Toletanum / Toledo

Toletanum I / Toledo (Toletum)

Provincial Council in Toledo; 400


There were nineteen bishops that met on 7 September in the consulate of Stilicho, Era 435, in the time of the Emperors Arcadius and Honorius in the church of Toledo (no name given). Only the episcopal seat of Aquis Celenis of Exuperantius from the conuentus of Lugo in Gallaecia is identified in the council text. The other eighteen bishops remain anonymous, although through other sources for three their episcopal sees are known: Patruinus of Mérida and Metropolitan of Lusitania, Asturius of Toledo, and Lampius of Barcelona. Patruinus who is listed first, was the presider of the council, which is also why he delivered the opening speech. In attendance with the bishops were an unspecified number of presbyters who sat while the deacons stood. It also mentions that others were also present, they were civil authorities. It fell to Bishop Patruinus to give the opening speech. Here the bishop at the outset told everyone gathered that all that was established at the Council of Nicaea must be preserved and should not deviate from it. The bishops in unison added in agreement that anyone found straying from Nicaea was considered excommunicated: Mihi autem placet et constituta primitus concilii Nicaeni perpetuo esse servanda nec ab his esse recedendum. … et non in eo perseverandum putaverit, tunc exconmunicatus habeatur. The agenda of this council is unambiguous, in contrast to that of Zaragoza I (380), it is stated that among the acts of the council were sentences issued against the followers of Priscillian and works composed by him, although titles of the books never appear in the council proceedings. The council text as we have it was compiled after the fact. The council unfolded in stages, opening on 1 September with the last session on 11 of September where a final definitive sentence was issued.

     The next section after Patruinus’ opening remarks listed twenty disciplinary canons directed at the Church in general, not specifically alleged Priscillianist teaching at this point. The canons touched upon a wide variety of disciplinary situations directed at clergy, laity, religious women, penances, the Eucharist, married clergy, penances, and more. Canon 8 stands out among them because of its implications regarding military service. It was decreed that any man after baptism who joined the military and had not committed any grave sin, if admitted to the clergy could not aspire to the diaconate: si ad clerum admissus fuerit diaconii dignitatem non accipiat. Canon 14 is another on the regulation of the Eucharist. It was ordered that anyone who did not consume the Eucharist upon receiving it from the priest should be expelled, it was considered a sacrilege: si quis autem acceptam a sacerdote eucharistiam non sumpserit velut sacrilegus habeatur. It seems some people were taking the consecrated Host with them to consume at another time of their choosing.

     After all the bishops signed to give their approval to the twenty canons, the next section titled Explicit constitution Concilii Toletani is a list of eighteen alleged Priscillianists teachings with anathemas. The canons they said had been redacted by bishops from Carthage, Tarragona, Lusitania, and Baetica. They were allegedly sent with the precepts of Pope Leo I to Balconius, Bishop of Gallaecia, these being the same twenty canons of a previous council of Toledo. As articulated below this alleged sequence of events is full of difficulties. Our council text, nevertheless, recorded that all gathered first professed the Creed of Nicaea; this was a forceful display of conveying in their view that Priscillianism was contrary to the Creed. Noteworthy is that the Creed in this text contains the controversial – sed a Patre Filioque procedens – which generated vigorous discussion among scholars about its presence in the text of Toledo I and this early in Hispania, particularly the expression Filioque. Scholars unanimously agree that it is the result of an interpolation thus not original to the proceedings that occurred in Toledo (400). It must be noted that the double procession of the Holy Spirit/ Filioque was never an issue with Priscillianist teaching. It is crucial to keep present that the First Council of Toledo met in 400 primarily to deal with the heresy of Priscillianism not Arianism. Another challenge to the received council text is that there are two recensions of the anti-Priscillianist canons. The long recension lists eighteen canons of alleged heresy while the short one only has twelve. The erudite Henry Chadwick has correctly pointed out that the long recension is not from the actual council of 400, in part because it has the Filioque attached to it. Pope Leo I, moreover, wrote a letter in 21 July 447 to Turibius of Astorga, also a leading opponent of Priscillian, that shows the direct influence of the papal letter. We must also point out that all that Pope Leo I knew about Priscilliansim came to him by way of Turibius who was a compromised hostile witness; the pope never met any Priscillianist directly. All that the pope needed to know is that Priscillian was a Manichaean to earn his ire – a false accusation – to convince him to act. Pope Leo I hated Manichaeans with a passion. There is more to this Toledan council and the interpolated letter of Pope Leo I. In that same letter of 447 the pope recommended that the bishops meet to pursue their anti-Priscillianist efforts. A question for modern scholars has been: Did a council meet in 447 as urged by the pope? As one would expect there are supporters and detractors. For some scholars the arguments against it seem shallow but on the other hand there is no existing surviving text. There is, however, the testimony from the First Council of Braga (561) where the bishops mentioned that a council convened fulfilling the request of Pope Leo I. The bishops were said to have originated from Tarragona, Carthage, Lusitania, and Baetica. Moreover, it is told that they wrote regulam fidei contra Priscillianam haeresem that they sent to Balconius of Braga. The letter of Pope Leo I of was obviously sent to a council of Toledo of 447, obviously not Toledo I (400), hence the interpolation. It was appended to Toledo I to give it the backing of papal authority. One cannot rule out completely a gathering of bishops in 447 as suggested by Pope Leo I, however. The meeting need not have been an official council with high ceremony attended by civic authorities and the public. The memory of this more modest informal gathering was remembered in Braga in 561 and more importantly with yet another list of alleged Priscillianst errors.

     There are a few things to highlight about these twenty canons in Toledo I. The ones that seek to clarify the relationship of the persons of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, nature of God, God as Creator (canons 1 through 9, 13, 14) are false teachings that were never taught by Priscillian. These errors are wholly absent in the Priscillianist Tractates. Canons 10 condemns those who deny the bodily resurrection of humans and 11 that alleges that humans have a portion of God’s divinity. Canon 12 rebukes those who use unauthorized scriptures (apocrypha). Priscillian did read apocryphal scriptures but he never held them equal to the those of the NT, never advocated their inclusion in the Canon, and recommended that only mature Christians should read them. Some prominent Church Fathers did as much, among them the renowned Ambrose of Milan. Canon 15 rejects the superstition of astrology and mathematics (numerology and the like) as did Priscillian. Canon 16 upholds marriage as not being execrable (Manichaeans did so) and Canon 17 rejected eating of meat on the grounds that it was execrable (Manichaean did so). Lastly, Canon 18 anathemized anyone who professed the previous seventeen errors taught by sect of the Priscillianists and their form of baptism that was contrary to that practiced by the See of Peter: Si quis erroribus Priscilliani secta sequitur vel profitetur, ut aliud in salutare baptismi contra sedem sancti Petri faciat, anathema sit. The alleged irregular baptismal form of Priscillianists never surfaced again and is a charge wholly absent as a point of refutation in the Tractates. Nevertheless, every single dubious claim to error by Priscillianist at Toledo I in these canons is baseless.

     On 3 September a series professions of faith transpired against Priscillianism by former followers and their affiirmation of the Catholic faith; they are called the Exemplaria Professsionum in Concilio Toletano Contra Sectam Prisciliani. These were from the Bishops Symphosius, Dictinius, and a presbyter Comasius. The professions continued after a break again on 11 September, they appear in the form of short speeches in a section titled the ‘Final Sentence’ – Exemplar definitiuae sententiae translatae de gestis. In addition, several authorities were cited to support their rebuttal of Priscillianism. It was claimed twice that at a Council of Zaragoza certain members of the sect had been condemned, certainly it was not Zaragoza I (380) where Priscillianism was never mentioned. The alleged condemnation in Zaragoza was retroactively imposed anachronistically on the council of 380; another Zaragoza meeting has not been successfully defended in the absence of any text. Nevertheless, Pope Siricius and Ambrose are among other the authorities cited. Also present was another faction of Priscillianist led by a Bishop Herenas, who was joined by Donatus, Acurius, and Aemilius who refused to recant. They spontaneously without being asked acclaimed Priscillian Catholic, holy martyr, and that he had been Catholic till the end and was victim of a persecution of bishops; implying driven by jealousy, personal vendettas, and greed: Herenas clericos suos sequi maluerat, qui sponte, nec interrogati Priscillianum catholicum sanctumque martyrem clamassent atque ipse usque ad finem catholicum esse dixisset, persecutionem ab episcopis passum. We never hear anything about them again.

     In just twenty years from Zaragoza (380) where not a single specific thing was said explicitly about Priscillianist teaching to Toledo I (400) where a list of alleged eighteen errors attributed to Priscilliansim was proclaimed. At Toledo I we are in the second stage of Priscillianism, many more alleged false teachings were circulated and the opposition continued in earnest as did the strength of the movement. One thing that the majority of the opponents of Priscillian had in common is that they had no direct acquaintance with the teachings, this was especially true of those outside Hispania. They received their information from compromised hostile ecclesiastics of Hispania. Another development that has to be taken into account is the very likely diversity of Priscillianist teachings from within, expecially after its founder and core believers were executed. It is reasonable to assume that some taught doctrines not taught by the founder, this is quite normal in religious movements that have an extended life, this one from the fourth to the late sixth century. Toledo I (400) represents a sort of hysteria about Priscillian as every manner of doctrinal heresy and moral deviation eventually was associated with them, most prominently among them – Gnosticism, Manichaeism and magic. The extant Priscillianist writings known as the Tractates do not contain any such heresies; in fact, they are clearly condemned therein time and again. Toledo I (400), however emerged as an important turning point in the unfolding controversy because it was the first conciliar venue where Priscillianism was officially condemned as heresy.


QQ: Vives/Marín Martínez/Martínez Díez (eds.), Concilios Visigóticos e Hispano-Romanos, 19–33; Martínez Diez/Rodríguez, La Colección Canónica, IV/II: Hispana 323–344; Weckwerth, Clavis Conciliorum Occidentalium 188–190; Chronicorum II, 46-51, in: Sulpicii Severi Libri qui supersunt, ed. C. Halm (= CSEL 1), Vienna 1866, 99–105.

Lit.: Orlandis/Ramos-Lissón, Concilios de la España Romana y Visigoda 68–80; A. Ferreiro, Epistolae Plenae. The Correspondence of the Bishops of Hispania with the Bishops of Rome (Third through Seventh Centuries), Leiden 2020, 73–116; H. Chadwick, Priscillian of Avila. The Occult and the Charismatic in the Early Church, Oxford 1976, 170–188, 234–239; A. Weckwerth, Das erste Konzil von Toledo. Ein philologischer und historischer Kommentar zur ‘Constitutio Concilii’, Münster 2004 (= JbAC.KR 1); A. Ferreiro, Petrine Primacy, Conciliar Authority, and Priscillian, in: XXX Incontro dell’Antichità Cristiana, Rome 3-5 May 2001, Rome 2002 (= SEAug 78), 631–645; Id., Sexual depravity, doctrinal error, and character assassination in the fourth century: Jerome against the Priscillianists, in: StPatr 28 (1993) 29–38. J. Freire Camaniel, Gallaecia: Antigüedad, intensidad y organización de su cristianismo (Siglos I-VII), A Coruña 2013, 254–337. D. Ramos-Lissón, Die synodalen Ursprünge des Filioque im römisch-westgotischen Hispanien, in: AHC 16 (1984) 286–299; DizCon 5 (1966) 317 [Pedro Guerrero Ventas (Toledo 397)/Giovanni Usai (Toledo 400?)]. DHEE 1 (1972) 566-567.


Ferreiro, Alberto 

Mai 2024 


Empfohlene Zitierweise:

Ferreiro, Alberto, Toletanum I / Toledo (Toletum): Provincial Council in Toledo; 400, in: Lexikon der Konzilien [Online-Version], Mai 2024; URL: http://www.konziliengeschichte.org/site/de/publikationen/lexikon/database/597.html