of Pope Alexander II concerning just warfare against the forces of
Muslim Iberia (1063-1064)
Translations and notes are copyright John S. Ott.
Classroom use is freely conferred; other use forbidden without
permission. Last revised 22 October 2012.
Letters 1.-2. Trans. John S. Ott, from S. Löwenfeld, ed., Epistolae
pontificum Romanorum ineditae
1885), nos. 82-83, pp. 43-44.
Letter 3. Trans. John S. Ott
from J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae latinae
, vol. 146 (Paris
1884), Letters and diplomas of Pope Alexander II (Alexandri II
Romani epistolae et diplomata
), no. 101, cols. 1386D-1387A.
The following letters date approximately to the
of 1063-early 1064, during the early years of Alexander II's
pontificacy. As they have come down to us they are not complete
letters, but rather extracts from letters that circulated later in
collections of canon law as decretals. The timing would appear to
coincide with an expedition of northern European warriors against the
Muslim stronghold of Barbastro, Spain, which took place in 1064. The
fragmentary nature of the letters has led to a great deal of
speculation about Alexander's role and intention in sponsoring,
organizing, or encouraging the expedition. The precise place of the
letters in the history of crusading and papal indulgences is still open
to question; many of the difficulties of interpretation have been
discussed by Marcus Bull, Knightly
Piety and the Lay Response to the First Crusade. The Limousin and
0 (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
In any case, the conquest of Barbastro was but a momentary success for
the northern armies (which included contingents from Aquitaine,
Normandy, Burgundy, and Catalonia). The city was retaken by
al-Muqtadir, the king of Zaragoza, the following year, and held until
1100. For background on the debates surrounding the letters, one may
consult, besides Marcus Bull, Carl Erdmann, The Origin of the Idea of Crusade
trans. Marshall W. Baldwin and Walter Goffart (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1977), 134-140, and, more recently, Joseph F.
O'Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade
in Medieval Spain
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2003), 23-27.
(1) Letter of
Alexander II to the clergy of Volturno (1063, late)
clergy of Volturno.
We urge with
paternal charity that those who are determined to set out for Spain
with maximum care about what they, divinely inspired, have decided to
Let a measure of penance be imposed
on each and every one of them who shall confess, according to the
his sins, to his bishop or spiritual father, so that the devil may not
them of impenitence.
[them] with prayer, by the authority of the holy apostles Peter and
[thereby] lift their penance and give them remission of sins.
(2) Letter of Pope
Alexander II to Gaufrid, archbishop of Narbonne (1063, late)
To [Arch]bishop Gaufrid. All laws, both ecclesiastical and
condemn the shedding of human blood, unless by chance they punish by
crime already committed, or, as in the case of the Saracens, a hostile
Thus, you acted
advisedly and laudably because you did not allow the Jews to be
We urge you to act again
in a similar fashion if necessary.
The following letter, although dated by its editor no
more specifically than 1061-1073, was probably also written about 1063
(3) Letter of Pope Alexander II to all the
(1063 or 1064)
Pope Alexander, to all the bishops of Spain
The news which we recently heard about you
was pleasing to us, how you protected the Jews who lived among you so
would not be annihilated by those who had set out against the Saracens
Indeed, those people, moved either by dull
ignorance or by blind avarice, wished to bring slaughter upon those
piety predestined for salvation.
blessed Gregory  forbade
certain men who burned to exterminate [the Jews], denouncing as impious
wish to destroy them who were saved by God’s mercy, so that they—cast
homeland and liberty, damned to a lengthy punishment by the prejudgment
father for spilling the Savior’s blood—might live dispersed to the ends
The situation of the Jews and
Saracens is completely different.
war is waged justly against those who persecute Christians and expel
their cities and own homes; these were everywhere created to be
But [blessed Gregory] even
bishop who wished to destroy [the Jews’] synagogue [from doing so].
 The precise identification of 'Volturno' has been much
discussed. Possible candidates include: Castel Volturno in Campania,
southern Italy; Volterra, in Tuscany; and an unidentified French
its name garbled in the historical record), though this appears rather
less probable to the translator.
 Also called Wilfrid or Guifrid, archbishop of Narbonne from ca.
1019-1077. Narbonne is located just inland from the Mediterranean,
along the southwestern coast of France.
 Pope Gregory I, ruled 590-604.