Dom Pommeraye, in reciting these deplorable events, rises rather above his usual pitch of passion: “O malheur!” he exclaims, “ces corps sacres, ces temples du Saint Esprit, qui avoient autrefois donne de la terreur aux Demons, ne trouverent ni crainte ni respect dans l’esprit de ces furieux, qui jetterent au feu tout ce qui tomba entre leurs mains impies et sacrileges!”—The mischief thus occasioned was infinitely more to be lamented, he adds, than the burning of the church by the Normans;—“stones and bricks, and gold and jewels, may be replaced, but the loss of a relic is irreparable; and, moreover, the abbey thus forfeits a portion of its protection in heaven; for it is not to be doubted, but that the saints look down with eyes of peculiar favor upon the spots that contain their mortal remains; their glorified souls feeling a natural affection towards the bodies to which they are hereafter to be united for ever,” on that day, when
“Ciascun ritrovera la
Ripigliera sua carne e sua figura,
Udira cio che in eterno rimbomba.”
The outrages were curiously illustrative of the spirit of the times; the quantity of relics and ornaments equally characterise the devotion of the votaries, and the reputed sanctity of the place.
The royal abbey of St. Ouen had, indeed, enjoyed the veneration of the faithful, during a lengthened series of generations. Clothair is supposed to have been the founder of the monastery in 535; though other authorities claim for it a still higher degree of antiquity by one hundred and thirty years. The church, whoever the original founder may have been, was first dedicated to the twelve apostles; but, in 689, the body of St. Ouen was deposited in the edifice; miracles without number were performed at his tomb; pilgrims flocked thither; his fame diffused itself wider and wider; and at length, the allegiance of the abbey was tranferred to him whose sanctity gave him the best claims to the advocation.
Changes of this nature, and arising from the same cause, were frequent in those early ages: the abbey of St. Germain des Pres, at Paris, was originally dedicated to St. Vincent; that of Ste. Genevieve to St. Peter; and many other churches also took new patrons, as occasion required. According to one of the fathers of the church, the tombs of the beatified became the fortifications of the holy edifices: the saints were considered as proprietors of the places in which their bodies were interred, and where power was given them, to alter the established laws of nature, in favor of those who there implored their aid. But the aid which they afforded willingly to all their suitors, they could not bestow upon themselves. And oft, when the sword of the heathen menaced the land, the weary monks fled with the corpse of their patrons from the stubborn enemy. Thus, St. Ouen himself, on the invasion of the Normans, was transported to the priory of Gany, on the river Epte, and thence to Conde; but was afterwards conveyed to Rouen, when Rollo embraced Christianity. Other causes also contributed to the migration of these remains: they were often summoned in order to dignify acts of peculiar solemnity, or to be the witnesses to the oaths of princes, like the Stygian marsh of old,