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Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Andrew of Fleury: The Peace League of Bourges as described in the Miracles of St. Benedict, written c. 1043


While the events described occurred in 1038, Andrew composed his work between 1040 and 1043.

(5.1) In the 1038th year after the incarnation of the Lord, on the eigth day of August, in the middle of the day, the sun was darkened and hid the rays of its splendors for a space of almost two hours. Again the following morning it remained under the same appearance for the entire day and unremittingly gave off bloody flames.

(5.2) At this very same time, archbishop Aimon of Bourges wished to impose peace in his diocese through the swearing of an oath. After he had summoned the fellow bishops of his province and had sought advice from these suffragens, he bound all men of fifteen years of age and over by the following law: that they would come forth with one heart as opponents of any violation of the oath they had sworn, that they would in no way withdraw secretly from the pact even if they should lose their property, and that, what is more, if necessity should demand it, they would go after those who had repudiated the oath with arms. Nor were ministers of the sacraments excepted, but they frequently took out banners from the sanctuary of the Lord and attacked the violators of the sworn peace with the rest of the crowd of laypeople (populus). In this way they many times routed the faithless and brought their castles down to the ground. With the help of God they so terrified the rebels that, as the coming of the faithful was proclaimed far and wide by rumor among the populace, the rebels scattered. Leaving the gates of their towns open, they sought safety in flight, harried by divinely-inspired terror. You would have seen [the faithful] raging against the multitude of those who ignore God, as if they were some other people of Israel. Presently they presently trampled [the rebels] underfoot so that they forced them to return to the laws of the pact which they had ignored.

We thought it fitting to insert in writing that which was agreed to in the pact which the archbishop himself, along with various fellow bishops, promised under oath in the following way: "I Aimon by the gift of God archbishop of Bourges promise with my whole heart and mouth to God and to his saints that I shall discharge with my whole spirit and without any guile or dissimulation everything which follows. That is, I will wholeheartedly attack those who steal eccelesiastical property, those who provoke pillage, those who oppress monks, nuns, and clerics, and those who fight against holy mother church, until they repent. I will not be beguiled by the enticement of gifts, nor moved by any reason of bonds of kinship or neighborliness, nor in any way deviate from the path of righteousness. I promise to move with all my troops against those who dare in any manner to transgress the decrees and not to cease in any way until the purpose of the traitor has been overcome."

He swore this over the relics of Steven, the first martyr for Christ, and urged the other [bishops] to do likewise. Obeying with one heart, his fellow bishops made among everyone age fifteen or older (as we alrady said) in their separate dioceses subscribe [the pact] with the same promise. Fear and trembling then struck the hearts of the unfaithful so that they feared the multitude of the unarmed peasantry as if it were a battleline of armored men. Their hearts fell so that, forgetting their status as knights and abandoning their fortified places, they fled from the humble peasants as from the cohorts of very powerful kings. The prayer of David fitted the situation most aptly: "For thou dost deliver a humble people, but the haughty eyes thou dost bring down, for who is God but the Lord?" [Psalm 17:28 and 32 (18:27 and 31 in RSV)]. . . . Odo of Déols remained alone among the whole multitude [of rebels], reserved by the judgment of God for the punishment of evil doers.

(5.3) When by the will of God they had, trusting in the help of divine strength, established peace in every direction, ambition (the root and aid of all evil) began to seep along the stalks of such good works. They forgot that God is the strength and rampart of his people, and ascribed the power of God to their apostate power. . . Thus the aforementioned bishop was touched by the sting of mammon and raged around and around in blind ambition. Unmindful of his episcopal dignity, he attacked Beneciacum, the castle of one Steven, along with a multitude of the people (populus) of Bourges. He reproached Steven for the fault of having ignored the peace, he tried to burn the castle with flames and ordered it to be leveled to the ground, as if he were exacting the vengeance of God upon it. They burned the castle, which was hemmed in on all sides by the seige, with more than one thousand four hundred people of both sexes inside. Steven alone of that great number escaped, although his brothers, wife, and sons were all consumed by the fire, and he placed the laural wreath of his great victory on their wretched heads. The inhabitants of that region for a radius of fourteen miles had fled to this castle and, since they feared the theft of their possessions, they had brought them along. The cruel victors were hardly moved by the laments of the dying, they did not take pity on women beating their breasts, the crowd of infants clinging to their mothers' breasts did not touch any vein of mercy . . . And so the just bore responsiblity for the crime of the iniquitous and the just perished in place of the impious. Having been granted this great triumph, the people returned to their homes dancing with a pitiable joy. Steven was placed under guard in a prison in Bourges.

(5.4) Almighty God wished to avenge the blood of his servants and, not long after this, set the aforesaid bishop against Odo, the sole rebel. The bishop sought to force Odo to join in the pact common to all, but he would not delay in making an armed attack. Discovering that Odo's spirit remained inflexible, as was God's will, Aimon began-while the blood of the innocents was not yet dry-to collect allies together from all sides, including a large contingent of God's ministers. Confiding in lesser things, he directed his battleline against the enemy. When both armies stood almost at grips, a sound was made heavenward [indicating that Aimon's forces should] retreat, since no longer had the Lord with them as a leader. When they made no sign of following this advice, an enourmous globe of flashing light fell in their midst. Thus it came to pass, as it is said, "Flash forth the lightning and scatter them, send out they arrows and rout them!"[Psalm 143:6 (144:6 in RSV)] Then the people (populus) perceived that they were much inferior to their adversaries, since those exceeded in number the sands of the sea. They decided that some foot soldiers should be mounted on various animals and mixed into the cohorts of mounted warriors (milites) so that they would be judged mounted warriors by their opponents, more because of the appearance of their being mounted than because of setting of their weapons. Without delay up to two thousand of the plebeian rabble was mounted on asses and arrayed as knights (equestri) among the order of knights. But these men were terrified and they took flight along the banks of the Cher. They were killed in such numbers that they blocked the river in such a way that they made a bridge out of the bodies of the dying over which their enemies proceeded. More fell by their own swords than by those of their pursuers. . . The number of the dying could not be comprehended: in one valley seven hundred clerics fell. Thus the most tempered judgment of God made those people-who had refused obediance to any requests for mercy, and had not been moved by the smell of their brothers' being burned, and had rejoiced more than was just to have their hands in an unfortunate victory-lost their lives along with that victory.


Source: Andrew of Fleury, Miracula s. Benedicti, 5.1-4 edited in Eugène de Certain, Les miracles de Saint Benoît écrits par Adrevald, Aimoin, André, Raoul Tortaire et Hugues de Sainte Marie moines de Fleury (Paris, 1858), pp. 192-198. For a fuller consideration of these events, see Thomas Head, "The Judgment of God: Andrew of Fleury's Account of the Peace League of Bourges," in The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France Around the Year 1000, eds. Thomas Head and Richard Landes (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 219-38.

This translation by Thomas Head has been made available to fellow students and researchers for private or classroom use. All other rights are reserved. Duplication for any other purpose, including publication, is prohibited. This translation was last updated on June 10, 1997.

From Thomas F. Head, An Anthology of Translated Texts Illustrative of the History of the Cult of the Saints (c 2000). [Link is to Internet Archive]. Thomas Head prepared these texts as part of the now defunct ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies [Link is to an archived and non-maintained version]. Dr. Head died on Nov 12, 2014 after an extended illness. I believe that he would have wanted his translated texts, marked for free personal use, and bibliographies to continue to be available and not just through the sometimes slow operation of the Internet Archive. They were marked "They may be reproduced for private use, but may not be reproduced for publication."


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

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© Paul Halsall, January 2023
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