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A letter from Hincmar of Reims (870's)

Translated letter: 

To Richild the queen, signifying that when the parish of Laon was especially lacking a bishop in its providence, evil was done through a certain provost/prior of the monastery of Origny from the alms of queen Ermentrude, afterwards truly this Richild was badly obeyed by Winifrid the priest against the sacred laws, so the abbess according to the rule was ejected from the monastery. He shows however by sacred authority how much danger the queen is in and that he sent her someone to instruct her to avoid this evil; she indeed not only did not emend her action, but made it much worse, against divine authority, by placing as presider a new neophyte in religion because of the worldly goods she had received from her, adding how, when bishop Hedenulf was ordained in the church of Laon he had instructed him to suggest to king Charles that he dissolve such a pernicious deed and free himself and the queen from such a crime; but since he saw that what he had instructed had not been carried out, he himself admonished said king; but he, rather than distress the queen, did not correct what he knew had been badly done.
He [Hincmar] also reminded her how the said king, at the request of queen Ermentrude, had asked on the counsel of bishop Pardulo of Laon that privilege for its things be declared to the monastery of Origny and be confirmed by other bishops, and that king confirmed it; this bishop, obeying the order of the king, composed that privilege not by his words but, as blessed pope Gregory had declared about a certain monastery built by a certain queen, at her request, and he also declared or transferred, repeating the intention of malediction, which that lord Gregory hurled against any usurper of that monastery; adding that she, as long as she remained in this usurpation and malefaction, as along as she presumed to accept the body and blood of the Lord, took on herself the judgment, that is damnation; and he entreats, admonishing her, that no feeling of her own or suggestion of anyone else should deceive her, but she should think about remedy for the soul of the king and her own redemption and hasten to correct what was badly done. What he had also heard that she perpetrated, namely that she took the said privilege and royal rule from that monastery, and shows how much wrong she had done, and should immediately correct this lest she incur damnation; and since, if as he had heard she had accepted things and possessions from the aforementioned neophyte woman to commit the running of the monastery to her, she had incurred the simoniac heresy; and that as long as anyone favored that heresy, he could not remain in the body of unity of the catholic church in the eyes of the Lord; instructing that she read the chapters of the rule of St. Benedict about the ordination of an abbot or abbess, and she would find that she had gravely sinned through this ordination against the holy spirit, by whom that rule was promulgated; revealing from the divine institutions how much harm of danger that queen as well as that buyer took on; seeking that what he writes with a sigh from the duty of his ministry for her salvation and remedy for the soul of the king, she would receive benignly and recognize that he took care to write this with great fidelity.

Original letter: 

Richildi reginae, significans, quod, quando Laudunensis parrochia episcopo vacans in sua specialiter erat providentia, sit malefactum de elemosina Irmintrudis reginae per quendam prepositum Oriniaci monasterii, postea vero huic Richildi per Winifridum presbiterum contra sacras leges male sit obeditum, ut regularis abbatissa de ipso eiceretur monasterio. Ostendit autem ex auctoritate sacra, quantum inde regina periculum habeat, et quia miserit ad eam qui moneret illam hoc evadere malum; illa vero non solum non emendaverat, sed malo peius superaddiderat, contra divinam auctoritatem, neofitam scilicet in religione novellam provehendo ad regimen propter res terrenas acceptas ab illa; adnectens, qualiter, Hedenulfo episcopo in Laudunensi ecclesia ordinato, monuerit illum, ut suggereret regi Karolo tam perniciosum factum dissolvere et se atque reginam a tanto discrimine liberare; sed, quia quod monuerat perduci ad effectum non viderat, ipse prefatum regem inde commonuerit; sed ille, ne reginam contristaret, quod male factum sciebat non correxerit. Reducit etiam ad memoriam, qualiter prefatus rex, petente Irmindtrude regina, de rebus tunc suis per consilium Parduli Laudunensis episcopi privilegium ad idem Oriniacum monasterium a se dictari et a ceteris episcopis firmari rogaverit, et ipse rex confirmaverit; hic autem presul iussioni regis obediens, non suis verbis illud privilegium composuerit; sed, sicut beatus Gregorius papa de quodam monasterio a quadam regina aedificato, ipsa petente, dictaverat, et ipse quoque dictaverit vel transtulerit, repetens maledictionis intentationem, quam domnus idem Gregorius contra presumptorem illius monasterii iaculatus sit; adiciensque, quod illa, quamdiu in hac presumptione et malefacto permanserit, quotienscumque corpus et sanguinem Domini accipere presumeret, iudicium, id est dampnationem, sibi accipiet; obsecratque, monens illam, ut non sensus ipsius aut alicuius suggestio eam decipiat, sed de remedio regis animae ac de redemptione sua cogitet et quod male actum est corrigere festinet. Illud etiam quod audierat illam perpetrasse, scilicet quia prefatum privilegium et preceptum regale de ipso monasterio abstulerat, quantum malum fecerit, pandit, et hoc ideo, ut se corrigat, ne dampnationem incurrat; et quia, si res, ut audierat, et mancipia de premissa muliere neofita acceperat pro committendo regimine monasterii, simoniacam heresim incurrerit; et quod, quamdiu eidem heresi quisque faverit, in corpore unitatis ecclesiae catholicae coram oculis Domini esse nequibit; monens, ut legat capitula regulae sancti Benedicti de ordinatione abbatis vel abbatissae, et inveniet, quam graviter pro hac ordinatione in Spiritum sanctum, quo ipsa regula promulgata, peccaverit; ex divinis institutionibus propalans, quantum periculi malum tam ipsa regina quam emptrix illa subierint; petens, ut, quae ille ex debito ministerii sui cum gemitu scribit pro salute ipsius et remedio animae regis, benigne suscipiat et, quia ex magna fidelitate haec scribere curaverit, agnoscat.

Historical context: 

Hincmar’s letter to the queen on the simony she is committing by accepting worldly goods to appoint an inexperienced woman abbess of Origny is summarized by Flodoard. This is his summary. The subject is an interesting example of all-female simony.

Printed source: 

HGF, 7.549-50, Flodoardi Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, III.27