The Council of Arles

Fourth century bishop Athanasius

314AD - 314AD

Emperor Constantine called this meeting of 30-40 Catholic bishops in order to settle a dispute that had been running for three years, concerning the appointment of an African bishop.  It was very unusual for an Emperor to become involved in matters of the Christian church in this way.

According to Constantine's own letter, the bishops came from "a great many different places" to the palace in Arles, France.  This included York's bishop, whose name was recorded by one chronicler as 'Eborius'. 

Not much more is known about Christianity in Romany York, but this one record proves that the religion was followed by some in the city in the 4th century. 

The Council settled the distpute by confirming the appointment of the bishop of Carthage.  The assembled bishops took the opportunity to lay down a mixed bag of new church laws, or 'canons', including: 

  • Easter should be celebrated on the same day throughout the Christian world.
  • Clergy who lent money at interest should be excluded from the church.
  • Those who drove in chariot races should also be excluded.
  • Similarly, actors were to be excluded so long as they carried on that occupation.
  • Young women who married unbelievers should be excluded.
  • Deacons should be discouraged from conducting services in too many places.


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