Графични страници
PDF файл

In con

complained to government that William Kytelar, sheriff of the county (whose relationship to the lady is unknown), had forcibly entered his house with an armed retinue, and, having dug therein, had seized 30001. (an immense sum in those days), secreted there for Adam Blund and his wife Alice, and had carried the same away, together with 1001. belonging to the complainant, the restoration of all which he applied for. The sheriff soon after endeavoured to cause the forfeiture of the 30001., by “ maliciously accusing" the said Adam and his wife of homicides and other crimes. The legal question of ownership of this large sum of money seems to have arisen from intestacy, and to have been referred to the bishop's court, where it was litigated for many years. In 1318, Richard Ledred, a native of London, was consecrated bishop of the see, by Pope John XXII., at Avignon. This prelate, haughty in character, was a thoroughly Romanised hierarch, and as determined as Thomas à Becket in the assertion of clerical dominion. Indeed, he was subsequently deprived of his bishopric by the crown, for having unjustly excommunicated the lord high treasurer of the kingdom; was charged with being accessory to murder, and could not clear himself but by producing a royal pardon, which the king afterwards declared had been obtained by fraud. sequence of the debts due by some of the local nobility to the litigated estate, much powerful interest was exerted in favour of the widow, and the bishop was accused of having, in administering the goods of her intestate husband, deprived her of her rightful share. An endeavour was made to bring him to account in a civil court, and to punish him by indictment, probably for conspiracy.

This bold attempt to render him amenable to lay justice greatly exasperated him. In a canon he drew up he inveighs against opposers of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, tries to prove the supremacy of the episcopal order over kings, and refers to a “pestiferous brood of innovators” in his diocese, who raise "vexatious embroilments in secular courts." There was no statute law against witchcraft, yet the offence seems to have been cognisable in the civil court; but the deficiency of spiritual right to interfere in such a matter was presently somewhat supplied by a bull from our bishop's consecrator, which came opportunely for meeting the case in point, and armed Ledred with tremendous power to retort on those who had attempted to bring him into a civil court, by enabling him to draw them within his own jurisdiction. Accordingly, in 1324, the bishop cited Dame Alice into his court on charges of sorcery and heresy. A jury was empannelled, and brought in the following extraordinary verdict: That Lady Alice Kytelar had abjured the faith during periods of her necromantic doings; that she and her accomplices sacrificed live animals to demons; that she had a familiar called Robin M'Art, and had used words of conjuration to bring “all the lack of the town to her house ;" that the sons and daughters of her four husbands had publicly sought redress against her from the bishop, alleging that her enchantments had caused the death of some of their fathers, and had so bewitched others that they had bestowed their property on her and her eldest son William Outlaw, to the disinherison of the rightful heirs ;"insomuch," says the document, " that her present husband, Sir John Le Poer, Knight, by her drugs, unguents, and magical operations, is reduced to such a condition that he is totally emaciated, and his nails and all the hair of his body have fallen off." The good dame may have dabbled in both medicinal

and superstitious practices—which, in fact, were, at that time, almost inseparably mixed. Fortified by this verdict, the prelate expected that the king's officers would proceed to execution, but, lo and behold! they imprisoned him for intruding into their jurisdiction in cases of witchcraft. The struggle now commenced between clerical and lay power. Its legal details would not interest our general readers, but are promised, with additional lights, in the Rev. James Graves's forthcoming “History of the See of Ossory.” Every archæologic reader will observe with regret, that Procrustean rigour on the part of the publishers of the volume under review has precluded him from receiving a larger supply of matter its authors are manifestly very competent to furnish.

Bishop Ledred, on his release, instituted regular proceedings against the lady and her associates for heresy. He caused her hapless servant, Petronilla, to be imprisoned, and flogged six times to procure confession. Being found guilty, she was burnt alive-an uncommon event, so startling, indeed, as to be thus commented on by a contemporary, Friar Clyn, the city chronicler, who himself may have heard the wretched woman's dying shrieks: “From the earliest time, it has never been seen or heard that any one before her was put to death in Ireland for heresy." Whilst tortured by the flames, she declared that William Outlaw deserved death as much as she did, for that he had, for a year and a day, carried round his naked body " the devil's girdle"--which, after all, was probably no more than a charmed girdle, such as was ordinarily worn by Gäelic people. Upon receiving this information, the bishop instantly incarcerated the offender, and commenced proceedings against him for heresy. In this case the prelate triumphed again, so far as in compelling the banker to engage, as one consideration for his pardon from his relentless persecutor, to cover the roof of the cathedral with lead. Aided by her powerful connexions, the Lady Alice escaped the doom prepared for her by the bishop by flying the country ; “ since which time,” says a contemporary, “it could never be understood what became of her."

St. Canice's city seems to have been fertile in warlocks. Sir Richard Cox, the historian, states that, in 1578, the viceroy caused thirty-six criminals to be executed there, “one of whom,” says the chronicler," was a blackamoor, and two others were witches, who were condemned by the law of nature, for there was no positive law against witchcraft in those days." To remedy this surprising oversight, the Hibernian legislature passed, seven years subsequently, the “act against witchcraft and sorcery," 28th Eliz., cap. 2, a statute that, no doubt, had the effect of clearing the atmosphere of broomsticks and their burdens. Seriously speaking, however, the heathen practice among the Gäel, of intimidation by conjurations and fantastical maledictions, which were levelled against both mankind and cattle, was rife throughout the land, and has, indeed, left a lingering hold on the minds of the superstitious peasantry of our own day.

The old feudal castle of Kilkenny still stands, finely situated over the river, and more completely the princely residence of the Ormondes, than when the author of “ The Faërie Queene,” in dedicating his immortal epic to the tenth earl, wrote of it a brave mansion," where

Dwell fair Graces many a one,
And gentle nymphs, delight of learned wits.


But vainly will any visitor to the city seek for the great cross in the market-place, erected in 1335, where the town annalist, Friar Clyn, saw pilgrims, who were bound for Palestine, marked with a red-hot iron on their naked flesh with the sign of the cross, and where the first Protestant bishop, John Bale, an Englishman, taught on Sundays, in 1552, the young men of the town to act religious dramas.

This intemperate herald of the Reformed religion broke down, on his accession to the see, the images of saints in the cathedral, sparing, however, some fine ancient painted windows. In his memoir of his disturbed possession of the bishopric, he says that on the news of the death of Edward VI., “a very wicked justice, called Thomas Hothe, with the Lorde Mountgarrett, resorted to the cathedrall churche, requyring to have a communion, in the honour of St. Anne. The priests made him answer, that I had forbidden them that celebration, saving only upon the Sundays, as I had, indeed, for the abominable idolatries that I had seen therein. "I discharge you,' sayth he, of obedience to your bishop on this point, and command you to do as ye have done heretofore. And again on the Thursday after, which was the last day of August, I being absent, the clergie, by procurement of that wicked justice, blasphemously resumed the whole Popisme, or heap of superstitions, of the Bishop of Rome, without either statute or yet proclamation. They rang all the bells in the cathedral, minstre, and

parish churches ; they Aunge up their caps to the battlement of the great temple, with smylings and laughings most dissolutely, the justice himself being therewith offended.” This zealous prelate, in his narrative of his persecutions in this see, tells of the difficulty he had in preventing ancient Popish processional demonstrations on the accession of Queen Mary. On that occasion, he himself, with a Testament in hand, walked to the market-cross, “the people following in great number," and he there declared to them, from the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, what obedience was due to secular authority. In the mean while, the priests of the city procured two of their order to come in disguise, one bearing the mitre and the other the crozier, so inveterately attached were they to the custom of walking in procession. 66 The young men,” says the prelate, “played in the forenoon a tragedy of the promises of the Old Law, at the market-cross, with organ-playing and songs, very aptly. In the afternoon they played a comedie of St. John Baptist's preaching, of Our Lord's baptisyng, and of his temptation in the wilderness, to the small contentation of the priests and other papists there.” Small, indeed ;—for these plays, quas lusisse pudeant, were particularly severe against popery, which held possession of the citizens' hearts. Bale adds that, shortly afterwards, a proclamation was sent down from Dublin by Queen Mary's government, ordering that they who would hear masses should be suffered to do so, and that they that would not, should not be thereunto compelled. This seems an unnoticed act of toleration on the part of Queen Mary's government. John Bale had an uneasy time in his Irish see. One day, five of his servants, being caught making hay outside the city walls, were murdered by a band of "wood-kerne,” or original Tories, whom he styles “the fairy knights of Mac-Gilla-Patrick," declaring that this chieftain instigated them to the outrage. This bishop, mistaking violence of temper for reli

gious zeal, had employed the “live coals from the altar” to kindle around hiin dissension and revenge.

- Even the weak

among the new-reformed," says the historian, “were terrified ; and the Romish party held this spirited and turbulent enemy in the utmost abhorrence. He insulted the prejudices of the people without reserve or caution, and during the short period of his residence in Ireland lived in a continual state of fear and persecution.” In fact, the conduct of this puritan prelate, who equalled bigots on the popish side in the intolerance of damning the party he had no mind to, was quite enough to extinguish whatever may have locally gleamed from the New Light of a pure and moderate religious system ;and certainly, if such as he were the heralds of the novel creed to the quick-witted Irish people, we cannot marvel that their mission failed.

By a singular coincidence, this city of Kilkenny was the recipient of three extraordinarily bigoted hierarchs ;—the last, Rinuccini, the papal legate to the Irish Confederate Catholics of 1642, having so surpassed in rashness and clerical domination as even to have been censured by his master, the Pope. Let us hint (having ventured to solve one myth relative to this town) that it was the acerbity caused by those fierce prelates, Ledred, Bale, and Rinuccini, that bequeathed a factious character to the citizens, extending, as it would seem, even to their domestic cats, who were proverbially intolerant.

St. Canice's cathedral was much richer in sepulchral monuments of eminent men ere the troops of the Commonwealth stormed it, when

The civil fury of the time
Made sport of sacrilegious crime;
For dark fanaticism rent
Altar, and screen, and ornament;

And peasant's hands the tombs o'erthrew. Even now it surpasses most churches in the number and beauty of its mediæval monuments, which are admirably designed, are interesting as affording models of the Anglo-Irish variety of armour and female costume, and, by their inscriptions, speak with the powerful eloquence of the dead to the living.

An ephemeral epitaph recorded in this volume spoke with so keen a satire upon one tenant of these tombs as to well merit preservation. Archbishop Cox, son of the sarcastic historian Sir Richard Cox, in erecting a monument to his wife, had caused a compartment of the slab to be left vacant, intending it to be inscribed with his own epitaph. One fine morning, during his lifetime, a “great sensation" was created by the following bitter epigram, which was found affixed, en pasquinade, to the

blank space :

Vainest of mortals ! hadst thou sense or grace,
Thou ne'er hadst left this ostentatious space,
Nor given thy numerous foes such ample room
To tell posterity, upon thy tomb,
This well-known truth, by every tongue confest,

That by this blank thy life is best express'd. Any archæologic reviewer being, like Prospero, “a sot without his books,” we cannot refer to find, nor can we remember, who the merry and wise prelate was that wrote to Swift, saying that, having just perused “Ware's Lives of the Irish Bishops," he finds all that is known of his predecessors to be, how they were born on such a day, sent to college on


another, translated from one living to another and one bishopric to a better, and died on their last day; and that he supposes may

limit his ambition to emulating them. Doubtless there were, at the same time, many clergy who discharged the duties of their sacred order not altogether without praise of men, but whose virtues were of the modest and unproclaimed class appertaining to the good, and whose noble minds' last infirmity acted on the principle Milton announced in connexion with ambition of renown, or, as Jeremy Bentham used to call it, “ Love of the Trumpet :"

Fame is no plant that grows in mortal soil,
Nor in the glistering foil
Set off to the world; nor in broad rumour lies,
But lives and spreads aloft, by those pure eyes
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove,
As he pronounces lastly on each deed.

Of so much praise in heaven expect thy meed. A notable invention has lately been adapted to the peal of six bells in this cathedral, which are consequently chimed, and even "played” with ease by a single performer, so that they form a handy musical instrument.' The account of this pleasing improvement upon six ringers and their hard labour is as follows: “From the difficulty of procuring in. struction for the ringers, the practice of ringing has been discontinued. The bells are now chimed by ropes attached to the tongues, and, by a very ingenious contrivance, one person is enabled to chime any number of changes the bells are capable of, and even play simple tunes on them. The novelty of such music inspired several of the local versifiers," one of whom chimed in with the following pretty rhymes:

O’er the startled city, as in the olden times,
Bursts forth the joyous music, of the gray cathedral's chimes.
Beneath, from abbey towers, the gladsome echo swells,
Their silenc'd choirs awaken’d to the clangour of the bells.
The river bears the music along its waters gray,
The chimes awake the echoes o'er wood and hill-side gay;
They are heard in rural villages, like fairy tinklings clear ;
They swell, in loudest changes, o'er the fields and gardens near,
Old men and youths are list’ning to their soft, melodious spells,

And maiden's eyes are glistning at the pealing of the bells. The Cathedral yet remains, not only an elaborate memorial of the piety of past generations, but a consecrated edifice, in which, it is to be hoped, many future generations will worship. But the adjacent church of the Franciscan order is ruined and profaned. This beautiful building has not insensibly fallen into gradual decay, in quietude and silence, assimilating, like rural religious ruins, with the natural hues and forms of surrounding objects, yet breathing deeper and holier thoughts than in their days of splendour, but it stands among the squalid habitations of the old town; and, though vocal in the past with the voice of prayer and praise, is now used as a racket court!

The authors of the elegant volume now reviewed have certainly set up a lasting and admirable literary memorial of the chief object of interest in their city, and we must congratulate the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland that one of their body has evinced much industry and talent in so pious and worthy a work.

« ПредишнаНапред »