World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Merovingian script

Article Id: WHEBN0001274031
Reproduction Date:

Title: Merovingian script  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Palaeography, Carolingian minuscule, Visigothic script, Blackletter, A
Collection: Early Middle Ages, Latin Calligraphy, Medieval Scripts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Merovingian script

Sample from an 8th-century evangelary in the Merovingian script

Merovingian script was a medieval script so called because it was developed in the Frankish Kingdom during the Merovingian dynasty. It was used in the 7th and 8th centuries before the Carolingian dynasty and the development of Carolingian minuscule.


  • Script types 1
    • Luxeuil 1.1
    • Laon 1.2
    • Corbie 1.3
    • Chelles 1.4
  • Development 2
  • References 3
    • Bibliography 3.1

Script types

There were four major centres of Merovingian script: the monasteries of Luxeuil, Laon, Corbie, and Chelles. Each script developed from uncial, half-uncial, and the Merovingian charter scripts.


Folio 144 of the Lectionary of Luxeuil, manuscript Lat. 9427, at the National Library of France. The folio's content consists of Acts 5:17-25. Tempore illo exsur- / gens autem princeps sacerdotum: et omnes / qui cum illo erant· quae est heresis sadducaeorum·...

The Luxeuil type uses distinctive long, slim capital letters as a display script. These capitals have wedge-shaped finials, and the crossbar of ⟨a⟩ resembles a small letter while that of ⟨h⟩ is a wavy line. The letter ⟨o⟩ is often written as a diamond shape, with a smaller ⟨o⟩ written inside. The letter ⟨a⟩ resembles two ⟨c⟩s ("cc"), and because of this distinctive feature the Luxeuil type is sometimes called "a type".[1] The letter ⟨b⟩ often has an open bowl and an arm connecting it to the following letter, the letter can have either a vertical ascender or an ascender slanted to the left; ⟨i⟩ is often very tall, resembling l; ⟨n⟩ can be written with an uncial form (similar to a capital ⟨N⟩); ⟨o⟩ is often drop-shaped and has a line connecting it to the next letter; and ⟨t⟩ has a loop extending to the left of its top stroke. The letter ⟨t⟩ is also used in numerous ligatures where it has many other forms. The letters ⟨e⟩ and ⟨r⟩ are also quite often found in ligature.


The Laon type has thicker display capitals than the Luxeuil type. Capital initial letters are often decorated with animals, and there are many ligatures with the letter ⟨i⟩. Like Visigothic script, there are two different ⟨ti⟩ ligatures, representing two different sounds ("hard" and "soft"). The letters ⟨d⟩ and ⟨q⟩ often have open bowls. The letter a is unique, resembling two sharp points ("<<"), and the letter ⟨z⟩, uncommon in Latin, is nevertheless very distinctive in the Laon type, with a flourish projecting upwards to the left, above the line. Because of these features, Laon type is sometimes called "a-z type".


The Corbie type as used in the 8th century, was based on uncial and the Luxeuil type, but was also similar to half-uncial and insular script, with elements of Roman cursive. It is sometimes called "eN-type", as the letter ⟨e⟩ has a high, open upper loop, and the uncial form of the letter ⟨n⟩ (resembling majuscule ⟨N⟩) is very frequently used. After the mid-8th century, the letter (a) also has an open loop and resembles the letter ⟨u⟩; this type is referred to as "eNa-type". A more distinctive type was developed at Corbie in the 9th century, the "a-b type". The letter ⟨b⟩ is similar to Luxeuil type, but the letter ⟨a⟩ has a straight first stroke, resembling a combination of ⟨i⟩ and ⟨c⟩. This type was used from the end of the 8th century until the mid-9th century. The Liber glossarum, a major medieval reference work, was written in the "a-b type" script of Corbie.


The Chelles type was similar to the Luxeuil a-b type. Other features include the uncial ⟨N⟩, with strokes leaning to the left; the letter d with an ascender leaning to the left; the letter ⟨g⟩ with ⟨a⟩ descender resembling the letter ⟨s⟩; the letter ⟨s⟩ with a very small top loop; and the letter ⟨x⟩ with the two strokes crossing near the top of the line rather than the middle.


There was also a Merovingian cursive script, used in charters and non-religious writings. All of these types were later influenced by Carolingian script, which eventually replaced it entirely. Along with resemblances to Carolingian and Visigothic, Merovingian shares some features with Beneventan script.


  1. ^ Colin 1991:90.


  • Marcos, Juan-Jose. Manual of Latin Palaeography. June 2014.
  • Bischoff, Bernhard. Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages. 1989. Cambridge University Press.
  • Stiennon, Jack. Paléographie du moyen âge. 1991. Paris, France: Armand Colin. ISBN 2-200-31278-4.
  • Lowe, E. A. Codices Latini Antiquiores: A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts Prior to the Ninth Century. 1972. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.