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shall endeavour to show how much influence they exercised on Dante's invention, to give a general idea of the nature of these legends, and to analyze as rapidly as possible some of those which may prove the most illustrative of our subject.

Among the legends of the Middle Ages, it is necessary to distinguish those which belonged in common to all nations from those which seem to have been the property of some particular race. In the collection of poetic traditions entitled Legenda Aurea, published during the thirteenth century, by Giacopo de Varaggio, we find many legends that were popular throughout all Europe. Such are the narratives of the visions of St. Carpus and St. Christina, which were in circulation during the first centuries of our era. We are struck by the mildness of spirit which pervades these early legends. But if it is remembered, that, when these legends were composed, Origen was teaching that all the sufferings of hell are but expiatory, and inculcating the doctrine of the final redemption of mankind, we shall not be surprised at this.

The most striking of the legends given by Giacopo de Varaggio is that referring to the descent of Christ into hell. This legend was taken from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. The narrative commences on the day of the resurrection of the Lord. While the Jewish priests are in deliberation, two men, Lucius and Carinus, risen from the dead, are introduced into the synagogue. They relate, that, as they were in darkness with the patriarchs, a brilliant light suddenly appeared, and the father of all men, Adam, was filled with joy, and exclaimed, "This is the light of the Author of all things, who promised to send us his light." And Isaiah said, "This light is that of the Son of God, of which I prophesied that the people which was walking in darkness should see the splendor." And Satan, the Prince of death, said to Hell," Be prepared to receive Jesus, who prided himself on being the Son of God, and who is but a man who fears to die; for he said, 'My soul is sorrowful even unto death.' I have tempted him, I have excited the people against him, and prepared his cross; the moment is at hand when I shall bring him prisoner to this place." And Hell answered and said, Is it the same Jesus who ordered Lazarus to rise from the dead ?" "It is he,' replied Satan. "Then," cried Hell, "I beseech thee, by iny power and thy own, not to bring him here; for when I

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heard his voice, I trembled and could not hold Lazarus, who suddenly escaped and rose in the air, like an eagle." But while Hell was thus speaking, a voice like thunder was heard to say, "Princes, open your gates, your eternal gates, and let the King of Glory enter." At the sound of this voice, the demons shut the gates of bronze with iron bars. But David, on seeing them, said, "I prophesied that he would break the gates of bronze." And the voice was again heard to say," Open your gates, and let the King of Glory enter." Hell then said, "Who is this King of Glory? " And Daniel answered,-"The Lord strong and powerful, the Lord of Hosts; it is he who is called the King of Glory." At that moment, the King of Glory himself appeared, and, taking Adam by the hand, said to him, "Peace be with thee, and all those of thy race who shall be just." And the Lord left Hell, and all those who were just followed him. The archangel Michael opens the gates of paradise to the multitude. There appears a man bearing on his shoulder the sign of the cross; this man was the thief who was crucified with Christ, and to whom our Saviour had predicted that he should be that day in paradise with him.*

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Here ends this curious legend, which, if it had but little authority in the eyes of the theologian, has at least been a source to which Milton and Klopstock did not disdain to look for poetical descriptions. Another curious legend, among those which belonged in common to all the nations of Europe, is that of the vision of the three monks, Sergius, Theophilus, and Hyginus. They wished to discover the spot where heaven and earth touch each other; that is to say, the terrestrial paradise. After having travelled through India and Persia, they arrived in a most delightful country, where seemed to reign an eternal spring. They here found a fawn and a dove, who led them through hell, where they heard cries of Mercy! mercy!" and a formidable voice saying, "This is the place of punishment!" into the blessed regions where the just enjoy the perpetual contemplation of God. After having thus visited all the mysteries of eternity, they returned to their convent, but other monks had taken their place. They saw their own names nearly effaced on the list of persons who had previously inhabited the convent ;

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* Legenda Aurea, De Resurrectione Domini.

seven centuries had elapsed since they had left it.* This legend, says M. Labitte, shows "something of the stories of the Golden Age, mingled with the splendors of the Arabian Nights, and the aspirations of an ascetic life." These two fictions are among the most important of those in general circulation. We have now to consider those which differ from each other according to the peculiar genius, or the degree of civilization, of the people among whom they had their origin. Each of the great nations of Europe had its own cyclus of legends, as it had its own laws, and its peculiar manners and


In Germany, religious visions are found in greater number than in any other region; and they bear a character of severity and terror which seldom belongs, at least in the same degree, to the legendary poetry of other nations. It was natural that it should be so in the land where the Catholic faith had encountered the greatest difficulty in taking root. It was deemed necessary to use terror as a means of conviction with a barbarous people, who lived in an open state of polygamy as late as the eleventh century, and whose emperors made the most corrupt use of ecclesiastical patronage.

The monk Othlo mentions no less than seven visions of the punishments reserved for the wicked. He also relates the curious adventure of a knight named Vollark. As he was going to a nuptial festivity with some of his friends, he lost his way in a forest. Presently a knight dressed in black accosted him, and offered him shelter for the night. Vollark accepted the invitation, and entered the castle of his host. The tables were covered with gold, silver, and precious stones, and around them were seated the most hideous figures. This sight filled Vollark with astonishment and fear. "All these riches," said his host, "are those taken by men from their churches; they work for me." The poor knight then remembered that his host had called himself Nithard, that is to say, the Evil One; but as Vollark lived in the fear of God, Nithard had no power over him, and he was enabled to return to his companions.

One of the most remarkable among the German visions is


Manuscript in the Royal Library of Paris, fifteenth century, No. + Othlonis monachi Ratisbonensis Liber Visionum tum suarum tum aliarum.

that of Wettin, monk of the monastery of Reichenau.* Two days before his death, Wettin was transported in spirit, and conducted by his guardian angel through the three abodes of immortal life. He there saw the condemned given up to the most dreadful punishments, rolled in torrents of fire, buried in coffins of lead, and surrounded by clouds of smoke. Among those who were condemned to suffer he recognized many priests and monks.† He ascended the mountain of purgatory, where bishops who had been remiss in the discharge of their duties, and rapacious noblemen and princes, were condemned to expiate their sins. Among the latter, he saw Charlemagne punished for incontinence. At last, he entered heaven, and, having passed through the midst of the holy martyrs and virgins, he arrived at the throne of God, who promised him eternal life on condition that he should return to the world to relate what he had seen. In the vision of St. Anscharius, we find, in the description of paradise, much of the spirituality which pervades the narrative of Dante. "He saw neither sun nor moon, nor the heavens nor earth, for every thing there was incorporeal." In the visions mentioned by St. Boniface, § the founder of the church in Germany, one is struck by the gentleness of spirit which seems to have dictated them; still, the principal aim of the legends of Germany, as already said, was to strike terror into the heart of the believer.

The same gloomy and severe character is stamped upon many of the French legends. The French, who had derived many of their manners and customs from their neighbours the Germans, preserved them down to a very late period. We find a manifesto of the thirteenth century, in which the Sicilians complain of the barbarism of the French, because, instead of taking their instruction from Italy, they sought on the other side of the Rhine for their laws and customs. At the period of the decline of the Carlovingians, the French legends were particularly


Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti, IV., pars 2, p. 268.

+ Compare these punishments with those described by Dante in his Inferno, Canto XI.

Vita S. Anscharii, auctore Remberto. "Sol vero nec luna necquaquam lucebant ibi, nec cœlum ac terra ibidem visa sunt, nam cuncta erant incorporea."

S. Bonifacii Epistole.

Vide Amari, Storia del Vespro Siciliano. VOL. LXIV. NO. 134.


fearful. The descent into hell of a woman named Frothilda is recorded. She there foresaw the exile of Louis d'Outremer, and the consequent disturbances which were to spread grief and sorrow throughout the kingdom.* Berthold visits the abode of the damned, and there sees Charles the Bald, an archbishop, and several priests, punished for their crimes.† Andrade is present at the council of God, and hears him ask the angels what is the cause of all the wickedness which exists on earth; he is told that it is the fault of the bad kings who reign in the world. "But who are these kings for I know them not." The emperor Louis and his son Lotharius then appear, and God tells them that they must obey the church, if they wish to preserve their crowns. ‡ One of the most celebrated French legends is that of the vision of Charles the Bald. One night, he saw before him a figure dressed in white, which placed in his hand the end of a thread that seemed to be all of fire, and ordered him to follow it. He thus enters the infernal labyrinth, where he witnesses the punishment of bishops who had misused the authority given to them by their clerical character; passing through the midst of molten lead, he hears dreadful lamentations, and distinguishes these words "The punishment of the great is great." In purgatory, he sees his father, Louis, plunged in a caldron of boiling water. At last, the heavens open, and his grandfather Lothaire appears, and predicts to him the fall of his race and his own abdication.§ In these legends we are particularly struck by the courage with which the vices and crimes of the great were attacked by their contemporaries; they formed the morality of history. But this opposition to the encroachments or abuse of power not only existed in the legends of France; it passed into the church, and mass was said against tyrants, missa contra tyrannos.

In England and Ireland, we find two very celebrated legends, the Purgatory of St. Patrick, and the Vision of St. Tundale. The first mentioned was one of the most popular legends of the Middle Ages. It was well known in France, and was translated both into Italian and Spanish. || An


Ampère, Histoire Littéraire de France, Tom. III., p. 283.

t Ibid., Tom. III., p. 117.

Ibid., Tom. III.,

p. 119.

Ibid., Tom. III, p. 120.

Calderon adapted this legend to the stage, and as late as 1764 we find

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