Pope Gregory's Letter-Bearers
This book covers a very interesting and informative subject, that has never been studied by any scholar before, namely, the letter-bearers of the medieval period, who carried most of Pope Gregory's letters, which would have been carried by the Post-Office or by Email today. While serving as Pope from 590 to 604, Gregory sent off about 850 letters that have survived, to both clerical and secular recipients, world-wide, and we have names for 150 or so of the letter-bearers, 15 female and 125 male. With the Lombards invading Italy, and Slavs invading Illyria, and very active slave-dealers at work, the number of men and of women who reached Rome and carried a papal letter, to sort out a legal or personal problem at home, is quite surprising, considering the slowness and the very real dangers of often long journeys in boats or on horseback. The risk was greatest for the women. Many of these visitors were invited to stay in the pope's quarters, often for a week or longer, while he looked into their cases. It is also notable that these welcome visitors included farmers, one nearly blind, builders and a Jewish businessman. For the women, the Pope show most support for the widows. The Pope also received many petitions and reports, and those who brought them to him will be examined. There were groups of letter-bearers too, from Sicily and Istria, and some brought letters but were not named. But a great number who made these journeys, mostly clerics, spoke for themselves in the surviving letters, and they came from all over the civilized world, many briefly appearing on the stage, their mission quite often not reported later on.
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