Fourth Council of the Lateran

Last updated

Fourth Council of the Lateran (Lateran IV)
Accepted by Catholic Church
Previous council
Third Council of the Lateran
Next council
First Council of Lyon
Convoked by Pope Innocent III
President Pope Innocent III
Topics Crusading, Church reform, heresy
Documents and statements
71 papal decrees
Chronological list of ecumenical councils

The Fourth Council of the Lateran or Lateran IV was convoked by Pope Innocent III in April 1213 and opened at the Lateran Palace in Rome on 11 November 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and its meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend this council, which is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be the twelfth ecumenical council.



Innocent III first mooted organizing an ecumenical council in November 1199. [1] In his letter titled Vineam Domini, dated 19 April 1213, [2] the Pope writes of the urgent need to recover the Holy Land and reform the Church. [3] The letter, which also served as a summons to an ecumenical council, was included alongside the Pope's papal bull Quia maior . [1] In preparing for the council, the Pope spearheaded the extensive refurbishment of the old St. Peter's Basilica, which he designated as the "centrepiece for display and decoration" during the council. The lunette of the main door leading to the tomb of St. Peter had engravings of Old Testament prophets and twenty-four bishops, alongside the messages, "Feed your Sheep" and "This is the Door of the Sheep". [4]


Innocent III deliberately chose for the Fourth Council to meet in November, during which there were numerous feast days. [5] A preliminary legal session took place on 4 November, [6] while the opening ceremony of the council was held on St. Martin's Day and began with a private morning Mass. [5] Afterwards, at the start of the first plenary session in the Lateran Palace, the Pope led the singing of "Veni Creator Spiritus" [7] and preached about Jesus' words to his disciples at the Last Supper, [8] quoting from Luke 22. [9] In his next two sermons, one on the need to recover the Holy Land and the other on dealing with heretics, [10] the Pope was joined on stage by Raoul of Mérencourt and Thedisius of Agde respectively. [6]

On 14 November, 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 de Montfort) 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 Raymond VII. [11] Pierre-Bermond of Sauve's claim to Toulouse was rejected and Toulouse was awarded to de Montfort, while the lordship of Melgueil was separated from Toulouse and entrusted to the bishops of Maguelonne. [11]

The next day, in a ceremony attended by many council participants, the Pope consecrated the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, [5] which had been rebuilt by Callixtus II. [12] Four days later, the anniversary celebration at St. Peter's Basilica brought together such a large gathering that the Pope himself had trouble entering the premises. [12]

The second plenary session was held on 20 November; the Pope was scheduled to preach about church reform, but proceedings were disrupted by bishops who opposed the designation of Frederick II as Holy Roman Emperor. [13] The council concluded on 30 November, Saint Andrew's Day, during which the Pope preached on the Nicene Creed and concluded his remarks by raising up a relic of the True Cross. [13] The archbishop of Mainz attempted to interrupt the speech, although he complied with the Pope's raising of his handa command to stay silent. [14]


Lateran IV had three objectives: crusading, Church reform, and combatting heresy. [15] The seventy-one Lateran canons, which were not debated, were only formally adopted on the last day of the council; [16] according to Anne J. Duggan, the "scholarly consensus" is that they were drafted by Innocent III himself. [17] They cover a range of themes including Church reform and elections, taxation, matrimony, tithing, simony, and Judaism. [18] After being recorded in the papal registers, the canons were quickly circulated in law schools. [19] Effective application of the decrees varied according to local conditions and customs. [20]



While the proceedings were not officially recorded, unlike in previous councils, evidence of the events have been found in various manuscripts by observers of the council. [61] The Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris contains a line drawing of one of the sessions at the council which his abbot William of St Albans had personally attended. [62] An extensive eyewitness account by an anonymous German cleric was copied into a manuscript that was published in 1964, in commemoration of the Second Vatican Council, and is now housed at the University of Giessen. [63]


Henry of Segusio likened the council to the "four great councils of antiquity". [64] Lateran IV is sometimes referred to as the "Great Council of the Lateran" due to the presence of 404 or 412 bishops (including 71 cardinals and archbishops) and over 800 abbots and priors representing some eighty ecclesiastical provinces, [17] [65] together with 23 Latin-speaking prelates from the Eastern Orthodox Church [64] and representatives of several monarchs, including Frederick II, Otto IV, the Latin Emperor of Constantinople, John, King of England, Andrew II of Hungary, Philip II of France, and the kings of Aragon, Cyprus, and Jerusalem. [64] This made it the largest ecumenical council between the Council of Chalcedon and the Second Vatican Council; [66] Anne J. Duggan writes that "it was the largest, most representative, and most influential council assembled under papal leadership before the end of the fourteenth century." [67] According to F. Donald Logan, "the Fourth Lateran Council was the most important general council of the church in the Middle Ages", [68] whose effects "were felt for centuries." [69]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecumenical council</span> Meeting of bishops to rule on Christian doctrine and other matters

An ecumenical council, also called general council, is a meeting of bishops and other church authorities to consider and rule on questions of Christian doctrine, administration, discipline, and other matters in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First Council of the Lateran</span> Roman Catholic synod of 1123

The First Council of the Lateran was the 9th ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church. It was convoked by Pope Callixtus II in December 1122, immediately after the Concordat of Worms. The council sought to bring an end to the practice of the conferring of ecclesiastical benefices by people who were laymen, free the election of bishops and abbots from secular influence, clarify the separation of spiritual and temporal affairs, re-establish the principle that spiritual authority resides solely in the Church and abolish the claim of the Holy Roman Emperor to influence papal elections.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First Council of Constantinople</span> 381 AD council of Christian bishops

The First Council of Constantinople was a council of Christian bishops convened in Constantinople in AD 381 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. This second ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, except for the Western Church, confirmed the Nicene Creed, expanding the doctrine thereof to produce the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, and dealt with sundry other matters. It met from May to July 381 in the Church of Hagia Irene and was affirmed as ecumenical in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pope Callixtus II</span> Head of the Catholic Church from 1119 to 1124

Pope Callixtus II or Callistus II, born Guy of Burgundy, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1 February 1119 to his death in 1124. His pontificate was shaped by the Investiture Controversy, which he was able to settle through the Concordat of Worms in 1122.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pope Innocent III</span> Head of the Catholic Church from 1198 to 1216

Pope Innocent III, born Lotario dei Conti di Segni, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 8 January 1198 to his death in 16 July 1216.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Third Council of the Lateran</span> Synod

The Third Council of the Lateran met in Rome in March 1179. Pope Alexander III presided and 302 bishops attended. The Catholic Church regards it as the eleventh ecumenical council.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Synod</span> Council of a church, convened to resolve issues of doctrine or administration

A synod is a council of a Christian denomination, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word synod comes from the Greek: σύνοδος [ˈsinoðos] meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the Latin word concilium meaning "council". Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Second Council of the Lateran</span> 12th-century Christian church council

The Second Council of the Lateran was the tenth ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church. It was convened by Pope Innocent II in April 1139 and attended by close to a thousand clerics. Its immediate task was to neutralise the after-effects of the schism which had arisen after the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130 and the papal election that year that established Pietro Pierleoni as the antipope Anacletus II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First Council of Lyon</span> Thirteenth ecumenical council (1245)

The First Council of Lyon was the thirteenth ecumenical council, as numbered by the Catholic Church, taking place in 1245.

Clerical celibacy is the requirement in certain religions that some or all members of the clergy be unmarried. Clerical celibacy also requires abstention from deliberately indulging in sexual thoughts and behavior outside of marriage, because these impulses are regarded as sinful.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Council of Vienne</span> Ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church (1311–1312)

The Council of Vienne was the fifteenth ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church and met between 1311 and 1312 in Vienne, France. One of its principal acts was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar at the instigation of Philip IV of France. The Council, unable to decide on a course of action, tabled the discussion. In March 1312 Philip arrived and pressured the Council and Clement to act. Clement passed papal bulls dissolving the Templar Order, confiscating their lands, and labeling them heretics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of Christianity</span> Account of Christianity from the beginning of the current era (AD) to the present

The purpose of this timeline is to give a detailed account of Christianity from the beginning of the current era (AD) to the present. Question marks ('?') on dates indicate approximate dates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Synod of Elvira</span> Christian ecclesiastical synod held at Elvira in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica

The Synod of Elvira was an ecclesiastical synod held at Elvira in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica, now Granada in southern Spain. Its date has not been exactly determined but is believed to be in the first quarter of the fourth century, approximately 305–6. It was one of three councils, together with the Synod of Arles (314) and the Synod of Ancyra, that first approached the character of general councils and prepared the way for the first ecumenical council. It was attended by nineteen bishops and twenty-six presbyters, mostly resident in Baetica. Deacons and laymen were also present. Eighty-one canons are recorded, although it is believed that many were added at later dates. All concern order, discipline and conduct among the Christian community. Canon 36, forbidding the use of images in churches, became a bone of contention between Catholic and Protestant scholars after the Protestant Reformation.

The Lateran councils were ecclesiastical councils or synods of the Catholic Church held at Rome in the Lateran Palace next to the Lateran Basilica. Ranking as a papal cathedral, this became a much-favored place of assembly for ecclesiastical councils both in antiquity and more especially during the Middle Ages.

Arles in the south of Roman Gaul hosted several councils or synods referred to as Concilium Arelatense in the history of the early Christian church.

Ad abolendam was a decretal and bull of Pope Lucius III, written at Verona and issued 4 November 1184. It was issued after the Council of Verona settled some jurisdictional differences between the Papacy and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. The document prescribes measures to uproot heresy and sparked the efforts which culminated in the Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisitions. Its chief aim was the complete abolition of Christian heresy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catholic ecumenical councils</span> Ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church

According to the Catholic Church, a Church Council is ecumenical ("world-wide"), if it is "a solemn congregation of the Catholic bishops of the world at the invitation of the Pope to decide on matters of the Church with him".

The Council of Bourges was a Catholic council convened in November 1225 in Bourges, France; it was the second largest church assembly held in the West up to that time, exceeded in the numbers of prelates that attended only by the Fourth Lateran Council. Summoned by the cardinal-legate Romanus Bonaventura, it was attended by 112 archbishops and bishops, more than 500 abbots, many deans and archdeacons, and over 100 representatives of cathedral chapters.

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



  1. 1 2 Bolton 1995, p. 58.
  2. Jones 2015, p. 122.
  3. Bolton 1995, p. 57.
  4. Bolton 1995, pp. 56–57.
  5. 1 2 3 Bolton 1995, p. 61.
  6. 1 2 Helmrath 2015, p. 29.
  7. Helmrath 2015, p. 32.
  8. Jones 2015, p. 123.
  9. Helmrath 2015, p. 21.
  10. Bolton 1995, p. 62.
  11. 1 2 Hamilton 1999, p. 169.
  12. 1 2 Helmrath 2015, p. 35.
  13. 1 2 Bolton 1995, p. 63.
  14. Helmrath 2015, p. 30.
  15. Helmrath 2015, p. 19.
  16. Helmrath 2015, pp. 35–36.
  17. 1 2 Duggan 2008, p. 343.
  18. Tanner 2016, p. 228.
  19. Pennington 2015, p. 43.
  20. Duggan 2008, p. 366.
  21. Walker, Greg (1 May 1993). "Heretical Sects in Pre-Reformation England". History Today. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 30 May 2017.  via  HighBeam (subscription required)
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 Duggan 2008, p. 345.
  23. Tanner 2016, p. 230.
  24. Tanner 2016, p. 231.
  25. Tanner 2016, p. 232.
  26. Tanner 2016, p. 235.
  27. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 236.
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Duggan 2008, p. 346.
  29. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 237.
  30. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 239.
  31. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 240.
  32. Tanner 2016, p. 242.
  33. 1 2 3 Tanner 2016, p. 243.
  34. 1 2 3 Tanner 2016, p. 244.
  35. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 245.
  36. Tanner 2016, p. 246.
  37. Tanner 2016, pp. 246–247.
  38. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 247.
  39. 1 2 3 Tanner 2016, p. 248.
  40. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 249.
  41. Tanner 2016, pp. 249–250.
  42. Tanner 2016, p. 250.
  43. Hoskin 2019, p. 27.
  44. 1 2 3 Tanner 2016, p. 251.
  45. 1 2 3 Tanner 2016, p. 252.
  46. 1 2 3 4 Tanner 2016, p. 253.
  47. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 254.
  48. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 255.
  49. Tanner 2016, pp. 256–257.
  50. Tanner 2016, p. 257.
  51. "Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 50".
  52. Tanner 2016, p. 259.
  53. Tanner 2016, p. 260.
  54. Tanner 2016, p. 261.
  55. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 264.
  56. Tanner 2016, p. 265.
  57. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 266.
  58. Gottheil, Richard; Vogelstein, Hermann. "Church councils". Jewish Encyclopedia . Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  59. 1 2 Tanner 2016, p. 267.
  60. Pennington 2015, p. 42.
  61. Bolton 1995, p. 59.
  62. Bolton 1995, p. 60.
  63. Bolton 1995, p. 53.
  64. 1 2 3 Helmrath 2015, p. 24.
  65. Helmrath 2015, pp. 26–27.
  66. Helmrath 2015, p. 17.
  67. Duggan 2008, p. 341.
  68. Logan 2012, p. 193.
  69. Logan 2012, p. 201.


  • Bolton, Brenda (1995). Innocent III: Studies on Papal Authority and Pastoral Care. Routledge. ISBN   978-0-86078489-0.
  • Carroll, James (2002). Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN   978-0-61821908-7.
  • Duggan, Anne J. (2008). "Conciliar Law 1123–1215: The Legislation of the Four Lateran Councils". In Hartmann, Wilfried; Pennington, Kenneth (eds.). The History of Canon Law in the Classical Period, 1140–1234: From Gratian to the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX. The Catholic University of America Press. pp. 318–66. doi:10.2307/j.ctt2853s5.14. ISBN   9780813214917. JSTOR   j.ctt2853s5.14.
  • Hamilton, Bernard (1999). "The Albigensian Crusade and heresy". In McKitterick, Rosamond; Abulafia, David (eds.). The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. 5. Cambridge University Press. pp. 164–81.
  • Helmrath, Johannes (2015). "The Fourth Lateran Council: Its Fundamentals, Its Procedure in Comparative Perspective". The Fourth Lateran Council: Institutional Reform and Spiritual Renewal. Proceeding of the Conference Marking the Eight Hundredth Anniversary of the Council organized by the Pontificio Comitato di Scienze Storiche. pp. 17–40. ISBN   978-393902084-4.
  • Hoskin, Philippa (2019). Robert Grosseteste and the 13th-Century Diocese of Lincoln. Brill. ISBN   978-900438523-8.
  • Jones, Andrew W. (2015). "The Preacher of the Fourth Lateran Council". Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. 18 (2): 121–149. doi:10.1353/log.2015.0011. S2CID   159940016. Closed Access logo transparent.svg
  • Logan, F. Donald (2012). A History of the Church in the Middle Ages. Taylor & Francis. ISBN   978-1-13478669-5.
  • Pennington, Kenneth (2015). "The Fourth Lateran Council: Its Legislation, and the Development of Legal Procedure". The Fourth Lateran Council: Institutional Reform and Spiritual Renewal. Proceeding of the Conference Marking the Eight Hundredth Anniversary of the Council organized by the Pontificio Comitato di Scienze Storiche. pp. 41–54. ISBN   978-393902084-4.
  • Tanner, Norman P. (2016). Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 1. Georgetown University Press. ISBN   978-1-62616482-6.
  • Turner, Bryan S.; Abercrombie, Nicholas; Hill, Stephen (2014). Sovereign Individuals of Capitalism. Routledge. ISBN   978-1-31765073-7.
  • Woods, Marjorie Curry; Copeland, Rita (2002). "Classroom and Confession". In Wallace, David (ed.). The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Cambridge University Press. pp. 376–406. ISBN   978-0-52189046-5.
  • Champagne, Marie-Thérèse; Resnick, Irven M, eds. (2018). Jews and Muslims under the Fourth Lateran Council : papers commemorating the octocentenary of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. ISBN   978-2-503-58151-4.