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A letter from Hincmar of Reims (846-47)

Translated letter: 

Item, responding to the letters which she had sent to him, signifying that she told him that certain men by order of the bishop had committed many bad acts against the possessions of the monastery of Avennay of Bertha, the empress’s daughter; asserting that the devil as the father of lies had spoken lies through their mouths. If indeed men did anything unjustly against the possessions of the monastery, he does not deny it; but he indicates that he did not know and had not consented to nor wished it. Further about a certain property which she declared had been unjustly taken from said monastery, he asserts that by no man, as far as testimony had come to him, had any dwelling ever unjustly been taken, but that he had asked the king [Charles] and obtained that he would send his messengers/envoys who by investigating most diligently and impartially would determine the possessions between the church of Reims and the monastery of Avennay. For he, who had put aside his own things for Christ, would not wish nor require that he take what was not his; those things, however, which had been committed to him, he did not dare put aside negligently without reason or law; and adding that there were many things from that monastery in which he needed the help of her daughter; and he asks that she send a strong and faithful messenger/envoy of hers with a messenger/envoy of her daughter who together might correct what was to be corrected there and see what intention and will he had in such things, lest there be a danger to them and herself that, let it not be, would remain; and he asks that her spirit be always sollicitous that she not easily believe an alien tongue particularly about the priests of Christ; since the devil, if he can do nothing else, wishes to blacken his intention in this, that he would make her err in an undeserved opinion of priests. Finally, what she added that she had suggested about him to the spirit of emperor Lothar that he did against him what she testified, that was not fitting for a great spouse devoted to God.
[Fragment of a letter]
I know that many things were said to him against me; but if he wishes, he could know that they are not true. Yet I do not dare to blame him, since he is the lord, nor do I say of his person as is read in scriptures: “Who willingly hears the words of a lie, will have impious ministers,” namely who would willingly speak impious things to him about the pious. Who told him those things on my part, as you ordered me, said other than what was true, and badly interpreted what was well said. If he wished to know the truth and any messenger came to me from him to find out the truth from me, as he came and supplied whatever priest of the lord Christ to me, I would willingly satisfy him. About my messenger, however, as your most benign ladyship ordered, that I send to him who would affirm this to him, that I wish to do nothing unfaithful to him, you know how many lies now go through the world and how much sincerity ought to be in a priest and how much fidelity I wish to preserve deservedly to my lord [Charles]. And therefore lest evil interpreters interpret good as evil, I can not do this as yet. Still if my lord Lothar wants to believe, he can know truly that I am not so unfaithful to him nor to any man in the world; and if he wishes to believe it, let him believe; if not, however, when he among princes and I among bishops come before the king of kings and the bishop of bishops, then, he will fully know without any other indication what is true.

Original letter: 

Item respondens ad litteras, quas ipsa sibi direxerat, significantes intimasse illi quosdam homines, quia per eiusdem episcopi iussionem multa mala fierent erga res Avennaci monasterii Bertae, ipsius imperatricis filiae; asseverans, quod diabolus per eorum sit ora locutus mendacium, velut est pater mendacii. Si quid vero homines ipsius iniuste fecerint in rebus ipsius monasterii, non denegat; tamen, quia et ignoraverit et non consenserit nec voluerit, indicat. De quodam preterea manso, quod illa significaverat iniuste abstractum a prefato monasterio, asserit, quod nulli homini, quantum sibi conscientia testimonium perhibebat, iniuste umquam mansum abstulerit, sed apud regem pro eo petierit et obtinuerit, ut missos suos dirigeret, qui diligentissime hoc inter ecclesiae Remensis et Avennaci monasterii possessiones aequa lance indagantes decernerent. Nam ipse, qui sua pro Christo dimiserat, nec vellet nec indigeret, ut aliena raperet; ea tamen, quae sibi commissa erant, sine ratione et lege negligenter dimittere non audebat; adiciens esse multa de ipso monasterio, unde ipsius filiaeque suae indigebat auxilio; petitque, ut mittat missum suum strenuum et fiedelem cum misso filiae suae, qui una secum quae corrigenda sunt ibidem corrigat et videat, quam intentionem et voluntatem ipse in talibus habeat, ne ipsis et sibi periculum, quod absit, exinde maneat; petitque, ut animus ipsius sit semper sollicitus, ne alienae linguae facile credat, maxime de sacerdotibus Christi; quoniam diabolus, si non potest in alio, in hoc velit intentionem ipsius fuscare, ut eam faciat in opinione indebita sacerdotum errare. Denique, quod adiecerat ipsa se pro eo suggessisse animo imperatoris Lotharii, contra ipsum fecisse illam testatur, non ut magnam et Deo devotam decet facere coniugem.
Ego scio, quia ei multa de me dicta fuerunt contraria; sed si vult, poterit cognoscere non esse vera. Tamen eum non audeo reprehendere, quia dominus est, nec in eius persona dico, sicut legitur in scripturis: “Qui libenter audit verba mendacii, ministros quoque habebit impios,” videlicet qui de erga eum piis voluntarie loquentur impia. Qui illi ea dixit ex mea parte, sicut mihi mandastis, aliter quam verum sit dixit, male autem interpretatus est bene dicta. Si voluisset cognoscere verum et aliquis missus mihi de sua parte veniret, ut vera ex me cognosceret, sicut venit et me qualemcumque Christi domini sacerdotem suggillavit, libentissime suo animo satisfacerem. De me autem misso, sicut dominatio benignissima vestra mandavit, ut ad eum dirigam, qui ei hoc affirmet, quod de eius infidelitate nihil velim tractare, scitis, quanta mendacia nunc per istud vadunt saeculum et quanta sinceritas debeat esse in sacerdote et quantam merito domno meo velim servare fidelitatem. Et idcirco, ne mali interpretes male bonum interpretentur, hoc adhuc facere non possum. Tamen si vult credere domnus meus Hlotharius, potest veraciter cognoscere, quia non tantum illi, nulli homini in mundo sum infidelis; et si vult credere, credat; sin autem, cum ille inter principes et ego inter episcopos ante regem regum et episcopum episcoporum venerimus, tunc, quid inde verum sit, plenissime sine alicuius indicatione cognoscet.

Historical context: 

Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, to Ermengard, in response to her letter about the conflict between her daughter Bertha, abbess of Avenay, and the monks of Altvillar. Hincmar had written to Bertha (ep.11) about the problem, asking her to make sure the church did not suffer from her presence, from whom it should have comfort and joy, and threatening to go to the king (Charles the Bald), or to resort to canon law if she did not. The empress apparently believed her daughter’s version, that men had attacked her monastery.

Printed source: 

MGH, Ep.Kar.Aevi 6, ep.12, p.4-5, reported in Regesta Flodoardi Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.27, MGH Scriptores, 13, p.547-48.