Council of Toledo

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The Councils of Toledo were 18 church assemblies that took place in Toledo from 400 to 702 . From the 3rd council (589) on (since the conversion of the Visigoths from Arianism to Catholicism ) the councils of Toledo were imperial synods in which the king played a central role. Toledo was both a metropolitan seat and an imperial capital. The kings used to play an instrumental role in determining the subjects negotiated at the councils, and many decisions were made according to their directions. Therefore, the council decisions often also concerned political matters.

  • The 1st Council of Toledo in 400 condemned a. a. the teaching of Priscillian and the punishment of poisoning with life imprisonment.
  • The 2nd Council of Toledo took place in 527, when the Iberian Peninsula was already largely ruled by the then Arian Visigoths.
Rekkared I and some bishops at the 3rd Council of Toledo. Image from the Codex Vigilanus .
  • The 3rd Council of Toledo in May 589 took place after the conversion of the Visigoth king Rekkared I from the Arian to the Catholic faith. It regulated the transition of the Visigoths from Arianism to Catholicism and allowed the Arian bishops to retain their ecclesiastical offices. Theologically, this council is of particular importance because it is the first mention of the Filioque , which later remains part of the Catholic creed and ultimately led to conflicts with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The addition was introduced to distinguish itself from Arianism, which held that Jesus Christ is less than God the Father - the addition should make it clear that Jesus Christ is on an equal footing with God the Father. Council resolutions also included prohibiting Jews from marrying Christian women or having Christian concubines , and stipulating that children from such pre-existing relationships had to be baptized.
  • The 4th Council of Toledo met in 633. It was chaired by the eminent theologian, Bishop Isidore of Seville . The most important resolutions of the council included the evocation of the unity of church and state, the establishment of cathedral schools in every diocese and the standardization of liturgical practice. The council also determines that the bishop's ring, along with miter and staff, is one of the bishop's insignia . The council disapproved of the compulsory baptism of the Jews ordered by King Sisebut (612–621), but declared them to be canonical; Jews forcibly baptized at Sisebut's instigation were forbidden to return to their traditional beliefs.
  • The 5th Council of Toledo was convened in 636 by King Chintila . It passed resolutions to protect the king threatened by rebellion and to protect his family after his death.
  • The 6th Council of Toledo met in 638. It was also convened by Chintila. Among other things, it passed resolutions against the Jews, with the king being the driving force according to the acts of the council. The bishops approved of the king's intention to completely exterminate Judaism in his kingdom and not to tolerate non-Catholics.
  • The 7th Council of Toledo (646) placed itself at the service of King Chindaswinth's policy and adopted his legislation against enemies of the state in canon law. Conspirators against the king were threatened with excommunication ; if they were clergy they should be removed from their ecclesiastical offices. Even defamation directed against the king should be punished with excommunication. The king was granted the right to revoke excommunications that had taken place in his interest as he saw fit (a power of attorney in the spiritual realm that was unique in the Middle Ages).
  • The 8th Council of Toledo was convened in December 653 by King Rekkeswinth shortly after his accession to power. The Council Fathers were predominantly opponents of the late King Chindaswinth and tried to reverse his measures directed against the nobility, but their resolutions were only partially implemented by Rekkeswinth. The council approved an amnesty for opposition members who had fled abroad. The bishops firmly adhered to the principle of the electoral monarchy and passed provisions for the election of a king. This was an indirect criticism of Rekkeswinth, who had inherited the royal dignity from his father Chindaswinth.
  • The 9th Council of Toledo met in 655. It was not an imperial council, but a provincial synod .
  • The 10th Council of Toledo was convened by Rekkeswinth in 656. Only 17 bishops attended, five more sent representatives. It was the Reich Council with the lowest number of participants. It passed a resolution against clergymen who broke the oath they had given the king; they should be removed from office.
  • The 11th Council of Toledo met in November 675 under the leadership of Metropolitan Quiricus . 17 bishops, two episcopal deputies, six abbots and the archdeacon of the cathedral took part. The synod deplored the spread of heresies and the lack of church discipline. In a comprehensive creed, the Synod Fathers condemned adoptianism .
  • The 12th Council of Toledo was convened in 681 by King Erwig shortly after he came to power; it approved the abdication of his predecessor Wamba, forced by intrigue . In addition, it decided to give the Metropolitan of Toledo a unique primacy in the imperial church that effectively made him a primate .
  • The 13th Council of Toledo was convened in 683 by King Erwig. It was dominated by a powerful aristocratic party that wanted to limit the king's power. The king was apparently in a clearly weakened position. The council decided on an amnesty for the noble rebels who had rebelled against previous rulers. The amnesties should also get their confiscated goods back, provided they were still in the king's possession. Most constitutionally significant was a resolution that prohibited the removal, arrest, torture or expropriation of bishops or members of the court nobility unless they were convicted in a public trial by a court of their peers. The use of physical force against noble men to obtain confessions was thus prohibited. The nobility-friendly resolutions also included a waiver of tax debts.
  • The 14th council of Toledo met in 684. It was not an imperial council, but a provincial synod. It examined the resolutions on the doctrine of the two energies and the two wills in Christ and confirmed the resolutions of the Third Council of Constantinople in 681. However, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 was still not recognized as ecumenical.
  • The 15th Council of Toledo was convened in 688 by King Egica . The king's aim was to win over the Council Fathers to his policy, which was directed against the clan of his predecessor Erwig, whose son-in-law and bitter enemy he was. The council only partially followed his wishes.
  • The 16th Council of Toledo was convened by King Egica in 693. It confirmed a law of the king that sought to induce Jews to change their faith through strong financial incentives. If they stayed with their religion, they had to pay a Jewish tax; They were forbidden from long-distance trade and all business dealings with Christians.
  • The 17th Council of Toledo was convened by King Egica in 694. It took far more severe measures against the Jews than the previous council. It was decided to expropriate and enslave the Jews and take away their children in order to raise them Christian. The reason or pretext for this was provided by claims that the Jews, in cooperation with foreign co-religionists, had undertaken a conspiracy against the Reich. This probably meant that they encouraged the Muslims to attack.
  • The 18th and last council of Toledo probably took place in 702 under the reign of King Witiza , a few years before the destruction of the Visigothic Empire by the Muslim conquest of Spain . It is the only council of Toledo whose acts have not been preserved. This fact could be connected with the fact that the decisions of the council were later disapproved by the clergy.


  • José Vives (Ed.): Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos , Barcelona 1963 (contains the acts of Councils I-XVII; Latin text with Spanish translation)


  • José Orlandis / Domingo Ramos-Lissón: The synods on the Iberian Peninsula until the onset of Islam (711) , Paderborn 1981, ISBN 3-506-74681-2 .
  • Andreas Weckwerth: The first council of Toledo. A philological and historical commentary on the Constitutio Concilii . Aschendorff, Münster 2004, ISBN 3-402-08191-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. Heinrich Denzinger : Compendium of the creeds and church teaching decisions. Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum , edited by Peter Hünermann , 44th edition, Freiburg 2014, p. 224ff.
    Carl Joseph Hefele : Conciliengeschichte, edited from the sources , 3rd volume, Freiburg 1858, p. 104ff.