from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The expression capitularies (singular: the Kapitular (e) or Kapitularium ), Latin capitularia , denotes in legal history sovereign orders in the sense of laws , especially in the time of the Carolingians , especially under Charlemagne .


The capitularies were drawn up by the court chapel and contained legal provisions on administration and jurisdiction as well as in military, ecclesiastical and cultural matters. They were written down and always in Middle Latin. Their division into different chapters (Latin capitula ) gave them their name.

They had a decisive influence on the development of (Western) European economic and social history and regulated u. a. also the cultivation technique of useful plants. The most famous capitularies include the Admonitio generalis of 789, which summarizes Charlemagne's reform program, and the Capitulare de villis .

The capitulars are often named after the place where they were proclaimed, for example the Herstal chapter (779) or the Diedenhofen chapter (805).

The starting point of this form of justice was the authority of the king, especially his power to banish him , which allowed him to issue orders to his subjects or to pronounce bans and to punish non-compliance. The greats of the empire, however, had to agree to the decree; this took place in the form of consensus , for example at an imperial assembly. But this consensus was a pro forma process achieved with the adoption of the capitularies, which only later, with the fall of power of the kings, required the approval of the princes.

The written record of the decision in the form of a chapter was only part of the process of the case law. The capitular only had a constitutive effect when it was proclaimed orally in the various parts of the empire. This task was mainly assigned to the counts, bishops and royal messengers who, at least in individual cases, also had to take care of the distribution of particularly important capitularies in the form of copies.

Particularly in the time of Charlemagne, the capitular legislation increased sharply, and his successor, Louis the Pious, made use of it to the same extent. Even under Karl's grandchildren, however, there was a rapid decline.

Research problems

The only sources of the capitularies are copies, the originals no longer exist. With a few exceptions, the texts have been passed on through collections compiled by bishops, abbots or counts of the Franconian Empire for practical purposes. However, these collections often raise the problem that the capitularies are not treated as an independent form of legal sources, but are handed down in connection with other texts, for example with the leges, the tribal rights in the Franconian Empire. This is particularly important for the question of the purpose and reception of the capitularies. This also gives rise to uncertainties as to which of the texts can be designated as capitularies and which not. Various capitularies have only been dated because of their tradition, but this information is sometimes doubtful.

Furthermore, there is disagreement in the division of the capitularies according to their content. For the time of Louis the Pious, a division into ecclesiastical and secular capitularies has been handed down, but this distinction cannot be maintained because the mixing of secular and ecclesiastical topics is a basic characteristic of the capitularies. The capitularies with exclusively secular content are divided into three groups:

  • capitularia legibus addenda as supplements to popular rights,
  • capitularia per se scribenda as dispositions with a purpose of its own and
  • capitularia missorum as instructions for the royal messengers.

It also comes from the time of Louis the Pious and was adopted by research. However, this classification is also problematic, since in addition to the capitularies that fit into these categories, there are mixed provisions, so that a fourth group of capitularia mixta would have to be introduced.

Another problem is the relationship between the writing of the capitular, on the one hand, and its oral proclamation, on the other, in terms of their significance for the entry into force of the respective provisions. François Louis Ganshof (see literature tips below) saw in his fundamental work on the capitularies the promulgation of the ordinance issued by the ruler as the only constitutive act, the actual text, however, as a pure aid to announce and disseminate what had been decided. This view was contradicted with the thesis that the capitular texts in the original version had more of the character of a document and thus already had constitutive properties.

The general existence of the royal or imperial certification under original capitularies, the subscriptio regis or imperatoris , cannot be proven even after an examination of the handwritten tradition and therefore, if attested, is to be regarded as an exception.

The creation of a capitular is also largely in the dark. In Ganshof's view, the authority of the capitularies rested solely on the royal ban, the right of the king to command or forbid. In the Carolingian era, the king's power was still unlimited; only later did this shift in favor of the nobility. The consent of the nobility to the decided measures, the consensus , was, according to its interpretation, by no means a voluntary decision, but rather an obligatory recognition. For the king, the consensus was an additional insurance that obliged the nobility to obey the rules. This opinion has been contradicted by various sides.

Karl Ferdinand Werner emphasized the participation of the Franconian aristocracy in fundamental decisions of the king, this also applied to the legislation. Dieter Hägermann also rejected Ganshof's idea of ​​an unrestricted kingdom and found evidence in the sources that testify to a voluntary collaboration between the nobility and king or emperor in the field of capitularies for various epochs of the Frankish Empire. Arnold Bühler emphasized in his study the overwhelming proportion of the clerical elite in the writing of the capitularies.

Finally, the stock of copies of research raises some questions: The capitularies were supposed to be distributed throughout the empire with the help of copies for the purpose of proclamation, the surviving copies, however, form a rather sparse number overall and were available in different quantities in the parts of the empire . This fact suggests that copies were inadequate, but also contains an indication of the validity of the capitularies and their respective scope; both differed depending on the content and importance of the chapter.

The North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts promotes from 2013 to 2029 with a total of 5.28 million Euro research of the Cologne historian Karl Ubl to capitularies the Carolingian within the Monumenta Germaniae Historica . The "Edition of Franconian Rulers' Decrees" will systematically organize, digitize and also reissue them in several volumes.


  • Arnold Bühler: Capitularia Relecta. Studies on the tradition of the capitularies of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. In: Archives for Diplomatics . Vol. 32, 1986, pp. 305-501.
  • Peter Classen (Ed.): Law and Scripture in the Middle Ages (= Constance Working Group for Medieval History. Lectures and Research. Vol. 23). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1977, ISBN 3-7995-6623-6 .
  • François Louis Ganshof : What were the capitularies? Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1961.
  • Mathias Geiselhart: The capitular legislation of Lothar I in Italy. (= Freiburg contributions to medieval history, vol. 15), Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2002, ISBN 3-631-38943-4 .
  • Dieter Hägermann : On the origin of the capitularies. In: Waldemar Schlögl, Peter Herde (ed.): Basic sciences and history. Festschrift for Peter Acht (= Munich University Writings. Philosophical Faculty. Munich Historical Studies. Department of Historical Auxiliary Sciences. Vol. 15). Lassleben, Kallmünz 1976, ISBN 3-7847-4415-X , pp. 13-27.
  • Valeska Koal: Studies on the aftermath of the capitularies in the canon collections of the early Middle Ages (= Freiburg contributions to medieval history, vol. 13), Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2001, ISBN 978-3631370018 (also: Freiburg (Breisgau), University, dissertation, 1999 ).
  • Hubert Mordek : Franconian capitularies and collections of capitularies. In: Ders .: Studies on Franconian rulers' legislation. Essays on capitularies and collections of capitularies selected for the 60th birthday. Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2000, ISBN 3-63137-660-X , pp. 1-53.
  • Steffen Patzold : Norms in the book. Considerations on the validity claims of so-called 'capitularies'. In: Frühmedalterliche Studien 41, 2007, pp. 331-350 ( online ).
  • Reinhard Schneider : Written form and oral form in the area of ​​capitularies. In: Peter Classen (Hrsg.): Law and writing in the Middle Ages (= Constance Working Group for Medieval History. Lectures and Research. Vol. 23). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1977, ISBN 3-7995-6623-6 , pp. 257-279.
  • Annette de Sousa Costa: Studies on vernacular words in Carolingian capitularies (= Studies on Old High German. Vol. 21) Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-52520-336-5 (also: Münster, University, dissertation).
  • Harald Witthöft: Coin, measure and weight in the Frankfurt chapter. In: Johannes Fried et al. (Ed.): 794 - Charlemagne in Frankfurt am Main. A king at work. Exhibition for the 1200th anniversary of the city of Frankfurt am Main. (Exhibition at the Historisches Museum Frankfurt from May 18, 1994 to August 28, 1994). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1994, ISBN 3-7995-1204-7 , pp. 124-131.
  • Ingrid Woll: Investigations into the tradition and character of the Merovingian capitularies (= Freiburg contributions to medieval history. Vol. 6). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1995, ISBN 3-63148-743-6 (also: Freiburg (Breisgau), university, dissertation, 1994).

Web links

Wiktionary: Kapitelular  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ Karl Ferdinand Werner , Important Noble Families in the Empire of Charlemagne. In: Wolfgang Braunfels (ed.): Karl der Große. Life's work and afterlife. Volume 1: Helmut Beumann (Ed.): Personality and History. Düsseldorf 1965, pp. 83-142.
  2. Dieter Hägermann : On the origin of the capitularies. In: Waldemar Schlögl, Peter Herde (ed.): Basic sciences and history. Festschrift for Peter Acht. Kallmünz 1976, pp. 13-27.
  3. Dirk Riße: On the trail of the Franks. In: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger , February 25, 2014.