Page images

Preliminary Dissertation.


HE consecration of sovereigns by the ministers of religion, reaches to an antiquity higher than the Christian æra: but I need not enter here into the history of the unction and coronation of the ancient Jewish kings. The accounts which we have in the Sacred Scriptures will readily occur to the recollection of the reader;1 and if he would enquire further, there are many writers who, having investigated that part of the subject, will afford him very full information upon it.2

S. Augustine has declared that the anointing of kings was a rite always peculiar to the people of God: and not adopted at any time by the heathens. "Unctus

est," he says, "Deus a Deo: unctum audis, Christum intellige: etenim Christus a chrismate. Hoc nomen quod appellatur Christus, unctionis est: nec in aliquo alibi ungebantur reges et sacerdotes, nisi in illo regno,

1 The reader will not forget the remarkable parable of Jotham, in the Book of Judges: and the speech given to the bramble.

2 Besides the authors more

usually referred to, the student will do well to consult the 8th ch. §. 1. of Selden's Titles of Honour, and the third book of Scacchus, Sacrorum elæochrismaton myrothecia.

ubi Christus prophetabatur et ungebatur, et unde venturum erat Christi nomen: nusquam alibi omnino, in nulla gente, in nullo regno.

[ocr errors]

We know not who was the first Christian prince, either anointed or crowned by the bishops of the Church. Theodosius the younger is supposed to have been the first, who was crowned by the patriarch of Constantinople; and Habertus acknowledges that he cannot find any authority for such a solemnization before his time: A. D. 408. "Nemo mihi a patriarcha coronatus legitur ante Theodosium jun. de quo Theodorus Lector, lib. 2. ὁ νέος Θεοδόσιος στεφθεὶς ὑπο του Πρόκλου Taτgiágxou." Shortly after the time of that emperor πατριάρχου.”4 there appears to be little reason to question the fact, in the case of the emperor Justin: concerning whom Baronius quotes an epistle from John, the then patriarch of Constantinople: "Ideo coronam gratiæ super eum cœlitus declinavit, ut affluenter in sacrum caput ejus misericordia funderetur: omnique annuntiationis ejus tempore cum magna voce Deum omnium Principem glorificaverunt, quoniam talem verticem manibus

meis tali corona decoravit."5

But before this date, we have the famous history of Clovis in the West, of whom it has been asserted, that he was both crowned, and anointed. And more than

3 Enarrat. cit. Habert. Pontif. Græc. p. 626.

Pontif. Græc. p. 627.

5 Annal. an. 519. Compare the account of the second coronation of the same emperor, by pope John I. in the Liber pontif. tom. 1. p. 192.

For there seems to be no evi

dence, that in the earliest coronations of the Greek emperors, unction formed a part of the solemnity. It has been supposed sơ: but the proof appears to rest upon an expression of Onuphrius, cited by Selden. "Constantinopoli, vel sub Justiniano, vel post ejus statim obitum, electioni imperatoris addi

this: that the sacred oil was brought down by an angel from heaven, for that purpose. The story however would prove too much, and as a result which may rather have been anticipated, the enquiry which has been made into the truth of the miracle, has cast more than doubt upon even the coronation of Clovis. For the evidence in proof of the miraculous oil, must be set down as worthless: the best authors of the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, men who, one or the other, would have undoubtedly spoken of it, if it had been true, say not a word upon the matter: and until, at last, the legend begins to be heard of, the oil is mentioned in connexion, not with the coronation, but with the baptism of Clovis. The writers of those ages immediately succeeding the supposed miracle, speak frequently of the chrism with which Clovis was anointed, and call it “holy" or "sacred chrism :" but this, in the same sense in which they would have spoken of all chrism, and not as having been in any way miraculously provided. Thus, to quote one of them, and

tum, ut quum primum imperator renuntiatus esset, a patriarcha Constantinopolitano in magna Byzantii basilica oleo unctus diademate aureo redimeretur." comitiis Imperatoriis. cap. 2.


7 The whole legend of the coronation of Clovis may be probably attributed to a perverted tradition of his baptism and confirmation: in the same way as it has been asserted, that our king Alfred was anointed king at Rome, by

Leo IV. In which latter case we have very considerable authority: viz. his contemporary Asser, Malmesbury, Hoveden, and others. But still it must be referred to his confirmation, which they relate did also take place: for it is scarcely credible that he should so long beforehand, as a child, with two elder brothers, and in his father's life-time, be anointed for a king. See Selden, Titles of Honour, p. 115. and the authors cited by him.

almost a contemporary: "Rex omnipotentem Dominum in Trinitate confessus, baptizatus est a sancto Remigio, in nomine Patris, etc.-et sacro chrismate delibutus cum signaculo crucis."8

But towards the end of the ninth century, nearly four hundred years after the baptism of Clovis, an archbishop of Rheims, Hinemar, claimed for the holy oil the honour of having been miraculously sent down from heaven. I place his account in the note below : 9 and extract here from his Capitular the assertion, also first made by him, that Clovis was anointed with this to be emperor; he is speaking of Charles the Bald. "Sanctæ memoriæ pater suus Hludowicus pius, imperator augustus, ex progenie Hludowici (Clodoveum intelligit) regis Francorum inclyti, per beati Remigii Francorum apostoli catholicam prædicationem cum integra gente conversi, et cum tribus Francorum millibus, vigilia sancti Paschæ in Remensi metropoli bap

8 Rorico Monachus. in Chronico. lib. 2.

9 Hincmar in vita S. Remigi. "Cum vero pervenissent ad baptisterium, clericus, qui chrisma ferebat, a populo est interceptus, ut ad fontem venire nequiverit. Sanctificato autem fonte, nutu divino chrisma defuit. Et quia propter populi pressuram ulli non patebat egressus vel ingressus ecclesiæ, sanctus pontifex, oculis ac manibus protensis in cœlum, cœpit tacite orare cum lacrymis. Et ecce subito columba nive candidior attulit in rostro ampullulam chrismate sancto repletam, cujus odore

mirifico super omnes odores, quos ante in baptisterio senserant, omnes qui aderant in æstimabili suavitate repleti sunt. Accipiente autem sancto pontifice ipsam ampullulam, species columbæ disparuit. De quo chrismate fudit venerandus episcopus in fontem sacratum. Viso autem rex tanto miraculo, abnegatis diaboli pompis et operibus ejus, petiit se a sancto pontifice baptizari, etc. Et susceptus ab ipso pontifice de sacro fonte, perunctus est sacro chrismate, cum signo sanctæ crucis Domini nostri Jesu Christi." Apud Surium, 13 Januarii.

tizati, et cœlitus sumpto chrismate, unde adhuc habemus, peruncti, et in regem sacrati, exhortus, etc."

Now, not only would we naturally look with some suspicion upon a history of an event, whether miraculous or not, so long after its supposed occurrence, but with that suspicion encreased, if it came from a quarter likely to be personally interested in the matter. Hincmar was archbishop of Rheims: and sixteen archbishops had occupied that see between S. Remigius and himself, of not one of whom can it be proved, that he had ever heard of such a miracle. But more than this: the account he gives us is full of errors: Hincmar says that Clovis was baptized in the metropolitan church; a contemporary of the king, Nicetius bishop of Treves, declares that it took place in the church of S. Martin: 10-and again, that it was on the vigil of Easter Day; but another contemporary, Avitus, bishop of Vienna, declares that it was upon Christmas Eve.

So that, as the supposed history of the oil used at the coronation of the kings of France (that it was first provided from heaven for Clovis, and afterwards no less miraculously preserved, without wasting, at Rheims), rests upon no better or earlier authority than that of Hincmar in the ninth century, who was ignorant of the facts of the case, we must conclude that the whole is a mere story, unworthy of the least credit. Nor should I have delayed to examine it, even so shortly, had it not been for the general reception with which it

10 Epist. ad Clodoswindam. cit. Chifletio, de ampulla Remensi nova disquisitio. A learned treatise; in which the writer points

out other errors in the archbishop's story, which are scarcely required to satisfy the reader, and I have omitted them.

« PreviousContinue »