Letter to Baugulf

   The circular letter on learning to the abbot Baugulf of Fulda, or De litteris colendis, was, with the capitulary Admonitio Generalis of 789, the cornerstone of Charlemagne's program of intellectual and cultural reform. Although he addressed it only to the abbot Baugulf, Charlemagne ordered that the letter be circulated among various Carolingian ecclesiastics, and it thus contributed to the development of the Carolingian Renaissance. The letter outlines Charlemagne's desire to provide basic education for the boys of his kingdom and reveals his notion that providing a basic Christian education was essential to his duty as king.
   Despite its importance, the exact date of the letter remains uncertain, and modern knowledge of it is the result of mere chance. The composition of the letter, probably at Charlemagne's own dictation, is traditionally dated to the period 780 to 800. Some scholars have proposed a more specific dating to the years 781 to 791 or even to 794 to 796, but the broadest range remains the most generally accepted of the dates of the document. The letter itself is known only from two manuscripts. One manuscript from the twelfth century was destroyed in a bombing raid during World War II, and the other one, which was discovered only in 1927, is from the eighth century. Although only one copy of the letter is still extant, it was most likely copied and sent some time later with some additions to many monasteries by Baugulf.
   The letter includes Charlemagne's desire that the monks and secular clergy of his realm should devote themselves to follow the "life set out in their rule and their practice of holy religion"(279). But more than that, they "ought also to be zealous in the cultivation of learning and in teaching those who by the gift of God are able to learn"(279). He encourages learning and education so that his subjects can better follow the will of God and praise God without error in speech or practice. He notes in the document that although he has received many letters with expressions of good pious belief, he has noticed many errors of speech in them. Charlemagne, therefore, encourages Baugulf and the clergy to study the Scriptures and literature in general so that they may better know God's message and better do God's will. The king's appeal to the monks and clergy of the realm to devote themselves to study and teaching was an important stimulus to the growth of the Carolingian Renaissance.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Charlemagne. "A Letter of Charles on the Cultivation of Learning, 780-800." In Carolingian Civilization: A Reader, ed. Paul Edward Dutton. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 1993, pp. 79-80.
 ♦ Brown, Giles. "Introduction: The Carolingian Renaissance." In Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, ed. Rosamond McKitterick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 1-51.
 ♦ Laistner, Max L. W. Thought and Letters in Western Europe, a.d. 500 to 900. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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