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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 cu 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.
a general imputation of raritie and reverence, it seeming almost impossible to everie one, that either a Bishop could bee so small in person, or a childe so great in clothes." Finding that he could obtain no solution of this mystery from the learned, Gregory obtained a sight of the Old Statutes of the cathedral, and was fortunate enough to find one amongst them with the title DE EPISCOPO CHORISTARUM of the Choirister Bishop. This referred him to the Sarum Processionale,* in which he found the following minute and curious description of the ceremony-The Episcopus Choristarum was a Chorister Bishop chosen by his fellow ehildren upon St. Nicholas daie.... From this daie 'till Innocents' Daie at night, (it lasted longer at the first) the Episcopus Puerorum" (Boy Bishop) was to bear the name, and hold up the state of a bishop, answerably habited with a crosier, or pastoral staff in his hand, and a miter upon his head; and such an one too som had, as was multis episcoporum mitris sumtuosior, saith oneverie much richer then those of bishops indeed. The rest of his fellows from the same time beeing were to take upon them the style and counterfaict of prebends, yielding to their bishop (or els as if it were) no less then canonical obedience. And look what service the verie bishop himself with his dean and prebends (had they been to officiate) was to have performed, the mass excepted, the verie same was don by the Chorister-bishop and his canons upon this Eve and the Holiedaie. By the use of Sarum, -for 'tis almost the onely place where I can hear anie thing of this; † that of York in their Processional seemeth to
*The Processionale, or Processional, was a book describing the processions to be used on various occasions in the Romish church.
This is somewhat surprising, for, as we shall presently see, the custom was tolerably universal; and yet Gregory, in defiance of Brand's impertinent sneer, was a man of extensive research.
take no notice of it-upon the Eve to Innocents' Daie the chorister-bishop was to go in solemn procession with his fellows ad altare Sanctæ Trinitatis et omnium Sanctorum (as the PROCESSIONAL-or ad altare Innocentium sive Sanctæ Trinitatis, as the PIE*) in capis, et cereis ardentibus in manibus, in their copes, and burning tapers in their hands, the bishop beginning and the other boies following, centum quadraginta quatuor &c. Then the vers, hi empti sunt ex omnibus &c. And this is sang by three of the boies. Then all the boies sing the PROSA† sedentem in supernæ majestatis arce, &c. The chorister bishop in the meantime fumeth the altar first, and then the image of the Holie Trinitie. Then the bishop saith modesta voce the vers lætamini; and
* The PIE was the old Romish service book, and in a more lax sense was sometimes used to express the rules contained in it. Wheatley in his RATIONAL ILLUSTRATION OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (p. 142, chap. iii. sec. 9,) says, "the number and hardness of the rules called the PIE, and the manifold changing of the service, was the cause that to turn the book only was so hard and intricate a matter, that many a times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out." Upon this text he observes in a note, "the word PIE, some suppose, derives its name from Tiva, which the Greeks sometimes use for table or index; though others think these tables or indexes were called the PIE, from the parti-coloured letters whereof they consisted, the initial and some other remarkable letters and words being done in red, and the rest in black. And upon this account when they translate it into Latin, they call it pica. From whence it is supposed that when printing came in use, those letters, which were of a moderate size (i. e. about the bigness of those in the comments and tables) were called pica letters."
+ PROSA, or PROSE, is a name for certain songs of rejoicing in the Romish church, which are chaunted before the gospel or the greater festivals, and are so called because the regular laws of metre are not observed in them. These chaunts have also the appellation of SE QUENTIA, OF SEQUENTS, because they are sequent to, or follow, the HALLELUJAH in the place of the PNEUMA, which is also a song of jubilation, but one of a peculiar kind, in which not the voice, but the tones are drawn out in singing, and as that is done with some difficulty of respiration it is called pneuma.