[Epistola Boncompagni ad Philippum electum Ferrariensis]1
[De vitiis evitandis et cursibus servandis in dictamine] -- Epistola mandativa ad comites palatinos
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Boncompagno sends a letter of condolence and caution to Philipp, bishop-elect of Ferrara. Salutation (§1). The lamentable state of the church is figured as a frantic mother hen and as a sinking ship (§2). Boncompagno consoles the bishop-elect for the persecutions he has suffered and advises caution in the future (§3). [Date: 10 November 1241-25 June 1243]

[1] To the venerable father and revered lord Philip,2 by the grace of God bishop-elect of Ferrara, Boncompagno sends a modicum of that which is the threnody of Jeremiah.

[2] I am tearfully forced to innovate, seeing that the hen, which was accustomed to gather her chicks under her wings,3 clucks hoarsely and flicks her tail.4 Whence the church verges towards destruction, seeking to confound those which it was accustomed to spiritually nourish. For this reason her sons have fled in the dispersion of the nations and are absent, because the stones of the sanctuaries lie at the head of every street.5 Indeed the Peter's boat has sunk,6 because there is no one, who may direct the rudder of canon law.7 Whence faith perishes, justice is deserted, the just and the upright sin, only naked power dominates.8

[3] Thus, since you can find no refuge,9 it befits you to flee into solitude and to make a virtue of necessity. For I grieve for you, because you have come into the depth10 of persecution and an army of persecutors have laid hand11 on all that is dear to you.12 Above all, I must faithfully counsel Your Lordship, that you have the most diligent watch over your own person,13 aware that nocturnal serpents have appeared today, having plumes on their heads; truly they sing like Sirens, they carry sweetness in the mouth and like scorpions they sting with their tails.14 I know trees from the fruit and works from the result,15 nor do I say more, except that you should keep you heart16 with every protection etc.


1 Accompanied by the erroneous rubric 'Deinde secuntur V. tabule', the letter to Filippo da Pistoia, appears only on fol. 232v of Berlin SBPK lat. fol. 509. It is followed by the text of Boncompagno's De amicitia, and preceeded by two short dictaminal texts [De vitiis evitandis et cursibus servandis in dictamine] (fols. 231r-232v). These two dictaminal works, the letter to Filippo and the Epistola mandativa ad comites palatinos were all written by Boncompagno, and are thus newly discovered works to be added to the list of his writings. The first of the dictaminal works bears the rubric Quod sint vitia dictaminis etc., and the second Quis servandus sit cursus in dictamine, which includes a number of exordia, including some clearly meant for oration, and a few examples of narrations, with a quotation from Cicero's Rhetoricorum. This title conforms to Boncompagno's contention that Cicero compiled, rather than created his rhetorical doctrine. (The quote is actually from the Rhetorica ad Herennium). A similar view assessment of Cicero is found in the Gloss "In primis" to Cicero's De inventione (York Minster Library, XIV.M.7, fol. 2ra), Titulus autem talis est `Incipit liber rhetoricorum". Iste titulus valet ad operis commendationem quasi diceret: Non est iste liber Ciceronis vel alicuius rethoris sed liber rhetoricorum. Quasi quaecumque alii rhetores bene dixerunt omnia hic poterit lector reperire collecta in unum. Quoted in MARY DICKEY The Teaching of Rhetoric in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, with particular reference to the Schools of Northern France (Oxford Diss., 1973) 59.

2 Filippo da Pistoia, bishop of Ferrara (1239-1250), archbishop of Ravenna (1250-1279).

3 Matt. 23.37.

4 See Boncompagnus 5.1.37.

5 Thre. 4.1.

6 See Boncompagnus 5.20.1.§4, 5.22.1.§34.

7 This phrase dates this letter to the period 10 November 1241-25 June 1243. During this time, after the deaths of popes Gregory IX (22 August 1241), and the newly elected pope Celestine IV (reigned 2 weeks), the apostolic see was vacant for one and a half years.

8 This sentence also appears in Boncompagnus 3.10.1 and 4.5.9, where it is used to describe the miserable situation of Italy after the death of emperor Henry VI in 1197.

9 Cf. E. WINKELMANN Acta imperii inedita 1.544, no. 689, lines 22-23: ...quis ex mundo sperabit in vobis necessarium repperire refugium...

10 2 Esdr. 9.11. Philipp's enemies might be partisans of the emperor Frederick II, of Ezzelino da Romano or Ferrara's Ghibelline adherants of Salinguerra, who were driven from the city in 1240. OSKAR WILHELM CANZ Philipp Fontana Erzbischof von Ravenna. Ein Staatsmann des XIII Jahrhunderts, 1240-1270 (Leipzig 1911) says of the years 1241-1243: "In den nächsten Jahren festigte um Verona Ezzelin unermüdlich seine Macht auf Kosten des Markgrafen von Este, des Grafen von Verona und der Kirche von Ferrara. Diese hatte zudem unter die Angriffen der Vertriebenen zu leiden. Dagegen tat Philipp, was er konnte. Alle Lehensträger seiner Kirche, die die Sache des Kaisers unterstützten, erklärte er ihrer Lehen verlustig (BF 13490, 7572)."

11 Psal. 30.16, cf. Judit 15.4.

12 Cf Boncompagnus 3.16.1.

13 Matt. 27.65.

14 Apoc. 9.19. Cf. E. WINKELMANN Acta imperii inedita 1.544-545, no. 690, lines 5-12.

15 Matt. 12.33, Luc 6.44.

16 Prov. 4.23.

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© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998

Scrineum © Università di Pavia 1999