Fourth Council of Constantinople

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4th Council of Constantinople
October 5, 869 - February 28, 870
Accepted by

Roman Catholic Church

Convened by Emperor Basil I and Pope Hadrian II

Papal legates


Photios schism , ecclesiastical tradition , worship of images , human soul , leadership of the Church, primacy of Rome


27 canons (Greek)
14 canons (Latin)

The Fourth Council of Constantinople is either the synod there of 869/870 (under Ignatios I ) or that of 879/880 (under Photios I ).


Cesare Nebbia (1536–1614): 4th Council of Constantinople

Ignatian Synod 869/870

869/870 it was about the dispute between the Byzantine patriarch Photios I and the Pope Nicholas I. The council, in which only very few bishops took part, excommunicated and banished Photios. It is counted by the Catholic Church as the eighth ecumenical council .

The doctrine of two souls advocated by Photios , according to which humans have a higher, immortal spirit- soul and an earthly, perishable soul, was cursed:

“While the Old and New Testaments teach that a person has only one thoughtful and reasonable soul (unam animam rationabilem et intellectualem) and all godly fathers and teachers of the church affirm this opinion, some are, on the inventions of the wicked, too sunk down to such iniquity as to impudently propose the proposition that he has two souls (duas eum habere animas); furthermore they try, in certain unreasonable endeavors, with erudition which has proven foolish, to reinforce their own heresy . That is why this holy and universal Synod, this worthless opinion that wants to sprout like the worst weeds, rushes to uproot, carrying in its hand the throwing shovel of truth and wanting to give all the chaff to an inextinguishable fire and purify Christ's threshing floor , she curses in a loud voice the authors and representatives of this godlessness and all who accept similar things in these things. It determines and announces that from now on no one is in any way allowed to possess and keep the principles of the authors of this godlessness. But if anyone should take the liberty of acting contrary to this holy and great synod, then he is cursed and excluded from the faith and cult of Christians. "

Photian Synod 879/880

In the year 879/880 there was another council in Constantinople, at which Photios was fully rehabilitated again - with the consent of Pope John VIII. At this council there was also a compromise regarding the papal jurisdiction primacy: the jurisdiction of the Pope became full for the West recognized for the East as an honorary primacy of the Bishop of Rome, but without jurisdiction over other patriarchates. This council also spoke out in favor of the unchangeability of the creed and thus against the addition of the phrase filioque .

The council of 879 is counted as the eighth Ecumenical Council by representatives of the Byzantine Orthodox Church. It was accepted by the Catholic Church for 200 years, but since Gregory VII it has not been recognized as a general council, mainly because of the filioque question. The Bari declaration (1987) of the “Joint Commission for the Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches” now calls it “the council celebrated jointly by the two churches in 879/80”. The Valamo Declaration (1988) by the same commission calls it the “Council of Hagia Sophia (879/880)” and counts its canon 1 among the canons “which were adopted by the churches of the East and West as a whole”

Both councils fully accepted the dogmas of the Second Council of Nicaea and counted it as the seventh ecumenical council.

See also


  • Daniel Stiernon, Constantinople IV [Translated from the French. v. Nicholas Monzel. trans. of the texts in appendix v. Heinrich Bacht] (History of the Ecumenical Councils 5). Matthias.Grünewald-Verl. Mainz 1975;
  • Johan Meijer, A successful council of union. A theological analysis of the Photian synod of 879-880 . Thessalonike 1975.

Web links


  1. "Veteri et novo testamento unam animam rationabilem et intellectualem habere hominem docente, et omnibus deiloquis patribus et magistris ecclesiae eamdem opinionem asseverantibus, in tantum impietatis quidem, malorum inventionibus dantes operam, devenerunt, ut duas eum habibus conmatdamas irudenter per sapientiam, quae stulta facta est, propriam haeresim confirmare pertentent.
    Itaque sancta haec et universalis synodus, veluti quoddam pessimum zizanium, nunc germinantem nequam opinionem, evellere festinans; imo vero ventilabrum in manu veritatis portans, et igni in ominguemibilem area Christi mundam exhibere volens, talis impietatis inventores et patratores, et his similia sentientes, magna voce anathematizat, et definit, atque promulgat, neminem prorsus habere, vel servare quoquo modo statuta huius impietatis auctorum.Si
    autem quis contraria gerere magunae syncto , anathema sit, et a fide atque cultura christianorum alienus. " Concilium Constantinopolitanum IV - Documenta
  2. Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, Declaration Faith, Sacraments and Unity of the Church (Bari 1987) No. 53, German translation in: Die Deutschen Bischöfe , Ökumene-Kommission (ed.), Die Eucharist of the One Church. Documents of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue on a German and international level . 3rd ext. Ed. (Bonn 1995) 47.
  3. Ibid. 57.