Foundation Of The Mediaeval Dioc

An outline of some of the legislation is here given, whereby the parish as

organized in the West was built up, and the diocese was made to consist of

a number of parishes under the bishop, who, however, did not exercise an

absolute control over the incomes and position of the priests under him.

The selections are given in chronological order.

(a) Council of Agde, A. D. 506, Canons. Bruns, I
, 145.

This is one of the most important councils of the period. Its

various canons have all been embodied in the Canon Law; for the

references to the Decretum of Gratian, in which they appear, see

Hefele, § 222. It is to be noted that it was held under Alarich,

the Arian king of the Visigoths. The preface is, therefore, given

as being significant.

Since this holy synod has been assembled in the name of the Lord and with

the permission of our most glorious, magnificent, and most pious king in

the city of Agde, there, with knees bent and on the ground, we have prayed

for his kingdom, his long life, for the people, that the lord who has

given us permission to assemble, may happily extend his kingdom, that he

may govern justly and protect valiantly; we have assembled in the basilica

of St. Andrew to treat of the discipline and the ordination of pontiffs

and other things of utility to the Church.

Canon 21. If any one wishes to have an oratory in the fields outside of

the parishes, in which the gathering of the people is lawful and

appointed, we permit him to have a mass there with the proper license on

the other festivals, on account of the weariness of the family [i.e., in

going to the distant parish church], but on Easter, Christmas, Epiphany,

Ascension Day, Pentecost and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, or if

there are any other very high festival days observed, let them hold no

masses except in the cities and parishes. But if the clergy, without the

command or permission of the bishop, hold and perform the masses on the

festivals above mentioned in the oratories, let them be driven from the


Canon 30. Because it is appropriate that the service of the Church be

observed in the same way by all, it is to be desired that it be done so

everywhere. After the antiphones the collects shall be said in order by

the bishops and presbyters, and the hymns of Matins and Vespers be sung

daily; and at the conclusion of the mass of Matins and Vespers,(266) after

the hymns a chapter of the Psalms shall be read, and the people who are

gathered shall, after the prayer, be dismissed with a benediction of the

bishop until Vespers.

Canon 38. Without letters commendatory of their bishops, it is not

permitted to the clergy to travel. The same rule is to be observed in the

case of monks. If reproof of words does not correct them, we decree that

they shall be beaten with rods. It is also to be observed in the case of

monks that it is not permitted them to leave the community for solitary

cells, unless the more severe rule is remitted by their abbot to them who

have been approved in the hermit life, or on account of the necessity of

infirmity; but only then let it be done so that they remain within the

walls of the same monastery, and they are permitted to have separate cells

under the authority of the abbots. It is not permitted abbots to have

different cells or many monasteries, or except on account of the inroads

of enemies to erect dwellings within walls.

(b) I Council of Orleans, A. D. 511, Canons. Bruns, II, 160.

Canon 15. Concerning those things which in the form of lands, vineyards,

slaves, and other property the faithful have given to the parishes, the

statutes of the ancient canons are to be observed, so that all things

shall be in the control of the bishop; but of those things which are given

at the altar, a third is to be faithfully given to the bishop.

Canon 17. All churches which in various places have been built and are

daily being built shall, according to the law of the primitive canons, be

in the control of the bishop in whose territory they are located.

(c) IV Council of Orleans, A. D. 541, Canons. Bruns, II, 208.

Canon 7. In oratories on landed estates, the lords of the property shall

not install wandering clergy against the will of the bishop to whom the

rights of that territory belong, unless, perchance, they have been

approved, and the bishop has in his discretion appointed them to serve in

that place.

Canon 26. If any parishes are established in the houses of the mighty, and

the clergy who serve there have been admonished by the archdeacon of the

city, according to the duty of his office, and they neglect to do what

they ought to do for the Church, because under the protection of the lord

of the house, let them be corrected according to the ecclesiastical

discipline; and if by the agents of these lords, or by these lords

themselves of the place, they are prevented from doing any part of their

duty toward the Church, those who do this iniquity are to be deprived of

the sacred rites until, having made amends, they are received back into

the peace of the Church.(267)

Canon 33. If any one has, or asks to have, on his land a diocese [i.e.,

parish], let him first assign to it sufficient lands and clergy who may

there perform their duties, that suitable reverence be done to the sacred


(d) V Council of Orleans, A. D. 549, Canons. Bruns, II, 208.

At this council no less than seven archbishops, forty-three

bishops and representatives of twenty-one other bishops were

present. It was, therefore, a general council of the Frankish

Church, although politically the Frankish territory was divided

into three kingdoms held respectively by Childebert, Chlothar, and

Theudebald. Orleans itself was in the dominion of Childebert.

Cf. preface to the canons of II Orleans, A. D. 533, which states

that that council was attended by five archbishops and the deputy

of a sixth, as well as by bishops from all parts of Gaul, and was

called at the command of the "Glorious kings," i.e., Childebert,

Chlothar, and Theudebert.

Canon 13. It is permitted to no one to retain, alienate, or take away

goods or property which has been lawfully given to a church, monastery, or

orphan asylums for any charity; that if any one does do so he shall,

according to the ancient canons [cf. Hefele, §§ 220, 222], be regarded

as a slayer of the poor, and shall be shut out from the thresholds of the

Church so long as those things are not restored which have been taken away

or retained.

(e) Council of Braga, A. D. 572, Canons. Bruns, II, 37.

Canon 5. As often as bishops are requested by any of the faithful to

consecrate churches, they shall not, as having a claim, ask any payment of

the founders; but if he wishes to give him something from a vow he has

made, let it not be despised; but if poverty or necessity prevent him, let

nothing be demanded of him. This only let each bishop remember, that he

shall not dedicate a church or basilica before he shall have received the

endowment of the basilica and its service confirmed by an instrument of

donation; for it is a not light rashness for a church to be consecrated,

as if it were a private dwelling, without lights and without the support

of those who are to serve there.

Canon 6. In case of any one who builds a basilica, not from any faithful

devotion, but from the desire of gain, that whatsoever is there gathered

of the offerings of the people he may share half and half with the clergy,

on the ground that he has built the basilica on his own land, which in

various places is said to be done quite constantly, this therefore ought

hereafter to be observed, that no bishop consent to such an abominable

purpose, that he should dare to consecrate a basilica which is founded not

as the heritage of the saints but rather under the condition of tribute.

(f) II Council of Toledo, A. D. 589, Canons. Bruns, I, 217.

Canon 19. Many who have built churches demand that these churches,

contrary to the canons, shall be consecrated in such a way that they shall

not allow the endowment, which they have given the church, to belong to

the control of the bishop; when this has been done in the past, let this

be void, and in the future forbidden; but let all things pertain to the

power and control of the bishop according to the ancient law.