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When Knights Were Bold by  Eva March Tappan


 

 

HERMITS, FRIARS, AND MISSIONARIES

[175] WHEN a hermit appears in a romance, he is generally described as an old man with picturesque gray beard and hair, and either a long gray cloak or a scanty robe of sackcloth. He has had wild adventures in his youth, has perhaps done some deeds of violence to which he occasionally refers darkly; but now he keeps lonely vigils, he flogs himself with briers and wears a hair shirt by way of atoning for his sins. He omits most of his meals, and when he does deign to eat, his food consists of a dry crust, a handful of cress, and a cup of water. Much of his time he spends in counting his beads. He cares nothing for money and despises comforts. His bed is the damp stone of his cave. His clothes he wears until they are ready to drop from him in pieces. His cell is always conveniently near the spot where some one has just been attacked by thieves and left on the ground as dead. He lifts the insensible sufferer to his shoulder, bears him to the cave, bathes his forehead with cool water from the spring, and then ap- [176] plies a wonder-working ointment, given him perhaps in his youth by some heathen Saracen; and, presto, in a day or two the man who had fallen among thieves is completely cured and either goes his way or else himself becomes a dweller in a cave of stone with a menu of cresses and water.


[Illustration]

A HERMIT

Such is the hermit of the romances; but the hermit of the Middle Ages was quite a different person. Sometimes, it is true, he made for himself a tiny abode deep in the forest or in the midst of some lonely desert, and sometimes he dug for himself a den in the side of a hill [177] or hewed out a rough cave in a cliff. Sometimes his abode was merely a hut of wattle-work or a sort of booth covered with branches; but often he dwelt in a comfortable little cottage of wood or stone on a highway. Occasionally several hermits grouped themselves together, each having his own cell, or rather cottage, and using one chapel. The hermit dressed much like the monks, usually in a robe of black or gray; though there is at least one old picture of a hermit wearing a cheery little red cap. He was generally drawn with a book, a bell to ring for mass and to drive away evil spirits, and a staff.

As to what the hermits did with themselves all day long, one must remember that there were almost as many kinds of hermits as there are of people. There are stories of hermits who became so absorbed in prayer that the hours passed like minutes; of one who was able to wear the same cloak for many years, because while he was praying, his friends quietly slipped it off, mended it, and laid it upon his shoulders again, without his discovering its absence. There were hermits who made themselves useful by taking up their abode near some dangerous fording place and carrying pilgrims on their shoulders across the stream. Such is the hero of the [178] legend of Saint Christopher, to whom a little child one day appealed to be borne over the river. The strong man took the child upon his shoulders and waded into the stream. But the burden grew heavier and heavier, [179] and he could hardly make his way across and stagger up the opposite bank. "Child," he said, "thou hast put me in great peril. I could bear no heavier burden." The child answered, "Marvel not, for to-day thou hast borne on thy shoulders the whole world and the weight of its sins."


[Illustration]

ST. CHRISTOPHER

A hermit of a sociable turn of mind sometimes built himself a hut beside a bridge. Bridges were troublesome comforts in those days. They were supposed to be cared for by the landowners within whose boundaries they stood; and the lords often collected toll for their use; but the one that was left entirely to their care would have been rather dangerous. No one could deny that bridges were useful, but to build a needed bridge or keep one in repair was everybody's business, and therefore it was nobody's business. So it came to pass that building a bridge or caring for one was looked upon as being as much of a religious act as going to church. People sometimes built a bridge by way of doing penance for their sins; or in their wills they left money for one for the same reason. Some of the gilds took certain roads and bridges under their charge as a religious duty. On the larger bridges chapels were sometimes built. It did not seem at all out of place, then, [180] for a hermit to establish himself beside a bridge and claim farthing gifts from travelers on the ground that he was caring for it. If they got safely over, it mattered little to them whether he spent all the money in repairs or not. They rode away with the comfortable feeling that they had done their duty and it had not cost much; and the hermit was reasonably sure of farthings enough for his needs.

But begging at bridges was not the hermit's only means of gaining a livelihood. The mere fact that a man lived in a certain place and depended upon charity for his food was sufficient to induce people to make him gifts, and to leave him money in their wills. Occasionally a wealthy man built a hermitage and endowed it just as one to-day might endow a hospital or a library.

One might, then, put on a hermit's garb with a sincere wish to withdraw from the temptations of the world and pass the time in prayer and meditation; or he might adopt the name of hermit as an easy, comfortable way of making a living without working for it. There were so many of these pretenders that in the laws they were often classed with beggars and vagabonds. They make themselves hermits "their ease to have," says the old poem of Piers Plowman. In England in the fourteenth [181] century it was forbidden for a man to call himself a hermit unless he had been formally pronounced one by his bishop; and there was a regular service for blessing a man and setting him apart to the solitary life. Some bishops went so far as to refuse to give a man the title of hermit unless provision had already been made for his maintenance.

Hermits were not the only people who withdrew from the world. There were also anchorites and anchoresses, who dwelt in little cells or houses attached often to some church or monastery. There was a service for the "enclosing" of a recluse. He was to be warned that it was no merit in him to shut himself away from others; but that he yielded to temptation or led others into wrong so easily that he was to be put to the cell as into a prison. This cell was sometimes a single room and sometimes a little house with a garden; but, whatever it was, the recluse was supposed never to leave it so long as he lived. If he had but a single room, it was to be of good size, to have three windows,—one for light, one through which food might be passed, and one opening into the church. Here the recluse prayed, read, wrote, and sometimes loaded himself with chains and bore severe penances; [182] or else lived at his ease and with a very moderate amount of discomfort. There is a quaint old book called The Ancren Riwle, or rule for anchoresses, written by a bishop of the thirteenth century, that gives a pretty good idea of the life of a woman recluse. She might sew, not on silken purses and such vanities, but on clothes for poor folk; or she might embroider vestments for the use of the church. She must not wear jewelry or ornamented girdles. She must be obedient to her bishop and to the Pope. In her room there was to be an altar and a cheery little fireplace; and the good bishop gives her express permission to keep a cat that may sit on the hearth and purr. She may even entertain her friends, though in rather an unsatisfactory fashion. Her maid is to see to it that everything is done for their comfort; but the hostess is only permitted to open her little window once or twice and make signs to them of the pleasure that their visit is giving her. The window seems to have been the greatest temptation of an anchoress; for the busy world was passing by that little opening, and it was harder to forget it than if she had been entirely shut away from it in a convent. The bishop warns her that she must never put her head out, and that she must not even hold lengthy conversa- [183] tions with any one through it; she may "sit and listen, and not cackle." Whether all the recluses were invariably obedient is a question.

Thousands of honest, conscientious men and women had given up their homes, their friends, and even the most innocent pleasures of the world to become monks or nuns or recluses, to live a life that they believed would make them acceptable to God. They taught those who came to their schools, and they fed the hungry folk who gathered at their gates; but there were hundreds of thousands of people who were not reached by the monks and nuns or even by the clergy; and orders were now formed whose business it was, not to remain in a cloister, but to go out into the world to preach the Gospel to the poor and needy and help them in every way possible. The men who joined these orders were known as preaching friars, from the Latin fratres  and the French frères, meaning brothers. The founder was Saint Francis of Assisi, as he is now called. His father had made him a partner in his business; but the son's only idea of managing money was to give away all that came into his hands, and the father soon brought the partnership to an end. One in particular of the sayings of Jesus burned in the young man's heart, and he said it over and over to him- [184] self. It was, "Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves; for the workman is worthy of his meat." This command Jesus gave to his disciples when he sent them out two by two; and the honest young Francis made up his mind that in this way preachers ought still to go forth into the world. He laid down his staff, put off his shoes, flung away his purse, and fastened up his gown with a girdle of rope. He gave up all claim to his inheritance and went out among the people to tell them that God loved them, that Jesus had died, had risen, and was alive for evermore. A few other enthusiastic men joined him. He required that the vow of poverty should be a real one for them, both as individuals and as an order, that they should work with their hands for their food, and that, if work or wages failed, they should beg their bread from door to door. Charming little stories of the saint and his followers are told in the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. One tells us that he and "Brother Matteo" begged some crusts of bread and sat down on a stone beside a fountain to eat them. "O Brother Matteo, we are not worthy of this great treasure," Saint Francis exclaimed. But the matter-of-fact Brother Matteo replied, "How canst thou talk of a treas- [185] ure when we are so poor and in need of everything? We have neither cloth, nor knife, nor table, nor house to eat in, nor servant or maid to wait upon us." Saint Francis answered in all simplicity and sincerity, "And this is just the reason why I look upon it as a great treasure, because man has had no hand in it, but all has been given to us by divine Providence, as we clearly see in this beautiful table of stone, and in this clear fountain. Wherefore let us beg of God to make us love with all our hearts the treasure of holy poverty."


[Illustration]

FRANCISCAN

The Franciscans went about doing good. The name that their founder chose for them was Fratres Minores, or the lesser brethren, for, as he said, none could be less, that is, of lower degree than they. They cared for the sick, and devoted themselves especially to the loathsome lepers, those sufferers who were driven out of the towns as too disgusting for folk to look upon. They journeyed everywhere, from England to Syria. They had no fear, [186] and without a thought of danger they went among the Mohammedans. Francis asked the sultan to have a great fire built, "And I will enter into it together with your priests," he said, "that you may see which religion is the true one." The sultan replied quietly that he hardly thought any of his priests would be willing to make the trial. He offered Francis many gifts, which the saint refused, and then sent him back to the Christian camp.

Francis insisted upon absolute poverty. He would not own even a breviary. A church was given him to be the headquarters of his order. He was glad to have its use, but he refused to own it; and each year he sent to the donors a basket of fish to indicate that it was not his but theirs. He loved animals, and if half the legends of his intercourse with them are true, they recognized this love; and dogs, doves, and even savage wolves trusted him. One of the most beautiful stories told of him is of his preaching to the birds. "My little sisters," he said, you owe much to God, your Creator, and ought to sing his praises at all times and in all places, because he has given you liberty and the air to fly about in, and clothing for yourselves and for your young. He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to [187] build your nests. Your Creator loves you much, and therefore he has bestowed such favors upon you. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to praise your Lord." The story declares that the little birds flapped their wings, bowed their heads to the [188] ground, and after he had made the sign of the cross to dismiss them, they rose from the earth and flew away in four directions, all fo sweetly.


[Illustration]

ST. FRANCIS PREACHING TO THE BIRDS

Saint Francis cared little for the learning that comes from books; but educated men were charmed with his sincerity and his lovable character and became his followers. An order of Franciscan nuns was formed, the Poor Ladies; and also the order of the Penitent Men and Women. The members of this third order might remain in the world, but they were to dress simply, to abstain from worldly amusements, to bear no arms save in defence of their country or the Church, and to pay strict attention to the required fasts and times of special devotion. The dress of the Minorites varied somewhat in different countries. In England they wore gray; and therefore in that country they were often called the Gray Friars.

The Dominicans were founded by Saint Dominic of Spain, and from the start this order was made up of men of learning. There are many pleasant legends of Dominic in his younger days. One says that when he was baptized, a brilliant star shone upon his forehead. It is said that in time of famine he sold not only his clothes, but even his beloved books to feed the hungry. Once he even offered to sell himself. He found a poor woman in great distress [189] because her son had been taken captive by the Moors. "Sell me for a slave," he said eagerly, "and then you will have money enough to ransom him."

The Dominicans were often called the Black Friars because of the black cloaks that hey wore. They took the same vows of poverty as the Franciscans. Dominic allowed in their cells a bedstead and a rude bench and nothing else. Even in the church ornaments were forbidden, and the sacred vestments must not be made of silk or adorned in any way.


[Illustration]

DOMINICAN FRIAR

These two mendicant, or begging, orders went up and down the countries of Europe, caring for the poor and preaching to them. They always made their journeys on foot. Saint Dominic carried a bundle on his shoulder and a stick in hand. In passing through towns he wore shoes; but after he had left a town behind him, he went barefooted; and the sharper the thorns or the stones of the road, the more cheery he appeared.

[190] There was need of preaching. The crusaders had learned of Mohammedanism, and some had actually given up their Christian faith and adopted the belief of the Saracens. While there were thousands upon thousands who loved the Church and believed all that she taught, there were other thousands who stood off at one side and criticised and refused to obey her commands. Then something more than persuasion was used. The disobedient son was excommunicated, that is, he was shut out of the church, and was treated like an outcast. His nearest friends, even his own family, were forbidden to help him in any way. They were not even allowed to sit at table with him. If he died before being reconciled to the Church, it was taught that he would suffer punishment forever. If this man happened to be a king and remained obstinate, his whole kingdom was laid under an interdict. Churches were closed throughout the land; children could not be christened; marriages could not be solemnized; no services could be held at the burial of the dead.

Now an interdict sometimes lasted for a number of years, and it worked in more than one way. It usually forced a king to yield; but the people who were true to the Church it made desolate and miserable; and those [191] who were inclined to be careless it made reckless and defiant. Strange, new beliefs sprang up that were contrary to the teachings of the Church. The Poor Men of Lyons, or Waldenses, taught that there was no reason why men should obey the clergy. The Albigenses, who lived in southern France between the Garonne and the Rhone rivers, believed that the world had been made, not by God, but by Satan, and that there was continual warfare going on between the two powers, one of good and one of evil. These heresies must be put down, the Church authorities declared, or soon there would be a terrible struggle.

It had happened that on one of his journeys Dominic had spent the night in the house of a man who belonged to the Albigenses. All night long they talked of the faith; and before the traveler went on his way in the morning, he had convinced his host that the way of the Church was the only true way. He now went among the Albienses, and did his best to convert them, but without success. They were protected by the Count of Toulouse; and by the Pope's orders war was waged against him. Their towns were destroyed, and large numbers of men, women, and children were slaughtered. In Italy there were many heretics; and the emperor commanded that [192] those who were proved guilty should be burned at the stake. Other countries followed his example. A system known as the Inquisition was established; and now any one suspected of heresy could be brought before officials appointed by the Church and examined with tortures too horrible to relate. If he was pronounced guilty, he was given over to the "secular arm," that is, to the state, and was burned to death. It was a terrible time; but it must be remembered that religious freedom was unheard of, and that any belief contrary to that of the Church was looked upon by churchmen as a crime against God which his followers were bound to destroy. Even a man so gentle and merciful as Saint Louis of France did not hesitate for a moment to punish heretics with the utmost severity. For this work of the Inquisition members of the Franciscan and Dominican orders were usually chosen, because their vow of poverty would keep them from accepting bribes. People gazed scornfully at the magnificent buildings of the other monastic orders and said, "And those people have taken the vow of poverty!" but there was no question that the mendicant friars were as poor as the poorest. No one could think for a moment that they were not in earnest, and great numbers of people joined the orders. For some years the friars were not [193] allowed to teach theology in the universities; but the learned professors of theology sometimes resigned their positions and became Franciscans or Dominicans.

It is not easy to be in the very midst of life and still live entirely apart from the wishes and ambitions of those round about. People felt such reverence for the begging friars that money was almost forced upon them; and after a while they began to feel the same ambition for the greatness, not of themselves, but of their orders, that was felt by the monks. Their character changed, but in time there came reform and a return in some degree to the ideals of their founders.

Somewhat earlier than the formation of these orders of monks and friars that have been described, zealous, enthusiastic missionaries preached the Gospel in the countries of western Europe. Two of the most famous of them were Saint Patrick in the sixth century and Saint Augustine in the seventh. Saint Patrick is thought to have been captured by pirates when he was about fifteen years of age and sold as a slave in Ireland. For six long years he led a lonely life, tending sheep on the mountain side. He had no one to talk to, and he began to talk to God. Sometimes, he says, he poured out his prayers a hundred times a day. His eyes were [194] wide open for a chance to escape; and at the end of the sixth year he succeeded in making his way to his old home in Scotland. But in his dreams he often heard the voices of the Irish calling, "Come and teach us of the Christ"; and he went to France to study and prepare to be a missionary. When he was ready, he returned to Ireland in a little boat. "Pirates, master, there are pirates on the shore!" cried a herdsman. But when the master and his people came with arms to drive the pirates away, they found a little group of people of such noble and dignified bearing that instead of attacking them, he asked them to be his guests; and he and his family soon became Christians.


[Illustration]

ST. PATRICK

Easter was at hand, and Saint Patrick, as was the custom, kindled an Easter fire. This time was also a festival among the heathen in honor of the goddess of spring; and when king Leoghaire went out to light his [195] own fire, behold, he saw one burning on the hill of Slane. The law of the land was that while the king's fire was ablaze, no other should burn in all the country around. The penalty of breaking this law was death. Leoghaire sent in wrath for these bold strangers to be brought before him to defend themselves. This was just what the fearless missionary wanted. On Easter Sunday, he and his companions in their fresh white robes came into the presence of the king, and told him of the religion of Christ. He listened closely, and gave them permission to preach in his dominions wherever they might choose. This was the beginning of Saint Patrick's preaching. Up and down the land he and his friends journeyed, teaching the people and founding churches; and when he died, at a good old age, the whole country mourned for him.

It is thought that there were Christians in some parts of Ireland even before the coming of Saint Patrick; but no one knows how the faith of Christ first became known in the land. In England, too, the earlier inhabitants, the Britons, had learned Christianity; but they had been either slain or driven to the westward by the Saxons. These Saxons were heathen; and in the seventh century, Saint Augustine was sent by the Pope to preach [196] to them. He landed on the Island of Thanet and sent word to King Ethelbert, "We are come from Rome, and we have brought a joyful message. It assures to all who receive it everlasting happiness in heaven, and a kingdom that will never end, with the living and true God."

Now the king had married a Frankish princess who was a Christian, and probably this was why he was willing to listen to these strangers. He was a little afraid that they might bewitch him, however, and when he came to hear what they had to say, he refused to enter a house, and seated himself in the open air where no magic arts would have effect. He listened to their preaching; and then told them that, although their words were fair, they were new, and he could not forsake the belief which he and the nation had followed so long. "But I will provide you with a house in Canterbury," he said, "with food and whatever else you need, and you may preach and gain as many as you can to your faith."

So the missionaries preached and prayed. They held services in the queen's church, and by and by the king himself became a Christian. Then he gave the preachers a settled home in Canterbury and property [197] enough to supply all their needs. So it was that the faith of Christ was preached in England. The king was ready to build monasteries and churches. Sometimes he built them from the foundation, and sometimes he repaired a building left by the Romans. In Canterbury there was an old church which some of the Romans who were Christians had built and used. This he had put in order. In later years the more modern church that took its place became the cathedral of Canterbury to which so many pilgrims went to pray at the shrine of Thomas à Becket.

In Germany a number of Irish priests worked among the people in the early part of the seventh century; but when Saint Boniface came from England in 717, he wrote to the Pope that "for sixty or seventy years past religion had vanished." He set to work most heartily to persuade the people of Hesse that the religion of Christ was true. Some believed what he taught and became sincere Christians. Many, however, were inclined to accept this new teaching, but were a little afraid of what their old gods might do to them if they should desert them entirely. When they were in quiet and safety, they were willing to trust the God of the Christians; but when they were in danger, especially if out [198] on a stormy ocean, they thought it was more prudent to call upon Odin and Thor. Boniface discovered that some of the people who had been baptized as Christians were in the habit of slipping away into the woods, out of the sight of the priests, and there offering up sacrifices to trees and springs. Many, too, were practicing divination and soothsaying. The wise missionary consulted with some of the most sincere and courageous among his followers, and they decided what to do to prove to these half-hearted folk that they need have no fear of their old gods. It seems that there was an immense oak tree in the land sacred to the god Thor, and therefore called the Oak of Thor. The missionary took an axe, and he and his faithful followers went straight to the sacred tree. Then the timid folk were thoroughly frightened. He raised his axe and struck a blow. "He is the enemy of the gods," cried the people, and they called down bitter curses upon him, and stood trembling with fear. No one knew what would happen, but they believed that at the very least fire would burst out and destroy this daring preacher. But Boniface kept on until he had cut into the trunk a little way; when, behold, a gentle breeze rustled the upper leaves, and suddenly the top of the tree snapped off and broke into four parts— [199] at any rate, that is the tradition. Then the people said to one another, "That is surely the power of the Christian God." They left off cursing the preacher and began to praise God. Boniface built an oratory from the wood of the tree. He founded monasteries where the monks worked on the soil and copied books, helped the poor, and showed hospitality to travelers. He longed to die as a martyr, and his wish was granted. On one of his journeys down the Rhine, a crowd of the heathen suddenly rushed out of the woods. He thought that they were coming to ask for baptism, but instead of that they attacked him to get the booty which they supposed he had with him. He forbade his followers to protect him by the shedding of blood; and holding the book of the Gospels over his head, he met the martyrdom that he desired.

Not all the missionary work was done by monks and saints. There were kings who converted many to baptism, but by methods decidedly different from the persuasions and arguments of the good missionaries. One of the two kings was Charlemagne. His people, the Franks, had become Christians; but on their borders were the heathen Saxons. There was constant trouble between the two peoples, and at length Charlemagne [200] set out to conquer the Saxons, and in the warlike fashion of the day, to make them Christians. Now, just as the people of Hesse had a sacred oak, so the Saxons had a sacred statue, which stood northwest of what is now Cassel. It represented a warrior holding a banner in one hand and a balance in the other. On his breastplate was a bear, to indicate courage. On his shield was pictured a lion resting on a bed of flowers, to express the idea that to the fearless warrior battle was a time of enjoyment. It is probable that in the first place the statue represented one Arminius who won a great victory over the Romans, and that its name, Irminsul, had been originally Arminius. It stood on a high pillar. Priests lived near it to offer up sacrifices, often prisoners taken in war, and priestesses here practiced incantations and soothsaying. Charlemagne destroyed the Irminsul, and pushed on until the Saxons were subdued. He told them that they must promise to be faithful to him and that they must be baptized. They had little choice in the matter, for if they refused, the headsman with his axe stood waiting. If they submitted, the royal missionary was ready to reward them with gifts. Naturally, they promised whatever he wished; and the converts were escorted to the banks of the Lippe River. Thither [201] came the priests and monks and bishops of the Franks. Charlemagne and his nobles became sponsors, and these fierce new Christians were baptized without delay. Indeed, it is said that somewhat later they found the new faith so profitable in the matter of white robes and baptismal gifts of ornaments and weapons that they came every Easter in increasing numbers. The old story says [202] that on one occasion fifty bold Northmen presented themselves for baptism. There were not enough robes of white linen prepared, and therefore garments were hastily cut out of whatever cloth could be obtained and sewed up roughly like bags. One of the new converts cried in a rage, "I have been baptized here twenty times before, and every time I was clothed in the best of white garments; and now you give me a sack better fitted to a swineherd than a warrior."


[Illustration]

CHARLEMAGNE INFLICTING BAPTISM ON THE SAXONS

This was in the reign of a weaker king than Charlemagne, but even in his day the Saxons revolted again and again and struggled for their freedom. They destroyed the churches and tore down the crosses. Whenever they came to a convent, they left it in ruins. Saint Boniface had been buried at the convent of Fulda. The monks caught up his body as their greatest treasure and fled for their lives. Wittekind, leader of the Saxons, finally became a Christian convert and a most zealous one. There is a tradition that he made his way into Charlemagne's camp in disguise as a spy, and that he chanced to enter the tent where mass was being celebrated. Just at that moment the priest was elevating the consecrated bread, and as the heathen chieftain gazed in amazement and curiosity, a light shone out from the [203] host, and in the light he saw a wonderfully beautiful child, the Christ Child. The tradition says that Wittekind was discovered and taken to Charlemagne, that he begged to be baptized and to enter the church, and became an ardent teacher of his people.

Another imperial missionary was King Olaf Trygvasson of Norway. He had a wild, strange boyhood. He was captured by pirates and sold as a slave. He became a fearless viking, and succeeded in making his way back to Norway and getting possession of his great-grandfather's throne. In Longfellow's Saga of King Olaf, he says that the king was

Trained for either camp or court,

Skilful in each manly sport,

Young and beautiful and tall;

Art of warfare, art of chases,

Swimming, skating, snow-shoe races,

Excellent alike in all.

King Olaf loved warfare, the din of armor, and the flashing of steel, and one of his commands to his skald, or poet, was

Sing me a song divine,

With a sword in every line.

It was probably on one of his viking voyages to England that he became a Christian. He was as much in [204] earnest in his religion as in his fighting, and he set to work to make his countrymen Christians whether they would or not. Christianity was not new in Norway; but the Norwegians had little idea of giving up the old ways. King Olaf persuaded, he bribed, he threatened, he even tortured; and before his reign of five years was at an end, he had made Norway an exceedingly uncomfortable place for any one who persisted in worshiping heathen gods. In a fascinating old book, The Heimskringla, or Chronicles of the Kings of Norway, which has been translated from the Icelandic, are the stories of Olaf. Longfellow has put many of them into verse. At one time when King Olaf had called a meeting of his people, they came fully armed to demand that he restore the old worship of the gods and offer up sacrifices. Olaf was a match for them. He said, "If I, along with you, shall turn again to making sacrifices, then will I make the greatest sacrifices. I will not offer up slaves or malefactors, but men of note and high degree." He named eleven of the prominent men present, and ordered them to be seized at once. Then he strode into the temple and smote the images of Thor and Odin and the other gods and dashed them to the floor. Without the temple there was a sound of fighting between the [205] men at arms and the peasants. There was a shout of triumph and a wail of sorrow; and as Olaf stood in the doorway, he saw the dead body of Iron-Beard, strongest of his foes. Longfellow thus tells the ending of this story of King Olaf's missionary work:—

King Olaf from the doorway spoke:

"Choose ye between two things, my folk,

To be baptized or given up to slaughter!"


And seeing their leader stark and dead,

The people with a murmur said,

"O King, baptize us with thy holy water."

This fashion of carrying on missions in the eleventh century was little like the methods pursued in the twentieth; but no one can say that it was not at least energetic and sincere.


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