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they were clothed, presenting a delightful contrast to the pure and spotless white of the farm-houses embosomed among them,-each thus heightening the beauty of the other.
On the left, the hills extend in a graceful curve, in some places presenting steep and rugged cliffs, while in others, a succession of terraces meet the eye, covered with vines, from the base to the summit crowned with olive-trees above. This curve encloses a valley of many acres in extent, which was formerly a marsh, but was drained and reclaimed by the English, while in power here. It is now all divided into gardens, which are very fertile, and in a high state of cultivation. They are watered by a quiet little stream, which takes its rise from a fountain at the head of the valley, and, as it pursues its winding course on towards the harbour, its waters are spread far and wide by means of artificial trenches, giving to the fig, and the palm, and the humbler vegetable creation, a rich and luxuriant growth. Beyond, in the same direction, and near the centre of the island, Mount Toro, crowned with a signal tower and a convent, rears its barren head to heaven, adding another point of interest to the rich and varied beauties of this delightful landscape.
As Mahon is the place of rendezvous, and the usual winter station of our squadron, we spent four months there, after our first arrival. During this time, as visiting the sick, and my official duties on the Sabbath, did not make it necessary that I should live on board the ship, I took board and lodgings on shore, in a family where Spanish was the only language spoken, and where, too, it came from the lips of one, whose native cheerfulness, vivacity, genuine and unaffected kindness, modesty, and worth, together with her patient assiduity in imparting knowledge, and so peculiarly graceful a tact in correcting frequent errors, as almost to tempt one to multiply mistakes, just for the pleasure of being thus set right, - all these, justly won my gratitude, and made the acquisition of Spanish rather a pleasant pastime than an irksome task. With Italian, I was somewhat acquainted before leaving home, and as to French, though I once had the presumption to attempt to teach it, and was familiar with it as a written language, still, so little time did we spend in France, and so generally is Italian spoken in the eastern seaports of the Mediterranean, that on leaving those regions, while I could converse passably in Spanish and Italian, I had made no advance in the use of French. These remarks are made to
show the peculiar importance of a knowledge of Italian to those who travel in the east.
One of my most pleasant and valuable acquaintances in Mahon, was a Spanish gentleman, of uncommon intelligence and worth, who received his early education in a convent, under the care of the prior, who was his uncle. In addition to the pleasure he gave me by his lively descriptions of clerical manners and morals, and of Spanish customs and usages, he placed in my hands interesting works from his library of rare old books, which he had inherited from a number of clerical relatives. One of these was a Latin work, which I read with much interest, and which, from the history it contains of a wide-spread and important movement in the early Christian Church, having its origin in Mahon, I shall here briefly notice. It throws some light, also, on the present belief of the Catholic Church as to miracles.
The history referred to is as follows. In the year 418, Severus, who was then Bishop of Minorca, wrote a letter in Latin, with the following title, “The Epistle of Severus to the whole Church, concerning the Power which was exerted for the Conversion of the Jews in the island of Minorca, in presence of the Relics of St. Stephen.” In other words, the Bishop ascribes to the efficacy of these relics, the conversion of the Jews, which then took place. Baronius, who was a Cardinal, and librarian of the Vatican, and who, in 1605, was candidate for the papal chair, published a copy of this same letter in his Ecclesiastical Annals. It is noticed by Schlegel, the German historian, as follows. “In the year 418, many persons abandoned Judaism in the island of Minorca. Yet their conversion does no great honor to the Christians; for it was in consequence of great violence done to the Jews, by levelling their synagogue with the ground, and taking away their sacred books."
The titlepage of the book referred to above, reads thus, “A Treatise, by Antonio Roig, of Mahon, concerning the reverend Bishops of Minorca, but especially concerning Severus, and his Epistle, with Remarks on the same." It was published at Palma, in the island of Majorca, in 1787. The author was formerly the Catholic Vicar-General of Minorca, and afterwards a Canon of Majorca. He died but a few years since.
His work is a moderate sized octavo, and shows much learning and research. The epistle occupies thirty-six pages,
and is followed by one hundred and ten pages of critical and explanatory notes. There are also one hundred pages more, which contain numerous quotations from Latin, French, and Spanish writers, in support of the authenticity of the epistle ; and the truth of the story, and the reality of the miracles, is argued with much learning, and the most devoted zeal. I have been thus particular, because this work throws much light on the present, as well as past credulity of the Catholic Church, as to the working of miracles.
Though, according to the Bishop's own story, the conversion of these Jews was owing to little else than the destruction of their synagogue, and their being stoned, and starved into submission, still the singular simplicity and zeal with which he ascribes it all to the agency of the relics of St. Stephen, is truly amusing. These relics were brought to Mahon, by Orosius, a learned presbyter of Tarragona, in Spain, who, having visited Augustine in Africa, A D. 413, spent four years there, and was then sent into Palestine, to inquire of Jerom concerning the origin of souls, and while there, was engaged in a controversy with Pelagius. From this cruise, he brought back the ashes of the flesh, nerves, and bones of St. Stephen, and being prevented by the ravages of the Goths and Vandals, from proceeding to Spain, he left these relics at Mahon, and returned to Africa. These relics were discovered by the interference of the saint himself, in the way of dreams and visions, and by the sweet odor they emitted. This may seem strange to us heretics, but not more so than that the mother of Constantine should have found the cross on which Christ was crucified, three hundred years after his death, and that, though buried, it was in such a state of preservation, that even now, pieces of it, enough to make a thousand crosses, may be seen in Catholic Churches throughout the world. What shall we say, too, with regard to the numerous heads of John the Baptist, which have been exhibited, or the six legs of the ass on which our Saviour rode into Jerusalem, which were sold by a German monk, who valued them the more highly from the fact that the poor animal had such a miraculous number of legs.
The particular agency ascribed by Severus to these relics of St. Stephen, in converting the Jews, was, that they inspired the Christians with peculiar zeal for this object, and were also the cause of certain miracles, such as a rain of manna, the change of a fountain of water into honey, a body of light in the heavens, and other prodigies. Thus, in the short space of eight days, were five hundred and forty Jews converted, or rather, being confined on an island, from which few of them were able to escape, having been stoned by a mob, mad with misguided zeal, and driven forth from their houses to the dens and caves of the earth, they were at length starved into good Christians.
The Epistle of Severus is addressed to "The most holy and blessed Lord Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and the universal brotherhood of the whole world.” It closes thus, “Now, therefore, if you will listen to the words of me, an unworthy sinner, engage with the zeal of Christ against the Jews, that you may effect their eternal salvation. For perhaps the time has now come, foretold by the Apostle, when the fulness of the Gentiles having entered in, all Israel shall be saved. And perhaps, too, God hath caused this spark to be kindled in this extreme part of the earth, that thus the flame of charity might spread throughout the world.” Evodius, who was then Bishop of Ulzala, in Africa, says that he read this Epistle of Severus to his people, who received it with great joy and exultation. We learn from Baronius, also, that when it was read in all the churches, the minds of the Christians were excited to attempt the conversion of the Jews, and they began in the same way as at Minorca, namely, by burning their synagogues. This led the Roman Emperor Theodosius, at length, to pass laws forbidding these measures, though at first they were tolerated, as proceeding from piety. But as the Jews were not thus converted, it became evident (he says), that their conversion in Minorca was effected not by burning the synagogue, but by the miracles of St. Stephen. Near the entrance to the harbour of Mahon, is St. Stephen's cove, so called, from having been the place where Orosius landed with the relics, and the relics themselves are still preserved in the Cathedral of Cittadella, about thirty miles from Mahon.
In reading this story, as well as in reviewing the condensed abstract of it translated at the time, and now before me, I have been forcibly struck with the credulity of the age; inasmuch as a learned man, guided only by dreams and omens, finding something which he called the remains of a saint, who had been dead for centuries, and, as connected with this, that the story of the unrighteous persecution of these poor Jews, should have been taken as evidence of a miracle, and have
80 kindled the Aame of fiery zeal throughout the Christian world, as to make it necessary for the ruler of mighty Rome to stretch forth his arm, to defend the injured and oppressed. Alas! how great a fire a little matter kindleth.
There is, perhaps, no part of Spain, where the customs, character, and habits of the people have less changed, and have still so much the marks of the olden time, as in the group of islands to which Minorca belongs. This is owing, in a great degree, to their being cut off from the continent, so that they have often felt but slightly, if at all, the effect of those invasions and revolutions which have taken place on the main land.
The copper coin in circulation is inscribed with Arabic letters, and wherever one turns, he is reminded, by the names of places, and by other memorials around him, of the days when the Saracens and the Moors were masters there. Many of the farms and country seats still bear the names of their ancient owners, though centuries have passed away since their expulsion from the island. A wealthy farmer in the interior, for example, at whose house I spent a day, with a party of friends, is called Beni Mahmoud, that is, the son of Mahmoud; that being the name of his farm, derived from its ancient Moorish owner. Many domestic utensils, and other articles in common use, are also of Moorish origin. Such, for example, are the bridles, with bits so long as to give the rider almost purchase enough to break a horse's neck. Such bits may, indeed, be well enough with the wild steeds of the Arabs, rushing, as on the wings of the wind, over the pathless desert, but when used on a stupid donkey, are quite out of place. True, Jack belongs to a stiff-necked generation, but then he is quite as apt to stop as go forward, and you never get so much headway on him but that he may be brought up all standing, and the chance is, that he will throw himself aback.
Most of the implements of agriculture, household furniture, and kitchen utensils, have a peculiarly antique appearance, and many of them look as if they had been saved from the wreck of the deluge. Save a few rude wheelbarrows, and one old chaise, there are no wheel carriages in Minorca. A sedan chair is rarely seen, and heavy burdens, such as largecasks and boxes, are carried by binding strong ropes around them, through which long bars of wood are thrust, each end of which is borne by two or three men.