Tag Archives: Franks

Charlemagne’s Letter to Baugaulf of Fulda

This late 8th century letter from Charlemagne to Abbot Baugaulf illustrates the emphasis the Emperor placed on learning.

Charles, by the grace of God, King of the Franks and Lombards and Patrician of the Romans, to Abbot Baugulf and to all the congregation, also to the faithful committed to you, we have directed a loving greeting by our ambassadors in the name of omnipotent God.

Be it known, therefore, to your devotion pleasing to God, that we, together with our faithful, have considered it to be useful that the bishoprics and monasteries entrusted by the favor of Christ to our control, in addition, in the culture of letters also ought to be zealous in teaching those who by the gift of God are able to learn, according to the capacity of each individual, so that just as the observance of the rule imparts order and grace to honesty of morals, so also zeal in teaching and learning may do the same for sentences, so that those who desire to please God by living rightly should not neglect to please him also by speaking correctly. For it is written: “Either from thy words thou shalt be justified or from thy words thou shalt be condemned.” For although correct conduct may be better than knowledge, nevertheless knowledge precedes conduct. Therefore, each one ought to study what he desires to accomplish, so that so much the more fully the mind may know what ought to be done, as the tongue hastens in the praises of omnipotent God without the hindrances of errors. For since errors should be shunned by all men, so much the more ought they to be avoided as far as possible by those who are chosen for this very purpose alone, so that they ought to be the especial servants of truth. For when in the years just passed letters were often written to us from several monasteries in which it was stated that the brethren who dwelt there offered up in our behalf sacred and pious prayers, we have recognized in most of these letters both correct thoughts and uncouth expressions; because what pious devotion dictated faithfully to the mind, the tongue, uneducated on account of the neglect of study, was not able to express in the letter without error. Whence it happened that we began to fear lest perchance, as the skill in writing was less, so also the wisdom for understanding the Holy Scriptures might be much less than it rightly ought to be. And we all know well that, although errors of speech are dangerous, far more dangerous are errors of the understanding. Therefore, we exhort you not only not to neglect the study of letters, but also with most humble mind, pleasing to God, to study earnestly in order that you may be able more easily and more correctly to penetrate the mysteries of the divine Scriptures. Since, moreover, images, tropes and similar figures are found in the sacred pages, -no one doubts that each one in reading these will understand the spiritual sense more quickly if previously he shall have been fully instructed in the mastery of letters. Such men truly are to be chosen for this work as have both the will and the ability to learn and a desire to instruct others. And may this be done with a zeal as great as the earnestness with which we command it. For we desire you to be, as it is fitting that soldiers of the church should be, devout in mind, learned in discourse, chaste in conduct and eloquent in speech, so that whosoever shall seek to see you out of reverence of God, or on account of your reputation for holy conduct, just as he is edified by your appearance, may also be instructed by your wisdom, which he has learned from your reading or singing, and may go away joyfully giving thanks to omnipotent God. Do not neglect, therefore, if you wish to have our favor, to send copies of this letter to all your suffragans and fellow-bishops and to all the monasteries. And let no monk hold courts outside of his monastery or go to the judicial and other public assemblies. Farewell.

In Boretius, No. 29, p. 78, trans. by D. C. Munro, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1900]. Vol. VI, No. 5, pp. 12-14

Pepin the Short becomes King

749. Burchard, bishop of Wilrzburg, and Fulrad, priest and chaplain, were sent [by Pepin] to Pope Zacharias to ask his advice in regard to the kings who were then ruling in France, who had the title of king but no real royal authority. The Pope replied by these ambassadors that it would be better that he who actually had the power should be called king.

750 [751]. In this year Pepin was named king of the Franks with the sanction of the Pope, and in the city of Soissons he was anointed with the holy oil by the hands of Boniface, archbishop and martyr of blessed memory, and was raised to the throne after the custom of the Franks. But Childeric, who had the name of king, was shorn of his locks and sent into a monastery.

753. In this year Pope Stephen came to Pepin at Kiersy, to urge him to defend the Roman church from the attacks of the Lombards. 754. And after Pope Stephen had received a promise from king Pepin that he would defend the Roman church, he anointed the king and his two sons, Charles and Carloman, with the holy oil. And the pope remained that winter in France.

From Thatcher and McNeil, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905), p. 37-38 [Some spelling of names adjusted]

Law of the Salian Franks

Title I: Concerning Summonses

  1. If any one be summoned before the “Thing” by the king’s law, and do not come, he shall be sentenced to 600 denars, which make 15 shillings (solidi).
  2. But he who summons another, and does not come himself, shall, if a lawful impediment have not delayed him, be sentenced to 15 shillings, to be paid to him whom he summoned.

Title XI: Concerning Thefts or Housebreakings of Freemen

  1. If any freeman steal, outside of the house, something worth 2 denars, he shall be sentenced to 600 denars, which make 15 shillings.
  2. But if he steal, outside of the house, something worth 40 denars, and it be proved on him, he shall be sentenced, besides the amount and the fines for delay, to 1400 denars, which make 35 shillings.
  3. If a freeman break into a house and steal something worth 2 denars, and it be proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 15 shillings.
  4. But if he shall have stolen something worth more than 5 denars, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced, besides the worth of the object and the fines for delay, to 1400 denars, which make 35 shillings.
  5. But if he have broken, or tampered with, the lock, and thus have entered the house and stolen anything from it, he shall be sentenced, besides the worth of the object and the fines for delay, to 1800 denars, which make 45 shillings.
  6. And if he have taken nothing, or have escaped by flight, he shall, for the housebreaking alone, be sentenced to 1200 denars, which make 30 shillings.

Title XVII: Concerning Wounds

  1. If any one have wished to kill another person, and the blow have missed, he on whom it was proved shall be sentenced to 2500 denars, which make 63 shillings.
  2. If any person have wished to strike another with a poisoned arrow, and the arrow have glanced aside, and it shall be proved on him: he shall be sentenced to 2500 denars, which make 63 shillings.
  3. If any person strike another on the head so that the brain appears, and the three bones which lie above the brain shall project, he shall be sentenced to 1200 denars, which make 30 shillings.
  4. But if it shall have been between the ribs or in the stomach, so that the wound appears and reaches to the entrails, he shall be sentenced to 1200 denars-which make 30 shillings-besides five shillings for the physician’s pay.
  5. If any one shall have struck a man so that blood falls to the floor, and it be proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 600 denars, which make 15 shillings.
  6.  But if a freeman strike a freeman with his fist so that blood does not flow, he shall be sentenced for each blow-up to 3 blows-to 120 denars, which make 3 shillings.

Title XXIV: Concerning the Killing of Little Children and Women

  1. If any one have slain a boy under 10 years-up to the end of the tenth-and it shall have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  2. If any one have hit a free woman who is pregnant, and she dies, he shall be sentenced to 28000 denars, which makes 700 shillings.
  3. If any one have killed a free woman after she has begun bearing children, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  4. After she can have no more children, he who kills her shall be sentenced to 8000 denars, which make 200 shillings.

Title XXX: Concerning Insults

  1. If any one, man or woman, shall have called a woman harlot, and a not have been able to prove it, he shall be sentenced to 1800 denars, which make 45 shillings.
  2. If any person shall have called another “fox,” he shall be sentenced to 3 shillings.
  3. If any man shall have called another “hare,” he shall be sentenced to 3 shillings.

Title XLI: Concerning the Murder of Freemen

  1. If any one shall have killed a free Frank, or a barbarian living under the Salic law, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 8000 denars.
  2. But if he shall have thrown him into a well or into the water, or shall have covered him with branches or anything else, to conceal him, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  3. But if any one has slain a man who is in the service of the king, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.
  4. But if he have put him in the water or in a well, and covered him with anything to conceal him, he shall be sentenced to 72000 denars, which make 1800 shillings.
  5. If any one have slain a Roman who eats in the king’s palace, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 12000 denars, which make 300 shillings.
  6. But if the Roman shall not have been a landed proprietor and table companion of the king, he who killed him shall be sentenced to 4000 denars, which make 100 shillings.

Title LXII: Concerning Wergeld

  1. If any one’s father have been killed, the sons shall have half the compounding money (wergeld); and the other half the nearest relatives, as well on the mother’s as on the father’s side, shall divide among themselves.
  2. But if there are no relatives, paternal or maternal, that portion shall go to the fisc.

from “The Salic Law,” in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 176-189.

The Early Middle Ages

After the decline of Rome in the West, various “barbarian” kingdoms emerged. One of these, the kingdom of the Franks, became dominant in what is now France and Germany. Its first dynasty, that of the Merovingian and, later, the stronger Carolingian Dynasty.
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