Chapter 13


The popes were continually increasing their power in many ways,
although they were often unable to hold their ground in their own
city, but were driven out by the Romans, so that they were obliged
to seek a refuge in France, or to fix their court for a time in some
little Italian town. They claimed the right of setting up and
plucking down emperors and kings. Instead of asking the emperor to
confirm their own election to the papacy, as in former times, they
declared that no one could be emperor without their consent. They
said that they were the chief lords over kingdoms; they required
the emperors to hold their stirrup as they mounted on horseback, and
the rein of their bridle as they rode. And while such was their
treatment of earthly princes, they also steadily tried to get into
their own hands the powers which properly belonged to bishops, so
that the bishops should seem to have no rights of their own, but to
hold their office and to do whatever they did only through the
pope's leave and as his servants. They contrived that whenever any
difference arose in the Church of any country, instead of being
settled on the spot, it should be carried by an appeal to Rome, that
the pope might judge it. They declared themselves to be above any
councils of bishops, and claimed the power of assembling general
councils, although in earlier times this power had belonged to the
emperors, as was seen in the case of the first great council of
Nicaea. They interfered with the election of bishops, and with the
appointment of clergy to offices, in every country; and they sent
into every country their ambassadors, or "legates" (as they were
called), whom they charged people to respect and obey as they would
respect and obey the pope himself. These legates usually made
themselves hated by their pride and greediness; for they set
themselves up far above the archbishops and bishops of any country
that they might be sent into, and they squeezed out from the clergy
of each country which they visited the means of keeping up their
pomp and splendour.

The popes who followed Gregory VII all endeavoured to act in his
spirit, and to push the claims of their see further and further. And
of these popes, by far the strongest and most successful was
Innocent III, who was only thirty-seven years old when he was
elected in 1198. I have told you how Gregory said that the papacy
was as much greater than any earthly power as the sun is than the
moon. And now Innocent carried out this further by saying that, as
the lesser light (the moon) borrows of the greater light (the sun),
so the royal power is borrowed from the priestly power.

Innocent pretended to a right of judging between the princes who
claimed the empire and the kingdom of Germany, and of making an
emperor by his own choice. He forced the king of France, Philip
Augustus, to do justice to a virtuous Danish princess, whom he had
married and had afterwards put away. And he forced John of England
to accept Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury, although
Langton was appointed by the pope without any regard to the rights
of the clergy or of the sovereign of England. Both in France and in
England, Innocent made use of what was called an interdict to make
people submit to his will. By this sentence (which had first come
into use about three hundred years before), a whole country was
punished at once, the bad and the good alike; all the churches were
closed, all the bells there silenced, all the outward signs of
religion were taken away. There was no blessing for marriage, there
were no prayers at the burial of the dead; the baptism of children
and the office for the dying were the only services of the Church
which were allowed while the interdict lasted. And it was commonly
found, that, although a king might not himself care for any
spiritual threats or sentences which the pope might utter, he was
unable to hold out against the general feeling of his people, who
could not bear to be without the rites of religion, and cried out
that the innocent thousands were punished for the sake of one guilty

John was completely subdued to the papacy, and agreed to give up his
crown to the pope's commissioner, Pandulf; after which he received
it again from Pandulf's hands, and promised to hold the kingdoms of
England and Ireland under the condition of paying a yearly tribute
as an acknowledgment that the pope was his lord.

Archbishop Langton, although he had been forced on the English
Church by the pope, yet afterwards took a different line from what
might have been expected. For when John, by his tyranny, provoked
his barons to rise against him, the archbishop was at the head of
those who wrung from the king the Great Charter as a security for
English liberty; and, although the pope was violently angry, and
threatened to punish the archbishop and the barons severely, Langton
stood firmly by the cause which he had taken up.


While Innocent was thus carrying things with a high hand among the
Christians of the West, he could not but feel distress about the
state of affairs in the East. There, countries which had once been
Christian, and among them the Holy Land, where the Saviour had lived
and died, had fallen into the hands of unbelievers, and all the
efforts which had been made to recover them had hitherto been vain.
The pope's mind was set on a new crusade, and in order to raise
money for it he gave much out of his own purse, stinted himself as
to his manner of living, obliged the cardinals and others around him
to do the like, and caused collections to be gathered throughout
Western Christendom. Eloquent preachers were sent about to stir
people up to the great work, and the chief beginning was made at a
place called Ecry, in the north of France. It so happened that the
most famous of the preachers, whose name was Fulk, arrived there
just as a number of nobles and knights were met for a tournament
(which was the name given to the fights of knights on horseback,
which were regarded as sport, but very often ended in sad earnest).
Fulk, by the power of his speech, persuaded most of these gallant
knights at Ecry to take the cross; and, as the number of Crusaders
grew, some of them were sent to Venice, to provide means for their
being carried by sea to Egypt, which was the country in which it was
thought that the Mahometans might be attacked with the best hope of

When these envoys reached Venice, which was then the chief trading
city of Europe, they found the Venetians very willing to supply what
they wanted. It was agreed that for a certain sum of money the
Venetians should prepare ships and provisions for the number of
Crusaders which was expected; and they did so accordingly. But when
the Crusaders came, it was found that their numbers fell short of
what had been reckoned on; for many had chosen other ways of going
to the East; and, as the Venetians would take nothing less than the
sum which they had bargained for, the Crusaders, with their lessened
numbers, found themselves unable to pay. In this difficulty, the
Venetians proposed that, instead of the money which could not be
raised, the Crusaders should give them their help against the city
of Zara, in Dalmatia, with which Venice had a quarrel. The Crusaders
were very unwilling to do this; because the pope, in giving his
consent to their enterprise, had forbidden them to turn their arms
against any Christians. But they contrived to persuade themselves
that the pope's words were not to be understood too exactly; and at
a meeting in the great church of St. Mark, Henry Dandolo, the doge
or duke of Venice, took the cross, and declared to the vast
multitude of citizens and Crusaders who crowded the church that,
although he was ninety-four years of age, and almost or altogether
blind, he himself would be the leader.

A fleet of nearly five hundred vessels sailed from Venice
accordingly (Oct. 1202), and Zara was taken after a siege of six
days, although the inhabitants tried to soften the feelings of the
besiegers by displaying crosses and sacred pictures from the walls,
as tokens of their brotherhood in Christ. After this success, the
Crusaders were bound by their engagement to go on to Egypt or the
Holy Land; but a young Greek prince, named Alexius, entreated them
to restore his father, who had been dethroned by a usurper, to the
empire of the East; and although the French were unwilling to
undertake any work that might interfere with the recovery of the
Holy Land, the Venetians, who cared little for anything but their
own gain, persuaded them to turn aside to Constantinople.

When the Crusaders came in sight of the city, they were so
astonished at the beauty of its lofty walls and towers, of its
palaces and its many churches, that (as we are told) the hearts of
the boldest among them beat with a feeling which could not be kept
down, and many of them even burst into tears. They found the harbour
protected by a great chain which was drawn across the mouth of it;
but this chain was broken by the force of a ship which was driven
against it with the sails swollen by a strong wind. The blind old
doge, Henry Dandolo, stood in the prow of the foremost ship, and was
the first to land in the face of the Greeks who stood ready to
defend the ground. Constantinople was soon won, and the emperor, who
had been deposed and blinded by the usurper, was brought from his
dungeon, and was enthroned in the great church of St. Sophia, while
his son Alexius was anointed and crowned as a partner in the empire.

But quarrels soon arose between the Greeks and the Latins. Alexius
was murdered by a new usurper; his father died of grief: and the
Crusaders found themselves drawn on to conquer the city afresh for
themselves. This conquest was disgraced by much cruelty and
unchecked plunder; and the religion of the Greeks was outraged by
the Latin victors as much as it could have been by heathen

The Crusaders set up an emperor and a patriarch of their own, and
the Greek clergy were forced to give way to Latins. The pope,
although he was much disappointed at finding that his plan for the
recovery of the Holy Land had come to nothing, was yet persuaded by
the greatness of the conquest to give a kind of approval to it. But
the Latin empire of the East was never strong; and after about
seventy years it was overthrown by the Greeks, who drove out the
Latins and restored their own form of Christian religion.

Innocent did not give up the notion of a crusade, and at a later
time he sent about preachers to stir up the people of the West
afresh; but nothing had come of this when the pope died. I must,
however, mention a strange thing which arose out of this attempt at
a crusade.

A shepherd boy, named Stephen, who lived near Vendome, in the
province of Orleans, gave out that he had seen a vision of the
Saviour, and had been charged by Him to preach the cross. By this
tale Stephen gathered some children about him, and they set off for
the crusade, displaying crosses and banners, and chanting in every
town or village through which they passed, "Lord, help us to recover
Thy true and holy cross!" When they reached Paris, there were no
less than 15,000 of them, and as they went along their numbers
became greater and greater. If any parents tried to keep back their
children from joining them, it was of no use; even if they shut them
up, it was believed that the children were able to break through
bars and locks in order to follow Stephen and his companions.
Ignorant people fancied that Stephen could work miracles, and
treasured up threads of his dress as precious relics. At length the
company, whose numbers had reached 30,000, arrived at Marseilles,
where Stephen entered the city in a triumphal car, surrounded on all
sides by guards. Some shipowners undertook to convey the
child-crusaders to Egypt and Africa for nothing; but these were
wretches who meant to sell them as slaves to the Mahometans; and
this was the fate of such of the children as reached the African
coast, after many of them had been lost by shipwreck on the way.

Innocent, although he had nothing to do with this crusade, or with
one of the same kind which was got up in Germany, declared that the
zeal of the children put to shame the coldness of their elders, whom
he was still labouring, with little success, to enlist in the cause
of the Holy Land.


A war of a different kind, but which was also styled a crusade, was
carried on in the south of France while Innocent was pope. In that
country there were great numbers of persons who did not agree with
the Roman Church, and who are known by the names of Waldenses and
Albigenses. The opinions of these two parties differed greatly from
each other. The Waldenses, whose name was given to them from Peter
Waldo of Lyons, who founded the party about the year 1170, were a
quiet set of people, something like the Quakers of our own time.
They dressed and lived plainly, they were mild in their manners,
and used some rather affected ways of speech; they thought all war
and all oaths wrong, they did not acknowledge the claims of the
clergy, and, although they attended the services of the Church, it
is said that they secretly mocked at them. They were fond of reading
the Holy Scripture in their own language, while the Roman Church
could only allow it to be read in Latin, which was understood by few
except the clergy, and not by all of them. And so eager were the
Waldenses to bring people to their own way of thinking, that we are
told of one of them, a poor man, who, after his day's work, used to
swim across a river on wintry nights, that he might reach a person
whom he wished to convert.

The Albigenses, on whom the persecution chiefly fell, held something
like the doctrines of Manes, whom I mentioned a long way back (p
110), so that they could not properly be considered as Christians at
all. But, although we cannot think well of their doctrines, the
treatment of these people was so cruel and so treacherous as to
raise the strongest feelings of anger and horror in all who read the
accounts of it. Tens of thousands were slain, and their rich and
beautiful country was turned into a desert.

The chief leader of the crusade in the south of France was Simon de
Montfort, father of that Earl Simon who is famous in the history of
England. Innocent, although he seems to have been much deceived by
those who reported matters to him, was grievously to blame for
having given too much countenance to the cruelties and injustice
which were practised against the unhappy Albigenses.

Among the clergy who accompanied the Crusaders into southern France
and tried to bring over the Albigenses and Waldenses to the Roman
Church was a Spaniard named Dominic, who afterwards became famous
as the founder of an order of mendicant friars (that is to say,
"begging brothers"). He also founded the Inquisition, which was a
body intended to search out and to put down all opinions differing
from the doctrines of the Catholic Church. But the cruelty,
darkness, and treachery of its proceedings were so shocking, that,
although Dominic was certainly its founder, we need not suppose that
he would have approved of all its doings. [NOTE by transcriber:
Dominic opposed all coercion against heretics. He proposed to
convert them by reasoned argument and example of life.]

The Waldenses and Albigenses had been used to reproach the clergy of
the Church for their habits of pomp and luxury; and Dominic had done
what he could to meet these charges by the plainness and hardness of
the life which he and his companions led while labouring in the
south of France. And when he resolved to found a new order of monks,
he carried the notion of poverty to an extreme. His followers were
to be not only poor, but beggars. They were to live on alms, and
from day to day, refusing any gifts of money so large as to give the
notion of a settled provision for their needs.


About the same time another great begging order was founded by
Francis, who was born in 1182 at Assisi, a town in the Italian duchy
of Spoleto. The stories as to his early days are very strange;
indeed, it would seem that, when he was struck with a religious
idea, he could not carry it out without such oddities of behaviour
as in most people would look like signs of a mind not altogether
right. When Francis heard in church our Lord's charge to His
apostles, that they should go forth without money in their purses,
or a staff or scrip, or shoes, or changes of raiment (St. Matt. x.
9f), he went before the bishop of Assisi, and, stripping off all his
other clothes, he set forth to preach repentance without having
anything on him but a rough grey woollen frock, with a rope tied
round his waist. He fancied that he was called by a vision to repair
a certain church; and he set about gathering the money for this
purpose by singing and begging in the streets. He felt an especial
charity for lepers, who, on account of their loathsome disease, were
shut out from the company of men, and were subject to miseries of
many kinds; and, although many hospitals had already been founded in
various countries for these unfortunate people, the kindness which
Francis showed to them had a great effect in lightening their lot,
so far as human fellow-feeling could do so.

Francis wished his followers to study humility in all ways. They
were to seek to be despised, and were told to be uneasy if they met
with usage of any other kind. They were not to let themselves be
called "brethren" but "little brethren"; they must try to be
reckoned as less than any other persons. They were especially to be
on their guard against the pride of learning; and, in order to
preserve them from the danger of this, Francis would hardly allow
them even a book of the Psalms. But, in truth, all these things
might really be turned the opposite way, and in making such studied
shows of humility it was quite possible that the Franciscans might
fall under the temptations of pride.

Francis was very fond of animals, which he treated as reasonable
creatures, speaking to them by the names of brothers and sisters. He
used to call his own body Brother Ass, on account of the heavy
burdens and the hard usage which it had to bear. He kept a sheep in
church, and it is said that the creature, without any training, used
to take part in the services by kneeling and bleating at proper
times. He preached to flocks of birds on the duty of thanking their
Maker for His goodness to them; nay, he preached to fishes, to
worms, and even to flowers.

Perhaps the oddest story of this kind is one about his dealing with
a wolf which infested the neighbourhood of Gubbio. Finding that
every one in the place was overcome by fear of this fierce beast,
Francis went out boldly to the forest where the wolf lived, and,
meeting him, began to talk to him about the wickedness of killing,
not only brute animals, but men; and he promised that, if the wolf
would give up such evil ways, the citizens of Gubbio should maintain
him. He then held out his right hand; whereupon the wolf put his paw
into it as a sign of agreement, and allowed the saint to lead him
into the town. The people of Gubbio were only too glad to fulfil the
promise which Francis had made for them; and they kept the wolf
handsomely, giving him his meals by turns, until he died of old age,
and in such general respect that he was lamented by all Gubbio.

There is a strange story that Francis, towards the end of his life,
received in his body what are called the "stigmata" (that is to say,
the marks of the wounds which were made in our Lord's body at the
crucifixion). And a great number of other superstitious tales became
connected with his name; but with such things we need not here
trouble ourselves.

When Dominic and Francis each applied to Pope Innocent for his
approval of their designs to found new orders, he was not forward to
give it; but, on thinking the matter over, he granted them what they
asked. Each of them soon gathered followers, who spread into all
lands. The Franciscans, especially, made converts from heathenism by
missions; and these orders, by their rough and plain habits of life,
made their way to the hearts of the poorest classes in a degree
which had never been known before. And the influence which they thus
gained was all used for the papacy, which found them the most active
and useful of all its servants.

In the year 1215, Innocent held a great council at Rome, what is
known as the fourth Lateran Council, and is to be remembered for two
of its canons; by one of which the doctrine of the Roman Church as
to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (what they call
"transubstantiation") was, for the first time, established; and by
the other, it was made the duty of every one in the Roman Church to
confess to the priest of his parish at least once a year.