The Catholic University of America 

Canon Law 714A

TRS 727F

History of the Medieval Councils

Ken Pennington

Tuesday 1:10 PM - 3:00 PM

Classrooms:  Caldwell 111 and occasionally the Canon Law Seminar Room, Third Floor Mullen Library

Office Hours

Spring 2011:

T 11:30-1:00  (416 Law)

Th 12:30-1:30 (326-328 Caldwell)

and by appointment

Detail from Tomb of Mondino de' Liuzzi

 († 1326), sculpted by Roso (Boso) da Parma,

Church of San Vitale, Bologna


413 Caldwell Hall
Tel. 319-6264
416 Law School
Tel. 319-5150 

Home tel.: 202-547-3620

  (Click on addresses to send Email)

Councils were established in the first three centuries of the Christian Church.  Their canons played a very important role in unifying the Church.  This course will explore the theory and practice of conciliar institutions in local churches and the establishment of ecumenical or general councils.  The function of the council as a court, legislative body, and vehicle for reform will be studied.  The course will examine the councils of the Roman Catholic Church from the third century AD to the Council of Basel in the fifteenth century.  The canons of the council will be studied for their legal and theological contents. 


Required Book:  Norman P. Tanner, The Councils of the Church:  A Short History (New York 2001)  ISBN 0-8245-1904-3  Tanner's book is an excellent overview of conciliar history with excellent bibliographies.  It can be purchased from for $15.95.


Heinz Ohme, Sources of the Greek Canon Law to the Quinisext Council (692): Councils and Church Fathers

Anne J. Duggan, Conciliar Law 1123-1215: The Legislation of the Four  Lateran Councils

Atria Larson, Early Stages of Gratian’s Decretum and the Second Lateran Council: A Reconsideration

Ken Pennington, Representation in Medieval Canon Law

Ken Pennington, Roman Law at the Papal Curia in the Early Twelfth Century (An analysis of Lateran II's c.9)

Provided text on DVD:  Greek and Latin Texts of the Ecumenical Councils, the Texts of the Councils in the Corpus of Canon Law, and Manuscripts of Early Councils


1. Councils before Constantine

 Councils of Carthage 253-256 Council of Antioch  268 Council of Elvira 306


2. The Constantinian Councils

Council of Rome 313 Council of Arles 314 Council of Nicaea 325


3. Greek Councils

Constantinople I  381

Ephesus 431

Chalcedon 451

Constantinople II and III 553 and 680-681

Nicaea II 787

Constantinople IV 869-870


4. Latin Councils before the Twelfth Century

Rome 863 Council of Melfi 1089 Council of Claremont 1095


 5. Latin Ecumenical Councils

Second Lateran Council 1139

Third Lateran Council 1179

 Fourth Lateran Council 1215

First Council of Lyon 1245

Second Council of Lyon 1270

Council of Vienne 1311-1312


6. The Age of Conciliarism

Council of Constance  1414-1418 Councils of Basel and Ferrara 1431-1445 Councils of Florence and Rome 1431-1445

The course will require one research paper that will be due at the end of the semester and ongoing class participation.  Final Essay is due on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Bibliography of Secondary Literature in English

Early Councils and Greek Councils

Davis, Leo Donald. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgal Press, 1990.

Halfond, Gregory I.  Archaeology of Frankish Church Councils, AD 511-768.  Medieval law and its practice, v. 6.  Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2010.

Hess, Hamilton. The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press,


Laeuchli, Samuel. Power and Sexuality: The Emergence of Canon Law at the Synod of Elvira. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1972.

MacMullen, Ramsay.  Voting About God in Early Church Councils.  New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2006.  Contents: Introduction -- The

        democratic element -- The cognitive element -- The ’supernaturalist’ element -- The violent element -- Preliminaries -- Councils in action


Meyendorff, John. ""Councils (Ecumenical, 325-787),"  Dictionary of the Middle Ages  3 (1983) 627-631.

Rackman, R. B. The Text of the Canons of Ancyra: The Greek, Latin, Syriac  and the Armenian Versions.   Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006.

Stocking, Rachel L.  Bishops, Councils, and Consensus in the Visigothic Kingdom, 589-633.    History, Languages, and Cultures

        of the Spanish and Portuguese Worlds.  Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c2000.


Latin Councils


Blumenthal, Uta-Renate.  The Early Councils of Pope Paschal II, 1100-1110 (Studies and texts (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies,  43.

        Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1978).


The Church, the Councils, & Reform:  The Legacy of the Fifteenth Century,  edited by Gerald Christianson, Thomas M. Izbicki

        and Christopher M. Bellitto.  Washington, DC:  Catholic University of America Press, 2008.


Gill, Joseph. The Council of Florence (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1959).


Gill, Joseph.  Personalities at the Council of Florence and Other Essays (New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1964).


Loomis, Louise Ropes, Mundy, John Hine and Kennerly M. Woody, editors.  The Council of Constance: The Unification of the Church

        (Records of Civilization:  Sources and Studies, 63.   New York:  Columbia University Press, 1961) Select Sources in Translation.

Oakley, Francis.  The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church, 1300-1870. Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2003.

Oakley, Francis.  Council over Pope?  Towards a Provisional Ecclesiology (New York: Herder, 1969).

Oakley, Francis, "Councils, Western (1311-1449),"  Dictionary of the Middle Ages  3 (1983) 642-656.

Pixton, Paul B. "Councils, Western (1215-1274),"  Dictionary of the Middle Ages  3 (1983) 639-642.

Pixton, Paul B. The German Episcopacy and the Implementation of the Decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council, 1216-1245 : Watchmen

        on the Tower (Studies in the History of Christian Thought 64. Leiden: Brill, 1995.


Pixton, Paul B. “Cardinal Bishop Conrad of Porto and S. Rufina and the Implementation of Innocent III's

        Conciliar Decrees in Germany, 1224-1226,” Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law,

        Syracuse, New York, edited K. Pennington, S. Chodorow, and K. Kendall (Monumenta Iuris Canonici, Series C: Subsidia, vol. 11.

        Cittŕ del  Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2001) 509-535.


Somerville, Robert. The Councils of Urban II, 1: Decreta Claromontensia (Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum, Supplementum 1.

        Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1972.


Somerville, Robert. Pope Alexander III and the Council of Tours (Los Angeles: University of California, 1978.

Somerville, Robert. "Councils, Western (869-1179),"  Dictionary of the Middle Ages  3 (1983) 632-639.

Stieber, Joachim W. Pope Eugenius IV, the Council of Basel, and the Secular and Ecclesiastical Authorities in the Empire

        (Studies in the History of Christian Thought, 13. Leiden:  Brill, 1978.


Tierney, Brian. Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism.

        New Enlarged Edition. Studies in the History of Christian Thought, 81. Leiden-New York-Köln: Brill, 1998.


Bibliography of Sources

Bibliography of Local Synods and Councils:  Bibliographia synodorum particularium, ed. Jacobus Theodorius Sawicki (Monumenta iuris canonici, Series B: 2. Cittŕ del Vaticano, 1967.

Most Comprehensive Early Modern Edition of Conciliar Canons and Acta:  The most complete collection of conciliar canons is: Johannes Dominicus Mansi (1692-1769), Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio : in qua,prćter ea quć Phil. Labbeus et Gabr. Cossartius S.J. et novissime Nicolaus Coleti in lucem edidere, ea omnia insuper suis in locis optime disposita exhibentur quć Johannes Dominicus Mansi ... evulgavit ... 56 Volumes. Florentić : Expensis Antonii Zatta Veneti, 1759-[1927].

Early Church Councils and Sources Cuthbert Hamilton Turner (ed.) Ecclesiae Occidentalis Monumenta Iuris Antiquissima Canonum et Conciliorum Graecorum interpretationes Latinae. Edidit Cuthbert Hamilton Turner. 2 volumes. Oxford 1899-1939. Reprint: Hildesheim 2011.

An entirely arbitrary bibliography of modern editions that concentrates on the early Middle Ages:

Councils, Czech. Synody a statuta olomoucké diecéze období středověku, ed. Pavel Krafl, Práce Historického ústavu AV ČR; Opera Instituti hisorici Pragae, Řada/Series B, Editiones, Svazek, 2. Praha: Historického ústavu AV ČR, 2003.

Councils, English. Councils and Synods with Other Documents Relating to the English Church, 2: A.D. 1205-1313, Part 1: 1205-1265. Edited by F.M Powicke and Christopher R. Cheney. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964. 1998 ($5.00)

Councils, African Concilia Africae a. 345-a. 525.  Edited Charles Munier.  Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 149. Turnholt: Brepols, 1974

Councils, French. Concilia Galliae, A. 314 - A. 506. Edited Charles Munier. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 148. Turnholt: Brepols, 1963. Concilia Galliae, A. 511 - A. 695 Edited Charles de Clercq. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 148 A. Turnholt: Brepols, 1963. 2005 ($122.00)

Councils, German Konzilien der karolingischen Teilreiche 843-859. Ed. Wilfried Hartmann. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Concilia 3. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1984.

Councils, German. Konzilien der karolingischen Teilreiche 860-874. Ed. Wilfried Hartmann. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Concilia 3. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1998.

Instructions for Holding Councils Die Konzilsordines des Früh- und Hochmittelalters. Edited by Herbert Schneider. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Ordines de celebrando concilio. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1996.