Session 5: Texts, Rituals and the Social Order – Badly Ordered: Wallahfrid Strabo’s vision of the Carolingian World…

Badly Ordered: Wallahfrid Strabo’s vision of the Carolingian World in the Libellus de exordiis et incrementis quarandam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum

Mary Zito ( The Catholic University of America)


Walahfrid Strabo born in 809, was a Frankish monk, theological writer, and tutor to Charles the Bald. He drowned in 848 while on a diplomatic mission.

This paper focuses on Christian Carolingian architecture and belief. Walahfrid placed emphasis on God’s intervention in human history. Walahfrid presents the social order of the Carolingian world, the  relationship of the aristocracy and the king’s, and the reality of Carolingian rule.  Historical context is not incidental to the text. Walahfrid’s text examined as a unique part of the genre of Carolingian history writing. He used the works of the ancient’s but broached current Carolingian concerns such as  iconoclasm, the reception of Eucharist, and other topics in the text.

Walahfrid builds his position from historical evidence and correlates Carolingian policy with papal policy. Walahfrid discusses Carolingian liturgical reforms – prayer and liturgy were important to Carolingians at the time. There was a concern with ecclesiastical education in understanding scripture and prayer. In Carolingian thought, the fate of the kingdom linked with liturgy. Walahfrid anchors his text in history. In Chapter 3, the manner of worship around the leaders changed. True worship of God was no longer linked to a specific place – all people everywhere could be Carolingian adorers. – Liturgy was extremely important because it was deemed the way God entered history.

Walahfrid was usually aligned with Charles the Bald. In Chapter 14, before his discussion of the Eucharist, he wrote that even the most beloved of God can separate themselves from him by their actions. In Chapter 15, Walahfrid signals the means by which amendment to God can be regained.  Unity with God is compromised if the liturgy is performed incorrectly and there was a fear that society will fall apart. If you were lived outside of the sacraments, you were outside of societal norms. The old secular order of the Roman Empire had created a new spiritual order. This power was transferred to the pope in Rome. Walahfrid compares archbishops to Kings, and Popes to emperors.


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