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E06231: The Formulary of Marculf includes a template for a document ordering the settlement of a dispute at a (royal) palace, during which oaths must be sworn over the cape of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050). Written in Latin in Gaul, probably c. 650/730.

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posted on 2018-08-21, 00:00 authored by bsavill
The Formulary of Marculf, I. 38

Carta paricia
Cum in nostra vel procerum nostrorum presencia homo nomen ille itemquae homine nomen illo interpellasset, dum diceret, quasi servo suo nomen illo una cum rauba sua in soledos tantos post se fugitivos pedes recepisset vel post se retenerit indebitae: ad haec prefatus ille omnia haec fortiter visus est denegasse, quod nec ipso servo fugitivus pedes nec rauba sua post se numquam recepisset. Sed dum inter se intenderent, sic eidem a proceribus nostris, in quantum inlustris vir ille, comes palati nostri, testimoniavit, fuit iudicatum, ut de quinque denominatus idem ille apud tres et alios tres, sua manu septima, tunc in palatio nostro, super capella domni Martini, ubi reliqua sacramenta percurrunt, debeat coniurare, quod supra scribto servo illo memoratus ille pedes fugitivos una cum rauba sua in soledos tantos post se numquam recepisset. Si hoc coniurare potuerit, de hac causa ductus resedeat; sin autem non potuerit, ipso servo una cum rauba sua in soledus tantus cum legis beneficium partibus antedicto illo reddere studeat . Interim vero usque ipso placito neutra pars ex ipsis iectita non appareat, unde aequales preceptionis a eis fieri et accipere iussimus.

'Charter in two identical copies
As a man called A accused another man called B in the presence of ourselves and our great men, and said that he had taken his runaway slave called C along with his valuables worth n. solidi, and was keeping him unlawfully, the said B was said to deny all this vigorously, [saying] that he had never taken for himself either the runaway slave or his valuables. But while they were arguing with each other, it was decided by our great men, as the illustrious man D, count of our palace testified, that the same B, together with three men, picked out of five, and another three men, with himself as seventh, should swear at such a time in our palace, on the cape of the Lord Martin (super capella domni Martini), where other oaths take place, that he had never taken for himself the said runaway slave C written above or his valuables worth n. solidi. If he can swear to this, let him remain free from this accusation: but if he cannot, let him endeavour to return this slave to the said A along with his valuables worth n. solidi, together with the compensation price [stipulated] by the law. Meanwhile, so that neither of these parties may be disturbed [regarding this] until [the time of] this placitum, we ordered that identical documents be made for and received by them.'

Text: Zeumer 1886, 67-8. Translation: Rio 2008, 172-4.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Other private document


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes


Marculf is the longest, most famous, and best attested of the surviving early medieval Latin formularies (collections of formulae, template documents for scribes). It is preserved in seven Carolingian manuscripts, although scholars have dated its original compilation considerably earlier, proposing various points in the second half of the 7th century, or at least no later than the 720s. The contents of Marculf should, however, be thought of as occupying a considerably wider time-span than simply c. 650/730: many of the original documents upon which its formulae are based probably date back to several decades before its compilation, while the collection’s continued copying and re-editing well into the 9th, even 10th centuries points to a living, fluid text, that well outlasted late antiquity. Marculf is of major importance to historians, not least since its formulae effectively preserve diverse documents concerning matters of only transitory value (e.g. letters of recommendation, sales of slaves, Christmas greetings), which archivists would have otherwise seen little purpose in keeping beyond the interested parties’ lifetimes (for full discussion see Rio 2008, 2009).


The earliest securely datable evidence for the presence of Martin's cape at the Frankish royal palace is a placitum of 682 (E06236), and this has been used by scholars as a possible terminus ante quem for the compilation of Marculf. Alternatively, however, this document in Marculf could itself constitute the earliest evidence for royal possession of the cape (Rio 2008, 111, 173).


Edition: Zeumer, K., Marculfi Formulae, in: Formulae Merowingici et Karolini aevi (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Leges V; Hannover, 1886), 32-112. Translation, introduction and commentary: Rio, A. The Formularies of Angers and Marculf: Two Merovingian Legal Handbooks (Translated Texts for Historians 46; Liverpool, 2008). Further reading: Rio, A., Legal Practice and the Written Word in the Early Middle Ages: Frankish Formulae, c. 500-1000 (Cambridge, 2009).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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