Synod of Elvira

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The Synod of Elvira ( Latin Concilium Eliberitanum ) was an early church assembly in Spain. The exact time of the synod is not known; it is between 295 and 314. In all probability it took place between 300 and 302 in Ilíberis near Granada (today identified partly with the Albaicín hill , partly with Sierra Elvira ( Atarfe )). 19 bishops and 24 presbyters from 37 parishes in the five Iberian provinces took part.


The 81 passed resolutions ( canons ) are not only the oldest written evidence of the ancient church history in Spain today, but the oldest surviving synodal canons . The synodal provisions give an insight into the situation of Christianity in Spain in the late 3rd century and influenced the synods of Arles (314), Nicaea (325) and Serdica (342). The thesis that the canons are a combination of several different synods is no longer supported in recent research.

A large part of the canons deal with the prescriptions of the life and moral conduct of consecrated virgins (cann. 13-14) as well as the marriage of Christians with catechumens and pagans and the spiritual order and household management of the laity . In addition to numerous other regulations, it was stipulated that those believers who did not attend the service for three Sundays in a row should be excluded from the community for a short time. A strict fast was established for Saturdays . The practice of fasting all day during the church year with strict fasting has been moderated for the months of July and August with regard to the physically weak.

The synod also issued rules on the conduct of life for clerics . Among other things, a ban on marital intercourse and the procreation of children for bishops , priests and deacons was decided (can, 27–33). Only biological sisters, daughters or consecrated virgins were allowed to live with clerics in a household.

With the resolutions of the Synod of Elvira, with the provision that Christian masters should prevent their slaves from performing pagan cult activities, the demand for active intervention by Christians against pagan cults is documented for the first time. Four canons lead to a distancing from the Jews, which suggests lively Christian-Jewish relations in Spain in the late 3rd century: Thus (among other provisions on ecclesiastical marriage law) no marriages should be concluded with Jewish or pagan partners (can. 16 / 78). Large landowners were forbidden from having their crops blessed by Jews (can. 49), and believers should not have table fellowship with Jews (can. 50).

The strict prohibition of interest was laid down as well as the prohibition of the worship of images . One of the resolutions was that anyone who smashed an idol and was condemned to death for it should not be included in the list of martyrs , as this was not justified by the scriptures and the tradition of the apostles . The date of Pentecost was set on the 50th day after Easter, not on the 40th, which was called heretical .

The Synod passed a strict penal order and forbade apostates from holding spiritual offices. A certain rigorism and the open criticism of the apparently lax practice in the pagan environment of sexual permissiveness, divorce, adultery and abortion - combined with the strict penal order - indicate that the Synod Fathers, living together with pagan culture, posed a clear threat to the strength of faith of Christians saw and wanted to counteract this danger through relevant provisions at the Synod of Elvira.

Recognition of the resolutions of the Synod of Elvira

Because of various provisions of the Council of Elvira, such as the veneration of images or the reception of the sacraments , Cesare Cardinal Baronio and the Dominican Melchior Cano viewed the synod as heretical in the 16th century. The Eastern Church did not recognize the resolutions of the Synod of Elvira, although they influenced the Synods of Arles (314), Nicaea (325) and Serdika (342). In today's research, the time-boundness of the canons is emphasized and no longer speaks of a heterodox assembly.


  • Juan María Laboa: Spain. In: Theological Real Encyclopedia. Volume 31: Migration of Souls - Language, Linguistics, Philosophy of Language. de Gruyter, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-11-016657-7 , pp. 610-635 (especially 612f.).
  • Samuel Laeuchli: Power and sexuality. The emergence of canon law at the synod of Elvira. Temple University Press, Philadelphia PA 1972, ISBN 0-87722-015-8 .
  • Eckhard Reichert: The canons of the Synod of Elvira. Introduction and commentary. Hamburg 1990 (Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1988).
  • Jesús Suberbiola Martínez: Nuevos concilios hispano-romanos de los siglos III and IV. La colección de Elvira. Universidad de Málaga, Málaga 1987.
  • Manuel Sotomayor: Las actas del concilio de Elvira. Estado de la cuestión. In: Revista del Centro de Estudios históricos de Granada. 3, 1989, ISSN  0213-7461 , pp 35-67.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Canons 9, 27, 33, 38, 77 in: Peter Hünermann (Hrsg.), Heinrich Denzinger (original): Compendium of the creeds and church teaching decisions Latin - German. 40th edition Herder, Freiburg, 2005, ISBN 3-451-22442-9
  2. Thomas Pekáry : Imago res mortua est. Studies on the Rejection of Fine Arts in Antiquity. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 978-3-515-08248-8 , pp. 92ff [1]