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Councils of Lyons

Treatment of two councils held in Lyons

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Lyons, COUNCILS of.—Previous to 1313 the Abbé Martin counts no less than twenty-eight synods or councils held at Lyons or at Anse near Lyons. The pretended colloquy between the Catholic and Arian bishops of Burgundy, said to have been held in 499, is regarded, since the researches of Julien Havet, as apochryphal. This article deals only with the two general councils of 1245 and 1275.

I. GENERAL COUNCIL OF 1245.— Innocent IV, threatened by Emperor Frederick II, arrived at Lyons December 2, 1244, and early in 1245 summoned the bishops and princes to the council. The chronicle of St. Peter of Erfurt states that two hundred and fifty prelates responded; the annalist Mencon speaks of three patriarchs, three hundred bishops, and numerous prelates. The Abbé Martin without deciding between these figures has succeeded in recovering to a certainty the names of one hundred assistants, prelates or lords, of whom thirty-eight were from France, thirty from Italy, eleven from Germany or the countries of the North, eight from England, five from Spain, five from the Latin Orient. Baldwin II, Latin Emperor of Constantinople, Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, Raymond Berenger IV, Count of Provence, Albert Rezats, Latin Patriarch of Antioch, Berthold, Patriarch of Aquileia, Nicholas, Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, came to the council, which opened June 28 at Saint-Jean. After the “Veni Creator” and the litanies, Innocent IV preached his famous sermon on the five wounds of the Church from the text “Secundum multitudinem dolorum meorum in corde meo, consolations tuae laetificaverunt animam meam”. He enumerated his five sorrows: (I) the bad conduct of prelates and faithful; (2) the insolence of the Saracens; (3) the Greek Schism; (4) the cruelties of the Tatars in Hungary; (5) the persecution of the Emperor Frederick; and he caused to be read the privilege granted to Pope Honorius III by Frederick when the latter was as yet only King of the Romans. Thaddeus of Suessa, Frederick’s ambassador, arose, attempted to make excuses for the emperor, and cited numerous plots against the emperor which, he said, had been instigated by the Church. On June 29 at the request of the procurators of the Kings of France and England, Innocent IV granted Thaddeus a delay of ten days for the arrival of the emperor.

At the second session (July 5) the Bishop of Calvi and a Spanish archbishop attacked the emperor’s manner of life and his plots against the Church; again Thaddeus spoke in his behalf and asked a delay for his arrival. Despite the advice of numerous prelates Innocent (July 9) decided to postpone the third session until the seventeenth. On the seventeenth Frederick had not come. Baldwin II, Raymond VII, and Berthold, Patriarch of Aquileia, interceded in vain for him; Thaddeus in his master’s name appealed to a future pope and a more general council; Innocent pronounced the deposition of Frederick, caused it to be signed by one hundred and fifty bishops and charged the Dominicans and Francis-cans with its publication everywhere. But the pope lacked the material means to execute this decree; the Count of Savoy refused to allow an army sent by the pope against the emperor to pass through his territory, and for a time it was feared that Frederick would attack Innocent at Lyons. The Council of Lyons took several other purely religious measures; it obliged the Cistercians to pay tithes, approved the Rule of the Order of Grandmont, decided the institution of the octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, prescribed that henceforth cardinals should wear a red hat, and lastly prepared thirty-eight constitutions which were later inserted by Boniface VIII in his Decretals, the most important of which, received with protests by the envoys of the English clergy, decreed a levy of a twentieth on every benefice for three years for the relief of the Holy Land (Constitution “Afliicti corde”) and a levy for the benefit of the Latin Empire of Constantinople of half the revenue of benefices whose titulars did not reside therein for at least six months of the year (Constitution “Arduis mens occupata negotiis”).

II. GENERAL COUNCIL OF 1274.—The second Council of Lyons was one of the most largely attended of conciliar assemblies, there being present five hundred bishops, sixty abbots, more than a thousand prelates or procurators. Gregory X, who presided, had been a canon of Lyons; Peter of Tarentaise, who assisted as CardinalBishop of Ostia, had been Archbishop of Lyons. It opened May 7, 1274, in the church of St. John. There were five other sessions (May 18, June 7? July 6, July 16s July 17). At the second session Gregory X owing to the excessive numbers rejected the proxies of chapters, abbots, and unmitred priors, except those who had been summoned by name. Among those who attended the council were James I, King of Aragon, the ambassadors of the Kings of France and England, the ambassadors of the Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the Greek clergy, the ambassadors of the Khan of the Tatars. The conquest of the Holy Land and the union of the Churches were the two ideas for the realization of which Gregory X had convoked the council.

The Crusade.—Despite the protest of Richard of Mapham, dean of Lincoln, he obtained that during six years for the benefit of the crusade a tithe of all the benefices of Christendom should go to the pope, but when James I, King of Aragon, wished to organize the expedition at once the representatives of the Templars opposed the project, and a decision was postponed. Ambassadors of the Khan of Tatary arrived at Lyons, July 4, to treat with Gregory X, who desired that during the war against Islam the Tatars should leave the Christians in peace. Two of the ambassadors were solemnly baptized July 16.

Union of the Churches.—Gregory X had prepared for the union by sending in 1273 an embassy to Constantinople to Michael Palaeologus and by inducing Charles, King of Sicily, and Philip, Latin Emperor of Constantinople, to moderate their political ambitions. On June 24, 1274, there arrived at Lyons as representatives of Palaeologus, Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Theophanes, Bishop of Nicaea, Georgius Acropolita, senator and great logothete, Nicholas Panaretus, president of the ward-robe, Berrhoeota, chief interpreter, and Georgius Zinuchi. The letter from Palsaeologus which they presented had been written in the name of fifty archbishops and five hundred bishops or synods. On June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Gregory X celebrated Mass in the church of St. John, the Epistle Gospel, and Creed were read or sung in Latin and Greek, the article “qui a patre filioque procedit” was sung three times by the Greeks. On July 6, after a sermon by Peter of Tarentaise and the public reading of the letter of Palaeologus, Georgius Acropolita and the other ambassadors promised fidelity to the Latin Church, abjured twenty-six propositions which it denied, and promised the protection of the emperor to the Christians of the Holy Land. Gregory X intoned the “Te Deum“, spoke on the text “Desiderio desideravi hoc pascha manducare vobiscum”, and on July 28 wrote joyful letters to Michael, to his son Andronicus, and forty-one metropolitans. Three letters dated February, 1274, written to the pope by Michael and Andronicus, in which they recognized his supremacy, exist as proofs of the emperor’s good faith; despite the efforts to throw doubt on it by means of a letter of Innocent V (1276) which seems to point to the conclusion that Georgius Acropolita, who at the council had promised fidelity to the Roman Church, had not been expressly authorized by the emperor.

The Council of Lyons dealt also with the reform of the Church, in view of which Gregory X in 1273 had addressed questions to the bishops and asked of Hubert de Romans, the former general of the Friars Preachers, a certain program for discussion and of John of Vercelli, the new general of the order, a draft of formal constitutions. Henri of Gölder, Bishop of Liège, Frederick, Abbot of St. Paul without the Walls, the Bishops of Rhodes and of Würzburg were deposed for unworthiness, and certain mendicant orders were suppressed. The council warmly approved the two orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis. Fearing the opposition of the King of Spain who had in his kingdom three religious military orders, the idea was abandoned of forming all military orders into one. Gregory X, to avoid a repetition of the too lengthy vacancies of the papal see, caused it to be decided that the cardinals should not leave the conclave till the pope had been elected. This constitution which inflicted certain material privations on the cardinals if the election was too long delayed, was suspended in 1276 by Adrian V, and a few months later revoked by John XXI, but was reestablished later in many of its articles, and is even yet the basis of legislation on the conclaves. Lastly, the Council of Lyons dealt with the vacancy of the imperial throne. James I of Aragon pretended to it; Gregory X removed him and on June 6 Rudolph I was proclaimed King of the Romans and future emperor. Such was the work of the council during which died the two greatest doctors of the Middle Ages. St. Thomas Aquinas, summoned by the pope, died at Frosinone (March 7, 1274) on his way to Lyons. St. Bonaventure, after important interviews at the Council with the Greek ambassadors, died July 15, at Lyons, and was praised by Peter of Tarentaise, the future Innocent V, in a touching funeral sermon.


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