Collection of Letters: Detail
- Gerbert of Aurillac, archbishop of Reims
To [his] lady and gordie glorious queen, A[delaide], always august, G[erbert], by the grace of God archbishop of Reims, and to all his confrères and cobishops in the dioceses of Reims, to fare well in Christ.
The letter had the happy beginnings of your name and beneficial advice, but it concluded with a sad ending. Even though it shows the gentle affection of your spirit towards me, it advises me to hasten to return to my own see. But what does such a harsh conclusion mean? For it has: Recognize that if you take my advice lightly, we will employ our things and counsels without your reproach.’ If it was not lawful for me to preside over the city of Reims, is it or will it be lawful to use your counsels and the things committed to me? Or was it more lawful for Ar[nulf] to obtain it?(!1) But he took it from you with deception and fraud. I preserved it for you against the deceptions and frauds of many with much vigilance and labor. It is amazing that you do not perceive the plots of your enemies. For those who seek to restore Ar[nulf] to his see to the confusion of your kingdom, do not think this is enough unless they can destroy me first with whatever opportunity. We take this to be quite likely for two reasons: that you ordered me newly placed at Reims to free him, and that the Roman abbot Leo obtained his freedom in order to confirm the new marriage of my lord king Robert, as was indicated to me by letters from Reims. Witnesses to this decision, those present at the court(?) at C[haumuzy], were Gibuin [bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne] and his nephew. The number of towns was, I believe, infinite, all of Reims could not suffice unless those of Châlons were invited to obtain colonies.(!2)
What then? If Ar[nulf] is freed or if G[ibuin] or any other is enthroned in my see, my return can not be understood without danger to my head. That this is so, if you give it some thought, I would not doubt [that you will see]. For I know your zeal for all mortals must be proclaimed, I know the sweetest affection of your spirit towards me, of which I shall respond to the desires if I can not to the merits. For which reason, to lessen the inflicting of my affairs on you, I shall silence myself, whom divine grace frees from the immensity of dangers and in what pertains to me alone disposes and preserves in all happiness. But I pray and beseech by the terrible name of almighty God that you support in whatever way you can the church of Reims, abandoned and weakened. Since it is the head of the kingdom of the Franks, if it perishes, the members will follow of necessity. But how can it not perish if it is disposed under the name of two [men], as if between hammer and anvil, while it approves neither rector, as it fluctuates between the waves of the sea without an oarsman. What do you think will happen if a third is added to that number without the judgment of the church? I do not speak as an augurer or seer. I remember that not only my knights but clerics too conspired that no one would eat with me, no one take part in sacred rites. I am silent about the baseness and contempt, I say nothing about the very grave injuries so often inflicted on me by so many. To this you summon me to return and, to make me suffer more, the letter adds threats. What is this, o divine majesty? Do they think I am so senseless or so removed/alienated from you that I do not see the threatening swords or that I would spread schism through your church? I indeed see the craftiness of the wicked acutely and I defend the unity of the church against all schism, with my death if it is so decreed.
I ask therefore, o my lady always august, and my brother co-bishops, who justly or unjustly are under anathema because of the traitor Ar[nulf], that they patiently bear my awaiting the judgment of the church. Having accepted the rule of that church by the judgment of bishops, I do not wish to relinquish it without the judgment of bishops, nor do I dispose to hold it again by force against the judgment of bishops, where the major authority lies. While I await the judgments, I tolerate not without great sorrow the exile which is thought by many to be happy. The bright face of my lord Robert comes to me, the happy aspect, the customary conversations, your speech filled with wisdom and gravity, then the pleasing affability of princes and bishops — that it was snatched from me makes my life in some way hard to bear. The only solace to me is the piety of the bright emperor Ot[to III], his benevolence and generosity, who loves you and yours with such love and speaks with me day and night about where and when he might see you in a familiar way, and talk with and embrace his contemporary, similar in studies, my lord Robert. If therefore the Roman trip, which delays/preoccupies me particularly because of the synod, is put off you may expect me around the kalends of November, a most faithful interpreter of these things and obedient to you in all.
Domine et gloriose A. regine sempere auguste G. gratia Dei Remorum archiepiseopus et omnibus suis confratribus et coepiscopis Remorum dioceseos bene valere in Christo.
Epistola vestri nominis leta principia praetulit, monita salubria habuit, sed tristi fine conclusa est. Suavem quippe animi vestri affectun circa me ostendit, ad propriam sedem reditum maturare ammonuit. Sed quid sibi voluit tam acerba conclusio? Ita enim se habet: Cognoscite, quia si huiusce monita parvi penderitis, utemur nostrorum et rebus et consiliis absque crimine vestri. Me urbi Remorum praesidenti quando non licuit, licet vel licebit vestris uti consillis et rebus michi conmissis? An melius licuit Ar. eam obtinente? Sed ille eam vobis dolo et fraude ahstulit. Ego contra multorum dolos et fraudes vobis eam multis vigiliis multoque labore conservavi. Mirum nimis est vestrorum hostium vos non sentire insidias. Qui enim Ar. ad vestri regni confusionem suae sedi restituere querunt, non sibi hoc totum fore putant, nisi me prius qualibet occasione perdant. Quod multum verisimile esse duplici capimus argumento: quia Remis nuper me posito eum absolvere decrevistis, et quia Leo Romanus abba, ut absolvaturt, obtinuit, ob confirmandum senioris mei regis Rot. novum coniugium, ut michi a Remensibus per litteras significatum est. Accedit ad hoc discrimen fides a praesentibus Corte C. a Gibuino, Gibuini nepote, pervasa. Infinitus, credo, villarum erat numerus, nec ad possidendum sufficere poterant Remenses, nisi ad colonias optinendas invitarentur Catalaunenses.
Quid ergo? Si Ar. absolvendus est vel si G. vel alius quilibet in sede mea intronizandus est, reditum meum sine capitis mei periculo non est intelligere. Quod ita esse, si vos minus adverteritis, non debeo dubitare. Novi enim studia vestra omnibus mortalibus praedicanda, novi animi vestri dulcissimos affectus circa me, quibus si respondere nequeo meritis, respondebo votis. Quocirca ut mea vobis minus ingeram deque me omnino taceam, quem divina gratia periculorum inmensitate liberat et, in quantum ad me solum attinet, in omni felicitate disponit et conservat, per terribile nomen omnipotentis Dei oro et deprecor, ut Remensi ecclesie desolate et attrite, si quolibet modo valetis, subveniatis. Que quoniam regni Francorum est capud, si deperierit, ut membra sequantur, necesse est. At quomodo non deperit, que sub nomine duorum quasi inter malleum et incudern disposita, dum eorum neutrum rectorem approbat, velut inter undas maris sine remige fluctuat? Quid porro fieri putatis, si tertius sine iuditio ecclesie ad numerum accesserit? Neque vero hec loquor tanquam augur aut divinus. Memini etiam meos conspirasse non solum milites, sed et clericos, ut nemo mecum comederet, nemo sacris interesset. Taceo de vilitate et contemptu, nichil dico rle gravissimis iniuriis sepe michi a pluribus illatis. Ad hec ut redeam, provocatis, et ut graviora patiar, minas superaddit epistola. Quid est, o divina maiestas? Adeone me infatuatum vel a te abalienatum putant, ut vel gladios imminentes non videam vel ecclesiam tuam scimate confundam? Ego vero et inproborum versutias acute conspicio et contra omnia scimata unitatem ecclesie, si sic decretum est, morte mea defendo.
Peto ergo, o domina mea semper augusta, item a fratribus meis coepiscopis, qui pro causa traditoris Ar. sive iuste sive iniuste sub alathemate positi sunt, ut me iuditium ecclesie expectantem patienter ferant. Neque enim ecclesiam, quam episcoporum iuditio regendam accepi, sine episcoporum iuditio relinquere volo, nec rursus contra episcoporum iuditium, ubi maior auctoritas adsit, eam quasi per vim retinere dispono. Que iuditia dum expecto, exilium, quod a multis felix putatur, non sine multo dolore tolero. Occurrit michi senioris mei Rot. clara facies, letus aspectus, usitata colloquia, sermones vestri sapientia et gravitate pleni, tum principum et episcoporum grata affabilitas, que dum michi eripitur, ipsa quodammodo vita honerosa est. Sola michi solatio est clari cesaris Ot. pietas, benivolentia, liberalitas, qui tanto amore vos vestraque diligit, ut dies noctesque mecum sermonem conferat, ubi et quando vos familiariter videre possit, coevum sibi et studiis consimilem, seniorem meum Rot., alloqui et complexari. Si ergo Romanum iter, quod causa plurimum synodi me detinet, hoc tempore dilatum fuerit, circa novenb. kal. me expectabitis et harum rerum interpretem fidissimum et per omnia vobis obedientem.
After Hugh Capet’s death, their son king Robert fell out with Gerbert, archbishop of Reims, over Robert’s desire to marry a married woman, Bertha, who was also his cousin. Gerbert took refuge with emperor Otto III from which Adelaide attempted to recall him. His response to that recall is the letter cited here, written to Adelaide and the suffragan bishops of Reims.
(!1) Arnulf had been elected archbishop of Reims in 989, but betrayed king Hugh and was imprisoned and deposed. Gerbert was elected to the office in 991. (!2) This is a sarcastic reference to an offer the king was rumored to be willing to make to the younger Gibuin, who was put forth as a possible bishop of Reims. He would have taken Chaumuzy away from Reims (and from Gerbert) and bestowed it on Gibuin. See Ferdinand Lot, Etudes sur le Regne de Huges Capet (Paris: Bouillon, 1903), 116. Lot's discussion includes the translation of a portion of the letter.
MGH BDKz 2 ep.181 p.209-14, dated spring 997; also in HGF10 ep.102 p.423-24 and PL139 ep.159 c242-44. HGF and PL texts do not have the last three sentences.