Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/55

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35
THE MONASTIC ORDERS.

of the age, and their virtues suffered proportionally. At this period they were rapidly obtaining exemption from episcopal jurisdiction and subjecting themselves immediately to Kome. This inevitably stimulated conventual degeneracy. Richard, Archbishop of Canterbury, complained bitterly to Alexander III. of the fatal relaxation thus induced in monastic discipHne, but to no purpose. It abased the episcopate ; it increased the authority of the Holy See, both directly and indirectly, through the important allies thus acquired in its struggles with the bishops ; and it was, moreover, a source of revenue, if we may believe the Abbot of Malmesbury, who boasted that for an ounce of gold per year paid to Rome he could obtain exemption from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Salisbury. In too many cases the abbeys thus became centres of corruption and disturbance, the nunneries scarce better than houses of prostitution, and the monasteries feudal castles where the monks lived riotously and waged war upon their neighbors as ferociously as the turbulent barons, with the added disadvantage that, as there was no hereditary succession, the death of an abbot was apt to be followed by a disputed election producing internal broils and outside interference. Thus in a quarrel of this kind occurring in 1182, the rich abbey of St. Tron was attacked by the Bishops of Metz and Liege, the town and abbey were burned, and the inhabitants put to the sword. The trouble lasted until the end of the century, and when it was temporarily patched up by a pecuniary transaction, the wretched vassals and serfs were reduced to starvation to raise the funds which bought the elevation of an ambitious monk. It is true that all establishments were not lost to the duties for which they had received so abundantly of the benefactions of the faithful. In the famine of 1197, though the monastery of Heisterbach was still young and poor, the Abbot Gebhardt distributed alms so lavishly that sometimes he fed fifteen hundred people a day, while the mother-house of Hemmenrode was even more liberal, and supported all the poor of its district till harvest-time. At the same time a Cistercian abbey in Westphalia slaughtered all its flocks and herds and pledged its books and sacred vessels to feed the starving. It is satisfactory to be assured that in each case the expenditures were more than made up by the donations which the establishments received in consequence of their charity. Such instances go far to redeem the institution of monachism, but