Councils of Lyons

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The two Councils of Lyons were assemblies of the Roman Catholic Church held in the thirteenth century. The first Council of 1245, held while the Latins occupied Constantinople, was concerned with internal issues of the Western Church and the excommunication of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The second council was held in 1274 after emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos had recovered Constantinople and considered, among other issues, emperor Michael's pledge to reunite the Eastern Church with the West.

First Council of Lyons

The first council was convened by Pope Innocent IV in Lyons on June 28, 1245 with some two hundred and fifty prelates including the Latin Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople and the Latin emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople. The main item on the agenda was the excommunication of Frederick II on July 17, one of the four times he was excommunicated, although Innocent did not have the means to enforce the decree. Other than the call by the council for a Seventh Crusade to reconquer the Holy Land the religious measures of the council were related to the Western Church.

Second Council of Lyons

The second council was convened by Pope Gregory X in 1274 to act on a pledge by the Eastern Roman emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos to reunite the Orthodox East with the West. While the West was represented, in addition to the Roman prelates, by representatives of kings of Germany, England, Scotland, France, the Spains, and Sicily, the East was represented only by the ambassador of emperor Michael and Greek clergy.

Concerning the Union of the Churches, the Orthodox delegation arrived in Lyons on June 24, 1274 and presented a letter from emperor Michael. On Feast of Peter and Paul, June 29, Pope Gregory celebrated a Mass in the Church of St. John in which both sides took part. During the Mass, the Orthodox clergy sang the Nicene Creed with the addition of the Filioque clause three times. The council was seemingly a success.

The other item considered by the council that related to the Orthodox East was the financial aspects of a Crusade. Planned to begin in 1278, the Crusade did not have the support of the Western monarchs, who had been giving just lip service to the idea of the Crusade and not to committing actual troops. Pope Gregory's death in 1276 ended the planning for the Crusade, and the collected funds were distributed in Italy.


The council did not provide a lasting solution to the schism. While the emperor was eager to heal the schism, the Orthodox clergy did not accept it. Patriarch Joseph I (Galesiotes) of Constantinople, who opposed the council, abdicated and was succeeded by John Bekkos who favored the union. In spite of a sustained campaign by Patr. Bekkos to defend the union intellectually, and with vigorous and brutal repression of opponents by emperor Michael, the Orthodox Christians remained implacably opposed to union with the Latin "heretics". Michael's death in December 1282 finally put an end to the union of Lyons. His son and successor Andronicus II repudiated the union. Patr. Bekkos was forced to abdicate. He was eventually exiled and then imprisoned until his death in 1297.