The Papal Election Decree of Nicholas II (1059)

Source: Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., Source Book for Mediæval History (New York: Scribners, 1905; reprint AMS Press, 1971).  Transcribed by Nicholas Becker.

         In the name of the Lord God, our saviour Jesus Christ, in the 1059th year from his incarnation, in the month of April, in the 12th indiction, in the presence of the holy gospels, the most reverend and blessed apostolic pope Nicholas presiding in the Lateran patriarchal basilica which is called the church of Constantine, the most reverend archbishops, bishops, and abbots, and the venerable presbyters and deacons also being present, the same venerable pontiff by his apostolic authority decreed thus concerning the election of the pope:  “Most beloved brothers and fellow-bishops, you know, since it is not hidden even from the humbler members, how after the death of our predecessor, Stephen of blessed memory, this apostolic seat, which by the will of God I now serve, suffered many evils, how indeed it was subjected to many serious attacks from the simoniacal money-changers, so that the column of the living God seemed about to topple, and the skiff of the supreme fisherman [Peter] was nearly wrecked by the tumultuous storms.  Therefore, if it pleases you, we ought now, with the aid of God, prudently to take measures to prevent further misfortunes, and to provide for the state of the church in the future, lest those evils, again appearing, which God forbid, should prevail against it.  Therefore, fortified by the authority of our predecessors and the other holy fathers, we decide and declare:
         “1. On the death of a pontiff of the universal Roman church, first, the cardinal bishops, with the most diligent consideration, shall elect a successor; then they shall call in the other cardinal clergy [to ratify their choice], and finally the rest of the clergy and the people shall express their consent to the new election.
         “2. In order that the disease of venality may not have any opportunity to spread, the devout clergy shall be the leaders in electing the pontiff, and the others shall acquiesce.  And surely this order of election is right and lawful, if we consider either the rules or the practice of various fathers, or if we recall that decree of our predecessor, St. Leo, for he says: ‘By no means can it be allowed that those should be ranked as bishops who have not been elected by the clergy, and demanded by the people, and consecrated by their fellow-bishops of the province with the consent of the metropolitan.’  But since the apostolic seat is above all the churches in the earth and therefore can have no metropolitan over it, without doubt the cardinal bishops perform in it the office of the metropolitan, in that they advance the elected prelate to the apostolic dignity [that is, choose, consecrate, and enthrone him].
         “3. The pope shall be elected from the church in Rome, if a suitable person can be found in it, but if not, his to be taken from another church.
         “4. In the papal election—in accordance with the right which we have already conceded to Henry and to those of his successors who may obtain the same right from the apostolic see—due honor and reverences shall be shown to our beloved son, Henry, king and emperor elect [that is, the rights of Henry shall be respected].
        “5. But in the wickedness of depraved and iniquitous men shall so prevail that a pure, genuine, and free election cannot be held in this city, the cardinal bishops with the clergy, and a few laymen shall have the right to elect the pontiff which they deem most fitting.
         “6. But if after and election any disturbance of war or any malicious attempt of men shall prevail so that he who is elected cannot be enthrones according to custom in the papal chair, the pope elected shall nevertheless exercise the right of ruling the holy Roman church, and of disposing of all its revenues, as we know St. Gregory did before his consecration.
         “But if anyone, actuated by rebellion, or presumption or any other motive, shall be elected or ordained or enthroned in a manner contrary to this our decree, promulgated  by the authority of the synod, he with his counselors, supporters, and followers shall be expelled from the holy church of God by the authority of God and the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and shall be subjected to perpetual anathema as Antichrist and the enemy and destroyer of all Christianity; nor shall he ever be granted a further hearing in the case, but he shall be deposed without appeal from every ecclesiastical rank which he may have held formerly.  Whoever shall adhere to him or shall show him any reverence as if he were pope, or shall aid him in any way, shall be subjected to like sentence.  Moreover, if any rash person shall oppose this our decree and shall try to confound and disturb the Roman church by his presumption contrary to this decree, let him be cursed with perpetual anathema and excommunication, and let him be numbered with the wicked who shall not arise on the day of judgment.  Let him feel upon him the weight of the wrath of God the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and let him experience in this life and the next the anger of the holy apostles, Peter and Paul, whose church he presumed to confound.  Let his children be orphans and his wife a widow.  Let him be driven forth and let his sons beg and be cast out from their habitations.  Let the usurer take all his substance and let others reap the fruit of his labors.  Let the whole earth fight against him and let all the elements be hostile to him, and let the powers of all the saints in heaven confound him and show upon him in this life their evident vengeance.  But may the grace of omnipotent God protect those who observe this decree and free them from the bonds of all their sins by the authority of the holy apostles Peter and Paul.”

         I, Nicholas, bishops of the holy Catholic and apostolic church, have subscribed this decree which has been promulgated by us, as said above.  I, Boniface, by the grace of God bishop of Albano, have subscribed.  I, Humbert, bishop of the holy church of Silva Candida, have subscribed.  I, Peter, bishop of the church of Ostia, have subscribed.  And other bishops to the number of seventy-six, with priests and deacons.

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