The title given in the Middle Ages to a high ecclesiastical official who also directed the royal chancery. The Merovingian Franks continued the late Roman practice of having lay persons, referendarii, prepare royal documents and letters. In Carolingian times, when the educated were predominantly clerics, and when civil and religious administration were closely related, priest members of the court chapel also prepared the royal documents. At their head was the first chaplain, called (after 825) archchaplain, who was the highest church dignitary at the court of the Franks. At the time of charlemagne and louis the Pious, an untitled chief chancellor oversaw the actual writing of documents. In 856 louis the German put the document-preparing organization directly under the archchaplain. The combined office was given to Abp. Liudhard of Mainz in 870. Under the Ottonian emperors, the office was attached to the see of Mainz and the title archchancellor commonly applied to it. After 1031 the archchancellor was the archbishop of Cologne, who also fulfilled this office for the Roman Church during the 11th century. Under henry iii (1039–56) the archbishop of Besançon was archchancellor; after 1157 under the Hohenstaufen, the archbishop of Vienne; after 1308, the archbishop of Trier. As the office of archchaplain disappeared in the 11th century, a distinction was made between the chancellor, who directed the work of chancery personnel, and the chaplain, who directed clerics attached to the royal chapel in their spiritual functions. In the 12th century the chancery became an independent institution. As archchancellor in the 9th century, the archbishop of Mainz had a definite influence on chancery procedure, as did the archbishop of Cologne to some extent during the 11th and 12th centuries. The title archchancellor was applied analogously to a position established for the three spiritual electors of the empire by Charles IV in the Golden Bull of 1356. The abbot of Fulda was designated archchancellor of the empress. The position remained in later years only as a title that accorded its possessor certain honors in court ceremonial.
Bibliography: l. perrichet, La Grande chancellerie de France des origines à 1328 (Paris 1912). p. f. kehr, "Die Kanzlei Ludwigs des Deutschen," Abhandlungen der Akademie (Gesellschaft, to 1940) der Wissenschaften (Göttingen 1941–) (1932) fasc. 1. l. gross, Die Geschichte der Reichshofkanzlei von 1559 bis 1806 (Vienna 1933). h. w. klewitz, "Cancellaria," Deutsches Archiv für Geschichte des Mittelalters 1 (1937) 44–79. f. hausmann, Reichskanzlei und Hofkapelle unter Heinrich V und Konrad III (Stuttgart 1956). j. fleckenstein, Die Hofkapelle der deutschen Könige (Stuttgart 1959–).
[w. h. wallaik]