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THE ENGLISH AT THE COUNCIL OF LYONS
ON 2nd December, 1244, Innocent IV arrived at Lyons. He had apparently already determined to convoke a Council to discuss the action of the emperor Frederick in his regard, and to give its general sanction to the extreme ecclesiastical measures it was proposed to take against him. On 22nd December, the feast of St. John, therefore, the pope having said mass in the cathedral, ascended the pulpit and publicly announced the convocation of the Council for the 24th of June following. A week later, some of the letters summoning the prelates were already on their way. Some at least of the pontifical letters, besides directing that the assembly of a general Council should be made known to the faithful, order that the papal excommunication of the emperor should be proclaimed. That this latter command was not always popular, or obeyed with a good grace, appears from a story of a French priest, which Matthew Paris relates. This cleric, feeling bound to carry out the mandate, did so in the following manner: Listen all of you. I have been ordered to publish a solemn sentence of excommunication against the emperor Frederick, with bell and candle. I do not know why, but there has been a grave quarrel and lasting hatred between them. I know, too, that one has injured the other; which, I do not know. But, as far as my powers go, I excommunicate, and declare excommunicated, one of them; that is, he that has
done the injury, whichever it is, and I absolve the other who has suffered the wrong, for the matter is most hurtful to the whole of Christendom.”
Authorities differ as to the number of bishops attending the Council. The partisans of Frederick II desired to maintain that it was by no means an assembly representative of the whole even of western Christendom. They declared that it was for the most part a reunion of French and transalpine bishops, and the numbers vary from 362 archbishops, bishops and other prelates, as stated in the chronicle of Mantua,' to 144, the number given by Matthew Paris as having been present at the first session on 26th June, 1245.
The number of English dignitaries was certainly small. They had been summoned en masse, and the records show that the archbishop of Canterbury, with the bishops of Lincoln and Worcester, represented the English hierarchy, and the archbishops of Armagh and St. Andrews, those of Ireland and Scotland. The dean of Lincoln was amongst the lesser dignitaries, and during the sitting of the Council he was consecrated bishop of Coventry and Lichfield by the pope. For one reason or another, many English bishops and abbots excused themselves. The king said that he could not spare the bishop of Carlisle nor the abbot of Westminster, as he intended to leave to them the custody of the kingdom during his absence abroad. The bishop of Ely and the abbot of St. Alban's pleaded sickness; the bishop of Llandaff, poverty; the abbot of Edmundsbury was laid up with the gout; and the abbot of Waltham was too old and infirm to travel. Pope Innocent seems to have accepted the excuses readily enough, except in the case of
1 Matthew Paris, iv. 407. ? Elie Berger, Saint Louis et Innocent IV, 121.
the archbishop of York, who was told to make an effort to be present, because the dignity of his archiepiscopal office made it proper that he should appear.
The king of France sent his ambassadors to the Council, and Henry III was represented by Roger Bigod and the earl of Norfolk, with William de Powick as their“ orator," or official spokesman. The king thought it necessary to warn all prelates and others going to the Council, to watch over the interests of England during the proceedings. He reminded them of their oath of fealty, and prohibited them from permitting, or allowing others to permit or to promise, anything prejudicial to the interests of the kingdom, or that could compromise any rights possessed by the Crown from inheritance or custom. Should they do so, he threatens to confiscate the temporalities annexed to their offices.
One of the first acts of the assembled fathers was to ask for the canonisation of St. Edmund, the late archbishop of Canterbury. The petition for this was made by eight archbishops and more than twenty bishops, and they urgently desired that he should be declared a Saint at once, and that the feast of his canonisation should be held during the sessions of the Council. The pope, however, deprecated haste, but promised to consider the matter at the earliest moment. The chief business before the Council so far as the pope was concerned, was the consideration of the great quarrel between himself and the emperor. Innocent IV brought many charges against Frederick, which were discussed fully, and by none more carefully answered than by the proctor, who was there in behalf of the emperor himself.
English interests were represented, and the complaints of the English nation were voiced on Monday, 17th July,
Rymer, i 260.
1245, by the proctors, who had come to present the letter already referred to as drawn up by the nobles of England. The chief spokesman of the English was one Master William de Powick. His intervention was called for early in the meeting, by the request of the pope that all present should sign a statement or declaration of the privileges which had been granted to the Holy See at various times by kings and princes. In objecting to this, de Powick first complained in behalf of the English nation of the existence of the annual tribute of a thousand marks promised to the Holy See by King John. This payment he characterised as “injurious” to the kingdom. “It had never," he said, “been agreed to, either by the fathers of the present nobles, or by them, nor would they consent to pay the tribute in the future.” To this declaration the pope made no reply, and aster a pause, de Powick proceeded to read the letter sent by the English people generally, complaining of the constant demands and exactions of the Roman officials in Engiand. “We love and esteem our mother, the Roman Church, with all our hearts," it said, “as our duty is, and with all affection possible we desire to increase and extend its honour. ... To it we turn for solace in our troubles, so that any crushing sorrow of her sons may be soothed by a mother's care—that mother indeed cannot but remember the gratitude which the realm of England has shown her from ages long past.” It has given her a fitting and sufficient assistance to exalt her position and to maintain it. By this, indeed, a bond of affection has been firmly established between that Church and the said kingdom. In process of time, this subsidy became known as “Saint Peter's penny.” But the (Roman) Church, not content with a subsidy of this kind, now by legates, now by nuncios
Labbe, Concilia, tom. xiv. col. 44.
without number, has sought to obtain help of various kinds from the said kingdom. This assistance was ever liberally and freely granted to her by her children, as sons devoted to their mother, and ready to embrace her with loving arms.
“We (English) do not believe that your Paternity is ignorant that our predecessors, like true Catholics, loving and fearing their Creator and wishful to save their own souls, and help in the salvation of those of their forefathers and descendants, founded monasteries and enriched them with property, with lands and with the patronage of churches. It is consequently intolerable to us to see the said religious at times deprived of this patronage and collation to their churches.”
The document then goes on to say that in this matter the popes have not shown consideration. On the contrary they have bestowed many of these churches upon Italians, who in immense numbers have obtained appcintments to English benefices. Foreigners, thus appointed, have claimed to be the rectors of the parishes, and have ignored the rights of the religious patrons. They have, moreover, lived away altogether from their cures, or in such a way that “they know not their sheep and their sheep know not them.” They have not dispensed alms, “as is ordered in the Church," but have carried off the fruits of their benefices over the sea. And in order that the full truth may be known at the present, it must be stated that Italians are receiving more than sixty thousand marks yearly from English benefices—a sum greater than the annual revenue the king, “who is the guardian of the Church,” has to spend on the government of his kingdom.
The writers of the English petition then speak specially of the way the papal clerk, Martin, had acted since he came into the kingdom. He claimed, they say, to have more