Alcuins brev til Higbald, biskop af Lindisfarne, 793



Alcuin (ca. 732-804) var en gejstlig lærd, lærer og digter fra det engelske Northumbria. Fra 778 var han rektor for katedralskolen i York, hvor han blandt andet udbyggede biblioteket til at blive et af de fineste og mest berømte i tidens Europa. Det er desværre senere gået tabt – muligvis under 860’ernes vikingeangreb mod York. Under en rejse til Rom i 781 mødte Alcuin den frankiske konge Karl den Store (742/747-814). Herefter blev han inviteret til kejserresidensen i Aachen, hvor han arbejdede som en af Karl den Stores nærmeste rådgivere og spillede en central rolle i den såkaldte ”karolingiske renæssance”. I 796 forlod han hoffet for at blive abbed ved klosteret St. Martin i Tours. Ud over sine digte og teologiske skrifter efterlod Alcuin sig flere hundrede breve.

I dette brev til Higbald, biskop ved klostret på Lindisfarne, giver Alcuin udtryk for sin forfærdelse over vikingeangrebet den 8. juni 793. Angribernes hedenskab understreges, og Alcuin opfordrer til streng kristen fromhed og guddommelig ærefrygt som forsvar mod fremtidige angreb.

Klostret på Lindisfarne var det følgende århundrede truet af gentagne vikingeangreb, og i 875 forlod munkene klostret og vandrede rundt i Northumbria, indtil de endelig i slutningen af 900-tallet slog sig ned og grundlagde bispesædet i Durham.

To the best sons in Christ of the most blessed father, St. Cuthbert the bishop, Bishop Higbald and all the congregation of the church of Lindisfarne, Alcuin the deacon sends greeting with celestial benediction in Christ.

The intimacy of your love used to rejoice me greatly when I was with you; but conversely, the calamity of your tribulation saddens me greatly every day, though I am absent; when the pagans desecrated the sanctuaries of God, and poured out the blood of saints around the altar, laid waste the house of our hope, trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the street. What can we say except lament in our soul with you before Christ's altar, and say: “Spare, O Lord, spare thy people, and give not thine inheritance to the Gentiles, lest the pagan say, ‘Where is the God of the Christians?’” What assurance is there for the churches of Britain, if St. Cuthbert, with so great a number of saints, defends not his own? Either this is the beginning of greater tribulation, or else the sins of the inhabitants have called it upon them. Truly it has not happened by chance, but is a sign that it was well merited by someone. But now, you who are left, stand manfully, fight bravely, defend the camp of God. Remember Judas Maccabaeus, how he cleansed the temple of God, and set free the people from foreign servitude. If anything ought to be corrected in your Grace's habits, correct it quickly. Call back to you your patrons who have left you for a time. They lacked not power with God's mercy; but, we know not why, they kept silence. Do not glory in the vanity of raiment; this is not a glory to priests and servants of God, but a disgrace. Do not in drunkenness blot out the words of your prayers. Do not go out after luxuries of the flesh and worldly avarice, but continue steadfastly in the service of God and in the discipline of the regular life, that the most holy fathers, who begot you, may not cease to be your protectors. Treading in their footsteps, you may remain secure by their prayers. Be not degenerate sons of such great fathers. In nowise will they cease from defending you if they see you follow their example.

Yet be not dismayed in mind by this calamity. God chastiseth every son whom he receiveth; and thus he perhaps chastised you more harshly, because he loved you more. Jerusalem, the city loved by God, perished with the temple of God in the flames of the Chaldeans. Rome, encircled by a crown of holy apostles and innumerable martyrs, was shattered by the ravages of pagans, but by the pity of God soon recovered. Almost the whole of Europe was laid desolate by the fire and sword of the Goths and Huns; but now, by God's mercy, it shines adorned with churches, as the sky with stars, and in them the offices of the Christian religion flourish and increase. Exhort yourselves in turn, saying:”Let us return to the Lord Our God, for he is bountiful to forgive, and never deserts them that hope in him”.

And you, holy father, leader of the people of God, shepherd of the holy flock, physician of souls, light set upon a candlestick, be the pattern of all goodness to all who see you; be the herald of salvation to all who hear you. Let your company be of decent behaviour, an example to others unto life, not unto perdition. Let your banquets be in soberness, not in drunkenness. Let your garments be suitable to your order. Do not adapt yourself to the men of the world in any vain thing. Empty adornment of clothing, and useless elegance, is to you a reproach before men and a sin before God. It is better to adorn with good habits the soul which will live for ever, than to deck in choice garments the body which will soon decay in the dust. Let Christ be clothed and fed in the person of the poor man, that doing this you may reign with Christ. The redemption of man is true riches. If we love gold, let us send it before us to heaven, where it will be kept for us, and we have that which we love. Let us love what is eternal, and not what is perishable. Let us esteem true riches, not fleeting ones, eternal, not transitory. Let us acquire praise from God, and not from men. Let us do what the saints did whom we praise. Let us follow their footsteps on earth, that we may deserve to be partakers of their glory in the heavens. May the protection of the divine pity guard you from all adversity, and set you with your fathers in the glory of the celestial kingdom, O dearest brothers.

When our lord King Charles returns home, having by the mercy of God subdued his enemies, we plan, God helping us, to go to him; and if we can then be of any profit to your Holiness, regarding either the youths who have been led into captivity by the pagans or any other of your needs, we will take diligent care to bring it about. Farewell in Christ, most beloved, and ever advancing, be strengthened.

Om kilden

Dorothy Whitelock (ed), English historical documents vol. I. c. 500-1042, (London, 1968)
Sidst redigeret
23. september 2011
Dansk, Engelsk (oprindelig latin)