Bruno confronts Archbishop Manassès

In 1075 the spiritual power of the Pope and the temporal power of the princes began the long struggle that is known in history as the struggle of investitures.

Since his election in March of 1074, Gregory VII had energetically continued the Church reform that his predecessor had initiated. In 1075 he renewed Alexander's decrees and strengthened them, condemning the investiture of bishops by temporal princes. In France the legate commissioned to enforce the papal decree was an inflexible, merciless man called Hugh of Dié. His task was thankless, but he under-took it vigorously. It has been written that he was "the most despised man of the eleventh century", and he was called "the Church's hatchet man" in France. At the Pope's command Hugh had to call a series of regional councils that bishops who were suspected of simony were required to attend, and those who were found guilty were dismissed from their office and replaced with trustworthy bishops. The first of those councils was held in 1075 at Anse, near Lyons. The battle was begun in the name of the Pope against the dreadful scourge of simony, and everyone took a stand on the papal reform.

The Council of Clermont was held during the summer of 1076. The Provost of the Chapter of Rheims, who like his Archbishop was called Manassès, came of his own accord to Hugh of Dié and admitted that he had bought his office at the beginning of 1075 after the death of the provost Odalric. He humbly asked to be forgiven.

It was on the occasion of that meeting, no doubt, that the Provost Manassès acquainted Hugh of Dié with the extraordinary situation in which Archbishop Manassès had, through corruption and violence, involved the diocese of Rheims: the depreciation of possessions of the Church, arbitrary exactions from clergy and monks, traffic in offices and benefices, excommunication threatened against any who opposed him. The higher authority had to intervene.

Why? Was it because of that complaint and to circumvent the Archbishop's anger? During the last months of 1076 several important individuals went into voluntary exile from Rheims, risking the loss of their positions and their possessions. Ebal count of Roucy-sur-l'Aisne, offered them a place of refuge. The names of some of these complainants are known: there were the Provost Manassès, Bruno, Raoul le Verd, and Fulco le Borgne. And these were surely not the only ones.

The tension between the Archbishop and the exiles soon reached a critical point. When Gregory VII was informed of the situation, he decided to intervene, which he did with prudence and moderation. On March 25, 1077, he directed the Bishop of Paris to examine the dossier of several who had, apparently, been unjustly threatened with excommunication by Manassès, still regarding him as the lawful shepherd of the Church of Rheims. On May 12 of the same year he again chose him to sit beside Hugh, the abbot of Cluny, at the head of the Council that was about to take place at Langres.

All at once the situation was completely reversed. The plans for Langres were canceled. The Council would be held at Autun on September 10, 1077. Instead of presiding there as judge, Bishop Manassès would be summoned and accused. He refused to appear. But those in exile at Roucy, including the Provost Manassès and Bruno, came, and they accused their Archbishop of having obtained the See of Rheims by simony and, despite the formal prohibition of the Pope, of having consecrated the Bishop of Senlis, who had received his See through lay investiture at the hands of the King of France. Bishop Manassès was suspended from his position by the Fathers of the Council, "because, though summoned to the Council to give an account of himself, he did not come" (quid vocatus ad Concilium ut se purgaret, non venit).

Manassès responded immediately with severe reprisals against the clerics of Rheims who had gone to Autun. "As the canons of Rheims were returning after making their accusations against him at the Council," writes Hugh of Flavigny in his Chronicle, "the Archbishop ambushed them, sacked their houses, sold what they had to live on, and confiscated their possessions."

Regardless of the suspension threatened by the fathers of the Council of Autun, the dispute between Bishop Manassès and the canons was not resolved. What followed indicates that the Chapter of Rheims and the legate, Hugh of Dié, must have felt it urgent to inform Gregory VII. If Marlow's History of the Church of Rheims can be believed, the Chapter would have sent Bruno himself (and perhaps Manassès) to Rome so they could tell the Pope personally about the excesses of the Archbishop. Be that as it may, an account by Hugh of Dié relates (some authors say it was through two letters) the part played by the Provost and by Bruno in the resistance to the Bishop. The delegate to Gregory VII wrote:

To Your Holiness we recommend our friend in Christ, Manassès, who resigned his office of provost of the Church of Rheims during the Council of Clermont. Though he had obtained his position unlawfully, he is a sincere defender of the Catholic Faith. We also recommend Bruno, a teacher with integrity in the Church of Rheims. Both of them deserve to be confirmed for divine service by your authority, because they have been judged worthy of suffering persecution for the name of Jesus. Please use them as your counsellors and cooperators for the cause of God in France.

This is an authentic and important testimonial to the high regard that the legate and everyone else at Rheims (except the simoniac Archbishop) had for Bruno. For Hugh of Dié to bestow so formal an encomium upon someone, saying, "His life is irreproachable" or calling him "master of all integrity in the Church of Rheims", there must have been no shadow on his conduct. Bruno's faith, virtue, and honor were beyond suspicion. He stood above this troubled period for the Church of Rheims like one without guile, who had not compromised at all.

As a matter of fact, Gregory VII did not confirm the judgment of the Council of Autun immediately. He soon wrote that the Roman Church was accustomed to act with "a measure of discretion rather than the rigor of law". The Pope recognized his legate's tendency to be severe. Had he not perhaps judged too quickly, extinguishing the wick instead of encouraging it to flame again? He decided to examine the case of Manassès himself, as well as the six other bishops who had been condemned by Hugh of Dié. To do that he called them to Rome and invited them to explain. Count Ebal of Roucy, and Ponce, one of the canons of Rheims, came with them to tell Gregory VII just what had happened at Rheims. At Rome the discussion was difficult. The principal argument that Manassès dared to propose in his own defense was that to condemn him would be to risk creating a schism within the kingdom! Finally Manassès flared up at his accusers. Upon an oath "on the body of Saint Peter", he obtained pardon from Gregory VII. On March 9, 1078, Gregory VII addressed the following letter to the legate:

Because it is the custom of the Roman Church, at the head of which God has placed Us in spite Our unworthiness, to tolerate certain actions and to let some pass in silence, We have decided to use moderation rather than demand the strictness of the law, and We have very carefully reexamined the cases of the bishops of France who were suspended or condemned by our legate, Hugh of Dié. Although Manassès, the Archbishop of Rheims, has been accused on several counts, and although he refused to appear at the Council to which Hugh of Dié had summoned him, it seems to Us that the sentence against him was not in conformity with the compassion and gentleness customary in the Roman Church. For this reason We restored him to the duties of his office after he took this oath on the body of Saint Peter: "I, Manassès, declare that it was not out of pride that I did not appear at the Council of Autun, to which the Bishop of Dié had summoned me. If I were called by a messenger or a letter from the Holy See, I would not use any pretext or deceit to escape. I would come and loyally submit to the decision and judgment of the Church. If it pleases Pope Gregory or his successor that I give an account before his legate, I shall obey with the same humility. I shall not use the treasures, the resources, or the possessions of the Church of Rheims, which are entrusted to my care, except for the honor of that church, and I shall not dispose of them in any way that I could be accused of failing injustice." So, Manassès was enfolded in a judgment of leniency and mercy, which closed the inquiry and the case of the bishops.

This gentleness was not what the legate, Hugh of Dié, wanted from the Pope. Would it not destroy his authority? He wrote to the Pope with some bitterness to let him know of his disagreement:

May Your Holiness grant that no longer will anyone insult us and dishonor us. Those that we suspended, deposed, or even condemned, who were guilty of simony or anything else, freely have recourse to Rome, and there, where they should meet with strict justice, they find the mercy they desire. Those who previously did not dare to sin even in trifling things, begin to indulge in more profitable dealings, tyrannizing over the churches they are in charge of. Believe me, most holy Father, Your Holiness' useless servant.

No doubt the legate's complaint went beyond the case of the Archbishop of Rheims, but it did include him. Returning to his diocese, Manassès played the penitent to extend and consolidate his victory. He attempted to be reconciled with the Provost, with Bruno, and with the other canons who had taken refuge with Count Ebal and, in good time and in proper form, to obtain a papal condemnation against the Count. To free his hands for further intrigues, he even asked the Pope to make him subject no longer to the jurisdiction of Hugh of Dié any longer but only to the authority of the Pope or legates who come from Rome. Then with shameless wheedling he wrote at length to Gregory VII. He repeatedly proclaimed his fidelity and homage; he accused, he argued, he invoked the privileges granted to his predecessors; and finally he came to the exiles and their protector:

As regards Count Ebal, who attempted to accuse me in your presence, appealed to you, and affirmed his fidelity to you with hypocritical words, you were able to recognize which side was showing you sincerity and fidelity: mine, where I am prepared to obey God and you in everything, or the side of the Count of Ebal, who in your presence attacked the Church of Saint Peter and in our presence persecutes the Church of Rheims through the Provost Manassès and his partisans, who gathered at his chateau. This Manassès has received the assurance of forgiveness, which you ordered us to grant him if he returned to the Church, his mother; but, paralyzed in the knowledge of his sins, he chooses neither to return to us nor to yield to the peace of the Church. On the contrary, he does not cease, nor do his followers, to revile my church and myself by derogatory language, since he may not inflict physical blows. Further, without speaking of Count Ebal, who, I trust, will not escape your just and apostolic sentence, I urgently beseech your Holiness to order Manassès to return home and attack his church no longer; or better, frighten him and his supporters and his cooperators with a stern, apostolic sentence. Be so kind as to write to those who have received them and tell them to give them asylum against the rights of the Church no longer under pain of similar sentence.

It was a deceitful tactic. The phrase "without speaking of Count Ebal" insinuates that the sentence of condemnation has passed from himself. Putting that first, in the place of Manassès, who was not without reproach; saying nothing about Bruno, whom, the Archbishop well knew, the Pope considered a virtuous and honorable man — all that was clever, too clever. The Pope did not permit himself to be taken by surprise again. He outmaneuvered every trap. On August 22, 1078, he sent a reply to Manassès' letter. In his excellent reply the Pontiff again attempted to avoid an open break with the Archbishop and to design an honorable withdrawal for him if he should agree to be sincere and trustworthy. He reassured him of his loyalty and guaranteed him his rights as bishop and metropolitan. But Manassès will give up every exemption: he will not place himself above the law, and he will recognize the authority of the papal legates even if they do not come from Rome, specifically the authority of Hugh of Dié with whom, in an effort to avoid any excessive strictness, he associated the Abbot of Cluny, who was known for his moderate judgments. The Provost Manassès too will be subjected to a just and precise investigation by the two legates: "Regarding the Provost Manassès who, you say, never ceases to annoy you by his words since he cannot do it by his acts, and against whom you have made any other accusations you please, We are sending you Our instructions for Our dear brothers the Bishop of Dié and the Abbot of Cluny, so that they will try to conduct a diligent inquiry into these affairs, to examine them carefully, and to judge them in all truth and justice in conformity with canon law."

For the Pope, these were not idle words. On that very day he sent his instructions to Hugh of Dié and Hugh of Cluny. They were measured words. Gregory VII's wisdom and his perfect knowledge of each of his collaborators shine through them. He directed the legates to "strive to reconcile the provost Manassès, whom the Archbishop complained of, the one who had fled to Count Ebal and, aided by him, has not ceased to disturb the Archbishop and his church. He should desist from disturbing the church and persecuting the Bishop. If he is stubborn and does not wish to obey, do with him what seems right to you." To the Provost these instructions seemed to be harsh, and they were. They reveal the seriousness of the conflict that set the Archbishop and the exiled canons against each another. But the Pope added a little clause that showed that he was well informed about the matter and wondered whether the Provost's resistance might not be justified: "Unless you find out that he has just cause for what he is doing". Everything should be done in accordance with law and justice. In charity, the legates will place all their energy at the service of law and justice. In this painful conflict charity must prevail.

Regarding the other demands of the Archbishop, assist him as is proper, if he obeys you, and with the authority of the apostles defend the church which has been placed in his care. As regards himself, We have been informed by the letters you have written to Us that he is seeking delays and deceit. We have told him by letter exactly what We are writing to you today. My dear brothers, act with strength and wisdom, and do everything with charity. May the oppressed find you prudent defenders, and may their oppressors see your love of justice. May the all-powerful God pour his Spirit into your hearts!"

We do not know for sure what happened at the end of 1078 and during the first months of 1079. The fact is that, at midsummer of that year, the legate Hugh of Dié, in agreement with the Abbot of Cluny, judged it expedient to convoke a Council at Trent and summon Archbishop Manassès to it. He came, along with an escort of numerous supporters, intending that their show of numbers would surely bring pressure upon the Council. Did he do this to prevent the Council from deliberating or making free judgments? At the last moment the legate canceled the Council.

Gregory VII decided to intervene and subject the Arch-bishop's conduct to a new scrutiny. He wrote this order to Hugh of Dié:

Since you were unable to convoke a Council in the place that was planned, We judge it advisable now that you find a suitable location to hold a synod and carefully examine the case of the Archbishop of Rheims. If trustworthy accusers and witnesses are found who can prove canonically the charges against him, We desire that you carry out without delay the sentence that justice will determine. On the other hand, if such witnesses cannot be found, now that this Archbishop's reputation for scandal has spread not only throughout France but also almost all of Italy, let him bring, if he can, six bishops of unblemished character. If they find him innocent, he will be exonerated and permitted to live at peace in his church with his prerogatives.

To put this case in perspective, the conflict in which the provost Manassès, Bruno, and the canons of Rheims were involved was not an internal dispute in a single diocese, a mere "sacristy argument". The importance of Rheims in France and the pompous excesses of the Archbishop took the affair beyond the diocese of Rheims. The scandal touched all of France and most of Italy. For that reason Gregory VII imposed this unusual procedure upon his legates. If the wit-nesses for the prosecution failed to make the accusation clear and undeniable, the Archbishop would not for that reason be found innocent; it would be for him to prove positively that his conduct and his intentions were honorable. Six bishops "of unblemished character" must personally attest to the morality of his conduct and his fitness to remain at the head of the Church of Rheims. This policy was a strong challenge to Manassès and his intrigues.

Following the Pope's orders, Hugh of Dié convoked a new council. Lyons was chosen to be the place for it. The date was set for the first days of February 1080. Manassès again appealed to the Pope over the head of the legate, invoking an ancient privilege of the Church of Rheims according to which the Archbishop was responsible only to the Holy See. Gregory VII responded on January 5, 1080, refusing him the right to challenge the jurisdiction of his legate, Hugh of Dié, who would be assisted by the Bishop of Albano, Cardinal Peter Ignée, and Hugh of Cluny. Gregory wrote:

We are astonished that so wise a man as you finds so many excuses to remain isolated and hold on to your church in the face of such disgraceful accusations and allow public opinion to judge you, when you should be interested in removing suspicions like these and freeing your church from them. If you do not go to the Council of Lyons, if you do not obey the Roman Church, which has put up with you for a long time, We shall in no way change the decision of the Bishop of Dié; rather, We shall confirm it by Our apostolic authority.

The threat was clear. Giving up his hope to deceive Gregory VII, Manassès tried to bribe Hugh, the abbot of Cluny. He sent secret messengers to offer him 300 ounces of pure gold as well as gifts for his friends. He promised still greater gifts if he would be permitted to vindicate himself. The Abbot of Cluny was unmoved by these offers.

At the beginning of February 1080, the Council assembled at Lyons as planned. Regardless of the Pope's threat, Manassès did not come in person. He sent an Apology in which, without refuting the accusations brought against him, he attacked the procedures and the conditions imposed upon him. He took up an argument that he had already used with Gregory VII: going to Lyons would place him in real danger; how could he find six bishops to testify on his behalf? how could he find them in the twenty days that remained? and who would be the judge of the character of the six bishops? We should cite two passages of this prideful Apology that refer to Bruno:

You tell me first to come to the Council and respond to my accusers, Provost Manassès and his companions. But I say to you that I have come to an agreement with Manassès with regard to all of his followers except for two, one of whom is Bruno. But this Bruno does not belong to my church. He was not born there, nor was he baptized there. He is a canon of Saint Cunibert in Cologne, in the land of the Teutons. Having absolutely no knowledge of his life and background, I do not value his presence here very much. Besides, I have bestowed many benefits upon him since he came to live here, and in return I have received from him only malicious and undeserved treatment. As regards the other one, Ponce, he lied in my presence before the Roman Council, and that is why I do not wish nor should I be required to respond to either one of them in an ecclesiastical court.

A little farther on, the Archbishop returns to his topic:

As I have said, I would not accept any accusation made by the provost Manassès and his companions — unless, at the Council, they return to their error — because they have been reconciled with me, except for Bruno and Ponce, as I said, and to them I do not wish nor should I be required to respond for the reason I have already stated. If some of them with whom I have made peace through the mediation of the provost Manassès should come to the Council in contempt of that peace and should wish to say something against me, their testimony would not be admissible because, at the time of the agreement, they were not familiar to me either as friends or canons, and so they could not offer testimony about my life.

These texts are very important. They prove that the provost Manassès had yielded to the pressure and the of-fers of the Archbishop, and that Bruno and Ponce had not agreed to follow him and capitulate. If by itself their refusal may be ambiguous (was it from obstinacy, or was it from clarity of vision and disinterestedness?), the events to follow will remove the ambiguity and justify the position taken by Bruno and Ponce. Another item equally important is that Bruno did not appear in the foreground until after the Provost's reconciliation with the Archbishop; until then it was the Provost who was at the head of the group of exiles, so that, having won him back to his side, the Archbishop considered that the resistance ("his accusers") no longer existed. In this diatribe the Archbishop apologized to Bruno without wanting to, even before he actually offered an apology. This shows us one of Bruno's attributes that we will find throughout the course of his life: an admirable strength of character to pursue, to the end and come what may, whatever he believed to be the will of God for him, and no difficulty, no threat, no promise, no desertion could succeed in deflecting him from something he had undertaken, once he judged in conscience that the undertaking was the will of God.

The Apology could not save Archbishop Manassès. The Fathers of the Council deposed him from the episcopacy. In March of 1080, Hugh of Dié went to Rome to tell Gregory VII what had happened. On April 17, 1080, the Pope wrote to Manassès to let him know that during the spring synod at Rome he had confirmed the verdict of Lyons. Even in this extremity, however, the Pope, "moved by mercy that is, I might say, excessive" (nimia, ut ita dixerim, misericordia ductus), offered him a chance to repair his reputation, if not his situation. Manassès could ask "by Saint Michael" for six bishops in whom the Pope had confidence (those of Soissons, Laon, Cambrai, Châlons-sur-Marne, and two others) to testify in his behalf. To this generous gesture Gregory VII attached only a few conditions that were very reasonable. The Archbishop will restore to them all the possessions he had taken "from Manassès, from Bruno, and from the other canons who, in speaking [against him], seemed to have no other purpose than to secure justice"; he will not oppose the return of those who have suffered exile so long for the sake of justice, and he will permit them to serve God in the Church of Rheims with security; and before the feast of the Ascension the following year he will vacate the Church of Rheims and withdraw willingly to Cluny or to Chaise-Dieu, there to live in seclusion at his own expense with one cleric and two laymen after swearing before the legate that he will take nothing that belongs to Rheims except what is necessary for his livelihood and that of his companions. If he refuses to obey, Gregory VII definitively confirmed the verdict of the Council and left him no hope of any future appeal.

Instead of taking advantage of this generous offer of the Pope, Manassès continued his duplicity and tried to remain at the head of the Church of Rheims in spite of everything. On December 27, 1080, his patience and kindness exhausted, Gregory VII wrote four letters that brought this deplorable conflict to a conclusion. He deposed Manassès once and for all, this time with no hope of reinstatement. He directed the clergy and the people of Rheims to resist the Archbishop, to expel him, and, with the legate's consent, to proceed with new elections. The Pope asked Count Ebal to stand by those who resisted Manassès and to support the new archbishop who would be elected. The Pope released the suffragan bishops of Rheims from all obedience to the excommunicated metropolitan and charged them with electing an archbishop worthy of the See of Rheims. Finally, he wrote a paternal and decisive letter to the King of France, Philip I:

Saint Peter directs you and Gregory entreats you to give no further protection to Manassès, who has been definitively deposed for crimes that are not unknown to you, to withdraw your friendship from him, and no longer permit his presence in your court. By breaking with the enemies of the Church you will show that you love the Lord and, following these apostolic directives, that you sincerely desire to obtain the good graces of Saint Peter. By the apostolic authority with which We are invested, We forbid any obstacle to be placed in the way of the regular election of a new archbishop, which the clergy and people must hold. We request that you oppose anyone who would wish to place any obstacle and to give your protection to the one who will be chosen by the clergy and the people.... [The Pope dared to add:] This is an opportunity for you to show it was not in vain that We have been patient with the faults of your youth and hoped for your conversion.

More interested in his pleasures than in the religion of his kingdom, Philip I took no action against Manassès. The Archbishop remained a while longer in the See of Rheims. But his scandals and plunderings finally caused the people to rise up against him and drive him out of Rheims. According to Guibert of Nogent, Manassès found refuge with the excommunicated Emperor of Germany, Henry IV, attaching himself to one of the greatest enemies of the Church and the papacy. No more was heard of him.

With the departure of Manassès the exiles could return to Rheims. They were welcomed enthusiastically by the clergy and the people. Bruno especially received public honor: events had brought him to their attention. Although he did not take back his chair, or his title of director of studies, or the office of chancellor, the whole Church of Rheims favored him when the election of a new archbishop came up. One of the Eulogies describes the people's opinions of Bruno in this regard:

Bruno had the approval of the city. He was the consolation and the pride of the people. Everything was in his favor, and we preferred him to anyone else. Our choice was right, because Bruno was a good man; but, although he was expert in every branch of learning, eloquent, and very wealthy, he disdained everything for the sake of Christ, undertook to follow Christ alone, and went to the wilderness with several followers.

So, at the age of fifty, Bruno saw a wonderful future before him. The foremost episcopal See of France, the diocese that was called "the crown of the kingdom", was offered to him. Everything pointed to Bruno for this high office: his perfect integrity, his learning, his clarity of vision in delicate situations, his courage in trials, his faithfulness to the Holy See, his deep spirituality, his cultured sense of friendship, his detachment from riches, and his charity. Gregory VII and his legate, Hugh of Dié, had been able to appreciate his integrity during this period of simony, and they had publicly expressed the esteem in which they held him.

Who could oppose the election of this man whom everyone favored not only for the good of the Church of Rheims but for the good of the Church of France? Who? In reality, no one. Except God, who had already made his call to a more perfect life heard in Bruno's heart. It was not just in the Church of Rheims, nor even in the Church of France only, but it was at the very heart of the Church that Bruno would give his testimony of pure love for God.


- Prologue ->
- I Bruno's Childhood ->
- II Master Bruno ->
- III Bruno Confronts Archbishop Manassès -_
- IV From the Garden of Adam's House to Sèche-Fontaine ->
- V The Solitude of Chartreuse ->
- VI Solitude in the Court of Pope Urban II ->
- VII Calabria: Return to Solitude -_
- VIII The Contemplative Life in Bruno's Letters ->
- IX Calabria and Chartreuse ->
- X The Death of Bruno ->
- Epilogue: Bruno after Bruno ->

 

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