A testimony of Carolingian rule? The Codex epistolaris carolinus, its historical context, and the meaning of imperium


  • I am greatly indebted to Professor Mayke de Jong, Professor Rosamond McKitterick and Erik Goosmann for their helpful comments and corrections.


In the preface to the Carolingian collection of papal letters, known as the Codex epistolaris carolinus, the word imperium is used in the context of describing what is in the collection. In this article, I shall argue that a reinterpretation of the preface's statement about what imperium refers to will shed a different light on the CC as a collection in its entirety. What imperium refers to exactly can be debated, yet studying the Codex carolinus as a Carolingian product of its time, in combination with a reappraisal of its preface, may help to understand the source's historical context and its value to the Carolingian court. As I hope to demonstrate, the CC was an essentially purposeful collection, which underlined the shared history of the Carolingian family and the papacy in Rome.