Theodulf of Orléans

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A Visigoth, apparently of Spanish origin; an important figure at charlemagne's court; and the most accomplished poet of his time; d. 821. He speaks of himself as "exiled by immense misfortunes," probably referring to Moorish incursions in Spain. The classicism of his works and tastes indicates that he was educated in the classical tradition, which still survived in the schools of Spain.

Like the date of his birth, the date of his flight to the Franks is unknown. His first work for Charlemagne would seem to have been the Libri Carolini, begun in 790. He composed also epitaphs for Queen Fastrada (d.794) and Adrian I. As bishop, later archbishop (800), of Orléans, he was intimate with the court circle, as his poems show. A tribute in verse to Charlemagne gives amusing portraits of alcuin, einhard, angilbert, and other familiars of the court, as well as of the royal family. Except for paulinus of aquileia, he was the only foreigner honored with a bishopric; he ruled also the neighboring abbeys of Fleury, Micy, and Saint-Aignan. His church at Germigny-des-Prés is an important monument of Carolingian art and architecture.

In 798 he was sent as a missus dominicus, together with leidradus of lyons, through the southern, Visigothic regions of Charlemagne's realm. His verses Ad iudices describe this journey and contain enlightened recommendations for improving the judicial procedures of his day. This poem also furnishes evidence, in descriptions of gifts offered by litigants, for his interests as a connoisseur. Wall paintings with allegorical meanings decorated his refectory and were explained in verse. His artistic tastes are reflected also in the mosaics of Germigny and in the sumptuous Bibles produced in his scriptorium at Orléans, of which two exemplars survive. Theodulf's version of the Vulgate text, with its variant readings, is the most scholarly of the age. He produced also a work on the procession of the Holy Spirit and a treatise on Baptism. Two capitularies, directed to his clergy, show that Charlemagne's instructions regarding education were implemented in the See of Orléans.

The favor he enjoyed under Charlemagne was continued by Louis the Pious, but in 817 Theodulf was accused of complicity in the rebellion of Bernard of Italy, deprived of his benefices, and driven from his see. He died still protesting his innocence. With his interests in education, arts and letters, and classical as well as Christian authors, and his mastery of Latin meters, Theodulf is a fine example of medieval humanism and one of the brightest lights of the Carolingian renaissance.

Bibliography: Opera omnia, Patrologia Latina ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) 105:187380; Carmina, ed. e. dÜmmler, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Poetae 1:437581. e. rzehulka, Theodulf, Bischof von Orléans. g. monod, "Les moeurs judiciaires au VIIIe siècle d'après la Paraenesis ad judices de Théodulf," Revue historique 35 (1887) 120. c. cuissard, Théodulfe, évêque d'Orléans (Orléans 1892). h. peltier, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 15.1:330334. s. t. collins, "Sur quelques vers de Thodulfe," Revue Bénédictine 60 214218. p. m. arcari, "Un goto critico delle legislazioni barbariche," Archivio-storico italiano 110 (1952) 337. a. freeman, "Theodulf of Orléans and the Libri Carolini, " Speculum 32 663705.

[a. freeman]