Money and the pope’s ears

Some of the best puns come from medieval writers. Some of the most expected puns come from medieval chroniclers, like this one, drawn from the chronicle I’m editing:

“Instabat igitur constanter dictus Falcasius et perseveranter prece et pretio aures pulsare apostolicas usque ad impetrationem litterarum a sede apostolica domino regi Anglie destinandarum”

Therefore, the said Faulkes de Breauté constantly and persistently, through supplications and money-gifts, strove to obtain letters from the pope addressed to the lord king of England”

Faulkes de Breauté was an English baron of Norman descent who had rebelled against king Henry III, kidnapped one of the royal justices, threw himself into Bedford Castle, was subsequently besieged, defeated, exiled and disgraced. He then tried to explain himself to the pope and to the king. That’s when the cited text comes in. 

Literally, Faulkes sought to make himself heard by pope Honorius III. The expression here aures apostolicas pulsare – which seems to occur only in this text – means to ‘beat the apostolic ears’, to hit them hard, why not, even to make them pulsate (laterally, in the Lateran palace, I should say).

For the pope to yield to Faulkes’ plea, his ears needed to ring with the sound of coins (pretium) and supplications (preces). But coins, most of all.

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