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578Examination of the Caroline Books.

I.  Authorship of the Caroline Books.

I find that many writers on the subject of what they call “image worship,” speak frequently of these “Caroline Books,” and refer to them with great admiration.  It is also absolutely certain that many of these writers have never read, possibly never seen, the books of which they write so eloquently.  I have used the reprint of Melchior Goldast’s edition (Frankfort, 1608) in Migne’s Patrologia Latina, Tom. xcviij., in this article.

The work begins thus.  “In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ beginneth the work of the most illustrious and glorious man Charles, by the will of God, king of the Franks, Gauls, Germany, etc., against the Synod which in Greek parts firmly and proudly decreed in favour of adoring (adorandis) images,” then follows immediately what is called “Charlemagne’s Preface.”

Now of course nobody supposes for a moment that Charlemagne wrote these books himself.  But Sir William Palmer (Treatise on the Church, Vol. II., p. 204) says that the prelates of the realm of France “composed a reply to this Synod,” he further says that “This work was published by the authority and in the name of the Emperor Charlemagne and with the consent of his bishops, in 790” (p. 205).  I am entirely at a loss to know on what authority these statements rest.  The authorship of the work has not without great show of reason, been attributed to Alcuin.  Besides the English tradition that he had written such a book, there has been pointed out the remarkable similarity of his commentary on St. John (4, 5, et seqq.) to a passage in Liber IV., cap. vj., of these Caroline Books.  (On this point see Forster, General Preface to the Works of Alcuin n. 10.)  But after all whether Alcuin was the author or no, matters little, the statement that the “bishops of France” were in any sense responsible for it is entirely gratuitous, unless indeed some should think it may be gathered from the statement of the Preface;

“We have undertaken this work with the priests who are prelates of the Catholic flocks in the kingdom which has been granted to us of God.”547547    It is curious that Michaud (Sept. Conciles Œcuméniques, p. 294) should say “the title priest given to those who composed the book proves that no one of them was a bishop.”  The Latin is “Sacerdotum Prælatorum”!  But this would not be the only book written at the command of, and set forth by, a secular prince and yet claiming the authority of the Church.  I need only give as examples “The Institution of a Christian Man” and the Second Prayer Book of Edward the VIth.


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