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A letter from Bernard of Clairvaux

Translated letter: 

The special intimacy of your honor which you seem to have towards us [me] poor men, has proceeded so far that anyone who feels he has offended your honor, is sure there is no easier way to return to your grace than through us.  That is why, when I was in Dijon a little while ago, Hugo of Bese pressed me with many prayers to appease your anger which he had brought on himself, so that you would for the love of God and of us [me] offer your consent to the marriage of his son which though it does not please you but is a benefit to him, as he thinks, he had decided irrevocably to arrange.  For which, he has again beaten at our ears with his prayers and those of his people.  And though we do not care much for worldly benefits, yet since the matter, as he says, seems to be so pressing that the marriage cannot be rejected without perjury, we thought it suitable to let you know, since something must be of great utility which you would put above the fidelity of a Christian who is one of your men.  For one cannot be a perjurer and remain faithful at the same time.  We also see not only no gain for you, but much danger, if those whom God has perhaps disposed to join, should be disrupted by you.  May the Lord shed his grace on you and your sons, most noble Lady and most dear to me in Christ.  Behold now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation:  give out your grain to the poor of Christ that you may receive in eternity with usury (great gain).

Original letter: 

Vestrae dignationis specialis familiaritas, quam erga nos pauperes homines habere videmini, eousque progressa est, ut quisquis dignitatem vestram se habere sentit infensam, per nullum facilius quam per nos confidat redire in gratiam. Hinc est quod dudum Divione cum essem, Hugo de Besua multis me precibus ad placandam sibi vestram, quam meruerat, indignationem applicavit, et ut coniugio de filio suo, quod vobis quidem non placitum, sed sibi, ut putat, commodum irretractabiliter facere statuerat, amore Dei et nostro assensum praeberetis. Cuius rei causa, ecce nunc rursus tam suis quam suorum precibus aures nostras pulsare curavit. Et nos quidem illius utilitates terrenas non valde curamus; verumtamen, quia res, ut ipse dicit, ita in arto posita esse videtur, quatenus nisi cum ipsius periurio nequaquam possit obviari coniugio, hoc vobis intimare conveniens duximus, quia grandis debet esse utilitas, quam christiani et vestri hominis legalitati praeponere debeatis. Neque enim et periurus esse, et legalis simul manere poterit. Quamquam etiam vobis non solum nullum lucrum, sed et multum videamus ingruere periculum, si quos Deus fortassis coniungere disposuit, per vos disturbari contigerit. Suam gratiam adiciat Dominus super vos et super filios vestros, nobilissima mihique in Christo dilectissima Domina. Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile, ecce nunc dies salutis : erogate vestrum frumentum pauperibus Christi, ut in aeternum cum usura recipiatis.

Historical context: 

Bernard attempts to persuade the duchess to consent after the fact to a marriage she did not approve, with the gently veiled threat that forcing one of her men to break his word in one sphere could have repercussions in their relations, and might offend God as well.  Hugo of Bese, provost of Dijon 1113-32, became a monk at Citeaux in 1132 (Gerhard Winkler, Bernhard von Clairvaux, Samtliche Werke, 2.1112).

Printed source: 

Sancti Bernardi Opera, ed. J. LeClercq and H. Rochais (Rome: Eds. Cisterciennes, 1979), ep.121.


before 1132