THE dispute, distinctive of the Middle Ages, between the papacy and the empire became very serious under Pope Innocent IV and Emperor Frederick II. Already in 1240 Pope Gregory IX had tried to define the questions between the two powers by calling a general council, but Frederick II by arms had prevented the council from meeting. When Innocent IV succeeded as pope in 1243 he gave his earnest attention to renewing this policy. He was able to make his way in 1244 to Lyons, which was outside the direct authority of the emperor, and there proclaimed a council. Some letters of summons exist, dated 3 January 1245 and the days following, in which the purpose of the council is stated thus: “That the church, through the salutary counsel of the faithful and their fruitful help, may have the dignity of its proper position; that assistance may speedily be brought to the unhappy crisis in the holy Land and the sufferings of the eastern empire; that a remedy may be found against the Tartars and other enemies of the faith and persecutors of the christian people; further, for the issue between the church and the emperor; for these reasons we think that the kings of the earth, the prelates of the church and other princes of the world should be summoned”. The chief purposes for which the council was called -- and from the beginning it was called “general” -- seem to have been political ones.
When the council opened on 26 June 1245, in a meeting which was probably only preparatory, there were present three patriarchs and about 150 bishops besides other religious and secular persons, among whom was the Latin emperor of Constantinople. Emperor Frederick II sent a legation headed by Thaddaeus of Suessa. Many bishops and prelates were unable to attend the council because they had been prevented by the invasions of the Tartars in the east or the attacks of the Saracens in the holy Land, or because Frederick II had intimidated them (especially the Sicilians and Germans). Thus it was that the four chief parties of the council were the French and probably the Spanish, English and Italian. In the three sessions which were held during the council (26 June, 5 and 17 July) the fathers, not without hesitation and dispute, had to treat especially of Frederick II. There seems to have been a bitter conflict between Innocent IV on the one side and Thaddaeus of Suessa on the other. The sources, especially the Brevis nota and Matthew Paris, tell us clearly about the nature of the discussion and the determined attitude of the pope, who induced the council to depose the emperor at the session on 17 July 1245, a matter that appeared unprecedented to the fathers themselves. The council on this question shows us clearly the critical position reached by the medieval theory and practice of ruling a christian state, which rested on a double order of authority.
In the same session of 17 July the council also approved some strictly legal constitutions and others on usury, the Tartars and the Latin east. But the council, unlike the previous councils of the Middle Ages, did not approve canons concerning the reform of the church and the condemnation of heresy. Enthusiasm for the Gregorian reform movement seems to have died down completely. The council, however, concerned itself with promoting and confirming the general canonical legislation for religious life.
The transmission of the text of the constitutions is involved and still partly obscure. Only in recent times has it been realised that the authentic and definitive drawing up of the constitutions, and their promulgation, took place after the council. This collection consists of 22 constitutions, all of which are of a legal nature, and was sent to the universities by Innocent IV on 25 August 1245 (Coll. I). A second collection of 12 decrees was published by Innocent IV on 21 April 1246 (Coll. II). A final collection (Coll. I + II and 8 other decrees) was issued on 9 September 1253 (Coll. III), and was included (except for const. 2) in Liber Sextus in 1298. Coll. I, however, is not identical with the constitutions of the council. For in it can be found neither the condemnation of Frederick II, which seems to have been the chief matter of the council, nor the five constitutions pertaining to the important questions introduced by Innocent IV at the opening of the council, namely those concerned with the Tartars, the Latin east and the crusades.
Stephen Kuttner has shown that the constitutions have been transmitted to us through three versions: the conciliar version (= M), known principally from the chronicle of Matthew of Paris (const. 1-19, and the const. on the crusade corresponding to R 17); the intermediate version ( = R), known from the register of Innocent IV (const. 1-17, of which const. 1-12 correspond to M 1-10); and the definitive version ( = Coll. I), containing two constitutions (18 and 22) which are absent from the other versions, but lacking the constitutions not directly concerned with the law (R 13-17).
Indeed, the origins of the constitutions must be placed before the council, as is shown by an earlier version of constitutions M 13, 15 and 19, antedating the council. Evidently the council fathers were discussing matters which had already been partly worked out, and it was somewhat later that the constitutions acquired their more accurate and definite legal form.
The constitutions taken from Matthew Paris were edited in Bn III/2 (1606) 1482-1489. Those from the register of Innocent IV were edited in Rm IV (1612) 73-78. All later editions followed Rm. However, I. H. Boehmer and Msi 2 (1748) 1073-1098 (afterwards in Msi 23 (1779) 651-674) printed Coll. III. in addition. Coll. I, as such, has never been edited; but there exists both an indirect transmission (Coll. I + II, Coll. III, Liber Sextus) and a direct, single-family transmission through eight manuscript codices: Arras, Bibl. Municipale 541; Bratislava, formerly Cathedral Library, 13; Innsbruck, Universitaetsbibl., 70, fos. 335v-338v (= I); Kassel, Landesbibl., Iur. fol. 32; Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibl., Lat. 8201e, fos. 219v-220r, and Lat. 9654; Trier, Stadtbibl., 864; Vienna, Nationalbibl., 2073, fos. 238v-242v (= W).
Our edition of the constitutions tries to give all the documents truly belonging to the council. Coll. I has been taken as the base, and variants from M and R are set out in the critical apparatus. The text of Coll. I has been established from codices I and W, which we have seen in microfilm. With regard to M, the edition of H.R. Luard has been used. With regard to R, we have examined directly the register of Innocent IV. We think, moreover, that the last five constitutions in R (13-17, 17 is also in M and Annales de Burton) should also be included among the constitutions of the council, even though they were not included in Coil. I. We have printed the text of these five constitutions from the register of Innocent IV;as regards const. 17 we have also compared M and Annales de Burton ( = Bu).
We think that the bull of deposition of the emperor Frederick II must be considered a statute of the council, and we place this in front of the constitutions. The transmission of the text of the bull is involved, and the editions are very faulty. There are three copies of the bull: Vatican Archives, AA. Arm. I-XVIII, 171 (= V); Paris, Archives Nationales, L 245 no. 84 (= P); Lyons, Archives du Rhone, Fonds du chap. primat., Arm. Cham. vol. XXVII no. 2 (= L). Of these only V has been published. Other transcriptions of the bull are given in the register of Innocent IV, in some chronicles (Matthew of Paris, Annals of Plasencia, Annals of Melrose), in collections of decretals, and in some more recent publications (Bzovius). Our edition takes as its base V, P and L.
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