Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae

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Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (Latin, variously translated as 'Ordinances concerning Saxony' or the 'Saxon Capitularies')[1] was a legal code issued by Charlemagne and promulgated amongst the Saxons during the Saxon Wars. Traditionally dated to Charlemagne's 782 campaign, and occasionally to 785, the much later date of 795 is also considered possible.[2] Despite the laws, some Saxons continued to reject Charlemagne's rule and attempts at Christianization, with some continuing to rebel even after Charlemagne's death (such as the Stellinga uprising). It was issued after the Saxons destroyed churches and killed missionary priests and monks.[3]

Many of the laws of Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae are focused on the Christianization of the pagan Saxons, including a sentence of death for Saxons who refuse to be baptised:

8. If any one of the race of the Saxons hereafter concealed among them shall have wished to hide himself unbaptized, and shall have scorned to come to baptism and shall have wished to remain a pagan, let him be punished by death.[4]

Scholar Pierre Riché refers to the code as a "terror capitulary" and notes that the Massacre of Verden, in which Charlemagne ordered 4,500 imprisoned Saxons massacred in 782, may be seen as a preface to the legal code.[5]

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "although not necessarily abrogating the earlier decree, [later Capitulare Saxonicum] (797 Saxon Capitulary) replaced the harsher measures of the earlier capitulary with conversion through less brutal methods".[6]


  1. ^ For example, Pierre Riché (1993:105) renders the Latin as 'Ordinances concerning Saxony', whereas Ingrid Rembold translates the phrase as 'Saxon Capitularies' (Rembold 2018: 25)
  2. ^ Hen (2006).
  3. ^ Michael Frassetto (14 March 2013). The Early Medieval World: From the Fall of Rome to the Time of Charlemagne [2 Volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 489–. ISBN 978-1-59884-996-7.
  4. ^ Munro (2004:2).
  5. ^ Riché (1993:105).
  6. ^ "Germany – Charlemagne". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 3 June 2018.