This lesson will discuss the Four Lateran Councils held between the years 1123 and 1215 CE. In doing so, it will explore and highlight the main themes and decisions of each.
My sister works for a huge company that spans the nation. In order to keep everyone abreast of all the business dealings and happenings, they have a yearly conference. Sort of like a pow-wow for all the higher ups. This year it was in Hawaii. Poor thing.
Although not all organizations can afford to send everyone to paradise, the idea of conferences is not a new thing. In fact, the Church has been holding conferences of sorts for centuries. They just call them councils. Today we're going to discuss some of the Church's most famous get-together pow-wows, or councils if you will. They are known in history as the Lateran Councils. Their names are derived from the place in which they were held, the Lateran Palace in Rome.
Pope Innocent II condemned Arnold of Brescia during the Second Lateran Council
In order to cement the discussions and decisions of each of these councils, we're going to use the acronym R.A.C.E. In using this, we'll hope to make it easier to remember why the leaders of the medieval church RACED to each of these four councils.
First Lateran Council
Let's start with the First Lateran Council and the letter R. Held in the year 1123, this council was pretty much a review of Church's laws and principle. Since it was really just a big review session, it doesn't get much play or time in the history books. However, we do know things like the handling of church property, the condemnation of simony, which was the selling of church positions, and the fact that high-ranking clergy were forbidden to marry were all discussed. Hence, we give it the letter R. It was a review of Church canons, or laws and principles.
Second Lateran Council
Next, we have the Second Lateran Council. This one was held in the year 1139. It was called by Pope Innocent II in order to accuse and then condemn a guy named Arnold of Brescia. This is where we get our letter A. The Second Lateran Council was called to accuse Arnold of Brescia. In short, Arnold of Brescia dared to question the power of the Pope, and obviously, the Pope wasn't going to put up with it. Therefore, the Second Lateran Council was called to put a stop to Arnold and his troublesome ideas.
Third Lateran Council
This brings us to the Third Lateran Council and the letter C. Held in the year 1179, this council was called into being by Pope Alexander III. This council condemned what they considered a radical group of Christians living in modern-day France known as the Albigenses and Waldenses. The reason for this condemnation is that these radicals actually had the nerve to say the Church had become corrupt and that the Bible should be the rule of law for all Christians!
Pope Alexander III condemned the Albigenses and Waldenses
Along with the condemnation of these radicals, the Third Council also stated the Pope could only be pope if he was elected by a two-thirds majority of the College of Cardinals. How fortuitous. This last point gives us more Cs by which to remember the third Lateran Council. It condemned some radicals and discussed the voting practices of the College of Cardinals!
Fourth Lateran Council
With this, we come to the last of the Lateran Councils, the Fourth Lateran Council. Now, this one was quite the occasion! In fact, taking place in the year 1215, it's considered one of the most important councils of the Catholic Church! Called to order during the reign of Pope Innocent III, this council was extremely important, extremely well attended and extreme in the number of decrees it put forth. Hence, the reason we're giving it the letter E.
As for attendance, the Fourth Lateran Council was attended by over 800 abbots and 400 bishops. Adding to this, it also saw the attendance of several European Kings. As for the decrees it put forth - history tells us there were 70, dealing from the way Jews were supposed to dress to requiring all Catholics to practice confession on a yearly basis. It also called for Catholics to partake of communion during the Easter holiday.
Not only was the Fourth Lateran Council extreme in its attendance and extreme in its reforms, it also discussed the expulsion of non-Christians from the Holy Lands. In other words, it discussed a renewed passion for the Crusades. Yet again a reason to remember it with the letter E! It was extremely important. It was extremely well attended, and it called for the expulsion of non-Christians from the Holy Lands. All and all, it was the epitome of a church council and still considered one of the most important in all of Church history.
The Fourth Lateran Council had renewed passion for the Crusades
The four Lateran Councils are an important part of church history. Being held between 1123 and 1215, these councils helped to define church tradition and law. The First Lateran Council reviewed church laws and traditions. The Second Lateran Council accused Arnold of Brescia of teaching against the Church. The Third Lateran Council condemned the radical believers known as the Albigineses and Waldenses, while also clarifying the importance of the College of Cardinals.
Lastly, the Fourth Lateran Council was extremely important, publishing 70 church laws and decrees. It was also extremely well attended by not just church officials, but also the royalty of Europe. Adding to this, it also reaffirmed the Church's desire to expel non-Christians from the Holy Lands. All in all, it was what we could call the epitome of an important church council.
When this lesson is complete, you should be able to:
- State the purpose of the Lateran Councils
- Break down the significance of the four Councils using the acronym RACE