Ninth Ecumenical Council:
Lateran I 1123
The Canons of the First Lateran Council, 1123
[Note: Fr. Schroeder's notes have been retained here.
They are often factually well-informed and useful. But Schroeder's
perspective -- basically pro-papacy and clericalist-- is not the
only one possible. He fails to bring out the revolutionary nature
of the claims of the Gregorian reform papacy and accepts, without
questioning, the basically monastic approach to Catholicism which
promoted a sexually abstinent clergy and rejected lay involvement
in Church governance. It needs to be emphasized that while such
a view may be valid, it represents as much an ideological position
much more than a historical one.]
[Schroeder Introduction] History. The chief historical
significance of the reign of Pope Callixtus II (1111-24) is his
settlement of that long and bitter investiture quarrel. The settlement,
though not entirely satisfactory, was at least sufficient to give
assurance of a long-desired and much needed peace. The agreement
between the Pope and Henry V of Germany was concluded at Worms,
September23, 1122, and is known in history as the Pactum Callixtinum,
or more commonly as the Concordat of Worms. It was
the first concordat, that is, the first agreement of its kind
made between the papacy and a civil power. It provided for the
Emperor's renunciation of the right of spiritual investiture with
ring and crosier, and his receiving instead the right of lay investiture
with the scepter, a symbol of temporal authority. It abolished
the arbitrary bestowal of ecclesiastical offices and benefices
by laymen; provided for the freedom of episcopal and abbatial
elections and consecrations; drew a sharp line between spiritualities
and temporalities; secured recognition of the principle that ecclesiastical
jurisdiction can come from the Church only, and tacitly abolished
the unwarranted claim of the Emperor to interfere in papal elections.
Moreover, the Emperor promised to protect the Roman Church and
to restore to the Holy See whatever possessions had found their
way into his hands. On his part the Pope granted the Emperor the
right of presence at elections of bishops and abbots when the
vacancy occurred within the limits of the Kingdom of Germany,
with the exclusion, however, of simony and constraint. In contested
elections the Emperor, after hearing the advice and verdict of
the provincial bishops, was to give his support and approval to
the better side. In Germany the elected candidate was to receive
investiture with the scepter before consecration, in Italy and
Burgundy after consecration. Finally, the Pope agreed not to molest
those who during the controversy had sided with the Emperor. It
was a compromise solution of a vexed problem, and although the
Pope made some important concessions, he remained master of the
So great was the satisfaction created by this agreement that the
year 1122 was hailed in many contemporary documents as the beginning
of a new era. For its more solemn ratification and in deference
to the wish of the Archbishop of Mainz, the Pope convened (March,
1123) in Rome the First Lateran Council, the first general council
to be held in the West.
Owing to the absence of the official acts, it is impossible to
state with any degree of definiteness what was the procedure of
the council or even what was the number of sessions held. It was
opened most probably on March 18, 1123 , the third Sunday of Lent;
the canons were drawn up on March 27, and the concluding session
was held on April 6. The council was attended by over three hundred
bishops and many abbots from all parts of Europe and was presided
over by Callixtus II in person. It solemnly approved and confirmed
the agreement that had been arrived at with Henry V, and then
gave consideration to some other matters of importance. The exact
number of disciplinary canons issued by the council is a matter
of uncertainty. So far as we know, no complete list of them has
come down to us. What lists we have are not only incomplete but
they also differ in the arrangement of the canons. The order here
followed is that given by Mansi []
Note 1. Mansi, XXI, 277 ff.; Hefele-Leclercq, Hist.
des conciles, V, 602-44; Hergenröther, Handbuch d.
allg. Kirchengeschichte, II, 5th ed, 400-404; Robert, Histoire du pape Calixte II, Paris, 1891; Dict. de théol.
Cath., VIII, 2628-37.
Summary. Ordinations and promotions made for pecuniary
considerations are devoid of every dignity.
Text. Following the example of the holy fathers and recognize
ng the obligation of our office, we absolutely forbid in virtue
of the authority of the Apostolic See that anyone be ordained
or promoted for money in the Church of God. Has anyone thus secured
ordination or promotion in the Church, the rank acquired shall
be devoid of every dignity. []
Note 2. This and the following canon are a textual reproduction
of canons 1 and 2 of the
Synod of Toulouse (1119) presided over by Callixtus in person.
Denzinger, no. 359.
Comment. The council opened its series of canons with a
condemnation of simony. The social conditions and the ecclesiastic0-political
relations existing in Western Europe under the feudal system,
contributed in no small measure to the growth of two notorious
evils that afflicted the Church during that period, namely, simony
and clerical incontinency and of the two the former was productive
of the greater real detriment to the Church. Efforts of civil
and ecclesiastical authorities during and after the time of Charlemagne
availed little to banish the evil from the sanctuary. It grew,
and its growth kept pace with the increase of the civil power
of the bishops and the consequent ever increasing influence that
the state exercised over the affairs of the Church. The episcopal
office gradually came to be regarded as much a civil office as
an ecclesiastical one. The Church was the holder of great landed
possessions. In Germany three of the seven electors of the Empire
were churchmen. Moreover, within the Empire was a number of prince-bishops
and mitered abbots whose temporal rule was more powerful and more
extensive than that of many secular barons. Nor was Germany an
isolated instance. True, Germany was the greatest offender, but
the same conditions prevailed in France, Spain, England, Scotland,
and other countries. The result was the enslavement of the Church
by the state. Rulers who endowed the Church with crown lands in
gratitude for her work in bringing order out of chaos in Western
Europe, thought they thereby acquired a right to have something
to say in the nomination of those who were to be set over these
lands. They claimed the right of investiture of spiritual offices.
Elections were disputed. Church offices were obtained at the price
of money, and noble families sought by dishonest methods, by bribery,
intimidation, and other species of corruption to place their own
members in episcopal and abbatial offices and at times even on
the papal throne. Simony reached the highest point of its career
in the eleventh century, which may well be termed its classic
period. Papal and synodal decrees had indeed been issued against
it but with little or no effect. The gigantic struggle initiated
by Leo IX and Gregory VII and continued by their successors to
restore the independence of the Church by freeing her from the
demoralizing clutches of the state, was the beginning of the fall
of simony. Enactments against the evil by popes and synods during
the eleventh and, twelfth centuries are very numerous. []
Note 4. Mention may be made of Clement II in the Roman
synod, 1047 (Mansi, XIX, 627); Leo IX, Rome, 1049 (id., XIX,
721); Reims, I049 (id., XIX, 741); Mainz, 1049 (id., XIX, 749); Nicholas II, Rome, 1059 (id., XIX, 909);
Alexander II, Rome, 1063 (id., XIX, 1023); Gregory VII, Rome,
1073 (id., XX, 173); Rome, 1074 (id., XX, 408); Rome, 1078
(id., XX, 503); Rome, 1078 (id., XX, 509); Urban II, Melfi,
1089 (id., XX, 721); Piacenza, 1095 (id., XX, 805); Clermont,
1095 (id., XX, 916); Rome, 1099 (id., XX, i); Callixtus
II, Toulouse, 1119 (id., XXI, 225); Reims, 1119 (id., XXI, 235); Second Lateran (1139), canons 1 and 7.; Third Lateran
(1179), canons 7 and 15; Fourth Lateran (1215), canon 63.
Summary. Only a priest may be made provost, archpriest,
and dean; only a deacon ay be archdeacon.
Text. No one except a priest shall be promoted to the dignity
of ,provost, archpriest, or d
ean; and no one shall be made archdeacon unless he is a deacon.
Comment. The purpose of this canon was to put an end to
the intrusion of laymen and of persons who had not received any
major orders into the offices mentioned. The prohibition had already
found frequent expression in earlier synods. Because of their
importance, not only from the standpoint of revenue but also from
that of political expediency, the higher ecclesiastical offices
offered an excellent vantage-ground for the realization of secular
ambitions. Members of royal and noble families who had not received
any sacred orders intruded themselves. Many of the men promoted
by Charles Martel to the principal offices of the Church were
laymen, who were either totally unworthy or else had naught but
their military qualifications to recommend them; some of them
refused afterwards to receive sacred orders.
Summary. Priests, deacons, and subdeacons are forbidden
to live with women other than such as were permitted by the Nicene
Text. We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, and subdeacons
to associate with concubines and women, or to live with women
other than such as the Nicene Council (canon 3) for reasons of
necessity permitted, namely, the mother, sister, or aunt, or any
such person concerning whom no suspicion could arise.[]
Note 5. In content this canon is closely related to that
which in conciliar collections is given as canon 21 of this series.
Denzinger, no 360.
Summary. Lay persons, no matter how pious they may be,
have no authority to dispose of anytfiing that belongs to the
Text. In accordance with the decision of Pope Stephen [],
we declare that lay persons, no matter how devout they may be,
have no authority to dispose of anything belonging to the Church,
but according to the Apostolic canon (39) the supervision of all
ecclesiastical affairs belongs to the bishop, who shall administer
them conformably to the will of God. If therefore any prince or
other layman shall arrogate to himself the right of disposition,
control, or ownership of ecclesiastical goods or properties, let
him be judged guilt y of sacrilege.
Note 6. A pseudo-Isidorian ordinance. Mansi, I, 892 c.
10. Denzinger, no- 36i.
Comment. This canon was directed against lay investiture
of ecclesiastical dignities. Like canon 10 of this series, it
was one of the chief provisions of the Concordat of Worms, and
contributed perhaps more than any other to the termination of
the struggle between the papacy and the
Empire. It asserts without compromise the principle that ecclesiastical
jurisdiction can emanate only from the Church. As the power of
conferring sacred orders, so also does that of conferring benefices
belong exclusively to the bishops. Among the Germanic tribes the
national laws gave to the builder of a church, to the feudal lord
or to the administrator, full right over the church built or founded
by him. As it was his ecclesia propria, he exercised full
authority over the ecclesiastics, whom, with the consent of the
bishop in each case, he appointed and also dismissed at pleasure.
In the course of the investiture conflict private right over churches
was abolished, the jus patronatus, however, remained and
the builder or feudal lord was granted the jus praesentandi whenever a vacancy occurred in the church. In the case of
major benefices, that is, those of episcopal or supra-episcopal
rank, ecclesiastical rights were safeguarded by a distinction
between the spiritual and secular elements in the filling of such
vacancies. The collation of the ecclesiastical offices was clearly
distinguished from that of the temporalities. The bestowal of
the former pertained obviously to the authority of the Church,
that of the latter was conceded to the secular authority. Any
encroachment on these ecclesisastical rights the council characterizes
as a sacrilegious act. This canon was renewed by the Second and
Third Lateran Councils in canons 25 and 14 respectively.
Summary. Marriages between blood-relatives are forbidden.
Text. We forbid marriages between blood-relatives because
they are forbidden by the divine and secular laws. Those who contract
such alliances, as also their offspring, the divine laws not only
ostracize but declare accursed, while the civil laws brand them
as infamous and deprive them of hereditary rights. We, therefore,
following the example of our fathers, declare and stigmatize them
Comment. The evil here condemned attained its widest extent
during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the synods of Rome
and Reims, both held in 1049, Leo IX made a determined effort
to check it, but his measures went unheeded. Similar action was
taken by subsequent popes, Especially by Alexander II. In respect
to the degrees within which marriage among blood-relatives was
forbidden, the council adheres to the prevailing discipline, which
prohibited marriage in the direct line ascending and descending in infinitum and in the collateral line to the seventh
degree of consanguinity inclusive. Whether the impediment was
at that time universally regarded as diriment is a matter of dispute.
It seems certain, however, that in most countries the last three
degrees were looked upon as impedient and not as diriment. The
present canon was renewed by the Second Lateran Council in canon
17, but even after that the binding force of the last two degrees
was a matter of doubt. The Fourth Lateran Council in canon 50
limited the prohibition to the fourth degree of the collateral
line. This discipline remained unchanged till the most recent
matrimonial legislation, which retains the earlier law governing
the impediment of consanguinity in the direct line but restricts
it to the third degree of the collateral line.
Summary. Ordinations by Burdinus and the bishops consecrated
by him are invalid.
Text. The ordinations made by the heresiarch Burdinus after
his condemnation by the Roman Church, as also those made by the
bishops consecrated by him after that point of time, we declare
to be invalid.
Comment. Mauritius Burdinus, once the archbishop of Braga,
was the antipope set up by Henry V to succeed Paschal II ( 1099-
1118). He took the name of Gregory VIII. At the time of his appointment
to the papal throne he was under excommunication, incurred a few
months previously when he crowned the Emperor, whose cause he
had espoused. The ordinations made by him after this excommunication
and by the bishops consecrated by him since then, the council
declared to be null and void. []
Note 7. . I Nicaea, note 106.
Summary. No one is permitted to arrogate to himself
the episcopal authority in matters pertaining to the cura
animarum and the bestowal of benefices.
Text. No archdeacon, archpriest, provost, or dean shall
bestow on another the care of souls or the prebends of a church
without the decision or consent of the bishop; indeed, as the
sacred canons point out, the care of souls and the disposition
of ecclesiastical property are vested in the authority of the
bishop. If anyone shall dare act contrary to this and arrogate
to himself the power belonging to the bishop, let him be expelled
from the Church.
Comment. During the first three centuries of the Christian
era there were no parish priests as we understand the term today.
There was only one church in each diocese or district, namely,
the episcopal church or cathedral, situated in the residential
city of the bishop. This was the center to which people living
in the city and its suburbs came on Sundays and festivals to attend
divine services and from which the bishop exercised the cura
animarum throughout the district. The gradual expansion of
Christianity with the resultant growth in Church membership necessitated
the erection of churches in rural districts. In these rural churches,
which were under the direct administration of the bishop, divine
services were conducted by priests residing at the cathedral.
Further growth in membership brought about the organization during
the fourth century rural churches or parishes with a distinct
administration of their own . [] A similar situation and development
we find in the West, though here, for obvious reasons, the change
came less rapidly. The erection of rural churches kept pace with
the spread of Christianity in the rural districts, in the temporal
and spiritual administration of which the bishop was assisted
by his archdeacon. The rapid Christianization of the people of
Western Europe, however, rendered it impossible for the clergy
of the episcopal church satisfactorily to supply the spiritual
needs of a population scattered throughout the rural districts.
To meet this exigency the larger rural centers were provided with
their own churches, their own resources, and a permanent clergy.
These were the baptismal or mother churches, at which all the
people of the parish were obliged to attend the principal mass
on Sunday and to which they paid their tithes. All baptisms and
burials took place here. Through the devotion of the faithful
numerous chapels, oratoria, and martyria were erected
within the parish, on Church lands and on monastery lands, and
also on the estates kings and nobles. All these chapels (tituli
minores) which from the eighth century on multiplied rapidly
and in which only instructions, the usual devotions and daily
mass were permitted, had their own clergy but were dependent on
and subject to the mother-church. At the head of the clergy attached
to these mother-churches was the archpriest. He was the head also
of all the clergy within his parish, that is, those attached to
the various chapels, and was responsible for the proper discharge
of their ministerial duties. His parish was called an archipresbyterate
and he was subject in certain matters to the archdeacon, whose
scope of authority covered a variety of activities; in fact, when
necessity required, he was the bishop's representative in the
exercise of the many duties of the episcopal office. During the
Carolingian period many of these chapels became independent parishes.
Then, the division of large dioceses into several archidiaconal
districts for the purpose of facilitating supervision necessitated
the appointment in such dioceses of a corresponding number pf
archdeacons. Several of such large rural parishes, that is, archipresbytes,
constituted an archidiaconate at the head of which was an archideacon.
The archdeacon of the cathedral, who was usually the provost or praepositus of the chapter, supervised the urban clergy, while
the rural archdeacons, who were provosts of the principal churches
in towns, had the supervision of the rural deans or archpriests.
The authority of the archdeacons, both urban and rural, attained
its height during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when they
exercised within their territorial limits a quasi-episcopal jurisdiction.
The power and influence of the deans or archpriests also kept
pace with the march of time and events. The importance of these
offices from an ecclesiastical but particularly from a secular
viewpoint brought them under the influences of intrigue. Archdeacons
and archpriests often overstepped the limits of their authority
by usurping that of the bishop. This is the abuse which the canon
Note 8. Cf. Council of Chalcedon, canons 6 and 7. The Synod
of Neocaesarea (315) speaks in canons 13 and 14 of rural priests
and bishops, the chorepiscopi.
Note 9. Zorell, "Die Entwickelung d. Parochialsystems,"
in Archiv f. kath. Kirchenrecht, 1902-03; Imbart de la
Tour, Les paroisses rurales du IVe au VIO siècles, Paris,1900;
Thomassin, Vetus et nova ecclesiae discipline, I, 221-30,
274-87; Schröder, Die Entwickelung d. Archidiakonats bis
zum ii. jahrh., München, 1890; Stutz, Gesch. d. kirchl.
Benefizialwesens v. Anfang bis Alexander III, Berlin, 1896;
Sagmüller, Die Entwickelung d. Archipresbyterats u. Dekanats
bis zum Ende d. Karolingerreiches, Tübingen, 1898.
Summary. Military persons are forbidden under penalty
of anathema to invade or forcibly hold the city of Benevento.
Text. Desiring with the grace of God to protect the recognized
possessions of the Holy Roman Church, we forbid under pain of
anathema any military person to invade or forcibly hold Benevento,
the city of St. Peter. If anyone act contrary to this, let him
Comment. Benevento was the ancient seat of the Lombard
rulers. Through Charlemagne it became part of the territory of
the Church, with the provision, however, that he retain its government.
In 891 it was taken by the Greek Emperor, but was restored to
the Church in 962 through the assistance of Otto 1. In subsequent
years it was threatened by the Saracens and Greeks and in 1047
fell into the hands of the Normans. Henry III in 1053 drove out
the Norman conquerors and turned the city together with the surrounding
territory over to Leo IX in payment of the annual tax rendered
to the Holy See by the diocese of Bamberg, which Henry had previously
donated to the Roman Church. Shortly afterward, Benevento was
retaken by the Normans. Leo IX placed himself at the head of a
powerful army, but after a severe struggle the papal forces were
defeated and Leo himself taken prisoner (1053). Regardless of
their triumph, the Norman leaders now swore fealty to the sovereign
pontiff and became loyal champions of the Holy See. Thenceforth
Benevento belonged to the territory of the Church. In formulating
this canon Callixtus no doubt had in mind chiefly the terrible
and wily Normans.
Summary. Those excommunicated by one bishop, may not
be restored by others.
Text. We absolutely forbid that those who have been excommunicated
by their own bishops be received into the communion of the Church
by other bishops, abbots, and clerics.
Comment. This prohibition is an ancient one, going back
in all likelihood to Apostolic times. It was restated by the First
General Council in canon 5 and frequently renewed in subsequent
councils. In a period when confusion and violence were the order
of the day and when the penalty of excommunication was resorted
to without moderation, it was but natural that eventually there
should have developed a contempt for it in certain circles.
Summary. A bishop consecrated after an uncanonical election
shall be deposed.
Text. No one shall be consecrated bishop who has not been
canonically elected. If anyone dare do this, both the consecrator
and the one consecrated shall be deposed without hope of reinstatement.
Comment. With bishops possessing an extensive civil jurisdiction
over I :the clergy and laity of their respective dioceses, their
office acquired a political importance that could not but prove
detrimental to the Church. The greater the political importance
of the higher ecclesiastical offices, the more the secular rulers
strove to obtain control over them. One of the gravest evils resulting
from this was the constant interference of lay authorities in
episcopal elections. While in most countries such elections had
become a mere formality, they were replaced in Germany by royal
nomination, with the result that only such men were chosen or
appointed to vacant sees as were willing to serve the interests
of the emperor. In this canon, therefore, the council orders the
observance of the ecclesiastical laws governing episcopal elections
and threatens with perpetual deposition both the consecrator and
the one consecrated in the event of violation.
Summary. To those who give aid to the Christians in
the Orient is granted the remission of sins, and their families
and possessions are taken under the protection of the Roman Church.
Text. For effectively crushing the tyranny of the infidels,
we grant to those who go to Jerusalem and also to those who give
aid toward the defense of the Christians, the remission of their
sins and we take under the protection of St. Peter and the Roman
Church their homes, their families, and all their belongings,
as was already ordained by Pope Urban (II). Whoever, therefore,
shall dare molest or seize these during the absence of their owners,
shall incur excommunication. Those, however, who with a view of
going to Jerusalem or to Spain (that is, against the Moors) are
known to have attached the cross to their garments and afterward
removed it, we command in virtue of our Apostolic authority to
replace it and begin the journey within a year from the coming
Easter. Otherwise we shall excommunicate them and interdict within
their territory all divine service except the baptism of infants
and the administration of the last rites to the dying.
Comment. The purpose of this canon was to promote the cause
of the crusades against the Saracens in the Orient and against
the Moors in Spain. The "remissions of sins" spoken
of refers to the plenary indulgence granted to all who should
either undertake the journey or in other ways contribute toward
the furtherance of the cause, and is not to be understood as the
actual remission by the pope of sins not yet remitted by the sacrament
of penance. The property of those taking part in the crusade was
to be regarded as sacred. Many who in the first fervor of enthusiasm
had taken the cross and pledged themselves to undertake the journey,
later manifested indifference in its execution. These the Pope
commanded to begin the journey within a year from the coming Easter.
The interdict, threatened in case of failure to heed the command,
applied to princes and all others who owned vast landed estates.
[Added note (Halsall): The theology to make the distinction
between and "indulgence" and a "forgiveness"
of sins did not exist when this canon was promulgated. Fr. Schroeder
here imposes later Catholic theology on a the canons.]
Summary. The property of the porticani dying
without heirs is not to be disposed of in a manner contrary to
the wish of the one deceased.
Text. With the advice of our brethren and of the entire
Curia, as well as with the will and consent of the prefect, we
decree the abolition of that evil custom which has hitherto prevailed
among the porticani, namely, of disposing, contrary to
the wish of the one deceased, of the property of porticani dying without heirs; with this understanding, however, that
in future the porticani remain faithful to the Roman Church,
to us and to our successors.
Comment. The porticani, it seems, were those people who
dwelled in t he Vatican territory, or more properly, in the neighborhood
of the portico of St. Peter's. They were chiefly travelers and
merchants; their scholae or quarters were located principally
on the left side of the Basilica. In making obedience to the Roman
Church, to himself and to his successors, a condition of the abolition
of that custom, Callistus had in mind the division among the porticani consequent upon the schism created by the Emperor in setting
up Burdinus as antipope.
Summary. If anyone violates the truce of God and after
the third admonition does not make satisfaction, he shall be anathematized.
Text. If anyone shall violate the truce of God he shall
be admonished three times by the bishop to make satisfaction.
If he disregards the third admonition the bishop, either with
the advice of the metropolitan or with that of two or one of the
neighboring bishops, shall pronounce the sentence of anathema
against the violator and in writing denounce him to all the bishops.
Comment. The "truce of God" (treuga Dei) was
a temporary suspension of hostilities, instituted to replace the
"peace of God" (pax Dei) when the latter, which
implied a perpetual suspension, had proved ineffective. With the
dissolution of the Carolingian Empire, anarchy of the worst type
set in, in consequence of which the two following centuries may
well be called the nadir of order and civilization. It was a period
of murder and rapine, of license and tyranny, and above all there
raged an epidemic of private wars. What the conditions were even
as late as the end of the eleventh century we learn from the address
of Urban II to the multitude that had assembled for the Synod
of Clermont (1095).
The truce of God had its origin in the second quarter of the eleventh
century and was the means employed by the Church to do what the
lay authorities had been powerless to do, namely, to restore and
enforce respect for public peace. In its earliest form, it seems,
it was a decision that no one should attack his enemy from nine
o'clock Saturday night to one O'clock Monday morning, for the
reason ut omnis homo person debitum honorem diei dominico. Subsequently this prohibition was extended, in some localities
to certain days of the week, for instance, Thursday, Friday ,
and Saturday, in memory of the ascension, passion, and resurrection,
to which mysteries these three days were consecrated; in other
places, to the Ember days and certain feast days, as the Exaltation
of the Cross, All Saints, etc. Later the seasons of Advent and
Lent were included in the truce. Uniformity as to the time and
duration of the truce was brought about by the Synod of Clermont
in its decision that the truce shall be observed "ab Adventu
Domini usque ad octavam Epiphaniae et a Septuagesima usque as
octavam Pentecostes, praeterea, ab occasu solis in quarta feria
usque ad ortum solis in secunda feria." This canon became
the general rule. It was renewed by the Second and Third Lateran
Councils in canons 12 and 21 respectively. The penalty for violation
was excommunication. It is with the penalty that the present canon
concerns itself. []
Note 10. Huberti, Gottesfrieden und Landfrieden, Ansbach,
1892; Hefele-Leclercq, V,
Summary. Laymen are absolutely forbidden to remove offerings
from the altars of Roman churches.
Text. Following the canons of the holy fathers, we absolutely
and under penalty of anathema forbid laymen to remove the offerings
from the altars of the churches of St. Peter, of The Savior (Lateran
Basilica), of St. Mary Rotund, in a word, from the altars of any
of the churches or from the crosses. By our Apostolic authority
we forbid also the fortifying of churches and their conversion
to profane uses.
Summary. Counterfeiters of money shall be excommunicated.
Text. Whoever manufactures or knowingly expends counterfeit
money, shall be cut off from the communion of the faithful (excommunicated)
as one accursed, as an oppressor of the poor and a disturber of
Summary. Robbers of pilgrims and of merchants shall
Text. If anyone shall dare attack pilgrims going to Rome
to visit the shrines of the Apostles and the oratories of other
saints and rob them of the things they have with them, or exact
from merchants new imposts and tolls, let him be excommunicated
till he has made satisfaction.
Comment. An excellent description of prevailing conditions,
conditions that were by no means peculiar to his pontificate,
is given by Gregory VII in a letter written in 1074 to the bishops
of France. He says: Omnes malitia quasi quodam pestilentiae
morbo repleti, horrenda et multum execranda facinora multoties
nemine impellente committunt; nihil humani nihilque divini attendunt;
perjuria sacrilega, incestum perpetrate, sese invicem tradere,
pro nihilo ducunt et, quod nusquam terrarum est, cives, propinqui
fratres, etiam alii alios propter cupiditatem capiunt, et omnia
bona eorum ab illis extorqentes, vitam in extrema miseria finire
faciunt. with regard to the matter with which the canon deals,
he says in the same letter: Peregrinos ad Apostolorum limina
euntes et redeuntes, uti cuique opportunum fit, capientes in carceres
trudunt, et acrioribus quam paganus aliquis, tormentis afficientes,
saepe ab illis plusquam habeant pro redemtione exigunt"' []
Note 11. Lib. II, epist. V ad episcopos Francorum, Mansi,
XX, 129 ff. The writings of Gregroy VII are to be found under
the title, Gregorii VII registri sive epistolarum libri, in
Mansi, XX, 60-391.
Summary. Abbots and monks may not have the cura
Text. We forbid abbots and monks to impose public penances,
to visit the sick, to administer extreme unction, and to sing
public masses. The chrism, holy oil, consecration of altars, and
ordination of clerics they shall obtain from the bishops in whose
dioceses they reside.
Comment. In the earliest ages of the Church, abbots and
monks were laymen. For divine service and the reception of the
sacraments they proceeded in a body to the nearest church. When
later by reason of their large number this became impractical,
they built their own monastic churches, and the abbot or some
other member of the community was invested with priestly orders
to serve its spiritual needs. From the fourth century onward the
number of monks raised to the priesthood and exercising spiritual
functions gradually increased. This course, however, was not to
go unchallenged, and as late as 1096 the Synod of Nimes in canon
2 condemned the statement that monks may not become priests, adding
that Pope Gregory the Great, Martin of Tours, Augustine of Canterbury,
and others had been monks []. In the following canon the synod
[of Nimes] went so far as to declare that priests who are monks
are better qualified to perform spiritual functions than are the
secular priests. The rapid expansion of the Chrisin religion and
the consequent demand for priests naturally invited them to the
field of parochial activity. The discipline governing the care
of souls and the administration of parishes by monks had not always
been uniform, owing to the different views taken by different
bishops and popes. Synods before and after the tenth century permitted
and prohibited monks to have the care of souls outside of those
within the monastery. The reason for the prohibition is to be
found in the ever increasing encroachment of the monks on parochial
ministrations, and much more so in their frequent and flagrant
invasion of episcopal rights and privileges. That causes of this
nature were at the bottom of the present canon, can scarcely be
Regarding ordinations, the Second Council of Nicaea in canon 14
permitted abbots, provided they were priests and had received
the solemn rite of benediction, to confer tonsure and advance
their monks to the lectorate. This privilege was gradually extended
until it embraced all the minor orders. Other orders, as our canon
rules, must be conferred by the bishop in whose diocese the monastery
is located. []
Note 12. Mansi, XX, 931-
Note 13. Cf. Hefele-Leclercq, V, 643 f
Note 14. Thomassin, op. cit., I, lib. III, cap.
Summary. The appointment of priests to churches belongs
to the bishops, and without their consent they may not receive
tithes and churches from laymen.
Text. Priests shall be appointed to parochial churches
by the bishops, to whom they shall be responsible f or the care
of souls and other matters pertaining to them. They are not permitted
to receive tithes and churches from laics without the will and
consent of the bishops. If they act otherwise, let them be subject
to the canonical penalties.
Comment. The first part of this canon was directed against
the abuse by which patrons usurped the authority of the bishops
in the appointment of priests to those churches over which they
exercised the right of patronage, particularly the jus praesentandi. The evil was an old one and had been frequently outlawed by
popes and synods. In canon 8 of the Synod of Nimes (1096) Urban
11 decreed: Clericus vel monachus qui ecclesiasticum de manu
laici susceperit beneficium, quia non intravit per ostium sed
ascendit aliunde, sicut fur et latro ab eodem separetur officio []
The second part forbids priests to accept tithes and churches
from laymen without the approval of their respective bishops.
The tithes here referred to are those ecclesiastical taxes which
in the course of time had become alienated from the churches by
lay proprietors. This alienation came about in various ways. The
secularization inaugurated during the Merovingian period, especially
by Charles Martel, brought about the transfer of much ecclesiastical
property and its tithes or the tithes alone to laymen. It was
Charles' way of compensating his partisans. In subsequent times,
under pressure of circumstances, even bishops and abbots resorted
to such alienation to secure vassals and protectors against violence
and the only churches but also invasion of their civil rights.
Then again, not only churches but also ecclesiastical property
with its tithes or the tithes alone were taken forcibly by laymen.
Finally, when churches, which had once been the property
of private individuals, became parish churches subject to the
bishops, ,the former owner frequently appropriated the tithes
belonging to that church. In his autumn synod of 1078 (canon 6)
Gregory VII demanded from the laity the return to the Church of
all tithes, no matter how or from whom they had received them,
and declared guilty of sacrilege all who refused obedience to
his decree. This demand was renewed by subsequent popes and synods,
but to expect the return to the Church of tithes that had for
centuries been in the possession of laymen, was expecting too
much. They preferred to give them to monasteries or to their friends
among the secular clergy. The churches that had been usurped by
laymen were often bought by monks, or they were handed over by
the usurper to the secular clergy. It was this acceptance of tithes
and churches from laymen by monks and secular clergy without the
approval of the bishops, that the present canon prohibited.[]
Note 15. Mansi, XX, 936; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 449. Cf. canon
15 of the Synod of Clermont
(1095), Mansi, XX, 817
Note 16. Thomassin, op. cit., III, lib. 1, cap.
i-ii; Stutz, Gescb. d. Beneficialwesens bis Alexander III;
Perels, Die kirchl Zehnten im karoling. Reiche, Berlin,
1904; Stutz, "Das karoling. Zehngebot," in Zeitschr.
d. Savigny-Stiftung f. Recbtsgesch. XXIX (1909), 191-240;
Viard, Hist. de la dîme eccl. principalement en France
jusqu' au dicret de Gratien, Dijon, 1909.
Summary. Taxes paid to bishops by monks since Gregory
VII must be continued. Monks may not by prescription acquire the
possessions of churches and of bishops.
Text. The tax (servitium) which monasteries and
their churches have rendered to the bishops since the time of
Gregory VII, shall be continued. We absolutely forbid abbots and
monks to acquire by prescription after thirty years the possessions
of churches and of shops.
Comment. Originally all monasteries within a diocese were
under the authority of the bishop. The Council of Chalcedon in
canon 4 expressed this in the form of a law, and Justinian decreed
that all complaints against clerics and monks should be laid before
the bishop, "because they are
subject to him." []. The Synod of Orleans (511i) in canon
21 ruled that monks are under the authority of the abbot, but
the abbot under that of the bishop. [] In consequence, however,
of episcopal oppression which frequently assumed the worst form
of tyranny and rapine, monasteries were by degrees taken under
the protection of the popes. At a later period this papal protection
often developed into exemption from episcopal authority, at least
so far as the temporalities were concerned. Beginning with the
eleventh century, exemptions multiplied rapidly. Not only individual
monasteries but entire orders obtained exemption in all things
from the authority of the bishop. Since Urban II papal protection
practically meant exemption from episcopal authority. But such
exemption did not release monasteries and their churches from
the obligation of paying to the local ordinary an annual pension (servitium). To put a stop to the oppressive exactions
of the bishops, Gregory VII in 1078 not only condemned such excesses
but also established a limit beyond which bishops were forbidden
to extend their demands. It is this rule of Gregory that the council
Note 17. Novella 123, C. 21.
Note 18. C. 16, C. XVIII, q. 2.
Summary. Churches and their possessions, as well as the
person ans things connected with them, shall remain safe and unmolested.
Text. Having in mind the example of our fathers and discharging
the duty of our pastoral office, we decree that churches and their
possessions, as well as the persons connected with them, namely,
clerics and monks and their servants (conversi), also the
laborers and the things they use, shall remain safe and unmolested.
If anyone shall dare act contrary to this and, recognizing his
crime, does not within the space of thirty days make proper amends,
let him be cut off from the Church and anathematized.
Summary. Clerics in major orders may not marry, and
marriages already contracted must be dissolved.
Text. We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, subdeacons,
and monks to have concubines or to contract marriage. We decree
in accordance with the definitions of the sacred canons, that
marriages already contracted by such persons must be dissolved,
and that the persons be condemned to do penance.
Comment. This canon, together with the preceding and following
canons, does not appear to have originated in the First Lateran
Council. This seems to be true especially of the present one;
for the matter dealt with in it had already been considered in
canon 3, and it is hardly probable that the council dealt with
the same subject in two distinct decrees. It is very probable
that these three canons originated in a provincial council under
Urban II and were later wrongly ascribed to this Council of the
Although at the time of our council clerical celibacy had long
been an established rule for ecclesiastics in major orders, the
extent of its observance was reduced practically to a minimum
during the period of war and moral disorder that followed the
dissolution of the Carolingian Empire. In the maelstrom of corruption
and lawlessness that prevailed, clerical morality reached its
lowest ebb, and all sense of vocation had apparantly disappeared.
During this dark period, this "Iron Age," there was
no dearth of synodal enactments directed against the evil. But
when all too frequently the government of monasteries was usurped
by rude and ignorant laymen, and when into bishoprics were intruded
creatures whose only gods were Greed and-Lust, synodal decrees
meant nothing. The reforms initiated by Gregory VII with so much
determination and vigorously continued by his successors, struck
at the root of the evil and finally brought it under control.[]
Note 19. The earliest conciliar enactment on the subject
of clerical celibacy is canon 33 of the Spanish Synod of Elvira
(305), which imposed it on the three higher orders, bishops, priests,
and deacons. If they continued to live with their wives and bring
forth-children after their ordination, they were to be deposed.
An attempt to impose celibacy on the clergy was made at the first
general council, but it seems the argument of Paphnutius againts
it prevailed. The council then contented itself with the prohibition
expressed in canon 3. Justinian permitted no one to be consecrated
bishop who had children. The Synod of Melfi (1089) in canon 12
ruled that a subdeacon who refused to separate himself from his
wife, was to be deprived of his office and benefice. If, on being
warned by the bishop he did not put her away, the overlord was
permitted to take here as a slave. Leclerq, "La législation
conciliaire relative au célibat ecclésiastique,"
in Histoire des conciles, II, 1321-48, where an abundant
literature on the subject is given.
Summary. The alienation of possessions of the exarchate
of Ravenna is condemned, and the Ordinaries made by the intruders
Text. The alienation that has been made especially by Otto,
Guido, Jerome, and perhaps by Philip of possessions of the exarchate
of Ravenna, we condemn. In a general way we declare invalid the
alienations in whatever manner made by bishops and abbots whether
intruded or canonically elected, and also the ordinations conferred
by them whether with the consent of the clergy of the Church or
simoniacally. We also absolutely forbid any cleric in any way
to alienate his prebend or any ecclesiastical benefice. If he
has presumed to do this in the past or shall presume to do so
in the future, his action shall be null and he shall be subject
to the canonical penalties .[]
Note 20. These were the four schismatical successors of
the antipope Guibert in the archiepiscopal see of Ravenna. Guibert
was intruded into the Roman see by Henry IV.
From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of
the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St.
Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 177-94.
NOTE 1: B. Herder's list was bought by TAN books,
of Rockford IL. TAN confirmed that US copyright was not renewed
after the statuary 28 years and that the text is now in the public
domain in the US.
This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book.
The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted
texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic
form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic
copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and
personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the
source. No permission is granted for commercial use.
(c)Paul Halsall, November 1996