Codex Epistolaris Carolinus

BookCodex Epistolaris Carolinus

Codex Epistolaris Carolinus

Letters from the popes to the Frankish rulers, 739-791

Translated Texts for Historians, 77


April 1st, 2021





The Codex epistolaris Carolinus is a remarkable source for the history of the Franks, Lombards and Rome in the eighth century. It is a compilation of ninety-nine letters from popes Gregory III, Zacharias, Stephen II, Paul I, the anti-pope Constantine, Stephen III and Hadrian I to, respectively Charles Martel, Pippin III, Carloman and Charlemagne, with three letters also sent by Hadrian I to Spain and one letter purporting to be from St Peter himself. The compilation was commissioned by Charlemagne in 791 and survives in a single manuscript, Codex Vindobonennsis 449, copied in the late ninth century and owned by Archbishop Willibert of Cologne (870-89).

The letters address a great variety of topics, such as the politics of Italy, the popes’ need for support in relation to the Lombards, the popes’ territorial claims, sending gifts and advice to the Frankish rulers, commenting on aspects of canon law, expounding Old Testament parallels for the Frankish rulers to emulate, and protesting vigorously against any indication of the Carolingian rulers allying with the Lombard kings. The letters between Charlemagne and Hadrian in particular reveal the strength of the relationship established between the two rulers. The less well known set of letters to Pippin, especially the letters from Paul I to Pippin is an extraordinarily important source of information about the politics of the Lombard kingdom in the reigns of Aistulf and Desiderius in particular, and on politics in Rome, with reports of papal elections and disputes.

This is the first complete translation of all the letters; together with the substantial introduction it will facilitate the appreciation of the significance and political role of the collection as a whole.

Author Information

Rosamond McKitterick is Professor of Medieval History, University of Cambridge. Her most recent book is Rome and the Invention of the Papacy: The Liber Pontificalis (Cambridge 2020). Dorine van Espelo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Radboud University, Nijmegen. She is co-editor of Religious Franks. Religion and Power in the Frankish Kingdoms: Studies in Honour of Mayke de Jong (Manchester 2016). Richard Pollard is Professor in the Department of History, Université de Montréal. His most recent book is Imagining the Medieval Afterlife (ed, Cambridge 2020). Richard Price is Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity, Heythrop College and Honorary Research Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London. His many previous publications include The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553 (Liverpool 2009), The Acts of the Lateran Synod of 649 (with P. Booth & C. Cubitt, Liverpool 2014), The Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea (Liverpool 2018) and The Council of Ephesus of 431 (with T. Graumann, Liverpool 2020).