« PreviousContinue »
afterwards- escaped by a secret passage. The legate took possession of Carcassone in the name of the church,” and in malignant resentment at the thought of so many victims having escaped his füry, burnt or hanged three hundred knights who had previously capitulated upon the guaranty of his solemn oath that they should not be put to death!
Levaur was one of the cities which made the most memorable defence. By their frequent sorties, their perseverance in repairing the breaches, and intrepid exposure of life upon the walls, the Albigenses showed upon this and all other occasions, a generous courage, which would have insured success to the cause if the ranks of their enemies had not been filled up by hosts of new levies, as fast as they were thinned by the casu'alties of the war. In the year 1212 the army of the crusaders was four times renewed; and so universally was it understood to be the quarrel of the church that ecclesiastical dignitaries came from all quarters to give a colour to the proceedings. A practicable breach was soon made in the walls, and a monkish historian relates that the bishops, the abbot of Courdieu, who exercised the functions of vice-legate, with all the priests, clothed in their sacred vestments, gave themselves up to thanksgiving when they say the carnage beginning, and sung the hymn, Veni Creator. He mentions, also, that when the castle of Amery fell, eighty knights wore taken and condemned to be hanged; but this process was too slow, an order was given to destroy them en masse ; that the order “was received by the pilgrims with avidity, and that they burnt the heretics alive, with great joy."
- At length this horrible war ended as it began, by command of the sovereign pontiff, because all open resistance to his will was put down, and popish ascendaney was finally established in a quarter where the right of liberty of conscience had hitherto been claimed from the first introduction of the gospel. The church had gained her object by the total destruction of all who dared to oppose her. There remained no Albigenses
in the south of France bold enough to preach their doctrines, or administer their forms of worship. Some of the more fortunate had fled to other countries, where they preserved and kept alive the lamp of truth amidst the surrounding darkness. The extirpation was so complete that in less than thirty-three years from the beginning of the crusade, the Albigenses were no more; and when protestantism reared its head again in Provence and Languedoc, after an interval of three centuries, it was recognised under another name.
45. PERSECUTION OF THE WALDENSES.
In the darkest period in the history of the Christian church, there have ever been some who have borne their testimony in support of the pure doctrines of Christianity, and raised their voices against the general corruption of the church.
The most distinguished of these reformers were the Waldenses, who made their appearance about the year 1160. They were the most numerous about the valley of Piedmont.
Peter Waldo, an opulent merchant of Lyons, in France, being extremely zealous for the advancement of true piety and Christian knowledge, caused a translation of the four gospels, and other parts of the Holy Scriptures, to be made into the French language. Perusing these books with deep attention, he perceived that the religion which was taught by the church of Rome was totally different from that which was taught by Christ and his apostles. Being animated with zeal for the truths of the gospel, he abandoned his mercantile vocation, distributed his riches among the poor, and forming an association with other pious men who had adopted his sentiments, he began in 1180, as a public teacher, to instruct the multitude in the doctrines and precepts of Christianity.
The attempts of Peter Waldo and his followers were crowned with great success; they formed religious asa
semblies, first in France, then in Lombardy, from whence they propagated their sect thorughout the other provinces of Europe with great rapidity, and with such invincible fortitude that neither fire nor sword, nor the most cruel inventions of merciless persecution, could damp their zeal, or entirely ruin their cause.
The Roman pontiff and his ministers often instigated the civil rulers to exterminate or drive the Waldenses from their dominions. For this purpose, troops were sent against them many times, who plundered and destroyed their villages, and murdered many of the inoffensive inhabitants,
The persecution in 1655, 1656, and 1686 was carried on with peculiar rage and violence, and seemed to threaten nothing less than the total extinction of this unhappy people. They were hunted like wild beasts upon the rocks and mountains, where they fled for safety. The banditti and soldiers of Piedmont massacred all sorts of persons, of every age, sex, and condition; they were dismembered, and hung up; females violated, and numerous other horrid atrocities committed,
The few Waldenses that survived were indebted for their existence and support to the intercession made for them by the English and Dutch governments, and also by the Swiss cantons, who solicited the clemency of the duke of Savoy on their behalf.
Milton, the poet, who lived at this time, touched with sympathy for the suffering of the Waldenses, penned the following exquisite sonnet:
On the late Massacre in Piedmont.
O'er all th? Italian fields, where still doth sway
46. MENDICANTS, OR BEGGING FRIARS. This sort of society began in the thirteenth century: and the members of it, by the tenor of their institution, were to remain entirely destitute of all fixed revenues and possessions; though in process of time their number became a heavy tax upon the people. Innocent III. was the first of the popes who perceived the necessity of instituting such an order; and accordingly, he gave such monastic societies as made a profession of poverty the most distinguishing marks of his protection and favour. They were also encouraged and patronized by the succeeding pontiffs, when experience had demonstrated their public and extensive usefulness. But when it became generally known that they had such a peculiar place in the esteem and protection of the rulers of the church, their number grew to such an enormous and unwieldly multitude, and swarmed so prodigiously in all the European provinces, that they became a burden, not only to the people, but to the church itself. The great inconvenience that arose from the excessive multiplication of the Mendicant orders was remedied by Gregory X., in a general council, which he assembled at Lyons in 1272; for here all the religious orders that had sprung up after the council held at Rome in 1215, under the pontificate of Innocent III., were suppressed; and the extravagant multitude of Mendicants, as Gregory called them, were reduced to a smaller number, and confined to the four following societies or denominations, viz. the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Augustins, or hermits of St. Augustine.
As the-pontiffs allowed these four Mendicant orders the liberty of travelling wherever they thought proper, of conversing with persons of every rank, of instructing
the youth and multitude wherever they went; and as those monks exhibited, in their outward appearance and manner of life, more striking marks of gravity and holiness than were observable in the other monastic societies, they rose all at once to the very summit of fame, and were regarded with the utmost esteem and veneration through all the countries of Europe. The enthusiastic attachment to these sanctimonious beggars went so far, that, as we learn from the most authentic records, several cities were divided or cantoned out into four parts, with a view to these four orders : the first párt being assigned to the Dominicans, the second to the Franciscans, the third to the Carmelites, and the fourth to the Augustins. The people were unwilling to receive the sacraments from any other hands than those of the Mendicants, to whose churches they crowded to perform their devotions while living, and were extremely desirous there to deposite, also, their remains after death. Nor did the influence and credit of the Mendicants end here ; for we find in the history of this and of the succeeding ages, that they were employed not only in spiritual matters, but also in temporal and political affairs of the greatest consequence ; in composing the differences of princes, concluding treaties of peace, concerting alliances, presiding in cabinet councils, governing courts, levying taxes, and other occupations, not only remote from, but absolutely inconsistent with, the monastic character and profession. However, the power of the Dominicans and Franciscans greatly surpassed that of the other two orders, insomuch that these two orders were, before the reformation, what the Jesuits have been since that happy and glorious period—the very soul of the hierarchy, the engines of the state, the secret springs of all the motions of the one and the other, and the authors and directors of every great and important event, both in the religious and political world. By very quick progression their pride and confidence arrived at such a pitch, that they had the presumption to declare publicly, that they had a divine impulse and commission to illustrate and main