Collection of Letters: Detail
- Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury
To his dearest lady and mother in God, the venerable countess Atla(1): Anselm, servant of the church of Canterbury, wishing her whatever may be better, sweeter, and more affectionate according to God.
Whenever I wish to write to your Highness, I can hardly find words with which
I can express the affection which my heart, before God, constantly preserves for you; perhaps I express myself better by admitting that I am not able to express myself. Reflecting in my mind on the affectionate love which I experienced in you towards me for God's sake in many different ways,(2) I cannot think of anything in myself which would be able to repay or give thanks for it sufficiently according to my will. Therefore, since I neither know any better nor am able to do any better, I turn to the Lord and pray that he himself may repay in my place your love by his love which surpasses alI human merits. I do this daily and, with the help of God, shall not desist from doing it as long as I live.
You know my desire for you.(3) If only I could hear, "before I die,"(4) that this has been accomplished by the grace of God. Truly I say to you that my soul would leave my body more happily. What you desire to know about our health the bearer of this letter will adequately be able to tell you.
May the Holy Spirit always be the guardian and guide of your heart and life. Amen.(5)
Dominae et matri in deo carissimae Atlae, venerabili comitissae: Anselmus, servus ecclesiae Cantuariensis, quod melius, quod dulcius, quod affectuosius potest secundum deum.
Cum vestrae volo scribere celsitudini, utique nequeo invenire verba quibus affectum, quem semper servat cor meum coram deo de vobis, possim exprimere; nisi forte per hoc illum melius exprimo, quia me fateor exprimere non posse. Quippe cum mente pertracto affectuosam dilectionem, quam in vobis propter deum erga me multis modis sum expertus, nihil in me possum cogitare, quod ad eius retributionem aut gratiarum actionem secundum voluntatem meam possit suficere. Quoniam ergo melius nec scio nec valeo, ad dominum me converto et oro, ut ipse dilectioni vestrae suam pro me dilectionem, quae superat omnia merita hominum, retribuat. Hoc cotidie facio, hoc quamdiu vivam deo annuente facere non desistam.
Nostis desiderium meum de vobis. Quod utinam audiam, antequam moriar, per gratiam dei completum esse! Verum dico vobis, quia laetior exiret anima mea de corpore. Nostrum esse, quod scire desideratis, lator praesentium satis vobis poterit edicere.
Spiritus sanctus sit semper custos et director cordis vestri et vitae vestrae. Amen.
The letter expresses Anselm's gratitude and affection, and his desire that Adela will become a nun. Anselm visited Adela in 1103 while he was in exile and negotiated a truce for her through the pope with the Chartres cathedral chapter (LoPrete, "The Anglo-Norman Card," 581). Adela in turn negotiated a meeting between him and her brother, King Henry, and accompanied him to Normandy for the meeting in 1105.
(1) Atla, Adala or Adela, probably the sister of Henry I, Countess of Blois and Chartres, see Epp 286, 340, 364, 388; HN 164. (2) Anselm seems to be referring to her support during his two exiles and her assistance in bringing about the meeting at l'Aigle between King Henry I and himself on 21 July 1105, see HN 164-165; Epp 364, 388, 389, 390, 397, 430. (3) Anselm wishes that Countess Adela should leave the world and enter a convent, see Ep 325. (4) For Anselm's growing weakness, see Ep 438; Gen 27:4. (5) The translation is reproduced with the permission of the translator and the publisher, Cistercian Publications Inc. Editorial Offices, Institute of Cistercian Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 49008. All rights are reserved; downloading and copying for any purpose other than private research is prohibited.
Sancti Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi, Opera Omnia, ed. F.S. Schmitt (Stuttgart: Fromann, 1984) v.5, p.395, ep.448; translation and annotation from The Letters of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, trans. Walter Fröhlich, Cistercian Studies 142, 3v (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1990-94), 3.231-32.(5)