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A Letter to the Bishop of Utrecht on behalf of Master Gerard Groote when he was forbidden to preach publickly.

Most Potent Father, and Prince of the people of Utrecht,

IT hath happened lately that Gerard Groote, a deacon of your Diocese, inspired by the Lord, and kindled with zeal to preach the Word even in these latter days, hath denounced before clerks and lay-folk their wickedness, and maintained wholesome, true, Evangelical and Apostolic doctrine as against heretics, usurers, and clerks that live in concubinage. Acting with your license and that of the Parochial Clergy he hath preached also against various crimes and corruptions of divers men in your diocese, not without some fruit, and hath sown the seed not without increase (as he doth hope). For by his preaching the hearts of many have been turned to the Lord, leaving their former perverse and evil courses.

Through his labours there are many virgins set as flowers in the field of the Lord; lives of chaste widowhood and voluntary poverty, as an harvest therein; renunciations of the world, acts of restitution and many other fruits sprung from the seed of Ecclesiastical and Catholic doctrine; 75and these things are seen and known of them that do truly love God.

By his means also the boldness of certain heretics who creep in secret places on the earth hath been kept down, and the wickedness of usury and disordered lust have ceased from the land of Zeeland. But yet these clerks and priests that live in concubinage have procured (as we suppose) by means of a letter obtained from you that this Gerard should be restrained indirectly from exercising the office of a preacher, and this either without cause, or without any that he knoweth.

For although your letter did apply to all priests, yet almost all save Gerard have been restored to their offices; and this, as he thinks, doth arise not from the deliberate intention of the bishop, but through the suggestions of malicious men causing no small loss and detriment to the cause of Holy edification. At this do heretics rejoice and creep about more boldly; for this cause are those enemies of the Church glad, namely the Clerks who live in concubinage, continuing to live most uncleanly in the lusts of the flesh: usurers are well pleased, and scandals are increased, yea, even more perchance than carnal and worldly minds can comprehend. Although this Gerard calleth God to witness that so far as he himself is concerned he would wish to be at leisure to explore the truth, and to be quiet, yet he perceives that the enemy of mankind is everywhere striving against men and is driving them over the precipices and into the abyss of sin; and he hath hope that some of these may by his preaching be delivered from the snare of the hunter and from the noisome pestilence, which hope the effects of his former preaching do justify; therefore he is stirred 76by zeal for the House of the Lord, inflamed and urged by love for his neighbour to preach and sow the seed of the Word of God (if it may be) without temporal reward, in poverty and with humility but in all truth, as formerly he preached and sowed the same not without visible fruit. If a special license is refused him he doth ask that at least the parochial clergy may not be forbidden to employ him if they will; for according to the custom of the State and diocese of Utrecht they have been wont always to employ any trusty and good preachers whom they would, without such license. Furthermore if in spite of the good fruit his preaching hath borne, and the aforesaid custom, you should wish to inhibit Gerard from preaching (which thing God forbid should happen in your dominions), he doth ask and humbly and urgently desire of you: (1) to declare to him the pretext and reason of such inhibition; (2) not to judge him, deprive him of his right, nor suspend him from the exercise thereof without such admonitions as ought always to precede judgement; for he is ready to argue each several doctrine that he doth teach in public and private, not only before you, Father, but also before any man, and truly to prove the same from the sacred writings of the Saints and from the Scriptures: and if it be necessary to lay them before the Supreme Pontiff.

A Letter of Master William de Salvarvilla, a Cantor at Paris, to Pope Urban VI, asking that a license to preach be granted to Master Gerard.

To our most Holy Father in Christ, our Lord Urban VI., by Divine Providence Pope, Supreme 77Pontiff of the Inviolable Church of Rome, and of the whole world, these from your Holiness’ most humble petitioner and servant William de Salvarvilla, Chanter of Paris and Archdeacon of Brabant in the Church of Liege.


In all subjection and most humbly and devoutly kissing the feet of your Holiness, I do write that which followeth in singleness of heart, being zealous (as I believe) for the service of God.

There is a certain reverend man Gerard Groote, a Deacon of the diocese of Utrecht, learned in the sciences both liberal, natural and moral, and also in Theology and Canon Law. He hath long ago given over all his benefices for God’s sake, namely prebends at Utrecht and Aix, and also his patrimony, which was no small one, having retained but a small part of the same to provide him a slender sustenance. To him is the world crucified, and he to the world; he hath become a mighty adversary to heretics, a zealous upholder of the unity of the Church, and a fervent preacher in the said diocese as against the sins of lay folk and clerks; yet he hath not received or asked for any recompense for his preaching, nor doth he seek any temporal or Ecclesiastical Benefice, but he doth desire to have a further Commission under the authority of the Apostolic See to the end that he may be able to preach more freely and without hindrance. Wherefore it would seem expedient, as I judge, that your Holiness should give him authority to preach and to make inquisition against heretics; and likewise to publish the Canonical decree of your Holiness granting such authority 78in the Province of Cologne or at least in the aforesaid diocese of Utrecht.

May the Most High see fit to preserve your Holiness in prosperity, to be the ruler of His Church.

Given at Leyden on the 21st day of October.

The following epitaph on Gerard is appended to A Kempis’ Life of the Master as edited by Somalius. It is uncertain whether A Kempis was the author of the lines, but from the title “Epitaphium vetus et inconditum” it would seem probable that they are by a different hand. As it is impossible to reproduce the rhyme and metre of the original in a translation, the Latin text of the Epitaph is here given:


Gerardus Magnus vixit sicut plus agnus,

Fecit quod dixit, sicut docuit quoque vixit.

Sicut non fictus aliis mitis sibi strictus

Lux fuerat Cleri, tradens huic lumina veri,

Lux fuerat pravis, oculus mentis bene gnavis.

Hic Mundo spretus, sed pneumate corde repletus

Ejus doctrina, falsis fuerat quasi spina

Ridiculum vanis, odium mentis male sanis

Quae falsos laesit, pars veridicis sed adhaesit

Illi pro vero, fuit utilis hic quia clero

Ut clero laicis, prodesse volens inimicis,

Doctrina veri, debet Christus misereri

Ejus de jure, pro tali pondere curae.

Talis namque fore, voluit gratis sed amore

Divino tactus, nulla mercede coactus

Namque resignavit praebendas sicut amavit

Christum, sic stravit carnem tenues quoque pavit,

De propriisque bonis tenuit regimen rationis.

Sic fuit exemplo lux in Christi bene templo.

Gerardus Magnus, quem verus diligit Agnus,

Sanctorum sortem tenet evincens modo mortem.

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