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The Catholic Encyclopedia
Benedict Levita (of Mainz), or Benedict the Deacon, is the name given to himself by the author of a forged collection of capitularies which appeared in the ninth century. The collection belongs to the group of pseudo-Isidorian forgeries that includes the pseudo-Isidorian recension of the Spanish collection of canons, the so-called "capitula Angilramni", and the collection of false decretals of the pseudo-Isidore. The name Benedict is, without doubt, an assumed one; the statement that he had been a deacon in the Church of Mainz and that the collection had been made from the archiepiscopal archives of Mainz at the command of the late Archbishop Autgar (825-847) is clearly also untrue. Nothing is known concerning the real author. On internal evidence it may be accepted that these forged capitularies were composed in the western part of the Frankish empire and not at Mainz; the grounds for this belief are, especially, the opposition shown to the institution of "chorepiscopi", and further the circumstance that the collection was first used and found readiest acceptance among the Western Franks. The close relationship between this collection and Pseudo-Isidore lends some probability to the supposition that it arose in the Archdiocese of Reims. As to the time when it appeared there is no reason to doubt the statement of the author that Archbishop Autgar of Mainz was then dead. Consequently the collection was made after 847 (Autgar died 21 April, 847). This is confirmed by a metrical panegyric, prefixed to the collection, in praise of the Carlovingian rulers, and in which Louis the German, the Emperor Lothair, and Charles the Bald are described as living, a fact which points to the years following 843. Another clue is offered by "Additamentum" IV in which the forged pseudo-Isidorian decretals have evidently been used. But the way in which these decretals are employed by Benedict shows that the Pseudo-Isidorian collection had not yet reached its completed form. The latest date for the appearance of this collection of canons may, therefore, be given as from 848 to 850. The time of composition cannot be more exactly determined; it was somewhere between the years 847-850.
The author represents his collection as the continuation and completion of the collection of genuine capitularies in four books, "Capitularia regum Francorum", produced in 827 by Ansegisus, Abbot of Fontanelle. He divides it into three books which designates as "liber quintus", "sextus", and "septimus". Three other writings precede the first book; a prologue in verse, a preface in prose which treats of the origin and contents of the collection, and the aforesaid metrical panegyric on the rulers of the Carlovingian line; beginning with Pepin and Carloman and ending with the sons of Louis the Pious. Four supplementary writings (additamenta) are annexed to the last book; (I) The Aachen capitulary of 817 concerning the monasteries; (II) the report of the bishops (August, 829) to the Emperor Louis the Pious; (III) a few genuine capitularies and a large number of forged ones, just as in the main body of the collection; (IV) a large number (170) of extracts taken from various sources, among which are also forgeries of the Pseudo-Isidore. The work of Abbot Ansegisus was taken as a model for the collection. As to the sources of the collection, about one-fourth of it consists of genuine capitularies (a certain kind of royal decrees customary in the Frankish Empire); in fact, the genuine materials used by the author surpass sometimes those used by Ansegisus. Most of the pretended capitularies are, however, not genuine. Among the genuine sources, from which the larger portion of them are drawn, are: the Holy Scripture; the decrees of councils; papal decrees; the collection of Irish canons; the ordinances of the Roman law, the "leges Visigothorum" and "Baiuwariorum"; the "Libri Penitentiales" or penitential books; the writings of the Church Fathers, and letters of bishops. He repeats himself frequently; a number of chapters are duplicated literally or nearly word for word. The chief aim of the forger was to enable the Church to maintain its independence in face of the assaults of the secular power. The author stands for the contemporary movement in favour of ecclesiastical reform, and in opposition to the rule of the Church by the laity. The first two editions (Tilius, Paris, 1548, and Pithoeus, Paris, 1588) are incomplete; the collection is found complete in Baluze, Capitularia regum Francorum (Paris, 1677), I, col. 801-1232, and in Pertz, Monumenta Germaniae Hist.: Leges, II (Hanover, 1837), 2, 39-158 (cf. Migne, P.L., XCVII, col. 699-912). E. Seckel is preparing a new edition for the Monum. Germ. Hist.: Capitularia, III).
Hinschius, Decretales pseudoisidorianae et Capitula Angilramni (Leipzig, 1863); Schneider, Die Lehre con den Kirchenrechtsquellen (2nd ed., Ratisbon, 1892), 75 sqq.; Lot, Etudes sur le regne de Louis Capet (Paris, 1903), 361 sqq.; Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1900), II, 527 sqq.; Seckel, Studien zu Benedict Levita in Neues Archiv. (1900), XXVI, XXIX, XXXI.
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Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Benedict Levita'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/benedict-levita.html. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.
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