Pope Stephan III writes to Patriarch John of Grado, reassuring him that he has the support of the Apostolic See in his struggles against the Lombards in Istria, reminding him that Istria is under the joint protection of the papacy and the Franks, and informing him that he has dealt with the Istrian bishops who refuse to recognize him as their metropolitan and who uncanonically appoint each other to their episcopal sees.
Reverentissimo et sanctissimo fratri Iohania coepiscopob Stephanus servus servorum Dei, episcopus.c
Susceptis igitur conspicuis sanctitatis vestred apicibus eisque relectis magna te, reverendissimee fratremf, angustia merorequeg fore attritum cognovimus a perfidis et malignis emulis vestre Ystriarumh provincie. Pro quo et noster protinus animus eadem lugubria atritusi est, sed tamen fas nequaquam exigit nostras vestrasque mentes hoc monumentoj odio afficik merore, quoniam certel confidimus, quod iam prope est Dominus, ut arrogantium ferocitatem deiciat et humilium lacrimarum ac gemituum erumpnosis consoletur flectibusm.
Quippe nos, karissime fratremn, Deo propitio totis iussibuso inhianter satagimus decertandum, sicut predecessor noster sancte recordationis dominus Stephanus papa, ut vestra sit redemptio atque salus et inmensap securitas, quemadmodum nostra opitulante divina misericordia proficiat, quoniam in nostro pacto generali, quod inter Romanos, Francos et Longobardos dignosciturq provenisse, et ipsa vestra Ystriarum provincia constat esse confirmata atque adnexar simulque et Venetiarum provincia.
Ideo confidats in Deo imitabilist sanctitas tua, quia ita fideles beati Petri studuerunt ad serviendum iureiurando beato Petro apostolorum principi et eius omnibus vicariis, [qui]u in sede ipsius apostolica usque in finem seculi scesuriv erunt, in scriptis contulerunt promissionem, ut sicut hanc nostram Romanorum provinciam et Exarchatum Ravenantiumw et ipsa[m] quoque vestra[m] provincia[m]x pari modo ab inimicorum oppressionibus semper defendere procure[n]ty.z
Petisti etiam, sanctissime frater, coripia' episcopos Ystrie, ut a tanta et iniqua resipiscant temeritate. Quodb' quidem tuis annuentes votis, nostra apostolica scripta eisdem contumacibus episcopis direximus, tam illis qui eandem illicitam perpetrare ausi sunt consecrationem quamque eis qui ab ipsis innormiterc' ordinati sunt, obligantesd' -eos validis interdictionibus atque a sacro sacerdotali officio et proprii honoris dignitate sicut contemptores privare studuimus.
a) Iohanni ed. Gundlach. b) episcopo ed. Gundlach. c) seq. spatium vacuum rel. et et infra add. D. d) vestrae ed. Gundlach et saepe sic -e in -ae mutavit (Cessi quoque). e) reverentissime ed. Gundlach. f) sic T; frater ed. Gundlach. g) moeroreque ed. Gundlach. h) Istriarum ed. Gundlach et saepe sic. i) attritus ed. Gundlach. j) sic T; momento ed. Gundlach. k) seq. et add. Gundlach. l) certo ed. Gundlach. m) fletibus ed. Gundlach. n) karissime fratrem] carissime frater ed. Gundlach. o) viribus ed. Gundlach. p) immensa ed. Gundlach. q) dignosciter ed. Gundlach. r) annexa ed. Gundlach. s) confidebat ed. Cessi. t) sic T; immutabili ed. Gundlach. u) om. D; ed. Gundlach. v) sessuri ed. Gundlach. w) Ravennatium ed. Gundlach. x) ipsam—vestram provinciam] ipsa—vestra provincia D; em. Gundlach. y) procuret D; procurent ed. Gundlach. z) seq. et iterum infra add. D. a') corripi ed. Gundlach. b') qui ed. Gundlach. c') enormiter ed. Gundlach. d') ablegantes ed. Cessi.
The pope’s reply to Patriarch John of Grado’s lamentations over the growing Lombard influence in Istria and the diminishing authority of his metropolitan jurisdiction over the Istrian bishoprics (see doc. 768_IS). The pope reassures the patriarch that he has the full, unswerving support of the Apostolic See and that he already wrote to the bishops of Istria, removing from office all those allied with the Lombards (that is, heeding the patriarch of Aquileia instead of Grado), those appointed illegally, and those invested by the illegally appointed.
The letter is notable for explicitly mentioning “the general pact between the Romans [that is, the papacy], the Franks, and the Lombards (pacto generali, quod inter Romanos, Francos et Longobardos dignoscitur). This is a clear reference to the Treaties of Pavia, signed in 755 and 756 between Frankish King Pepin, Lombard King Aistulf, and Pope Stephen II. The texts of both treaties do not survive, but they can be reconstructed based on (near) contemporary chronicle accounts. The so-called First Treaty of Pavia of 755 obliged the defeated King Aistulf to hand over to the papacy Ravenna “and various cities” (diversis civitatibus; Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, vol. 1, p. 451), that is, Narni, Ceccano, and the Pentapolis (Annals of Metz, ed. Simson, MGH, SS rer. Germ. 10, p. 47). Since Aistulf refused to do so, Pepin attacked a second time, defeating the Lombard king and forcing him to sign the Second Peace of Pavia in 756. This time the papacy would receive Ravenna, Rimini, Pesaro, Conca, Fano, Cesena, Sinigaglia, Jesi, Forlimpopoli, Forli, Montefeltro, Arcevia, Mons Lucatium, Serra dei Conti, San Marino, Sarsina, Urbino, Cagli, Cantiano, Gubbio, Comacchio and Narni (Liber pontificalis, ed. Duchesne, vol. 1, p. 460; on all of this, see Noble, The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680–825 (Philadelphia 1984), pp. 89, 92–93). However, according to the hereby edited letter, the pope claims that Venetia and Istria were also included in this pact. This reference stems from the earlier Treaty of Quierzy, the text of which is also lost, but can be reconstructed based on the later chronicle accounts, something that the 11th-century forger of Promissio Carisiaca did as well (see it edited here). In this fateful treaty between Pope Stephen II and King Pepin Venetia and Istria were indeed included as territories to be “returned” to the potestas of the papacy (see the Editor’s Comments in doc. 754_PC).
According to Bernardo Benussi (cited above), the reference to Venetia and Istria would simply mean that the regions would fall under the ecclesiastical sphere of influence of the papacy and that the Istrian bishoprics fall under the metropolitan jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Grado. Seeing that the Treaty of Quierzy deals with territories to be restituted to the temporal dominion of the papacy, this interpretation is difficult to support.
Caspar (cited above), claimed that Venetia and Istria were included simply as territories to which the Frankish defensio ecclesiae Romanae extends. If one follows Caspar’s reasoning, then the pope would console Patriarch John by reminding him that the regions are under the joint papal-Frankish protection and that the Lombards cannot do as they please there, especially in ecclesiastical matters. This is the best-argued interpretation to date, followed by Kehr and Bratož (cited above).
Margetić (cited above), drew attention to the line “the Lord is already near to overthrow the ferocity of the insolent” (iam prope est Dominus, ut arrogantium ferocitatem deiciat). According to Margetić, this would be an allusion to Charlemagne and his ensuing military campaign against the Lombards.
The Lombard influence in Istria would indeed wane soon thereafter as Charlemagne attacked King Desiderius and conquered his entire kingdom. Istria returned to the potestas of Byzantium, either following Charlemagne’s triumph or, as Margetić (cited above) claims, even before the military skirmishes would begin, in 773, as the Lombards abandoned Istria in order to regroup their forces for the inevitable clash with the Frankish army (see the Editor’s Comments in doc. 776_HPC for the discussion of Byzantine dominion in Istria between 774 and 788 and doc. 788_CBI for the beginning of Frankish authority in Istria).