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Viator 39 No. 2 (2008) 93–118.


The late eleventh-century Descriptio qualiter Karolus Magnus has often been attributed to theabbey of Saint-Denis and has often been thought to have grown out of the experience of the First Crusade. But this essay argues against both of those points. By looking at the internal logic of the text and by considering the earliest extant manuscript of the Descriptio qualiter (the ca. 1100 Paris, Bibliothèque MazarineMS 1711), I suggest that the narrative is not connected to an idea of militant Christianity, nor was it initially linked to Saint-Denis. Rather, it seems likely that someone in the entourage of King Philip I (1060–1108)created the Descriptio qualiter as part of an ideological program intended to link the ruler back to the Carolingians. Ultimately, and perhaps ironically, this ideological program may have played a part in the warm response Pope Urban II’s call to crusade engendered in the Capetian heartlands.