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but a custom at one time prevailed in Franconia, which as it tends to illustrate ancient manners, and is therefore not altogether unconnected with our subject, may be thought worthy of mention. Parents in that country used to supply their children with secret presents, pretending that they had come from St. Nicholas, who, according to them, had a fairy-like fancy for popping in at the closed windows and leaving his gifts behind him. keep up this delusion they would convey the intended gifts into the children's shoes, which had been left under the table to be the more ready for the reception of whatever might be sent; and so eager were the young expectants, and such strict fast would they at times maintain to secure the hoped-for donations, that the sage deluders, who had led them on to this folly, would find it necessary to interfere for their health's sake.* A similar custom of conveying secret gifts on this day did prevail, and perhaps is not yet obsolete, in Italy and France. The boarders in certain convents would each one, upon the Eve of St. Nicholas, place a silk stocking at the Abbess' door, with
* Vigiliam diei pueri a parentibus jejunare eo modo invitantur, quòd persuasum habeant ea munuscula, quæ noctu ipsis in calceos sub mensam ad hoc locatos imponuntur, se a largissimo præsule Nicolao percipere; unde tanto desiderio plerique jejunant, ut quia eorum sanitati timeatur ad cibum compellendi sunt."-BOEMI AUBANI ORBIS TERRARUM EPITOME; Lib. iii. cap. 15, p. 242.
Hildebrand also makes mention of the same sort of thing :-" Denique in nostris ecclesiis nocte natali parentes varia munuscula, crepundia, cistellas, vestes, vehicula, poma, nuces, &c. liberis suis donant, quibus plerumque virga additur, ut metu castigationis eò facilius regnantur. Dantur hæc munuscula nomine S. Christi, quem per tegulas, vel fenestras illabi, vel cum angelis domos obire fingunt. Mos iste similiter a Saturnalibus Gentilium descendere videtur, in quibus ethnicos sportulas sive varia munera ultrò citròque misisse antiquissimus Patrum, Tertullianus, meminit in Lib. de Persecutione."- J. HILDEBRANDI DE DIEBUS FESTIS LIBELLUS, p. 23. Festum Nativit. Christi. § 8.
a piece of paper enclosed commending themselves to Great St. Nicholas of her Chamber. The next day all the votarists assembled to see how far they had been noticed by the saint, when they were sure to find the stockings filled with sweetmeats and other trifles of the same kind, upon which they afterwards made a holy feast.*
These customs are said to have originated in the saint's disposition to secret charity, as exemplified in the following legend-A poor man, in the village of Patara, had three handsome daughters, and, not being able to support them, advised them to seek a subsistence by prostitution. This coming to the ears of St. Nicholas, he determined to relieve them; but as he did not like his little charities to be known, the holy man sallied forth at night upon his benevolent expedition, and, perceiving by the moonlight that their chamber-window was open, he flung in a purse of money, and then took himself off as fast as possible.† FEAST OF ST. NICHOLAS.-December 6th.-This saint, whose Eve I have just been recording, and who was * See BRADY'S CLAVIS CALENDARIA, vol. ii. p. 297.
En la ville de Patare, un homme de bonne maison avoit trois fort belles filles, toutes trois, en âge d'estre mariées, qui par diverses infortunes estoit tombé en si grande necessité, que non seulement il n'avoit pas le moyen de marier ses filles, mais il n'avoit pas desquoy les nourir. Et comme les hommes perdent ordinairement le respect qu'ils doivent porter à Dieu, sans reconnoitre d'ou leur vient le dommage, ce miserable conseilla à ses filles de se prostituer pour gayner leur vie, comme si Dieu ne les eust pû sustenter sans estre offense, et comme s'il n'eust pas esté plus expedient de mourir mille fois de faim que de l'offenser. Le desastre de cette maison vint à la connoissance de Saint Nicolas, qui resolut aussi-tost de remedier à cette necessité, neanmoins en sorte qu'on ne sceust point que cela vinst de luy; car son humilité luy faisoit fuïr la vaine gloire. Il prit une bonne somme d'or, l'envelopa en un linge, et sortit de nuit de sa maison pour s'en aller auprés de celle ou estoit logé ce pauvre gentilhomme; il découvrit à la clarté de la lune une fenestra de la chambre, où il estoit couché, entr'ouverte, et jettant son aumône par là se retira plus viste que le pas."-RIBADENEIRA-LES Fleurs des VIES DES SAINTES, p. 553, tome ii. Folio. Paris, 1686.
Bishop of Myra, was born at Patara, in Lycia, early in the fourth century. He seems to have succeeded Neptune, or Castor and Pollux, as the guardian saint of seamen, a nautical miracle, performed by him, being the occasion of his arriving at this distinction. He had taken it into his head to turn hermit, and with this view he embarked aboard an Egyptian ship on his way to Jerusalem. Now it so happened that the devil also had gotten a fancy for voyaging at the same time, and entered the ship sword in hand with the intention of sending it to the bottom. The sailors did not see him, but the saint, who had always sharp eyes where his old enemy was concerned, detected the fiend in spite of his incognito, and warned his companions to prepare for a dreadful tempest. So too it really happened. The storm arose, and with such fury that the seamen, unable to work the ship any longer, entreated the saint since he had foreseen the hurricane, that he would pray for them now it had come. He did so, and the tempest ceased at once. Nay, for the greater glorification of Nicholas, the man at the wheel was struck dead in order to give him an opportunity of bringing the poor fellow to life again.* But perhaps the greatest miracle in con
Quelque années aprés il eut envie de visiter les saintes lieux de Jerusalem; et de la se retirer dans quelque desert, pour vivre loin du tumulte et de la frequentation du monde; et pour ce sujet s'embarqua dans un vaisseau qui alloit en Egypte. A la sortie du port ils eurent le vent en poupe, la mer calme, et les temps beau; mais le saint vit entrer le diable dans le navire, furieux, l'épée nuë a la main, qui se mettoit en devoir de couler le vaisseau à fond. Alors Saint Nicolas connut par inspiration divine ce qui devoit arriver, et dit aux mariniers, qu'ils se preparassent a soûtenir une horrible tempeste, qui se leva tout à coup, et fut si grande qu'ils pensoient estre tous perdus, et se jettoient aux pieds du Saint, le suppliant, puisque Dieu luy avoit revelé cet orage avant que de l'envoyer, à present qu'il estoit venu de l'appaiser par ses prieres. Saint Nicolas fit oraison, et à l'instant le ciel s'appraisa, les vents cesserent, la mer l'applanit, et ceux qui pen
nection with him is that his marble monument actually sweated oil;
No olives on the marble grow
Yet thence the oily fountains flow.*
This saint was variously painted, the pictures containing allusions, which it has much puzzled the expounders of such mysteries to interpret. Sometimes he is painted with three children; now this may refer to three young soldiers, who having been shipwrecked and unjustly accused of theft, Saint Nicholas released them from the hands of the judge, when he had condemned them to death; or it may refer to the three young women whom he relieved as I have just mentioned; or it may allude to three captives whom he saved from hanging; or it may be a memorial of his having restored to life three children who had been killed, salted, and pickled. "Here" says Molanus† triumphantly," are four ternaries!"-yet he owns he can. not choose amongst them, and infinitely prefers a picture of the Saint at Rome wherein he is represented with an apple in one hand, a book in the other, and above him three wedges of gold, with which he preserved the chastity of the triad of maidens as I have before narrated. This picture, he adds, may be frequently seen transferred to
soient estre perdus, revinrent de mort à vie, et en remercierent Notre Seigneur. Et afin que les merites de Saint Nicolas fussent rendus plus illustres en ce même voyage, l'un des mariniers, qui plioit le bourset au haut de la lune tombu roide mort dans le navire. Saint Nicolas, ayant pitie pour luy, le ressuscita."-RIBADENEIRA, p. 554, tome ii.
* So at least says the Toledan Breviary, an unquestionable authority.
"Cujus tumba fert oléum
Matres olivæ nesciunt;
+ De Historia S. Imag. et Pict. p. 456. Lib. iii. Cap. 53.
coins; and particularly in the island of Corfu, where St. Nicholas is held in especial veneration.*
The most important feature of this festival is the election of the BOY BISHOP.-Episcopus Puerorum; Episcopus Choristarum. To come to a right understanding of this matter it is requisite that we should first see what the ceremony really was, and then enquire into the cause of its connection with St. Nicholas.
The festival of the Boy Bishop was not confined to one country, and of course therefore it may be easily imagined that it assumed a very different complexion, according to time and place, being in one locality of a serious character, and in another verging closely on the burlesque. The best account we have of it in the first of these forms is from the learned John Gregorie, whose attention was called to the subject by happening to find that "in the cathedral of Sarum† there lieth a monument in stone, of a little boie habited all in episcopal robes, a miter upon his head, a crosier in his hand, and the rest accordingly. The monument laie long buried [itself] under the seats near the pulpit, at the removal whereof it was of late years discovered, and translated from thence to the north part of the nave, where it now lieth betwixt the pillars, covered over with a box of wood, not without
Longe itaque præfero alteram Nicolai picturam quæ Romæ est et per Italiam alibi. Habet in una manu pomum, in altera librum, et super eum tres massas auri, quibus filiarum trium pudicitiam cōservavit. Quam etiam picturam videre licet in nummis quibusdam expressam. Eandemque nonnulli observarunt usitatam esse in Insula, Corfu, quæ Nicolaum summa cũ veneratione colit." D. Joannes Molanus DE HISTORIA S. IMAGINUM ET PICTURARUM, p. 456. Cap. 53. Lib. iii. 12mo. Lugduni. 1619.
+ i, e. Salisbury.
This word itself is evidently superfluous, and is therefore placed within brackets.