| Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages|
|by George Hodges|
| An excellent introduction to the history of the church through portraits of twenty of the most important saints and heroes of the faith from the third century A.D. to the time of the Reformation. Includes Cyprian, Athanasius, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Greg-ory the Great, Columba, Charlemagne, Hildebrand, Anselm, Bernard, Becket, Langton, Dominic, Francis, Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola. Ages 11-14 |
 A GREAT fire broke out in the town, as the funeral
procession of William the Conqueror entered the gates.
Everybody, except the attending clergy, ran to the
When, at last, order was restored, and the service was
begun, and the bishop who preached ended his sermon
with a prayer for the soul of William, and a hope that
if any present had been offended by him they would now
forgive him, a man arose and forbade his burial. "The
ground on which you stand," he said, "was the place of
my father's house, which this man, for whom you make
request, took away from my father by violence, and,
utterly refusing justice, he, by his strong hand,
founded this church. This land, therefore, I claim,
and openly demand it back;
 and in the behalf of God I forbid the body of the
spoiler to be covered with sod that is mine, and to be
buried in my inheritance." So they stopped the
service, examined the claim and found it just, and paid
the main his due.
Even then, at the moment of entombment, the body was
found to be too big for the coffin, and was burst
asunder as they forced it in.
William the Norman, who avenged upon the English their
conquest of the Britons, had ruled England as
Charlemagne ruled Europe. He had been supreme. Of
Church and State alike, he had been the head. At his
will, he had made and unmade nobles; and at his will,
he had appointed and dismissed bishops. The great pope
Hildebrand, who humbled the emperor at Canossa, and who
blessed the banner under which William went to the
conquest of England, sent a messenger to the conqueror
re-  ceive his promise of obedience, and to collect money
which was due to the Church in Rome. William confessed
that the money had been carelessly collected, and said
he would do better. But as to the obedience, he
refused to give it. "Fealty," he said, meaning the
service due to a superior, "fealty I neither have been
willing to do, nor will I do it now, for I never
promised it; and I find not that my predecessors did it
It was a clear statement of one side of that tremendous
contention between the Church and the court in which
Charlemagne and Hildebrand played their great parts.
There was a man, however, at William's dreadful funeral
who was to give an equally clear statement of the other
side of the contention, asserting, like Hildebrand, the
supremacy of the Church. This man was Anselm.
Anselm was a native of Italy. He had wandered up into
the north of France, and
 in a day when most men of an earnest or adventurous
spirit were either monks or soldiers, he had become a
monk. The monastery of Bec had been to him a place,
not only of religion, but of education. The prior,
Lanfranc, was the greatest schoolmaster of his time.
Anselm was his greatest pupil. In the wholesome quiet
of the place, beside the stream which ran through the
wild woods, Anselm began to think.
Thinking was at that time a disused art. Of course,
there was a plenty of the kind of thought which goes
along with the planning of campaigns and with the
administration of affairs. No man can rule as
Charlemagne and William did without being a master of
the art of making decisions. But of the persistent
study which pursues truth for the joy of pursuing it,
and is intent on discovering the meaning of things,
there had been little since Augustine. The main work
 scholars, in that difficult time when the old empire
was going to pieces and the new empire was being built
upon its ruins, was to keep the ancient learning safe.
Men were busy copying the classic and Christian books
of the old time, and teaching them to a new generation.
The new generation, in its turn, having been brought
out of ignorance by wise men whose knowledge in those
times seemed almost supernatural, had grown up in the
habit of intellectual submission. The thing to do was
to take what the ancients had said, and accept it
respectfully. It was true because they said it.
Anselm was profoundly respectful to the ancients, but
his mind was not satisfied. He was not content to
believe in God because Augustine had believed, or even
because St. Paul and St. John had believed. In the
quiet of the peaceful abbey, he set himself to
establish the truth of the existence of God on the
 of human reason. He took his arguments from the world
outside, and from the world within. In the universal
idea of God he found a reason for belief in God. The
matter is of importance because it was the beginning of
philosophy and science in the new era.
Then William took Lanfranc to be archbishop of
Canterbury, and his counselor and right hand in his new
domains. Anselm became at first prior, and then abbot
of Bec. He was as original in the spirit of his
discipline as in the manner of his thought. Almost all
of the schools of the time were in the monasteries, and
in almost every monastery the boys were taught with
the book before them and the birch behind them. They
were beaten, as a matter of course. At the
universities, when young men came up for the degree of
bachelor of arts, they were examined, not only as to
the program of their studies, but as to their ability
to ply the rod.
 Nobody was qualified to teach who did not know how to
punish. But to an abbot who complained of the dullness
of his pupils Anselm replied that they were made dull
by the method of their education. "Day and night,"
said the discouraged abbot, "we do not cease beating
them, and they only get worse." "It is a way to turn
men into beasts," said Anselm. "It is like taking a
tree and tying back all its branches, and then
expecting fruit. Be patient, be kind, be sympathetic."
It was remembered how gentle Anselm was; how he
ministered to the sick, to whom food from his hand had
a better taste; and how once, in England, a hunted hare
sought refuge under his house, and he had the hounds
held from hurting it.
Suddenly, this gentle scholar was taken away from the
quiet of his books into the midst of the fierce
contentions of public life. He was made archbishop of
 That great place had been vacant for four years.
Lanfranc had died. William had died. William Rufus,
his successor, had refused to make an appointment.
William Rufus had discovered a new way to make money.
The Church in England had grown rich. Sometimes out of
gratitude for the blessings of God, sometimes out of
interest in religion and desire to strengthen the hands
of good men, sometimes in the belief that treasure
given to the Church on earth would be credited as
treasure in heaven, the great bishoprics and the great
monasteries had been given splendid gifts of lands and
buildings. But the conquests of Charlemagne in Europe
and of William in England had established the theory
that all the lands and buildings of the country
belonged to the sovereign. He had acquired them by
driving out their rightful owners, and had given them
away as he pleased, and he claimed the right to take
 When the new possessor misbehaved so that the king was
angry, he was put out as suddenly as he had come in.
This idea that the country belonged to the king was
extended by William Rufus to include the property of
the Church. And it occurred to him that when for the
moment there was no bishop or no abbot to receive the
rents, he was himself the proper person to receive
them. This pleasant proposition he applied whenever a
rich place fell vacant. For four years, accordingly,
he had refused to appoint an archbishop of Canterbury,
in order to take for his own uses the income of that
But William Rufus fell seriously ill. It looked as if
he was at the point to die. And he began to think
about his sins. They were many in number, for he had
been a cruel king like his father, without his father's
virtues. He had done all manner of injustice. His
 full of the victims of his personal displeasure. And
the stolen archbishopric was still in his possession.
Among other preparations for a penitent death, he
agreed to give that up. He would appoint an archbishop.
The fame of Anselm was already in England, and he
himself was at that moment in the country. It was
plain to all good people, and to the king, that he was
the man for the place. But Anselm was unwilling,
partly from distrust of his own strength, partly from
reluctance, to leave his quiet prayers and studies.
They forced him to it. They brought him by main
strength to the sick room of the king. They took the
pastoral staff, the symbol of that investiture against
which Hildebrand had contended, and tried to thrust it
into his closed hand. There was no escape. Only by
his acceptance could the long injustice and subjection
of the Church be ended.
 Thus he became archbishop. And then the king
Immediately there arose, between Rufus and Anselm, the
inevitable debate of that age, the question of mastery.
Shall the Church obey the king? or shall the king obey
the Church? It turned upon a curious detail. It was
the custom of an archbishop to add to his appointment
by the king a confirmation by the Roman pope. For this
purpose he must go to Rome and there receive a small
stole of white wool, marked with four crosses, called a
pallium. But when Anselm was appointed, there were two
popes, each claiming to be the true one; and England
had not yet officially decided between them. When,
therefore, Anselm came to Rufus and asked permission to
go to Rome to receive the pope's pallium, Rufus said,
"To which pope will you go?" Anselm answered, "To pope
Urban." "I have not acknowledged Urban," said the
 king. "That is my matter. By my customs, by the
customs of my father, no man may acknowledge a pope in
England without my leave. To challenge my power in
this is as much as to deprive me of my crown."
Thus the fight began. It was a clear question of
authority. Is the Church independent of the king, or
On the side of Anselm was the idea of the Church as
the representative of righteousness and law. He felt
that to surrender was to expose religion to all the
disorder and violence of a rude age, and to invite
again such robbery as had already been committed by the
king. To his mind, the supremacy of the pope over the
affairs of England was like what we mean by the
supremacy of the Hague Tribunal. It was an exaltation
of justice and security over brute strength.
On the side of Rufus was the idea of the independence
of the State. Hard and
 rough as he was, it was plain to him that the land must
have one sovereign. He could not share either his
responsibility or his power with any man, however
excellent, living in Rome. He could not submit his
judgment to any foreign revision. He must be king in
his own land.
Anselm was patient and gentle, but very determined. A
council debated the matter, but during the excited
debates he was often seen resting his head against a
pillar placidly asleep, and when he waked he was still
of the same mind. The king contrived to get the
pallium sent from Rome by Urban, but Anselm would not
take it from the king's hands. It was laid on the
altar at Westminster, whence Anselm took it himself.
But, after all, he insisted on going to Rome, and went.
Rufus at once took possession again of the revenues of
Canterbury, and the wise pope, while he received Anselm
with great honor, declined to involve himself in the
 dispute. The archbishop retired to a little hill-town
in Italy, and, with great joy, resumed the simple life
of study and prayer which his great office had
interrupted. He wrote a book in which he discussed the
problems of theology with even greater boldness and
originality than before.
Then the news came one day that William Rufus had been
killed with an arrow in the New Forest, and Anselm
returned to his duties. He returned to contend with
Henry as he had contended with Rufus, to go again with
his appeal to Rome and to be met, as before, with much
respect and little aid, but eventually to conquer
Henry. The archbishop threatened to excommunicate the
king, as the pope in Hildebrand's time had
excommunicated the emperor, and the king yielded. The
times were difficult: Robert was making threats from
Normandy; the allegiance of many great nobles was very
 doubtful; the king did not venture to continue the
dispute. He yielded. He agreed to surrender the right
of the royal investitures of bishops with the ring and
staff. They were no longer "his men," as the phrase
ran. They were responsible to their own master, the
pope in Rome. The date of this victory of
Anselm—1107—is worth remembering. It was
the definite beginning of that papal supremacy in
England which continued until it was as definitely
abolished, in 1534, by Henry VIII.
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