Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

By Edward Peters | Go to book overview

15
Everinus of Steinfeld: Letter to St. Bernard, 1143

From the late tenth century to Abelard, the rising tide of dissent of all kinds appeared to some mid- twelfth-century churchmen as stemming from a single source, an assault by the devil upon Christian society. The technical term heresy, although not appropriate to many of the cases considered in the texts so far, came to be used of all forms of dissent, from the personal to the political. St. Bernard knew of many of these, and he had personally encountered Henry of Le Mans, Abelard, and Arnold of Brescia, when a letter from his disciple Everinus of Steinfeld informed him of yet newer heresies that had sprung up in the Rhineland. Everinus's letter introduces heterodox beliefs quite different from those described by Paul of St. Père de Chartres and Guibert of Nogent, and his concern was taken up by St. Bernard in 1144, in his sixty-fifth sermon on the Song of Songs, the text following this one.

There have been lately some heretics discovered amongst us, near Cologne, whereof some with satisfaction returned again to the Church: two of these, viz. one that was a bishop amongst them, and his companions, openly opposed us in the assembly of the clergy and laity, the lord archbishop himself being present, with many of the nobility, maintaining their heresy from the words of Christ and the apostles. But when they saw they could go no further, they desired that a day might be appointed for them, upon which they might bring along with them men skillful in their belief, promising to return to the Church provided they should find their masters defective in answering what was opposed to them; but that otherwise they would rather die than depart from their judgment. Upon this their declaration, after that for three days together they had been admonished and found unwilling to repent, they were seized by the people, being incited by overmuch zeal, and put into the fire and burnt; and (what is most wonderful) they entered to the stake, and bare the torment of the fire, not only with patience, but with joy and gladness. In this case, O Holy Father, were I present with you, I should be glad to have your answer, how these members of the devil could with such courage and constancy

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