Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History

Author: Gregory IX  | Date: February 27, 1231

16. Letter of Gregory IX. to the Masters and Students of Paris (February 27, 1231). The Bull called Parens Scientiarum.

Gregory, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, to his dear Sons, all the Masters and Students of Paris. Greeting and Apostolic Blessing. . . .

Since it is not doubtful that it would greatly displease both God and men, if any one should try to disturb such distinguished excellence as is found in the aforesaid city [Paris], or who should not forcefully and mightily oppose with all his strength any one which might disturb such a condition of affairs, we have listened diligently to the complaints that have been presented to us and decided the matter, aided by the advice of our brothers, rather by precautionary measures than with judicial judgment, concerning the trouble that has arisen in that city owing to diabolical instigation and which has so greatly disturbed the university. As to the status of the students and the schools, we have decreed that the following regulations must be observed, to wit: that whoever shall next be created chancellor of Paris must be elected in the presence of the bishop or at his command, in the chapter of Paris, and two masters shall be summoned and present on this occasion representing the whole body of students. At his installation he shall take oath that, for the regulation of theology and decretals [canon law], in good faith and according to his conscience at every time and place, with due consideration for the welfare of the city and the honor and reputation of its faculties, he will not confer the license unless it is deserved, and will not admit unworthy persons when the approval of persons and nations is lacking. Indeed, before he shall license any one within a period of three months from the time when petition is made for the license, he shall diligently make inquiry from all masters of theology in the city as well as from other upright and learned men, from whom the truth can be obtained, concerning the morality, learning, eloquence, probable future, and all other matters which are required on such occasions; and when he has made such inquiry, in good faith, according to what is right and expedient, and according to the dictates of his conscience, he shah grant or refuse the license to the candidate seeking it. Moreover, the masters of theology and decretals, when they begin to teach, shah take public oath that they will give faithful testimony regarding the matters previously considered. The chancellor shah likewise take oath that he will in no way reveal the advice of the masters to their prejudice, but that he will do all in his power to preserve the regulations of Paris, openly and legally (as they were in the beginning), Concerning the students of medicine, of the arts and others, the chancellor shall promise to examine the masters in good faith, and that he will not admit any who are not worthy, but will refuse the unworthy. Further, inasmuch as confusion creeps in wherever there is disorder, we grant to you the right to make prudent regulations and ordinances concerning the manner and hours of readings and discussions,1 concerning the prescribed dress,1 the burial of the dead, concerning the hours at which bachelors may teach and what they ought to teach,2 likewise concerning the rent and prohibition of hospices,3 and further grant to you the right to punish all who refuse to obey such regulations and ordinances, by expulsion from the society. If, perchance, the rating of hospices is removed from your control, or because it is not in your control, any of your people should suffer injury or wrong—namely, death or mutilation of body—unless, after due warning has been given in advance, reparation is made within fifteen days, you shall have the right to suspend teaching until satisfaction is obtained. Further, if any of your people happen to be imprisoned without just cause, if the molestation does not cease after warning has been given, you have the right to immediately suspend all teaching, if you believe that by so doing you can help matters.

We command, further, that the bishop of Paris should thus correct excessive delinquency, that the honor of the students should be preserved, and that wrongdoing should not go unpunished, but, in any case of delinquency, innocent persons must not be arrested. If, however, a probable suspicion shall have arisen against any one, with fitting caution and in an honorable manner, he should be taken into custody, but he shall be spared all the exacting delays of imprisonment. If, perchance, he has committed a crime that demands imprisonment, the bishop shall detain the guilty party in his prison, for the chancellor is absolutely forbidden to have a prison of his own. Further, we prohibit the seizure of students for debts contracted by another, since this is prohibited by canonical and legal decrees. Neither the bishop, nor any of his officers, nor the chancellor shall exact a money penance for the removal of the decree of excommunication or any other censure, nor shah the chancellor extort from masters about to be licensed any oath or promise of obedience, nor shall he receive any other consideration or promise for granting the license, but shall be content with the oath above described.

Hereafter, summer vacations shall not last more than a month, but, if they so wish, bachelors may teach during vacations. We expressly forbid students to roam about the town with arms, and the whole body of you should not defend those who disturb the peace or the university. Those who pretend that they are students but do not frequent the schools or are not attached to any master shall not enjoy the privileges of students. We command, further, that masters of arts should give one course in Priscian,1 and should always give one other ordinary.2 Those books of natural philosophy which were prohibited by the provincial council for a definite cause,3 shah not be used at Pads until they have been examined and purged of every suggestion of error. The masters and students of theology should strive to occupy themselves in a laudable manner in the field which they profess, and should not try to be philosophers, but should rather seek to become learned about God. They should not speak in the language of the people, and confuse the sacred language with the profane, but should discuss such questions in the schools as can be definitely settled by the theological books or the treatises of the holy fathers.

In regard to the property of students who die intestate or who have not committed the settlement of their affairs to others, we have decided that the bishop and one of the masters, chosen for this purpose by the whole body, shall collect all the goods of the deceased in a safe place, and when they have made such arrangement they shall fix a date by which it shall be possible to send the news of such death to the home of the deceased, and those upon whom the succession to such goods falls shall be able to come to Paris or send a satisfactory representative, and if they should come or should send, the goods should be handed over to them with suitable caution. If no one should appear, then the master and the bishop should leave the property as a bequest for the soul of the deceased according to their judgment, unless the heirs have some good reason for not coming, in which case the disposal of the property shall be deferred.

Indeed, because the masters and students, irritated by wrongs and injuries, have bound themselves by oath and have departed from the city of Paris, thus breaking up the university, and they seem to have made it not so much an individual matter as a common affair, we, in the interest of the general Church and its well considered advantage, enjoin and command that when privileges shall have been granted to masters and students, by our dear son in Christ [Louis]—king of the Franks—and the punishment of the malefactors who injured them has been determined, they should see to it at Paris that nothing of censure should be brought forth concerning their absence or return or irregularity. No man whatsoever shall be permitted to infringe or to oppose without grave risk to himself, this our charter of provisions, constitutions, concessions, prohibitions, and inhibitions. If, moreover, any one should presume to try this he should know that he will incur the displeasure of the Almighty God and of Peter and Paul, His blessed apostles.

Dated at the Lateran, on the Ides of April, in the fifth year of our pontificate.

1 Teaching consisted of readings and discussions. The reading was the elucidation of an old author by the teacher, hence the term for teaching was "to read." The masters or the students held frequent discussions, or debates, in which they tested their learning and their skill in logic or dialectics, Ordinary readings or lectures were those which were regular and had precedence over the extraordinary, which could not be given until the ordinary readings were finished.

1 "No master lecturing in arts should have a cloak unless it is round and black and reaching to the heels at least when it is new. He may well wear the pallium [garment worn by monks], He is not to wear under the round cloak embroidered shoes, and never any with long bands."—Statutes of 1215.

2 After the student had completed a certain amount of work and had been in residence a stated period, he took an examination which made him a bachelor. The bachelor continued to pursue studies under masters, but was also required to do some teaching.

3 The hospice was a house in which students lived. A senior student, or a bachelor, was chosen to act as steward, or general manager. With the influx of students the rents of houses in the student quarter had become excessive. See the letter of Gregory to Louis, No. 18, p. 173.

1 Priscian was the author of the grammar that was used in the universities of the Middle Ages.

2 Ordinary course of reading which was given at the regular hours of the regular term.

3 The provincial council of Paris to which Gregory refers was that of 1210. The works of Aristotle on natural philosophy were condemned at this time, while the statutes of 1215 forbid the use of Aristotle’s natural philosophy and his metaphysics.


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Chicago: Gregory, "16. Letter of Gregory IX. to the Masters and Students of Paris (February 27, 1231). The Bull called Parens Scientiarum," Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History in Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History, ed. Frederic Duncalf and August C. Krey (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1912), 165–172. Original Sources, accessed April 24, 2018,

MLA: Gregory. "16. Letter of Gregory IX. to the Masters and Students of Paris (February 27, 1231). The Bull called Parens Scientiarum." Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History, in Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History, edited by Frederic Duncalf and August C. Krey, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1912, pp. 165–172. Original Sources. 24 Apr. 2018.

Harvard: Gregory, '16. Letter of Gregory IX. to the Masters and Students of Paris (February 27, 1231). The Bull called Parens Scientiarum' in Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History. cited in 1912, Parallel Source Problems in Medieval History, ed. , Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, pp.165–172. Original Sources, retrieved 24 April 2018, from