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Pope Gregory the Great and the Lombards

Davis Introduction: Gregory I (the Great)(Pope, 590-604 A.D.), was perhaps the greatest pontiff who ever reigned on the throne of St. Peter. No problem he confronted was more baffling than that of the Lombards, the latest and the fiercest invaders of Italy, who were threatening the very gates of Rome. Although left practically without support by the Eastern Emperor, Gregory by the mingling of a show of authority and of skillful negotiation brought about a tolerable peace, and established friendly relations with the Lombard court at Pavia. Gregory was prince of Rome in all but name, and did much to found the temporal power of the Papacy.

In these days [593 A.D.] the most sage and holy Pope Gregory of Rome, after he had composed many other things for the use of the holy Church, also endited four books of the Life of the Saints. This writing he called a dialogue, which is a conversation of two persons, because he had produced it in discourse with his deacon Peter. The aforesaid Pope then sent these books to the Queen Theudelinda [of the Lombards], whom he knew to be undoubtedly devoted to the faith of Christ and distinguished in good works.

By means of this queen, too, the Church of God procured much that was serviceable. For the Lombards, when they were still bound in the error of heathenism, seized nearly all the property of the churches, but the king [Agilulf, her husband], moved by her wholesome supplications, not only embraced the Catholic faith, but also bestowed much wealth upon the Church of Christ, and restored to the honor of their accustomed dignity certain bishops who were in a straitened and abject condition.

Presently resenting some aggressions of the exarch of Ravenna, King Agilulf straightway marched out of Pavia with a great army and attacked the city of Perugia, and there for some days he besieged Maurisio, the duke of the Lombards who had gone over to the Romans, and speedily took him and slew him. The blessed Pope Gregory was so sorely alarmed at the approach of this king that he ceased from his commentary upon the temple mentioned in Ezekiel, as he himself declares in his homilies. King Agilulf then, when matters were settled, returned to Pavia, and not long afterward, upon the special instigation of his wife, Queen Theudelinda---since the blessed Pope Gregory had frequently so admonished her in his letters---he concluded a firm peace with the same most holy Pope Gregory and with the Romans, and that venerable prelate dispatched to this queen this letter, as expression of his gratitude:---Gregory to Theudelinda, Queen of the Lombards: We have learned from the report of our son, the abbot Probus, that your Highness has consecrated yourself, as you are wont, zealously and magnanimously to making peace. Nor was it to be presumed otherwise from your Christianity but that you would show to all men your labor and your goodness in the cause of peace. Therefore we render thanks to God Almighty, who thus rules your heart by His affection, that he has not only given unto you the true faith, but that He also grants that you devote yourself always to the things which are pleasing to him. For think not, most noble daughter, that you have obtained but scant reward for staying the blood that would otherwise have been poured out on either side. On account of this act we return thanks for your good will, and invoke the mercy of our God that He may mete out to you a recompense of good things in body and soul, both here and hereafter. Do you, therefore, according to your wont, every busy yourself with the things that relate to the welfare of the parties, and take pains to commend your good actions more fully in the eyes of God Almighty, wherever an opportunity may be given to win His reward.


From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols., (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-1913), pp. 367-369.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text may have been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

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.

© Paul Halsall, August 1998
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