1st Council of Nicaea
Constantinople One
Council of Ephesus
Council of Chalcedon
Constantinople Two
Constantinople Three
2nd Council of Nicaea
Constantinople Four
Lateran One
Lateran Two
Lateran Three
Lateran Four
1st Council of Lyons
2nd Council of Lyons
Council of Vienne
Council of Constance


The First Council of Nicaea

  Though the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15 and Galatians 2) was the first Church Council, attended by the Apostles, the first Ecumenical (world-wide) Council was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great with Pope Saint Sylvester I sitting on the Throne of Peter as the 33rd successor of Christ's appointed Apostle. The site was the city of Nicaea, just south of Constantinople in Asia Minor. The greatest periti was the Bishop of Alexandria, Saint Athanasius who, amidst his struggles with the Arians, argued convincingly for condemning Arius and, as a deacon, St. Athanasius was at the forefront in defining the Consubstantiality of the Son with the Heavenly Father. For the full documents of the first Ecumenical Council see NICAEA ONE

The First Council Constantinople

  Fifty-six years after Nicaea, the Roman Emperor of the East Theodosius I convened the second General Council. Because of friction between the emperor who was headquartered in Constantinople and Pope Saint Damasus I, located in Rome, neither the Holy Father or his papal legates attended. Already the split between East and West was manifesting itself. 186 bishops did attend. Most notable were Saint Gregory Nazianzen and Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, two noted Doctors of the Church who, with the Council Fathers, reaffirmed the First Council of Nicaea, affirmed the divinity of the Third Person of the Trinity by defining the Consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son, thereby condeming the heresy of Macedonius. For the full documents of the second General Council see CONSTANTINOPLE ONE

Council of Ephesus

  Fifty years after the First Council of Constantinople, Theodosius' son Theodosius II ruled as emperor. He was much more inclined to hear the Church, influenced by his saintly sister Saint Pulcheria and, in harmony with Pope Saint Celestine I, a third General Council was called in Ephesus in the southern tip of Asia Minor (which today is Turkey, near the Mediterranean). Probably the biggest contribution of this council where over 200 bishops attended was the Divine Maternity Dogma of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Also, led by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, an impressive Doctor of the Church, the Council defined that Christ has two natures - Divine and human, but only one Person which is Divine. This affirmation condemned Nestorianism and deposed Nestorius, who was the bishop of Constantinople. The Council also affirmed the Council of Carthage held for the local Church in 416, thus condemning Pelagius and his teachings. For the full documents of the third Ecumenical Council see EPHESUS

The Council of Chalcedon

  Twenty years after Ephesus, Saint Pulcheria played a key role in the fourth General Council; this time influencing her husband Marcian, then the Roman Emperor of the East, to coordinate with Pope Saint Leo the Great in convening it at Chalcedon in Thessalonica just northwest of Constantinople. Once again a false teaching was at the heart of the meeting. This time Monophysitism (the false teaching that Christ had only one nature) was at the forefront of controversy. It was taught by the Abbot Eutyches who also sought discord, causing confusion so that the Council asserted that Constantinople should be on an equal basis with Rome ecclesiastically. Vigorously opposing this and Eutyches, Pope Leo determined in his Dogmatic Epistle of October 10, 451 that the See of Peter in Rome is and always shall be the Seat of Primacy with no equal and that Eutyches was a heretic. Leo was proclaimed the 'Soul of Chalcedon' and the Council agreed unanimously that through Leo, Peter had spoken and Eutyches was condemned. For the full documents of the fourth General Council see CHALCEDON

Second Council of Constantinople

   Just over a century after Chalcedon, heresy was running rampant and the Roman Emperor in Constantinople Justinian I decided it was time for another General Council. The Second Council in Constantinople condemned the "Three Chapters" which was a collection of statements by three deceased disciples of the deposed Nestorius. The Council determined that the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa were soundly condemned. This Council also affirmed the condemnations declared at the Council of Carthage in 416 and previous condemnations by Popes of heresies. For the full documents of the fifth Ecumenical Council see CONSTANTINOPLE TWO

Third Council of Constantinople

  117 years after the Second Council of Constantinople, the Emperor Constantine IV decided it was time to call another General Council, especially in light of the growing threat of Islamism. In agreement with Pope Saint Agatho, the Council was convened with again over 200 bishops. The heresy of the time was Monothelitesism which falsely taught that Christ only had a Divine will, rather than a Divine and human will. It denied the perfect harmony of the two wills within the one Divine Person. Pope Agatho died during this Council and his successor Pope Saint Leo II continued it, approving the decrees of past Councils and taking to task one of his predecessors Pope Honorius I for not keeping the heresy of Monothelites in check, specifically not challenging the Patriarch of Constantinople Sergius who was spreading the heresy. St. Leo's actions set a precedence for calling into question error by previous Pontiffs and confirmed that a Pope can be in error when not speaking from the Chair of Peter - ex cathedra. For the full documents of the sixth Ecumenical Council see CONSTANTINOPLE THREE

Second Council of Nicaea

   Just over a century after the Third Council of Constantinople, a 7th General Council was necessary in 787 to deal with the heresy of Iconoclasm. The Council was called by the Empress Irene - the widow of the late Emperor Leo IV and mother of the Emperor Constantine IV - to head off the growing unrest with the Eastern Bishops who were spreading the heresy of Iconoclasm fostered by Emperor Leo III. The latter had been fiercely condemned by Pope Hadrian I, Sovereign Pontiff during this time, as well as his predecessors Popes Gregory II and Pope Gregory III. A great Doctor of the Church Saint John Damascene had also defended images as a means of reverence. At the core was the growing split and resentment between East and West. For the full documents of the seventh Ecumenical Council see NICAEA TWO

Fourth Council of Constantinople

  The issue of declaring Photius a heretic was paramount for the Fourth Council of Constantinople which was called jointly by the Emperor Basil and Pope Hadrian II in 869. Photius had openly criticized clerical celibacy, challenged Pope Saint Leo III's crowning of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas of 800, and questioned the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son in the Filioque of the Creed. Photius was condemned by the Council. This set the stage 200 years later when the Great Eastern Schism became official when Michael Cerularius closed the Latin churches in Constantinople and was excommunicated by Pope Saint Leo IV in 1054. Also of concern at the Council was the growing Saracen threat. For the full documents of the eighth Ecumenical Council see CONSTANTINOPLE FOUR

First Lateran Council

  The first General Council after the Great Eastern Schism was held in Rome for the first time at the Lateran Basilica in 1123 and convened by Pope Callistus II. At issue was the Lay Investiture controversy between secular power and ecclesial power. The Council confirmed the Concordat of Worms that had been signed the year before between Emperor Henry V and Pope Callistus II. This assured all elections of prelates and abbots would be made by ecclesial authorities solely with the Emperor having approval only in Germany. The Council declared priests in the Latin rite must remain celibate. For the full documents of the ninth Ecumenical Council see LATERAN ONE

Second Lateran Council

   It was necessary to call a second General Council just 16 years later because of the Papal schism in which Pope Innocent II declared null and void all acts and decrees by the deceased antipope Anicletus II. The Council also condemned the heresies of Peter Bruys and Arnold of Brescia as well as enacting reforms suggested by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who also preached a crusade against the threat of the Crescent Moon of Islam. For the full documents of the tenth Ecumenical Council see LATERAN TWO

Third Lateran Council

   Pope Alexander III called the third Council at the Lateran Basilica because once again a General Council had to be called to undo the damage done by antipopes Victor IV and others. The Council also set the election of the Roman Pontiff must be by two-thirds of the majority of cardinals voting, establishing the Sacred Conclave as the voting body. The Council condemned the heresies of Albigenses and Waldenses. For the full documents of the eleventh Ecumenical Council see LATERAN THREE

Fourth Lateran Council

  In 1215 Pope Innocent III called the Fourth Lateran Council thirty-six years after Lateran III had closed. This Council was the most absolute and most impacting of all ecumenical councils to date. Nearly 500 prelates, as well as the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem, and close to a thousand abbots including Saint Dominic attended. Here Innocent, trying to recover from the immense sadness three years earlier of the 5th Crusade in which he naievely pushed for sending over 40,000 children into battle against the Muslims, successfully regained his power. It marked the pinnacle of papal power in medieval times. It was Innocent who defined ex cathedra - from the chair of Peter and he who declared in that position that "There is but one Universal Church, outside of which there is no salvation." The Council officially set in stone the term 'Transubstantiation' for the mystery of the bread and wine confected into the body and blood of Jesus Christ and reformed disciplines of ecclesiastical life, as well as directing all Catholics to partake in the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist no less than once a year. Lateran IV also condemned as anathema once more the heresies of Albigensianism, which taught marriage and the sacraments were not needed, and Waldensianism, which taught that the laity could perform the same duties as a priest when said priest was in mortal sin. For the full documents of the twelfth Ecumenical Council see LATERAN FOUR

First Council of Lyons

  Thirty years following Lateran IV, Pope Innocent IV called the First Council of Lyons in 1245, having been forced to flee Rome for the refuge of Lyons France at the invitation of the holy French Monarch King Saint Louis IX. The latter was designated to lead the Seventh Crusade against the infidel Saracens. Though only 140 bishops attended this council, it had the support of the Patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, Venice and the Emperor of the East. The Council reinforced the excommunication Pope Gregory IX had imposed on Frederick II, the slacker emperor who had betrayed the trust placed in him. He was deposed. Great concern was also given to the Mongol hordes invading Europe and the loss of Jerusalem to the infidel, as well as problems with lax clergy. For the full documents of the thirteenth Ecumenical Council see FIRST COUNCIL OF LYONS

Second Council of Lyons

  In 1274 Blessed Pope Gregory X called the Second Council of Lyons, which teemed with 15 cardinals, 500 prelates and well over a thousand clerics and dignitaries including Saint Bonaventure. Another great Doctor of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas passed to his Heavenly reward enroute to the Council. This Council's main docket was the attempt to reunite with the Eastern Church, but it was only temporary and the schism grew wider after the solidification of the Dogmatic Filioque in which it was reaffirmed emphatically that the Holy Ghost proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Also addressed were regulations for Papal election and how to recover Palestine from the Turks. For the full documents of the fourteenth Ecumenical Council see SECOND COUNCIL OF LYONS

Council of Vienne

  Six years into the 'Avignon Exile' which would last from 1305-1377, the Council of Vienne lasted two years. It was called in 1311 by the first of the Avignon Popes Pope Clement V in the city of Vienne just south of Lyons. Though the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria joined the Pope, it was a noticable difference from the last Council for far fewer bishops and dignitaries attended. Nevertheless, the council suppressed the Knights Templars and Jacques de Molay, the one who laid the satanic seeds of Freemasonry. They had abused their privileges after the Crusades. Politics also played a huge role in this council with King Philip IV ruler of France being reinstituted in the Church after his legendary excommunication battle with Clement's predecessor Pope Boniface VIII who had issued his famous ex cathedra bull Unam Sanctam. The Council also condemned the heresies of the Beghards and Bequines as well as that of Quietism. For the full documents of the fifteenth Ecumenical Council see COUNCIL OF VIENNE

Council of Constance

   Just over a century after the Council of Vienne the sixteenth Ecumenical Council was called in the French area of Switzerland in 1414. Because of the Great Western Schism the legitimate Pope Gregory XII abdicated the Papal throne during the Council at the Emperor Sigismund's request for the sake of unity so that the Council could sort out the mess and end the Schism amid the confusion of the multi-popes which included the anti-popes of Avignon - Benedict XIII and John XXIII. The latter had called a Council in Pisa in 1403 which was not recognized because of its illegality. The Council took control and elected Pope Martin V to the seat of Peter in 1417, three years after the Council was opened. It brought to an end the Great Schism and opened a whole new can of worms with the struggle between papal power and conciliar power. Condemned were the heresies of John Wycliffe and John Hus, the tip of the iceberg that would erupt a century later. For the full documents of the sixteenth Ecumenical Council see COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE