« 前へ次へ »
of the highest preferment. All these, however, he renounced at once; and after undergoing a very severe noviciate, assumed the habit of St. Francis, in a monastery of Observantine friars, one of the most rigid orders in the Romish Church. There he soon became eminent for his uncommon austerity of manners, and for those excesses of superstitious devotion, which are the proper characteristics of the monastic life. But notwithstanding these extravagances, to which weak and enthusiastic minds alone are usually prone, his understanding, naturally penetrating and decisive, retained its full vigour, and acquired him such authority in his own order as raised
him to be their Provincial. His reputation for sanctity soon procured him the office of Father Confessor to Queen Isabella, which he accepted with the utmost reluctance. He preserved in a court the same austerity of manners which had distinguished him in the cloister. He continued to make all his journeys on foot; he subsisted only upon alms ; his acts of mortification were as severe as ever; and his penances as rigorous. Isabella, pleased with her choice, conferred on him, not long after, the Archbishopric of Toledo, which, next to the Papacy, is the richest dignity in the Church of Rome. This honour he declined with a firmness which nothing but the authoritative injunction of the Pope was able to overcome. Nor did this height of promotion change his manners. Though obliged to display in public that magnificence which became his station, he himself retained his monastic severity. Under his pontifical robes he constantly wore the coarse frock of St. Francis, the rents in which he used to patch with his own hands. He at no time used linen; but was commonly clad in hair cloth. He slept always in his habit, most frequently on the ground, or on boards, rarely on a bed. He did not taste any of the delicacies which appeared at his table, but satisfied himself with that simple diet which the rule of his order prescribed.
Notwithstanding these peculiarities, so opposite to the manners of the world, he possessed a thorough knowledge of its affairs; and no sooner was he called by his station, and by the high opinion which Ferdinand and Isabella entertained of him, to take a principal share in the administration, than he displayed talents for business, which rendered the fame of his wisdom equal to that of his sanctity. Bold and original in all his plans, his political conduct flowed from his real character, and partook both of its virtues and its defects. His extensive genius suggested to him schemes vast and magnificent. Conscious of the integrity of his intentions, he pur
sued them with unremitting and undaunted firmness. Accustomed from his early youth to mortify his own passions, he showed little indulgence towards those of other men. Taught by his system of religion to check even his most innocent desires, he was the enemy of every thing to which he could affix the name of elegance or pleasure. Though free from any suspicion of cruelty, he discovered in all his commerce with the world a severe inflexibility of mind and austerity of character, peculiar to the monastic profession, and which can hardly be conceived in a country where that is unknown.
ROBERTSON.–CHARLES V. Vol. 2.