The Anglo-Saxon Monk drops his jaw at the ticking-off of Bishop Ascelin by a papal legate
The Judgment of Imar of Tusculum. Textus Roffensis, folio 204r. Imar was legate to England (1144-45), appointed by Pope Lucius II. He passed judgment on the argument between Ascelin, bishop of Rochester, and his monks at St Andrew's Priory. The document is not by the main scribe of Textus Roffensis, who completed his work about the year 1123. It was likely added soon after the events it discusses, around 1145. Image © Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral. By permission.
I have been reading the latest translations of Textus Roffensis by the other Monk of this website, and I'm astonished by what I've read. Such scandalous behaviour! Now that's caught your eye, has it not, blessed ones?
My astonishment lies with Ascelin, a bishop of Rochester Cathedral in the twelfth century (1142-48), who, quite frankly, needed a good telling-off by someone bigger than him. Well that's what he got.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Ascelin's role at Rochester was not that of both bishop and prior. Not being a monk, therefore, it would seem he was, at least for a time, incapable of sharing in the cares and concerns of a monk, which, blessed ones, are many and frequent, as much as we throw our burdens on the Lord.
Once you read the text for yourselves, you will see (with a little bit of reading between the lines) that Ascelin was rather preoccupied with his own well-being as bishop, and not so much with that of the brethren of St Andrew's Priory, for whom, as their bishop, one would have assumed on his part at least some natural affection.
His hubris, however, had led him to argue for the right to certain land that was actually owned by the Rochester monks, land from which they were entitled and accustomed, as collective 'lord', to receive food rents and other privileges. All monks need to eat, blessed ones!
Ascelin was actually carrying on the same argument that his immediate predecessor, bishop John II (1139-42), had already started with the monks. But the monks sent a letter to the pope, Lucius II (1144-45), it would seem, and this led to action.
'The Judgment of Imar of Tusculum', which followed, pertinently observes that 'quarrels not finally laid to rest may yet be renewed in the future'. And so it was that this legate of Lucius, Imar, made it very clear which side of the quarrel the pope stood. Now, please try not to enjoy Ascelin's reproof too much.
The papal rota of Eugene III. Textus Roffensis, folio 208r. The papal rota was copied from the original document to authenticate this copy. This charter is not by the main scribe, who completed his work around 1123, but was probably added soon after the original was sent by the pope, which was dated to 1146. The rota is translated in Dr Monk's publication. Link below.
You may also find the translation of the bull of the subsequent pope, Eugene III (1145-53), rather interesting for the way it reinforces Imar's judgement. The language is subtler, but it is clear that Ascelin was being publicly criticised by the pope for not showing Christian esteem for the brothers of St Andrew's, and the religious life of monks more broadly. Ah, all bless Eugene, I say.