Sources and translations

The texts currently translated on this website are taken from the following sources:

  • De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutberga reginae (ed. Letha Bohringer, MGH Concilia 4, Supplementum 1)
  • Hincmar of Rheims, Epistolae (ed. Ernst Perels, MGH Epistolae 8)
  • Die Konzilien der karolingischen Teilreiche 860-874 (ed. Wilfried Hartmann, MGH Concilia 4)

Page references are given in square brackets in the translation. All these translations are works in progress and have not been checked for errors or readability. Readers are strongly advised to check the Latin text themselves, as found at the MGH website.



Monday, 1 August 2016

English translations of Hincmar’s works



Relatively few of Hincmar’s works have yet been translated into English. This post lists the ones that we are currently aware of: any suggestions for additions will be gratefully received

Monday, 14 March 2016

Hincmar of Rheims: First Episcopal Capitulary

This is the first of five episcopal statutes issued by Archbishop Hincmar over his long career. The second, not translated here, instructed archdeacons in how they should assess compliance with these requirements.
Translated by Charles West, 2016.  Source: MGH Capitula Episcoporum II, pp. 34-45


In the year 852, on 1 November, at the meeting of priests held in the metropolitan city of Rheims, Bishop Hincmar discussed the laws and ecclesiastical matters. Amongst other very healthy advice, these things were brought forward at the end, to be commended to the memory and carefully observed.

1. That each of the priests should learn in full the exposition on the creed and on the Lord's prayer, according to the traditions of the orthodox Fathers, and carefully instruct the people entrusted to him by preaching about it. Let him understand too the preface of the Canon [of the Mass], and the Canon itself, and be able to recite it clearly from memory. And he should be able to read well the prayers of the mass, the Apostle [reading], and the Gospel [reading]. Let him know to how to pronounce the words and sentences of the Psalms, properly, off by heart, with the customary canticles. And let him commend to memory the sermon of Athanasius On Faith, which begins “Whoever wishes to be saved”. And let him understand the meaning and be able to explain it in common words.

2. That no one is allowed not to know the [baptismal] scrutinies, and the liturgical order for baptism.

3. Let him commend to memory distinctly and rationally the [baptismal] exorcisms, the prayers to make catechumens, the prayers to consecrate the fonts, and the other prayers for males and females, in groups and individually. And similarly the liturgy of baptism for succouring the ill. And whoever is unable to have stone fonts, let him have a suitable vessel for this office of baptism alone. Similarly, let him have clean vessels for washing the corporale and the altar cloths, not used for any other purpose.

4. Let him learn by heart the liturgy for reconciliation [of penitents] according to the level canonically reserved to him, and the liturgy for anointing the sick, and also the prayers appropriate for this necessity. Similarly, let him learn the liturgy and prayers for funerals and for other matters of the dead, and equally exorcisms and the blessings of water and salt.

5. That on every Sunday, each priest shall make in his own church, before the service of the mass, holy water in a clean vessel appropriate for such a mystery, with which he can sprinkle the people entering the church. And whoever wishes, let them take some of it in clean little vessels, and sprinkle it through their dwellings and fields and vineyards, over their livestock and their fodder, and over their own food and drink.

6. That every priest should have a thurible and incense, so that when the Gospels are read, and the offertory for the oblations has been finished, incense may be placed in it, as on the death of the Redeemer.

7. That the priest should cut up in a clean and suitable container the oblations which were offered by the people and were left over after consecration, and the bread which the faithful brought to church, or his own bread. After the service of mass, those who were not prepared for communion may take them as gifts [eulogia], on every Sunday and on feast days. And let the priest bless it with these words before he gives it out as eulogia to those who take it, and let him take care the crumbs do not carelessly fall out: PRAYER
“O Lord, holy Father, omnipotent eternal God, deign to bless this bread with your holy and spiritual blessing, so that to all those eating it with faith, reverence and gratitude to you, it shall be the safety of mind and body, and a defence against all diseases and all attacks of their enemies. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, the bread of life, who descended from heaven and gives life and salvation to the world, and lives and reigns with you as God, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.”

8. Let every priest studiously read the 40 homilies of Gregory, and understand them. And, so that he should realise that he has been promoted into the church’s ministry in the form of the 72 disciples, let him learn the sermon of the aforementioned doctor about the 70 disciples sent by the Lord for preaching, in full and off by heart. Let him be instructed too in the necessary computus [date calculation] and chant throughout the cycle of year.

9. Once the morning service is over, let him pay the debts of his duty by singing prime, terce, sext and nones. Then the remaining hours [ie, daily liturgy] will be publicly completed as far as possible either by himself or by his pupils. Then, once the service of the masses over, and the sick have been visited, let him turn to agricultural work, and whatever else is needed, keeping the fast so that he is able to attend to the necessities of pilgrims, guests or various travellers, the sick and dying, up to the agreed time, according to the quality of the season and the opportunity.

10. That he should take care of guests, especially the poor and crippled, orphans and pilgrims; and he should invite them to his lunch every day, as far as possible, and give them hospitality appropriately.

11. That no priest should dare to give the chalice or paten, altar cloth or sacerdotal vestment or book to an innkeeper or merchant or any lay man or lay woman as a pledge. For such is the sanctity of the holy ministry, as Lord forbade through the prophet, with understanding of the higher mystery, that no priest should go forth to the people in his holy garments, but should remove them within the sanctuary as he returns to the people from the holy colloquium. And for whom it is prohibited by the holy canons to enter taverns to drink, lest the holy items of the holy ministry be touched by the impure, how much less should he give them as a pledge? This the holy Pope and Martyr Stephen taught in his decretals to St Hilarus.

12. That no priest should bury anyone in the church without consulting the bishop, except those people whom we have designated individually and personally in a synod. Nor should he demand or extort anything for burial. If however something is given freely by any devout people, to the altar or to the church or to himself, we do not forbid him to accept it courteously.

13. That no priest should take any gift (exenium) or temporal emolument, or rather spiritual detriment, from any public sinner or incestuous person, in order that he will keep quiet about their sin to us or our ministers. Nor should he hesitate, on account of respect of persons or kinship or closeness, sharing in the sin of others, to let us or our ministers know about it. Nor should he presume to take any grace or favour or gift from any penitent, in order that he bring him to reconciliation while he is not worthily penitent and provide him with a testimony of reconciliation, while by spite he removes another, perhaps more worthily penitent person, from reconciliation. This is simony, and abominable to God and man.

14. That when the priests go to a gathering for an anniversary, or the 30th or 3rd or 7th [commemoration dates] of a dead person, or any other occasion, no priest shall dare to get drunk, nor be asked to drink in honour of the saints or his own soul. Nor should he force others to drink or himself gulp it down on someone else’s request, nor should he dare to have raucous applause and laughter, or to tell silly stories, or to sing. Nor shall he allow shameful games with a bear and tornatrices to take place in front of him. Nor should he allow masks of demons, which are commonly called talamascas, to be brought out, since this is devilish and prohibited by the sacred canons. Rather let him eat with honesty and religion and go back to his church at the right time. Above all, let each take care that, as he wishes to rejoice in his status, he shall not for some reason and by some words annoy or provoke his peer or anyone else, to anger and disagreement and arguing, still less to fighting and murder. Nor if provoked should he rise to these things. For the devil is always involved in these joint dinners and drinks, which the unreligious arrange.
When however priests meet for some dinner, let the deacon or someone senior amongst them begin the verse in front of the table, and bless the food. And let them be seated according to order, each doing honour to the others, and let them bless the food and drink in turn, and let one of these clerics read something from the holy writings. And after they have eaten, let them recite a sacred hymn, by the example of the Lord and saviour and his disciples, as we read they did at dinner. And let priests control themselves in every place, especially in such things, lest, as the apostle says, ‘our ministry should be brought into disrepute’.

15. That when the priests meet together on the first of every month, after the holy mystery and the necessary collatio has been celebrated, let them not sit down at table as if for a feast (prandium), and weigh themselves down with unsuitable dishes, because this is shameful and burdensome. Often returning late to their churches, they complain about the damage of reprimand, and argue amongst one another about their mutual burden more than they do anything of profit. For Paul the Apostle chastises the Corinthians about this kind of meeting, which takes place under the cover of religion: they used to meet together to take the Lord's supper, unsuitably. Thus those who come to the Lord’s supper, that is to the collatio of the word, as an excuse and in truth are joined together for the sake of their stomachs, will be held as reprehensible before both God and men.
And so once everything they wanted has been carried out, let them break bread in the house of their co-brother, with their other brothers, with thanks and love, and let them have individual drinks, and above all let them not take the cup more than three times, and return to their churches.

16. About the groups which are popularly called geldonia [cf English 'guilds'] or confratriae, we have advised verbally and now we expressly warn in writing, that there should be so much as pertains to reason, authority and usefulness; and that none, whether priest or member of the faithful, should dare to go beyond this in our diocese. That is, that they may join together for every religious duty, that is in gifts, lighting, mutual prayers, funerals for the dead, almsgiving and other offices of piety. Those who wish to offer a candle, whether individually or as a group, may bring it to the altar either before the mass or during it, before the gospel is read. They may make one offering and oblation only, for themselves and all those conjoined and close to them. If he brings more wine in a barrel or a jug or more oblations, then let him give them to the priest or his minister either before or after the mass, from which the people may take eulogiae in alms and blessing from it, or the priests may have a supplement.
But feasting and joint dinners, which holy authority prohibits, and where arguments and un-owed exactions and shameful and stupid mirth and disorder often take place, leading, as we have seen, to murder and hatred and dissension – these things we absolutely forbid. If anyone dares to do this, then if he is a priest or some cleric, he will be deprived of his grade; if he is a layman or woman, he or she will be separated from the church until satisfaction is done.
If it is necessary that the co-brothers should all come together for a meeting, for example if someone has an argument with his peer which must be reconciled, but which cannot be without a meeting of the priest and the others, then, after these things which are of God and are fitting to the Christian religion have been carried out, and after the required admonitions, if it happens that everyone comes together for refreshments by the law of love and fraternal consolation, we permit this to happen. Let them preserve modesty and temperance and sobriety and the concord of peace, as befits co-brothers, so that everything is for fraternal edification and the praise and glory of God. And let what the Saviour says particularly be watched out for, ‘Watch out lest your hearts be weighted down in intoxication and drunkenness.’ (1). Let those who wish take eulogiae from the priest, and break bread only, and let each person have a single drink and dare to take nothing else. And then let each one go home with the Lord's blessing.


17. That if any priest should die, the neighbouring priest should not obtain from the secular lord by request or by some gift a church which was previously independent, nor even a chapel, without our permission. If he should do this, let him receive a sentence that follows, as decreed by the canonical authority about the bishop who through ambitions seeks a greater city: he should lose that which he holds, and not obtain that which he tried to usurp.



(1). This section in italics is not present in all manuscripts.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Judgement of Courtisols

The judgment of Courtisols, 13 May 847

Based on the edition in J-P. Devroey, "Libres et non-libres sur les terres de Saint-Remi de Reims: La notice judiciare de Courtisols (13 Mai 847) et le Polyptyque d'Hincmar , Journal des Savants (2006), 65-103
Translated by Charles West 2016

On the command of Archbishop HINCMAR, his legates – that is Sigloard the priest and head of the school of the holy church of Rheims, and the noble Dodilo vassalus of the bishop – came to Courtisols. Sitting at the public court, and investigating the justice of Saint Remi and of the already mentioned lord [Hincmar], they heard a rumour [sonus] about the mancipia[1] whose names are given below, and about their genealogy: that they rightly ought to be servi and ancillae,[2] because their grandmothers Berta and Avila had been bought by the lord’s price. The above-mentioned legates, when they heard this, diligently looked into the matter.

These are the names of those who were present and questioned: Grimold, Warmher, Leuthad, Ostrold, Adelard, Ivoia, and the daughter Hildiardis.[3] They said in response “That is not so, for we ought to be free by birth”.

The already mentioned legates asked if there was anyone there who knew the truth of this matter or who wanted to prove it. Then very old witnesses came forward, whose names are these: Hardier, Tedic, Odelmar, Sorulf, Gisinbrand, Gifard, Teuderic.[4] And they testified that their origin had been bought by the lord’s price, and that they ought by justice and law more to be servi and ancillae than free men and free women.

Then the legates asked if the witnesses against them were telling the truth. They [the mancipia] saw and accepted the truth and proof of the matter, and at once re-entrusted themselves, and re-pledged the service that had been unjustly held back and neglected for so many days, through the judgement of the scabini[5], whose names are these: Geimfrid, Ursold, Frederic, Urslaud, Hroderaus, Herleher, Ratbert, Gislehard.

ENACTED in Courtisols on the 4th Ides of May in the public court, in the sixth year of the reign of the glorious King Charles; and in the third year of the rule of Archbishop Hincmar of the holy see of Reims.
Sign: I Sigloard the priest was present and subscribed with my own hand to all these truthful matters. I Heronod the chancellor signed. I Dodilo signed with my own hand. Sign of Leidrad the monk. Sign of Adroin the mayor. Sign of Gozfred the advocate. Sign of Flotgis. Sign of Guntio. Sign of Betto. Sign of Rigfred. Sign of Urinus. Sign of Alacramn, Altiaud, Balsmus, Balthard, Fredemar, Tuehtar, Atuhar, Geroard, Wido, Righard, Amalhad, Rafold, Alter, Amalbert.[6] I Hairoald the chancellor authorised and signed.
The above mentioned witnesses also proved that Teutbert and Blithelm were by origin servi, and they repledged their service in that court meeting, by the judgement of the scabini whose names are written above.




[1] Mancipia is a term that generally means ‘unfree people’, and that would traditionally be translated as ‘slaves’. In property transfer records, mancipia are listed as part of an estate’s assets, along with livestock and agricultural infrastructure.
[2] Ie, male and female slaves/servants.
[3] These people are listed in the estate survey for Courtisols that was made around the same time (in the polyptych of St-Remi). It is to be noted that many of them were joint tenants of holdings along with people of free status, which may well be why they claimed that they were free too.
[4] All these witnesses were legally-free inhabitants of Courtisols.
[5] Scabini were residents who enjoyed a special status: something like jurors or local councillors.
[6] Most of these names were other residents of Courtisols.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

On the wife of Boso


Hincmar of Rheims: De uxore Bosonis

Edition: MGH Epistolae Karolini Aevi VIII, pp. 81-87, no. 135
Transmission: Paris BnF. lat 2866, fols.120-124v.
Dating: Autumn 860
Trans. by Rachel Stone, with assistance of Charles West

Hincmar, by name not merit bishop of Rheims and servant of the people of God, to the sacred convention.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Council of Aachen 862

The Council of Aachen 862
Translated from MGH Concilia IV, pp. 71-78.

Document A. Minutes of the meeting.

Chapter 1. In the year 862, tenth indiction, on the third kalends of May [29 April], on the convocation of the most glorious lord king Lothar [II], the archbishops and their fellow bishops met at Aachen, that is Gunther archbishop of Cologne and archchaplain of the sacred palace, and Theutgaud archbishop of Trier [p. 72], Adventius bishop of Metz, Atto bishop of Verdun, Arnulf bishop of Toul, Franco bishop of Liège, Bishop Hunger, and Rathold bishop of Strasbourg. This was so that with the assistance of divine clemency, they might be able to intervene faithfully and healthily with the already mentioned most serene prince, for the utility and necessity of the holy mother Church. For in our dangerous times, the pastoral trumphet should sound out even belatedly, by prophetic admonition, where it is said “Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet”.

So, faithfully thinking over many times God’s judgements for the unfaithful, and the dangers of the world as it grows old, and not without deep groans, we recalled our most Christian prince to memory that he should not be unmindful of his vocation, and that what he is called by name he should complete in deed, so that Christ the King of kings, who has made him the deputy of His name on earth, will return to him in heaven a worthy remuneration of the dispensation entrusted to him.

To this he [Lothar], as a true worshipper of God, purely and truthfully agreed to our Unanimity, promising unbreakably that he wished to obey our advice in all things and comply to our reasonable admonitions. And as we spoke, he fashioned his most gentle attitude (affectus) with us, so that it would be clear without doubt that his heart grasped the right hand of Him in Whose hands are the hearts of kings.

Chapter 2. Meanwhile, he reassured our Unanimity with healthy responses and spiritual advice about those things which pertain to the state of the holy Church of God and the utility of the realm and the safety of the people committed to him, affirming that he was entirely ready in all matters, so that he would be a true helper and an indefatigable assistant to our order and the whole of holy religion.

Chapter 3. After this, he humbly and devoutly sought pastoral advice, placing into the hands of our brothers a booklet of complaint and of his very serious necessity.  Mournfully he asked for divine and pastoral advice, and with quavering voice he again talked of the causes of his weakness (imbecillitas) – how he had been deceived in a certain woman named Theutberga, by the seditious arguments of treacherous men. And indeed he recalled, not by half measures, that he had endured the sentence of separation by the judgment of the bishops. If she had been suitable for the marital bed, and had not been defiled by the pestiferous pollution of incest, and publicly condemned by a live confession, he would willingly keep her. But he confessed that he was incontinent, and asserted that he was not able to bear the ardour of his youth without conjugal union. He repeated that it was beyond doubt that we had declared to him that Theutberga was incestuous and had ordered him to abstain from every concubine, and that this was extremely difficult for him to stay like this [p. 73] in his youth. To this Archbishop Theutgaud was a witness, that according to divine and his own counsel, if he might have committed with the concubine joined to him, he [Lothar] had very healthily expunged it, assisted with ecclesiastical medicine and secret and constant tears and vigils and macerations of spiritual continence, and especially with donations of alms. And to be brief about many things, if the rejoicing flesh had led him to sin, then we believe the afflicted flesh brought him back to pardon.

Chapter 5. Therefore the concern of pastoral care and the documents of divine speech began to stir up the souls of our brothers, about what should be done and arranged, and what should be reasonably decided about this proclamation and lament. And we were worried above all lest – may it not happen – such a prince might, after a worthy satisfaction and a very healthy reconciliation, incur the injury of fragility and return to his vomit, and like a sow wallowing in mud, might sometimes seek illicit embraces.

Chapter 6. And so it came to pass that the pious Sollicitude of our brothers decreed to be discussed again, how it had carried out the censure of ecclesiastical authority on the already mentioned woman Theutberga, as her public confession demanded.

Chapter 7. A volume of several councils was brought out, and we had the fourth chapter from the Council of Lerida read out, where it is written
“About those who stain themselves in incestuous pollution. It was agreed that for as long as they persist in that destestable and illict marriage (conubium) of the flesh, they should only be admitted in the church to the mass of the catechumens. And as the Apostle ordered, it is not suitable to any Christians even to break bread with them.”

Chapter 8. In addition to this, the commentary of St Ambrose on the letter of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, Chapter 32, it was said by Lord’s mouth to those who were joined in marriage, that
“’the wife is not to leave her husband, and if she does leave him, she should remain unmarried’. This is the counsel of the Apostle, that if she leaves because of the bad behaviour of the husband, she should remain unmarried, and that if she is not able to contain herself, because she does not wish to fight against the flesh, then let her be reconciled to her huband. For it is not permitted to the woman to marry, if she has sent her husband away for the reason of fornication or apostasy, or if the husband has sought the use of his wife impelled by illicit lust. For the inferior does not use the same law as more powerful. If the man however apostasises, let him not seek to invert the use of his wife: the woman is not allowed to marry another, nor to return to him for the sake of fornication [?]. ‘And let not the husband put away his wife’. By implication, however: except for the reason of fornication. And therefore he does not continue, as he did for the woman in saying, ‘But if she does leave, let her remain thus’. For it is permitted to the man to marry a wife, if he sent his sinning wife away.  For a man is not constrained by the same laws as a woman. For the man is the head of woman. “For to the rest I speak, not the Lord”. He says this to show what the Lord ordered through His own mouth [p. 74] and what he conceded by his authority, for the Lord spoke through him who said “Do you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me?”

Chapter 9. From the Council of Agde, Chapter 62. ‘We reserve henceforth no mercy for incestuous unions, unless they cure the adultery by separation.  Incestuous unions, which it is wicked even to speak of, are not to be denoted by the name of marriage.’ And there after some other things, it is written ‘Those indeed to whom an illicit conjunction is forbidden, will have the freedom of entering into a better marriage.’

Chapter 10. For the rest, having clearly read these and other canonical sanctions of this kind, and the statements of the holy father Ambrose, we believe that she who was proven by a public (so it is said) confession to be marked by the incestuous crime of fornication was (fuisse) not a suitable or legimate spouse, nor a wife prepared by God. Therefore to our glorious prince, to whom not us but indeed canonical authority forbids an incestuous marriage, and for his most devoted affection in the divine cult and for his most victorious defence of the kingdom, we do not deny the legitimate and suitable marriage conceded to him by God, according to the indulgence spoken by the Apostle: ‘It is better to marry than to burn’.

Document B: the Booklet of proclamation of Lothar II
The Complaint of Lothar appealing to the Bishops about conceding marriage to him.
O holy priests and venerable Fathers, you who are placed as mediators between God and men, and to whom is committed the care of our souls, who provide medicine to the wounds of sin, who have the power of binding and loosing, and who are our doctors and leaders – to you I humbly proclaim, and trustingly I demand your kindness and faithful counsel. Royal power should acknowledge the sublime authority of the sacerdotal dignity, by which two orders the church of the believers by God’s will is ruled and guided. But we know that one is as superior to another, as much as we rightly venerate the excellence of heavenly teaching that is closer to God. Therefore we who offend or lightly or wilfully stray by human frailty before God, we solemnly hasten back and flee to your pastoral dignity. I myself, recognising my own errors by the inspiration of divine clemency, and frightened by and shuddering at the stains of such sins, I seek the remedy of salvation from Christ through you, by suppliantly confessing and by demanding pardon. I trust greatly in your Piety,  and do not at all doubt that I will be mercifully and measuredly accepted and treated in spiritual compassion, [p. 75] according to what the Apostle says: ‘Who is weakened, and I am not weakened?’ ‘For if someone is preoccupied in some sin, let you, who are spiritual, instruct in the spirit of leniency, considering you yourself, that you may not be tempted’. And another Scripture warns, ‘Do not break the crushed reed’.

As the rest, Fathers, I thank you very much, since you kept the faith owed to our lord father [Lothar I], and after his death you have been kind and faithful to us in all things. And since you generally and in many ways attended to our adolescence and unstable time of life, and also specially and diligently  watched out for the deceit imposed on us through that above named wife. About that business, what was done by your advice we know that you have deeply in memory.  For by your order we separated from ourselves that woman, who freely confessed about a terrible and incestuous contagion of fornication, according the precept of Saint Paul, who said “Do not mingle with fornicators”. Whatever I have done afterwards in the fragility of incontinence whether by necessity or will, it is your duty to emend opportunely and rationally, and it is my duty willingly to obey.

For you know that I was brought up from infancy and childhood amongst women, and that I desired to reach the threshold of legitimate marriage, for the good of chastity and to avoid the wickedness of indecency. I am not unaware that whatever of this that is beyond licit union, can be ascribed to the wickedness of fornication and noxious pollution. I know that a concubine is not a wife, and I do not wish to have what is illicit, but what is licit. You therefore, mindful of my youth, consider what I should do,  to whom neither is conceded a wife nor is permitted a concubine. It is known to you that the Apostle says “I wish the younger ones to marry, to procreate children”. And “Who cannot contain himself, let him marry. For it is better to marry than to burn”. And again, “Let everyone have his own wife for the sake of [avoiding] fornication. And the Apostle Matthew: “God blessed marrige, and permitted love to rule in the bodies of men”.

Therefore I speak straightforwardly, and I confess that I am not at all able to endure without any conjugal bond. And in truth I wish to be separated from all fornication ‘according to the inward man’. And now, my dear ones, we suppliantly beg your Sanctity and beg for the love of Him who redeemed us, that in the kindness of love and devoted fidelity, you will not defer from aiding the peril of our body and soul, for the utility of the holy Church of God and the kingdom committed to us: so that we may equally rejoice and exult both in prosperity and in our most prompt devotion towards you.

Document C – the bishops’ judgement

When we, archbishops and bishops from various provinces of the whole kingdom of the most serene king Lothar, had convened at the palace of Aachen and were discussing ecclesiastical rights with pastoral care and sollicitude, [p. 76] the case of our prince (princeps) was brought into our midst, whose marriage controversy we had touched upon before [in manibus fuerat evoluta]. Informed by the example and bolstered by the authority of the great Lord pastor, that is Jesus Christ, who ‘came into the world to save sinners’, and knowing that we can and should threaten sinners with the fear of punishment if they do not come to their senses, and permit and concede mercy to them if they do, we bitterly grieved for the aforementioned king, given to us by God’s disposition and deceitfully wounded in his inexperience of his rule (regni tyrocinio), as we discovered. And we carefully and faithfully struggled to rescue him from the net in which he lamented he was caught, according to what the Apostle says: “If any of you err from the truth, and one convert him, he must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death” [James 5].

What we order to be bestowed upon all, in no way ought we have to denied to our king and prince, who had humbly presented himself to our earlier meeting and had lamented that he had been horribly cheated in the name of marriage; and he added that he knew he was not able to continue without a consort for his youth. And he brought forth a booklet of proclamation which requested a path for his salvation, divinitus aspiratus. Pitying his grief and anxiety, as was fitting, having understood his attitude of pure devotion (intellecto pure devotionis affectu) we demonstrated that he could delete previous sins by the remedy of penance, and could guard against future ones by the display of good works. He embraced this by necessity and willingly according to our exhortation.  Gathering some of our colleagues, he set himself to fasting, almsgiving and other works pleasing to God for the whole of Lent, hoping to placate God with a fitting satisfaction, and he openly showed that he was wishing to deserve this by arriving barefoot.

Then in this council too he revealed the situation of his fragility, and usefully and praiseworthily sought from us advice for his salvation. Therefore, according to his petition and devotion, and most carefully upholding the form of human piety and most vigilantly moderating the censure of our ministry, we decreed that what we provided to him should be committed to memory.

We learned from many documents that the woman was more imposed upon him by wicked intention than legitimately joined to him in the name of a wife, and that she is not able to be a wife, which we recognised more clearly by many attestions, or rather detestations, and finally by her spontaneous confession. How could she be joined in marriage, whom by her own assertion her brother did not fear to defile? For as the Lord said to Moses, “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy sister”, and as Moses himself terribly intoned by the Lord’s inspiration, “Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or of his mother”. And another Scripture says “he that keepeth an adulteress, is foolish and wicked”. And the Apostle: “he who is joined to a harlot, is made one body”. And on this it is said in the Council of Agde at Chapter 4,
“It is agreed that those who stain themselves with the pollution of incest, should only be permitted to the mass of the catecumens for as long as they persevere in that detestable and illicit fleshly union. And as the Apostle commanded, it is not fitting to any Christians even to break bread with them”.

And St Ambrose in the exposition of the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 34, writes, after he spoke to the unmarried and to widows, he addressed those who were joined in marriage, with the Lord’s mouth,
“that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried”. And if she is not able to contain herself, because she does not wish to fight against the flesh, let her “be reconciled to her husband”. For it is not permitted to a woman to marry, if she has sent her husband away for the reason of fornication or apostacy, or if the husband has sought the use of his wife impelled by illicit lust. For the inferior does not use the same law as the more powerful. If however the man is an apostate, let him not seek to invert the use of his wife, and nor can the woman marry someone else nor return to him for the sake of fornication. “And let not the husband put away his wife”. By implication, however, except for the reason of fornication.  And therefore he does not continue, as he did for the the woman in saying, ‘But if she does leave, let her remain thus’. For it is permitted to the man to marry a wife, if he sent his sinning wife away. For the man is not constrained by the same laws as the woman. For the man is the head of woman. “For to the rest I speak, not the Lord”. He says this to show what the Lord ordered by his own mouth and what he conceded by his authority, for the Lord spoke through him when he said “Do you seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me?”

Perhaps someone will say to this “What the Lord has joined, let not man separate”. This is indeed excellent and most apt to be observed in those whom the Lord has joined, for the wife will be prepared for the husband by the Lord, as it is written elsewhere. But who will dare to say that this woman was joined or prepared by the Lord, who according to so many and important prohibitions of the Old and New Testaments is not to be joined in union, but is rather to be mourned and handed over to the death of the body (interitum carnis), so that her spirit may be saved, as is shown by the confession of her own lips? According to that sentence, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”. And David  at once ordered the man who boasted that he had killed Saul to killed, saying “Thy blood be upon thy own head: for thy own mouth hath spoken against thee, saying: I have slain the Lord’s anointed”.

And Pope Innocent wrote to the Tolesani, affirming that the person can in no way be absolved who pronounces against himself a capital sentence, whether in true confession or by false testimony, words that would be punished in another, “For everyone who is the cause of his own death is a greater murderer”. But this is also shown very abundantly from the letter of Valentinian to the Foroiulienses, and in the African Council Chapter 91.

If anyone should say that we have acted and decided irrationally and incautiously in this business, we who are not slothfully imbued or weakly supported by these and other instruments of divine eloquence – then let him know that unless he is cleansed of the stain of detraction and unjust accusation, he will have a harsher reckoning with us before the tribunal of eternal justice about these things.  For let us protest before God, that we have neither acted nor spoken about this woman motivated by any spiteful poison or bitter zeal against her, nor guided by the grace of any favour, but only according to what we found needed to be done after most diligent examination and most studious enquiry, more moderately and gently – saving the rule of canonical authority, which it is permitted to not one to violate - as it is right to recognise from the letters of our discussion written on this matter by us.

As for the prince and our lord Lothar, after the recognition of his excesses and a suitable punishmnt in remarkable affliction for his errors: knowing that according to his profession that there is a law in his limbs repugnant to the law of his mind [p. 78], we are not able to forbid him from marrying a wife and procreating children, lest he slip into worse things. For as the Apostle says, “ Who cannot contain himself, let him marry”, only in the Lord; “it is better to marry than to burn”. And again, “Let everyone have his own wife for the sake of fornication”, which of course is a concession of necessity, not of apostolic will, as he says again “I wish all men to be like me”. And so we therefore do not at all dare to prohibit these things, so that worse things can more easily be guarded against, and every pretext of unowed opportunity may be avoided with more sollicitous custody.

It was commanded to two of our brothers separately (sequestratim) to entrust to writing this chain of reasoning (series rationis), which with the Lord’s inspiration we all together discovered. When each  of them presented his text to the holy council in the early morning after the night, our whole company praised it as filled with a wonderful appropriateness of meaning (mira sensuum convenientia), and we thanked the Lord for the concordant sentence. And so we decided to add this, that if the tenor of one of the texts, discrepant in words, reaches anyone’s hands, let him not be disturbed by the dissonance of speech, but rather be compelled to trust (fidem accomodare) by the consonance of meaning (consonantia sensuum).


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

New material (updated)


We're making good progress on our translation of De divortio for Manchester University Press. We'll soon be taking the draft translation down, but intend to replace it with more untranslated material relating to the divorce case soon, so watch this space!

Update (September 2015)
We have removed most of the text of the draft translation of De divortio, leaving the questions, so you can see what topics are covered in Hincmar's answers. Our published translation will be appearing in Spring 2016 and will also be available electronically via Manchester Medieval Sources online. To whet your appetite, here is the book cover:



Look out for this at a bookshop near you next year!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Letter on Stephen 9: final suggestions and comments

[p 106] For also St Syricus took care to place something about the blessing of betrothed women in his decretals. About whom, the holy canons decree what is noted, and we thence have said some things, and we should now say other things more, if we had heard that a priestly blessing in the ecclesiastical way had been given to this wedding, about which we speak, But the priestly blessing did not have a place in that in which owed faith was absent, especially since scripture says: "In whatever home you should enter, first say: Peace on this house. And if they should be a son of peace in it, your peace will rest upon it, if not, your peace will return to you." [Luke 10: 5-6] And Peter said about the Lord from the faithful: "Faith purifying their hearts". [Acts 15: 9] And again it is written: "All their works in faith" and again: "For what is not from faith is sin". [Romans 14: 23] And where sin remains before suitable satisfaction blessing has no place. For prayer benefits nothing, as blessed Gregory says, where there is iniquitous action.

[p 106] After all these things, if Raymond should not want to receive his daughter, or she should decide to remain in her liberty, it is to be indicated to them that if she herself should commit whatever debauchery [stuprum], whatever should be wrongly done, will pertain to him or her, but not to Stephen.

[p 106] But you ought, holy bishops, to suggest, make known and order both Raymond, Stephen and their relatives and friends from divine mandate that they have peace among themselves, which the Lord orders, and without which they will not be able to see God, except for judgement. And the prince of the land with the primores ought to be busy to do this, lest for the sake of this case scandals and plots may happen in the church and kingdom. Those who should scorn to obey should be made, according to the gospel precept, like a heathen and publican, and according to the Apostle, let it be noted who does not obey the word, so that no one may be associated with him; and he who should not receive this doctrine of peace, let no one greet him, so that he may not communicate his sin and just as the canons decree neither let his offering be received in the shrine. And he who should not want to return to peace, let him remain excommunicated as long as he should despise returning to peace, and let him hasten to return as quickly as possible to charity, which covers a multitude of sins. And again it is written in the canons that from the council two or three judges should be chosen and sent to determine (?) all the things which ought to be examined and determined by clerical judgement, and that will be able to be determined more reasonably and conveniently elsewhere than in the same council. And whoever should be proved from contumacy not to want to obey the judges, when this should be proved by the bishop of the first see, let him send a letter, so that no one may communicate with him, until he should obey. About which matter the holy synod have taken care to choose you who are of the first sees of the Aquitaine kingdom for determining this case with your fellow bishops and the prince and primores of this land. Without this determination whoever should delay to obey you will not be able to avoid his peril and the invective of excommunication.

[p 107] I have taken care to collect these things from gospel truth and apostolic and canonical authority or doctrine and tradition of the Catholic fathers, just as the holy synod ordered, for the sake of the mediocrity of my little capacity. No one ought to be angry at me about this, just as I have heard, that certain ones are. Since I have not composed my words with my senses nor have I presumed to claim for myself what is not mine, nor have I taken care to write something that is not mine in this case by stating or demanding, prejudging the rational statement of no one, nor dishonouring authority or wanting to force necessity of obeying on any one. But I remind your very loved and revered fraternity, as blessed Leo writes to Rusticus Bishop of Narbonne: that, just as there are certain things which can be overthrown by no reason, thus there are many things it may be proper to be moderate about, either for the sake of the consideration of the age or for necessity of events, as long as that condition is always preserved, that in things which should either be obscure or doubtful, we should recognise that to be followed, which is found neither contrary to gospel precepts nor against the decrees of the saints.