Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/289

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as Pastoureaux. The helpless and hopeless state of the lower classes of society in those dreary ages has probably never been exceeded in any period of the world's history. The terrible maxim of the feudal law, that the villein's only appeal from his lord was to God — "Mes par notre usage n'a-il entre toi et ton vilein juge fors Deu" — condenses in a word the abject defencelessness of the major part of the population, and human degradation has never, perhaps, been more forcibly expressed than in the infamous jus prirnce noctis or "droit de marquette." The bitter humor of the trouvere Kuteboeuf describes how Satan considered the soul of the villein too despicable to be received in hell ; there was no place for it in heaven, so that, after a life of misery on earth, it had no refuge in the hereafter. It is noteworthy in many ways that the Church, which should have been the mediator between the villein and his lord, and which, in teaching the common brotherhood of man, should have earned the gratitude of the miserable serf, was always the special object of aversion and attack in the brief saturnalia of the self -enfranchised wretches.[1]

Suddenly, about Easter, 1251, there appeared a mysterious preacher, known as the Hungarian, advanced in years, and clothed with the attributes which most excite popular awe and veneration. In his clenched hand, which never was opened, he carried a paper given to him by the Virgin Mary herself, which was his mandate and commission. Yet men said that he had from his youth been an apostate from Christ to Mahomet, that he had drunk deeply of the poisonous wells of magic flowing at Toledo, and that he had received from Satan the mission of carrying the unarmed populations of Europe to the East, so that the Soldan of Babylon should find Christendom an easy prey. Remembering the Crusade of the Children, people leaped to the conclusion that it was he who had devastated so many houses with his magic arts, leading forth the tender youth to perish of starvation and exposure. Tall and pale, gifted with eloquence to win the hearts of the multitude, speaking like- a native in French and German and Latin, he set forth, preaching from town to town the supineness of the rich and powerful

  1. Pierre de Fontaines, Conseil, ch. xxi. art. 8.— Le Grand d'Aussy, Fabliaux, II. 112-3. — The existence of the "droit de marquette" has been questioned, but without reasonable ground. The authorities may be found in the author's "Sacerdotal Celibacy," 2d Ed. p. 354.