Raimbaud, archbishop of Arles, Letter of the bishops of southern France to the clergy of Italy concerning the Truce of God (ca. 1040-42)

Translated by Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar H. McNeal, in A Source Book for Mediaeval History: Selected Documents illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age (New York, 1905; reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1971), no. 242, pp. 414-416.  Translation revised with introduction and notes by John S. Ott, Department of History, Portland State University, from the Latin edition of Ludwig Weiland, MGH Legum, sectio IV, Constitutiones et acta publica imperatorum et regum, vol. 1, 911-1197 (Hannover: Hahn, 1893), no. 419, pp. 596-587. A new edition has been achieved by Detlev Jasper, ed., Die Konzilien Deutschlands und Reichsitaliens, 1023-1059, MGH Concilia 8 (Hannover: Hahn, 2010), pp. 181-83.

The translation by Thatcher and McNeal is in the public domain.  Revisions, introduction and notes are (c) John S. Ott, but may be employed without the author's permission for classroom use.  Revised 9 September 2011.


The following letter seems to have been composed and sent after a church council, with likely candidates being councils held in October 1040 at Marseille; at Nice in 1041; at Saint-Gilles in 1042, or, the following year, at Narbonne.[1]  Its author, Raimbaud, archbishop of Arles (r. 1030-1069), was one of the leading prelates of southern Europe in his day, well connected in Italy and a participant in the Synod of Sutri (1046), at which Henry III of Germany (r. 1039-1054) deposed two rivals for the papal throne and installed his own candidate.  Bishops from the neighboring ecclesiastical provinces of Narbonne and Vienne had witnessed peace legislation or participated in peace assemblies on multiple occasions before Archbishop Raimbaud wrote to the Italian clergy.[2]  Weiland, who edited the letter in 1893, believed that Raimbaud's was the same missive referenced much later by Landulf of Saint-Paul in the second book of his History of Milan (2.30), though there is no direct evidence that this was case.  A translation of Landulf's passage nevertheless follows that of the letter.


[1.]  There is little consensus on the precise date of the document, or its geographic point of issue.  The last three councils in question are briefly summarized by Odette Pontal, Les conciles de la France cap├ętienne jusqu'en 1215 (Paris: Cerf, 1995), 134-37, who favors the Nice council of 1041 as the point of issue.  Emile Amann and Auguste Dumas, L'Eglise au pouvoir des la├»ques (888-1057) (Paris, 1940), 499-500, also give the document's date (without explanation) as 1041.  Hartmut Hoffman, Gottesfriede und Treuga Dei (Stuttgart, 1964), p. 82, opted for a range from 1037-1042, based on the regnal dates of the principal authors of the letter. I have opted here to combine the observations of both sources on dating.
[2.]  See Hans-Werner Goetz, "La paix de Dieu en France autour de l'an Mil: fondements et objectifs, diffusion et participants," in Le roi de France et son royaume autour de l'an Mil, ed. Michel Parisse and Xavier Barral i Altet (Paris: Picard, 1992), 131-145.

Here begins the letter of the bishops of Gallia (southern France) sent to [the clergy of] Italy concerning the Truce of God.

In the name of God the omnipotent Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Raimbaud, archbishop of Arles, with Benedict, bishop of Avignon, Nithard, bishop of Nice, and also with the venerable abbot lord Odilo [of Cluny], together with all the bishops and abbots and all the clergy living throughout Gaul, to all the archbishops, bishops, priests, and clergy residing throughout all of Italy.  Grace and peace to you from God the omnipotent father, who is, was, and always shall be.[1]

We ask and beseech that all you who fear God and believe in him and have been redeemed by his blood be on guard and take precautions for the salvation of your souls and bodies, and that you follow in God's footsteps by keeping peace with one another, so that you might merit to have perpetual peace and tranquility with him.  Therefore receive and keep the peace and truce of God, which, having been transmitted to us from heaven by divine mercy, we received and have firmly clung to, and was constituted and disposed in the following way: from vespers [2] on Wednesday there shall be among all Christians--friends and enemies, neighbors and strangers--a firm peace and stable truce until sunrise on Monday.  In this way during these four days and five nights, everyone may feel secure at every moment and may go about their business freed from the fear of their enemies and confirmed in the tranquility of this peace and truce.  Whoever observes and firmly keeps this peace and truce shall be absolved by God the Father almighty, together with his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and by holy Mary along with the choir of virgins and by St. Michael with the choir of angels, and by St. Peter, the prince of apostles, together with all of the saints and all of the faithful, now and forever, world without end.  Whoever swears to the promised truce and yet knowingly wishes to infringe it, shall be excommunicated by God the Father almighty, together with his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and by all God's saints, and shall be excommunicated, cursed, and scorned forever, and shall be damned like Dathan and Abiron and just like Judas, who betrayed the Lord, and shall be submerged in the depths of hell like Pharaoh in the middle of the sea, providing they do not make amends as has been established.[3]  Namely, if anyone commits homicide in the days of the truce, he shall be made an exile and ejected from his own homeland, and, turning to distant Jerusalem, he shall endure his exile there.  If he should break God's truce and the peace in any other way whatsoever, once examined he shall be compelled to make account according to the measure of his guilt by the decrees of the secular law and shall be assessed a double penance by the laws of the holy canons.[4]  For we consider it appropriate that if we should presume to corrupt in any way the promise made there, we should be doubly condemned by secular and spiritual judgment.  For we believe that this heavenly [peace] was given to us by God in divine aid, because we believe that we did nothing but evil when it was sent by God to his people.  The Lord's day was not kept, and every kind of servile task was carried out.  Thus we have pledged and devoted the four days mentioned above to God: Thursday because it is the day of his ascension, Friday on account of his passion, Saturday because of the veneration at his tomb, and Sunday because his resurrection is inviolably celebrated by everyone.  On that day no work of any kind will be done in rural areas, and no man shall fear his enemy.[5]  According to the authority of God passed down from the apostles, we bless and absolve all those who cherish this peace and truce of God, as was said above; and we excommunicate, curse, and anthematize those who speak out against it, and cast them out from the limits of holy mother church.  Moreover, should it happen that someone carries out vengeance against those who would presume to break this charter and the truce of God, the vengeance-takers shall be considered liable for no crime, but shall go out and return blessed by all Christians just like defenders of God's causes.  If, however, something is stolen during the other days [of the week] and then found during the days of the truce, he shall not be restrained [from recovering it] unless an opportunity should thereby be given to his enemy.  In addition, we beseech you, brothers, that on whatever day the aforesaid peace and truce will be constituted among you, you keep that day in the name of the Holy Trinity.  May you expel and abominate, curse and excommunicate all thieves from your land on behalf of all the above-named saints.  Offer to God your tithes and first-fruits of your labors, give to the churches from your goods for the salvation of the living and the dead, so that God may free you from all evils in this life and may lead you after this life to the kingdom of heaven, [through him] who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

Endnotes to text

[1.]  Rev. 1:8.  Benedict was bishop of Avignon from 1037-1047; Nithard I was bishop of Nice from ca. 1037-1040/42, and Odilo was abbot of Cluny from 994-1048.  The diocese of Avignon was under the religious authority of the archdiocese of Arles, while Nice lay within the province of Embrun (Alpes Maritimae).
[2.]  Vespers was the evening liturgical service kept in churches and monasteries, and typically included the recitation of psalms.
[3.]  Dathan and Abiron rose up against Moses in the desert and complained of his leadership; they were swallowed up alive by the earth for holding Moses (and, therefore, God) in contempt (see Numbers 16:12-15, 25-34).  The punishment of Dathan and Abiron is frequently cited along with that of Judas in the closing prohibitive clauses of many charters at this time.
[4.]  In other words, he will be held accountable under both secular and spiritual legal jurisdictions, and have to render an account according to the laws of each.
[5.]  Literally, "an enemy shall not fear his enemy."

Landulf of Saint-Paul, History of Milan (Historia Mediolanensis)

Translated by John S. Ott, Department of History, Portland State University, from the edition of L. C. Bethmann and W. Wattenbach, MGH SS 8 (Hannover, 1848), 2.30, p. 67.

In [Archbishop Aribert of Milan's(1)] time, a holy law and a new and good mandate from heaven--attested by holy men--was given to all faithful and unfaithful Christians, stating that all men should go about their affairs in security, no matter their faults, from the first hour of Thursday until the first hour of Monday; and that whoever would transgress this law, namely the truce of God, which had newly appeared in the land by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, would without doubt be damned in exile and would suffer corporeal punishment for a certain length of time.  And whoever observed it would be absolved by God's mercy from the shackles of all [his] sins.

Endnotes to text

[1.]  Aribert was archbishop of Milan from 1016 until 16 January 1045.