As A Pious Spaniard He
Was Incapable Of Understanding That Quarterings And Breakings On The
Rack Were Of Less Avail Than The Education Of The Populace In Certain
Secular Notions Of Good Conduct - Notions Which It Was The Business Of
His Church Not To Teach.
Reading through the legislation of the
viceregal period, one is astonished to find how little was done for the
common people, who lived like the veriest beasts of earth.
Their civil rulers - scholars and gentlemen, most of them - really
believed that the example of half a million illiterate and vicious monks
was all the education they needed. And yet one notes with surprise that
the Government was perpetually at loggerheads with the ecclesiastical
authorities. True; but it is wonderful with what intuitive alacrity they
joined forces when it was a question of repelling their common
From this rank soil there sprang up an exotic efflorescence of holiness.
If south Italy swarmed with sinners, as the experiences of Don Pietro
seemed to show, it also swarmed with saints. And hardly one of them
escaped the influence of the period, the love of futile ornamentation.
Their piety is overloaded with embellishing touches and needless
excrescences of virtue. It was the baroque period of saintliness, as of
I have already given some account of one of them, the Flying Monk
(Chapter X), and have perused the biographies of at least fifty others.
One cannot help observing a great uniformity in their lives - a kind of
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