N O inquiry into the economical history of England would be complete which did not give some account of the clergy. During a long time they were the most powerful factors in the progress of civilization, were the principal instruments by which the very memory of ancient literature was preserved, and some of its relics treasured; were the only historians of the age, the only educators of the people, the only refuge from tyranny and violence, the asylum of the past, the hope of the future. At one time the national and secular clergy performed, to the best of their power, these high functions; at another time, the protection of society becomes the business of monasteries, though often unconsciously ; at another, the papacy is the ark of refuge ; at another, the hierarchy of different European states was compelled to save the corporate Church from the ambition, the vices, the incapacity of its chief; at another, the authors of schisms within the order were the agents in working out the
358 The Clergy till the Reformation. The Church of the middle ages conferred inestimable
benefits on mankind, and especially on England, from the days of Lanfranc to those of Grostête; but it inflicted enormous mischief in other ways. It was in the last degree intolerant to all who would not agree with its tenets and its policy. As it became more zealous it became more implacable. It educated the human mind, but only on its own lines, and, though it allowed it growth, it stunted and distorted it. It had no patience with those who challenged its authority and the means by which it thought fit to maintain its authority. It put out the most shameless fictions in order to vindicate its claims. It forged a whole body of law that it might maintain, first, the appellate, and, next, the original jurisdiction of the papal court. I t forged charters innumerable, in order to give the pretence of independence for its action and status. I t forged miracles by thousands, in order that it might at once enslave the people and fill its coffers. Mr. Hallam has quoted some of these stories, which he conceives were invented in order to be a counterpoise to the foolish romances of chivalry. They long preceded any such romances, and a heap of them-those which Mr. Hallam quotes among the rest-may be seen in an eleventh century MS. (Laud, No. F . 34), still preserved in the Bodleian Library. Nor was the papacy above sharing in these frauds. I do not say that the alleged miracles at Becket’s tomb were deliberate impostures. The circumstances under which the unparalleled crime of Becket’s murder was committed were sufficient to strike every imagination in the twelfth century, even that of the murderers themselves, when the paroxysm of passion was over. I can well believe that for a long time “ the martyrdom chapel” was full of apparitions to the devout believer; the tomb of the saint a scene of divine manifestations. I can understand why the Black Prince chose the proximity of the shrine, to which Becket’s body fifty years after the murder was translated, as the place of his own sepulchre; and why Henry IV., who had himself put to death another archbishop by form of legal process, chose the same spot for himself and his wife. But the
359 Forged Credentials-Intolerance bargain under which the translation was permitted by the pope is most significant. The murder of Becket occurred in midwinter, a most inconvenient time for pilgrimage, and the monks sought for the pope’s permission to put the day of translation in midsummer. The bargain was long and anxious. The pope claimed half the gross profits of the shrine, and on the monks insisting that they could not carry on the business on such terms, allowed himself to accept half the net profits. The pope was Honorius III., who had succeeded to the policy and pretensions of Innocent III., and the narrative of the transaction is in the archives of Christ Church, now the Canterbury chapter.