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The role of Frankish and Papal missi in diplomatic exchanges in the eighth century

The role of Frankish and Papal missi in diplomatic exchanges in the eighth century

By Carla Heelan

Journal of the Oxford University History Society, Issue 5 (Michaelmas 2007)

Page from the Codex Carolinus

Abstract: The eighth century marked a change in the relationship between the papacy and the Frankish monarchs, allying the two foci of spiritual and temporal power. During the many years of the second half of the century, however, when the two rulers did not meet in person, frequent communication and indirect contact maintained and strengthened their bond. Just as in Byzantium, embassies bore written and oral messages between the two men.

In the late eighth century, Charlemagne collected the popes’ correspondence into a volume called the Codex Carolinus, of which one late ninth century copy from Cologne remains. It is unknown whether or to what extent these letters were edited before their inclusion, and these deletions could have considerable consequences for the interpretation of the volume. The significance of what does remain, however, cannot be contested. The letters reveal how the popes addressed the Carolingian rulers, the tone of their communications, and the wide range of subjects, both personal and political, under discussion.

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