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Fourth Council of the Lateran
Date 1215
Accepted by Catholicism
Previous council Third Council of the Lateran
Next council First Council of Lyon
Convoked by Pope Innocent III
Presided by Pope Innocent III
Attendance 71 patriarchs and metropolitans, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors
Topics of discussion Crusader States, Investiture Controversy
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 of April 19, 1213, and the Council gathered in November of 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, a great many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It was the 12th ecumenical council and is sometimes called "the 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.

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 to the Council seventy one decrees; these were considered along with the organization of the Fifth Crusade and with measures against heretics. Those gathered in Council engaged in very little discussion and did little more than give approval to the decrees presented to them 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 of 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. The county of Provence, a possession of Raymond VI, was confiscated and kept in trust to be restored to his son if he proved worthy of it.


Canons presented to the Council included:

  • Canon 1. Exposition of the faith; of the dogma of the Trinity, and of Transubstantiation
  • Canon 2. Condemned Joachim of Fiore and Amalric of Bennes for heresy and vindicated Peter Lombard's teaching on the Trinity.
  • Canons 3-4. Laid down procedures and penalties against heretics and their protectors
  • Canon 5. Proclaimed papal primacy as established by divine will, and laid out the order of precedence of the patriarchal churches: after Rome, then Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem[1]
  • Canon 13. The founding of new religious orders was forbidden
  • Canons 14-18. Rules on the conduct of the clergy including against such things as: non-celibate living, drunkenness, frequenting taverns, hunting, conducting trials by ordeal or combat
  • Canon 21 Reaffirmed the requirement that every Christian who had reached the age of reason (7–8 years) to confess their sins and receive Holy Communion at least once a year.
  • Canons 67-70 Regulated the Jewish-Christian relationship, and placed restrictions on the Jewish communities.

See also

  • subpoena ad testificandum
  • subpoena duces tecum


  1. "Renewing the ancient privileges of the patriarchal sees, we decree with the approval of the holy and ecumenical council, that after the Roman Church, which by the will of God holds over all others pre-eminence of ordinary power as the mother and mistress of all the faithful, that of Constantinople shall hold first place, that of Alexandria second, that of Antioch third, and that of Jerusalem fourth" (The Canons of the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215).

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