Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Letter of William, archbishop of Sens, to pope Alexander, on the death of the blessed Thomas.

Latin version

Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houedene
Vol II p. 22-
by Roger, of Hoveden
Edited by William Stubbs

English version

Roger of Hoveden (1853). The Annals of Roger de Hoveden: Comprising The History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201. H.G. Bohn. pp. 339–.

The Letter of William, archbishop of Sens, to pope Alexander, on the death of the blessed Thomas.

“To his most holy father and lord, Alexander, by the grace of God, Supreme Pontiff, William, the humble servant of the church of Sens, health and due obedience with all duteousness. To your Apostleship, holy father, all power has been granted in heaven and upon earth. In your hand is a two-edged sword, over nations and over kingdoms are you appointed, to bind their kings in fetters, and their nobles in chains of iron. Behold therefore, my lord, and consider what vintage they have gathered in. For a wild boar from the wood has destroyed the vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth, and a single wild beast has pastured thereon. The church of Canterbury, rather the Church universal, from the ends of the earth, in your presence is pouring forth tears that drop blood, and sprinkled with bitterness, because she has been set up as a mark for the arrow, and has been made a reproach unto her neighbors. And those who behold her, wag their heads at her and say, where is their God? But she weeping and turning back, is crying aloud in the ears of the Lord of Hosts, Avenge, O Lord, the blood of thy servant and martyr, the archbishop of Canterbury, who has been slain, nay, crucified, for the liberties of the Church! Holy father! a thing horrible to be mentioned, a disgraceful crime, an enormous piece of flagitiousness has been perpetrated in your days, a thing at which both the ears shall tingle of each that shall hear of it, the like of which has not been heard in Theman, and has not been seen in Canaan. For another Herod, of the seed of Canaan and not of Judah, the offspring of vipers, sending his lictors from his side, has not been struck with horror at scarring with deep wounds the sign of the passion of our Lord, which he carried on his head, and at disfiguring with shameful marks the heavenly likeness. By reason whereof, as all the Church affirms, the cause and the penalty equally make him to be a martyr. The penalty is our grief, for the sufferings inflicted on him: the cause was the rigor of the ecclesiastical censure, because he contended for the law of his God even unto the death. It is therefore your part, O most merciful father, keeper of the walls of Jerusalem, to apply a remedy to what is past, and to employ foresight for the future. For what place is there that can be safe, if the rage of a tyrant is to stain with blood the Holy of Holies? And is it with impunity to tear in pieces the vicegerents of Christ, the foster children of the Church? Let then the ecclesiastical laws arouse themselves, let ecclesiastical rights put on their armor. Let the vengeance for the blood of this glorious martyr, which cries aloud from England, enter into your presence. For cry aloud it will, and will arouse not only the earth but the heavens as well. And so consult for healing our sorrows, that you consult both for your own good name and the liberties of the Church. As to the rest, we have thought proper to inform the fatherly affection of your Holiness, that whereas you gave it as your command both to the lord archbishop of Rouen and to ourselves, that we should place under an interdict the lands that belong to the king of England on this side the sea, if he should not keep the peace which he had promised to our lord of Canterbury of glorious memory; adding also, that if either of us should be unable or unwilling to take part in carrying out the same, the other should nevertheless obey your commands; the above-named archbishop of Rouen, after we had caused your letter to be presented to him, signified to us that he would come to the city of Sens, and would act according to the tenor of your mandate. But when he had come thither, together with the bishops of Lisieux, Evreux, and Worcester, and very many others, both clergy as well as laymen, of the household of the above-named king, after many shiftings and excuses on his part, he made answer, that he was on his road to your presence, and felt unwilling to pour forth too bitter a censure upon the above-named king. But we being sensible that whoever despises obedience to the Apostolic mandates, incurs the guilt of paganism, according to the tenor of your mandate, with the common advice of our brethren, all the bishops, and of the abbots of Saint Denis, Saint Germain de Pres, Pontigny, Vaucouleurs, Le Mans, and several other religious and wise men, have pronounced sentence against his lands on this side the sea, and have in your name enjoined the said archbishop and bishops to cause the same to be observed. For we know that he has neither, as he had promised, restored his possessions, nor had established security for him, as his death gives proof. Through a native of the diocese of Canterbury, whom we sent to him, he has also signified unto us that he had given cause for his death, and that he had had him slain. For this reason, we do supplicate your clemency, that you will ratify the sentence before-mentioned, and, as befits your majesty, and is expedient for the safety of the Church, will cause it to be in suchwise observed, that the honor of God and your own will may be preserved. And as for ourselves, who embrace your Holiness with that duteousness of which you are so well aware, we will by no means by reason hereof allow ourselves to be contemned. We wish you farewell, and as befits your majesty and holiness. so do.”


Roger of Hoveden (1853). The Annals of Roger de Hoveden: Comprising The History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201. Volume I. H.G. Bohn. pp. 339–.

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