Cook, Albert S. Cardinal Guala and the Vercelli Book, Supplement to the Report of the Secretary of the Board of Regent J.D. Young, Supt. State Printing. 1888

Wülker (Grundriss, pp. 485-6) quotes with evident disapprobation the opinion of a Quarterly Reviewer in the issue for March, 1845, to the effect that the Vercelli book was doubtless taken from England to Italy by Cardinal Guala-Bicchieri.

The words of the critic (could it have been John Britton?) are as follows (Quar. Rev. 75: 398-9):

“Guala Bicchiere, born of a distinguished family, was raised to the purple by Innocent III., and dispatched by him as legate to France in 1208. In 1215 the Cardinal was again sent to France, when Innocent used his influence to dissuade Philip the Fair from attempting the conquest of England. For this purpose Guala crossed over with Louis, the better to oppose him. In England Guala strenuously supported John with all his influence, cursing the French prince and Stephen Langton with bell, book, and candle. On the death of King John, Guala took an active part in the great council of Gloucester, and mainly assisted in establishing the claims of Henry III. The gratitude of the new monarch bestowed upon Guala much preferment, and amongst other benefices the priory of St. Andrew at Chester. The object of his mission being successfully accomplished by the cessation of hostilities, Guala returned to his native city, where, founding a Collegiate Church, he dedicated the new structure to St. Andrew, doubtless with reference to his English benefice.

“Guala, mixed as he must have been with various classes of society in England, had evidently acquired strong English feelings. He makes many bequests in his will in sterlings, of which he possessed so good store. Relics of English saints were bestowed by him upon his foundation; and a most curious and important collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry, now in the Cathedral library of Vercelli—and of which the chief piece, the metrical legend of St. Andrew, is about to be published by Mr. Kemble—results, without doubt, from the collection which Guala had formed.”

A curious confirmation of this surmise is also mentioned by the reviewer (p. 398): “The English traveler who enters the church of Sant’ Andrea at Vercelli, will at once be surprised at beholding an edifice repeating the most familiar features of the style, to which the name of early English has been applied. The plan of Sant’ Andrea is entirely English: pronounced and decided cruciform transepts; a straight-lined rectangular choir; lancet-windows, supported by tall detached pillars; simple-foliaged capitals; the plain groined roof. There is somewhat of a foreign accent, if we may use the expression, apparent, if you closely examine the details; yet, in spite of this foreign accent, you might almost suppose yourself at Salisbury. (See Knight, vol. ii. p1. xviii.).”

This latter statement is, in the main, substantiated by Fergusson (History of Architecture 2: 199): “One of the earliest, or perhaps the very first Italian edifice into which the pointed arch was introduced, is the fine church of St. Andrea at Vercelli, commenced in the year 1219 by the Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, and finished in three years. This prelate, having been long legate in England, brought back with him an English architect called, it is said, Brigwithe, and entrusted him with the erection of this church in his native place. In plan, it is certainly very like an English church… But with the plan all influences of the English architect seem to have ceased, and the structure is in purely Italian style… The external form of this church is interesting, as displaying the germs of much that two centuries afterwards was so greatly expanded by a German architect in the design of Milan cathedral.”

The only writer who appears to have followed the Quarterly Reviewer is Pauli, in his History of England (Hamburg, 1853). He says (p. 457): “Ausserdem aber hatte Innocenz seinem Legaten Guala (Walter), Cardinal vom Titel des heiligen Martin, den er nach England bestimmt hatte, aufgetragen, seinen Weg dorthin liber Frankreich zu nehmen… (p. 511): Der Cardinal jedoch sehnte sich hinweg nach Italien… Seine reichen Einkünfte, die (p. 512) er hauptsächlich von der ihm von Heinrich III. verliehenen Priorei St. Andreas zu Chesterton in Cambridgeshire bezog, verwandte er dazu, demselben Heiligen eine Collegiatkirche zu Vercelli zu stiften, die noch heute die Spuren seiner Vorliebe für England bewahrt hat. Er besehäftigte beim Bau derselben ohne Frage englische Werkleute, vermachte ihr die in England gesammelten Reliquien, machte ihr Schenkungen in Sterling und brachte ihr endlich jene wichtige angel siichsische Handschrift nach Vercelli, die mit den Gedichten über St. Andreas und St. Helena erst in unserem Jahrhunderte dort wieder aufgefunden ist.”

Pauli refers to the article in the Quarterly Review in a footnote to this statement. Later (Gött. Gel. Anz. 1866, p. 1412, quoted by Wülker, p. 486) Pauli says: “Es ist längst bekannt, dass das (Vercelli-) Buch erst im Jahre 1218 mit dem Cardinal Guala nach Sant Andrea zu Vercelli kam.”

It is remarkable that Kemble, publishing his edition of the Codex Vercellensis after the Quarterly article had appeared, makes no reference to it nor to the view there promulgated; nor does Morley, in his revised edition of English Writers, Vol. II. Wülker, commenting on these opinions, remarks (p. 486): “Es ist dies nur eine Vermuthung, die Manches gegen sich hat. Keinesfalls ist Pauli berechtigt, in seiner Geschichte Englands III 512 die Sache als feststehend anzunehmen In der Handschrift selbst ist gar kein Vermerk, der darauf hindeuten konnte.”

The facts upon which the Quarterly Reviewer and Pauli seem to have based their inferences, are these:

  1. Cardinal Guala was in England from 1216 to 1218.
  2. another right here
  3. While in England he had in his possession the priory of St. Andrew at Chester (Quar. Rev.), or Chesterton in Cambridgeshire (Pauli).
  4. After his return to Italy he founded the Collegiate Church of St. Andrew at Vercelli, and bestowed upon it relics of English saints.
  5. The income from his English benefices perhaps enabled him to establish and endow the church at Vercelli.
  6. The plan and many of the details of the church are Early English.
  7. One of the chief poems of the Vercelli book is St. Andrew.

No direct evidence has been adduced that the Codex Vercellensis was brought by him to Italy, nor that this volume, nor any other book, was given by him to the new foundation. Pauli adopts the Quarterly Reviewer’s surmise without proof, and the various assertions of the Reviewer, himself anonymous, are unprovided with any external guarantee whatever.

Unfortunately, Frova’s Life of Guala (Vita et Gesta Gualse-Bicchieri, Milan, 1767) is not accessible to me. But, even without this important storehouse of information, it is possible to confirm some of the opinions above set down, and to bring forward other considerations of the same tenor. My own series of facts, for which an authority will in every case be given, will be arranged, in order to distinguish it from that already adduced, by letters instead of numbers.

  1. Cardinal Guala came to England in 1216 (Matth. Paris. Chron. Maj. 2: 650).
  2. He left England in 1218 for Rome: “Guala recessit ab Anglia, tendens Romam” (Matth. Paris. 3: 42).
  3. The time of his leaving was on or about St. Andrew’s Day, November 30: “Tendens Romam circa festum Sancti Andrese” (Matth. Paris. 3: 42).
  4. While in England he despoiled the clergy, taking from them immense sums: “Nam ilico post recessum Lodow’ici ab Anglia (this was in 1217) legatus misit inquisitores per omnes Anglise provincias, qui quoscunque de consensu etiam levissimo culpabiles invenerunt, cujuscunque essent ordinis vel dignitatis, suspensos miserunt ad legatum et ab omni beneficio spoliatos, qui illorum beneficia suis clericis abundanter distribuit, atque de dampnis aliorum suos omnes divites fecit. Hugo quoque Lincolniensis episcopus in Angliam veniens mille marcas pro episcopatu suo recuperando ad opus domini Papse et centum marcas legato de probata pecunia nmneravit, cujus exemplum multi tam episcopi quam viri religiosi insecuti sumptibus nimis dampnosis gratiam sibi reconciliabant legati. Clericorum quoque et canonieorum saecularium ubique haustu tam immoderate loculos evacuavit, metens quod non seminavit, ut ex multis portionibus unum grandem acervum videlicet duodecim milia marcas, cumularet” (Matth. Paris. 3:32).
  5. Guala was an especially learned man: “Quanto ei fosse versato nel diritto canonico, eel dimostrano non tanto gli elogi co’ quali egli e stato onorato . . . quanto le saggie Costituzioni da lui pubblicate per la riforma del clero in Parigi, mentre vi era legato della sede apostolica 1’anno 1208 . . . E degni d’essere asservati sono singolarmente i capitoli che appartengono a’ maestri e agli scolari di quella universita, che ci mostrano il Cardinal Guala sollecito pel felice stato di essa.” (Tiraboschi 4: 463-4.)
  6. He founded the monastery of St. Andrew, at Vercelli, in 1219: “Ma vantaggio maggiore recb egli alla sua patria col fondar che vi fece 1’anno 1219 il monastero di S. Andrea da lui conceduto a’ Canonici regolari.” (Tiraboschi 4: 464).
  7. Over this monastery he established as Prior a foreigner, a Frenchman: “Egli ne die il governo a Tommaso canonico di S. Vittore in Parigi, cui percib fe’ venir dalla Francia. Era questi uomo assai dotto, come ne fan testimonio le opere che di lui ci rimangono, e singolarmente i comenti su quelle attribuite a S. Dionigi Areopagita. Egli e detto or dalla sua patria Tommaso Gallo, or dal suo monastero Tommaso vercellese.” (Tiraboschi, 4: 464.)
  8. The monastery church, which was three years in building, was constructed by a foreigner, an Englishman, after English plans (Fergusson, quoted above).
  9. To this monastery was attached an excellent school: “Un monastero fondato da un dotto cardinale, e a un dotto abate raccomandato, non e maraviglia che divenisse sede e scuola di profonda dottrina.” (Tiraboschi 4: 464.)
  10. Guala, notwithstanding his exactions from the English clergy, could not have been wholly unpopular in England: “The Legate Gualo, the Cardinal of St. Marcellus, had conducted this signal revolution with consummate address and moderation. From the coronation of Henry III. at Gloucester by his hands, the Cardinal took the lead in all public affairs: he was virtual if not acknowledged Protector of the infant king. Before the battle of Lincoln the Legate harangued the Royal Army, lavished his absolutions, his promises of eternal reward; under the blessing of God, bestowed by him, the army advanced to victory. In the settlement of the kingdom, in the reconciliation of the nobles, he was mild if lofty, judicious if dictatorial. England might have owed a deep debt of gratitude to the Pope and to the Legate, if Gualo’s fame had not been tarnished by his inordinate rapacity” (Milman, Hist. Lat. Christianity, Bk. X., Ch. II).
  11. The Monastery school was attended by a famous scholar, Adam Marsh, one of the glories of Oxford, the Doctor Illustris of the Schoolmen, and identified by Brewer (Mon. Fran, in Rolls Series I: Ixxxviii), not unplausibly, with Chaucer’s Oxford scholar: “Una pruova ne abbiamo nelle Cronache di S. Francesco, nelle quali si narra (I. 5, c. 5) che S. Antonio di Padova insieme con F. Adamo da Marisio inglese furono da S. Francesco mandati al monastero di S. Andrea di Vercelli a studiarvi la teologia sotto la direzione di quell’ abate. Hic S. Antonius primus fuit, qui studiis litterarum operam dedit, et Theologiam legit in media Fratrum Minorum de licentia S. P. Francisci, quem Vercellis ad studia cum socio nomine Adamo de Marisi Anglo misit ad Abbatem S. Andrese, illorum temporum clarissimum Theologum.” (Tiraboschi 4: 464.) The statement of the Chronicle is rendered more credible by the association of Marsh and Anthony of Padua in subsequent labors: “In 1230 he is at Rome with St. Anthony of Padua, opposing the encroachments and irregularities of the versatile and ambitious minister Elias.” (Brewer, in Mon. Fran. I: Ixxxiv.) In the collection of Marsh’s letters there is one (Mon. Fran. 1 206) addressed to the Abbot of St. Andrew at Vercelli, evidently the Thomas of France mentioned above (G). Him he greets with these words: “Serenissimo in Christo patri et domino Th., Dei gratia Abbati St. Andrere Vercellis, Frater Ada salutem in Domino et subjectum in Domino deditse devotionis famulatum.” In this letter he sends his own exposition of the Angelic Salutation, and requests in return his friend’s disquisition on the Holy Ministry, urges upon him the evil of non-residence, and tells him that Bishop Grostete, his correspondent’s very good friend (amantissimus vester) is well. Though not sparing of good advice, Marsh addresses Abbot Thomas in a filial manner: “Paternitatis vestra? pietatem,” “paternitatis vestrse dementia,” “mi pater venerande,” “desideratissime pater,” are expressions that he employs. The Abbot clearly had a cure in England (perhaps given him by Guala?): ‘’De animabus in Anglia vestro regimini cornmissis.” May we not look to the friendship between Abbot Thomas and Grostete for an explanation of the fact that both wrote upon the mystical theology of Dionysius the Areopagite? (G above; Nouvelle Biographic Generale s. v. Grossetete). “He (i. e. Grostete) was ably seconded by his scholar, Adam Marsh, or de Marisco, under whom the Franciscan school at Oxford attained a reputation throughout Christendom. Lyons, Paris, and Cologne borrowed from it their professors: it was owing, indeed, to its influence that Oxford now rose to a position hardly inferior to that of Paris itself. The three most profound and original of the schoolmen—Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, and Ockham—were among its scholars; and they were followed by a crowd of teachers hardly less illustrious in their day, such as Bungay, Burley, and Archbishop Peckham. Theology, which had been almost superseded by the more lucrative studies of the Canon Law, resumed its old supremacy in the schools.” (Green, Short History of the English People, Ch. Ill, Section VI.)
  12. Guala collected a library such as scarcely any of his contemporaries possessed: “Un altra pruova del sapere di questo celebre cardinale e la copiosa biblioteca ch’egli avea raccolta, cosa rarissima a que’ tempi, e che non praticavasi che da uomini facoltosi insieme e dotti.” (Tiraboschi, 4: 465.) “Non ci dee dunque recar maraviglia che si rare fossero di questi tempi le private e le pubbliche biblioteche. Della Vaticana non trovasi; ch’io sappia, in tutto qiiesto secol memoria alcuna… Tra’ privatipoi appena era possibile che si trovasse chi avesse richezze sufficienti a formare una copiosa biblioteca. II P. Sarti chiama assai bene provveduta la biblioteca di Cervotto Accorso, ch’egli probabilmeiite avea avuta in dono ‘dal celebre giureconsulto Accorso suo padre. Ma tutta questa biblioteca, di cui egli stesso ha pubblicato il Catalogo, riducesi finalmente a venti volumi tutti di scrittori legali Buon nuinero di libri avea pure raccolto il suddetto cardinale Guala, come raccogliesi dal Catalogo poc’anzi accennato.” (Tiraboschi, 4: 125-7.)
  13. This library of Guala’s contained one or more books in a character distinctly recognizable and describable as English: “Esso e assai copioso singolarmente di libri sacri; ma cib che fa al nostro proposito, si e che veggiamo che al titolo di molti tra essi si aggiugne la nota ancor del carat tere in cui erano scritti Eccone alcuni fra gli altri: Bibliotheca magna (cioe un corpo della Sacra Scrittura) de littera Parisiensi cooperta purpura, et ornata floribm aureis, et litterae capitales aureae… item alia Bibliotheca de littera Boloniensi cum corio rubeo; item bibliotheca de littera Anglicana.”… (Tiraboschi, 4: 124-5.)
  14. Guala bequeathed his library to the monastery he had founded: “II Catalogo de’ libri che il Cardinale Guala… lasciò in dono l’anno 1227 al monastero di S. Andrea in Vercelli da lui fondato.” (Tiraboschi 4: 124)… “Ma se se ne tragga la copiosa biblioteca poc’ anzi accennata che il Cardinale Guala dono al monastero di S. Andrea in Vercelli, non sappiamo precisamente di^alcuno che imitasse in cib gli esempi di alcuni de’ monaci de’ secoli addietro, che tanto si erano adoperati per arricchire le loro biblioteche.” (Tiraboschi 4: 127.)
  15. In 1228, the year after Guala’s death, the monastery school, thus greatly enriched, was converted into a University for representatives of various nations (among whom the English are specially mentioned by document, bearing date April 4,1228): “Due messi della communita di Vercelli spediti dal podesta Rainaldo Trotto a nome della stessa communita stabiliscono i patti per 1’erezione di un pubblico studio nella suddetta citta co’ rettori degli scolari di diverse nazioni ch’erano in Padova, cioe de’ Prancesi, degl’ Inglesi, de’ Normanni, degl’ Italiani, de’ Provenzali, degli’ Spagnuoli, de’ Catalan!.” (Tiraboschi 4: 82-3.)
  16. Though the University of Turin, founded in 1405, probably drew away the students from Vercelli, and caused the downfall of the University in the latter city (Tiraboschi 6: 148-9), yet the library was still a fine one in the early years of the fifteenth century: “Della biblioteca della cattedral di Vercelli parla con molta lode, e la dice fornita di molti antichi e preziosi libri, Ciriaco d’Ancona, che ne’ suoi viaggi la vide.” (Tiraboschi 6: 231.)
  17. Guala was Cardinal of St. Martin, and not of St. Marcellus, as Milman supposes (Annales Monastici in Rolls Series, 2: 284: 4: 69; Ric. de Cirencestria 2: 37).
  18. Curiously enough, though the fact may have no great significance in this connection, there is a Homily on St. Martin in the Vercelli Codex (Wülker, Grundriss, p. 490). Essentially the same homily is found in the Blickling MS., just before one on St. Andrew, which concludes the volume (St. Martin’s Day Nov. 11, St. Andrew’s Nov. 30).
  19. Guala, like other strong natures of whom we are told, may have been somewhat superstitious, and have believed that his life was somehow under the influence of St. Andrew. Not only did he leave England on or about St. Andrew’s Day (C, above), Pandulf arriving on the Monday following, but King John, while under Guala’s protection as legate, won a victory over his rebellious barons at Rochester on the vigil of St. Andrew, perhaps assisted by the saint himself, the patron of that city, according to Higden (Polychr. 7: 50). ‘’In vigilia sancti Andresecepit castellum Roucestrense, ubi multi nobiles contra eum conspiraverant” (Polychr. 8:194).
  20. St. Helena, celebrated in the Vercelli Codex, was English by birth.

The facts not hitherto adduced in support of the hypothesis, and which seem to be as conclusive as circumstantial evidence can well be, are:

  1. Guala was a learned man (E), zealous for learning and religion (F, G, I), and the owner of perhaps the finest private library possessed at that time in Western Europe (L).
  2. The funds for the establishment of the monastery and the purchase of his books must have come largely from England (D), and why not certain books also?
  3. He must have been open-minded, and appreciative of the good he found in foreign parts (G, H), and especially anxious to testify his appreciation of English art (H); then why not of English letters?
  4. His spirit of good-will toward England was to some extent reciprocated there (J, K), and he sought to perpetuate it by selecting as Abbot an ecclesiastic, who, though French, should have English connections and sympathies, and a stake in English prosperity (K).
  5. The wisdom of his course is attested by the renown of the monastery school, and the fact that it immediately attracted one of the greatest Englishmen of the Middle Ages, who remained a firm friend after his departure (K), and perhaps gained other friends for its head (K).
  6. The influence of the Vercelli school was felt in England, if it was this which induced Grostete to write upon Dionysius the Areopagite (G, K), and within nine years from its foundation it developed into a University, where scholars of all nations, including Englishmen, were welcomed (0).
  7. Guala must have thought oftenest of St. Martin and St. Andrew, patrons of France and of North Britain respectively, especially revered by the two foreign nations in which his lot was cast and which he afterwards honored on his return to his native country and his native town. Several circumstances must have conspired to deepen the impression thus made (Q, C, S, and his connection, if true, with the English Priory of St. Andrew), particularly with reference to St. Andrew. We need not be surprised, then, at his immediate commemoration of that Saint (F), nor should we be surprised if a book once belonging to him commemorated both St. Martin and St. Andrew (R, taken in connection with the wellknown poem of the Vercelli book).
  8. By evincing a special interest in the Vercelli book, he would have been honoring another Saint peculiarly dear to the English heart (T).
  9. Finally, his library did contain one or more books in English chirography (M), was bequeathed to this monastery (N), and, with whatever augmentations it had received, was a notable one at the beginning of the 15th century.

May 28, 1888.