You are here

A letter from Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury (6/ or 7/1103)

Translated letter: 

To his reverend lady Matilda, glorious queen of England: Anselm, archbishop, sending his faithful prayers with faithful service and the blessing of God and his own, as far as he can.
I give great thanks for the generosity I received from you, but even greater thanks for your holy love for me which I have experienced. Since I am not able to accomplish this through the service of my body, I desire incessantly to pay through the affection of my heart. For however much I may feel your bodily absence, the presence of your faithful love can never be taken from my mind. Wherefore I fervently pray, and by praying I desire, that God himself may repay you in my stead for what I am unable to do myself and that as far as he knows it to be expedient he may bring his love for you and yours for him to perfection.
With as much affection as I can, and as far as I dare to presume on your Highness, I beg, beseech, entreat and faithfully advise that your piety should strive for the peace and tranquillity of the churches in England. May you particularly come to the help of their weakest sons and those least powerful(1) in their tribulations and desolation, as orphans of Christ;(2) and according to the parable of the hen in the Gospel,(3) console and foster them under the wings of your protection.
May the anointing of the Holy Spirit teach you in all things(4) and persuade you to do those things which are more pleasing to him and expedient for you, and after the temporal kingdom may he lead you to the eternal one.

Original letter: 

Reverendae dominae suae MATHILDI, gloriosae reginae Angliae: ANSELMUS archiepiscopus fideles orationes cum fideli servitio et benedictionem dei et suam, quantum potest.
Gratias ago magnas susceptae vestrae largitioni, sed multo maiores
sanctae quam erga me sum expertus dilectioni. Quas quoniam corporis officio nequeo peragere, cordis affectu cupio indesinenter persolvere. Siquidem
quantacumque sit vestra corporalis absentia, removeri tamen nequit a mente mea fidelis dilectionis vestrae praesentia. Quapropter desideranter oro et orando desidero, ut deus quod ego per me non valeo, ipse vobis pro me retribuat, et quantum scit expedire, suam erga vos dilectionem et vestram erga se perficiat.
Quanto affectu possum et quantum de celsitudine vestra audeo praesumere: precor, obsecro, supplico et fideliter consulo, ut ecclesiarum Angliae paci et quieti pietas vestra studeat, et maxime filiis earum imbecillioribus minusque potentibus, in tribulationibus suis et desolationibus, quasi orphanis Christi subveniat, et ad similitudinem evangelicae gallinae illos sub alis protectionis suae consoletur et foveat.
Unctio sancti spiritus vos in omnibus doceat, et quae sibi magis placent et vobis expediunt persuadeat, et post temporale regnum ad aeternum perducat.

Historical context: 

From exile, Anselm begs the queen to work for the peace of England's churches, to keep its orphans [monks] warm under her wings “like the chicken in the gospel,” in other words to be a Christ to them, filling the void created by the king’s actions.

Scholarly notes: 

(1) Anselm is referring to the monks in England. (2) See Jn 14:18. (3) See Mt 23:37. This image is a favorite one of Anselm's as can be seen in his prayer to St Paul, where he addresses Jesus as "the mother who, like a hen, gathers her chickens under her wings," see AOO III: 40; ET by B. Ward, The Prayers and Meditations (London, 1973) 153. (4) See 1 Jn 2:27. (5) Cistercian Publications Inc. Editorial Offices, Institute of Cistercian Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008. All rights are reserved; downloading and copying for any purpose other than private research is prohibited.

Printed source: 

Sancti Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi, Opera Omnia, ed. F.S. Schmitt (Edinburgh: T. Nelson, 1946-63), ep.288, 4.207-08; translation and annotation from The Letters of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, trans. Walter Fröhlich, Cistercian Studies 97, 3v (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1990-94), 2.301-02.(!5)


6/ or 7/1103