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
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
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
(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.