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Medieval Sourcebook:
Frederick II (r. 1215-1250):
Dispute with the Church, 1245-1246

Sentence of Deposition, Council of Lyons, June 1245

He has committed four very grave offences, which cannot be covered up by any subterfuge...he has abjured God on many occasions; he has wantonly broken the peace which had been established between the Church and the Empire; he has also committed sacrilege by causing to be imprisoned the Cardinals of the holy Roman Church, and the prelates and clerics...coming to the council which our predecessor had summoned; he is also accused of heresy...

We therefore, who are the and declare on account of the above-mentioned shameful crimes and many others...that the aforesaid bound by his sins and cast out and deprived of all honor.... We absolve forever all who owe him alliegence in virtue of an oath of fealty.... Whoever shall in future afford him advice, help or goodwill as if he were Emperor or king, shall fall "ipso facto" under the binding force of excommunication.

Letter of Frederick to the kings of Christendom, 1246

The ancients called happy those who learned caution from the danger of wax receives its impression from a seal, so the character of human life is shaped by example. ...those who are considered clerics, grown fat on the alms of princes, now oppress princes' sons.... What is implied by our maltreatment is made plain by the presumption of Pope Innocent IV for, having summoned a council--he has declared to pronounce a sentence of deposition against us who were neither summoned nor proved guilty of any deceit or wickedness, which sentence he could not enact without grievious prejudice to all kings. You and all kings of particular regions have everything to fear from the effrontery of such a prince of priests when he sets out to depose us who have been divinely honored by the imperial diadem and solemly elected by the princes with the approval of the whole church at a time when faith and religion were flourishing....

Encyclical letter Eger cui levia, c. 1246

If then Frederick, formerly Emperor, strives to accuse with noisy widespread complaints the sacred judge of the universal church through whom he was declared cast down by God so that he might no longer rule or reign, it ought not to seem anything new or marvellous, for he is behaving in the same fashion as others in like case....


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© Paul Halsall, August 1998