Famuli vestrae pietatis

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Famuli vestrae pietatis
Author(s)Pope Gelasius I
PurposeExpressed the Gelasian doctrine

Famuli vestrae pietatis, also known by the Latin mnemonic duo sunt ("there are two"), is a letter written in 494 by Pope Gelasius I to Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I Dicorus which expressed the Gelasian doctrine.[1] According to commentary in the Enchiridion symbolorum, the letter is "the most celebrated document of the ancient Church concerning the two powers on earth."[2] The Gelasian doctrine articulates a Christian theology about division of authority and power. All Medieval theories about division of power between priestly spiritual authority and secular temporal authority were versions of the Gelasian doctrine.[3] According to the Gelasian doctrine, secular temporal authority is inferior to priestly spiritual authority since a priestly spiritual authority is responsible for the eternal condition of both a secular temporal authority and the subjects of that secular temporal authority but "implies that the priestly authority is inferior to the secular authority in the secular domain."[3]

Biblical foundation[edit]

Paul of Tarsus taught that Jesus was the successor of Melchizedek.[4]

Jesus taught submission to the power of two independent authorities,[5] Paul explained that everyone is subject to the God instituted authority of government which includes taxation.[6]

Dualistic principle of Church and State[edit]

This letter established the dualistic principle that would underlie all Western European political thought for almost a millennium. Gelasius expressed a distinction between two principles governing the world, which Gelasius called the "sacred authority of bishops" (auctoritas sacrata pontificum) and the "royal power" (regalis potestas).[7]

Potestas and auctoritas[edit]

These two principles, auctoritas lending justification to potestas, and potestas providing the executive strength for auctoritas were, Gelasius said, to be considered independent in their own spheres of operation, yet expected to work together in harmony.

Sovereign immunity[edit]

The letter played a significant role in the development of the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, in that it gave political protections to the papacy and the monarchy,who promised not to violate each other's respective jurisdictions.[citation needed] This doctrine remains in force in international politics, even though most absolute monarchies have been replaced by constitutional monarchies or republics.

See also[edit]




  • Bjork, Robert E., ed. (2010). "Gelasian doctrine". The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199574834. Retrieved 2016-02-08 – via Oxford Reference. (subscription required)
  • Denzinger, Heinrich; Hünermann, Peter; et al., eds. (2012). Enchiridion symbolorum: a compendium of creeds, definitions and declarations of the Catholic Church (43rd ed.). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 0898707463. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gelasius I (1904) [Composed in 494]. "Letter of Pope Gelasius to Emperor Anastasius on the superiority of the spiritual over temporal power". In Robinson, James H. (ed.). Readings in European History. 1. Boston [u.a.]: Ginn. pp. 72–73. OCLC 571244926 – via Internet Medieval Sourcebook.
  • Kuehn, Evan F. (2010). "Melchizadek as exemplar for kingship in twelfth-century political thought". History of Political Thought. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic. 31 (4): 557–575. ISSN 0143-781X.
  • Strawn, Brent A., ed. (2015). "Medieval Period". The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199843312. Retrieved 2016-02-08 – via Oxford Reference. (subscription required)

External links[edit]