A letter from Gregory VII, pope (1081)
Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to Adelheid, most beloved daughter in Christ, greetings and apostolic benediction.
Because you requested on account of reverence for blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, that we send letters written in our hand to your excellency, we have acquiesced to your devotion. Moreover, in these things we advise that you especially take care to despise things that are earthly and transitory and always long for things that are celestial and eternal. Write this in your heart, that the highest queen of heaven – who is believed to be exalted over all the choirs of angels, who is the beauty and glory of all women, indeed the salvation and nobility of all the elect, because she alone deserved as virgin and mother to bear naturally God and man, head and life of all good – did not disdain to lead a poor life on earth and to guard herself with all holy humility. For the more we seek glory of this life, the less we desire glory of the future life. For that woman, who governs her ways in fear and love of Christ, is truly called queen by God. So it happens that holy women, although they are poor in this life, are glorified in heaven and on earth; and many secular women, even queens and empresses, would not merit good fame with God or men. Thus we ask and command that you always take pains to draw the mind of your lord king, our dearest son, toward fear and love of God, that you benefit holy church according to your ability, defend paupers, orphans, widows and all who are oppressed unjustly, show reverence to all clerics and monks, especially the religious, hold always before your eyes death of the flesh, so that you may deserve to avoid death of the soul. Devote zeal to alms and prayers, receive admonition willingly, and always consider in your heart: The greater you are, humble yourself in all things [Eccli 3:20] and Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted [Luke 14:11].
May almighty and merciful God, from whom all good things proceed, with rewards of the blessed Mary mother of God, by the authority that he gave to blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, absolve you from all your sins, always protect your mind, fill it with true charity, and lead you to eternal life.1
G episcopus servus servorum Dei A. dilectissime in Christo filie salutem et apostolicam benedictionem.
Quia ob reverentiam beati Petri apostolorum principia rogasti, ut litteras manu nostra scriptas excellentie tue mittamus, devotioni tue acquievimus. His etiam te monemus, ut summopere procures que sunt terrena et transitoria despicere et celestia eternaque semper appetere. Scribe in corde tuo, quia summa regina celi, que super omnes choros angelorum exaltata esse creditur, que est decus et gloria omnium mulierum, immo salus et nobilitas omnium electorum, quia illa sola meruit virgo et mater edere naturaliter deum et hominem, caput et vitam omnium bonorum, in terris non dedignata est pauperem vitam gerere et in omni sancta humilitate se custodire. Quanto enim huius vite gloria queritur, tanto minus future desideratur. Illa enim mulier vere apud Deum regina dicitur, que mores suos in timore et amore Christi moderatur. Inde fit, ut sancte mulieres, licet in hac vita fuerint paupercule, in celo et in terra glorificantur, et multe seculares, etiam regine vel imperatrices, apud Deum et homines nec bonam famam habere mereantur. Rogamus ergo te atque precipimus, ut semper studeas animum domini tui regis, carissimi filii nostri, ad timorem et amorem Dei attrahere sancteque ecclesie pro tuo posse prodesse, pauperes orfanos viduas omnesque iniuste oppressos defendere, omnibus clericis et monachis maxime religiosis reverentiam exibere, mortem carnis pre oculis tuis semper habere, ut mortem anime merearis evadere. Helemosinis et orationibus studium impende et admonitionem libenter accipe et illud semper in corde tuo revolve: 'Quanto magnus es, humilia te in omnibus', et: 'Omnis qui se exaltat, humiliabitur, et qui se humiliat, exaltabitur.'
Omnipotens et misericors Deus, a quo cuncta bona procedunt, meritis beate M. genitricis Dei per auctoritatem, quam dedit beato Petro apostolorum principi, te a cunctis peccatis tuis absolvat, mentem tuam semper custodiat eamque vera caritate repleat et ad vitam perducat aeternam.
The pope urges queen Adelheid to seek heavenly things and to lead the king to virtue.
1 Ashleigh Imus provided this translation.
Register Gregors VII, MGH, EpSel, ed. Erich Caspar, ep.1.11, p.17-18; translation, Ephraim Emerton, The Correspondence of pope Gregory VII, Records of Civilization, Columbia University Press, 1932, ep.8.22.