were confined to vespers and matins. The other devotions were performed by each in seclusion. The prayers were made in a whisper so as to avoid interfering with others. They sought to imitate the Thebaid anchorites in rigid self-mortification. Peter the Venerable has left a description of their severe austerities. Their dress was thin and coarse above the dress of all other monks. Meat, fat, and oil were forbidden; wine allowed, but diluted with water. They ate only bean-bread. They flagellated themselves once each day during the fifty days before Easter, and the thirty days before Christmas. When one of their number died, each of the survivors said two psalms, and the whole community met and took two meals together to console one another for the loss. No woman was allowed to cross the threshold. For hygienic purposes, the monks bled themselves five times a year, and were shaved six times a year. They avoided adornment in their churches and church dignities. They borrowed books from Cluny and other convents for the purpose of copying them. The heads of the Carthusian convents are called priors, not abbots. In its earlier history the order received highest praise from Innocent III. and Peter the Venerable, Bernard, and Peter of Celle. Bernard shrank from interrupting their holy quiet by letters, and lauded their devotion to God. So at a later time Petrarch, after a visit to their convent in Paris, penned a panegyric of the order.

In England the Carthusians were not popular. They never had more than eleven houses. The first establishment was founded by Henry II., at Witham, 1180. The famous Charterhouse in London (a corruption of the French Chartreuse), founded in 1371, was turned into a public school, 1611. In Italy the more elaborate houses of the order were the Certosa di San Casciano near Florence, the Certosa at Pisa, and the Certosa Maria degli Angeli in Rome.

In recent times the monks of the Chartreuse became famous for the Chartreuse liqueur which they distilled. In its preparation the young buds of pine trees were used.

4. The Carmelites, or the Order of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Mt. Carmel, had their origin during the Crusades, 1156. The legend carries their origin back to Elijah, whose first disciples were Jonah, Micah, and Obadiah. Obadiah’s wife became the first abbess of the female community. Their history has been marked by much division within the order and bitter controversies with other orders.

Our first trustworthy notice is derived from Phocas, a Greek monk, who visited Mt. Carmel in 1185. Berthold of Calabria, a Crusader, made a vow under the walls of Antioch that in case the Christians were victorious over Zenki, he would devote himself to the monastic life. The prayer was answered, and Berthold with ten companions established himself on Mt. Carmel. The origin of the order became the subject of a violent dispute between the Carmelites and the Jesuits. The Jesuit Papebroch precipitated it in 1668 by declaring that Berthold was the founder. He was answered by the Carmelite Daniel and others who carried the origin back to Elijah. Appeal was made to Innocent XII., who, in 1698, in the bull redemptoris, commanded the two orders to maintain silence till the papal chair should render a decision. This has not yet been done.

The community received its rule about 1208 from Albert, afterwards patriarch of Constantinople. It was confirmed by Honorius III., 1226. Its original sixteen articles gave the usual regulations against eating meat, enjoined daily silence, from vespers to tierce (6 P. M. to 9 A. M.), and provided that the monks live the hermit’s life in cells like the Carthusians. The dress was at first a striped garment, white and black, which was afterwards changed for brown.

With the Christian losses in Palestine, the Carmelites began to migrate westwards. In 1238 they were in Cyprus, and before the middle of the thirteenth century they were settled in far Western Europe. The first English house was at Alnwick, and a general chapter was held at Aylesford, 1246.

From the general of the order, Simon Stock, an Englishman (1245-65), dates the veneration of the scapulary, a jacket which he received from the Virgin Mary. It exempts, so the story runs, those who die with it on, from the fires of purgatory. Mary promised to go down to purgatory every Saturday, and release those who have worn it. The story is included in the Breviary, and was pronounced true and to be believed by all, by Benedict XIV. In 1322 John XXII., in obedience to a vision, issued the famous bull Sabbatina, which promised to all entering the order, deliverance from purgatory by Mary, the first Saturday after their decease.

After the success of the Franciscans and Dominicans, the Carmelites, with the sanction of Innocent IV., adopted the practice of mendicancy, 1245, and the coenobite life was substituted for life in solitary cells. The rules concerning clothing and food were relaxed to meet the climatic conditions of Europe.

A division took place in the order in 1378. The wing, holding to the stricter rule as confirmed by Innocent IV., is known as the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance. Both wings have their respective generals. The Carmelite name most famous in the annals of piety is that of St. Theresa, the Spanish saint who joined herself to the Carmelites, 1533. She aided in founding seventeen convents for women and fourteen for monks. This new branch, the Barefoot Carmelites, spread to different parts of Europe, Mt. Carmel, Africa, Mexico, and other countries. The monks wear leathern sandals, and the nuns a light shoe.

Of the other numerous monastic orders, the following may be mentioned. The Antonites, or Brothers of the Hospital of St. Antonius are named after the Egyptian hermit, St. Anthony. The founder, Gaston, prayed to St. Anthony for the deliverance of his son from a disease, then widely prevalent, and called St. Anthony’s fire, morbus sacer. The prayer was answered, and the father and his son devoted themselves to a religious life. The order was sanctioned by Urban II., 1095, and was intended to care for the sick and poor. In 1118 it received from Calixtus II. the church of St. Didier de Mothe, containing St. Anthony’s bones. In 1218 Honorius III. gave the members permission to take monastic vows, and in 1296 Boniface VIII. imposed on them the Augustinian rule. They had houses in France, Germany, Hungary, and Italy. It used to be the custom on St. Anthony’s day to lead horses and cattle in front of their convent in Rome to receive a form of blessing.

The Trinitarians, ordo sanctissima Trinitatis de redemptione captivorum, had for their mission the redemption of Christian captives out of the hands of the Saracens and Moors. Their founder was John of Matha (1160-1213). The order was also called the ordo asinorum, Order of the Asses, from the fact that its members rode on asses and never on horseback.The order of Font Evraud (Fontis Ebraldi in Poitiers) had the peculiarity that monks and nuns were conjoined in associated cloisters, and that the monks were under the supervision of an abbess. The abbess was regarded as the representative of the Virgin Mary, and the arrangement as in conformity with the word of Christ, placing John under the care of Mary. A church built between the male and female cloisters was used in common. The order was founded by Robert d’ Abrissel (d. 1117), whom Urban II. heard preach, and commissioned as a preacher, 1096. Robert was born in Brittany, and founded, 1095, a convent at Craon. He was a preacher of great popular power. The nuns devoted themselves especially to the reclamation of fallen women. A special rule forbade the nuns to care for their hair, and another rule commanded them to shave their heads three times a year.

The Order of Grammont, founded by Stephen of Auvergne, deserves mention for the high rank it once held in France. It enjoyed the special patronage of Louis VII. and other French sovereigns, and had sixty houses in France. It was an order of hermits. Arrested while on a pilgrimage, by sickness, Stephen was led by the example of the hermits of Calabria to devote himself to the hermit life. These monks went as far in denying themselves the necessities of life as it is possible to do and yet survive, but monks and nuns became notorious for licentiousness and prostitution.

The Brothers of the Sack wore a dress of rough material cut in the shape of a bag. They had convents in different countries, including England, where they continued to have houses till the suppression of the monasteries. They abstained entirely from meat, and drunk only water. The Franciscans derisively called them Bushmen (Boscarioli). They were indefatigable beggars. The Franciscan chronicler, Salimbene, is sure Gregory X. was divinely inspired in abolishing the order, for “Christian folk were wearied and burdened with the multitude of beggars.”


67. Monastic Prophets

St. Hildegard and Joachim of Flore

Literature. — Hildegard’s works in Migne, vol. 197, and some not there given in Pitra: Analecta sacra. For a list see Preger: Geschichte der deutschen Mystik, I. 13-36. — Lives by Godefrid and Theodorich, contemporaries in Migne. — Dahl, Mainz, 1832. — Clarius, with translation of Hildegard’s letters, 2 vols. Regensburg, 1854. — Richaud, Aix, 1876. — J. P. Schmelzeis, Freiburg, 1897. — P. Franche, Paris, 1903. — Benrath, in Herzog, VIII. 71 sq. — Hildegard’s Causae et curae, ed. by Kaiser, Leipzig, 1903, is a sort of medieval manual of medicine.

Joachim’s published works, Liber concordiae novi et veteris Testamenti, Venice, 1519; Expositio in Apocalypsin and Psalterium decem chordarum, Venice, 1527. The errors of Joachim are given in Mansi, xxii. 981 and Denifle: Chartularium Univ., Par I. 272-275. — Salimbene: Chronicon, Parma, 1857; Coulton’s trans., London, 1906. — Luna Consentinus, d. 1224, perhaps an amanuensis: Synopsis virtutum b. Joach. in Ughelli, Italia sacra, IX. 205 sqq. — Gervaise: Hist. de l’abbé Joachim, 2 vols. Paris, 1745. — Reuter: Gesch. der Aufklärung, 1877, pp. 191-218. — Renan in Nouvelles études d’hist. rel., Paris, 1884, pp. 217-323. — *Denifle: Das Evangelium aeternum und die Commission zu Anagni, in Archiv für Lit.- und Kirchengesch., 1885, pp. 49-142. *Döllinger: Die Papstfabeln des Mittelalters, 2d ed. by J. Friedrich, Stuttgart, 1890; Engl. trans. of 1st ed. by H. B. Smith, N. Y., 1872, pp. 364-391. — *Artt: Joachim, in Wetzer-Welte by Ehrle, VI. 1471-1480, and in Herzog by Deutsch, IX. 227-232. — *E. Schott: Die Gedanken Joachims in Brieger’s Zeitschrift, 1902, pp. 157-187.

The monasteries also had their prophets. Men’s minds, stirred by the disasters in Palestine, and by the spread of heresy in Europe, here and there saw beyond the prevailing ritual of church and convent to a new era in which, however, neither hierarchy nor convent would be given up. In the twelfth century the spirit of prophecy broke out almost simultaneously in convents on the Rhine and in Southern Italy. Its chief exponents were Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth of Schönau, and Joachim, the abbot of Flore. They rebuked the clerical corruption of their time, saw visions, and Joachim was the seer of a new age.

Hildegard (1098-1179), abbess of the Benedictine convent of Disebodenberg, near Bingen on the Rhine, was the most prominent woman in the church of her day. What Bernard of Clairvaux was to France, that, though in a lesser degree, she was to Germany. She received letters from four popes, Eugenius, Anastasius, Adrian, and Alexander III., from the emperors Konrad III. and Frederick Barbarossa, from Bernard and many ecclesiastics in high office as well as from persons of humble position. Her intercessions were invoked by Frederick, by Konrad for his son, and by Bernard. Persons from afar were moved to seek her aid, as for example the patriarch of Jerusalem who had heard that a “divine force operated in and through her.” Her convent was moved from Disebodenberg to Rupertsberg and she finally became abbess of the convent of Eibingen.

Infirm of body, Hildegard was, by her own statement, the recipient of visions from her childhood. As she wrote to St. Bernard, she saw them “not with the external eye of sense but with the inner eye.” The deeper meanings of Scripture “touched her breast and burnt into her soul like a flame.” Again she said that, when she was forty-two years old, a fiery light of great brightness, coming from the open heavens, transfused her brain and inflamed her whole heart and breast like a flame, as the sun lightens everything upon which his rays fall. What she saw, she saw not in dreams nor in sleep nor in a frenzied state nor in hidden places but while she was awake and in pure consciousness, using the eyes and ears of her inner man according to the will of God. Eugenius III., on a visit to Treves, 1148, investigated her revelations, recognized the genuineness of her miracles, and encouraged her to continue in her course. Bernard spoke of her fame of making known heavenly secrets through the illumination of the Holy Ghost.

It is reported by contemporaries of this godly woman that scarcely a sick person came to her without being healed. Her power was exerted in the convent and outside of it and upon persons of both sexes. People from localities as distant as Sweden sought her healing power. Sometimes the medium used was a prayer, sometimes a simple word of command, sometimes water which, as in one case, healed paralysis of the tongue.

As a censor of the Church, Hildegard lamented the low condition of the clergy, announced that the Cathari would be used to stir up Christendom to self-purification, called attention to the Scriptures and the Catholic faith as the supreme fonts of authority, and bade men look for salvation not to priests but to Christ.

She was also an enthusiastic student of nature. Her treatises on herbs, trees, and fishes are among the most elaborate on natural objects of the Middle Ages. She gives the properties of no less than two hundred and thirteen herbs or their products, and regarded heat and cold as very important qualities of plant life. They are treated with an eye to their medicinal virtue. Butter, she says, is good for persons in ill health and suffering from feverish blood and the butter of cows is more wholesome than the butter of sheep and goats. Licorice, which is mildly heating, gives a clear voice and a suave mind, clarifies the eyes, and prepares the stomach for the process of digestion. The “basilisca,” which is cold, if placed under the tongue, restores the power of speech to the palsied and, when cooked in wine with honey added, will cure fevers provided it is drunk frequently during the night.

A kindred spirit to Hildegard was Elizabeth of Schönau, who died 1165 at the age of thirty-six. She was an inmate of the convent of Schönau, not far from Bingen, and also had visions which were connected with epileptic conditions. In her visions she saw Stephen, Laurentius, and many of the other saints. In the midst of them usually stood “the virgin of virgins, the most glorious mother of God, Mary.” When she saw St. Benedict, he was in the midst of his monkish host, monachalis turba. Elizabeth represented herself as being “rapt out of the body into an ecstasy.” In the interest of purity of life she did not shrink from rebuking even the archbishop of Treves and from pronouncing the Apostolic chair possessed with pride and filled with iniquity and impiety. On one occasion she saw Christ sitting at the judgment with Pilate, Judas, and those who crucified him on his left hand and also, alas! a great company of men and women whom she recognized as being of her order. Hildegard and Elizabeth have a place in the annals of German mysticism.

Joachim of Flore, d. 1202, the monastic prophet of Southern Europe, exercised a wide influence by his writings, especially through the adoption of his views by the Spiritual wing of the Franciscan order. He was first abbot of the Cistercian convent of Corazza in Calabria, and then became the founder and abbot of St. John in Flore. Into this convent he introduced a stricter rule than the rule of the Cistercians. It became the centre of a new order which was sanctioned by Coelestin III., 1196.

Joachim enjoyed the reputation of a prophet during his lifetime. He had the esteem of Henry VI., and was encouraged in his exegetical studies by Lucius III. and other popes. After his death his views became the subject of conciliar and papal examination. The Fourth Lateran condemned his treatment of the Trinity as defined by Peter the Lombard. Peter had declared that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute a certain supreme essence, quaedam summa res, and this, according to Joachim, involved a substitution of a quaternity for the Trinity. Those who adopted Joachim’s view were condemned as heretics, but Joachim and the convent of Flore were distinctly excepted from condemnation.

Joachim’s views on the doctrine of the Trinity are of slight importance. The abbot has a place in history by his theory of historical development and his eschatology. His opinions are set forth in three writings of whose genuineness there is no question, an exposition of the Psalms, an exposition of the Apocalypse, and a Concord of the Old and New Testaments.

Interwoven with his prophecies is Joachim’s theory of historical development. There are three ages in history. The Old Testament age has its time of beginning and bloom. So has that of the New Testament. But a third age is to follow. The basis for this theory of three periods is found in a comparison of the Old and New Testaments, a comparison which reveals a parallelism between the leading periods of the history of Israel and the periods of Christian history. This parallelism was disclosed to Joachim on an Easter night, and made as clear as day.

The first of the three ages was the age of the Father, the second the age of the Son, of the Gospel, and the sacraments, the third, the age of the Holy Spirit which was yet to come. The three were represented by Peter, Paul, and John. The first was an age of law, the second of grace, the third of more grace. The first was characterized by fear, the second by faith, the third was to be marked by charity. The first was the age of servants, the second of freedmen, the third of friends. The first brought forth water, the second wine, the third was to bring forth oil. The first was as the light of the stars, the second of the dawn, the third of the perfect day. The first was the age of the married, and corresponded to the flesh; the second of priests, with the elements of the flesh and the Spirit mixed; the third of monks, and was to be wholly spiritual. Each of these ages had a beginning, a maturity, and an end. The first began with Adam, and entered upon its maturity with Abraham. The second began in the days of Elijah, and entered upon its maturity with Christ. The third began in the days of St. Benedict in the sixth century. Its maturity had already begun in the days of Joachim himself. The consummation was to begin in 1260.

The Gospel of the letter is temporal not eternal, and gives way in the third period to the Eternal Gospel, Rev_14:6. Then the spiritual meaning of the Gospel will be fully known. Joachim did not mean to deny the permanent authority of the two Testaments, when he put into his third period the full understanding of them, in the spiritual sense, and the complete embodiment of their teachings in life and conduct. The Eternal Gospel he described, not as a newly written revelation, but as the spiritual and permanent message of Christ’s Gospel, which is hidden under the surface of the letter. This Gospel he also called the Spiritual Gospel, and the Gospel of the Kingdom. It was to be preached in the whole earth and the Jews, Greeks, and the larger part of mankind, were to be converted. A spiritual Church would result, by which was meant, not a church separate from the papacy, but a church purified. The Eternal Gospel was to be proclaimed by a new order, the “little ones of Christ.” In his Apocalypse, Joachim speaks of two prophets of this new order. This prediction was subsequently applied to Francis and Dominic.

It was in the conception of the maturition of the periods as much as in the succession of the periods that the theory of development is brought out. In the development of the parallels between the history of Israel and the Christian Church, Joachim discovered a time in each to correspond to the seven seals of the Apocalypse. The first seal is indicated in the Old Testament by the deliverance from Egypt, in the New by the resurrection of Christ; the second seal respectively by the experiences in the wilderness and the persecutions of the ante-Nicene Church; the third by the wars against the Canaanites and the conflict with heresy from Constantine to Justinian; the fourth by the peril from the Assyrians and the age lasting to Gregory III., d. 741 the fifth by the Babylonian oppression and the troubles under the German emperors; and the sixth by the exile, and the twelfth Christian century with all the miseries of that age, including the violence of the Saracens, and the rise of heretics. The opening of the seventh seal was near at hand, and was to be followed by the Sabbatic rest.

Joachim was no sectary. He was not even a reformer. Like many of his contemporaries he was severe upon the vices of the clergy of his day. “Where is quarrelling,” he exclaims, “where fraud, except among the sons of Juda, except among the clergy of the Lord? Where is crime, where ambition, except among the clergy of the Lord?” His only remedy was the dawning of the third age which he announced. He waged no polemic against the papacy, submitted himself and his writings dutifully to the Church, and called the church of Peter the throne of Christ. He was a mystical seer who made patient biblical studies, and saw in the future a more perfect realization of the spiritual Church, founded by Christ, exempt from empty formalism and bitter disputes.

An ecclesiastical judgment upon Joachim’s views was precipitated by the Franciscan Gerardus of Borgo San Donnino, who wrote a tract called the Introduction to the Eternal Gospel, expounding what he considered to be Joachim’s teachings. He declared that Joachim’s writings were themselves the written code of the Eternal Gospel, which was to be authoritative for the third age, as the Old and New Testaments were authoritative for the ages of the Father and the Son. Of this last age the abbot of Flore was the evangelist.

When Gerard’s work appeared, in 1254, it created a great stir and was condemned by professors at Paris, the enemies of the Franciscans, William of St. Amour among the number. The strict wing of the Franciscans, the Spirituals, adopted some of Joachim’s views and looked upon him as the prophet of their order. Articles of accusation were brought before Innocent IV. His successor, Alexander IV., in 1255 condemned Gerardo and his book without, however, passing judgment upon Joachim. Gerardo and other Spirituals were thrown into prison, where Gerardo died eighteen years after. John of Parma was deposed from his office as head of the Franciscans for his Joachimism. The Franciscan chronicler Salimbene was also for a while a disciple of Joachim, and reports that the prophet predicted that the order of the Friars Minor should endure to the end while the order of Preachers should pass away. In 1263 a synod of Arles condemned the writings of Joachim. A century after Joachim’s death, the Franciscan Spirituals, John Peter Olivi and Ubertino da Casale, were identified with his views. The traces of Joachimism are found throughout the Middle Ages to their close. Joachim was the millenarian prophet of the Middle Ages.