Between Arles, Rome, and Toledo: Gallic collections of canon law in Late Antiquity

Between Arles, Rome, and Toledo: Gallic collections of canon law ¡n Late Antiquity

By Ralph W. Mathisen

Fronteras Religiosas entre Roma, Bizancio, Damasco y Toledo. El Nacimiento de Europa y del Islam (Siglos V-VIII), edited by S. Montero (Madrid, 1999)

Introduction: Late Antiquity, and the sixth century in particular, was the great age of church councils in Gaul. Over forty are known to have been held; undoubtedly, many others met as well. The legislation created by these councils became part of an increasingly large corpus of canon law, with which Gallic ecclesiastics, and especially bishops, were expected to be intimately familiar, not only so they could enforce it, but also so they could participate in discussions at church councils. For example, a letter of Pope Celestine of AD 429 to the bishops of Italy began with the words, “«It is not permitted to any bishop to be ignorant of the canons”. The Council of Orléans of 511 declared, “We believe that earlier statutes must be renewed by reading the ancient canons.” And the Council of Orléans of 541 stated, “Let parish clerics learn from their bishops material from the statuta canonum that is necessary for them to read.”

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