Tales from The Golden Legend's "The Commemoration of All Souls"
By Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, A.D. 1275
...It is read that some fishers of S. Thibault that fished on a time in harvest, and took a great piece of ice instead of a fish. And they were gladder thereof than of a fish, because the bishop had a great burning of heat in his leg, and they laid that ice thereto and it refreshed him much.
And on a time the bishop heard the voice of a man in the ice, and he conjured him to tell him what he was. And the voice said to him: I am a soul which for my sins am tormented in this ice, and may be delivered if thou say for me thirty Masses continually together in thirty days. And the bishop emprised to say them, and when he had said half of them he made him ready to continue forth and say the other.
And the devil made a dissension in the city, that the people of the city fought each against other, and then the bishop was called for to appease this discord, and did off his vestments and left to say the Mass.
And on the morn he began all new again. And when he had said the two parts, him seemed that a great host had besieged the city, so that he was constrained by dread, and left to say the office of the Mass. And after, yet he began again service, and when he had all accomplished except the last Mass, which he would have begun, all the town and the bishop's house were taken by fire. And when his servants came to him, and bade him leave his Mass, he said: Though all the city should be burnt, I shall not Ieave to say the Mass. And when the Mass was done the ice was molten, and the fire that they had supposed to have seen was but a phantom and did no harm.
There was a master which was chancellor at Paris named Silo, which had a scholar sick, and he prayed him that after his death he should come again to him and say to him of his estate. And he promised him so to do, and after died.
And a while after he appeared to him clad in a cope written full of arguments fallacious, and sophisms, and was of parchment, and withinforth all full of flame of fire. And the chancellor demanded him what he was. And he told to him: I am such one that am come again to thee. And the chancellor demanded him of his estate, and he said: This cope weigheth on me more than a mill-stone or a tower, and it is given me for to bear, for the glory that I had in my sophisms and sophistical arguments, that is to say, deceivable and fallacious. The skins be light, but the flame of fire withinforth tormenteth and all to-burneth me.
And when the master judged the pain to be light, the dead scholar said to him, that he should put forth his hand and feel the lightness of his pain. And he put forth his hand, and that other let fall a drop of his sweat on it, and the drop pierced through his hand sooner than an arrow could be shot through, whereby he felt a marvellous torment. And the dead man said: I am all in such pain. And then the chancellor was all afeard of the cruel and terrible pain that he had felt, and concluded to forsake the world, and entered into religion with great devotion.
As S. Augustine saith: Sometimes souls be punished in the places where they have sinned, as appeareth by an ensample that S. Gregory reciteth in the fourth book of his Dialogues, and saith that there was a priest which used gladly a bath, and when he came in to the bath he found a man whom he knew always ready for to serve him.
And it happed on a day, that for his diligent service and his reward, the priest gave to him a holy loaf. And he weeping, answered: Father, wherefore givest thou me this thing? I may not eat it for it is holy. I was sometime lord of this place, but after my death, I was deputed for to serve here for my sins, but I pray thee that thou wilt offer this bread unto Almighty God for my sins, and know thou for certain that thy prayer shall be heard, and when then thou shalt come to wash thee, thou shalt not find me. And then this priest offered a week entire sacrifice to God for him, and when he came again he found him not.
And Peter, abbot of Cluny, saith that there was a priest that sung every day Mass of requiem for all Christian souls, and hereof he was accused to the bishop, and was suspended therefor of his oflice.
And as the bishop went on a day of great solemnity in the churchyard, all the dead arose up against him, saying: This bishop giveth to us no Mass, and yet he hath taken away our priest from us, now he shall be certain but if he amend he shall die. And then the bishop assailed the priest, and sang himself gladly for them that were passed out of this world. And so it appeareth that the prayers of living people be profitable to them that be departed, by this that the chanter of Paris rehearseth.
There was a man that always as he passed through the churchyard he said De Profundis for all Christian souls. And on a time he was beset with his enemies, so that for succour he leapt into the churchyard. And they followed for to have slain him, and anon all the dead bodies arose, and each held such an instrument in his hand that they defended him that prayed for them, and chased away his enemies, putting them in great fear.
There was a knight that lay dead and his spirit taken from him, and a while after the soul returned to the body again. And what he had seen done he told, and said there was a bridge, and under that bridge was a flood, foul, horrible, and full of stench, and on that other side of the bridge was a meadow, sweet, odorous, and adorned full of all manner of flowers. And there on that side of the bridge were people assembled, clad all in white, that were filled with the sweet odour of the flowers. And the bridge was such that if any of the unjust would pass over the bridge, he should slide and fall into that stinking river, and the righteous people passed over lightly and surely into that delectable place.
And this knight saw there a man named Peter, which lay bound and great weight of iron upon him, which when he asked why he lay so there, it was said to him of another: He suffereth because if any man were delivered to him to do vengeance, he desired it more to do it by cruelty than by obedience.
Also he said he saw there a pilgrim that, when he came to the bridge, he passed over with great lightness and shortly, because he had well-lived here and purely in the world, and without sin.
And he saw there another named Stephen, which when he would have passed, his foot slid that he fell half over the bridge, and then there came some horrible black men and did all that they might to draw him down by the legs, and then came other right fair creatures and white, and took him by the arms and drew him up.
And as this strife endured, this knight that saw these things returned to his body and knew not which of them vanquished. But this way we understand that the wicked deeds that he had done strove against the works of alms, for by them that drew him by the arms upward it appeared that he loved alms, and by the other that he had not perfectly lived against the sins of the flesh.
Like as S. Gregory recounteth, in the fourth book of his Dialogues, that one of his monks named Justus when he came to his last end, he showed that he had hid three pieces of gold, and thereof sorrowed sore, and anon after he died. And then S. Gregory commanded his brethren that they should bury his body in a dunghill, and the three pieces of gold with him, saying: Thy money be to thee in perdition. Nevertheless, S. Gregory commanded one of his brethren to say for him every day mass, thirty days long, and so he did. And when he had accomplished his term, the monk that was dead appeared on the thirtieth day to one which demanded how it was with him, and he answered to him: I have been evil at ease unto this day, but now I am well. I have this day received Communion, and thie sacrifice of the altar profiteth not only to them that be dead, but also to them that be living in this world.
It happed there was a man which was with others, laboured in a rock for to dig for silver, and suddenly the rock fell on them and slew them all save this one man, which was saved in a crevice of the rock, but for all that he might not issue ne go out, and his wife supposed that he had been dead, and did do sing every day a Mass for him, and bare every day to the offering a loaf and a pot of wine and a candle. And the devil which had envy thereat appeared three days continually to this woman in form of a man, and demanded her whither she went, and when she had said to him, he said to her: Thou goest in vain, for the Mass is done. And thus she left the Mass three days that she did not sing for him.
And after this another man digged in the same rock for silver, and heard under this the voice of this man, which said to him: Smite softly and spare thine hand, for I have a great stone hanging over my head. And he was afeard, and called more men to him for to hear this voice, and began to dig again, and then they heard semblably that voice, and then they went more near and said: Who art thou? And he said: I pray you to spare your smiting, for a great stone hangeth over my head.
And then they went and digged on that one side till that they came to him and drew him out all whole. And they enquired of him in what manner he had so long lived there. And he said that every day was brought to him a loaf, a pot of wine, a candle, save these three days. And when his wife heard that, she had great joy, and knew well that he had been sustained of her offering, and that the devil had deceived her that she had do sing no Mass those three days.
And as Peter, the abbot of Cluny, witnesseth and saith that, in the town of Ferrara in the diocese of Grationopolitana, that a mariner was fallen into the sea by a tempest, and anon a priest sang Mass for him, and at the last he came out of the sea all safe. And when he was demanded how he escaped, he said that when he was in the sea and almost dead, there came to him a man which gave to him bread, and when he had eaten he was well comforted, and recovered his strength, and was taken up of a ship that passed by. And that was found that it was the same time that the priest offered to God the blessed sacrament for him.
...a solemn doctor which rehearseth that, there was a woman which had her husband dead, and she was in great despair for poverty. And the devil appeared to her, and said that he would make her rich if she would do as he would say to her, and she promised to do it. And he enjoined her that the men of the church that she should receive into her house, that she should make them do fornication. Secondly, that she should take into her house by daytime poor men, and in the night drive them out void, and having nothing. Thirdly, that she should in the church let prayers by her jangling, and that she should not confess her of none of all these things.
And at the last, as she approached towards her death, her son warned her to be confessed, and she discovered to him what she had promised, and said that she might not be shriven, and that her confession should avail her nothing. But her son hasted her, and said he would do penance for her. She repented her, and sent for to fetch the priest, but tofore ere the priest came, the devils ran to her and she died by the horribleness of them. Then the son confessed the sin of the mother and did for her seven years penance, and that accomplished he saw his mother, and she thanked him of her deliverance. And in likewise avail the indulgences of the Church.
It happed that a legate of the pope prayed a noble knight, that he would make war in the service of the church and ride to the Albigeois, and he would therefor give pardon to his father which was dead. And the knight rode forth, and abode there a whole Lent, and that done his father appeared to him more clear than the day, and thanked him for his deliverance.
Whereof is read that when a knight lay in his bed with his wife, and the moon shone right clear which entered in by the crevices, he marvelled much wherefore man which was reasonable obeyed not to his Maker, when the creatures not reasonable obeyed to him. And then began to say evil of a knight which was dead, and had been familiar with him; and then this knight, of whom they so talked, entered into the chamber and said to him: Friend, have none evil suspicion of any man, but pardon me if I have trespassed to thee.
And when he had demanded him of his state, he answered: I am tormented of divers torments and pains, and especially because I defouled the churchyard and hurt a man therein, and despoiled him of his mantle which he ware, which mantle I bear on me and is heavier than a mountain.
And then he prayed the knight that he would do pray for him. And then he demanded if he would that such a priest should pray for him, or such one, and the dead man wagged his head, and answered not, as he would not have him.
Then he asked of him if he would that such a hermit should pray for him, and then the dead man answered: Would God that he would pray for me. And the living knight promised that he should pray for him, and then the dead man said: And I say to thee that this day two years thou shalt die, and so vanished away. And this knight changed his life into better and at the day slept in our Lord.
As Turpin the archbishop of Rheims saith, that there was a noble knight that was in the battle with Charles the Great for to fight against the Moors, and prayed one that was his cousin that if he died in battle, that he should sell his horse and give the price thereof to poor people. And he died, and that other desired the horse and retained it for himself.
And a little while after, he that was dead appeared to that other knight, shining as the sun, and said to him: Cousin, thou hast made me to suffer pain eight days in purgatory, because thou gavest not the price of my horse to poor people, but thou shalt not escape away unpunished. This day devils shall bear thy soul into hell, and I being purged go into the kingdom of heaven.
And suddenly was a great cry heard in the air, as of bears, lions, and wolves, which bare him away. Then let every executor beware that he execute well the goods of them that they have charge of, and to beware by this ensample heretofore written, for he is blessed that can beware by other men's harms. And let us also pray diligently for all Christian souls, that by the moyen of our prayers, alms, and fastings, they may be eased and lessed of their pains.