Missi Dominici

   Carolingian royal officials who represented the king's interests in specified regions. The missi dominici (singular: missus dominici), or messengers of the lord king, were responsible for announcing the king's will on the local level and for ensuring that justice was done throughout the realm. The missi dominici were specially chosen by the king, and the office was used as a means to establish royal control in a large and growing empire.
   Although missi dominici seem to have been used by the kings of the Merovingian dynasty as well as by the early Carolingian mayors of the palace, the office was only fully exploited by Charlemagne, who turned it into a regular and important part of his administration. At first even Charlemagne used the office on an occasional basis, but as his reign progressed the missi dominici became a more formal and regular tool of government. By 802, at the latest, the missi dominici had become a normal tool of Charlemagne's government and were sent out to all parts of the empire on an annual basis to perform their various services for the king. But there is evidence to suggest that they were used much earlier; they were probably used to disseminate the capitulary of Herstal in 779 and were also most likely used to administer oaths of fidelity to Charlemagne in 789 and 792-793. The missi dominici remained an important part of Carolingian government, at least through the reigns of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald.
   There were two categories of missi dominici: the missi ad hoc, or "special" missi, and the "ordinary" missi. The powers of the two were not different, but the special missi were used for specific missions to examine particular circumstances or injustices. The more important office, however, was that of the "ordinary" missi dominici. Although early in Charlemagne's reign they were chosen from among many of the king's retainers, regardless of social rank, after 802, they were chosen only from among the secular and ecclesiastical nobility, to reduce the possibility of corruption. Indeed, the classic format of the missi dominici included a lay aristocrat, such as a count, and an ecclesiastical noble, such as an abbot or bishop. They were given responsibility for exercising royal authority in a specific geographic area within the kingdom known as a missaticum.
   The missi dominici held numerous responsibilities as the king's official representatives. Their primary duty was to enforce the royal will. They were charged with transmitting new capitularies throughout the kingdom, enforcing the new laws laid out in those capitularies, investigating the conduct of counts and other royal agents, and collecting revenues. They were to ensure that justice was done properly in the royal and local courts, and they could hear judicial appeals. They were also employed to administer oaths of fidelity to the king and to prepare the army for military campaigns. The counts throughout the realm were expected to provide food and lodging for the missi dominici, and legislation was enacted to ensure they were properly received when they reached their missaticum. Although an often effective tool of government, the missi dominici were not above corruption themselves, as the reforms of 802 suggest. And Theodulf of Orléans noted the difficulties faced by the missi dominici, who were frequently offered bribes. The missi dominici were, nonetheless, an important element of Carolingian administration.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Fichtenau, Heinrich. The Carolingian Empire. Trans. Peter Munz. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.
 ♦ Ganshof, François Louis. Frankish Institutions under Charlemagne. Trans. Bryce Lyon and Mary Lyon. Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 1968.
 ♦ Halphen, Louis. Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. Trans. Giselle de Nie. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1977.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingian, 751-987. London: Longman 1983.
 ♦ ---. The Carolingians and the Written Word. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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