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Table of Contents


1.1 History of Church in the Medieval Period- 3

1.2 History of the earlier Lateran Councils- 4


2.1 The Fourth Lateran Council 6

2.2 The Canons of the Fourth Lateran Council 8


3.0 Summary and Conclusion- 16

Bibliography- 17




1.1 History of Church in the Medieval Period

In the Medieval ages the medieval church had a far greater role to play than the churches in the current world. The church of the medieval age, which is said to have dominated the life of everyone – from birth to death –, believed staunchly that Heaven, Hell and God existed. Due to the terrific state that the church had depicted about hell to the people, there existed unquestionable abidance to the church rules and regulations. This made the church to become so influential and superior in the medieval period (Chazan 1980, 12). The church in this period became very rich because every person gave taxes known as tithes as an annual ten percentage of what they had gained. Most people ended up being monks, nuns or priests as a way of survival in this period because they were not imposed these taxes. Although some of these taxes were used on helping the poor, most it was spent on beautiful churches and cathedrals.

The Catholic Church[1] became very powerful in the medieval period because it was the only religious institution found in Europe in this period. This is because Christianity was the only accepted religion in the medieval period (Lynch 2009, 21). This factor made the church an indispensable sector of the feudal system that organized itself in a government-like body with laws. Christianity – which played a huge part in the lives of individuals of this period – was only practiced through the church thus making it very influential and powerful. The pope in religious matters was superior to a king or a queen. This influential characteristic led to the rise of some religious leaders[2] who wanted to take over the papal leadership so that they could take control of the wealth and power of the church. The Pope had the power to violate or infringe the canons or rules of the church (Vidmar 2005, 17). These are the same regulations that guided the previous pope but the next pope had the power to change or eradicating them. Contrary to these popes, who were not bound to the laws they created, is what Jesus Christ[3] who strictly observed the law did. The religious observances of the church shaped the calendar of individuals by marking important ritualistic moments such as marriage, confirmation, holy orders and baptism (Rosamund mckitterick 2001, 14).

1.2 History of the earlier Lateran Councils

The first Lateran council was conducted in the reign of pope Calixtus II. This ninth ecumenical council was held on December 1123. The first Lateran council, which has no contemporary accounts or acts currently surviving, promulgated a number of twenty two canons (Logan 2012, 22). These canons indiscriminately entailed the general matters, local matters and the permanent regulations combined with the temporary issues. These canons, which mostly restated declarations of earlier councils, constituted quasi-political and disciplinary decisions such as condemning of simony and prohibiting laymen from disposing church property. This Lateran council had no specific dogmatic declarations.

The second Lateran council also known as the tenth ecumenical council was brought about by Pope Innocent II in 1139. This council was convoked to condemn the followers of a dynamic opponent and reformer of the historical powers of the pope known as Arnold of Brescia (Chazan 1980, 19). This council also aimed at putting an end to the schism formed by the election of a rival pope known as Anacletus II. Innocent II was declared the legitimate pope with the support of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. This council did not only declare all the marriages of nuns, monks and lay brothers invalid but also repudiated the 12th century heresies that concerned infant baptism, matrimony, and Eucharist and the holy orders.

The eleventh ecumenical council, also identified as the third Lateran council, was held by Pope Alexander III in 1179 (David Abulafia 2002, 36). This council was joined by 291 bishops who were elites of the study on the peace of Venice in 1177 (Rosamund mckitterick 2001, 14). It was during this period that the council manifested a vital stage in the advancement of papal legislative powers.  It was during this period that Frederick I Barbarossa, the Holy Roman emperor, agreed to forfeit his antipope support and restore the property he had grabbed from the church.



2.1 The Fourth Lateran Council

After Alexander III’s long reign of seventeen years, the cardinals appointed a thirty seven years old son of the Count of Segni called Lothar on eighth of January, 1198 (Turner 2000, 24). Lothar got the name Innocent III[4]. In the medieval church, much of importance is not perceived to have happened but the convening of the fourth Lateran council by pope Innocent III changed the course of history and the Latin Church (Evans 2010, 35). This great initiative by Pope Innocent III was first summoned on the nineteenth of April, 1213 to have a meeting on November 1215.

The Dark Ages[5] is referred to as the time when the council first met. This was around AD 476 when there was intellectual stagnation because the Roman Empire had been seized. It was the role of the Holy Roman Empire to intervene and intensify intellectual activities such as building of great universities, which later took control over the intellectual sphere (Rosamund mckitterick 2001, 29). These schools, which were linked to the medieval cathedrals, offered training to students in theology, biblical history and interpretation. This period also entailed intense theological debates that were piloted in relation to the Lord’s Supper or the nature of Eucharist. The making up of systems of theology referred to as the Cathedrals of the mind by Anselm of Canterbury and Peter Lombard, depicted theology as sterile arrangement of themes with little significance to one’s everyday problems. This was contrary to the existing concept of theology as the solicitation of biblical truths to one’s individual life. The main theme that most of the heretical groups, which came up with notions that taught on the dualistic interpretation of the universe and purity of the faith, had in mind that physical possessions were inherently evil whereas the spirit was pure (Vidmar 2005, 41). This left the Holy Land to remain in the hands of those who rejected the Christian faith.

[1] The Catholic Church was the first Christian religious dominion to be established in the Medieval Ages.

[2] The leaders were all under the papal supervision and leadership.

[3] The third person in the Holy Trinity – The Son of God

[4] Pope innocent was anointed a cardinal by his uncle before being elected a Pope.

[5] This period entailed economic and cultural deterioration in the first phase of the Medieval ages that happened in Europe.

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