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Medieval Sourcebook:
The Struggle Between Frederick Barbarossa and Alexander III
1160-1177


(Doeberl iv. pp. 165-247.)

A: Epistola Minor of the Council of Pavia, Feb. 5-11, 1160 A.D. (Encyclic.)

B: Letter of John of Salisbury concerning the Council of Pavia. June, 1160.

C: The Peace of Venice, 1177.

 

[Henderson p 357-59, slightly altered]
These documents concern the contest between Frederick Barbarossa and Alexander III, which lasted from 1160 to 1177, being the longest struggle between the same emperor and the same pope. Alexander was the very chancellor Roland who, as Pope Adrian VI's envoy, had so angered the emperor at Besançon; he was known too, to favour Frederick's enemy, William of Sicily.

Alexander was chosen pope by a majority of cardinals, but his rival, Victor, besides a strong minority, had the people of Rome - whose vote they claimed, was still necessary to the election - on his side; Victor also enjoyed the priority of consecration.

The Synod of Pavia [Doc A] declared for Victor, and Frederick openly ranged himself upon his side. England and France, however, after much vacillation, took the part of Alexander - who, indeed, for years was forced to fight an uphill fight. On Victor's death (1164) his party elected Paschal, and as the latter's successor Calixtus. In 1165 Frederick and a number of nobles took a solemn oath at Wurzberg never to acknowledge Roland, or a pope elected by his party.

Alexander found at last, in the Lombard cities and in the king of Sicily, the allies hie most needed. After years of stern fighting with the Lombard League fortune turned against the emperor, and he was obliged to flee from Italy to save his life. It was six years before he was able to raise and army and return. He was preparing to strick a final blow for his prestige in Italy when he was deserted by his powerful vassal, Henry the Lion. The Battle of Legano, fought in 1176, proved a great defeat and paved the way for the peace of Venice [Doc C]. With the Lombards and the King of Sicily a truce was arranged and a term fixed within which a lasting peace was to be established. The Oath of Wurzberg was broken, and the reconciliation between the heads of Christendom was solemnized in Venice with the greatest possible pomp and display. Three red marble slabs in the Church of St. Mark still show the spot where the emperor knelt before the pope.

The terms of the peace were not so unfavorable to Frederick as might have been expected. A number of bishops even, who had been consecrated his antipopes were allowed to remain in the own sees. But nevertheless, the papacy had come forth victorious from the long struggle.

A: Epistola Minor of the Council of Pavia, Feb. 5-11, 1160 A.D. (Encyclic.)

Inasmuch as the turmoil in which the apostolic see has been involved has exceedingly wounded the hearts of Christians, we, who have congregated at Pavia to heal the schisms and to restore the peace of the church, have thought best fully to intimate to all of you the nature of the case and the manner of procedure and the ruling of the holy council. We do this in order that the facts shown forth simply and truly in the present writing may forcibly expel any false impressions which the hearers may have conceived, and that henceforth they may not be deceived by schismatic writings.

When, therefore, all of the Orthodox congregated at Pavia in the name of the Lord had taken their seats, the case was lawfully and canonically tried and diligently, investigated during 7 successive days. And it was sufficiently and canonically proved in the eyes of the council through capable witnesses, that, in the church of St Peter, our lord pope Victor and iao other had been elected and solemnly enmantled by the sounder part of the cardinals - at the request of the people and with the consent and at the desire of the clergy; and that, Roland the former chancellor being present and not objecting, he was placed in the chair of St Peter; and that there, by the clergy, of Rome and the cardinals, a grand Te Deum was sung to him; and that thence, wearing the stoles and other papal insignia, he was led to the palace.

And the clergy and people being asked according to custom by the notary if they agreed, replied thrice with a loud voice: " We agree."

It was proved also that Roland, on the twelfth day after the promotion of pope Victor, going forth from Rome was first enmantled at Cisterna where once the emperor Nero, an exile from the city, remained in hiding. It was proved that Roland, being interrogated by the rectors of the Roman clergy and the clergy of his cardinalate as to whether they were to obey pope Victor,-expressly confessed that he himself had never been enmantled, and expressly said: Go and obey him whom you -shall see to be enmantled…..

Then the venerable bishops Hermann of Verden, Daniel of Prague and Otto count Palatine, and master Herbert., provost, whom the lord emperor, by the advice of 22 bishops and the Cistercian and Clairvaux abbots and other monks there present, had sent to Rome to summon the parties before the council at Pavia, gave testimony in the sight of the council that they had summoned before the presence of the church congregated at Pavia, through three edicts at intervals, peremptorily And solemnly, all secular influence being removed, Roland the chancellor and his party; and that Roland the chancellor and his party with loud voice and with their own lips manifestly declared that they were unwilling to accept any judgment or investigation from the church…..

Being sufficiently instructed, therefore, from all these things, and the truth being fully declared on both sides, it pleased the reverend council that the election of pope Victor, who, like a gentle and innocent. lamb had come to humbly receive the judgment of the church, should be approved and confirmed, and the election of Roland should be altogether cancelled. And this was done.

The election of pope Victor, then, after all secular influence had been removed and the grace of the Holy Spirit invoked, being confirmed and accepted,-the most Christian emperor, last, after all the bishops and after all the clergy, by the advice and petition of the council, accepted and approved the election of pope Victor. And, after him, all the princes and an innumerable multitude of men who were present, being asked three times if they agreed, replied, rejoicing with loud voice: "We agree."

On the following day - that is, on the first Saturday in Lent - pope Victor was lead with honour in procession from the church of St. Salvatore without the city, where he had been harboured, to the universal church. There the most holy emperor received him before the gates of the church, and, as he descended from his horse, humbly held his stirrup, and, taking, his hand, led him to the altar and kissed his feet. And all of us-the patriarch, the archbishops, bishops and abbots and all the princes as well as the whole multitude that was present-kissed the feet of the pope. And on the next day-the Sabbath, namely-a general council being held, the lord pope and we with him, with blazing candles anathematized Roland the chancellor as schismatic, and likewise his chief supporters; and we handed him over to Satan unto the death of the flesh, that his spirit might be safe at the day of the Lord.

We wish, moreover, that it be not bidden from your prudent discernment that Roland the chancellor and certain cardinals of his following had formed a conspiracy while pope Adrian was still alive. The tenor of this conspiracy was, moreover, that if pope Adrian should happen to die while they were still living, they should elect one cardinal from those who were banded together in that conspiracy.

For the rest, on the part of Almighty God, and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, and of the orthodox men who have come together by the divine will to heal the schism, we humbly implore and admonish all of you in Christ, that, all doubt and ambiguity being removed, you will irrefragably confirm and hold fast those things which the church of God congregated at Pavia has faithfully ordained for the honour of the Creator and for the tranquillity of your mother the holy Roman church and for the salvation of all Christians. And we pray that our Redeemer Christ Jesus may long preserve the universal pontiff, our pope Victor, in whose sanctity and religion we altogether trust; and that He will grant to him all tranquillity and peace, so that, through him, Almighty God shall be honoured and the Roman church and the whole Christian religion may receive an increase pleasing to God. In order, moreover, that our action may have more weight with those who read this we have thought best to subscribe the consent and the names of all of us, I, Peregrin, patriarch of Aquileia, etc, etc,

B: Letter of John of Salisbury concerning the Council of Pavia. June, 1160.

To his master and dearest friend Randolf de Serres, John of Salisbury sends greeting and whatever there is better than that.

I do not doubt thee to be a sharer, my beloved, in our difficulties; for the cause which troubles us is not different or dissimilar, although it affects us differently and dissimilarly. For we, from near by, receive in our bands the arrows of raging fortune, and always before our eyes there is matter for continual labour and grief and sorrow. Our bitter lot gives us no time or place for happiness or rest, hardly is even a faint hope of solace left to us. And that is from God; for now, indeed, we despair of human help. Want of means, indeed, oppresses me on account of weight of debt and of the importunity of my creditors; but -grief obliterates this care, and the inroad of a stronger and a public fear swallows up all that is private. Thou thyself dost feel also -what I feel; what I say thou dost I think, say to thyself ill continual meditation; and, with circumspect mind thou dost anticipate the sad word which I am about to speak. For thou also, unless thou dost put off thyself, art with vigilant and continual care occupied with our labours and griefs, inasmuch as thou art troubled with the misfortune of our common master. For whilst thou dost look upon the disasters of the universal church from whose breasts we are nourished, dost weigh the matter, dost measure the dangers,-the meditation adds grief to grief, grief such as thou canst not bear. Nevertheless in all this thou hast been more gently treated than I. for thou having obtained the lot of a more independent condition, art not compelled to be present and to weep at every breath and at every hour, and at every complaint of a desolate family; nor dost thou by any means fear that there is hanging over thee either exile or the necessity of committing some infamous crime. For thou dost live under a prince who is thought of with joy and benediction. [Louis VII of France] We, however, fear beyond measure lest the German emperor circumvent and subvert with his wiles the serenity of our prince [Henry II of England]

It seems to me to make very, little difference whom the presumption of the little Pavian convention supports, unless that the election of Alexander, if any one doubted of it, is confirmed by the very testimony, of the opposing party.

To pass over the rashness of one who has presumed to judge the Roman e church which is reserved for the judgment of God alone, and I who, when he ought to have been excommunicated - as the disgraceful treatment of the cardinals at Besançon shows - cited through a peremptory edict before his judgment seat two men, and, having already made up his mind as to the sentence, greeted one with the name of his old office and dignity, the other with the appellation of Roman pontiff, revealing to the senators and people his secret inclination: whatever has been done at Pavia is found to be contrary, as well to common fairness, as to the lawful constitutions and sanctions of the fathers. Of course the absent were condemned, and in a case which was not investigated, nay, which had no right to be investigated there, or in that way, or by such men -- impudently and imprudently and iniquitously, a sentence was hurriedly given.

But perhaps one ought to say " those who absented themselves," rather than "the absent." Surely so, for those men ignore or pretend to ignore the, privilege of the holy Roman church. Who has subjected the universal church to the judgement of a single church? Who has constituted the Germans judges of the nations? Who has conferred authority on these brutal and impetuous men of electing at their will a prince over the sons of men? And, indeed, their fury has often attempted this, but, God bringing it about, it has often had to blush, prostrate and confused, over its iniquity. But I know what this German is attempting. For I was at Rome, under the rule of the blessed Eugenius, when, in the first embassy sent at the beginning of his reign, his intolerable pride and incautious tongue displayed such daring impudence. For he promised that he would reform the rule of the whole world, and subject the world to Rome, and, sure of success, would conquer all things,-if only the favour of the Roman pontiff would aid him in this. And this he did in order that against whomever he, the emperor, declaring war, should draw the material sword,-against the same the Roman pontiff should draw the spiritual sword. He did not find any one hitherto who would consent to such iniquity, and, Moses himself opposing - i.e. the law of God contradicting - he raised up for himself a Balaamitic pontiff through whom he might curse the people of God; the son of malediction (Antichrist), therefore, for the designation and reception of whom, through many generations, from the first father of the family down to him for whom it was reserved, the name and cognomen of "accursed " has been invented. And perhaps, "for the purging and probation of the Roman church, the attack of the Germans, like that of the Canaanite, has been left to hang over it forever, - in order that for her own improvement he should make her uneasy, himself being conquered and giving way; and that she herself, after her triumph, should be restored more pleasing and more glorious to the embraces of her Spouse. And so to the renown of the fathers, - witness the Lateran palace where even lay men read this in visible pictures - to the renown of the fathers, the schismatics whom the secular power thrusts in are given to the pontiffs as a foot stool, and posterity looks back - with triumph to their memory……..

C: The Peace of Venice, 1177.

1. The lord emperor Frederick, according as he has received the lord pope Alexander as catholic and universal pope, so he will exhibit to him due reverence, just as his, Frederick's, catholic predecessors have exhibited it to his, Alexander's, catholic predecessors. He will also exhibit the same reverence to the pope's successors who shall be catholically enthroned.

2. And the lord emperor will truly restore peace as well to the lord pope Alexander, as to all his successors and to the whole Roman church.

3. Every possession and holding, moreover, whether of a prefecture or of any other thing, which the Roman church enjoyed and which he took away of himself or through others, he will restore in good faith; saving all the rights of the empire. The Roman church also will restore in good faith, every possession and holding which it took away from him through itself or through others; saving all the rights of the Roman church.

4. The possessions also which the lord emperor shall restore, he will also aid in retaining.

5. Likewise also all the vassals of the church whom, by reason of the schism, the lord emperor took away or received, the lord emperor will release and will restore to the lord pope Alexander and to the Roman church.

6. Moreover the lord emperor and the lord pope will mutually aid each other in preserving the honour and rights of the church and the empire; the lord pope as a benignant father will aid his devoted and most beloved son, the most Christian emperor,-and the lord emperor, on the other hand, as a devoted son and most Christian emperor, will aid his beloved and reverend father, the vicar of St. Peter.

7. Whatever things, moreover, at the time of the schism and by reason of it, or without judicial proceedings, have been taken away from the church by the lord emperor or his followers, shall be restored to it.

8. The empress also will receive the lord pope Alexander as catholic and universal pope. The lord king Henry, their son, will likewise receive him and will show due reverence to him and his catholic successors, and the oath which the lord emperor shall take, he also will take.

9. The lord emperor and the lord king Henry, his son, closes a true peace with the illustrious king of Sicily for 15 years, as has been ordained and put in writing by the mediators of the peace.

10. He closes also a true peace with the emperor of Constantinople and all the aiders of the Roman church, and he will make no evil return to them, either through himself or through his followers, for the service conferred on the Roman church.

11. Concerning the complaints and controversies, moreover, which, before the time of pope Adrian were at issue between the church and the empire, mediators shall be constituted on the part of the lord pope and the lord emperor to whom it shall be given over to terminate the same through a judgment or through an agreement. But if the aforesaid mediators can not agree the matters shall be terminated by the judgment of the lord pope and the they shall choose lord emperor, or of him or of them whom they shall choose for this purpose.

12. To Christian, moreover, the said chancellor, the archbishopric of Mainz, but to Philip the archbishopric of Cologne shall be granted; and they shall be confirmed to the with all the plenitude of the archiepiscopal dignity and office. And the first archbishopric which shall be vacant in the German realm shall be assigned to master Conrad by the authority of the lord pope and the aid of the lord emperor, if, however, it seem suitable for him.

13. To him also who is called Calixtus one abbey shall be given. Those, moreover, who were called his cardinals shall return to the places which they held before, unless they bad renounced them by their own will or judgment; and they shall be left in the grades which they had before the schism.

14. Gero, moreover, now called bishop of Halberstadt, shall be unconditionally deposed, and Ulrich, the true bishop of Halberstadt, shall be restored. Alienations made and benefices given by Gero, and likewise by all intruders, shall be cancelled by the authority of the lord pope and the lord emperor and shall be restored to their churches.

15. Concerning the election of the Brandenburg bishop who had been elected to the Bremen archbishopric an investigation shall be made, and, if it shall be found canonical he shall be transferred to that church. And whatever things have been alienated or given as benefices by Baldwin who now rules over the Bremen church, shall be restored to that church as shall be canonical and just.

16. Likewise what was taken from the Salzburg church at the time of the schism, shall be restored to it in full.

17. All the clergy who belong to Italy or to other regions outside of the German realm, shall be left to the disposition and judgment of the lord pope Alexander and his successors. But if it please the lord emperor to ask for a continuance in their grades of some who canonically received them, he shall be heard to the extent of 10 or 12, if he wish to insist.

18. Garsidonius, moreover, of Mantua, shall be restored to his former bishopric, in such way, however, that he, who now is bishop of Mantua shall, by, the authority of the lord pope and the aid of the lord emperor, be transferred to the bishopric of Trent; unless, perchance, it shall be agreed between the lord pope and the lord emperor, that provision shall be made for him in another bishopric.

19. The archpresbyter of Sacco, moreover, shall be re. stored in all plenitude to his former archpresbytery and to the other benefices which he had before the schism.

20. All those ordained by any former primates, or by their delegates, in the realm of Germany, shall be restored to the grades thus received; nor shall they be oppressed by reason of this schism.

21. Concerning, moreover, the said bishops of Strassburg and Basel, who were ordained by Guido of Crema, the matter shall, in that same realm, be committed by the aforesaid mediators to 10 or 8 men whom they themselves shall choose; and these shall swear on oath that they will give such counsel of their own accord to the Roman Pontiff and the lord emperor, as they find that they can give according to the canons; without danger, namely, to the souls of the lord emperor and the lord pope and their own; and the lord pope will acquiesce in their counsel.

22. The lord pope, moreover, and all the cardinals, just as they have received the lord emperor Frederick as Roman and catholic emperor, so they will receive Beatrix his serene wife as catholic and Roman empress, Provided, however, that she shall be crowned by the lord pope Alexander or by his legate. They will receive, moreover, the lord Henry their son as catholic king.

23. The lord pope and the cardinals will close a true peace with the lord emperor Frederick and the empress Beatrix, and king Henry their son, and all their supporters, save as to the spiritual matters which by the present writing are left to the disposition and judgment of the lord pope Alexander, and saving all the rights of the Roman church against the detainers of the possessions of St. Peter, and saving those things which are prescribed above as well on the part of the church as on the part of the lord emperor and of the empire.

24. Moreover the lord pope promises that he will observe the above peace to the letter, and so will all the cardinals; and he shall cause a document to be drawn up to this effect, signed by all the cardinals. The cardinals themselves, also, shall draw up a writing in confirmation of the above peace, and will place their seals to it.

25. And the lord pope, calling together a council as quickly as it can be done, shall, together with the cardinal bishops and the monks and ecclesiastics who shall be present, declare the excommunication against all who shall attempt to infringe this peace. Then in a general council he shall do the same.

26. Many also of the Roman nobles and the chief lords of the Campagna shall confirm this peace with an oath.

27. The emperor, moreover, shall confirm with his own oath and that of the princes, the aforesaid peace with the church, and the aforesaid peace of 15 years with the illustrious king of Sicilv, and the truce with the Lombards, for six years, namely, from the Calends of next August; and he shall cause the Lombards who are of his party to confirm this same truce, as has been arranged and put down in the general wording of the truce. But if there shall be any one in the party of the emperor who shall refuse to swear to the aforesaid truce, the emperor shall command all who are of his party, by the fealty due him and for the sake of his favour, to lend no aid to such person, and not to stand in the way of or oppose those who wish to do him harm; and if any one shall do him harm, he shall not be accountable for it. The emperor, moreover, will -not recall that mandate so long as the truce shall last. And the lord king Henry, his son, shall confirm the aforesaid, as has been stated in the writing. The lord emperor, also, shall corroborate the aforesaid peace with the church, and with the illustrious king of Sicily for 15 years, and the truce with the Lombards, in a writing of his own, and with his own signature and that of the princes.

28. But if, which God forbid, the lord pope should die first, the lord emperor and the lord king Henry, his son, and the princes shall firmly observe this form of peace and agreement as regards his successors, and all the cardinals and the whole Roman church, and the illustrious king, of Sicily and the Lombards, and the others who feel with them. Likewise if, which God forbid, the lord emperor should die first, the lord pope and the cardinals and the Roman church shall firmly observe the aforesaid peace as regards his successor, and Beatrix his serene wife, and king Henry, his son, and all who belong to the German realm, and all his supporters, as has been said before.

(Signed by Wiemann, archbishop of Magdeburg; Philip, archbishop of Cologne; Christian, archbishop of Mainz; Arnold, archbishop of Treves; Arduin, the imperial protonotary.)

from Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), 420-434


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© Paul Halsall June 1997
halsall@murray.fordham.edu