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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Narbonne, Councils of

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(Concilium Narbonense), were held from the 5th to the opening of the 17th century. Several of these have an important bearing on the ecclesiastical history of France, and have made the name of this old city famous. Narbonne is situated in Southern France, fifty-five miles from Montpellier, and was called by the Romans Narbo Martius. Being only eight miles from the sea, the place was an important commercial centre. It was the second settlement founded in South Gallia by the Romans, and was considered by them an important acquisition, both for its strength and as the key to the road into Spain. Under Tiberius it flourished greatly; the arts and sciences being cultivated with success, and its schools rivalling for a long time those of Rome. There is reason to believe that Narbonne was known to the Greeks 500 B.C. About A.D. 309 it became the capital of Gallia Narbonensis, and contained among other buildings a capitol, theatre, forum, aqueducts, triumphal arches, etc. It was taken in 719 by the Saracens, who planted there a Moslem colony, and destroyed the churches. In 859 it came into the hands of the Northmen. During the 11th and 12th centuries it was a flourishing manufacturing city, but subsequently it fell into comparative decay, and is now entirely destitute of any monument of its former splendor. The first council was held there in 589, Migetius, archbishop of Toledo, presiding, and eight Gallican bishops attending. Its only important action was the confirmation of the acts of the Council of Toledo (589). The second and third council, held there in 791 and 1054 respectively, are of no special import. The fourth, however, was of great consequence, inasmuch as enactments were made against the spread of the Reformation, then beginning to extend on the Continent.

This council was held in 1227, Peter, archbishop of Narbonne, presiding; twenty canons were published. The second, third, and fourth relate to excommunicated persons and to the Jews: the latter, in canon 3, are directed to carry upon the bosom the figure of a wheel to distinguish them, and are forbidden to wsork on Sundays and festivals. Canon 4 orders them to pay yearly at Easter a certain sum for each family, as an offering to the parish church. Canons 13, 14, 15, and 16 are directed against heretics, and charge the bishops to station in every parish spies to make inquiry into heresies and notorious crimes, and to give in their report to them. Count Raymond, the count de Foix, the viscount Besiers, the people of Toulouse, and all heretics and their abettors, were publicly excommunicated, and their persons and property given up to the attacks of the first aggressor (Labbe, Conc. 11:304).

The fifth council was held in 1235, and there the archbishops of Narbonne, Arles, and Aix, assisted by several other prelates, by the pope's command, drew up a grand rule concerning the penances, etc., which the preaching friars (lately appointed inquisitors in those parts) should impose upon heretics, i.e., upon those whom they had exempted from prison on account of prompt surrender within the specified time of grace. and voluntary information against themselves and others. They were directed to come to church every Sunday, bearing the cross, and to present themselves to the curate between the singing of the epistle and the gospel, holding in their hands the rod with which to receive chastisement; to do the same at all processions; to be present every Sunday at mass, vespers, and sermons; to carry arms at their own expense in defence of the faith and of the Church against the Saracens, etc. Those heretics who had not so surrendered themselves; or who in any other way had rendered themselves unworthy of indulgence, but who nevertheless submitted to the Church, were ordered to be imprisoned for life; but as their number was so great that it was impossible to build prisons sufficient to contain them, the preaching friars were permitted to defer their imprisonment until they had received the pope's instructions. As for those who refused obedience, who would neither enter the prison nor remain there, they were abandoned to the secular arm without further hearing, as were also the relapsed. The rest of these twentynine canons are conceived in the same cruel spirit a spirit very contrary to that of the Church and of the early councils, and equally wanting in wisdom, mildness, and charity (Fleury, Hist. Ecclesiastique; Labbd, Conc. 11:487).

A sixth council, held April 15, 1374, Peter, archbishop of Narbonne, presiding, promulgated twentyeight canons, aimed at the suppression of provincial councils and the preaching of laymen or excommunicated priests, encouraging heresy hunting, forbidding burial to the excommunicated, and granting an indulgence to those who pray for the pope (Labbe, Conc. [App.] 11:2493). A seventh council, held in 1551, Alex. Zerbinet, vicar-general of the cardinal-archbishop of Narbonne, presiding, promulgated sixty-six canons, of which the first contains a confession of faith, made necessary by the spread of liberalism and the Reformation, and the second to the ninth relate to the qualifications of candidates for orders; the tenth forbids ordination of the diseased, maimed, or stutterers; the thirteenth to the twenty-fourth relate to the life, habits, etc., of the clergy, and betray a great decline of Christianity in the priesthood, as there were canons passed against their frequenting of taverns, gambling, etc.; the fifty-second directs medical men to exhort their patients to confess to their priests (Labbe, Conc. 15:5). An eighth council, held in 1607, archbishop Louis de Vervins of Narbonne presiding, and seven other bishops attending, published forty-nine canons of faith and discipline, similar to those enacted in most of the synods held after the Council of Trent. The most important is the second canon, which forbids any person to possess or read the Scriptures in the French version without the bishop's consent in writing. The thirty-ninth canon forbids dancing, and eating and buying and selling in churches; also forbids dogs in churches; orders cleanliness, etc. (Labbe, Conc. 15:1573). See also Wessenberg, Gesch. der Kirchesnersammhungen, 2:59; Hefele, Concilien Geschichte (see Index in volume 5); Landon, Manual of Councils, s.v.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Narbonne, Councils of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/n/narbonne-councils-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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