Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages/Book IV/Letter of Adrian IV. to Barbarossa



(Doeberl: " Moiiumeuta Germaniae Selecta," vol. iv. pp. 107-115.)

(a.) Letter of Adrian IV. to Barbarossa, Sept. 20th, 1157.

Bishop Adrian, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved son Frederick, illustrious emperor of the Romans, — greeting and apostolic benediction. A few days ago we remember to have written to thy imperial Majesty recalling to thy Highness's memory that, as we believe, that horrid and execrable crime and impious deed of evil committed in our time in Germany had remained for some time uninvestigated,—and observing, not without great wonder, that thou had'st allowed the barbarity of so pernicious a crime to pass until now without taking the severe vengeance that was fitting. For in what manner our venerable brother Eskill, archbishop of Lyon, while returning from the apostolic see, was captured in that land by certain impious and godless men—we cannot speak of it without great grief of mind,—and is at present kept in custody; how, moreover, in the aforesaid capture the impious men, the seeds of evil, the sons of crime did violently and with drawn swords rise against him and his followers; and how vilely and disgracefully they treated them, taking away all that they had:— thy serene Highness knows on the one hand, and, on the other, the fame of so great an outrage has already reached the most distant and most unapproachable regions. In vengeance of which most violent crime, as one to whom, as we believe, good things are pleasing and evil ones displeasing, thou should' st have arisen with more steadfastness; and the sword, which was given thee by divine concession to punish evil-doers but to exalt the good, ought to have raged above the neck of the impious and most sternly to have destroyed the presumptuous. But thou art said so to have hushed this up—or rather to have neglected it—that they have no reason to repent of having committed the deed, inasmuch as they already feel that they have gained immunity for the sacrilege which they committed. As to the cause of this dissimulation or negligence we are entirely ignorant, since no scruple of conscience accuses our mind of having offended thy serene Highness in any respect; but we have always loved thy person as that of our most dear and special son, and the most Christian prince, whose power we do not doubt to have been founded by the grace of God on the rock of the apostolic confession. And we have treated thee always with the partiality of due benignity. For thou should' st, oh most glorious son, bring before the eyes of thy mind how graciously and how joyfully thy mother the holy Roman church received thee in a former year; with what affection of heart she treated thee; what plenitude of dignity and honour she granted thee; and how, most willingly conferring upon thee the distinction of the imperial crown, she strove to cherish in her most bountiful lap thee at the summit of thy sublimity—doing nothing at all which she knew would even in the least be contrary to the royal will. Nor, indeed, do we repent having fulfilled in all things the desires of thy heart, but would, not without right, rejoice if thy excellency had received from our hand even greater benefices (beneficia), if that were possible; knowing, as we do, what great increase and advantage can come through thee to the church of God and to us. But now, since thou dost seem to neglect and gloss over so monstrous a crime—which is known, indeed, to have been committed to the shame of the universal church and of thy empire—we suspect and likewise fear lest perhaps thy mind has been led to this dissimulation and neglect for the reason that, at the suggestion of a perverse man sowing discord, thou hast conceived against thy most lenient mother the most holy Roman church, and against our own person, some indignation or rancour—which God forbid! On account of this, therefore, and of other matters which we know to be pressing upon us, we have seen fit at present to despatch to thy serenity from our side two of the best and most beloved men whom we have about us, our dear sons, namely, Bernard, cardinal presbyter of St. Clement, and Roland, cardinal presbyter of the title of St. Mark and our own chancellor—as being men who are conspicuous for their religion and prudence and honesty. And we most urgently request thy Highness to receive them honourably as well as kindly, to treat them fairly and to receive without hesitation, as though proceeding from our lips, whatever they say on our part to thy imperial Majesty concerning this matter and concerning other things which pertain to the honour of God and of the holy Roman church, and also to the glory and exaltation of the empire. And do not doubt to lend faith to their words as though we ourselves had happened to utter them.