From  the  book  "THE  COMING  OF  THE  SAINTS"

by  J. W. Talor  (first published in 1906)



In the fair Church of Amiens

There lies the relic of St. John

Some say it is the skull of him

Beheaded, as the Gospels tell,

By Herod for a woman's whim

What time her daughter danced so well. 

(St. John the Baptist, ever blest, 

Bring me to his eternal jest.)

But some adore it as the head 

Of John Divine, the same who said, 

'My little children, love each other', 

And lay upon the Lord Jesu's heart 

And took in trust the blessed Mother 

Till see in glory and did depart.

(St. John Divine, the son of love, 

Preserve me to his peace above.)

For John the Baptist's head, they say, 

Was broken up in Julian's day. 

One bit is in Samaria's town 

And two beneath Byzantium's dome, 

And Genoa has half the crown, 

The nose and forehead rest in Rome.

(St. John the Baptist's scattered dust, 

Bring me to kingdoms of the just.)

But there are others say again

St. John Divine escaped the pain

Of death's last conflict; for he lies

Still sleeping in his bishopric

Of Ephesus, until his eyes

Shall ope to judgment with the quick.

(St. John the Divine, who sleeps so fast, 

Wake me to Paradise at last.)

For me, a poor unwitting man,

I pray and worship all I can,

Sure that the blessed souls in heaven

Will not be jealous of eath other,

And the mistake will be forgiven

If for one saint, I love his brother. 

(St. John Divine and Baptist too, 

Stand at each side whate'er I do.)

And so that dubious mystery 

Which of the twain those relics be 

I leave to God. He knows, I wis; 

How should a thing like me decide? 

And whosesoever skull it is, 

St. John, I trow, is satisfied.

(May God, who reads all hearts aright, 

Admit my blindness to His sight.)

Henry W. Nevinson, from 'Between the Acts'

I am pale with sick desire,

For my heart is far away 

From this world's fitful fire

And this world's waning day; 

In a dream it overleaps 

A world of tedious ills 

To where the sunshine sleeps 

On the everlasting hills -

Say the Saints: There Angels ease us

Glorified and white. 

They say: We rest in Jesus, 

Where is not day nor night.

Christina Rossetti

SOME measure of faith is necessary for the pilgrim. It may not be a very active or polemic faith; it may trouble itself but little about the noisy arguments of the 'heretic' and the 'orthodox', but the bloom of the rose-petal belongs to the heart of the perfume-seller, and it is only fitting that the breather of the incense from the rose-casket should be gentle and gracious and sympathetic. The pilgrim will not lightly regard - or disregard - traditional sites, traditional reverence and traditional names (which alter least when all beside them change and pass). He will not refuse to listen to the voices of almost countless generations of his predecessors, or to inhale the subtle fragrance left by their worship and devotion, their vows and sufferings.

They did not undertake pain and difficulty and danger for the sake of foisting a lie upon posterity, and the luminous cloud of witness which their memory forms about each sacred shrine has not only light within itself, but undoubtedly throws some light on the object of their veneration and devotion.

So when we know that many Popes and kings have gone in pilgrimage to Ste Baume - John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, Gregory XI, Clement VII and Benedict XIII - Louis IX, Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, Francis I, Charles IX, Louis XIII and Louis XIV - when, in one day, Philip of Valois, King of France, Adolphus IV, King of Arragon, Hugo IV, King of Cyprus, John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia and Robert, King of Sicily, stood or knelt within the cave of Mary Magdalene as humble pilgrims, we may take it for granted that all of these firmly believed in the truth of the Provencal tradition, and that those, therefore, who lived nearer to the times of Rabanus than we do had the strongest belief in the credibility of his history.

So, too, when we find that King Henry II of England went twice on pilgrimage to Rocamadour in old Aquitaine, and the great Roland laid down his sword, ‘Durandal’, on the altar of the Blessed Virgin of Zaccheus, we know that some strong belief must have brought them to the shrine.

So, too, in our own land, if we lock back through Norman and Danish and Saxon and Roman or British times, and watch the long procession of pilgrims pass to our earliest shrine of Glastonbury - Gildas, who ended his days here, St. Patrick, St. Benignus, St. David, St. Dunstan, King Ine of the West Saxons, King Edgar, King Edmund, King Edmund Ironsides and King Canute, we may take it for granted that all of these firmly believed in the ancient British church of wattles, 'Vetusta Ecclesia', or 'ealder chirche', raised here (according to tradition) by Joseph of Arimathea, and therefore that those who lived nearer to his time than we do had the strongest belief in the credibility of St. Joseph's mission.1

In England today, fortunately, we are content to leave the legends and traditions of the countryside unsullied by futile controversy, and Tennyson's matchless poem of the Holy Grail is none the less


1 This was so generally accepted in the Middle Ages that at the Council of Constance, in 1419, precedence was actually accorded to our bishops as representing the Senior Church of Christendom (Conybeare).


read and valued by thousands because they know that it is for ever impossible to decide either the truth or the falsity of the Arthurian idylls and the story of St. Joseph.

In France of today it is quite as impossible to determine the truth or the falsity of the 'Legends of the Saints' but, unfortunately, critics and apologists, not content to leave the priceless legacy of their forefathers wrapped in its silk and rose-leaves, appear to be continually quarrelling over its value, and between them have done much to tarnish if not to destroy the freshness and beauty of the ancient story.

So, if we go on pilgrimage at all, I think it safer to follow in the wake of the older pilgrims - to stand with them in the holy places, and do nothing to forfeit that spirit and atmosphere of which the subject is really worthy.

For if the Provencal legends be nothing more than legends, their antiquity, their vitality, their power of penetration and the wideness of their influence are so remarkable that no study of them can be too sympathetic or too appreciative.

The whole circle of legendary history, of tradition and of monuments, would still form one of the most poetical and, at the same time, the most wonderful of romances which the world has ever known - a romance which has affected whole populations and generations for centuries; which has coloured the face of history, as at Vezelai in the Second Crusade; which has raised shrines and great churches and pilgrimages and, in spite of hostile criticism, is living now as an active faith in the hearts and minds of both clergy and people all through the South of France.

But if it is more than this - as it may well be - if the writings of Strabo, of St. Paul, of Clement, of Tertullian, of Isidorus and of Eusebius are in harmony with the old tradition and rather support the theory of Jewish missions reaching all parts of the Roman Empire in the very earliest years of Christianity - if the Saints themselves, companions of our Lord, toiled and suffered and died within the borders of the country to which we are going - if, recognizing this probability, we follow them, not in imagination only, but in deed and truth - if their spirit and life may arouse and animate our spiritless and lifeless Christianity of today - then, indeed, though 'the light be neither clear nor dark', yet 'living waters shall still go forth from Jerusalem, and it shall come to pass that at evening-time there shall be light' (Zech. 14 :6, 7, 8).

It is not only or chiefly at Aries where history and monuments are found to support the story, but all over the Provencal district one finds the names of nearly all our little band of early Christians, still living in the names of towns or of churches or of caves, and all these names are either immemorial or can be definitely traced to the earlier centuries of Christendom.

We find the Holy Maries (Les Saintes Maries) in the Camargue, St. Lazarus at Marseilles, St. Martha on the outskirts of Marseilles and at Tarascon, St. Maximin at the town and church of St. Maximin, and St. Mary Magdalene at Ste Baume…………