Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Councils of Orléans

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 11
Councils of Orléans

by Pierre-Louis-Théophile-Georges Goyau


Six national councils were held at Orléans in the Merovingian period.

I. - At the first, convoked by Clovis (511), three-three bishops assisted and passed thirty-one decrees on the duties and obligations of individuals, the right of sanctuary, and ecclesiastical discipline. These decrees, equally applicable to Franks and Romans, first established equality between conquerors and conquered. The council claimed the right of sanctuary in favour of churches and ecclesiastical residences; it stipulated that ecclesiastics need not produce the culprit, if the pursuer would not swear on the Gospels to do him no injury. It settled the conditions of freedom for a slave upon whom Holy orders had been conferred; ruled that freemen should not be ordained without the kings consent or authorization of the judge; determined the immunities of ecclesiastics and church property and committed to bishops the welfare of the sick and the poor; settled relations of monks with their abbots and of abbots with the bishops. The practice of divination was forbidden. Clovis approved the decrees of the council, which thus appears as the first treaty between the Frankish State and the Church.

II. - The second national council, held under Childebert (June, 533), attended by twenty-five bishops, decreed that, conformably to the earnest desire of Pope Hormisdas, annual provincial councils should be held; further, that marriage could not be dissolved by will of the contracting parties for infirmities consequent on the contract; forbade the marriage of Christians and Jews; and excommunicated those who partook in flesh offered in sacrifice to idols.

III. - The third national council (May 538) attended by thirteen bishops, determined the impediments of marriage; pronounced excommunication against ecclesiastics in the higher orders who lived incontinently; decreed that the archbishops should be elected by the bishops of the province, with the consent of the clergy and citizens; the bishops by the archbishop, the clergy, and the people of the city.

IV. - The fourth national council (541) assembled thirty-eight bishops, and maintained the date fixed by Pope Victor for Easter, contrary to Justinian's ordinances, and ordered those who had or wished to have a parish church on their lands to take the necessary measures for the dignity of Divine worship. Finally it perfected the measures taken by the Council of 511 relative to the emancipation of slaves; slaves emancipated by bishops were to retain their freedom after the death of their emancipators, even though other acts of their administration were recalled; it authorized the final ransom of Christians who had fallen into the power of Jews but had invoked the right of sanctuary to recover their freedom; in declared that Jews who exhorted Christian slaves to become Jews in order to be set free should be forbidden to own such slaves.

V. - The fifth national council (October, 549) assembled nine archbishops and forty-one bishops. After defending Mark, Bishop of Orléans, from attacks made upon him, it pronounced an anathema against the errors of Nestorius and Eutyches, it prohibited simony, prescribed that the election of bishops take place in all freedom, with the consent of the clergy, the people, and the king, and that no bishop be consecrated until he had been one year in the clergy. It censured all who attempted to subject to any servitude whatsoever slaves who had been emancipated within the church, and those who dared take, retain, or dispose of church property. It threatened with excommunication all who embezzled or appropriated funds given by King Childebert for the foundation of a hospital of Lyons, and it placed lepers under the special charge of each bishop.

VI. - The sixth national council, held under Clovis II about 638 or 629, at the request of Sts. Eloi and Ouen, condemned and expelled from the kingdom a Greek partisan of Monothelitism, at the request of Salvius, Bishop of Valence. VII. - The seventh national council, held in 1022 under Bishop Odolric, proceeded against the Manichæans and their few adherents in the city. In September, 1478, Louis XI held at Orléans a fruitless assembly of the clergy and nobility to discuss the Crusade, the necessity for a general council, and the re-establishment of the "pragmatic sanction".

DUCHATEAU, Hist. du diocèse d'Orléans (Orleans, 1892); HEFELE, Hist. des Conciles, new French tr. LECLERQ (Paris, 1907 sqq.).

GEORGES GOYAU