First Council of Lyons - 1245 A.D.
part three

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations



  1. Management of church debts
  2. On help for the empire of Constantinople
  3. Admonition to be made by prelates to the people in their charge
  4. On the Tartars
  5. On the crusade


1. {46} Management of church debts continued

Thus, what was the condition of the church or the administration when they took it up, how they governed it during their incumbency, and what was its state when they laid it down by death or withdrawal, may be clearly known to the superior, if necessary, and those who are appointed for the service of the church. Archbishops who have no superior except the Roman pontiff, are to see to it that for this purpose they summon one of their suffragans, either in person or through another, as is expressed above, and abbots and other lesser exempt prelates, a neighbouring bishop, who is to claim no right for himself in the exempt church. The said inventory is to be furnished with the seals of the new incumbent and his chapter, and of the archbishop's suffragan or the neighbouring bishop called for the purpose. It is to be preserved in the archives of the church with due safeguards. Moreover a transcript of this inventory is to be given to both the new incumbent and the prelate summoned for the above purpose, and is to be similarly sealed. Existing goods are to be carefully guarded, their administration carried out in a worthy manner, and the debts which have been found are to be speedily paid, if possible, from the movable possessions of the church. If these movable goods are not sufficient for a speedy payment, all revenues are to be directed to the payment of debts that are usurious or burdensome; only necessary expenses are to be deducted from these revenues, after a reasonable estimate has been made by the prelate and his chapter. But if the debts are not burdensome or usurious, a third part of these revenues is to be set aside for this obligation, or a greater part with the agreement of those whom we have said must be summoned to take the inventory.

Further we strictly forbid, with the authority of the same council, those mentioned above to mortgage to others their persons or the churches entrusted to them, or to contract debts on behalf of themselves or the churches which may be a source of trouble. If evident necessity and the reasonable advantage of their churches should persuade them, then prelates with the advice and consent of their superiors, and archbishops and exempt abbots with the advice and consent of those already mentioned and of their chapter, may contract debts which, if possible, are not usurious and which are never in fairs or public markets. The names of the debtors and creditors and the reason why the debt was contracted are to be included in the written contract, even if it is turned to the advantage of the church, and for this purpose we wish that in no way ecclesiastical persons or churches should be given as security. Indeed the privileges of churches, which we command should be faithfully guarded in a safe place, are never to be given as securities, nor are other things, except for necessary and useful debts contracted with the full legal forms mentioned above.

That this salutary constitution should be kept unbroken, and the advantage which we hope from it may be clearly seen, we consider that we must lay down by an inviolable decree that all abbots and priors as well as deans and those in charge of cathedrals or other churches, at least once a year in their chapters, should render a strict account of their administration, and a written and sealed account should be faithfully read out in the presence of the visiting superior. Likewise archbishops and bishops are to take care each year to make known to their chapters with due fidelity the state of administration of the goods belonging to their households, and bishops to their metropolitans, and metropolitans to the legates of the apostolic see, or to others to whom the visitation of their churches has been assigned by the same see. Written accounts are always to be kept in the treasury of the church for a record, so that in the accounts a careful comparison can be made between future years and the present and past; and the superior may learn from this the care or negligence of the administration. Let the superior requite any negligence, keeping God only before his eyes and putting aside love, hate and fear of humans, with such a degree and kind of correction that he may not on this account receive from God or his superior or the apostolic see condign punishment. We order that this constitution is to be observed not only by future prelates but also by those already promoted.

2. {47} On help for the empire of Constantinople

Though we are engaged in difficult matters and distracted by manifold anxieties, yet among those things which demand our constant attention is the liberation of the empire of Constantinople. This we desire with our whole heart, this is ever the object of our thoughts. Yet though the apostolic see has eagerly sought a remedy on its behalf by earnest endeavour and many forms of assistance, though for long Catholics have striven by grievous toils, by burdensome expense, by care, sweat, tears and bloodshed, yet the hand that extended such aid could not wholly, hindered by sin, snatch the empire from the yoke of the enemy. Thus not without cause we are troubled with grief. But because the body of the church would be shamefully deformed by the lack of a loved member, namely the aforesaid empire, and be sadly weakened and suffer loss; and because it could rightly be assigned to our sloth and that of the church, if it were deprived of the support of the faithful, and left to be freely oppressed by its enemies; we firmly propose to come to the help of the empire with swift and effective aid. Thus at the same time as the church eagerly rises to its assistance and stretches out the hand of defence, the empire can be saved from the dominion of its foes, and be brought back by the Lord's guidance to the unity of that same body, and may feel after the crushing hammer of its enemies the consoling hand of the church its mother, and after the blindness of error regain its sight by the possession of the catholic faith. It is the more fitting that prelates of churches and other ecclesiastics should be watchful and diligent for its liberation, and bestow their help and assistance, the more they are bound to work for the increase of the faith and of ecclesiastical liberty, which could chiefly come about from the liberation of the empire; and especially because while the empire is helped, assistance is consequently rendered to the holy Land.

Indeed, so that the help to the empire may be speedy and useful, we decree, with the general approval of the council, that half of all incomes of dignities parsonages and ecclesiastical prebends, and of other benefices of ecclesiastics who do not personally reside in them for at least six months, whether they hold one or more, shall be assigned in full for three years to the help of the said empire, having been collected by those designated by the apostolic see. Those are exempt who are employed in our service or in that of our brother cardinals and of their prelates, those who are on pilgrimages or in schools, or engaged in the business of their own churches at their direction, and those who have or will take up the badge of the cross for the aid of the holy Land or who will set out in person to the help of the said empire; but if any of these, apart from the crusaders and those setting out, receive from ecclesiastical revenues more than a hundred silver marks, they should pay a third part of the remainder in each of the three years. This is to be observed notwithstanding any customs or statutes of churches to the contrary, or any indulgences granted by the apostolic see to these churches or persons, confirmed by oath or any other means. And if by chance in this matter any shall knowingly be guilty of any deceit, they shall incur the sentence of excommunication.

We ourselves, from the revenues of the church of Rome, after first deducting a tenth from them to be assigned to the aid of the holy Land, will assign a tenth part in full for the support of the said empire. Further, when help is given to the empire, assistance is given in a very particular way and directed to the recovery of the holy Land, while we are striving for the liberation of the empire itself. Thus trusting in the mercy of almighty God and the authority of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul, from the power of binding and loosing which he conferred upon us though unworthy, we grant pardon of their sins to all those who come to the help of the said empire, and we desire they may enjoy that privilege and immunity which is granted to those who come to the help of the holy Land.

3. {48} Admonition to be made by prelates to the people in their charge

In the belief that it is for ever our native country, from times long past all the children of the church have not only poured out countless sums of money but have also freely shed their blood to recover the holy Land, which the Son of God has consecrated with the shedding of his own blood. This we learn, sad at heart, from what has happened across the sea where the unbelievers fight against the faithful. Since it is the special prayer of the apostolic see that the desire of all for the redemption of the holy Land may, if God so wills, be speedily accomplished, we have made due provision, in order to win God's favour, to arouse you to this task by our letter. Therefore we earnestly beg all of you, commanding you in our lord Jesus Christ, that by your pious admonitions you should persuade the faithful committed to your care, in your sermons or when you Impose a penance upon them, granting a special indulgence, as you see it to be expedient, that in their wills, in return for the remission of their sins, they should leave something for the help of the holy Land or the eastern empire. You are carefully to provide that what they give for this support by way of money, through reverence of our crucified Lord, is faithfully preserved in definite places under your seal, and that what is bequeathed for this purpose in other forms is accurately recorded in writing. May your own devotion carry out this work of piety, in which the only aim is God's cause and the salvation of the faithful, so readily that with full assurance you may look at least for the reward of glory from the hand of the divine judge.

4. {49} On the Tartars

Since we desire above all things that the christian religion should be spread still further and more widely throughout the world, we are pierced with the deepest sorrow when any people by aim and action go against our wishes, and strive with all their might to blot out utterly this religion from the face of the world. Indeed the wicked race of the Tartars, seeking to subdue, or rather utterly destroy the christian people, having gathered for a long time past the strength of all their tribes, have entered Poland, Russia, Hungary and other christian countries. So savage has been their devastation that their sword spared neither sex nor age, but raged with fearful brutality upon all alike. It caused unparalleled havoc and destruction in these countries in its unbroken advance; for their sword, not knowing how to rest in the sheath, made other kingdoms subject to it by a ceaseless persecution. As time went on, it could attack stronger christian armies and exercise its savagery more fully upon them. Thus when, God forbid, the world is bereaved of the faithful, faith may turn aside from the world to lament its followers destroyed by the barbarity of this people. Therefore, so that the horrible purpose of this people may not prevail but be thwarted, and by the power of God be brought to the opposite result, all the faithful must carefully consider and ensure by their earnest endeavour that the Tartar advance may be hindered and prevented from penetrating any further by the power of their mailed arm. Therefore, on the advice of the holy council, we advise, beg, urge and earnestly command all of you, as far as you can, carefully to observe the route and approaches by which this people can enter our land, and by ditches, walls or other defences and fortifications, as you think fitting, to keep them at bay, so that their approach to you may not easily be open. Word of their arrival should previously be brought to the apostolic see. Thus we may direct the assistance of the faithful to you, and thus you may be safe against the attempts and raids of this people. For to the necessary and useful expenses which you should make for that purpose, we shall contribute handsomely, and we shall see that contributions are made in proportion by all christian countries, for in this way we may meet common dangers. Nevertheless, in addition to this, we shall send similar letters to all Christians through whose territories this people could make its approach.

5 [On the crusade{50}]{51}

Deeply sorrowful at the grievous dangers of the holy Land, but especially at those which have recently happened to the faithful settled there, we seek with all our heart to free it from the hands of the wicked. Thus with the approval of the sacred council, in order that the crusaders may prepare themselves, we lay it down that at an opportune time, to be made known to all the faithful by preachers and our special envoys, all who are ready to cross the sea should gather at suitable places for this purpose, so that they may proceed from there with the blessing of God and the apostolic see to the assistance of the holy Land. Priests and other clerics who will be in the christian army, both those under authority and prelates, shall diligently devote themselves to prayer and exhortation, teaching the crusaders by word and example to have the fear and love of God always before their eyes, so that they say or do nothing that might offend the majesty of the eternal king. If they ever fall into sin, let them quickly rise up again through true penitence. Let them he humble in heart and in body, keeping to moderation both in food and in dress, avoiding altogether dissensions and rivalries, and putting aside entirely any bitterness or envy, so that thus armed with spiritual and material weapons they may the more fearlessly fight against the enemies of the faith, relying not on their own power but rather trusting in the strength of God. Let nobles and the powerful in the army, and all who abound in riches, be led by the holy words of prelates so that, with their eyes fixed on the crucified one for whom they have taken up the badge of the cross, they may refrain from useless and unnecessary expenditure, especially in feasting and banquets, and let they give a share of their wealth to the support of those persons through whom the work of God may prosper; and on this account, according to the dispensation of the prelates themselves, they may be granted remission of their sins. We grant to the aforesaid clerics that they may receive the fruits of their benefices in full for three years, as if they were resident in the churches, and if necessary they may leave them in pledge for the same time.

To prevent this holy proposal being impeded or delayed, we strictly order all prelates of churches, each in his own locality, diligently to warn and induce those who have abandoned the cross to resume it, and them and others who have taken up the cross, and those who may still do so, to carry out their vows to the Lord. And if necessary they shall compel them to do this without any backsliding, by sentences of excommunication against their persons and of interdict on their lands, excepting only those persons who find themselves faced with an impediment of such a kind that their vow deservedly ought to be commuted or deferred in accordance with the directives of the apostolic see. In order that nothing connected with this business of Jesus Christ be omitted, we will and order patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots and others who have the care of souls to preach the cross zealously to those entrusted to them. Let them beseech kings, dukes, princes, margraves, counts, barons and other magnates, as well as the communes of cities, vills and towns -- in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit, the one, only, true and eternal God -- that those who do not go in person to the aid of the holy Land should contribute, according to their means an appropriate number of fighting men together with their necessary expenses for three years, for the remission of their sins, in accordance with what has already been explained in general letters and will be explained below for still greater assurance. We wish to share in this remission not only those who contribute ships of their own but also those who are zealous enough to build them for this purpose. To those who refuse, if there happen to be any who are so ungrateful to our lord God, we firmly declare in the name of the apostle that they should know that they will have to answer to us for this on the last day of final judgment before the fearful judge. Let them consider beforehand, however, with what knowledge and with what security it was that they were able to confess before the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, to whom the Father gave all things into his hands, if in this business, which is as it were peculiarly his, they refuse to serve him who was crucified for sinners, by whose beneficence they are sustained and indeed by whose blood they have been redeemed.

We therefore decree, with the general approval of the council, that all clerics, both those under authority and prelates, shall give a twentieth of the revenues of their churches for a full three years to the aid of the holy Land, by means of the persons appointed by the apostolic see for this purpose; the only exceptions being certain religious who are rightly to be exempted from this taxation and likewise those persons who have taken or will take the cross and so will go in person. We and our brothers, cardinals of the holy Roman church, shall pay a full tenth. Let all know, moreover, that they are obliged to observe this faithfully under pain of excommunication, so that those who knowingly deceive in this matter shall incur the sentence of excommunication. Because it is right that those who persevere in the service of the heavenly ruler should in all justice enjoy special privilege, the crusaders shall therefore be exempt from taxes or levies and other burdens. We take their persons and goods under the protection of St Peter and ourself once they have taken up the cross. We ordain that they are to be protected by archbishops, bishops and all prelates of the church of God, and that protectors of their own are to be specially appointed for this purpose, so that their goods are to remain intact and undisturbed until they are known for certain to be dead or to have returned. If anyone dares to act contrary to this, let him be curbed by ecclesiastical censure.

If any of those setting out are bound by oath to pay interest, we ordain that their creditors shall be compelled by the same punishment to release them from their oath and to desist from exacting the interest; if any of the creditors does force them to pay the interest, we command that he be forced by similar punishment to restore it. We order that Jews be compelled by the secular power to remit interest, and that until they do so all intercourse shall be denied them by all Christ's faithful under pain of excommunication. Secular princes shall provide a suitable deferral for those who cannot now pay their debts to Jews, so that after they have undertaken the journey, and until there is certain knowledge of their death or of their return, they shall not incur the inconvenience of paying interest. The Jews shall be compelled to add to the capital, after they have deducted their necessary expenses, the revenues which they are meanwhile receiving from property held by them on security. For, such a benefit seems to entail not much loss, inasmuch as it postpones the repayment but does not cancel the debt. Prelates of churches who are negligent in showing justice to crusaders and their families should know that they will be severely punished. Furthermore, since corsairs and pirates greatly impede help for the holy Land, by capturing and plundering those who are travelling to and from it, we bind with the bond of excommunication them and their principal helpers and supporters. We forbid anyone, under threat of anathema, knowingly to communicate with them by contracting to buy or to sell; and we order rulers of cities and their territories to restrain and curb such persons from this iniquity. Otherwise, since to be unwilling to disquiet evildoers is none other than to encourage them, and since he who fails to oppose a manifest crime is not without a touch of secret complicity, it is our wish and command that prelates of churches exercise ecclesiastical severity against their persons and lands. We excommunicate and anathematise, moreover, those false and impious Christians who, in opposition to Christ and the christian people, convey {52} arms and iron and timber for galleys; and we decree that those who sell them galleys or ships, and those who act as pilots in pirate Saracen ships, or give them any help or advice by way of machines or anything else, to the detriment of the holy Land, are to be punished with deprivation of their possessions and are to become the slaves of those who capture them. We order this sentence to be renewed publicly on Sundays and feast-days in all maritime towns; and the bosom of the church is not to be opened to such persons unless they send in aid of the holy Land all that they received from this damnable commerce and the same amount of their own, so that they are punished in proportion to their sins. If perchance they do not pay, they are to be punished in other ways in order that through their punishment others may be deterred from venturing upon similar rash actions. In addition, we prohibit and on pain of anathema forbid all Christians, for four years, to send or take their ships across to the lands of the Saracens who dwell in the east, so that by this a greater supply of shipping may be made ready for those wanting to cross over to help the holy Land, and so that the aforesaid Saracens may be deprived of the not inconsiderable help which they have been accustomed to receiving from this.

Although tournaments have been forbidden in a general way on pain of a fixed penalty at various councils, we strictly forbid them to be held for three years, under pain of excommunication, because the business of the crusade is much hindered by them at this present time. Because it is of the utmost necessity for the carrying out of this business that rulers and christian peoples keep peace with each other, we therefore ordain, on the advice of this holy and general synod, that peace be generally kept in the whole christian world for four years, so that those in conflict shall be brought by the prelates of churches to conclude a definitive peace or to observe inviolably a firm truce. Those who refuse to comply shall be most strictly compelled to do so by an excommunication against their persons and an interdict on their lands, unless the malice of the wrongdoers is so great that they ought not to enjoy peace. If it happens that they make light of the church's censure, they may deservedly fear that the secular power will be invoked by ecclesiastical authority against them, as disturbers of the business of him who was crucified.

We therefore, trusting in the mercy of almighty God and in the authority of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, do grant, by the power of binding and loosing that God has conferred upon us, albeit unworthy, unto all those who undertake this work in person and at their own expense, full pardon for their sins about which they are heartily contrite and have spoken in confession, and we promise them an increase of eternal life at the recompensing of the just. To those who do not go there in person but send suitable men at their own expense, according to their means and status, and likewise to those who go in person but at others' expense, we grant full pardon for their sins. We grant to share in this remission, according to the amount of their help and the intensity of their devotion, all who shall contribute suitably from their goods to the aid of the said Land or who give useful advice and help regarding the above. Finally, this holy and general synod imparts the benefit of its prayers and blessings to all who piously set out on this enterprise in order that it may contribute worthily to their salvation.

  • 1 Pope Innocent IV
  • 2 F(rederick) added in P
  • 3 Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241)
  • 4 Peter of Colmeiu, cardinal 1244-1253
  • 5 William of Savoy, cardinal 1244-1251
  • 6 William of Talliante, cardinal 1244-1250
  • 7 On 3 May 1241
  • 8 Baldwin II, Latin emperor in the east (d. 1261)
  • 9 Gregory of Crescentio, cardinal 1205-1226
  • 10 Pope Innocent III (1198-1216)
  • 11 Honorius III (1216-1227)
  • 12 Otto of Montferrat, cardinal 1227-1251
  • 13 James of Pecoraria, cardinal 1231-1244
  • 14 John Halgrin, cardinal 1227-1238
  • 15 Thomas de Episcopo, cardinal 1216-1243
  • 16 Ludwig I, duke of Bavaria (1183-1231)
  • 17 John III Vatatzes, Greek emperor in the east (1222-1254)
  • 18 The petitioner ... altered omitted in M.
  • 19 const. 4 in M, 2 in R
  • 20 In the conduct of cases uncertainty is insidious, and the renown of persons and places is very advantageous. Therefore by added in M.
  • 21 const. 6 in M, 8 in R
  • 22 const. 11 in M, omitted in R
  • 23 the party which appealed W
  • 24 const. 12 in M, omitted in R
  • 25 const. 9 in M, 3 in R
  • 26 Since legitimate acts are not tied to particular days and conditions by a legal sanction, and among legitimate acts the election of bishops is important, since by it the electors and the one elected are bound together by the ties of a spiritual marriage added in M.
  • 27 for ... others omitted in M.
  • 28 const. 10/11 in M, 4 in R
  • 29 const. 13 in M, omitted in R
  • 30 const. 7 in M, 5 in R.
  • 31 const. 3 in M, 6 in R
  • 32 const. 14 in M, omitted in R
  • 33 const. 5 in M, 7 in R.
  • 34 const. 2 in M, 9 in R.
  • 35 const. 8 in M, 10 in R.
  • 36 const. 15 in M, omitted in R
  • 37 const. 16 in M, omitted in R
  • 38 const. 17 in M, omitted in R
  • 39 const. 11 in R, omitted in M
  • 40 const. 22 in W, omitted in M R
  • 41 const. 18 in M W, omitted in R
  • 42 const 19 in M W, omitted in R
  • 43 const. 1 in M, 12 in R, 20 in W
  • 44 Judges damnably abuse an ecclesiastical censure when they use it rashly to try to expel innocent persons from the bosom of mother church on account of someone else's fault; thereby the persons illegally named are not harmed, and the censure is said to fall on the issuer on account of his misuse of the keys. Wishing to prevent such rashness we ordain by this decree added in M.
  • 45 const 21 in W, omitted in M R
  • 46 const. 13 in R, omitted in others
  • 47 const. 14 in R, omitted in others
  • 48 const. 15 in R, omitted in others
  • 49 const. 16 in R, omitted in others
  • 50 omitted in R
  • 51 const 17 in R, omitted in others
  • 52 to the Saracens added in M Bu.
    Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner

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