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Abbot

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ABBOT, the title of the superior of certain establishments of religious per sons of the male sex, thence called abbeys.

The word abbot, or abbot, as it has been sometimes written, comes from abbatis, the genitive of abbas, which is the Greek and Latin form of the Syriac abba, of which the original is the Hebrew ab, father. It is, therefore, merely an epithet of respect and reverence, and appears to have been at first applied to any member of the clerical order, just as the French 'pere,' and the English father,' which have the same sigmfication, still are in the Roman Catholic church. In the ear liest age of monastic institutions, how ever, the monks were not priests ; they were merely holy persons who retired from the world to live in common, and the abbot was that one of their number whom they chose to preside over the association. The general regulations for monasteries, monks, and abbots (Hegu meni) of the Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century, are contained in the Fifth Novel. In regard to general eccle siastical discipline, all these communi ties were at this time subject to the bishop of the diocese, and even to the pastor of the parochial district within the bounds of which they were esta blished. At length it began to be usual fbr the abbot, or, as he was called in the Greek Church, the Archimandrite (that is, the chief monk), or the Hegumenos (that is, the leader), to be in orders ; and since the sixth century monks generally have been priests. In point of dignity an abbot is considered to stand next to a bishop ; bet there have been many abbots in different countries who have claimed almost an equality in rank with the epis copal order. A minute and learned ac count of the different descriptions of abbots may be found hi Du Cange's Glossary, and in Carpentier's Supplement to that work. In England, according to Coke, there used to be twenty-six abbots (Fuller says twenty-seven), and two priors, who were lords of parliament, and sat in the House of Peers. These, some times designated Sovereigns, or General abbots, wore the mitre (though not ex actly the same in fashion with that of the bishops), carried the crozier (but in their right hands, while the bishops carried theirs in their left), and assumed the episcopal style of lord. Some croziered abbots, again, were not mitred, and others who were mitred were not croziered. Abbots who presided over establishments that had sent out several branches were styled cardinal-abbots. There were like wise in Germany prince-abbots, as well as prince-bishops. In early times we read of field-abbots (in Latin, Abbate, Milites), and abbot-copnts (Abba-Co mites, or Abbi-Comites). These were secular persons, upon whom the prince had bestowed certain abbeys, for which they were obliged to render military ser vice as for common fiefs. A remnant of this practice appears to have subsisted in our own country long after it bad been discontinued on the Continent. Thus, in Scotland, James Stuart, the natural son of James V., more celebrated as the Regent Murray, was, at the time of the Reformation, prior of St. Andrew's, al though a secular person. And the secu larization of some of the German eccle siastic dignities has since occasioned something like a renewal of the ancient usage. We have in our day seen a prince of the House of Brunswick (the late Duke of York) at the same time commander-in chief of the British army and Bishop of Osnabriick. The efforts of the abbots to throw off the authority of their diocesans long disturbed the church, and called forth severe denunciations from several of the early councils. Some abbeys, how ever, obtained special charters, which recognized their independence ; a boon which, although acquired at first with the consent of the bishop, was usually defended against his successors with the most jealous punctiliousness. Many of

the abbots lived in the enjoyment of great power and state. In ancient times they possessed nearly absolute authority in their monasteries. "Before the time of Charlemagne," says Gibbon, " the abbots indulged themselves in mutilating their monks, or putting out their eyes ; a pun ishment much less cruel than the tre mendous vade in pace (the subterraneous dungeon or sepulchre), which was after wards invented." The picture which this writer draws of what he calls " the abject slavery of the monastic discipline' is very striking. " The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts, were determined by an inflexible rule, or a capricious superior: the slightest offences were corrected by disgrace or confine ment, extraordinary fasts, or bloody fla gellation ; and disobedience, murmur, or delay, were ranked in the catalogue of the most heinous sins." The external and splendour with which an abbot was in many cases surrounded, corre sponded to the extensive authority which he enjoyed within his abbey, and through out his domains. St. Bernard is thought to refer to the celebrated Luger, abbot of St. Denis, in the beginning of the twelfth century, when he speaks, in one of his writings, of having seen an abbot at the head of more than 600 horsemen, who served him as a cortege. "By the pomp which these dignitaries exhibit," adds the saint, " you would take them, not for superiors of monasteries, but for the lords of castles,—not for the directors of con sciences, but for the governors of pro vinces." This illustrates a remark which Gibbon makes in one of his notes :—" 1 have somewhere heard or read the frank confession of a Benedictine abbot My vow of poverty has given me 100,000 crowns a year, my vow of obedience has raised me to the rank of a sovereign prince.'" Even in the unreformed parts of the Continent, however, and long be fore the French Revolution, the powers of the heads of monasteries, as well as those of other ecclesiastical persons, had been reduced to comparatively narrow limits ; and the power both of abbots and bishops had been subjected in all material points to the civil authority. The former became merely guardians of the rule of their order, and superintendents of the internal discipline which it prescribed. In France this salutary change was greatly facilitated by the concordat made by Francis I. with Pope Leo X. in 1516, which gave to the king the right of no minating the abbots of nearly every monastery in his dominions. The only exceptions were some of the principal and most ancient houses, which retained the privilege of electing their superiors. The title of abbot has also been borne by the civil authorities in some places, especially among the Genoese, one of whose chief magistrates used to be called the Abbot of the People. Nor must we forget an other application of the term which was once famous in our own and other coun tries. In many of the French towns there used, of old, to be annually elected from among the burgesses, by the magistrates, an Abbd de Liesse (in Latin, Abbas Lietitiie), that is, an Abbot of Joy, who acted for the year as a sort of master of the revels, presiding over and directing all their public shows. Among the re tainers of some great families in England was an officer of a similar description, styled the Abbot of Misrule; and in Scot land the Abbot of Unreason was, before the Reformation, a personage who acted a principal part in the diversions of the populace, and one of those whom the zeal of the reforming divines was most eager in proscribing.