From the Archives: A Translation of Bishop Oldrad's Letter to Emperor Charlemagne
Where are Augustine’s bones a-moldering? To some, that has been a very significant question. It seems that by Augustine’s time, many portions of the church had begun to attach substantial religious significance to relics—ranging from supposed physical remains of the apostles and other well-known martyrs and leaders, to remains of objects associated with notable persons, such as fragments of Christ’s cross. Thus it is not surprising that the remains of a renowned figure Augustine became precious. In the condensed letter below, which to our knowledge is translated here from Latin to English for the first time, one Peter Oldrad, archbishop of Milan, is writing to the emperor Charlemagne about the whereabouts of Augustine’s remains and how they got there. Dated 796A.D., the Latin of this letter appears in the 1588 edition of Cesare Baronio, and has been reprinted in Vol. 40 of the Acta Sanctorum, pp. 366–368. The translation was done for Christian History magazine by Father Joseph Schnaubelt, O.S.A., director of the Augustinian History Institute of Villanova University.
Among other things, note the obsequious tone that Oldrad uses toward Charlemagne, the lengthy accounts of King Luitprand’s generous gifts to the church (perhaps hints to Charlemagne?), the miraculous healings attributed to Augustine’s remains, and the sleeping metaphors used to describe the actual body of the long-dead bishop.
The Epistle of Peter Oldrad, Archbishop of Milan, To Charlemagne.
On the transfer of the body of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, from Sardinia to Pavia.
For the Most Pious King of kings, Charles the Great, Peter Oldrad, unworthy archbishop of Milan, entreats an everlasting crown in Christ.
While your Majesty was sojourning ...