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E06233: The Formulary of Marculf includes a template for a letter of recommendation for a pilgrim heading to Rome to visit the shrines of the Apostles *Peter (S00036) and *Paul (S00008). Written in Latin in Gaul, probably c. 650/730.

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posted on 2018-08-22, 00:00 authored by bsavill
The Formulary of Marculf, II. 49

Indeculum a generali ad omnes homines
Domno nostro ortodoxo, Romanae sedis apostolicae a Deo instituto illo pape, vel omnibus apostolicis domnis et patribus seu abbatibus vel Deo decatas caenobiis degentibus, necnon et inlustribus viris, patriciis, ducibus, comitibus vel omnibus christianae cultu divine relegione sectantes, ille peccator vilissimus omnium in Domino presumo mitte salutem. Quatenus presens portitur ille, radio inflammantem divino, non, ut plerisque mos est, vacandi causa, sed propter nomen Domini itinera ardua et laboriosa parvi pendens, ob lucranda orationi limina sanctorum apostolorum domni Petri et Pauli adire cupiens, meae parvitatem se petit vestre conmendare almitate ac industriae litterolas, per quas vilissimus omnium tamquam vestris provolutus vestigiis singulorum supplecare presumo, ut pro me minimo exorare iubeatis et eidem euntem vel redeuntem, si Dominus permiserit, propter nomen Domini solita pietate et commendatum recipiatis et quod necesse habuerit inpertire tanti habeatis, quatenus ab ipso mereamini mercedem recepere comolam, que sibi dixit implere, quantum quis in suis pauperibus visus fuerit erogare.

'General letter to all men
To our orthodox lord Pope A, placed by God in the Roman apostolic see, and all the apostolic lords and fathers, or abbots and [women] dedicated to God living in monasteries, and illustrious men, patricii, dukes, counts and all those following the Christian religion in the divine cult, I, A, the lowliest sinner of all, presume to send my salutation under God. Since the present bearer B, inflamed by divine rays, [and] desiring to go to the threshold of the holy apostles, the lords Peter and Paul, so as to flourish through [his] prayer, not, as is the habit for most people, in order to be idle, but for the name of God, [and] counting for little the difficult and painful journey, asked my littleness to recommend him by this little letter to your kindness and industriousness, by which I, the lowliest of all, presume to beg you, as if prostrated at the feet of each of you, to agree to pray for me, the smallest [of all], and to receive him, whom I recommend, on his way there and, if God allows it, on his way back, with [your] accustomed piety and for the name of God, and to give him as much as he needs, so that you may deserve to receive added mercy for Him who said that whatever one was seen to spend for His paupers was [also] paid to Him.'

Text: Zeumer 1886, 104-5. Translation: Rio 2008, 227, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus

Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Letter


  • 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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Aristocrats Ecclesiastics - Popes Ecclesiastics – unspecified


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 sentiment expressed here, that often the real reason for a Roman pilgrimage was, 'as is the habit for most people, in order to be idle' (plerisque mos est, vacandi causa) seems to have had echoes elsewhere: in his early 8th century homily for the feast day of Benedict Biscop (ob. 689), founder of the monastery of Wearmouth (north-east Britain), Bede insisted that Biscop's return-journeys to Rome were 'never empty-handed or profitless, as is the habit of some' (numquam ut est consuetudinis quibusdam vacuus et inutilis: Bede, Homily 1.13).


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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