« Prev Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To… Next »

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity.—Part I.

Origin Progress, And Effects Of The Monastic Life.—
Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity And Arianism.—
Persecution Of The Vandals In Africa.—Extinction Of
Arianism Among The Barbarians.

The indissoluble connection of civil and ecclesiastical affairs has compelled, and encouraged, me to relate the progress, the persecutions, the establishment, the divisions, the final triumph, and the gradual corruption, of Christianity. I have purposely delayed the consideration of two religious events, interesting in the study of human nature, and important in the decline and fall of the Roman empire. I. The institution of the monastic life;43554355 The origin of the monastic institution has been laboriously discussed by Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 1119-1426) and Helyot, (Hist. des Ordres Monastiques, tom. i. p. 1-66.) These authors are very learned, and tolerably honest, and their difference of opinion shows the subject in its full extent. Yet the cautious Protestant, who distrusts any popish guides, may consult the seventh book of Bingham's Christian Antiquities. and, II. The conversion of the northern Barbarians.

I. Prosperity and peace introduced the distinction of the vulgar and the Ascetic Christians.43564356 See Euseb. Demonstrat. Evangel., (l. i. p. 20, 21, edit. Graec. Rob. Stephani, Paris, 1545.) In his Ecclesiastical History, published twelve years after the Demonstration, Eusebius (l. ii. c. 17) asserts the Christianity of the Therapeutae; but he appears ignorant that a similar institution was actually revived in Egypt. The loose and imperfect practice of religion satisfied the conscience of the multitude. The prince or magistrate, the soldier or merchant, reconciled their fervent zeal, and implicit faith, with the exercise of their profession, the pursuit of their interest, and the indulgence of their passions: but the Ascetics, who obeyed and abused the rigid precepts of the gospel, were inspired by the savage enthusiasm which represents man as a criminal, and God as a tyrant. They seriously renounced the business, and the pleasures, of the age; abjured the use of wine, of flesh, and of marriage; chastised their body, mortified their affections, and embraced a life of misery, as the price of eternal happiness. In the reign of Constantine, the Ascetics fled from a profane and degenerate world, to perpetual solitude, or religious society. Like the first Christians of Jerusalem,43574357 Cassian (Collat. xviii. 5.) claims this origin for the institution of the Coenobites, which gradually decayed till it was restored by Antony and his disciples. 43584358 It has before been shown that the first Christian community was not strictly coenobitic. See vol. ii.—M. they resigned the use, or the property of their temporal possessions; established regular communities of the same sex, and a similar disposition; and assumed the names of Hermits, Monks, and Anachorets, expressive of their lonely retreat in a natural or artificial desert. They soon acquired the respect of the world, which they despised; and the loudest applause was bestowed on this Divine Philosophy,43594359 These are the expressive words of Sozomen, who copiously and agreeably describes (l. i. c. 12, 13, 14) the origin and progress of this monkish philosophy, (see Suicer. Thesau, Eccles., tom. ii. p. 1441.) Some modern writers, Lipsius (tom. iv. p. 448. Manuduct. ad Philosoph. Stoic. iii. 13) and La Mothe le Vayer, (tom. ix. de la Vertu des Payens, p. 228-262,) have compared the Carmelites to the Pythagoreans, and the Cynics to the Capucins. which surpassed, without the aid of science or reason, the laborious virtues of the Grecian schools. The monks might indeed contend with the Stoics, in the contempt of fortune, of pain, and of death: the Pythagorean silence and submission were revived in their servile discipline; and they disdained, as firmly as the Cynics themselves, all the forms and decencies of civil society. But the votaries of this Divine Philosophy aspired to imitate a purer and more perfect model. They trod in the footsteps of the prophets, who had retired to the desert;43604360 The Carmelites derive their pedigree, in regular succession, from the prophet Elijah, (see the Theses of Beziers, A.D. 1682, in Bayle's Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, Oeuvres, tom. i. p. 82, &c., and the prolix irony of the Ordres Monastiques, an anonymous work, tom. i. p. 1-433, Berlin, 1751.) Rome, and the inquisition of Spain, silenced the profane criticism of the Jesuits of Flanders, (Helyot, Hist. des Ordres Monastiques, tom. i. p. 282-300,) and the statue of Elijah, the Carmelite, has been erected in the church of St. Peter, (Voyages du P. Labat tom. iii. p. 87.) and they restored the devout and contemplative life, which had been instituted by the Essenians, in Palestine and Egypt. The philosophic eye of Pliny had surveyed with astonishment a solitary people, who dwelt among the palm-trees near the Dead Sea; who subsisted without money, who were propagated without women; and who derived from the disgust and repentance of mankind a perpetual supply of voluntary associates.43614361 Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 15. Gens sola, et in toto orbe praeter ceteras mira, sine ulla femina, omni venere abdicata, sine pecunia, socia palmarum. Ita per seculorum millia (incredibile dictu) gens aeterna est in qua nemo nascitur. Tam foecunda illis aliorum vitae poenitentia est. He places them just beyond the noxious influence of the lake, and names Engaddi and Massada as the nearest towns. The Laura, and monastery of St. Sabas, could not be far distant from this place. See Reland. Palestin., tom. i. p. 295; tom. ii. p. 763, 874, 880, 890.

Egypt, the fruitful parent of superstition, afforded the first example of the monastic life. Antony,43624362 See Athanas. Op. tom. ii. p. 450-505, and the Vit. Patrum, p. 26-74, with Rosweyde's Annotations. The former is the Greek original the latter, a very ancient Latin version by Evagrius, the friend of St. Jerom. an illiterate43634363 Athanas. tom. ii. in Vit. St. Anton. p. 452; and the assertion of his total ignorance has been received by many of the ancients and moderns. But Tillemont (Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 666) shows, by some probable arguments, that Antony could read and write in the Coptic, his native tongue; and that he was only a stranger to the Greek letters. The philosopher Synesius (p. 51) acknowledges that the natural genius of Antony did not require the aid of learning. youth of the lower parts of Thebais, distributed his patrimony,43644364 Aruroe autem erant ei trecentae uberes, et valde optimae, (Vit. Patr. l. v. p. 36.) If the Arura be a square measure, of a hundred Egyptian cubits, (Rosweyde, Onomasticon ad Vit. Patrum, p. 1014, 1015,) and the Egyptian cubit of all ages be equal to twenty-two English inches, (Greaves, vol. i. p. 233,) the arura will consist of about three quarters of an English acre. deserted his family and native home, and executed his monastic penance with original and intrepid fanaticism. After a long and painful novitiate, among the tombs, and in a ruined tower, he boldly advanced into the desert three days' journey to the eastward of the Nile; discovered a lonely spot, which possessed the advantages of shade and water, and fixed his last residence on Mount Colzim, near the Red Sea; where an ancient monastery still preserves the name and memory of the saint.43654365 The description of the monastery is given by Jerom (tom. i. p. 248, 249, in Vit. Hilarion) and the P. Sicard, (Missions du Levant tom. v. p. 122-200.) Their accounts cannot always be reconciled the father painted from his fancy, and the Jesuit from his experience. The curious devotion of the Christians pursued him to the desert; and when he was obliged to appear at Alexandria, in the face of mankind, he supported his fame with discretion and dignity. He enjoyed the friendship of Athanasius, whose doctrine he approved; and the Egyptian peasant respectfully declined a respectful invitation from the emperor Constantine. The venerable patriarch (for Antony attained the age of one hundred and five years) beheld the numerous progeny which had been formed by his example and his lessons. The prolific colonies of monks multiplied with rapid increase on the sands of Libya, upon the rocks of Thebais, and in the cities of the Nile. To the south of Alexandria, the mountain, and adjacent desert, of Nitria, were peopled by five thousand anachorets; and the traveller may still investigate the ruins of fifty monasteries, which were planted in that barren soil by the disciples of Antony.43664366 Jerom, tom. i. p. 146, ad Eustochium. Hist. Lausiac. c. 7, in Vit. Patrum, p. 712. The P. Sicard (Missions du Levant, tom. ii. p. 29-79) visited and has described this desert, which now contains four monasteries, and twenty or thirty monks. See D'Anville, Description de l'Egypte, p. 74. In the Upper Thebais, the vacant island of Tabenne,43674367 Tabenne is a small island in the Nile, in the diocese of Tentyra or Dendera, between the modern town of Girge and the ruins of ancient Thebes, (D'Anville, p. 194.) M. de Tillemont doubts whether it was an isle; but I may conclude, from his own facts, that the primitive name was afterwards transferred to the great monastery of Bau or Pabau, (Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 678, 688.) was occupied by Pachomius and fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot successively founded nine monasteries of men, and one of women; and the festival of Easter sometimes collected fifty thousand religious persons, who followed his angelic rule of discipline.43684368 See in the Codex Regularum (published by Lucas Holstenius, Rome, 1661) a preface of St. Jerom to his Latin version of the Rule of Pachomius, tom. i. p. 61. The stately and populous city of Oxyrinchus, the seat of Christian orthodoxy, had devoted the temples, the public edifices, and even the ramparts, to pious and charitable uses; and the bishop, who might preach in twelve churches, computed ten thousand females and twenty thousand males, of the monastic profession.43694369 Rufin. c. 5, in Vit. Patrum, p. 459. He calls it civitas ampla ralde et populosa, and reckons twelve churches. Strabo (l. xvii. p. 1166) and Ammianus (xxii. 16) have made honorable mention of Oxyrinchus, whose inhabitants adored a small fish in a magnificent temple. The Egyptians, who gloried in this marvellous revolution, were disposed to hope, and to believe, that the number of the monks was equal to the remainder of the people;43704370 Quanti populi habentur in urbibus, tantae paene habentur in desertis multitudines monachorum. Rufin. c. 7, in Vit. Patrum, p. 461. He congratulates the fortunate change. and posterity might repeat the saying, which had formerly been applied to the sacred animals of the same country, That in Egypt it was less difficult to find a god than a man.

Athanasius introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice of the monastic life; and a school of this new philosophy was opened by the disciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate to the holy threshold of the Vatican. The strange and savage appearance of these Egyptians excited, at first, horror and contempt, and, at length, applause and zealous imitation. The senators, and more especially the matrons, transformed their palaces and villas into religious houses; and the narrow institution of six vestals was eclipsed by the frequent monasteries, which were seated on the ruins of ancient temples, and in the midst of the Roman forum.43714371 The introduction of the monastic life into Rome and Italy is occasionally mentioned by Jerom, tom. i. p. 119, 120, 199. Inflamed by the example of Antony, a Syrian youth, whose name was Hilarion,43724372 See the Life of Hilarion, by St. Jerom, (tom. i. p. 241, 252.) The stories of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus, by the same author, are admirably told: and the only defect of these pleasing compositions is the want of truth and common sense. fixed his dreary abode on a sandy beach, between the sea and a morass, about seven miles from Gaza. The austere penance, in which he persisted forty-eight years, diffused a similar enthusiasm; and the holy man was followed by a train of two or three thousand anachorets, whenever he visited the innumerable monasteries of Palestine. The fame of Basil43734373 His original retreat was in a small village on the banks of the Iris, not far from Neo-Caesarea. The ten or twelve years of his monastic life were disturbed by long and frequent avocations. Some critics have disputed the authenticity of his Ascetic rules; but the external evidence is weighty, and they can only prove that it is the work of a real or affected enthusiast. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles tom. ix. p. 636-644. Helyot, Hist. des Ordres Monastiques tom. i. p. 175-181 is immortal in the monastic history of the East. With a mind that had tasted the learning and eloquence of Athens; with an ambition scarcely to be satisfied with the archbishopric of Caesarea, Basil retired to a savage solitude in Pontus; and deigned, for a while, to give laws to the spiritual colonies which he profusely scattered along the coast of the Black Sea. In the West, Martin of Tours,43744374 See his Life, and the three Dialogues by Sulpicius Severus, who asserts (Dialog. i. 16) that the booksellers of Rome were delighted with the quick and ready sale of his popular work. a soldier, a hermit, a bishop, and a saint, established the monasteries of Gaul; two thousand of his disciples followed him to the grave; and his eloquent historian challenges the deserts of Thebais to produce, in a more favorable climate, a champion of equal virtue. The progress of the monks was not less rapid, or universal, than that of Christianity itself. Every province, and, at last, every city, of the empire, was filled with their increasing multitudes; and the bleak and barren isles, from Lerins to Lipari, that arose out of the Tuscan Sea, were chosen by the anachorets for the place of their voluntary exile. An easy and perpetual intercourse by sea and land connected the provinces of the Roman world; and the life of Hilarion displays the facility with which an indigent hermit of Palestine might traverse Egypt, embark for Sicily, escape to Epirus, and finally settle in the Island of Cyprus.43754375 When Hilarion sailed from Paraetonium to Cape Pachynus, he offered to pay his passage with a book of the Gospels. Posthumian, a Gallic monk, who had visited Egypt, found a merchant ship bound from Alexandria to Marseilles, and performed the voyage in thirty days, (Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i. 1.) Athanasius, who addressed his Life of St. Antony to the foreign monks, was obliged to hasten the composition, that it might be ready for the sailing of the fleets, (tom. ii. p. 451.) The Latin Christians embraced the religious institutions of Rome. The pilgrims, who visited Jerusalem, eagerly copied, in the most distant climates of the earth, the faithful model of the monastic life. The disciples of Antony spread themselves beyond the tropic, over the Christian empire of Aethiopia. 43764376 See Jerom, (tom. i. p. 126,) Assemanni, Bibliot. Orient. tom. iv. p. 92, p. 857-919, and Geddes, Church History of Aethiopia, p. 29-31. The Abyssinian monks adhere very strictly to the primitive institution. The monastery of Banchor,43774377 Camden's Britannia, vol. i. p. 666, 667. in Flintshire, which contained above two thousand brethren, dispersed a numerous colony among the Barbarians of Ireland;43784378 All that learning can extract from the rubbish of the dark ages is copiously stated by Archbishop Usher in his Britannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates, cap. xvi. p. 425-503. and Iona, one of the Hebrides, which was planted by the Irish monks, diffused over the northern regions a doubtful ray of science and superstition.43794379 This small, though not barren, spot, Iona, Hy, or Columbkill, only two miles in length, aud one mile in breadth, has been distinguished, 1. By the monastery of St. Columba, founded A.D. 566; whose abbot exercised an extraordinary jurisdiction over the bishops of Caledonia; 2. By a classic library, which afforded some hopes of an entire Livy; and, 3. By the tombs of sixty kings, Scots, Irish, and Norwegians, who reposed in holy ground. See Usher (p. 311, 360-370) and Buchanan, (Rer. Scot. l. ii. p. 15, edit. Ruddiman.)

These unhappy exiles from social life were impelled by the dark and implacable genius of superstition. Their mutual resolution was supported by the example of millions, of either sex, of every age, and of every rank; and each proselyte who entered the gates of a monastery, was persuaded that he trod the steep and thorny path of eternal happiness. 43804380 Chrysostom (in the first tome of the Benedictine edition) has consecrated three books to the praise and defence of the monastic life. He is encouraged, by the example of the ark, to presume that none but the elect (the monks) can possibly be saved (l. i. p. 55, 56.) Elsewhere, indeed, he becomes more merciful, (l. iii. p. 83, 84,) and allows different degrees of glory, like the sun, moon, and stars. In his lively comparison of a king and a monk, (l. iii. p. 116-121,) he supposes (what is hardly fair) that the king will be more sparingly rewarded, and more rigorously punished. But the operation of these religious motives was variously determined by the temper and situation of mankind. Reason might subdue, or passion might suspend, their influence: but they acted most forcibly on the infirm minds of children and females; they were strengthened by secret remorse, or accidental misfortune; and they might derive some aid from the temporal considerations of vanity or interest. It was naturally supposed, that the pious and humble monks, who had renounced the world to accomplish the work of their salvation, were the best qualified for the spiritual government of the Christians. The reluctant hermit was torn from his cell, and seated, amidst the acclamations of the people, on the episcopal throne: the monasteries of Egypt, of Gaul, and of the East, supplied a regular succession of saints and bishops; and ambition soon discovered the secret road which led to the possession of wealth and honors.43814381 Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise tom. i. p. 1426-1469) and Mabillon, (Oeuvres Posthumes, tom. ii. p. 115-158.) The monks were gradually adopted as a part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The popular monks, whose reputation was connected with the fame and success of the order, assiduously labored to multiply the number of their fellow-captives. They insinuated themselves into noble and opulent families; and the specious arts of flattery and seduction were employed to secure those proselytes who might bestow wealth or dignity on the monastic profession. The indignant father bewailed the loss, perhaps, of an only son;43824382 Dr. Middleton (vol. i. p. 110) liberally censures the conduct and writings of Chrysostom, one of the most eloquent and successful advocates for the monastic life. the credulous maid was betrayed by vanity to violate the laws of nature; and the matron aspired to imaginary perfection, by renouncing the virtues of domestic life. Paula yielded to the persuasive eloquence of Jerom;43834383 Jerom's devout ladies form a very considerable portion of his works: the particular treatise, which he styles the Epitaph of Paula, (tom. i. p. 169-192,) is an elaborate and extravagant panegyric. The exordium is ridiculously turgid: "If all the members of my body were changed into tongues, and if all my limbs resounded with a human voice, yet should I be incapable," &c. and the profane title of mother-in-law of God43844384 Socrus Dei esse coepisti, (Jerom, tom. i. p. 140, ad Eustochium.) Rufinus, (in Hieronym. Op. tom. iv. p. 223,) who was justly scandalized, asks his adversary, from what Pagan poet he had stolen an expression so impious and absurd. tempted that illustrious widow to consecrate the virginity of her daughter Eustochium. By the advice, and in the company, of her spiritual guide, Paula abandoned Rome and her infant son; retired to the holy village of Bethlem; founded a hospital and four monasteries; and acquired, by her alms and penance, an eminent and conspicuous station in the Catholic church. Such rare and illustrious penitents were celebrated as the glory and example of their age; but the monasteries were filled by a crowd of obscure and abject plebeians,43854385 Nunc autem veniunt plerumque ad hanc professionem servitutis Dei, et ex conditione servili, vel etiam liberati, vel propter hoc a Dominis liberati sive liberandi; et ex vita rusticana et ex opificum exercitatione, et plebeio labore. Augustin, de Oper. Monach. c. 22, ap. Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. p. 1094. The Egyptian, who blamed Arsenius, owned that he led a more comfortable life as a monk than as a shepherd. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. xiv. p. 679. who gained in the cloister much more than they had sacrificed in the world. Peasants, slaves, and mechanics, might escape from poverty and contempt to a safe and honorable profession; whose apparent hardships are mitigated by custom, by popular applause, and by the secret relaxation of discipline.43864386 A Dominican friar, (Voyages du P. Labat, tom. i. p. 10,) who lodged at Cadiz in a convent of his brethren, soon understood that their repose was never interrupted by nocturnal devotion; "quoiqu'on ne laisse pas de sonner pour l'edification du peuple." The subjects of Rome, whose persons and fortunes were made responsible for unequal and exorbitant tributes, retired from the oppression of the Imperial government; and the pusillanimous youth preferred the penance of a monastic, to the dangers of a military, life. The affrighted provincials of every rank, who fled before the Barbarians, found shelter and subsistence: whole legions were buried in these religious sanctuaries; and the same cause, which relieved the distress of individuals, impaired the strength and fortitude of the empire.43874387 See a very sensible preface of Lucas Holstenius to the Codex Regularum. The emperors attempted to support the obligation of public and private duties; but the feeble dikes were swept away by the torrent of superstition; and Justinian surpassed the most sanguine wishes of the monks, (Thomassin, tom. i. p. 1782-1799, and Bingham, l. vii. c. iii. p. 253.) Note: The emperor Valens, in particular, promulgates a law contra ignavise quosdam sectatores, qui desertis civitatum muneribus, captant solitudines secreta, et specie religionis cum coetibus monachorum congregantur. Cad. Theod l. xii. tit. i. leg. 63.—G.

The monastic profession of the ancients43884388 The monastic institutions, particularly those of Egypt, about the year 400, are described by four curious and devout travellers; Rufinus, (Vit. Patrum, l. ii. iii. p. 424-536,) Posthumian, (Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i.) Palladius, (Hist. Lausiac. in Vit. Patrum, p. 709-863,) and Cassian, (see in tom. vii. Bibliothec. Max. Patrum, his four first books of Institutes, and the twenty-four Collations or Conferences.) was an act of voluntary devotion. The inconstant fanatic was threatened with the eternal vengeance of the God whom he deserted; but the doors of the monastery were still open for repentance. Those monks, whose conscience was fortified by reason or passion, were at liberty to resume the character of men and citizens; and even the spouses of Christ might accept the legal embraces of an earthly lover.43894389 The example of Malchus, (Jerom, tom. i. p. 256,) and the design of Cassian and his friend, (Collation. xxiv. 1,) are incontestable proofs of their freedom; which is elegantly described by Erasmus in his Life of St. Jerom. See Chardon, Hist. des Sacremens, tom. vi. p. 279-300. The examples of scandal, and the progress of superstition, suggested the propriety of more forcible restraints. After a sufficient trial, the fidelity of the novice was secured by a solemn and perpetual vow; and his irrevocable engagement was ratified by the laws of the church and state. A guilty fugitive was pursued, arrested, and restored to his perpetual prison; and the interposition of the magistrate oppressed the freedom and the merit, which had alleviated, in some degree, the abject slavery of the monastic discipline.43904390 See the Laws of Justinian, (Novel. cxxiii. No. 42,) and of Lewis the Pious, (in the Historians of France, tom vi. p. 427,) and the actual jurisprudence of France, in Denissart, (Decisions, &c., tom. iv. p. 855,) &c. The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts, were determined by an inflexible rule,43914391 The ancient Codex Regularum, collected by Benedict Anianinus, the reformer of the monks in the beginning of the ninth century, and published in the seventeenth, by Lucas Holstenius, contains thirty different rules for men and women. Of these, seven were composed in Egypt, one in the East, one in Cappadocia, one in Italy, one in Africa, four in Spain, eight in Gaul, or France, and one in England. or a capricious superior: the slightest offences were corrected by disgrace or confinement, extraordinary fasts, or bloody flagellation; and disobedience, murmur, or delay, were ranked in the catalogue of the most heinous sins.43924392 The rule of Columbanus, so prevalent in the West, inflicts one hundred lashes for very slight offences, (Cod. Reg. part ii. p. 174.) Before the time of Charlemagne, the abbots indulged themselves in mutilating their monks, or putting out their eyes; a punishment much less cruel than the tremendous vade in pace (the subterraneous dungeon or sepulchre) which was afterwards invented. See an admirable discourse of the learned Mabillon, (Oeuvres Posthumes, tom. ii. p. 321-336,) who, on this occasion, seems to be inspired by the genius of humanity. For such an effort, I can forgive his defence of the holy tear of Vendeme (p. 361-399.) A blind submission to the commands of the abbot, however absurd, or even criminal, they might seem, was the ruling principle, the first virtue of the Egyptian monks; and their patience was frequently exercised by the most extravagant trials. They were directed to remove an enormous rock; assiduously to water a barren staff, that was planted in the ground, till, at the end of three years, it should vegetate and blossom like a tree; to walk into a fiery furnace; or to cast their infant into a deep pond: and several saints, or madmen, have been immortalized in monastic story, by their thoughtless and fearless obedience.43934393 Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i. 12, 13, p. 532, &c. Cassian. Institut. l. iv. c. 26, 27. "Praecipua ibi virtus et prima est obedientia." Among the Verba seniorum, (in Vit. Patrum, l. v. p. 617,) the fourteenth libel or discourse is on the subject of obedience; and the Jesuit Rosweyde, who published that huge volume for the use of convents, has collected all the scattered passages in his two copious indexes. The freedom of the mind, the source of every generous and rational sentiment, was destroyed by the habits of credulity and submission; and the monk, contracting the vices of a slave, devoutly followed the faith and passions of his ecclesiastical tyrant. The peace of the Eastern church was invaded by a swarm of fanatics, incapable of fear, or reason, or humanity; and the Imperial troops acknowledged, without shame, that they were much less apprehensive of an encounter with the fiercest Barbarians.43944394 Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. iv. p. 161) has observed the scandalous valor of the Cappadocian monks, which was exemplified in the banishment of Chrysostom.

Superstition has often framed and consecrated the fantastic garments of the monks:43954395 Cassian has simply, though copiously, described the monastic habit of Egypt, (Institut. l. i.,) to which Sozomen (l. iii. c. 14) attributes such allegorical meaning and virtue. but their apparent singularity sometimes proceeds from their uniform attachment to a simple and primitive model, which the revolutions of fashion have made ridiculous in the eyes of mankind. The father of the Benedictines expressly disclaims all idea of choice of merit; and soberly exhorts his disciples to adopt the coarse and convenient dress of the countries which they may inhabit.43964396 Regul. Benedict. No. 55, in Cod. Regul. part ii. p. 51. The monastic habits of the ancients varied with the climate, and their mode of life; and they assumed, with the same indifference, the sheep-skin of the Egyptian peasants, or the cloak of the Grecian philosophers. They allowed themselves the use of linen in Egypt, where it was a cheap and domestic manufacture; but in the West they rejected such an expensive article of foreign luxury.43974397 See the rule of Ferreolus, bishop of Usez, (No. 31, in Cod. Regul part ii. p. 136,) and of Isidore, bishop of Seville, (No. 13, in Cod. Regul part ii. p. 214.) It was the practice of the monks either to cut or shave their hair; they wrapped their heads in a cowl to escape the sight of profane objects; their legs and feet were naked, except in the extreme cold of winter; and their slow and feeble steps were supported by a long staff. The aspect of a genuine anachoret was horrid and disgusting: every sensation that is offensive to man was thought acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned the salutary custom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing them with oil.43984398 Some partial indulgences were granted for the hands and feet "Totum autem corpus nemo unguet nisi causa infirmitatis, nec lavabitur aqua nudo corpore, nisi languor perspicuus sit," (Regul. Pachom xcii. part i. p. 78.) 43994399 Athanasius (Vit. Ant. c. 47) boasts of Antony's holy horror of clear water, by which his feet were uncontaminated except under dire necessity—M. The austere monks slept on the ground, on a hard mat, or a rough blanket; and the same bundle of palm-leaves served them as a seat in the lay, and a pillow in the night. Their original cells were low, narrow huts, built of the slightest materials; which formed, by the regular distribution of the streets, a large and populous village, enclosing, within the common wall, a church, a hospital, perhaps a library, some necessary offices, a garden, and a fountain or reservoir of fresh water. Thirty or forty brethren composed a family of separate discipline and diet; and the great monasteries of Egypt consisted of thirty or forty families.



« Prev Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |