Fourth Council of the Lateran

Fourth Council of the Lateran (Council of Lateran IV)
Date 1215
Accepted by Roman Catholicism
Previous council
Third Council of the Lateran
Next council
First Council of Lyon
Convoked by Pope Innocent III
President Pope Innocent III
Attendance 71 patriarchs and metropolitans, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors
Topics Crusader States, Investiture Controversy, Filioque
Documents and statements
seventy papal decrees, transubstantiation, papal primacy, conduct of clergy, confession and communion at least once a year, Fifth Crusade
Chronological list of Ecumenical councils

The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull Vineam domini Sabaoth of 19 April 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome's Lateran Palace beginning 11 November 1215.[1] Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It is considered by the Catholic Church to have been the twelfth 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]


Lateran IV stands as the high-water mark of the medieval papacy. Its political and ecclesiastical decisions endured down to the Council of Trent while modern historiography has deemed it the most significant papal assembly of the Later Middle Ages.[2] The Fourth Lateran Council was thus the largest and most representative of the medieval councils to that date.[3]

In summoning the bishops to a general council, Innocent III emphasized that reforms must be made in the Church and that a new crusade to the Holy Land must be launched. He also reminded them that it was not appropriate that their retinue include birds and hunting dogs.[4]

The agenda laid out in Vineam domini Sabaoth included reform of the Church, the stamping out of heresy, establishing peace and liberty, and calling for a new crusade.[4] The scholarly consensus is that the constitutions were drafted by Innocent III himself.[3]

In secular matters, the Council confirmed the elevation of Frederick II as Holy Roman Emperor.[3]

There were violent scenes between the partisans of Simon de Montfort among the French bishops and those of the Count of Toulouse. 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. All of Raymond VI's lands were confiscated, save Provence, which was kept in trust to be restored to his son, Raymond VII.[5] Pierre-Bermond of Sauve's claim to Toulouse was rejected, and Toulouse was awarded to de Montfort;[5] the lordship of Melgueil was separated from Toulouse and entrusted to the bishops of Maguelonne.


Canons presented to the Council included:[1]

Faith and heresy

Order and discipline

Ecclesiastical discipline

Clerical morality

Religious cult

Appointments and elections

Relations with the secular power




Religious Orders


Regulations relating to Jews and Muslims

In addition, it threatened excommunication to those who supplied ships, arms, and other war materials to the Saracens.

Effective application of the decrees varied according to local conditions and customs.[3]


  1. 1 2 3  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Fourth Lateran Council (1215)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
  2. Concilium Lateranense IV
  3. 1 2 3 4 Duggan, Anne. "Conciliar Law 1123-1215: The Legislation of the Four Lateran Councils", The History of Canon Law in the Classical Period, 1140-1234: From Gratian to the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, (Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington, eds.) (History of Medieval Canon Law; Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008) 318-366
  4. 1 2 3 Pennington, Kenneth. "The Fourth Lateran Council, its Legislation, and the Development of Legal Procedure", CUA
  5. 1 2 The Albigensian Crusade and heresy, Bernard Hamilton,The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 5, C.1198-c.1300, ed. Rosamond McKitterick, David Abulafia, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 169.
  6. Beginning Firmiter credimus et simpliciter confitemur, text in Henricius Denzinger and Iohannes Bapt. Umberg, SJ (1937), Enchiridion Symbolorum, Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, Canon 1, # 428-430, pp. 199-200.
  7. 1 2 3 Jarvis, Matthew OP. "Councils of Faith". Order of Preachers.
  8. At that time this referred at least chiefly to the parish priest. However, its actual meaning is what is now called a "priest with faculties", specifically the authority to hear the respective penitent's confession. This authority is now more broadly distributed among priests.
  9. 1 2 Abercrombie, N., Hill, S., & Turner, B. S. (1986). Sovereign individuals of capitalism. London: Allen & Unwin.
  10. Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 50
  11. 1 2 3 Gottheil, Richard and Vogelstein, Hermann. "Church councils", Jewish Encyclopedia
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