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From No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, Edited, with an Introduction, by Ray C. Petry, Professor of Church History, Duke University, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1948; pp. 269-287.



MISSIONARY, reformer, and preacher extraordinary, Bernardine, the Franciscan, imparted to his vernacular sermons a sensitive awareness of the human scene and a driving spiritual power not often surpassed. Preserved only through the devotion and shorthand skill of an auditor, these popular discourses treat all manner of subjects such as Church attendance, civic obligation, business ethics, and communal responsibility for maintaining a university. The following selections evidence a lively concern for soul salvation and a directness of approach sometimes quite startling. The translation is that of Ber.Sien.Rob. 5-9, 109-18, 194-203. Cf. Ber.Siena Ban.




1.  O how many of you here present this morning will say: I knew not what I did, I thought I did well while rather I was doing evil; and remembering this sermon they will say to themselves: O now am I enlightened as to what I should do, addressing these words to God, Verbum tuum lucerna mea est, Thy word is my enlightenment (Ps. 119:105; D. 118:105). And when thou art about to make some contract in thy business, thou wilt pause first to think, saying: what said Friar Bernardine of such matters? He told me, in such matters you must do thus or thus; that is evil, that is not commendable, but this is good, and this I wish to do. And in thiswise it will befall thee merely because of the worlds which thou hast heard preached to thee. But tell me: what would become of this world, I mean of the Christian faith, if there were no preaching? Within a very little our faith would have perished, for we should believe nothing of that which we now believe. And because of this Holy Church hath ordered that every Sunday there shall be preaching, — much or little, but some preaching. And she hath ordered thee to go to hear Mass, and if of these two duties thou canst perform but one, that is either hear Mass or hear the preaching thou shouldst rather lose Mass and hear the preaching; since the reason for this doth appear plainly, thou dost not so endanger thy soul by not hearing Mass as by not listening to the preaching. Canst thou not perceive and understand without further argument? For tell me, should you believe in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar if this had not been preached in holy sermons? Thou hast learned to believe in the Mass only from preaching. More than this, how ever shouldst thou have known what sin is, if not from preaching? What wouldst thou know of hell, if there were no preaching? What wouldst thou know of any good work, or how thou shouldst perform it, if not from preaching, or what wouldst thou know of the glories of Heaven? All these things that thou knowest came to thee through the words head by thine ears, and it is in thiswise that thou comest by knowledge to faith, and that which thou knowest and which thou hast hath come all through the word of God. And this is a sovereign rule, that which we have of the faith of Jesus Christ hath come 271 merely through preaching. And this faith will never perish while it shall be preached.

3.  O you who are cold and dead, go to the fount of life! O woman! in the morning when thou comest to the fount of life and of the teaching of God, to the sermon, leave not your husband abed, or your son, or your brother, but see to it that you wake him out of his sleep, and see to it that he also cometh to hear that which if he be dead will restore him to life. O fellow-citizens! do you wish Siena to prosper? You tell me, yes. See to it then that you hear the word of God; have the ordinance proclaimed that not until after the sermon shall have been preached each morning shall any man open his shop. Ay me! Are you, or do you wish to be, worse than the last time? I cannot believe that you are worse in respect to this; and I believe moreover that if you did well then you will do well now, and better. O! I hear that fellow yonder who saith, I could earn a soldo in the morning. Hearken to me, come to the sermon, because by hearing it thou wilt profit, while thou wouldst lose if thou camest not too hear it, because these are things ordered by God; for if something good hath been ordered by a city, this is an order from God.

4.  Being here present to listen thou wilt cleanse thyself of thy sins, and thus amending thyself, thou wilt come to warm thyself in the burning love of God. And so doing thou dost not despise the word of God, which word is the life of our spirit, because ofttimes a single word that thou hearest may be the beginning of thy salvation. Knowest thou not that Saint Peter preaching in Jerusalem, by a single word did convert many thousands of souls? Hast thou understood me, O woman, thou who sleepest over there? I fear not. I come here to bring you the word of God, and you settle yourselves to sleep, and I must break off my preaching to waken you out of your sleep, and moreover that man yonder saith: He hath little to do! Hear then this my answer to thee. Thou seest that the sun performs many duties: it giveth light, it drieth the unbaked bricks, it warmeth man; but I say to thee who sleepest that thou sinnest. Must I make this clear? If a woman ask for the priest, that she may receive communion, and then if she settle herself to sleep, dost thou not believe that she sinneth? Saint Augustine saith that the woman or the man who goeth to a sermon 272 and letteth the word of God pass by doth sin in as grievous a manner as that one who doth ask to receive communion and then through his carelessness doth let the host fall to the ground. But there is this difference, however, that carelessness is a venial sin, but this is a mortal sin, to have not the will to listen when you are able to hear.



1.  Love justice, you that are the judges of the earth. What is justice? Justice consists in . . . looking at me. Hast thou understood? Look at me! Justice may be conceived of in many and varied ways, but among others justice is constancy in the intention to be always just. Oh, you there at the fountain, who are selling your wares, go and do so elsewhere! Do you not hear me, O you there at the fountain? Home again! I say that justice doth consist in a constant and unceasing good intention; that as thou knowest, it wavereth not, but is ever stable, and that through it each hath rendered unto him that which is his, and that which doth befit him; that is, to the wicked is rendered punishment, and to the good, rewards; to the just, favour, and to the guilty, terror; to the good, peace, and to the wicked, war. Let him learn this morning who doth wish to have those offices in which the men of this world are judged.

2.  Lo! I wish to tell you an example which happened in the court of the king of France, or of the king of Spain. He had an ape and a bear, and he kept them for his disport. It happened that the ape having young, the bear killed one little ape and devoured it. The ape seeing what had been done, it seemed as if she were crying out for justice, for she betook herself to well nigh all those of the household; she turned now to one side, and now to the other, about each one of those whom she saw. And seeing that she was not understood, one day she broke her chain and went to that place wherein was the bear; for it seemed as if she said; since that no one doth execute justice in respect of the crime of this bear, I myself will execute it. In that place 273 where was the bear there was much hay. This ape took some of the hay and collected it together around and about the bear; in sum, she put fire to it and burned the bear, and in this manner herself executed justice. — Seest thou that the beasts endeavour in every way that justice be executed, and render that which is merited according to the deed which the other performed. — And by this thou dost see that nature dictates it to thee.

3.  There are four occasions of wrongdoing which may bring destruction upon any great city. The first is hate. The second is love. The third is fear. The fourth is hope. These make a man to judge wrongly. He who hath hate within him turneth away those to whom he wisheth not well. He who hath love doth advance those of his own house. He who doth fear doth act always out of fear when he seeth one of those whom he feareth. He who doth hope endeavoureth ever to raise aloft him from whom he may have somewhat that shall be useful to him; and therefore doth he send forward him whom he loveth and send him behind whom he hateth, doth send him forward in whom he hath hope and him behind whom he doth fear. It doth seem to him always that the thing is in size double that which in truth it is, one doth seem to him as two: that is to say, he seeth not as a whole, but his vision is divided in two. Wishest thou that I show thee in an example of what condition is his vision? Hist! I would explain so that I may be understood by these women. Women, if you have a spindle, not too large, or a paternoster, one of those which are very large, put your middle finger upon the spindle and your next finger to this also upon the paternoster, and you shall see that they will seem each one of them two. Now make trial of it, quickly, that I may see you do so for a little. And knowest thou what this doth signify? Oh! that one is too small, it will not serve. It doth signify that what is greater doth dominate the smaller because this is less powerful. So doth it seem to him, when he hath performed one thing it doth seem to him two. In like manner if he speak a thing, good or evil, it doth seem to him two. Again knowest thou how he doth? Thou hast heard that when one sayeth a word aloud it doth seem that this selfsame word is repeated opposite to him? Knowest thou how it doth sometimes befall me by chance in my preaching? While I am saying a word it doth rebound from over there among those palaces, and it seemeth two words. As doth befall here in our Piazza, where if a word be spoken 274 aloud, straightway it is repeated in answer to thee from here opposite, especially before sunrise. If thou dost wish to see if I speak the truth, to anyone who may be here in that pulpit of stone, each single word doth seem two; and there is greater reverberation before the sun doth rise than afterwards. If thou shalt say: Antony! thou art answered, Antony! It seemeth two to thee, and is one. So doth it seem to him; for one doth seem to him two because he hath not justice within him.

4.  I hear you have made it a law that no usurer shall enter any office. I praise you therefor, because you have done well indeed; but I say to thee: What manner of man shall he be that goeth to this office? You have done well to provide that no usurer shall go thither, but who will go then, since we are all usurers? And who is he who is not a usurer, or who doth not favor usury? I know of no such man as this. One way there is. Marry! Let us send thither the women! Ah! but yet there are women who incline to usury and encourage it, so therefore it is not fitting that even they should go thither. Marry! Let us send thither the peasants who go begging, and these forsooth would be good men to send thither since they go begging perforce because of their need. Have you paid heed to that which doth befall when a miser entereth an office? He doest as doth the wolf, who doth purge himself inwardly. When he is elected officer, he hath so great a desire to enter the office that he doth seem to waste away utterly with the great longing thereof, and the time doth seem to him as eternity before he may enter herein to fleece now this man and now to rob that other; precisely as doth the wolf when he is sick from repletion, who goeth to purge himself in a sandy place, in order that he may better fill himself up again, and with yet more. Hearken, I could tell thee of that which a friar once saw, and he who saw it told it to me. He said that a wolf had taken a wild boar near to a place where the friars lived; when he had killed this boar then he left it there where it lay, and went to a river and filled his belly with sand, and purged himself wholly. That river was near by these friars. There was one of them who when he knew of the condition of the wolf bethought himself to go thither, and went, and carried off this boar. Within a little, they lying full low to see what would befall, lo! the wolf doth return there and findeth not the boar. Think you what then befell! Out of the great fury that he flew into, he beat his head so hard on the ground, that he fell dead.


5.  Now cometh the point! Knowest thou how such greedy men as these do act when they are elected to an office? They ask: How much money did such an one get from this office? He got two hundred florins from it. Truly, eh? I shall get three hundred with ease from thence. And thus he goeth to the office with that wicked intent to put into operation. And knowest thou how he goeth thither? Thither he goest with his banner streaming behind him; he goeth in with all speed and with banner outspread. O how great evil is done, — oftentimes because of not reflecting what he ought to do. For there will be such a one who in order to have these offices of ours, will abandon his shop, his craft; and because of this the crafts and trades of the city diminish. Since such as these abandon their crafts to go and plunder, they do great damage to the city through not performing their trades, and they go forth to rob and plunder the country here outside the walls, and the poor men.

6.  Such men as these may be likened to cats. The cat settleth itself before a tiny hole whence the mouse should come out, and there will she lie in await all day to take it; and when it is come almost forth, in that moment she doth spring upon it. So doth the miser, who seeketh an office; when he heareth that they are to draw for an office he doth make every endeavour to get there by means of ballots, and therefore will he go from one friend to another, saying: O my good sir, such an office is before you. I prithee help me by thy vote. And in thiswise he will go about beseeching them all as it were, from friend to friend who is of the Council. O thou wretched fellow! How thinkest thou to do well abandoning thy shop, and pursuing after this one and that one? And if thou shalt have the office, what then? Thou art six months in the office, and after that thou wilt be for a year or longer without any office; and during this time in which thou hast no office thou dost consume that which doth remain to thee, whereas thou mightest instead have gained something by following thy trade or thy craft. And therefore providing as you intend in regard of names in the urns in my opinion you have disposed excellently well: and see that you put in charge only good men and competent, and those who deserve well. If you wish to maintain the city and its confines in good estate, put no rascal in charge there. Saith the rascally fellow: Oh! there is no chance for me. I make answer and say to thee, that it is in truth well done, that when the good and welfare of the 276 republic is regarded, it is better than if what were done concerned only the welfare of a particular man.

7.  The first poison is tyranny, for oftentimes there will be some officer who in his own esteem is proud and haughty indeed, but in truth is an extortioner and an exacting tyrant. Ofttimes such as these may be called yearly exactors or monthly, or weekly, or daily, or on every morning or every evening, or twice daily, or even hourly. Knowest thou the yearly exactor? It is he who doth oppress men by exacting money from them every year. The monthly exactor is worse, for he doth exact it monthly. The weekly exactor is even worse, who doth exact it weekly. The daily exactor again is worse, since every day he doth snatch and extort. The exactor on every morning is yet worse, since every morning in which he doth perform the duties of his office, he doth ever extort. In like manner doth the exactor on every evening. But what shall we say of the hourly exactor? We may say that he doth ever exact and oppress and extort, from whosoever doth come within his clutches. And dost thou wish to be called “rector”? This name fitteth thee not, for thou are not a rector indeed. We may take away that first e and pt there in its place an a, and that word will be thy name, which will then be “ractor,” with talons like the teeth of a rake. Would you know those who are not deserving of office? Go, look at their talons; if you find that these are hooked as the talons of the kite or the goshawk, they are of the number of those voracious officials, in respect of whom you must be on your guard, never to send them into any office. In like manner also see to it that their mouths curve not downwards, you know, as many birds whose beaks curve downwards, and who drink not water. If you see a beak crooked in that manner you may know thereby that they never drink water, but tear open the skin and suck the blood. Such birds as these lay few eggs. They are not made like our hens, who have not crooked claws nor beaks. O these lay many eggs, in faith! Knowest thou what a “rector” means? One who doth lay many good eggs; but the “ractor” doth naught else than plunder, and devour, and despoil!

8.  Hearken! Wouldst thou perceive which those are who deserve not to be rectors, and who if they are so you would do well to rid yourselves thereof? When thou seest an official who doth prolong a case and bringeth it never to a conclusion, and doth ever fleece each one of the two sides, these are not deserving of any office whatsoever. 277 I have been in such a place where there doth exist this order of affairs: the rector must have so much for every lira and so much for every florin; and so doth he fleece the poor man and likewise the rich. Seest thou this prolongment? It is a devouring. Knowest thou that there are such as wish not that disputes and complaints should ever come to an end? When an appeal is made to a governor he doth first require a fee from him who ought to have the money, he is always given something. Likewise the man who ought to have the money giveth him also so much for every lira, and this having been paid, he seemeth to himself to have performed a worthy action, and he departeth, with a song. He who ought to have something hath naught, but passeth his time in going from office to office; and so the amount is consumed for both parties, for every official doth act with the same tranquil indifferency. One official goeth out, another entereth office; he receiveth his fee; and he likewise goeth out of office, and the man is never paid. And in this manner justice is never done.

9.  Be not puffed up! Hast thou an office? Yes. O hold not thy head so high, lest thou knock it against something. If thou wilt but consider him who hath an office, thou wilt see that he hath a great burden. Is this not evident for example, that he who carrieth a heavy burden must walk stooped? Is there no porter here? Oh, porters! when you have a sack of wheat on your back, you know in truth that you walk thus a little stooped, and the greater the weight the more dost thou stoop forward. Know you not how you walk stooping forward at Michaelmas, then when people move from their houses? When thou bearest on thy back a great and heavy coffer . . . what do I intend by this? I say that he who is a rector hath a very heavy burden. Do not thou as many whom I have seen, who, when they are in office, repose themselves with legs outstretched and feet crossed; he standeth proudly drawn up with his cap on the very top on his head; for naught would he unbend himself; if he should have to enter by a door, being unwilling to stoop even ever so little, his cap would be knocked off from his head. Noli extoli Be humble, have done! hold not thy head so high; stoop thyself a little, lest thou knock thy head against the lintel of the door.

10.  Incline thyself not to negligence, O officer! Let pass dogs and the hunt, falcons and snares for birds, and nets, and hawks, and let pass walking idly abroad for thy diversion. Stay among them, that 278 they be not dissolute. Keep them bound in dread, that they do not evil, that they restrain themselves while you are with them. And let not the sheep wander far from thee, for if thou dost suffer them to do so, they will come to harm. O how much of all this doth belong to those who have the care of souls! For they should be ever among their folk, admonishing them, beseeching them, threatening them, in all that wherein there is need of this.

11.  The fifth poison is ignorance. Give not office to him if he know not how to fulfil it. He doth merit it not, he is cipher. What is the worth of a cipher, O mathematician? In itself, naught. The cipher can avail naught without company. If thou place here a cipher with one before it, it doth make ten; if thou place next this another cipher, it maketh one hundred. If thou have an office and be cipher, thou wilt never accomplish aught. If then thou have an office and be cipher, take a companion, and then thou availest somewhat. Now pay heed to this example: this also let the women learn. Have you never seen when the seed of the melon is planted, or, better, when grain is sown, or now when figs are ripe, that scarecrows are set up there? As thou knowest, over there in the wheat field they take a sack and fill it with straw, in order that the crows may not come there. And upon this sack they put a gourd, to seem like a man’s head; and they make him arms, and put a bow in his hand, bent, so that it seemeth he doth shoot at the crows. And the crows are cunning, and they fly hither and thither; and seeing this man they fear lest they may be killed, and so they wait all day, without pecking. They return thither the next day, and see him still in that same manner; again they wait thus until evening without daring to peck in the sown ground, and again, out of their great desire to peck they return thither the next morning, and they find him in that selfsame posture as on the day before; and seeing that he doth move himself not at all, they commence to fly down to the ground, though afar off, but by little and little they commence to draw near to this gourd, and at times they approach very near to it, though fearfully however. At times when they have thus approached near there will come a puff of wind, which will frighten them away. When they see him move in this manner, they all fly away for fear. Then seeing that he doth make no further motion, they even return and eat, and approach him nearer than they did at first. Sometimes it doth befall that [they are] one bolder than another, that they 279 go even very, very near, and seeing that he doth not move, they begin to fly; and they fly and perch upon his bow, and seeing that he doth not move, and doth not shoot off the bow he hath no fear whatsoever; and so emboldened he percheth upon his head. . . . Now cometh the point. Knowest thou what I mean to say? I mean to say that ofttimes a rector doth in like manner, who entereth that office to which he hath been elected, and he is not fitted for it, since he is a cipher. He doth proclaim the mandate that no one shall blaspheme God, that you must not go abroad at night, that you must game not for money, that you must not bear arms, that you must not speak any manner of abuse one to another. And thus, when the mandate hath been proclaimed, they go making a search by day and by night, with his bailiffs; and ofttimes he doth find one who goeth abroad at night, and one who doth blaspheme God. He will be led to the magistrate to make him pay the penalty. Straightway some one will come to the rector: — O sire, I beg and pray a boon of you. You have such an one, who was found abroad at night; I pray you to pardon him, for my love. Oh! saith the rector, the statutes declare so and so. What! Did he not hear the proclamation? Doth he not know our customs? Saith the other: Oh! it is a custom to proclaim the mandate and so is it also a custom to grant such pardons. He scarce knoweth how to deny this, and so he doth set him at liberty. So is it in the case of one who doth blaspheme, and in like manner of one who doth stir up a quarrel. And thus by little and little he doth permit himself to judge, according to the prayers of him who doth desire the pardon. . . .



1.  First above all I say that a business doth become unlawful with relation to the person engaged therein. For example, understand me: it is not lawful for me who am a friar, to hang a man, since that doth not belong to my art; that art belongeth to secular men. And so, I say, it is not permitted to any friar or priest. And thus, I would say, 280 that neither to friar nor to priest is it permitted to do that which belongeth to secular men to do. The priest and the friar should attend to the offices of the church and to the salvation of souls. Nor should you who are seculars give offices to religious; nor moreover should religious either accept them, or seek them, or exercise them. Nor should a religious entangle himself in secular business, no! Hearken now, answer me, fellow citizens: you are preparing your urns; are you placing friars in charge there? If you are putting them there, put me there as well. You set yourselves to believe that your secular chamberlains of the Commune have stolen money of the Commune, and for this reason perchance you would have them friars. The friars perhaps will not steal? Oh, it is an evil sign when because of this you demand friars! O what a blessing is that, that you do suspect one another? I have told you, and I say it to you because of the words of Paul: entangle not religious with these businesses (Cf. II Tim. 2:4). Doth it not suffice that you go to the home of the devil out of your desire for these offices without that you should endeavour to drag us thither as well? They have no other words in their mouths than these: We trust them not.

2.  I say to thee that this is an evil sign. You can not perform that which is acceptable to God, while you do so set yourselves against him, and against those who established the body of Church. Know you that which I would say to you, since you wish that they should hold office? See then that they wear secular dress, — that they wear caps tossed back, and that they have doublets which reach only to their middle! And thou mayest rest assured in regard of whoever doth bring it about or hath brought it about, that any religious should hold office, that I know certainly he hath committed a very grievous sin, — a mortal sin; since that he hath done that which was not permitted to him, nor is not, nor ever will be: and I say that whosoever was the occasion thereof, is bound to make restitution of all that money in respect of which the Commune hath suffered loss. Oh, a fine idea this, that they wished to place me in charge of the urns! Oh, next I would be made keeper of the Castle of Montalcino! I am assured that this you wished to do out of good will, — but tell me, ought I not to know that this is not permitted to me? Fye! fye! Oh, I should have been a great simpleton, forsooth! Thou dost not cozen me, in faith, with so great ease. Oh! is it becoming that the executioner 281 be paid by one who is at one and the same time priest and chamberlain of the Commune? Doth this belong to his office? Pray, will it be fitting then that he go afterwards to say Mass? But let us speak of this matter at length: What think you a religious doth when you have made him chamberlain? All the night doth he dream that he is counting money, and in his sleep he saith continually: four, six, eight, and he doth count without ceasing. In regard of myself I do believe that if I were in that office, I should steal more than the others steal. Have done! Manage your own businesses; give them not occasion of sin, but let them do what belongeth to them to do. Woe is me! for when I think of the sin that you are committing, both seculars and religious as well, I tremble with fear! You have made a fine friendship with the friars in faith, so that you would meddle in their businesses, and would have the friars entangle themselves in yours. Do not so, do not so. Reddite quae sunt Caesaris Caesari, et quae sunt Dei Deo. I say unto you that you should render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matt. 22:21). Let them perform their offices, and you do yours. Do not confound the lance with the axe. Do not thrust yourselves into their affairs, for I predict to you that if you do entangle yourselves in the business of one another, you will fall into mortal sin; and if you die in this sin, to the house of fire with you both! Hearken to a saying of Jerome in the XXVIII. chapter: Clericum negotiatorem et ignobilem inopem, gloriosum. Where thou seest any of the clergy a tradesman, who doth entangle himself in many matters, now in this, now in that, and that from a poor man he doth come into any riches whatsoever, — believe me he is one to be handled with caution; and I say there is great danger in having to do with him. And therefore I say that the first thing to be done is this, that you must consider the person who doth carry on the business, whether he be secular or religious. This mist then is now cleared away.

3.  The second point to be considered in regard of him who doth carry on business is, from what motive he doth carry it on. I told thee of it yesterday; to-day I will tell thee again. I say that if he doth this to provide for his family, or in order to free himself from debt, or to marry his daughters, — then I say it is permitted to him. But what shall we say of him who hath no need thereof, who doth so spend himself, doth busy himself here, doth busy himself there, doth 282 this, doth that, and doth never cease? Say I, that unless he doth this for the poor, he doth sin mortally, since that such hoarding as this is called the sin of avarice. See then whether I say not the truth to thee! If he hath not need, and doth hoard only for himself and for himself alone, what thinkest thou this is? Naught else than avarice. If he himself hath no need thereof, he ought to distribute it to the poor, or to hospitals, or in pious works. And if he doth use it otherwise, it is plain and clear to be seen that he doth gain and hoard out of avarice, and his people will have this, his kinsmen or his nephews, or his brothers, or cousins, or those who will never give further thought to him. Oh, it is an evil beast, avarice! Thou seest that with all this wearing himself by day and by night, yet never hath he satisfied any wish of his. And therefore is said in Ecclesiastes in V. chapter (vs. 10; D. 9): Avarus non satiabitur1 pecunia. A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money; — the more he hath the more he desireth. Shall we see whether I say the truth! Now put it to the proof, O miser! what dost thou wish? I wish ten thousand florins; had I but ten thousand florins I should feel that I was well off. Now then, here they are. Hast thou them? Yes. Next. What hast thou done with them? Oh, I have spent them! I want more. One of my partners hath repaid me one hundred florins which I lent him; I have spent it for cattle; I had need of fifty florins to set in order a house; I have need of yet more. Now then. How then. How much dost thou wish? I would have at the least, at the least, fifteen thousand. Seest thou that already his greed hath increased? Now then. Here, take them. What wilt thou do with them? Hast thou thought of this? Yes, there is by the side of my own house one that would suit me well indeed, and likewise this property doth stand between two that I own; if I might but have it, there would then be no one who could do any damage whatsoever to me; they would all be side by side together. And straightway or in this, or in that, doth he spend it all, and even doth exert himself to procure yet more. I would have more money. O for what hast thou need of so much? Oh, if I had but a little more! I feel assured that I should not seek to add more to it. Once more, how much dost thou wish? I would have at the least, twenty-five thousand. O what wouldst thou do with so much? Oh, what would I do with it? There is a fortress in a certain place which would suit me exceeding well, and moreover 283 I should like as well to own the property outside each of its gates. Mist is hateful to me. If there were mist at one gate, I should go to another, where there was no mist. He would have fine garments in new fashions: which is to say, in sum, that if he should have hundreds of thousands, he would not be content.

4.  Now let us look at four manners of sinning that do make the trade unlawful which some men practise. The first is the concealing of the truth; as for instance, he who doth possess a horse which hath a defect, and he wisheth to sell this; if he were to make known this defect, he could not sell it. I say that if he doth sell it, and doth not make known that defect, and if through that defect he should bring an harm to anyone, he who selleth it is held and bound to make restitution. The second is found in those who use diverse weights and measures, or scales, or balances. Hast thou never paid heed to him who doth sell by weight that he doth give a shove downwards with that which he putteth into the scale for thee? Each time is he bound to make restitution. The third occasion of sin is found in him who doth sell by measure; who will so stretch and pull the cloth that ofttimes he doth well nigh tear it asunder. Stretch with all thy force when thou hast it to sell! And likewise doth he who maketh the garment, — because in order to have it longer he doth stretch it so that he doth almost tear it, and sometimes it doth split down the middle, from head to foot. I say naught to thee of those who keep in a place which was damp that merchandise which they sell by weight, so that it may weigh more!

5.  Hearken! I wish to tell you of that which befell a merchant who was used to keep his merchandise in a place which was damp, so that it might weigh more. That time it went from bad to worse. One merchant went to buy saffron from another, and he who wished to buy having arrived at the shop of the one who had it to sell, he said; I wish as much saffron as I can find. Said he: I will give thee mine. And having showed it to him, at once he who was to buy it perceived that it was damp, and he said to the one who was selling it to him: See that it is sent to my house, and I will weigh it, and will give thee the money. The fellow sends it straightway, so that it may not dry, and then follows after the man who was carrying it, in order to weigh it. When they were arrived at the house of the other, said he who is to buy it: do me this favour; I can not wait now to weight it, — seal it 284 up, and leave it here for a time, and I will return. He doth so, and doth depart in God’s name in all peace. Marry! When he is out of the house, at once the other hath the saffron taken up, and hath it put into an oven which was there near by, and when it is dry he hath it replaced there where the other had left it. Afterwards cometh the other merchant, and they weigh this saffron; and he took his money and went about his own business. So it went from bad to worse. One made it damp so that its weight be greater than it was; and the other put it into the oven, so that it might weigh less than it should, for perchance it dried more than it should have done. And in thiswise he who thought that he would cheat was himself cheated.

6.  The third thing which doth make merchandise unlawful, is when a man doth sell something harmful; and this may be understood in many ways. How great difference there is between one kind of merchandise and another, both in regard of worth and of harmfulness. O apothecary, who to rid thyself of thy goods doth many a time give something bad to him who doth pay for it, as if it were the finest in the world, in what doth thy sin consist? First, it is a sin against good merchandise, and second against just weight, and fair measure. Do not thou as many do, who follow a certain practice of theirs. The conditions of the body of each of us are not the same; this man is cold, this one warm; for one and the same medicine may do harm to one and good to another. Therefore trust never to thyself, but rely upon that which the physician saith to thee, who doth know from practice and from learning. See that it doth not happen to thee as once befell another apothecary. A man falling ill at once sent for the physician, and when he had seen the sick man, he said that he must needs take a certain medicine; he was told that he should order it. And having left the sick man, he went to the apothecary and said: take thy book, and write for such a one: Take half a dram of such a thing and two of such another, et cetera: and dissolve it in such and such water. And having prepared it in thiswise, see that it be given to this sick man. In the evening cometh the brother of the sick man to the apothecary for the medicine which the physician had ordered, and the apothecary giveth him a medicine which he had prepared after his own fashion, and not according to the directions of the physician. The other doth carry it home with him, and at night, when the hour was come for it, he giveth it to the sick man. And when it had been 285 given to him in thiswise, it wrought with him so that he died from it. This man’s brother goeth straightway to the physician, and told him what had befallen. The physician said that this could not have happened so, unless forsooth the apothecary had done as he himself wished, after his own fashion. Thereupon this man went to the apothecary with two witnesses, for the sake of caution. When the apothecary seeth him, at once he asked: How doth thy brother? Well, he replied. And how wrought the medicine with him? And he replied: Excellently well. I believe that by means of it he will be cured. When saith the apothecary: Great thanks then are due to me, for I compounded it of other things than the physician told me of. Then said he: We are witnesses to that which he hath said. And straightway he went to the Signoria, and related this matter, and how his brother had died. Finally the apothecary was taken into custody, and was condemned to death, and lost his life. And this was because he was giving his wares without regard to measure, in order to rid himself of as much as possible; he was giving too full measure, and others paid the cost thereof. Do you understand me? Yes. Then beware of this. The man did not do as another did, who sold his comrade’s wares at a cheap price in order to squander it, and to better the sale of his own.

7.  Another vice in regard of business lies in counting; it is that of the man who doth count so as to cheat; for with counting in so great haste he doth contrive to bewilder the man or the woman who doth receive the money, and this through his counting in haste: there, and there, and there, and there: one, two, three, five, seven, eight ten, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, nineteen, and twenty. And the poor little old woman, who hath not much wit, believeth that it is as thou sayest, and doth receive the money as thou givest it to her; and home she goeth, and doth begin to count it, coin by coin, and findeth herself cheated out three pence, and she returneth to him who gave her the money, and saith: Ay me! I went home with the money you gave me, and I have counted it again; I find that I lack three pence. Such men as this will reply: You will see that you have made a mistake in counting it. Saith she: no, you have given me too little, for the love of God, give it to me. Saith he: Oh! look whether you have not dropped it, hath not your purse perchance a hole in it? And so the poor creature has the worst of it. Thinkest thou that this is pleasing to God? No, 286 verily. Covet not thy neighbour’s goods. (Cf. Ex. 20:17), this is one of the commandments; and the other saith: Non furaberis, Thou shalt not steal (Ex. 20:15). This is theft, that you take this from her, and she can help herself in nowise.

8.  Another manner of sin is murder; as for instance sometimes when a butcher will slaughter and sell at his counter, so much for a lira, meat that is infected. And many times they are themselves the cause of it. In what condition think you, must an animal be which hath been inflated by a man who is himself infected with disease? He hath infected that animal, and there is the chance that it may kill whosoever doth eat of it. There are many who say that they inflate the animal in order that they may skin it more easily; but I say to thee that even if it be more difficult to skin, thou shouldst endure this labour, thou shouldst do that which doth belong to thy trade so far as it is possible. Moreover I would say in reply to those who tell me this: What is the reason wherefor at Rome they never inflate the meat? And yet there they slaughter them? Cast it away, rather than sell such infected wares. Do not do as did a renegade Christian, one of those Christians “of the Cord.” It is said that once he told the Sultan this, saying to him: I rid us of more Christians by killing them in a certain fashion than do all your followers with sword in hand. The fashion of it was as follows: that he used to go among the Christians, and sold meat and fish and other things which were tainted and infected, the which things were eaten by the Christians: and by this means, many of them died in a brief time.

9.  From naught doth the Commune so profit as from the utility of the Guilds, and from merchandise which is bought and sold. Seldom are Guilds licensed which are harmful, — such as is one, that is, the snipping of cloth: — snipping of cloth does naught for the common good. Moreover the Guild of poisons does naught for the common good. Whensoever a property doth sustain damage, or human beings, this can not be for the common good. Saith Scotus in his Commentary on the 4th. Book of Sentences, Dist. 15: that those things which a Commune can not dispense with are there: the Guild of Wool-weavers is one, the greatest utility doth result thereof to the common good. Likewise the Guild of Shoemaking. Such Guilds are maintained by merchants, who have wool and leather brought hither. Now in like manner as these two are necessary, so also is the University 287 necessary; it is but little appreciated by those who have never studied aught. Never suffer it to depart from Siena, O Sienese, for you can not comprehend the profit and the honour which will accrue to you therefrom a short time from now. Consider Bologna, the fame thereof, and the utility and the honour. So will it befall you if you shall be able to maintain it, for therein are men fitted to bring you into renown everywhere. Since that you have the Sapienza here, extend its privilege to the merchants and throughout the Republic, because as I have told you, it is necessary and profitable to the common good, and is most pleasing to the Good Lord God. You may perceive even now that already there cometh forth from out of it a band of our citizens fitted for the doctor’s degree. And as I say to the citizens, so do I say likewise to you who study: see to it that you become not such great simpletons. It is a thing which is pleasing to God.



1  Vulg., implebitur.


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