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Western Civilization-An Open Source Book, 1st ed.

by Ryan P. Johnson.

Chapter 9: Power in the High Middle Ages 1000-1300

The High Middle Ages lasted from roughly 1000 to 1300 and saw an astounding amount of change and development. This chapter focuses specifically on the evolution of powerful institutions such as kingdoms and the Catholic Church, more specifically the papacy. In England William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded in 1066 and took the throne from Harold Godwinson, initiating a new ruling dynasty and changing the relationship between England and France for centuries to come. William established a new law code, put many of his followers in leadership positions, and fortified England with castles to protect his interests. He also brought the systems of vassalage and manorialism to England. In later centuries all of the gains made by English kings would be lost by King John, who was forced to sign the Magna Carta, or Great Charter, a document which would limit the power of English kings and demonstrate the limits of royal power. King Edward I would formalize the institution known as Parliament as a means of securing funding for royal projects without risking full on rebellion, and the monarchy and Parliament would co-rule England until the modern era. France experienced developments similar to those in England, as kings such as Philip II Augustus would use armed conquest to capture territory and increase their own power in relation to French nobles. New offices such as the royal council and a finance office would develop under the reign of Philip IV, and France would become one of the predominant players on the European stage. In Spain the High Middle Ages saw the long Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims, a task finally completed in 1492. New Christian kingdoms such as Castile and Aragon would emerge, and access to Muslim libraries and scholarship would reintroduce ancient thinkers to Christian Europe. The Church meanwhile was recovering from a period of decline due to the lax discipline of monks and bishops and repeated assaults by Viking raiders. During this time powerful popes began to assert not just the spiritual power of the Church, but also the power popes had over secular rulers such as kings. Gregory VII would bring Henry IV, King of Germany, to heel in the Investiture Controversy, while Innocent III would use the spiritual weapons at his disposal to demonstrate his firm belief that the Church was and would always be more powerful than the State. The Church also enacted a series of internal reforms that strengthened it, including the creation of an efficient hierarchy known as the papal monarchy and the founding of new religious orders such as the Cistercians, Dominicans, and Franciscans. Indeed, so powerful was the Church at this time that it embarked on a major project to rescue the Holy Land from the hands of the Muslims, and so began the Crusades in the late 11th century.

The documents in this chapter focus on the growth of England and the Church and begin with the Domesday Book, a work commissioned by William the Conqueror two decades after he had taken England. The book is a statistical record of people and possessions throughout the kingdom. Next up is Henry II of England and the Constitutions of Clarendon,a significant document in the history of church/state relations. Here Henry is attempting to assert power over church operations in his kingdom. The third document is the aforementioned Magna Carta from the reign of King John. The excerpts included here illustrate how the Great Charter limited the power of the king was well as how the provisions of the document would be enforced. Lastly for the documents concerning England are two from King Edward I, one being the letters the king sent out summoning certain figures to the first official meeting of Parliament in 1295, the other being an attempt by the king to increase his power and revenue by taking control of certain land transactions, specifically those in which the church would gain lands in perpetuity. Moving on to the Catholic Church the first excerpts come from the Investiture Controversy between Gregory VII and Henry IV. Important here are the powers the pope is claiming for his office and his reaction to Henry IV’s defiance. The next document contains excerpts from various letters written by Innocent III, perhaps the most powerful pope of the Middle Ages. These letters discuss Innocent’s views on church/state relations, heresy, Europe’s Jewish population, and his interactions with various kings such as King John of England and Philip II of France. Next up are two documents from the Dominican monk Bernard Gui, who also happened to be a church inquisitor. The first excerpt from Gui concerns the Albigensians, also known as the Cathars, who were considered heretics in the eyes of the Catholic Church because they denied the truth behind certain elements of church dogma. The second excerpt is a hypothetical interrogation of a supposed heretic which Gui uses to demonstrate how to question heretics and how they may try to defend themselves. The final pair of excerpts concern the Crusades. First is from Robert the Monk, who is transcribing his memory of the speech given by Pope Urban II in 1095 urging the knights and lords of Europe to travel to the Holy Land and free it from Muslim control. The final document in this chapter is an excerpt from a chronicle of Richard I of England’s life, specifically the deal he made with the Muslim general Saladin regarding the city of Jerusalem to end the Third Crusade. 


1. Instructions for Collection of the Domesday Returns

King William I of England, known to history as William the Conqueror, was a Norman duke who invaded and took control of England in 1066. As king William made a series of reforms that would prove crucial to the future development of the kingdom, including the compilation of the Domesday (pronounced doomsday) Book,a statistical record of virtually everything in the realm. Though Charlemagne had attempted something similar during his reign, the Domesday Book is the most comprehensive survey we have from the Middle Ages. The excerpt below contains sections on the general instructions the surveyors were to follow and examples of the information they recorded during their travels.

Here is subscribed the inquisition of lands as the barons of the king have made inquiry into them; that is to say by the oath of the sheriff of the shire, and of all the barons and their Frenchmen, and the whole hundred, the priests, reeves, and six villains of each manor; then, what the manor is called, who held it in the time of king Edward, who holds now; how many hides, how many plows in demesne, how many belonging to the men, how many villains, how many cottars, how many serfs, how many free-men, how many socmen, how much woods, how much meadow, how many pastures, how many mills, how many fish-ponds, how much has been added or taken away, how much it was worth altogether at that time, and how much now, how much each free man or socman had or has. All this threefold, that is to say in the time of king Edward, and when king William gave it, and as it is now; and whether more can be had than is had.

The land of Robert Malet.

Fredrebruge Hundred and half. Glorestorp. Godwin, a freeman, held it. Two carucates of land in the time of king Edward. Then and afterwards 8 villains; now 3. Then and afterwards 3 bordare; now 5. At all times 3 serfs, and 30 acres of meadow. At all times 2 carucates in demesne. Then half a carucate of the men, and now. Woods for 8 swine, and 2 mills Here are located 13 socmen, of 40 acres of land. When it was received there were 2 r., 1 now 1. At all times 8 swine, then 20 sheep, and it is worth 60 shillings.

There is situated there, in addition, one berewick, as the manor of Heuseda. In the time of king Edward, 1 carucate of land; then and afterwards 7 villains, now 5. At all times 12 bordars, and 3 serfs, and 40 acres of meadow; 1 mill. Woods for 16 swine and 1 salt pond and a half. Then 1 r., and now and 14 swine, 30 sheep, and 50 goats. In this berewick are located 3 socmen, of 10 acres of land, and it is worth 30 shilling. The two manors have 2 leagues in length and 4 firlongs in breadth. Whosoever is tenant there, returns 12 pence of the twenty shillings of geld.

Scerpham Hundred Culverstestun Edric held it in the time of king Edward. Two carucates of land. At all times there were 4 villains, and 1 bordar. and 4 serfs; 5 acres of meadow and two carucates in the demesne. Then and afterwards 1 carucate, now one-half. At all times 1 mill and one fish-pond. Here is located 1 socmen of the king, of 40 acres of land; which his predecessors held only as commended and he claims his land from the gift of the king. Then and afterwards there was one carucate, now 2 bovates, and 2 acres of meadow. At all times two r., and 4 geese; then 300 sheep, now 300 less 12; then 16 swine now 3. Then and afterwards it was worth 60 shillings, now 80; and there could be one plow. Walter of Caen holds it from Robert.

Heinstede Hundred. In Sasilingaham Edric, the predecessor of Robert Malet, held 2 sokes and a half, of 66 acres of land, now Walter holds them. Then 9 bordare, now 13. At all times 3 carucates and a half among all, and 3 acres of meadow, and the eighth part of a mill; and under these 1 soke of 6 acres of land. At all times half a carucate. Then it was worth 30 shillings, now it returns 50 shillings.

In Scotessa Ulcetel was tenant, a free man commended to Edric, in the time of king Edward of 30 acres of land. At that time 1 bordar, afterward and now 2. Then half a carucate, none afterward nor now. It was at all times worth 5 shillings and 4 pence; the same.

Roland P. Falkner, ed., Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, vol. III. no. 2 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, n.d.), 6-7. Located on the Internet Archive: translationsrepr03univiala#page/n33 

2. Henry II-Constitutions of Clarendon

Another influential king, Henry II ruled England from 1154-1189. Not only was he king of England, but due to French ancestry he also controlled territory in that kingdom as well. During the early years of his reign he expanded his control into Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and France, creating what would become known as the Angevin Empire. Henry also sought to extend royal control over the church, which brought him into conflict with Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury and most powerful church figure in England. The document presented here is Henry’s attempt to establish control over the way the English church operated.

From the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1164, the fourth year of the papacy of Alexander, the tenth of the most illustrious Henry, king of the English, in the presence of the same king, was made this remembrance or recognition of a certain part of the customs, liberties, and dignities of his predecessors, that is to say of King Henry his grandfather and others, which ought to be observed and held in the kingdom. And because of discesnsions and discords which had arisen between the clergy and the lord king’s justices and the barons of the kingdom concerning the customs and dignities, this recognition has been made before the archbishops and bishops and clergy, and the earls and barons and great men of the kingdom. And these same customs declared by the archbishops, bishops, earls, and barons, and by the nobler and older men of the kingdom, Thomas archbishop of Canterbury and Roger archbishop of York and Gilbert bishop of London and Henry bishop of Winchester and Nigel bishop of Ely and William bishop of Norwich and Robert bishop of Lincoln and Hilary bishop of Chichester and Jocelin bishop of Salisbury and Richard bishop of Chester and Bartholomew bishop of Exeter and Robert bishop of Hereford and David bishop of St. David’s and Roger elect of Worcester conceded and on the word of truth firmly promised by word of mouth should be held and observed for the lord king and his heirs in good faith and without subtlety, these being present: Robert earl of Leicester, Reginald earl of Cornwall, Conan earl of Brittany, John earl of Eu, Roger earl of Clare, earl Geoffrey de Mandeville, Hugh earl of Chester, William earl of Arundel, earl Patrick, William earl of Ferrers, Richard de Luci, Reginald de Mowbray, Simon de Beauchamp, Humphrey de Bohun, Matthew de Hereford, Walter de Mayenne, Manser Biset the steard, William Malet, William deCourcy, Robert de Dunstaville, Jocelin de Baillol, William de Lanvallei, William de Caisnet, Geoffrey de Vere, William de Hastings, Hugh de Moreville, Alan de Neville, Simon Fitz Peter, William Maudit the chamberlain, John Maudit, John Marshall, Peter de Mara, and many other great men and nobles of the kingdom both clergy and laymen.

A certain part of the customs and dignities which were recognized is contained in the present writing. Of which part these are the articles:

  1. If a controversy arise between laymen, or between laymen and clerks, or between clerks concerning patronage and presentation of churches, it shall be treated or concluded in the court of the lord king.
  2. Churches of the lord king’s fee cannot be permanently bestowed without his consent and grant.
  3. Clerks charged and accused of any matter, summoned by the king’s justice, shall come into his court to answer there to whatever it shall seem to the king’s court should be answered there; and in the church court to what it seems should be answered there; however the king’s justice shall send into the court of holy Church for the purpose of seeing how the matter shall be treated there. And if the clerk be convicted or confess, the church ought not to protect him further.
  4. It is not permitted the archbishops, bishops, and priests of the kingdom to leave the kingdom without the lord king’s permission. And if they do leave they are to give security, if the lord king please, that they will seek no evil or damage to king or kingdom in going, in making their stay, or in returning.
    1. Excommunicate persons ought not to give security for an indefinite time, or give an oath, but only security and pledge
    2. for submitting to the judgment of the church in order that they may be absolved.
  5. Laymen ought not to be accused save by dependable and lawful accusers and witnesses in the presence of the bishop, yet so that the archdeacon lose no this right or anything which he ought to have thence. And if there should be those who are deemed culpable, but whom no one wishes or dares to accuse, the sheriff, upon the bishop’s request, shall cause twelve lawful men of the neighborhood or the vill to take oath before the bishop that they will show the truth of the matter according to their conscience.
  6. No one who holds of the king in chief or any of the officials of his demesne is to be excommunicated or his lands placed under interdict unless the lord king, if he be in the land, or his justiciar, if he be outside the kingdom, first gives his consent, that he may do for him what is right: yet so that what pertains to the royal court be concluded there, and what looks to the church court be sent thither to be concluded there.
  7. As to appeals which may arise, they should pass from the archdeacon to the bishop, and from the bishop to the archbishop. And if the archbishop fail in furnishing justice, the matter should come to the lord king at the last, that at his command the litigation be concluded in the archbishop’s court; and so because it should not pass further without the lord king’s consent.
    1. If litigation arise between a clerk concerning any holding which the clerk would bring to charitable tenure but the layman to lay fee, it shall be determined on the decision of the king’s chief justice by the recognition of twelve lawful men in the presence of the king’s justice himself whether the holding pertain to charitable tenure or to lay fee. And if the recognition declare it to be charitable tenure, it shall be litigated in the
    2. church court, but if lay fee, unless both plead under the same bishop or baron, the litigation shall be in the royal court. But if both plead concerning that fief under the same bishop or baron, it shall be litigated in his court; yet so that he who was first seised lose not his seisin on account of the recognition that was made, until the matter be determined by the plea.
  8. If anyone who is of a city, castle, borough, or demesne manor of the king shall be cited by archdeacon or bishop for any offense for which he ought to be held answerable to them and despite their summonses he refuse to do what is right, it is fully permissible to place him under interdict, but he ought not to be excommunicated before the king’s chief official of that vill shall agree, in order that he may authoritatively constrain him to come to his trial. But if the king’s official fail in this, he himself shall be in the lord king’s mercy; and then the bishop shall be able to coerce the accused man by ecclesiastical authority.
  9. Archbishops, bishops, and all ecclesiastics of the kingdom who hold of the king in chief have their possessions of the lord king as barony and answer for them to the king’s justices and ministers and follow and do all royal rights and customs; and they ought, just like other barons, to be present at the judgments of the lord king’s court along with the barons, until it come in judgment to loss of limbs or death.
    1. When an archbishopric or bishopric, or an abbey or priory of the king’s demesne shall be vacant, it ought to be in his hands, and he shall assume its revenues and expenses as pertaining to his demesne. And when the time comes to provide for the church, the lord king should notify the more important clergy of the church, and the election should be held in the lord king’s own chapel with the assent of the lord king and on the advice of the clergy of the realm whom he has summoned for the purpose. And there, before he be consecrated, let the elect
    2. perform homage and fealty to the lord king as his liege lord for life, limbs, and earthly honor, saving his order.
  10. If any of the great men of the kingdom should forcibly prevent archbishop, bishop, or archdeacon from administering justice in which he or his men were concerned, then the lord king ought to bring such an one to justice. And if it should happen that any one deforce the lord king of his right, archbishops, bishops, and archdeacons ought to constrain him to make satisfaction to the lord king.
  11. Chattels which have been forfeited to the king are not to be held in churches or cemeteries against the king’s justice, because they belong to the king whether they be found inside churches or outside.
  12. Pleas concerning debts, which are owed on the basis of an oath or in connection with which no oath has been taken, are in the king’s justice.
  13. Sons of villeins should not be ordained without the consent of the lord on whose land it is ascertained they were born.

The declaration of the above-mentioned royal customs and dignities has been made by the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, and the nobler and older men of the kingdom, at Clarendon on the fourth day before the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lord Henry being present there with the lord king his father. There are, indeed, many other great customs and dignities of holy mother church and of the lord king and barons of the kingdom, which are not included in this writing, but which are to be preserved to holy church and to the lord king and his heirs and the barons of the kingdom, and are to be kept inviolate forever.

Albert Beebe White and Wallace Notestein, eds., Source Problems in English History (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1915), 370-375. Located on the Internet Archive: sourceproblemsin00whituoft#page/370 

3. The Magna Carta

One of the critical events in the development of English legal and governmental history occurred during the reign of King John (1199-1216). John was an ineffective king who began losing territory in France and subsequently raising revenues in England to try and reclaim them, but failed to do so. After a major invasion in 1214 failed to produce any result, many of John’s top nobles, called barons, in England rebelled against him, leading to the signing of the Magna Carta, which severely limited John’s powers as king and enhanced the power of the noble class. The selection below contains some of Magna Carta’s provisions.

John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, reeves, servants, and all bailiffs and his faithful people greeting. Know that by the inspiration of God and for the good of our soul and those of all our predecessors and of our heirs, to the honor of God and the exaltation of holy church, and the improvement of our kingdom, by the advice of our venerable fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman church, Henry, archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, and Benedict of Rochester, bishops; of Master Pandulf, sub-deacon and member of the household of the lord Pope, of Brother Aymeric, master of the Knights of the Temple in England; and of the noblemen William Marshall, earl of Pembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William, earl of Warren, William, earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway, constable of Scotland, Warren Fitz-Gerald, Peter Fitz-Herbert, Hubert de Burgh, steward of Poitou, Hugh de Nevil, Matthew Fitz-Herbert, Thomas Bassett, Alan Bassett, Philip d’ Albini, Robert de Roppelay, John Marshall, John Fitz-Hugh, and others of our faithful.

  1. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding from us in chief by military service shall have died, and when he has died his heir shall be of full age and owe relief, he shall have his inheritance by the ancient relief; that is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl for the whole barony of an earl a hundred pounds; the heir or heirs of a baron for a whole barony a hundred pounds; the heir or heirs of a knight for a whole knight’s fee a hundred shillings at most; and who owes less let him give less according to the ancient custom of fiefs.
  2. If moreover the heir of any one of such shall be under age, and shall be in wardship, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without relief and without a fine.
  3. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall have her marriage portion and her inheritance immediately and without obstruction, nor shall she give anything for her dowry or for her marriage portion, or for her inheritance, which inheritance her husband and she held on the day of the death of her husband; and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty days after his death, within which time her dowry shall be assigned to her.
  4. No widow shall be compelled to marry so long as she prefers to live without a husband, provided she gives security that she will not marry without our consent, if she holds from us, or without the consent of her lord from whom she holds, if she holds from another.

12. No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our kingdom except by the common council of our kingdom, except for the ransoming of our body, for the making of our oldest son a knight, and for once marrying our oldest daughter, and for these purposes it shall be only a reasonable aid; in the same way it shall be done concerning the aids of the city of London.

14. And for holding a common council of the kingdom concerning the assessment of an aid otherwise than in the three cases mentioned above, or concerning the assessment of a scutage, we shall cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons by our letters under seal; and besides we shall cause to be summoned generally, by our sheriffs and bailiffs all those who hold from us in chief, for a certain day, that is at the end of forty days at least, and for a certain place; and in all the letters of that summons, we will express the cause of the summons, and when the summons has thus been given the business shall proceed on the appointed day, on the advice of those who shall be present, even if not all of those who were summoned have come.

  1. A free man shall not be fined for a small offence, except in proportion to the measure of the offence; and for a great offence he shall be fined in proportion to the magnitude of the offence, saving his freehold; and a merchant in the same way, saving his merchandise; and the villain shall be fined in the same way, saving his wainage, if he shall be at our mercy ; and none of the above fines shall be imposed except by the oaths of honest men of the neighborhood.
  2. Earls and barons shall be fined only by their peers, and only in proportion to their offence.
  3. A clergyman shall be fined, like those before mentioned, only in proportion to his lay holding, and not according to the extent of his ecclesiastical benefice.
  4. No manor or man shall be compelled to make bridges over the rivers except those which ought to do it of old and rightfully.
  5. No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other bailiffs of ours shall hold pleas of our crown.
  6. All counties, hundreds, wapentakes, and tri things shall be at the ancient rents and without any increase, excepting our demesne manors.
  7. No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take anyone’s grain or other chattels, without immediately paying for them in money, unless he is able to obtain a postponement at the good will of the seller.
  8. No constable shall require any knight to give money in place of his ward of a castle if he is willing to furnish that ward in his own person or through another honest man, if he himself is not able to do it for a reasonable cause; and if we shall lead or send him into the army he shall be free from ward in proportion to the amount of time by which he has been in the army through us.
  9. No sheriff or bailiff of ours or anyone else shall take horses or wagons of any free man for carrying purposes except on the permission of that free man.
  10. Neither we nor our bailiffs will take the wood of another man for castles, or for anything else which we are doing, except by the permission of him to whom the wood belongs.
  11. We will not hold the lands of those convicted of a felony for more than a year and a day, after which the lands shall be returned to the lords of the fiefs.

61. Since, moreover, for the sake of God, and for the improvement of our kingdom, and for the better quieting of the hostility sprung up lately between us and our barons, we have made all these concessions; wishing them to enjoy these in a complete and firm stability forever, we make and concede to them the security described below; that is to say, that they shall elect twenty-five barons of the kingdom, whom they will, who ought with all their power to observe, hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties which we have conceded to them, and by this our present charter confirmed to them; in this manner, that if we or our justiciar, or our bailiffs, or any of our servants shall have done wrong in any way toward any one, or shall have transgressed any of the articles of peace or security; and the wrong shall have been shown to four barons of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, let those four barons come to us or to our justiciar, if we are out of the kingdom, laying before us the transgression, and let them ask that we cause that transgression to be corrected without delay. And if we shall not have corrected the transgression or, if we shall be out of the kingdom, if our justiciar shall not have corrected it within a period of forty days, counting from the time in which it has been shown to us or to our justiciar, if we are out of the kingdom; the aforesaid four barons shall refer the matter to the remainder of the twenty-five barons, and let these twenty-five barons with the whole community of the country distress and injure us in every way they can; that is to say by the seizure of our castles, lands, possessions, and in such other ways as they can until it shall have been corrected according to their judgment, saving our person and that of our queen, and those of our children; and when the correction has been made, let them devote themselves to us as they did before. And let whoever in the country wishes take an oath that in all the above-mentioned measures he will obey the orders of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, and that he will injure us as far as he is able with them, and we give permission to swear publicly and freely to each one who wishes to swear, and no one will we ever forbid to swear. All those, moreover, in the country who of themselves and their own will are unwilling to take an oath to the twenty-five barons as to distressing and injuring us along with them, we will compel to take the oath by our mandate, as before said. And if any one of the twenty-five barons shall have died or departed from the land or shall in any other way be prevented from taking the above mentioned action, let the remainder of the aforesaid twenty-five barons choose another in his place, according to their judgment, who shall take an oath in the same way as the others. In all those things, moreover, which are committed to those five and twenty barons to carry out, if perhaps the twenty-five are present, and some disagreement arises among them about some-thing, or if any of them when they have been summoned are not willing or are not able to be present, let that be considered valid and firm which the greater part of those who are present arrange or command, just as if the whole twenty-five had agreed in this; and let the aforesaid twenty-five swear that they will observe faithfully all the things which are said above, and with all their ability cause them to be observed. And we will obtain nothing from any one, either by ourselves or by another by which any of these concessions and liberties shall be revoked or diminished; and if any such thing shall have been obtained, let it be invalid and void, and we will never use it by ourselves or by another.

Edward P. Cheyney, ed., Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, vol. I no. 6 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, n.d.), 6-11, 15-16. Located on the Internet Archive: 

4. Edward I-Three Summonses to Parliament

Edward I ruled England from 1272 to 1307 and was one of England’s most accomplished kings. Reforms were made to the law, Wales was conquered and fortified, and victories were had over the Scots. In the realm of politics, Edward is credited with the first organized meeting of Parliament, a representative body of different elements of English society designed to give the king the finances he needed in return for certain concessions requested. The excerpts below are from the summonses Edward sent out calling for certain members of society to meet in the city of Westminster.

Summons of a Bishop to Parliament (1295)

The King to the venerable father in Christ Robert, by the same grace archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, greeting. As a most just law, established by the careful providence of sacred princes, exhorts and decrees that what affects all, by all should be approved, so also, very evidently should common danger be met by means provided in common. You know sufficiently well, and it is now, as we believe, divulged through all regions of the world, how the king of France fraudulently and craftily deprives us of our land of Gascony, by withholding it unjustly from us. Now, however, not satisfied with the before-mentioned fraud and injustice, having gathered together for the conquest of our kingdom a very great fleet, and an abounding multitude of warriors, with which he has made a hostile attack on our kingdom and the inhabitants of the same kingdom, he now proposes to destroy the English language altogether from the earth, if his power should correspond to the detestable proposition of the contemplated injustice, which God forbid. Because, therefore, darts seen beforehand do less injury, and your interest especially, as that of the rest of the citizens of the same realm, is concerned in this affair, we command you, strictly enjoining you in the fidelity and love in which you are bound to us, that on the Lord’s day next after the feast of St. Martin, in the approaching winter, you be present in person at Westminster; citing beforehand the dean and chapter of your church, the archdeacons and all the clergy of your diocese, causing the same dean and archdeacons in their own persons, and the said chapter by one suitable proctor, and the said clergy by two, to be present along with you, having full and sufficient power from the same chapter and clergy, to consider, ordain and provide, along with us and with the rest of the prelates and principal men and other inhabitants of our kingdom, how the dangers and threatened evils of this kind are to be met. Witness the king at Wangham, the thirtieth day of September.

Summons of a Baron to Parliament (1295)

The king to his beloved and faithful relative, Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, greeting. Because we wish to have a consultation and meeting with you and with the rest of the principal men of our kingdom, as to provision for remedies against the dangers which in these days are threatening our whole kingdom; we command you, strictly enjoining you in the fidelity and love in which you are bound to us, that on the Lord’s day next after the feast of St. Martin, in the approaching winter, you be present in person at Westminster, for considering, ordaining and doing along with us and with the prelates, and the rest of the principal men and other inhabitants of our kingdom, as may be necessary for meeting dangers of this kind.

Witness the king at Canterbury, the first of October.

Summons of Representatives of Shires and Towns to Parliament (1295)

The king to the sheriff of Northamptonshire. Since we intend to have a consultation and meeting with the earls, barons and other principal men of our kingdom with regard to providing remedies against the dangers which are in these days threatening the same kingdom; and on that account have commanded them to be with us on the Lord’s day next after the feast of St. Martin in the approaching winter, at Westminster, to consider, ordain, and do as may be necessary for the avoidance of these dangers; we strictly require you to cause two knights from the aforesaid county, two citizens from each city in the same county, and two burgesses from each borough, of those who are especially discreet and capable of laboring, to be elected without delay, and to cause them to come to us at the aforesaid said time and place.

Moreover, the said knights are to have full and sufficient power for themselves and for the community of the aforesaid county, and the said citizens and burgesses for themselves and the communities of the aforesaid cities and boroughs separately, then and there for doing what shall then be ordained according to the common counsel in the premises; so that the aforesaid business shall not remain unfinished in any way for defect of this power. And you shall have there the names of the knights, citizens and burgesses and this writ.

Witness the king at Canterbury on the third day of October.

Edward P. Cheyney, ed., Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, vol. 1, no. 6 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, n.d.), 33-35. Located on the Internet Archive: 

5. Edward I-Statute of Mortmain

The Statutes of Mortmain were a pair of documents issued by Edward I in 1279 and 1290. The first document is presented below. The documents are Edward’s attempt to increase his revenues and reassert control over the church.

The king to his Justices of the Bench, greeting. Where as of late it was provided that religious men should not enter into the fees of any without the will and licence of the lords in chief of whom these fees are held immediately; and such religious men have, notwithstanding, later entered as well into their own fees as into those of others, appropriated, them to themselves, and buying them, and sometimes receiving them from the gift of others, whereby the services which are due of such fees, and which at the beginning, were provided for the defence of the realm, are unduly withdrawn, and the lords in chief do lose their escheats of the same; we, therefore, to the profit of our realm, wishing to provide a fit remedy in this matter, by advice of our prelates, counts and other subjects of our realm who are of our council, have provided, established, and ordained, that no person, religious or other, whatsoever presume to buy or sell any lands or tenements, or under colour of gift or lease, or of any other term or title whatever to receive them from any one, or in any other craft or by wile to appropriate them to himself, whereby such lands and tenements may come into mortmain under pain of forfeiture of the same. We have provided also that if any person, religious or other, do presume either by craft or wile to offend against this statute it shall be lawful for us and for other immediate lords in chief of the fee so alienated, to enter it within a year from the time of such alienation and to hold it in fee as an inheritance. And if the immediate lord in chief shall -be negligent and be not willing to enter into such fee within the year, then it shall be lawful for the next mediate lord in chief, within the half year following, to enter that fee and to hold it, as has been said; and thus each mediate lord may do if the next lord be negligent in entering such fee as as been said. And if all such chief lords of such fee, who shall be of full age, and within the four seas and out of prison, shall be for one year negligent or remiss in this matter, we, straightway after the year is completed from the time when such purchases, gifts, or appropriations of another kind happen to have been made, shall take such lands and tenements into our hand, and shall enfief others therein by certain services to be rendered thence to us for the defence of our kingdom; saving to the lords in chief of the same fees their wards, escheats and other things which pertain to them, and the services therefrom due and accustomed. And therefore we command you to cause the aforesaid statute to be read before you, and from henceforth firmly kept and observed. Witness myself at Westminster, the 15th day of November, the 7th year of our reign.

Ernest P. Henderson, ed. and trans., Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages (London: George Bell and Sons, 1896), 148-149. Located on the Internet Archive: 

6. Documents of the Investiture Controversy-Decree Forbidding Lay Investitures

In the late 11th century Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV, King of the Germans became mired in a dispute over who could appoint religious officials. The Investiture Controversy, as it became known, was also a power struggle between the Catholic Church and secular kings. It would become a seminal moment for the Catholic Church, as the controversy would mark the beginning of the church’s rise to prominence in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Decree of Pope Gregory VII March 7th, 1080:

Following the statutes of the holy fathers, as, in the former councils which by the mercy of God we have held, we decreed concerning the ordering of ecclesiastical dignities, so also now we decree and confirm: that, if any one henceforth shall receive a bishopric or abbey from the hand of any lay person, he shall by no means be considered as among the number of the bishops or abbots; nor shall any hearing be granted him as bishop or abbot. Moreover we further deny to him the favor of St. Peter and the entry of the church, until, coming to his senses, he shall desert the place that he has taken by the crime of ambition as well as by that of disobedience—which is the sin of idolatry. In like manner also we decree concerning the inferior ecclesiastical dignities.

Likewise if any emperor, king, duke, margrave, count, or any one at all of the secular powers or persons, shall presume to perform the investiture with bishoprics or with any ecclesiastical dignity,—he shall know that he is bound by the bonds of the same condemnation. And, moreover, unless he come to his senses and relinquish to the church her own prerogative, he shall feel, in this present life, the divine displeasure as well with regard to his body as to his other belongings: in order that, at the coming of the Lord, his soul may be saved.

The Dictate of the Pope.

That the Roman church was founded by God alone,

That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal.

That he alone can depose or reinstate bishops.

That, in a council, his legate, even if a lower grade, is above all bishops, and can pass sentence of deposition against them.

That the pope may depose the absent.

That, among other things, we ought not to remain in the same house with those excommunicated by him.

That for him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.

That he alone may use the imperial insignia.

That of the pope alone all princes shall kiss the feet.

That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches.

That this is the only name in the world.

That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors.

That he may be permitted to transfer bishops if need be.

That he has power to ordain a clerk of any church he may wish.

That he who is ordained by him many preside over another church, but may not hold a subordinate position; and that such a one may not receive a higher grade from any bishop.

That no synod shall be called a general one without his order.

That no chapter and no book shall be considered canonical without his authority.

That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he himself, alone of all, may retract it.

That he himself may be judged by no one.

That no one shall dare to condemn one who appeals to the apostolic chair.

That to the latter should be referred the more important cases of every church.

That the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness.

That the Roman pontiff, if he have been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter; St. Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, bearing witness, and many holy fathers agreeing with him. As is contained in the decrees of St. Symmachus the pope.

That, by his command and consent, it may be lawful for subordinates to bring accusations.

That he may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a synod.

That he who is not at peace with the Roman church shall not be considered catholic.

That he may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked.

Henry IV.’s Answer to Gregory VII., Jan. 24, 1076.

Henry, king not through usurpation but through the holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk. Such greeting as this hast thou merited through thy disturbances, inasmuch as there is no grade in the church which thou hast omitted to make a partaker not of honour but of confusion, not of benediction but of malediction. For, to mention few and especial cases out of many, not only hast thou not feared to lay hands upon the rulers of the holy church, the anointed of the Lord-the archbishops, namely, bishops and priests-but thou hast trodden them under foot like slaves ignorant of what their master is doing. Thou hast won favour from the common herd by crushing them; thou hast looked upon all of them as knowing nothing, upon thy sole self, moreover, as knowing all things. This knowledge, however, thou hast used not for edification but for destruction; so that with reason we believe that St. Gregory, whose name thou hast usurped for thyself, was prophesying concerning thee when he said: “The pride of him who is in power increases the more, the greater the number of those subject to him; and he thinks that he himself can do more than all.” And we, indeed, have endured all this, being eager to guard the honour of the apostolic see; thou, however, hast understood our humility to be fear, and hast not, accordingly, shunned to rise up against the royal power conferred upon us by God, daring to threaten to divest us of it. As if we had received our kingdom from thee! As if the kingdom and the empire were in thine and not in God’s hand! And this although our Lord Jesus Christ did call us to the kingdom, did not, however, call thee to the priesthood. For thou hast ascended by the following steps. By wiles, namely, which the profession of monk abhors, thou hast achieved money; by money, favour; by the sword, the throne of peace. And from the throne of peace thou hast disturbed peace, inasmuch as thou hast armed subjects against those in authority over them; inasmuch as thou, who wert not called, hast taught that our bishops called of God are to be despised; inasmuch as thou hast usurped for laymen the ministry over their priests, allowing them to depose or condemn those whom they themselves had received as teachers from the hand of God through the laying on of hands of the bishops. On me also who, although unworthy to be among the anointed, have nevertheless been anointed to the kingdom, thou hast lain thy hand; me who-as the tradition of the holy Fathers teaches, declaring that I am not to be deposed for any crime unless; which God forbid, I should have strayed from the faith-am subject to the judgment oil God alone. For the wisdom of the holy fathers committed even Julian the apostate not to themselves, but to God alone, to be judged and to be deposed. For himself the “true pope, Peter, also exclaims: “Fear God, honour the king.” But thou who dost not fear God, dost dishonour in me his appointed one. Wherefore St. Paul, when lie has not spared an angel of Heaven if he shall have preached otherwise, has not excepted thee also who dost teach otherwise upon earth. For he says: “If any one, either I or an angel from Heaven, should preach a gospel other than that which has been preached to you, he shall be damned. Thou, therefore, damned by this curse and by the judgment of all our bishops and by our own, descend and relinquish the apostolic chair which thou hast usurped. Let another ascend the throne of St. Peter, who shall not practise violence under the cloak of religion, but shall teach the sound doctrine of St. Peter. I Henry, king by the grace of God, do say unto thee, together with all our bishops: Descend, descend, to be damned throughout the ages.

First Deposition and Banning of Henry IV by Gregory VII., February 22, 1076.

O St. Peter, chief of the apostles, incline to us, I beg, thy holy ears, and hear me thy servant whom thou hast nourished from infancy, and whom, until this day, thou hast freed from the hand of the wicked, who have hated and do hate me for my faithfulness to thee. Thou, and my mistress the mother of God, and thy brother St. Paul are witnesses for me among all the saints that thy holy Roman church drew me to its helm against my will; that I had no thought of ascending thy chair through force, and that I would rather have ended my life as a pilgrim than, by secular means, to have seized thy throne for the sake of earthly glory. And therefore I believe it to be through thy grace and not through my own deeds that it has pleased and does please thee that the Christian people, who have been especially committed to thee, should obey me. And especially to me, as thy representative and by thy favour, has the power been granted by God of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth. On the strength of this belief therefore, for the honour and security of thy church, in the name of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I withdraw, through thy power and authority, from Henry the king, son of Henry the emperor, who has risen against thy church with unheard of insolence, the rule over the whole kingdom of the Germans and over Italy. And I absolve all Christians from the bonds of the oath which they have made or shall make to him; and I forbid anyone to serve him as king. For it is fitting that he who strives to lessen the honour of thy church should himself lose the honour which belongs to him. And since he has scorned to obey as a Christian, and has not returned to God whom he had deserted – holding intercourse with the excommunicated; practising manifold iniquities; spurning my commands which, as thou dost bear witness, I issued to him for his own salvation; separating himself from thy church and striving to rend it – I bind him in thy stead with the chain of the anathema. And, leaning on thee, I so bind him that the people may know and have proof that thou art Peter, and above thy rock the Son of the living God hath built His church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

Ernest F. Henderson, ed. and trans., Select Historical Document of the Middle Ages (London: George Bell and Sons, 1907), 365-367, 372-373, 376-377. Located on the Internet Archive: 

7. Innocent III-Letters on Papal Policies

The height of papal power during the Middle Ages was during the time of Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216). Innocent approved the creation of new monastic orders such as the Franciscans, launched a series of crusades within and outside of Europe, and asserted his authority over secular rulers. The excerpts below come from a series of letters Innocent composed during his reign, explaining his positions on various subjects from the relationship between the church and state to the crusades to the Jewish populations of Europe.

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8. Bernard Gui-On the Albigensians

Bernard Gui was for a time a French bishop and a member of the Dominican monastic order. He took part in the medieval Inquisition against the Albigensians, also known as the Cathars, in France. The Albigensians were considered heretics in the eyes of the Catholic Church for maintaining beliefs that were different from official doctrine. In the excerpt below Gui discusses how the Albigensians viewed themselves and summarizes some of the beliefs they held which the church felt were problematic.

It would take too long to describe in detail the manner in which these same Manichaean heretics preach and teach their followers, but it must be briefly considered here.

In the first place, they usually say of themselves that they are good Christians, who do not swear, or lie, or speak evil of others; that they do not kill any man or animal, nor anything having the breath of life, and that they hold the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel as the apostles taught. They assert that they occupy the place of the apostles, and that, on account of the above-mentioned things, they of the Roman Church, namely the prelates, clerks, and monks, and especially the inquisitors of heresy persecute them and call them heretics, although they are good men and good Christians, and that they are persecuted just as Christ and his apostles were by the Pharisees.

Moreover they talk to the laity of the evil lives of the clerks and prelates of the Roman Church, pointing out and setting forth their pride, cupidity, avarice, and uncleanness of life, and such other evils as they know. They invoke with their own interpretation and according to their abilities the authority of the Gospels and the Epistles against the condition of the prelates, churchmen, and monks, whom they call Pharisees and false prophets, who say, but do no.

Then they attack and vituperate, in turn, all the sacraments of the Church, especially the sacrament of the eucharist, saying that it cannot contain the body of Christ, for had this been as great as the largest mountain Christians would have entirely consumed it before this. They assert that the host comes from straw, that it passes through the tails of horses, to wit, when the flour is cleaned by a sieve (of horse hair); that, moreover, it passes through the body and comes to a vile end, which, they say, could not happen if God were in it.

Of baptism, they assert that the water is material and corruptible and is therefore the creation of the evil power, and cannot sanctify the soul, but that the churchmen sell this water out of avarice, just as they sell earth for the burial of the dead, and oil to the sick when they anoint them, and as: they sell the confession of sins as made to the priests.

Hence they claim that confession made to the priests of, the Roman Church is useless, and that, since the priests may be sinners, they cannot loose nor bind, and, being unclean in themselves, cannot make others clean. They assert, moreover, that the cross of Christ should not be adored or venerated, because, as they urge, no one would venerate or adore the gallows upon which a father, relative, or friend had been hung. They urge, further, that they who adore the cross ought, for similar reasons, to worship all thorns and lances, because as Christ’s body was on the cross during the passion, so was the crown of thorns on his head and the soldier’s lance in his side, they proclaim many other scandalous things in regard to the sacraments.

Moreover they read from the Gospels and the Epistles in the vulgar tongue, applying and expounding them in their favor and against the condition of the Roman Church in a manner which it would take too long to describe in detail; but all that relates to this subject may be read more fully in the books they have written and infected, and may be learned from the confessions of such of their followers as have been converted.

James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History, vol. I (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1904), 381-383. Located on the Internet Archive:

9. Bernard Gui-Inquisitorial Technique 

The selection presented below comes from the medieval inquisitor Bernard Gui. In the excerpt Gui presents a fictional interrogation of an Albigensian heretic as an example for other interrogators on the proper way to conduct an inquisition and how to handle the ways the heretics would try to get out of admitting their guilt. Pay close attention to the back and forth between the inquisitor, denoted with an “I” and the accused heretic, denoted with an “A.”

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

I. You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

A. (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

I. You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

A. I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

I. Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

A. I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

I. I know your tricks. What the members of your sect believe you hold to be that which a Christian should believe. But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

A. I believe.

I. Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

A. (Briskly) I believe.

I. Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

A. Ought I not to believe this?

I. I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

A. I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

I. Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

A. I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

I. You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

A. (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

I. I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

A. And you, sir, do you not believe it?

I. I believe it wholly.

A. I believe likewise.

I. You believe that I believe it, which is not what I ask, but whether you believe it.

A. If you wish to interpret all that I say otherwise than simply and plainly, then I don’t know what to say. I am a simple and ignorant man. Pray don’t catch me in my words.

I. If you are simple, answer simply, without evasions.

A. Willingly.

I. Will you then swear that you have never learned anything contrary to the faith which we hold to be true?

A. (Growing pale) If I ought to swear, I will willingly swear.

I. I don’t ask whether you ought, but whether you will swear.

A. If you order me to swear, I will swear.

I. I don’t force you to swear, because as you believe oaths to be unlawful, you will transfer the sin to me who forced you; but if you will swear, I will hear it.

A. Why should I swear if you do not order me to?

I. So that you may remove the suspicion of being a heretic.

A. Sir, I do not know how unless you teach me.

I. If I had to swear, I would raise my hand and spread my fingers and say, “So help me God, I have never learned heresy or believed what is contrary to the true faith.”

Then trembling as if he cannot repeat the form, he will stumble along as though speaking for himself or for another, so that there is not an absolute form of oath and yet he may be thought to have sworn. If the words are there, they are so turned around that he does not swear and yet appears to have sworn. Or he converts the oath into a form of prayer, as “God help me that I am not a heretic or the like”; and when asked whether he had sworn, he will say: “Did you not hear me swear?” [And when further hard pressed he will appeal, saying] “Sir, if I have done amiss in aught, I will willingly bear the penance, only help me to avoid the infamy of which I am accused though malice and without fault of mine.” But a vigorous inquisitor must not allow himself to be worked upon in this way, but proceed firmly till he make these people confess their error, or at least publicly abjure heresy, so that if they are subsequently found to have sworn falsely, he can without further hearing, abandon them to the secular arm”.

Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, vol. I (London: MacMillan, 1906), 411-414. Located on the Internet Archive:

10. Robert the Monk-Urban II’s Speech at Clermont

Robert the Monk is usually identified as a prior of a monastic commune called Senuc in northern France and a former abbot of Saint-Remi, a cathedral in Reims, France, although there is some uncertainty regarding his identity. Also uncertain is the exact date of the work excerpted below. The text is a transcription of a speech given by Pope Urban II calling for a crusade against the Muslims in the Holy Land at the Council of Clermont in 1095. Robert claims to have been at the Council, and was therefore an eye-witness, but didn’t put what he saw to paper until over a decade later. Other sources, however, have corroborated the content of the speech, in which the Pope lays out recent events in cities like Jerusalem and encourages French knights to take up the religious cause to free the Holy Land.

Oh, race of Franks, race from across the mountains, race chosen and beloved by God-as shines forth in very many of your works-set apart from all nations by the situation of your country, as well as by your catholic faith and the honor of the holy church! To you our discourse is addressed and for you our exhortation is intended. We wish you to know what a grievous cause has led us to Your country, what peril threatening you and all the faithful has brought us.

From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them and deprived of territory so vast in extent that it cannot be traversed in a march of two months. On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you? You, upon whom above other nations God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the hairy scalp of those who resist you.

Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements; the glory and greatness of king Charles the Great, and of his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory of the holy church. Let the holy sepulchre of the Lord our Saviour, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with their filthiness. Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors.

But if you are hindered by love of children, parents and wives, remember what the Lord says in the Gospel, “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.” Let none of your possessions detain you, no solicitude for your family affairs, since this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage war, and that frequently you perish by mutual wounds. Let therefore hatred depart from among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and controversies slumber. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves. That land which as the Scripture says “floweth with milk and honey,” was given by God into the possession of the children of Israel Jerusalem is the navel of the world; the land is fruitful above others, like another paradise of delights. This the Redeemer of the human race has made illustrious by His advent, has beautified by residence, has consecrated by suffering, has redeemed by death, has glorified by burial. This royal city, therefore, situated at the centre of the world, is now held captive by His enemies, and is in subjection to those who do not know God, to the worship of the heathens.

She seeks therefore and desires to be liberated, and does not cease to implore you to come to her aid. From you especially she asks succor, because, as we have already said, God has conferred upon you above all nations great glory in arms. Accordingly undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the kingdom of heaven.

When Pope Urban had said these and very many similar things in his urbane discourse, he so influenced to one purpose the desires of all who were present, that they cried out, “It is the will of God! It is the will of God!” When the venerable Roman pontiff heard that, with eyes uplifted to heaven he gave thanks to God and, with his hand commanding silence, said:

Most beloved brethren, today is manifest in you what the Lord says in the Gospel, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” Unless the Lord God had been present in your spirits, all of you would not have uttered the same cry. For, although the cry issued from numerous mouths, yet the origin of the cry was one. Therefore I say to you that God, who implanted this in your breasts, has drawn it forth from you. Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God!

And we do not command or advise that the old or feeble, or those unfit for bearing arms, undertake this journey; nor ought women to set out at all, without their husbands or brothers or legal guardians. For such are more of a hindrance than aid, more of a burden than advantage. Let the rich aid the needy; and according to their wealth, let them take with them experienced soldiers. The priests and clerks of any order are not to go without the consent of their bishop; for this journey would profit them nothing if they went without permission of these. Also, it is not fitting that laymen should enter upon the pilgrimage without the blessing of their priests.

Whoever, therefore, shall determine upon this holy pilgrimage and shall make his vow to God to that effect and shall offer himself to Him as a, living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, shall wear the sign of the cross of the Lord on his forehead or on his breast. When,’ truly’, having fulfilled his vow be wishes to return, let him place the cross on his back between his shoulders. Such, indeed, by the twofold action will fulfill the precept of the Lord, as He commands in the Gospel, “He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

Dana Carleton Munro, ed., Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, vol. I, no. 2 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, n.d.), 5-8. Located on the Internet Archive:

11. Richard I Makes Peace with Saladin

The Itinerarium Regis Ricardi is a Latin chronicle of the Third Crusade, which lasted from 1189-1192, and featured some of the most prestigious rulers of Europe, such as the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Richard I of England, one of the central figures in the excerpt below. Here, Richard makes an agreement with the Muslim general and sultan Saladin regarding the city of Jerusalem as well as other territories in order to end the crusade.

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Western Civilization-An Open Source Book by Ryan P. Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.