Council of Epaone

Council of Epaone

The Council of Epaone or Synod of Epaone was held in September 517 at Epaone (or Epao near the present Anneyron) in Burgundy, France. It was one of three national councils of bishops of the land that formed Gaul (modern France). The councils were: Agde (506) for Arian Visigothic Kingdom; Orléans (511), for the Kingdom of the Franks; Epaone (517), for that of the Burgundians.

The synod enacted the first legislation against wooden altars, forbidding the building of any but stone altars.[1] It also witnessed the rise of the practice of mitigation of canonical penance that became necessary due to the changing times and social conditions of Christians: a more severe penance could be replaced with something new and milder.[2]


Edicts passed

  • Canon 26: Only stone pillars/altars to be consecrated with chrism (a mixture of oil and spices). 7 quotes the canon as saying "Altaria nisi lapedea crismatis unctione non sacrentur".
  • Canon 15: Attendance at Jewish banquets prohibited. 2
  • Canon 16: allowed baptized heretics to be admitted to the Church by a rite of unction (Presbyteros, . . . si conversionem subitam petant, chrismate subvenire permittimus). This was the practice also in the East, but in Rome and Italy admission was by laying on of hands.[3]
  • Clergy forbidden to hunt. 5
  • Completely abrogated in the entire Kingdom the consecration of widows who are named Deaconesses.[4]

Those present

  • St. Viventiolus (515-523), who presided
  • St. Avitus (), also presiding. 3
  • St. Constantinus (), bishop of Gap. 4
  • Catulin, bishop of Embrun.[5]
  • Laymen were also present and had a chance to question the morality of the local clergymen.


  1. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: History of the Christian Altar
  2. ^ Enrico dal Covolo: The Historical Origin of Indulgences
  3. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Abjuration
  4. ^ Texts on Ordination of Women
  5. ^ Forum Orthodoxe Francophone

The fullest reference appears to be The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. IV: Draeseke–Goa 6 which includes facsimile images of the pages along with a searchable text version. The relevant data is on pages 149–150 and is reproduced below.

  • "EPAO, SYNOD OF: A synod held in Sept., 517, at Epao or Epaone, a village to the south of Vienne, near the present Anneyron, at that time part of the kingdom of Burgundy, where a year earlier the Arian king Gundobad had been succeeded by his orthodox son Sigismund. It was attended by twenty-four bishops from all parts of the kingdom, on the invitation of Avitua of Vienne (q.v.). Laymen seem to have been present, after their participation had been declared lawful; canon axiv. permitted them to bring charges against any clergy who were justly accused of immorality. The forty canons passed at this meeting should be considered in connection with those of the synods of Agile (506) and Orleans (511; qq.v.). They were intended to do for the Burgundian kingdom what these had done for the Visigothic or Frankish — though the speedy dissolution of the former made their effect slight. Several of them, however, were included in a later (Spanish) collection of the canons of Agile (though with some modifications in the direction of less severity), and thus continued to have an influence on subsequent practise. The spirit of Avitus breathes through them all. An important section deals with the inalienability of ecclesiastical property; a more vigorous repression of Arianism is demanded, though the return of individuals to the Church is made easy. It appears that priests and deacons were married, and that the episcopal oversight embraced the monasteries. The enforcement of the rights of bishops corresponds to the treatment of the metropolitan power. The number of forbidden degrees for marriage is increased, in har mony with older legislation, apparently with an eye to the case of a royal official who had married his deceased wife's sister; this led to an attempt on the king's part to discipline the bishops, and to a firm pronouncement on their part at the first Synod of Lyons (before 523), at which eleven of the members of the Synod of Epao were present."
    • Bibliography: The Acta, ed. R. Peiper, are in MGH, Auct. ant., vi. 2 (1883), 165-175, cf. (ed. Friedrich Maassen) MGH, Concil., i (1893), 15 sqq.; Harduin, Concilia, ii. 1045 sqq.; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, ii . 880 sqq., Eng. travel., iv. 107 sqq.; Neander, Christian Church, ii. 191, iii. b, 100."

External links

^1 - St. Caesarius of Arles ^2 - Legislation of the Western Kingdoms: The Burgundians ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6 ^7 (in French) ^8 (in French)

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