Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/70

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50
THE CHURCH.

art the true Mother of God, adore this thy Son," whereupon the demon disappeared in a flash of lightning, leaving an intolerable stench behind him. The consecrated wafer was popularly believed to possess a magic efficacy of incomparable power, and stories are numerous of the punishment inflicted on those who sacrilegiously sought thus to use it. A priest who retained it in his mouth for the purpose of using it to overcome the virtue of a woman of whom he was enamoured, was afflicted with the hallucination that he had swelled to the point that he could not pass through a doorway ; and on burying the sacred object in his garden it was changed into a small crucifix bearing a man of flesh and freshly bleeding. So when a woman kept the wafer and placed it in her beehive to stop an epidemic among the bees, the pious insects built around it a complete chapel, with walls, windows, roof, and bell-tower, and inside an altar on which they reverently placed it. Another woman, to preserve her cabbages from the ravages of caterpillars, crumbled a holy wafer and sprinkled it over the vegetables, when she was at once afflicted with incurable paralysis. This particular form of fetichism was evidently not regarded with favor, but it was the direct evolution of orthodox teaching. It was the same in respect to the water in which a priest washed his hands after handling the Eucharist, to which supernatural virtues were ascribed, but the use of which was condemned as savoring of sorcery.[1]

The power of these magic formulas, as I have said, was wholly disconnected with any devotional feeling on the part of those who employed them. Thus the efficacy of St. Thomas of Canterbury was illustrated by a story of a matron whose veneration for him led her to invoke him on all occasions, and even to teach her pet bird to repeat the formula "Sancte Thoma adjuva me!" Once a hawk seized the bird and flew away with it, but on the bird uttering the accustomed phrase, the hawk fell dead and the bird returned unhurt to its mistress. So little, indeed, of sanctity was requisite, that wicked priests employed the mass as an incantation and execration, mentally cursing their enemies while engaged in its solemnization, and expecting that in some way the malediction


  1. Hartzheim. Concil. German. III. 543.— Campana, Storia di San Piero Martire Lib. u. cap. 3. — Caesar. Heisterbac. Dial. Mirac. Dist. ix. cap. 6, 8, 24, 25.