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HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE VOLUME 5

HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE VOLUME 5

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HISTORYOFTHEDECLINEANDFALLOFTHEROMANEMPIREVOLUME5EdwardGibbon,Esq.WithnotesbytheRev.H.H.Milman1782(Written),1845(Revised)ChapterXLIX:ConquestOfItalyByTheFranks.--PartI.Introduction,Worship,AndPersecutionOfImages.--RevoltOfItalyAndRome.--TemporalDominionOfThePopes.--ConquestOfItalyByTheFranks.--EstablishmentOfImages.--CharacterAndCoronationOfCharlemagne.--RestorationAndDecayOfTheRomanEmpireInTheWest.--IndependenceOfItaly.--ConstitutionOfTheGermanicBody.Intheconnectionofthechurchandstate,Ihaveconsideredtheformerassubservientonly,andrelative,tothelatter;asalutarymaxim,ifinfact,aswellasinnarrative,ithadeverbeenheldsacred.TheOrientalphilosophyoftheGnostics,thedarkabyssofpredestinationandgrace,andthestrangetransformationoftheEucharistfromthesigntothesubstanceofChrist'sbody,Ihavepurposelyabandonedtothecuriosityofspeculativedivines.ButIhavereviewed,withdiligenceandpleasure,theobjectsofecclesiasticalhistory,bywhichthedeclineandfalloftheRomanempireweremateriallyaffected,thepropagationofChristianity,theconstitutionoftheCatholicchurch,theruinofPaganism,andthesectsthatarosefromthemysteriouscontroversiesconcerningtheTrinityandincarnation.Attheheadofthisclass,wemayjustlyranktheworshipofimages,sofiercelydisputedintheeighthandninthcenturies;sinceaquestionofpopularsuperstitionproducedtherevoltofItaly,thetemporalpowerofthepopes,andtherestorationoftheRomanempireintheWest.TheprimitiveChristianswerepossessedwithanunconquerablerepugnancetotheuseandabuseofimages;andthisaversionmaybeascribedtotheirdescentfromtheJews,andtheirenmitytotheGreeks.TheMosaiclawhadseverelyproscribedallrepresentationsoftheDeity;andthatpreceptwasfirmlyestablishedintheprinciplesandpracticeofthechosenpeople.ThewitoftheChristianapologistswaspointedagainstthefoolishidolaters,whobowedbeforetheworkmanshipoftheirownhands;theimagesofbrassandmarble,which,had_they_beenendowedwithsenseandmotion,shouldhavestartedratherfromthepedestaltoadorethecreativepowersoftheartist.PerhapssomerecentandimperfectconvertsoftheGnostictribemightcrownthestatuesofChristandSt.PaulwiththeprofanehonorswhichtheypaidtothoseofAristotleandPythagoras;butthepublicreligionoftheCatholicswasuniformlysimpleandspiritual;andthefirstnoticeoftheuseofpicturesisinthecensureofthecouncilofIlliberis,threehundredyearsaftertheChristianæra.UnderthesuccessorsofConstantine,inthepeaceandluxuryofthetriumphantchurch,themoreprudentbishopscondescendedtoindulgeavisiblesuperstition,forthebenefitofthemultitude;and,aftertheruinofPaganism,theywerenolongerrestrainedbytheapprehensionofanodiousparallel.Thefirstintroductionofasymbolicworshipwasinthevenerationofthecross,andofrelics.Thesaintsandmartyrs,whoseintercessionwasimplored,wereseatedontherighthandifGod;butthegraciousandoften
 
supernaturalfavors,which,inthepopularbelief,wereshoweredroundtheirtomb,conveyedanunquestionablesanctionofthedevoutpilgrims,whovisited,andtouched,andkissedtheselifelessremains,thememorialsoftheirmeritsandsufferings.Butamemorial,moreinterestingthantheskullorthesandalsofadepartedworthy,isthefaithfulcopyofhispersonandfeatures,delineatedbytheartsofpaintingorsculpture.Ineveryage,suchcopies,socongenialtohumanfeelings,havebeencherishedbythezealofprivatefriendship,orpublicesteem:theimagesoftheRomanemperorswereadoredwithcivil,andalmostreligious,honors;areverencelessostentatious,butmoresincere,wasappliedtothestatuesofsagesandpatriots;andtheseprofanevirtues,thesesplendidsins,disappearedinthepresenceoftheholymen,whohaddiedfortheircelestialandeverlastingcountry.Atfirst,theexperimentwasmadewithcautionandscruple;andthevenerablepictureswerediscreetlyallowedtoinstructtheignorant,toawakenthecold,andtogratifytheprejudicesoftheheathenproselytes.Byaslowthoughinevitableprogression,thehonorsoftheoriginalweretransferredtothecopy:thedevoutChristianprayedbeforetheimageofasaint;andthePaganritesofgenuflection,luminaries,andincense,againstoleintotheCatholicchurch.Thescruplesofreason,orpiety,weresilencedbythestrongevidenceofvisionsandmiracles;andthepictureswhichspeak,andmove,andbleed,mustbeendowedwithadivineenergy,andmaybeconsideredastheproperobjectsofreligiousadoration.Themostaudaciouspencilmighttrembleintherashattemptofdefining,byformsandcolors,theinfiniteSpirit,theeternalFather,whopervadesandsustainstheuniverse.Butthesuperstitiousmindwasmoreeasilyreconciledtopaintandtoworshiptheangels,and,aboveall,theSonofGod,underthehumanshape,which,onearth,theyhavecondescendedtoassume.ThesecondpersonoftheTrinityhadbeenclothedwitharealandmortalbody;butthatbodyhadascendedintoheaven:and,hadnotsomesimilitudebeenpresentedtotheeyesofhisdisciples,thespiritualworshipofChristmighthavebeenobliteratedbythevisiblerelicsandrepresentationsofthesaints.AsimilarindulgencewasrequisiteandpropitiousfortheVirginMary:theplaceofherburialwasunknown;andtheassumptionofhersoulandbodyintoheavenwasadoptedbythecredulityoftheGreeksandLatins.Theuse,andeventheworship,ofimageswasfirmlyestablishedbeforetheendofthesixthcentury:theywerefondlycherishedbythewarmimaginationoftheGreeksandAsiatics:thePantheonandVaticanwereadornedwiththeemblemsofanewsuperstition;butthissemblanceofidolatrywasmorecoldlyentertainedbytherudeBarbariansandtheArianclergyoftheWest.Thebolderformsofsculpture,inbrassormarble,whichpeopledthetemplesofantiquity,wereoffensivetothefancyorconscienceoftheChristianGreeks:andasmoothsurfaceofcolorshaseverbeenesteemedamoredecentandharmlessmodeofimitation.Themeritandeffectofacopydependsonitsresemblancewiththeoriginal;buttheprimitiveChristianswereignorantofthegenuinefeaturesoftheSonofGod,hismother,andhisapostles:thestatueofChristatPaneasinPalestinewasmoreprobablythatofsometemporalsavior;theGnosticsandtheirprofanemonumentswerereprobated;andthefancyoftheChristianartistscouldonlybeguidedbytheclandestineimitationofsomeheathenmodel.Inthisdistress,aboldanddexterousinventionassuredatoncethelikenessoftheimageandtheinnocenceoftheworship.AnewsuperstructureoffablewasraisedonthepopularbasisofaSyrianlegend,onthecorrespondenceofChristandAbgarus,sofamousinthedaysofEusebius,soreluctantlydesertedbyourmodernadvocates.ThebishopofCæsarearecordstheepistle,buthemoststrangelyforgetsthepictureofChrist;theperfectimpression
 
ofhisfaceonalinen,withwhichhegratifiedthefaithoftheroyalstrangerwhohadinvokedhishealingpower,andofferedthestrongcityofEdessatoprotecthimagainstthemaliceoftheJews.Theignoranceoftheprimitivechurchisexplainedbythelongimprisonmentoftheimageinanicheofthewall,fromwhence,afteranoblivionoffivehundredyears,itwasreleasedbysomeprudentbishop,andseasonablypresentedtothedevotionofthetimes.ItsfirstandmostgloriousexploitwasthedeliveranceofthecityfromthearmsofChosroesNushirvan;anditwassoonreveredasapledgeofthedivinepromise,thatEdessashouldneverbetakenbyaforeignenemy.Itistrue,indeed,thatthetextofProcopiusascribesthedoubledeliveranceofEdessatothewealthandvalorofhercitizens,whopurchasedtheabsenceandrepelledtheassaultsofthePersianmonarch.Hewasignorant,theprofanehistorian,ofthetestimonywhichheiscompelledtodeliverintheecclesiasticalpageofEvagrius,thatthePalladiumwasexposedontherampart,andthatthewaterwhichhadbeensprinkledontheholyface,insteadofquenching,addednewfueltotheflamesofthebesieged.Afterthisimportantservice,theimageofEdessawaspreservedwithrespectandgratitude;andiftheArmeniansrejectedthelegend,themorecredulousGreeksadoredthesimilitude,whichwasnottheworkofanymortalpencil,buttheimmediatecreationofthedivineoriginal.ThestyleandsentimentsofaByzantinehymnwilldeclarehowfartheirworshipwasremovedfromthegrossestidolatry."Howcanwewithmortaleyescontemplatethisimage,whosecelestialsplendorthehostofheavenpresumesnottobehold?Hewhodwellsinheaven,condescendsthisdaytovisitusbyhisvenerableimage;Hewhoisseatedonthecherubim,visitsusthisdaybyapicture,whichtheFatherhasdelineatedwithhisimmaculatehand,whichhehasformedinanineffablemanner,andwhichwesanctifybyadoringitwithfearandlove."Beforetheendofthesixthcentury,theseimages,_madewithouthands_,(inGreekitisasingleword,)werepropagatedinthecampsandcitiesoftheEasternempire:theyweretheobjectsofworship,andtheinstrumentsofmiracles;andinthehourofdangerortumult,theirvenerablepresencecouldrevivethehope,rekindlethecourage,orrepressthefury,oftheRomanlegions.Ofthesepictures,thefargreaterpart,thetranscriptsofahumanpencil,couldonlypretendtoasecondarylikenessandimpropertitle:butthereweresomeofhigherdescent,whoderivedtheirresemblancefromanimmediatecontactwiththeoriginal,endowed,forthatpurpose,withamiraculousandprolificvirtue.ThemostambitiousaspiredfromafilialtoafraternalrelationwiththeimageofEdessa;andsuchisthe_veronica_ofRome,orSpain,orJerusalem,whichChristinhisagonyandbloodysweatappliedtohisface,anddeliveredtoaholymatron.ThefruitfulprecedentwasspeedilytransferredtotheVirginMary,andthesaintsandmartyrs.InthechurchofDiospolis,inPalestine,thefeaturesoftheMotherofGodweredeeplyinscribedinamarblecolumn;theEastandWesthavebeendecoratedbythepencilofSt.Luke;andtheEvangelist,whowasperhapsaphysician,hasbeenforcedtoexercisetheoccupationofapainter,soprofaneandodiousintheeyesoftheprimitiveChristians.TheOlympianJove,createdbythemuseofHomerandthechiselofPhidias,mightinspireaphilosophicmindwithmomentarydevotion;buttheseCatholicimageswerefaintlyandflatlydelineatedbymonkishartistsinthelastdegeneracyoftasteandgenius.Theworshipofimageshadstolenintothechurchbyinsensibledegrees,andeachpettystepwaspleasingtothesuperstitiousmind,asproductiveofcomfort,andinnocentofsin.Butinthebeginningoftheeighthcentury,inthefullmagnitudeoftheabuse,themoretimorousGreekswereawakenedbyanapprehension,thatunderthemaskofChristianity,theyhadrestoredthereligionoftheirfathers:they

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