Registrum of Gregory the Great f.48r
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Letters from popes, archbishops and theologians were an important category of writing in the middle ages. The Registrum or letter-book of Gregory I (the Great; pope 590-604) survives in many copies made during the middle ages. Gregory's correspondence was especially important to English churchmen because he was the pope who sent Augustine on his mission to convert the Angles. This copy of Gregory's letter-book was probably at Rochester cathedral priory from the 12th-century. The church of St Andrew, Rochester, was founded in the earliest days of Augustine's mission. The letters would have been read as historical and legal records, source material for sermons and theological commentaries and probably for personal study and contemplation.
Written about 593 or 594, Gregory's two letters on this page show how the church's network functioned and how dedicated Gregory was to maintaining its efficiency and authority. In the first, he congratulates Constantius on his ordination as archbishop of Milan, offering encouragement and guidance and the news that the pallium (archbishop's stole) has been sent to him. In the second, he directs Constantius on a major issue, a schism which had arisen when some of the north Italian churches had refused to recognise a condemnation of the writings of three theologians ('Three Chapters'). He also askes the archbishop to keep him informed on the activities of the north Italian and Frankish kings.