Collection of Letters: Detail
- Gregory IX, pope
To the illustrious king of the French and his mother, queen Blanche.
In those three [qualities] which, properly attributed to the persons of the holy Trinity, namely power, wisdom, and goodness, to be imitated [following] the traces of that same holy Trinity, the kingdom of the French appears to have flourished before other kingdoms from long ago: powerful in the vigor of its knights, wise in the lettered learning of its gifted clerks, and benign in the merciful goodness of its princes. Of which if two extremes forsake the mean, they are converted to vices: since power unless it is tempered by wisdom swells into usurpation, raising itself up in arrogance; and benevolence, if it is not supported by the same, degenerates into dissolution and is made kin to folly. Therefore, wisdom is necessary to both, without which neither may have the name or effect of virtue.
And wisdom is nourished by the study of letters, by which like a flood from a place of delights, it not only irrigates said kingdom, and makes it fertile after the grace of the holy spirit, but also the general paradise of the Church is known to have existed up to now, whose source/bed is the city of Paris, from which that very study flourished in Paris. Whereby we believe your solicitous diligence was involved and strove with diligent solicitude for the study transferred elsewhere in your day from Paris, to be brought back there like a river to its source, lest perhaps from such transference, divided among many places, it be reduced to nothing, just as a river diverted from its bed and divided into streams, dries up and by this the heaven of scripture is closed and clouds contain its rain, and the earth of the universal Church remains without rain, and the sun and the moon are turned to darkness, the stars wrapped in a fog of darkness, and thus the aforementioned trace of the Trinity is deleted from said kingdom, so that it redounds to your shame if in your day, that same kingdom should be deprived of such glory. It is not advantageous that a loss of such honor be ascribed to those ruling in it, which renowned kings were zealous to preserve in their time from innate mercy more inclined towards itself, fostering the multitude collected in the abovementioned city most benignly, to drink up the waters of wisdom, and supporting them prudently if they went too far.
But you should know that it has come to our hearing that between you on one side and our beloved sons the masters and students of Paris on the other, a disagreement has arisen. And those masters provoked by damages and injuries, left Paris with their students, transferring their studies elsewhere. We, therefore, desiring the benefits to come from the return of the foresaid river to its bed and wishing to avoid the disadvantages that might arise from their departure, we give our venerable brothers the bishops of Maine and Sylvanès and master John archdeacon of Châlon, in commands by our letters, that in our stead they intervene solicitously between you and the aforesaid masters and students and devote their diligent solicitude and effective labor to make good suitably to the said masters and students for the damages incurred and the injuries inflicted and restore to them the liberty they are accustomed to, granted by Philip, king of the French of bright memory, so that study is brought back to Paris.
For which we ask your excellency assiduously and we admonish and exhort in the lord that following in the footsteps of benevolence of your predecessors, from reverence for the apostolic see and for us, you admit them fully into royal grace and favor, acquiescing to the admonitions and exhortations of the foresaid, carrying them out with fittingly swift execution and accustomed mercy. But if you act, which we do not believe, against wisdom and goodness, without which unity of power can scarcely persist, and are seen to reject [them], we can not tolerate with equanimity that that kingdom, up to now heavenly blessed, be adorned with such beauty, and will be compelled to act otherwise over this.
Dated at Perugia, 6th kalends of December, in the third year of our pontificate.
Regi Francorum, et Blanchae matri ejus Reginae, illustribus.
In tribus, quae appropriatione nominis tribus in S. trinitate personis attributa, noscuntur, potentia, sapientia et benignitate videlicet, regnum Francorum, ejusdem S. Trinitatis imitanda vestigium, patet prae regnis aliis a longis retro temporibus floruisse: in strenuitate militum, potens, in clero literarum scientia praedito sapiens, et in clementi principum bonitate benignum; quorum medio si duo destituantur extrema, in vitia convertentur: quoniam potentia nisi fuerit sapientia temperata in praesumptionem luxuriat, se in arrogantiam extollendo: benignitas vero, si eadem suffulta non fuerit, in dissolutionem degenerat, et efficitur fatuitati cognata. Igitur sapientia necessaria est utrique, sine qua neutra illarum nomen virtutis obtinet, vel effectum: sapientia vero nutritur studio literarum, quo quasi fluvio de loco delitiarum egresso, non solum regnum praedictum irrigatur et foecundatur post Spiritus sancti gratiam, verum etiam paradisus Ecclesiae generalis, cujus alveus Parisiensis civitas, ex eo quod idem studium Parisius viguit, hactenus noscitur extitisse; unde vestra credimus interesse solicita diligentia, et solicitudine satagere diligenti, ut studium diebus vestris translatum alibi a Parisiis, illuc quasi flumen ad alveum revocetur, ne forsan ex translatione hujusmodi ad nihilum redigatur, per plura loca divisum, velut fluvius distortus ab alveo, et in rivas divisus arescit, et per hoc coelum claudi scripturae ac imbrem suum nubes continere contingat, et incomplutam terram universalis Ecclesiae remanere, nec non in tenebras solem et lunam converti, stellas involvi caligine hujusmodi tenebrarum, ac sic de praedicto regno deleri Trinitatis vestigium praelibatum, quoniam in vestram ignominiam redundaret, si diebus vestris idem regnum hujusmodi privatum gloria rederretur; nec expediret quod in ipso regnantibus tanti honoris ascriberetur amissio, quam suis servare temporibus Reges inclyti ex innata sibi clementia propensius studuerunt ex diversis mundi nationibus in supradicta civitate collectam multitudinem, ad aquas sapientiae hauriendas benignius confoventes, ac provide supportantes, si quando excedebat.
Sane ad nostram noveritis audientiam pevenisse, quod inter vos ex parte una, et dilectos filios magistros, et scholare Parisienses ex altera dissensione suborta, iidem magistri cum scholaribus damnis, et injuriis lacessiti a Parisiis discesserunt, studium alibi transferendo. Nos ergo utilitatibus proventuris ex praedicti fluminis ad alveum reditu aspirantes, et volentes incommoditatibus, quae possunt ex discessu emergere, obviare, venerabilibus fratribus nostris Cenomannensi, et Silvanectensi episcopis, et magistro Joanni archidiacono Catalaunensi nostris damus literis in mandatis, at ipsi vice nostra inter vos, ac magistros et scholares praefatos interponant solicite partes suas ac impendant solicitudinem diligentem, et operam efficacem, ut magistris, et scholaribus antedictis de datis damnis et irrogatis injuriis congrue satisfiat, restituta ipsis solita libertate, ac clarae memoriae Philippo Rege Francorum concessa, studium Parisius revocetur. Quocirca excellentiam vostram rogamus attentius, et monemus, ac exhortamur in domino, quatenus benignitatis praedecessorum vestrorum inhaerentes vestigiis, ob reverentiam Apostolicae sedis, et nostram ipsos plenius admittatis in gratiam regiam, et favorem, acquiescendo monitis, et exhortationibus praedictoram ea executione celeri, sicut decet, clementia solita exequentes; ne si secus egeritis, quod non credimus, sapientiam, et benignitatem, sine quibus vix potentiae unitas potest persistere, videamini abjecisse, ac nos, qui regnum ipsum hactenus coelitus benedictum, ut dedecoretur a decore hujusmodi non possumus aequanimiter tolerare, super hoc providere aliter compellamur.
Dat. Perusii VI kal. decembr. pontif. nostri. annon III.
The Annales note that there was serious discord between royal administrators and those who were occupied with letters in Paris, that is the university, so serious that many scholars went off to other places in France and Europe. The trouble began with a quarrel in a tavern over the price of wine, followed by vengeful acts on both sides, with the bishop of Paris, Guillaume d’Auvergne, and the papal legate taking the side against the students and the university, whose independence had been recognized by king and pope. The queen supported the bishop and legate by sending men to punish the trouble-makers but they wounded many and killed two distinguished scholars (Pernoud, 185-90). The university went on strike and disbanded. Gregory IX intervened to save the celebrated academy, mainly appealing to the French royal tradition of support for it, but also threatening reprisals. Blanche had already had her son renew the privilege granted the university by his father, but it took two years to restore the university’s functions.
Raynaldo, Annuales Ecclesiastici, 21.16-17; the letter is also cited in Buleaus-DuBoulay Historia Universitatis Parisiensis (Paris: Francis Noel, 1666, repr. Frankfurt: Minerva, 1966) 3.135-36.