Dominic de Guzman, 1170-1221 A.D.
Half-way between Osma and Aranda in Old Castile, Spain, is a little village known as "the fortunate Calahorra." Here was the castle of the Guzmans, where Dominic was born. His family was of high `rank` and character, a noble house of warriors, statesmen and saints. If we accept the legends, his greatness was foreshadowed. Before his birth, his mother dreamed she saw her son under the figure of a black-and-white dog, with a torch in his mouth. "A true dream," says Milman, "for he will scent out heresy and apply the torch to the faggots;" but, as will be seen later, this observation does not rest on undisputed evidence.
The most usual foreign pilgrimages were to the Holy Land, the scene of our Lord’s earthly life; to Rome, the centre of western Christianity; and to the shrine of St. James at Compostella.
The number of pilgrims to these places must have been comparatively limited; for a man who had any regular business or profession could not[Pg 160] well undertake so long an absence from home. The rich of no occupation could afford the leisure and the cost; and the poor who chose to abandon their lawful occupation could make these pilgrimages at the cost of others; for the pilgrim was sure of entertainment at every hospital, or monastery, or priory, probably at every parish priest’s rectory and every gentleman’s hall, on his way; and there were not a few poor men and women who indulged a vagabond humour in a pilgrim’s life. The poor pilgrim repaid his entertainer’s hospitality by bringing the news of the countries through which he had passed, and by amusing the household after supper with marvelous saintly legends, and traveler’s tales.
The Dominicans and Franciscans arose simultaneously at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Dominic, an Augustinian canon, a Spaniard of noble birth, was seized with a zeal for converting heretics, and having gradually associated a few ecclesiastics with himself, he at length conceived the idea of founding an order of men who should spend their lives in preaching. Simultaneously, Francis, the son of a rich Italian merchant, was inspired with a design to establish a new order of men, who should spend their lives in preaching the Gospel and doing works of charity among the people. These two men met in Rome in the year 1216 a.d.
The other great invention of this period was that of armorial bearings, properly so called. Devices painted upon the shield were common in classical times. They are found ordinarily on the shields in the Bayeux tapestry, and were habitually used by the Norman knights. In the Bayeux tapestry they seem to be fanciful or merely decorative; later they were symbolical or significant. But it was only towards the close of the twelfth century that each knight assumed a fixed device, which was exclusively appropriated to him, by which he was known, and which became hereditary in his family.
The cut is a spirited little sketch of a mounted knight. The horse, it may be admitted, is very like those which children draw nowadays, but it has more life in it than most of the drawings of that day; and the way in which the knight sits his horse is much more artistic. The picture shows the equipment of the knight very clearly, and it is specially valuable as an early example of horse trappings, and as an authority for the shape of the saddle, with its high pommel and croupe.
The accompanying wood-cut represents various peculiarities of the armour in use towards the close of the thirteenth century.
The convents of friars were not independent bodies, like the Benedictine and Augustinian abbeys; each order was an organised body, governed by the general of the order, and under him, by provincial priors, priors of the convents, and their subordinate officials. There are usually reckoned four orders of friars—the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustines.
“I found there freres,
All the foure orders,
Techynge the peple
To profit of themselves.”
Piers Ploughman, l. 115.
The four orders are pictured together in the woodcut page from the thirteenth century MS. Harl. 1,527.
They were called Friars because, out of humility, their founders would not have them called Father and Dominus, like the monks, but simply Brother (Frater, Frère, Friar).
The Franciscans were styled by their founder Fratri Minori—lesser brothers, Friars Minors; they were more usually called Grey Friars, from the colour of their habits, or Cordeliers, from the knotted cord which formed their characteristic girdle. Their habit was originally a grey tunic with long loose sleeves (but not quite so loose as those of the Benedictines), a knotted cord for a girdle, and a black hood; the feet always bare, or only protected by sandals.
Dominic gave to his order the name of Preaching Friars; more commonly they were styled Dominicans, or, from the colour of their habits, Black Friars—their habit consisting of a white tunic, fastened with a white girdle, over that a white scapulary, and over all a black mantle and hood, and shoes; the lay brethren wore a black scapulary.
The Carmelite Friars had their origin, as their name indicates, in the East. According to their own traditions, ever since the days of Elijah, whom they claim as their founder, the rocks of Carmel have been inhabited by a succession of hermits, who have lived after the pattern of the great prophet. Their institution as an order of friars, however, dates from the beginning of the thirteenth century, when Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, gave them a rule, founded upon, but more severe than, that of St. Basil; and gave them a habit of white and red stripes, which, according to tradition, was the fashion of the wonder-working mantle of their prophet-founder.
Marco Polo, Vespucci's Countryman
Marco Polo, the Venetian, exercised a strong and lasting influence upon the minds of Toscanelli, Columbus, Vespucci, and, through them, upon others, although he died in the first quarter of the century in which the first-named of this distinguished triad was born. All these had this birthright in common: they were Italians; and, moreover, it was in Genoa, the reputed birthplace of Columbus, that Marco Polo's adventures were first shaped into coherent narrative and given to the world.
Europe and Asia, 1200
Empire of Jengis Khan, 1227
Travels of Marco Polo
Tristan and the beautiful Yseult.--From a Miniature in the Romance of "Tristan," Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century
Costume of a Princess dressed in a Cloak lined with Fur.--From a Miniature of the Thirteenth Century.
Pliny makes mention of several wines of the Gauls as being highly esteemed. He nevertheless reproaches the vine-growers of Marseilles, Beziers, and Narbonne with doctoring their wines, and with infusing various drugs into them, which rendered them disagreeable and even unwholesome.