Page images

and sum is not in the Paradise of Dante? Dante, perhaps, though expressing to a great extent the popular conception

of Heaven, is as much by his innate sublimity above it, as St. Thomas himself.


Wright, St. Patrick's Purgatory, p. 118.

Alberic, when he wrote his vision, sumed them like fire ; these were adulwas a monk of Monte Cassino. His terers, and people who had led impure father was a baron, lord of the castle lives. Then they approached a still de' Sette Fratelli, in the Campagna of more fearful valley, filled with trees, Rome. In his tenth year, the child the branches . of which were long Alberic was seized with a languor, and spikes, on which hung women translay nine days and nine nights in a fixed through their breasts, while ventrance, to all appearance dead. As omous serpents were sucking them ; soon as he had fallen into this con- these were women who had refused dition, a white bird, like a dove, came pity to orphans. Other women, who and put its bill into his mouth, and had been faithless to the marriage bed, seemed to lift him up, and then he saw were suspended by the hair over raging St. Peter and two angels, who carried fires. Next he saw an iron ladder, him to the lower regions. St. Peter three hundred and sixty cubits long, told him that he would see the least red hot, and under it a great boiler of torments first, and afterwards, succes- melted oil, pitch, and resin ; married sively, the more terrible punishments persons who had not been continent of the other world. They came first on sabbaths and holy days were comto a place filled with red-hot burning pelled to mount this ladder, and ever cinders and boiling vapor, in which as they were obliged to quit their hold little children were purged; those of by the heat, they dropped into the boiler one year old being subjected to this below. Then they beheld vast fires in torment during seven days; those of which were burnt the souls of tyrannitwo years, fourteen days ; and so on, cal and cruel lords, and of women who in proportion to their age. Then they had destroyed their offspring. Next entered a terrible valley, in which Al- was a great space full of fire like blood, beric saw a great number of persons in which homicides were thrown; and plunged to different depths, according after this there stood an immense vessel to their different degrees of criminality, filled with boiling brass, tin, lead, sulin frost, and cold, and ice, which con- phur, and resin, in which were im

mersed during three years those who had encouraged wicked priests. They next came to the mouth of the infernal pit, (os infernalis baratri,) a vast gulf, dark, and emitting an intolerable stench, and full of screaming and howling. By the pit was a serpent of infinite magni. tude, bound by a great chain, the one end of which seemed to be fastened in the pit; before the mouth of this serpent stood a multitude of souls, which he sucked in like Aies at each breath, and then, with the return of respiration, blew them out scorched to sparks; and this process continued till the souls were purged of their sins. The pit was so dark that Alberic could not see what was going on in hell. After quitting this spot, Alberic was conducted first to a valley in which persons who had committed sacrilege were burnt in a sea of flames; then to a pit of fire in which simonists were punished; next to a place filled with flames, and with serpents and dragons, in which were tormented those who, having embraced the monastic profession, had quitted it and returned to a secular life ; and afterwards to a great black lake of sulphureous water, full of serpents and scorpions, in which the souls of detractors and false witnesses were immersed to the chin, and their faces continually fogged with serpents by demons who hovered over them. On the borders of hell, Alberic saw two “malignant spirits ” in the form of a dog and a lion, which he was told blew out from their fiery mouths all the torments that were outside of hell,

and at every breath the souls before them were wafted each into the peculiar punishment appropriated to him. The visitor was here left for a moment by his conductors; and the demons seized upon him, and would have thrown him into the fire, had not St. Peter suddenly arrived to rescue him. He was carried thence to a fair plain, where he saw thieves carrying heavy collars of iron, red hot, about their necks, hands, and feet. He saw here a great burning pitchy river, issuing from hell, and an iron bridge over it, which appeared very broad and easy for the virtuous to pass; but when sinners attempted it, it became narrow as a thread, and they fell over into the river, and afterwards attempted it again, but were not allowed to pass until they had been sufficiently boiled to purge them of their sins. After this the Apostle showed Alberic an extensive plain, three days and three nights' journey in breadth, covered with thorns and brambles, in which souls were hunted and tormented hy a demon mounted on a great and swift dragon, and their clothing and limbs torn to pieces by the thorns as they endeavored to escape from him ; by degrees they were purged of their sins, and became lighter, so that they could run faster, until at last they escaped into a very pleasant plain, filled with purified souls, where their torn members and garments were immediately restored ; and here Alberic saw monks and martyrs, and good people, in great joy. He then proceeded through the habita

tions of the blessed. In the midst of a beautiful plain, covered with Aowers, rose the mountain of paradise, with the tree at the top. After having conducted the visitor through the seven heavens, the last of which was held by Saturn, they brought him to a wall, and let him look over, but he was for

bidden to tell what he had seen on the other side. They subsequently carried him through the different regions of the world, and showed him many extraordinary things, and, among the rest, some persons subjected to purgatorial punishments in different places on the earth.


Odericus Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, Book VIII. ch. 17.

Tr. by Thomas Forester.

I consider that I ought not to sup- was young, undaunted, and bold, and press and pass over in silence what of a powerful and active frame of happened to a certain priest of the dio- body. However, he hesitated when cese of Lisieux in the beginning of Jan- the sounds, which seemed to proceed uary. In a village called Bonneval from troops on the march, first reached there was a priest named Walkelin who his ears, and began to consider whether served the church of St. Aubin of An- he should take to fight to avoid being jou, who from a monk became bishop laid hold of and discourteously stripped and confessor. At the commencement by the worthless camp followers, or of the month of January, 1091, this manfully stand on his defence if any priest was summoned in the night-time, one molested him. Just then he espied as the occasion required, to visit a sick four medlar-trees in a field at a good man who lived at the farthest extremity distance from the path, and determined of his parish. As he was pursuing his to seek shelter behind them, as fast as solitary road homewards, far from any he could, until the cavalry had passed. habitation of man, he heard a great But as he was running he was stopped noise like the tramp of a numerous by a man of enormous stature, armed body of troops, and thought within with a massive club, who, raising his himself that the sounds proceeded from weapon above his head, shouted to the army of Robert de Belésme on him, “ Stand! Take not a step fartheir march to lay siege to the castle ther!” The priest, frozen with terof Courci. The moon, being in her ror, stood motionless, leaning on his eighth day in the constellation of the staff. The gigantic club-bearer also Ram, shed a clear light, so that it was stood close to him, and, without offereasy to find the way. Now the priesting to do him any injury, quietly waited

for the hold, a great carrying


for the passage of the troop. And with women's saddles which were stuck now, behold, a great crowd of people with red-hot nails. The wind often came by on foot, carrying on their lifted them a cubit from their saddles, heads and shoulders sheep, clothes, and then let them drop again on the furniture, and movables of all descrip- sharp points. Their haunches thus tions, such as robbers are in the habit punctured with the burning nails, and of pillaging. All were making great suffering horrible torments from the lamentations, and urging one another wounds and the scorching heat, the to hasten their steps. Among them women pitiably ejaculated, Woe! woe! the priest recognized a number of his and made open confession of the sins neighbors who had lately died, and for which they were punished, underheard them bewailing the excruciating going in this manner fire and stench sufferings with which they were tor- and unutterable tortures for the obscene mented for their evil deeds. They allurements and filthy delights to which were followed by a troop of corpse- they had abandoned themselves when bearers, who were joined by the giant living among men. In this company already mentioned. These carried as the priest recognized several noble many as fifty biers, each of which was ladies, and beheld the palfreys and borne by two bearers. On these were mules with the women's litters of seated a number of men of the size of others who were still alive. dwarfs, but whose heads were as large The priest stood fixed to the spot as barrels. Two Ethiopians also car- at this spectacle, his thoughts deeply ried an immense trunk of a tree, to engaged in the reflections it suggested. which a poor wretch was rudely bound, Presently, however, he saw .pass before who, in his tortures, filled the air with him a numerous company of clergy and fearful cries of anguish ; for a horrible monks, with their rulers and judges, demon sat on the same trunk and the bishops and abbots carrying crogoaded his loins and back with red-hot siers in their hands. The clergy and spurs until the blood streamed from bishops wore black copes, and the abthem. Walkelin distinctly recognized bots and monks cowls of the same in this wretch the assassin of Stephen hue. They all groaned and wailed, the priest, and was witness to the in- and some of them called to Walkelin, tolerable tortures he suffered for the and implored him, in the name of their innocent blood he shed two years be- former friendship, to pray for them. fore, since which he had died without The priest reported that he saw among penance for so foul a crime.

them many who were highly esteemed, Then followed a crowd of women and who, in human estimation, were who seemed to the priest to be innu- now associated with the saints in heavmerable. They were mounted onen. He recognized in the number horseback, riding in female fashion, Hugh, Bishop of Lisieux, and those eminent abbots, Manier of Evroult and was Landri of Orbec, who was killed Gerbert of Fontenelles, with many the same year, and who accosted the others whose names I either forget, or priest, and, uttering horrible cries, have no desire to publish. Human charged him with his commissions, judgment is often fallible, but the eye urgently begging him to carry a mes. of God seeth the inmost thoughts; sage to his wife. Upon this the troops for man looks only to outward appear- who marched before and after him ances, God searcheth the heart. In interrupted his cries, and said to the the realms of eternal bliss the clear light priest : “ Believe not Landri, for he is of an endless day is shed on all around, a deceiver.” This man had been a and the children of the kingdom tri- viscount and a lawyer, and had raised umph in the joys which attend perfect himself from a very low origin by his holiness. Nothing that is unrighteous talents and merit. He decided causes is done there ; nothing that is polluted and affairs according to his own pleascan enter there ; no uncleanness, no ure, and perverted judgment for bribes, impurity, is there found. All the dross actuated more by avarice and duplicity of carnal desires is therefore consumed than by a sense of what was right. He in the fires of purgatory, and purified was therefore justly devoted to flagrant by sufferings of various degrees as the punishment, and publicly denounced Judge eternal ordains. So that as a ves- by his associates as a liar. In this sel cleansed from rust and thoroughly company no one flattered him, and no polished is laid up in a treasury, so the one had recourse to his cunning losoul, purified from all taint of sin, is quacity. He, who while it was in his admitted into Paradise, where it enjoys power had shut his ears to the cries perfect happiness unalloyed by fear or of the poor, was now in his torments, care.

treated as an execrable wretch who The priest, trembling at these ap- was unfit to be heard. palling scenes, still rested on his staff, Walkelin having seen these countless expecting apparitions still more terri troops of soldiers pass, on reflection, ble. And now there followed an im- said within himself: “Doubtless these mense army in which no color was are Harlequin's people ; I have often visible, but only blackness and fiery heard of their being seen, but I laughed fames. All were mounted on great at the stories, having never had any war-horses, and fully armed as if they certain proofs of such things. Now, were prepared for immediate battle, indeed, I assuredly behold the ghosts and they carried black banners. There of the departed, but no one will bewere seen Richard and Baldwin, the lieve me when I tell the tale, unless sons of Count Gilbert, who were lately I can exhibit to mortal eyes some dead, with so many others that I can- tangible proof of what I have seen. not enumerate them. Among the rest I will therefore mount one of the

« PreviousContinue »