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the Pope granted licence to the archbishop of York to huild oratories or chapels and to appoint to them priests, in places so distant from the parish churches that the people could with difficulty attend divine service, and the sick died before the priest could get to them to administer the last sacraments. The necessity for these chapels of ease was especially felt in Yorkshire, where the inhabitants of so many outlying hamlets were cut off from their parish churches in winter time by impassable roads and flooded rivers, which is the reason time after time assigned by the commissioners for the necessity of the existence of such chapels; and yet comparatively few of them were recommended for continuance by Sir Walter Mildmay and Robert Kelway in the returns to the commission. Possibly, it was the loss of the endowments of Ayton chapel which occasioned the insurrection at Leamer . . . which chapel the inhabitants so piously kept up afterwards at their own expense.” 1
“In most cases, the chantry priest seems to have acted in much the same capacity in a parish as that now occupied by the curate; he assisted the parish priest in performing mass, hearing confessions and visiting the sick, and also helped in the ordinary services of the church; the few only were licensed to preach, like the schoolmaster at Giggleswick. In the Cathedral Church at York, besides praying for the soul of his founder and all Christian souls, each chantry priest had to be present in the choir in his habit of a parson on all principal and double feast days, Sundays, and nine lections, at Matins, Mass, Evensong, and processions, when he had to read lessons, begin anthems, and to minister at the high altar as should be appointed to him by the officers of the choir. Besides these purely ecclesiastical duties, very many of the chantry priests were bound to teach a certain number of the children of the neighbourhood, which was the origin of most of our Grammar Schools."
Ibid., p. 12.
2 Ibid., p. 13.
PILGRIMAGES AND RELICS.
PILGRIMAGES and the honour shown to relics are frequently pointed out as, with Indulgences, among the most objectionable features of the pre-Reformation ecclesiastical system. It is assumed that on the eve of the religious changes the abuses in these matters were so patent that no voice was, or indeed could have been, raised in their defence, and it is asserted that they were swept away without regret or protest as one of the most obvious and necessary items in the general purification of the mediæval church initiated in the reign of Henry VIII. That they had indeed been tolerated at all even up to the time of their final overthrow was in part, if not entirely, due to the clergy, and in particular to the monks, who, as they derived much pecuniary benefit from encouraging such practices, did not scruple to inculcate by every means in their power the spiritual advantages to be derived from them. That the objectionable features of these so-called works of piety had long been recognised, is taken for granted, and the examinations of people suspected of entertaining Wycliffite opinions are pointed to as proof that earnest men were alive to these abuses for more than a century before religion was purified from them. As conclusive evidence of this, the names too, of Chaucer for early times, and of Erasmus for the Reform period, are given as those whose condemnation and even scornful rejection of such practices cannot be doubted. It becomes important, then, for a right understanding of the mental attitude of the people
generally to the existing ecclesiastical system at the time
f its overthrow, to see how far the outcry against pil. grimages and the devotion to relics was really popular, and what were the precise objections taken to them by the innovators.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance attached to pilgrimages by our pre-Reformation forefathers. From very early times the practice was followed with eagerness, not to say with devotion, and included not merely visits to the shrines situated within the country itself, but long and often perilous journeys into foreign lands — to Compostella, Rome, and to the Holy Land itself. These foreign pilgrimages of course could be undertaken only by the rich, or by those for whom the requisite money was found by some one unable to undertake the journey in person. Not infrequently the early English wills contain injunctions upon the executors to defray the cost of some poor pilgrim to Spain, to Rome, or to some of the noted shrines on the Continent. The English love for these works of piety in nowise showed any sign of decadence even right up to the period of change. Books furnishing intending pilgrims with necessary information, and vocabularies, even in Greek, were prepared to assist them in their voyages. The itineraries of William Wey, printed by the Roxburghe Club, give a very good idea of what these great religious pilgrimages must have been like at the close of the fifteenth century. In 1462 Wey was in the Holy Land, and describes how joyfully the pilgrims on landing at Jaffa sang the “ Urbs beata Jerusalem in faburthyn.” In 1456 he took part in a large English pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella, leaving Plymouth with a shipload of English fellow-pilgrims on May 17th. William Wey's ship was named the Mary White, and in company with them six other English ships brought pilgrims from Portsmouth, Bristol, Weymouth, Lymington, and a second from Plymouth. They reached Corunna on May 21st, and Compostella for the great celebration of Trinity Day. Wey
was evidently much honoured by being pointed out to the church officials as the chief Englishman of note present, and he was given the post of first bearer of the canopy in the procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Four out of the six poles were carried by his countrymen, whom he names as Austill, Gale, and Fulford.
On their return the pilgrims spent three days at Corunna. They were not allowed to be idle, but religious festivities must have occupied most of their time. On Wednesday, the eve of Corpus Christi day, there was a procession of English pilgrims throughout the city and a mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin. On Corpus Christi itself their procession was in the Franciscan church, and a sermon was preached in English by an English Bachelor in Theology on the theme, Ecce ego; vocasti me. “No other nation,” says William Wey, somewhat proudly, “ had these special services but the English.” In the first port there were ships belonging to English, Welsh, Irish, Norman, French, and Breton, and the English alone had two and thirty.
Such journeys were not, of course, in those days devoid of danger, especially from sickness, brought on or de. veloped in the course of the travels. Erasmus, in his Colloquy on Rash Vows, speaks of losing three in a company. “One dying on the way commissioned us to salute Peter (in Rome) and James (at Compostella) in his name. Another we lost at Rome, and he desired that we should greet his wife and children for him. The third we left behind at Florence, his recovery entirely despaired of, and I imagine he is now in heaven.” That this account of the mortality among pilgrims is not exaggerated is shown in the diary of Sir Richard Torkington, Rector of Mulbarton, in Norfolk. In 1517 he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and records on “the 25th of August, that was Saynt Bertolmew's day, deceased Robert Crosse of London, and was buried in the churchyard of Salyus (in the island of Cyprus); and the 27th day of August
and recortas day, deceasechyard of Salyugust
more "ship formen wend theifingland
places of in turn forint abroa
deceased Sir Thomas Tappe, a priest of the West country, and was cast over the board; as were many more whose souls God assoyl; and then there remained in the ship four English priests more."
If Englishmen went abroad to the celebrated shrines, foreigners in turn found their way to the no less renowned places of pilgrimage in England. Pilgrims' inns and places of rest were scattered over the great roads leading to Glastonbury, Walsingham, and Canterbury, and other “ holy spots" in this island, and at times these places were thronged with those who came to pay their devotion. At one time we are told that more than a hundred thousand pilgrims were together in the city of Canterbury to celebrate one of the Jubilee celebrations of the martyr St. Thomas; whilst the road to Walsingham was so much frequented that, in the common mind, the very “milk way" had been set by Providence in the heaven to point the path to Our Lady's shrine.
With the very question of pilgrimages, Sir Thomas More actually deals in the first portion of his Dyalogue, and it would be difficult to find any authority who should carry greater weight. He first deals with the outcry raised by the followers of Luther against the riches which had been lavished upon the churches, and in particular upon the shrines containing the relics of saints.
Those who so loudly condemn this devotion shown by the church to the saints should know, he says, “ that the church worships not the saints as God, but as God's servants, and therefore the honour that is done to them redoundeth principally to the honour of their Master; just as by common custom of people we sometimes, for their master's sake, reverence and make great cheer for people to whom perhaps except for this we would not have said 'good morrow.'