Frederick II (r. 1215-1250):
Dispute with the Church, 1245-1246
Sentence of Deposition, Council of Lyons, June 1245
He has committed four very grave offences, which cannot be covered up by any
subterfuge...he has abjured God on many occasions; he has wantonly broken the peace which
had been established between the Church and the Empire; he has also committed sacrilege by
causing to be imprisoned the Cardinals of the holy Roman Church, and the prelates and
clerics...coming to the council which our predecessor had summoned; he is also accused of
We therefore, who are the vicar...show and declare on account of the above-mentioned
shameful crimes and many others...that the aforesaid prince...is bound by his sins and
cast out and deprived of all honor.... We absolve forever all who owe him alliegence in
virtue of an oath of fealty.... Whoever shall in future afford him advice, help or
goodwill as if he were Emperor or king, shall fall "ipso facto" under the
binding force of excommunication.
Letter of Frederick to the kings of Christendom, 1246
The ancients called happy those who learned caution from the danger of others...as wax
receives its impression from a seal, so the character of human life is shaped by example.
...those who are considered clerics, grown fat on the alms of princes, now oppress
princes' sons.... What is implied by our maltreatment is made plain by the presumption of
Pope Innocent IV for, having summoned a council--he has declared to pronounce a sentence
of deposition against us who were neither summoned nor proved guilty of any deceit or
wickedness, which sentence he could not enact without grievious prejudice to all kings.
You and all kings of particular regions have everything to fear from the effrontery of
such a prince of priests when he sets out to depose us who have been divinely honored by
the imperial diadem and solemly elected by the princes with the approval of the whole
church at a time when faith and religion were flourishing....
Encyclical letter Eger cui levia, c. 1246
If then Frederick, formerly Emperor, strives to accuse with noisy widespread complaints
the sacred judge of the universal church through whom he was declared cast down by God so
that he might no longer rule or reign, it ought not to seem anything new or marvellous,
for he is behaving in the same fashion as others in like case....
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© Paul Halsall, August 1998