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This Conclusion reconsiders the aims of the book – to investigate how the ideas that underpinned the canons were drawn together, and then what happened to the canons after they left the conciliar environment – and draws larger conclusions on the ability and authority of the papacy to rule in the twelfth century, as well as commenting more particularly on the role that conciliar canons played as legal texts in the eyes of contemporaries. Using the conciliar canons, the innately responsive nature of papal government in all its forms can be deduced; most of the canons concerned issues of deep contemporary relevance that had been brought before the curia in the decade or so before the council, or were commented on in the schools. The chapter ends by suggesting that whatever the papacy’s intention for the conciliar canons, their ultimate effects and the continued resonance of their stipulations were the consequence of a prolonged dialogue between popes and local clerics.
This chapter first introduces the 1179 Lateran Council and then situates it within the broader history of the papacy and medieval canon law in the twelfth century. It begins by outlining the events leading up to the council and its emergence as the resolution to a damaging schism between Pope Alexander III and Frederick Barbarossa. The chapter then provides a brief, accessible account of twelfth-century canon law and its relationship to papal government. The role played by the papacy and by local clerics in creating contemporary canon law is analysed, and an overview of current ideas and thoughts provided, including an – of necessity brief – interlude into the debates surrounding the appearance of the Decretum Gratiani in ca. 1140. The aim is to situate canon law in the history of Church government in the central Middle Ages, before moving on to discuss the nature and purpose of church councils and the twelfth–century legal theories upon which their authority rested.
This fourth chapter provides an extended discussion of the promulgation and surviving manuscript copies of the 1179 conciliar canons. It begins with an analysis of the methods by which the canons of papal councils were promulgated and transmitted between ca. 1050 and 1215, before briefly detailing the events of the 1179 Lateran Council as far as they can be reconstructed from surviving narrative accounts. The majority of the chapter, however, focusses on the dissemination and movement of the 1179 conciliar decrees, and what that can tell us about contemporary perceptions of papal conciliar canons. A key issue is the extent to which the decrees were transmitted as a coherent whole, and therefore viewed as a set of texts that had to be kept together without alteration. Overall, the chapter suggests that the 1179 canons initially existed in more than one recension but, more importantly, demonstrates that the versions that were received in different areas of Christendom were not necessarily the same. It therefore illustrates how uncertain the transmission of papal ‘legislation’ remained, late into the twelfth century.
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