Paenitentiale Ecgberhti
Pal. lat. 554, fol. 5r.jpg
Folio 5r from the Vatican manuscript, Pal. lat. 554, showing the beginning of the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti, with the title partly worn away
Also known asPaenitentiale Pseudo-Ecgberhti
AudienceCatholic clergy
Languagemedieval Latin
Dateca. 740?
Manuscript(s)eleven, plus fragments
Genrepenitential, canon law collection
Subjectecclesiastical and lay discipline; ecclesiastical and lay penance

The Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (also known as the Paenitentiale Pseudo-Ecgberhti, or more commonly as either Ecgberht's penitential or the Ecgberhtine penitential) is an early medieval penitential handbook composed around 740, possibly by Archbishop Ecgberht of York.

This work should not be confused with the vernacular works known as the Old English Penitential (formerly the Paenitentiale Pseudo-Ecgberhti) and the Scriftboc (formerly the Confessionale Pseudo-Ecgberhti).


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Manuscripts and Transmission

There are eleven extant manuscripts that contain the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti, dating from as early as the end of the eighth century to as late as the thirteenth, ranging geographically from southern Germany to Brittany to England. The sigla given below (V6, O1, etc.) are based on those established by the Körntgen–Kottje Editionsprojekt for the Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. 156, a project whose goal is to produce scholarly editions for all major early medieval penitentials; sigla in parentheses are those used by Reinhard Haggenmüller in his 1991 study.

Siglum Manuscript Contents
Cb2 (C2) Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 265, pp. 3–208 (written middle of eleventh century, possibly in Worcester) Paenitentiale Ecgberhti as part of the C recension of Wulfstan of York's Collectio canonum Wigorniensis
Le1 Leiden, Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, Cod. Vul. 108 nr. 12 [1] (written ninth or tenth century in northeastern Francia)[2] Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (fragmentary: prologue + cc. 4.8–5.1);[3] fragments of an unidentified penitential (including the Edictio Bonifatii);[4] Canones Basilienses (fragmentary: cc. 1–4a)[5]
Li1 Linz, Oberösterreichische Landesbibliothek, Cod. 745 (written middle of ninth century, probably in southern Germany)[6] Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (fragment: cc. 11.10 and 12.5–7)
M17 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 22288, fols 1–81 (written first half of twelfth century, possibly in Bamberg) Excarpsus Cummeani; Paenitentiale Ecgberhti; unidentified canon law collection in three books (including: Paenitentiale Theodori [U version; excerpts]; Paenitentiale Cummeani [excerpts]); Liber proemium veteris ac novi testamenti; De ortu et obitu patrum; Micrologus de ecclesiasticis observationibus; Admonitio synodalis
O1 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Barlow 37 (6464) (written end of twelfth or beginning of thirteenth century, possibly in Worcester) Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (with Ghaerbald's Capitula episcoporum I appended), as part of the D recension of Wulfstan's Collectio canonum Wigorniensis
O5 Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 718 (2632) (written second half of tenth century, probably in either Sherborne, Canterbury or Exeter) Paenitentiale Ecgberhti with Ghaerbald's Capitula episcoporum I appended; confessional ordines; Books 2–4 of the Collectio canonum quadripartita
P22 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Lat. 3182 (written second half of tenth century in Brittany) A collection of chapters (mostly canonical and penitential) entitled "Incipiunt uerba pauca tam de episcopo quam de presbitero aut de omnibus ecclesię gradibus et de regibus et de mundo et terra", more commonly known as the Collectio canonum Fiscani or the Fécamp collection. The contents are as follows: Liber ex lege Moysi;[7] notes on chronology;[8] a brief note on Bishop Narcissus of Jerusalem (Narcisus Hierosolimorum episcopus qui fecit oleum de aqua ... orbaretur et euenit illis ut iurauerunt); Incipiunt remissiones peccatorum quas sanctus in collatione sua Penuffius per sanctas construxit scripturas (= large excerpt from Cassian's Collationes c. 20.8); more notes on chronology;[9] Pastor Hermae cc. 4.1.4–4.4.2 (versio Palatina); scriptural excerpts on chastity, marriage and the oaths of one's wife; Incipiunt uirtutes quas Dominus omni die fecit (chapters on Sunday, the days of Creation, and the Last Judgment); Collectio canonum Hibernensis cc 1.22.b–c (on the murder of priests, and bishops' duty to persist in their own dioceses); Collectio canonum Hibernensis (A version, complete copy); Excerpta de libris Romanorum et Francorum (a.k.a. Canones Wallici); Canones Adomnani (cc. 1–7 only), with an extra chapter appended (Equus aut pecus si percusserit ... in agro suo non reditur pro eo); Capitula Dacheriana; Canones Adomnani (complete copy); Incipiunt canones Anircani concilii episcoporum XXIIII de libro III (a small collection of canones from the council of Ancyra in modified versio Dionysiana II form);[10] Incipiunt iudicia conpendia de libro III (a small collection of canons including a canon from the council of Neocaesarea (in modified versio Dionysiana II form) and excerpts from the Paenitentiale Vinniani);[11] Canones Hibernenses II (on commutations), with Synodus Luci Victorie cc. 7–9 appended; Isidore, Etymologiae (excerpts on consanguinity); commentary on the Book of Numbers (on oaths); Isidore, Etymologiae (excerpts on consanguinity and heirs); Institutio ęclesiasticae auctoritatis, qua hi qui proueniendi sunt ad sacerdotium, profiteri debent se obseruaturos, et si ab his postea deuiauerint canonica auctoritate plectentur (excerpts on ordination);[12] Collectio canonum Dionysio-Hadriana (ending with canons of the council of Rome in 721); Quattuor synodus principales; Isidore, Etymologiae (excerpts on the ancient councils); Hii sunt subterscripti heretici contra quos factae sunt istę synodi: Arrius ... Purus, Stephanus; De ieiunio IIII temporum anni (In mense Martio ... nulli presbiterorum liceat uirginem consecrare); Libellus responsionum; Pope Gregory I, Epistula 9.219 (excerpt); Pope Gregory I, Epistula 9.214 (excerpt);[13] De decimis et primogenitis et primitiuis in lege (excerpts on tithes);[14] Canones Hibernenses III (on tithes); Paenitentiale Gildae; Synodus Aquilonis Britanniae; Synodus Luci Victoriae; Ex libro Davidis; Capitula Dacheriana (c. 21 [first part] only); Canones Adomnani (cc. 19–20 only); Capitula Dacheriana (cc. 21 [second part, with si mortui inueniantur uel in rebus strangulati appended] and 168 only); excerpts from St Paul (on food); excerpts on hours and the order of prayer;[15] De pęnitentia infirmorum (Paenitentiale Umbrense c. I.7.5 [in modified form] + Paenitentiale Columbani A c. 1 [first part]); De recitentibus aliorum peccata (Paenitentiale Cummeani c. [8]9.19); De oratione facienda etiam pro peccatoribus (Scriptura dicit in commoratione mortuorum: etiam si peccavit, tamen patrem ... dum angeli Dei faciunt); Paenitentiale Bigotianum; Theodulf, Capitulare I ("Kurzfassung");[16] Isidore, De ecclesiasticis officiis (excerpt: De officiis ad fidem venientium primo de symbolo apostolico quo inbuuntur competentes, with commentary on Deuteronomy 22–3 appended); Canones Hibernenses IV; excerpts on marriage (mainly from Augustine and Jerome, but also including Synodus II Patricii c. 28); excerpts on kings;[17] excerpts on sons and their debts;[18] Collectio canonum Hibernensis c. 38.17; Patricius dicit (= Canones Hibernenses IV c. 9), Item synodus Hibernensis (= Canones Hibernenses IV c. 1–8);[19] De iectione ęclesie graduum ab ospicio (= Canones Hibernenses V); chapters from Exodus and Deuteronomy (excerpts on virgins and adulterers); on the ordo missae (excerpt from Isidore's De ecclesiasticis officiis); Liber pontificalis (Linus natione italus ... Bonifacius LXVIII natione romanus hic qui obtinuit ... se omnium eclesiarum scribebat); De duodecim sacrificiis (excerpt from Pseudo-Jerome's Disputatio de sollempnitatibus paschae);[20] the ten commandments (Decim precepta legis in prima tabula ... rem proximi tui mundi cupiditatem); excerpts on hours and song (including Pro quibus uirtutibus cantatur omnis cursus, De pullorum cantu, De matudinis, etc.); a brief tract explaining the reason for the flood;[21] De eo quod non nocet ministerium ministrantis sacerdotis contagium uitę (= Collectio canonum Hibernensis [B version] c. 2.12);[22] Canones Hibernenses VI; Capitulare legibus addenda a. 803; Lex Salica emendata; two forged letters purporting to represent a discussion between Pope Gregory I and Bishop Felix of Messina (on consanguinity, the Anglo-Saxons, and the nature of the Pope's Libellus responsionum);[23] Theodulf, Capitulare I (fragmentary);[24] Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (fragmentary: beginning partway through c. 2); Pseudo-Jerome, De duodecim triduanis
Se2 Sélestat, Bibliothèque humaniste, MS 132 (written middle of ninth century, possibly in Mainz) rites for exorcism; incantations; Paenitentiale Ecgberhti; Paenitentiale Bedae; Excarpsus Cummeani
Sg10 St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 677 (written middle of tenth century, possibly in St. Gallen) episcopal capitularies of Theodulf and Haito of Mainz; prayers for penitents; Paenitentiale Ecgberhti; excerpts from Isidore, Ambrose, etc.; canons of the council of Nicaea (325); Alcuin's De virtutibus et vitiis; Letter of Charlemagne to Alcuin; Caesarius's Sermo de paenitentia; Charlemagne's Admonitio generalis
V4 Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 294, fols 78–136 (written ca 1000 in Lorsch) Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (incomplete: c. V.2–end); Sonderrezension der Vorstufe des Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti; canonical and creedal statements
V5 Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 485 (written second half of ninth century in Lorsch) lections, prayers, a Gregorian sacramentary, canonical excerpts, a calendar, a necrology, and tracts on miscellaneous subjects, including weights and measures, confession, and astronomy; Paenitentiale Ecgberhti; excerpts from the Excarpsus Cummeani; episcopal capitularies of Theodulf, Ghaerbald and Waltcaud; Sonderrezension der Vorstufe des Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti; Paenitentiale Cummeani; Paenitentiale Theodori (U version)
V6 Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 554, fols 5–13 (written ca 800 in Germany, or possibly England) Paenitentiale Ecgberhti; excerpts from the Excarpsus Cummeani (added by later hand); Admonitio Pseudo-Bedae (added by later hand)
W9 Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex lat. 2223 (written beginning of ninth century in the Main river region) Paenitentiale Theodori (U version); Paenitentiale Bedae; Paenitentiale Cummeani (excerpt); Capitula iudiciorum (previously known as the Poenitentiale XXXV capitulorum); Libellus responsionum; miscellaneous creedal and theological works; Paenitentiale Ecgberhti

Haggenmüller divided these eleven surviving witnesses of the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti into three groups, based broadly on the regions in which they were produced, the nature and arrangement of their accompanying texts, and shared readings in the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti itself.[25] The 'Norman' group consists of some of the youngest manuscripts (P22, O5, C2, O1), most of which originated in regions under Norman influence or control, namely tenth-century Brittany and eleventh to twelfth-century England; only O5 originates in a non-Norman context. The 'South-German' group (Se1, Sg10, V4, M17) represents a textual tradition emanating from a region in southern Germany (perhaps the Lake Constance area), even though only one constituent witness (Sg10) originates in a South-German centre. Haggenmüller's third group, the 'Lorsch' group, includes three manuscripts (V6, W9, V5), two of which (V6, W9) are the oldest extant witnesses to the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti tradition. Of the three manuscripts in this group, however, only one (V5) is known with certainty to have been produced at Lorsch (though V6 had provenance there by the first half of the ninth century). It is currently unknown where the two earliest witnesses of the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti (V6, W9) originate from, though it was likely not in the same place since they present rather different versions of the text.

In addition to the eleven main witnesses listed above, the prologue to the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti is also transmitted in the following manuscripts:

The Paenitentiale Ecgberhti is also transmitted in somewhat altered form as part of two later penitential texts known as the Vorstufe des Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti (or Preliminary Stage of the Unified Bedan-Ecgberhtine Penitential, in which the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti is affixed to the end of the Paenitentiale Bedae) and the Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti (or Unified Bedan-Ecgberhtine Penitential; like the Preliminary Stage, but the whole is now preceded by the prefaces of both the Paenitentiale Bedae and the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti), and in greatly altered form in the still later Paenitentiale mixtum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti (or Merged Bedan-Ecgberhtine Penitential, in which the chapters of both the Paenitentiale Bedae and the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti are mixed together and arranged by topic).


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The Paenitentiale Ecgberhti itself has been edited twice and reprinted once:

Much more numerous are editions of the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti in the later modified forms mentioned above, namely the Vorstufe des Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti, the Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti, and the Paenitentiale mixtum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti. These works, which present the Paenitentiale Ecgberhti material in sometimes greatly modified form, have been edited and reprinted many times since the early modern period.

The Vorstufe des Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti has been edited four times:

The Paenitentiale additivum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti has been edited three times and reprinted nine times:

The Paenitentiale mixtum Pseudo-Bedae–Ecgberhti has been edited twice and reprinted twice:


  1. ^ This fragment consists of two bifolia. They are presently foliated sequentially (= fols 1r–4v), but were originally part of two separate gatherings in the same manuscript.
  2. ^ See Meens, Het tripartite boeteboek, p. 32 n. 38, reporting conflicting datings by Haggenmüller and Kottje. The colophon on fol. 4r indicates that the text was copied by one "Rathbald"; see Bibliotheca Universitatis Leidensis, codices manuscripti I: codices Vulcaniani (Leiden, 1910), p. 50.
  3. ^ The preface (on fol. 1r–1v) runs from the beginning (INCIPIT PENITENTIALIS DOMNI ...) to only shortly after the first paragraph, breaking off at the bottom of fol. 1v at homo non audit neque. The text on fol 2r begins in c. 4.8 at ecclesia et inter laicos and continues until the bottom of fol. 2v, where it breaks off in c. 5.1 at apostolorum iudicatur ut episcopi.
  4. ^ The chapters of this penitential (which runs from fol. 3r–4r) appear to have been drawn largely from the Excarpsus Cummeani and include the following: the ending of Excarpsus Cummeani c. 6.24; Paenitentiale Cummeani c. (9)10.3; Excarpsus Cummeani cc. 1.38, 6.26, 13.7–8, 13.10a; Paenitentiale Ecgberhti c. 9.11; Paenitentiale Parisiense simplex c. 45; an unidentified canon ("Qui cum pecodibus turpiter commiscuerit IIII annos peniteat); Paenitentiale Umbrense c. 7.3; an unidentified canon ("Qui fraude uel preda uescitur dimedio anno peniteat"); and "Quomodo possumus ... confessores cum lacrimis" (the Edictio Bonifatii). The text concludes at the bottom of fol. 4r with "EXPLICIT PENITENTIALIS deo gratias amen rbt Bbldxs cxk cpn cfdkt deus uk tbm bftfrnbm bmen." The latter is a partial substitution cipher meaning "Ratbaldus cui concedit deus vitam aeternam amen".
  5. ^ It was Haggenmüller, Die Überlieferung, p. 69, who discovered that this manuscript fragment contains a partial copy of the Canones Basilienses. However, he was in error in specifying the Canones Basilienses as on fol. 2r; rather, the text of the Canones Basilienses is found on fol. 4v (see Meens, Het tripartite boeteboek, p. 32 n. 38). The text is written by the same hand that copied fols 1r–4r, though parts of it have faded and a much later (perhaps early modern) hand has traced over these parts in order to make faded words more visible.
  6. ^ Bischoff, Katalog II, p. 92 (no. 2352).
  7. ^ The pages containing the Liber ex lege Moysi (pp. 1–12) are disordered, so that the text does not follow the sequence of chapters as printed by S. Meeder, "The Liber ex lege Moysi: notes and text", Journal of medieval Latin 19 (2009), 173–218.
  8. ^ Ex Adam in diluuium anni dup milia CCXLII ... Iesus in seculo fuit XXXI, in alio loco dicitur XXXIII; Prologus in quo supputat ab Adam usque ad Ninum annos ... ergo a principio usque ad natiuitatem domini Iesus Christi colliguntur anni V milia CCXXVIII
  9. ^ Ab Adam usque ad Ninum regem ... anni V milia et CCCLXXXII. This is clearly a companion piece to the earlier chronological notes, which probably means the intervening chapters on Narcissus and penance were interpolated in the exemplar.
  10. ^ These excerpts include: Ancyra c. 10 (~ versio Dionysiana II); an unknown version of Ancyra c. 14 (De eo quod res et possessiones ab ęclesiis abstractæ quando non habent principem ad eam reuocandae sunt); Ancyra cc. 15 and 19–21 (~ versio Dionysiana II); an unknown version of Ancyra c. 22 (De homicidio non sponte commisso V [?] qui homicidium fecerint per penitentiam annorum VII in communione aeclesię recipiant). Given the context of this manuscript, it is notable that the ancient canons in this small collection (except the second) specify specific lengths of penance for given infractions in a manner similar to the medieval penitentials.
  11. ^ These excerpts include: Neocaesarea c. 2 (~ versio Dionysiana II); Paenitentiale Vinniani cc. 5–9, with addition (igitur peñi supplicatione necessaria. Qui conuersus ingemuit ... quæ gessit in sęculo); and Paenitentiale Vinniani cc. 18–20. Given the context of this manuscript, it is notable that the ancient canon in this small collection specifies a specific length of penance for a given infraction, in a manner similar to the medieval penitentials.
  12. ^ Included here are excerpts from Isidore's Liber officiorum, Liber pontificalis, decretals of popes Innocent I and Leo I, and (Pseudo-?)Augustine on the incarnation; see Maassen, "Bibliotheca latina juris canonici manuscripta, vol. 54, p. 225.
  13. ^ These are the same excerpts as are found in the additions to Collectio canonum vetus Gallica witnesses; see Mordek, Kirchenrecht, 153–54 and 257.
  14. ^ Included here are excerpts from the Bible, Jerome, Josephus, Eucherius, and Augustine; see Maassen, "Bibliotheca latina juris canonici manuscripta", vol. 54, pp. 225–26.
  15. ^ Included here are excerpts from the Bible, Jerome, and Isidore, among others; see Maassen, "Bibliotheca latina juris canonici manuscripta", vol. 54, p. 226.
  16. ^ Edited in PL 105, cols 206–08.
  17. ^ Included here are excerpts from the Bible, Sedulius Scottus, De Rectoribus Christianis cc. 8–9, Collectio canonum Hibernensis c. 25.15, John Cassian, Collationes 5.24, and Collectio canonum Turonensis cc. 131 and 136, as well as several proverbia Graecorum.
  18. ^ Included here are excerpts from the Bible, Augustine's De consensu evangelistarum c. 2.3, Prosper of Aquitaine's Chronicon, Orosius's Historia adversus paganos, Pseudo-Augustine's De heredibus (Sunt multa quae separant hominem a paterno sepulchro ... a patre filius deo oblatus), and Pseudo-Clement's Recognitiones c. 9.4.3.
  19. ^ Bieler is in error specifying here an "abridged" copy of the Canones Hibernenses IV (= Wass. III); Bieler, Irish penitentials, p. 22. In fact, this is a complete copy, making it the second complete copy of Canones Hibernenses IV in this manuscript.
  20. ^ See Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 56 (ed. I. Hilberg), epist. 149.6, p. 362 lines 12–21.
  21. ^ Quare fuit diluuius super terram? Responsio. Angeli concupierunt filias hominum in terra quod erant pulcræ nimis; acceperant eas sibi uxores; nati sunt eorum filii; illi fuerunt gigantes et multa mala faciebant super terram; propterea fuit diluuium.
  22. ^ See Oxford, Bodleian Library, Hatton 42, fol. 7v.
  23. ^ For discussion see M. Elliot, "Boniface, Incest, and the Earliest Extant Version of Pope Gregory I’s Libellus responsionum (JE 1843)", in Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Kanonistische Abteilung 100 (2014), p. 69 n. 15, and K. Ubl, Inzestverbot und Gesetzgebung: die Konstruktion eines Verbrechens (300–1100), Millennium-Studien 20 (Berlin, 2008), p. 000.
  24. ^ This copy of Theodulf's Capitulare I is incomplete due to two missing folios; see P. Brommer, ed., Capitula episcoporum. Teil I, MGH Capit. episc. (Hanover, 1984), p. 89.
  25. ^ Haggenmüller, Überlieferung, 149–55.