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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

The Formulary of Marculf includes a template for a charter with which to found a monastery or oratory dedicated to *Mary (mother of Christ, S00033), or alternatively another saint. Written in Latin in Gaul, probably c. 650/730.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Donation document

Documentary texts - Charter or diploma

The Formulary of Marculf, II. 1

Short excerpt:

Ista de magna rem, qui vult exsinodocio e aut monasterio
Domine verae sanctae atque sedola ostensione patentibus virtutum miraculis Christi remuneratione fulgenti, oraturio ac cellola in honore sanctae ac semper virginis Mariae, genetricis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, aut in alter ius sancti, constructa ille reus quidem meretis, flagiciis quoque, sceleribus, prelascivis actibus ac nimia faeditate pollutus, vel ordine vel opere omnium bonorum christianorum longe satis extremus [...] Faciant quippe citeri quod voluerint, agant quod ipse maluerint, idcirco quia omnis homo suo sensu ducitur; ego tamen huius rei exemplum secutus elegi, ad prefato oraturio vel cellola iuxta apostulorum numero duodecim ad presens pauperum pro remissione a peccatorum meorum vel pro diluenda meorum mole peccaminum, Christo presole, conlocari; ubi etiam per presentem epistolam donationis meae dono ad presente die – quod in luminaribus ipsius oratorii vel alimonia ac substantiale victu, vestitu quoque, substantacione ipsorum pauperum vel clericorum ibidem servientium , Deo gubernante et opitulante, proficiat – donatum que in perpetuo esse volo atque de meo iure in eorum dominatione et potestate lego, trado, transmitto atque transfundo [...]

'This one [is for] someone who wants to build a religious house or a monastery out of a large property
To the truly blessed lord, and shining with manifest zeal, by the clear miracles of virtue, through Christ's reward, [and] to the oratory or cell built in honour of the blessed and eternally virgin Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ or: in that of another saint A, guilty through [my] faults of disgraceful crimes, tainted by wanton deeds and by extreme infamy, by rank and by deed far the last of all good Christians ... Let others do as they wish, and act according to their preference, since every man is led by his own sense: but I, following this example, have chosen at present to house in the said oratory or cell, with Christ's favour, twelve paupers, after the number of the apostles, for the remission of my sins or: for the alleviation of the burden of my sins . By the present letter of my donation I also give in this place from the present day what may help [to provide for] the lights of this oratory and the support, sustenance and provision of food and clothing for these paupers and the clerics [who serve] there, with God's governance and assistance. And [I want this] to be given in perpetuity, and transfer it from my possession into their authority and power ...'

Text: Zeumer 1886, 70-74. Translation: Rio 2008, 178-82.

Cult Places

Cult building - monastic

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


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 formula from which this particular text is excerpted is unusually (perhaps unusably) long and elaborate well exceeding anything found in surviving contemporary documents, including those in the names of kings (see further Rio 2008, 179).


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).

Record Created By

Benjamin Savill

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain
S00518Saints, unnamedsanctusCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Benjamin Savill, Cult of Saints, E06232 -