Fifth Council of the Lateran

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Fifth Council of the Lateran
Date 1512-1517
Accepted by Roman Catholicism
Previous council
Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence
Next council
Council of Trent
Convoked by Pope Julius II
President Pope Julius II, Pope Leo X
Attendance about 100 bishops, mostly Italians
Topics church discipline
Documents and statements
five decrees, pawn shops allowed, permission required to print books
Chronological list of Ecumenical councils

The Fifth Council of the Lateran (1512–1517) is the Eighteenth Ecumenical Council to be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church and the last one before the Protestant Reformation.

The Conciliabulum of Pisa[edit]

When elected pope in 1503, Pope Julius II promised under oath that he would soon convoke a general council. However, as time passed the promise was not fulfilled. Consequently, certain dissatisfied cardinals, urged by Emperor Maximilian and Louis XII of France, convoked a council at Pisa, the so-called Conciliabulum of Pisa, and fixed 1 September 1511 as the date for its opening, but it was delayed until 1 October. The four cardinals who met at Pisa came with proxies from three others. Several bishops and abbots were also present, as well as ambassadors from the King of France. In the last session, it was suspended by Pope Julius II and the council participants withhdrew to Lyon.

Convocation of the Lateran Council[edit]

Julius II was quick to oppose this conciliabulum and convoked another council by a papal bull of 18 July 1511, which was to meet on 19 April 1512, in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. The bull was not only a canonical document but polemical in content. Julius refuted the allegation by the cardinals for their Pisa "conciliabulum". He declared that his promise before his election as pope was sincere; that since he became pope he had always sought to call a council; that to prepare the council he had endeavoured to bring an end to quarrels between rulers; that subsequent wars had made calling the council inopportune. Julius then reproached the participants at Pisa for their lack of respect by calling a council without the pope who was supposed to lead. He also said that the three months of preparation for Pisa was not enough. Finally, he declared that no one should attach any significance to the statements made at Pisa.

A war of polemics was waged about the councils, pitting Thomas Cajetan, the Dominican Master General, on the papal side against the conciliarist arguments of Jacques Almain, the spokesman of the University of Paris.

Meetings and decisions[edit]

The French victory of Ravenna (11 April 1512) hindered the opening of the council called by Julius and it finally met on 3 May at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. Participants included fifteen cardinals, the Latin patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, ten archbishops, fifty-six bishops, some abbots and generals of religious orders, the ambassadors of King Ferdinand, and those of Venice and of Florence. After Julius' death, his successor Pope Leo X continued the council, and the last session was held on 16 March 1517. During the Fifth Council of the Lateran the ambassdor of the Holy Roman Emperor announced that Ferdinand had rejected the decisions made by those at Pisa and a similar announcement was made by the ambassador of the French King Louis XII.

Several decrees were published, including:

  • Inter Multiplices, a Bull published by Leo X on 4 May 1515, which sanctioned the Monti di pietà: financial institutions under strict ecclesiastical supervision which provided loans to the needy in the manner of pawn shops, and which had attracted both support and opposition from within the church since their establishment in the previous century;[1]
  • Apostolici regiminis, on the immortality of the soul, usually believed to have been directed against Pietro Pomponazzi
  • One concerning the freedom of the Church and the dignity of bishops.
  • One requiring that before a book could be printed, the local bishop had to give permission.
  • One condemning the French Pragmatic Sanction which sought to prevent the papacy from extending its power.
  • The council promulgated a decree advocating war against the Turks in order to reclaim the Holy Land to be funded by the levying of taxes three years.

Little was done to put the work of the council into practice. Whether or not the Protestant Reformation could have been avoided if the reforms had been implemented is a matter of debate. Martin Luther's promulgation of the 95 theses occurred just seven months after the close of the Council.


  1. ^ Umberto Benigni, ‘Montes Pietatis’, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vols (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907–14), X (1911).


  • Conciliarism and Papalism, ed. J.H. Burns and Thomas M. Izbicki, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-521-47089-7
  • Constant, Eric A., "A Reinterpretation of the Fifth Lateran Council Decree Apostolici regiminis (1513)," Sixteenth Century Journal 33 (2002): 353-379.
  • Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, trans. Norman P. Tanner, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990), pp. 593–606.
  • Tanner, Norman P., The Councils of the Church, Crossroad Publishing, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8245-1904-9
  • Nelson H. Minnich, "Julius II and Leo X as Presidents of the Fifth Lateran Council," in Florence Alazard et Frank La Brasca (eds), La papauté à la Renaissance (Paris, Editions Honoré Champion, 2007) (Travaux du Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance de Tours, 12), 153-166.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17)". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.