Plenitudo potestatis

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Illumination of the Sachsenspiegel or Mirror of the Saxons, drafted around 1220-1235, is a collection of customary laws compiled by Eike von Repgow (1180-1235). Encouraged by his master, Hoyer von Falkenstein, a high Saxon nobleman, who reproduced a German version of the original Latin book itself, lost today. At the top of the illumination, Christ hands two swords to the Pope and the Holy Emperor, an allegory taken from Luke 22:38, originally created by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, expressing the distinction between the two powers: spiritual and political. At the bottom of the illumination, the emperor holds the pope's stirrup. Although it seems that the author's intention was to show that the powers of the pope and the emperor are equal and distinct, traditionally the illumination was interpreted as demonstrating that the pope is lord of the emperor and has a more sublime, important and excellent power.

Plenitudo potestatis was a term employed by medieval canonists to describe the jurisdictional power of the papacy. In the thirteenth century, the canonists used the term plenitudo potestatis to characterize the power of the pope within the church, or, more rarely, the pope's prerogative in the secular sphere.[1] However, during the thirteenth century the pope's plenitudo potestatis expanded as the Church became increasingly centralized, and the pope's presence made itself felt every day in legislation, judicial appeals, and finance.

Although Plenitudo potestatis had been used in canonical writings since the time of Pope Leo I (440-461), Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) was the first pope to use the term regularly as a description of papal governmental power.[2] Many historians have concluded that the pope's jurisdiction within the church was unchallenged. Essentially, the pope was the highest judge in the Church. His decisions were absolute and could not be abrogated by inferior members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Pennington, K. (1976). The Canonists and Pluralism in the Thirteenth Century. Speculum , 35-48.
  2. ^ Brian Tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (Cambridge, 1955), pp. 144-149.

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