Council of Vienne
1311-1312 A.D.

part five

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations



    [12]. If a tithe on the benefices of anyone be granted for a time, the tithe can and should be raised in accordance with the customary valuing of the tithe in the regions in which the grant is made, and in the money generally current. We do not wish the chalices of churches, books and other equipment destined for divine worship to be taken or received as security or distraint by the collectors, raisers or exactors of the tithe, nor are such objects to be distrained or seized in any way.

    [13]. In order that those who profess poverty in any order may persevere more readily in the vocation to which they have been called, and that those who have gone over to a non-mendicant order may apply themselves to live there more peacefully the more the ambition which produces discord and division is checked, we decree, with the approval of the sacred council, that any mendicants, who even with apostolic authority shall go over to non-mendicant orders in the future or have hitherto done so, even though they now hold the office of prior or obedientiary or other offices, or have any care or government of souls in the non-mendicant order, shall have no voice or place in the chapter, even though this be granted freely to them by the others. They may not continue to hold the office of prior or obedientiary or other offices previously held, even as vicar or minister or deputy, nor may they have the care or government of souls either directly or on behalf of others. All actions contrary to this decree shall be automatically null and void, notwithstanding any privilege whatsoever. We do not however wish this constitution to extend to those mendicant orders which the apostolic see has allowed to continue on condition that they admit no more persons to profession, and to which it has granted a general permission for passing to other approved orders.

    [14]. That nothing unbecoming or corrupt find its way into that field of the Lord, namely the sacred order of the black monks, or anything grow into a ruinous crop, but rather that the flowers of honour and integrity may there produce much fruit, we decree as follows.

    We forbid the monks all excess or irregularity with regard to clothes, food, drink, bedding and horses. We decree that the upper garment next to their habit should be black, brown or white, according to the custom of the region in which they live. The quality of the cloth should not exceed monastic moderation, nor should they seek what is expensive and fine, but what is practical. The garment itself should be round and not slit, neither too long nor too short; it should have broad sleeves extending to the hands, not sewn or buttoned in any way. The monks should be content with an almuce of black cloth or fur in place of a hood together with the hood of the habit which they wear, or by arrangement of the abbot they may wear unpretentious hoods which are open over the shoulders. They should not wear silk in place of fur. They may use large summer shoes or high boots for their footwear. None shall presume to wear an ornate belt, knife or spurs, or ride a horse with the saddle highly ornamented with nails or sumptuous in any other way, or with a decorative iron bridle.

    In communities in which there are twelve monks or more, the abbot, prior or other superior may wear within the monastery walls a frock of the cloth customarily used for the frocks and cowls of the monastery; other monks in monasteries where frocks are customarily worn should use them also. In other monasteries, however, and in houses and priories where there is a smaller community, they should wear cowls which are closed and of becoming appear ance. When the abbots, priors or other superiors and other monks set footoutside the monastery, they should wear a frock or a cowl or a closed cloak; if they wear the cloak, they should wear underneath it a cowl or, if they prefer, a scapular. When they put on albs or sacred vestments in order to minister at the divine offices, or when they are engaged in work, they may wear the scapular. Lest any uncertainty arises from the different meanings in different regions of the world of the words cowl and frock, we declare that by cowl we understand a long and full habit without sleeves, and by frock we understand a habit with long full sleeves.

    At least once every month, both inside and outside the monastery, each and all of the monks must go to confession, and on the first Sunday of each month they should receive communion in the monastery, except for some reason which they should make known to the abbot, prior or confessor in the monastery; they should abide by his decision. When the rule is read in chapter, it is to be explained in the vernacular by him who presides, or by someone else appointed by him, for the sake of the younger monks. The novices shall have a competent instructor in the divine offices and in regular observance.

    All shall always abstain from hunting and fowling. They shall not be present at them, nor presume to have hunting-dogs or birds of prey in their keeping or in that of others, nor permit familiars living with them to keep them, unless the monastery has woods, game preserves or warrens, or has the right to hunt on property belonging to others, in which there might be rabbits or other wild animals. They are then permitted to keep such dogs and birds, as long as they do not keep the hunting-dogs in the monastery or the houses in which they live or within the cloister, and the monks themselves do not appear at the hunt.

    If someone rashly violates the above regulations, he shall be subject to the regular discipline. If he presumes to wear unlaced high shoes, or a hood not open as aforesaid, he is also suspended from conferring benefices for a year, if he is an abbot or a prior who does not have an abbot above him; if anyone else, he is suspended for a year from administrative office, if he holds any. If he has no administrative office, he is automatically disqualified for a year from holding such office or an ecclesiastical benefice. If any are deliberately present at rowdy hunting or fowling or occupied in other ways with dogs and birds, they incur automatic suspension and disqualification, according to the above distinction of persons, for two years. If the abbot or prior has been suspended from conferring benefices, this devolves, with the counsel and assent of the community or its greater part, on the claustral prior.

    Some monks, as we hear, throw off the sweet yoke of regular observance and leave their monasteries, feigning that they cannot securely remain there, or under some other pretext, to wander about the courts of princes. Unless these monks' superiors grant them the pension or subsidy which they ask for, the monks conspire against their superiors, betray them or otherwise oppress them, bring about their capture and imprisonment, have their own monasteries burned, and occasionally even presume to seize in whole or in great part the property of the monastery. We wish to counter such unprincipled audacity. We forbid, by this perpetual edict, that monks and canons regular who are not administrators should presume, without special leave of their superiors, to betake themselves to the courts of princes. If, in order to do harm to their superiors or monasteries, they presume to go to such courts, we determine that they incur automatic excommunication. We nevertheless strictly enjoin on their superiors to restrain them with all diligence from visiting the said courts and from any wandering about; they are to correct severely those who do not obey. We decree that monks who keep arms inside their monastery, without leave of their abbot, incur the same sentence.

    Following in the footsteps of our predecessors, we forbid by a perpetual edict that monks presume to live alone in houses and priories of which they have charge. If the incomes of such priories and houses do not suffice for the support of two, then, unless the abbots make them sufficient, let the local ordinaries, with the advice and consent of the abbots, unite these houses and priories with neighbouring places belonging to the monasteries, or with offices of the monasteries, or with one another, as will be most convenient. The monks of the places which will be united to others are first to be recalled to their monastery, and due provision is to be made, from the incomes of the said places, for the clergy who are to serve there. Furthermore, conventual priories cannot be conferred or entrusted to anyone under twenty-five, and non-conventual priories having the care of souls, even if that care is exercised by secular priests, to anyone under twenty. Those who hold priories of either kind are to have themselves ordained priest within a year from the time of their collation or commission and taking possession, or before the age of twenty-five if they are entrusted with or collated to non-conventual priories when they are under that age. If they have not done this, and are without reasonable excuse, they are deprived of the said priories, even without previous admonition, and the priories may not be conferred on them again that time. Nobody may be given or entrusted with a priory or an administrative post unless he has previously made profession in a monastic order. Those appointed to priories or administrative posts outside the monastery are not permitted to remain in the monastery and are obliged to reside where they hold office, notwithstanding any contrary custom, unless they are excused for a time from this residence for some reasonable cause, such as studies. In order to promote divine worship, we decree that every monk, at the command of his abbot, should have himself raised to all the sacred orders, unless there is some lawful excuse. Further, in order that the monks may not be deprived of the opportunity to make progress in knowledge, there should be in each monastery which has sufficient means a suitable master to instruct them carefully in the primary branches of knowledge.

    All the foregoing, and those things which our predecessor pope Innocent III of happy memory decreed for greater religious observance in the monastic state, regarding clothing, poverty, silence, the eating of meat, the triennial chapter, and anything else, we approve, renew and expressly wish and decree to be strictly observed.

    [15]. Considering that where discipline is despised, religion suffers shipwreck, we have thought it especially necessary to provide that such contempt produces nothing discordant in those who have dedicated themselves to Christ by vow, staining the good name of religious life and offending the divine majesty. We therefore, with the approval of this sacred council, have judged it wise to decree that every convent of nuns should be visited each year by their ordinary as follows: exempt convents subject to the apostolic see alone, by the authority of that see; non-exempt convents by the ordinary's authority, and other exempt convents, by the authority to whom they are subject. The visitors are to be very careful that the nuns -- some of whom, to our sorrow, we have heard are transgressors -- do not wear silk, various furs or sandals; do not wear their hair long in a horn-shaped style, nor make use of striped and multicoloured caps, do not attend dances and the banquets of seculars, do not go walking through the streets and towns by day or night; and do not lead a luxurious life in other ways. They shall carefully withdraw the nuns from the excesses and allurements of this world and persuade them to devote themselves in their convents to the cultivation of the virtues which is due to the Lord. We order the visitors to compel the nuns to observe all this by suitable measures, notwithstanding exemptions and privileges of any kind, without prejudice however to these exemptions in other respects. We also decree that anyone chosen for the office of abbess in those convents where it is customary for abbesses to be blessed, should receive that blessing within a year from the time of her confirmation in office. If she does not, unless there be reasonable cause, she has completely lost her right, and provision is to be made canonically for the monastery to be provided with an abbess by those to whom this belongs. We also order, by our apostolic authority, that those women who are commonly called secular canonesses and who lead a life like that of secular canons, making no renunciation of private property and no profession, should be visited by the local ordinaries, who are to visit the non-exempt on their own authority and the exempt on the authority of the apostolic see. By this, however, we are not intending to approve the status, rule or order of secular canonesses. We command the visitors, in making their visitation, to be content with two notaries and two persons from their own church and four other men of undoubted honour and maturity. Those who presume to hinder the visitors in their task or any part of it, unless they repent on being admonished, incur automatic excommunication, notwithstanding any privileges, statutes and customs to the contrary. '

    [16]. The women commonly known as Beguines, since they promise obedience to nobody, nor renounce possessions, nor profess any approved rule are not religious at all, although they wear the special dress of Beguines and attach themselves to certain religious to whom they have a special attraction. We have heard from trustworthy sources that there are some Beguines who seem to be led by a particular insanity. They argue and preach on the holy Trinity and the divine essence, and express opinions contrary to the catholic faith with regard to the articles of faith and the sacraments of the church. These Beguines thus ensnare many simple people, leading them into various errors. They generate numerous other dangers to souls under the cloak of sanctity. We have frequently received unfavourable reports of their teaching and justly regard them with suspicion. With the approval of the sacred council, we perpetually forbid their mode of life and remove it completely from the church of God. We expressly enjoin on these and other women, under pain of excommunication to be incurred automatically, that they no longer follow this way of life under any form, even if they adopted it long ago, or take it up anew. We strictly forbid, under the same penalty, the religious mentioned above, who are said to have favoured these women and persuaded them to adopt the Beguinage way of life, to give in any way counsel, help or favour to women already following this way of life or taking it up anew; no privilege is to avail against the above. Of course we in no way intend by the foregoing to forbid any faithful women, whether they promise chastity or not, from living uprightly in their hospices, wishing to live a life of penance and serving the Lord of hosts in a spirit of humility. This they may do, as the Lord inspires them.

    [17]. It happens now and then that those in charge of hospices, leper-houses almshouses or hospitals disregard the care of such places and fail to loosen the hold of those who have usurped the goods, possessions and rights of these places. They indeed permit them to slip and be lost completely and the buildings to fall into ruin. They have no care that these places were founded and endowed by the faithful so that the poor and lepers might find a home and be supported by the revenues. They have the barbarity to refuse this charity, criminally turning the revenues to their own use, even though that which has been given by the faithful for a certain purpose should, except by authority of the apostolic see, be applied to that purpose and no other. Detesting such neglect and abuse, we decree, with the approval of the sacred council, that they to whom the duty belongs by right or by statute laid down at the foundation of these places, or by lawful custom, or by privilege of the apostolic see, should strive to reform these places in all that has been referred to above. They are to restore what has been seized, lost and alienated. They should compel the persons in charge to receive the poor people and maintain them in accordance with the resources and revenues of the places. If they are remiss in this, we enjoin on the local ordinaries, even if the institutions enjoy the privilege of exemption, to fulfil each and all of the foregoing, either directly or through others, and to compel the nonexempt rectors by their own authority and the exempt and otherwise privileged rectors by the authority of the apostolic see. Those who object, of whatever state or condition they may be, and those who give them counsel, help or favour, are to be checked by ecclesiastical censure and other legal remedies. By this, however, we do not impair the validity of exemptions or privileges in relation to other matters.

    In order that the above may be more readily observed, none of these places shall be conferred as benefices on secular clerics, even though this may have been observed as a custom (which we utterly condemn), unless it was otherwise determined at the foundation or unless the post is to be filled by election. But let these institutions be governed by prudent suitable men of good repute, who have the knowledge, good will and ability to rule the institutions, to take care of their property and defend their rights to advantage, to distribute their revenues faithfully for the use of needy persons, and who are not likely to divert the property to other uses. We lay these responsibilities on the consciences of those entrusted with these places, calling on the witness of the divine judgment. Those who are entrusted with the government or administration of such places shall also take an oath, after the manner of guardians, and make inventories of the property belonging to the place, and give an account each year of their administration to the ordinaries or others to whom these places are subject, or to their representatives. If anyone attempts to act otherwise, we decree that the appointment, provision or arrangement is null and void.

    We do not wish, however, the foregoing to apply to the hospices of military or religious orders. For these hospices we order those in charge of them, in virtue of holy obedience, to provide in them for the poor in accordance with the institutes and ancient observances of their orders, and to show themselves duly hospitable. They shall be compelled to do this by strict disciplinary measures of their superiors, notwithstanding any statute or custom. Furthermore, our intention is that, if there are hospices which have had from old times an altar or altars and a cemetery, with priests who celebrate divine services and administer the sacra ments to the poor, or if the parish priests have been accustomed to do this, theseancient customs are to be retained.

    [18]. We wish the constitution to be observed which forbids that anyone even at the presentation of exempt religious, be admitted to some church, contrary custom notwithstanding, unless a portion of the revenues of that church has been assigned to him in the presence of the diocesan bishop, wherewith he may be able to meet his obligations to the bishop and have a suitable means of livelihood. We are therefore taking care, with the approval of the sacred council, to explain the constitution and to add certain considerations. Thus we strictly forbid, adjuring the divine judgment, diocesan bishops to admit anyone presented by any ecclesiastical person having the right of presentation to some church, unless within a certain suitable period, set beforehand by the bishop for the presenter, the one presented is assigned, in the bishop's presence, a suitable portion of the revenues. If the one presenting neglects to assign this within the period, we decree, lest this neglect harm the presentee, that the bishop should then admit him, unless there is some other canonical obstacle, and the power of assigning is to devolve on the bishop as a penalty against the presenter. We admonish however the diocesan bishops, adjuring the divine judgment, and we lay it on their consciences, that they act justly in assigning this portion, nor are they to be knowingly swayed by hatred or favour or in any other way to assign more or less than what is due. Of course in the churches of priories or of other places, regular as well as secular, in which religious or others, to whom the revenues belong, have been accustomed to carry the burdens mentioned above the above instructions are not to be observed; but the said religious and others are obliged to undertake all the burdens which would lie upon the permanent priests or vicars if the portion had been assigned to them, to treat the priests and vicars correctly, and to provide them with adequate and fitting sustenance. We wish the diocesan bishops to compel the religious and others by ecclesiastical censure to full observance of all this, including the assignation of a just portion by the bishop if the religious and others fail to do this themselves, notwithstanding any exemptions, privileges, customs or statutes, which we wish to be of no avail to the religious and others with regard to the above.

    [19]. Since it is only reasonable that those who enjoy advantages should not refuse the burdens connected with them, we decree by the following inviolable constitution that any religious who have in any way obtained monasteries or churches, should take care to pay the procurations of legates of the apostolic see and the obligations to bishops and others which were in force before they took possession, unless they are excused by privilege of the apostolic see, exemption or other lawful cause. We do not wish, however, that such privileges or exemptions should be extended to monasteries or churches which they may happen to acquire in the future.

    [20]. We have heard with sorrow that prelates visiting the monasteries of the Cistercian order, although charitably received and courteously served with all that is needful, are nevertheless not content with the food prescribed by the monastic rule. Contrary to the privileges of the said order they demand meat and if it is not served to them, they obtain it by force. Although they receive suitable alms in these monasteries, the prelates procure more for themselves against the will of the religious, sometimes even in places where neither custom nor law provide a title to procurations. They demand and extort money for their horses to be shoed, even when this is unnecessary, and their cooks demand and extort money by reason of their office; nor do they observe the arrangements made between the prelates and the monks concerning procurations.

    In receiving the procurations they are so oppressive that in one short hour they consume what would last the community for a long time. They have with them, while they are receiving the procurations, their hunting-dogs, falcons and hawks. Unless their demands are met, the doors of monasteries or churches are often violently broken and the ornaments of the church are carried off. Without any privilege from the apostolic see they receive several procurations in one day occasionally paid in money, even without making a visitation; and on the occasion of these procurations they often demand from the monks what these are not obliged to pay them, laying on the monks an intolerable burden. There are also some prelates who impose on exempt and other religious the greater part of procurations due to nuncios of the apostolic see and other extraordinary burdens, in order to free themselves and secular priests, without any consultation with the religious about dividing the load. In many other ways the said prelates oppress exempt monasteries and churches which are subject to these monasteries in both civil and canon law, in receiving their procurations and in imposing unaccustomed burdens.

    We wish therefore to provide a suitable remedy for this state of affairs. We decree, with the approval of the sacred council, that if the bishops come to the said monasteries not for visitation but for hospitality, they should receive graciously the refreshment offered in charity to them. But if the bishops come to these monasteries and receive the procurations due to them by common law custom, privilege or any other law, they may if they wish be served with meat on days when it is permitted, in the houses of the monasteries if these are available, but outside the monastic precincts, notwithstanding any privilege to the contrary; if the houses are not available, they may be served within the monastic precincts but not inside the religious door, as it is called. Nor do we consider it unbecoming if the fragments which are collected from the tables of the bishops and the members of their households are collected up and given by the bishops' almoners to the poor of the area. The prelates are carefully to refrain from all the other oppressions mentioned above, if they wish to avoid the indignation of God and of the apostolic see.

    [21]. By the present constitution we order local ordinaries, when the matter becomes known to them, to publish or have published by their subjects the sentences of excommunication and interdict pronounced by law against those who, either on their own initiative or at the command of others, exact or extort tolls or imposts, to the danger of their own souls and the disadvantage of those they oppress, from churches or ecclesiastical persons for goods that are their own, which they are not carrying or having carried or sending for the purposes of trade. They shall continue to publish such sentences until restitution is made for the exactions and fitting satisfaction is given.

    [22]. We are gravely disturbed that, owing to the negligence of some rectors, their subjects fear no punishment and so are encouraged in bad behaviour. Many ministers of churches have cast aside clerical modesty. They ought to offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of their lips, in purity of conscience and devotion of mind. Instead they presume to say or chant the canonical hours in a hurried manner, omitting parts, mingling with them conversation which is mostly vain, profane and unbecoming. They come late to choir, or often leave the church without good reason before the end of the office, occasionally carrying birds or having them carried and bringing hunting-dogs with them. As if regardless of their clerical obligations, they presume to celebrate or be present at office, even though tonsured and vested, with an utter lack of devotion. There are some, both clergy and laity, especially on the vigil of certain feasts when they ought to be in church persevering in prayer, who are not afraid to hold licentious dances in the cemeteries of the churches and occasionally to sing ballads and perpetrate many excesses. From this sometimes there follows the violation of churches and cemeteries, disgraceful conduct and various crimes; and the liturgical office is greatly disturbed, to the offence of the divine majesty and the scandal of the people nearby. In many churches also the vessels, vestments and other articles necessary for divine worship are, considering the churches' means, unworthy.

    We do not wish these transgressions to increase and become a bad example to others. We therefore, with the approval of the sacred council, forbid these practices. We decree that those whose duty it is -- namely the local ordinaries for the non-exempt and the superiors for the exempt and otherwise privileged-must exercise watchful, care to get rid of all negligence and carelessness, to reform the above-mentioned things and to correct each of them. Also, the day and night office is to be devoutly chanted at the proper hours in cathedrals and in regular and collegiate churches, and in other churches it is to be fittingly and duly celebrated, if ordinaries and superiors wish to avoid the indignation of God and of the apostolic see. They are to curb, if they have jurisdiction, those who oppose correction, by ecclesiastical censure and other suitable remedies. In this and other matters which concern the worship of God and the reform of morals, and also the honourable reputation of churches and cemeteries, they are to see to it, as far as duty binds them, that the sacred canons are inviolably observed, and they shall take care to be well acquainted with these canons.'

    See Part Six of the Council of Vienne