Council of Lyons

General Information

The Councils of Lyons were two ecumenical councils of the Christian church in the West, held at Lyons, France.

First Council of Lyons

The first of these councils was held in 1245 under Pope Innocent IV. The pope called the council to overthrow Frederick II, Holy Roman emperor, who had driven him from Rome. The council excommunicated and deposed Frederick and absolved his subjects of their oaths of fealty; the actions of the council, however, had no political effect.

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects

Second Council of Lyons

The second of these councils was held in 1274 under Pope Gregory X. Attended by some 500 bishops, it was called principally to effect a reunion of the Western and Eastern churches, but, although a reunion was indeed reached at the council, it proved transitory. Regulations also were established whereby popes would be elected by a conclave of cardinals. The council was attended by St. Bonaventure, and St. Thomas Aquinas died en route to it.

First Council of Lyons - 1245 A.D.

Advanced Information




Bull Deposing The Emperor Frederick II



  1. On rescripts
  2. Those to whom cases should be entrusted
  3. Curtailing legal expenses
  4. On challenging elections etc.
  5. Only unconditional votes valid
  6. Jurisdiction of conservators
  7. Legates and benefices
  8. Judge delegates
  9. On peremptory exceptions
  10. The objection of robbery
  11. No-show plaintiffs
  12. On early possession for the sake of preservation
  13. On the acceptability of negative assertions
  14. The exception of major excommunication
  15. On Judges Who Give Dishonest Judgment
  16. On appeals
  17. On the same
  18. On employing assassins
  19. On excommunication 1
  20. On excommunication 2
  21. On excommunication 3
  22. On excommunication 4


  1. Management of church debts
  2. On help for the empire of Constantinople
  3. Admonition to be made by prelates to the people in their charge
  4. On the Tartars
  5. On the crusade


The dispute, distinctive of the Middle Ages, between the papacy and the empire became very serious under Pope Innocent IV and Emperor Frederick II. Already in 1240 Pope Gregory IX had tried to define the questions between the two powers by calling a general council, but Frederick II by arms had prevented the council from meeting. When Innocent IV succeeded as pope in 1243 he gave his earnest attention to renewing this policy. He was able to make his way in 1244 to Lyons, which was outside the direct authority of the emperor, and there proclaimed a council. Some letters of summons exist, dated 3 January 1245 and the days following, in which the purpose of the council is stated thus: "That the church, through the salutary counsel of the faithful and their fruitful help, may have the dignity of its proper position; that assistance may speedily be brought to the unhappy crisis in the holy Land and the sufferings of the eastern empire; that a remedy may be found against the Tartars and other enemies of the faith and persecutors of the christian people; further, for the issue between the church and the emperor; for these reasons we think that the kings of the earth, the prelates of the church and other princes of the world should be summoned". The chief purposes for which the council was called -- and from the beginning it was called "general" -- seem to have been political ones.

When the council opened on 26 June 1245, in a meeting which was probably only preparatory, there were present three patriarchs and about 150 bishops besides other religious and secular persons, among whom was the Latin emperor of Constantinople. Emperor Frederick II sent a legation headed by Thaddaeus of Suessa. Many bishops and prelates were unable to attend the council because they had been prevented by the invasions of the Tartars in the east or the attacks of the Saracens in the holy Land, or because Frederick II had intimidated them (especially the Sicilians and Germans). Thus it was that the four chief parties of the council were the French and probably the Spanish, English and Italian. In the three sessions which were held during the council (26 June, 5 and 17 July) the fathers, not without hesitation and dispute, had to treat especially of Frederick II. There seems to have been a bitter conflict between Innocent IV on the one side and Thaddaeus of Suessa on the other. The sources, especially the Brevis nota and Matthew Paris, tell us clearly about the nature of the discussion and the determined attitude of the pope, who induced the council to depose the emperor at the session on 17 July 1245, a matter that appeared unprecedented to the fathers themselves. The council on this question shows us clearly the critical position reached by the medieval theory and practice of ruling a christian state, which rested on a double order of authority.

In the same session of 17 July the council also approved some strictly legal constitutions and others on usury, the Tartars and the Latin east. But the council, unlike the previous councils of the Middle Ages, did not approve canons concerning the reform of the church and the condemnation of heresy. Enthusiasm for the Gregorian reform movement seems to have died down completely. The council, however, concerned itself with promoting and confirming the general canonical legislation for religious life.

The transmission of the text of the constitutions is involved and still partly obscure. Only in recent times has it been realised that the authentic and definitive drawing up of the constitutions, and their promulgation, took place after the council. This collection consists of 22 constitutions, all of which are of a legal nature, and was sent to the universities by Innocent IV on 25 August 1245 (Coll. I). A second collection of 12 decrees was published by Innocent IV on 21 April 1246 (Coll. II). A final collection (Coll. I + II and 8 other decrees) was issued on 9 September 1253 (Coll. III), and was included (except for const. 2) in Liber Sextus in 1298. Coll. I, however, is not identical with the constitutions of the council. For in it can be found neither the condemnation of Frederick II, which seems to have been the chief matter of the council, nor the five constitutions pertaining to the important questions introduced by Innocent IV at the opening of the council, namely those concerned with the Tartars, the Latin east and the crusades.

Stephen Kuttner has shown that the constitutions have been transmitted to us through three versions: the conciliar version (= M), known principally from the chronicle of Matthew of Paris (const. 1-19, and the const. on the crusade corresponding to R 17); the intermediate version ( = R), known from the register of Innocent IV (const. 1-17, of which const. 1-12 correspond to M 1-10); and the definitive version ( = Coll. I), containing two constitutions (18 and 22) which are absent from the other versions, but lacking the constitutions not directly concerned with the law (R 13-17).

Indeed, the origins of the constitutions must be placed before the council, as is shown by an earlier version of constitutions M 13, 15 and 19, antedating the council. Evidently the council fathers were discussing matters which had already been partly worked out, and it was somewhat later that the constitutions acquired their more accurate and definite legal form.

The constitutions taken from Matthew Paris were edited in Bn[1] III/2 (1606) 1482-1489. Those from the register of Innocent IV were edited in Rm IV (1612) 73-78. All later editions followed Rm. However, I. H. Boehmer and Msi[1] 2 (1748) 1073-1098 (afterwards in Msi 23 (1779) 651-674) printed Coll. III. in addition. Coll. I, as such, has never been edited; but there exists both an indirect transmission (Coll. I + II, Coll. III, Liber Sextus) and a direct, single-family transmission through eight manuscript codices: Arras, Bibl. Municipale 541; Bratislava, formerly Cathedral Library, 13; Innsbruck, Universitaetsbibl., 70, fos. 335v-338v (= I); Kassel, Landesbibl., Iur. fol. 32; Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibl., Lat. 8201e, fos. 219v-220r, and Lat. 9654; Trier, Stadtbibl., 864; Vienna, Nationalbibl., 2073, fos. 238v-242v (= W).

Our edition of the constitutions tries to give all the documents truly belonging to the council. Coll. I has been taken as the base, and variants from M and R are set out in the critical apparatus. The text of Coll. I has been established from codices I and W, which we have seen in microfilm. With regard to M, the edition of H.R. Luard has been used. With regard to R, we have examined directly the register of Innocent IV. We think, moreover, that the last five constitutions in R (13-17, 17 is also in M and Annales de Burton) should also be included among the constitutions of the council, even though they were not included in Coil. I. We have printed the text of these five constitutions from the register of Innocent IV;as regards const. 17 we have also compared M and Annales de Burton ( = Bu).

We think that the bull of deposition of the emperor Frederick II must be considered a statute of the council, and we place this in front of the constitutions. The transmission of the text of the bull is involved, and the editions are very faulty. There are three copies of the bull: Vatican Archives, AA. Arm. I-XVIII, 171 (= V); Paris, Archives Nationales, L 245 no. 84 (= P); Lyons, Archives du Rhone, Fonds du chap. primat., Arm. Cham. vol. XXVII no. 2 (= L). Of these only V has been published. Other transcriptions of the bull are given in the register of Innocent IV, in some chronicles (Matthew of Paris, Annals of Plasencia, Annals of Melrose), in collections of decretals, and in some more recent publications (Bzovius). Our edition takes as its base V, P and L.

{The headings are added by the hypertext editor. Endnotes are given in parenthesis {}. They should be noted for variant readings and numberings.}

Bull Deposing The Emperor Frederick II

Innocent {1}, bishop, servant of the servants of God, in the presence of the holy council, for an everlasting record.

Raised, though unworthy, to the highest point of the apostolic dignity, by the will of the divine majesty, we ought to exercise a watchful, diligent and wise care of all Christians, to examine with close attention the merits of individuals and to weigh them in the balance of prudent deliberation, so that we may raise by suitable favours those whom a rigorous and just examination shows to be worthy, and depress the guilty with due penalties, weighing always the merit and the reward in a fair scale, repaying to each the amount of penalty or favour according to the nature of his work. Indeed since the terrible conflict of war has afflicted some countries of the christian world for a long time, as we desired with our whole heart the peace and tranquillity of the holy church of God and of all the christian people in general, we thought that we should send special ambassadors, men of great authority, to {2} the secular prince who was the special cause of this discord and suffering. He was the man whom our predecessor of happy memory, Pope Gregory {3}, had bound by anathema because of his excesses. The ambassadors we sent, men eager for his salvation, were our venerable brethren Peter of Albano {4}, at that time bishop of Rouen, William of Sabina {5}, at that time bishop of Modena, and our beloved son William {6}, cardinal-priest of the basilica of the Twelve Apostles and at that time abbot of Saint Facundus. Through them we proposed to him, because we and our brethren desired to have peace with him and with all people, as far as lay in our power, that we were ready to grant peace and tranquillity to him and also to the rest of the whole world.

Because the restitution of the prelates, clerics and all others whom he kept in captivity, and of all both clerics and laymen whom he had taken in the galleys7, could especially lead the way to peace, we asked and begged him through our said ambassadors to set these prisoners free. This both he and his envoys had promised before we had been called to the apostolic office. Further we informed him that our ambassadors were ready on our behalf to hear and treat of peace, and even of satisfaction, should the emperor be ready to make it with regard to all those things for which he had incurred excommunication; and besides to offer him that if the church had injured him in anything contrary to justice-though it did not believe it had done so -- it was ready to put it to rights and restore the proper position. If he said that he had harmed the church in nothing unjustly, or that we had harmed him contrary to justice, we were ready to call the kings, prelates and princes, both ecclesiastical and lay, to some safe place where either by themselves or by official representatives they might come together, and that the church was ready on the advice of the council to satisfy him if in anything it had harmed him, and to recall the sentence of excommunication if it had been brought unjustly against him, and with all clemency and mercy, in so far as it could be done without offence to God and its own honour, to receive satisfaction from him for the injuries and wrongs done to the church itself and its members through him.

The church also wished to secure peace for his friends and supporters and the enjoyment of full security, so that for this reason they should never incur any danger. But though in our relations with him, for the sake of peace, we have always taken care to rely on paternal admonitions and gentle entreaty, yet he, following the hardness of Pharaoh and blocking his ears like an asp, with proud obstinacy and obstinate pride has despised such prayers and admonitions. Furthermore on the Maundy Thursday previous to that which has just passed, in our presence and that of our brother cardinals, and in the presence of our dear son in Christ, the illustrious emperor of Constantinople {8}, and of a considerable gathering of prelates, before the senate and people of Rome and a very large number of others, who on that day because of its solemnity had come to the apostolic see from different parts of the world, he guaranteed on oath, through the noble count Raymond of Toulouse, and Masters Peter de Vinea and Thaddaeus of Suessa, judges of his court, his envoys and proctors who had in this matter a general commission, that he would keep our commands and those of the church.

However afterwards he did not fulfil what he had sworn. Indeed it is likely enough that he took the oath, as can be clearly gathered from his following actions, with the express intention of mocking rather than obeying us and the church, since after more than a year he could not be reconciled to the bosom of the church, nor did he trouble to make satisfaction for the losses and injuries he had caused it, even though he was asked to do this. For this reason, as we are unable without giving offence to Christ to bear any longer his wickedness, we are compelled, urged on by our conscience, justly to punish him.

To say nothing about his other crimes, he has committed four of the greatest gravity, which cannot be hidden by evasion. For, he has often failed to keep his oath; he deliberately broke the peace previously established between the church and the empire; he committed a sacrilege by causing the arrest of cardinals of the holy Roman church and of prelates and clerics of other churches, both religious and secular, who were coming to the council which our predecessor had decided to summon; he is also suspect of heresy, by proofs which are not light or doubtful but clear and inescapable.

It is clear that he has often been guilty of perjury. For, once when he was staying in Sicily, before he had been elected to the dignity of emperor, in the presence of Gregory of happy memory, cardinal deacon of Saint Theodore {9} and legate of the apostolic see, he took an oath of loyalty to our predecessor Pope Innocent10 of happy memory and his successors and the Roman church, in return for the grant of the kingdom of Sicily made to him by this same church. Likewise, as is said, after he had been elected to that same dignity and had come to Rome, in the presence of Innocent and his brother cardinals and before many others, he renewed that oath, making his pledge of hommage in the pope's hands. Then, when he was in Germany he swore to the same Innocent, and on his death to our predecessor Pope Honorius {11} of happy memory and his successors and the Roman church itself, in the presence of the princes and nobles of the empire, to preserve as far as was in his power, the honours, rights and possessions of the Roman church, and loyally to protect them, and without difficulty to see to the restoration of whatever came into his hands, expressly naming the said possessions in the oath:

afterwards he confirmed this when he had gained the imperial crown. But he has deliberately broken these three oaths, not without the brand of treachery and the charge of treason. For against our predecessor Gregory and his brother cardinals, he has dared to send threatening letters to these cardinals, and in many ways to slander Gregory before his brother cardinals, as is clear from the letters which he then sent to them, and almost throughout the whole world, as it is said, he has presumed to defame him.

He also personally caused the arrest of our venerable brother Otto {12}, bishop of Porto, at that time cardinal deacon of Saint Nicholas in Carcere Tulliano, and James of happy memory, bishop of Palestrina {13}, legates of the apostolic see, noble and important members of the Roman church. He had them stripped of all their goods, and after more than once being led shamefully through different places, committed to prison. Furthermore this privilege which our lord Jesus Christ handed to Peter and in him to his successors, namely, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, in which assuredly consists the authority and power of the Roman church, he did his best to diminish or take away from the church itself, writing that he did not fear Pope Gregory's condemnations.

For, not only by despising the keys of the church he did not observe the sentence of excommunication pronounced against him, but also by himself and his officials he prevented others from observing that and other sentences of excommunication and interdict, which he altogether set at nought. Also without fear he seized territories of the said Roman church, namely the Marches, the Duchy, Benevento, the walls and towers of which he has caused to be demolished, and others with few exceptions in parts of Tuscany and Lombardy and certain other places which he holds, and he still keeps hold of them. And as if it were not enough that he was clearly going against the aforesaid oaths by such presumption, either by himself or through his officials he has forced the inhabitants of these territories to break their oath, absolving them in fact, since he cannot do it in law, from the oaths of loyalty by which they were bound to the Roman church, and making them nonetheless forswear the said loyalty and take an oath of loyalty to himself.

It is absolutely clear that he is the violator of the peace. For, previously at a time when peace had been restored between himself and the church, he took an oath before the venerable John of Abbeville {14}, bishop of Sabina, and Master Thomas {15}, cardinal priest of the title of Saint Sabina, in the presence of many prelates, princes and barons, that he would observe and obey exactly and without reserve all the commands of the church with regard to those things for which he had incurred excommunication, after the reasons of that excommunication had been set out in order before him. Then, when remitting every sanction and penalty to the Teutonic knights, the inhabitants of the kingdom of Sicily and any others who had supported the church against him, he guaranteed on his soul through Thomas, count of Acerra, that he would never wrong them or cause them to be wronged on the ground that they had supported the church. But he did not keep the peace and violated these oaths without any sense of shame that he was guilty of perjury.

For afterwards he caused some of these very men, both nobles and others, to be captured; and after stripping them of all their goods, he had their wives and children imprisoned; and contrary to the promise he had made to bishop John of Sabina and cardinal Thomas, he invaded the lands of the church without hesitation, even though they promulgated in his presence that henceforth he would incur sentence of excommunication if he broke his promise. And when these two ecclesiastics, by their apostolic authority, ordered that neither by himself nor through others should he hinder postulations, elections or confirmations of churches and monasteries in the kingdom of Sicily from being held freely in future according to the statutes of the general council; that henceforth nobody in the same kingdom should impose taxes or collections on ecclesiastical persons or their property; that in the same kingdom no cleric or ecclesiastical person should in future be brought before a lay judge in a civil or criminal case, except for a suit in civil law over feudal rights; and that he should make adequate compensation to the Templars, Hospitallers and other ecclesiastical persons for the loss and injury inflicted upon them; he nevertheless refused to obey these commands.

It is clear that in the kingdom of Sicily eleven or more archiepiscopal and many episcopal sees, abbacies and other churches are at present vacant, and through his agency, as is patent, these have long been deprived of prelates, to their own grave loss and the ruin of souls. And though perhaps in some churches of the kingdom elections have been held by chapters, since however they have elected clerics who are Frederick's dependants, it can be concluded in all probability that they did not have a free power of choice. Not only has he caused the possessions and goods of churches in the kingdom to be seized at his pleasure, but also the crosses, thuribles, chalices and other sacred treasures of theirs, and silk cloth, to be carried off, like one who sets at nought divine worship, and although it is said that they have been restored in part to the churches, yet a price was first exacted for them. Indeed clerics are made to suffer in many ways by collections and taxes, and not only are they dragged before a lay court but also, as it is asserted, they are compelled to submit to duels and are imprisoned, killed and tortured to the disturbance and insult of the clerical order.

Satisfaction has not been made to the said Templars, Hospitallers and ecclesiastical persons for the loss and injury done to them.

It is also certain that he is guilty of sacrilege. For when the aforesaid bishops of Porto and Palestrina, and many prelates of churches and clerics, both religious and secular, summoned to the apostolic see to hold the council which Frederick himself had previously asked for, were coming by sea, since the roads had been entirely blocked at his command, he stationed his son Enzo with a large number of galleys and, by means of many others duly placed long beforehand, he laid an ambush against them in the parts of Tuscany on the coast; and so that he might vomit forth in more deadly fashion the poison which had long gathered within him, by an act of sacrilegious daring he caused them to be captured; during their seizure some of the prelates and others were drowned, a number were killed, some were put to flight and pursued, and the rest were stripped of all their possessions, ignominiously led from place to place to the kingdom of Sicily, and there harshly imprisoned. Some of them, overcome by the filth and beset by hunger, perished miserably.

Furthermore, he has deservedly become suspect of heresy. For, after he had incurred the sentence of excommunication pronounced against him by the aforesaid John, bishop of Sabina, and cardinal Thomas, after the said pope Gregory had laid him under anathema, and after the capture of cardinals of the Roman church, prelates, clerics and others coming at different times to the apostolic see; he has despised and continues to despise the keys of the church, causing the sacred rites to be celebrated or rather, as far as in him lies, to be profaned, and he has consistently asserted, as said above, that he does not fear the condemnations of the aforesaid pope Gregory. Besides, he is joined in odious friendship with the Saracens; several times he has sent envoys and gifts to them, and receives the like from them in return with expressions of honour and welcome; he embraces their rites; he openly keeps them with him in his daily services; and, following their customs, he does not blush to appoint as guards, for his wives descended from royal stock, eunuchs whom it is seriously said he has had castrated. And what is more loathsome, when he was in the territory overseas, after he had made an agreement, or rather had come to a wicked understanding with the sultan, he allowed the name of Mahomet to be publicly proclaimed day and night in the Lord's temple.

Recently, after the sultan of Babylon and his followers had brought serious loss and untold injury to the holy Land and its christian inhabitants, he caused the envoys of the sultan to be honourably received and lavishly entertained throughout the kingdom of Sicily with, it is said, every mark of honour being paid to the sultan. Using the deadly and hateful service of other unbelievers against the faithful, and securing a bond by friendship and marriage with those who, wickedly making light of the apostolic see, have separated from the unity of the church, he brought about by assassins the death of the famous duke Ludwig of Bavaria {16}, who was specially devoted to the Roman church, with disregard of the christian religion, and he gave his daughter in marriage to Vatatzes {17}, that enemy of God and the church who, together with his counsellors and supporters, was solemnly separated by excommunication from the communion of the faithful.

Rejecting the customs and actions of christian princes and heedless of salvation and reputation, he gives no attention to works of piety. Indeed to say nothing of his wicked acts of destruction, though he has learnt to oppress, he does not care mercifully to relieve the oppressed, and instead of holding out his hand in charity, as befits a prince, he sets about the destruction of churches and crushes religious and other ecclesiastical persons by constant affliction. Nor is he seen to have built churches, monasteries, hospitals or other pious places. Surely these are not light but convincing proofs for suspecting him of heresy? The civil law declares that those are to be regarded as heretics, and ought to be subject to the sentences issued against them, who even on slight evidence are found to have strayed from the judgment and path of the catholic religion.

Besides this the kingdom of Sicily, which is the special patrimony of blessed Peter and which Frederick held as a fief from the apostolic see, he has reduced to such a state of utter desolation and servitude, with regard to both clergy and laity, that these have practically nothing at all; and as nearly all upright people have been driven out, he has forced those who remain to live in an almost servile condition and to wrong in many ways and attack the Roman church, of which in the first place they are subjects and vassals. He could also be rightly blamed because for more than nine years he has failed to pay the annual pension of a thousand gold pieces, which he is bound to pay to the Roman church for this kingdom.

We therefore, after careful discussion with our brother cardinals and the sacred council on his wicked transgressions already mentioned and many more besides, since though unworthy we hold on earth the place of Jesus Christ, and to us in the person of the blessed apostle Peter has been said, whatever you bind on earth etc., denounce the said prince, who has made himself so unworthy of the empire and kingdoms and every honour and dignity and who also, because of his crimes, has been cast out by God from kingdom and empire; we mark him out as bound by his sins, an outcast and deprived by our Lord of every honour and dignity; and we deprive him of them by our sentence. We absolve from their oath for ever all those who are bound to him by an oath of loyalty, firmly forbidding by our apostolic authority anyone in the future to obey or heed him as emperor or king, and decreeing that anyone who henceforth offers advice, help or favour to him as to an emperor or king, automatically incurs excommunication. Let those whose task it is to choose an emperor in the same empire, freely choose a successor to him. With regard to the aforesaid kingdom of Sicily, we shall take care to provide, with the counsel of our brother cardinals, as we see to be expedient.

Given at Lyons on 17 July in the third year of our pontificate.



1.On rescripts

Since in many articles of law failure to define their scope is blameworthy, after prudent consideration we decree that by the general clause "certain others" which frequently occurs in papal letters, no more than three or four persons are to be brought to court. The petitioner should state the names in his first citation, lest by chance a place is left for fraud if the names can be freely altered {18}.

2. {19} Those to whom cases should be entrusted

By {20} the present decree we ordain that the apostolic see or its legates should not entrust cases to any persons except those who possess a dignity or belong to cathedrals or other collegiate churches of high standing; and such cases are to be conducted only in cities or large and well-known places where are to be found many men learned in the law. Judges who, contrary to this statute, cite either one or both parties to other places may be disobeyed without penalty, unless the citation takes place with the consent of both parties.

3. {21} Curtailing legal expenses

As we wish, to the best of our power, to curtail the expenses of lawsuits by shortening the legal process, extending the decree of Innocent III of happy memory on this matter, we decree that if anyone wishes to bring several personal claims against another, he must be careful to gain letters on all these claims to the same judges and not to different ones. If anyone acts contrary to this, his letters and the processes initiated by them are to lack all validity; besides if he has caused inconvenience to the defendant by them, he is to be condemned to pay the legal expenses. Also if the defendant during the course of the same trial declares that he has a charge against the plaintiff, he ought, through benefit either of reconvention or of convention, if he prefers to obtain letters against him, to have his case tried before the same judges, unless he can reject them as being suspect. If he acts contrary to this, he should suffer the same penalty.

4. {22} On challenging elections etc.

We decree that if anyone attacks an election, postulation or provision already made, bringing some objection to the form or the person, and should happen to appeal to us in this matter, both the objector and the defendant, and in general all those who are concerned and whom the case affects, either by themselves or by their procurators instructed for the case, should make their way to the apostolic see within a month of the lodging of the objection. But if one party {23} does not come after twenty days, and the other party has arrived and is waiting, the case about the election may proceed according to law, notwithstanding the absence of anyone. We wish and command that this is to be observed in dignities parsonages and canonries. We {24} also add that anyone who does not fully prove the objection he has brought regarding the form, shall be condemned to pay the expenses which the other party claims to have incurred on this account. But anyone who fails to prove his objection against the person, should know that he is suspended from ecclesiastical benefices for three years, and if within that time he continues to act with similar reckless conduct, that by the law itself he is deprived of these benefices for ever, and he is to have no hope or confidence of mercy in this matter, unless it is established by the clearest proof that a probable and sufficient cause excuses him from a malicious accusation.

5. {25} Only unconditional votes valid

In {26} elections, postulations and ballots, from which the right of election arises, we completely disapprove of conditional, alternative and indefinite votes, and we decree that the said votes are to be held invalid, and that the election is to be determined by unconditional votes; for the power of decision of those who do not express a clear opinion is transferred to the others {27}.

6. {28} Jurisdiction of conservators

We decree that conservators, whom we frequently appoint, may defend from manifest injury and violence those whom we entrust to their protection, but that their power does not extend to other matters which require a judicial investigation.

7. {29} Legates and benefices

We are required by our office to watch for remedies for our subjects, because while we relieve their burdens and remove their stumbling blocks, so we rest in their ease and enjoy their peace. Therefore we enact by the present decree that legates of the Roman church, however much they hold the full power of legates whether they have been sent by us or claim the dignity of that office on behalf of their own churches, have no power from the office of legate of conferring benefices, unless we have judged that this is specially to be granted to a particular one. We do not, however, wish this restriction to hold with our brother cardinals while acting as legates, because just as they rejoice in a prerogative of honour, so we wish them to exercise a wider authority.

8. {30} Judge delegates

The law seems to be clear that a judge delegate, unless he has received a special concession for the purpose from the apostolic see, cannot order either of the parties to appear in person before him, unless it be a criminal case or, in order to obtain a statement of the truth or an oath regarding calumny, the necessity of the law demands that the parties appear before him.

9. {31} On peremptory exceptions

The objection of a peremptory exception or of any major defence concerning the trial of a case, raised before the contestation of the suit, shall not prevent or hold up the contestation, unless the objector makes an exception concerning a matter already judged or concluded or brought to a solution, even though the objector says that the rescript would not have been granted if the grantor had been aware of the things which are adverse to the plaintiff.

10. {32} The objection of robbery

We are well aware of the frequent and persistent complaint that the exception of robbery, sometimes maliciously introduced in trials, hinders and confuses ecclesiastical cases. For while the exception is admitted, sometimes appeals are introduced. Thus the hearing of the chief case is interrupted and often comes to nothing. Thus we who are ever ready to take labours upon ourselves so that we may win peace for others, wishing to limit lawsuits and to remove material for malicious accusations, decree that in civil suits a judge is not to hold up the proceedings of the major issue on account of an objection of robbery brought by anyone except the plaintiff. But if the defendant declares in civil suits that he has been robbed by the plaintiff, or in criminal cases by anyone at all, then he must prove his assertion within fifteen days after the day on which the claim is put forward; otherwise he is to be condemned to pay the expenses which the plaintiff has incurred on this account, after a judicial estimate has been made, or let him be punished otherwise if the judge thinks right. By the word "robbed" we wish to be understood in this case a criminal accusation whereby someone declares that he has been stripped by violence of all his substance or a greater part of it.

This we think is the only honest interpretation of the canons, for we ought not to meet our opponents either naked or without arms. For the one stripped has the advantage that he cannot be stripped again. Among the schoolmen the matter is debated, whether one who has been robbed by a third party can bring an exception against his accuser, or whether a time should be granted him by the judge within which he should ask for restitution, lest perchance he should wish to continue in this state in order to evade every accuser, and this we think is fully according to justice. If he does not seek restitution within the time granted, or does not bring his case to a conclusion even though he could do so, then he can be accused regardless of the exception ofrobbery. In addition to this we decree that robbery of private goods cannot in any way be brought up against one for ecclesiastics or vice versa.

11. {33} No-show plaintiffs

A plaintiff who does not take the trouble to come on the date for which he has caused his appeal to be cited, should be condemned on his arrival to pay the expenses incurred by the defendant on account of this, and he is not to be admitted to another citation unless he gives a sufficient surety that he will appear on the date.

12. {34} On early possession for the sake of preservation

We decree that a person who, in order to obtain a dignity, parsonage or ecclesiastical benefice, brings a suit against the possessor, may not be admitted to possession of it for the sake of its preservation, on the grounds of the other's contumacy; this is to prevent his entering upon it from appearing irregular. But in this case the divine presence may make up for the absence of the contumacious one, so that though the suit is not opposed, the matter may be brought to the proper conclusion after a careful examination.

13. {35} On the acceptability of negative assertions

We decree that negative assertions, which can only be proved by the admission of the opponent, may be accepted by the judges if they see this to be expedient in the interests of equity.

14. {36} The exception of major excommunication

After due consideration our holy mother the church decrees that the exception of a major excommunication should hold up the suit and delay the agents, in whatever part of the proceedings it is produced. Thus ecclesiastical censure will be the more feared, the danger of communion avoided, the vice of contumacy checked, and those excommunicated, while they are excluded from the acts of the community, may the more easily be brought, through a sense of shame, to the grace of humility and reconciliation. But with the growth of human evil what was provided as a remedy has turned to harm. For while in ecclesiastical cases this exception is frequently brought up through malice, it happens that business is delayed and the parties worn out by toil and expense. Therefore, since this has crept in like a general plague, we think it right to apply a general remedy. Thus if anyone brings up the objection of excommunication, he should set out the kind of excommunication and the name of the person who imposed the penalty. He must know that he is bringing the matter into public notice, and he must prove it with the clearest evidence within eight days, not counting the day on which he brings it forward.

If he does not prove it, the judge should not fail to proceed in the case, condemning the accused to repay the sum which the plaintiff shows he has incurred, after an estimate has been made. If however later, while the hearing continues and the proof is progressing, an exception is made either with regard to the same excommunication or another and is proved, the plaintiff is to be excluded from the proceedings until he has deserved to gain the grace of absolution, and all that has gone before shall nevertheless be regarded as valid; provided that this exception is not put forward more than twice, unless a new excommunication has arisen or a clear and ready proof has come to light concerning the old. If such an exception is brought forward after the case has been decided though it will prevent the execution it will not weaken the verdict, with the qualification that, if the plaintiff has been publicly excommunicated, and the judge knows this at any time, then even if the accused shall not make an exception on this score, the judge should not delay in removing the plaintiff from his office.

15. {37} On Judges Who Give Dishonest Judgment

Since before the judgment seat of the eternal king a person will not be held guilty when a judge unjustly condemns him, according to the words of the prophet, the Lord will not condemn him when he is judged, ecclesiastical judges must take care and be on the watch that in the process of justice dislike has no power, favour does not take an undue place, fear is banished, and reward or hope of reward does not overturn justice. Let them bear the scales in their hands and weigh with an equal balance, so that in all that is done in the court, especially in forming and giving the verdict, they may have God only before their eyes following the example of him who when entering the tabernacle referred the complaints of the people to the Lord to judge according to his command.

If any ecclesiastical judge, whether ordinary or delegated, careless of his reputation and seeking his own honour, acts against his conscience and justice in any way to the injury of one party in his judgment, whether from favour or from base motives, let him know that he is suspended from the exercise of his office for a year and he is to be condemned to pay to the injured party the damages incurred; further, let him know that if during the period of his suspension he sacrilegiously takes part in the sacred rites of the church, he is caught in the noose of irregularity according to the canonical sanctions, from which he can be freed only by the apostolic see, saving the other constitutions which assign and inflict punishment on judges who give dishonest judgment. For it is right that he who dares to offend in so many ways should suffer a multiple penalty.

16. {38} On appeals

It is our earnest wish to lessen lawsuits and to relieve subjects of their troubles. Therefore we decree that if anyone thinks that he should appeal to us in a court of law or outside it because of an interlocutory decree or a grievance, let him at once put in writing the reason for his appeal, seeking a writ which we order to be granted him. In this writ the judge is to declare the reason for the appeal, and why the appeal has not been granted or whether it was granted out of respect for a superior. After this let time be granted to the appellant, according to distance and the nature of the persons and the business, to follow up his appeal. If the appellee wishes it and the principals petition for it, let them approach the apostolic see, either by themselves or through agents who have been instructed and given a commission to act, bringing with them the reasons and documents relating to the case. Let them come so prepared that if it seems good to us, when the matter of the appeal has been dealt with or committed to the parties for agreement, the principal case may proceed, insofar as it can and should by law; without however any change in what tradition has ordained about appeals from definitive sentences.

If the appellant does not observe the above provisions, he is not to be reckoned an appellant and he must return to the examination of the former judge, and is to be condemned to pay the legitimate expenses. If the appellee disregards this statute, he shall be proceeded against as contumacious, as regards both the costs and the case, in so far as this is allowed by the law. Indeed it is right that the laws should raise their hands against someone who mocks the law, judge and litigant.

17. {39} On the same

When reasonable grounds for suspicion have been noted against a judge, and arbitrators have been chosen by the parties according to the form of law to investigate it, it often happens that when the two arbitrators fail to agree and do not summon a third one, with whom both or one of them can proceed to settle the matter as they are obliged, the judge brings a sentence of excommunication against them, which they through dislike or favour for long disregard. Thus the case itself, interrupted more than it should be, does not proceed to a settlement of the principal business. As it is our wish therefore to apply a necessary remedy for a disease of this nature, we decree that a fitting time-limit should be fixed by the judge for the two arbitrators, so that within it they may either agree or by consent summon a third one, with whom both or one of them may put an end to the suspicion. Otherwise the judge thenceforth shall proceed in the principal business.

18. {40} On employing assassins

The son of God, Jesus Christ, for the redemption of the human race descended from the height of heaven to the lowest part of the world and underwent a temporal death. But when after his resurrection he was about to ascend to his Father, that he might not leave the flock redeemed by his glorious blood without a shepherd, he entrusted its care to the blessed apostle Peter, so that by the firmness of his own faith he might strengthen others in the christian religion and kindle their minds with the ardour of devotion to the works of their salvation. Hence we who by the will of our Lord, though without merit of our own, have been made successors of this apostle and hold on earth, though unworthy, the place of our Redeemer, should always be careful and vigilant in the guarding of that flock and be forced to direct our thoughts continuously to the salvation of souls by removing what is harmful and doing what is profitable.

Thus casting off the sleep of negligence and with the eyes of our heart ever vigilant, we may be able to win souls to God with the cooperation of his grace. Since therefore there are people who with a terrible inhumanity and loathsome cruelty thirst for the death of others and cause them to be killed by assassins, and thus bring about not only the death of the body but also of the soul, unless the abundant divine grace prevents it, we wish to meet such danger to souls, so that the victims may be defended beforehand by spiritual arms and all power may be bestowed by God for justice and the exercise of right judgment, and to strike those wicked and reckless people with the sword of ecclesiastical punishment, so that the fear of punishment may set a limit to their audacity. We do so especially since some persons of high standing, fearing to be killed in such a way, are forced to beg for their own safety from the master of these assassins, and thus so to speak to redeem their life in a way that is an insult to christian dignity.

Therefore, with the approval of the sacred council, we decree that if any prince, prelate or any ecclesiastical or secular person shall cause the death of any Christian by such assassins, or even command it -- even though death does not follow from this-or receives, defends or hides such persons, he automatically incurs the sentence of excommunication and of deposition from dignity, honour, order, office and benefice, and these are to be conferred on others by those who have the right to do so. Let such a one with all his worldly goods be cast out for ever by all christian people as an enemy of religion, and after it has been established by reasonable evidence that so loathsome a crime has been committed, no other sentence of excommunication, deposition or rejection shall in any way be needed.

19. {41} On excommunication 1

Since the aim of excommunication is healing and not death, correction and not destruction, as long as the one against whom it is pronounced does not treat it with contempt, let an ecclesiastical judge proceed with caution, so that in pronouncing It he may be seen as one who acts with a correcting and healing hand. Whoever pronounces an excommunication, therefore, should do this in writing and should write down expressly the reason why the excommunication was pronounced. He is bound to hand over a copy of this written document to the one excommunicated within a month after the date of sentence, if requested to do so. As to this request, we wish a public document to be drawn up or testimonial letters to be furnished, sealed with an official seal. If any judge rashly violates this constitution, let him know that he is suspended for one month from entering a church or attending divine services. The superior to whom the one excommunicated has recourse, should readily remove the excommunication and condemn the judge who pronounced it to repay the expenses and all losses, or punish him in other ways with a fitting penalty, so that judges may learn by the lesson of punishment how serious it is to hurl the bolt of excommunication without due consideration. We wish the same to be observed in sentences of suspension and interdict. Let prelates of churches and all judges take care that they do not incur the foresaid penalty of suspension. But if it happens that they take part m divine offices as before, they will not escape irregularity according to the canonical sanctions, in a matter where dispensation cannot be granted except by the sovereign pontiff.

20. {42} On excommunication 2

The question is sometimes asked whether, when a person who asks to be absolved by a superior by way of precaution, asserting that the sentence of excommunication pronounced against him is void, the act of absolution should be performed for him without objection; and whether one who declares before such absolution that he will prove in a court of law that he was excommunicated after a legitimate appeal, or that an intolerable mistake was clearly expressed in the sentence, should be avoided in all things except in what concerns the proof. To the first question we decree that the following is to be observed: absolution is not to be refused to the petitioner, even though the pronouncer of the sentence or the adversary opposes it, unless he says that the petitioner was excommunicated for a manifest offence, in which case a limit of eight days is to be granted to the one saying this. If he proves his objection, the sentence is not to be set aside unless there is sufficient guarantee of amendment or an adequate assurance that the petitioner will appear in court if the offence with which he is charged is still doubtful. To the second question, we decree that he who is allowed to submit a proof, as long as the matter of proof is in dispute, is to be avoided in all matters in the court in which he is engaged as an agent, but outside the court he may take part in offices, postulations, elections and other lawful acts.

21. {43} On excommunication 3

We decree {44} that no judge should presume to pronounce, before a canonical warning, a sentence of major excommunication upon persons who associate, in speech or other ways by which an associate incurs a minor excommunication, with persons already excommunicated by the judge; saving those decrees which have legitimately been promulgated against those who presume to associate with one condemned for grievous crime. But it the excommunicated person becomes hardened in speech or other ways by which an associate incurs a minor excommunication, the judge can, after canonical warning, condemn such associates with a similar censure. Otherwise excommunication pronounced against these associates is not to have any binding power, and those who pronounce it may fear the penalty of the law.

22. {45} On excommunication 4

Since there is danger that bishops and their superiors in the execution of their pontifical office, which is often their duty, may incur in some case an automatic sentence of interdict or suspension, we have thought it right, after careful consideration, to decree that bishops and other higher prelates in no way incur, because of any decree, sentence or order, the aforesaid sentence by reason of the law itself, unless there is express mention in them of bishops and superiors. In the constitution Solet a nonnullis, previously promulgated by us, it is laid down that when someone offers in court to prove that a sentence of excommunication was passed against him after a legitimate appeal, he is not to be avoided during the period of proof in matters which lie outside the court, such as elections, postulations and offices. To this we add that this constitution should not be extended to the sentences of bishops and archbishops, but what was previously observed in such actions should be observed in the future for these too.


1. {46} Management of church debts

Our pastoral care incites and urges us to look to the interest of those churches which have fallen into debt, and to provide by a salutary constitution that this should not happen for the future. The abyss of usury has almost destroyed many churches, and some prelates are found to be very careless and remiss in the payment of debts, especially those contracted by their predecessors, too ready to contract heavier debts and mortgage the property of the church, slothful in guarding what has been acquired, and preferring to win praise for themselves by making some small innovation than to guard their possessions, recover what has been thrown away, restore what is lost and repair damage. For this reason, so that they may not be able for the future to excuse themselves for an inefficient administration and to throw the blame on their predecessors and others, we lay down the following rules, with the approval of the present council.

Bishops, abbots, deans and others who exercise a lawful and common administration, within one month after they have assumed office, having first informed their immediate superior, so that he may be present either in person or through some suitable and faithful ecclesiastical person, in the presence of the chapter or convent especially summoned for this purpose, must see that an inventory is made of the goods that belong to the administration they have taken up. In this the movable and immovable goods, books, charters, legal instruments, privileges, ornaments or fittings of the church, and all things which belong to the equipment of the estate, whether urban or rural, as well as debts and credits, are to be carefully written down. Thus, what was the condition of the church or the administration when they took it up, how they governed it during their incumbency, and what was its state when they laid it down by death or withdrawal, may be clearly known to the superior, if necessary, and those who are appointed for the service of the church. Archbishops who have no superior except the Roman pontiff, are to see to it that for this purpose they summon one of their suffragans, either in person or through another, as is expressed above, and abbots and other lesser exempt prelates, a neighbouring bishop, who is to claim no right for himself in the exempt church.

The said inventory is to be furnished with the seals of the new incumbent and his chapter, and of the archbishop's suffragan or the neighbouring bishop called for the purpose. It is to be preserved in the archives of the church with due safeguards. Moreover a transcript of this inventory is to be given to both the new incumbent and the prelate summoned for the above purpose, and is to be similarly sealed. Existing goods are to be carefully guarded, their administration carried out in a worthy manner, and the debts which have been found are to be speedily paid, if possible, from the movable possessions of the church. If these movable goods are not sufficient for a speedy payment, all revenues are to be directed to the payment of debts that are usurious or burdensome; only necessary expenses are to be deducted from these revenues, after a reasonable estimate has been made by the prelate and his chapter. But if the debts are not burdensome or usurious, a third part of these revenues is to be set aside for this obligation, or a greater part with the agreement of those whom we have said must be summoned to take the inventory.

Further we strictly forbid, with the authority of the same council, those mentioned above to mortgage to others their persons or the churches entrusted to them, or to contract debts on behalf of themselves or the churches which may be a source of trouble. If evident necessity and the reasonable advantage of their churches should persuade them, then prelates with the advice and consent of their superiors, and archbishops and exempt abbots with the advice and consent of those already mentioned and of their chapter, may contract debts which, if possible, are not usurious and which are never in fairs or public markets. The names of the debtors and creditors and the reason why the debt was contracted are to be included in the written contract, even if it is turned to the advantage of the church, and for this purpose we wish that in no way ecclesiastical persons or churches should be given as security. Indeed the privileges of churches, which we command should be faithfully guarded in a safe place, are never to be given as securities, nor are other things, except for necessary and useful debts contracted with the full legal forms mentioned above.

That this salutary constitution should be kept unbroken, and the advantage which we hope from it may be clearly seen, we consider that we must lay down by an inviolable decree that all abbots and priors as well as deans and those in charge of cathedrals or other churches, at least once a year in their chapters, should render a strict account of their administration, and a written and sealed account should be faithfully read out in the presence of the visiting superior. Likewise archbishops and bishops are to take care each year to make known to their chapters with due fidelity the state of administration of the goods belonging to their households, and bishops to their metropolitans, and metropolitans to the legates of the apostolic see, or to others to whom the visitation of their churches has been assigned by the same see. Written accounts are always to be kept in the treasury of the church for a record, so that in the accounts a careful comparison can be made between future years and the present and past; and the superior may learn from this the care or negligence of the administration. Let the superior requite any negligence, keeping God only before his eyes and putting aside love, hate and fear of humans, with such a degree and kind of correction that he may not on this account receive from God or his superior or the apostolic see condign punishment. We order that this constitution is to be observed not only by future prelates but also by those already promoted.

2. {47} On help for the empire of Constantinople

Though we are engaged in difficult matters and distracted by manifold anxieties, yet among those things which demand our constant attention is the liberation of the empire of Constantinople. This we desire with our whole heart, this is ever the object of our thoughts. Yet though the apostolic see has eagerly sought a remedy on its behalf by earnest endeavour and many forms of assistance, though for long Catholics have striven by grievous toils, by burdensome expense, by care, sweat, tears and bloodshed, yet the hand that extended such aid could not wholly, hindered by sin, snatch the empire from the yoke of the enemy. Thus not without cause we are troubled with grief. But because the body of the church would be shamefully deformed by the lack of a loved member, namely the aforesaid empire, and be sadly weakened and suffer loss; and because it could rightly be assigned to our sloth and that of the church, if it were deprived of the support of the faithful, and left to be freely oppressed by its enemies; we firmly propose to come to the help of the empire with swift and effective aid.

Thus at the same time as the church eagerly rises to its assistance and stretches out the hand of defence, the empire can be saved from the dominion of its foes, and be brought back by the Lord's guidance to the unity of that same body, and may feel after the crushing hammer of its enemies the consoling hand of the church its mother, and after the blindness of error regain its sight by the possession of the catholic faith. It is the more fitting that prelates of churches and other ecclesiastics should be watchful and diligent for its liberation, and bestow their help and assistance, the more they are bound to work for the increase of the faith and of ecclesiastical liberty, which could chiefly come about from the liberation of the empire; and especially because while the empire is helped, assistance is consequently rendered to the holy Land.

Indeed, so that the help to the empire may be speedy and useful, we decree, with the general approval of the council, that half of all incomes of dignities parsonages and ecclesiastical prebends, and of other benefices of ecclesiastics who do not personally reside in them for at least six months, whether they hold one or more, shall be assigned in full for three years to the help of the said empire, having been collected by those designated by the apostolic see. Those are exempt who are employed in our service or in that of our brother cardinals and of their prelates, those who are on pilgrimages or in schools, or engaged in the business of their own churches at their direction, and those who have or will take up the badge of the cross for the aid of the holy Land or who will set out in person to the help of the said empire; but if any of these, apart from the crusaders and those setting out, receive from ecclesiastical revenues more than a hundred silver marks, they should pay a third part of the remainder in each of the three years. This is to be observed notwithstanding any customs or statutes of churches to the contrary, or any indulgences granted by the apostolic see to these churches or persons, confirmed by oath or any other means. And if by chance in this matter any shall knowingly be guilty of any deceit, they shall incur the sentence of excommunication.

We ourselves, from the revenues of the church of Rome, after first deducting a tenth from them to be assigned to the aid of the holy Land, will assign a tenth part in full for the support of the said empire. Further, when help is given to the empire, assistance is given in a very particular way and directed to the recovery of the holy Land, while we are striving for the liberation of the empire itself. Thus trusting in the mercy of almighty God and the authority of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul, from the power of binding and loosing which he conferred upon us though unworthy, we grant pardon of their sins to all those who come to the help of the said empire, and we desire they may enjoy that privilege and immunity which is granted to those who come to the help of the holy Land.

3. {48} Admonition to be made by prelates to the people in their charge

In the belief that it is for ever our native country, from times long past all the children of the church have not only poured out countless sums of money but have also freely shed their blood to recover the holy Land, which the Son of God has consecrated with the shedding of his own blood. This we learn, sad at heart, from what has happened across the sea where the unbelievers fight against the faithful. Since it is the special prayer of the apostolic see that the desire of all for the redemption of the holy Land may, if God so wills, be speedily accomplished, we have made due provision, in order to win God's favour, to arouse you to this task by our letter. Therefore we earnestly beg all of you, commanding you in our lord Jesus Christ, that by your pious admonitions you should persuade the faithful committed to your care, in your sermons or when you Impose a penance upon them, granting a special indulgence, as you see it to be expedient, that in their wills, in return for the remission of their sins, they should leave something for the help of the holy Land or the eastern empire. You are carefully to provide that what they give for this support by way of money, through reverence of our crucified Lord, is faithfully preserved in definite places under your seal, and that what is bequeathed for this purpose in other forms is accurately recorded in writing. May your own devotion carry out this work of piety, in which the only aim is God's cause and the salvation of the faithful, so readily that with full assurance you may look at least for the reward of glory from the hand of the divine judge.

4. {49} On the Tartars

Since we desire above all things that the christian religion should be spread still further and more widely throughout the world, we are pierced with the deepest sorrow when any people by aim and action go against our wishes, and strive with all their might to blot out utterly this religion from the face of the world. Indeed the wicked race of the Tartars, seeking to subdue, or rather utterly destroy the christian people, having gathered for a long time past the strength of all their tribes, have entered Poland, Russia, Hungary and other christian countries. So savage has been their devastation that their sword spared neither sex nor age, but raged with fearful brutality upon all alike. It caused unparalleled havoc and destruction in these countries in its unbroken advance; for their sword, not knowing how to rest in the sheath, made other kingdoms subject to it by a ceaseless persecution. As time went on, it could attack stronger christian armies and exercise its savagery more fully upon them. Thus when, God forbid, the world is bereaved of the faithful, faith may turn aside from the world to lament its followers destroyed by the barbarity of this people. Therefore, so that the horrible purpose of this people may not prevail but be thwarted, and by the power of God be brought to the opposite result, all the faithful must carefully consider and ensure by their earnest endeavour that the Tartar advance may be hindered and prevented from penetrating any further by the power of their mailed arm.

Therefore, on the advice of the holy council, we advise, beg, urge and earnestly command all of you, as far as you can, carefully to observe the route and approaches by which this people can enter our land, and by ditches, walls or other defences and fortifications, as you think fitting, to keep them at bay, so that their approach to you may not easily be open. Word of their arrival should previously be brought to the apostolic see. Thus we may direct the assistance of the faithful to you, and thus you may be safe against the attempts and raids of this people. For to the necessary and useful expenses which you should make for that purpose, we shall contribute handsomely, and we shall see that contributions are made in proportion by all christian countries, for in this way we may meet common dangers. Nevertheless, in addition to this, we shall send similar letters to all Christians through whose territories this people could make its approach.

5 [On the crusade{50}]{51}

Deeply sorrowful at the grievous dangers of the holy Land, but especially at those which have recently happened to the faithful settled there, we seek with all our heart to free it from the hands of the wicked. Thus with the approval of the sacred council, in order that the crusaders may prepare themselves, we lay it down that at an opportune time, to be made known to all the faithful by preachers and our special envoys, all who are ready to cross the sea should gather at suitable places for this purpose, so that they may proceed from there with the blessing of God and the apostolic see to the assistance of the holy Land. Priests and other clerics who will be in the christian army, both those under authority and prelates, shall diligently devote themselves to prayer and exhortation, teaching the crusaders by word and example to have the fear and love of God always before their eyes, so that they say or do nothing that might offend the majesty of the eternal king.

If they ever fall into sin, let them quickly rise up again through true penitence. Let them he humble in heart and in body, keeping to moderation both in food and in dress, avoiding altogether dissensions and rivalries, and putting aside entirely any bitterness or envy, so that thus armed with spiritual and material weapons they may the more fearlessly fight against the enemies of the faith, relying not on their own power but rather trusting in the strength of God. Let nobles and the powerful in the army, and all who abound in riches, be led by the holy words of prelates so that, with their eyes fixed on the crucified one for whom they have taken up the badge of the cross, they may refrain from useless and unnecessary expenditure, especially in feasting and banquets, and let they give a share of their wealth to the support of those persons through whom the work of God may prosper; and on this account, according to the dispensation of the prelates themselves, they may be granted remission of their sins. We grant to the aforesaid clerics that they may receive the fruits of their benefices in full for three years, as if they were resident in the churches, and if necessary they may leave them in pledge for the same time.

To prevent this holy proposal being impeded or delayed, we strictly order all prelates of churches, each in his own locality, diligently to warn and induce those who have abandoned the cross to resume it, and them and others who have taken up the cross, and those who may still do so, to carry out their vows to the Lord. And if necessary they shall compel them to do this without any backsliding, by sentences of excommunication against their persons and of interdict on their lands, excepting only those persons who find themselves faced with an impediment of such a kind that their vow deservedly ought to be commuted or deferred in accordance with the directives of the apostolic see.

In order that nothing connected with this business of Jesus Christ be omitted, we will and order patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots and others who have the care of souls to preach the cross zealously to those entrusted to them. Let them beseech kings, dukes, princes, margraves, counts, barons and other magnates, as well as the communes of cities, vills and towns -- in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit, the one, only, true and eternal God -- that those who do not go in person to the aid of the holy Land should contribute, according to their means an appropriate number of fighting men together with their necessary expenses for three years, for the remission of their sins, in accordance with what has already been explained in general letters and will be explained below for still greater assurance. We wish to share in this remission not only those who contribute ships of their own but also those who are zealous enough to build them for this purpose.

To those who refuse, if there happen to be any who are so ungrateful to our lord God, we firmly declare in the name of the apostle that they should know that they will have to answer to us for this on the last day of final judgment before the fearful judge. Let them consider beforehand, however, with what knowledge and with what security it was that they were able to confess before the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, to whom the Father gave all things into his hands, if in this business, which is as it were peculiarly his, they refuse to serve him who was crucified for sinners, by whose beneficence they are sustained and indeed by whose blood they have been redeemed.

We therefore decree, with the general approval of the council, that all clerics, both those under authority and prelates, shall give a twentieth of the revenues of their churches for a full three years to the aid of the holy Land, by means of the persons appointed by the apostolic see for this purpose; the only exceptions being certain religious who are rightly to be exempted from this taxation and likewise those persons who have taken or will take the cross and so will go in person. We and our brothers, cardinals of the holy Roman church, shall pay a full tenth. Let all know, moreover, that they are obliged to observe this faithfully under pain of excommunication, so that those who knowingly deceive in this matter shall incur the sentence of excommunication. Because it is right that those who persevere in the service of the heavenly ruler should in all justice enjoy special privilege, the crusaders shall therefore be exempt from taxes or levies and other burdens. We take their persons and goods under the protection of St Peter and ourself once they have taken up the cross. We ordain that they are to be protected by archbishops, bishops and all prelates of the church of God, and that protectors of their own are to be specially appointed for this purpose, so that their goods are to remain intact and undisturbed until they are known for certain to be dead or to have returned. If anyone dares to act contrary to this, let him be curbed by ecclesiastical censure.

If any of those setting out are bound by oath to pay interest, we ordain that their creditors shall be compelled by the same punishment to release them from their oath and to desist from exacting the interest; if any of the creditors does force them to pay the interest, we command that he be forced by similar punishment to restore it. We order that Jews be compelled by the secular power to remit interest, and that until they do so all intercourse shall be denied them by all Christ's faithful under pain of excommunication. Secular princes shall provide a suitable deferral for those who cannot now pay their debts to Jews, so that after they have undertaken the journey, and until there is certain knowledge of their death or of their return, they shall not incur the inconvenience of paying interest. The Jews shall be compelled to add to the capital, after they have deducted their necessary expenses, the revenues which they are meanwhile receiving from property held by them on security. For, such a benefit seems to entail not much loss, inasmuch as it postpones the repayment but does not cancel the debt.

Prelates of churches who are negligent in showing justice to crusaders and their families should know that they will be severely punished. Furthermore, since corsairs and pirates greatly impede help for the holy Land, by capturing and plundering those who are travelling to and from it, we bind with the bond of excommunication them and their principal helpers and supporters. We forbid anyone, under threat of anathema, knowingly to communicate with them by contracting to buy or to sell; and we order rulers of cities and their territories to restrain and curb such persons from this iniquity. Otherwise, since to be unwilling to disquiet evildoers is none other than to encourage them, and since he who fails to oppose a manifest crime is not without a touch of secret complicity, it is our wish and command that prelates of churches exercise ecclesiastical severity against their persons and lands. We excommunicate and anathematise, moreover, those false and impious Christians who, in opposition to Christ and the christian people, convey {52} arms and iron and timber for galleys; and we decree that those who sell them galleys or ships, and those who act as pilots in pirate Saracen ships, or give them any help or advice by way of machines or anything else, to the detriment of the holy Land, are to be punished with deprivation of their possessions and are to become the slaves of those who capture them.

We order this sentence to be renewed publicly on Sundays and feast-days in all maritime towns; and the bosom of the church is not to be opened to such persons unless they send in aid of the holy Land all that they received from this damnable commerce and the same amount of their own, so that they are punished in proportion to their sins. If perchance they do not pay, they are to be punished in other ways in order that through their punishment others may be deterred from venturing upon similar rash actions. In addition, we prohibit and on pain of anathema forbid all Christians, for four years, to send or take their ships across to the lands of the Saracens who dwell in the east, so that by this a greater supply of shipping may be made ready for those wanting to cross over to help the holy Land, and so that the aforesaid Saracens may be deprived of the not inconsiderable help which they have been accustomed to receiving from this.

Although tournaments have been forbidden in a general way on pain of a fixed penalty at various councils, we strictly forbid them to be held for three years, under pain of excommunication, because the business of the crusade is much hindered by them at this present time. Because it is of the utmost necessity for the carrying out of this business that rulers and christian peoples keep peace with each other, we therefore ordain, on the advice of this holy and general synod, that peace be generally kept in the whole christian world for four years, so that those in conflict shall be brought by the prelates of churches to conclude a definitive peace or to observe inviolably a firm truce. Those who refuse to comply shall be most strictly compelled to do so by an excommunication against their persons and an interdict on their lands, unless the malice of the wrongdoers is so great that they ought not to enjoy peace. If it happens that they make light of the church's censure, they may deservedly fear that the secular power will be invoked by ecclesiastical authority against them, as disturbers of the business of him who was crucified.

We therefore, trusting in the mercy of almighty God and in the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, do grant, by the power of binding and loosing that God has conferred upon us, albeit unworthy, unto all those who undertake this work in person and at their own expense, full pardon for their sins about which they are heartily contrite and have spoken in confession, and we promise them an increase of eternal life at the recompensing of the just. To those who do not go there in person but send suitable men at their own expense, according to their means and status, and likewise to those who go in person but at others' expense, we grant full pardon for their sins. We grant to share in this remission, according to the amount of their help and the intensity of their devotion, all who shall contribute suitably from their goods to the aid of the said Land or who give useful advice and help regarding the above. Finally, this holy and general synod imparts the benefit of its prayers and blessings to all who piously set out on this enterprise in order that it may contribute worthily to their salvation.


Introduction and translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner

Second Council of Lyons - 1274 A.D.

Advanced Information



After the death of Pope Clement IV (29 November 1268) almost three years passed before the cardinals were able to elect a new pope, Gregory X (1 September 1271). The political aspect of Europe in those times was undergoing great change. The popes themselves in their struggles with the German emperors had sought help from various states and had placed Charles of Anjou on the throne of Sicily. This long conflict, which the popes fought in order to protect their freedom and immunity, had finally upset the traditional system of government in Christendom. This system depended on two institutions, the papacy and the empire. In the East, moreover, the emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus had captured Constantinople in 1261 and brought the Latin empire there to an end.

Since the state of affairs was undoubtedly complex and difficult, Gregory X had conceived a very broad plan involving the whole christian world. In this plan the eastern question was of the highest importance. The pope sought to conclude a treaty with Michael VIII Palaeologus and to unite the eastern and western churches. For if the churches were united and the strength of all christian peoples were combined, the problem of the holy Land could be resolved and the Roman church could flourish with fresh authority and influence in the western states.

Gregory X, therefore, when he convoked the general council on 31 March 1272, outlined three themes: union with the Greeks, the crusade, and the reform of the church. Regarding the third theme, which was not only traditional in medieval councils but was also required by the actual state of ecclesiastical morals, the pope in March 1273 sought the opinion of all christian people and asked for their help. Some reports sent to him for this purpose are still extant. After long preparatory arrangements the council assembled at Lyons and opened on 7 May 1274. Probably there were present about 300 bishops, 60 abbots and a large number of other clergy, many of whom apparently were theologians (Thomas Aquinas died while on his journey to Lyons), as well as king James of Aragon and the delegates sent by the rulers of France, Germany, England and Sicily.

The Greeks arrived late, on 24 June, since they had been shipwrecked. Meanwhile a delegation of Tartars had also arrived. Although the number of participants does not seem to have been especially large, the whole christian world was present either in person or through representatives, and it was evident that the council, as Gregory X had wished, was universal and ecumenical.

The council had six general sessions: on 7 and 18 May, 4 or 7 June, 6, 16 and 17 July. In the fourth session the union of the Greek church with the Latin church was decreed and defined, this union being based on the consent which the Greeks had given to the claims of the Roman church. In the last session the dogmatic constitution concerning the procession of the holy Spirit was approved, this question having been a cause of disagreement between the two churches. The union however appears to have been imposed, on the Greek side by the emperor Michael VIII. He wanted the support of the pope in order to deter Charles of Anjou from an attack on the Byzantine empire, while the majority of the Greek clergy opposed the union. The union was therefore fleeting, either because in the East the clergy steadily resisted it, or because the popes after Gregory X changed their plan of action.

The weakness of the union with the Greeks also rendered a crusade impossible. Gregory X won the approval of the principal states of Europe for the undertaking and was able, in the second session, to impose heavy taxes (a tenth for six years) in order to carry it out (const. Zelus fidei, below pp. 309-314). The council however merely decided to engage in the crusade; no start was made at getting things done and the project came to nothing. Moreover Gregory died soon afterwards (10 January 1276), and he was not sufficiently influential or powerful to bring to a conclusion his plans for church and state.

With regard to the reform of the church, Gregory complained in the council's last session that discussion had not been sufficient to pass any definite decree. However, he was able to bring about that certain constitutions relating to the parish should be delegated to the curia. For the rest, some constitutions concerning church institutions were approved in various sessions. The most important one prescribed that a pope should be elected by the college of cardinals assembled in conclave (const. 2); constitution 23 attempts to adjust relations between secular clerics and religious; constitutions 26-27 treat of usury; and others treat of particular questions about the reform of morals and of the church.

There are at least two redactions (conciliar and post-conciliar) of the council's constitutions, as S. Kuttner has shown. In the second session the fathers had approved the decree Zelus fidei, which was rather a collection of constitutions about the holy Land, the crusade, the war against Saracens and pirates, and the order and procedure to be observed in the council (here for the first time the nations appear as ecclesiastical parts of a council). Next, twenty-eight constitutions were approved in the following sessions: const. 3-9, 15, 19, 24, 29-30 in the third, const. 2, 10-12, 16-17, 20-22, 25-28, 31 in the fifth, const. 1, 23 in the sixth session. The pope promulgated a collection of the council's constitutions on 1 November 1274, sent this to the universities with the bull Cum nuper, and informed all the faithful in the encyclical Infrascriptas.

In this collection, however, three of the thirty-one constitutions are post-conciliar (const. 13-14, 18). These concern the parish, on which subject the pope and the council fathers had decided in the last session of the council that some decrees should be made later on. Moreover the constitution Zelus fidei is missing from the collection, perhaps because it contained no juridical statutes of universal validity; and the other constitutions had been subjected to the examination of the curia and emended, notably as far as we know const. 2 on the conclave and const. 26-27 On usury.

The collection of constitutions promulgated by Gregory X was incorporated into Boniface VIII's Liber Sextus (1298) . It also survives, together with the encyclical Infrascriptas, in Gregory X's register (=R), on which we have based our text. The conciliar redaction, however, is known only in part. The constitution Zelus fidei was discovered first by H. Finke in an Osnabruck codex (= O), and then by S. Kuttner, without its beginning, in a Washington codex (= W), it is also extant in three English cartularies, which we have not examined; our edition relies on the transcriptions of Finke (= F) and Kuttner (= K). The other constitutions of the conciliar redaction we know only from W and, as regards const. 2, from eight scrolls containing the approval of the council fathers for this constitution (Vatican Archives, AA. arm. I-XVIII, 2187-2194 = V I-8). We therefore give the conciliar redaction on the basis of V and W; but W is very incomplete, having only 20 constitutions (const. 2-8, 9 mutilated, 10-12 16-17, 20, 22-23, 25-27, 31), and is full of errors.

As the best solution at this intermediate stage, we therefore give the constitution Zelus fidei (below pp. 309-314) separately from the post-conciliar collection (below pp. 314-331), and we note in the critical apparatus the latter the variant readings of the conciliar redaction. In the main editions of the council's acts only the collection of constitutions promulgated by Gregory X is to be found; all these editions depend on Rm (4, 95-104), which is taken from R (R was edited later by Guiraud).



[1a]. Zeal for the faith, fervent devotion and compassionate love ought to rouse the hearts of the faithful, so that all who glory in the name of Christian grieved to the heart by the insult to their redeemer, should rise vigorously and openly in defence of the holy Land and support for God's cause. Who, filled with the light of the true faith and thinking over with filial affection the marvellous favours conferred on the human race by our saviour in the holy Land, would not burn with devotion and charity, and sorrow deeply with that holy Land, portion of the Lord's inheritance ? Whose heart will not soften with compassion for her, from so many proofs of love given in that land by our creator? Alas! the very land in which the Lord deigned to work our salvation and which, in order to redeem humanity by payment of his death, he has consecrated by his own blood, has been boldly attacked and occupied over a long period by the impious enemies of the christian name, the blasphemous and faithless Saracens. They not only rashly retain their conquest, but lay it waste without fear.

They slaughter savagely the christian people there to the greater offence of the creator, to the outrage and sorrow of all who profess the catholic faith. "Where is the God of the Christians ?" is the Saracens' constant reproach, as they taunt them. Such scandals, which neither mind can fully conceive nor tongue tell, inflamed our heart and roused our courage so that we who from experience overseas have not only heard of those events but have looked with our eyes and touched with our hands, might rise to avenge, as far as we can, the insult to the crucified one. Our help will come from those afire with zeal of faith and devotion. Because the liberation of the holy Land should concern all who profess the catholic faith, we convoked a council, so that after consultation with prelates, kings, princes and other prudent men, we might decide and ordain in Christ the means for liberating the holy Land. We also proposed to lead back the Greek peoples to the unity of the church; proudly striving to divide in some way the Lord's seamless tunic, they withdrew from devotion and obedience to the apostolic see.

We purposed also a reform of morals, which have become corrupt owing to the sins of both clergy and people. In everything we have mentioned he to whom nothing is impossible will direct our acts and counsels; when he wills, he makes what is difficult easy, and levelling by his power the crooked ways, makes straight the rough going. Indeed, in order the more readily to effect our plans, having regard to the risks from wars and dangers of journeys for those whom we judged should be summoned to the council, we did not spare ourself and our brothers but rather sought hardships so that we might arrange rest for others. We came to the city of Lyons with our brothers and curia, believing that in this place those summoned to the council might meet with less exertion and expense. We came undertaking various dangers and troubles, running many risks, to where all those summoned to the council were assembled, either in person or through suitable representatives. We held frequent consultations with them about help for the holy Land, and they, zealous to avenge the insult to the Saviour, thought out the best ways to succour the said Land and gave, as was their duty, advice and insight. [ I b].

Having listened to their advice, we rightly commend their resolutions and praiseworthy enthusiasm for the liberation of that Land. Lest, however, we seem to lay on others' shoulders heavy burdens, hard to bear, which we are unwilling to move with our finger, we begin with ourself; declaring that we hold all we have from God's only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, by whose gift we live, by whose favour we are sustained, by whose blood even we have been redeemed. We and our brothers, the cardinals of the holy Roman church, shall pay fully for six successive years a tenth of all our ecclesiastical revenues, fruits and incomes for the aid of the holy Land. With the approval of this sacred council, we decree and ordain that for the said six years, beginning from the next feast of the birthday of blessed John the Baptist, all ecclesiastical persons of whatever rank or pre-eminence, condition, order, or religious state or order-and we wish none to invoke for themselves and their churches any privileges or indults, in whatever form of words or expression these were granted, rather we recall completely those we have granted till now--shall pay wholly and without any reduction a tenth of all ecclesiastical revenues, fruits and incomes of each year in the following way: that is, half on the feast of the Lord's birth and the other half on the feast of blessed John the Baptist.

In order to observe more carefully the reverence due to him whose undertaking this is, in himself and in his saints and especially in the glorious Virgin whose intercession we ask in this and in our other needs, and in order that there may be a fuller subsidy for the holy Land, we order that the constitution of Pope Gregory our predecessor of happy memory against blasphemers be inviolably observed. The fines prescribed in this constitution are to be exacted in full through the authorities of the place where blasphemy is committed, and through others who exercise temporal jurisdiction there. Coercive measures, if necessary, are to be taken through diocesan and other local ordinaries. The money is to be assigned to the collectors for the subsidy. Moreover, we strictly command confessors who hear confessions by ordinary jurisdiction or by privilege to prompt and enjoin on their penitents to give the said money to the holy Land in full satisfaction for their sins; and they should persuade those making wills to leave, in proportion to their means, some of their goods for aid to the holy Land.

We direct also that in each church there should be placed a box fitted with three keys, the first to be kept in the possession of the bishop, the second in that of the priest of the church, the third in that of some conscientious lay person. The faithful are to be instructed to place their alms, as the Lord inspires them, in this box for the remission of their sins. Mass is to be sung publicly in the churches once a week, on a certain day to be announced by the priest, for the remission of such sins and especially of those offering alms. Besides these measures, to provide more assistance for the holy Land, we exhort and urge kings and princes, marquises, counts and barons, magistrates, governors and other secular leaders to arrange that in the lands subject to their jurisdiction each of the faithful pays a coin to the value of a tournois or of one sterling in accordance with the customs or circumstances of the region, and they should order a further small tax of no burden to anyone for the remission of sins; these contributions are to be made each year in aid of the holy Land, so that just as nobody may excuse himself from compassion for the wretched state of the holy Land, nobody may be dismissed from contributing or shut out from meriting.

Also, lest these prudent arrangements concerning the subsidy to the holy Land be hindered by anyone's fraud or malice or craft, we excommunicate and anathematise one and all who knowingly offer hindrance, directly or indirectly, publicly or secretly, to the payment, as described above, of the tithes in aid of the holy Land.

Furthermore, since corsairs and pirates greatly impede those travelling to and from that Land, by capturing and plundering them, we bind with the bond of excommunication them and their principal helpers and supporters. We forbid anyone, under threat of anathema, knowingly to communicate with them by contracting to buy or sell. We also order rulers of cities and their territories to restrain and curb such persons from this iniquity; otherwise it is our wish that prelates of churches exercise ecclesiastical severity in their land. We excommunicate and anathematise, moreover, those false and impious Christians who, in opposition to Christ and the christian people, convey to the Saracens arms and iron, which they use to attack Christians and timber for their galleys and other ships; and we decree that those who sell them galleys or ships, and those who act as pilots in pirate Saracen ships, or give them any help or advice by way of machines or anything else to the detriment of Christians and especially of the holy Land, are to be punished with deprivation of their possessions and are to become the slaves of those who capture them.

We order this sentence to be renewed publicly on Sundays and feast-days in all maritime towns; and the bosom of the church is not to be opened to such persons unless they send in aid of the holy Land all that they received from this damnable commerce and the same amount of their own, so that they are punished in proportion to their sins. If perchance they do not pay, they are to be punished in other ways in order that through their punishment others may be deterred from venturing upon similar rash actions. In addition, we prohibit and on pain of anathema forbid all Christians, for six years, to send or take their ships across to the lands of the Saracens who dwell in the east, so that by this a greater supply of shipping may be made ready for those wanting to cross over to help the holy Land, and so that the aforesaid Saracens may be deprived of the considerable help which they have been accustomed to receiving from this.

Because it is of the utmost necessity for the carrying out of this business that rulers and christian peoples keep peace with each other, we therefore ordain, with the approval of this holy and general synod, that peace be generally kept in the whole world among Christians, so that those in conflict shall be led by the prelates of churches to observe inviolably for six years a definitive agreement or peace or a firm truce. Those who refuse to comply shall be most strictly compelled to do so by a sentence of excommunication against their persons and an interdict on their lands, unless the malice of the wrongdoers is so great that they ought not to enjoy peace. If it happens that they make light of the church's censure, they may deservedly fear that the secular power will be invoked by ecclesiastical authority against them as disturbers of the business of him who was crucified.

We therefore, trusting in the mercy of almighty God and in the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, do grant, by the power of binding and loosing that God has conferred upon us, albeit unworthy, unto all those who undertake this work of crossing the sea to aid the holy Land, in person and at their own expense, full pardon for their sins about which they are truly and heartily contrite and have spoken in confession, and we promise them an increase of eternal life at the recompensing of the just. To those who do not go there in person but send suitable men at their own expense, according to their means and status, and likewise to those who go in person but at others' expense, we grant full pardon for their sins. We wish to grant to share in this remission, according to the nature of their help and the intensity of their devotion, all who shall contribute suitably from their goods to the aid of the said Land, or who give useful advice and help regarding the above, and all who make available their own ships for the help of the holy Land or who undertake to build ships for this purpose. Finally, this dutiful and holy general synod imparts the benefit of its prayers and blessings to all who piously set out on this enterprise in order that it may contribute to their salvation. ' [Id].

Not to us but to the Lord we give glory and honour; let us also thank him that to so sacred a council a very great number of patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors provosts, deans, archdeacons and other prelates of churches, both personally and by suitable procurators, and the procurators of chapters, colleges and convents, have assembled at our call. However, although for the happy pursuit of so great an enterprise their advice would be useful, and their presence as beloved sons is so delightful, filling us in a certain way with spiritual joy, there are difficulties for some as to staying on. Various inconveniences result from their great number; we do not wish them to suffer any longer the squeezing of the enormous crowd; and their absence may be harmful to them and their churches. A certain prudent love moves us to decide with our brothers' advice how to lighten the burden of these representatives, while pursuing our object no less ardently or zealously.

We therefore have decided that all patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, abbots and priors whom we summoned specially and by name are to remain, they are not to depart without our special leave before the council ends. The other non-mitred abbots and priors and the other {1} abbots and priors, who were not summoned by us specially and by name, and the provosts, deans, archdeacons and other prelates of churches, and the procurators of any prelates, chapters, colleges and convents, have our gracious leave to depart with the blessing of God and our own. We commission all who so depart to leave enough procurators, as described below, to receive our commands and both the decrees of our present council and any other decrees that may, with God's inspiration, be issued in the future.

Thus, all so departing are to leave behind the following adequate number of procurators: namely, four from the realm of France, four from the realm of Germany, four from the realms of the Spains, four from the realm of England one from the realm of Scotland {2} , two from the realm of Sicily, two from Lombardy, one from Tuscany, one from the states of the church, one from the realm of Norway, one from the realm of Sweden, one from the realm of Hungary {3} , one from the realm of Dacia, one from the realm of Bohemia, one from the duchy of Poland. Furthermore {4} , it has come to our ears that some archbishops, bishops and other prelates, when they were summoned by us to the council, asked an excessive contribution from their subjects and committed great extortion, imposing heavy taxes on them. Some of these prelates, although they made great exactions, did not come to the council.

Since it neither was nor is our intention that prelates in coming to the council should associate the virtue of obedience with the oppression of their subjects, we admonish prelates one and all with great firmness, that none may presume to use the council as a pretext for burdening his subjects with taxes or exactions. If in fact some prelates have not come to the council and have made demands on the pretext of coming, it is our will and precise command that they make restitution without delay. Those however who have oppressed their subjects, demanding excessive contributions, should take care to make amends to them without creating difficulties, and so fulfil our commands that we do not have to apply a remedy by our authority.


1. On the supreme Trinity and the catholic faith{5}

1. We profess faithfully and devotedly that the holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles, but as from one principle; not by two spirations, but by one single spiration. This the holy Roman church, mother and mistress of all the faithful, has till now professed, preached and taught; this she firmly holds, preaches, professes and teaches; this is the unchangeable and true belief of the orthodox fathers and doctors, Latin and Greek alike. But because some, on account of ignorance of the said indisputable truth, have fallen into various errors, we, wishing to close the way to such errors, with the approval of the sacred council, condemn and reprove all who presume to deny that the holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, or rashly to assert that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from two principles and not as from one.

2. On election and the power of the elected person {6}

2. {7} Where there is greater danger, there must certainly be greater foresight. We learn from the past how heavy are the losses sustained by the Roman church in a long vacancy, how perilous it is; we see this all too clearly when we wisely consider the crises undergone. Reason therefore openly challenges us, while we devote ourselves skilfully to the reform of lesser evils, certainly not to leave without appropriate remedy those of greater danger. We judge therefore that everything wisely instituted by our predecessors and especially by Pope Alexander III of happy memory, for avoiding discord in the election of the Roman pontiff, should remain altogether intact. We intend in no way to detract from this legislation, but to supply by the present constitution what experience has shown to be missing.

With the approval of the sacred council {8} , we decree that if the pope dies in a city where he was residing with his curia, the cardinals present in that city are obliged to await the absent cardinals, but for ten days only. When these days have passed, whether those absent have arrived or not, all are to assemble in the palace where the pope lived. Each is to be content with one servant only, clerical or lay, at choice. We allow however those in evident need to have two, with the same choice. In this palace all are to live in common in one room, with no partition or curtain. Apart from free entry to a private room, the conclave is to be completely locked, so that no one can enter or leave. No one may have access to the cardinals or permission to talk secretly with them, nor are they themselves to admit anyone to their presence, except those who, by consent of all the cardinals present, might be summoned only for the business of the imminent election. It is not lawful for anyone to send a messenger or a written message to the cardinals or to any one of them. Whoever acts otherwise, sending a messenger or a written message, or speaking secretly to one of the cardinals, is to incur automatic excommunication. In the conclave some suitable window is to be left open through which the necessary food may be served conveniently to the cardinals, but no entry for anyone is to be possible through this way.

If, which God forbid, within three days after the cardinals have entered the said conclave, the church has not been provided with a shepherd, they are to be content for the next five days, every day both at dinner and supper, with one dish only. If these days also pass without the election of a pope, henceforth only bread, wine and water are to be served to the cardinals until they do provide a pope. While the election is in process, the cardinals are to receive nothing from the papal treasury, nor any other revenue coming from whatever source to the church while the see is vacant. Everything during this period remains in the custody of him to whose faithfulness and care the treasury has been entrusted, to be kept by him for the disposal of the future pope. Those who have accepted something are obliged from then on to abstain from receiving any of the revenues due to them until they have made full restitution of what they have accepted in this way. The cardinals are to devote their time so carefully to hastening the election as to occupy themselves with no other business whatever unless perhaps there occurs such an urgent necessity as the defence of the states of the church or some part of them, or there be threat of such a great and evident danger that it seems to each and all the cardinals present, by general consent, that they should quickly counteract it.

Of course if one of the cardinals does not enter the conclave, which we have described above, or having entered leaves without evident cause of illness, the others, without in any way searching for him and without re-admitting him to the election, may proceed freely to elect the next pope. If in fact, owing to sudden illness, one of them leaves the conclave, the election may proceed without the need for his vote, even while the illness lasts. But if after regaining his health or even before, he wishes to return, or even if other absentees, for whom a wait of ten days should be made as we have said, come on the scene while the election is still undecided, that is, before the church has been provided with a shepherd, they are to be admitted to the election in the state in which they find it; they are to keep the rules with the others as regards enclosure, servants, food and drink and everything else.

If the Roman pontiff happens to die outside the city in which he resided with his curia, the cardinals are obliged to assemble in the city in whose territory or district the pontiff died, unless perhaps the city lies under interdict or persists in open rebellion against the Roman church. In which case they are to meet in another city, the nearest which is neither under interdict nor openly rebellious. In this city also, the same rules about waiting for absentees, living together, enclosure and everything else, in the episcopal palace or any other residence specified by the cardinals, are to be observed as above when the pope dies in the city where he resided with his curia.

Moreover, since it is not enough to make laws unless there is someone to see that they are kept, we further ordain that the lord and other rulers and officials of the city where the election of the Roman pontiff is to be held, by the power given to them by our authority and the approval of the council, are to enforce the observance of everything prescribed above in every detail, fully and inviolably without any deceit and trickery, but they may not presume to restrict the cardinals beyond what has been said. As soon as the said lord, rulers and officials hear of the supreme pontiff's death, they are to take an oath as a body, in the presence of the clergy and people specially mustered for the purpose, to observe these prescriptions. If it happens that they commit fraud in this matter or do not observe the regulations with care, of whatever pre-eminence, condition or status they may be, they lose all privileges; they are automatically subject to the bond of excommunication and are forever infamous; and they are permanently excluded from all honours, nor may they be admitted to any public office.

We have decreed that over and above this they are automatically deprived of the fiefs goods and all they hold from the same Roman church or any other churches, this property returns fully and freely to the churches themselves, to be without any opposition at the disposal of the administrators of those churches. The city itself is to be not only laid under interdict but also deprived of its episcopal dignity.

Furthermore {9} , since when a disordered passion enslaves the will or some pledge compels it to one way of acting, the election is null from lack of freedom, we implore the cardinals through the tender mercy of our God', and we call them to witness through the sprinkling of his precious blood, that they consider very carefully what they are about to do. They are electing the vicar of Jesus Christ, the successor of Peter, the ruler of the universal church, the guide of the Lord's flock.

They are to lay aside all the disorder of private affection, to be free from any bargain, agreement or pledge; they are not to consider any promise or understanding, to have no regard for their mutual advantage or that of their friends. They are not to look after their own interests or their individual convenience. Without any constraint on their judgment other than God, they are to seek purely and freely the public good, with the election alone in mind. They are to use every endeavour and care that is possible. Their one aim is to provide, by their service and speedily, what is so useful and necessary for the whole world, a fitting spouse for the church. Those who act otherwise are subject to the divine retribution, their fault never to be pardoned except after severe penance. We invalidate all bargains, agreements, pledges, promises and understandings, whether confirmed by oath or any other bond; we nullify all these and decree that such have no force whatever. No one is constrained in any way to observe them, nor anyone to fear that by transgressing them he is breaking faith. Rather he deserves praise, for even human law testifies that such transgressions are more acceptable to God than the keeping of the oath.

Since the faithful should rely not so much on human resource, however solicitous, than on the urgency of humble and devoted prayer, we make an addition to this decree. In all the cities and important places, as soon as the death of the pope becomes known, solemn exequies are to be celebrated for him by clergy and people. After this, every day until undoubted news is brought that the church truly has her pastor, there is to be humble and devoted prayer to the Lord, that he who makes peace in his high heaven may so unite the hearts of the cardinals in their choice that provision may be made for the church swiftly, harmoniously, unanimously and beneficially, for the salvation of souls and the advantage of the whole world. And lest this salutary decree be disregarded on pretext of ignorance, we strictly order patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, other prelates of churches, and all who have faculties to explain the word of God, that they should often gather together the clergy and people for the purpose of urging them in sermons to pray earnestly and repeatedly for a swift and happy outcome of the conclave.

With the same authority they should prescribe not only frequent prayer but also, as circumstances recommend, the observance of fasting.

3 {10} That we may, as far as possible, close the way to evil practices in ecclesiastical elections, postulations and provisions, and that churches may not have long and dangerous vacancies or the provision of parsonages, dignities and other ecclesiastical benefices be delayed, we make this perpetual decree. When opponents to elections, postulations or provisions raise difficulties against the form of the election, postulation or provision, or against the persons of the electors or of the one elected or of him for whom the provision was to be made or has been made, and for these reasons make an appeal, the appellants are to express in a public document or letter of appeal every individual objection they intend to make against the form or persons. They shall do this in the presence of a qualified person or persons bearing witness to the truth on the above points, and they shall personally swear that they believe what they say to be true and can prove it. If this is not done, both the objectors and, during the time of appeal or afterwards, their adherents are to know that the power of objecting anything not expressed in these letters or documents is forbidden to them, unless there is some new evidence or there suddenly appears means of proving the former objections, or some facts of the past have newly come to the knowledge of the objectors, facts of which at the time of the appeal the appellants probably could have been, and in fact were, ignorant.

They are to establish their good faith concerning this ignorance and the subsequent possibility of proof by taking an oath personally, adding in the same oath that they believe they have sufficient proof. It is our will certainly that the penalties imposed by Pope Innocent IV of happy memory on those who do not fully substantiate their objections against the form or the person, shall remain in force.

4 {11} Blind greed and criminal, dishonest ambition, seizing on certain minds, drive them to the rash attempt to usurp by ingenious fraud what they know is forbidden to them by the law. Some, indeed, are elected to the government of churches and, because the law forbids any interference in the administration of churches before the election has been confirmed, contrive to have the churches entrusted to themselves as procurators and managers. Since it is not good to give way to human trickery, we wish to take wider precautions in this general constitution. We decree that none may henceforth presume, before confirmation of his election, to conduct or accept the administration of an office to which he has been elected, or to interfere in it, under the pretext of management or procuratorship or some other newly invented disguise, in things spiritual or temporal, directly or through others, in part or in whole. We decree that all who act otherwise are by that very fact deprived of the right they would have acquired by the election.

5. {12} Not only do the laws bear witness but also experience, that effective teacher of reality, makes clear how damaging to churches is their vacancy, how dangerous it usually is to souls. Desirous, then, of counteracting the long duration of vacancies by suitable remedies, we make a perpetual decree that after there has been an election in any church, the electors are obliged to inform the elect as soon as conveniently possible and to ask his consent. The elect in his turn is to give it within a month from the day of being informed. If the elect delays beyond this, he is to know that from then on he is deprived of the right he would have acquired from his election, unless perhaps his condition is such that he cannot consent to his election without his superior's leave, on account of a prohibition or some disposition of the apostolic see {13} . The elect or his electors must then earnestly seek and gain the superior's leave as quickly as his presence or absence will permit.

Otherwise, if the time has expired, even with the allowance made for the presence or absence of the superior, and permission has not been obtained, the electors are then free to proceed to another election. Furthermore, any elect must ask for confirmation of his election within three months after giving consent. If without lawful impediment he omits to do this within such a three-month period, the election is by that very fact null and void.

6. {14} We declare, with the force of a perpetual decree, that they who in an election vote knowingly for an unworthy candidate are not deprived of the power of electing, unless they have so far persisted as to make the election depend on their votes, even though in nominating an unworthy person they have deliberately acted against their consciences and may rightly fear divine retribution and a punishment, in accordance with the offence, from the apostolic see.

7. {15} We decree that nobody, after voting for someone whose election follows, or after giving consent to an election made by others, may oppose him concerning the election itself, except for reasons coming to light afterwards, or unless the elect's evil character previously hidden from the objector is now disclosed, or the existence of some other hidden vice or defect, of which in all probability he could have been ignorant, is revealed. He is however to guarantee his good faith regarding this lack of knowledge by oath.

8. {16} If after two scrutinies one part of the electors is to be found more than double the number of the other, we by this decree take away from the minority all power of imputing lack of zeal, merit or authority to the majority or their candidate. We do not however forbid such objections as would render null, in virtue of the law itself, the election of the candidate so opposed.

9. {17} The constitution of Pope Alexander IV, our predecessor of happy memory, rightly includes cases about episcopal elections, and those arising therefrom, in the category of major cases and asserts that their judicial inquiry subsequent to any appeal falls to the apostolic see. We, however, wishing to curb both the rash boldness and unbridled frequency of appeals, have considered that we should make provision by this general constitution. If someone appeals extrajudicially with an evidently frivolous motive in the aforesaid elections or in others which concern dignities higher than the episcopate, such an appeal is by no means to go before the apostolic see. When however in the business of such elections an appeal is made in writing, judicially or extrajudicially, from a credible motive which on proof ought to be considered legitimate, such business is to be brought to the apostolic see. Furthermore, it is lawful for the parties in these cases, provided there is no malice, to withdraw from such appeals before they are laid before the said see. Subordinate judges, who were competent for these cases, should on withdrawal of the appeal first of all inquire carefully whether there has been any irregularity. If they find such, they are to have no further dealings with the case itself, but shall set for the parties a suitable fixed term in which they are to present themselves with all their acts and records to the apostolic see. I

10. {18} If among other objections against the elect or nominee or candidate to be promoted in any other way to some dignity, it is said that he clearly lacks the requisite knowledge or has some other obvious personal defect, we decree that there is to be an invariable order in discussing the objections. The candidate is to be examined first of all concerning the alleged defect, the outcome deciding whether other objections are to be considered or not. If the result of the said examination shows that the objections concerning the alleged defect are devoid of truth, we exclude the objectors altogether from pursuing further the case in which they have made their objections, and we decree that they are to be punished exactly as if they had thoroughly failed to prove any of their objections.

11. {19} All those who presume to oppress clerics or any other ecclesiastical persons having the right of election in certain churches, monasteries or other pious places, because they have refused to elect the person for whom they were asked or urged to vote, or who presume to oppress their relatives or the said churches, monasteries or other places, robbing them of benefices or other property, either directly or through others, or taking revenge in other ways, are to know that they incur automatic excommunication.

12. {20} We decree by a general constitution that one and all, however high their rank, who try to usurp the royal privileges, the custody or guard, or the title of advocate or defender, in churches, monasteries and any other pious places, and presume to take possession of their property during a vacancy, lie under automatic sentence of excommunication. The clerics of the churches, the monks of the monasteries, and the other persons in the above places, who abet these offences, are automatically excommunicated in the same way. We indeed strictly forbid those clerics who do not oppose, as they ought, those who act in such a way, to receive any income from these churches or places during the time they have allowed the usurpation to happen without opposition. Those who claim these rights by the foundation of the churches or of the other places, or by reason of ancient custom, are prudently to avoid abusing their rights and take care that their agents do not abuse them, so that they appropriate nothing beyond what pertains to the fruits or revenues accruing during the vacancy, and do not allow the dilapidation of the other property of which they claim to be the guardians but preserve it in good condition.

13. The canon promulgated by Pope Alexander III, our predecessor of happy memory, decreed among other things that nobody is to be appointed parish priest until he is twenty-five and approved as to knowledge and morals; and that after his appointment, if he has not been ordained priest within the time fixed by the canons, despite being warned to this effect, he is to be removed from office and it is to be conferred on someone else. Since many neglect to observe this canon, we wish their dangerous negligence to be made good by observance of the law. We therefore decree that nobody is to be appointed parish priest unless he is suitable by knowledge, morals and age. Any appointments from now of those younger than twenty-five are to lack all validity. The person appointed is obliged to reside in the parish church of which he has become rector, in order that he may take more diligent care of the flock entrusted to him. Within a year of being appointed to his charge he is to have himself ordained to the priesthood. If within that time he has not been ordained, he is deprived of his church, even without previous warning, by authority of the present constitution. As to residence, as above described, the ordinary may grant a dispensation for a time and for a reasonable cause.

14. No one may henceforth presume to give a parish church "in commendam" to anyone under the lawful age and not ordained priest. Such a commendatory may have only one parish church and there must be an evident need or advantage for the church itself. We declare, however, that such a commendam, even when properly made, is not to last more than six months. We decree that any contrary procedure relating to commendams of parish churches is invalid by law.

15. On the circumstances of ordination and the quality of ordinands

15. {21} We decree that those who knowingly or with affected ignorance or on any other pretext presume to ordain clerics of another diocese without permission of the ordinands' superior, are suspended for a year from conferring any orders. The penalties prescribed by law against those so ordained are to remain in full vigour. We also grant the faculty to clerics of the dioceses of bishops thus suspended, after their suspension has become public, freely to receive orders meanwhile from neighbouring bishops, even without their own bishop's leave, but in other respects canonically.

16. On bigamists

16. {22} Putting an end to an old debate by the present declaration, we declare that bigamists are deprived of any clerical privilege and are to be handed over to the control of the secular law, any contrary custom notwithstanding. We also forbid bigamists under pain of anathema to wear the tonsure or clerical dress.

17. On the office of ordinary judge

17. {23} If canons wish to suspend the celebration of divine worship, as is their claim from custom or otherwise in certain churches, they are obliged, before taking any steps to suspend the celebration, to express their reasons for this in a confirmation of authenticity. They are to consign this document or letter to the person against whom the suspension is directed. They are to know that if they suspend services without this formality or the reason expressed is not canonical, they shall restore all the income they have received, during the time of the suspension, from the church in which the suspension has taken place. They shall in no way receive anything owing to them for that period but make it over to the church in question. They will, moreover, be obliged to make restitution for the loss or injustice done to the person whom they intended to punish. If however their cause is judged to be canonical, the one who occasioned the suspension is to be sentenced to compensate the said canons and the church from which divine service has been withdrawn through his fault. The superior is to adjudicate the compensation and it is to be used for the benefit of divine worship. Nevertheless we utterly rebuke the detestable abuse and horrible impiety of those who treating with irreverent boldness crucifixes and images or statues of the blessed Virgin and other saints, throw them to the ground in order to emphasise the suspension of divine worship, and leave them under nettles and thorns. We forbid severely any sacrilege of this kind. We decree that those who disobey are to receive a hard retributive sentence which will so chastise the offenders as to suppress the like arrogance in others.

18. Local ordinaries must strictly compel their subjects to produce the dispensations by which they hold canonically, as they assert, several dignities or churches to which is annexed the cure of souls, or a parsonage or dignity together with another benefice to which a similar cure is annexed. These dispensations are to be shown within a time proportionate to the situation as judged by the ordinaries themselves. If without just reason no dispensation has been shown within that time, the churches, benefices, parsonages or dignities which it is now obvious are held unlawfully without dispensation, are to be conferred freely on suitable persons by those who have the right.

If on the other hand the dispensation shown seems clearly sufficient, the holder is not to be troubled in any way in the possession of these benefices canonically obtained. The ordinary is however to make provision that neither the care of souls in those churches, parsonages or dignities is neglected nor the benefices themselves are defrauded of the services owing to them. If there is doubt whether the dispensation is sufficient, recourse should be had to the apostolic see, to which judgment belongs concerning its benefices. Ordinaries, moreover, in bestowing parsonages, dignities and other benefices involving the cure of souls, are to take care not to confer one on someone already holding several similar benefices, unless an obviously sufficient dispensation is shown for those already held. Even then, we wish the ordinary to confer the benefice only if it appears from the dispensation that the beneficiary may lawfully retain this parsonage, dignity or benefice together with those he already holds, or if he is prepared freely to resign those he already holds. If not, the bestowing of such parsonages, dignities and benefices is to be of no consequence whatever. '

19. On pleading

19 {24} It seems that we must counteract promptly the crafty dragging-out of lawsuits. We hope to do this effectively by giving suitable remedial directives to those who offer their services in legal matters. Since the things that have been beneficially provided by legal sanction concerning advocates seem to have fallen into disuse, we renew the same sanction by the present constitution, with some addition and modification. We decree that each and every advocate in the ecclesiastical forum, whether before the apostolic see or elsewhere, is to swear on the holy gospels that in all ecclesiastical causes and others in the same forum, of which they have assumed or will assume the defence, they will do their utmost for their clients in what they judge to be true and just. They are also to swear that at whatever part of the process they find out that the cause which they had accepted in good faith is unjust, they will cease to defend it; they will rather abandon it altogether, having nothing further to do with it, and will inviolably observe the rest of the above sanction. Proctors also are to be bound by a similar oath. Both advocates and proctors are obliged to renew this oath every year in the forum in which they have assumed office. Those who come before the apostolic see or to the court of some ecclesiastical judge, in which they have not yet taken such an oath, in order to act as advocate or proctor in some individual case, are to take a like oath, in each case, at the beginning of the litigation.

Advocates and proctors who refuse to swear in the above way are forbidden to practise while their refusal persists. If they deliberately violate their oath, counsellors who have knowingly encouraged an unjust cause incur, in addition to the guilt of perjury, the divine and our malediction, from which they cannot be absolved unless they restore double the amount they accepted for such evil work as advocate, proctor or counsel. They are moreover obliged to make restitution for the loss caused to the parties wronged by their unjust ministry. Furthermore, lest insatiate greed drive some into contempt for these sound decrees, we strictly forbid an advocate to accept more than twenty tournois pounds for any case, a proctor more than twelve, as salary or even on the pretext of a reward for winning. Those who accept more are not in any way to acquire ownership of the excess, but are obliged to restitution; none of this penalty of restitution can be remitted in evasion of the present constitution. In addition, advocates who thus violate the present constitution are to be suspended from their office for three years. Proctors, on the other hand, shall be denied permission to exercise their office in a court of law.

20. On what is done by force or because of fear

20. {25} We annul by authority of this constitution any absolution from sentence of excommunication or any recall of it, or of suspension or even of interdict, which has been extorted by force or fear. Lest boldness increase when violence goes unpunished, we decree that those who have extorted such an absolution or withdrawal by force or fear lie under sentence of excommunication.

21. On prebends and dignities

21. {26} We have decreed that the statute of Pope Clement IV, our predecessor of happy memory, that dignities and benefices which become vacant in the Roman curia are to be conferred by nobody other than the Roman pontiff, is to be modified as follows. Those who have the conferring of these benefices and dignities may confer them validly, notwithstanding the said statute, but not till a month after the day on which the dignities and benefices have become vacant, and then only by themselves personally or, if they are at a distance, through their vicar-generals in their dioceses, to whom this charge has been canonically entrusted . 5

22. On not alienating the property of the church

22. {27} By this well-considered decree we forbid each and every prelate to submit, subject or subordinate the churches entrusted to him, their immovable property or rights, to lay people without the consent of his chapter and the special leave of the apostolic see. It is not a question of granting the property or rights in emphyteusis or otherwise alienating them in the form and in the cases permitted by the law. What is forbidden is the establishment or recognition of these laity as superiors from whom the property and rights are held, or making them the protectors, an arrangement which is called in the vernacular of certain places "to avow", that is, the laity are appointed patrons or advocates of the churches or their property, either perpetually or for a long period. We decree that all such contracts of alienation, even when fortified by oath, penalty or any other confirmation, which are made without the above leave and consent, and any consequences of these contracts, are entirely null; no right is conferred, no cause for prescription is provided.

We decree moreover that prelates who disobey are automatically suspended for three years from office and administration, and clerics who know that the prohibition has been violated but fail to give notice of it to the superior, are automatically suspended for three years from receiving the fruits of benefices they hold in the church so oppressed. The laity indeed, who have hitherto forced prelates, chapters of churches or other ecclesiastical persons to make these submissions, are to be bound by sentence of excommunication, unless after suitable admonition, having given up the submission they exacted through force or fear, they set free the churches and return the property thus surrendered to them. Those also who in future shall compel prelates or other ecclesiastical persons to make such submissions are also to be excommunicated, whatever be their condition or status. Even when contracts have been or will be made with the due leave and consent, or on the occasion of such contracts, the laity are not to transgress the limits set by the nature of the contract itself or the law on which the contract is based. Those indeed who act otherwise, unless after lawful admonition they desist from such usurpation restoring also what they have usurped, incur automatic excommunication, and henceforward the way is open, if need be, to lay their land under ecclesiastical interdict.

23. On religious houses, that they are to be subject to the bishop

23 {28} A general council by a considered prohibition averted the excessive diversity of religious orders, lest it might lead to confusion. Afterwards, however, not only has the troublesome desire of petitioners extorted their multiplication, but also the presumptuous rashness of some has produced an almost unlimited crowd of diverse orders, especially mendicant, which have not yet merited the beginnings of approval. We therefore renew the constitution, and severely prohibit that anyone found henceforth a new order or form of religious life, or assume its habit. We perpetually forbid absolutely all the forms of religious life and the mendicant orders founded after the said council which have not merited confirmation of the apostolic see, and we suppress them in so far as they have spread. As to those orders, however, confirmed by the apostolic see and instituted after the council, whose profession, rule or constitutions forbid them to have revenues or possessions for their fitting support but whose insecure mendicancy usually provides a living through public begging, we decree that they may survive on the following terms.

The professed members of these orders may continue in them if they are willing not to admit henceforth anyone to profession, nor to acquire a new house or land, nor to have power to alienate the houses or land they have, without special leave of the apostolic see. We reserve these possessions for the disposal of the apostolic see, to be used for aid to the holy Land or for the poor or to be turned to other pious uses through local ordinaries or others commissioned by the apostolic see. If the above conditions are violated, neither the reception of persons nor the acquisition of houses or land nor the alienation of these or other property is valid, and in addition excommunication is incurred. We also forbid absolutely to members of these orders, in regard to externs, the office of preaching and hearing confessions and the right of burial.

Of course we do not allow the present constitution to apply to the orders of Preachers and Minors; their approval bears witness to their evident advantage to the universal church. Furthermore, we grant that the order of Carmelites and that of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, the institution of which preceded the said general council {29} , may remain as they are, until other regulations are made for them. We intend in fact to provide both for them and for the other orders, even the non-mendicants, as we shall see to be for the good of souls and for the good state of the orders. We grant also a general permission to members of orders to which this present constitution applies, to pass to the other approved orders on this condition: no order is to transfer itself wholly to another, no community is to transfer itself and its possessions wholly to another, without special permission from the apostolic see. '

24. On taxes and procurations

24 {30} The boldness of wicked people demands that we should not be satisfied with merely forbidding offences, but should inflict punishment on the offenders. The constitution of Pope Innocent IV, our predecessor of happy memory, forbade procurations to be received in the form of money, or the acceptance of gifts by pastoral visitors and their attendants. It is said that many rashly transgress this constitution. We wish it to be inviolably observed and have decreed that it should be strengthened by adding a penalty. We decree that one and all who presume, because of the procuration owing to them by reason of a visitation, to exact money or even to accept money from someone willing; or to violate the constitution in another way by accepting gifts or, without making the visitation, accepting procurations in food or anything else; are obliged to give back double of what they have received to the church from which they received it, and this within a month. If they do not, from that time patriarchs, archbishops and bishops who put off restoration of the double payment beyond the said period, are to know that entry into the church is forbidden them; and lower clergy are to know that they are suspended from office and benefice until they have made full satisfaction of this double to the burdened churches; the remission, liberality or kindness of the givers is to avail nothing.

25. On the immunity of churches

25 {31} Holiness befits the house of the Lord; it is fitting that he whose abode has been established in peace should be worshipped in peace and with due reverence. Churches, then, should be entered humbly and devoutly; behaviour inside should be calm, pleasing to God, bringing peace to the beholders, a source not only of instruction but of mental refreshment. Those who assemble in church should extol with an act of special reverence that name with is above every name, than which no other under heaven has been given to people, in which believers must be saved, the name, that is, of Jesus Christ, who will save his people from their sins. Each should fulfil in himself that which is written for all that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious name is recalled, especially during the sacred mysteries of the mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head. In churches the sacred solemnities should possess the whole heart and mind; the whole attention should be given to prayer. Here where it is proper to offer heavenly desires with peace and calm, let nobody arouse rebellion, provoke clamour or be guilty of violence. The consultations of universities and of any associations whatever must cease to be held in churches, so also must public speeches and parliaments. Idle and, even more, foul and profane talk must stop; chatter in all its forms must cease. Everything, in short, that may disturb divine worship or offend the eyes of the divine majesty should be absolutely foreign to churches, lest where pardon should be asked for our sins, occasion is given for sin, or sin is found to be committed.

No more business is to be conducted in churches or their cemeteries, especially they are not to have the bustle of markets and public squares. All noise of secular courts must be stilled. The laity are not to hold their trials in churches, more especially criminal cases. The church is not to be a place for lay judicial inquiries. Local ordinaries should see that all this is observed, persuade where persuasion is needed, suppress by their authority what is forbidden by this canon. They should also depute for this purpose persons in the churches who are most assiduous and suitable for the above aims. Moreover, the proceedings of secular judges, and in particular the sentences passed in these sacred places, are to lack all validity. Those indeed who impudently defy the above prohibitions, in addition to the sanctions imposed by ordinaries and their deputies, will have to fear the sternness of the divine retribution and our own until, having confessed their guilt, they have firmly resolved to avoid such conduct for the future.

26. On usury

26. {32} Wishing to close up the abyss of usury, which devours souls and swallows up property, we order under threat of the divine malediction that the constitution of the Lateran council against usurers be inviolably observed. Since the less convenient it is for usurers to lend, the more their freedom to practise usury is curtailed, we ordain by this general constitution as follows. Neither a college, nor other community, nor an individual person, of whatever dignity, condition or status, may permit those foreigners and others not originating from their territories {33} , who practise usury or wish to do so, to rent houses for that purpose or to occupy rented houses or to live elsewhere. Rather, they must expel all such notorious usurers from their territories within three months, never to admit any such for the future. Nobody is to let houses to them for usury, nor grant them houses under any other title {34} . Those indeed who act otherwise, if they are ecclesiastical persons, patriarchs, archbishops or bishops, are to know that they incur automatic suspension; lesser individual persons, excommunication, colleges or other communities, interdict. If they remain obdurate throughout a month, their territories shall lie henceforth under ecclesiastical interdict as long as the usurers remain there. Furthermore, if they are layfolk, they are to be restrained from such transgression through their ordinaries by ecclesiastical censure, all privileges ceasing {35}

27 {36} Although notorious usurers give orders in their wills that restitution be made for their usurious gains, either in express terms or in general, ecclesiastical burial is nevertheless to be refused until full restitution has been made as far as the usurer's means allow, or until a pledge has been given of fitting restitution. This pledge is to be given to those to whom restitution is due, if they themselves or others who can receive for them are present. If they are absent, the pledge is to be given to the local ordinary or his vicar or the rector of the parish where the testator lives, in the presence of trustworthy persons from the parish (the ordinary, vicar and rector, as just mentioned, shall have permission to receive such pledge in their name by authority of the present constitution, so that these ecclesiastics have the right to action). The pledge may also be given to a public servant commissioned by the ordinary. If the sum owing from usury is openly known, we wish this sum always to be expressed in the pledge, if the amount is not clearly known, the sum is to be determined by the receiver of the pledge {37} . The receiver must make his estimate at not less than the probable amount; if he does otherwise, he is obliged to restitution for anything still owing. We decree that all religious and others who presume to grant ecclesiastical {38} burial to notorious usurers, contrary to this decree, are subject to the penalty promulgated against usurers at the Lateran council . Nobody is to assist at the wills of notorious usurers or hear their confessions or absolve them, unless they have made restitution for their usury or have given a fitting guarantee, as far as they can, as described above. The wills made in any other way by notorious usurers have no validity, but are by law null and void. {39}

28. On wrongs and the loss caused

28. {40} The distraints which in the vernacular are called "reprisals", by which some people are burdened in place of others, have been forbidden by the civil constitution as oppressive and contrary to the laws and natural equity. In order, however, that offenders may have greater fear of breaking the law where ecclesiastical persons are concerned, in accordance with the more particular prohibition of reprisals against them, we severely forbid the granting of reprisals against ecclesiastical persons or their goods. By this present decree we also forbid the extension of such reprisals, perhaps granted universally on pretext of some custom which we would prefer to call an abuse, to these persons. Those who act otherwise, by granting distraints or reprisals against such persons or extending the grant to include them, unless they revoke such presumption within a month, incur sentence of excommunication, if they are individuals; they are to be laid under ecclesiastical interdict, if they are a community.

29. On the sentence of excommunication

29. {41} The constitution of Pope Innocent IV, our predecessor of happy memory, forbids that those who communicate with excommunicated persons in matters carrying only a minor excommunication should be bound, without first receiving canonical admonition, by a major excommunication; the sentence of excommunication thus promulgated does not bind. In order to remove any scruple of ambiguity, we declare that the admonition is canonical only if, after all other formalities have been duly observed, it names the persons admonished. We decree also that in the course of the admonitions required for the sentence to be promulgated canonically, the judges, whether they give three admonitions or one for all three, should observe fitting intervals of some days, unless the urgency of the situation counsels otherwise.

30. {42} By the present general decree we declare that the benefit of provisional absolution does not in any way apply to cities, villages or any other places against which a general interdict has been promulgated.

31. {43} Whoever, from the fact that a sentence of excommunication, suspension or interdict has been promulgated against kings, princes, barons, nobles, bailiffs or their agents or anyone else, gives leave to someone to kill, capture or molest, in their persons or goods or in those of their relatives, those who have published such sentences, or on whose account the sentences were published, or who observe such sentences or refuse to communicate with those so excommunicated, unless they revoke in time such permission, automatically fall under sentence of excommunication. If property has been seized on the occasion of such permission, the same sentence is incurred unless the goods are returned within eight days or satisfaction is made for the loss. All who have dared to make use of the permission, or commit on their own initiative any of the above crimes for which we have forbidden permission to be given, are bound by the same sentence. Those who remain under this sentence of excommunication for two months cannot henceforth obtain absolution except through the apostolic see.


Introduction and translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner

Also, see:
Ecumenical Church Councils

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

This page - - - - is at
This subject presentation was last updated on - -

Copyright Information

Send an e-mail question or comment to us: E-mail

The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet