Fourth Council of the Lateran

The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull of April 19, 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome’s Lateran Palace beginning November 11, 1215.[1] Due to the great length of time between the Council’s convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It was the 12th ecumenical council and is sometimes called the “Great Council” or “General Council of Lateran” due to the presence of seventy-one patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, four hundred and twelve bishops, and nine hundred abbots and priors together with representatives of several monarchs.[1]

Purposes of the Council

Pope Innocent III had always planned to gather an ecumenical council because of the limited results of the Third Crusade and the bitter results of the Fourth Crusade, which had led to the capture of Constantinople and large parts of the Byzantine Empire. Innocent III wanted to reformulate papal involvement in the Crusades as outlined in his decree “To Free the Holy Land”, but only towards the end of his pontificate did he realise this project.

The Pope presented seventy-one decrees; the Council considered these along with the organization of the Fifth Crusade and with measures against heretics. Those gathered in Council engaged in little discussion and generally approved the decrees presented by Innocent III.

In secular matters, 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) argued in favour of the confiscation.

The Council confirmed the elevation of Frederick II as Holy Roman Emperor. Pierre-Bermond of Sauve’s claim to Toulouse was rejected, and Toulouse was awarded to Simon de Montfort; the lordship of Melgueil was separated from Toulouse and entrusted to the bishops of Maguelonne. Provence, a possession of Raymond VI, was confiscated and kept in trust to be restored to his son if he proved worthy of it.

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