Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

solid walls, and massive square towers; crowning an abrupt height with a broad deep river at its base. The citizens beholding these preparations, and seeing the abundant means provided for effectually prosecuting the work when all should be fitly arranged, considered it the most favourable moment for a sally : they formed in a body, and rushed down, with impetuous courage, upon the foe. These, however, had the advantage, in point of numbers, of ferocity, and of being long inured to deeds of blood ; and the people of God had been given, for a time, into the hand of the wicked and cruel one. The infantry sustained the shock unmoved ; then, becoming the assailants, they speedily turned the disheartened citizens, drove them back, and in one dense mass of pursuers and pursued, they all entered the gates together. Beziers was in the hands of the crusaders.

The great strength of this fortified town, had drawn within its walls multitudes of the villagers, and scattered inhabitants of a wide surrounding district. All the rural population were assembled there ; and among them, undoubtedly, a large proportion of those against whom the wrath of the dragon and of the beast was especially kindled-the true worshippers of God, who served Him in the Gospel of his Son. There were, however, very many, whose allegiance to Rome could not be questioned, and who were fully bent to die as they had lived, in her communion. This was known to the knights, who had been accustomed in the miscalled "holy wars' to discriminate carefully as to their victims. The butchery of Saracens, and, perhaps even more, that of God's ancient, afflicted people Israel, was with them a matter of meritorious duty ; but to embrue their hands in the blood of such as bowed down to

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 cathedra) 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 can reiterate with terrible meaning the words of his blasphemous mock; "The Lord will know well those who 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 treasured 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

« AnteriorContinuar »