Subsidiary SourcebooksAfricanEastern AsianGlobalIndianJewishIslamicLesbian/GayScienceWomen

Special ResourcesByzantiumMedieval MusicSaints' Lives
Ancient Law
Medieval Law
Film: Ancient
Film: Medieval
Film: Modern

About IHSPIHSP Credits

Medieval Sourcebook:
Documents relating to the Baltic Crusade 1199-1266

Documents relating to the Military Orders

Translation and notes permitted or copyright Helen J. Nicholson.
Original translations 1994–98; this edition 2013

Documents relating to the Order of the Knights of Christ of Livonia (Swordbrothers)
1. Summary of Pope Innocent III’s confirmation of Bishop Albert of Riga`s agreement with the Swordbrothers, 19 October 1211
2. Summary of the confirmation by the emperor Frederick II to Volquin, master of the Swordbrothers: May 1226
3. Summary of the charges against the Swordbrothers, 20 November 1234.
Documents relating to the Teutonic Order
1. Summary of the Golden Bull of Rimini, March 1226.
2. Summary of the complaints of Bishop Christian against the Teutonic Order.
3. Summary of Duke Semovit of Masovia’s defence of the Teutonic Order.
4. The Franciscans of Thorn defend the Teutonic Order: summary
5: Roger Bacon: Opus Maius (1266) -- extracts

Documents relating to the Order of the Knights of Christ of Livonia (Swordbrothers)


1. Summary of Pope Innocent III’s confirmation of Bishop Albert of Riga`s agreement with the Swordbrothers, 19 October 1211


From: The registers of Innocent III, published as ‘Liber registrorum sive epistolarum’, no. 141, 3 vols in Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, vols 214-216: here vol. 216, cols 325-6.

Summary: The pope states: ‘A controversy arose between you and the brothers of the knighthood of Christ over the division of lands which through the grace of the Holy Spirit were recently converted to the worship of the faith of Christ. However, following our investigation and with our mediation, at last you came to this agreement:

1) that the Brothers should hold one third of those lands of Lettia and Livonia from the Bishop of Riga, and give no military service for them except what is intended for the defence of the Church and the province in perpetuity against the pagans, but their master for the time being should always promise obedience to the Bishop of Riga.

2) The Brothers and clergy who administer spiritual things should not pay the bishop tithes, first-fruits, offerings nor cathedral dues. The colonists of the brothers` third should pay tithes to their churches from the part of the produce belonging to them. From this they should pay one quarter to the bishop unless the bishop decides for some necessary and reasonable cause and by his own free will that it should be remitted.

3) The Brothers and their successors will have the right of presenting suitable persons to the Bishop of Riga for the aforesaid churches when they are vacant. The bishop should not put off vesting these persons with the cure of souls.

4) Moreover, when the bishop or any of his men decide to visit, the Brothers will entertain him in their house with twenty mounts, once a year. They will entertain him in their parishes twice a year.

5) As for lands which the Brothers acquire with the help of God outside Livonia or Lettia, they will not answer to the Bishop of Riga for these, nor will he trouble them in any way over them. But they will obey what the apostolic see (the Pope) tells them.

6) The Brothers will obey the rule of the Knighthood of the Temple, but will have a different symbol on their habit, to show that they are not subject to them.

7) The Brothers will have free burial also for the use of their Brothers and families, and also of those who choose to be buried in their house, saving the canonical portion due to the churches from which the bodies of the dead are taken (i.e. death duties payable to their own church).’

The pope approves this agreement.


2. Summary of the confirmation by the emperor Frederick II to Volquin, master of the Swordbrothers: May 1226

From: Historia diplomatica Fridericii secundi, ed. J. L. A. Huillard-Bréholles, 6 vols in 11 (Paris, 1852-61, repr. Turin, 1963), vol. 2.1, pp. 583-5; also in Tabulae ordinis Theutonici ex tabularii regii Berolinensis codice potissimum, ed. Ernst Strehlke (new ed., Toronto, 1975), p. 229, no. 235: CR4759.S8

Summary: Frederick II, emperor, confirms to Volquin, master of the house of the knighthood of Christ in Livonia, and his brothers, all possessions and rights which they possess from the bishops of Livonia and the Isle of Oesel or will acquire justly in the future and also gives them any metal ore which can be found in the ground or above ground in that district.

He says that although he ought to favour all religious men, he should especially favour those who do not only fight against invincible foes but our visible foes for exalting the faith of Christ and the religion of the Christian faith, by exposing their souls for Christ`s sake and their persons for the sake of God`s faithful.

Therefore, at their request he confirms their possessions and rights:
‘considering the agonies which the master and brothers frequently sustain for the faith of Christ, and how their forces are necessary to comfort the Christian region and defend those in those parts who are newly converted to the Christian faith, for reverence of God and the sake of eternal reward...’.
and the sins of himself and his family. Witness no.10 out of 17 is Brother Hermann, master of the Hospital of Saint Mary of the Teutons (i.e. the Teutonic order).

3. Summary of the charges against the Swordbrothers, 20 November 1234.


From: Les registres de Pope Gregory IX, ed. L. Auvray, 4 vols (Paris, 1896-1955), no. 2287, pp. 1201-9.

Summary: This is a summarised schedule of the charges to which Nicholas, bishop of Riga, the brothers of the knighthood of Christ of Livonia [i.e., the Swordbrothers] and the citizens of Riga are to reply in the Pope’s presence. [These charges are based on the accusations with Baldwin of Alna, bishop of Semigal and papal legate, had brought against the Swordbrothers, the bishop of Riga and the merchants of Riga.]

     Following an investigation and judicial judgement, Baldwin of Alna, who was bishop of Semigal [in southern Livonia] and papal representative or ‘legate’ in Livonia, restored to the bishop of Riga the hostages given by the prince of Kurland [south-western Livonia] - who belong to the Church of Rome. The bishop gave to the brothers of the knighthood of Livonia and the citizens of Riga each one third of the hostages and one third of the said province and kept one third.
The master and brothers are now summoned to appear in the papal court, charged with the following:

1) They restored the lands of Vironia [northern Estonia] and Gerva [Jerwia, Jerwen: to the south-west of Vironia] to Baldwin of Alna, bishop of Semigal, at the order of O., cardinal and papal legate, but later snatched them back by violence.

2) They usurped the province of Kurland, which had voluntarily converted to the Roman Church. And when Baldwin bishop of Semigal, legate of Pope Gregory IX, went to Rome they launched a raid on it, burning, looting etc. and reduced the new Christians to servitude.

3) They called in Revalia [Reval, on the north coast of Estonia] 200 merchants who were occupying lands which had been given to them in Gotland [an island in the Baltic, between Livonia and Sweden], and gave them fiefs in Gerva, in prejudice of the Roman church.

4) In order to take over the land of Vironia, they had 100 or more vassals of Vironia killed. Yet, as the people there are new converts, Veronia actually belongs to the Church of Rome.

5) At the Pope’s intervention they voluntarily restored Vironia, Gerva and Kurland to the bishop of Semigal, who was then papal legate. But afterwards they attacked these areas, in prejudice of the Church and oppressing the new converts of Gerva and Vironia. In one expedition they inflicted four hundred uncos’ worth of damage on them. [The uncus was literally an ounce; in this case it is the local currency, an ounce of silver.]

6) They took from the vassals of the bishop three quarters of the castle of Reval, which the vassals of Vironia and Harria [western Estonia] and Revalia had restored to the bishop. The bishop had recommmitted the responsibility of guarding this castle to these vassals.

7) They refused to restore one quarter of the castle. Because it was held by the king of Denmark from the Roman Church on the authority of Master John, papal legate, they and the bishops and other Germans attacked it. The Brothers received from the Danes the responsibility of guarding it.

8) When a dispute between them and Bishop Baldwin (representing the Church) was ended by arbitration, they captured his master, superior and primary, and refused to restore one quarter of the castle, as had been stated in the arbitration. And when peace had been made they occupied the three quarters of the castle of Reval treacherously and in prejudice to the Church and killed more than 100 vassals of the Church of Rome, infringing the parish in eight places and shedding blood both in the cemetery and in the church over the altar. Heaping the corpses in a pile, they placed on the top of the pile one of the dead who had been the most faithful to the Roman Church and was like a vicegerant of the lord Pope. And to bewilder the Church they would not allow them to be given burial, so that as time passed the new converts and others, Prussians and pagans, would come to see this spectacle and think them [the Swordbrothers] greater than the Church of Rome.

9) They not only took over the castle of Reval violently and treacherously but also took three thousand marks of silver, 200 warhorses, 250 other horses, 400 sets of armour, the goods of many merchants, all the citizens’ clothing, also the women’s clothes, and the ransoms of 200 vassals of the Church, whom the Brothers captured: all estimated at a value of 15,000 marks.
[A mark was two-thirds of a pound.]

10) They destroyed the castle of Hagelite, which had been built by Master John, the papal legate. By that expedition and destruction they damaged the Roman Church and its vassals and the new converts to the tune of 2,000 marks of silver.

11) They usurped again the lands of Vironia and Gerva, which they had restored at the Pope’s order to the said Bishop Baldwin of Semigal, and detained them violently and oppressed the new converts of Gerva because they had adhered to the Church and because they have no hope of obtaining further lands.

12) They forced the vassals of the Roman Church in Vironia, Harria and Revalia to give up their homage to the lord pope and they forced the vassals to deny the fealty which they had made to the Pope through Master John. The Brothers expelled those who would not deny the Church, and took their moveable and immoveable property.

13) In Gerva - which belongs to the Church - they gave fiefs to 40 merchants [which they had no right to do, as it was not their land], which oppressed the new converts.

14) They took these same vassals away from the service of God and the Faith, even though the bishop of Semigal had originally brought these vassals into the neighbourhood of the new converts and pagans and given them fiefs from property in his diocese so that they could crush the pagan’s attacks. And with the aid of these vassals the Swordbrothers opposed the Church of Rome.

15) They conspired with Lord Nicholas, who acted as bishop of Riga, and the Rigans against the Church, and gave 71 merchants fiefs in one part of Semigal and Kurland and 56 merchants fiefs in another part, taking the rest of the land for themselves and the conspirators, not leaving the bishop of Semigal or the Church a foot’s space, nor even the vassals put in there by his predecessors.

16) They destroyed the castle of Godenbeke [Goldenbuke] which belonged to the Church, and did more than 1000 marks’ worth of damage on the church and vassals and new converts.

17) They called Russians, heretics and pagans around to come and fight against the bishop and the cathedral church of Leal [in western Estonia], the vassals and new converts of the church. They had the castle of Tarbate [Dorpat in south-eastern Estonia?] fortified, using artifices, public instruments and expense on behalf of the Russians and pagans, had provinces depopulated and 450 new converts captured and killed, notwithstanding that papal letters commanded that the bishop of Leal was to work with the bishop of Semigal to crush the malice of the Brothers of the knighthood.

18) They took the goods of the castle of Dünemünde,  which belongs to the Cistercian order, both moveable and immoveable property, estates and towns. And they captured the converts and tortured them because the abbot of the place had cooperated with the bishop, following the instructions in papal letters to him. Because of this, unless the convent  of Dünamünde received speedy help, it would have to leave Livonia and be split up between various houses. Moreover, on Christmas Eve the Brothers killed the cellarer of the abbey, who was then promoting the affairs of the Roman Church.

19) They occupied the villages of the church of Riga and took moveable and immoveable goods, despoiling and depopulating the new converts, because the provost and convent of the church had faithfully stuck by the Roman Church.

20) With the help of the Russians and aforementioned pagans, they completely destroyed the monastery of Valhena [?], which belonged to the Cistercian order, reducing the edifice to nothing by fire. The monks at once emigrated from Livonia to Teutonia [Germany], unable to take anything with them but not able to delay.

21) Whereas Sakala, Vaigele, Moghe [Moke], Nonnegunde, Alempoisio, Silia, Semigal and Kurland and all the other provinces in Livonian parts which had been converted to the faith by preaching or pilgrimage [crusading] belong to the Roman Church, the Brothers are said to possess these provinces de facto, some in part, some completely, in prejudice to the Roman Church. So when they appear before the pope they must bring legal instruments, witnesses or reasons, to establish their claim if they have any right there. Similarly for the lands converted later.

22) Almost seven years or more they had held part of the episcopate of Reval and Oesel after expelling the bishops, against right, usurping the tithes, spiritual rights and episcopal jurisdiction in them. [Oesel is a large island just off the coast of Livonia.]

23) They choose temporal lords over the provinces of Livonia and Estonia, obtaining an official letter from one of them, i.e. the duke of Saxony, which stated that all the possessions of the Brothers ought to remain with them forever, with all rights. They enslaved bishops, churches and new converts as far as they could.

24) Whenever pagans were converted, instead of tithes, they made an agreement with the new converts to pay an annual cens [land rent] and absolved them from paying tithe. [The tithe would go to the Church; so the Brothers preferred to collect rent, which could not be claimed by the bishop.]

25) They did not allow the pagans of Bandure, who were their de facto subjects, to be baptised, nor, consequently, did they allow them to be subjected to the Church, and thus deprived the Church of the ‘cens’ [land rent] they took from the pagans, notwithstanding that they had been received into the Catholic faith and subjected to the Roman Church through the bishop of Semigal, who was papal legate at that time. [i.e., although the people of Bandure had been converted they continued to treat them
as pagans.]

26) They did not permit any pagan from the provinces of Kurland who required baptism to be baptised by the bishop of Semigal, who was then legate. They did this so that they [the Brothers] could possess them freely. [As soon as the pagans were baptised they had to be freed from slavery; so the Brothers would not allow them
to be baptised.]

27) They many times impeded the pagans’ messengers who frequently wished to come to the Roman Curia to make a pact of liberty and receive the Christian faith, saying to them that they could give them as good a faith as the pope, so that when they had reached Gotland they were forced to turn back.

28) When pagans were converted to the faith by the Brothers they were given their liberty, but at the slightest excuse they were returned to servitude.

29) When the pope instructed the bishop of Semigal to repress those who were oppressing the new converts and improve the converts’ situation, the Brothers did not allow the converts to appear in court on the set day but put many who were coming to the court in prison.

30) The Brothers demonstrated in many ways that they were schismatics: opposing the Church, leading mercenaries against the Church, and compelling the new converts of the Church and their vassals and even some pilgrims [crusaders] to resist the said Church.

31) When one of their number killed their first Master and his priest, they put their second Master, named Volquin, who is master now, in prison and held him there for three months because he was more favourable to the Church of Rome and wanted to keep the peace which had been made and not consent to the treason the Brothers had conceived of killing the vassals of the Church.

32) Brother John ‘Selich’, and Jo. Sengelin, H. procurator of Haria, Abraham and other brothers of his, are known to be guilty of heresy and were peremptorily summoned to Rome to purge themselves. The Brothers are holding them and guarding them, even though a sentence of excommunication has been passed on them because they refuse to clear themselves or to appear.

33) The Pope summons the brothers to give satisfaction for a sum of 10,000 marks of silver for damage they caused to the Roman Church and for other causes, following which a case was sought in the presence of an arbitrator for the Roman Church, the bishop of Semigal, then papal legate.

34) They are to present to the Pope letters regarding the restitution of Gerva and Vironia, which through some iniquitous judgement they extorted from the bishop of Semigal when he was vicelegate. No less, they are to restore to the Pope the letters recording the rights which the same bishop conferred on the Cirrones, confirmed by his seal and that of the prelates of Livonia and their brothers. The same Brothers took these letters from the Cirrones in scandal to the pagans and their converts and detriment to the faith, through the violence of their raid and not without spilling of innocent blood.

35) They blinded Lenderus, vassal of the Roman Church, and took all his goods, moveable and immoveable, because he was the first to announce the papal legate`s arrival.

36) They are summoned to reply to the Pope re 1,000 Oserinis [Oesering - a coin] which they extorted from the Oeselians, impeding their baptism by not allowing them to enter the Christian faith until they had paid the money. This is reckoned at 500 marks of silver.

37) They are to give compensation to the Roman Church for 14,000 silver marks they took from the produce of the province of Sachele, which belongs to the Roman Church.

38) The sum which the Brothers are held to satisfy the Roman Church amounts to 45,000 marks of silver.

[He then summons the citizens of Riga for taking one third of the island of Oesel.]

39) He summons the Brothers of the Knighthood to show to the Pope and his brothers [the cardinals] all their legal instruments [i.e. charters showing their rights], if they have any, which they drew up so that they could obtain whatever they intended to take over or keep in the lands in Livonian parts which had been converted and were still to be converted; since the Roman Church recognises no possessions of the Brothers in those lands outside Livonia and Lettia.

40) He summons them to answer to all the charges brought against them by the Roman Church, the king of Denmark, prelates, ecclesiastical persons, vassals of the Church and new converts and any others.

41) They damaged Jo., knight of Boheshovede [Bechehovede] to the tune of 200 marks of silver, because his son cooperated with the legate in resisting the Brothers of the Knighthood.

He summons by name [various men, including the following:] the priests of the Brothers of the Knighthood ... Master Lunderus and Master Jo., brothers of the Knighthood ... to give testimony of the truth.

Documents relating to the Teutonic Order


1. Summary of the Golden Bull of Rimini, March 1226.

From: Historia diplomatica Fridericii secundi, ed. J. L. A. Huillard-Bréholles, 6 vols in 11 (Paris, 1852-61, repr. Turin, 1963), vol. 2.1, pp. 549–52.
The emperor Frederick II conceeds to Hermann, master of the house of St. Mary of the Teutons and his Brothers the authority to receive the land of Culm and all the land which Conrad Duke of Masovia and Cujavia promised and offered to the house, and also of invading Prussia and exercising due rights of the emperor without paying any service or tax: March 1226, Rimini.

Summary: God, the emperor Frederick says, established his empire and government to magnify His name and amplify His faith in the Gentiles – non-Christians- so it is his (Frederick’s) duty to turn his attention to the preaching of the Gospel. As he intends to repress as well as to convert the Gentiles, he is giving an indulgence through which Catholic men may take up the labour of subjecting barbarian nations and reforming divine worship and exposing their own goods and persons in this cause. So he wishes to inform present and future men of the empire that his faithful man Brother Hermann of Salza has explained in his presence that Duke Conrad [of Cujavia-Masovia] has promised and offered the Brothers the land of Culm, which is within the frontier territory and boundaries of Prussia, intending that they should take up the work and press on with the opportunity to enter and obtain the land of Prussia for the honour and glory of the True God. But they have put off taking this gift so as to ask Frederick’s permission first.
Because of the Master’s prompt and displayed devotion with which he burns fervently to acquire that land for his House in order to serve the Lord, and because Frederick is confident in the Master’s prudence – because he is a man powerful in work and speech and he will powerfully begin and complete the conquest for the Lord although many have already failed in the same business with greater labours – Frederick gives his authority for the invasion. He also gives the Brothers his imperial rights over mountains, plains, rivers, woods and the sea, which they will hold free of all service and exaction and they will be held to reply to no one. When they have conquered the land they can take tolls, set up markets and fairs, coin money, exact tallage and other rights, etc., create judges and rectors to whom the people will be subject, both those people who convert and those who do not; and the brothers may lay down good usages and customs and hold assize and make statutes to strengthen the believers and keep the peace.

2. Summary of the complaints of Bishop Christian against the Teutonic Order.


Source: Preussisches Urkundenbuch, ed. A. Philipps et al., 6 vols (Königsberg, Aalen and Marburg, 1882-1986), vol. 1.1, no.134.
Pope Gregory IX writes to the bishop of Meissen, the provost of the cathedral and the provost of St. Afra, re the complaints of Bishop Christian of Prussia against the Teutonic Order: 11 April 1240.

Summary. Bishop Christian complains that:
1) The Teutonic Brothers have not allowed new converts to be baptised, claiming that they can be stronger as lords of pagans than of those who believe in God.
2) The Brothers afflicted with various tortures the newly-baptised and new converts who had given oaths of fealty to the bishops, unless they agreed to obey the brothers. On account of this many were forced to return to their errors (i.e. paganism) through fear.
3) They impeded pilgrims [crusaders] from building churches and ensured that those they did construct were left to the pagans.
4) Although the Bishop had conceded certain episcopal rights to the Brothers on certain agreements, by which the Brothers undertook to enlarge the bishopric, attack the pagans and defend the preaching of the gospel of peace and the Catholic faith, the brothers did not defend him when the Prussians captured him, nor even ransom him when they received papal instructions to do so.
They allowed certain Prussian nobles whom they could have exchanged for the bishop to go free in exchange for money, and they killed a certain newly-converted noble, who had given his son as a hostage for the Bishop, because they could not extort as much money from him as they wished.
5) While the Bishop was in captivity, the brothers and some new converts invaded the Bishop’s church and land, the city and castle of Sanctir, and looted all the moveable property they could find, and detained the Bishop’s rights, tithes and other revenue by violence. They detained the whole of the land of Prussia, against their agreement.
6) Although they had received many benefits in the land of Culm in order to defend the honour and rights of the Bishop of Prussia, they were so ungrateful that not only did they not do the due service but they prevented pilgrims from having recourse to the bishop.

The Bishop appealed for papal assistance. The Pope gives instructions that the Brothers are to cease from molesting the Bishop, and give compensation for the damage they have done, especially since they are giving themselves a bad reputation for lack of devotion to God and men when they damnably persecute the Bishop who is said to have increased their wealth in many respects while remaining poor himself.

3. Summary of Duke Semovit of Masovia’s defence of the Teutonic Order.


From: Preussisches Urkundenbuch,1.2: no. 62, pp. 56-7
Duke Semovit of Masovia writes to Pope Alexander IV to protect the Teutonic Order against the machinations of certain people who have attacked the brothers at the papal court: 17 July 1258.

Summary: Duke Semovit writes that as the state and prosperity and salvation of his country and the countries adjacent to their lands depend on the renown and prosperity of the Teutonic brothers, he cannot fail to be concerned about these accusations. He talks of the Order’s magnificent struggles against the Prussians, with the standard of the holy cross in hand. The laws the Brothers impose on the new converts, and their rights and customs, which they teach them, do not deviate from the rite of true Christians. He does not believe that those who have left many great dignities of the world, lordships and honours, in order to spread the Christian faith, exposing not only their property but their own lives to various deaths every moment, would violate the statutes of their profession or would be found acting contrary to their profession. He asks the pope not to allow any fabricated detractions against the Brothers to be repeated to his ears.

4. The Franciscans of Thorn defend the Teutonic Order: summary


From: the same, no. 65.
The Guardian of the Minorites (Franciscans) of Thorn and the brothers of the Franciscan convent in Prussia write to Pope Alexander IV. They defend the Teutonic Order against the accusations made against it before the Pope: 28 July 1258.

Summary: they state that Brother Gerhard the commander, and the Brothers of the Teutonic Order are not a little perturbed by the calumnies and false accusations which have been undeservedly made against them. Since the Brothers’ tranquillity and peace is without doubt the tranquillity and salvation of the adjacent provinces, ‘who place themselves like an impregnable wall against the enemy for the house of Israel’ (i.e. Christendom), the Friars are writing this letter in the Brothers’ defence without being asked.
The wording is not identical to the previous letter but identical phrases are used. This letter also talks of the Brothers’ magnificent struggles against the Prussians with the standard of the holy cross in hand, and the laws they impose on the new converts which do not deviate from the rite of true Christians. The friars know this for a fact.  They also refer to them spreading the Christian faith as in the previous letter, and emphasize that the brothers have left much and great dignities in the world, and say that they expose their property and bodies. ‘So God forbid that they should violate the statutes of their profession and would be found acting contrary to their profession.’ Furthermore:
1) How could it be true that they would prohibit the preaching of God’s word? – since they most earnestly encourage religious and learned ecclesiastics to join them, especially if they can find any who know the Prussian language for teaching the people the orthodox faith.
2) They are not slow in carrying out papal commands, since they honour the Holy Roman Church as lord and master, love its messengers and observe imperial orders in all their deeds especially those made with Papal approval.
3) It is not true, as it was claimed, that the Brothers prohibit the correction of incest and adultery and similar things, since they mortify such things in themselves and hunt them out of others.
4) They never forbid oratories to be built or catholic ministers set up in them, who administer the Christian sacraments.
5) The Friars deny that the Brothers destroy old churches.
6) The Brothers do not impede the sacraments of burial, confession, baptism, Eucharist and the rest; this would be irrational since they are faithfully intent on all the rites of the Church.
7) They do not oppress the new converts by enslaving them, since they give them the true liberty with which Christ freed us, if they have the chance, even when they don’t want it and refuse it. And they provide mercifully and paternally for them in all spiritual and temporal matters.

The Friars end their letter by pleading that the pope will deign to show favour on the Brothers of the Teutonic Order, since the Brothers are the prison and chain of the barbarians, and their role is to lead the barbarians willingly into captivity in the Lord’s flock.

5: Roger Bacon: Opus Maius (1266) -- extracts


For the background to this, see Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches towards the Muslims (Princeton, Princeton U.P., 1984), pp. 177-80.
From: The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon, ed. John Henry Bridges, 3 vols (Oxford, 1877-1900, repr. Frankfurt, 1964), vol. 3, p. 121-2, part 3, ch. 13.

[Roger Bacon is discussing the importance of learning other languages. He says that the third reason for needing to learn languages is to convert the infidel.]
‘And so an infinite number of Jews perish among us, because no one knows how to preach to them, nor to interpret the scripture in their language, nor to confer with them nor dispute...’.
[He points out that our religion came from their religion, they are from the seed of the patriarchs and prophets, Our Lord was a Jew, as was the Virgin and the apostles and innumerable saints.]
‘Also Greeks and Russians and many other schismatics (those who call themselves Christian but do not recognise papal authority) remain in error because there is no one to preach the truth to them in their language; similarly with the Saracens and pagans and Tatars and other infidels throughout the whole world.
‘Nor is war against them any use, since sometimes the Church loses out in Christians’ wars, as often happens Overseas [i.e. in the Holy Land] and especially in the last expedition, i.e. the lord King of France’s, as the whole world knows [Louis IX’s first crusade]; and even if the Christians conquer there is no one who defends the occupied lands. Nor are the infidels converted thus but killed and sent to hell. But as for the rest who survive after the battle, their sons are stirred up more and more against the Christian faith because of those wars, and move an infinite distance away from the faith of Christ, and are inflamed to do every evil which they can against the Christians.
‘So the Saracens, because of this, become impossible to convert in many parts of the world, and especially Overseas and in Prussia and the lands bordering Germany, because the Templars and Hospitallers and the brothers of the Teutonic order much disturb the conversion of infidels because of the wars which they are always starting, and because of the fact that they wish to dominate them absolutely. For there is no doubt that all the infidel nations beyond Germany would have been converted long ago, if it was not for the violence of the brothers of the Teutonic order. The pagan race has many times been ready to receive the faith in peace after preaching, but those of the Teutonic order do not wish to allow this, because they wish to subjugate them and reduce them to slavery. By subtle persuasions they have already deceived the Roman Church for many years. That is known, otherwise I would not write this.
‘Besides, faith does not come into this world through weapons but by simple preaching, as I have shown. And we have many times heard and we are certain that many, however imperfectly they know languages and have poor interpreters have nevertheless done much useful work by preaching, and converted many to the Christian faith.’


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Helen Nicholson

©IHSP-Paul Halsall


The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021 [CV]