capitularies [key], decrees and written commands of the Carolingian kings of the Franks, so called because they were divided into capitula, or chapters. Both legislative and administrative, they were the chief written instrument of royal authority. The ordinances were issued either by the king alone or by the king and his counselors. They also served to amend or extend the Germanic laws as they applied to the entire Carolingian empire. Several capitularies—such as the exemplary De villis—dealt with the administration of the royal domains; others dealt with the church. Most important were the king's instructions sent to the missi dominici, his emissaries in the provinces. These contained instructions for the administration of the empire and instituted far-reaching reforms. Capitularies issued in the late Carolingian period are collected in the Monumenta Germaniae historica. The term capitularies is applied also to similar documents in other fields.
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