1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lateran Councils

23287861911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16 — Lateran Councils

LATERAN COUNCILS, the ecclesiastical councils or synods held at Rome in the Lateran basilica which was dedicated to Christ under the title of Salvator, and further called the basilica of Constantine or the church of John the Baptist. Ranking as a papal cathedral, this became a much-favoured place of assembly for ecclesiastical councils both in antiquity (313, 487) and more especially during the middle ages. Among these numerous synods the most prominent are those which the tradition of the Roman Catholic church has classed as ecumenical councils.

1. The first Lateran council (the ninth ecumenical) was opened by Pope Calixtus II. on the 18th of March 1123; its primary object being to confirm the concordat of Worms, and so close the conflict on the question of investiture (q.v.). In addition to this, canons were enacted against simony and the marriage of priests; while resolutions were passed in favour of the crusaders, of pilgrims to Rome and in the interests of the truce of God. More than three hundred bishops are reported to have been present.

For the resolutions see Monumenta Germaniae, Leges, iv., i. 574-576 (1893); Mansi, Collectio Conciliorum, xxi. p. 281 sq.; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, v. 378-384 (ed. 2, 1886).

2. The second Lateran, and tenth ecumenical, council was held by Pope Innocent II. in April 1139, and was attended by close on a thousand clerics. Its immediate task was to neutralize the after-effects of the schism, which had only been terminated in the previous year by the death of Anacletus II. (d. 25th January 1138). All consecrations received at his hands were declared invalid, his adherents were deposed, and King Roger of Sicily was excommunicated. Arnold of Brescia, too, was removed from office and banished from Italy.

Resolutions, ap. Mansi, op. cit. xxi., 525 sq.; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, v. 438-445 (ed. 2).

3. At the third Lateran council (eleventh ecumenical), which met in March 1179 under Pope Alexander III., the clergy present again numbered about one thousand. The council formed a sequel to the peace of Venice (1177), which marked the close of the struggle between the papacy and the emperor Frederick I. Barbarossa; its main object being to repair the direct or indirect injuries which the schism had inflicted on the life of the church and to display to Christendom the power of the see of Rome. Among the enactments of the council, the most important concerned the appointment to the papal throne (Canon 1), the electoral law of 1059 being supplemented by a further provision declaring a two-thirds majority to be requisite for the validity of the cardinals’ choice. Of the participation of the Roman clergy and populace, or of the imperial ratification, there was no longer any question. Another resolution, of importance for the history of the treatment of heresy, was the canon which decreed that armed force should be employed against the Cathari in southern France, that their goods were liable to confiscation and their persons to enslavement by the princes, and that all who took up weapons against them should receive a two years’ remission of their penance and be placed—like the crusaders—under the direct protection of the church.

Resolutions, ap. Mansi, op. cit. xxii. 212 sq.; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, v. 710-719 (ed. 2).

4. The fourth Lateran council (twelfth ecumenical), convened by Pope Innocent III. in 1215, was the most brilliant and the most numerously attended of all, and marks the culminating point of a pontificate which itself represents the zenith attained by the medieval papacy. Prelates assembled from every country in Christendom, and with them the deputies of numerous princes. The total included 412 bishops, with 800 priors and abbots, besides the representatives of absent prelates and a number of inferior clerics. The seventy decrees of the council begin with a confession of faith directed against the Cathari and Waldenses, which is significant if only for the mention of a transubstantiation of the elements in the Lord’s Supper. A series of resolutions provided in detail for the organized suppression of heresy and for the institution of the episcopal inquisition (Canon 3). On every Christian, of either sex, arrived at years of discretion, the duty was imposed of confessing at least once annually and of receiving the Eucharist at least at Easter (Canon 21). Enactments were also passed touching procedure in the ecclesiastical courts, the creation of new monastic orders, appointments to offices in the church, marriage-law, conventual discipline, the veneration of relics, pilgrimages and intercourse with Jews and Saracens. Finally, a great crusade was resolved upon, to defray the expenses of which it was determined that the clergy should lay aside one-twentieth—the pope and the cardinals one-tenth—of their revenues for the next three years; while the crusaders were to be held free of all burdens during the period of their absence.

Resolutions, ap. Mansi, op. cit. xxii. 953 sq.; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, v. 872-905 (ed. 2). See also Innocent III.

5. The fifth Lateran council (eighteenth ecumenical) was convened by Pope Julius II. and continued by Leo X. It met from the 3rd of May 1512 to the 16th of March 1517, and was the last great council anterior to the Reformation. The change in the government of the church, the rival council of Pisa, the ecclesiastical and political dissensions within and without the council, and the lack of disinterestedness on the part of its members, all combined to frustrate the hopes which its convocation had awakened. Its resolutions comprised the rejection of the pragmatic sanction, the proclamation of the pope’s superiority over the council, and the renewal of the bull Unam sanctam of Boniface VIII. The theory that it is possible for a thing to be theologically true and philosophically false, and the doctrine of the mortality of the human soul, were both repudiated; while a three years’ tithe on all church property was set apart to provide funds for a war against the Turks.

See Hardouin, Coll. Conc. ix. 1570 sq.; Hefele-Hergenröther, Conciliengeschichte, viii. 454 sq.; (1887). Cf. bibliography under Leo X.  (C. M.)