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§ 121. Gottschalk and Hincmar.


Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, a most influential, proud and intolerant prelate, was ill-disposed towards Gottschalk, because he had been somewhat irregularly (though not invalidly) ordained to the priesthood by a rural bishop (chorepiscopus), Rigbold of Rheims, without the knowledge of his own bishop of Soissons, and gone on travels without permission of his abbot.679679    Mauguin vindicates Gottschalk in both respects. He treated the poor monk without mercy. Gottschalk was summoned before a synod of Chiersy (in palatio Carisiaco)680680    Carisiacum, Cressy or Crécy in Northern France, in the department of Somme, celebrated by the battle of 1346 between the English Edward III. and the French Philip VI. in the spring of 849. He refused to recant, and was condemned as an incorrigible heretic, deposed from the priesthood, publicly scourged for obstinacy, according to the rule of St. Benedict, compelled to burn his books, and shut up in the prison of a convent in the province of Rheims.681681    Mansi, XIV. 921; Pertz, Monum. I. 443 sq.; Migne, Tom. 115, col. 1402; Hefele, IV. 142 sqq. Hefele doubts, with plausible reason, the concluding sentence of the synod, in which Gottschalk is condemned to everlasting silence. According to the report of eye-witnessses, he was scourged “most atrociously” and “nearly to death,” until half dead he threw his book, which contained the proofs of his doctrine from the Scriptures and the fathers, into the fire. It is a relief to learn that St. Remigius, archbishop of Lyons, expressed his horror at the “unheard of impiety and cruelty” of this treatment of the miserabilis monachus, as Gottschalk is often called by his friends.

In his lonely prison at Hautvilliers, the condemned monk composed two confessions, a shorter and a longer one, in which he strongly re-asserted his doctrine of a double predestination. He appealed to Pope Nicolas, who seems to have had some sympathy with him, and demanded a reinvestigation, which, however, never took place. He also offered, in reliance on the grace of God, to undergo the fiery ordeal before the king, the bishops and monks, to step successively into four cauldrons of boiling water, oil, fat and pitch, and then to walk through a blazing pile; but nobody could be found to accept the challenge. Hincmar refused to grant him in his last sickness the communion and Christian burial) except on condition of full recantation.682682    Gottschalk had provoked him by his disregard of episcopal authority, and by the charge of Sabellianism for altering ”trina Deitas,” in a church hymn, into ”summa Deitas.” Hincmar charged him in turn with Arianism, but the word to which he had objected, retained its place in the Gallican service. Gottschalk scorned the condition, died in his unshaken faith, and was buried in unconsecrated soil after an imprisonment of twenty years (868 or 869).

He had the courage of his convictions. His ruling idea of the unchangeableness of God reflected itself in his inflexible conduct. His enemies charged him with vanity, obstinacy, and strange delusions. Jesuits (Sirmond, Peteau, Cellot) condemn him and his doctrine; while Calvinists and Jansenists (Ussher, Hottinger, Mauguin) vindicate him as a martyr to the truth.



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