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REVIEW OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF SPAIN BEFORE THE ERA OF THE REFORMATION.
ERRONEOUS opinions as to their early history, originating in vanity, and fostered by ignorance and credulity, have been common among almost every people. These are often harmless; and while they afford matter of good-humored raillery to foreigners, excite the more inquisitive and liberalminded among themselves to exert their talents in separating truth from fable, by patient research, and impartial discrimination. But they are sometimes of a very different character, and have been productive of the worst consequences. They have been the means of entailing political and spiritual bondage on a people, of rearing insurmountable obstacles in the way of their improvement, of propagating feelings no less hostile to their domestic comfort than to their national tranquillity, and of making them at once a curse to themselves and a scourge to all around them.
If the natives of Spain have not advanced those extravagant pretensions to high antiquity which have made the inhabitants of some other countries ridiculous, they have unhappily fallen under the influence of national prejudices equally destitute of truth, and far more pernicious in their tendency. Every true Spaniard is disposed to boast of the purity of his blood, or, in the established language of the country, that he is “an Old Christian, free from all stain of bad descent.” The meanest peasant or artisan in Spain looks upon it as a degradation to have in his veins the least mixture of Jewish or Moorish blood, though transmitted by the remotest of his known ancestors, in the male or female line. To have descended from that race, “of which, as concerning the flesh, Christ came,” or from Christians who had incurred the censure of a tribunal whose motto is the reverse of his who “came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them,” is regarded as a greater disgrace than to have sprung from savages or pagans, or from those who had incurred the last sentence of justice for the most unnatural and horrid crimes. “I verily believe,” says a modern Spanish writer who sometimes smiles through tears at the prejudices of his countrymen, “that were St. Peter a Spaniard, he would either deny admittance into heaven to people of tainted blood, or send them into a corner, where they might not offend the eyes of the Old Christian.” We might go further, and say, that if a Spaniard had the keys of heaven in his keeping, St. Peter, and all the apostles with him, would be “removed into a corner.” It is easy to conceive what misery must have been felt by persons and families who have incurred this involuntary infamy in their own estimation, or in that of their neighbors; and what bitter and rancorous feelings must have been generated in the hearts of individuals and races of men living together or contiguously, both in a state of peace and of warfare.
But, when the records of antiquity are consulted, the truth turns out to be, that in no other country of Europe has there been such an intermixture of races as in Spain—Iberian, Celtic, Carthaginian, Roman, Greek, Gothic, Jewish, Saracennic, Syrian, Arabian, and Moorish. With none are the Spaniards more anxious to disclaim all kindred than with the Jews and Moors. Yet anciently their Christian kings did not scruple to form alliances with the Moorish sovereigns of Grenada, to appear at their tournaments, and even to fight under their banners. Down to the middle of the fifteenth century, the Spanish poets and romancers celebrated the chivalry of “the Knights of Grenada, gentlemen though Moors.” It was no uncommon occurrence for the Christians in Spain to connect themselves by marriage with Jews and Moors; and the pedigree of many of the grandees and titled nobility has been traced up to these “cankered branches” by the Tizon de Espana, or Brand of Spain , a book which neither the influence of the government, nor the terror of the Inquisition, has been able to suppress. f3 Nor is greater credit due to the opinion which has long been prevalent in the Peninsula, that its inhabitants have uniformly kept themselves free from all stain of heretical pravity, and preserved the purity of the faith inviolate since their first reception into Christianity.
The ancient state of the church in Spain is but little known. Modern writers of that nation have been careful to conceal or to pass lightly over those spots of its history which are calculated to wound the feelings or abate the prejudices of their countrymen. Shut out from access to original documents, or averse to the toil of investigating them, foreigners have generally contented themselves with the information which common books supply. And knowing that the Spaniards have signalized their zeal for the See of Rome and the catholic faith during the last three centuries, the public, as if by general agreement, have come to the hasty conclusion that this was the fact from the beginning. To correct such mistakes, and to furnish materials for an accurate judgment, it may be proper to take a more extensive view of the state of religion in Spain before the Reformation, than would otherwise have been necessary to our undertaking.
The ecclesiastical history of Spain during the three first centuries may be comprised in two facts,—that the Christian religion was early introduced into that country; and that churches were erected in various parts of it, notwithstanding the persecution to which they were exposed at intervals.
All beside this is fable or conjecture. That the gospel was first preached to their ancestors by St. James, the son of Zebedee, is an opinion which has been long so popular among the Spaniards, and so identified with the national faith, that such of their writers as were most convinced of the unsound foundation on which it rests have been forced to join in bearing testimony to its truth. The ingenuity of the warm partisans of the popedom has been put to the stretch in managing the obstinate fondness with which the inhabitants of the Peninsula have clung to a prepossession so hazardous to the claims of St. Peter and of Rome. They have alternately exposed the futility of the arguments produced in its support, and granted that it is to be received as a probable opinion, resting on tradition. At one time they have urged that the early martyrdom of the apostle precludes the idea of such an expedition; and at another time they have tendered their aid to relieve the Spaniards from this embarrassment, and to “elude the objection,” by suggesting, with true Italian dexterity, that the Spirit might have carried the apostle from Palestine to Spain, and after he had performed his task, conveyed him back with such celerity that he was in time to receive the martyr’s crown at Jerusalem. By such artful managements, they succeeded at last in settling the dispute, after the following manner; that, agreeably to the concurring voice of antiquity, the seven first bishops of Spain were ordained by St. Peter, and sent by him into the Peninsula; but that, as is probable, they had been converted to the Christian faith by St.
James, who despatched them to Rome to receive holy orders from the prince of the apostles; from which the inference is, that St. James was the first who preached the gospel to the Spaniards, but St. Peter was the founder of the church of Spain. Leaving such fabulous accounts, which serve no other purpose than to illustrate human credulity, and the ease with which it is wrought upon by artifice and cunning, we proceed to the period of authentic history.
I. Sentiments which by common consent have been regarded as heretical, without as well as within the pale of that church which arrogates to herself the title of catholic, sprang up repeatedly in Spain, and in some instances overran the whole country. In the fourth century, Priscillian, a native of Gallicia, founded a new sect, which united the tenets of the Manichaeans and Gnostics. It made many converts, including persons of the episcopal order, and subsisted in Spain for two hundred years. When they boast of the pure blood of the Goths, the Spaniards appear to forget that their Gothic ancestors were Arians, and that Arianism was the prevailing and established creed of the country for nearly two centuries. Nor did Spain long preserve her faith uncontaminated, after she had adopted the common doctrine under Reccared, who reigned in the close of the sixth century. To pass by the spread of Nestorianism and some tenets of less note, she gave birth, in the eighth century, to the heresy called adoptionarian, because its disciples held that Christ is the adopted Son of God. This opinion was broached by Elipand, archbishop of Toledo, who was at the head of the Spanish church; it was vigorously defended by Felix, bishop of Urgel, a prelate of great ability; and maintained itself for a considerable time, in spite of the decisions of several councils, supported by the learning of Alcuin and the authority of Charlemagne. f9 Nor were there wanting in the early ages Spaniards who held some of the leading opinions afterwards avowed by the protestant reformers. Claude, bishop of Turin, who flourished in the ninth century, and distinguished himself by his valuable labors in the illustration of the scriptures, was a native of Spain. His decided condemnation of the worship of images, and of the veneration paid to the relics and sepulchers of the saints, together with his resistance to the ecclesiastical authority which imposed these practices, has exposed the memory of this pious and learned divine to the deadly hatred of all the devotees of superstition and spiritual despotism. f10 In support of his principal tenet, Claude could plead the authority of one of the most venerable councils of his native church, which ordained that there should be no pictures in churches, and that nothing should be painted on the walls which might be worshiped or adored. f11 Galindo Prudentio, bishop of Troyes, was a countryman and contemporary of Claude. His learning was superior to that of the age in which he lived; and the comparative purity of his style bears witness to his familiarity with the writings of the ancient classics. Having fixed his residence in France, he enjoyed the confidence of Charlemagne, who employed him in visiting and reforming the monasteries. In the predestinarian controversy which divided the French clergy of that time, he took part with Goteschalcus against Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, and the noted schoolman, Joannes Scotus, surnamed Erigena. The sentiments which Prudentio held on that subject bear a striking resemblance to those which the church of Rome has since anathematized in the writings of Luther and Calvin. f12 II. The Spanish church, at the beginning of the fourth century, acknowledged no other officers than bishops, presbyters, and deacons. f13 She was equally a stranger to the superior orders of metropolitans and archbishops, and to the inferior orders of sub-deacons and lectors. Her discipline was at that time characterized by great strictness and even rigor, of which there was a palpable relaxation when the government of the church came to be formed upon the model of the empire, after Constantine had embraced christianity. This change was, however, introduced more slowly into Spain than into some other countries. The church of Africa was careful to guard the parity of episcopal power against the encroachments of the metropolitans; and the Spanish bishops, who appear from an early period to have paid great deference to her maxims and practices, continued for a considerable time to evince the same jealousy. To the supremacy of the bishops of Rome the ancient church of Spain was a stranger, and there is no good evidence that she acknowledged, during the eight first centuries, their right to interfere authoritatively in her internal affairs.
The titles of pope or father, apostolical bishop, and bishop of the apostolic see, were at first given promiscuously to all who were invested with the episcopal office. After they came to be used in a more restricted sense, they were still applied to a number in common. The bishops of Rome early acquired high consideration among their brethren, founded on the dignity of the city in which they had their residence, the number of the clergy over whom they presided, and the superior sanctity of life by which some of their line had been distinguished; to which must be added the opinion, which soon became general, that they were the successors of St.
Peter. In matters which concerned religion in general, or in difficult questions relating to internal managements, it was a common practice to ask the advice of foreign and even transmarine churches. On these occasions the bishops of Rome were consulted, but not to the exclusion of others. The African bishops, in a council held at Carthage, agreed to take the advice of Siricius, bishop of Rome, and Simplician, bishop of Milan, on the affair of the Donatists; and in a subsequent council, they agreed to consult Anastasius and Venerius, who at that time filled the same sees, on the controversy respecting the validity of the baptism of heretics. With this the practice of the Spanish church agreed. Indeed, the bishops of Rome, in those days, disclaimed the pretentions which they afterwards put forth with such arrogance. Gregory the Great himself, when in danger of being eclipsed by his eastern rival, acknowledged this in the memorable words, which have so much annoyed his successors and their apologists.
Speaking of the title of universal patriarch, which the bishop of Constantinople had assumed, he says:—“Far from the hearts of Christians be this name of blasphemy, which takes away the honors of the whole priesthood, while it is madly arrogated by one!—None of my predecessors would ever consent to use this profane word, because if one patriarch is called universal, the rest are deprived of the name of patriarchs.” f20 But there is positive evidence that the ancient church of Spain maintained its independence, and guarded against the interference of the Roman See, or any other foreign authority. Whatever judgment we form concerning the disputed canon of the council of Sardis, as to the references to the bishop of Rome, it is certain that an African council, which met at Mela in the year 416, decreed that if any of the clergy had a dispute with his bishop, he might bring it before the neighboring bishops; but if he thought proper not to rest in their decision, it should be unlawful for him to make any appeal except to an African council, or to the primates of the African churches. f22 In accordance with the spirit of this canon, with some variation in particulars, the ninth council of Toledo, in the year 655, determined that appeals should lie from a bishop to a metropolitan, and from a metropolitan to the royal audience; a regulation which was confirmed by a subsequent council held in the same city. In the fifth and sixth centuries Arianism was predominant in Spain. During that period the bishops who adhered to the orthodox faith being few in number, discountenanced by the royal authority, and rarely allowed to assemble in provincial councils, were naturally induced to turn their eyes to Rome for counsel and support; while the popes laid hold of the opportunity which the circumstances afforded them to extend their influence over that country, by holding correspondence with the dissenting clergy, and conferring on some of them the title of apostolical vicars. But, strange as the assertion may appear to some, this intercourse ceased as soon as Spain embraced the catholic faith.
Spain is always spoken of as a catholic country from the time that she renounced Arianism under Reccared; and if we are to believe some of her writers, her monarchs obtained, at that early period, the title of Catholic kings, which they retain to this day, as expressive of their devotion to the faith and authority of the Roman see. But this is a glaring mistake, originating in, or concealed by the equivocal use of a word which was anciently understood in a sense very different from its modern acceptation.
It was by adopting the common doctrine received by the church at large, in opposition to the Arian and other errors condemned by the first ecumenical or universal councils, that Spain became catholic, and that her kings, bishops, and people, obtained this designation, and not by conforming to the rites of the church of Rome, or owning the supremacy of its pontiffs.
Ecclesiastical affairs were managed in Spain without any interference on the part of the See of Rome, or any reference to it, during the whole of the century which elapsed after the suppression of Arianism. This is so undeniable, that those advocates of the pontifical authority who have examined the documents of that age, have been forced to admit the fact, and endeavor to account for it by saying, that such interference and reference was unnecessary during a peaceful state of the church; a concession which goes far to invalidate the whole of their claims. The pall sent from Rome to Leander, bishop of Seville, forms no exception to the remark now made; for, not to mention that it was never received, it was not intended to confer any prerogative upon him, but merely as a testimony of his sanctity, and a mark of personal esteem from pope Gregory, who had contracted a friendship with him when they met at Constantinople. It was of the nature of a badge of honor conferred by a prince on a deserving individual belonging to another kingdom. f26 There is one piece of history which throws great light on the state of the Spanish church during the seventh century, and which I shall relate at some length, as it has been either passed over or very partially brought forward by later historians. The sixth ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in the year 680, condemned the heresy of the Monothelites, or those who, though they allowed that Christ had two natures, ascribed to him but one will and one operation. In 683, Leo II., bishop of Rome, sent the acts of that council, which he had received from Constantinople, to Spain, requesting the bishops to give them their sanction, and to take measures for having them circulated through their churches. As a council had been held immediately before the arrival of the papal deputation, and a heavy fall of snow prevented the reassembling of the members at that season, it was thought proper to circulate the acts among the bishops, who authorized Julian, archbishop of Toledo, to transmit a rescript to Rome, intimating in general their approbation of the late decision at Constantinople, and stating at considerable length the sentiments of the Spanish church on the controverted point. A council, convened in Toledo during the following year, entered on the formal consideration of this affair, in which they proceeded in such a manner as to evince their determination to preserve at once the purity of the faith and the independence of the Spanish church.
They examined the acts of the council at Constantinople, at which it does not appear that they had any representative, and declared that they found them consonant with the decisions of the four preceding canonical councils, particularly that of Chalcedon, of which they appeared to be nearly a transcript. “Whereof (say they) we agree that the acts of the said council be reverenced and received by us, inasmuch as they do not differ from the foresaid councils, or rather as they appear to coincide with them.
We allot to them therefore that place in point of order to which their merit entitles them. Let them come after the council of Chalcedon, by whose light they shine.” The council next took into consideration the rescript which archbishop Julian had sent to Rome, and pronounced it “a copious and lucid exposition of the truth concerning the double will and operation of Christ;” adding, “wherefore, for the sake of general instruction, and the benefit of ecclesiastical discipline, we confirm and sanction it as entitled to equal honor and reverence, and to have the same permanent authority, as the decretal epistles.” f27 The council of Constantinople had condemned pope Honorius I. as an abettor of the Monothelite heresy; a stigma which the advocates of papal infallibility have labored for ages to wipe off. But the Spanish council, on the present occasion, proceeded farther, and advanced a proposition which strikes at the very foundation on which the bishops of Rome rest their claims, by declaring, that the rock on which the church is built is the faith confessed by St. Peter, and not his person or office. f28 But this was not all that the Spanish clergy did. When the rescript of the archbishop of Seville reached Rome, it met with the disapprobation of Benedict II., who had succeeded Leo in the popedom. Having drawn up certain animadversions upon it, his Holiness gave them to the Spanish deputy to communicate to his constituents, that they might correct those expressions savoring of error which they had been led incautiously to adopt. An answer, not the most agreeable to the pope, was returned by Julian in the mean time; and the subject was afterwards taken up by a national council held in 688 at Toledo. Instead of retracting their former sentiments, or correcting any of the expressions which the pope had blamed, the Spanish prelates drew up and sanctioned a labored vindication of the paper which had given offence to his Holiness, of whom they speak in terms very disrespectful, and even contemptuous. They accuse him of “a careless and cursory perusal” of their rescript, and of having passed over parts of it which were necessary to understand their meaning. He had found fault with them for asserting that there are three substances in Christ, to which they reply: “As we will not be ashamed to defend the truth, so there are perhaps some other persons who will be ashamed at being found ignorant of the truth. For who knows not that in every man there are two substances, namely, soul and body?” After confirming their opinion by quotations from the fathers, they add: “But if any one shall be so shameless as not to acquiesce in these sentiments, and acting the part of a haughty inquirer, shall ask, whence we drew such things, at least he will yield to the words of the gospel, in which Christ declares that he possessed three substances.” Having quoted and commented on several passages of the New Testament, the council concludes in these terms: “If, after this statement, and the sentiments of the fathers from which it has been taken, any person shall dissent from us in any thing, we will have no farther dispute with him, but keeping steadily in the plain path, and treading in the footsteps of our predecessors, we are persuaded that our answer will commend itself to the approbation of all lovers of truth who are capable of forming a divine judgment, though we may be charged with obstinacy by the ignorant and envious.” f30 III. The independence of the ancient church of Spain will appear more fully if we attend to its form of worship. All the learned who have directed their attention to ecclesiastical antiquities are now agreed that, although the mode of worship was substantially the same throughout the Christian church, during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, yet different liturgies or forms of celebrating divine service were practiced in different nations, and sometimes in different parts of the same nation. The Ambrosian liturgy, used by the church of Milan, differed from the Roman. It was adopted in many parts of France, and continued in use there until the time of Charlemagne, when it was supplanted by the Roman or Gregorian. So far was the church of Rome from having at first regulated the religious service of other churches by her laws or even by her example, that she did not even preserve her own forms, which were superseded in their most important parts, by the sacramentary or missal which was drawn up by pope Gelasius, corrected finally by Gregory at the close of the sixth century, and imposed gradually, and at distant periods, on the several divisions of the western church. Different offices, or forms of celebrating divine service, were used in Spain down to the year 633, when the fourth council of Toledo passed a decree that one uniform order should be observed in all the churches of the Peninsula. This decree led to the adoption of that liturgy which has been called the Gothic, and sometimes the Isidorian, or the Ildefonsian, from St. Isidore and Ildefonso, archbishops of Seville, by whom it was revised and corrected. That this ritual was quite different from the Roman or Gregorian is put beyond all doubt, by the references made to both in the course of the adoptionarian controversy, which raged in the eighth century. The patrons of the adoptionarian tenet in Spain appealed to their national ritual, “compiled by holy men who had gone before them,” and quoted passages from it as favorable to their views. To this argument the fathers of the council of Frankfort replied: “It is better to believe the testimony of God the Father concerning his own Son, than that of your Ildefonso, who composed for you such prayers, in the solemn masses, as the universal and holy church of God knows not, and in which we do not think you will be heard. And if your Ildefonso in his prayers called Christ the adopted Son of God, our Gregory, pontiff of the Roman see, and a doctor beloved by the whole world, does not hesitate in his prayers to call him always the only begotten.” In like manner Alcuin, after insinuating that they might have taken improper liberties in their quotations, says: “But it matters not much whether these testimonies have been altered or correctly quoted by you; for we wish to be confirmed in the truth of our assertion and faith by Roman rather than Spanish authority.” f36 The Gothic or Isidorian office has also been called the Mozarabic or Mixtarabic, probably because it was used and held in great veneration by the Christians in Spain who lived under the dominion of the Arabians or Moors. The identity of these formularies has, indeed, been of late disputed by several learned men. But it is most probable that they were originally the same office, and that alterations were made upon it, both by the Mozarabes and the Montanes, (as those were called who betook themselves to the mountains to escape the yoke of the Moors,) during the period that they lived asunder.
Other instances in which the worship of the ancient church of Spain differed widely from the modern might be produced. We have already mentioned that a national council, in the beginning of the fourth century, prohibited the worship of images, and the use of pictures in churches. It may be added, that the first council of Braga, held in the year 561, forbade the use of uninspired hymns, which came afterwards to be tolerated, and were ultimately enjoined under the highest penalties. f39 Having produced these facts as to the early opinions and usages of the Spanish church, we proceed to state the manner in which she was led to adopt the rites, and submit to the authority of the church of Rome.
In the eleventh century Spain was divided into three kingdoms—the kingdom of Leon and Castile, of Aragon, and of Navarre, of which the two first were by far the most powerful. In the latter part of that century, Alfonso, the sixth of Leon, and first of Castile, after recovering Valentia by the valor of the famous Cid, Ruy Diaz de Bivar, finally obtained possession of Toledo, which had been in the power of the Moors for three centuries and a half. He had married, for his second wife, Constance, a daughter of the royal house of France, who, from attachment to the religious service to which she had been accustomed, or under the influence of the priests who accompanied her, instigated her husband to introduce the Roman liturgy into Castile. Richard, abbot of Marseilles, the papal legate, exerted all his influence in favor of a change so agreeable to the court which he represented. The innovation was warmly opposed by the clergy, nobility, and people at large, but especially by the inhabitants of Toledo and other places which had been under the dominion of the Moors. To determine this controversy, recourse was had, according to the custom of the dark ages, to judicial combat. Two knights, clad in complete armor, appeared before the court and an immense assembly. The champion of the Gothic liturgy prevailed; but the king insisted that the litigated point should undergo another trial, and be submitted to, what was called, the judgment of God.
Accordingly, in the presence of another great assembly, a copy of the two rival liturgies was thrown into the fire. The Gothic resisted the flames and was taken out unhurt, while the Roman was consumed. But upon some pretext—apparently the circumstance of the ashes of the Roman liturgy curling on the top of the flames and then leaping out—the king, with the concurrence of Bernard, archbishop of Toledo, who was a Frenchman, gave out that it was the will of God that both offices should be used; and ordained, that the public service should continue to be celebrated according to the Gothic office in the six churches of Toledo which the Christians had enjoyed under the Moors, but that the Roman office should be adopted in all the other churches of the kingdom. The people were displeased with the glaring partiality of this decision, which is said to have given rise to the proverb, The law goes as kings choose. Discountenanced by the court and the superior ecclesiastics, the Gothic liturgy gradually fell into disrepute, until it was completely superseded by the Roman. f41 The introduction of the Roman liturgy had been undertaken rather more early in Aragon than in Castile, but was completed in both kingdoms about the same time. The modern inhabitants of the Peninsula please themselves with the idea that they are hearing the self-same mass which has been performed in Spain from the days of the apostles; whereas, the exact day and place in which the modern service began, can be pointed out. The first mass, according to the Roman form, was celebrated in Aragon in the monastery of St. Juan de la Pena, on the 21st of March 1071; and in Castile, in the Grand Mosque of Toledo, on the 25th of October 1086. f42 Gregory VII. commemorates this change, “as the deliverance of Spain from the illusion of the Toledan superstition.” His Holiness was more clearsighted than those moderns, who, looking upon all forms of worship as equal, treat with contempt or indifference the efforts made by a people to defend their religious rights against the encroachments of domestic, or the intrusions of foreign authority. The recognition of the papal authority in Spain followed upon the establishment of the Roman liturgy; nor would the latter have been sought with such eagerness, had it not been with a view to the former. Having once obtained a footing in the Peninsula, the popes pushed their claims, until at last the whole nation, including the highest authorities in it, civil as well as ecclesiastical, acknowledged the supremacy of the Roman see.
It is sufficient to exemplify this statement in the subjugation of the crown and kingdom of Aragon. Don Ramiro I., who died in 1063, was the first Spanish king, according to the testimony of Gregory the Great, who recognized the pope and received the laws of Rome. In 1204, Don Pedro II., eight years after he had ascended the throne, went to Rome, and was crowned by pope Innocent III. On that occasion his Holiness put the crown on his head in the monastery of Pancracio, after Pedro had given his corporal oath that he and all his successors would be faithful to the church of Rome, preserve his kingdom in obedience to it, defend the catholic faith, pursue heretical pravity, and maintain inviolate the liberties and immunities of the holy church. Then going to the chapel of St. Peter, the pope delivered the sword into the hands of the king, who, armed as a cavalier, dedicated all his dominions to St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, and to Innocent and his successors, as a fief of the church; engaging to pay an annual tribute, as a mark of homage and gratitude for his coronation. In return for all this his Holiness granted, as a special favor, that the kings of Aragon, instead of being obliged to come to Rome, should afterwards be crowned in Saragossa, by the archbishop of Tarragona, as papal vicar. This act of submission was highly offensive to the nobility, who protested for their own rights, and to the people at large, who complained that their liberties were sold, and power given to the popes to disturb the peace of the kingdom at their pleasure. It was not long before these fears were realized. The king, having a few years after offended the pope by taking arms in defence of heretics, was laid under the sentence of excommunication, for violating the oath which he had sworn; and his grandson, Pedro the Great, was deprived of his kingdom, as a vassal of the church, which kindled a civil war, and led to the invasion of Aragon by the French. Attempts to release themselves from this degrading vassalage were made by different monarchs, but these always issued in the renewal of their oaths of fealty to Rome; and they found it too late to throw off a yoke which had by this time been received by all the nations around them, and which they had taught their own subjects to revere and hold sacred.
The history of Spain during the period we are reviewing, furnishes important notices respecting the Waldenses, Vaudois or Albigenses, whom we formerly met with in tracing the progress of the Reformation in Italy. It is well known, that these early reformers had fixed their abode in the southern provinces of France, where they multiplied greatly in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. f47 —Various causes contributed to this. The inhabitants of the south of France, though inferior in arms, were superior in civilization, to those of the north. They had addicted themselves to commerce and the arts. Their cities, which were numerous and flourishing, enjoyed privileges favorable to the spirit of liberty, and which raised them nearly to the rank of the Italian republics, with which they had long traded.
They possessed a language rich and flexible, which they cultivated both in prose and verse; academies for promoting the Gui Saber , or polite letters, were erected among them; and the Troubadours, as the Provençal poets were called, were received with honor, and listened to with enthusiasm, at the courts of the numerous petty princes among whom the country was divided. A people advanced to this stage of improvement were not disposed to listen with implicit faith to the religious dogmas which the clergy inculcated, or to submit tamely to the superstitious and absurd observances which they sought to impose. Add to this, that the manners of the clergy, both higher and lower, in these provinces, were disorderly and vicious to a proverb. “I would rather be a priest, than have done such a thing!” was a common exclamation among the people on hearing of any unworthy action. With these feelings they were prepared to listen to the reformers, who exposed the errors and corruptions which had defaced the beauty of the primitive church, and whose conduct formed, in point of decency and sobriety, a striking contrast to that of the established clergy.
For the last mentioned fact we have the testimony of those monkish writers, who strove to blacken their characters, by alleging that they practiced all kinds of licentiousness in secret. “I will relate (says the abbot of Puy Laurens) what I have heard bishop Fulco tell as to a conversation which he had with Pons Ademar de Rodelia, a prudent knight. ‘I cannot bring myself to believe,’ said the latter, ‘that Rome has sufficient grounds to proceed against these men’—‘Are they not unable to answer our arguments?’ demanded the bishop. ‘I grant it,’ said the other. ‘Well, then’ rejoined the bishop; ‘why do you not expel and drive them from your territories?’ ‘We cannot do it,’ replied the knight; ‘we have been brought up with them; we have our friends among them; and we see them living honestly.’ After relating this anecdote on the authority of the archbishop of Thoulouse, the great adversary of the Albigenses, the historian adds: “Thus it is that falsehood, veiled under the appearance of a spotless life, draws uncautious men from the truth.” f48 The Albigensian barbs, or pastors, enjoying a respite from persecution during the early part of the twelfth century, applied themselves to the study of the scriptures, and devoted their hours of relaxation to the cultivation of poetry. They were held in veneration by the people, who named them in their wills, and left for the support of the new worship those sums which had been formerly bequeathed to the priests or appropriated for the saying of masses for their own souls and those of their departed relations. They had chapels in the principal castles; their religious service was frequented by persons of all ranks; and they numbered among their converts many individuals of noble birth, and who held some of the principal situations in the country. Among their protectors were the powerful counts of Toulouse, Raymond VI. and VII., the counts of Foix and Comenges, the viscounts of Beziers and Bearn, Savary de Mauleon, seneschal of Aquitaine, Guiraud de Minerve, and Olivier de Termes, a cavalier who had distinguished himself greatly in the wars against the infidels in the Holy Land, in Africa and in Majorca. Their opinions were avowedly entertained by the wives and sisters of these great lords, as well as by the heads of the noble houses of Mirepoix, Saissac, Lavour, Montreal, St. Michael de Fanjaux, Durfort, Lille-Jourdain, and Montsegur. f49 When we have stated these facts, we have said enough to account for the implacable hostility to this sect on the part of the ruling ecclesiastics, and the bloody crusades preached up against it by the monks, and conducted, under the direction of the popes, by Simon de Montfort and Louis VIII. of France, during the early part of the thirteenth century. By means of these the attempted reformation of the church was suppressed, and its disciples nearly exterminated; one of the finest regions of the world was laid waste by countless and successive hordes of barbarous fanatics—its commerce destroyed, its arts annihilated, its literature extinguished; and the progress of the human mind in knowledge and civilization, which had commenced so auspiciously, was arrested and thrown back for ages. f50 The intimate connection which subsisted between Spain and the South of France had great influence on the fate of the Albigensian reformers.
Provence and Languedoc were at that time more properly Aragonese than French. As count of Provence, the king of Aragon was the immediate liege lord of the viscounts of Narbonne, Beziers, and Carcassone. Avignon and other cities acknowledged him as their baronial superior. The principal lords, though they did homage to the king of France or to the emperor, yielded obedience in reality to the Spanish monarch, lived under his protection, and served in his armies. And several of them, by gifts from the crown, or by marriages, possessed lands in Spain.
In consequence of this connection between the two countries, some of the Vaudois had crossed the Pyrenees and established themselves in Spain as early as the middle of the twelfth century. They appear to have enjoyed repose there for some time; but in the year 1194, pope Celestin III. sent the cardinal St. Angelo as legate to attend a council at Lerida, who prevailed on Alfonso II. king of Aragon, to publish an edict, ordering the Vaudois, or Poor Men of Lyons, and all other heretics, to quit his territories under severe pains. This edict not having produced any effect, was renewed three years after by Pedro II, in consequence of a decree of a council held at Gironna. With the view of securing the execution of this measure, the subscriptions of all the grandees of Catalonia were procured to the decree; and all governors and judges were required to swear before the bishops, that they would assist in discovering and punishing those infected with heresy, under the penalty of being themselves treated as heretics. f53 Notwithstanding this edict, and the engagements he had contracted at his coronation, Pedro was disposed to be favorable to this sect. He was from the beginning displeased at the crusade which raged on the north of the Pyrenees; and having at last joined his army to those of his brother-in-law Raymond, count of Toulouse, he fell, in the year 1213, fighting in defence of the Albigenses in the battle of Muret. f54 This disaster, together with those that followed it, induced multitudes of the Albigenses to take refuge in Aragon, who gave ample employment to the inquisition after it was established in that country. From the accession of pope Gregory IX. to that of Alexander IV. (that is, from 1227 to 1254,) they had grown to such numbers and credit as to have churches in various parts of Catalonia and Aragon, which were provided with bishops, who boldly preached their doctrine. Gregory, in a brief which he addressed to the archbishop of Tarragona and his suffragans, in 1232, complains of the increase of heresy in their dioceses, and exhorts them to make strict inquisition after it by means of the Dominican monks; and his successor Alexander repeated the complaint. In 1237, the flames of persecution were kindled in the viscounty of Cerdagne and Castlebon, within the diocese of Urgel; forty-five persons being condemned, of whom fifteen were burnt alive, and eighteen disinterred bodies cast into the fire. In 1267, the inquisitors of Barcelona pronounced sentence against Raymond, count of Forcalquier and Urgel, ordering his bones, as those of a relapsed heretic, to be taken out of the grave; and two years after they passed the same sentence on Arnold, viscount of Castlebon and Cerdagne, and his daughter Ermesinde, wife of Roger-Bernard II. count of Foix, surnamed the Great. Both father and daughter had been dead upwards of twenty years, yet their bones were ordered to be disinterred, “provided they could be found;” a preposterous and unnatural demonstration of zeal for the faith, which is applauded by the fanatical writers of that age, but was in fact dictated by hatred to the memory of the brave and generous Count de Foix.
When summoned in his life-time to appear before the inquisition at Toulouse, that nobleman not only treated their order with contempt, but in his turn summoned the inquisitors of the county of Foix to appear before him as his vassals and subjects. During his exile at the court of his fatherin- law, he was excommunicated by the bishop of Urgel as a favorer of heresy; and although the sentence was removed, and he died in the communion of the church, yet the inquisitors never could forgive the disinterested and determined resistance which he had made to their barbarous proceedings. They put one of his servants to the torture, with the view of extorting from him some evidence upon which they might pronounce that his master had died a heretic; and, having failed in that attempt, they now sought to wreck their vengeance on the memory and the ashes of the countess and her father. f60 It has been said that the Poor Men of Lyons or Waldenses, when they made their first appearance, were looked upon at Rome as an order of monks who wished to revive the decaying fervor of piety among the people, and to lead a life of superior sanctity among themselves; and that it was seriously proposed at one time to give the pontifical sanctions to their internal regulations. Whatever truth there may be in this statement, it is a curious fact, that, in Spain, some individuals of this sect did obtain a temporary respite from persecution by forming themselves into a new religious fraternity. In consequence of a dispute held at Pamiers in Languedoc, Durando de Huesca, a native of Aragon, with a number of his Albigensian brethren, yielded to the Romish missionaries, and having obtained liberty to retire into Catalonia, formed a religious community under the name of the Society of Poor Catholics. In 1207 Durando went to Rome, where he obtained from Innocent III. the remission of his former heresy, and an approbation of his fraternity, of which he was declared superior. Its members lived on alms, applied themselves to study and the teaching of schools, kept lent twice a-year, and wore a decent habit of white or grey, with shoes open at the top, but distinguished by some particular marks from those of the Poor Men of Lyons, who, from this part of their dress, were sometimes called Insabatati. The new order spread so rapidly, that in a few years it had numerous convents both to the south and north of the Pyrenees. But although the Poor Catholics professed to devote themselves to the conversion of heretics, and their superior wrote some books with that in view, they soon incurred the suspicion of the bishops, who accused them of favoring the Vaudois, and concealing their heretical tenets under the monastic garb. They had interest to maintain themselves for some time, and even to procure letters from his Holiness, exhorting the bishops to endeavor to gain them by kindness instead of alienating their minds from the church by severe treatment; but their enemies at last prevailed, and within a short time no trace of their establishments was to be found. f62 The Albigenses were not confined to Aragon and Catalonia. Of the extent to which they spread in the kingdom of Castile and Leon, we may form some judgment from an amusing anecdote, related from personal knowledge, by Lucio, bishop of Tuy, known, as a writer against the Albigenses, by the name of Lucas Tudensis; and which I shall give as nearly in his own words as is consistent with perspicuity. After the death of Roderic, bishop of Leon, (in the year 1237 f63 ) great dissension arose about the election of his successor. Taking advantage of this circumstance, the heretics flocked from all quarters to that city. In one of the suburbs, where every kind of filth was thrown, lay, along with those of a murderer, the bones of a heretic, named Arnald, who had been buried sixteen years before. Near to this was a fountain, over which they erected an edifice, and having taken up the bones of Arnald, whom they extolled as a martyr, deposited them in it. To this place a number of persons, hired by the heretics, came; and feigning themselves to be blind, lame, and afflicted with other disorders, they drank of the waters of the fountain, and then went away, saying that they were suddenly and miraculously healed. This being noised abroad, great multitudes flocked to the spot. After they had got a number of the clergy, as well as laity, to give credit to the pretended cures, the heretics disclosed the imposition which they had practiced, and then boasted that all the miracles performed at the tombs of the saints were of the same kind. By this means, they drew many to their heresy. In vain did the Dominican and Franciscan friars attempt to stem the torrent of defection, by exclaiming against the sin of offering sacrilegious prayers in a place defiled by profane bones. They were cried down as heretics and unbelievers. In vain did the adjacent bishops excommunicate those who visited the fountain or worshipped in the temple. The devil had seized upon the minds of the people and fascinated their senses. At last, a deacon, who resided at Rome, hearing of the state of matters in his native city, hastened to Leon, and “in a kind of frenzy,” at the risk of his life, upbraided the inhabitants for favoring the heretics, and called on the magistrates to abate the nuisance. For some months before his arrival, the country had been afflicted with a severe drought. This he declared to be a judgment from heaven on account of their sin, but promised that it should be removed within eight days from the time that they pulled down the heretical temple.
The magistrates granted him permission, and he razed the building to its foundation. Scarcely was this done, when a fire devoured a great part of the city, and for seven days no symptom of rain appeared; upon which the heretics insulted over the deacon. But on the eighth day the clouds collected, and poured down copious and refreshing showers on all the surrounding country. “After this, the foresaid deacon raised persecution against the heretics, who, being forced to leave the city, were miserably scattered abroad.” We are assured, and not without great probability, that the deacon was no other than Lucas Tudensis, whose modesty induced him to suppress his name in relating the prediction and the persecution, in both of which he appears to have equally gloried. f65 In spite of the occupation given to the clergy by the suppression of the Knights Templars, and the schism of the anti-popes, the persecution of the Albigenses seldom relaxed during the fourteenth century. Scarce a year passed in which numbers were not barbarously led to the stake. Among those who were condemned for heresy at this period, was Arnaldo of Villaneuva in Aragon, a celebrated physician and chemist. He taught, that the whole Christian people had, through the craft of the devil, been drawn aside from the truth, and retained nothing but the semblance of ecclesiastical worship, which they kept up from the force of custom; that those who lived in cloisters threw themselves out of charity, and that the religious orders in general falsified the doctrine of Christ; that it is not a work of charity to endow chapels for celebrating masses for the dead; that those who devoted their money to this purpose, instead of providing for the poor, especially the poor belonging to Christ, exposed themselves to damnation; that offices of mercy and medicine are more acceptable to the Deity than the sacrifice of the altar; and that God is praised in the eucharist not by the hands of the priest, but by the mouth of the communicant. f68 Such being his avowed sentiments, we need not wonder that he was doomed to expiate his temerity by suffering the fire, from which he saved himself by flying from his native country, and taking refuge with Ferdinand, king of Sicily. To Arnald we may add a writer of the following century, Raimond de Sebonde, author of a treatise on natural theology, who was charged with heresy for asserting that all saving truths are contained, and clearly proposed, in the sacred scriptures. f70 From 1412 to 1425, a great number of persons who entertained the sentiments of the Vaudois were committed to the flames by the inquisitors of Valentia, Rousillon, and Majorca. It appears, that the followers of Wicliffe had migrated to the Peninsula; for in 1441, the inquisitors of Aragon and Valentia reconciled some of them to the church, and condemned others to the fire as obstinate heretics. If we may trust the monkish annalists, Spain was also visited at this period by the Beghards, a fanatical sect which the corruptions of the church and the ignorance of the times had generated in Germany and other parts of Europe. But this is uncertain, as it was common for the clergy to apply this and similar names to the Vaudois, with the view of exciting odium against them, and justifying their own cruelties. In 1350, we are told, a warm inquisition was commenced in Valentia against the Beghards, whose leader was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and the bones of many of his disciples dug up and consigned to the flames; and in 1442, it was found they had multiplied at Durango, a town of Biscay, and in the diocese of Calahorra. Alfonso de Mella, a Franciscan, and brother of the bishop of Zamora, who was afterwards invested with the purple, having incurred the suspicion of being at the head of this party, fled along with his companions, to the Moors, among whom “he died miserably at Grenada, being pierced with reeds; an example, (says the biographer of his brother) worthy to be recorded, of the variety of human affairs, and the opposite dispositions of persons who lay in the same womb.” On application to John II. king of Castile, a band of royal musqueteers was sent to scour the mountains of Biscay, and the higher districts of Old Castile, who drove down the heretics like cattle before them, and delivered them to the inquisitors, by whom they were committed to the flames at St. Domingo de la Calzado, and Valladolid. Thus were the Albigenses, after a barbarous and unrelenting persecution of two centuries, exterminated in Spain, with the exception of a few, who contrived to conceal themselves in the more remote and inaccessible parts of the country, and at a subsequent period, furnished occasionally a straggling victim to the familiars of the inquisition, when surfeited with the blood of Jews and Moriscoes.
During these proceedings, Rome succeeded in establishing its empire a second time in Spain, and that in a more durable form than in the days of the Scipios and Augustus. This conquest was achieved chiefly by means of the monks and friars. Anciently the number of convents and of monks in Spain was small; but it multiplied greatly from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. The beginning of that period was marked by the infliction of that scourge of society, and outrage of all decency,—privileged and meritorious mendicity. Of all the orders of mendicant friars, the most devoted to the See of Rome were those founded by St. Dominic and St. Francis, the former the most odious, the latter the most frantic, of modern saints.
Within a few years after their institution, convents belonging to both these orders were to be found in every part of Spain. Though the Dominicans, owing to the patronage of the court of Rome, or to their founder, being a Spaniard, enjoyed the greatest share of political power, yet the reception given to the Franciscans left them no ground to complain of Spanish inhospitality. An event which happened at the close of the fifteenth century contributed to the still more rapid increase of religious houses. A great part of the wealth which flowed into Spain after the discovery of the New World, found its way to the church. Imitating the Pagan warriors who dedicated the spoils which they had gained to their gods, the Spaniards who enriched themselves by pillaging and murdering the Indians, sought to testify their gratitude or to expiate their crimes by lavishing ornaments on churches, and endowing monasteries. The following examples show the rate at which the regular clergy increased. The first Franciscan missionaries entered Spain in the year 1216; and, in 1400, they had, within the three provinces of Santiago, Castile, and Aragon, including Portugal, twentythree custodiae , composed of an hundred and twenty-one convents. But in the year 1506, the Regular Observantines, who formed only the third division of that order, had a hundred and ninety convents in Spain, excluding Portugal. In the year 1030, the city of Salamanca did not contain a single convent; in 1480, it possessed nine, of which six were for males, and three for females; and in 1518, it could number thirty-nine convents, while its nuns alone amounted to eleven thousand. f76 The corruption of the monastic institutions kept pace with the increase of their numbers and wealth. The licentiousness of the regular clergy became notorious. They broke through the rules prescribed by their founders, and laid aside that austere mode of living by which they had at first acquired all their reputation. Even those who had vowed the most rigid poverty, such as the Observantines, or third order of St. Francis, procured dispensations from Rome, in virtue of which they possessed rents, and property in houses and lands. By the original regulations of St. Francis, all belonging to his order bound themselves to live purely on alms and were strictly prohibited from receiving any money, on whatever pretext, even as wages for labor performed by them, “unless for the manifest necessity of infirm brethren.” The monastic historians are greatly puzzled to account for the glaring departure from this rule of poverty; probably forgetting, or not wishing to have recourse to the well known maxim, that nature abhors a vacuum. Sometimes they wish to account for it by saying that a destructive pestilence, about the beginning of the fourteenth century, thinned the monasteries, which were afterwards filled with novices of a more earthly mould. But they are forced to trace the evil to a more remote source, and to impute it to brother Elias, a native of Cortona, and vicar-general of the order of Franciscans, under its founder. As early as 1223, he began to hint to his brethren that the rule prescribed to them was a yoke which neither they nor their successors could bear; but was silenced by the authority of St. Francis. After the death of the saint, he was more successful in gaining proselytes to his opinion, and drew upon himself the sentence of excommunication, from which, however, he was ultimately relieved. f81 The kings of Spain attempted at different times to correct these abuses, but the monks and friars had always the influence or the address to defeat the measure. When the glaring nature of the evil induced Ferdinand and Isabella to renew the attempt at the close of the fifteenth century, they were obliged to employ force; nor would their united authority have been sufficient to carry the point, had they not availed themselves of the sagacity and firmness of the celebrated cardinal Ximenes, himself a friar, and inflamed with the passion of restoring the order of St. Francis, of which he was then provincial, to all the poverty and rigor of its original institution.
Lorenzo Vacca, abbot of the monastery of the Holy Spirit at Segovia, relying on the papal bulls which he had procured, made such resistance to the plans of his provincial, that the government found it necessary to commit him to prison, from which he escaped, and repairing to Rome, exerted himself, through the influence of Ascanio Sforza and other cardinals, in counteracting the reform of the religious orders in Spain. f82 The Franciscan friars of Toledo carried their resistance so far, that an order was issued to banish them from the kingdom; upon which they left the city in solemn procession, carrying a crucifix before them, and chaunting the psalm which begins, When Israel went up out of Egypt, &c. The biographers of Ximenes represent him as having reformed all the religious institutions in Spain; but it is evident that his success was partial, and chiefly confined to his own order. So far as they proceeded on the rigid principles of monachism, the regulations which he introduced were unnatural and pernicious, and such of them as were favorable to morals were soon swept away by the increasing tide of corruption.
It has been said, that Ximenes abolished a number of superstitious practices which had crept into the worship of the Spanish church during the dark ages; and in proof of this we are told that he revived the Mozarabic office, and appointed it to be used in all the churches of his diocese. But the writers who make this assertion have fallen into a mistake, both as to what was done by the cardinal, and as to the object he had in view. Perceiving that the Mozarabic service had fallen into desuetude in the six churches of Toledo, in which its use had been enjoined by an old law, he was desirous to preserve this venerable relic of antiquity. With this view he employed Alfonso Ortiz, one of the canons of his cathedral, to collate all the copies of that liturgy which could be found; and, the Gothic letters in which they were written being changed into Roman, he caused the work to be printed. Some years after he erected a chapel in the cathedral church, with an endowment for thirteen priests, whose duty it was to celebrate the service according to that liturgy. There is reason to think that he ordered it to be also used on certain festivals in the churches commonly called Mozarabic; but it is certain that the order did not extend to the other churches of his diocese. So far was it from his intention to make any innovation on the existing forms of worship, or to supplant the Roman by the ancient Spanish liturgy, that he interpolated his edition of the latter, in order to render it more conformable to the former; thus destroying its character and use as an ancient document. Among these interpolations are “a prayer for the adoration of the cross,” and offices for a number of saints who lived before as well as after the compilation of the liturgy; for the ancient Goths and Mozarabes commemorated none but martyrs in their public service.—Ferdinand de Talavera, archbishop of Granada, endowed, about the same time, a chapel in Salamanca, in which the service continued to be celebrated according to the ritual at the close of the seventeenth century. f89 It might be presumed, from the statements already made, and from what we know of other countries, that the Spanish clergy had sunk very low in point of knowledge, and that the absurdities which one of their countrymen afterwards exposed so wittily in Fray Gerundio , were not less common or less ridiculous before the revival of letters. But on this head we are not left to conjecture. In address to queen Isabella, cardinal Ximenes acknowledges the gross ignorance that prevailed among the priests. This led to the adoption of the most absurd opinions, and the practice of the most extravagant superstitions. Legends and lives of saints formed the favorite reading of the devout, while the vulgar fed on the stories of everyday miracles which the priests and friars ministered fresh to their credulity.
The doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin met with believers in other countries; but Spain could boast of an order of nuns consecrated to the honor of that newly-invented mystery. The doctrine of transubstantiation, which many even at that period could not digest without difficulty, was no trial of faith to a Spaniard. “Do you believe that this wafer is the body of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?” was the question which the parish priests of Valencia, in the fourteenth century, were accustomed to put to dying persons; and on obtaining an affirmative answer, they administered the host. Another attempt to extend the mysterious process a little farther met with greater opposition. Eimeric, the author of the celebrated Guide to Inquisitors , wrote against Bonnet and Mairon, who maintained that St. John the Evangelist became the real son of the Virgin, in consequence of his body being transubstantiated into that of Christ, by the words pronounced on the cross, Ecce filius tuus, Behold thy son. f92