Castles and Cave Dwellings of Europe
Sabine Baring-Gould

Part 4 out of 6

villagers who had assembled there had lighted near the entrance, where
they were bivouacking for the night, attracted the attention of a
Barbary corsair, then cruising off the island, and guided him to the
spot unobserved. Suddenly and unexpectedly he and his crew, having
stolen up the hill, burst upon the crowd of frightened Cretans. The
Corsairs thereupon built up the entrance, and waited for day, the
better to secure their captives for embarkation. But happily there was
another exit from the cavern behind the altar, and by this the whole
congregation escaped into another cave, and thence by a passage to a
further opening, through which they stole out unobserved by the

The rock-hewn church of Dayn Aboo Hannes, "the convent of Father John,"
in Egypt, near Antinoe, has its walls painted with subjects from the
New Testament; the church is thought to date back to the time of

The passion for associating grottoes with sacred themes is shown in the
location of the site of the Nativity at Bethlehem. There is nothing in
the Gospel to lead us to suppose that the event took place in a cave,
though it is not improbable that it did so. The scene of the
Annunciation was also a rock-hewn cave, now occupied by a half-
underground church, out of which flows the Virgin's Fountain.

In Gethsemane, "the chapel of the Tomb of the Virgin, over the
traditional spot where the Mother of our Lord was buried by the
Apostles, is mostly underground. Three flights of steps lead down to
the space in front of it, so that nothing is seen above ground but the
porch. But even after you have gone down the three flights of steps you
are only at the entrance to the church, amidst marble pillars, flying
buttresses, and pointed arches. Forty-seven additional marble steps,
descending in a broad flight nineteen feet wide, lead down a further
depth of thirty-five feet, and here you are surrounded by monkish sites
and sacred spots. The whole place is, in fact, two distinct natural
caves, enlarged and turned to their present uses with infinite care.
Far below the ground you find a church thirty-one yards long and nearly
seven wide, lighted by many lamps, and are shown the tomb of the father
and mother of the Virgin, and that of Joseph and the Virgin herself.
And as if this were not enough, a long subterranean gallery leads down
six steps more to a cave eighteen yards long, half as broad, and about
twelve feet wide, which you are told is the Cavern of the Agony."
[Footnote: Geikie (C.), "The Holy Land and the Bible," Lond. 1887,

Stanley says: [Footnote: "Sinai and Palestine," Lond. 1856, p.150.]
"The moment that the religion of Palestine fell into the hands of
Europeans, it is hardly too much to say that as far as sacred
traditions are concerned, it became 'a religion of caves,' of those
very caves which in earlier times had been unhallowed by any religious
influence whatever. Wherever a sacred association had to be fixed, a
cave was immediately selected or found as its home. First in antiquity
is the grotto of Bethlehem, already in the second century regarded by
popular belief as the scene of the Nativity. Next comes the grotto on
Mount Olivet, selected as the scene of our Lord's last conversation
before the Ascension. These two caves, Eusebius emphatically asserts,
were the first seats of the worship established by the Empress Helena,
to which was shortly afterwards added a third--the sacred cave of the
Sepulchre. To these were rapidly added the cave of the Invention of the
Cross, the cave of the Annunciation at Nazareth, the cave of the Agony
at Gethsemane, the cave of the Baptism in the Wilderness of S. John,
the cave of the Shepherds of Bethlehem. And then again, partly perhaps
the cause, partly the effect of the consecration of grottoes, began the
caves of the hermits. There were the cave of S. Pelagia on Mount
Olivet, the caves of S. Jerome, S. Paula, and S. Eustochium at
Bethlehem, the cave of S. Saba in the ravine of Kedron, the remarkable
cells hewn or found in the precipices of the Quarrantania or Mount of
the Temptation above Jericho. In some few instances this selection of
grottoes would coincide with the events thus intended to be
perpetuated, as for example, the hiding-place of the prophets on
Carmel, and the sepulchres of the patriarchs and of Our Lord. But in
most instances the choice is made without the sanction, in some
instances in defiance of, the sacred narrative."

It is questionable whether Dean Stanley is right in attributing the
identification of caves with sacred sites to Europeans, it is probable
enough that the local Christians had already fixed upon some if not all
of them. After the pilgrims or the Crusaders had come in their
thousands and visited the holy sites, they returned to their native
lands deeply impressed with the association of caves with everything
that was held sacred, and this, added to the dormant sense of reverence
for places underground consecrated to holy purposes that had come to
them from their parents, must have tended to the multiplication of
subterranean churches.

In some venerated caves and in certain crypts are springs of water that
are held to be invested with miraculous properties. The crypts of S.
Peter in the Vatican, S. Ponziana and S. Alessandro, have such flowing
springs. In the crypt of the church of Gorlitz is a well, and from that
of the cathedral of Paderborn issues one of the sources of the river
Pader. The Kilian spring rises in the crypt of the New Minster in
Wuerzburg. Out of the cave of the monastery of Brantome, to be described
in another chapter, streams a magnificent source. Most of the water is
employed for the town and for the washerwomen, but one little rill from
it is conducted to an ornate fountain, that bears the name of S.
Sicarius (Little Cut-throat), one of the Innocents of Bethlehem slain
by order of Herod. It is explained that by some means or other
Charlemagne obtained his bones, but how the infant of a Hebrew mother
acquired a Latin name has not been attempted to be explained.



There is an account in the _Times'_ Correspondent's record of
Colonel Younghusband's expedition to Lhasa that when read haunts the
imagination. It is the description made by Mr. Landon of a Buddhist
monastery, Nyen-de-kyl-Buk, where the inmates enter as little children
and grow up with the prospect of being literally immured in a cave from
which the light of day is excluded as well as the society of their
fellow-men, there to spend the rest of their life till they rot. Horace
may say:

Jubeas miserum esse, libenter
Quatenus id facit;

but few Christians can feel this towards another human being, though of
another race, religion, and under another clime.

"These men," said the abbot to Mr. Landon, "live here in the mountain
of their own free will; a few of them are allowed a little light
whereby reading is possible, but these are the weaker brethren; the
others live in darkness in a square cell partly hewn out of the sharp
slope of the rock, partly built up, with the window just within reach
of the upraised hand. There are three periods of immurement. The first
is endured for six months, the second, upon which a monk may enter at
any time he pleases, or not at all, is for three years and ninety-three
days; the third and last period is for life. Only this morning," said
the abbot, "a hermit died after having lived in darkness for twenty-
five years." Mr. Landon goes on to say: "Voluntary this self-immolation
is said to be, and perhaps technically speaking it is possible for the
pluckier souls to refuse to go on with this hideous and useless form of
self-sacrifice, but the grip of the Lamas is omnipotent, and
practically none refuse."

He describes a visit to the cell of one of those thus immured: "The
abbot led us into a small courtyard which had blank walls all round it,
over which a peach-tree reared its transparent pink and white against
the sky. Almost on a level with the ground there was an opening closed
with a flat stone from behind. In front of this window was a ledge
eighteen inches in width with two basins beside it, and one at each
end. The abbot was attended by an acolyte, who, by his master's orders,
tapped three times sharply on the stone slab. We stood in the little
courtyard in the sun and watched that wicket with cold apprehension. I
think, on the whole, it was the most uncanny thing I saw in all Tibet.
What on earth was going to appear when that stone slab, which even then
was beginning weakly to quiver, was pushed aside, the wildest
conjecture could not suggest. After half-a-minute's pause the stone
moved, or tried to move, but it came to rest again. Then, very slowly
and uncertainly it was pushed back, and a black chasm was revealed.
There was a pause of thirty seconds, during which imagination ran riot,
but I do not think that any other thing could have been so intensely
pathetic as that which we actually saw. A hand, muffled in a tightly
wound piece of dirty cloth, for all the world like the stump of an arm,
was painfully thrust up, and very weakly it felt along the slab. After
a fruitless fumbling the hand slowly quivered back again into the
darkness. A few moments later there was again one ineffectual effort,
and then the stone slab moved noiselessly again across the opening.
Once a day water and an unleavened cake of flour is placed for the
prisoner upon that slab, the signal is given, and he may take it in.
His diversion is over for the day, and in the darkness of his cell,
where night and day, noon, sunset, and the dawn are all alike, the poor
soul has thought that another day of his long penance was over."

Here is another account from the pen of Sven Hedin.

He visited the monastery of Sumde-pu-pe, where was a hermitage
consisting of a single room five paces each way, built over a spring
that bubbles up in the centre. Inside the hermit had been walled up
with only a tiny tunnel communicating with the outside world. Once
inside, he was never again to see the light of day nor hear a human
voice. The man Sven Hedin saw had been immured for sixty-nine years,
and wished to see the sun again.

"He was all bent up as small as a child, and his body was nothing but a
light-grey parchment-like skin and bones. His eyes had lost their
colour, and were quite bright and blind. Of the monks who sixty-nine
years before had conducted him to the cell not one survived.... And he
had scarcely been carried out into the sunlight when he too, gave up
the ghost." [Footnote: "Trans-Himalaya: Discoveries and Adventures in
Tibet," Lond. 1910.]

S. Theresa once said that she had a vision of Hell. The torture did not
consist of flames, but in being planted opposite a blank wall, on which
to gaze through all eternity. The hermit in a Buddhist cell must have
undergone this torture till all intelligence, all consciousness, save
desire for food, was dead within him.

There have been horrible instances of voluntary immurement in Christian
Europe, and above all in the Christian East; but not quite--though very
nearly--as bad as this. Moreover, not one line, not a single word in
the Scriptures inculcates such self-annihilation. Christ set the
example of retirement from the world into the wilderness for forty
days, to a mountain apart for one night, to teach men occasionally and
for a limited period, to withdraw from the swirl of business and the
clatter of tongues. And S. Paul retired from the society of men after
his conversion to gather his thoughts together, and prepare for his
great missionary work. But that was something altogether different from
ascetic abnegation of life and flight from its responsibilities.

The peopling of the solitudes of Syria and Egypt by solitaries was due,
not to flight from persecution, but to revulsion from the luxury of the
great cities, and very largely as an escape from compulsory military
service. It was not a new thing. Judaism had been impregnated with
Buddhism, or at all events with Brahminism, and with ideas of
asceticism. The Essenes and Therapeutae lived, the first in the time of
the Maccabees upon the shores of the Dead Sea, and the last two
centuries later, in Egypt. Both inhabited cells in the desert,
preserving celibacy, renouncing property, pleasure, and delicate food,
and consecrating their time to the study of the Scriptures, and to
prayer. And yet celibacy was in violation of the principles of Judaism,
which required every man to marry, in the hopes of becoming a
progenitor of the Messiah. Further, they rejected the bloody sacrifices
of the law, and would have nothing to do with the temple at Jerusalem.
We can see by Philo's "On the Contemplative Life" how completely
Alexandrian Judaism had sucked in Buddhist doctrine, and how
Therapeutic asceticism formed the bridge from Buddhism to Christian
monachism. In the same places where Essenes and Therapeutae had been,
there later we find Christian solitaries. "We can have no doubt," says
Ferdinand Delaunay, "that the Therapeutic Convents which perhaps gave
the first signal for conversion to the new faith, served also as the
cradle for Christian monachism. History shows us, hardly a century
later, this flourishing in the same localities on the borders of the
lake Mareotis, and on the heights of Nitrea. And we cannot doubt but
that Christian solitaries continued at Alexandria the work of their
Jewish predecessors, and endeavoured to make their oracles serve for
the propagation of the Gospel." [Footnote: Delaunay (F.), _Moines et
Sibylles_, Paris, 1874, p. 316.]

The language in which Philo describes the Therapeutae might be applied
to the Christian monks of Egypt. I must condense his rambling account.
The Therapeutae abandon their property, their children, their wives,
parents, and friends and homes, to seek out fresh habitations outside
the city walls, in solitary places and in deserts. They pray twice in
the day, at morning and evening, and the interval is wholly devoted to
meditation on the Scriptures and elucidating the allegories therein.
They likewise compose psalms and hymns to God, "and during six days
each, retiring into solitude, philosophises, never going outside the
threshold of the outer court, and indeed never looking out. But on the
seventh day they all assemble, and sit down in order, and the eldest,
who has the most profound learning, speaks with steadfast voice
explaining the meaning of the laws."

They wore but one garment, a shaggy hide for winter, and a thin mantle
for summer. Their food was herbs and bread, and their drink water.
Philo concludes his account thus: "This then is what I have to say of
those who are called Therapeutae who have devoted themselves to the
contemplation of nature, and who have lived in it, and in the soul
alone, being citizens of heaven and of the world, and very acceptable
to the Father and Creator of the universe because of their virtue; it
has procured them His love as their most appropriate reward, which far
surpasses all the gifts of fortune, and conducts them to the very
summit and perfection of happiness."

It was not among the Jews alone that the solitary life was cultivated.
In the Serapium of Thebes were also heathen monks leading a very
similar life. That Persian Manichaeism had infected Jews and heathen as
well there can exist little doubt. [Footnote: Philo gives an account of
the sacred banquets of the Therapeutae that strongly reminds us of the
Agapae of the Early Christians.]

In 177, in Lyons, when S. Pothinus and others were arrested, thrown
into prison, tortured and killed for the Faith, there was one of the
martyrs who caused offence to the rest because "he had long been used
to a very austere life, and to live entirely on bread and water. He
seemed resolved to continue this practice during his confinement, but
Attalus (another martyr), after his first combat in the theatre,
understood by revelation that Alcibiades gave occasion of offence to
others by seeming to favour the new sect of the Montanists (a Christian
phase of Manichaeism), who endeavoured to recommend themselves by their
extraordinary austerities. Alcibiades listened to the admonition, and
from that time ate of everything with thanksgiving to God." [Footnote:
Eusebius, _Hist. Eccl._, v. i.]

But, although Buddhism affected the lives of certain Christians, it in
no way touched their faith--that life was the result of contact with
Manichaeism, which taught that all matter was evil, and that the flesh
must be subdued, as essentially ungodly. The Buddhist religion in its
ethics is the absolute reverse of the Christian. The Buddhist prays and
tortures, and stupefies himself for purely selfish reasons, so as to
escape reincarnation in the form of a bug, a louse, or a worm, by the
destruction within himself of all human passions and inclinations. His
self-torture is undertaken for the object of absorption into Nirvana,
only to be reached by reducing the mind and heart to absolute
indifference to every animal desire, and thus to escape the eternal
revolution of metempsychosis. "No man liveth to himself, and no man
dieth to himself," is a maxim incomprehensible to a Buddhist. As Mr.
Landon says: "The spiritual brigandage of the Lamas finds its
counterpart in many other creeds, but it would be unjust not to record
in the strongest terms the great radical difference that exists between
Lamaism at its best and Christianity at its worst. There has never been
absent from the lowest profession of our faith a full recognition of
the half-divine character of self-sacrifice for another. Of this the
Tibetians know nothing. The exact performance of their duties, the
daily practice of conventional offices, and continual obedience to
their Lamaic superiors is for them a means of escape from personal
damnation in a form which is more terrible perhaps than any monk-
conjured Inferno. For others they do not profess to have even a passing
thought. Now this is a distinction which goes to the very root of the
matter. The fact is rarely stated in so many words, but it is the truth
that Christianity is daily judged by one standard, and by one standard
only--its altruism, and this complete absence of carefulness for
others, this insistent and fierce desire to save one's own soul,
regardless of a brother's, is in itself something that makes foreign to
one the best that Lamaism can offer."

One day a gnat stung S. Macarius, and he killed it. To punish himself
for this, he went to the marshes of Scete, and stayed there six months.
When he returned to his brethren he was so disfigured by the bites of
the insects that they recognised him only by the tone of his voice. A
Brahmin would have been filled with remorse lest he had killed a
reincarnation of his grandmother, but the Egyptian ascetic only because
he had given way to momentary irritation.

One has but to read the sayings of the Fathers of the Desert to see
that no vein of Brahminism or Buddhism had tinctured their faith,
however deeply it may have coloured their practice. When plague raged
in Alexandria, they were ready to quit their cells and hasten into the
cities to minister to the sick and dying; when the faith, as they
understood it, was menaced, to champion the truth.

That the Egyptian hermits, flying from association with the world,
should betake themselves to caves, is hardly to be wondered at. In that
land the rocks are pitted with artificial grottoes, which were the
tombs of the ancient Egyptians, and were commodious and to be had
without asking leave of any one.

Twice was Athanasius obliged to fly from the fury of the Arians, and to
take refuge among the solitaries in their caves. Once he was
constrained to remain in concealment in his father's tomb, also a
cavern. When he was banished to Treves, tradition says that he would
not occupy a house, but sought out a grotto in a hill beyond the
Moselle, and made his abode therein.

The filiation between the Syrian and Egyptian solitaries with the
hermits of Buddhism may be made out with some plausibility. In the East
sanctity and asceticism are inseperable. The smug missionary who cannot
preach the Gospel apart from a wife, mosquito curtains and a cottage
piano, and who travels from one station to another in a palanquin borne
by sweating natives, does not impress the imagination of an Oriental,
and has small chance of making converts. It was possibly much the same
with the barbarians who overwhelmed the Roman Empire. To strike their
imagination and win them to the Cross, it may be that asceticism was a
necessary phase of mission work. "The Spirit breatheth where He wills,
and thou canst not tell whence He cometh or whither He goeth," is the
Vulgate rendering of S. John iii. 8. But if it was at one time a
necessary phase, it ceased to be so when the effect required was
produced; and from the close of mediaeval times the hermit was an
anachronism. The life of S. Antony by Athanasius, and the _Historia
Lausiaca_ or "Lives of the Fathers of the Desert," by Palladius
(died c. 430), were published in the West, and inflamed minds with the
desire to emulate the ascetics of Syria and Egypt; and speedily there
were zealots who sought out retreats in the dens of the earth, in which
to serve God in simplicity.

Some anchorites [Footnote: Properly an _anchorite_ is a recluse,
walled into his cell; a _monk_ is a solitary; and an _eremite_
or _hermit_ is a dweller in the desert.] are commemorated in both the
Greek Menaea and the Roman Martyrology more worthy to be esteemed Buddhists
than Christian saints. Theodoret, who wrote A.D. 440, describes the lives
of two women of Beroea, whom he had himself seen. They lived in a roofless
hovel with the door walled up and plastered over with clay, and with a
narrow slit left for a window, through which they received food. They
spoke to those who visited them but once in the year, at Pentecost; not
content with the squalor and solitude of their hut, they loaded themselves
with masses of iron which bent them double. Theodoret was wont to peer
in through the chink at the revolting sight of the ghastly women, a mass
of filth, crushed double with great rings and chains of iron. Thus they
spent forty-two years, and then a yearning came on them to go forth and
visit Jerusalem. The little door was accordingly broken open, and they
crawled out, visited the Holy City, and crawled back again.

Another visited by Theodoret was Baradatus, who built himself a cabin
on the top of a rock, so small that he was unable to stand upright in
it, and was obliged to move therein bent nearly double. The joints of
the stones were, moreover, so open that it resembled a cage and exposed
him to the sun and rain. Theodosius, patriarch of Antioch, as a
sensible man, ordered him to leave it. Then Baradatus encased himself
in leather so that only his nose and mouth were visible. Nowhere was
the imitation carried to such wild extravagance as in Ireland. S.
Findchua is described as living like an Indian fakir. In his cell he
suspended himself for seven years on iron sickles under his arm-pits,
and only descended from them to go forth and howl curses on the enemies
of the King of Leinster.

In England also there was extravagance. S. Wulfric, who died in 1154,
encased himself in a coat of chain-mail worn next his skin even in
winter, and occupied a cell at Hazelbury in Somerset. S. Edmund of
Canterbury (died 1242) wore a shirt of twisted horsehair with knots in
it, and bound a cart rope round his waist so that he could scarce bend
his body. In Advent and Lent he wore a shirt of sheet-lead. Thomas a
Becket, when slain, was found by the monks of Canterbury to be wearing
a hair shirt and hair-cloth drawers, and their admiration became
enthusiastic when they further discovered that this hair-cloth was
"boiling over" with lice. That this species of sanctity is still highly
approved and commended to the imitation of the faithful we may suppose
from the fact that Pius IX. in 1850 beatified the Blessed Marianna,
because she was wont to sleep in a coffin or on a cross, and on Fridays
hung herself for two hours on a cross attached to it by her hair and by
ropes. On broiling hot days she denied herself a drop of water to
quench an almost intolerable thirst. Verily Manichaeism has eaten like a
canker into the heart of the Latin Church.

But the early anchorites of Europe were not usually guilty of such
extravagance. They were earnest men who sought by self-conquest to
place themselves in a position in which they could act as missionaries.
It was their means of preparing for the work of an evangelist. In most
cases the apostle of a district sunk in paganism had no choice, he must
take up his abode in a cave or in a hovel made of branches. In the
Gallo-Roman cities the Christian bishops had gradually taken into their
hands the functions of the civil governors. They were men of family and
opulence, and lived in palaces crowded with slaves. They did nothing
whatever towards the conversion of the country folk, the pagani. This
was the achievement of the hermits. Till the peasants had been
Christianised they would not invite the preacher of strange doctrines
under their roofs, they looked on him with dislike or mistrust as
interfering with their cherished superstitions and ancestral customs.
He could not force his society on reluctant hosts.

S. Beatus, a British or Irish missionary, settled into a cave above the
lake of Thun, dreaded by the natives as the abode of a dragon. He
succeeded in his work, and died there at the advanced age of ninety. In
1556 the Protestant Government of Berne built up the mouth of the
grotto and set soldiers to repel the pilgrims who came there. Now a
monster hotel occupies the site, and those who go there for winter
sport or as summer tourists know nothing or care less about the abode
of the Apostle whence streamed the light of the Gospel throughout the

Below the terrace that surrounds the height on which Angouleme is built
is the cave of S. Cybard (Eparchius died 581). An iron gate prevents
access to it, and the path down to it is strewn with broken bottles and
sardine tins. No one now visits it. But within, where are an altar and
the mutilated statue of the saint, lived the hermit who in the sixth
century did more than any other man to bring the people of the
Angoumois out of darkness into light. But, as already said, when the
work of evangelisation was done, then the profession of the hermit was
no longer required, and such anchorites as lingered on in Europe
through the Middle Ages to our own day were but degenerate
representatives of the ancient evangelical solitaries.

A few years ago hermits abounded in Languedoc. They took charge of
remote chapels on mountain tops, or in caves and ravines. They were
always habited as Franciscan friars, but they were by no means a
reputable order of men, and the French prefets in conjunction with the
bishops have suppressed them.

They were always to be seen on a market day in the nearest town, not
infrequently in the taverns, and in the evening festooning along the
roads on their way back to their hermitages, trolling out convivial
songs spiced with snatches of ecclesiastical chants. "Mon Dieu," says
Ferdinand Fabre, [Footnote: Barnabe, Paris, 1899] "I know well enough
that the Free Brothers of S. Francis, as they loved to entitle
themselves, had allowed themselves a good deal of freedom, more than
was decorous. But as these monastically-habited gentry in no way
scandalised the population of the South, who never confounded the
occupants of the hermitages with the cures of the parishes, why sweep
away these fantastic figures who, without any religious character,
recruited from the farms, never educated in seminaries, peasants at
bottom, in no way priests, capable, when required, to give a helping
hand with the pruning knife in the vineyard, or with the pole among the
olives, or the sickle among the corn. Alas! they had their weaknesses,
and these weaknesses worked their ruin." The salt had lost its savour,
wherewith could it be seasoned?

It was not in Southern France alone that the part of the hermit was
played out. An amusing incident in the confession of Fetzer, head of a
gang of robbers who infested the Rhine at the end of the eighteenth
century, will go some way to show this. The gang had resolved on
"burgling" a hermit near Lobberich. Had he been an eremite of the old
sort, the last place in which robbers would have expected to find
plunder would be his cell. But in the eighteenth century it was
otherwise, and this particular hermit kept a grocer's shop, and sold
coffee, sugar, and nutmegs. The rogues approached the cell at night,
and as a precaution one of them climbed and cut the rope of the bell
wherewith the hermit announced to the neighbourhood that he was about
to say his prayers. Then they broke open his door. In Fetzer's own
words, "The hermit was not at home, but as we learned, had gone a
journey in connection with his grocery business. In the hermitage,
however, we found several men placed there to keep guard over his
goods. We soon settled them, beat them with our cudgels and cast them
prostrate on the floor. Then we burst open all the chests and
cupboards, but found little money. There was, however, plenty of tea
and sugar. As we were about to leave, a fearful storm came on, and
without more ado we returned into the hermitage to remain there till it
was overpast. In order to dissipate the tedium, we ransacked the place
for food, and found an excellent ham and wine in abundance. I assumed
the place of host. Serve the meal! Bring more! I ordered, and we
revelled and shouted and made as great a din as we liked. In the second
room the hermit had a small organ. I seated myself at it; and to make
the row more riotous I played as well as I was able. The laughter and
the racket did not cease till morning broke. Then I dressed myself up
in the hermit's cowl and habit, and so went off with my comrades."
[Footnote: _Der neue Pitaval_, Leipzig, xviii. p. 182]

I remember visiting a hermit in 1868 who lived on a ledge in the cliff
above S. Maurice in the Vallais, where was a cave that had been
occupied by the repentant Burgundian King Sigismund. He cultivated
there a little garden, and I have still by me a dried bouquet of
larkspur that he presented to my wife on our leaving after a pleasant
chat. A pilgrimage to the cave was due on the morrow, and he had just
returned from the town whither he had descended to borrow mugs out of
which the devotees might drink of the holy spring that issued from the

The Wild Kirchlein, in Appenzell, is now visited rather by tourists
than by pilgrims. A huge limestone precipice rises above the Bodmenalp,
that is a paradise of wild flowers. A hundred and seventy feet up the
cliff gapes a cavern, and at its mouth is a tiny chapel. It is reached
by what is now a safe pathway and over a bridge cast across a chasm.
But formerly the ascent could not be made without danger. In the
beginning of the seventeenth century, some Alpine shepherds, who had
reached the cave, reported that they had seen in it the remains of an
altar. This aroused interest, and in the summer of 1621 a Capuchin
named Tanner ascended to the cave, blessed, and consecrated it as a
place of pilgrimage. He said mass there and preached. He was shortly
afterwards called away to Freiburg, and for thirty years the cave was
disregarded and neglected. But at the end of that time Tanner returned
to Appenzell, and interested the parish priest Ulmann in it. When war
broke out between Schwyz and Zurich in 1656, Ulmann concealed the
treasures of the church in the cave. This drew attention to it, and
shortly after an altar was furnished with what was needful, and on the
Feast of S. Michael in 1657 mass was again said there. Various matters
--loss of friends, and contests with the secular authorities--wearied
Ulmann, and he resolved on retiring as a hermit to the cave in the
cliff, taking with him, however, an attendant. The swallows left, the
winter storms came on, yet he braved the wind and cold, and remained a
tenant of the cave for two winters and as many summers; but then, by
order of the Bishop, he left to act as chaplain to a convent in Lindau.
There he spent nine years, till falling ill, he felt a craving for the
purer air of his Appenzell home, and obtained leave to return and again
re-tenant the beloved cave. In his last will he bequeathed the Upper
Bodmen Alp that was his ancestral inheritance for the maintenance of
the Holy Grotto. After his death the little chapel with its tower was
built, and a Capuchin friar occupied the hermitage. In 1853, the last
hermit there, Brother Antony Fassler, fell down the precipice whilst
gathering herbs. Since then there has been no such picturesque object
to lead the visitor through the recesses of the cavern and show the
stalactites; that office is now performed by the innkeeper of the hotel
on the Alp.

The cave of S. Verena is one of the favourite pilgrim resorts in
Switzerland. It is near Soleure, and lies in a valley of a spur of the
Jura. According to the received tradition she ran after the Theban
legion--in modern parlance was a camp-follower, but deserted the
soldiers here, and took up her abode in this grotto. There is no
mention of this hermitage earlier than 1426, and the legend has grown
up since. That the cave was much more ancient, and was invested with
holy awe, is no doubt true. In fact, there is reason to believe that
Verena was a German goddess. [Footnote: Rocholz, _Dei Gaugoettinnen_,
Leipzig, 1870.] Her symbol is a comb, and in the wall are cut these words:

Pectore dum Christo, dum pectine servit egenis,
Non latuit quondam sancta Verena cavo;

that is to say, serving Christ and combing the heads of the poor, the
holy Verena lived unconcealed in this grotto.

The way to the chapel is through woods, the valley closing in till bold
rocks are reached. In a niche is a statue of the Magdalen, with the
inscription, "I sleep, but my heart waketh." A few steps further is a
representation of the Garden of Gethsemane. From this a long and steep
stair leads up to the chapel, cut deep in the rock, with an altar in
it. Behind this is the Holy Sepulchre carved in the stone, in the
seventeenth century by the hermit Arsenius. On the other side of the
chapel a long stone stair leads again into the open air. Under this
stair is a hole in the rock into which the hand can be thrust.
According to a "pious belief" the Saint one day was much tormented with
the remembrance of the military, and longed to resume her pursuit of
them, and she gripped the rock, which yielded like wax to her fingers.

Another Swiss rock hermitage is that of the Magdalen near Freiburg, in
the cliff on the right bank of the Saane. At the close of the
seventeenth century it was enlarged by a hermit, John Baptist Dupres,
and his comrade John Licht. They worked at it for twenty years. Dupres
dug a number of cells out of the sandstone, a kitchen with a chimney, a
dining-room, a church, and a stable. The church measures 63 feet long,
30 feet wide, and is 22 feet high. He built a tower to his church, and
gave his chimney the height of 90 feet so as to ensure that his fire
should not smoke. The hermit Dupres was drowned in 1708 as he was
rowing over the river a party of scholars who had come to visit him. No
hermit lives there now. His residence is occupied by a peasant with his

On the Nahe, that flows into the Rhine, is the little town of
Oberstein, whose inhabitants are nearly all employed in cutting and
polishing agates, sardonyxes, and various other stones prized by
ladies. Precipitous cliffs arise above the town, and contract the space
on which houses could be raised, and these rocks are crowned by two
ruined castles, the Older and the Newer Oberstein. About half-way up
the face of the cliff, 260 feet above the river, can be seen a tiny
church, to which ascent is made by flights of steps. The old castle
rises above this, and stands 360 feet above the river, but its remains
are reduced to a fragment of a tower. Separated from it by a notch in
the rocks is the new castle that was destroyed by fire about thirty-
five years ago.

In the old castle lived in the eleventh century two brothers, Wyrich
and Emich von Oberstein. Both fell in love with the daughter of the
knight of Lichtenberg, but neither confessed his passion to the other.
At last, one day Emich returned to the castle to announce to his
brother that he had been accepted by the fair maid; Wyrich, in an
impulse of jealousy, caught his brother by the throat and hurled him
down the precipice. His conscience at once spoke out, and in the agony
of his remorse he had resort to a hermit who bade him renounce the
world, grave for himself a cell in the face of the melaphyre clay--the
hermit did not give to the rock its mineralogical name--and await a
token from heaven that he was forgiven. Accordingly Wyrich von
Oberstein scrambled up the face of the cliff as high as he could
possibly go, and there laboured day after day till he had excavated for
himself a grotto in which to live and expiate his crime. And a spring
oozed out of the rock in his cave, and was accepted by him as the
promised token of pardon. After a while he obtained that a little
church should be consecrated which he had constructed at the mouth of
his cave. On the day that the bishop came to dedicate the structure he
was found dead.

What is supposed to be his figure, that of a knight in armour, is in
the chapel. This latter was rebuilt in 1482, and the monument came from
the older structure. The chapel has been handed over to the Calvinists
for their religious services, which is the humour of it, as Nym would
have said.

Beside the highroad (_route nationale_) from Brive to Cahors, but
a very little way out of the town, is a mass of red Permian sandstone
perforated with caves. In 1226 S. Anthony of Padua was at Brive, and
resided for a while in one of them. Since then it has been held sacred
and occupied by Franciscans, who erected a convent above it; in so
doing they cut into and mutilated some very ancient artificial workings
in the sandstone for the contrivance of rock habitations. The cave,
however, was neglected when the Franciscans were expelled at the
Revolution, but they returned in 1875 and rebuilt or greatly enlarged
their convent, only to be expelled again in 1906. The grottoes, now
converted into chapels to the number of four, are in a line under the
superstructures, that in the middle the actual hermitage. This,
moreover, has been cut out of the rock artificially, at a higher level
than the others, that are natural and are untenable, owing to the
incessant drip of water from the roofs. The first cave is dedicated to
S. Francis of Assisi, but it is a rock shelter rather than a cave. It
is natural, but in one corner a small water-basin has been scooped. The
second cave is mainly natural, but partly artificial; it is dedicated
to Notre Dame Auxiliatrice. The third, reached by steps, is wholly
artificial, and before the stairs were built to lead to it, was
inaccessible save by a short ladder. It placed the occupant in safety
from invasion by wolves or other objectionable visitors. It measures 21
feet by 15 feet. This, which was the habitation of S. Anthony,
communicated with the two lower caves, one on each side, by lateral

The fourth cave is that of Des Fontaines, in which are basins of water
cut in the rock, receiving the everlasting drip from above.

It is impossible to give one tithe of the hermitages in caves that are
to be seen in Europe; but a few words may be devoted to La Sainte
Beaume in Var, where, according to tradition, Mary Magdalen spent the
end of her days. The tradition is entirely destitute of historical
basis, and rests on a misconception. Scott has described the cave with
tolerable accuracy in "Anne of Geierstein," though he had not seen it

The cave is in the range of cretaceous limestone that runs east and
west to the north-east of Marseilles, and at La Beaume Sainte reaches
the height of 3450 feet. The wild flowers, the fine forest, and the
white rocks impart great interest to the visit without consideration of
historical and legendary association. The botanist will find the globe
flower, the anemone, the citisus, the man, the bee, the fly orchids,
and the _Orchis militaris_ in considerable abundance; also banks
of scented violets.

The grotto is at a considerable height above the valley. According to
the legend, as already said, Mary Magdalen spent the close of her life
here, and numerous anchorites settled in the caves around. In the fifth
century Cassian placed monks in the grotto, but they were driven away
by the barbarians, and La Sainte Beaume fell into complete oblivion
till the thirteenth century.

The cave is lofty and spacious, not a little damp, and water drips from
the roof. To protect the altar a baldachin has been erected over it. At
the extreme end is a raised dais of natural rock, on which the saint is
supposed to have made her bed. Another cave is that of the Holy
Sepulchre, which was formerly occupied by the monks of S. Cassian. From
the Sainte Beaume a path leads upwards to the Saint Pilon, the highest
pinnacle of the rock which here rises to a point, out of which grow
wild pinks and aromatic shrubs, and where falcons make their nest.
According to the legend, Mary Magdalen was elevated by the hands of
angels to this point seven times a day, there to say her prayers, which
proceeding surely entitles her to a place as the patroness of aviation.

At Souge, on the Loir, a little below the troglodyte town of Troo
already described, half-way up the cliff is the cave-chapel of S.
Amadou. It is 45 feet deep and 15 feet wide. The altar is at the end
surmounted by a niche containing a statue of the saint, and to this
formerly pilgrimages were made from all the valleys round. But this is
a thing of the past, for it is now private property and converted into
a cellar. What is peculiar about this chapel is that it is surrounded
by a gallery also rock-hewn, and it was customary for the pilgrims to
pass round the chapel through this gallery before entering it.

At Villiers, near Vendome, is the chapel of S. Andrew, that was
formerly inhabited by a hermit. It is divided into two chambers. That
on the left is the chapel proper, with its altar. Above the other
opening is a bas-relief of the Crucifixion. When levelling the floor of
this hermitage a few years ago, so as to convert it into a commodious
private dwelling, a number of skeletons were found in graves sunk in
the rock.

[Illustration: Plan of the Chapel of S. Amadou.]

Montserrat is famous throughout Spain on account of its statue of the
Virgin, which is supposed to have been made by S. Luke, and brought to
Barcelona in the year 50 by S. Peter, which, of course, is nonsense. S.
Luke never painted, and S. Peter never visited Spain. This
extraordinary mountain derives its name from its saw-like appearance,
_Mons serratus._ It consists of pudding-stone, "a strange solitary
exiled peak, drifted away in the beginning of things from its brethren
of the Pyrenees, and stranded in a different geological period." Mr.
Bayard Taylor thus describes the summit after a two hours' climb.
"Emerging from the thickets we burst suddenly upon one of the wildest
and most wonderful pictures I ever beheld. A tremendous wall of rock
arose in front, crowned by colossal turrets, pyramids, clubs, pillars,
and ten-pin shaped masses, which were drawn singly, or in groups of
incredible distinction, against the deep blue of the sky. At the foot
of the rock the buildings of the monastery and the narrow gardens
completely filled and almost overhung a horizontal shelf of the
mountain, under which it again fell sheer away down, down into misty
depths, the bottom of which was hidden from sight. In all the galleries
of memory I could find nothing resembling it." [Footnote: Taylor (B.),
"Byways of Europe," Lond. 1869, i. p. 23.]

The spires of rock range about 3300 feet high, jumbled together by
nature in a sportive mood. Here and there, perched like nests of the
solitary eagle, are the ruins of former hermitages, burnt by the French
under Suchet in July 1811, when they amused themselves with hunting the
hermits like chamois in the cliffs, hung the monks of the monastery,
plundered it of all its contents, stripped the Virgin of her jewellery,
and burnt the fine library. Hitherto the monks, when periodically
dressing the image, had done so with modestly averted eyes, but
Suchet's soldiers had no such scruples. This image had been entrusted
in the ninth century to a hermit, Jean Garin. Now Riguilda, daughter of
the Count of Barcelona, was possessed by a devil, in another word,
crazy, and was sent to be cured by the image or the hermit. A
temptation similar to that of S. Anthony followed, but with exactly the
opposite result. To conceal his crime, Jean Garin cut off Riguilda's
head, buried her, and fled. Overtaken by remorse he went to Rome, and
confessed his sin to the Pope, who bade him become a beast, never
lifting his face towards heaven until the hour when God himself would
signify his pardon.

Jean Garin went forth from the Papal presence on his hands and knees,
crawled back to Montserrat, and there lived seven years as a wild
beast, eating grass and bark, and never looking up to heaven. At the
end of this time his body was entirely covered with hair, and it so
fell out that the hunters of the Count snared him as a wild animal, put
a chain round his neck, and brought him to Barcelona. Here an infant of
five months old, on beholding the strange beast, uttered a cry and
exclaimed, "Rise up, Jean Garin, God has pardoned thee." Then, to the
amazement of all, the beast arose and spoke in a human tongue. Happily
the story is no more true than that the image was made by S. Luke. It
is an old Greek story of S. James the Penitent, with the penance of
Nebuchadnezzar tacked on to it.

Forbes says: "The traveller should visit the ruined hermitages of Sta.
Anna, San Benito, not forgetting La Roca Estrecha, a singular natural
fissure; the highest and most interesting of all is the S. Jeronimo.
These retreats satisfied the Oriental and Spanish tendency to close a
life of action by repose, and atone for past sensualism by
mortification. The hermitages were once thirteen in number; each was
separate, and with difficulty accessible. The anchorite who once
entered one, never left it again. There he lived, like things bound
within a cold rock alive, while all was stone around, and there he
died, after a living death to the world, in solitude without love. Yet
they were never vacant, being sought for as eagerly as apartments in
Hampton Court are by retired dowagers. Risco says that there were
always a dozen expectants waiting in the convent the happy release of
an occupant. To be a hermit, and left to live after his own fashion,
exactly suited the reserved, isolated Spaniard, who hates discipline
and subjection to a superior." [Footnote: "Handbook of Spain," Lond.
1845, p.496. A visit to the image is heavily indulgenced. Pope Paul V.
granted remission of all his sins to any one who entered the
confraternity of our Lady of Montserrat. Mr. B. Taylor says of the
image: "I took no pains to get sight of the miraculous statue. I have
already seen both the painting and the sculpture of S. Luke, and think
him one of the worst artists that ever existed."]

Above Cordova, also in the Sierra, are rock hermitages serving in
Andalusia the same purpose that did those of Montserrat in Catalonia.
These also never wanted a tenant, for in the Iberian temperament,
_inedia et labor_, violent action alternating with repose is

In Italy, Subiaco must not be left without a notice. It was hither that
S. Benedict fled when aged fourteen. He chose a cave as his abode, and
none knew what was his hiding-place save a monk, Romanus, who let down
to him from the top of the rock the half of the daily loaf allotted to
himself, giving him notice of its being ready for him by ringing a
little bell. Here, once, troubled by the passions of the flesh,
Benedict cast himself into a thicket of thorns, and afterwards planted
there two rose-trees which still flourish. This is now converted into a
garden, and near by all the monks of Subiaco are buried.

Near La Vernia, a favourite retreat of S. Francis, is a deep cleft in
the rocks, and a cave to which he was wont to retire at times. One
friar only, Brother Leo, was permitted to visit him, and that once in
the day with a little bread and water, and once at night; and when he
reached the narrow path at the entrance, he was required to say
_Domine labia mea aperies;_ when, if an answer came, he might
enter and say matins with his master. In a second cave the saint slept.
Outside this is the point of rock from which according to the
_Fiorette:_ "Through all that Lent, a falcon, whose nest was hard
by his cell, awakened S. Francis every night a little before the hour
of matins by her cry and the flapping of her wings, and would not leave
off till he had risen to say the office; and if at any time S. Francis
was more sick than ordinary, or weak, or weary, that falcon, like a
discreet and charitable Christian, would call him somewhat later than
was her wont. And S. Francis took great delight in this clock of his,
because the great carefulness of the falcon drove away all
slothfulness, and summoned him to prayers; and moreover, during the
daytime, she would often abide familiarly with him."

The Warkworth hermitage in Northumberland was made famous by Bishop
Percy's ballad.

In "Rambles in Northumberland and on the Scottish Border," 1835, it is
thus described. "The hermitage of Warkworth is situated on the north
bank of the Coquet, and about a mile from the castle. Leaving the
castle yard and passing round the exterior of the keep, a footpath
leads down the declivity on the north side of the river. Entering a
boat and rowing a short distance along the river, the visitor is landed
at the foot of a pleasant walk which leads directly to the Hermitage.
This secluded retreat consists of three small apartments, hollowed out
of the freestone cliff which overlooks the river. An ascent of
seventeen steps leads to the entrance of the outer and principal
apartment, which is about eighteen feet long, its width being seven
feet and a half, and its height nearly the same. Above the doorway are
the remains of some letters now illegible, but which are supposed when
perfect to have expressed, from the Latin version of the Psalms, the
words: Fuerint mihi lacrymae meae panes die ac nocte. The roof is
chiselled in imitation of a groin, formed by two intersecting arches;
and at the east end, where the floor is raised two steps, is an altar
occupying the whole width of the apartment. In the centre, immediately
above the altar, is a niche in which there has probably stood a figure
either of Christ or of the Virgin.

"Near the altar, on the south side, there is carved in the wall a
monumental figure of a recumbent female. In a niche near the foot of
the monument is the figure of a man, conjectured to be that of the
first hermit, on his knees, with his head resting on his right hand,
and his left placed upon his breast. On the wall, on the same side, is
cut a basin for the reception of holy water; and between the principal
figure and the door are two small windows. At the west end is a third
small window, in the form of a quatrefoil.

"From this apartment, which appears to have been the hermit's chapel, a
doorway opens into the corner one, about five feet wide, and having
also an altar at the east end, with a basin for holy water cut in the
wall. In the north wall of this inner chamber an arched recess is cut,
the base of which is of sufficient length and breadth to admit a
middle-sized man reclining. An opening, cut slantwise through the wall
dividing the chamber, allows a person lying in this recess to see the
monument in the chapel. In the same wall there is rather an elegantly-
formed window, which admits the light from the outer apartment. To the
north of the inner chamber is a third excavation, much smaller than the
other two, which led to an outer gallery to the west, commanding a view
of the river. This gallery, which has been much injured by the fall of
a part of the cliff, is said to have been arched like a cloister. After
returning from these dimly-lighted cells to open day, and passing
through a stone archway, a flight of steps cut in the side of the rock
leads to the hermit's garden at the top."

S. Robert of Knaresborough, who died 1218, was the son of one John
Thorne of York, of which city his brother was mayor. Leland informs us
that he forsook "the lands and goodes of his father to whom he was
heire as eldest sonne." Leaving his home he came to Knaresborough,
where he found a certain knight ensconced in a cave scooped out of the
rock by the side of the Nidd, and dignified by the name of S. Giles's
Chapel. But the knight had had enough of it, and _instante
diabolo_ quitted his cave and made it over to Robert Thorne, and
"returned like a dog to his vomit," which is a monastic way of putting
the fact that he returned to his wife and family.

and other saints, men in armour and ladies.]

Robert, however, did not spend an entire year in the cave, for certain
_latrunculi_ having stolen _hys bred, hys chese,_ _hys sustenance_,
he quitted the grotto--doubtless at the approach of winter--and estab-
lished himself in much more comfortable quarters at Bramham. He was
certainly a hermit who boiled his peas, for we are told that he maintained
four men-servants; two were occupied in tilling his farm, one attended
to his personal wants--was, in fact, his valet--and one went about with
him on his begging expeditions.

The cave is 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet high. There is an
image of a knight at the entrance, by some supposed to be more modern;
it is, however, said that S. Robert did much himself to adorn and
enlarge his chapel.

It was in this cave that Eugene Aram and Richard Housman murdered
Daniel Clarke on 8th February 1745, for the sake of some jewellery and
plate they had induced him to bring to S. Robert's Chapel with him.

It was not till fourteen years after that the body of Clarke was found,
and Mrs. Aram declared that her husband and Housman had murdered him;
Housman turned King's evidence, and Aram was hung on 16th August 1759.

Roche hermitage in Cornwall occupies a spire of rocks of schorl that
shoots 100 feet above the surrounding moor. Built into the rocks is a
little chapel, and beneath it is the hermit's cell. This seems to have
been occupied continuously down to the Reformation, and various stories
are told of the tenants.

There was once a steward under the Duchy named Tregeagle. He was a
peculiarly nefarious agent, and very hard upon the tenants. His spirit
is still supposed to roam over the moors, and not to be able to find
peace till he has dipped the water out of Dozmare Pool with a nutshell.

Once, pursued by devils, he fled for sanctuary to Roche, and thrust his
head through the east window of the chapel, but, being a broad-
shouldered spirit, could force his way in no further. The devils were
baffled and withdrew. But Tregeagle's position was not desirable. The
wind, the rain, and the hail lashed that portion of his person that
remained exposed, and he dared not withdraw his head from sanctuary
lest the devils should be on him again. At every cutting blast he
howled, and his howls so disturbed the hermit of Roche, that he found
it impossible to sleep or to attend to his prayers on windy nights.
Unable to liberate Tregeagle himself, he sent for the monks of Bodmin,
and they imposed on the wretched steward the task aforementioned, and
assured him immunity from pursuit whilst engaged upon it.

"Robin Hood's Stable," in Nottinghamshire, at Pappewick, of which
Throsby gives an illustration in his "History of the County," 1797, was
in all probability a hermitage. Mr. W. Stevenson writes: "I am
convinced, from its nearness to the great old road, its position due
south, and its evidences of columns and arches, that it is an old cell
or anchorite's cave of equal, if not superior age, to the neighbouring
abbey. The interior would make a good picture, as the dampness of the
rock is favourable to green vegetation in sportive lines and patches on
the warm colours and the shadows of the rock. It is an artist's dream.
Time, during the lapse of centuries, has made sad havoc with the
entrance. Originally it had a level cutting running into the hill until
a face of rock was won in which to make a door and hew an underground

"The hollow of this cutting has been raised, the banks rounded down,
the roof over the door has fallen; the hand of destruction has worked
back into the cave, and all evidence of the door and its whereabouts
has vanished. The floor is loaded with sand and blocks fallen from the
roof. The floor being so buried renders it difficult perfectly to judge
of the depth of the apartment." What a habitation for a rheumatic
hermit! The "sportive lines and patches" of vegetation suggest sportive
tweaks and twinges of the loins.


Two miles from Repton is Anchor Church, where are the remains of a
hermitage in a singular rocky bank, rising abruptly above the pastures
on the verge of the Trent. "The summit is clothed with overhanging
woods, forming only a portion of the high grounds, but the suddenness
of the change which the scenery derives from the appearance of
precipitous and broken rocks, occurring in the midst of a soft and
beautiful region of pastoral luxuriance, is very striking. A curious
series of chambers, communicating with each other, has been at some
distant period beyond tradition excavated in that portion of the rock
which is most naked and precipitous; and from this circumstance the
site has been designated Anchor Church, signifying the residence of a
hermit. At a distance it bears a very close resemblance to a Gothic
ruin; the rude openings formed to admit light into the several cells,
and the ruggedly fashioned doorway aiding, at first sight, the
appearance of an artificial pile of grey antiquity. The rock is found
principally to consist of rough grit-stone, and of a congeries of sand
and pebbles. The Trent, which now flows at a short distance, formerly
ran close under the rock, as is indicated by a dead pool of water
situate near its foot, and communicating with the channel of the river.

"A tall flight of steep steps rudely fashioned of large unshapen blocks
of stone, conducted to the entrance of the hermitage, and the dim light
within its hoary, moss-grown, sloping walls is admitted through
irregularly formed apertures, pierced through the dense body of the
rock, and command magnificent views of the subjacent scenery."
[Footnote: Bigsby (R.), "Historical and Topographical Description of
Repton in the County of Derby," Lond. 1854.]

In the month of August 1742, when occasion arose for setting a post in
a "Mercat House" at Royston in Hertfordshire in order to place a bench
on it for the convenience of the market women, the men in digging
struck through the eye or central hole of a millstone, laid
underground, and on raising this found that it occupied the crown of a
cave sixteen feet deep, as appeared by letting down a plumb line. There
was a descent into it of about two feet wide, with holes cut in the
chalk at equal distances, and succeeding each other like the steps of a
ladder. It was accurately circular. They let a boy down, and from his
report of its passing into another cavity, a slender man with a lighted
candle descended, and he confirmed the report, and added that the
second cave was filled with loose earth, which, however, did not quite
touch the wall, which he could see to right and left.

The people now conceived the notion that a great treasure was concealed
here, and some workmen were employed to enlarge the passage of descent.
Then with buckets and a well-kerb, they set to work to clear it, and
drew up the earth and rubbish that filled the cave. When they came to
the floor of the descending passage they ran a long spit downwards and
found that the earth was still loose. The vast concourse of people now
became troublesome, and the workmen were obliged to postpone further
operations till night.

After much time and labour had been expended, the cave was cleared, but
no really scientific examination of it was made till 1852, when Mr.
Beldam drew up a report concerning it, which he presented to the Royal
Society of Antiquaries. The cave is bell-shaped, and from the floor to
the top of the dome measures 25-1/2 feet. The bottom is not quite
circular, but nearly so, and in diameter is from 17 feet to 17 feet 6
inches. A broad step surrounds it, 8 inches wide and 3 feet from the
floor. About 8 feet above the floor a cornice runs round the walls cut
in a reticulated or diamond pattern two feet wide. Almost all the space
between the step and this cornice is occupied with sculpture,
crucifixes, saints, martyrs, and subjects not easy to explain. Vestiges
of red, blue, and yellow are visible in various places, and the relief
of the figures has been assisted by a dark pigment. In various parts of
the cave, above and below the cornice, are deep cavities or recesses of
various forms and sizes, some of them oblong, and others oven-shaped,
of much the same character as those found in the French caves. High up
are two dates cut in the chalk, in Arabic numerals, that have been
erroneously read 1347 and "Martin 1350 February 18," but these should
be respectively 1547 and 1550, as Arabic numerals were not in use in
England in the fourteenth century, and the name of Martin and the
February are distinctly sixteenth century in character. The figure
carving was not done by the same hand throughout.

Apparently the cave was originally a shaft for burial or for rubbish,
and a hole in the side and floor that Dr. Stukeley took for a grave was
nothing but a continuation downwards of the ancient shaft, as is proved
by what has been found in it. But in mediaeval times the puticolus was
enlarged and converted into a hermitage, and a hermit is known to have
occupied it till the eve of the Reformation, for in the Churchwarden's
book of the parish of Bassingborne, under the date 1506, is the entry,
_"Gyft of 20d. recd, off a Hermytt depting at Roiston in ys pysh"_
It is true that this entry does not absolutely fix the residence of the
hermit at the cave, but it is hardly probable that there were two
hermitages in so small a town.

The cave was probably filled in with earth in 1547 and 1550, when the
inscribed dates were affixed. After which its existence was forgotten,
and the Mercat House was erected over it before 1610. The carvings have
been supposed to belong to the period of Henry II. and Richard Coeur-de-
Lion, but it is not possible to put them earlier than the beginning of
the sixteenth century, at all events such as represent the Crucifixion.
It is possible, however, that some of the kingly or knightly figures
may be somewhat earlier.

Stukeley was quite convinced that the Royston cave was the oratory of
the Lady Rohesia, daughter of Aubrey de Vere, who succeeded his father
in 1088, but there exists no evidence that she ever lived at Royston.
The place takes its name from Rohesia, daughter of Eudo Dapifer.

In 1537, says Froude, while the harbours, piers, and fortresses were
rising in Dover, "an ancient hermit tottered night after night from his
cell to a chapel on the cliff, and the tapers on the altars before
which he knelt in his lonely orisons made a familiar beacon far over
the rolling waters. The men of the rising world cared little for the
sentiment of the past. The anchorite was told sternly by the workmen
that his light was a signal to the King's enemies" (a Spanish invasion
from Flanders was expected), "and must burn no more; and when it was
next seen, three of them waylaid the old man on his way home, threw him
down, and beat him cruelly." [Footnote: "History of England," vol. iii.
p. 256.]

The following notice appeared in the _Daily Express_ of 9th June
1910. "A subterranean chamber with a spiral staircase at one end and a
Gothic roof has been discovered at Greenhithe. It is believed to have
been a hermit's cell."

The hermit left a pleasant memory behind him when he disappeared from
England, perhaps just in time before complete degeneration set in as in
France and Germany, Italy and Spain. Shakespeare, whenever he
introduces him, does so in a kindly spirit, and represents him as a
consoler of the afflicted and a refuge to the troubled spirit. By
Spenser also he is treated with affection.

"Towards night they came unto a plaine
By which a little hermitage there lay,
Far from all neighbourhood, the which annoy it may.

And nigh thereto a little chappel stoode,
Which being all with ivy overspred
Deckt all the roofe, and, shadowing the roode,
Seem'd like a grove faire braunched over hed:
Therein the hermit, which his life here led
In streight observance of religious vow,
Was wont his hours and holy things to bed;
And therein he likewise was praying now,
Whenas these knights arrived, they wist not where nor how."

[ILLUSTRATION: CHATEAU DE RIGNAC. A renaissance chateau on the
Vezere, built partly into and partly out of the overhanging cliff.
Since the sketch was made a portion of the first archway has fallen.]

[ILLUSTRATION: ROYSTON CAVE. A section. The entrance with steps at
the side is a modern addition.]

I do not recall any harsh words spoken of the departed hermit. After
the Reformation it was felt that a factor in life was gone that could
be ill spared.

In these days when we live in a hurricane of new ideas, in the stress
of business, we cannot understand the attractiveness of the peace of a
cell away from the swirl of the storm, or the value of the hermits as
guides of life. When the hermit was swept away, into his place as
counsellor of the troubled stepped the witch, and to her those had
recourse who had previously sought the eremite. The influence of the
witch was always for evil, that of the hermit was usually good. The
troubled soul desires a confidant and an adviser. The parish priest is
not always spiritually minded, and is not always disinterested. What is
hid from the wise and prudent is revealed to babes, and for the
guidance of distracted consciences, the healing of wounded spirits, the
words of the childlike hermit were a boon. However, he is gone past
recall, and into his room have stepped the lawyer who demands six-and-
eightpence for a word of advice, and the doctor whose charges are
proportionate to the rental of our houses.



The early Syrian and Egyptian hermits would have become a sect of
manichaean heretics but for the popularity of the profession and the
Arian persecution. In quitting the world they cut themselves off from
the churches. They no more took part in its assemblies, participated in
the sacraments, nor observed the sacred seasons. Paul, the first
hermit, deserted the society of men when aged fifteen, and lived till
the age of a hundred and ten in solitude without ever having partaken
of the Bread of Life. S. Mary of Egypt spent forty-seven years in the
Wilderness, stark naked, covered with hair like a wild beast, and only
received the Viaticum when dying, by the chance of a priest passing
that way. A fifteenth century statue of her, nearly life-size, is in
the National Museum at Munich, removed from the Cathedral of Augsburg
as indelicate. S. Antony spent twenty years in a sort of cistern, and
only twice a year received loaves, let down from above through the
roof. Certainly all that time he was voluntarily excommunicate. If S.
Hilarius ever made sacramental communion we are not told, but we do
know that he was for ever hiding himself from where were his fellow-
men, in wilds and oases, and where there were no Christian churches.

In the desert, times and seasons slipped away, and became confounded,
so that by the first hermits neither Easter nor the Lord's Day were
observed. In the Gospel, the works of mercy, feeding the hungry, giving
drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and
prisoners, are appointed as the means of deserving a reward in heaven,
but the anchorites neglected every one, cut themselves adrift from the
chance of performing them, and sought to merit heaven in their own way.
Christ declared, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink
His blood, ye have no life in you," but they wilfully lived apart from
the sacramental life as surely as any modern Quaker.

But when crowds of refugees from the duties and pleasures of life
sought the desert, they ceased to be solitaries, and organisation on a
monarchical system under an abbot became necessary; and when bishops
and priests fled to them, or were banished and sought them, during the
Arian persecution, they came to plume themselves as champions of
orthodoxy, and conformed to Catholic usage, assembling on the Lord's
Day for prayers and the Eucharist. When the fashion set in for
deserting the world, floods of men, women, and children threw
themselves into it, and flowed into the desert during a century with
resistless force. Pachomius, who died at fifty-six, reckoned three
thousand monks under his rule; the monasteries of Tabenna soon included
seven thousand, and S. Jerome affirms that as many as fifty thousand
were present at the annual gathering of the general congregation of
monasteries that followed his rule.

There were five thousand on the mountain of Nitria; near Arsinoe the
Abbot Serapion governed ten thousand. It has even been asserted that
there were as many monks in the deserts of Egypt as inhabitants in the
towns. The immense majority of these religious were cenobites; that is
to say, they lived in the same enclosure, and were united under an
elected head, the abbot. The cenobitical life rapidly and necessarily
superseded that of the solitary. In fact the monks were now no more
solitaries than are the jackdaws in a cleft, or the bees in a hive, but
unlike the jackdaws, they were under discipline, and unlike bees were
without a sting.

It was not mere love of an indolent life and a desire to escape from
military service that swelled the numbers in the desert. The condition
of the decaying Roman world led men to despair of the Commonwealth, and
of the possibility of their being able to save their own souls in the
midst of the general corruption. "The people were exhausted by
compulsory taxes, to be spent in wars which did not concern them, or in
Court luxury in which they had no share. In the municipal towns liberty
and justice were dead. The curials, who were responsible for the
payment of the public moneys, tried their best to escape the unpopular
office, and when compelled to serve wrung the money in self-defence out
of the poorer inhabitants by every kind of tyranny. Private profligacy
among all ranks was such as cannot be described in any modern pages.
The regular clergy of the cities were able to make no stand against the
general corruption of the age because--at least if we are to trust such
writers as Jerome and Chrysostom--they were giving themselves up to
ambition and avarice, vanity and luxury; and, as a background to all
these seething heaps of decay, misrule and misery, hung the black cloud
of the barbarians, waxing stronger and stronger so that the wisest
Romans saw clearly as the years rolled on, they would soon be the
conquerors of the Caesars and the masters of the Western world.

"No wonder, if in such a state of things, the minds of men were stirred
by a passion akin to despair, which ended in a new and grand form of
suicide. It would have ended often, but for Christianity, in such an
actual despair as that which had led in past ages more than one noble
Roman to slay himself, when he lost all hope for the Republic. That the
world--such at least as they saw it then--was doomed, Scripture and
their own reason taught them. They did not merely believe, but saw, in
the misery and confusion, the desolation and degradation around them,
that the world was passing away, and the lust thereof, and that only he
who did the will of God could abide for ever. They did not merely
believe, but saw that the wrath of God was revealed from Heaven against
all unrighteousness of men. Under these terrible forebodings, men began
to flee from a doomed world, and try to be alone with God, if by any
means they might save each man his own soul in that dread day."
[Footnote: Kingsley (C.), "The Hermits," Lond. 1868.]

In the year 336 Athanasius was in exile at Treves. He is traditionally
held to have there occupied a cave beyond the Moselle. The Bishop
Maximinus received him with honour. Early in his episcopate Athanasius
had visited the congregation of monks on the Upper Nile, and he was
enthusiastic in his admiration of their manner of life. It is supposed
that whilst at Treves he began to write the "Life of S. Anthony," if
indeed he was the author of that popular work. Here he is thought to
have been visited by Maxentius, Bishop of Poitiers, and brother of the
Bishop of Treves, bringing with him Martin, then a friend and pupil of
S. Hilary, this latter at the time a wealthy noble of Poitiers. And
from the discourse of Athanasius, if this meeting actually took place,
the imagination of Martin was fired with ambition to reproduce in
Europe the life of the fathers of the desert in Egypt.

Anyhow, to this residence of Athanasius at Treves, "one may trace the
introduction into the Western Church of the principle and laws of
ascetic self-renunciation, which, though they had run to great extremes
in the Nitrian desert and in the valley of the Nile, assumed noble form
when the idea took possession of the more phlegmatic temperament and
practical energies of the West. Without discussing the vexed question
of the authorship of the 'Life of S. Anthony,' which is referred by
many traditional testimonies to Athanasius, we think it obvious, from
the 'Confessions' of Augustine, that the religious circles at Treves
had been strongly moved by the self-abandonment and entire consecration
to the religious life of the exiled bishops. It was here, while reading
the 'Life of S. Anthony' that the friends of Augustine at length
yielded themselves to God." [Footnote: Reynolds (H. R.), "Athanasius,
his Life and Life-work," Lond., R.T.S., 1889, p. 54.]

Martin was at Poitiers in 361 when S. Hilary had returned from exile to
his bishopric and to his wife and daughter. He had been living the
eremitic life on the isle of Gallinaria, shaped so like a snail, off
the coast of Albenga, and had nearly poisoned himself with trying to
eat hellebore leaves. On reaching Poitiers, he told his old friend the
Bishop, that he desired to follow the monastic life in his diocese, and
obtained his cheerful consent. Some way up the Clain, five miles from
Poitiers, the little river glides through a broad valley, with meadows
on its left bank often overflowed, but with a ridge of conglomerate
rocks pierced with caves on the right bank. Here Martin settled, and
there can exist no manner of doubt that his first settlement was in one
of these grottoes, though at a later period the monastery was moved to
the further side of the river, when the caves proved inadequate to
harbour all the candidates for the religious life who placed themselves
under his direction. One of his monks, however, named Felix, refused to
quit his cave that is now shown, and in which he died perhaps, in an
inaccessible cliff that is surmounted by a cross.

The friable conglomerate has yielded to storm and rain, and much of it
has crumbled down; but the openings to the caves are visible from
below, where the slopes are purple and fragrant with violets and,
later, pink with primulas, and the rocks are wreathed with clematis. A
pure spring bursts forth at the foot and works its way through beds of
forget-me-not and marsh marigold to the Clain.

Martin had been ordained exorcist and then priest.

His most trusted disciples were Felix, Macarius, and Florentius. As
already said, except in the Gallo-Roman cities, Christianity did not
exist. The country-folk were pagans. Martin lifted up his eyes and saw
that the fields were white to harvest. He preached throughout Poitou
and La Vendee, and visited the coast to the isles of Yeu and Re. He
travelled on foot, or mounted on an ass, sought every village and
hamlet, to sow the seed of the Word of God, and where he could not go
himself, he sent his disciples. Liguge, his monastery, became a centre
of evangelisation to the country round. It was the first monastery
planted on Gaulish soil. It was ruined by the Saracens in 732, and
again by the Normans in 848. It was rebuilt in 1040. But Liguge never
had a worse enemy than one of its abbots, Arthur de Cosse. He made
public confession of Calvinism; gave up the abbey to be pillaged, sold
its lands for his own advantage, and did everything in his power to
utterly ruin it. It owed its restoration to the care of Francois de
Servier, Bishop of Bayonne.

Liguge was, however, destroyed at the French Revolution. In 1864 it was
acquired by the Benedictines, and rebuilt on a large scale. It was
enriched with a valuable library, and became a nursery of Christian art
and literature. But the law of 1901 banished the monks, and the vast
building is now empty, as the State has not so far found any use for

In the year 971 the episcopal throne of Tours was vacant, and the
citizens at once decided on securing Martin as their bishop. But when
he arrived on foot, dust-covered, with shaggy hair, the bishops
assembled to consecrate protested against the election. It was
customary to choose a bishop from among the nobility and the wealthy.
Defensor, the Bishop of Angers, signalised himself by his opposition.
He absolutely refused to consecrate the poor dishevelled monk. But when
the lector opening the psalter at hazard read out the words, "Out of
the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because
of thine enemies: that thou mightest still the enemy and the defender"
(defensor), [Footnote: So in the old Gallican Version; in the Vulgate
the word is _Ultor_.] the people raised a great shout, God
himself had spoken, and the bishops had to yield to the popular will.
Martin was then aged fifty-four.

No sooner was he installed than he cast about him to establish on the
banks of the Loire a monastic colony such as he had founded at Liguge.
He found a place where in later times rose the great abbey of
Marmoutier, the wealthiest in France, and with a church that was called
the Gem of Touraine. But then it was merely a chalk cliff rising above
the Loire on its right bank, two miles above Tours, and on the summit
had stood the old Gaulish city of Altionos. The Romans had transferred
the capital of the Turones to its present site, and had given it the
name of Caesarodunum. But Althionos was probably not wholly abandoned,
poor Gauls still dwelt there in their huts, and nothing had been done
to bring them into the fold of Christ's Church.

The cliff with its caves had already been sanctified. It had been a
refuge in time of persecution, and there S. Gatianus, the first Bishop
of Tours, in the third century had sheltered. But now Martin and his
disciples set to work to enlarge and remodel the subterranean
habitations; they scooped out a chapel, and they formed a baptistry.

In 853 the Northmen came up the Loire and massacred a hundred and
sixteen of the monks. Only twenty-four escaped. In 982 Marmoutier was
refounded by Eudo, Count of Blois, and the noble basilica built below
the rock was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1095. The vast wealth of
the abbey led to enlargements and splendour of architectural work; but
in 1562 the Huguenots wrecked it, burned the precious library with all
its MSS., broke down the altars, and shattered the windows. Its
complete destruction, however, was due to the Revolution, when in 1791
it was completely pulled down, nothing left of the splendid church but
the tower and a portion of the northern transept that was glued to the
rock. The oratory of S. Martin was levelled to the rock on which it

[ILLUSTRATION: LE TROU BOUROU. A cave fortress on the Beune. The hole
through which the man is peering was used for defence of the steep
ascent to the entrance. Note the arrangement for barring the door.]

occupied by S. Martin, Bishop of Tours, A.D. 371-396. On the right-
hand side is the well, on the left the font for immersion. The niches
in the wall are for the holy oils. ]

But the fact of the transfer of the monastery to the flat land below
the cliff had this effect, that the old caves, the original cradle of
Marmoutier, were neglected and forgotten. They were overgrown by
brambles, crumbled away, and none visited them.

In 1859 the oratory in which S. Martin had prayed was restored or
rather rebuilt from its foundations.

One night when Martin was engaged therein in reading the Scriptures,
the door was burst open and in broke a party of masqueraders. They had
disguised themselves as Jupiter, Minerva, and Mercury, and some damsel
devoid of modesty presented herself before the startled modesty of the
bishop without disguise of any sort, as Venus rising from the foam of
the sea. Some were dressed as Wood Druses very much like the devils of
popular fancy. Mercury was a sharp, shrewd wag, and bothered the saint
greatly, as he admitted to Sulpicius, his biographer, but Jupiter was a
"stupid sot." At the rebuke of Martin the whole gang good-humouredly

I was in this cell on Mid Lent Sunday, when hearing a noise outside, I
looked forth and saw a party of masqueraders frolic and frisk past on
their way to a tavern where was to be a costume ball. So goes the
world. Some fifteen hundred and thirty years ago the Gospel was being
preached in Tours, as it is now, men and women were striving to follow
its precepts as now, and tomfoolery was rampant in Tours fifteen
hundred and thirty years ago as it is now.

And now, as to the remains in the rock of the primitive Marmoutier. The
grottoes of S. Gatianus and of the disciples of S. Martin have been
cleared out. There is a little arcade of three round-headed unadorned
arches cut in the cliff that served as a cloister, and there is the old
baptistry where Martin admitted his converts into the Christian Church,
sunk in the rock for adult and complete submersion, and the niches in
the wall for the sacred oils. Adjoining is the cave in which the
neophyte unclothed and afterwards reclothed himself. There are graves
sunk in the rock, where some of his disciples were laid, and there is
the chapel partly in the rock and partly rebuilt, dedicated later by
Gregory of Tours to the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, but of which in
after times a different story was told--namely that seven brothers who
had been devoted disciples of Martin prayed him when he was dying that
they might speedily follow, and on the anniversary of his death they
all seven fell asleep.

There is another cave that escaped destruction at the Revolution,
though opening out of the transept of the church. It is that of the
Penitence of Brice.

Brice had been adopted as a child by Martin, and brought up by him to
be a monk. But Brice had no liking for the religious life, and was very
disrespectful to his master. One day a sick man came to see Martin and
asked of Brice where the saint was. "The fool is yonder," answered he,
"staring at the sky like an idiot."

One day Martin rebuked Brice for buying horses and slaves at a high
price, and even providing himself with beautiful young girls. Brice was
furious, and said. "I am a better Christian than you. I have had an
ecclesiastical education from my youth, and you were bred up amidst the
license of a camp."

On the death of S. Martin, the people of Tours, tired of having a saint
at their head, with proverbial fickleness chose Brice as his successor
because rich--he was said to have been the son of the Count of Nevers--
and because he was anything but a saint. As bishop he showed little
improvement, and gave great scandal. Lazarus, Bishop of Aix, accused
him before several councils. At last a gross outrage on morals was
attributed to him, and caused his flight. A nun gave birth to a child,
and confessed that she had been seduced by the bishop. Brice either ran
away from Tours or was deposed. A priest named Justinian was elected in
his room. On the death of Justinian, Armentius succeeded him. Brice
remained in exile till the death of Armentius, and then ventured back
to Tours to reclaim his episcopal throne. He was allowed to reascend
it, and he occupied it for seven years; and the cave in which he did
penance for his frailties and the scandal he had caused is intact to
this day. He died, after having been nominally bishop for forty-seven
years, the greater portion of which time he had spent in exile. The
Church of Rome is certainly very charitably disposed in numbering him
among the saints. Why he should be regarded as the patron of wool-
combers one cannot see, [Footnote: The following prayer is recommended
by the Archbishop of Tours to the faithful for use. "Nous vous
supplions, Seigneur, par l'intercession de S. Brice, Eveque et
Confesseur, de conserver votre peuple qui se confie en votre amour;
afin que, par les vertues de notre Saint Pontife, nous meritions de
partager avec lui les joies celestes." The virtues of Brice!] but as
such he enjoyed some popularity.

There is yet another cave in the Marmoutier rocks that may be
mentioned; it is that of S. Leobard. Leobard was a saint of the sixth
century, a native of Auvergne, who, coming to pray at the tomb of S.
Martin, resolved on spending the rest of his days in one of the cells
of Martin's monastery in the rocks. He settled into an untenanted cave,
which he enlarged, and lived in it for twenty-two years. At the
extremity he dug a deep pit in which he desired to be buried standing
with his face to the East, thus to await the coming of the Lord. But
although his desire was fulfilled, the monks of Marmoutier would not
let his body rest there, but hauled it up, that it might become an
object of devotion to the faithful.

The Abbey of Brantome on the Dronne (Dep. Dordogne) was originally,
like Marmoutier, a cavern monastery, and like those of Marmoutier, the
monks waxing fat, they kicked and abandoned the grottoes for a stately
structural monastery. The beautiful Romanesque tower of the church
stands on top of a rock that is honeycombed with their cells. The
church, consisting of nave only, is of marvellous beauty, early
pointed, and built on a curve, as there was but little space to spare
between the river and the cliffs. Unhappily church and cloister were
delivered over to be "restored" by that arch-wrecker, Abbadie, who has
done such incalculable mischief in Perigord and the Angoumois, and his
hoof-mark is visible here. The monks, not content with a sumptuous
Gothic abbey, pulled it down and built one in the baroque style, and
had but just completed it when the Revolution broke out "and the flood
came and swept them all away." In the court behind this modern
structure is to be seen the cliff perforated with caves; it has,
however, been cut back to the detriment of these, so that we have them
shorn of their faces. Nevertheless they are interesting. The old
monolithic chapel of the monastery remains, turned into a pigeonry, and
with the steps left that gave access to the pulpit, and two pieces of
sculpture on a very large scale, cut out of the living rock. One
represents the Crucifixion with SS. Mary and John; the other has been
variously explained as the Last Judgment or the Triumph of Death. It
perhaps represents the Triumph of Christ over Death. His figure and the
kneeling figures of His Mother and the Beloved Disciple were, however,
never completed, and remain in the rough.

Beneath the figure of Christ is Death, figured by a head surmounted by
a crown of bones, and a crest representing a spectre armed with a club.
On each side is an angel blowing a trumpet. Below are ranged a dozen
heads of popes, bishops, princes, knights, and ladies, in boxes to
represent graves.


Sculpture in the cave monastery of Brantome. The figure of Christ was
never completed. Below is a head crowned with bones, for Death, with
Time as crest. Below, in boxes, are the dead, of various degrees.]

In the front of this huge piece of sculpture are trestles planted in
the ground to support planks to serve as tables when the Brantomois
desire to have a banquet and a dance.

The sculpture above described is not earlier than the sixteenth
century. A few paces from it, in the same line and almost under the
tower, is another grotto called _La Babayou_--that is to say "of
the statue," and it probably at one time enshrined an image of a saint.
On the left of the subterranean church is the fountain of the little
Cut-throat already mentioned. S. Sicarius, whose relics were the great
"draw" to Brantome in the Middle Ages, was supposed to have been one of
the Innocents slain by Herod; and the relics were also supposed to have
been given to the abbey by Charlemagne. As there was no historic
evidence that Charles the Great ever had a set of little bones passed
off on him as those of the Innocent, or that he ever made a present to
the abbey of a relic, it will be seen that a good deal of supposition
goes to the story. As I have said before, how it was that the child of
a Hebrew mother acquired a Latin name, and that one so peculiar, we are
not informed.

Outside the town gate are other large excavations that are supposed to
have formed a temple of Mithras, but this is mere conjecture. The
largest is now employed as a _Tir_--a shooting gallery. That there
were buildings connected with it is seen by the holes in the rock to
receive rafters.

S. Maximus, Bishop of Riez, who died in 460, was born at Chateau Redon,
near Digne, and he entered the monastic life on the isle of Lerins,
under S. Honoratus, and when that saint was raised in 426 to the
episcopal throne of Arles, Maximus succeeded him as Abbot of Lerins.
But this monastery was becoming crowded, and Maximus pined for the
solitary life, so one day he took a boat, crossed to the mainland, and
plunged into the wild country about the river Verdon, that has sawn for
itself a chasm through the limestone; where it debouches, he planted
himself at a place since called Moustier-Ste-Marie. The lips of the
crevasse are linked by a chain, with a gilt star hanging in the midst,
little under 690 feet above the bed of the torrent. No one knows when
this star was hung there, but it is supposed to have been an _ex
voto_ of a chevalier, de Blac. Within the ravine, reached by a
narrow goat-path, were caves in the cliffs, and into one of these
Maximus retired in 434 and was speedily followed by other solitaries.
The caves are still there, the faces walled up, but as at Liguge, and
as at Marmoutier, and as at Brantome, so was it here. As the monastery
grew rich, the solitaries crawled out of their holes into which the sun
never shone, and erected their residence at the opening of the ravine.
A chapel remains, founded by Charlemagne, but rebuilt in the fourteenth
or fifteenth century, reached by a stair protected by a parapet.

Moustier was famous at the close of the seventeenth and beginning of
the eighteenth century for its faience, with elegant designs and good
colouring. Specimens are now extremely scarce. Two vases of this ware
may be seen on the altar of the chapel. The principal potters there
were Pierre Fournier, Joseph Olery, Paul Rouse, and Feraud. They
usually signed their work with their initials. Maximus was just a
century later than Martin; the fever for imitating the lives of the
Fathers of the Deserts of Egypt was then in full heat. His master,
Honoratus, had been wont to escape from his island monastery and hide
in a cave in the glowing red porphyry rocks of the Esterelle. I can
understand his retiring thither, above a sea blue as the neck of a
peacock, among glowing red rocks, and masses of pines, and heather, and
arbutus, and every kind of fragrant herb, and where, when only
snowdrops are appearing in England, the spires of white asphodel are
basking in the sun.

[Illustration: CAVES OF LIGUGE

The primitive rock monastery of S. Martin. It was abandoned later when
the monks moved to the further side of the river; but Felix, a disciple
of S. Martin, remained and died in the cave, now inaccessible, below
the cross.]

Near Nottingham are the "Popish Holes," close to the river Lene. They
are thus described by Stukeley. "One may easily guess Nottingham to
have been an ancient town of the Britons; as soon as they had proper
tools they fell to work upon the rocks, which everywhere offer
themselves so commodiously to make houses in, and I doubt not first was
a considerable collection of this sort. What is visible at present is
not so old a date as their time, yet I see no reason to doubt but it is
formed upon theirs. There is a ledge of perpendicular rock hewn out
into a church, houses, chambers, dove-houses, &c. The church is like
those in the rocks of Bethlehem and other places in the Holy Land; the
altar is natural rock, and there has been painting upon the wall, a
steeple, I suppose, where a bell hung, and regular pillars. The river
winding about makes a fortification to it, for it comes at both ends of
the cliff, leaving a plain in the middle. The way into it was by a gate
cut out of the rock, and with an oblique entrance for more safety.
Without is a plain with three niches, which I fancy their place of
judicature, or the like. Between this and the castle is a hermitage of
like workmanship."

These remains pertain to a cell called S. Mary le Rock, a quarter of a
mile west of the Castle, and belonged to Lenton priory. It was
abandoned after the time of Edward IV., and is supposed to have come
down in a perfect form to the time of the Civil War, when it was much
injured by the Puritans as Papists' holes. A good many illustrations
exist of it after the Civil Wars, as a large folding plate in Throsby's
and Thoroton's "History of Nottinghamshire," 1797, but there is none to
show what it was before.

It possesses a pigeonry much like that at Brantome, but on a smaller
scale, that wiseacres have pronounced to be a Columbarium, not for
doves, but for the reception of jars containing the ashes of the dead,
and have attributed this dovecote to Roman times. Mr. William Stetton,
a local antiquary, writing in 1806, stated that the excavation
"appeared to have been made in the earliest ages of Christianity, when
the converts resorted for secrecy and security to grottoes or caves,
and similar places of retirement and seclusion. The style is evidently
Roman. The whole interior appears to have been invested with a thin
plastering, or perhaps, only a wash, which has been painted in various
colours in mosaic devices. The altar still remains pretty perfect
notwithstanding the ravages of time and wanton depredation. A Roman
column still adorns the north side of it, but its corresponding one on
the south side has long been destroyed."

An architect, John Carter, in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for 1860,
stated that the "arrangements of the excavations are monastical; and
we, with much satisfaction, trace out the infirmary, refectory,
dormitory, chapter-house, and the chapel. The latter place gives two
aisles, divided by perforated arches, with headways in the manner of
groins, and at the east end an altar."

There can be no question now that although the original excavations
were possibly enough Roman-British, the Papists' holes, as we have them
now, are truly, as Mr. Carter says, monastical.

How absurd old fashioned antiquaries were may be proved by the fact
that the chimney that warmed the monks, and up which went the smoke
from their kitchen, was pronounced to be a _bustum_, a flue
employed for the cremation of the dead. As to the "Roman" column, that
also is mediaeval.

Curzon, in his "Monasteries of the Levant," 1849, says "the scenery of
Meteora (Mt. Pindus in Albania) is of a very singular kind. The end of
a range of rocky hills seems to have been broken off by some
earthquake, or washed away by the Deluge, leaving only a series of
twenty or thirty tall, thin, smooth, needle-like rocks, many hundred
feet in height; some like gigantic tusks, some shaped like sugar-
loaves, and some like vast stalagmites. These rocks are surrounded by a
beautiful grassy plain, on three sides of which grow groups of detached
trees, like those of an English park. Some of these rocks shoot up
quite clean and perpendicularly from the smooth green grass, some are
in clusters, some stand alone like obelisks. Nothing can be more
strange and wonderful than this romantic region, which is unlike
anything I have ever seen before or since. In Switzerland, Savoy, the
Tyrol, is nothing at all to be compared to these extraordinary peaks.
At the foot of many of these rocks there are numerous caves and holes,
some of which appear to be natural, but most of them are artificial;
for in the dark and wild ages of monastic fanaticism, whole flocks of
hermits roosted in these pigeonholes. Some of these caves are so high
up in the rocks that one wonders how the poor old gentlemen could ever
get up to them, whilst others are below the surface, and the anchorites
who burrowed in them, like rabbits, frequently afforded rare sport to
parties of roving Saracens; indeed, hermit-hunting scenes seem to have
been a fashionable amusement previous to the twelfth century. In early
Greek frescoes and in small stiff pictures with gold backgrounds, we
see many frightful representations of men on horseback in Roman armour,
with long spears, who are torturing and slaying Christian devotees. In
these pictures the monks and hermits are represented in gowns made of a
kind of coarse matting, and they have long beards, and some of them are
covered with hair; these, I take it, were the ones most to be admired,
as in the Greek Church sanctity is always in the inverse ratio to
beauty. All Greek saints are painfully ugly, but the hermits are much
uglier, dirtier, and older than the rest. They must have been very
fusty people beside, eating roots and living in holes like rats and

On the summit of these needles of rock are monasteries. Of these there
were twenty-four, but now seven alone remain tenanted by monks. The
sole access to them is by nets let down by ropes and hauled up by a
windlass, or as an alternative in the case of that of S. Barlaam, by a
succession of ladders.

As an example of a rock monastery and church in Egypt, I may quote the
same author's description of that of Der el Adra, or of the Pully,
situated on the top of Gebel el Ferr, where a precipice about 200 feet
in height rises out of the waters of the Nile.

The access to it is by a cave or fissure in the rock, the opening being
about the size of the inside of a capacious chimney. "The abbot crept
in at a hole at the bottom, and telling me to observe where he placed
his feet, he began to climb up the cleft with considerable agility. A
few preliminary lessons from a chimney-sweep would have been of the
greatest service to me, but in this branch of art my education had been
neglected, and it was with no small difficulty that I climbed up after
the abbot, whom I saw striding and sprawling in the attitude of a
spread eagle above my head. My slippers soon fell off upon the head of
a man under me. At least twenty men were scrambling and puffing
underneath him. Arms and legs were stretched out in all manner of
attitudes, the forms of the more distant climbers being lost in the
gloom of the narrow cavern up which we were advancing. Thence the climb
proceeded up a path. At the summit beside the monastic habitations was
the church cut out of the rock, to which descent is made by a narrow
flight of steps."

Mr. Curzon gives a plan of this church as half catacomb or cave, and
one of the earliest Christian buildings which has preserved its

The caves of Inkermann in the Crimea have been already alluded to. Here
is a description of a subterranean abandoned monastery and church.

"Having traversed a passage about fifty feet long, we reached a church,
or rather the remains of one; for a portion of the living rock in which
these works were cut had fallen and carried with it half of this
curious crypt. Its semicircular vaulted roof, and the pillars in its
corners, indicated it to be of Byzantine origin; while a Greek
sculptured cross, in the centre of the roof, told that it was a temple
dedicated to that religion. The altar, and any sculpture which might
have existed near it, are gone, and have long since been burnt into
lime, or built into some work at Sevastopol. Beyond the church we found
a large square apartment, entered by another passage, and looking over
the valley of Inkermann. A few more cells, resembling those on the
stairs, composed the whole of this series of excavated chambers, the
arrangements of which at once proclaimed them to have been a monastery.
These were the cells, the refectory, and the church. There is nothing
in their construction as a work of art; yet there is an absence of that
roughness and simplicity which exist in many caverns of the opposite
mountain, and which indicate their being of a much earlier date than
these." [Footnote: Scott (C. H.), "The Baltic, the Black Sea, and the
Crimea," Lond. 1854, p. 280.]



Standing upon the pinnacle upon which is planted the marvellous
Romanesque cathedral of Le Puy, and looking north, is seen in the
distance the basaltic mass of Polignac crowned by a lofty donjon.

That mass of columnar basalt was occupied and held sacred in Roman
times, and was dedicated to Apollo. In the courtyard of the castle is a
well, l'Albime it is called, that descends to the depth of 260 feet,
and there still exists an enormous stone mask of the solar god that
closed it, and from the mouth of which oracles were given. How these
were produced is now made clear. In the side of the well is a chamber
cut out of the rock that concealed a confederate who uttered the
response to the questioner, and the voice came up hollow and with
reverberation betwixt the gaping lips of stone, to overawe and satisfy
the inquirer.

"Before the old tribes of Hellas created temples to the divinities,"
says Porphyry in his treatise 'On the Cave of the Nymphs,' "they
consecrated caverns and grottoes to their service in the island of
Crete to Zeus, in Arcadia to Artemis and Pan, in the isle of Naxos to

And from caves issued the most famous Grecian oracles, and the
mysteries were often celebrated in them. The cave in which Zeus as an
infant was concealed on Mount Ida naturally became sacred. Kronos had
received the Kingdom of the World on condition that he should rear no
male children. Accordingly when one was born he ate it. But when Zeus
arrived, his mother gave Kronos a stone to eat in place of the child,
and hurried off the babe to Crete, where it was nourished in a cave by
the Corybantes, who sounded cymbals and drums to drown his cries.

There was a Charonion at Hierapolis, an account of which we get from
Apulaeus and Dio Cassius. It was deep. From the orifice, which was
surrounded by a balustrade, escaped so dense a vapour that animals held
in it died, and men who inhaled it were stupefied. The priests who
ministered to the oracle professed to be immune, but Strabo tells us
that they simply held their breath when they stooped over the fumes. He
who desired to consult the oracle was for a while placed on a platform
above the opening.

On the flank of Mount Citheron was a cave dedicated to the Nymphs.
Those who desired to inquire of them entered the grotto, when it was
supposed that the Nymphs inspired them with a knowledge of the future;
and such persons were entitled _Nympholeptes_. The corresponding
expression among the Latins was _lymphatici_, expressive of the
pale and exhausted condition in which they were when they issued from
the cave. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea says: "There are exhalations that
produce drowsiness and procure visions;" and Apulaeus says: "Due to the
religious fury they inspire, men remain without eating or drinking, and
some become prophets and reveal future things."

Apollo was the god of prophecy above all others. He was born at Delos,
according to the poets; and it is there that the Homeric poems say was
one of his most ancient sanctuaries. Thence, doubtless, issued the
twenty famous oracles at the epoch of the colonisation. At Delphi the
priestess was seated on a tripod over a crack in the rock, from which
exhaled mephitic vapours that rendered her delirious, and her
incoherent exclamations were reduced into hexameters by the attendant
priests. But there was also at Delos the Manteion, the prophetic
grotto. This has of late years been discovered along with the
foundations of the temple. The Manteion is a gallery, naturally bored
in the rock. The winds that penetrate it cause strange pipings and
hollow moans, that served as an accompaniment to the oracles. But the
most remarkable of these caverns was that of Trophonios in Beotia.
Pausanius tells us the legend of its origin. The Beotians had suffered
from drought for two years and sent to consult the oracle of Delphi.
The reply received was that they must refer themselves to Trophonios at
home. But who was the party? The Beotians had never heard of him. Then
the oldest of their deputies recalled having once pursued a swarm of
bees and followed it till it disappeared in a cave. That doubtless was
the spot, and there, after the offering of sacrifices, Trophonios
obligingly showed himself, and explained who he was and what were his
powers. Since that time his oracle was much consulted, and happily an
account of how he, or his priests, befooled visitors to the cave has
been given us by Pausanius from his personal experience.

Those who wished to consult the oracle had first to purify themselves
by spending some days in the sanctuary of the Guardian Spirit and of
Fortune, to abstain from warm baths, but to bathe in the river
Hercynia; they might eat as much as they liked of the meat offered in
sacrifice. "You are conducted during the night to the river, where you
are bathed and rubbed with oil by two boys of the age of thirteen. Then
the priests take possession of you, and you are conducted to two
fountains side by side. You drink of one, that of Oblivion, so as to
disengage your thoughts from what is past, then that of Remembrance, to
assure your recollecting what is about to take place. After having
addressed your prayers to a statue, you go to the oracle, dressed in a
linen tunic girded below the breast, and booted in the fashion of the
country. The oracle is on the mountain above the sacred grove. It is
surrounded by a marble wall, about the height of your waist. On this wall
are planted twigs of copper linked together by copper filaments, and the
gates are in this grating. Within this enclosure is a chasm, not
natural, but excavated with a good deal of art and regularity, in form
like a baker's oven. There is no ladder there for descent into the
cave, and one is brought, that is light and narrow. Once at the bottom
you see on one side, between the ground and the masonry, a hole about
large enough for a man to squeeze through. One lies on the back, and
holding in one hand a honey-cake, thrust the feet in at the opening,
and then work oneself till the legs are in up to the knees. Then, all
at once, the rest of the body is dragged down with force and rapidity,
just as if you were swept forward by an eddy in a river.

"Once arrived in the secret place, all do not learn the future in the
same manner. Some see what is to befall them unrolled in vision, others
hear it by the ear. Then you ascend by the same opening whereby you
descended, going feet foremost. No one, it is said, has died in the
cave, with the exception of one of the guardsmen of Demetrius, and he
went down, not to consult the god, but in hopes of plundering the
sanctuary of its gold and silver; his carcase, they say, was not
ejected by the orifice that is sacred, but was found in another spot.
On issuing from the cave of Trophonios the priests lay hold of you, and
after having planted you on the seat of Remembrance, question you as to
what you have seen and heard. When you have told them, they hand you
over, overwhelmed with fear, and unrecognisable by yourself and others,
to other ministers who convey you to the edifice dedicated to the Good
Genius and to Fortune."

Those issuing from the cave for long after remained dejected, pale, and
melancholy. Pausanius says that after a while one who had gone through
the ordeal could laugh; but Suidas tells us that those who returned
from having made the descent never smiled again, and this gave occasion
to a saying relative to a preternaturally grave personage, "He has
consulted the oracle of Trophonios."

Plutarch gives us some further particulars. The description made by one
of the characters he introduces speaks of visions caught by inhaling a
stupefying gas. Under its influence hallucinations were produced in
which Trophonios himself was thought to appear, and the tortures of
Tartarus were revealed. On emerging from the cave into fresh air, the
questioner fell into fits of delirium, and thought he still saw strange
visions. In the biography of Apollonios of Tyana, Philostratus tells us
that the sage and wonder-worker was very desirous to penetrate into the
cave, but that the priest raised objections and made difficulties, till
at last his patience failed and he entered by main force and remained
within seven days. So much in this semi-fictitious biography is true
perhaps--that this hero did force his way in. It is also true that he
had sufficient discretion not to tell what he had discovered of the
tricks there perpetrated.

There was another of these caves at Acharaca, near Nysa, on the road to
Tralles. The gas there exhaled had a medical healing virtue, and also
gave occasion to the delivery of oracles. Persons suffering from an
illness and placing confidence in the power of the gods, travelled
thither and stayed some time with the priests, who lived near the cave.
Those ministers of the gods then entered the cavern and spent a night
in it. After that they prescribed to their patients the remedies
revealed to them in their dreams. Often, however, they took their
patients along with them into the cave, where they were expected to
remain for several days fasting and falling into prophetic sleep.

About four centuries before the Christian era, there existed at Rome a
temple dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, by the Tarquins, and beneath
it was a subterranean chamber in which were preserved a collection of
ancient oracles, the keeping of which was confided to his officers, the
duumviri, and the penalty of death attached to the divulgation
unlicensed, of their contents.

According to the legend, a strange woman, the sibyl of Cumae, brought to
Tarquin the old nine books of oracles, and demanded for them three
hundred pieces of gold. The king considered the price exorbitant,
scoffed at the woman, and refused to buy. Thereupon the sibyl cast
three of the volumes into the fire, and demanded the same sum precisely
for the remaining six. Tarquin again declined to purchase. She then
burnt three more, but still required for the remainder the original
price. The king now thought that he had acted unwisely, and hastened to
conclude the bargain and secure the oracles that contained prophecies
relative to the destiny of the Roman people.

The oracles were written on palm-leaves in Greek, and with various
signs and hieroglyphs, and the volumes were bundles of these leaves
tied together.

In the year 671 of Rome, eighteen years before the Christian era, the
old Temple of Jupiter, built by the Tarquins, was destroyed by fire,
and with it perished the Books of Destiny. Six years after the temple
was rebuilt, and an attempt was made to recover the Sibylline oracles,
by sending throughout Italy for oracles reported to be Sibylline. The
deputies sent brought back from Erythaea a thousand verses, but the
collection rapidly increased in such quantities that Augustus ordered
them to be examined, and such as proved to be worthless he burnt. After
a second sifting, those that remained were put into two golden coffers
and placed under the pedestal of the statue of the Palatine Apollo.

As is well known, there were in circulation a number of forged
Sibylline oracles; some of these were the product of the Jewish
Therapeutae, others of Christians. In his hatred of Christianity, the
Emperor Julian ordered search to be made for these fictitious oracular
books, that they might be destroyed. In 363 the Temple of the Palatine
Apollo caught fire and was destroyed. The Christians charged Julian
with having caused the fire so as to get rid of the Sibylline oracles
hid under the statue of Apollo. But these had not been injured; the
gold boxes in which they were, were opened, and to their confusion the
Christians found that the oracles contained no prophecies concerning
Christ, only _sortes_ celebrating the gods Zeus, Aphrodite, Hera,

The accusation brought by the Christians against Julian recoiled upon
them, for it was they who, later, by the hands of Stilicho, destroyed
the collection. The order for the destruction was given by two
Christian emperors, Honorius and Arcadius, on the plea that these
oracles favoured and encouraged paganism.

Saul, it will be remembered went to consult a witch in the cave of
Endor, where she conjured up before him the spirit of Samuel.

Isaiah rebukes the Jews for "lodging in the monuments," doubtless to
obtain oracles from the dead, to raise up the ghosts of the deceased,
and exhort from them prophecies as to the future. As already pointed
out, the dead and the pagan gods were one and the same. To consult a
deity was to consult a hero or an ancestor of a former age.

There is a curious story in an Icelandic Saga of a shepherd, named
Hallbjoern, on a farm where was a huge cairn over the dead scald or poet
Thorleif. The shepherd, whilst engaged on his guard over his master's
flock, was wont to lie on the ground and sleep there. On one occasion
he saw the cairn open and the dead man come forth, and Thorleif
promised to endow him with the gift of poetry if he would compose his
first lay in his, the dead man's praise. And he further promised that
Hallbjoern should become a famous scald and sing the praises of great
chieftains. Thereupon the tenant of the tomb retired within again, and
the shepherd on waking found himself endowed with poetic gift, and he
sang a lay in honour of Thorleif. "And he became a famous scald, and
went abroad, and sang songs in honour of many great men, and obtained
high honour, and good gifts, and became very wealthy." [Footnote:
Fornmavma Soegur, Copenh. 1827, iii. pp. 102-3.]

It will be remembered that Saul's interview was with the ghostly Samuel
through the intervention of the witch. And there are many stories of
living men endeavouring to obtain knowledge of the future through
invocation of the spirits of the dead. Indeed spiritualists at the
present day carry on the same business.

One thing that conduced to the belief that certain caves were inhabited
by gods and spirits, was that strange sounds at times issued from them.
These were caused by currents of air entering some of the apertures and
vibrating through the passages, provoking notes as if these galleries
were organ pipes. This is the explanation of the AEolian cavern of
Terni, supposed to be the abode of spirits; and a cave near Eisenach
was long reported to be an entrance to hell, because of the moans and
sighs that were heard issuing from it.

The echo also was quite inexplicable to the ignorant, and was assumed
to be the voice of some spirit or mountain gnome living in the heart of
the rock, to whose habitation a cave gave access.

An abandoned mine with a pool at the bottom, on Dartmoor, is thought to
be the abode of a spirit whose wails may be heard when the wind blows,
and whence a voice issues calling out the name of that person who is
next doomed to die in the parish of Walkhampton.

The most remarkable representative in the Middle Ages of the cave of
Trophonios was that in Lough Derg in Ireland, the purgatory of S.
Patrick as it was called. The origin is obscure, but it sprang into
notoriety through the publication by a monk, Henry of Saltrey, of the
descent of a knight Owain into it. Owain had been in the service of
King Stephen, and he made his descent in the year 1153. Whether there
ever were such a person as the knight Owain, or whether he was a mere
invention of Henry of Saltrey is uncertain. Saltrey's account is
precise as to the various stages through which Owain passed, and it is
a vulgar rendering of the common stories of visits to purgatory, of
which Dante's is the highest and most poetical version.

Lough Derg is among the dreary and barren mountains and moorlands in
the south of the County of Donegal; in it is an island, with ribbed and
curiously shaped rocks, and among these was supposed to be the entrance
to purgatory.

Giraldus Cambrensis, who wrote his "Topography of Ireland" in 1187,
mentions the island in Lough Derg as among the wonders of Ireland.
[Footnote: But there is no mention of it among the wonders of Ireland
in the Irish Nennius.] It was, he says, divided into two parts, of
which one was fair and pleasant, while the other part was wild and
rough, and believed to be inhabited only by demons. In this part of the
island, he adds, there were nine pits, in any one of which, if a person
was bold enough to pass the night, he would be so much tormented by the
demons that it was a chance if he were found alive in the morning; and
it was reported that he who escaped alive would, from the anguish he
suffered there, be relieved from the torments of the other world.


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