Synods of Westminster
Synods of Westminster. Under this heading are included certain of the more important ecclesiastical councils held within the present bounds of London. Though the precise locality is occasionally uncertain, the majority of the medieval synods assembled in the chapter-house of old St Pauls, or the former chapel of St Catherine within the precincts of Westminster Abbey or at Lambeth. The councils were of various types, each with a constitutional history of its own. Before the reign of Edward I, when convocation assumed substantially its present form, there were convened in London various diocesan, provincial, national and legatine synods; during the past six centuries, however, the chief ecclesiastical assemblies held there have been convocations of the province of Canterbury.
The first really notable council at St Pauls was that of 1075 under the presidency of Lanfranc; it renewed ancient regulations, forbade simony and permitted three bishops to remove from country places to Salisbury, Chichester and Chester respectively.
The councils of 1126, 1127 and 1138 were legatine, that of 1175 provincial; their canons, chiefly re-enactments, throw light on the condition of the clergy at that time. The canons of 1200 are based in large measure on recommendations of the Lateran Council of 1179.
At St Pauls the legatine constitutions of Otto were published in a synod of 1237, those of Ottobori in 1268: these were the most important national councils held after the independence of York had been established. A synod at Lambeth in 1281 put forth canons none too welcome to Edward I; they included a detailed scheme for the religious instruction of the faithful. During the next two centuries the councils devoted much attention to heresy:
- eight propositions concerning the body of Christ after his death were rejected at St Mary-le-Bowin 1286;
- the expulsion of the Jews from England was sanctioned by a legatine synod of Westminster in 1291;
- ten theses of John Wyclif were condemned at the Dominican friary in 1382, and eighteen articles drawn from his Trialogus met the same fate at St Pauls in 1396;
- and the doom of Sir John Oldcastle was sealed at the latter place in 1413.
The 14th-century synods at St Pauls concerned themselves largely with the financial and moral status of the clergy, and made many regulations regarding their dress and behaviour (1328, 1342, 1343; cf. 1463).
From the time of Edward VI on, many of the most vital changes in ecclesiastical discipline were adopted in convocations at St Pauls and in the Abbey. To enumerate them would be to give a running commentary on the development of the Church of England; among the most important were those of 1547, 1552, 1554, 1562, 1571, 1604, 1605, 1640 and 1661.
- Chisholm 1911, p. 552
- Thomas Lathbury, A History of the Convocation of the Church of England (2nd enlarged edition, London, 1853)
- A. P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (4th and revised ed., London, 1876), 411-413, 495-504
- H. H. Milman, Annals of S. Pauls Cathedral (2nd ed., London, 1869).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Westminster, Synods of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 552.