A letter from Archbishop Liemar of Bremen to Bishop Hezilo of Hildesheim (1075)

trans G.A.Loud (unpublished)


Archbishop Liemar of Bremen to Bishop Hezilo of Hildesheim (late January 1075). This letter was the archbishop's response to a rebuke from Gregory, VII sent in December 1074 [Gregory, Reg. II.28], which is the letter to which he refers. Liemar expresses the outrage that some (perfectly respectable) senior prelates felt at what they considered papal intrusion on their time-honored authority and prerogatives. [Latin text in Briefsammlungen der Zeit Heinrichs IV. ed. C. Erdmann & N. Fickermann (M.G.H. Briefe der deutschen Kaiserzeit V, Weimar 1950), pp. 33-5 no. 15.]

A letter sealed with a papal bull has come to me, delivered by some totally insignificant cleric of the Abbot of Fulda, on the abbot's instructions. I am forwarding this to be read by you, so that you may form an opinion as to what I should do and say, and in addition as to whether or not I have been fairly treated.

You remember the matter about which I informed you at your residence on my return from the Curia: how the papal legates, demanded under threat of excommunication that the Archbishop of Mainz and I express our approval of the holding of a synod. They did this, however, not in the pope's name but as though on their own behalf, saying 'approve the synod'. To which, on the advice of those of our brother bishops who were present, the Archbishop of Mainz and I replied that it was impossible for us two to put this edict of theirs into practice without consulting our brothers and fellow bishops, the greatest men in the kingdom and taking their advice. The legates, ill-advised and like men possessed, enjoined [us] under [our] obedience to the Apostolic See to fulfill their wish to facilitate the synod or we should be summoned to Rome for judgment. One of them. Gerald, decreed that I should have a deadline until the next Roman synod: the other, the Bishop of Praeneste. decreed the Feast of St. Andrew [30th November]. Hence they disagreed among themselves. I have set my coadjutators and suffragans among the Danes and dwelling among the peoples overseas - these need not come to a German synod, and the promotion of a German synod is nothing to do with me.

Now, thanks to the madness of his legates, the lord pope is extremely annoyed. On these dubious grounds he has summoned me to Rome to the next synod, which will be celebrated in the first week. of Lent; and he has suspended me from episcopal office until I come to him. I do not think that this ought to be done to any bishop except by the judgement of his brothers in full synod. This dangerous man wants to order bishops about as though they were his bailiffs [ut villicis suis], and if they do not do everything that he wishes then they have to come to Rome or be suspended without trial. I do indeed know well that there are those among our bishops who, despite the utter hatred they have for the king, my lord, have pity on me, his helper, in these travails caused by their machinations, for I have been labouring for the common benefit of all in this conflict.

Furthermore it should be known - and I have as witness trustworthy and truthful men, bishops, clergy and laity - that I have been afflicted all autumn and winter with grave infirmity of body and shortage of breath, so that I am unable to undertake any journey, long or short, even if it be only of five days.

Now you, father, consider this matter, whether the cause because of which I am summoned to Rome be just or fitting, if the time permitted for travelling is adequate or considerate (something on which the legates disagree), if the suspension under which I am placed, which has been imposed upon me without the judgement of my brothers in synod, is the product of good or irresponsible rule, [and] especially since I am very unwell there was no possibility of my going before the feast of St. Andrew, nor will there be before the next synod. Indeed, from the day on which the letters were given to me until the week in which the synod will be held, scarcely four weeks remain. These are the matters which you ought to consider, and [then] advise me what I should do.