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barons were very far from always standing in awe of prelates and abbots : convents were often plundered without mercy, and if the church had spoiled the laity, the laity retaliated with vengeance.

“ The poverty and distress of the convents, and their want of the necessaries of life, was another feature of ancient society which we little expect. To find Anselm writing to archbishop Lanfranc, and telling him, that oatmeal and beans had been so dear, for a long time, that the great monastery of Bec was in the depths of difficulty, and that, dreadful as the last year's sufferings had been, the next would be worse ; to find the archbishop assisting them with twenty pounds, and to hear moving complaints of the distress occasioned to the monks by the town toll, which was rigorously exacted, even on the pot-herbs which composed their scanty cuisine, would certainly be quite new matter to most readers.” Yet there can be no doubt that these instances were the exceptions, and not the illustrations of the rule ; proofs of the wealth of monasteries in general being abundant, and seasons of calamity and depression, of which we find complaints, being only temporary, and owing to accidental circumstances,




MANUAL labour was strongly recommended by. Benedict, and, from the first establishmeni of his order, the monks engaged themselves in tilling the soil. It is difficult to form an idea of the deplorable state of agriculture in Europe, for some centuries after the invasion of the barbarians

* Quarterly Review, vol. Ivijl. p. 424.

upon the south. The change which has since been wrought in the appearance of towns, in the state of trade, and in the general character of political and social institutions, is scarcely greater than the change which has been produced in the aspect of nature. Many an immense tract of country now smiling with cornfields, meadows, gardens, and vineyards, was, in the middle ages, a miserable morass, or a straggling forest, haunted by the wolf, and unvisited by man. In the first attempts to transform the desert into “ a fruitful field,” we find the monks most active. In the early charters granted to monasteries, frequent mention is made of extensive districts, uncultivated and barren, made over to them as their property, which, by their labour, they turned to profitable account. Wild and inaccessible forests were cleared for the site of a new convent; and the monkish historian, as he recorded the fact, exclaimed, “ How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, Israel! In the place where dragons lay shall there be reeds and rushes.” Some of the most pleasing parts of the monastic annals are those in which an account is given of the change produced in the face of the country, by the enclosure of land around the monastery. There is some interest felt in looking on the following picture :

“The place,” says the biographer of Eligius, in describing an abbey which he built, "the place is so fertile and so pleasant, that when any person walks there among the orchards of fruit, and the gardens of flowers, he is ready to burst forth into the exclamation, 'How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, Ó Israel! like shady woods, like cedars near the waters, and as gardens by the river'-of such, Solomon

says, the habitations of the just are blessed.' .... It is surrounded by an enclosure, not of stone, but consisting of a foss and bridge, about a mile and a quarter in circuit; on one side guarded by a beautiful river, from which there rises a lofty hill, crowned with wood, and rocks towering to a great height. The inner space is filled with fruit-bearing trees of various kinds, where the mind is cheered, and may fancy itself surrounded by the delightful scenes of Paradise.”*

The buildings which rose in these cultivated spots, were the work of monks. They were the architects and masons of the day ; and whatever signs of strength or beauty might be displayed in the structure of the convent, the cathedral, or the church, was the fruit of their labour, or their genius. For example, two distinguished monks in England, Bennet and Wilfred, are described by our historians as being possessed of much architectural skill. The churches of Weremouth and Jarrow were erected by the former; the cathedral of York was repaired and beantified, and that of Ripon entirely built by the latter. We are told that the masonry was nicely polished, that rows of columns supported the roof, and that porticoes adorned each of the principal entrances. The monastery of Hexham was the last and most admired of his works. “ The height and length of the walls, the beautiful polish of the stones, the pumber of the columns and porticoes, and the spiral windings which led to the top of each tower, have exercised the descriptive powers of Eddius, who, after two journeys to the apostolic see, boldly pronounced that there existed not on this side the Alps a church to be compared with that of Hexham.”* When reading such descriptions, we must remember that they be. long to an age of comparative ignorance and barbarism, and that, therefore, the buildings so much extolled would probably excite but little, if any, admiration now; yet, doubtless, they did evince some buddings of that architectural taste which was afterwards developed in great perfection. It may not be uninteresting to add a notice or two of the Saxon method of building. The foundations of Medhamsted were laid with stones, each of which was drawn by eight yoke of oxen. Those of Croyland were composed of piles of oak, and alder between, which were compressed with great quantities of dry earth. At Ramsey the stones for the foundation were beaten down with rammers ; a windlass was employed to raise the stones to

* D'Achery, Spic. tom. ii. 83.

* Lingard's Anglo-Saxons, vol. i.



the top of the wall. The ceilings were generally framed with oak. Vaulted roofs of stone forming a triumph of architectural skill which they rarely attempted, and which they were unable perfectly to accomplish ; and it should be stated, that it was only in rare instances, and in particular situations, that buildings were of stone at all - wood was commonly employed.

Allusion has already been made to the decorations of the monasteries and churches, and to the works of art employed in religious ceremonies; there were further proofs of monkish skill.

An ingenious work of art, intended to represent the solar system, was possessed by the monks of Croyland, and destroyed by the fire which consumed the abbey, in 1091. It was a table composed of different metals. The planet Saturn was of copper, Jupiter of gold, Mars of iron, Mercury of amber, Venus of tin, the Moon of silver, and the solar orb of brass. It is described by the monkish chronicler, Ingulf, as charming the eyes, and instructing the mind, by its precious materials, its brilliant colours, and its exquisite workmanship. This scientific instrument, however, was not the work of the monks themselves, but a present to the abbot of Croyland, by the king of France. Yet it seems that similar tables were not uncommon in England; and these, no doubt, were the handyworks of the monastic brethren, who alone understood scientific matters. Another proof of mechanical skill, not so well known,

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