Fourth Council of the Lateran

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Fourth Council of the Lateran (Council of 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
Attendance71 patriarchs and metropolitans, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors
Topics Crusader 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

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.


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. [2] The Fourth Lateran Council was the largest and most representative of the medieval councils to that date. [3]

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 episcopal retinue include birds and hunting dogs. [4]

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. [4] During this council, the doctrine of transubstantiation—a 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. [5] The scholarly consensus is that the constitutions were drafted by Innocent III himself. [3]

In secular matters, the Council confirmed the elevation of Frederick II as Holy Roman Emperor. [3]

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 his son, Raymond VII. [6] Pierre-Bermond of Sauve's claim to Toulouse was rejected, and Toulouse was awarded to de Montfort; [6] 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

Order and discipline

Ecclesiastical discipline

Clerical morality

Religious cult

Appointments and elections

Relations with the secular power




Religious Orders


Regulations relating to Jews and Muslims

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. [3]

James Carroll has described the clothing regulations as "the precursor of the infamous yellow badge". He emphasises the key role of the Council in effecting major changes in Jewish-Catholic relations, and quotes the Swiss priest Hans Küng who wrote: [15]

It was not the riots in connection with the First Crusade in 1096. but this council which fundamentally changed the situation of the Jews, both legally and theologically. Because the Jews were ‘servants of sin,’ it was concluded that they should now be the servants of Christian princes. So now, in Constitution 68 of the council, for the first time a special form of dress was directly prescribed for Jews, which would isolate them; they were banned from taking public office, forbidden to go out during Holy Week, and had a compulsory tax imposed on them, to be paid to the local Christian clergy.

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Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, known as Simon IVde Montfort and as Simon de Montfort the Elder, was a French nobleman and soldier who took part in the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) and was a prominent leader of the Albigensian Crusade. He died at the Siege of Toulouse in 1218. He was lord of Montfort-l'Amaury in France and Earl of Leicester in England.

Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse Count of Toulouse

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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.

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


  1. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Fourth Lateran Council (1215)". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Concilium Lateranense IV
  3. 1 2 3 4 Duggan, Anne. "Conciliar Law 1123–1215: The Legislation of the Four Lateran Councils" Archived 2016-03-08 at the Wayback Machine , 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
  4. 1 2 3 "Pennington, Kenneth. "The Fourth Lateran Council, its Legislation, and the Development of Legal Procedure", CUA" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  5. 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)
  6. 1 2 "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.
  7. 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.
  8. 1 2 3 Jarvis, Matthew OP. "Councils of Faith". Order of Preachers.
  9. Of importance is the fact that Joachim himself was never condemned as a heretic by the Church; rather, the ideas and movement surrounding him were condemned. Joachim the man was held in high regard during his lifetime.
  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. 1 2 Abercrombie, N., Hill, S., & Turner, B. S. (1986). Sovereign individuals of capitalism. London: Allen & Unwin.
  12. Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 50
  13. "Fourth Lateran Council : 1215 Council Fathers". Papal Encyclicals. 1215-11-11. Retrieved 2019-12-08.Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. 1 2 Gottheil, Richard and Vogelstein, Hermann. "Church councils", Jewish Encyclopedia
  15. Carroll, James (2002). Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 283. ISBN   978-0-618-21908-7 . Retrieved 18 January 2020.