Sources and translations

This blog provides our draft translation of Carolingian texts, mostly linked to Hincmar of Rheims or the divorce of Lothar II and Theutberga.

The texts translated are as follows:

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.

Monday, 20 February 2023

About the case of the priest Teutfrid: what should be done and decided

Translation by Rachel Stone, with assistance from Charles West 

This short letter by Hincmar of Rheims has not been dated, although Gerhard Schmitz argued that it was written around the same time (876-877) as a longer text, "De presbiteris criminosis" (About delinquent priests). It is not certain whether Teutfrid was a priest in Hincmar's archdiocese or whether Hincmar was responding to a request for advice on the case from bishops elsewhere. A location for the theft in West Francia is most likely, given Hincmar's involvement, although the mention of the tunic of Queen Emma as stolen by Teutfrid suggests a church that had close connections with Louis the German and his family. From the amount he stole, he was also unlikely to have been a parish priest, but was probably attached to a convent, cathedral or some other elite shrine. 

The editio princeps of the text was by Jean Busée in 1602, based on a now lost manuscript from Speyer; the title was first used by Jacques Sirmond in his edition, reprinted from Busée. This text has been translated from Migne's reprint of Sirmond in Patrologia Latina 125, col. 1111-1116. 1) 

1) Pope St Gregory [Gregory I] in the register of his decrees many times decreed that ecclesiastical business and cases ought to be decided legally and regularly (1). Where and by whom the case of the priest Teutfrid should be conducted and decided: "The laws decree that the accused does not have licence to proceed beyond the bounds of the province. For it is fitting that judgement of the crime is accomplished where the act is said to have been committed. We restrain foreign (peregrina) judgements with laws at hand (praesentes)." [Codex Theodosianus 9.1.10]. And chapter 30 of the Carthaginian canons: "It pleases that the accused and the accuser should be in such a place that the one who is accused, if he fears any force from the heedless crowd, might choose a place near to him, in which it would not be difficult to produce witnesses, where the case may be finished." [Council of Hippo 427 c. 2]. And the Synod of the Province of Africa in a letter to Pope Celestine: "The fathers provided very prudently and justly that any matters whatsoever should be finished in the places where they arose." [Letter from Council of Carthage 424-425 to Pope Celestine] 

2) A priest who has confessed or been convicted by his own bishop, if he is obstinate, ought to be judged by the bishops of his province, just as the canons of Nicaea, Antioch, Serdica and African Carthage decree. For the Antioch canons, chapter 16 say: "That one is a perfect council where the metropolitan bishop should be present." [Council of Antioch 341, c. 16]. And chapter 20 from the episcopal councils: "In the councils themselves the priests and deacons should be present and all who think themselves injured and let an examination be made by the synod." [Council of Antioch 341, c. 20]. And chapter 9: "That the bishop should attempt to do nothing aside from the metropolitan bishop, except what pertains to his own diocese, nor should the metropolitan act without the advice of the remaining sacerdotes." [Council of Antioch 341, c. 9] 

3) Since Teutfrid is said to have confessed or been convicted (2) about church goods removed secretly and sacrilegiously, that is three chasubles, the tunic of Queen Emma (3), a gold belt with gems, an ivory burse [box for the liturgical corporal], a pound of gold and other additional things, the laws say: "Confessed debtors are taken as judged and therefore the constituted times of payment should be counted from the day of their confession." [Pauli Sententiae, 5.5A. 2]. And the Canons of the Apostles chapter 25 say: "Let a bishop, priest or deacon who is caught in fornication, perjury or theft be deposed, yet not deprived of communion. For Scripture says: "The Lord will not punish twice in the same matter." [Canons of the Apostles, c. 25, citing Old Latin version of Nahum 1:9]. For if he swore fidelity to God in the case, he is caught in perjury; since he removed holy property from the true God, he has admitted sacrilege, just as Pope St Anacletus, ordained priest by the blessed apostle Peter himself and afterwards made bishop as his successor in the Roman see, judged with very many bishops: "He who seizes, takes away or defrauds monies of Christ and the Church is a homicide and will be reckoned a homicide in the sight of the just Judge [God]. He who seizes money from his neighbour works iniquity. But he who takes away church money or property commits sacrilege and should be judged as sacrilegious” [Pseudo-Anacletus, J3 †15 in Pseudo-Isidore]. And St Urban, pope and martyr: "Church property and goods are called offerings, since they are offered to God and they are the vows of the faithful and the price of sinners. If anyone seizes these, he is condemned to the damnation of Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5: 1-11], and it is proper to hand over this kind to Satan, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” [Shortened extract from Pseudo-Urban I, JK †87, in Pseudo-Isidore]. And Pope St Lucius: "By apostolic authority, we expel seizers of church property and goods, anathematized, from the thresholds of holy church and we condemn them and judge them to be sacrilegious. And an equal punishment catches both those doing and those consenting [to the act]." [Shortened extract from Pseudo-Lucius, J3 †246 in Pseudo-Isidore] And Pope St Gregory: "It is sacrilege and against the laws if someone should try to retain what is left to venerable places for his own profits by efforts of evil will" [Gregory, Epistola 9.90 to Sabinus]. 

 And St Augustine, by merit reckoned by the Apostolic See (through blessed Celestine) to be among the best teachers of the church, in a sermon on the Gospel of St John says: "Behold Judas is among the saints [apostles], behold Judas is a thief and You did not condemn him, a sacrilegious thief, not any ordinary kind of thief, but of the purses of God, purses, but holy. If crimes are discovered in the forum [i.e. connected to public office], he is not any ordinary kind of thief, but an embezzler of public funds. Theft from the commonwealth (res publica) is called "peculation". And theft of private property is not judged in the same way as theft of public property. How much more vehemently should this sacrilegious thief be judged, he who dared not to take from whatever place, but from the Church? He who steals and snatches something from the Church is compared to Judas, who was destroyed." [Augustine, Tractate on the Gospel of John 50, s. 10] And the sacred canons say about this: "Clerics and also secular men who presume to retain the offerings of their relatives or donations or things left by testament or believe that which they themselves have given to churches or monasteries may be taken away: just as the holy synod constituted, let them be excluded from churches as if killers of the poor until they should give back, and those who are excluded from churches should not be permitted to remain in their ecclesiastical grade.(4)" [Council of Agde 506, c. 4] 

4) If Teutfrid confesses or is convicted, and then leaving ecclesiastical judgement, should seek the palace for the sake of his defence or purgation (5), the Council of Antioch, chapter 11 should be produced: "If any bishop or priest or one subject to whatever ecclesiastical rule should go to the emperor or king, without the counsel or letters of the [church] province and especially the metropolitan, it is proper for this one to be condemned, and thrown out not only from communion but also from the honour whose holder he seems to be, since he tried to bring trouble to the ears of the venerable prince about the laws of the Church. If therefore a necessary case requires going to the prince, let this be done with the consultation and council of the metropolitan and the remining bishops who are in the same province, whose letters should accompany the traveller" [Council of Antioch 341, c. 11]. And the Carthaginian canons, chapter 9: "Whoever of the bishops, priests and deacons and clerics, when a charge is directed against him in the church, or a civil case is moved, if leaving ecclesiastical judgement, he wants to be purged by public judgement, even if the verdict is offered in his favour, let him lose his position: this is in criminal matters. But in civil matters let him lose what he has won, if he wants to keep his position" [Breuiarium Hipponense, c. 9]. And Pope St Leo and the Roman synod: "We judge that whoever, passing over the bishop of his church, comes to the judgement of seculars, will be expelled from the sacred thresholds and kept far from the heavenly altars" [Leo of Bourges, Epistula episcoporum Leonis, Uicturi et Eustochi ad episcopos et presbyteros infra tertiam prouinciam constitutos](6). 

5) If Teutfrid confesses or is convicted that openly or craftily (ingeniose) he led his supporters (proximi) into perjury (7) it is to be known that he is guilty of all these perjuries, as many times as he led people maliciously into perjury, and he himself has greater sin from that than those who when called by him, swore for him, just as the Lord speaking to Pilate makes clear, saying: "he who handed me over to you has the greater sin" [John 19:11]. And St Gregory in the Pastoral Rule says about people of this kind: "Prelates ought to know that if they ever perpetrate wrong deeds, they deserve as many deaths as they transmitted examples of ruin to their subjects. Whence it is necessary that they keep themselves so much more cautiously from fault, the more they not only die through the evil they do, but are guilty about the souls of others, which they destroyed by their bad example” [Pastoral Rule 3, 4]. 

And a priest, the more he is loftier in grade than any Christian layman you choose (quolibet Christiano laico), that much greater is his fault, (8) and he who is tied up in the perjury of those men is caught in their perjury and by that, according to chapter 25 of the Apostolic canons is to be judged concerning perjury. About which St Jerome, explaining the sentence of the prophet Ezekiel about the crooked oath by King Zedekiah says: "For that one was found much more faithful who believed you because of the name of the Lord and was deceived, than you who through the opportunity of divine majesty attempted a plot against your enemy, nay rather now your friend” [Jerome, Commentarii in Ezechielem, 5, 17]. Therefore, Scripture says: "I will place on his head the oath that he despised and the pact that he violated" [Ezekiel 17:19]. "For we read that the captured Zedekiah was led into Riblah where, his sons having been killed, he was blinded, and captive in a cage like a wild animal, transferred to Babylon" [Jerome, Commentarii in Ezechielem, 5, 17](9).
Indeed, as blessed Gregory explains: "the Babylonian king is the ancient enemy [the Devil], possessor of inmost disorder, who first slaughters sons before the eyes of the watcher, since he often thus kills good works, so that he who is captive, lamenting, may see himself lose these. For very often the mind produces good things, and yet conquered by the delights of its flesh, loses the good things it lovingly produces and considers what it suffers as harms, but yet does not raise the arm of virtue against the Babylonian king. But while seeing [these losses], it is struck through by the performing of wickedness, as often as sin is practised and conducted to the state that he himself is also deprived of the light of reason. Whence the Babylonian king, having first killed his sons, snatched out the eyes of Zedekiah, since the malign spirit having first taken away good works, afterwards also takes away the light of understanding. Which Zedekiah rightly suffers in Riblah. Indeed, Riblah is interpreted "these many". For whenever also the light of reason is closed for him, he is wearied in wicked use from the multitude of his sins" [Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job 7, 28](10). He who violates an oath in the name of the Lord suffers all these things by the just judgement of God, since as blessed Jerome says, "he who despises an oath, despises Him by whom he swears, and does injury to that one, whose name his adversary believed" [Jerome, Commentarii in Ezechielem, 5, 17]. That is the one to whom he swore in the name of Him who says: "Do not take the name of the Lord in vain, nor pollute that"(11). And "Render to God your oaths" [Matthew 5:33]. And the Psalmist says that one will be in the holy place: "who swears to his neighbour and does not deceive" [Psalm 15: 4]. 

6) But if he [Teutfrid] should want to say that, forced by necessity, he ordered [his witnesses] to make that oath, an oath which he was able and ought to have kept, and that therefore he is not to be held guilty of perjury (12), let him hear what St Gregory says about he who swears or anathematizes: "About someone who has to swear or anathematize and persuades you by flattery that he should not be held guilty if he violates what he swore or anathematized, since he did this unwillingly.(13) If there are those who should say that someone who anathematizes when forced by necessity is not to be bound by the bond of anathema, they themselves who say this are witnesses for themselves that they are not Christians, who reckon that they can dissolve the bonds of Holy Church by vain attempts. Since they do not regard the absolution of holy Church, which it offers to the faithful, as true if they do not reckon its bonds as valid. We should not dispute against them for any longer because in all things they are to be despised and anathematized and since they believe that they deceive the Truth, therefore they are truly bound in their sins. And both I and all the catholic bishops and the whole Church anathematize them, since they perceive contraries to the truth and speak contraries." [Gregory Ep 11, 27 to Theoctista] (14).

7) But if he [Teutfrid] should say, as many are accustomed to say, that he ordered [his witnesses] to swear with trickery (ingenium), let him not think he can deceive the Lord by verbal art, to whom nothing is hidden and who considers not what someone may swear, but what the one to whom it was sworn reckoned it, who believed the oath of his supporters (proximi) . As the catholic doctors say, he who swears through fraud is first guilty towards God, whose name he has taken in vain, against the precept of the law and then towards his neighbour, whom he reckons to deceive by black fraud, as the Psalmist says, since "The innocent in his hands and with a clean heart, who does not swear by fraud to his neighbour will receive a blessing from the Lord" [Psalm 24: 4-5]. But he is also guilty towards himself, "he who takes his soul in vain" [adapted from Psalm 24:4], as the Psalmist says against this (15). 


(1) Hincmar frequently cited phrases from Gregory the Great's letters on legal procedure in cases involving clerics: see e.g. The Divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga (trans. Stone and West), Response 22, pp. 271-272. 

(2) The letter's references to Teutfrid having allegedly confessed or been convicted imply that he has not yet definitively been judged about the theft (and hence there is a need for Hincmar's advice). It is likely, however that some initial church judgement had been made, which Teutfrid was now attempting to appeal. 

(3) Emma (c. 810-876) was the wife of King Louis the German of East Francia (reigned 843-876). The donation of her tunic to a church (either before or after her death) may have been part of developing a cult of her. The inscription on a belt she gave to Bishop Witgar of Augsburg implies that she was practising some kind of chaste marriage by the late 850s: see Eric J. Goldberg, "Regina nitens sanctissima Hemma: Queen Emma (827-876), Bishop Witgar of Augsburg, and the Witgar-belt," in Representations of power in medieval Germany 800-1500, ed. Björn Weiler and Simon MacLean (Brepols, 2006), 57-95. It is also possible that the tunic was a votive offering, connected to the severe illness which affected Emma in 874 (a stroke which left her unable to speak). 

(4) The final clause about “those who are excluded from churches” is not from the Council of Agde. 

(5) Purgation involved the defendant and his supporters (oath-helpers) swearing solemn oaths about his innocence. 

(6) On this mid-fifth century text, see Charles West, "Pope Leo of Bourges, clerical immunity and the early medieval secular", Early Medieval Europe 29 (2021), :86-108. 

(7) This probably refers to false oaths made by oath-helpers, rather than witnesses. 

(8) This is one of Hincmar's most striking claims of the superiority of any priest (not just a bishop) over all laymen (including implicitly, rulers). 

(9) Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, who after being installed by King Nebuchadnezzar, revolted against him. He was captured, blinded, and taken to Babylon (2 Kings: 24-25). According to Ezekiel 17: 12-19 Zedekiah had sworn a treaty on oath with Nebuchadnezzar and then broken it. Hincmar sees oath-breaking as closely linked to perjury, since it implies that the original oath was not made sincerely. 

(10) Hincmar's reason for including this passage is not clear: by equating Nebuchadnezzar with the devil, the implication is that Zedekiah should not have kept his oath to him, whereas he has just cited Jerome saying that he should. 

(11) This phrase is based on Exodus 20:7. 

(12) The logic here is hard to follow but possibly reflects Hincmar’s own worries about perjury more than expected objections by Teutfrid. The phrase “forced by necessity” may imply that at an initial hearing, church authorities made Teutfrid swear an oath to produce oath-helpers at a subsequent hearing. Was an ecclesiastical court itself forcing the defendant to choose between oath-breaking and perjury, or even encouraging perjury? Hincmar’s own response, that a coerced oath must still be kept, does not deal with this further problem. 

(13) This first sentence of the quotation is not in Gregory's letter: it may be a gloss or heading in an earlier manuscript with an extract from the letter. 

(14) Theoctista was sister to the Byzantine emperor Maurice. A translation of the letter is given in 

(15) This section has many similarities to Divorce of King Lothar, (trans Stone and West) Response 6, p. 150, in which Hincmar cites a poem by Theodulf of Orléans making the same two points: that God hears how an oath is received by the recipient and that a misleading oath makes someone guilty towards both God and the one to whom he swears.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

On punishing and rooting out the abduction (raptus) of widows, girls and nuns (Part 2: appendix of excerpts)


Excerpts from sacred canons and the deeds of the holy fathers about the religious life of nuns (cultus sanctimoniae) and about the constancy of declaring the truth

From the decrees of Pope Siricius, chapter 4: That it is not allowed to obtain the betrothed of another man according to the laws of marriage

But about marital violation you asked, if one could take the betrothed girl of another in marriage. We prohibit by all means that this should happen: since the blessing which the priest places on the girl to be married is like a certain sacrilege for the faithful, if it is violated by any transgression.[1]

In the council of Ancyra, chapter 10, about betrothed girls corrupted by others.

It pleases that girls who have been betrothed, and afterwards taken by others, should be plucked up and restored to those to whom they had been betrothed first, even if force should have been inflicted on them by the abductors.[2]

From the decrees of Pope Innocent, chapter 20. About non-veiled virgins, if they should deviate.

Those who are not yet covered by the sacred veil, yet who have simulated that they will always remain in the virginal intent although they are not veiled: if perhaps they should marry, penance is to be done by these for some time, since their solemn promise (sponsio) was held by the Lord. For if a contract of good faith between men is not accustomed to be dissolved without reason, how much more ought that promise which they agreed with God not to be dissolved without punishment? For if the apostle Paul said that those who had departed from the intent of widowhood had condemnation, since they had made original faith invalid, how much more do virgins who have tried to break their original promise of faith?[3]

From the decrees of Pope Leo, chapter 27. That those who, not forced but by their own will, have received the way of life of virginity, offend if they marry, even if they have not yet been consecrated.

Girls who have received the way of life and habit of virginity, not forced by the command of parents, but by their free will decision: if afterwards they should choose marriage, they are prevaricating, even if the grace of consecration should not yet reached them: whose gift they would not be cheated of if they were to remain in their way of life.[4]

Again of the same Pope Leo to Rusticius. About girls who are now consecrated; if afterwards they should marry, they admit a double crime of both way of life and consecration.

About these who are now consecrated, if they should marry afterwards, it cannot be doubted that a great crime is admitted, where both the way of life is forsaken and the consecration is violated. For if human pacts cannot be violated with impunity, what will happen to those who break the faith of divine sacrament?[5]

From the decrees of Pope Gelasius, chapter 20. That these who associate themselves with holy virgins, and unite in incestuous pacts, cannot communicate, unless they do public penance.

But we have learned that certain men dare to associate themselves with holy virgins and after a way of life dedicated to God, they mix incestuous crime with sacrilege. It is just that these forthwith should be expelled from Holy Communion and not received in any way unless through public and proved penance: but if they are passing away from the world, certainly the viaticum, if yet they should be penitent, is not denied to them.[6]

From the decrees of Pope Siricius, chapter 6: about monks and virgins not preserving the way of life.

 Moreover, you attest that certain monks and nuns, having cast away the way of life of sanctity, are sunk in such great wantonness that first secretly, as if under the pretext of monasteries, they mix themselves with illicit and sacrilegious contagion, and afterwards, led into a steep descent by desperation of conscience, they willingly procreate sons from illicit embraces. This both public laws (leges) and ecclesiastical laws (iura) condemn. We order these shameless and detestable persons to be eliminated from the company of monasteries and the meetings of churches: so that thrust back in their workhouses, weeping for such a crime with continuous lamentation, they may be able to boil away with the purifying fire of penance, so that by consideration of mercy, pardon may be able to relieve them through the grace of communion only at their death.[7]

 Again from the Council of Blessed Pope Gregory

 Gregory the apostolic Pope spoke before the body of the venerable prince of the apostles of Christ to declare this judgement. If someone should take in marriage a nun, whom they call a handmaid of God, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage his spiritual co-mother, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage the wife of his brother , may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage a cousin (consobrina), may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should take in marriage a wife from his own cognatio, or whom a cognatus has married, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should steal a widow as wife, even with her consenting to it, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. If someone should steal a virgin as wife whom he should not have betrothed to himself, even if she consented to it, may he be anathema. And they all replied thrice, may he be anathema. I, Gregory the Bishop of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome signed these things constituted and promulgated by us. And twenty-two other bishops, fourteen priests and fifty deacons signed.[8]

 From the Council of Orléans I, chapter 2

 But about abductors we reckon this to be constituted, that if an abductor should flee to a church with an abducted woman, and it should be known that the same woman has suffered violence, at once she is to be liberated from the power of the abductor, and let the abductor, after immunity from death or punishments has been conferred upon him, be subject to the condition of serving or let him have free ability of redeeming himself. If indeed she who is abducted is known to have a father and the girl consented to the abductor, let her be excused and returned to the power of the father, and let the abductor be held liable to be punished by the father in satisfaction of the above condition.[9]

 From the Council of Valence, chapter 2. About girls devoted to God, if they should pass over into earthly marriage, that they handed over to penitence

 Indeed about girls who should vow themselves to God, if they should voluntarily pass over into earthly marriage, we have decreed it is to be maintained that penance is not immediately given to these, and when it has been given, unless they have fully satisfied God in as much as reason should demand, their communion should be delayed.[10]

 From the Council of Elvira, chapter 13. About virgins consecrated to God, if they commit adultery

 If virgins who have devoted themselves to God lose their pact of virginity and preserve the same desire, not understanding what they should have lost, it pleases that communion not be given to them in the end. If women of this kind, once persuaded or marred by the lapse of an infirm body, do penance for their whole lives, so that they abstain from the intercourse by which they seemed rather to have lapsed, it pleases that they ought to receive communion in the end.[11]

 From the Council of Toledo I, chapter 16. If a devoted woman should commit adultery, let her do penance for ten years. If she should take a husband, she is not to be permitted to penance, unless her husband dies.

 The sinning devoted woman is not to be received in church, unless she should cease to sin, and if ceasing she should do suitable penance for ten years, thus she may receive communion. And first admitted into the church for prayer, let her not approach the company (convivium) of any Christian woman, and if she is admitted, let her who received her be held at a distance. Also let an equal punishment constrain the corrupter. But she who receives a husband is not to be admitted to penance unless she begins to live chastely, while her husband is still living or after he has died.[12]

 From the Council of Toledo IV, Chapter 56. About the distinction between secular and holy widows.

 There are two kinds of widows: seculars and nuns. Secular widows are those who are still arranging to marry and have not put down the lay habit. Nuns are those, who have now changed the secular habit and have appeared with religious practice (cultus) in the sight of a priest or church. If these go over to marriage, according to the Apostle they will not be without condemnation: since vowing themselves first to God, afterwards they have thrown away the intent of chastity.[13]

 From the Council of Toledo X, chapter 5.

 For all women who are now shown to have dressed in religious clothing in the past, let no objection of opponents be able to be an excuse, although they may want to represent themselves with diverse or cunning arguments of fallacy, but let a holier discipline hold them and subjugate them, bound to very sacred sanctions. Let them be clearly warned by the authority of the priest, so that they willingly return. If they do not wish to return, let them be led back to the habit of religion by the insistence of the priest, and after they are returned to the monasteries, let them be held with the sentence of worthy excommunication.[14]

 In the edicts of the very pious emperors[15]

 If anyone enters in a holy church to celebrate the divine mysteries or other holy mysteries and injures a bishop or clerics or other ministers of the church, we order that, subjected to torture, he should die in exile. But also if someone should disturb the holy prayers or divine mysteries in any way, let him be punished with capital punishment. This also is to be observed in the litanies [processions], in which bishops or clerics are found. So that if someone should make a disturbance, let him be dealt with through torture and exile: but if he should disturb the litany, let him submit to capital punishment. For we want not only all places dedicated to God to be free from all incursion, but much more all their bishops and clerics to be very safe from all danger: so that whoever, governor (praeses) or judge or military man (militaris), if he should dare to raise his hand or insult them, he should be able to expiate that by no manner other than either permanent exile or blood.

[1] Klaus Zechiel-Eckes and Jasper Detlev, Die erste Dekretale: der Brief Papst Siricius' an Bischof Himerius von Tarragona vom Jahr 385 (JK 255) (Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2013), c. 4, pp. 90-92.

 [2] Canons of the Council of Ancyra 314, edited by Cuthbert Hamilton Turner, Ecclesiae Occidentalis monumenta iuris antiquissima: Canorum et conciliorum graecorum interpretationes latinae, 2 vols (Clarendon Press, 1899-1939), vol 2, pp. 82-83.

 [3] Letter of Innocent I to Bishop Victricius of Rouen (Patologia Latina 20, col. 480).

 [4] Letter of Leo I to Rusticus of Narbonne (Patrologia Latina 54, col. 1208).

 [5] This canon is in some manuscripts transmitting Leo's letter: see Patrologia Latina 54, col. 1208 notes.

 [6] Letter of Gelasius to the bishops of Lucania, Bruttium and Sicily, edited by Andreas Thiel, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum genuinae et quae ad eos scriptae sunt a S. Hilario usque ad Pelagium II. Tomus 1: A S. Hilario usque ad S. Hormisdam: Ann. 461-523 (Edward Peter, 1868), pp. 373-374.

 [7] Zechiel-Eckes and Detlev, Die erste Dekretale, c. 6, p. 94.

 [8] Council of Rome 721, ed. G. D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collection, volume 12 (Florence, 1746), cols 263-264.

 [9] Council of Orléans 511, c. 2, ed. Carlo de Clercq, Concilia Galliae a. 511–695, CCSL 148A (Brepols, 1963). p. 5.

 [10] Council of Valence 374, c. 2, ed. Charles Munier, Concilia Galliae a. 314–a. 506, CCSL 148 (Brepols, 1963), p. 39.

 [11] Council of Elvira, c. 13, ed. José Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Enrique Flórez, 1963), p. 4.

 [12] First Council of Toledo, 400, c. 16, ed. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, pp. 23-24.

 [13] Fourth Council of Toledo, 633, c. 56, ed. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, p. 210.

 [14] Tenth Council of Toledo 656, c. 5, ed. Vives, Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, p. 212.

 [15] A quotation from the Epitome Iuliani, no. 115, c. 52, ed. Gustav Haenel, Iuliani epitome latina Novellarum Iustinian (Leipzig, 1873), p. 159.

On punishing and rooting out the abduction (raptus) of widows, girls and nuns (Part 1: main text)

A draft translation of De coercendo et exstirpando raptu viduarum, puellarum ac sanctimonialium, Patrologia Latina 125, col. 1017-1036 by Rachel Stone, with the assistance of Charles West 

This text is about the practice of marriage by abduction: that is, when a man carries off a woman without her relatives’ consent (and sometimes, though not necessarily, without hers). It was written by a group of Carolingian bishops, and addressed to a Frankish king, probably Charles the Bald. The authors of the text are not named, but it is clear from the style and texts cited that Hincmar of Reims was heavily involved. The text is not dated, but it was probably written before 860 CE, since Hincmar’s treatise, On the Divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga, written in that year, draws on it as a source. The text survives only in the early modern edition by Jean Busée in 1605; its modern title was invented by Jacques Sirmond in his re-edition of 1645. 

For detailed commentary on the text, see Rachel Stone, ‘The invention of a theology of abduction: Hincmar of Rheims on Raptus’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009), 443-448 (DOI: 10.1017/S002204690900894X) and Sylvie Joye, ‘Family order and kingship according to Hincmar’, in Rachel Stone and Charles West (eds.), Hincmar of Rheims: life and work (Manchester University Press, 2015) pp. 190-210 (DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719091407.003.0010). 

To the most Christian, glorious and most pious lord ruler [King Charles], we the humble servants of Christ, the bishops of the Gauls and the Germanies, for the sake of the worship (cultus) and the sanctity of the house of the Lord, which is the Church of the true God, the column and firmament of truth [, send greetings][1]

 1). We who have been chosen in these very final and very perilous times for the ministry and governance of the churches of God, although unworthy and least, are all compelled by very great and grave necessity, so that with common intention and zeal, as much as God gives the ability, we may vigilantly and strenuously take care of the endangered flock of the Lord, which slips more wretchedly from day to day with both new plots and attacks of the ancient enemy [the Devil]. 

For although the temporal power of the kingdom seems to be divided by divine judgement in this kingdom of Christians to the present, yet there is one Church in all and from all with the Lord Christ’s protection, one Lord, one faith, one chosen people (genus electum), one royal priesthood, one holy people (gens sancta), one people (populus) of acquisition, which the Lord and Saviour Himself called from the shadows into His wonderful light [2]. For their acquisition and perpetual unity He deigned even to taste death, as the evangelist says: Since Jesus was going to die for the people, and not only for the people, but so that he might gather together in one the sons of God who had been dispersed (John 11: 51, 52). Hence also He himself spoke from wonderful merit: Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay down my life for my sheep. And I have those who are not from this sheepfold, and I must bring them too, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one sheepfold and one pastor (John 10: 15, 16). 

Since therefore the whole people of God, redeemed and united at such a price, is one flock under one shepherd, and all the shepherds of this flock ought through unity of faith and unanimity of solicitude to be as one shepherd, under one and in one Prince of shepherds, it is very necessary that they are united in such love, and joined with such association of spirit, that they may very willingly share and carry each other's burdens, and that there may be present daily care of all churches by them, so that if one limb suffer something, all the limbs may suffer together, or if one limb rejoices, all the limbs may rejoice a [3] . For this solicitude, always present in the blessed Apostles and in the successors of the blessed Apostles, that is in the rectors of the churches of God, made one flock of the Lord love with one mind and serve with unanimous devotion one defence of religion, one mother Church. 

2) Therefore, we beg your most Christian piety and glorious sublimity, that you [respect] the religiously constituted ministers of God's Kingdom, the rectors of the Christian people, and the preservers and defenders of divine religion and ecclesiastical sanctity, and that you listen in honour of divine fear and dread of future judgement to those things suggested for emendation, for the salvation of the souls of the faithful and the preservation and tranquillity of the Christian kingdom. And that you may examine these things that you have heard with just judgement, and that you may restrain what you have examined with suitable severity. 

For nothing more exasperates the wrath of omnipotent God and perturbs the peace of the kingdom than contempt of divine laws, abuse of paternal authority and profanation of ecclesiastical cleanliness and sanctity. Whence God himself speaks against the impious despisers of his laws, saying: And you have forgotten the laws of your God, I also will forget your sons (Hosea 4: 6). About these things it is also written elsewhere: But they mocked the messengers of God and they took their words for little, until the fury of the Lord ascended against His people and there was no remedy (2 Chronicles 36: 16). Therefore, let the law of God always return to memory, and do not let the messengers of God be spurned or mocked, namely the ancient holy fathers, about whom the Lord himself in the gospel says: He who hears you hears me and he who spurns you spurns me (Luke 10: 16). 

Let Holy Mother Church have you as a pious guard and defender of modesty and chastity. The omnipotent God demands these from her [the Church] so much that the apostle bears terrifying witness, saying: Follow peace with all and sanctity, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12: 14). And again: Do you not know that you are a temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in you? But if anyone should violate the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God, which you are, is holy (1 Corinthians 3: 16). And again: Do you not know that your bodies are limbs of Christ? Shall I therefore take the limbs of Christ, and make them the limbs of a prostitute? May that not happen (1 Corinthians 6: 15). And again: And you are not your own: for you were ransomed by a great price. Glorify and bear Christ in your body (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20). That [body] is the temple of God and the home of the living God, about which it is written: O Lord, holiness adorns your house in the length of days (Psalm 93: 5). About this the blessed patriarch Jacob, who is given the surname Israel, also says in mystical praise: This is nothing other than the house of the Lord and the door of heaven (Genesis 28: 17). That is to say, now it [the body] has the Lord as an inhabitant, and after the present life it passes from the world to heaven. 

3) For the sake of this sanctity and cleanliness from diabolical contagion, the Church is loved by Christ, provided for by His passion, and purged and expiated by the font of baptism, as the Apostle testifies, saying: Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her, cleansing her by the font of water in the word of life so that he might present to himself a glorious Church, not having stain or wrinkle or anything of that kind: but so that it should be holy and immaculate (Ephesians 5: 25-27). Whoever therefore truly desires to be a son of this mother, a limb of this body, a part of this temple, let him hear and faithfully obey the same Apostle, admonishing and saying: For you are a temple of the living God, just as the Lord says: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people’ (2 Corinthians 6: 16). And a little after: Therefore, having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all iniquity of flesh and spirit, perfecting sanctification in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7: 1). It is from such limbs and living stones that the city of the great King is constituted, the newly-married bride of the Lamb, about which it is read in the Apocalypse: Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have a right to the tree of life and they may enter into the city by the gates; outside are dogs and the unchaste and sorcerers, and everyone who loves and makes lies (Revelation 22: 14-15). 

Not only should bishops and priests in their seats very faithfully love and be zealous about the grace of this glorious house of God and the place of the habitation of His glory, but so should kings in their kingdoms and palaces, and the kings’ counts in their cities, and the counts’ deputies (vicarii) in their areas (plebes), and all the married men (patres familias) in their households (domus), united, rich and poor, in their minds and deeds [4]. The Apostle especially exercised this zeal and commended it to be exercised by us by his example, saying: For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, for I have betrothed you to one man that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Corinthians 11: 2). About this the Lord himself also says in the Psalm: The zeal of your house has eaten me up (Psalm 69: 9). This zeal He exercised so terribly that He expelled the profaners of the house of the Lord not by words, by which He used to put even demons to flight, but by hand and whip, along with their offerings and sacrifices which they were seen to be preparing (John 2: 14-17). 

4) We beg therefore that your piety, born from this holy mother and made an imitator of the Saviour himself, by whose mercy it is both secured and exalted, may also take hold of zeal of the house of the Lord. And may it be jealous with the jealousy of God, coercing, rooting out, and exterminating with the whip of just severity the very impudent audacity of certain people who, deriding the laws of God and despising the authority of the most holy fathers, without any reverence for divine or human modesty, do not fear, as if brutish and irrational beasts of burden, to violate the temple of God, which is the sanctity of the faithful, and to attempt as much as they are able to destroy under their heels and to overthrow the altar of God itself, which is the priestly ministry appointed to Him and dedicated to His worship. 

For in several parts of this realm, because of their public attacks, neither is the pitiable desolation of widows allowed legitimate freedom, nor are daughters of girlish age who are living in their parents’ homes allowed in any way to be honoured with matronly marriage (nuptiae matronales), according to divine and human laws and with the authority and wishes of the same parents [5]. And even the appointed devotion to God of nuns too is dissolved and profaned, contrary to the profession of sanctity and reverence of divine consecration. Thus formerly that old enemy of humankind polluted the gold and silver vessels of the house of God through Belshazzar the impious and sacrilegious king (Daniel 5): now through the profane insolence and impiety of these people, he does not cease to stain things much more precious and dear to God, and to subject them to the mockery and insults of demons. These public abductors (raptores) and plunderers, with companions (satellites) and fellows (socii) of their impiety, are not devastating someone's external possessions or fortune (substantia), but are pillaging the family (familia) of omnipotent God Himself. 

With these people it certainly does not befit to eat together, just as apostolic authority prescribes about all the rapacious (1 Corinthians 5). Amongst those, these people obtain the first place, that is these abductors of widows and girls and nuns, despisers of priests, violators of the temple of God, who do not fear that apostolic statement: But if anyone should violate the temple of God, God will destroy him (1 Corinthians 3: 17). And rightly, if they were to burn or to destroy some temple of God made by hand from wood and stone, they would be judged by all as sacrilegious and needing to be punished; how much more should they be judged who do not fear to subvert and destroy the temple of the living God, when they believe a marriage (conjugium) can be made out of abduction (raptus), and legitimate marriage (matrimonium) from iniquitous contubernium, which no law, no custom of humanity, has ever permitted? For in the beginning of the world God made male and female for the propagation of humankind and joined them with his blessing, saying: Increase and multiply (Genesis 1:28). 

5) In imitation of this, Holy Church also kept [this custom] solemnly and venerably in former times, joining with divine benediction and celebration of masses these who were to be joined in marriage (coniugium), just as in God’s paradise. This honest and religious joining, begun by God as Author and confirmed by His blessing, is preserved by legitimate order and natural law even among peoples (gentes) who have received no [divine] law and have had no knowledge of God. Nor has a matter of peace, charity and concord ever been made licit through discord and violence and impiety. The public laws of the Romans, through which they constituted the whole earth to live under their domination, testify to this. In these laws it is clearly ordered that both male abductors and female abductees (if they gave consent to them, whether before or after the abduction) should be punished with the ultimate penalties. The assistants and ministers of the abductors would be burnt up entirely with fire, and the mouths of procurers and mediators of such a great crime were condemned to [drink] liquid and boiling lead. Nor in any way was a woman who complained she had been abducted able to be excused, if she neither took care to guard herself when she went to sleep, nor demanded the help and aid of neighbours by shouting [6]. This miraculously agrees with divine law, in which a betrothed girl, if she should be seized by someone in a city, is ordered to be stoned, since she did not call out, although she was in the city, where she would have been able to be freed either by the crowd of citizens or by the support of servants (Deuteronomy 22: 24). Hence also that blessed Susanna is praised, whom her parents had taught according to the law of Moses, since they were just: because when she was washing alone in the orchard of her husband, not only did she not offer the evil elders assent to adultery, but she also cried out with a loud voice, so that the slaves of the house heard and helped, and thus she could be protected from the impiety of the impious, just as happened (Daniel 13: 24). 

6) But the law of God wanted the covenant and tie of marriage, instituted by parental authority and legitimate request, to be so holy and inviolable that He confirmed a betrothed girl to be the wife of him to whom she is betrothed, even before the joining of marriage (nuptiae), saying: If a man should betroth a virgin girl and someone should find her in the city and should sleep with her, you will lead both to the gate of that city and they will be stoned, the girl since she did not call out although she was in the city, the man since he humiliated the wife of his neighbour (Deuteronomy 22: 23-24). Whence it is that in the gospel too, it was said through the angel to Joseph about the blessed and glorious mother of God Mary, when she was betrothed to him: Joseph, son of David, do not fear to receive Mary as your wife (Matthew 1: 20). And in the prophet Hosea, if betrothed girls are violated by others, they are proclaimed to be adulteresses, with the Lord saying: I will not punish your daughters, although they have fornicated, nor your betrothed although they committed adultery (Hosea 4: 14). But the law of God compares these abductors and oppressors and violators to bandits and homicides and orders them to be killed, where it is said about the girl who should be seized violently in a field, saying: But if in a field a man should meet with a girl who is betrothed and taking her should sleep with her, he himself alone will die, and the girl will suffer nothing, nor is she guilty of death. Since just as a thief rises up against his brother, so that he may slay his soul, thus also the girl endured: she was alone in the field and cried, and there was no one present who might have freed her (Deuteronomy 22: 25-27). 

7) Let those who are of this kind therefore recognise that they are bandits, homicides, killers of souls and worthy of death. Nor is there any difference between those who perpetrate such great violence in the fields, and those who commit similar things with a crowd and weapons, whether in cities or in roads or homes: except that the former are like bandits who secretly lie in ambush in woods and deserted places, the latter like the very atrocious and open plunderers, who are troublesome and dangerous to cities in either nightly silence or clear daylight. When they obtain marital joining neither by order of divine law, nor by the authority of parental will nor by piety of clerical holiness, and moreover by the authority of the canons they have deserved public excommunication instead of priestly blessing, by what impudence do they want this sacrilege to be seen as marriage (coniugium), and brigandry as marriage (matrimonium), and violence as piety? For no one can build a building without a foundation, and with the root removed from the tree, in no way will green branches sprout. And let it by no means be said about this kind of, not legitimate marriage (connubium) but adulterous cohabitation (contubernium), what the Lord and the Gospel said: What therefore God has joined let man not separate (Matthew 19: 6), but rather: What man has impiously and improperly joined, God will disunite by his just ruling. 

These are the people who through their violence and power, after contempt of omnipotent God, also despise the Church of God, despise the priests of God, having no reverence for the excommunication of Christ, who conferred this power on the ministers and rectors of his Church, saying: Which if he should not hear the church, that is whoever is presumptuous and contumacious, let him be to you like a heathen and a publican. And He immediately added under: Amen, I say to you, since whatever you should bind on earth, it will be bound also in the heavens (Matthew 18: 17--18). On the contrary, these people, disobedient to the Church, and for this to be considered heathens and publicans, and excommunicated by temporal judgement, violently enter churches and do not fear to injure divine mysteries, and they try to adhere to the religion of Christianity, not by humility and piety and obedience, but by contumacy and wickedness. They do not recognize that it is written, as the Lord Christ himself says, He who is proud will not dwell in the midst of my house, and I hate those prevaricating (Psalm 101: 7, 3). And again: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4: 6). And: Though the Lord be high, he respects the humble and knows the proud from afar (Psalm 138: 6). For if they were to deign to consider this, they would lay down their pride and would take care to merit by pious humility that which Scripture promises elsewhere, saying: The Lord is nigh to those who are of troubled heart, and He will save the humble in spirit (Psalm 34: 18). And the apostle James thus admonishes how each individual may be able both to be separated from the devil and to approach God: Therefore be subjected to God, but resist the devil and he will flee from you. Approach the Lord and he will approach you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded people. Be wretched and mourn and weep. May your laughter be converted into mourning and your joy into mourning. Be humble in the sight of the Lord and he will exalt you (James 4: 7-10). 

8) But now when they violently rush into churches, when they improperly and with indiscipline mix themselves with the crowd of the faithful, when they threaten the priests themselves with death unless they celebrate the divine mysteries in their presence – what else do they do except stab themselves with their own sword twice over, by despising ecclesiastical justice and by profaning the mysteries of the holy altar? Just as these mysteries advance the faithful and humble and pious towards a remedy, so they advance the despisers and the impudent towards judgement and torment. 

With these are also to be associated those stupid and improper people, who, although excommunicated by some churches and priests, believe they can fraudulently take communion in other churches and before other priests. It ought to be very certainly clear to all the faithful, that in the whole world, in cities and peoples (populi), there is only one Church of Christ, and one altar of Christ, and one sacrifice, which everywhere is constituted and offered to one God and one religion. Therefore no one in any way can be excommunicated in one part, and take communion in another part; rather, when he has merited to be separated in one church, in absolutely none will he be able to be associated, except through legitimate satisfaction: just as a limb, severed from its place, is able to be fitted in no part of another body, unless perhaps by the miracle of divine virtue, when what had been divided is be able to be reformed. 

Amongst these people, some are found to be so cruel, and of not human affection but bestial brutality, that having killed their previous wives on suspicion of adultery, by no law, no reason, no judgement, but only by their wrath and cruelty, they without delay approach the altar of the Lord and indiscriminately presume to touch the sacred mysteries, while still dripping with blood and gore, not only not pricked by any penitence or humility to satisfy God and the Church, but exulting in their pride. Even if those very wretched little women (mulierculae) truly had perpetrated adultery and because of this would seem to have been punished justly, yet the law of God, by which every Christian on the day of judgement will be judged so that he may receive according to what he has done, permits no criminal, nor even those male or female adulterers (whom it also orders to be stoned by public judgement by the people), to be punished except through legitimate judges and witnesses. Hence that admirable Susanna, when accused with the false crime of adultery, is read both to have been condemned by public judgement and to have been absolved by public judgement (Daniel 13). And that woman in the gospel, who truly had been taken in adultery, was according to the law first taken to the Pharisees, who used to exercise the power of judgement in the people, and then was taken to the judgment of the Lord to tempt him. There, through his admirable piety, she deserved to be freed both from the punishment of stoning and from the guilt of the crime (John 8: 3-11). And in the book of Numbers it is ordered that if a woman is either guilty of adultery or is accused by false suspicion, and her husband is roused with zeal against her, he should lead her to the priest and by divine judgement let him offer her for either condemning or for freeing (Numbers 5: 11-29). 

9) The ancient Romans decreed in their laws in former times what ought to happen in legitimate marriage, and they maintained this not only when they were made Christian, but also when they were still pagans. This the law of the pagan Emperor Antoninus [138-161 CE] shows very clearly, which blessed Augustine in a certain place remembers and commends in this way, saying:
‘There are some whom it displeases that an equal form of modesty is preserved between men and women, and rather choose particularly in this matter to be subject to the laws of the world than of Christ, since the public laws (iura forensia) do not seem to restrict men with the same bonds of modesty as they do for women. Let them read what the Emperor Antoninus, who was certainly not a Christian, constituted about these things. In this decree, a husband who has not shown an example of chastity in his morals is not permitted to accuse a wife about the crime of adultery. As a result, both were condemned if the conflict proved both to be equally shameless. For these are the words of this Emperor, which are read in the Gregorian Code [7]: “Clearly”, he says, “my words will in no way prejudice the case. For if the blame was yours that the marriage was dissolved, and that your wife Ephrasia were to marry according to the Lex Julia, she will not be condemned for adultery because of this my rescript, unless it should be established to have been already committed. However, [the judges] will have to bear in mind in their enquiry whether you lived chastely and inspired her to cultivate good morals. For it seems to me very iniquitous that a man should demand a modesty from his wife, which he himself does not show. This matter can condemn the husband, but it cannot serve as compensation xto settle the matter of the mutual crime between both parties, or to remove the cause of the deed”. If these things are to be observed for the decorum of the earthly city, how much more chaste are the people sought by the celestial homeland and the society of angels?’[8]
These things blessed Augustine writes about the laws of the pagan Emperor Antoninus. In the book of Esther, it is clearly read that Vashti, the wife of the very powerful and ferocious king of the Assyrians, since she had offended his spirits by contempt and contumacy, was deposed from the imperial honour by no means only by his indignation and fury, but by the public judgement and sentence of the principes and the judgement of the Medes and Persians (Esther 1). Thus although they were pagans and worshippers of idols, they did naturally the things that are of law, and taught that in cases of spouses too one ought to discern and determine not cruelty and savagery, but justice and equity. 

10) Certainly, divine law also orders justice and judgement to be preserved between master and male or female slave. And although it orders by public judgement of its talio an eye to be returned for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, yet if some master were either to pluck out an eye from his male or female slave or strike out a tooth from private indignation or fury, immediately he was condemned to the loss of the same male or female slave. For thus it is written: If anyone should strike the eye of his male or female slave and should make them blind in one eye: let him send them away free for the eye which he tore out: also, if he should strike out a tooth from his male or female slave, similarly let him send them away free (Exodus 21: 26-27). Thus the very equitable and merciful law of God did not want any injuries and deformities inflicted on these male or female slaves by their own masters without judgement. So it was that if anyone would presume thus, he should be punished with the just loss of the very slave who had been abused unjustly in his subjection. Still less did it permit the master to kill him from his private indignation and fury: if he did this, he would be condemned with the guilt of homicide, with the same law saying: He who should strike his male or female slave with a rod and they should die at his hands, he will be answerable of a crime (Exodus 21: 20). 

11) Blessed Job used to preserve this equity of judgement and justice towards his familia by divine inspiration and natural consideration, even before that law was given by Moses, just as he himself attested, saying: If I scorned to come under judgement with my male or female slave when they should dispute against me: what shall I do, when God will rise to judgement, and when he will examine, what will I respond to him? Did he not make me in the womb, who also worked him and formed me in one womb? (Job 31: 13-15). Hence also our holy fathers stated in holy canons for the guilt of that kind: If anyone should kill his own slave without the knowledge of a judge, he will expiate the effusion of blood by two years of excommunication [9]. And the book of Ecclesiasticus speaking about the discipline of master and slave also presents this to him, saying: Nevertheless, do nothing grievous without judgement (Ecclesiasticus 33: 30). And the Apostle admonishes especially: Lords, surpass your slaves in what is just and equal, and stop threatening, knowing that also you have a Lord in heaven (Colossians 4: 1; Ephesians 6: 9). 

If therefore this much equity and goodness is to be preserved between master and slave in the house of each individual Christian in respect to the servile condition, how much greater and more plentifully and fully is it to be kept between husband and wife, between man and spouse, between the head and the body? Since just as the Apostle teaches: The man is the head of the woman, just as Christ is the head of the church, and He Himself is the Saviour of its body. Thus also men ought to love their wives just as their bodies (Ephesians 5: 23, 28). He who loves his wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but he nurtures and cherishes it just like Christ does the Church. Once again the same Apostle says: Men, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, so that He might sanctify it, cleaning it with the font of water in the word (Ephesians 5: 25). In these apostolic words such an excellent and special love between man and wife is certainly commended, preserving in the marriage itself the pre-eminence of the husband and the subjection of the woman, so that nothing ought nor could be greater than that joining, once instituted by God and legitimately brought about. For what could be more venerable than that marriage is the mystery of Christ and the Church? What is more holy, than that men thus love their wives just as Christ loved the Church, giving Himself over for it, so that He might sanctify and cleanse it? What is dearer and more closely connected, than that the man is the head of the woman, just as Christ is the head of the Church, the Saviour Himself of the body? In the gospel He also testifies about this union of marriage, saying: And thus now there are not two but one flesh (Matthew 19: 6). For they will be, He says, two in one flesh. To this Apostle adds, saying: Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh to them (Colossians 3: 19). 

If therefore husbands ought not to be harsh to their wives, how much less should they be savage, cruel and bloodthirsty, preserving for them no law, no reason and no judgement, which should even be preserved towards slaves by the Christian religion? But as soon as they like, roused by indignation and impious fury, they have them taken to be cut to pieces as if in the meat market, and they order them to be butchered by the swords of their cooks in the manner of wethers or pigs, or they themselves even slaughter them with their own hand and sword. In no way do they in imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ give themselves for their wives, so that they may sanctify and clean them, but rather they destroy them for eternity in the zeal of their lust, impiously polluting themselves with their blood. For in a case of this kind, the more justly legitimate judgement should be awaited, the more easily homicide is perpetrated by marital zeal. 

12) Let them defend themselves as much as they want who are of this kind, whether through worldly laws, if there are any, or by human customs. But if they are Christians, let them know that in the day of judgement they will be judged neither by the Roman, Salic, or Gundobardic laws, but by the divine and apostolic laws [10]. Yet in a Christian realm it behoves even those public laws to be Christian, that is conforming and consonant with Christianity. For the law of omnipotent God divides into three types all the things which men seem to have subjected or possess in worldly matters, when it defines and says in the precepts of the Decalogue: You shall not desire the wife of your neighbour, nor male or female slave, nor ox, not sheep, nor ass, not all the things that are his (Exodus 20: 17). In these words, without doubt the dignity of a wife is to be considered one thing, the condition of male and female slaves another, and another the baseness of brute animals, or insensible things, and therefore all those things are to be treated in their limits, discerned in their grades, and divided. We say this so that those of this sort may consider that amongst them, the condition of wives is viler than that of young slaves (servuli). And a master is guilty of homicide for a slave killed without the knowledge of a judge, nor can he expiate the effusion of blood except through penance – what should be stated about wives? 

Such men also break out into such stupidity and blindness, that after they have initially joined themselves to these women through violence and abduction (raptus), against all laws (leges) both human and divine and against the law (ius) of humanity itself, or even not fearing to defile with sacrilegious impiety women in the profession and habit of a nun; and afterwards, having besmeared the women with blandishments and placated their parents with ingenious, nay rather shameful flattery, they reckon they have evaded both divine and human justice, and they want this illicit and iniquitous cohabiting (contubernium) to be seen as legitimate and honest marriage (coniugium). Yet just as was shown above, the ancient laws of the Romans judged to be punished with equal severity both the women who offer consent to their abductors and their parents, unless they should cry out. And through ecclesiastical judgement, it is ordered that whoever may be of this kind is be excommunicated or anathematised till separation, and even after separation should kept away from all public view and be delivered wholly to workhouses (ergastula) under strictest penance until the day of death [11] the extent that even if the abductor should flee to a church with the abducted woman (rapta) for fear of the respublica, the woman who has suffered violence is ordered to be returned to her parents, excused by the intercession of the Church; but the abductor, since he clearly inflicted force, with a similar impunity conceded by the laws in reverence of the sanctuary, is to be handed over into the servitude of the parents of the woman he abducted, unless perhaps it is conceded to him that he may redeem himself [12]

13) But now the Church suffers public attacks, public injury and stubbornness from these despisers and spurners of both divine and human laws: so much so that they even do not fear to plot treachery and to rouse seditions against their priests who prohibit such iniquitous and baneful acts. 

If someone is so insane that he thinks this profane and violent cohabitation (contubernium) can be made a legitimate marriage, because Scripture says that King David, just and holy but in certain things a delinquent man, committed adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite and after the same Uriah was cruelly killed, also took her in marriage (2 Samuel 11) [13] let him pay attention to how gravely and terribly omnipotent God rebuked, disapproved and condemned all this through his prophet, saying: You have killed Uriah the Hittite and have taken his wife as your wife and you have killed him with the sword of the sons of Amman. For this reason, the sword will not depart from your house in eternity, because you despised Me and you took the wife of Uriah the Hittite that she might be your wife (2 Samuel 12: 9,-10). Instantly indeed, pricked by deep sorrow and penitent and humbly confessing, the guilt of such a great iniquity was removed from David. For he said in brief words, with a great and profound sigh of the heart: I have sinned against the Lord, and he immediately merited to hear through the prophet: The Lord has taken away your sin, you will not die (2 Samuel 12: 13). Nevertheless, the sin was thus removed from him, but not so that he might evade the temporal punishment that had been announced to him. For the son who had been born thence was suddenly struck by divine judgement and died. And David himself afterwards was afflicted and vexed with very grave tribulations and by the loss of his kingdom through his son Absalom, as if tempered and purged in a furnace of fire, so that he might truly seem to have escaped by divine clemency alone [14]. That this marriage, so gravely disapproved and condemned and punished, was thus allowed to remain, is clearly not proposed to anyone for imitation, so that whoever in an unjust ordo might believe he has a just marriage. But rather, it was a divine miracle and sacrament that this man David had been purged by true and admirable penitence, and was healed from all adulterous theft (subreptio), so that a chaste and legitimate marriage could arise out of such a joining, just as also in the end of his life, by wonderful and special virtue, he had Abishag the Shunammite, a very beautiful virgin chosen out of all the kingdom of Israel, assiduously ministering to him and assiduously lying and sleeping with him, yet whom he never carnally knew (1 Kings 1: 1-4). 

14) Therefore these things should either be admired, but by no means can be imitated, or they were thus conceded to that time of the Mosaic law, so that with the arrival of the gospel grace of our Lord and Saviour they were entirely removed, or since, as the Apostle says, all these things happened as an example to them (1 Corinthians 10:6), they should be ascribed to divine mysteries. However, if there had not been prior adultery in the case of that woman [Bathsheba], and the killing of her husband had not been added too, who does not see that once her own husband was dead and after she had mourned with due care, she could have been joined to whoever she might want in honest and legitimate marriage? And that the king, who in the condition of that time was not prohibited from having many wives, could have legitimately taken the wife of whichever dead man? Certainly, it is clearly magnificent and greatly to be imitated in his deeds, that David in no way further acknowledged those wives whom he had left behind to guard the house, when he fled, and who were defiled and polluted by his impious son. Instead, he only mercifully nourished them as having suffered violence, and made them live enclosed, living in widowhood until the day of their death (2 Samuel 16: 21-22; 2 Samuel 20: 3). 

But it is in also no way inconsistent with the order and observance of religion that, when he [David] still reigned in Hebron over the tribe of Judah only, and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul obtained the kingdom of Israel, he sent to Abner princeps of the soldiers and governor of the house of the queen, to demand that he restore to him Michal the daughter of Saul, who had been his wife and whom he betrothed to himself with the foreskins of one hundred Philistines, even though Saul, her father, after he had put David to flight beyond the borders of the kingdom, had given her to another man as wife (2 Samuel 3: 12-15). For after that persecution and fleeing was finished and David had returned to the homeland, it was just that he should receive also whatever belonged to him by law (ius) in whatever earthly possession – and how much more so in the association of marriage, just as the holy canons decreed to be observed in a similar deliberation of equity [15]

15) Wicked and distorted men of this kind, or their flatterers and deceivers, can take as an example, as if justly and rightly, what is referred to in the book of Judges (Judges 20-21) about the men of the tribe of Benjamin [16]. When for the fault of their pride and wickedness, by which they had improperly and impiously dared to defend a very monstrous and detestable crime of their citizens against God and the judgement of the whole people, and fought against the whole kingdom with rebellious obstinacy, by divine judgement they fell in war and were destroyed almost to extermination, and with all their wives and sons there remained only six hundred men from the whole of that tribe. Hence the whole people of Israel, who had proceeded against them in that battle and had destroyed them with the sword according to divine order in revenge of the impious crime, was moved by a vehement and religious sorrow, that of the twelve tribes of that people, as had been instituted from the beginning, who had been freed from Egypt, led into the promised land, and obtained inheritance through the distribution of lots, one tribe, so noble and famous, seemed to have been removed. Therefore they greatly lamented and wept and wailed, that namely this sacrosanct mystery of the twelve tribes, which was borne upon the chest of the highest priest entering into the holy of holies in the twelve precious stones on the breast and also in the twelve other precious stones, and also in the meal of twelve loaves that used to be incessantly offered, and all these things that were prepared for the very glorious future chorus of the apostles, should seem to be mutilated and truncated by such a sudden destruction and mournful event. So they raised up an altar and by victims and offerings placated God to themselves and to those, and with the mercy and aid of divine grace, with all care and huge zeal, they ensured that the plenitude of the people of God and the mark of such a great mystery might in no way perish amongst them. It was arranged just so marvellously afterwards, also in the New Testament, by the Holy Spirit working through the blessed Apostles, that the sacrament of the same number twelve, which after Judas perished seemed to have been mutilated, should remain renewed and perfect through the election and choosing in his place of Matthias (Acts 1: 15-20). 

And since as was just said, only six hundred men from the whole of that tribe survived, they provided four hundred virgins for four hundred of them and handed them over in marriage. For the two hundred who remained, they were not able to hand over their daughters, constrained by the oath and curse which they had sworn that they were never going to give them their daughters as wives, and nor were they able to find others whom they would hand over freely to them, as they had done from the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, who had neither been present in that oath and afterwards had neglected to be present in so public and religious a war, and through this were legitimately ordered to be killed and from them only four hundred virgins transferred, who were led to the restoration of the Benjaminite tribe. There remained the inhabitants in Shiloh, where the tabernacle of the Lord was constituted, who were believed to have been neither in that oath nor in that fight, perhaps from immunity of the sanctuary which because of its nearness they served more familiarly and assiduously. They were therefore able to give their daughters freely in marriage, but they had not wanted to, because of the certain hardness and execration of the crime that had been perpetrated by the tribe of Benjamin. 

16) It was therefore the case that since neither could the parents be legitimately compelled unwillingly to give their daughters and to agree from necessity, nor could the daughters themselves be snatched with hostility, when the virgins themselves were processing on a very solemn day with choirs, those two hundred men without wives, by the consultation and council and authority of the people and elders, for the restoration of the same people and the preservation of the divine mystery, suddenly rushed upon them, and each took a wife from them. In this matter no divine indignation was to be feared, since it was all done for divine love and honour and for the sake of God. God had now restored to that tribe, destroyed almost to extinction in the past war, what was merited and in the present plan was merciful to them through a hidden inspiration and providence. 

Therefore justice was preserved everywhere, since those girls were abducted from the rule of their parents not from any lust or contumacy, but from necessity alone, nor did those who had captured them do anything by their own will or temerity, but by the order and authority of the people and the elders. There remained only the parents’ complaint to be assuaged with a reasonable compensation, about which the greater born thus said to them: And when their parents come and begin to complain and reproach against you, we shall reply to them: Be merciful to them. For they did not capture them by law of belligerence and victory but asking that you might give, and you did not give, and it is a sin on your part (Judges 21: 22). All this therefore, rationally arranged, rationally carried out, rationally finished, for the sake of public utility, by public authority and prayer, is thus unique and not to be imitated at all. It is to be read as a mystery, done once and never again repeated. 

17) Therefore may it not happen that the stupid and impudent, dissolute in their petulance are permitted to usurp as an example or defence of their shamelessness what the Scripture of God narrates for the memory of piety or for the praise of spiritual mystery, so that they may think themselves allowed by that example to abduct for themselves whomever they should want, because they cannot obtain it easily from the parents, and afterward having reconciled the parents, to hold these women as if in legitimate marriage. For just as was now said, this was not written as an example, from which it can ever be usurped, but it should be a reminder of admirable devotion in these things, and a commendation of deep mystery. 

And in this case indeed, after omnipotent God had been propitiated and pleased, for whose worship and honour it was all carried out, the mercy of the parents was implored only that they should spare those two hundred, lest on this side [the two hundred] the equity of divine law might find in them something it would condemn. Although also on the part of the parents truly there seemed to be sin, since they were so reluctant to agree to such a great and public necessity, that they did not want to give to those who asked first. 

But now, after God has been exasperated and provoked to wrath, whose law is despised, whose Church and priests are trampled upon, whose holy temple is violated by sacrilege and impious presumption, by what stupidity and madness do they think that after they have pleased and pacified the parents they can pacify the Church of God, and believe that what is destroyed by the authority of divine law and the holy fathers can stand by their authority? For an evil of such great transgression and impiety committed against God and his Church can be amended by no reason and no arguments, except by the judgement and satisfaction of omnipotent God and the Church. There correction is to be shown for such a crime, there pardon is to be asked for humbly, there satisfaction is be shown diligently - that is, in the Church of God, before the priests of God, there only where the remission of sins, and the propitiation of He who has been offended, omnipotent God, can be truly obtained. 

18) Men of this kind also add to their evil this excessively bold assumption, which should be punished, that by asking and praying they can gain the authority or mediation of religious principes for their adulterous and execrable - not marriages but filths. Far be it from the faithful principes and ministers of the kingdom of God that the impropriety of anyone may be aided by their prohibitions or intercessions. For the Roman laws and the very Christian emperors of those times very clearly and justly censured those who disturbed princely ears with unjust and fraudulent petitions, especially in such a case, and they were to lack the granted benefit and moreover to be deported into exile, and the sons born from ignominious and adulterous unions of this kind in no way were to be considered legitimate nor honoured with succession of inheritance. 

Therefore we beg your most mild Tranquillity, most Christian and glorious prince, that you may mercifully hear our prayers and supplications which we present for the sake of the Church of God and the sanctification and honour of the body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that you may receive them with prompt devotion, and with the passion and zeal of inborn religion may strenuously and carefully put them into effect. Nor should you judge the care and skill of our littleness to be blameworthy because these deadly contagions through God’s protection ravage, not everywhere, but very many parts of the kingdom. For although we are unworthy and wretched, both the care of all churches should rest with us by apostolic example, and also we should vigilantly warn and preach these things in general, even where they do not happen. An antidote should be applied before the poison, and the wound, whilst still it advances evilly by growing, should either be cut off or healed. 

And thus we pray and implore help from you, which without doubt you owe to Him by whose favour you flourish and are powerful, so that the three orders of the Church, nay rather the threefold fruits of the divine field, that is thirty, sixty and one hundred fold, may be kept whole and sound by your fear and protection, as if by a certain hedge and fortification, and may grow and advance: thirty fold in the uniting of marriage, sixty fold in widowly continence, one hundred fold in the modesty and integrity of the nun: so that whoever should lie in ambush for these fruits like brutal and pernicious beasts may be repelled by your guard, and also corrected by your severity [17]

19) Let what the holy fathers define about the good of marriage be heard and kept, saying thus [18]:
The good which marriage has, can never be a sin. And it is three-part: faith, offspring, sacrament. It is applied in faith, lest another man or woman may be slept with beyond the marital tie. In offspring, so that they may be lovingly received, benignly nourished and religiously educated. In sacrament, so that the marriage may not be separated, and the one (male or female) sent away may not be joined to another for the sake of offspring. This is so to speak the rule of marriage, since either fecundity is adorned with nature or depravity is ruled by innocence.
Also let that be heard which is said about the two remaining orders, in how much sanctity and reverence they ought to be held: they say again in these words, that David to his great shame is said to have entered to the wife of his soldier secretly, yet was not able to avoid vengeance. You who have entered impudently the bed chamber of the Lord of Lords to violate the bride of Christ the King, in what way will you be able to be unpunished? And if perhaps that woman was a widow or had not yet professed continence of chastity, whoever she may be, prostituted she cannot be said to be a wife. And both of you will always be branded with the mark of infamy, nor will the stain of such a crime be able to be destroyed, unless it is either expiated by the raging public censure of the secular laws with the deaths of the adulterers, or is surely washed away by fountains of tears, with deep sighs of the afflicted heart, and with the yokes of true penance while alive. Therefore let him perish who should say this crime is to be emended by marriage, and who considers that from the label of crime it should immediately be named a marriage. Let him hear unwillingly the truth from me, that in no way is adultery to be called marriage, for marriage is the designation of a religious category. 

20) To these words and statements of the holy fathers, we add a few more statements from the holy canons [19]. We beseech that you hear them with religious devotion and with very instructed care and industry, in the contemplation of our Lord Jesus Christ and the honour and piety of Holy Mother Church, from whose innards you were born to God, by whose honours you have been made illustrious and trust to be eternally made illustrious. And we beseech that you ensure they are recognised, revered and observed in the Christian people committed to you, with the Lord’s protection and co-operation in all things. For what we are actively asking for, that is the protection of chastity and sanctity, is so important that for entrusting and protecting it we ought willingly to offer even ourselves, following the example of the blessed and glorious John the Baptist. Among other proclamations of his preaching, John rebuked and corrected even Herod the king himself because of an adulterous marriage of this kind, vehemently announcing and saying to him about the wife of his brother Herodias (whom, beyond being an abductor, Herod had moreover obtained and was detaining by the strength and might of royal power): It is not allowed for you to have her (Matthew 14: 4). This he did with such constancy that for the sake of a case of this kind, he patiently sustained chains and prison, and preferred finally to be cut down by the sword rather than to cease from preaching truth and justice. And therefore he was truly a martyr of Christ, since he was a martyr of truth and justice itself. 


[1] The text is written in the form of a letter addressed by the bishops to the king. The terms ‘Gauls’ and ‘Germanies’ refer to ecclesiastical provinces, modelled on ancient Roman imperial organisation. Note that the bishops do not use the Frankish kingdoms as a frame of reference.

[2] The bishops are arguing that even though the Franks are now divided into different kingdoms, their unity is maintained in a spiritual sense, which justifies the bishops’ intervention across political boundaries. Hincmar used a similar argument in On the Divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga. 

[3] This metaphor of the church as the one body of Christ with different limbs (i.e. parts) is taken from 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27. 

[4] The bishops here emphasise that the duty to preserve the church’s honour is widely shared, not just by kings and office-holders but by the male heads of households. 

[5] Throughout the text, Hincmar refers to the parentes of the abducted woman, whose content should have been sought for her marriage. I have translated the word as 'parents', but it can also be used as a more general term for relatives in Carolingian Latin. Not all marriageable women would have had living parents and legal formulae from the period suggest that a wider range of relatives formally consented to some marriages. 

[6] Hincmar refers to the Theodosian Code's provisions on abduction. On the details of this law, see Judith Evans-Grubbs, 'Abduction marriage in late antiquity: a law of Constantine (CTh IX. 24. 1) and its social context,' Journal of Roman Studies 79 (1989), 59-83. 

[7] This Roman law code, produced in the third century, no longer survives: this quotation from Augustine is the only evidence for this edict. See. Simon Corcoran, 'The Gregorianus and Hermogenianus assembled and shattered', Mélanges de l'École française de Rome - Antiquité [Online], 125-2 (2013) consulted on 22 October 2021, 

[8] Augustine, De adulterinis coniugiis, Book II, chapter. 9. This text is translated by Charles T. Huegelmeyer, ‘Adulterous Marriages’, in Charles Wilcox (et al.), Saint Augustine, Treatises on Marriage and other subjects, Fathers of the Church 27, (Catholic University of America Press, 1955), pp. 53-132, here at pp. 109-110. 

[9] Council of Agde 506, chapter 62, ed. Charles Munier, Concilia Galliae a. 314–a. 506, CCSL 148 (Brepols, 1963), p. 227. 

[10] The early sixth century Burgundian law code now commonly called the Lex Burgundionum was known in the ninth century as the Lex Gundobada after its presumed author, King Gundobad. 

[11] Cf the extract from the decree of Pope Siricus included in the appendix of authorities. 

[13] The letter here considers an objection – had not the Old Testament legitimated marriage after adultery in the case of King David’s marriage to Bathsheba? In this section, Hincmar also briefly discusses some other marital issues raised by King David, including his polygamy. 

[14] Absalom's rebellion and death are recounted in 2 Samuel 15-18. 

[15] Hincmar is probably referring to papal rulings allowing people captured and enslaved to have their marriages reinstated on their return home, even if their spouse had remarried subsequently: see Kristina Sessa, 'Ursa’s return: captivity, remarriage, and the domestic authority of Roman bishops in fifth-century Italy', Journal of Early Christian Studies 19 (2011), 401-432. 

[16] The bishops now consider a second objection – had not the Old Testament legitimised marriage by abduction in an episode in the Book of Judges? 

[17] Patristic authors allegorised Matthew 13:8 (the Parable of the Sower) as referring to the relative rewards merited by women, based on their marital status (married, widow, virgin). 

[18] Augustine, De Genesi ad Litteram, Book 9, chapter 7. This text is translated by John Hammond Taylor, Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 2 vols (Newman Press, 1982), here at vol. 2, pp. 77-78.