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Carolingian Renaissance, poetry, Theodulf of Orleans


Theodulf of Orleans, called by Ann Freeman "one of the brightest lights of the Carolingian Renaissance," is one of the most fascinating individuals in the history of the eighth and ninth centuries. He was a fine poet, perhaps the best of the Carolingian era, and more than 4,000 of his verses survive. His Paranesis ad iudices and his work on the filioque dispute indicate that he was a skilled controversialist. Finally, his authorship of the Libri Carolini, the massive Carolingian treatise against the positions on icons taken by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, reflects a theological knowledge that was rare in his age. Theodulf was a Goth, though it is not clear whether he came from Spain or from the Spanish March. The date of his birth is unknown, nor do we know when he entered Charlemagne's court circle. Surely he was at coourt for at least a few years before he was called upon to write the Libri Carolini in 790. In 798 Theodulf served as a royal missus on a tour of inspection through Septimania, and in 800 he was appointed to the see of Orleans. Not much is known about Theodulf's episcopacy, though he wrote an important set of episcopal statutes that have survived and from which one may legitimately conclude that he was a competent and concerned administrator. There are, to be sure, frustrating gaps in our knowledge about Theodulf but this makes him no different form most of his contemporaries who, no matter how important, have left little on the record.