Sunday, 6 August 2017

Garnier: Becket in the Presence of the Pope at Sens, November 1164

St Thomas in the presence of  Pope Alexander III at Sens, ca 29th Nov. 1164. Becket arrived there four days after King Henry's delegation had come there.

Extract from 
Stanzas 467-478
Lines 2331-2360

Dedenz quart jur après vint a Sanz saint Thomas,
A l’ostel s’en ala, car de l’errer ert las.
A ses clers prist conseil, qui nel deçurent pas,
Liquels dirreit sa cause. Il s’en firent tut quas.
2335 Nuls d’els ne la volt dire pur comant ne pur has.

Car nuls ne l’osout dire d’els pur le rei Henri,
Car s’amistié n’avreient, ço dient, a nul di.
L’arcevesques l’enprent, qui Deu out a ami.
L’endemain, quant il out Nostre Seignur servi,
2340 A l’apostolie ala e as piez li chaï.

Costume est que cil offrent qui viennent el present
L’apostolie, a sun pié, aveir, or u argent,
Riche vaisselement u buen aornement.
Le cyrogrefe al rei li arcevesques prent ;
2345 As piez a l’apostolie a ses dous mains l’estent.

« C’est la cause pur quei m’estuet essil suffrir,
Sire, veez la ci ; bien la devez oïr.
Teles leis volt li reis en sun regne establir,
Sis volt faire par force sainte iglise tenir.
2350 Mais jo ne li voil pas contre Deu consentir.

Sire, pur ço vinc ça que jel vus voil mustrer. »
Dunc l’a fait l’apostoiles en sun estant lever,
E comanda a lire les leis e esculter.
E li sainz comença mot a mot a prover
2355 U li reis par ces leis voleit tendre e aler.

Un chardenal i out qui mult ameit le rei,
Vuilaume de Pavie, einsi out nun, ço crei.
(Tuz les chardenaus out treiz li reis pres a sei,
Car tant lur out duné e fait bien le purquei
2360 Qu’en apert mainteneient sa cause e en requei.)

E quant li arcevesques comença a parler
E sa cause en latin gentement a mustrer,
Cil le comença lués par tut a traverser.
Quida qu’um li eüst fait la cause fermer,
2365 E, s’um le desturbast, ne seüst parfiner.

Sainz Thomas fu mult sages ; sainz Espirz en lui fu.
E quanque cil diseit aveit bien entendu,
E mot a mot par tut li aveit respundu ;
Par bel latin adès a chascun puint solu.
2370 Bien l’aveit en sa cause cil demi jur tenu.

E quant il aveit bien solu ses questiuns,
Reveneit a ses poinz, cum se fust Salemuns ;
Diseit sa cause avant od mult beles raisuns.
Bien a duré entre els demi jur la tenchuns,
2375 Car cil li ert par tut, puint a puint, as gernuns.

Quant l’arcevesques out sa raisun bel finee
E destruites les leis par raisun confermee
E par trestut raisun e provance mustree,
Bien unt e clerc e lai sa parole escultee ;
2380 E l’apostolies l’out par tuz les puinz notee.

L’apostolies l’asiet juste lui erramment,
E bien seit il venuz, ço li ad dit suvent ;
E mult li seit bon gré que si grant fais enprent
Qu’encontre rei de terre saint’iglise defent.
2385 Par tut li aidera, la u raisuns consent.

L’arcevesque Thomas sovent le mercia
De sun bel acuilleit, e que tant l’onura.
L’apostolies les leis idunc escumenja
E celui, qui qu’il seit, qui ja mais les tendra ;
2390 E desuz anatheme a tuz dis conferma.


Within four days St. Thomas had reached Sens. He went [directly] to his lodgings for he was tired from his journey. He took counsel from his clerics, those who had remained faithful, [asking to know] who would plead on behalf of his cause. None of them wished to speak, neither under command, nor persuasion.

None, in fact, because of King Henry, had the courage to speak. They would never again have his friendship, they said. The Archbishop, who was the friend of God, undertook to defend his own cause. On the following day, after having done his duty to Our Lord, he made his way to prostrate himself before the Pope at his feet.

It is the custom, when one has come into the presence of the Pope, to place at his feet presents of gold or silver, rich vessels or fine ornaments. The Archbishop took the chirograph from the King and with both of his hands extended placed it at the Pope's feet, saying:

<<This is the cause for which I must suffer exile. My Lord, look at it and well you must listen. These are the laws which the King wants to establish in his kingdom, and force holy Church to keep. But I did not want, against the will of God to consent, [to them].

<<Sire, it is for this reason that I have come here as I wanted explain them to you.>> Then the Pope beckoned him to rise and stand. He ordered him to read these laws out loud. Those present was asked to listen. And the saint began to demonstrate word by word what the King wanted to achieve by these laws.

There was a cardinal there who was a great supporter of the king. He was called, I believe, William of Pavia. All the cardinals had become very close to the king as he had given them so much, and well this was the reason why they openly as well as secretly supported his cause. 2360

And when the archbishop began to speak and elegantly to present his case in Latin, this other then also started in every matter to contradict him. He thought that by doing this he could have the case closed, and, by disrupting him prevent him from completing it. 2365

474 St. Thomas was very wise; the Holy Spirit was within him. And after whatever this other one had said had been listened to, then word by word in its entirety he would respond to it; in fine Latin without stopping till he had cleared up each point. Well this man kept him at his case for half a day. 2370

And when he had well answered his questions, he came back to his own points, as if he was Solomon; he affirmed his case in front [of them all] with very fine reasoning. Well long had lasted the battle between them for half a day, as this man had contradicted him in everything point by point. 2375

When the archbishop had completed the fine reasoning of his case and had affirmedly demolished [each of] the laws using rational argument, entirely through reason and manifest proof, well were both the clerics and laity convinced by his words. And the Pope had noted his every point. 2385

The Pope immediately asked him to sit down next to him, and said how well it was that he had come; this he repeated to him often. And [said he was] very much grateful that he had taken up so great a burden in defending [the cause of] Holy Church against an earthly king. In everything he would aid him which reason allows. 2385.

Archbishop Thomas repeatedly thanked him for the very fine reception he had been given, and said that this was such a great honour to him. The Pope then proceeded to excommunicate the laws, and anyone who kept them, and confirmed that they would be placed under anathema forever more. 2390


Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence) (1922). Emmanuel Walberg, ed. La vie de saint Thomas Becket. C.W.K. Gleerup. pp. 79–.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Janet Shirley (1975). Garnier's Becket: translated from the 12th-century Vie saint Thomas le martyr de Cantorbire of Garnier of Pont-Sainte-Maxence. Phillimore. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-0-85033-200-1.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence) (1990). Gouttebroze & Queffelec, ed. La vie de saint Thomas Becket. H. Champion. pp. 66–. ISBN 978-2-85203-111-1.

Guernes (de Pont-Sainte-Maxence); Jacques Thomas (2002). La vie de Saint Thomas de Canterbury. Volume 1. Peeters. pp. 153–. ISBN 978-90-429-1188-8.

Eiríkr Magnússon (1875). Thómas Saga Erkibyskups: A Life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, in Icelandic. Volume I. Chapter XLIII: How Thomas readeth out the charges: Longman & Company. pp. 293–.

John Morris; Saint Thomas (à Becket) (1859). The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Etc. pp. 166–.

Court, household and itinerary of King Henry II p. 76

 Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

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