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.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Bishop Adventius writes to Pope Nicholas, 864

In October 863, Pope Nicholas deposed Archbishops Gunthar of Cologne and Theutgaud of Trier, and wrote to all the Lotharingian bishops demanding they present their excuses. This is the letter that Bishop Adventius of Metz sent in response (letter no. 8 of his collection).
This is a draft translation, comments and suggestions welcome. You can see the MGH Latin edition.

To the most glorious shepherd of the Lord’s flock, the blessed lord Nicholas, highest and universal pope: Adventius the humble bishop of the seat of Metz, greetings now and in eternity.

Christ, the Lord God, looking after the flock He acquired with His own blood with His own accustomed piety, gave to you the dignity of the highest priesthood. Amongst the many ornaments of spiritual virtues with which you adorn the holy mother Church in inimitable sanctity, let the holy dogma of ancient authority shine forth, through which the Christian people, happily endowed by the effective example of such a father, is able to avoid the traps of sin and, with God's help, to seize the eternal prize; [220] and may the discipline of the ecclesiastical order remain inviolate in your times. For which my Smallness and all those entrusted to me by divine grace, rejoicing with me, give thanks to Almighty God. And we plead with devoted prayer that Almighty God may deign to keep your pontifical Highness long unharmed, to the consolation of your holy Church and of all faithful souls.

The decrees of your most excellent Apostolicity were sent to us while we were busy with the most savage oppressions of the pagans [Vikings] and the most intense attacks of perverse Christians, and were hoping to manage the care of the Lord’s flock according to our Humility’s capacity. I would have wanted immediately to rush to give a response to them to the dignity of your Majesty in person, had old age not made me sluggish, and had persistent ill-health not compelled me often and unexpectedly to breathe out the spirit. For I would have had great joy of all reward (? totius meriti) if the weakness of my health had permitted me to go to the threshold of the apostles and into your most desired and pre-eminent presence.

But because the pain of gout and my aged limbs deny what I seek, I commit the measure of my Smallness to the omnipotent God and to holy Peter and to your incomparable mercy, you who hold the delegation of God and who resides as the true apostle on the most revered throne of the great prince, so that I may be succoured by your solace. For if I have been deceitfully defamed in the sight of your Gentleness as if a supporter of vice, I humbly beg that you will not disdain to accept in the paternal mood of piety the explanations of my excuse, not shadowed over by the fog of any lies. These explanations I have taken care to set out to your Mercy one by one (capitulatim).

Chapter 1. In no way do I accept into the catalogue of bishops the former archbishop Theutgaud, who up to now has patiently borne the sentence of his deposition carried out by you according to preceding custom, and has not at all dared to touch anything of the sacred ministry. But as a very meek man, he declares that he has foolishly fallen by his own speech, deceived by the most pertinacious obstinacy of someone else, and setting on the path of humility and obedience he awaits an opportunity of satisfaction from your pious generosity.

Chapter 2. I do not count Gunthar, former archchaplain of the sacred palace, in the list of bishops, nor do I dare to enter into communion/communication with him and his supporters, since he has made use of the forbidden office [ie of being an archbishop] and has not feared to treat as nothing the apostolic excommunication.

Chapter 3. These former primates of the church, with other archbishops and their cobishops discussed the case of the most pious king Lothar about his two wives in the presence of your legates in our city, and took the leadership of our teaching (magistratus). It is not hidden to your Holiness what they decreed about the complaint of our prince. By the witness of God with his angels and archangels, I thought that these things, which were spoken with the agreement of many consuls, were pure and true. Alone amidst the decisions of the already mentioned archbishops and bishops at the time, and least in merit and in ordination, who was I to resist the authorities and judgements of the teachers? I feared that I might in some respect go against the decretal of Pope Leo, who at title 32 wrote thus: “Therefore according to canons of the holy fathers established by the Spirit of God, and consecrated by the reverence of the whole world, we decide that metropolitan bishops should have the intact rights of their ancient dignity handed down to them over their provinces”. If they strayed from the rules set down either by licence or by presumption, I was entirely unaware of it. And so it is written in Chapter 9 of the Council of Antioch [221], ‘It behoves bishops through all the regions to know that the metropolitan bishop bears the responsibility for the whole province. Because of that, let all those who have issues in all respects come to the metropolitan’, and so on.

I know of what happened at the origins of that already mentioned complaint only by the account of many, by ear and not by sight, since I was not then a bishop but was busy keeping watch in the temple of the blessed Stephen the protomartyr [ie, the cathedral of Metz], and was only very recently sought out from the clergy in the kingdom of my lord (senior) Lothar and elected by the people, and God knows that I took on the care of the pastoral office not for ambition but because I was canonically invited. It may be that I was much more trusting in the words of the archchaplain and the other fathers who were present than they were to me: and if I perhaps acted naively in some regard, then it remains for me to hasten back to the teacher of truth. Let your unique wisdom bring out the rule in this matter, and behold, I am ready to obey the edicts of your authority as if to God, on Whose behalf you bring it all forth. I rely on your holy and healthy advice, I humbly submit myself to the yoke of obedience.

For although I am aware of the commotion of criticism raised against me by some people’s foolishness, no one can accuse me in this matter of anything except naivety (simplicitas). For I faithfully say “Behold my witness in Heaven, and my conscience on high”. And the vessel of election says “Our glory, that is the testimony of our conscience”. And here blessed Pope Gregory writes thus in the letter to the patricia Theoctista: “in all things”, he says, “that are said about us outside, we should hasten back to the innards of the mind. And if someone’s conscience does not accuse him, then he is free even if everyone else blames him.”

Chapter 4. If the decree of your Authority by the judgement of the holy spirit determined that the already mentioned metropolitans have been deprived of all power of the pastoral office for their excessive ordinances and for their absolution of the anathema issued by the apostolic see upon Ingiltrude the wife of Boso: then know most truthfully that I was not at all involved in that absolution, and after I heard by truthful account that she was wounded by an inauspicious kind of adultery, I have always abominated her like a lethal poison. I advise everyone not in any way to have communion/communicate with the excommunicated, if they dare to use sacred things, as the fourth chapter of Antioch shows, which orders all those communicating with them to be thrown out of the church.

Chapter 5. I absolutely deny that I am a supporter of the condemned or that I am seditious, or that I am guilty of plotting or conspiracy. I declare that I in no way agree with those supporting these things. Rather I state that in all things and canonically I support the head, that is the holy and venerable seat of blessed Peter, to whom He gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, on which stone Christ the eternal king  built His holy church, against whom the gates of hell will not prevail.

But the sanctity of your Paternity has inviolably decreed that in no way should the loss of honours be feared on account of rash actions and of signing things, and that pardon will not be denied, if we take care to send you our assent in writing whether in person or through our legates. Let the most generous Sanctity of your pre-eminence know that our legate, who now has shown you the already mentioned profession and has clarified it with many words, was delayed because I called our other co-brothers from various places together, encouraging them to perceive and think like you. Once I had ascertained the unanimity of them all, then placed at the margins of this present life I sent to your holy Paternity this legate as a herald, [222] the present bearer of these letters. 

I allow nothing uncertain or condemnable to remain in me, to whom the dissolution of my own body promises to set out on the path of all flesh. But I trust greatly in the mercy of the omnipotent God, that he may concede to me as a sinner the space of this calamitous life, until purged by a worthy satisfaction, I shall know that the grace of your paternal piety has been restored to me who seeks it, and I may be congratulated as accepted back into your fellowship which is worthy to God. For we believe that with the support of God and of the prince of all the apostle, you, spiritually occupied in alms-giving and fasting and secret prayers, ought to take care with all your strength and by divine disposition that the limbs living in the body of Christ should not perish because of a false deception. Therefore if your Mercy is in any way bent by my tearful prayers, I humbly beg through the holy and individual Trinity that, placed in the shipwreck of life, I may deserve to receive from your holy hand what your gentle master Christ said to some disciples hesitating before the closed doors, appearing to them and praying “Peace be with you”.

We humbly beg with assiduous hopes and prayers that the Excellence of your holiness will long thrive unharmed.