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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1700 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #45 on: January 04, 2009, 11:35:18 pm »

Man has at all periods been led by a strong impulse of his nature to visit those spots which have been distinguished as the scenes of great and celebrated actions, or the abode of distinguished personages. The operation of this natural feeling is still stronger when it is combined with religion, and there arises a conviction that the object of his worship is gratified by this act of attention, and his favour thereby secured to the votary. Hence we find pilgrimage, or the practice of taking distant journeys to celebrated temples, and other places of devotion, to have prevailed in all ages of the world. In the most remote periods of the mythic history of Greece, where historic truth is not to be sought, and only manners and modes of thinking are to be discerned, we constantly meet the theoria, or pilgrimage to Delphi, mentioned in the history of the heroes, whence we may with certainty collect that it formed at all times a portion of the manners of the Greeks. India, at the present day, witnesses annually the pilgrimage of myriads to the temple of Juggernaut, and Jerusalem has been for thousands of years the resort of pious Israelites.

The country which had witnessed the life and death of their Lord naturally acquired importance in the eyes of the early Christians, many of whom, moreover, were Jews by birth, and had always viewed Jerusalem with feelings of veneration. All, too, confounded--as has unfortunately been too much the case in later times--the old and the new law, and saw not that the former was but "beggarly elements" in comparison with the latter, and deemed that the political and economical precepts designed for a single nation, inhabiting one small region, were obligatory on the church of Christ, which was intended.. to comprise the whole human race. Many of the practices

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of Judaism were therefore observed by the Christians, and to this principle we are perhaps in a great measure to ascribe the rapid progress of the practice, and the belief in the efficacy, of pilgrimage to the Holy City.

The abuses of pilgrimage were early discerned, and some of the more pious Fathers of the Church preached and wrote against the practice. But piety and eloquence were vain, and could little avail to stem the torrent when men believed that the waters of Jordan had efficacy to wash every sin, though unattended by sincere repentance. The Church, as she advanced in corruption, improved in worldly wisdom, and, taking pilgrimage under her protection, made it a part of her penal discipline. The sinner was now ordered a journey to the Holy Land as a means of freeing his soul from the guilt of his perhaps manifold enormities. Each year saw the number of the pilgrims augment, while the growing veneration for relics, of which those which came from the Holy Land were esteemed the most efficacious, stimulated pilgrimage by adding the incentive of profit, as a small stock of money laid out in the purchase of the generally counterfeit relics always on sale at Jerusalem would produce perhaps a thousand per cent. on the return of the pilgrim to his native country. A pilgrim was also held in respect and veneration wherever he came, as an especial favourite of the Divinity, having been admitted by him to the high privilege of visiting the sacred places, a portion of whose sanctity it would be supposed might still adhere to him.

The 11th century was the great season of pilgrimage. A strange misconception of the meaning of a portion of Scripture had led men to fancy that the year 1000 was to be that of the advent of Christ, to judge the world. As the valley of Jehoshaphat was

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believed to be the spot on which this, awful event would take place, the same feeling which leads people at the present day to lay a flattering unction to their souls by supposing that death-bed repentance will prove equivalent in the sight of God to a life passed in obedience to his will and in the exercise of virtue, impelled numbers to journey to the Holy Land, in the belief that this officiousness, as it were, of hitherto negligent servants would be well taken by their Lord, and procure them an indulgent hearing before his judgment-seat. Pilgrimage, therefore, increased greatly; the failure of their expectations, the appointed time having passed away without the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven, gave it no check, but, on the contrary, rather an additional impulse; and during this century the caravans of pilgrims attained to such magnitude and strength as to be deserving of the appellation of The armies of the Lord--precursive of the first and greatest Crusade.

In truth the belief in the merit and even the obligation of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in the sight of God, was now as firmly impressed on the mind of every Christian, be his rank what it might, as that of the necessity and advantage of one to the Kaaba of Mecca is in the apprehension of the followers of Mohammed; and in the degraded state of the human intellect at that period a pilgrimage was deemed adequate to the removal of all sin. As a proof of this we shall narrate the pilgrimages of two distinguished personages of those times. The first occurred in the 9th, the second in the 11th century.

In the reign of Lothaire, son of Louis the Debonaire, a nobleman of Brittany, named Frotmond, who had murdered his uncle and his youngest brother, began to feel remorse for his crimes. Arrayed in the habit of a penitent, he presented himself before the monarch and an assembly of his prelates, and made confession

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of his guilty deeds. The king and bishops had him straitly bound in chains of iron, and then commanded him, in expiation of his guilt, to set forth for the East, and visit all the holy places, clad in hair-cloth, and his forehead marked with ashes. Accompanied by his servants and the partners of his crime, the Breton lord directed his course to Palestine, which he reached in safety. Having, in obedience to the mandates of his sovereign and of the church, visited all the holy places, he crossed the Arabian desert, which had been the scene of the wanderings of Israel, and entered Egypt. He thence traversed a part of Africa, and went as far as Carthage, whence he sailed for Rome. Here the Pope, on being consulted, advised him to make a second pilgrimage, in order to complete his penance, and obtain the perfect remission of his sins. Frotmond accordingly set forth once more, and having performed the requisite duties at the Holy City, proceeded to the shore of the Red Sea, and there took up his abode for three years on Mount Sinai, after which time he made a journey to Armenia, and visited the mountain on which the ark of Noah had rested. His crimes being now, according to the ideas of those times, expiated, he returned to his native country, where he was received as a saint, and taking up his abode in the convent of Redon, passed there the remainder of his days, and died deeply regretted by his brethren. *

Fulk de Nerra, Count of Anjou, had spilt much innocent blood; he had had his first wife burnt alive, and forced his second wife to seek refuge from his barbarity in the Holy Land. The public odium pursued him, and conscience asserting her rights presented to his disturbed imagination the forms of those who had perished by him issuing from their tombs, and reproaching him with his crimes. Anxious to


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escape from his invisible tormentors, the count put on him the habit of a pilgrim, and set forth for Palestine. The tempests which he encountered in the Syrian seas seemed to his guilty soul the instruments of divine vengeance, and augmented the fervour of his repentance. Having reached Jerusalem in safety, he set heartily about the work of penance. He traversed the streets of the Holy City with a cord about his neck, and beaten with rods by his servants, while he repeated these words, Lord, have mercy on a faithless and perjured Christian, on a sinner wandering far from his home. During his abode in Jerusalem he gave abundant alms, relieving the wants of the pilgrims, and leaving numerous monuments of his piety and munificence.

Deep as was the penitence of the Count of Anjou, it did not stand in the way of the exercise of a little pious fraud. By an ingenious device he deceived the impious malignity of the profane Saracens, who would have made him defile the holy sepulchre; and the chroniclers tell us that as he lay prostrate before the sacred tomb he contrived to detach from it a precious stone, which he carried back with him to the West. On his return to his duchy he built, at the castle of Loches, a church after the model of that of the Resurrection at Jerusalem, and here he every day implored with tears the divine forgiveness. His mind, however, could not yet rest; he was still haunted by the same horrid images; and he once more visited the Holy Land, and edified the faithful by the austerity of his penance. Returning home by the way of Italy, he delivered the supreme pontiff from a formidable enemy who was ravaging his territory, and the grateful pope conferred on him in return the full absolution of all his sins. Fulk brought with him to Anjou a great quantity of relics, with which he adorned the churches of Loches and Angers; and his

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