A Carolingian work in four volumes stating, in charlemagne's name, the objections of his circle of theologians to the restoration of images in the Byzantine Church by the Second Council of nicaea (787). A copy of the council's proceedings was brought by two papal legates to Rome, where an anonymous cleric prepared an imperfect translation that was sent by adrian i to Charlemagne. This garbled version gave rise to the impression at the Frankish court that the Empress irene and her bishops had enjoined on all Christians, under pain of anathema, what was taken to be the worship of images. An official protest was planned.
The Nicene acts were read in Charlemagne's presence, and a list of objections drawn up. These became the capitula of the projected work and were sent to Adrian; his reply survives. A delegation of bishops took a fair copy of the work, once completed, to Rome. The original, working copy was kept in the imperial archives, where hincmar later saw and studied it; he had a copy made at Reims c. 850 (now MS Paris Arsenal 663).
This copy was discovered and its contents published (1549) pseudonymously by Jean du Tillet, afterward bishop of Meaux. New controversy now surrounded the work, whose arguments were enthusiastically adopted by Protestant apologists. Catholics rejected it as a forgery, and it was placed on the Index, where it remained until 1900. In 1865 the original copy was found in the Vatican Library (from which, several centuries earlier, the presentation copy made for Adrian I had disappeared); this at last established the work's authenticity.
Debate has continued, however, on the question of its authorship. The traditional attribution to alcuin is questionable, since Alcuin was in England from 790 to 793, the period during which the work was composed. New evidence has recently been discovered in its scriptural citations, which contain reminiscences of the Visigothic liturgy. These formulas, unique in Spanish sources, indicate authorship by theodulf of orlÉans, the only Spaniard at the Carolingian court, who had a natural tendency to quote Scripture in the familiar phrases of his native liturgy. In addition, the orthography—in its original version—displayed many Spanish peculiarities; these were carefully corrected in the scriptorium.
Other corrections reflect the roundtable discussions that accompanied final preparation of the work. Official comments by the critics were noted in the margins, at first in minuscule; later these comments were transcribed into Tironian notes and the minuscule notations erased. The Vatican MS (Vat. lat. 7207) now contains 192 folia (it lacks the preface and bk. 4, which may be supplied from Arsenal 663), in a carefully executed early Caroline minuscule. The script is that of the Palace school.
The Carolingian stand on the veneration of images is conventional; images are "ornaments" in churches and reminders to the faithful of the heroism of the saints. The Libri Carolini show that Charlemagne's theologians did not understand the real issues of the controversy over iconoclasm in the East. The work has cardinal importance, however, for the history of church and state in the West. It anticipates Charlemagne's imperial role as protector of the faith and illustrates all the characteristic principles and predilections of his scholars; it is a summa of Carolingian thought.
Bibliography: Libri Carolini, ed. h. bastgen, Monumenta Germanica Historica (Berlin 1826–) Concilia v. 2 suppl. g. mercati, "Per la storia del codice Vaticano dei Libri Carolini, " Bessarione 37 (1921) 112–119. w. von den steinen, "Entstehungsgeschichte der Libri Carolini, " Quellen und Forschungen aus italienische Archiven und Bibliothekan 21 (1929–30) 1–93; "Karl der Grosse und die Libri Carolini, " Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 49 (1930–32) 207–280. d. de bruyne, "La Composition des Libri Carolini, " Revue Bénédictine 44 (1932) 227–234. a. freeman, "Theodulf of Orléans and the Libri Carolini, " Speculum 32 (1957) 663–705. l. wallach, "The Unknown author of the Libri Carolini, " Didascaliae: Studies in Honor of Anselm M. Albareda, ed. s. prete (New York 1961) 469–515. Codices latini antiquiores, ed. e. a. lowe (Oxford 1934–) v.1, on Vat. lat. 7207 (and Paris Arsenal 663). a. freeman, "Further Studies in the Libri Carolini, " Speculum 40 (1965) 203–289.