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Excerpts from Magna Carta

JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting….

KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom…

TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:

  • If any earl, baron, or other person that holds lands directly of the Crown, for military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age and owe a `relief’, the heir shall have his inheritance on payment of the ancient scale of `relief’. That is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl shall pay £100 for the entire earl’s barony, the heir or heirs of a knight l00s. at most for the entire knight’s `fee’, and any man that owes less shall pay less, in accordance with the ancient usage of `fees’
  • Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt. A debtor’s sureties shall not be distrained upon so long as the debtor himself can discharge his debt. If, for lack of means, the debtor is unable to discharge his debt, his sureties shall be answerable for it. If they so desire, they may have the debtor’s lands and rents until they have received satisfaction for the debt that they paid for him, unless the debtor can show that he has settled his obligations to them.
  • No `scutage’ or `aid’ may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable `aid’ may be levied. `Aids’ from the city of London are to be treated similarly.
  • Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.
  • No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent.
  • Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.
  • No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
  • All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.

The Rules of Love, Andreas Capellanus

  1. Marriage is no excuse for not loving.
  2. He who is not jealous can not love.
  3. No one can be bound by two loves.
  4. Love is always growing or diminishing.
  5. It is not good for one lover to take anything against the will of the other.
  6. A male cannot love until he has fully reached puberty.
  7. Two years of mourning for a dead lover are prescribed for surviving lovers.
  8. No one should be deprived of love without a valid reason.
  9. No one can love who is not driven to do so by the power of love.
  10. Love always departs from the dwelling place of avarice.
  11. It is not proper to love one whom one would be ashamed to marry.
  12. The true lover never desires the embraces of any save his lover.
  13. Love rarely lasts when it is revealed.
  14. An easy attainment makes love contemptible; a difficult one
  15. makes it more dear.
  16. Every lover turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
  17. When a lover suddenly has sight of his beloved, his heart beats wildly.
  18. A new love expels an old one.
  19. Moral integrity alone makes one worthy of love.
  20. If love diminishes, it quickly leaves and rarely revives.
  21. A lover is always fearful.
  22. True jealousy always increases the effects of love.
  23. If a lover suspects another, jealousy and the effects of love increase.
  24. He who is vexed by the thoughts of love eats little and seldom sleeps.
  25. Every action of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.
  26. The true lover believes only that which he thinks will please his beloved.
  27. Love can deny nothing to love.
  28. A lover can never have enough of the embraces of his beloved.
  29. The slightest suspicion incites the lover to suspect the worse of his beloved.
  30. He who suffers from an excess of passion is not suited to love.
  31. The true lover is continuously obsessed with the image of his beloved.
  32. Nothing prevents a woman from being loved by two men, or a man from being loved by two women.

Excerpted from  Andreas Capellanus. On Love, ed. with an English trans. by P.G. Walsh, London, 1982 [PA 8250.A236 D413 1982] via The Geoffrey Chaucer Page.

 

The Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas

Question 2: Concerning God, whether God exists

As to this question, there are three points of inquiry:

1. Whether God’s existence is self-evident

2. Whether it can be demonstrated

3. Whether God exists.
Article 1: Whether God’s existence is self-evident.

Thus we proceed to the first point. It seems that God’s existence is self-evident, for those things are said by us to be self-evident the knowledge of which is naturally within us, as is the case with first principles. But, as John of Damascus says, “The knowledge of God’s existence is naturally implanted in all things.” Therefore God’s existence is self-evident.

Furthermore, those things are said to be self-evident the truth of which is obvious once the meaning of the words is clear. For example, when we understand the means of the words “whole” and “part,” we immediately realize that every whole is greater than its part. Once we understand the meaning of the word “God,” however, it immediately follows that God exists. The words itself signifies “that being a greater than which cannot be signified.” That which exists in fact and in the mind is greater than that which exists in the mind alone. Thus, since the moment we understand the meaning of the word “God” he exists in our minds, it follows that he must also exist in fact. Thus God’s existence is self- evident.

Furthermore, it is self-evident that truth exists, for whoever denies the existence of truth simultaneously concedes its existence. If truth does not exist, then it is true that truth does not exist; yet if something is true, then truth exists. God, however, is truth itself. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Therefore God’s existence is self-evident.

But on the contrary, no one can think the opposite of what is self-evident, as Aristotle remarks. One can, however, think the opposite of the proposition “God exists,” for, as the Psalm says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.” (Ps. 13:1, 52:1). Thus it is not self-evident that God exists.

Response: It must be said that a thing can be called “self-evident” in two- ways, in itself and in relation to us. A proposition is self-evident when its predicate is included in the definition of its subject. For example, in the proposition “man is an animal,” the idea of “animal” is included in the definition of “man.” Thus if everyone knows the definitions of both subject and predicate, the proposition will be self-evident to all, as is the case with the first principles of demonstration, the terms of which are so common that no one is ignorant of them, such as “being” and “nonbeing,” “whole” and “part,” etc. If, the proposition may be self-evident in itself, but not to them. Thus it happens, as Boethius says, that some things are common conceptions of the mind” and are self-evident “among the learned only, such as that incorporeal beings do not occupy a place.”

I say, therefore, that this proposition, “God exists,” is self-evident in itself, since the predicate is the same as the subject. For God is his own existence, as will be seen later. Nevertheless, because we do not know what is involved in being God, the proposition is not self-evident to us, but needs to be demonstrated through those things that are more evident to us though less evident to themselves, namely God’s effects.

To the first argument, therefore, it must be said that a general and confused knowledge of God’s existence is naturally infused within us, for God is man’s beatitude and man naturally desires beatitude. What man naturally desires he naturally knows. This is not to know God’s existence specifically, however. It is one thing to know that someone is approaching and quite another to know that Peter is approaching, even though that someone may actually be Peter. Many people think that the perfect good of man called “beatitude” is wealth, some imagine it to be pleasure, and so on.

To the second argument it must be said that he who hears the name “God” may perhaps not know that it signifies “something greater than which cannot be conceived,” since some people have thought of God as a body. Granting, however, that someone should think of God in this way, namely as “that being a greater than which cannot be conceived, “it does not follow on this account that the person must understand what is signified to exist in the world of fact, but only in the mind. Nor can one argue that it exists in fact unless one grants that there actually exists in fact something a greater than which cannot be conceived. It is, however, precisely this assertion the atheist denies.

To the third, it must be said that the existence of truth in general is self- evident to us, but it is not self-evident that this particular being is the primal truth.

Article 2: Whether God’s existence is demonstrable.

We proceed thus to the second point. It seems that God’s existence is not demonstrable, for it is an article of faith. What is a matter of faith cannot be demonstrable, for demonstration allows one to know, whereas faith, as Paul says, is in “things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Therefore God’s existence is not demonstrable.
Furthermore, the central link in any demonstration is a definition; yet we cannot know what God is, but only what he is not, as John of Damascus says. Therefore we cannot demonstrate God’s existence.

Furthermore, if God’s existence were demonstrable, this could only be through his effects; yet his effects are not proportionate to him, for he is infinite, his effects are infinite, and there is no proportion between the two. Therefore, since a cause cannot be demonstrated through an effect which is not proportioned to it, it seems that God’s existence cannot be demonstrated.

But on the contrary Paul says, “The invisible things of God are understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20). Such could not be the case unless God’s existence could be demonstrated by the things that are made, for the first thing to be understood about a thing is whether it exists.

Response: It must be said that there are two types of demonstration. One is through the cause, is called a demonstration propter quid, and argues from what is prior in an absolute sense. The other is through the effect, is called a demonstration quia, and argues from what is prior according to our perspectives; for when an effect is better known to us than its cause, we proceed from the effect to knowledge of the cause. In situations where the effect is better know to us than the cause, the existence of the cause can be demonstrated form that of the effect, since the effect depends on the cause and can only exist if the cause already does so. Thus God’s existence, though not self-evident to us, can be demonstrated through his effects.

To the first argument, therefore, it must be said that God’s existence and other things about him which (as Paul says) can be known by natural reason are not articles of faith but preambles to the articles of faith. For faith presupposes natural knowledge just as grace presupposes nature and perfection presupposes something which can be perfected. Nothing prohibits what is demonstrable and knowable in itself from being accepted on faith by someone who does not understand the demonstration.

To the second it must be said that, when a cause is demonstrated through its effect, the effect substitutes for the definition of the cause within the demonstration. This is particularly true in arguments concerning God. When we prove that something exists, the middle term in the demonstration is what we are taking the word to mean for purposes of the demonstration, not what the thing signified by the word actually is (since the latter, the actual nature of the thing in question, is determined only after we determine that it exists). In demonstrating that God exists, we can take as our middle term definition of what this word “God” means for us, for, as we shall see, the words we use in connection with God are derived from his effects.

To the third, it must be said that perfect knowledge of a cause cannot be derived from an effect that is not proportionate to the cause. Nevertheless, the existence of the cause can be demonstrated clearly from the existence of the effects, even though we cannot know the cause perfectly according to its essence.

Article 3: Whether God exists.

Thus we proceed to the third point. It seems that God does not exist, for if one of two contrary things were infinite, its opposite would be completely destroyed. By “God,” however, we mean some infinite good. Therefore, if God existed evil would not. Evil does exist in the world, however. Therefore God does not exist.

Furthermore, one should not needlessly multiply elements in an explanation. It seems that we can account for everything we see in this world on the assumption that God does not exist. All natural effects can be traced to natural causes, and all contrived effects can be traced to human reason and will. Thus there is no need to suppose that God exists.

But on the contrary God says, “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14).

Response: It must be said that God’s existence can be proved in five ways. The first and most obvious way is based on the existence of motion. It is certain and in fact evident to our senses that some things in the world are moved. Everything that is moved, however, is moved by something else, for a thing cannot be moved unless that movement is potentially within it. A thing moves something else insofar as it actually exists, for to move something is simply to actualize what is potentially within that thing. Something can be led thus from potentiality to actuality only by something else which is already actualized. For example, a fire, which is actually hot, causes the change or motion whereby wood, which is potentially hot, becomes actually hot. Now it is impossible that something should be potentially and actually the same thing at the same time, although it could be potentially and actually different things. For example, what is actually hot cannot at the same moment be actually cold, although it can be actually hot and potentially cold. Therefore it is impossible that a thing could move itself, for that would involve simultaneously moving and being moved in the same respect. Thus whatever is moved must be moved by something, else, etc. This cannot go on to infinity, however, for if it did there would be no first mover and consequently no other movers, because these other movers are such only insofar as they are moved by a first mover. For example, a stick moves only because it is moved by the hand. Thus it is necessary to proceed back to some prime mover which is moved by nothing else, and this is what everyone means by “God.”

The second way is based on the existence of efficient causality. We see in the world around us that there is an order of efficient causes. Nor is it ever found (in fact it is impossible) that something is its own efficient cause. If it were, it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Nevertheless, the order of efficient causes cannot proceed to infinity, for in any such order the first is cause of the middle (whether one or many) and the middle of the last. Without the cause, the effect does not follow. Thus, if the first cause did not exist, neither would the middle and last causes in the sequence. If, however, there were an infinite regression of efficient causes, there would be no first efficient cause and therefore no middle causes or final effects, which is obviously not the case. Thus it is necessary to posit some first efficient cause, which everyone calls “God.”

The third way is based on possibility and necessity. We find that some things can either exist or not exist, for we find them springing up and then disappearing, thus sometimes existing and sometimes not. It is impossible, however, that everything should be such, for what can possibly not exist does not do so at some time. If it is possible for every particular thing not to exist, there must have been a time when nothing at all existed. If this were true, however, then nothing would exist now, for something that does not exist can begin to do so only through something that already exists. If, therefore, there had been a time when nothing existed, then nothing could ever have begun to exist, and thus there would be nothing now, which is clearly false. Therefore all beings cannot be merely possible. There must be one being which is necessary. Any necessary being, however, either has or does not have something else as the cause of its necessity. If the former, then there cannot be an infinite series of such causes, any more than there can be an infinite series of efficient causes, as we have seen. Thus we must to posit the existence of something which is necessary and owes its necessity to no cause outside itself. That is what everyone calls “God.”

The fourth way is based on the gradations found in things. We find that things are more or less good, true, noble, etc.; yet when we apply terms like “more” and “less” to things we imply that they are closer to or farther from some maximum. For example, a thing is said to be hotter than something else because it comes closer to that which is hottest. Therefore something exists which is truest, greatest, noblest, and consequently most fully in being; for, as Aristotle says, the truest things are most fully in being. That which is considered greatest in any genus is the cause of everything is that genus, just as fire, the hottest thing, is the cause of all hot things, as Aristotle says. Thus there is something which is the cause of being, goodness, and every other perfection in all things, and we call that something “God.”

The fifth way is based on the governance of things. We see that some things lacking cognition, such as natural bodies, work toward an end, as is seen from the fact hat they always (or at least usually) act the same way and not accidentally, but by design. Things without knowledge tend toward a goal, however, only if they are guided in that direction by some knowing, understanding being, as is the case with an arrow and archer. Therefore, there is some intelligent being by whom all natural things are ordered to their end, and we call this being “God.”

To the first argument, therefore, it must be said that, as Augustine remarks, “since God is the supreme good he would permit no evil in his works unless he were so omnipotent and good that he could produce good even out of evil.”

To the second, it must be said that, since nature works according to a determined end through the direction of some superior agent, whatever is done by nature must be traced back to God as its first cause. in the same way, those things which are done intentionally must be traced back to a higher cause which is neither reason nor human will, for these can change and cease to exist and, as we have seen, all such things must be traced back to some first principle which is unchangeable and necessary, as has been shown.

The Rule of St. Benedict

Prologue

… We are about to found therefore a school for the Lord’s service; in the organization of which we trust that we shall ordain nothing severe and nothing burdensome. But even if, the demands of justice dictating it, something a little irksome shall be the result, for the purpose of amending vices or preserving charity; – thou shalt not therefore, struck by fear, flee the way of salvation, which can not be entered upon except through a narrow entrance. But as one’s way of life and one’s faith progresses, the heart becomes broadened, and, with the unutterable sweetness of love, the way of the mandates of the Lord is traversed. Thus, never departing from His guidance, continuing in the monastery in his teaching until death, through patience we are made partakers in Christ’s passion, in order that we may merit to be companions in His kingdom.

1. Concerning the Kinds of Monks and Their Manner of Living.

It is manifest that there are four kinds of monks. The cenobites are the first kind; that is, those living in a monastery, serving under a rule or an abbot. Then the second kind is that of the anchorites; that is, the hermits-those who, not by the new fervour of a conversion but by the long probation of life in a monastery, have learned to fight against the devil, having already been taught by the solace of many. They, having been well prepared in the army of brothers for the solitary fight of the hermit, being secure now without the consolation of another, are able, God helping them, to fight with their own hand or arm against the vices of the flesh or of their thoughts.

But a third very bad kind of monks are the sarabaites, approved by no rule, experience being their teacher, as with the gold which is tried in the furnace. But, softened after the manner of lead, keeping faith with the world by their works, they are known through their tonsure to lie to God. These being shut up by twos or threes, or, indeed, alone, without a shepherd, not in the Lord’s but in their own sheep-folds-their law is the satisfaction of their desires. For whatever they think good or choice, this they call holy; and what they do not wish, this they consider unlawful. But the fourth kind of we are about to found, therefore, a school for the monks is the kind which is called gyratory. During their whole life they are guests, for three or four days at a time, in the cells of the different monasteries, throughout the various provinces; always wandering and never stationary, given over to the service of their own pleasures and the joys of the palate, and in every way worse than the sarabaites. Concerning the most wretched way of living of all such monks it is better to be silent than to speak. These things therefore being omitted, let us proceed, with the aid of God, to treat of the best kind, the cenobites.

22. How the Monks Shall Sleep.

They shall sleep separately in separate beds. They shall receive positions for their beds, after the manner of their characters, according to the dispensation of their abbot. If it can be done, they shall all sleep in one place. If, however, their number do not permit it, they shall rest, by tens or twenties, with elders who will concern themselves about them. A candle shall always be burning in that same cell until early in the morning. They shall sleep clothed, and girt with belts or with ropes; and they shall not have their knives at their sides while they sleep, lest perchance in a dream they should wound the sleepers. And let the monks be always on the alert; and, when the signal is given, rising without delay, let them hasten to mutually prepare themselves for the service of God with all gravity and modesty, however. The younger brothers shall not have beds by themselves, but interspersed among those of the elder ones. And when they rise for the service of God, they shall exhort each other mutually with moderation on account of the excuses that those who are sleepy are inclined to make.

39 Concerning the Amount of food

We believe, moreover, that, for the daily refection of the sixth as well as of the ninth hour, two cooked dishes, on account of the infirmities of the different ones, are enough for all tables: so that whoever, perchance, can not eat of one may partake of the other. Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice for all the brothers: and, if it is possible to obtain apples or growing vegetables, a third may be added. One full pound of bread shall suffice for a day, whether there be one refection, or a breakfast and a supper… But to younger boys the same quantity shall not be served, but less than that to the older ones; moderation being observed in all things. But the eating of the flesh of quadrupeds shall be abstained from altogether by every one, excepting alone the weak and the sick.

40. Concerning the Amount of Drink.

Each one has his own gift from God, the one in this way, the other in that. Therefore it is with some hesitation that the amount of daily sustenance for others is fixed by us. Nevertheless, in view of the weakness of the infirm we believe that a hemina [just less than half a liter] of wine a day is enough for each one. Those moreover to whom God gives the ability of bearing abstinence shall know that they will have their own reward. But the prior shall judge if either the needs of the place, or labour or the heat of summer, requires more; considering in all things lest satiety or drunkenness creep in. Indeed we read that wine is not suitable for monks at all. But because, in our day, it is not possible to persuade the monks of this, let us agree at least as to the fact that we should not drink till we are sated, but sparingly…

55. Concerning Clothes and Shoes

Vestments shall be given to the brothers according to the quality of the places where they dwell, or the temperature of the air. For in cold regions more is required; but in warm, less. This, therefore, is a matter for the abbot to decide. We nevertheless consider that for ordinary places there suffices for the monks a cowl and a gown apiece-the cowl, in winter hairy, in summer plain or old-and a working garment, on account of their labours. As clothing for the feet, shoes and boots.

Excerpted from Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. 66, col. 215ff, translated by Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. London: George Bell and Sons, 1910. via the Internet Medieval History Sourcebook.

Rule of the Franciscan Order

I. In the name of the Lord, the life of the lesser brothers begins.

The rule and life of the lesser brothers is this: To observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience without anything of our own, and in chastity. Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to the Lord Pope Honorius and his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Church; and the rest of the brothers are obliged to obey Francis and his successors.

II. Concerning those who wish to adopt this life.

If someone should wish to adopt this life and should come to our brothers, they must send them to their provincial ministers to whom alone is granted the right to receive brothers. The ministers should examine them carefully regarding the Catholic faith and sacraments of the church. If they believe all these things, wishing to confess them faithfully and observe them diligently until the end; and if they have no wives, or their wives have entered a convent, or permission has been given to them by authority of their bishop, a vow of chastity having been taken and their wives being of such an age as to avoid suspicion; then let them go, sell all they have, and attempt to give it to the poor. If they cannot do so, their good intention will suffice. Let the brothers and their ministers beware of becoming concerned about the new brothers’ temporal possessions, for they should freely dispose of their belongings as God inspires them. If they ask advice, the ministers may refer them to some God-fearing brothers through whose counsel their possessions may be distributed to the poor.

Later, let them concede clothing of probation to the new brothers: Two tunics with hoods, belt and trousers, and a chaperon reaching down to the belt, unless the minister decides according to God that something else should be done. When the year of probation is over, let them be received into obedience, promising to observe this life and rule always; and, according to the command of the lord pope, it will be absolutely forbidden to them to leave the order, for according the holy gospel “no one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

And let those who have promised obedience take one tunic with a hood, and let those who wish it have another without a hood. And those who must may wear shoes. All the brothers are to wear inexpensive clothing, and they can use sackcloth and other material to mend it with God’s blessing.

III. Concerning the divine office and fasting; and how the brothers ought to travel through the world.

Clerics are to perform the divine office according to the rite of the Roman Church, except for the Psalter, and they can have breviaries for that purpose. Laymen are to say twenty-four “Our Fathers” at matins; five at lauds; seven each at prime, terce, sext and none; twelve at vespers; and seven at compline. They should also pray for the dead.

They should fast from the feast of all saints until Christmas. Those who voluntarily fast at Quadragessima, those forty days after Epiphany which the Lord consecrated with his own holy fasting, will themselves be blessed by the Lord; yet they are not required to do so if they do not want to. They must fast during Lent, but they are not required to do so at other times except on Fridays. In case of obvious necessity, however, they are excused from bodily fasting.

I counsel, admonish and beg my brothers that, when they travel about the world, they should not be quarrelsome, dispute with words, or criticize others, but rather should be gentle, peaceful and unassuming, courteous and humble, speaking respectfully to all as is fitting. They must not ride on horseback unless forced to so by obvious necessity or illness. Whatever house they enter, they are first to say, “Peace to this house” (Lk. 10:5). According to the holy gospel they can eat whatever food is set before them.

IV. That the brothers should not accept money.

I strictly forbid the brothers to receive money in any form either directly or through an intermediary. Nevertheless, the ministers and custodians can work through spiritual friends to care for the sick and clothe the brothers, according to place, season and climate, as necessity may seem to demand. This must be done, however, in such a way that they do not receive money.

V. On their manner of working.

Those brothers whom the Lord favors with the gift of working should do so faithfully and devotedly, so that idleness, the enemy of the soul, is excluded yet the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, which all other temporal things should serve, is not extinguished. As payment for their labor let them receive that which is necessary for themselves and their brothers, but not money. Let them receive it humbly as befits those who serve God and seek after the holiest poverty.

VI. That the brothers should appropriate nothing for themselves; and on how alms should be begged; and concerning sick brothers.

The brothers should appropriate neither house, nor place, nor anything for themselves; and they should go confidently after alms, serving God in poverty and humility, as pilgrims and strangers in this world. Nor should they feel ashamed, for God made himself poor in this world for us. This is that peak of the highest poverty which has made you, my dearest brothers, heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven, poor in things but rich in virtues. Let this be your portion. It leads into the land of the living and, adhering totally to it, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ wish never to have anything else in this world, beloved brothers.

And wherever brothers meet one another, let them act like members of a common family. And let them securely make their needs known to one another, for if a mother loves and cares for her carnal son, how much more should one love and care for his spiritual son? And if one of them should become ill, let the other brothers serve him as they themselves would like to be served.

Excerpted from the Internet History Sourcebook

Richerus: The Election of Hugh Capet in 987 CE

Meanwhile, at the appointed time the magnates of Gaul who had taken the oath came together at Senlis. When they had all taken their places in the assembly and the duke [Hugh Capet] had given the sign, the archbishop [Adalbero] spoke to them as follows: AKing Louis, of divine memory, having been removed from the world, and having left no heirs, it devolves upon us to take serious counsel as to the choice of a successor, so that the state may not suffer any injury through neglect and the lack of a leader. On a former occasion we thought it advisable to postpone that deliberation in order that each of you might be able to come here and, in the presence of the assembly, voice the sentiment which God should have inspired in you, and that from all these different expressions of opinion we might be able to find out what is the general will. Here we are assembled. Let us see to it, by our prudence and honor, that hatred shall not destroy reason, that love shall not interfere with truth. We are aware that Charles [Charles of Lower Lorraine] has his partisans who claim that the throne belongs to him by right of birth. But if we look into the matter, the throne is not acquired by hereditary right, and no one ought to be placed at the head of the kingdom unless he is distinguished, not only by nobility of body, but also by strength of mind—only such a one as honor and generosity recommend. We read in the annals of rulers of illustrious descent who were deposed on account of their unworthiness and replaced by others of the same, or even lesser, rank.

“What dignity shall we gain by making Charles king? He is not guided by honor, nor is he possessed of strength. Then, too, he has compromised himself so far as to have become the dependent of a foreign king and to have married a girl taken from among his own vassals. How could the great duke endure that a woman of the low rank of vassal should become queen and rule over him? How could he tender services to this woman, when his equals, and even his superiors in birth bend the knee before him and place their hands under his feet? Think of this seriously and you will see that Charles must be rejected for his own faults rather than on account of any wrong done by others. Make a decision, therefore, for the welfare rather than for the injury of the state. If you wish ill to your country, choose Charles to be king; if you have regard for its prosperity, choose Hugh, the illustrious duke. . . . Elect, then, the duke, a man who is recommended by his conduct, by his nobility, and by his military following. In him you will find a defender, not only of the state, but also of your private interests. His large-heartedness will make him a father to you all. Who has ever fled to him for protection without receiving it? Who that has been deserted by his friends has he ever failed to restore to his rights?”

This speech was applauded and concurred in by all, and by unanimous consent the duke was raised to the throne. He was crowned at Noyon on the first of June by the archbishop and the other bishops as king of the Gauls, the Bretons, the Normans, the Aquitanians, the Goths, the Spaniards and the Gascons. Surrounded by the nobles of the king, he issued decrees and made laws according to royal custom, judging and disposing of all matters with success.

The Vikings in France

From Abbo’s Wars of Count Odo with the Northmen in the Reign of Charles the Fat

885. The Northmen came to Paris with 700 sailing ships, not counting those of smaller size which are commonly called barques. At one stretch the Seine was lined with the vessels for more than two leagues, so that one might ask in astonishment in what cavern the river had been swallowed up, since it was not to be seen. The second day after the fleet of the Northmen arrived under the walls of the city, Siegfried, who was then king only in name but who was in command of the expedition, came to the dwelling of the illustrious bishop. He bowed his head and said: “Gauzelin, have compassion on yourself and on your flock. We beseech you to listen to us, in order that you may escape death. Allow us only the freedom of the city. We will do no harm and we will see to it that whatever belongs either to you or to Odo shall be strictly respected.” Count Odo, who later became king, was then the defender of the city. The bishop replied to Siegfried, “Paris has been entrusted to us by the Emperor Charles, who, after God, king and lord of the powerful, rules over almost all the world. He has put it in our care, not at all that the kingdom may be ruined by our misconduct, but that he may keep it and be assured of its peace. If, like us, you had been given the duty of defending these walls, and if you should have done that which you ask us to do, what treatment do you think you would deserve?” Siegfried replied. “I should deserve that my head be cut off and thrown to the dogs. Nevertheless, if you do not listen to my demand, on the morrow our war machines will destroy you with poisoned arrows. You will be the prey of famine and of pestilence and these evils will renew themselves perpetually every year.” So saying, he departed and gathered together his comrades.

In the morning the Northmen, boarding their ships, approached the tower and attacked it [the tower blocked access to the city by the so-called "Great Bridge," which connected the right bank of the Seine with the island on which the city was built. The tower stood on the present site of the Châtelet]. They shook it with their engines and stormed it with arrows. The city resounded with clamor, the people were aroused, the bridges trembled. All came together to defend the tower. There Odo, his brother Robert, and the Count Ragenar distinguished themselves for bravery; likewise the courageous Abbot Ebolus, the nephew of the bishop. A keen arrow wounded the prelate, while at his side the young warrior Frederick was struck by a sword. Frederick died, but the old man, thanks to God, survived. There perished many Franks; after receiving wounds they were lavish of life. At last the enemy withdrew, carrying off their dead. The evening came. The tower had been sorely tried, but its foundations were still solid, as were also the narrow bays which surmounted them. The people spent the night repairing it with boards. By the next day, on the old citadel had been erected a new tower of wood, a half higher than the former one. At sunrise the Danes caught their first glimpse of it. Once more the latter engaged with the Christians in violent combat. On every side arrows sped and blood flowed. With the arrows mingled the stones hurled by slings and war-machines; the air was filled with them. The tower which had been built during the night groaned under the strokes of the darts, the city shook with the struggle, the people ran hither and thither, the bells jangled. The warriors rushed together to defend the tottering tower and to repel the fierce assault. Among these warriors two, a count and an abbot [Ebolus], surpassed all the rest in courage. The former was the redoubtable Odo who never experienced defeat and who continually revived the spirits of the worn-out defenders. He ran along the ramparts and hurled back the enemy. On those who were secreting themselves so as to undermine the tower he poured oil, wax, and pitch, which, being mixed and heated, burned the Danes and tore off their scalps. Some of them died; others threw themselves into the river to escape the awful substance. . . .

Meanwhile Paris was suffering not only from the sword outside but also from a pestilence within which brought death to many noble men. Within the walls there was not ground in which to bury the dead. . . . Odo, the future king, was sent to Charles, emperor of the Franks, to implore help for the stricken city. One day Odo suddenly appeared in splendor in the midst of three bands of warriors. The sun made his armor glisten and greeted him before it illuminated the country around. The Parisians saw their beloved chief at a distance, but the enemy, hoping to prevent his gaining entrance to the tower, crossed the Seine and took up their position on the bank. Nevertheless Odo, his horse at a gallop, got past the Northmen and reached the tower, whose gates Ebolus opened to him. The enemy pursued fiercely the comrades of the count who were trying to keep up with him and get refuge in the tower. [The Danes were defeated in the attack.]

Now came the Emperor Charles, surrounded by soldiers of all nations, even as the sky is adorned with resplendent stars. A great throng, speaking many languages, accompanied him. He established his camp at the foot of the heights of Montmartre, near the tower. He allowed the Northmen to have the country of Sens to plunder; and in the spring he gave them 700 pounds of silver on condition that by the month of March they leave France for their own kingdom. Then Charles returned, destined to an early death.

Excerpted from the Internet History Sourcebook

Charlemagne’s Letter to Baugaulf of Fulda

This late 8th century letter from Charlemagne to Abbot Baugaulf illustrates the emphasis the Emperor placed on learning.

Charles, by the grace of God, King of the Franks and Lombards and Patrician of the Romans, to Abbot Baugulf and to all the congregation, also to the faithful committed to you, we have directed a loving greeting by our ambassadors in the name of omnipotent God.

Be it known, therefore, to your devotion pleasing to God, that we, together with our faithful, have considered it to be useful that the bishoprics and monasteries entrusted by the favor of Christ to our control, in addition, in the culture of letters also ought to be zealous in teaching those who by the gift of God are able to learn, according to the capacity of each individual, so that just as the observance of the rule imparts order and grace to honesty of morals, so also zeal in teaching and learning may do the same for sentences, so that those who desire to please God by living rightly should not neglect to please him also by speaking correctly. For it is written: “Either from thy words thou shalt be justified or from thy words thou shalt be condemned.” For although correct conduct may be better than knowledge, nevertheless knowledge precedes conduct. Therefore, each one ought to study what he desires to accomplish, so that so much the more fully the mind may know what ought to be done, as the tongue hastens in the praises of omnipotent God without the hindrances of errors. For since errors should be shunned by all men, so much the more ought they to be avoided as far as possible by those who are chosen for this very purpose alone, so that they ought to be the especial servants of truth. For when in the years just passed letters were often written to us from several monasteries in which it was stated that the brethren who dwelt there offered up in our behalf sacred and pious prayers, we have recognized in most of these letters both correct thoughts and uncouth expressions; because what pious devotion dictated faithfully to the mind, the tongue, uneducated on account of the neglect of study, was not able to express in the letter without error. Whence it happened that we began to fear lest perchance, as the skill in writing was less, so also the wisdom for understanding the Holy Scriptures might be much less than it rightly ought to be. And we all know well that, although errors of speech are dangerous, far more dangerous are errors of the understanding. Therefore, we exhort you not only not to neglect the study of letters, but also with most humble mind, pleasing to God, to study earnestly in order that you may be able more easily and more correctly to penetrate the mysteries of the divine Scriptures. Since, moreover, images, tropes and similar figures are found in the sacred pages, -no one doubts that each one in reading these will understand the spiritual sense more quickly if previously he shall have been fully instructed in the mastery of letters. Such men truly are to be chosen for this work as have both the will and the ability to learn and a desire to instruct others. And may this be done with a zeal as great as the earnestness with which we command it. For we desire you to be, as it is fitting that soldiers of the church should be, devout in mind, learned in discourse, chaste in conduct and eloquent in speech, so that whosoever shall seek to see you out of reverence of God, or on account of your reputation for holy conduct, just as he is edified by your appearance, may also be instructed by your wisdom, which he has learned from your reading or singing, and may go away joyfully giving thanks to omnipotent God. Do not neglect, therefore, if you wish to have our favor, to send copies of this letter to all your suffragans and fellow-bishops and to all the monasteries. And let no monk hold courts outside of his monastery or go to the judicial and other public assemblies. Farewell.

In Boretius, No. 29, p. 78, trans. by D. C. Munro, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1900]. Vol. VI, No. 5, pp. 12-14

Pepin the Short becomes King

749. Burchard, bishop of Wilrzburg, and Fulrad, priest and chaplain, were sent [by Pepin] to Pope Zacharias to ask his advice in regard to the kings who were then ruling in France, who had the title of king but no real royal authority. The Pope replied by these ambassadors that it would be better that he who actually had the power should be called king.

750 [751]. In this year Pepin was named king of the Franks with the sanction of the Pope, and in the city of Soissons he was anointed with the holy oil by the hands of Boniface, archbishop and martyr of blessed memory, and was raised to the throne after the custom of the Franks. But Childeric, who had the name of king, was shorn of his locks and sent into a monastery.

753. In this year Pope Stephen came to Pepin at Kiersy, to urge him to defend the Roman church from the attacks of the Lombards. 754. And after Pope Stephen had received a promise from king Pepin that he would defend the Roman church, he anointed the king and his two sons, Charles and Carloman, with the holy oil. And the pope remained that winter in France.

From Thatcher and McNeil, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), p. 37-38 [Some spelling of names adjusted]

Law of the Salian Franks

Title I: Concerning Summonses

  1. If any one be summoned before the “Thing” by the king’s law, and do not come, he shall be sentenced to 600 denars, which make 15 shillings (solidi).
  2. But he who summons another, and does not come himself, shall, if a lawful impediment have not delayed him, be sentenced to 15 shillings, to be paid to him whom he summoned.

Title XI: Concerning Thefts or Housebreakings of Freemen

  1. If any freeman steal, outside of the house, something worth 2 denars, he shall be sentenced to 600 denars, which make 15 shillings.
  2. But if he steal, outside of the house, something worth 40 denars, and it be proved on him, he shall be sentenced, besides the amount and the fines for delay, to 1400 denars, which make 35 shillings.
  3. If a freeman break into a house and steal something worth 2 denars, and it be proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 15 shillings.
  4. But if he shall have stolen something worth more than 5 denars, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced, besides the worth of the object and the fines for delay, to 1400 denars, which make 35 shillings.
  5. But if he have broken, or tampered with, the lock, and thus have entered the house and stolen anything from it, he shall be sentenced, besides the worth of the object and the fines for delay, to 1800 denars, which make 45 shillings.
  6. And if he have taken nothing, or have escaped by flight, he shall, for the housebreaking alone, be sentenced to 1200 denars, which make 30 shillings.

Title XVII: Concerning Wounds

  1. If any one have wished to kill another person, and the blow have missed, he on whom it was proved shall be sentenced to 2500 denars, which make 63 shillings.
  2. If any person have wished to strike another with a poisoned arrow, and the arrow have glanced aside, and it shall be proved on him: he shall be sentenced to 2500 denars, which make 63 shillings.
  3. If any person strike another on the head so that the brain appears, and the three bones which lie above the brain shall project, he shall be sentenced to 1200 denars, which make 30 shillings.
  4. But if it shall have been between the ribs or in the stomach, so that the wound appears and reaches to the entrails, he shall be sentenced to 1200 denars-which make 30 shillings-besides five shillings for the physician’s pay.
  5. If any one shall have struck a man so that blood falls to the floor, and it be proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 600 denars, which make 15 shillings.
  6.  But if a freeman strike a freeman with his fist so that blood does not flow, he shall be sentenced for each blow-up to 3 blows-to 120 denars, which make 3 shillings.

Title XXIV: Concerning the Killing of Little Children and Women

  1. If any one have slain a boy under 10 years-up to the end of the tenth-and it shall have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  2. If any one have hit a free woman who is pregnant, and she dies, he shall be sentenced to 28000 denars, which makes 700 shillings.
  3. If any one have killed a free woman after she has begun bearing children, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  4. After she can have no more children, he who kills her shall be sentenced to 8000 denars, which make 200 shillings.

Title XXX: Concerning Insults

  1. If any one, man or woman, shall have called a woman harlot, and a not have been able to prove it, he shall be sentenced to 1800 denars, which make 45 shillings.
  2. If any person shall have called another “fox,” he shall be sentenced to 3 shillings.
  3. If any man shall have called another “hare,” he shall be sentenced to 3 shillings.

Title XLI: Concerning the Murder of Freemen

  1. If any one shall have killed a free Frank, or a barbarian living under the Salic law, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 8000 denars.
  2. But if he shall have thrown him into a well or into the water, or shall have covered him with branches or anything else, to conceal him, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  3. But if any one has slain a man who is in the service of the king, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  4. But if he have put him in the water or in a well, and covered him with anything to conceal him, he shall be sentenced to 72000 denars, which make 1800 shillings.
  5. If any one have slain a Roman who eats in the king’s palace, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 12000 denars, which make 300 shillings.
  6. But if the Roman shall not have been a landed proprietor and table companion of the king, he who killed him shall be sentenced to 4000 denars, which make 100 shillings.

Title LXII: Concerning Wergeld

  1. If any one’s father have been killed, the sons shall have half the compounding money (wergeld); and the other half the nearest relatives, as well on the mother’s as on the father’s side, shall divide among themselves.
  2. But if there are no relatives, paternal or maternal, that portion shall go to the fisc.

from “The Salic Law,” in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 176-189.