Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the same crucifix, and worshipped the same wafer, and invocated the same dead saints with themselves, would have appeared a departure from their prescribed path. Accordingly, when it was ascertained that Beziers was in their hands, and that, of course, the heretics must fall, some of these commanders came to the legate, Arnold Amalric, with the natural question of—How they were to distinguish the Catholics from the heretics ? The reply of the Abbot has been recorded by his own friends and followers, or it would scarcely be credible. He answered, 'Kill them all! the Lord will know well those that are his!'

While this was going on, the poor devoted flock crowded into the churches, as though any sanctuary existed for them, which the wolves of Rome might respect. There were in Beziers a great majority of women and children, sent to those strong walls for protection by husbands and fathers, who themselves remained to garrison posts deemed less impregnable. These with the whole body of citizens and refugees, took shelter in the places of worship, unless when their feeble steps were overtaken by the murderer's rapid stride, and their course cut short in blood. The large cathedral church of St. Nicaise was completely thronged : and the canons, ministers as they were of the Romish religion, investing themselves with the sacerdotal habit, which surely, they thought, must be a sufficient protection against the soldiers of their own faith, ranged themselves round the altar. No voice could have been heard, in supplication, amid the din, and the crash, and the shrieks of that fearful scene of blood ; but the poor canons sounded the consecrated bells, in deep, and melancholy, and appealing toll, hoping so to touch the hearts of the fierce assailants. In vain ! Rome leaves her conscience-seared votaries with hearts no less effectually seared into utter insensibility to the pleadings of pity : the tide of cowardly massacre rolled on; cut down, and crushed beneath the armed heel, and mangled with the spear, one after another the victims fell, as the blood-stained fanatics approached the altar ; and there the canons also fell, hurled upon the general heap, while the progress of the work was marked by the ceasing of successive bells, as the hands that tolled them fell powerless in death ; and the silence that followed the last sad note proclaimed the consummation of that fearful massacre. The dead bodies that lay, bathed in blood, on the pavement of one smaller church, the Magdalen, amounted to seven thousand. The babe at its mother's breast, the aged man beneath his daughter's arms, vainly uplifted to defend his silver locks, while her own bright ringlets were dripping blood. Yes ; they killed them all !

There is a world into which the eye of living man hath not pried, and of which the fearful secrets are but dimly revealed in the parables of Him who made all worlds. There is a place where the ungodly rich man “ being in torments, lifted up

his eyes,

and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” How tremendously awful is the solemn thought, the assured fact, that of all who slew, and of all who were slain, at the bidding of Arnold Amalric and his wretched confederates, not one has perished ; each and all are now in existence, awaiting the day when they must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ ! Centuries have passed, and their names and their deeds are bygone things ; but not one among them, persecutor or persecuted, destroyer or destroyed, has ever known a moment's oblivion of that scene. The people of the Lord, faithful unto death, washed from every stain in the blood of the Lamb, entered into rest, commencing the eternal song of praise; and looking forward to the great day of final vengeance, when the enemies of Christ shall for ever be put under his feet. The spirits in that dark and dreary prison, whence there is no egress, save to final judgment and to public doom, feel in the recollection of those dreadful deeds the gnawings of a worm that dieth not, the kindlings of a fire that cannot be quenched ; and Arnold Amalric reiterate with terrible meaning the words of his blasphemous mock; The Lord will know well those who

can

are his!'

The massacre occupied a very short period : where no resistance could be offered, and the victims were thronged within a limited space, the work of cutting them down was easy and expeditious. This being done, plunder was the next concern. Such of the decrepit, the sick, and otherwise helpless as had been unable to leave their dwellings, were speedily butchered there, and all that could tempt the hand of rapacity, from the costly elegances of the palace, to the simple but trea sured heir-loom of the modest cottage, was grasped and appropriated, as if to perfect the antitype of that traitor who also 'was a thief, and bare the bag, and stole what was put therein.' So easy a conquest, so sweeping a massacre, and so rich a booty, could not but tend greatly to encourage the invaders. Masses were celebrated, and thanksgivings pealed forth by thousands of voices, to the God of holiness, and love, and peace ; while the blood of His saints, that day shed like water on every side, coagulated upon the spot where those vain worshippers stood ; and the unburied corpse, with glassy stare fixed on the sky, presented an appeal not over-looked by Him, who has said, “Vengeance is mine :

I will repay."

The closing act of this savage tragedy was to set fire to the stately city in every quarter, consuming with it the immense mass of its slaughtered inhabitants. So perfect was the work of destruction, that not a single dwelling remained, nor aught that fire could destroy, of that proud Beziers in which, next to Carcassonne, Raymond Roger and his subjects placed their trust, as being able to hold at bay, for an indefinite length of time, the crusading army. These, it must be remembered, had only engaged to serve for forty days; and every hour was rendered precious to the assailed, by the hope, that a protracted defence might reach to the termination of this limited engagement. The dark volumes of smoke, and red glare of flame that rose from the lofty turrets of Beziers, told a tale of terror and dismay to the surrounding country. Every place was presently deserted, from the strong but isolated castle to the lowly shepherd's hut, and the vine-dresser's lodge. No hope of security remained for these scattered ones, except within the walls of Carcassonne, where Raymond Roger still encouraged his people to hold out ; cheering by his presence and undaunted bearing their hearts, of which, perhaps, none were really sadder than his own. But the forest depths, and mountain caves, and passes known only to native feet, afforded a refuge to numbers who either were unable to reach the fortress, or doubted the issue of an assault upon it; and who preferred the perils and privations of such concealment, to the issue of a siege. Perchance too, there were among these some who scrupled to use the carnal weapon in what they felt to be the battle of the faith. It was no new page in the history of God's church that they of

whom the world was not worthy, should be destitute, afflicted, tormented, wandering about, in dens and caves of the earth.

After the one day's deadly work at Beziers, the exulting host set forward again, spreading over the country, according to the information of the traitors, chiefly ecclesiastics, who acted as their guides to the castles of the nobles. These they found, indeed, strongly fortified by nature and art, but altogether deserted by their inhabitants. More than a hundred of them they burned to the ground, desolating the lands, destroying the vintage, and fulfilling to the uttermost of their power the type of the locust army. It was on the first of August that they found themselves within sight of Carcassonne. Here, beside the Aube, they hastily encamped without molestation, and prepared to assail it on the following day.

The leader in this attack was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, whose character stands out in frightful prominence, embodying all that was most flagitious in perfidy, most grasping in avarice and ambition, most pitiless in cruelty, and most grovelling in the debasing superstition which, if he felt it not, he at least assumed, as the divine warrant for all his crimes. By the mother's side, his English ancestry was noble, and distinguished, tracing its root to royalty ; but his birth was French, and he had devoted his life to the service of the nominal church ; having especially made himself conspicuous in the Eastern Crusades. Nothing could better accord with the bent of this man's mind than the present war with the Saints. He hated with deadly venom the faith and the followers of Jesus, and sweet to his spirit must have been the dying cries that resounded through Beziers. Impatient to renew the scene, he led his troops to an attack on the outermost suburb of Carcassonne ;

« ZurückWeiter »