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From From St. Francis to Dante, translations from the Chronicle of the Franciscan Salimbene (1221-88), by G. G. Coulton, 2nd edition, revised and enlarged, 1907; pp. 1-48.



Chapter I.

The Autobiography of Brother Salimbene.

THIS — the most remarkable autobiography of the Middle Ages — is only now beginning to take its proper place in history. Inaccessible until lately even to most medieval scholars, it is now at last being published in its entirely under the admirable editorship of Prof. Holder-Egger, in the Monumenta Germaniæ (Vol. xxxii, Scriptores). An edition was indeed published in 1857 at Parma: but this was printed from an imperfect transcript, mutilated in deference to ecclesiastical susceptibilities. The original MS., after many vicissitudes, had been bought into the Vatican library in order to render a complete publication impossible; and it was only thrown open to students, with the rest of the Vatican treasures, by the liberality of the late Pope Leo XIII. Even now, the complete Salimbene will never be read; for many sheets have been cut out of the MS., and parts of others erased, by certain scandalized readers of long ago:1 but, in the shape in which we have him at last, the is the most precious existing authority for the ordinary life of Catholic folk at the period which by common consent marks the high-water line of the Middle Ages.

There have been few more brilliant victories in history than those of St. Francis, and few more pathetic failures. The very qualities which put him in a class by himself, and command admiration even from his least sympathetic critics, foredoomed his ideal to a fall as startling as its rise. The generation which followed him was at least as far from fulfilling his hopes as the First Empire was from realizing the ideal of 1789. In each case, an impulse was given which shook Europe to its foundations, and still vibrates down the ages. But in each case there was something of necessary blindness in the passionate concentration of the original idea; so that the movement soon took quite a different direction, and liberated quite different forces, from those which had been contemplated by the men who threw their whole soul into the first blow. In Dante’s lifetime, not a century 2 after St. Francis’s death, friars were burned alive by their brother friars for no worse fault than obstinate devotion to the strict Rule of St. Francis. The Saint was the especial Apostle of Poverty: yet that century of steadily-growing wealth and luxury which stirred Cacciaguida’s gall so deeply (Par. xv. 97 foll.) coincided precisely with the century of first and purest Franciscan activity: especially if we read the poet in the light of contemporary chroniclers, who date the change from “the days of Frederick II.” St. Francis was born in that age of Bellincion Berti to which Dante looked back as so simple, so sober, and so chaste; and if he had come back to earth on the centenary of his death, he would have found himself “in the days of Sardanapalus.” Making all allowance for Dante’s bitterness, and for his characteristically medieval praise of past times at the expense of the present, still we cannot doubt that the change was real and far-reaching. It was in Dante’s lifetime, for instance, that the custom of buying Oriental slaves grew up, with other similar luxuries which the friars were quite powerless to banish, even when they did not themselves set the example.2

Again, Innocent III had seen in a vision St. Francis propping the falling Church: yet this hope, too, was partly belied by the facts of later history. The friars, it is true, seemed for a time to have entirely checked the growing spirit of antisacerdotalism; but they brought among the clergy themselves a ferment of free thought which only found its proper outlet at the Reformation; just as the Oxford movement, though initiated as a protest not against the Low Church but against Liberalism, has worked in the long run for Liberalism within our own communion. The Church, in the narrower sense in which Innocent and Francis understood the word, was partly propped, but also seriously shaken, by the thrust of the Franciscan buttress.

Yet the true kernel of St. Francis’s teaching has lived and grown: he has given an undying impulse to the world’s spiritual life. He showed that a man need not leave the world to live the highest life — that indeed he can scarcely live the highest life except in the world — and, in spite of occasional hesitation on the Saint’s own part, in spite of the blindness of many of his most devoted successors, this is a lesson which men have never since forgotten. In this at least, the twentieth century is more Franciscan than the thirteenth; that you may find a true saint in cricketing flannels or at a theatre, or selling you a pennyworth of biscuits without any airs whatever behind the counter of a village shop. Society in general has grown sufficiently 3 decent to render the retirement into monastic life almost or quite unnecessary: and therefore, though there was been no age in which monks might so easily live in undisturbed retirement as in our own (if indeed they would seek such retirement, and avoid worldly politics), yet monastic vocations among grown-up men and women are extremely rare even in Roman Catholic countries. The good man seldom dreams of cutting himself off from society: and both he and society find themselves the better for it.

The persistence with which most English writers on St. Francis ring the changes on M. Sabatier’s admirable biography without refreshing themselves at original sources is apt to create a very artificial atmosphere. Indeed, M. Sabatier himself seems at times to forget the essential impracticability of the strict Franciscan ideal. When he writes that there was something “which all but made of the Franciscans the leaven of a quite new civilization” in “the thought . . that the return of the Spirit of Poverty to dwell on the earth should be the signal for a complete restoration of the human race” (Sacrum Commercium, p. 8) he himself would probably frankly confess, on second thoughts, that his enthusiasm has carried him too far. The idea of a formal and absolute renunciation of property was from the first as essentially incapable of regenerating the world as the idea of formal celibacy was of settling “the social problem.” It was simply a religious charge of the Light Brigade — magnificent in its moral effect, eternally inspiring within its own limits, but vitiated by a terrible miscalculation of the opposing forces. It had no more effect on the growing luxury of the 13th century than had the Six Hundred on the solid Russian army. Military suicide is in the long run as fatal to victory in the Holy War as in any other: and many of the worst treasons to the Franciscan spirit may be traced directly to the Saint’s own exaggerations. The Franciscan legend in England seems in danger of becoming almost as artificial as the Napoleonic legend in France: the strain of praise is pitched higher and higher by each successive writer, till it comes very near to the falsetto of cant. The time seems almost at hand when those who cared for the Saint before M. Sabatier’s Life was published will feel like those who cared for art before the coming of Æstheticism. The cycle of early Franciscan legends is studied almost as the Bible was two hundred years ago — as a Scripture rather desecrated than honoured by illustration from outside sources. Miss Macdonell’s Sons of Francis, in spite of the lacunæ in her scholarship, is, however, a real attempt to illustrate the Saint’s life by those of some of his nearest companions and most distinguished followers. But even 4 she moves almost altogether in the plane of exceptional manifestations, and lacks the deeper knowledge of contemporary manners which is necessary for a comprehension of the average friar. Yet it is in fact almost as important to understand the average friar as to understand St. Francis himself, if we would realize the 13th century. And though Salimbene himself cannot be called an average friar — he was in many ways far above the ordinary — yet there is no other single book in which the ordinary friar, and the world on which he looked out, may so well be studied.

The author’s time and circumstances were among the most favourable that could possibly be conceived for an autobiographer. He was a citizen of one of the busiest cities of Italy during incomparably the most stirring period of its history. A Franciscan of the second generation, overlapping St. Francis by five years and Dante by twenty-five, he knew personally many of the foremost figures in Franciscan and Dantesque history: and the course of his long and wandering life brought him into contact with many real saints, and still more picturesque sinners, whom he describes with the most impartial interest. His naturally observant and sympathetic mind had been ripened, when he wrote, by forty years’ work in the busiest, most popular, most enterprising religious order that ever existed:

“Lo, goode men, a flye, and eek a frere
  Wol falle in every dyshe and mateere.”

And, rarest and most precious circumstance of all, he is among the frankest autobiographers, not so much composing as thinking aloud. Like Pepys, whom he resembles so closely in other ways, he wrote with small thought for posterity: the Chronicle was apparently designed at first for the edification of his dear niece, a nun of his own order. As he tells us (p. 187), “Moreover, in writing divers chronicles I have used a simple and intelligible style, that my niece for whom I wrote might understand as she read; nor have I been anxious and troubled about ornaments of words, but only about the truth of my story. For my niece Agnes is my brother’s daughter, who, having come to her fifteenth year, entered the order of St. Clare, and continues in the service of Jesus Christ even to this present day, A.D. 1284, wherein I write these words. Now this Sister Agnes, my niece, had an excellent understanding in Scripture, and a good understanding and memory, together with a delightful tongue and ready of speech, so that it might be said of her, not without reason, ‘Grace 5 is poured abroad in thy lips, therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.’ ”3 We have here, therefore in Montaigne’s words, “un livre de bonne foy.” If some of the stories which the grey-headed friar chronicles for the edification of his aristocratic and cultured niece seem to us a trifle full-flavoured, we must remember that this was thoroughly characteristic of the Ages of Faith. After all, Madame Eglantine and her two fellow-nuns heard worse still on their pious journey to Canterbury: and the most classical educational writer of the Middle Ages, the Knight of La Tour Landry, records even stranger tales than Chaucer’s for the instruction of his two motherless daughters. If, again, the friar’s very plain-spoken criticisms of matters ecclesiastical may startle those who have indeed read their Dante, but who have been taught, perhaps, that Dante writes with peculiar bitterness as a disappointed man, this is only because many of the most important facts of thirteenth century history have never in modern times been fairly laid before the public. Nobody could gather from even the most candid of modern ecclesiastical historians that the crowning period of the Middle Ages seemed, to those who lived in it, almost hopelessly out of joint. The most pious, the most orthodox, the bravest men of the thirteenth century write as unwilling dwellers in the tents of Kedar. To them, their own world, whether before or after the coming of the Friars, was the mere dregs of the good old world of the past: and they expected God’s final vengeance in the near future. Herein lies one of the principal, though hitherto imperfectly recognized, causes of the strange unprogressiveness of the Middle Ages: the strongest minds were hopelessly oppressed by the sight of the crying evils around them, and by the want of histories to teach them how, barbarous as the present was in so many ways, it yet marked a real improvement on the past.

The modern historian, therefore, cannot be too thankful for these memoirs, written without pose or effort, to interest his favourite niece, by a man who had looked sympathetically on many sides of the world in which St. Francis and Dante lived and worked. The learned Jesuit Michael, sadly as he is shocked by our author in many ways, cannot deny that this book presents a mirror of the times, and quotes with approval the verdict of Dove: “His character stands out in striking completeness of modelling by the side of the bas-reliefs of other medieval authors.”4 The dryness of the ordinary medieval chronicler, his apparent unconsciousness of any human interest beyond the baldest facts, is often exasperating: or again, when he betrays real interest, it is too often at the expense of fact. Not 6 only lives of saints, but whole histories were written avowedly by direct angelic revelation, pure from all taint of earthly documents.5 But, fortunately for us, Salimbene had more modern notions of the historian’s duty. With him, fact comes first, and even edification takes a subordinate place. “Whereas I may seem sometimes to digress from the matter in hand,” he says, “it must be forgiven me. I cannot tell my stories otherwise than as they came about in very deed, and as I saw with mine own eyes in the days of the Emperor Frederick II; yea, and many years after his death, even unto our own days wherein I write these words, in the year of our Lord 1284” (185). Later on (217) he gives us further evidence of his anxiety to learn the exact truth of the stories current in his own day: and the passage is interesting also as exemplifying the difficulties which ordinary medieval writers experienced in producing even a single copy of their work. He is speaking of a book of his, which unfortunately has not survived: “The chronicle beginning ‘Octavianus Cæsar Augustus, etc.,’ which I wrote in the convent of Ferrara in the year 1250; the style of which chronicle I gathered from divers writings, and continued it as far as to the story of the Lombards. Afterwards I slackened my quill, and ceased to write upon that chronicle, being indeed, so poor that I could procure neither paper nor parchment. And now we are in the year 1284; yet I ceased not to write divers other chronicles which, in mine own judgment, I have excellently composed, and which I have purged of their superfluities, follies, falsehoods, and contradictions. Nevertheless, I could not purge them of all such; for some things which have been written are now so commonly noised abroad that the whole world could not remove them from the hearts so men who have thus learnt them from the first. Whereof I could show many examples; but to rude and unlearned people all examples are useless; as it is written in Ecclesiasticus, ‘He that teacheth a fool, is like one that glueth a potsherd together.’ ” Nor are these mere idle boasts. With all his partiality here and there — a partiality the more harmless because it is so naïvely shown — Salimbene stands the test of comparison with independent documents quite as well as Villani. Among modern writers, those who have least reason to love him are glad to avail themselves of his authority. The footnotes to the three volumes of Analecta Franciscana, by which the friars of Quaracchi have laid modern students under such heavy obligations, swarm with references to Salimbene, whose data are constantly used to correct even so painstaking a compiler as Wadding.


Amid all that has been written of the thirteenth century, there is extraordinarily little to guide the general reader in a comparison between those men’s real lives and ours. It is true that the main ebb and flow of their conflicts in Church and State has often been related; the theory of their institutions has been described and analysed; we have excellent studies of the lives and ideals of some of their greatest men. All this is most important, yet it says comparatively little to the ordinary reader, who, without leisure for special study, often craves nevertheless to compare other states of life with his own. Even the student of greater leisure and opportunities can find but little answer to the all-important question, “Which would be the better to live and die in, a world with those institutions and ideals, or a world with ours?” Those who have set themselves most definitely to answer this question have too often placed themselves from the outset at a necessarily distorting point of view. They have painted the medieval life mainly after medieval theories of Church and State, or after the lives of a few great men. Yet there never was an age in which theory was more hopelessly divorced from practice than in the thirteenth century; or in which great men owed more of their greatness to a passionate and lifelong protest against the sordid realities of common life around them. The Franciscan gospel of poverty and humility was preached to a world in which money and rank had far more power than in modern England; and there is scarcely a page of the Divina Commedia that does not breathe a sense of the terrible contrast between Catholic theory and Catholic life. Dean Church, in one of his essays, shows himself fully alive to the danger of judging an age simply after the pattern of the great men.6 Yet perhaps no writer on the Middle Ages followed this dangerous path more closely than Church’s great Oxford master, with all his genius and natural love of truth. Newman’s pictures of the Middle Ages have all the charm and the earnest personal conviction of his best writings, but they have often scarcely more correspondence with the historical facts of any state of society than has Plato’s Republic. A momentary survey of periods with which we are more familiar will at once show us how fatally history of this kind must take the colour of the writer’s personal ideals and prepossessions, in the absence of unquestionable landmarks to correct the play of his imagination. What conception could we form of the real differences between our life and that of our seventeenth-century ancestors from even the most brilliant and penetrating comparisons between Jeremy Taylor and Liddon, Hobbes and Herbert Spencer, Clarendon 8 and Carlyle? At the best, such studies could only illustrate and complete a real history written from very different sources.

Such sources are abundant enough for the actual ways and thought of the people in the Middle Ages: yet a vast amount of work remains to be done before the historian of the future can give us a full and intimate picture of thirteenth century life. The foundation needs first to be laid in a series of exhaustive monographs with full references, such as Dr. Rashdall’s Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, Dr. Dresdner’s Kultur-un Sittengeschichte der Italienischen Geistlichkeit, and Dr. Lea’s admirable books on the Inquisition, Confession, Indulgences, and Celibacy. Yet such monographs are still far too few: many of the most important documents are still unprinted: many of those in print have been most imperfectly read and discussed; and a period of acute controversy must necessarily come before we can arrive at even a rough agreement as to the main facts. Though the history of medieval civilization needs most care of all — for here at every step we move among the flames, or at least over the smouldering ashes, of passionate convictions and prejudices — it is still the one domain of history into which, in England at least, the scientific spirit has least penetrated. Even the new series of English Church histories published by Messrs. Macmillan — nay, the Cambridge Modern History itself — are shorn of half their use to the serious student by the entire absence of references or similar guarantees of literary good faith. No bank can exist in these days without publishing its balance-sheets: yet we are still expected to accept teaching which may be more vital than money, upon the ipse dixit of this or that writer. Half our religious quarrels are due to this habit of writing without references, and therefore too often in reliance upon evidence which will not bear serious criticism. The temptation is too strong for human nature. Whether a writer’s prepossessions be pro-medieval or anti-medieval, he can count upon a sympathetic public of his own, and upon comparative immunity from criticism; since his separate blunders, unsupported by references, can be traced and exposed only with the greatest difficulty; and, in the present state of public opinion, nobody thinks the worse of him for making the most sweeping statements without adequate documentary vouchers. The inevitable result is that well-meaning men, whom a careful study of their opponents’ sources would soon bring to some sort of rough agreement, spend their lives beating the air in wild attempts to strike an adversary who is heating himself with equally vain and violent demonstrations after his own fashion. Moving in 9 wholly different places, with scarcely a single point of possible contact, they are necessarily carried farther apart at every step; and the consciousness of their own good faith in the main compels them to look upon their mysteriously perverse adversaries as Jesuits or Atheists (as the case may be) in disguise. At the same time, the general reader is rather annoyed than interested by interruptions. I have, therefore, omitted footnotes as far as possible, not even marking the necessarily frequent omissions of repetitions and irrelevancies in direct quotations from Salimbene — omissions which sometimes run to a page or more — but simply giving page-references by means of which students can always verify my translations. To the general reader I offer the guarantee of good faith already explained in my preface, viz., an undertaking to print at my own expense the first criticism of my methods which any scholar may care to send me, to the extent of 36 octavo pages. Those who may wish to verify my illustrations from other sources will find full quotations in the notes (Appendix A), whither I have also relegated a good of deal of detailed evidence interesting in its bearing upon my subject, but too lengthy to find a place in the text. I have found it hopeless, however, to give in a book of this compass more than a very small fraction of the evidence which I have collected during the past nine years to show that what Salimbene describes is nothing exceptional, but simply the normal state of thirteenth-century society. For he is indeed the natural and artless chronicler of ordinary life in the age of St. Francis and Dante. As with Pepys or Boswell, his very failings as a man are to his advantage as a historian; and, for us, his lively interest in all sorts of men more than counterbalances his occasional lukewarmness of family affection. The figures which too often stalk like dim ghosts through the passages of far more famous authors, startle us here with their almost modern reality. They move indeed in a world differing from ours to an extent almost past belief, except to those who have carefully measured the strides of civilization even during the past century: yet the most startling of his anecdotes are corroborated by unimpeachable independent testimony. All the documents of the thirteenth century, from poems and romances to saints’ lives and bishops’ registers, yield to the patient student scattered bones from which a complete skeleton of the society of that time might be built up. Beyond this, there are few authors who in themselves show us something more than mere bones — Joinville, for instance, and Cæsarius of Heisterbach, and Thomas of Chantimpré. But Salimbene alone shows us every side of his 10 age, clothed all round in living flesh, and answering in every part to the dry bones we find scattered elsewhere.

The history of his MS. is sufficient to explain why he is as yet so little known: for it is difficult to do much with a notoriously imperfect text. The reader will, however, find a good deal about Salimbene in Gebhart’s fascinating L’Italie Mystique, and La Renaissance Italienne. He has been the subject of learned monographs by Professors Clédat of Lyons and Michael of Innsbruck, the latter of whom analyses the book very fully and without too obvious partiality. A very short abstract of the Chronicle has been printed in English by Mr. Kington Oliphant; and, quite recently, Miss Macdonnell has dealt with Salimbene at some length on pp. 252 foll. of her Sons of Francis. Lively and interesting as this chapter is, it fails, however, to give an adequate idea either of the contents of Salimbene’s book, or of his value as a historian. The author, though she quotes from the Latin text, as evidently worked almost entirely from Cantarelli’s faulty Italian translation, of which she herself speaks, somewhat ungratefully, with exaggerated scorn. Not only has she followed Cantarelli blindly, in all his worst blunders — quoting, for instance, as specially characteristic of Salimbene’s attitude towards Frederick II a paragraph, which, in fact, describes a different man altogether (p. 300) — but she adds several of her own. The greatest weakness of her study, however, is that her comparative unfamiliarity with other first-hand contemporary sources tempts her to depreciate Salimbene’s value as a faithful mirror of his times. She evidently looks upon certain perfectly normal facts as strange and exceptional; and her essay, though well worth reading, fails in this respect to do justice to its subject.7

In the following pages I have made no attempt to translate the Chronicle in the exact state in which Salimbene left it. The good friar jotted things down just as they came into his head, with ultra-medieval incoherence: “For the spirit bloweth wither it listeth, neither is it in man’s power to hinder the spirit,” as he says after one of his wildest digressions. Whole pages are filled with mere lists of Scripture texts, often apparently strung together from a concordance, though he undoubtedly knew his Bible thoroughly well. Pages more are occupied with records of historical events compiled from other chronicles: the parentheses and repetitions are multitudinous and bewildering. The book as it stands is less a history than materials for a history, like the miscellaneous paper bags from which Hofrath Heuschrecke compiled the biography of Teufelsdröckh. The 11 only possible way of introducing the real Salimbene to the modern public is to translate or summarize all the really characteristic portions of the Chronicle, reducing them by the way to some sort of order. But I have been compelled to omit a good deal both from my author’s text and from the scope of my illustrations: for there is one side of medieval life which cannot be discussed in a book of this kind. To the darkest chapter in Celano’s life of St. Francis I have barely alluded; and I have turned aside altogether from the most terrible canto in the Inferno. The student will, however, find in Appendix C the original Latin of certain passages and allusions omitted from the text.


Chapter II.

Parentage and Boyhood.

BROTHER Salimbene di Adamo was born of a noble family at Parma in 1221, the year of St. Dominic’s death. One of his sponsors was the Lord Balian of Sidon, a great baron of France who had been viceroy for Frederick II in the Holy Land, “My father was Guido di Adamo, a comely man and a valiant in war, who once crossed the seas for the succour of the Holy Land, in the days of Baldwin, Count of Flanders, before my birth. And I have heard from him that, whereas other Lombards in the Holy Land enquired of diviners concerning the state of their houses at home, my father would never enquire of them; and, on his return, he found all in comfort and peace at home; but the others found evil, as the diviners had spoken. Furthermore, I have heard from my father that his charger, which he had brought with him to the Holy Land, was commended for its beauty and worth above those of all the rest who were of his company. Again, I have heard from him that, when the Baptistery of Parma was founded, he laid stones in the foundations for a sign and a memorial thereof, and that on the spot whereon the Baptistery is built had been formerly the houses of my kinsfolk, who after the destruction of their houses, went to Bologna” (37). In 1222 occurred the Great Earthquake in Lombardy, attributed by the orthodox to God’s anger against the heretics, who swarmed in France, Germany and Italy, and who in Berthold of Ratisbon’s excited imagination numbered a round hundred-and-fifty sects.1 The common folk, however, when their first panic was over, treated it rather as a joke: “They became so hardened by the earthquake that, when a pinnacle of a tower or a house fell, they would gaze thereon with shouts and laughter. My mother hath told me how at the time of that earthquake I lay in my cradle, and how she caught up my two sisters, one under each arm, for they were but babes as yet. So, leaving me in my cradle, she ran to the house of her father and mother and brethren, for she feared (as she said), 13 lest the Baptistery should fall on her, since our house was hard by. Wherefore I never since loved her so dearly, seeing that she should have cared more for me, her son, than for her daughters. But she herself used to say that they were easier for her to carry, being better grown than I” (34). Yet he describes her as a most loveable woman, in spite of her perverse choice on that eventful day. “She was named the Lady Imelda, a humble lady and devout, fasting much and gladly dispensing alms to the poor. Never was she seen to be wroth; never did she smite any of her maidservants with her hand. In winter, she would ever have with her, for the love of God, some poor woman from the mountains, who found in the house both lodging and food and raiment all winter long; and yet my mother had other maids who did the service of the house. Wherefore Pope Innocent [the IVth, who knew her personally] gave me letters at Lyons that she might be of the order of St. Clare, and the same he gave another time to Brother Guido, my blood-brother, when he was sent on a mission from Parma to the Pope. She lieth buried in the convent of the ladies of St. Clare; may her soul rest in peace! Her mother, that is, my grandmother, was called the Lady Maria, a fair lady and a full-fleshed, sister to the Lord Aicardo, son to Ugo Amerigi, who were judges in Parma, rich men and powerful, and dwelt hard by the church of St. George” (55). The implication in this remark about the maidservants is only too fully justified by all contemporary evidence. The Confessionale, a manual for parish priests, variously attributed to St. Bonaventura, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Albertus Magnus, specifies the canonical penances to be imposed for some sixty probable transgressions. One of them runs, “If any woman, inflamed by zealous fury, have so beaten her maidservant that she die in torments within the third day, . . . . if the slaying have been wilful, let her not be admitted to the communion for seven years; but if it have been by chance, let her be admitted after five years of legitimate penance.” A stock case in Canon Law is that of the priest who, wishing to beat his servant with his belt, had the misfortune to wound him with the dagger thereto attached. A Northumbrian worthy in 1279, striking at a girl with a cudgel, struck and killed by mistake the little boy whom she held in her arms; the jury treated it as a most pardonable misadventure, though he showed his sense of having sailed very close to the wind by absconding until the trial was over. It is necessary, indeed, on the threshold of any outspoken study of medieval life to recognise the essential difference between past and present manners in this matter of personal 14 violence. On this subject, as on so many others, a false glamour has been thrown over the past by writers who have studied only the theory of knightly courtesy, without making any attempt to gauge the actual practice. The instances of brutality to women in high life quoted by Léon Gautier and Alwin Schulz from the Chanson de Geste might be multiplied almost indefinitely. The right of wifebeating was formally recognised by more than one code of laws: and it was already a forward step when, in the thirteenth century, the Coutumes de Beauvoisis provided “que le mari ne doit battre sa femme que raisonnablement.” But what were the limits of reason in this matter, to the medieval mind? We may infer them fairly well from the tales told by the Knight of La Tour-Landry (1372) for the instruction of his daughters. He tells, for instance, how a lady so irritated her husband by scolding him in company, that he struck her to the earth with his fist and kicked her in the face, breaking her nose. Upon this the good Knight moralises, “And this she had for her euelle and gret langage, that she was wont to saie to her husbonde. And therefor the wiff aught to suffre and lete the husbonde haue the wordes, and to be maister, for that is her worshippe.” This was also the opinion of St. Bernardino, who said in a public sermon: “And I say to you men, never beat your wives while they are great with child, for therein would lie great peril. I say not that you should never beat them, but choose your time. . . . . I know men who have more regard for a hen that lays a fresh egg daily, than for their own wives: sometimes the hen will break a pot or a cup, and the man will not beat her, for the mere fear of losing the egg that is her fruit. How stark mad are many that cannot suffer a word from their own lady who bears such fair fruit: for is she speak a word more than he thinks fit, forthwith he seizes a staff and begins to chastise her: and the hen, which cackles all day without ceasing, you suffer patiently for her egg’s sake. . . . . Many a man, when he sees his wife less clean and delicate than he would fain see her, strikes her forthwith; and the hen may befoul your table, and yet you have patience with her: why not, then, with her to whom you owe patience? Seest thou not the hog, too, always grunting and squealing and defiling thy house! yet thou sufferest him until slaughter-time. Thy patience is but for the fruit’s sake of the beast’s flesh, that thou mayst eat it. Bethink thee, wretch, bethink thee of the noble fruit of thy lady, and have patience; it is not meet to beat her for every trifle, no!” Moreover, it is the same story if we pass upwards from such a citizen’s house, where the pigs and the fowls were as familiar as 15 in an Irish cabin, and peep in to the palace of Frederick II, the wonder of the world. Weary of his wife, the Emperor had seduced her cousin: and Jean de Brienne, exasperated by this double wrong to his daughter and his niece, talked loudly of washing it out in blood. Therefore the Emperor “so threatened and beat the Empress as almost to slay the babe in her womb.” We get a similar glimpse of the relations between Frederick’s father and mother — the Costanza of Par. iii, 118. “I have heard,” writes Etienne de Bourbon, “that when the father of the Ex-Emperor Frederick had gone to bed, and the Empress his spouse would fain come to him, and had taken off in his presence her head-attire with a great mass of false hair, then he began to call his knights and squires, and in their presence, loathing that hair as a piece of carrion, he cried aloud as one raving; ‘Quick, quick! bear away this carrion from my room and burn it in the fire, that ye may smell its evil savour: for I will have no dead wife, but a living one.’ ” When these things were done in the green tree of their honeymoon, we need scarcely wonder that Salimbene should give a sad account of their married life in the dry, after deep political differences had multiplied the causes of quarrel. “There was grievous discord and war between these two, so that wise and learned men were wont to say these are not as Ecclesiasticus teacheth, ‘man and wife that agree well together:’ while, again, buffoons would say ‘if one should now cry Mate! to the King, the Queen would not defend him’ ” (359).

Nor was it the rougher sex alone which permitted itself such violence, as Salimbene has already hinted. We may find the exact antithesis of the good Imelda in Benvenuto da Imola’s description of another lady of high rank in Dante’s Florence — the Cianghella of Par. xv, 128. “She was most arrogant and intolerable; she was wont to go through the house with a bonnet on her head after the fashion of the Florentine ladies, and with a staff in her hand; now she would beat the serving-man, now the cook. So it befell once that she went to mass at the convent of Friars Preachers in Imola, not far from her own house; and there a friar was preaching. Seeing, therefore, that none of the ladies present rose to make room for her, Cianghella was inflamed with wrath and indignation, and began to lay violent hands on one lady after another, tearing hair and false tresses on the one hand, wimple and veil on the other. Some suffered this not, but began to return her blow for blow, whereat there arose so great noise and clamour in the church that the men standing round to hear the sermon began to laugh with all their might, and the preacher laughed with them, so 16 that the sermon ended thus in merriment.” One wonders how Cianghella’s children were brought up; and we might almost be tempted to look for one of them in the contemporary boy who was sent by his mother “to the common prison of Florence, to be there retained until he return to his good senses.”2b

Salimbene, however, grew up under very different home influences. “My father’s mother was the Lady Ermengarda. She was a wise lady, and was a hundred years old when she went the way of all flesh. With her I dwelt fifteen years in my father’s house; how often she taught me to shun evil company and follow the right, and to be wise, and virtuous, and good, so often may God’s blessing light upon her! For oft-times she taught me thus. She lieth buried in the aforesaid sepulchre, which was common to us and to the rest of our house” (54).

An equally definite religious influence was that of an old neighbour on the Piazza Vecchia: “The Lord Guidolino da Enzola, a man of middle stature, rich and most renowned and devoted beyond measure to the Church, whom I have seen a thousand times. Separating himself from the rest of the family, who dwelt in the Borgo di Santa Cristina, he came and dwelt hard by the Cathedral Church, which is dedicated to the glorious Virgin, wherein he daily heard mass and the whole daily and nightly offices of the Church, each at the fit season; and whensoever he was not busied with the offices of the Church, he would sit with his neighbours under the public portico by the Bishop’s Palace, and speak of God, or listen gladly to any who spake of Him. Nor would he ever suffer children to cast stones against the Baptistery or the Cathedral to destroy the carvings or paintings3; for when he saw any such he waxed wroth and ran swiftly against them and beat them with a leather thong as though he had been specially deputed to this office; ye he did it for pure godly zeal and divine love, as though he said in the Prophet’s words, ‘The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.’ Moreover, this said lord, besides the orchard and town and palace wherein he lived, had many other houses, and an oven and a wine cellar; and once every week, in the orchard by his house, he gave to all the poor of the whole city who would come thither a general dole of bread and sodden beans and wine, as I have seen, not once or twice only, with mine own eyes. He was a close friend of the Friars Minor, and one of their chief benefactors” (609). For a man of such exceptional piety, Guidolino was unfortunate in his descendants. His son Jacobiono, who bought Salimbene’s father’s house, was an usurer, and failed miserably as Podesta of Reggio, leaving a son who was the hero of a somewhat 17 disreputable quarrel. His only daughter, the Lady Rikeldina, “was a worldly and wanton woman,” and married a rich lord who “consumed all his substance with his banquetings and buffoons and courtly fashions; so that his sons must needs starve unless they would beg, as one of them told me even weeping.”

The Chronicler has warm words of praise for most of his elder relations: “fair ladies and wise”; “a very fair lady”; “an honourable lady and devout”; “a fair lady, wise and honourable, who ended her days in a convent”; “the most fair lady Caracosa, excellent in prudence and sagacity, who ruled her house most wisely after her husband’s death.” There was evidently a definitely religious note in the family, though this, in good medieval society, was perfectly consistent with the fact that our chronicler’s father had a son by a concubine named Rechelda (54). He had also three legitimate sons. First came Guido, by a first wife, “the lady Ghisla of the family de’ Marsioli, who were of old noble and powerful men in the city of Parma. They dwelt in the lower part of the Piazza Vecchia, hard by the Bishop’s Palace; whereof I have seen a great multitude, and certain of them were clad in robes of scarlet, more especially such as were judges. They were also kinsfolk of mine own through my mother, who was daughter to the Lord Gerardo di Cassio, a comely old man, who died (as I think) at the age of one hundred years. He had three sons; the lord Gerardo, who wrote the Book of Composition, for he was an excellent writer of the more noble style; the Lord Bernardo, who was a man of no learning, but simple and pure; and the Lord Ugo, who was a man of learning, judge and assessor. He was a man of great mirth, and went ever with the Podestas to act as their advocate” (55). This eldest brother Guido married into a greater family still. “My brother Guido was a married man in his worldly life, and a father, and a judge; and afterwards he became a priest and a preacher in the Order of the Friars Minor. His wife was of the Baratti, who boast that they are of the lineage of the Countess Matilda, and that in the service of the Commune of Parma forty knights of their house go forth to war” (38). It was natural, therefore, that our chronicler, as he tells us on another page, should have owed special reverence to the great protectress of the Church whom Dante also set on so high a pinnacle, if we are to accept the almost unanimous opinion of the early commentators. When Guido became a friar, his wife entered a convent, and their only daughter was that Agnes for whom, in her Franciscan convent of Parma, Salimbene wrote part at least, of his Chronicle. It is noteworthy that of the sixty-two persons who are named in this genealogy, no less than 18 fourteen became monks, friars, or nuns, while five were knights and three were judges.

After Guido came Nicholas, who “died while he was yet a child, as it is written, ‘while I was yet growing he cut me off’ ” (38) “The third am I, Brother Salimbene, who entered the Order of the Friars Minor, wherein I have lived many years, as priest and preacher, and have seen many things, and dwelt in many provinces, and learnt much. And in my worldly life I was called by some Balian of Sidon, by reason of the above-mentioned lord who held me at the sacred font. But by my comrades and my family I was called Ognibene (All-good), by which name I lived as a novice in our Order for a whole year long” (38).

The name seems to indicate a docile, impressionable disposition, and all Salimbene’s home memories point the same way. “From my very cradle I was taught and exercised in [Latin] grammar” (277). In other respects, his upbringing must necessarily have been rough, however favourable it may have been for those times. Home life even among the highest classes in the 13th century was such, in many of its moral and sanitary conditions, as can now be found only among the poor. The children had ordinarily no separate bedroom, but slept either with their parents or with servants and strangers on the floor of the hall. Thomas of Celano, describing the home education of St. Francis’s day, and showing by his present tenses that things were still the same in the generation in which he wrote, gives a picture which we might well dismiss as an unhealthy dream if it were not so accurately borne out by the repeated assertions of Gerson 150 years later. “Boys are taught evil as soon as they can babble,” says Celano, “and as they grow up they become steadily worse, until they are Christians only in name.” As half-fledged youths they ran wild in the streets: and we cannot understand the Friars until we have realized how many of them had plunged into Religion, like Salimbene, just at the age when a boy begins to realize dimly the responsibilities of a man, and to look back upon what already seem long years spent — as his awakened imagination may now warn him with even hysterical emphasis — in the service of the Devil.

Our author had three sisters also, “fair ladies and nobly wedded,” of whom the first was the Lady Maria, married to the Lord Azzo, cousin-german to the Lord Guarino, who was of kin to the Pope [Innocent IV]. He had many other relations and connections of noble rank and distinction in other ways. His musical tastes came partly by birth and partly by education (54). 19 “My father’s sister was the mother of two daughters, Grisopola and Vilana, excellent singers both. Their father, the Lord Martino de’ Stefani, was a merry man, pleasant and jocund, who loved to drink wine; he was an excellent musician, yet no buffoon. One day in Cremona he beguiled and out-witted Master Gerardo Patechio, who wrote the Book of Pests.4 But he was well worthy to be so out-witted, and deserved all that befell him.”

Having come to the end of this genealogy — or nearly to the end, for he throws in occasional postscripts afterwards — he explains why he has entered into such full details. (56) “Lo here I have written the genealogy of my kinsfolk beyond all that I had purposed; yet, for brevity’s sake, I have omitted to describe many men and women, both present and past. But since I had begun, it seemed good to me to finish the same, for five reasons. First, for that my niece, Sister Agnes, who is in the convent of the nuns at St. Clare in Parma, wherein she enclosed herself for Christ’s sake while she was yet a child, hath begged me to write it by reason of her father’s grandmother, of whom she could obtain no knowledge. Now therefore she may learn from this genealogy who are her ancestors both on the father’s and on the mother’s side. Moreover, my second reason for writing this genealogy was, that sister Agnes might know for whom she ought to pray to God. The third reason was the custom of men of old time, who wrote their genealogies; whence it is written of certain folk in the book of Nehemiah that they were cast forth from the priesthood, for that they could not find the writings of their genealogies. The fourth reason was, that by reason of this genealogy I have said certain good and profitable words which otherwise I should not have said. The fifth and last was, that the truth of those words of the Apostle James might be shown, wherein he saith, ’For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while and afterwards shall vanish away.’ The truth of which saying may be shown in the case of many whom death hath carried off in our days; for within the space of sixty years mine own eyes have seen all but a few of those whom I have written in the table of my kindred, and now they have departed from us and are no longer in the world. I have seen in my days many noble houses destroyed, in different parts of the world. To take example from near at hand, in the city of Parma my mother’s house of the Cassi is wholly extinct in the male branch; the house of the Pagani, whom I have seen noble, rich, and powerful, is utterly extinct; likewise the house of the Stefani, whom I have seen in 20 great multitude, rich men and powerful. Consider now that we shall go to the dead rather than they shall return to us, as David saith, speaking of his dead son. Let us therefore be busy about our own salvation while we have time, lest it be said of us as shall be said of those of whom Jeremiah speaketh, ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.’ Of which matter I have written above at sufficient length.” Dante students will no doubt notice the strong similarity between this last passage and Purg. XIV. 9, foll., where the Pagani are among the families whose decay the poet bewails. The same cry is constant through the Middle Ages, no doubt partly because the noble families, forming a specially fighting caste, were specially liable to sudden extinction; partly also because they led such irregular lives. Berthold of Ratisbon complains that “so few great lords reach their right age or die a right death,” and ascribes this to their careless upbringing and to the oppressions which, when grown to man’s estate, they exercise upon the poor5.


Chapter III.

The Great Alleluia.

WHEN Salimbene was in his twelfth year, an event occurred which undoubtedly impressed him deeply, and probably determined his choice of a career. This was the great North Italian religious revival of 1233, which was called The Alleluia. There is an excellent article on this and similar medieval revivals in Italy by J. A. Symonds, in the Cornhill for January, 1875. But no chronicler tells the great Alleluia of 1233 with anything like the same picturesque detail as Salimbene. (70) “This Alleluia, which endured for a certain season, was a time of peace and quiet, wherein all weapons of war were laid aside; a time of merriment and gladness, of joy and exultation, of praise and rejoicing. And men sang songs of praise to God; gentle and simple, burghers and country folk, young men and maidens, old and young with one accord. This devotion was held in all the cities of Italy; and they came from the villages to the town with banners, a great multitude of people; men and women, boys and girls together, to hear the preaching and to praise God. And they sang God’s songs, not man’s; and all walked in the way of salvation. And they bare branches of trees and lighted tapers; and sermons were made at evening and in the morning and at midday, according to the word of the Prophet, ‘Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.’ And men held stations in the churches and the open places, and lifted up their hands to God, to praise and bless Him for ever and ever; and they might not cease from the praises of God, so drunken were they with His love; and blessed was he who could do most to praise God. No wrath was among them, no trouble nor hatred, but all was done in peace and kindliness; for they had drunken of the wine of the sweetness of God’s spirit, whereof if a man drink, flesh hath no more savour to him. Wherefore it is commanded to preachers, ‘Give strong drink to them that are sad, and wine to them that are grieved in mind. Let them drink and forget their want, and remember their sorrow no more.’ 22 And forasmuch as the Wise Man saith, ‘Where there is no governor, the people shall fall,’ lest it be thought that these had no leader, let me tell now of the leaders of those congregations. First came Brother Benedict to Parma, who was called the Brother of the Horn, a simple man and unlearned, and of holy innocence and honest life, whom also I saw and knew familiarly, both at Parma and afterwards at Pisa. This man had joined himself unto no religious congregation, but lived after his own conscience, and busied himself to please God; and he was a close friend of the Friars Minor. He was like another John the Baptist to behold, as one who should go before the Lord and make ready for him a perfect people. He had on his head an Armenian cap, his beard was long and black, and he had a little horn of brass, wherewith he trumpeted; terribly did his horn bray at times, and at other times it would make dulcet melody. He was girt with a girdle of skin, his robe was black as sackcloth of hair, and falling even to his feet. His rough mantle was made like a soldier’s cloak, adorned both before and behind with a red cross, broad and long, from the collar to the foot, even as the cross of a priest’s chasuble. Thus clad he went about with his horn, preaching and praising God in the churches and the open places; and a great multitude of children followed him, oft-times with branches of trees and lighted tapers. Moreover I myself have oft-times seen him preaching and praising God, standing upon the wall of the Bishop’s Palace, which at that time was a-building. And thus he began his praises, saying in the vulgar tongue, ‘Praised and blessed and glorified be the Father.’ Then would the children repeat in a loud voice that which he had said. And again he would repeat the same words, adding ‘be the Son;’ and the children would repeat the same, and sing the same words. Then for the third time he would repeat the same words, adding ‘be the Holy Ghost’; and then ‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!’ Then would he sound with his trumpet; and afterwards he preached, adding a few good words in praise of God. And lastly, at the end of his preaching, he would salute the blessed Virgin after this fashion: —

‘Ave Maria, clemens et pia, etc., etc.’ ”

But Brother Benedict was far outdone in popularity by the great Franciscan and Dominican preachers. There was Brother Giacomino of Reggio, a learned man, and in later life a friend of our chronicler’s, who so wrought upon his hearers that great and small, gentle and simple, boors and burghers, worked 23 for the building of the Dominican Church at Reggio. Blessed was he who could bring the most stones and sand and lime on his back, without regard for his rich furs and silks, for Brother Giacomino would stand by to see that the work was well done. This Brother held a great preaching between Calerno and Sant’ Ilario, whereat was a mighty multitude of men and women, boys and girls, from Parma and Reggio, from the mountains and valleys, from the field and from divers villages. And it came to pass that a poor woman of low degree brought forth among the multitude a man child. Then, at the prayer and bidding of Brother Giacomino, many of those present gave many gifts to that poor woman. For one gave her shoes, another a shirt, another a vest, another a bandage; and thus she had a whole ass’s load. Moreover, the men gave one hundred imperial solidi. One who was there present, and saw all these things, related them to me a long while afterwards, as I was passing with him through this same place; and I have also heard the same from others.” (73) There was another Franciscan of Padua, “who was preaching at Cumæ on a certain feast day, and a usurer was having his tower built: and the friar, impeded by the tumult of the workmen, said to his hearers ‘I forewarn you that within such and such a time this tower will fall and be ruined to the very foundations’: and so it came to pass, and men held it a great miracle. Note Ecclesiasticus xxxvii, 18 and Proverbs xvii, 16, and the example of the man who foretold the fall of the tower, and Grilla’s son, and the three pumpkins, in one of which was a mouse: he happened to tell all things by chance as they were, and therefore he was hailed as a prophet” (74). Then there was “Brother Leo of Milan, who was a famous and mighty preacher, and a great persecutor and confuter and conqueror of heretics” — a panegyric which shows how soon the Order had lost the sweet reasonableness which was one of the most striking characteristics of St. Francis. “He was so bold and stout-hearted that once he went forward alone, standard in hand, before the army of Milan which was marching against the Emperor; and, crossing the stream by a bridge, he stood long thus with the standard in his hands, while the Milanese shrank from crossing after him, for fear of the Emperor’s battle-array. This Brother Leo once confessed the lord of a certain hospital at Milan, who was a man of great name and much reputed for his sanctity. While he was at his last gasp, Brother Leo made him promise to return and tell him of his state after his death, which he willingly promised. His death was made known through the city about the hour of vespers. 24 Brother Leo therefore prayed two Brethren, who had been his special companions while yet he was Minister Provincial, to watch with him that night in the gardener’s cell at the corner of the garden. While, therefore, they all three watched, a light sleep fell upon Brother Leo; and, wishing to slumber, he prayed to his comrades to awake him if they heard anything. And lo! they suddenly heard one who came wailing with bitter grief; and they saw him fall swiftly from heaven like a globe of fire, and swoop upon the roof of the cell as when a hawk stoops to take a duck. At this sound, and at the touch of the brethren, Brother Leo awoke from his sleep and enquired how it stood with him, for ever he wailed with the same woful cries. He therefore answered and said that he was damned, because in his wrath he had suffered baseborn children to die unbaptized when they had been laid at the hospital door, seeing to what travail and cost the spital was exposed by such desertion of children. When, therefore, Brother Leo enquired of him why he had not confessed that sin, he answered either that he had forgotten it, or that he thought it unworthy of confession. To whom the Brother replied, ‘Seeing that thou hast no part or lot with us, depart from us and go thine own way!’ so the soul departed, crying and wailing as it went” (74). Brother Leo’s subsequent history is interesting. The Chapter of Milan, disagreeing hopelessly about the election of an Archbishop, agreed to leave the choice in his hands. After due reflection, he announced, “Since you have so good an opinion of me, I name myself Archbishop.” The people, surprised at first by this decision, presently applauded it, and the Pope approved. After sixteen years’ rule, however, Leo left the city a prey to civil strife, and for fourteen years the Milanese refused to accept his successor, in spite of the army and the Papal anathemas with which he supported his claim.1

After Leo came Brother Gerard of Modena, “one of the first Brethren of our Order, yet not one of the Twelve. He was an intimate friend of St. Francis, and at times his travelling companion “ (75). He was of noble birth, strict morals, and great eloquence, though his learning was small. “He it was who, in the year 1238, prayed Brother Elias to receive me into the Order, and I was once his travelling-companion. When I call him to mind, I always think of that text, ‘He that hath small understanding and feareth God is better than one that hath much wisdom, and transgresseth the law of the Most High.’ With him I also lay sick at Ferrara of that sickness whereof he died; and he went about New Year’s tide to Modena, where he gave up the ghost. He was buried in the church of the Brethren Minor, 25 in a tomb of stone; and through him God hath deigned to work many miracles, which, for that they be written elsewhere, I here omit for brevity’s sake.” Several of these are recorded by Angelo Clareno (Archiv. Bd. ii. p. 268); they are mostly of the common type, but one bears a very suspicious resemblance to this bogus miracle which Salimbene relates immediately below. (76) “One thing I must not omit, namely that, at the time of the aforesaid devotion, these solemn preachers were sometimes gathered together in one place, where they would order the matter of their preachings; that is, the place, the day, the hour, and the theme thereof. And one would say to the other, ‘Hold fast to that which we have ordered’; and this they did without fail, as they had agreed among themselves. Brother Gerard therefore would stand, as I have seen with mine own eyes, in the Piazza Communale of Parma, or wheresoever else it pleased him, on a wooden stage which he had made for his preaching; and, while the people waited, he would cease from his preaching, and draw his hood deep over his face, as though he were meditating some matter of God. Then, after a long delay, as the people marvelled, he would draw back his hood and open his mouth in such words as these: ‘I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard our beloved brother, John of Vicenza, who was preaching at Bologna on the shingles of the river Reno, and he had before him a great concourse of people; and this was the beginning of his sermon: Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord Jehovah, and blessed are the folk that he hath chosen to him to be his inheritance.’ So also would he speak of Brother Giacomino; so spake they also of him. The bystanders marvelled and, moved with curiosity, some sent messengers to learn the truth of these things that were reported. And having found that they were true, they marvelled above measure, and many, leaving their worldly business, entered the Orders of St. Francis or St. Dominic. And much good was done in divers ways and divers places at the time of that devotion, as I have seen with mine own eyes.2 Yet there were also at the time many deceivers and buffoons who would gladly have sought to bring a blot upon the Elect. Among whom was Buoncompagno of Florence, who was a great master of grammar in the city of Bologna. This man, being a great buffoon, as is the manner of the Florentines, wrote a certain rhyme in derision of Brother John of Vicenza, whereof I remember neither the beginning nor the end, for that it is long since I read it, nor did I even then fully commit it to memory, seeing that I cared not greatly for it. But therein were these words following, as they come to my memory: —


John, in his Johannine way
Dances all and every day.
Caper freely, skip for joy,
Ye who hope to reach the sky!
— Dancers left and dancers right,
Thousands, legions infinite —
Noble ladies dance in rhythm,
Doge of Venice dances with ’em, etc., etc.3

Furthermore, this master Buoncompagno, seeing that Brother John took upon himself to work miracles, would take the same upon himself; wherefore he promised to the men of Bologna that, in the sight of all, he would presently fly. In brief, the report was noised abroad through Bologna, and on the appointed day the whole city, men and women, boys and old men, were gathered together at the foot of the hill which is called Santa Maria in Monte. He had made for himself two wings, and stood now looking down upon them from the summit of the mountain. And when they had stood thus a long while gazing one at the other, he opened his mouth and spake, ‘Go ye hence with God’s blessing, and let it suffice you that ye have gazed on the face of Buoncompagno!’ Wherefore they withdrew, knowing that they were mocked of him” (78).

John’s strange career is described at length in Symonds’s article, and still more fully in an exhaustive monograph by C. Sutter (Johann V. Vicenza. Freib. i/B. 1891). Matthew Paris (an. 1238) tells how he crossed rivers dryshod, and by his mere word compelled eagles to stoop in their flight. On the other hand, a contemporary satire on his reported miracles was attributed to Piero delle Vigne, and Guido Bonatti complained that he had sought for years in vain to meet any one of the eighteen men whom John was said to have raised from the dead.4 At the back of all these legends, however, lies the certain fact that many cities of Italy entrusted him and other friars (e.g. Gerard of Modena) with dictatorial powers during this Alleluia year, permitting them to make or remodel laws as they pleased. John was made Lord of Vicenza, with the titles of Duke and Count; and it was apparently these honours which finally turned his head. He used his power so recklessly that he was cast into prison, from which he emerged a discredited and neglected man. But, already in the Alleluia year, Salimbene tells us how he “had come to such a pitch of madness by reason of the honours which were paid him, and the grace of preaching which he had, that he believed himself able in truth to work miracles, even without God’s help. And when he was rebuked by the Brethren for the many follies which he did, then he answered and spake unto them: 27 ‘I it was who exalted your Dominic, whom ye kept twelve years hidden in the earth, and, unless ye hold your peace, I will make your saint to stink in men’s nostrils and will publish your doings abroad’ (78). For [at the time of the Alleluia] the blessed Dominic was not yet canonized, but lay hidden in the earth, nor was there any whisper of his canonization; but, by the travail of this aforesaid Brother John, who had the grace of preaching in Bologna at the time of that devotion, his canonization was brought about. To this canonization the Bishop of Modena gave his help; for he, being a friend of the Friars Preachers, importuned them, saying, ‘Since the Brethren Minor have a saint of their own, ye too must so work as to get yourselves another, even though ye should be compelled to make him of straw’ (72). So, hearing these words of Brother John, they bore with him until his death for they knew not how they might rise up against him.5 This man, coming one day to the house of the Brethren Minor, and letting shave his beard by our barber, took it exceeding ill that the brethren gathered not the hairs of his beard, to preserve them as relics. But Brother Diotisalve, a Friar Minor of Florence, who was an excellent buffoon after the manner of the Florentines, did most excellently answer the fool according to his folly, lest he should be wise in his own conceit. For, going one day to the convent of the Friars Preachers, when they had invited him to dinner, he said that he would in no wise abide with them, except they should first give him a piece of the tunic of Brother John, who at that time was there in the house, that he might keep it for a relic. So they promised, and gave him indeed a great piece of his tunic, which, after his dinner, he put to the vilest uses, and cast it at last into a cesspool. Then cried he aloud saying, ‘Alas, alas! help me, brethren, for I seek the relic of your saint, which I have lost among the filth.’ And when they had come at his call and understood more of this matter, they were put to confusion; and, seeing themselves mocked of this buffoon, they blushed for shame. This same Brother Diotisalve once received an Obedience (i.e. command) to go and dwell in the province of Penna, which is in Apulia. Whereupon he went to the infirmary and stripped himself naked, and, having ripped open a feather bed, he lay hid therein all day long among the feathers (Lat. in pennis), so that, when he was sought of the brethren, they found him there, saying that he had already fulfilled his Obedience; wherefore for the jest’s sake he was absolved from his Obedience and went not thither. Again, as he went one day through the city of Florence in winter time, it came to pass that he slipped upon the ice and fell at full length. 28 At which the Florentines began to laugh, for they are much given to buffoonery; and one of them asked of the friar as he lay. . . . .” (79). The dialogue which our good Franciscan here records is unfortunately quote impossible in modern print. He himself had evidently some qualms about reporting it, for he goes on: “The Florentines took no offence at this saying, but rather commended the friar, saying ‘God bless him, for he is indeed one of us!’ Yet some say that this answer was made by another Florentine, Brother Paolo Millemosche (Thousand-flies) by name. Now we should ask ourselves whether this brother answered well or not; and I reply that he answered ill, for many reasons. First, because he acted contrary to the Scripture which saith, ‘Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.’ Secondly, for that the answer was unhonest, since a religious man ought to answer as becometh a religious. Whence James saith, ‘If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.’ Again, ‘If any man speak, let him speak as the speech of God.’ And Jerome saith ‘Blessed is the tongue which knoweth not to speak, save of God only.’ (Also Eph. iv, 29 and Coloss. iv, 6). Thirdly, in that he spake an idle word, whereof our Lord saith (Matt. xii, 36). Now that word is idle which profiteth neither to speaker nor to hearer, wherefore our Lord addeth (Matt. xii, 37); Ecclesiasticus saith (xxii, 27). Fourthly, in that he who speaketh unhonest words showeth that he hath a vain heart, and moreover giveth to others an ensample of sin (1 Cor. xv. 33). But hear the remedy or vengeance (Isa. xxix. 20). Of the vain heart we may say that which is spoken of the eye. For even as the immodest eye is the messenger of an immodest heart, so the vain word showeth a vain heart. Therefore saith the Wise Man (Prov. iv. 23 and xxx. 8). Fifthly, because silence is commanded us (Lam. iii. 28; Isa. xxx. 15; Exod. xiv. 14; Ps. cvii. 30). It is written that the Abbot Agatho kept a pebble three whole years in his mouth that he might learn to be silent. Sixthly, because much speaking is condemned (Prov. x, 19, and 7 similar texts). Note the example of the philosopher Secundus, by whose speech his mother met her death; and he, by reason of penitence, kept silence even to the day of his death; to whom we might indeed say ‘If thou hadst kept silence, thou wouldst have been a philosopher.’6 Again, the Apostle bade that ‘women should keep silence in churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law; and if they will learn anything, let them ask their 29 husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.’ For women do indeed speak much in church; wherefore some say that the Apostle forbade not to women useful and laudable speech, as when they praise God, or when they confess their sins to the priest; but he forbade their presuming to preach, an office which is known to belong properly to men. Which, indeed, is evident from this, that the Apostle was speaking only of the office of preaching. But Augustine saith that speech is therefore forbidden to woman, because she once confounded the whole world by speaking with the serpent. . . . The eighth and last reason is, that he who speaketh base and unprofitable and vain and unhonest words in the Order of the Friars Minor should be accused and punished for his deeds if they are seen, or his words if they are heard. And this is right, since the Lord’s words are clean words; and in the rule of the Friars Minor it is said that their speech should be well-considered and clean for the profit and edification of the people, etc.7a . . . . Yet Brother Diotisalve, by reason of whom I have written this, may be excused for manifold reasons. However, his words should not be taken for an example, to be repeated by another, for the Wise Man saith, ‘As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is a fool that repeateth his folly.’ Now the first reason for his excuse is that he answered the fool according to his folly, lest he should seem wise in his own eyes. The second is, that he meant not altogether as his words sounded; for he was a merry man, as Ecclesiasticus saith, ‘There is one that slippeth with the tongue, but not from his heart.’ . . . . The third reason is that he spake to his fellow-citizens, who took no ill example from his words, for they are merry men and most given to buffoonery. Yet in another place that brother’s words would have sounded ill. . . . Moreover I know many deeds of this Brother Diotisalve, as also of the Count Guido [da Montefeltro], of whom many men are wont to tell many tales, yet as these are rather merry then edifying, I will not write them.8 . . . . Yet one thing I must not omit, namely, that the Florentines take no ill example if one go forth from the Order of Friars Minor, nay, they rather excuse him, saying, ‘We wonder that he dwelt among them so long, for the Friars Minor are desperate folk, who afflict themselves in divers ways.’ Once, when the Florentines heard that Brother John of Vicenza would come to their city, they said, ‘For God’s sake let him not come hither, for we have heard how he raiseth the dead, and we are already so many that there is no room for us in the city.’ And the words of the Florentines sound excellently well in their own idiom. Blessed be God, Who hath brought me safe to the end of this matter.”


I have given these anecdotes and quotations with some approach to fullness in spite of their apparent irrelevance to the Alleluia, because they are well calculated to give the reader an idea of Salimbene’s discursive style, and to prepare him for many strange things which will come later in this autobiography. It many indeed seem startling that a friar should feel it necessary to point out to a nun (for here the reference to his niece seems obvious) that St. Paul does not mean to forbid women from joining in the service as members of the congregation; or again, that he should relate with such complacent triumph the success of bogus miracles concocted by two of the greatest revivalists in the century of St. Francis. For not only had Gerard been a close companion of St. Francis, but he was also one of the six “solemn ambassadors” sent to the Pope in 1236 to protest against Brother Elias. It was evidently he who had the main share in Salimbene’s conversion, and after his death he was honoured as a saint. That such a person deliberately reinforced his preaching by false miracles seems strange enough; but that a clever man like Salimbene should tell it in this matter-of-fact way, in the same breath in which he alludes to real miracles wrought by his sainted friend, seems to the modern mind absolutely inexplicable, and the Jesuit professor Michael discreetly slurs over the whole story. But the curious reader may find abundant evidence of the same kind in the Treatise on Relics of St. Anselm’s pupil, the Abbot Guibert of Nogent, and in the Papal letter of 1238 to the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, who forged annually on Easter Eve miraculous flames of fire which even Guibert, a century earlier, had believed to be genuine. One of the greatest men of Salimbene’s century, Cardinal Jacques de Vitry, relates with approval an equally false miracle of a priest who slipped a bad penny instead of the Host into the mouth of a miserly parishioner at Easter communion, and then persuaded the man that the Lord’s body had been thus transmuted, for his punishment, into the same false coin which he had been wont to offer yearly at that solemnity. Cæsarius of Heisterbach sees nothing but a triumph for the Christian religion and for the “God of Justice” in the fact that a cleric of Worms, who had seduced a Jewess, tricked the parents into believing that the child to be born would be a Messiah, a hope which was miserably frustrated when the infant proved to be a girl. The good Bishop Thomas of Chantimpré does indeed blame the readiness of certain prelates in religion to tell lies for the profit of their house; yet even he approves a wife’s pious deceit. The early Franciscan records simply swarm 31 with pious thefts and pious lies. St. Rose of Viterbo, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Portugal, the blessed Viridianus, all boast an incident of this sort as one of their chief titles to fame; “a pious theft,” says the approving Wadding of the last case, in so many words.9 St. Francis himself began his public career with such a pious theft; and it is very difficult to understand how, in the face of the early biographers, so admirable a writer as M. Sabbatier can speak of the Foligno incident as though the horse and cloth had really been the Saint’s own. At the same time, he is a great deal too careful to allow himself anything like Canon Knox-Little’s astounding assertion that Francis’s theft is a figment of “modern biographers,” and an example of “modern prejudice or stupidity in dealing with the facts of the Middle Ages.” If the Canon had consulted so obvious an authority as Wadding, he would have found that, even in the face of Protestant attacks, the learned and orthodox Romanist Sedulius felt obliged to admit the evidence against St. Francis. Moreover, Wadding himself, in the middle of the 17th century, deeply as he resents criticism on this point, ventures only upon a half-hearted defence. His main argument, involved in a cloud of words which betrays his embarrassment, amount merely to a plea that the goods might have been the saint’s own, or that he might have thought them such; and, admitting the possibility that neither of these alternatives were true, he falls back on a timid defence which really embodies, in more cautious language, the 13th century theory. “He [Francis} received from Christ, speaking plain to his bodily ears, the command to restore this church, and although the Lord’s words intended otherwise, yet he understood them to lay on him the task of repairing that building [of St. Damian]. Now he knew full well that Christ bade no impossibilities, whence he inferred not without probability that, if he was to obey the divine command, it was lawful to him to take of his father’s goods where his own sufficed not.” His action, concludes Wadding, was therefore worthy not of blame but of praise (Vol. i. p. 32). To Salimbene and his readers in the 13th century, the line of thought thus laboriously worked out by the 17th century apologist was natural and instinctive. The miracles had impressed men who would otherwise have paid no attention to the Revival; they were a most successful stratagem in the Holy War: they would have been discreditable only if they had failed. Yet, even then, there were a few who realized that “nothing can need a lie,” and who were almost as much embarrassed as edified by the frequency of miraculous claims around them or in their midst. David of Augsbourg, 32 whose fundamental good sense remained unshaken by his religious fervour, wrote very strongly on this point. “Visions of this sort have thus much in common, that they are vouchsafed not only to the good, but often to the evil also. Moreover, that they are sometimes true and teach the truth, sometimes deceptive and delusive as Ezekiel saith (xiii. 7.) Moreover, that they neither make nor prove their seer holy: otherwise Baalam would be holy, and his ass who saw the Angel, and Pharaoh who saw prophetic dreams. Moreover, even if they are true, yet in themselves they are not meritorious; and he who sees many visions is not therefore the better man than he who sees none, as also in the case of other miracles. Moreover, many men have often been more harmed than profited by such things, for they have been puffed up thereby to vain-glory: many also, thinking themselves to have seen visions, when in fact they had seen none, seduced themselves and others, or turned them aside to greed of gain: many again have falsely feigned to see visions, lest they should be held inferior to others, or that they might be honoured above others, as holier men to whom God’s secrets were revealed. Moreover, in some folk such visions are wont to be forerunners of insanity; for when their brain is addled, and clouded with its own fumes, the sight of their eyes is confounded also, until a man takes for a true vision that which is merely fantastic and false, as Ecclesiasticus saith (xxxiv. 6.)”10

These words of David’s are all the more weighty, because he was the master of the greatest of 13th century mission-preachers, whose fame spread through Europe only a few years after the Great Alleluia. About the year 1250, chroniclers of cities far distant from each other mention the startling appearance among them of this Berthold of Ratisbon, whom Salimbene describes at some length on a later page, in connexion with John of Parma’s friends (559). “Now let us come to Brother Berthold of Allemannia* of the order of Friars Minor; a priest and preacher and a man of honest and holy life as becometh a Religious. He expounded the Apocalypse,11 and I copied out his exposition of the seven bishops of Asia only, who are brought forward under the title of Angels in the beginning of the Apocalypse: this I did, to know who those angels were, and because I had Abbot Joachim’s exposition of the Apocalypse, which I esteemed above all others. Moreover, this Berthold made a great volume of sermons for the whole course of the year, both for feast days and de tempore, i.e.), for the Sundays of the 33 whole year. Of which sermons I copied two only, for that they treated excellently of Antichrist: whereof the first was on Luke ii. 34, and the other on Matt. viii, 23: for both teach most fully both of Antichrist and of the awful judgment.12 And note that Brother Berthold had of God a special grace of preaching, and all who have heard him say that from the apostles even to our own day there hath not been his like in the German tongue. He was followed by a great multitude of men and women, sometimes sixty or a hundred thousand, sometimes a mighty multitude from many cities together, that they might hear the honeyed words of salvation which proceeded from his mouth, by His power who ‘giveth His voice a voice of might’ and ‘giveth word to them that preach with much virtue.’ He was wont to ascend a belfry or wooden tower made almost after the fashion of a campanile, which he used for a pulpit in country places where he wished to preach: on the summit whereof a pennon also was set up by those who put the work together, so that the people might see whither the wind blew, and know where they ought to sit to hear best. And, marvellous to relate! he was as clearly heard and understood by those far from him as by those who sat hard by; nor was there one who rose and withdrew from his preaching until the sermon was ended. And when he preached of the dreadful day of doom, all trembled as a rush quakes in the water: and they would beg him for God’s sake to speak no more of that matter, for they were terribly and horribly troubled to hear him.13 One day when he was to preach at a certain place, it befel that a peasant prayed his lord to let him go, for God’s sake, to hear Brother Berthold’s sermon. But the lord answered ‘I shall go to the sermon, but thou shalt go into the field to plough with the oxen,’ as it is written in Ecclesiasticus ‘Send him to work, lest he be idle.’ So when the peasant one day at high dawn had begun to plough in the field, wondrous to relate! he heard the very first syllable of Brother Berthold’s sermon, though he was thirty miles away at that time. So he loosed the oxen forthwith from the plough, that they might eat, and he himself sat down to hear the sermon. And here came to pass three most memorable miracles. First, that he heard and understood him, though he was so far away as thirty miles. Secondly, that he learnt the whole sermon and kept it by heart. Thirdly, that after the sermon was ended he ploughed as much as he was wont to plough on other days of uninterrupted work. So when this peasant afterwards asked of his lord concerning Brother Berthold’s sermon, and he could not repeat it, the peasant did so word for word, adding how he had heard and learnt it in the field. So his lord, knowing that this 34 was a miracle, gave the peasant full liberty to go and hear freely Brother Berthold’s preaching, whatever task-work he might have to do.

Now it was Brother Berthold’s custom to order his sermons which he intended to preach now in one city, now in another, at divers times and in divers places, that the people who flocked to hear him might not lack food. It befel upon a time that a certain noble lady, inflamed with great and fervent desire to hear him preaching, had followed him for six whole years from city to city and town to town, with a few companions and carrying her wealth with her; yet never could she come to private and familiar talk with him. But when the six years were past, all her goods were wasted and spent, and on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, neither she nor her women had food to eat; so she went to Brother Berthold and told him all her tale from beginning to end. Brother Berthold, therefore, hearing this, sent her to a certain banker, who was held the richest of all in that city, bidding her tell him in his name, to give her for her food and charges as many moneys as the worth of one single day of that Indulgence for which she had followed the Brother these six years.14 The banker hearing this, smiled and said, ‘And how can I know the worth of the Indulgence for one day whereon you have followed Brother Berthold?’ And she, ‘The man of God bade me tell you to lay your moneys in one scale of the balance, and I will breathe into the other scale, and by this sign ye may know the worth of my Indulgence.’ Then he poured in his moneys abundantly and filled the scale of the balance; but she breathed into the other scale, and forthwith it was weighed down, and the moneys kicked the beam as suddenly as if they had been changed to the lightness of feathers. And the banker seeing this was astonished above measure; and again and again he heaped moneys upon his side of the balance; yet not even so could he outweigh the lady’s breath; for the Holy Ghost lent such weight thereto that the scale whereon she breathed could be counterbalanced by no weight of moneys. Wherefore the banker, seeing this, came forthwith to Brother Berthold with the lady and her whole company of women; and they told him in order all those things which had come to pass. And the banker added, ‘I am ready to restore all my ill-gotten gains and to distribute my own goods for God’s sake amongst the poor, and I desire to become a good man; for in truth I have to-day seen marvellous things.’ So Brother Berthold bade him minister the necessities of life abundantly to that lady by reason of whom he had seen this marvel, and to them that were with her. This he 35 fulfilled readily and gladly to the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.

Another time, as Brother Berthold was passing at eventide by a certain road with a lay-brother his comrade, he was taken by the hired ruffians (assassinis) of a certain Castellan and brought to his castle; where all that night he was kept chained and in evil plight. (Now this Castellan had so provoked his fellow-citizens that they had caused a picture to be painted in the Palazzo Communale shewing forth his punishment if ever he were taken — that is, the doom of hanging.) And on the morrow at dawn the chief executioner came to the Castellan his lord, and said, ‘What are your lordship’s commands with respect to those Brethren who were brought to us yesterday?’ He answered, ‘Away with them,’ which was as much as to say, ‘Slay them:’ for that was the custom of this Castellan and his ruffians, that some they robbed and others they slew; and others again they cast into the castle dungeons until they should redeem themselves with money: otherwise they must needs be slain. Now Brother Berthold slept: but the lay brother his comrade was awake and said his Mattins; and, hearing the sentence of death pronounced upon them by the Castellan (for there was but a party-wall between them) he began to call again and again on Brother Berthold. The Castellan therefore, hearing the name of Brother Berthold, began to think within himself that this might well be that famous preacher of whom such marvels were told; and forthwith he recalled his executioner and bade him do the Brethren no harm, but bring them before his face. When therefore they came before him he enquired what might be their names: whereto the lay-brother answered, ‘My name is such-and-such: but my comrade here is Brother Berthold, that renowned and gracious preacher, through whom God worketh so great marvels.’ The Castellan hearing this forthwith cast himself down at Brother Berthold’s feet; and having embraced and kissed him he besought for God’s sake that he might hear him preach, for he had long time desired to hear the word of salvation from his lips. To this Brother Berthold consented on condition that he should call together before him all the ruffians whom he had in his castle, that they also might hear his sermon: which he gladly promised. When therefore the lord had called his ruffians together and Brother Berthold had gone aside for a while to pray to God, then came his comrade and said to him, ‘Know now, Brother, that this man condemned us even now to death: therefore if ever you have preached well of the pains of hell and the joys of Paradise, you need now all your skill.’ At which words 36 Brother Berthold betook himself wholly to prayer; and then, returning to that assembly, he spake the word of salvation with such exceeding glory that all were moved to tears. And before his departure thence he confessed them all of their sins, and bade them depart from that castle and restore their ill-gotten gains and continue in penance all the days of their life: ‘and so,’ said he, ‘shall ye come to everlasting life.’ But the Castellan fell down at his feet, and besought him with many tears that, for the love of God, he would deign to receive him into the order of St. Francis: so he received him, hoping that the Minister General would grant him this grace.15 Then he would fain have followed Brother Berthold on his journey, but he suffered him not, for the fury of the people whom he had provoked and who had not yet heard of his conversion. So Berthold went on his way into the city, and the people were gathered together to hear his sermon on the shingles of a river bed; the pulpit was set up over against the gibbet whereon hung the bodies of thieves. (Thou, when thou hearest this, picture it to thyself as though it were upon the shingles of the River Reno at Bologna.16) So the aforesaid Castellan, after Brother Berthold’s departure, was so inflamed with divine love, and so drawn with desire of hearing the preacher that he thought no more of all the evils which he had wrought to that city, but came alone to the place of preaching, where he was forthwith known, and taken, and led straight to the gallows: so that all ran after him crying ‘Let him be hanged, and die a felon’s death, for he is our most mortal foe.’ Brother Berthold therefore, seeing how the multitude ran together and departed from his sermon, marvelled greatly, and said: ‘Never before have I known the people depart from me until my sermon was ended and the blessing given.’ And one of those who remained answered, ‘Father, marvel not. For that Castellan who was our mortal foe, is taken, and men lead him to the gallows.’ Whereat Brother Berthold trembled greatly and said with sorrow, ‘Know ye that I have confessed him and all them that are with him; and the others I have sent away to do penance, and him I had received into the order of St. Francis: he was come now to hear my sermon: let us all hasten therefore to loose him.’ Yet though they made all haste to the gallows, they found that he had even then been drawn up, and had given up the ghost. Nevertheless, at Berthold’s bidding, men took him down, and round his neck they found a paper written in letters of gold with these words following: ‘Being made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a long time: for his soul pleased God: therefore he hastened to bring him out of the midst of iniquities.’ (Wisdom 37 iv. 13, 14). Then Brother Berthold sent to the convent of Friars Minor in that city, that the Brethren might bring a cross and a bier and a friar’s habit, and see and hear what marvels God had wrought. And when they came he expounded to them all the aforesaid story, and they brought his body and buried it honourably in their convent, praising the Lord who worketh such wonders.”

A comparison of these stories in Salimbene with Wadding (vol. iv, p. 345 foll.) or the parallel passages in xxiv. Gen., pp. 238-9, clearly brings out the good friar’s superiority to the general run of medieval chroniclers. Upon one of these stories we have, by rare good fortune, the criticism of the hero himself. A precious fragment printed in the Analecta Franciscana (vol. 1, p. 417) describes how, when Berthold came to France, St. Louis wished to see and speak with him. “And addressing him in Latin, he added: ‘Good brother, I know but little of the Latin tongue.’ ‘Speak boldly, my Lord King,’ answered Brother Berthold, ‘for it is no shame or wrong for a king to speak false Latin.’ ” The writer then relates how the King of Navarre, who was present at this interview, recounted to St. Louis, in the preacher’s own presence, the story here told by Salimbene about the peasant who heard the sermon thirty miles off — or, as the king more modestly put it, at three miles’ distance. Berthold’s reply was “ ‘My Lord, believe it not and put no faith in tales of this sort which men tell of me as though they were miracles. For this I believe to be false, nor have I ever heard that it was true. But there are a sort of men who, for greed of filthy lucre or for some other vain cause, follow with the rest of the multitude after me, and invent sometimes such stories, which they tell to the rest.’ Whereat both kings were much edified, perceiving clearly that this Brother . . . . . . loved the truth better than popular favour or the sound of empty praise.”

* Ratisbon is in the district of Germany once inhabited by the Allemanni.


Chapter IV.


“BLESSED be God,” wrote Salimbene at the end of the long digression into which he had been tempted on the subject of Diotisalve’s witticisms: “blessed be God who hath brought me safe to the end of this matter!” He is therefore conscious of his failing, and will no doubt hasten back to his main subject: to that great Alleluia which probably determined his own choice of a career. . . . .

Nothing lies farther from his thoughts: he goes on in the same breath with a fresh digression, smacking still less of revivalism than the first (83). “There lived in these days a canon of Cologne named Primas, a great rogue and a great buffoon, and a most excellent and ready versifier; who, if he had given his heart to love God, would have been mighty in divine learning, and most profitable to the Church of God.” Here follow a few specimens of his epigrams, interesting only to the student. “Moreover he was once accused to his archbishop of three sins, namely of incontinence or lechery, of dicing, and of tavern-haunting. And he excused himself thus in verse.” Here Salimbene quotes at length the witty and profligate verses so well known in their attribution to Walter Map, of which Green gives a spirited extract in his Short History (p. 116): — 

“Die I must, but let me die drinking in an inn!
  Hold the wine-cup to my lips sparkling from the bin!
   So, when angels flutter down to take me from my sin,
 ‘Ah, God have mercy on this sot,’ the cherubs will begin!”

Professor Michael is much scandalized by the impenitent joviality with which the friar quotes in extenso, on so slight a pretext. But Salimbene only followed the custom of his time; the same poem, with a collection of others beyond comparison worse, was kept religiously until modern times in the great monastery of Benediktbeuern, and in fact nearly all the ultra-Zolaesque literature 39 of the Middle Ages (except that of the Fabliaux) has come down to us through church libraries. Nor is there the least a priori reason against Salimbene writing such things to Sister Agnes: for nuns were often accustomed to hear songs of unbecoming purport sung in the churches during the Feast of Fools, and not infrequently joined themselves in the songs and dancing.1

As Diotisalve and Primas drove the Alleluia out of Salimbene’s head, so did like worldly vanities banish it from men’s hearts in Northern Italy after those few months of 1233 were past. All such religious revivals have been short-lived in direct proportion to the suddenness of their origin. No doubt they left behind in many minds some real leaven, however small, of true religion: but the mass swung back all the more violently into their old groove: and those populations which had suddenly thrown away their swords and sworn with tears an eternal peace, were again in a month or two as busy as ever with the ancient feuds. During the Alleluia itself, many earnest men must have felt the fear expressed on a similar occasion by a pious chronicler of the fifteenth century: “Now may God grant that this be peace indeed, and tranquillity for all citizens; whereof I doubt.” Jacopo da Varagine, author of the Golden Legend, describes a similar religious revival and pacification at which he himself played a prominent part in 1295; yet, since nothing is pure in this world, the year was not yet out before the Devil inspired the citizens again with such a spirit of discord that there were several days of street fighting, in which a church was burned to the ground. In the year after the great Alleluia, Salimbene records, without comment, how there was a great battle in the plain of Cremona between the seven principal towns of Lombardy, in spite of natural calamities in which they might well have seen the finger of Providence. For (88) “There was so great snow and frost throughout the month of January that the vines and all fruit-trees were frost-bitten. And beasts of the forest were frozen to death, and wolves came into the cities by night: and by day many were taken and hanged in the public streets. And trees were split from top to bottom by the force of the frost, and many lost their sap altogether and were dried up.” The next year came another bitter winter and greater destruction of vines: but the warm weather was again marked by the usual civil wars. In this year 1235 . . . the men of Parma and Cremona, Piacenza and Pontremoli, went with those of Modena to dig the Scotenna above Bologna; for they would fain have thrown the stream against Castelfranco to destroy it. And no 40 man was excused from the labour; for some digged, others carried earth, both nobles and common folk” (92). Salimbene more than once speaks of the month of May, in Old Testament phrase, as “the time when kings go forth to war.” “Every spring,” as Ruskin put it, “kindled them into battle, and every autumn was red with their blood.” The worst horrors of civil war recorded by Salimbene come after the great Alleluia of 1233.

It must be noted also to what an extent this, like most other religious movements in the Middle Ages, came from the people rather than from the hierarchy. Brother Benedict of the Horn had no more claim to Apostolical Succession than General Booth, — or, for the matter of that, than St. Francis when he first began to preach. There is no hint that either of them had at first any episcopal licence even of the most informal kind, any more than the Blessed Joachim of Fiore and St. Catherine of Siena, and Richard Rolle of Hampole, who all set an example of lay preaching. No doubt the practice was contrary to canon law: but the thing was constantly done; and, so long as the preacher did not become a revolutionary, it seems to have caused neither scandal nor surprise. Matthew Paris (ann. 1225) describes a wild woman-preacher of this sort, not with contempt, but with warm admiration. The canonization of saints, in the same way, almost always came from the people and the lower classes. Nothing is more false than to suppose that the medieval Church was disciplined like the present Church of Rome. It was as various in its elements, with as many cross-currents and as many conflicts of theory with practice, as modern Anglicanism; and much which seems smooth and harmonious to us, at six hundred years’ distance, was as confusing to contemporaries as a Fulham Round-Table Conference. Again, the oft-quoted saying of Macaulay, that Rome has always been far more adroit than Protestantism in directing enthusiasm, is true (so far as it is true at all) only of Rome since the Reformation. What Darwin took at first for smooth unbroken grass-land proved, on nearer examination, to be thick-set with tiny self-sown firs, which the cattle regularly cropped as they grew. Similarly, that which some love to picture as the harmonious growth of one great body through the Middle Ages is really a history of many divergent opinions violently strangled at birth; while hundreds more, too vigorous to be killed by the adverse surroundings, and elastic enough to take something of the outward colour of their environment, grew in spite of the hierarchy into organisms which, in their turn, profoundly modified the whole constitution of the Church. 41 If the medieval theory and practice of persecution had still been in full force in the eighteenth century in England, nearly all the best Wesleyans would have chosen to remain within the Church rather than to shed blood in revolt; and the rest would have been killed off like wild beasts. The present unity of Romanism, so far as it exists, is due less to tact than to naked force; so that in the Middle Ages, when communication was difficult and discipline of any kind irregularly enforced, the religious world naturally heaved with strange and widespread fermentations. It is true that the modern Church historian generally slurs them over: yet they were very pressing realities at the time.

Amid these wars, Salimbene records one very dramatic scene (88). The Bishop of Mantua, whose sister was afterwards “mea devota” — i.e., one of many Salimbene’s many spiritual daughters — was murdered in a political quarrel. “And note that the College of Canons and Clergy at Mantua sent news of the murder to the Pope’s court by a special envoy of exceeding eloquence: who, young though he was, spake so that Pope and Cardinals marvelled to hear him. And, having made an end of speaking, he brought forth the Bishop’s blood-stained dalmatic, wherein he had been slain in the Church of St. Andrew at Mantua, and spread it before the Pope, saying” ‘Behold, Father, and see whether it be thy son’s coat or not.’ And Pope Gregory IX, with all his cardinals, wept at the sight as men who could not be comforted; for he was a man of great compassion and bowels of mercy. And the Avvocati of Mantua, who slew this their Bishop, were driven forth from their city without recall, and they wander in exile even to this present day: in order that perverse and incorrigible men (of whom and of fools the number is infinite)2 and pestilent men who ruin cities, may all know that it is not easy to fight against God. Note that folk say commonly in Tuscany — ‘D’ohmo alevandhizo, et de pioclo apicadhizo no po l’ohm guadére:’ which is, being interpreted, ‘A man hath no joy of a man who is a foreigner, nor of a louse which clingeth:’ that is, thou hast no solace of another man’s louse which clingeth to thee, nor of a stranger man whom thou cherishest. Which may be seen in Frederick II, whom the Church cherished as her ward, and who afterwards raised his heel against her and afflicted her in many ways. So also it may be seen in the Marquis of Este who now is,3 and in many others.” After which Salimbene loses himself in a long sermon on martyrs, from Abel and Zacharias to Becket; from whose legend he quotes a series of absolutely apocryphal stories relating the miraculous torments amid which his murderers severally expired. Then the good 42 friar goes on with his common story of wars and bloodshed: for of the 76 years covered by the Chronicle proper, only 21 are free from express record of war in the writer’s own neighbourhood, while several of the others were years of famine or pestilence. Salimbene, as he played about the streets of Parma, saw the heralds of the mighty host that Frederick was bringing to crush the rebellious cities of Lombardy, “an elephant, with many dromedaries, camels, and leopards,” and all the strange beasts and birds that the great Emperor loved to have about him (92). Two years later, another imperial elephant came through Parma armed for war, with a great tower and pennons on its back, “as described in the first book of Maccabees, and in the book of Brother Bartholomew the Englishman” (94). From his earliest childhood he had been familiar with the trophies of the bloody fight at San Cesario — a number of mangonels taken from the vanquished Bolognese, and ranged along the Baptistery and the west front of the Cathedral, almost under the windows of his father’s house (60). And now in his seventeenth year the sad side of war was for the first time brought vividly before his bodily eyes. The Bolognese in their turn had destroyed Castiglione, a fortress of friendly Modena; and Parma itself was threatened (95). “Then the Advocate of the Commune of Parma (who was a man of Modena) rode on horseback, followed by a squire, through the Borgo di Sta. Cristina, crying again and again with tears in his voice, ‘Ye lords of Parma, go and help the men of Modena, your friends and brothers!’ And hearing his words my bowels yearned for him with a compassion that moved me even to tears. For I considered how Parma was stripped of men, nor were any left in the city but boys and girls, youths and maidens, old men and women; since the men of Parma, with the hosts of many other cities, had gone in the Emperor’s service against Milan.”

In the next year, 1238, came the turning point of Salimbene’s life. The Alleluia had impressed him deeply: Gerard of Modena, one of the most distinguished men of the Order, took a personal interest in his conversion: and on February 4th, at the age of sixteen years and a few months, he slipped away from his father’s home and was admitted that same evening as a novice among the Franciscans of Parma. Within the brief space of three hundred yards he had passed from one world to another. A friend of his, Alberto Cremonella, was admitted at the same time, but went out during his noviciate, became a physician, and later on entered the Cistercian Order.

Sixteen years may seem a strangely immature age at which 43 to renounce the world for life; yet very many joined the Friars at an earlier age than this. Conrad of Offida and John of La Vernia, two of the most distinguished Franciscans of the first generation, were only fourteen and thirteen respectively when they joined the Order. Salimbene’s contemporary, Roger Bacon, asserts that most Friars had joined before they were of age, and that in all countries they were habitually received at any age between ten and twenty years. Thousands become friars, he says, who can read neither their grammar nor their psalter. Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, accused the friars of attracting boys by presents of apples and wine; and in 1313 the University of Oxford passed a statute forbidden them to receive novices below eighteen years of age. The crude spirit of adventure which prompts a modern schoolboy to go to sea, sometimes found a vent six hundred years ago in an equally ill-regulated religious enthusiasm. Only nine years before Salimbene’s birth, Northern Italy had witnessed the Boys’ Crusade, which originated on the Rhine and swelled to a troop of seven thousand youths and children, many of whom were of noble families, and who expected to cross the sea dry-shod from Genoa to the Holy Land. The Genoese, scandalized by the moral disorders which reigned among them, and judging them “to be led by levity rather than by necessity,” closed their gates upon the juvenile pilgrims, who were dispersed and perished miserably. Salimbene tells the story on p. 30, and the author of the Golden Legend makes the startling assertion that the fathers of the well-born boys had sent harlots with their children.4

Albert and Salimbene had chosen their time well; for Brother Elias, the powerful Minister-General of the Order, was at that moment passing through Parma; and, once received by him in person, they would be pretty safe from all outside interference. They found the great man on a bed of down in the guesten-hall: for the easy-chair was not a medieval institution, and even kings or queens would receive visitors seated on their beds. Brother Elias “had a goodly fire before him, and an Armenian cap on his head: nor did he rise or move from his place when the Podesta entered and saluted him, as I saw with mine own eyes; and this was held to be great churlishness on his part, since God Himself saith in Holy Scripture, ‘Rise up before the hoary head, and honour the person of the aged man.’ ” After all, however, such boorishness was natural to Brother Elias, who in his youth had been glad to earn a scanty living by sewing mattresses and teaching little boys to read their psalter. Brother Gerard of Modena was also present: and at his prayer the young Salimbene was received 44 into the Order. The Abbot of St. John’s at Parma had sent for the Brethren’s supper a peasant loaded with capons hanging before and behind from a pole over his shoulders; the friars took the boy to sup in the infirmary, where more delicate fare could be had than the ordinary Rule permitted. Here, “though I had supplied magnificently in my father’s house, they set an excellent meal before me again.5 But in course of time they gave me cabbages, which I must needs eat all the days of my life: yet in the world I had never eaten cabbages — nay, I abhorred them so sore that I had never even eaten the flesh stewed with them. So afterward I remembered that proverb which was often in men’s mouths: ‘The kite said to the chicken as he carried him off — ‘You may squeak now, but this isn’t the worst.’6 And again I thought of Job’s words, ‘The things which before my soul would not touch, now through anguish are my meats.’ ” (99). Salimbene kept his eyes and ears open that evening: for he was in the presence of one of the greatest men in Italy. As a grown man he was far from approving Brother Elias’s policy, of which he has left the most detailed criticism now extant. (96 foll.) This most thorny question, however, is exhaustively discussed in Lempp’s Frère Elie de Cortone, and well summarized by Miss Macdonell; so I shall quote elsewhere only such of our chronicler’s remarks as throw definite light upon the general conditions of the Order.

Once admitted, he was sent forthwith to Fano, in the Mark of Ancona, some hundred and fifty miles from Parma. Guido di Adamo was a man of influence, and only too likely to resent the loss of his son and heir: for the proselytizing methods of the friars constantly caused bitter family quarrels. “Greedy and injurious men!” complains an Italian dramatist of the next century, “who think they have earned heaven when they have separated a son from his father!” The friars in their turn, enforced the strictest separation from all friends during the year of the noviciate. As St. Bonaventura’s secretary writes — “To speak with outsiders, whether lay folk (even such as serve the Brethren) or Religious of any Order, is absolutely forbidden to the novices except in the presence of a professed friar, who shall hear and follow all the words spoken on either side; nor may the novices without special licence be allowed to go to the gate or to outsiders.”7 How necessary was this rule in the friars’ interest, Salimbene’s own words will show. (39.) “My father was sore grieved all the days of his life at my entrance into the Order of the Friars Minor, nor would he be comforted, since he had now no son to succeed him. Wherefore, he made complaint to the 45 Emperor, who had come in those days to Parma, that the Brethren Minor had robbed him of his son. Then the Emperor wrote to Brother Elias, Minister-General of the Order, saying that, as he loved his favour, he should hearken to him and give me back to my father. Then my father journeyed to Assisi, where Brother Elias was, and laid the Emperor’s letter in the General’s hand, whereof the first words were as follows: To comfort the sighing of our trusty and well-beloved Guido di Adamo, etc. Brother Illuminato,8 who in those days was scribe and secretary to Brother Elias, and who was wont to write in a book, apart by themselves, all the fair letters which were sent by princes of the world to the Minister-General showed me that letter, when in process of time I dwelt with him in the convent of Siena. Wherefore Brother Elias, having read the Emperor’s letter, wrote forthwith to the Brethren of the convent of Fano, where I then dwelt, bidding them, if I were willing, to give me back to my father without delay, in virtue of holy obedience; but if they found me unwilling to return, then should they keep me as the apple of their eye. Whereupon many knights came with my father to the house of the Brethren in the city of Fano, to see the issue of this matter. To them I was made a gazing-stock; and to myself a cause of salvation. For when the Brethren and the laymen had assembled in the chapter-house, and many words had been bandied to and fro, my father brought forth the letter of the Minister-General, and showed it to the Brethren. Whereupon Brother Jeremiah the Custode, having read it, replied to my father, ’My Lord Guido, we have compassion for your grief, and are ready to obey the letters of our father. But here is your son: he is of age, let him speak for himself. Enquire ye of him: if he is willing to go with you, let him go in God’s name. But if not, we cannot do him violence, that he should go with you.’ My father asked therefore whether I would go with him, or not. To whom I answered, ’No; for the lord saith, “no man, putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” ’ And my father said to me: ’Thou hast no care then for thine own father and mother, who are afflicted with divers pains for thy sake?’ To whom I made answer, ‘No care have I in truth, for the Lord saith, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” Thou, therefore, father shouldst have a care for Him, who for our sake hung on a tree, that He might give us eternal life. For he it is Who saith, “For I came to set a man at variance against his father,”!!- has single quotes here only in this paragraph for scripture quotes --> etc., etc. (Matt. x. 35, 36, 32, 33). And the Brethren marvelled and 46 rejoiced that I spake thus to my father. Then said he to the Brethren, ‘Ye have bewitched and deceived my son, lest he should obey me. I will complain to the Emperor again concerning you, and to the Minister-General. Yet suffer me to speak with my son secretly and apart; and ye shall see that he will follow me without delay.’ So the Brethren suffered me to speak alone with my father, since they had some small confidence in me because of my words that I had even now spoken. Yet they listened behind the partition to hear what manner of talk we had: for they quaked as a rush quakes in the water, lest my father by his blandishments should change my purpose. And they feared not only for the salvation of my soul, but also lest my departure should give occasion to others not to enter the Order. My father, therefore, said to me: ‘Beloved son, put no faith in these filthy drivellers9 who have deceived thee, but come with me, and all that I have will I give unto thee.’ and I answered and spake to my father: ‘Hence, hence, father: the Wise Man saith in his Proverbs, in the third chapter, “Hinder not from well-doing him who hath the power: if thou art able, do good thyself also.” ’ And my father answered even weeping, and said to me, ‘What then, my son, can I say to thy mother, who mourneth for thee night and day?’ And I spake unto him: ‘Say unto her for my part, Thus saith thy son: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” ’ My father, hearing all this, and despairing of my return, threw himself upon the earth in the sight of the Brethren and the layfolk who had come with him, and cried, ‘I commit thee to a thousand devils, accursed son, together with thy brother who is here with thee, and who also hath helped to deceive thee. My curse cleave to thee through all eternity, and send thee to the devils of hell!’ And so he departed, troubled beyond measure; but we remained in great consolation, giving thanks unto God, and saying to Him, ‘Though they curse, yet bless Thou. For he who is blessed above the earth, let him be blessed in God. Amen.’ So the layfolk departed, much edified, at my constancy: and the Brethren also rejoiced greatly that the Lord had wrought manfully through me His little child; and they knew that the words of the Lord are true, Who saith, ‘Lay it up therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before how you shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay.’ In the following night the Blessed Virgin rewarded me. For methought I lay prostrate in prayer before the altar, as is the wont of the Brethren, when they arise to matins: and I heard 47 the voice of the Blessed Virgin calling unto me. And, raising my face, I saw her sitting upon the altar, in that place where the Host and the chalice are set. And she had her little Child in her lap, Whom she held out to me, saying, ‘Draw thou nigh without fear, and kiss my Son Whom thou hast confessed yesterday before men.’ And when I feared, I saw that the Child opened His arms gladly, awaiting my coming. Trusting, therefore, in the cheerfulness and innocence of the Child, no less than in this so liberal favour of His mother, I came forward and embraced and kissed Him; and His gracious mother left Him to me for a long space. And since I could not take my fill of Him, at length the Holy Virgin blessed me, saying: ‘Depart, beloved son, and take thy rest, lest the Brethren should rise to matins, and find thee here with us.’ I obeyed, and the vision disappeared: but in my heart remained so great sweetness as tongue could never tell. In very truth I avow, that never in this world had I such sweetness as that. And then I knew the truth of that scripture which saith, ‘To him who hath tasted of the sprit, there is no taste in any flesh.’

“At that time, while I was still in the city of Fano, I saw in a dream that the son of Thomas degli Armari, of the city of Parma, slew a monk; and I told the dream to my brother. And after a few days there came through the city of Fano Amizo degli Amici, going into Apulia to fetch gold from thence; and he came unto the house of the Brethren, where he saw us; for he was our acquaintance and friend and neighbour. And then, beginning from another matter, we enquired how it might be with Such-an-one (now his name was Gerard de’ Senzanesi), and he said to us: ‘It is ill with him, for the other day he slew a monk.’ Then we knew that at times dreams are true. Furthermore, at that time also, when first my father passed through the city of Fano, journeying towards Assisi, the Brethren hid me many days, together with my brother, in the house of the Lord Martin of Fano, who was a Master of Laws, and his palace was hard by the seaside. And at times he would come to us and speak to us of God and of the Holy Scriptures, and his mother ministered unto us. Afterwards he entered the Order of the Friars Preachers, wherein he ended his life with all praise. While then he was yet in that Order, he was chosen Bishop of his own city: but the Preachers would not suffer him to accept it, for they were not willing to lose him. He would have entered our Order, but he was dissuaded therefrom by Brother Taddeo Buonconte, who was himself thereof. For our Brethren lay sore upon Taddeo that he should return all ill-gotten gains, if he 48 would be received among us: and he said to the Lord Martin, ‘So will they do with thee also, if thou enter the Order.’ So he feared, and entered the Order of Preachers, which perchance was better for him and for us.” This restitution of ill-gotten gains was a very sore point with both Orders.

As Salimbene had learnt Latin “from his very cradle,” so now, from the very first days of his conversion, he set himself to study theology. Forty-six years afterwards, on the anniversary of his entrance, he looks back with pardonable complacency over this long term of study. (277) “From my very earliest noviciate at Fano in the March of Ancona, I learned theology from Brother Umile of Milan, who had studied at Bologna under Brother Aymo, the Englishman; which same Aymo, in his old age, was chosen Minister-General of our Order, and held that office three years, even to his death. And in the first year of my entrance into the Order I studied Isaiah and Matthew as Brother Umile read them in the schools: and I have not ceased since then to study and learn in the schools. And as the Jews said to Christ, ‘Six and forty years was this temple in building,’ so may I also say: for it is 46 years to-day, Saturday the Feast of St. Gilbert, in the year 1284, whereon I write these words, since I entered the Order of Friars Minor. And I have not ceased to study since then: yet not even so have I come to the wisdom of my ancestors.”


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