There was another source of oppression which had a loftier motive and better results, but which was none the less grinding upon the mass of the people. It was about this time that the fashion set in of building magnificent churches and abbeys, and the invention of stained glass and its rapid introduction show the luxury of ornamentation which was sought. While these structures were in some degree the expression of ardent faith, yet more were they the manifestation of the pride of the prelates who erected them, and in our admiration of these sublime relics of the past, in whatever reverential spirit we may view the towering spire, the long-arched nave, and the glorious window, we must not lose sight of the supreme effort which they cost — an effort which inevitably fell upon suffering serf and peasant. Peter Cantor assures us that they were built out of exactions on the poor, out of the unhallowed gains of usury, and out of the lies and deceits of the quæstuarii or pardoners ; and the vast sums lavished upon them, he assures us, would be much better spent in redeeming captives and relieving the necessities of the helpless.
It was hardly to be expected that prelates such as filled most of the sees of Christendom should devote themselves to the real duties of their position. Foremost among these duties was that of preaching the word of God and instructing their flocks in faith and morals. The office of preacher, indeed, was especially an episcopal function ; he was the only man in the diocese authorized to exercise it ; it formed no part of the duty or training of the parish priest, who could not presume to deliver a sermon without a special license from his superior. It need not surprise us, therefore, to see this portion of Christian teaching and devotion utterly neglected, for the turbulent and martial prelates of the day were too wholly engrossed in worldly cares to bestow a thought upon a matter for which their unfitness was complete. In 1031 the Council of Limoges expressed a wish that preaching should be done, not only at the episcopal seat, but in other churches, when the will of God inspires a competent doctor to the task; but the Church slumbered on until the spread of heresy aroused it to a sense of its unwisdom in neglecting so powerful a source of influence. In 1209 the Council of Avignon ordered the bishops to preach more
- P. Cantor. Veilx abbrev. cap. 86.