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Canons (from ancient Greek κανών kanón "pipe [stab], rod, measuring stick, guide line", from this Latin canon "measure, established order") were written documents , records and documents dating between the 1st century and the middle of the 12th century have emerged from several council resolutions . Before being codified , the various resolutions had to be grouped together in order to bring them into line with other councils and synods. The texts were compared for several ecclesiastical provinces and later, from around 1140, incorporated into a uniform canon law , the canon law .


In the 1st century the collections of canonical writings and treatises increased, but their binding nature was unclear and the authors were sometimes unknown. The collection of the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis from the 8th century was initially only related to Ireland and later spread to Western Europe. But it did not find its way into the main works of canon law. In the 9th century forgeries "provided pseudo Isidore " in eastern France a stir, they were the greatest fakes of the 9th century.

The oldest documentary example is the 81 canons of the Synod of Elvira (305). They are the oldest documents on the history of the Church in Spain . The fact that this is a summary of several synods is partly disputed. Another collection of canons are the 59 or 60 documents drawn up at the Council of Laodicea (363–364).

The resolutions of the Synod of Hippo (393) were confirmed in abbreviated form at the Third Synod of Carthage (397) and were included in the canons of the African Church as the “Breviarium Hipponense” . With the “Breviarium Hipponense” (393–397) the authors, Augustine of Hippo and Aurelius of Carthage , approached the first edition of a canon law. The canons known as the "Codex canonum ecclesiae Africae" of 419 passed some resolutions on the primacy of the Pope , which were put on record at the Council of Nicaea (325), and the materials from the legal dispute between Rome and Carthage in 419 (419) together. They are considered, although not undisputed, to be the first ecclesiastical legal basis.

There were also canons written and collected by individuals. A further 85 canons were appended to the Apostolic Constitutions at the end of the 4th century .

From this compilation the monk Dionysus Exiguus (525 - around 540) took about 50 canons in his works from the year 500 and added decretals to them. This collection and the Pope Be learned then in the Middle Ages for the canon law special significance. The Patriarch John III. Scholastikos (565-577) of Constantinople arranged his collection of canons systematically by subject around 550 and added eighty chapters from the novellas of Emperor Justinian (482-565) (compare also: Codex Iustinianus ).

In the middle of the 12th century there was a need to combine all regulations, decretals and canons into a single work. The canon lawyer Gratian (end of the 11th century - 1160) made the first attempt with his “Concordia discordantium canonum”, created around 1140, which entered the history of canon law as the so-called “ Decretum Gratiani ”. Canon law later developed from this .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. In this article the terms synod and council are synonymous
  2. At this council u. a. the higher clergy forbid marriage, cf. Werner Stein: Timetable of world history. FA Herbig Verlagbuchhandlung , Munich - Berlin 1990, ISBN 3893507388
  3. The correspondence between Augustine and Jerome and their dispute over the canon of the Old Testament and the interpretation of Gal. 2, 11-14 . In: Vigiliae Christianae Supplement . [1]
  4. Bavarian State Library digital [2]
  5. Compare on this web link: "The Seven Ecumenical Councils"
  6. ^ Church ordinances, apostolic constitutions and canons . (Constitutiones Apostolorum) Generated by the electronic BKV by Gregor Emmenegger / Frans-Joris Fabri, text without guarantee. Text from: The so-called Apostolic Constitutions and Canons. Translated from the original by Ferdinand Boxler. (Library of the Church Fathers, 1 series, Volume 19), Kempten 1874 Apostolic Constitutions and Canons ( RTF ; 972 kB)