Front Page Titles (by Subject) 143-144.: The Final Struggle between Gregory IX and Frederick II. - A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age
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143-144.: The Final Struggle between Gregory IX and Frederick II. - Oliver J. Thatcher, A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age 
A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905).
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The Final Struggle between Gregory IX and Frederick II.
Papal Charges and Imperial Defence, 1238.
The peace of San Germano was not kept long. The fundamental principles of pope and emperor conflicted with each other. No peace between them could be lasting so long as the primary question of supremacy was not settled. Frederick soon began to put forth imperial claims in various matters, and the pope resisted them. The struggle grew more and more bitter and they both came into such a state of mutual exasperation and irritation that any trifle brought forth long complaints and sharp reproofs. Of the many vigorous documents which concern their final break we give only two. Gregory wrote to certain bishops ordering them to take the emperor to task on a long list of charges. They did so, and the emperor refuted them, charge by charge. These papal charges and imperial denials are given first. Gregory was not convinced by the emperor’s answers. The document by which he excommunicated Frederick is given in no. 144.
To the most holy father in Christ, Gregory [IX] by the grace of God pope, his devoted bishops of Würzburg, Worms, Vercelli, and Parma, humbly commend themselves and offer due and sincere reverence.
We reverently received your letter in which you ordered us to remonstrate with our lord the Roman emperor [Frederick II] about certain matters, a list of which was enclosed in your letter. Although we hesitated to do so because we are his subjects and were not sure that he would patiently receive our remonstrances, nevertheless we reverently went to him and set forth all the things which were contained in your letter to us and also in the large number of letters which you had written to him. God who rules and directs the hearts of kings as he will brought it about that he granted us an audience and listened to our words with great readiness and humility. He also called together the venerable archbishops of Palermo and Messina, the bishops of Cremona, Lodi, Novara, and Modena, and the abbot of San Vincenzo, and a great number of friars, both Dominicans and Franciscans, and in the presence of us all he responded to each one of the charges in their order as is set forth below. And in accordance with your command, we send you a faithful statement of his answers.
1.The papal charge. The churches of Monreale, Cefalu, Catania, and Squillace, and the monasteries of Mileto, Santa Eufemia, Terra Maggiore, and San Giovanni in Lamæ, have been robbed of almost all of their possessions. Likewise nearly all bishoprics, churches, and monasteries have been unjustly deprived of their liberties and prerogatives. The emperor’s answer. In regard to the complaints of the churches, which are stated in a general way, orders have been given that certain things, done in ignorance, should be corrected at once; and others have already been corrected by our faithful messenger and notary, William de Tocco. He was sent especially for this purpose and he was ordered to go first to the papal court, and, after consultation with the archbishop of Messina, to follow his counsel in revoking all the things which he found were done unjustly. He had scarcely entered the kingdom when he found certain lands in the possession of members of the imperial family [ministerials]. He dispossessed them and restored the lands to their former owners. If he should find any lands were held illegally by the emperor, he was ordered to restore them to their owners. And when the pope learned of what he had done he approved the emperor’s action in sending him and the diligencce of the messenger. Since the kingdom is divided into several provinces, the messenger has not yet been able to go through them all. Hence his work is not yet done, and there are still some things to be corrected. In regard to the church of Monreale, the emperor declared that it had not suffered anything through him, unless it wished to hold him responsible for the devastations committed by the Saracens who had ravaged its lands. But they recognize neither the emperor nor the church. Nor had they spared anyone or anything. They had devastated the land clear up to the walls of the church, and they had spared no Sicilian. In fact, they had left scarcely a Christian alive in all that territory. The emperor declares that with great difficulty and expense he has exterminated them from Sicily. If he has done the churches a wrong in this, it is at least his only one. Nor has he tried to injure them.
In regard to the church at Cefalu, the emperor said that he had done no wrong, because the kings of Sicily have always held the castle of Cefalu, which is a strong citadel in the mark of the Saracens, and commands the sea. In the days of Innocent III the bishop of Cefalu had got possession of it, not legally but through an uprising. But Innocent ordered his legate who was then in Sicily caring for the interests of Frederick, who was still a child, to take the castle from the bishop and have it kept for Frederick until he should come of age. It has not been restored to the bishop nor should it be, because he has no right to it. Even if he had a right to it, it should not be restored to him, because, according to common report, he is a forger, a homicide, a traitor, and a schismatic. Therefore even if he had a right to it, it should not be restored to him. In the same way he said he was innocent of the charges about the church of Catania, unless he were held responsible for the conduct of some of the men from the imperial domain, who, in time of war, had gone to Catania to find a place that was secure and fertile. The emperor said that he had recalled them to his domains by a general edict of the realm, by which the counts, barons, and other men of the realm recalled the men belonging to their domains, no matter where they should find them, whether on the lands of the church or in the imperial cities. Besides, in regard to these things, the statute was passed and the time set at the request of the pope, as is clear from the letters of the patriarch of Antioch and the archbishops of Palermo and Messina. Likewise the emperor said that an equitable trade had been made with the churches of Mileto and Santa Eufemia, and with the abbot and monks of Terra Maggiore. This trade had been made with the permission of their clergy and their convents, according to the legal form, and they to-day hold and possess the things which they received in exchange. But the village of San Severo was not wholly the property of the abbot of Terra Maggiore, for another had certain rights there which he held as a fief from the empire. It was justly condemned and destroyed, because the men of that place in the time of an uprising had killed Paul de Logotheta, the bailiff of the emperor, and seized the cattle of the emperor. And yet the abbot and his monastery had received some land in exchange for their share of this village which had been destroyed. In accordance with a legal decision the place called Lamæ has been fortified by the abbot of San Giovanni Rotundo, and according to both the civil and canon law, suit about it must be brought against him in the imperial court.
2.The papal charge. The possessions, both movable and immovable, which had been taken from the Templars and Hospitallers, have not been restored to them in accordance with the terms of the agreement which was made. The emperor’s answer. It is true that by a legal process and in accordance with an ancient law of the kingdom of Sicily, fiefs and “burgher lands” have been taken from the said orders. But they had received those lands from those who were invading the kingdom and waging war on the emperor. Besides they furnished the king’s enemies with horses, arms, food, and wine, and all kinds of provisions, while refusing to aid the emperor who was still a minor. But other fiefs and burgher lands have been restored to them which they had acquired before the death of William II [king of Sicily], or for which they had a grant from some one of our predecessors. And some burgher lands which they had bought have been taken from them in accordance with an ancient law of Sicily, that without the king’s consent no burgher lands shall be given to the said orders or left to them as a legacy; but if such lands are given them, they are bound to sell them within a year, a month, a week, and a day, to some of the citizens. This law was passed long ago, because if they were permitted to buy and accept burgher lands they would in a short time possess the whole kingdom of Sicily, which they like better than any other part of the world. And this law is valid beyond the sea.
3.The papal charge. He does not permit vacant bishoprics and other churches to be filled, and on this account the liberty of the church is in danger and the true faith is perishing, because there is no one to preach the word of God and care for souls. The emperor’s answer. The emperor wishes and desires that vacant bishoprics and other churches be filled, but without infringement on the privileges and rights which his predecessors have held. He has insisted less than his predecessors on his privileges, and he has never opposed the filling of the vacant churches.
4.The papal charge. In regard to taxes and exactions which are extorted from churches and monasteries contrary to agreement. The emperor’s answer. Taxes and dues are assessed on the clergy and ecclesiastical persons, not because of their ecclesiastical property, but because of their fiefs and other possessions. And this is in accordance with the common law and is practised everywhere all over the world.
5.The papal charge. That prelates do not dare proceed against usurers, because of an imperial edict. The emperor’s answer. The emperor has published a new general law against usurers, in accordance with which they are condemned, and action may be brought against all their possessions. And this law is read before all prelates, and they are not prevented by it from proceeding against usurers.
6.The papal charge. That clerygmen are seized, imprisoned, proscribed, and killed. The emperor’s answer. He knows nothing about any clergymen who have been seized and imprisoned, except that some have been condemned by the decision of prelates, according to their crimes. These have been surrendered to the imperial officials who have seized them. He knows nothing about clergymen who have been proscribed except that some have been charged with the crime of lèse majesté and have been proscribed from the kingdom. He knows nothing about any clergymen who have been slain except those who were slain by other clergymen. The church of Venusa is mourning the death of its prelate who was killed by one of his monks. In the church of San Vincenzo one monk killed another. But the monks and the clergy commit such crimes with impunity, and it is the fault of the church that they escape all canonical punishment.
7.The papal charge. Churches which are consecrated to the Lord are profaned and destroyed. The emperor’s answer. He knows nothing of such churches, unless the pope means the church of Luceria; but it is said to have fallen down of itself because of its great age. And the emperor will not only permit it to be rebuilt, but he will give a good sum to the bishop for its reconstruction.
8.The papal charge. That he does not permit the church of Sorana to be rebuilt. The emperor’s answer. He will permit the church of Sorana to be rebuilt, but not the town. It shall not be rebuilt as long as he lives, because it was destroyed in accordance with a legal decision.
9.The papal charge. That contrary to the agreement those who had supported the church in the time of struggle between the pope and emperor have been robbed of their goods and driven out of the country. The emperor’s answer. Those who adhered to the church in the time of the struggle against the emperor are living in security in the kingdom, except those who held some office and are afraid that they will be compelled to give an account of it, and some others who have left the kingdom to escape civil and criminal charges. The emperor will permit them to come back in safety if they will give an account of their conduct in office and respond to those who have entered suit against them. But he will do nothing against them for having adhered to the church. If the pope complains that the treaty of peace has not been kept, let him remember that contrary to its terms and to the judgment of nearly all the friars, he is holding the city of Castella. For keeping this city to the detriment of the empire he is receiving money, although the emperor has expended more than 100,000 silver marks in aiding him against the Romans. From this the church has received great advantages, for land has been taken from the Romans and restored to the church and her liberties have been recovered and reformed in Rome through the help of the emperor.
10.The papal charge. That he has seized and now holds imprisoned the nephew of the king of Tunis who wished to come to the pope to receive baptism. The emperor’s answer. That the nephew of the king of Tunis was fleeing from Barbary to Sicily, not to receive baptism, but to escape his uncle who was threatening him with death. He is not held captive but is going about freely in Apulia, and although he is often urged to be baptized, he steadfastly refuses. If however he wishes to be baptized, the emperor will receive him with rejoicing. He has already expressed himself in regard to this to the archbishops of Palermo and Messina.
11.The papal charge. That the church is humiliated and insulted by the fact that Peter Saraceno, her faithful subject, and friar Jordan are held captive. The emperor’s answer. Peter Saraceno has been seized because he is an enemy and detractor of the emperor. He has attacked the emperor in Rome as well as elsewhere. He did not come on the business of the king of England, but he carried a letter of the king in order that if he were arrested we might be led to spare him. But we did not heed this letter because the king did not know what snares this man had prepared for us. In regard to the friar Jordan, although he had defamed the emperor in his sermons, the emperor neither seized him nor ordered him to be seized. But because some of the emperor’s faithful subjects knew the friar’s character and his trickery, and so were sure that if he stayed in the mark of Treviso and in Lombardy, he would injure the cause of the emperor, the emperor caused him to be set free and would have given him over to the archbishop of Messina, if he had been willing to submit to the said archbishop.
12.The papal charge. The emperor had stirred up sedition in Rome against the church with the purpose of driving out the pope and his cardinals, and, contrary to the privileges and rights of the pope, to destroy the ecclesiastical liberties. The emperor’s answer. The emperor denies that he stirred up the sedition in Rome. But he has his faithful subjects in Rome just as his predecessors, the Roman emperors and kings of Sicily, had had. And sometimes at the election of senators, the attempt was made to injure his subjects. Under these circumstances he had assisted his subjects in their defence, and he would do so as often as it should be necessary under similar circumstances. But when the election of a senator took place harmoniously, there was no rioting, as can be proved by the testimony of the archbishops of Palermo and Messina.
13.The papal charge. That the emperor had ordered his subjects not to permit the papal legate, the bishop of Preneste, to pass through their territory. The emperor’s answer. The emperor had never even dreamed of giving such an order, although he might justly have done so, because the bishop was his enemy. Although he had been sent by the pope as a religious man on a religious errand, he had nevertheless at the command of the pope, as he said, in a treacherous and wicked manner led a large part of Lombardy to revolt against the emperor and had done all he could to incite the Lombards to rebellion.
14.The papal charge. The cause of the crusade is delayed by him through the quarrel which he has with certain Lombards, although the church is ready to use all her powers to secure proper satisfaction from the Lombards for what they have done against the emperor, and the Lombards themselves are ready to make satisfaction. The emperor’s answer. He had often referred that matter to the church, but he had never received any satisfaction. For the first time, the Lombards were condemned to furnish 400 knights. But instead of sending them to aid the emperor, as they should, the pope used them to make war on the emperor. The second time, they were condemned to furnish 500 knights, but the pope declared that they should not be sent to the aid of the emperor, but that they should be sent on the crusade under the control and protection of the pope and the church. But not even this was done. The third time, at the request of the cardinals, the Sabine bishop and Magister Peter of Capua, the affair was again referred to the pope exactly as the pope desired. But afterward the matter was never mentioned again until the pope learned that the emperor, having been deceived so many times about it, was preparing to lead an army from Germany into Italy. And then the pope at once begged that the matter be referred to him again. And although the emperor had so often been deceived in submitting it to the pope, he nevertheless was willing to submit it to him once more, but a time limit was set and it was stipulated that it should be decided to the honor of the emperor and to the advantage of the empire. But the pope was not willing to accept these conditions, as may be proved by his letter, although he now says that he was ready to decide the case in accordance with the rights and honor of the empire. From this it is apparent that the pope’s letters are contradictory to each other. And let the pope not pretend that the emperor, in trying to restore the rights of the empire in Italy, injured the prospects of the crusade, for the letters which the emperor wrote in answer to the kings of the world and to the crusaders in France, who had chosen him as their leader, will show that he took charge of the crusade and did not neglect it. He also wrote that he wished to conduct the whole matter in accordance with the advice of the church. . . . Finally, the emperor declared that since he had been absent from the kingdom and did not know the exact condition of things, if anything had been done injurious to the church, and had not yet been corrected, he would order it to be set entirely right, and also because of the great general good which would come if there were harmony between him and the church, he would give the church any reasonable security that he would act in harmony with her, and use all his powers and means for the honor and advancement of the Christian church and for the preservation of her liberties.
The Excommunication of Frederick II, 1239.
See introductory note to no. 143.
1. By the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we excommunicate and anathematize Frederick, the so-called emperor, because he has incited rebellion in Rome against the Roman church, for the purpose of driving the pope and his brothers [the cardinals] from the apostolic seat, thus violating the dignity and honor of the apostolic seat, the liberty of the church, and the oath which he swore to the church.
2. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he ordered his followers to prevent our brother, the venerable bishop of Preneste, the legal legate, from proceeding on his mission to the Albigenses, upon which we had sent him for the preservation of the Catholic faith.
3. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has not allowed the vacancies in certain bishoprics and churches to be filled, thereby imperilling the liberty of the church, and destroying the true faith, because in the absence of the pastor there is no one to declare unto the people the word of God or to care for their souls. . . .
4. We excommunicate and anathematize him because the clergy of his kingdom are imprisoned, proscribed, and slain, and because the churches of God are despoiled and profaned.
5. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has not permitted the church of Sorana to be rebuilt.
6. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has seized the nephew of the king of Tunis and kept him from coming to the Roman church to be baptized.
7. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has imprisoned Peter Saraceno, a Roman noble, who was sent as a messenger to us by the king of England.
8. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has seized the lands of the churches of Ferrara, Pigogna, and Bondenum, and the dioceses of Ferrara, Bondenum, and Lucca, and the land of Sardinia, contrary to the oath which he swore to the church.
9. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has occupied and wasted the lands of some of the nobles of his kingdom which were held by the church.
10. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has robbed the churches of Monreale, Cefalu, Catania, Squillace, and the monasteries of Mileto, Santa Eufemia, Terra Maggiore, and San Giovanni in Lamæ.
11. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has robbed many bishoprics, churches, and monasteries of his kingdom of almost all their goods through his unjust trials.
12. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has not entirely restored to the Templars and Hospitallers the property of which he had despoiled them, as he agreed to do in the treaty of peace.
13. Because he has extorted taxes and other payments from the churches and monasteries of his kingdom contrary to the treaty of peace.
14. We excommunicate him and anathematize him because he has compelled the prelates of churches and abbots of the Cistercian and of other orders to make monthly contributions for the erection of new castles.
15. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has treated the adherents of the papal party as if they were under the ban, confiscating their property, exiling them, and imprisoning their wives and children, contrary to the treaty of peace.
16. We excommunicate and anathematize him because he has hindered the recovery of the Holy Land and the restoration of the Roman empire.
We absolve all his subjects from their oaths of fidelity to him, forbidding them to show him fidelity as long as he is under excommunication. We shall admonish him again to give up oppressing and injuring the nobles, the poor, the widows and orphans, and others of his land, and then we shall proceed to act ourselves in the matter. For all and each of these causes, in regard to which we have frequently admonished him to no purpose, we excommunicate and anathematize him. In regard to the accusation of heresy which is made against Frederick, we shall consider and act upon this in the proper place and time.