The Epistolae Vagantes of Gregory VII

ed. & trans. H.E.J Cowdrey (Oxford Medieval Texts 1972)  January 2001

5 (To Countess Matilda of Tuscany): Gregory confides to her his desire personally to cross the sea and help the Eastern Christians under persecution, and asks whether she will join the Empress Agnes and himself (1074, after 16 Dec.)

There are some whom I blush to tell, lest I should seem to be led by a mere fancy, how firmly my mind and heart are set upon crossing the sea in order that, by Christ's favor, I may bring help to the Christians who are being slaughtered by the heathen like cattle. But to you, my most beloved and loving daughter, I do not hesitate to disclose any of these thoughts, for even you yourself can hardly imagine how greatly I may count upon your zeal and discretion. When, therefore, you have read my letter about this matter which I am sending to those beyond the Alps, do all that you can to give your counsel, and still more your help, to your Creator; for if, as some say, it is a noble thing to die for our country, it is a far nobler and a truly praiseworthy thing to give our corruptible flesh for Christ, who is life eternal.

Now, I believe that many knights support us in such a task, also that our empress herself desires to come with us to distant parts and to bring you with her, leaving your mother behind to safeguard our common interests here; for so, with Christ's help, we might depart in safety. If, moreover, the empress came and devoted herself to prayer, she in concert with you might encourage many to take part in this work. As for me, furnished with such sisterly aid I would most gladly cross the sea, if need be to lay down my life for Christ with both of you whom I always desire should cleave to me in the heavenly country.

See that you answer as quickly as you can what seems good to you about this matter and about your coming to Rome. May the Almighty Lord graciously bless you and lead you from strength to strength, so that the mother of us all may for long be able to rejoice upon your account.

6 To Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz: Gregory urges German bishops to co-operate in eliminating simony and enforcing clerical chastity, and transmits the decrees of his Lateran council (1075, Feb.)

Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to the archbishop of Mainz, greeting and apostolic blessing.

Prompted by our apostolic authority and by the truthful decrees of the holy fathers, we were enkindled by the duty of our office to banish the simoniac heresy and to enforce the chastity of the clergy. Knowing that your clergy and people are widely dispersed and that, moreover, your suffragans are many and far flung, we determined to impose upon you this obligatory task: that both by your own endeavors and by your fellow bishops' you should impress the decree of the Roman church with due zeal upon all the clergy, and set it forth to be inviolably observed. It seemed good also to furnish you with a special letter about it bearing our seal, so that by the sanction of its authority you might the more safely and boldly obey our command and drive out from the sanctuary of the Lord the simoniac heresy and the foul defilement of polluting lust.

Thus we do not deem it superfluous to write to you that we have made a conciliar injunction, by the authority of the holy fathers, that those who have been promoted by the simoniac heresy, that is, with the intervention of money, to any rank or office of holy orders may no longer exercise any ministry in holy church. Those, too, who obtain churches by the gift of money must utterly forfeit them, so that no one for the future may be allowed to sell or buy them. Nor may those who are guilty of the crime of fornication celebrate masses or minister at the altar in lesser orders. We have further appointed that if they disregard our rulings, or rather those of the holy fathers, the people may in no wise receive their ministrations, so that those who are not corrected from the love of God and the honor of their office may be brought to their senses by the shame of the world and the reproof of the people. Be zealous, therefore, so to show yourself our fellow worker in these things, and so to tear out these offences by the root from your churches, that you may win from God the reward of a good shepherd and that the Roman church may rejoice in you as a most dear brother and zealous fellow worker.

8 To Bishop Otto of Constance: Gregory informs him of the decrees of his Lateran council against simony and clerical unchastity (1075, Feb.-Mar.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved brother in Christ, Bishop Otto of Constance, greeting and apostolic blessing.

The haste of your messengers wishing to return without delay did not allow us to communicate to you in due order the decrees which were approved in the Roman council. We thought it necessary that you should be sent written notice of this much at least: we made a ruling in this council, by the authority of the holy fathers, that those who have been promoted by the simoniac heresy, that is, by the intervention of money, to any rank or office of holy orders may no longer exercise any ministry in holy church. Those, too, who obtain churches by the gift of money must utterly forfeit them, and no one for the future may be allowed to sell or buy them. Nor may those who are guilty of the crime of fornication celebrate masses or minister at the altar in lesser orders. We have further appointed that if they disregard our rulings or rather those of the holy fathers, the people may in no wise receive their ministrations, so that those who are not corrected from the love of God and the honor of their office may be brought to their senses by the shame of the world and the reproof of the people. Be zealous, therefore, so to show yourself our fellow worker in these things, and so to tear out these offences by the root from your churches, that you may win from God the reward of a good shepherd and that the Roman church may rejoice in you as a most dear brother and zealous fellow worker.

9 To Bishop Otto of Constance: Gregory insists upon his sanctions against simony and clerical unchastity, reproves Otto for disobediently conniving at the marriage of his clergy, and summons him to Rome (1075, late)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to Bishop Otto of Constance, greeting and apostolic blessing.

Tidings have reached us about you which I have been most reluctant and sad to hear, and which if they came to our ears about even the lowliest member of the Christian people we should undoubtedly punish by a most stern judgment of stringent discipline. For, urged by our apostolic authority and the truthful judgments of the holy fathers, we were enkindled according to the duty of our office to extirpate the simoniac heresy and to enforce the chastity of the clergy. We laid it as a bounden duty upon our brother the venerable archbishop of Mainz, whose suffragans are many and far flung, that both by himself and through his coadjutors he should impress this decree of the Roman church with all zeal upon his whole clergy and insist that it should be inviolably observed. We also thought fit to write a special letter, sealed with our seal, concerning this matter to you as ruler of the numerous clergy of the see of Constance and of its widely dispersed people, so that upheld by its authority you might the more safely and boldly obey our commands by driving out from the Lord's sanctuary the simoniac heresy and the foul defilement of polluting lust. For the apostolic authority of St. Paul is decisive when, including fornicators and adulterers with other vicious men, he went on to make this clear and final prohibition: 'not even to eat with such a one'. Moreover the whole company of the catholic church are either virgins or chaste or married. Whoever stands outside these three orders is not numbered amongst the sons of the church or within the bounds of the Christian religion. Thus, if we know for a certainty that even the least of laymen is companying with a mistress, we rightly debar him from the sacraments of the altar until he repents, as a member severed from the Lord's body. This being so, how can a man be a dispenser or minister of the holy sacraments, when he can on no account be even a partaker of them? The ruling of the blessed Pope Leo is binding upon us, by which he absolutely withheld from subdeacons the liberty to marry; and subsequent popes of the holy Roman church, especially the distinguished doctor Gregory, have so established the blessed Pope Leo's decree as law that thereafter the bonds of marriage are altogether forbidden to the three ecclesiastical orders of priests, deacons, and subdeacons.

Yet when we passed on all these things for you to observe by your pastoral oversight, you, setting your heart not on things above but on the earth below, relaxed the reins of lust, as we have heard, to all these orders, allowing those who had joined themselves to women to continue in their shame and those who had not taken women to have no fear of your prohibition. O the impudence! O the unparalleled insolence! that a bishop should despise the decrees of the apostolic see, should set at naught the precepts of the holy fathers, and in truth should impose upon his subjects from his lofty place and from his episcopal chair things contrary to these precepts and opposed to the Christian faith! We accordingly command you by apostolic authority to present yourself at our next council in the first week of Lent, to answer canonically respecting both this disobedience and contempt of the apostolic see, and all the charges that have been laid against you.

10 To the clergy and laity of the diocese of Constance: Gregory condemns Bishop Otto's disobedience and releases them from their own duty of obedience to him until he obeys the apostolic see (1075, late)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the clerks and laymen, greater and lesser, in the diocese of Constance, who love the law of Christ, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We sent to Otto, our brother and your bishop, an admonitory letter in which as our office obliges us we charged him by apostolic authority that he should utterly exclude the simoniac heresy from his church, and that he should uphold the chastity of the clergy by zealous preaching and insist with episcopal vigilance upon its being steadfastly maintained. For the words of the gospels and of the apostles, the decrees of authoritative councils, and the precepts of distinguished doctors so commend it to us that we cannot disregard and neglect it without great harm to our own soul and to the people of Christ. But your bishop has been guided neither by reverence for St. Peter's precept nor by the duty of his own office; for as we have been told he has not been at pains to carry out our fatherly exhortations. Instead, that he might incur the guilt not only of disobedience but also of rebellion, as we have heard he has openly tolerated in his clergy things altogether repugnant to our command or rather St. Peter's—that those who had women might keep them, and that those who did not have them might commit the unlawful brazenness of taking them. When we heard of it we were deeply angered and wrote him a second letter, making clear to him the depth of our indignation and insisting still more sharply upon our command. At the same time we also summoned him to the Roman council called for the first week of next Lent, in order that he may give an account of himself and explain in the hearing of the whole assembly the grounds for his disobedience, if he has reasonable ones.

Dearest sons, we make these things known to you in order that we may promote the salvation of your souls. For if he is determined to be brazenly hostile and unyielding to St. Peter and to the holy and apostolic see, it is clearly evident that a man who does not honor his mother or father should rightfully neither expect nor ask their faithful sons to yield obedience to himself. For it is unfitting that a man who refuses to be under a master should himself seek to stand as a master over disciples. Accordingly, as we have already said, by apostolic authority we charge all of you, both greater and lesser, who stand by God and St. Peter, that if he is determined to continue in his obduracy you should show him neither respect nor obedience. Nor need you think this a danger to your souls. For if, as we have often said already, he is determined to resist apostolic precepts, we so absolve you by St. Peter's authority from every yoke of subjection to him that, even if any of you is bound to him by the obligation of an oath, for so long as he is a rebel against God and the apostolic see you are bound to pay him no fealty. For a man should obey no one before his Creator, who must be placed before all others; but we should resist whoever waxes proud against God so that, driven at least by - this constraint, he may learn to turn back to the path of righteousness. For how very dangerous it is, and how far removed from the law of Christ, not to be obedient, especially to the apostolic see, you may learn from the words of blessed Samuel the prophet which the most holy Pope Gregory undertook to expound in the last book of his Morals. In order that we may have them before us we are setting them down in writing; you may thus know beyond doubt that we are addressing no new teaching to you, but are rehearsing the ancient teaching of the holy fathers:

Hence Samuel says: 'To obey is better than sacrifices and to hearken than to offer the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.' Now obedience is rightly placed before sacrifices, because by sacrifices we put to death flesh which is not our own, but by obedience our own will. A man pleases God the more readily in proportion as he curbs his own pride of will and sacrifices himself before God's eyes by the sword of his precept. Disobedience, on the other hand, is likened to the sin of witchcraft in order that it may appear how great is the virtue of obedience: by contrasting them it may the more clearly be seen how highly we should praise it. For if 'rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry', only obedience has the reward of faith, since without it a man is proved to be unfaithful even though he appear to be faithful.

11 To all the clergy and laity of Germany: Gregory urges them to resist bishops who tolerate clerical marriage and concubinage (1075, late)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all the clergy and laity of the kingdom of Germany, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We have heard that certain of the bishops who dwell in your parts either condone, or fail to take due notice of, the keeping of women by priests, deacons, and subdeacons. We charge you in no way to obey these bishops or to follow their precepts, even as they themselves do not obey the commands of the apostolic see or heed the authority of the holy fathers. Divine scripture testifies that an equal punishment is due to those who commit an evil and to those who assent to it. May the almighty and merciful God, who beyond our hope and our deserving pities and comforts us in all our tribulation, so open your heart in his law and confirm you in his precepts that, being absolved by the authority of St. Peter from all your sins, he may bring you to reign in his heavenly kingdom. Amen.

13 To Bishop Henry of Trent: Gregory reproves him for failing to reply to a message and protests the justice of his own excommunication of Henry IV. He urges the bishop to send. knights for the service of St. Peter (1076, Mar.-July)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his brother and fellow bishop Henry of Trent, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We are surprised that you should have so disregarded our message that you have decided to make no reply to it; for particularly after our conciliar sentence against King Henry you should certainly not have delayed to answer. We believe that neither you nor anyone of sound mind could doubt that we were brought to pass this sentence because we were driven to it by zeal for righteousness, not because we were aroused by some merely personal wrong. If anyone should still be in doubt about this, he ought to find out from us the truth of the matter before rashly believing that an injustice was done to the king. But whatever men think and however they may construe what has happened, with unwavering trust in God's mercy we make this prophecy: the feast of St. Peter will not have passed before it is quite certainly made known to all men that the king was most justly excommunicated. We therefore desire and admonish you to assure us without fail whether you choose to obey God rather than men, and whether you are minded to keep faith with God and the holy Roman church by obeying righteousness rather than to despise them by cleaving to the children of iniquity. We also ask and summon you to the best of your ability to send knights for the service of St. Peter. If you decide to send them you should inform our daughter Matilda; for by her help they can have safe conduct and, if God wills, they can reach us in safety.

14 To all the faithful in Germany: in answer to those who doubt the justice of his excommunication of Henry IV Gregory sets out in detail the grounds of his sentence (1076, summer)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all bishops, dukes, counts, and other faithful men in the kingdom of Germany who are defending the Christian religion, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We have heard that some of your countrymen have doubts about the excommunication which we have placed upon the king: they question whether he was excommunicated justly and whether our sentence proceeded from due deliberation and had the sanction of lawful authority. We have accordingly been at pains to set forth to the eyes and minds of all as truthfully as we could, upon the testimony of our conscience, how we were brought to excommunicate him. We have done so not so much to noise abroad as it were by the sound of our own voice the several reasons which, alas! are all too well known, as, rather, to satisfy the misgivings of those who think that we seized the spiritual sword rashly and more from the prompting of our own passions than from fear of God and zeal for righteousness.

While we still exercised the office of deacon, there reached us ill and most shameful tidings of the king's behavior; on account of the imperial dignity and out of respect for his father and mother, and also on account of our hope and desire for his correction, we frequently admonished him by letters and by messengers to cease from his wickedness and, mindful of his illustrious family and rank, to shape his life in ways which befitted a king and, if God so disposed, an emperor-to-be. After we, though unworthy, succeeded to the papal office, his wickedness increased together with his years. Knowing that Almighty God would require his soul of our hand the more stringently because freedom and authority to reprove him were given to us before all other men, we urged him the more anxiously to amend his life, in every way 'convincing, rebuking, exhorting' him. He often sent us cordial letters of greeting, making excuses for himself on the grounds of his youth because such a time of life was frail and weak, and of his having again and again been badly advised and counseled by those who predominated in his court; however, while he made verbal promises that he would each day most readily heed our warnings, he utterly trampled upon them in what he did and by the multiplication of his offences.

In the meantime we summoned to do penance some of his courtiers, by whose counsels and devices he had polluted with the simoniac heresy the bishoprics and the many monasteries in which, for a price, wolves had been established instead of shepherds. Our intention was that while there was yet scope for amendment they might restore the ecclesiastical property which they had sacrilegiously received through their most pernicious trafficking to the venerable places to which it belonged, and that they might themselves make satisfaction to God by tears of repentance for the evils which they had committed. When we knew that they scorned the pause which they were allowed to do these things and that they obstinately continued in their accustomed wickedness, we duly cut them off, as sacrilegious and as ministers and members of the devil, from the communion and body of the whole church, and we warned the king to drive them as excommunicates from his household, from his counsels, and from all association with himself.

However, the Saxon cause in the meantime waxed mightily against the king. Seeing that the strength and resources of the kingdom were for the most part likely to desert him, he again sent us a suppliant letter full of all humility, in which he acknowledged himself to be deeply guilty in the sight of Almighty God, of St. Peter, and of ourself. He also besought us to be zealous in correcting by our apostolic provision and authority whatever he had done wrong through his own fault in ecclesiastical matters against canonical righteousness and the decrees of the holy fathers; and in this he promised us his entire obedience, concord, and faithful aid. He was, furthermore, afterwards admitted to penance by our brothers and legates whom we sent to him, Bishop Hubert of Palestrina and Bishop Gerald of Ostia, solemnly confirming his promises into their hands by the holy stoles which they wore about their necks. But after some time the king fought a battle with the Saxons. The only thank-offerings which he presented to God for the victory which he obtained were that he straightway broke the promises of amendment which he had made. Paying no heed to what he had promised us he took the excommunicates back into his household and society and dragged his churches into their accustomed confusion.

What happened struck us with deep grief; but although after his contempt for the blessings of the King of Heaven almost all hope of his amendment was taken away from us, we decided that we should still put his disposition to the test, for we desired that he should hear the call of apostolic mercy rather than that he should experience apostolic severity. We therefore sent him a warning letter, urging him to remember what he had promised and to whom: he should not believe that he could deceive the God whose wrath when he begins to judge is as stern as his long-suffering is abundant; nor should he dishonor God by honoring himself, nor should he try to enlarge his own power in contempt of God and in despite of his apostle St. Peter; he should remember that 'God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble'. We also sent to him three religious men, faithful followers of his own, through whom we secretly admonished him to do penance for his sins which, shameful to say, were known to most men and noised abroad through many parts; for the authority of divine and human laws enjoined and commanded that on account of them he should not only be excommunicated until he had made due satisfaction but that he should be deprived of his entire dignity as king without hope of recovery. Finally unless he excluded the excommunicates from associating with him we could come to no other judgment or decision about him than that he should be separated from the church and share the company of the excommunicates with whom he had chosen to have his part rather than with Christ. However, should he wish to heed our warnings and amend his life, we called, and still call, God to witness how greatly we would rejoice for his salvation and honor, and with how much love we would embrace him in the bosom of holy church as one whom, being set as a prince over the people and having the rule of a most far flung kingdom, he should be the upholder of catholic peace and righteousness.

Yet how much heed he paid to our words whether as written or as spoken by our envoys, his own deeds proclaim. He scorned that anyone should restrain or reprove him; not only would he not be recalled to repentance from the misdeeds which he had committed, but he was seized by a still greater fury of mind: he did not pause until he had made shipwreck regarding the faith of Christ of almost all the Italian bishops and of as many in Germany as he could, compelling them to contradict their due obedience to St. Peter and the apostolic see and the office which was given them by our Lord Jesus Christ.

We therefore saw that his iniquity had now increased to the full. For the following reasons, first because he would not keep himself from the society of men who had been excommunicated for the sacrilege and crime of the simoniac heresy, secondly because he would not even promise, let alone perform, penance for the guilty deeds of his own life (for the faith which he promised into the hands of our legates was a feigned one), and thirdly because he had not feared to rend the body of Christ, that is, the unity of holy church —for these faults, I say, we now excommunicated him by a conciliar sentence: since we could not recall him to the way of salvation by being merciful we tried, with God's help, to do so by being severe. Thus if, which heaven forbid, he should not fear even this punitive sanction, our own soul, at least, would not be subject to the reproach of negligence or fear.

Should anyone think that this sentence was passed unreasonably or unjustly, then supposing him to be ready to give due assent to the true interpretation of the holy laws, let him consider the matter with us. Patiently hearing what not we but divine authority teaches, decrees, and judges by the unanimous opinion of the holy fathers, let him yield his approval. But we do not think that any of the faithful who knows the ecclesiastical decrees can in truth be so far in the grip of error that, even though he dares not affirm so much in public, he does not in his heart of hearts acknowledge that what has been done was done rightly. And, indeed, even if, which God forbid, we did impose upon the king such a sanction as we imposed without sufficient reason or beyond the due course of law, as the holy fathers insist our sentence should not, accordingly, be ignored: he should with all humility seek absolution from it.

As for you, dearly beloved, who have not been minded to desert the righteousness of God in face of the king's anger or of any danger but have despised the foolishness of those who for their cursing and lies will be proclaimed fitted for destruction, stand firm and be strong in the Lord, knowing that you defend the cause of one who as an invincible king and ever-glorious conqueror will come to judge the quick and the dead, making recompense to each as his works deserve. You, too, may be sure of his manifold rewards if you stand firm to the end, faithful and unshaken in his truth. We in our turn pray to God unceasingly for you that he may grant you power to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in his name and that he may turn the king's heart to penitence; thus the king also may at last know that we and you love him far more truly than those who are now compliant and favorable to his sins. If by God's grace he should be minded to repent, no matter what he may attempt against us he will nevertheless always find us ready, according as you may advise us, to receive him back into the fellowship of the church.

15 To all the faithful in the Roman empire: Gregory adds a postscript to an earlier letter, warning against Henry IV' s deceit and forbidding anyone to absolve the king without consulting himself (1076) 29 Aug.

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, [to all his brothers in Christ, bishops, abbots, priests, dukes, princes, and knights, and all living in the Roman empire who in truth love the Christian faith and the honor of St. Peter,] greeting and apostolic blessing.

After we sent you the letter which begins thus: 'We give thanks to Almighty God', we learned from faithful members of holy church that the king is doing all in his power to divide us from each other and to deceive us by his falsity, sometimes through spiritual and sometimes through secular persons. We are therefore anxious lest perchance some of the less prudent of our brothers may be misled by the indulgence that we have shown. So on behalf of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, we ordain that no one shall dare to free him from the bond of excommunication until tidings of his satisfaction and penance have been brought to us by suitable messengers. Then we may at once decide through our legates, by apostolic authority, leaving no room for deceit, what is just and pleasing to God. You on your part should take every care to receive such assurance and such security from him that we may not seem to have neglected the wisdom of the serpent for the innocence of the dove. If, in the meanwhile, though we do not wish it, he should be overtaken by death, you, my brothers, should not hesitate to dispense the medicine of absolution which true penance and true satisfaction deserve.

Tivoli, 29 August.

17 To his supporters in Germany: Gregory announces that he is coming to Germany and hopes to reach Mantua by 8 January; he asks them to prepare to receive him (1076, Dec.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the archbishops, bishops, dukes, and counts, and to both greater and lesser men in the kingdom of Germany, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We, an unworthy and unprofitable servant of the prince of the apostles, have decided with the help of God's mercy to come to you and, disregarding the counsels of almost all our advisers, so to hasten our journey that on 8 January we hope to be in Mantua. For it is our purpose and desire that, trusting in your proven fidelity, we should not hesitate with pure and upright zeal to undergo any hardships and if need be even the shedding of our blood for the liberty of holy church and for the salvation of the empire. You therefore for your part should forewarn those whom you know to be able and obliged to help us that they should be ready to receive and serve us. You yourselves should also so diligently make peace throughout your country that nothing may hinder the purpose upon which we have settled.

About the many and great debates which we have had with the king's envoys and the arguments by which we have resisted his words, and whatever else may seem to be omitted from this letter, its bearers will more fully inform you. As we unhesitatingly trust in what you have promised through them to St. Peter and ourself, so we would have you trust in what they have to say on our own behalf.

18 To all the faithful in Germany: Gregory further seeks German support for his journey to Augsburg (1076, Dec.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, dukes, marquises, counts, and to all in the whole kingdom of Germany who are defending and keeping the faith and teaching of Christ and of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, greeting and the blessing of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, also the absolution of all their sins.

I such as I am, a priest and servant of the prince of the apostles, against the will and advice of the Romans but trusting in the mercy of Almighty God and in your catholic faith, am coming to you, ready to suffer death for the honor of God and the salvation of your souls, even as Christ laid down his life for us. For we are so placed that through many tribulations we must strive for and attain to the kingdom of God. For your part, my brothers whom I love and long for, see to it by all means that I may with God's help come to you and profit you in all things. May he bless you by whose grace it was said to me at the body of St. Peter on the day of my ordination : 'Whatsoever you bless shall be blessed, and whatsoever you loose upon earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Amen.

19 To all the faithful in Germany: Gregory explains his delay in coming to Germany, during which he has met the penitent king and restored him to communion. He speaks of the wickedness of the Lombard bishops, and of his continuing desire to come to Germany (1077, Feb.-Mar.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved brothers and sons in Christ the archbishops, bishops, dukes, counts, and other princes, together with all the people of the kingdom of Germany who are defending the Christian faith and religion, greeting and apostolic blessing.

As we have intimated to you in earlier letters and by the words of our envoys, because we know that, moved by true obedience and reverence for apostolic sovereignty, you have shown yourselves in a manner worthy of God to be defenders of righteousness and because we confidently repose our hope upon your loyalty and counsels, we have set out on a journey to you beset by many dangers as well as difficulties, against the wish of almost all our advisers except Matilda, that most dear and faithful daughter of St. Peter. We indeed might well have arrived, if we had received an escort from you at the appointed time and place. But the delay of our departure gave the king, as he hastened to Italy, a chance of reaching us. We were overcome by his humility and the manifold tokens of his repentance, and we freed him from the bond of excommunication and restored him to the grace of communion; but we made no other arrangements with him save such as we thought would be for the safety and honor of you all.

When the Lombard bishops learnt that a settlement of the whole question had been reserved for a general convention and for your deliberation, and when they could not secure absolution for their sins with the impunity that they hoped for, the excess of pride and of wicked endeavors with which they rose up against us is sad to relate and shocking to hear: these men who should be pillars in the church of God not only retain no place in the structure of Christ's body but are constantly its attackers and would-be destroyers. As for the king, we cannot greatly rejoice that he should do nothing more than obediently walk in the ways which he has promised us; particularly because by reason of his presence certain most wicked men show boldness rather than fear towards us and the apostolic see for the wickedness which they have committed.

Meanwhile as we awaited your counsels we at length learnt through our son Radbod, whom we sent to you, that you wished us to find means of somehow coming to your country, and that you asked us to endeavor to act with the king's advice and help so that we might do so the more safely. We therefore, desiring as we have told you to fulfil your wishes and counsels in all respects according to God's good pleasure, are endeavoring to make the necessary plans and arrangements with the king through our envoys. How far he may agree with us and you in this matter we are unable to foretell before the completion of this embassy, for the king is far distant from us; but as soon as we know we shall not delay to inform you.

You may be assured, then, that our will and desire is, whether with the king's agreement or if it were still possible even against his will, to travel to you for the common good and for the salvation of you all. If the sins and designs of wicked men hinder us so that this cannot be, I shall though absent continually beseech Almighty God with steadfast prayers that he may confirm your hearts and faith in every grace and virtue, and that he may so direct your counsels and deeds in all things that you may defend the liberty of the Christian religion with unwearied valor, and that you may both seek and accomplish all that is most worthy of God and beneficial to yourselves for the welfare and glory of your most illustrious kingdom. May you so continue in the course of defending righteousness upon which you have embarked for the name of Christ and for an eternal reward that by the gift of God you may eventually attain to the crown in a contest which is so holy and pleasing to him.

We would have written more to you had we not sent to you such envoys as you may without hesitation believe. We have committed to their words such things as are not contained in this letter and are in our heart to support and guide you. Amen.

25 To the supporters of both parties in Germany: Gregory announces his intention, following his November council at Rome, to send legates in order either to establish peace or to punish those who foster division, and forbids anyone to resist their work (1078, late Nov.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all the archbishops and bishops living in the German and the Saxon kingdoms and to all the princes, also to all both greater and lesser who are not excommunicated and who are disposed to obey, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We know that from the dispute and discord which have for so long prevailed amongst you there daily arise grave danger to holy church and grave harm to you on all sides. It has therefore seemed good to us, as it has also seemed good to our brothers assembled in council, to make every endeavor and to labor to the limit of our resources by sending to your parts on behalf of the apostolic see suitable legates, outstanding for religion as for knowledge. Their task will be to gather together the religious bishops, laymen, and lovers of peace and righteousness who live in your parts and are suitable for such a work. By the help of God's grace, at a time and place which they decide, together with others whom we must still associate with them, the legates would be charged either to establish peace or else after finding out the truth to pass canonical sentence upon those who are the cause of this great division. As we know that some, led astray by the devil's promptings, kindled by the torches of his wickedness, and misled by covetousness, long to create and to see discord rather than peace, we have decreed in this council in the same terms as at our last, that no person at all of whatever power or dignity, great or small, prince or subject, should by any boldness dare to resist our legates and work against them after they have reached you to establish peace. Nor thereafter let anyone dare to rise up against his neighbor in defiance of their prohibition, but until the day which they appoint let all men keep unbroken peace without any pretence or deceit. If any should venture to infringe these statutes of ours by their boldness we bind them by the chain of excommunication; by apostolic authority we do so not only in their soul but also in their body and in respect of every success of this life, and we take from them victory in arms, so that by this means at least they may be confounded and consumed by the destruction of both body and soul.

26 To the Anti-king Rudolf and his followers in Saxony: Gregory encourages them to be steadfast in their adversities and instructs them concerning the see of Magdeburg (1079, late Feb.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to King Rudolf and all his supporters in the kingdom of Saxony, bishops, dukes, and counts, both greater men and lesser, absolution from their sins and apostolic blessing.

Since the Truth himself says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to all who suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness, and the Apostle declares that no one can be crowned except he strive lawfully, do not be disheartened, my sons, in the storm of war which has now for so long assailed you; do not because of the lies of any deceitful man have doubts about our faithfulness in helping you. Devote yourselves more and more to safeguarding Christian truth and to defending the liberty of your noble race by a labor which must now very soon have an end, and rising superior to your misfortunes zealously set yourselves and your bodies as a wall for the house of God. What has already been decided about King Rudolf and Henry in two meetings of our council and what was established there upon oath concerning the peace and concord of the kingdom you can fully learn from our letters and your envoys, unless perchance they were captured; if anything remains still unsettled you will hear more definitely about it from the bishops of Metz and Passau and the abbot of Reichenau, who are remaining with us to await the outcome of the matter, when they come to you. Finally we would have you know that we do not waver in considering and providing for your needs with all due urgency, both by our zealous prayers and by the authority of our office.

With regard to your archiepiscopal see of Magdeburg, we have heard that a disorderly strife has arisen amongst some of the clergy of Magdeburg who would seize its worldly trappings and honor, and—we speak the words with shame—that their manner of life is not good and fitting for such a responsibility. By command of Almighty God, of St. Peter, and of ourself you must by all means forbid them to grasp the highest office for themselves to their own damnation; and, as right and order require, you should provide a steward who is pleasing to God with our consent and apostolic blessing and after public election by all good men, both clergy and lay. For you yourselves know that it was neglect of the rulings of the holy fathers in appointing bishops which led to this present bloodshed and that, unless these rulings are respected, the outcome will be a multiplication of evils still worse than the former ones.

27 To the Anti-king Rudolf and his German supporters: Gregory explains the difficulty of his negotiations with Henry IV and gives more detailed counsel about the see of Magdeburg (1079, Mar.-Apr.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to King Rudolf and all who with him are defending the Christian religion, greeting and apostolic blessing.

He alone who searches and tries the hearts of all men is witness of the great grief which dwells in my heart and of the continual sorrow which vexes my inmost self, because I see the kingdom of Germany, hitherto the most glorious of all the kingdoms of the world, now wasted, ravaged, and destroyed by fire, slaughter, and rapine. Messages have been repeatedly brought to me from Henry, sometimes by his own envoys and sometimes by his kinsmen or by princes of other lands or by his neighbors, now promising full obedience and now trying to inveigle me by various devices, in their pertinacious attempts to get from me some concession by which, as he desires, they could bend me to his side. But because Roman gravity on the one hand and apostolic mercy on the other compel me to proceed by the middle way of righteousness, I must by all means in my power see to it that, by the judgment of the Holy Spirit, I can distinguish true righteousness from false and perfect obedience from feigned, and continue in the proper course until the end. These and other matters my legates, if by God's mercy they reach you safe and sound, will testify and explain more satisfactorily by word of mouth than I can set down in this letter.

Now I have heard from my legate Bernard that the metropolitan see of Magdeburg has for long been vacant, and that it is still troubled by the wicked strife of men who would prevent its being duly filled. By the commandment of God, St. Peter, and myself you should resist these men by all means lest they should have their way, and by the common consent and choice of all religious men— archbishops and bishops, clerks and laymen—you should take steps to bring in by the door a worthy steward over the house of God. If you would follow my advice, I hear that there are amongst you certain men of good report, I mean A. dean of Goslar, Gebhard son of Duke Berthold, and Hartwig son of Count Siegfried: elect one of them by my command and sanction, and consecrate him to be archbishop of the vacant church. But if none of these three be found worthy, you should turn to God in humbleness of heart, praying and fasting, and asking that his grace may so enlighten you that a person who is fitted for this task may be made known. You may be quite sure that, just as I shall bind by the chain of excommunication anyone who climbs in against due order by the devices of worldly power, so I also absolve from his sins and confer an apostolic blessing upon him who shall be canonically enthroned.

28 To the monks of Monte Cassino: Gregory reproves their carelessness in allowing the men of Prince Jordan of Capua to rob them of money deposited with them, and places their church under an interdict (1079, Apr.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons in Christ, the monks of St. Benedict, greeting and apostolic blessing.

We have heard tidings of which we cannot speak without the deepest sadness, that men sent at the devil's prompting by Prince Jordan have entered your sanctuary and with unheard-of boldness have made off with things which were entrusted to you. As regards this deed we must reprove you and your abbot" for great carelessness and for fearfulness to punish it severely. We should be still more seriously aroused against you were we not held back by the charity with which we have always loved you. For it would seem to us more tolerable that St. Benedict's estates and fortresses should be given over to plunder and pillage than that a holy place which is famous and held in honor, as we believe, through the whole of Christendom, should be exposed to the risk of so great an outrage. We cannot, therefore, allow an offence of such boldness to pass unavenged, especially when we consider that your house has been invaded and that the example of this crime may cause worse things to happen to you. We charge you not to hold divine service in the church of St. Benedict but to strip all the altars in it, and so make known to those whom it concerns how great is the peril of such a profanation. For if, when St. Peter's church was besprinkled with human blood divine service was not performed until there had been a careful purification, how much more does such an outrage as this, performed so sacrilegiously in the church of St. Benedict, call for proper expiation. Do you therefore earnestly beseech Almighty God that he will mercifully grant us relief from our sorrow of mind over this matter, and that he will guide us in fully restoring your honour by whatever means are appropriate.

29 To the monks of Monte Cassino: Gregory raises the interdict which he had placed upon their church and desires their prayers (1079, Apr.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the venerable congregation of the monastery of Cassino, greeting and apostolic blessing.

Recently, most beloved brethren, we were compelled by the sacrilegious violence which was used against this most venerable place to lay an interdict upon the services of your church by reason of the great outrage of which it was the victim. However because the festival of the Lord's Ascension, which is honoured in all the world, is now at hand and because we are indeed unwilling that at this great feast so sacred a place should on account of anyone's offence be denied the performance of worship, we have decided to free both you and your monastery from the interdict. Accordingly, inspired by apostolic clemency we restore to your church the ministry and service of religion, and to yourselves the right to officiate. We also desire and ask you to be mindful of us and to pray for us to the Lord, and also to intercede daily to the ruler of all things for the well-being of the holy Roman church. Will you always continue diligently to pray with loving devotion to the Almighty Lord not only for your enemies but for your friends as well. Also you should offer your prayers for him who has invaded so holy and world-famous a place, that God may give him a contrite heart and so turn him to himself that he may deserve to have God's grace in this life and in the next.

31 To Cardinal Peter of Albano and Bishop Ulrich of Padua: Gregory intimates that he has heard complaints about their conduct as legates, and counsels them about their dealings with Henry IV and with others in Germany (1079, July-Oct.)

Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved brothers in Christ and fellow bishops Peter of Albano and Ulrich of Padua, greeting and apostolic blessing.

There are some who are—although without convincing us— beginning to complain of your conduct as legates: they imagine that you are minded to act otherwise than we commissioned you, alleging that one of you is likely to behave all too guilelessly but the second by no means so guilelessly. You should accordingly maintain the utmost vigilance if possible to quench either suspicion. With God's help this will easily happen if you always keep our commands clearly before your mind's eye and venture to do nothing save what we are known to have charged you with, not only in our verbal instructions but also by letter.

It is our will that you should venture to pass no judgment in the matter of the kings or the kingdom, nor again concerning the bishops-elect of Trier, Cologne, and Augsburg, nor concerning all those who have received investiture at lay hands. You should make every attempt to see whether the king will agree with you about holding a conference and establishing peace in the kingdom and about restoring bishops to their sees, and you should speedily inform us about these matters either in person or by reliable messengers, in order that we may dispatch there at the appointed time sufficient suitable persons who may with God's help settle this great matter in concert with us.

Meanwhile, then, show yourselves so well disposed towards either side and as far as in you lies with the help of God's grace so free from any taint of mistrust, that you may always promote righteousness and in no way partisan interests; thereby you will be following our own example, for, as you are witnesses, after judgment in this great matter was entrusted to the hand of St. Peter we have had no other purpose than to walk in the path of righteousness. We have not deviated from the integrity of apostolic judgment towards either side nor have we given way to any promises or threats, and we trust that, under God's protection, we shall never act otherwise.

We further specially charge you concerning the abbot of Reichenau. Not only was he himself taken captive as he was not long since coming to the threshold of the apostles, but another was high- handedly thrust into his place. See that you cause the invader to be expelled and the possessions of which the abbot has been deprived to be restored. If, after he has been fully invested with the possession of what he has lost, anyone has a complaint against him, he must be ready to answer before our own judgment; for anyone who is known to have been consecrated by me at the apostolic see must not be judged by anyone else: it was indeed a grave presumption to lay hands upon one protected by so great a privilege. If in defiance of our order the intruder will not restore our brother's possessions to him, you should forthwith by apostolic authority issue a sentence of excommunication against him as a rebel and intruder. But whatever you do or whatever may happen to you see that you always keep us informed by letters and communicate often with us.

May the almighty and merciful God) from whom all good things come, by the merits of our Lady Mary the blessed Mother of God and of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul vouchsafe to keep you from all evil and guide you into all truth, so that whatever you undertake you may happily accomplish according to the fear of God and the welfare of holy church.

In the midst of all these things remember most assiduously the bishop of Worms who, after he had been for long an exile from his church and therefore came to Rome to secure the help of the apostolic see, not only has gained no benefit for himself but now has fallen into still worse trouble. Meanwhile we greet you and ask you to be mindful before God of us who are mindful of you.

39 Allocution in praise of Cluny (1080, early Mar.)

The most blessed lord Pope Gregory VII held a general council during the seventh year of his pontificate in the Lateran basilica of our Savior and St. John the Baptist, which is also called the basilica of Constantine. In the course of it he rose and called all to silence, and said:

Our brothers and fellow priests, you know, indeed all this holy council knows and understands, that, although there are many monasteries beyond the mountains which have been nobly and religiously founded to the honor of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, there is one amongst the others in those parts which belongs to St. Peter and to this church by an especial right as a peculiar possession—I mean Cluny, which from the very first was principally given over to the honor and protection of this holy and apostolic see. By God's mercy it has come to such a height of excellence and religion under its religious and holy abbots that it surpasses all other monasteries, even much older ones, as I well know, in the service of God and in spiritual fervor. I know of no other in that part of the world to which it can at all be compared. For there has never been an abbot of it who was not a saint; its abbots and monks have never in any way dishonored their sonship of this church nor bowed the knee to Baal and the Baalim [like] Jeroboam. They have always copied the liberty and dignity of this holy Roman see which they have enjoyed from the beginning, and from generation to generation they have nobly preserved for themselves its authority. For they have never bent their necks before any outsider or earthly power, but they have remained under the exclusive obedience and protection of St. Peter and this church. We accordingly will and by apostolic authority we affirm and lay down that no person whatsoever, small nor great, and no power whatsoever, no archbishop nor bishop, no king, duke, marquis, prince, count, nor even any legate of mine, may ever open his mouth nor exercise any power against this place and monastery. According to the terms of our privilege and the authority of our predecessors, it is altogether to possess fully and perpetually the immunity and liberty which have been granted to it by this see. Covered by apostolic wings and by them alone, it is to breathe freely, away from all commotion and from every attacking storm. It is to enjoy perpetual and pleasant peace in the bosom of this holy church, to the honor of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

So the pope turned to the right side of the council and asked them, 'Does this please you? do you approve?' They answered, It pleases us, we approve.' He turned to the left and asked again in the same way. The holy council gave the same answer, 'It pleases us, we approve.' After these words which he spoke standing at the papal throne, the lord pope took his seat.


text encoded by The Leeds Electronic Text Centre   January 2001

A collection of Texts assembled by Professor Timothy Reuter of the University of Southamton