Yet, on the other hand, the ordeal sometimes was regarded as the most satisfactory kind of proof, entitled to respect beyond any other species of evidence. The age was not logical, men acted more from impulse than from reason, and the forms of jurisprudence were still in a state too chaotic for regular and invariable rules to be laid down. The confusion existing in the popular mind is well illustrated by a case occurring in the twelfth century. A serf of the Abbey of Marmoutiers married a serf who had been given by the Viscount of Blois to one of his retainers named Erbald. The husband purchased his wife’s liberty, and by paying an additional sum had the deed of manumission confirmed by the viscount and viscountess. Years passed away, the serf and wife died, and then also their son, when 먹튀사이트 their property fell to the abbey, which enjoyed it until the heirs of Erbald and the viscount claimed it. The monks produced the deeds of manumission, and the viscountess, then the only surviving witness to the transaction, testified to its authenticity, but to no purpose. The claimants demanded the wager of battle, and the monks, in refusing this as unsuited to their calling, were obliged to produce a man who offered to undergo the ordeal of red-hot iron to prove the validity of the deed. Then the claimants at last desisted, but still succeeded in extorting sixteen livres from the abbey as the price of appending their signatures to the controverted deed.1277

In general, however, as the result depended mostly upon those who administered the ordeal, it conferred an irresponsible power to release or to condemn, and it would be expecting too much of human nature to suppose that men did not yield frequently to the temptation to abuse that power. When Sigurd Thorlaksson was accused by Saint Olaf the King of the murder of his foster-brother Thoralf, and offered to clear himself by the red-hot iron, King Olaf accepted his offer, and appointed the next day for the trial at Lygra, where the bishop405 was to preside over it. When Sigurd went back at night to his ship, he said to his comrades that their prospects were gloomy, for the king had probably caused himself the death of Thoralf, and then brought the accusation against them, adding, “For him, it is an easy matter to manage the iron ordeal so that I doubt he will come ill off who tries it against him;” whereupon they hoisted sail in the darkness and escaped to their home in the Faroe Islands.1278 The collusion thus hinted at must often have been practised, and must have shaken the most robust faith, and this cause of disbelief would receive additional strength from the fact that the result itself was not seldom in doubt, victory being equally claimed by both parties. Of this we have already seen examples in the affairs of the lance of St. Andrew and of the Archbishop of Milan, and somewhat similar is an incident recorded by the Bollandists in the life of St. Swithin, in which, by miraculous interposition, the opposing parties beheld entirely different results from an appeal to the red-hot iron.1279

Efforts of course were made from time to time to preserve the purity of the appeal, and to secure impartiality in its application. Clotair II., in 595, directs that three chosen persons shall attend on each side to prevent collusion;1280 and among the Anglo-Saxons, some four hundred years later, Ethelred enjoins the presence of the prosecutor under penalty of loss of suit and fine of twenty ores, apparently for the same object, as well as to give authenticity to the decision.1281 So in Hungary, the laws of St. Ladislas, in 1092, direct that three sworn witnesses shall be present to attest the innocence or guilt of the406 accused as demonstrated by the result.1282 A rule announced by the Council of Grateley in 928, that if the accused is accompanied by more than twelve comrades he shall be adjudged as though he had failed in the ordeal, points to an obvious source of miscarriage of justice by which a crowd of partisans could interfere with the proceedings and then proclaim that the result had been successful.1283 A law adopted by the Scottish Parliament under William the Lion, in the second half of the twelfth century, shows that corruption was not uncommon, by forbidding those concerned in the administration of ordeals from receiving bribes to divert the course of justice,1284 and a further precaution was taken by prohibiting the Barons from adjudging the ordeal without the intervention of the sheriff to see that law and justice were observed.1285

In spite of all that we have seen, the ordeal, with its undoubted cruelty, was not as cruel as it appears to us, and in its practical results it probably acquitted the guilty far more often than it convicted the innocent. Mr. Maitland tells us that in his researches in the English records from 1201 till the abolition of the ordeal in 1219—a period in which, as stated above (p. 387), it was in constant use—he has found but one instance in which it failed to clear the accused.1286 It is true that the cold-water ordeal was the one most freely resorted to, but the red-hot iron was also freely employed, and the one case of failure occurred in the water ordeal. At this distance of time it would be useless to frame a positive explanation of this, although bribery and collusion of course naturally suggest themselves in the notorious and almost universal corruption of the period. Contemporaries reconciled themselves to this as best they could, but while relying comfortably upon the inscrutable judgment of God, and the preservative power of407 contrition and confession, they were not without other solutions of the problem.

We have seen that in the judicial duel magic arts were popularly supposed to have power to control the interposition of God. This was likewise the case with the vulgar ordeals, and in addition a special power was attributed to the use or abuse of the holy chrism. The Council of Tours, in 813, informs us that it was generally believed that a criminal who drank the chrism or anointed himself with it could not be convicted by any ordeal.1287 So serious indeed was this considered that Charlemagne in 809 decreed that a priest giving out the chrism for this purpose should not only be degraded but should lose a hand—a law which long continued in force, nominally at least.1288 The belief was not ephemeral, for until the early part of the twelfth century a canon was carried through all the collections which speaks of the matter as a fact proved by experience.1289 The superstition probably died out towards the middle of the century when the number of sacraments was increased from three to seven, and the comparative importance of the chrism was thus diminished in the popular eyes. The belief that the judgment of God could be perverted or eluded by magic arts still continued, however, and precautions were commonly taken to prevent their use.1290 Holy water, moreover, was lavishly sprinkled on the materials employed in the ordeal and on the patient, and was given to him408 to drink to prevent diabolic illusions by which it was imagined that the purposes of God could be defeated.1291

Precautions also were taken to guard against processes by which, in the fire ordeals, it was believed that the human frame could be rendered incombustible, and for this object a widely prevailing custom required that for three days previous the hand should be wrapped up to guard against its being thus fortified.1292 The nature of these unguents may be guessed from a prescription given by Albertus Magnus, consisting of mallow and radish juice, white of egg, lime, and “psillus” seeds, the use of which he assures us will enable a man with impunity to enter the flames or to carry red-hot iron.1293 Doubtless reliance on some such expedients may partially explain the readiness with which the ordeal was undertaken.