Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Garnier: Christmastide 1170

990  And so St. Thomas returned to his see, where he remained in his archbishopric for the rest of his life. Whenever he saw the poor, he took pity, working to serve God night and day. Well he knew he faced his martyrdom, for sure he had foreseen it.

991 But on the day of Christmas, whilst he delivered his sermon he severed [excommunicated]  from holy church Robert de Broc who had two days earlier committed such ignominy; he had cut off the tail of his pack-horse [sumpter] horse, and others who  had strayed from the path against him.

992 He explained to the people the sentences upon [the excommunications and suspensions of] the bishop of London, and that [of the bishop] of Salisbury, Joscelin by name, and that [of the archbishop of] York, who had usurped the authority and great[er] privilege of the [archbishop of the] church of Holy Trinity [namely the right of the See of Canterbury] to anoint kings.

993 And of Randolf de Broc who had afflicted him tremendously and had many times his men [servants/tenants/those who owe allegiance to him] often imprisoned. Then he cursed [maledictum] all those who had brought him into wrong with the king, and who caused the quarrel between them, and those who meddled with his avowed lord.

994 <<By Jesus Christ,>> he said <<they are truly cursed!>> Then, as he spoke this word, he threw the candle down onto the paving in defiance, so that their names would be struck from the book of remembrance, and they would be sent away from the kingdom [of Heaven], for which the good are selected.

995 When Roger de Pont-l'Évêque saw and heard that he had been excommunicated and placed under an interdict, he wished neither to come before the law [ecclesiastical court] nor to plead for mercy, for he had a wicked heart, both gross and arrogant, and the devil [Satan] had taken up his throne within it.

996 But the other prelates, his two companions, Gilbert Foliot and Joscelin by name, wanted to go and make satisfaction before their archbishop both by rightful argument and reasoning.  Well were both aware of all their misdeeds.

997 But he of  Pont-l'Évêque led them astray. against God and reason, off the straight path and way. He wanted to have them as companions in his evil enterprise. <<I beg you>> he said, <<not to take that path, lest piety turns you around.

998 >> He [Thomas] could very quickly deceive you and make you change your mind  But I have ten thousands pounds worth in my treasury, which to spend all to appease this, rather than not to bring down Thomas and all his pride. He cannot bring a greater force against my wealth.

999 >> Let us now cross over the sea. Let us go to the king who is there, who will support us still until even more in this. Both us and our cause against him he will uphold  If you give up on this do you know what he will do?

1000 >> And if you turn and take up with [the king's] enemy. you will never again have his [the king's] affection so long as you shall live. You will never recover his grace; he will say that you have fled from reason and transgressed.  And if he brought you to trial, you will lose your possessions.

1001 >> What then can you do? Where would you go to beg? And if to the king you would hold and swear allegiance, what more can Thomas do to go against you? He has already sentenced you, what more can he do to bind you, because there is no truth in it to support it.>>

1002 They were bewitched so they were prepared to go with him. They came to the ship and set off across the sea. Roger Pont-l'Évêque could not  hide what was in his heart: << Thomas, Thomas,>> he said, << you have made me cross the sea, I will overturn you with a bad pillow as your headrest.>>

1003 Soon after they had crossed the sea, they forwarded to the king the letter [they had received] from the Papal See which had taken away their ministries. As long as the king has lived, he has had a heart full of wrath. He clapped his hands together and bewailed without pretence.

1004 He went into his [audience] chamber, pale with anger, shouting loudly that he had given nourishment to a wicked man and raised up an evil person who had taken of his bread and hospitality. Was there no one at all who shared his pain? Those of his men [who were present] were much frightened by what he said.

1005 They said: <<So what is it the king is lamenting about? Even if he were to see his sons and wife buried or the whole of his country set ablaze and burnt down, he ought not to have been tormented so. If he has heard anything well he ought to reveal what it is.

1006 >> Moreover, one should not always heed what one has heard. We are ready to fulfill all his commands, to smash down and assault both castles and cities, for our bodies and souls to suffer the dangers of death. It is wrong to complain to us if he does not want to explain what the matter is.>>

1007 <<A man,>> said the king, <<who has eaten my bread,  a man who came to my court poor,  and whom I had raised to the highest, has kicked me in the teeth with his talons out. He has reviled my lineage and my kingdom! The sorrows have pierced me to the heart, and no one has avenged me of him.>>

1008 Immediately the whole court began to run around like ants, and to take it upon themselves to reproach one another very much, and the holy archbishop to threaten extremely. In faith several began to swear oaths that they would hastily avenge the humiliation brought upon the king.

1009 When the three companions [the excommunicated and suspended bishops] had completed their passage [across the sea], they went straight to Bur-le-Roi, where they found the king. They threw themselves down at his feet and cried out unto him for mercy, lamenting exceedingly, and made a show with pleas and tears, and great sadness.

1010 Then the king Henry very greatly changed his countenance; and directed them to stand up, and commanded them to say what was causing them such great grief. Archbishop Roger spoke first; well he knew how to stir up evil, [and lead] from both the rear as well as the front.

1011  <<Sire king,>> he said to him, <<well should we grieve, and in any case I can tell you and explain; but these two others cannot speak to anyone without that person falling under and having the same sentence which Thomas has placed upon them after he came back from over the sea.

1012 >> He has excommunicated all those who attended the coronation of your son, and likewise, all those who gave consent to it.>>
<<Then I too am not an exception,>> said the king immediately. << by the eyes of God, because I desired and gave consent to it.>>

1013 <<Sire,>> said the archbishop <<how much must it be for you to share the burden with us, for we can suffer it better. He sends your free men away from holy church and makes your bishops lie under excommunication. and neither does he want still to stop at that.

1014  >> After he had arrived back in the country he travelled around through your land surrounded by a great number of men: knights and sergeants bearing arms, at hand, out of fear of being exiled for a second time, and in search of recruits everywhere so that he could increase his strength.

1015 >> We are not complaining for ourselves, neither are we aggrieved that we have spent and laid waste to our wealth, and in your service have suffered hardship and pain for this, which we have done out of loyalty to you, as long as we have not been severed from your affection.

1016 >> But in this, in which he has acted towards us with such a wrong, as if we were evil men, he has shamed and defamed us. If you were to do anything about this, you would not be blamed for it; but if you were to wait until he feels secure, well and in a complete hush will you be able to have vengeance.>>

1017 The letter from the Pope was fetched, the one which told the three prelates that they had been severed from their profession [métier]. It was read out aloud in audience for all to hear. Then from all sides evil intent was embraced, with threats made against and extreme shame brought down upon St. Thomas.

1018 Christmas day that year fell on a Friday, and the day of its vigil [Christmas Eve], was therefore a Thursday, on which this council and God's enemies met. And they swore to kill God's friend. They were intending to batter him down,  but it was they who were to be disgraced.

1019 Then they swore upon [the relics of] a saint] and made mutual pledges that they would seek for him in all the places of the world,  that they would pull his tongue out through [a hole] under his chin and would gouge out both of the eyes in his head. Not even a monastery. nor altar nor church would prevent from doing this.

1020 The [king's audience] chamber at Bur[le-Roi] has had an unusual destiny; in it great amount of significant news is often heard: it was here that Rainild [Adeliza?] was given in promise [of marriage] to Harald, that the host of England swore pledged fealty to the Bastard, and the death of St. Thomas was affirmed and sworn. 

1021 The great majority of the court bound themselves to make and perform this act of great cruelty. But I will not write down in my book any names, when by their repentance to God they have been pardoned: they will not be shamed in this world by my writing.

1022 They were so very inspired by the wicked man that they were led astray: the majority of the court, and all the most worthy, and all the most sensible, both English and Norman. And they went to the ports, some here, some there: Dieppe and Winchelsea, Barfleur and Witsand.

1023 All who were listening wanted to cross the sea, if they could, to keep watch in all the ports of England and guard that no man could enter England who might reveal to the archbishop about this matter, so that he could not turn and run away from this.

1024 If they could have crossed [the sea] at this time, perhaps they might not have done that which they were to do, but it happened that neither the wind nor the time were favourable.  Neither did God have so much hate that they were found to be in this, nor did the devil hold so much power over them.


Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); tr. Jacques Thomas (2002). La vie de Saint Thomas de Canterbury. Volume 1.  pp. 290- Peeters. ISBN 978-90-429-1188-8.

La vie de saint Thomas le martyr: archevêque de Canterbury pp. 172-
edited by Célestin Hippeau

La vie de Saint Thomas le martyr  pp. 167-
edited by Emmanual Wahlberg 1922
Line 4971- Stanza 995-
Leben des h. Thomas von Canterbury, Altfranzösisch ; herausgegeben von Immanuel Bekker. Nicolai. 1838. pp. 129–.

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