« ZurückWeiter »
sistibly attracted towards the Bishop by the sanctity of his deportment, and after the solemn rites were concluded, he hastened to converse with him, like Cornelius with S. Peter, but moved not by an Angel, but by the devotion of his soul, and not as a seeker of the rudiments of the faith, but as a hearer of counsels of perfection.
The conversation as given by the chronicler of Ramsey is too long to be translated entire, but it is so remarkable as a summary of the arguments by which great men were often led to the foundation of religious houses, and so valuable therefore in its bearing on ecclesiological history, that I shall endeavour to condense its spirit within a smaller space. It is hardly necessary to add, that the opinions expressed or implied in such accounts must be received with caution.
“ Providence,” said the Earl,“ has at length smiled on my wish to see you, and I trust that our meeting may not be withont occasions of converting acquaintance into a deeper friendship. I am a man under authority, yet blessed with a large estate, and with great influence. This is the gift of God, and I well know that where He has given much He will require the more.”
The heart of the Bishop warmed towards Aylwin as he replied, “ I thank you, most noble Earl, for the way in which you have more than anticipated the movement of my heart towards you ; and yet more do I thank God for the good seed which He has sown within you. True, indeed, it is, that the more exalted our station, the greater our obligation to fill it worthily. And though we bé lifted up above other men, yet have we enough in common with them to keep us lowly. All alike are born in sorrow, and living in sorrow, in sorrow at last end our days, God having set no differences between men, except those of virtue and vice. Wealth and honour are blessings and privileges only when we rule them, instead of their enslaving us; and though perhaps greatness may be permitted us, lowliness is the most blessed estate. The wind that sweeps the broad boughs of the lofty tree, shakes its roots to their last fibre, while the bending reed rises erect again, and the lowly myrtle scarcely feels the blast. The worm feeds sweetly on Cæsar and Alexander. Or look on the freshly turned soil beneath our feet. He who was yesterday great and greatly beloved, whose word turned the mind even of the king, who was clothed in purple and silk and gold, and feasted with us in the king's chamber,-he is now in his grave, and all that he had is passed away, except the treasure which he may have laid up in heaven." Bursting into tears, the Earl asked what remedy remained for him, whose very greatness did but multiply his cares, and whose duties were too full of occasions of sin, or at best of mistaken judgment. The Bishop replied, that if he made equity always his guide, his worldly honours would be profitable to him;
but that if by any error or fault of judgment, or inscrutable accident he had swerved from the right, he might atone for the error by increased alms, and by relief of the distressed. Yet that after all, those only are free who have embraced a voluntary poverty for Christ's sake. “ And great is the praise of their estate. Often do their prayers and their merits avert the judgments of heaven, obtain healthful and fruitful seasons, drive away famine and pestilence: in their retirement they do indeed rule kingdoms, open prisons, break chains asunder. In their poverty and simplicity they relieve the shipwrecked, cure the sick, strengthen the weak; in a word, while the world in its madness abuses the Divine patience, for their sakes its whole framework is maintained. If then, you know in all your wide lands a place fit for the residence of holy men, who by their prayers may supply your defects and expiate your sins, do not hesitate to appropriate it to so good a purpose, and from me you shall have all the help that my office and experience can afford.” Sylwin. “Such a place I have, reverend father, called Ramsey, in all respects fit for the habitation of such a holy brotherhood. Remote from all concourse of men, the very spirit of solitude reigns there, yet it is fertile, and well clothed with woods, and its flocks and pastures amply repay the care bestowed upon them. Till lately there was no building there, but a few sheds for the Aocks which I used to send to fatten in the rich pasture; but some years back, when I had long languished under a severe and hopeless illness, I received the promise of a cure from S. Benedict, through a vision revealed to another person, and at the same time was enjoined to build a monastery, in the very place of which I speak. The vision soon received the first part of its fulfilment in the restoration of my health, and I hastened to perform my part; throwing up a little cell, with wooden walls, which might remain until I had leisure to erect a larger church and all necessary offices for the reception of the brethren. There three men only who have renounced the luxuries of the world, await the aid and counsel of some one who shall teach them the monastic rule.” Oswald. In a village in my diocese there are twelve brethren who have cast behind their backs the lusts of the Hesh, and are only warmed with divine love. These would willingly undertake the charge: let us then go at once, together, and inspect the place of which you speak.” Aylwin. “It is well said, most holy father; thither will we go, and there shall the flock whom you mention form one fold with those already there.”
And now they bid adieu to the assembled Bishops and Barons, and hasten to Ramsey.
“Here, father," says Aylwin, “is the place which S. Benedict pointed out as a site for a religious house. Here you have only to command, it will be my happiness to obey."
Oswald, with a prescient spirit, exclaimed, “Verily this is an
other Eden, pre-ordained for men destined for the highest heaven. In this place, O my friend, shall all generations acknowledge the proofs of your faith and devotion ; and while we are here erecting a temporary mansion, we shall also be erecting, if our faith fail not, a mansion eternal in the heavens. Let us then commence at once, for as the iron is beaten while glowing with internal fire into whatever form the smith chooses ; so must we, while the little spark of an inceptive devotion is kindled in us; go on with the work which we have designed, lest the devil should take occasion of any delay to breathe a colder spirit upon us, and so the conclusion answer not to the beginning. Let me therefore return to my own place, and send hither a certain man, faithful and approved in such works, under whose management a little refectory and dormitory may be prepared for the brethren who shall come hither, until we shall ourselves return, and consult about the form and character of the future church.”
The architect whom Oswald sent was Ædnothus, who at once laid out the ground, and enlarged the chapel, which he found there already, adding other buildings according to the form and manner which had been fairly designed for him by the holy man. Twelve brethren from Westbury were sent to Ramsey, and the care of the internal arrangement of the monastery was committed to Germanus, that of all out-coor works to Ædnothus. During the winter he got together whatever instruments of wood or iron would be required for the masons' work; and as the flowers of spring peeped forth, artificers were seen gathering together to the works. The length and breadth of the church to be constructed are marked out: the foundations, on account of the dampness of the soil, are deeply laid ; and the bed is made still more solid to sustain the superimposed weight, by frequent blows of the beetle.* The labourers are stimulated as well by devotion as by their wages, some bring stones together, some temper mortar, and some 'raise on high both stones and mortar with a crane, and the work visibly progresses, through the Lord's help. Moreover two towers are raised above the ridge of the roof; the first standing at the west end of the Church, presents from afar a noble spectacle to those who enter the island; but the greater tower rises from the centre of the cross upon four columns, connected with arches, springing across from column to column. In truth the whole is a glorious edifice, according to the form of building of the day.
But the brethren of Ramsey did not long pride themselves with
* The historians mention the means taken to secure a good foundation in Croyland also, and at Medeshamstede. " At Croyland, on account of the spongy nature of the soil, innumerable piles of oak and alder were driven into the ground, and the spaces between them filled up with dry earth, brought from a distance of nine miles." (Ingulf. fol. 485.) “At Medeshamstede, the foundations were laid with stones of such enormous size, that each was drawn to its place by a team of eight yoke of oxen." (Hug. Cand. p. 4.) Lingard.
out rebuke in the beauty of their Church. When they arose one morning they saw in the central tower a great crack, from top to bottom, which seemed to threaten the whole Church with instant destruction. Germanus and Ædnothus were sent to Aylwin to tell bim of the misfortune. The noble soldier of Christ for a moment repressed his words, lest he should seem to reproach God by an impatient expression of grief; but soon he recovered his selfpossession, and said, “ I was dumb, dearest children, at your news, for I saw that my travail had returned upon me; but it is the Lord's will, and blessed be His name. I had hoped that my limbs, weary and worn out, might at length enjoy a seasonable rest, and now two things conspire to disappoint my wishes,—the loss of former labours, and the necessity of renewed exertions. But for this I have to thank God, that as yet my body is vigorous, and that an unsubdued spirit animates my aged frame." The good old man bastens to the spot, the brethren meet him. He enters the Church, attended by the choristers, and having first celebrated Divine service, he takes courage to look on the terrific ruin. The masons all agree that the fault was in the softness of the foundation, and that without taking down the whole, it could not be remedied. Oswald is consulted, and he too in his old age gives cheerful and wise counsel. The brethren must have been weak indeed not to be encouraged by such advisers, and base indeed not to be stimulated to exertion by the greatness of their hearts. “ Behold,” said Aylwin, “how little time or strength is left to me: you whose minds are still firm and active as your bodies,-you must bear the burden of the work. As for me, the wealth which I have acquired shall be devoted to the service, and, thank God, it will be enough.” The labourers approach the tower by the roof, and going stoutly to work, take it down stone by stone to the very ground. They search into the cause of so grievous a destruction, and having taken out the earth from a great depth, find where the foundation was defective. Then making a firm cement with stones and mortar, which they render still harder with the blows of beetles, they fill up the trench, and the masons rejoice to see the daily progress of their work.*
The Abbey of Ramsey affords one of the early instances in Sir Henry Spelman's History and Fate of Sacrilege. The story touches the fabric more nearly than usual.
“Circ. A.D. 1142, Geoffrey Mandeville, Earl of Essex, being called, among other of the nobility, to a council at S. Alban's, he was there unduly taken at S. Alban's, prisoned, and could have no liberty till he delivered the tower of London, and the castles of Walden and Plessy: being thus spoiled of his holds, he turned his fury upon the Abbey of Ramsey, it being a place of security, and invading it by force, drove out the monks, and placed his soldiers in their room, and fortified the Church instead of his castle. The abbat and monks betook them to their arms, and with all the force they could, shot their curses and imprecations against him and his complices. Thus prepared to his destruction, he besieged the castle of Burwell, where a peasant shooting him lightly in the head with an arrow, contemning the wound, he died of it, in excommunication, leaving three sons inheritors of that malediction, but of no lands of their father, the king having seized them.
* "Deinde lapidum ongerie arietum tunsionibus cum comento tenatiori durios conserta, abyssum ipsam denuo construunt, et superædificantes coti. diani laboris votivo guadent proventu.” The “ Historia Ramasiensis," from which these accounts are taken, is by a brother of that house, whose name and age are unknown, though it is certain he did not write before the time of Henry I.
" Arnulph, his eldest son, who still maintained the Church of Ramsey as a castle, was taken prisoner by King Stephen, stripped of all his inheritance, banished, and died without issue.
“Geoffrey Mandeville, second son, was restored by King Henry II., and married Eustachia, the king's kinswoman, but had no issue by her.
“ William Mandeville, the third son, succeeded his brother, and was twice married, but died without issue. Thus the name and issue of this sacrilegious Earl were all extinct, and the inheritance carried to Geoffery Fitz-Peter, another family, by the marriage of Beatrix Lay, his sister's grandchild."
At the dissolution of monasteries, Ramsey fell to Sir Richard Cromwell, and brought with it the usual penalty attached to sacrilege.* But very small traces of the edifice remain.
G. A. P.
RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES. At the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century a variety of private associations were formed among the more earnest members of the Church, with the view of promoting the spread of practical piety in this country. Our readers, we feel sure, will peruse with interest, the rules provided for a society of this kind that held its meetings within the precincts of the Savoy, by Dr. Anthony Horneck.
1. That all who enter into this Society resolve upon a holy and serious life.
2. That no person be admitted till he arrive at the age of sixteen, and hath been first confirmed by the Bishop, and solemnly taken on himself his baptismal vow.
* See Appendix I. of the recent edition of Spelman's History and Fate of Sacrilege.