Missi Dominici is the name of a class of extraordinary commissaries sent by the Carlovingian dynasties. to different parts of their dominions for various purposes of civil and ecclesiastical government. The importance of these officers was vastly increased by Charles the Great, who employed them as an efficacious means of restraining the dangerous power of the dukes; but the importance thus given to these dignitaries having proved under Pepin to be dangerous to royal authority, Charles strove to weaken them, and destroy their power altogether, by transferring their supervisory functions over the jurisdictions of the counts, the administration of the bishops, etc., to the. missi dominici. The whole empire was accordingly divided into districts (missatica, legationes), coinciding generally with the province of a metropolitan. The missi received special instructions regarding the different points of their mission. So great was the importance the emperor attached to the careful execution of his designs, that to the written instructions always given to his travelling representatives, he' frequently added oral explanation and discussion. Thus the missi became the organ by which the central authority managed the administration of the whole empire; and there was, in fact, no part of the affairs of government entirely removed from their competence. Their principal duties were as follows:
(1) To see that the laws, both of the State and the Church, were observed.
(2) To superintend jurisdiction. In whatever cause or suit there was no decision given by the court, the decision was expected from the missi; they also received complaints against the courts. To that effect they held sessions four times every year in different places. They appointed meliores et veteriores, whose duty it was to denounce the crimes, transgressions, etc., that had transpired.
(3) To superintend the execution of the laws regarding the army, and to exact the fine of sixty solidi (heribannum) from the defaulters.
(4) To generally supervise the possessions of the State and of the Church, and to make registers and descriptions thereof. To carry out these measures the missi held a kind of diet (placita provincia), and at these sessions the superior clergy, the counts, and some other officers, were obliged to appear, under penalty of the heribam. Those who persisted in their refusal were denounced to the king.
The missi were expected to give detailed accounts of their mission at court. In difficult matters, of which they declined to take the responsibility, the decision was left to the king. Every one to whom justice had been denied by the court and the missi had always resort to the king. In order to give the missi sufficient authority, they were allowed the right of imposing the fine of the heribann; and the disobedient were threatened even with death. Compensations were allowed them for the expenses of their travels. See Franc. de Roye, De Missis dominicis, eorun officio et potestate; Neuhauss, De A Miss. domin. ad disciplin. publ. (Leipsic, 1744, 8vo). (J.H.W.)