Third Council of the Lateran
Accepted byCatholic Church
Previous council
Second Council of the Lateran
Next council
Fourth Council of the Lateran
Convoked byPope Alexander III
PresidentPope Alexander III
TopicsCatharism and Waldensianism, church discipline
Documents and statements
twenty-seven canons, limitation of papal election to the cardinals, condemnation of simony
Chronological list of ecumenical councils

The Third Council of the Lateran met in Rome in March 1179. Pope Alexander III presided and 302 bishops attended. The Catholic Church regards it as the eleventh ecumenical council.

By agreement reached at the Peace of Venice in 1177 the bitter conflict between Alexander III and Emperor Frederick I was brought to an end. When Pope Adrian IV died in 1159, the divided cardinals elected two popes: Roland of Siena, who took the name of Alexander III, and Octavian of Rome who, though nominated by fewer cardinals, was supported by Frederick and assumed the name of Pope Victor IV.[1] Frederick, wishing to remove all that stood in the way of his authority in Italy, declared war upon the Italian states and especially the Church which was enjoying great authority. A serious schism arose out of this conflict, and after Victor IV's death in 1164, two further antipopes were nominated in opposition to Alexander III: Paschal III (1164–1168) and Callistus III (1168–1178). Eventually, at the Peace of Venice, when Alexander gained victory, he promised Frederick that he would summon an ecumenical council.

Besides removing the remains of the recent schism, the Council condemned the Cathar heresies and pushed for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline. It also became the first general Council of the Church to legislate against sodomy. Three sessions were held, on 5, 14, and 19 March, in which 27 canons were promulgated.

The most important of these were:

Among the many attendees at the Council was William of Tyre, the famous historian and, at the time, archbishop of Tyre. William was sent by Baldwin IV as the representative of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and wrote about the journey to the Council in his history.[7] The Kingdom of Hungary was represented by Andrew, Archbishop of Kalocsa.[8]

Archbishop-elect Berthold of Bremen attended, expecting to have his election confirmed although he had not taken major orders. His presence was resented by the other archbishops and the lobbying of Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony succeeded in getting his election quashed. His former teacher, Girard la Pucelle, spoke unavailingly in his defence.[9][10]


  1. ^ J. P. Adams, Conclave, Sede Vacante 1159, retrieved: 2017-03-21.
  2. ^ "Third Lateran Council, English translation". 5 March 1179.
  3. ^ Victoria Blud, The Unspeakable, Gender and Sexuality in Medieval Literature, 1000-1400, page 66.
  4. ^ Nicholas Orme, Medieval Schools, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.
  5. ^ "Third Lateran Council – 1179 A.D." Papal Encyclicals. 5 March 1179. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  6. ^ Karen Sullivan, Truth and the heretic: crises of knowledge in medieval French literature (University of Chicago Press, 2005) p. 120
  7. ^ William of Tyre, XXI.26
  8. ^ * Udvardy, József (1991). A kalocsai érsekek életrajza (1000–1526) [Biographies of Archbishops of Kalocsa, 1000–1526] (in Hungarian). Görres Gesellschaft. p. 75.
  9. ^ Arnaud Hari (2010), Écrire l'histoire des évêques de Metz au Moyen Âge: les Gesta episcorum de la fin du VIIIe à la fin du XIVe siècle (PhD diss.), Paul Verlaine University – Metz, 2 vols., at vol. 2, pp. 463–465.
  10. ^ John B. Freed (2016), Frederick Barbarossa: The Prince and the Myth, Yale University Press, pp. 396–397.