Charlemagne: Great Capitulary

(802)

Part administrative decree, part constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, and part sermon, the Capitulary of Charlemagne, issued in 802, was one of numerous such documents promulgated by the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties in the medieval Frankish, or French, Empire. The documents were termed capitularies because they were divided into sections called capitula, a Latin word meaning “headings” or “chapters.” Although several kings wrote and published capitularies, these documents are most closely associated with Pépin III's son Charlemagne (“Charles the Great,” or “Carolus Magnus” in Latin), inarguably the most famous Frankish emperor in the Carolingian Dynasty and the dominant figure in Europe in the late eighth and early ninth centuries.

It would be difficult to exaggerate Charlemagne's impact on the development of western and central Europe. Known in some circles as “the father of Europe,” Charlemagne ruled over Frankish territories and, through warfare and diplomacy,...

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Charlemagne (center) with King Arthur and Godfrey of Bouillon (Yale University Art Gallery)

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