Third Lateran Council (1179)
The reign of Alexander III was one of the most laborious
pontificates of the Middle Ages. Then, as in 1139, the object was
to repair the evils caused by the schism of an antipope. Shortly
after returning to Rome (12 March, 1178) and receiving from its
inhabitants their oath of fidelity and certain indispensable
guarantees, Alexander had the satisfaction of receiving the
submission of the antipope Callistus III (John de Struma). The
latter, besieged at Viterbo by Christian of Mainz, eventually
yielded and, at Tusculum, made his submission to Pope Alexander
(29 August, 1178), who received him with kindness and appointed
him Governor of Beneventum. Some of his obstinate partisans sought
to substitute a new antipope, and chose one Lando Sitino, under
the name of Innocent III. For lack of support he soon gave up the
struggle and was relegated to the monastery of La Cava. In
September, 1178, the pope in agreement with an article of the
Peace of Venice, convoked an ecumenical council at the Lateran for
Lent of the following year and, with that object, sent legates to
different countries. This was the eleventh of the ecumenical
councils. It met in March, 1179. The pope presided, seated upon an
elevated throne, surrounded by the cardinals, and by the prefects,
senators, and consuls of Rome. The gathering numbered three
hundred and two bishops, among them several Latin prelates of
Eastern sees. There were in all nearly one thousand members.
Nectarius, abbot of the Cabules, represented the Greeks. The East
was represented by Archbishops William of Tyre and Heraclius of
Caesarea, Prior Peter of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Bishop of
Bethlehem. Spain sent nineteen bishops; Ireland, six; Scotland,
only one- England, seven; France, fifty nine; Germany, seventeen-
Denmark and Hungary, one each. The bishops of Ireland had at their
head St. Laurence, Archbishop of Dublin. The pope consecrated, in
the presence of the council, two English bishops, and two
Scottish, one of whom had come to Rome with only one horse the
other on foot. There was also present an Icelandic bishop who had
no other revenue than the milk of three cows, and when one of
these went dry his diocese furnished him with another.
Besides exterminating the remains of the schism the council
undertook the condemnation of the Waldensian heresy and the
restoration of ecclesiastical discipline, which had been much
relaxed. Three sessions were held, on 5, 14, and 19 March, in
which twenty-seven canons were promulgated, the most important of
which may be summarized as follows:
Canon 1: To prevent schisms in future, only the cardinals
should have the right to elect the pope, and two-thirds of their
votes should be required for the validity of such election. If any
candidate, after securing only one-third of the votes, should
arrogate to himself the papal dignity, both he and his partisans
should be excluded from the ecclesiastical order and
Canon 2: Annulment of the ordinations performed by the
heresiarchs Octavian and Guy of Crema, as well as those by John de
Struma. Those who have received ecclesiastical dignities or
benefices from these persons are deprived of the same; those who
have freely sworn to adhere to the schism are declared suspended.
Canon 3: It is forbidden to promote anyone to the episcopate
before the age of thirty. Deaneries, archdeaconries, parochial
charges, and other benefices involving the care of souls shall not
be conferred upon anyone less than twenty-five years of age.
Canon 4 regulates the retinue of members of the higher clergy,
whose canonical visits were frequently ruinous to the rural
priests. Thenceforward the train of an archbishop is not to
include more than forty or fifty horses; that of a bishop, not
more than twenty or thirty; that of an archdeacon, five or seven
at the most- the dean is to have two.
Canon 5 forbids the ordination of clerics not provided with an
ecclesiastical title, i. e. means of proper support. If a bishop
ordains a priest or a deacon without assigning him a certain title
on which he can subsist, the bishop shall provide such cleric with
means of liveli hood until he can assure him an ecclesiastical
revenue that is, if the cleric cannot subsist on his patrimony
Canon 6 regulates the formalities of ecclesiastical sentences.
Canon 7 forbids the exaction of a sum of money for the burial
of the dead, the marriage benediction, and, in general, for the
administration of the sacraments.
Canon 8: The patrons of benefices shall nominate to such
benefices within six months after the occurrence of a vacancy.
Canon 9 recalls the military orders of the Templars and the
Hospitallers to the observation of canonical regulations, from
which the churches dependent on them are in no wise exempt.
Canon 11 forbids clerics to receive women in their houses, or
to frequent, without necessity, the monasteries of nuns.
Canon 14 forbids laymen to transfer to other laymen the tithes
which they possess, under pain of being debarred from the
communion of the faithful and deprived of Christian burial.
Canon 18 provides for the establishment in every cathedral
church of a school for poor clerics.
Canon 19: Excommunication aimed at those who levy contributions
on churches and churchmen without the consent of the bishop and
Canon 20 forbids tournaments.
Canon 21 relates to the "Truce of God".
Canon 23 relates to the organization of asylums for lepers.
Canon 24 consists of a prohibition against furnishing the
Saracens with material for the construction of their galleys.
Canon 27 enjoins on princes the repression of heresy.
Transcribed by Tomas Hancil
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc.
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.knight.org/advent).
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