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ST. LOUIS OF FRANCE. 379.
The Saracenic influences had thus found an expression in the South of France and in Sicily, involving many classes of society, from the Poor Men of Lyons to the Emperor of Germany; but in both places they were overcome by the admirable organization and unscrupulous vigor of the Church. She handled her weapons with singular dexterity, and contrived to extract victory out of humiliation and defeat. As ever since the days of Constantine, she had partisans in every city, in every village, in every family. And now it might have appeared that the blow she had thus delivered was final, and that the world, in contentment, must submit to her will. She had again succeeded in putting her iron heel on the neck of knowledge, and had stamped upon it amid the hatred of Christendom, reviling it as the monstrous but legitimate issue of the detested Mohammedanism. But the fate of men is by no means an indication of the fate of principles. The fall of the Emperor Frederick was not followed by the destruction of the influences he represented. These not only survived him, but were destined, in the end, to overcome the power which had transiently overthrown them. We are now entering on the history of a period which offers to us not only exterior opposition to the current doctrines, but, what is more ominous, interior mutiny. Notwithstanding the awful persecutions in the South of France-notwithstanding the establishment of auricular confession as a detective means, and the Inquisition as a weapon of punishment-notwithstanding the influence of the French king, St. Louis, canonized by the grateful Church-heresy, instead of being extirpated, extended itself among the laity, and even spread among the ecclesiastical ranks. St. Louis, the representative of the hierarchical party, gathers influence only from the circumstance of his relations with the Church, of whose interests he was a fanatical supporter. So far as the affairs of his people were concerned, he can hardly be looked upon as any thing better than a simpleton. His reliance for checking the threatened spread of heresy was a resort to violence-the fagot and the sword. In his opinion, “A man ought never to dispute with a misbeliever except with his sword, which he ought to drive into the heretic’s entrails as far as he could.” It was the signal glory of his reign that he secured for France that inestimable relic, the crown of thorns. This peerless memento of our Savior’s passion he purchased in Constantinople for an immense sum. But France was doubly and enviably enriched; for the Abbey of St. D’enys was in possession of another, known to be equally authentic. Besides the crown, he also secured the sponge that was dipped in vinegar; the lance of the Roman soldier; also the swaddling-clothes in which the Savior had first lain in the manger; the rod of Moses; and part of the skull of John the Baptist. These treasures he deposited in the ” Etoly Chapel” of Paris.
380 ACTIONS OF THE INQUISITION.
Under the papal auspices, St. Louis determined on a crusade; and nothing, except what we have already mentioned, can better show his mental imbecility than his disregard of all suitable arrangements for it. He thought that, provided the troops could be made to lead a religious life, all would go well; that the Lord would fight his own battles, and that no provisions of a military or worldly kind were needed. In such a pious reliance on the support of God, he reached Egypt with his expedition in June, A.D. 1249. The ever-conspicuous valor of the French troops could maintain itself in the battle-field, but not against pestilence and famine. In March of the following year, as might have been foreseen, King Louis was the prisoner of the sultan, and was only spared the indignity of being carried about as a public spectacle in the Mohammedan towns by a ransom, at first fixed at a million of Byzantines, but by the merciful sultan voluntarily reduced one fifth. Still, for a time, Louis lingered in the East, apparently stupefied by considering how God could in this manner have abandoned a man who had come to his help. Never was there a crusade with a more shameful end. Notwithstanding the support of St. Louis in his own dominions, the intellectual revolt spread in every direction, and that not only in France, but throughout all Catholic Europe. In vain the Inquisition exerted all its terrors-and what could be more terrible than its form of procedure? It sat in secret; no witness, no advocate was present; the accused was simply informed that he was charged with heresy, it was not said by whom. He was made to swear that he would tell the truth as regarded himself, and also respecting other persons, whether parents, children, friends, strangers. If he resisted he was committed to a solitary dungeon, dark and poisonous; his food was diminished; every thing was done to drive him into insanity. Then the familiars of the Holy Office, or others in its interests, were by degrees to work upon him to extort confession as to himself or accusations against others. But this fearful tribunal did not fail to draw upon itself the indignation of men. Its victims, condemned for heresy, were perishing in all directions. The usual apparatus of death, the stake and fagots, had become unsuited to its wholesale and remorseless vengeance. The convicts were so numerous as to require pens made of stakes and filled with straw. It was thus that, before the Archbishop of Rheims and seventeen other prelates, one hundred and eighty-three heretics, together with their pastor, were burned alive. Such outrages against humanity can not be perpetrated without bringing in the end a retribution. In other countries the rising indignation was exasperated by local causes; in England, for instance, by the continual intrusion of Italian ecclesiastics into the richest benefices. Some of them were mere boys; many were non-residents; some had not so much as seen the country from which they drew their ample wealth. The Archbishop of York.
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