Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages/Book IV/Letter of Adrian IV. to the German Bishops

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(c.) Letter of Adrian IV. to the German Bishops.

As often as any thing is attempted in the church against the honour of God and the salvation of the faithful, it ought to be the care of our brothers and fellow bishops —and especially of those who are impelled by the spirit of God—to discover a means of correction pleasing to God for the evil things that have been done. In the present time, indeed,—a thing which we can not mention without extreme grief,—our most beloved son, Frederick emperor of the Romans, has done a thing such as we do not read to have ever been perpetrated in the times of our predecessors. For when we had sent to his presence two of our best brothers, Bernard, namely, of the title of St. Clement, and Roland our chancellor, of the title of St. Mark, cardinal presbyters,—he, when they first came into his presence, received them with open arms. But, on the following day, when they returned to him and our letter was read before him, exception being taken at a certain word which was contained in the course of that letter, viz.:

"we conferred upon thee the 'beneficium' of a crown," he burst forth into a fit of such anger that it is shameful to hear and grievous to mention the insults which he is said to have heaped upon us and our legates, and to relate how disgracefully he compelled them to retire from his presence and swiftly to depart from his laud. And when, moreover, they had left his presence, passing an edict that no one from your land should go to the apostolic see, he is said to have placed guards at all the boundaries of that kingdom who should turn back with violence those who wished to approach the apostolic see. Although we were somewhat disturbed by this measure, nevertheless we personally received the greater consolation from the fact that it did not proceed from the counsel of yourselves and the princes. Wherefore we trust that he can easily be recalled from his anger of mind by your counsel and persuasion. And so, beloved brothers, since in this matter not only our interest but yours and that of all the churches is known to be at stake, we urge and exhort ye in the Lord, that ye oppose yourselves as a wall of protection before the house of God and that ye strive to bring back, as quickly as possible, our aforesaid son to the right path— paying most particular heed to this, that he cause so great and such evident satisfaction to be rendered by Rainald his chancellor and by the count Palatine who presumed to vomit forth great blasphemies against our aforesaid legates and your mother also, the holy Roman church, that, according as the bitterness of their words offended the ears of many, so also their atonement may recall many to the right path. Let not this same son of ours acquiesce in the counsels of the wicked; let him consider the newest laws and the old, and let him tread the path along which Justinian and the other catholic emperors are known to have passed. By their example, indeed, and by imitating them, he will be able to heap up for himself honour upon earth and felicity in Heaven. But ye also, if ye bring him back to the right path, shall both perform a service pleasing to St. Peter the prince of the apostles and will preserve your own and your churches' liberty. Otherwise let our aforesaid son know from your admonitions, let him know from the »truth of the promise of the gospel—that the holy Roman church is founded on a most firm rock, God placing it I there; and that, no matter by how great a whirlwind of words it may be shaken, it will remain firm, God protecting it, throughout all the ages. He ought not, as ye know, to have entered upon so arduous a path without your advice; whence we believe that, hearing your warnings, like a discreet man and catholic emperor, he may most easily be recalled to the enjoyment of a more healthful pursuit.