The ideal of "renovatio" was not just a political idea, but it was a cultural idea for Charlemagne. His ambition to restore the authority of Imperial Rome was matched by his ambition to revive Classical culture. Charlemagne and his advisors had observed the decline of educational skills throughout the Empire. He wanted to restore education to classical standards. Related to this was his concern with copying books. He was concerned with restoring and preserving Classical texts and establishing authoritative versions of the Bible and Liturgical books. As a part of this the Carolingians developed a new script, the Caroline minuscule, that would become a standard for the next 400 years and would later be revived by the humanists in the fifteenth century. That script has in turn become the foundation of our modern scripts. Review the web-page dedicated to the Origins of the Carolingian Scripts.
For a more detailed account of Carolingian book production see the chapter from the New Cambridge Medieval History entitled Book Production in the Carolingian empire and the spread of the Caroline minuscule.
Charlemagne's interest in promoting learning
and culture throughout his realm is evident in this letter to
Baugulf, abbot of Fulda:
Charles, by the grace of God, King of the Franks and Lombards and Patrician of the Romans, to Baugulf and to all the congregation, also to the faithful committed to you, we have directed a loving greeting by our ambassadors in the name of omnipotent God.
Be it known, therefore, to your devotion pleasing to God, that we, together with our faithful, have considered it to be useful that the bishoprics and monasteries entrusted by the favor of Christ to our control, in addition to the order of monastic life and the intercourse of holy religion, in the culture of letters also ought to be zealous in teaching those who by the gift of God are able to learn, according to the capacity of each individual, so that just as the observance of the rule imparts order and grace to honesty of morals, so also zeal in teaching and learning may do the same for sentences, so that those who desire to please God by living rightly should not neglect to please him also by speaking correctly. For it is written: "Either from thy words thou shalt be justified or from thy words thou shalt be condemned (Matthew. xii, 37)." For although correct conduct may be better than knowledge, nevertheless knowledge precedes conduct. Therefore, each one out to study what he desires to accomplish, so that so much the more fully the mind may know what ought to be done, as the tongue hastens in the praises of omnipotent God without hindrances of errors. For since errors should be shunned by all men, so much the more ought they to be avoided as far as possible by those who are chosen for this very purpose alone, so that they ought to be the especial servant of truth. For when in the years just passed letters were often written to us from several monasteries in which it was stated that the brethern who dwelt there offered up in our behalf sacred and pious prayers, we have recognized in most of these letters both correct thoughts and uncouth expressions; because what pious devotion dictated faithfully to the mind, the tongue, uneducated on account of the neglect of study, was not able to express in the letter without error. Whence it happened that we began to fear lest perchance, as the skill in writing was less, so also the wisdom for understanding the Holy Scriptures might be much less than it rightly ought to be. And we all know well that, although errors of speech are dangerous, far more dangerous are errors of understanding. Therefore, we exhort you not only not to neglect the study of letters, but also with most humble mind, pleasing to God, to study earnestly in order that you may be able more easily and more correctly to penetrate the mysteries of the divine Scriptures. Since, moreover, images, tropes and similar figures are found in the sacred pages, no one doubts that each one in reading these will understand the spiritual sense more quickly if previously he shall have been fully instructed in the mastery of letters. Such men truly are to be chosen for this work as have both the will and the ability to learn and a desire to instruct others. And may this be done with a zeal as great as the earnestness with which we command it. For we desire you to be, as it is fitting that soldiers of the church should be, devout in mind, learned in discourse, chaste in conduct and eloquent in speech, so that whosoever shall seek to see you out of reverence of God, or on account of your reputation for holy conduct, just as he is edified by your appearance, may also be instructed by your wisdom, which he has learned from your reading or singing, and may go away joyfully giving thanks to omnipotent God. Do not neglect, therefore, if you wish to have our favor, to send copies of this letter to all your suffragans and fellow-bishops and to all monasteries.
Excerpt from a letter from Alcuin of York to Charlemagne:
I, your Flaccus, 1 according to your exhortation and encouragement, am occupied in supplying to some under the roof of St. Martin the honey of the sacred Scriptures; am eager to inebriate others with the old wine of ancient learning; begin to nourish others on the fruits of grammatical subtlety; long to illumine some with the order of the stars, like the painted ceiling of a great man's house; becoming many things to many men, that I may instruct many to the profit of the Holy Church of God and to the adornment of your imperial kingdom, that the grace of the Almighty be not void in me, nor the bestowal of your bounty in vain.
But I, your servant, miss to some extent the rarer books of scholastic learning which I had in my own country through the excellent and devoted zeal of my master and also through some toil of my own. I tell these things to your Excellency, in case it may perchance be agreeable to your counsel, which is most eager for the whole of knowledge, that I send some of our pupils to choose there what we need, and to bring to France the flowers of Britain; that not in York only there may be a 'garden enclosed', but in Tours the 'plants of Paradise with the fruit of the orchard.'
Evangelist Portrait of St. Mark and the Incipit for his Gospel from the Coronation Gospels, early 9th century. These gospels were found in 1000 placed on the knees of Charlemagne when Otto III opened his tomb.
Evangelist Portrait of St. Matthew and the incipit of his gospel from the Ebbo Gospel, 816-835. Manuscript was named for Ebbo the Archbishop of Reims between 816-835.
Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, XXIV, 10-12: It was stated above, how God bears us down, by manifesting Himself to us. But it is now stated how He cheers us, while He thus makes Himself known. For a man hath compunction in one sort, when on looking within he is frightened with dread of his own wickedness, and in another when on looking at heavenlh joys he is strengthened with a kind of hope and security. The one emotion excites tears of pain and sorrow, the other tears of joy. For it is called exultation, when joy unspeakable is conceived in the mind, a joy which can neither be concealed, nor yet expressed in words. It betrays itself however by certain motions, though not expressed in any suitable words. And hence David the Prophet, on seeing that the souls of the Elect conceive a joy too great for them to bring out in words, declares, Blessed is the people that knoweth exultation. For he says not "that speaketh" but "that knoweth," because exulation can be known in the understanding, thought it cannot be expressed in words. For that which is too high for feeling, is felt therein. But since the mind of him who feels it is scarce sufficient for its contemplation, how can the tongue of the speaker suffice to tell of it? Because, then, when the light of truth pierces our hearts, it makes us at one time full of sorrow, for its displat of strict justice, and delights us at another by disclosing inward joys: after the bitterness of temptationsm after the sorrows of tribulations, it is fully subjoined, He shall see his face in exultation [Job, 33:26]
For the fire of tribulation is first darted into our mind, from a consideration of our own blindness, in order that all rust of sins may be burnt away. And when the eyes of our heart are purged from sin, that joy of our heavenly home is disclosed to them, that we may first wash away by sorrow that we have done, and afterwards fain in our transports a clearer view of what we are seeking after. For the intervening mist of sin is first wiped away from the eye of the mind, by burning sorrow; and it is then enlightened by the bright corruscations of the boundless light swiftly flashing upon it. At which sight, seen after its measure, it is absorbed in a kind of rapturous security; and carried beyond itself, as though the present life had ceased to be, it is refreshed in a manner by a kind of new being. The mind is then besprinkled with the infusion of heavenly dews from an inexhaustible fountain. It there discerns that it is not sufficient for that enjoyment, to which it has been hurried, and from feeling the truth, it sees that it does not discern how great that truth is. And it counts itself to be further removed from this truth, the nearer it approaches to it, because unless it beheld it in a certain degree, it would never feel that it was unable really to behold it.
The effort therefore of the mind is driven back, when directed towards it, by the bright encircling of its boundless nature....