Page images
PDF
EPUB

habitants, Piatra owes alike its pro- was summarily ejected from office, I sperity and its misfortunes to the have little doubt that he is not now capricious river on the banks of exceeded by his fellows in bitterness. which it is situated. It is the cen- We paid a very early visit to the tre of the wood trade, and the Monastery of Bistritza, situated in Bistritza is, up to this point, the the gorge of the valley, and distant mode of conveyance from the dense- only about an hour from Piatra. ly - wooded valleys of the Carpa- The scenery at this point becomes thians. Not merely does it afford really fine, and we regretted that we water-carriage for wood, but the were prevented from pushing our rafts in their turn are made use of explorations into the tempting reby travellers as the most conveni- gion beyond. Here, instead of a ent way of descending the river. collection of separate cottages inThese rafts are of necessity com- habited by hundreds of monks, paratively small, but they are fur- there was only a large house and a nished with comfortable little log church. The house contained the shanties; and I regretted, as I saw Igoumen, a fine-looking man, who them come spinning down the ra- received us hospitably, and informpids and being moored to the wreck ed us that he, together with two or of shattered cottages, that I bad three exiled priests, composed the not found time to explore the head- whole establishment. We went into waters of the river, and descend it the church-an old building, decoin this exciting fashion.

rated with some quaint frescoes, and We were most hospitably enter- in which service was being drawled tained at Piatra by the prefect, over by one of the exiles to three or whose house of only one storey, with four old men and women. One of verandahs all round, was not unlike the latter startled me by suddenly an Indian bungalow ; it was never- prostrating herself before the officitheless one of the most sumptuous ating priest as he was carrying the mansions in the place. As a rule, host, and thus obliging him to step the town was little better than a over her body. The monk who had collection of huts, and, to judge accompanied us from the Monastery from their outward appearance, the of Nyamptz informed me that the people did not seem to thrive peasants profoundly believed in the very much on the wood trade. efficacy of this process for healing The disaster which had so recently purposes whenever they were afflictovertaken them, and which had re- ed with any malady; and he went duced thousands to ruin, was, how- on to say that his experience conever, without doubt, one chief cause firmed this popular superstition, of the squalid and poverty-stricken and that he had himself cured peoaspect of the place. We met at ple by stepping over them with the dinner the few intelligent and edu- host in his hands. cated men who lived here, and Bistritza was as good a specimen spend the evening, as is usual on of a Dedicated monastery as we such occasions, in political discus- could have selected. The abuses of sions. The policy of Prince Couza a system which could foster such an always afforded a fruitful topic. Un- establishment were apparent at a fortunately, there was never a suf- glance; and I am bound to say

that ficient divergence of opinion about the Igoumen himself, with whom him individually to make an argu- we discussed the matter, sca

carcely ment possible. During the whole attempted to defend it. In order, term of my residence in Moldavia however, to make clear the distincand Wallachia, I did not find a soul tions between the various ecclesiaswho defended him. Indeed, the tical endowments in these Princionly man who did not virulently palities, it will be necessary to deabuse him was the then Prime Min- fine shortly the conditions under ister. As, a week or two after I saw which they exist. It may be said, this functionary for the last time, he at a rough computation, that as nearly as possible one-fifth of the and had large sums owing to them soil of Moldavia is in the hands of which they never saw the least the Church. This Church property chance of obtaining. Meantime the may be divided into four categories Government denies that it has ac-that belonging to Government tually appropriated property which monasteries, to Cenobitic monas- does not belong to it; on the conteries, to Dedicated monasteries, trary, Prince Couza maintains that and to secular churches. The Gov- all convent property is in reality ernment monasteries are small en- Government property, and that he dowments, scarcely worth men- has a right to take it, with its oblitioning. The whole annual rental gations. Without following him of the secular churches is only into the special pleading by which £3000. It is probable, therefore, he endeavours to prove this, the that their State endowments do not fact remains that he has poured an involve greater abuses than eccle- enormous sum of money into the siastical endowments in other coun- Government coffers, and at the same tries. We have left to consider the time put the Cenobitic establishCenobitic and the Dedicated mon- ments on a footing which they preasteries. The first category I de- fer, and which is likely to diminish scribed in a former article. Nyamptz, existing abuses. The monks will Seku, Agapia, and Veratica all be- no longer be oppressed and victimlonged to it. They are not nearly ised by boyards, or eaten up by pilso wealthy as the Dedicated class- grims and strangers. They get their and have a great deal more to do with three piastres a- - day apiece for their money. They are people of the board, besides about £125 a-year country, who spend at home the pocket-money for each man, and wealth they derive from the produce have no further trouble with the of the soil, and who, as a rule, ap- administration of their large reveprove rather than otherwise of Prince The nuns in the same way Couza's wholesale measure of con- get two ducats a-day from the Govfiscation. It may hit them hard in ernment, with which they are very some respects, but it hits their bitter well satisfied, and admit the proenemies the Dedicated monasteries priety of the new regulation prohimuch harder. The Cenobitic con- biting women from taking the veil vents and monasteries derive their until they are forty-five. For ten riches either from the legacies of years to come no novice at all is to wealthy boyards, or from members be admitted to either convent. The of the fraternity who have thrown only objection I heard made by their property into the common lot. themselves to this rule was, that The revenue of Nyamptz, for in- when the convent contained nostance, was nominally £20,000 a-year, thing but old women, there would derived from land: this maintained be no one to chant or perform the nine hundred monks, and a large service. Altogether, it is evident sum was set aside for hospitality; that the Government is doing what for it was the fashion for strangers it can to discourage such establishto quarter themselves for an indefi- ments. It opposes the institution of nite period upon the monastery; schools by either monks or nunsand at the time of the annual pil- too much knowledge, in the opinion grimage the guests were reckoned of Prince Couza, being a dangerous by thousands : added to this, many thing; and it equally opposes the of the most powerful boyards are accumulation of wealth for the supheavily indebted to the monasteries port of hives of male and female for rents of land, and in other drones, who do nothing but discuss ways; as it is not the fashion politics and grumble. in the Principalities to pay one's We now come to the next cadebts, and courts of law exist only tegory, of Dedicated monasteries. as channels of injustice, the monas- They are upon an altogether difteries were invariably victimised, ferent foundation from the estab

nues.

66

lishments we have just been dis- drones of Athos, Sinai, and other cussing, and derive their wealth monasteries, or else is appropriated from property acquired by the Pa- by the Patriarch at Constantinople, triarch of Constantinople for the who is accountable for it to no one, Church of which he is the head, one cannot wonder at the head of under various pretexts.

It was

the State casting covetous eyes only natural that, when the Otto- upon it for the exigencies of his man rule was more directly opera- Government. It would be too tive in the Principalities than it is much to expect of any man, much at present, everything should be less of Prince Couza, who is not managed by intrigue through Con- much troubled with the devotional stantinople; and the boyards repaid sentiment, to nourish in his bosom the Patriarch for any jobs with the the ecclesiastical vampire which has Turkish Government they wished fastened upon the vitals of the done, by making over, or dedicat- country, and is sucking its lifeing,” at their death, their property blood. Even Mr Gladstone, were to the Greek Church. While the he Chancellor of the Exchequer in monks of the Cenobitic monasteries the Principalities, notwithstanding owe allegiance to the Greek Metro- the marks of affection which he has politan at Jassy, the monks of the lavished, on more than one occaDedicated monasteries owe allegi- sion, upon the Greek priesthood, ance only to the Patriarch at Con- would scarcely be able to resist stantinople. They are, in every proving by argument the superior sense, intruders and interlopers ; claims of the State over a Church are seldom natives of the country; the head of which in a foreign and form, in fact, a portion of that country acts as the receiver of vast ecclesiastical system which stolen goods, while his clergy perswallows up, for Church purposes,

form the functions of robbers and an immense proportion of the wealth exporters of the same. of European Turkey and the Le- It was a curious thing to see this vant. These Dedicated monasteries solitary man in his large empty are affiliated to Mount Athos and house, standing over against a large other Greek convents abroad, and empty church, without a congrethe Turkish Government i has an gation, without priests, without interest in the question, because schools, without paupers to sucthey are, in a sense, as appertaining cour, with no other earthly occupato a Church whose head is at Con- tion except to collect the rents of stantinople, under Turkish protec- the monastery, which amount to tion. So that we have the posi- £12,000 a-year, and to send them tions reversed; and while, in Tur- to Constantinople. Though called key, Russia is perpetually agitating Igoumen, and invested ostensibly upon the ground of a protectorate with sacred functions, he really was in favour of the Christian Church, nothing more than a land-stewardon in the Principalities Turkey is agi- a salary of £125 a-year, kept there, tating, upon the same pretext, in with long hair and a long robe and favour of the same sect. So little a sacred character, to gather in the has real religion to do with it in rents and see that the peasants who either case.

belonged to the monastery did the Altogether, the revenue of these right amount of service for the Dedicated convents in Moldavia lands they held. Poor man ! he alone amounted to an annual rental himself protested that it made very of £200,000. When it is remem- little difference to him whether the bered that almost every farthing of lands were confiscated or not: under this sum is sent to Constantinople, no circumstances did he make moand, instead of finding its way back ney, he alleged, so strict was the into the pockets of Moldavians, to account he was compelled to renbe used in developing the resources der to Constantinople; and he was of the country, goes to enrich the rather glad than otherwise that the Government, by coolly appropriat- from countries like Moldavia, where ing the whole £12,000 a-year, and they possess large tracts of counstill advancing him his own salary, try. It is only natural that the saved him all further trouble. Out Igoumens, who are scarcely ever of the revenue thus acquired by natives of the country to which Prince Couza, an annual grant of they are sent as rent-takers, should £900 is made to the support of the look upon the whole thing as a Monastery of Bistritza. Judging question of plunder. Our friend by the specimens of priesthood we at Bistritza to us that he was a saw there, this sum is ample. The native of Constantinople, but had only objection which the public been appointed to his present post take to this act of spoliation is, by the Bishop of Jerusalem. It that Prince Couza will no more say will be seen, from the conditions what he does with the yearly re- under which the Dedicated monasvenue he has pocketed than the Pa- teries of the Principalities exist, that triarch. There must be something Turkey has really a very indirect infascinating in the touch of this sa- terest in them. It is more a quescred gold, so closely does it stick to tion of principle than of interest, the fingers of all who handle it. but the traditional instincts of the However, Prince Couza can't last for Porte lead the Government to hold ever; and even if he is not more with tenacity to its right upon mathonest than a priest, he has at least ters which are really of no importthe merit of having broken down a ance. Moreover, it is subject to a system of robbery and plunder on very strong Fanariot pressure at the part of the Church, and of Constantinople, which the Sultan keeping Moldavian money in the finds it difficult to resist.

The country. Under the old system, connection of Turkey with these adventurers or needy boyards used provinces is a distinct source of to plot with the dishonest Igou- weakness to her, yet there is mens, who gave them recommenda- nothing upon which the Governtions to Patriarch at Constan- ment at Constantinople is more tinople. They thus procured from sensitive than about its rights this dignitary land at absurdly in the Principalities. If we are low leases, the representations of to support these claims, it would the Igoumen being that they were be wise to do it upon some subject of small value. They would then which would be more comprehensisublet these lands at an enormous ble to the British public than the advance, grind the peasantry down Dedicated monasteries. The Power to the last farthing, and share the which has enabled Prince Couza to. profits with the respectable Igou- effect this wholesale measure with

Better, say the peasantry, impunity has been France; and have to trust to the tender mercies Russia, although interested in the of the Government than to those Church which has been despoiled, of priests of Dedicated monasteries. and having many good reasons So they are not averse to Prince which might have induced her to Couza's measure of confiscation. oppose a measure which really has

Some idea of the enormous sums deprived her of funds which used obtained by the Greek Church, by to be employed in intrigue, was at means of monasteries dedicated to the time so much committed to a it, from the countries in which they French policy that she has found are situated, may be gained by the it difficult latterly to take a more fact that in the Monastery of Sinai consistent and independent line. there are only eighteen monks, However, this question has been with a revenue of £60,000 a-year. merged in others of greater importAs it is quite clear that they can- ance arising out of the policy renot derive this sum from the barren cently adopted by Prince Couza, sides of Horeb, or from any num- and which we may consider, in a ber of “Wadies,” it can only come

future article. Meantime we may

men.

take a final leave of ecclesiastical rather amusing to enter into conestablishments, Cenobitic and De- versation, for they were more unsodicated, of villages of nuns packed phisticated than those wretched together in hundreds, and of gaunt specimens of “Young Moldavia" buildings inhabited by solitary who are to be found in its capital, monks; and, traversing once more and whose manners have been acthe vast plains of these provinces, quired at the “Mabille” in Paris. examine a little at their capitals The youths of Bakou spoke with a the effect of a religion which has certain appearance at least of patrithis peculiar development upon otic fervour. They had aspirations society at large.

for their country never heard in the A six hours' drive down the valley polite society of Jassy or Bucharest, of the Bistritza took us to Bakou: and were quite delighted to show us, our road, not much traversed, fol- by the eagerness with which they lowed the river, and here and there entered upon politics, that they were the scenery was soft and pretty ; qualifying themselves for self-govbut as we approached our destina- ernment. The more enthusiastic tion, the gentle undulations which talked wildly about a Roumania gave a variety to the landscape gra- which should embrace Transylvania, dually subsided, and we found our- the Buckovine, the Banat, and selves at nightfall in the dusty plain. Bessarabia, besides the PrincipaliBakou is a town on the main road ties, amounting altogether to a from Jassy to Bucharest, containing population of about ten millions, as about fifteen thousand inhabitants, they maintain—of people all having and at the time of our visit it the same national sentiments, and was honoured by the presence of no possessing within themselves the less a person than the Prime Min- elements of cohesion. The nationister. This gentleman had been ality idea, as applied to Roumania, upon a canvassing tour through the is the most absurd expression of it country, arranging matters for the which has yet cropped up under elections. By a judicious admix- the auspices of the Emperor Louis ture of threats and bribes, it is not Napoleon. Imagine the whole of difficult in these provinces to insure Italy in a considerably more dematters going the right way. The graded state than either Naples or only other country where politics Sicily, without a Piedmont to rally as a trade are so profitable, where round, and you have Roumania. the men who engage in it are so However, it was useless to argue unscrupulous, and where the people with our Bakou audience; they beare so thoroughly victimised by the lieved in their nationality, and form of government they may by a called themselves Daco-Roumains. figure of speech be said to “enjoy," The more moderate, it is true, were is Federal America. I was amused inclined to begin with the Printo observe the manner in which the cipalities alone, without a protecPrime Minister treated the different torate. These five nurses, who are gentlemen who were presented to always quarrelling among themhim while I was in his company, selves over this very sickly baby, the contemptuous indifference man- do not improve the temper of the ifested to some, the urbanity dis- infant, and in the end will prove played to others, the servility shown fatal to its existence. This convicby nearly all, except by one man tion leads those who are not in govwho seemed to have a presentiment ernment employ, and can therefore of the disgrace which was impend- afford to be patriotic under certain ing over the Premier, and did not restrictions, to advocate the abolithink it worth while to be civil. tion of the protectorate. They

We did not trouble his Excellency maintain that they would thereby very long, but adjourned to an inn be thrown upon their own resources, where a number of young men and have any fine qualities which were supping, with whom it was they may perchance possess called

« PreviousContinue »