Papal and episcopal letters concerning clerical fornication
and marriage in Flanders and Picardy,
Translated by John S. Ott, Department
of History, Portland State
University, from: PL 162:669-671
(letters 57 and 60) (nos. II and III); PL 163:141-142 and 369 (letters
134 and 415) (nos. VI and VII); and Claire Giordanengo, ed. Le registre de Lambert, évêque
d’Arras (1093-1115) (Paris: CNRS Editions,
2007), letters 81-82 (pp. 442-43) (nos. IV and V) and letter 132 (pp.
notes are (c) John S. Ott and may not be reproduced without permission,
but may be employed without the author's permission for classroom use. Revised 19 February 2009.
The seven letters below all concern uxorious clergy in Flanders
and Picardy. Four were written by popes, one by a papal legate,
and two by the archbishop of Reims. Collectively, they furnish
evidence for the ways in which married and/or non-celibate clergy were
handled by their religious superiors--namely by their bishop, the
archbishop, and the pope--during what we might term the "third
generation" of the ecclesiastical reform of the medieval church (that
is, after the pontificacies of Leo IX ending in 1054 and Gregory VII
ending in 1085). They also demonstrate the persistence of
marriage among secular clergy in this corner of Europe, despite regular
and insistent papal decrees condemning it and clerical fornication in
general. With the exception of the final item in this collection,
the letters below were maintained in the personal register of Lambert,
bishop of Arras (1094-1115). Lambert was perhaps the most
influential churchman in the archdiocese of Reims during his
episcopate, and deeply respected by popes Urban II (1088-1099) and
Paschal II (1099-1118). In other words, he considered
himself an ally of Rome and its policies, and was in general a staunch
supporter of papal reform initiatives under Urban and Paschal.
I. Letter of Pope Urban
the clergy and
people of Amiens
Bishop Urban, servant of the servants of God, to the clergy
and people of Amiens
greetings and apostolic blessing.
We consider completely without merit the accusation of
simoniacal depravity brought against our venerable brother Gervin, your
before the metropolitan and provincial bishops, because we hold that no
be condemned by a single voice, especially if [that person is] infamous
little merit. 
For that reason,
because no one brought a canonical accusation against him before us, we
not required him to defend himself.
Nevertheless, spontaneously providing in the future for his good
reputation, he swore on the holy Gospels that he neither gave nor
money either for the abbacy of Saint-Riquier or for the bishopric of
nor to his knowledge did anyone do so on his behalf.
Moreover, we, holding him harmless from the
injury of the present accusation, send him back to you in the fullness
Thus we command you by the
authority of our office that you revere him with all due obedience as
that you observe his commands; and that, correcting your former errors,
bend to the observance of the Lord’s precepts.
We have heard of clerics who, contrary to the discipline of
the holy canons and in contempt of the practice of the catholic Church,
fornicate with women, and command by apostolic authority that they
desist from this and the other sorts of vices in which they are
according to the judgment of their bishop, submit themselves to divine
But if—God forbid!—you hold
our precepts in contempt and pertinaciously presume further to resist
bishop at the risk of your salvation, we confirm by the weight of our
whatever sentence he extends against you according to the dictates of
 Urban II was pope
from 1088-1099. The bishop in question,
Gervin, presided in Amiens
from c. 1090-1102.
 One or more
clerks from Amiens
likely raised objection to Gervin’s episcopacy at the provincial synod
1093, on the grounds that he was a simoniac.
If not precisely a simoniac, Gervin nevertheless held the abbacy
Saint-Riquier concurrently with his bishopric for at least five years. Urban II ultimately ruled against him holding
both positions at the council of Clermont in November 1095.
II. Letter of Archbishop Manasses II
of Reims to
Lambert, bishop of Arras
Manasses, by God’s grace archbishop of Reims,
to his beloved brother and fellow bishop Lambert of Arras, greetings in
prosperity and blessings.
Since brother Galterus was been admitted into the
order canonically and without legal offense, let neither reason refuse
promote him into the canonicate nor justice speak against it, when
there is no
one who doubts his wife was adulterous and to have married another man. So that we may speak along with the Apostle,
after he ascertained his wife to be adulterous, the power was freely
to send her away and to maintain any [clerical] vow to the Lord,
that, as long as she is alive, he cannot remarry. 
Also, having recently heard that in your
church investiture of prebends and altars has been done by hereditary
succession to the second, third, and fourth generation, we were struck
amazement that your fraternity should so feebly resist such a depraved
custom. For this custom grew in the holy
church through the simoniac heresy, and should be abolished for all men
extirpated with all diligence. Our church of Reims execrates it as an
considers invalid all investitures of this sort, beseeching with the
through the Prophet: “All who possess God’s sanctuary by inheritance, O
scatter them like a wheel, like chaff before the face of the wind.”  Farewell.
 This letter was
probably written in 1099 or 1100. Manasses II was archbishop from
Lambert was bishop of Arras
 To do so would
violate church law, as promulgated in both older and contemporary
of canon law like, for example, the Collection
in Seventy-Four Titles, 16.145.
Letter of Archbishop Manasses II of Reims to
Robert II, count of Flanders 
Manasses, by the grace of God archbishop of Reims
to his most ardently beloved count Robert,
greetings, love, and a plenitude of blessings. 
Recalling the ready and kind affection with which you
received us in your land, we pass along enormous thanks to your
are prepared to carry out whatever we are able that is useful to your
For if friendship endures by
mutual efforts, we are easily able to take the measure of ours from
Moreover, when we held a meeting
together with our fellow bishops at Saint-Omer concerning the affairs
business of the church , we remember making mention of married
others in ecclesiastical orders, setting forth that, unless they should
from this sort of consort, you and your princes should seize their
a sentence of excommunication had been passed [on them].
However, when our clergy raised a complaint
against us at the beginning of the council, asserting that no laws
canonically applied to their parishes without their consent, we arrived
necessity of writing you in a timely matter, decreeing and also urging
take heed neither to molest priests and others in sacred orders in this
nor pursue their wives, or permit them to be harmed by any of your
magnates—unless it happens that the bishop recognized to be in his
approves of your help.
For we did not
want, nor is it just, that we should do injury to our fellow bishops in
anything; or that anything we command severely should not be useful to
ecclesiastical order in the case of a seizure.
For we decreed that bishops in their synods should call [clergy]
to account in this matter, and unless, having been admonished, they
this depraved business, then they should at that point welcome you as
 This letter was probably written in 1100, after Robert
the First Crusade in the first part of that year.
are very warm, even by the standards of medieval epistolary salutations.
Robert of Flanders (1093-1111) was not
Manasses’ “count,” but the two were friends.
Saint-Omer was a
prosperous town in the western part of the county of Flanders
Manasses met there with four fellow bishops
in July 1099, including the bishops of Arras
(Lambert) and Thérouanne (John), whose dioceses are discussed in
The next three letters all seem to concern
uxorious canons of Notre-Dame of Arras,
Lambert’s cathedral. The deacons Robert
and Algise (nos. V and VI below), who both had wives, appear as
witnesses to several
of Lambert’s charters in the first years of his rule.
IV. Letter of Richard,
cardinal-bishop of Albano,
to Robert II, count of Flanders
Richard, by God’s grace bishop of Albano, legate of the
apostolic see, to Robert, distinguished count of Flanders
Of what renown, what honesty, and of what religion is our
brother Lambert, the bishop of Arras
a fact known to the most distant people, we believe to be not
who is count of his city. 
is a person so trusted by the apostolic see that [Rome
] considers him by a certain
foremost among the reigning bishops of the Gauls. 
We therefore commit to your prudence and
power this great and venerable man, that you might protect him by
power given you by God against all who raise any rebellious plot
Moreover, you should observe as excommunicated that Robert,
clerk of Arras—an obstinate rebel against his bishop, fornicating with
widow—along with all his backers, until such a time as he shall be
with his bishop. 
If the bishop
decrees against the wickedness of clerics what ought rightly be
him find in you not a supporter of wickedness but a defender of the
cardinal-bishop Richard acted as papal legate for France
off and on from
He had formerly been the dean
Saint-Etienne of Metz, was French-speaking, and knew most of the church
officials with whom he interacted personally.
This letter seems to have been written between 1102 and 1104,
Richard’s first extended legation into France
, probably toward the
, the capital city of
prosaic way of referring to a region now more or less encompassed by
 This would
seem to be the same Robert referenced in the other letters.
V. Letter of Pope Paschal II to
Bishop Paschal, servant of the servants of God, to
venerable brother Lambert of Arras, greetings and apostolic blessing.
Robert and Algise, the bearers [of this letter],
they came to us with a grievance, we by the grace of blessed Peter have
them back free of complaint, since a non-controversial peace was
between them and their adversaries. And
because the same men said they had come [to Rome] without your permission, we ask
you put the burden of this offense on us.
View Robert most benevolently, as your predecessor, bishop
known to consider him.  For he is
prepared to obey you in all matters, because he desires to be a son of
Roman Church henceforward.
Given at the Lateran, 21 March [1104?].
 Although the
is not given, this letter appears to have been sent at roughly the same
VI., below, i.e., 1104.
 This is
Gerard II, bishop of Cambrai (1076-1092).
At the time the letter was written, Cambrai was likely without a
universally recognized bishop.
VI. Letter of Pope
Paschal II to Lambert, bishop
Bishop Paschal, servant of the servants of God, to his
venerable brother Lambert, bishop of Arras
greeting and blessing. 
Several clergy of your church convened before our presence
bringing with them diverse complaints.
After listening to them all in turn and consulting with our
absolved them all from the chains of excommunication once they promised
All pledged their
obedience to our proposed course [of action] and to you as though you
their own bishop.
And on behalf of those
who complained that they had suffered the seizure of their goods by
agents, we beseech your benevolence that you carry out justice
seizure of those goods.
To that end
we’ve sent to you via your archdeacon the description of these things
Furthermore, the two deacons, Algise
and Robert, who until now have had wives, have renounced them by
the holy Gospels.
We therefore admonish
your dispensation on their behalf and request that in the future you
provide for their lives and well-being.
Hugh, the son of Baldwin
oath that within forty days after he returns (God willing) to your
would do whatever your justice renders concerning the complaint raised
him, except for whatever is dismissed for him in your mercy.
In the case of Robert that was brought and
resolved before us, the decree of blessed Siricius, which he wrote to
Himerius of Tarragona, says, “Any cleric who marries either a widow or
wife shall be immediately stripped of every clerical rank, and lay
accorded him.” 
We therefore enjoined
that he should in any case strive to obey you as though you were his
And this [Robert], when released
from the chains of excommunication, swore on the holy Gospels that he
whatever we commanded in this matter.
Therefore you should receive him like an obedient son and extend
whatever fatherly mercy you deem just.
And we will uphold for the peace of the church any good you will
Given at the Lateran, 5 December
Paschal II was
pope from 1099-1118.
 Pope Siricius (r.
384-399) wrote a letter to Himerius of Tarragona in 385 C.E. addressing
variety of pastoral issues, including questions surrounding clerical
The year is suggested by Philippe
Jaffé and Wilhelm Wattenbach, eds., Regesta
, 2d ed. (Leipzig: Veit, 1885), no. 6000, p.
VII. Letter of Pope Paschal II to the
clergy of the diocese of Thérouanne
Bishop Paschal, servant of the servants of God, to
parish clergy of Thérouanne, greetings and apostolic blessing.
We’ve heard of a deeply serious concern from your
that after so many decrees of the holy pontiffs, after conciliar bans,
are men in clerical orders who are consorting with women—and who dare
so] publicly, not secretly. In these
matters our predecessor of holy memory Pope Urban among other things
established that they should be stripped of their offices along with
benefices. Likewise we, in harmony with
the decrees of our predecessor, command through the present missive
whoever among you refuses to desist from this wickedness and has been
canonically warned by his bishop shall be punished by the removal of
offices and benefices.
Given at the Lateran, 24 November
[between 1100 and 1115].
 The bishop of
Thérouanne at this time was John of Warneton, who was present at
the council of
mentioned in Manasses’ letter to Robert II of Flanders.