Thursday, 24 October 2013

Council of Tours 1163

In 1159, following the death of pope Adrian IV there had been a schism in the Church. Alexander III had been canonically elected as pope, but Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor had forced his candidate on Rome, the antipope Victor IV. Initially only the kingdoms of Portugal, Sicily and those of North Spain recognised the authority of pope Alexander: later were added the support of the kingdoms of France and England. In 1162 Alexander fled Italy into France into exile under the protection of king Louis VII.  Alexander arrived in France in April that year, where he was received by king Henry II of England and king Louis of France at Tours on the Loire.

Once settled in Alexander summoned an international council under his presidency to Tours of all the prelates from all those kingdoms which supported his cause, to discuss the schism the church faced. The Council of Tours opened at Pentecost,  on 19th May 1163. Seventeen cardinals, twenty-four bishops and four hundred and fourteen abbots met. Thomas Becket, by that time archbishop of Canterbury, was given pride of place at the Council, with a seat on the platform immediately on the right hand side of the pope during its proceedings, a position honouring his precedence over all the other prelates who were present. This must have given a huge boost to his self-esteem. Not only was he now number two in the kingdom of England, here now at the Council he was being recognised by the pope as the second most important prelate in Christendom. He had climbed to the top in his own country and had now become a very important member of the elite of that ancient international institution.

The cause of Alexander triumphed at this assembly. The kings of England and France, who at that time had some matter of contention, united for the common good, and found friendship in the reciprocal zeal which they both endeavored to recognize Alexander.

Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux, gave the opening sermon during which he called many times for the careful provision of the unity and liberty of the church. This was followed by pope Alexander formally excommunicating the antipope, Victor IV .

At this conference the christological opinions of Peter Lombard as expressed in his Sententia, were also discussed inconclusively.

It was also at this Council that Becket proposed to the pope that Anselm of Canterbury be canonised as a saint. For this purpose at the conference he gave Pope Alexander a copy of John of Salisbury's Vita Anselmi, a work which he had personally commissioned John to compile. . However, the pope deferred a decision on this until the matter could be discussed by the whole church, and also because a number of similar claims had also been made.

Although Becket had already been consecrated as archbishop of Canterbury by Henry of Blois, and had already received his pallium, a further formal ceremony of consecration might have been performed by the pope himself during the days of the council of Tours.

After the Council closed Becket must have been fired with the enthusiasm that he was now a member of an ancient and venerable international institution of the elite, the Church, an institution far more important than any one single kingdom. It is is almost certain he left this Council fully determined to protect the Church's interests and rights, a determination fully supported by his colleagues of the cloth.

Becket used the opportunity whilst in attendance at the Council of Tours to raise the issue that Gilbert Foliot, the newly appointed bishop of London, should make profession to the archbishop of Canterbury for his post. The Pope held that Gilbert was already bound by the profession he had already made when he became bishop of Hereford.


Although the Council took place at a time when the Church was in schism, Alexander, in his opening address, declared that it should be regarded as a general council of the church. 

There were some important canonical decrees enunciated by Alexander at this Council, including the following:-

Canon 4: Action against the Cathars

It was at this Council that the Albigensians were declared heretics, and outlawed. Christian princes were called upon to seek them out, punish them by imprisonment and to confiscate their property.

Ut cuncti Albigenisium haereticorium consortium fugiant.

In partibus Tolosae damnanda haeresis dudum emersit, quae paulatim more cancri ad vicina loca se diffundens, per Guasconiam et alias provincias, quamplurimos jam infecit. Quae, dum in modum serpentis intra suas evolutiones abscondilur, quanto serpit occultius, tanto gravius Dominicam vineam in simplicibus demolitur. Unde contra eos, episcopos et omnes Domini sacerdotes in illis partibus commorantes vigilare proocipimus, et sub interminatione anathematis prohibere, ut ubi cogniti fuerint illius heeresis sectatores, ne receptaculum quisquam eis in terra sua praebere, aut presidium impertire praesumat. Sed nec in venditione aut emptione aliqua cum eis omnino commercium habeatur: ut solatio saltem humanitatis amisso ab errore vitae suae resipiscere compellantur. Quisquis autem contra haec venire tentaverit tanquam particeps iniquitatis eorum anathemate feriatur. Illi vero si deprehensi fuerint per Catholicos principcs custodies mancipati omnium bonorum amissione muletentur. Et quoniam de diversis partibus in unum latibulum crebro conveniunt, et preeter consensum erroris nullam cohabitandi causam habentes, in uno domicilio commorantur; talia conventicula et investigentur attentius, et si vera fuerint, canonica severitatis vetentur.

That the Albigensian heretics are to be shunned.

In parts of Toulouse a damnable heresy has recently emerged , which is gradually spreading towards neighbouring areas and diffusing like a canker, through to Gascony and other provinces; many of which are already infected. Which, while in the form of a snake hiding inside its coil how much more it creeps secretly, more seriously while the Lord's vineyard those of a simple-mind are destroyed. Wherefore against them, we command that the bishops and all the priests of the Lord having their abode in those parts to be vigilant, and under the penalty of anathema to prohibit them where they are known to follow this heresy, nor to afford any one of them shelter on their land, or presume to impart protection. Commercial trade with them is forbidden; neither the sale nor the purchase of things may be undertaken with them, in order that that source of comfort to mankind might at least force them to see the errors of their lives to return to their senses. But if any man should attempt to be in opposition to this, and found to be a participant in this iniquity they shall be smitten by anathema. They are to be put into custody by Catholic princes and suffer the loss of all goods. And because of the different parties together in a covert, often come together, and in addition to the consent residing in one house no error in one case, having the home colony, such meetings are to be carefully investigated, and if they are found, they are to be forbidden with all due canonical strictness.

Canon 8: Ban on the Study of the Laws of Physical Nature by Clerics

One of the more significant proscriptions that Pope Alexander III enunciated at the Council of Tours 1163 was the prohibition of clerics to involve themselves in the studies of physical nature, as anyone undertaking such studies must be in league with the Devil. Some have seen this as the ban which prevented clerics from practicing surgery or studying anatomy. Others have seen that the ban would seem to extend to studies involving all of physics. In essence the canon stated that clerics were to concentrate on spiritual matters and confine themselves to their cloisters, and not go out into the world to study earthly matters, that was not the business of their profession. Some have referred to this canon, naming it  "Ecclesia abhorret a sanguine" [The church abhors blood] but this is really a misconception of what the canon actually says.

Ut religiosi saecularia studia vitent.

Non magnopere antiqui hostis invidia infirma membra ecclesiae praecipitare laborat, sed manum mittit ad desiderabiliora eius, et electos quoque nititur supplantare, dicente scriptura: «Escae eius electi.» Multorum siquidem casum operari se reputat, ubi pretiosius aliquod membrum ecclesiae sua fuerit calliditate detractum. Et Inde nimirum est, quod in angelum lucis se more solito transfigurans, sub obtentu languentium fratrum consulendi corporibus et ecclesiastica negotia fidelius pertractandi, regulares quosdam ad legendas leges et confectiones physicales ponderandas de claustris suis educit. Unde, ne suboccasione scientiae spirituales viri mundanis rursus actionibus involvantur, et in interioribus ex eo ipso deficiant, ex quo se aliis putant in exterioribus providere, per praesentis concilii assensum statuimus, ut nulli omnino post votum religionis, et post factam in aliquo loco religioso professionem ad physicam legesve mundanas legendas permittantur exire. Si vero exierint, et ad claustrum suum infra duorum mensium spatium non redierint, sicut excommunicati ab omnibus evitentur, et in nulla causa, si patrocinium praestare voluerint, audiantur. Reversi autem in choro, capitulo, mensa et ceteris ultimi fratrum [semper] exsistant, et, nisi forte ex misericordia sedis apostolicae, totius spem promotionis amittant.

That the religious are to avoid secular studies.

Not greatly does Satan work his hatred through envy to cast down the weak members of the church, but rather he sends his hand towards those who are more desirous of him, and likewise to trip up the elite. Scripture says: <<the  chosen are his food>>. Accordingly, for many, given a chance to enhance their reputation, the more valuable members of the church by means of this, his [Satan's] shrewdness, are brought down. And then, of course, as usual transforming himself into an angel of light, under the  pretense of healing the bodies of sick brothers and the discussion of the more faithful ecclesiastical affairs, he takes some of the chosen regulars away from their cloisters to study ponderous confections and physical laws. Because of which, not under the pretext of acquiring of knowledge but rather on the contrary spiritual men are involved with  worldly persons from which in the inside they grow weak, out from which they think that others from the outside can providetherefore with the assent of the present council I decree that no one at all who has taken up a vow of religion,  and after which has been installed in a religious institution, is  permitted to leave it to study the worldly laws of physical nature. If, however, they shall have gone out, but have not returned to their own cloister within the space of two months, they are to be avoided by all as if they were excommunicated; if they wish to defend themselves they are to be heard. They are to return, however, back to the choir, the chapter, and lastly the table of the rest of their brotherhood to stand forth, except, perhaps, at the mercy of the apostolic see, or they can expect to lose all hope of promotion [of their souls?].

Among the other canonical decrees that Alexander also enunciated at this Council were ones dealing with the unlawful division of ecclesiastical benefices; whether or to what extent clerics could lend money for profit; lay possession of tithes; and the forbidding of simony or the purchase of position within the Church's hierarchy, as although the Church was comprised of members of elite, promotion in that institution should rather be by democratic means and by merit. Eventually all these canons were incorporated into the general canonical collections of the Church.

Arnulf of Lisieux on the duty of care and diligence owed by bishops in his Introductory Sermon given at the Council of Tours

Ad hoc scilicet omnem nos convenit diligentiam adhibere, omnem propter hoc sustinere vexationem, omne periculum experiri. Hoc enim speciale debitum nostrae professioriis est : Episcopi sumus. Ad hoc sacramentis Ecclesiasticis sanctificari volumus, ditari beneficiis, honoribus illustrari. Ex ea etiam causa hic primas obtinemus in Concilio cathedras, primos in cœnis recubitus, salutationes in foro. Ex eadem causa populorum nobis multitudines inclinantur, ut de manu nostra partem aliquam commissae nobis benedictionis accipiant.

Let this be known. It behoves us to demonstrate due care and diligence, and to bear this in mind because of the risk of ill treatment and danger to all. For this we owe this special debt to our profession: We are bishops. To this we wish to be sanctified by the sacraments of the Church. obtain rich benefices, and have illustrious honours. For this reason we obtain in council the best seats, the top places at feasts, and salutations in the forums. For this same reason the multitude of peoples incline towards us, to obtain from our hands the blessings which have been entrusted to us.



Robert Somerville (1977). Pope Alexander III and the Council of Tours (1163): A Study of Ecclesiastical Politics and Institutions in the Twelfth Century. Henry II's instructions to his Prelates before allowing them to attend the Council of Tours: University of California Press. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-0-520-03184-5.

James J. Spigelman (2004). Becket & Henry: The Becket Lectures. James Spigelman. pp. 96–. ISBN 978-0-646-43477-3.

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Geo Townsend (1847). Ecclesiastical and Civil History Philosophically Considered, with Reference to the Future Re-union of Christians. The Council of Tours: Rivington. pp. 469–.
Wilhelmus Parvus de Newburgh (1856). Historia rerum Anglicarum: Ad fidem codicum manuscript. recensuit Hans Claude Hamilton. Chapters XIV and XV On the Council of Tours: Sumtibus Societatis (English Historical Society.). pp. 123–.

William of Newburgh (6 August 2015). The History of English Affairs. Chapters XIV and XV Of the Council of Tours ...: pp. 89–. ISBN 978-1-329-42963-5.

Dorothy Whitelock (1981). A Councils and Synods with Other Documents Relating to the English Church. Volume 1 part 2: Clarendon Press. pp. 845–7. #157 MAY 1163 - PAPAL COUNCIL OF TOURS

Hardouin, Jean (S.I.), , Rigaud, Claude, (París 1714) Acta conciliorum et epistolae decretales, ac constitutiones summorum pontificum. Tomi VI, Pars II, Ab anno MLXXXVI, ad annum MCCXV. 1589-90 to 1603-4
Concilium Turonense celebratum sub Alexandro III papa 1163

Pierre Claude Fontenai (1739). Histoire de l'Eglise gallicane. Tom. 9-11 [of the work begun by J. Longueval].. 1163 Le Concile de Tours. pp. 367–.

Giovan Domenico Mansi (1774). Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, cujus Johannes Dominicus Mansi  ...   Vol 21. H. Welter. cols 1167-1188.

Robert Somerville (1 January 1977). Pope Alexander III and the Council of Tours (1163): A Study of Ecclesiastical Politics and Institutions in the Twelfth Century. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03184-5.

English Historical Society (1856). Publications. sumptibus Societatis. pp. 123–.

John Morris (1859). "Chapter X: A Lull Before The Storm.". The life and martyrdom of saint Thomas Becket archb. of Canterbury. Longman, Brown. pp. 80–.

Thomas Greenwood (1865). "The Great Council of Tours 1163"Cathedra Petri: A political history of the great Latin Patriarchate. C. J. Stewart. pp. 125–8.

James Craigie Robertson (1859). Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. pp. 68–70.

Michael Staunton (7 December 2001). The Lives of Thomas Becket. Manchester University Press. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-0-7190-5455-6.

Wilfred Lewis Warren (1 January 1973). Henry II. University of California Press. pp. 456–. ISBN 978-0-520-02282-9.

Ian Stuart Robinson (1990). The Papacy, 1073-1198: Continuity and Innovation. Cambridge University Press. pp. 121–. ISBN 978-0-521-31922-5.

I. S. Robinson (1990). The Papacy, 1073-1198: Continuity and Innovation. Cambridge University Press. pp. 140–. ISBN 978-0-521-31922-5.

Andrew Dickson White (2010). Works of Andrew Dickson White. MobileReference. pp. 1768–. ISBN 978-1-60778-973-4.

Carolyn Poling Schriber (1 October 1990). The dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux: new ideas versus old ideals. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-35097-8.

James J. Spigelman (2004). Becket & Henry: The Becket Lectures. James Spigelman. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-0-646-43477-3.
Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum, vol. 8 (1976), pp. 116-125 

Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum. T. Reuter: A List of Bishops Attending the Council of Tours, 1163: Ferdinand Schöningh. 1976. pp. 116–25.,_1159
Löffler, K. (1912). Victor IV.

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Pontificate of Pope Alexander III.

References about Canon 4

William (of Newburgh); Hans Claude Hamilton (1856). Historia rerum anglicarum Willelmi Parvi: ordinis Sancti Augustini canonici regularis in cœnobio Beatæ Mariæ de Newburgh .... Sumptibus Societatis. pp. 128–.

John William Willcock (1830). The Laws Relating to the Medical Profession: With an Account of the Rise and Progress of Its Various Orders. A. Strahan...for J. and W. T. Clarke. pp. 7–.

Fanning, W. (1911). Medicine and Canon Law. In The Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Anatomy Of Anatomia: Dissection And The Organization Of Knowledge In British Literature, 1500-1800.  p. 88
by Matthew Scott Landers (2009). Doctoral dissertation, Louisiana  State University
Wikipedia (Italian) - Chirurgia, anatomia e Chiesa cattolica nel Medioevo
Andrew Dickson White (2010). Works of Andrew Dickson White. MobileReference. pp. 1768–. ISBN 978-1-60778-973-4.

Henry John Chaytor (1974). The Troubadours of Dante. Slatkine. pp. 16–.

Arnulf (of Lisieux); Henry II (King of England); Saint Thomas (à Becket); John Allen Giles (1844). Arnulfi Lexoviensis episcopi epistolae: ad Henricum II regem Angliæ Sanctum Thomam Arch. Cant. et alios : e codice manuscripto qui in collegio S. Johannis Baptistæ Oxon. servatur. Arnulf of Lisieux Introductory Sermon at the Council of Tours: J. H. Parker. pp. 1–.

Arnulf (of Lisieux) (1939). The letters of Arnulf of Lisieux. Offices of the Royal Historical Society. p. xxxiii.

Letter J-L 10834 "Illum Devotae"

Letter Pope Alexander III to Henry II king of England, March 18th 1163

Confirming Henry II's acknowledging and confirming his request that the prelates of England may attend as long as no new customs would be brought into his kingdom, nor its dignity in any way reduced by any action of the proposed Council.

Professor Anne J Duggan; Professor Peter D. Clarke (2013). Pope Alexander III (1159–81): The Art of Survival. Footnote 5: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 377–. ISBN 978-1-4094-8305-2. 

Illud devotae
Illum devotae

James Craigie Robertson. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket.. Volume 5. MTB XXI - Alexander III, Papa Ad Henricum II: Cambridge University Press. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-1-108-04929-0.

Jacques Paul Migne (abbé) (1855). Patrologiae latina cursus completus ... series secunda. Aqud Editorem. pp. Column 204.

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