Fourth Council of the Lateran

The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull Vineam domini Sabaoth of 19 April 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome's Lateran Palace beginning 11 November 1215.[1] Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It is considered by the Catholic Church to have been the twelfth ecumenical council and is sometimes called the "Great Council" or "General Council of Lateran" due to the presence of 71 patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors together with representatives of several monarchs.[1]

During this council, the teaching on transubstantiation— a doctrine of the Catholic Church which describes the method by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes the actual blood and body of Christ— was defined. It also infamously was the first to require from Jews (and Muslims) to wear distinctive clothing.[2]

Fourth Council of the Lateran (Council of Lateran IV)
Accepted byCatholicism
Previous council
Third Council of the Lateran
Next council
First Council of Lyon
Convoked byPope Innocent III
PresidentPope Innocent III
Attendance71 patriarchs and metropolitans, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors
TopicsCrusader States, Investiture Controversy, Filioque
Documents and statements
70 papal decrees, transubstantiation, papal primacy, conduct of clergy, confession and communion at least once a year, Fifth Crusade
Chronological list of ecumenical councils


Lateran IV stands as the high-water mark of the medieval papacy. Its political and ecclesiastical decisions endured down to the Council of Trent while modern historiography has deemed it the most significant papal assembly of the Later Middle Ages.[3] The Fourth Lateran Council was the largest and most representative of the medieval councils to that date.[4]

In summoning the bishops to a general council, Innocent III emphasized that reforms must be made in the Church and that a new crusade to the Holy Land must be launched. He also reminded them that it was not appropriate that their retinue include birds and hunting dogs.[5]

The agenda laid out in Vineam domini Sabaoth included reform of the Church, the stamping out of heresy, establishing peace and liberty, and calling for a new crusade.[5] During this council, the doctrine of transubstantiation— a Church doctrine which describes the method by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes the actual blood and body of Christ— was infallibly defined.[6] The scholarly consensus is that the constitutions were drafted by Innocent III himself.[4]

In secular matters, the Council confirmed the elevation of Frederick II as Holy Roman Emperor.[4]

There were violent scenes between the partisans of Simon de Montfort among the French bishops and those of the Count of Toulouse. Raymond VI of Toulouse, his son (afterwards Raymond VII), and Raymond-Roger of Foix attended the Council to dispute the threatened confiscation of their territories; Bishop Foulques and Guy de Montfort (brother of Simon) argued in favour of the confiscation. All of Raymond VI's lands were confiscated, save Provence, which was kept in trust to be restored to his son, Raymond VII.[7] Pierre-Bermond of Sauve's claim to Toulouse was rejected, and Toulouse was awarded to de Montfort;[7] the lordship of Melgueil was separated from Toulouse and entrusted to the bishops of Maguelonne.


Canons presented to the Council included:[1]

Faith and heresy

  • Canon 1: The Creed Caput Firmiter[8]—Exposition of the Catholic Faith and of the sacraments. It includes a brief reference to transubstantiation.[9]
  • Canon 2: Condemnation of the doctrines of Joachim of Fiore and of Amalric of Bena.
  • Canon 3: Procedure and penalties against heretics and their protectors. If those suspected of heresy should neglect to prove themselves innocent, they are excommunicated. If they continue in the excommunication for twelve months they are to be condemned as heretics. Princes are to be admonished to swear that they will banish all whom the Church points out as heretics. This canon mandates that those pointed by the Church as heretics shall be expelled by the secular authorities or they will be excommunicated if failing to do so.
  • Canon 4: Exhortation to the Greeks to reunite with the Roman Church.[9]

Order and discipline

  • Canon 5: Proclamation of the papal primacy recognized by all antiquity. After the pope, primacy is attributed to the patriarchs in the following order: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem.
  • Canon 6: Provincial councils must be held annually for the reform of morals, especially those of the clergy. This was to ensure that the canons adopted would be implemented.
  • Canon 7: Set down the responsibility of the bishops for the reform of their subjects.
  • Canon 8: Procedure in regard to accusations against ecclesiastics. Until the French Revolution, this canon was of considerable importance in criminal law, not only ecclesiastical but even civil.
  • Canon 9: Celebration of public worship in places where the inhabitants belong to nations following different rites.

Ecclesiastical discipline

  • Canon 10: Ordered the appointment of preachers and penitentiaries to assist in the discharge of the episcopal functions of preaching and penance
  • Canon 11: The decree of 1179, about a school in each cathedral having been entirely ignored, was re-enacted, and a lectureship in theology ordered to be founded in every cathedral.
  • Canon 12: Abbots and priors are to hold their general chapter every three years.
  • Canon 13: A good deal of Innocent III's time had been spent judging complaints of bishops against the religious orders. This canon forbade the establishment of new religious orders. Those who wished to found a new house were to choose an existing approved rule. It is this canon that led Saint Dominic to adopt the Rule of St. Augustine.[9]

Clerical morality

  • Canons 14–17: Against the irregularities of the clergy — e.g., incontinence (wantonness), drunkenness, attendance at farces and histrionic exhibitions.
  • Canon 18: Clerics may neither pronounce nor execute a sentence of death. Nor may they act as judges in extreme criminal cases, or take part in matters connected with judicial tests and ordeals. This last prohibition, since it removed the one thing that gave the ordeal its value, was the beginning of the end of Trial by ordeal.[5]

Religious cult

  • Canon 19: Household goods must not be stored in churches unless there be an urgent necessity. Churches, church vessels, and the like must be kept clean.
  • Canon 20: Ordering that the Chrism and the Eucharist to be kept under lock and key, with a three month suspension for leaving it out carelessly, and worse if 'anything unspeakable' were to happen to it.
  • Canon 21, the famous "Omnis utriusque sexus", which commands every Christian who has reached the years of discretion to confess all his, or her, sins at least once a year to his, or her, own[10] priest. This canon did no more than confirm earlier legislation and custom, although it is sometimes incorrectly quoted as commanding the use of sacramental confession for the first time. In actuality the confession came into existence over a long period of time.[11] However, this was the first time that it took the shape of the Christian confessional as we know it today.[11]
  • Canon 22: Before prescribing for the sick, physicians shall be bound under pain of exclusion from the Church, to exhort their patients to call in a priest, and thus provide for their spiritual welfare.

Appointments and elections

  • Canons 23–30 regulate ecclesiastical elections and the collation (assignment) of benefices.
  • Canon 26: Ecclesiastical procedure.

Legal procedure

  • Canon 35: Defendants must not appeal without good cause before sentence is given; if they do, they are to be charged expenses.
  • Canon 36: Judges may revoke comminatory and interlocutory sentences and proceed with the case.

Relations with the secular power

  • Canon 43: Clerics should not take oaths of fealty to laymen without lawful cause.
  • Canon 44: Lay princes should not usurp the rights of churches.


  • Canon 47: Excommunication may be imposed only after warning in the presence of suitable witnesses and for manifest and reasonable cause.
  • Canon 49: Excommunications to be neither imposed nor lifted for payment.


  • Canons 50–52: There had been kings of France and Castile who had repudiated their wives and "remarried" with serious public consequences. Marriage, impediments of relationship, publication of banns were addressed in Canon 50.[12]


  • Canon 53: The council condemned those who had their property cultivated by others (non-Christians) in order to avoid tithes.
  • Canon 54: Tithe payments have priority over all other taxes and dues.

Religious Orders

  • Canon 57: Gave precise instructions on the interpretation of the privilege of celebrating religious services during interdict, enjoyed by some orders.


  • Canon 63: No fees are to be exacted for the consecration of bishops, the blessing of abbots or the ordination of clerics.
  • Canon 64: Monks and nuns may not require payment for entry into the religious life.

Regulations relating to Jews and Muslims

  • Canon 67: Jews may not charge extortionate interest.
  • Canons 68: Jews and Muslims shall wear a special dress to enable them to be distinguished from Christians so that no Christian shall come to marry them ignorant of who they are.[13]
  • Canon 69: Declares Jews disqualified from holding public offices, incorporating into ecclesiastical law a decree of the Holy Christian Empire.[13]
  • Canon 70: Takes measures to prevent converted Jews from returning to their former belief.[13]

In addition, it threatened excommunication to those who supplied ships, arms, and other war materials to the Saracens.

Effective application of the decrees varied according to local conditions and customs.[4]


  1. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Fourth Lateran Council (1215)" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
  2. ^ "Classical and Christian Anti-Semitism". Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  3. ^ Concilium Lateranense IV
  4. ^ a b c d Duggan, Anne. "Conciliar Law 1123-1215: The Legislation of the Four Lateran Councils", The History of Canon Law in the Classical Period, 1140–1234: From Gratian to the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, (Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington, eds.) (History of Medieval Canon Law; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008) 318–366
  5. ^ a b c Pennington, Kenneth. "The Fourth Lateran Council, its Legislation, and the Development of Legal Procedure", CUA
  6. ^ Walker, Greg (1993-05-01). "Heretical Sects in Pre-Reformation England". History Today. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-05-30. – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  7. ^ a b The Albigensian Crusade and heresy, Bernard Hamilton,The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 5, C.1198-c.1300, ed. Rosamond McKitterick, David Abulafia, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 169.
  8. ^ Beginning Firmiter credimus et simpliciter confitemur, text in Henricius Denzinger and Iohannes Bapt. Umberg, SJ (1937), Enchiridion Symbolorum, Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, Canon 1, # 428–430, pp. 199–200.
  9. ^ a b c Jarvis, Matthew OP. "Councils of Faith". Order of Preachers.
  10. ^ At that time this referred at least chiefly to the parish priest. However, its actual meaning is what is now called a "priest with faculties", specifically the authority to hear the respective penitent's confession. This authority is now more broadly distributed among priests.
  11. ^ a b Abercrombie, N., Hill, S., & Turner, B. S. (1986). Sovereign individuals of capitalism. London: Allen & Unwin.
  12. ^ Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 50
  13. ^ a b c Gottheil, Richard and Vogelstein, Hermann. "Church councils", Jewish Encyclopedia

External links

1215 in Ireland

Events from the year 1215 in Ireland.

Altar candlestick

Altar candlesticks hold the candles used in the Catholic liturgical celebration of Mass.


The amice is a liturgical vestment used mainly in the Roman Catholic church, Lutheran church, some Anglican, Armenian and Polish National Catholic churches.

Benedicamus Domino

Benedicamus Domino (Latin: "Let us bless the Lord") is a closing salutation that was formerly used in the Roman Mass instead of the Ite, missa est in Masses which lack the Gloria (i.e., Masses of the season during Advent, Septuagesima, Lent, and Passiontide; ferial Masses per annum at which the Mass of the preceding Sunday was repeated, except in Eastertide; most votive Masses). The response, said afterwards, is Deo gratias ("Thanks be to God"). It is also sung as a versicle at the end of all Offices.

Catholic ecumenical councils

Catholic ecumenical councils include 21 councils over a period of some 1900 years. While definitions changed throughout history, in today's Roman Catholic understanding ecumenical councils are assemblies of Patriarchs, Cardinals, residing Bishops, Abbots, male heads of religious orders and other juridical persons, nominated by the Pope. The purpose of an ecumenical council is to define doctrine, reaffirm truths of the Faith, and extirpate heresy. Council decisions, to be valid, are approved by the popes. Participation is limited to these persons, who cannot delegate their voting rights.

Ecumenical councils are different from provincial councils, where bishops of a Church province or region meet. Episcopal conferences and plenary councils are other bodies, meetings of bishops of one country, nation, or region, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This article does not include councils of a lower order or regional councils. Ecumenical in the Catholic view does not mean that all bishops attended the councils, which was not even the case in Vatican II. Nor does ecumenical imply the participation of or acceptance by all Christian communities and Churches. Ecumenical refers to "a solemn congregations of the Catholic bishops of the world at the invitation of the Pope to decide on matters of the Church with him". The ecumenical character of the councils of the first millennium was not determined by the intention of those who issued the invitations. The papal approval of the early councils did not have a formal character, which was characteristic in later councils. The Catholic Church did not officially declare these councils to be ecumenical. This became theological practice. Different evaluations existed between and within Christian communities. Today 21 councils are accepted in the Catholic church as ecumenical councils.Not all of the twenty-one councils were always accepted as ecumenical within the Catholic Church. For example, the inclusion of the First Lateran Council and the Council of Basel were disputed. A 1539 book on ecumenical councils by Cardinal Dominicus Jacobazzi excluded them as did other scholars. The first few centuries did not know large-scale ecumenical meetings; they were only feasible after the Church had gained freedom from persecution through Emperor Constantine.

County of Melgueil

The County of Melgueil (Occitan: Melguelh, modern Mauguio) was a fief of first the Carolingian Emperor, then the King of France, and finally (1085) the Papacy during the Middle Ages. Counts probably sat at Melgueil from the time of the Visigoths. The counts of Melgueil were also counts of Maguelonne and Substantion from at least the time of Peter's homage to Pope Gregory VII on 27 April 1085. In 1172 Beatriu disinherited her son Bertrand and named her daughter Ermessenda her heiress. Later that year Ermessenda married the future Raymond VI of Toulouse and by her will of 1176 the county was to go to Toulouse. Bertrand refused to recognise his disinheritance and pledged homage as Count of Melgueil to Alfonso II of Aragon in 1172. The county fell to the Toulouse in 1190 and was annexed to the French crown in 1213, during the Albigensian Crusade. At the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 it was given to the Diocese of Maguelonne and secular and ecclesiastical authority were merged.


The funghellino (Italian for "small mushroom") is a short mushroom-shaped stand used in the Roman Catholic liturgy. It is placed on the altar at a Pontifical Mass to hold the bishop's and higher prelates' skullcap (zuchetto) during the Eucharistic prayer.

Henryk Kietlicz

Henryk Kietlicz (1150 – March 22, 1219) was Archbishop of Gniezno from 1199 to 1219 was the main architect of the changes that allowed the Polish church to gain independence from the secular authorities.Henryk was born in 1150 to a Czech family who moved to Silesia and then Poland. Jan Długosz claims he was the son of prince Theodoric Kietlicz, and Eudocia, the daughter of Duke Konrad I Mazowiecki. In his earlier life he was an administrator for Mieszko III. He became Archbishop in 1198 or 1199, and had political skills and influenced both the secular and church politics of his day.

He instigated a program of church reform which included the introduction of celibate clergy, the exclusion of clergy from the authority of secular courts and privileges in the selection of bishops. At the Synod of Borzykowa in June 1210 he gained church privileges including its own courts and tax exemptions, in exchange for his support in gaining the Pope's recognition of the King. Here he negotiated with Leszek the White, Konrad I Mazowiecki and Władysław Odonic to renounce jus spolii. These privileges were enshrined in a papal bull of 1211, and were confirmed and expanded at the Wolbórz Synod in 1216.

He attended Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215, at which the mission to Prussia was approved and Henryk was made Papal legate to Prussia. Here he met with Innocent III who confirmed his support for Henryk's reforms.

At the synod of Wolborz in 1216 he gained further privileges for the church from Leszek I the White, Konrad of Masovia, Duke Wladyslaw and Casimir I of Opole. He then convened similar meetings in 1217 at Dańkowie and Sądowlu 1218, where a pact was formed between the Polish rulers.

Henryk was also active in secular politics, giving his support to the claims of Władysław Odonic over Władysław III Spindleshanks and advocated to Pope Innocent III to reverse the excommunication of High Duke Leszek I the White. He emerged as an advocate of the younger dukes in the divided kingdom period. His activism, however, did produce enemies and he had to spend some time in exile with Henry the Bearded of Silesia.

Despite his success, however, the death of Innocent III in 1216 and the succession of Honorius III saw Henryk lose Papal support. Resentment among Polish nobles and clergy resulted in Gedko Powało Bishop of Płock complaining to the new pope that Henryk was guilty of apparent excess and pride. Henryk Kietlicz was instructed and from that time did not participate in political life.

Henryk Kietlicz died on 22 March 1219.

Jewish hat

The Jewish hat also known as the Jewish cap, Judenhut (German) or Latin pileus cornutus ("horned skullcap"), was a cone-shaped pointed hat, often white or yellow, worn by Jews in Medieval Europe and some of the Islamic world. Initially worn by choice, its wearing was enforced in some places in Europe after the 1215 Fourth Council of the Lateran for adult male Jews to wear while outside a ghetto to distinguish them from others. Like the Phrygian cap that it often resembles, the hat originated in pre-Islamic Persia, as a similar hat was worn by Babylonian Jews.

Modern distinctive or characteristic Jewish forms of male headgear include the kippah (skullcap), shtreimel, spodik, kolpik, kashkets, and fedora; see also Hasidic headwear.

Latin Archbishopric of Thebes

The Latin Archbishopric of Thebes is the see of Thebes in the period in which its incumbents belonged to the Latin or Western Church. This period began in 1204 with the installation in the see of a Catholic archbishop following the Fourth Crusade, while the Orthodox metropolitan bishop fled the city.The Latin archbishop of Thebes was the senior-most of the Catholic clergy in the Duchy of Athens, which despite its name had its capital at Thebes. The archbishopric survived as a Latin residential see until 1456, when the duchy fell to the Ottoman Empire.

The see was later revived as a titular see, and has been vacant since 1965.Like other Latin sees in the Latin states of Greece, the names and dates of election of the incumbents during the first century of its existence are unknown, as they were rarely communicated to the papal court.

Along with many of his counterparts from other Latin sees of Greece, the anonymous archbishop of Thebes participated in the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215. In 1217–18 the archbishop was engaged in a dispute with the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, Gervasius, who claimed direct jurisdiction over the monasteries in the duchy of Athens and intervened in the administration of the Thebean archdiocese.


Manuterge is the name given by the Roman Catholic Church to the towel used by the priest when engaged liturgically.

Mea culpa

Mea culpa is a Latin phrase that means "through my fault" and is an acknowledgement of having done wrong.

Grammatically, meā culpā is in the ablative case, with an instrumental meaning.

The phrase comes from a prayer of confession of sinfulness, known as the Confiteor, used in the Roman Rite at the beginning of Mass or when receiving the sacrament of Penance.

The expression is used also as an admission of having made a mistake that should have been avoided, and may be accompanied by beating the breast as in its use in a religious context.


Oblation, meaning an offering (Late Latin oblatio, from offerre, oblatum, to offer), is a term used, particularly in ecclesiastical use, for a solemn offering or presentation to God.

Outline of the Catholic ecumenical councils

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Catholic Ecumenical Councils.

An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice.

Catholic Ecumenical Councils

Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III (Latin: Innocentius III; 1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216), born Lotario dei Conti di Segni (anglicized as Lothar of Segni) reigned from 8 January 1198 to his death in 1216.

Pope Innocent was one of the most powerful and influential of the medieval popes. He exerted a wide influence over the Christian states of Europe, claiming supremacy over all of Europe's kings. He was central in supporting the Catholic Church's reforms of ecclesiastical affairs through his decretals and the Fourth Lateran Council. This resulted in a considerable refinement of Western canon law. He is furthermore notable for using interdict and other censures to compel princes to obey his decisions, although these measures were not uniformly successful.

Innocent greatly extended the scope of the crusades, directing crusades against Muslim Spain and the Holy Land as well as the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in southern France.

He organized the Fourth Crusade of 1202–1204, which ended in the disastrous sack of Constantinople. Although the attack on Constantinople went against his explicit orders, and the Crusaders were subsequently excommunicated, Innocent reluctantly accepted this result, seeing it as the will of God to reunite the Latin and Orthodox Churches.

In the event, the sack of Constantinople and the subsequent period of Frankokratia led to an increase in the hostility between the Latin and Greek churches. The Byzantine empire was restored in 1261 but it never regained its former strength until its final destruction in 1453.


The tunicle is a liturgical vestment associated with Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism.

Use of Hereford

The Use of Hereford or Hereford Use was a variant of the Roman Rite used in Herefordshire before the English Reformation. When Peter of Aigueblanche, Bishop of Hereford, returned to his native Savoy he used it in his church in Aiguebelle.


The German term Volksschule generally refers to compulsory education, denoting an educational institution every person (i.e. the people, Volk) is required to attend.

In Germany and Switzerland it is equivalent to a combined primary (Grundschule and Primarschule, respectively) and lower secondary education (Hauptschule or Sekundarschule), usually comprising a mandatory attendance over a period of nine years. In Austria, Volksschule solely is used for primary school from Year One to Year Four. In the Nordic countries they are referred to as Folkskolen and in Finnish, in a direct translation, as Kansakoulu; these schools covered the first years of primary education, from the ages of 7 to 11 or 12.

Witch hat

A witch hat is a style of hat worn by witches in popular culture depictions, characterized by a conical crown and a wide brim.

First seven ecumenical councils
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